Hello dungeon crawlers, it’s me, Slick Dungeon! I’m back to review another issue in the awesome magazine put out by MCDM Productions, Arcadia issue #5. The magazine has delivered some great value in past issues so we’ll see how this one holds up.
The magazine is 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 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 #5 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 #5 you can see the Q&A with the creators below.
This issue features just 3 articles but it still comes in at a solid 34 pages. There are no adventures here. Instead, we get an article about long term curses, an article about a new subclass, and an article with some new spells. I’m going to go through each of these articles and give my take on them so you can see if this might be something you want to purchase for your own home game.
In all five of the issues I have read so far, there has never been one where I was not impressed with at least some of the artwork. Even the articles that I find only so so tend to still have fantastic artwork. And there’s always at least one piece of art which makes me think you could plan an entire campaign around that single image. Issue 5 is no different in that regard and it’s great to see it continue. I really like the art in the first and second articles in this one but the cover to me is flat out amazing. I have no idea what’s going on there but it looks downright deadly.
In Dungeons & Dragons there are a lot of instances where curses may come up. One issue some Dungeon Masters have is the curses can become meaningless if a simple 3rd level spell, Remove Curse, can simply wipe it out. This article attempts to correct that by giving some curses which are a bit more permanent.
The article gives us six brand new curses we could use in our games. Most of them also have helpful GM tips on using these curses. Let’s take a brief look at each one.
The first curse is The Curse of the Betrayed. Basically this curse makes the player character think at all times they are going to be or already have been betrayed in some ways. This curse can also affect the whole party. While I think there are some settings where a curse like this might work (particularly some in Ravenloft) overall, I have some issue with this curse. I feel like unless you have players who are really good at not letting personal feelings come into role play, this is a powder keg for bad player behavior. Specifically, I would be afraid one problem player might feel like this curse is a license to act however they want at all times, consequences be damned. I’m sure most people wouldn’t try to do that but I could see it escalating.
The second curse is The Curse of Cassandra. It’s pretty much a curse where players see a little bit into the future about and event that is going to happen to them. It’s not a maybe kind of prophecy, if they have this curse, the negative thing is going to happen. Of course, they can try to stop it and if they do, that’s one way to reverse the curse. But for this one I think this makes things difficult for the Dungeon Master. It’s hard enough to keep a table of players focused on what is happening right now sometimes, let alone on something you may have to shoehorn into your campaign.
The third curse is The Curse of the Living Dead. This is hands down my favorite curse in here, and the only one I really might consider using in my own campaigns. Rather than a player or party being cursed, this applies to a whole town or village. And, just like you might expect, this has to do with zombies and other undead. There’s a pretty creative take here though where any dead anything rises at midnight. I could see a pretty good Pet Cemetery style campaign happening here, or just straight up Night of the Living Dead.
Next we have the Curse of the Sordino. This one has a pretty good hook for bards where sound really comes into play. But if you don’t have bards in your party, it’s probably not the curse for you. However, it does seem like a fun adventure hook. I would say more but I don’t want to spoil it for those who might buy the magazine.
Curse of the Watchers is one where I think it would work really well if you are running Curse of Strahd, specifically because it involves ravens. Don’t use this if any of your players have a bird phobia though, it could be traumatic! We do get a pretty neat stat block for a Swarm of Cursed Ravens which could be used in almost any campaign.
Finally, we get Slow Polymorph. In essence, this curse changes a player character to be a little more monster-like but usually with some benefit as well. It’s probably not a condition any player would really want to keep for long though. I think this one could be used at any table but only if you really talk to your players about it first because it’s going to change them, potentially permanently.
Out of the six curses here there are only two I see where you probably don’t need to have long discussions with your players before implementing and only if characters are playing in certain types of settings. While all the curses are unique and might make a nice change from the usual curses players end up with, I can only give this article a C+. There’s simply too much prep work and potential for players to end up in fights with one another over some of these. If you do use one of these curses in your game, let me know how it goes because I’m really curious how well it turned out for you.
One of the odd quirks of Dungeons & Dragons 5e is you tend to accumulate a lot of wealth if you live long enough. After all, you are plundering dragons hoards, raiding castles for magic items, and plunging the depths of cavernous dungeons, snatching up whatever coin comes your way. This article creates subclasses for those who have greed as one of their main motivations for what they do in the game.
The article gives us a deity of deals, three subclasses, and an NPC to play with. Let’s dig into those.
The deity they give us is a god of deals. I could see this one being played any number of ways and it would fit into any campaign where any transaction might be important. It’s also a unique deity your players aren’t going to have seen before so it’s definitely something fresh. And since this god had to do with deals, not just gold, it doesn’t have to be a transaction involving gold to use this in a campaign. I haven’t played a campaign using this but it seems like it could be fun.
The first subclass is a new domain for Clerics called the Avarice domain. This introduces a lot of neat features for Clerics. There are tons of subclasses for Clerics already so I can’t say this one is better or worse than the others but I could easily see a player hamming it up as a Cleric who is all about material goods.
The second subclass is a Druid Circle: Circle of the Gilded. This subclass is all about gems. Druids use the elemental powers granted to them by certain gems in order to protect the precious natural resources where the gems come from. The gems become part of the Druid and deal some types damage (lighting, acid, etc). A lot of the features in here seem really fun to play and since Druids are all about nature and precious gems come from nature, this one really makes a lot of sense.
The final subclass is an Oath for Paladins: The Oath of Acquisitions. I think this one is really cool. It basically allows Paladins to become mercenaries. They’re not necessarily out there for good or bad but for payment. They’re going to help, certainly, if you need, as long as you will fairly compensate the Paladin. I can’t even number the amount of stories where a mercenary is the main character in all kinds of fantasy. It gives you some cool magic stuff but again I can’t say it’s better or worse than other Paladin classes mechanically. Thematically though, I love this.
There are three retainer stat blocks listed next but if you don’t have Strongholds & Followers this won’t mean much to you. Just think of them as potential NPC stat blocks with some really simple attack mechanics.
Finally this article has an NPC with a full stat block who I could see coming in handy both as a quest giver for a party and a sometimes battle companion. It’s got a bit of good flavor here but as always you’ll want to make your NPC’s your own.
I really found a lot to like in this article. I especially like the deity and NPC provided but the subclasses are good as well. However, with a plethora of good subclasses already available for Clerics, Druids, and Paladins, I’m not sure there is a ton of reason to go with these over any of those. All in all this is a good article and I like how the theme of avarice ties everything together here. I give this a solid B.
In this article we get new spells for Bards, Druids, Sorcerers, Warlocks and Wizards. These are presented in the form of an Almanac with some notes from someone named Alabaster.
I’m not going to go through each and every spell here but there are a few I want to mention so you can have an idea of what is offered here.
There’s a pretty potent 6th level spell for Druids and Wizards which essentially allows a creature to traverse “The World Below” without taking too much damage. It seems pretty fun and would be suitable for a setting like the Underdark so if you have a campaign set there this might be good to use.
Another spell is a sort of modified Mage Hand spell but instead of there being a spectral hand, you can teleport small objects to you. There are a lot of restrictions to it however, and it is a first level spell so it’s not always going to be the most effective of your spells.
The last spell I want to mention is really good counter to any scrying spells called Scryspike. With this spell not only can you stop the scrying spell from happening, you can also do some damage to the person who cast it in the first place.
There are several other spells listed in this article and most of them are really fun. Whether they are right for your table or not is going to depend on you and your party so definitely read through carefully before allowing any player to use them.
I think this was the best article in this issue, even if it was just more spells. But then again, who doesn’t want more spells? Spells are fun!
I’m giving this article an A.
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