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!


"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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I am hoping, going forward, each setting writes its main classes from the ground up, as a stand alone product.
That is hope bordering on delusion.

I do think any setting book should be putting aside space to discuss to at least briefly discuss each class, their role in the world, and potential changes or plot hooks. Even for basic thieves and fighters you can discuss thieves guilds and militias they might be/have been part of.

If there are drastic differences in how class works, as we are discussing in regards to clerics and most MtG settings, it might as well be a requirement. That doesn't require stripping out Turn Undead, though. And things like Sorcerer's and Warlocks almost require recommenadtions for origins/patrons once you stray away from the "default" PHB/DMG fluff.

I'm torn between thinking they should get something for having to put up with Jace, and torn for thinking they don't deserve anything for living on a world that would have Jace as the living guildpact...

Yeah… I’m compartmentalizing so I don’t have to think about the fact that I’m technically arguing that Jace is God of Ravnica right now. Honestly the whole “living Guildpact” idea was stupid to begin with.

Spoiler alert:
Jace is no longer the Living Guuldpact. Niv-Mizzet is the current Living Guildpact after the War of the Spark. I don't remember who took his place as leader of the Izzet League.

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Crawford has said that once a Warlock’s pact is signed they have the power and the Patron can’t take it away from them. It’s like the Patron is giving away a spark of their essence to the Warlock in exchange for future favours. Alternatively, the Patrons have access to the Weave/Mana Stream/Ether/etc and teach the Warlock how to hack into it via back channels in exchange for future requests. The penalties for breaking promises to the Patron are roleplaying ones, not mechanical one.
Yeah, that never made sense to me. The patron has no power over the wadlock once the pact is made, and can't take the power away. Why would the warlock do anything for them? In what way is this a good deal for the patron?

Incidentally, I have the same issue with clerics in 4e and 5e.


Just renaming clerics as "guildmages" would honestly go a long way for me.
I hear what you're saying: and honestly, for Strixhaven I think it will be a bit more straightforward, with the all-powerful super wizard Elder Dragons on hand being ripe Patrons, and even stand in deities if one wants probably.

Also noteworthy that in Mercer's Wildemount book, the "Lesser Idols" such as Uk'otoa get both suggested Warlock Patronages and Cleric Domains (Uk'otoa is GOO and Hexblade on one hande, Knowledge or Tempest on the other; the Traveller is an Archfey Patton, or Nature & Trickery).

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Very true! My post is trying to describe the distinction between the three classes in a way that would be satisfying for someone who prefers each class to have a very clear and distinct Lore identity, with little to no overlap. The kind of folks who question how a warlock who studies at Strixhaven isn’t just a wizard (because studying magic is what wizards do).

My personal preference is not so strict. As I’ve mentioned, my preference for the warlock/patron relationship is for it to be analogous to an artist/patron relationship. The patron freely grants the warlock magical power to use as they see fit, with the expectation that the warlock will use it to do something they will like. Though there is an unspoken understanding that the patronage is contingent on the warlock keeping the patron appeased. There’s no contractual obligation, but if the patron doesn’t feel they’re getting enough return on their investment, they’ll likely take their patronage elsewhere.
But in 5e, the patron has no ability to take their patronage elsewhere. Once the vague pact is made, the warlock gets power, and the patron gets whatever the warlock wants them to get.


He Mage
That is hope bordering on delusion.

I do think any setting book should be putting aside space to discuss to at least briefly discuss each class, their role in the world, and potential changes or plot hooks. Even for basic thieves and fighters you can discuss thieves guilds and militias they might be/have been part of.

If there are drastic differences in how class works, as we are discussing in regards to clerics and most MtG settings, it might as well be a requirement. That doesn't require stripping out Turn Undead, though. And things like Sorcerer's and Warlocks almost require recommenadtions for origins/patrons once you stray away from the "default" PHB/DMG fluff.
If a class is a big deal as part of the setting concept (like Preserver and Defiler is Darksun), it deserves its own dedicated version without confusing it with other setting assumptions.


Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Me, but I guess that I was unclear. My original point was that no one much was sitting around saying "oh boy, I can't wait to see what the 5E PHB has in store for the Diviner!"

That WotC stepped up to the plate with a good subclass ability is great, but I don't think Diviners historically have had the constituency that illusionists, necromancers and even enchanters have. If I had been in charge of the PHB, I might have had robust illusionist, necromancer and enchanter subclasses (the more I think about it, the more I think enchanters not having people remember being charmed is a great, subclass-defining ability) and then had a good generalist wizard subclass in the mix as well.
I guess I just don’t see why older editions matter, in this context? They made good subclasses for the schools. They feel distinct. 🤷‍♂️
Maybe if each school had their own list of archetype spells and no other wizard could use them, that would help. You wanna cast fireball, be an evoker.
I’d be all for expanding the evokers access to evocations, but the iconic spells should remain available to all Wizards.

Maybe allow school Wizards to explicitly add spells to their spellbook without finding them, by researching them. Say it takes 1 day to research per hour to scribe the spell.
So I will re-ask my question: what specific archetypes should the wizard be getting?
An archer that delivers spells via ranged weapon attacks.

A shadow Wizard that makes their shadow into a “pet” that protects them and through which they can cast spells.

A Wizard focused on using a familiar. to be fair, conjurer could have been this.

An implement/spell focus specialist.

A dueling expert. (Abjurer comes close since Abjuration affects other magic)

A Wizard that shares space with the Monk, somehow? I’ve got a lot of ideas here, some of which are better as a monk subclass that is part Wizard.

A “Blue Mage” that steals abilities from enemies and turns them into “spells”.

A “White Mage” that doesn’t try to be half cleric, but gets restoration magic.

A tactician mage that can cast from allies’ space, and target a second creature with some single target buff spells, maybe also some sort of “Kings Gambit” swap like the conjurer has, but affecting two allies.

A Hermeticist, which would have elements of alchemy but would mostly be about ritual magic, including doing some rituals spells in much shorter time, and doing some non-ritual spells as rituals. This is another sort of “This could have been what the Wizard is as a class” subclass.
Part of the problem with the Warlock class is it is built heavily around eldritch blast and related shenanigans. Can you do a Warlock without eldritch blast? Absolutely! But most of the most effective stuff you can do revolves around eldritch blast so you're going to be missing out.
I really think they missed an opportunity to make the warlock play like you’re cheating at magic. Here are some abilities that could be base class, invocation, pact boon, or subclass, but regardless would make the class feel more like a shortcut taking gutsy fool who made a deal in order to be able to cheat at magic and tangle with creature they have no business tangling with.

  • When you start you turn while concentrating on a spell that deals damage, you can cause one target of that spell to take an additional die of damage. You gain THP equal to the damage dealt in this way.
  • X/day When you deal cold damage with a spell, you can choose up to your Cha modifier creatures within 10ft of the target. They and the initial target must succeed on a con save or take 1d10 cold damage and their speed is halved.
  • When you deal damage to a creature within 60ft, as a bonus action you can create a link to them. At the start of your turns and once per round when you take damage, the target takes damage equal to your Cha mod. (Concentration, x/day)
  • When you cast Chill Touch, you can target a second creature as a bonus action.
  • When you cast Chill Touch, you can maintain the spectral hand on the same creature by maintaining concentration. If you do, they must save at the start of your turn or take necrotic damage equal to your Cha mod. If they are reduced to 0hp while under this effect, you can choose to either deal 1d6 necrotic damage to all creatures within 5ft of the target, or regain 1d6 hit point
You get the idea. Stuff similar to the EB invocation but some would be more broad while others would be specific to other spells. The effects would layer additional effects onto spells or otherwise make them function in ways that no one else has access to. Cheating at magic. Access to magic that other mortals cannot access.
Either they shouldn't be able to get all the spells or specialists should be straight-up better with their subschool than everyone else.
I’d go the other way on the spell list. They should have access to every spell of that school in the game.

I wouldn’t mind an ability to boost the DC or attack bonus of school spells a few times per day, but an at will bonus would take up too much power and leave the class vastly more bland than it is.

That said, most of them are better at cast spell in their school.
  • Evokers can shape their spells, and just get harder and harder hitting with evocations.
  • Diviners get slots back when they cast divination spells.
  • Conjurers can’t be made to lose concentration via damage on conjugation spells.
  • Abjurers refresh their shield when they cast Abjurations and add proficiency bonus to Counterspell and Dispel Magic ability checks.
  • Enchanters have Alter Memories and can target a second creature with single target enchantments! Why ever play any other enchantment focused character!? Maybe Whisper Bard?
  • Illusionists get all sorts of stuff for illusions.
  • Necromancer kinda sucks and Wizards dropped the ball in terms of letting them create some basic little skeleton servant at low levels. Like...come on. Give them a level 1 “make a skeleton that dies if sneezed at but scales with spell level” necromancy spell.
  • Transmuters are kinda rad, but aren’t so much better at casting transmutation spells as they are able to just do transmutations without casting spells, which is disappointing. Could have used a rethink. Higher level Transmuters are really good, though. It’s just lame that they get no “be better at these spells” features except for one feature for polymorph that isn’t even actually better.

    so, barring a couple duds in execution...what’s missing?

Dire Bare

The Players Handbook has Ritual Caster, which is exactly that. There's also several books that offer additional spellcasting outside of a class with a feat.

No moreso, IMO, than "ninja" is problematic, given the dudebros claiming to be "real ninja masters" willing to teach ninjitsu in every strip mall in America. Witches, druids, ninjas and European shamans (I believe) died out and the people calling themselves that nowadays are modern people creating new things inspired by what they know (or believe they know) of older traditions.

I'm sure there are modern witches who don't like the Halloween decorations depicting green-skinned hags or the Wizard of Oz movie, but I would argue they're not a minority group in the same way that another culture having its religious beliefs appropriated for a D&D game is. And, more importantly, I don't think TSR would have given a crap about that, given everything else they did. I think their disinterest in witches was likely because it was a female-coded class, as their depictions in the little white booklets and Dragon magazine all unanimously show.
While I doubt it is your intent, comparing "dudebro ninja masters" to someone's RELIGION is super uncool.

While you will certainly find some of Japanese descent who find the West's appropriation of the ninja clumsy, irritating, and maybe even offensive . . . it's not in the same category as someone's religion. Also, there is the power differential. Ninjas, as a class, were not oppressed by Westerners (the Japanese, more broadly, certainly have been). Plus, while ninjas may be a historical artifact, witches are not. Not that I think my culture's clumsy adoption of "dudebro ninja masters" (is that still even a thing?) is okay.

Wicca, or witchcraft, is a modern day faith that should be treated with respect. It's arguable whether modern day witches can trace descent unbroken back to pre-Roman Europe, but it IS arguable and also somewhat beside the point. The cultural archetype of the witch is complicated because it's MORE than just a modern day, or ancient, religious practice . . . we have centuries of folklore and fantasy stories portraying witches as scary monsters . . . but the fact remains that there is a group of folks out there to whom this is sacred stuff. Witches do represent an oppressed minority, either truly an oppressed people from Europe's past, and/or representing the oppression of women in European-descent culture. And witches most certainly are a historical and folkloric artifact AND a very modern phenomenon.

I actually agree with you, that D&D needs an independent witch class. And I think you'd find a lot of Wiccan gamers who'd agree with you. The warlock IS a take on the witch, but one that doesn't really hit the witchy mark, so to speak. Still, developing a witch class that would embody the various archetypes without also being offensive to Wiccans isn't an easy task, which is one of the reasons why (I think) we have the warlock class and not the witch class. But if you look, you'll find plenty of community content (OGL and DM's Guild) takes on a witch class.

Ditto with the shaman. I'd like to see an independent shaman class . . . but everything I said about witches applies to shamans as well.

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