Wizards of the Coast has unleashed far more D&D content in the past few years then you may be aware of. Between unearthed arcana and player options tucked away in adventure paths and setting books, there’s a whole host of options that are easily missed. With Xanathar’s Updates, we aim to make you aware of everything that may have flown under your radar.
We’re not going to go deep into rules or builds, but we’re just going to briefly describe all the glorious class archetypes hiding in the non-core sources. Here we’re going to call the “Player’s Handbook” and “Xanathar’s Guide to Everything” as the “core books”, as they’re where you’d typically look for your class options.
Also, be aware that any of the options labeled “Unearthed Arcana” are technically test material and haven’t properly been released yet. You can’t use them in the adventurer’s league, but most DMs will allow them if asked.
These aren’t technically a new archetype, but they’re new options for the existing “Path of the Totem Warrior. Elk gives you ridiculous speed and mobility abilities, and Tiger gives you extreme jumping abilities that culminate in a pounce move. Choose either of these if you want to play a particularly mobile barbarian that can race around the battlefield.
This option is unique to dwarves and is absolutely insane, you cover yourself in spiked armor and body slam your enemies into submission. Look this path up if you’re itching to play a half-mad dwarven berserker.
This is the barbarian equivalent of the wild magic sorcerer, every time you go into a rage a random magical effect explodes off you. None of the random effects are bad, but you’ve got no control. Pick this option if you like the idea of being a raging ball of chaos magic.
You can think of this archetype as the diplomat bard. You can magically cross language barriers and weave your logical arguments into psychic damage. Pick the college of eloquence if you want to win your battles through logic and diplomacy.
This is the domain for you if you like a great big swirl of wizard mixed in with your cleric. By way of worshipping a particularly magic god, you get all the greatness of the cleric class with some magic missiles thrown in. A particularly good option if you want to play a “laser cleric” who focuses on magically blasting the heathens into submission.
Not to be confused with the “Grave Domain”, the death domain is the edgy, straight-up evil option for clerics. You worship a god of death and gain all kinds of necromancy spells and ways to deal necrotic damage. Great for evil campaigns or just the odd sneaky necromancer.
This domain is inspired by the Azorious from the Ravnica supplement. Basically, you turn law into a tangible force and use it to subjugate the forces of chaos. Grab this option if you want to lawful harder than a character has ever lawyered.
Do you find yourself as the party dad already? Keeping your bards and rogues out of trouble and rushing to the rescue when they do something stupid? The protection domain turns you into a friendly emergency tank, you take the hits and shield your allies.
Do you want to fuel your magic through spooky, morally ambivalent darkness and gain the ability to fly at night? You do, you know you do. The twilight domain is a fantastic option for any cleric that wants the power of darkness without being evil.
Do you like the Golgari from Ravnica? How about reanimating corpses as fungus zombies? The circle of spores is filled with ways to deal easy necrotic and poison damage while filling the area with spores and mushroom thralls, what’s not to love?
Would you like to be a druid? Would you also like to be the grim reaper? The circle of twilight is themed around the passage of life and death and it gets some powerful abilities centered around making your enemies die and your allies live. It’s not very subtle but boy does it get the job done.
This is a druid circle with FIREBALL. I must emphasize this because the major balancing consideration for druids is that most of their powerful or damaging spells are concentration-based. The circle of wildfire grants you direct damage fire spells and a living fire spirit companion to burn your foes away. Play it while you can because I expect his to get nerfed hard.
If your goal with a fighter is simply to do the most damage possible, brute literally just throws extra damage on top of whatever attacks you do. It’s the perfect option for the fight obsessed fighter.
A specific order of knights in the sword coast, but their rules are easily adapted. Generally considered pretty weak as archetypes go, but the flavor is pretty strong, and you do get a decent group healing ability.
Sharpshooter often gets mixed up with the feat of the same name, and the whole archetype feels like a bunch of archery feats built in as class options. If you don’t care about the magical tricks of arcane archer, then sharpshooter is by far the finest fighter with a bow.
This is a monk with a stand. Without mincing words, the archetype is strong, but the real reason to play it is to become a Jojo’s character. (You must also shout “Ora Ora Ora” while playing, yes this is a requirement).
Do you want to play a monk that’s also objectively evil? The way of the long death steals life from others and makes you incredibly hard to actually kill.
This is essentially the pacifist monk. You gain abilities that are incredible at stopping combat before it happens. If the peace-loving wise monk sounds appealing, grab this option.
If you’re used to Pathfinder, the oathbreaker is basically 5E’s anti-paladin, you’ve broken your oaths and sworn allegiance to some evil god or force. Pretty much relegated to evil campaigns but great at just dishing out damage, especially if you can get some undead allies.
If your goal with a paladin is to take the hits and tank, oath of the crown lets you just choose to take the hits your allies would take. If you want to be a martyr to your cause and your friends, pick this option up.
Do you wish there was a little more fighter in your paladin? The oath of heroism gains ways to improve your critical range and other fighter-ish capabilities. Grab this option if you want a paladin that’s just unanimously all about fighting.
This is an alternate version of the oathbreaker paladin, an evil anti-paladin archetype that gains some nasty illusion abilities and benefits from surprise attacks. You can sucker punch with some insane damage with this archetype, pick this if you want to be the evil king of backstabs.
To put it plainly, rangers were the weakest class in the player’s handbook. They worked alright, but their capabilities statistically fell short of the other classes. The revised ranger unearthed arcana is essentially mandatory if you want to play a ranger, it completely redesigns some of their weakest abilities and comes with three strong archetypes.
So, it’s not as if there aren’t any extra options for rogues, there are tons of them, but they all seemed to make it into the core books! Check out Xanathars for a literal ton of rogue archetypes.
Some DM’s will panic when they hear the word “Psionic” but here they really just use it for some situational telepathy and some spooky mental spells. With this archetype, your sorcery comes from some unspeakable source and you get all kinds of deep-one themed powers and a decent AC. Grab it if you want to play a sorcerer while praising Cthulhu.
Your ancestor was a giant, and you get a bunch of elemental themed powers based on the type of giant. You can almost think of this as 6 separate archetypes since each giant type gains such different abilities. Your base ability adds HP and each one really cares about your Constitution modifier, so consider these if you want to play a meaty sorcerer.
Fundamentally, if you want to play your warlock like a lich, you pick this archetype. You get a bunch of great abilities to stop yourself or your allies from dying and eventually you essentially become undead.
Do you want to worship Cthulhu? Do you want to summon spectral tentacles from beyond the stars? If so, you want to become a lurker in the deep, a flavorful warlock of the unknowable depths, best suited for aquatic campaigns.
Tank wizard! Grab a couple of swords and dance your squishy wizard self right into the center of combat. Your abilities let you get into the frontline with the best of the fighters while casting special melee cantrips with your sword hits.
You learn the true names of your allies and your enemies, using the primal magic to empower your spellcasting. Grab this if you want to focus on buffing your allies and debuffing your enemies.
This isn’t an artificer, but it’s essentially the wizard version of a mad scientist. You get to cast spells randomly and embrace the madness. It’s also reasonably hardy, give it a go if you want a fairly durable wizard who has no idea what they’re casting.
This is the half-wizard half-cleric archetype. You get to play a wizard with the benefits of a cleric domain. Give it a go if you want both arcane and divine magic, it’d recommend it over trying to multiclass the two.
This is one of the few complete classes that they’ve tried in the unearthed arcana and it comes with a HUGE variety of options. It has some questionable power balancing issues though, so not all DMs will let you play with it. Give it a try though if you want to cobble together magic items and insane inventions.
The mystic has been their test for using psionics in 5e, and the word psionics will send many veteran DMs into a fit of rage. They’ve put it through several iterations for this master of psychic powers, but I’d argue they still haven’t gotten it quite right. I’d advise letting them brew this class a bit longer before giving it a go.
Thinking about other classes? Check out our giant list of D&D 5e Tools and Tips here .
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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