Unearthed Arcana: Subclasses, Part 3 Analysis

Finally, we have caught up to the latest UA. Apologies for the consistent lateness of these articles, but Chris will soon make a post that explains the reason everything was so out of sync.

Getting on with it, in this Unearthed Arcana we get three new subclasses for the Artificer, the Druid, and the Ranger.

Armorer

I was really excited when I saw this, because I really like the artificer. Power armor is also a staple of science fiction, and I was interested to see how WotC would tackle it. I have to say I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest, and the new Infusions included are also nice additions.

Tools of the Trade (3rd level Armorer feature)

You gain proficiency with heavy armor and smith’s tools (or another artisan’s tools if you already have that proficiency). Not only expected, but pretty much necessary for the archetype to function.

Armorer Spells (3rd level Armorer feature)

We all know the deal with extra spells by now. In this case, the Armorer gets mainly defensive options like Shield, Mirror Image, Fire Shield, and more.

Power Armor (3rd level Armorer feature)

The core of the archetype, a concept that i really really love. You can turn a suit of heavy armor into power armor, which grants you the following benefits:

  • The armor lacks a Strength requirement, if it had one.
  • You can use the power armor as a spellcasting focus for artificer spells.
  • The armor attaches to you, cannot be removed, and replaces any missing limbs you may have.

Since Strength is usually a dump stat for spellcasters, this definitely helps with the archetype’s accessibility. The spellcasting focus is a nice bonus that makes sense, and I particularly like the fact that the armor can act as a prosthetic limb as well – it opens up a lot of interesting roleplaying potential (although a problem with high fantasy is that it is almost trivial to heal, regrow limbs, or even come back from the dead… but that’s a whole beast of a discussion). This is just the basis though; the main abilities of your power armor are described in the next feature.

Armor Model (3rd level Armorer feature)

When you finish a short or long rest, you can choose which “specialization” your power armor will have – either Guardian or Infiltrator. Either way, each model has a special weapon that uses your Intelligence for attack and damage rolls.

Guardian, as the name implies, is more focused on defense. Your fists count as a simple melee weapon, dealing 1d8 thunder damage on hit, and when hit, a creature has disadvantage on attack rolls against creatures other than you until the beginning of your next turn. In addition, you can gain temporary hit points equal to your artificer level as a bonus action. The weapon is alright in terms of damage, but its utility is really good, especially since it doesn’t need a saving throw. The shield though is really nice, as it has no limit on the number of uses, and doesn’t even take a full action to use, allowing you to use it every single turn. This is massive damage mitigation across all levels, making you an excellent frontline combatant even with the Artificer’s 1d8 hit die.

Infiltrator, on the other hand, is more focused on mobility and range – as expected. Your armor has a “Lightning Launcher”, a simple ranged weapon with a range of 90/300 that deals 1d6 lightning damage on hit. However, once per turn, you can deal an additional 1d6 lighting damage with it. Your speed also increases by 5 feet, and your armor is now formfitting, with negligible weight, and doesn’t impose disadvantage on Stealth checks. The weapon is quite nice, but without any extra utility cantrips will quickly surpass it in damage. The extra effects are also good, most important one being the removal of Stealth disadvantage – can’t really be an infiltrator clanging around and smashing things, I suppose.

Extra Attack (5th level Armorer feature)

Since this is a more direct-combat focused archetype with options for attacks, it makes sense to see this here. Really helps the guardian’s utility, essentially doubles it.

Armor Modifications (9th level Armorer feature)

Your power armor now counts as boots, armor, helmet, and bracers for the purpose of infusions, and the maximum number of your infused items increases by 2 – those 2 being parts of your power armor. Quite a nice power boost, this can make your power armor a sort of all-in-one magic item. I assume however that this doesn’t prevent you from using magic items like boots and helmets that aren’t part of your power armor, although others might interpret it differently.

Perfected Armor (15th level Armorer feature)

Your power armor gains an extra ability, depending on its model. For guardian, when a creature within 30 feet of you that you can see ends its turn, you can use your reaction to force the creature to make a Strength saving throw. If the target fails, they are pulled up to 30 feet towards you; and if they end up within 5 feet of you, you can make a melee weapon attack against them as part of this reaction. You can use this ability a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier before requiring a long rest. On first glance this might not seem all that powerful, but again it offers a lot of utility, allowing you to draw in and isolate vulnerable backline opponents, without even giving them a chance to react – since they’ve just ended their turn.

Infiltrator on the other hand, has quite a potent effect without any use limitations: Every time you hit a creature with your Lightning Launcher, the target sheds dim light in a 5 foot radius, the next attack roll against it by a creature other than you has advantage, and if it hits, it deals an extra 1d6 lightning damage. This effect lasts until the beginning of your next turn, and elevates the Lightning Launcher’s utility to a whole new level – it’s like a miniature Faerie Fire on command.

Artificer Infusions

We also get 5 new infusions for the Artificer. The Armor of Magical Strength allows you to use your Intelligence instead when it comes to Strength checks and saving throws, as well as 4 charges that allow you to ignore an effect that would drop you prone. Compliments nicely with Power Armor, and effectively allows an Artificer to never worry about Strength again.

Armor of Tools allows you to integrate an artisan’s tools or thieves’ tools into an armor, as well as allowing the user to add their Intelligence modifier to any ability checks with the tools. Probably nice for a rogue with thieves’ tools, but i don’t think the artisan’s tools will see much use (however, to add a bit of self-promotion here, you could further enrich your armor by using a set of Enchanted Tools – on sale until the 15th of March!). At least it doesn’t require attunement, making it a bit easier to justify its use.

Afterwards, we have the Helm of Awareness, giving advantage to Initiative rolls and preventing you from being surprised. An easy substitute for the Alert feat in my opinion, although I think there are better infusions to use.

The Mind Sharpener follows, allowing you to use your reaction to automatically succeed on a Constitution saving throw to maintain concentration – perhaps a substitute for the War Caster feat, especially since it doesn’t require attunement.

Finally, the Spell-Restoring Ring. As an action, you can recover one expended spell slot, with a maximum level equal to the number of magic items you are attuned to – but you can only do this once per day. At first i thought it was very good, especially for a high-level artificer since they can become attuned to up to 6 items, instead of the standard 3 (although they only get up to 5th level spell slots). However, on second thought, by the time you get the most out of it, there are better items you can use, especially since it takes up an attunement spot. I think it’ll probably work best on a Warlock during the lower-middle levels.

I really like the Armorer, both conceptually and mechanically. It has a lot of combat utility, opens up a lot of opportunities for roleplay, and of course fits perfectly with the Artificer’s theme.

Circle of the Stars

A druid subclass centered around the stars and their power. It understandably leans heavily in astrology/divination, as well as a sort of “cosmic entity” theme.

Star Map (2nd level Circle of the Stars feature)

You have created a star map that you can use as a spellcasting focus. You can cast augury and guiding bolt without expending a spell slot or requiring to have it prepared, limited to a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier before needing a long rest. The spellcasting focus on its own isn’t much, but the extra spells are great – Guiding Bolt is quite powerful early on, and Augury can certainly find some use.

Starry Form (2nd level Circle of the Stars feature)

You can use your Wild Shape to transform into a starry form for 10 minutes, shedding bright light for 10 feet and gaining a bonus of your choice. Your options are the following:

  • Whenever you cast a spell that restores hit points, you or another creature within 30 feet of you regains hit points equal to 1d8 + half your druid level. Really good early on, and also scales well.
  • You can use a bonus action to make a ranged attack dealing 1d8+your Wisdom modifier in radiant damage, with a range of 60 feet. A really powerful offensive ability, it allows you to make two attacks per turn, or cast a spell and still attack – and the damage is nice too.
  • When you make an Intelligence or Wisdom check, or a Constitution saving throw to maintain concentration, you can treat a roll of 9 or lower on the d20 as a 10. A bit more niche in terms of use, but i can see it helping out when it comes to dealing with skill checks (Investigation/Perception, Medicine, et cetera).

Cosmic Omen (6th level Circle of the Stars feature)

When you finish a long rest, you can roll a d6. Depending on the roll, you can use your reaction to either add (if it was even) or subtract (if it was odd) a d6 from an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw made by a creature within 30 feet of you. You can do this a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier. Quite similar to bardic inspiration/cutting words (from bard’s college of lore), but less flexible, since you can only add or subtract – not both depending on what you want. Still, it’s a useful ability that can easily turn the tide in a battle, for example by making sure a dangerous enemy fails an important saving throw.

Full of Stars (10th level Circle of the Stars feature)

While using your Starry Form, you gain resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage. Not limited to nonmagical weapons like some features and spells, this certainly boosts your defenses a bit – although it could easily also have an ability to pass through solid objects or something similar without becoming too powerful, while adding a bit more flavor to a somewhat bland feature.

Star Flare (14th level Circle of the Stars feature)

An offensive ability with quite a bit of utility thrown in, this requires some explanation. First you select a 30-foot radius sphere within 120 feet of you. Then, you can teleport any willing creature inside it to an unoccupied location within 30 feet of the sphere (so imagine a second, concentric sphere, 60 feet in radius, as the teleportation limit – at least that’s how I interpret it). Any creature remaining in the original sphere must make a Constitution saving throw or take 4d10 radiant damage and become blinded until the end of your next turn. You can use this ability once between long rests, but you can also expend a 5th-level spell slot to use it as well. The damage is alright, but blindness is a very dangerous condition, and both the original sphere and the teleport have a very large radius. 

A thematically interesting subclass, with good balance between offense and utility. Starry Form especially is quite central to the archetype, potentially replacing all your other uses for Wild Shape, and Star Flare is great. I can’t help but feel that the other features could have something more though.

Fey Wanderer

A ranger archetype revolving around the Feywild (obviously). While you may not wander in it, contrary to the name, you guard the border between it and the material plane. As such, you are familiar with fey magic (and their attitude).

Cunning Will (3rd level Fey Wanderer feature)

You gain proficiency to Deception, Performance, or Persuasion, and have advantage on saving throws against being charmed or frightened. Not much to say – it’s a nice bonus, and i can see the connection with the whole fey theme.

Dreadful Strikes (3rd level Fey Wanderer feature)

You can use a bonus action to turn the weapon(s) you are holding magical, making them deal an extra 1d6 psychic damage on hit until the end of your next turn. A creature can take this damage only once per turn, and if you use two-weapon fighting, you can enhance your weapons as part of the bonus action used for the extra attack. A very nice damage boost for 3rd level, that still holds up later. The two-weapon fighting effect is also very important, since a lot of rangers go for that sort of fighting style.

Blessings of the Courts (7th level Fey Wanderer feature)

When you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can expend a spell slot to deal 3d6 psychic damage and force it to make a Wisdom saving throw or be frightened of you until the end of your next turn. In addition, you can add your Wisdom modifier to any Charisma checks you make. Compared to various 1st-level spells, this is great – good damage and control all in one – so I think this would see use often. However, Rangers have a very, very limited number of spell slots, and you might prefer to keep them for stuff like Hunter’s Mark or Barkskin. As for the bonus to charisma checks, it is quite powerful, and could allow you to be the “face” of the party if you’re lacking a Charisma-based class (like a Bard or Paladin), who usually take that role.

Beguiling Twist (11th level Fey Wanderer feature)

When a creature you can see succeeds on a saving throw against being charmed or frightened, you can use your reaction to force a different creature to make a Wisdom saving throw. If they fail, you can choose to either charm or frighten them for 1 minute (repeating the saving throw at the end of each turn), or deal 3d10 psychic damage. The effects are strong, and you can do this any number of times, but considering the prerequisites I don’t think it will be overpowered. Plus it has nice synergy with Blessings of the Courts.

Misty Presence (15th level Fey Wanderer feature)

You can use a bonus action to force a creature to make a Wisdom saving throw. If it fails, it cannot see or hear you for 24 hours, repeating the saving throw at the end of a turn during which you hit it with an attack roll, forced it to make a saving throw, or dealt damage to it. If it succeeds the saving throw, it is immune to this effect for 7 days. You can use this ability once before requiring a long rest, but you can also reuse it by expending a 4th-level spell slot or higher. Obviously a very powerful ability, with applications out of combat as well, but it gives the target lots of opportunities to escape the effect so it’s not overwhelming.

Overall, a thematically cohesive subclass, although I’m not sure what to think about the mechanics. It seems strong on paper with a lot of damage, but with the ranger’s tiny pool of spell slots and the various prerequisites for some effects make me think it’s not as good as it looks.

And that’s it for this Unearthed Arcana. Just the fact that we get more artificer, and Power Armor as well, would be enough for me to love this installment. I admit it might have made me a bit more biased against the other two subclasses, having to measure up against that, but I still think they’re good – just not at the Armorer’s level.

What’s your opinion on the Artificcer in general? Do you allow/play them in settings outside of Eberron? And how do you imagine a fantasy Power Armor would look and function?

You can read the full article here, and download the PDF here.

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