Wizards of the Coast has dropped another sneak peak for playtest, this time focusing on the ‘Expert Classes’ of Bard, Ranger, and Rogue. Check out the details here.
There is a lot to work through
Good (Glad to see this, it bodes well)
I like that they list recommendations for what to take for proficiencies and spells to assist the newer player.
Lots of the language and definitions get cleaned up like Difficult Terrain and Social Actions, making it more straightforward.
Many of the cooler high level abilities get unlocked two or three levels earlier.
Spell preparation for the Expert classes are more like Clerics this time around, with limitations to what schools they are drawn from. Bards get a bit of a healing bump with their Song of Restoration.
Some Class abilities are ported over from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and some weren’t. We will see what happens with the other Classes.
Bardic Dice got some improvement, now being available as a Reaction to affect d20 test and healing, and at higher levels not being expended on a roll of ‘1’.
Rogues see several Expertise and Evasion Class abilities get bumped to a higher level than before, while Blindsense is gone and replaced with gaining Advantage when they have an ally beside their target. Use Magical Devices gets improved through a rewrite and the new Thief’s Reflexes grants limited double bonus actions!
Lots of Feats got an Ability Score Improvement added, a change from the Feats released in the previous Character Origins UA material. Other Feats like Durable, Keen Mind, and Mounted Combat got improved enough to be worth taking. Observant lost the Passive Observation boost and I’m thrilled to see that. The subheadings added to the Feat descriptions are a good short summary of the abilities and that’s a good thing, particularly for newer players or just finding the full descriptions quickly. Inspiring Leader became more bounded and less level dependent and a little more time intensive by requiring it to be done after a Rest.
Epic Boons are really epic and baked right into the this playtest instead of buried away in the DMG. I’ve never gotten a character to 20th level in 5E so I’ve never had opportunity to see boons in action.
Barkskin got a major change from the way it has operated through multiple editions, becoming a matter of Temporary Hit Points that renew at the start of your turn.
The Bad (With this I take issue …)
Spell preparations getting locked in to the spell slots, making this in some ways closer to earlier editions and reducing the flexibility. It also raises the question as to what will happen with spell slots for multi class characters.
Favored Enemy for Rangers gets gutted and reduced to Hunter’s Mark without concentration or counting against prepared spells but it doesn’t say anything about it not costing slots. In theory, a Ranger could have multiple Marks active at the same time. It also loses all those flavor related lore skills with a 6th level supernatural ability to know the immunities, resistances, and vulnerabilities of any creature that it has Hunter’s Mark on.
Fighter Styles got put under Feats (prerequisite Warrior Class), so the opportunity of martial classes to uniquely define themselves by their fighting is set up as a choice between that and getting an Ability Score Improvement. Admittedly, Fighter has usually had extra opportunities for Feats / ASIs. I’ve also got feelings about the Fighter Styles remaining static. Fighting Style: Protection got reduced to a -2 penalty rather than the elegance of Disadvantage.
Ritual Caster got gutted and can no longer be used to gain additional rituals. Spell Sniper got debuffed with losing a cantrip but it probably needed that change to +60 feet to ranged spells instead of doubling them.
Grapple has gotten some much needed rewriting but it still doesn’t affect things like spellcasting somatic or material requirements.
The Study action – where to start. I’m glad to see some more direction and definition as to what areas of knowledge cover. On the other hand, making it a full action means it will be used far less in encounters. At our table I have really tried to encourage lore checks to add to encounters, allowing one free check per turn.
Meh (Change but is it worth getting excited about?)
With all the spells being organized into the power sources of Arcane, Divine, and Primal (I’m still expecting a Psionic list in the future), the spell school restrictions might be the primary way that mages might be differentiated (along with class specific special abilities).
There are multiple ways to gain a Climb Speed and this would seem to suggest that some characters will no longer need to roll checks to climb.
Ditto for Blindsight – invisible isn’t what it used to be.
Ranger (Hunter) got streamlined, getting stripped down to a single option per subclass feature and some no longer there at all like the Defensive Tactics.
Ability Score Improvements as a feat, so that’s a thing.
Weapon Training replaces Weapon Master, now granting proficiency to ALL Martial Weapons and not just four, making access to Martial Weapon proficiency just a little bit less special.
Exhaustion lost some of it’s teeth by changing to a flat penalty equal to the level of Exhaustion instead of imposing disadvantage and reducing abilities like movement. They also went to 10 levels rather than 6, so those penalties to d20 rolls and Spell Save DCs can have a pretty significant impact still.
Guidance got gutted (a creature can only gain the benefit from this cantrip once until taking a Long Rest – perhaps it should have been a short rest or a number of times equal to a creature’s proficiency bonus) but it probably needed some nerfing to reduce the amount of game spamming it got at most tables. I’m not sure if I agree with changing it to a Reaction for an Instant Duration but I’m glad to see it’s not concentration anymore. This was a great cantrip for non combat situations where a few words of Clerical wisdom could help that Persuasion check or instill confidence for that Rogue picking a lock.
Final Thoughts on Expert Classes
More good changes than bad. Definitions got added or rewritten to be clearer. Many Feats needed some extra sugar and they got it with an Ability Score Improvement. I’m likely to add the changes to Grapple in my regular game and maybe play with a few revised Feats. However, the Ranger got a raw deal and I prefer much of what came out in the UA Revised Ranger.
Previous Thoughts on Unearthed Arcana – Character Origins