Dungeons & Dragons is Playtesting Variant Class Features

Dungeons & Dragons is testing some new variant class abilities that add versatility to just about every current character class. Earlier today, the Dungeons & Dragons team introduced some new variant class abilities in its latest Unearthed Arcana document. Every single class received at least one variant class ability, which either replace or enhance existing class abilities. These abilities are meant for D&D players to try out and provide feedback through a survey that will be released later this month.

Many of the variant class abilities were designed to increase a character's versatility by giving them the option to switch out certain proficiencies, spells, or other skills. For instance, the Proficiency Versatility ability allows players to swap out one of their skill proficiencies with another skill that their class is proficient with whenever a player gains an Ability Score Increase. The Unearthed Arcana also introduces the ability to swap out their otherwise permanent spells, whether its a cantrip or a sorcerer or bard's learned spell, once per long rest.

The Ranger also gains a host of alternate features, including several new low level abilities. The Natural Explorer and Favored Enemy features are replaced with abilities that are a bit more versatile, giving rangers more general abilities that should make rangers a bit more useful in more situations. The Beastmaster also gains a new companion - a Primal Beast of Air or Earth that attacks with a bonus action and can be brought back at full health just by expending a spell slot. This fixes one of the biggest issues with the Beastmaster, a long derided class due to the need to use an action in order to have a beast companion attack.

Another big addition are several new maneuvers and abilities designed to make melee characters a bit more versatile too. Players can take the Unarmed Fighting style, which deals more damage when they punch, or protect their allies with the Interception fighting style by partially deflecting damage when they're nearby. Monks can also choose their Monk Weapons, giving them more versatility as well.

There's almost too much information to cover in one article, but D&D players are encouraged to read through the Unearthed Arcana here. One thing that's clear is that some big changes are at least being looked at by the D&D team, and it could address a lot of complaints that players have had about D&D character creation over the past few years.