Cover art for Dragons of Deceit.

Last time, we covered the ancestries and the sorcerer subclass from the Heroes of Krynn unearthed arcana (UA). Today, let’s dive into the backgrounds and feats.

Backgrounds

In the early days of 5E, backgrounds were so low powered that I wouldn’t spend time covering them at all. They gave a handful of proficiencies and flavor features that had little to no impact on a character’s combat capability. That has changed. Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica and Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos added spells and feats as background features, and the Krynn UA follows that trend.

Knight of Solamnia

Skill Proficiencies: Athletics, Survival
Tool Proficiencies: One type of musical instrument
Languages: One of your choice
Equipment: An insignia of rank, a deck of cards, a set of
common clothes, and a pouch containing 10 gp

Background Feat: Squire of Solamnia

Your training in the ways of the Knights of Solamnia grants
you these benefits:

Martial Training. You gain proficiency with medium armor and martial weapons.

Defensive Rider. You have advantage on saving throws made to avoid falling off a mount.

Encouraging Rally. When another creature you can see within 30 feet of you makes a saving throw, you can use your reaction to inspire them. If the target can hear you and understand you, it gains advantage on the saving throw. Once you use this reaction, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest.

As far as these new backgrounds go, this one is on the weaker end. The big feature is medium armor proficiency, but without a paired shield proficiency, it’s not that much stronger than light armor. Defensive Rider is useless outside of some very specific builds. Lastly, Encouraging Rally is a solid boost to an ally’s save. Unfortunately, it can only be used once per long rest, limiting its usefulness. Other than the feat, there is little to separate the Knight of Solamnia from its older compatriots.

Mage of High Sorcery

Skill Proficiencies: Arcana, History
Languages: Two of your choice
Equipment: A bottle of colored ink, an ink pen, a set of
common clothes, and a pouch containing 10 gp

Background Feat: Initiate of High Sorcery

You’ve received training from magic-users affiliated with the Mages of High Sorcery.

Choose one of the three moons of Krynn, each of which is associated with a distinct type of magic: the black moon, Nuitari; the red moon, Lunitari; or the white moon, Solinari. You learn one cantrip and one 1st-level spell based on the moon you choose, as specified in the Lunar Spells table.

You can cast the chosen 1st-level spell without a spell slot, and you must finish a long rest before you can cast it in this way again. You can also cast the spell using any spell slots you have.

Your spellcasting ability for this feat’s spells is Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma (choose when you select this feat).

MoonCantrips1st-level Spell
NuitariChoose one from chill touch, mage hand, and vicious mockeryChoose one 1st-level wizard spell from the evocation or necromancy school of magic.
LunitariChoose one from guidance, message, and prestidigitationChoose one 1st-level wizard spell from the school of divination or transmutation.
SolinariChoose one from produce flame, resistance, and spare the dyingChoose one 1st-level wizard spell from the abjuration or conjuration school of magic.

Where the Knight of Solamnia grants a new proficiency as its main feature, the Mage of High Sorcery adds a pair of new spells. Overall, I rank Solinari as the strongest, as it grants the powerful Resistance cantrip and spell options like Shield and Absorb Elements. Lunitari comes in second place due to the Guidance cantrip, and Nuitari comes in last, having both the weakest cantrips and 1st-level spell options. The best selections available are Magic Missile and Thunderwave, two spells that lose much of their power at anything past very low levels. While generally stronger than Knight of Solamnia, this background still doesn’t hold a candle to the spell lists granted by Ravnica backgrounds.

Backgrounds are in something of an awkward place right now. The vast majority of them are still mostly roleplay decisions with minimal mechanical power. However, many of the new options grant significant power, making the impact of a background in some instances equal to that of an ancestry, or even class.

I have a feeling that the next edition of 5E will lean toward all backgrounds being stronger, but for now we’re caught mid-transition. For my own optimization purposes, I will continue to treat these stronger backgrounds as off-limits. If your GM does allow any background with an attached feat or spell list, be sure to take it if you want to be as strong as possible. Even a weak feat/spell list is better than none at all.

Feats

The feats presented in this UA add new wrinkles to the established formula. Some I like, and some I very much don’t. The first is a level requirement, with most of the following entries requiring a character to be at least 4th level before they’re able to take the feat. The second is feat prerequisites, creating 5E’s first feat tree.* I like both of these changes. Adding level restrictions is a way to balance stronger feats against weaker ones, and feats that build off one another are a cool way to reinforce a character’s flavor.

The third change, and the one I dislike, is restricting feats to certain alignments. To me, this is a large step back in Dungeons and Dragons’ messy separation from alignment influencing mechanics. Outside a few magic items, 5E players can pick whatever alignment they want without having to worry about how it mechanically impacts their characters. By tying feats to alignment, that all changes. Now, players wanting to play a good character might be pushed toward a neutral or evil alignment in order to get a feat they want. Of course, you could simply ignore the alignment on your character sheet and roleplay however you like, but forcing players to ignore a mechanic is bad design.

Adept of the Black Robes

Prerequisite: 4th Level, High Sorcery Initiate Feat, Any Non-Good Alignment

Ambitious Magic. You learn one 2nd-level spell of your choice. The 2nd-level spell must be from the evocation or necromancy school of magic. You can cast this feat’s 2nd-level spell without a spell slot, and you must finish a long rest before you can cast it in this way again. You can also cast this spell using spell slots you have of the appropriate level. The spell’s spellcasting ability is the one chosen when you gained the Initiate of High Sorcery feat.

Life Channel. You can channel your lifeforce into the power of your magic. When a creature you can see within 60 feet of you fails on a saving throw against a spell you cast, you can expend a number of Hit Dice equal to the level of the spell. Roll a number of Hit Die equal to half the number of Hit Dice expended (rounded up) and the damage the triggering creature takes increases by an amount equal to the total rolled of those dice.

As for the feats themselves, this one is not particularly good. The best 2nd-level spells in the evocation school are Darkness for obscurement builds and Shatter for everyone else, whereas 2nd-level necromancy spells aren’t even worth mentioning. Spending a feat to get either of these spells isn’t worth it when you consider other, easier ways this could be accomplished, such as multiclassing. As for Life Channel, there is little to recommend it. Caster classes, the type most likely to acquire this feat, generally have small hit dice. Burning those dice for a small, single-target damage boost will almost never be a good trade. Life Channel might see some use if your group never takes short rests, but even then the additional damage is tiny.

Adept of the White Robes

Prerequisite: 4th Level, Initiate of High Sorcery Feat, Any Non-Evil Alignment

Protective Magic. You learn one 2nd-level spell of your choice. The 2nd-level spell must be from the abjuration or conjuration school of magic. You can cast this feat’s 2nd-level spell without a spell slot, and you must finish a long rest before you can cast it in this way again. You can also cast this spell using spell slots you have of the appropriate level. The spell’s spellcasting ability is the one chosen when you gained the Initiate of High Sorcery feat.

Protective Ward. When you or a creature you can see within 30 feet of you takes damage, you can use your reaction to expend a spell slot and weave protective magic around the target. Roll a number of d4s equal to the level of the spell slot expended and reduce the damage the target takes by the total rolled on those dice + your spellcasting ability modifier.

While better than the Black Robes, this feat still isn’t great. The 2nd-level spells on offer include Web, Vortex Warp, and Misty Step. These spells aren’t terrible, but they aren’t worth an entire feat to pick up. As for Protective Ward, it’s the worst secondary ability of the lot. A paltry damage reduction at the cost of your reaction and a spell slot will almost never be worth it.

Adept of the Red Robes

Prerequisite: 4th Level, High Sorcery Initiate Feat

Insightful Magic. You learn one 2nd-level spell of your choice. The 2nd-level spell must be from the divination or transmutation school of magic. You can cast this feat’s 2nd-level spell without a spell slot, and you must finish a long rest before you can cast it in this way again. You can also cast this spell using spell slots you have of the appropriate level. The spell’s spellcasting ability is the one chosen when you gained the Initiate of High Sorcery feat.

Magical Balance. When you make an attack roll, an ability check, or a saving throw, and roll a 9 or lower on the d20, you can use your reaction to balance fate and treat the roll as a 10. You can use this reaction a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

This is easily the best of the Adept feats. The 2nd-level spell list is stronger than the Black Robes offering, with spells like Dragon’s Breath, Enlarge/Reduce, and Pyrotechnics all being good choices depending on your build. However, what really puts this feat ahead of the rest is Magical Balance.

Being able to “take 10” on a saving throw as a reaction is very good. Concentration saves come to mind, given their default difficulty is 10. Especially at lower levels, there are quite a few dangerous saves where a 10 is all you need to turn a failure into a success. I still don’t think this is worth taking a feat for, but so far it’s the closest.

Divinely Favored

You learn the thaumaturgy cantrip and one 1st-level spell based on the alignment of your character, as specified in the Alignment Spells table.

You can cast the chosen 1st-level spell without a spell slot, and you must finish a long rest before you can cast it in this way again. You can also cast the spell using any spell slots you have.

Your spellcasting ability for this feat’s spells is Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma (choose when you select this feat).

Alignment1st-level Spell
EvilChoose one 1st-level warlock or wizard spell.
GoodChoose one 1st-level cleric or wizard spell.
NeutralChoose one 1st-level druid or wizard spell.

In addition, you can use a holy symbol as a spellcasting focus for any spell you cast that uses the spellcasting ability you choose when you select this feat.

This is the first feat on this list I would actually consider taking, thanks to one spell: Goodberry.* The Goodberry plus Life cleric combo is the best source of healing in 5E, and finding the most efficient way to gain Goodberry is always the challenging piece of the combo. Druid costs a level and metal armor, ranger requires two levels with slower spell slot progression, and Mark of Hospitality halfling requires allowing the Eberron setting material. Now, Divinely Favored offers a way to gain the spell at the cost of a feat. The price is steep, but it’s worth it for the Lifeberry.

My main issue with this feat is how it ties alignment to mechanics in general and classes in particular. Why are wizards capable of being any alignment, but cleric, druid, and warlock are all locked to one of three groups? The whole point of a roleplaying game is to express your fantasy, not the fantasy assigned to you by a feat. Let your players decide if they want to be a good warlock or a neutral cleric.

Divine Communications

Prerequisite: 4th Level, Divinely Favored Feat

Ability Score Increase. Increase the ability score of the spellcasting ability chosen when you gained the Divinely Favored feat by 1, to a maximum of 20.

Celestial Tongues. You learn to speak, read, and write Celestial, and two other languages of your choice.

Divine Omens. You can cast the augury and commune spells without a spell slot, and you must finish 1d4 long rests before you can cast it in this way again. You can also cast the spell using spell slots you have of the appropriate level. The spell’s spellcasting ability is the one chosen when you gained the Divinely Favored feat.

The first half feat we’ve seen so far, and it is just awful. An inflexible attribute combined with a language proficiency and two highly situational spells is never as good as a simple ASI or other feat.

Knight of the Crown

Prerequisite: 4th Level, Squire of Solamnia Feat

Ability Score Increase. Increase your Strength or Dexterity score by 1, to a maximum of 20.

Tactical Teamwork. When a creature you can see within 30 feet of you makes an attack roll against another creature that is within 5 feet of you, you can use your reaction to grant advantage on the attack roll. You can use this reaction a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

Another half feat, and this one is marginally better. On a frontline character, like a fighter or barbarian, I could see Tactical Teamwork being used, but it all comes back to the opportunity cost of taking this feat. Advantage on between 2 to 6 attacks per rest is not equal to an attribute point or any number of actually good feats. Polearm Master and Great Weapon Master are barbarian mainstays that blow this feat out of the water, as do secondary selections like Resilience or Lucky.

Knight of the Rose

Prerequisite: 4th Level, Squire of Solamnia Feat

Ability Score Increase. Increase your Constitution or Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20.

Bolstering Rally. When you roll initiative, you can choose up to three other creatures you can see within 30 of you. Each creature can gain temporary hit points equal to a roll of your Hit Die + your proficiency bonus + the ability modifier of the ability score increased by this feat. You can use this feature a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

Given how few constitution-based half feats there are, Knight of the Rose could find a home with high-hit-dice classes like the barbarian, fighter, or ranger. These classes could provide their party with an average of 10-11 temporary hit points for two battles if this is acquired at 4th level. Paladins, specifically hexadin paladins,* could use this to turn a 17 charisma into an 18. I’m not sure if I’d take this at 4th level, given that most martial builds need at least two key feats, but I could see it being a 6th- or 8th-level selection to even out an important attribute. Bolstering Rally does lose value depending on whether or not your party has another source of temporary hit points, so be sure to coordinate with the rest of your group before selecting this feat.

Knight of the Sword

Prerequisite: 4th Level, Squire of Solamnia Feat

Disciplined Spirit. You gain proficiency in Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma saving throws (your choice when you take this feat).

Willpower. Immediately after you or a creature you can see within 30 feet of you fail an Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma saving throw, you can expend a Hit Die. The saving throw increases by an amount equal to a roll of that Hit Die, potentially turning a failure into a success. Once you turn a failed saving throw into a successful one using this feat, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest.

This is my pick for the best of the Knight feats. Resilience is a half feat that grants +1 and proficiency to a single save, and it’s one of the best feats in the game. Knight of the Sword isn’t as good due to it being a full feat, but it can be combined with Resilience to make a character that is proficient in the three main saves of 5E: dexterity, constitution, and wisdom. Willpower, while worse than +1 to an attribute, is a decent boost to a single save per rest. I could see this feat on a dexterity-based fighter, giving them excellent saves in almost any situation.


Overall, I find myself lukewarm on these new feats and associated backgrounds. While I like aspects of them, I feel like the designers don’t fully appreciate how expensive a feat is. Characters only get a feat every four levels, and many builds need specific feats to function. That leaves very little space for mediocre feats like the ones on offer from this UA.

I also feel like the flavor and mechanics of these feats clash. When you think of a character that would be a squire, then fighters, rangers, or paladins come to mind. But the main selling point of that feat is medium armor proficiency… something all of those classes already have. The same is true for the Mage of High Sorcery feats. Wizards seems like the perfect flavor fit for such a feat, but a wizard getting a single additional wizard spell is pretty weak. It’s also odd that the martial and arcane “base” feats both have backgrounds tied to them, but the divine option doesn’t. For now I just have to hope they iron all these problems out before the official release.

Treat your friends to an evening of dark ritual murder. In a fictional game scenario, of course. Uncover your lost memories and save the day in our stand-alone game, The Voyage.

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