We’ve gotten so much Unearthed Arcana content for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition lately that, I’ll admit, I had a hard time keeping up! I’ve got a lock on it now, though. First we got a sorcerer with an aberrant mind and a warlock who lurks in the deep. Then we got an Eloquent bard and a Heroic paladin (capitalization deliberate and important). Finally we got a twilight cleric, a wildfire druid, and a name-calling wizard. I think my speculation from the barbarian and the monk is proving true: we only see a swath of content like this when another book is on the horizon. So lets Unearth some Arcana and see what our new varieties of adventurer can do!
Aberrant Mind Sorcerer
“An alien influence has wrapped its tendrils around you, warping you in both body and mind.” Curiously, few of the inspirational offerings for an Aberrant Mind Sorcerer’s origins go the traditional route of having a bloodline. Instead, they tend to revolve around the character having gone through an experience that changed them for the weirder.
Invasive Thoughts starts things off at 1st level, granting the sorcerer the ability to create a telepathic link with another creature within 30 feet as a bonus action. That link lasts for ten minutes (unless the sorcerer is taken out or ends it early), and allows for telepathic communication – both ways if the target knows at least one language.
Psionic Spells also kick in at 1st level, adding spells to the sorcerer’s spell list as per usual. Spells like dissonant whispers, sending, and modify memory feature heavily, along with more offensive options – hungry, hungry Hadar makes more than one appearance. The list definitely gives the proper vibe for a psionic-eque character, and Hadar and compatriots do a good job of reinforcing the theme of something being off with this origin.
Wrapped up the 1st Level shenanigans is Warped Being, bringing the weirdness to the physical level. Whether through squamous skin or an invisible psionic barrier, the Aberrant Mind Sorcerer’s AC counts as 13 + Dexterity modifier so long as they don’t wear armor.
By 6th level the character will have mastered Psionic Sorcery, which lets them either use a spell slot to cast Psionic Spells or spend a number of sorcery points instead. As an added bonus, if the sorcerer does use points, they don’t need to have any components on hand.
Psychic Defenses also kicks in at 6th level, granting resistance to psychic damage and advantage on saving throws against being charmed or frightened. Simple, thematic, useful.
Revelation in Flesh and 14th level is where things really start betting weird. As a bonus action the sorcerer can spend a sorcery point to ‘unleash the aberrant truth’ hidden within their flesh. This creates a benefit for each point you spend, potentially stacking, that lasts for one minute and includes a swim speed and the ability to breath water, a flight speed, the ability to squeeze through areas as narrow as a single inch, and to become aware of the location of hidden or invisible creatures. That’s a lot of utility, which I think is decently balanced out by needing to spend points and the time limit.
Warp Reality closes things out at 18th level as our sorcerer ‘becomes the focal point of a reality-warping anomaly.’ As an action the sorcerer creates an aura extending out in a 20-foot-radius for 1 minute. Other creatures treat the aura as difficult terrain, and when they start their turn within it they take 2d10 psychic damage; any number of creatures of the sorcerer’s choice can be exempted from this, keeping allies out of trouble. The aura can be ended with a bonus action, and when you do any number of creatures you choose within the aura are teleported to a place you can see within 1 mile of you; unwilling creatures can make a Charisma saving throw to try and avoid being taken for a ride. This is a particularly cool and useful feature, with a lot of interesting potential applications. Warp Reality to lay down some damage and then escape an ambush! Warp Reality to launch an invasion or ambush of your own! Warp Reality to whisk away a target so you can gang up on it alone!
Overall I’d say the Aberrant Mind Sorcerer is a good blend of useful, fun, and thematically sound. Sorcery point hungry, but you’re getting a fair amount of bang for your buck.
The Lurker in the Deep Warlock
‘You made a pact with an entity that lurks somewhere deep in the ocean, or even on the Elemental Plane of Water, such as a mighty kraken, an ancient primordial, or a monstrous being from creation’s earliest days.” I know that I’ve read that he’s a hexblade or somesuch, but from the little I’ve kept up with Critical Role’s second campaign this sounds like the writers were keeping a careful eye on Fjord. Alright, let’s take the plunge.
First up for the 1st level features is the usual Expanded Spell List. Another solidly thematic offering here, ranging create or destroy water to cone of cold to control water to Evard’s black tentacles. It’s a pretty decent spread of combat and utility, although a lot of the utility is focused on being near the sea.
Then Grasp of the Deep lets you summon a spectral tentacle! As a bonus action you create this 10 foot long thing within 60 feet, which lasts for 1 minute or until you make another one (you can do this a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier per long rest). When you summon it you can make a melee spell attack; landing a hit inflicts 1d8 of your choice of cold or lightning damage (2d8 at 10th level), and reduces the target’s spend by 10 feet until your next turn. Going forward, as a bonus action you can move the tentacle up to 30 feet and repeat the attack. Bonus action extra attack with multiple damage types and movement control at 1st level? Good thing the damage doesn’t increase any more, otherwise this one would be too good.
Scion of the Deep finishes out 1st level with its own version of telepathic conversation; the warlock can telepathically communicate with any aberration, beast, elemental, or monstrosity within 120 feet that has a swim speed, and your conversation partner understands and can respond regardless of any language or lack thereof.
Fathomless Soul takes a dive into 6th level by making the warlock capable of breathing are and water, granting a swim speed equal to their walking speed, and granting resistance to cold damage. A useful package that, again, wants you to be near the water to use it to its full extent.
Guardian Grasp closes out 6th level by bringing a defensive aspect to your Grasp of the Deep. When you or a creature you can see within 10 feet of your spectral tentacle takes damage, you can spend your reaction to reduce that damage by half, with the tentacle taking the blow and vanishing. I like it! It makes it much more likely for a player to get every single use of the tentacle onto the board without having to be in multiple encounters. If anything I’d say this actually balances GotD a little bit more.
Devouring Maw, the 10th level feature, ‘draw[s] forth a manifestation of your patron’s insatiable hunger.’ Pick a spot within 60 feet: for 1 minute that spot is the center point for a 10 foot radius translucent maw with the munchies. Creatures in the maw’s area when it appears need to beat make a Strength saving throw or be restrained; characters who fail can spend an action on their turn to try again. Creatures that start their turn within the maw’s area, restrained or not, take 3d6 cold or lightning damage, your choice whenever the damage gets dealt. At the start of your turn, if there is a creature in the maw’s area you gain temporary hit points equal to your warlock level.
You don’t get multiple uses in an encounter, and you can’t move the maw around, but you only need a short rest in order to be able to use this feature again. I think that’s a pretty good compromise.
Finally, at 14th level you can Unleash the Depths. First of all, the flavor text for this feature mentions ‘thalassic grandeur’, which is a phrase I didn’t know I needed to read until I had. Second of all, you have two options to choose from with this feature, and you only get one of them every long rest. First is Transport: the warlock and up to five willing creatures are yoinked by spectral tentacles into your patron’s realm and promptly teleported to any point within 100 miles of your starting point that you’ve been to in the past 24 hours. Second is Fury, the ultimate expression of spectral tentacled offense. Within 30 feet of your chosen point a ‘barrage’ of tentacles bursts forth, targeting up to five creatures you can see. Targets have to make a Dexterity saving throw; fail and they take 6d10 of your choice of cold or lightning damage and are knocked prone, succeed and they remain standing while taking half damage.
Thalassic grandeur indeed.
I’d say the Lurker in the Deep Warlock works just fine, with a lot of offensive power along with some really useful abilities. It does strike me as something of a narrow build, though. The really core stuff like the spectral tentacles and the maw are thankfully usable everywhere, but there are a number of features and spells that really want you to be playing in a, if not always seafaring, at least often-body-of-water-adjacent campaign. Plus, and this is sheer personal taste, a lot of the ideas for the patron itself don’t feel very compelling. If you have a 4e style Dawn War situation the primordial option seems pretty good though . . . or maybe you play a water genasi and your patron is your grandmother, or something.
One more thing! The Sorcerer and Warlock UA also included a new cantrip that appears on the sorcerer, warlock, and wizard spell lists: Mind Sliver. The target has to make an Intelligence saving throw. If they fail they suffer 1d6 psychic damage (increasing as you level up, as cantrips are wont to do), and the first time they have to make a saving throw before the end of your next turn they have to roll 1d4 and subtract the result from their saving throw. This can help set up your own next spell for success, or work great in tandem with an allied spellcaster.
Bardic College of Eloquence
This is the bard not as wandering minstrel or tavern entertainer, but as a great orator; large arenas and throne rooms instead of dive bars and camp fires is where this build feels the most at home. It’s something of a fuzzy distinction, though, since plenty of bards can be convincing no matter the setting, so we have to lean on the mechanics much more than the flavor text to see what makes this speaker shine.
The college’s first 3rd level feature is Universal Speech, which works by expending a use of Bardic Inspiration as a bonus action, which will be the core mechanic of the build. In this case the bard rolls the die, and chooses a number of creatures within 60 feet that they can see. For the next 10 minutes the targets can magically understand you, even if they don’t speak any languages (although notably there’s nothing about them being able to communicate back). In addition, for the duration our eloquent bard has advantage on all Charisma checks made to influence them. Obviously to get full use out of this feature you’ll often want to be dealing with creatures you couldn’t normally communicate with, but the advantage part is universally useful.
Soothing Words is the second feature at 3rd level, allowing the bard to cast calm emotions without expending a spell slot a number of times equal to their Charisma modifier. A useful trick to use before making your speech to a previously unruly crowd.
Undeniable Logic is the double-sided feature at 6th level, either talking allies through their problems or logic-bombing enemies. Expend a use of Bardic Inspiration and choose a creature within 60 feet before rolling the die. The target could take psychic damage equal to the roll, and then have to make an Intelligence saving throw or have disadvantage on their next saving throw. Or the target could regain hit points equal to the roll and have advantage on their next saving throw. A little dash of damage or healing, along with manipulating the odds in your party’s favor.
Infectious Inspiration starts to spread at 14th level. First, if a creature adds your Bardic Inspiration to a roll but still fails, they can keep the die to try again later. Second, if a creature adds your Bardic Inspiration to a roll and succeeds, the bard can use their reaction to encourage another ally as well, granting them a Bardic Inspiration die without expending a use of the BI feature. You can build this chain of good vibes a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier per long rest.
The Eloquent bard lacks a little bit of oomph, I think, but I also think it makes up for that by being flexible and a great support build with all those different uses for Bardic Inspiration. Not to mention the fact that its first two features make the build an absolute social powerhouse as written right now.
Oath of Heroism Paladin
This is a paladin who thinks that Hero should always be capitalized, and that they’ve been called by their deity to be one. With tenets like Actions Over Words, Challenges Are But Tests, and Embrace Destiny this is a holy warrior who jumped at the call and is striving to be a larger-than-life inspiration.
Once you’ve sworn your Oath of Heroism at 3rd level you start getting Oath Spells. The Heroism paladin’s spells are kind of a mish-mash, although many follow the oath’s last tenets, Hone The Body. Expeditious retreat, enhance ability, haste, and freedom of movement are going to see our paladin far beyond the mortal norm. The rest are a variety: guiding bolt, enthrall, compulsion, and conjure volley are among them.
Heroism’s 3rd level Channel Divinity powers keeps up the theme of herculean prowess. Peerless Athlete grants Advantage on Athletics and Acrobatics checks for the next ten minutes. Then Legendary Strike lets the paladin score a critical hit on a 19 or 20 for the next minute.
Mighty Deed at 7th level lets the paladin inspire their allies and demoralize their enemies. Whenever the character scores a critical hit or reduces a creature to 0 hit points, they can choose a number of creatures equal to their Charisma modifier that they can see within 30 feet. Each either gains 1d6 + Charisma modifier temporary hit points
Glorious Defense lets you start start misdirecting attacks against you with your own sheer awesomeness at 15th level. When a creature you can see hits you with an attack roll you can spend your reaction to gain a bonus to AC equal to your Charisma modifier, potentially causing the attack to miss. If the attack does miss, you can make one weapon attack against the attacker as part of the reaction. This could be a really clutch ability, and I think needing to use your reaction for it makes sense.
Living Myth is the Heroism paladin’s final 20th level form, brought about by the paladin believing in their own legend. Once per long rest a bonus action can be used to activate the feature for 10 minutes. While it’s active the paladin gains advantage on all Charisma checks, the ability to make one missed weapon attack per turn hit instead (!!!), and the ability to use their reaction to succeed on a saving throw they just failed. That second one is particularly potent, particularly given all the Smiting a paladin is likely to be doing at 20th level, but I’m not sure whether or not it’s too potent.
This one looks like it would be a lot of fun to play. Kind of . . . self-centered feeling for a paladin when compared to the other oaths, but I think it could work narratively speaking. The big question for me would be whether or not to play it seriously or ham it up and play like the comic book superhero type of adventurer it seems to lean towards.
Twilight Domain Cleric
This domain ‘governs the transition and blending of light into darkness. It is a time of rest and comfort, but also the threshold between safety and the unknown. Your choices of deity to worship for this one are actually pretty varied and interesting from Dol Arrah to Helm, the Raven Queen to the Traveler, and Morpheous to Selûne.
So, of course, at 1st level a cleric of Twilight starts getting their Domain Spells. There’s a theme running through these that almost reminds me of the fae, with spells like faerie fire, sleep, darkness, invisibility, and dream. The fact that these clerics are often found carrying light into the darkness to comfort others also comes through with spells like aura of life and Leomund’s tiny hut.
Twilight clerics also gain Bonus Proficiencies at 1st level for martial weapons and heavy armor, putting them in the tankier subsection of clerics.
Eyes of Night continues the 1st level offerings by granting the character darkvision with no maximum range, and even better the ability to (as an action) grant this darkvision to other characters for ten minutes a number of times per long rest equal to your Wisdom modifier.
Vigilant Blessing wraps up 1st level with an action that can grant a creature, including the cleric, advantage on their next initiative check. The benefit ends once you’ve made the roll, and can’t be active on more than one creature at a time. There’s no limit on how many times per rest you can do this, so I think you’d be using this on a character the second you wake up and once after every encounter.
Channel Divinity: Twilight Sanctuary pops up at 2nd level, allowing you to ‘refresh your allies with soothing twilight.’ Using your holy symbol and an action, you create a sphere of dim light with a 30-radius that lasts for 1 minute or until you go down. Whenever a creature including the cleric ends their turn within the sphere you can either give them 1d8 temporary hit points or immediately end an effect that has made them charmed or frightened. Handy, and a pretty neat visual.
Steps of the Brave steps up at 6th level, granting two passive benefits. First, you have advantage on saving throws against being frightened. Second, if you’re in dim light or darkness (remember Twilight Sanctuary, which moves with you by the way) you can use a bonus action to give yourself a fly speed until the end of your next turn. That’s pretty cool, and needing to keep spending bonus action to stay in the air keeps it reasonable.
Divine Strike is this domain’s 8th level extra damage feature, adding 1d8 psychic damage to weapon attacks, rising to 2d8 at 14th level.
Midnight Shroud caps the build at 17th level by giving a huge boost to the darkness spell. Whenever you cast it, you can choose a number of creatures (including yourself, again) up to your Wisdom modifier that can see through the otherwise impenetrable darkness. Turn off the lights, give all your friends night-vision goggles, then beat up all your enemies.
Lot of interesting stuff to be found in the twilight! The only feature that makes me squint a bit is actually the bonus proficiencies; the rest of the build doesn’t really feel like a heavy armor build. It doesn’t hurt the build’s functionality at all, though, so that’s a rather minor quibble.
Circle of Wildfire Druid
Fire destroys, but in the wild it also heralds the cleaning of the dead and rotten so that new life can grow anew. This is the driving tenet of the druids of the Circle of Wildfire, dedicated to burning the bad away and encouraging the good to thrive.
The 2nd Level starts with Circle Spells, which includes learning the fire bolt cantrip and then gaining access to more spells as the Wildfire druid levels up. In a move that’s totally a surprise, no really, there’s a lot of fire: your druid is eventually going to be packing scorching ray, fireball, and flame strike to name some highlights. The idea of fire promoting rebirth, however, is also quite well expressed with spells like plant growth, aura of life, and raise dead.
Summon Wildfire, also at 2nd level, summons forth the wildfire spirit that the druid has bound to their soul by expending a use of Wild Shape. The spirit appears with 30 feet of you, and every creature besides yourself with 10 feet of the spirit have to succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or take 2d10 fire damage. It’s not just a one-off, though. The spirit sticks around as a summon until it drops to 0 HP, an hour passes, or you use Wild Shape again. It levels up along with the druid, and has two Actions that run off of the druid’s Bonus Action. Flame Seed is a pretty basic ranged weapon attack that deals fire damage. Fiery Transportation, which recharges after a short or long rest, teleports the spirit and each willing creature of your choice that’s next to it up to 30 feet. Each creature within 10 feet of the spot that the spirit left then needs to succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or take yet more fire damage.
6th level’s Enhanced Bond kicks things up a notch by linking together your wildfire spirit and your spellcasting. Whenever you cast a spell that deal fire damage or a spell that restores hit points while your spirit is summoned you get to roll 1d8 and add it to one roll of the spell’s effect. For another neat little trick, whenever you cast a spell it can originate from either you or your spirit. Synergy!
Flames of Life is a particularly interesting one at 10th level. When a creature, Small or larger, dies within 30 feet of you or your spirit a reaction can be used to ‘cause primal flame to spring from the body’. You can do so a number of times equal to your wisdom modifier. Whenever a creature you can see touches those flames they can either take fire damage or restore hit points equal to2d10 + Wisdom modifier, your choice. Once a creature has touched them (or after a minute passes) the flames vanish. The damage dealing half of this feature seems super situational, I don’t see any way to really use it aside from dropping a body in a bottleneck that your enemies have to get through, but it’s a flavorful feature and the healing is nothing to sneeze at.
Little gruesome, dancing on the burning corpse of your foe, but nobody said fire was nice.
Blazing Endurance has the build go out with a bang and rise from the ashes at 14th level. If the druid is dropped to 0 hit points but isn’t outright killed, they drop to 1 hit point instead and gain temporary hit points equal to five times their druid level. In addition, each creature of your choice that you can see within 30 feet takes fire damage equal to 2d10 plus your druid level. Once you pull a phoenix, you can’t do it again until you’ve had a long rest.
One burning problem with this build: it’s very narrow, and that might cause it some problems against certain enemies. It gets a boost to healing, which is nice, but every damage-dealing feature the Wildfire druid has is fire-based, one of the more common damage types when it comes to running into something that can resist it. So make sure you’ve got non-fire options from the basic druid kit to use if a fire elemental shows up.
Knowing the true name of a being is a type of magic that’s popped all over the place, from Harry Dresden to D&D games I’ve been a player in (Pazuzu, Pazuzu, Pa – never mind). That’s what Onomancy is all about: knowing the true names of others, whether they’re friend or foe, and using that knowledge like a cheat code to unlock all sorts of things.
Alright, we get things started at 2nd level with some Bonus Proficiencies: a language of your choice and calligrapher’s tools. Nothing flashy, but it fits. Come to think of it, the Linguist feat is probably a good idea for an Onomancer.
The second 2nd level feature, Extract Name, is the foundation of the entire build. As a bonus action the Onomancer targets a creature they can see within 60 feet, who then has to make a Wisdom saving throw. If they succeed on the throw the wizard knows the magic has failed and can’t target that creature again. If they fail, though, they become charmed by the wizard until the end of the wizard’s next turn – and the wizard mentally learns the creature’s true name.
Fateful Naming is the last of the 2nd level package, and starts building off of knowing true names. The bane and bless spells count as wizard spells for the Onomancer, and they always have them prepared without counting against the number of spells they can prepare otherwise. If they cast bane or bless at a target and speak the true name of the target as part of the spell they cast it without spending a spell slot. They get a number of these free uses equal to their Intelligence modifier per long rest. I like the duality of this one; learn the true names of your allies to bolster them, and the true names of your enemies to smite them.
Resonant Utterance means that at 6th level you learn ‘words of power called Resonants, which allows you to tailor your spells through the use of a target’s true name’. You learn two out of a list of options, and you can switch one out every time you level up, for some decent flexibility. For a quick summary, the Resonants are: gain temporary hit points when a spell deals damage, inflict disadvantage on a spell’s saving throw, extra force damage, make an Intelligence check to end one spell on the target, forced movement, and targeting without seeing/through cover.
Inexorable Pronouncement isn’t flashy, but it gets the job done: at 10th level our Onomancer learns two new Resonants of their choice from the Resonant Utterance feature.
Relentless Naming takes that knowledge of true names at 14th level and bypasses an enemy’s defenses. When the Onomancer casts a damage-dealing spell at a creature whose true name they utter as part of the spell, they can change the damage type to force or psychic, among the rarest of types to be resisted.
True names have always been a type of magic I find cool, so I particularly like this build for that. There’s some interesting sidequest and roleplaying opportunities too, as our wizard might very well explore other options for learning the true name of powerful creatures. I think this build also does something interesting to the wizard’s playstyle, as it encourages the player to focus fire on whichever creature(s) they’ve discovered the true name of. My one concern for the build is that if Extract Name doesn’t do the trick the wizard can’t use it on that target again. Not a problem if there’s more than one target on the map, just extract the next poor bugger’s name and light them on fire. But if you’re up against the lone BBEG and they make their save, everything that makes the Onomancer unique when it comes to attacking shuts down.
So there we have it! Counting the barbarian and monk, only the ranger, the rogue, and the fighter haven’t been featured in this latest slew of character options …
Oh please don’t let them give them the SCAG!Ranger treatment, that would be too cruel.
It’s way too close to the release date for these options to be for the upcoming Rising from the Last War. Given that, and how much content we’re seeing, I don’t think there can be any doubt that there’s another player-facing 5th Edition book on the way given how much we’re seeing. There isn’t a 100% unifying theme to them, but there is a lot of stuff at least linked to something otherworldly or beyond the material plane. Twilight clerics feel like they could find their way towards the Feywild, true names are often useful when dealing with demons . . . a Manual of the Planes style book, perhaps? Speculation! What do you think is coming down the road?
And what do you think of the new Sorcerer, Warlock, Bard, Paladin, Cleric, Druid, and Wizard options? Give them a read yourself, hit the table, and see how the dice roll. Most of the surveys for these options are already live, so this is another chance to shape the future of 5th Edition. Have fun, and keep a fire extinguisher on hand in case the wildfire druid aims a little wide.