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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

I know it's a bad experience for a player to have their powers taken away. I just dont see why the patron would go along with a deal that one-sided logically. Internally consistent world-building is important to me. It's not just about appeasing the players who don't want their toys ever taken away.
Depends entirely on the Patron, of course. Not all of them are contracts, or even deals really. GOOs aren't generally aware of the warlock at all, and may or may not be aware of the concept of warlocks, or even mortals in general. An Archfey might grant the powers because it's funny, and them going against the Archfey directly isn't necessarily less amusing. A Hexblade doesn't even know what their patron is, let alone what it wants, so fulfilling it's desires is either incidental or not happening.

This also assumes the terms are ongoing - the fiend's consideration could already be paid in the backstory. The warlock gaining levels is just them learning to use their powers better, not getting new granted abilities. The price could have been paid by an ancestor. It's extremely open, and the only wrong way to play is one that makes the table unhappy.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Citation needed (on the good chunk part).
Umm… That’s a weird request. I mean, my own games. Also, like, every old-school killer dungeon?
I mean, the DM can just kill the players any time they want. This isn't an asymmetrical board game where the DM is expected to "win" often.
It is absolutely an asymmetrical game, though in my opinion the DM’s goal isn’t to win, but to keep the game going. The players’ goal is to win (which is to say, to succeed in their goals, which may be character driven or adventure driven) and sometimes they fail to do so.
The skill for DM'ing is not doing that, and keeping up the illusion so players don't feel compelled to think too hard about what's going on behind the curtains.
This is one way of DMing. Not the only way, certainly not the only good way, and not my preferred way. “Illusionism” is not something I strive for as a DM, and not something I want from the DM in a game I was playing in.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Classical tragedy still required catharsis; even if the good guys do not win, the bad guy still loses. Claudius still dies. Iago is arrested. Oedipus blinds himself for hubris. We are given an ending were the bad guy still receive Divine Justice. To quote General Hux, "I don't care if you win. I need Kylo Ren to lose."

What is being argued here is that in D&D, you can create a scenario where Kylo Ren DOES win. The heroes are crushed, the villain triumphs, and nobody can now oppose them and their plans. Sauron has the One Ring. The Death Star blows up Yavin. Loki becomes King of Earth. Game over man, villain wins.

THAT is arguably bad narrative form. Outside of some very nihilist science-fiction or horror, it's very rare and usually not very popular. It's very non-controversial to say D&D is closer to the Lord of the Rings (victory, sometimes at great price) model than the Manos, the Hands of Fate model (where all that oppose the Master are crushed and the trap resets for the next group of victims).
It seems like you’re shifting the goalposts to define “the protagonists win” in different ways for different genres. Obviously a story where nothing good ever happens would be a bad one, and a game of D&D where nothing good ever happens to the PCs would be a boring one (that’s my main complaint with the Underdark segment of Out of the Abyss). But it should absolutely be possible for the PCs to fail, for their goals to become permanently unattainable. If it isn’t, any apparent stakes are illusory. Which I guess some players are fine with, but many are very much not.
 




Kurotowa

Legend
Okay, so check this character idea: Mountain Dwarf Lorehold Warlock doing a melee build without Blade Pact. How's that work? Let me walk you through it.

For flavor, you're a dwarf summoning the spirits of your ancestors to inhabit statues you crafted with your own hands to dispense wisdom and fight at your side. That's great, lots of character potential. For mechanics, it's important you get weapon profs and medium armor prof from your racial package. Do a Str/Cha stat split, take the Heavily Armored feat, and grab a warhammer or battleaxe; no shield, you don't have prof and need a hand free for casting. Take Tome Pact and pile on the combat cantrips; Booming Blade, Green-Flame Blade, even Blade Ward. Yes, Blade Ward. Summon your Lorehold Ancient Companion as a Warrior, and it all comes together at 6th Level.

Now when you use Booming Blade or Green-Flame Blade you get to make two melee attacks, each of them doing an extra 1d8 damage, and with a bonus effect if the first attack hits. You also can spend your Bonus Action for your Ancient Companion to make a third attack. If you need to adopt a more defensive posture you can cast Blade Ward and still make one attack plus the Companion attack. You've got AC 19 or better from plate armor, and without the Invocation tax from the usual Blade Pact setup you can select a more interesting and versatile array.

I mean, it's still a Warlock, so if you group never takes short rests it's going to have the usual Warlock problems, but it's got potential. And most of the build work for a Lorehold Wizard too, just with less HP and more focus on spell use.
 

Tasha Beastmaster Ranger actually makes a great reskinned Necromancer. Entangle can become grasping skeletal hands, Fog Cloud has silent but screaming faces, Cordon of Arrows are sharpened bones, Spike Growth is an entire field of razor sharp bone shards, Conjure Animals are skeletal versions, etc.

Only strange part is deciding if you want to stick with cantrips, or reskin your weapon attacks.
Don't forget about the Undeath Pact Warlock. Give em an Great Axe, the Invocation that Animates Dead, plus the UA Invocation that lets you make any armor(like Heavy) proficient and BOOM: You have a Death Knight and undead minions.
 

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.
That's kinda similar to how I felt that each Class in the game should have its own Psionic Talent that is tailored towards that class or something. That way you still have the class/subclass but your Wild Talent is still developing alongside ya.

But that idea is pretty cool as well. So far Dark Sun 5E could be very well possible with this approach of Poly-Class design. EVEN Prestige Classes if they wanted to get really daring.
 



Kurotowa

Legend
Don't forget about the Undeath Pact Warlock. Give em an Great Axe, the Invocation that Animates Dead, plus the UA Invocation that lets you make any armor(like Heavy) proficient and BOOM: You have a Death Knight and undead minions.
If your DM isn't the sort who'd allow an Invocation that got pruned between UA and official release, you can use the same trick I did with my above build. Start with medium armor by being a mountain dwarf, githyanki, or vhuman and upgrade with the Heavily Armored feat at 4th Level.
 


That took place earlier in his life. I'm not aware of one(and I don't count the comic book) that brought him back to life after having his soul sucked out.
Elric of Melniboné / The Dreaming City(1972)
The Fortress of the Pearl(1989)
The Sailor on the Seas of Fate(1976)
The Weird of the White Wolf(1977)
The Vanishing Tower / The Sleeping Sorceress(1970)
The Revenge of the Rose(1991)
The Bane of the Black Sword / Song of the Black Sword(1977)
Stormbringer(1977)
The Dreamthief's Daughter(2001)
The White Wolf's Son
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Elric of Melniboné / The Dreaming City(1972)
The Fortress of the Pearl(1989)
The Sailor on the Seas of Fate(1976)
The Weird of the White Wolf(1977)
The Vanishing Tower / The Sleeping Sorceress(1970)
The Revenge of the Rose(1991)
The Bane of the Black Sword / Song of the Black Sword(1977)
Stormbringer(1977)
The Dreamthief's Daughter(2001)
The White Wolf's Son
Written after. Took place before.
 


On another Strixhaven note, whether or not the mascots show up as something mages can summon with spells or other abilities, I hope they're statted up as familiars. 5E has way too few options for familiars, and a sourcebook on magic school seems like a great time to rectify that, much like we got expanded familiar lists in 2E and 3E wizard books.
 

Last year, a 5e Midnight was announced as being in the works: D&D 5E - Midnight: Legacy of Darkness announced at GenCon Online
Well that makes a lot of sense!
On another Strixhaven note, whether or not the mascots show up as something mages can summon with spells or other abilities, I hope they're statted up as familiars. 5E has way too few options for familiars, and a sourcebook on magic school seems like a great time to rectify that, much like we got expanded familiar lists in 2E and 3E wizard books.
Yup it's bizarre that 4E seemed to have waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more familiar options than 5E does AND more fun ones to boot. Doesn't make any sense. So hopefully they do indeed fix that.
 


Kurotowa

Legend
I wish the majority of players I've encountered felt that way, but the siren song of optimization is too strong for most...
Fun is in the eye of the beholder. For some people, they get a lot of fun out of optimization because of the joy of solving a complex math problem, or the joy of feeling powerful, or the joy of being a major contributor to the party's success.

Don't assume people aren't making the fun pick. Instead, try to figure out why it's the fun pick, and maybe if there's some perverse incentives pushing them to sacrifice roleplaying motivated choices for performance ones. I've had DMs who bemoan how their players fight to accrue every bonus possible, and don't notice that they're still defaulting to 3e skill DCs that the players have no chance of reliably hitting if they don't optimize like that.
 

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