Unearthed Arcana unleashes some Giant options, just in case you want to tap into the power of primordial giants in your D&D game
The latest D&D Unearthed Arcana playtest content offers a host of new class options themed around Giants, so anyone wanting to add a little might to their martial character will have options other than the recently-added Rune Knight Fighter. When Wizards of the Coast introduced the Rune Knight Fighter subclass — first in an Unearthed Arcana playtest document, and later in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything — it offered an interesting new playstyle for Fighters, allowing them tap into the runic magic of Giants and even mimic their size and power. It was possibly one of the best received new subclasses in Dungeons and Dragons, but it did have a problem: it was so attractive that other martial classes, like Barbarians or Paladins, and even a few Monks, were taking levels in Fighter just to get the subclass.
But now players may not feel quite as compelled to pick up Rune Knight. This playtest material gives us three new subclasses as well as several feats related to Giants or their Primordial antecedents, those enormous rivals to the gods that were furious manifestations of elemental power. Unearthed Arcana offers three subclass options. Path of the Giant is open to Barbarians, who will now no longer have to multiclass into Fighter for three levels just to get the ability to grow to Large size. The Circle of the Primeval is available for Druids, allowing them to befriend the various prehistoric creatures like dinosaurs, mammoths, Indricotheres and so on. Then, there’s the Runecrafter Wizard, who takes the Rune Knight’s use of runic magic and runs with it to wildly extended effect.
So what do these new subclasses mean to you, the player looking for some cool new stuff for your characters? It means some big things.
No, I’m not, I did it and I’d do it again.
Let’s take a look at each subclass in depth, and talk about what they bring to your characters.
Path of the Giant Barbarian
These Barbarians tap into the ancient rage of the Giant races. Perhaps you’re descended from one, maybe your kind were once hunted or enslaved by them and you learned their own ways to fight back. However it happened you can pull some Giant tricks out of your hat to crush your foes.
- Giant Power (3rd level) — you learn to speak, read and write Giant (or another language if you already speak Giant) and learn Thaumaturgy or Druidcraft with Wisdom as your spellcasting stat.
- Giant’s Havoc (3rd Level) — This ability lets you tap into the power of Giants while you rage, letting you increase your size by one category (so for a Medium character, you could grow large), extended your reach by 5 and giving you the ability to add your Barbarian rage damage bonus to any thrown weapon.
- Elemental Cleaver (6th level) — lets you tap into the elemental power in the Giant bloodlines to deal extra elemental damage on a weapon attack. During a rage, any weapon you’re holding not only does an extra 1d6 of a chosen elemental damage type — Acid, Cold, Fire, Thunder or Lightning damage — all the damage that weapon does is converted to that kind of element. You also gain the ability to treat any weapon you’re infusing as a Thrown weapon with a short range of 20 feet and a long range of 60 feet. The weapon will reappear in your hand after you make an ranged attack with it, so you won’t end up weaponless.
- Mighty Impel (10th level) — You can pick up a Medium or smaller creature within their reach and throw it anywhere you can see within 30 feet of you. If it’s willing, then it just happens, so yes you can toss that Dwarf Fighter directly into melee with the big bad, or you could try and grab an enemy and throw them away — this could be deadly if there’s molten lava or a cliff within 30 feet of you, but they get to make a Strength saving throw to avoid letting you toss them.
- Demiurgic Colossus (14th level) — buffs all their previous abilities. Your size increases to Huge when Raging, you gain 10 foot reach, and you can throw Large or smaller creatures with Mighty Impel. Also, you gain an extra 2d6 elemental damage from Elemental Cleaver.
Just looking at this subclass makes me think it will get some adjustment before it goes live. I think it’s probably a bit OP — 10 feet of Reach at level 14 with any weapon attack? That’s kinda wild all by itself — it means you’ll get attack of opportunity swings on things that are two squares away from you.
Circle of the Primeval Druid
If you were trying to get me to play a Druid, Wizards of the Coast, you have my attention.
- Primeval Companion (2nd Level)– lets you expend a wild shape to summon an ancient, powerful creature. You can customize it’s appearance, but the UA has the stats for the Primeval Companion. It lasts until it is reduced to 0 or you die, and if you lose your Primeval Companion you can expend another Wild Shape to call another one.
- Prehistoric Conduit (6th Level) — you can cast your Druid spells either from your own space, or cast them through your companion. Also, if you cast a spell on an area the companion is in, they have advantage on any saving throws and if a save usually means they would take half damage, they take no damage on a save and half on a failed save. This means you can cast your AoE damaging spells with less chance of hurting your big buddy.
- Titanic Bond (10th Level) — your Primeval Companion can now go up to Large size, and it lends you some of its power so that when you hit an enemy with a spell or melee attack, you can force them to roll a Wisdom save against your spell DC and if they fail, they’re scared, which makes sense because you’ve got a gigantic ape standing next to you.
- Scourge of the Ancients (14th Level) — your Primeval Companion buddy gains even more power from you. You expend a Spell Slot and your buddy gets a significant boost, growing to Huge size and gaining temporary hit points equal to 10 times the level of the spell slot (so 30 temp HP for a 3rd level slot, 90 for a 9th, and so on), they gain an extra 1d8+ the spell level in melee damage (so 1d8+4 for a 4th level spell slot on top of their normal damage) and can move an extra 5 feet per spell slot level. All of these benefits last 1 hour after you spend that spell slot.
On the one hand I’d like to turn into a big T-Rex, but summoning one is still pretty cool, and it’s a nice way to trade off that Wild Shape ability, as we’ve seen in other Druid subclasses. This one feels fairly balanced to me. I think it may well go live like this, and I think it’s great that the companion feels similar to the Drake from the Drakewarden class.
The Runecrtafter almost feels like an alternative path to magic — although they technically use spellbooks, you could easily use the rune flavor and say that they work specific rune symbols to use their spells. They gain a host of abilities that draw on the ancient power of the runes first discovered by Giants at the dawn of time.
- Runes of Understanding (2nd Level) — grants you a permanently prepared Comprehend Languages spell that you can cast without using up a spell slot and which doesn’t count against your prepared spells
- Runic Empowerment (2nd Level) — lets you choose one of three runes to evoke when casting a spell. You can only use one rune per spell and you can only use this ability an amount of times equal to your proficiency bonus, with all uses returning after a long rest.
- Life Rune grants 5 Temp HP per level of the spell cast to an creature you can see within 30 feet of you, including yourself)
- War Rune lets you choose one creature within 30 feet, all attacks made against that creature get a bonus to hit equal to half the spell’s level rounded up to a minimum of +1
- Wind Rune increases you speed by 5 multiplied by the level of the spell you cast, movement doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks, lasts till the start of your next turn
- Sigils of Warding (6th Level) — you expend a use of Runic Empowerment to succeed a Strength, Dexterity or Consitution saving throw you would have instead failed. You just plain succeed, it’s not a reroll. Think of it as a monster’s Legendary Resistance, but for us players.
- Rune Maven (10th level) — you use your Arcane Recovery class feature to regain your Runic Empowerment uses as well as spells.
- Engraved Enmity (10th Level) — allows you to carve special runes to bedevil your foes. On a bonus action, you can target an enemy within 60 feet — if they fail a Wisdom save against your spell DC, they are affected by your rune, which will float in the air over their heads as a sign to all that they have been marked. You can choose one of the following effects:
- Runecraft’s Bane gives your target disadvantage against your spells
- Unveiled Enemy makes an invisible target visible and won’t allow a target to become invisible while it remains
- Woeful Curse lets you impose a rune that causes your target to take 1d8 force damage the next time one of your allies hits them. The curse can be renewed on a round by round basis until that 1d8 force damage is triggered, upon which the curse expires.
Honestly Runecraft’s Bane seems like the best use of that last class feature. One minute of disadvantage against your spells vs 1d8 force damage once? I know which one I’d pick.
Feats of elemental Giants? Count us in
There are several feats in this UA that tie the Primordials — elemental Giants that were featured heavily in 4th Edition D&D cosmology as rivals and enemies of the gods — to the modern game and the familiar Fire, Frost, Stone and Cloud Giants.
- Element Touched lets you attune yourself once a day to a specific element and grants various effects based on which element you choose. Each of these abilities can be evoked up to your proficiency bonus a day and return after a long rest.
- Air gives you a fly speed equal to your move speed for one turn, if you’re still airborne at the end of your turn you fall unless you’re using some other means to stay up
- Earth makes the ground 30 feet around you becomes difficult terrain for 1 minute, during that time you can move through difficult terrain as if it were normal terrain
- Fire summons a cloud of ash and smoke surrounding you, preventing opportunity attacks
- Water lets you hit someone within 15 feet with a tidal surge of water that they must make a Strength save against or be pushed back 10 feet
The various feats Ember of the Fire Giant, Fury of the Frost Giant, Guile of the Cloud Giant, Soul of the Storm Giant, Vigor of the Hill Giant and Keenness of the Stone Giant grant you various powers and abilities based on a specific giant, but aren’t as special as the others in my opinion. Outsized Might gives you proficiency in either Athletics or Acrobatics, lets you carry, push, drag and lift as if you were one size category larger, and gives you advantage on saving throws against being moved. The Rune Carver Apprentice feat lets you carve runes into your nonmagical items that let you cast various first level spells without actually having them prepared, and you can cast them using any available spells lot. Rune Carver Adept lets you mark as many items as your proficiency bonus per long rest.
So that’s the latest Unearthed Arcana playtest, with a host of options drawing upon the lore of Giants in Dungeons and Dragons. Does this mean we’ve got a Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons style book about Giants in our future? No idea, but it might be the case, or maybe a sourcebook for an older D&D setting like Greyhawk — the Against the Giants module series was set on that world — or even the Athas of the Dark Sun world. But regardless of what this means for the future, it looks like big fun in the present. Again, not sorry.
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