Wizards of the Coast is now pumping out Unearthed Arcana after Unearthed Arcana following what felt like a break from putting them out at all. This is the third UA in 5 weeks, and I wouldn’t hate it if they kept it up, nor would I blame them for slowing down. This edition, however, sees some awesome new options for Bards and Paladins!
The Bard gets a proper oratory subclass in the College of Eloquence while the Paladin gets a true folk hero-esque oath with Oath of Heroism. Who better to spread far and wide the deeds of a heroic paladin than an eloquent bard?
Bard: College of Eloquence
A Bard trained in the College of Eloquence is the ultimate orator, spinning words in a whirlwind of persuasion and storytelling. Mechanically, the College of Eloquence focuses on using words or spells to diffuse situations while also enhancing their Bardic Inspiration to last longer and reach more people.
Universal Speech & Soothing Words
At third level when a Bard chooses to follow the College of Eloquence, they gain access to Universal Speech & Soothing Words. Universal Speech, a bonus action, allows the Bard to use one of their Bardic Inspirations in exchange for a few great benefits. They get to roll their Bardic Inspiration die and then choose up to that number of creatures within 60 feet on you. For 10 minutes, they magically understand the Bard- including creatures that normally don’t speak any languages- and the Bard has advantage on Charisma checks that are made to influence those creatures.
Soothing Words on the other hand gives the Bard some uses of the calm emotions spell. They can cast calm emotions without using a spell slot a number of times equal to their Charisma modifier before needing a long rest to reset the count.
Thematically, both of these abilities are on point. Being able to orate yourself out of sticky situation, calm your opponents, and persuade creatures that can’t even speak is exactly what I would want in a silver-tongued Bard. Mechanically, I think both are fine. I’m not blown away by Soothing Words but understand why it’s there. I’m a fan of abilities that use existing limited resources as well as it creates a strategic element on whether or not to use them.
Once they hit level 6, Bards also gain Undeniable Logic, which is really two abilities in one. Like Universal Speech, this also requires a bonus action and a use of Bardic Inspiration to use. The cool thing is that they can choose which ability to use after they roll the Bardic Inspiration die. In either case, they roll the Bardic Inspiration die and choose a creature within 60 feet. The first thing they can do is have the creature heal a number of hit points equal to the number rolled and gain advantage on the next saving throw they make until the end of the Bard’s next turn. Alternatively, the Bard can choose a creature to take psychic damage equal to the number rolled and then take an Intelligence saving throw, and on a failed save they have disadvantage on the next saving throw they take until the end of the Bard’s next turn.
Not a bad ability, and another good use of Bardic Inspiration if you find yourself with more Inspiration than you can hand out. The ability to choose after you roll is nice, as it could allow you to decide if it is worth it to deal damage or heal depending on the number that comes up. Obviously using it to heal is more reliable as the advantage is guaranteed while the disadvantage is not, but in certain situations I can see this being a clutch ability.
At level 14 the Bard gets their final subclass-specific ability, Infectious Inspiration. First and foremost, when a creature uses one of their Bardic Inspiration dice and still fail, they keep it, which definitely helps conserve the supply and should help hesitant Bards throw them out more.
The second part of this is that whenever a creature rolls one of their Bardic Inspiration dice, the Bard can use a reaction to give another creature within 60 feet a Bardic Inspiration die without expending one off their uses. Of course this is contained to a number of times equal to the Bard’s Charisma modifier each long rest, but really allows for a ton of inspiration for the entire party.
This ability is basically Oprah handing out Bardic Inspiration, and the fact that it doesn’t go away on a failed use should allow both Bard and recipient to use them without fear.
Not a bad class option overall. I love the flavor and have long wanted to play an oratory Bard that uses words instead of music. I think the third level abilities really speak to that theme, but I’m not sure that the Undeniable Logic really makes sense from a flavor perspective. Infectious Inspiration I can see from that angle, and the Bard continues monologuing through the fight, keeping their friends fighting on. Overall, I’m a big fan of this and certainly would allow it- and may ask to play it the next time I jump on the other side of the screen!
Paladin: Oath of Heroism
The Oath of Heroism, from what I can see, is the Folk Hero background turned Paladin oath. With a focus on legendary deeds, being chosen by fate, and seeing every challenge as an opportunity, it’s hard to see it any other way. But do the mechanical aspects back up the flavor? Let’s take a look!
Oath Spells & Channel Divinity
Like all Paladin oaths, there are Oath Spells and Channel Divinity to be had. The Oath Spells at first don’t seem to have too much of a theme, but the longer I look at them the more I see the connection. The Oath of Heroism Paladin is about bettering themselves, and that’s what each of these spells do. From expeditious retreat to enhance ability to protection from energy, each augments the Paladin to become a better version of themselves.
Channel Divinity gives the options of Peerless Athlete and Legendary Strike. The former gives the Paladin advantage on Athletics and Acrobatics checks for 10 minutes as a bonus action. The latter, also as a bonus action, allows the Paladin to score a critical hit on a 19 or 20 for 1 minute.
I think these are both situationally good uses- especially since they don’t necessarily compete with each other- but I lean towards Legendary Strike as being my favorite here. Extending the critical range for a hero of legend makes complete sense, and I’m a fan thus far.
Oath of Heroism Paladins get another boost at 7th level with Mighty Deed. This ability triggers off of every time the Paladin scores a critical hit (look at that synergy with Legendary Strike) or takes down a creature to 0 hit points, maxing out at once per Paladin’s turn. Any time it goes off, the Paladin has two options. Firstly they can choose a number of creatures equal to their Charisma modifier within 30 feet to gain 1d6+Charisma modifier temporary hit points. Secondly, they can instead choose the same number of creatures also within 30 feet to take a Wisdom saving throw or become frightened of the Paladin.
Much like the Eloquence Bard’s Undeniable Logic, I’m a fan of a versatility of this ability and how it triggers. The synergy for this with Legendary Strike allows a particularly lucky and tactical Paladin to benefit from this often, helping themselves and their party immensely.
Glorious Defense, at level 15, gives the Paladin an extremely good reaction. When they are successfully attacked, they can use their reaction to increase their AC by their Charisma modifier, and if then the attack fails as a result of this increase, they can make one weapon attack back as part of the same reaction.
Just so we’re clear, a 20 Charisma Paladin is adding +5 to their AC every turn against a single attack, and getting another attack in as well is pretty good. Against a bunch of smaller creatures it’s not the best, but in single combat it can be pretty clutch for sure.
Lastly, at level 20, an Oath of Heroism Paladin gets Living Myth. Once per long rest, they can as a bonus action, receive the following benefits for 10 minutes: advantage on all Charisma checks, once per turn causing a weapon that misses to hit instead, and using their reaction to cause a failed saving throw to succeed instead.
Long before level 20 I give up on balanced characters. In this case, 10 minutes of causing your attacks to nearly always hit, and having 10 minutes worth of Legendary Resistance is, well, legendary. I don’t really math out things at this end of the game, and I’m not going to start now- suffice to say, I think it fits nicely with the theme of the subclass.
Overall, Oath of Heroism comes together nicely. Reading through it, I see how it fits together, and the class features are fairly synergistic with one another, making for a smooth experience that hopefully makes one feel like a hero. Thematic approval from me as well as game approval as I don’t see anything too game breaking.
In conclusion, I’m giving both subclasses this time around a thumbs up and will allow them in my games! They both have a good theme, and while I think Oath of Heroism nails its theme thematically, I think the College of Eloquence is a nice work-in-progress that hopefully sees some slight tweaks to make it more on brand.
Be sure to give these class options a try and give Wizards of the Coast your feedback with their usual post-Unearthed Arcana surveys so that these options can get refined and added to the game!
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