Spelljammer Dragonlance confirmed!
In the first UA of the year, we get a bunch of player-facing mechanics for Dragonlance: a race, a subclass, two backgrounds, and a fistful of feats. My commentary will, as a result, be all over the place. The byline on this one includes Ben Petrisor, F. Wesley Schneider, and Jeremy Crawford.
I think I can safely say that kender are the single most divisive element, among D&D fans, in all of Dragonlance. This text sets out to reflavor them a bit, writing off their behavior as supernatural curiosity and their handling as a supernatural random item replicator. They aren’t stealing, they’re temporarily creating completely random items out of the Feywild Toonspace.
- Small, Humanoid, 30-ft speed.
- Brave gives you advantage on saving throws to avoid or end the frightened condition. Everyone thinks kender are immune to being frightened, and they’re basically impossible to intimidate nonmagically. For everything else, there’s advantage… because even Tasselhoff was daunted by dragonfear. Does it make more sense to say that that was an immunity-bypassing exception, or the one time Tas failed a save?
- Kender Ace, as in “ace up your sleeve,” gives you a magical random item-creating bag at 3rd As a bonus action, PB times per long rest, you roll 1d6 on this table. Four of the six options are a different table, and three of those are an item of your choice.
- As others have pointed out, that’s potentially a lot of either decision paralysis (if you don’t yet have the idea for how to solve your problem and need to read the whole table for ideas) or yeeting whatever you pull out and spending another use the next round (because you know what you need and got the wrong item). Smooth usage during play is not a likely use case overall.
- To again repeat points that others have made before me… creating 5d6 temporary coins that go away after an hour is It’s just theft by fraud rather than theft by taking.
- Taunt makes you really get under someone’s skin. It’s another bonus action, PB times per long rest, and on a failed Wis save, it imposes disadvantage on the target’s attack rolls until the start of your next turn. The target has to be within 60 feet and able to hear and understand you – the latter of which is a substantial restriction in ordinary adventuring.
I think Brave and Taunt are fine, but Kender Ace seems like not a great idea to me. What I would really like is something that let the kender use items out of their friends’ inventories so that it felt like a useful team-wide benefit. In a sense, every item that someone in the team isn’t holding or visibly wearing is in a quantum state. I dunno, theming it around magical temporary item creation isn’t great, to me. (If it’s well-supported in the DL of previous editions, I wouldn’t know about it. I don’t have much personal history with DL.)
Lunar Magic Sorcerous Origin
Your magic waxes and wanes with the moons. The text calls out in a sidebar that all kinds of arcane spellcasters might be Mages of High Sorcery, not just wizards, because otherwise they’d need to carve out whole new setting space for bards, sorcerers, warlocks, Eldritch Knights, and Arcane Tricksters.
- Moon Fire gives you the sacred flame cantrip, and you can target either one creature or two adjacent creatures. It’s unclear how this interacts with the Twinned Spell metamagic. A dual-target cantrip is a great candidate for Quickened Spell, as a damage kicker on whatever else you’re doing with your action that round.
- Lunar Embodiment gives you access to an additional spell at each spell level, 1st through 5th, though death ward shows up early and that’s almost certainly an error. It’s a different list for each phase of the moon that might be influencing you right now—not the phase that the moon(s) are in, because tracking moon phases on a calendar is not fun.
- The phrasing of the next part is ambiguous. “…spells of the associated phase… can be cast once without expending a spell slot. Once you cast a spell (emphasis mine) in this way, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest.” This might mean that you get one free spell per long rest, if “a spell” means “any spell from this list,” or might mean you get one of each spell that you’re high enough level to cast, if “do so” points to the action of casting that specific spell. I’m sure the phrasing was crystal-clear to the writers, but they’ve had to spend years teaching us how to parse some of the finer points of their formal rules language.
- The Full Moon spells center on light and support gameplay, the New Moon on darkness and control, and Crescent Moon on utility and misdirection.
- Lunar Boons at 6th level reduces the sorcery point cost, PB times per long rest, of using metamagic on spells associated with your current lunar phase. That includes the spells from the Lunar Embodiment lists and every spell in two schools of magic – there is no phase for illusion or enchantment.
- The schools associated with each phase often have nothing to do with the Lunar Embodiment spells.
- This PB/long rest limit feels weird to me, because it’s a further limit within the sorcery point budget. I get why it’s here, I just don’t like how everything is a new per-long-rest resource to mark off and refresh.
- Waxing and Waning, also at 6th level, lets you change your current moon phase for 1 sorcery point, as a bonus action. Changing up your spell list mid-battle, even if it’s just five spells, is pretty new territory for sorcerers unless I’m forgetting something big.
- Lunar Empowerment at 14th level gives you an additional widget based on your current phase:
- Full Moon makes you glow and gives you and creatures within 10 feet advantage on saving throws. Goodness, that’s a lot of passive support, since it’s every kind of saving throw.
- New Moon grants advantage on Stealth checks, and attacks against you have disadvantage when you’re in darkness or dim light.
- Crescent Moon grants you resistance to radiant and necrotic damage.
- Full Moon is Just Better than the other two, isn’t it? Especially in the gameplay of 14th level and above, where your AC probably hasn’t scaled up so imposing disadvantage might not save you, and radiant/necro resist is nice but ultimately situational.
- Lunar Phenomenon (doot doo de doo doo) at 18th level lets you burst with an effect from your current moon phase, 1/long rest, or spend 5 sorcery points for extra uses.
- Full Moon blinds enemies (on a failed Con save) and heals one ally, both within 30 feet.
- New Moon deals 3d10 necrotic damage and reduces speed to 0 for enemies within 30 feet that fail a Dex save, and it turns you invisible.
- Crescent Moon teleports you up to 60 feet and grants you resistance to all damage until the start of your next turn.
The subclass talks about phases of the moon, but lunar sorcery feels more like it wants to be about Solinari (the Good-aligned, healing stuff), Nuitari (harmful, stealthy), and Lunitari (utility and mobility). That’s not a problem by any means – it’s just the consequence of this subclass needing to work for Krynn, Toril, Eberron, and so on. …are there any official settings that don’t have a moon? Ravnica maybe?
[one Google search later]
Nope, Ravnica has two moons. How ‘bout that.
There are two new backgrounds here, the Knight of Solamnia and the Mage of High Sorcery. I wonder if we’ll also see explicit support for the other knightly orders, or for anyone that isn’t a knight or a mage, because… well, I’ll get into that in a minute.
Knight of Solamnia
Est Solarus oth mithas.
–the Code of the Knights of Solamnia
This drills way down on the Knight variant of the Noble background, into doing kind of its own thing.
- Athletics and Survival.
- One musical instrument proficiency
- One language
- Starting items that suggest more rough-and-tumble hedge knights than courtly graces
- The Squire of Solamnia feature is where things start to get a little… stranger. Much like in Strixhaven, it grants a feat, as well as room and board in Solamnic knight camps and fortifications.
- I’m going to discuss the Squire of Solamnia feat with the rest of the feats, below, but one thing to see is that it’s a feat that you could buy without being part of this background. It would be like having a way to buy into the cool thing about, say, Sage, without having been in the Sage background – but now there’s a meaningful combat feature. Between this and Strixhaven: Curriculum of Chaos, it’s hard not to think that we’re seeing a trend-line that might carry forward to 2024.
- The feat’s effects aren’t vast, but by having any combat application, it’s going to feel like power creep next to anyone whose background doesn’t do that.
- The fact that two of the feat’s three bullet points do nothing for any character that would fit well into the background’s expectations is… the fundamental problem of providing anything that you need to fit the image, rather than requiring it as a prereq. From a certain point of view, it’s an overcorrection from 3.x prestige classes, which required delicate preplanning to hit their prereq marks.
- This was the first time that I noticed that Strixhaven backgrounds don’t have ideals, bonds, or flaws. That fits my experience of college, yeah. Need for coffee can be your ideal, bond, and flaw. I have much less personal experience of knighthood, regrettably, but it looks like we might be at the end of the era of backgrounds getting their own tables of ideals, bonds, and flaws. I desperately hope that comes with a page or two of advice for writing better ideals, bonds, and flaws for your character.
- There are unique trinkets for backgrounds now, though. I hope that writers of d6 trinket tables will remember that the weird and not-quite-explainable trinkets are enough fun to balance the lack of obvious story meaning.
Mage of High Sorcery
It’ll be weird the day you have to describe yourself as a “sorcerer of high sorcery.” I guarantee at least one wiseacre at your table will decide that “high” is your sorcerous origin.
- Arcana and History
- Two languages
- Standard scholarly starting items
- You gain the Initiate of High Sorcery feat, and get free lodging at the Towers of High Sorcery. If you can find them and get in. Which I wouldn’t bank on. Probably cheaper and easier to get a room at the Mage-Hating Inn For People Who Hate Mages. Their shingle out front is just a pointy hat in a circle with a red line through it. (As before, I’ll get into the effects of Initiate of High Sorcery when I cover all of the feats.)
- The personality traits are very unsubtly organized White/Red/Black, White/Red/Black.
- The trinkets lean toward the enigmatic, though make sure you tell your DM in advance if you get the unopened letter one. Chekov’s unopened letter. A broken wand or incomprehensible scroll sound very promising for something you could render useful at the end of a quest.
The problem with these two backgrounds is that they’re meaningfully more powerful than other backgrounds; depending on what you pick, Magic Initiate can be incredibly powerful. (Pick Solinari and find familiar or shield.) Assuming the unannounced but now strongly implied Dragonlance book comes out before 2024, it’s going to feel bad to play anything that isn’t a knight or a mage. In real terms it’s not much power, but knowing someone else gets additional cool stuff and you don’t is a nasty feels-bad moment during character creation.
There are ten new feats in this document, so… stick with me here. I’ve already mentioned that two of them come from the new backgrounds. There’s one more “starter” feat, Divinely Favored, that could slot into Acolyte without a second thought. Those three feats are prereqs for 1-3 later feats, weakening 5e’s long resistance to feat chains.
I’m following the table’s order rather than page order, because it’s a better flow of ideas for me as writer and you, the cherished reader.
Divinely Favored is a Magic Initiate feat that narrows what your spells can be and gives you one cantrip rather than two. The cantrip is thaumaturgy, while the 1st-level spell comes from a class determined by your alignment: “[a class] and wizard” are your options. Wizard as baseline, rather than cleric, is a strange move for a feat called Divinely Favored. It also lets you use a holy symbol to cast any spell that uses the spellcasting ability you selected for this feat… so all of your wizard spells can use a holy symbol, if you’re Divinely Favored.
Initiate of High Sorcery is another Magic Initiate feat, but one cantrip rather than two, and your options are further constrained. This is also constrained to wizardry for the 1st-level spells, which… isn’t that surprising.
Squire of Solamnia grants proficiency in martial weapons and medium armor, advantage on saves to resist falling from a mount (thunderwave, among others), and a reaction to grant advantage on allies when they roll a saving throw, 1/long rest. Mainly I like that this isn’t a Magic Initiate feat, even if it also highlights how… not great… Weapon Master and Moderately Armored are as feats.
Adept of the Black Robes requires Initiate of High Sorcery, 4th level, and “any non-good alignment.” These feats aren’t the only alignment mechanic in the game, but it’s pretty close. The feat has two components:
- Ambitious Magic gives you a 2nd-level spell of evocation or necromancy, and lets you cast it once per day. This is comparable to Fey-Touched/Shadow-Touched in TCOE, but with its prereq, it’s more clearly building you up as a spellcaster. (As a reminder, Fey Touched gives you misty step and a 1st-level spell from divination or enchantment… and an ability score point.)
- Life Channel lets you burn Hit Dice equal to the level of your spell to add dice equal to half (rounded up) of what you spent as damage to a single creature when it fails a save against a spell you cast. Anything that lets you burn Hit Dice for extra damage gets into the weird space of being better for casters other than sorcerers and wizards.
My question is, do you lose this feat and get to re-spend if you change alignments and no longer qualify? Also, anything based on expending Hit Dice is an interesting case of potentially needing two long rests to recover all of your uses. Life Channel seems less exciting in throughput than what it costs, especially since you’re probably shifting more of the spell slot cost of an adventuring day onto a healer as a result.
Adept of the Red Robes is similar, but it has no alignment requirement (because you can always be within one step of neutral).
- Insightful Magic gives you a 2nd-level spell of divination or transmutation, and lets you cast it once per long rest.
- Magical Balance (Thanos liked this) lets you treat a roll of 9 or lower on a d20 as a 10, as a reaction, PB times per long rest.
This is pretty powerful and reliable, and there’s a lot to be said for getting to avoid the frustration of terrible rolls. Not flashy, maybe (same is true of a lot of divination and transmutation), but I can see taking this feat and feeling good about it.
Adept of the White Robes requires any non-evil alignment, 4th level, and Initiate of High Sorcery.
- Protective Magic gives you a 2nd-level spell of abjuration or conjuration, and lets you cast it once per long rest.
- Protective Ward lets you reduce damage that a creature within 30 feet takes from one source of damage, by a value equal to 1d4 per spell slot level you expend + your spellcasting modifier. It’s like the Bladesinger’s Song of Defense, but roughly half as much damage stopped, and you have to guess what slot level to expend.
You’ll feel good when you use Protective Ward to save the day, though it scales as a healing word and you could easily sink all of your spell slots into this if you wanted to, or weren’t careful. Sort of like being a cleric who finds themselves doing nothing but healing people who are always way over there.
Divine Communications requires 4th level and the Divinely Favored feat. It grants +1 to your spellcasting stat, teaches you Celestial and two more languages of your choice, and lets you cast augury and commune (!) spells once (together, not each… I think? It’s not super clear) per 1d4 long rests. Seeing a 5th-level spell in one of these feats is pretty incredible, though I’d hope DMs are finding it useful and fun to have PCs able to cast it, rather than spoiling mysteries.
Knight of the Crown requires 4th level and the Squire of Solamnia feat.
- +1 Str or Dex.
- Tactical Teamwork lets you grant advantage on an ally’s attack against a creature you’re adjacent to, as a reaction, PB times per long rest.
This is a place where moving so many things to PB uses per long rest just feels like… I don’t know, time to never use this except to make the boss fight super easy? Short rest recharges of minor features are great and we need to help people take a few more of those.
Knight of the Sword has the same set of requirements.
- You gain proficiency in your choice of Int, Wis, or Cha saves. This is pretty stellar for many warrior types, who often struggle with mental defenses, though it’s only okay for clerics and paladins (since it provides them no choice).
- Willpower lets you burn a Hit Die as a reaction, adding the result to a failed Int, Wis, or Cha saving throw that you or a creature within 30 feet rolls. The feature doesn’t go into cooldown (though you still expend the Hit Die) until you convert a failure to a success.
I like the mental resilience that the Knights of the Sword gain. Hit Die sacrifices seem pretty fun here to represent incredible inner effort. Good warlord-adjacent play here.
Knight of the Rose has, again, the same set of requirements.
- +1 Con or Cha. Which is funny because “known for wisdom” is written two lines above in the flavor text.
- Bolstering Rally lets you hand out temporary hit points to three allies as part of rolling initiative. You roll (but don’t spend as far as I can tell?) one Hit Die and add your proficiency bonus and either your Con or Cha, whichever you increased. You can use this PB times per long rest, but you already can’t spam it within an encounter, so that seems fair. The very low scaling on this means it loses a lot of interest in the late game.
I think adding Wisdom to the ability score options helps cleric Knights, and I’d like to see an approach to scaling Bolstering Rally that kept it a little more relevant in the late game.
That’s it for the Heroes of Krynn UA. I feel like there are a few more questions of phrasing intent than usual for UA releases, and I don’t like the gameplay outcomes that I anticipate for Kender Ace. I really wish that the Initiate of High Sorcery and Divinely Favored weren’t Magic Initiate but less, even if you do get them for free from backgrounds.
We’re seeing the awkward puberty stage between 5e (2014) and 5e (2024), and some of my issues with this document rise directly out of that. Not really solvable on their end—change takes time—but I have to write this breakdown from a perspective constrained by (ugh) linear time. I don’t like it any more than you do.
My favorite part of this is, conversely, the suggestions of what 5e (2024) might be like – backgrounds could grant feats, and those feats could be the foundations of 2-feat chains that offer branching choices. This could be an intriguing model for warrior orders in my homebrew setting!