Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Unearthed Arcana and Freeport, Part 15--and official 5E Freeport news!

Welcome back to my ongoing series of capsule reviews of "Unearthed Arcana" with an eye for how to use them with the Freeport setting. This column covers UA articles from April to August 2020. From the number of subclasses undergoing repeated revisions over the past year or so, along with the many other character options (like feats) appearing in UA, it seems pretty clear that Wizards of the Coast plans to release another book of player-facing crunch along the lines of Xanathar's Guide to Everything sometime in the near future.

For my past columns about using D&D Fifth Edition sourcebooks with Freeport: The City of Adventure, see the Freeport 5E Index.

Psionic Options Revisited (4/14/2020): This article starts with a discussion of the common elements in past editions' treatments of psionics, and the history of psionics rules in 5E. UA has presented many approaches, including a psionics-focused class, the mystic. However, the R&D team has abandoned that model in favor of creating new subclasses for existing classes. They have also abandoned the Psionics tradition wizard, which was just introduced late last year.

Three psionic archetypes, the psi knight (formerly psychic warrior, for fighters), soulknife (for rogues), and psionic soul (formerly the aberrant soul, for sorcerers), have been revised to share the common idea of a psionic talent die used to measure the ebb and flow of the character's psychic energy reserve. The character receives a d6 that they may add to certain rolls. If this die rolls the higher possible result, the die decreases in size (or, below a d4, is lost until a long rest); on a 1, it increases instead (to the character's maximum size). At higher levels, the psionic talent die increases in size, and the subclasses gains new options to use with the die. In some cases, that is simply additive; in others, the die determines an effect's duration, or the die is rolled only to determine if it changes size.

This seems to be a fairly simple, elegant way to track psionic power, rather than imposing some sort of power point rules, as in most previous editions. Because it is separate from spell slots, a character can be considered psionic without necessarily casting spells.

This column also includes five psionic feats. One is Wild Talent, which lets any character gain access to a psionic talent die. The options for using the die are very limited, but there also four other feats available that give new uses for that die (and have this feat or the psionic talent class feature as a prerequisite).

This UA also includes three psionic spells. These are updates of older material, and there is a note that some playtest spells have been abandoned; many of this latter group became subclass features or feats instead.

Subclasses Revisited (5/12/2020): As with the previous article, this installment presents new iterations of previous offerings: the Phantom subclass for rogues (previously the Revived), the Genie patron for warlocks (previously the Noble Genie), and the Order of Scribes for wizards (previously the Archivist, an artificer subclass).

The Phantom is a killer with a mystical connection to the dead. That connection gives them a bonus proficiency (which can be changed after a rest), and at later levels it can give them a little bit of the luck or knowledge of those who have died near them. When they sneak attack a foe, they can cause ghostly wails to damage a second target. This subclass would be ideal for the assassins of a death cult, or for a haunted loner. It fits in admirably with the horror elements of the Freeport setting.

The Genie is an otherworldly patron from among the nobles of geniekind. Warlocks of this subclass actually take on some of the properties of their genie masters: they start with a genie's vessel, in which they can retreat from the outer world to rest. At later levels, they gain resistance based on their master's element, can take others into their vessel, and eventually gain some limited wish magic. Genie-binders are an established part of Freeport history, both in the construction of the Wizards Guild, and among the efreeti-blooded azhar, and this subclass offers an interesting inversion of that master-servant relationship.

A wizard of the Order of Scribes can create magical quill at will, and instills some limited sentience in his own spellbook. At higher levels, they become expert spell scroll makers, and their spellbook's mind gains new abilities. This subclass seems ideal for a lorekeeper at the Wizard's Guild or an archivist at the Temple of the God of Knowledge.

Feats (7/13/2020): This article presents 16 new feats. Some grant a small taste of another class's abilities (Artificer Initiate, Eldritch Adept, Fighting Initiate, Metamagic Adept, Tracker). Others enhance the use of a skill (Chef, Poisoner, Practiced Expert). Two represent the influence of another plane (Fey Touched, Shadow Touched). The rest give advantages in combat, usually enhancing attacks (Crusher, Gunner, Piercer, Shield Training, Slasher, Tandem Tactician). All of these feats are appropriate for Freeport, though GMs who don't want to use artificers or firearms in their game will need to restrict access to Artificer Initiate and Gunner, respectively. 

Subclasses, Part 4 (8/5/2020): This installment includes just two new subclasses: the College of Spirits for bards and the Undead patron for warlocks. 

The College of Spirits bard regularly contacts spirits from other planes to learn their stories and use the knowledge gained to aid his allies. They gain guidance as a bonus cantrip, and can use certain occult objects (such as a talking board or tarokka deck) as spellcasting foci. They can also spend their Bardic Inspiration die to learn a tale from a spirit, which they can then use to aid an ally or attack an enemy, depending on the result. This features uses a random table of 12 results, giving access to more options as the Bardic Inspiration die increases in size with level. At mid-levels, the bard can perform a seance-like ritual to temporarily learn a spell from any class, within certain limits. This subclass could be used to represent a classic occult medium who speaks with ghosts and angels, a lorekeeping shaman who speaks with his tribe's ancestors and totems, or the priest of an animistic religion who intercedes with the spirits of heaven and hell as well as nature. All of these concepts could easily find a place in the Freeport setting. 

The Undead patron may be an arch-lich, vampire lord, or other powerful, ancient undead entity. At 1st level, in addition to an expanded spell list, the warlock can assume a Form of Dread that grants temporary hp, forces creatures you hit to save or be frightened, and makes the warlock immune to being frightened for a brief time. Later class features include changing damage inflicted to necrotic, exploding upon reaching 0 hp then respawning with 1 hp; and projecting your spirit from your body. Each of these features has heightened effects when the warlock is in their Form of Dread. This patron is highly appropriate for the Freeport setting, which includes many necromancers in its history, such as the Ghoul-Lords who reigned over much of the Continent centuries ago, or--closer to home--Lord Bonewrack. However, necromancy is also one of the very few capital offenses in Freeport, so choose this patron only after consulting with the DM!


Ahoy! Official 5E Freeport News!

Green Ronin has re-released Death in Freeport updated for D&D Fifth Edition! See the announcement on the company blog here, and buy the PDF in the online store here

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Grey Angels LEGO minis

I recently built some LEGO minis for my "Grey Angels" characters and some of their favorite NPCs. The notes and captions below are copied from my original posts on Facebook in mid-May.

(See Nightwatch Dossier: Patricia "Trick" Tillinghast for more details of that game from past blog posts here.) 

Today I made some LEGO minis related to the Buffy/Angel RPG campaign that some old gaming buddies recently revived for a reunion arc.

Patricia "Trick" Tillinghast (redhead) training with her new girlfriend, Sophia Martin, who wants to become a Thyrian, too. (The Thyrians are essentially superpowered Amazons--like Slayers, but more so--though not exclusively female.)

Sophia and Trick, on a date.

Trick in (for now, completely hypothetical) armor based on the Minotaur, the symbol of her Thyrian Sword legacy.

Trick's ex, the witch Diana Bellefleur, who became Persephone's champion after her death several years ago. Trick is currently preparing for a quest to bring her back to life.

More Grey Angels minis, this time of Baz Olmstead, my Atlantean sorcerer, and his wife Ariel.

Ariel is a mutant Atlantean, a literal mermaid. Baz spent a very long time searching for a spell to grant her legs, so she could visit the surface world (and also change back, at will).

Ariel as Baz first met her, tinkering in her father's workshop. He pretty much fell for her right then and there--tail, grease smudges, and all.

Baz has developed limited shapeshifting powers since meeting Ariel, so he frequently grows a tail to match hers when they are together at home in New Atlantis.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Nightwatch Dossier: Patricia "Trick" Tillinghast

Patricia "Trick" Tillinghast is one of the two main characters who I played in "Grey Angels," a Buffy/Angel RPG campaign that ran from 2005 to 2009, and that later resumed as a play-by-post game from 2012 to 2014. That game resumed in late 2019 for a "10 years later" reunion arc.

I talked about Trick in a very piecemeal fashion in several past Studded Plate columns prior to the current revival:
Now that the game has resumed, I've started talking a great deal more about her here, so decided to create this "Nightwatch Dossier*" index page to collect all those links in one place. (You can also follow the "Tillinghast" tag, but this page will curate that list a little more, as I did with the older links above.)
* A note on Nightwatch, since I didn't mention it in "The Adventures of..." post above: This multinational corporation investigates occult phenomena, hunts rogue demons, researches new magic and occult tech, and sends covert teams on missions to parallel Earths and other dimensions. It is headed by Joey and Rae Maddock-Trent. (As the twin sister of Taryn Maddock, General of the Thyrian Nation, Rae is also part of the senior leadership of that organization as well.) Trick has had dealings with Nightwatch's Shadowgard office since the very early days of her involvement with the supernatural, but has never sought employment with the organization.

30-Day Song Challenge: Tillinghast Edition

My wife has been posting answers to a 30-Day Song Challenge on her Facebook this month. It's been interesting seeing her answers, but it's not normally the kind of meme I join in on. However, after posting my "Trick's Picks" playlist earlier I this month, I thought it might be fun to try answering this challenge in character as Trick. To make it more interesting, I did not repeat any songs, and only repeated artists twice. With only a couple exceptions, these are all songs that would appear in regular rotation in Trick's own playlists. In fact, many appear on my "Trick's Picks," or have been added to it since that post.

[See Trick's Nightwatch Dossier for a complete list of past posts about her.]

30-Day Song Challenge

As answered by Patricia "Trick" Tillinghast

Day 1: A song you like with a color in the title: "Mr. Blue Sky," Electric Light Orchestra. Nobody's ever going to be able to hear this song again without seeing Baby Groot dancing to it, are they? The best part of Vol. 2!

Day 2: A song you like with a number in the title: "Seven Nation Army," The White Stripes. It's got a really fun drum line.

Day 3: A song that reminds you of summertime: "Love Shack," The B-52's. The video is sunny and bright, and the song is kind of all about about how hot it is around here...

Day 4: A song that reminds you of someone you'd rather forget: "Shut Up and Dance," Walk the Moon. The line "This woman is my destiny" always reminds me of one of my ex-girlfriends, who I was more crazy in love with than anyone else before or since. (And who I'm not going to name, in case she ever sees this.) We're still friendly, but we just couldn't make it work, and if I'm completely honest with myself, I've never really gotten over her. But I love this song too much to not listen to it.

Day 5: A song that needs to be played loud: "Thunderstruck," AC/DC. Because metal demands volume!

Day 6: A song that makes you want to dance: "Uptown Funk," Mark Ronson (ft. Bruno Mars). I can't hear this song without moving!

Day 7: A song to drive to: "Life is a Highway," Rascal Flatts. This has been on every driving mix I've made since Cars.

Day 8: A song about drugs or alcohol: "Tubthumping," Chumbawamba. I love the "you are never going to keep me down" chorus, but there's an awful lot of drinking in these lyrics.

Day 9: A song that makes you happy: "Happy," Pharrell Williams. OK, kind of an obvious answer, but I'm a naturally joyful person, and it's catchy. And the video is full of people who are dancing because it's just plain fun.

Day 10: A song that makes you sad: "She Used to be Mine," Sara Bareilles. This song is about a woman who is mourning how she lost touch with the person who she used to be.

Day 11: A song you never get tired of: "Shake It Off," Taylor Swift. It's fun, and catchy, and empowering all at the same time.

Day 12: A song from your preteen years: "A Thousand Miles," Vanessa Carlton. A new hit love ballad when I was in middle school? And by a woman? Yes, please.

Day 13: A song you like from the 70s: "Dancing Queen," ABBA. This is a lovely mellow classic to groove to in between the more energetic tracks that let me really show off my dancing chops.

Day 14: A song you'd love to be played at your wedding: "Eternal Flame," The Bangles. It's a sappy, romantic song...and I love it. Plus, between my visions and becoming a Thyrian, I've kind of acquired a thing about fire imagery.

Day 15: A song you like that's a cover by another artist: "Lady Marmalade," Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya, Pink. I almost used it for Day 6 because I recently competed in a dance battle to this track. But I put it here because the Moulin Rouge cover took a good song and turned it into one of my all-time faves.

Day 16: A song that's a classic favorite"Imagine," John Lennon. My parents grew up listening to the Beatles and other classic bands of the 60's and '70s, so I was exposed to many of them as a kid as well. This is one of Mom's favorites, because it challenges us to imagine a better, more loving world.

Day 17: A song you'd sing a duet with on karaoke: "I Got You," Sonny & Cher. It's corny as hell, but I want to sing this with someone who will look at me in the same worshipful, sappy way that Sonny and Cher looked at each other whenever they performed this song back in the '60s.

Day 18: A song from the year you were born: "Simply Irresistible," Robert Palmer (1988). It's too bad that the video is so cheesy, and objectifying AF. It was the '80s, so I can't tell if that was meant ironically or not...but I doubt it.

Day 19: A song that makes you think about life: "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," Kelly Clarkson. You'll have to pardon me for getting philosophic for a moment. Pain is the great teacher. If we forget the painful events in our life, then we forget the lessons they taught us. Those things don't have to define us, but they do inform who we become. To put it another way, I am the sum of all my choices and my experiences, both the good ones and the bad ones. Who I am today is a precious gift, and I must acknowledge the path I took to get here.

Day 20: A song that has many meanings to you: "We Are the Champions," Queen. At first, this song reads as a victory anthem by a weary hero. (And, in fact, my cousin Baz claims to have led a chorus of it at a victory party after the Ragnarok.) But sometimes the borderline-plaintive tone of the song leads me to wonder if it's merely the daydreaming wish of someone who feels like an underappreciated loser. I wouldn't put it past Freddie & co. to have intended both messages.

Day 21: A song you like with a person's name in the title: "Elvis is Everywhere," Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper. This song is ridiculous, and I only listen to it very occasionally, but still amuses me after all this time.

Day 22: A song that moves you forward: "Fight Song," Rachel Platten. This song was pretty much my personal anthem when I moved back to Shadowgard to teach in my hometown and reconcile with the Maddocks, and again a few years later when I applied to become a Thyrian initiate. Too many people in this town remembered me as the angry, self-absorbed brat that I had been in high school, so I had a lot to prove to them, and to myself.

Day 23: A song you think everyone should listen to"Brave," Sara Bareilles. Be brave enough to speak up, and to show people who the authentic, amazing you really is! 

Day 24: A song by a band that you wish were still together: "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," The Eurythmics. I think Annie Lennox is a big part of the reason why I think tall chicks in suits are classy--and sexy. I've been known to rock the look myself from time to time.

Day 25: A song you like by an artist no longer living: "Ballroom Blitz," The Sweet. Two of the four original band members are dead, that's close enough.

Day 26: A song that makes you want to fall in love: "Somebody to Love," Queen. This song has been a prayer of mine far too many times...

Day 27: A song that breaks your heart: "Try," P!nk. I've had my heart broken more times than I can count, but I keep trying again.

Day 28: A song by an artist whose voice you love"Bubbly," Colbie Caillat. I'm pretty sure this song is really just all about sex, and I could listen to that gentle, caressing voice sing about that all day long.

Day 29: A song you remember from your childhood: "The Little Drummer Boy." This is the one song on this list that I actively don't like. Mostly because I remember being horribly offended that the Rankin-Bass movie didn't use drums for the title song!

Day 30: A song that reminds you of yourself: "Bitch," Meredith Brooks. I'm a passionate woman with a complicated history, who boldly wears her heart on her sleeve. I'm very aware that that can make me a right handful to deal with at times, even to--especially to?--my best friends. But those messy parts are part of who I am, too, for better or worse.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Trick's Picks

I have recreated my old "Trick's Picks" playlist on YouTube, and updated it for the 2020 reunion arc. This is a list of the favorite songs of Patricia "Trick" Tillinghast, my drummer/dancer/fencer/champion character from "Grey Angels," a Buffy/Angel RPG campaign. It's still very much a work in progress. (For additional context, see my past blog posts about Trick--particularly here and here.)

As of the time of this posting, the playlist includes (in no particular order):

Meredith Brooks - Bitch
P!nk - F**king Perfect
P!nk - Try
P!nk - Just Like Fire
P!nk - Raise Your Glass
Queen - Somebody to Love
Queen - We Are the Champions
The Bangles - Eternal Flame
Kelly Clarkson - Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)
Sara Bareilles - Brave
Colbie Caillat - Bubbly
Colbie Caillat - Fallin’ For You
Taylor Swift- Shake It Off
Taylor Swift - Delicate
Rachel Platten - Fight Song
The Sweet - Ballroom Blitz
Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya, Pink - Lady Marmalade
Mark Ronson (feat. Bruno Mars) - Uptown Funk
The White Stripes - Seven Nation Army
Des’ree - You Gotta Be
Adele - Rolling in the Deep
Natasha Bedingfield - Unwritten
Walk the Moon - Shut Up and Dance
Lady Gaga - The Edge of Glory
Rush [Neil Peart solo] - Der Trommler

And yes, that's a lot of P!nk tracks! Patricia's romantic history has been a soap opera roller coaster, so P!nk's repertoire strikes a very deep chord with her, but I've strictly limited myself to a few of her more positive songs for this list. Trick is a hopeless romantic, but she's becoming more careful and deliberate about her relationships. What worked during her high school and college years is no longer cutting it now that she's hit her 30's and has a much better sense of who she is and what she actually wants out of life. Of course, her list of favorites still heavily features tracks chosen simply because they're fun.


UPDATE 4/30/2020: The following tracks have been added to the playlist since the original list above was created:

Fatboy Slim - Weapon of Choice
The B-52’s - Love Shack
Portugal. The Man - Feel It Still
Sia - Cheap Thrills
Sia - Unstoppable
David Guetta, ft. Sia - Titanium
Pharrell Williams - Happy
The Black Eyed Peas - I Gotta Feeling
Lenny Kravitz - Fly Away
Vanessa Carlton - A Thousand Miles
Shania Twain - Man! I Feel Like a Woman
WAR*HALL - All This Power [theme song for Grey Angels Season 4]
Rachel Platten - Stand By You
HAIM - Little of Your Love
Smash Mouth - All Star


UPDATE 6/9/2020: More new tracks since the last update:

Alicia Keys - Girl on Fire
k.d. lang - Constant Craving
Coldplay - Viva La Vida
ABBA - Dancing Queen
Jason Mraz - I'm Yours
Lenny Kravitz- Are You Gonna Go My Way
Colbie Caillat - Brighter Than the Sun
Journey - Don't Stop Believin'
Daft Punk - Get Lucky
Hayley Kiyoko - Girls Like Girls
The Greatest Showman Cast - This Is Me
Mary Lambert - She Keeps Me Warm
The Veronicas - Take Me On the Floor
Tegan and Sara - Closer
Savage Garden - I Want You
The Hu (feat. Lzzy Hale) - Song of Women
Sixpence None the Richer - There She Goes
Sixpence None the Richer - Kiss Me
Sara Bareilles - I Choose You


UPDATE 8/11/2020: More new tracks since the last update (which brings the total to 70):

Sia - Alive
Journey - Any Way You Want It
Heart - Crazy on You
Janelle Monae - Make Me Feel
Clean Bandit (feat. Jess Glynne) - Rather Be
Ed Sheeran - Shape of You
Calvin Harris (feat. Rihanna) - This is What You Came For
Zara Larsson, MNEK - Never Forget You
Bruno Mars - Locked Out of Heaven
Lady Gaga - You and I
Evanescence - My Heart is Broken


UPDATE 8/20/2020: This is a much longer update than most, because I found an older version of my "Trick's Picks" playlist, so have now added most of those songs here. Now up to 106!

Backstreet Boys - Larger Than Life
Taylor Swift - Blank Space
Adam Lambert - Better Than I Know Myself
Angel & The MamboKats - Black Mambo (Mambero Mix)
Blue Man Group - Drumbone
Christina Aguilera - Genie in a Bottle
Donna Summer - Hot Stuff (12" Version)
ES Posthumus - Unstoppable
Fine Young Cannibals - Good Thing
Franka Potente - Believe
George Michael - Faith
Hadouken! - Levitate
INXS - Need You Tonight
Jefferson Airplane - Somebody to Love
Jessie J - Domino
John Legend - All of Me
Marvin Gaye - Sexual Healing
Peter Gabriel - In Your Eyes
The Pussycat Dolls (feat. Snoop Dogg) - Buttons
Ricky Martin - She Bangs
Roisin Murphy - Ramalama (Bang Bang)
Roisin Murphy - Night of the Dancing Flame
Sinead O'Connor - Nothing Compares 2U
Sting - If I Ever Lose My Faith in You
They Might Be Giants - S-E-X-X-Y
Trinket - Boom
The Troggs - Wild Thing
Anna Kendrick - Cups
Survivor - Eye of the Tiger
The Wallflowers - Heroes
Eurythmics (feat. Aretha Franklin) - Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves
The Who - Who Are You
The Who - Won't Get Fooled Again
Natalie Cole - Wild Women Do
Bjork - Hunter
Sophie P. Hawkins - Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover

Monday, April 6, 2020

Strongholds & Followers and Freeport

Last summer, I reviewed Matt Colville's Stronghold & Followers sourcebook for D&D 5E. This time, I'll be looking at how to use this new material in a Freeport campaign.

First of all, Freeport is a very highly detailed city that already contains many competing organizations with established strongholds. Any attempt to create a new stronghold in the Serpent's Teeth, much less within Freeport's own city walls, will be sure to experience resistance from the current powers that be. Players and DMs should not let that discourage them from using the stronghold rules--intrigue and political scheming are hallmarks of the City of Adventure, after all! And some bold adventurer is behind the founding of most of the city's iconic organizations, from the Syndicate to the Wizard's Guild to the office of Sea Lord itself. The PCs are just the latest in a long history of ambitious new arrivals, who lack the advantages jealously guarded by the members of the status quo.

In a Freeport campaign, the stronghold rules can also be useful for detailing NPC organizations, from competing guilds to military schools to pirate fleets. Even if the PCs never establish a formal base of operations, NPCs with sufficient political clout will reap the benefits of maintaining their own strongholds: followers to pit against the PCs, easier access to low-level magic items, and improved class features. (On the other hand, when faced with such resourceful enemies, the PCs may eventually seek how to gain those rewards for themselves!)

Most of the rules in S&F can be used as-is in most campaigns, but a few options deserve specific call-outs for Freeport.

The Keep: The barbarian camp option is not appropriate within the Serpent's Teeth, except when they are invading one of the settlements here (as in the northern barbarian invasion during Black Sails Over Freeport). However, this stronghold type is the norm in the more savage parts of the Continent, such as Druzhdin and the Bone Lands.

In contrast, the pirate ship variant is perfectly suited to Freeport. The Mass Combat rules can be adapted for use for sea battles between enemy ships.

The Tower: The Wizard's Guild is the epitome of this type of stronghold, while Gitch's rickety tower in Bloodsalt represents the most humble possible version.

The Temple: Freeport is littered with this type of stronghold, but not every shrine in the Temple District qualifies. (The Fool's Market as a whole might--or it might count as an establishment?--but the individual spaces within it would not.) Naturally, any new temple established within Freeport will face intense scrutiny from other faiths, who may simply be jealous of competition or who might be on the watch for legitimate threats to crusade against.

The druid's grove alternate would be appropriate to establish outside the city, in the jungles of A'Val or elsewhere in the Serpent's Teeth.

The Establishment: This type of stronghold might be the easiest to establish within the city, because Freeport is a city that thrives on commerce and trade. The covert side of the organization will need to be wary of established criminal gangs, who have well-defined territories within the city's districts.

Followers: The stat blocks for retainers are highly abbreviated, since they have a reduced role in combat. However, they can be useful starting points for creating NPC allies and enemies for Freeport adventures, apart from the stronghold rules. Likewise, the sample artisan profiles can be used as-is or as inspiration for new background characters.

The Siege of Castle Rend: This adventure is clearly not appropriate for the Serpent's Teeth. However, it could be used more or less as written in many places on the Continent. The adventure also presents many new stat blocks for orcs, which could add some variety to the inhabitants of Bloodsalt.

New Monsters: This chapter is a rich resource for any 5E game. See below for further discussion.

New Items: The codices are thematically appropriate for Freeport, given the setting's strong Lovecraftian element. However, they require attunement within a stronghold, so should be ignored if the stronghold rules are not being used.

New Monsters

This chapter can be used with any 5E campaign, whether or not the GM includes the stronghold and concordance rules. These creatures are grouped into various extraplanar factions based on the beings' origins and agenda.

Demons and devils are well represented in the Monster Manual, so only a few new fiends are needed to round out the servitors chart in the temple rules.

The remaining factions include:
  • The Celestial Court: Angelic beings who (in Freeport's default D&D cosmology, at least) hail from the outer planes of good. These beings are the natural allies of pure-hearted crusaders against demons, devils, and other evils.
  • The Court of All Flesh: Chaotic aberrations. "Primordius" is roughly cognate to Limbo, but the Changing Ones are not affiliated with the slaadi or other denizens of that plane. (Slaadi have never been Open Game Content, so Colville had to invent new servitors for this niche.) In a Freeport campaign, this court might have ties to realms corrupted by the Unspeakable One, but are not inherently evil themselves.
  • The Court of Arcadia: Chaotic fey (and one dragon), appropriate to the fairy realms (and some elven woods). These are likely to be popular among clerics from Rolland on the Continent, but apart from the oleander dragon, the Court of Arcadia are unlikely to have anything in common with the more reptilian fey native to the Serpent's Teeth.
  • The Court of Elements: Neutral elementals, ruled by the Lady of Brass. In a Freeport campaign, may be the noble efreeti ruler of the City of Brass, or the sovereign over all of the ruling class of genies from all four elemental planes.
  • Gemstone Dragons: These neutral dragons are the one group of new monsters that were not designed for use as extraplanar servitors. Instead, they form a third category of dragons between the more extreme alignments of the metallic and chromatic species. Gemstone dragons have psionic abilities rather than the usual magical powers of dragons. A limited, self-contained psionics system is presented to support these creatures. This section also includes a gemstone variant for dragonborn (who comprise the only method presented in this book for accessing those psionic powers as a PC). In a Freeport campaign, gemstone dragons might have connections to, or secret forgotten knowledge of, the ancient civilization of Valossa, or its serpent god Yig.
  • The Inexorables: Lawful constructs that embody the plane of pure law (called "Axiom" here, which could be considered the same as Mechanus in the default D&D cosmology). They presumably operate independently from the modrons.

For my past columns about using D&D Fifth Edition sourcebooks with Freeport: The City of Adventure, see the Freeport 5E Index.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Unearthed Arcana and Freeport, Part 14: Another Slew of Subclasses

Welcome back to my ongoing series of capsule reviews of "Unearthed Arcana" with an eye for how to use them with the Freeport setting. This column covers UA articles from late November 2019 to March 2020.

For my past columns about using D&D Fifth Edition sourcebooks with Freeport: The City of Adventure, see the Freeport 5E Index.

Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard (11/25/2019): This installment presents the Psychic Warrior archetype for fighters, the Soulknife for rogues, and the Psionics arcane tradition for wizards. Despite Mike Mearls not being listed among the authors, these subclasses are heavily indebted to ideas that were first presented in the Mike Mearls Happy Fun Hour. Essentially, the Mystic class remained unwieldy after multiple iterations, because it was designed to cover too many character concepts under the single huge umbrella of "psionics." The most problematic "edge cases" actually work better as psionic-themed subclasses of other classes. With those elements moved elsewhere, the Mystic (or psion) gets closer to having its own clear, distinct role and feel.

The Psychic Warrior no longer casts psychic spells, but gains augmented attack and defenses that improve with level. A Soulknife can create a blade of pure psychic energy that eventually frightens its victims, and at very high level, can target an enemy's mind directly. A wizard of the Psionics tradition focuses on psychic-themed spells, and as they advance in level, gain the ability to assume a form composed of pure psychic energy.

Finally, this installment introduces some new psionic spells for sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards that essentially translate older editions' "psionic attack/defense modes" into spells. There are also two new feats, Telekinetic and Telepathic, which increase Intelligence and give some cantrip-level psionic abilities.

(My mini-review of the last iteration of the Mystic class provided some context for the World of Freeport. This article merely changes the mechanical options for converting a couple of classes to 5E.)

Subclasses, Part 1 (1/14/2020): The Path of the Beast barbarian is a partial shapechanger who can grow natural weapons in combat. As they advance, they can adapt to new movement modes, and spread their rage to allies and enemies. This archetype is suitable for characters with a connection to lycanthropes, druids, or fey or animal spirits--of which there are many examples in Rolland and in the more exotic lands of the World of Freeport.

Monks who follow the Way of Mercy tradition are both skilled healers as well as bringers of swift death to the evil and the ailing. Many wear masks to shroud their identities in mystery. These monks would be appropriate for followers of a god of medicine, or one who holds power over life and death.

Paladins who swear the Oath of the Watchers are guardians against extraplanar threats. This manifests as heightened vigilance and methods to punish unworldly foes. This archetype is very well suited to servants of the Inquisition and other champions who hunt the devils and demons who plague Freeport from time to time. (Note that while most Sacred Oaths suggest one or more alignments common to their members, this one does not. In Freeport, that might mean this oath is equally valid for both idealistic crusaders and their more jaded, corrupt associates.)

The Noble Genie is a warlock patron who grants powers reminiscent of geniekind: creating a mystical tether between you and a willing ally, gaining elemental resistance, and even creating a conduit to your patron's realm. Genies play a prominent role in the World of Freeport, from the azhar's efreet ancestors to the powerful conjurors who used bound genies to build wonders such as the Wizard's Guild in Freeport.

Subclasses, Part 2 (2/6/2020): Bards who join the College of Creation learn to use the esoteric power of music to manipulate the world around them, from summoning lingering notes that bolster inspiration, to animating a dancing item, to literally creating nonmagical objects out of nothing. The theme of this archetype reminds me of the Finnish creation myth in which the world itself emerges from a bard's song; DMs may wish to take that a step further and tie this tradition to the doomed world from which Lowyatar is the sole survivor (see Cults of Freeport).

The Unity Domain for clerics emphasizes teamwork and emotional bonds. This domain would be an excellent way to translate the Community domain from Third Edition. (That is one gap that Green Ronin's The Book of the Righteous did not fill.)

The Clockwork Soul is a sorcerous origin tied to Mechanus, the plane of ultimate order. The archetype's powers focus on warding magic and reducing the extremes of random chance (usually by denying advantage or disadvantage). The World of Freeport includes enough constructs (particularly in adventures such as Hell in Freeport and The Ironjack Legacy) that this subclass has a solid place there.

Subclasses, Part 3 (2/24/2020): The Armorer artificer specialist creates a powerful bond with their armor, turning it into fully enclosed power armor. This installment also provides some new artificer infusions, most of them involving armor or helms. The Armorer seems especially appropriate for experimenters who blur the lines between man and machine, such as the Manikins (Hell in Freeport) or Ironjack.

The Circle of Stars for druids involves studying the night sky and channeling the power of starlight. Some of the features gained are tied to astrological foretelling, while others alter wild shape to take on a starry form tied to a constellation's power. (At higher levels, this starry form becomes incorporeal. The article includes a useful sidebar about applying damage resistance.) The powers of this subclass are thematically appropriate for both the Order of Starry Wisdom and the Wanderer, though druids are not obvious candidates for either cult.

The Fey Wanderer ranger archetype is a guardian of the borders between the Feywild and the material plane. They are imbued with fey magic that allows them to better negotiate with beings from both worlds, to resist some of the snares of the fey, and to bend the minds of others. This subclass is probably most common in the elven kingdom of Rolland, but might also be appropriate for rangers (human and otherwise) who have learned something about the strange, rare fey peculiar to the Serpent's Teeth.

Spells and Magic Tattoos (3/26/2020): This installment introduces several new summoning spells that come with a special stat block to use with that spell. The spell's level determines the summoned spirit's AC, hit points, and number of attacks. The caster chooses one of two or three options that determine some of its other stats; for example, a bestial spirit can be an air, land, or sea creature, with appropriate movement types. These spells provide an interesting alternative to the handful of summoning spells in the PH, where the player needs to be familiar with the relevant Monster Manual entries. Summoning spells are frighteningly commonplace in Freeport, so using these spells could save the GM some effort when running summoner NPCs.

This article also includes rules for magical tattoos, which take up an amount of space on the body determined by its rarity (from a few inches for common tattoos, or half your body for legendary ones). The sample tattoos presented include a variety of effects, from enhancing attacks to storing a spell to changing your appearance. Magical tattoos are highly appropriate for Freeport, where mundane tattoos are common among sailors, exotic martial artists, and other groups.