For our final installment in this series, we’re going to take a look at both the Knights of Solamnia and Mages of High Sorcery. Wizards of the Coast has put out a revised version of the playtest document, titled Heroes of Krynn Revisited, so we will have a look at that.
First, though, we need to address the 900-lb. woolly mammoth in the room.
Mages of High Sorcery?
Yes, you read that right. Wizards of the Coast is expanding the Wizards of High Sorcery out to other classes. They said the following on the topic.
MAGES OF DRAGONLANCE
In past presentations of the Dragonlance setting, several of DUNGEONS & DRAGON’s modern spellcasting classes didn’t exist. To accommodate these classes, the group known as the Wizards of High Sorcery has evolved into the Mages of High Sorcery. The group’s distinct orders and signature robes remain, but the organization now accepts members from a broad range of spellcasting traditions.-Heroes of Krynn Revisited
As the game of Dungeons & Dragons evolved, we have gained new arcane classes. Had these classes existed back in the days of Dragonlance Adventures, certainly they would have been included.
The whole point of the Wizards of High Sorcery is to make certain that arcane magic is used responsibly. It makes little logical sense for them to exclude every arcane class other than wizards because they’re somehow “doing it wrong.”
Ah, but what about the distinction between High Sorcery and Wild Sorcery (Primal Sorcery)? This was a construct born out of the Age of Mortals, when we had replacement magic to fill in the gaps when the magic of the gods (divine magic and High Sorcery) left the world. After the War of Souls, all four types of magic (divine magic of the gods, Mysticism, High Sorcery, and Wild Sorcery) existed at the same time. It was a solution implemented to try to appeal to fans of both and showcase a world where godly magic and mortal magic co-existed. This was the dynamic of the Dragonlance 3rd edition product line by Margaret Weis Productions.
Now that we’re two editions down the road with Dragons of Deceit coming out in August, and Shadows of the Dragon Queen and Warriors of Krynn coming out later this year, we see that Wizards of the Coast is returning to the classic era of Dragonlance. Wizards of the Coast will want as many classes as possible available to players at this time. As such, they have implemented a retcon, allowing all arcane classes to join the newly rechristened Mages of High Sorcery.
One can always play with the 3rd edition dynamic if they wish. However, the three Orders remain the most popular arcane archetype to this day.
Knights of Solamnia and Mages of High Sorcery in 5th Edition
Wizards of the Coast’s solution on how to implement these two organizations is born out of a shift in design philosophy. Wizards is trying to make backgrounds have more of a lasting impact mechanically on the life of a character. As such, the Knight of Solamnia and Mage of High Sorcery backgrounds give a bonus feat at 1st level (Squire of Solamnia and Initiate of High Sorcery respectfully). From there, there are specific order feats at 4th level.
Knight of Solamnia Feats
The Knight of Solamnia feats (Knight of the Crown, Knight of the Sword, and Knight of the Rose) each give you a bonus to one or two ability scores based on order, as well as a variety of effects based on superiority dice. Each one denotes that you have to be a fighter or paladin or have the Squire of Solamnia feat. Other classes can be knights, but it’s not as likely.
What is interesting about the Knighthood feats is that you can now move between orders. Here’s what the playtest doc said on the matter.
MEMBERSHIP IN MULTIPLE KNIGHTLY ORDERS-Heroes of Krynn Revisited
Knights of Solamnia are only ever members of one of their organization’s orders. In the course of their training, most knights begin as members of the Knights of the Crown and then move on to join other orders. Whether a character follows this path or another, they retain what they learned as a member of an order even if they join another. Characters can change what knightly order they’re a part of, but they always have access to any Knight of Solamnia feats they’ve acquired.
While this breaks from prior editions on how one progresses through the orders, it’s a change that may have been sorely needed. Certainly, the novels never followed the game books on knight abilities. This shift now allows one to enter into the order that defines their character at a much earlier level.
Mage of High Sorcery Feats
The Mage of High Sorcery feats (Adept of the Black Robes, Adept of the Red Robes, Adept of the White Robes) represent what order you go into after the Test of High Sorcery, though the Test is never mentioned. The flavor of each feat is quite good, though they have one fatal flaw.
What is most interesting to note here is that alignment is not a prerequisite for any of the Orders. Instead, the Orders all now represent different concepts. Black Robes represent ambition, Red Robes represent represent the balance, and White Robes represent making the world a better place. This is a far departure from the alignment requirements of prior editions. We can now have an ambitious character who is Lawful Good in alignment joining the Black Robes. It would be nice to see alignment come into play here, even though that seems to go against current design philosophy. Yet the Divinely Favored feat allows one to use spells from different classes based on alignment.
What if you select a different background?
Obviously, this was a game balance issue brought up during the feedback from the original version of the document. The document says that if you choose a different background, you have a bonus feat at 1st level and another at 4th level.
Factions in Tasslehoff’s Pouches
Our own take on factions can be found in Tasslehoff’s Pouches of Everything. In Tas’ Pouches, we used the rank and renown mechanics found in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. This allowed you to get a certain rank based on the number of quests you did for an organization.
The Issue of Power Creep
Characters have access to a multitude of abilities either through backgrounds, classes, or races. Now you are adding to that power structure by adding in feats (which are no longer optional). These feats are adding another power level to the game that results in a shake-up of the current meta of the game.
Gradual steps of power increase are fine and expected over time. A radical shift in how feats are acquired is a major shift in power. Adding in two free feats (even if they are a select group) creates a very different kind of character.
To tie organization entry into these feats, you are not only gaining access to more power, but now have influence in organizations found in the game. This is actually creating a more specific type of build per class.
With the restrictions lifted by Tasha’s optional rules, you can now even build a more deadly type of hero by having access to the many different racial (culture) bonuses and swapping in ones that raise your hero’s power level significantly. Your level 1 hero will now be more on par with a level 3 hero at the beginning level with the amount of access they have to abilities.
After the release of the original playtest document, Wizards of the Coast took the feedback they got and realized they missed the mark on the kender. As such, they went back to Dragonlance Adventures and now have a kender that feels much more like a Dragonlance kender.
Also, the lunar sorcerer was so popular that it continued on in the design process. The chances of seeing it printed is quite good.
Jeremy Crawford talks about feedback and redesigning the material from the first document.
Wizards of the Coast certainly are heading more in the right direction with this round of playtest materials. However, it almost feels like they’re trying to fit a round peg into a square hole with the way feats are implemented, which is leading to power creep. While a route such as rank and renown might be easier, it’s obvious that Wizards is going to follow their current design model.
Wizards is producing a vision of Dragonlance that fixes a few issues, but causes more. However, the dungeon master and his players have the final say on how to implement rules at the game table. What rules you include and exclude is up to you. Just focus on the feel you are going for.