Unearthed Arcana Review: Encounter Building

The newest Unearthed Arcana is actually for Dungeon Masters! And it’s a fix for one of the fiddliest systems in the game: encounter building! WOOO! Sound the alarms, or the dubstep or something! I don’t know! This never happens, I’m not sure how to react! Where’s my party horn? I need a hat. And confetti. And another hat! This is a momentous occasion, and must be celebrated as such!

Except…wait. It’s basically just a series of over-done tables? And its attempt at quantifying complications in combat is to…not quantify complications?

Guess I’ll put away my party hat and get out my keyboard. It’s time to go to work.

Continue reading “Unearthed Arcana Review: Encounter Building”


Unearthed Arcana Review: The Ranger, Revised

Yeah, it’s a new blog post after 3 months of silence. Deal with it.

So Mike Mearls and the D&D Crew have officially released another version of the Ranger in this month’s Unearthed Arcana, attempting once again to create the perfect version of the class. Or at least the version that satisfies the majority of people. And I mean that, by the way. This is very obviously an attempt to satisfy as many people as possible. I’ll get to why that is in a bit.

Did they succeed in that? I don’t know. Only time, playtesting, and surveys will tell if it satisfied the majority of people. I can’t answer for them. I can only answer for myself. So, did the new ranger satisfy me?

In a word: no. But I’m rarely complacent with just writing a single word. So, what’s going on with this Ranger? Why can’t I just be happy with what I’m given?

Read the ranger for yourself HERE!

Continue reading “Unearthed Arcana Review: The Ranger, Revised”

It’s Time to Talk About Superiority Dice

I decided not to review the new Unearthed Arcana. It’s fine, and while it’s more beefy than a few prior versions (the tiefling document, in particular), it’s still a bit scant, and definitely skews toward player options, which is something I’d like to see them get away from with these documents. Especially since they’re only coming out with 6 each year, now.

One thing did strike me, though, while I was reading it (LINK so that you can follow along). The Monster Hunter archetype for the fighter, like the Scout and Cavalier that came out earlier this year in their Kits of Old document (LINK), uses superiority dice in a very unique way to help shape the flavor of the class and offering a variety of options linked through this one system.

I liked this idea back in the Kits of Old doc, and I like it here. However, there are some issues that I would like to discuss regarding the way these superiority dice are being used. What makes superiority dice great (and they really are great), and what parts could really be improved? Continue reading “It’s Time to Talk About Superiority Dice”

Why the Mystic is Bad at Eating Cake

So, round 2 of the Mystic finally came out. I never analyzed the mystic’s first appearance on this blog, which serves me just fine. It was five levels, so I didn’t really have much to analyze. And although I think it’s a really ambitious class, I don’t think I lost anything by NOT analyzing it. Especially when there are others who do it on a regular basis, and are, frankly, really good at it.

However, now the second round is out. It’s got ten levels, instead of five, and we now have a whole host of disciplines to look at, instead of just the few that were included in the five-level build.

But I’m still not examining it. Not in a traditional sense, anyway. If you want a point-by-point breakdown of the class, then go ahead and take a gander at Harbinger of Doom’s review. It’s really quite thorough and he has a better head for class balance than I. Instead, I’m going to take this opportunity to talk about a topic that’s definitely related to the Mystic, but is definitively more broad in scope.

I want to talk about incentives. Specifically, mechanical incentives in game design. This isn’t going to be a topic about placing incentives in adventures to get players to do things. Rather, it’s going to be about the various different incentives that are placed in classes, races, and feats that encourage certain styles of play. Continue reading “Why the Mystic is Bad at Eating Cake”

Unearthed Arcana Review: That Old Black Magic (plus a new Tiefling!)

So…this Unearthed Arcana is only three pages long. It’s a new tiefling variant and a few spells and…well, actually, that’s it. But that’s okay. I get it. It’s the holiday season. Not only is the team probably quite busy working on 2016’s lineup of products, but it’s that time of year where you cuddle up in front of the fire with your family and hibernate until The Flash comes back on January 19th.

Frankly, that’s why I’m reviewing a 3-page document at 11 o’clock Thursday night instead of writing something interesting or enigmatic for you guys to puzzle over. I’m damn busy, people! Why do you think I outsourced my Monstrous Mondays?

Anyway, onto the UA. That Old Black Magic. Great title, if nothing else…

Jesus, am I really talking about the title? Gods, this is terrible. Okay, folks. Let’s dig into this. It’ll be a short one this week. I promise I’ll make up for it next week.

Download the Unearthed Arcana HERE. Continue reading “Unearthed Arcana Review: That Old Black Magic (plus a new Tiefling!)”

Re-Post: Unearthed Arcana Review: Waterborne Adventures

This is an interesting one. Two of the subclasses in this document, you see, actually made it into the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. It’s neat looking back and seeing what I thought of the Proto-versions of these subclasses, as compared to their final versions.

And I still love the minotaurs. Their culture continues to make me smile.
Continue reading “Re-Post: Unearthed Arcana Review: Waterborne Adventures”

Unearthed Arcana Review: Light, Dark, Underdark!

Well, would you look at that? What’s that on the task bar, there? Is that…is that a Downloads button? Huh…wonder what could possibly be there. Might be worth checking out. Just a thought.


So, that was pretty quick. Originally, I was going to do a class analysis today. But the new Unearthed Arcana came out, and It’s actually pretty interesting.

I’ve always found the underdark to be an intriguing idea. A world beneath where all of the scariest, nastiest, most alien monsters live. It’s like the land-version of the deepest parts of the ocean, where our understanding of what organic life is has to adjust. In that way, it’s one of the most interesting places to travel as an adventurer, and it’s one of the most fun toolsets to play with as a DM.

That said, it’s not all perfect. Everyone has their own idea of what the underdark SHOULD be, and my experience is that far too many people think of one thing when they think Underdark: Drow. There’s nothing inherently wrong with drow, but they just do NOT fit with my perspective of the underdark as a strange and confusing place. Drow are…bland. And so are Duergar and Svirfneblin, frankly. Not as a rule, but compared to mindflayers, aboleths, beholders, and the other terrifying alien monstrosities that lurk in the shadow.

All of this has no bearing on the most recent Unearthed Arcana, however. It’s just a lead-in so that I can explain my feelings on the matter. And while this UA is connected to the Underdark, it’s all about the PCs, and how they interact with it.

A quick note before I begin. Brandes Stoddard’s Lantern Bearer archetype would fit perfectly among the options presented here.

Before we begin, you can download the PDF HERE. Continue reading “Unearthed Arcana Review: Light, Dark, Underdark!”

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