What Do I Know About First Impressions? Unearthed Arcana 2022 Giant Options
Huge Unearthed Arcana dropped yesterday (as of the time that I’m writing this). And by huge, I mean giant. And by giant, I mean it’s about giants. Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s take a look at this.
If you haven’t encountered Unearthed Arcana before, these are the playtest documents that Wizards of the Coast release a few months before rules get included in products, which are followed up in a few weeks by a survey. I’m going to take a look at these and give you my initial thoughts on all of this content.
The following options appear in this Unearthed Arcana:
- Path of the Giant (Barbarian subclass)
- Circle of the Primeval (Druid subclass)
- Runecrafter (Wizard subclass)
- Feats (9 new feats, elemental, giant, and rune themed)
Path of the Giant
The Path of the Giant subclass has the following abilities at different levels:
- 3rd–Giant Power, Giant’s Havoc
- 6th–Elemental Cleaver
- 10th–Mighty Impel
- 14th–Demiurgic Colossus
Giant Power gives you giant as a language, and either druidcraft or thaumaturgy, probably so you can make lots of noise to compensate for your lower level lack of stompiness. Giant’s Havoc lets you get your rage damage bonus when you throw things, and allows you to become large when you rage.
Elemental Cleaver gives you a boost to your damage based on a type of elemental damage, and gives the weapon you infuse with elemental power the thrown property and it returns to you. You can change the element with a bonus action.
Mighty Impel lets you throw a medium or smaller creature up to 30 feet. Those that you target with your Jotun Yeet make a strength save to resist, assuming they don’t want to get tossed.
Demiurgic Colossus is a great combination of words, and in this case, it lets you grow to huge size, throw large creatures, and increases your elemental damage when using Elemental Cleaver.
Both of the size changes noted in this grant you reach, and then mention size, meaning if you can’t grow too large or huge in the space you are in, it appears reach is a separate benefit. I know 5e has been reticent to do much with size differences as far as an ongoing character trait, but I would assume any kind of “center it on the barbarian” tactic for creating a wider area is going to be hindering the barbarian as much as it helps by adding a wider radius to a spell. One thing that doesn’t appear in any of this wording is extra damage because of size. You get to grow to large size before you get Elemental Cleaver. So size doesn’t appear to add damage, as it does with a spell like Enlarge.
This also means that the character “is” that size, which makes me think that they could, conceivably, carry large weapons (you can attack with large weapons at disadvantage, which a barbarian can negate by being reckless). In this case, you could then whip out your large weapon in combat, which reintroduces the importance of weapon sizes in a way we haven’t really seen in 5e recently. While it’s less of a concern due to how cumbersome it would be, and the fact that it doesn’t kick in until 14th level, if you were fighting actual giants and one of them dropped to zero hit points, you could also be hefting a (die x 3) weapon in combat.
I don’t know if any of this is an intended part of the playstyle. For example, Enlarge is specifically constrained saying that your oversized weapons only do +d4 damage, but that’s not a rule for large creatures, it’s a rule for how the spell works. It might also open up the possibility of a caster using Enlarge as a buff on the barbarian’s weapon instead of the barbarian, making sure they have a weapon to go with their new size.
Another thing I wonder is if Mighty Impel’s “a space within 30 feet of you” counts as straight up. It could be a legitimate tactic to hit an opponent, bonus action them up in the air for 3d6 damage and dropping them prone, over and over again.
From a gameplay standpoint, you definitely get the “story” of this subclass early. As soon as you take the subclass, you are large and throwing things especially well, and by 6th level, you are adding some kind of element damage to attacks. It’s also interesting to note that the Elemental Cleaver’s damage can be changed with a bonus action, while the Storm Herald’s auras are locked until they gain a level. I think I could see splitting the difference and not allowing an in combat switch of elements, but with elemental changes available with each rage. Otherwise, I think it could become too much of a utility ability.
I also think its kind of funny that if I wanted a character to really feel like Thor, this would be one of the better subclasses to take, and it’s tied to giants.
Circle of the Primeval
You are a druid that is especially tied to the oldest elements of nature in the world, something also often associated with giants. This one is slightly more “giant adjacent,” but I can see how it fits the theme. These are the subclass abilities:
- 2nd–Keeper of Old, Primeval Companion
- 6th–Prehistoric Conduit
- 10th–Titanic Bond
- 14th–Scourge of the Ancients
First off you get a d4 to your Intelligence (History) checks as well as proficiency in the skill. This is interesting to me, because I feel like this is something that in the past would have been a “double proficiency bonus” ability, and I think I might like “add a d4” better, just because it’s not fixed and it feels like benefits like bless or guidance.
You also get a primeval companion, which is an animal, most likely some form of prehistoric creature, like a mammoth, dinosaur, or cave bear. In order to get this companion, you have to burn your uses of Wild Shape to summon it. It’s worth noting that beyond just being pet that has features that can level up, it gets the reaction “Intercept Attack,” which lets it take half the damage you would take, saving you 50% of your damage. It’s not just a combat buddy, it’s a bodyguard.
Prehistoric conduit lets you use your companion as a spell node, so a spell that would normally originate from you can originate from the companion. They also get advantage on any friendly fire you send their way, and take no damage on a save from your spell in which they get caught, rather than half.
Titanic Bond makes the companion large, and you can grant it a climbing or swimming speed. This also lets you force people hit by your spells to save or become frightened. This is listed as “once per turn,” meaning you can keep doing it with each casting, as long as it’s just once per turn. This also doesn’t specify “a spell you cast for which you expend a spell slot,” which means if you, for example, got the War Caster feat, you could trigger it again with a cantrip you use to target an opponent.
Scourge of the Ancients lets you burn spell slots to give your companion huge size and extra hit points, extra damage on their attacks, or increased speed. If you use the feature again, it overwrites the previous benefit.
This is very much a dedicated pet class, where the pet is going to be an integral part of the playstyle of the character. Using the pet as a spell node is cool, but it requires you to weigh that against the benefits of having the pet nearby to function as a bodyguard. I think the early features of the class work well for the theme, but I wonder about a few of the upper level abilities.
I don’t know that it will unbalance fights, but it feels like it could get tiresome to give the druid an extra chance to cause fear with every spell attack. I think this one needs a limiter, even if the fear only lasts until the end of your next turn.
I’ve been kind of obsessed with incorporating runecrafting into games since I read Vikings historical reference book in AD&D 2e. I like the idea of being able to trigger something based on carving that rune into a surface, and the idea that someone can carve a simple symbol, but know how to make it mean more than just its surface appearance.
- 2nd level–Runes of Understanding, Runic Empowerment
- 6th–Sigils of Warding
- 10th–Rune Maven
- 14th–Engraved Enmity
This is a wizard subclass, so you still get your normal spellcasting, which means your runes have to work alongside those abilities. In this case, you have access to the Life Rune, War Rune, and Wind Rune, and you can trigger one of these runes when you cast another spell that uses spell slots, up to a limit of your proficiency bonus per long rest. So you can get supplemental healing, a bonus to hit an opponent, or extra speed. You also get Runes of Understanding, which gives you an always on comprehend languages.
Sigils of Warding let you burn one of your uses of Runic Empowerment to save when you would have otherwise failed a save.
Rune Maven has an ability that is tied to a short rest! No, really! Although it’s tied to a short rest via being tied to Arcane Recovery being a short rest ability hard wired into the wizard. This one uses your intelligence bonus to determine how many uses you get back, which is also a little bit different from the move to use proficiency bonus for these things.
Engraved Enmity lets you use a bonus action to mark a foe with a rune that bestows different curse like effect. This means they either have disadvantage on saves against your spells, thwarting invisibility attempts, or marking an opponent for extra damage. The last option eats up a bonus action each time you use it to extend it another round.
Some of the effects of Engraved Enmity remind me of what I would expect from a truenamer type ability, but that doesn’t bother me. I like that you can visualize the limited uses as a number of runes that can be prepared, then flare out as they are used up. Sigils of Warding might be a little strong, but it also double dips on the limited number of uses you have of runes, so I’m not sure I’m bothered by that.
Here are the list of feats in the document, and their prerequisites:
- Elemental Touched
- Ember of the Fire Giant
- Fury of the Frost Giant
- Guile of the Cloud Giant
- Keenness of the Stone Giant
- Outsized Might
- Rune Carver Apprentice
- Rune Carver Adept
- Soul of the Storm Giant
- Vigor of the Hill Giant
As far as I can tell, the only other feat that has a flat level requirement is in the Strixhaven book. The rest have had requirements that might be a class feature of some kind, or an ancestry requirement. I’m not sure I want feat design to start veering into “we can make this more powerful because we aren’t letting low level characters take the feat.” That’s all general feelings I have not based directly on these feats, but the thought process behind these level prerequisites.
No Prerequisite Feats
Elemental Touched gives characters various powers, starting with druidcraft or thaumaturgy, and then requires an allegiance to some element. Air gets you a fly speed, Earth lets you move over rough terrain and create rough terrain, Fire throws up a cloud of ash to keep you from suffering from attacks of opportunity, and Water moves other people if they fail a save. You get this stuff proficiency bonus number of times per long rest. I don’t have much of a problem with this, other than fire feeling a little more tenuous than the other elements.
Outsized Might almost makes you a Goliath, or at least a pre MoM Goliath. You get proficiency in Athletics and Acrobats, and powerful build, and for an extra kicker, you get advantage against getting pushed or knocked over.
Rune Carver Apprentice lists the names of a bunch of runes, and assigning 1st level spells to those runes. Once per long rest you draw a rune on an item you carry, and it lets you cast that 1st level spell without a slot once, and adds it to your spell list, as long as you carry that item. I really like this as a simple rune carving entry-level ability. It is important to note that this feat says you can cast the spell granted by the rune with your spell slots, not that you add it to you spell list.
The Prerequisite Based Feats
First off, I want to tackle Rune Carver Adept, because I’m not sure it needs the 4th level prerequisite. This lets you use a number of runes equal to your proficiency bonus, which is potentially giving you a wider range and extra 1st level spells, but this is a case where proficiency bonus as a limiter is better than ability score bonus.
All of that said, most people aren’t going to be able to pick up two feats before 4th level, which they would need to do in order to take this feat. Even if you hand out feats with backgrounds (which looks like it may be the wave of the future), if you aren’t giving out Rune Carver as a bonus feat with a background, it’s less likely to come up, and even if it does, two feats gets you a net total of two extra 1st level spells and a net bonus of two extra potential spells.Now let’s tackle those giant feats.
|Feat||Prerequisite||What does it do?|
|Ember of the Fire Giant||8th||You get a searing burst similar to the new dragonborn breath weapon proficiency number of times per long rest. You also get resistance to fire.|
|Fury of the Frost Giant||4th||You get to cause fear when someone attacks you a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus per long rest. You also get resistance to cold.|
|Guile of the Cloud Giant||8th||You get to case blur once without concentrating, and you can use it with your own spell slots.|
|Keenness of the Stone Giant||4th||You get detect thoughts, a 1st level divination, and darkvision. The spells can be cast free one time, and can be used with your spell slots.|
|Soul of the Storm Giant||8th||You get divination as a ritual spell, and you get an aura that lasts for one minute that causes opponents to have disadvantage to hit you and halves their movement.|
|Vigor of the Hill Giant||4th||You can ignore an effect that pushes or knocks you over with a reaction, and gives you an additional hit point bonus equal to your con bonus when you get healed.|
First off, it seems like the 4th or 8th level requirement is aligned to the giant’s place in the Ordening, which feels like reverse-engineering the power level from a meta-thematic measurement, and I’m not sure that’s great storytelling.
Other people can disagree with me, but I think if you’re going to hand out resistance to fire or cold, or darkvision to people that don’t have those traits, adding anything else to the feat is probably too much. In fact, I’d argue that these are things that probably should stay in the design space of ancestries and subclasses.
Blur is a 2nd level spell, which is why I guess this feat is higher level (on top of the whole Ordening theme), but it feels both too much and too little. I would almost rather this were just “you can use a reaction to benefit from blur until the beginning of your next turn whenever someone attacks you.” It makes it a shorter effect, but isn’t like literally giving you blur as an ability.
Soul of the Storm giant really confuses me, because giving someone a 4th level spell with a feat, as well as a combined control and defensive ability is a lot. Even standard storm giants don’t really have divination abilities as a spell. This feels like someone was designing this for “you are connected to the most powerful giants in the Ordening” and filling in from there.
In almost all cases, I would almost rather have “use reaction, get resistance proficiency number of times” for any kind of resistance to damage. I also think some of the bundles of effects start to muddy what the giant really is known for.
This is a Huge First Impression for a UA!
I like the subclasses. There might be some tweaks I would rather see, but I think they all hit their stories fast and hard, and do a good job presenting what it means to be that subclass. The rune feats and outsized might I think work for me, and elemental touched works, but it doesn’t excite me.
I would love “make me more like a giant” feats, but I feel like “telling the story of the Ordening through feats” and introducing more level based prerequisites makes them messier than I would like, and also starts created a level gated arms race for “better” feats to take at higher levels, rather than letting most feats just live in this space of being worthwhile at whatever level you get them.
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