What Do I Know About First Impressions? Arcadia Issue 25 (5e SRD)

How is it almost the end of February (time of this blog post)? While I’ve been busy looking through all of the heists in Keys from the Golden Vault, another issue of Arcadia has crept up on me. I’m going to try not to think about how these issues are now kind of a countdown to the end of the magazine.


I received a review copy of Arcadia 25 from MCDM, and I have received other review copies of MCDM products. That said, I also have my own subscription to the MCDM Patreon and would have received this on its release date. While I have not had the opportunity to use any of the material from this issue, I am very familiar with D&D 5e both as a player and as a DM.

Arcadia Issue 25

Managing Editor Hannah Rose
Authors Steve Fidler, Imogen Gingell, Sam Mannell
Editors Scott Fitzgerald Gray, Sadie Lowry
Sensitivity Consultant James Mendez Hodes
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 Directors Nick De Spain, Hannah Rose
Cover Artist Ernanda Souza
Interior Illustrators
“Legendary Inspiration”: Marcel Budde (Conceptopolis)
“Malevolent Forces”: Bruno Machado
“Quick, Take My Spellsled!”: Linda Lithén


This issue of Arcadia is 33 pages long, including the credits page, table of contents, a letter from the editor, a resource page with hyperlinks, page of author bios, and a full-page OGL statement. I’m still curious to see what it will look like when I get through a 3rd party 5e product and run into a Creative Commons license.

It’s always a little unfair because when a company consistently puts out attractive material, it becomes almost too easy to take that for granted. Between the riotously colorful cover, article artwork (including new monster images), and the adventure set piece images, everything looks wonderful inside the issue.

The magazine is (as always) well laid out, with articles with their own color palettes, attractively constructed tables, headers and sidebars, and an easy-to-reference two-column layout. 

The Articles

This month’s Arcadia features the following articles:

  • Legendary Inspiration (Rules)
  • Malevolent Forces (Monsters)
  • Quick, Take My Spellsled! (Adventure, Magic Item)

Legendary Inspiration

I’ve done a lot of conjecturing on how to modify the inspiration rules, and I’m always interested to see how other people add to or contextualize those rules. I hate tossing or replacing rules, even when I feel like they’re missing something, so I like to see how people build out rules elements from the inside out, which is what this article does.

First, the article looks at alternative triggers for gaining inspiration, such as exploring “optional” areas of an adventure, rolling 20s, rolling 1s, and my favorite new addition, gaining inspiration when the finite resource of a class ability is used up.

The next section of the article looks at additional ways to spend inspiration, including a version which is pretty much how many tables I’ve been at uses it rather than how it is worded, and other uses that allow for the introduction of narrative elements into a scene, modifications to the action economy, or special boosts to skills, saves, or healing.

Much like the inspiration trigger for characters that use up their class abilities, there is an interesting use of Inspiration that details class abilities and how inspiration can be spent to get additional uses of some abilities. I like this addition about as much as I did the “out of resources trigger,” because it’s definitely an element in a lot of heroic fantasy to see someone do that one last thing that they didn’t have the energy to perform previously. There are rules for party inspiration that establish a reasonable cap on it, and create a logical, workable split between individual inspiration and party inspiration.

The final section introduces banners, magic items that interact with the inspiration rules. Banner, in this case, is a catch-all term for something that can be seen and could urge players to push on. There are examples of literal banners, reliquary items, and even helmets.

Overall, it’s a solid article for people that want to push against the boundaries of the Inspiration rules without completely scrapping them or replacing them with a different system.

Malevolent Forces

The theme of this monster article are strange monsters that aren’t directly related to anything else currently found in your monster manual of choice. That’s a tall order, especially considering how many bestiaries are out there, but these are some interesting creatures with a few twists to them.

  • Skull Hound (Monstrosity, CR3)
  • Vespergriff (Monstrosity, CR 4)
  • Gravedigger (Plant, CR 4)
  • X’ek Drone (Monstrosity, CR 6)
  • Shard (Construct, CR 7)
  • Coldshell (Monstrosity, CR 8)
  • X’ek Queen (Monstrosity, CR 8)
  • Dreameater (Fey, CR 11)

There are lots of fun ideas on display here. Skull hounds are basically lizard dogs with a skull-like head, a hive mind, and limited psionic ability, and I have to admit I have a soft spot for weird “almost animals” in D&D settings. Vespergriffs are essentially bat-jaguar griffons. X’ek are sweet-smelling bugs that grow a gem-like carapace. Dreameaters are spider-like fey creatures that literally get into your head with psychic abilities.

There is a tie for my favorite monsters in this article. The gravedigger is a colony of fungus that grows on corpses that transport them to somewhere to be fed upon, and the fungal plates around the body resemble armor. The shard is an enigmatic creature that exists between realities, created to collect knowledge for some unknown ancient master, existing to vivisect living beings.

I’m an easy mark for monster articles, and I’m pretty happy with this one.

Quick, Take my Spellsled!

This is more of an extended encounter that can serve to introduce magical skateboards into your game. The PCs run across someone being harassed by a spellsled gang, and the victim asks the PCs to race against the leader of the na’er do wells for pink slips.

There is a chart used for resolving different legs of the race, and characters can attempt to take each other out, though outright killing someone would be a horrendous escalation to what is essentially a fun diversion that also involves the ego of the local youths. 

The adventure takes place in a town called Silverside, which is home to the Universitas Arcanum, meant to be slotted into whatever world you want to use. As soon as I read about the focus on youth culture and the proximity to a school, as well as interest in utilitarian magic items, I thought this would be a great extended encounter to use in a Strixhaven campaign, especially given that adventure also introduces its own sporting event.

Final Thoughts

This is a solid and all-around fun issue of Arcadia. It reminds me that I would love to see more articles about using existing rules in new ways, with some extra material built around them (as an example, I’m also a fan of the Journey rules introduced in Adventures in Middle-earth, as well as the audience rules in the same). Between the exploration of using Inspiration in different ways, and getting an extended action sequence that isn’t predicated on deadly violence, it reminds me that I would love to see more “sports” or contests that could be slotted into a campaign before monster slaying and villain deposing encounters.