Hello dungeon creatures and crawlers, it’s me Slick Dungeon. I know I’m a lot of issues behind here but I finally bought the fourth issue of Arcadia put out by Matt Colville’s MCDM productions.
I love this magazine because it’s full of amazing art, has great, useful articles for your at home games, and is written by some of the most gifted creators in the TTRPG community. Each issue has so far delivered. They are a good deal at $12 a piece right now but if you buy the bundle of the first three issues it’s $18 so I would highly recommend going with that. You can buy your copies here. Just a note that I am not associated with MCDM so I’m just recommending buying this because I think it’s good, not for any other reason.
I took a look at all the articles and want to give you my hot takes so far. If you don’t know what Arcadia is and you want to learn more about it before reading about issue #4 you can start at the beginning and check out my post for issue #1 here.
Also, if you want to go even further in depth about issue #4 you can see the Q&A with the creators below.
If I was told I could only give you one single reason to check out Arcadia, my choice would be easy. It’s the artwork. Even if you read every single word of the issue and can’t find a single thing to use in your game (which is really unlikely) there is a piece of artwork here to inspire you. It’s consistently high quality and in fact, I think it at times outdoes the artwork in the official Wizards of the Coast materials. If you don’t believe me, just take one look at this cover.
I don’t know who this guy is or what his story is before reading the issue but I know I want to use him in my campaign.
Letter From the Editor
Typically, I haven’t really mentioned this section in my past reviews but they mention something here that I think is worth highlighting. They mention due to a Patreon survey they will be concentrating less on fully packaged adventures because most of the people reading the magazine want new creatures, items, etc. so they can use them in worlds they are creating. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I hope they don’t decide to completely drop adventures because I personally find them really useful. I love when I find an adventure which can take a session or two to drop in my campaign. It helps me save in preparation time and to me that’s invaluable. The rest of the letter is just what you would expect but there’s a couple of jokes in there that might make you chuckle.
Swimming Through Sand to Sea
One of the more innovative things in the first issue of Arcadia was a new set of rules to use for mounts. It gave us some new creatures and items to use for those who were tired of using standard mounts such as horses. In this article, Willy Abeel, is back to provide us with creature to mount for those hard to reach places such as dungeons or underwater.
As far as the magic items go here, several of them are neat and fun, but you’ll want to really think through whether you want to grant these to your players. Some of these items mimic some pretty good spells so use caution. Pretty much all of the items do allow mounts to go to places they normally can’t though and that can be really useful for players. No one wants to leave their trusty mount behind just because it can’t swim or fly.
As far as new mounts go, there are options for Axolottle, which is a type of salamander, Chuul, Bulette, and Purple Worm. While all of these will depend on the situation of your party and your gaming table, I love the idea of having and unusual mount. I particularly like the Chuul and Bulette mounts. But again, if you are the Dungeon Master, take caution before giving your part any of these. Some of these creatures are pretty strong and a huge asset to any party. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it, I’m just saying be sure you really want to.
My favorite thing in this article is the Omnimounts. These are enormous creatures who can traverse continents, or even planes of existence, with ease. The example given is of a giant Purple Worm that wants to travel long distances. The twist is, if the party rides this mount and doesn’t travel far enough for its taste, it takes payment by swallowing the riders whole.
I wish there was a lot more to the Omnimounts and it sounds like there may be an article in future issues but otherwise I’d say this article is about equal to the mounts article in the first issue. Since we’ve seen this one before, more or less, I’m giving it a B.
The Chained Library
The Chained Library is a location housing powerful tomes of knowledge. If this is reminding you of Candlekeep, you would not be wrong. However, in this library, no one is allowed to read the books, not even the librarians because they are too dangerous. The idea here is that there are certain books out in the world full of danger, even if used with good intentions. There are NPC agents of the Chained Library described here who work both within and outside of the library.
There are also several magic items and books described in this article mostly having to do with trying to suppress dangerous knowledge. It’s clear if the player characters were to get their hands on one of these books, there would be a high cost to pay for whatever advantage they might get from it.
While I like the idea of the library as a location, I really like the idea of the NPCs from the library trying to get a book from the party. I think I may insert some of this into my Curse of Strahd campaign as I think it works well with a magic item from that campaign. The artwork for the library and for the “Eyeless Guardians” is really cool and I’m definitely inserting those into my campaign.
There’s also a nice little map if you do decide to use this as a location in your campaign. In addition they give several adventure hooks in case you do want to get your players here.
While I do think the location is neat, I can’t say it’s totally original, just because we already have a cool and interesting library in 5th edition at Candlekeep but it’s still a fun little place. If there wasn’t a Candlekeep I would give this one an A but because it’s slightly less than original I’m giving it a B+
On the Road Encounters
This article offers five encounters meant to be used for lower level players traveling from one point to another. You can increase the challenge rating by swapping out monsters if your players are up to around 8th level but beyond that these would just be a minor distraction no matter who you fiddle with it.
The first encounter involves a group of Kobolds who took over a toll bridge and guardhouse. It’s a fairly standard encounter but there are a couple of unique things about the leader of the Kobolds.
The second encounter has the players defending a group of merchants from a bandit attack. This sounds fairly straightforward and possibly even dull, however, it’s not. This encounter really encourages players to do something they don’t always think of. Prepare for the fight and make traps to stop their enemies. I think these kinds of encounters can be really fun and if done well, show players that out and out melee combat is not always the right option.
The third of these encounters involves a moral quandary. The party comes upon a duel between a noble and a peasant where the peasant is severely outmatched by the noble. The party can do the right thing and help the peasant out but if they do, there’s a good chance they will be in deep trouble in the future. There is also a sidebar with a couple of nice twists on the situation that I like.
The fourth encounter is a bait and switch encounter where four people come out of the woods claiming to be hostages. In reality they are Bandits and lead the party into an ambush. This is one of those encounters that can work well but if the players get suspicious it can just turn into a melee ordeal. There’s nothing wrong with that, just know going in that it’s possible for it to end up that way.
The final encounter is more of an NPC. He’s a cartographer who is painting on the side of the road when the characters come upon him. He is secretly on a mission to find the treasure of a dragon and is looking for warriors to assist him. For this one, I see two ways to play it. First, you could have the characters for once, meet a relatively calm and normal NPC to make your world feel more full and vibrant. It’s good sometimes to see things that don’t actually affect the party in any real way happen to provide a sense that the world still moves without them. Secondly, you could use this character as a gateway into a much larger and longer campaign. If you do that, I would suggest using this encounter first out of all the encounters and lead the characters from there.
While I really like the idea of the second encounter most, I don’t think there is enough new here to make this a great article. It’s got some good ideas and again has some great art but I feel like we’ve seen variations of all of these encounters over and over again. Still, everyone is going to need these kinds of encounters to keep a game going so I’m not saying not to use them.
For this one I am giving it a C.
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