Dungeons & Dragons is contemplating a major departure from traditional subclass design with their latest set of public playtests. Wizards of the Coast just published a new Unearthed Arcana playtest titled "Mages of Strixhaven," which tests out five distinct subclasses for the upcoming Strixhaven: Cirriculum of Chaos campaign setting book. Each subclass is tied to one of Strixhaven's five colleges and presents distinct options for playing as a Strixhaven student. However, the big reveals is that the subclasses aren't tied to a particular class. Players can choose these particular Mage subclasses provided that they meet one of the class requirements and have reached the level where they choose a subclass for that class. For instance, a player can become a Mage of Lorehold if they are a Bard, a Wizard, or a Warlock.
The new Unearthed Arcana isn't only testing out class-agnostic subclasses, they are also giving players the options to choose between optional subclass features. Whenever a player reaches a character level in which their character gains a subclass feature, they choose between one of several subclass features that have a level requirement. As different classes gain different number of subclass features when they level up, some players will have less subclass features than others. For instance, a Wizard Mage of Quandrix would have the option to take the Null Equation feature at 10th level and the Quantum Tunneling feature at 14th level. However, a Sorcerer Mage of Quandrix would have to choose between Null Equation and Quantum Tunneling as a Sorcerer does not gain a subclass feature at 10th level.
This new design continues a trend that started in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything last year. That rulesbook provided players with optional class features that could be swapped up with default class features, thus giving players more customization over their characters. If the playtest holds, players will have more customization options when building out their character, responding to a common criticism of 5th Edition design.
You can check out the full playtest here. Strixhaven: Cirriculum of Chaos will be released on November 16th, 2021. Pre-orders for the book are available now. Expect more news about Strixhaven: Cirriculum of Chaos to be announced at D&D Live next month.
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