It has been a month and a half since the first Heroes of Krynn UA release. Then there was a round of surveys, as usual, and today we get a new attempt. I’m very glad to see that they’re going to UA early enough that revisions are even possible. F. Wesley Schneider, Ben Petrisor, and Jeremy Crawford have the byline on this one.
Before getting into what is here – the Lunar Magic sorcerous origin apparently got top marks and doesn’t require revisions. The first draft was one of the messiest things, in terms of comprehensibility, that they’ve released in a long time, but they probably know that and don’t need to show off the fixes. I liked the concept plenty, so I’m not sorry to see it get approved.
The first draft of the kender was a major lightning rod of conversation around the first article, and this draft shows major changes. The flavor text walks back the fey connections, for starters.
- Humanoid, Small, 30-ft speed.
- Fearless grants immunity to the frightened condition. This is your gentle reminder that Tas, in the text, is resistant and not immune to fear. Immunity is a rules construction from previous editions, and PC immunities are bad design. This is just asking to wreck encounter mechanics.
- Digression: in the Tomb of Annihilation campaign I’m playing in, we ran into a very murderous mind-control effect. My ranger failed his Wisdom save, because I always fail Wisdom saves, and I’m not salty about it, you’re salty about it, shut up. Anyway, the paladin made us all immune with his aura. Which meant that instead of a scary trap, this was an encounter that no longer had stakes whatsoever.
- I would be delighted if my sole legacy contribution to D&D design, as a fan and commentator, is to reduce the presence of immunities.
- Kender Curiosity replaces Kender Ace, and grants proficiency in one skill, chosen from Insight, Investigation, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, or Survival.
- Nice to have, not really interesting, but it’s not a mess of decision paralysis and useless outcomes as Kender Ace was. It doesn’t really communicate kender theme very well either, but… okay.
- Taunt imposes disad on an enemy’s attacks against targets other than you – so Marking the target, basically – until the start of your next turn, as a bonus action, PB uses per long rest. It was previously disad against all targets, so a minor but meaningful nerf here. Also, the Wis save DC calculation can use Int, Wis, or Cha, rather than just Cha. It does mean that some kender need to actually avoid using this feature – not that you “should” be playing a kender arcane caster in old-school Dragonlance anyway.
This is a middle-of-the-road, safe design. For most purposes, it looks weaker to me than halflings, though of course Fearless is stronger than Brave by any measure. Taunt is good for generating a few missed attacks each day, so that’s great to have. Overall, I’m not really happier with this than I was with the original, but I’m unhappy for the opposite reason.
It’s fascinating to me that Dragonlance needs (maybe there are scare quotes around that, I don’t know) bonus feats at 1st and 4th level to get where it wants to be in story terms. It’s a meaningful power boost, but… probably fine? If you’re not a Knight of Solamnia or a Mage of High Sorcery, you can choose from Tough, Skilled, and Divinely Favored. This feels like a move toward D&D with four and a half classes: warrior, other warrior, expert, spellcaster, god-botherer. I wish it weren’t so consistently obvious which one you should take for any given class; it sort of feels like some warrior concepts have a choice, and no one else.
The same thing happens again at 4th level – you get a bonus feat on top of the ASI, adding Alert, Mobile, Sentinel, and War Caster to your free options, as well as the Adept of the [Color] Robes and Knight of the [Order] feats.
Knight of Solamnia
The only change I’m finding in this text is that now you learn two languages instead of one language and one musical instrument. I want you to imagine me as an Elden Ring player finding this and using my Tarnished’s Wizened Finger to write “could this be nerfing but hole.”
What I’m saying is, this is value-neutral and the meaningful change comes in the Squire of Solamnia feat, which I’ll cover when I get to the Feats, below.
Mage of High Sorcery
At a fairly quick scan, I found no changes. Hie thee to the Feats section, starting…
I’m handling these in the same order as before, which isn’t the two-step progression.
Adept of the Black Robes has two parts. The alignment requirement is gone, which I… think I feel fine about, because I don’t like alignment rules?
- Ambitious Magic now grants a spell of enchantment or necromancy rather than evocation or necromancy. It’s still one free 2nd-level spell per day from one of those schools.
- Life Channel is reworked. Instead of getting extra damage equal to the total of half the Hit Dice you expend, you gain extra damage equal to the full amount of the Hit Dice you expend. It’s still kind of weird because it’s sort of better for d8 and d10 classes than d6 sorcerers and wizards, but… okay. Anyway, getting the full value of your Hit Dice (and you have to spend as many HD as the level of the spell) certainly makes this a lot more appealing to use.
If the school of necromancy were better supported with murder spells, those two bullets would go together like hard drugs and rock-‘n’-roll. As it is, you’ll be going outside of your Order’s stated specialty for most of your career, specifically because Life Channel can’t boost cantrip damage. For sorcerers and wizards, I think your first option is wither and bloom at 2nd, then blight at 4th, then enervation and negative energy flood at 5th level. That’s pretty scanty, and of course enchantment is even less about dealing damage.
Really the message here is “WotC, please find the murder-tastic sex appeal of necromancy, and publish it. Tamsyn Muir has got you covered.”
Adept of the Red Robes likewise has two parts.
- Insightful Magic has changed from divination/transmutation to illusion/transmutation. I personally want a free use per day of divination a little more often than illusion, but invisibility is a timeless classic, so it’s still great.
- Magical Balance doesn’t cost a reaction anymore. You can just do it, PB times per long rest. I would love to have heard that design conversation, but I’m guessing it was something like “reactions that you mainly use on your own turn feel kinda… bad? What if we didn’t?”
These changes seem fine to me.
Adept of the White Robes has two parts and no alignment restriction.
- Protective Magic switched from abjuration/conjuration to abjuration/divination. Okay.
- Protective Ward still lets you dump spell slots to mitigate damage for allies as a reaction (hard not to see this as a pseudo Mana Shield), but now you’re reducing damage by d6/level + spellcasting ability modifier, up from d4/level + modifier. It may be an average of just one point per spell level, but it feels a lot better if you want to play a support wizard (or, you know, a City of Heroes-style bubble defender).
I like this change a lot. No point in granting an option like this that you almost never want to use.
Divine Communications is gone.
Divinely Favored is substantially rebuilt. It’s no longer “Magical Adept but worse,” which I appreciate. It grants one cleric cantrip (replacing just thaumaturgy), one 1st-level spell from the warlock (when you’re eeevil), cleric (you goody-two-shoes), or druid (if you’re living in neutral) lists, and one free augury per day. It’s stronger, then, by the value of the augury spell.
Initiate of High Sorcery now grants one wizard cantrip and two 1st-level spells. The 1st-level spells are chosen from very constrained lists based on the moons, but hey, it offers you a way to get hex as a wizard! (Which is mostly not worth a wizard’s time unless they lean very, very hard on spells that make multiple spell attacks per round, like scorching ray.) Anyway, this is no longer strictly weaker than Magical Adept. The spell selection is probably narrower than it needs to be.
Knight of the Crown now draws on the Battle Master fighter’s maneuvers, as Sword and Rose are also about to do. As a digression – I still regret that the UA where WotC tried to build more subclasses on Combat Superiority dice and Maneuvers got shot down so hard. I think there’s a ton of interesting possibility there. Anyway.
- Still grants +1 Str or +1 Dex.
- You get ONE of Distracting Strike or Goading Attack (because you’re a tank), and you can switch to the other one as part of a long rest. That’s a lot of bookkeeping when it would be pretty much fine to grant both?
- You gain two more CS dice (building on the foundation of Squire of Solamnia, see below), and they improve to d8s. I assume(?) that if you also had Martial Adept, this would improve those d6s.
I like this a lot more than just splashing around a bunch of advantage on attacks with Tactical Teamwork. It feels more like action. Also I love Battle Masters and a Battle Master-adjacent approach to warrior orders.
Knight of the Sword has similar changes.
- +1 Int, Wis, or Cha, instead of proficiency in Int, Wis, or Cha saves. (It was previously too good, in my estimation.)
- I really liked the previous feature bit here, Willpower, but now it grants Maneuvering Attack or Menacing Attack. Those are fine too? Though I think this would have been a good place to reprint some of the cool new Maneuvers in TCOE. As with Crown, you choose one of those two, and switch between them only during a long rest.
- You gain two more CS dice, and they become d8s.
This change is fine. I’m glad that it’s not the incredible power of a new proficient save.
Knight of the Rose has the same kinds of changes, of course.
- +1 Con or Cha, as before.
- Commander’s Strike and Rally are your Maneuver options; Rally is a lot like the previous Bolstering Rally feature.
- +2 CS dice, yadda yadda yadda.
I like the greater flexibility here, and that if you somehow had two Rose Knights in the same party they’re not redundant.
Squire of Solamnia has a clearer set of prereqs – a fighter or paladin can take this without the Knight of Solamnia background, but other characters need the background. I can live with that, sure. It puts several of the arguments about Sturm to rest, anyway. (I still say that if your background ceases to represent your character, you should change your background.)
- Martial Training (a feature that would help almost no one who actually wants this feat) is gone.
- Mount Up replaces Defensive Rider – you spend only 5 ft of movement to mount a horse.
- Encouraging Rally is gone.
- Squire Maneuvers gives you one of Lunging Attack, Precision Attack, or Pushing Attack, and you can change out as part of a long rest.
- You gain superiority dice (d6s) equal to your proficiency bonus, and they refresh on a long rest.
I see how much they’re trying to move the game away from ever using short rests (though even the 2024 facelift is only going to be able to offer half-measures because of XGTE), but this is messy. Either a Battle Master fighter (or Martial Adept haver) who takes this feat now needs to track per-short and per-long CS dice separately, or they get to reset all of them per short rest and this feat is much stronger for Battle Master fighters than any other class or subclass, which is also bad.
Short rests are great! Just ease the length of a short rest down from an hour and make sure every class has something to gain from them. (I am keenly aware that, inasmuch as there is a conversation here, I have long since lost.)
Overall, I think this draft is uneven in a totally different set of ways than its predecessor, but mostly it’s better. The kender is unappealing if presented alongside halflings, which of course isn’t a problem for Krynn. The High Sorcery feats are improved. I like Maneuvers and CS dice as the approach to the Knights, even if I don’t like their reset timing. That adds up to a positive trend-line.