Anastasios here, with another Unearthed Arcana analysis. This time, we have new archetypes for the Fighter, Ranger, and Rogue.
You have learned some of the runes that Giants use, and inscribe them on equipment to enhance your abilities. You might have accidentally discovered such a rune somewhere, or learned it either directly from a giant, or indirectly from someone else.
Bonus Proficiencies (level 3)
You gain proficiency with smith’s tools, and learn the language of giants. A bit underwhelming to tell the truth, since its very situational, but it could be missing entirely so I can’t complain about free proficiencies.
Rune Magic (level 3)
You learn two runes that you can inscribe on your weapons, armor, or shield. They give you a permanent bonus, and they can be activated once for another short boost. There are 6 total runes, one for each type of giant, and you learn more as you progress through the levels. You can have a number of runes active equal to the number of runes you know, and you cannot have two runes of the same type. I’m not going to go over all of them, but the passive effects are mostly advantages on certain skill checks. This doesn’t sound too bad, but it certainly begins to stack up as you gain more and more runes: with the maximum of 5 runes you gain, you can have advantage on 6 different skills – all the time. Without mentioning the active effects, and other passive effects beyond the skill advantages.
Giant Might (level 3)
For one minute, you become Large, have advantage on Strength checks and saving throws, and your weapon attacks deal an extra 1d6 damage. You can use it twice between long rests. Quite similar to a barbarian’s rage, it provides a decent damage boost. I think it would have been fine starting out at 1 use, and maybe increasing to 2 on a later level.
Defensive Runes (level 6)
You can use your reaction to increase a creature’s AC by 1 + your Intelligence modifier (minimum of 2) when it is hit by an attack roll. This has a range of 60 feet, and unlimited uses, which again seems a bit too much. Perhaps your INT isn’t your focused stat, but even at a base +2, it’s a significant increase – with a bit of investment, it’s a free Shield for any ally any time. You also learn an additional rune, for a total of 3 – this is fine and an expected feature.
Great Stature (level 10)
Your height increases by 3d4 – a mostly irrelevant part, at least mechanically. The extra damage from Giant Might increases to 1d8, and you learn another rune. Not something too fancy, but with how powerful the features have been so far, it’s a step in the right direction.
Rune Magic Mastery (level 15)
You can activate your runes twice, instead of once, and you learn another rune. I don’t have a problem with this on its own – it’s a fine feature. I do have a problem with it in the context of the entire subclass, but I’ll say more afterwards.
Blessing of the All Father (level 18)
When you use Giant Might, you can grant the same benefit to another creature within 60 feet of you. Giant might on its own isn’t all that powerful, so I really like this feature – simple and straightforward. Perhaps not up to par with other level 18 features, but the power level of this class is already too high.
And speaking of power level, let’s talk a bit more about it. To be perfectly frank, I think the class simply has too much. The runes give multiple permanent passive effects, as well as pretty powerful activated abilities. I think the passives should at the very least be disabled until your next short rest if you invoke the runes – perhaps this restriction could be removed at level 15 with Rune Magic Mastery. And compare it with the Battle master – they get 6 activations of maneuvers at level 15, compared to the arguably more powerful 10 rune invocations of the Rune Knight. And I’ve already spoken about Defensive Runes. As a whole, the archetype seems very overtuned.
Rangers that make pacts with groups of fey spirits, that take the appearance of a swarm of creatures. These swarms aren’t restricted to insects, but they also might be birds, small mammals, et cetera. To be honest, this screams druid to me rather than ranger, but they are thematically close enough.
Swarmkeeper Magic (level 3)
You learn the Mage Hand cantrip, which takes the form of a swarm of spirits. You also learn some extra spells at the appropriate levels. Mage Hand is a very useful cantrip, so just on its own it makes this a nice feature – consider also that Rangers don’t normally get cantrips. The rest of the spells are useful, can be reasonably tied to the swarm theme – although perhaps leaning a bit too heavy on insects.
Gathered Swarm (level 3)
You attract a swarm of fey spirits that take the from of tiny beasts. For one minute, you can agitate them, dealing an extra 1d6 force damage to creatures with your weapon attacks once per turn. You can also push or pull them 5 feet. The damage increases to 2d6 at level 11, and you can use it a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier between long rests. This is a very neat concept, but with an awkward implementation in my opinion. I don’t know why it’s tied to weapon attacks; it could have been an aura that deals damage to enemies next to you, as well as an action to deal more damage at a greater range. A minor and quite situational bonus could also be that creatures cannot pass through or end their turn in space you occupy – for example other swarms, or the Halfling Nimbleness feature.
Writhing Tide (level 7)
Whenever you activate Writhing Swarm, you also gain some extra mobility. You can choose between increasing your speed by 10 feet and Disengaging as a bonus action, gaining a climb speed equal to your walking speed, or gaining a fly speed of 10 feet. All of them are nice bonuses that can seriously help you out in a fight.
Scuttling Eyes (level 11)
A recon/spying feature mostly. One of your swarm spirits takes the form of a tiny beast for one hour. It has your senses and relays to you what it sees and hears telepathically. You can dismiss it early to teleport to its location. I think it’s a quite weak feature, saved only by the teleportation ability. Still, the spirit could have some enhanced senses, or perhaps an additional part could be that you gain darkvision or even tremorsense while Gathered Swarm is active. An interesting part is that you can only use this once per long rest, but you can use it again if you use a 3rd level spell slot.
Storm of Minions (level 15)
You create a 10-foot-radius sphere that lasts for 1 minute, which is also difficult terrain. Creatures that start their turn there make a Constitution saving throw, taking 2d8 necrotic damage on a failed save or half as much on a successful one. If they fail the save, they are also blinded until their next turn. If a creature took damage that way, you regain 1d8 hit points. This is what Gathered Swarm could have been, only centered on you. You can use this once between long rests, or again by expending a 4th level spell slot. It could begin with 1d4 damage at level 3, slowly increasing and gaining bonuses at higher levels. Storm of minions could increase the radius and add the blind and HP regain. It just doesn’t feel like an ability that’s powerful enough.
Overall, Swarmkeeper feels a bit underwhelming, especially coming right after Rune Knight. Every feature feels like it should have a little bit more, to make it interesting enough. But it does have a lot of potential.
You have died before, and you live again. I see absolutely no reason for this to be a rogue archetype instead of a (sub)race, or even an archetype for a more fitting class (a divine class, or maybe warlock), but alright.
Tokens of Past Lives (level 3)
When you finish a long rest, you gain a proficiency in a tool or skill. A nice and quite useful feature, and it does fit with the whole theme. Not much else to say here.
Revived Nature (level 3)
You have advantage on saving throws against disease and poison, and resistance to poison damage. You don’t need to eat, drink, breathe, or sleep – long rests take 4 hours, similar to an elf’s trance. This is a strong bonus; poison isn’t rare, and the rest of the abilities can be very useful as well. Again, this just looks like a race to me, but if we judge it as a class feature, I’d rate it as a good one.
Bolts from the Grave (level 3)
A ranged (30 feet) spell attack after you use Cunning Action, which uses your Sneak Attack. You are proficient with it, and you add your Dexterity modifier to attack and damage rolls. This is very good – the range might not be that long, but it’s a second attack for rogues, and gives you a way to reliably use Sneak Attack every turn.
Connect with the Dead (level 9)
You can cast Speak with Dead for free, provided you have the corpse of the dead person available. You can use this once per short rest. You also get a random additional bonus afterwards: You learn one language, you gain one tool or skill proficiency of your choice, or you gain proficiency with a saving throw of your choice. This lasts until your next short or long rest. Obviously a powerful feature – It might not have a direct impact on combat, but you can learn a lot from the dead, and of course the extra bonuses can be extremely good. Perhaps a bit morbid and powergame-y idea would be to carry corpses with you, in order to have a reliable source of extra proficiencies. Not sure how your GM – or the local population – would feel about it though.
Audience with Death (level 13)
You have advantage on Death saving throws, and when you make a Death saving throw, you can ask a yes or no question to an entity of death. This is another ability that can get you reliable answers (the entity cannot lie to you and uses the knowledge of all people who have died), but is again exploitable by having your friends repeatedly beat you to death under the supervision of a healer. In addition, when you have 0 hit points and are stabilized, you can change your personality trait, ideal, bond, or flaw. A very interesting idea that fits with the theme that you get flashes of your past lives, but i’m not sure if it would see much – if any – use.
Ethereal jaunt (level 17)
You can use your Cunning Action to teleport up to 30 ft, without needing to see your target destination. This is essentially a free Misty Step every turn; perhaps not as strong as some other level 17 features, but extra mobility is important for a rogue, and teleports in general are very good.
Overall, this was kind of a weird subclass. As I said before, this would make much more sense as a race rather than a subclass. In addition, while Connect with the Dead will probably be used relatively often, Audience with Death will either be exploited as I mentioned before, or will probably never come up since you generally try to avoid dying.
Another interesting Unearthed Arcana, but definitely not as well balanced as the previous one in my opinion. What did you think? Is Rune Knight overpowered, or is it just me? Should the Swarmkeeper get some buffs, or is it fine as is? And what is going on with the Revived?