Another Unearthed Arcana, another set of playtest rules to check out!
This time around we get a slew of new feats, each focused on one of the in-game skills. They each follow a standard formula- buff the base ability score and proficiency, and a passive feature or flavorful ability, be it a new action, bonus action, or access to spells.
I’m going to run the gamut of these, discussing their third point, and what I think about it as it would affect the game.
First, to clarify, each feat comes with two standard features:
I take issue with the double proficiency on some skills, and while a bard or rogue can technically use their expertise to mirror the effect, I find a level 6 Fighter with a possible +11 to Athletics ridiculous, when you consider an Ancient Red Dragon only has a +10. Stealth, any knowledge checks, even Persuasion, aren’t that bad when you consider the idea of a level 6 human being able to resist an ancient dragon’s grapple over half the time. That said, I digress- let’s dig into the actual meat of the feats!
Acrobat (Acrobatics – Dexterity)
The extra ability for Acrobat is that you may, as a bonus action, make a DC 15 Acrobatics check. If you succeed, you can move through difficult terrain without the extra movement cost until the end of your turn, whereas if you fail you just wasted your bonus action.
Now, I don’t hate this one, but I don’t love it either. I can see this potentially being used to skirt around interesting terrain or spells that create difficult terrain, and it seems lame that a bonus action that can be used every turn can nullify those things. That said, I see mostly rogues or monks taking this one, which are two people who I’m not opposed to being able to do such things. Overall, I’m giving it a neutral.
Animal Handler (Animal Handling – Wisdom)
Animal Handler gives you the ability to, with a bonus action, command a friendly beast within 60 feet that can hear you and isn’t currently following other orders. You get to choose what action it takes or and how it moves next turn, or give it a general command for 1 minute, such as guard or protect.
I take a lot of issue with this one. Namely, that there’s no check involved, and I feel it drastically changes Rangers who are of the Beast Master subtype. Now, are those Rangers underpowered? Of course they are, but giving everyone the ability to buy an animal and command it better than the class based on having an animal seems odd, and a poor choice. I don’t know what else they could have done here, other than maybe add a check, or give advantage to checks one can already make using the skill. Perhaps even something with mounts as a bonus action while retaining your regular action. So, thumbs down here.
Arcanist (Arcana – Intelligence)
For this one, you get the Prestidigitation cantrip, and learn and get the ability to cast Detect Magic once per long rest (without expending a spell slot).
I really have no problems with this one, especially in a group where it makes sense from an RP perspective. Heck, even if I had a Fighter interested in the arcane with no business casting spells, I’d be completely fine with him learning these spells one way or another, or even finding trinkets that bind to him that allow him to cast these. One thumb up.
Brawny (Athletics – Strength)
With Brawny, you count as one size larger for the purpose of carrying capacity. Which Firbolgs and Goliaths already do. And no, this doesn’t stack with those.
The real reason anyone would take this feat is for the double proficiency with Athletics, and therefore grappling and or other like actions in game. This is only emphasized by the fairly weak special feature of the trait, which makes it so a kobold can carry as much as a half-orc of the same Strength score. Thumbs down.
Diplomat (Persuasion – Charisma)
With Diplomat, if you spend at least one minute talking to someone who understands you, you can make a Persuasion check versus their Insight, which fails automatically if you or your allies are attacking them. If you do succeed, the target is charmed by you for as long as you are in 60 feet, and for 1 minute thereafter.
Wow. Really? Just take the poor bard out back and put him down, anyone with this feat can basically do what they do now. You’re taking the Charm Person spell, removing the ability to use it while fighting (which, I mean, isn’t that big of a deal), and making it not cost a spell slot. It’s better than the Friends cantrip by a longshot, and has no fear of failure, other than the initial failure of not getting what you wanted from the NPC. There’s no reason to not use this on every NPC you ever talk to for any length of time, even if you’re not sure you’re going to need something from them. As a DM, I see this as a nightmare to manage and deal with, and for that I’m giving it a solid two thumbs way down.
Empathetic (Insight – Wisdom)
This feat gives you the ability to use an action to try to gain uncanny insight about one humanoid you can see within 30 feet of you. You make an Insight check contested by their Deception check, and if you win you have advantage on attack rolls and ability checks against the target until the end of your next turn.
I kind of like this feature, but I don’t like the skill it’s attached to. When I think of insight, I think of more defensive or reactive rather than something that would give you advantage. To me, it’s the opposite of a feint (we’ll get to this when we get to Silver-Tongued), and so I feel it should impose disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks against the user, from a specific target. Thumb middle, since I like the ability, just think it should be reversed.
History (History – Intelligence)
Well, don’t let your parents tell you that a degree in History is useless. This feat lets you make a DC15 History check when using the Aid action to aid another creature’s ability check, and if you succeed they get an additional bonus to their roll equal to your proficiency bonus.
Now, I like this. It makes, at least in my campaigns, an underutilized skill appealing. Plainly, any kind of knowledge check this makes sense with, since you’re well read. Maybe your character has been following the history of a nomadic tribe and picked up tips for Survival in their research. Same could be said for Medicine. While I’m sure I’m missing some areas that this can be abused (grappling, now comes to mind) or it doesn’t make sense that a few words over 6 seconds could help much (the aforementioned grappling, or if your character is drowning and getting carried downstream trying to stay afloat) I like the ability. It gets a thumbs up.
Investigator (Investigation – Intelligence)
This allows you to take the Search action as a bonus action.
Kill me. Literally every time my players kill something and still have their bonus action, they’re going to loot it right away. In the span of 6 seconds. Yeah, it’s useful in other applications such as looking for that way to open the secret door as skeletons pour in through the hallway behind you, but I’m just too aware of the abuse. Giving it a neutral, only because I think the intent was in the right place with this one.
Medic (Medicine – Wisdom)
The Medic feat lets you, during a short rest, make a DC 15 Medicine check for each creature taking a short rest. If they spend a Hit Die during this rest, they can forgo the roll and instead gain the maximum number of hit points that the hit die can restore. However, this can only work once per short rest regardless of how many hit dice they spend.
I like this one. It’s similar to the Bard’s Song of Rest, but requires a skill check and allows other party members use non-magic to help tend to wounds and heal up. Two thumbs up here.
Menacing (Intimidation – Charisma)
With Menacing, when you take the Attack action, you can replace one attack with an attempt to demoralize one humanoid within 30 feet of you. You make an Intimidation check contested by their Insight, and if you succeed they are frightened of you until the end of your next turn. If you fail, they can’t be affected by this for the next hour.
I really dislike this. I think the ability is fine, and giving up an attack makes this favor those with multiple attacks like Fighters and Barbarians. What I don’t like is that it’s a little too close to the Path of the Berserker Barbarian’s Intimidating Presence, which is a 10th level ability. Yeah, this is a bit of a poor man’s version since it can only affect humanoids and is a contested check instead of a save, but Intimidating Presence requires the full action to use and then to maintain, this just replaces one attack. A Barbarian in a frenzied rage or a fighter would have a much better time using this and maintaining all their attacks than a Barbarian would using Intimidating Presence. The only other thing Intimidating Presence is that it doesn’t require subsequent checks to maintain so long as the target stays within 60 feet, but still, I don’t think that justifies the power of this feat. Big barbaric thumbs down.
Naturalist (Nature – Wisdom)
With Naturalist, you learn the Druidcraft cantrip and learn and gain the ability to cast the Detect Poison And Disease spell once per long rest without expending a spell slot.
Very similar to Arcanist, and very similar in that I’m giving it a thumbs up since any character who becomes attuned to nature could find themselves granted these powers.
Perceptive (Perception – Wisdom)
Perceptive makes it so being in a lightly obscured area doesn’t impose disadvantage on your Perception checks if you can see and hear.
I have no problems. In a lot of cases darkvision covers this, so this applies more to area effects that make the area lightly obscured. Not crazy about this feat, but not hating it. It gets the Ready To Role stamp of approval.
Performer (Performance – Charisma)
With this feat, you can make a Performance check against a humanoid’s Insight who can see and hear you. If you succeed, you get their attention and distract them enough that they have disadvantage on Investigation and Perception checks until you stop.
Thematically, I like this one. It’s also something I let my bards already do, but having a rule for it and maybe packaging it as a feat makes more sense. In the end, no issues whatsoever with allowing this as it has some great application without crashing the Performance skill check market.
Quick-Fingered (Sleight of Hand – Dexterity)
With Quick-Fingered, you can, as a bonus action, make a Sleight of Hand check to plant something on someone else, conceal an object on a creature, lift a purse, or pickpocket. All normal Sleight of Hand stuff, as a bonus action.
It’s simple, it’s good, it makes sense for a rogue or any character with an Urchin or Criminal background. Two quick thumbs up.
Silver-Tongued (Deception – Charisma)
Much like Menacing, Silver-Tongues lets you replace an attack made with the Attack action on your turn to deceive a humanoid who can see and hear you within 30 feet of you. You make a Deception check contested by their Insight, and if you succeed your movement doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks from them, and you have advantage on your attack rolls against them. Both of these last until the end of your next turn, or until you use this on another target. Also like Menacing, if you fail, you can’t use this on that target again for 1 hour.
Unlike Menacing, I like this. Feinting is a great option in any game, and I actually like this so much I might try this as a general new action in my next campaign. I might even be willing to make it a bonus action for a risk/reward factor, where if you fail they get advantage against you or you get disadvantage for them predicting what you were going to do. I like it, I’d allow it, I want more of it. Thumb way up.
Stealthy (Stealth – Dexterity)
Stealthy allows you to move up to 10 feet in the open without revealing yourself so long as you end the move in a position where you’re not clearly visible.
I kind of like this. Gives anyone who takes it (let’s be honest, rogues) the ability to be an action film hero, diving between crates to avoid the guards that are patrolling. It’s cool, it’s thematic, it’s not a big deal. However, as a DM there are clearly some situations where I’d have to overrule this and say “No, they do see you, it’s actually impossible for them not to”. This feat shouldn’t make you supernaturally fast, invisible, or grant you the ability to jump between spots. So, if a guard knows to be on alert, and are watching a specific area (like the main entrance to the Big Bad) and you walk there, they see you. That said, I still like the feat, I would just make sure to communicate my expectations to any player interested in taking it. One thumb up, clearly visible.
Survivalist (Survival – Wisdom)
As a reward for choosing the Survivalist feat, you learn the Alarm spell and can cast it once per long rest without expending a spell slot.
I get why they chose it, since part of survival is, well, surviving through the night. I just think they could and should have gone a non-magic route with it. Yeah, Alarm makes sense, but what about better tracking, or covering tracks? Maybe it could have been the ability to make improvised weapons and tools out of wood and hide, that work at a similar level as non-improvised if only for some period of time. They could have gone in a better direction, but I don’t hate the Alarm spell, so this gets a neutral.
Theologian (Religion – Intelligence)
With Theologian, through your study of religion you learn the Thaumaturgy cantrip as well as learn and gain the ability to cast Detect Evil And Good spell once per long rest without expending a spell slot.
Again, like Arcanist and Naturalist, I like this. It adds flavor. Maybe that rogue found their god and have been blessed by their deity for becoming devout, or something along that line. It can make sense in game, and like the other two, it’s all good to me.
WHEW! Made it through all 18 of them, and overall they were more positive than negative. I think the ones that are bad really do make the game less special for certain classes, but I will admit they are also potentially a great way to fill a void. If you don’t have a Barbarian who will get offended when their 10th level ability isn’t that awesome, a fighter taking Menacing could be awesome! It’s just not awesome objectively speaking from a relative point of view.
What did you think about this Unearthed Arcana? Is there anything else here you feel is unbalanced or were you positive on this one? Tell us in the comments below or let us know on our Facebook or Twitter!