Class Review: The Scholar (Benjamin Huffman): 4.5 Stars
What defines a scholar is their endless desire to learn and an ability to apply their intelligence to any task. Scholars aren’t masters of weapons or spells – instead, they use a vast reservoir of knowledge to resolve the various challenges that confront them.
The Scholar is a relatively versatile Intellect-based class that uses bard-like mechanics to produce a skill-focused, roleplay heavy class that could easily be inserted into any campaign or party. While suffering from a few issues, the Scholar provides plenty of roleplay and utility options that, while not necessarily powerful in combat, can add a richness of play to be enjoyed by the entire table. Many of the available options are frequently requested by those seeking to a play an Intelligence-based role not available in canonical D&D.
Versatility. One of the biggest strengths of the scholar is that it comes with six archetypes, each encompassing a field of study–some unique, some common. While some like the Physician and the Culinarian have seen previous homebrew attention (with varying success), others like the Diplomat, Theologian, and Ritualist are relatively unique takes on the Intelligence-based class. My favorite is probably the “Tactician” a positioning/utility based subclass that functions almost like a Bard-Fighter multiclass. This subclass is well-balanced, useful, and interesting. My least favorite may be the Culinarianist–while a cool idea, I personally don’t see its use within battle and it seems mostly role-play focused. The harvesting/cooking mechanics based on CR seem convoluted and not clear enough for me to include at the table.
Concept. I love the idea of an Intelligence based class that uses skills to the best of it’s ability. Intelligence, in general, tends to be an over-looked ability, and to be able to make a non-casting focused class around the ability fills a hole in D&D’s character design. Realistically, it makes sense that a person with high intellect and a good amount of training could apply their skills to a wide range of situations. This application of intelligence, that in some sense all skills are “learned”, is something that’s been severely lacking in 5e, and it is refreshing to see a step towards that being rectified.
Erudite Applications. There erudite applications are perhaps the best thing about this class. Functioning almost like Eldritch Invocations, they allow a modular customization to your character. You get up to eight of them, and two of them you can take without considering prerequisites. They allow you a wide range of benefits from learning languages and skills to increased AC and resistance to psychic damage. They make an otherwise somewhat bland and RP focused class to be applicable and potentially exciting.
Power. While the class is considerably powerful concerning roleplay encounters, skill checks, and tool use, its doesn’t seem to be focused on combat effectiveness . Some subclasses like the tactician, ritualist, and theologian may close the “combat-lite” gap, but even these are going to play (important) support roles. The primary ability of the class, Sage Advice, is basically like Bardic Inspiration. As far as I can tell, once your uses of that are expended, it doesn’t seem as though you have a lot of in-combat options unless you take certain archetypes. Its Academic Discourse feature is stylistically interesting and unique, but I question how often it would come into play. I still think this class is exciting and fun, but it’s likely some players will fall into the same formulaic combat sequence and get bored with its repetitiveness. If you take tactician, ritualist, or theologian, your combat options are significantly increased, but those archetypes seem less roleplay centered (though still better than most core classes).
Flavor. This class does some interesting, relatively unique things, but a large part of it is just reskinning other classes. It’s main feature is an Intelligence-based Bardic Inspiration. The ritualist class is just a more versatile third-caster, and the theologian is third-caster Cleric not limited by a single domain. It is definitely cool, but for better or for worse, few of the mechanics will be new. This does means as far as features are concerned, they are sure to be balanced. The biggest thing is that in providing us an Intelligence focused class, the ability becomes hyper-focused. Everything is Intelligence based, even your armor class with the right Erudite Application. Not only can this Single Ability Score Dependence pose some possible balance issues, it seems to present a relatively flat method to build characters. Some players may like that, some may not.
The Scholar is an excellent, flexible Intelligence based class. It offers an amazing array of archetypes for most styles of play. We are giving it 4 Stars and recommending it for players who want to maximize their out of combat effectiveness while still providing an adequate support role within combat encounters. I am excited to see it played in my campaigns, and will be offering it as an option. If you appreciate this review, and are thinking about buying the Scholar, click on the picture below to support us.