What Do I Know About First Impressions? Arcadia #16 (5e OGL)
What’s the date? Well, looks like its Arcadia the 16th. In other words, it’s time to take a look at this month’s Arcadia magazine from MCDM. This time around we’ve got three articles to look at, across 33 pages. Let’s jump in.
As usual, I’ve been provided with a copy of Arcadia early so I can write a review. I am signed up for the MCDM Patreon and would otherwise receive a copy later in the month. I haven’t used any of the material in this issue, but I am familiar with the 5e D&D rules from both the player and DM side of things.
Between the (Virtual) Covers
As mentioned above, this time around the issue is 33 pages long. This includes the credits page, the table of contents, a single-page editorial, a page of author bios, and a full-page OGL Statement. This time around there aren’t any maps or handouts, so they don’t show up at the end of the magazine, and there isn’t a hyperlink page. The cover is an evocative change of pace, depicting an island floating in the sky with various mountains, forests, settlements, and roads.
This month we have the following articles:
- Masterwork Artisans (Equipment/NPCs)
- The Crowned Genie (Monsters/NPCs)
- The Blackweald (Encounters/NPCs)
So, we’re getting a glance at upgraded (but not magical) gear, new genies, and a sapient road that can haunt a neighborhood.
I like the idea of having special materials that have special properties. I always felt that D&D could use more than just Mithral and Adamantine, and I enjoyed third-party products that added more of these materials, as well as some examples of this that showed up in D&D 4e.
This article presents information in three parts. The first part introduces new materials and how they affect items made from those materials. The second part introduces new traits that can be added to armor and weapons. The third part introduces NPC crafts folk that sell and upgrade gear, that the PCs may encounter.
The materials defined in this article are:
- Adamantine (modified from the DMG)
- Celestial Silver
- Frost Steel
- Meteorite Iron
- Mithral (modified from the DMG)
- Desert Ironwood
- Stout Blackwood
The armor, weapon, and ammunition traits are:
- Agile (Armor)
- Camouflaged (Armor)
- Frightening (Armor)
- Locking Joints (Armor)
- Ornate (Armor)
- Spiked (Armored)
- Barbed (Weapons, Ammunition)
- Guarded (Weapons)
- Honed (Weapons)
- Perfectly Balanced (Two-Handed Weapons)
- Reinforced (Weapons)
- Serrated (Weapons, Ammunition)
- Weighted (Bludgeoning Weapons)
- Blunted (Ammunition)
- Dousing (Ammunition)
- Flash Powder (Ammunition)
- Oiled (Ammunition)
- Splintering (Ammunition)
- Tarred (Ammunition)
There are a wide range of effects from these items. In addition to the familiar traits from the DMG that cancel critical hits, there are weapons that have increased threat ranges, armors that grant advantage on saves in specific circumstances, as well as those that do extra dice of damage when used against specific opponents.
Weapon attributes do things like bumping up damage dice, adding additional damage on critical hits, providing an extra boost to AC when taking the Dodge action, or doing lesser damage on a miss.
Two smiths are provided, along with what their shops are most likely to provide. One of these smiths is meant to be encountered in the city, and the other represents a wandering merchant. In addition to providing appearance and personality for these merchants, there is also a provided list of plot hooks that can be tied to interactions with masterwork artisans.
I love this concept, but I’m not sure I love all of the implementations in this article. I like fairly easy to adjudicate modifications like shifting the die of damage up or down. I like “trick” arrows that can deliver fluids or flaming shots. However, a lot of these materials or modifications do things like adding +1 under certain circumstances, or adding a d4 or d6 of damage once per turn.
Changing critical threat ranges doesn’t happen much in 5e, and when it does, it is usually the province of magic items or class features. Having a weapon that adds a d4 or d6 is actually pretty powerful, and might as well be a magic item. Situational +1s definitely feel like something 5e has been actively trying to avoid. I was also a little disappointed that none of the special woods solved the age-old question of “how do you get a druid better armor made of wood?”
I like the NPCs, I like the concept, but I’m not sure I would use the full range of materials or modifications in this article.
The Crowned Genie
Crowned genies are a rare kind of genie whose souls are tied specifically to gems rather than the elements that make up their physical form. These soul gems usually manifest as a gem mounted in the genie’s forehead. Crowned genies are outcasts in the elemental planes, and they have access to psionic powers.
These psionically infused gems can allow the genies to interact with thoughts, memories, and souls of mortal beings. There are two examples of crowned genies introduced, one that is obsessed with experiencing mortal lives, and another that was focused on preserving the memories of their friends.
This article has a lot packed into it. In addition to outlining the examples of crowned genies, there are plot hooks related to both of these genies, a template for servant creatures, a magic item, and lair and villain actions for turning the standard stat block into a “boss” to represent one of the two crowned genies presented.
The servant creatures represent mortals trapped by Jamshat, the more malevolent of the crowned genies, after they have been drained of their free will. Fikrah, the more benevolent of the two, spent much of her life among mortals, and her memories of her friends have given birth to living constructs, animated by the spark of memory.
So in addition to the Crowned Genie stat block and the various Amethyst Servant stat blocks, there is also the Fikrawi, a player character construct ancestry. The Fikrawi are resistant to spells that would change their form, gain proficiency from some inspirational thought that led to their animation, and they gain a cantrip and spells at 3rd and 5th level.
I like how the ancillary material, with the templates and the PC class, help to highlight the differences between the presented NPCs, with an eye towards reverently sheltering the memories of your friends versus obsessively possessing the object of your attention. I also like the addition of the villain actions for “upgrading” the stat block for crowned genies.
Approaching this article just as an encounter, there is a mysterious street in town, in the Mercy Street location, where people start to forget parts of their lives, and others go missing. There are all kinds of stores and locations with special items within them, which seem like they may have something to do with the strange events happening in this region of the city.
There are a number of NPCs that exist in this section of town that can serve to provide clues to PCs investigating what is going on in this part of town, and there is even a sequence of events involving the PCs being hired to investigate something that their employer swiftly forgets.
Since this series of encounters/adventure seed could involve people being told they don’t know what they clearly know has happened, it is recommended that the GM proceed with caution and use active safety cards, which I’m always going to applaud. But beyond the scenario, all of this revolves around some new monsters.
The Blackweald is effectively a gigantic mimic that has taken the form of a gargantuan stretch of road. It can psychically connect to special mimics, Blackweald Mimics, which pop up inside various locations along the street, helping the Blackweald to coordinate and feed, and take care of anyone that gets too curious.
I’ve run into a few animated roads in adventures and other products recently, but I like the concept, especially with the colony of other mimics feeding into the huge core mimic. I like the idea of something like this getting away from the PCs at some point and setting up shop in another neighborhood so that the PCs can hear rumors of neighborhoods falling apart in a manner similar to what happened in the first neighborhood they discovered.
As much as I don’t want anyone to sully Danny the Street’s reputation, I can appreciate an evil mimic that takes the road less traveled.
There is a lot of imagination going on in this issue, and lots of things that I like. I also want to clarify that even when I disagree with how something gets implemented, I love reading work that addresses the same areas that interest me.
It’s interesting to me that neither “monster” article was strictly a “monster” article, in that it was presenting broad descriptions and stat blocks, but also included heavy story building elements. I think in both cases these really made a concept that was good into one that really shined. The story elements really help sell the contents of these articles even if the monsters are used in a difference context then presented.
I still want to see more extraordinary materials and how they modify items. It’s one of those topics that generally fascinates me even if the final product doesn’t perfectly click for me. I also love seeing a new ancestry that is a construct, and I’d like to see other construct PC ancestries. I think things like warforged and gearforged have great backstory elements, but fantasy has a whole bunch of “created” beings with different backstories that I think could still be modeled in different ways.