Here follow my notes on the last stray bits of Playtest 7 –
the updates to Spells, Feats, Weapons, and the Rules Glossary.
For more context and my Standard Disclaimer,
check out the introduction to this series.
Class Tags are now applied to every spell to indicate which classes can use a particular spell. I feel like this is something that folks had been asking for for some time. I am hopeful that this will mean less flipping back and forth between spell lists and spell descriptions when the new book lands.
Spell Lists are now set for each class. The Arcane, Divine, and Primal lists are gone.
Arcane Eruption (Sorcerer) now has its targets make a Dexterity saving throw rather than Constitution. A Dexterity save makes more sense for an AoE effect, I think, but I’d still prefer this as a level 3 spell since it’s less damage versus Fireball, and over a smaller area.
Counterspell (Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard) has a couple of interesting changes. The subtle one is that it now triggers when you see a creature casting a spell with Verbal, Somatic, or Material components, not just “casting a spell”. That means it might not be able to counter magic items, a Sorcerer using Subtle Spell, or a monster that might be specially written to cast certain spells without any components. The big change is that instead of the Counterspell user making a spellcasting ability check based on the level of the spell being countered, Counterspell now makes the caster who’s being countered make a Constitution saving throw against the countering caster’s spell save DC, causing the spell to “dissipate” on a failed save. While a failed save means the countered caster is still out the Action, Bonus Action, or Reaction they used to cast it, they don’t actually lose the spell slot they were using in the attempt.
I think these changes will probably make it more fun, as the PHB Counterspell is notorious for neutralizing joy at the table. First, the slight tightening of the rules about when Counterspell can be used should reduce arguments at the table about slightly-atypical ways of casting. Second, moving the burden of Counterspell’s success to the targeted caster helps give Counterspell its own identity, distinct from Dispel Magic. Under this new setup, Dispel Magic targets a spell that’s been cast, and Counterspell targets the magic user who’s trying to cast a spell. Moving to the Con save is also a speedier mechanic as the DC is better established up front instead of having to be determined at the time of casting. Finally, not wasting the spell slot when your spell gets countered just feels better to whoever was playing, whether it was a party member who was trying to have a moment in the spotlight with a big spell or a BBEG that the DM really wanted to be a fun and exciting challenge for their players. (Remember, the DM is a player too!)
Eldritch Blast (Sorcerer) reverts to the 2014 PHB version, where its damage scales somewhat ambiguously with “level” rather than “Warlock level” as it did in UA5. I think this is backward and a mistake. This change invites disagreements when multiclassing is in play – if you’ve got 1 level of Warlock and 19 levels of something else, do you really deserve to be as strong with a Warlock’s most iconic spell as a character that committed to the class and reached level 20? I certainly don’t think so. I am pretty tired of multiclass wankery, and I’d really hoped the UA5 version would stick. I look forward to filing my grievances in the survey feedback.
Hex (Warlock) also reverts to the PHB version, which means goes back to providing bonus damage on every hit instead of just once in a turn. This is basically a better version of a Weapon Mastery effect, since besides taking extra damage, the cursed target also gets Disadvantage on an ability checks, and for level 10+ Great Old One Warlocks, the Hexed target also gets Disadvantage on saving throws. By contrast, a Weapon Mastery effect might only do one of these things. This version also pairs well with the extra attacks conferred by the Thirsting Blade Eldritch Invocation option. I guess it’s cool if you’re playing the right flavor of Warlock, but it could be perceived as too-attractive and a “must have” option, which the WotC team said they were trying to reduce or eliminate in this new revision.
Jump (Druid, Ranger, Sorcerer, Wizard) gets several changes. It now uses a Bonus Action instead of an Action, freeing up an Action to do something else (and thus making the caster’s turn more interesting). The target creature must be willing. The target now only gets one magic-enhanced jump per turn, and the magic-enhanced jumps let them go up to 30 feet for the cost of only 10 feet of movement – this is better controlled and the explicit clarification here means it’s much faster to use as it prevents having to go look up the jumping rules. Finally, it can be upcast to target additional creatures – and therefore it becomes compatible with the Sorcerer’s Twinned Spell metamagic. This is a solid set of changes, and I hope to see more like it in a future update.
Sorcerous Burst (Sorcerer) now uses the d8 instead of the d6 – both for causing damage and determining if the dice will “explode” (causing another roll for more damage) or not. This means the damage possible increases (and the average non-exploding damage improves too), but the chances that the dice “explode” are reduced. Maybe it was too “explodey” in playtests? Maybe the 1d6 base damage wasn’t exciting? I still think this could be fun, but this version definitely makes me want to pair it with the Empowered Spell metamagic to improve the chances of a spectacular result.
Not much to say here – the Ability Score Improvement feat is unchanged from UA6, where taking an ASI at level 19+ now lets the ability score max at 22 instead of 20. Cool.
Weapons & Weapon Mastery
For the first time in the playtest process, the Heavy property has been redesigned. A melee weapon that’s Heavy now requires a minimum 13 Strength, and a Heavy ranged weapon requires a minimum 13 Dexterity; without meeting or exceeding the appropriate ability score, you’ll have Disadvantage on attack rolls with that weapon. In the PHB version, you simply had Disadvantage on Heavy weapons if you were playing a Small or Tiny creature. I think the old rule made sense, that the new rule is more inclusive (and aligned with the background and species revisions from earlier in the play test process), and that the new rule may lead to some absolutely comedic visuals. D&D handwaves away problems with magic weapons and armor not being the right size for a character by just saying that these magic items become the right size for their user. But no such accommodation is available for mundane weapons, so bring on the halberd-wielding fairies!
The Flex Mastery Property is gone. It clearly did not test well. I thought it was all right, but perhaps too subtle for most tables. This means that the Quarterstaff now gets Topple, the Longsword and War Pick get Sap, and the Warhammer gets Push.
The other Weapon Mastery properties (Cleave, Flex, Graze, Nick, Push, Sap, Slow, Topple, and Vex) remain unchanged since the last UA.
I still think it’s weird that Greatswords don’t get Cleave, but whatever.
The Death Saving Throws entry has been removed, which I believe means we now fully revert to the PHB rules around what happens when you get knocked down to zero hit points, including the idea of stabilizing a creature and being “stable at zero hit points”. I’m not entirely sure why this keeps getting so much redesign, as it was definitely simpler to run and totally fine several revisions ago. It may also be that we’re just getting more A/B testing and the end result will still end up being some kind of change.
The remainder of the Rules Glossary is unchanged.
Boy, am I glad to be done reading this update. At 54 pages in length, UA7 is 23 pages shorter than UA6, but it was quite dense. Even though it included 20 subclasses, UA7 was only four pages longer than UA5 (which had five classes, each with just one subclass)!
Inter-class balance is getting better, but isn’t quite there yet. Warlocks seem a little too good relative to Fighters and Barbarians. Wizards are always going to be great, and they have the advantage of having started out in a much better place than many other classes did, but at least their worst UA5 offenses were removed. I would like to see Fighter get more love – maybe it should get its third Extra Attack at level 17, and a more exciting capstone at 20. It also stinks that a Warlock will end up with more attacks than a Barbarian, and that the one-level Warlock dip is viable again. It should be possible to capture a player’s desired character fantasy with the combination of class, subclass, and feats without having to allow multiclassing and all the weird combinations and imbalances and accommodations it leads to.
If you’re reading this series, you probably have thoughts and opinions about what’s working and what’s not – as always, I urge you to fill out the playtest survey so that WotC can hear from you. They’re clearly listening and responding to the survey feedback, even if the schedule means the feedback isn’t reflected immediately. The next iteration of D&D won’t be perfect, but I do think it stands a good chance of being even better than what we’ve been enjoying since 2014.