November 2018 Official Errata Review

The newest set of revisions by Jeremy Crawford have been released, and they certainly include some interesting changes. We at Dungeon Master’s Workshop have perused the errata and put together a guide to help you navigate the revisions. Check out the good, the bad, and the ugly below.

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The Good

As usual, let’s start off with the good news.

It’s Harder to Get Disintegrated [PHB] 

Spellcasting
Disintegrate (p. 233). The last sentence of the second paragraph now reads, “The target is disintegrated if this damage leaves it with 0 hit points.”

This is a pretty important change, as up to this point the spell had conflicts with various features such as a druid’s wild shape and a half-orc’s Relentless Endurance. Now, a druid whose animal form was hit by a disintegrate spell will, if reduced to 0 hit points, go to their regular shape before they are disintegrated. Likewise, the half-orc gets their last chance at survival, the raging barbarian can shake it off, et cetera.

Guaranteed Hit Point Increase on Level Up [PHB]

Step-by-Step Characters 
Beyond 1st Level (p. 15). In the first sentence of the third paragraph, “add the total” is now “add the total (minimum of 1).”

This one has been a very polarizing issue for well over a year. On the one hand, you have the Old School gamers who will happily tell you all about how “back in the day” their character had to fight orcs all the way to the treasure (uphill, both ways), as though somehow the depths of old editions’ inferiority is something to be lauded, and really not making any good case for losing hp on level up aside from “It used to be worse”. On the other hand, you have the people who are either new to the game or who always found it to be stupid that you could get weaker as you got stronger. Maybe this isn’t really the most objective comparison, but there’s really not a whole lot that can be said in defence of those folk who see it as no problem when their low-Constitution character dies after a fight wherein he may not even have been touched, as though the strain of the pieces of a new spell falling into place or finally refining a new stabbing technique drove his body over the edge.

Now, maybe we have an older version of the Player’s Handbook, but there seems to be something wrong with this erratum. Namely, the sentence that is being modified is actually the second sentence of the third paragraph, not the first. Maybe this erratum itself needs an erratum?

Class Spells Are Tied To Class Spell Slots [PHB]

Bard 
Spell Slots (p. 53). In the first sentence, “your spells” is now “your bard spells.”

This verbiage has been added to each spellcasting class, so that the sentence reads in full: “The [Class] table shows how many spell slots you have to cast your [class] spells”. This may seem superfluous for single-class casters—after all, what other spells is a single-class cleric going to cast with her spell slots?—but it is an important step of putting to bed the frustrating argument about multiclass spellcasting that is consistently put forward by petulant minmaxers who can’t read as well as they think they can.

If you’re uncertain what we are referring to, the common example is a 16th-level wizard taking one level of cleric and claiming they can cast true resurrection, a 9th-level cleric spell, because they have a 9th-level spell slot thanks to being a multiclass spellcaster. The rules already preclude this because the multiclass spellcasting section specifically says you must learn and prepare spells for each class as though you were only that class, and so a 1st-level cleric would only be able to prepare 1st-level cleric spells because at 1st level, those are the only spell slots the Cleric table says she has access to. It’s only after learning/preparing spells that a multiclass spellcaster can use whatever spell slots they have to cast whatever spells they can.

This erratum specifically removes the single, splintered leg of the stool on which the minmaxers have thus far tried to balance. Please, please stop trying to argue this. It doesn’t work. It never worked. It never will work.

If you are still confused about how multiclass spellcasting works, we wrote an article to explain it, which you can find here.

The Polearm Master Feat Applies to Spears [PHB]

Feats 
Polearm Master (p. 168). A second sentence has been added to the first benefit: “This attack uses the same ability modifier as the primary attack.”
Both instances of “or quarterstaff” have been changed to “quarterstaff, or spear.”

Our fellow historians rejoice, the spear is now accorded its proper due as a polearm and can benefit from the Polearm Master feat… as should have been the case in the first printing.

A Ranger’s Animal Companion is (Slightly) Less Useless [PHB]

Ranger 
Exceptional Training (p. 93). “Dodge,” has been deleted. Another sentence has been added: “In addition, the beast’s attacks now count as magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage.”

While a ranger’s pet is still a useless bag of hit points at higher levels, at least its relevance has been extended slightly into mid-level play by allowing its attacks to affect creatures with standard versions of physical damage resistance. We actually added this benefit to the ranger class in our house rules shortly after Fifth Edition came out, so we probably like this a little more than we should.

The Bad

On to some errata which frustrate us.

A Rank Amateur and a Mighty Archmage Use a Magic Item Equally [DMG]

Chapter 7 
Spells (p. 141). In the second sentence, “lowest possible spell level” is now “lowest possible spell and caster level.”

This is more of a nitpick on our part because the only items we’re familiar with that cast cantrips (at least, out of those that are in the core books) are the ring of shooting stars and the Fochlucan bandore, and both of those items only cast cantrips that don’t improve at higher levels (dancing lightslight, and shillelagh). But we don’t care, we think this is dumb. We also think it’s dumb that any item that requires attunement to a spellcaster ever has its own spell save DC instead of using that of the caster that it’s attuned to, but that’s a whole other can of worms that goes back to how magic is envisioned in D&D.

The Ugly

And let’s wrap up with the worst of the bunch.

Contagion Is Still Terrible [PHB]

Spells 
Contagion (p. 227). The last sentence of the first paragraph now reads, “On a hit, the target is poisoned.” The second paragraph now reads, “At the end of each of the poisoned target’s turns, the target must make a Constitution saving throw. If the target succeeds on three of these saves, it is no longer poisoned, and the spell ends. If the target fails three of these saves, the target is no longer poisoned, but choose one of the diseases below. The target is subjected to the chosen disease for the spell’s duration.”

There have always been two ways to run this spell. Either the effects started immediately and only dissipated after three successful saves, which meant that “Slimy Doom” was the go-to option because it applied disadvantage on the saving throw type that corresponded to this spell and also turned the target into a useless punching bag in the mean time; or the effects only came into play after three failed saves, which meant you were waiting three to five rounds for a spell slot you expended to possibly cause something.

Neither option was appealing. The former was overpowered, the latter seemed like a waste. And the addition of the poisoned condition to the mix doesn’t make it worth the spell slot. There are other ways with lower spell slots to reliably impose disadvantage on attack rolls and have other immediate benefits. We don’t foresee many people taking this spell in the future.

This erratum makes sense from the perspective of a game designer who doesn’t want to completely rewrite the spell, but unfortunately a rewrite is exactly what is needed. We encourage people to consider our revision, which can be found in Arcane Emporium, vol. 7. It’s not RAW, but it’s also not a waste of a spell slot.

Dying Makes You Feel Better [PHB]

Appendix A: Conditions
Exhaustion (p. 291). The following sentence is appended to the last paragraph: “Also, being raised from the dead reduces a creature’s exhaustion level by 1.”

Okay, maybe that’s not the most honest way to describe this change, but it does cut to the chase. As more and more players are expressing frustration that death is scarcely more than an inconvenience after the party gets access to revivify, this was the very opposite mechanic that should have been added. Yes, yes, we know that it’s meant to allow a creature that hits level 6 exhaustion to be revived, but that’s where you apply some conditional phrasing. Including the words “if the creature had 6 levels of exhaustion when it died” keeps the intent while preventing the rather more common situation where an exhausted character feels “much better” after dying and being raised.

And, in fact, if being raised applied a level of exhaustion rather than curing it, you would have a lot fewer people complaining that death is meaningless.

Conclusion

With a lot more good than bad in this series of revisions, we’re pretty happy. The errata may not have solved every issue in the game, but they didn’t break two things when they tried to fix one, which a lot of developers end up doing. Congratulations to the D&D team on taking another step towards making the game better. We appreciate you and thank you for all your hard work.


This article has been updated with a correction. Previously, we had (late on a Friday night) mentally transposed a letter that made it seem as though the target of contagion was the one to choose which disease afflicted them, instead of the caster. We have updated the article.


What are your thoughts on the new errata? Let us know in the comments below!

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