the Scholar Class, Levels 1 – 10

The first draft of the first 5 levels of the Scholar was published on the Sterling Vermin Adventuring Co. blog in early July. Around the same time we also created a first draft of the first 5 levels of the Magus and, after revising both, we allowed our Patreon backers to vote on which class we would develop. The Magus won in a landslide. That might have been the end of it except that, ever since then, we’ve gotten messages every single time we updated the Magus, asking if and when we would return to the Scholar. Our patrons made it clear they wanted us to get back to work on it too – so here we are.

Since the previous draft of the Scholar there was a feature that combined the new Critical Analysis and Sage Advice features in a way I think was kind of confusing or, at least, not straightforward. Erudite Applications have continued to undergo some fine tuning to ensure there are no “must haves” and to retain the theme of the Scholar as a non-magical but exceptionally intelligent individual. Finally, the previous draft of the Scholar only went to level 5 so all features 6th level and higher are new to this draft.

the Scholar Class, Levels 1 – 10

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6 thoughts on “the Scholar Class, Levels 1 – 10

  1. I’m so happy to see a Scholar update! An excellent holiday gift.

    There’s a lot of really good work here, but I think several areas in the document might be a bit too powerful, especially 2nd level and 9th level, and I believe the Scholar gets too many Erudite Applications.

    From here, I’ll just go in the order everything appears.

    1) There are several instances of “proficiency modifier” in the file. I know you usually try to stay as close to PHB wording as possible, so each instance of that should be replaced with “proficiency bonus.”

    2) Level 1 is really solid. It provides a lot of useful features, but none of them are too crazy. I especially like Reasoned Defense since almost all of the decent simple weapons require Strength, so it’s nice to be able to do a Scholar build that doesn’t require investing in Dex. Expertise and Critical Analysis are also really nice things for the Scholar to have.

    3) I think the Scholar simply gets too many powerful features at level 2. Starting with Erudite Applications, I first have a question: is the intention that an application can be chosen any number of times? The Warlock’s Eldritch Invocations don’t specify that, but all of the Invocations confer little to no benefit if taken a second time because of the way they are worded. The Applications, in some cases, confer massive benefit from taking them a second and further times, such as the Bonus Feat, Bonus Proficiency, and More Well Educated Applications. Additionally, each of the Erudite Applications is extremely powerful, especially Bonus Feat. In most cases, a feat can only be taken by forgoing a statistics increase, but, with the current wording, the Scholar can take two feats at level 2 AND gain more features. I think that needs to be tuned down, and here are my suggestions for how to do that: reduce the number of Applications gained at each level and/or make it so any particular Application can only be chosen a single time, reduce Sage Advice to recharging only on long rests until level 5 (since advantage is very powerful, especially when the recipient can choose what to use the advantage on), and eliminate Well Educated entirely (I think it just works better as an Application, and just seems too strong to me to be included with everything else the Scholar gets at level 2). All of the Erudite Applications are extremely cool and each is a very attractive option, so I’d rather that they and Sage Advice get more spotlight at this level, rather than Well Educated. This level, as it stands, just gives the Scholar too much.

    4) I like Iron Will a lot. Charisma isn’t too powerful an extra saving throw, but it is extremely useful in certain scenarios. I also like the flavor and mechanics behind Keen Mind.

    5) I think Doctor’s Order might be too strong at level 3. I don’t mind the initial healing, but the extra temporary hit points makes it a bit too strong at early levels. For example, when the Physician uses it on a Barbarian (who usually has at least +3 ConMod alongside a Scholar’s probably +3 IntMod), that’s an action to restore 18 HP, which is more powerful than most 2nd-level Cure Wounds castings already, and most people care so little for their hit dice that a use of this feature has a negligible cost. Even if it’s only 3 temp HP at 3rd level, a functional restoration of 21 HP (or even 11-15 off a d6 hit die) as an action with nearly no cost and an insane number of uses (2-3 per party member) per long rest is really strong. Perhaps the temporary HP part can be removed at 3rd level and added back in with a later-level feature.

    6) I really like Resuscitating Procedure, but I think Rejuvenating Technique could be too good, though I have no way to know that for sure without testing it in-game. I do think that getting both at the same level is a little bonkers, though.

    7) I don’t think Tactician should gain proficiency with martial weapons. Historically, tacticians call out orders from the backlines safely in a tent, so I feel that gaining shields helps sell the idea of extra protection, but I don’t feel as though martial weapons serve the fantasy, and I think it may cause this subclass to deal too much damage at early levels.

    8) Speaking of too much damage, I think Tactician’s Orders is crazy broken. I can tell that the idea is to make the Scholar choose whether to use Sage Advice or Tactician’s Orders each turn, but being able to take a full action and also allowing an ally to make an extra attack seems too good, especially if there’s a barbarian in the party. I truly think that Tactician’s Orders should be a full action to use (and then combining Tactician’s Orders with Sage Advice feels like a cool and worthwhile interaction). Either that, or perhaps make this feature have limited uses.

    9) In the same frame, Rallying Surge is INSANELY powerful. More than anything else in this document, this should be a full action to use, especially given that the Scholar can target itself with the ability, as well as each of its allies. This ability, by itself, feels like it can just end a boss fight. It feels like it could make one fight a day entierly trivial, meaning it promotes a party mindset that they should just get into one fight a day and then call it. There should really be a limit to how many creatures can be targeted by this ability, in addition to it costing a full action; my gut instinct is to limit the number of targets to half the Scholar’s proficiency bonus.

    10) Warlord’s Rush also seems quite powerful, even though it can only be used once per rest. A mass reposition that ignores attacks of opportunity is really worthy of taking up an entire level, as there are many circumstances in which just such a thing is useful: chasing a fleeing enemy that the party can’t afford to let live, helping the party escape an unwinnable fight, repositioning to a favorable position in an ambush, giving injured party members the opportunity to get to safety while still contributing in combat for one more turn, putting the tank in a better position to prevent a huge threat from getting to the backline, etc. If this feature were more niche, I could see it being at the same level as another feature, but it’s too ubiquitously useful for that.

    11) The Erudite Applications, individually, are awesome, and I love that the prerequisites are almost all proficiency with certain skills. It’s super flavorful, and feels really good for a class that really likes gaining extra proficiencies. However, I think the Scholar gets too many Applications at early levels. Most of them are more powerful than the Warlock’s Eldritch Invocations, and the Scholar gets more Applications at earlier levels than a Warlock gets its Invocations.

    Overall, I really like the lore of this class, and the mechanical way the lore ideas are being sold. My main critiques, though, are that certain features are too strong, and certain levels just give too much (in particular, 2, 3, and 9). I’m very happy, though, that you decided to continue developing the class, and I look forward to its continued evolution.

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    1. While I do agree that this class is overtuned and quite strong for what it does, and it does need to be turned down. I don’t think such extreme measures or levers need to be pulled to bring it into line the class is in an open playtest after all. I’m not a fan of how anemic the magus turned out and I don’t think this class deserves the same fate.

      I’m just going to direct reply on certain talking points I felt relevant.

      3)
      I do agree with your point on Erudite Applications some of them are far too strong or some of them are a bonus feat. Which should not be a thing at all. A bonus feat is a huge point of contention with me as a player and I’m sure since feats are an optional rule it would not mesh well with most play. Perhaps refining the applications would be a better alternative then a feat. I don’t think well Educated is something insane, it can be replicated with some low level spells or earned at higher level spells, it’s a solid feature but more leaning toward a ribbon then anything else, I wouldn’t touch it.

      7)
      The theme of tactician seem’s to be that of a frontline warrior who aids his allies in combat. I am hard pressed to see a d6 turning into a d8 be something unbalancing. Even if the tacitican goes for something like a greatsword they take a decent hit to AC and are forced to drop dex.

      8) Speaking of too much damage, I think Tactician’s Orders is crazy broken. I can tell that the idea is to make the Scholar choose whether to use Sage Advice or Tactician’s Orders each turn, but being able to take a full action and also allowing an ally to make an extra attack seems too good, especially if there’s a barbarian in the party. I truly think that Tactician’s Orders should be a full action to use (and then combining Tactician’s Orders with Sage Advice feels like a cool and worthwhile interaction). Either that, or perhaps make this feature have limited uses.
      Tactician’s orders is in line with an always on commander’s strike. The commander’s strike recharges on a short rest and eats up one attack. While it might seem crazy, especially hearing how it bends the action economy it takes up a reaction, and a bonus action. Reactions are valuable especially to classes like the rogue, I don’t think the barbarian is really the worst offender here, and I think that a class that devotes itself to aiding allies should be able to replicate the extra attack from haste (a third level spell) just fine.

      9) In the same frame, Rallying Surge is INSANELY powerful. More than anything else in this document, this should be a full action to use, especially given that the Scholar can target itself with the ability, as well as each of its allies. This ability, by itself, feels like it can just end a boss fight. It feels like it could make one fight a day entierly trivial, meaning it promotes a party mindset that they should just get into one fight a day and then call it. There should really be a limit to how many creatures can be targeted by this ability, in addition to it costing a full action; my gut instinct is to limit the number of targets to half the Scholar’s proficiency bonus.
      Rallying surge should be edited in some frame to be brought into line, either by having it consume your allies reactions or consume your turn, I think it should represent everyone going all in, even so the damage it can inflict is insane, and I’d probabally like to see it reduced to only one attack or one second level spell. Even then it would be strong.

      10) Warlord’s Rush also seems quite powerful, even though it can only be used once per rest. A mass reposition that ignores attacks of opportunity is really worthy of taking up an entire level, as there are many circumstances in which just such a thing is useful: chasing a fleeing enemy that the party can’t afford to let live, helping the party escape an unwinnable fight, repositioning to a favorable position in an ambush, giving injured party members the opportunity to get to safety while still contributing in combat for one more turn, putting the tank in a better position to prevent a huge threat from getting to the backline, etc. If this feature were more niche, I could see it being at the same level as another feature, but it’s too ubiquitously useful for that.
      Warlord’s rush is similar to a few powers from 4e, again you should compare it to to the equivlant spellcaster level of resources. A wizard could use their action to create a wall and block off half the encounter, whats so wrong about a martial class being able to move his allies around? It’s restricted already and a very cool feature.
      11) The Erudite Applications, individually, are awesome, and I love that the prerequisites are almost all proficiency with certain skills. It’s super flavorful, and feels really good for a class that really likes gaining extra proficiencies. However, I think the Scholar gets too many Applications at early levels. Most of them are more powerful than the Warlock’s Eldritch Invocations, and the Scholar gets more Applications at earlier levels than a Warlock gets its Invocations.
      I agree here erudite applications should be compared to eldritch invocations and follow the same per level scaling of them, if only to set a standard.

      Overall, I really like the lore of this class, and the mechanical way the lore ideas are being sold. My main critiques, though, are that certain features are too strong, and certain levels just give too much (in particular, 2, 3, and 9). I’m very happy, though, that you decided to continue developing the class, and I look forward to its continued evolution.

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      1. I’m glad you replied, Dom! I love engaging in debate about homebrews.

        To address your first concept that open playtests don’t need to be pulled into line to any sort of extreme, I must respectfully disagree. As a person who does a lot of homebrewing myself, I prefer to get intensive feedback on potentially overpowered or abusable aspects as early in the process as possible so I can better allocate my power budget and eradicate abusive interactions moving forward. I also disagree that the Magus is anemic, as it is still quite powerful with some very dynamic and fun features, though this is a matter of opinion, so to each their own.

        I will respond to the rest of your points directly.

        3) My point with Well Educated is not that it is too strong; it is not. In fact, I find the feature incredibly flavorful and fun. My point in this section is that too much seems to be packed in to level 2, especially with how strong the Erudite Applications are.

        7) I agree that a d6 becoming a d8 is not too abusive. However, a Scholar does not take a significant AC dip by dropping Dex unless they are building around the Unarmored Defense Application. The 1st-level feature Reasoned Defense allows the Scholar to use Intelligence instead of Dexterity when calculation AC. So a d6 becoming 2d6, when combined with the other Warlord features, is potentially very unbalanced at level 3. My primary gripe with 3rd-level Warlord, though, is Tactician’s Orders, which I’ll address below. Proficiency with martial weapons and shields is definitely is not the problem.

        8) There are a couple of points I’d like to rebut in your response to this one. First, an always-on Commander’s Strike that costs fewer resources is extremely strong. Commander’s Strike carries a resource cost and a large opportunity cost (costing a maneuver known slot, a superiority die that could have been used on something else, a bonus action, and a reaction). Given that the bonus damage is roughly the same between the two features, the fact that Tactician’s Orders only has an opportunity cost of the Scholar’s bonus action with no resource cost means that it is much more powerful than Commander’s Strike.

        Second, I agree that this feature is roughly comparable to a weaker Haste spell, which happens to be one of my favorite spells in 5th edition. Haste is a 3rd-level spell, though we can perhaps downgrade the analysis to a 2nd-level spell due to the other benefits of Haste not being present. 2nd-level spells can be cast twice by full casters at level 3. So, equating concentration with requiring a bonus action each turn, let’s assume this “2nd-level Haste” effect lasts a minute, which will usually last for a full combat at early levels. If the Scholar fights in even 3 combats in a single day, which is not uncommon, Tactician’s Orders has already been more powerful than our “2nd-level Haste”, and would cost fewer valuable resources (since 2nd-level spells are quite valuable at level 3).

        On top of the fact that this feature is strictly better than Commander’s Strike and, in certain relatively common scenarios, is stronger than the “2nd-level Haste”, you are correct in saying that a Sneak Attacking rogue likes this feature even more than a barbarian does. All of it adds up to this feature simply being too strong in its current form, especially with a full action being usable alongside it each turn.

        10) I entirely agree that Warlord’s Rush is awesome, balanced, and incredibly fun. My point in this section is that this feature is way too cool and useful to be added at the same level as something else, especially something as strong as Rallying Surge. I’d love to see Warlord’s Rush spotlighted in its own level. Rallying Surge could perhaps be granted as a later-level feature.

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  2. Thanks for responding, I appreciate the conversation. I still don’t agree with your asessment of the magus, but this is not the spot for that dialogue. I do think design is better with features put into place and then edited up and down the power spectrum. This helps classes keep their identity throughout the process.

    I have some responses of my own as well,

    3) The erudite the applications are only in my opinion too strong if you take the extra feat erudite application, for the most part I was hard pressed to find one that was strictly better then a warlock’s invocations aside from keen senses and survival skills. Again if you compare them to the warlock I find they mostly fall in line, with invocations. (barring the extra feat which will need to be removed entirely)

    7) A third level scholar with 16 int and 16 strength has an ac of 15 in light armor, at the max they will ever have is 17. Their defences don’t offer any real protection beside that, I think anyone who runs into melee with a greatsword and low ac as well as mediocore hp, is begging to get killed.

    8) Your right a staple class feature is stronger then a nuanced pick provided by a single use of superiority die. A fighter does get atleast 3 other maneuvers. I don’t see the tactician getting comparable combat options to a fighter, I think the balance there is in specilization. One class is dedicated to giving out extra attacks the other dabbles in it.

    While I do believe the ability should be gated in some fashion perhaps like bardic inspiration is, I do not believe it should be an entire turn of use in the action economy, outside of niche cases like the rogue or the paladin, you are giving up your turn for an attack that someone gets twice a turn. I do think it should be on limited uses until 5th level were the ability should recharge on short rests.

    10) I believe there was a mixup on where to place warlords rush when examining the field of study feature I found this.

    At 3rd level, you commit yourself to a field of study of
    your choice: physician or tactician, both detailed at the
    end of the class description. Your field of study grants
    you features at 3rd level and then again at 7th, 14th, and
    20th level.

    I don’t think warlords rush should be a 9th level feature either. But I do think there was a mixup in where to place it, clearly level seven is using a class feature but 9 is barren. I suspect one of the two level 9 features will need to move to level 14 in later playtest documents.

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    1. 3) Totally agreed on the removal of the Bonus Feat Application. Other applications that you didn’t mention but that are still quite strong, though, include Clean Living (damage resistance to a common damage type and advantage on a relatively common saving throw for 8 hours each day for potentially the entire party), Discerning Character (always-on advantage on saving throws against an entire school of spells with a bonus), Eldritch Lore (which is basically two different 1st-level spells for no cost but time, and those particular spells generally aren’t used in combat anyway), and First Aid (very nearly Lesser Restoration, a 2nd-level spell, but with no cost). If these, Survival Skills, and Keen Senses were locked behind a level requirement, they’d be perfectly fine, but they’re a bit too strong for level 2.

      7) The closest comparison to your 15 AC with mediocre health example would be rogues. Melee rogues, granted that they have the tools to survive the front lines, get by just fine. And with the right party composition, a Strength-based melee Warlord Scholar could deal so much damage at level 3 that the combat could be over quickly enough that the HP won’t matter as much. I agree that a Dex-based build with the Unarmored Defense Application is definitely the superior build in terms of safety and overall usefulness, but my point was to argue that the potential damage of this option could be unbalanced at level 3.

      8) I 100% agree that a good change on Tactician’s Orders would be gating it to a certain number of times per long rest until level 5, when it becomes a short rest. I’d be totally cool with it being a bonus action if that were to become the case.

      10) Yeah, now that you mention it, the class progression table doesn’t match up with the description of the Field of Study features except at 3rd level.

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    2. Also, I just realized how extremely appropriate it is for us to be having a scholarly debate about the features of a class called the Scholar.

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