Unearthed Arcana: Spelljammer

This past Friday, Wizards of the Coast dropped their latest Unearthed Arcana, and in doing so gave us their biggest hint to where D&D is heading in 2022. Today we are going to breakdown these new play test races, and see how they fit into the sourcebooks we are likely to get in the new year. So, grab your cutlass, put away that fireball, and set sail as we look at the Travelers of the Multiverse.

A quick bit of book keeping before we begin though. For those that do not know, Unearthed Arcana is the name Wizards of the Coast gives to the play test martial that it puts out for D&D 5e. Players are encouraged to play with these rules, try and break them, and give feedback so that when the official rules are released, they are as balanced and refined as they can possibly get. As a result, these rules are usually the first glimpses of new races, classes and other rules we can expect to see. WotC will sometimes be vague with their titles in an attempt to keep some mystery surrounding their upcoming releases, such as when they referred to the Owlin from Strixhaven as Owlfolk in the Feywild Unearthed Arcana a few months back.

This time however, there is no such suitably to the races as most of them have been seen in past editions of the game. Not only that, but they all have a connection to a classic D&D setting that a few people will be very excited to see return after a very long hiatus, that been the 1989 sourcebook Spelljammer.

Spelljammer was a campaign setting for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition, which saw players take to and traverse the stars in a fantasy themed sci-fi environment. This was not a straight science fiction adventure mind you, but rather explored how magic could be used to explain the more scientific elements of the module. Bringing many new races to the game (as well as explaining how these different races could be found on each of the material planes) it brought many unique concepts to the D&D multiverse and placed the now classic enemies such as the Mind flayers and Beholders at the forefront as its adversaries.

First released back in November of 1989, it has been referred to only in passing in the intervening years since. But it looks like we will be finally heading back to this classic setting soon, and it will be bringing back beloved races like the Giff and Harozee as PCs. So, let’s get to the meat of the article and look at not one, but six new races for D&D 5e.

It is worth noting that all these new races follow the new template set out in The Wild Beyond the Witchlight, allowing players to add either +1 to three stats or +2 to one and +1 to another, as well as picking a language that best suits the background you came up with for them. Aside from that, each is very different from the others, and have some interesting new rules that make they a great addition to any party.

First up we have the Astral Elf, a subset of elves that ventured into the Astral Plane to be closer to their gods. Since nothing ages in the Astral Plane these beings can be thousands of years old, and as a result have a unique view of time. In game you have most of the usual elven traits like Fey Ancestry and Trance, but also have some unique rules for players to sink their teeth into. First up you have Astral Fire, that gives you the choice the dancing lights, light or the sacred flame catnip, which can be based of your choice of mental stat. Since you have Darkvision the first two are not as useful to you personally, but could be useful if the party lacks the ability to see in the dark. Sacred flame however is especially useful if you usually lack range capability.

Next, Radiant Soul allows you to gain hit points equal to your proficiency bonus + your choice of Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma modifier when you pass a death save once per long rest. A strong ability that can quickly get you back in the fight, and again allows you to choose your best mental stat to fully maximise your ability scores. Lastly, Trance Proficiency allows you to gain a proficiency with one weapon and one tool whenever you finish a long rest, allowing you to have the right skills available to you when you need them. A great role-play ability, helping make sure you are useful to the party outside of your usual background skill set, but also allows you to use any magic weapon you come across without the need to train up. All in all, a strong showing for the latest incarnation of the elf.

But if playing as an ancient elf is not your thing, you could always try your hand at playing a Autognome. These constructs are built by Rock Gnomes to be loyal companions, but can easily be adventurers should events conspire to make this so. Having the Construct creature type makes you immune to certain effects like Charm/Hold Person, but also most healing spells. Luckily, your creator foresaw this issue, and made you so you can benefit from cure wounds, healing word and spare the dying with your True Life ability. This also allows you to use a hit dice to heal yourself whenever you have mending cast upon you.

To help even more with survivability, you have the ability Mechanical Nature (that gives you resistance to poison damage, immunity to diseases, and advantage to saves against been poisoned and paralysed) and Armored Casing (which gives you an unarmored AC of 13 + your Dex modifier). This makes you quite durable for a Small creature, and since you don’t need to eat, drink or breath you can survive in most quite inhospitable environments. Like the Warforge of Eberron, you don’t need to sleep and just have to stay motionless for 6 hours to benefit from a long rest, and start of the game with two tool proficiencies of your choice. Lastly, Built for Success gives you the ability to add a d4 to one attack, save or ability check role after seeing the result, but before knowing the outcome. You get to use this as many times equal to your proficiency bonus, and this refills after a long rest. Overall, the Autognome is a versatile adventurer that has some useful abilities both in and out of combat.

Going back to creatures of flesh and blood we have the Giff, a race of anthropomorphic hippos that works perfectly as the party’s muscle. At first glance they appear to have the least going on out of all these new races, but that is actually quite deceptive. First off, you have a swimming speed equal to their walking speed and count as one size bigger for carrying capacity and the weight you can push and pull. Additional to this, you have advantage on Strength checks and Strength savings throws like a raging barbarian at all times, and a version of the Savage Attacker feat built in too. This makes you a great choice for a frontline fighter, or even a decent grappler. Expect and fare few hippo shaped tanks in your party moving forward.

If you prefer climbing to swimming, or you’re just a fan of Planet of the Apes, then the Hadozee might be more up your alley. Coming in both Small and Medium sizes, these simians get a climbing speed equal the their walking speed. Because of your hand like feet, you get to take the Use an Object action as a bonus action, which can be useful for action economy during some encounters. But these apes have another trick up their sleeve, and that is they can Glide on membranes held under their arms. This moves you 5 feet across for every 1 foot you descend, and even allows you to use your reaction to reduce any fall damage to 0. So if you ever wanted to, I don’t know, jump off a 1,000 foot cliff for some reason, now you have the race to do it.

For those who want to be a bit more “flexible”, the Plasmoid is the race for you. Giving you a playable Ooze is a wild departure from the usual Humanoid races, but a strangely welcome one. These Oozes get to be Small or Meduim and come with Darkvision as standard. While not wearing armour or carrying weapons, you can squeeze through gaps as wide as an inch, and have advantage on checks to escape a grapple. While you still need to breath, you can hold your breath for an hour just like the Tortle (which is starting to feel like a necessary ability if we are heading to the stars).

You also can change your shape and give yourself a head, arms and legs, as well as create a pseudopod that is up to 10 feet long as a bonus action. This appendage can manipulate an object, open an unlocked door or container, stow or retrieve an item from an open container, or pour out the contents of a container, but can’t attack, activate magic items, or carry more than 10 pounds. Definitely a race I need to wrap my head round, but I reckon it might be a great fit for those that like to think outside of the box.

Now the last race isn’t directly tied to Spelljammer but is one that also goes way back into D&D’s past. The Thri-Kreen are one of those races that have been used as adversities for the longest time, but are now making their way to the playable side of the game again in 5e. As a Thri-Kreen you can be Small or Meduim and come with Darkvision. You also have a nature armour like the Autognomes, but this one can also change your colour as an action, allowing you to camouflage yourself and gain advantage of Stealth checks to hide in your surroundings.

You also have a second pair of smaller arms that work like your dominate ones, but can’t carry shields or non-light weapons. This can be very useful, allowing you to mix and match weapons or just have spare appendages for interacting with objects during combat. You also don’t sleep, but rather just rest while staying awake during a long rest, so you make a great sentry for the party. Lastly, you get the ability to communicate psychically with any willing creatures within 120 feet of you, and don’t even need to speak the same language as the recipient. This is such a strong ability, and makes sneaking missions so much easier since you can just be the radio receiver for party, which I’m sure won’t annoy any DM’s at all.

As they stand, all these races are pretty solid and offer a lot for creative players. As stated above this is only play-test material and it is subject to change, so we will have to see how they shape up once the community has had a chance to try them out. Personal I like these races, as they offer such a change from the standard fantasy D&D framework established at the start of 5e. Hopefully this trend continues as we expand into other classic setting WotC have promised us next year. Perhaps Dark Sun? Who knows?

What do you think of the latest Unerarthed Arcana? Tell us about it in the comments below, and if you have some suggestions what you would like to see come of these races, let us know while you are down there. Plus, don’t forget to like and subscribe to keep up to date with all we do here. If you want to discuss your thoughts on this Unearthed Arcana with me directly, you can find me over on Twitter @TenguPlaysGames.

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