Unearthed Arcana: Draconic Options Analysis

One more Unearthed Arcana, this time with draconic character races and some additional dragon-themes feats and spells.

I’m glad to see some more differentiation among the draconic races – after the plethora of options that Tieflings got in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, I think Dragonborn were long overdue for their own set of subraces.

Races

In total, we get 4 races: 3 options for Dragonborn, and the Kobolds. Just like Gothic Lineages and Folk of the Feywild, bonuses to ability scores are not set – you can choose to give +2 to one and +1 to another, or +1 to any three abilities of your choice. Dragonborn can now choose between 3 different ancestries: Metallic, Chromatic, and Gem.

Metallic and Chromatic Dragonborn are quite similar. They keep their Breath Weapon and Draconic Resistance features, with chromatic dragonborn having a 15-foot cone breath attack and metallic a 30-foot line, just like in the PHB. However, both of them now get an additional feature:

Chromatic dragonborn get Chromatic Warding at 3rd level, the ability to become immune to their associated damage type for 10 minutes once per long rest. I have to say, 10 minutes is a very long time; I think even 1 minute would be enough for most scenarios, and immunity has the chance to break some encounters and plans. So i would say that if we get these dragonborn in a future book, I think this feature will be toned down a bit. Perhaps it could start at 1 minute in 3rd level, and slowly increase with further levels.

Metallic Dragonborn, on the other hand, get Metallic Breath Weapon at level 3. You get a second, different breath attack on a 15-foot cone, that can either push creatures 20 feet away and knock them prone (STR saving throw), or become incapacitated until the beginning of your next turn (CON saving throw). A very, VERY strong ability for obvious reasons: both conditions imposed by this feature are dangerous ones, and an area of effect attack at level 3 like this is a bit of an overkill and could trivialize a lot of combat encounters. Again, this could start out weaker at level 3, for example only pushing, and later gaining the additional effects.

I have to mention though that i really like the juxtaposition between these two features: Chromatic dragonborn, descended from good-aligned dragons, get a defensive ability while metallic ones, descended form evil-aligned dragons, get an offensive one.

Now let’s talk about Gem Dragonborn. You also have an ancestry and an associated damage type, but yours is a bit more esoteric rather than elemental: Amethyst for force, crystal for radiant, emerald for psychic, sapphire for thunder, or topaz for necrotic. You do get your Breath Weapon (15-foot cone) and Draconic Resistance as well, but you also get 2 extra features:

Psionic Mind allows you to telepathically speak to any creature you can see within 30 feet of you, as long as they can speak at least one language – not necessarily one you can also speak. This is not 2-way communication; they cannot respond, which severely limits the usefulness of this feature.

At level 3, you also get Gem Flight, which gives you the ability to manifest wings for 1 minute once per long rest. The wings give you a flying speed equal to your walking speed, and you can also hover. I’ve always been quite vocal about how good flying abilities are, and this is no exception: long duration and good speed, this is excellent.

Overall, although Gem dragonborn may seem a little bit weaker than the other two subraces, mainly due to the rarity of their associated elements which impacts the usefulness of Draconic Resistance, I think their flight ability makes up for that and gives them options the chromatic and metallic ones lack.

Finally, we have the Kobolds, who are quite different than their previous versions like the one in Volo’s Guide to Monsters. Here, they get the following features:

Draconic Legacy: You can choose one of 3 different options for this feature. The option you choose is permanent; you can’t change it when you level up for example. You can choose to have advantage on saving throws against being frightened, to learn one sorcerer cantrip (choosing your spellcasting ability for it), or to be able to make an unarmed attack with your tail that deals 1d6+STR bludgeoning damage. I don’t know which would be the best option, but I think the tail attack is probably the weakest – regardless of your class, you probably have stronger offensive options available. I do think it’s a bit ironic though that an option is to get advantage against fear, when kobolds are usually portrayed as cowardly creatures and even one of their features in Volo’s Guide was called “Grovel, Cower and Beg”

Draconic Roar: As a bonus action, you can let out a roar, affecting all enemies within 10 feet of you that can hear it. Until the end of your next turn, you and your allies have advantage on attack rolls against these enemies. You can use this a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus. An excellent ability for a multitude of reasons: obviously advantage is the best, but it also affects multiple enemies, without a saving throw, and as a bonus action so you can immediately reap the benefits with your attacks, usable multiple times per long rest.

Kobolds also get 60 feet of darkvision. I really like this version of them, and I think it’s a massive improvement over the previous ones. I’d like to play a kobold rogue with this; the small size, the darkvision, the ability to give yourself advantage to trigger sneak attack… I think it would fit great.

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Feats

We get 3 feats related to dragons. To be honest, I’m not sure i would pick these feats over some other ones or the ability score improvement, although I can easily see them being awarded by the GM after the completion of a dragon-related quest.

Gift of the Chromatic Dragon: As a bonus action once per long rest, you can touch a weapon and give it an additional 1d4 damage of an elemental type of your choice (acid, cold, fire, lightning, poison). Additionally, when you take damage of one of those damage types, you can use your reaction to gain resistance to that instance of damage. This can be used a number of times equal to your proficiency modifier. The damage boost is great at the early levels and remains good even at later ones, and reducing incoming damage is always good.

Gift of the Metallic Dragon: You learn Cure Wounds, and can cast it for free once per long rest. You can choose which spellcasting ability you will use for it. You can also manifest protective wings for defending yourself or others. When you or another creature within 5 feet of you are hit by an attack roll, you can use your reaction to increase their AC by 1d4. You can use this a number of times equal to your proficiency modifier per long rest. Cure Wounds is a pretty good spell to know, and getting access to it as a spellcaster such as a wizard or warlock can be quite impactful. The AC increase is also quite nice, and can potentially save you from a lot of damage.

Gift of the Gem Dragon: Increase your Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma by 1. When you take damage from a creature within 10 feet of you, you can use your reaction to force them to make a STR saving throw or take 2d8 force damage and be pushed 10 feet away. You can use this ability a number of times equal to your proficiency modifier. The ability score increase gets it more up to par with some other feats, but the reaction attack is a bit underwhelming.

Spells

There are 7 new spells in total, all of them with some relation to dragons. I won’t go over all of them in detail, but I will say a couple of words for each.

Draconic Transformation: 7th level transmutation. Gives you blindsight, flight, and a breath attack as a bonus action. Good, but you probably want to concentrate on other spells.

Fizban’s Platinum Shield: 6th-level abjuration. Give half cover (+2 AC and DEX saving throws), resistance to elemental damage types, half damage from failed DEX saving throws and 0 damage from successful ones. I like this one, you can give a lot of protection to one of your party’s important members for up to 1 minute.

Flame Stride: 3rd-level transmutation. Increase your speed by 20 feet, and you don’t provoke opportunity attacks. When you move within 5 feet of another creature, they take 1d6 fire damage. 20 feet is a lot of speed, but this spell competes with Haste and i’m not sure it beats that.

Icingdeath’s Frost: 2nd-level evocation. CON saving throw or creatures in a 30-foot cone take 3d8 cold damage and have their speed reduced to 0 for 1 minute, or until they use an action to free themselves from the ice that encases them. Excellent spell, large AoE for the effect it provides, and standard damage for the level. I suggest you get this.

Nathair’s Mischief: 2nd-level illusion. Fill a 20-foot cube with a random magical effect: creatures inside can be charmed, blinded, or incapacitated if they fail a saving throw, or the area inside is difficult terrain. Each turn you can move the cube 10 feet and reroll the effect. Pretty good for 2nd level, although the randomness of the effects can mess things up a bit – but that’s an acceptable drawback since otherwise it would be too powerful.

Raulothim’s Psychic Lance: 6th-level enchantment. INT saving throw or the target takes 10d6 psychic damage and is incapacitated until the start of your next turn. You can bypass cover and invisibility if you know they creature’s name. Alright damage for 6th level spell, nothing too special here.

Summon Draconic Spirit: 5th-level conjuration. Again nothing too special, you summon the spirit of a dragon to fight with you. Its stats scale (haha, “scale”, like the dragon’s scales… whatever) with the spell level. You can choose between chromatic, metallic, and gem dragon, which affects its resistances and the damage type it deals.

Some pretty good spells overall, I particularly like Fizban’s Platinum Shield and Icingdeath’s Frost.

To wrap things up, there was quite a bit of content in this particular installment of UA, and I liked most of it. The feats were a bit underwhelming as i mentioned earlier, but the races and spells definitely hit the mark. You can read the full article here, and download the PDF here.

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5 thoughts on “Unearthed Arcana: Draconic Options Analysis

  1. You got the juxtaposition of chromatic and metallic dragons completely wrong Metallic are good and Chromatic are evil
    Both are descended from their dragon gods Bahamut(The Lawful Good platinum dragon who is the god of the Metallic dragons) and the five-headed Tiamat(CE Dragon goddess of the Chromatic Dragons) respectively.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Another thing saying Gem dragonborn are weaker I feel I must point out those rare damage types you mentioned are also rarely resisted damage types meaning their breath weapons have much higher potential damage considering very few creatures have resistances to those damage types especially the amethyst dragonborns force damage breath weapon, also I’m far from the first person to point out Emerald Dragonborn Bear Barbarian for that psychic resistance to truly have resistance to all damage(while raging).
    So what they lose in resistance utility they more than make up for by bypassing resistances.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Two notes about Raulothim’s Psychic Lance, first it’s 4th Level not 6th, might’ve actually been balanced if it were 6th level, secondly you forgot/ignored the last part of the point about if you know the name of the creature not only does it track them down even if they’re behind cover and/or invisible, it also doesn’t expend the spell slot if used in that way.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are absolutely correct on all accounts. In general I tend to prefer consistency over potential, that’s why I felt that Gem dragonborn are weaker; I think it’s better to have reliable defenses vs a common damage type, rather than hope the psychic resistance will be useful somewhere down the line. Of course, this is all very subjective and dependent on the campaign as well – for example the barbarian archetype you mentioned makes perfect sense. As for Raulothim’s Psychic Lance you’re right about the spell level, but the spell slot is not expended only if the named creature isn’t in range – not every time.
      Thank you for the comments!

      Liked by 1 person

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