Not to be confused with Unearthed Arcana.
Arcana Unearthed, later Arcana Evolved, was Monte Cook's formal dissent from the "3.5" edition of Dungeons & Dragons, especially as it pertained to clerics and druids and, we concede, he had a strong point. White Wolf published this, having already run their own parallel rules in Relics & Rituals among others. As to whether this was the correct alternative... read on, and judge accordingly.
AU features several new races, classes, feats, and theory-of-magic - all in accordance with the 3.0 / d20 rules. The first book was billed as an alternate Players Handbook but the revamp peed all over that, by incorporating setting-specific information (see further below).
Several of the AU features parallel points of Stephen R Donaldson's Thomas Covenant series, especially the first one. The Giants who travelled here by ship from the east, and now cannot get back home? Oh yeah. The weaponless fighter who powers himself by the sheer force of his oaths? That's the Oathsworn. The Diamond Throne (alias "Serran") is on its way to pull the horses and the Forestal. Also the emphasis on ritual over one-shot melee spellcasting. By extension, these rules - and the setting, which we'll get to - has no cleric.
Like Talislanta, this setting prides itself on lacking elves also... and promptly dumps the next best thing here, namely the faen. Other races include dogmen and catmen, here the Sibeccai and the Litorians. The Verrik are emo humans. And finally there's the Runechildren, for all your Mary Sue needs; and the Mojh, ultimate dragon weeaboos. These "scions" were human once and have undergone a ritual to be lizardlike (faen have body dysmorphia too - they become sprytes).
This book was written about the same time as was the third Eldritch Might book, The Nexus; and as The Banewarrens (and Ptolus). Some ideas are shared in common. With the former, once upon a time There Be Dragons but not now (although, wait for it...). With the latter, at least once Ptolus gets out, we'll be seeing litorians and rhodin.
Here, everyone shares the same XP level chart, so each class progressed at the same rate, rather at the rate the DM deems just.
- Akashic taps into the Akashic Memory. Consider if "speak with dead" was a character-class instead of a spell. They're here to filter exposition on behalf of the DM for whatever setting you're playing in. Really should be restricted to NPCs unless the DM has a little sister or a spouse he's training to be the next DM.
- Champion abstracts out the cavalier, itself a secular abstraction of the paladin. The book presents the beta male for Light, Darkness, Life, Death, Magic, or Freedom. "Light" is good and "Darkness" is evil so, here's the AU paladin / antipaladin.
- Greenbond is the nature-mage, one of this book's several routes to replace the 3.5 druid.
- Mage Blade is the fighter/mage gish but better integrated, like the Elf before / beside AD&D. He gets an "athame", semisentient weapon as mage's familiar.
- Magister is the pure mage, taught in schools for that. Since this is a Monte joint lots of people do magic already, so the Magister gets access to "complex" and "exotic" spells (keep reading).
- Oathsworn is the monk by way of the Land's Haruchai.
- Runethane is another mage but this one taught by a tutor rather than in the Magisterial Academy. He sticks (simple) spells on things or in the air by way of runes. Redundant as fuck unless you got a tattoo fetish.
- Totem Warrior is the CoDzilla shaman who can GROAAAWRR! Or, be hawklike, sharklike, snakelike, wolflike... wolverinelike.
- Unfettered is the swashbuckler fighter/thief really really good at NOT getting hit.
- Warmain is the alternate-fighter of AU, the tank of the team. Parallel to the Weeaboo Fightan Magic Warblade.
- Witch is the sorcerer by another name but with additional witchey ways. AU offers six types: iron, mind, sea, wind, winter, wood. They are manifested by: blade, fire, song, storm, word.
Overall, you see where AU is going with this: Death To CoDZilla. The druids' (and rangers') abilities are spread out among various shaman classes, and clerics go to the stake. Meanwhile the sorcerer is re-imagined (again) and the para-fighter is buffed so better balanced. Some of these classes borrow from Relics & Rituals, particularly the Witch (two prestige-classes, there).
Despite including a gish and annexing some prestige classes, AU does let you dual-class - just like the mainline.
On topic of prestige classes AU assumes them setting-specific, so read on for those. Arcana Evolved will offer more base classes. AE also suggests how to balance these classes with, say, the Rogue (knew we forgot something!) or visiting fighters from elsewhere: basically, you need to give your aliens an extra Feat.
Monte took a leaf from Frank Mentzer who had ripped leaves from Tom Moldvay's Basic Dungeons & Dragons' Expert book. To whit: there exist "fifth level" (or whatever) spells which you can't get alongside other 5th-level spells even when nominally eligible for 5th-level spellcasting. These spells are deemed "Complex", taking more effort to go find and use. Beyond that are "Exotic" spells.
The book compiling all of the spells, of these three classes, canon to these rules, will come out in Arcana Evolved: the Spell Treasury, co-written / -edited with one Jeffery Dopperpuhl.
Alignments are NOT part of this text. Look at you, "with us or against us". What are you, some kind of George W Bush voter?! (These books were a Product Of Their Time, as the saying goes.)
Errr... alignment is sort of not part of AU. Good and evil couldn't quite be glided over.
At the very least it contrasts the Green, which is life (and death!); and the Dark fueling unlife. The moment you allow undead into a campaign-world, you've dragged all the living into a coalition against it, willing or not. We actually own a snapshot into how this happened to Monte in his "Between Life and Death", reviewed over in the Diamond Throne article. And then there are, rather were, the dramojh.
Excuse me, would you like to discuss our Lord and Savior?
We mentioned above, no clerics as such. This may be worth a Discussion.
Giants and litorians are atheists, verrik hope to ascend to godhood, and faen are basically animists who think up gods on the spot. Humans have organised religion - but for the most part, that's a past-tense had. Half this demographic are atheist and most of the rest can be classified as "spiritual". Maybe getting thoroughly boned by two alien races in succession might have something to do with that . . .
To be noted, Serran conjoins at least one hell, Kaleknos; and Beyond Countless Doorways is coming to retcon and describe another(?) one, Kin-Li'in. (Also an Earth elemental plane, Deluer.) Infidels on Serran, who we repeat make the majority, hold that such terrible abodes are mere conjunct worlds like - well, like Deluer; they are not an afterlife. They say the same of heaven although, there is much less evidence here for that. The main philosophic dissent comes from the cult of Rallonoch who assure their faithful that their chrism is effective to, we suppose, grease the locks to [the only] Heaven's gate.
Most Serranese, correctly interpreting "heaven" and "hell" as supernatural to Serran, deduce that these effect the Green and the Dark in this world. Such people skip right past theology and go with local druid analogues instead.
Ergo: no real clerics. Unless and until Tracy Hickman runs a campaign here, which he won't. Or until someone traipses across the Monteverse to find one or more of the (many) planes which do host clerics, and reports back...
The Diamond Throne
There was a setting, which had its own book in AU but got inlined with the main book in AE. Kicking and screaming, we've composed for her her own page. Prestige-classes and monsters go there. And Mike Mearls' minority-report(s) on how it all should work.
Starting 2003, The Community tested out how the AU / DT / LoD world with its overhauled d20 system was going to work. They found a number of stress-points and opportunities for improvement. Come 2005, we got Arcana Evolved.
This rewrite had to justify its existence so, in addition to the fixes, and the appendix, AE has new material. The Ritual Warrior is herein introduced. Alongside this was Mike Mearls' Transcendence book which offered the Totem Speaker class, several new Feats and prestige-classes, and "Tylonian" (crystal) equipment.
Evolved is where this sequence and this setting jumped the shark. Start with the colour-theme, which AU had as a nice eye-pleasing yellow-on-black formerly and in AE is an eye-blasting white-on-red.
Most of all - just as players and DMs were figuring out all these weird new rules and how they worked in Diamond Throne - OH HI WE'RE THE DRAGONS AND WE'RE BACK NOW. We didn't even get a gazetteer of a single starter location.
So, here come the Dracha, dragon-men. And the dragons come behind them, bearing gifts... Tenebrian Seeds. Some races can use these to become Evolved or Transcendent or whatevs; giants become taller for instance. Because nobody ever listens to the historians. And we thought Cook was writing fantasy...
This is perhaps the Malhavoc Press answer to Dragonlance. Takhisis doesn't come to conquer; she comes to seduce.
Anyway, the massive AE book makes a Dragon-sized blunder in bundling the player material with the DM's, guaranteeing that the DM is going to make some awful decisions in how to parcel the former to the players - handing a PDF excerpt to them, most likely.
This version at least had a first-party adventure-module. Mearls, Ruins of Intrigue. The ruin (singular) is an arena, between dragon and giant. The ruin was once a dramojh nursery; the giants and dragons are working out who gets the loot. Mearls tries ever so hard not to take sides, because a major theme in this universe is that alignment is Nuanced, but... only one side can make new dramojh, and that's the dragon side. Did anyone even play this thing who wasn't playtesting it?
Nobody's done much with the AU/AE rules, nor with the Diamond Throne setting, in some time.
The whole line was full to bursting with ideas. Even Mike Mearls had his moments, or at least could be defended as with his Runechildren backstories (this wiki author never did trust the runebros as AU had 'em). And it's not like its players HAVE to run a morally-ambiguous campaign; there are plenty of baddies left post-dramojh, especially in the mountains' underdark.
What killed this setting was the dragons. Whatever the party does, in the back of their heads they have to know it won't matter here, because they don't matter here anymore.