The Dragonmarks are essentially 12 new subraces or variant races for humans, half-elves, half-orcs, halflings, elves, gnomes, and dwarves. Each of the 12 can only be used with a specific race, though they can be boosted with a feat for Greater Dragonmarks, and Aberrant Dragonmarks can be applied to any character at any time, though they come with a cost.
Due to the sheer size of this Unearthed Arcana, I have forgone any extreme number crunching in exchange for bite-sized takes on how I feel they stack up. If I miss something good or bad, please be sure to let me know in the comments!
Dragonmarked characters are those who have mystical sigils on their skin that grant the bearer magical powers in certain tasks and only appear in certain bloodlines and families.
When making a character, being Dragonmarked replaces the subrace options for dwarves, elves, gnomes, and halfling, partially replaces traits with half-elves and half-orcs, and is a variant race entirely for humans. Each Dragonmarked character receives Intuition Dice, which is a d4 added to rolls for specific skills or tools, though this can be increased to a d6, d8, or even d10 in various ways. Some Dragonmarks also have quirks, such as it moving on your skin, glowing, or it tickling when you imbue its power.
The Mark of Detection
Our first mark is exclusive to Half-Elves, and in exchange for its powers they give up their ability score increases (+2 to Charisma and +1 to two other abilities), their Skill Versatility (proficiency with two skills), and their Languages (Knowing Common, Elvish, and one other language).
Firstly, those with the Mark of Detection get a +1 to both Charisma and Intelligence, as well as an additional +1 to an ability score of their choice. They then get Deductive Intuition, giving them Intuition Dice in Investigation and Insight. They know Common and Elvish, and lastly they can cast detect magic and detect poison and disease as rituals.
I feel like this is a decent choice for someone playing a half-elf, especially one where Intelligence is the primary ability score. Even not, if Investigation, Insight, and the ‘detect’ spells are alluring, I can’t see this being a worse choice for just about any class than the default Half-Elf. Thumbs up!
The Mark of Finding
Our second mark affects our second half-breed, Half-Orcs. Those with the mark tend to look more human than orcish, giving up many of their orcish abilities in the process. They get rid of their ability score increases (+2 to Strength and +1 to Constitution), Menacing (proficiency with Intimidation), Relentless Endurance (dropping to 1 hp instead of 0 once per long rest), and Savage Attacks (roll an extra melee weapon damage die on a critical hit).
Half-Orcs with the Mark of Finding increase their Strength and Wisdom by +1, as well as one ability score going up an additional +1. Their Intuition Dice are added to Perception and Wisdom, they get Imprint Prey as a bonus action which helps in tracking and attacks and defense against unseen enemies. Lastly, at third level they can cast locate animals or plants as a ritual.
I actually like this variant. You give up a lot of what makes the Half-Orc feel like a Half-Orc, but this is lovely stuff for a Ranger type character used to the wilds and hunting prey. The Imprint Prey is situationally good, more often than not going unused, but when it does see use it promised to be helpful in the tracking and taking down of said prey. Otherwise, the rest thematically fits a pathfinder and I would like to see a character with this mark. Thumbs up!
The Mark of Handling
We come to our first Human Variant in the Mark of Handling. This completely replaces the Human’s ability scores increases of +1 to each ability score.
Instead of the blanket increase, Mark of Handling Humans gets +1 to Wisdom and Dexterity, and one ability score goes up an additional +1. They can use their Intuition Dice on Animal Handling and Nature and they can use the Help action of an animal companion or mount within 30 feet. They can also cast animal friendship once per short or long rest, and whenever they cast a spell that normally only affects beasts, it affect monstrosities with an Intelligence of 3 or lower as well.
At first glance, you may be on the fence about this variant. You get a total of +3 to your ability scores instead of +6, but you also get a better Help (good for a Ranger), animal friendship, and the Intuition Die. But then you realize, thanks to the monstrosity rule, that you can cast animal friendship on a Chimera, for example. This seems situationally very powerful, and I would definitely need to see it an action with other beast-only spells applied in a similar fashion before passing final judgement. I give it one Thumbs Up with trepidation.
The Mark of Healing
Halflings get a bit of healing power with their Mark of Healing, making this choice in place of being a Lightfoot or Stout Halfling so that they retain their basic Halfling traits.
Mark of Healing Halflings get +1 to their Wisdom score and can add their Intution Die to Medicine checks only. They get the cantrip spare the dying, and most of all they get Healing Touch. This ability allows them to spend one Hit Die to heal themselves or a another creature they touch equal to a roll of the Hit Die plus their Wisdom modifier. Probably an oversight, but this does not mention being ineffective against Undead and Constructs, though I imagine most DMs would pick up on this and enforce it.
Overall I like this. It adds a bit of a healing boost and grants a cantrip while also improving the requisite ability score of Wisdom. Perfect for a Cleric or a character that wants clutch but limited Healing Powers. Nothing much to add as its squares up nicely to the other choices without breaking anything. Thumbs up!
The Mark of Hospitality
And we immediately have another Halfling option in the Mark of Hospitality, this time focusing on connecting with others and cooking.
This mark increases their Charisma score by 1 and grants the friends and prestidigitation cantrips. It also gives an Intuition die for Persuasion and any check that uses brewer’s supplies or cook’s utensils.
There… is a not a lot to say about this mark other than thematically I like it. To me this is what a lot of people think of when they think of plump halflings having second supper, inviting their friends over for fun and to share a good meal. It still comes in about par with the other variants, which don’t offer much beyond the ability to hide behind your taller companions or resistance against poison, so it still gets a Thumbs Up from me.
The Mark of Making
And with the Mark of Making rounds out the first half of our Dragonmarks. Still only giving up their +1 to all ability scores give those with the Mark of Making a good amount of traits.
For starters, they get increases to Intelligence and Dexterity, choosing one to get +2 and the other getting +1. They can add their Intuition Die to artisan’s tools, gain proficiency with them, and also get access to the mending cantrip. They can also create temporary magic items, choosing one Wizard’s cantrip to imbue into it. So long as they have it they can cast the cantrip, and can change it up with a new item and cantrip after a long rest. Lastly, they can make nonmagical armor or weapons +1 (to AC or hit/damage respectively) for an hour once per long rest. It also becomes a magic item, potentially helping it bypass vital resistances.
This is a highly specific mark, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It is aimed at enchanters or those who want a hint of enchanting in their character. The changeable cantrip is a fun, effective, but not broken power, and the temporary magic item is good when no one is in possession of a magic weapon or armor, but late game could see little use. So long as you plan on using Dexterity or Intelligence, I say you can’t go wrong with the Mark of Making. Thumbs up!
The Mark of Passage
Yet another Human mark, yet another exchange of their normal ability score increases.
This mark gives a +2 to Dexterity and a +1 to another ability score. It also increases their base walking speed to 40 feet. Awkwardly, their Intuition Die is added to Athletics checks, as well as checks to operate land vehicles. Athletics is fine, but the vehicle addition is weird. Moving on; they can spend half their speed to make it so they don’t invoke opportunity attacks, and they can use their bonus action once per long rest to teleport up to their speed, bringing along a creature of the same size or smaller that is within 5 feet of you.
Unfortunately, as cool as this Mark is, I can’t endorse it in good faith. A 40 foot movement speed is ridiculous compared to the 35 foot Wood Elf speed, they have a free half-movement Disengage that allows them to keep their action and bonus action (opposed to the Rogue ability to use just a bonus action), and they get the lovechild of Dimension Door (4th level spell) and Misty Step (2nd level spell) as a free action every day- an action that is not a spell and therefore not prone to being counterspelled. This does everything that many other types of characters are doing, but better, and at the expense of a total of +3 to ability scores that were destined to be not important in secondary or dump stats. Thumbs down for being broken as hell.
The Mark of Scribing
This mark affects gnomes, in place of being a Forest or Rock Gnome and all the benefits that come with those while retaining the base Gnome traits.
They see a +1 to their Charisma and proficiency with calligrapher’s supplies and forgery kits and the ability to apply your Intuition Die to both tools. They can cast comprehend languages once per long rest, know an extra language, and also can cast the message cantrip.
Succinct and language based, I’m digging this Mark of Scribing for Gnomes. One of the main things stopping me from playing a Gnome is they, as Forest or Rock, are either all about small animals or useless trinkets, and neither of those particularly appeal to me. I think this mark keeps them at the same power level but makes them a bit more universally useful, especially in roleplay and diplomatic scenes. Thumbs up.
The Mark of Sentinel
And here is, you guessed it, another Human only mark. The Mark of the Sentinel, of course, replaces the +1 to all ability scores that normal humans see.
Those with the Mark of Sentinel get a +1 to Strength and Wisdom, and see another +1 to any ability score. They can add their Intuition Die to Perception or when rolling initiative. The blade ward cantrip is theirs to cast, as is shield once per short or long rest. And finally, as an action they can designate an ally as a ward, granting advantage on Insight and Perception against things that would harm their ward. Additionally, when their ward is within 5 feet and the target of an attack, they can swap places and the Sentinel becomes the new target of the attack.
This mark is exactly what I would want to see on a Paladin or Fighter who vows to protect those unable to protect themselves. As a rule, I think blade ward is absolutely awful so that’s a non-starter, but giving up +3 total to ability scores is worth the Intuition Die on initiative and ability to protect their ward. Only oversight is wording that makes it impossible to have more than one ward, but assuming that’s just an oversight this mark gets a thumbs up!
The Mark of Shadow
Now to our lone Elf mark, the Mark of Shadow focuses on illusion and stealth in place of high magic or woodland prowess.
To start, Mark of Shadow elves get +1 to Charisma and gain proficiency with either one musical instrument or the Performance skill. They can add their Intuition Die to Performance and Stealth checks and know the minor illusion cantrip. Their big feature is the ability to hide in plain sight, being able to Hide as a bonus action even if there is no cover or they are already being observed. This can only be used once per short or long rest, but could be vital to their survival.
I’m not feeling incredibly positive or negative about this one; there is no weapon proficiency which may very well be fine, but the +1 to Charisma seems slightly like a throwaway since Elves already get +2 to Dexterity. The cantrip is on par with the High Elf cantrip, their Intuition Die takes the place of the weapon training, and their ability to hide in plain sight slightly overshadows (pun intended) the Wood Elf stealth ability. Not enough for me to cry foul, but enough for me to wonder about the implications of having it as an ability as it is presented. Thumbs up overall.
The Mark of Storm
We come to our second Half-Elf mark, still replacing their ability score increases (+2 to Charisma and +1 to two other abilities), their Skill Versatility (proficiency with two skills), and their Languages (Knowing Common, Elvish, and one other language).
With the Mark of the Storm they get +1 to Dexterity and Charisma, and an additional +1 to place where they like. They gain a swimming speed of 30 feet and can add their Intuition Die to Acrobatics and operating water vehicles. They can speak Common and Elvish, have resistance to lightning damage, know the gust cantrip, and at third level can cast gust of wind once per long rest.
This, thematically, is all over the place. I get it’s supposed to be a seafaring half-elf, but the mixture of swimming speed, water vehicles, lightning damage, and wind magic just… they in a broad sense mesh, but just don’t do it for me. From a mechanical comparison, I think it is a sound variant although it is a bit of an eclectic collection. Normal Half-Elves are a bit underwhelming and this makes them a little more viable overall. Thumbs up!
The Mark of Warding
We save the best race for last- Dwarves! The Mark of Warding is in lieu of a subrace such as Hill or Mountain Dwarf and the traits that come with those.
Oddly, dwarves with the Mark of Warding get +1 to Dexterity and Intelligence and can add their Intuition Die to History, Investigation, and Thieves’ Tools checks that involve traps and locks. They can also cast alarm as a ritual and at third level can cast arcane lock once per long rest.
Thematically, though not very dwarfy, it works. These are dwarves concerned with protecting what is theirs and have become masters of lock and key, being it mundane or magic. Alternatively, they may also use this power to break into such protections, taking what others have worked so hard to protect. I like this, especially if you’re not playing a dwarf concerned with being stronger or hardier it works well for a variety of classes, from Rogue to Bard to Wizard. Thumbs up!
At 8th level or higher, Dragonmark characters have the Greater Dragonmark feat available to them. This grants them a +1 to one of 2 or 3 ability scores, increases the Intuition Die by one size (e.g. d4 to d6), and grants access to 2 or 3 spells, each of which can be cast once per (usually) long rest, with the exception of Scribing and Sentinel marks. Rather than go into depth in this already lengthy Persuasion Check, I will point out that the Handling mark grants access to Dominate Beast, which compounds with their ability to use that on monstrosities with an Intelligence of 3 or lower, which still doesn’t sit completely well with me. That is the only thing that jumps out of me, but be sure to let me know if anything you see jumps out as being outrageous!
And finally we come to the Aberrant Dragonmarks. These Dragonmarks are not restricted to races or bloodlines, and so can be taken by any character that does not already bear a Dragonmark. It is presented as a feat, but nowhere is it mentioned that an Aberrant Dragonmark is a feat, so I find myself a bit confused on when and who can take these.
Every Aberrant Dragonmark has a flaw, be it that the mark causes constant pain, it gives you horrific nightmares, or it has an unusual appearance that puts people at unease. To be fair, most of these appearance based flaws are no stranger than some Sorcerer appearances, but can be unnerving all the same. There is a list provided or your DM can come up with one for you. While these don’t have any mechanical rules listed, work with your DM or player to figure out how and when the flaw will come into play!
For the boons of the Dragonmark, a character gets +1 to Constitution and gets a cantrip from the Sorcerer spell list. They also learn a 1st level Sorcerer spell that can be cast at the lowest level once per long rest. Interestingly, those with these marks can hurt themselves to make their Dragonmark spell stronger. Instead of using a Hit Die during a rest to heal, they can use it to increase the spell’s level by 1. However, they immediately roll the Hit Die and take damage equal to what was rolled, giving a real risk/reward feel to buffing their spell.
I adore the spending hit points for power mechanic in games, and so it should be no surprise I like the Aberrant Dragonmark most of all. Though they may be the redheaded step-child of the Dragonmark family, their universal availability, built-in flaws, and cool mechanics make me want to give this a big thumbs up! My only question is, is this a feat?
I’m overall pleased (if not a little exhausted) by all of this month’s Dragonmarks, with Mark of Passage being the lone exception for being way too powerful. The feat to improve them reinforces the idea of leveling up your innate powers, and the Aberrant Dragonmark is a fun feat (maybe) that I wouldn’t mind allowing in my games. Overall, big thumbs up this month!
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