Wizards of the Coast have delivered part 2 of the Unearthed Arcana 2020 Subclasses, this time bringing us new rules for creative Bards, united Clerics, and clockwork Sorcerers.
As always, our Persuasion Check articles are less hardcore analysis and more commentary drawing insights and some direct analysis where needed. If you want a more flavorful approach to opinions on playtest content backed up with some insights, this is the place for you! Now, follow along and let’s dig into these subclasses!
Bard: College of Creation
The College of Creation draws power through the Song of Creation, which bards believe is the sound that created existence as we know it in the D&D multiverse. These bards typically find themselves out of step with their current surroundings, be it because they feel a connection to a different time, place, or even plane. It’s great to see this take on Bards from a fluff perspective, so let’s take a look at what they bring for abilities.
Note of Potential
At 3rd level, Note of Potential is a small modifier to the Bard’s Bardic Inspiration. There are three different notes that can be granted alongside the inspiration: Destruction, Protection, and Ingenuity. Note of Destruction, when the Bardic Inspiration die is used on an attack roll, allows for a 5-foot radius burst of sound, forcing enemies to take a saving throw or taking a small amount of damage. Note of Protection, on the other end, when the Bardic Inspiration die is used for a saving throw, grants a small amount of temporary hit points so long as they don’t already have some. And lastly, Note of Ingenuity allows the Bardic Inspiration die to be rolled twice and use either result when it’s being used for an ability check.
I like the versatility of this feature; it can be used for offence, defense, or ability checks and offers small bonuses to each. I don’t feel like it’s too powerful, it grows slightly more powerful as the Bardic Inspiration die grows, and it has many uses and applications that allow it to be more than a one-trick pony, so it gets a big thumbs up from me!
At 6th level a Bard can use Animating Performance to bring a Large or smaller nonmagical item to life, giving it the Dancing Item stat block acting with the Bard in initiative. This can be used once per long rest, or further by expending a spell slot of 3rd level or higher. The hit points of this Dancing Item are base five times the Bard’s level plus the Bard’s Charisma modifier plus its own Constitution modifier. It has a Slam attack that deals force damage that requires the Bard’s bonus action, among other basic actions and moving.
I think this is a neat ability, but I’m not quite seeing the connection to the theme here. I guess the creation of life in a nonliving thing is somewhat in the theme, but I’ll let how cool it is cover up and issues I may have with theme. I’m not entirely sure how this stacks up in the long run; its hit points are going to max out around 38 at sixth level when this feature is gained, but the damage doesn’t increase at all over time making me question how viable this is. To me, that it to be seen, but I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing this feature published in a book.
Performance of Creation
And finally we come to Performance of Creation at 14th level, whereby the Bard can create a nonmagical item of their choice, size large or smaller, and equal to twenty times their level in gold or less of value. If channeled for up to a minute, it can last for hours, and otherwise has small glimmer music notes floating around it and gives off a faint, musical aura.
Okay I’ve got to be real here and question how amazing this actually it. Maybe selling it to an unsuspecting merchant and then laughing when it disappears on them? It’s cool, but seems like something a Conjuration wizard could already do so I’m not buying it.
Overall I like the idea and theme, but the mechanics of the class aren’t there for me. I think, great as Note of Potential is, other Bard subclasses outclass this one. I do hope Wizards of the Coast refines and brings this to light again because I do truly like the flavoring around it. If a player of mine wanted to play this as is I certainly wouldn’t stop them, but I’m not dying to play one myself!
Cleric: Unity Domain
Friendship rocks! That’s something that I would imagine a Cleric that serves in the Unity Domain would say. These Clerics bring together communities and strengthen bonds of friends and families. They say that it takes a village, but sometimes that village is really just a Cleric using it’s magic to create bonds between people.
Domain Spells & Emboldening Bond
The domain spells for the Unity Domain are what you would expect; aid, warding bond, beacon of hope, and so on and so forth. There’s also some telepathic spells like sending and Rary’s telepathic bond mixed in for good measure.
Emboldening Bond allows the Cleric to pick two creatures close by (including themselves if they wish) to be affected for an hour once per long rest. While within 30 feet of each other, both creatures can add a d4 to an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw once per turn. They can also cast it again using any spell slot.
I don’t see any good reason in most situations to use the bless spell with Emboldening Bond being castable with a first level spell slot, as it is basically bless on steroids. Yeah, bless will affect three creatures, but that’s a maximum of 3 d4’s where an hour is 600 potential d4’s added to rolls. I’m having a hard time thinking about this and where it fits in as far as balance goes. On one hand, a d4 isn’t much, but on the other, it’s only limited to once per turn so that’s a lot of potential help. For now, I’ll reserve too much judgement. If you can find any ways that this is broken let me know in the comments- but until then, I’ll give it a thumbs up.
Channel Divinity: Shared Burden
Alright, I’m already won over with this ability. Shared Burden allows the Cleric, on a reaction, to split damage suffered by a creature within 30 feet to be redistributed among a number of other willing creatures, with each creature taking at least one damage and distributed as the Cleric sees fit.
I love this; this is some of the best damage management (note: not mitigation) I’ve seen in fifth edition. Maybe I’m not looking hard or maybe this is really one of the first examples, but I love this and have wanted a class designed around this concept for a while. Getting it as a feature of a Cleric subclass is a step in the right direction, so big thumbs up here as it’s also on theme.
At sixth level this enhances Emboldening Bond, allowing either creature use their reaction to grant the other resistance to all damage when it takes damage, lasting until the end of the current turn.
This seems a little powerful to me. The creatures still need to be within 30 feet of each other, but if the creatures aren’t fighting a horde of enemies or using their reactions for much else this becomes powerful very quickly. Again, reserving judgement, but I’m thinking that Unity Domain may definitely be on the stronger side.
Much like some of the other Cleric domains, at eighth level they can now add their Wisdom modifier to the damage of Cleric cantrips. Woo.
And at the end we have Enduring Unity at 17th level. This is another enhancement to Emboldening Bond and Protective Bond. They distance on the effectiveness of both is changed to both creatures being on the same place of existence, meaning they don’t need to be shy about moving away from each other. Additionally, when one is reduced to 0 hit points, the other gains a few bonuses for one minute, including advantage on attack rolls, saving throws, and ability checks. They also gain resistance to all damage for a minute, as well as being able to touch the downed creature and expend any number of hit dice, restoring hit points equal to the amount rolled.
What a great high level ability. It keeps both creatures in the fight at longer distances, but also allows them to truly take care of (and get vengeance for) each other. Compared to other high level features I don’t think this one breaks the bank, and actually I think I like it a lot.
That’s it for the Unity Domain. I have to say, while I fear it may be a bit more powerful than some of the other subclasses out there, I’m not going to complain until someone shows me a way for a player to abuse the class features. For now, it gets a thumbs up and players can use it in my games.
Sorcerer: Clockwork Soul
Tick tock. No, it’s not the newest cantrip enthralling the youth of the mortal realms, it’s the sound of Mechanus manifesting withing a Clockwork Soul Sorcerer (who in turn might be enthralling the youth of the mortal realms to Primus’ will). You knew some class was going to get the Clockwork treatment at some point, and based on how they’ve presented the Clockwork Soul I’m glad it’s Sorcerer. Let’s dive in and see how their flavoring is made manifest with their class features!
Clockwork Magic & Restore Balance
Clockwork Magic gives Sorcerers additional spells at certain levels, such as alarm, counterspell, find traps, and arcane eye among many others that serve to protect or keep order. It’s a nicely flavorful list that adds to total of spells known for the Sorcerer.
On the other hand comes Restore Balance, which allows the Sorcerer to negate advantage or disadvantage on a roll that a creature within 60 feet is about to roll as a reaction, up to a number of times per long rest equal to their Charisma modifier.
Restore Balance definitely, well, restores balance as Primus would want, not messing with any probabilities or what have you. It’s super flavorful, very useful both for helping and hindering, and is a great ability all around that scales nicely. Thumbs up!
Bulwark of Law
At 6th level the Sorcerer can use an action and 1 to 5 sorcery points to create a magical ward around themselves or a creature within 30 feet that lasts until they finish a long rest or the ward is used up. Each sorcery point spent grants the creature a single d8, which can be expended in any number as a reaction to reduce incoming damage.
I love this. It’s a variable ward that leads to critical thinking for the creature taking damage. If 8 damage is incoming and the creature is low on health, do they use 1d8 and hope for the best? Do they use more than one and risk wasting some of its potential? I love this more than a static amount of warding or temporary hit points just for how fun and variable it is (which doesn’t sound like Primus, hmm…). Thumbs way up for this one!
Trance of Order
As a bonus action, Trance of Order confers some nice benefits to the Sorcerer for a minute. For that minute, attack rolls against them can’t be rolled with advantage and they can treat rolls of 9 or lower for attacks, ability checks, and saving throws as a 10. This can be used once per long rest, or again for 5 sorcery points.
This is nice and still on theme, not allowing enemies to gain an upper hand or for the Sorcerer to fall victim to the variables of fate. Still on theme, and potentially very useful situationally. I don’t see many downsides or abuses from this, so yet another thumbs up!
Finally at 18th level comes the Clockwork Cavalcade. The Sorcerer, as an action, can summon a 30 foot cube on themselves with clockwork spirits inside. When they do so, they can restore 100 hit points divided how they see fit among the creatures within the cube, all damaged object in the cube are repaired, and any spells level 6 or below affecting creatures can be ended if the Sorcerer chooses to do so. This is obviously a once per long rest ability, but can be used again before that for a mere 7 sorcery points.
What another great ability. It fits the theme, at 18th level it’s not too powerful while being quite effective in multiple ways, and it’s fun. Ghost-modron pop up, fix you and your stuff up, then disappear. What a time to be alive and ticking! (Pun very intended there). Thumbs way up!
I love the Clockwork Soul Sorcerer, maybe more than I should. The abilities match the flavor super well, that warding ability is a really great take on protective abilities, the advantage/disadvantage mitigation is new, and the rest are all really nice. I can’t say for certain if this is too powerful, too weak, or just right- but in most campaigns I think the Clockwork Sorcerer should play nicely with others.
This has been a great edition of Unearthed Arcana, featuring some new and innovative class features across the various subclasses. I’m continuously impressed with Wizards of the Coast, and even though the College of Creation seems a little lackluster I appreciate the new directions they’re trying to go with these on a consistent basis. By all means, this gets a big thumbs up from me!
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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