UA: Dragonmarks Review

I haven’t paid too much attention to Unearthed Arcana articles in recent months. I’ve spent a lot of time sussing out why I feel so dissatisfied with WOTC lately. I’ve been testing my own material out to see what solutions they might be able to fix, but that’s a story for another time. I felt somewhat spontaneously like checking up on UA, finding that the last one is about 2 weeks old.

First impression: definitely impressed.

They first released Dragonmarks as feats way back when, 2016 I think. A character I’ve actually just started playing again has one of these feats, specifically from the 2016 UA. That matters, because they’ve taken an interesting turn with this release: your first dragonmark is tied to your race. Your Dragonmark is your subrace, affecting ability score improvements and such. The benefits to this are varied, but a new mechanic attached to these benefits is something called Intuition Dice. It’s a free D4 to the related check or action. It’s essentially guidance; not terribly interesting, but I don’t think they’re supposed to be the focus as much as they are a compliment to the other benefits. Additionally, these Dragonmarks being designed as subraces took over the brief dissatisfaction I had in them. Races are mostly employed for the distribution of started ability scores. There are always other benefits, but they tend to be ribbons or at least ribbon-adjacent. As such, I can’t really be so hard on them for not holding my interest. Or can I? You know, I think I can. Sure, more interesting mechanics might make other races “invalid”. Who cares? It’s made for a different setting: if there are a plurality of starting options that are more powerful than those considered “standard”, that’s fine! You’ve created a separate level playing field.

Wait, I’ve just invalidated myself. On second reading, all the really interesting bits are at the end of the descriptions. Score 1 for confirmation bias! I retain my original view of most of them. Mark of Healing, Handling, Passage, Sentinel, and Shadow are all very interesting. There’s enough that “my interest” can be sustained with not just one but a few options, so final judgement, I can’t complain. Mostly.

Now, onto the original Dragonmarks (now called Greater Dragonmarks).

These are mostly identical to their original incarnation (as far as I can tell the spells provided are identical). Nevertheless there are additional benefits! The feats now offer an ability score increase (+1 to one of two stats specified in the dragonmark). In addition, two of these feats (Sentinel and Scribing) regain their spells on a short or long rest, an interesting deviation. I have to admit, taking the Sentinel Dragonmark (as well as its subsequent feat) is extraordinarily appealing to me.

I love this Unearthed Arcana, I think it adds some useful levers to the game, and it has my brain spinning with different ideas. I think I’ll make it available to my players the next time I start a campaign!