Unearthed Arcana - Expert Classes
October 14, 2022
A few weeks ago, Wizards of the Coast dropped the newest playtest packet for OneD&D, Unearthed Arcana: Expert Classes. This playtest packet includes the Bard, Ranger, and Rogue classes (each with one subclass); as well as new feats, the full spell lists for Arcane, Divine, and Primal, and new and revised entries in the Rules Glossary.
You can download the Playtest Packet from D&D Beyond here
Alternatively, you can download my version of the PDF. This version is faithfully remade but includes hyperlinks for the underlined keywords, bookmarks, and a subtle background to ensure it doesn’t get confused with the original document.
I’m going to detail my thoughts and assessments of the playtest packet here. Most of these things have already been discussed and debated to death but you might find some interesting takes in what I have to say about it.
You can jump to the sections below using these links:
We’ll be discussing Feats and the Rules Glossary in a Part 2, to come later.
The Bard Class
Lore wise, the Bard is unchanged. They sing the song of creation and weave magic into the world through music.
You can hear a video of Todd and Jeremy talking about the Bard and College of Lore here.
The first thing of note is that the Bard class gains subclass features at levels 3, 6, 10, and 14. The addition of the 10th-level subclass feature means that all past subclass material for the Bard class is now rendered unusable. This is of importance as Wizards has claimed backwards compatibility between OneD&D and 5th Edition. Nobody really knows what Backwards Compatible means and whether it is meant to extend to player options or if it just means Adventures. In the OneD&D Announcement Video, Makenzie De Armas stated that “All the adventures and supplements that have been released in the last 10 years will still be playable with the new evolution of D&D.” (thank you Graham Ward (@DarkplaneDM) for directing me to this quote)
This playtest document says “When playtesting the new version of a Class, you can use a Subclass from an older source, such as the 2014 Player’s Handbook or Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. If the old Subclass offers features at levels that are different from the Subclass levels in the Class, follow the older Subclass’s level progression after the Class lets you gain the Subclass.” — this statement effectively gives the Bard class a dead level at 10th level, but it’s also just referring to the playtest.
What could happen is Wizards provides a section in the 2024 Player’s Handbook regarding compatibility including a blurb saying, “If using a Bard subclass without a 10th-level feature, grant the Bard player an extra feat at this level.” But considering the other changes to Bardic Inspiration, I don’t think they are intent on keeping content like College of Swords, Spirits, and Eloquence playable in OneD&D until the inevitable OneD&D versions are released.
On that same note, the addition of a 10th-level subclass feature is just about the best thing that could happen to Bard. The jump from 6th to 14th in subclass levels was always awkward and this really rounds the class progression out. So, A+ from me on that change.
Bardic Inspiration has been changed. It is no longer a Bonus Action to apply a 10-minute buff to a character, but instead a reaction to immediately boost a failed d20 Test or heal a creature after they’ve taken damage.
Note on Senses: Why does Bardic Inspiration require the Bard to be able to see or hear the target, but doesn’t require the target to be able to see or hear the Bard? The flavor text is “You supernaturally inspire others through words, music, or dance.” How are they being inspired if they can’t see or hear you? I’d go so far as to say I think this is a mistake, and the intent was the other way around (the old Bardic Inspiration worked this way). If the intent is that it is the target that requires senses of the Bard to benefit, then the Heal option works better for me. However—right now—Bardic Inspiration can be used when a creature is reduced to 0 hit points to immediately have them “yo-yo” back up. I think this is a problem that exists in 5E and is now being reinforced and made even more prevalent with this Bardic Inspiration option.
I both like and dislike aspects of the new Bardic Inspiration. I know a lot of players who ran Bardic Inspiration like this, because they’d forget to buff in advance or be caught unaware by combat and not have a chance to use BI on the first round. Most DMs I’ve played with have been permissive in applying BI retroactively, so codifying it as a Reaction supplants that issue. I don’t love that Healing is built directly into Bardic Inspiration; but I will concede that Wizards obviously has different opinions on the Bard’s role in a party than I. The new Song[s] of Rest[oration] grants healing spells to the Bard as additional spells that they don’t have to prepare and don’t count against their prepared spells. The Bard is being hardcoded as a Healer role for parties. Do I want this for the Bard? No. A “College of Physicians” subclass that acts as a Healer? Absolutely. But it is not core bard identity to me. The Bard has always had top-tier narrative identity and bottom-tier mechanical identity. Giving them lots of Spellcasting Utility and bonus prepared spells through Songs of Restoration and Magical Secrets gives them a solid mechanical identity that doesn’t hinder their narrative one. I’m okay with this direction, ultimately.
Between both the Ranger and Bard, we see a significant change to how Spellcasting works. Both classes are now Prepared casters, but more importantly the number of prepared spells for these classes is not determined by level or Ability Score Modifier. Instead, the number of spells you can prepare is equal to the number of spell slots you have (including Cantrips, interestingly enough.)
This is as close to Vancian Spellcasting I think we’ll ever see in a modern D&D. It has a few interesting effects:
- You can no longer prepare additional high-level spells at the cost of preparing less low-level spells. This helps low-level spells remain relevant.
- You will never have more spells of a level than you can cast. Often, I’d prepare three or more 3rd level spells when I only had two slots. I don’t know why I did this, short of having the flexibility to use the spell I needed. I feel positively about this change.
I believe these changes have been made to make Spellcasting less daunting for new players, and more accessible. No longer do you have to wait for a level up to fix picking that spell you never cast, or that Cantrip choice you made at character creation without really knowing much about the game. Also, having Spells Prepared (by level) match Spell Slots (by level) turns the complexity knob back a position or two on the dial.
What remains to be seen is how the Mage-group classes are going to be affected by this change. Will a Warlock be a Known caster, as their slots are so limited? How will a Wizard’s spellbook work? Will Sorcerers be highly school-limited?
But for the Bard, and Ranger: I like it. This fits their narrative better for me and feels more accessible to new players.
Nothing new here, except Expertise is a keyword now and we have some suggestions. Expertise is how the Expert classes are being unified which I think is fine. Bard and Rogue were already Experts in this regard, and it always felt particularly fitting for the Ranger. You also now get more Expertise at 9th level instead of 10th. So that’s nice.
Songs of Restoration
This feature replaces Song of Rest. Instead of gaining additional healing over a short rest, the Bard now gains healing spells as additional spells prepared. I think it is a curious choice to have the spells be gained on off-levels. Obviously, Songs of Restoration comes online at 2nd level, so you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. This produces a ‘smoother’ spellcasting progression as you’re gaining new spells on every level up to 10th, instead of only every other level. I don’t think it makes much of a difference from a balance perspective, so it falls firmly under the category of ‘curious’ to me. As I mentioned above, I don’t connect the Bard to the role of Healer myself but if that’s direction Wizards is going, I don’t take any particular issue with it.
Jack of All Trades
This feature, which I always felt was iconic to the Bard, has been shuffled to 5th level. I’ve always designed classes with a goal for iconic features to be captured in the first three levels; with 5th-level being the far extremity of the range where iconic features can come online, so this is okay. Also, by coming online after Proficiency Bonus has moved to +3 (still only grants a +1), you get your next bump up out of Jack of All Trades sooner which is a good thing.
However, press “F” in chat for +Half Proficiency Bonus to Initiative checks. Now that Jack of All Trades applies only to Ability Checks with a Skill Proficiency you lack, it can’t apply to Initiative checks or any of the checks buried in spells like Counterspell like it used to.
While I dislike this, it actively removes a bonus that most people weren’t made aware of by just reading the text (relying on someone having told them about the interaction from an external source). This is good. Reducing the amount of rules interactions that are obfuscated by complex interactions makes the game more equal and accessible for old hats and new players. I’m sure there is a subset of people out there who derived their “fun” of 5e by knowing things about it that others didn’t, but the less complex interactions the better for the game.
Font of Bardic Inspiration
This feature remains the same (aside from the clarifying name change) except for the key detail that it has been pushed from 5th level to 7th level. This is a substantial nerf to the Bard class but with Bardic Inspiration being made so much stronger by the fact it’s Reaction-based and you know the binary state of the check before choosing to use it, I’m okay with the nerf here. It’s also important to note that 1st-to-5th level progresses rather quickly in D&D. Features that change how a previous feature work should probably not be contained within such a short play period. I’ve encountered many players who weren’t even aware of what Font of Inspiration did because they’ve played at 5th-level or higher so much longer than 1st-4th and had forgotten Bardic Inspiration ever recharged only on Long Rests.
This is a very interesting change to me. In 5E, Bard gets Magical Secrets at 10th, 14th, and 18th level with the Lore Bard getting ‘Additional’ Magical Secrets at 6th level. (Additional? They didn’t have ANY at this point. Feature should have been called Early Magical Secrets!)
Magical Secrets has been pushed back to 11th level, and only has one increase at 15th level. The Lore Bard no longer gets any Additional Magical Secrets.
Why this is so interesting to me is that the Lore Bard no longer functions as the “Bard Class+” subclass. The subclass that just enhances the base class without doing anything particularly new. I’ve never liked that design paradigm, and I hope that this shift means we’ll see it in other places as well throughout OneD&D classes.
Magical Secrets is also very different now. Instead of adding more spells known, you can now choose a Spell List (including Arcane) and, when preparing spells, you can prepare up to two spells from that list. Being able to choose Arcane lets you bypass the Bard’s school limit and being able to choose Divine or Primal gives them access to literally every spell in the game. This is also interesting because once you’ve chosen a Spell List, you’re locked into it forever. You can choose an additional (different) spell list at 15th level, but if you choose Arcane and Primal, you’ll never be able to prepare spells from the Divine list. Where Wizards has made the Spellcasting feature more forgiving, they’ve kept the hard choice here.
Much like my 5E homebrew Potion of Retraining that was a consumable that let a character change a Cantrip choice, I imagine I’ll have a Potion of Magical Secrets in my OneD&D games that lets a Bard change a spell list choice for the Magical Secrets feature. Or, possibly an Epic Boon Feat called Epic Boon of Secrets Feat that gives the Magical Secrets feature, allowing the Bard to choose the remaining list and other Spellcasters access to off-list spells as an Epic Boon.
Superior Bardic Inspiration
Now 18th level, 2 uses instead of 1, and triggers even if you aren’t empty. These are all great changes, but the fact of the matter is… the Bard’s “Capstone” feature is still boring as hell. Getting SR-recharge uses of features back on Initiative… compare this to Druid’s Archdruid or the Barbarian’s Primal Champion and what you’ve got is something that is going to make me want to ditch the Bard class as soon as I reach 15th-level (or 17th-level if I’m multiclassing into a non-caster).
The Bard’s Capstone needs meat. How about “When you roll Initiative, you can use your Reaction to narrate the story of your battle. For the next 10 minutes, each ally (including yourself) within 60 feet of you that can see or hear you can use their Reaction to gain the benefit of your Bardic Inspiration feature without expending a use. Each ally can only use their reaction this way once.”
College of Lore Subclass
The basic premise of College of Lore is the same, thematically. I don’t think we’ll see much theme changes in classes or subclasses, so I’ll stop mentioning that.
We get some Bonus Proficiencies (no longer just any three, but three specific this time that can be swapped if you already have proficiency).
Cutting Words is changed to no longer let you reduce damage, which makes sense since that same mechanic is captured in the Heal option of base Bardic Inspiration. If my thoughts above on the Heal option and the Hearing/Sight is backwards from 5E proves to be a mistake (whether an intentional change or mistake, it’s a mistake regardless!) and they fix it, a Damage Reduction option here would still have value (preventing someone from hitting 0, where they’d no longer be a valid target for Heal) but it’s no great loss as reducing damage is never as effective as healing. Cutting Words also gets the logic change we saw in Bardic Inspiration where you now will know if the original Attack or Ability Check is succeeding before you choose to use Bardic Inspiration.
Cunning Inspiration replaces Additional Magical Secrets. It’s perfect. Roll Bardic Inspiration twice, pick higher result. Basic and beautiful.
Improved Cutting Words is our new Level 10 feature. You can now deal damage when you burn someone with Cutting Words. I really like this. It’s a lot like Vicious Mockery but in a different package and feels very appropriate. When the Bardic Inspiration Die becomes a D12, and you have Cunning Inspiration, you’re going to get good Reaction-based damage out of this. For the first time ever, it’s a shame you only get Prof/SR uses of Bardic Inspiration. Although that’s very appropriate for combat as Prof/SR means you can use it every turn of every encounter and never run out of uses (on average); but you won’t be left with any uses for non-combat scenarios.
Improved Cutting Words models to me what could be an interesting alternative to Bardic Inspiration: Heal and Songs of Restoration.
Songs of Inspiration
Whenever a creature rolls your Bardic Inspiration die to boost a d20 Test, you can have the target benefit from one of the following options of your choice:
Invigoration: The target regains hit points equal to the number rolled on the Bardic Inspiration die plus your Charisma modifier.
Restoration: End a disease or one of the following conditions affecting the target: Blinded, Deafened, Paralyzed, or Poisoned.
Freedom: Until the end of the target’s next turn, their movement is unaffected by difficult terrain, nor can their speed be reduced in any way. They are immune to the paralyzed and restrained condition and can automatically escape grapples by spending 5 feet of movement.
Finally, we have Peerless Skill. This is a self-only version of Bardic Inspiration: Boost a d20 Test where you no longer expend the die if you still fail. At this level your Bardic Inspiration die is about to become a D12 that you roll and use the higher result. This feature is good, and solidifies the Bard as an Expert at skills for sure… I’m just not sure I love it here. It comes very late. In just a few levels the Bard has +3 to any Skill Proficiency, +6 to those they’re Proficient in, and +12 to a few they have Expertise in. They’ll be adding a +D12 that they get to roll twice… So how often are they going to be failing and making use of this feature? And with it being Self-Only, something this Bard is encouraged not to do (Cutting Words all day)! It just doesn’t feel right?
It would be interesting to see this feature in reverse. Possibly as an extra paragraph on Improved Cutting Words; or baked into this subclass capstone somehow: “The damage dealt by this feature is doubled if the target of your Cutting Words still succeeds on their Ability Check or Attack Roll.”
Overall, I don’t feel as though the Bard has changed significantly balance wise, but the usability is greatly improved. Bardic Inspiration is no longer eating significant action economy, is usable only when needed, and College of Lore really improves Bardic Inspiration. Their available spells are very similar, as many of the Evocation spells they used to enjoy and would no longer be able to take were shifted into other schools (such as Shatter). The Magical Secrets changes resulted in less off-class spells available at any given time but give access to prepare from the whole list in exchange, a noted improvement. I’m not sure if the emphasis on Bard as a Healer is a change in how Wizards perceives the class, or more of a clarification of their previous intent. I remember that at one point in 5e’s development, Bard was the mythical long-lost Arcane Half-Caster and capable of producing functional Gish-type characters. I was wondering if we’d have seen a shift back to that in OneD&D but it seems they went the other way.
The Ranger Class
Again, nothing significant about the lore of a Ranger has changed.
You can hear a video of Todd and Jeremy talking about the Ranger and Hunter here.
All the basics are there regarding the Ranger’s starting kit. The Ranger class has the same subclass levels as the Bard and Rogue, 3rd, 6th, 10th, and 14th. This is a small change from the original Ranger which received subclasses at 3rd, 6th, 7th, and 15th which amounts to nothing significant.
What’s a bigger change to the 1st-level Ranger is that they now receive actual features at 1st level by way of Expertise, Favored Enemy (more on this below), and Spellcasting at 1st-level. Gone are the antiquated D&D trappings of the Half-Caster spending one or more levels as a pure Martial before becoming a Spellcaster.
Another huge change for the Ranger isn’t even addressed in the Ranger class. Two-Weapon Fighting no longer requires a Bonus Action to make the additional attack.
Same as Rogue, a level earlier than Bard. Nothing special here. Expertise 2 Electric Boogaloo comes on at 9th level.
Okay so instead of choosing a creature type and getting a nominal feature related to that type, we now get Hunter’s Mark as an always prepared spell that we can cast without Concentration. This is a juicy buff to Hunter’s Mark but is it the right thing for a Ranger’s core identity feature?
Hunter’s Mark exists on the Primal spell list. It is a Divination spell, but there’s no reason to believe Druid’s won’t get access to Divination spells. So, the Ranger’s core class feature is… something the Druid can also do at 1st-level, albeit in a limited capacity. We haven’t yet seen the Warlock class in OneD&D but a notable missing spell from the Arcane, Divine, and Primal spell lists is Eldritch Blast. It’s reasonable to assume at this point that Eldritch Blast has become a class feature. Why not Hunter’s Mark? A Ranger only has two 1st-level spell slots at 1st level, and one is going to be dedicated to casting Hunter’s Mark every single day. Sure, it lasts a full 1 hour unless we get incapacitated, but that’s still conceivably using one or all of the Ranger’s spell slots in a day to access their core feature. This is an absolute boondoggle. We don’t need or want Hunter’s Mark to be a spell. Make it a Class Feature and be done with it.
One thing I will note is that your ability to cast Hunter’s Mark without Concentration now means you can use both of your spell slots and have two Hunter’s Marks up at any given time. Is that worthwhile? I don’t think so. You can’t stack them on a single target and how often are you attacking two different targets? But noting it anyways.
As I do, here’s my proposed change to Favored Enemy (it’s possible this change makes Ranger too attractive as a 1-level multiclass but such things I’ll consider when I can see all the classes):
As a bonus action, choose a creature you can see within 90 feet that you can see. The target becomes mystically marked as your quarry, granting you the following benefits:
Weak Point. You roll one additional weapon die as extra damage whenever you hit the marked creature with a Weapon Attack.
Tracking. You have advantage on any checks you make related to the target as part of the Search action. If the target becomes Hidden or Invisible, you can use your Reaction to take the Search action.
You can only have one target marked at a time. You can use a Bonus Action to mark a new creature, moving the mark from the original target to the new one. A mark lasts 1 hour, persisting through the target’s death, and ends early if you become Incapacitated or choose to end it early (no action required).
Number of Uses. You can mark a target this way a number of times equal to your Proficiency Bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a Long Rest.
Prepared spellcasting on a Ranger is perfect. I’ve always run Rangers as Prepared Casters in 5E (letting them change prepared spells during a Short Rest in their Favored Terrain, too!) so I can vouch that this is fine. Cantrips at 1st-level is also awesome. I wish Produce Flame (better yet Create Bonfire, but non-PHB alas) was on the suggested list over Guidance (oh we’ll talk about Guidance later, don’t worry). They also only list two 1st-level spells being prepared, Cure Wounds and Hunter’s Mark. Since Hunter’s Mark is always prepared and doesn’t count against the number of spells you can prepare, it really shouldn’t be listed here. These are just suggestions, but this suggestion creates confusion.
It’s also interesting that Bard gets the Arcane Spell List but is fairly limited in School, and Ranger gets the Primal Spell List and the only school they are excluded from is Evocation (sadly where Produce Flame is, and changed from 5e, so likely why it’s not in the suggested list—again… Create Bonfire please). The only 0th- and 1st-level spells that the Ranger can’t take are Produce Flame and Faerie Fire.
Another notable thing is that the Ranger now gets access to the Druidic Spellcasting Focus, where it was limited to a Component Pouch before. Not a significant change as far as I’m concerned because of how Weapon Action Economy has changed (will discuss when talking about the Rules Glossary)
The Ranger’s only second level feature is to pick a Fighting Style between Archery, Defense, and Two-Weapon Fighting. These Fighting Styles are unchanged from 5E, except that they are now a category of Feats exclusive to the Warrior class group. Not sure what the purpose of excluding fighting styles is here since they can pick up the other ones at 4th level. The Ranger gets access to all Simple and Martial weapons, but if they want to take a Longsword & Shield or Polearm, their only choice is Defense until 4th-level when they can choose any of the Fighting Style Feats; not just the three available at 2nd level. This is the type of complexity we’ve seen being removed from 5E by way of OneD&D in other places and I suspect is an error. We’ll either see the Ranger limited to just these three Fighting Styles at all levels or opened to all Fighting Styles in a later revision.
The Ranger gets Extra Attack at 5th level just like in 5E. Nothing changed here.
This is a “new” feature for Ranger. Roving was a sub-feature to the Deft Explorer feature from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. Slightly revised, as the original Roving was 6th level and only 5 extra feet of movement but not limited by Heavy Armor. Not sure I care for the Heavy Armor limitation here, especially since Heavy Armor doesn’t limit the Climb and Swim Speeds they get from Roving, so “theme” isn’t enough of a compelling argument.
Another “new” Ranger feature that was once a sub-feature of Deft Explorer. The Temporary Hit Points used to be an Action and Proficiency Bonus/Long Rest uses and added Wisdom Modifier, now it’s automatic during a rest and adds Proficiency Bonus. I’m not sure I really care about this feature. It’s such a nominal bonus. The Exhaustion removing aspect is interesting as Exhaustion has been completely reworked. More on that later, but I suspect we’ll see Exhaustion appear more frequently in play now, so this feature gained some use over the Tasha’s equivalent.
A re-imagining of the Vanish feature. Instead of Hiding, you now become Invisible but must expend a Spell Slot. I’m not sure I like this better. Notably we’ve also lost the Hide In Plain Sight feature which, for all its problems, was much more ‘Ranger’ like than this.
I think this is a good time to make a point of the fact that the Ranger has become inherently more magical in this iteration. Do I want a more magical Ranger? Eh. I guess it helps give the Ranger identity over a Fighter or Rogue, but I’m as much a fan of the non-magical outlander/survivor type of Ranger and you’re not going to get that out of this Ranger at all. At least with the 5E Ranger your basic features felt non-magical. You’re absolutely stuck on the Fighter, Rogue, or Barbarian for that now without heavy flavoring.
Moved from 18th to 15th level. Basically, remains the same, although you no longer have any benefit against being Deafened.
Hunter’s Mark improvement. A nice improvement, but sort of… snore. As Hunter’s Mark scales so well with Two-Weapon Fighting or the Swift Quiver spell, you get more oomph out of this capstone if you’re roleplaying Drizzt or Legolas over Aragorn but ultimately, it’s +6/8 average damage per round. You know what would have been nice here? “You can cast Hunter’s Mark without expending a spell slot and its duration becomes ‘Until Dispelled’.” But I’d still rather see Hunter’s Mark become a class feature instead of a spell at 1st-level. With perhaps “You have unlimited uses of your Favored Enemy feature” as the Capstone; and riffing off my suggested Favored Enemy change above, have Weak Point roll two extra weapon damage die.
The Hunter subclass is no longer a buffet of options largely unbalanced against one another, so that’s a great improvement!
Hunter’s Prey is Colossus Slayer from the old Hunter, which was always the best option. No issue here, if not a bit boring.
Hunter’s Lore gives me a bit of that Study action and old Battle Master “Know Thy Enemy” and I like these kinds of features. This is core “Exploration” pillar in D&D to me. This + the Study action open up more possibilities to run Combat Encounters as puzzles of a sort. Good thematic for the subclass and Ranger in general, too.
Multiattack is just awful. Features that are “here’s a spell but slightly different” are lazy design (coughs in Favored Enemy) but this isn’t just lazy design. First, Rangers are pushed pretty hard to using Two-Weapon Fighting from what I can tell, but even if they are using ranged weapons, a spell to do an archery thing just takes the wind out of Drizzt’s sail. It’s also pitiful damage wise. While the Ranger only got 3rd level spells on the previous level, a Bard has been throwing those around for five levels at this point. 3d8 damage in a cone? Assuming the Ranger is using a Longbow, they’re already dealing 1d8+1d6+DEX on two attacks at this point + an additional 1d8 once. Assuming two targets for Conjure Barrage cast at 3rd level, just attacking is basically equal. You don’t get the half damage on save, but you do get two attack rolls (that have a chance to crit). And downcasting Conjure Barrage? You’ll never, ever do that. Certainly you never should unless you just happen to be officiating a goblin’s wedding and have a dozen or more goblins standing right in front of you.
Look, Volley and Whirlwind were bad, but at least they were individual attacks. There was some interesting stuff you could do with them (especially if you had Magic Weapons).
Strikes against Multiattack:
- Having only a Ranged option
- Being a weak Spell (consuming precious spell slots)
- Being a Spell that the Ranger could already prepare (but probably shouldn’t) anyways, a level earlier.
I don’t like ragging on things without offering a solution, so here’s my take on Multiattack. Keeping in mind I’m basing it off Hunter’s Mark as I believe that should be a class feature (see above)
When you take the Attack action on your turn and hit the creature marked with your Favored Enemy feature, you can perform a multiattack against nearby targets by exerting yourself. Make two attacks of the same type against up to two creatures you can see within 10 feet of the original target and in range of your weapon. You add the bonus damage from Favored Enemy to each of these attacks.
Each time you use this feature, you gain a level of exhaustion.
And as for Superior Hunter’s Defense I think this is fine. A parry of sorts. More encouragement for the Ranger to be in melee and base contact with enemies, further reinforcing Two-Weapon Fighting.
To quote a good friend of mine, this new Ranger is “creatively bankrupt”. It has essentially codified the Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything Ranger features as “Core”, establishes Hunter’s Mark a must-take spell in the least accessible way, and takes almost all the Exploration pillar and Naturalist-themed stuff out. “Spell but different” as a feature is boring design at best, lazy at worst. Is the Ranger better here? Yeah, but it was a super low bar. It has a real feature at 1st level, can do some pretty good damage (if they are Two-Weapon Fighting its excellent, otherwise it’s pretty good), and gets some interesting features as it levels. But what did it give up to get here? There’s no connection between the Ranger and the Land anymore. Favored Enemy’s flavor went from “I know the ins and outs of this group of creatures like Jane Goodall” to “I cast a spell on you, take some extra damage.”
Things I’d change?
Ranged Weapon Damage. First, I’d increase the damage dice on all the ranged weapons by one. We haven’t seen the table yet, but if a Longbow is going to remain d8, it won’t be an attractive option except as a sidearm against Two-Weapon Fighting with Shortswords. With the exception of the Hand Crossbow, as the Crossbow Expert Feat (to discuss later) makes the Hand Crossbow an attractive option as you can get the full benefit of the Archery Fighting Style and the Two-Weapon Fighting Style without even taking the latter.
Variations on Features. I’ve also already proposed a different Multiattack and Favored Enemy, tackling the “spell but different as feature” issue.
Connection to Nature. Also, I’d grant them another 2nd level feature called Natural Explorer which grants them an expanded list of always-prepared spells, like Songs of Restoration on the Bard, that are flavored around wilderness travel. Spells like Longstrider, Tree Stride, Feather Fall, and similar. I’d probably also give Roving something to benefit moving through nonmagical difficult terrain, maybe. Don’t forget making Create Bonfire a PHB spell and putting it on the Ranger suggested Cantrip list.
Enable All Fighting Styles. Great Weapon Fighting on a Ranger is keen identity, and with Shields as a base Ranger proficiency, a lack of the Protection and Dueling Fighting Styles seems unnecessary. Just make them all available at 2nd level, instead of a limited selection and the remainder available at 4th level.
The Rogue Class
I think the Rogue class—compared to its 5E counterpart—has had the least tinkering but with the greatest overall effect.
You can hear a video of Todd and Jeremy talking about the Rogue and Thief here.
Rogue subclass levels match Bard and Ranger, which is a significant departure from its 5E progression but a very welcome and necessary change. Previously, Rogues had a large gap between 3rd and 9th level for subclass features.
Nothing new her…—wait. No longer can you obtain Tool expertise with thieves’ tools. That’s a relatively significant change but it’s hard to know what the effect is until we see what happens with tools.
Rogue gets their second Expertise at 7th level, earlier than Bard or Ranger.
This is where “a little tinkering” went a long way. The Rogue has had two significant changes to how Sneak Attack works:
- Sneak Attack can only occur as part of the Attack action, preventing the use of Cantrip-based attacks like Green-Flame Blade and Booming Blade from doubling the Rogue’s core damage output. No longer is a non-Spellcasting Rogue half a Rogue!
- Sneak Attack can only occur during your own turn. This change is very divisive. More detail below.
One thing I will point out is that it’s possible that it is a mistake that was overlooked when the mechanic was shifted to the Attack action. It’s notable that during the interview with Jeremy Crawford about the OneD&D Rogue, he never once mentions this change. I know these talks often focus on the positives and exciting features, so either this is an intentional nerf they don’t want to highlight, or it could be an accidental nerf that we will see rectified later.
My opinion on it, regardless of being deliberate? It is a good change. Most new players won’t see until someone points out to them that you can Sneak Attack twice in a round if you use a Reaction to make an attack that qualifies. So, it removes the possibility of doubling a Rogue’s effectiveness through System Mastery (gaining knowledge about interactions in the system that aren’t readily called out in the text). Secondly, it makes the Rogue more balanced. What I mean by this is that at one table, a Rogue could be played for an entire campaign without ever getting a Reaction Sneak Attack. Perhaps they are a Shortbow Rogue and never encountered a chance to make an Opportunity Attack? Or, they were a Melee Rogue, but the DM didn’t have creatures flee combat or reposition once they were in base contact (I know more than a fair share of DMs who play this way). At another table, the Rogue could know about this and not just seek it out, demand of the other party members to invest in features like Dissonant Whispers or the Commander’s Strike maneuver to feed them opportunities to be two Rogues worth of damage output in a single Rogue. Those two tables are having extremely different experiences with a Rogue character at their table.
Removing these two issues is a positive. However, I can understand that some players who are used to being able to seek out more Sneak Attack damage are going to feel dissatisfied with the nerf. I personally don’t think the Rogue needs this, based on the math.
Whether I agree or not, it would be nice to see Wizards of the Coast address the issue.
You can’t just change the wording to “Once each round” or any variation of that, because its not the Attack action being taken on those off turns, it’s a Reaction. If the door is intended to be closed on Green-Flame Blade and Booming Blade, then you need another option. The simplest would be “When you make a Weapon Attack that is not part of the Magic action, you can deal extra damage to one creature you hit with an Attack Roll if [..].” and add somewhere the text that equates to “Once each round” (such wording only works if Round is defined properly, which it is not). There are longer phrases that can be used but Wizards getting around to properly defining a Round might be ideal.
If getting Sneak Attack twice in a round is an important part of Rogue balance and they revert to the old wording, Wizards needs to communicate that to the player through the Rogue’s mechanics. Two examples of this might be: Give them a Reaction Attack they can perform under certain criteria or add a third header under Sneak Attack like “Reactive. Your Attack Roll is being made as part of a Reaction.” This works to communicate clearly to a reader that this is an option, and that you’re expected to seek it out.
Another aspect of this is the “off turn Sneak Attack” but not necessarily two Sneak Attacks in a round. Taking the Ready action to fire a shot when someone leaves cover, or to make a melee attack against a spellcaster you have pinned if they try to cast a spell, is a great image and Rogues deserve that..
One thing I find interesting is how closely balanced a Two-Weapon Fighting Rogue and Two-Weapon Fighting Ranger is in this pack at 20th level. Using just their basic abilities (Two-Weapon Fighting and two Shortswords; and Hunter’s Mark for the Ranger and Sneak Attack for the Rogue) the Ranger is dealing 42 average damage over three attacks, and the Rogue is dealing 47 average damage over two attacks. The Rogue is also likely to have advantage on these attacks due to Subtle Strikes. This is very equal. Giving the Rogue a chance to Sneak Attack twice in a round sharply increases their damage output on turns where they pull that off, putting them way far ahead.
Food for thought to anyone who feels the Rogue underperforms without the second Sneak Attack each round.
Or can they? Same as before but you get a Language as well. I know Jeremy Crawford explains the thematic behind this in the video, but I don’t see it. I would have loved for this to be “You know Thieves’ Cant and the sign language version of one other language of your choice, which you choose from the Standard Languages and Rare Languages tables.” since silent communication is key Rogue imagery.
No changes here. They didn’t bring the Aim option forward from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything but that’s because it would be redundant with Subtle Strikes at 13th level.
No change here, great tanking ability for Rogues. Uncanny Parry as a later upgrade to Uncanny Dodge that gives you the ability to make a Reaction attack when you use Uncanny Dodge would be fun for Rogues; but see the above analysis on Sneak Attack for my thoughts on that.
Moved from 7th to 9th level to accommodate an earlier Expertise… not sure I think that was a necessary change. Expertise 2 before other Experts makes Rogue’s into the Prime Expert class but does that justify pushing Evasion back two levels?
I could wax poetic all day about how the Feat feature at 4th level should include “At Higher Levels” instead of including a Class Feature for every level you gain one (like how Ability Score Improvement does in 5E), and here’s a reason why: The Rogue maintains the bonus feat from 5E. That’s critical information that is easily missed because “Feat” appears so often on the Class Table it is basically ignored. Then “Extra Feat” at 10th level for the Rogue and (assuming) 6th and 14th on the Fighter will be stand-out as exceptions.
Basically, the same with new wording. It’s hardcoded as being limited to Skill and Tool Proficiencies now, but I don’t think there were any instances where 5E Reliable Talent could be used on any non-Skill or Tool ability checks due to the requirement that it also added your Proficiency Bonus (Jack of All Trades and similar features never triggered this.)
Flanking hardcoded into the Rogue. I like that this functions off Ranged Attacks as well. Builds up the “Team Work” or ”Gang Tactics” vibe of a Rogue. Subtle Strikes + a dip into a Crit Threshold feature like Hexblade (Eldritch Smite!) or Champion (snore…) could be a powerful multiclass.
Adds Charisma Saving Throw Proficiency into the mix over the 5E’s version. Not a huge balance shift, but a nice add-on.
Same as 5E. Notably, I’m just realizing that Blindsense at 14th level from 5E Rogue is gone yet Ranger gained Blindsense in the form of a revamped Feral Senses. I’m fine with the change, but it’s notable none the less.
Stroke of Luck
A significant change over the 5E version. Instead of turning a miss into a hit, and an d20 roll for an ability check into a 20, this now turns any failed d20 test into a 20.
I like it because Rogue crits are fun. But there is one thing I don’t like about this. In the Bard section I lamented how great it is that you only burn Bardic Inspiration on failed rolls now. But that shouldn’t always be the case with features like this. I know it doesn’t match the thematic, but Stroke of Luck should allow you to turn any d20 Test roll into a 20 (after rolling it). Because I shouldn’t be hoping to miss as a Rogue so that I can get a sweet crit. I should have the wherewithal to turn a regular hit into a crit if I want to.
The Thief subclass is, in my opinion, almost exactly the same.
Fast Hands gives you two new Cunning Action uses, the Search action and a Sleight of Hand check to pick a lock, disarm a trap with Thieves’ Tools, or pick a pocket. The old Fast Hands feature didn’t let you take the Search action but it did let you take the Use an Object action; letting you use the Healers Kit or deploy Caltrops as a Bonus Action. I’m sad to lose that, as that was great. It’s possible that those items will no longer require a Use an Object action and are Bonus Actions normally, we haven’t yet seen them.
Second-Story Work is basically the same with a slight adjustment to the Jump option to accommodate the new Jump action.
Supreme Sneak is now 6th level and no longer has a half-movement requirement but limits you against Medium and Heavy Armor. This change doesn’t resonate with me personally as I think the half-movement theme was good and I don’t think Medium Armor needs any more punishment than it already has!
Use Magic Device has been moved to 10th level instead of 13th. You can’t ignore the restrictions of magic items anymore which is a bit of a bummer, but you get an additional Attunement slot, can squeeze extra charges out of a magic item, and the Spell Scroll use is specifically listed here. I think I understand the theme of Use Magic Device. It’s one part Indiana Jones and one part ‘Cat Burglar’ gadgetry. I guess making the Thief a Pseudo-Caster makes sense.
A note, and this is not new to OneD&D as it’s true in 5E as well, is that a Thief is likely to take Arcana Expertise and will have a +8 bonus to these checks (assuming 0 INT) when you get this feature, giving you an extremely high chance to succeed on casting from the scroll. With even +1 INT, you have a 50% chance of succeeding on a 9th-level spell scroll. But none of that matters because next level you get Reliable Talent, letting you treat a d20 roll of 9 or lower as a 10. With Arcana Expertise and a +1 INT mod, this check becomes entirely irrelevant and a non-feature. Just an interesting (to me) thing to remind people of with regard to this feature, since it now calls out Spell Scrolls specifically.
Last we have Thief’s Reflexes. Instead of letting you take a second turn on the first round of every combat, you now get a second Bonus Action use which must be used for Cunning Action. Back when Baldur’s Gate 3’s Early Access released, the first character I tried was a Thief Rogue. Their 3rd-level feature was Extra Bonus Action. I wonder if there was any cross informing here?
What I don’t like about Thief’s Reflexes is the Prof/LR limit. I don’t think it is necessary, especially considering how limited Cunning Action is. It sort of depends on what other Bonus Actions are available outside of the Rogue class. Being able to pop off the Bonus Action Healing from the Durable feat without limit could be a potential issue, maybe?
There is one change to the Rogue that is worthy of discussion, and it boils down to:
- Should Sneak Attack work off turn? (still limited to 1/round)
- Should Sneak Attack return to normal?
Everything else is either such a minor change or makes perfect sense. I’m in the camp of Sneak Attack should work off turn but be still limited to 1/round. And still exclude Booming Blade and Green-Flame Blade. Other than that, there isn’t much to say about the Rogue. Subtle Strikes is a good feature for the Rogue, and hits at a good level (I might have swapped it and Reliable Talent, personally). The change to Stroke of Luck to be able to guarantee a critical hit is fantastic for the Rogue, but also should work on any attack roll not just a miss.
Stay tuned for Part 2, because this is a lot of content.