Arcadia Issue 3 Breakdown
All art belongs to MCDM
Right before March finishes James Introcaso surprised me with another early copy of Arcadia. This is a big one! Again, we have 4 different contents as we had in the first issue.
As James specifies in his Letter from the Editor this is the third and last issue from the three they planned to test the waters. They wanted to release just three issues at first to know if people were interested in a magazine of this style. Of course, we all loved this premium magazine with beautiful art and great content from the best people in the D&D community, so that means Arcadia isn’t over. In fact, it is just beginning! James wrote this letter just after he received how Issue 1 turned out to be, and you can almost feel the pride and extreme happiness in the words he wrote. Great job all you people from MCDM. This is great content!
One other thing I wanted to make sure to stand out is that I approached James last time indicating that Issues 1 and 2 were not very accessible as screen readers have a difficult time reading more than one line at a time. James thanked me for letting him know and now this third issue is fully compatible to be read with screen readers. Let it be known that the people at MCDM hear us and are making the best product they can!
As regards the art, it keeps being top-notch. And that cover is AMAZING! They keep having the design choice of having some images be rectangular in the middle of the page. I don’t quite like the way it looks, as I’ve said in Issue 1, but I must admit that by doing this you are not removing any part of the art, and there surely are some people who prefer images looking this way.
The dream kin offers us three dream-themed ancestries. You should know that these don’t work the way lineages from Tasha’s book and the recent UA do. These ancestries work the old fashioned way, like the ones we see in the PHB. I would rather stick with the new way from now on, but I’m not entirely sure if people can create lineages the way Tasha indicates yet using the OGL (and for those who only have the PHB, this is better as they don’t know how Tasha’s lineages work).
I like how all issues from Arcadia seem to have at least one new content that is borderline sci-fi. In this issue, this is definitely the one. These ancestries are very alien compared to the ones we know. One extra thing they all have in common is that their flavor is very strong. The text for all ancestries is detailed and easily gives a reason for them to exist in your world. I really value this as these ancestries I would find weird to position anywhere otherwise.
The Lucidlings are creatures created by the dreams of those who should not sleep. Aboleths are shared as examples, and it wouldn’t be weird for beholders to create these as well. They remind me a bit of the abominations I would create while playing the Spore videogame. Not that it is any important, but I just found it funny enough to share, and maybe you thought the same thing. They are usually accidental creations and want to find a place in the world. They have the abilities to fly, grow tentacles to move big objects or grapple enemies, and can breathe underwater. You can only use one of these at a time, and only for ten minutes. Additionally, it can communicate telepathically, which is always a useful thing to secretly communicate with party members. I personally want to use this ancestry to pull off a Ben from Umbrella Academy growing tentacles out of my belly and smashing everything around me.
Also called Dream-thieves, these alien creatures are made out of molten glass. They can “dream walk”, meaning they can enter other people’s dreams and experience them as well. Once they do this for the first time, sand speakers stop dreaming, meaning that if they want to experience dreams again they have to enter those from other people. When dream walking, sand speakers are just spectators and can’t transform the dream, but can communicate with the dreamer, who will remember the sand speaker being there. With few alterations, you can make sand speakers an elite squad of cosmic mercenaries that alter dreams of those the contractor wants to plant ideas in their minds Inception-style. Sand speakers do also have psionic abilities in the form of spells that allow them to send messages and put enemies to sleep. As this was not enough, they can turn into sand and keep moving, which is a great way to escape from danger and move through tiny spaces.
If you played my recent one-page dungeon “A Fallen Star” that is all about astral sorcerers, then you are going to get why I like this ancestry. It’s a being of the cosmos, that looks like a literal moving galaxy. Personality-wise they are very empathic people that try to get along with everybody and help without looking for anything in return. Somnians can detect thoughts and cast major image at level 5, which is a huge thing to have, as you can play a non-caster with this that can summon giant illusions. As this was not enough, they can transform into nightmarish forms, scaring one creature around them. However, the one thing I like the most about this ancestry is its ability to sacrifice its life to bring someone else to life. This whole ancestry was built around being that character that everyone loves and enjoy being around because of how good they are. Being this good, it’s obvious they will sacrifice themselves for those they love or believe deserve a second chance. That’s going to feel like a dagger in the players’ hearts, and it has a lot of potential. Moreover, when they sacrifice this way they can leave a last memory in the mind of that creature they sacrifice for. I can already think of numerous ways to make my friends cry using this ability.
In conclusion, this ancestries feel too weird for me to be player characters in a campaign, and the fact that one of the players is playing one of them surely means that something weird is going to happen along the campaign. These dream kin surely don’t go unnoticed! I can imagine, however, powerful wizards or entities summoning these ancestries as enemy NPCs to the party. A githyankee or the Lady of Pain would totally contact these beings if they want one of the PCs removed.
I love Celeste’s work, and these spells she brought from previous editions do not disappoint. Of course, there are no spells listed for Artificers, but there’s not much we can do about that as that class is not part of the OGL. Luckily, it wouldn’t be that difficult to assign some of these to the Artificer, but that’s for your DM to rule out.
Mechanically speaking, these all seem pretty balanced for their level, but some may be considered a bit powerful. Theme-wise, they all look pretty fun, with things ranging from the ridiculous like “glitterdust” that reveals invisible creatures and blinds others, to extreme ones like “stoneheart” to replace your heart for one made out of stone. Spells such as “permanency” can easily become very powerful, as it makes a spell effect last forever without concentration (even though it is crazy expensive). A wizard with a great fortune could make globe of invulnerability last forever on themselves to be immune to all spells below lvl5. Make sure to list some other powerful combos you find out!
“Rainbow Recurve” became an instant favorite for me. A magical bow that appears in your hand that fires arrows each color with a different effect is pretty cool. Shrink is the equivalent of polymorphing someone into a bug, except it’s funnier this way as you see a miniature version of your enemy. Lastly, “walking dead” can be used for all sort of shenanigans, or to cover from a crime you committed. If there is something I love about most of these spells is that they have a lot of use both for PCs and enemies. An assassin that casts “walking dead” on its victims to have it live a few more days until they magically perish can create great mysteries!
Aces High looks to create a way of doing dogfights in D&D. I have not yet tried these rules out, but I can already tell they seem to nail what they are trying to accomplish. However, we need to address the elephant in the room: D&D is a rules-heavy game, and this adds more crunch to it. The rules don’t feel difficult to follow and understand, but you definitely need to have them at hand when playing. They are not something you can just tell your players and do aerial combat without any complications. It would have been nice if these came with a cheatsheet to hand the players. Nevertheless, I’m pretty sure someone in the MCDM community is going to create and share one.
The rules play a lot with real-life time to keep the game moving quickly. To enter the weird initiative system it has, you need to roll one of your dice many times in 10 seconds. All things during aerial combat vary depending on your altitude if you get a good angle to attack, and more! There are gut moves that work like reactions, rules for when you are free-falling, diving towards your target, on how to do ranged and melee attacks, even to grab onto a flying dragon by jumping from your moving magic carpet! The rules are managed in an abstract way using Theatre of the Mind and the mechanics it adds to the game all help create a fast nerve-inducing experience. I definitely want to try this out! One tip I would give is to have some test aerial combat before using this sort of thing for a boss battle for example.
Lastly, Aces High comes with some tips on how to run this, indicating that it is important to be prepared to run an Aces High combat. Pulling it out of the blue might make things too difficult for the GM as they have to manage many things already. If properly done, however, it will remain a very memorable combat encounter. Additionally, there’s a sample combat to use with these rules. It’s far from being an adventure as it only states a situation you can create in your game, and some detail on how to prepare for something like it. I don’t think I’ll ever use this specific encounter despite how amazing it sounds, but it was a great addition to better understand how the rules would work in play.
A Diamond in the Rough is a roleplay-heavy investigation adventure. When jewels start missing in the mansion of the Krystalum family, these noblemen call upon a group of adventurers to act as investigators. The adventure is short enough to be played as a one-shot and has the characters investigating the rooms, interrogating both the family and the servants for information. Most rooms have some sort of clue in them detailed, easing the job for the DM. Additionally, certain events can happen when moving from one room to another, further developing the mystery. The player characters are given a set of rules of what they can and can’t do during the investigation, which PCs can decide to follow or break. There is more than one ending to the adventure and it can be completely solved without any combat going on. The adventure even grants extra XP for completing the adventure in a pacifist way (or at least without breaking into a fight). All characters are very well developed in brief texts and have tips on how to properly run them. All in all, it is an excellently made mystery adventure, and I really enjoy how it handles its clues in a way easy for a DM to run.
A diamond in the rough comes with maps of the places the adventure transpires, both in gridded and ungridded format, as done with previous adventures in Arcadia. There are no handouts, but there isn’t really a need for them, as most of the adventure is progressed by investigating and doing the talking. Characters with high Intelligence (Investigation), Wisdom (Insight), Wisdom (Perception), and Charisma (Persuasion) come extremely useful for this.
Arcadia keeps being a great hit and I’m all for it. The content that keeps getting released in these is extremely high quality made by some of the best in the industry. I’m pretty sure Arcadia will continue past this third issue, but the question is when? Hopefully soon!
From the content in this issue I’m pretty sure I will at least test out Aces High because it seems like my sort of thing. I will save A Diamond in the Rough as a one-shot for some time I do need one or to show people that the game allows for other stuff besides combat. The dream kin probably might make an appearance in one of my future campaigns as NPCs working for a villain because I love their flavor, but making them playable ancestries feels for me like it might stand out way too much in my setting. Lastly, the 10 spells do seem good enough to implement in my games. I’ll probably end up adding them privately to D&DBeyond for my players to use. It’s great when I end up making use of everything in the issue!