How We Built A (Remarkably Unarmoured) Party Using D&D’s Unearthed Arcana

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Wizards of the Coast has been quite busy over the last few months, releasing weekly Unearthed Arcana articles that have presented everything from DM tools, new subclasses and entirely new classes. We’ve been covering these articles for some time because, as a D&D fan, I find the entire idea fascinating. D&D is a game that is made better by having more options. With more options, it means that players can always play EXACTLY the kind of character they imagine. This definitely improves enjoyment while still harnessing the simplicity of 5E’s simple and elegant system.

I thought it would be fun to create a party of 1st level characters using ONLY the Unearthed Arcana rules for classes (where possible) and subclasses.  One caveat: Unearthed Arcana rules are presented for playtesting only but some of these rules are so unique and cool, I really can’t help myself. It goes without saying, that you should clear any of these characters with your DM before you just show up. Also, don’t expect any of these characters to pass muster at an Adventurer’s League game. These are fun characters, designed for private games and making use of some of the incredibly cool options available through UA.

To start, 6 attributes were rolled using a random dice roller, using the 4D6, drop lowest rules found on page 13 of the Player’s Handbook, though the stats below themselves are mostly used for illustrative purposes. Each character used the same stats. I really wanted to show how the same numbers, applied differently, will create drastically different results.

The 6 attribute scores I have to work with are: 13 – 11 – 17 – 14 – 11 – 9


I know that Barbarians only choose their Primal Path at level 3, but I like to create characters with a plan for their subclass. I love this path for how well it allows a character to protect their party, while also dealing damage in the way that only a Barbarian can. Before slotting my stats into the appropriate places, I have to choose a race. As Barbarians really want to maximize their Constitution and Strength, I am going to choose a Mountain Dwarf. Choosing the Dwarf race gives me a +2 to my Constitution and I must also choose a sub-race. Mountain Dwarf gets an additional +2 to their Strength. So with that selected, let’s look at my stats.

Constitution (19) -> Dexterity (14) -> Strength (15) -> Charisma (11) -> Wisdom (11) -> Intelligence (9)

I chose this particular breakdown so that I can maximize my Unarmored Defense ability. At level 1, without a shield, my base AC is 16. As soon as I equip a shield, that goes up to an impressive 18. I would have liked to give the 14 to my strength and modify it to a 16 for a +3 modifier but I think that stacking AC is a bit more important, especially because a Barbarian gets a bonus to damage when they are in a rage.

For starting equipment, I would forego the two-handed great axe (despite its amazing D12 damage) and go for a warhammer. As a Dwarf, you have proficiency with it and thanks to its versatile ability, you can wield it 2-handed for the D10 damage until you get your hands on a shield which helps your AC. If you select the great axe, you don’t have a solid weapon option for when you get a shield. Stick with the two handaxes as they can be used as thrown weapons, in addition to the javelins you start with.

With your skill proficiencies, choose Intimidation (for more roleplay options) and Perception. For your background, take Outlander which also confers proficiency in Athletics and Survival. If you need ideas for your characters motivations, feel free to roll off the Outlander suggestions.

Relevant Unearthed Arcana is found here.


Unlike Barbarians, Artificers choose their specialization at level 1. The Gunsmith is exactly what it sounds like: a gun-wielding adventurer. By selecting this subclass at level 1, you gain a Thunder Cannon and the ability to create your own ammunition for it. The Thunder Cannon’s damage is an impressive 2D6 and as soon as you hit 3rd level, you can always choose to further increase the damage. Because the Thunder Cannon is a ranged weapon, Dexterity is the main stat used for attack rolls and Intelligence is your casting stat once you earn enough levels to learn spells. For the Artificer, I am choosing an Elf for +2 to my Dexterity and further choosing the subrace of High Elf for a further +1 to my Intelligence. This creates a pretty clear picture for the stats:

Dexterity (19) -> Intelligence (15) -> Constitution (13) -> Charisma (11) -> Wisdom (11) -> Strength (9)

With this breakdown I have an impressive +6 to hit with my Thunder Cannon at level 1, a respectable +4 on their spell attack rolls and a useful +1 hit point every time they level thanks to the Constitution modifier.

For starting equipment, honestly, most of the options don’t really apply as you are going to want to hang back and unload with your Thunder Cannon. As such, grab the Light Crossbow, handaxe and light hammer. Or feel free to swap the handaxe and light hammer for something you feel fits your character a bit better. For your armour, it feels unintuitive but I would forego the Scale Mail and choose Studded Leather. The reason for this is because Scale Mail caps your Dex bonus to +2 and with your +4 already, the AC for both comes out to the same 16 but with Studded Leather, your AC will improve to 17 when you max your Dexterity to 20 (which you should do at level 4). Not to mention the fact that Scale Mail confers disadvantage on stealth and with such a high Dexterity AND Thieve’s Tools, you might be wanting to use your Stealth abilities.

Artificers get three skills to choose for proficiency and should take the background of Guild Artisan (obviously). Guild Artisan provides proficiencies in Insight and Persuasion. For the others, you should select Sleight of Hand, Investigation and Arcana.

Relevant Unearthed Arcana is found here.


Since covering the Mystic, I have been hoping my current Wizard to die in my current campaign so I can roll one up. Like the Artificer, you choose your Mystic Order at Level 1. Selecting this Mystic Order at level 1 gives a couple of additional psionic disciplines and gives you the Barbarian’s Unarmored Defense ability, with the only caveat that you don’t gain the Constitution modifier added to your AC if you are wielding a shield and you gain 1 additional hit point every time you earn a level. Mystics are an interesting class and because of the Order of the Immortal’s reliance on Constitution to improve it’s AC, a Mystic ends up using more attributes than most classes. This makes the Human a fantastic choice for your budding Mystic. Humans add 1 to each of their attributes and we’re looking at a distribution like this:

Constitution (18) -> Intelligence (15) -> Strength -> (14) -> Dexterity (12) -> Charisma (12) -> Wisdom (10)

With your Constitution conferring a +4 modifier and your Dexterity conferring a +1, you have a fairly impressive AC of 15, which will further be boosted with a Psionic Discipline (covered later) for an AC of 16. You’ll notice that this is the same AC as the Barbarian starts with, the trade off being that you will not get to equip a shield and your hit dice is a D8, instead of a D12 so the Barbarian will quickly outpace you in terms of hit points. Intelligence is the casting stat for a Mystic which is why it gets second billing, although a lot of the Order of the Immortal Psionic Disciplines don’t rely on Intelligence so it’s there for when you start branching out into additional disciplines.

When selecting your starting equipment, it’s important to keep in mind what a Mystic of the Order of the Immortal is going to play like. For the most part, they want to be in the thick of things, using their Psionic Disciplines to boost your armour, damage, or even provide some spot healing. With that in mind, choose the spear as it is versatile and can be wielded 2-handed for additional damage, or even thrown if you’re really in a bad spot but I wouldn’t recommend it. Since you are foregoing armour, I would select the Studded Leather so you can sell it for some easy cash (or work with your DM to find something more appropriate for your class) and definitely take the Light Crossbow. The spear is easily the best simple weapon for you and having a ranged weapon means you aren’t ever going to be tempted to throw your spear at something(one).

For Psionic Disciplines, you can choose one from any Order and two must be selected from the Order of the Immortal. With that being said, there are 3 Order of the Immortal Disciplines that are must haves and both help you at level 1 and scale with you as you earn levels and learn new disciplines. Brute Force is great because it allows you to push up your melee damage and scales with you. Iron Durability is your go-to and the Psionic Discipline that you will always be spending your Psychic Focus on. This psychic focus confers a +1 bonus to AC, and you even have a scalable “Shield” spell that allows you to spend Psi Points as a reaction to improve your AC until the start of end of your next turn. Finally, Psionic Restoration is a healing discipline and having some back pocket healing potential is ALWAYS a good thing.

For your Psionic Talent, Mind Meld is a great choice because there are times where communicating with your party is incredibly important and sometimes discretion can only be guaranteed through telepathy.

Mystics are not common in the world of D&D and the study required to unlock the potential of your mind to this degree is intense. As such, Hermit is one of the only backgrounds that make a lot of sense. This gives you proficiency in both Medicine and Religion. For the two additional skills granted by the Mystic class, I would suggest Insight and Perception.

Relevant Unearthed Arcana is found here.


A Monk of the Way of Tranquility is a fantastically fun class to play. The Way of Tranquility are pacifists and abhor violence. That isn’t to say they will not engage in violence and combat, only that it is a last resort. Like a Barbarian, Monastic Traditions are selected at 3rd level but you should plan on this tradition when you start. Monks use Dexterity as their primary stat and Wisdom to fuel some of your Ki Feats. As Wisdom is a passive ability, I actually think the Halfling is a great fit for a Monk of this Monastic Tradition. You trade the +1 Wisdom modifier of a Wood Elf, but instead gain Lucky and by choosing Stout as a subclass, gain a +1 to your Constitution. Your stats should end up looking like this:

Dexterity (19) -> Wisdom (14) -> Constitution (14) -> Charisma (11) -> Strength (11) -> Intelligence (9)

With these stats, your monk has an unarmored defense of 16, as it is 10 + Dexterity modifier (+4) + Wisdom modifier (+2). Thanks to your improved Constitution, you will also earn an additional +2 hit points every time you level.

For starting equipment, select the Quarterstaff as a simple weapon, instead of the short sword. Because it is a simple weapon that does not have the two-handed or heavy property, you are able to treat it as a monk weapon and use your Dexterity bonus instead of your strength bonus for attack and damage rolls.Versatile also allows you to wield it two-handed for the additional damage over a short sword.

Like a Mystic, hermit is a great background choice for your Monk. Monasteries are not known or reputed to be entirely worldly. As before, this grants proficiency in both Medicine and Religion. For the two additional skills granted by the Monk class, I would choose Acrobatics and Stealth as they are both Dexterity based skills and your Dexterity is…impressive.

Relevant Unearthed Arcana is found here.

If you want to roll these characters, we’ve made up character sheets for them, or you can roll your own stats and tweak our builds yourself. The character sheets need your backstory, alignment, name, and since I have never had a DM who likes the equipment granted by your background, that is intentionally left off. If your DM likes it, it’s a quick add.

What Unearthed Arcana class or subclass is your favourite? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits: Wizards of the Coast

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