Aquatic / PirateD&D 5eReviews

Unearthed Arcana: Sorcerer and Warlock Breakdown

Well, I thought I was going to miss a second week in a row of writing, but here we are with a UA release and I just can’t not write a breakdown article. This time it’s a new sorcerous origin and a new warlock patron, both of them with a strong side order of pseudopod.

Aberrant Mind Sorcerous Origin

If you’ve been hoping to bring some cosmic horror to your sorcerer (maybe you’ve already played your Great Old One warlock concept), this is the subclass for you. There’s a nod to the Far Realm in the flavor text, so maybe that’s a sign that we’re continuing toward a planar-focused supplement.

  • Invasive Thoughts is single-target, two-way telepathic conversation. You have to be within 30 feet to create the link, but otherwise you can split up and keep communicating for the next 10 minutes.
  • Psionic Spells grants two bonus Spells Known at each of the first five spell levels. Telepathy, mind control, Hadar, and tentacles are our main themes here. (No matter how I feel about this subclass, I’m going to wish it were more Hadar-focused content.)
  • Warped Being gives you some kind of freaky aberrant feature (up to you to describe) that grants AC 13 + your Dex modifier.
  • Psionic Sorcery at 6th level lets you spend spell points directly on your Psionic Spells. This feature functionally improves your spell point efficiency and cuts out the bonus action. It’s a fairly light-touch feature, but if your Psionic Spells are the thing you really need, this could be very helpful. Spells cast this way also don’t have components – you know, psionic – so that could make a big difference in a clutch situation.
  • Psychic Defenses, also at 6th level, grants resistance to psychic damage and advantage on saves against being charmed or frightened. I am so very happy to see advantage on saves rather than any kind of immunity!
  • Revelation in Flesh at 14th level is letting you know just from the feature name that things Aren’t Okay anymore. The effects aren’t all that wild unless you lean into describing them. I love how this works: 1 sorcery point per feature for however many of four different features you want, chosen from swimming and water breathing, flying, oozing (okay, this one is pretty wrong), and sensing hidden or invisible creatures. Big fan of this one.
  • Warp Reality at 18th level lets you create a bubble of distorted reality around yourself – it’s a damaging and difficult-terrain aura that you can let your friends ignore. At 2d10 psychic, the damage is nice but not dominating. It lasts 1 minute, but you can spend a bonus action (which means you could do this on the same round as you create the bubble) to teleport yourself and any number of creatures in the bubble that you choose up to 1 mile away. Enemies that you’re trying to isolate and kill with this get a Cha save to resist. Even 1/day, this is an amazing tool for shenanigans – most group teleportation takes more time and effort than this.

I absolutely love this sorcerous origin, particularly for flavor. I feel like I read a lot more sorcerous origins that leave me cold than ones that I like, but I am eager to play this one – especially with a DM who shares my interest in the malevolent stars and planets from 4e. It even has a clear narrative arc of foul discovery and transformation, from “a few creepy and intrusive spells” to “okay that dude has writhing eyes” to “space has no meaning.”

Over in Twitter, Jeremiah McCoy points out that this is psionic content; what does this indicate for the future of the psion (or the mystic, as I continue to prefer)? I think we have to take away from this that this is a sorcerer who also has some psionic ability – much as I think we should expect to see a lot of psionic subclasses introduced for other classes.

 

The Lurker in the Deep Patron

August Derleth is probably undulating wildly in his hibernation at this paraphrase of his title; best not to consider what HPL thinks. (I kid, I kid. We were a breath away from having a warlock patron that would have surely had the same name in Seas of Vodari.)

The idea here is that you’re explicitly a servant of a deep-dwelling sea power. I don’t want to read too much into it, but I’m used to WotC tapdancing a bit around whether you’re a servant, an accidental partner, or a parasite on your patron’s power; this is a rare case of choosing one and sticking to it.

  • The Expanded Spell List is storm-oriented and destructive. It’s stuff you’re probably going to want, as a warlock. As with all Expanded Spell List features for ‘locks, I think it’s a shame that these aren’t automatic additions to your spell list, but just extra options.
  • Grasp of the Deep is the start of bringing a spectral version of your patron into the battle to eat your enemies. Bonus action to activate, lasts for 1 minute; you can do this a number of times per long rest equal to your Cha bonus. You make melee spell attacks with it, and a hit deals 1d8 cold or lightning damage and reduces the target’s speed by 10. The damage increases to 2d8 at 10th. On later rounds you can move the tentacle and repeat the attack as a bonus action – so it’s sort of a spiritual weapon freebie that deals a bit less damage.
    • This is a very strong feature. For good or ill, it’s also a hard shove away from ever casting hex. You could make hex part of your first-round buildup, but you’re missing out on damage whenever you have to target a new creature.
  • Scion of the Deep grants you telepathic communication with aberrations, beasts, elementals, and monstrosities that have a natural swimming speed, which is the kind of phrasing that you get when Subtype: Aquatic isn’t a thing anymore.
  • Fathomless Soul at 6th level grants the standard array of deep-sea features: water breathing, swimming speed equal to your walking speed, and resistance to cold. I feel like I just finished writing a feature like this!
  • Guardian Grasp at 6th level lets you sacrifice your magical appendage (hur hur) to halve the damage that a creature within 10 feet of it takes. I like the tradeoff here; I might think about letting this increase your total number of pool noodles per long rest.
  • Devouring Maw at 10th level lets you summon your slavering master’s mouth parts, not just their appendage. Essentially, it bites down (Str save) and restrains creatures in an area, them deals damage to creatures that start their turn there. Affected creatures can spend their actions to make a new save, which is brutal. Further, if your devouring maw is eating even one creature, you gain a steady supply of temporary hit points – enough to make you much more difficult to kill. (This reminds me of some WoW boss mechanics, in a good way.) All of this, once per short rest.
  • Unleash the Depths at 14th level summons your patron’s, and here I quote, thalassic grandeur. (Prize for the most distressing euphemism I have read all week.) You can do this once per long rest. There are two different uses, one for transport and one for moar tentacles. Transport teleports you and up to five of your closest friends to any place within 100 miles that you’ve been in the last 24 hours, by way of your patron’s unimaginable realm. (SAN checks, please.) The moar tentacles option, which is technically just called Fury, causes a huge eruption of tentacles to strike up to five creatures, dealing a bunch of damage and possibly knocking them prone.

Overall I love the theme and execution. I am a little worried that Devouring Maw might be too good with a decently coordinated party, just because there are so many ways to more-or-less force opponents to stay in the area. I was about to say that this seems really gross and sinister, so it’s at the edge of too dark to be heroic… and then I remembered that Grasp of the Deep is literally Moana’s special power. In short, this is a great fit for the Disney princess in your life and I am a fan.

 

Mind Sliver

Finally, we get a new cantrip, called mind sliver. It’s an enchantment attack cantrip that deals 1d6 damage (normal cantrip scaling applies) and imposes a d4 penalty to the target’s next saving throw if they fail this saving throw. It’s got a lot in common with a cantrip I published in Mysteries of the Gods, called harrow, so I can say with more-than-usual certainty that this looks fine to me. Remembering to roll the d4 is always a bit of an issue, and more so if there are a bunch of similar opponents in the encounter, but you do your best.

Between the two subclasses and the cantrip, I can’t find even one significant thing to complain about. I like what I see here, I think it shows a high level of polish, and I am 100% ready for whatever other content this is attached to. It’s super nice of WotC to release all of this content that supports, but never duplicates, what we’re doing in Seas of Vodari!