Unearthed Arcana — Heroism Paladins and Eloquence Bards
The round of Unearthed Arcana playtest content with new subclasses for each class in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons has come and gone. D&D players had opportunities to read through them, discuss them and playtest these new D&D subclasses, and provide feedback to the D&D design team through surveys. On the Nerdarchy YouTube channel we’ve got videos about each of the Unearthed Arcana playtest packets for these new D&D subclasses too. I always like to imagine how new content adds to a D&D campaign, and also speculate on what sort of product playtest material could be part of down the road. So let’s get into it with the Oath of Heroism paladin and College of Eloquence bard.
Unearthed Arcana — eloquent heroics
The D&D design team has really been hitting some home runs with the recent batch of Unearthed Arcana. When I read over and play any of the new character options, I’m not considering them so much for mechanical (i.e. combat) balance, so spoilers no deep dive into the math or combat implications. Instead I like to wonder what sort of person these characters are to find themselves on this path to adventure. If I’m honest, the combat abilities of a new Unearthed Arcana subclass don’t really interest me as much as what they offer for exploration, how they support teammates and what sort of intriguing roleplaying opportunities they offer.Powerscore RPG’s Twitch channel, Mesmogdu joined the party as a guest and then permanent member. Currently the group is playing through the The Orrery of the Wanderer, an adventure inside the Acquisitions Incorporated book. As a huge Acq Inq fan, I’m excited to be part of this campaign and reimagined my favorite D&D character as a College of Eloquence bard. Mesmogdu began as an Enchantment wizard and he’s gone through several incarnations over the years.
The College of Eloquence leans heavily into the social pillar of 5E D&D play. This bard is all about the power of words, and the subclass features make this very clear. Right out of the gate an Eloquence bard can use their bardic inspiration to give creatures in the area the ability to magically understand their spoken words, and gives the bard advantage on Charisma checks to influence these creatures.
This is a huge boon! In my games, language barriers (written or spoken) come up quite a bit. An ability to not only communicate with any creatures — even if they don’t speak any languages — plus a bonus to affect their attitude is awesome.
Eloquence bards can also cast calm emotions without using a spell slot. Calm emotions is one of my favorite spells, useful in and out of combat. Especially with Mesmogdu’s personality and adventuring methods, talking his way out of trouble fits perfectly. I’ve always enjoyed playing bards as support characters, and Mesmogdu in particular would much rather avoid battle. So having this trick up his sleeve feels very on brand.
The bard’s words gain more power with Undeniable Logic. There’s two options for using bardic inspiration as a bonus action here to either cause psychic damage and give a creature disadvantage on their next saving throw, or heal a creature and give it advantage on its next saving throw. I’ve used both options and each time it proves clutch. What a great way to use your bonus action! This feature really cleaves to my idea of a bard.
Lastly the Eloquence bard’s inspiration is so amazing, if a creature with uses your inspiration and fails their roll, they can keep the inspiration and use it again! And even if they succeed, you can use a reaction to give another creature inspiration without even expending one of your uses. Holy moley this is great.
As a base class, bards are so versatile. Each Bard College provides an opportunity to specialize while still being competent across the board, and the College of Eloquence fills a wonderful niche. College of Glamour bards use performance to captivate onlookers, but College of Eloquence bards work more subtly. They are weavers of words capable of changing hearts and minds. The way my own games typically run, as well as lots of other games I’ve played in or watched, very often involve players attempting to talk their way through challenges. I really enjoy the College of Eloquence and what it brings to the table in this regard. But the subclass features have combat applications too, and at the end of the day a bard is still a bard, so you can be just as useful when the social play breaks out into a fight.
On the other hand, if you lean all the way into playing a character specialized in social situations, this is absolutely incredible. Along with the new spells from Acquisitions Incorporated (distort value, fast friends, gift of gab and motivational speech) a College of Eloquence bard is the supreme master of the art of conversation, no question.
The path of destiny! I cannot help but look at this paladin oath with a little bit of humor. Mighty deeds are their stock in trade, and these paladins are committed to fulfilling their calling as a hero worthy of legend. I can’t help but imagine Heroism paladins with a heavy dose of Jack Black’s persona mixed in. To me these paladins always believe without question they are destined for greatness, but I like the idea they still have flaws and one of those is over confidence. Don’t get me wrong, paladins are very powerful and capable. But I dig the idea of a character who never gets discouraged even when they fail at something, finds a way to consider it a success and turns lemons into lemonade. The chips might be down, but they’ve got destiny on their side!
Heroism paladins are people of action. Physically these paladins hone themselves to perfection, and they’ve got nifty magical abilities propelling them to accomplish the mightiest of mighty feats. There’s a strong case to make for Heroism paladins bringing a lot to the table to support the exploration pillar of play. Since this is my favorite part of 5E D&D, I like this subclass a lot.
Oath of Heroism spells make a paladin faster and stronger through spells like expeditious retreat, enhance ability and freedom of movement. But they also display these paladins’ supernatural super-heroism with spells like guiding bolt and commune representing their connection to divine origins. There’s something larger than life about Heroism paladins, and spells like enthrall and compulsion rounding out their Oath spells by showing off their powerful presence.
Channel Divinity options for Heroism paladins do a terrific job showing what this subclass is all about. One the one hand, they are capable of performing incredible physical feats. This reminds me very much of mythological heroes from our own world and their legendary deeds like how Hercules defeated the Nemean lion, or how Odysseus is the only one strong enough to string his bow. With advantage on all Athletics and Acrobatics checks for 10 minutes, a Heroism paladin could climb Ninja Warrior’s Mount Midoriyama no problem. And in a fight, scoring a critical hit on a 19 or 20 is a tremendous boon for a paladin. Let the smiting begin!
As Heroism paladins grow in power, simply witnessing them in action drives allies to greater heights. Their Mighty Deeds grant temporary hit points and frighten foes. Later, a Heroism paladin really comes into their own as a legendary hero with Glorious Defense before truly embodying destiny as a Living Myth.
Oath of Heroism and College of Eloquence for 5E D&D
As a DM I am very open and encouraging of players trying new things and creating the kinds of characters they want to play. Unearthed Arcana material is always welcome in my games. Despite being an admitted (and proud!) D&D fanboy, I don’t automatically love all the new subclasses we see in Unearthed Arcana but these two I absolutely do.
College of Eloquence and Oath of Heroism both have solid features that hit on two key aspects for me: they’re not all combat related and they include ways to bolster other characters and creatures. Depending on other choices like spell selection, an Eloquence bard could be more evenly split in what they bring to combat, exploration and social interaction, but that’s not been my experience with the subclass at all. Mesmogdu is a very social character in every incarnation, but as a College of Eloquence bard this goes way beyond anything I’ve played before. And I’m all for it. If you are interested in playing a character with mastery over the gift of gab (and who can also cast gift of gab) look no further.
Oath of Heroism paladins strike me as characters who are very symbiotic with their fellow party members. These paladins can accomplish great deeds, and witnesses to these deeds are empowered by seeing them. I like this dynamic a lot. These are the kind of paladin who laugh in the face of danger and snatch victory from defeat. They’re optimistic and convinced of a greater purpose.
Both these new subclasses for 5E D&D do a great job of providing a framework for the kind of character they are, informed by the features they earn. This approach to design from the D&D team is really working for me and I am very excited to see what they come up with next.
Also, like so many other D&D players out there I’m eager to see what book all these subclasses might wind up in. I don’t see a strong connection between many of the playtest packets, either as a whole or individually among them. I do like the idea of a post-apocalyptic campaign guide, which I speculated on in the newsletter. I could see the Oath of Heroism and College of Eloquence in this sort of setting.
What do you think? Have you played an Oath of Heroism paladin or College of Eloquence bard in your games? Did you share your feedback with the D&D team in their survey? What sort of product do you think these might wind up in, and are you hoping for more Unearthed Arcana? Let me know!