Two weeks have passed, and surprise surprise, another Unearthed Arcana courtesy of our friends over at Wizards of the Coast! They seem to be finishing off the love for the core classes as we round out the final three with new options for the Fighter, the Ranger, and the Rogue.
In what may be the final class option-based Unearthed Arcana for a bit, we get some really interesting options that on paper sound awesome. First is the Rune Knight for Fighters, allowing them to enchant weapons and armor with magic runes learned from the giants. Then we have the Swarmkeeper; a Ranger whose connection to nature takes the form of a swarm of fey spirits acting in harmony. And finally for the Rogue is The Revived; those who realize that this is not their first life and can reach into their past lives and harness the power of death.
Fighter: Rune Knight
The Rune Knight uses magical runes learned from the giants to enhance and empower their martial skills. Whether learned first or second hand, the Rune Knight can carve runes of power that correspond to the different types of giant onto armor and weapons, thereby bestowing their powers when needed. Fighter seems like the right class to have a class option that corresponds to the giants, and the idea of carving runes to achieve that is a really cool bit of flavor.
Bonus Proficiencies & Giant Might
When a Fighter elects to become a Rune Knight at third level, they get proficiency with smith’s tools and, unsurprisingly, they learn to read, write, and speak Giant. They also gain a neat bonus action in Giant Might.
As a bonus action, Giant Might allows the Rune Knight to gain a few thematic benefits for one minute, including growing to size large (if there is room to do so), gaining advantage on Strength checks and saving throws, and adding 1d6 of extra damage to weapon attacks. To me, this comes across as a giant-skinned “rage”, with the exception that you can only ever use it twice per long rest, and that it doesn’t grow anywhere near as powerful later on.
Overall, I like Giant Might. Does it step on a barbarian’s toes? Maybe at low levels, but not enough that I would cry foul even then. Of course, these aren’t the only abilities that the Rune Knight gets at third level.
Rune Magic & Rune Options
Also at third level, a Rune Knight gains access to the main feature of the class, Rune Magic, and its list of corresponding Rune Options. Rune Magic allows the Rune Knight to learn up to two of the 6 Rune Options and inscribe them onto weapons or armor until the Rune Knight takes a long rest. That works out, as the Rune Knight can reapply runes at the end of the long rest, affecting a number of items equal to the number of runes they know. They gain more runes as they level, adding one more at 7th, 10th, and 15th level, and like spells they can change out one they know to learn a new one every time they level up.
There are six Rune Options with each corresponding to a different giant- Hill, Fire, Frost, Cloud, Stone, and Storm. They each bestow a passive boost, be it advantage on certain skill checks, darkvision, resistance to certain types of damage, and so on. They all also have an active component that requires a bonus action, reaction, or other trigger to use. These are all one time use until a short or long rest is taken, but they all also have some cool, magical effects. They range as simple as gaining resistance to slashing, piercing, and bludgeoning damage to charming enemies into a dreamy stupor. You should definitely read through the list if you haven’t as there are some great abilities in these options.
Defensive Runes at seventh level is a great ability that helps protect the rest of the party. As a reaction, the Fighter can add 1+their Intelligence modifier to a creature within 60 feet that has been hit’s armor class to potentially make the attack miss instead.
There’s no limit to the usage of this other than it takes the Fighter’s reaction, so depending on your choice of runes and other tactics this could be a reliable and consistent ability. Overall great Fighter ability in my opinion.
Two things happen at tenth level when a Rune Knight gets Great Stature. For one, they immediately grow 3d4 inches in height (so, anywhere from a measly three increase all the way up to a foot!), and their Giant Might ability now does 1d8 extra damage on weapon attacks.
Truly not a lot happens here. The change in damage die is nice, but the height doesn’t really have any stated mechanical ability such as counting as the next largest size in certain situations. But that doesn’t mean bad at all- the 1d8 will add up over time, so this is good to me.
Rune Magic Mastery
At fifteenth level Rune Magic Mastery just gives a Rune Knight another small boost to a prior ability, with them now being able to use each Rune Magic feature twice instead of once between rests. Also, since this is the same level that a Rune Knight could have up to five runes going at once, this allows them to jump from 4 uses per rest to 10.
Again, great way to enhance the prior class features, and a much bigger jump than it seems in how often the runes can be activated.
Blessing of the All Father
And finally at eighteenth level, the Rune Knight can share their Giant Might feature with a creature with 60 feet, giving both the Rune Knight and the creature the benefits of Giant Might. Great way of buffing the aforementioned barbarian even further or any other class reliant on weapon damage to get the job done.
Overall, I’m a big fan of both the flavor and mechanics of the class. Runes and rune carving as a magic alternate is something I’ve always wanted to explore in my homebrew games and this class option is a great example of how it could be done. I don’t see any reason why the Rune Knight isn’t ready to ship as is as I can’t really see either any way for it to be abused nor do I see any big weaknesses in it. Giant thumbs up from me!
Swarmkeepers use their connection to nature and fey to attract a swarm of swarming spirits that serve to protect and work in tandem with the Ranger. Whether they take the form of insects, birds, fish, or other small creatures that can swarm. I actually love this idea for the Ranger, because I can myself making an apiarist whose swarm takes the form of angry bees! But I digress, onto the abilities!
Swarmkeeper Magic & Gathered Swarm
At third level Swarmkeepers start to get access to their class option spells, which are very thematic, especially if their swarm takes on an insect theme. Web, giant insect, and insect plague all make up part of the list that the Ranger will learn as they level up.
They also get Gathered Swarm, which is the swarm in action. They are magically attracted the the Swarmkeeper and stay in their space, crawling and flying around them. As a bonus action, the Swarmkeeper can causes the swarm to become active for one minute. During this time, once per turn the Swarmkeeper can have part of their swarm accompany their weapon attacks, dealing an extra 1d6 force damage and either push or pull the creature away five feet. Damage increases to 2d6 at eleventh level and it can be used a number of times equal to the Wisdom modifier of the Ranger per long rest.
Overall, not bad. It lasts for a minute, so that’s a potential 10d6 additional force damage so long as at least one weapon attack hits per round. The push or pull can be great if you’re using your surroundings strategically to your advantage, as well as for keeping enemies away with a bow or pulling them in to range of your melee weapons. Overall, I like it, and I love the visual of a bunch of bees sticking to an arrow, stingers pointed at the enemy.
Writing Tide comes in at seventh level, augmenting each use of Gathered Swarm in one of three ways, all affecting the Ranger’s movement. The first is that they increase walking speed by 10 feet and allow the Ranger to use Disengage as a bonus action. The second is that they essentially grant the effects of spider climb, allowing the Swarmkeeper to move up and down difficult surfaces and ceilings at their normal speed. And finally, they can be lifting up by their swarm, gaining a flight speed of 10 feet and being able to hover.
You already know what I’m going to say: yes, I want a swarm of bees lifting me up and flying me around on a palanquin of bee bodies. The other uses are good too, and since these are only active during times when Gathered Storm is in use I don’t see much room for abuse without the loss of usefulness.
At eleventh level, Scuttling Eyes allows the one of the spirits of the swarm to take on the form of a Tiny beast, at which point they are effectively a familiar for one hour. They have a speed of 40 feet for walking, swimming, climbing, and flying, and can telepathically relay what it sees and hears to the Ranger. The Swarmkeeper also can speak through it, and it can hide using the Ranger’s Stealth score. If it does take damage however, it goes away on a failed Wisdom save. Beyond that, it can be dismissed early, at which point the Ranger can choose to magically teleport to a space within 5 feet of where it was when it was dismissed.
This is nifty as there’s no maximum range, meaning that a Ranger could summon it outside of a dangerous place, and if they get into deep trouble inside they can simply pop back within the hour. Also it can be used for free once per long rest, but can also be used by expending a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, making it usable more than once if need be at a reasonable cost. Overall, I love this, and you know a giant bee is going to explode so I can pop out of it like candy out of a pinata.
Storm of Minions
Finally, a Swarmkeeper gets Storm of Minions at fifteenth level. As an action, they can create magical swarm-filled sphere with a 10 foot radius within 120 feet of them. It lasts a minute and any time a creature starts their turn in it they must make a Constitution saving throw or take 2d8 necrotic damage and be blinded until the start of its next turn. Succeeding the save halves the damage and ignores the blindness. Additionally, when it gets back to the Ranger, if any creature took necrotic damage from the storm they regain 1d8 lost hit points, and they can use a bonus action to move the sphere 30 feet.
I would love for nothing more than an angry swarm of necro-bees to swarm my foes and siphon their life to me. Again, mechanically and thematically I think this feature is a big hit. It stays on with the class theme, it doesn’t seem broken for a fifteenth level ability, and the ability to use it more than once per long rest by expending a spell slot of 4th level or higher a la Scuttling Eyes is a nice way to limit its uses without restricting it too much.
Overall, I like the Swarmkeeper, even if I am a bit bee-obsessed in my vision for it. No reason it wouldn’t work with tiny sharks in an underwater setting, a small birds for a change of pace. Nothing is broken, it seems to have good synergy with itself, and it’s in my view much better than the Beastmaster option (which, let’s be honest, is not hard to do). It gets one honey-covered thumb way up!
Rogue: The Revived
The Revived realize that they’re not the first time they’ve been alive. They have past lives, but for some reason they keep coming back, whether it be celestial or fiendish powers at play, or some mysterious arcane artifact. Regardless of cause, The Revived see themselves of agents of death.
Here’s an alternative read: You’re playing a Rogue, so you know you’re already edgy. Want to be even edgier? How about being a Rogue who has died previously and can take cues from their past lives? You’re an Agent of Death™ and you crawled out of that grave to put others into it. Paladins better watch their back around you, because while they have the gift of gods, you’re death incarnate and you could kill a god if you want to. You’re technically not alive, so what are they going to do, bring you back to life? You laugh at the other players because the Human Fighter who is fighting to save her village from destruction can’t even dream of being as cool as you. Of course you steal from them, it’s what your character would do. Now get out there and make sure you forget to bring pizza money to the next session, because everyone knows you’ll “totally pay them back” if they spot you, and they also know you’re going to steal a slice or two anyway.
Tokens of Past Lives, Revived Nature, & Bolts from the Grave
When a Rogue realizes at third level that they are a Revived, they gain access to a slew of new features, the first of which is Tokens of Past Lives. Whenever they finish a long rest, they gain proficiency with one skill or tool of their choice, and can then replace it whenever they take another long rest. It’s thematic- they remember a past life where they were an investigator of sorts, for example, and can put that knowledge and investigative process to use when they focus on it.
Second, they also get Revived Nature, which gives them even more benefits. They gain advantage against saving throws for disease and poison and resistance to poison damage. They also don’t need to eat, drink, breathe, sleep, blink, laugh, cry, pay back Carlos the money he loaned you for pizza, or even show up regularly at sessions. Okay, sorry, they just don’t need to eat, drink, breathe, or sleep- with a 4 hour meditation replacing the sleep in order to gain the benefits of the long rest.
And lastly, they get Bolts from the Grave. Whenever and immediately following their Cunning Action they can make a ranged spell attack against a creature within 30 feet provided they haven’t used their Sneak Attack this turn. This uses their Dexterity modifier for attack and damage roles and does damage equal to their Sneak Attack in necrotic damage, after which they cannot use their Sneak Attack for the rest of that turn.
Whew, okay, there’s a lot to take in already. So, what I’ve gather, is that The Revived is basically The Undead. Because not needing to do any of the normal bodily functions to live makes you not alive. And also, can we talk about the ridiculousness of Bolts from the Grave? I know Sneak Attack is very powerful, but being able to do a 30 foot ranged magical attack as part of an already powerful bonus action seems a bit extreme to me, because it frees up the Rogue to do just about anything else on their action, especially if they multiclass. Both thematically and mechanically I think this is already broken, but let’s carry on to see if it redeems itself.
Connect with the Dead
At ninth level the Revived gets Connect with the Dead. They can cast speak with dead without any spells slots or material components, and when they do so they gain one random benefit from one of your past lives or the corpse’s. On a d3, they either gain a language of their choice, proficiency with a skill or tool of their choice, or proficiency with a saving throw of their choice. These last until the next short or long rest, at which point this can be used again.
Ok, this one isn’t too bad, but it’s still somewhat random. I get the speak with dead part of it, but not sure why this suddenly awakens one of those three abilities. But here’s the fun part: Why would the Rogue not just keep a random corpse with it in a bag of holding, ensuring they always benefit from this? It doesn’t seem broken, but it does seem not well thought out.
Audience with Death
Ok, really? At thirteenth level Audience with Death gives the Rogue advantage on death saving throw, and every time they pass a death saving throw they can ask death a yes/no question that they have to answer truthfully and can use the entirety of the knowledge of everyone who has ever died ever to get to the answer. Yeah, it can also say “unknown”, but really? This could be some narrative-breaking stuff, and it doesn’t help that they can also change their personality, traits, ideals, bonds, or flaws when they stabilize at or are healed at 0 hit points, making them truly unpredictable.
And the last ability, Ethereal Jaunt comes in at level seventeen. They can now use their Cunning Action to teleport 30 feet that they don’t even need to see. If there is a magical barrier, it’s simply wasted, but if it is occupied they are pushed to the nearest unoccupied space taking force damage for their troubles. Which they can then immediately use their Bolts from the Grave, remember. I don’t even know what to say anymore- what does any of this have to do with past lives outside of the personality disorder?
I’m throwing in the towel on this one. The mechanics are busted, the theme seems forced and not reflected well at all, and I’m just honestly let down. The idea of having access to your past lives, or having effects of being resurrected is a cool concept. Why it’s applied to a Rogue instead of just about any other class is beyond me. I’d rather see it on a Warlock or Cleric, or even a Druid (though that would be The Reincarnated, at which point the constant changing would make sense).
So we have two winners and a big loser. I love the Rune Knight overall and the Swarmkeeper seems like a solid class option for the Ranger (Make way for my new character, Bee-oncé aka Queen Bee). The Revived, if it wasn’t obvious enough, is a disaster that I would rather see them scrap and start anew than try to fix. I’m coming across very negatively and I hate that because I truly do love and appreciate all of the Unearthed Arcana’s that we’re given, but occasionally you get a dud and you need to call them as you see them.
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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