Dragonmarks: UA Subclasses

The latest Unearthed Arcana article presents new subclasses for the barbarian, monk, paladin, and warlock. I’ve already written articles about the barbarian, monk, and warlock that examine the role of each class and subclass in the setting, and I wanted to look at the new subclasses and share how I’d incorporate them into Eberron.

Barbarian: The Path of the Beast

The Path of the Beast allows a barbarian to physically transform: manifesting natural weapons, adapting to hostile environments, and channeling psychic power through their attacks. A simple way to use this is as a form of Weretouched Master, a tradition that enhances a shifter’s primal gifts. Shifter barbarians are found in the Eldeen Reaches, and a champion with the powers of the Path of the Beast would definitely fit in among the Ashbound or possibly the Wardens of the Wood.

With that said, one of the key features of the Path of the Beast is that you can change the benefit each time you use a feature. You can change the benefit of Bestial Soul each rest, and manifest a different natural weapon every time you use Form of the Beast… including “great mandibles” or a “spiky tail.” Add to this the idea that the higher level features have a certain psychic flavor and I think this is an interesting martial tradition for changelings—let’s call it a Changeling Monstrosity, as an alternative to the Changeling Menagerie druid suggested in this article. This is based on the idea of a changeling warrior learning to make more dramatic transformations, which fits with the fact that they can change the natural weapon each time they use it; you’ll see a few other explorations of this idea in Exploring Eberron. But where would this tradition be found? It feels too savage for the stable changelings of Sharn; instead, I see it as being a tradition developed by the changelings of Droaam, emulating the monstrous creatures they deal with on a daily basis. Imaging a changeling arguing with a minotaur and suddenly manifesting mandibles and a scorpion tail. The higher level features reflect the idea that the changelings of Lost have learned to harness latent psychic abilities. A player character following this path could have left Droaam in the service of Daask, could be serving the interests of Lost, or could simply be following their own path.

The Path of the Beast also lends itself to the idea of the Experiment… someone whose class features were bestowed upon them by an outside force. I see three obvious options for this.

  • Mordain the Fleshweaver. A person growing mandibles and a spiked tail when they get angry? That certainly sounds like something Mordain would enjoy. A major advantage to Mordain is that he might create something like this as a one-off, with no deep investment in what actually happens to the character—so it’s a way to follow this path without having a lot of strings attached. One question I’d have is whether you were created from scratch, or if you had a life before you were changed… in which case, how and when did it happen? Can you return to your old life, or are you afraid to reveal what you’ve become? You could instead be a creation of a daelkyr, which is the same basic idea on a larger (and more terrifying) scale.
  • House Vadalis. We’ve hinted at Vadalis experiments magebreeding supersoldiers; you could be the result. Unlike Mordain, if Vadalis is involved this would likely have been a carefully organized program and there would be others… unless you were the only one that survived! Given this, you could have escaped from the program, in which case you might be on the run or even forced to fight other members of your unit (consider the show Dark Angel). But you could also be an agent of the house; the program was a success, after all, and you’re proud of your heritage.
  • The Mourning. You were in Cyre on the Day of Mourning and it changed you… but you’re still learning just how deep those changes go. If I went down this path, I’d play up the unpredictable nature and the idea that you’re afraid of what you’re becoming. Even if I, the PLAYER, was fully in control of my abilities I might suggest that the CHARACTER isn’t… that they don’t always choose when they rage, and that they don’t know what Form of the Beast will take.

In all of these cases, you might say “But if you start at 1st level, you won’t HAVE any of your Path of the Beast powers when the campaign begins.” This doesn’t concern me. The whole idea is that the character is evolving. I’d start out by emphasizing how my existing class features reflect this backstory—that when I rage, my damage resistance and increased damage reflect a physical transformation—and have it just ramp up dramatically when I finally manifest the Path of the Beast.

Monk: The Way of Mercy

Monks who follow the Way of Mercy are “wandering physicians to the poor and hurt” who “learn to manipulate the life force of others to bring aid to those in need.” An immediate, simple option is for this to be an order tied to House Jorasco. There are already a number of orders that learn to use marks in unconventional ways; some of the abilities of the Way of Mercy are reminiscent of the Nosomantic Chiurgeons of Dragonmarked. Now, one could make the argument that Jorasco heirs are supposed to charge for their services and don’t simply help those in need. In previous articles I’ve called out the fact that I believe this to be overstated; that a Mercy order could be essentially a PR path for the house, or also that they might charge those they heal to perform community service as payment for their healing. But if you DO want to be strict about Jorasco-doesn’t-heal-without-pay, an alternative is to say that this is a tradition that PREDATES the house—an order of halfling monks that operate in the Talenta Plains, who have refused to accept the modern traditions and values of the house. This would add to the idea of them wearing masks—they are formally concealing their identities and connection to the house—and ties to the Talenta mask tradition. Personally, I also like the idea of a plague doctor mask based on a glidewing’s head. So you could say that this IS a part of the house, or you could say that it’s essentially a renegade tradition: the house doesn’t actively seek to suppress it, but it’s understood that its members will be masked and largely keep to the Plains.

Jorasco is the easiest option for this path, and Jorasco halfling isn’t a bad choice for a monk. But there’s certainly other options. A few off the top of my head…

  • A prototype warforged designed as a field medic.
  • An acolyte of Arawai’s Gift, a vassal sect that sees life as the gift of the Sovereign of Life and Love. Monks of this order are charged to preserve life and to mediate disputes… but if someone abuses Arawai’s Gift, it can be rescinded.
  • A kalashatar follower of the Path of Light; this tradition could combine the martial discipline of the Path of Shadows with psychometabolic healing techniques. In this case, I’d definitely flavor the features as being psionic in origin.

Looking to Jorasco’s Mercy or Arawai’s Gift, I’d probably flavor the character less as an aggressive martial artist and more focused on deep knowledge of pressure points and Qi. Even when using a standard unarmed strike—and even though it still deals bludgeoning damage—I might still describe it as a gentle touch that nonetheless deals significant damage.

Paladin: The Oath of the Watchers

The Oath of the Watchers is a little more straightforward than the previous two subclasses. A few ideas…

  • The Shadow Watchers are a kalashtar order that seek to fight the agents of the Dreaming Dark. As quori are classified as aberrations in Rising From The Last War, Abjure The Extraplanar is a useful tool. Spells such as chromatic orb could be presented as psychic manifestations, though other abilities could be derived from faith in il-Yannah.
  • The Edgewalkers are an elite Riedran military force trained to combat extraplanar threats. You could be a renegade Edgewalker who fled Sarlona after discovering that your masters ARE extraplanar threats, or you could be a goodwill envoy sent by the Inspired to help deal with a rising threat in Khorvaire (the Inspired don’t like the Lords of Dust or daelkyr any more than anyone else does).
  • The Oath of the Watchers is a perfectly logical path for templars of the Silver Flame; the Church has always had its orders of exorcists.

While the Gatekeepers are also well known for battling extraplanar threats, I personally prefer druid/ranger/barbarians as Gatekeepers; but any Watcher Paladin would likely find a good ally in a Gatekeeper.

Warlock: The Noble Genie

The role of genies in Eberron is a larger topic I don’t have time to cover right now. With that said, there’s relatively little about the subclass that requires a connection to a genie. The most distinctive features are the idea that you have an object that you use to tether creatures to temporarily add them to your patron’s menagerie, and that you can ultimately call on your patron for favors. A few alternatives…

  • An Ancient Dragon is using you as a remote researcher. When you use Genie’s Entertainment, you’re actually transporting the victim to your patron’s laboratory in Argonnessen.
  • An Archfey‘s story revolves around their vast menagerie, and Genie’s Entertainment draws the victim to their domain in Thelanis. There’s nothing that says an Archfey HAS to serve as an Archfey patron, if the powers of a different patron make sense with their story!
  • You could actually be a field researcher for a University… perhaps the Library of Korranberg, Arcanix, or Morgrave University. Rather than having an all-powerful patron, your Vessel and the benefits could all be tools created by artificers at your University; if it’s Morgrave, it could very new and experimental, with new class features literally reflecting new innovations your department has developed.

How do you plan to use these subclasses? The topic of the next article will be chosen by my Patreon supporters, who keep the website going—thanks for your support!

24 thoughts on “Dragonmarks: UA Subclasses

  1. If I use the Warlock I might fluff the item as a specialized khyber shard for variant binding techniques. This batch of UA seems interesting.

  2. Older UA largely had no particularly strong flavor unless it’s based on something from older editions but two stand out to me. How do Giant Soul Sorcerers (June 2018) and Revived Rogue (October 2019) work in Eberron?

    Is Giant Soul a purely Elf/Half-Elf tradition representing Giant tampering? Some curse of Xen’Drik? Traces of giant blood (We know Half-Giants exist on Eberron and seem to breed true)? Revived Rogue on the other hand I can’t really think of anything that works with Eberron’s afterlife (except being those stolen by The Keeper, but that’s only a theory in universe).

    Also on Genies in Eberron: Your Age of Worms conversion notes the Wind Dukes were allies of the dragons alongside the couatls during the Age of Demons. Is that canon in your Eberron or just a suggestion to make AoW work smoothly?

    • Eberron doesn’t have a tradition similar to the Ordning. It could be interesting to make this an elven tradition reflecting rebels in the uprising who managed to steal the strength of the giants; this could be hereditary or it could be a ritual a member of any species could find and unlock. However, another option is just to reflavor it entirely; say it’s the result of having been conceived in a manifest zone tied to Lamannia, and that it’s a sort of megafauna situation, with your character being infused with elemental energy and primal power.

      For revived, again it’s about how you flavor it. On the one hand, the Restful Watch say that Aureon and the Keeper collaborate to preserve the souls of heroes who will be needed in the world again; this is pretty much exactly what the Revived Rogue is about. On the other hand, I played a character in 4E Eberron who had very similar abilities (mechanically a deva avenger) and said they were someone who had been caught in the Mourning and were channeling the spirits of all of the people who had died… sort of a Ghost Rider effect. The same principle would work for the Revived Rogue; it’s not that you were dead for a while and came back, it’s that you’re sustained by dozens of vengeance-seeking spirits. Tokens of Past Lives isn’t one of YOUR past lives, it’s a skill from one of the spirits you’re channeling, which you’ve drawn to the surface. When you use Bolts from the Grave, you could literally be blasting your enemy with one of the spirits you’re channeling.

      And everything in the Age of Worms conversions was based on “If I HAD to find a place to fit this in, this is what I’d do”—I don’t use the Wind Dukes in my standard campaign.

      • Giant Soul and Rune Knight could both be tied to Goliaths, and help tie them more strongly into the setting as a hidden people with powerful magical secrets.

    • As a side note, my article on the Keeper actually touches directly on the Revived concept (though it predates it):

      This adds one more interesting background for a player character: the REVENANT. Even as a first level character, you could have died and been released by the Keeper… what bargain did you make? Is this tied to your class abilities? Did you die recently, or did you linger in limbo for centuries before returning—exactly what the Restful Watch describes? This could allow you to play an elf from the age of Aeren; a human who fought along Lhazaar, Galifar, or Tira Miron; a Goblin who fought the daelkyr; or any other hero from the past. This could have required a bargain with the Keeper (or something claiming to be the Keeper)… or perhaps there is something to the beliefs of the Restful Watch and you’ve been returned without strings—but if so, why were you preserved and why have you been restored now? What’s your purpose in the present day?

  3. ” prototype warforged ”
    How would they differ from a normal warforged?

    Also with Genie’s Entertainment, does the Patron HAVE to send the target back every time? or could they, if they wanted, keep them?

    • By having healing kits in their forearms? Prototype warforged look very similar to production-line, well within variances.

      Mechanically, RAW, yes. Though you cam negotiate that at the table, i suppose.

    • ” prototype warforged ” — How would they differ from a normal warforged?

      The idea of a “prototype warforged” is that you’re a design that was never mass-produced, a personal project of Merrix or some other artificer. It’s primarily a justification for being a warforged PC with powers that most warforged don’t possess—a warforged sorcerer, or in this case, a Mercy Monk. The basic idea is to say that you were DESIGNED to be a Mercy Monk; what would that look like? But the only mechanical difference is “You’re a warforged and a Mercy Monk.”

      Also with Genie’s Entertainment, does the Patron HAVE to send the target back every time? or could they, if they wanted, keep them?

      This is a question for WotC; I didn’t design the subclass. But I’d say no. As defined, the duration is determined by the victim making ongoing saving throws, not the will of the patron. Beyond that, it says “If the target remains in your patron’s court for 1 minute, the genie sends the target back at the end of its turn as if it successfully saved…” In my opinion, that’s a very clear statement that this will never incapacitate an enemy for more than one minute.

  4. Hello again,
    with this article.. what did you think of the new “psionic” themed subclasses? the Aberrant Mind Sorcerer, Astral Self Monk, Psionic tradition wizard, Soul Knife etc..

      • I always look forward to psychic classes, but turning them into subclasses makes me a little upset. Kind of like the very first Artificer, which was just a subclass of wizard.

        Psionics deserves more than that, and I like the idea of the Mystic class in another UA. Hope that gets an upgrade or something, whenever they get around to it.

        In the meantime, I too would like a small article about these, if that helps make up your mind..

        • One of my players is a kalashtar Mystic using Immortal with some changes. I didn’t like the whole spitting acid thing and the enlarge and diminish powers seemed a bit too much so I nerfed them a bit. He is playing as a follower of the Path of Light but an extremist who advocates aggressive action against the Dreaming Dark and his psionic training was developed for this purpose. I really did not care for Wujen—it’s just a psionic version of wizard. Also not a fan of the Soulknife. The others I think fit well in my campaign.

  5. Warlock as, “… a field researcher for a University”. Why are there always more cool character ideas than there are games to play them in!?

    • I kind of love the idea of your “patron” being a bunch of really enthusiastic magewrights back at Morgrave, with all the new features being new things they’ve come up with. “OK, if this works like it’s supposed to, you’ll be able to SWAP PLACES with the thing you’ve tethered if you’re attacked. How cool is that?!?

  6. The Path of the Beast barbarian is really cool, I’d want to play a shifter as one, but I can see how your character would have been experimented on. I think the Daelkyr, or a Xoriat manifest zone could also play a role in creating this type of barbarian.

    The Mercy Monk is cool, I could definitely see a Kalashtar playing as one, and I love the idea of a Warforged being designed to be a healing/punching type of soldier.

    I think it would be cool to have the Gatekeepers to basically create a champion for them that is an Oath of the Watchers paladin. It’s weird that they get Chromatic Orb, I’d think that mage armor or shield would be better.

    I love how in Eberron your warlock pact doesn’t specifically have to be with the subclass you chose. I think it would be cool to have a pact with the Mournland in some way.

    • Certainly. I think it’s a valid path for anyone associated with the Silver Flame; I just didn’t bother listing all the different paths of the Flame separately.

  7. I, too, love the Morgrave University patron – I want to take another look at all the warlock pacts and see what can be reflavored. Patrons are usually portrayed as superior otherworldly beings. The idea that your patron may be a bunch of bumbling graduate students is awesome, but able to provide the same level of power, is amazing.

    • A similar (but less humorous) idea I suggested in my warlock article is the warlock-as-spy, with the idea that your warlock features are due to specialized training and the magical equivalent of high-tech spy gadgets. It’s canon that the Trust communicates with its most elite agents using permanent telepathic bonds, which allows the PC agent to have Mission Impossible-style briefings without having to report in.

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