Unearthed Arcana “The Mystic Class” Part 1

by John Squyers   Twitch   Twitter

Review of Unearthed Arcana “The Mystic Class” accessed here


Part 1: Psionics and how they work

This is the first part of a series of reviews of the famed Unearthed Arcana exclusive Mystic class. The Mystic class is the sole representative of psionics in DnD 5th edition and offers a really distinct experience for the player. I have been critical of this class in the past as I feel it is complicated and overpowered but we will take a look on why I feel that way. The first article will focus on psionics itself and how it works in the 5e ruleset.

With spellcasting in 5e being well-balanced, easy to learn, and easy to use it was pretty much a no-brainer for designers to emulate that as much as possible when creating a separate system to represent psychic powers. However there are some significant differences between spell casting and psionics. There are no “spell slots” but their closest equivalent is “psi points” and this is a fixed number granted at different levels the mystics use to activate their powers. This is coupled with “psi limit” which is the maximum amount of psi points you can spend on a psionic discipline at one time, and this too grows with the characters as they level. So instead of a certain number of times you can cast spells you instead use a number pool similar to “mana” in other games in which to use your psychic abilities. If you have 4 psi points for example and you use a psionic power that costs 2 psi points, you have 2 psi points remaining for other abilities. Pretty simple.

With points and their limits explained let’s examine the abilities themselves: talents and disciplines. Talents are minor psychic abilities that cost no psi points to use, similar to cantrips for spellcasters, and disciplines are greater psychic powers with different options to choose from and with different effects and psi point cost for each. Let’s examine one of the shorter psionic disciplines.

Iron Durability

Immortal Discipline

You transform your body to become a living metal, allowing you to shrug off attacks that would cripple weaker creatures.

Psychic Focus. While focused on this discipline, you gain a +1 bonus to AC.

Iron Hide (1–7 psi). As a reaction when you are hit by an attack, you gain a +1 bonus to AC for each psi point you spend on this ability. The bonus lasts until the end of your next turn. This bonus applies against the triggering attack.

Steel Hide (2 psi). As a bonus action, you gain resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage until the end of your next turn.

Iron Resistance (7 psi; conc., 1 hr.). As an action, you gain resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage (your choice)


Iron durability is a very simple discipline and it can only be used by the “immortal” sub-class as indicated in the description (more on the sub-classes in a future article) and lists a few options for the mystic to use this discipline. The first aspect of this is the “psychic focus” which grants +1 AC. Each discipline has a “psychic focus” option which is a passive ability the mystic gains while activating this focus. It costs no psi points and a player can only have one focus active at a time unless they are incapacitated or expend a bonus action to change focus.

The first point costing option is “iron hide” which costs 1 to 7 psi points, players’ choice, and the character gains a bonus to AC equal to the point expenditure as a reaction to an attack, lasting until the end of their next turn. If you are a level 1 or 2 character then due to your psi limit you can only use a maximum of 2 psi points for this ability.

Next is “steel hide” which for 2 psi points the mystic gains resistance to physical damage until the end of their next turn.

And so on and so forth.

Psionic talents are not as numerous or as varied as disciplines as it is in their nature to be simpler for the mystic to use and as a result they are not as spectacular. Some examples include “Energy Beam” which deals 1d8 of chosen damage to a target on a failed dexterity save, and “Mystic Charm” which charms one creature within 120ft on a failed charisma save. Pretty standard for something spell-like that costs no components to use.

Even though this article adds a new ruleset to the game, something I am extremely wary of, it is not too bad. We will explore the psionic powers more in depth in a future article but the new psionic “casting” is pretty straightforward. Still though I am not really sure why they decided to invent this new system and not just use the tried and true spell slots. Sure, psionic powers are not spells but there is no reason you can’t argue that mystics have limited powers much like wizards do and that the slots represent the limits of their mental strength and need a rest before they refresh.

The only thing I can think of is that the game designers intentionally wanted to pigeonhole players into disciplines, since these give you multiple cast options but are rather limiting when compared to spells. Arcane or Divine casters can choose spells across multiple schools to have a variety of casting options but the mystic is stuck with disciplines that all have the same relative bonuses to them (see above Iron Durability where each option is defensive in nature, either a bonus to AC or resistance to damage).

As it stands I think I still prefer the spell slot system but the points system is playable. I am not a fan of the limitations of the disciplines however and I still prefer the flexibility of spell casting classes. In the next article we will go more in depth into the talents and disciplines themselves followed by the class and sub-class options. All along we will discuss the pros and cons of each section.


Part 2: Class Options

Part 3: Subclasses

Part 4: Talents and Disciplines

Unearthed Arcana “Eladrin and Gith”

by John Squyers   Twitch   Twitter


Review of Unearthed Arcana “Eladrin and Gith

Accessed here: https://media.wizards.com/2017/dnd/downloads/UA-Eladrin-Gith.pdf


This article adds a few more races to the game, the Eladrin sub-race for Elves and introducing into fifth edition, the Gith. Fans of the great video game “Neverwinter Nights 2” will recognize the Gith and their two sub-races the Githyanki and the Githzerai.

The Eladrin (also known as “High Elves”) are chaotic beings from the feywild and as such they have strong and swiftly changing personalities. This is represented by linking their mood swings to the four seasons: autumn for contentment, winter for sorrow, springtime for elation and joy, and summer for fury and excited energy. The idea behind these is that for each emotion you are currently feeling you have your own specific personality trait and flaw. The article includes random roll tables for the personality traits which I think is a cool thing to do but keeping track of your character’s emotions may become a bit too complicated a task as you stumble around trying to get the right traits organized in your mind. But for an experienced role player who is up for a challenge it could make for some great random fun.

The Eladrin’s racial bonuses are a +1 to intelligence or charisma, “fey step” a 30 ft teleport as a bonus action used once per day, and “shifting seasons” an ability that allows a player of this race to shift their seasonal alignment during a rest which grants them a new cantrip as mentioned in the following table. The Eladrin loses the previous season’s cantrip as a result.


Autumn – Friends

Winter – Chill touch

Spring – Minor illusion

Summer – Fire bolt


I think this race is pretty interesting and I think they would make a great bard or sorcerer. Due to their shifting personalities I feel that Charisma would be their strongest attribute and I would like to see an optional rule added that when the character suffers some great emotion or turmoil to make a charisma save or randomly switch seasons. This type of personality chaos should only be attempted by an experienced player as I think for beginners it may be a bit difficult to keep of your personality traits if you switch too often.


The Gith are a race of outsiders, much like Genasi or Teiflings, who were enslaved and tortured by the mind flayers. Eventually they grew a resistance to their master’s telepathy and won their freedom in a large revolution. The race disagreed on how to continue their fight against the Illithids and split into 2 sub-races, the warlike Githyanki and the monk-like Githzerai.

The Gith racial traits are: +1 to intelligence, size and age similar to humans albeit more slender, movement speed of 30, and their natural languages are Common and Gith. Then the player will choose between the two sub-races.

The Githyanki are trained from birth to be warriors and as such their traits are: Strength +2, tend toward lawful evil alignment, “decadent mastery” which permits the learning of any new language and either any skill or tool proficiency, they can use light or medium armor, and “Githyanki Psionics” which allows the Gith to learn the cantrip Mage Hand at level 1, Jump at level 3, and Misty Step at 5th level, the latter two you can cast once refreshed by a long rest.

The Githzerai focus more on mental discipline than physical and therefore make great clerics or monks. Their traits are: +2 to wisdom, tend toward lawful neutral alignment, “Monastic Training” which grants +1 to AC when not using shields, medium armor, or heavy armor, and “Githzerai Psionics” which grants the mage hand cantrip, shield at level 3, and detect thoughts at level 5, and they can cast the leveled spells once per long rest. Their spell casting ability is Wisdom as opposed to the Githyanki’s intelligence.

I have always been fascinated by the Gith and I’m glad to see an option for them to jump into 5e. I think these subraces are well thought out and balanced, as neither is obviously more powerful than the other. I was a little concerned about their psionic abilities as I think psionics is not implemented well into 5e and I am relieved to see the game designers have decided to interpret those psychic powers as a handful of pretty straightforward spells and cantrips. One thing I would add is resistance to psychic damage as I think it fits well with their lore and is not too overpowered an ability due to the rarity of that damage type.

Unearthed Arcana “Elf Subraces”

by John Squyers   Twitch   Twitter

Review of Unearthed Arcana “Elf Subraces”

Accessed here: https://media.wizards.com/2017/dnd/downloads/UA-ElfSubraces.pdf

DnD 5th edition is known for giving the players tons of options when it comes to creating the character they want to play. Sub races give an extra point of customization to players and this article focuses on Elven race. In addition to the ones listed in the players’ handbook and other WotC sources this adds the Avariel, the Grugach, Sea Elves, and the Shadar-kai.


The Avariel, or winged-elves, are rare creatures that still exist in small colonies around the material and air planes. Fans of the Baldur’s Gate video game series will recognize the npc Aerie as an Avariel. Benefits of this sub race are a flying speed of 30 feet with the restriction of no medium or heavy armor, and they learn the language Auran. That’s all the benefits they receive but don’t discount the flight ability. I can’t tell you how many times I have bypassed traps or obstacles with flight. Plus you usually would get advantage in melee attacks from the height. I really like this race and the roleplaying aspect is interesting as well.

The Grugach are greyhawk natives and are considered strange, even to other elves. They are wood-folk, preferring the forest and nature than the cities of man and punishing any intruder who dares to trespass into their domain. The benefits of this race are: Strength increases by 1, proficiency with spear, shortbow, longbow, and net, one cantrip from druid spell list, and the Sylvan language, BUT they DO NOT learn common. This language restriction could potentially be deleterious to a group but it might make for some fun pantomime RP if they are up for it. The bonuses to this class are nice and I especially like the weapon proficiencies and cantrip. This is a great option for a ranger or other missile class.

Sea elves are adventurous sailors who forsake the earth and trees of the world to sail on the blur oceans of Toril. Their colonies are small and hidden in the ocean shallows and in the plane of water. Their race bonuses are: constitution increases by 1 (great for an elf), proficiency with spear, trident, light crossbow, and net, a swimming speed of 30 feet, ability to speak with small swimming creatures, and you learn the language Aquan. This is a great race for an elf swashbuckler, I really like the extra constitution and the weapon proficiencies. The swim speed is nice, I don’t think characters end up in water too often but it might save your butt one day. Speaking to small swimming creatures and Aquan language is fine I guess but I can’t really think of any situation where they would be too useful.

The Shadar-kai is a race I recognize from Shadowfell. I never really thought of them as “elves” per se but I suppose that it is not unimaginable to classify them as so. They seem more like elves from Shadowrun than the forgotten realms, with piercings and tattoos with pale skin and black eyes. Their benefits are: charisma increase by 1, learn a cantrip (either chill touch, spare the dying, or thaumaturgy), and blessing of the raven queen which allows a magical teleport within 15 and resistance to all damage when activated. This is a nice class that would work well for an assassin or a sorcerer. I can imagine some tension caused by these shadow creatures and it makes for a real interesting characters. The teleport ability is pretty powerful and is a good way to escape a troublesome situation.


I really like it when Unearthed Arcana adds new options for PCs to take. It is usually in the form of class options but race is another large aspect of what makes a character. I would love to see more. Sub races for orcs, for dwarves, humans, gnomes and everyone else.

Unearthed Arcana “Three Classes”

by John Squyers   Twitch   Twitter

Review of Unearthed Arcana article “Three Subclasses” accessed here:



The UA team is back to work in the new year following up the fantastic Xanathar’s Guide to Everything with a new article concerning subclasses for druids, fighters, and wizards.

First up is the druid circle of spores. This is a subclass for druids who appreciate the darker side of the circle of life and focus on decay and rot through the study of molds and fungi. I can see this being used by a Drow or other character from the underdark or a worshipper of Moander.

The circle spells for this subclass include: gentle repose, ray of enfeeblement, animate dead, gaseous form, blight, contagion and a few others. This is a nice set of spells and fits well with the theme. Some of the abilities granted to the spore druid include halo of spores which deals 3 poison damage as a bonus action to a creature within 10 ft of you as well as symbiotic entity which when using wild shape instead of transforming into an animal it grants temporary hit points, doubles the halo of spores damage as well as an increase of 1d6 poison damage for melee attacks.

Druids usually have an aversion to the undead since they are perverting the laws of nature but this is not so with the spore druid. They have animate dead as a circle spell and they have the fungal infestation ability at level 6 which allows the druid to animate a corpse with fungus, much like cordyceps. This is a very interesting circle and makes for a nice opportunity for unique roleplay. I feel it is well balanced and worth a look.

Next is the Brute subclass for fighters. This archetype focuses on strong attacks and dealing more damage through the fighter’s abilities. At 3rd level they get brute force, a passive ability that permits extra damage for each hit with a proficient weapon: 1d4 at 3rd level, 1d6 at 10th level, 1d8 at 16th, etc. When the fighter reaches 7th level get brutish durability which grants a 1d6 bonus on all saving throws and then they get to choose another fighting style at level 10.

This is a pretty straightforward subclass, which is par for the course for most fighter archetypes. At higher levels they get more damage to critical hit and regen HP every round while in combat. This is a decent subclass with some nice bonuses that benefit a tank character, although I’m not sold on the extra fighting style as the character has probably settled into a weapon type by that time.

Lastly is a new wizard arcane tradition called the school of invention. This school comes from the wizards who dedicate their life to the dangerous work of creating new spells. It has some interesting features, but honestly I find this subclass to be wildly out of balance and I’ll show you why.

The first ability granted to this wizard is the arcanomechanical armor, a magical light armor that is AC 12 + dex modifier and gives resistance to force damage. This is a nice substitute to mage armor which is something that low level casters almost always cast on themselves anyway so this is a nice way to save a spell slot.

The next ability, and the one I have the most problems with, is reckless casting. The idea behind this is that the wizard can attempt to cast a spell he has not prepared, and roll on a table to see their results. For level 1 or higher you roll twice on the chart for the appropriate level and choose which result you prefer. This is similar to the sorcerer origin wild magic, but with much more pointed results. At level 2 I feel that this ability is entirely too strong. Spells at lower levels are precariously balanced and divided in such a way as to make things as fair as possible between the spell casting classes. With this in play there is not much of a point in choosing other arcane traditions except for roleplay purposes. It is almost unbelievable the power this subclass has. I feel that this should be heavily restricted or reserved for later levels. As it is written in the article it is just too overpowered.

It’s nice to see the UA team back at work to expand the ruleset for DnD, not letting the popular Xanathar’s stop them. While these new classes certainly have their problems it’s nice to have more options for players. As a DM and a player I believe one of the strengths of DnD 5e is the amount of options it presents its players in choosing which kind of character they want to play. And, good or bad, unearthed arcana expands upon those choices every month and that is something to admire.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything “New Necromancy Spells”

by John Squyers   Twitch   Twitter

Review of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything “New Necromancy Spells”


What’s a little necromancy between friends? Xanathar’s Guide gives us some nifty new spells for you reanimation fanatics and even a couple for you healers.


Toll the Dead

Cleric Cantrip

Target must make a wis save or suffer 1d8 necrotic damage. If the target is already missing any of its HP then it instead receives 1d12 damage. Damage increases when you reach 5th, 11th, and 17th level.

I really like cantrips that deal damage and 1d8 necrotic is really nice considering some of the other options available to clerics. I especially like the increase to a d12 die for damage if the target is already hurt, it is a nice bonus to combat and it fits nicely into RP.


Cause Fear

1st level Warlock/Wizard

Target must pass a wis save or be frightened of the caster until the spell ends. Target can test again at the end of its subsequent turns.

This is an okay spell, nothing spectacular. I have always found fear spells to be lacking something. Even if the spell is successful they will just run away for a bit and they will eventually pass their wis save to come back to bother you.


Life Transference

3rd level Cleric

Caster receives 4d8 necrotic damage and one creature that they can see received HP double to that number.

This is a fantastic spell and very much in line with a Life Cleric or one who follows Ilmater. Very useful for a tough, high DPS fight where the cleric can sit back and heal without worrying about their own HP. The possibility of receiving up to 64HP from a 3rd level heal is very appealing to any melee fighter.


Shadow of Moil

4th level Warlock

This spell darkens the area around the caster, turning dim light into darkness and bright light into dim. The caster is enveloped by shadowy energy and gives them resistance to radiant damage as well as causing 2d8 necrotic to any creature within 10 feet that hits the caster.

This is a good defensive spell and useful for fighting celestials or good clerics or paladins. Resistance to a certain type of damage will absolutely save your life, so be sure to memorize this if you are expecting good-aligned trouble.



5th level Sorcerer/Warlock/Wizard

Target must make a dex save, if successful they take 2d8 necrotic damage and no other effects. If they fail they receive 4d8 necrotic damage and the caster can use an action on each one of their turns to deal an additional 4d8 necrotic to the target. Whenever the target receives damage the caster is healed for half the damage amount.

This is a great spell and very fitting for a wiz/sorc/war. High damage with the initial attack and a chance to continue dealing damage over time. The addition of the heal to the caster is a nice cherry on top. This would be very useful in a boss fight or against a strong single target.


Abi-Dalzim’s horrid wilting

8th Level Sorcerer/Wizard

Creatures in a 30 ft cube within 150 ft must pass a con save or take 12d8 necrotic damage. Undead/constructs are immune and plants and water creatures have disadvantage on the roll.

High level wiz spells are the best. This is a high damage AOE nuke appropriate for the level. I think this would be a great addition to any sorcerer or wizard spell book and there is not much to criticize here. It feels very natural and could be a spell out of the PHB and not a later supplement like XGE.


Necromancy has long been a crowd favorite and is home to some pretty powerful spells and these additions from XGE are no different. This supplement adds a very nice spread of heals, nukes, DoTs, and status effects. There are more necromancy spells to be found in Xanathar’s guide be sure to check it out!

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything “New Evocation Spells”

by John Squyers   Twitch   Twitter

Review of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything “New Evocation Spells”


One of the most anticipated things from XGE is the addition of a couple of hundred new spells. I cannot include them all in a single article so I will break up my reviews by magic school starting with evocation.


Earth Tremor

1st level Bard/Wizard/Druid/Sorcerer

Cause the earth to shake within 10 ft of caster. Creatures who fail a dex save receive 1d6 bludgeoning damage and are knocked prone.

This is a good crowd control spell, at level 1 you shouldn’t expect much damage but it would definitely be handy if fighting a horde of weaker creatures. I think this is probably most useful in the hands of the bard as they don’t have too many damage spells at level 1 and the other casters have some decent damage dealers at that level.


Aganazzar’s Scorcher

2nd level wizard

30 feet of flame 5 ft wide shoots out of the caster in a straight line dealing 3d8 fire damage.

This is a pretty typical 2nd level wizard spell, decent damage in line of sight. This would be perfect for a hallway or narrow dungeon. Nice addition to the wizard spell book and feels very natural for the class.


Snilloc’s Snowball Swarm

2nd level wizard/sorcerer

A swarm of snowballs erupt from a point of the caster’s choosing and creatures within a 5ft radius sphere must make a dex saving throw or take 3d6 cold damage, half on a successful save.

Another good addition to the wizard and sorcerer classes. Again its only level 2 so don’t expect a huge amount of damage but 3d6 in a 5ft radius is a solid AoE spell. Plus it is cold damage, which very few creatures have a resistance to and is a damage class I would like to see more from.


Sickening Radiance

4th level wizard/warlock/sorcerer

The caster chooses a point within 120 ft and a 30ft radius sphere of greenish light forms on that point. Creatures who move into the sphere for the first time or starts its turn there must make a con save or suffer 4d10 radiant damage and receive one level of exhaustion. The creature also radiates green light in a 5 ft radius making it impossible for it to become invisible.

This is a pretty awesome spell. I like it when spells not only deal damage but add status effects to your targets. For a 4th level spell 4d10 radiant is pretty strong but the level of exhaustion adds disadvantage on ability rolls making them even weaker for another spell or ability that relies on those checks. The inability to go invisible is the icing on the cake. Personally I find the bane of my character’s existence has always been invis creatures so taking that away from them gives me great pleasure.   


Storm Sphere

4th level wizard/sorcerer

20 ft radius sphere of twisting and swirling air is created by the caster within 150 ft. Each creature in the sphere when it appears or who ends their turn within must make a str save or take 2d6 bludgeoning damage. Until the spell ends you can create one bolt of lightning per turn that comes from the sphere and strikes a target for 4d6 lightning damage with a successful ranged spell attack. The affected area also counts as difficult terrain making it tough for the targets to make it out.

This is another great crowd control spell. For 4th level the 2d6 damage isn’t that great but the lightning bolt every turn is a real treat. The radius of the sphere is nice and covers a large area as well. You can really shut down a group of enemies with this spell provided they have a relatively low strength score.



5th level wizard/sorcerer

Target takes 8d6 fire damage, half on a passed dex save. The target is also on fire and takes an additional 4d6 fire damage at the end of their turn if they continue to fail the dex save.

Oh man do I love spells that set people on fire. 8d6 is super tasty but the extra 4d6 per turn is too good to pass up. Since this is a 5th level spell it’s fairly powerful and something you would expect from an appropriately leveled wiz or sorcerer. The roleplaying that can come from this is pretty fun to imagine as a character runs screaming out of the room while roasting. It’s a good mental picture.


Holy Weapon

5th level cleric/paladin

You imbue a weapon with radiant energy that deals an extra 2d8 radiant damage on a hit and the weapon counts as a magic weapon for the duration of the spell (1 hour). Additionally you can dismiss the spell and cause a burst of energy that deals 4d8 to any creatures of your choice take 4d8 damage on a failed con save.

This is a great spell for a paladin or for a war domain cleric. 2d8 radiant damage would save the paladin from expending a spell slot for divine smite for each hit. The only problem is that it takes forever for a paladin to earn a 5th level spell slot (level 17) and by then an extra 2d8 per hit is nice but not overpowering or anything. This is probably handier for a cleric who needs to deal some extra damage in melee combat for a short time as they will earn a 5th level slot far before a paladin will (level 9).


There are a lot more evocation spells to choose from but this is a pretty decent sampling of what XGE has to offer. A lot of fun new spells to add to your games!



Review of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything “Selections from DM’s tools”

by John Squyers   Twitch   Twitter

Review of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything “Selections from DM’s tools”

Chapter 2 of XGE concerns additions to the 5e ruleset as well as some new items to assist the DM. Some are long and exhaustive sections, such as the encounter tables, and others are just short little paragraphs concerning small but interesting concepts. Most of these on their own are not enough to make an article, but together they can make a nice list of new features.


New rules for sleep include simplification on how a character awakes from unconsciousness, including loud noises, taking damage, or if another character takes an action to rouse them. Pretty straightforward and I don’t think too many people had a problem with this prior to XGE.

Next is something new and that is optional rules for sleeping in medium or heavy armor. If you finish a long rest wearing those you only regain a quarter of your hit dice and you don’t remove any levels of exhaustion. These rules are pretty brutal and I am glad they are optional. I think taking account of your players wearing and removing armor during a rest is a bit pedantic, but I bet there are some DMs and players out there who are looking for a more hardcore experience who would enjoy this limitation.

Tying Knots

Being captured and tied up is a pretty common experience in DnD and XGE adds some additional rules to untie a knot. The creature who creates the knot makes an intelligence (sleight of hand) skill check (notice it is Int and not Dex!) and that sets the DC to untie the knot with an Int/sleight of hand check or a dex/acrobatics check. This is a good use of the skill with different abilities rules variant and makes a lot of sense when you consider that the strength of a knot is dependent on the knowledge of its creator and not their dexterity.

Adamantine Weapons

Adamantine is a rare and strong metal that makes a wonderful set of armor. In the DMG it is listed as an uncommon magic item that turns any critical hit against the wearer into a regular hit. This is a strong ability and will absolutely save your character’s life. XGE adds adamantine weapons to the game. If a hit is scored these special weapons always strike with a critical and make for an unbelievably strong item. Double damage at every hit and in my games we have a d100 table that the players roll on when they score a critical hit to add some flair and extra effects to make it special. Adamantine weapons cost 500gp more than usual and it makes no difference if it is made entirely of the metal or just coated with it.


Falling is pretty simple in 5e: for every 10 feet you fall you take 1d6 bludgeoning damage, up to a max of 20d6. XGE adds a couple of new options for falling creatures. The first is rate of falling. This assumes the character is falling from such a great distance that it takes more than one turn for the character to hit the ground. When you fall in such a manner, you instantly descend 500 feet. On your next turn if you are still falling you will fall an additional 500 feet at the end of your turn. This gives the character a chance to take an action, I’m assuming something to halt their descent or teleport somewhere else. Secondly it adds some rules for flying creatures who end up falling. A flying creature begins to fall if it is unable to move, is knocked prone, or if its speed is reduced to 0.  To give a flying creature a better chance of surviving a fall than a non-flying creature, simply subtract the creature’s flying speed form the distance it fell before calculating damage. This gives them a chance to “glide” or otherwise maneuver in flight before actually impacting with the ground, assuming it is not unconscious or otherwise incapable of moving.


These short paragraphs are novel additions to the game, and even though none of these are necessarily huge impacts in terms of rule changes, together they create some new options for DMs to help run their games.

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: Racial Feats

by John Squyers   Twitch   Twitter

Review of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything “Racial Feats”


Providing your players with feats to take instead of ability score bonuses has long been a feature of my DnD campaigns. Usually whenever a character is able to take a bonus on his stats because they reached level 4, 8, etc I allow them to choose from a short list of feats available to their class. In this article from Xanathar’s Guide it gives some additional feats for PCs to take based upon their race.

Dragonborn players can choose between “Dragon Fear” and “Dragon Hide”. Both grant an ability score bonus to Str, Con, or Cha but “Fear” allows the player to elect to roar with his breath weapon causing all creatures within a 30 ft radius to make a Wis save or be frightened for 1 minute. “Hide” gives a natural 13 AC as well as claws which can be used as weapons which deal Str + 1d4 slashing damage. Overall these aren’t too bad but I feel that there are some other feats in the PHB that I would take over these, but perhaps as a DM I would allow the player to choose one of these at a certain level instead of sacrificing the chance to get an ability score increase or another feat.

Elves and half-elves receive the lion’s share of feats on this list with the fair folk getting feats based on each of their sub-races. Elves and half elves can get “elven accuracy” which increase Dex, Int, Wis, or Cha by 1 and whenever you get advantage on an attack you can choose to reroll one of the dice once. Rerolls in firth edition are few and far between so I find this feat to be extremely useful. It is limited by the fact that you must have advantage to use it but as we all know advantage on an attack is never a guarantee that it will hit and this simply gives you one last chance to land a blow. Drow elves get a neat spellcasting ability called “drow high magic” which allows them to cast detect magic at will without expending a spell slot. Also they learn the spells levitate and dispel magic which can be cast once between long rests without using a spell slot. I really love this feat as I find dispel magic vital to just about any DnD campaign. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to dispel magical darkness or a glyph of warding. This feat feels appropriate for drow and would be nice even for a non-spellcaster.

Humans, half-orcs and half-elves get access to “prodigy” which gives a bonus skill proficiency (always handy), a tool proficiency and expertise in a skill they have proficiency in. Due to how often skills are employed I really like this ability. It’s a shame it doesn’t include an ability bonus but I guess it is enough for balance purposes.

Halflings receive 3 feats in this including “bountiful luck” and “second chance”. Both of these play upon the Halfling’s natural ability to avoid danger by using their good fortune. “Bountiful luck” allows an ally within 30 feet to reroll any natural 1s on ability checks, saving throws and attack rolls. Very useful and could keep a terrible accident from occurring if your DM is fond of applying special nastiness for rolling a nat 1. For “second chance” you get a stat bonus to Dex, Con, or Cha but when a creature attacks you the player can use a reaction to force the enemy to reroll their attack. Useful to keep yourself alive, especially if playing a squishy character but you can only use this once per combat, as it refreshes when you roll initiative at the start of combat or finish a rest.

There are more feats here for more races and sub-races and most of them are pretty useful. If you are on the fence in considering getting Xanathar’s Guide to Everything I strongly suggest it. There are a lot of player and DM resources inside and I will continue my reviews of its material for the next several weeks!

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: Fighters

by John Squyers   Twitch   Twitter

Review of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: Fighters

Huzzah! The great lord of crime has bestowed upon us immense knowledge and research! Behold, his great treatise on the role of the common fighter!

The beginning of this article gives us some roleplaying tables for a fighter to help develop their character. They include heraldic signs and a signature fighting style for roleplay purposes. While these are nice and all the tables are only 6 long so not a lot of options here. I guess if you want to add a little flair you can do so, but I think the average player can probably think of something to add.

The meat and potatoes of this entry is that it adds three more archetypes for fighters to choose from once they reach level 3: arcane archer, cavalier, and samurai. As I have said before, adding more options to classes is something that UA does really well and XGE continues that tradition.

The arcane archer relies upon ancient Elven techniques of infusing their arrows with magical energy and they benefit from several abilities in the archetype that are based on this. The archer receives “arcane shot” which allows the fighter to select different magical effects to apply to their arrows, gaining more options to choose from as they level up. For example banishing arrow gives a chance that the target will be temporarily banished to the feywild, grasping arrows tangles the target with thorns and they instantly take 2d6 poison damage, receive -10 movement speed and take 2d6 slashing damage if they attempt to move, and bursting arrow which deals 2d6 force damage to all creatures within 10 feet of your target. Lastly for level 3 the player receives “archer’s lore” which offers proficiency for either arcana or nature and a choice between prestidigitation or druidcraft cantrips to learn.

As the fighter levels up they gain an ability where they can turn a normal arrow attack into a magical one (for the purpose of mitigating resistances and immunity to non-magical attacks) as well as “curving shot” where a miss on a target can be rerolled against another target within range.

This is a very solid class option for fighters who want to specialize into ranged combat and for those players who want strong ranged options and don’t want to play a ranger. I especially like the arcane shot options, it’s almost like casting spells for a fighter.

Next up is the Knight archetype, uh I mean Cavalier. Heavily armored and specializing in mounted combat, the cavalier is something right out of the old fairy tales and easily recognizable on the battlefield. At level 3 they get “born to the saddle” which reduces the penalties for mounting and dismounting creatures, and they get “unwavering mark” where after a successful hit the fighter can impose disadvantage on his target’s attacks if they attempt to hit anyone other than him.

The final bonus at level 3 is some skill proficiencies much like the arcane archers. But you choose between two of either animal handling, history, insight, performance or persuasion. With level 7 comes “warding maneuver” where the fighter can add a 1d8 to an ally’s AC after they suffer an attack and if they are within 5 feet.

Then at 10 you get “hold the line” where enemy movement within 5 feet of you provokes a reaction attack and reduces the target’s movement speed to 0. This reminds me of the sentinel feat which is one of my favorite offensive feats to take if I am playing a melee heavy character.

At higher levels the melee bonus just keep coming. At 15 you get “ferocious charger” where you can knock enemies prone with a straight 10ft move into them if they fail a strength saving throw of DC8 + proficiency bonus + strength modifier. You can do this with or without a mount, and I find the mental image of that pretty hilarious. And finally at 18th level the cavalier receives “vigilant defender” where you get a special reaction to use on every creature’s turn (even allies!) to make an opportunity attack. This ability is astonishingly good. A single cavalier can shut down an entire regiment of enemy troops just hacking away at them every turn.

This is one of the strongest fighter archetypes I have seen. I could do without the mount stuff as I have never really played a game where cavalry made too much of a difference, but the attack bonuses, especially the reactions, are very juicy.

Up next we have the samurai archetype (along with a blurb about drawing inspiration from popular culture and not history for both the cavalier and samurai) and this archetype focuses mainly and the fighter’s indomitable spirit and skill with a sword. At level 3 they receive three charges of “fighting spirit” which grants advantage on attack rolls that turn and 5 temporary hit points, which increases at levels 10 and 15. Also at level 3 they choose 1 skill proficiency from either history, insight, performance, persuasion, or one language of your choice.

At 7 they get “elegant courtier” which lets you add your Wis modifier to Charisma checks regarding persuading nobility in social situations. This is a pretty fun ability and it’s nice to see a fighter get some sort of bonus to non-fighting skills. At later levels they get “tireless spirit” which grants an extra fighting spirit use if the samurai rolls initiative while currently at 0 uses, and then, one of my favorite abilities, at level 15 they gain “rapid strike”. This allows the samurai to trade his advantage on an attack roll if they have it and gain an extra attack. This ability is short and to the point and it feels right for a samurai.

And finally the samurai achieves apotheosis at level 18 with “strength before death”, an amazing ability that allows the fighter to keep on fighting even when practically dead. If you take damage that reduces you to 0 hit points but doesn’t kill you outright you can use your reaction to instantly take an extra turn, interrupting the current turn no matter whose turn it is.

The catch is though if you happen take damage during this it is an instant failed death saving throw, and when you reach 3 you’re off to the big tea-ceremony in the sky, so be mindful of your adversaries!


These are all extremely strong additions to the 5e fighter archetypes and honestly I think they are better than the vanilla ones in the PHB! It makes for some really interesting character creation choices and the amount of attack bonuses just don’t stop with these guys.

XGE is one of the best add-ons for any RPG I have ever seen, and players and DMs alike will be very pleased with WotC’s hard work. It’s an amazing resource and it adds so much depth to the DnD world.

Review of Unearthed Arcana: Modern Magic

Review of Unearthed Arcana: Modern Magic

The Unearthed Arcana is a source both strange and untested. While many great ideas pour from its pages, it should always be considered carefully.
by John Squyers   Twitch   Twitter

This article is an expansion upon the previous “Behind the screens” article concerning an attempt at creating a D20 modern ruleset for fifth edition. Having fond memories of the early 2000s D20 3.5 Urban Arcana I am very excited to see it popping back up in fifth edition articles. I know this is nothing official but it is still good news for those of us who like to dabble in a modern fantasy setting.

Inside it adds new archetypes for each of the dedicated spell casting classes. It adds a City domain for clerics, a Warlock patron: Ghost in the machine, and a Wizard tradition: technomancy. There is also a decent list of new spells and cantrips to fit this campaign. In my last article I listed the changes I would make to Helmick’s ruleset, but let’s put those aside for now and take a look at these new features from their perspectives.

The city domain for clerics is one that draws power from the living heart of a crowded city. Their spells are an eclectic mix of DnD fantasy and new technological based ones provided in this article. They get a cantrip called “on/off” which allows they to operate a power switch within 60 ft but also the first level spell “remote access” which grants the spell caster a bit more functionality with an electronical device. At higher levels they get a clairvoyant type spell called “commune with city” where they can gain knowledge of terrain or other creatures within the target area. The best new techo-spell available to city clerics is without a doubt “synchronicity” a touch spell that gives the target really strange bonuses to every day “lucky” stuff like finding cabs or pushing their way through dense crowds. While under the effect of this spell attacks of opportunity on this target are taken at disadvantage and they receive advantage on Dexterity (stealth) checks as well. I like the two bonus it gives and I think that the inconvenience removal factor would be really fun to roleplay. A good set of unique spells for a modern cleric.

The warlock’s new otherworldly patron “ghost in the machine” gives several of the same spells as the cleric along with a few new ones. Honestly I would rather divine and arcane spell casting not mix as much but since this is a smaller attempt at a larger D20 Modern game I think its fine for just a UA article. If choosing this patron I suggest taking a large chunk of your spells from the DnD fantasy and maybe just a couple from this list. The warlock tech spells focus on buffs regarding infiltrating computer systems but these help fill the gap between the modern and fantasy ruleset. The feats granted to the warlock at various levels are particularly novel and I really like “wire walk” where the caster touches a device or socket and can physically travel along the electrical line to another area within sight. This is a very handy trait for sneaking or escaping from trouble and fits well into the theme of a technological warlock. At 14th level they get “technovirus” which gives 8d10 psychic damage to a target after a successful touch attack. That is a lot of damage even for 14th level and the option to issue commands to the target after a failed save make this one of the most powerful abilities I have ever seen. It is probably too powerful but without playing a game with these new rules it is hard to judge, but I am going to suggest that the DM limit the command ability or remove it altogether.

Wizards get a new arcane tradition called “techomancy” which fits nicely into the previous themes of the other classes and creates a good solid option for a modern caster (even though the description hilariously mentions that technomancers can create smartphone apps in lieu of potions or scrolls). There is no specific mention of what spells they can learn so I can only assume they are capable of learning all of these new techo-spells with the usual methods as described in the PHB. The wizard gets quite a few unique feats from this new tradition as well including “program spell” and my favorite thing out of this list “online casting”.  “Program spell” is an ability that allows the wizard to place a spell within an electronic object and when the victim of the spell interacts with the object the spell activates. This is perfect for a trap, like fireball in a light switch or charm person in a cellphone. A lot of dirty deeds can be accomplished with this ability and it’s so sneaky and underhanded I love it. With that being said “online casting” is very handy and likely way overpowered. At 10th level the wizard can essentially cast magic through the internet or cell towers as long as the target is seen or heard as the spell requires. Make a skype call through you browser and as soon as you see the target BAM magic missile. I can see a lot of shenanigans with this ability and honestly I feel it is probably too powerful. Maybe limit the geographical distance or remove the possibility of casting damage spells? I feel that something like charm or hold would be good but I have qualms about video chat lightning bolts.


D20 Modern is a really fun campaign setting and the addition of spell casting turns it into an interesting science fiction RPG. I wish there was an official, well-balanced and polished 5e ruleset for it but I know it is unlikely that it is coming. In the meantime I encourage anyone who wants to play in a modern setting with DnD 5e rules to just go ahead and do it. Use the basic rules if you want, just substitute Arcana skill for mechanics/electrical device usage, or create a new skill that all the players have proficiency in. There is no need to complicate the rules. Cherry pick some of the new techo spells here and start a campaign. There are rules for firearms in the DMG and light armor would double for most Kevlar vests that are used today. I want to encourage people to step outside the box of fantasy and put their games in whatever genre they choose, if you are able to use these last two articles then that would make me glad, but if you are unsure just take the leap with the vanilla ruleset and have fun!