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!