For June’s Unearthed Arcana, we have a rework of a concept Mearls drafted in Happy Fun Hour, though the mechanics are entirely changed. On that note, I still love that Mike shows his process, and how radically things change through consideration and playtesting. The Giant Soul sorcerer is near and dear to me as a concept, since it’s touching on many of the same ideas as In the Company of Giants (5e, revised), which I released through Rite Publishing. When I plug my work, y’all, I am the smoothest, subtlest sumbitch you ever did see.
Six Subclasses in One
This single subclass offers content for cloud, fire, frost, hill, stone, and storm giants, which means it can be a lot of distinct play experiences. I absolutely love that approach, just as I loved it with the Battle Master, the Hunter, the Way of Four Elements, and so on – though at least here you pick one giant type and stick with it.
As to the theme of jotun-blooded humanoids – well, now I’m sorry that goliaths don’t have a Charisma bonus, but their Con bonus does help this subclass a bit. Since I know you’re running out to pick up my product too, this subclass is a stellar fit for jotunnar that want more spellcasting in their playstyle than the jotun paragon class offers.
- Jotun Resilience boosts your hit points, and is functionally the same as changing their HD to d8s, except that their potential rolls for short rests now don’t add up to their maximum hit points. This is why classes that get their subclasses at 1st level, like sorcerers, probably should just get comfortable with saying “you use d8s for Hit Dice.”
- Mark of the Ordning is the first six-fold feature. It adds two 1st-level spells and one 2nd-level spell to your Spells Known for free (some of them already sorcerer spells, many of them not). The choices here start to differentiate playstyles significantly. As you’d expect, cloud giants are tricksy, fire and storm giants are blasty, frost and stone giants are more control-based (in different ways), and hill giants emphasize physical prowess. No complaints with these choices; it’s hard to complain too much about free Spells Known, after all.
- Soul of Lost Ostoria is where things get interesting. Those free spells they granted you need to be signature pieces of your gameplay, because this feature pays you extra when you cast those specific spells.
- Cloud giants teleport around. I hate it when movement distances are “X + (number not evenly divisible by 5)”, as is the case when your Con score is anything other than 10 or 20, so I’d rather see this one work some other way. I’m also concerned that combat-range teleportation is getting too common in 5e. Power-wise, it’s fine – I just dislike it for meta aesthetic reasons.
- Fire giants get to add their Con bonus to those great blasty spells. That’s very strong for all three options. Good stuff here.
- Frost giants get paid in temporary hit points, or extra temporary hit points when using armor of Agathys. Getting armor of Agathys to last longer is something you’ll always want. Getting paid temp hit points for spamming ray of frost is fine and good.
- Hill giants get a non-damaging thunderwave when they cast their Mark spells. Shillelagh is the only one they’d really consider casting often – the other two are minute-long Concentration spells that you’d really rather cast as pre-fight buffs if you have the option. Even shillelagh has a 1-minute duration, but you can spam it to benefit from this feature. I’d like to see this rewritten, or the hill giant Mark spells changed around.
- Stone giants harden their skin and improve their AC when they cast their Mark spells. Entangle and spike growth are okay for this; spamming resistance for this benefit is just weird. I’d like to see the Mark spells be things you really do want to cast more often.
- Storm giants get to splash some auto-hit lightning damage, which is a great fit for shocking grasp and thunderwave. Gust of wind is a more situational tool, but that’s fine.
- Rage of Fallen Ostoria is the one that makes you big – one size category larger, for 1 minute per short rest. This shift is a free action as part of casting a spell that expends a spell slot. The benefits are just what you’d expect – more hit points, more reach, more movement speed, advantage on Strength checks and saves, and you can add your Con modifier to weapon damage rolls. Getting mileage out of melee damage rolls as a 14th-level sorcerer is a dubious proposition, but I expect some XGTE spells can help. I’m not sure this feature is as useful as it could be, but it’s thematically expected.
- Note that it doesn’t increase your weapon size (to deal an extra damage die the way Large creatures with weapons usually do); the Con mod to damage is supposed to cover that concept, I guess.
- All I wanna do is see you turn into…
- Blessing of the All-Father raises your Con by 2, to a maximum of 22, and if you haven’t dumped however many ASIs it took to have your Con at 20 already, well, you’ll get one last chance the level after you gain this feature. It also grants another use of Rage of Fallen Ostoria per short rest, and lets that feature stack with itself (!), so you could be dealing d8 (let’s say it’s a quarterstaff wielded two-handed) + Str + 2 * Con – so maybe 1d8 + 14ish? Now it’s actually competing with your damaging cantrips.
Overall I think this subclass is interesting and tells a cool story. I’m worried, though, that taking advantage of its features is so much at odds with the rest of the sorcerer playstyle that it doesn’t quite shake out right. Moreover, as you progress, you’ll trend away from wanting to use your Mark of Ostoria spells, since you have better mid-to-high-level spells for accomplishing the same tasks.
I haven’t playtested it – like most of my UA breakdowns, my analysis is a best guess. If I’m right about both of those points, though, this subclass starts with great theme and mechanics, only to watch the early features wane while the late features don’t get the job done either. Fingers crossed for this to get an upgrade before final release, because I would love for WotC to get their userbase interested in playing giant-connected characters (even more than SKT does).
Subtlety: nailed it.