Last Updated: May 3, 2023
At a stunning 60 pages, this is the largest UA playtest document ever published. This time, we get the new Weapon Mastery system which has long been promised as a fix to the issue that 5e’s martial characters don’t have enough choices in combat. We also get a stunning five classes.
Table of Contents
- Previous Playtest Rounds
- Reading Tea Leaves
- Rules Glossary v5
- Thoughts from the RPGBOT Team
Previous Playtest Rounds
We haven’t yet seen the discussion video on feedback for the previous UA, but based on online discussions people are disappointed with the new druid and paladin for a variety of reasons. WotC has said that they’re planning another round of updates to the Expert and Priest classes, so we’ll likely see considerably different versions of every class that we’ve seen so far.
Reading Tea Leaves
The D&D design team is apparently moving away from features that recharge on a short rest.
As we’ve seen with the Cleric, the Druid, and the Paladin in previous UA playtest docs, features which previously recharged on a short rest are now getting some number of uses per long rest which scales as you gain levels (channel divinity, channel nature). In this UA, the Warlock no longer uses Pact Magic, and loses their signature short rest spell slot recharge mechanic. We have yet to see the new monk, but I suspect that they’ll change, too.
You might rightly ask “why?” Inferring from what Crawford has said on the accompanying videos, the design team is trying to move away from mechanics that depend on permission from someone else to function. No more “mother, may I?” mechanics. While that mostly applies to things like how spells and features work (the Thief’s Fast Hands feature is the example which Crawford used), it seems that they’re also applying that logic to short rests.
If you have ever played a character who depends on short rests (fighter, monk, warlock, etc.) in a party of characters who don’t (everyone else), you have likely been in a situation where you desperately needed a short rest but couldn’t convince your party to take one. When you gain nothing from a short rest except the ability to spend hit dice, short rests feel like a chore rather than a chance to recharge your favorite abilities.
So it appears that WotC is moving away from short rest recharge mechanics entirely. They could give every class short rest recharge options, or they could work them out of the handful of classes that already have them, and they chose what is likely the easier option.
Rules Glossary v5
There were surprisingly few changes to the rules glossary this time around.
The new conditions around dying which were introduced in the previous UA have been removed. No more “dying” condition/ The actual mechanics are the same as the previous UA, so we still have the fun use case where a creature with 1 hp is incapable of regaining consciousness without help.
The Influence action’s text was updated. They’re still sticking to the base DC of 15 for some reason that I can’t figure out.
The exhaustion mechanics have reverted to the 2014 rules. No more -X penalty. I think the UA version of exhaustion was an improvement because it also impacted spellcasters, so I’m sad to see this.
They also removed the entries for artisan’s tools, gaming sets, and instruments. I’m not sure why.
Changes to Weapons
The document goes into detail about many of the specific changes, but I’ll call out some noteworthy things here.
Lances were simplified and had their damage die reduced to d10 to bring them in line with other two-handed polearms.
The Light weapon property was updated in previous UAs to allow the two-weapon fighting bonus attack to occur as part of the Attack action. This change has been reverted to the 2014 rules. However, the “Nick” Weapon Mastery property allows some weapons to make the extra attack as part of the Attack action. Not all Light weapons have Nick, which presents an interesting tactical choice when selecting weapons.
Firearms are in. The presence of firearms is always a somewhat controversial subject when discussing fantasy fiction, but I think WotC has realized that burying firearms in the DMG isn’t helping anyone.
Nets are no longer weapons, which is… odd. Now they’re an item that you can use in place of an attack during the Attack action (you know, like a weapon), and they work on a save DC instead of an attack roll. They now work out to 15 feet, so they no longer have perpetual disadvantage as they did in the 2014 rules. Without needing to worry about proficiency, we may see a lot of cases where an entire party throws nets against single enemies until someone successfully restrains them.
5e’s weapons are boring, and that’s been a criticism of the game since launch. The differences between a battle axe and a longsword are cost and weight, neither of which matter in any meaningful way.
The Weapon Mastery system sets out to correct that. Now, weapons that were functionally identical have distinguishing traits which can support a variety of preferences and playstyles.
- Cleave: Good for handling crowds.
- Flex: If you have Weapon Mastery, this is a damage bonus.
- Graze: Guaranteed damage even if you’re rolling garbage.
- Nick: Be good at two-weapon fighting. This needs a better name, I think. Nick and Graze are too similarly named.
- Push: Please, WotC. Use the phrase “directly away”. Please. “Away” allows me to launch enemies 10 feet into the air.
- Sap: A huge debuff for enemies that depend on attacks. At low levels before everything has Multiattack, this alone can win fights.
- Slow: Stack this with Ray of Frost, and you can make single enemies so slow that they basically can’t fight in melee.
- Topple: Imagine the Grapple/Shove combo, but you give up one fewer attack’s damage to make it happen.
- Vex: Damage output, go! For fighters with numerous attacks, this is going to be huge. It also helps ensure TWF rogues will get their sneak attack off even in the absence of any other help because hitting with a vex weapon first will make your other hand aim just for the kidney.
There need to be some balance changes, I think, but so far I really like everything I see here.
People may compare this system to the similar weapon traits in Pathfinder 2e, and they’re right to do so. There’s definitely some overlap here. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Pathfinder 2e gave us the idea of 4 spell lists and made them distinct in feel and flavor. Tales of the Valiant is doing the same, with the distinction that PF2’s “Occult” spell list is matched by the “Wyrd” spell list.
DnD is sticking to just 3 spell lists, but also class-exclusive spells. As other folks have rightly pointed out, “that’s just class-specific spell lists with extra steps”. I think WotC is trying to follow the trend of spell lists not being bound to a single class while also having individual spells bound to a single class. They’re trying to have their cake and eat it, too, and it’s going about as well as you would expect: confusing and messy.
For example: sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards all now share a spell list. Each of them has a few exclusive spells, but some formerly warlock-only spells like Hunger of Hadar are now available to sorcerers and wizards. Considering what sorcerers and wizards can do with those spells, giving them Hunger of Hadar scares me.
My best guess: it’s to prevent players from using Magic Initiate to get class-exclusive spells.
We got 11 new spells, all of which are class-exclusive, plus Chaos Bolt and Eldritch Blast were reprinted, although Eldritch Blast was extremely nerfed for people who only dip into Warlock.
- Arcane Eruption: Like a fireball with an attached debuff. Neat, but con saves are always hard.
- Sorcerer Burst: The versatility of damage type is great, the range is excellent, and it has exploding dice!
- Sorcerous Vitality: Arcane casters rarely get a way to heal themselves. This can remove a few conditions, but the amount healed is pitiful for the cost.
- Sorcery Incarnate: Some free Sorcery Points and you can use two metamagic effects per spell for the 1-minute duration, enabling some fun combos like Extended+Empowered.
- Book of Shadows: Unlike the 2014 rules, you can no longer add more rituals to the book. The Cantrip Upgrade feature is a great addition, and notably applies to more than one damage roll, so spells like Create Bonfire and Green-Flame Blade get a buff.
- Hex: Damage bonus reduced to once per turn, which is a huge nerf. Hex+Agonizing Blast+Eldritch Blast was so core to the warlock’s tactics that many people use it as a baseline for measuring how good your damage output is. Upcasting will increase the additional damage, but it’s unrealistic for warlocks to upcast Hex and maintain it all day long, especially now that warlocks get so many more spell slots.
- Pact Familiar: We saw the updated Find Familiar in the previous UA, so this makes sense. I like the diversity of familiar options. They’re nowhere near as powerful as the 2014 options, but having a pixie that could save-or-suck an enemy every turn probably isn’t what WotC intended to happen. Eldritch Bond makes your familiar a stunningly useful skill monkey.
- Pact Weapon: Remember how much trouble the Hexblade caused? Imagine the Hexblade’s Charisma-based weapon nonsense and also allow Wisdom.
- Create Spell: The way this is written is confusing and overly complicated. You need to prepare and cast all three of Modify Spell, Create Spell, and Scribe Spell. You’re never going to do this on a day that you’re adventuring, so why isn’t this a ritual? Why is it a spell instead of a class feature? The intent is that you can permanently make your own spell by using Modify Spell, then making it permanent, which is objectively amazing and I love it.
It’s important to note that Create Spell gives your new spell the “Wizard” source, meaning that it’s a wizard-exclusive spell rather than a spell on the Arcane spell list. Because Modify Spell only works for spells on the Arcane spell list, you can’t modify the spell further.
- Memorize Spell: A massive boost to the Wizard’s ability to respond to changing circumstances.
- Modify Spell: Potentially very powerful. This is going to make optimizing spell choices very complicated.
- Scribe Spell: This is mostly the same process by which you scribed spells beforehand, except that it’s a spell now. You save half the cost if you have the spell prepared, so if you can prepare a spell from someone else’s spellbook (which might require you to cast Identify), you can save a ton of money.
As a hybrid feat, I can see this being selected frequently at level 4 by characters like rogues who depend on weapons but don’t get Weapon Mastery. I like this feat a lot.
- Dimensional Travel: Very cool, but I’d like to be able to teleport before or after, not just after.
- Energy Resistance: Fantastic on front-line characters. Two damage resistances, a counterattack reaction, and you can change the damage types on a long rest. This is awesome.
- Irresistible Offense: The “Overwhelming Strike” portion of the boon adds you ability score (not modifier) to your damage on a natural 20. For characters like fighters who roll numerous d20’s when they attack, that can feel very enticing. Unfortunately, since it’s so infrequent it turns into a very small boost to DPR. Still, players will find ways to optimize it. Two-weapon fighting, Advantage, and Elven Accuracy will get you a total of 15 d20s to roll in a single Attack action.
- Recovery: Great if you tend to die a lot. Death Defiant has the curious ability to let you roll a natural 20 and pop back up at 1 hp.
- Speed: Neat, but not consistently useful.
The presented classes have seen some major changes to address long-standing pain points in the classes.
The UA document also helpfully includes a list of specifically what changed in the presented classes/subclasses, which I’m very excited about because I’ve been working that out on my own for the past 4 rounds of playtest documents.
Rage saw some important changes that a casual player might easily overlook. First, it no longer extends when you take damage, but it’s easier to extend based on your own actions without damaging yourself. You can also maintain your rage as a Bonus Action until eventually you don’t even need that. The now-10-minute duration means that a single rage might carry you through multiple fights in quick succession, which means that barbarians are less likely to burn through all of their rages early in a long day, then spend the rest of the day being sad.
Also, Rage has out of combat uses now. The Primal Knowledge feature allows you to use your Strength score for some skills, which also applies Rage’s Advantage on Strength checks, making you suddenly very good at several skills with minimal investment (though only for 10 minutes at a time). You’re basically an angry ranger.
Barbarians now get access to the new Weapon Mastery. They’re limited to melee weapons, unfortunately, so barbarians still struggle to do anything useful at range.
Danger Sense, which was a great low-level feature for the Barbarian and for people dipping for Reckless Attack, has been merged with Feral Instinct at level 7. It’s a much better feature, but you’ll need to wait a lot longer to get it.
Indomitable Might, a newly-introduced feature, gives your Strength checks a floor equal to your Strength score. Granted at level 9, it’s likely that your Strength is already at 20, which means that you’re nearly guaranteed to succeed on any Strength check. Combined with Primal Knowledge, you’re alarmingly good at skills even if you have no proficiencies to speak of.
Brutal Critical was reworked. Previously, it added a new damage die every few levels, and that damage boost was intended to keep the Barbarian’s damage output high above level 10. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out as intended. While it feels very satisfying to drop a dozen d12s on the table, the math didn’t work out. With three attacks (berserker) with a greataxe, the actual DPR boost was only ~1.9, which wasn’t enough to keep the barbarian’s damage output relevant compared to other comparable characters. It also locked barbarians into using greataxes, which meant that two-weapon fighting and sword-and-board builds suffered.
The new version of the feature is more broadly usable, but mathematically it’s no better. With Reckless Attack running, your DPR increases by just under 0.10 * barbarian level * number of attacks. So when you get Brutal Critical at level 11, a typical barbarian’s DPR increases by 2.15, which is miniscule. Every additional barbarian level increases your DPR by about 0.20, which is not enough to keep up with the Fundamental Math’s DPR progression, which increases by roughly 1.3 per level. It does make smaller weapon damage dice and two-weapon fighting much more viable than they were previously, but for greataxe users there’s essemtially no difference except that the damage increases at a steady pace rather than every few levels.
Persistent Rage removes the need to spend your bonus action to rage when you’re not attacking.
Rage Resurgence removes the need to ration your rages, so you can now use them freely outside of combat.
Primal Champion now increases your Strength and Constitution by 2 instead of 4, but you also get it 2 levels earlier, and Epic Boons can raise your ability scores now.
Overall, I think the changes to the Barbarian are solid. Primal Knowledge may be too powerful, especially with Indomitable Might, but otherwise I’m very happy.
It’s really good now. Extra dice of damage on top of free advantage from Reckless Attack is going to result in extremely high DPR, and it’s going to be much more satisfying to play.
I like the changes to Intimidating Presence. Previously, it encouraged players to stand still and glare at enemies to keep them too Frightened to be effective, which effectively meant that the Berserker didn’t participate in combat. That’s not fun, so I’m glad to see it changed. It’s also more useful against crowds, which is fantastic.
Second Wind has been reworked to have a growing pool of uses similar to the Rage or the UA versions of Channel Divinity and Channel Nature. This allows the fighter to reserve them if they’re needed it, or use them all back-to-back if things aren’t going well.
The Fighter gets access to the new Weapon Mastery system, and they’re intended to be the master of that system. To start, they get one more mastery than the Barbarian, and they’re not restricted to melee weapons like the Barbarian is. This mastery of the Weapon Mastery system improves as you gain levels and add Weapon Expert and Weapon Adept.
Action Surge has been nerfed. It now supports specific actions, so you can’t use it to cast two spells or to activate other special abilities. This was almost certainly intended to curb multiclass abuse. Considering how many of our example builds hit level 18, then immediately consider 2 levels of fighter, I understand the decision here.
The Fighter’s ASI/feat progression has changed. Where the 2014 rules gave you an ASI at levels 4, 6, 8, 12, 14, 16, and 19, the UA fighter gets feats at 4, 5, 8, 12, 15, 16, and 19. Getting your first extra Feat/ASI a level earlier is nice, but the spacing feels weird.
Level 7 brings the new Weapon Expert feature, which allows you to replace a weapon’s Mastery trait. In melee you can usually just change weapons, but the limited number of ranged weapons means that changing traits is much more appealing. For example: You could put Topple on a heavy crossbow or a longbow and use it to knock flying enemies prone.
Indomitable is no longer a reroll; instead, it adds your fighter level to the save. This is a huge buff. Previously, spending Indomitable to reroll a save where you had a -1 bonus was a waste of resources. Now, Indomitable might as well be legendary resistance.
Level 14 brings the new Weapon Adept feature, which allows you to put two mastery effects on one type of weapon and choose which to use for each attack. For melee weapons, you could add Topple to knock enemies prone, then switch to something else like Sap once the target is prone (though Sap is very restrictive, so Cleave, Flex, or Graze may work better for your weapon of choice). For ranged weapons you could lead with Vew, then switch to Push, Slow, or Topple once you’ve debuffed your target (actual options depend on your choice of weapon and the prerequisites of the Mastery you want).
Level 17 brings the new Unconquerable feature. This makes the updated Indomitable available much more frequently and also heals you. It’s going to be very difficult to stop a high-level fighter.
The 2014 Champion has long been the source of the idea that fighters are boring to play. Many of its signature features are boring or outright useless. The new version takes some big swings.
Remarkable Athlete, which was mostly useless, has been replaced by Adaptable Victor. Adaptable Victor is effectively one additional skill proficiency that you can change every day. This is good for skills that you won’t use daily, but which you might need to use in certain situations such as Animal Handling, Persuasion, and Survival.
Level 6 now gets the Champion both their second Fighting Style and Heroic Warrior, which allows you to give yourself Heroic Advantage for free once per encounter.
Survivor has been updated to make you really good at death saving throws, making it very likely that you’ll pop back up at 1 hit point.
Overally, the Champion is still very easy to play, making it a good, accessible option for new players. It doesn’t have the mechanical bells and whistles to appeal to long-time players or people who love to have lots of buttons to press, but I think accessible options like these are crucial to the game, and I’m happy to see that the Champion can be effective and interesting without being a challenge to learn.
The Sorcerer saw a lot of changes, which honestly surprises me. Every time that I’ve seen a sorcerer played, people were very happy. Aside from the frustrating small number of spells known, the 2014 version of the class is a ton of fun and works very well.
1st level brings the new Innate Sorcery feature, which locks you into Sorcerous Burst and Chaos Bolt. I would love to have these on a wild magic sorcerer, but for other bloodlines they feel like an odd choice.
The Sorcerer’s Spellcasting feature got a lot of changes. The Sorcerer’s total number of prepared spells now caps at 22 (plus a few spells that you’re locked into) rather than the paltry 15 spells known which the 2014 sorcerer gets. Personally, I really like that they filled this need with subclass-specific spells because it made the bloodline’s spells so important to the character, but it also locked the player into spells that they might never use (especially if they were bad spells), so I can see the appeal here.
The way that WotC is using the term “prepared” here is confusing. Sorcerers “prepare” their spells when they gain new spells prepared, and can only change one prepared spell each time that they gain a level. That’s not preparation: that’s knowing a spell permanently. Confusing the term “prepared” is going to make it much harder to learn to play multiple spellcasting classes. Players who go from sorcerers to cleric are going to have a bad time.
We saw the Bard and the Ranger gain the ability to change their prepared spells daily in previous UA documents. I’m curious to see if they’ll go back to knowing their spells semi-permanently, too.
Metamagic was moved down to level 2, making it accessible sooner for sorcerer players but also a much more tempting class dip on a class that was already a powerful class dip for many spellcaster builds. Still more, you now get 3 metamagic choices instead of 2, and you can change them on a long rest. You get another 3 at level 13, which feels like a lot to get all at once.
Sorcerers now get the Sorcerous Vitality, Arcane Eruption, and Sorcery Incarnate spells for free at levels 5, 7, and 9, respectively. They’re decent, but won’t replace your need for other spells.
Sorcerous Restoration, formerly the capstone feature for the Sorcerer, has been brought down to level 15 and buffed to now also restore points when you roll initiative. The fact that they needed to bring a level 20 feature down 5 levels and buff it to make it good says a lot about how bad it was before.
The Sorcerer’s new level 18 capstone is Arcane Apotheosis, which gives you Wish for free and lets you use it to replicate a spell of levels 1-8 once per day by spending a spell slot of the appropriate level. This definitely won’t lead to wish abuse or armies of infinite naked sorcerers. Definitely not.
To recap the free spells: In addition to knowing 6 cantrips and 22 leveled spells of your choice by level 20, you also get one free cantrip and 5 leveled spells for free for a total of 7 cantrips and 27 leveled spells. It feels excessive, in my opinion.
Nearly every metamagic option has been updated, and the improvements are great in many cases.
- Careful Spell: Allies no longer take half damage, so you can actually fireball your friends without hurting them.
- Distant Spell: Much more impactful for spells that didn’t start with touch range. Scales with level. Imagine using Misty Step to go 600 feet.
- Empower Spell: No change.
- Extended Spell: Adds Advantage on Concentration checks to maintain the spell. This would be great for spells like Hex and Hunter’s Mark which have long durations and also expect the user to be in the thick of combat, but is redundant with Warcaster.
- Heightened Spell: A huge buff. Cost reduced from 3 to 2, and it affects all of the target’s saves against a spell rather than just the first one. This is massive for spells like Hold Monster.
- Quickened Spell: The wording very explicitly explains that it doesn’t let you cast two leveled spells in a turn. You already couldn’t do that, but the wording of the rule was extremely confusing and hidden away in another part of the PHB.
- Seeking Spell: Spend 2 Sorcery Points to reroll an attack roll with a spell. If only there were meaningful spells to use this with beyond 1st-level spells.
- Subtle Spell: Now removes non-consumable material components. This seems to include expensive components, which means that you could use this with spells like Clone, Simulacrum, and Raise Dead. I’m assuming that’s an error.
- Transmuted Spell: No longer an optional class feature, but otherwise no change.
- Twinned Spell: Completely reworked. No more twinned haste. Now, it’s just a slightly more efficient way to convert sorcery points into a leveled spell that you like to cast a lot. If you have 1st-level spells that you like to cast repeatedly (our order domain cleric example build likes to spam healing word), you can use this to reduce the cost to cast them. Still, this isn’t “twinned spell” so much as “echoed spell” or “repeated spell”.
According to the sidebar, WotC is moving away from the “X Bloodline” nomenclature. They barely used it anyway, so it’s not a huge change.
Learning Draconic for free has been removed, replaced by Dragon Speech, which inexplicably lets you communicate with dragons without actually sharing a language. You no longer add double your proficiency modifying to Charisma checks involving dragons.
Draconic Resilience was changed from 13+Dex to 10+Dex+Cha, which is a buff that will pay off as your Charisma increases. You can easily match full plate AC with little to no effort.
Elemental Affinity’s damage resistance is now persistent rather than costing a Sorcery Point to activate for an hour.
Level 10 brings the new Draconic Exhalation feature, which lets you use the Sorcerous Burst cantrip as a 15-foot cone. You still make attack rolls, which feels really weird until you realize it’s so that it can be combined with Sorcery Incarnate which is also modified by a subclass feature in a few levels.
Dragon Wings has been greatly reconsidered. WotC realized that free permanent flight is really powerful, and for some reason decided that level 14 wasn’t a safe place to have it even though aarakocra and fairies have been around for a while. Now, the wings appear when you cast Sorcery Incarnate, so you can fly for a minute at a time. This also adds the ability to deal automatic damage to creatures within 15 feet at the end of your turn, which is nice but won’t have a huge impact.
Between the boosted AC, the extra hit points, the persistent damage resistance, and the short range on Draconic Exhalation and Dragon Wings’ flap damage, it appears that Dragon Magic is intended to work at extremely short range or directly in melee. Don’t dump Constitution.
According to the accompanying videos, one long-standing complaint about warlocks was that their tiny number of spell slots led to players never using them for fear of needing them later. This fundamental detachment from the intended playstyle for the Warlock means that for many players, the 2014 warlock is essentially an eldritch blast machine with little other function.
The Warlock is also a notoriously easy source of multiclass abuse. Lockadins, bardlocks, sorlocks, etc. all became staple multiclass builds when the 2014 PHB launched, only to be supplanted by the Hexblade, which I often refer to as the MSG of subclasses because you can put it on so many things and they magically work better with no real effort.
With those issues in mind, the changes to the Warlock are not what I expected.
All warlocks now get medium armor. This was a point of frustration for non-hexblades who wanted to use Pact of the Blade because you needed to either let your Charisma fall behind or you needed to be bad at using a weapon, and in either case you needed to build around Dexterity. This makes Pact of the Blade much more appealing.
Pact Boon has moved to 1st level, similar to the UA Cleric’s Holy Order. The benefits of each pact were updated significantly, and now they notably also determine your spellcasting ability. Warlocks can now be built around any mental ability score, with each pact offering your choice of two ability scores. This is really cool, but also means that the Warlock is now an appealing class dip for anyone rather than just Charisma-based characters.
Pact Boon also gives you Eldritch Blast and Hex for free.
- Pact of the Blade: Now the hexblade dip problem is a problem for both Wisdom-based and Charisma-based builds. Notably you can’t choose Intelligence, so bladesingers and eldritch knights may want to take Pact of the Tome to get Shilelagh as an Intelligence-based spell.
- Pact of the Chain: Much less complicated, but also less powerful than the 2014 version with the addition of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
- Pact of the Tome: Conceptually the same, provided that they fix the text of Book of Shadows so that you can add rituals to the book.
The Warlock’s spellcasting is perhaps the most surprising change in the entire document. Warlocks are now half casters, getting the same progression as paladins and rangers. But don’t worry: when you multiclass into warlock, you round up when determining your multiclass spell slot progression, so clerics dipping for Pact of the Blade won’t give up spell slots.
Reducing the level of the spells that the Warlock casts means that offensively, their spellcasting is much less significant. Getting Hunger of Hadar at level 5 after sorcerers and wizards have been using it for 2 levels hurts. That’s supposed to be a warlock exclusive! That, coupled with Hex being nerfed, means that staple warlock tactics are suddenly much weaker and they haven’t gotten anything to replace them. Warlocks get the full arcane spell list now, including great spells like Fireball, but getting them at the same rate as paladins is insulting.
The loss of spellcasting is expected to be covered by spending invocations on Mystic Arcanum repeatedly, giving you one spell per day of each spell level of 3rd through 9th. You know who gets those spells and still gets other class features? Wizards. If you lean into Mystic Arcanum and take it at every opportunity, you’ll spend 7 of your 9 invocations and still have fewer and worse spells than a wizard of the same level. And what happened to the free Mystic Arcanum that warlocks got at high levels? We’ve gained 1 invocation slot and given up 4 invocation slots worth of free spells.
The Warlock also uses the semi-permanently prepared spells that the Sorcerer uses. It’s still “spells known” with a different name.
Level 11 brings the new Contact Patron feature. In effect, it lets you cast Contact Other Plane, which makes a lot of sense both mechanically and thematically.
Level 18 brings the new Hex Master feature, which allows you to cast Hex at will without expending a spell slot.
The 2014 Warlock’s Eldritch Master feature is gone, as are the Mystic Arcanum spells.
Invocations have seen a lot of changes. You get 9 instead of 8 over your career, and many have been updated or rewritten. All of the garbage invocations that gave you one spell once per day have been replaced by Mystic Arcanum, which is better only because it lets you pick any arcane spell and doesn’t eat a spell slot.
I’m happy with most of the invocations presented. Agonizing Blast doesn’t stack with the damage bonus from Book of Shadows, so retrain it at 5th level. Thirsting Blade is gone; the second attack is rolled into Pact Weapon, so you no longer need to pay that invocation tax. Some of the invocations, like Otherworldly Leap, are still bad and inexplicably high level.
Patron spells has been updated to grant one free casting of your patron spells per day, which is a nice addition on top of the Warlock’s frustrating new spellcasting. The Fiend’s spell list has been updated, but it’s not clear what issue they were trying to correct by doing so.
Dark One’s Own Luck is now usable a number of times per long rest equal to your spellcasting ability modifier rather than once per short rest, so you’ll get more uses total and can use them whenever you like.
Fiendish Resilience got a buff, but also disallows selecting force damage.
Hurl Through Hell can now be recharged with a spell slot of 4th level or higher, which may be one of your best uses of a spell slot.
Overall the changes were minor. It’s not significantly better or worse than it was previously.
Jeremy Crawford said “The wizard, in general, was in really solid shape”, and I generally agree. There were some pain points in subclasses, but the core of the class remains excellent and I have never been disappointed while playing a wizard.
The first and most important part of the Wizard is their spellcasting, which has changed in a few minor ways. First, the number of spells that you can prepare no longer depends on your Intelligence, instead growing to a maximum of 22, plus the 2 from Signature Spells, plus the 4 spells for managing your spellbook for a total of 28 (though most days you only care about 24 of them). Second, you can use your spellbook as a spellcasting focus.
Level 2 brings the new Academic feature, which gives you Advantage on Intelligence checks to Study. In effect, this makes the Wizard the master of knowing stuff about stuff.
The wizard gets the new Memorize Spell, Modify Spell, and Create Spell features (and their associated spells) at levels 5, 7, and 9, respectively.
Spell Mastery has been clarified and moved down to 15th level. This remains better than Signature Spells, in my opinion, and getting it 3 levels early is amazing.
Scribing, Modifying, and Creating Spells
Modifying and creating new spells has been part of the wizard fantasy for a long time. Many iconic spells in D&D were named after early players’ spellcasting characters (Melf’s Acid Arrow, Tenser’s Floating Disk, etc.). Now you, too, can live that fantasy without begging your DM to let you homebrew things.
Level 7 introduces Modify Spell, which lets you do insane things like making Hunger of Hadar not affect your allies, thereby trivializing nearly every encounter across the full level range. You could modify Polymorph so that taking damage can’t break your Concentration. You could change every damage spell so that it deals thunder damage. You can make any spell with a casting time greater than 10 minutes into a ritual, making the Wizard so much better at ritual casting than other spellcaster that they might as well not bother having the feature.
Level 9 lets you make a modified spell permanent. It costs 1,000gp per spell level, which is going to matter more when we have real prices for magic items (allegedly coming in a future UA), but you could theoretically create enough spells that you never need to cast a spell that you didn’t create yourself.
WotC is abandoning the “School of X” nomenclature in favor of the nickname for practitioners of that school. That’s going to make search engine optimization a lot easier.
Evocation Savant got some changes. In all of our 5e coverage, we complained that the X Savant features incentivized wizards to use their free spells known for anything except spells from their favorite spell school, and then use the X Savant feature to add spells of your school at half the price. This issue was not addressed, but you do get two free spells of 1st or 2nd level, which is a nice consolation prize.
Potent cantrip now deals half damage with attack cantrips, too, so evokers can enjoy Fire Bolt alongside everyone else. Previously it only affected cantrips which relied on saves.
Empowered Evocation now affects any spell from the Arcane spell list. This means that you’re no longer locked into evocation spells for the damage boost. However, when you use Create Spell, your created spell is on the “Wizard” list, not the Arcane list, so Empower Evocation doesn’t work with your favorite spells. This seems like a huge error considering the new design intent for the Wizard.
Overchannel is unchanged.
Weirdly, the Evoker’s features don’t care that much about casting evocation spells. It’s more “damage output wizard” than a wizard who actually cares about evocations. It’s technically more powerful than it was, but the concept is really weird.
Thoughts from the RPGBOT Team
This is the first UA in a while where I was really excited about stuff. The last two were… difficult.
I love the new Weapon Mastery system. It’s great for martial characters and offers much of the fun of Crusher/Piercer/Slasher without the feat tax. However, I think it needs some balance changes and wording fixes so that the meta doesn’t become everyone using home run bats to launch enemies for guaranteed fall damage.
I like a lot of the changes to the Barbarian and the Fighter. The Barbarian’s skill stuff is a little too strong, but otherwise I like what I see.
I think the Sorcerer changes went too far. I agree with the long-standing criticism that the Sorcerer didn’t know enough spells, but I think what they get now is way too many. 22 is plenty, and adding 5 more that players are locked into is overboard. I also think that the spells which sorcerers get for free will prove to be conceptually limiting in the future. I would much rather see those spells granted by the subclass so that subclasses can deviate from them in the future.
I’m also sad about what happened to Twinned Spell. It was absolutely the most powerful metamagic, but putting its name on a totally different effect sucks. If it was too strong, increase the Sorcery Point cost and rename the new thing to Echoed Spell so we can have both.
I do not like the new warlock. Their spellcasting is massively worse, and you need to spend all but two of your invocations to still be worse than the Wizard in every way. The multiclass abuse problems are actually worse than they were before, and the new approach to spellcasting means that warlocks are a disappointing cantrip battery at the absolute best. Crawford compared the warlock to the paladin, and I think that’s a decent comparison, but I don’t think the new warlock can match the paladin’s effectiveness or how much fun they are to play.
I love the Wizard’s new mechanics for modifying and creating spells, but the abuse cases are incredibly obvious, so I hope we’ll see some balance fixes to keep things from getting too crazy. I don’t like that they detached the number of prepared spells from your Intelligence score, but I won’t cry about it.
While I think the new weapon system is a great stab at opt-in complexity, I think they went a little too far. Martial characters are often suggested for new players because of their relative ease of use, and, while, technically speaking, this complexity is still opt-in for some characters, even the very basic Champion Fighter has several relatively in-depth decision points now as they have to figure out what property works best for them, and eventually what combination of properties. I think this is still a net gain, but it definitely steepens the learning curve which can be off-putting for people joining the hobby, especially if they don’t have someone to help them learn.
I generally agree with Tyler on his points about classes above, but will add some details.
I think that saying any number of spells known on a Sorcerer is too many is a goofy complaint when Wizards can learn as many spells as they can spend money on. I understand that the economy is going to be a bigger factor in this version of the rules as magic items will have set prices again, but we don’t know for sure that there won’t also still be downtime rules involved in finding them/limited access to them/etc. Sure, Wizards may have fewer than 27 prepared at any one time, but being able to cast unprepared rituals (and the ability to add the ritual tag to spells in midgame) largely makes that a moot point.
I not only don’t like the new warlock, I don’t really understand what they’re going for. Then again, WotC also doesn’t seem to understand what they’re going for with Warlocks. They’ve been different in every edition since their introduction halfway through 3.5 when they got access to very few spells but could cast any of them as often as they wanted, through 4e where they were much closer to demonic paladins or conjurers (but still had no spell slots), to 5e’s almost full caster, to this new version. I think that they’re trying to set Warlocks up as the definitive gish archetype, something akin to the 3.5 hexblade that gave the 5e subclass its name, but, in doing so, they’re just opening up the class to be dipped into even more. I see that they tried to fix that by nerfing Eldritch Blast for multiclass, but that really misses the problem. I once again foresee many combats opening with a chorus of “I cast shillelagh.”
Getting back to the sorcerer, I think it’s actually finally in a good place to compete with the Wizard. They both have their own take on crafting your spells to fit the situation, but Wizards do it through study and money whereas Sorcerers do it on the fly but with fewer options. The new Empower is going to be the default option the way Twinned was for a decade, and I think that’s fine. It’s going to make going first and casting a Heightened Web apples-to-oranges as good as the Wizard dropping a Hunger of Hadar that knows to tickle your allies instead of bludgeoning them. I feel like they’ve really narrowed the power gap by bringing Sorcerer up to Wizard level, although that’s still at the expense of most of the rest of the class roster.
All in all I think this presents a lot of interesting changes that I’d be interested to see how people like. With more subclass options I feel like each of these classes could end up as something very fun to work with and I look forward to the next UA if it’s anything like this one.
These new Weapon Masteries are pretty good but they need a bit of a balance pass. Push is the number one mastery by far, launching each target up ten feet, causing them to take an extra +1d6 damage and becoming prone. Because up diagonally counts as away. I love that it comes standard on Heavy Crossbows so we can do this at long range. This is exactly the kind of damage and control that martials should be putting out so I hope to see every other Mastery buffed up to match this power level.
I don’t know what to say about Fighter and Barbarian. Assuming they keep this buff of home run batting for prone and +1d6 damage per hit every hit, they made out great. Let’s hope for more buffs to the other Masteries.
Sorcerers made out fine too. People are going to complain about Twin Spell but the design notes were very clear: Quicken is for casting two spells in a turn, Twined is for more efficient spell slot usage.
New Warlock is different, in a good way. It has a few good features for dipping, but you can’t just staple Eldritch Blast to every class like before. Blade Pact opening up Wisdom alongside Charisma for gish weapon use is good. More build options is objectively better than less build options.
Wizard! Rewriting spells as a defined game mechanic with rules support is great. Don’t sleep on the fact that if you just need one of your spells to act differently for the day, you can Ritual cast Modify Spell for a single modification. Perfect for making those Area Denial spells safe for friends.
I think we all agree that this is one of the better playtest documents that we’ve seen so far in the march toward the updated ruleset. We have some minor disagreements within the team about balance points and fiddly bits like number of known/prepared spells, but overall things are moving in a good direction.