Unearthed Arcana - Expert Classes Part 2
November 14, 2022
A long time ago, on a blog post far far away…
No, seriously. Sorry that this has taken so long to get out! Life and all that.
Let’s talk about FEATS.
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.
The feat section is full of content so I’m going to list each feat with a brief description of my thoughts. I’ll be grouping all the Epic Boon Feats into one section, as my thoughts are basically the same on all of them.
One thing I will note is that the Bonus Feats at 20th Level sidebar is a great rule for post-20 progression; even in 5e. Highly recommend. Just… not with these Epic Boon Feats.
Another thing I’ll note is that basically every feat that is 4th-19th level (aka not a Feat from the previous UA, a Fighting Style, or an Epic Boon) is a half-feat. That’s a notable design shift. Half-Feats are easier to justify when levelling but they also have a weirdness here. As a result of half feats, there is the distinct possibility that you will build a character that gets no benefit from the half feat.
Let me explain. Say you start a Wizard with 17 in their primary stat. One half feat that includes Intelligence will get you to 18, and an Ability Score Improvement will get you to 20. After that, since Wizards don’t particularly need Charisma or Wisdom, any feat that buffs Intelligence or any combination of mental scores without also offering Dexterity or Constitution is half-wasted on the Wizard.
Now, they could have planned their feats out in advance and taken three sequential half feats to reach 20 in Intelligence, but that also means they delay capping their primary stat to 12th level instead of 8th. To many people this is minmax-y nonsense but it’s a very real issue players can run into.
A quick and easy change would be to have a general rule: “If you take a feat that increases an ability score that is already at 20, you can choose any other ability score to increase instead.”
But a better change might have just been to divorce Ability Scores and Feats completely. As @ThinkingDM once suggested, have ability scores increase every other level by 1 and consider it basic ‘character’ progression, like Proficiency Bonus. Don’t tie it to Feats at all. Let Feats be their own thing. There is significant design freedom gained by doing so.
Ability Score Improvement
I mean, yeah.
Impersonation seems like the point of disguising yourself as another person. I think a lot of DMs would give this advantage normally, without the feat. Mimicry is fine. This feat still seems poor compared to the other feats and probably should have been a 1st-level feat.
With the new Jumping rules, this is great. To me, this is a great example of the perfect balance of feat strength. Three solid, situational abilities that don’t ‘negate’ the challenge of those situations but give you higher success or greater tools to approach it.
It’s not super clear here how Improved Dash functions. Dash allows you to take a bonus Move on your turn. Move is not an action. Is the bonus Move considered the Dash action, for the purpose of the text “for that Action”? If the intent is +10 feet of movement for the turn, it should probably either say “When you take the Dash action, your Speed increases by 5 feet.” Or, alternatively, “When you take the Dash action, your Speed increases by 10 feet during the bonus Move.”
As for the Charge Attack… bonus 1d8 damage once per turn is significant enough budget. The push is nice, especially for helping allies Disengage for free. Seems alright. I’m not sure if I’d be jumping to take this feat or not.
Ah, the first of 5E’s ‘broken’ feats. First, why doesn’t Crossbow Expert require proficiency in Crossbows? They dropped the ‘with which you are proficient’ text from the 5e’s Ignore Loading bullet, but you can still take this feat without proficiency—why?
Assuming the Loading property remains unchanged, this feat only actually changed a little bit and improved. It gained the +1 Dexterity of the half feat, and as with Two-Weapon Fighting, the Dual Wielding attack no longer requires your Bonus Action.
Here is why that is a problem: the Dual Wielding property of this feat is effectively identical to the entire Fighting Style: Two Weapon Fighting feat. Yes, that’s a feat you can get at 1st/2nd level with Fighter or Half Martials (Paladin/Ranger) but this also has two additional benefits AND gives +1 Dexterity. If you skip ahead to Polearm Master, you’ll see that the bonus action attack from PAM remained a bonus action as it was in 5e. This last bullet needs to be replaced. Making it a BA is problematic, as it’d stack with the Light Weapon Property attack, and making it not give Ability Mod would in effect remove the bullet; leaving the rest of the feat fairly anemic. I would probably replace the last bullet with something like this:
Finisher. When you make the extra attack of the Light weapon property, you score a critical hit on a d20 roll of 19 or 20 if that attack is with a crossbow that has the Light property and was made against a target you’ve hit with an attack this turn.
Is this stronger? Yes, but it’s also not 100% guaranteed, somewhat situational, and doesn’t conflict with the Fighting Style: Two-Weapon Fighting feat. (Sidenote, it’s not clear how the two feats currently interact. I believe, RAW, you add your ability mod TWICE to the extra attack if you have both feats)
Another Dexterity feat. Reaction +prof AC after being hit by an attack is good. Enough for a whole feat? Compared to Charger, yes. Compared to Crossbow Expert, absolutely not. In Wizards of the Coast’s opportunity to rebalance feats, they’ve still left a ton of power disparity between feats in the same grouping. That’s not shedding a positive outlook. My ‘quick fix’ is to have the +AC work against all attacks from that target until the end of the current turn. Hunter Multiattack Defense style. I would probably also add the caveat that you can’t use the reaction if you’re Prone, Grappled, or Restrained, and lose the benefit if you gain any of those conditions (plus any conditions that prevent acting/reacting like Incapacitated).
I find this one weird that it requires Martial Weapon proficiency. That seems like an arbitrary limit, when dual wielding daggers or hand axes is totally a thing.
But, more importantly: this feat got nerfed. Why? Why on earth did the WORST of the weapon feats in 5e get NERFED?
You no longer get +1 AC, but +1 Dex. This is an overall nerf, as you can’t stack the +1 AC on top of being Dex capped.
You no longer can dual wield with two non-Light weapons, but only a single non-Light weapon. So while the old Dual Wielder could bump you from d6 weapons to d8 weapons, for an average damage increase of… 2. This now only gives you an average damage increase of 1.
Quick Draw on 5e’s Dual Wielder was actually useful, but with the changes to OneD&D’s drawing weapons rules (you can draw or stow a weapon once per attack), you don’t even really need this anymore. The benefit it gives is when you only have one Attack as part of the Attack action, and had no weapons drawn on the first turn, you can still get both weapons out and benefit from the Light weapon property extra attack. Otherwise, it’s basically only useful for going from a 2handed weapon to two one-handed weapons; which is fairly rare and an unnecessary limit that most DM’s ignore anyways.
How do you fix this feat? I actually have no idea. Dual Wielding with non-Light weapons is a trope, but a rather ridiculous one. My first thought is “you gain the extra attack from the Light weapon property once for each Attack you can make as part of the Attack action”, essentially giving Fighters and other Martials more dual wielding, but that scales out of hand really quickly (especially with classes like the Ranger and Hunter’s Mark).
I might bring out some legacy content I’ve used in the past and do something like a 4e Viper Strike. Add a bullet that says “If you are wielding a Weapon with the Light property in each hand, you can use your Bonus Action to attack with both weapons simultaneously. Make a single attack roll against a creature you can see within reach of both weapons. On hit, you roll the damage dice of both weapons, add them together, then add your Ability Modifier and deal that much damage.” (rough as hell wording, still haven’t navigated all the OneD&D lingo)
Ah, Hit Dice mechanics. This is basically like the Dwarven racial feat from Xanathar’s Guide, but different.
I take no issue with the Hit Dice mechanics on this feat, as it has established precedent, but Defy Death ruffles my feathers. Flat advantage on Death Saving Throws is both boring (Advantage should basically always be situational) and too powerful. I think something more engaging here would be better, such as “When you are reduced to 0 hit points, you start with one successful Death Saving Throw.” Or, better yet, “When you are reduced to 0 Hit Points, you can use your Reaction and expend one of your Hit Dice to attempt to remain standing. Make a Death Saving Throw. On a successful save, you roll the expended Hit Die and regain that many hit points. Once you have benefited from this feature, you must regain all your Hit Dice before you can do so again.”
The same, except now adds a mental half-feat. This was already a decent feat, but the addition of the half-feat makes it much more takeable. I like it.
Let’s skip this, I’ll come back to it.
Fighting Style Feats
These remain unchanged from the Fighting Styles of 5e, they’re just 1st-level Feats now. The Fighter, Barbarian, and Monk are in the ‘Warrior’ group, this means Barbarians and Monks will likely get access to Fighting Styles, which is interesting.
5E’s most useless PHB feat is now less useless! Hurrah.
With the change to the Unarmed Strike rules, this feat has become a must-take for Monks and possibly even Fighters. A single Unarmed Strike deals damage and causes a guaranteed Grapple (Grapples are no longer a contested roll, but automatic on hit, with an escape DC that the target automatically attempts at the end of each of their turns). Since you have advantage on all attacks against a Grappled target.
Its possible Grappler has swung too hard in the other direction. It depends on how often OneD&D will support higher damage die on Unarmed Strikes. If the Tasha’s Unarmed fighting style is still a valid option, this is incredibly powerful as a feat.
Great Weapon Master
This feat is finally at a good level. Removing the Power Attack option and replacing it with a 1/t +PB damage is great.
I know a lot of people are going to have a hue and cry foul about this change but it is a good change. If the Barbarian and Fighter classes were truly unusable without GWM or SS in 5e, that was bad design. This indicates WotC is aware of that. Either the entire system is being scaled back a touch, or the Barbarian and Fighter will have something in the class to make up for the loss.
Eh. The dominance of Dexterity as a stat makes Strength weapons a niche choice, basically reserved for Fighters and Barbarians – neither of which need or want this feat. Gaining Armor Training should be a downtime activity.
Heavy Armor Master
I like that the Damage Reduction now scales and is no longer limited to non-magical damage. Although we’ve seen already that WotC is trying to remove magical BPS from the game (guidelines on Monster creation after WbtW basically said “use Force or something else instead of magical BPS” and we see that change throughout Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse)
The scaling and half feat make this a takeable feat.
Much improved over the 5e version but lacks in ‘activeness’. I’d love to see an active bullet under this, like allowing someone to reroll a failed save with PB/LR uses. It might step on the Bard’s toes a little bit but not so much it doesn’t also work for the Bard to take.
No issue here. Allowing Expertise through this feat is a nice touch. I like the level this is at.
Notably, this is a 1st-level feat and not a 4th-level one (so not a Half-Feat). This has much more use than Heavily Armored, as gaining armor proficiency from no proficiency is a big deal. It also grants the Shield proficiency, which is huge. If you sat this next to Heavily Armored, even with the half-feat on Heavily Armored, it still falls flat on its face.
I’m not sure why this requires proficiency with Any Martial Weapon. I get that the trope is the ‘anti-magic templar’, but there’s nothing about this that screams weapons. If Concentration Breaker was weapon attacks only, then yes; or if the OA against creatures within 5 feet of you that cast a spell was restored to the feat, sure. Otherwise, it seems superfluous as a requirement. Speaking of the OA, that really should comeback. There’s plenty of budget in here for that and it was great flavor.
Medium Armor Master
Another snore Armor Master feat. Basically identical to 5e, trading the ignoring Stealth disadvantage (possibly removed from the game?) for half-feat. The +1 AC doesn’t make Medium Armor something anyone wants to use. Again, Dexterity supremacy in 5e. If you have 16 Dexterity, you’re likely to have 20 Dexterity eventually, or already have Unarmored Defense (Barbarian/Monk), so Unarmored or Light Armor is better than Medium.
Medium Armor Master could literally be a half feat and just have a single other property that said “You gain a +2 bonus to your Armor Class while wearing Medium Armor” and it would still be a “ehh, maybe.” Feat.
Again with the Martial Weapon proficiency. Why? It makes zero sense here.
Mount Handler interestingly talks about training horses. I wonder if we’re getting Training Mounts rules in OneD&D?
The rest is fine. I just don’t understand the proficiency requirement. Why not Animal Handling proficiency required?
Keen Mind parallel for Wisdom. Also functions for Intelligence, which is interesting. Keen Mind is Intelligence only, whereas Observant functions for both.
Another of 5E’s super-feats. And… basically unchanged. Wait, what? So it gained half a feat, slightly more limited weapon options (press “F” in chat for Quarterstaff and Spear), and the OA is no longer classified as an OA, preventing you from stacking Polearm Master and War Caster for nonsense shenanigans.
This feat was actually indirectly nerfed, but also not. As other TWF-style features (CBE and TWFing) were shuffled out of the Bonus Action and buried in the Attack action, this wasn’t. So it gained that drawback. Or, is it? As this doesn’t count as a Light weapon attack, you can now stack this BA with TWFing. With the more accessible weapon drawing rules, it’s very easy to go from using two Shortswords to a Polearm by the end of your turn. A Fighter can make really good use of this with their Attack economy. But, is it worth it? It’s janky. It might be worthwhile to a Ranger, with the extra d6 on Hunter’s Mark and the greater chance of an OA ending your turn with a polearm in hand is a nice touch.
I don’t know. Janky. I’d rather see the BA count as a Light Weapon Property Attack, and not add modifier to the damage without Fighting Style: Two Weapon Fighting. That wouldn’t significantly nerf the feat, and would bring everything under the same hood.
Same. Not sure how I feel about that. Resilient (CON) has always been a top-tier feat. I might like to have seen the Prerequisite be a 13+ in the chosen ability. Wouldn’t change too much, but it would be harder to take it to just ‘fill a gap’ like Barbarian taking Wisdom.
Love it. All casters became Ritual Casters in OneD&D, and this does a good job of building on that. I especially like the Quick Ritual bullet. Makes this more than just a flavor/exploration/out of combat feat.
Basically, the same but with the addition of a Half Feat, and Martial Weapon Proficiency as a requirement. So a great feat made better, except for one key difference which isn’t even a part of this feat.
Sentinel’s strongest use was when paired with the “entering reach” OA of Polearm Master. Well, that’s no longer an OA. So the Halt property of Sentinel will no longer trigger. Patching that synergy makes this feat well within reason.
The last of the 5e power-feats and wow. They really did a number on Sharpshooter.
Unlike Great Weapon Master, which maintained some of its former glory, Sharpshooter got gutted with the removal of Power Attack and no replacement damage option.
So what are we left with?
Half Feat, like everything else.
Ignoring Cover, which I hate. Ignoring an element of the game as a ‘feat’ is messy design and in my experience, reinforces forgetting to use Cover for DMs. I’d rather see step-down cover here (Three Quarters becomes Half, Half becomes No Cover)
Firing in Melee, a rule often forgotten about by DMs, and rightfully so (it very rarely comes up)
And Long Shots, another rule that very rarely comes up.
I don’t know what Wizards are thinking with Sharpshooter. It lost all its tooth and just became a boring mess of features.
How would I fix it… The aforementioned change to Bypass Cover. I’d also remove the Firing in Melee bullet and move it to Crossbow Expert, where it belongs.
I’d then add a new bullet:
Aimed Shot: As a bonus action, you gain Advantage on your next Ranged Attack. If both d20 used in the attack roll would have hit the target, your attack deals additional damage equal to your Proficiency Bonus.
Changes: Half Feat, the Shove/Prone is no longer a BA, and no more +Shield AC to Dex Saving Throws.
I like that the sequence of events for the Shove/Prone is codified now. Not being a BA is nice. No major issues here. I didn’t mind the old Shield Master either and this is basically the same.
Blind Sight is a bit weird here as opposed to just Darkvision, especially with the “slinking through shadows” flavor text.
Fog of War has a weird dissonance mechanically and flavor wise with the basic flavor of the feat. “slinking through shadows” is the base flavor but Fog of War indicates you use crowds/chaos to more successfully hide, and functions as well in bright light as it does in darkness. I would either remove the shadowy flavor text of the feat, or make this only work in dim light or darkness.
Otherwise, this is a good feat, I like it.
The only entirely new feat of the bunch. It’s fine. I don’t love the name, because its anachronistic and makes me think of the Flash from DC Comics, not D&D.
Ugh, has the same ‘ignore cover’ as Sharpshooter. I like that they at least split up the two different kinds of Ranged Attacks, but I still hate the mechanic.
I mean, this is basically Sharpshooter for Spells. Spells don’t HAVE Long Ranges, so this instead increases their range. Otherwise, it’s the same. I actually don’t mind the mechanics as they are here, as increasing range is more valuable than overcoming Long Range disadvantage (as it creates a new opportunity), and casting in Melee is good Spellcaster imagery.
An interesting note is the “Attack Rolls with Spells” wording. It looks like OneD&D is moving away from the quadrilateral relationship between Ranged Weapon Attack, Melee Weapon Attack, Ranged Spell Attack, and Melee Spell Attack; and instead going with a triangle: Ranged Attack or Melee Attack with Weapons, or Attack Rolls with Spells. How will this effect a spell like Shocking Grasp?
Requires Spellcasting/Pact Magic now, so High Elf or other racial spellcasting isn’t sufficient for granting access to the feat. Half Feat, Concentration remains mostly the same although now it’s any Concentration saving throw, not just ones triggered by damage (rare, but they did come up). Reactive Spell is the same, except for the indirect change with the aforementioned Polearm Master. Somatic Components is the same.
This was a great feat. It’s even better now, if only slightly more limited. Probably not too strong.
Probably should just be a downtime activity with a gold cost, like Heavy Armor Training. Or, at least, a 1st-level feat without a half-feat. It should probably also grant Simple Weapon Proficiency, too. I can’t see anyone taking this feat as it is.
Epic Boon of Feat Feats Feat Feat Feat
Alright, I said we’d circle back to Epic Boons and here we are.
What the hell are these?
First, Wizards, please just call them Epic Feats. It is absolutely ridiculous to read “Epic Boon of X Feat” when instead it could just be “Epic Feat: X”, following the same formatting as the Fighting Style Feats.
Second, these are so weak… and boring… The only one that is of note is Epic Boon of Recovery.
This is your reward for reaching the level cap and continuing to play at 20th level?
Back to the drawing board Wizards. These are just… wrong. There is nothing Epic about these.
You know what I think of when I think of Epic Feats? Look at my previous article, with the Bard class.
Epic Feat: Magical Secrets
Prerequisite: Spellcasting or Pact Magic Feature
Pick one of the following spell lists: Arcane, Divine, or Primal. You can prepare two spells of your choice from the chosen list. You can cast each of these spells once without expending a spell slot. Once you cast one of these spells this way, you can’t cast it this way again until you finish a Short Rest or a Long Rest.
Or how about this
Epic Feat: Fated Bond
Prerequisite: Warrior Group
Choose a sentient weapon. Within the next 7 days, you will encounter the chosen weapon and likely become its wielder. Attuning to this weapon does not count against your number of attuned items. If you are ever separated from it for more than 7 consecutive days, or the weapon is destroyed, you die.
The spell lists are mostly unremarkable. The Divine spell list raises some questions for me, as Paladin will likely have access to the Cleric spell Spirit Guardians, which would be quite strong on Paladin. Also, notably, the Eldritch Blast spell is missing from any of the three lists.
A lot of this is repeat from either 5E or the previous playtest packet. Some notable exceptions:
Nice to see this split out from Proficiency, as Armor doesn’t interact with Proficiency Bonus.
Specifically on Equipping Weapons, you can now equip/unequip one Weapon immediately before any attack you make. So no longer does this consume your one Object Interaction for the turn (in fact, there’s something to be said that Object Interaction might be gone from OneD&D entirely, as it was also dropped from the Thief rogue’s Fast Hands). Also note that the weapon you equip or unequip doesn’t need to be involved in the attack.
In this tiny little paragraph, we see a shift back to traditional 5E rules for Critical Hits for this playtest packet. I don’t remember there being any questions on the Survey about this specifically, so I’m not sure what Wizard’s is looking for here.
You now gain Heroic Inspiration on a 1, instead of a 20. This is a better situation. I might know a thing or two about what’s good for Inspiration and you’ll see some examples of that in the future.
This overhaul was long overdue. Exhaustion in 5E was a broken feature. It went from ‘meh’ to ‘wow I might as well be dead’ very fast thus it was extremely difficult to deal out as a DM or deal with as a player. The new Exhaustion mechanic is great, and I can already see ways to use it as a resource. See my suggestion for a change to the OneD&D Hunter Ranger’s Multiattack feature in the previous article.
This is hot garbage. There is basically nothing redeemable about this design.
I think it’s interesting that a single creature locating you breaks the new Hidden condition, preventing you from getting a Sneak Attack on an entirely different creature. I suppose it simulates the creatures working together and talking about the status of the battlefield. It’s also much less awkward than Schrödinger’s Invisibility from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything (Gloomstalker Ranger).
I know a lot of people take issue with Hiding being against a static DC, but honestly, I love it. I think this communicates to the player the likelihood of success a lot better, and helps them make good choices. It also gives the opposing creatures a reason to do things like take the Search action and/or move around the room looking for hidden creatures. I also love the addition of the line “If you can see a creature, you can discern whether it can see you.” This empowers the player to say to the DM, “Am I out of line of sight and able to hide?” without having to use their action only to watch it fail to learn that information.
What I don’t like is that you have to make note of your check, and that becomes the DC to be found. I would much prefer they instructed you to use passive Stealth here; 8+DEX+[Prof or Double Prof if Expertise].
Basically, just the DMG ‘Social Interaction’ rules, with the DC 0 entry on the table removed. I like that WotC is thinking about this, but I think this is the laziest implementation they could have done, and it’s poor too. There is no way that people are going to be okay with the idea of a single, nonmagical action being able to basically mind control an NPC; especially when the DM starts using it against the PCs.
One of the biggest changes in this section. Jump is no longer a janky subset of movement but has become an Action with all its own rules. It’s still missing a bit of vertical nuance to me. It doesn’t address two common issues with verticality and jumping:
First, if you jump > 10 feet in the air, do you take falling damage?
Second, if you jump up into the melee range of a flying creature: can you attack it in midair, and does falling back down trigger an OA?
Light [Weapon Property]
Great change. My only problem is the terminology used to reference this attack. “the extra attack of the Light weapon property” is a mouthful. I get not wanting to use the term “bonus attack”, as it can be confused with a Bonus Action, but “extra attack” is equally (if not more) confusing in this regard.
Aside from the term Magic being used here (not a verb), having a codified action to encompass casting spells and activating magic items is nice.
Move is basically bringing back the “Move action” from 4E, without calling it an action. It might be better for WotC just to get all the way into the water and stop dipping their toes. A fairly substantial change to Move from 5e is that, during a single Move, you can only use one of your speeds. So, if you have a Fly Speed and a Swim Speed, and 30 feet of each, you can no longer Fly 15 feet, then dive into the water and Swim 15 feet. I’m not sure how that is actually meant to work. Does it mean you can’t fly into the water, or you Fly through the water requiring 2 feet for every 1 foot you move (as if you did not have a Swim speed)?
Search and Study [Actions]
Just grouping these together because they’re similar enough. This is codified Action-based use of many skills that often had no use. It’s good. I don’t know if it’s perfect, but it’s pretty good.
Nothing particularly new here, except that Teleportation now specifically says you transport anything you are wearing and carrying by default. 5E didn’t have this distinction and the fact that some spells specified that you did could be used as an argument that for other spells that didn’t specify, that you didn’t. Misty Step makes you naked every time you cast it!
Overall, I can see what Wizards are doing with the Feats, but they need another good design pass or two before they’re fully baked. Especially the Epic Boon Feats.
An issue that @dmheavyarms brought to my attention is that, for feats such as GWM and SS, if they are too significantly nerfed—so much so that player’s become disenfranchised—and Wizards of the Coast continues to beat the backward compatible drum: those players will just use the old GWM/SS from 5E. If you believe that Fighter, Barbarian, and other martials were only balanced in 5E if they took these feats, and Wizards buffs those classes now that the feats are nerfed, then using the old versions will make your character into a powerhouse. Regardless of what this does or doesn’t mean for whether the content is truly compatible, what it does highlight to me is that the OneD&D Designers need to start honestly talking to us about WHY they are making the changes. If they release the OneD&D Barbarian, and it has Power Attack built right into the class, then Wizards could say “We did this because we felt that the Barbarian needed GWM/SS to be competitive. We gave the Fighter more uses of Action Surge and [so on and so on], to ensure that the core class could compete with casters without requiring a specific selection of feats.” Assuming this hypothetical happened, it would be very easy for players to understand the intent is not to use the old feats on the newly designed martials.
I personally have never used Feats as a core rule in 5E because of the painful disparity in power. It always felt like a trap for anyone who wasn’t familiar with the system. I preferred to empower my players in other ways, and they preferred it too. So when OneD&D made it clear that Feats were becoming a Core Rule, I had my reservations. I still do, but having see their plan, I’m more comfortable with it now than I was before.