There’s a new Unearthed Arcana to take us into Memorial Day weekend, and “giant” is both its leading adjective and its subject matter. We get three subclasses and ten feats in this document; it’s not clear what exact book this will be for, but it’s got giants on its mind one way or another. This UA’s byline includes Makenzie de Armas, James Wyatt, Ben Petrisor, and Jeremy Crawford.
Self-promo Digression: Let me tell you about some cool giant-based content I worked on with Dan Dillon, many years ago. In the Company of Giants adapts Rite Publishing’s PF1 supplement of the same name to 5e, with a new race, a 20-level class, and six subclasses. You’ll find that this UA document plays with several of the same ideas and solves some of the same problems that we addressed back then!
Path of the Giant (Barbarian)
Do you like hulking out and smashing shit? Do you like hulking out and elementally smashing shit? Let’s goooooo!
- With Giant Power comes giant responsibility, obviously. You learn to speak, read, and write Giant, or something else if you already know Giant. You also learn druidcraft or thaumaturgy, for minor magical touches to help seal the deal for your Ordning admission.
- I’ve had conversations in the last ~72 hours about subclasses not offering replacements, so it’s nice to see here.
- Giant’s Havoc lets you add your rage damage bonus to thrown weapons (this. should. be. standard.) if your attack roll uses Strength, and increases your reach by 5 ft, and increases your size to Large.
- Note that increasing your reach and increasing your size are separate line items. Your size doesn’t increase if you’re in too small of a space, but that doesn’t affect your reach increase. Visually a bit weird, but okay. Anyway, this is critical because of all the tight corridors and low ceilings you see in the dungeon-bashing circuit.
- The rule that weapons sized for Large creatures is apparently intended for NPCs, not PCs. Just a reminder to Giant barbarians and Rune Knight fighters and anyone with an enlarge (But if you talk your DM into giving you a whole extra d12 for using a Large greataxe, uh. Go nuts I guess.)
- Elemental Cleaver at 6th level gives one weapon you wield +d6 (acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder) damage, and the throwing and returning properties, while you rage. So, you know, damage kicker and telling you it’s cool to keep on throwing stuff.
- Mighty Impel at 10th level is a Fastball Special, good for all your personnel relocating needs. You can throw any Medium or smaller creature 30 feet to any empty space, with a Strength save for anyone not feeling cooperative.
- I don’t want to promise that you’re gonna need this all the time, but every time you use it it’s going to be a fun moment.
- As Steve Fidler pointed out in Twitter, you can throw things that are immune to grapples… so maybe there should be a note that creatures that are immune to the grappled condition automatically succeed this saving throw?
- Demiurgic Colossus is just taking the ol’ Gnostic texts out for a spin. Love it. The name also reminds you that this subclass is at least as much about Piotr Rasputin as it is about Jennifer Walters and her alter ego.
- This subclass needs more features relevant to a fourth-wall-breaking legal practice, is what I’m trying to tell you. Voir Dire and Jury Nullification would be some amazing features, don’t kid yourself.
- Oh right, I should actually talk about this feature. This upgrades each of your previous features: you now become Huge, you can throw Large bois, your reach gains another 5 feet, and your Elemental Cleaver gains another d6.
I could be into this subclass, sure. On thinking about it, the throwing game here is a great answer to the barbarian’s shortage of creative options round-over-round.
Circle of the Primeval (Druid)
Did you know druids used to be a pet class? Pepperidge Farms and at least one person in that byline remember. In this case, you get a “primal behemoth,” which might be a dinosaur or, I dunno, an Elden Ring dog.
- Keeper of Old gives you History proficiency and +d4 to Int (History) checks.
- The flavor text here promises a little more than the mechanics deliver (“Your connection to the mighty primeval behemoths allows you new insight into the ancient world.”), but I don’t object to that – I’m saying the PC and DM should lean all the way into that when you respond to History checks. Let the primal behemoth be a connection to a kind of akashic memory.
- Primeval Companion is your pet feature. You summon it by spending a use of Wild Shape. It’s a tanking pet that can use its reaction to split damage, and you’re potentially summoning it twice per short rest. It’s surprisingly one-note compared to, say, the Battlesmith’s Iron Defender, but it’s going to get more juice in later features.
- I love the vibe of being a primary caster with a big defender pet. If you didn’t want a stegosaurus, triceratops, or ankylosaurus pet as a kid (or now), I don’t know how to help you. Also, Princess Mononoke keeps bubbling up in my mind here.
- I don’t think your pet’s attack ever becomes magical B/P/S damage?
- Small creatures get a mount at 2nd level, while Medium creatures have to wait until 10th, and that feels weird.
- Size-changing over the life of the character when you’re trying to support dinosaurs feels weird to me because I do have such a mental association between size and species for dinosaurs. (Not only did I love dinosaurs as a kid, I now have kids who love dinosaurs.) It messes with the fantasy level (as in the sense of “things I want to experience,” not “world of magic and dragons”) to have a wee babby dinosaur from 2nd to 9th level. I would probably change my description of what kind of dinosaur it is, instead.
- Prehistoric Conduit at 6th level lets you use your pet as a source point for your spells, and if you include your pet in your AoEs, it gets advantage on saves, takes half damage on a success, and no damage on a failure. So still be careful, but… if you have to, they’ll probably pull through. (Worth noting that your pet has proficiency in Dex and Con saves.)
- I like this feature and I think it’s very important for druids, who are big on AoEs.
- Titanic Bond at 10th level changes your pet to Large (okay, so it can now go anywhere a horse can go, rather than anywhere a big dog could go), and it gains either a climbing or a swimming speed equal to your walking speed, whichever you choose at time of summoning. Also, you add a Wis save rider to your attacks and anything that deals damage once per turn; on a failure, the target is frightened.
- Emphasizing the “terrifying might” of your pet at 10th level, around the time Huge or Gargantuan creatures are becoming more common, is at least a minor note of cognitive dissonance. I would probably rather see some different feature here, personally.
- Scourge of the Ancients at 14th level lets you pour a spell slot into your creature when you summon it to give it a huge buff for an hour, and the benefit scales with the level of the slot. You get ALL of these:
- Huge size and 10 temporary hit points per slot level (size doesn’t increase if there isn’t room).
- The pet’s Strike damage increases by 1d8 + the level of the slot. So that damage tops out at 2d8 + 15.
- The pet’s speed increases by 5 x slot level, so a top speed of 75 ft.
Overall, I like the theme of this one a lot, but extensive size-changing has complications for both navigating dungeon spaces and the kind of fiction we want to engage with. It is nice to have a druid with a constant (well, constant-ish) pet that can still cast conjure/summon spells.
My first two thoughts:
- Oh hey, they haven’t touched a concept like this since the Rune Scribe 5-level prestige class was incinerated by user feedback in, what, 2015 or 2016?
- Well, sorta, it’s a different kind of Scribe, innit?
- Runes of Understanding teaches you comprehend languages and lets you cast it for free all the time. It’s functionally Eyes of the Rune Keeper, the warlock Eldritch Invocation, but with a duration.
- Runic Empowerment gives you three ways to modify spells at the time of casting. You can use one of these modifications PB times per long rest.
- The Life rune gives you or one creature within 30 feet a big pile of temporary hit points – 5 x slot level. I’d guess that this would get toned down a little in revision – otherwise I think we’re looking at some meaningful power creep. It’s a good bit of the Bladesinger’s schtick, but with a PB use limit and you still get the spell’s effect.
- The War rune grants a bonus to attack rolls made against a single creature of your choice until the end of your next turn, equal to half-rounded-up the spell level you expended. This kind of feature – a flat add to attack rolls against a particular creature – is very unusual in 5e. It’s not a lot of rounds in a day overall, but when it’s time to wreck a high-AC target or let the Great Weapon Master barbarian go house on a dude, accept no substitutes.
- When I tell you it’s called the Wind Rune, I hope “movement buff” was your first guess. Five feet per spell level, until the start of your next turn, and you don’t take opportunity attacks.
- Sigils of Warding at 6th level lets you spend Runic Empowerment uses and your reaction as – essentially – Legendary Resistances for Strength, Dex, and Con saves. That’s a pretty amazing feature to see in PC hands.
- Taking charges out of the same pool as Runic Empowerment makes for very tough decision-making in the early game. Once you have this feature, you’re never intentionally spending your last one.
- Rune Maven at 10th level is a patch on that resource scarcity: once each day when you take a short rest to use your Arcane Recovery (holy forking shirtballs, a short rest feature!) you regain Runic Empowerment uses equal to half-rounded-up of your Int bonus.
- Taking bets on this getting turned into “you now get twice your PB in uses per long rest” or something, but goosing the reward for taking a short rest is good in my book.
- Any use of “maven” that isn’t immediately following the word “fashion” strikes me a little oddly.
- Engraved Enmity at 14th level lets you mark an enemy as a bonus action and keep doing bad stuff to them, if they fail an initial Wisdom save. The mark requires concentration and lasts for 1 minute; you can do it once per long rest, and you can spend a 3rd-level slot for more uses. Your effect options:
- Runecraft’s Bane hits ‘em with disad on saves against your spells. Good steady performer, and nice for anything that might be a long boss fight.
- Unveiled Enemy reveals an invisible enemy and prevents them from going invisible. That’s a cool feature when you need it.
- Woeful Curse is a bit on the complicated end, at least as it’s explained here. The idea is that you curse the target to take +1d8 force damage from the next attack roll that hits them. You can’t gain this damage bonus yourself, only your allies, and you’ve got to reapply it every round.
- The mark requires a failed save, but the feature isn’t expended until you do mark someone with it. That could be a few rounds of trying – though with the generally small number of rounds in a 5e fight, failing in the first round might mean saving it for the next fight.
I like the concept of adding runes into spells, though I wish that spells like glyph of warding played a direct role in the Runecrafter’s function, or that runic stuff came up a little more often in your adventuring day. The subclass very much turns on its resource pool, and I’ll be curious to see if/how that resource pool changes in playtesting. Thinking about it a little more, I’d really like to see the effect of Rune Maven show up earlier and a new feature at 10th level – the resource pressure of Runic Empowerment and Sigils of Warding is bothering me (well, I anticipate it bothering me – I obviously make no claim of having brought this to the table).
The salient trend-line of these ten feats is level prereqs and two-step feat chains. There’s only one of the latter, so it only stands out because of the conversations we’ve been having ever since the Dragonlance UAs dropped. The story these feats are telling is about exposure to primordial magic and manifesting abilities similar to the main six giant types. The two feats of rune stuff have a very different mechanical throughput than the Runecrafter.
Elemental Touched teaches you druidcraft or thaumaturgy, and lets you attune to one of the four elements at the end of any long rest. That attunement gives you a bonus action you can use PB times per long rest.
- Air is that one-round-of-flying-speed feature we see in the high-level Eagle totem barbarian – just here with a usage limit rather than all day. It’s still enough to get you around a lot of obstructions.
- Earth makes the ground around you (30-ft radius) difficult terrain for 1 minute, and difficult terrain doesn’t cost you extra movement. Outstanding for tank stickiness if there are no alternate movement modes in the mix and your allies don’t need to go anywhere.
- Fire is essentially a bonus action Disengage – your movement this turn doesn’t provoke OAs. Nice to have if you’re a skirmisher who doesn’t already have that from monk or rogue levels. (Or, I guess, monks who are tired of paying ki for the privilege.) Seems unfortunate that Fire is 100% useless for rogues of 2nd level and above, because I love fiery rogue aesthetics.
- Water lets you [Editor: a filthy, inappropriate joke has been removed. Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?]. If they fail a Strength save, they’re pushed 10 feet away. You just keep pushing everyone away, like a typical Water sign. (I know nothing about astrology, so that’s probably wrong.)
- If a bonus action shove is the main thing you want, buy Telekinetic instead – 5 ft push rather than 10 ft, but all day rather than PB/long rest, and with more versatility.
Overall, I think this feat is okay, but Air and Earth strike me as much more appealing than Fire or Water. I expect that most players looking at this menu of options are picking the one element they’ll use most often, because it’s hard to anticipate situations where you’d need to change it up. Fire and Water are both okay, but if those are the effects you want, there are probably better ways to get there.
Ember of the Fire Giant requires you to be at least 8th level, which is a surprising prereq in feat design to date. It gives you resistance to fire damage and Searing Ignition: you can replace one of your attacks with a burst of flame that deals 2d6 + PB damage and blinds creatures of your choice out to 15 ft (Dex save for half damage and no blinding). You can do this PB/long rest.
This is incredibly effective – it’s enough AoE damage to be worth giving up your single attack as a rogue (but it looks like you can’t use a two-weapon fighting to get around its action cost, so you never get to stab a blinded target), while the loss of a single attack is a trivial cost for fighters and monks. Imagine a greatsword fighter having an option to give up one attack to instead hit everyone within 15 feet and blind them until the start of the fighter’s next turn. I’m having a hard time not seeing this as overpowered.
Fury of the Frost Giant requires you to be at least 4th level. It gives you resistance to cold damage and Frigid Vengeance: when you’re hit by an attack, you can use your reaction to frighten the attacker until the start of your next turn, PB/long rest. You probably don’t get to know whether the attacker is immune to fear before you decide to use the reaction. This feels underwhelming and off-theme, to me: it doesn’t deliver on frost giant or cold themes anywhere near as strongly as Ember of the Fire Giant, and frightening one creature for the rest of its turn seems like a whole hell of a lot less than blinding every creature within 15 feet until the start of your next turn. (To say nothing of the damage dealt.)
The difference in level prereq stands out, of course. I hope that power differential isn’t completely explained by the four-level span between them, because that suggests way more power escalation than I want to see. If I decided at the start of play that I want a giant theme, or if the whole party is doing a giant theme, the Fire Guy on the team needing to wait another four levels to buy the feat that delivers his story feels real bad.
Guile of the Cloud Giant requires you to be at least 8th level. It gives you proficiency and expertise in Deception or Persuasion. Waiting until 8th level to pick up proficiency in a social skill is always going to be weird, because your party’s face character is probably well-established by about 3rd level.
It also gives you Misty Form, which teaches you the blur spell and lets you cast it without a slot or concentration once per long rest. One minute of disadvantage on all attacks against you is amazing, though in the mid-late game, the DM will need to check for blindsight or truesight, as both of those abilities become much more common. (I filtered the monsters on D&D Beyond for truesight and blindsight, and got 28 pages of results, tilted much more toward CR 13+ than the standard CR distribution.)
I expect that it’ll be a great buy for Eldritch Knights, paladins, rangers, and bladelocks.
Keenness of the Stone Giant requires at least 4th level. It gives you 60 ft darkvision or +30 ft of darkvision, and Dreamer’s Magic: you learn detect thoughts and one 1st-level abjuration or divination of your choice. You can cast both of those spells without a slot once per long rest, and with spell slots. This seems… fine? Probably more of a high-concept pick than driven by optimization.
Outsized Might is a surprising place not to find +1 Strength and some other miscellaneous features; the fact that none of the feats in this article have that might signal a shift in WotC’s feat design. It gives you proficiency in Athletics or Acrobatics, increases your carrying capacity with Powerful Build, and gives you advantage on saves against pushes and knockdowns. Seems like a standard, useful feat.
Rune Carver Apprentice is a little bit more of what I expected from the description of the Runecrafter. There’s a library of 19 runes, and you can inscribe one on an object at the end of a long rest. That lets you cast it once without a slot and expend spell slots to keep casting it. I’ve mentioned this before, as far back as the early Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron, but this kind of feature always leaves me with the impression that non-spellcasters get something kind of nice, while spellcasters get more. There’s also a huge divide, within the feat, between spells that care about your spellcasting ability score and spells that don’t.
As a side note, giving Abjurers and Eldritch Knights a pretty easy way to pick up armor of Agathys sounds like dangerous ground to me. I’m sure there are other ways I haven’t thought about, but here’s a way to do it from 1st level (as a variant human). Also, an easy way to play a healing wizard from 1st level.
Rune Carver Adept requires 4th level and Rune Carver Apprentice. (I wonder if we’ll see a Background that gives Rune Carver Apprentice for free?) Instead of one rune from RCA per long rest, you can now carve a number of runes equal to your proficiency bonus. Adding 2 to 6 1st-level spells known and additional free casts to classes with a restrictive number of spells known and/or slots (bards, rangers, sorcerers, warlocks, Eldritch Knights, and Arcane Tricksters) could be a huge game-changer for them. Yes, it costs two feats and you can get a lot of amazing things for two feats, but still.
Soul of the Storm Giant requires 8th level. It gives you divination as a ritual (no components) 1/long rest, and gives you Maelstrom Aura: as a bonus action 1/long rest, you impose disadvantage on attacks against you and creatures of your choice that start their turn within 10 feet of you have their speed halved. This lasts 1 minute. The effect ends early if you’re incapacitated.
So this is… blur but not subject to blindsight/truesight, plus an aura of selective difficult terrain? That sounds very powerful, yeah. I’m also reminded that the hell of overlapping auras was a big part of how I got chased off from running 4e combats in paragon tier. I think there’s a point at which it needs to be okay for the DM to gently ask the players, collectively, to tweak their builds to have less mental overhead.
Vigor of the Hill Giant requires 4th level. It gives you a reaction to simply negate pushes and knockdowns (o…kay). Also, when you receive healing you can add your Con modifier to the amount you regain, PB/long rest. So that’s going to be anywhere from 2 to 30 hit points healed in a day. Compared to other feat elements that grant healing or generate temporary hit points, this is very limited – it’s a splash of healing conservation tacked onto a reaction-limited immunity.
The power level of the feats seems all over the place to me. Getting used to “acceptable” power levels for 1st, 4th, 8th, and possibly later feat levels means a lot of new benchmarking to take into account. I’m not saying WotC’s going to get into the business of publishing feats you have to be 19th level to take – this isn’t 3.x.
Player-available reactions to resist incoming attacks are turning from softer counters (advantage on saves to avoid or end) to harder counters (you decide to succeed, you negate the effect). Taking the dice out of the equation (for players) is a big conceptual shift for 5e. My experience of players having long-duration “all incoming attacks have disadvantage” is… very mixed. Like the time my PCs used a bunch of protection from evil and good spells to take zero (0) damage from a whole pack of slaadi, so I have some concerns about blur-without-concentration and Maelstrom Aura.
The stories the subclasses tell are great. The number of spaces you get to threaten as a Huge creature with +10 ft reach is… enough to overflow the areas of many combat arenas in published adventures, so you’ll probably have a better time in outdoor adventures than any kind of enclosed space.