It’s a new month, and that means new playtest content for us to enjoy! September’s Unearthed Arcana brings us two new playable races that seem pretty great at first glance.
We’re going to take a deeper look at the options presented, which are the Eladrin, an elf subrace which previously appeared in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, as well as the two Gith variants, the Githyanki and the Githzerai.
Being a subrace for elves, which already have 3 subraces, Wizards of the Coast needed to make sure that the Eladrin felt unique, which is something I don’t think they did with the original example in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. While initially they were a slightly changed High Elf (trading a Wizard cantrip and bonus language for Misty Step once per short rest- a great trade if you ask me) the flavor presented in the new version makes them even better and more unique.
First, they removed the Elf Weapon Training which had been originally borrowed from the High Elves. Then, rather than a straight +1 to Intelligence, they can choose between Intelligence and Charisma to receive the +1, which allows them to be tailored to any of the arcane spellcasters.
As a minor change, they no longer cast Misty Step once per short rest bur rather have a trait of the same name of Fey Step which works exactly the same. I don’t see any real mechanical change here other than implying that the feature is more innate and less magic? EDIT: As reader Ben Fuqua kindly pointed out, this change is much bigger than it is at first glance. Per the Player’s Handbook, whenever you cast a spell as a bonus action, you can only cast cantrips on your action. This means previously you would have to Misty Step and then be constrained to a Fire Bolt or the like. With this subtle change, you can now Fey Step away and set up that sweet, sweet, Fireball or other devastating spell. Thanks Ben!
And finally, we get to the shifting seasons. It’s established that Eladrin, much like the seasons, change with their emotions. They’re given 4 flaws and 4 personality traits per season that can either be used as guidance, or rolled on whenever there is a change for more chaos. It should be noted that these don’t change with the seasons themselves, but with emotions that represent them, e.g. sadness is winter, contentment is autumn, and so on.
On a more mechanical level, they can also, on a short or long rest, align their magic with that of a season (even one different than their current state). Each season gives them access to a different cantrip; Friends in Autumn, Chill Touch in Winter, Minor Illusion in Spring, and Fire Bolt in Summer. This is a fun, thematic way to make minor adjustments to your character to help you in certain situations, and having these options is sure to be fun for the player!
Ultimately, I have to give the Eladrin a thumbs up, but with the note I find it to be a bit stronger than the High Elf and Wood Elf subraces while on par with the Drow. They get a free second level spell (Misty Step) every short rest, a cycle of cantrips to choose from, and some awesome roleplaying opportunities with the seasons. All in all, solid, and I would welcome an Eladrin at my table any day.
We get a treat with the Gith in the form of two subraces, the Githyanki and the Githzerai. I’ll be upfront and say that I’ve never used the Gith as a DM, even though they’ve always seems like a cool concept to play out; a divided people who reject the other and live very different lives. Some wonderful themes you can play through in a campaign where a party encounters both groups.
But, today we talk about the new options available to players. First and foremost, both variants get their Intelligence boosted by 1, a base speed of 30 feet, and the ability to speak Common and Gith. Beyond the, the two split off into what makes them unique.
The Githyanki are the sword-wielding, armor-wearing, raiding, looting, plundering type, with martial prowess at the top of their priorities. This manifests in a the form of a +2 to their Strength score, which is nice to see on a race that also has a bonus to Intelligence.
On top of that, they get a bonus language, a bonus proficiency in any skill or tool, and are automatically proficient with light and medium armor. I like the last bit there as it makes for interesting character design when paired with a class like a wizard or sorcerer. So far this subrace is screaming at me to play an Eldritch Knight or a defensive Wizard, but there’s more yet.
They also get their psionics. They get the Mage Hand cantrip, and at 3rd level they can cast Jump once per long rest as well. Finally, at 5th level they get Misty Step as a once per long rest spell, which Intelligence being their spellcasting ability for all of them.
Not bad, and suddenly I want to play a Githyanki. I love a good mix or martial and arcane, and quite frankly I think playing a Githyanki would allow you to get that mix to be whatever you want based on how else you build you character.
On the other hand, the Githzerai are the tranquil, meditative, mind-masters that inhabit one of the craziest places in the planes, Limbo. Their power of mind comes to us as a +2 to Wisdom, making them quite good at defending against mind-based assaults such as those performed by their former masters, the mind flayers.
Adiditonal, they gain a +1 bonus to AC when not wearing medium or heavy armor or employing a shield due to their monastic training. Since this is a miscellaneous +1, it would stack with a Monk or Barbarian’s Unarmored Defense abilities, making them even better at avoiding damage. It would even work alongside Mage Armor for the casting types, making this a good stat all around.
They also get some psionic abilities, also starting with Mage Hand as the cantrip. This is followed up at level 3 with Shield once per long rest and at level 5 with Detect Thoughts once per long rest. Both thematic with the traits that make the Githzerai different from the Githyanki, more defensive and mindful than the brute strength of their former kin.
And, now I also want to play a Githzerai. I think it’s safe to say that all three subraces in this month’s Unearthed Arcana hit it out of the park for me, each giving interesting options for new characters than can differentiate them from those that came before them.
So that’s September’s Unearthed Arcana all wrapped up and I’m feeling good about it! What about you, are you also feeling as positive on these subraces as I am? Any you’re itching to play or want to see reworked entirely? Let us know in the comments or on our social media so we can get the discussion going!
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You missed a pretty important aspect of Fey Step. Misty Step is a bonus action spell. If you read the PHB spellcasting chapter, if you cast a bonus action spell on your turn, you can’t cast a non-cantrip spell with your action. With Fey Step, this restriction never comes into play! This is a HUGE benefit to any squishy full-caster who doesn’t want to hang around in melee range.
“Oh, a nasty baddy got to me? I can’t run, he’ll get an opportunity attack. I don’t want to give up my action by disengaging. Even if I have Shocking Grasp, it eats my whole action, for relatively poor damage output, making it only slightly better than disengage. I could just cast my spell, and hope the party kills him before he gets his turn again… Wait! I have Misty Step! I can teleport away, then, uh, cast a cantrip at him… Hmm.”
Fey Step is AMAZING, to the point where I’ll probably never use another race for any wizard character I play. The fact it recharges on short rests instead of long rests, like most similar features is just more sweet, sweet gravy.
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Thanks for bringing this up, I completely missed out on how this one little change has huge implications! I’ve updated the article to include this insight for other readers to enjoy. Thanks for reading!
As you say, Eladrin is a bit overpowered. I’d turn Fey Step back into Misty Step, and require a long rest to change the season cantrip. That retains all of the flavor but puts them even with High Elf again.
Githyanki is confusing. They’re clearly meant for arcane Gish, but their armor proficiency is wasted on both Eldritch Knight and Blade Singer.
Githzerai has poor synergy. As you say, the armor feature makes sense for Monk or Wizard, but it doesn’t have the right stat boosts for those. Instead of +2 Wis, I’d give +1 Wis and +1 Dex.
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