Review of Unearthed Arcana: Starting Spells
The Unearthed Arcana is a source both strange and untested. While many great ideas pour from its pages, it should always be considered carefully.
I always hate the first 3 levels of a DnD character, they feel so weak and helpless. The first character I ever played in DnD was a wizard in 2nd ED who had 4 hit points and chill touch. In his first encounter he was killed in a single hit from a normal wolf after dealing minimal damage with his spell. Since then I have always wished there were more first level spells available for casting classes. So new starting spells is something that I am very interested in. Let’s examine the new beginning spells that this UA offers us. Damage dealing spells are ones that can be easily unbalanced if done improperly.
The level 1 sorcerer spell Chaos Bolt is very similar to the cleric spell Guiding Bolt but instead of 4d6 radiant damage it deals 2d8 random type damage, rolled on a table (acid, cold, fire, lightning, etc). Sorcerers are known for their high damage spells, and for level 1 I feel this is a solid addition to their arsenal without being too overpowered.
Hand of Radiance is a cleric evocation cantrip that is a short range AOE of 5ft that deals 1d6 radiant damage after a failed CON save. Seems alright. I like that the cleric has to be in melee range in order to use it, making it seem like a last ditch sort of spell just to try and deal some damage when you are overwhelmed in hand to hand combat.
Infestation is a neat druid cantrip with some unique rules. The target is covered in a swarm of small bugs and must pass a CON save or take 1d6 piercing damage. If the target takes any damage from this spell, the bugs, or perhaps the panic of target, moves them 5 feet in a random direction. Low damage from a cantrip is par for the course, but the ability to move them 5 feet is pretty interesting. That distance might be enough to provoke an attack of opportunity or perhaps push the target into an environmental danger or your friend’s wall of fire.
One of the not so great spells in this list include the paladin spell Ceremony. Taking up one of the paladin’s precious 1 st level spell slots, this evocation (ritual) spell takes 1 hour to cast and requires 25gp of powdered silver. Once cast the paladin can now either: change a character’s alignment to its original orientation after passing a DC20 Wisdom (insight) check, make some holy water, make a young adult fully grown for a day, give d4 to saves for creature willing to convert to your religion, stop a corpse from being raised undead, give someone a 1 st level spell of your own, and marry some characters. Yikes, not very helpful.
I am out of space, but there are plenty more spells on this list and I strongly encourage the reader to check them out, there are some real gems here.