Review: The Scholar

Look, I try not to fan boy, but here we are. Benjamin Huffman has returned with another fantastic homebrewed class: The Scholar. This class has been previewed on Huffman’s blog and Patreon, it has been out for a while to those paying attention, but now is ready for prime time. As mentioned in previous posts, Huffman has also released a favorite of my group, the Pugilist. This is the second campaign I have played that has used the Pugilist and we have found it very balanced and fun to play. This makes the Scholar all the more alluring.

Usually with reviews, I go piece by piece of the document in question and discuss my theoretical ideas with it. I will be doing that with the Scholar. However, in my Skull & the Eye campaign we had a recent character death (so long Alek). But his brother, Eduk Karner, had been trying to meet up with him. Where Alek had been the outdoorsy and brash type, Eduk studied and considered his actions carefully. As such, this review will include input from the player of the Karner brothers, Justin, from his first session with the Scholar class.

So up front we get a new class, six archetypes, and two new spells.

To lead off on why the Scholar is worthy to examine, let met address one of my biggest critiques of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition: the lack of Intelligence based classes and it as a ineffective stat (have five languages and an 8 Intelligence, sure!). There is one class, the Wizard, that utilizes Intelligence. If you consider other classes that MIGHT use it, there is Eldritch Knight and Arcane Trickster, but those are pretty specific. With the Artificer being on folks’ minds again, there is going to be another Intelligence based class. Yet it is a caster class. The beauty of the Scholar is that is not a caster class (though some archetypes can cast in very limited fashions) it leverages its Intelligence with advice and analysis in ways beyond just spell casting.

The Scholar Cover
A whole lot of learned folk! Cover art by Daniel Comerci.

So what can this thing do? The Scholar excels in skills, namely that it gets to select three at 1st level, but then it also gets one skill and/or tool proficiencies based on its chosen “Fields of Study,” which are what is subclasses are referred to do. In addition, the Scholar also gets Expertise in that skill too. This is selected at 1st level, which means you should have a good idea going into the build with what kind of Scholar you want. The “Fields of Study” included with the base document are:

  • Culinarian: Harvest monster parts, then cook them up. These alchemist of the common man cook up meals that buff up and enhance those that consume them.
  • Diplomat: A charmer with words, but also soothe others that may be overly hostile and threatening. Probably the most versatile of the subclasses.
  • Physician: Fast to provide first aid, an absolute combat medic. Able to make hit dice usage much more efficient. Can also do Resuscitating Procedure, providing a non-spell like effect version of revivify.
  • Ritualist: A low tier spell caster, but one that can take up the study of rituals from any class list of spells. Furthermore, this is by far a master of spell scrolls, able to produce and use them from any class.
  • Tactician: Uses brains over brawn for martial arts, this probably comes closest to the Warlord from 4E. Being able to use your bonus action to let your allies take extra attacks or reposition themselves on the battlefield.
  • Theologian: The other spell casting subclass, this one gains access to cleric spells based on a domain they have chosen as part of their “Daily Devotion.”

Scholar is light on weapons and armors, but they have three key features that make them excellent team players:

The first is Sage Advice. This is similar to Bardic Inspiration, but instead when an ally makes an ability check, attack roll, or saving throw, you an allow them to add your proficiency bonus to the check. The Scholar can use this a number of times equal to their Intelligence modifier. I think of this is a perfect middled Bardic Inspiration and it is utilized throughout the subclasses as a resource.

For the Scholar’s own usage is Analyze Enemy, which is what sets them apart. This allows the Scholar to use a bonus action to “size up an enemy” within 60 feet. When doing so, the Scholar can now use their Intelligence modifier for attacks and damage instead of Strength or Dexterity. At higher levels, the Scholar does an extra d10 damage too.

The last core ability are the Erudite Applications. These are similar to the Warlock’s Eldritch Invocations, as they are small abilities that you can pick and choose, but some have prerequisites of either level or subclasses.

Beyond that there is one sweet ability the Scholar gets at 6th level, Quick Study. This allows the Scholar after finishing a long rest to pick a single skill or tool to gain proficiency until they choose to use Quick Study again. I know from my own experience, I have personally done this a few times: brushing up enough on a skill to utilize it for a brief amount of time then forgetting further down the line.

Overall, the quality of this class is fantastic in that it is not overly powerful, supportive, and, much like Huffman’s other classes, gives the player a variety of options not just in terms of character creation but also in how they are played.

Now for something a bit different, and actual play response from one of my players, Justin. Justin’s character had died in the previous session and we thought having him play Alek’s nerdier/bookish brother would been keen. However, he wanted something besides a Wizard or even Artificer…

Eduk Karner consults his atlas of Oesel before venturing south to find his brother.

I just played my first session with my level nine Scholar, Eduk. The mechanics of the build, even though I went with one of the options that has spells, made for an incredibly unique experience. The mixture of skills, low level spells, and buffs makes you feel extremely useful on the battlefield, without making you an overpowered show-stealer. Out of combat, having an Intelligence-based class that isn’t a pure caster opens up a lot of interesting role-playing options. In game, Eduk is actually going to talk about the physical things magic users are doing to the universe, and that with enough practice and study, you can learn to create those same effects without inherent magical skill. In Eduk’s words, “Birds fly with wings they grew. A man can fly with a balloon he builds.”

And here is Eduk’s character sheet. We made a few errors (forgot a cantrip!) but should give you an insight into the class and its capabilities.

Eduk (scholar) v2_Page_1
Eduk’s first page. The separate values on the attacks are based on whether or not Eduk has Analyze Enemy up or not. Also, we use house ruled humans and character creation.
Eduk (scholar) v2_Page_2.png
Back of the sheet. Note the selection of Erudite Applications alongside Feats. Lots of flexibility with the Scholar. (FYI, we forgot to include one more cantrip)

As a Dungeon Master, I look forward to playing more with Eduk at my table. The other players loved him, as he was helpful but also was not just a powerhouse, but got things done. In fact, Eduk through his vast knowledge of legends and lore was able to identify the origins of a Death Knight the party encountered, potentially providing them a route to overcome such a threat in the future. Overtime I think Eduk’s adaptability and diverse set of skills will be heavily utilized.

Prices of DMsGuild materials have been a hot topic with lots of debate. Overall, I have noticed a wide span of prices for varying levels of quality and quantity of content. The Scholar weighs in at $2.95. This is an apt price for a full blown class with six subclasses. In addition, one thing that Huffman did with the Puglist and Magus classes is offer previews, that is free versions of the full documents that contain only two of the subclasses, along with limited spells and other options. The Scholar will do the same. As someone raised on shareware, this is an excellent mechanism for exposure. If you want to know how to deploy a product on DMs Guild without pricing yourself out of it, this is the way to do so!

What do you think of the Scholar class? Or do you have a piece on you want me to review? Hit me up on Twitter @ OnlyPlayWizards