What Do I Know About Reviews? Arcadia Issue 2 (5e OGL)
Once again, James Intracaso was kind enough to share the current issue of Arcadia, the D&D 5e magazine published by Matt Colville’s MCDM, with me. Let this be my disclaimer, I received a review copy, but after the last issue, I’m glad I have the opportunity to see how the magazine develops in the second issue.
Atlas of Arcadia
The second issue of Arcadia is 37 pages. This includes a credit page, a table of contents, an “about the authors” page, a list of resource links, and the OGL statement. The rest of the PDF is split into three articles, including an article on subclasses, an article with new monsters, and an adventure.
The cover is bright, vibrant, and stunning. The formatting is very attractive and professional, with distinctive headers, tables, and multiple quarter, half, and full page illustrations. Additionally, there are maps of multiple locations for the adventure. This thing looks slick.
Subclasses of the Seasons
The first article includes four subclasses that are inspired by various seasons. These subclasses are all for spellcasting classes, but each season’s subclass is for a different class, including the following:
- Order of Hibernation (Winter, Wizard)
- College of Springtide (Spring, Bard)
- Child of the Sun (Summer, Sorcerer)
- The Horned One Patron (Autumn, Warlock)
The Order of Hibernation
The Order of Hibernation is a nice spin on a winter theme, focusing on sleep and reserves, rather than the more obvious cold theme. The core mechanic that the Order of Hibernation plays with is giving the subclass extra hit dice. In addition to acting as hit dice, these can be spent to enhance the wizard’s abilities. These include increasing your spell DCs, ignoring material components, and increasing damage. At 14th level, the wizard gains more options for their extra hit dice spends, like pushing opponents away.
At 6th level, the character gains a benefit from having spell slots in reserve. This grants the character AC bonuses, save bonuses, and extra damage to spells expended. There is also a 10th level feature that maximizes hit dice used in short rest, as well as restoring a character to a certain hit point minimum if they have their 6th level spell active.
This feels like it goes just a bit too heavy on keeping the wizard in hit points. Additionally, there is a feature that lowers the time it takes for a wizard to take a short rest, and that feels like the opposite of what this subclass should be doing. It almost feels like some of the other features should require some kind of extra rest to function, rather than the opposite. Not something hard to achieve, but at least something that may come up once in a while, like requiring a long rest that is completely uninterrupted. I also think with the extra hit dice, maximizing those hit dice feels like double dipping on the same theme. Still, I really like the idea of rest and reserves as symbolic of winter.
College of Springtide
These bards get access to a new skill and tool proficiency after each long rest, and they get cure wounds if the bard hasn’t already picked it up. Granting bardic inspiration allows for another save against ongoing effects.
At 6th level, if you damage an opponent, you briefly gain the ability to cast cure wounds as a bonus action, and you add extra healing to your Song of Rest. At 16th level, you gain storm song, which allows you to regain bardic dice when your party rolls a crit or drops characters to 0 hit points.
From a broader design standpoint, Storm Song is “by ability bonus” per rest instead of by proficiency bonus, for those interested. I like this subclass, but the “story” feels a little off. Injure to heal more effectively, savagely attack to inspire. I feel like the triggers for the quickened healing or the inspiration should be something more . . . spring like?
Child of the Sun Bloodline
At first level, you get glimpse of the sun, which gives you the light cantrip if you don’t already have it, and at 3rd level, grants you the “hey, let’s blind someone with light” ability we all sometimes assume light has, except you have to target someone that can’t already see the light. Once per round, your charisma bonus can be added to damage if you were attacked or were forced to make a save before your turn.
At 6th level, you get increased movement and resistance to radiant damage, and then some fiddly bonuses to overland travel, which can be shared with allies, as part of the Sunlit Path. At 14th level you can reduce damage and convert it to radiant damage to an opponent hitting you in melee. At 18th level, you get a version of your blinding ability that affects anyone you choose within range, and you gain blindsight, while in your awakened sun form. You are also a heck of a light source.
It feels very tricky to pull off this subclass’s tricks, and the tricks feel a little too removed from the “sunlight” theme. Beyond the light ability that comes up front, you don’t get anything that has to do with fire or radiant damage until 6th level, and then you’re just getting resistance. You aren’t doing special radiant damage until 14th level. That feels strange for a sorcerer with sun as a theme.
The Horned One Patron
Okay, it’s hitting on one of my thematic soft spots to include The Horned One, as an autumnal patron of the Hunt, into game features. Let’s see what it does.
Your bonus spells include a lot of “ranger-ish” additions, like pass without trace and hunter’s mark. You get martial weapon proficiency and stealth as a skill, and you can make a ranged weapon your spellcasting focus. When you fire eldritch blast, it takes the form of an energy arrow/missile fired from your ranged weapon. Magic ranged weapons add their damage bonus to your eldritch blasts.
At 6th level, you get bonus damage to your ranged attacks once you down an opponent, and you magically “feed” when you drop something to 0, not requiring food or drink for the rest of the day once you have successfully “hunted.”
At 10th level, you can magically trap spaces on the ground to do force damage and slow movement. It takes an action, and you can set three of these magical traps per short or long rest. At 14th level, your crit range expands, and you regain hit points on a crit.
This is my favorite of these subclasses. While it is the “fall” subclass, it is also the “hunter” subclass, and it sticks pretty close to that story with all of its features. Additionally, I like the idea of at least modifying eldritch blast for some variety of the ubiquitous warlock go to cantrip. The traps feel like they could get tricky to implement well, but other than that, I like this one a lot.
The Periodic Table of Elementals
This article introduces Nova Elementals, elemental spirits that inhabit materials that are more closely associated with scientific elements rather than the classical elements. In this case, we get the following:
- Comburo (Potassium, etc.)
- Conducere (Superconductor metals)
- Elekron (Charged energy elementals)
- Noxa (Noble gasses)
These elementals are portrayed as harder to summon and control than other elementals, with most of them listed as chaotic neutral in alignment. In addition to doing different secondary damage, most of these elementals have special “tricks” that are related to their natures.
Comburos blast opponents when hit a close range or when destroyed, as well as being able to throw off explosive particles. Conducere use a reaction to redirect magical energy. Elekron’s fork blasts of lightning when hit with metal weapons. Noxa cause poison damage and can suffocate opponents.
In addition to these combat widgets, there are some clever associated traits. For example, the Noxa is invisible, unless hit with fire or lightning, in which case it glows. Comburo and Elekrons naturally produce light.
In addition to these elementals, there are alternate elemental rules presented, including State Changes. State changes are “kickers” added to the elemental’s regular damage if their target meets a certain condition, i.e. encased in metal, soaked in fluid, or in an area exposed to wind.
Those are a fun kicker, but my favorite alternate rule presented is Reactivities. If more than one type of elemental is present in the same scene, they may gain Reactivities. Reactivities are effectively like legendary actions, and are triggered by the elemental’s proximity to another, different type of elemental.
Like legendary actions, some Reactivities cost more than one use of the Reactivities. For example, sometimes they may just throw sparks, but spending more Reactivities may allow them to cause combustion between them. I love this kind of synergistic rules interaction, and now I wanted to design an encounter with multiple elementals to try this out.
Well of the Lost Gods
This is an adventure intended for 8th level characters. It includes a connection to an ancient empire that combined magic and technology, so that may either inform what ancient empire to swap out for the default, or if this is your style of adventure to begin with.
Essentially, adventurers have found a mysterious site, and now that the site has been tampered with, there are dangerous local phenomena being triggered by this tampering. The PCs are sent to investigate the site, and eventually run into the automated defenders of the site, a portal to the lost empire that built the laboratory, and a construct whose job it is to maintain the site.
Eventually, the party can befriend the construct maintaining the site, and may learn from them how to shut down potential threats from the area, and the adventure is left open for the PCs to travel through the portal to whatever the mysterious empire might be, which is only lightly defined.
Almost all of the creatures at the adventure site are constructs of one form or another, so if you are in the market for construct stat blocks, you have CR2, CR3, CR10, and CR12 varieties in this adventure. I like open ended adventures that might allow for planar travel or side quests, and many settings will likely have a good answer for what’s on the other side. The only quibble I have is that we’re developing a theme of “explore a laboratory” in these Arcadia adventures.
The Turn of Seasons
Even where the design doesn’t match my preferences, I love the variety and the topics covered by this issue. I absolutely love The Horned One, and would love to play a Warlock with that subclass. The elementals are very fun toys to play with, and the adventure has a nice balance of learning how to manipulate technology, interacting with a friendly construct, and dodging increasingly powerful guardians. I also like the town NPCs the PCs can interact with.
Some of the subclasses have some very early D&D 5e feel to them, being just a little bit stingy in how often you can trigger a special ability, or how strictly abilities adhere to a theme. While I like the open ended ability to make the ancient empire in the adventure just about anything, a few more cultural quirks might have been nice, showing up in the details.
Recommended–If the product fits in your broad area of gaming interests, you are likely to be happy with this purchase.
Regardless of some of my personal thoughts and preferences on design, I love the variety of content in the magazine, and the fact that every article does have something of broad value to a D&D player or DM.
If you are the type of person that enjoys and is open to quality 3rd party D&D 5e content, I think you will be interested in picking up the second issue of Arcadia. By issue #2, this feels like it’s got a solid concept of what it wants to present and how.