All art belongs to MCDM
A tiefling or demon with a shining red sword summoning a dark dragon…. EPIC! I am loving this cover, and easily inspires me to create some sort of general of this sort as a villain. We are rapidly coming to an end with Arcadia so let’s enjoy the few articles we still have left before the company decides to offer other monthly products. I know they will be just as rad as the ones from Arcadia, but nevertheless, I will miss these.
It seems Hannah stopped working full-time for MCDM, which might mean that she will only remain doing freelance stuff for them. Good to hear she hasn’t completely left the company, as she does fantastic stuff. The great thing is that, at least for now, the editor came back to be another great individual: James Introcaso. He comes to tell us that this issue is mostly about exploration. After all the exploring I’ve been doing in Tears of the Kingdom, adding a bit of that to the D&D games does sound like a fantastic idea, so let’s jump right into it!
Indrani is a fantastic person and creator I got to meet at Big Bad Con last year, so I was really excited to see what she came up with! This article is all about three aquatic creatures from South Asian mythology. Notice that I wrote “creatures” and not “monsters”. This is because the three of them are beings with their own goals that might not be an enemy at all, but an entity that can help you solve some other problem, or the one to introduce you to an entire quest line.
Makaras are chimeric sturdy creatures protectors of treasures. They can work as mounts, and help you carry huge findings, meaning some like to use them as companions. Of course this means there is a companion stat block from the Beastheart
product accompanying it. I really like that, unlike the elephant from the Monster Manual, this creature can impale you with its tusks moving you wherever it wants. Add in the defensive mechanics it has, this creature ends up being a fantastic bodyguard.
Randhanus are enormous fishes that can eat entire whales whole. They are mischievous pranksters, looking to cause chaos, but not entirely in an evil way, unless you get caught on their wrong side. Randhanus are searched to get blessings, to a person or a whole area, or to have it revive fallen people. You can easily see how this creature can work as a MacGuffin in your campaign or something a villain might be looking to capture. I really like the design behind having the Swallow action being a Bonus Action instead of a full action. It allows the creature to act quicker, having it feel more like a deity.
Vritnagas are legendary three-headed sea dragons, each of the heads with their own unique personality. While the heads on both sides are more chaotic and power-hungry in nature, the one in the center makes sure they can all work together towards a certain goal. However, unlike dragons, they don’t have hoards and can camouflage, while trying to conquer everything in their grasp. This makes them terrifying enemies and powerful villains. This creature comes with its own lair actions and descriptions. The thing I like the most about this monster is that, unlike the hydra, it has specific mechanics that tell you how it works if you only want to chop off a certain head. Being the three heads different personality-wise, and the powers they have, this can make a huge difference in combat.
I wanted to point out that all three creatures come with three encounters for the characters to meet or interact with this creatures. These very easily tie them to any sort of story you may be running, while also providing some ideas for fantastic quest lines (some even dealing with very serious matters that might encompass an entire story arc).
It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Chris’ work. Their first article in Arcadia is one of my favorites still. This time, Chris decided to bring something like boss encounters for your dungeon that you may randomly find while traversing it. They are made to be terrifying findings and something you should probably run away from.
The bleeder is an old man covered in blood that fights with shotels and daggers. However, they are experts of the hunt. Once a bleeder marks its target, it will not stop until their objective is dead. They can easily appear, attack, and dissapear again in a cloud of blood. However, when you expect it the least, it will reappear to finish its work. That’s how it works, assassinating one by one while causing paranoia on the player characters.
The terraformer is the second monster that we are presented with. This is an elemental being that hits you with its drill, and causes columns of dirt to float out of the ground with some sort of telekinesis. These columns of course will end up stuck on your faces, or used to lift the characters out of range, or to be hit against the ceiling. Reminds me a bit about the mole man from The Incredibles movie, except this one does look terrifying. Able to move through stone without leaving any trace behind, and move the earth around it to its will, I can see the terraformer being a true menace in any enclosed dungeon that can accidentally get demolished.
The mutator is definitely the scarier of the three. It looks like the thing from the movie The Thing, and behaves in a similar manner, except it doesn’t transform like a doppleganger into another humanoid (unless you want to homebrew it a bit to do so, which I definitely would). I find it weird that this monster is considered a humanoid instead of a monstrosity, but that’s just a minor detail that only affects some few abilities. At the same time, it’s the most complex of the three monsters, as it has 2 phases, and for each of them a different stat block. Once you kill the mutator in stage 1 it transforms into stage 2, so it’s still easy to run. My favorite ability is without doubt Warping Spit, in which multiple targets are spit at once, and tendrils grow out of the spit to hit them. Attacking these tendrils might actually hit yourself or an ally. This is the sort of mechanics I wish we had more of in D&D!!
Additional Monster Details
In addition to the stat blocks, all three monsters come with some extra details to better describe or use them. Omens of Approach is a fantastic way to scare your players off by stating that there are weird things, sounds, or smells in their surroundings that should scare them off. There is a Grand Entrance section as well for each of them with a box text stating in a very flavorful manner how the monsters enter the scene. The text is excellent, even though I am not a big fan of box text for the DM to read aloud. Tactics is the third detail that all monsters have, which is quite simple: it tells you how to best use the monster in combat to get the best use out of it. Lastly, we have a section in case the player characters unleash a supernova on our poor monster: the Escape Plan. All monsters come with one of these, because in some way of form they all have some mean to escape, which is fully described in case you need to use them, to terrify your players again on a later stage of the dungeon when the monster has recovered.
Bianca is another pal from Big Bad Con that I really admire. I was looking forward to reading what she had to offer to Arcadia, and she definitely didn’t dissapoint! Adding a bit more to the whole sailing and pirate theme from Arcadia 27 comes this article that involves a ship that you can improve little by little to have it be able to fly, and navigate the Sea of Stars. I totally dig having the ship contain the essence of a being from the Feywild. It adds a great deal of personality to what otherwise would have just been a vehicle.
The article offers three different stages in which the ship can be, changing from one to the other as it keeps getting improved, with the addition of magic discs that the PCs have to find in the world. The ship used to have a whole crew, but they retired, and now it has a new crew that wants to sail the seas with the adventurers. I find the idea of having the ship be a plot device to adventures, and having a personality of its own to be brilliant. The objectives that the article offers to find the disk are imaginative, but I could have enjoyed them more if they had a bit more things to them. They are way too simple leaning on the DM to add extra things, and even though they both have random encounters, neither of the tables have encounters that tie themselves with the story being told, which I found to be a missed opportunity.
The stats for the ship use the rules introduced in Arcadia issue 27, with the necessary tools to run them rewritten for those who don’t have both articles. There’s also a beautiful map of the ship to use, with all its sections, and gridded for when combat arises onboard. I would have liked having a PNG map with just the ship instead of having some tiles of sea around it to use in virtual tabletops, allowing having the ship right next to other things, but that’s just a minor detail. Lastly, there are stats for the new crew that will be accompanying the PCs, with a whole section on how to run them using the retainers rools that will be introduced in Flee Mortals!
I seriously hope that with Arcadia closely coming to an end, MCDM bundles all articles and sells them all together, because they can’t stop creating fantastic content! I will definitely be using these three articles in future games (or at least I would love to).
If you had to choose one of these three articles to use in your next campaign or session, which one would you choose and why? Let me know in the comments below!
GET ARCADIA ISSUE FROM MCDM STORE
BECOME AN MCDM PATREON FOR FUTURE ARCADIA ISSUES