When Wizards of the Coast was promoting Shadow of the Dragon Queen, many Dragonlance fans knew it was only a matter of time before their beloved setting got approved for the Dungeon Master’s Guild. Several groups such as the Dragonlance Nexus began work on making player’s guides/companions for their setting, intending to give a more in-depth treatment to the world of Krynn than SotDQ’s surface-level approach. The Nexus produced a spruced-up version of Tasslehoff’s Pouches of Everything* and an accompanying adventure, while the Splinterverse produced the Dragonlance Companion. Both groups of authors for Tasslehoff’s and the Companion worked together to ensure that their material wouldn’t overlap too much, so as to minimize cases of customers feeling that a dual purchase would be redundant.
*It previously existed as a free supplement, but with less material.
While the Dragonlance Nexus has a vaunted reputation as the oldest surviving fan community for the setting on the Internet, the Splinterverse is a relative newcomer in regards to tabletop publishing. Their catalog of Guild products is pretty small, and their main content is a YouTube channel highlighting various finds on Drive-Thru RPG and the DM’s Guild. In spite of this being their first Dragonlance product, the Companion was very warmly received. Margaret Weis in particular, who wasn’t very fond of Wizard’s update for the setting, had nothing but praise to say for this product and promoted it on social media. As of now, it sits as the #3 seller on the Dungeon Master’s Guild, one step above Tasslehoff’s and eclipsed only by Shadow of the Black Rose and the Test of High Sorcery adventures.
So how does the Dragonlance Companion stack up as a worthy upgrade to the namesake setting? Let’s read and find out!
Our book drops us right into the thick of things. No fancy introduction explaining what this book’s about, or a Foreword by a tabletop luminary! The Companion gives us three races: Draconian, Half-Ogre, and Thanoi. The Draconian is the only one with subraces, three to be precise. The races use the universal racial options found in SotDQ: for abilities you have “+2 to one ability score and +1 to another, or +1 to three different scores,” and you begin play knowing Common and one other language that you and your GM agree is appropriate for the character.
Draconians are artificially-created humanoids birthed from captured metallic dragon eggs. Originally made as expendable soldiers for the Dragonarmies, after the fall of that empire many found themselves without purpose. In the Fifth Age they are still distrusted by many of the goodly nations of Ansalon, and up north the draconian nation of Teyr was founded to be a place for their race to find self-determination.
Draconian’s base traits include having the Dragon type rather than Humanoid, 60 feet of Darkvision, can glide and take reactions to negate falling damage when they’re not unconscious or wearing heavy armor, and can survive for very long periods without food or water. The three subraces are Bozak, Kapak, and Sivak. Bozaks are more magically proficient, gaining racial spells in the same manner as a drow or tiefling: Mage Hand at 1st, Fog Cloud at 3rd, Scorching Ray at 5th, and they can choose what mental ability score is their spellcasting ability modifier. Kapaks can exude saliva which is either toxic or healing (their choice per use) a number of times per long rest equal to their proficiency bonus. Toxic saliva is able to coat weapons or ammo that can paralyze a foe for one turn should they fail a Constitution save, while healing saliva heals 1d6 + proficiency bonus in hit points. Finally we have the sivak, who can take the Hide action even when only lightly obscured, and can change their appearance to a Large or smaller Humanoid they killed within the last minute for up to 1 hour, but they can only do this last ability once per long rest.
We round things out with two new feats for Draconians: Aspirant Dragon grants them advantage on saves vs charmed and frightened conditions, once per long rest can add a d6 to an attack or save whenever they or an ally within 60 feet succeeds on a save against such a condition, and gain a flying speed equal to their walking speed but only if they’re wearing light or no armor. The other feat, Final Twinge, replicates the classic Death Throes of a Draconian: increase a physical ability score by one, and once per long rest upon hitting 0 hit points they can either turn themselves and an adjacent attacking target to stone for up to 1 minute, or release a cloud dealing poison damage and the poisoned condition to adjacent creatures. In both cases the targets are affected when they fail a Constitution save. While this makes Death Throes much more useful in that they don’t require actual death to trigger, they’re still very situational and can only be used once per typical adventuring day. The feat that grants a flying speed is very good, and gaining die bonuses triggered when saving vs common condition types is just icing on the cake.
Thoughts: As a race, the draconian doesn’t really specialize in any one thing: their resistance to starvation and thirst will only really matter in campaigns with extreme survival, and glide is situationally useful but loses out to outright flight. Being Dragon rather than Humanoid is pretty useful and comes with some immunities. I am a bit surprised that we don’t have a subrace for Baaz, who are the most common type of draconian. The paralyzing toxins of a Kapak are very useful, and while the healing is good at low levels it quickly loses out to actual healing spells. The Sivak’s shapeshifting and better ability to hide points them towards roguish pursuits, but like the other options the shapeshifting is more situational than even Disguise Self. The Bozak’s best spell is Fog Cloud, useful for breaking line of sight, and while the other spells are fine they’re more situational in comparison. Overall this race feels average, being too broad for all but a few builds, albeit ironically all three have features useful for stealth builds.
Half-ogres are exactly what they sound like. Much like half-orcs in other settings, they aren’t entirely welcome in either human or ogre societies, and while overall loners there are exceptions where half-ogres banded together to make their own communities. Their abilities include 60 foot darkvision, +1 to Armor Class, +1 to initiative unless they are taken by surprise, can choose one creature type which they have advantage on saving throws against,* and once per long rest can reroll a check made with their lowest ability score.
*This is represented as them having studied said creature type for a long time.
Ogres have an exclusive feat: Unsurprising. This makes them immune to becoming Surprised unless they’re incapacitated.
Thoughts: As a race, half-ogres more or less have reactive and passive abilities so they may feel less exciting than active abilities. But what they do get is very good: +1 to initiative and Armor Class are good for just about any build, and their persistent advantage on saving throws vs a certain creature type is begging to be paired with Humanoid or some other creature type guaranteed to be common in the campaign. Their feat is a bit unexciting and situational, only granting one cool feature rather than 2-4 which is common for feats. Edit: As someone over on RPGnet noted, it's also redundant. The Alert feat already does what Unsurprising does and more.
Thanoi are our final race, and they’re a pretty obscure one even by Draconlance standards. They are humanoid walrusfolk who live almost entirely in Krynn’s southern polar region of Icereach. Their societies are subsistence-level, competing with humans and white dragons for resources, although some have been known to willingly serve dragons. Most thanoi who venture into the warmer north are hunters or traders who rarely stay up there for long, with those who stay longer being your typical walrus-out-of-water adventuring types.
In terms of mechanics they have resistance to cold damage, automatically make all saves vs the effects of extreme cold, have advantage on saves against being knocked prone, and gain proficiency in their choice of two Rangere-style skills :Animal Handling, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Stealth, or Survival:. Reflecting their natural physiology, they have a swimming speed equal to their walking speed, can hold their breath for up to 30 minutes, can use their tusks as an unarmed strike that deals 1d6 + Strength modifier piercing damage, and have a natural armor of 13 + Dexterity modifier. Their unique racial feat, Brutal Ambusher, increases Strength, Constitution, or Wisdom by 1, grants +10 to all movement speeds on the first round of combat, and can add double their proficiency bonus to an attack against a creature provided they are obscured from their target in some way. Should this attack hit, they deal bonus damage equal to their proficiency bonus.
Thoughts: The thanoi’s various features are situational to certain hazards and for certain builds. Their arctic adaptation and swimming speeds are unlikely to see consistent play in most temperate lands, and their natural armor and tusks are more suited to monks, spellcasters, and other classes that don’t have access to better weapons and armor. Their bonus skill proficiencies have a good selection, particularly Perception and Stealth which are useful for most builds. As for their feat, it is very nice for Rogues, Gloomstalker Rangers, and other ambush/stealth builds.
This section provides us with one new subclass for each class in 5th Edition. And barring the Fighter and Wizard, all of their concepts are broad enough to be easily adapted for other settings.
Flesh Sculptor Artificer creates undead from biological tissue. The first of their kind worked for the Dragonarmies, helping in experiments for making the first Draconians. At 3rd level they gain proficiency with leatherworker’s tools, their bonus prepared spells revolve around necromancy and personal enhancement stuff such as Gentle Repose, Haste, Stoneskin, and Raise Dead, and gain a constant companion known as a Sculpted Effigy. The Effigy’s stats grow with level much like other NPC companion subclasses such as a Drakewarden Ranger or Battle Smith Artificer’s Steel Defender. The Effigy’s base traits include a slam attack that deals 2d6 + proficiency bonus in necrotic damage, an AoE frighten effect they can use up to 3 times per day, and as a reaction can deal 1d6 necrotic damage to someone who damages it in melee. At the end of a long rest, they can be modified to have a randomly-determined Dominant Creature type which grants a random benefit. For example, Giant increases their Strength score from 16 to 20, Dragon grants them a once per day Vile Breath that deals 4d6 fire damage in a 15 foot cone, and Plant grants resistance to nonmagical bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.
At 5th level the Flesh Sculptor can once per turn add 1d6 necrotic damage to their or their Effigy’s weapon attack. At 9th level the bonus necrotic damage increases to 2d6, and once per long rest they can spend 10 minutes modifying a limited number of allies to give them temporary hit points and resistance to nonmagical bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage. At 15th level their bonus necrotic damage increases to 3d6, and their sculpted Effigy can maintain 2 dominant creature types at once and deals extra damage with their reaction-based counterattack.
Thoughts: Were I to compare this to other Artificer subclasses, the Battle Smith would be the first to come to mind. The Sculpted Effigy is sturdier than the Steel Defender in terms of hit points and its base attack deals more damage, although the Steel Defender has a higher AC and can impose disadvantage on an attack as a reaction, meaning it is likelier to survive longer in a straight-up fight. The Effigy has more customization options via alternate creature types, but as those are randomly-determined their effects cannot always be counted on. The bonus necrotic damage may seem impressive on first glance, but pale in comparison to the Battle Smith’s Extra Attack and more direct-damaging Arcane Jolt. Many of the Flesh Sculptor’s bonus spells require concentration or are situational out of combat stuff. Overall this subclass feels like Dr. Frankenstein, but isn’t that impressive.
Path of the Dragon Barbarian represents those people whose lives have been touched by dragons, and seek to learn how to channel a fraction of their power through their own bodies. Their backgrounds and how they do this differ, but the Companion provides us with some sample tables, such as a tribe worshiping dragons as gods or soldiers who served in the Dragonarmies. At 3rd level they choose a metallic or chromatic dragon type to be their affiliated dragon, and their rage grants them resistance to the energy type of said dragon’s breath weapon along with bonus melee weapon damage of that energy type equal to their Constitution modifier. At 6th level they gain immunity to the frightened condition, at 10th level they grow wings whenever they rage which grants them a fly speed equal to their walking speed, and at 14th level once per long rest they can exhale a 30 foot cone as a breath weapon dealing 10d6 damage of their affiliated dragon’s damage type.
Thoughts: As Constitution is almost always the second-highest ability score for Barbarians, this subclass’ initial feature is a good means of adding onto melee damage. They gain a flying speed like that of an Eagle Totem Warrior but at a much earlier level, and immunity to the frightened condition is like the Berserker’s (who also has charm immunity) but is permanent and not just during a rage. The 10d6 breath weapon is an alright feature for 14th level. At that point the offensive spellcasters in a party can regularly dish out more powerful stuff, but in terms of concept goes nicely as a capstone feature. While it isn’t the most imaginative when it comes to outright new mechanics, I think this is a pretty strong subclass.
College of Ages Bard represents historians who seek to learn secrets of the past which grant them increased magical powers. They can treat history books and items of historical significance as spellcasting foci, and we get 2 tables of samples for inspiration. At 3rd level they can treat a roll on any Intelligence-based skill other than Investigation as a 10 if they roll a 9 or lower, and can expend Bardic Inspiration to let an ally within 30 feet reroll a mental ability check. At 6th level they can choose from one of five particular Stories of the Past every long rest, each associated with a particular Age of Krynn. Each story can only be used once per long rest, and are typically triggered as an action, a reaction, or part of casting a spell. For example, Armor of Istar adds the Bard’s Charisma modifier to the Armor Class of up to 5 creatures within 10 feet of the bard for the next minute, Glory of Heroes makes their weapon attacks deal maximum damage, and Wrath of Saints triggers after the Bard casts a damaging spell and deals 2d6 lightning damage to creatures within 15 feet and pushes them away 5 feet. The College of Age’s capstone ability lets them use Stories of the Past twice per long rest, and once per short or long rest can spend one use of Bardic Inspiration to give a number of allies a Bardic Inspiration die equal to their Charisma modifier. This last feature requires a minute to use, as the bard regales their allies with a story or legend.
Thoughts: The College of Ages’ initial abilities aren't of immediate use for typical adventuring types, and the 10 or better on INT checks cements them pretty solidly as the “know it all” style of Bard. But their Stories of the Past have downright powerful features. Even though it’s of limited use, being able to give +3 to +5 AC to your entire party for 1 fight is amazing, and dealing maximum damage with weapon attacks can be really good with a Paladin or Rogue using Smite or Sneak Attack. If anything, I’d argue that this Bard type is overpowered, as such abilities can really alter the course of an encounter and I guarantee that most parties will be saving this for climactic encounters or when they know they’re nearing the end of a dungeon/adventure/day before a long rest.
Addendum: Thanks to someone on EN World pointing this out, I happened to miss some rather important text for two of the Stories of the Past. Armor of Istar's AC bonus fades when hit by an attack, and Glory of Heroes only lasts until the start of the bard's next turn. I still think this rates on the higher end of the subclass' in that it can still be easy to make a nigh-unhittable character even at lower levels, but it's important to include.
Plague Domain Cleric is a worshiper of Morgion or a similar god in other settings, dedicated to the spread of suffering and disease in the belief of an apocalyptic utopia where peace can be attained once all are dead. Their bonus domain spells are geared towards necromancy and debuffs, such as Hex, Animate Dead, and Bestow Curse. One of the bonus spells is Wither and Bloom from Strixhaven,* which makes this subclass of more limited use to those who don’t have that sourcebook. At 1st level they gain proficiency with the disguise kit and heavy armor, and a number of times per long rest equal to their proficiency bonus can change the damage type of a spell to necrotic. Their Channel Divinity is a single-target debuff disease on a non-construct, non-undead creature within 30 feet, forcing them to either move or take actions but not both for up to 1 minute on a failed Constitution save (new save can be made each round). At 17th level they can spend their reaction to have that disease jump to another creature within 30 feet of the carrier. At 6th level they can perform a Plague Touch a number of times per day equal to their proficiency bonus, dealing 2d4 necrotic damage each round (no save) and the target cannot take bonus actions and reactions each round they fail a Constitution save. The duration of this plague touch is 10 minutes until they save two times or are cured with appropriate magic. At 8th and 14th level they deal 1d8/2d8 bonus poison damage each time they hit on a weapon attack. At 17th level they gain blessings from their god, becoming immune to disease, the poisoned condition, and poison damage, and once per long rest can grant such allies said immunities and the Plague Touch attack for 1 minute or until they infect another creature
*Another is Shadow of Moil from Xanathar’s, but that sourcebook is much more popular and more gaming groups are likely to have access to it.
Thoughts: Given the focus on necrotic damage and disease, this cleric is of more limited use in campaigns that prominently feature the undead (coughcurseofstrahdcough). The Channel Divinity can be a useful means of locking down enemies who don’t have a reliable means of ranged attacks provided the party can keep out of reach, but as said enemy types are likely to have good Constitution saves this is counterbalanced. Plague Touch can be a great means of “death by a thousand cuts” cumulative damage, particularly when combined with something like Hex that can impose disadvantage on the Constitution saves. It can’t do a lot of damage in a typical combat lasting 3-5 rounds, as 6d4 to 10d4 damage is easily eclipsed by other spells at middle to higher levels. The 17th level capstone is rather underwhelming, as at that level there are many means to counter such conditions and damage types.
Circle of the Elements Druids are warriors of nature from more martial cultures, learning to channel the powers of the elements through weapons. Their bonus spells are elemental and martial in nature, such as Armor of Agathys, Heat Metal, Fire Shield, and Wrath of Nature. They also start out with the ability to awaken a simple or martial weapon into a Primordial Weapon after a 1 hour ritual. which like Shillelagh lets them add Wisdom to attack and damage rolls, can treat it as magical, and is considered to be a spellcasting focus for them. They can apply it even to weapons with which they aren’t proficient, at which point they are considered proficient with only that Primordial Weapon while wielding it. Their other initial feature is Invoke Elements, which lets them expend Wild Shape uses to gain a bunch of temporary hit points (3 x Druid level, plus Wisdom modifier) and deal +1d6 damage of an appropriate elemental type with their Awakened weapon for the next 10 minutes. At 6th level they gain Extra Attack, and at 10th level can spend a bonus action when attacking while Invoke Elements is active, granting a secondary effect based on the element in question. For example, Water grants the Druid +4 AC and resistance to fire damage, and they can spend reaction to reduce an adjacent hostile creature’s speed to 0 feet. At 14th level they can make one weapon attack as a bonus action whenever they cast a spell or use a spell’s effects as an action.
Thoughts: Like the Flesh Sculptor Artificer, a lot of the non-blasty bonus spells require concentration to use. That being said, this is a pretty strong tanky druid. The bonus temporary hit points may not be as much as what a Moon Druid can get, but given that subclass is so powerful this isn’t necessarily a mark against the Circle of Elements. The awakened weapon prevents MAD in letting the druid focus first and foremost on Wisdom, and the bonus damage that can be gained from Extra Attack and things like Fire Shield or the 10th level bonus action lets them do respectable damage. The subclass’ weak point is that the 4 elemental damage types (lightning, poison, fire, and cold) are rather common resistance and immunities
Fewmaster Fighters are pseudo-officers in the Dragonarmies, having a rather open-ended role based on the needs of a particular Dragon Highlord. At 3rd level a Fewmaster gains proficiency in Intimidation and Stealth, gains advantage on Stealth checks when wearing any armor type besides heavy, automatically gains a special armor made from the discarded scales of a dragon* which marks them as a Fewmaster to other Dragonarmy soldiers. While wearing this armor, once per short or long rest they can spend a bonus action upon hitting a creature to make them suffer disadvantage on attacks made against the Fewmaster until the end of its next turn should they fail a Wisdom save. At 17th level they also make the target vulnerable to the damage type of the dragon scales from the donor dragon for the duration as well. At 7th level they can shout a special order a number of times per long rest equal to their proficiency bonus. This order targets an ally within 60 feet as a bonus action, letting them make an extra attack as part of the Attack action. At 10th Fewmasters level treat their AC as 20 when wearing their personal dragon armor, at 15th level can double the range of a single attack** once per round, and at 18th level gain advantage on all Stealth checks no matter the armor they’re wearing and once per long rest can call upon the residual magic of their armor’s scales which lasts until they dismiss it. Depending on the original dragon to which the scales belonged, the Fewmaster can add bonus damage of a certain type and a secondary effect. For example, if the armor was forged from black or copper dragon scales, a 5 foot pool of acid forms beneath a struck target, dealing acid damage to anyone who starts or ends its turn in it.
*This can be any armor type in which they’re proficient, not just scale armor which one would assume.
**this doesn’t specify melee or ranged, so I presume it applies to both.
Thoughts: Barring some nimble finesse weapon or archer builds, I can see the vast majority of Fewmaster PCs choosing full plate for their dragon armor, which is a great boon to have at 3rd level. Gaining proficiency and possibly advantage in Stealth is also great for setting up ambushes, making them a potential scout. Granting other allies extra attacks is good with the right setup, particularly for builds that add extra attack per attack rather than per turn or per round. The magical draconic aspects at 18th level feel rather weak for high-level play, but given that they add bonus damage per attack they scale quite nicely with the Fighter’s own Extra Attacks and Action Surge. Overall I think this is a well-designed subclass.
Way of Divinity Monks are those who find enlightenment through worship of the gods. They are akin to Arcane Tricksters and Eldritch Knights in gaining a limited spell progression of up to 4th level spells from the Cleric spell list, save that the only spells allowed are Abjuration or Evocation and one of their 3 initial cantrips must be Guidance. At 3rd level the range on their Guidance spell increases to 60 feet, at 6th level they can make an unarmed strike as a bonus action whenever they use their action to cast a spell, at 11th level they deal bonus radiant damage equal to their Wisdom modifier when using Flurry of Blows, and can replace a Flurry of Blows attack with a healing touch that restores hit points to a touched creature equal to their Martial Arts die + their Wisdom modifier. At 17th level they automatically succeed on saving throws to maintain concentration, and double the duration of all spells that require concentration and have a default duration of 10 minutes or less.
Thoughts: Even with their restrictions, the Way of Divinity still has a few useful spells for Monk builds. Healing Word and Prayer of Healing work for backup healing, while Aid, Protection from Evil, and Shield of Faith can give them more stopping power in combat to make up for their rather low Hit Die. 3rd and 4th level spells come in far too late to matter for most campaigns, but we still have some good ones like Banishment, Dispel Magic, and Freedom of Movement.
As for the other class features, the long-range Guidance can be useful in aiding party members from afar, and bonus radiant damage when using flurry of blows is quite nice. The bonus action unarmed strike when casting spells prevents the monk from deciding between punching and spellcasting. The other features aren’t so hot: the Healing Touch doesn’t hold a candle even to Lay on Hands which can heal more than just hit point loss, and the 17th level capstone features aren’t gamechangers like some other monk subclasses. The “martial artist cleric” I feel can be better represented as a pure Cleric with a Monk dip, which lets them get better spells but can still use unarmed strikes. And more specialized subclasses such as the Way of Mercy (healing), Open Hand (unarmed fighting) outperform it in their respective fields. It’s still better than Four Elements or Sun Soul, as its spellcasting features use a separate track than ki points, but overall I’d rate this as a rather mediocre subclass.
Oath of Secrets Paladin represent holy warriors who prize the sequestering of confidential knowledge and how to use deception in order to prevent it from falling into unworthy hands. On Krynn, the first paladins to swear this Oath served the archmage Fistandantilus, acting as his servants in protecting his magical knowledge from his many enemies. The Oath’s tenets include only sharing knowledge when absolutely necessary, dedicating their lives to learning new things, keeping their goals private even from their allies, and lying well and in moderation so as not to tip people off from too much deception.
For mechanics, their bonus spells focus on divination and illusion such as Clairvoyance, Invisibility, Mislead, and Tongues. Their Channel Divinity options include gaining +5 to Deception checks or turning invisible (requires concentration) for the next 10 minutes. Also at 3rd level they can create a short-duration telepathic bond with a nearby creature. There’s no limit to how many times per rest such bonds can be made, but require a bonus action and last for a number of minutes equal to their paladin level.
At 7th level the Oath of Secrets gets an aura where they can see invisible creatures and objects within 10 feet, and they and allies within the aura ignore penalties from heavy obscurement. At 15th level they gain resistance to psychic damage as well as immunity to divination magic and being perceived through scrying sensors. At 20th level their capstone transformation makes them and all they wear on their person invisible, create no sound unless desired and ignore the verbal components of spells they cast, and deal 2d6 bonus damage of the weapon’s type when making weapon attacks.
Thoughts: I find the fluff for this subclass is rather underwhelming; your cause is basically, “keep secrets.” This feels a lot like a roguish build, but as many of their class features can be better done by that class or even diviners/illusionists, this subclass feels like a discount version of those types. Overall not a fan of this one.
Thoughts So Far: A lot of these new options are of questionable and variable balance. The races tend to be too scattered or situational in features, and their choice of draconian subraces feels bizarre. I can understand on one level why some designers may restrict this: in prior Editions the draconian types varied widely in power as monsters. But even among the more common “evil” types, it feels odd to only have Kapak without Baaz. The subclasses are similarly variable in power: the College of Ages Bard is overpowered, the Way of the Divinity Monk and Oath of Secrets Paladin are less than stellar hybrids of other class archetypes, and the Plague Domain Cleric is very situational. Ironically, it’s the martial subclasses that I am the warmest towards: the Path of the Dragon Barbarian and Fewmaster Fighter both have quite a bit of nifty tricks. They may not shine out of combat, but in congruence with their class’ strengths they work quite well.
Join us next time as we wrap up the rest of the classes and cover new spells and magic items!