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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

Hussar

Legend
You see everything as a conflict. It is not. These problems you describe simply tend not to happen.
I think they happen very, very often. It's very much like the whole "bad DM's" thing. People will argue until they're blue in the face that there aren't that many bad DM's out there. Like I said, when I polled this years ago, something like 2/3rds of respondents said they'd had at least one bad DM. And a good solid third said the majority of DM's they'd had were bad.

@Gregk mention he had something like 50 players since the 90's. Good grief, I went through more than that in my early virtual tabletop days in a single campaign. I had over a hundred different players (I was DMing two games and playing in a third) in a couple of years. The reason you don't think tends to happen is you just don't have a large enough sample size.

---------------

Edit to add:

And, yes, this is Oberoni territory. You're basically saying that this works because a "good" DM makes it work. That's the issue. If something only works if you are "good" then that's Oberoni Fallacy at work. I'm saying that this is such a bad idea because there are so many average and bad DM's out there that scar players and teach them that DM's must never gain any sort of toe hold over a character because if you give the DM so much as an inch, the DM will take a mile.

Note, I do agree that with a good DM, this will certainly work. I know it will. But, the problem is, there are far, FAR more bad DM's out there than good ones and this kind of advice is just really bad advice.
 
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I think they happen very, very often. It's very much like the whole "bad DM's" thing. People will argue until they're blue in the face that there aren't that many bad DM's out there. Like I said, when I polled this years ago, something like 2/3rds of respondents said they'd had at least one bad DM. And a good solid third said the majority of DM's they'd had were bad.

@Gregk mention he had something like 50 players since the 90's. Good grief, I went through more than that in my early virtual tabletop days in a single campaign. I had over a hundred different players (I was DMing two games and playing in a third) in a couple of years. The reason you don't think tends to happen is you just don't have a large enough sample size.
I think you're misunderstanding the issue a bit.

I definitely agree that bad DMs exist. I've had them myself. But the sample set thing points to one of the major issues - people don't keep playing with bad DMs, because bad DMs can't be fixed. A lot of people have played with "a bad DM" or even more than one, but very few of them stick around for long. Why? Because D&D is no very little fun with a bad DM. Indeed RPGs in general are.

And again, you can't defeat bad DMs with rules. You can mitigate them a bit. You can help mediocre or poor DMs to maybe become decent or good DMs with good rules, and good advice. But actual bad DMs? It's like a band-aid on a gushing wound. The kind of guy who does what you describe will never be fixed with rules. You just have to not play with people like that.

As a result you can't build the entire game around trying to mitigate bad DMs. It's like trying to build cars entirely around dangerous/drunk drivers, because literally everything, including the stories they were allowed to tell, would have to locked down tight. If you really want to play RPGs and can't find a good DM, either become one, or play a DM-less RPG like Ironsworn (it's pretty good).

So in the end you have to look at how many sessions you're playing with bad DMs - if you keep playing much after you've realized they're "bad" in the way you describe, it's on you, not the rules. I've played with a few bad DMs, maybe three - but that's a total of like a dozen sessions, if that, as compared to thousands with mediocre-to-great DMs. Wh

Also, there's a big difference in how often one finds bad DMs online as opposed to IRL, because IRL they tended to get weeded out as people in their area learn about them, whereas online, they can always just change names/games, if they even need to do that, which they often don't because people often don't hear about them being bad.

In the end though, you can't design a game like D&D around bad DMs though. You have to assume basic good faith and competence.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I think you're misunderstanding the issue a bit.

I definitely agree that bad DMs exist. I've had them myself. But the sample set thing points to one of the major issues - people don't keep playing with bad DMs, because bad DMs can't be fixed. A lot of people have played with "a bad DM" or even more than one, but very few of them stick around for long. Why? Because D&D is no very little fun with a bad DM. Indeed RPGs in general are.

And again, you can't defeat bad DMs with rules. You can mitigate them a bit. You can help mediocre or poor DMs to maybe become decent or good DMs with good rules, and good advice. But actual bad DMs? It's like a band-aid on a gushing wound. The kind of guy who does what you describe will never be fixed with rules. You just have to not play with people like that.

As a result you can't build the entire game around trying to mitigate bad DMs. It's like trying to build cars entirely around dangerous/drunk drivers, because literally everything, including the stories they were allowed to tell, would have to locked down tight. If you really want to play RPGs and can't find a good DM, either become one, or play a DM-less RPG like Ironsworn (it's pretty good).

So in the end you have to look at how many sessions you're playing with bad DMs - if you keep playing much after you've realized they're "bad" in the way you describe, it's on you, not the rules. I've played with a few bad DMs, maybe three - but that's a total of like a dozen sessions, if that, as compared to thousands with mediocre-to-great DMs. Wh

Also, there's a big difference in how often one finds bad DMs online as opposed to IRL, because IRL they tended to get weeded out as people in their area learn about them, whereas online, they can always just change names/games, if they even need to do that, which they often don't because people often don't hear about them being bad.

In the end though, you can't design a game like D&D around bad DMs though. You have to assume basic good faith and competence.

Now I'm wondering if the PhB should have a message about variability in DMs and what a player should do if they're not having fun or something doesn't seem right. (Things to ask the DM, things to look for, how to discuss why you're not having fun etc..).
 


I think
Not who you were responding to, but I guess I was expecting more people to be talking about the setting of Strixhaven University and the plane of Arcavios? More discussion about the setting, the characters, and how to use them.
I know I've mentioned it upthread, but think the thing that's interesting me is how the classes the iconic characters are given in the minis compares with the classes on the cards, frankly. I'm assuming the WizKids' minis classes would be the classes these characters have in any "official" material.

Dina (Witherbloom): MTG Class: Druid/WizKids Minis Class: Druid
Killian (Silverquill): MTG Class: Warlock/Wizkids Minis Class: Wizard
Quintoruis (Lorehold): MTG class: Cleric/WizKids Minis Class: Artificer
Rootha (Prismari): MTG Class: Shaman/WizKids Minis Class: Bard
Zimone (Quandrix): MTG Class: Wizard/WizKids Minis Class: Wizard

The "switched" classes are most interesting to me, from a flavor-first, mechanics-second sense:
Why make Killian a Wizard for D&D when Warlock would have made equal sense--especially having read his story and knowing he's being torn between creation and destruction? (ETA: Unless there's some intent to avoid Patrons or the potential for Elder Dragon's to be patrons; conceptually, Shadix Silverquill would be a darn cool Patron choice just based on appearance aesthetic. But this thread has shown how sticky even traditional patrons can become.) Heck, mechanically, College of Whispers Bard screams "Silverquill."

I get why they made Rootha a Bard, she's the "Artsy Kid" in the story, but her mercurial nature seems sorcerer. Given the elemental connections for Prismari, I'd have put her as a Storm Sorceror.

And like I've said before, Quintorius as a Cleric made "just enough" sense since he "talks to spirits." Making him an Artificer is curious to me, especially seeing as Lorehold has an artificer in Osgir ("The Reconstructor") from their Commander deck. (ETA: Trying not to conflate MTG classes with D&D classes, just holding them up in comparison. No "sacred cows" I'm defending--they haven't statted or teased an Ardent Dustspeaker anyway.)

I guess adding the UA playtest subclasses to all of these makes the flavor more-or-less work, except that they didn't give Lorehold to Artificers, or Prismari to Bard, so I'm assuming that's a potential issue the book will resolve.
 
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Faolyn

Hero
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.
I was talking about basic class abilities, like sneak attacks or smites, not some archetype from a later book or from a third party source.

Unless the DM is brand new to the job and literally has no experience, in these cases it's almost always a DM trying to nerf a player out of laziness or maliciousness.
 

Now I'm wondering if the PhB should have a message about variability in DMs and what a player should do if they're not having fun or something doesn't seem right. (Things to ask the DM, things to look for, how to discuss why you're not having fun etc..).
Honestly? I definitely think it should, especially going on the RPG Horror stories reddit (which is not about the "good kind" of horror story lol). I remember going there expecting to read stuff from my generation, about like various unpleasant old-fashioned DMs, and not to see much from "the youth", but in fact a huge amount of the posters on there are like, late teens to early twenties, and dealing with some very naughty word behaviour, a lot of which is reminiscent of, but also quite different to what my generation dealt with. DMs find new and exciting ways to be right wankers.

And it's clear from some of the posts that these people are genuinely pretty new to RPGs, and have been directed to this reddit by other people, and are like "This isn't okay, right?!" and it's like HELL NO, that's not even slightly okay. But they're not sure because they're new to RPGs and even 5E basically rolls on the old D&D idea that the DM is kind of close to god (only 4E ever even flirted with no pushing that angle).

So yeah I think it should be more clearly outlined in any future PHB - it is in some other games.
 

I was talking about basic class abilities, like sneak attacks or smites, not some archetype from a later book or from a third party source.

Unless the DM is brand new to the job and literally has no experience, in these cases it's almost always a DM trying to nerf a player out of laziness or maliciousness.
Untrue. A frenzied berserker barbarian, for example, has regularly given me fits in my games, what with their high hp, high damage, and damage reduction. High AC is quite easy to achieve straight out of the PH. Spike damage from paladins and, yes, sneak attacking rogues can wreck havoc on CR appropriate encounters. I don't assume malicious intent on the part of DMs, though of course I do allow for the possibility. The game needs to do the same.
 


I don't know: I actually kinda think its stupid when a rogue can't use their Sneak Attacks, or the Paladin's Smite suddenly isn't useful cuz the batteries died since the Paladin was using it too much.

Says the guy who would come up with a plot reason to make sure the PCs couldn't just teleport straight to the Final Boss room.

On another note, do Strixhaven Warlocks get Financial Aide?
 

Faolyn

Hero
Untrue. A frenzied berserker barbarian, for example, has regularly given me fits in my games, what with their high hp, high damage, and damage reduction. High AC is quite easy to achieve straight out of the PH. Spike damage from paladins and, yes, sneak attacking rogues can wreck havoc on CR appropriate encounters. I don't assume malicious intent on the part of DMs, though of course I do allow for the possibility. The game needs to do the same.
All of those examples are doing exactly what the class is supposed to do. Combat isn't supposed to just be two people dealing roughly equal damage to each other for a long time. There's supposed to be instances where one side wins quickly.

For a barbarian, why aren't you having enemy spellcasters cast Dex or Wis save spells from hiding? It makes sense for the spellcaster to not be in sight of the obviously raging barbarian. Barbarians only get a bonus to Dex saves if they can see the source, and there are Wis-based spells that don't inflict charmed or frightened. Like hold person.

For rogues, are you actually making sure that there's things for them to hide behind? Because you can't just say "I take the Hide bonus action" and get advantage if there's nothing that allows you to Hide. I've known DMs to forget that bit. I've forgotten it as well, on occasion. If you really want to nerf a rogue, don't take away their Sneak Attack; instead, don't have random things for them to hide behind.

Paladins can do a lot of damage but not very often, since they have limited spell slots with which to smite. And if they're smiting, they're not spellcasting, and vice versa, which means that they're balancing themselves.
 

Frankly, I really don't get how characters doing a lot of damage could be a serious issue for the GM. I perfectly understand how adventure circumventing tricks like teleportation could be a major headache, but damage is just hit points and the GM has access to endless amount of hit points. It's not like the Monster Manual runs out of trolls or something. 🤷‍♂️
 

Sithlord

Adventurer
You don't, but you also can't pretend that at least the Fiend patron is directly using that story in the lore. They just dont back it up.
That’s why that in my opinion the warlock class in the PHB with respect to fiend and great old one are villains classes. Because unless they are doing he will of their master they will lose their power or at the least not get to level up. As written it makes no freaking sense.
 

Greg K

Hero
@Gregk mention he had something like 50 players since the 90's. Good grief, I went through more than that in my early virtual tabletop days in a single campaign. I had over a hundred different players (I was DMing two games and playing in a third) in a couple of years. The reason you don't think tends to happen is you just don't have a large enough sample size.
I said 40 to 50 regular players and then mentioned additonal players. I also stated that even before the 90s, I did not have the problem.
if I recall correctly, you also do organized play. I and many of my friends had enough issues with organized play players in the early 80s and heard enough horror stories from others into the 90s that we stay clear of organized play. Also back then, many of the organized play players at cons were people whom had bad reputations and were kicked out of local groups. I am not saying that they were a respresentational sample of organized play players as a whole, but it is a major reason that we stay clear of organized play (in addition to no wanting to be beholden to the organized play rules).
 

Frankly, I really don't get how characters doing a lot of damage could be a serious issue for the GM. I perfectly understand how adventure circumventing tricks like teleportation could be a major headache, but damage is just hit points and the GM has access to endless amount of hit points. It's not like the Monster Manual runs out of trolls or something. 🤷‍♂️
Well, sometimes it's not appropriate to send wave after wave of enemies to absorb the rogue's damage, and even when it is, that might be a problem for the other PCs. And sneaky casters aren't always the answer either, by the way. The point is that there are PC options that are difficult for some DMs to handle, and they shouldn't be forced to run games with them because the player decides they are indelible parts of their character.
 

I still haven't heard anyone admit that what they want is for the DM in question to essentially "suck it up" and run the game anyway over their own objections. People keep saying these problems shouldn't be problems. But what if they are?
 

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