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.