What Do I Know About First Impressions? Twilight Accord Subclass Playtests Part 1 (5e SRD)

5E_TwilightAccord_Logo_Square_small-450x450Once upon a time, I was going to start a series of articles looking at playtest material. This wasn’t like the playtest material that is all about redefining a game system for an updated release. This was the other kind of playtest. Like all those Unearthed Arcanas that we used to see for future product releases. New rule system. Subclasses meant to work with existing class mechanics.

Those articles never materialized because by the time I was ready to start them, January happened, and the OGL debacle happened. Unfortunately, the source of these playtests was put on hold, and for a while, we weren’t sure if or when we would get to see more content from that source. Which would be a massive shame, because it was a great project.

The Twilight Accord Returns

The source, in this instance, is the Twilight Accord Patreon. This project, presented by Green Ronin and featuring the work of Steve Kenson, Joseph Carriker, and others, is creating a 5e SRD setting that features a primordial city reaching out to LGBTQIA+ people across the planes to give them a home. Unfortunately, it is a home they must reclaim from The Shadow Nemesis and the monsters that have overrun various wards of the city.

And if you want to listen to one of the creators explain the setting and the project way better than I can, you can listen to my interview with Steve Kenson here on the Gnomecast. Thankfully, the project is back underway, with new material, so I decided it was time to actually start looking at some of the material from the playtest again. I’m going to start with a look at some of the subclasses that have been released, but there is one for every class, so this will probably be multiple posts.

Also, I’m not doing this in release order, because I organized them in my own PDF as they came out, so these will be in alphabetical order based on class. All clear? Good, let’s jump in.

Path of Righteousness (Barbarian)

The Path of Righteousness Barbarian is all about justifiable rage at a world filled with injustice, as well as protecting those from communities that have faced adversity. I like the twist on rage not just being battle anger, but anger directed at injustices. Good, solid story, so let’s see if the mechanical elements follow.

  • 3rd Level–Bear Mother’s Bulwark
  • 6th Level–Swift Fury
  • 10th Level–Righteous Retaliation
  • 14th Level–Oath of Retribution

Bear Mother’s Bulwark lets you rage automatically if you or an ally you can see are damaged. If you are raging, you can dash to an ally that is targeted by a melee attack and force the attack to target you instead. If you take damage from this attacker, you are resistant against that damage.  When you do this, you get advantage to hit that attacker with your next attack. Swift Fury let’s use a reaction to share your Danger Sense to an ally within 5 feet of you, and if you are an ally, you can see are attacked, you can rage immediately. Righteous Retaliation lets you use your reaction to impose disadvantage on someone you threaten that is attacking your ally, and you can use your reaction to make an attack of opportunity against them. Oath of Retribution lets you call out one enemy, and while you are raging, you have advantage on melee attacks on them, resistance to all of their damage, immunity to being charmed or frightened by them, and the ability to move with them if they move away if you spend your reaction. You can reset this ability after a short rest, but only once you defeat that enemy.

I’m not sure if Bear Mother’s Bulwark refers to something in the setting. If it does, it’s a cool name. If not, I guess it works well enough as an allusion to mother bears and protectiveness. Oath of Retribution feels a little too much like a Paladin ability. I don’t have a problem with the ability, per se, I would just avoid “Oath” in class abilities outside the paladin.

The main thing that strikes me is that this subclass plays with two things that are already in the Barbarian’s arsenal, advantage on attacks and resistance to damage. As someone that’s not always a fan of handing out temporary hit points, but I think Bear Mother’s Bulwark should probably grant temp hit points instead of resistance, which might be wasted if the enemy is using piercing/bludgeoning/slashing damage. I also think Oath of Retribution should provide temporary hit points that recur under some circumstance connected to the ability. Since the class gets two abilities that allow for automatic raging, I almost wish it got a bonus action of some kind. Of your first two abilities, one is something you can choose to do as a reaction, and the other grants a passive ability to an ally. I wish that 6th level ability had something more “active” to it. All of that said, I think as it stands, this subclass lines up well with the story its telling.

College of Dance (Bard)

The College of Dance has a simple story. You are a bard that expresses your performances through dance. Honestly, I really like it when Bard subclasses keep in mind that one of the best stories for a subclass is to examine a type of performance and how that would interact with a bard’s abilities.

  • 3rd Level–Unarmored Grace, Spell Dancer
  • 6th Level–Graceful Movement
  • 14th Level–Peerless Grace

Okay, yes, it does look a little rough, looking at a Bard subclass again after seeing the 2024 playtest adding a 10th level ability to their subclasses. But I digress.

Unarmored Grace is all about encouraging you to not wear armor, so you get your Dexterity Bonus and Charisma bonus to armor class. You can also spend an inspiration die to add to your armor class as a reaction after you get hit, but before you find out what happens to you from the attack, to potentially turn a hit into a miss. You also gain the ability to either spend an inspiration die or a spell slot one level higher than the spell you are casting to cast a spell without verbal or material components, although you can only do this if the material components don’t have a cost listed.

Graceful Movement increases your movement speed, doubles your jumping distance, and lets you ignore difficult terrain. Peerless Grace lets you spend inspiration to disengage or dash as a bonus action, and lets you spend it on your own Dexterity or Charisma checks.

All these work really well as dance related abilities. Because there is a long gap between 6th and 14th level, I wish there was a more “active” 6th level ability beyond just additional movement. Peerless Grace also feels a little light for a 14th level ability. Maybe if it did something like imposing disadvantage whenever you dash or disengage until the end of your next turn, it might feel a little more substantial.

Liberation Domain (Cleric)

This subclass is all about clerics who feel called to the aspect of their deities that want to free the oppressed and remove power from those who do the oppressing. It’s a clear domain that is also well suited for the intended setting.

  • 1st–Liberation Domain Spells, Liberation’s Advocate, Inspire Courage
  • 2nd–Channel Divinity: Liberate
  • 6th–Liberator’s Command
  • 8th–Liberator’s Strike
  • 17th–Chain Breaker

All the Liberation Domain spells are on point for the domain. Liberation’s Advocate grants the Cleric proficiency in Insight, Performance, or Persuasion. Inspire Courage is an ability you can use a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus per long rest, but an individual can only benefit from this ability once before it takes a short rest. This gives allies equal to your proficiency bonus immunity to the frightened condition and temporary hit points.

Channel Divinity: Liberate lets people within 30 feet of you spend 5 feet of movement and free themselves of any bonds or restraints and gain an additional save with advantage against the charmed, frightened, grappled, or restrained condition. Liberator’s Command gives you the ability to cast a specific geas as an action, forcing a creature you choose to free anyone they are holding captive and reversing their oppressive behavior, or else take 5d10 psychic damage. Liberator’s Strike is kind of the standard 8th level ability that about half of clerics get, dealing an extra 1d8 damage on a hit, but in this case it’s Force damage, does double damage when used against objects holding someone captive, and only does extra Force damage against an intelligent creature responsible for holding a prisoner or captive.

Chain Breaker boosts your Channel Divinity to 120 feet, and automatically removes charmed, frightened, and restrained, as well as getting the benefit of your Inspire Courage ability. There is also a list of spells that you can spend a Channel Divinity on that increases either it’s area or the number of creatures targeted by a multiple of 10. You can only use each of these special instances of Channel Divinity once before you take a long rest.

I love the first-level abilities, although I’m not 100% clear on performance as one of the potential bonus proficiencies. I don’t mind it, I’m not clear on how it plays into the theme.

Liberate is a little confusing, because it doesn’t say that people can move 5 feet, but that they can spend 5 feet of movement, If this is an action, I’m not sure why they are spending movement–does it mean if they already took their turn and used all of their movement, they can’t move with this ability? I’m torn on Liberator’s Command. It’s really powerful, but it also only comes up if you are dealing with someone that has expressly imprisoned or enthralled someone. I do think the “reversing their oppressive behavior” line should be removed, because it’s fuzzy. Releasing people they have imprisoned is a clear-cut action they can take.

Liberator’s Strike is strange, because every WotC Cleric subclass is either a bonus to cantrip damage, or +1d8 damage of some time to melee attacks, of some special damage type. I can see where they might want to limit this ability more, because they give it a secondary effect, causing structural damage to restraints, and because they use the best damage type, Force damage. I would rather see the War Domain version, where the weapon just does extra damage of the weapon’s normal type but allows it to be used against anybody. I wouldn’t even mind the special case restraint damage as a kicker, because it’s so specialized.

I like the first function of Chain Breaker. Adding an additional effect to an existing ability is always a good starting point for a higher-level ability, if you can find the right ones to combine. I think the second use loses the thread a little bit. It’s kind of cool that you can feed more people with create food and water, but the wider range on some of the damaging spells feels like it’s just widening your chance to do collateral damage, especially if you are going on rescue missions a lot. I almost wish this had more specialized modifications for all the spells listed, maybe making enemies vulnerable to damage from some of the spells that do damage instead.

Circle of the Hedge (Druid)

Circle of the Hedge Druids live in communities near natural resources and help them cultivate those resources responsibly. They are as concerned about taking care of the community as making sure the community doesn’t damage the resources they need to survive.

  • 2nd Level–Circle of the Hedge Spells, Hedge-Craft
  • 6th Level–Guardian of the Flock
  • 10th Level–Hedge Rider
  • 14th Level–Guardian of the Rows

The circle spells that this subclass gets all make sense for managing resources, dealing with domestic animals, working with food supplies, and providing a safe place to live. Hedge-Craft is a little strange, but in keeping with the theme. Your herbalism kit now has a number of uses like a healer’s kit, and you can replenish uses during downtime. You can make poisons with the kit, and you can expend uses to produce elixirs, although your elixirs are limited to a number of uses equal to your proficiency bonus per long rest. These do things like adding advantage to poison saves or saves versus disease, saves versus fear, or healing. You can also create a poison that damages those that drink it, or causes them to fall asleep as per a sleep spell.

Guardian of the Flock lets you use Wild Shape for free when you roll initiative, and lets you use the animal form’s initiative bonus, since you immediately turned into your wild shape. You can only do this once per short rest, but if you are medium or smaller in your animal form, you get advantage on stealth checks. Hedge Rider gives you tree stride and transport via plants as circle spells, and lets you cast each one once per long rest without using a spell slot. Guardian of the Rows lets you use two Wild Shape uses to become a plant with a CR equal to half your Druid level, or you can spend one Wild Shape to animate three awakened shrubs. You can double this number with two uses of Wild Shape, and your number doubles when you reach 18th level.

As different as it is, I really like Hedge-Craft. It’s fun, and really works with the theme of tending to the locals using the resources you scavenge from nearby. Guardian of the Flock is a little strange, because it doesn’t provide anything above and beyond what you get for baseline Wild Shape to make it more tempting to jump into combat in animal form. I think it needs a kicker to make the animal form a little more substantial, otherwise this is mainly a way to potentially get a better initiative spot. I like Hedge Rider as a means of communicating that the Druid is familiar with all the hedges and bushes of the community and can zip around through them. I like the first function of Guardian of the Rows, but I’m not a fan of a feature that can produce 3, 6, or 12 additional creatures on the battlefield. This is one of those cases where I would rather see a specialized stat block for a single plant that can be summoned with this, with a boost to its ability for using more Wild Shapes, and another boost to its abilities at 18th level.

Wrapping Up For Now

I think we’re going to leave off after tackling four of the classes from these playtests. I really like the story of all these subclasses, and I think most of the abilities play into those stories well. I think all of these are a solid basis for new subclasses, and several of them would be good if they came out in their current form, despite some of my preferences. I do worry a little bit that someone taking the Liberation Domain Cleric will need to have a DM that is very mindful of providing foes who meet the criteria for the Cleric’s special abilities.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before I can get to the next installment of this series. Until then, make sure to check out the Patreon for the Twilight Accord. It’s great work for a great reason, and you should really read some of the story elements and the thought process behind the setting.

One comment