Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition
|Dungeons & Dragons|
|RPG published by
Wizards of the Coast
|Authors||Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford|
Announced under the working title of D&D Next, the 5th edition of Wizards of the Coast's Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game is the Coca-Cola Classic to 4E's new coke, released in 2014 after a long period of playtesting. It is available as a free 110-page *.pdf with a subset of the rules, and in the usual three hardcover tomes: Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide and the Monster Manual. 5th edition took dramatic steps to regain the "feel" of older editions, hoping to bring Pathfinder expats back into the fold without alienating the minority of players who liked Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, and maybe, just maybe even woo back some of the TSR grognards.
On January 12, 2016, Wizards of the Coast released the Systems Reference Document, 5th Edition under the Open Gaming License- effectively making the core rules and much of the more generic fantasy content in 5th edition free.
- 1 What's The Same
- 2 What's Different (from 3E)
- 3 Noticeably Missing
- 4 4e's Legacy
- 5 Magic/Spellcasting
- 6 Combat
- 7 Setting
- 8 Races
- 8.1 Core
- 8.2 Eberron Unearthed Arcana
- 8.3 Elemental Evil Player's Guide
- 8.4 Unearthed Arcana Waterborne Adventures
- 8.5 Unearthed Arcana: Gothic Heroes
- 8.6 Unearthed Arcana: Race Options
- 8.7 Plane Shift: Zendikar
- 8.8 Plane Shift: Innistrad
- 8.9 Volo's Guide to Monsters
- 8.10 Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes
- 8.11 Plane Shift: Kaladesh
- 8.12 Plane Shift: Amonkhet
- 8.13 Tortle Supplement
- 8.14 Plane Shift: Ixalan
- 8.15 Unearthed Arcana: Centaurs and Minotaurs
- 8.16 Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron
- 8.17 Plane Shift: Dominaria
- 8.18 Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica
- 8.19 One Grung Above
- 8.20 Acquisitions Incorporated
- 8.21 Eberron: Rising From the Last War
- 8.22 Explorer's Guide to Wildemount
- 8.23 Mythic Odysseys in Theros
- 9 Classes
- 10 Prestige Classes
- 11 Backgrounds
- 11.1 Player's Handbook
- 11.2 Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide
- 11.3 Curse of Strahd
- 11.4 Tomb of Annihilation
- 11.5 Plane Shift: Innistrad
- 11.6 Plane Shift: Amonkhet
- 11.7 Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica
- 11.8 Ghosts of Saltmarsh
- 11.9 Acquisitions Incorporated
- 11.10 Eberron: Rising from the Last War
- 11.11 Descent into Avernus
- 12 Controversies
- 12.1 Glacial Release Pace
- 12.2 Unearthed Arcana
- 12.3 Race Design
- 12.4 No Monster PCs
- 12.5 Companions and Summons
- 12.6 Half-Casters
- 12.7 Sorcerer
- 12.8 Too many CHAsters
- 12.9 Way of the Four Elements Monk
- 12.10 Lack of Settings
- 12.11 Setting Pandering
- 12.12 Baby's First D&D
- 12.13 Minimal Player Options
- 13 Online Support
- 14 See also
What's The Same
Player classes are still the classics (Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, Wizard in free version, plus Paladin, Warlock, Sorcerer, Bard, Barbarian, Ranger, Monk, and Druid in full PHB), players have the archetypal races (Dwarf, Elf, Halfling and Human in free version, adding subraces such as Mountain/Hill Dwarves, Forests/Rocks Gnomes, Forests/High/Dark Elves, two versions of the Halfling, also Tieflings, Half-Elves, Half-Orcs and Dragonborn). Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. Ability scores can give small bonuses to your dice rolls. Characters can be skilled at predefined tasks like "acrobatics" or "intimidation" to get bonus to rolls. Universal d20-based system of roll-over target numbers. Experience points, with every class requiring the same number of EXP's to advance to the next level. Classes get features as they reach new class levels. Hit points, class-based hit dice. 10 silver pieces = 1 gold piece. In combat, targets have armor class to-hit numbers determined by armor & stuff.
What's Different (from 3E)
A big change is the advantage/disadvantage mechanic, which collapses a lot of the circumstance bonuses. If a character has an 'advantage' for a skill roll or combat roll, the player rolls two d20 and takes the better one. If a character has a 'disadvantage', roll two d20 and take the worse one. These advantages and disadvantages cancel each other out, and do not accumulate; you will only ever roll two d20 and choose one. So if your second level rogue is trying to pick a lock but he is on fire and drunk (as players of rogues often are) but he's being aided by another person, he'll pick the lock just as well as if he was totally fine. The explosion of buffs has been dramatically scaled back from 3E, where having ten buffs at once was not unheard of.
Attributes are the same ol' six, but more important than before. They're used for skills checks and saving throws. Ability score increases are now class features, meaning that you have the potential to lose them if you multiclass. Most classes get 5 ASIs, at levels 4, 8, 12, 16, and 19. Rogues get one extra, and Fighters get one more than Rogues.
Feats are now fewer in number and more potent. If a character wants to obtain a Feat, they have to give up one of their Ability Score Increases to gain access to it.
In order to maintain the 'bounded accuracy' system described above, ability scores have a 'soft cap' of 20, which can only be broken using (rare) magic items, or exceptional circumstances such as the Barbarian's level 20 feature. There is a hard cap of 30, which cannot be exceeded by any means.
Target numbers including Armor Class are capped hard; no more DC 80 skill rolls, no more AC 120 monsters. Goblins can still hit you when you're a level 20 paladin, they just do weaksauce damage (Fixed damages to make the combats faster are also suggested/used for the weakest creatures). Swarms are still a problem, as are clever little shits like Tucker's Kobolds; no more Superman characters.
No more skill points; either you have proficiency in a skill, or you don't. As you level up, you get a 'proficiency bonus' (roundUp((level)/4)+1) you add to any rolls for those skill checks you're proficient in. Seems small, but see above about skill checks and ACs not getting stupid large even at high levels.
Saving throws are like skills checks. Each class is proficient in two attributes for saving throws, so they get to add their proficiency bonus. So when a Cleric gets hit by a charm spell, that's a wisdom save: d20 + wisdom bonus + proficiency, versus the spell DC (explained below). No more 'fort','reflex','will' per level, although Constitution, Dexterity, and Wisdom are still the three most common saves. Each class gets two saving throw proficiencies, one "common" and one "uncommon."
Races come with racial bonuses, but some races also choose a racial sub-type. I.e. all dwarves get bonuses to save vs. poison, but Hill Dwarves get +1 Wisdom and extra hitpoints while Mountain Dwarves get +2 Strength and medium armor training. This has been around since Dragon Magazine was still a print magazine, but it's codified right there at character generation. The exceptions are humans, half-elves, half-orcs, and tieflings.
Spellcasting is through spell slots used to cast the known/daily prepared spells as many times as there are slots available (essentially, you no longer have to assign a spell to each spell slot). It is very similar to 3e Sorcerers. Older players may recognize this system from the Final Fantasy 1 and Wizardry vidyas.
Each class has a subtype called "archetype" you choose at 1st, 2nd or 3rd level, depending on the class. This lets you choose some of the class features you get as you level up. For Clerics this would be their god's domain that the Cleric is gonna be all about (Basic Set only has "Life" domain). For Wizards it's the school of magic (Basic Set only has "Evocation"). Paladins have the Oath they swear, bards have the College they join, etc.
Character background is now a mandatory part of character generation. A Background includes additional skill and tool proficiencies, and even bonus equipment, as well as a "Feature" that gives some sort of social advantage. For example, a Criminal has a contact in the criminal underground, or a Sailor being able to get free passage for their party in exchange for assisting the ship's crew. Backgrounds also have tables players will roll on to get two Personality Traits, one Ideal, one Bond, and one Flaw, though like most tables of this nature the player can just choose whatever sounds best to them (or come up with their own that fit the background 'cause this is a roleplaying game).
When you role-play well, the DM can give you an "inspiration" token you can spend to gain advantage on a d20 roll, or pass it off to another player in the group. This has often been a house rule but now it's codified and it will likely push people into using the fanmail mechanic more often, and roleplaying for benefits instead of being entitled to a hero point with every long rest. Additionally, you can only ever have one inspiration token at any given time, effectively incentivizing you to spend it quickly and not hoard it. Presumably this is all to help out new players with the idea of playing a character that isn't of their own personality, but it also probably helps the players who view their characters as walking stat blocks with little to no personality into trying actual roleplaying for once. The PHB even explicitly suggests working with your DM to come up with a custom background if none of the ones in the book really fit your character. The basic set comes with five pre-made character backgrounds, and tables so you can roll the "traits" "ideal" etc. Notably, the bard's performance can also grant inspiration.
Starting equipment is now decided with the use of a list for a given class, as well as equipment granted by choosing a background. Some things in a list give you an option, such as choosing between two kinds of weapons or item packs. It's an awfully generous amount of items to start with when you add it all up. Of course, you can roll for starting gp like in older editions, but you stand a decent chance of rolling poorly, and considering how the monk's starting item set alone has the potential to be worth more than the maximum roll for their starting money (22.5 vs. 20 gp, without even taking background equipment into account) you'd be stupid not to take items from the list, unless some rule passed this writer's knowledge.
Electrum pieces are once again acknowledged as existing in D&D.
None of the core books have rules for playing as "monster races." A few were released in Volo's, but about half of them are widely-disliked, have flagrant balance issues, or both, and none from outside that book's purview (such as setting-specific races like thri-kreen or warforged and plane-specific options like githyanki and githzerai). Official online supplements are being released to cover some of this (with the first one including all the Eberron-specific races as options), and the DMG does offer very free-form rules for homebrewing new races off the template of the old.
Exotic/Superior weapons are absent from the core books entirely, with the Player's Handbook listing only simple weapons and martial weapons. Bastard swords and spiked chains are nowhere to be found. 3rd edition's Dwarven waraxe, two-bladed sword, Gnome hooked hammer, and a bunch of others weren't invited to the party. Hand crossbows are now martial weapons (after 4th edition downgraded them from exotic to simple). Instead, the rules tell the player to use equivalents for flavor (katanas are just longswords, etc.) and not sweat the small stuff.
No Wealth by Level. There is no assumed or prescribed treasure, gold becomes of questionable usefulness after a few hundred for basic gear, and magic items in general are to be given almost solely by DM fiat. Magic items break down into roughly five different price points rather than being priced individually and there is virtually no way to afford even the most basic of magic items that don't involve adventure. Adventure League tried to standardize magic item gains, but reverted to a secondary, non-gold and purely meta, currency. Not having even gear leads to magic items being even more of a swing factor in fights, further undermining 5e's already rocky encounter balance.
Psionics haven't reared their head yet, save for a brief mention that Illithids are "Psionic Commanders" and possess "psionic powers" with no further description for what that means to the player (some other monsters also mention possible psionic powers, for example quaggoth and gray ooze). In the Unearthed Arcana article for Eberron, it was mentioned that rules for psionic classes would be published "once such rules are made available," implying that WotC is working implementing a Psionic class and as of this writing there is currently a rough draft of psionics in existence. The Psionic class (named the Mystic this edition) now goes up to 20th level, as seen here. 
The Warlord has yet to make a 5e appearance, apart from the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide lackluster Purple Dragon Knight (aka Banneret), despite the battlemaster being the Eldritch Knight to its wizard and the Warlord being a core class from 4e.
No epic progression. The DMG has rules for epic boons, but there's not much support beyond this. Consequentially the Monster Manual lacks epic monsters like Atropals and Orcus. (The atropal is now in Tomb of Annihilation, but it has a much lower CR). Official material and pre-made adventures soft-cap at around level 12 to better support the Adventure League.
5e plays, looks and feels a hell of a lot more like 3rd edition than 4th, but make no mistake, a lot of stuff carries over from 4th edition, for good or ill.
Character alignment has no mechanical effect; basically character mindset/flavor only. No more "Barbarians must be Chaotic, Bards must be Chaotic, Druids must be Neutral, Paladins must be "Lawful Stupid". Paladin flavor definitely leans towards the Good alignments, but focus is given on following their archetype's Oath rather than a specific alignment. DM is still given permission to drop a mechanical penalty on a player who is purposely breaking/ignoring their oath, but at least is given the option to switch over to the Blackguard-ish "Oathbreaker Paladin" archetype instead of forcing the player to become a different class instead.
PC racial traits are more like 4E than other editions. There are no ability score penalties, level adjustments, or favored classes.
Dragonborn and Tieflings remain core races, appearing in the PHB1 race lineup alongside the iconic human/dwarf/elf/halfling/gnome/half-elf/half-orc setup. Both races retain aspects of their 4e lore as well, tieflings moreso than dragonborn -- dragonborn, in fact, have been made somewhat closer to the half-dragons/draconic template of older editions in that they need to choose which of the iconic chromatic/metallic dragons they resemble. However, races outside the standard Dwarf/Elf/Halfling/Human are now considered uncommon where small town and villages treat them with suspicion.
Second Wind lives on as a class feature for Fighters. Bits and pieces of Defender Marking also turn up (such as Protection fighting style and Sentinel feat). Action Points live on in the Fighter as well, in the form of Action Surge, which lets a Fighter make a second action on their turn, but needs a short rest before getting this extra action back.
Speaking of short rest, many class-related feature-powers are designated as needing either "a short rest or a long rest", or "a long rest" to recharge after being used. This is essentially a fancier/less universal version of 4E's encounter power & daily power set-up (although 3.5 did have some abilities that were "once per encounter", like Barbarian Rage, and "once per day" has been around forever). 5E also has at-will attack cantrips for casters, so AEDU's influence definitely shows.
On the other hand, the definition of "Short Rest" has changed a bit. In 4e, a short rest was a 5-minute breather, and it was generally assumed that you'd get a short rest after every encounter. In 5e, a short rest is more like a 1-hour lunch break, so you won't get them as often.
"Recharge 5-6" was retained for not-quite at-will abilities (like dragon breath) instead of 3E's "wait 1d4 rounds" mechanic.
The use of hit dice to regain hit points during a short rest is based on 4th edition's healing surges. The death/dying mechanic, in which you need three "saving throw" successes or failures at 0 HP to either live or die still remains.
The skill list is almost identical to 4E, and proficiency is a yes/no binary rather than skill points, though this was first introduced back in Star Wars Saga Edition (aka D&D 3.75).
Psychic damage type is still here. Poison is also a damage type in this edition, but since Poison damage was a 2e thing that 3e chucked out for some absurd reason, it doesn't really count.
Lightning and Thunder damage retain their 4E names (instead of Electric and Sonic). Likewise, Necrotic and Radiant energy survived the edition change, though they are tied to the old "Positive Energy Plane" and "Negative Energy Plane", which are here imagined as secondary planes beyond even the Outer Planes.
Feywild, Shadowfell and Elemental Chaos have all survived the transition.
Nine spell levels return from previous editions, but as in 4E, spell effects don't scale with caster level, other than the aforementioned attack cantrips. Instead, lower-level spells can be cast in higher-level slots for more potent returns, like targeting additional enemies or dealing more damage.
Cleric's Channel Divinity and the 'ritual' mechanic for spells were also introduced in 4th edition.
The idea of superpowerful "Epic Boons" being awarded for hitting level 20+ appears in the DMG as a homage to 4e and its Epic Destinies.
All ability scores are used for saving throws (although not the same way as 4E).
The Swordmage's iconic cantrips appeared as available to wizards, sorcerers and warlocks in the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, along with a Wizard archetype that roughly fits their M.O.
Spells don't vanish like Vancian spellcasting "fire-and-forget". Spellcasters get a small number of 'cantrips' that they can cast at-will. The attacking ones are (sort of) equivalent to weapons, and scale up with level. Non-cantrip spells do not scale up their effect with character level, but they may have bigger effects if cast using a higher spell slot. For instance, the 1st-level spell Burning Hands (3d6 damage) does 4d6 when cast as a 2nd-level spell, 5d6 as a third-level, etc. The caster either prepares a number of different spells each day (cleric, druid, paladin, wizard) or uses all the spells in his repertoire (ranger, sorcerer, warlock, bard) which are then freely cast using spell slots. There is no "Improved Hold Person" instead you cast this 2nd level spell using a 3rd level slot to affect one additional person.
Some spells can be cast as rituals, usually utility stuff. They take an additional 10 minutes to cast as a ritual, but don't use a spell slot. Still needs to be on your spell list, but this means no more blowing an entire day's worth of spell slots on casting "Read Magic" and "Identify" just so you can assess loot. More interestingly, there are some utility spells, what are not rituals, so you DO need to waste a spell slot for one person's 8 hour darkvision.
Some spells, like buff enchantments or protection abjurations, have a continuous effect maintained by 'concentration'. The spellcaster can maintain concentration as a free action, but can only keep concentration going for one spell. No more heaping a bazillion enchantments or abjurations all at once. Concentration can also be broken by taking damage if the caster fails a Constitution saving throw.
Another change to spellcasting is that many spells have been compressed into one; instead of having six different buff spells, one for each stat, there is now one and you pick which stat to buff when you cast it. Examples of spells that have this are the Runes spell series and the Symbol spells.
Spells are no longer cast with XP as a required component. Wish, for example, does not require EXP to cast; however, it is much more dangerous to use (the caster has a 1/3 chance of never being able to cast it again).
Charge-based magic items such as wands, staves, etc have returned, but are no longer completely "fire and forget". If you use your last charge in such an item, there's a 1 in 20 chance that it will be destroyed (roll a D20 after charges drop to zero, item disintegrates after use if you roll a 1), but otherwise it will regain a number of charges based on the item each morning. So, if you're careful and lucky, you can keep using the same wand (or other item) throughout your career.
Combat is faster. The advantage/disadvantage mechanic speeds up combat by making situational modifiers simpler, and the Monster Manual offers the option to let monsters deal set damage per attack instead of rolling every time.
There's a "disengage" maneuver that lets you step away from an enemy without provoking an AoO. The "charge" maneuver is noticeably missing , but you can both move your speed and do all of your iterative attacks (which are now a class feature and not based on your to-hit roll.) In addition, you can now break up your movement over the course of your turn; do a partial move, action, then more moving instead of "move then attack." Two weapon fighting doesn't give you a huge minus to your attacks, you just need to use two light weapons, spend your bonus action for the round, and you don't get your usual attribute bonuses with the off-hand.
Resistance, vulnerability and immunity are simplified. Whereas before they used a numeric system, it's now a Pokemon-style double-damage/half-damage/no damage system. Also, any of these matters is applied explicitly after any circumstances in a mathematical order of operations - example given in the PHB is a character with Acid Resistance being hit for 25 Acid damage whilst under a spell that lowers damage by five, so the initial 25 damage is lowered by the spell first, then resistance gets applied, so only 10 Acid damage is inflicted. Also, the number of monsters with innate damage vulnerabilities is much lower, but there are also fewer things like Spell Resistance to allow monsters to just nope the hell out of the way during magic attacks.
Creatures and characters now have a set move speed per turn, instead of a move action, allowing them to split up their movement however they wish throughout their turn, including between attacks. Because moving is no longer a single action, the "five foot shift" maneuver is no longer present.
Special "legendary monsters", such as dragons or aboleths, can perform a "legendary action" at the end of another character's turn, and may also use the ambient magic within their lairs to perform unique attacks. They can do this a set times per round, usually three. They can also affect their surroundings indirectly simply by existing, using “Lair Actions.” Finally, there are the "Regional Actions," which allow monsters so imbued with magic that they can modify reality itself a little to do just that, like adding swarms of choking flies around demon lairs, or helping good-hearted people find paths in confusing mountain passes for Gold Dragons. A monster that has Legendary, Lair, and Regional Actions has special rules for doing all of them in a single initiative order, usually doing automatic Lair and optional Regional Actions on Initiative 20.
Fifth edition's cosmological setup is basically the Great Wheel, but has some new features. Most notably, the Inner Planes have been changed to have an Exalted-esque "Border Elemental Plane/Elemental Plane/Elemental Chaos" layout. The Border Elemental Planes are closer to 4e's envisioning/reason for revamping the elemental planes; they resemble the material plane, but with the chosen element being more dominant. As one ventures "deeper" into the elemental plane, though, that element becomes more dominant, similar to approaching the Elemental Poles in Creation. Eventually, it's nothing but pure element wherever you look, unless you head back towards the Material Plane. And then, beyond the Elemental Planes, you have the Elemental Chaos, where they all go mad and become a swirling tide of insane elemental matter and energy, giving you stuff like 4e's Riverweb, mountains of burning ice, seas of liquid salt, storms of acid, etc. For an example; the Border Elemental Plane of Air would look like an infinite sky with lots of floating islands in it, perhaps even the size of continents. As you venture even deeper into the Plane of Air, those "earthbergs" become rarer and rarer, until eventually there's nothing but infinite, empty space all around you.
The idea of an "official campaign setting" is handled a little differently than in previous editions. Whereas 3e used "Greyhawk with the serial numbers filed off" and 4e used "Points of Light" with the assumption that you would wait for a sourcebook if you wanted to play something different, the 5e corebooks just give you suggestions for playing in various officially-published settings (including Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Dragonlance and Eberron) and trust you to work the rest out on your own. At least, in theory. In practice, the 5e setting is the Forgotten Realms, specifically the iconic "Sword Coast" region; the official online adventuring program is explicitly set there, 98% of the adventures have been set explicitly in the Realms, and the first major sourcebook was named after a prominent Realms NPC.
That's not to say that 5e hasn't released some setting splatbooks, but they've been a definite low priority, and combined with the sluggish release schedule of 5e books in general, it has made many fans of less populous D&D settings very annoyed. Currently, 5e supports the following settings with detailed splatbooks:
- Forgotten Realms - The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide was the very first setting splatbook to be released, and it's actually much shorter than any others to follow.
- Eberron - It took until 2019 for Eberron: Rising from the Last War to see the light of day, but it finally made it.
- Ravnica - The Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica was the first official crossover between the multiverses of D&D and Magic: The Gathering, releasing in November 2018.
- Exandria - Initially a 3rd party setting, it made the jump to an official 5e setting with the Explorer's Guide to Wildemount in early 2020.
- Theros - A second MtG crossover setting, Mythic Odysseys of Theros released in 2020 as well.
Outside of the above, Ravenloft and Greyhawk both got very small bones thrown their way in the form of a dedicated adventure for each. Curse of Strahd is an update of the original Ravenloft module that at least hints at the existence of a wider Demiplane of Dread beyond Barovia's borders. Ghosts of Saltmarsh is explicitly set in Greyhawk. Neither setting has seen dedicated splatbooks released yet.
When called out on this lack of support, WotC's usual bluster is to point to the Dungeon Master's Guild, which has almost the entirety of the AD&D sourcebook library available for purchase, and to bleat about how easy it is to convert material from AD&D to 5e. This is true only in the barest sense; a Dark Sun campaign, for instance, would probably prefer an updated set of survival rules that's more in-depth than 5e's core ones but less artificially complex and clunky than 2e's, or a Birthright campaign some dramatically-reworked kingdom management rules to make that aspect of the game less of a drag for PCs who aren't Blooded.
The Return of OGL
Thankfully, one thing that 5e has brought back from 3e is the concept of open game licensing. This means that 5e is becoming a system of choice for third-party publishers/designers, with both custom settings and adaptations of previously existing settings entering the market. Ironically, even Hasbro is reputedly deciding to get in on the action themselves, as rumors are that official 5e-based RPGs for Transformers, G.I. Joe, Power Rangers and the Masters of the Universe are on the way in the near future.
5e adaptations of previously existing RPG settings include:
3rd party settings for 5e include:
- Age of Antiquity
- Blackstorm Realms
- Blood and Bone
- Dragon Heresy
- Fading Embers
- Fallen Camelot
- Grim Hollow
- Mists of Akuma
- Odyssey of the Dragonlords
- Primeval Thule
- Scarred Lands
- Seas of Vodari
- The Lost Citadel
- The Lost Lands
- The Shade Lands
- Vast Kaviya
- World of Aetaltis
- World of Eana
- World of Farland
Fans have also been trying to exploit 5e's OGL to update missing settings to 5e themselves: Ravenloft, Masque of the Red Death and Maztica updates can all be found on the DM's Guild. Mr. Welch has a Player's Handbook for 5e Mystara completed, but sadly the final version is in limbo until and unless he can coax the idiots at Hasbro to let him sell it on the DM's Guild.
The first PHB contains the eight iconic races of editions past, plus the 4e additions of Dragonborn and Tiefling. Dwarves, elves, halflings and humans are all labeled as "common" races who will be seen practically everywhere (save the drow subrace for elves), whilst the others are labeled as being "uncommon" races. Many races have subraces; they must choose to be a specific kind of that race for further added bonuses. Race design is similar to 4e, minus the "racial powers" setup due to the loss of that mechanic; all bonuses, no penalties - with a few subrace exceptions. This carries over the 4e philosophy of not completely screwing players who want to build something unconventional, like a halfling barbarian or a half-orc wizard.
Added as the sample "create a race" to demonstrate the rules therefore in the DMG, the aasimar is built as a celestial counterpart to the tiefling; +1 Wisdom, +2 Charisma, Darkvision, resistance to necrotic and radiant damages, and the spell-like abilities Light (level 1), Lesser Restoration (1/day at level 3) and Daylight (1/day at level 5). It got an alternative write-up in Volo's Guide to Monsters that shares some, but not most, of the base race's traits.
Essentially, they are their 4e counterparts with vaguer backgrounds, dragonborn are still pretty close to what they were. +2 Strength, +1 Charisma, and choose one Chromatic or Metallic Dragon; they get a breath weapon shape, breath weapon damage, and damage resistance based on what they chose (cold for Silver Dragonborn, acid for Black, etc). Not terrible, even if laughably outclassed in almost every way by other races with similar stat bonuses.
Your standard issue dwarf. Short and stout, grumpy but loyal, love digging, and tough as a hammer sammich. They get a +2 bonus to Constitution, have Darkvision, protection against poison, training with axe and hammer weapons, training with several kinds of artisan's tools, the usual dwarven armored movement and stone knowledge. They get two subraces; Hill and Mountain.
- Hill dwarves are wiser (+1 Wisdom) and even tougher than regular dwarves, giving them extra maximum hit points equal to their character level.
- Mountain dwarves are more warlike, getting +2 Strength and free proficiency with light armor and medium armor. The *only* subrace to offer two +2 bonuses now, balanced by the fact that the armor training will almost certainly be completely redundant to any class that would realistically make use of those stats. However, it's a good choice for a squishy character who wants melee a bit, like a blade-pact warlock.
- Duergar, or "Gray Dwarves", appear in the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. In addition to the base dwarf stuff, they get a boost to Strength, Superior Darkvision (so Darkvision 120 feet), Duergar Resilience (Advantage on saving throws against Charm, Illusion and Paralysis effects), and the spell-like abilities of Enlarge/Reduce (3rd level) and Invisibility (5th level), both usable once per long rest. They also get Sunlight Sensitivity, though tweaked slightly; in addition to taking disadvantage to attack rolls and Perception checks when they or their target is in direct sunlight, they can't use their spell-like abilities if they're in direct sunlight.
Still pretty standard; graceful, eerie, beautiful, mary-sueish bastards. Grace translates to a +2 bonus to Dexterity, keen senses give them Darkvision and proficiency in Perception, they are resistant to charming and immune to sleep, and they trance instead of sleeping. They get three subraces; high, wood and dark.
- High elves are the magically adept elite. They get +1 Intelligence, proficiency with long & short swords and bows, an extra language, and the ability to cast one wizard cantrip of the player's choice.
- Wood elves are the iconic forest-dwelling primal elves. +1 to Wisdom, same weapon proficiency as High Elves, even quicker (they have base speed 35 feet, making them the fastest of the default races), and they're extra adept at using natural phenomena for hiding.
- Dark elves have innate magic (Dancing Lights cantrip at level 1, Faerie Fire 1/day at level 3, Darkness 1/day at level 5), Superior Darkvision (Darkvision to 120 feet), +1 Charisma, proficiency with rapiers, shortswords and hand crossbows, and are the only (sub)race in the corebook with any kind of racial penalty; they take disadvantage to attack rolls and Perception checks when they or their target is in direct sunlight.
- The DMG-added Eladrin get the elf weapon proficiency (as per High/Wood Elves), +1 Intelligence, and Misty Step, like "Fey Step" from 4E.
Strangely, although the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide contains rules for Half-Elves of Aquatic Elf ancestry, there are no rules for a pure-blooded Aquatic Elf, but it's only logical that it'll come out in a following supplement or Unearthed Arcana. If it does, we at least know, from the way the other half-elf subraces worked, that it'll include a 30-ft swim speed.
And those expectations turned out to be right with the November 2017 Elf Subraces Unearthed Arcana.
- The Sea Elf comes with the above mentioned 30-ft swim speed as well as the ability to breathe under water as part of the "Child of the Sea" racial feature. "Friend of the Sea" gives you the ability to talk to beasts with a swimming speed, so you are basically Aquaman. Your Constitution score increases by 1, you know Aquan, and you have proficiency with the trident (as if you weren't already like Aquaman), the spear (pretty much a stand-in for a harpoon), light crossbow (like a harpoon gun), and the net (going with the fisherman theme).
- Avariel are the winged elves of the Forgotten Realms, nearly driven to extinction by dragons. You have a flying speed of 30 feet while not wearing heavy or medium armor, and know Auran. And that's about it. Unless you are in it for the flavor, there is really no reason to pick them, seeing how there are plenty of better races with flight out there.
- The Grugach of the Greyhawk setting are xenophobic, isolationist forest dwellers, known to massacre anyone unfortunate enough to stumble into their realm. They get a Strength score increase of 1, a proficiency with the spear, shortbow, longbow, and net (going with their savage theme). They can choose a single cantrip from the druid spell list, using Wisdom as their spellcasting ability. Their xenophobic nature also manifests itself by having their ability to speak Common replaced by Sylvan, so you better use a background feature to learn it.
- Shadar-kai have returned as an elf dub-race, being now a hybrid between their 3rd edition lore of being fae dwelling on the Plane of Shadow, and their 4th edition lore that presented them as humanoids from Shadowfell. Ironically, the fact that they are now basically insane BDSM eleves from a different plane makes them seem allot like a certain other type of Dark Elf. They get a Charisma score increase of 1, and the choice between chill touch, spare the dying, or thaumaturgy, with Charisma as their spellcasting ability. Once per short rest, they can also teleport up to 15 feet to an unoccupied space they can see, and gain resistance to all damage until the start of their next turn.
Crazy, hyper-energetic and insatiably curious, gnomes are also the only uncommon race in the corebook with full subraces, assuming the dragonborn's choice of dragon doesn't count. +2 Intelligence, small-sized, Darkvision, and advantage to any saving throw against magic that relies on Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma.
- Forest Gnomes are the more mystical, nature-affiliated gnomes, gaining +1 Dexterity, having the minor illusion cantrip as a racial ability, and being able to speak with any natural animal that is Small or smaller. With Dragonlance supported, but the Kender race (thankfully) missing after playtest, these seem to hold up as the Kender replacement.
- Rock Gnomes are the iconic tinker gnomes, gaining +1 Constitution, being more adept at puzzling out magic items, alchemical objects and technological devices, and starting the game with a set of tinker's tools that let them cobble together small, harmless gizmos like clockwork toys, fire starters and music boxes. In the corebook, it's explicitly stated that these should be used for playing Tinker Gnomes if you're running a Dragonlance game.
- Deep Gnomes got added by the Elemental Evil Player's Guide web-feature from the WotC website. There was a printed reveal in the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, but the versions are absolutely identical. These are the "svirfneblin", the Underdark-dwelling gnomes mentioned but mostly ignored in editions past. They get +1 Dexterity, Superior Darkvision (so they see in the dark 120ft instead of 60ft), and Stone Camouflage (advantage on Dexterity [Stealth] checks made in rocky terrain). If Feats are allowed, they have a racial one called Svirfneblin Magic that lets them cast Nondetection (self-only) at will and Blindness/Deafness, Blur and Disguise Self once per long rest.
Half-Elves gain +2 Charisma, making them natural diplomats, but also get +1 to two other ability scores of their choice, are automatically proficient in two skills of their choice, as well as retaining the darkvision and resistances to charming and sleep of their elven ancestors. They can also grow beards, something that may have been in previous editions, but is directly addressed in this one. The best PHB race for any Cha-based class, due to their tremendous versatility, and easily has the most raw power.
Look at it like this: imagine if, as a variant human, you got to pick a feat that gave you +2 charisma, an extra skill, darkvision, and charm resistance plus sleep immunity. It might not be the optimal feat for your build, no, but can you easily deny that it beats out any other feat in the game for raw power? Well, a half-elf is essentially a variant human who gets a feat like that.
- The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide includes rules for half-elf racial variants, allowing them to have sub-races like several other races. Basically, they can trade out their bonus skill proficiencies for the other elf races' bonuses. Any kind of half-elf can trade for an upgrade to darkvision and proficiency in perception, half-high elves can gain a wizard cantrip, half-wood elves can gain a five-foot speed boost or an improved ability to hide in the wild, and both of the above can gain elf weapon training. Meanwhile, half-Drow gain Drow Magic, while half-Aquatic Elves have a 30-ft swim speed. (Whew!)
Big scary bruisers, half-orcs get +2 strength and +1 constitution, have darkvision, are automatically proficient in the Intimidation skill, are harder to kill than other races, and deal much nastier criticals with melee weapons. This effectively makes them the best barbarians in the game and gives barbarian-lite abilities to any other classes. This new design eliminates the culturally awkward standard of male orcs forcing themselves on human women, to the point of actually raising the idea that the race could be used for playing a half-dwarf, half-orc.
Small, cheerful, practical creatures, halflings try to make friends with anybody. They usually don't have any greater goal beyond a simple, pleasant life. They get +2 Dexterity, they're Small sized, their Lucky trait lets them reroll various results of 1, they're resistant to fear effects and they can move through spaces occupied by creatures that are Medium-sized or bigger. Their two subraces are Lightfoot and Stout.
- Lightfoot halflings are sneaky even by Halfling standards, able to use Medium-sized or bigger creatures to hide behind and gaining +1 Charisma.
- Stout halflings are rumored to have dwarf blood, and so they get +1 Constitution and identical poison protection.
- The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide includes the Ghostwise halfling subrace, which gets +1 to Wisdom and the ability to telepathically communicate with one creature nearby creature at a time.
The playtest release featured the infamous Kender of Dragonlance as yet another halfling subrace. However, it failed to make it into the official book, perhaps because kender have never really differed that much from regular halflings beyond resistance/immunity to fear, a "taunt" ability, and sometimes mechanical enforcement of their "entire race of sickeningly cutesy Chaotic Stupid Rogues" fluff. Of course, if an official Dragonlance playbook ever comes out (doubtful, at this point, given the lackluster success of it in 3.5), you can sadly make a sure bet that Kender will be in it.
Humans are the versatile race once again. Either they get a +1 bonus to all ability scores (which is better than any previous edition of the game has trained you to believe, but still kinda bland), or they get +1 to any two ability scores they want, a free skill proficiency, and a free feat (which, as usual, rocks). The feat option, given how strong feats are in 5th, can actually make it very hard to choose any other race, even ones that specialize in a specific area, over humans for a build given the sheer rapidity of power the variant human allows.
Following in the footsteps of 4e, with a unified (if still very variable) appearance and a tiefling racial backlore as "descendants of a cursed empire" rather than "spawn of a human and a fiend". +1 Intelligence, +2 Charisma, resistant to fire, darkvision and "Infernal Legacy", which gives them three warlock spells as racial abilities; the Thaumaturgy cantrip (level 1), Hellish Rebuke (1/day at level 3) and Darkness (1/day at level 5).
- Like half-elves, they got upgraded with subrace options in the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. Specifically, aside from an official list of alternate physical traits (complete with 2e-esque "roll 1d4+1 and take that many traits"), they get an alternative ability score modifier set option (+1 Int, +2 Dex, for the ones that didn't get any monstergirl genes), and a series of tweaks to their racial magic. Hellfire simply replaces their Hellish Rebuke spell-like ability with Burning Hands, the Devil's Tongue option alters their list completely, trading in all their spells for mind-affecting choices, and choosing Winged means giving up all spells in exchange for a 30-ft fly speed, which is kickass.
- Adding to that, the Unearthed Arcana "That Old Black Magic" offers suggestions for defining diabolic tieflings vs. demonic ones. The corebook tiefling is used for the diabolic breed, but demonic tieflings get +1 Con instead of +1 Int, increase their hitpoints by half their character level (so a level 20 one gets an extra +10 HP), and randomly generate their spell-like abilities at the end of each long rest.
- The October 2017 UA (Reprinted in Mordekainen's Tome of Foes) also gave Tieflings a bevy of subrace options based on who their patron god is. Each gives differing racial spell-like abilities as well as +1 to a differing stat instead of Intelligence.
Eberron Unearthed Arcana
Brought back in the Eberron Unearthed Arcana on the WoTC website. Surprisingly simple and effective; +1 to Dexterity and Charisma, Duplicity (automatically proficient in Deception), and Shapechanger (can polymorph into any humanoid of your own size that you have seen, or back to your true form; your gear doesn't change, and you revert to your true form upon death).
Brought back in the Eberron Unearthed Arcana on the WoTC website. Pretty much all of the 3e variants made it through as sub-types. Basic racial profile is +1 Dexterity, Darkvision, and Shifting (bonus action, lasts for 1 minute, gain temp HP equal to level + Constitution bonus and a sub-race derived bonus, can shift once per short rest). Gotta pick a sub race from the following:
- Beasthide: +1 Constitution, shifting grants +1 AC. Boring, but hey. A +1 AC bonus is more than it sounds like in this edition.
- Cliffwalk: +1 Dexterity (so +2 Dex total), shifting grants a 30 ft climb speed. Nice utility, as all alternative movements are.
- Longstride: +1 Dexterity (so +2 Dex total), shifting grants ability to Dash as a bonus action. Good for other Dex-based classes, completely redundant for a rogue or high-level ranger.
- Longtooth: +1 Strength, shifting grants a 1d6 bite attack that automatically initiates a grapple when it hits. Good for a control fighter and the like.
- Razorclaw: +1 Dexterity (so +2 Dex total), shifting grants claw attacks, which can be used as bonus actions to make Dex-based unarmed strikes that deal slashing damage. Unarmed strikes may only deal a single point damage, but the real power of this ability is essentially two-weapon fighting without needing the fighting style to add the ability score modifier to the damage roll.
- Wildhunt: +1 Wisdom, shifting grants advantage on all Wisdom-based checks and saving throws. Good for mage-hunting and utility.
Same old magic robots. Very simple, yet very effective: +1 Strength and Constitution, a flat +1 AC bonus, and the benefits of being a robot. They don't need to eat or breathe, trance for 4 hours per day instead of sleeping for 8 hours, and immune to disease. All of these are somewhat abusable, so your DM might tone them down. On the plus side, they no longer have healing penalties and such.
Elemental Evil Player's Guide
Biiiiiiiiirdmaaaaaan! +2 Dexterity, +1 Wisdom, only 25 ft landspeed but a 50 ft fly speed (which doesn't mix well with armor heavier than light), and are automatically proficient in unarmed strikes (which do 1d4 slashing damage). You're trading in a lOttttt for that flyspeed, so make sure your DM's actually going to let you use it.
Part of the Elemental Evil Player's Guide web-feature from the WoTC website, they were the only race from it to make it into the official Princes of the Apocalypse Elemental Evil adventure, which keeps them safe from DMs who insist "it's not in print, so it's not official". Only four varieties this time; Earth, Air, Water and Fire. All Genasi get +2 Constitution and racial magic (usually of the cantrip and/or "once per long rest" spells variety) determined by their subrace, which uses their Constitution.
- Air Genasi gain +1 Dexterity, have Unending Breath (can hold their breaths indefinitely when not incapacitated) and can cast levitate.
- Earth Genasi gain +1 Strength, ignore movement penalties from earth/stone-based difficult terrain, and can cast pass without trace.
- Fire Genasi gain +1 Intelligence, darkvision, fire resistance, and can cast the produce flame cantrip, plus burning hands at level 3.
- Water Genasi gain +1 Wisdom, can breathe water and air, have acid resistance and a 30 ft swim speed, and get the Shape Water cantrip, plus create or destroy water at level 3.
Yet another big bruiser race, Goliaths get +2 Strength, +1 Constitution, proficiency in athletics, the unique ability to use a reaction upon taking damage to roll a D12 and reduce that damage by [result + Constitution modifier] once per short rest, count as one size larger for carrying, dragging, pushing and lifting and are automatically acclimated to high altitude and naturally adapted to cold climates if your DM's using those rules.
Also, got a lot more cultural tweaks than just about anyone was expecting.
Unearthed Arcana Waterborne Adventures
Explicitly based on the Krynnish model, and to that end focused on sea-travel and brutal cunning as much as raw power, on the grounds that "We already have half-orcs and goliaths and don't really need just another big brutish monster race." They get a +1 to Strength, and then a +1 to either Strength, Intelligence, or Wisdom depending on which of the "three virtues" the character aspires to. They also have horns, which they are automatically proficient with, that deal 1d10 piercing damage, offer advantage on shoving checks, automatically shove when used as part of an Attack action, and can be used to gore an enemy as a bonus action even after a Dash. Finally, they have Labyrinthine Recall (giving them perfect recall of any path they've traveled down, land, dungeon, or sea) and Sea Reaver (proficiency with navigator's tools and waterborne vehicles).
Unearthed Arcana: Gothic Heroes
The most exotic race to come out of 5e yet, the Revenant is a member of any of the other races that has died and then risen from the grave as an undead creature in order to pursue an all-compelling goal. It uses the subrace mechanics, with a sidebar explaining how to adjust it for human/dragonborn/tiefling revenants. A Revenant gets +1 Constitution and the Relentless trait, which lets you regenerate 1 HP per round once below half your max HP, makes you indestructible (you automatically rise from the dead 24 hours after being killed, and even completely vaporising your body won't stop this), and gives you plane-spanning "goal sense" abilities. The drawback is, once you complete the goal that brought you back from the grave, you die well and truly, passing on to the afterlife with no further possibility of resurrection.
Unearthed Arcana: Race Options
A new take on the version from the DMG that gets a bit of a power boost; still an elf subrace, and can now choose to have either +1 Int OR +1 Cha, still has Fey Step, loses High Elf Weapon Training and has access to four cantrips - friends, chill touch, minor illusion, and firebolt, attuned to autumn, winter, spring, and summer respectively. This represents the eladrin's attunement to each of the four seasons, which affects their personality, roleplay-wise, and they can adjust their seasonal attunement each short or long rest.
One of the biggest and most important subrace splits in the game over here. Gith get +1 intelligence and the mage hand cantrip, regardless of subrace, and that's where the similarities end.
- Githyanki get +2 Str, because they train as warriors, a free skill or tool proficiency and a free language, to represent their eternal city full of bits of random knowledge, proficiency with Light & Medium Armor, and the the jump and misty step spells once per long rest at levels 3 and 5 respectively, as part of the now-classic 5e approach to spell like abilities.
- Githzerai get +2 Wisdom, +1 AC when only wearing Light or No Armor and not wielding a shield, because monks, and shield and detect thoughts as their 1st and 2nd level spells.
Plane Shift: Zendikar
Appearing on the Magic: The Gathering website instead of the D&D one, this article basically consists of a booklet towards letting you run D&D games set in the world of Zendikar. As a result, it included assorted Zendikaran races, from humans and elves to goblins, vampires, merfolk and kor.
The White Mana-aligned nomads, Kor are sort of like Zendikaran Goliaths, but different. A Kor is a Medium sized creature with +2 Dexterity and +1 Wisdom, a base speed of 30 feet, a climb speed of 30 feet (can't use if encumbered or in heavy armor), free proficiency in Athletics and Acrobatics, and the Lucky and Brave traits as per your basic Halfling.
- Zendikaran Merfolk
The handbook's racial representative of Blue Mana. Unlike traditional Merfolk, these ones come with legs, so they can actually walk around on land like Tritons. They're Medium sized creatures with +1 Charisma, Amphibious (can breathe air and water), and a Swim speed of 30 feet on top of their base speed of 30 feet when walking on land. They have to pick one of the three Creeds to follow, which functions as a subrace choice. All cantrips cast with their highest racial bonus (so Wisdom for Emeria, Intelligence for Ula, Charisma for Cosi).
- Emeria Merfolk follow the Creed of Wind, giving them +2 Wisdom, free proficiency in Deception & Persuasion, and a Druid cantrip of their choice.
- Ula Merfolk follow the Creed of Water, giving them +2 Intelligence, free proficiency in navigator's tools and survival, and a Wizard cantrip of their choice.
- Cosi Merfolk follow the Creed of the Trickster, giving them +1 Charisma and +1 Intelligence, free proficiency in Slight of Hand and Stealth, and a Bard cantrip of their choice.
- Zendikaran Vampire
Aligned to Black Mana, Zendikaran Vampires are not undead, but infused with a necrotic disease that requires them to feed on the life-energy of others. Medium sized and with a base speed of 30 feet, they get +2 Charisma and +1 Intelligence, Darkvision, Resistance (Necrotic), and the Blood Drain ability. This is a special attack that they can only do on a target that is willing, restrained, grappled or incapacitated; it inflicts 1 piercing damage and D6 necrotic damage, which A: is deducted from the target's maximum hit point value and B: heals you of an equal amount of damage. The target can shake off this effect by taking a long rest, but if killed by this attack, then they become a Null (a unique sort of zombie, but which isn't statted in the booklet).
- Zendikaran Goblin
Aligned to Red Mana, these goblins are tough and hardy creatures. They are Small creatures with speed 25 feet, bolstered by having +2 Constitution, Darkvision, the Grit trait (resistance to Fire and Psychic damage, unarmored AC is 11+Dex modifier), and they have to choose one of the three Tribes to belong to, though none of them are really spectacular choices.
- Grotag Tribe Goblins receive free proficiency in Animal Handling.
- Lavastep Tribe Goblins have Advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks made in rocky or subterranean environments.
- Tuktuk Tribe Goblins receive free proficiency in thieves tools.
- Zendikaran Elves
What to really say about these guys? Medium sized, base speed 30 feet, +2 Wisdom, Darkvision, free proficiency in Perception, Fey Ancestry (so immune to magical sleep effects, resistance to charm effects), and three nationalities/subraces.
- Tajuru Elves gain +1 Charisma and two free proficiency slots, each of which can be spent on any skill or tool of your choice.
- Joraga Elves are basically corebook Wood Elves, but with +2 Wisdom and +1 Dexterity, instead of the +2 Dexterity/+1 Wisdom of the corebook version.
- Mul Daya Elves have +1 Strength, Superior Darkvision and Sunlight Sensitivity, free weapon proficiency in the longbow, longsword, shortbow & shortsword, and the Mul Daya Magic trait (know the Chill Touch cantrip, learn Hex as a 1/day spell like ability at level 3, learn Darkness as a 1/day spell-like ability at level 5, use Wisdom to cast with).
Plane Shift: Innistrad
Appearing on the Magic: The Gathering website instead of the D&D one, this article basically consists of a booklet towards letting you run D&D games set in the world of Innistrad. As a result, it doesn't have all of the exotic races of its Zendikar counterpart, seeing as how Innistrad is the "Gothic Horror" MtG realm and so, like Ravenloft, it's heavily biased towards humans. So instead you get an entirely new "human race", with assorted sub-races reflecting specific provinces of Innistrad.
- Innistrad Human
Still Medium sized and with a base speed of 30 feet, the big difference with Innistrad humans is that they're handled with the subrace mechanic, requiring you choose between the Gavony, Kessig, Nephalia or Stensia provinces to determine your abilities.
- Gavony follow the standard "+1 to all stats" approach of your vanilla PHB human.
- Kessigs get +1 Dexterity and Wisdom, proficiency in Survival, base speed of 40 feet, the ability to ignore difficult terrain when you dash, and the Spring Attack trait (if you land a melee attack on a creature, you can't provoke opportunity attacks from that creature for the rest of your turn). They essentially have the Mobility feat, but without having the mobility feat so you can double up on it if you gotta go fast.
- Nephalians gain +1 Intelligence and Charisma, as well as proficiency in any combination of four skills and/or tool kits that they desire.
- Stensians gain +1 Strength and Constitution, proficiency in Intimidation, and the Tough trait, which gives them +2 max HP at character creation and boosts it by a further +2 max HP each time you gain a level. Yes, this is basically the Mountain Dwarf's Dwarven Toughness racial feature but twice as good.
Volo's Guide to Monsters
Though officially a kind of Monster Manual 2, Volo's Guide earned extra interest by promising to contain fully-fledged monstrous PC races. In mid-September, it was revealed that the book would feature roughly a dozen "deeply detailed" monstrous PC races, and an undisclosed larger number of monsters given "quick rules" for PC use. However, this turned out to be WoTC playing it vague and the end result was that there were only thirteen races in it, one of which was effectively a reprint. In fairness to them, that's still a pretty large amount for what isn't a dedicated PC book, but still, fans were expecting Volo's Guide to be the 5e "Complete Book of Humanoids" and were... disappointed in a lot of ways.
The Monstrous Adventurers mark the first return in 5th edition of racial ability score penalties, something that brought a lot of rage and skub from those who hated this idea and those who loved it. Not helping is that of all the races in the book, only the orc and the kobold get these penalties. The designers essentially tried to sidestep some critiques of flagrant balance issues with the "monstrous" races by saying that they are not intended to be truly balanced, and that all DMs have free reign to modify or ban them.
Ironically, despite the fact that gnolls have been a playable race in every edition since 1e's "The Orcs of Thar", and were in fact first introduced in 3e as a PC race in the both the "Unapproachable East" splatbook for Forgotten Realms and the core Monster Manual, they received no stats in Volo's Guide. In fact, they were officially called out well before its release as not getting the PC treatment, due to being "too demonic," thanks to the lore that they're literal creations of a demon prince. Now, most fans of monstrous humanoids called bullshit on this reasoning, since 5e's lore was essentially the same lore as was used in 4th edition and they still got a PC writeup there, without the lore trying to claim they're unable to defy their evil nature like orcs. Hell, the yuan-ti pureblood got a writeup, and they're power-hungry manipulative sociopaths who only see other races as meat!
The rejection of gnolls did get a little more justified when the book came out and revealed the official 5e lore for gnolls was essentially 4e's lore, but doubling down on the demonic corruption angle and completely removing all the stuff about gnolls having free will and being able to reject Yeenoghu. Of course, this change in lore from 4e was met with huge amounts of skub.
Very, very different from their DMG examples. They're a multitudinous species divided into three subraces, Protector, Scourge and Fallen, rather than having switchable variant racial traits like the tiefling does. All Aasimar get +2 Charisma, are Medium sized with normal speed (30feet), have "Celestial Resistance" (Radiant and Necrotic resistance), can cast Light at will (Charisma) and once per day can heal another character with a touch, restoring HP equal to the Aasimar's Level. Each of the three subraces, at 3rd level, gets an "angelic manifestation", a transformation they can enter as an action and which lasts for 1 minute or until they end it, with bonuses depending on the subrace. Protector Aasimar get +1 Wisdom and their "Radiant Soul" gives them wings (30ft fly speed) and the ability to inflict bonus Radiant damage with attacks. Scourge Aasimar get +1 Constitution and their "Radiant Consumption" causes them to glow, automatically inflict Radiant damage on everyone within 10 feet (including themselves!) and inflict bonus Radiant damage like a Protector. Finally, Fallen Aasimars get +1 Strength, cause a fear check in anyone who sees them transform, and can inflict bonus Necrotic damage with their attacks whilst transformed.
A really surprising entry confirmed in the product announcement; firbolgs are a race of giant-kin from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons which can be roughly summed up as "generally benevolent 10ft tall Vikings with a bundle of druidic spell-like abilities". Naturally, they had to undergo a fair amount of changes, since 5e wants to avoid letting PCs be Large. +2 Wisdom, +1 Strength, the same Powerful Build trait as Goliaths, Bugbears and Orcs, Detect Magic and Disguise Self (with "appear as a human-sized being" as an extra option) once per short rest, turn invisible for 1 turn once per short rest, and talk with animals & plants.
Although they already appeared in the Elemental Evil Player's Guide, they got an official printed release here. Many grumbled about what the need for this was, given we'd already gotten perfectly good stats for them earlier, especially when it turned out that, unlike the aasimar, they'd received no changes of any kind. Not even in cultural information.
A surprisingly popular and requested choice, their presence in the book was first revealed as part of the D&D ExtraLife Twitch marathon of September. +2 Dex and +1 Wisdom, Medium, Normal Speed and Vision, Advantage on checks to produce forgeries and duplications, free proficiency in any two skills from a list of Acrobatics/Deception/Stealth/Sleight of Hand, and the ability to mimic sounds. Which is useful as you can't speak except through your mimicry trait, which is pretty much the only downside to the kenku - although if you think about it, if you live amongst humans for some years, you simply can tell everything by mimicing. Just like small children learn their native language.
Lizardfolk got quite a beefy racial writeup; +2 Constitution, +1 Wisdom, the ability to bite instead of unarmed striking, can digest what they bit off once per short rest for some temp hitpoints, Swim speed of 30 feet, hold breath for 15 minutes, free proficiency in any two skills from a list of Animal Handling/Perception/Nature/Stealth/Survival, natural AC of 13+Dex modifier, and can craft their own shields, clubs, javelins, darts and blowgun needles during a short rest if they can acquire raw materials.
When the existence of a "catfolk race" was teased on reddit, people really began to wonder, but it was eventually revealed in the D&D ExtraLife Twitch marathon of September that they were specifically going to be Tabaxi, a race of jaguar & leopard people first introduced in 1e's Fiend Folio, and then native to Forgotten Realms' tropical regions, most prominently Maztica. +2 Dex, +1 Cha, Medium, Normal Speed, Darkvision, the infamously leaked "Feline Agility" trait (double your speed for 1 turn, cannot use this trait again until you spend a turn without moving, because this is not considered an action you could argue that you can dash as well on the same turn, effectively quadrupling your speed for one turn), 1d4+Str modifier slashing damage with unarmed strikes, and free proficiency with Perception and Stealth. With the long-running stigma against furry races in D&D, plus the Tabaxi's lore as a highly chaotic, impulsive, curiosity-driven race, you just know there's going to be people turning them into nubile savage style dark-skinned blonde catgirls sooner or later...
A minor aquatic elemental race, the triton is probably going to be the closest we'll get to a 5e merfolk race, since they're like the Zendikaran merfolk and use legs rather than the awkward-for-land-adventuring tail. They are surprisingly fitting, since they were first introduced as a player character race in the Forgotten Realms setting. They're one of the few races that get +1 to three stats - Strength, Constitution and Charisma - instead of +2 to one stat and +1 to a second. Medium sized, 30ft land and swim speeds, amphibious, can cast Fog Cloud at will and Gust of Wind (at 3rd level) and Wall of Water (at 5th level) once per day with Charisma, telepathically talk to water-breathing creatures, are Resistant to Cold and immune to deep water environments.
Again, they're generally very much a subset of the "normal" races, with many having drastic power-differentials from the "core" races. Exactly which ones are broken is and forever will be skub, but general agreement is that the would-be orc and kobold will be far happier using re-colored half-orcs and halflings as a template, respectively, and that the yuan-ti pureblood is gob-smackingly powerful enough to make even the half-elf blush.
Stealthy but powerful bruisers, bugbears get +2 Str and +1 Dex, are Medium with 30ft land speed, have Darkvision, have +5 feet of reach with melee attacks, Powerful Build, free Stealth proficiency, and the ability to, once per combat, deal +2d6 damage to a creature on the first turn if they successfully pull off a surprise attack. Essentially, you've got a natural fighter base with a built in level of rogue.
With how strongly they dominated the polls for new races, it shouldn't be surprising that goblins were one of the most advertised entrants to Volo's Guide. They're actually surprisingly powerful; +2 Dexterity, +1 Constitution, speed 30 feet, Small, Darkvision, can do bonus damage equal to their level to a creature that's bigger than they are once per short rest, and retain their Nimble Escape feature from the Monster Manual. Many think a goblin rogue is kind of redundant, although actually it's just a case of good synchronization; being able to Disengage or Hide as a bonus action is hugely beneficial for any hit-and-run fighter. Goblins also make good defensive casters, as well, as they benefit from the added action economy and disengage.
The D&D Klingons, essentially; +2 Con, +1 Int, Medium, normal speed, Darkvision, and free proficiency with light armor and 2 martial weapons of your choice. One of the only monsters not to get their core racial power: instead of their faux-sneak attack, they get the "Saving Face" racial trait, which lets them, once per short rest, reroll a failed attack, ability score check, or saving throw with a bonus equal to the number of friendlies they can see (max +5). It's become memetic that "hobgoblins are wizards now!", since their stat bonuses are a lot more useful for wizards than they, technically, are for fighters, and their free armor & weapon proficiency are not much use to a fighter. But +2 Con is good for anyone, and hobgoblins have always had a strong arcane tradition to them anyway.
/tg/'s memetically beloved shortstack scalies have finally made the leap into the game! ...Unfortunately, their stat blocks are rather less than fun as, much like in Pathfinder, they've been kind of gimped. +2 Dexterity, -2 Strength, Small, 30ft speed, Darkvision, can Grovel once per short rest to cause all enemies within 10 feet to give Advantage to all of your allies, have Sunlight Sensitivity, and retain their Pack Tactics trait from the Monster Manual. It's hard to say which has elicted more complaints; the triple-Jeopardy of negative traits (Small, Sunlight Sensitivity, -2 Strength) or the Grovel trait. In all fairness, Grovel is kind of powerful - a 10ft burst of combat advantage for allies once per encounter is seriously buffing them - but the flavor text is infuriating for anyone who, y'know, doesn't want to portray their kobold as a cowardly, snivelling joke character (might be worth trying to convince your gm to let you re flavor it as a subsonic howl). That said, Pack Tactics is incredibly strong due to ANY form of advantage cancelling out disadvantage. What makes a kobold powerful is not that they have access to Advantage, but that they can pretty much never have Disadvantage when near an ally. This opens up a GWM kobold, or a long range sniper kobold as actually viable options. Put a Kobold on a Wolf mount for extra shenanigans.
Exactly how pureblood orcs were going to work in 5e when we already had Half-Orcs was anyone's guess... and then it turned out that they were basically inferior to Half-Orcs. +2 Str, +1 Con, -2 Int, Medium, Normal Speed, Darkvision, their Aggressive trait from the MM (can move as a bonus action IF you use it to move towards an enemy), free training in Intimidation, and the Powerful Build trait. The bonus move action is probably their most salient feature; a great boon if you can make use of it, but with less to work with if you can't.
Perhaps the most surprising reveal, but not entirely unwarranted; Pureblood Yuan-ti have always been the most "human" of Faerun's snake-folk, and did in fact get a PC writeup in the Serpent Kingdoms sourcebook for that setting back in 3e. As for their crunch... put it like this; there's powerful, there's overpowered, and there's "holy fuck, what were you fucking thinking, WoTC?!" Yuan-ti fit pretty firmly into that last category: +2 Cha, +1 Int, Darkvision, Medium with Normal Speed, Poison Immunity, Poison Spray cantrip spell-like-ability, Suggestion 1/day, permanent Animal Friendship (snakes only) and, the cherry on top, "Magic Resistance: You have Advantage on all saving throws caused by spells and magical effects". Sweet crunchy christ...
Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes
Mixture of the DMG and Unearthed Arcana versions. +1 Charisma, the Fey Step 1/encounter teleportation power, and the shiftable Spring/Summer/Autumn/Winter racial state, which now empowers your Fey Step at 3rd level; Spring state lets you teleport a willing creature within 5 feet instead of teleporting yourself, Summer lets you blast foes within 5 feet with Charisma modifier Fire damage after teleporting, Autumn lets you Charm two creatures within 10 feet after teleporting, and Winter lets you Frighten a creature within 5 feet before you teleport.
- Sea Elf
Pretty standard; +1 Constitution, Swim Speed 30 feet, some weapon proficiencies and the Friend of the Sea trait, which lets you talk to fish.
The first ever official +1 Constitution elf subrace. Gains necrotic ressitance and and a 1/day teleport which, from third level on, grants you resistance to all damage until the start of your next turn.
Was released as an early teaser; +2 Str, +1 Int, medium, 30ft speed, a bonus language proficiency, a bonus tool or skill proficiency, free proficiency with light armor, medium armor, shortsword, longsword and greatsword, and the Githyanki Psionics trait. This is your standard Cantrip/1st level/2nd level spell-like abilities, giving you Mage Hand, Jump and Misty Step.
Was released as an early teaser; +2 Wis, +1 Int, medium, 30ft speed, Mental Discipline (Advantage on saves vs. Charm and Fear) and the Githzerai Psionics trait. This is your standard Cantrip/1st level/2nd level spell-like abilities, giving you Mage Hand, Shield and Detect Thoughts.
- Infernal Descendants
A less...bizarre version of building subraces, this allows the Tiefling to hail from a different Archdevil (rather than just Asmodeus 24/7) by replacing the +1 Int and Spell-like Abilities with new ones.
- Baalzebul: +1 Int and Thaumaturgy, Ray of Sickness, and Crown of Madness SLAs
- Dispater: +1 Dex and Thaumaturgy, Disguise Self, and Detect Thoughts SLAs
- Fierna: +1 Wis and Friends, Charm, and Suggestion SLAs
- Glasya: +1 Dex and Minor Illusion, Disguise Self, and Invisibility SLAs
- Levistus: +1 Con and Ray of Frost, Armor of Agathys, and Darkness SLAs
- Mammon: +1 Int and Mage Hand, Tenser's Floating Disk, and Arcane Lock SLAs
- Mephistopheles: +1 Int and Mage Hand, Burning Hands, and Flame Blade SLAs
- Zariel: +1 Str and Thaumaturgy, Searing Smite, and Branding Smite SLAs
Plane Shift: Kaladesh
When the Plane Shift: Kaladesh article came out on February 17 2017, it brought two of that plane's more unique races along with it. Aside from the new Vahadar subrace for elves (+1 Wis, 1 Druid cantrip of your choice cast with Wis), it featured...
Artificial humanoids that sometimes spontaneously form from the aether refinement process, aetherborn have extremely short lifespans (some live only a few months) who are driven to experience as much as they can in what time they have. Hedonistic and self-interested, an Aetherborn has Charisma +2, +1 to two ability scores of its choice, is a Medium creature with 30 feet base speed, and has the Darkvision, Menacing (free proficiency in Intimidate), and Born of Aether (Resist Necrotic) traits. Rules are also presented for "darkling" aetherborn, who have learned to suck the life from others in order to extend their own lives. An aetherborn can use the rules for inventing and manufacturing a magic item to transform itself irrevocably into a darkling, in which case it gains the Drain Life trait (a natural attack that inflicts 1d6 Necrotic damage on a victim and heals the aetherborn for that much). If the darkling goes 7 days without using this ability, it loses 1d6 maximum hit points per week without feeding; only feeding followed by a long rest will restore this degraded health.
- Kaladeshian Dwarves
Largely identical to the Hill dwarves, with a +2 bonus to Constitution and a +1 bonus to Wisdom, Darkvision, advantage on saving throws against poison, same bonuses that come from Stonecunning, resistance against poison damage, and a hit point maximum increase by 1 each level. What makes them different is the lack of weapon proficiency, and the Artisan’s Expertise feature. Instead of having to pick one from smith’s tools, brewer’s supplies, or mason’s tools, these dwarves can pick two of any artisan’s tools, and their proficiency is doubled while using them.
Elf-like, inventive humanoids who perceive everything as imperfect and rejoice in the opportunities for improvement that presents. This leads to an irritating enthusiasm for criticising other people's approach/skills/personality. +2 Int, +1 Wis, Medium, Base speed 30 feet, Vedalken Cunning (advantange on Int, Wis and Cha saves vs. magic) and Aether Lore (double Proficiency bonus on Int (History) checks relating to magical items or aether-powered technological devices).
Plane Shift: Amonkhet
This article was a furry wet dream, as it introduced four beastfolk races to 5th edition, alongside Naktamun's human population, who are simply Variant Humans from the PHB. Weirdly, despite the fact that one of the Five Gods is Oketra the True, the catgirl God of Solidarity, there is no catgirl or catfolk race in this booklet.
Similar to the Aarakocra, the Aven are bird-people, but in this case they resemble humans with the heads and wings of birds. There are two kinds of Aven; the more scholarly ibis-headed, who are naturally drawn to revering Kefnet, the God of Knowledge whom they resemble, and the more war-like hawk-headed, who tend to devote themselves to Oketra, God of Solidarity (who is, ironically, a goddess depicted as a catgirl). All Aven get +2 Dexterity, are Medium sized, have a base land speed of 25 feet, and a Fly speed of 30 feet, but they can't fly if wearing medium or heavy armor, or if they're encumbered.
- Ibis-Headed Aven get +1 Intelligence and Kefnet's Blessing, which lets them add half their Proficiency Bonus, rounded down, when making an Int check for a skill they don't have Proficiency in.
- Hawk-Headed Aven get +2 Wisdom and the Hawkeyed trait, which grants them free Perception Proficiency and negates the long-range attack penalties when using ranged weapons.
Made in the image of Hazrozet the Fervent, God of Zeal, the Khenra are a race of graceful humanoid jackals who, for some reason, are almost always born as fraternal or identical twins. This leads to strong, culturally encouraged, ties between siblings, and even impacts their stats. Khenras are a Medium-sized race with +2 Dexterity and +1 Strength, a speed of 35 feet, the Khera Weapon Training feature, which gives them free proficiency in the khopesh, spear and javelin, and the Khenra Twins feature - which requires you to decide at character creation if you have a twin. If your twin is alive, so long as you are within sight of your twin, you can reroll results of a 1 for attack rolls, ability checks and saving throws (second result stands). If your twin is dead, or you were one of the rare singleton births, you're Immune to Fear. Of course, making use of your twin being alive can be tricky unless either another player wants to be a Khenra and roleplay as your sibling, or the DM is willing to be flexible
- Amonkhetian Minotaur
Vibrant, boisterous, rowdy humanoids, the Amonkhetian Minotaur bears the head of a curly-horned sheep rather than the traditional bovine head. +2 Strength, +1 Constitution, Medium, 30 feet speed, and as for features? They get the half-orc's Menacing (free Proficiency in Intimidate), Relentless Endurance (shake off a fatal blow and stand at 1 hit point 1/day) and Savage Attacks (+1 damage dice on a crit with a melee weapon) racial traits, plus the Natural Weapon (Horns) trait, which lets them choose to do 1d6 + Str modifier bludgeoning damage with their unarmed strikes.
Made in the image of Rhonas the Indomitable, cobra-headed God of Strength, the nagas also deeply revere the God of Knowledge, Kefnet, pursuing a philosophy that mind and body must be of equal strength to work in harmony. They stand unique amongst the races of 5e so far because they're the first non-bipedal race to get an official writeup; these serpentfolk resemble the iconic Yuan-ti Abomination, having a humanoid upper torso, a cobra's head, and a slithering tail in lieu of legs. They get +2 Consitution and +1 Intelligence, are Medium sized, and have a base speed of 30 feet. Their Speed Burst feature lets them choose to spend a bonus action to lower their torso to the ground and pull themselves along with their hands, increasing their speed by +5 feet for the turn due to the boost - of course, they need to have both hands free before they can do this. Poison Immunity speaks for itself, and Poisoner's Affinity gives them free proficiency with the poisoner's kit. Finally, they have two Natural Weapons; Bite and Constrict. Both can be used as an option for an unarmed strike. A Bite Attack deals 1d4 + Str mod Piercing damage and forces the victim to make a Constitution save (DC 8 + naga's Con modifier + naga's Proficiency bonus) or take 1d4 Poison damage. A Constrict Attack deals 1d6 + Str mod bludgeoning damage and automatically grapples the target (DC to escape is 8 + naga's Str modifier + naga's Proficiency bonus). So long as they have someone grappled in this way, the target is restrained, but the naga can't make another Constrict Attack until they let them go.
Big crazy turtle men. They're natural adventurers. +2 Strength, +1 Wisdom, can use claws to make unarmed attacks for 1d4 + Str slashing damage, can hold their breath for an hour, and have proficiency in survival. The main attraction of the race (aside from playing TMNT) is their shell, which gives them a base AC of 17 and stops them from wearing armor. They can also withdraw into it, giving another +4 to AC, and granting advantage on strength and con saving throws, but disadvantage on dex saving throws and removal of their ability to do anything but emerge from their shell. Used carefully, this ability makes them one of the tankiest races in the game.
Plane Shift: Ixalan
Aside from humans (use vanilla 5e human stats) and orcs (use 5e half-orc stats), Ixalan offers four new races; Merfolk, Vampire, Goblin and Siren. It also adds some notes on how to make Ixalan Merfolk, Vampires and Goblins function as subraces of Zendikaran ones.
Unlike the tail-legged merfolk of myth, Ixalan's merfolk are finned amphibious humanoids, sort of like the Zora from The Legend of Zelda, but more brightly colored. They're divided into two subraces; Green Merfolk are denizens of the wet, humid rainforest, whilst Blue Merfolk prefer a subaquatic lifestyle. +1 Charisma, Medium size, base speed 30 feet, swim speed 30 feet, and the Amphibious trait serve as the "racial core" traits - yes, these are identical the merfolk stats from the Plane Shift: Zendikar article earlier. Green Merfolk get +2 Wisdom, the Wood Elf's Mask of the Wild trait, and a Druid cantrip spell-like ability that keys off of Wisdom. Blue Merfolk get +2 Intelligence, the Lore of the Waters trait (free proficiency in the History and Nature skills), and a Wizard cantrip spell-like ability that keys off of Intelligence.
On Ixalan, vampirism is considered a holy sacrifice undergone by valuable members of the Legion of Dusk. +2 Charisma, +1 Wisdom, Medium, base speed 30 feet, Darkvision 60 feet, Vampiric Resistance (halves Necrotic damage), a Bloodthirst special attack that lets you suck the life from others, and the Feast of Blood ability. Bloodthirst is a special melee attack you can only use on a willing or grappled/restrained/incapacitated target, inflicting 1 piercing and 1d6 necrotic damage; this necrotic damage is deducted from the victim's maximum hit points (causing them to die if these are reduced to 0 HP), which is undone if they complete a long rest. You also regain hit points equal to the necrotic damage inflicted with Bloodthirst. Feast of Blood means that, after successfully using Bloodthirst, for the next 1 minute, you gain +10 feet speed and Advantage on all Strength and Dexterity checks & saving throws. Ixalan Vampires can also take the racial feat Vampiric Exultation, which lets them give themselves a Fly speed of 30 feet for 10 minutes once per short rest.
- Ixalan Goblin
Agile tree-climbers, the goblins of Ixalan have readily taken to life aboard the pirate ships of the Brazen Coalition. +2 Dexterity, Small, base speed 25 feet, climb speed of 25 feet if not wearing medium/heavy armor or encumbered, and Darkvision 60 feet.
Ixalani Sirens are harpy-like bird-folk infamous for their mercurial moods and hypnotic voices. +2 Charisma, Medium, speed 25 feet, Fly speed of 30 feet if not wearing medium/heavy armor or encumbered, and the ability to cast the Friends cantrip at will.
Unearthed Arcana: Centaurs and Minotaurs
Nature-loving hippies, evidently built to be Rangers. +2 Strength, +1 Wisdom, appropriately ridiculous walking speed of 40ft, and proficiency in Survival; you get once-per-short-rest double damage when charging a target, and your hooves count as natural weapons. You also get "Equine Build", which is Powerful Build plus increased difficulty in climbing and the ability to let allies ride on your back. Lastly, "Hybrid Nature" means you count as both humanoid and monstrosity, which will only rarely affect the game and be actually useful to you precisely never. Note that an odd interaction means that centaurs themselves aren’t necessarily unable to have mounts, and they also count as medium creatures themselves, thus leading to the infamous “Quintuple Centaur Stack.”
A "revision" of the one that appeared in Waterborne Adventures... which is to say it throws out all of the flavorful mechanics and "brutal cunning" focus to be a generic "brute" race (but with horns this time!), despite the fact that WOTC gave them the Krynn-based flavor in the first place because they didn't need another generic brute race. They lose Labyrinthine Recall and Sea Reaver (traits that would be rarely used at best, but that added character), and swap out their flexible ability score bonus for a flat +2 strength, +1 constitution. But they get proficiency in Intimidation and the Centaur's "Hybrid Nature" now. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay.
Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron
With the release of Keith Baker's Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron, everyone's favorite dungeonpunk setting is one step closer to coming back, even though it's still not "Adventurer's League" legal and the Wayfinder's Guide is explicitly a $20 playtest for groups to tear apart before the "official" 5e Eberron update. That means that the three iconic Eberron races have undergone a generous makeover, and the Kalashtar even showed up for good measure. In addition, each of the main dragonmarks has been reworked as a new set of sub-races for each race the house in question is mostly made of.
Back and stronger than ever, this new version of the changeling is a lot more "fluff-based" for its powers. +2 Charisma and then +1 to your choice of either Dexterity or Intelligence, Medium, base speed 30 feet. Change Appearance lets you shift your looks around to look however you want, although you can't imitate somebody you've never seen and it doesn't change any of your gear; if you need to make a Charisma (Deception) check to convince others of your identity whilst shapeshifted, you still have Advantage on the check. The new Changeling Instincts feature gives you proficiency with any 2 skills chosen from a list of Deception, Intimidation, Insight, and Persuasion. The Unsettling Visage feature lets you use a reaction to being attacked to impose disadvantage on the attack roll; you make this before you figure out if it would hit, this gives away your shapechanging abilities to anybody within 30 feet, and you can only do it 1/short rest. Finally, Divergent Persona gives you proficiency with one set of tools and then requires you to make up a complete secondary identity to associate with those tools; when you take on that identity with Change Appearance, you double your proficiency bonus with those tools.
Just like in 4e, 5e kalashtar use handwaving and racial flavor to get around the inherent lack of psionics at the moment of their release. Medium sized and with a base speed of 30 feet, you get +1 Wisdom, +1 Charisma, and +1 to any ability score that you choose. Your racial features are Dual Mind (when you make a Wisdom save, use your reaction to gain Advantage on the save), Mental Discipline (Resistance to Psychic Damage), Mind Link (you can open 2-way telepathic communication with any creature you can see within 60 feet), Psychic Glamor (you have Advantage on skill checks made with one of the following skills: Insight, Intimidation, Performance, or Persuasion) and Severed From Dreams (you're immune to spells & effects that target dreaming victims, but not to sleep effects). Oddly enough, they're actually rubbish at being Mystics, which is as close to a Psychic class as there is at present.
Same basic formula as their original UA version; Basic racial profile is +1 Dexterity, Darkvision, and Shifting (bonus action, lasts for 1 minute, gain temp HP equal to level + Constitution bonus and a sub-race derived bonus, can shift once per short rest), pick a subrace for extra goodies. However, the subraces have shrunken to just Beasthide, Longtooth, Swiftstride and Wildhunt.
- Beasthide: +2 Con, free Athletics, gain a further +1d6 temp HP and +1 AC when shifted.
- Longtooth: +2 Str, free Intimidation, when shifted you can bite (1d6 + Str piercing unarmed strike) as a bonus action.
- Swiftstride: +1 Dex, +1 Cha, free Acrobatics, +5 movement speed, when shifted your speed increases by +5 feet and, when an enemy ends its turn within 5 feet of you, as a reaction you can move 10 feet without provoking opportunity attacks.
- Wildhunt: +2 Wisdom, free Survival, you can Mark a creature within 10 feet as a bonus action 1/short rest (Until the end of your next long rest, double your Proficiency bonus for checks made to find the Marked creature and you always know if the Marked creature is within 60 feet of you), and when shifted you gain Advantage on Wisdom checks.
Incredibly beefy, the warforged is practically unrecognizable from its past incarnation; it even got subraces! +1 Constitution, Medium, base speed 30 feet, Warforged Resilience (advantage on saves vs. poison, resistance to poison damage, don't need to eat/drink/breathe, immune to magical sleep, don't gain exhaustion from not sleeping), Sentry's Rest (you are fully alert whilst taking a long rest), and Integrated Protection (you can't wear armor, you can use a shield, when you take a long rest you can switch between your three defensive modes: Darkwood Core - counts as unarmored, AC 11 + your Dex modifier + Proficiency if proficient with Light Armor; Composite Plating - Requires Medium Armor Proficiency, counts as armored, AC 13 + your Dex modifier (max +2) + Proficiency; Heavy Plating - Requires Heavy Armor Proficiency, counts as armored, disadvantage on Stealth checks, AC 16 + Proficiency).
- Envoy: +1 to two ability scores of your choice, 1 free skill proficiency, 1 free tool proficiency, 1 bonus language, and choose one tool you are proficient with - that tool is integrated into your body, so you can use it as long as your hands are free, and you double your proficiency bonus when using it.
- Juggernaut: +2 Strength, Powerful Build, your unarmed strikes do 1d4 + Str bonus bludgeoning damage.
- Skirmisher: +2 Dexterity, +5 movement speed, when you are traveling alone for an extended period of time, you can move at full speed whilst still moving stealthily.
- The warforged is currently on track with the Yuan-Ti as the most overpowered PC race available. The Integrated Protection ability gives warforged with heavy armour proficiency higher AC than the Tortle, while also scaling with level. On top of that, they have a host of resistances and immunities. On top of that they gain a subrace bonus.
Plane Shift: Dominaria
- Benalian Aven
Exactly the same stats as the Hawk-Headed Aven from the early Plane Shift: Amonkhet article: +2 Dex, +2 Wis, 25ft ground speed, 30ft fly speed (can't fly in medium/heavy armor or if encumbered), and the Hawk-Eyed racial trait, which gives proficiency in Perception and nullifies the Disadvantage from using ranged weapons at long range.
- Keldorn Human
A variant human which is basically a watered-down Goliath; +2 Str, +1 Con, proficiency in Athletics, Advantage on Strength saves, and acclimatized to cold environments.
Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica
Released in November 2018, the Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica is the big brother to the Plane Shift articles, with its expanded page count and shiny hard cover adding a level of officiality that the Plane Shifts tend to lack in the eyes of many DMs. And, of course, no visit to Ravnica would be complete without new races to highlight how this isn't your standard city-scape. Various teasers were released through different media, including Unearthed Arcana for August 2018, before it was finally revealed what the total list of races for Ravnica would be when the Table of Contents was spoiled on /tg/. Its content was ultimately released on 5e Tools a good week before the print book hit local game stores.
In addition to the unique races who got their own statblocks in it, outlined below, the GGR also explains that humans are native to Ravnica (duh), and so are the three core Elf subraces; High Elves are the nameless elves of the Simic Combine, Wood Elves are the Silhana of the Selesnya Conclave, and Dark Elves are the Devkarin of the Golgari Swarm.
Completely different to the version first presented in Unearthed Arcana, the GGR Centaur is a +2 Strength/+1 Wisdom Medium Fey (not humanoid!) with a 40ft base speed, a hoof attack natural weapon (unarmed strike that does 1d4 + Str Bludgeoning), the Charge ability (if you move at least 30 feet straight toward a target and then hit it with a melee weapon attack on the same turn, you can spend a bonus action to make a hoof attack against that same target), the new Equine Build trait (as Powerful Build, but you also increase your movement cost by +4 feet when climbing instead of +1), and free skill proficiency in either Animal Handling, Medicine, Nature, or Survival.
Just uses the same Goblin statblock as in Volo's Guide to Monsters.
This one, unlike the Centaur, is mostly identical to its Unearthed Arcana appearance; the only differences are that it loses Hybrid Nature and trades Menacing for Imposing Presence (you have Proficiency in either Persuasion or Intimidation).
The wise, patient, elephant-people of Ravnica. When these guys first showed up in their Unearthed Arcana playtest, they had the following traits: +2 Constitution, +1 Wisdom, Medium, base speed 30 feet, the Dwarf Stonecunning feature, Natural Armor as per the Lizardfolk, Powerful Build, free Proficiency with Mason's Tools, the Keen Smell trait (Advantage on Perception & Investigation checks based on scent), and Loxodon Bravery (Advantage on saves vs Fear). In the GGR proper, they retain their base stats (ability modifiers/size/speed), Keen Smell, and Powerful Build, but they gain the new traits of Loxodon Serenity (Advantage on Saves vs Charm and Fear) and Trunk (you have an extra appendage with a reach of 5 feet capable of doing simple tasks), and their natural armor trait is changed to be a lower base than Lizardfolk but scaling with Constitution instead of Dexterity (12+CON mod).
- Simic Combine Hybrid
A human, elf or vedalken who, due to their membership in the Simic Combine, has been spliced or grafted with animal traits. For simplicity's sake, the original race is functionally ignored; instead, you get +2 Constitution, +1 to one other ability score of your choice, Medium, base speed 30 feet, Darkvision 60 feet, and the Animal Enhancement trait. At 1st level, you pick one of the following mutations: Manta Glide (when falling, if not incapacitated, ignore the first 100 feet when calculating the fall damage, and you can move 2 feet horizontally for ever 1 foot you descend), Nimble Climber (Climb Speed equal to base speed), or Underwater Adaptation (gain the Amphibious trait and a Swim speed equal to your base speed). At 5th level, you gain a second mutation; you can either take one of the level 1 mutations, or you can take one of these mutations: Grappling Appendages (you gain a pair of extra limbs that can only be used to make unarmed strikes with; an attack from these natural weapons does 1d6 + Strength modifier damage and lets you make a grapple attack as a bonus action on a hit), Carapace (+1 AC when not wearing heavy armor), or Acid Spit (as an action, spit at one creature or object within 30 feet; if the target fails a DC (8 + your Con modifier + your Proficiency bonus) Dexterity save, they take 2d10 Acid damage, which increases to 3d10 at 11th level and 4d10 at 17th level). These stats remain unchanged from their Unearthed Arcana playtest appearance.
Presented with their fluff taken straight from Plane Shift: Kaladesh, they are presented with stats meshing up with their iconic status as the grim, ruthless, logic-driven mad scientists of Ravnica: +2 Intelligence, +1 Wisdom, Medium, base speed 30 feet, Vedalken Dispassion (Advantage on Int, Wis and Cha saving throws), and Tireless Precision (you are proficient in one tool of your choice, and one skill chosen from the list of Arcana, History, Investigation, Medicine, Performance, Sleight of Hand - you also get to add a +1d4 bonus when making a skill or tool check). The book version of them is identical to this Unearthed Arcana playtest version, but adds the Partially Amphibious trait, which lets them brethe water for up to 1 hour once per long rest.
Wiry, vicious little lizardfolk with bladed whipping tails they use to defend themselves. +2 Dexterity, +1 Strength, Medium, base speed 30 feet, Bite (natural weapon, does 1d4 + Str mod Piercing damage), Lashing Tail (if an enemy within 5 feet does damage to you with a melee attack, you can use your reaction to make an unarmed strike against that creature that, on a hit, does 1d4 + Str mod Slashing damage), Wiry Frame (free Proficiency in either Acrobatics or Stealth). Strangely, despite the fact that these were teased, and did show up in the original Unearthed Arcana playtest, they were cut from the actual book.
One Grung Above
Grungs are an obscure monster that disappeared from the game for several editions before reappearing in Volo's Guide to Monsters. Later a supplement was written called One Grung Above that gave them PC traits when somebody at Wizards of the Coast had the idea to run Tomb of Annihilation with an all grung party, however it includes a disclaimer stating that it does not make grungs legal to play in Adventurer's league. Grungs are cute but lawful evil poison frog people. Dexterity +2, Constitution +1, Small, base speed 25 feet for both climbing and walking, can breath air and water, immune to poison and the poisoned condition, poisonous skin that makes anyone that touches you roll a saving throw to avoid being poisoned for a minute (even if they are touching you in order to heal you) and can also be applied to piercing weapons but causes immediate 2d4 poison damage instead of the poisoned condition, long jump 25 feet and high jump 15 feet with or without a running start, must spend one hour a day immersed in water or suffer exhaustion which can only be removed with magic or spending an hour in water.
Verdan are chaos-warped goblins and hobgoblins originally from the Aquisitions Incorporated podcast setting. Essentially, they're non-evil goblinoids who begin their lives as a Small sized race, but eventually grow into a Medium sized one at full maturity. They have no memories of their racial history, so they've had to reinvent themselves from the ground up and are now a freedom-revering race of nomads. Oh, and the chaos still suffuses them, making them prone to random transformations, and in particular almost every verdan will spontaneously change sexes at least once in its life.
Eberron: Rising From the Last War
In addition to reprinting the Goblin, Hobgoblin and Bugbear stats from Volo's Guide to Monsters, and using subrace mechanics to represent Dragonmarks, the official Eberron 5e sourcebook contains the following races:
- Warforged (Rather than the practically OP version of Warforged introduced in WGtE, this variation is a lot more in line with the original UA's version, with +2 to Con and +1 to another stat. Gone are the various subtypes, now all Warforged get proficiency in one skill and one tool kit. In addition, Warforged get to wear normal armor with a tame +1 bonus that merges with them)
- Non-Shit Orc (drops the -2 Int and trades Menacing for two skills chosen from a small list, otherwise identical to Volo's Guide)
Explorer's Guide to Wildemount
Whilst there's a lot of races in this book, most of them are reprints of races from elsewhere in the 5e lineup - the Sea Elf subrace from Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, the Aarakocra, the Aasimar, the Firbolg, the Genasi, the Goblinoids from Volo's Guide, the Goliath, the Kenku, the Orcs from Eberron, and the Tortle (which means it's finally undeniably official). That said, there are some new unique subraces here as well.
- Pallid Elf
A mystical race of albino elves newly emerged from the Pallid Grove. +1 Wisdom, Advantage on Investigation and Insight checks, and the Light/Sleep/Invisibility (Self) spell-like abilities triad.
- Lotusden Halfling
Forest-dwelling halflings with innate druidic magic. +1 Wisdom, Druidcraft/Entangle/Spike Growth spell-like abilities, and the Timberwalk racial check, which forces Disadvantage on attempts to track a lotusden halfling and lets them ignore difficult terrain made of nonmagical plants and undergrowth.
- Dragonborn Variants
Exandria is home to two different types of dragonborn, replacing the standard model. Both versions have Darkvision and replace the Damage Resistance trait and their ability score modififers. Draconbloods' are smaller, sleeker, tailed dragonborn who once ruled a mighty empire; +2 Int, +1 Cha, and the Forceful Presence trait (gain Advantage on an Intimidation or Persuasion check 1/short rest). Ravenites look like "normal" dragonborn and were once slaves to the draconborn, before they fought their way free; +2 Str, +1 Con, and the Vengeful Assault trait (once per encounter, when you take damage from a creature within range of your weapon, you can make an attack as a reaction).
Mythic Odysseys in Theros
Alongside the reposted Minotaur and Centaur from the Ravinca book and Triton from Volo's, all of the races introduced are brand new. Alongside humanity, these are the only races that are native to Theros. All of them are here because of the Greek-like setting.
A strong version of the Catfolk, now like lions. Alongside the natural weapons, you get training in one skill (Athletics, Intimidation, Perception, Survival) and a 1/rest power to roar and possibly frighten enemies.
Finally free from UA. These guys have insignificant unarmed attacks. They also count as fey rather than humanoids (making them immune to several things, many of them positive as well as negative), have Magic Resistance flat-out for advantage on all saves against magical effects, jump extra far, and gain proficiency in Persuasion, Performance and a weapon.
|Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Classes|
|Barbarian - Bard - Cleric - Druid - Fighter - Monk |
Paladin - Ranger - Rogue - Sorcerer - Warlock - Wizard
|Tasha's Cauldron of Everything:||Artificer|
Iconic array of classes, plus the Warlock. Classes have a customization "path" option similar to Pathfinder, where player chooses which of an archetype of their class they want to follow - the Berserker Barbarian, the Evoker Wizard, the Wild Magic Sorcerer, the Beastmaster Ranger, etc. This archetype defines a lot of the special abilities that the class gets, and usually starts making itself felt on second or third level.
In a blast to the past, multiclassing requires a certain level of ability scores before a player can choose to multiclass. Much simpler than 2e's dual-classing mechanic, though; all of the core PHB classes only require a 13 in the necessary stat, and apart from the Monk, Paladin and Ranger (who need 13s in two stats) and the Fighter (requires either Strength or Dex), the classes only need one sufficiently high stat.
This page focuses on the officially released subclasses. For subclasses only released in Unearthed Arcana, see that page.
Still the melee powerhouse, still rages. Now gains armor from Con when not wearing armor, so you can roleplay Conan if you want. Also offers critical damage bonuses, the ability to survive anything that doesn't kill you outright at one hitpoint (with the DC going up until you get medical attention), and the usual barbarian super-speed and dodge bonuses.
Subclasses are known as "Primal Paths":
- Path of the Berserker (PHB): The "I hit it again" archetype. Offers the standard rage boosts, but the exhaustion after one of their core archetype features, Frenzy, is more serious than it used to be since it now applies multiple stacking levels of exhaustion, and each one requires a separate long rest to strip off. Plus, if you stack up three, you're at disadvantage on all saves and attacks. The other features aren't bad, but such a double-edged sword of a first-level power means it has few fans.
- Path of the Totem Warrior (PHB): A Barbarian guided by spirits which grant him semi-magical abilities while raging based on the animal spirit he invokes (Eagle offers super-vision and the eventual ability to fly, Wolf helps you track and support your party as a pack hunter, Bear actually makes you a pretty good tank); has an overall mystical druidic flavour, including a few druid's rituals. Mix-and-matching totem animals by selecting different powers at different levels is technically allowed by the book, though it makes a point of noting that doing so is rare. New totem spirits are offered as part of the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, specifically the Elk and the Tiger, which give powers relating to augmented movement and enhanced jumping respectively, which is honestly a little silly. A sidebar on Uthgardt totems shows how swapping abilities around can be used to make more unique totems; specific examples include the Skypony Totem (Eagle totem, but replace level 6 feature with that of the Elk totem), the Thunderbeast Totem (Bear totem, but replace the level 14 power with that of the Tiger totem) and the Treeghost Totem (Bear totem, but replace Speak With Beasts with Speak With Plants).
- Path of the Battlerager (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide): The first official new Primal Path. Despite the name, it has little to do with the 4e Fighter path and instead owes more to the "dwarf barbarian" characters from the later Drizzt stories. Like the Bladesinger wizard it has a recommended racial restriction (dwarves only), and it grants proficiency with spiked armor, enhanced abilities for attacking with spiked armor and permits Dashes whilst raging, and changes the temp HP from using Reckless Attack to the user's Con modifier. It's suggested, under the guidelines for reskinning it for other campaign settings, that a Krynnish Battlerager is probably wearing some dumb tinker gnome contraption, and that his or her boundless rage stems from having to work with those chucklefucks on a regular basis. This path is often shat upon because of it's lackluster final ability, dealing less than a peasant's dagger thrust worth of damage every time someone hits you means jack shit, even at lower levels.
- Path of the Ancestral Guardian (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): Summons the spirits of Ancestors to his aid, making this the Dorfiest Primal Path; alternatively, it gives an alternate "native American" feel to the Totem Warrior. The Path of the Ancestral Guardian was one of the five subclasses reworked in the May 2017 Unearthed Arcana. It works best as a support/aggro-magnet with the ability to reduce the damage others take while raging.
- Path of the Storm Herald (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): More of a "controller" type; creates an aura around him that hurts enemies and aids the barbarian and allies, with different effects based on the type of storm the Storm Herald can conjure: Desert, Sea, or Tundra.
- Path of the Zealot (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): Channels divine powers, giving both offensive and defensive benefits like cheating death while enraged. The multiclass Barbarian/Paladin you wanted to play back in 3.5 but were prevented from thanks to alignment restrictions. As a neat side note, at higher levels, while raging, YOU CANNOT DIE. You’ll keep taking death saves, but won’t actually keel over until your rage runs out, even with 3 failed saves. That means that even after losing, your blood-spattered, broken body only gives up after having killed every motherfucker in the room. Bad. Ass.
- Path of the Beast (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): Grants you a somewhat loose approximation of shapeshifting, granting natural weapons and eventually a new movement speed. While each of these weapons grants a special feature, they still fall prey to the same pitfalls that waylay other natural weapons. Fortunately, later features allow you to spread your feral spirit to friend and foe alike, forcing the enemy to make a Wisdom save or else either take considerable psychic damage or hit someone you want while allies just get extra damage.
- Path of the Wild Soul (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): Channeling something like a Bloodrager, allowing you to channel a random magical effect whenever you rage. The other interesting feature here is the ability to either grant some minor assistance for skill checks or restore a random spell slot for a caster. Later levels focus more on the random effect, letting you re-roll the random power whenever you get hit and the capstone power of just rolling twice and picking the best one whenever you want.
Still a jack of all trades, but a comprehensive regimen of buffs has made them positively terrifying. Now can routinely get spells from other classes' spell lists, plus some rogue skillmonkey powers, all on top of their own unique musical abilities. The ability to cherry pick spells is amazing, since each class has a few broken options. Swift quiver nets you four attacks at level 10, animate dead gives you your own personal army, etc. Hilariously, this means that one of the most often-derided classes in the game is now one of the best picks for people more interested in breaking the game than playing it.
Subclasses are known as "Colleges":
- College of Lore (PHB): Based aorund the "charm enemies and buff your allies" aspect of the class. Gives a standard bardic boost to their skillmonkey and caster powers. Given that bards are full spellcasters this edition, Lore Bard is a contender for "best overall spellcaster in the game."
- College of Valor (PHB): Based around the "jack of all trades, master of none" aspect of the class; offers extra weapon profiencies, an extra attack, and combat-buffing, culminating in the ability to attack with a weapon and a spell on the same turn.
- College of Swords (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): Inspired by the Blade kit from AD&D, this College, like the Valor Bard, is a beefed up combatant; but this time it's focused on directly enhancing the Bard's fighting skill along Swashbuckler lines, as opposed to the more Warlord-like Valor Bard. Taking the College of Swords gives your bard free proficiency with scimitars and medium armor, the Two-Weapon Fighting Style class feature, the Blade Flourish ability, an extra attack, and the ability to attack with a weapon and a spell on the same turn. The Blade Flourish is its most distinctive class skill; three new uses for Bardic Inspiration that requires you to be wielding a dagger, longsword, rapier, scimitar, or shortsword - Defensive Flourish boosts AC, Trick Shooter's Flourish enhances your ability to accurately throw a dagger, and Unnerving Flourish lets you frighten a creature into telling you stuff instead of killing it.
- In May 2017, the College of Swords got a revamp: it now gets free proficiency with Medium Armor and Scimitars, the ability to use Simple & Martial melee weapons as implements for bardic spells, the ability to pick either the Dueling (+2 to damage when wielding a one-handed melee weapon and no other weapons) or Two-Weapon Fighting Styles at level 3, a revamped version of Blade Flourish that functions as a new attack option at level 3, the ability to make two attacks as part of Blade Flourish at level 6, and the ability to use a free d6 instead of a Bardic Inspiration dice for Blade Flourishes at level 14.
- College of Satire (UA: Kits of Old): Based on the Jester AD&D kit. Basically a walking slapstick routine. Is a nimble, lucky bastard, specializing in trolling enemies. Aside from free proficiency with thieves tools, Sleight of Hand and one other bonus skill, it gains the Tumbling Fool ability (spend a bonus action to Tumble, which lets you either combine the Dash & Disengage actions, gain a Climb speed, or take half falling damage), Fool's Insight ability (cast Detect Thoughts Cha modifier times per long rest, targets that resist immediately do something embarrassing, like burping, pratfalling, etc), and Fool's Luck ability (burn Bardic Inspiration to try and fix a failed check, at the price of penalizing your next check).
- College of Glamour (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): Your classic enchanter-bard, with features like bestowing temp HP on your allies, being able to Charm Person with your performances, don a "Mantle of Majesty" once per day that lets you throw around Command spells as you please for a minute, and a super-charged Sanctuary spell that you can pull out once per encounter.
- College of Whispers (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): Like Glamour, this one focuses on mind control magic, but as more of a Dark Sun-style assassin-bard, with the ability to conjure poison on its weapons, plant magical seeds of paranoia in peoples' brains, wear the shadows of people they kill in order to steal their appearance & memories for a while, and the ability to use a sort of suped-up Charm Person spell once per day.
- College of Eloquence (Mythic Adventures of Theros): A heavily support-based subclass, with the ability to communicate with any sort of creature. This also adds new uses to Bardic Inspiration (boosting saves or gimping enemy saves) and gives a welcome kick to your inspiration economy by letting allies keep it if they botch a roll or granting free inspiration after the ally you inspired passes with it. When it got released for Theros, it gained the ability to effectively take 10 on persuasion and deception checks and split its inspiration gifts between two levels. Was reprinted in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything
- College of Creation (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): This subclass focuses on adding riders to your abilities. Each use of Bardic Inspiration adds another effect based on what roll it was used for. You can also create items as early as level 3 and animate existing objects to fight alongside you like a temporary companion at 6.
- College of Spirits (UA 2020 Subclasses Part 4): You are equal parts ghost whisperer and storyteller. Your Bardic Inspiration gives out a random buff as well as a later power to conduct seances to learn temporary spells.
Domains, domain spells, domain bonus proficiencies and once-per-rest abilities, all the common stuff. Still the best healer with the Life domain. Former Turn Undead now became Channel Divinity, which has a number of uses - including turning undead. Domains grant additional ways to use Channel Divinity. Basic clerics are no longer so heavily-armoured like before, and have access to basic weapons only, so they don't make paladins look like copycats. Don't worry, War and Tempest domains grants both Heavy Armor and martial weapons back, while Life domain grants heavy armour and Death martial weapons.
The Cleric archetypes are Domains, and there's a lot of them.
- Knowledge, Life, Light, Nature, Tempest, Trickery, and War domains (PHB): I mean a lot. The Cleric offers a lot of versatility, losing out to the wizard only because of a somewhat less-comprehensive spell list. Knowledge clerics are skillmonkeys without the Rogue's technical skills but more versatility, Life's your best bet if you want a healbot. Light spams radiant-damage beams of light and blinds stuff, Nature is just Druid with serial numbers filed off, Tempest makes you Thor and blast shit with lightning, Trickery makes you an armored Rogue with some illusion stuff in it and War proteccs but also attacks. See the article on clerics for individual details.
- Death domain (DMG): A "villainous option" that only appears in the DMG. Doesn't make you a minion-master like the Necromancer Wizard -- not even giving you Command Undead, which means the Necro-Wizard is finally better at being a necromancer than a Death Cleric -- the way it did in editions past, but gives you some bonus necromantic spells and features revolving around pumping out necrotic damage. Hilariously, the PHB itself acknowledges that death and its clerics aren't necessarily evil, and lists multiple non-evil death gods in its various appendices.
- City domain (UA: Modern Magic): Enhanced Charisma, Perception, and Insight in urban areas, a Channel Divinity that lets you mentally control all city utilities (and knock over or grab enemies by making the city grab them), bonus Psychic damage with melee attacks, and free teleportation between mass transit points (so bus stops, subway entrances, train stations, etc). Unfortunately won't do you much good in a classic "out in the wilds" campaign since it's made explicitly for urban fantasy settings so you'll have to work with your DM with this one.
- Arcana domain (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide): For if you miss the Mystic Theurge. Wizard cantrips, the ability to Turn aberrations, celestials, fae, elements and fiends, add Wisdom to cantrips, and gaining 1 Wizard spell from each of the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th level options, which don't count against your daily prepared allotment, at 17th level. Pretty fucking dope, but can feel a little powergamey. The downside being that it doesn't seem to have been designed with a specific party role in mind.
- Forge domain (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): For Clerics worship smithing creator deities like Moradin; as such they get bonus spells relating to manipulating fire, augmenting gear, and creating stuff, like Heat Metal, Searing Smite, Animate Objects, Magic Weapon, etc. They get bonus proficiency with heavy armor; the ability to turn a non-magical weapon or suit of armor into a +1 version for a day, which is a power they can only use once per day; the ability to create nonmagical items worth 100gp or less and which contain metal as part of a short rest (which could theoretically let you do things like duplicate a book with a paperclip in it or built a suit of adamantine full plate piece-by-piece, depending on whether your DM thinks adamantine objects count as magical), +1 AC in Medium or Heavy Armor, Fire Resistance (which ultimately improves itself to Fire Immunity), a once-per-turn Divine Strike that lets yo deal bonus fire damage, and the ability to gain Resistance to non-magical physical damage whilst wearing heavy armor.
- Grave domain (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): As you'd expect, the "non-evil necromancy clerics!" domain; whilst Death is mechanically aimed at gods of the undead, murder and other "death as an evil force to be feared" deities, the Grave Domain is aimed at gods of "death as a natural part of the cycle", like Kelemvor, Pharasma and Wee Jas. They get bonus spells relating to "good" necromancy (false life, gentle repose, antilife shell) and "neutral" necromancy (blight, animate dead, bane), the Spare The Dying cantrip for free, the ability to always heal maximum damage with their healing spells, the ability to spend 1 minute to sense all undead within 1 mile once per day, the ability to use Channel Divinity to remove immunity/resistance (if present) or grant vulnerability to the next attack to strike that creature, the ability to negate a critical hit on an ally once per short rest, a Divine Strike that can deal bonus necrotic damage, and the ability to give themselves or an ally some free healing in response to an enemy's death once per turn.
- Protection domain (UA: Divine Domains): For those who worship guardian deities, obviously; their powers basically make them more castery paladins. They get protective bonus spells, the ability to impose disadvantage on combat rolls by enemies within 5 feet who're attacking someone else, a Channel Divinity that lets you armor an ally with an aura that burns the next guy to strike that ally, gaining healing when you cast a heal-spell on others, a radiant damage Divine Strike, and the ability to gain two damage resistances from the list of Slashing, Piercing, Bludgeoning, Necrotic and Radiant, which you can change every short rest and which you can transfer to someone else with a touch.
- Order domain (Guildmaster's Guide to Ravinca): An enchantment-based domain with a bunch of spells to charm and the ability to let your allies attack using their reactions when you cast a spell of 1st level or higher at 1st level. The special Channel Divinity is basically a mass Charm Person that lasts until the end of your next turn or if the target takes damage, but you get the choice to knock those charmed creatures prone. At 6th level, you get the ability to regain a spell slot of 5th-level or lower when you cast an enchantment spell of 2nd-level or higher (the spell slot regained must be equal to or lower than the spell slot used to cast the enchantment spell). Much like the War and Tempest domains (among others) you get Divine Strike at 8th level, dealing force damage in this case. The capstone at 14th level lets your allies deal bonus force damage to a creature that you hit and deal Divine Strike damage to. Overall, many of its features wouldn't feel out of place in a Love domain, as of now, gods of love and/or beauty get saddled with the Life domain or the Light domain, or both.
- This saw an official release in Guildmaster's Guide to Ravinca, replacing the 6th level ability with a limited ability to quicken the casting of enchantment spells. It was also reprinted in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything.
- Twilight domain (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): This domain is for those who seek to delve into peril to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You gain darkvision by default as well as advantage on initiative. Your Channel Divinity grants an aura of THP and protection from charmed or fear, while the rest of the domain grants protection from fear, the ability to fly in darkness, and the ability to let your party see through the Darkness spell.
- The rewrite for Tasha makes the darkvision and Initiative boost both be features that can be shared with allies, though Darkvision requires you to burn spellslots to share it more than once; in exchange, you can share darkvision with multiple allies while Initiative is only shared to one.
- Peace Domain (Formerly Unity) (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): Your focus is to keep the party as close as possible, as they can bolster each other and mitigate each other's damage thanks to your powers. This ability eventually extends to even downed members of your party, which grants them protection from damage as well as the ability to accept allied hit die to get back up.
- When it got republished for Tasha, it got a few changes, including the name. For one, it's channel divinity feature now provides an effective way to run and provide some quick healing to an ally. Its capstone power also no longer has the ability to help downed members of the party, but now anyone who takes the damage via the bond gain resistance, improving the effectiveness of the tanking.
Plane Shift: Amonkhet takes place on a world ruled by worship of five gods, and as such you shouldn't be surprised that there are new Cleric Domains to be had from it; Solidarity, Strength, Ambition, and Zeal. There's also a God of Knowledge, but that's in the PHB.
- Solidarity domain: Sort of a cross between the War and Life Domains, as it's all about fostering team-work and unity. Its bonus spells relate to group-targeting heals and buffs, such as Bless, Guiding Bolt, etc. It grants proficiency in Heavy Armor and several features. At level 1, Solidarity's Action lets you spend a bonus action when using Help to assist an ally's attack to make a weapon attack of your own, which you can do Wis bonus times (minimum once) per day. At level 2, you get the Channel Divinity feature "Preserve Life", which lets you heal others as a bonus action without expending a spell slot. At level 6, Channel Divinity "Oketra's Blessing" lets you spend a Channel Divinity use as a reaction to a creature within 30 feet of you make an attack roll; this grants them a +10 bonus to their roll. At 8th level, you get Divine Strike, which lets you bump up the damage on one weapon attack per turn by +1d8 (+2d8 after you hit level 14). Finally, at level 17, you get Supreme Healing, where you automatically heal the maximum possible amount when using a random roll-based healing effect.
- Strength domain: All about proving your strength, physically and mentally. As such, its bonus spells are an odd mix of physical boosters, protective buffs, and also includes the Dominate Beast and Insect Plague spells. At level 1, you gain Acolyte of Strength (1 Druid cantrip, Proficiency in 1 of Animal Handling, Athletics, Nature or Survival) and proficiency in Heavy Armor. At level 2, your first Channel Divinity, "Feat of Strength", allows you to use Channel Divinity to grant yourself a +10 bonus to any Strength based check. The level 6 version, "Rhonas's Blessing", is the same thing, but targeting somebody else within 30 feet instead. You get the same Divine Strike feature as the Solidarity Domain at level 8, and finally, level 17 gives you Avatar of Battle; permanent resistance to all physical damage that comes from non-magical sources.
- Ambition domain: Second only to Death as the most evil-flavored Domain, because of course wanting to push yourself to the top is most appealing to selfish jerkasses. Its bonus spells are all about cheating or manipulating; Bane, Ray of Enfeeblement, Vampiric Touch, Dominate Person, etc. At level 1, you get the Warding Flare ability, which you can use 1 or Wisdom modifier times per day, whichever is greater. This lets you impose Disadvantage on an assailant's attack roll against you as a reaction, provided that you can see them and they're within 30 feet - oh, and they're not immune to being blinded. Your level 2 Channel Divinity is "Invoke Duplicity", which lets you use your CD to create an illusionary double, which is sustained as per a Concentration spell. Aside from the obvious misleading effects, although it's only got a 120 range, you can cast spells through it, and you can tag-team with it to gain advantage on attack rolls. In comparison, your level 6 Channel Divinity, "Cloak of Shadows, is much simpler: you turn invisible, until your next turn ends, you attack somebody, or cast a spell. Level 8 gives you the Potent Spellcasting feature, where your offensive Cleric cantrips inflict +Wisdom modifier bonus damage. Finally, at level 17, Improved Duplicity lets you make up to 4 duplicates with Channel Divinity instead of 1.
- Zeal domain: This one's a weird mixture of the War and Tempest Domains, in practice. Its bonus spells are all offensive based, either directly (Destructive Wave) or indirectly (Searing Smite), and heavy on the thunder and fire damage. You get free proficiencies with martial weapons and heavy armor, and the Priest of Zeal feature at level 1. Usable 1 or Wisdom modifier (use the higher of the two) times per day, it lets you use a bonus action after making an attack to make an extra weapon attack. Your level 2 Channel Divinity, Consuming Fervor, lets you spend Channel Divinity uses to maximize fire and thunder damage. At level 6, you get Resounding Strike, which means your thunder attacks will knock any target that is Large or smaller back 10 feet when they hit. At level 8, you get Divine Strike, which functions the same as Solidarity and Strength's version. Finally, at level 17, you get Blaze of Glory: once per day, when reduced to 0 hit points by an attacker that you can see, you can use your reaction to move at full speed towards that bastard and make a melee weapon attack with Advantage that deals +5D10 (weapon damage type) damage and +5d10 fire damage if it hits. Whether it hits or not, you then collapse on the spot, either dead or dying, depending on how badly hurt you were beforehand.
Mearls produced his own Cleric Domains, three so far, releasing them variously in his Twitter or his Stream. So far, he's created the Beauty, Darkness, and Destruction domains.
Still here, not quite as eco-terrorist-y, and fully loosening most alignment restrictions. Proportionately less powerful than they used to be, but still enjoy all the power and versatility of being a full caster. Druids characters put a lot of their chips into their archetype to define how they're used.
Their archetypes are called "Circles":
- Circle of the Land (PHB): Used to make a general-purpose caster Druid, with a number of cleric-style "domains" representing Druid's native land - like swamp, forest or even the Underdark, plus some passive resistances to poison, disease, fey-charms, soothing the aggression of natural creatures, etc.
- Circle of the Moon (PHB): Creates a Druid focused on shapeshifting and fighting in animal forms, though they only get one roleplaying benefit, and it only happens when you learn how to turn into people at level 14, and as such might make people think you're a murderhobo. Also Archdruids of the Moon have an obscene amount of hit points. Can expend spellslots to heal themselves in animal form. Combined with turning into a bear, this makes them pretty good tanks. Infamous for the "angry onion" build, which involves dipping juuuuuust far enough into barbarian to get access to the bear totem, and through it both Unarmored Defense based on Constitution and resistance to all damage but psychic while raging, since the druid *can* shapeshift and use slots to heal him or herself while raging. As a result, any enemy will have to "peel away the layers" as the druid pops into different animal forms full of expendable hitpoints, all the while the druid whails on them.
A lot of people like to complain that this subclass is strictly better than the land druid, but that's not really true, since they in fact have differing roles. THe moon druid is OP, sure, but it's focused around tanking and augmenting the class's Wild Shape feature. The Circle of the land, however, is meant to be a generalist caster. In terms of its benefits, it for example is the only druid that can regain spell slots on a short rest.
- Circle of Dreams (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): These druids have come to share good terms with the "nature spirit" type fae, such as dryads or treemen or nymphs, and this gives them more fae-like powers due to emulating the fundamental nature of those spirits. They're characterised with rather hippy-esque overtones, much like the Oath of Ancients Paladin. They have a feature that lets them heal others for a given amount per day, the ability to create an illusion-veiled campsite that's hard to find and which gives them and their buddies home-court advantage in combat, an at-will teleport feature with a d4 turn cooldown, and the ability to stack on a dispel magic on a healing spell three times per long rest.
- Circle of the Shepherd (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): Essentially the animal companion druids of 4e, with a dash of 4e Shaman. Spirit Bond lets them summon an animal spirit once per short rest, which effectively creates a 30ft buffing zone for 1 minute that gives a boost depending on what spirit they summon - Bear gives temporary hit points and advantage on Strength checks & saving throws, Hawk gives advantage on ranged attacks on enemies in the zone, and Wolf gives advantage on detecting checks and causes healing spells to "spread" to other allies in the aura. Beast Speech is a permanent Talk With Animals spell, Mighty Summoner causes the druid's summoned/conjured animals to have increased health and have attacks that count as magical, Guardian Spirit gives them a 24-hour-long Deathwatch spell each time they finish a long rest, and Faithful Summons causes them to reflexively cast a (free) Conjure Animals with a 9th level slot the first time they drop to zero HP, with the resultant summons guarding the druid.
- Got a reprise as part of the June 2017 UA. Spirit Bond now calls forth a Bear, a Hawk or a Unicorn, with the newcomer granting Advantage to Perception checks and essentially turning your healing spells into group-targeting spells for free. Also, Guardian Spirit now provides free healing to your summoned beasts and faeries, restoring HP equal to half your druid level each turn they end within the aura of your Spirit Totem.
- Circle of Twilight (UA: Druid Circles): Druids who have chosen to specialize in hunting down the undead, whom druids have traditionally been quite opposed to. They get a pool of dice they can use to deal bonus necrotic damage with their offensive spells (which generates healing if the spell kills any of its targets), the ability to cast Speak With Dead and, at a higher level, Etherealness as a spell-like ability once per short rest, resistance to necrotic & radiant damage, and their mere presence gives allies advantage on death saving throws.
- Circle of Spores (Guildmaster's Guide to Ravinca): Rather than turn into an animal, this turns you into a fungus-man who spreads spores to enemies. Wildshape not only boosts the damage of these spores, but also grants some temporary HP. Enemies who die to these spores can even become temporary spore-zombies as soon as level 6! The Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica featured this as the first new official druid subclass since the Xanathar's Guide and was reprinted in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything.
- Circle of Wildfire (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): The predictably pyromaniacal subclass. At the start, this allows you to spend Wild Shape on summoning little fire spirits to fight alongside you. Fortunately this is not purely offensive, as while you can let enemies explode into flames, allies can heal next to these flames, and your capstone ability lets you cheat death while burning any enemies you see.
- Circle of the Stars (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): This subclass grants some spell-like abilities as well as a new transformation into a star-man, equipped with one of three special abilities that improve as you progress. You also gain the ability to divine some of the future, granting one of two benefits based on what you roll on a d6. The Unearthed Arcana where they debuted notably finally gave the Druid a legitimate way to get Fireball, but Tasha's Cauldron pulled back on this to give them Scorching Ray instead.
The Druid UA also presents a set of optional simpler rules for wildshape, which gives 3 "basic" forms according to climate, and new forms require at least an hour of observation followed by a DC 15 Intelligence (Nature) check, or a shorter time in interaction followed by a DC 15 Wisdom (Animal Handling) Check. This keeps the druid for being stupid awesome at polymorphing. Notably, there is an absence of the Dire Wolf among the lists (arguably the best early wild shape form).
Better than the 3.5 version, worse than the 4e version, fighters get their own unique goodies from sub-classes, plus the only real Healing Surge left in the game, have an ability boost/extra feat every few levels (ensuring that almost no build is too MAD for a properly leveled fighter, and directly allowing them to benefit from the beefy boosts to feats this edition), and gain crazy amounts of extra attacks. Who's a glorified dip class now? That said, if one wants to dip fighter, it's certainly worth attempting, as it offers a lot of powerful benefits at relatively low levels.
The Battle Master, Monster Hunter, and a UA fighting style make use of a special resource called Combat Superiority dice, which are d8s (upgrading to d10s at level 10 and d12s at level 18) that they can burn to fuel certain combat maneuvers. Those that do share the level 15 "Relentless" feature, which gives them 1 Superiority die each time they gain initiative and have none left.
Subclasses are called Martial Archetypes, and they're where the Fighter gets most of its fun goodies.
- Champion (PHB): The simplest fighter archetype, offering crit range boosts, extra fighting styles, benefits to the athletic aspects of being a fighter, including jumps and initiative checks, and, eventually, fast healing when injured. There aren't any active components to it, but, again, it's a simple archetype.
- Battle Master (PHB): who gains access to various "martial maneuvers" powered by "superiority dice," plus several flavor abilities clearly intending to focus on the idea of an intellectual and artistic personality who also happens to be a muscular badass. The more complex of the two non-spellcasting core fighters, with the ability to play more of a support character or status-effect monkey while still wearing heavy armor and smashing shit up with whatever weapon you like.
- Eldritch Knight (PHB): A mage/fighter combo who, hilariously, is channeling the duskblade rather than its namesake prestige class, and is a great method to make a proper battle mage. It starts off slow but gradually gets a bunch of useful spells, particularly when they can pick a limited number outside the abjuration and evocation schools at higher levels. The SCAG also pumped them up like a big syringe full of 'roids, because one of their signature abilities is cast a cantrip followed by a weapon attack and the SCAG added a couple spells with built-in melee attacks.
- Purple Dragon Knight / Banneret (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide): A support class path, which basically lets the Fighter allow other members of the party to share in the Fighter's class abilities. For example, if a Purple Dragon Knight uses her second wind, then three allies within 60 feet also gain health as if they'd done the same thing. Gets two names because "Purple Dragon Knights" as a specific group only exist in the Forgotten Realms.
- Cavalier (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): Based on the Cavalier kit from AD&D, this Archetype gets 2 free proficiencies in any combination of Animal Handling, Insight, Performance or Persuasion, the Born to the Saddle Feature (easier time staying on a mount, quicker at mounting/dismounting, always land on your feet if you fall off your mount), the ability to use Combat Superiority dice to enhance riding abilities, increase attack rolls, knock an enemy prone whilst using a lance from a steed, or to boost AC (and half damage if the attack still lands) whilst mounted, and the Ferocious Charger ability (increases your aforementioned special lance attack). As you can see, it still falls into the same old pitfall of the Cavalier, in that it's not much use without a horse. Got a reprise as part of the June 2017 UA, as essentially more of a mounted Battlemaster than anything.
- The final version released in XGE combines this archetype with Knight. While it loses Combat Superiority, it gains a reaction ability to grant bonus AC to allies and the power to draw aggro from others. The end result is more of a "sticky tank" which focuses less on its mounted abilities and more on being defensive and drawing fire. It’s 14th level ability gives it unlimited oppurtunity attacks, basically giving you 3.5 Combat Reflexes. Which, for the uninformed, was VERY GOOD.
- Scout (UA: Kits of Old): Based on the Scout kit, it's your basic ranged weapon fighter, and at least manages to be an actually competent non-spellcasting version of the Ranger. You get three choices of free proficiency between Acrobatics, Athletics, Investigation, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Stealth or Survival, the ability to burn Superiority dice on the aforementioned checks, the ability to boost attack rolls with Superiority dice, the ability to boost AC and half damage if the attack still hits whilst wearing light or medium armor, and the Ranger's Natural Explorer feature, except you get new terrains at levels 7 and 15. Weirdly, the Scout would later get added as an archetype for the Rogue as well.
- Monster Hunter (UA: Gothic Heroes): Be Van Helsing with this archetype, which makes you better at fighting monstrosities, with tricks like free Knowledge proficiencies, the ability to spend superiority dice for increased attacking accuracy and power, enhanced protection, or increased perception, and spell-like abilities of detect magic and protection from evil/good.
- Arcane Archer (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): This one is, as you expected, a bow-wielding analogue to the Eldritch Knight. Its core trick is summoning an Arcane Arrow, a magical arrow that counts as magical (no duh) and does 2d6 force damage (upgrading to 4D6 at level 18). An Arcane Arrow can also have one of the "Arcane Shot" special attributes applied to it; initially, an Arcane Archer only knows two Arcane Shots, but it picks up four more as it levels up. Initially, it can only fire 2 Arcane Arrows per rest, but at 15th level, it now recharges its last Arcane Arrow after 1 minute. It also gains the ability to conjure a bundle of 20 non-magical arrows for 10 minutes at 7th level, and two bonus skills out of Arcana, Athletics, Nature, Perception, Stealth and Survival. For Arcane Shots, it's got Beguiling Arrow (charm the target so it can't attack one of your arrows), Brute Bane Arrow (target's physical damage is halved until the end of your next turn), Bursting Arrow (explodes in a 10ft blast on a hit), Defending Arrow (impose Disadvantage on the target's next attack), Grasping Arrow (wraps the target in brambles that slow it and inflict slashing damage if it moves, unless it spends an action ripping them all off), Piercing Arrow (blasts through all targets in a 30ft line), Seeking Arrow (fire a homing arrow) and Shadow Arrow (reduces the target's visual range). Unfortunately, this archetype was so weak that it ended up getting a revamp in May 2017.
- The version on Xanathar's Guide to Everything knocks it hard. For one, its basic Arcane Shots no longer get to do straight damage without some special effect, and they can no longer magically summon arrows. On the plus side, it gains an Arcane Shot when starting a fight, making sure one shot is always available. It also gets the power to re-roll missed shots.
- Knight (UA: Martial Archetypes): Actually a throw-back to the 4th edition Fighter, with a dose of Cavalier for good measure. Born to the Saddle makes a knight more adept at mounted combat, in that mounting/dismounting only costs 5 feet of movement, it has advantage on saves to avoid being knocked off, and it always land on its feet if knocked off, providing it's not incapacitated and it doesn't fall more than 10 feet in the process. Implacable Mark lets it "mark" a target with a melee attack three times per short rest, so long as the target isn't immune to fear. A marked creature suffers Disadvantage when not attacking targets that marked it, and if it moves whilst within five feet of the knight, the knight can use its reaction to make a melee attack with advantage that does (+ level) bonus damage on a hit, though this "bonus" reaction can only be done once per round. Noble Cavalry gives the knight its choice of either two bonus skills from the list of Animal Handling, History, Insight, Persuasion or Religion, or else a bonus language. Hold the Line means that when an enemy moves within 5 feet of the Knight, the knight can use its reaction to deliver a melee attack that does (+ 1/2 level) bonus damage and immediately stops it from moving. Rapid Strike lets a knight trade off having combat advantage on a weapon attack to instead make an extra bonus attack. Finally, Defender's Blade lets it use its per-round reaction to deliver an opportunity attack and gives it +1 AC when wearing heavy armor.
- Samurai (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): A super-tanky fighter. Fighting Spirit lets it gain some Temp HP, and advantage on all its attacks, three times per short rest. Elegant Courtier lets a samurai add its Wisdom bonus to its Charisma bonus when making Charisma checks to please or persuade a member of a high social class, and also grants the samurai its choice of either a bonus skill (History, Insight, or Persuasion) or a bonus language. Unbreakable Will gives the samurai proficiency in Wisdom saves (or in its choice of Intelligence or Charisma saves, if it's already got the Wisdom proficiency). Rapid Strike lets a samurai trade off having combat advantage on a weapon attack to instead make an extra bonus attack. Finally, Strength Before Death lets a samurai that has been reduced to zero hitpoints gain an "interruptive" bonus turn, not taking the damage until it ends this bonus turn - and yes, using Fighting Spirit or other effects to lower the damage taken is allowed.
- Sharpshooter (UA: Martial Archetypes): A ranged weapon master, obviously. Its Steady Aim feature lets it take extra-careful aim three times per short rest, which lets it both ignore half & three-quarters cover and deal (2 + fighter level) bonus damage on a successful hit. Careful Eyes lets it take Search checks as a bonus action and gives it proficiency in one skill from Perception, Investigation or Survival. Close-Quarters Shooting means that not only does the sharpshooter not suffer combat disadvantage for firing on someone within 5 feet, but if it hits a close-ranged opponent with its ranged attack, that creature can't take reactions until the end of the turn. Rapid Strike, yet again, lets a sharpshooter trade off having combat advantage on a weapon attack to instead make an extra bonus attack. Finally, Snap Shot means that if the sharpshooter takes the Attack action on the first turn of combat, it can make an additional ranged weapon attack as part of that action.
- Brute (UA: Three Subclasses January 2018): Take the Champion and give it more meat on those bare bones. Now every attack deals extra damage that scales by level, saves gain +1d6, and it can regain HP if they start a battle seriously damaged. They still gain a bonus fighting style and crits do extra damage based on level. The cause of much skub due to it being just slightly better than the Champion in a slightly unsubtle way.
- Rune Knight (UA Fighter, Ranger and Rogue): You become something like a Runepriest, able to etch the runes of giants onto your gear. You eventually get to grow like one, gaining extra damage in melee. These runes can also protect allies with surprise extra AC.
- Psychic Warrior (Mearls' Stream): Part of Mearls' plan to convert over psionics without having to do an entire new subsystem to handle psionics. Full of skub as a result. Later adapted to The Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard UA. This lets you pick between focusing on extra damage or damage reduction.
- Psi Warrior (Formerly Psi Knight) (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): Take two (or three if you count the stream). This gives more flexible with the psionic surge die, which you can use to either reduce damage taken, deal bonus damage, or just add jump distance. Later levels actually grant telekinetic powers, including an aura of protection for your allies and eventually the ability to cast Telekinesis.
- Slayer (Mearls' Stream): Basically Mearls' take on the Monster Hunter archetype, this is for fighters specialized in bringing down huge monsters. Because Monster Hunter World is a thing, after all.
- Warlord (Mearls' Stream): The beloved 4rrie martial class returns at long last! Is it actually any good? Eh...
- Weapon Master (Mearls' Stream): A nested subclass, this subclass features its own distinct subclasses to distinguish which kinds of weapons you specialize in.
- Echo Knight (EGtW): A variant Eldritch Knight who practices "Dunamancy", which is space/time magic. This allows them to call up ghostly doppelgangers from alternate timelines and use them to launch attacks or soak damage. They can initially only have one Echo at a time, but at level 18, gain the ability to deploy two.
- Rune Knight (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): A very modular class, you learn how to carve Giant runes into your gear for special benefits and temporary power-ups. You also gain the ability to buff up like a giant.
Uses dexterity for attack AND damage rolls at level one, cutting down on the class's infamous multiple ability dependency, and now has a "Martial Arts" bonus that lets them deal the same scaling damage with all their weapons, not just their bare hands. As before, Monks have a resource called Ki, which they use on a number of abilities granted by their archetype, known as their Monastic Tradition.
- Way of the Open Palm (PHB): Your classic kung-fu master monk, complete with the famous quivering palm save-or-die power
- Way of Shadow (PHB): Grants all sorts of stealth bonuses, explicitly turning the monk into a ninja (reinforced by the fact typical ninja weapons - like kama or nunchucks - are called "monk weapons" here).
- Way of the Four Elements (PHB): Allows the monk to cast and make certain spells and attacks with elemental themes using Ki, appealing to Avatar: The Last Airbender fans. Unfortunately underpowered, to the point where some claim having no specialization would be better.
- Way of the Long Death (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide): This gives a monk the ability to heal itself by killing enemies like a Fiend pact Warlock, a fear effect, a powerful grab attack, and the ability to spend a ki point to keep on fighting at one hitpoint when an attack would normally knock them out. It also gives them the Fist of the North Star.
- Way of the Sun Soul (Sword Cost Adventurer's Guide): HaDOUUUken! Sun Soul monks get ranged attacks, letting them throw bolts of magical radiance around whenever they want to (naturally, they're proficient in such attacks). They can spend ki to spam these energy blasts like regular monk fists, spend ki to mimic the effect of Burning Hands after they hit someone, they develop what amounts to a fireball attack that does Radiant damage, which can be further enhanced with ki, and they eventually can set up an aura of light that has the added effect of being able to burn someone who hits you in melee. Holds up well as the long-time undead-smiting monk sub-class. Was reprinted in Xanathar's Guide to Everything.
- Way of the Kensei (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): Taking its name from an "unarmored samurai weapon-master" kit way back in the days of 1e, is a weapon-master monk, who gains free proficiency with three martial weapons and the ability to use weapons it's proficient with as "kensei weapons" - use Dex or Strength for attack & damage rolls, can substitute Martial Arts damage for the weapon's normal dice value, can deal +1d4 bludgeoning damage when striking with a kensei weapon, and can get +2 AC by forfeiting a strike with a wielded kensei weapon to instead make an unarmed strike. And that's just your first feature! It gets beefier thereafter; treating any kensai weapon it wields as being magical, being able to double its proficiency bonus for one attack roll once per short rest, spending ki points to buff attack & damage rolls, and finally being able to re-roll one missed attack per turn. This archetype got some revisions on the May 2017 UA.
- Way of Tranquility (UA: Monks): In essence, is a monk diplomancer; inclined towards pacifism, its powers mostly relate to non-violence - an inherent Sanctuary ability, what is essentially a Lay On Hands trait (cure HP damage, poison and disease with a touch), free proficiency with either Performance or Persuasion, advantage on sincere attempts to defuse impending violence with a Charisma check, an at-will charm effect that makes a victim incapable of attacking, and finally the ability to do a huge amount of bonus damage to someone they see kill somebody else.
- Way of the Drunken Master (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): Would you believe us if we told you there's a real-life school of martial arts based around pretending to be drunk? This archetype is based on it. This is a fairly gimmicky sort of path, focused on improved action economy. Level 3's "Drunken Technique" grants it free Proficency in Performance and a boost to Flurry of Blows; the Drunken Master can, whilst using that feature, Disengage as a free action and boost their speed by 10 feet until the end of the turn when doing so. Level 6 gives them access to Tipsy Sway, which lets them, with the use of a Ki Point, use a reaction to being missed by an enemy melee attack to make that attack instead hit a third individual within 5 feet. Drunkard's Luck, their 11th level feature, gives them the ability to spend 1 ki point before making a saving throw to gain Advantage on that save. Finally, at level 17 they gain Intoxicated Frenzy, which means they get +3 attacks (maximum of 5) whilst using Flurry of Blows, so long as they aim each attack at a different target.
- Way of the Soul Knife (Mearls' Stream): Part of a grand stream in which Mearls outlined his plans on how to make psionics work through the subclass system, rather than trying to just make unique psionics classes.
- Way of the Astral Self (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): aka the Stand subclass. Yes, you literally summon aspects of a spiritual self that works in tandem with you, eventually growing more visible before a complete body.
- Way of Mercy (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): These guys are a little more inspired by European monks and plague doctors than the usual Wuxia-inspired monk. They gain powers that alternatively harm and heal their allies and enemies, and their 17th level feature lets them put a target in literal suspended animation for a while. Pretty neat, overall.
- The Tasha's rewrite focuses more on being the combat medic. As you level up, you also gain the ability to cure certain conditions and poison enemies. The capstone ability also now resurrects a dead thing and cure them of any conditions they suffered.
- Way of the Ascendant Dragon (UA 2020: Subclasses Part 5): Become like a dragon. It starts off letting you deal elemental damage and limited uses of a personal breath weapon. Later levels grant temporary flight and various other dragon traits by channeling a special aura.
Now has cooler flavor that finally makes them something more than gimped cleric and doesn't have alignment restrictions, as mentioned above, so no "be Lawful Good or else be a Blackguard/sucky-ass fighter" crap. The flavor of the default Oaths is clearly leaning towards either a Good (all) or Neutral (Ancients, Vengeance) alignment.
Smite now uses spell slots, and there is a number of Smite spells, allowing a paladin to burn his foes, hit them with lightning, or torment them for their sins on attack. Sadly, no ranged smites (aside from casting Branding Smite on a ranged weapon) and almost no ranged spells. Their famed lay on hands ability is now a kind of pool they can draw on in discrete intervals, and they eventually get some auras to buff their teammates.
Paladins also use Charisma for spellcasting now. This helps to ease some of their MAD problems and lets them multiclass into Charisma classes more easily, but further distances them from the holy warriors they once were.
A paladin's Vow is now tied to their archetype or Oath.
- Oath of Devotion (PHB): Makes you a classic lawful good paladin, bent on honor and duty, but with somewhat more freedom. Their buff aura and personal immunities let them shrug off mind-control, their capstone turns them into a demon-and-undead-slaying living rod of sunlight, and their spells are basic religion stuff.
- Oath of the Ancients (PHB): You're now a sort of hippie knight, champion of light and life - imagine a stag-riding knight in green armour, with some druidic spells. Their aura grants resistance to all spell damage, which is sweet, one of their personal abilities slows their aging and lets them shrug off incapacitation once per day, and their capstone transforms them into a regenerating fast-spellcasting nightmare for the bad guys, who also get disadvantage on their saves vs. the pally's shit because fuck evil.
- Oath of Vengeance (PHB): Become a typical inquisitor - his oath basically says "for greater good" and "by any means necessary", which is cool. Blackguards wish they were this cool. Spells are hunting/ranger stuff, and they get a number of single-target fuck-you powers, but they don't get an aura like the others to support their team with.
- Oath of the Crown (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide): Basically a civilization-supporting Paladin. Has a number of knight-type abilities, with powers like issuing challenges that force enemies to fight the paladin. Their Channel Divinity can mimic the effects of one of their spells, compel duel, and has the bonus of healing allies nearby. You can also intercept damage for an ally within 5 feet, and have advantage on saving throws vs. being paralyzed.
- Oathbreaker (or Blackguard) (DMG): DMs are presented with the option to immediately switch a paladin who dramatically breaks their oath to an Oathbreaker instead of "just" depowering them, too. It quite amply fills the Blackguard's former shoes as a fiend and undead-cavorting, black magic-wielding black knight type character class. Oathbreaker paladin must be Evil, but there's actually nothing saying that other Paladins can't be evil so long as they still uphold their Oath (although once you break your oath, you cannot redeem yourself while evil - apparently, even if you began as an evil Vengeance paladin).
- Oath of Conquest (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): Lawful Evil Paladin, or at best a Hellknight out of Pathfinder. All focused on crushing the weak and exerting its own strength. It gets a bunch of warlock/enchantment spells, some terror-inflicting abilities, immunity to charm, and turning into an uber-warrior badass once per day. This one got some touchups in the March 2017 UA.
- Oath of Treachery (UA: Paladins): Outright referred to as the archetypical Chaotic Evil Demon Prince-aligned anti-paladin of old, with a bundle of illusion and misdirection related powers. If you think the Oathbreaker might be too powerful, this is your style.
- Oath of Redemption (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): Another callback. Unfortunately, it has already been widely panned for being a huge throwback in flavor and abilities to the incredibly annoying "pacifist character" archetypes of old. These guys specialize in nonlethal ways to take down opponents, mixed with some tanky attributes in order to give them the guts they need to survive the effort. The XGE print removes the obstructive restrictions of utter pacifism, but also removes the unarmored AC boost.
- Oath of Heroism/Glory (Mythic Oddyseys of Theros): The Oath of Heroism leans into the Fighter side of the Paladin, with all but one of your features improving your weapon attacks, and the one that doesn't lets you provide temporary HP to your allies or frighten your enemies whenever you crit or kill something. Put simply, you're a gladiator Paladin. The official release in Theros makes the healing power more effective by making it equal to your smite damage and replacing the THP/Fear power with an aura that gives everyone boosted speed. Was reprinted in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything.
- Oath of the Watcher (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): You protect the mortal world from extraplanar creatures. As such, basically all of your features hurt extraplanar creatures in some way or another, from one of your Channel Divinities being Turn Undead but for extraplanar creatures up to your 20th level feature which essentially gives you an automatic Banishment when you hit one with an attack and damage it. And you get advantage on the attack roll.
Rangers retain Favored Enemies, with a few social benefits included to make them less serial-killer-ish, and are pretty good at hiding (camouflage) and tracking things. Interesting new addition are druidic-flavored spells for arrows and attacks - like transforming your arrow into a hail of thorns, enchanting your quiver to produce ammo or summoning entangling vines from your weapon - most likely the remains of the Seeker, a 4e class created by splitting off the mystic aspects of the ranger and which had a similar "magical arrows and weapons" motif.
- Hunter (PHB): Drizzt-style "backdoor fighters," with access to a few "fighting styles" that make them rough customers, specializing in either big game hunting or cutting through hordes.
- Beastmaster (PHB): gives you a bestial companion, which now behaves like a 4e summoned creature, requiring you to constantly remind it to attack every single round. And you can only start attacking too when you get the Extra Attack feature.
- Gloom Stalker Formerly Deep Stalker (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): This Ranger specialises in ambushing and sneaky stuff, with tricks like a free speed boost in the first turn of combat, a bonus action that can be used to hide in all subsequent turns, free Darkvision at level 3, some illusion spells, a bonus attack if you miss at least one attack, and an enhanced dodging ability. It also grants proficiency in a mental stat saving throw (Wis by default).
- Horizon Walker (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): A Ranger who acts as border-patrol between the material plane and others, and gains class features based around limited dimensional hopping. Originally a 3E Prestige class.
- Primeval Guardian (UA: Rangers and Rogues): A ranger who goes balls-deep into the class's druidic flavor to gain the ability to shapeshift into a neigh-unkillable tree-form. Kinda like the Warden from 4E, who turned into some super-nature form.
- Monster Slayer (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): WoTC admits that this is essentially a retread of the Monster Hunter subclass they did for fighters back in 2017. Armored with bonus spells relating to fighting powerful magical critters, it excels at fighting one particular creature at a time, with tricks like scouting out vulnerabilities, negating abilities that would let their victim flee from a fight, and enhanced killyness against their victim. Also, if you're using the Revised Ranger ruleset, they gain an Extra Attack at level 5 as well. The XGE edit adds in a more mage-hunting feature, with the ability to outright foil the casting of a spell and smack them even if it does work.
- Swarmkeeper (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): Like Beastmaster, but you have a swarm of fey spirits instead of a single animal. At first, your swarm hangs around you and can deal force damage when you hit a creature with a weapon, but later on you can send one spirit out as a Tiny animal and create an area that deals necrotic damage and lets you heal.
- Drakewarden (UA: 2020 Subclasses Part 5): Another Beastmaster-like subclass, though you now summon (this guy is actually impermanent, though he lasts for several hours) a drake who acts like an amped-up pet (including actually attacking by spending your bonus action). As you level up, this drake improves in some significant ways, including a breath weapon and typed damage on its attacks.
- Fey Wanderer (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): A Fey-themed subclass with some interesting perks. Aside from some extra damage on an attack, you also gain +Wis to all Charisma checks. This becomes important because level 7 lets you bounce back any charmed or frightened effects to an enemy the moment any ally makes their save. In addition, you have the ability to summon a fairy as an ally and Misty Step with the added benefit of being a taxi.
The Troubled Development of the Ranger
The "Designing Class Variants" UA article on the WotC website includes a "Magic-free Ranger" alternate class, for those who want a more Martial Ranger. It gets Combat Superiority (access to Fighter maneuvers), the ability to create Poultices (healing potions that also cure poison once you hit the proper level), venom resistance, the ability to summon animals from your surroundings 1/day, and an inability to run out of superiority dice. Beastmasters built from this variant get to halve damage their companion takes instead of sharing spells since, y'know, no spells to share.
The September 2015 UA article on WotC was dedicated to a revised low-level (1-5) Ranger class, based apparently on WoTC noting a lot of players were giving them the feedback that the Ranger was kind of weak and unsatisfying to play, with many class features feeling restrictive or difficult. This version of the Ranger gets Ambuscade (you get a special extra turn to Attack or Hide when you roll initiative) and Natural Explorer at level 1, Skirmisher's Stealth (a Ranger can choose one target to stay hidden from, no matter what else they do, during a turn, if they start that turn in hiding, and they can make a fresh Hide check at the end of their turn) at level 2, and a new mystical "Paladin of the woods" branching class feature at level 3. These Rangers can pick between the Guardian (dish out temporary hit points as a bonus action), Seeker (force a target to confer advantage) or Stalker (buff yourself or an ally to do extra damage with melee attacks). It also retains the Fighting Style, Natural Explorer, Primeval Awareness, Ability Score Improvement and Extra Attack class features from the vanilla Ranger. However, it has no spellcasting of any kind.
In September 2016, WotC published an Unearthed Arcana called "The Ranger, Revised", officially admitting that they were aware that people didn't like the Ranger and they were using playtesters to try and find a more agreeable format that they would
eventually print and publish in an official book, although they emphasized that this wouldn't invalidate the original ranger. It has the same three subclasses as the original ranger, including the Deep Stalker, as "Ranger Conclaves," though only the beastmaster has been hugely remade. Notably, extra attack was excised from the class proper and given to every archetype but the beastmaster, favored enemy now comes with a baked-in damage bonus but only offers two choices in the class's entire lifespan, and Natural Explorer now works in any terrain. Some of their derpier abilities have had their cost reduced or been generally-reworked to be more useful.
In July 2018, Jeremy Crawford announced via Twitter (and would later make the same statements on Youtube in videos that have since had their comments turned off) that the Ranger would not get a revision, simply stating that if you have a problem with the class that the players and DM should "add class levels to the animal companion as found in rules in the DMG" or to play a different class.
Unsurprisingly, the November 2019 "Class Feature Variants" Unearthed Arcana article gave Rangers more extra options than any other class and significantly boosted their viability. They got more spells and a better version of Natural Explorer (giving one of three major benefits), Favored Enemy (Essentially casting Hunter's Mark but not without using spellslots), and Primeval Awareness. The Beastmaster also got some elemental companions that scale with level better. "Tasha's Cauldron of Everything" keeps the Natural Explorer replacement, though it is now in a static progression path with no choice in the matter. The Favored Enemy replacement essentially remains as-is, though the damage it deals starts off weaker before improving in exchange for any non-combat uses. The Primeval Awareness and Hide in Plain Sight replacements are the only ones that actually remained the same. Sadly though, these ultimately only make the Ranger better rather than good.
Can't quite measure up to bards in pure skillmonkey versatility, but make up for it in reliability by putting a "floor" under many of their rolls by mid levels, and are the only other class to get native access to the not-really-what-the-game's-designed-for Expertise power. They also eventually get a reroll when they get unlucky, still have lots of dodgy-bastard powers, and still get backstabbing sneak attack dice, with the game being actually designed to let them get one off every single round for the first time. Also have some very-appreciated boosts towards mental defense and the ability to fight invisible enemies with their keen ears, which are fun expansions of the idea for a class that frankly needed a bit of a boost even in Pathfinder. One of their iconic abilities, the Cunning Action, lets them Dash, Hide, or Disengage as a bonus action every turn, which offers incredible action economy, is insanely powerful for the hit-and-run applications alone, and ensures they will basically be able to set up a Sneak Attack every round they want to if they get Expertise in stealth.
- Thief (PHB): The standard model, with bonuses to actual stealing, the ability to use their Cunning Action to use items, make skill checks and, eventually, utilize wands, plus quick reflex powers.
- Assassin (PHB): Ports over the best bits of the old prestige class for the sorts of rogues who are way too into killing dudes, with nasty ambush powers including the famed Death Attack at level 17 and social powers revolving around concealing your identity.
- Arcane Trickster (PHB): The obligatory spellcasting off-shoot, a combination of 3E's Arcane Trickster and Spellthief PRCs.
- Swashbuckler (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide): Lets you add your Charisma bonus to initiative, move without provoking attacks of opportunity from creatures you attack in melee, and sneak attack enemies that don't have any of your allies adjacent to them. At higher levels, you also get to taunt an enemy into attacking only you. Was reprinted in Xanathar's Guide to Everything
- Mastermind (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide): A diabolical rogue who's way too good at manipulating people, lying, and even being immune to all telepathic magic. You can also find out if you're smarter than someone, so feel free to let your ego run wild. Was reprinted in Xanathar's Guide to Everything.
- Inquisitive (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): The Van Helsing meets Sherlock Holmes type, what with increased senses for deception and empowered Sneak Attacks.
- Scout (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): ...This was released in an earlier UA as a fighter archetype, although admittedly scouts were a rogue variant back in the days of kits in AD&D. It represents a ranger-y kind of rogue, with super-speed and ambushing powers, free proficiency and expertise in both Nature and Survival, and, at 17th level, the ability to make an extra sneak attack on a second target.
- Acrobat (Mearls' Stream): A rather unexpected homage to the forgotten rogue subclass of old, the Acrobat is a super-mobile rogue, able to make flying leaps, taking no damage from falling, and ultimately gaining a permanent Freedom of Movement effect.
- Phantom Formerly Revived (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): You've died and come back to life as an adventurer. Because you're sort of dead, you don't need to breathe, eat, drink or sleep and you get resistance to poison. Other than that, you can deal necrotic damage instead of using your Sneak Attack, get a floating tool proficiency, and can Speak with Dead.
- The May 2020 UA rejiggers this as the Phantom, making it more tied to the plane of death. Your floating proficiency can now go to a skill and can chain your sneak attacks to hit another target with psychic damage. Later levels give you the ability to steal souls so you can gain advantage on Death and Con saves and the ability to turn into a real ghost. The eventual final print in Tasha's is pretty much identical, though now you can't spend soul tokens to chain sneak attacks.
- Soulknife (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): Take three, and this one's at least mechanically strong, incorporating fresh takes on classic powers.
- This was updated with the 2020 Psionic Options Revisited UA, providing a psionic surge die that lets you add it to skill checks as well as the knives themselves. The 9th level feature lets you use your die to hit rolls using the knives when thrown, or use those thrown knives to teleport. The capstone power also no longer does damage, instead merely stunning.
Have a lot of the same spell choices as the wizard, but cast ad hoc from the whole list of spells known, rather than the wizards' spells prepared (which is a daily-chosen subset of their spells known). Though spontaneous spellcasting isn't what it used to be with the reworked preparation system and they get a very slim number of spells, with no mechanic to regenerate anything on a short rest until level 20, they do get additional versatility via access to "sorcery points" (yeah, a derpy name), which they can expend on metamagic (something only sorcerers get now), on converting into single-use spell slots, etc. They also start with double the cantrips of other casters.
They're also the only full caster in the game to lack ritual casting. Then again, they're the only caster in the game to get natural proficiency in Constitution saves, which are needed to maintain Concentration, so there's that.
Sorcerer subclasses are known as their Sorcerous Origin, which dictates the source of their magical power. Unlike most classes, sorcerers choose their subclass at level 1.
- Dragon Ancestry (PHB): Grants you draconic features and powers like armored skin, wings, etc. as you level, with a focus on one type of elemental damage. Unfortunately, because game designers don't pay attention, if you don't pick fire you're screwing yourself: it has almost half again as many eligible spells as lightning or cold, the next highest, while acid and poison may as well weep in the corner.
- Wild Magic (PHB): produces all sorts of random effects as you cast spells, and by random I mean RANDOM - from creating illusory butterflies, to dropping a fireball centered on yourself, to regenerating health rapidly, to turning into a potted plant. Awesome.
- Storm Magic (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide): Offers boosts to lightning, constant swooping around with flight magic, and eventual constant flight with the option to give it out to the whole party. Also, the ability to control the wind and weather, and that kind of thing is very useful for navigating a ship.
- Divine Soul Formerly Favored Soul (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): A hybrid between Cleric and Sorcerer, giving them enhanced fighting skills, Cleric Domain spells, flight and self-healing. This one has gotten considerably rewritten multiple times. The first rewrite of Favored Soul (in the Sorcerers UA) was no longer the direct "clerical sorcerer" it was back in 2015. This version can learn Cleric spells through leveling up, gains increased max hitpoints, can add a small amount of randomized points to a missed attack roll or failed save 1/short rest, double proficiency bonus on certain Charisma checks, immunity to disease/poison damage/the poisoned condition, and the ability to seriously heal themselves 1/day. All in all, this one is a lot more of a "divine sorcerer" than the "spontaneous caster cleric" of the original, which has attracted both praise and derision. The Revised Subclasses UA rewrite was less drastic, mostly switching around features.
- Shadow (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): Drawing from the Shadowfell, it's a vaguely necromantic/Shadowcaster themed Sorcerer, sort of like the Dread Necromancer variant class. It gets no bonus spells, but it gains Darkvision, the ability to spend sorcery points for a free Darkness spell, the ability to summon a "hound of ill omen" (ghostly dire wolf), teleport between shadows, and turn into a ghost-like shadow form. It comes with a D6 optional table listing physical quirks, which emphasize the necromantic aspect of the Bloodline with traits like "you bleed very slowly" or "your heart beats only once per minute".
- Phoenix (UA: Sorcerers): Your sorcerer uses fire elementalism with a healing twist; they can ignite flammable materials with a touch, summon a "Mantle of Fire" for 1 minute 1/day that is basically a free Fire Shield effect that boosts fire attack spells and, at 18th level, grants Fly 40ft (with hover) and Damage Resistance (Everything), a "Phoenix Spark" that lets them avoid dropping to 0 hit points 1/day and instead cause a burst of fire damage (more potent if their Mantle of Fire is Up), and a Nourishing Fire trait where they heal slot level + Charisma modifier hit points whenever they cast a fire spell. It's been fairly generally mocked; not so much for being kind of boring as for the fact it places all its emphasis on its Mantle of Fire, which it only gets to use once per day.
- Sea (UA: Sorcerers): Uses water elementalism, which makes them a rather slippery customer. Soul of the Sea gives them the Amphibious trait and a free Swim speed. Curse of the Sea lets them buff up a spell that inflicts cold damage, lightning damage or forced movement 1/turn. Watery Defense gives them Fire Resistance and lets them use a "special reaction" to physical damage 1/encounter where they reduce the damage and make a free 30ft move. Shifting Form lets them halve damage from opportunity attacks, move through enemy spaces, and squeeze through openings that're 3 inches in diameter or larger. Finally, Water Soul basically turns them into a water elemental that happens to take a humanoid form, resisting all damage from physical attacks permanently and no longer needing to eat, drink or sleep. Generally held up as the most interesting, if not the best, of the variants included.
- Stone (UA: Sorcerers): Uses earth elementalism to become a more martial sort of character. They gain proficiency with shields, simple weapons and martial weapons, increase their spell list with assorted weapon-focused spells (Compelled Duel, the various Smite spells, Magic Weapon and Elemental Weapon), and the traits of Stone's Durability (free hitpoint increase, plus the ability to boost default AC), Stone Aegis (surround an ally with a protective bubble, free teleport & weapon strike against someone who does a melee attack on that ally), Stone's Edge (bonus Force damage to one creature per spell when you cast a damaging spell), and Earth Master's Aegis (can apply Stone Aegis to up to three allies at once). Although given respect for its crunch, it's also pretty soundly mocked for the fact that, beyond the fluff of its AC-boosting trait, it has absolutely nothing to do with earth magic at all. If anything, it's essentially a 5e revamp of the Swordmage, complete with iconic aegis mechanics adapted for 5e.
- Pyromancer (Plane Shift: Kaladesh): Ironically, the Plane Shift: Kaladesh article had another "Pyromancer" origin for Sorcerers. This one gains the Heart of Fire (scorch all creatures of your choice within 10 feet with fire damage whenever you cast a fire spell), Fire In The Veins (gain Fire Resistance, ignore Fire Resistance when burninating others), Pyromancer's Fury (use a reaction when hit in melee to torch the attacker), and Fiery Soul (you're immune to fire, all fire effects from you ignore fire resistance, your fire attacks can burn Fire Immunity targets as if they were only Fire Resistant).
- Giant Soul (UA: Giant Soul Sorcerous Origin): Originally debuted in one of Mearls' streams, it got an official print up as the June 2018 Unearthed Arcana. Makes you tougher than the average sorcerer, lets you temporarily bulk yourself up to a bigger size, and gives you a few paltry bonus spells based on which giant you claim ancestry from. Mediocre.
- Aberrant Mind (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): Fantastic. On top of a bunch of already very strong and thematic benefits (constant mage armor a la the Dragon bloodline, spending sorcery points to morph your body in various ways), it finally does what players have been clamoring and baying for since before playtest and just gives the sorcerer a bunch of bloodline spells! Probably the best bloodline in the game for this reason, even if its inability to regain sorcery points and many features that require expending them don't fix some of the class's other problems.
- Psionic Soul (UA: 2020 Psionic Options Revisited): A sorta-revision of the Aberrant Mind, focusing, of course, on psionics rather than potentially Lovecraftian influence. Like the others, this grants the use of a special sort of psionic surge die that lets you learn additional spells and the ability to omit certain spell components based on how well you roll. Later levels grant various other buffs like extra spell damage and extra movement modes. Unfortunately, the capstone's less than remarkable, granting only a psychic aura that deals damage to those inside it.
- The final printing in Tasha's reverted to the Aberrant Mind name, taking the general frame of the original with some major paring down. It retains the exclusive spells, but lacks any Psionic Power dice like the Psi Warrior and Soulknife or the original draft's natural armor. Its ability to cast with no components also becomes something that can be done on any non-cantrip spell as long as you spend spell points on it. The capstone power also turns from becoming a black hole into just teleporting and making a spatial rift in your wake; while stronger, it can't be prolonged beyond a turn.
- Psionic Soul (UA: 2020 Psionic Options Revisited): A sorta-revision of the Aberrant Mind, focusing, of course, on psionics rather than potentially Lovecraftian influence. Like the others, this grants the use of a special sort of psionic surge die that lets you learn additional spells and the ability to omit certain spell components based on how well you roll. Later levels grant various other buffs like extra spell damage and extra movement modes. Unfortunately, the capstone's less than remarkable, granting only a psychic aura that deals damage to those inside it.
- Clockwork Soul (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): This particular subclass focuses on ties to the Mechanus and the ability to support others with your magic while also granting actual bloodline spells. This allows you to nullify the advantage mechanic without spending Sorcery Points, use points to build barriers that absorb damage, and even summon a swarm of Modrons to heal and dispel anything on your party.
These too get fewer spells than wizards, but warlocks get a few neat unique spells, notably the sweet-ass eldritch blast cantrip, as well as some domain spells from their archetypes - i.e. beings they made their pacts with.
In addition to their pact, they get additional customization through a pact boon - a spellbook with cantrips (which can be upgraded to include rituals), a magic weapon (mostly useful to take advantage of some of the fun magical weapons that require a caster to use, weaker than the others without a bunch of invocations bulking it up), or a more powerful familiar, such as a pseudodragon, imp, or quasit with some benefits over a normal one. Also, they have certain invocations/mini-feats, granting them normally unavailable spells, altering known spells, offering class features from other classes, etc. Several of them allow you to cast specific regular spells at-will (effectively turning them into higher level cantrips).
Worth noting also is that with the exception of the warlocks' solitary 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th level spells, all their spell slots are of the same level (capping at 5th) and regenerate every short rest, making them the best burst dungeon crawlers in the game.
- Great Old One Patron (PHB): You're friends(?) with Cthulhu! You gain mindfucky spells and the ability to mess with peoples minds, culminating in making mindless ones out of your enemies.
- Archfey Patron (PHB): Fairies. That is all. Okay, really, you gain some fey powers - the ability to charm people nearby, the ability to teleport short distances, and illusory powers. You also have invocations that deal with support.
- Fiendish Patron (PHB): Fiends Fiends Fiends. You gain some hellish powers - the ability to gain temporary hit points when you reduce kill/knockout/maim just right an enemy, the ability to add more dice to skill/save rolls, floating damage resistance, blasty invocations and spells, and the ability to throw someone through the lower planes.
- Undying Patron (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide): You made a deal with an entity that has "cheated death" in some way, such as a Lich, Vestige, or other powerful undead/abmortal entity. On top of necromantic bonus spells and the Spare the Dying cantrip, they're somewhat resilient. They eventually come to resemble their undead masters, with advantage on saving throws against disease, slowed aging, the loss of bodily needs like food, sleep, breathing, and an number of regeneration powers to reattach lost limbs and recover hitpoints. Finally undead need to pass a saving throw before they can try and hit them eventually. Not as straightforwardly powerful as some of the others, but offers plenty of utility.
- Ghost In the Machine Patron (UA: Modern Magic): A "technomantic" option for more dungeonpunk, magitek or urban fantasy settings. Gains the ability to mentally control computers, teleport along electrical wires & data cables, resistance to magical forms of detection and information retrieval, and the ability to "infect" others with a techno-virus by touching them, which hurts them with Psychic damage and lets you control them like puppets.
- Celestial Patron Formerly Undying Light (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): Contrasting the Undying patron from SCAG, and the Sorcerer's Shadow Bloodline, it's a bond to a powerful entity of fire or light, connecting the Warlock to positive energy. It comes with a D6 table of optional character flaws, all of which revolve in some way around fear of the dark or obsession with the light. It gets a bunch of fiery spells (Burning Hands, Flaming Sphere, Daylight, Fire Shield, Flamestrike), the Sacred Flame and Light cantrips, resistance to Radiant damage, extra oomph when dealing Fire or Radiant damage, increased reserves of life force, and culminating in the ability to heal others with a touch. In June 2017, they revealed the Celestial Patron for Warlocks, which is a rename of this Patron. It grants curative spells alongside the burninating ones, and a rearranged feature list: Healing Light is now its 1st level feature (with some mechanical tweaks), Radiant Soul is now its 6th level feature, and Searing Vengeance is its 14th level feature. Also, Radiant Resistance has been renamed to Celestial Resistance.
- Seeker Patron (UA: The Faithful): Based on the Greyhawk deity of Celestian and represents a warlock who serves a usually inscrutable deity tied to gathering knowledge. It gets a mixture of advanced mobility spells like Feather Fall, Levitate and Passwall and some divination spells as its bonus stuff, a unique Pact Boon called the Pact of the Star Chain that gives them a magical item that boosts Intelligence checks and can cast Augury, the Astral Refuge ability (once per turn, can cast two self-targeting spells), resistance to fire & cold, no need to breathe, and finally gains the ability to shift to the Astral Plane once per long rest.
- Hexblade (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): Despite the name, the Hexblade isn't limited to blade-pact warlocks, despite what you'd think. Rather, it represents a warlock who draws upon the power of an artifact-level magical weapon, using its strength to sustain itself. With Blackrazor called out as perhaps the definitive example of the kinds of blades who are power-sources for these warlocks, a blade pacted Hexblade is the perfect character for playing a expy of Elric of Melnibone. Aside from having a gishy array of bonus spells, like Shield, Magic Weapon, Smite, Blink and Destructive Wave, it's essentially a reiteration of the Hexblade from editions past, with maybe a touch of Swordmage. For 1st level features, it grants both Hex Warrior (proficiency with medium armor, shields, martial weapons; can use Cha for attack and damage rolls with a one-handed melee weapon you are proficient with) and Hexblade's Curse. This feature lets you curse a victim for 1 minute once per encounter, gaining a bonus to damage rolls against them, increased likelihood of dealing a critical hit to them, and some free healing if they die before the curse expires. Both of the Hexblade's higher level traits augment the curse; Armor of Hexes (level 10) lets you roll a D6 whenever a cursed victim attacks you and make them auto-miss on a 4+, whilst Master of Hexes (level 14) removes the recharge requirement for cursing somebody, though you can only have 1 cursed victim at a time - if you curse somebody else, the old curse ends. The only exception to this is the level 6 feature, Shadow Hound, which lets you animate your shadow as a spooky sentinel who can merge with an enemy's shadow to negate their cover bonus and let you always know exactly where they are. This got changed in Xanathar's because it made no fucking sense for the warlock to randomly get a shadow dog. Instead, the Hexblade gets Accursed Specter at level 6, where the warlock curses the soul of a slain humanoid to rise as a player-controlled specter until the next long rest.
- Raven Queen Patron (UA: Warlocks and Wizards): Every 4rrie's favorite spooky spirit of death, winter and fate returned as a mysterious oracular being with her own secret agenda. Aside from a list of bonus spells that mingles "white" necromancy like false life and speak with dead with icy attack spells, she gives a weird mixture of traits. The 1st level feature, Sentinel Raven gives you a familiar raven (without needing the Pact of the Chain) that can boost your perception by sitting on your shoulder or become a flying spy, as well as instantly wake you up if somebody tries to shank you in your sleep - bonus is, it comes back to life on its own if it dies. The 6th level feature, Soul of the Raven, lets you turn into a raven whenever you like. Level 10 gives you death protection via the Raven's Shield, in the form of Advantage on Death Saving Throws, immunity to Fear, and Resistance to Necrotic Damage. Finally, at level 14, you become the Queen's Right Hand, which lets you cast Finger of Death once per day.
- Noble Genie/Genie Patron (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): You now have a lamp with which you can summon a genie and link yourself to an ally for protection and extra casting range. Later levels let you effectively charm crowds and make (sorta but not really the spell) wishes to your genie.
- The revisited version makes the genie an elemental type, making the class more like a Sha'ir alongside making it less support-based. You can now hide inside the genie's lamp to lay low (and eventually take others with you). The wish-alike now acts more like Limited Wish, though it requires a longer cooldown than if it were Wish.
- Lolth Patron (Mearls' Twitter): A dark counterpart to the Archfey patron, with plenty of spider-themed goodies.
- Fathomless Patron Formerly Kraken and Lurker in the Deep Patron (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): A surprisingly solid subclass revolving around serving as the emissary for a monstrous god-like horrors from beneath the waves. Sort of a more aquatic & storm-focused counterpart to the Great Old One patron.
- Was reworked in a recent UA under a new name, Lurker in the Deep, to suit a wider choice of deep sea patrons. Now with extra tentacles and earlier access to underwater breathing.
- Tasha's final print makes the water breathing a feature from the start and instead delays access to communicating with the sea creatures. It also provides a free 1/day casting of Everard's Black Tentacles that also heals while the capstone feature loses all offensive ability.
- Undead Patron (UA 2020 Subclasses Part 4): Curiously not the same as Undying, you are instead the pawn of some death god or powerful undead. While they still remain slightly more durable and can eventually become more like their patron, they instead gain the ability to explode upon death (Only to return with 1 HP and exhaustion) and the power to project their astral spirits.
Knows a bag of holding worth of spells, can cast some spells without using up slots at higher levels, etc. Instead of filling each spell slot with a particular spell at the beginning of the day, he chooses a small set of spells from his spellbook to be his "prepared" spells for the day, and then uses these "prepared" spells as though he were a 3e Sorcerer.
Archetypes are named after schools of magic and grant awesome bonuses when casting spells from those schools - like allowing an Evoker to shape a fireball so it doesn't hurt allies or granting an Abjurer a damage-absorbing shield (of the scifi videogame variety) which recharges as he casts lots of abjurations. All archetypes also get to know spells of their school for cheaper, making spellbook-scribing less of a money-sink.
Not as overwhelmingly powerful as they were in 3.5, but they still have more options than pretty much anyone else, and still get ridiculous at high levels with the right mindset. Simulacrum + wish can bypass the usual restrictions on both spells for free wishes and infinite simulacra, true polymorph allows you to turn your entire party into pit fiends with no duration limit (if your DM is gullible enough to allow such shenanigans).
- Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy, Transmutation Schools (PHB): A tradition for each of the types of spells. Each one makes writing down a spell from their respective school cheaper and offers some extra effects when casting them. Abjurers gain shielding benefits, Conjurers have benefits for teleports and summons, etc. etc.. These subclasses are of wildly varying power levels and debatable usefulness, especially early. To wit, Abjurers, Necromancers, and Diviners are strong off the bat, Conjurers and Transmuters are far less so.
- Bladesinger School (Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide): Although based on Forgotten Realms lore, it may well remind players of the Swordmage. Officially comes with the fluff-based lore of "this should be restricted to elf and half-elf PCs", but the book admits the DM can waive this if they require - and, really, who would want to leave this cool class in the hands of elves? Best thing 4e did for the Swordmage vs. the Bladesinger was remove that stupid racial restriction. Anyway, it differs from the Eldritch Knight in that it's a full caster path that has some extra "oomph" in close quarters, thanks to its Bladesong class features. Was reprinted in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything.
- Artificer School (UA: Eberron): Yes, this is the "magic item maker" class that was its own thing in the last two editions. Gains the ability to create spell scrolls and potions, to temporarily enhance ammunition/armor/weapons, and finally to create permanent magical items, though it takes a week to make an item and after making one you need to rest for a month before you can regain the mojo to make another. It is worth noting that there is a very sharp limit on the strength of those items, and by the time you get this ability those items have long since ceased being useful. It was eventually made into its own class.
- Technomancy School (UA: Modern Magic): Tablet computer spellbooks, programming electronic gear to disperse spells, casting spells through electronic medium (so, yes, if you can see them on the security camera's monitor, you can blast them with a fireball) and ability to set a computer to concentrate on a spell for you.
- Theurgy School (UA: The Faithful): an alternative take on the Mystic Theurge concept earlier covered by the Arcana Domain for Clerics. In essence, it lets you pick a Cleric Domain and gain that Domain's powers, though at a lower level than a Cleric would, as well as the ability to learn Cleric spells, although A: you need to learn all of your Domain Spells first before you can add other Cleric spells to your spellbook (so, if you didn't take the Life Domain, you can't learn Cure Wounds until around level 10), and B: other wizards can't copy your clerical spells out of your spellbook. It has been roundly denounced as the most broken Tradition in 5e so far, between arguments that, RAW, an Arcana Domain Theurgist gets Wish at level 14, and arguments about the potential to apply Spell Mastery to Cleric spells like Cure Wounds.
- Lore Mastery School (UA: Warlocks and Wizards): This is probably the closest thing we're going to get to the traditional "generalist" wizard in 5e, but it's more of an Admixture specialist. Fortunately, it's quite powerful. Its first 2nd level feature, Lore Master, doubles your proficiency bonus for Arcana, History, Nature and Religion checks (you still gotta be proficient in the first place) and lets you roll Initiative based on your choice of Int or Dex. The second level 2 feature, Spell Secrets, lets you change the change the damage types of non-physical damage spells (that is, spells that inflict something not Bludgeoning/Piercing/Slashing) at will, and change the saving throw type of a single spell per rest. This means that not only could you throw around all of the "acid damage inflicting fireballs" that you want, you could also throw a fireball that is resisted with a Strength check once per encounter. Level 6's Alchemical Casting lets you modify certain spells by burning an extra spell slot; give up a 1st level spell slot when casting a spell that inflicts damage for +2d6 bonus Force damage, give up a 2nd level spell slot when casting a ranged spell of at least 30 feet to instead upgrade its range to 1 mile, and give up a 3rd level spell slot when casting a spell with a saving throw to increase its DC by +2. At level 10, you gain the Prodigious Memory trait, which lets you use a bonus action to swap one of your memorized spells out for a prepared spell instead once per encounter. Finally, level 14 makes you a Master of Magic, letting you cast 1 spell from any spell list (must be a level you can actually cast for, though) once per day. This tradition has received a huge outcry for effectively being better at magical flexibility than the entire Sorcerer class is.
- War Magic School (Xanathar's Guide to Everything): This is weird at first glance due to how the class functioned more like a Sorcerer in 3e, but given it's based on extensive study and training (as well as a kit in 2E), actually does make sense. Perhaps more surprising is that it's not redundant when compared to the Evoker; its powers actually make it more of a tank. Their first features, Arcane Deflection and Tactical Wit, give them the ability to spend a reaction to being hit or failing a Con save to grant themselves +2 AC or +4 to their Con save (at the cost of not being able to cast any spells more powerful than cantrips until the end of their next turn) and the ability to add their Int bonus to their Initiative rolls, respectively. Their second feature, Power Surge, lets them boost up a group-affecting damage-inflicting spell by doing +2 dice worth of damage once per short rest. Their next feature, Durable Magic, gives them +2 to AC and all saving throws whilst sustaining a Concentration spell. Finally, their last feature, Deflecting Shroud, lets them blast all enemies within 10 feet for half their level in Force damage each time they use Arcane Deflection. So basically it has boring, but decent features, and two very interesting, but unluckily weak ones. I mean, come on, bonus damage equal to half your wizard level once per spell? Meh.
- Invention School (UA: Three Subclasses January 2018): A sort of rework of Lore Mastery, you now gain proficiency with a specific suit of armor that resists Force damage. It also gains the ability to cast randomized spells. It also steals Lore Mastery's Alchemical Casting, adding in that sacrificing a first-level slot changes the spell's damage type.
- Onomancy School (UA: Cleric, Wizard and Druid): The return of the much-maligned Truenamer. This lets you force an enemy to make a Wis save in order to learn their names, but it suffers the same issue of everything being tied to that one feature. You now have special features that you can add to your spells that focus on this true name, and all of them don't work otherwise.
- Psionics School (Mearls' Stream, UA: Fighter, Rogue, and Mage): The ultimate end-result of Mearls' idea of trying to handle psionics without needing specific new classes to be psionic, this turns your wizard into a psion. The UA version is disgustingly powerful, from high damage, a powerful "Thought Form," and a bonus cantrip which can be cast as a bonus action and gets a free upgrade.
- Chronourgist (EGtW): Wizard who practices time-controlling magic. Can mess around with the rolls of enemies, has higher Initiative than other classes, can freeze enemies in bubbles of stasis time, and freeze its own spells in time bubbles so they can be used later by the wizard or other people.
- Graviturgist (EGtW): Wizard who practices gravity manipulating magic, giving them lots of options for manipulating the positioning of others via class features.
- Order of the Scribes (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything): Actually a port-over of the Artificer's Archivist subclass while also being an update of Lore Mastery. You gain a magical quill that facilitates learning spells and a magical spellbook that lets you swap spell damage types and a 1/day ability to cast a ritual as a normal spell. Your quill can eventually write low-level scrolls while your book can manifest its spirit as a ghostly scout/range booster for your spell as well. The capstone, however, is quite dangerous, as it lets you cheat death by permanently sacrificing spells in your book - you can't even relearn them without spending a Wish spell for each spell lost. The final print in Tasha's swaps two features around and makes the capstone's drawback less permanent, only robbing you of those spells for 1d6 days.
So yeah, basically, every class gets psi subclass, except the wizard. Good job.
A sample class released for playtesting as part of the Unearthed Arcana: Psionics article. This class seems to have replaced the Psion as the core psionics-using class, and in fact seems to be able to mimic several psionic classes of former editions, depending on which Psionic Order the Mystic chooses to follow.
It got bumped up to a 10-level class in the February 2016 UA article, which tweaked the disciplines around and makes it more flexible.
The March 13th 2017 Unearthed Arcana finally saw the Mystic Mark 3, which brings the class to full 20th level. This brings it to full fruition; aside from having six subclasses, all Mystics now gain access to both Disciplines and Talents. Psionic Talents are essentially the Mystic's equivalents of cantrips, being at-will powers that the Mystic doesn't need to fuel with psi-points and which aren't tied to any specific discipline. Disciplines are packages of psionic abilities that come with a psychic focus and several options to spend Psi Points on. Psychic focuses are psionic stances for lack of a better word; a Mystic can engage in one psychic focus at a time, granting access to its passive bonus. However, the class specifically states that you can have the psychic focus of one discipline active while you use any other discipline and it does not impede your ability to use said disciplines. As it states on page 4 of the Mystic v3 UA: "You can have only one psychic focus benefit at a time, and using the psychic focus of one discipline doesn’t limit your ability to use other disciplines."
One more controversial aspect of the full version of the Mystic is that it explicitly makes psionics THE SAME THING AS FUCKING MAGIC. Like, there's literally no ruleswise differentiation between the two; psionic powers are all established to be magical effects. Odds are that this is just so they don't make double the stuff for boosting psionic shit, as some settings do treat psionics and magic as intermiscible.
In June 2017, it was stated that the Mystic and Artificer were to be placed on the Dungeon Master's Guild website for further refining, after which WoTC would take the feedback and fandom support from those sites and use it to create the definitive official version of each.
- Order of the Awakened: The closest to the iconic Psion, with access to the disciplines of Conquering Mind (altering thoughts), Intellect Fortress (psionic counter-attacks), and Third Eye (enhanced sensory abilities). As innate abilities, it gets Mind Thrust (psychic blasting), Psychic Mind (telepathic communication) and Object Reading (postcognition). The focus of this one is being able to analyze psionic stuff, weaken enemies, and turn into a psionic ghost.
- Order of the Immortal: This is closer to the Battlemind, being a psychic who focuses on channelling psionic energy through their body. They get martial weapon & shield proficiency for free, Durable Mind (concentration can't be broken by taking damage) and Psionic Regeneration (regain missing hit points equal to half of Mystic level) for free, and their disciplines are Celerity (super-speed), Iron Durability (super toughness) and Psionic Weapon (channel psionic energy through a weapon to enhance it in various ways). The Take 3 rewrite makes this remarkably stronger by giving them ways to regenerate health for free, ending with the ability to cheat death altogether.
- Order of the Avatar: These are more in line with the Tacticians from Pathfinder. All their abilities focus on protecting allies and boosting their effectiveness.
- Order of the Nomad: Teleport spam ftw. This ability not only grants swappable proficiency slots, but it also grants the ability to teleport and avoid any sort of damage that they might have come across.
- Order of the Soulknife: These guys don't gain free Disciplines, but they instead gain Medium Armor and Martial Weapon proficiencies. The titular knives are psychic weapons that can be finessed and can be boosted by Psi points. It eventually gains the power to ignore armor.
- Order of the Wu Jen: This sort of mystic is sort of like a Wizard (2E Gave Wizards a kit of the same name). These guys mess with Resistances and can even spend Psi Points to cast spells.
Unfortunately, development on the Mystic has since been mothballed as of April 2020. Mearls has admitted that they had no clear idea how to make this class particularly focused on being good at anything, and with their decision to just make psionics act as special class features, feats, or just plain magic, the concept became less appealing.
Initially released as a Tradition (subclass) for the Wizard in the much-maligned "Eberron Update" by WoTC, the Artificer was a shock revelation to /tg/ when it appeared as its own unique class, the first fully-developed alternative class of 5e, in the January 2017 Unearthed Arcana. In June 2017, it was stated that the Mystic and Artificer were to be placed on the Dungeon Master's Guild website for further refining, after which WoTC would take the feedback and fandom support from those sites and use it to create the definitive official version of each.
The 2017 version of Artificer is an Intelligence based one-third caster, getting a mixture of Wizard and Cleric spells with a focus on buffing and boosting (alarm, cure wounds, protection from poison, etc). Although still the "magitek gadgetteer" class, the crafting rules have been drastically simplified; now, the Artificer creates their choice of specified magic items, gaining one at each of levels 2, 5, 10, 15 and 20. It hasn't been made clear if other characters can use these "homemade" magic devices or not, nor whether they can recreate them if destroyed or swap them out as strictly-better options become available. They also have the ability to attune a lot more magical items than other characters, and can "infuse" items, imbuing a spell of their choice into an object and then letting somebody else activate it later. Additionally, they get a pet golem at 6th level.
- Alchemists: You get access to a special satchel full of various alchemical goodies, like flasks of fantasy napalm and acid, smoke bombs, concussion grenades and healing potions. Of course, they only get a small selection of recipes over the course of their career and they can't stockpile these; a given goody will magically vanish and return to the satchel after 1 minute if it hasn't been used. However, they can use all these tricks as often as they like.
- Gunsmiths: You get a free handgun, a one-shot-then-reload rifle called a "Thunder Cannon", although DMs will probably agree to let a Gunsmith eventually trade it in for other guns in the right campaign. They get an Arcane Magazine that gives them a functionally-if-not-technically endless supply of bullets, and eventually the ability to shoot sonic bolts, cones of force, lightning bolts and fireballs out of their gun.
An updated version of the artificer wouldn't appear until February 28th 2019. Now it was an Intelligence-based half-caster (1st through to 5th level)s with the ability to create a level-capped number of "Infused Items" - temporary magical items, in a sense - and to cast a mixture of Wizard and Cleric spells. This version retains the Alchemist subclass, but ditched the Gunsmith subclass. Instead, you got...
- Artillerist; a combat artificer who can create a walking turret companion and whip up make-shift wands for enhanced blasting abilities.
The mark 3 version of the artificer appeared in the May 2019 Unearthed Arcana. This expansion on the the previous version added two new subclasses:
- Archivist: A specialist in intelligence storing and AI development, not to be confused with the spellbook-toting divine caster from 3e
- Battle Smith (a buff-focused caster with a Golem-esque bodyguard, similar to 4e's Warrior Forge Artificer).
The final release of the Artificer came with November 2019's Eberron: Rising from the Last War. This version, while largely similar to the Mark 3, does away with the Archivist and restores the Gunsmith...in a sense, by letting Artillerists make handheld turrets.
- Armorer (UA 2020 Subclasses Part III): This is the true path for making Iron Man. This lets you turn any suit of heavy armor into power armor, ignoring any strength requirements to wear one. From here, you can turn yourself into the Guardian (Big beefy beatstick with meaty fists) or the Infiltrator (Speedy suit that ignores stealth penalties and shoots lasers).
- Alchemist (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything)
- Armorer (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything)
- Artillerist (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything)
- Battle Smith (Tasha's Cauldron of Everything)
Like Paizo did before with Pathfinder, WoTC decided that the new archetype/path system all classes use had effectively superseded the need for prestige classes. Still, they addressed the idea mechanically in a UA article to allow for homebrewing, and included an example.
Rune scribes are, essentially, a second, better shot at making a 5e artificer class. Theirs is practically a lost art, at least partly because they are, like most wizards, secretive and ornery old fucks who hate sharing knowledge (and thus being less special) almost as much as they hate doing anything setting-shifting with the immense power they theoretically wield. To become one, a player must not only have reached fifth level, but managed to bribe, threaten, or cajole a more-powerful rune scribe into becoming their teacher, usually through finding a rune that isn't yet in their metaphorical stamp collection. How it is possible for anyone in the world to reach fifth level in the class when advancing requires a higher-level rune scribe is not addressed.
Their primary class features involve rune magic, altering the properties of physical objects (including, at 4th level and up, themselves) with various "runes" that they activate with spell slots. They also get a few runes for free, just in case the DM is the sort of asshole who likes to give out fun magic items for classes that aren't in the party and never lets them get any new ones.
Like most "sample classes" from the UA, it's a bit bare-bones and only advances to fifth level, but, since there's must-be-this-stronk-to-pass barriers on the class in the first place, it's not nearly as limited as, say, the psion or the rebuilt ranger in this regard. It's certainly a great proof of concept, and an excellent way to make a "building magic items" wizard.
A new addition to the character sheet, beyond race and class. A Background represents who you were before you took up adventuring. Backgrounds each offer two skill proficiencies, some mixture of new tool proficiencies, gaming set proficiencies, musical instrument proficiencies, and languages, a bit of extra equipment and money, and a unique "background feature" that gives you some sort of roleplaying advantage. Most of them offer benefits to the social aspect of the game, with Outlander and Uthgardt Tribesperson as the two outlying exceptions. Essentially, it's the Career system from Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, only not tied to class progression. Each also comes with some roleplaying suggestions to help flesh out your character, as well as ways to make the eviler-sounding background more palatable to goody-goodies.
This is probably the character component most friendly to homebrewing or personal interpretation, and the rules explicitly encourage this, with the usual DM approval clause.
- Acolyte: You are a part of, and possibly even raised by, a church or cult. You gain proficiency in Insight, naturally, Religion, and your background feature lets you ring up churches of your faith for free help for your party and freeload on their couch. It also lets you pick a single specific temple, somewhere in the world, where you can expect free assistance.
- Charlatan: A con-artist background, complete with proficiency in forgery and disguise kits. Naturally, it comes with proficiency in Deception and Sleight of Hand, a list of possible cons you're good at running, and a feature that lets you switch to a fake identity when the heat's on, as well as perfectly copy handwriting and statuary so long as you have a sample to study.
- Criminal: Just a regular ol' crook, though you can pick which kind from a list that includes blackmail, smuggling, burglary, or just plain hired murder. Proficiency in Deception and Stealth (what a surprise), with a background feature that gives you a reliable, trustworthy contact in the criminal underworld, and the ability to stay in touch with him wherever you go. (Honor among thieves and all that.)
- Spy: A "variant" criminal, who gets the same skillset, but uses it for espionage. Might be a loyal servant of your government or a free agent, and your "contact" is now your "handler."
- Entertainer: ...It's not just the bard background, okay? Covers a wide variety of different kinds of entertainer, from musician to storyteller to actor to fire-eater. Gains proficiency in Acrobatic and Performance, and has a fun background feature that lets them perform somewhere for free room and board, as well as improving their reputation in places they've performed before.
- Gladiator: A "variant" entertainer, who engages in a flashy kind of "performance" combat. They use their background feature in fight pits and arenas and get free medical care from battling there. Also, luchador or no guts.
- Folk Hero: One of the more "freeform" backgrounds. A folk hero is a lowly peasant kid who did something cool that sent them off on a life of adventure. You can pick what from a list or make up your own. You're proficient in Animal Handling and Survival, thanks to your blue collar roots, and the common people and peasantry love you and will do anything short of dying to protect you. You also gain proficiency in vehicles (land), so have fun in high-speed wagon chases.
- Guild Artisan: Not really a wild artiste type so much as a union man (or woman) through and through. You are proficient in not only the tools of your trade, but in Insight and Persuasion, because art is good and all but you gotta be good at selling it too. Your background feature gives you a huge list of benefits, and the ability to cozy up to bigger boys in the guild with donations of money and magic items: so long as you're in the union, the union's got your back. However, you also have to keep paying your union dues, or the union's gonna cut you off, so better hope you aren't stuck on one of those lame wilderness adventures where half the "social" background features are useless, because then you'll have to keep track of backpay.
- Guild Merchant: A variant, representing someone who buys and sells rather than manufactures and sells. You can swap out your tool proficiency for proficiency with navigator's tools, a vehicle, or an extra language, and can swap out your starting tool for a mule and cart.
- Hermit: Somebody who spent time in seclusion from the secular world, whether as a monk looking for spiritual enlightenment or a reclusive inventor or artist. You are proficient in Medicine and Religion (presumably from all that contemplation), and your Background feature is one of the weirdest in the game: some kind of "discovery." Exactly what this is supposed to do is maddeningly inexact, and it doesn't have a list of actual benefits like most of the other backgrounds, so much that the book outright admits that you should sit down with your DM and try to figure out what it actually does.
- Noble: The upper-crust background, covering all manner of nobles from the militaristic to the foppish. Proficiency in History and Persuasion from your classical education, and your background feature not only gives you some basic social benefits from being privileged, and you can get audiences with local nobles.
- Knight: Even moar military nobles. Instead of the noble's many social benefits, you gain three henchmen who can help you do things. They don't fight, and they'll bolt if you treat them like shit (meaning this is theoretically one of the few background features that can be permanently lost, although if that happens your DM is either a dick or you deserve it). But beyond that, they can do a lot of other mundane tasks, and can be given your signet ring and such to grease the wheels for the party.
- Outlander: The ranger to the Entertainer's bard, the Outlander is a backwoods country bumpkin who's used to hard living in the wilderness. Offers proficiency in Athletics and Survival, and has a background feature that, unlike the social benefits of others, improves your ability to navigate and lets you feed yourself and up to five people without skill checks required, so long as it's not an area of wasteland where nature's bounty is too scarce to allow that.
- Sage: The "went to college" background, meaning you can pick your major. You're proficient in Arcana and History, and your background feature gives you the ability to recall where, exactly, you can go to try to unearth information you might need, though it notes that this power can sometimes just tell you "I 'unno, lol." Most DMs will, hopefully, not screw you out of your background's big feature unless you try to ask for the secrets of the cosmos or something.
- Sailor: Just what it sounds like. Offers proficiency in navigator's tools and water vehicles along with Perception and Athletics. Your background feature lets you easily secure passage for your party during sea travel via your waterside connections, though doing so means that you'll have to help out along the way.
- Pirate: The obvious sailor variant. Instead of the sailor's background feature, you've got a reputation, deserved or not, as a mean son-of-a-bitch, meaning that you can get away with some minor criminal offenses, like breaking down doors or skipping out on your tavern bill, because people are too scared of you to confront you or to call the cops.
- Soldier: Hoo-hah. Another beautiful day outside of this man's army. You're proficient in Athletics and Intimidation, and you still have your old military rank, meaning you can throw some orders around and lower-ranking people will obey, you can temporarily requisition supplies like horses and carts, and you can usually get access to friendly military fortresses and checkpoints.
- Urchin: It's a hard knock life. You grew up on the mean streets, and to get by you got proficient with Stealth, Sleight of Hand, and thieves' tools. You also have a cute pet mouse and a memento of your poor dead, dead parents, because dawww. Your background feature lets you easily navigate urban environments, moving through them twice as fast as normal out of combat.
Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide
Many of these backgrounds are explicitly intended for use in the Forgotten Realms, and will need rejiggering (some extreme rejiggering) to work elsewhere.
- City Watch: It ain't easy being the law. But you've decided, if you can't beat those pesky adventurers... join 'em. You gain proficiency in Athletics and Insight, and you can find both the local cops and the local crooks pretty easily from experience.
- Investigator: A variant for the detectives in the City Watch, rather than the beat cops. Instead of an alternate background feature, you swap out Athletics for Investigation.
- Clan Crafter: You trained under a master of dwarven crafts. Not technically dwarf-restricted, although non-dwarves can't take on apprentices of their own. You are proficient in History, Insight, and the tools of your trade, and your background feature gives you the undying admiration of all dwarves everywhere forever. Seriously, dwarves will fight over the privilege of giving you free room and board.
- Cloistered Scholar: If Sage is the "went to college" background, yours is the "spent all high-school prepping for college, then spent all college prepping for a Masters' degree" background. You gain proficiency in History and one of the other non-Investigation Intelligence skills of your choice, and your background feature is a mirror of the Sage's: while he gets a good idea of where to go and who to ask to learn vital information, you can easily access any library in the world, paying no fees, easily navigating any political or bureaucratic hold-ups therein, and having access to all but the most secret, sacred, or dangerous of knowledge.
- Courtier: The bureaucrat background. Unlike the poncy nobles, you earned your government job. You are proficient in Insight and Persuasion, and your background feature gives you an easy road map to navigating any political situation, knowing who to ask for what, and how to get ahold of things like records or minutes.
- Faction Agent: Meant to interact with the "faction" semi-mechanic from the Forgotten Realms, but works just as well with other settings' big international movers and shakers. You work for some kind of big international organization, like the Harpers, the Zhentarim, or the Lords' Alliance. To that end, you're proficient in Insight and any one mental skill of your choice (so long as it fits faction theming), and your background feature gives you access to things like safe houses or meetings with other operatives that can help you out with room and board and information, though they won't risk their lives for you.
- Far Traveler: The "dirty foreigner" background. You've moved into perpetually-Medieval not!Europe from somewhere else, whether not!Asia, not!Africa, the not!Middle East, etc. You are proficient in Insight, Perception, and some game or musical instrument native to your home country, and your background feature makes you a natural curiosity. This has a number of potential uses, whether in drawing attention in a crowd away from your sneaky friends, or being invited to parties for others to gawk at.
- Inheritor: Rivaling the Folk Hero and Hermit for free-form-ness, this is one of the least-defined backgrounds in the game. You inherited a thing. That's it. Its mechanical effect is just as maddeningly inexact and "I unno figure it out yourself or ask your DM lol" as the Hermit's. Anyway, you get Survival and one skill of your choice from among Arcana, History, or Religion, hopefully related to the whatever-the-fuck you inherited.
- Knight of the Order: A variant of a variant, the Knight of the Order is intended to slot into one of the many such organizations that exist in the Forgotten Realms. You are proficient in Persuasion, plus either Arcana, History, Nature, or Religion, depending on what kind of Order you joined, and your background feature is basically along the lines of the Acolyte's, though with a few modifications if your order is civic or philosophical rather than religious, and with the caveat that your supporters will risk their lives to help you escape or rally to your defense if they see you wavering.
- Mercenary Veteran: Technically tied to the Realms, but like the Knight Order, it's easily disentangled. You're a vet from a group of famous mercenaries, and you've decided to start freelancing. You're proficient in Persuasion, because mercs need to also be businessmen, and Athletics, and your background feature not only lets you identify and locate mercs and places where mercs meet, but to maintain a comfortable lifestyle at no additional cost between adventures by freelancing around.
- Urban Bounty Hunter: Awwww yeah, fantasy Boba Fett time! Well, sorta. You can flavor it different ways, depending on whether you hunt upper or lower crust targets. Anyway, you can pick two skills of your choice from a list of Deception, Insight, Persuasion, and Stealth, meaning it can be custom flavored for different methodologies. Your background feature gives you a contact in any city you visit who can brief you on the local people and places to best let you find your quarry.
- Uthgardt Tribe Member: Explicitly a generalized "barbarian tribesperson" background, rather than strictly tied to the Uthgardt. Very similar to the Outlander, you are trained in Athletics and Survival, and your background feature lets you find twice as much food and water when you forage in the wilderness. It also lets you gain hospitality from other barbarians or nature-loving hippies, and grants you a knowledge of the geography of the North. (Or, presumably, whatever other wilderness region you were from if you're not Uthgardt.)
- Waterdhavian Noble: You're a noble from the decadent city of Waterdeep, and one of the harder ones to homebrew outside of the Forgotten Realms unless a similar landscape is in play. While very similar to the Noble background, with proficiency in History and Persuasion, your background feature more-or-less just lets you live it up in the city of Waterdeep itself or the proximity thereoff without having to worry about money as your family foots the bill.
Curse of Strahd
- Haunted One: You've seen some shit that'd turn others white. (...Look, it's a horror background from a horror campaign, let me have my Ghostbusters jokes!) You get to pick what, exactly, spooked you out, gain proficiency in two from your choice of Arcana, Investigation, Religion, and Survival, one "monster" language, like Abyssal, Draconic, or Undercommon, and your background feature lets you not only get commoners to help you, but rally them to your side in a torches-and-pitchforks mob.
Tomb of Annihilation
- Anthropologist: You're a scholar of different cultures, living and dead, and this makes you more adept at interacting with foreign cultures. You get free proficiencies in the skills of Insight and Religion, two bonus languages, the basic tools needed to document your findings (diary, ink pot, ink pen), a trinket of personal significance, and a pouch containing 10 gold pieces. Your features are Cultural Chameleon, which lets you select a humanoid culture (from a d8 table consisting of aarakocra, dwarf, elf, goblin, halfling, human, lizardfolk, and orc, though naturally DMs will adjust for their setting) and be treated as a native of that culture for cultural lore, and Adept Linguist, which lets you figure out the necessities to enable basic communication with a new race/culture after spending 1 day studying and interacting with them.
- Archaeologist: You're a scholar of the ancient and the lost, specializing in dead civilizations and relics from the past. This background greants you free proficiency in History, Survival, and either Cartographer's Tools or Navigator's Tools, a bonus language of your choice, a map containing the location of a ruin or a dungeon, a bullseye lantern, a miner's pick, a shovel, a two-person tent, a trinket from one of your past dig sites and 25 gold pieces. It's got two background features; Dust Digger (you have a "signature item" from a short list of explorer's items: 10ft pole, crowbar, hat, hooded lantern, medallion, shovel, sledgehammer, whip) and Historical Knowledge, which lets you identify the original purpose of a ruin or dungeon as well as the race that built it, and also lets you figure out the monetary value of any art object that's at least 100 years old.
Plane Shift: Innistrad
- Inquisitor: Burn the heretic. Kill the lycanthrope. Purge the unclean. You have proficiency in Investigation and Religion (duh) as well as Thieves’ tools and one set of artisan’s tools of your choice. Your background feature allows you to arrest, interrogate, pass judgment on, and execute all enemies of the church (so basically "I EM THE LAW!"). But be careful. Kill too many obvious innocents or abuse the power for personal gain too often, and the Inquisition will come for you.
Plane Shift: Amonkhet
- Initiate of the Five Gods: You're a devout worshipper of one of the Five Gods of Amonkhet, seeking to prove your worthiness to undergo the Trial of Zeal and earn a glorious death. You get proficiencies in Athletics, Intimidation, one type of gaming set, and the use of land vehicles. You start the game with a gaming set, a scroll containing the basic teachings of the Five Gods, a simple puzzle box, some clothes, 15 gold pieces, and potentially some cartouches, if you've completed some of the trials already. Your background feature gives you access to free room and board, but only so long as you follow the expectations of both an initiate and a citizen of Naktamun; if you fail to act like a proper citizen, you may end up being branded a Dissenter.
- Amonkheti Vizier: You are one of the priest-bureaucrats who serve the Five Gods of Amonkhet and oversee the Trials. You get free proficiencies in History, Religion, a set of artisan's tools and a musical instrument, you start the game with either artisan's tools or an instrument, a vizier's cartouche, a scroll of your god's teaching, some fine clothes, and 25 gold pieces. Your background feature allows you to command initiates and expect obedience, but be careful; abuse this, and your god may punish you for it. Personally.
- Naktamunian Dissenter: You don't buy into the whole Trials thing at all, and as far as the rest of Naktamun is concerned, that makes you a heretic. This Background actually builds from the others; you take either the Initiate or Vizier background to represent who you were before you fell from grace, but replace your background feature with "Shelter of Dissenters", which lets you tap into an underground network of dissenters who will provide you with what you need to avoid being killed for heresy.
Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica
Membership in any of the 10 Guilds is treated as a Background here, with an added bonus for spellcasters in the form of free bonus spells based on their Guild - for example, sorcerers in the Boros Legion have access to Paladin spells like Heroism, Aid and Blinding Smite, whilst wizards in the Golgari Swarm have access to Druid spells like Entangle, Plant Growth, Giant Insect and Insect Plague. Martials get nothing more from their background beyond the standard background feature.
Ghosts of Saltmarsh
The first chapter, in addition to examining how the PHB backgrounds can fit into the town of Saltmarsh, also has a couple of locale-appropriate backgrounds as well.
- Fisher: You caught fish for a living growing up. What else needs to be said? Your bonus proficiencies are History and Survival, and you start with a bundle of fisher's gear (tackle, a net, either a favorite fishing lure or some oiled leather wading boots, a set of traveler's clothes, and 10 gold pieces). Your background feature is "Harvest the Waters", which grants you advantage on checks made with fishing gear, and allows to sustain yourself at a moderate lifestyle through access to a fishable body of water, including being able to feed yourself and up to 10 other people per day.
- Marine: This is basically a Soldier trained for coastal raids and boat-based battles. You get bonus proficiencies in Athletics, Survival, Water Vehicles and Land Vehicles. You start with a dagger (from a fallen buddy), a folded flag bearing your ship or company's symbol, some traveler's clothes, and 10 gold pieces. Your background feature is "Steady", which gives you two bonuses. Firstly, you can move twice as far as a normal person before being subject to the downsides of a forced march. Secondly, if a safe route exists to land a boat on a particular shore, you can automatically find it.
- Shipwright: An Artisan variant specialized in building boats, from small canoes to full-fledged battleships. You have proficiency in History, Perception, Carpenter's Tools and Water Vehicles. You start with a set of carpenter's tools, a blank book for sketching things in, an ink pen (with 1 ounce of ink for it), a set of traveler's clothes, and 10 gold pieces. Noticing a theme here yet? Your feature is "I'll Patch It!", which lets you make stop-gap repairs on damaged water vehicles. You need access to carpenter's tools and wood to pull this off, obviously. Your efforts restore 5 X Proficiency Bonus hit points to the vehicle, but you can only do this once; after that, it needs to be taken in and given a full dock-side repair job.
- Smuggler: Again, what needs to be said here? You're a special kind of coastal thief, and as such, your feature is "Down Low", which gives you access to smuggler's safe houses that can keep you (and, if necessary, your buddies) up for free and in secret, if you need it. You have Proficiency in Athletics, Deception, and Water Vehicles, whilst you start the game with either a fancy leather vest or a pair of leather boots, a set of common clothes, and 15 gold pieces.
- Celebrity Adventurer’s Scion: At least one of your parents was a famous adventurer, and you've been able to rely on their reputation to make your own life smoother all your life. Basically, a "D&Dification" of the famous media figure's spoiled brat offspring archetype. Your background feature is "Name Dropping", which allows you to wrangle minor assistance from a major campaign figure, and allows you trade on your heritage to potentially score free meals or places to sleep by playing on your family name.
- Failed Merchant: You used to run a mercantile business of some kind. Then it went under. Really, you need more of an explanation than this? Its background feature is "Supply Chain", which gives you connections amongst the mercantile class that you can call upon when looking for items and information.
- Gambler: Again, the name is pretty self-explanatory; you love to gamble, and you're good enough at it that you made a living by seeking out and winning at games of chance. Its background feature is "Never Tell Me The Odds"; during a downtime activity that involves either games of chance or figuring odds on the best plan, at the DM's discretion, you can get solid sense of which is likely to be the best and which is likely to be too good to be true.
- Plantif: Flavor-wise, this background is presented as "a guy we legally wronged, but suckered into dropping the complaints by luring them into joining the company instead", which matches with the name, but the tables themselves feel more suited for a lawyer type character. Its background feature is "Legalese", which grants you a firm knowledge of the ins and outs of your local legal system, something that might enable you to use ominous sounding legal terms to intimidate or deceive the common folk to gain favors and special treatment.
- Rival Intern: You used to belong to an entirely different organization to the one that you are now part of; make up your own reason why you left and are now hanging around with the PCs. Its feature, "Inside Information", means you still have connections inside your former group or organization, which you can contact to try and score information.
Eberron: Rising from the Last War
- House Agent: You are a retainer (or family member if you carry a Dragonmark) to a particular Dragonmarked house, whose duty is to act as the eyes and ears for this House. Which Dragonmarked House you pick won't affect your skill proficiencies, but it will grant you proficiency in different tools. It's feature is "House Connections", which provides you with whatever amenities and contacts you need from within the house you serve.
Descent into Avernus
In addition to providing new features and/or tables to tie many existing backgrounds directly into Baldur's Gate culture, this adventure contains the following new background:
- Faceless: For whatever reason, you are a persona non-grata in your original identity, whether it's due to something that you personally did, or the legacy of your family or an organization you were once a prominent part of. So you've created an entirely different persona to try and shake the heat, creating a new identity, background, personality, etc, and living it so as to keep people ignorant as to who you really were. This background's feature is "Dual Personalities", which basically allows you to obfuscate efforts to find out who you are by switching between your original and invented personas; people can only learn the whole truth about you if they figure out that the two personas are one in the same person.
Whilst 5th edition was a huge shot in the arm for D&D, winning back many Pathfinder fans after the controversies surrounding the previous edition, that doesn't mean that people think 5e is absolutely perfect. In fact, as the years have gone past, a number of complaints have arisen...
Glacial Release Pace
When WotC announced that they were going to be cutting back on the pace of content releases for 5e, many were initially okay with that; years of multiple releases per month had made first 3e and then 4e quite expensive to keep up with. Even Monte Cook had admitted that both prior editions had been undermined by the glut of low-quality content. But then it turned out just how much WoTC intended to cut the pace back. A pace of two or three books a year, with only one of those being splatbooks as opposed to adventure modules, wasn't what most fans had in mind, and as the trickle of content seems unlikely to advance, it's become more and more galling.
For perspective, not counting adventures or the Core Trinity, in a 4-year span from 2014 to 2018, 5e has had the following sourcebooks:
- Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide: Basic edition lore update for the Forgotten Realms, with new Dwarf, Gnome and Halfling subraces, new mechanics for the Half-Elf and Tiefling, and new subclasses for the Barbarian, Cleric, Monk, Paladin, Rogue, Sorcerer, Warlock and Wizard. Half the size, same the price. And don't be fooled with it, it is about REALLY only about the Sword Coast. Now WotC don't even bother to make the whole Forgotten Realms playable.
- Volo's Guide to Monsters: Bestiary of new monsters, with 13 new PC races.
- Xanathar's Guide to Everything: New subclasses for each class, new feats and spells, plus assorted dungeon master's tips.
- Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes: Bestiary of new monsters, with reprinted Duergar & Svirfneblin races from the SCAG, new Elf subraces, new tiefling subraces, and the gith PC races.
- Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica: A sourcebook making a campaign setting out of the Magic: The Gathering plane of Ravnica.
And one beta/prereleased product:
- Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron: A sourcebook for having adventures in the World of Eberron. Not officially complete yet, as they were waiting on the finished Artificer.
By comparison, in an equivalent 4-year period (2008 to 2012), 4e had:
- Adventurer's Vault: New weapons and new magical items.
- Martial Power: New powers, Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies for the Fighter, Ranger, Rogue and Warlord.
- Draconomicon I: A sourcebook entirely on Chromatic Dragons.
- Manual of the Planes: A guidebook to the World Axis cosmology, complete with Paragon Paths, new monsters, and a Bladeling PC race.
- Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide: Lore & DM's material for the new edition version of the Realms.
- Forgotten Realms Player's Guide: Player's content for the 4e Realms, including the Drow & Genasi races and the Swordmage classes, Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies.
- Open Grave: A sourcebook entirely on the undead.
- Player's Handbook II: Deva, Gnome, Goliath, Half-Orc and Shifter races, racial Paragon Paths for all PHB races up to that point, and the classes Avenger, Bard, Barbarian, Druid, Invoker, Shaman, Sorcerer and Warden, all with Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies.
- Arcane Power: New powers, Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies for the Bard, Sorcerer, Swordmage, Warlock and Wizard.
- Eberron Campaign Guide: Lore & DM's material for the new edition version of Eberron.
- Eberron Player's Guide: Player's content for the 4e Realms, including the Changeling, Kalashtar & Warforged races and the Artificer class, Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies.
- Monster Manual II: New monsters.
- Divine Power: New powers, Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies for the Avenger, Cleric, Invoker and Paladin.
- Adventurer's Vault II: Yet more magical items.
- Dragon Magazine Annual 2009: A selection of choice Dragon Magazine articles from 2008 and 2009, including the Assassin class, Dhampyr and Shadar-kai PC races, new powers & a Paragon Path for Star Pact Warlocks, Gladiator themes, and plane-themed Epic Destinies.
- Dungeon Master's Guide II: Expanded DM's guides and information, including monster customization, and designing encounters, adventures and campaigns.
- Primal Power: New powers, Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies for the Barbarian, Druid, Shaman and Warden.
- Draconomicon II: A sourcebook entirely on Metallic Dragons.
- The Plane Below: Guidebook to the Elemental Chaos and the Abyss.
- Player's Handbook Races: Dragonborn: Short booklet expanding dragonborn racial lore, with new racial Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies.
- Underdark: Guidebook to the Underdark.
- Player's Handbook III: New races (Githzerai, Minotaur, Shardmind, Wilden), new classes (Ardent, Battlemind, Monk, Psion, Runepriest, Seeker), new Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies, rules for hybrid classing.
- Hammerfast: A short booklet examining a haunted city shared by dwarves and orcs.
- The Plane Above: Guidebook to the Astral Sea.
- Monster Manual III: New monsters.
- Demonomicon: Expanded guidebook to the Abyss and to demons.
- Psionic Power: New powers, Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies for the Ardent, Battlemind, Monk and Psion.
- Dark Sun Campaign Setting: Updated lore for Athas in 4e, combining DM's lore and player's material, such as the thri-kreen and mul races, Athasian character themes, the Sorcerer-King pact for Warlocks, Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies.
- Dark Sun Creature Catalog: Athasian monsters and NPCs for 4th edition.
- Rules Compendium: Dungeon Master's Guide for Essentials.
- Heroes of the Fallen Lands: PHB 1 for Essentials.
- Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms: PHB 2 for Essentials.
- Monster Vault: Updated monster stats, the Monster Manual for Essentials.
- Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium: Even more magical items.
- Heroes of the Feywild: New Feywild lore and Essentials-based character options, including new powers, themes, Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies.
- Book of Vile Darkness: New "Evil" themed lore and Essentials-based character options, including new powers, themes, Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies, as well as DM's tips to working with levels of evil and new monsters.
- Neverwinter Campaign Setting: New Forgotten Realms subsetting, complete with lore and Essentials-based character options, including new powers, themes, Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies.
- Heroes of the Elemental Chaos: New Elemental Chaos lore and Essentials-based character options, including new powers, themes, Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies.
- The Dungeon Survival Handbook: Guide to famous dungeons of D&D, tips for dungeon construction, new PC races (Goblin, Kobold, Svirfneblin) and new character themes & powers.
- Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue: Forgotten Realms sub-setting examining its most iconic Drow city.
If you've been counting along, in the time period it's taken 5e to release 5 books, 4e released 40 books...Yeah, you can see the difference and get why people are kind of steamed by the sluggishness. The release cycle seems to be little more than the bare minimum that Ed Greenwood's contract requires they publish.
This only looks worse when you look at what they have decided to publish in recent years outside the contractually-obligated Forgotten Realms books, namely a bunch of desperate grabs at relevance in the form of sourcebooks for popular gaming podcasts and Magic sourcebooks... the second of which isn't even for a popular, creative, and iconic setting like Ravinica was, just a lazy Greek mythology knockoff they were selling cards for that three-month cycle. When future gaming historians look back at this era of 5e, an edition defined by protracted content drought, they will, rightly, sneer at Wizards for sitting on popular, marketable IPs and instead pumping effort into chasing fleeting flash-in-the-pan trends.
Around 2020, WotC did at least start to put out two non-adventure books a year, but the sluggishness of those early days is a stigma they will bear for a long time.
Unearthed Arcana has also become very controversial. For starters, the release date of "one UA per month, on the second Monday of a month" annoys people because, well, we're not getting a lot of content other than UA. This wouldn't be so bad, in and of itself, if each UA article didn't tend to be so short, rarely containing more than a single subclass or other idea. Add to that a rather lackluster quality control in the content - the "new Initiative" and "new Overland Travel" articles are particularly infamous - and it really pisses people off. The basic complaint is that it all too often feels like WotC is half-assing things, with many suspecting they just slap something together at literally the last minute. The Mystic class, the first attempt at psionics this edition and the first new base class released since launch, had several internal (soulknife was terrible) and external (being able to shift a lot of things on a bonus action) balance problems. Don't even get people started on the months when there was no UA because "the developers were tired" or because they decided a sneak-peak at some duergar character generation tables from the then-upcoming Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes was sufficient for a UA entry.
Worse, they previewed a reworked ranger, only to later say that it will never be officially released, despite the base class needing some significant upgrades to be on par with a every other class with similar abilities outside of specific situations.
As of 2019 this lack of consistency became complete absence. There was no UA at all for January of that year, with the promise of a February release of the Artificer. Come the promised date, and no release, with only a lame excuse about the winter snowfall, and a claim that instead the Artificer release would be done on the last Monday of the month. And yeah, despite having had two whole months to work on shit, the Artificer and tweaks to it have been the only releases for months. After this they announced that UA updates would no longer be forced on a strict schedule (as if they were bothering to stick that schedule anyway) and instead only updating, basically, when they felt like it. Fans are furious over this, and you can't really blame them; it's supposed to be the team's job to sit around and cook up new ideas for the game, and 5e has the simplest base mechanics of any edition, so it should be easy to produce a steady supply of new spells, new magic items, new races and new subclasses. Especially when you consider the vast array of crap that WotC produced in just the last two editions alone to draw inspiration from or try to convert, never mind all the stuff they inherited from TSR! It just makes Mearls, Crawford, and their team look like the most ass-lazy bastards you can envision, especially if you recall just how much content WotC used to release online for 4e as part of Dragon Magazine and Dungeon Magazine, which put 5e's Unearthed Arcana to shame. That's not even mentioning the sheer amount of free, official, (mostly) high quality content that's interesting and original that was put on Wizard's website for free during third edition.
Ironically, one element of 4th edition that people are missing is race design. Whatever its other faults, 4e did have a strong universal approach to making races: +2 to two ability scores (which was tweaked so that you had a choice as to which your second bonus was, so each race had greater flexibility), +2 to two skills, and a 1/encounter racial power, with any extra racial traits being gravy. In comparison, 5e's race design is... well, not so strong.
One complaint is about the switchover from a +2/+2 ability bonus, one of them "fixed" and one offering two distinct options, to a mostly-fixed +2/+1 ability bonus; this ensures races and subraces have a lot less character and mechanical versatility overall, and narrows and flattens a lot of their options.
Another complaint is about two racial traits that WoTC seems to overvalue: Powerful Build and Natural Weapons.
Powerful Build in particular gets peoples' goats because... well, counting as one size larger for the purpose of carrying weights and pushing objects just isn't something that comes up a lot in most campaigns, outside of a few small scenes or situations. But considering where and how Wizards tends to gravely weight it, often giving negative traits just to offset it, they clearly disagree. This is perhaps an artifact of previous editions, where it allowed characters to use oversized weapons... but, not only does it no longer do so, there are no longer rules for oversized weapons in the game!
Natural Weapons earn flak because they're a hidden trap; whilst that inability to ever lose a weapon is nice, and it's a really fluffy trait, the problem is that as soon as your campaign starts climbing up past first level, your natural weapons become increasingly useless. Firstly, there're few feats and no class powers that increase the versatility of your natural weapon attacks. (And the best feat to do so, Tavern Brawler, literally gives you most of the benefit of natural weapons in the process!) Secondly, unless you're playing a Monk, you lose all incentive to rely on your natural weapons once you hit that point where creatures that are resistant or even immune to mundane weapons become increasingly common, by which point you have long since lost all benefits from your natural weapons by virtue of being a high-level monk short of maybe being able to do slashing damage or something with them. And while in theory the game is designed around magic weapons being rare and unreliable to obtain, in practice virtually no DM holds to that rule, and neither do most published adventures.
Plus, it is often very obvious when the creators built a race with care, creativity, and genuine passion to make something fun and memorable, and when they were just lazily splurting out something with zero effort because the fans kept asking them about a race they couldn't give less of a shit about.
Within the core rulebooks, the most obvious example is the utter travesty that is the dragonborn, who has two whole racial traits to its name (two and a half if you want to be generous and call having an exotic language a "trait"), and both combat focused to boot when every other race in the game has at least one other trait to support either the exploration or the social pillars of the game. But the most infamous (and obvious) example came in the Eladrin and Gith UA, which is perhaps best described with a brief summary of the accompanying video, in which Mike Mearls begrudingly lays out the basic facts of the githzerai and githyanki (the entire gith race) like he's reading notes off a post card as fast as he can, including a brief sidebar about how people kept asking about them, before spending two thirds of the video gushing about the eladrin subrace like he's in love with it, going on and on about how much he loves that race and how much he hopes you love it too so he can play it.
The fact that one of these things was an overwrought labor of love, and one was a dashed-off product of a begrudging duty is eminently obvious in both the overall design and the overall power level of both races, with the eladrin (which is already the subrace of a race with some nice features) getting the equivalent of a free 2nd level spell on a short rest and a lot of other nice benefits they can adjust each short rest (and that's after the UA version Mearls was talking about in that video got nerfed pretty hard in the transition to the book), and the gith getting basically nothing from their "chassis" race, githyanki getting a pretty good spread of utility spells, plus a free skill and light/medium armor, while the poor, theoretically-more-PC-friendly githzerai get a terrible ability spread, advantage on a couple of saves (which the eladrin also gets as part of its racial package), and some admittedly-nice-except-for-shield utility spells.
The Tasha Controversy
In November 2020, WotC released a splatbook called Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, which contained a new official "optional" rule for character creation, where players could take the ability score bonuses they had started with and instead shuffle them into any other abilities they liked, so long as they maintained the original bonus format (ie "+2/+1 has to translate to a different +2/+1 bonus, you can't just take a +3). There was also a slightly more complex system to swap out skill, weapon and tool proficiencies for brand new ones.
The idea behind this change was to give players more flexibility, allowing them to better customize their character by giving them unusual backstories that translated into mechanical effect - for example, your half-orc may be half-elven and so have superior dexterity and/or brainpower to go with the rugged orcish constitution. It's not even entirely unprecedented; 4th edition ultimately changed its formula to "races give a +2 bonus to one fixed stat, with a second +2 bonus chosen from a list of two alternative stats" with its 3rd PHB. And homebrew and "alternate race traits" have been trying to divorce the cultural and biological components of a given race design for years to represent, say a drow being raised by dwarfs.
Why was this controversial? Well, probably not helping was its coming on the heels of some rather prominent and vocal media articles lambasting D&D's use of the racial ability scores modifier mechanic as "racist", which added the "SJW appeasement!" fire to the mix, but the core of the complaint is that this new mechanic robs races of a lot of their archetypal flavor, rendering them blander. After all, even in 4th edition, the revised racial ability score modifier was intended to stick to archetypal themes - an elf always got +2 Dexterity, because elves are "the agile/graceful race", but could choose either +2 Wisdom (reflecting their strong spiritual nature and close ties to the Primal Spirits) or +2 Intelligence because, well, high elves were a thing for most of D&D's history.
Also probably not helping was that 5e's subrace mechanic was intended in large part to be a callback to the old days of monolithic racial cultures and the use of subspecies to present alternatives; want an elf with a Strength bonus? Take a wild elf! Want a gnome with a Dexterity bonus? Take a forest gnome! This new mechanic is more of a throwback to 4e's controversial "generical" core races, and so it's no wonder many people don't like it "out of the box." If nothing else, though, it represents a coherent set of tools for homebrewing new races or for rejiggering them with some measure of official support.
Furthermore, most of the reason different races got different traits wasn't due to racism, it was inherent biology: elves having higher dexterity wasn't any more racist than Halflings being Small sized was, it was due to them being a completely different species from humans. Humans are weaker and more agile than Orangutans, for example, so a fictional orangutan race smart enough to be a PC is going to have higher strength. What sense would it make for them to get to choose to be more charismatic instead? So letting an elf choose to have high con instead of high dex makes about as much sense as letting a warforged choose to be a fey instead of a construct. The reason it's racist if you try to apply this to real life human ethnicities is that unlike in D&D, everyone in real life is the same species and thus trying to assign them all different stats would be factually inaccurate.
It's also worth noting that getting to slap their +1 wherever they liked was one of the main shticks of the Final version of the Warforged, and so now that WotC has taken that away form them, they suck again. Furthermore, there was a very obvious reason they even got to do this in the first place: because they were robots literally built for the job.
One could also argue that it defeats the mechanical purpose of getting to pick from different races in the first place, like if they introduced a rule letting classes swap out their abilities for those of other classes, such as letting sorcerers swap their spellcasting for the fighter's armor and weapon proficiency.
Lastly, the Mountain dwarf is now just as OP as the variant Human. They were already bad for getting automatic armor proficiency and getting a +2 to both strength and constitution, but now that they can reallocate those plus 2s anywhere they like, there's little reason to pick any other race. All in all this was indeed a very boneheaded decision, but not for the reason the misogynist incels and misandrist tumblrinas are making it out to be.
Now, if it were a completely different RPG, then this concept could work. Each race would get different modifying values assigned to them: One would get a +1 and a -1 the player could stick anywhere, another would get a +2 and a -2, another would get two +1s and two -1s, one race would get no modifiers, etc. It would be pretty hard to explain fluff-wise, but in theory it could work. Alas, nearly everyone in D&D just gets a +2 and a +1, so this is not the game for that.
No Monster PCs
"Monster" races have a long, long history as PC options in D&D. And even 5e did give the nod to them. But, as mentioned above, it is very obvious that the creators' hearts weren't in it. Most of the most traditional monster adventurer races - orc, goblin, kobold, bugbear and hobgoblin, alongside surprise newcomer the yuan-ti - appeared in Volo's Guide to Monsters... except that the section outright states that they might not be "balanced". This itself would be bad enough, as it gives hide-minded DMs every excuse to ban the races, but it's carried out; the races were all over the place, with some being shockingly weak (the orc's harsh ability score penalties basically make it a worse half-orc, the kobold is basically designed to make for a cowardly joke character with two strong support powers but a boatload of drawbacks) and others overly strong (between the yuan-ti pureblood's full magic resistance poison immunity, racial spellcasting, and darkvision, it basically gets an as-good-or-better selection of several other races' best racial powers). Fans of the Monster Adventurers trope were outraged, because with WotC's recent policy on reprinting being basically "we're never ever going to print out any revisions, ever", then they're always going to officially suck.
One sub-aspect of this complaint is found amongst fans of gnolls, whose history as PCs goes right back with the orcs and goblinoids. See, despite the really mechanically strong and well-developed article on gnoll PCs that 4e got, 5e decided to render them completely off the market as potential PCs. From a race misled by a bad choice in patron gods, 5e gnolls were reinvented as little more than demonically-tainted hyenas turned humanoid lacking in higher thought patterns who don't even breed, but instead use black magic rituals to turn the corpses of their kills into new gnolls. Some people feel they might as well be fiends, since they lack the actual moral choices or thinking ability of literally any other humanoid, which makes their "humanoid" creature type feel rather lacking.
Happily, Eberron: Rising From the Last War has actually put some effort into most of these things, including giving all goblinoids plenty of write-up and focus, introducing a (mechanically-superior) orc playable race, and generally doing everything the rest of the edition hasn't in terms of enabling some of the most basic monster PC concepts. Tasha's Cauldron of Everything followed on by officially retconning the orc and kobold to lose the ability score penalties.
Companions and Summons
In previous editions, classes who could summon other monsters or acquire companions as part of progression were frequently seen and noted as "difficult." On the one hand, incredibly powerful and potentially encounter-altering, with the druid's animal companion often seen as a superior replacement to the entire fighter class. On the other hand, bothersome and number-crunchy, with games slowing down as players have to keep track of two different characters or scrounge through Monster Manuals for summons.
To that end, both options were messily clobbered into bloody dust with the nerf bat. Unfortunately, well... let's start from the very beginning
The Beastmaster ranger is by far the most infamous example here, with a barely-scaling animal companion that the ranger needs to use his own actions to let move and attack, and which will, according to the RAW, derpily stand around doing nothing if the ranger falls down dying. Already seen as one of the weakest PC options in the game (before the coming of the Revised Ranger), the beastmaster archetype makes it even weaker, since all its archetype benefits are devoted to making its animal companion marginally less terrible. It wasn't until the November 2019 UA (and eventually published in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything) where these companions got actually viable options via a set of special spirit companions. Each of them comes with the ability to attack via a bonus action by default, you have only three options for these companions (Land for charging, Sea for swimming and grabbing, and Air for flying).
However, while it is the worst example in the game, others are just as poor. The Pact of the Chain warlock's familiar, for instance (which also needs the PC to expends his or her own options to allow it to attack) similarly suffers from the lack of scaling of any kind, and the major benefit offered by such a companion (Magic Resistance) is undercut by the familiar's tendency to die messily in any kind of AoE attack. It is arguably the weakest warlock Pact option in the game for this reason.
Plus, if you want to play a summoner using just the core books... don't. The Player's Handbook in particular offers only a few, fairly weak summoning spells, which in turn can summon only a few, fairly-weak creatures with very poor scaling. Xanathar's Guide to Everything added in a lot more, but even they won't fish you enough to really get out ahead. Indeed, it hurts the Conjuration wizard simply by virtue of him having a lot of class features that boost summoning, but summoning spells being toss.
Most players agree that companion/summoning abuse absolutely was a problem in 3.5 that needed addressing... but few of them dispute that 5e's method of doing so was ham-handedly attempting to make the entire style of play weak and useless rather than bringing it truly into line.
The March 2019 UA (and Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, where it was published) appears to have been at least partially themed around fixing this, with largely well received results, doing everything the rest of the addition has been in terms of introducing well-designed, properly scaling summoning spells. This was done by making the summons basic creatures that can scale more consistently and slapped on a special template (So using Summon Celestial lets you slap a Avenger or Defender template, Summon Elemental slaps on element templates, etc.).
At mid-to-high levels, they scale up very well, but at lower levels, rangers are just baaaaaad, and paladins have many issues. For one, neither gets Constitution saving throws, which are needed when concentrating on spells or making saving throws against common combat conditions, and neither gets ritual magic.
Paladins have to spend their spell slots to smite, and get one or two hits' worth of spike damage for their first few levels before falling behind the fighter who gets all of his damage-spike powers back on a short rest and doesn't have other things he could be using them on until after completing a long rest. And their pool of healing power is pathetically low for the first few levels. Later subclasses with similar mechanics, such as the Circle of Dreams druid or Way of Tranquility monk, get much larger such pools. Also, while many of said classes can use their healing as a bonus action, if only on themselves, pallies gotta drop everything to lay on hands.
Rangers don't get off much easier, with a first level that offers no combat benefits of any kind for a supposedly-martial class. Plus, because one is now a version of Favored Enemy and one's a version of Favored Terrain (again, both stripped of any combat benefits) they might potentially do nothing at all if the player chooses wrong. And while Natural Explorer is a powerful, flavorful exploration-based feature when it works, some complain it takes all the work and skill tests out of exploring. Primeval Awareness is probably the worst non-archetype class feature in the entire game if run entirely as described in the book, requiring a spell slot to do basically nothing but give a yes/no answer to some pretty-useless information, and Hide In Plain Sight is almost useless for anything but setting up ambushes, since it requires extensive prep-time. That one of its two Player's Handbook archetypes, the beastmaster, is, as described above, probably the worst such archetype in the entire game does the class no favors.
Both classes do improve as they gain levels and spell slots (the paladin somewhat moreso, since he also swells his pool and has a lot of unique gear like the famous Holy Avenger), and they do get some cool and unique spells that bards love to poach with Magical Secrets at comparatively-lower spell levels. And Xanathar's Guide was kind to both of them, with powerful new archetypes and spells. But still. Ouch.
The ranger did eventually get a complete rework... but many people agree it overdid it, gaining later-level powers far too quickly and overall boosting the class's power too much. While the current ranger won't be reworked and replaced, there are plans to offer alternative class options.
The Sorcerer is a particularly sore spot for 5e fans because of how underwhelming it is. It went from 4e's version, which had a strong thematic and mechanical niche, back to its 3e "variant Wizard" approach. But, with the loss of Vancian Casting, the 3e-style Sorcerer is straight up inferior, because it doesn't have nearly as many special tricks, like more spells per day, to make up for its limited selection - their spell is literally a wizard's list except vastly cut-down, with fewer spells known to boot! (Enhance ability is the only really good spell sorcerers get but wizards don't, and they have few-to-no fun unique spells of their own the way bards, druids, or even half-casters like rangers or paladins do to soften the blow. Then a UA went and gave it to wizards anyway.)
Although Metamagic is now unique to Sorcerers, the combination of having so few metamagic options and the dearth of "sorcery points" with which to fuel them makes them far less valuable than they were in 3e. Plus, since said points are the only mechanism by which a sorcerer can gain more spell slots, and therefore regain their traditional advantage over the wizard of having more of their smaller selection of spells per day, any given sorcerer now has to choose between actually using their metamagic or trying to save up for more spell slots. Notably, at the level the player gets sorcery points, they literally do nothing but offer one extra level one spell per day.
Unlike virtually any other class with similar mechanics in the game, a sorcerer regains nothing on a short rest but hit points from hit dice until level 20, a ridiculous oversight. Even the class's advocates agree that the "sorcery points" system would be a much better, more-elegant means of doing what it's clearly intended to do, if only the ability to regain sorcery points on a short rest were implemented, possibly in some scaled way, before the class's capstone. Also, to add insult to injury, thanks to the wizard's Arcane Recovery class feature, it effectively gets more spells per day than a sorcerer, and in an elegantly-scaling package to boot, as this first level feature allows wizards to recover half their level (rounded up) in spell-slots 1/day with just a short rest.
Notably, one of the two core book sorcerer classes, the Dragon bloodline, is pretty nice, offering what's effectively permanent mage armor and the ability to apply one's Charisma modifier to appropriately-elementally-aligned spells right out of the gate... provided the player picks a fire dragon color. Those who do not are undercut by the lackluster number of elemental damage spells for just about every other element (poison especially can go cry in a ditch) unless a kind DM lets them take homebrewed equivalents that cause the same effects but with different damage types. Even picking fire can backfire on you though since fire is the single most commonly-resisted non-weapon damage type in the Monster Manual, and practically demands the character spend at least one feat on Elemental Adept to penetrate it. Subsequent releases of new spells have lessened, but not removed, this issue.
The Chaos sorcerer may be FUN in some ways, it's also, well... FUN, if you know what I mean. And literally needing the DM to remember to call for the PC to roll on a table and get one of their powers back is lame.
Also, while wizards were spoiled for archetype options to chow down on like gluttonous children, with eight in the Player's Handbook alone, and tons of others from sourcebooks and UA articles (the Lore wizard is still a sore point for in practice being basically better at metamagic than the whole Sorcerer class is, to the point that its rework spent time mocking them and making them comedic), Sorcerers mostly begged for spare change, only getting a few options here and there, and most of those being UA material - which means that a lot of DMs will refuse to let players use them on principle. Most of them weren't bad options per se (though the Phoenix bloodline was laughably awful), but they weren't great either, and they did the class no favors in basically being a weaker wizard.
Oh, and unlike almost every other spellcasting class (with even the ranger getting a couple new choices these days), no sorcerer gets any bonus spells from their Sorcerous Origin (except for in Xanathar's, where the Divine Soul and Shadow Soul get ONE), despite it being an excellent way to widen the class's option pool a little and mitigate many of its problems. Both half-casters know more spells than this full caster, and the third casters get only 2 less spells known.
All in all, the sorcerer has become similar to the Fighter in 3e - a class that you dip into for some bonus goodies, and then focus on advancing as a Bard, Paladin or Warlock instead. Even a player who wants to progress primarily as a sorcerer is better served by getting at least one regenerating spell slot from a warlock, just to gain some freaking benefit from a short rest!
Sure, they're the only naturally-spellcasting class in the entire game to get proficiency in Constitution saves out of the gate, and in an edition where those are used to concentrate, that's not nothing... but they're also the only full caster in the entire game to not have access to ritual casting, so that's a wash and fuck me for giving them the benefit of the doubt.
It's not truly terrible, but it is easily the weakest full caster in the entire game. (Which, to be fair, means it's quite powerful, just could be better.)
What especially incenses sorcerer fans is that the playtest version had some legitimately interesting mechanics to it, where Sorcerous Origin would actually give you special benefits as you ran out of spells - for example, the Draconic Sorcerer would turn into a Half-Dragon and gain melee bonuses, making it switch from a caster to a decent fighter. Despite the positive response that the playtest had, WotC still wound up giving us the 5e canon sorcerer.
Too many CHAsters
A major point of annoyance for the fans is that the casting classes seem to be dominated by Charisma casters. Out of the twelve classes available at launch, a full 1/3rd of them rely on Charisma (Bard, Paladin, Sorcerer, Warlock), which was equal to the Wisdom and Intelligence casting classes combined While the artificer did (eventually) get released, Charisma still seems to be the most common.
The first problem this creates is that it makes the Charisma stat extremely ubiquitous, meaning that social situations can be trivialized as you have an abundance of characters who work as party faces. Which would be bad enough in of itself, as 5e is attempting to make Roleplaying more central to standard hack and slash gameplay... if multiclassing wasn't factored into the equation. This has lead to all sorts of wild and overpowered class combinations, particularly in mixing the full casters with Paladins to create a proverbial nuclear arsenal of smite spells. Intelligence and Wisdom meanwhile are far more limited in what they can mix with, and get far less out of it anyways.
Way of the Four Elements Monk
For the most part, the monk class is quite well liked, especially as it folded the ninja into itself straight out of the corebook. But, one subclass has earned more than its share of complaints, and that is the Way of 4 Elements. In a nutshell, the problem is that while an awesome idea, being literally an Avatar: The Last Airbender style martial artist-elementalist, the subclass's unique powers are arguably overpriced in how much Ki they require to cast which, combined with how hard it is for the monk to regain Ki, means that a player is actually discouraged from using the very powers that made them want to play this subclass in the first place! Although monks do replenish all of their ki when they take a short rest, that's the only mechanic they have for doing so, and that basically means this Way turns the monk in a particularly limited half-caster.
Lack of Settings
For a while, most adventures and sourcebooks were based exclusively around the Forgotten Realms, with mentions of other settings being relegated to the backs of sourcebooks, discussing how to adapt their ideas to other settings. Even when Ravenloft got official support, most of the hooks revolved around Forgotten Realms characters being taken to the Demiplane of Dread. To add insult to injury, iconic Greyhawk villains like Acererack received new adventures, except they take place in the Forgotten Realms, with the books giving tips on how to set the adventure in other worlds, and a book containing conversions of many previous modules in DnD history, most of which were originally set in Greyhawk, was themed around a tavern in the Forgotten Realms, with a limply tacked-on backstory about patrons from other worlds telling stories.
Also, several fans of Mystara grumbled about the new version of the Tabaxi resembling the Catfolk of Mystara, the Rakasta. Not to mention, Tortles were outright ripped from the setting and placed on an island nearby Chult. Fans of Planescape and especially Spelljammer have also been feeling the burn from this. Several sourcebooks and reveals have taken bits of either setting,ss creating false hope on multiple occasions. This is most apparent with the reveal stream for the "The Descent", the last of the 2019 splatbooks and the second adventure book of that year. Fans speculated a planar adventure path that would most likely incorporate Planescape-related themes. Rather than go the logical route and use Sigil as a starting hub, the reveal showed that the city of Baldur's Gate was the beginning point (even though several other locations in the Realms are way more suited to anything devil related). On the Spelljammer side, many fans have gotten burned out over the setting being continually used as a joke, while elements and monsters are pushed into the Forgotten Realms. However, DM's Guild seems to allow Toril's crystal sphere as a compromise, for now.
Happily, this may have begun to shift with the release of the latest new sourcebook. Mordekainen's Tome of Foes instead chooses to focus on Oerth and planar stuff. This seemed to herald the start of a new direction going forward... And, in fact, it did! July 2018 had WotC announce the official return of Eberron to the fold, in the form of Keith Baker's own 5e conversion book, "The Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron", being released on DM's Guild as an "Early Access" playtesting base for Eberron. An informal announcement for its physical release was given during the aforementioned stream of "The Descent", where they casually mentioned the hardcover at the last minute. If you bought the playtest, you'll get an updated PDF, but no hardcover book. At the same time, they also formally announced the surprise release of the Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica in November 2018, converting the plane to a 5e setting whilst using language that implied the same could happen to other Magic: The Gathering planes in the future. And the first adventure splat of 2019, Ghosts of Saltmarsh, is actually set entirely in the world of Greyhawk, admittedly with notes at the start of each adventure giving advice on adapting it to the Forgotten Realms, Eberron and, surprisingly, Mystara.
The reason why this complaint galls so many people, beyond the simple lack of support for their preferred settings, is that a secondary element is that writers are unable to submit any content to DM's Guild that is not based on the very short list of approved settings - which, as of January 2021, stands at Forgotten Realms, Eberron, Ravenloft, Ravnica and Theros - or else super-generic. There has been some luck in wriggling in content based on subsettings of those settings - for example, a bunch of crazily devout fans managed to get a 5e conversion of Maztica (the South America subsetting for the Forgotten Realms) approved - but... yeah, if you wanted to try and write stuff for Mystara, Greyhawk, the Nentir Vale, Spelljammer, Planescape, Birthright, etc? You're shit out of luck, WotC says that you can't do that. (Yes, despite Ghosts of Saltmarsh being set in Greyhawk.)
Additionally, as much as it might be painful to admit, settings like Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and the Forgotten Realms just aren't that thematically distinct form each other compared to other settings. Eberron is magically powered pulp interwar, Dark Sun is Mad Max-ish post-apocalyptic with a dash of Sword & Sorcery, and Ravenloft is Gothic Horror, but Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and Forgotten Realms are all vanilla heroic fantasy. Thus, regardless of whether they choose to update Dragonlance or Greyhawk to 5e, WotC really won't be able to win. If they don't, they'll piss off grognard fanboys; if they do, they'll piss off newcomer fans who would feel like WotC is trying to sell them more of the same. So their options are to either spend a lot of effort in updating several settings only to get yelled at, or get yelled at without spending all that effort.
2021 may see the death of this particular controversy; in an interview, the new head of development for D&D declared that 2021 would see the release of three "classic" D&D settings. Fans are cautious about this, wanting to wait until it's proven these are actual setting books with lore and maybe even setting-unique races and (sub)classes, as opposed to just glorified adventures as was the case with Ravenloft and Greyhawk. Hopes were initially raised at the announcement that the first book of 2021 would be revealed on January 12th for a March March 16th release, especially because it had been confirmed by that point that the first book of the new Dragonlance trilogy would debut on July 29th, but they were shattered when instead WotC revealed they would be releasing a new "mystery-themed" adventure anthology set in Candlekeep. Way to go, WotC.
Related to the topic above, besides not releasing classic settings WotC has instead released 3 new setting based on different IPs, two based on Magic the Gathering, which as much as are not what \tg wished for, at least were well-written, and more infamously the Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, based on the setting of Critical Role. Criticism was leveled at this not only for the obvious pandering to the fans of the show to get them into D&D, but because the first Exandria splatbook, Critical Role: Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, which isn't an official splatbook, is objectively better, having more iconic classes and items to the setting.
Baby's First D&D
Ironically, even though 4e's changes were hugely controversial when it was released, a growing number of fans are actually nostalgic for the edition because, as they put it, at least 4e tried to reinvent D&D and make it stronger. The "simplified" mechanics of 5e cause many fans to liken it to either an AD&D stripped of its clunkier rules and some of its more blatant Gygaxian silliness, or a 3e update that actually works - a "3.99" compared to Pathfinder as "3.75".
This one is...controversial, even among controversies. On the one hand, 5e does mostly succeed at being a polished, improved "greatest hits" edition of D&D, and tries to focus more on simple, readily-applicable rules than mathy bullshit. On the other hand, the above-mentioned slow pace of releases does mean that the game hasn't been really moving forward as quickly as previous editions have, which leaves the fanbase crying out for more content - and the inconsistent pace & lackluster content of Unearthed Arcana means that it's not helping on that front. And on the third hand, the simplified mechanics are not always seen as having worked out, leading to the various complaints about the classes and, especially, the races. However, the streamlining by itself isn't really the problem per se, but rather a symptom of the larger issues especially because there's...
Minimal Player Options
Let's face it, RPGs have been around for over 40 years now, and as such players are quite used to having lots of options and ways to customize their character just the way they like it. And, originally for reasons of accessibility, later because of content drought, 5e just flat out doesn't offer that compared to similar games. Most classes have little to no customization options past their subclass selection other than spells known (if they even cast at all).
Feats and spells are a particular sore spot, with no new options being officially added for literal years after release, ostensibly to cut down on the 3.5 problem of stealth-buffing casters every single sourcebook by effectively giving them a bunch of free new options and/or permanent additions to their spell roster. But, it shows in other ways too, whether the lack of new "fighting style" class features, the paucity of fresh backgrounds, and a single non-playtest new base class since release. Only in terms of new races, archetypes, and magical items is the game truly rich. And even then, between frequent racial balance issues, the "attunement" system putting an upper limit on how many magic items a player can benefit from at once, and the game's attempt to balance itself around magic items being rare and hard to find, these things don't necessarily matter as much as they could.
Furthermore, while cannibalizing Pathfinder's "archetype" system as a means to differentiate classes from one another via subclasses was an inspired choice, it also necessarily means dropping one of the most subtly useful aspects of that system and granting the player the ability to trade out some more-weakly-designed or thematically undesired class features from certain classes, or the designers to offer the option to do so without pulling the class up by the roots.
This wouldn't be so bad if WoTC would release more supplements featuring more overall content. But as mentioned previously, they've been dragging their feet on that all throughout this edition. Even including the Unearthed Arcana stuff (which is of questionable validity due to being "In Playtesting") there isn't much more in the way of variety nearly 5 years into the game's lifespan than there was when it was launched.
To emphasize the point, as of March 2019, 5e's official content stands at:
- 33 Races (with 24 subraces):
- Dwarf (Hill Dwarf, Mountain Dwarf, Duergar)
- Elf (High Elf, Wood Elf, Drow, Aquatic Elf, Eladrin, Shadar-kai)
- Gnome (Forest Gnome, Rock Gnome, Svirfneblin)
- Halfling (Lightfoot, Stout, Ghostwise)
- Tiefling (Asmodeus/Standard, Variant, Baalzebul, Dispater, Fierna, Glasya, Levistus, Mammon, Mephistopheles, Zariel)
- Yuan-ti Pureblood
- Tortle (some would argue this is Semi-Official, given it's only on DM's Guild)
- Grung (some would argue this is Semi-Official, given it's only on DM's Guild)
- Simic Combine Hybrid
- 12 Classes (with 83 Subclasses)
- Barbarian (Berserker, Totem Warrior, Battlerager, Ancestral Guardian, Storm Herald, Zealot)
- Bard (Lore, Valor, Swords, Glamour, Whispers)
- Cleric (Knowledge, Life, Light, Nature, Tempest, Trickery, War, Death, Arcane, Forge, Grave, Order)
- Druid (Land, Moon, Dreams, Shepherd, Spores)
- Fighter (Champion, Battlemaster, Eldritch Knight, Banneret/Purple Dragon Knight, Cavalier, Samurai, Arcane Archer)
- Monk (Open Palm, Shadow, Four Elements, Long Death, Sun Soul, Kensei, Drunken Master)
- Paladin (Devotion, Ancients, Vengeance, Crown, Oathbreaker, Conquest, Redemption)
- Ranger (Hunter, Beastmaster, Gloom Stalker, Horizon Walker, Monster Slayer)
- Rogue (Thief, Assassin, Arcane Trickster, Swashbuckler, Mastermind, Inquisitive, Scout)
- Sorcerer (Dragon, Wild Magic, Storm Magic, Shadow Magic, Divine Soul)
- Warlock (Great Old One, Archfey, Fiend, Undying, Celestial, Hexblade)
- Wizard (Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy, Transmutation, Bladesinger, Warmage)
Whilst the "semi-official" content from Unearthed Arcana, Plane Shift, and Mearls’ twitter and livestream stands at:
- 2 Classes (Artificer and Mystic)
- 7 subraces for canon races:
- Avariel Elf
- Grugach Elf
- Abyssal Tiefling
- 3 Zendikaran Elves
- Kaladeshian Dwarves
- 16 new races:
- Merfolk (with 5 subraces; Emeria, Ula, Cosi, Green, Blue)
- Zendikaran Goblin (with 3 subraces; Grotag, Lavastep, Tuktuk)
- Ixalan Goblin
- 37 New Subclasses:
- College of Satire Bard
- 9 Cleric Domains (City, Protection, Solidarity, Strength, Ambition, Zeal, Beauty, Darkness, Destruction)
- Circle of Twilight Druid
- 9 Fighter Archetypes (Knight, Scout, Monster Hunter, Sharpshooter, Brute, Psychic Warrior, Slayer, Warlord, Weapon Master)
- 2 Monk Archetypes (Tranquility, Soul Knife)
- Oath of Treachery Paladin
- Primeval Guardian Ranger
- Acrobat Rogue
- 4 Sorcerer Archetypes (Phoenix, Pyromancer, Sea, Stone)
- 5 Warlock Patrons (Ghost in the Machine, Seeker, Raven Queen, Kraken, Lolth)
- 6 Wizard Traditions (Artificer, Theurgy, Loremastery, Technomancy, Inventor, Psionics)
Now, in fairness, this list is actually pretty large when you look at it altogether... but so much of it is stuff that a lot of DMs won't allow at their table, especially the UA Wizard subclasses. Not to mention, these are examples of total options, not much variation exists within each individual class. Keep in mind, the Bard and Druid for instance went from having only 2 variations to...5. Whoopee. Plus, it actually does pale before the sheer amount of class and race options that previous editions would have after five years of printing material.
Although Dragon Magazine remains lost, WoTC decided to continue its fascination with online media, in the form of the Articles section of their webpage. The company has also released a downloadable smartphone app called Dragon+, designed to be the modern, digital equivalent to the magazines of old. Similarly, Wizards also has D&D Beyond, which is something akin to an SRD for 5E, except outside of the basic rules, it demands that you buy each book to access it online, which has been received as poorly as you'd expect, especially when you probably had to buy the physical book before.
While much attention is given to fluff articles, some juicy crunch is there as well. Unearthed Arcana was brought back as an (ultimately monthly) release dedicated to giving out playtest rules for classes, magic, races and more. But, for the first half of 2019, the only UA articles have been two updates of the Artificer class. Plane Shift, a more sporadic series of online articles about marrying D&D 5e to Magic: The Gathering, has also reared its head.