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 addition 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!


Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Our itch.io store has launched!

Spilled Ale Studios now has an itch.io store! The store has launched with three pieces of stock art, and will expand in time. When our agreement with DriveThruRPG has transitioned to non-exclusive terms, you can also expect some RPG products to be added to the itch.io store as well!

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Christmas and New Year's Sale!

All products are 50% off until the 1st of January 2020 when added to your OneBookShelf cart using the special discount button(s) on this post! This is important: OBS special discounts are resolved as links which add an item directly to your cart. The product page links are therefore solely for the purpose of previewing a product's contents. Come back here to add a product you want to your cart!

The Spilled Ale Studios Character Bundle!

Contains: Awesome Options: Signature PowersDraconomicon: DragonboundHeroes of SongThe Awakened ItemThe ExplorerThe Explorer 2

Please note that the character bundle has been reduced by only 25.05%. However, this means the bundle's total discount including the reduction already included equals 50%. The discount is therefore the same as buying the products separately, choose the bundle for convenience if planning to pick up all its contents anyway.







Ashes of Evensong







Awesome Options: Signature Powers






Draconomicon: Dragonbound







Draconomicon: Gem Dragons







Elminster's Eldritch Esoterica: Power of Blood







Fantastic Familiars







Ghostwalker: Eidolon







Heroes of Song







Monstrous Monograph: Humanoids Volume 1







Monstrous Monograph: Monstrosities Volume 1







Races of Gallian: The Dremund







Races of Gallian: The Hobben







The Awakened Item







The Explorer







The Explorer 2







The Shepherd







Wasteland Wanderers







Wasteland Wares






Sunday, 15 December 2019

D&D review! Eberronicon, A Pocket Guide to the World.

A very interesting product has crossed my metaphorical desk: Eberronicon, A Pocket Guide to the World. Project lead Laura Hirsbrunner asked if I'd like to review it and clearly my answer was "yes"!

My interest is partly curiosity: Eberron sort of passed me by. I did own the campaign setting, which was released at a time when I picked up pretty much every D&D book published. Yet the world just didn't grab me. Truthfully I don't know how much of that was incompatibility between myself and the setting and how much was the fact that, for me, D&D 3.5 was on the way out. It wasn't long after Eberron released that I started to feel very tired of the edition and stopped playing it, never to pick it up again. I didn't buy anything Eberron related until the Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron a, which I bought for new game content rather than lore. Likewise, my chief interest in Rising from the Last War was additional character options, magic items, creatures, and so on. I could read the lore sections of either book to try and see if I grock Eberron better these days, but that'd be a lot of reading. A "pocket guide" is an attractive alternative! I'll be reading through Eberronicon with interest to see just how much information is packed into its 54 pages. What I'm most curious about going in is whether I would feel comfortable running a game set in Eberron just using information gleaned from this guide, or whether it's more useful as a supplemental resource.

Laura is also Editor-in-Chief at Across Eberron, a community project that published Convergence Manifestoa 13-strong adventure path. Many of the writers for this book are also authors of one or more adventures in Convergence Manifesto, and those adventures were executive produced by Keith Baker, creator of the Eberron setting! Keith is also given a special thanks in the credits of Eberronicon for "lending his insight". We can therefore be quite confident that this team know what they're about, and that the lore in this book ought to be accurate! Hopefully it'll serve as an excellent primer for me to refresh myself on the setting.

Before I begin, the usual disclaimer: I was provided a copy in order that I could write this review, but that won't bias my thoughts on its content.


Eberronicon, A Pocket Guide to the Word.


Value

Eberronicon, a Pocket Guide to the World is $12.99 for 55 pages (54 excluding the cover). I'll obviously talk more about production values in the next section, but I need to briefly mention them in terms of impact on the product's value. Suffice it to say that the quality standard of the book is very high. But there's also a text only version for more efficient printing, which is a useful addition.

I've seen larger DMsGuild products with a smaller price tag, but those are invariably undercharging. That's what happens when indie creatives try to feel out their price points amidst a market for which there is little clear guidance and is frankly hostile to the idea of creatives being fairly paid for their efforts. $12.99 is a reasonable asking price for the amount of content and professional quality standard. I did do some napkin math on this and while I won't bore you with the details of my working, all things considered Eberronicon is about on par with the value of a WotC release. If you consider that WotC benefit from economies of scale which simply don't apply to indie publishers, it's easy to realise that this product really couldn't be much cheaper than it already is and still pay its contributors. If the price seems like a lot to you, consider how many times you'll refer to this book as you plan your campaign, how many hours of play it will help facilitate. I could spend more on a cinema ticket!


SCORE OUT OF 4:

Quality

Eberronicon is beautifully presented with an attractive layout, and it makes excellent use of art from DMsGuild creator packs and other artists. The overall impression of quality is very high. If you had a print version, it wouldn't look out of place among the other source books on your shelf.

If you thought that the so-called Pocket Guide to the World would actually fit in a pocket (if in print), you'd be wrong. The page size is actually typical of a product of this kind: US Letter (8.5 x 11inches). I was slightly disappointed by this since I'd thought it would be a nice quirk, and I know pocket-sized RPG books are possible. I have fond memories of the 3.5 era's Mongoose Pocket Player's Handbook!

Considering the book isn't pocket sized after all, the body font is smaller than I'd expect: it's size 10, and bear in mind that a font's size attribute is also relative to the scale of the font itself. For a point of reference that's easily grasped, the scale of Crimson Text is about half that of Arial at the same font size. If I used Arial in my products (I don't, I use Merriweather, but it's almost exactly the same scale as Arial) I wouldn't go lower than font size 10.5 for body text. This means that the size 10 Crimson Text used in Eberronicon is less than half the size I'm comfortable using for body text in my own products. So when I say the font is small, I mean it! It is legible, particularly if the pdf is opened in a full screen window. I wouldn't recommend a window much smaller: I usually like my pdf windows to occupy the right half of my 1920x1080 monitor while I make notes in my word processor on the left side. I couldn't do that with Eberronicon. While the text was still legible to me when scaled down into that window, I found myself straining to read it more than I liked. I didn't test the pdf on a mobile device but it is probably a bit of a pain there too.

On the other hand, there's a positive side to the font size: it means there's much more information squeezed into each page than you'd think, and therefore you're getting better value for money! Honestly though, I'm not sure why it needs to be squeezed in. Why not just use a larger font and have a higher page count?

The writing is excellent and well edited. There are a scant few places which could do with another editorial pass, but nothing I noticed during my read-through is serious enough to be considered a significant detractor in quality.


SCORE OUT OF 6:


Content

Eberronicon is a different kind of product to those I've previously reviewed on this blog: it's all lore, no "crunch". That means this section will be comparatively short as there is no mechanical analysis to undertake.

One thing to note up front: due to the lore heavy nature of this book, it's useful regardless of your preferred edition of D&D (or even if you intend to run a game set in Eberron using another system entirely).

The book is broken up into 7 sections, as follows:


Welcome to Eberron

This short section summarises the defining characteristics of the setting and explains the purpose of the book. In a few short pages it does a very good job of capturing Eberron's essence, and therefore is a good resource if you need to pitch the world to your players (or to your DM!). This section also explains how the rest of the book will include cross-references to existing Eberron material: each subsection includes a "Learn more" entry that lists a source and page number for further reading. I cannot overstate how stupendously useful this is! Particularly for a DM who already owns lots of Eberron books but intends to use the Eberronicon as a quick reference.


Chapter 1: Races


Chapter 1: Races (sample spread)

The book's first true chapter briefly introduces each of the playable races, and up to 6 subsections with interesting lore and plot hooks that would help a DM create campaign elements or a player quickly flesh out their character. To take just one example, the section on Changelings includes 5 subsections:

  • The principality of Gray Tide, a changeling homeland founded by a privateer.
  • An acknowledgement that changelings are heavily recruited by intelligence agencies, and a list of organisations that would seek to employ them. 
  • Lost, a city populated by doppelgangers and changelings and formed of living, shape changing buildings... (that sounds like house hunters to me!) 
  • How the people of Riedra consider a changeling's mutable form worthy of reverence, and believe that a good human will reincarnate into a changeling in their next life. 
  • An all changeling criminal organisation known as the Tyrants, one of three groups that dominates the underworld of Sharn.

The races described in this chapter are: changelings, dragonborn, drow (which for soem reason get their own section separate from elves, though eladrin do not), dwarves, elves, gnolls, gnomes, goblinoids, half-elves, half-orcs,halflings, kalashtar (psionically gifted humanoids unique to Eberron), kobolds, lizardfolk, orcs, planetouched (aasimar, genasi, tieflings, etc.), shifters (pseudo-werefolk unique to Eberron), and warforged (living constructs unique to Eberron). Some races are given a great deal more attention than others, though that likely owes more to the amount of lore available than any bias on the part of the authors.

The chapter also includes an extremely useful "Other Races" page which provides ideas for how a DM might incorporate other playable races that exist in D&D 5e into Eberron's world. 


Chapter 2: Places


Chapter 2: Places (sample spread)

This chapter is all about important locations: continents, nations, cities, and even planes.
The first part of the chapter lists the world's continents, as well as particularly important locations within those continents. As with Chapter 1, there is significant disparity in how much information is given in each section. Still, it certainly makes sense that Khorvaire has the most detail, given it's the primary continent in terms of Eberron's published literature and where most campaigns are expected to occur. There's a very useful table at the end of this part of the chapter which tells you how to refer to a person hailing from a particular place, as well as how to refer to objects (such as a traditional food) that originate from that place.

The second half of the chapter is an exploration of Eberron's planar cosmology. I'm a sucker for an interesting cosmology so I enjoyed reading this part particularly. Eberron's planes seem to be distinct, separate places (as opposed to the Great Wheel, where travel directly between bordering planes is possible; however, as is the case with most D&D settings, all are connected through the Astral plane. An unusual quirk of this cosmology is that each plane moves, coming near and far from the material plane. As they come nearer, their aspect can influence the material, with the strength of that influence waxing and waning. The effects of that influence are noted in each plane's subsection. Another interesting aspect of Eberron's cosmology is the lack of a fiendish realm. Instead, we learn that fiends are actually native to the deep realm of Khyber, Eberron's equivalent to the Underdark.


Chapter 3: Factions

As you'd expect from the title this chapter details significant organisations that exist in the setting, from established adventuring guilds, to hag covens, warforged supremacy movements, and Rakshasa-led fiendish cults. The chapter also lists well known newspapers as well as scholarships to educational establishments. Naturally, the twelve dragonmarked houses which are so central to Eberron's lore are also described in brief here. There's a lot of story hooks here for DMs and players writing character backgrounds alike!


Chapter 4: Faiths


Chapter 4: Faiths (sample spread)

The introduction to this chapter notes that Eberron's deities are not reachable, and cannot be proven to exist (or not exist): belief in their existence is a matter of faith, and a divine spellcaster's power is derived primarily from their faith rather than the target of that faith. The chapter describes Khorvaire's primary three religions, although it's really two religions. The Dark Six pantheon are former members of the Sovereign Host pantheon, so belief in one set of deities implies belief in the other. Pantheistic worship is the norm for the Sovereign Host, which I appreciate. It's never made sense to me that just because a character worships one god in a fantasy pantheon, they would fail to give due reverence to other deities in the context of their specific domains: even if I happen to be a cleric of the harvest deity, you can bet when I'm at risk of drowning in a shipwreck I'm offering my prayers to a god of the sea! The last of the core religions is the Silver Flame, which is worship of an "eternal force of goodness". Sounds like an ideal source of power for paladin types.

There is also a lengthy section of "Other Religions" which includes a variety of other cultural and racial belief systems, druidic sects, and cults. There's even a subsection on atheism, which is a much more viable approach in a setting where power comes from the act of faith rather than the gods themselves than it is in a world where the existence of the divine is unquestionable.

A great sidebar near the end of this chapter is aimed at D&D 5e DMs: it talks about the reincarnate spell in the context of Eberron and provides a comprehensive alternative reincarnation table. This might actually be a useful resource even for DMs of other settings, as it incorporates other non-Eberron races that have been published after the Player's Handbook. At the very least it could serve as a model for designing your own alternative table for the spell appropriate to your own setting.


Appendix A: Secrets

I'm not going to dwell much on this appendix because, after all, its contents are secret! This is where DMs should look to learn about truths of the setting that should not necessarily be apparent to characters in the world, or (ideally) their players. This is therefore a very useful reference when figuring out what your campaign is going to be about!


Appendix B: Further Reading

This appendix is an impressively curated list of additional resources. Neatly organised tables identify Eberron sourcebooks and adventures from previous editions, and provide an abbreviation for each sourcebook (which you'll find useful when following the "Learn More" notes interspersed throughout the rest of the book). In addition to published sourcebooks and adventures, lists of other sources are provided: Dragon and Dungeon magazine articles, web articles, organized play seasons, novels, and "Kanon" sources ("Kanon" means not technically official, but derived from Keith Baker's writings about his personal version of Eberron).

This appendix is extremely comprehensive! it's a really impressive effort and I can see it being extremely useful both for DMs wanting an easy starting point for their deep dive into lore as well as new Eberron DMs wondering what sources might be their next best investment.



SCORE OUT OF 10:


Final Thoughts and Rating


FINAL SCORE OUT OF 20:
++=   
19 out of 20! A champion's hit!


This is an excellent exploration of the Eberron setting which manages to squeeze an impressive amount of key information into a fairly short book. I wondered early in this review whether a DM could confidently run an Eberron game using only the Eberronicon and I think the answer is yes, to a point. With the brief summaries here you could flesh out your own take on Eberron which captures the same key themes, but without more detail you wouldn't be able to run a version of the world experienced Eberron players would feel at home in. But if you want to flesh out the world in more canonical detail, then this book is also a great boon to you: I'm in awe of the excellent referencing in the Eberronicon which will help any Eberron DM immensely as they plan their campaigns.

There is almost nothing negative to say about Eberronicon, A Pocket Guide to the World. My only real complaint is with the font size of the body text.  As I noted, I found it too small to have the PDF side by side with my notes for this review on my monitor without having to zoom in resulting in significantly more scrolling around as I read than usual. DMs referring to it at their computer while planning their game may have similar difficulties, depending on their monitor size and set up, and I can only assume that it will also be more inconvenient than many other PDFs for mobile devices.

The final word: if you are or intend to be an Eberron DM, this is an astounding resource which you won't regret adding to your collection. It's pretty useful as a player reference, too, just don't sneak a peak at Appendix A! Eberronicon, A Pocket Guide to the World is available on DMsGuild now.


If you're curious whether I've become an Eberron convert based on my reading of this book: I'm probably no more likely to run an Eberron campaign than I was before, since I generally prefer to homebrew my worlds. But I have a new appreciation for the lore of the setting, and I can see better why other DMs and players enjoy the world. While I might not use want to use Eberron as a whole, I'm definitely more likely to take inspiration from it! I'd be more likely to want to play in the world, too.

Monday, 25 November 2019

5e: Amarune's Almanac Volume 1 - Forests of the Reams, a review.

Today I’m reviewing an upcoming DMsGuild product from a team of DMsGuild creators led by Steve Fidler (author of Prism: Light & Magic, among others; and also a contributor to Infamous Adversaries, which I recently reviewed) The product in question is the inaugural volume of Amarune’s Almanac, a series of books exploring the various biomes of the Forgotten Realms. Amarune’s Almanac Volume 1 is subtitled Forests of the Realms, so we have a pretty clear idea going in what sort of information we’re going to find here!

For the remainder of this review, I’m going to use the acronym AA:FotR as a shorthand for Amarune’s Almanac: Forests of the Realms.

Steve provided me a complimentary copy for the purposes of review so here’s the usual disclaimer: My reviews are honest and unbiased, otherwise what would be the point of them? Free copy or not you can trust me to tell it as I see it.

Please also note that because I received my review copy several weeks before release, it is possible that some of the issues I might note during my review may actually be resolved by the time of release. This review may therefore be updated to reflect any feedback to that effect by the authors.

Amarune's Almanac: Forests of the Realms

Value 

As noted, I received an advance copy for the purpose of this review: AA:FotR is not yet available for sale. If you like what you read here you’ll be able to pick up your copy on Monday, December 2nd. Your purchase will only set you back $9.95 which is a very fair price for 48 pages of content (excluding cover pages, which make it up to 50). As well as useful lore, your purchase price gets you a considerable amount of new game content including player options, a new downtime activity, creature statblocks, and magic items. The production values of the book are of a very high standard. Overall, I consider it to be excellent value.

Furthermore, I’ve been informed that purchase includes a code that will enable you to get future volumes of Amarune’s Almanac for only $7.50.


SCORE OUT OF 4:

Quality

As mentioned, the standard of AA:FotR is very high. Graphic designer NathanaĆ«l Roux (who also designed the recently reviewed Infamous Adversaries) has done a great job here. The background and borders are attractive, the book is neatly laid out in a two-column format, and supplementary tables are presented in an effective way. The bulk of the text is in a very legible font, while notes from the book’s fictional author and editor mimic handwriting. This is expected, but may be less clear to readers with dyslexia or other issues with font legibility. It should still be readable with some patience. If there is one genuine misstep, I personally think the font used for headings is a poor choice: attractive as cursive may be, it’s often hard to read and that’s the last thing you want in a heading (or in a contents page, where the font also appears). For example, lower case “r” doesn’t really look like very much like an “r”. Where only one appears, the letters around it make the sense of the word clear. But where two “r”s are next to each other,  they resemble a “v”. “Darkberry” could easily be read “Darkbevy”. A similar thing happens with “ir”, and if you’re speed reading it’s possible to miss the dot of the “i”. Thus, “Abeirwood” becomes “Abevwood”.

Art in the book is a mix of high quality colour art and sketches of the kind that might appear in a traveler’s journal, which is an economic choice that works excellent in this book’s format. 

I have little to say on spelling and grammar. The book is excellently written and clearly very well edited. If I have one complaint it’s a minor, perhaps even petty one: the words “As it turns out” appear far too often for my taste. It’s no big deal, I just consider it an unnecessary writing tic. However, it’s possible it’s not a habit of the actual writer but instead part of the “voice” they’ve created for fictional author Amarune! If the latter, then fair enough! But I personally  wish her fictional editor Arclath would have been stricter.


SCORE OUT OF 6:


Content

A surprisingly small amount of this book is dedicated to describing actual forests (around 12 pages), while the rest is game content. That’s great news if, like me, your main criteria for whether to purchase a supplement is what new resources it offers DMs and players. But if your first concern is Realms lore, what do you actually get? Let's take a look.

Amarune (art by Dante Ezio Cifaldi)


The lore sections are supposedly written by Amarune Whitewave, Elminster’s great-great granddaughter. A few seconds worth of research on my part demonstrates that she is an actual character from Realms lore (created by Ed Greenwood, no less, for one of his novels). As is her lover-slash-editor, Arclath. The series conceit is that Amarune and Arclath are travelling the world so that Amarune can try and untangle her memories from those of Elminster, whose mind shared her body for a brief period. During their journey, Amarune has decided to try her hand at travel writing. A chance meeting with Volothamp Geddarm in Port Nyanzaru led to the series finding a wealthy patron willing to publish. Naturally, the author of the Volo’s Guide series couldn’t resist providing an introduction to the almanac.

What I consider to be lore sections includes:

  • The introduction. Amarune uses this chapter to introduce herself, try to define what a forest is, explain the inclusion of jungles in this volume, and talk about the relationship between the Weave (magic) and forests.
  • Locations, which includes descriptions of five forest areas from around the Forgotten Realms: the Adhe Wood, the Jungles of Chult, the High Forest, the Tangled Trees, and the Yuirwood. 

Presenting the lore in this book in the format of travel writing allows its real-world authors to describe the geography they’re detailing as a series of evocative stories, showing the wonder of such places rather than simply listing facts. This is good for inspiring you as you read, but it has its downside. When facts are actually provided they are buried in the text. This means it is not a good reference book at the table, or indeed if you need to keep checking back during planning. The bit of information you want to check could be anywhere in two pages (four columns) worth of lore with no subheadings or any other means of breaking up the content into more manageable chunks. I suggest you read the lore in this book early in the planning stages of whatever session or arc you need the information for, and take notes as you go.

If we consider the Introduction to be chapter 1, then Locations is chapter 3. In between them are the Player Options. Then there is a chapter 4, Between Adventures. Finally, a single appendix split into two section: Beasts and Monsters and Magic Items. To be honest, I find this order a little peculiar. The Player Options and Between Adventures sections are written differently from the rest of the book: in these sections, the actual authors of AA:FotR are talking to you, the actual reader, to communicate new games rules. Elsewhere in the book, Amarune is the voice, communicating lore. I think it’s weird to break up the flow of Amarune’s journal with content that clearly doesn’t belong in it. Frankly, I think all the game content belongs in the almanac’s appendices, thus making a clear distinction between the two types of content.

Order of presentation aside, let’s talk about that game content, because there’s a lot of it:


Player Options

I’m a sucker for new character options, and AA:FotR doesn’t disappoint in this area.

The chapter presents two new archetypes, the Circle of the Grove (a Druid archetype) and the Sylvan Sentinel (a Ranger archetype). Exactly what you’d expect from a book on biomes. So much so, in fact, that their presence feels like a checked box to meet reader expectations of the book and hints that every volume in the almanac will also have the same: Desert biome? Desert druid and desert ranger. Check. The fact is that not all biomes really need new druid and ranger subclass support, particularly in the case of the druid. Existing druid circles cover a lot of the possible themes already. I don’t particularly want to see new archetypes treading old conceptual ground. You know what would be interesting to see in future volumes? Biome-themed archetypes for classes other than the druid and ranger. Off the top of my head: how about a flaying winds fighter (Desert), a shark totem barbarian (Oceans), a frost bloodline Sorcerer descended from Yuki-Onna or other cold-themed fey (Tundra), or a fen stalker rogue (Swamp)? 


The Circle of the Grove


The Circle of the Grove doesn’t sell itself to me on concept alone. I noted already that most if not all biomes already have the Circle of the Land to represent their druidic defenders. Forests are doubly served already: they’ve got the Circle of the Shepherd as well! So conceptually this archetype just isn’t necessary. Let’s see if the mechanics can wow me enough to overlook that.

  • 2nd level features:
    • A list of Circle Spells is provided, but the actual description of the feature is missing. Remember, not all druid circles actually get Circle Spells, so it is a feature that is normally spelled out on a per archetype basis. The absence isn’t too terrible, as you can get the necessary wording from other archetypes, but it ought to be fixed. You shouldn’t need to look anywhere other than your own archetype for all the information you need to play it. Three of the spells on the Circle Spells list are new in this book: sticks to snakes, grasping trees, and soothing stone. All five other Circle Spells are identical to Circle Spells for the Circle of the Land (Forest) which doesn’t really help make the case for the archetype’s separate existence.
    • Grove Beast Forms (or “Grove Beast Fauns”, by my first reading. Sorry to keep harping on about the cursive font, and I’ll stop now, but legibility is important!) lets the druid transform into more powerful beasts. This is a weaker version of the Moon Druid’s Circle Forms. You must choose a beast that dwells in the forest, your max CR is ½, and the max CR scales more slowly. Considering Circle Forms is more powerful and the Moon Druid gets to wild shape at a bonus action at the same level, the Grove Druid’s next 2nd level feature is going to have to be a heavy hitter to compare.
    • Land Transmutation: Grove. You can spend a Wild Shape as an action to immediately grow a magical grove of trees (half your druid level + your Wisdom) which lasts for a few hours (half your druid level).  It’s certainly cool! And in certain contexts, it could be incredibly useful. But considering it costs a precious wild shape and its situational usefulness, it feels relatively weak. I’d like this feature to be of more practical use in combat, such as creating some difficult terrain.
  • 6th level feature:
    • Take Root lets the druid take root in the ground and draw nourishment from the soil. Very cool, very thematic. Long-time readers may remember I gave a similar feature to the Wilderheart Warlock: the 14th level feature Life Thrives implemented the concept as 1/short rest personal healing. The implementation here is different, granting half the druid’s level in temporary hit points continuously for every turn as long as they continue not to move. This is quite powerful, but severely limits the druid’s tactics. Overall I think it’s a fine addition.
  • 10th level feature:
    • Ward of Thorns is another case of great minds thinking alike, having some conceptual crossover with my warlock archetype’s Wilderheart’s Ward! Not that surprising really, there are only so many ways you can express powers over nature, especially if you’re required to give the archetype combat-oriented features. Ward of Thorns grants a nasty reaction to melee attacks, dealing 2d6 piercing damage and reducing the attacker’s speed to 0 for their next turn. They can ignore that effect by willingly taking an additional 2d6 damage, so let’s call it a 3d6 on average, then. This is really quite strong and is more likely to trigger than a regular opportunity attack. If we were in any doubt about an optimal combat style for a Circle of the Grove druid, it’s cleared up now: they’ll be a beast if specced for melee combat casting. They can wade into melee, Take Root, and then punish an aggressor with their Ward of Thorns.
  • 14th level feature:
    • Ally of the Grove lets you animate a tree as a treant as an action, lasting an hour, once per long rest. That’s one hell of a partner for the melee-focused Grove Druid! A treant might seem too powerful a “summon”, but remember that the Circle of the Shepherd’s Faithful Summons can conjure 4 CR 2 Beasts (with approximately the same amount of hit points and more overall damage between them than the treant). Of course, the Shepherd can only do that if reduced to 0 hit points or incapacitated, but on the other hand the Grove Druid needs to actually have access to a tree. It probably balances out, but don’t play a Grove Druid in a campaign where you won’t see many trees!
  • Overall, this seems to be a very strong archetype, though not necessarily overpowered in comparison to some official archetypes. My feeling is that the 2nd level features are comparatively weak but the power difference is made up for by later features. Be prepared to wait a while to really get into the swing of things with this Circle. You’re probably best off building for melee from the start, or else you might find your tactics changing significantly mid-way through your career to suit the strong melee focus of the later features. Note that as written all of the archetype’s features can be used even while you’re in wild shape. I think that’s pretty cool for Take Root and Ward of Thorns, but in my opinion Land Transmutation: Grove and Ally of the Grove too closely resemble complex spells/rituals and should have wording to prevent them being used while in beast form. I haven’t been convinced of the need for this archetype. Still, it looks fun to play and there’s no harm in allowing it as a third option for forest-themed druids, or perhaps using the Grove druid but disallowing one or both of the other options.

A sylvan sentinel (art by Bob Greyvenstein)


Sylvan Sentinel

This is a ranger that has sworn allegiance to fey creatures. That’s a distinct, extremely class-appropriate and so far unexplored concept, at least as far as the Ranger class goes: the Paladin gets something with a similar theme in the Oath of the Ancients. I have a minor quibble here: the Sylvan Sentinel doesn’t actually say it’s a ranger archetype until several paragraphs in (the last few words of its first feature is the first time the word “ranger” shows up in the text). Sure, the introduction to this chapter does explain it. But people skip introductions to get to the good stuff. This needs to be made explicit early. To be honest it wouldn’t be a bad idea to put the intended class for both archetypes in brackets within their subtitles, or have eg. “Ranger archetype” as a subheading. Anyway, the theme of this archetype is great and in hindsight a glaring omission in the ranger’s arsenal of subtypes! I like the idea. Let’s see how it’s executed.

  • 3rd level features:
    • Sylvan Sentinel Magic: as is typical for some but not all ranger archetypes, you’re going to get a list of one new spell known per spell level to help sell the archetype’s theme. It’s a good and on-brand selection: faerie fire, misty step, plant growth*, conjure woodland beings*, and modify memory. Misty Step in particular ought to be great for a ranger! The two spells marked with an asterisk (*) are already on the ranger’s spell list. From what I can tell official archetypes tend to stray away from doing this and instead offer spells strictly from other class lists. It’s still useful to get these spells for free since it saves you precious spells known, but it might be less useful/fun than getting a spell you’d otherwise never have had access to. Illusion spells from the bard list might make great alternatives: perhaps major image and hallucinatory terrain.
    • Fey Friend: You can speak, read, and write Sylvan. Animals understand you when you speak Sylvan. Fine - but “animal” isn’t a creature type in D&D. I assume it just means beasts, but maybe it also includes monstrosities? This needs to be clarified. Also, you have advantage on Persuasion and Insight when it comes to Fey who are not Evil, but that flips to disadvantage if you ever harm such a creature without first being provoked until you can atone. I think what constitutes being provoked could be clarified here, as a lot is currently left up to DM discretion.
    • Gossamer Strikes: when you have advantage on a melee weapon attack ,you can make one extra attack as part of your Attack action, and you gain a temporary +20 ft. movement until the end of your turn. This feature has unusual reset conditions: short or long rest, but also whenever you roll initiative at the start of combat, or whenever you score a critical hit. The rest conditions are redundant: since the feature can only be used in combat, it’s enough to know it resets when initiative is rolled. I like this feature: it is roughly comparable to the Gloom Stalker’s Dread Ambusher, except it does not do extra damage, it isn’t guaranteed (you must have advantage which could cost you effort or a resource - now you know why you get faerie fire!), and if you’re super lucky you may get to use it more than once per combat.
  • 7th level feature:
    • Glimmering Misdirection: You can spend your reaction to make an attack against you be rolled with disadvantage, then move 10 feet without provoking. This is hugely useful: I’m thinking too huge to be allowed every turn with no limitations on use. It’s roughly equivalent to a +3 to AC once per turn, plus the potential to stop the attacker’s entire Attack action cold if they have too little movement remaining to catch the ranger after they flee. This is quite possible, since a ranger has methods to go faster (longstrider) and to choose or set up their battlefield to slow down their enemies (for instance, see the 8th level feature Land’s Stride, which would allow the Sylvan Sentinel to move freely through difficult terrain, thorny plants, and even dare to risk leading a foe through an entangle spell).
  • 11th level feature:
    • Shimmerdance: Once per turn you can add 1d6 to an attack roll, though you must decide to do so before the DM tells you if you hit or miss. Later in a combat that qualifier becomes pretty moot though as you’ll have figured out the target’s AC (and many DMs tell their players AC anyway). My first instinct was that it was another strong feature but we can again compare to the Gloom Stalker, which can use Stalker’s Flurry to make a whole new attack once per turn if they miss. Compared to that +3.5 to hit seems fine.
  • 15th level feature:
    • Gift of the Faerie: you get fairy wings which you can manifest or dismiss as a bonus action. Fly speed equal to your movement speed so typically 30 feet. This is fine, if anything a little modest for a 15th level feature and archetype capstone.
  • I really like this archetype. It has a clear theme which is interesting, new, and is conveyed well by its features. For the most part I consider it balanced, but I’m concerned that Glimmering Misdirection might be too potent.


Additional Rules

This section presents a couple of rules variants.

A variant to the Druid’s Spellcasting feature lets the druid swap a spell they have prepared once per short rest by spending 1 minute per spell level in meditation. The new spell must have an “Environment component” that matches the biome the druid is currently in. To understand the concept of Environment components, we have to read ahead to the Spells section on the next page. Environment is a new type of spellcasting component presented in Amarune’s Almanac: “some spells require the caster to be in a specific biome or surrounded by specific terrain”. Got it. What this means is that if you introduce this variant, you’ll only be able to swap in spells that are from this book and others in the series (unless other DMsGuild creators decide to adopt the system too). For now then, you’ll only be able to do it in forests and jungles. I like the idea a lot, though obviously it needs further support to become especially useful.

We’re also presented a variant for the Ranger’s Natural Explorer. In addition to the normal effects of that feature, the ranger can cast up to 4 spells (which they gain at 2nd, 5th, 9th, and 13th levels) which are appropriate to their favoured terrain: in other words, spells from this book. The ranger gets the spells for their first favoured terrain automatically; when they get additional favoured terrains they can swap which set of terrain spells they have every long rest.  Each spell can be cast once per long rest. As written, the wording doesn’t say they are cast without expending one of your spell slots, but I assume that’s meant to be the case.  This is a really good idea but once again won’t become particularly practical until further volumes are released.


Spellcasting

This section introduces and explains the concept of an Environment component  and provides 11 new Forest Spells. There’s an excellent table which summarises the spells by level, school, class availability, and whether they can be cast as a ritual.

The actual list of Spells is ordered by spell level, which is not a great choice and I hope the editor reconsiders ordering them alphabetically. I’ll be writing about the spells in the order they currently appear, though I’ll only comment on ones that I think are either particularly cool or may have issues.

Druidic Practice (1st level, ritual) is an equivalent for the Cleric’s Ceremony spell. For a 1st level ritual spell it offers some powerful effects, but limits them in meaningful ways (once per year, once ever, etc.). I think the options are excellent and are pitched about right when compared to Ceremony. However, they may be too much of a mixed bag. See, like all spells Ceremony belongs to a school, which is Abjuration. All of its possible uses can be seen as protective: even the bonus to ability checks for the Coming of Age ritual could be seen as protecting the target from clumsiness and bad luck. Whereas, Druidic Practice is also given the Abjuration school but has a whole grab bag of effects that technically belong to other schools including Divination (Forosnai) and Enchantment (Imbue). The authors may wish to consider that, and either pick rituals that have a thematic thread between them or possibly split some of these effects out into additional spells. Inappropriateness for the school of magic aside I particularly love Forosnai, which can send a willing creature on a spiritual/dream journey. It would step on the toes of higher level divination spells, were it not for the fact that a creature may only take one such journey a year, which must occur in the season of their birth.

Forest Spirit (1st level, Ritual) can animate a small tree or shrub as a very, very weak creature (1 hit point, Strength of 2, and can’t attack). It can perform minor chores for you around the forest, like identifying edible fruits, marking trees, and tracking non-native creatures. It can be cast as a ritual but can’t be abused: since you control a forest spirit with a bonus action you could create as many as you like but you’d still only be able to control one at a time. The spell also ends if you move a forest spirit more than 60 feet away from you.

Woodland Step (1st level) is a strange one, to be honest. It states “you become one with the forest, allowing you to pass through its undergrowth with ease”. However, its effect doesn’t match its fiction or its forest theme. The actual mechanical benefit of the spell is to allow you to move without provoking and make a single melee attack. I would have expected something about ignoring difficult terrain, even when it's created by magic.

Bestial Reawakening (2nd level) is a resource cheap version of raise dead (1 action instead of 1 hour, 50 gp instead of 500 gp, 2nd level slot instead of 5th level slot). Basically: an easy method to bring back beloved pets. I don’t see why the casting time should be so much quicker than raise dead when it’s essentially the same spell though.

Sticks to Snakes (2nd level Ritual) is your jam if you like sticks but you love snakes, I guess. This was actually a spell in 1st and 2nd edition that has been converted, so perhaps that’s also the case with some of the other spells in this book? Anyway, you turn a stick into a giant constrictor snake for up to 10 minutes (concentration). At higher levels you can transform one additional stick per spell slot level. Sure. You can also cast the spell again to immediately turns snakes within 20 feet of you created by this spell back into sticks. It isn’t 100% clear to me whether this only works on your casting of the spell, or if this would work to undo the casting of another spellcaster. In my opinion this spell should not be a ritual. There’s a simple test for ritual spells: if it has combat application, it isn’t ritual appropriate. Giant poisonous snakes may only be CR ¼, but they can still do quite a lot of damage. I’d say if you take away the Ritual component from this spell it’s a better fit for 1st level.

Grasping Trees (3rd level). This one’s super cool. Each turn for a minute (concentration) you can have any tree you can see restrain a creature within 10 feet of the tree (The creature gets a Strength save to avoid/free itself). That’s your Action. As a Bonus Action, you can also have a tree you can see give a creature within 10 feet a good smacking. Naturally, you’d normally want this to be the same tree that restrained a creature, or another nearby tree, to benefit from the advantage on attack rolls caused by that condition. But I like that it doesn’t have to be, giving you more tactical options.

Heart of the Forest (4th level). You become one with the forest, meaning you are unable to get lost and you can’t be tracked. You also know roughly where every creature in the forest is but can’t determine creature types and though you get a rough sense of size large groups of creatures in a cluster may be mistaken for single larger creatures. I’m not a fan of this for the same reason I dislike the ranger’s Primeval Awareness class feature. Large scale detection features are a pain in the arse. Primeval Awareness has an area of up to 6 miles in radius. That’s so huge. This spell doesn’t even specify a range, it’s just “the forest”. Forests can be reaaaally big, y’all. An area of these magnitudes is going to be absolutely thronging with creatures, most of which are entirely unrelated to the events of the adventure. Does the DM think about what else lives in the forest in advance? That’s a lot of work. Do they make them up on the spot? That’s a lot of stress at the table. Either way, mentioning them may risk sending the players on a wild goose chase unrelated to their current adventure, which seems a poor reward for using a rare resource like a 4th-level spell slot. Should the DM just not mention any creature that isn’t plot relevant, and end up making the region seem oddly dead, not part of a living world? It’s a whole mess and I’d personally choose to excise all such features from the game, not add more. That aside, I just don’t think this spell is very good for a 4th level spell slot: you don’t really get any meaningful information unless you already know for a fact you’re looking for a big creature or large group, which shouldn’t be that hard to track anyway. I’m also not convinced it needs to be on the Ranger list as it’s of even less value to them. They’re already fairly unlikely to get lost, quite good at hiding their tracks, and they have Primeval Awareness for detecting most creatures worthy of note.

Soothing Stone (4th level Ritual). You can infuse a gemstone with healing energy, which restores 6d4 + 6 hit points. You can only have one at a time. I would normally be against giving healing away as a ritual, were it not for the fact that it’s sort of like buying and using a healing potion: in fact, I assume this was the designer’s thought process since infusing the gemstone costs exactly 3 times the price of a Potion of Healing, and cures exactly three times the hit points. However, that logic doesn’t quite cut it. With the stone, you can cure a creature with a single bonus action what would normally take 3 potions over the course of 3 actions. Plus you can create it yourself over an hour rather than having to go shopping. The gold consumed by this spell needs to be considerably higher to reflect the massive boost to convenience it represents.

Bulwark of Irritants (8th level). This is gonna squick some people out. You’re covered in a layer of insects (it says 100 but honestly, for complete coverage there ought to be far more crawling all over you...) granting you a buffer of 100 temporary hit points and immunity to poison and diseases. As you lose temporary hit points you start gaining increased cover. The spell doesn’t really explain why but my guess is what’s supposed to be happening in the fiction is clouds of insects buzzing up into the air, helping to obfuscate you. The ability to spend a reaction once per round to halve an attack that would deal 50+ damage seems unnecessary fiddly. -25 (or more) hit points is a super good value use of a reaction, so most rounds it’s almost a given it will be saved for use this way. I’d consider removing this bit, increasing the temporary hit points a bit more, and calling it good.


Between Adventures

It might not seem it since I’m not going to write a lot about this section compared to my deep analysis of the character options, but I want to make clear that it’s actually my favourite part of AA:FotR! There’s a new downtime activity: Gathering Plants Expedition. I believe this activity could easily be adapted to model other kinds of gathering. There is also a list of 20 flora including flowers, fruits, and trees useful for lumber. The flora are described and their special features explained, and tables show their sale values and in which regions of the Forgotten Realms each flora might be found. It’s a really well thought out and useful section!

The Regional Flora table



Appendix

The appendix is split into two sections: Beasts and Monsters, and Magic Items.


Beasts and Monsters

This section includes 10 new statblocks, most of which are beasts. There is also another extremely useful table (the table game is strong in this book) which shows which regions of the Realms each monster is native to.

New beasts in this book include:

  • The CR 2 cooshee (very stealthy forest-dwelling hounds bred by elves)
  • The CR 5 giant armadillo (exactly what you’d expect)
  • The CR 3 gore boar (particularly large and bloodthirsty examples of their kind)
  • the CR ½ ironwoodpecker (able to peck through ironwood - and armour - with ease)
  • The CR 5 kermode bear (a “spirit bear” which can phase between the material ethereal planes)
  • The CR 2 moss bear (has a symbiotic relationship with which gains temporary hit points in sunlight)
  • The CR 4 redwood crawler (a huge woodlouse-like creature)
  • The CR 3 silverback ape
  • All in all, this book is a massive boon to Circle of the Moon druids.

Other creatures include:

  • The CR 9 hangman tree, a subtropical plant creature which hauls creatures up into its boughs with noose-like vines and drops them into a central maw.
  • The CR 4 white stag, a celestial often set to guarding forests by nature deities.


A nice feature of this section is that the description of a creature includes a paragraph on valuable substances or materials which might be harvested from them.


Magic Items

There are 9 (edit: there are, in fact, 10) magic items which are all wondrous items except for one shield.  They are mostly rare and very rare, with a couple of uncommon items and a single legendary (the shield). I won’t explain what all the items do, but suffice it to say they are extremely cool and in my opinion the designers have pitched the rarity levels just right. I’m sure you’ll really enjoy adding any of the items here to your game.

Magic items (art by Shiah "Cinder" Irgangladen)


One small quibble over wording in this section: The Rootshape Gauntlets have an effect that triggers “on a critical failure with any weapon created this way”. “Critical failure” is not a term used in the D&D rules. This could cause some confusion, and should be changed to “If the d20 roll for an attack you make with this weapon is a 1”, which would be consistent with the wording under Making an Attack in the PHB.


Organisation

There is no index, but the contents page is thorough and includes all the specific spells, monsters, etc. that you might wish to find. There's no problem here.


SCORE OUT OF 10:


Final Thoughts and Rating


FINAL SCORE OUT OF 20:
++=   
17 out of 20! A superb hit.


To summarise the biggest issues (in my opinion):
  • I think the chapters could be reordered more effectively to suit the format.
  • The lore sections, while excellent, would benefit from better organisation so that it’s easier to navigate to information you want to refer back to.
  • Some of the character options may need revisions for balance. This is not a major concern to me as it's a given for any publication - not even official releases by Wizards of the Coast are entirely without issue. One of the great things about PDFs is that it's a heck of a lot easier to implement any revisions than in print, a major strength of DMsGuild and OGL products compared to official releases that many consumers overlook.
  • I think the graphic designer should consider an alternative font for headings.
If these are the worst that can be said about this product then the creative team behind AA:FotR have done an excellent job, and they should be very proud of what they’ve put together. There is so much that’s good within the 50 pages of this book: well researched and evocatively presented lore, a bevy of mostly balanced and fun new character options, a great list of flora, some brilliant new creatures, and a selection of truly intriguing magic items. And great design: NathanaĆ«l, if you’re reading this I know I keep giving you a hard time about fonts in my recent reviews. I want you to know that I see everything else you’re doing and it is solid work. Especially the tables. Oh lordy, the tables in this book. They’re chef’s kiss-level good (see the preview of the flora table earlier in this review!).

The final word: Amarune’s Almanac: Forests of the Realms is an excellent addition to any DM’s library, and based on what I’ve seen here I can’t wait to see where Amarune takes us next time! Pick up your own copy on DMsGuild from the 2nd of December.