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UA Unearthed Arcana: Spirits Bard and Undeath Warlock

We have a new UA release with two subclasses. The College of Spirits Bard is a fortune teller or spirit medium type character with a big random effect table. Meanwhile the Undeath Pact Warlock is a a do-over of the Undying Pact Warlock.

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grimslade

Adventurer
The Undead Warlock is... ok. I kind of like the transformation piece, but the effects are too scattershot for a caster. A rage for casters is fun, but it should be a bit more focused than it is right now.
The College of Spirits bard is flavorful but I agree with @doctorbadwolf The whole random story and effect is a big negative.
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Honestly I like both of them. I think the Undying Patron gets crapped on more than it deserves, but this is more of a Death Knight or War Witch kind of necromancer, which I really like.

The Bard isn't a replacement for an actual Shaman, and it doesn't need to be. If there had been a Shaman in the PHB, I'd still be planning on giving high marks to this subclass.
 

Mike Myler

Advanced Fifth Edition: https://www.levelup5e.com/
Form of Dread is level dip city. Kinda weird that they tied it to proficiency bonus.

|makes note to remember this patron for the next time he's playing a martial class|
 

MarkB

Legend
Spirits Bard: Oh goodie, free longer-range guidance. Even more opportunities to interrupt with "Can I guidance that?" every 30 seconds.

I like the flavour of the Undeath warlock, that every new feature represents a gradual physical transformation of your body.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
The Undead Warlock is... ok. I kind of like the transformation piece, but the effects are too scattershot for a caster. A rage for casters is fun, but it should be a bit more focused than it is right now.
The College of Spirits bard is flavorful but I agree with @doctorbadwolf The whole random story and effect is a big negative.
I would prefer something less random, but I do think that the fact that you can go into fights already knowing what your effect will be makes it work. It's like portent, you won't know what the best use of it is until you roll for it, but you'll never accidentally fireball your friends with it.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Huh. I read it as a medium/spiritualist class and thought both classes had a more "gothic horror" theme. Ymmv

Any time I see talking/communicating with spirits, and getting powers from said spirits, that screams "shaman" to me, as that's sort of one of the biggest identifiers for shamans (from most cultures that we associate with "shaman")
 



To add on what Mike Myler said just now about Form of Dread, remember how the Knight Phantom from Eberron (Five Nations book IIRC) pretty much had the Aspect of The Phantom supernatural ability?

Cuz that's pretty much it basically(ish) in a way, minus a few things.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I like the concept of the Spirits Bard a lot, but I don’t like the Spirits Tales table. I picture this bard telling stories to give themselves and/or their allies a buff, not to put an attack or debuff in their back pocket they can toss at an enemy later. I’m also not too keen on it being random. Why isn’t it up to me which story I tell?

I LOVE the Undead Warlock. This is exactly what I needed for the solo Curse of Strahd game I’m running to represent a pact with the Evening Glory.
 

Any time I see talking/communicating with spirits, and getting powers from said spirits, that screams "shaman" to me, as that's sort of one of the biggest identifiers for shamans (from most cultures that we associate with "shaman")
See, while true, when Shaman comes to mind, it's more primal/nature to me. This is more along the lines of Ravenloft/talking to the dead. But that's just me.
 

Zaukrie

New Publisher
I like the concept of the Spirits Bard a lot, but I don’t like the Spirits Tales table. I picture this bard telling stories to give themselves and/or their allies a buff, not to put an attack or debuff in their back pocket they can toss at an enemy later. I’m also not too keen on it being random. Why isn’t it up to me which story I tell?

I LOVE the Undead Warlock. This is exactly what I needed for the solo Curse of Strahd game I’m running to represent a pact with the Evening Glory.

Because the stories come from your spirits, and they only have the stories they have? That's my guess.....and my explanation. YMMV, of course, but I think it is cool that it is random.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Form of Dread is level dip city. Kinda weird that they tied it to proficiency bonus.

|makes note to remember this patron for the next time he's playing a martial class|

Yeah, that's my biggest complaint. Then again, I have a strong bias against level dipping and/or optimization in general anyway.

I don't know why they didn't do something like, "1/2 your warlock level, rounded down, minimum 1 time". They've done that a few times already in that way.
 


Remathilis

Legend
Any time I see talking/communicating with spirits, and getting powers from said spirits, that screams "shaman" to me, as that's sort of one of the biggest identifiers for shamans (from most cultures that we associate with "shaman")
I read the spiritual focus and when it mentioned talking boards and tarroka decks, I didn't go to shaman, I go to fortune teller or medium.

Anyway, its fairly clear it's not a shaman class, so we can move in from that.
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester
Most of 5e's player base sure has.

In the March 7th, 2019 episode of Dragon Talk, Shelly Mazzanoble & Greg Tito rolled up a random character - a Tortle Warlock - using D&D Beyond's random PC generator tool. It was a great episode that introduced me to how great a designer Kate Welch was (they also talked about Ghosts of Saltmarsh), but I was so annoyed that they had no idea what the Undying was and were treating it as if it was a particular entity that could be a Fiend Patron (like how the Prince of Frost is an Archfey Patron but so is Queen Titania), rather than its own category of Patrons.

They later apologized for not remembering about the subclass from SCAG (I think on Twitter? or in a show notes comment?) but if your own staff can't remember a subclass, no matter how cool the concept is… ugh.

I also know that those early books were codesigned with contracted partner teams that made choices that WotC would not make today (this is part of why Elemental Evil Player's Companion was downgraded from a full expansion book release to a DMs Guild PDF).

That said, it REALLY urks me the wrong way when WotC publish two subclasses for the same class that are essentially identical in narrative function. I don't mind if we have Bladesingers and Eldritch Knights and Arcane Tricksters and Battle Smiths and Hexblades and Blade Bards - these are all different iterations on the Arcane Gish, but live within their own classes that feel thematically distinct from one another otherwise.

But when we have to pick between The Undying and the Undead for Warlocks, it's like… this feels like I'm digging through DMs Guild content that are mutually exclusive. It's like WotC decided that even within their own books, there's tiers of canonical subclasses, and we should all replace the Undying with the Undead and pretend the Undead never existed.

----
As for the Bard - love the Ouiji-board flavour. If we're not getting Psionic Mystics, but instead sharing the wealth of those archetypes, I like this one settling here. We already have Spiritualist/Exorcist concepts for other classes: Arcana & Grave Domain Clerics, Divination/Necromancy Wizards, Paladins in general, Celestial Warlocks (we still REALLY need a Primal Spirit Warlock, though), Ancestral Guardian & Totem Warrior Barbarians…

---

On a final note, how swift is the turn around for UA to published books? I thought the planar options book was set for November, but it's getting awfully close to be still giving us UA for a book that I thought would be going to the printers by now.
 

Oh, I just noticed just now it gets Phantom Steed as a Patron Spell as well.

You know, this, alongside the Form of Dread, is REALLY making me want to just reskin the name of the new Warlock patron option as Knight Phantom of Aundir/Knights Arcane.
 


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