Unearthing Arcana #001

(this was originally published on my Patreon on June 10, 2017)

Hi, this is Tyler, writer of Zargo Games. The majority of my writing has been creating my own content or promoting my own content, so I decided I should take some time to look at other people’s content and maybe promote it if I find it interesting. That’s what this new series is. I doubt it will be a regular series, but I’ll try to put one out whenever I can. The exact format of the series will likely change over the first few entries, so I’ll detail my process for the first entry.

I went to the Dungeon Masters Guild and opened three product type categories: character options, gear/magic items, and core rules. For future entries I might try different categories, but those were what interested me today. Then I searched by date added and only for pay-what-you-want titles. I might search for paid options later, but at this time I’m a little light on cash, though I plan on paying for the products I enjoyed once my paycheck comes in. I then picked two entries that sounded at least somewhat interesting. There was some overlap in the categories, but in the end I came up with six products, which I downloaded then read. These are the first two products, the character options.

Alien Influence

By David Adams LINK

Brief Summary: Inject sci-fi into your fantasy with a new space-themed warlock patron, advanced equipment, and rules for surviving in space.

Overview: While skimming through the document, I was delighted by how slick everything looked, especially for a free document. It is seriously a delight to look at; whoever formatted it clearly possesses a great deal of skill. On a closer reading I found a few nitpicks, but overall I am very happy with the product.

The document opens with a new warlock patron, the traveler between the stars. The nebulous concept represents any entity, being, or civilization capable of space travel, and as such warlocks that choose this patron gain access to advanced technology. The document has a nice side-bar explaining how to handle the science-fiction elements of the subclass without detracting from the fantasy setting. My one complaint is that the capstone ability, orbital strike, while flavorfully awesome, seems very weak mechanically. One thing I particularly love about this section is the ability to pick a repair drone as a familiar, should you choose pact of the chain.

After the warlock patron the document details advanced technological gadgets. The gadgets integrate directly with the warlock patron’s features, but they can also be used by anyone that finds them (the function similarly to magic items but with a different cooldown mechanic to represent the technological aspect). While a few of the magic items could do with clearer descriptions, both mechanical and flavor-wise, overall the gadgets are interesting and well-made.

The final section details the hazards of space exploration. Radiation and the vacuum of space get codified rules, which I am grateful for as a DM about to run a game that partially takes place in space. The radiation rules are fairly straightforward, though it adds a bit of bookkeeping for DMs and players, so if you’d rather keep things low-maintenance, I’d suggest handwaving radiation or finding a new way to deal with it. The dangers of vacuum are even simpler, with players able to survive a set number of rounds, based on their Constitution modifier (I’m assuming there’s a minimum of one round but the document doesn’t clarify) before you die. No death saves, space is too deadly for things like that. You also suffer negative effects if you survive the vacuum, but those can be cleared up easily through rest or magic.

Verdict: Overall this is a fantastic product that is aesthetically pleasing as well as flavorful and mechanically sound. My few issues can easily be addressed by a creative dungeon master. With a pay-what-you-want price, there’s no reason to ignore this product unless you simply despise adding sci-fi to your fantasy.

Martial Archetypes

By Wesley Kenton LINK

Brief Summary: Expand your fighter options with three new archetypes: the element-themed arboreal vanguard, the dragon raider, and the vile plaguebearer.

Overview: The document appears to be made in Homebrewery, so while it is certainly not bad to look at, it seems pretty barebones, with little effort put into formatting and no illustrations. However, the new archetypes sounded intriguing, if a bit overcomplicated.

Starting with the arboreal vanguard, I was intrigued by the element-themed spellcasting. Some of the choices for the elemental spells baffled me a bit (cure wounds is a fire spell?), but I liked the idea of being able to switch elements on a long rest and adapting your available spells as needed.  Past the basic features, though, the archetype is a bit of a mess. One feature randomly grants you the ability to speak with animals, with no other animal-themed features in the rest of the class. The other features are elements-themed, but only in name. Finally, I think the author misunderstands what “arboreal” means, because I found nothing about trees in the archetype.

The next archetype, the dragon raider, is much more cohesive flavor-wise. You’re a warrior with dragon powers, simple. Also, for the most part the archetype is cohesive mechanically too. Not to say that it is balanced, but I can see that there was effort put into making this archetype seem like it fit together. However, it needs serious rebalancing, as some of the features seem pretty useless while others are insanely overpowered (one ability lets you add your Charisma modifier to your AC while wearing heavy armor!!!). With some work, this could be an interesting class, but only allow it in your games with serious effort put into rebalancing it.

The final archetype, the plaguebearer, has some interesting flavor and some really cool mechanics, but it suffers from trying to do too much, and is overly complicated because of it. A particular feature I love, unfeeling hulk, is essentially evasion, but for Constitution instead of Dexterity. Overall, this archetype doesn’t feel like it fits with the fighter class, and would be better suited for sorcerer or warlock (the flavor at the beginning would actually fit both classes quite well!). It also suffers balance issues.

Verdict: Check this out if you want to find some good ideas without much cohesion. I would not recommend using any of the archetypes from the product directly, but it could be fun to rework some of them to be better balanced or cohesive.  At a price of pay-what-you-want, there’s nothing to lose but your time.

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