Persuasion Check: Unearthed Arcana 2020 – Spells and Magic Tattoos

I would have thought for sure that right now I’d be writing about Part 4 of the recent subclasses that have featured on Unearthed Arcana in 2020, but instead I’m pleasantly surprised to take a look at some new spells and magic tattoos!

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 this edition of Unearthed Arcana!

Spells
We’re blessed with not one, not two, not even three, but four new spells! Okay, technically it is eleven new spells, but 8 of them are all new ‘Summon [type] Spirit’ spells that make summoning available to most spellcasting classes. Before we dive into those summoning spells, let’s take a look at the other three we’re getting.

Acid Stream
I was ready to write this spell off as soon as I saw ‘Acid’ because all I could think of was acid splash, which by far is one of my least favorite cantrips. But as I read the spell, I became more intrigued. Briefly, this 1st level spell affects creatures in a 30 ft line, forcing each to make a Dexterity Saving throw. Failure causes them to be covered in acid, which makes them take 3d4 acid damage at the start of their turns until the spell runs out (one minute, concentration) or they use an action to scrape the acid off.

Now, I don’t love saving throw spells as much as to-hit spells, but this one does two things I like. For starters, the World of Warcraft Warlock in me like the damage-over-time-ness of this spell, while the more strategic side of me likes the fact that it can cause an enemy to spend their action to avoid further damage, or it can easily ramp up if they let it sit for too long. Now, I’m not going to sit here and tell you this is a must have, but I will say that it could see some decent action at lower levels. Only Sorcerers and Wizards can cast it, and I think I would have liked to have seen Druids also gain access to it, but otherwise it gets a thumbs up from me.

Otherworldly Form
Available as a 6th level spell to Clerics, Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards, otherwordly form grants some buffs to the spellcaster for one minute, provided concentration holds up. While it’s effective, they can attack twice instead of once (note: this doesn’t stack with any other class feature to attack more than once), all their weapon attacks are magical and they can add their spellcasting modifier to the damage instead of Strength or Dexterity, they get +2 to AC, and they gain spectral wings with a fly speed of 40ft. In addition, they must choose to draw their power from the Upper Planes or Lower Planes. The Upper Planes gives them immunity to radiant and necrotic damage and the charmed condition, while Lower gives immunity to fire and poison damage and the poisoned condition.

Now, I’ve got to say I’m a little confused by this spell. I can see it being great for a Cleric, and even a Warlock, but I haven’t seen many Wizards or Sorcerers that would choose to take this spell. I think for me the concentration bit is what kills it, though I understand why it’s concentration-based as it’s fairly powerful for what it does. I don’t know, I just don’t see the purpose of a mostly defensive spell that buffs melee attacks in most situations. Now, I get that there are builds out there that would love this across all four classes, but it just isn’t for me. I can’t see anything actually wrong with it, so for balance I’ll give it a thumbs up.

Spirit Shroud
And to cap out the non-Summon spells we have spirit shroud, a 3rd level spell for Clerics, Paladins, Warlocks, and Wizards. This spell is quite intriguing and I really like it, perhaps in a weird twist from my feelings on otherworldly form. It’s a lower-level, purely offensive spell. Now, it’s concentration, but I think that’s fine. It’s an additional 1d8 radiant or necrotic damage when hitting a creature within 10 feet at it’s base casting level, and it also allows the caster to slow down a creature within 10 feet of them by 10 feet until the start of the caster’s next turn.

A Paladin, surrounded by holy spirits, smiting evildoers and impeding their movement (as there’s no escape from justice!)? Yeah, count me in. I don’t quite think the Wizard will see much use, but it’s fine that they included it. Big thumbs up from me!

Summon spells
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw 8 spells all with the words ‘Summon Spirit’ in them, but I have to say, they have ingeniously made the lives of Dungeon Masters easier with these spells when characters want to make a spellcaster who focuses on summoning in allies.

All these spells are concentration for 1 hour, scale with level, and are standardized stat blocks per spell with customization based on choices made when casting the spell. This removes the need for DM’s to madly flip through the Monster Manual and answer questions from the summoning player about “what actions does my summoned fey have again?” Now it doesn’t matter what beast, what fey, what undead they summon- it’s a single stat block with extra actions or abilities that are clearly laid out and in front of the player. It’s not much for the DM to learn, and it’s going to clear up a lot of headaches around this style of spell.

I’m not going to dive into each spell and each option, but as an example, for summon undead spirit, the caster can choose from ghostly, putrid, or skeletal. Each one gets it’s own type of attack, while ghostly gets to move through objects and putrid has an aura of, well, grossness that can negatively affect the players. It’s an awesome solution, and I can’t wait to use these in my game. While I must reserve total judgement until I’m actually on either end of the screen with these spells, they get a tentative double thumbs up from me!


Magic Tattoos
Let’s be real- these are just itemless magic items. It’s an awesome concept and one that I’ve seen homebrewed plenty over the years and it’s neat to see some in Unearthed Arcana. I’m going to cherrypick a few to talk about, but you’ll quickly get the gist that these are just magic items that are permanently on your skin, and combine to take up a single attunement slot regardless of how many you have!

I will that I do like that these don’t just have to be tattoos; they can be birthmarks, patterns of scales, scars, and so on, and vary in size based on how powerful of a tattoo it is so as to not let a character have every tattoo. I would go further to say once you’ve read into these, feel free to work other magic items into tattoo form and these tattoos into traditional magic items as you see fit. Now, let’s take a look!

Blood Fury Tattoo
The Blood Fury tattoo is a legendary tattoo and rightfully so- it confers three great benefits, some of which are confined to a single subclass. First of all, it grants a critical hit on a score of 19 or 20, something reserved for the Champion subclass of Fighters, meaning that 10% of the time you’re going to crit!

It builds on this further by dealing an additional 4d6 necrotic damage whenever you crit, and gaining temporary hit points equal to the necrotic damage dealt. First of all, great synergy, and secondly, what a way to dole out punishment and withstand it, too! So far so good, and definitely not something for a first level character to get their hands on.

Lastly, whenever a creature damages you with a melee attack, you can use a reaction to make a melee attack back with advantage, meaning that the chances of scoring a critical hit is even higher! Not bad, and definitely worthy of a legendary tattoo!

Lifewell Tattoo
Toning it down with just a rare tattoo, the Lifewell Tattoo allows the wearer, once per day, to drop to 1 hit point when they would normally drop to 0. A good way to stay in the fight, and reminiscent of half-orc and barbarian features, which I should note, would stack with this tattoo! Overall can’t complain, and would be fine with any other class grabbing this tattoo. Thumbs up!

Shadowfell Brand Tattoo
The Shadowfell Brand tattoo is very rare, and grants advantage on stealth checks all the time. It also, once per day, allows you to use your reaction to become shadowy for a moment and reduce damage by half from whatever source it came from. Powerful, but at once per day not game-breaking. I can see why it’s very rare to the Lifewell’s rare, but would definitely let it be in my game when Rogues can do similar. Thumbs up!

By now you get the gist of these tattoos and understand that they’re a way of granting passive boons, once per day abilities, and features from other classes without the need for the character to be weighed down with a random amulet, ring, or other magic item. Personally I think a lot of these would be awesome for your quintessential monk, wearing little in the way of gear. I like them, and if you haven’t already definitely check them out!


Conclusion:
What an awesome treat of an Unearthed Arcana with spells and tattoos for all characters. I feel like we’ve been given subclass after subclass after subclass for about half a year now, and while I’ll always welcome more player options, it was great to get something different. It also helps that I think all the spells and tattoos are awesome, and are sure to give birth to new character concepts and ideas, perhaps in your next campaign!

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!

What did you think about this Unearthed Arcana? Be sure to join in the discussion over on our Discord channel where we talk tabletop!


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