D&D (2024) Combing through UA7.5, a DM's perspective

tetrasodium

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So far I've playtested every packet but 7. The group met and decided that with everyone wanting to play one of the two Seemingly blessed charisma based classes that nobody wanted to endure such a short rest loop. Packet7.5 gives us what looks to maybe be the first real efforts from wotc in nearly a decade af providing gm facing content designed for the gm, for that reason I'm pretty excited about what this contains.

  • Acid Splash: The big difference is this has been changed from 2 targets within 5 feet to a 5 foot sphere.
    • The Good: Originally using acid splash took a hit on damage compared to other cantrips in order to maybe excel in the edge cases conditions that involved 2 targets within 5 feet. Changing this to a sphere means that it could theoretically hit 4 clustered targets by targeting a point where the relevant squares converge & that's good.
    • The missed chance: The new version has two rough edges that unjustly hurt the cantrip's value & both the result of omissions.
      • Firstly is that the cantrip makes no mention of objects... It might be good not melting the door blocking reinforcements sure, but the caster has full control over the placement of this spell. I feel that not mentioning objects & terrain makes for a missed opportunity with many more times that players will want to deal environmental damage to enemy fortifications & such than not.
      • Secondly is the omission on XgE86/DMG250/251/PHB1-312. A lot of players get grid locked in their thinking. That's usually good with line spells where casting along an axis can effectively amount to free twin spell. With a sphere square or cube though, expecially a 5 foot one, that becomes a problem. Many VTTs now even reinforce that kind of thinking with a snap to grid or similar function that locks everything to squares. The DMG grid combat section doesn't mention spells & the PHB is woefully inadequate. XgE86 seems to have the diagram 2.2 sphere template targeting an intersection of 4 squares as the point of origin, but it omits a line from the center of the template to the intersection on the grid that would make it clear. Wotc needs to make clear if targeting spheres without them being gridlocked is intended to be allowed or not & design accordingly.
  • Bladeward: The old version was awful, this has been changed
    • The mostly & almost great: This can now be used as a reaction "which you take in response to a visible creature targeting you with a melee attack" The three qualifiers are great for when it can & can't be used. That works great if the GM is operating like this "the [monster] is going to attack [bob] N times and roll dice" followed by determining hit/miss and/or damage. If the GM is rolling damage with the d20 and/or just announcing if the attack hit/missed at the same time the player learns they were targeted the cantrip starts breaking down. Fixing that can be corrected with omitted words like "before either success of the attack is determined or damage is rolled".
    • The Bad: Players are going to be starting with a level1 feat at character creation & one of those is the magic initiate feat granting a first level spell & cantrip, That's a problem for reasons Crawford made clear in the UA video. Magic Initiate allows anyone to grab blade ward at level 1 & that will put a crimp on a cantrip made "for the spellcaster who doesn't have anything else demanding their reaction" when "spellcaster" changes to something else not so subject to "oh no someone's attacking me". This might be good reason to shift magic initiate from a 1st level feat to being a 4th level feat even if players can only have a single reaction for now.
  • Chill touch:Back to the specificity of Range:touch & loses the mindnumbing need to hear a player ask "is it wearing metal armor" about every creature they face.
    • The Good: This used to be pretty annoying & moving from range:120ft to touch solves any rangeproblems.
    • The meh: Large lump sum healing & regeneration need to be differentiated. Shutting down big lump sum healing is cool & all , The same cantrip being able to neuter the core strength of regerating monsters as varied as trolls revenants vampires & so on is a bit much. I say it's too much berceuse all of those monsters go from needing some thought in targeting their resiliency to "who cares" if healing & regeneration aren't split into distinct game elements. Risk free Movement is too easy with the current rules to not differentiate the two.
  • Friends: It's now a 1 min concentration 10ft aura that imposes save or charm(advantage on social interaction & nonhostile). Plus the stupid becomes hostile is gone.
    • The Good: Everything, I've got no complaints & no quibbles. The short range keeps it from allowing cheatrcode-like monster shutdown for scouting. Subtle spamming to avoid using a leveled spell is shutdown by only working if not used against the target in the last 24 hours.
  • Poison Spray: Range jumps from a punishing 10ft to a reasonable 30ft. This is a great change
  • Produce Flame: Another pure good fix. No longer ends by RAW when thrown & light range matches a torch(20+20ft). IME most tables & players with this cantrip in play either ignored the ends when thrown & used it as this version does or they simply never noticed the stupid RAW. Fixing the light range to at least match a torch is likewise a long overdue thing as well.
  • The gaelic word... (shigleleh with an extra alphabet):
  • Shocking Grasp:Couple subtle changes in he secondary effect it procs.
    • All good: The old version was a complete shutdown on any monster with power resting in interesting reactions & that's orobably a big part of why there were so few of them made. Now it only shuts down "Opportunity Attacks" & any monsters with interesting reactions or OA-like abilities under a different name can once again remain interesting when the GM tosses them into an encounter
  • Spare the dying: now 15ft range but functionality is still screwy
    • The Good: The old version was a useless way of saving a few silver on healing kits & that is fixed by this
    • That's not how your rules should work Wotc: This takes a creature "that has 0 hit points yet is alive" & makes them stable. That seems reasonable for running a game pure RAW with zero house or variant rules related to anything on PHB197. By being specific about "0 hit points" rather than having a "dying" condition or similar that would allow any sort of change like death at 0 death at -10 or some other option simply by tweaking the condition this presents itself as one of the many examples of 5e designing against any efforts to houserrule in 5e. fixitfixitfixit
  • True Strike:All good Now this shifts from a never useful cantrip to the weapon attack to using your spellcasting ability mod for hit & damage. Also there is a bit of bonus damage as it scales.
There's a lot to like in these cantrips & with one exception. The big letdown for me was that cantrips still seem to be explicitly scaling by character kevel & that makes it hard to shift to a variant where they are tied to individual wands/staves that would provide the DM with low hanging fruit that casters could be exited about as treasure, maybe we will see a PHB or DMG optional/variant rule to help with that.

  • Bastion Turns: The GM can explicitly change how long a bastion turn lasts. This is great & avoids fighting over "you should have brought that up in session zero" if it needs to change for whatever reason the gm feels it needs tweaking. It's also nice that they suggest aiming for 6-8 bastion turns per level, that particular range coming up again makes me feel like I should unsettled by a tool that I really want to like though.
  • Hints at rest mechanic changes"[If] The characters spend 7 days or more in their bastions between adventures..." /"the characters are adventuring near their bastions and are spending every night in their bastion"/"The characters return to their bastion in the midst of an adventure". hmm....
    • Having examples is good & there are some reasons to spend time in a bastion yes, but this seems a little too suggestive for it not to indicate some possible changes to the rest mechanics getting looped into needing a bastion or sufficiently equivalent substitute.... If so I can't wait to have some control over rests as a GM.
  • Accumulating bastion points: "spending 25GP when issuing bastion orders"
    • Design for the game you've made not a storyboard: Advantage on the 1d4 roll might not seem like much, but the game does not stop in tier1, there are 16 more levels across 3 more tiers & there are bastions level gated to all three.. Wotc needs to stop designing the entire game based around "what works in tier1 & maybe tier2". This isn't the only example of this kinda thing I noticed when reading through, just the first in the packet
  • Acquiring magic items: JFC on a pogo stick, there is so much wrong about this being bound to a DMG tool rather than a tool on it's own that I almost wanted to consult with a cocktail while thinking about where to start. It's nice that the GM gets to approve an item, but they also don't get to insert some other item either.
    • Hostile to GMs: Using treasure & magic items is an important tool in the GM's toolkit, this pointlessly welds what should be a secondary sidebar to a useful GM tool in order to strip away what once deserved a full page of advice in the DMG. What's worse is that barring insight into future changes we've seen no hint of is the problem where 5e is designed with math that assumes no magic items. Mister Crawford's often stated "it will work just fine without them" turns into "this will overpower PCs to absurd degrees" .
    • Worse: The 2014 rules never made any effort to balance the application of attunement or magic item power against rarity & there has been no hint that this is being addressed in 2024... It's not even been hinted if wotc considers this state a thing that is working as intended or a "pain point" in need of addressing. Rather than type endlessly on this but Treantmonk does a great job of summarizing the many reasons why in this timestamped link.
  • Other uses: spend 7 days in it & 10 bastion points to have your NPCs spread word of your deeds for advantage on nearby charisma checks
    • I like how this somewhat averts problems with "no we stay in our room at the inn & pay extra to have our food brought up" Frank Castle style mushroomPC problems whole avoiding a situation where one player feels the need to consume a big chunk of the session turning one or more random filler NPCs into NPCs of note likely to be immediately forgotten by everyone. It's also nice how it dials back on the speedrunning of between adventure town stuff with the players inserting filler time rather than the GM needing to think up excuses for it.
  • Bastion Map: I was worried about the talk of giving players a mini dm feel in the video possibly resulting in a GM tool designed primarily for player needs but this doesn't have much impact & i'm glad my worries were unfounded here. Although sometimes it feels like this bot of flavor & fluff has so much support elsewhere that it becomes an effort to sort out the GM relevant bits.
  • Combining bastions, basic facilities, hirelings, & orders: Seems simple & reasonable enough
Mostly good & great but there are a couple problems with mechanically relevant gold costs & looting the GM toolbox. Most of the rest was not particularly important to the GM.
  • Arcane Study: Is this a trap for people who don't read the rules or is it intended to do something like hook into an unannounced wizard cl ass feature to "study" new spells?
    • Craft arcane[mundane STARTING GEAR] focus: uhh what?... is there an omission?
    • Craft [blank] book: huh? a blank book? Myne would be very impressed, but isn't this for GM/PC interaction?
    • cast identify once in the next 7 days: The DMG136 rules are currently pretty much take a rest & identify your cuddled magic item right now. Can we expect to see that change or is there a missing explainer sidebar?
  • Armory: Helps if your bastion is attacked but seems minimal functionality otherwise
    • It's not clear if the PC can or can't loot the armory & to what degree. If so is this a 100gp way of getting a bunch of 50-750gp & up armors? The question is not without merit given that a mundane set of plate is 1500gp in the phb while the DMG152/135 lists +1 plate as potentially 501gp,
  • Barracks: used to recruit bastion defenders I don't really grasp the bastion defenders/invasion so much both mechanically & why I might use it as a GM, especially at this level. I've seen some discussion into the mechanics of them & kinda get it, I just don't quite grasp a why behind pulling that trigger as a GM at this level.
  • Garden: The first level 5 bastion that is truly functional. You can earn 5gp/some niche sounding decorative flowers or choose between harvesting one of healing potion basic poison & antidote
  • Library: My inner gm is tapdancing & cackling with glee at the idea of a bastion that will encourage my players to do research into something.
    • Seriously, I'm thrilled at the ability to say "that's a topic you would need a place to actually research it over time." & not be expected to instantly provide a super minmaxed frank castle mushroom both the location & an NPC to do it where the PCs happen to be.
  • Sanctuary: Cast healing word once in the next week or craft a holy [mundane STARTING GEAR] holy symbol
    • Because being able to use an arcane focus meets the bar to have this it could be kinda nice for the wizard sorcerer warlock EK/AT/etc to have a healing word in their b ack pocket. Probably not too useful for divine & primal casters unless they too can expect some kind of unannounced class feature to hook into & extend this like I mentioned. If that sort of class based extending is not planned it's going to feel weird giving this to a wizard & an arcane study to a cleric or something
  • Smithy: wow.... that masterwork weapon
    • After seeing two bastions with craft starting gear & a questionable free cast spell it's pretty impressive seeing one that can craft a +1 weapon after afriend casts a 2nd level spell on it. Something is off in the values somewhere.
  • Storehouse: Is this inspired by an MMO adding excel spreadsheet support? If not... this seems to be a gold printing press where a PC has their NPCs buy some goods & then sells them for 10% more than they spent, privately held money printers are a problem. I haven't played it, but that functionality
  • Workshop: Grants advantage after resting in it plus some fluff mundane crafting.
    • I don't really like the crude club of (dis)advantage & hope for at least an optional return of the old +2/-2 in the DMG for the more fine grained granularity it provides. With that said though I like this & not just because it saves me from having to award inspiration. I say that because it provides me as a GM an additional tool in being able to know for certain that bob is full of it when he asks to spend an inspiration point for the umpteenth time after it's been noticed. This allows me to say "You don't have a workshop, where did you get it?" & expect some of the other players who are tracking their inspiration to join in on calling out bob.

All things considered the level 5 bastions are a mixed bag. In some cases, like sanctuary, there is a thematically fitting option for certain classes that has been given a benefit most beneficial to the classes fitting it least. In other cases the bastion appears to be a trap for people who didn't read the rules or realize that they literally started with the thing it crafts.

There might not be much power budget that can be allocated to these kinds of things at level five, but the next tier of them doesn't start until 4levels later at level 9. Some of these would be much better served with a somewhat higher or more specific prereq & some class specific boons Examples of that might be wizards scribing/trading for [random?] low level spells they might not have & sorcerers getting extra SP or whatever on the arcane study & cleric/druid crafting consumable non recharging cure wounds wands from sanctuary. Yes I realize that warlock was not mentioned, the packet7 warlock was so over the top in so many ways across any & all niches a PC could build for that it's tough to guess at a need they might want to fill with bastions.

Concerning is how well the smithy & garden supply martial types with something relevant to their needs contrasted with the "yey... :rolleyes:guess I'll do whatever it does..:rolleyes:" feel to caster leaning things. Wotc might have a reason justifying that contrast but when that reason is left unsaid it falls unfairly on the GM to guess at it & choose to sell it to players or try to fix.

  • Gaming Hall: Big fail on multiple levels & both of them were already mentioned above. Firstly is the previously mentioned PC controlled money printer. Secondly is the fact that the Gold it gives is a flat thing with no link to PC level like the storehouse has.
  • Greenhouse: Upgraded version of the garden, better healing potions & better poisons plus a fluff option.
    • The garden was good & so is this, but it targets an annoyance I've seen at my tables & heard other GM's grumble about... In 2014phb/dmg PHB197 combined with the trivially available healing word & 50gp healing potions makes any effort by the GM to encourage players to stock better healing result in bristling resistance from players who feel wronged that the GM is trying to force them into suboptimal use of something other than yoyo healing. This looks to provide at least one step towards ensuring players prepare for risk in a way that allows the GM to appropriately challenge higher level players.
  • Laboratory:A differently improved potion & poison crafting facility that might allow players to bring in some interesting potions from time to time.
    • What I like as a GM is that this gives me the option to just say no, it's your own fault for not preparing when players need to go face off against the big bad monster I'd been dropping hints about (ie a particular dragon) & they refusing to do anything other than sit around shopping until immediately supplied with a full set of potions to nullify it.
      • Unfortunately this falls victim to a problem I noted earlier. I could just extend the bastion turns & cite that the dragon or whatever is making supplies tight or whatever, but this switches time over to days in a few points.
  • Sacristy: Craft some meaningfully powerful magic items. I like the idea, but there is no sidebar or video talk about the 2024 version being designed with a different outlook in the math on magic item expectations. Absent clarity there I'm not capable of forming an opinion on if this is cool or a problem.
  • Scriptorium: craft scrolls plus some fluff options. Interesting, but is this the first time a wizard can expect to begin scribing scrolls?
  • Stable: seems like just a way of managing mounts? Mounts in 5e are pretty pointless (mostly) one off beyond fast travel & a big part of why is because of how it strips away elements of past editions like armor move speed penalties that made it worth the effort. This seems like it might be a solution in search of a problem to some degree
  • Teleportation Circle: As a GM I like players being responsible for at least one of these rafter a certain level & this gives me a good excuse to have private pattern holders not be so cool about random adventurers barging through whenever they please without needing to slam on breaks.
  • Theater: Interesting bardic inspiration type buff that might do a nice job of pushing players to leave their room at the inn on occasion without needing to force them by burning it down or something.
  • Training Area: Some interesting buffs & (temp) proficiencies that can be gained, but the character sheet is woefully inadequate for differentiating between proficient & briefly proficient, I see this turning into s proficient in all it grants thing & that's a problem
  • Trophy Room: I love this... Both the spend time doing research instead of expecting an instant answer between fights as well as how it encourages stockpiling of useful consumables
These are better & more interesting but still some questionable bits
oops hit submit by accident. Higher tier bastions to be added later in another post.

The level 13 bastions level 17 bastions & final thoughtsare down in post3
 
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tetrasodium

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  • Archive:Kind of like the theater or training area but for granting advantage on int based skills
    • Being a level 13 facility made superfluous by anyone in the party having the guidance cantrip or deciding to say "oh I'll help" without needing to wait till they can issue a research order on a bastion turn this really shows how limited (dis)advantage is compared to the old +2/-2. Those other facilities had additional options like allowing multiple PCs to participate or gaining temp proficiency, this one allows the casting of a spell with some issues for the GM.
    • Having this return results as if casting legend lore & granting advantage on int checks is a little questionable though since there is only one int based class slated for 2024phb & that class (wizard) can already cast it for quite a few levels by level 13. Yes that spell can also be cast by bard/cleric/cleric:knowledge domain/warlock:the undying , but spending a bastion turn to cast a spell that the int based class has been able to cast for 4 levels makes me feel like there should be a secondary option that fits the needs of the single int based class a bit better with this.
  • Meditation Chamber: This is one I was a bit worried about when I first saw it listed on pg7, but I'm glad that my worries were unfounded. It's hard not to see the obvious bones this throws to fans of cultivation genre type fantasy& for a change I think it does a nice job of weaving a bit of its tropes into d&d without forcing the GM to adapt d&d/their world around those tropes like one particular class often does.
    • I'm a fan of this & could even see myself giving a weaker version that only does one saving throw type to a player at lower levels if they were into mixing those kinds of themes with their PC. As a GM I think doing that would be dramatically less disruptive than some of the efforts to shoehorn in a whole semi-religious monastic order & such inspired by anime or a 70's tv show about an ascian guy starring an American that was written by an American before a statistically significant chunk of my players were even born.
  • Menagerie: It feels like there was an omission in this one. I'm glad this takes the time to add words about some monstrosities with GM approval being good to go here since there are a lot of monstrosities that are basically just beasts with a magic power(ie winter wolves blink dogs hell hounds etc).
    • I'm not really sure what this actually does absent the GM houseruling stuff in though & feel like there should be more clarity. Beasts & some monstrosities can be recruited & housed here... They also count as hirelings & will help defend your bastion if attacked. Plenty of other facilities provide defenders & even if the GM extends the hirelings rule on pg5 a CR3 creature is going to be of minimal help to a level 13 PC for any reason other than its ability to leap on the sword for them.
  • Observatory: I'm at a complete loss for words on this one. I went in expecting something with scrying & instead found that is basically allows someone to cast one of a few spells via charm of darkvision heroism or vitality
  • Pub: That research order letting players send their bartender out to get the word on what's going on in the area is super useful to me as a GM. It's just disappointing that there's really nothing similar with appropriate themes applied available to any of the other bastions. In fact it's so useful I'd say that a limited version should be a base option for bastion turns that only returns what the GM feels is relevant to the type of bastion itself
    • The cocktailsTotallyNotJustPotions list don't say if the "drink" needs to be imbibed on site or if it can be taken on the road in order to start that 24hr timer later.
    • On a silly note I have to wonder what you sub out to make a spiders kiss into a Kiss of the Spider Queen :D
  • Reliquary: There are bastions that seem to function as literal gold piece pressing mints above in both the level 5 & 9 bastions (storehouse & gambling hall)
Some interesting options across these. The limitations of (dis)advantage compared to past analogs like DMs best friend is really starting to raise its head & some of the options should probably be

  • Demiplane: The temphp is pretty cool but the scry-immune is almost more of a solution in search of a problem
    • It's not stated if the nonmagical objects created can be taken out of the demiplane or not but luckily the restrictions on what can be created avoids players creating casks of saffron & other nonmagical things that might be more valuable than gold.
  • Guildhall: a wide array of storyboard panels in search of a GM... Most of the options seem pretty far into the "huh... could be neat but kinda far into edge case specific niches". As a level 17 thing though odds are great that this is going to really only get seen during one shots where usefulness can be expected
  • Sanctum: Wow this is pretty powerful & kinda neat
  • War Room: Kinda niche. I could see it maybe fitting certain types of adventures where the NPCs go be the distraction while players do the adventurer thing
Some of these are so far from merely being "not balanced against each other" that they almost seem designed for an entirely different subsystems... I'm not sure what to say other than

Splitting this off into a spoiler to keep it from blurring into thoughts on the level 17 options or something.

The rules are explicit about the GM being free to change the length of a bastion turn to something other than 7 days, but then the bastions themselves switch back & forth between 7 days & bastion turn. That makes it difficult for the GM to start making changes to bastion turn length without a stampede of "my X says 7 days, are you nerfing that too?" & similar. Right now it's a tossup how much of that term shift is deliberate & how much of that could be the result of work in progress rules. If deliberate though it's a bit backwards in those cases where it should be something along the lines of "until the next bastion turn☆" with a footnote somewhere about checking with the GM if there should be an exception for ☆'d item when bastion turns have had their length adjusted up or down.

Poison worked great in past editions when adventurers actually put life and limb on the line & often needed every edge they could eke out. In 5e PHB197 makes adventuring a lower risk career than commoner & farmer while monsters are woefully unequipped for PCs even before adding feats magic items & poisoned weapons to PCs. Poisoned weapons have a habit of becoming permanent unless the GM tracks it for players, it should really be limited to single attacks or till the next rest/roll of initiative & balanced accordingly
 

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