What Do I Know About First Impressions? Arcadia Issue 24 Review (5e OGL)
I didn’t manage to take a look at this issue the week it was released, because the release got pushed back, and let’s face it, even if it wasn’t, January was a mess, so let’s just call it a wash. In the intervening time since we last looked at an issue of Arcadia, there was some . . . drama . . . involving WotC’s potential handling of the OGL (please look at some earlier blog posts, I really don’t want to dive into it again). In the middle of that drama, MCDM announced that Arcadia will be ending this summer, with their Patreon transitioning to a place to share lore and information about upcoming projects, and MCDM also announced preliminary work on their own RPG.
I’m just going to say, up front, that I’m going to miss Arcadia, and I’m going to enjoy it while it’s still here. I’ve been conditioned to appreciate random monthly game material from the time I started buying Dragon Magazine, and I appreciate the format that sometimes delivers articles I didn’t know I was looking for.
But, with all of that said, let’s get on with the show.
I was provided with a review copy of Arcadia this month, but as has been the case for most of the run of the magazine, I’ve got my own subscription to the Patreon as well. I have not had the opportunity to use the material from this issue, but I am well acquainted with D&D 5e, both as a player and as a DM.
Arcadia Issue 24
Managing Editor Hannah Rose
Authors Willy Abeel, Carlos Cisco, Jessica Marcrum
Editors Scott Fitzgerald Gray, Sadie Lowry
Sensitivity Consultant Basil Wright
Playtest Director Lars Bakke
Layout Jen McCleary
Title Logo Tom Schmuck
Accessibility Chris Hopper
Community Coordinator John Champion
Customer Support Bobby McBride
Special Thanks Kelli Butler, Laura Hirsbrunner
Art Director Nick De Spain
Cover Artist Grace Cheung
Interior Illustrators “We Ride Dragons”: Bruno Machado; “Granny’s Concoctions”: Elisa Serio; “The Gilded Flight”: Grace Cheung, Nick De Spain, Zuzanna Wuzyk
The Issue Inside Out
This month’s Arcadia is 47 pages, including a title page, a table of contents, a letter from the editor, a resources page with links to the MCDM Safety Toolkit and a prop from one of the articles, a page of author biographies, and a full page OGL statement.
The art in the magazine is always impressive, and this is no exception. I absolutely love the dragon fight depicted on the cover. The layout and artwork in the individual article make me lament that I’m not going to see all of this on a monthly basis by the end of the year.
This month’s issue has a general theme related to dragons. The articles included are as follows:
- We Ride Dragons (Mounts, Monsters)
- Granny’s Concoctions (Magic Items, Locations, NPCs)
- The Gilded Flight (Organizations, NPCs, Monsters)
It’s also worth noting that as part of presenting the organization in The Gilded Flight, there are four pages of reprinted stat blocks from previous issues, including the elementals from Arcadia Issue #2, and the Dragon Priest from Arcadia Issue #20.
We Ride Dragons
I’ve been a fan of Willy Abeel’s “mounts” articles from the beginning. If, for some reason, you haven’t read any of my first impressions of other articles in this series, the mount rules use a similar mechanic to the summoning spells that appear in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. That means that they have a stat block, but things like armor class and temporary hit points are assessed to the creature based on the rider’s proficiency bonus or level. This means that a higher-level, more skilled rider is less likely to have their mount killed in a single blow if the PC rides it into battle.
In keeping with the theme of the issue, all of the mounts presented in this article are creatures of the dragon type.
- Cobblewyrm Mount
- Draconfly Mount
- Juvenile Green Dragon Mount
- Shadogar Mount
- Juvenile Wyvern Mount
While the green dragon and wyvern may be self-evident, the Cobblewyrm is a dragon that grows and shrinks based on eating rocks, and then expelling them as part of their breath weapon attack. The Draconfly is an amalgam of dragonfly and dragon that is attuned to the Ethereal plane. The Shadogar is a variation on the shadow dragon theme, but less over the top. This also creates a nice parallel, with the Draconfly feeling more like a Feywild-inspired dragon, and the Shadogar as more of a Shadowfell-style dragon.
In addition to providing the mount stat blocks for the above creatures, this issue provides some guidelines for creating mounts from other creatures. This includes what armor class and hit point range to shoot for, and how many traits to adapt from the standard monster.
There is a table that measures the base hit points of the creature, and translates that to how many temporary hit points to multiply against the rider’s level. There is a sidebar on Heroic Mount Variants, where the mount receives actual increased hit dice, but I like the thematic concept that the temporary hit points are coming from the rider’s ability, rather than fundamentally altering the creature being ridden.
There is a neat formatting trick that is used in this section. The Juvenile Wyvern Mount appears in the section on creating your own mounts, based on the provided guidelines, and this section shows the standard Wyvern stat block, with color-coded sections on what got changed when translating the Wyvern to the Juvenile Wyvern Mount.
This issue also has two new “Omnimounts,” creatures introduced in earlier mount-related articles that can transport adventuring parties long distances. The new omnimounts introduced are the following:
- Grand Luckwyrm (CR 21)
- Galdrashan (CR 23)
The Grand Luckwyrm is a furry, serpentine dragon with an almost canine face that I’m sure only resembles any other such creature by random happenstance. Galdrashan is an immensely powerful astral dragon, which can sever the silver cords of astral travelers with a bite. While both are presented as omnimounts, as powerful unique dragons with unique drives and histories, they both work as solid NPCs in a high-level campaign as well.
This article introduces an NPC and her potion shop, as well as a few secrets attached to the NPC. In addition to the NPCs presented, there are a whole lot of new potions/poisons included in the article as well.
Granny Greenwinkle is a gnome that likes to portray herself as a powerful hag to increase her reputation. Her cat, Flufftavius, is actually an adult copper dragon. In addition to all of the consumable magic items presented in the article, there are three story hooks that tie into using Granny and Flufftavius in a campaign.
The items in the article are divided into the following categories:
- Granny’s Potions
- Granny’s Explosives
- Granny’s Poisons
There are more than 40 new consumable items in this article. Some of my favorites are Instant Mouse (you transform into a mouse when you drink it), Chaos Kaboom (an explosive that lets loose a random magical effect determined on a d10 table), and the Phial of Medusa, a poison that can turn someone that comes in contact with it to stone for 24 hours.
I’ve always loved alchemist shops in fantasy stories, and wild potions. I love consumables in D&D because they are temporary items. They might be exactly what you need, but you need to make the decision to use that resource. Additionally, I love new poisons, in part because I like the potential of having a nasty assassin use something that the PCs have never seen before, or establish a reputation for using a unique style of poison in their work.
The Gilded Flight
Back in Arcadia Issue #5, there was an article on greed or profit-driven subclasses, and one of my observations at the time is that some of the presentations of those subclasses felt creepily close to real-world Objectivism or Prosperity Gospel philosophy. Apparently the author, Carlos Cisco, agreed, and circled back around to use some of the elements of that article as the basis for an evil organization.
Presented in the article are three members of the Gilded Flight:
- Tamir’khashchu (Ancient Gold Dragon)
- Garin Najis (Human Cleric of the Dictum of Prophets)
- Sym (Doppelganger)
- Hecta Glintstone (Duergar Circle of the Gilded Druid)
The ancient gold dragon at the head of the organization is convinced they are a force for good, but his philosophy is that wealth is an indication of the quality of a creature, and that good is naturally done for society when someone uses their wealth to provide for themselves.
Most of the lieutenants in the organization have three to five hooks that show their current money-making schemes, which range from paying employees in company scrip, using the local watch to collect from debtors, or inflating the price of diamonds used for Raise Dead spells. In addition to these schemes, each one of the lieutenants has a few favored bodyguards and minions listed.
The stat blocks in this article introduce a new formatting concept, adding a superscript to the spells that the NPC can access. These denote if a spell can be cast as an action, bonus action, reaction, or takes longer than one round to cast.
I continue to love the mounts articles, and I’m going to be sad if this is the last time I get to see this concept. I hope that Willy Abeel publishes this concept elsewhere, possibly with even more mounts. I also really like the NPC dragons in the article. I love potions and poisons, so I’m fairly certain I’m going to be dipping into Granny’s Concoctions for some NPC gear here or there, or for some rewards to give my PCs. I’m glad to see those concepts from Issue #5 worked into a villainous organization. My only preference is that I would love to see Objectivism and Prosperity Theology separated a bit more to show their unique destructive aspects, in addition to where they overlap.
Honestly, I’m just hoping to see a venue where random RPG-related ideas can come together, the way they have in Arcadia once the magazine has gone away.
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