Is… is it possible, by some strange chance, that I’m coming to a close in this series? Sure, I’m a whole packet behind, but I’m doing my best here, folks. This time, I’m planning to finish the packet. Wish me luck.
The flavor text name-checks several familiar figures – Bigby, Tasha, Mordenkainen, great! – and one who is a much deeper cut to me. Yolande, it turns out, is a significant figure in Greyhawk lore just like the other three, but one that hasn’t been named in multiple spells over the years. Kinda weird to see not a single wizard outside of Greyhawk, except insofar as the other three have appeared extensively in non-GH products.
- Arcane Recovery has moved back to level 1. I’m surprised that this didn’t get a trifle more generous, considering how many new currency fixers we see in Sorcerer and Warlock.
- Spellcasting has – surprisingly! – changed a little bit.
- You can now change out one of your cantrips as part of a Long Rest, which seems fine.
- They’ve slightly improved the total number of prepared spells to probably stay even with (Int modifier + Wizard level), so… that’s fine I guess. At level 19 or 20 you might be able to push your Int north of 20 and break that, but by that stage of the game it scarcely matters.
- Finally, as you know from previous articles in this series if not from reading the packet yourself, the three-spell-list approach is gone and replaced with each class using 5e.14 spell lists again.
- Scholar at level 2 is a rename of Academic, and now grants Expertise in one of Arcana, History, Nature, or Religion, if you already have proficiency. I’d like to see Investigation added to that list, since Investigation seems to be the go-to skill for mechanical/engineering sorts of questions, among other things. I’m glad this feature exists.
- Wizards gain subclass features at levels 3, 6, 10, and 14.
- Ability Score Increases at 4, 8, 12, 16, and 19.
- Memorize Spell at level 5 is no longer a spell in itself, but an ordinary feature. I’m happy about that, as a matter of style. It lets you prepare an additional spell in 1 minute, and you can cycle that fast-prepped spell out with another minute of effort. I like the flexibility this offers, to solve unusual problems with very niche spells. I think it takes off a lot of the pressure to have a library of spell scrolls of those niche utility spells, and strongly rewards playing the spell chase game.
- Spell Mastery at level 18 gives you an unlimited number of uses of one 1st-level spell and one 2nd-level spell. This feature is pretty much fine with the Wizard as it is, but it really messes things up for new directions the Wizard could To be very specific: cure wounds and healing word can’t ever go in your spellbook (though there’s a carve-out there so that you can gain them some other way without breaking things), because infinite healing may not be game-breaking at level 18, but it sure the hell steps on the toes of other classes. So I kinda wish this worked differently, but it’s fine.
- The rule did change so that the spell has to have a casting time of 1 action; as the sidebar explains, this is about shutting out spells like Shield and, presumably, Silvery Barbs.
- You can also now change what those mastered spells are as part of a Long Rest. Probably good.
- Signature Spells has returned to level 20. Since the odds are good you’ve never seen this feature in actual use, it gives you two additional spell prep slots that can only be used on 3rd-level spells, and you can cast each of them without expending a spell slot, 1/Short or Long Rest. Definitely nice to have – just look for spells you absolutely do not care about upcasting, like the new version of Counterspell.
This is a return to form for the Wizard, with only a few conservative tweaks from 5e.14. But it didn’t need much! I’m hard-pressed to complain much about what’s here, and Scholar specifically addresses one of those things that has annoyed me since 2014 (Bards and Rogues beating out Wizards at Arcana, thanks to Expertise).
The Abjurer is one of the four Wizard subclasses of 5e.24’s PH, and honestly it doesn’t need that much change.
- The Savant family of features, found in all of the PH Wizard subclasses, has been reworked. Instead of a discount to learn spells of your school, which some schools can’t do well or at all at some levels (Divination and Necromancy have particular problems in the late game), you get an extra free spell of your school added to your spellbook when you gain a level. I like this fix a lot, because of the severe problems of the previous implementation.
- Arcane Ward has been changed to close the Laerryn Exception – that thing where Armor of Shadows gives you unlimited uses of Mage Armor to charge up your Arcane Ward. You now have to expend a spell slot. Good fix. You can also dump spell slots without accompanying spell effects, as a Bonus Action, to recharge your Ward. I can imagine situations where that makes sense, sure.
- Projected Ward at level 6 is unchanged – you can use your Reaction to protect someone else with the hit points in your Arcane Ward. Super fun move, no change needed.
- Spell Breaker at level 10 replaces Improved Abjuration and gives you Dispel Magic as always prepared, Bonus Action to cast(!), and you are proficient in its ability check. This is a great spread of benefits, though there’s no longer any benefit for Counterspell, because they have no interest in boosting Counterspell gameplay, and because Counterspell no longer involves an ability check.
- Spell Resistance at level 14 is unchanged: Advantage on saves against spells, and resistance against damage from spells.
- That’s good, though not as good as it used to be. The pivot away from spells may be slightly less total than it looked like it would be for a minute there, but it’s hard to guess what the 5e.24 MM might look like.
This doesn’t have sweeping changes, and didn’t need them. If you played this and a 5e.14 Abjurer side-by-side (weird team roster, but I’ve done weirder), you might go a whole campaign, and only serious rules experts would notice.
This one, I actually have played, and it’s super fun. There’s also a Cleric 3/Diviner 8 in my long-running campaign. Between those two campaigns, we have played the timing of Portent correctly (checks notes) zero times. What can I tell you, it’s hard to remember that you have this feature before the d20 roll.
- Divination Savant… well, see above explanation of Abjuration Savant’s changes. Divination needed this change pretty bad, and may still be tough if you don’t pick up XGTE and TCOE.
- Portent hasn’t changed, though as I’ve just mentioned I sort of wish it would. With that change it’s slightly stronger, but I’d have a hard time saying it’s too much.
- Expert Divination at level 6 has also not changed – I sort of think of it as scraping off one spell level of power to cast a Divination spell. I really like this feature because there are so many Divination spells that return a “nothing important to see here” or similar neutral result.
- The Third Eye at level 10 has been changed so that you cast See Invisibility without expending a spell slot or having the spell prepared (as far as I can tell), instead of choosing between a very close-range sense for invisible creatures or a 60-ft perception into the Ethereal. The whole feature is now activated with a Bonus Action rather than an Action, so that’s nice.
- Greater Portent at level 14 is unchanged – a third Portent die. Great, love it, no notes.
And that’s the Diviner, a very potent subclass for making damn sure things go the way they want (within certain constraints). Even more than the Abjurer, you’d have to pay close attention to tell the two apart in the course of play, but this one is an improvement.
Evoker is kind of supposed to be the easiest Wizard subclass to play, I think? But there’s still a huge gulf between competent play and excellent play, for them.
- Evocation Savant does what you think it does. At least for Evocation, there’s reasonable spell choice all the way up.
- Potent Cantrip has moved to level 3, and makes your cantrips deal damage on a miss or successful saving throw.
- The sidebar argues that this gives you a feature that you can enjoy more often, but what I see is that it’s passive. I doubt you choose a cantrip instead of a leveled spell because of this feature. Your average damage improves slightly, but it doesn’t support a playstyle. The playstyle is Sculpt Spells.
- Sculpt Spells has moved to level 6, and still lets you exclude friendlies from your AoE evocations.
- The sidebar argues that you don’t get enough area spells at low levels for this to matter. I say… y’all never heard of Burning Hands, Thunderwave, or Rime’s Binding Ice? Those are popular, powerful evocations that you can cast by level 3. (If Rime’s Binding Ice isn’t yet popular at your table, especially in the hands of an Evoker, you are missing out.)
- Empowered Evocation at level 10 is unchanged: you add your Int modifier to “one damage roll” of a Wizard Evocation spell. Until and unless Magic Missile gets reworded, this means you get a multiplicative effect from this feature on that spell, because technically you roll once and apply that result to every missile. It’s not actually fun to see Magic Missile become your best option in most situations, but here we are.
- Overchannel at level 14, also unchanged. You maximize the effect of a spell on the turn you cast it by using this feature. The first use is free, and uses after that hit you with unavoidable necrotic damage that scales with additional uses. Maximizing big, swingy spells sounds like great fun – Negative Energy Flood and Steel Wind Strike look great for this, and of course there’s Cone of Cold.
So yeah. The only big change is that Potent Cantrips and Sculpt Spells swap places. I think that’s an unfortunate decision in terms of making decisions and learning your gameplay loop; I’m not persuaded that Potent Cantrips is exciting enough to carry the subclass from level 3 to level 6.
I’ve seen an Illusionist in play only the tiniest bit. But maybe there are Illusionists in my campaign right now and I’m not even aware of… nah, that’d never happen.
- Illusion Savant, you know, thingy, it’s late, what are words.
- Improved Minor Illusion at level 3 teaches you Minor Illusion, and lets you create both audio and visual components. This is amazing if you’re amazing at it, and have inspiration in the moment. (The gap between competent and ideal play couldn’t be wider. It also requires a cooperative DM more than any other Wizard subclass, though Enchanter comes close.)
- Malleable Illusions at level 6 lets you spend a Bonus Action to change what the Illusion spell you’ve cast actually present, which might give you a lot more flexibility to respond to an evolving situation. This previously took an action instead of a Bonus Action; good change.
- Illusory Self at level 10 lets you use your Reaction to force an attack against you to miss, as you reflexively create an illusion that the target hits instead. You can use this once per Short or Long Rest, and can use it additional times by burning a spell slot of level 2 or higher. That’s a great survivability mechanic for squishy wizard types caught unawares, and very much on-theme for Illusionists. (The change to this feature is the additional uses from burning a spell slot.)
- Illusory Reality at level 14 creates a semi-real object from your Illusion spells. It hasn’t really changed, except to clarify the wording a bit: you can’t create damaging objects or items, and you can’t impose conditions with it.
Here again, pretty small changes, though Malleable Illusions matters a lot in terms of letting you run an illusion effectively while also using other spells. Mostly I wish there were space in the PH and DMG with advice on making illusion-centered play fun and effective, both when it’s a PC doing it and when it’s an NPC.
Four spell revisions, two spell reversions (Eldritch Blast and Hex, which means I was wrong about a few things in my discussion of the Warlock, in the previous article. Oops.)
Arcane Eruption at spell level 4 is a Sorcerer-only Fireball, more or less, that also delivers a semi-randomized condition. You need to really want that condition (all of them except Deafened are incredibly effective), because otherwise you should cast Fireball and deal more damage.
Counterspell… okay, look, I probably don’t need to tell you that there’s been a ton of conversation about this spell and its effects on play. Not least of which is because the side with the greater number of Counterspell casters can probably get everything they want and shut the other side out completely, and that’s not great for tension. The “bidding” dynamic of Counterspell has its complications as well, for better or worse.
This revision attempts to address that. Instead of an ability check, this Counterspell relies on a Constitution saving throw against your spell save DC. Because it’s a Con save, Legendary creatures can use Legendary Resistance to make damn sure their spells go through, though that’s also pushing them closer to your crowd-control effects possibly working. When a caster is successfully countered, they lose the action (or Bonus Action or Reaction) used to cast the spell, but the spell slot (if any) is refunded to them. As a result, Countering a caster is a little bit more kicking the can down the road than actually stopping them cold. There’s no upcast function and no automatic success against spells below 3rd level.
I like the refunding of spell slots for countered spells. I liked the tension and guessing game of slot level bidding, so I’m not wild about a shift to just Con saves. I’m surprised that they haven’t used this spell description to strictly clarify whether you get to know what the incoming spell is before you decide whether to counter it. There’s a rule for this in XGTE, but I’d have thought they’d want to pull that into the 5e.24 core rules, and this seems like the place to put it.
Jump has always been a real tough spell to love, even before 5e.14. Previously, it was an action to cast and tripled your jumping distance for a minute, but it’s hard to build exciting areas to explore that have as much vertical movement or vast distances to cross as the maps in Baldur’s Gate 3. (The reasons for this are many and varied, but essentially come down to it not being fun for DMs to describe every square foot of terrain, and not having as much time to revise and add challenge to their level design as Larian had.)
Anyway, nu!Jump is a Bonus Action to cast (so you can still Dash on the turn you cast it even if you aren’t a Monk or Rogue), and instead of caring much about your own jump distance, it lets you replace 10 feet of your movement with a 30-ft leap. I’m a little lost on what that means in horizontal vs. vertical terms, but that’s okay. It’s 20 extra feet of movement for a minute as long as part of that move can be a leap, and that’s helpful. Letting you upcast to add more targets is very nice too, because you could theoretically now use this spell to get more, or all, of your team through a traversal challenge. It’s potentially worth a spell prep slot now? For some characters? But still not most, I’m guessing, until and unless we create more maps that need leaps to traverse.
Sorcerous Burst is a new cantrip for Sorcerers, leaning into their highly varied damage types. Its exciting, weird trait is that its damage dice can explode (that is, on a roll of an 8 on 1d8 you get to add that result and roll the die again), up to a number of times equal to your spellcasting ability modifier. It scales in damage dice like a normal cantrip, it has a nice long range, and it uses a spell attack. I like this spell just fine.
Very minor change: if you use your level 19 Ability Score Increase to increase ability scores (rather than by a feat, your ability score cap is 22 rather than 20. This doesn’t play nice with the Barbarian level 20 class feature, but that reads like an oversight and I doubt it’ll survive that way to release.
Things have changed a bit with weapon properties and mastery properties.
Heavy is no longer about your Size, but about meeting ability score minimums. Those ability score minimums result in locking out a completely different type of character than the Size rule did. Where previously Size locked out gnomes, halflings, and a few other rarer species, now it locks out characters relying on scores other than Strength/Dex for attack and damage modifiers. Pact of the Blade/Hexblade, Battle Smith Artificers, that kind of thing.
Given that I specifically want to use a githyanki silver greatsword with my Str 8 githyanki Hexblade, I hate this change. The image of halflings and gnomes using weapons literally twice their height is super fun for some people and sort of… tedious to me, but if it’s important enough to you then fine. Could you maybe not muck things up for a bunch of subclasses in the meantime, though?
Flex got cut. I’m guessing that’s because it was paired with Versatile but kind of undermined the nature of Versatile, and it was pretty much one point of average damage.
Push now has a Size limit – Large or smaller, which is unfortunate now that many PCs have ways to be temporarily Large (Rune Knight Fight and Path of the Giant Barbarian, just to name two). It also has more direction control – only directly away from you. The size limit working the way it does is good for general purposes, though. I’m less sure why pushing needs to only be away from you and can’t be off to the left, right, or whatever (as long as it’s not vertical movement).
Sap can now be applied, if you can change up mastery properties, to weapons with no property or the Versatile property. This matters for Fighters and no one else, as far as I am aware, but applying Disadvantage to attacks basically for free is incredibly strong.
Weapons that previously had Flex – Spear, Longsword, Warhammer, and War Pick – now have something else. Sap, in each case except Warhammer, which gains Push instead.
The section on death saving throws has reverted to 5e.14, which means the whole thing where 0 hit points is always dying and getting stabilized brings you up to 1 hit point but you’re unconscious is gone. I’m happy about that, because I found it to be a more confusing way to handle the whole thing.
And that brings us to the end of the Player’s Handbook 7 packet, many weeks after the release of the Bastions and Cantrips packet and probably quite close to the next packet after that.
Thanks for reading, y’all.