Arcadia Issue 8 Breakdown
All art belongs to MCDM
This month I come to wake you up before September ends (I’m a 90s kid! I was obligated to write this!) to bring you the latest breakdown from Arcadia. This one is quite different from the past ones in a few ways I’ll be detailing. The constant within this and the previous ones is that you won’t want to miss this issue either!
As James indicates in his letter from the editor, September’s issue is an ode to monsters. Another thing I noticed about it is that it is very player focused. Of course most of it is for the DM to handle, but there’s enough here for a player to get it for their own DM and say “I want all this in our game!”.
A new thing that has been incorporated to Arcadia, and will stay at least for the time being, is the presence of ads between the articles. They aren’t at all invasive though! Another great thing is that James promised us that all ads will always be “related to tabletop gaming. You won’t see ads for cars or life insurance on these pages. Rather, we want to show you cool advertisements for things we think you might like: roleplaying games, board games, RPG accessories, and the like”.
I actually liked the ads enough that I think I might consider getting the inspiration coins included in the second ad or at least create some of my own. Knowing MCDM, I know that they will continue to choose “dope a$* sh*t” for their ads, so I’m not at all worried about them being intrusive in the future… They might make my wallet thinner though.
Ever wanted to play a hag as a character but don’t want to pay for Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft to get the Hexblood lineage, or don’t believe it to be haggy enough? Then why not play subclasses that make your character a hag or witch instead? That’s pretty much the whole concept behind these subclasses. Sticking to the Monster Manual for SRD reasons, the subclasses are oriented around the green, night, and sea hags. Is that not enough? You can also have it be oriented around a hag coven! Just like the warlock’s pact boon, these add extra things to your subclasses depending on the choice you made, from extra spells to weird variations of the subclass’ abilities.
Warlock Hag Patron
This warlock is all about embracing all the horrible things we know about hags and offering them to a PC. There are definitely tons of roleplaying opportunities by having a hag as a patron! By summoning the terrifying hag magic, the warlock can take the appearance of a hag to frighten their enemies and jump at them attacking with their claws. This makes the warlock a bit more versatile being able to fight in melee. Some extra escape/sneaking methods are gained at lvl 6, which completely vary depending on the type of hag chosen. Hag form is improved at lvl 10. Hag form in a way forces you to go with pact of the blade if you want to get full advantage of the claws, as staying distant in a fight with the other pacts makes them useless, and they seem to be pretty important for the subclass. Lastly, at level 14 you gain one of the chosen hag abilities, like mimicry if you chose a green hag. Of course, these abilities do have something else attached to them so as not to be a lame lvl14 trait. In the case of the green hag, this mimicry ability also deal damage to that who hear it, and incapacitates them.
Wicked Witch Sorcerous Origin
It doesn’t make much sense to inherit your power’s origin from a coven, but all three hags still are there for you to choose as the one you want to inherit your powers from. The sorcerer takes inspiration from a more whimsical side of the hag. Playing a bit more of a support role, the increased sorcerer’s spell list offers things such as bane and hypnotic pattern, and its first level trait allows the PC to give certain resistances to charm and fear to their allies. The subclass gets interesting at 6th level, being able to cast a “No, u” to a caster by throwing the spell they cast back to them. You need to spend sorcery points to do this, but still, a 9th level sorcerer can throw back a power word kill to an enemy that casts it. That’s like… a lot. On 14th level you can create your own flying object, in case you want to play the classic witch with a flying broom, or go with something a bit weirder. Lastly, 18th level offers a small improvement on the “No, u” ability by allowing you to send back any 1st level spell cast in the last minute, and giving you a free mirror image, with each duplicate able to cast spells up to lvl 3.
Bardic College of Grandmother’s Tales
This bard must be based on the witch from Snow White, as it relies heavily on poison and fear. No witch is chosen by the way, as it seems your learn how hags generally behave and work in the college. This means that there aren’t subchoices to be made like in the other subclasses. This bard uses a book of fairy tales, sheet music or poetry as their arcane focus, which is a bit weird for a hag or witch as they are never shown with books in media (unless it’s some sort of Necronomicon). On 3rd level, they gain an ability to expend one bardic inspiration to throw poison to an enemy, causing the poisoned condition to them. This by itself is strong enough, but it only gets better with the other lvls, reaching a point where their speed is 0 and fall prone, meaning they can’t get back up and melee attacks against the enemy are made with advantage, and at 15th level becoming incapacitated as well, which might be a bit too much. The bard also gains at 3rd level the ability to scare close-by enemies, meaning this is more of a melee bard. At 6th level, you conjure a spectral hag that is pretty much a monster with the abilities from the warlock subclass. I like that it states that the spectral hag treats the PCs as their grandchildren, as it will surely create fun roleplaying opportunities. Lastly, at 16th level, the fear ability from lvl6 is improved to reach a wider radius, and you can use the poison ability as a reaction to someone who fails the save. This means that at lvl 15 you can potentially scare a group of minions next to a boss and leave the boss incapacitated, immobilized, frightened and poisoned all in the same turn by using just action and reaction (meaning you can still use a bardic inspiration on an ally!)
There are tons of crafting systems that have been created for D&D. There are several different opinions about these, but I still haven’t found one that stuck the landing. You can follow @BrandesStoddard on Twitter if you want more takes on the subject, as he is kind of a specialist in it. This is why in my games I usually wing it when players want to craft stuff. Did they kill a dragon and want to make something out of their scales or organs? Why not? We’ll make something up! This article, however, is not necessarily about crafting magic items, but empowering spells! If I am not mistaken, it’s the longest article yet, and definitely the most robust.
The article starts with an introduction to harvesting monster parts and how difficult it can be. Then, it starts to list all monsters from the Monster Manual that may have something to empower your spells, separated in their types. As an example, you can take a look at the table below, which indicates not only all the monster parts you can remove from the creature, but also their respective DCs and how many you can take. It then proceeds to describe which benefits this component can offer the PC.
When you cast sleep with an adult brass dragon’s sleep breath gland, roll d10s instead of d8s, and roll an additional 3d10.
As you may imagine there is a TON of content here, ranging from simple effects to overpowered ones. The article has some side notes giving tips on what you can do to make the effects work better in your campaign if you don’t want magic to be able to be that powerful. This is definitely a must-have, and I would totally spend the $5 this issue costs for a DM’s Guild product that offered something like this. Lastly, there’s a small section about mixing components so you can use more than one to empower your spell. This can cause wild magic to happen, which is always a ton of fun.
The Emerald Exchange
As the guy that ranted about magic shops ruining the D&D fantasy, one might think that I would not enjoy this article. However, I do believe that there is a place and campaign for these sorts of shops. This one is a special one, and that is something I do really enjoy. It’s not just a magic shop but an entire organization or faction. There are consequences for buying stuff in here, and you may catch the seller’s attention. You want Emerald (the one in charge of the shop) on your right side, or she may send assassins after you. If she notices you might end up a problem for her, Emerald might start to be cautious and stealing the things she sold you back!
I do love a greatly developed NPC, and Emerald is one. She pulls a lot of strings, has a league of assassins to back her up, and can be either an ally or a villain depending on the decisions the party takes. Thus, having the shop be in your game creates an extra node in the campaign. At some point, that node might explode and cause a lot of problems, but the players won’t know until it is too late.
The article comes with new magic items, how the magic shop looks (it even includes maps), how it is protected, and lots of little details that give it a life of its own. Emerald is extremely fleshed out, including how to roleplay her, and how she could become a follower if you use the Strongholds & Followers rules from MCDM. Additionally, it tells you how to always know what’s in stock, the different prices, how to commission items, and when Emerald might ask the PCs to go out on an adventure for her, and that is only the beginning!
To sum up, I must say that this is one of those Arcadia issues that you must get. The hag subclasses I liked flavorwise, but I didn’t enjoy the execution. There’s also something about being able to leave an enemy incapacitated by failing on a single DC that I find a bit too much. The monster components, on the other hand, is something that I will make sure to save and pull out every once in a while to lead players to hunt powerful monsters. It might be up there in my top Arcadia articles. Lastly, Emerald’s shop is something I do really enjoy having because, just like the secret library from one of the past issues, I love setting agnostic locations that are evocative, really thought out, with fun NPCs and a wide variety of adventure hooks. The content from this article, or at least a variation from it, is definitely going into some future adventure!
It’s weird to find an issue so player-oriented in Arcadia, but as a DM I enjoyed it a whole lot. There’s a lot of good stuff! But what is your take on it? Do you think I’m wrong with my opinions in the hags’ subclasses? Is Emerald’s shop way too over the top for your campaign? Let me know in the comments below!