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Unearthed Arcana Unearthed Arcana: Mages of Strixhaven

An Unearthed Arcana playtest document for the upcoming Strixhaven: Curriculum of Chaos hardcover has been released by WotC!

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"Become a student of magic in this installment of Unearthed Arcana! This playtest document presents five subclasses for Dungeons & Dragons. Each of these subclasses allows you to play a mage associated with one of the five colleges of Strixhaven, a university of magic. These subclasses are special, with each one being available to more than one class."


It's 9 pages, and contains five subclasses, one for each the Strixhaven colleges:
  • Lorehold College, dedicated to the pursuit of history by conversing with ancient spirits and understanding the whims of time itself
  • Prismari College, dedicated to the visual and performing arts and bolstered with the power of the elements
  • Quandrix College, dedicated to the study and manipulation of nature’s core mathematic principles
  • Silverquill College, dedicated to the magic of words, whether encouraging speeches that uplift allies or piercing wit that derides foes
  • Witherbloom College, dedicated to the alchemy of life and death and harnessing the devastating energies of both
 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Winning is defined by what the players achieve.
Achievement is defined by what you achieve. Victory is defined by if you achieved your goals. It is possible, in RPGs and in life, for unachieved goals to become permanently unobtainable.
In this case they achieved killing the dragon. Maybe they could have won and saved the village. That would have been a victory with a lower cost. And that is where D&D allows for player skill. Skilful play leads to winning at a lower cost.
If the goal was to save the village, failure to save the village is a loss. Killing the dragon afterwards may be a new goal, which can likewise be won or lost.
The laws of narrative are just as much present in RPGs as they are in movies. The DM and players may not be conscious of them, but if the narrative is unsatisfactory then the players won't enjoy the game.
Sure.
A tragedy is just a comedy told from the point of view of the villain. In Macbeth the good guys win in the end.
You’ve shifted from “the protagonists must win” to “the good guys must win.”

Also, who exactly wins in Oedipus Rex? Or Texas Chainsaw Massacre?
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Winning is defined by what the players achieve.
Achievement is defined by what you achieve. Victory is defined by if you achieved your goals. It is possible, in RPGs and in life, for unachieved goals to become permanently unobtainable.
In this case they achieved killing the dragon. Maybe they could have won and saved the village. That would have been a victory with a lower cost. And that is where D&D allows for player skill. Skilful play leads to winning at a lower cost.
If the goal was to save the village, failure to save the village is a loss. Killing the dragon afterwards may be a new goal (and therefore a new adventure), which can likewise be won or lost.
The laws of narrative are just as much present in RPGs as they are in movies. The DM and players may not be conscious of them, but if the narrative is unsatisfactory then the players won't enjoy the game.
Sure.
A tragedy is just a comedy told from the point of view of the villain. In Macbeth the good guys win in the end.
You’ve shifted from “the protagonists must win” to “the good guys must win.”

Also, who exactly wins in Oedipus Rex? Or Texas Chainsaw Massacre
 



Game of Thrones is the prime example of "how do you bring a narrative to a satisfactory conclusion without the protagonists winning?" The answer is, you can't. Either the heroes win or the conclusion is unsatisfactory, or in the case of GoT, both.
Interesting example considering that to me it seems to be a case of forcing a 'good guys win' ending on a story that didn't need one. GoT could have easily had a satisfactory and thematically appropriate downer ending. Like for example the warring factions put aside their fight over the throne to confront the White Walkers, but ultimately one faction betrays other in order to claim the throne. In the end a person is sitting on the Iron Throne in royal splendour, having defeated the other claimants, as the city burns around them and the zombies roam the streets. King of ashes and ruins.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Ok, now we’re getting somewhere. I find this is usually at the heart of most objections to the DM being able to make calls like this. I’m sorry that’s been your experience, but that’s not how I run the game. I’ve said a couple times now that I’ve never had a patron take away a warlock’s powers in actual play, and that I imagine if I ever did it would be something that unfolded over the course of a campaign, with buy-in from the player. At a certain point you either believe me or you don’t.
There’s been a misunderstanding. I’ll clarify.

I’m not saying that I have had DMs take the PCs power away. I have managed to curate my gaming circle pretty well to not include jerks, over the years, and only a jerk would do that knowing their player is uncomfortable with it.

What I’m saying here is, I’ve seen plenty of attempts to tell the story where someone is being manipulated in the way you describe, and it requires the DM to find ways to twist PC victories to make them not really victories after all, which will nearly always feel forced if done more than a couple times.

What I’m saying more broadly is that the patron being able to take powers away doesn’t even really benefit that story. The only upside seems to be that it helps some DMs not feel like the patron is...idk, weak, or something? I still don’t really get that part.

I also view the player’s opinion on their character concept (barring things the DM doesn’t want to DM for, or things that aren’t appropriate for the game, etc) to be more important than my opinion on it as DM. In this case, it seems like we have different ideas about the point of playing a warlock, and that’s fine. You also said you don’t want to compromise on the whole “using evil power always leads to evil ends” thing, which...okay, I guess if I were playing at your table I’d just not play a fiendish warlock. Do you allow the other kind of warlock? That is, when Someone makes a Fey warlock or whatever and wants their patron to be more a mentor or simply a patron that isn’t going to interfere with them or turn the situation into a monkey’s paw, do you allow that, or is the point for you that being a warlock inherently involves eventually being asked to do things you don’t want to do?
 


When it comes to warlocks, as a rule of thumb I go with "the player also role-plays the patron". Ergo the only person who could take away a character's powers is their player.
 

Okay so I'm going to be honest, I did not read 32 pages of discussion which is apparently now about Elric (?!?!?).

But this UA is pretty wild stuff.

This is end-of-edition levels of wild. Indeed it's "stuff we're considering for the future" levels of wild. It reminds me a little of the old Book of Nine Swords and so on, though it's not quite as extreme as all that.

It's pretty cool, and yeah, it does seem in some ways like this might have always made a better approach to subclasses (even if some wouldn't exist because of it). It's interesting too, to see how informed by actual play of D&D these designs seemed to be, to me, where some subclasses over the years have seemed very "theoretical", like, they didn't feel like they were a good fit for D&D, especially actually at the table - whereas these absolutely do.
 


Aldarc

Legend
So what I'm getting is "I don't have any specific ideas, but I don't like how they did what they did"
To be fair, I've heard a number of talks from video game designers about how players are good at catching problems or voicing their displeasure about things, but aren't necessarily good at fixing them. That's not necessarily a bad thing or mean that the problem isn't there, just that people don't necessarily have a well-rounded skillset for problem assessment, trouble-shooting, or solution-finding. I think, for example, a number of people felt like there was a problem with the 5e Ranger, but they were divided about how to fix or address it. Even on WotC's team, there are people who are more big idea concept-driven and others who are stronger at mechanical design or turning concepts into more concrete designs. I don't think it's entirely reasonable or fair to hold consumers to the same set of expectations as we do professional designers when it comes to ideas. Sometimes "I don't like how they did what they did" is a reasonable and valid reaction even if one doesn't have specific ideas about how to address that negative reaction.
 

some subclasses over the years have seemed very "theoretical", like, they didn't feel like they were a good fit for D&D, especially actually at the table - whereas these absolutely do.
Could you give some examples of each? For me, I'm seeing several abilities in this batch of subclasses that seam like they would be of little value in actual play. e.g. Kinetic Artistry, Functions of Probability.
 
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Parmandur

Legend
Okay so I'm going to be honest, I did not read 32 pages of discussion which is apparently now about Elric (?!?!?).

But this UA is pretty wild stuff.

This is end-of-edition levels of wild. Indeed it's "stuff we're considering for the future" levels of wild. It reminds me a little of the old Book of Nine Swords and so on, though it's not quite as extreme as all that.

It's pretty cool, and yeah, it does seem in some ways like this might have always made a better approach to subclasses (even if some wouldn't exist because of it). It's interesting too, to see how informed by actual play of D&D these designs seemed to be, to me, where some subclasses over the years have seemed very "theoretical", like, they didn't feel like they were a good fit for D&D, especially actually at the table - whereas these absolutely do.
Yeah, I'm not saying "OMG, 6E is AROUDN THE CORNER!!!1", but this is the first UA where I read it and immediately thought "it may be best if they redesign the Class structure around this idea for the next Edition."
 

Could you give some examples of each? For me, I'm seeing several abilities in this batch of subclasses that seam like they would be of little value in actual play. e.g. Kinetic Artistry, Functions of Probability.
I mean, I don't know if I can, if you think Kinetic Artistry wouldn't be useful lol! Because good grief, it most certainly would, especially the lightning one. I mean Dash as a bonus action alone is pretty great. I literally can't understand how you don't see that stuff as useful if you actually play D&D 5E. The same for Functions of Probability, which is literally a free d6 bonus/penalty (the bonus to be applied after a roll, too!) whenever you cast a damn slot spell lol. How is that "of little value in actual play"? I mean what?!?!?!? That's just confusing.

I mean do you not see how Thunderlight Jaunt is basically Misty Step at will? (EDIT: Limited by PB so still a ton of times lol) Like, first thing you do on a turn is use your Bonus Action to Dash, which means you activate Thunderlight Jaunt - now you are immune to opportunity attacks and can move through people's spaces at will, and you can move 60 feet. It's certainly comparable to Misty Step. It might be better in a lot of situations, though it doesn't let you jump gaps or go up places like Misty Step can - but again, it's at will!

Can you explain to me how that's not useful? If anything that's close to broken OP! It's limited by PB but it's still a bunch of times.
 
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Parmandur

Legend
Could you give some examples of each? For me, I'm seeing several abilities in this batch of subclasses that seam like they would be of little value in actual play. e.g. Kinetic Artistry, Functions of Probability.
Kinetic Artistry comes pretty close to being extra Spell slots restricted to a few new Spells. SOmewhat situational, but it provides three situational abilities that will be quite handy when they come up, and it encourages the kind of risky and odd behavior in game one would expect from a Prismari Mage.

Function of Probability is a diet Inspiration die or metamagic, and I can see it being very handy for buffing allies or nerfing enemies: note that it's only limit on useis how many spells the Caster has.
 

Shardstone

Hero
Publisher
Okay so I'm going to be honest, I did not read 32 pages of discussion which is apparently now about Elric (?!?!?).

But this UA is pretty wild stuff.

This is end-of-edition levels of wild. Indeed it's "stuff we're considering for the future" levels of wild. It reminds me a little of the old Book of Nine Swords and so on, though it's not quite as extreme as all that.

It's pretty cool, and yeah, it does seem in some ways like this might have always made a better approach to subclasses (even if some wouldn't exist because of it). It's interesting too, to see how informed by actual play of D&D these designs seemed to be, to me, where some subclasses over the years have seemed very "theoretical", like, they didn't feel like they were a good fit for D&D, especially actually at the table - whereas these absolutely do.
Wouldn't this be an interesting way to handle things like psionics too? You could break the Mystic and its disciplines into various multi-class subclasses. Soulknife for Rangers, Monks, and Rogues, or Psions for Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards, that kind of thing.
 

Wouldn't this be an interesting way to handle things like psionics too? You could break the Mystic and its disciplines into various multi-class subclasses. Soulknife for Rangers, Monks, and Rogues, or Psions for Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards, that kind of thing.
Oh snap.

Wow. Yeah. That would be. That is an interesting thought to say the least.
 

Parmandur

Legend
Wouldn't this be an interesting way to handle things like psionics too? You could break the Mystic and its disciplines into various multi-class subclasses. Soulknife for Rangers, Monks, and Rogues, or Psions for Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards, that kind of thing.
Oh, hey, for real: we already speculated this would work well for Defiler or Preserver in Dark SUn.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
There’s been a misunderstanding. I’ll clarify.

I’m not saying that I have had DMs take the PCs power away. I have managed to curate my gaming circle pretty well to not include jerks, over the years, and only a jerk would do that knowing their player is uncomfortable with it.

What I’m saying here is, I’ve seen plenty of attempts to tell the story where someone is being manipulated in the way you describe, and it requires the DM to find ways to twist PC victories to make them not really victories after all, which will nearly always feel forced if done more than a couple times.
That’s not generally my approach. As I’ve said several times, my patrons tend to be pretty hands-off. They generally allow their warlocks to do as they please and just watch the show. They will only occasionally make requests of their warlocks, and when they do, the warlock is under no obligation to do as the patron asks. It’s just… kind of rude? But it’s fine, it’s not like they’re going to take your powers away for one refused request. Now, if you constantly work against your patron’s interest, maybe things will get a bit more antagonistic, but most of the time that’s not a big concern.
What I’m saying more broadly is that the patron being able to take powers away doesn’t even really benefit that story. The only upside seems to be that it helps some DMs not feel like the patron is...idk, weak, or something? I still don’t really get that part.
It makes the patron the one with the power in the relationship. It gives them some leverage, something to give the warlock pause when they consider denying a patron’s request.
I also view the player’s opinion on their character concept (barring things the DM doesn’t want to DM for, or things that aren’t appropriate for the game, etc) to be more important than my opinion on it as DM. In this case, it seems like we have different ideas about the point of playing a warlock, and that’s fine. You also said you don’t want to compromise on the whole “using evil power always leads to evil ends” thing, which...okay, I guess if I were playing at your table I’d just not play a fiendish warlock. Do you allow the other kind of warlock? That is, when Someone makes a Fey warlock or whatever and wants their patron to be more a mentor or simply a patron that isn’t going to interfere with them or turn the situation into a monkey’s paw, do you allow that, or is the point for you that being a warlock inherently involves eventually being asked to do things you don’t want to do?
Even fiend patrons don’t usually ask the warlock to do things they don’t want to do. I keep telling you, my patrons are usually pretty hands-off, and when they do have a request, they try to make it seem reasonable. My patrons aren’t the “sacrifice a hundred orphans and I will give you ULTIMATE POWER” type. They’re the type to offer you what seems like something for nothing. And when they come to you and say “hey, I’ve done a whole lot for you, could you do me a sold in return?” It’s not “CRUSH MY ENEMIES” or “GIVE ME YOUR SOUL” or whatever. It’s more like “bring me a nail.”

And patrons of all varieties are dangerous in my games. Not necessarily all evil like the fiend; the archery is capricious, the great old one is inscrutable… Generally none of them are good ideas to work with. But also, most of them just want to see what you’ll do with their power.
 

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