What Do I Know About First Impressions? Arcadia Issue 11
I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that Arcadia has published 11 issues in one year, in addition to delivering the Kingdoms and Warfare PDF, the Illrigger class, and the Beastheart class. That’s a pretty impressive years’ worth of material. Now that we stopped to think about how much we’ve already seen in 2021, let’s take a look at the capstone issue for the year.
I was provided with a review copy of Arcadia by James Introcaso at MCDM. Despite receiving a review copy, I am also signed up for the monthly Patreon, and receive a non-review copy as well. While I haven’t used any of the material in this issue, I am familiar with D&D 5e, both as a player and a dungeon master.
We’ve All Got Issues
This month’s issue is 37 pages long, which includes a credits page, a table of contents, a page of author biographies, and a full page OGL statement. If you haven’t read any of my other Arcadia first impressions . . . I’m not hurt, I’m just disappointed.
But seriously, the formatting is top notch, with two column layouts, with headers, sidebars, and stat blocks that follow WotC conventions, but with MCDM’s own flourishes. There is full color artwork of the celestial progenitors of the first article, the NPCs presented in the second article, and various meals being served in the third article.
The three articles included in this issue are as follows:
- Angelic Ancestries (New celestial themed player ancestries)
- Good Fences make Good Neighbors (Rules for selling stolen goods and NPCs who specialize in buying)
- I Cut Off Its Snout (A system for preparing meals that provide short term benefits)
This time around, we don’t have any maps or special diagrams, so there isn’t a page of hyperlinks leading to outside material. Additionally, this issue doesn’t have any ancillary material that ties into other MCDM material, such as units or followers from the Strongholds & Followers or Kingdoms & Warfare.
You know what’s not included in the D&D 5e SRD? Aasimar. It’s always interesting when something that feels ubiquitous to the game ends up being one of those things that wasn’t included in the 3rd party toybox. Especially when something was in the 3.5 version of the same. The term used for celestial blessed mortals used in this article is “scion,” which works well in this case.
For what it’s worth, there isn’t too much reinventing the wheel. Scions have background lore providing them with a progenitor that provides them visions and dreams, and Scions also manifest wings when using some of their special abilities. The scions presented in this article include:
- Godsong (Scions with powers associated with song)
- Chthonic (Scions that fulfill psychopomp duties)
- Primordial (Scions of some of the oldest and most powerful celestials)
- Vindicator (Scions descended from celestials that pass judgment)
The presentation for these ancestries is kind of halfway between the traditional presentation of races, and the way that newer sources have introduced character lineages. For example, there is a general section of Scion Traits, including the ability to choose either medium or small size, but the individual types of Scions aren’t referred to as subraces, and the individual entries feel a little bit like how the dragonborn families were presented in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons.
Each type of Scion is given a suggested set of ability score increases, but there is a sidebar that mentions that many newer products are introducing the ability to assign these bonuses to whatever stats the player prefers, and that this method works fine with the options presented in the magazine.
Compared to aasimar, the scion has the same speed, darkvision, and resistances, but instead of getting healing hands and the light cantrip, the per long rest and cantrips are shifted to the individual types of scion and customized for them. In addition to the customized cantrips and per long rest abilities, each of these ancestries gains an ability at 3rd level that can trigger for up to one minute, in a manner very similar to the existing aasimar subtypes.
The Godsong gains bolstering hymn, which grants allies temporary hit points, and can also assign an ally to do extra radiant damage. The Chthonic gains the ability to do extra necrotic damage and can also grant successful death saves to people within their range. The Primordial can cause someone in range to reroll a damage roll. The Vindicator gets radiant chains which do extra damage and can entangle a target.
In addition to the ancestries, there are two NPCs presented, Ryvan, a chthonic scion, and Zindri, a vindicator scion. In addition to their stat blocks, each scion is given plot hooks related to tasks that have been given to them by their progenitors. This lets the PCs aid the scions in interpreting signs, untangling mysteries, and resolving their missions.
Ancestries that have a 3rd level ability have a little more breathing room to establish a theme, but I really like the idea of customizing the cantrip and per long rest abilities to match the celestial themes. While it may not be something that can be said “officially,” these all work nicely as additional aasimar variants. There is a little bit of thematic overlap between Scourge Aasimar and Vindicator Scions, but otherwise, I like the expanded range of angelic duties. I currently have a character in my game that is an aasimar with a Valkyrie as a guide, and the chthonic scion fits with that theme extremely well.
Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
The next article looks at one of the most neglected of merchants, the humble fence. Who hasn’t known an adventurer or two that needs to sell something that is a little bit too well known to trust to the less discreet of the merchant class? What’s funny about this to me is that not only do I have an aasimar that has some thematic overlap with the previous article, but I’ve got another PC whose contact is a fence.
The first part of the article is the introduction of heat as a mechanic when dealing with difficult to sell items. There is a list of conditions that raises the heat for having a particular item, as well as rules for using heat when player characters may have more than one extralegally reappropriated item on their person.
Once per long rest, characters check to see if there is a complication based on the heat they have generated. The heat level gets added to the dice rolled on the table, meaning that the more the party builds up heat, the higher the chance that they score that “Catastrophe” result.
Whenever a character relieves themselves of hot merchandise, their heat level drops to zero and the characters no longer need to roll on the heat complication table. If you sell a hot item to a fence, your heat level reduces what the fence will pay for the item.
There are also three NPC fences presented in the article:
- Darien Ashbrow (sells firearms on the side)
- Madame Wheatwood (rents out mounts)
- Samhop Puckerbelt (sells poisons)
In addition to acting as a fence, and also having a secondary business that might make them useful to the player characters in other instances, each one of these NPCs is given a trait, ideal, bond, and flaw to help with roleplaying the character.
I’m a fan of NPCs having these provided for them, especially since the custom traits, etc., that NPCs receive are usually much more customized to their personalities than the more generic versions that are included with backgrounds.
I like having the readymade fences as NPCs that can be dropped into a campaign, but I’m also really interested in seeing what I could do with heat as a mechanism even outside of selling stolen goods. It seems like you could use this to represent adventurers on the run as well, if you give them a well-defined “clear” condition, which resets their heat in the same way that selling or ditching an item does.
I Cut Off Its Snout
This is an article about preparing food for specific effect in the game. It presents some alternate rules for Harvesting and Cooking skills, as well as allowing culinary students to use intelligence instead of wisdom when preparing food. It presents shelf life as a new statistic for different foodstuffs and allows for a character to specialize in a particular dish. There is also a new magic item that helps store food stuffs, as well as a new feat to interact with the benefits provided for these meals.
There are two styles of recipes presented, Simple and Special. Simple only requires basic portions of different kinds of foods, while special requires magical or rare items, such as body parts provided by monsters. Each recipe has a base DC, and for rolling over the DC, the recipe may also provide a delicious or extra delicious bonus effect as well. People benefit from successfully prepared meals until they take a long rest.
There is a table that gives the cost and shelf life of various items. The recipes are simplified lists, for example, listing one portion each of seven different ingredients in one instance. In addition to having the list of food staples, there are also rules provided for harvesting food, including how many portions a creature might yield if properly dressed.
The special recipes all have some kind of monstrous component, and they provide more extensive benefits than the standard recipes. All these effects are thematic to the creature that forms the base of the meal. For example, making the Big Wild Charcuterie Board may give you the ability to use pack tactics with your friends if it is made with various giant animal parts.
There is also a series of plot hooks for food based campaigns, looking at what adventures might look like for people hired to harvest items for chefs, what adventurers might have to do to keep a restaurant running, or how difficult it might be to run a food cart in a fantasy city. These include early, mid, and climactic campaign adventure suggestions, at about a paragraph each.
This is the kind of article that I would have tried to convince my friends to look at way back in the day when I was reading Dragon Magazine. I love the concept, and I actually like how simple the recipes remain, but when it comes to even simple crafting and customized skills, this really is the kind of content I would be more likely to okay if a PC was interested in engaging with it, rather than presenting it to the whole party and trying to make it a facet of the campaign. I do like the idea of being able to provide the benefits of some of these meals at different taverns and inns as a way to keep player characters coming back to those places.
While I know I Cut Off Its Snout is more of a player facing article as presented, for me it’s a “things to throw into a campaign for texture” idea along with Fences Make Good Neighbors. I want to work in the heat mechanic and/or some items that would be unwise to display publicly, as well as to provide a few meals with some mechanical impact.
The part of my brain that likes player facing toys really likes the scion article. I like that it manages to tweak a bit of how aasimar currently are formatted to given them an even more customized narrative.
I loved the story hooks with the scion NPCs, and I would love to see future NPCs with strong adventuring hooks included with them. Something about both interpreting and helping to resolve ambiguous missions really appeals to me for engaging the PCs with the NPC’s story.
I like clocks and timers to put pressure on player characters or to help the setting feel like it’s moving even when the PCs aren’t looking in the direction of the developments, so I would love to seem similar rules, or an expansion to the rules for heat.
I like seeing some mechanization of more mundane things that adventurers do between adventures, although I think I would prefer if those activities found a way to engage with the existing downtime structure for spending downtime days with the possibility for complications, etc.