Dungeons & Dragons just got the closest thing possible to a big beta balance update for a game that lives half in printed books and half in your imagination. Though you'll always be able to play the current edition of D&D solely by using the Player's Handbook (or the free basic rules), the creators of the game regularly add new options either in officially published supplement books or through playtest updates called "Unearthed Arcana". The latest of the latter is a doozy.
When you pick a class in D&D, you're saying something fundamental about how your character approaches conflicts - whether that conflict is a shocking accusation at a high-society ball or a fight to the death against an enraged berserker. Unearthed Arcana: Class Feature Variants gives new options to every class in the game, making each one more flexible - and in some cases - more powerful.
Get into the game
Want to play, but not sure how to get into it? Check out our guide on how to start playing D&D!
The biggest changes apply to the Fighter, Ranger, and Warlock classes. Fighters get more abilities for the tactics-minded Battle Master subclass, letting them pick new maneuvers to execute and giving them the chance to swap one out every time they rest for the night. As someone who loves playing Fighters but hates being locked into something that I may never actually use, this is fantastic. Warlocks get several new options that let them support their allies with helpful talismans or by writing their names in their creepy book, or to power up their familiars into more helpful assistants.
Coming in at a full two and a half pages in the 12 page document, Rangers get the most love of any class - and they needed it. Rangers are commonly regarded as the weakest class in D&D's current edition, and the game's creators already put out an entire Unearthed Arcana dedicated just to powering them up in 2016. The new options for Rangers presented in this guide aren't as sweeping, but they're still quite potent: Rangers get more ways to cast spells that enhance their combat potential and their communion with the natural world, and the Beast Master subclass can make their pets more powerful and useful in combat.
Even if you aren't interested in playing those three, every class gets new options to change out spells or skill proficiencies much more frequently. Being able to hone your character concept and reflect that mechanically over time is wonderful, and it's something that a lot of groups house-ruled into their campaigns already. As I said at the top, this is all just playtest material so far, but hopefully it makes its way into an official product soon - I'm excited to try some of it out in D&D Adventurer's League.