Monday, November 19, 2018

Unearthed Arcana and Freeport, Part 9: More Magic, Eberron, and the Sea

Welcome back to my ongoing series of capsule reviews of "Unearthed Arcana" with an eye for how to use them with the Freport setting. This time, we'll take a look at articles released in August through November 2018.

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

Races of Ravnica (8/13/2018): This installment previews new races (loxodons, Simic hybrids, vedalken, and viashino) slated to appear in the Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica (released in early November). That sourcebook is an outgrowth of James Wyatt's Plane Shift series, which I've discussed in past columns (herehere, and here).

All four new races are very specific to the Ravnica setting, so will require new origin stories for Freeport if the GM is not using Ravnica or other Plane Shift settings in their campaign. The Simic hybrid might be easiest to explain, as the result of magical experimentation (by guild wizards, cultists, or lone mad scientists), but as presented, that race seems rather blandly generic.

Dragonmarks (9/10/2018): This column is an excerpt from the Wayfarer's Guide to Eberron, available through DM's Guild. It dramatically revises the presentation of dragonmarks that appeared in the very first UA article for 5E ("Eberron," 2/2/2015), where they were tied to feats. Most have been rewritten as variant races or subraces, with only the Aberrant Dragonmark available through a feat. (There is also a Greater Dragonmark feat designed to enhance the racial powers.) One benefit of this change is that DMs who prefer not to use the optional feats rules can still include dragonmarks in their Eberron games.

The Wizards website states, "Even though these marks are associated with Eberron, you could explore using them in other worlds as well." I would be disinclined to use them with Freeport simply because they are so iconic to Eberron.

Magic Items of Eberron (10/8/2018): This article is another excerpt from the Wayfarer's Guide to Eberron. It includes three categories of new magic items: arcane focuses with powers beyond that of the basic tool; common magic items that show off the ubiquity of low-powered magic items in the Eberron setting; and special components that warforged can attune to and attach to their bodies. The arcane focuses and common items could easily be found in most Freeport campaigns, where low-level magic items are fairly plentiful. The warforged components, on the other hand, would necessarily depend on the presence of that race in the DM's campaign (see my comments on "Races of Eberron").

Of Ships and the Sea (11/12/2018): This installment provides rules for ship stat blocks and their use in combat, officer roles and special actions they can take, and how to integrate ships into downtime activity. This material fills a crucial gap in the rules, making adventures involving ship travel or naval combat much easier to implement. In fact, I would go as far to say that this may be the most essential "Unearthed Arcana" to date for running a Freeport campaign--especially one where the PCs are part of a ship's crew.

Vehicle rules have a tendency to become cumbersome in any game system, but this implementation seems to do a decent job of keeping things in line with 5E's simpler rules. Now I'm curious to see how UA's past forays into mass combat rules would interact with these ship rules, because at least one past Freeport adventure (Black Sails Over Freeport) requires both.

(Finally, Mike Mearls mentioned on his Happy Fun Hour that the dev team is working on rules for other vehicles as well, but that they limited this first document to ships in order to get more focused feedback.)

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