Unearthed Arcana (UA) is playtest material that 5E’s designers release from time to time. Depending on who you ask, UA is either used to balance upcoming content or is a shameless marketing ploy designed to drum up hype for new 5E releases. Regardless of how you feel, UA is great for people like me to write articles about.
The newest UA centers around the Dragonlance Chronicles, an old series of Dungeons and Dragons books that will be making their return in the near future. The types of content released include a new ancestry, subclass, backgrounds, and feats. Given how much there is to cover, I’m splitting my review into two parts. This first part covers the new ancestry and subclass.
Given that I’ve never read Dragonlance, the name kender means nothing to me. However, I’ve been told that they are something of a contentious ancestry. Like many older entries in 5E, the designers have made some changes to the kender to bring them up to modern sensibilities. While I applaud the modernization of outdated racial tropes, I wish it could have been paired with strong mechanics.
You have advantage on saving throws you make to avoid or end the frightened condition on yourself.
This is the strongest ability the kender gets, and it’s a copy-and-paste from the halfling. Frightened is a very common condition that can be debilitating, so being more likely to resist it is very good. Brave is an excellent secondary feature when paired with a powerful primary feature like the lightfoot halfling’s Naturally Stealthy.
Starting at 3rd level, you possess a magical ability to pull an item out of a bag or another container; as a bonus action, you can reach into a container you’re carrying and roll on the Kender Aces table to determine what item you pull out. The object glimmers softly and disappears after 1 hour. You can use this bonus action a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.
|1||5d6 gold pieces|
|2||1 simple weapon of your choice that has the|
|3||1 item of your choice from the Adventuring|
Gear table in the Player’s Handbook. The item
must cost no more than 1 gp and weigh no
more than 1 lb.
|4||1 random item from the Trinkets table in the|
|5||Your choice of a crowbar or a grappling hook.|
|6||1 item of your choice from the Tools table in|
the Player’s Handbook. The item must cost no
more than 10 gp.
Sadly, Kender Ace is not a strong feature. There is a lot of text here for just how little is being accomplished. The cost of a bonus action suggests some sort of combat use, but I can’t ever see this being useful during a fight. Even out of combat, this ability is awful. The item created is both temporary and obviously magical, limiting its uses in social situations. The best result on this table is probably the tool of your choice, although the gold cost restriction means you can’t create thieves’ tools. This feature is both bad and complex – a terrible combination.
You have a supernatural ability to home in on a creature’s emotional raw nerves and craft a taunt that flusters that creature. As a bonus action, you can unleash a barrage of insults at a creature within 60 feet of you that can hear and understand you. The target must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw (DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier), or it has disadvantage on attack rolls until the start of your next turn.
You can use this bonus action a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.
Finally, we get a decent ability that isn’t ripped directly from another ancestry. Forcing a target to roll all their attacks at disadvantage is pretty good, especially for characters that have a hard time weaponizing their bonus actions. Unfortunately, tying the save involved to the character’s charisma severely limits which builds can make effective use of this ability. Kender bards and sorcerers will do okay, but a kender druid with 8 charisma will almost always fail their taunt. The target must also be able to understand you, meaning a large number of monsters will simply be immune. I don’t dislike Taunt as much as Kender Ace, but it’s an average ability at best.
As much as UA is derided for being overpowered, the kender is severely underpowered. Not only is this ancestry mechanically weak, but it also fails to realize the fantasy I believe they were going for. Kender Ace should either be scrapped or totally reworked. I would look at expanding what the kender can do with their object interaction: perhaps allow the free use of a potion, instead of requiring an entire action. I would also decouple Taunt’s save from charisma. Ancestry abilities should be usable regardless of a character’s class, not punish players for using the “wrong” pair of class and ancestry.
Moving from ancestry to class, we have the Lunar sorcerer.
Level 1 – Moon Fire
You can call down the radiant light of the moon on command. You learn the sacred flame spell, which doesn’t count against the number of sorcerer cantrips you know. When you cast the spell, you can target one creature as normal or target two creatures within range that are within 5 feet of each other.
What happens when you take a bad cantrip and double its possible damage? You wind up with a decent damage source. Sacred Flame is a very weak damage source, with a secondary effect that negates the rarely relevant* cover rules. However, adding a second target does push its damage ahead of every competing option except for Eldritch Blast. This is a worse version of the Death cleric’s Reaper ability, as that allows the doubling of the stronger Toll the Dead and Chill Touch* cantrips, but it’s still a decent addition to a sorcerer.
Level 1 – Lunar Embodiment
You learn additional spells when you reach certain levels in this class, as shown on the Lunar Spells table. Each of these spells counts as a sorcerer spell for you, but it doesn’t count against the number of sorcerer spells you
|5th||death ward||bestow curse||phantom steed|
Whenever you finish a long rest, you can choose what lunar phase manifests its power through your magic: Full Moon, New Moon, or Crescent Moon. While in the chosen phase, spells of the associated phase in the Lunar Spells table can be cast once without expending a spell slot. Once you cast a spell in this way, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest.
While not offering as many spells at once as the Clockwork and Aberrant Mind subclasses, this is a nice boost to the sorcerer’s spell repertoire. Of the three options present, Full Moon is my pick for general strength. Faerie Fire is a good control spell, Moonbeam is a nice damage spell, and Mass Cure Wounds is a powerful group-healing option. Death Ward is also very good, but since it’s a 4th-level spell, its inclusion at level 5 is probably a typo.
The second part of this feature is the ability to cast each of these spells once without spending a spell slot. This is both powerful and a good direction for sorcerers to be taken in as a class. It’s no secret that wizards currently overshadow sorcerers, and I’m a fan of giving the latter some free casts to compete with the wizard’s better spell options and ritual castings. It’s a creative solution. There’s been some debate on whether this feature allows one free casting total or one casting per spell. I read it as the latter interpretation and assume that’s how it works moving forward.
Level 6 – Lunar Boons
Lunar phases influence your metamagic. Each lunar phase associated with spells of the following schools of magic:
Full Moon. Abjuration and conjuration spells
New Moon. Evocation and necromancy spells
Crescent Moon. Divination and transmutation spells
Whenever you use Metamagic on a spell from the Lunar Spells table or a spell of a school of magic associated with the lunar phase you are in, you can reduce the sorcery points spent by 1 (minimum 0). You can reduce the sorcery points spent for your Metamagic a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest
There’s a lot of text here, but this boils down to an additional number of sorcery points per long rest equal to your proficiency modifier. If I had to guess, all this textual sleight of hand is to try and make this feature seem more interesting than it actually is. As is, this is a fine, if uninteresting, power increase. I personally would have liked it more if they had uncapped the number of reductions and increased the minimum to one. This would reward the player for focusing on the related schools as much as possible.
Level 6 – Waxing and Waning
You gain greater control over the phases of your lunar magic. As a bonus action, you can spend 1 sorcery point to change your lunar phase for a different one.
Assuming my interpretation of Lunar Embodiment is correct, this feature expands the total number of free spell castings from five to a whopping fifteen. While that is a lot of spells, the sorcerer is still limited by the Lunar Spells table. Most of these spells are at least decent, but I probably wouldn’t call them top tier. Still, I do think this is a bit much for 6th level. I would personally allow for a single phase swap at this level, expanding it to unlimited at 11th level.
Level 14 – Lunar Empowerment
The power of a lunar phase saturates your being. Whenever you choose a lunar phase to affect your magic, you also gain the following benefit associated with that phase:
Full Moon: You shed bright light in a 10-foot radius and dim light for an additional 10 feet. In addition, you and creatures of your choice have advantage on saving throws while within the bright light you shed.
New Moon: You have advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks. In addition, while you are in dim light or darkness, attack rolls have disadvantage against you.
Crescent Moon: You have resistance to necrotic and radiant damage.
This feature, specifically Full Moon, should be this subclass’s capstone. It is an incredibly powerful passive ability that does not belong at 14th level. Full Moon offers not just a boost to the sorcerer’s saves, but also to all of their nearby friends as well. I’ve seen some people unhappy because save-boosting auras is a paladin thing, and while I don’t agree that one class should monopolize a mechanic, I would like to see some sort of twist that would cement its identity as a sorcerer ability.
New Moon, while not as strong as the Full option, is also overpowered for a 14th-level feature. Dim light is exceedingly common in 5E, and gaining a blanket defensive boost while within it or darkness is very easy to achieve. Crescent Moon is by far the weakest option, granting resistance to the moderately common necrotic and very rare radiant damage types. Honestly, this Crescent Moon feature could be at 6th level and not be out of line.
Level 18 – Lunar Phenomenon
Your lunar phase magic bursts. As a bonus action, you can tap into a special power of the lunar phase you are currently in. Alternatively, as part of the bonus action you take to change your lunar phase using your Waxing and Waning feature, you can immediately use the power of the lunar phase you are entering:
Full Moon: You radiate intense moonlight for a moment. Each creature of your choice within 30 feet of you must succeed on a Constitution saving throw against your spell save DC or be blinded until the end of its next turn. In addition, one creature of your choice in that area regains 3d8 hit points.
New Moon: You momentarily emanate an oppressive gloom. Each creature of your choice within 30 feet of you must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw against your spell save DC or take 3d10 necrotic damage and have its speed reduced to 0 until the end of its next turn. In addition, you become invisible until the end of your next turn, or until you make an attack or cast a spell.
Crescent Moon: You slip through light and darkness. You can magically teleport to an unoccupied space you can see within 60 feet of yourself. In addition, you also gain resistance to all damage until the start of your next turn.
Once you use a phase’s bonus action, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest, unless you spend 5 sorcery points to use it again.
If Lunar Empowerment is this subclass’s real capstone, then this is its real 14th-level feature. None of the options on offer here are stronger than the Full and New Moon passive bonuses gained at 14th level. The upside is that activating Lunar Phenomenon only costs a bonus action, meaning it can be paired with an action-based spell.
Out of the three, New Moon is easily the strongest. Dealing 3d10 is inconsequential at this level, but reducing an enemy’s speed to zero can still be very impactful. If they don’t have a ranged option or teleport, they are basically useless for an entire round. Full Moon is at its best being used like Healing Word to bring back a downed ally. Crescent Moon is the weakest, but can still function as a useful escape and as damage mitigation. I’m not sure if any of these are worth spending five sorcery points to reactivate, but at least you can use each of them once per long rest.
Overall, I’d place Lunar in the upper echelon of sorcerer subclasses, below the top-tier picks of Clockwork and Divine Soul, but better than the rest. However, if you were to limit your focus to levels 14–20, Lunar jumps to the best subclass thanks to its constant save-boosting aura.
That wraps up part 1 of this UA review; tune in next time for my thoughts on the new backgrounds and feats.