Persuasion Check: Unearthed Arcana – Three Subclasses

It’s a new year with a new slew of Unearthed Arcana to take a look at! And what better way to kick off 2018 than with three new subclasses, one each for Druid, Fighter, and Wizard?

On the nature front, we have the death-centric Circle of Spores for the Druid, a beefy Brute for the Fighter, and the chaotic School of Invention for Wizards!

Druid – Circle of Spores
I’m always curious when a new druid subclass comes out, because I truly believe that the Moon and Land circles in the Player’s Handbook encapsulated what a classic druid is all about. But lo and behold, our friends at Wizards of the Coast have presented us with a new interesting and unique take on the druid with a different perspective on nature and its cycles. While other druids may recognize death as the end of life and undeath as an abomination, the druids in the Circle of Spores see life and death as two parts of the same cycle, with undeath acceptable in certain capacities.

The first place we see this new understanding is in the circle spells- spells such as gentle reposeanimate dead, and blight make up this list, showing off an affinity for death. Where things truly get interesting though is in the Halo of Spores ability, which is the mainstay for the subclass and augmented by the later features. Halo of Spores allows a druid to deal poison damage as a reaction on their turn to a creature within 10 feet. This is without a roll, by the way- no attack, no save- just poison damage. It starts off at a measly 3 but grows up to 12 damage. Not bad for a reaction, especially when the druid can still take an action AND bonus action as well.

The other main ability of these druids is their Symbiotic Entity feature. They can use Symbiotic Entity by expending a Wild Shape usage, granting them several boons. First, they get temporary hit points based on their level, then the damage on their Halo of Spores doubles for the duration, and their melee weapon attacks deal an extra 1d6 poison damage every time they hit. Unlike Wild Shape that can last for hours, this simply lasts 10 minutes, but what a productive 10 minutes that can be. Later on at level 6, They get the ability to raise humanoids slain with Halo of Spores as zombies with a single hit point (though, I can’t tell if they are to use the Zombie stats, or retain stats of their living selves since they are freshly dead and basically just being controlled by the spores. I err on the side of the latter, which also sounds way more fun!). At level 10 they can use a bonus action to throw their Halo of Spores into a 10 foot cube for a minute, dealing constant damage but making them unable to use the base Halo of Spores feature for the duration. And lastly, at level 14 the spores make it impossible for the druid to be blinded, deafened, frightened, or poisoned. Oh, and it also makes any critical hit against the druid a non-critical hit, which is very powerful.

Overall, I’m super pleased with this subclass, and I’m glad to see WotC come swinging out the gate with it. If not as a player, then certainly as an NPC in my campaign will a Circle of Spores druid make an appearance. One spore infested thumb way up!

Fighter – Brute
I can’t say if the Brute subclass is especially needed seeing as how I feel like it is just a mixture of Fighter and Barbarian, but oh man does it sounds fun. From a fluff perspective, the Brute basically likes to hit things. Hard. And can withstand being hit by things. Hard. It’s like WotC found a way to take the Fighter and Barbarian and make them even more damaged focused!

Much like the simple name Brute implies, there isn’t a lot of complexity here. Starting at third level, the Brute does extra damage with each proficient weapon attack they make and the damage increases as the Brute levels. Later on at level 7, they add a 1d6 to every saving throw, including death saving throws, and if that 1d6 pushed the death saving throw to or over 20, it counts as a 20, bringing them back up to 1 hp and conscious. Not bad, not bad at all. And then at level 10, they pick another fighting style. Sure, nothing wrong with that.

At level 15 they show start to increase critical hit damage, dealing additional damage equal to their Brute level. Yeah, I’ll take an extra 15 damage every time I critically hit something, that’s a no brainer. And finally at level 18, their defense reaches its pinnacle. Any turn that they start below half their total hit points but above 0, they regain 5+Constitution modifier hit points. With a 20 Constitution, that’s 10 every turn.

I wasn’t expecting much from the Brute and yet I got the simplistic hard-hitting fighter I didn’t know I wanted. It fills a niche that is just barely wedged between Fighter and Barbarian as they stand today, and I’m glad it fills it well. Thumbs up!

Wizard – School of Invention
For all the bookish wizards devoted to studying, we’re given their antithesis in the School of Invention- wizards who sling experimental magic around just to see what will happen. They don’t always know what spell they’ll cast, they wear magic armor (not to be confused with mage armor), and augment or change existing spells with a little extra force.

So let’s get this out of the way: they gain proficiency with two tools of their choice. Neat. Okay, onto the cool features! Firstly, they gain a suit of Arcanomechanical Armor, which is magical armor (studded leather) that is only attuned to the wizard. It gives a 12+Dex AC and resistance to force damage, so not too bad at all. But the real fun comes with Reckless Casting. Reckless Casting allows the wizard to choose to cast an unprepared spell, and then roll randomly to see what comes up. Wait, why does that sound so familiar? Anyway, for a cantrip you simply roll once, with a chance to roll twice and potentially fizzle out any spells or cast two at once. For spells levels one through five, you roll twice and choose which result to use, also potentially rolling twice more and getting off two spells or fizzling out, and thereby wasting your action but not the spell slot used. Rather than rattle off the spells, click on the link in the opening paragraph and check out the spell lists yourself!

That’s not all though; at level 6 wizards can start using their Arcanomechanical suit to expend 1st and 2nd level spell slots to augment their spells. Using a 1st level spell slot allows the caster to change the damage type of certain spells, while using a second level slot deal an extra 2d10 force damage to the target (or, in the case of multiple hit enemies, the wizard chooses one target to take the extra damage). It is worth noting that these effects cannot be combined. At level 10, once per rest and as a bonus action the wizard can replace a prepared spell with an unprepared one, alluding to their ability to cast on the fly and prepare quickly. And lastly, at level 14, whenever a wizard uses Reckless Casting, they can choose to cast a spell one spell slot higher than they are using, not including cantrips. This means the wizard can cast off 2nd level spells with a 1st level slot, and so on. Not too shabby at all, even with the gamble.

I have to say, despite plagiarizing my ring from the last Handful of Magic Items (I’m kidding of course- the ring is quite a bit more stable), I like this subclass, or at least the idea of it. I think it’s a fun change of pace and brings in the vague idea of the Wild Magic Sorcerer and mixes it with the Wizard. I would need to see it in action to get a better idea of if I’d like it at my table, but I’m sure open to trying. Thumbs up.

That’s a good start to the year and three thumbs ups for Wizards of the Coast. I’m really digging the Circle of Spores Druid above the other two, but I find all three to be solid additions to the game, even when more and more published subclasses find their way into books such as Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. If they can keep it up with this caliber of content in Unearthed Arcana, we’ll all have a great year indeed.

Let us know what you think in the comments and across our social media. Be sure to check out the Unearthed Arcana release and let us know which subclass catches your eye and why!

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