Round 3 – Introduction
Another month, another One D&D Playtest Unearthed Arcana PDF. This time around, we’re looking at the cleric, some more
races species, some spells, some Epic Boons, and some small changes to the general rules.
This is notably the first One D&D playtest document written and issued after the design team could look at feedback from the first document. Based on the timing of the surveys and playtest document releases, there will likely be a tick/tock pattern where each document is informed by the feedback on the document issued two months prior. This means that there will almost certainly be cases where a core rule goes into one document, sees negative responses, and either doesn’t change or only gets minor adjustment in the next document before being massively changed or removed in the one after that.
Table of Contents
- Round 3 – Introduction
- Previous Playtest Rounds:
- Specifying Species, Regarding Race
- Rules Glossary v3
- Thoughts from the RPGBOT Team
Previous Playtest Rounds:
This is the first playtest document issued after the D&D team began collecting feedback, and Jeremy Crawford and Todd Kenreck shared some insights on the first round’s feedback. The video is long, so here are some highlights modified from the top comment on the video.
- Almost everything scored really high. The scores are on a percentage basis, and they consider 50% and below untouchable, 60% salvageable but not ready, and higher scores indicate that things are closer to final.
- Highest Score: Background feats
- Lowest Score: “D20 Test” rules (1 is always a fail, 20 is always a success, changes to crits)
- New Dragonborn and Ardling scored poorly. Crawford wants the new dragonborn to exist alongside the version in Fizban’s.
- Warrior group will also include new options related to weapons
- New “Home Base” rules, recurring downtime rules, called the “Bastion” system
- Eldritch Blast has not been removed, but it doesn’t exist on any of the new spell lists. More info when the Warlock arrives.
- Removal of the Thief’s access to “Use an Object” with Cunning Action because it was too dependent on what your DM would allow. This is part of a larger effort to clarify rules. May return with some changes.
- GWM/SS changes: The penalty to accuracy was too small, especially at high levels, to justify that large of a damage bonus. They want the Warrior class to rely on their Class Features for damage output. They don’t want any one feat to feel mandatory in order to do a significant amount of damage.
- They’re going to do 4 subclasses for each of the 12 classes (no Artificer).
- There will be new encounter-building rules in a future UA aimed at simplifying game prep for the DM.
Specifying Species, Regarding Race
WotC is moving away from the term “race”, as explained in a blog post on DnDBeyond. I suggested a similar change in a blog post about race design in June of 2021, but honestly I thought they would go with “lineage” over “species”. Using “species” isn’t set in stone (or paper, I guess) until the books print, so maybe they’ll change it.
Rules Glossary v3
As usual, we’ll dig into the rules glossary before we look at other rules changes. This time around, the design team was kind enough to include a change log detailing what is new or modified from the previous UA, so rather than re-reading 15 pages of rules glossary we can just hit the changes.
Changes to spells and spell lists are detailed later in this document. This section will examine changes to the broader game mechanics.
This is just a clarification of the ability to draw or stow weapons during the attack action. The text was updated (emphasis mine) from:
“You can equip or unequip one Weapon before or after any attack you make as part of this Action”
“You can equip or unequip one Weapon before or after each attack you make as part of this Action”
This clarification means that you can in fact draw or stow any one weapon for every attack you can make during the Attack action.
Be a (presumably) 18th level Fighter. Walk around carrying 2 short swords at all times. Round 1, Attack with a shortsword, then stow it, attack with your offhand short sword, stow that, too. Use your equip before your next attack to draw a greatsword, then attack 3 times with a greatsword. To repeat this procedure on following rounds (and make it much easier in general), grab the Dual Wielder feat.
As long as we get the TWF fighting style back relatively unchanged, this results in an additional Str modifier damage per round over using the greatsword by itself. If the great weapon fighting style also remains relatively unchanged, I have no idea if that math works out to an improvement, but it sure is a thing you can do.
Purely clarification. The function of the condition is the same.
All of the changes are under the “Ability Check” heading. The first noteworthy change is that the supported skills are now in a table and having a description of what they do.
The second change is to the DC’s and outcomes. Rather than 3 tables specific to the creature’s Attitude, it’s now just “the creature does as asked” if you succeed. This is a big loss in specificity, but the distinctions between the results in the previous UA’s tables weren’t very specific so it’s no great loss.
The DC also changed from 10 or 20 in the previous UA to the higher of 15 or the target’s Intelligence score, which is odd for several reasons.
First, the flat DC of 15 means that characters will struggle to successfully Influence things for much of their career, and even at level 20 you can’t guarantee success without Expertise or some other bonuses. A level 20 sorcerer with maxed Charisma might fail to politely ask a Friendly commoner for a favor. Advantage from a Friendly Attitude helps, but it still feels odd.
Second, using Intelligence as the alternative for the DC is a weird choice because it means that wizards are inexplicably very difficult to interact with. It’s great that Intelligence is being used for something besides spellcasting, but being Intelligent does not make you unpleasant, difficult to talk to, or resistant to intimidation. I could understand if the stat chosen here was Charisma: confident, socially-adept people are better at resisting being talked into things or bullied.
Third and finally, Insight checks made by NPCs no longer oppose Deception checks made by PCs, which means that they’ve removed an opposed roll favor of a flat DC 15 or your Intelligence score. Presumably Insight will still be used by PCs to actively determine if an NPC is trying to Deceive.
They finally fixed the maddening part of invisibility where, RAW, seeing invisible creatures didn’t negate the advantage/disadvantage clause. Inexplicably, they didn’t have this fix apply to the advantage on initiative, even if everyone in the combat can see you. Placebo effect has been transferred I guess.
Long Rests now reduce Exhaustion, which makes sense but was omitted from the previous UA.
The textual changes to Interrupting a Rest are intended to be clarification, but they have a rules oddity: The number and length of the interruptions are unlimited.
This means that you can intentionally interrupt your own Long Rest to extend the time required to complete it. You could complete 7 hours and 59 minutes of long rest, perform some kind of “physical exertion” like jumping jacks, and add an hour to the time required to finish the long rest. You can then march your sleepy self into a dungeon, fight for a bit, then complete the 61 minutes remaining on your long rest and have the effects of a long rest in roughly the time it takes to finish a short rest.
The limitation of waiting 16 hours to start another long rest is intended to prevent this sort of nonsense, but it really just lengthens the amount of in-game time to accomplish said nonsense. Take a Long Rest, spend 16 hours doing nothing noteworthy, start Long Rest #2, then interrupt the rest just before completion.
We’ve gone from coffee-lock being a dubious abuse of the rest mechanics to “everyone in the party is a sleepwalker” as an abuse case.
A new item in the UA docs. Nothing exciting here.
Reworded from the existing rules text in the 2014 rules. It says the same thing, but it’s broken up into 5 bullets that are easier to reference at a glance.
What Didn’t Change
A lot. It’s 15 pages of Rules Glossary and it will only grow as each new Glossary will entirely replace every previous Glossary and must therefore carry forward all unchanged playtest rules from every previous playtest document. But there are a few notables:
- d20 tests: You still get Heroic Inspiration on a natural 1. It was originally on a natural 20, so it’s interesting to see that they left it on a natural 1.
- Unarmed Strike remains unchanged, and still has all of the same issues around Opportunity Attacks and the fact that Athletics is now useless.
We only got one class this time around rather than the three we got in the Expert Classes document.
Based on discussions in the videos released alongside the new UA document, the D&D design team has some goals that they’re trying to hit with changes to low-level class progression: accessibility and multiclass abuse.
Classes with subclasses at 1st level can be daunting for new players who might not be ready for yet another major decision point at first level. Moving the subclass decision to level 3 gives them two or three sessions to get a handle on the class before they need to make their next major build decision.
Moving subclasses out to level 3 also discourages 1-level multiclass dips for powerful subclass features. Classes with subclasses at first level feature disproportionately often in optimized multiclass builds. Todd Henreck (the guy interviewing Jeremy Crawford) specifically called out Hexblade dips, and… yeah, they’re not wrong.
It’s not going to stop us from optimizing using multiclass builds, but at least powerful subclass features will cost enough that they’ll get less side-eye from your DM.
The Cleric is a very popular class because it feels great to play, but WotC is still making big changes to it. A part of me says “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but to stick to the new class design philosophy they need to make some changes. They also made some quality of life improvements so that there’s less of a “martial cleric vs. caster cleric” divide.
Clerics now get Channel Divinity at 1st level and it works PB/long rest. You get two options: a single-target heal/damage option which feels very well-balanced, and Turn Undead.
The exact mechanics of Turn Undead got rewritten. It now uses the Dazed condition, and the wording of the movement part is changed. Affected creatures can now move toward you on their turn (potentially hitting you with auras or similar stuff) so long as they end their turn further away.
Clerics got the same updates to their prepared spells that we saw for the Bard and Ranger: You now get the same number of prepared spells at each level as you get spell slots of that level, so no more “you get X prepared spells, good luck finding a good balance”.
The new Holy Order feature replaces the divide between domains that got heavy armor, domains focused more on spellcasting, and the tiny handful that got extra skills. Protector gets you heavy armor if you want a durable cleric, Thaumaturge gets you another cantrip and some extra Channel Divinity uses. Scholar gets you two skills and you get to add your Wisdom modifier to checks with that skill in addition to your other ability modifier. I foresee a lot of people dipping two levels into cleric for Face builds to get another bonus to Persuasion. Oh, and you’ll get another Holy Order at level 9.
As with other classes in One D&D, the Cleric’s subclass comes online at level 3. More on that below.
5th-level brings Smite Undead, which is essentially a variant on Turn Undead. In 5e (and in 3.x), clerics could Turn Undead and automatically destroy undead of low enough CR. This was always intended to keep clerics from being swarmed by weak skeletons and zombies while not leaving a mass of terrified, fleeing enemies that the cleric then needs to mop up. Smite Undead removes the need to guess or memorize the CR of various undead.
Remember the Optional Class Feature Blessed Strikes from Tasha’s? Remember how it was just outright better than Divine Strikes? Yeah, you just get Blessed Strikes now. Even better, they changed it so it can work on Opportunity Attacks! Finally! Hopefully we see similar wording changes to things like the updated version of Sneak Attack published in the previous UA document
Level 9 brings another Holy Order. I suspect that everyone will be picking between Scholar and Thaumaturge at this level because if you got this far in medium armor you’re probably happy.
Divine Intervention was shifted to level 11 to make room for a subclass feature at 10, and it now has a 2d6 day cooldown if it works instead of a fixed 7. On average it’s the same, but it’s a bell curve so you might roll down one of the sides.
Weirdly, there’s no other non-feat, non-subclass features until level 18 when you get Greater Divine Intervention, which was moved down from level 20 to make room for Epic Boon.
Life Domain saw little change to its benefits. Crawford essentially said “people are happy with Life Domain how it is”, so that’s no surprise. The wording of features was updated to better match the design intent, so Disciple of Healing notably no longer works with Goodberry.
I’m very happy with these changes. They feel like great quality of life improvements without breaking anything that people liked, and I don’t think that the cleric got any stronger, which is great because they objectively don’t need a buff.
Ardlings saw a major change in their concept. Where in the first UA they were angelic beings with animal heads, now they’re humanoids with animal heads and a splash of divine magic. Their mechanics changed accordingly, and they’ve been essentially rewritten.
The new Ardling lets you choose from one of four animal ancestries with some example animals listed for each ancestry. The only remaining innate spellcasting is a free divine cantrip.
Curiously, a Swimmer Ardling can choose a shark as their Animal Ancestry and drown in water because they don’t get gills.
They got a major buff to their breath weapon compared to the previous One D&D iteration, following the Fizban’s model of replacing an Attack as part of the Attack Action, but then going a step beyond that by being able to choose between line or cone shape with every use. They still choose from the Metallic and Chromatic list for damage types.
Dragonborn also notably got Darkvision and the ability to fly at 5th level similar to the Gem Dragonborn’s Gem Flight trait.
According to Jeremy’s interview, Goliath is here now in order to give a second option alongside the Orc of what he referred to as a “burly” character fantasy. The idea being that there should be some overlap so that there’s always more than one way to portray these kinds of things.
This new Goliath is almost a reflection of the Dragonborn. Instead of draconic colors it’s about “What kind of Giants are you related to?” and the traditional Goliath from 5e is reflected here with Stone Giant Ancestry having the Stone’s Endurance feature of the existing Goliath. There are 6 total versions, ranging from “functionally an Eladrin” to “Storm Cleric rebuke combo.”
Continuing the “like Dragonborn except with Giants” trend, the Goliath also gets a new feature at 5th level: Being Large for ten minutes once per Long Rest.
Only three new feats this time, and all of them are epic boons. They all appear to be identical to their versions we reviewed in the Epic Boons Breakdown.
Epic Boon of Fate
An excellent ability on any character that has the very real potential to save someone’s life. It won’t negate a crit like Silvery Barbs, but adding 5.5 to someone’s save can absolutely make a huge difference.
Epic Boon of Spell Recall
Getting a Pearl of Power as a character capstone feels very underwhelming.
Epic Boon of Truesight
This is an incredibly powerful but very bland capstone.
Rather than raising the targets’ hit point maximums, it’s now just temporary hp, but it does affect up to 6 creatures rather than 3. In my opinion, this is a better design for several reasons: it’s less complicated, this is more in line with how most players likely thought it worked, 6 targets means that in your 4-person party you don’t need to leave someone out, and because you can’t use it like Mass Healing Word.
Still, I’m going to miss starting the day with an 8th-level Aid and throwing off the math of the entire game. But I recognize that I’m in the minority here.
Banishment gets a huge nerf, allowing saves at the end of every round like other forms of status-effect-spell. It makes a lot less sense on this though, because there was already the tradeoff that you couldn’t harm or affect the target in any way while they were banished. Banishment was already only a kill spell if used on an outsider, and was otherwise just a single-target Time Stop, so this feels a little like overkill. Personally, I think a better fix would have been to remove or nerf its upcasting benefits as a 5th-level banishment is currently twice as good as a base banishment.
The changes to this spell means that it now falls into the same weirdness described in our soulknife handbook which I’ll paste here:
“That said, there is the incredibly nebulous definition of “success” with regards to certain skills. If you’re making an Investigation check and you don’t find anything because there was nothing to find, did you succeed or did you fail? This is a conversation to have with your group and deciding the answer is beyond the scope of this article, but I have a suggestion for how to run it: because you choose to roll the Psi-die after you see what you rolled and the results of the initial d20 roll, my suggestion is that the Psi-die is only considered spent if the results are different after rolling it.”
This means that simply having this cantrip allows for a legitimate expectation that you can ask your DM “did that roll succeed” and get an answer that would allow you to know whether or not you should cast Guidance.
Prayer of Healing
This spell got redesigned. The 2014 version affected up to 6 targets, but for 10 minutes of healing it just wasn’t very good so no one cast it. If you have 10 minutes to cast this, you almost certainly have time for a Short Rest, but you could be walking or riding for the ten minutes instead of sitting for an hour. The updated version reduces the number of targets and removes your spellcasting ability modifier from the healing amount, but instead the targets get the benefits of Short Rest, much like the spell Catnap. Aura of Vitality is still better if you just need hp, but a Short Rest has lots of other benefits.
The changes to Resistance will turn it from “why would anyone ever take this” into “now my non-arcane caster has something meaningful to do with most of their reactions.” I expect that this will be present on every character that has access to it.
This spell was, probably deservedly, nerfed really hard. It now requires concentration and the only benefit you get for that additional cost is better upcasting scaling. Clerics are going to have to get much more creative when optimizing their bonus action usage if using this version of the spell.
Of course, until we see what they do with martial classes, the updated version of Spiritual Weapon may still put martial characters out of a job. The damage scaling is outright better than the Rogue’s Sneak Attack damage progression, and the rogue is supposed to be a high-damage striker (though the math isn’t working out in their favor, currently). If a cleric can outpace a rogue with one spell and still have their Action to do other stuff, I think clerics will survive.
Thoughts from the RPGBOT Team
I like most of the changes in this UA.
I like the changes to the species. The Ardling feels unique and offers some fun choices. The Dragonborn feels more competitive alongside other species, and the Draconic Flight trait is an exciting addition as you get into levels where their breath weapon might feel less exciting as spells like Fireball come online. Diversifying the Goliath feels cool, too. I don’t think they needed the buff from Large Form because people generally already liked the Goliath, but I do like the trend of new traits coming online at level 5.
The new cleric feels more approachable for new players, and I like that Channel Divinity’s base options are useful enough that even if your subclass’s Channel Divinity is weak, you still have something useful to do with it without looking at Optional Class Features.
I have mixed opinions about shifting subclasses to third level in part to discourage multiclass abuse. I totally understand the intent: a class should be fun standalone without needing to borrow from other classes, and a dip into one class/subclass shouldn’t be so powerful that it upsets the meta of the entire game. But if classes continue to have meaningful features at levels 1 and 2, we’re still going to multiclass and it’s still going to be fun. Maybe not as insane as it has been, but it will still be fun.
As an example: The updated version of the cleric gets Channel Divinity PB/day, and the Divine Spark option heals PB dice, so the total amount healed grows exponentially as you gain levels. This isn’t stunningly powerful, but it’s a nice benefit for a 1-level dip. I can see a lot of wizards taking one level to get access to healing, then giving a second level a good long think to get heavy armor proficiency or two skills with the additional Wisdom bonus. Looking back at the previous UA, I can see a lot of fighters taking one level of Ranger to get Favored Enemy.
The changes to spells are mostly fiddling around the edges to solve some problem cases, which I think they’ve done fairly well. I think Guidance and Resistance are too powerful, but they’re clearly trying to feel out where those spells need to land to be good, but not so good that they feel mandatory.
I like most of what I see here. Having spent a couple years playing a Goliath, I’m grateful to see them get new flavor. Cleric seems like it’s going to continue to feel great, but a different kind of great. I really like the new default Channel option and look forward to using it at some point. I like that influence explicitly calls out that it’s not mind control, but the mechanical changes to how it works are off-putting to me. Barkskin’s changes removed an interesting unique thing that druids had and gave them less-cool, numerically stronger heroism which I don’t love. Overall though, it seems like they’re headed in a good direction and I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes.
The creatures are fine. I was already fine with the Ardling but I like the new version too and the Dragonborn having the same QoL as the Fizban’s Dragonborn options is great too. The Goliath being added is also a nice surprise. What really stands out about these creature options is that each one has options to tailor it further: Ardling Animal Traits, Dragonborn Coloring, and Goliath Giant Heritage.
The Cleric changes are pretty good. I especially like that every class is having their Subclass moved up to 3rd level. Above, Tyler posits that the change is about discouraging Multiclassing and that it falls short because the first and second level abilities are still strong. I disagree with his sentiment on the grounds that it’s not about discouraging multiclassing at all.
Consider this: Nine years ago, dipping two levels into Fighter got you Action Surge, a strong option. Today, dipping two levels into Fighter still gets you Action Surge, which is still a strong option. Nine years ago, dipping one level into Warlock got you a charm effect, or telepathy, or some temporary hit points. Today dipping one level into Warlock gets you Charisma to hit and damage. Don’t lie to yourself, you’re dipping for Hexblade.
But by moving the subclasses to third level across the board and giving every class something worth dipping for at first and second level, the benefits of small dips won’t suddenly swing wildly when the Accessory to Murder Domain comes out in Elminster’s Library of Power Creep Volume Three a few years later.
We’re very happy with the changes in this UA. There are still some issues with specific wording and there’s room to fiddle around the edges of the mechanics, but the broader mechanical design direction looks good.