Not everyone is a spellcaster, but at some point or another, everyone wants to cast a spell.
Normally, the Magic Initiate feat can cover that for you, except that feat uses your Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma modifier to cast that spell. What about those beautiful PCs that are too dull, dim, and disparate to cast magic? Why do only the smart and pretty people get to use magic?
For the rest of us basic bitches out there, we get to take the Aberrant Dragonmark feat.
What Is the Aberrant Dragonmark Feat in DnD 5e?
The Aberrant Dragonmark feat gives you access to any one cantrip and 1st-level spell from the sorcerer spell list and uses your Constitution modifier to cast it. It also has a random buff/debuff effect if you choose to let it.
Prerequisite: No existing dragonmark
You have manifested an aberrant dragonmark. Determine its appearance and the flaw associated with it. You gain the following benefits:
- Increase your Constitution score by 1 to a maximum of 20.
- You learn a cantrip and a 1st-level spell of your choice from the sorcerer spell list. You can cast those spells through your mark. Once you cast the leveled spell, you must finish a short or long rest before you can cast it again through the mark. Constitution is your spellcasting ability for these spells.
- When you cast the 1st-level spell through your mark, you can expend one of your Hit Dice and roll it. If you roll an even number, you gain a number of temporary hit points equal to the number rolled. If you roll an odd number, one random creature within 30 feet of you (not including you) takes force damage equal to the number rolled. If no other creatures are in range, you take the damage.
You also develop a random flaw from the Aberrant Dragonmark Flaws table.
Aberrant Dragonmark Flaws
A Player’s Guide to Aberrant Dragonmark 5e
The benefits of Aberrant Dragonmark are clear: you get one cantrip and one 1st-level spell that uses your Constitution modifier.
The drawbacks are quite limited. The random chance for temporary HP or force damage is optional, and the associate flaw is a roleplaying/flavor choice.
This means there are no drawbacks! Furthermore, the sorcerer spell list is the most exhaustive list in the game. About the only downside of this feat is that you don’t have access to the druid or cleric spell lists.
Why Only the Sorcerer Spell List?
There is an easy answer and a complicated answer to that question. Easy answer? Because dragons and game balance.
Complicated answer? In D&D 3e, when the dragonmark features were introduced, dragons were all given the ability to spontaneously cast spells as a sorcerer does. They did not need to study and prepare their magic. It was inborn.
This feature of dragons has not been discussed outside of Fizabans’s Treasury of Dragons, and dragons in the Monster Manual and elsewhere have lost their inherent spellcasting ability.
Sorcerers still have the Dragon Origin, and that hints to the inherent magical nature of dragons, but that is honestly a bit mystifying since dragons in 5e don’t have any official spellcasting.
Since the Aberrant Dragonmark lets you have a spell that comes from natural talent instead of study and doesn’t require preparation, the developers decided to restrict it to the sorcerer list because… I don’t know.
Maybe they still hold to the sorcerous spellcasting of dragons in 3e despite not providing any basic foundation for that assumption.
The downside is that this, like other examples in the game, seems weird and arbitrary. The upside is that it gives you a reason to do the developer’s job for them and homebrew! Make it your own.
Ultimately, you’ll be happier if you decide to justify the restriction to the sorcerer spell list for your game or open it up to other class spell lists.
Who Should Take an Aberrant Dragonmark?
This question is a process of elimination. First, eliminate everyone who already gets spells. That knocks out sorcerers, wizards, bards, warlocks, artificers, druids, rangers, and paladins.
Second, eliminate everyone who doesn’t have a reason to keep their Wisdom, Charisma, or Intelligence high. This takes out rogues and monks.
Who does that leave? Barbarians and fighters — the aforementioned dull, dim, and disparate.
However, it is those same two classes that have much to gain from a high Constitution! I would argue that for this reason, the Aberrant Dragonmark feat was made with them in mind.
If you are playing a fighter or barbarian, you will need to decide if you are going to take this feat over a combat feat or a stat increase, and that is a very hard decision.
And this feat is just as good! The determining factors in whether Aberrant Dragonmark is better are going to be which spells you choose and how much flavor influences your character choices.
What Spells Should They Choose?
Fighters have plenty of options when it comes to both melee and ranged combat, so they may not want a long-range cantrip like firebolt.
Fighters do, however, lack AoE ability, so acid splash may be a good choice. Alternatively, if that same fighter starts packing blasting powder, they could use prestidigitation to spark it and become a grenadier.
Blade ward is always an excellent choice for fighters considering they lack the damage resistances available to Barbarians.
Finally, fighters can shore up their defenses with a 1st-level spell like shield, or they could improve their movement with expeditious retreat.
Barbarian is the class where Aberrant Dragonmark really shines! Granted, you can’t cast spells while in rage, but that honestly makes it easier.
You are essentially limited in your tactical considerations, which opens you up to focus better on when to cast your spell.
For example, casting color spray on the same turn you start your rage means you get to have a big anime cut-scene-styled freakout that blinds your enemies right before you charge!
(If you really think about it, this is kind of like what Sailor Moon does. She’s a barbarian who rages by going into this heightened combat state after an anime transformation cutscene.
Thunderstep also makes for a great cantrip to cast right before your rage sets in. You scream so loud that it knocks down everyone near you, like Akira or Sakura.
Aberrant Dragonmarks in Eberron
Dragonmarks come from Eberron, and they factor into the larger metaplot of the Draconic Prophecy.
Eberron was created in a war of the dragonkind versus the fiends. That war has echoed through the ages and manifested as aberrations versus the ancient goblinoid empire, elves versus the giants, and now the humanoid nations versus each other with all of these ancient evils in the shadows.
As humanoids gained in power and civility, the dragonmarks appeared. The magical abilities granted thereby became the cornerstone of the Eberron economic and political system.
Dragons study the dragonmarks as they use the draconic prophecy to look toward the future and prepare for the next great conflict to determine the face of the world.
Aberrant dragonmarks are those dragonmarks that are rare and do not follow any genetic line. In Eberron, bearers of aberrant dragonmarks are said to have been tainted by evil factions seeking to recreate the dragonmark, and they have banded together in a type of assassins guild of economic outcasts called House Tarkanan.
The truth of this origin is debated, but the fact of their marginalization remains.
Aberrant Dragonmarks in Other Worlds
For Dragonlance, consider making them a random incursion of destiny in the world as it hurtles toward another apocalyptic event.
For Faerun, use them as signifiers of rank and prestige among the various nations and cultures.
For Darksun, use dragonmarks as a resurgence of wild magic, and those characters who bear them can be hunted by the magocracy.
For Spelljammer, consider having characters who spend too much time in one plane or magically radioactive field manifest them spontaneously.
Dragonmarks can be as simple as stylized tattoos or as complex as birthmarks given to destined heroes. How they fit into your world is up to you.
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I played the game a lot as a kid, back in first edition. Over the past few years since 5e was released, I’ve really started getting back into it. Currently, I run a campaign online for some friends and my brothers, and we also play a side-sesh just to mix things up.