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Wizards use their Unearthed Arcana blog to disseminate new 5e material for playtesting before publication. Material published there is either adapted for publishing, revised and reissued for further playtesting, or quietly forgotten.

People occasionally ask questions on the main site related to using UA material in their own games — there are (at time of writing this) 136 main site questions tagged as relating to UA. The UA blog has a wide following and lots of DMs are more lenient about allowing UA content to be used in their own games than they might be about homebrew content from other sources.

Should balance questions about UA be on topic here? And if such questions are on topic, how should they be best approached?

Potential pros of UA balance questions:

  • The UA content is publicly available and widely read, so unlike most homebrew questions, answerers may have first hand experiences to draw from.
  • UA material is provided by an external source, so if flaws are spotted questioners won't be tempted to revise the original question in line with feedback they receive (breaking the Q & A format in the way that homebrew questions sometimes do).
  • Discussions about the balance of UA material are quite common online (reddit etc.) but often peaks soon after the material is posted, and before anyone has actually playtested the content, so there is a low signal to noise ratio. The SE voting system might allow for a clearer idea of community consensus on this material — something which is hard to find elsewhere especially as Wizards don't often seem to comment on the community feedback they receive.

Potential cons:

  • Because UA material is popular, balance questions could promote low quality answers, answers which add nothing to the discussion or aren't based on genuine play experience.
  • Policing the questions could become an administrative headache. Especially seeing as there's a lot of UA material, going back years, that people could suddenly begin asking about. Not sure if rules could be established to rule out some of this content — i.e. If content has been updated and published in some form as an official release it's no longer on topic to ask about UA version?
  • Much of the UA content is new sub-classes. Evaluating an entire subclass in one question could be unwieldy but also doesn't make much sense splitting down as class features often build on each other, their usefulness contingent upon how they interact with each other.

With all this in mind, how should these questions be best approached?

If a hypothetical 'test case' is useful, feel free to look at the Stone Sorcery sorcerous origin from Unearthed Arcana: Sorcerer. It's an example of a sub-class that was released via the UA blog, to fairly positive reception but hasn't yet been revised or picked up for publication.


Potentially relevant discussions:

Meta:
Are “is this balanced” questions on-topic?
How should I ask about my D&D 5e Homebrew being balanced?
How can I ask a good homebrew review question?

Main site:
How do I evaluate whether my homebrew race is balanced?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm pretty certain UA material is not public domain. No such copyright release appears on the website or in the PDF I checked, so while it doesn't cost anything to read the rules or use them, the standard copyrighted-by-default laws apply, and no one can e.g. go and publish a book on their own just however they want to. \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Aug 7 '18 at 9:32
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UA content is fine to ask about, as long as the questions follow our other rules/requirements.

I'll address your potential cons point by point:

Because UA material is popular, balance questions could promote low quality answers, answers which add nothing to the discussion or aren't based on genune play experience.

I don't think UA material is that popular for the most part (with limited exceptions), and it certainly isn't more popular than the tons of non-UA content already in the game. We allow balance questions relating to those as well.

Policing the questions could become an administrative headache. Especially seeing as there's a lot of UA material, going back years, that people could suddenly begin asking about. Not sure if rules could be established to rule out some of this content - i.e. If content has been updated and published in some form as an official release it's no longer on topic to ask about UA version?

I think that this is much ado about nothing. As I believe SevenSidedDie and/or other mods have mentioned before, the rules of RPG.SE should deal with real problems that occur on the stack, not hypothetical situations that could become a problem at some point.

Much of the UA content is new sub-classes. Evaluating an entire subclass in one question could be unwieldy but also doesn't make much sense splitting down as class features often build on each other, their usefulness contingent upon how they interact with each other.

This issue is already handled by our current rules. Either the question follows the guidelines (it's clear, not too broad, not totally opinion-based, not a duplicate) and it's fine - or it doesn't follow the guidelines, and will be closed/put on hold until it can be edited into a form that follows the guidelines.

We don't really need special rules to deal with UA content; I don't see any unique problems such questions are causing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This looks good, and I want to take the opportunity to throw $0.02 more on there: while it's true that "the rules of RPG.SE should deal with real problems that occur on the stack, not hypothetical situations that could become a problem at some point," I just want to be sure that people know when you do see (or suspect) an existing problem, please do raise it on meta. That's how we find out if the community writ large agrees it's a problem and develop a communal approach. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Aug 5 '18 at 21:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60: Definitely! If you perceive something as an existing problem, it's worth discussing. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 5 '18 at 22:14

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