I'm happy to share that Unearthed Arcana playtest content will now be available on D&D Beyond!
Starting with January's UA - the druid circle of spores, fighter brute, and wizard school of invention subclasses - new mechanical playtest content will be incorporated into DDB and released one week after the article goes live. "Mechanical content" includes elements that could be used directly with your characters, such as subclasses, races, feats, or spells. Basically, anything that would be included in character creation or management will be added to DDB. New rules content that might appear in Unearthed Arcana (like anything found in the "DM Tools" chapter of Xanathar's Guide to Everything) will not be incorporated until it is published, since this content would ordinarily be included in the compendium instead of the character builder or sheet.
The inclusion of UA playtest content has been the most-requested feature for D&D Beyond, and we are excited to be able to start 2018 with it now in place.
How Playtest Content Works
Playtest content and availability will work a bit differently than typical published or homebrew content. The following disclaimer will be posted for any new UA options:
THIS IS UNOFFICIAL MATERIAL
The material here is presented for playtesting and to spark your imagination. These game mechanics are in draft form, usable in your campaign but not refined by final game design and editing. They aren’t officially part of the game and aren’t permitted in D&D Adventurers League events.
If this material is made official, it will be refined based on your feedback, and then it will appear in a D&D product that you can unlock on DDB.
If this material is not made official, it will be removed from DDB following the playtest period and you will need to replace it with another option.
For instance, if you choose to use the school of invention subclass for your wizard character and the subclass gets published in an official source down the road, that subclass will be removed from UA and added to the published source. Your character would no longer have access to the school of invention, but you can either unlock it from the published source, choose another subclass, or privately homebrew an approximation of it. You won't lose anything on your character outside of the playtest content option. If the school of invention subclass is not included in a published source down the road and we hear from Wizards of the Coast that it has been cut, you will also lose access to the option.
You can view the new subclass options for this month in the class detail pages for the druid, fighter, and wizard.
To use Unearthed Arcana content with your characters, you must have the Playtest Content toggle turned on in your character preferences in the Home section during character creation (the same way you toggle Homebrew content on and off). We will improve your source management options in the near future (full whitelisting/ blacklisting by source), but this is the starting point.
You can then see the new subclass options (and any future playtest content) in the character builder.
Previous Playtest Content
We will integrate all appropriate Unearthed Arcana content from January 2018 going forward into D&D Beyond. For all previous playtest content, it is either available already in a published source or it is considered "archived" and will not be available in the official UA source here on DDB.
You will, however, be able to recreate much of this content using our homebrew system for private use, and we will occasionally provide public homebrew instances of the highly-popular archived content for your convenience. We will provide more details about the way that will work soon.
Check out the three new subclasses, take them for a spin, and get ready to share your feedback in the official survey later this month to help shape the future of the game!
You can also hear what designer Jeremy Crawford had to say about the three new subclass options below.
Jeremy Crawford on January's UA Content
Brutes, spores, and then wizards and armor are all featured in this month's Unearthed Arcana.
We dove into 2018 in Unearthed Arcana with three new subclasses. Little crazy since we just released Xanathar's Guide to Everything, which has a ton of new subclasses in it, but we're constantly experimenting with subclass ideas either because they amuse us, players have asked for them, we're toying with the idea of including them in a book, or all of the above. The three that we introduced this month fall into several of those different categories. One of them is actually a further development of a subclass we experimented with last year for the wizard and that was a subclass called lore mastery. It was a version of the wizard where you could tinker with your spells a bit, change damage types and what not. You are, in a way, a spell kitbasher. You can make your spells function in a way that was different from how most wizards can make your spells function in some ways akin to what a sorcerer can do with meta magic, but we tried to make it so that it felt more wizardly.
That subclass had a mixed response, which was one of the reasons why it didn't make it into Xanathar's Guide. Instead, we ended up with the war magic subclass for wizards. We still thought there's something in lore mastery that a number of our players responded positively to, this idea of magical experimentation, different again from the sorcerer, whose our innate spell caster, whose able to shape spells because of an inborn connection to magic itself. The wizard is the scholar, but in this case with the School of Invention, we're leaving also into another side of the wizard that sometimes comes up in wizardly storytelling and that is almost wizard as scientist, wizard as inventor, or wizard as alchemist because often the alchemist archetype is associated with the wizard.
We thought, what if we took the pieces of lore mastery that people responded positively to and worked on creating more of a cohesive story for that subclass? We pushed a little further with the alchemical angle, but then also started to explore almost a steampunky idea of ... Imagine this inventor wizard who not only is experimenting with spells, but also experimenting with devices that can help you channel that magic. We thought further, what if this was a school that is associated with people like gnomes and other magic inventors who've appeared in various D&D worlds? This includes not only wizards of various types, but also people who experiment with gunpowder and what not.
We got this idea of this wizard encased in this special suit of armor that can be used for protection but then also to tinker with your spells a bit and the School of Invention was born. We'll see, as always, if people like it, if they like this next iteration of what used to be called lore mastery. As always, with Unearthed Arcana, if people really love, then we consider where might we go next with this subclass. If people dislike it, we'll either try it again or we'll lay it to rest.
I've been glad to see that so far people have particularly liked some of the randomness that is in the School of Invention because for anyone who hasn't read it, you'll see when you go to it that there are these tables you can roll on where you basically just spend a spell slot blind and roll and end up casting a spell that you may or may not have had prepared. Then there's even a chance that a second spell goes off as well. Now there is almost some risk that no spell happens, but there's this element of gambling to say, if I tinker a bit with this magic, what's going to come out on the other side?
There's also still the element like there was in lore mastery of altering the spells a bit, changing damage type, adding some damage, that sort of thing. We have reined that in because one of the bits of feedback we got on lore mastery was the ability to make something a mile long was indeed off the hook, way too good for many spells. Also, one thing that does not appear this time that was in lore mastery was the ability to change which saving throw a spell was forcing a target to make. That's not there in the design currently because that's the kind of thing that ... It's one of those things that on the surface can seem really cool, but in play, it's often either going to result in actually no appreciable change in what's going on or if it does result in something happening, it's often going to be an undesirable outcome that makes the combat unsatisfying.
Here's a great example. If you cast a spell on somebody that, let's say, stuns them and stuns them for a certain amount of time. The spell normally makes you make Wisdom saving throws against it to try to break out of being stunned but you use your lore master ability to change that Wisdom saving throw into a Strength saving throw. Well, the thing is, when you're stunned, you automatically fail Strength saving throws. Doing that, you essentially just broke that spell. You made it impossible for someone to break out. This is what I mean where you could have another case where you change it from Wisdom to Intelligence and it's often going to make no difference really in play. It's basically too random giving people that ability and to really use effectively, kind of relies on meta knowledge, which is something we try to steer away from.
Damage type changing in contrast is more in world. It's more intuitive to say, "All right. We're up against a fire elemental so instead of shooting fire at it with this spell, I'm going to shoot ice at it," that kind of thing. Or thunder. Even there with damage types, we tweaked it a little bit and took out some of the damage types like psychic and force, which very few monsters have resistance to because we didn't want every spell to just get switched over to force or psychic. We wanted there to still be some meaningful choice and also if something is an elemental visible effect in the world, it should continue to be that. That's why in the School of Invention you could change fire to ice, for instance, but you can't change fire to psychic. The fireball isn't suddenly blasting people's minds. It's still going to be some kind of elemental effect out in the world.
We also released a new circle for the druid, the Circle of Spores. Now this is a new subclass, but it is sort of distantly related to also a subclass we experimented with before Xanathar's Guide came out. That was the Circle of Twilight. There, we were experimenting with a circle for the druid that has kind of a dark mood, something sinister about it. Circle of Twilight didn't test particularly well with play testers, so we went back to the drawing board and Mike Mearls drafted up the Circle of Spores, which is all about these spores that are inside you, which you can use to deal poison damage to other people and it's sort of its darkest once you're high enough level, use those spores to go into the corpse of a person, animate that corpse, and have that corpse fight as a zombie. So, kind of dark and a bit gross, which is what we were going for.
This is a druid who is still very much about nature, but about the part of nature that involves decay, about the earth reclaiming the dead usually through the work done by different type of fungi to spawn new life. In this case, spawn some undeath. We talk about in the subclasses' text about these druids have kind of a complex relationship to the undead. Most druids want to destroy undead because they are against the natural cycle whereas these druids view undeath as actually a legitimate step in the natural cycle. Their vision of the natural cycle isn't just life and death. It's life, death, and undeath. Their main opposition is to undead creatures that want to make everyone else undead. It's basically like, all right, as long as you stay in your place and you allow there still to be life and death and preferably as long as you eventually accept that even you, undead creature, should die, we're good. If you don't accept those things, then the Circle of Spores' druids are going to come after you, possibly with zombies of their own.
Definitely the zombie of the Circle of Spores could be likened to the fungus like zombies that were in the game The Last of Us, which was a terrifying game. I actually couldn't finish it because when I tried playing it, I was really busy at the time and I'd come home from work. It's like the last thing I need to do is sit down in front of this game and just be stressed out all night. Eventually, I hope to go back to it because it was so good.
The third subclass in this month's Unearthed Arcana is the brute. The brute is a chance for us to tool around with a new simple fighter. We know going all the way back to the D&D Next Playtest that in each class, our very diverse range of players like to have subclass options that are complex and also subclass options that are simple and options that are somewhere in between. In the Player's Handbook for the fighter, the simple option is the champion and the complex option is the battle master. We decided, because we've come out with a number of other fighter subclasses since the Player's Handbook came out, it was time for us to try out another simple one. This time, what if we did one that really leans into the fighter shtick and that is fighting and just made it about dealing bucket loads of damage? That's what the brute is all about. The brute is about dealing a lot of damage and also taking a lot of damage. Just standing there and soaking it up and doing so without a whole lot of complexity.
The brute, if it ends up being liked by a lot of our play testers, like everything else we'll go through rounds of development and what not. We'll make sure we get all that bonus damage just right so it's not overshadowing other options in the game. We always like for there to be simple options in the game for every class, simple options like the brute. For the person who just wants to sit down and all right, I just want to play some D&D and not have to make a bunch of tactical decisions. Again, every class has one of these. The cleric has the life domain that's actually designed to be the simple option. The wizard has the evocation domain. If you go through each class, you'll see there's always at least one subclass that is simpler than the others.
Probably the only class in the game that really doesn't have one of these options is the warlock, particularly because the warlock has two decision points, doesn't lend itself as well to this design as some of our other classes. We also emphasize the simple option less when you get away from the four classic classes: the fighter, the rogue, the cleric, and the wizard. It's most important to us that those four, the ones that people have gravitated toward since D&D's origins decades ago, we always want to make sure there's some simple options in those classes. The brute answers that.
You can play test this Unearthed Arcana on dndbeyond.com right now. I'm Todd Kenreck. Thank you for watching.