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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!

strixhaven-school-of-mages-mtg-art-1.jpg


"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

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
It's such a pervasive attitude. I've mentioned on the boards a few times a mechanic I borrowed from a game called Chronica Feudalis called Backgrounds. It's not the same as backgrounds in D&D. What it is, is a mechanic that allows players to wall off sections of their character sheet. They literally put it in the "background" so that it is there, but never a focus of the game. So, if I have a huge, extended family, but then put that in the Background, then that's a big sign telling the DM that I do not want that aspect of my character to be a focus of the game. It's there, we can role play it from time to time, but, it's never supposed to be in the foreground.

Upon suggesting this, I've seen multiple DM's on this board recoil in horror. The players will abuse this! You are giving power to the players!!! You can't do this! There is virtually zero trust of the players despite insistence that players should trust the DM.

Gack, do you have a link to any of the threads that happened? Both to read your description of the system (which sounds cool) and to also see what on earth they were worried about (which sounds strange give the things aren't ever supposed to be in the foreground).

---

In any case I'm boglee at the number of folks on here either at one extreme who have no trust of the players (but wants DMs to be infinitely trusted) and or on the other side who have no trust of DMs (but assumes players will never be a problem)... and neither group finds it strange.
 

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Faolyn

Hero
Does that refute my point? PCs can be overpowered for.many reasons. You have a discussion with your players, and proceed from there.
Well, yes, it refutes your point, when you said that ending the campaign is a perfectly suitable response for a PC being overpowered, which for some DMs includes having a straight-out-of-the-PH ability. Or that if the DM decides something is powerful, it is.

A DM may think that something that is actually balanced and standard is too powerful. It's not really fair for them to simply decide "Welp, if you want to play a rogue, then no game for you."
 

Well, yes, it refutes your point, when you said that ending the campaign is a perfectly suitable response for a PC being overpowered, which for some DMs includes having a straight-out-of-the-PH ability. Or that if the DM decides something is powerful, it is.

A DM may think that something that is actually balanced and standard is too powerful. It's not really fair for them to simply decide "Welp, if you want to play a rogue, then no game for you."
If a character is using options that the GM feels are overpowered, and no accord can be reached (in either direction), what option is there? Make the GM run the game anyway? In what way is that fair? No GM is going to run their best game if they feel they playing under duress.
 


Faolyn

Hero
If a character is using options that the GM feels are overpowered, and no accord can be reached (in either direction), what option is there? Make the GM run the game anyway? In what way is that fair? No GM is going to run their best game if they feel they playing under duress.
Did you read what I wrote? There are DMs who are denying actual rules, like sneak attack and smite, because they don't understand what balance actually means. Not optional or third-party stuff.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Did you read what I wrote? There are DMs who are denying actual rules, like sneak attack and smite, because they don't understand what balance actually means. Not optional or third-party stuff.

Why does that change it? If a DM wants to run D&D, but really don't like something and so wants to exclude it, and most of the players are fine with that, why should someone be able to force them to run a game with it? Did 3.5 have some options in fairly basic books (some animal forms or companions) that were a bit out there?
 

Hussar

Legend
Stop to consider for a moment, that people here who say that they control these elements in their games that you think the GM should not control, are not having these same issues with their players than you do. Could it perhaps be, that these GMs actually generally manage handle these things in a manner that results a positive experience to the players? That the players perhaps then like having the world outside of their characters feeling real, having that push and pull? And then in turn these players keep creating characters who have these connections that 'GM could use against them' (as you characterise it,) because they actually feel that having such elements that the GM can use to introduce interesting narratives that are relevant to their characters is a good thing?
But, now we're into Oberoni Fallacy territory.

Because, for every player who has a good experience with this, there are many who don't. Note, a player gets the same experience without having the DM initiate it if the player chooses to bring it up to the DM. IOW, you can get the same positive results - the players have a world outside of their characters that feel real and that push and pull - without having the negative results where the players turtle up because of DM's being too heavy handed.

I mean, sure, if you, as the DM, suggest the notion to the player and the player is all for it, then groovy. But, that's rarely what DM's mean by "consequences". Player is playing their character, DM feels that whatever the player is doing doesn't fit with the DM's conception of the element that the player brought to the table and then has "consequences" that means that the DM is forcing the player to fit with the DM's interpretation.

Put it this way. Player does something that you feel would have consequences and their patron would step in. Player says, "No, that shouldn't happen". Do you immediately back off? Is the player in control here at all? Or is 100% from the DM? The DM "controls the patron" after all. So, does the player's interpretations of an element that the player introduced into the game have any impact at all?
 

But, now we're into Oberoni Fallacy territory.
No.

Because, for every player who has a good experience with this, there are many who don't. Note, a player gets the same experience without having the DM initiate it if the player chooses to bring it up to the DM. IOW, you can get the same positive results - the players have a world outside of their characters that feel real and that push and pull - without having the negative results where the players turtle up because of DM's being too heavy handed.
It is not the same. Player inventing what happens explicitly is not having a feeling of real and independent external world.

I mean, sure, if you, as the DM, suggest the notion to the player and the player is all for it, then groovy. But, that's rarely what DM's mean by "consequences". Player is playing their character, DM feels that whatever the player is doing doesn't fit with the DM's conception of the element that the player brought to the table and then has "consequences" that means that the DM is forcing the player to fit with the DM's interpretation.

Put it this way. Player does something that you feel would have consequences and their patron would step in. Player says, "No, that shouldn't happen". Do you immediately back off? Is the player in control here at all? Or is 100% from the DM? The DM "controls the patron" after all. So, does the player's interpretations of an element that the player introduced into the game have any impact at all?
You see everything as a conflict. It is not. These problems you describe simply tend not to happen.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Put it this way. Player does something that you feel would have consequences and their patron would step in. Player says, "No, that shouldn't happen". Do you immediately back off? Is the player in control here at all? Or is 100% from the DM? The DM "controls the patron" after all. So, does the player's interpretations of an element that the player introduced into the game have any impact at all?

How did the discussion before the game, that the PhB says should happen for Warlocks, go?

I had a player who desperately wanted a magic sword. He asked around town and found out there was one above the mantle of a wealthy merchant (introduced only because the player asked). Player goes and knocks on the door and asks to see it, actually assuming he could just go in and take it. Should the DM just have the butler hand him the sword because that's the players conception? Let him take the sword? Not have the city guard show up when the butler sends for help? Have the guards not capture him when instead of running ( because the players plan is that the guards, in service of a lord who employs a wizard will be scared of him levitating in the street)? Have city guards not have missile weapons? At what point do the players objections just get that sword because they picture it working for their character? Character is a wizard, never took anything to.have proficiency in sword, do they get to use it like they did anyway because it was their conception?
 
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Did you read what I wrote? There are DMs who are denying actual rules, like sneak attack and smite, because they don't understand what balance actually means. Not optional or third-party stuff.
There are several possibilities here. Maybe the ability is unbalanced (PH or not; there's a reason people debate these things). Maybe the DM couldn't find a way to balance it. The point is, if this is a major problem for the DM, and no accord can be reached, then that DM should stop running the game. In that case, sometimes a new DM can take over, but most often, it means the campaign ends.
 

Faolyn

Hero
There are several possibilities here. Maybe the ability is unbalanced (PH or not; there's a reason people debate these things). Maybe the DM couldn't find a way to balance it. The point is, if this is a major problem for the DM, and no accord can be reached, then that DM should stop running the game. In that case, sometimes a new DM can take over, but most often, it means the campaign ends.
Or maybe the DM shouldn't toss a game because they think something is unbalanced. Unless that DM is the master of determining balance, of course. Which most aren't.
 


Or maybe the DM shouldn't toss a game because they think something is unbalanced. Unless that DM is the master of determining balance, of course. Which most aren't.
It doesn't matter if they're objectively right. The DM is responsible for setting the scene and creating threats, at the minimum. If player abilities are making that DM feel like they can't balance the game, and they talked with the players, AND no compromise can be reached, what else do you expect them to do?
 


Faolyn

Hero
It doesn't matter if they're objectively right. The DM is responsible for setting the scene and creating threats, at the minimum. If player abilities are making that DM feel like they can't balance the game, and they talked with the players, AND no compromise can be reached, what else do you expect them to do?
Create threats that actually can affect the player in question. It's not actually that hard to figure out how to balance around most things, especially things like rogue sneak attacks.

Otherwise, you're encouraging DMs to nerf players willy-nilly, and that's not only no fun for the player, but also can lead to abuses by DMs on power trips.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Create threats that actually can affect the player in question. It's not actually that hard to figure out how to balance around most things, especially things like rogue sneak attacks.

Is it that hard to pick a character class (or subclass) that isn't the one that your struggling DM is having a hard time with? There are a ton, each with lots of options. Or to slightly modify the one you've chosen? Or to just cut the DM slack.

Otherwise, you're encouraging DMs to nerf players willy-nilly, and that's not only no fun for the player, but also can lead to abuses by DMs on power trips.

Ah, slippery slope trap!! :::whoosh!!!:::. ;-)
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
You guys have been very lucky then. I've seen it as a way to A. ignore the setting and B. not allow the DM any handhold over the character far more often than any other approach.

And, it's this whole, "Well, I'm the DM, so, I can control your patron and through your patron, control your actions" schtick that has trained players to be so paranoid about it. And, yes, you can paint it as "consequences" all you like, but, the point from the player's point of view is that you are telling the player how to play the character. And not exactly subtly either. "Do this or you're not a warlock anymore until you get with the program" isn't exactly a light touch.

It's such a pervasive attitude. I've mentioned on the boards a few times a mechanic I borrowed from a game called Chronica Feudalis called Backgrounds. It's not the same as backgrounds in D&D. What it is, is a mechanic that allows players to wall off sections of their character sheet. They literally put it in the "background" so that it is there, but never a focus of the game. So, if I have a huge, extended family, but then put that in the Background, then that's a big sign telling the DM that I do not want that aspect of my character to be a focus of the game. It's there, we can role play it from time to time, but, it's never supposed to be in the foreground.

Upon suggesting this, I've seen multiple DM's on this board recoil in horror. The players will abuse this! You are giving power to the players!!! You can't do this! There is virtually zero trust of the players despite insistence that players should trust the DM.

Again, nothing I'm saying here should come as a surprise to anyone. It's hardly controversial. DM's being heavy handed and jealously guarding their control over the game has been part and parcel of the hobby since day one.
I find it interesting that this seems to be a common thing for you, but doesn’t seem to be a problem for the people who don’t share your rule against changes to PCs happening in play.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Is there a nice table some where of what levels each class gets powers at?

Trying to think how this could work for other classes. Maybe something like PF 1e's alternate multiclassing where you could splash a bloodline or pact or religious devotion by just subbing out some base class feats.
 

Create threats that actually can affect the player in question. It's not actually that hard to figure out how to balance around most things, especially things like rogue sneak attacks.

Otherwise, you're encouraging DMs to nerf players willy-nilly, and that's not only no fun for the player, but also can lead to abuses by DMs on power trips.
You're still arguing that the GM is obligated to run a game they're not comfortable with. I just dont see how that can be the stance. I've been more than clear on what steps have been taken prior to ending the game.
 

Hussar

Legend
I find it interesting that this seems to be a common thing for you, but doesn’t seem to be a problem for the people who don’t share your rule against changes to PCs happening in play.
Sigh. One more time with feeling. It's not a problem for me. It really, really isn't.

It's a problem that I see coming from people who have played under other DM's who then bring that problem to my doorstep. Note, the whole paranoia thing isn't something I could be giving to the players since I don't take control over their characters. I realize that it's simply easier to pass the blame onto me, but, it's not like I don't have various points of evidence for what I'm saying.

1. Over the years, the amount of DM interference explicitly allowed by the rules has been drastically reduced.

2. Years and years of DMing advice in Dragon and other places saying that DM's should generally not interfere with player's characters.

3. Years of players coming from other tables to my game, basically with a sort of gaming PTSD where they create character after character with nothing for the DM to hook into because they refuse to allow the DM any control over their characters, having been bitten by it in the past.

I'm honestly, frankly, baffled why the advice is controversial.

See, if the player initiates, then I'm all for it. Heck, even if the DM suggests it, but, leaves it up to the player for final say, I'd be perfectly fine. But, my problem is, upon reflection, that the DM is having PLAYER CREATED elements (note @Cadence - your example doesn't apply since none of that was introduced by the player) react to actions taken by the player and removing class elements from the player's character. The player basically has no real say here. The DM is, essentially, saying, "Sorry, you aren't playing your character right. You did something that I think is against the concept of your character and I'm going to punish you for it, regardless of whether or not you agree with the interpretation." And you wonder why people have an issue with this?

And, the funny thing is, the only justification you can find for doing it is in vaguely worded PHB quotes that are meant as examples, and are certainly not universal or explicit. In other editions, it was explicit that the DM should do this sort of thing. The AD&D alignment rules, xp rules, paladins, and I'm sure there are other examples. Heck, 5e alignment doesn't even have any mechanical impact. I can be a Chaotic Evil priest of Heironeous and that's perfectly fine. Sure, other clerics and the authorities might take exception to my orphanage burning ways and they especially don't like me kicking three legged puppies, but, Heironeous? Couldn't care less. This isn't older editions where the DM gets to pull out the beat stick and punish players for not toeing the line by stripping away class goodies.

It's funny how this only seems to apply to NPC's that have power over the player's characters though. Do you similarly strip away class features if a fighter gains a level but didn't kill anything? If I don't use a given skill for long enough, do I lose that proficiency? Does my barbarian lose the ability to rage if I settle down in Waterdeep? After all, the spirits that grant my rage and other powers certainly don't want me to get all civilized right? Where does it stop?
 

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