What Do I Know About First Impressions? Arcadia Issue 26 (5e SRD)

I’m a whole issue behind on looking at Arcadia, and since the magazine closes up shop in July, I don’t want to miss the chance to take a look at the individual issues. So even though we just saw the release of issue 27 a couple of weeks ago, let’s roll back the clock to those bygone days of about a month and a half ago, and take a look at Arcadia Issue 26.

Disclaimer

I was provided a review copy of this issue, but I am also subscribed to MCDM’s Patreon, and receive a non-review copy after release. I have not had the opportunity to use any of the material in this issue, but I am familiar with D&D 5e, both as a player and as a DM.

Arcadia Issue 26

Design & Production

Managing Editor
Hannah Rose
Authors Kat Kruger, Amber Litke, JB Little (DropTheDie)
Additional Design James Introcaso
Editors Scott Fitzgerald Gray, Sadie Lowry
Sensitivity Consultant Pam Punzalan
Playtest Director Lars Bakke
Layout Jen McCleary
Title Logo Tom Schmuck
Accessibility Chris Hopper
Community Coordinator John Champion
Customer Support Bobby McBride
Special Thanks Laura Hirsbrunner

Illustration

Art Directors Nick De Spain, Jason Hasenauer, Hannah Rose
Cover Artist Zuzanna Wuzyk
Interior Illustrators “The Nocturne Market”: Nikki Dawes; “The Aurum Court”: Jason Hasenauer; “Killer Pursuit”: Nikki Dawes, Alex Ngo
Cartography Clara Daly

Arcadia 26 CoverLayout and Formatting

This issue of Arcadia is 39 pages long. This includes a credits page, a table of contents, a letter from the editor, a resources page with hyperlinks to a map that coincides with one of the articles, as well as a link to the MCDM Safety Toolkit, a page of author bios, and a full page OGL statement.

The magazine has a two-column layout with various sidebars and tables, and utilizes the standard D&D 5e stat blocks where applicable. As is standard for the run of the magazine, each article has its own color scheme, with headers, topics, and tables in those same colors. Arcadia consistently utilizes some of the best fantasy art in the RPG industry, and that tradition continues here. I particularly love the Brass Dragonborn NPC illustration in The Nocturne Market article.

On the Inside

This month we have three articles, including the following:

  • The Nocturne Market (Locations, Magic Items, NPCs)
  • The Aurum Court (NPCs, Locations, Organizations)
  • Killer Pursuit (Adventure)

The Nocturne Market

This article’s premise had me right from the start. It’s a magical market that moves across the multiverse and only shows up at night. I love mythical cross-planar traveling locations, especially when they lean on the whimsical side of things. The article starts with four hooks to give PCs a reason to visit the location, and I appreciate that, but also, when you have a magical cross-planar market show up in a campaign, it would be a shame if you have players that don’t want to visit that right away.

There are a number of locations and activities detailed. There is a scavenger hunt in which visitors may participate. There is a market overseer that will play board games with challengers and may subsidize a purchase if a PC can defeat her. There are gardens, fortune tellers, herbalists, cosmetic vendors, tattoo artists, puppet shows, and a hall for playing the market’s proprietary board game, Nightingale.

There are five new magic items included in the article. This ranges from magical makeup for disguise, a moon-themed staff, costumes that allow someone to wild shapes based on the costume type, a magical tattoo, and a puppet that can summon shadows.

One quirk of the market is that everything is done through barter. People in the market rarely take coins, and in addition to items with an intrinsic value, they may also accept favors in exchange for their wares. There is a list of the difficulty of various tasks that generally aligns to the skill difficulty examples. I think the best way to utilize this favor economy is to have people in the market who require tasks that require knowledge of the region where the market has manifested, since the inhabitants may not have much knowledge of the location.

The Aurum Court

Summarizing this article as an article of locations, NPCs, and organizations falls a little short. This article is essentially providing a campaign arc that DMs can work into their games. There are a number of NPCs presented, including a princess, the lord reagent, the spymaster, a royal heir from outside the current ruling family, and a noble from a rival nation. Each one of these NPCs has a relationship listed that details how they view the other NPCs presented. There is also a section on gaining the NPCs’ trust.

Each NPC is either in line for the throne, or supporting one of the NPCs that is in line for the throne. Those that are not in line for the throne have various organizations to which they belong. While some NPCs may be less noble in their motives, some are mistrustful of other NPCs that would naturally align with them if the distance between them can be bridged.

In addition to providing the building blocks for a campaign of royal intrigue, the article also introduces an event, the Gilded Gala, where the PCs might be able to foil plots and forge alliances over the course of the Gala, condensing a longer campaign into an adventure that may take a few sessions instead. If you do want to use this as a longer campaign, however, there are several steps laid out specifically as an example of how the PCs can clear the way for the princess to ascend the throne and what impediments need to be removed.

As an aside, the artwork for the half-orc NPC appears to be using the orc appearance that MCDM previewed in one of its Flee, Mortals! playtest packets, so if you’re wondering why she looks just a wee bit Klingon, you’ll need to keep your eye out for MCDM’s upcoming orc artwork.

Killer Pursuit

In this adventure, the PCs are set up for a murder. A member of the clergy of Saint Broccan has been murdered. This clergy member has been outspoken against adventurers, disclaiming them as faithless mercenaries. The real assassin has used magic to frame the PCs, and it will be up to them to clear their names and potentially find the real killer.

There are sections that address the PCs and what chase scenes should look like if the local authorities or the inquisitor from the church of Saint Broccan catches up with them. When PCs run into the authorities, there are listed difficulty classes for making a case for their innocence, which change as they find different pieces of evidence that they can present. The town also includes the Delvers, an adventurer’s guild, who may help the PCs clear their name in an effort to redeem the reputation of adventurers.

In addition to chances and searching for clues, there are a few sections of the adventure where there are guidelines for adding more combat if the adventure calls for it. One of the trickiest parts of the adventure is that the best way for the PCs to clear their name is to take the real assassin into the church alive.

Final Thoughts

One of the interesting elements of this issue is that all three of the articles provide compelling interactions with NPCs that are clearly drawn and have strong traits to play on. Both the Aurum Court and Killer Pursuit provide some somewhat non-standard adventure formats that provide for a lot of roleplaying and task resolution, beyond finding and dispatching enemies. 

While you may not have room for a whole new kingdom in your campaign world, the Aurum Court is a modular article that can fit a campaign that is still flexible enough to add some key locations. It’s pretty easy to map existing clergy and maybe even adventuring guilds to the ones provided in Killer Pursuit. The Nocturne Market is supremely flexible as a location that can literally show up anywhere you want.

Of the articles, The Nocturne Market is my favorite, just because of that flexibility, but as a whole, this issue is a strong example of how the best articles aren’t always beholden to presenting rules elements. What this issue does provide in that direction are solid additions. I’m looking forward to handing out a Crescent Moon Staff or a Kigurumi of Wild Shape. I do still love my spells, subclasses, and monsters, but I miss them less with compelling content like this.

Honestly, I just want a PC to sit down to play Nightingale with Amah.