Wednesday, 13 May 2020

D&D Review! Archetypes of Eberron

Today I'm reviewing Archetypes of Eberron, a book chock-full of new class options for D&D 5e characters.

Cover (Archetypes of Eberron)


Value 

Archetypes of Eberron is 54 pages long, incluing its cover and credits and contents pages. It contains 31 new archetypes with 2 or 3 for each Player's Handbook class and the Artificer. It's $14.95 normally, which is already great value for the amount of fun you and your group might get out of playing these archetypes in campaigns and one-shots going forward. If you pick it up now the price will only be $11.96 in the Play it Forward Sale, and best of all the cost of your sale will all go direct to the creators during this event.

SCORE OUT OF 4:

Contents (Archetypes of Eberron)

Quality

There's not much to say here chiefly because there's nothing to criticize! The book is beautifully presented, with some gorgeous art and attractive, clean design.

Divine Sniper Rogue (Archetypes of Eberron)

SCORE OUT OF 6:



Content

Archetypes of Eberron has a single purpose: new class options for your Eberron characters! As such, it has rather a lot of them. 31 new archetypes, to be precise. Some are conversions from prior editions, while others are new concepts. It would be highly impractical - and likely very boring to read - for me to provide detailed analysis of every archetype in detail. Instead I'll summarise the new options and give my overall impressions of this sourcebook's balance and benefit to your Eberron games.

The new archetypes in this book break down as follows:

  • Artificer specialist options:
    • Crystal Shaper. These artificers are specialists in the mystical properties of gemstones. The archetypes borrows inspiration from 3.5's psion, particularly the shaper discipline and ability to create psicrystals. Crystal Shapers can temporarily removing some of their emotions and store them in crystals to gain specific advantages from their absence. The emotions can also be released from where they are stored to augment spellcasting, or used to shape a crystalline astral construct.
    • Disruptor. A type of artificer specialising in war, and excelling at battlefield preparation and control. Disruptors create explosives called "blast disks" which they can can either throw (exploding on impact) or prime to blow up when creatures move into proximity. The Disruptor can make ten different varieties of blast disk, each of which deals a different type of damage and has a unique secondary effect. 
    • War Weaver. These artificers are also experts in war, but their role is to support and facilitate cohesion among allied forces. They can weave a magical network called an eldritch tapestry which provides a number of ways which the artificer can aid creatures included in the weave. Higher level war weavers can even extend single target spell affects to other creatures in the eldritch tapestry, or target creatures in their tapestry with the contingency spell.
  • Artificer infusions: 7 new options are available as infusions! There are some fun new choices here.  Did you ever want a third, mechanical arm? 
  • Barbarian Primal Paths:
    • Path of the Feral Heart. This path is themed around the idea of a non-specific feral "beast" inside, as opposed to the specific animal choices of the beast totem. Its features involve taking on aspects of the beast, including physical shape changes. As such, it's a good archetype for a Shifter character if the player wants to expand on their powers, or perhaps to model a player character lycanthrope in a balanced way.
    • Path of the Rage Mage. Barbarians of this path have somehow tapped into a source of chaos magic. This manifests in the ability to wield pact magic, like a warlock. Naturally, Rage Mages may cast their spells while raging and can use their spellcasting to maintain a rage. I've grappled with the concept of a spellcasting barbarian myself, and pact magic is as good a solution as any! 
  • Bard Colleges:
    • College of Revelation. These are bards whose minds have touched Xoriat, commonly known as the Plane of Madness, but to those who have touched it the Plane of Revelations. Their features are themed around knowledge, though that knowledge is not always welcome, and there may be a price to pay.
    • College of Spies. Bards of this college are consummate infiltrators. They can spend a Bardic Inspiration to cast a spell without somatic components and weave its verbal components imperceptibly into normal conversation. I absolutely love this. Other features are themed around disguise and persuasion.
  • Cleric Domains:
    • Change Domain. Clerics of change tend to serve gods of chaos. They gain access to limited bard-like magic, can use their Channel Divinity to make enemies redirect their attacks on new targets, and otherwise harness chaotic energies.
    • Exorcism Domain. This is the domain for you if you want to drive undead and fiends interloping on the material plane. Clerics of this domain are somewhat militant, cannot be possessed, and can help other creatures end charm effects and possession. They can also repel fiends with their Channel Divinity.
    • Hearth Domain. This domain encompasses the safety and security of a home and the love and support of community. A Hearth Domain cleric in the party means much more efficient Hit Dice healing, as well as various kinds of protection. 
  • Druid Circles:
    • Circle of Civilization. An unusual concept for a druid circle! These druids acknowledge humanoids' place in nature and bridge the gap between the natural world and civilisation. These druids are experts at moving through a city and interacting with its people, and can even move through worked stone like other druids might move through trees. High level druids of this circle can even animate a statue or building to fight on their behalf!
    • Circle of Eberron. Druids of this circle commune with the world itself, rather than merely the nature that thrives upon it. They summon "beasts" of plant matter and earth, and at higher levels can transform into a similar dragon-like entity called a twilight guardian. Eberron herself provides energy that replaces their need for common material components.
    • Circle of Storms. The druids of this circle respect and channel the power of storms. They themselves are fierce, warrior-like, and they can expend wild shapes to channel the storm's power through their own bodies.
  • Martial Archetypes:
    • Combat Medic. Fighters of this archetype are light-armoured, nimble warrior-healers, and in terms of game mechanics they're the divine to the Eldritch Knight's arcane. They are rewarded for healing their allies with boosts to their own damage, and can even evacuate creatures magically from the battlefield.
    • Marshal. This is a take on the popular "warlord" concept, and it fills that niche well. It has a number of ways to buff allies, but not in a way that prevents the fighter from being an active and effective damage dealer (features either just enhance a fighter class ability or require a bonus action or reaction, never an action).
  • Monastic Traditions:
    • Way of the Conduit. These monks channel the spirits of the deceased, embracing their wisdom and borrowing their power. The spirits they channel can enhance their blows, let them hurl eldritch energies, shield them from harm, or enhance their prowess in either diplomacy or deceit.
    • Way of the Tashalatora. This monastic tradition seeks enlightenment through honing mind as well as body: monks of this tradition are psionically powerful. They can touch the minds of others and subtly alter the flow of time.
  • Sacred Oaths:
    • Oath of the Bone Knight. The Bone Knights are paladins who are specialists in controlling the undead. There is some thematic overlap here with the Oathbreaker (the Oath Spells table is fairly similar, for instance, and the Seize Control Channel Divinity is similar to Control Undead, only it lets you affect multiple undead but limits their maximum CR). However, the archetype features are different and more focused on the undead theme than "Evil" in general—in fact, there's nothing in the features that explicitly links a Bone Knight to an Evil alignment. 
    • Oath of the Hell Knight. These Paladins serve fiends. While their tenets put an emphasis on power and control, the Paladin themselves needn't be monstrously evil, provided their patron doesn't demand horrifying acts of loyalty. In the lore for Eberron, they're agents of a trio of legendary hags. Their features have the sort of flavour you'd expect, such as supernatural social influence, magical resilience, as well as n Oath Spell list inspired by special features of hags.
Bone Knight Paladin (Archetypes of Eberron)

  • Ranger Archetypes:
    • Extreme Explorer. Rangers of this archetype relish danger, and specialise in adventuring within the most extreme locations. The archetype's name might give the impression that its features will be about environmental adaptability, but it actually emphasises the ranger's daring. It's not about the ranger possessing additional survival skills, but rather their having the good fortune and grit to survive their extreme adventures.
    • Guerilla. A Ranger of this archetype is an expert in stealth, poisons, and hit-and-run tactics. Thematically, it's a way to get a little bit of Rogue chocolate in your Ranger peanut butter, the same way the Scout lets you mix some Ranger peanut butter with your Rogue chocolate.  
  • Roguish Archetypes:
    • Divine Sniper. A slightly odd concept, this: the flavour text for this archetype says it "specializes in getting in, eliminating their target, and getting out", but the implication that they do shady things for their Church, operating in the shadows seems somewhat at odds with their powers which create or otherwise rely on bright, radiant light. Not exactly helpful in a stealth situation! Honestly, I think a radiant-wielding archer would be a better fit for a Paladin archetype. But misalignment between story and mechanics aside, the features of this archetype are fun and solid.
    • Soulknife. A classic, well-loved class reimagined as a rogue archetype. Soulknives can shape blades of psionic energy which they wield in melee or throw at enemies. As they gain levels, they can use their psionic weapons to impart psionic effects on their targets. I've seen a few takes on 5e soulknives, and this one is my favourite from among those attempts. 
  • Sorcerous Origins:
    • Blood Magus. At some point in their past, a Blood Mage was briefly dead, and their return to the living has given them the drive to understand the innate powers within their blood so as to escape . The connection between return from death and blood magic makes sense specifically within Eberron's: Blood Mages may be affiliated with the Blood of Vol, a faction who believe their own blood holds divine power which if studied and understood can help them create their own afterlife rather than spend eternity in the grey wastes of Dolurrh. Fortunately, nothing about this archetype's features is mechanically tied to the death theme, so is story can be reworked for other settings. A Blood Magus can expend hit points to empower spells, recover hit points with stored blood, and even create a "blood elemental" or use pools of blood to magically travel.
    • Cataclysm Mage. These sorcerers derive their power from the cataclysms of the past, and may not necessarily be descended from a bloodline living at that time: some acquire their powers after learning too much about these ancient histories, or might manifest after a vision or even spontaneously. A Cataclysm mage is obsessed with learning more about these events and sees visions of future disasters; but are they the solution, or they perhaps the cause? After all, their own powers corrupt, and rip the fabric of reality. Some great story potential with this one, though its tied quite closely to Eberron's lore. If you want to use it in another setting, you'll have to make a few minor changes. 
    • Wilder. The Wilder is a psionic archetype which draws power from emotions. Emotions, being volatile, mean that a Wilder's power is prone to surges of unpredictable power. The Wilder can increase the power of their spells but takes the risk of losing such a spell altogether. Their chaotic psionic energy shields their mind like static, and eventually lets them shift between spaces. If you like the idea of a slightly unpredictable spellcaster but aren't keen on the often goofy implementation of the Wild Magic sorcerer, or its capacity to cause trouble to allies, not just itself, the Wilder might be an ideal archetype for you. 
  • Warlock Patrons:
    • The Elemental. Warlocks of this type bind an elemental to themselves, and draw from its power. Their mastery over the elements gives them the ability ignore resistance to the energy type associated with their element, resist it themselves, "teleport" by flowing through the elemental energy inherent to all planes, and create explosive elemental motes. 
    • The Hidden One. This archetype binds you to a patron who observes and manipulates the lives of lesser, mortal creatures. You become their agent in the world. This archetype uses Intelligence for its warlock abilities in place of Charisma, and has features themed around knowledge acquisition, self-preservation, as well as discovering or creating weaknesses.   
    • The Soulborn. Soulborn are bound to the spirit of a deceased warrior (or perhaps multiple warriors) of the past. As such, they're a combat-focused archetype. They can add their Charisma bonus to AC while wearing no armour, have the ability to add effects to their attacks, and can ultimately channel the incarnate might of their ancestor.  As with the Hexblade, there'd be nothing stopping you re-skinning this archetype to make a melee warlock of another type of patron.
  • Wizard Schools:
    • Cult of the Alienist. Alienists study the daelkyr and other denizes of Xoriat, the Plane of Madness. In other settings, they might delve into the forbidden secrets of the Far Realm. The touch of that realm upon them embeds a symbiotic entity within their body, and their body becomes gradually more aberrant.Higher level alienists can also summon aberrations through use of the new conjure aberrations spell.
    • School of Living Spells. These wizards make a study of the phenomenon of living spells, magics which have gained permanence and will. They can create a living cantrip familiar, which they can empower further as they grow in their own personal power. Students of this school can feed their magic to their familiar to restore it, and even learn to absorb other magics. Ultimately, they can capture living spells and use their bound magic to cast the equivalent spell.
Alienist Wizard (Archetypes of Eberron)


Whew! 31 archetypes is a hefty collection. In any selection of this size, some are bound to excite you more or less than others, but your preferences will no doubt be different than mine. In terms of design and balance, these are all winners, and I didn't see anything that screamed balance issues. I'd happily let a player pick any one of them. So whatever your tastes, you're likely to find that the majority of these archetypes offer something worthwhile.


SCORE OUT OF 10:



Final Thoughts and Rating

FINAL SCORE OUT OF 20:
++=   
20 out of 20! A critical hit!

Well there you have it: my first natural 20. I'm not saying this product is perfectI don't really believe in "perfect"but it's close. At the very least, I can't find anything worth criticising!

If you like Eberron, pick up this product. If you like new character options, pick up this product. And if you can budget for it, pick it up by the 17th of this month so you can take advantage of its discount and give back more to its creators thanks to the Play it Forward event!

Archetypes of Eberron is available on DMsGuild now!


Saturday, 2 May 2020

New D&D release! The Patron Primer

Spilled Ale Studios has just released The Patron Primer, a comprehensive listing of canonical Forgotten Realms entities for your characters to revere, entreat, descend from, challenge, and make pacts with!

The Patron Primer


Please consider purchasing The Patron Primer during the DMsGuild's Play it Forward Event between the 4th to 17th of May. Half of our publisher profits during this event will be donated to the Charities Aid Foundation Emergency Fund, which is helping smaller UK charities weather the impact of Covid-19 on their operations.




Sunday, 12 April 2020

5e: Optional Rules - Defend and Give Cover

This optional rule module introduces two new options for characters in combat: the Defend action and the Give Cover reaction.

Briefly, the Defend action lets a player character watch over an ally and be ready to interpose themselves between that ally and a threat. When a characters does so, they become the new target of the incoming attack, and possibly additional attacks that occur afterwards, in place of the original target. 

For when things get really desperate, the Give Cover reaction lets a character leap bodily into harm's way to protect a near-dead ally without prior preparation to guard them via the Defend action. Because of this the character giving cover can't take the time or caution to defend themselves against the incoming blow: they protect their ally, but the attack automatically hits them instead.

The full rules for these two new options are presented below, and a discussion of potential implications for class features with similar effects follows. 

Defend

The Defend action is a variation of the ready action, and works in a similar way. However, it has its own rules that handle a specific trigger and the reaction to that trigger. When you take the Defend action, you choose a creature or object within 10 feet of you that you can see.

If the chosen creature or object is targeted by an attack originating from a source that you can see while they are within 10 feet of you, you may spend your reaction to move adjacent to them but must make this choice before the attack roll is made. During your movement you may also exchange places with the defended creature, costing 5 feet of your movement to do so. If the triggering attack is a melee attack you must also end this movement adjacent to the attacker. If the triggering attack is a ranged attack, you must end your movement in a position that partially blocks line of sight to the target.

When you spend your reaction to defend the chosen creature the triggering attack is resolved against your AC instead of the AC of the creature you're defending, and you take any damage caused by the attack in place of its original target. If the triggering attack is a melee attack, is not a critical hit, and you're wielding a melee weapon or a shield or your unarmed attacks deal 1d4 or higher damage, you can make a melee attack roll as part of the same reaction to try and block the attack. If your attack roll is higher than the triggering attack's result, then its damage is halved.

Give Cover

As a reaction, you throw yourself bodily in the way of an attack intended for an adjacent creature. You may use this reaction even after the attack is rolled, but you can only give cover against a melee attack if the space you occupy is within the attacker's reach, and you can only give cover against a ranged attack if you partially block the attacker's line of sight to their target. As part of this reaction, you may move 5 feet but can only do so if it moves you into a valid position from which to give cover.

The attack automatically hits you instead of the original target, and you suffer the attack's damage as normal. The attacker still rolls a d20 to see if the attack is a critical hit, but in this case the result is not compared to your AC and a roll of natural 1 is not considered an automatic miss.

Implications

The Defend action and Give Cover reaction presented above have some conceptual and mechanical overlap with a couple of existing features, discussed below:

Protection Fighting Style (Fighter, Paladin)


When a creature you can see attacks a target other than you that is within 5 feet of you, you can use your reaction to impose disadvantage on the attack roll. You must be wielding a shield.

This is very much in the same conceptual space. However, a character with the Protection fighting style will still find it useful compared to the Defend action, since they don't have to spend their action and wait and see what happens in order to meaningfully protect someone. It's also a superior choice for the warrior compared to Give Cover, which would result in them automatically taking damage, but that can still be in the their arsenal should things get desperate and they want a way to shield an ally that's a sure thing. 

Still, many people already consider the Protection style to be one of the weaker fighting style options, and it might be considered devalued further if alternatives are introduced that any character can use. All things considered, I believe that it would be appropriate to extend the benefits of the Protection style to when the character uses the Defense action, causing the triggering attack to be rolled with disadvantage against the Fighter or Paladin's AC. If you like this change, replace Protection's text with the new version below:
 
PROTECTION
When a creature you can see attacks a target other than you that is within 5 feet of you, you can use your reaction to impose disadvantage on the attack roll. In addition, when you ready the defend action and use your reaction to take it, the attack roll that triggers your reaction is rolled with disadvantage. You must be wielding a shield to gain either benefit of this feature.


Spirit Shield (Path of the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian)


[...]the guardian spirits that aid you can provide supernatural protection to those you defend. If you are raging and another creature you can see within 30 feet of you takes damage, you can use your reaction to reduce that damage by 2d6.

When you reach certain levels in this class, you can reduce the damage by more: by 3d6 at 10th level and by 4d6 at 14th level.

This occupies a similar role in terms of reducing damage taken by an ally. However, it remains relevant because it doesn't unlike Defend it doesn't spend the barbarian's action, which is better spent on rage-fueled attacks. It also doesn't result in the barbarian taking damage themselves, and it can protect an ally up to 30 feet away. Defend and Give Cover simply give the barbarian new tactical options: when an ally is particularly weak, or being targeted by a very strong enemy, the barbarian might prefer the Defend action as it gives them to redirect damage in its entirety rather than simply reduce it, and soak it using their larger hit point pool and raging damage resistance. Likewise, a barbarian can Give Cover in the knowledge that the damage they suffer will be minimised.

Other Features

Channel Divinity: Rebuke the Violent (Oath of Redemption Paladin) and Opportunist (Way of Shadow Monk) are both examples of reactions that are triggered by an ally being attacked, however as in both other cases these features require only a reaction, and the end result of both features is damage to the attacker rather than defense of the target. They therefore don't directly correlate to Defend or Give Cover and are not particularly impacted by the inclusion of these new options. 
 

Saturday, 11 April 2020

D&D Review! A Manse of Special Purpose

EDIT 12/04/2020: I've been advised by the author that A Manse of Special Purpose did undergo a round of corrections in March, so be aware that some or all of the editorial errors referenced in this review may already be resolved.

Today's post is a review of A Manse of Special Purpose, a tier 3 adventure by Jake Friday. Since the product is an adventure, the review cannot be considered completely spoiler-free. Therefore, non-DMs may wish to stop reading. 



A Manse of Special Purpose - cover


Value

A Manse of Special Purpose is a 22-page adventure which includes 3 chapters and a 4-page appendix with an adventure flowchart and statblocks. As will be discussed under Quality, the product lacks art or maps, though I didn't keenly feel the lack of either (the adventure lends itself to creative description, and the flowchart helps understand the layout). The price is Pay What You Want, with a suggested price of $2.99. It's worth at least that! 

SCORE OUT OF 4:

Quality


The design is clean and clear. It looks like a template has probably been used, in that it hews pretty close to the design of official products. As a matter of personal preference I love when third party products have their own identity, but I can't fault anyone for choosing to use a template.

A Manse of Special Purpose - Preview.


There is no art in the adventure: the only images are two rough and ready diagrams and an adventure flowchart. Art is by no means essential for an adventure to be functional, but it can help break up text and improve reading flow, as well as enrich the experience for the reader and for players whom can be shown pictures of key locations, NPCs, etc. For future endeavours, I would recommend the author to check out the creator packs Wizards of the Coast have made available for free use in DMsGuild products. There are also many very affordable stock art pieces on DriveThruRPG.

The lack of images extends to maps: as per the General Notes section the adventure "relies on theater of the mind". 

There are unfortunately numerous typographical, grammatical, formatting and layout issues interspersed throughout. To be clear, most of them won't prevent you from understanding the text, with a couple of exceptions that require a closer reading (one example: three NPCs at the end of chapter 1 where the NPC names are right-aligned but not otherwise formatted any differently from regularly text, meaning you cannot find where each NPC's section begins at a glance). It'd be well worth another editorial pass with fresh eyes. 

The author has made a conscious effort to consider the safety of players, recommending safety tools to handle potential triggers within the adventure's horror-themed content, and flagging content warnings throughout the text. In particular, the adventure deals with themes of consent (illustrating the problematic nature of the Modify Memory spell).


SCORE OUT OF 6:



Content

A Manse of Special Purpose is an adventure for tier 3 (levels 11-16) adventurers. Given some of the extraplanar creatures they might meet, I would recommend erring on the side of caution and waiting until your party is at the higher end of this bracket unless it is particularly large. The adventure sees PCs explore the Anchorin Manse, home of the artifice Anchorin. Webster is fascinated by the mysteries of the multiverse and built a machine intended to reveal some of the secrets of the cosmos. Instead, it allowed a cosmic horror to pass through into the material plane. 

The introduction includes a synopsis, general notes about how the adventure has been presented by the designer), a detailed bullet point summary of the adventure background, and finally three possible adventure hooks.

The general notes section describes choices the designer has made in how they present the adventure. For instance, they've chosen not to use traditional boxed text. Whether that appeals to you depends how you feel about boxed text! Boxes are instead used in the same manner that other products might use a sidebar: to provide useful notes for the DM. A fine idea,  however this format is not used consistently throughout the adventure: for instance on page 3 there is a whole section called Taming the Furniture which is not in boxed text, but probably should be. It explores the designer's thoughts about whether such a result would be possible. The ideas are suggestions, and non-conclusive. Theorising, and in such a conversational tone, seems like prime material for a box/side bar. Since it's in the text of the adventure, it should instead provide explicit rules for how taming the animated objects could be achieved. 

Pay special attention to the adventure background - it's detailed, and somewhat convoluted. In particular, at one point the primary antagonist is described switching bodies with a lookalike, and is thereafter referred to by the name of his assumed identity in this section and elsewhere in the adventure.

As far as the adventure hooks go, they're all adequate for drawing your heroes into the adventure, but one of the three is in my opinion a lot more interesting than the others (it's probably no surprise this one is the most detailed of the options). In any case,  you should have little trouble finding a way to draw your players in.

The adventure itself is broken into three chapters: 

Chapter 1: The Son, The Fool, and The Phony

In the first chapter, the PCs arrive in town to discover it besieged by animated objects with a unique origin that I won't spoil. After overcoming this they meet Eccles, estranged son of Webster Anchorin. He was asked to return by the Mayor because the town has been under attack by furniture from the mans for weeks. Eccles wants to discover the fate of his family and, if the last survivor, collect his inheritance. But he needs the help of adventurers to deal with the dangers present in the manse.

Chapter 2: A Planar Preoccupation

In this, the the largest chapter, PCs explore the manse itself. Due to Webster Anchorin's failed planar experiment, the manse has been fragmented across the planes, meaning that as the characters transition from room to room they will also find themselves moving between planes, dealing with environmental consequences of their new environments, and meeting residents and staff of the Anchorin manse who have been transformed by the planar energies connected to the room each was in at the time of the accident. This premise allows the designer to include a varied set of encounters which still feel connected. The adventure has a bunch of cool set pieces which should be a lot of fun for players to interact with. Some of the weirdness borders on the creepy, which is appropriate considering the overall theme of cosmic horror, but the adventure includes some notes on dialing this down if concerned. 


A Manse of Special Purpose - Preview


Chapter 3: Leaving Loose Ends

In the final chapter your PCs will find their way into the antagonist's laboratory, face the cosmic entity known as the Sentience, and decide what to do with the planar machine: either try to control it, or destroy it. 

Appendix

Finally, an appendix includes a flowchart which illustrates possible paths through the manse, which is very useful considering there is no map of the interior. The appendix also includes three pages of statblocks. Curiously, the most powerful unique creatures created for the purposes of this adventure were given no CR. To be fair, CR is a pretty inadequate measure in any case, but it's something. You don't even have a rough yardstick here: it's always a good idea to compare their features to the capabilities of your party anyway, but here you'll have to. On paper, I think these creatures have some nasty looking features, but I suspect that the Sentience is a bit of a glass cannon. 


A Manse of Special Purpose - Adventure Flowchart



SCORE OUT OF 10:


Final Thoughts and Rating


FINAL SCORE OUT OF 20:
++=  
 
14 out of 20! A great hit!


A Manse of Special Purpose is a creative and fun adventure! It leaves some things to be desired in terms of editing and presentation, but you should find this leads to only a few comprehension issues. The formatting could easily be cleaned up and comprehension thereby improved, and I do hope the designer takes another pass at it to present this adventure in its best possible light.  

The final word: An entertaining planar-themed mansion-crawl from the mind of Jake Friday, A Manse of Special Purpose is slightly marred by some issues with formatting and presentation, but these should be easily fixed. And until that update, a careful reading of the text pre-play should clear up any confusions. A Manse of Special Purpose is available on DMsGuild now!


Sunday, 29 March 2020

D&D Review! Amarune's Almanac Volume 2 - The Underdark and Volume 3 - Grasslands of the Realms.

It seems like not long ago that I reviewed a then not yet released Amarune’s Almanac Volume 1: Forests of the Realms. Yet here we are again with a double feature review for Volumes 2 and 3, both of which have been released since! I can only assume that the creative team have been working on multiple volumes of Amarune's Almanac concurrently. If not, that's one impressive production cycle!

Volume 2 covers the subterranean realm known as the Underdark. It's not the biome I would have expected to follow forests, necessarily, but it makes sense to get it out of the way early. After all, it's probably the most important and commonly used biome in the context of adventuring environments.

Volume 3 is all about Grasslands of the Realms: plains, savannas, shrublands, and prairies.

The fact that I've already reviewed a book in this series is helpful, as there are naturally many similarities between them. The strengths of the previous product are all here too, and similarly things for which I provided criticism are also reflected in these new products. Lack of change on these is understandable: even if the creative team happen to agree with my feedback, they no doubt feel consistency across the series is important. Anyway, long story short, my thoughts on Volume 1 hold true here as well and you might like to read that review first.

For the remainder of this review, I’m going to shorten the titles of these two books to Underdark and Grasslands, respectively. Likewise, Forests will be shorthand for Forests of the Realms.


Amarune's Almanac: The Underdark Amarune's Almanac: Grasslands of the Realms


Value 

Like the previous volume, Underdark and Grasslands each cost $9.95. Underdark is 65 pages and Grasslands is 50 pages excluding cover page. Compare to the 48 pages of Forests, which was already great value. These books each feature a similarly wide variety of content: setting lore and locations; archetypes, spells, and other player options; rules for biome-specific flora; creature statblocks; and magic items. Underdark also includes a helpful map of Underdark regions overlaid over the Realms. The production values of the series continues to be very high.


SCORE OUT OF 4:

Quality

You can refer to my review of volume 1 for comments on quality. This is a series, after all, so things like design, tone, and the like are consistent. Everything I said before holds true here, as does the previous score.

Stormchaser Ranger (Amarune's Almanac: Grasslands of the Realms)

SCORE OUT OF 6:

Content

As was the case with Forests, both of these books have a foreword by Ed Greenwood. He is also credited as a member of the writing team for Volume 3! This is undoubtedly a selling point for many.

The content of the books is naturally similar to Volume 1 in terms of both layout and material. One of the things that surprised me about Volume 1, Forests, was that only 12 pages were given over to introducing the forest biome and describing specific forest locations in the Realms. Underdark gives the same number of pages to describing its biomes and specific locations of note, while Grasslands uses 10 and a half pages for these sections. More space is given over to character options, spells, monsters, magic items, and the series' signature gathering system. However, the lore that is included is excellent and well-researched.

The following lore sections are included in these books:

  • Underdark:
    • The introduction. Amarune introduces herself, explains the concept of the Underdark, describes the faerzress (a form of magical radiation), and clarifies that the Underdark itself is broken up into multiple sub-biomes.
    • Locations, which includes descriptions of five Underdark regions: Araumycos, the Burgeoning Rift, the Firelands, the Glimmersea, and the Sharn Wall. 
  • Grasslands:
    • The introduction. Amarune introduces herself and explains the various types of grasslands.
    • Locations, which includes descriptions of five regions: the Battle of Bones, the Cliffs of Leaping Horses, the Eastern Plains, Mistledale, and the Shining Planes;

Underdark Map (Amarune's Almanac: The Underdark)

As I noted in my review for volume 1, the presentation of the lore sections as in-setting travel writing has its pros and its cons. The descriptions are very evocative and inspiring, but the format makes the book less efficient a reference. As before, I recommend you take some notes of any interesting details you want to use as you read, because it'll be a lot easier to refer to those notes later in your planning or in play than have to parse each section all over again every time.

Player Options

Underdark and Grasslands both include two new archetypes each, new spells, and repeat some additional rules first seen in Volume 1. These additional rules will presumably be reprinted in all future volumes, and include a variant for the Druid's Spellcasting and the Ranger's Natural Explorer.

  • The Druid's Spellcasting variant lets the druid swap a spell they have prepared for an Environment spell that matches the biome the druid is currently within. They may do so once per short rest by spending 1 minute per spell level in meditation. Environment spells are those printed in Amarune's Almanac (or any other product that adopts the concept) and have an Environment component. Basically, Environment spells can only be cast in particular types of terrain. 
  • A variant for the Ranger's Natural Explorer grants the ranger 4 spells appropriate to the ranger's favoured terrain. Rangers with multiple favoured terrains can swap spell lists every long rest. 

These features are of limited use this early in the series, but their usefulness expands with every volume released. Once the series is complete, Druids and Rangers will have options for every environment they might be adventuring in.

The Sharnbound (Amarune's Almanac: The Underdark)

I commented in my previous review that I'd love to see more varied archetypes, rather than merely ticking the Druid and Ranger boxes. It's to be expected, but in my honest opinion is sometimes redundant. It's possible to make a druid suited to most if not all biomes already with existing archetypes, for instance. Admittedly, I do understand the desire to write more interesting environment-themed archetypes than the one-size-fits-all Circle of the Land! Still, I'd love to see some biome-themed archetypes for other classes we wouldn't necessarily expect. If not instead of the Druid and Ranger archetypes, then in addition to! My wish isn't fulfilled by either of the two new volumes sadly, so I won't hold high hopes that this pattern will change going forward. But fingers crossed...

Another piece of feedback I gave related to Circle Spells: not all Druid archetypes have the Circle Spells feature, and this is why it's very important that the archetypes that do offer these spells include the necessary text to explain how they work. Yet none of the druid archetypes in Volumes 1 through 3 of this series do. I repeat this feedback because I genuinely believe it's a mistake not to correct it. It doesn't seem like good practice to assume prior knowledge on the part of the player, or to require them to refer to another source (in this case a second, official archetype) in order to play their character.

I'm concerned about this review running over-long, so I'm not going to do a deep analysis on these archetypes as would be my usual habit. Instead, I'll briefly describe them and summarise my thoughts.

The Circle of the Dark (Underdark)

An Underdark-themed druid circle, a concept which puts this archetype into the same narrative space as the Circle of the Land (Underdark). Circle of the Dark does a pretty solid job of separating itself from the Circle of the Land (Underdark) by focusing primarily on the magical nature of the Underdark. An innate divination magic to sense the location of creatures in darkness, and the ability to channel the magical radiation known as Faerzness is fun and on point. If I could change one feature it would be Fungal Infestation, which is a sudden departure from this archetype's brand into thematic territory belonging to the Circle of Spores.

Features it has in common with the Circle of the Grove previously published in Forests include more powerful beast forms that are native to the biome, and the ability to transmute the land of their biome. Their Faerzness Surge is kind of like the sorcerer's Wild Magic table, triggering whenever use you a Wild Shape in the Underdark or to use your Land Transmutation. The major difference is all of the eight effects (rolled on a d8) are essentially helpful power boosts. At 6th level the Circle of the Dark Druid gains an innate location sense for any creature within 60 feet that would normally be concealed by darkness. This presumably also functions in magical darkness as no distinction is made within the text. This feature is implicitly magical (a type of divination to be precise). I divined this (sorry not sorry) from the fact it can be blocked by 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt. These are the same barriers that block many divination spells.

Sharnbound (Underdark)

I was worried the Ranger archetype would be too similar to the Gloom Stalker, but that was unfounded. Sharnbound sell themselves on concept alone: these Rangers patrol a magical barrier known as the Sharn Wall, erected by the aberrations known as sharn to trap a threat that even they feared: the phaerimm. Sharn are composite being made up from the minds of three or more former humanoids. Sharnbound Rangers bond with a dying sharn's life force, becoming a symbiotic entity that grows more aberrant as the ranger becomes strong enough to survive the physical changes. A sidebar here provides a table of d10 personalities for the symbiotic Sharn. You roll three times, one each for every mind in the Sharn's fragmented psyche. Being sharnbound makes you very aberrant: you gain the ability to sprout a black tentacle to make a special grapple, pick up items, or move around the battlefield. The ability to stick to a surface you pull yourself to is incredible tactically, especially for a ranged build. Later, you acquire the ability to become ooze-like and move through tiny gaps and hostile creatures' spaces. As a matter of personal taste I'd prefer it to cost a bonus action or reaction. Turning from a humanoid to an ooze feels like it would take a couple of seconds as a process, not be complete instantaneously.

The 11th level feature Accelerated Physiology is interesting from a design perspective, because it takes one of the archetype's bonus spells and turns it into a core part of your gameplay. As an aside, I've been experimenting with this sort of thing myself, so I'm excited to see it here! Admittedly, you were probably using haste before. It's too good for a Ranger not to be in your arsenal. But with Accelerated Physiology, if you cast haste on yourself, you can't lose concentration from taking damage, and you are immune to the effects that normally apply when haste ends. This feature also lets you spend your reaction after rolling initiative to immediately cast any of your Sharn Magic bonus spells (which, of course, includes haste). All things considered, this is a pretty incredible feature. Whether it's balanced or not might depend on your campaign's typical adventuring day. For contrast, at 11th level the Gloom Stalker gets an extra attack every turn (but only if they miss one attack, so note that the maximum possible damage cap isn't raised). Leaving aside the tactical advantage of casting a spell when initiative is rolled, you're getting up to 3 minutes (you can cast haste three times) of a bonus attack or other action, +2 AC, advantage on Dexterity and saving throws. It's very rare for a D&D combat to last over a minute, so think about how many combats you normally run.

This archetype is A+ on theme and fun, but my gut feeling is that it does have the potential to feel overpowered, even if it technically isn't. See its unparalleled ability to use the environment (hit and run tactics through gaps too small for larger sized enemies, sticking to walls and ceilings to rain death upon monsters with no good ranged options, etc.) and combine with the extra damage potential and defensive boosts of haste. I don't think it's breaking anyone's game as long as the DM takes these abilities into consideration, it's just something to be aware of. As is the fact that this archetype is oozing (still not sorry) with mechanical potency and fun gameplay to the extent there could be some frustration for other warriors in the group which possess a less exciting suite of options.

The Circle of the Plains (Amarune's Almanac: Grasslands)

The Circle of the Plains (Grasslands)

Like the other two druid circles currently printed in the series, the first level features of this archetype include circle spells, more powerful beast forms, and a land transmutation effect. The archetype's other features are mostly to do with mobility and maneuvering: Plainswalker grants a bonus action Dash and Pack Ambush lets your allied spend their reaction to Hide when you do, using your own Stealth check. The archetype's capstone is the ability to whip up a tornado which can pull in creatures, damage them, and eject them in a random direction. Decent battlefield control!

Stormchaser (Grasslands)

This ranger is, well, storm-themed. And it's pretty damn cool. Its stormwind surge lets you double your speed temporarily until the start of your next turn, and deal increased damage with lightning or thunder for the duration. Later on at 11th level, you'll eventually pick up what is effectively a compromise between resistance and immunity to those two damage types: while you're only granted resistance, you can spend your reaction to reduce the damage to 0 and recharge stormwind surge. So if you only take thunder or lightning damage once in a round, and you didn't spend your reaction on anything else, you're functionally immune for that round. It's a pretty neat mechanic, though resistance alone to two damage types is very powerful. The rest could be considered too much. Still, how often are you going to fight a creature that only relies on lightning or thunder damage? It's probably fine.

The 7th level feature summons a steed of lightning, which is metal as hell. You can also grant your benefits from stormwind surge to your steed, which is a great touch. Your steed is upgraded at 15th level, and you gain the ability to summon a localised lightning storm around the steed.

Spellcasting

Each book has a spellcasting section. In both cases it introduces and explains the concept of an Environment component (this is not new information if you already own volume 1, of course) and each provides 11 new spells across a wide variety of levels. One ritual, Druidic Practice, is reprinted from the first volume. My comments on Druidic Practice can be found in the previous volume's review.

Spells (Amarune's Almanac: The Underdark)

The spells are fun, flavourful, useful, and seem balanced.

My favourite of the spells in Underdark are morass, which covers surfaces in the area with a white lichen that can restrain and paralyze; as well as delirium, which generates hallucinogenic spores that interact with the game's optional madness rules. An honourable mention for aphotic armor simply because aphotic is one of my favourite words. I don't quite know why they appeal to me so much, but my favourite spells in Grasslands are those that make use of grass itself in the casting. blade of grass transforms the grass into a sword, while whistling reed creates a magical grass whistle with a high pitched peal which disrupts hearing and can be used to stun.

Between Adventures

As was the case in Forests, this section of both books includes the rules for the Gathering Plants Expedition downtime activity. To accompany this new activity, both books include 20 flora which includes flowers, fruits, and trees useful for lumber. Descriptions and special rules relating to these flora are included, and tables provide an at-a-glance indicator of where in the Realms each plant might be found, as well as its sale value. These sections are among my favourite parts of Amarune's Almanac series, providing an easy reference for much needed variety in plant growths with which you can populate the fantastic landscapes of your adventures.

Flora (Amarune's Almanac: Grasslands)


Appendix

Each book includes an appendix which is split into two sections: Beasts and Monsters, and Magic Items.

Beasts and Monsters

This section of Underdark includes 23 new statblocks, associated with a variety of different creature types. This index fills out some iconic Realmsian monster-shaped gaps in the official bestiaries. The descriptions of many monsters in these bestiaries include notes on what resources might be harvested from their corpses. In terms of new beast forms for wild shape, Grasslands is more fertile than Underdark. On the other hand, the larger bestiary of Underdark and its selection of monsters is bound to please any DM. Either way, these sections both excited me a bit more than their equivalent in the first volume.

Both books provide a table which shows precisely which regions of the Realms or Underdark each monster is most likely to be found in.

New monsters in Underdark include:

  • The CR 10 angler worm (a relative of the purple worm that lures curious prey to their dangling light)
  • The CR 1 azmyth (a variety of strange snake-like bat with the magical abilities to become invisible and discharge lightning)
  • The CR 1 blasting jelly (an artificial duergar-made slime with explosive properties)
  • the CR 5 swarm of bloodbites (quipper-like fish that swarm through the air of the underdark, rather than water)
  • The CR 1 cavvekan (bat-like dogs that Underdark species use as hunting animals)
  • The CR 4 wyrmling, CR 10 young, CR 17 adult, and CR 24 ancient deep dragon (a burrowing dragon with a dazing brath and the ability to polymorph into snake and humanoid forms)
  • The CR 16 drowbane (a predatory aberration that hunts by sonar)
  • The CR 1 fire bat (a bat... that's on fire)
  • The CR 8 ghaunadan (an ooze servant of the god of abominations, which can shapechange into the form of a drow to walk unnoticed among them)
  • The CR 2 knell beetle drone and CR 4 knell beetle (a giant bug with a strange sonic trumpet it can use to blast foes with thunderous noise)
  • The CR 6 lith (a form of psionically crafted earth elemental)
  • The CR 4 juvenile, CR 9 young, CR 13 adult, and CR 19 elder phaerimm (a race of worm-like aberration sorcerers that can eat magic energy)
  • The CR 1/4 rockmite and CR 2 swarm of rockmites (silverfish-like giant bugs that can burrow through solid stone)
  • The CR 10 sharn (aberrations born from chaos magic and fragmented minds)
  • The CR 1/2 spore weaver (a variety of spider which have a symbiotic relationship with fungal growths on their bodies

Angler Worm (Amarune's Almanac: The Underdark)Jaskar (Amarune's Almanac: Grasslands of the Realms)

New monsters in Grasslands include:
  • The CR 2 bison and CR 6 primeval bison (the latter of which is a huge variety that is imbued by primal magic)
  • The CR 1/8 flower blight (a new type of good-aligned blight)
  • The CR 3 huuserpent (giant two-headed constrictor snakes)
  • The CR 3 jaskar (a large variety of vulture, capable of picking up humanoids and dropping them to their deaths)
  • The CR 18 living tornado (a massive air elemental of evil intent)
  • The CR 2 pink zebra (a fey trickster that enjoys harassing mortals - but none so much as a mortal that threatens their herd)
  • The CR 4 razor bulette (a variety of bulette with chitinous blades and wicked bite)
  • The CR 2 herbivorous and CR 2 carnivorous scathebeast (strange many-eyed herd beasts with an ability to adapt to resist damage taken)
  • The CR 2 wermic warrior, CR 3 wermic hunter, and CR 6 wermic shaman (a race of lion-centaurs)
  • The CR 2 zhuruda (magical flightless birds with innate spellcasting that varies based on the colour of their plumage)

Magic Items

Underdark contains 11 magic items, and Grasslands has 10. This section was one of my favourites in Forests, and the same is true of these volumes: each is an excellent collection of fun items to add to your game. A particular favourite from Underdark is Maggris' Bracelet of Summoning, which has a lot of creep factor thanks to its effect of drawing insects and bugs to you, which you can cause to swarm enemies. It also lets you summon giant insects and beetle swarms which you can control. my favourite from Grasslands is probably the Skull of the Stampede, a helmet made from a bison skull which gives you a powerful charge-like stampede ability.

Organisation

The volumes of Amarune's Almanac aren't indexed, but most of the content is quite easily referenced through the contents pages.


SCORE OUT OF 10:

Final Thoughts and Rating

FINAL SCORE OUT OF 20:
++=   
18 out of 20! A superior hit!

Everything that was good about volume 1 remains true, but on the other hand so do the things I considered less positive. Thankfully, those are a pretty minor factor compared to the overall quality of these products. Constructive criticisms and quibbles aside, Amarune's Almanac has shown a consistent excellence in game and graphic design, writing, and illustration. If anything, these two volumes slightly raise the bar with bestiaries that were - to me - far more interesting. All things considered, what you get in each volume is an absolute bargain at the price.

You can find the three current volumes of Amarune's Almanac at the following links:
I will not be writing any more reviews for Aamrune's Almanac. I think three is enough to build a clear picture of the quality across the entire series. As long as the creative team maintain or exceed the current standard, I would whole-heartedly recommend picking up any volume!

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Legacy Unknown: A Star Wars Saga Edition RPG Stream!

Hi all! In case you missed the updates on twitter, here's an exciting announcement: starting on April 4th, I'll be running a fortnightly Star Wars Saga Edition game on my twitch channel, www.twitch.tv/spilledalestudios!

My amazing players will be @Fuzzb0x@litzabronwyn@SpaceMoose34@XPartay, with an open fifth slot for the occasional guest player.

Want to know more? I've released a brief introduction to what the game is about, as well as revealed bios and theme songs for two of our four characters! Check what's already been revealed out below, and follow @spilledale on twitter for the most up to date news.

Introducing Legacy Unknown


Ciara Reveal


Ark Reveal


Sunday, 19 January 2020

D&D Review! First Adventure by Leonardo Benucci

Update 20/01/2020: The author has made me aware of updates to the adventure which occurred between my receipt of the review copy and my posting the review. These additional elements are now factored into the review. 

Today's review is First Adventure by Leonardo Benucci. The product's title is apt: it's a first for me too! In my case, the first 3rd-party D&D adventure I'll ever formally review!

Given the DM-oriented nature of this product, anyone who doesn't expect they might run it should probably turn away now! The review won't be spoiler free.


First Adventure - the Goonies-inspired cover!


Value

First Adventure is 64 pages long, which includes the cover, contents, credits, 16 pages worth of adventure, and 45 pages of extensive appendices. These appendices include two creature statblocks, rules for playing kid PCs (yup, you read that right), pregen characters on custom drawn character sheets, illustrations, and maps. The adventure probably should be longer too, as it uses a very conservative size 10 font which compresses it into less pages than it might otherwise occupy. The product is currently priced at only $4.99 but to be honest, it could be priced higher. It should be priced higher. I can't take points off the product's "value" score for being too cheap, because this score is ultimately about value to you, the prospective consumer. But I feel obliged to at least mention it because I really want creatives to recognise the value of their work and price their offerings accordingly.

SCORE OUT OF 4:

Quality


The layout and other design elements of First Adventure are competent for a first effort, though the product lacks some of the polish a more experienced graphic designer might be able to bring to the table. But the crucial point here is that there is very little that will get in the way of your usage of the product. Everything is laid out in a way that is usually clear and relatively easy to parse. There are a few issues that do affect legibility:

  • I think the product could be slightly improved by increasing spacing between some design elements (the space between read-aloud text and the body text, for instance)
  • I'd suggest increasing the font size from 10 to 11. 
  • In some places where text wraps around images, it is difficult to read. I would recommend either turning off the wrapping or reducing the size of the image.
  • I would also recommend the author to make another editing pass. There are some missing words and typos yet to be excised, and some of boxed text has no line breaks between paragraphs.

Pregen Character Sheet - Jeff.


First Adventure includes a lot of graphical elements including a large amount of art, hand-drawn character sheets, and maps. I think the art is all original! If so, it's just another reason the adventure is under-priced.

The adventure is very well written, with impressively evocative boxed text that really helped draw me into the narrative. There are a few errors as noted above, but nothing that prevented me from understanding a  passage.

SCORE OUT OF 6:



Content

First Adventure differs from most adventure modules in that it's primarily intended to be a self-contained one-shot (you can launch a campaign with it, particularly if you choose not to use the six pregen characters provided). It is also divided into two acts: in the first, players take on the roles of a group of children who go on a journey to find a way to the Faerie Realm, which they do to keep a promise made to their mother on her deathbed. They are in fact meant to fail, but that sets the stage for act 2 in which any survivors return as young adults.

Meant to fail act 1? Return in act 2? Really? Yes. This is an adventure which is comfortable with what we call railroading. It has a specific story to tell, and keeps the players on that path. This is acceptable given the format of the adventure as a one-shot experience. In the context of a campaign, it's probably better for beginner players who may not chafe as much at forced events. Or simply players who value a good story.

Despite the characters starting off as young children, First Adventure is not necessarily child-friendly as written. It is quite possible for one of the kid adventurers to meet a grisly demise in Act 1 - though as DM you can, of course, make any modifications you deem necessary. The dark "bad ending" is also the most likely one, which may not be how you want to leave things with young players.


The Faerie Realm.


Boxed text is pretty standard in adventures, and First Adventure is no exception. Some DMs like boxed text, others don't. A few of the boxes in First Adventure run to multiple paragraphs, which the latter group probably won't appreciate. The area descriptions could be shorter, the DM trusted more to fill out absent details. But new DMs using First Adventure as their own introduction into D&D will no doubt appreciate the attention to detail.  There is also a prologue which is meant to be read aloud. It's a really nice bit of writing which beautifully sets the stage for the adventure, but in my honest opinion it's too long to read at the table. I'd suggest emailing it to players in advance of the session.

In my view, there are a few things in the adventure that could frustrate some groups:

  • To acquire the flower which the characters want for their adoptive mother's grave, they must entertain a group of pixies. The adventure resolves this scene by requiring that the players themselves must make the DM laugh. This might make some players uncomfortable, so bear in mind the personality types in your group.
  • There are two possible endings for this adventure, and the "good ending" is conditional on players having a gut feeling without being given any clues in particular that might nudge them in that  direction. Some seeds earlier in the adventure regarding the reveal would have gone a long way.  
  • A lot of the features and abilities on the pregen sheets are probably going to go end up unused, which seems a shame. This is actually a common issue with pregens, but it's very noticeable in First Adventure. The second act, for instance, calls for only a very few checks and saves and even the act's one combat can be avoided through a successful Perception check. 

Pixies!

DMs whose groups are the types who can focus on the story and enjoy roleplaying as kids will thrive playing First Adventure. Groups that like combat, dungeon-crawling, and engaging with the mechanics of the game will probably find the adventure ill-suited to their type of enjoyment. However, I'm certain that with a little work a DM could expand the adventure with additional encounters both in the mine and in the Faerie Realm. 

I've mentioned already that the adventure has substantial appendices. I've already covered the fact that it includes a lot of custom art, maps, and hand-drawn character sheets. So I'll conclude by summarising the contents of Appendix A: Creatures Appendix B: Magic Items, and Appendix C: Kids as PCs.

Appendix A: Creatures

There is only one creature to fight in this adventure (and it can be bypassed through more peaceful means): the owlbear. It's encountered in both acts, but grows a lot in the intervening 17 years. This appendix includes two custom statblocks for a young owlbear (CR 2) and a fiendish owlbear (CR 6).

Appendix B: Magic Items

This appendix provides actual rules for the Flower of a Thousand Colours, the object of the children's quest. This is a legendary item with remarkable properties of healing and protection. But it's a fragile flower which must be kept planted and watered in, at minimum, a pot. Many of the flowers properties only benefit you if you carry it, but it's obviously quite inconvenient to take it adventuring - especially since it withers and dies when too many acts of violence occur around it. It could be planted at a group's base of operations, however, allowing them to use its abilities to heal up between adventures and protect their home.

Appendix C: Kids as PCs

This part of the adventure presents guidelines for making child PCs, which is helpful if you want to create custom PCs instead of using pregens, or if you want to create your own child-oriented adventure.


SCORE OUT OF 10:


Final Thoughts and Rating


FINAL SCORE OUT OF 20:
++=  
 
15 out of 20! A great hit!


First Adventure is a labour of love, and has been crafted with an impressive incredible attention to detail. For the author's first publication, it's truly an exemplary effort! There is room for improvement in terms of the product's layout and design, but nothing that makes it impossible to read or run the adventure.

Therefore, while I certainly do recommend First Adventure, it's important to note that its laser focus on the narrative being told results in a linear path and some sacrifice of player agency. It's also considerably less kid-friendly than first appearances suggest, though it wouldn't be too hard for a DM to make adjustments to change that. As such my recommendation comes with the caveat that this product is better suited to some groups than others.

Even if you'll never run First Adventure, the rules for kid PCs and the pregen characters could be very useful for running your own child-oriented adventures! At only $4.99, you could do a lot worse than to pick First Adventure up for those alone.

The final word: An astonishingly ambitious inaugural effort from author Leonardo Benucci, First Adventure spins a cinematic yarn that will appeal to some groups but the linearity of which may frustrate others. First Adventure is available on DMsGuild now!