D&D 5E New Unearthed Arcana: Heroes of Krynn Revisited

WotC's Jeremy Crawford has announced a new Unearthed Arcana article today with redesigns from the prior Heroes of Krynn UA based on feedback, and in the following video he discusses that feedback and what's in the article:
  • New iteration of Kender based on feedback survey, due to mixed response. This time is a back to basics, aiming to capture 1E AD&D fearlessness, curiosity and taunting skills. Delve into their origins from Gnomes in deep history.
  • Kender are no longer fey creatures who grab objects from the Feywild
  • Tweaked Feats from prior article
  • Tweaked Backgrounds from prior article
  • Brand new rule giving a list of free Feats for ANY Background
  • Free Feat rule for Level 4 for all characters that doesn't take the ASI away, based on a curated list
  • Reveals that in the Adventure, healing magic is already back.
 
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Vaalingrade

Legend
"God of evil" doesn't imply anything other than evil, possibly to cartoonish levels, because evil is such a generic term with no real direction or meaning to it. It could be evil as selfish ambition, or it could be evil as ax-crazy lunatics, or any other sort of evil.

"God of evil and selfish ambition" provides a direction for that evil.
I had fun with this in my setting.

So this was a goddess whose mortal life was experiencing being protected by a found family who lied, cheated in and stole to keep themselves fed, so she became a goddess of absolution for those who do what they have to.

People being people, a lot of her worshippers took this to be a goddess of making excuses for their actions. "Hey, that guy needed killing, right? Thanks, Goddess! Now to find other people what need killing.*"

So the rest of the world considers her the Goddess of Evil.

*Edit: The best part? The Assassin Way actually legit makes the word a better place due to having a rigorous vetting process to confirm that the target is a scumbag.
 

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Scribe

Legend
"God of evil" doesn't imply anything other than evil, possibly to cartoonish levels, because evil is such a generic term with no real direction or meaning to it. It could be evil as selfish ambition, or it could be evil as ax-crazy lunatics, or any other sort of evil.

"God of evil and selfish ambition" provides a direction for that evil.

The bold part, is really it. Why do people continue to think Evil (capital E) absolutely must be reduced to the most juvenile definition. Why cant it be all of those things? Why cant people understand that it can be all of those things and resort to reducing these things to 'staightjackets' that dont exist?

Boggles the mind, honestly it does.
 

Krynn War II: The Revised Boogaloo.

It's interesting (and a bit foreboding) to hear that the Moon Sorcerer is getting in, mostly because the feedback on it was "What are you actually trying to say here?" I suppose they cleaned up the language and decided to roll with it, but what they actually meant will still be a mystery until the book comes out.

Kender, the non-fay kind.
The highlights:
30' movement speed is still faster than most halfings.
Fearless makes them immune to fear, which is handy for anyone who isn't a paladin, particularly melee types without wisdom proficiencies.
Kender Curiosity gives a free skill proficiency, in some of the best skills, and doesn't imply an inherent racial kleptomania.
Taunt. This is the feeling you get when someone puts a fly in your soup. An otherwise acceptable entry totally ruined by the inclusion of a tiny thing. Instead of an innate Vicious Mockery, it works as an aggro tool. I disapprove wholeheartedly. No wait. The pick your own casting stat is fine, as is the "This is totally not magical, wink wink" line. Just delete the part where they don't receive disadvantage on attacking the Kender. Otherwise it's going to lead to people thinking you have to play a Kender to be "a tank", and lets just swerve on that before it gets really printed.

Going back to Backgrounds.

Backgrounds are largely fluid, and I can't imagine a Dragonlance game where you couldn't emulate Sturm by being starting off as a knight who isn't actually a knight, so there isn't much to discuss about them again. On the other hand, there is something else that was included with this playtest that is just crazy: Everyone (in the setting) gets a free feat at level 1, and again at level 4. Is this a preview for 5.5? Probably not. At any rate, two feats is about all most people will ever have access too, so these war-torn peoples are already a leg up on their piers from other worlds.

The selection of freebie feats is worth looking over. If you aren't going for one of the new feats, you get your pick of Skilled or Tough. While I can see a case for Tough, I can't imagine that Skilled is something your players are chomping at the bit for. Passing up on free spells or free Battle Master maneuvers is a hard pill to swallow. Now if they feats like Inspiring Leader, and Healer or even half feats including the ones from Tasha's, it would be a veritable buffet of options. I know there are some people who would trip over themselves to pick up the Chef Feat here. The PHB feats available at level 4, on the other hand, are feats that people go out of their way to get normally, so it's just pure gravy at that point.

The agony of the Feats.

As for the new feats themselves, I will start off with the level 1 feats then go to the level 4 feats, for context.

Divinely Favored.
Basically Magic Initiate, with more flavor and flexibility. You are stuck with a Cleric cantrip, but can use your alignment to pick a 1st level spell from multiple different lists. Instead of a second cantrip, you get Augury. This is way more powerful than Skilled, so I don't feel bad about the recommendations to expand the list of free feats at all. Of note: the Divine Communications feat no longer exists, so there isn't any follow up to this one anymore.

Initiate of High Sorcery.
Also basically Magic Initiate, but this time with a more restricted spell list, and you get two first level spells instead of two cantrips.

Squire of Solamnia.
Right out of the way, this is interesting. We know that WotC is exploring taking a step back from Short Rest recharge powers for 5.5, so this might be a preview of how the new Battle Master is going to work. Instead of getting their dice back on a short rest, they get PB/LR dice. How does this work with backwards compatibility? Do the dice stack like with Martial Adept and Superior Technique? Do the dice scale if you are already a Battle Master? We just don't know. Otherwise, it's kind of a half-feat where the other half of the feat is split up into being able to mount up faster. I get the feeling that if mounts are so important to knights, Animal Handling should also be granted by this feat.


Adept of the Black Robes.
Not sure if this is a weird way of acknowledging that enchantment magic is often moraly dubious.
A free level 2 Enchantment or Necromancy spell. While there are some interesting spells in that list, none of the spells from the PHB synergize with the second part of this feat, which is Life Channel. The worst one of the "Use your HD for something other than healing yourself" powers out of the last attempt of this UA. So this feat still sucks when it comes to that, but also got technically worse from a thematic synergy point of view.

Adept of the Red Robes.
Illusion and Transmutation spells this time, and those lists are quite the catch. Magical Balance no longer works on saving throws, but it's still the best secondary effect out of all these adept feats, allowing you to treat a 9 or bellow rolled on a d20 for attacks or skills to be a 10. I can see why Raistlin took the red robes first.

Adept of the White Robes.
While there are a few spells of abjuration and divination I would totally want on any spellcaster, I just don't think the return on investment for Protective Ward is worth it, even when they bumped up the damage dice. It's the trap of combat healing, without actually being able to heal. At least it stacks with other sources of damage mitigation including temporary hit points, resistances, and things like the Clockwork Soul's Bastion of Law power. But the concept is just flawed. Look at Cure Wounds. Look at Healing Word. See how people use those spells, after the target goes down, in order to actually make the spells worth casting. Now look back to this, it's in-between those without the ability to exploit the whack-a-mole factor. Just think of anything else to put here.

Knight of the Crown.
It's a half-feat, but You get another maneuver, two more dice, and your dice jump up to a d8. The maneuvers listed here aren't two I would normally pick.

Knight of the Sword.
Just like the Crown, but with mental stats and better maneuvers.

Knight of the Rose.
In an effort to avoid repetition, I would like to point out you can potentially take all three of these knight feats.
But I have to ask how these dice work with other sources of Superiority Dice, because that needs to be addressed.

Thoughts.
The feats are no longer strictly worse than other feats you would have access to at any given level, and you get them for free from a limited list. While I would love to see that level 1 list expanded, (and the powers of the adept feats reworked) this alleviates most of my previous concerns with getting background feats in general.
The Superiority Dice would become larger with Battlemaster.
 

You can see immediately though that alignment and personality are being confused, and needless and irrational boundaries defined. Stuff like "A lawful good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished." is a personality trait, not something inherent to having an LG alignment. An LG person might well feel "Better a dozen guilty men go free than one innocent man be executed" or the like - that's absolutely within the bounds of LG - indeed not feeling that way, accepting the state murder of innocents - that's pretty classic LN, isn't it?
That's in keeping with 3E alignment. The PHB says: "Each alignment represents a broad range of personality types or personal philosophies, so two lawful good characters can still be quite different from each other."
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
The bold part, is really it. Why do people continue to think Evil (capital E) absolutely must be reduced to the most juvenile definition. Why cant it be all of those things? Why cant people understand that it can be all of those things and resort to reducing these things to 'staightjackets' that dont exist?

Boggles the mind, honestly it does.
Because most of the time, gaming books don't go into any sort of description as to what the evil being believes in or how it acts. The PHB lists Nuitari as the LE god of evil magic. What does that mean? What is evil magic? Is that magic itself evil, or what it's used for? I mean, it's Dragonlance, so the magic itself could be evil, but the PHB doesn't say.

Which is why alignment is pretty useless. Without a description saying why Nuitari is Lawful Evil, all you know is that they aren't being lolrandom about it. And with a description, you honestly don't need an alignment.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Because most of the time, gaming books don't go into any sort of description as to what the evil being believes in or how it acts. The PHB lists Nuitari as the LE god of evil magic. What does that mean? What is evil magic? Is that magic itself evil, or what it's used for? I mean, it's Dragonlance, so the magic itself could be evil, but the PHB doesn't say.

Which is why alignment is pretty useless. Without a description saying why Nuitari is Lawful Evil, all you know is that they aren't being lolrandom about it. And with a description, you honestly don't need an alignment.
You do if you want a quick shorthand reminder of something in a longer description in an NPC statblock.

It's not meaningfully different than AC:20. It tells me the AC is high, but if they players ask what armor they're wearing I have to read the description where it says jet black spiked plate mail and a spiked black shield.

Alignment is just a shorthand tool, like many other organizational tools in the game. It's not intended to tell you a huge amount with two letters, but it is intended to tell you a useful reminder of a larger concept that can be found in the longer description if you need it.
 

The 3e SRD is missing a lot. I'll show LG for both 3e and 5e.

5e: "(LG) creatures can be counted on to do the right thing as expected by society."

3e: "A lawful good character acts as a good person is expected or required to act. She combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly. She tells the truth, keeps her word, helps those in need, and speaks out against injustice. A lawful good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished."

It's not fantastic, but it has 4x the sentences and is less vague. At least it gives some sense of what LG means.

Whereas the 5e definition gives us essentially one thing that basically either applies to someone or doesn't, the 3e definition you cite is like a terrible grading rubric where like eight separate, loosely related things have been grouped together with no clear protocol if you fulfill some and not others. If a character fulfills everything else but is incredibly shy about speaking out against injustice suddenly their alignment is up for debate.

Sometimes simple is good. Sometimes vague is good. I'd prefer the 3e definition as a character motivation finding tool if I needed that, but if I actually had to assign alignments to characters not purpose built to follow a particular definition of each alignment I'd much prefer the bare-bones 5e versions.

I think the death of elaborate alignment definitions giving me anything useful comes partly from the advent of background bonds, flaws, etc. as guiding character touchstones for when I feel the need for such things.
 



Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Whereas the 5e definition gives us essentially one thing that basically either applies to someone or doesn't
Really? Here it is again. 5e: "(LG) creatures can be counted on to do the right thing as expected by society." What does that even mean? Does it mean that if the right thing for a particular society is child sacrifice that engaging in child sacrifice is LG? Or does it mean something completely different. It's far too vague to even begin to be useful. Unlike 3e and earlier editions.
the 3e definition you cite is like a terrible grading rubric where like eight separate, loosely related things have been grouped together with no clear protocol if you fulfill some and not others.
It's a hell of a lot better than child sacrifice is LG sometimes.
 

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