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Hasken's Manor (3.5)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/07/2016 10:28:14

This adventure concerns goings-on in a tiny port by the name of Haskenport, founded on a shallow inlet by a paladin who fancied retiring to the area. He built himself a manor house and a dock, then a chance discovery of some particularly tasty mushrooms led to a small gourmet trade that built up the settlement a bit. Some ten years ago the paladin passed away, leaving his lands and manor to the local church - but they have struggled with the upkeep and it's not in very good condition. Worse, it appears some hobgoblins have taken up residence there...


There's a bit of background which reveals all that's going on in and around the manor, and a few hooks to get the party involved - although the thought of clearing monsters out of a manor house ought to be sufficient for any bunch of adventurers worth their salt. We get quite a bit of detail about Haskenport, sufficient to make it come alive not just for the purposes of this adventure but as a location within your campaign world, although there is no plan of the settlement although there are several detailed ones of the manor house.


The adventure itself consists of two encounters and the exploration of the manor house itself. It's all nicely put together and provides opportunities to talk as well as to fight. As written, psionics are involved: but if you don't care for them there are notes about how to provide non-psionic alternatives and still maintain the flavour of the adventure.


It's a nice straightforward adventure that actually has quite a bit to it once you get to grips with it, with a few suggestions for follow-up activities that could even see the party settling down in the manor if you want them to have a base - at 7th-level they might be looking to establish somewhere to settle down.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Hasken's Manor (3.5)
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DDAL4-01 Suits of the Mists (5e)
by Sharon C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/05/2016 21:23:37

This intro module provides good bite-sized adventures for people new to DnD. I ran parts of this adventure for seven different groups of entirely-new-to-DnD players.


The frame story was compelling, each of my groups felt motivated to pursue the quest and didn't feel railroaded into the story. That's a strong point for me. Also, thinking of the chapters as negotiation, infiltration, wilderness, or resuce helped me as a DM make them feel different from each other--not just fecth-n-kill--and to encourage different styles of play for each one. The challenge of the icy slope and surprising bushes was particularly fun and all my groups enjoyed it.


My big objection is to chapter 4 with the recurring character, JG. Especially for players who are playng DnD for the first (or nearly first) time, it is confusing and frustrating to encounter a foe who is clearly evil and nonetheless to have to decide 1) they can reasonably rely on her word when they make a bargain, 2) the task she sets is reasonable, and 3) it would be a complete waste of time to fight or trick her. Having run this several times, each time the party almost "failed" becuase they made totally reasonable guesses that she wasn't to be trusted, what she was asking them to do was wrong, and/or they could fool her if they were clever enough. Very bad material for an intro adventure.


Given the bullet list in chapter 4 of ways for the DM to "overcome" the party's objections to the task set by JG in this chapter, I think this problem must've come up in a playtest or two. It would've been better to substanitally re-write or drop this chapter. Advice to DMs running this module, skip the JG chapter. (Sadly, this chapter often seemed to be the most importnat one to my parties becuase of the hook with the comatose/cursed/poisoned cook's assistant.)


Otherwise, again, I had fun with this adventure. It was flexible and not railroaded, had options for different play styles, and at least one engaging challenge. Overall, a good adventure.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL4-01 Suits of the Mists (5e)
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M1 Into the Maelstrom (Basic)
by Steve V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/05/2016 17:00:45

Having snagged a copy of the Master Rules back when Paizo was still selling the old TSR PDFs, I was hoping we'd see some of the Master level adventures pop up over here. Can't say I've ever played or run an adventure of this high a level, but it's good to have at least one module available to support the rules. Very imaginative, with evocative illustrations. Good background info on Glantri and Alphatia. My only quibble is that the scan of the cover illustration is too dark. I'd love to give it a whirl with the right group of players.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
M1 Into the Maelstrom (Basic)
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DDEX2-16 Boltsmelter's Book (5e)
by Thomas M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/05/2016 11:14:29

I ran this in a home game for a party of 4 2nd level adventurers.


Disorganized and forced storyline, with some logical gaps that left me scrambling and my players striving to figure out what to do next. Good intentions, poor design.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
DDEX2-16 Boltsmelter's Book (5e)
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Bad Moon Waning (3.5)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/05/2016 10:09:07

Set in and around the settlement of Deepwood, this adventure can be placed in any remote wooded area of your campaign world. The background notes reveal the underlying secret of the settlement, but even outsiders are aware that not all is well in the town: the town's priestess being ripped to shreds by a werewolf who turns out to be an upstanding member of the community will give that impression. And yet, it's not a werewolf problem...


The adventure is very freeform, with encounters and investigations around the town that can happen pretty much in response to party actions. The really interesting thing about it is the deep moral questions that it poses, questions that the townsfolk themselves must face, never mind the party. This one ought to get them thinking.


To aid in running it, there's a map and detailed notes on Deepwood and the people who live there, along with plenty of hints and tips to help you play an array of NPCs. This is an adventure that includes a lot of interactions, and needs the party to have their wits about them and their eyes open. Careful preparation is key, but it should prove a memorable interlude.


Depending on what the party finds out, various ways are suggested to get them to the climax in a nearby valley - a nice way of completing the adventure without having to lead them by the nose! Even neater, a brawl is going to take place irrespective of what the party does - or even if it gets there in time - as rivals are spoiling for a fight. There are a few suggestions for handling the aftermath and follow-up adventures, but overall this is a well-crafted and thoughtful adventure.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bad Moon Waning (3.5)
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The Eye of the Sun (3.5)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/04/2016 07:46:34

This adventure has its origins in the dim and distant past, when lizardfolk were a dominant civilisation especially in jungle areas. The extensive backstory tells how they built a temple in a remote mountainous area to their deity, and how, over time, they became proud and fell away from the gods, angering them... and their empire fell. Spin forwards to the present day, and the settlement of Tooj-Reh is puzzled by strange lights from the nearby jungles. Perhaps the party will be able to find out what's going on?


Various hooks are supplied to get the party into the right area, and once they reach Tooj-Reh - possibly having to dodge a forest fire on the way - they have an opportunity to gather information about what appears to be going on in the area and get asked to investigate (if their curiousity has not already been piqued enough!).


The structure of the adventure is quite free-form, there's one encounter whilst the party is in Tooj-Reh (and if that doesn't get them interested, nothing will), one in the jungle on the way to the long-lost and abandoned (or is it?) temple, plus the exploration of the temple itself. The temple is based on one featured in the Map-a-Week series on the Wizards of the Coast website, which is still available at the time of writing if you follow the link in the PDF - worth doing as the map provided here is labelled and you might want a blank version to show your players.


Of course, travelling through a jungle is an adventure in itself, and there's a sidebar on the jungle environment to help you. The temple too is well-described and there's plenty scope for further adventure once the immediate threat has been dealt with - although the assumption is that the party will fight and destroy rather than attempt to find a peaceful solution.


This adventure has the heady excitement of Indiana Jones-style exploration of ancient sites, battling against primitives and assuming the general superiority of current civilisation over that of the past... with scope for more thoughtful characters to try and figure out past civilisations and their secrets.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Eye of the Sun (3.5)
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Fallen Angel (3.0)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/03/2016 08:18:53

This adventure is set in Elton, an isolated hamlet that can easily be placed in a remote, hilly area of your campaign world. A few weeks ago, a strange light appeared in the night sky over Elton and the hooks provided to get the party involved touch on this - perhaps someone wants it investigating, perhaps the party paladin (if you have one) is dreaming dreams about an innocent child in danger, or maybe someone has heard rumours about a strange young man suddenly appearing...


There's a comprehensive adventure background to explain just what's going on, and then we launch into the adventure itself, beginning with the party's arrival at Elton - which has apparently just suffered a raid! They'll soon be able to find out about the raiders and what they took, and hopefully will be willing to pitch in and see about righting some wrongs.


Information gathered, the rest of the adventure revolves around an assault on the raiders' lair. You will have to decide where it is and get the party there, but a plan of the subterranean lair itself is provided. There's a delightfully complex and detailed Bad Guy and his horde to defeat, along with evidence of dark experimentation... the party will be in for a fight, these guys have no intention of stopping for a chat. Oh, and there's a rather sweet young fellow to rescue and the party may find out who, or rather what, he is as well.


It's a neat little adventure, with possibilities for follow-up adventures, and just the sort of thing a relatively low-level party of adventures ought to relish!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fallen Angel (3.0)
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The Temple of Redcliff (3.0)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/30/2016 07:12:52

Set in any convenient area of your campaign world where there is mountainous terrain and an extinct volcano, this adventure begins when the party arrives in the settlement of Redciff which is all a-buzz because the mayor has vanished, after behaving a bit oddly for the last few days.


The background for the DM explains what is going on, and a couple of rather weak hooks are provided to get the party to Redcliff in the first place. You may prefer to come up with something of your own, or just locate Redcliff on the way to somewhere that the party does want to go and run this as a side-adventure when they pass through. Once there, however, there is plenty of background to help you bring Redcliff to life, nestled as it is just below the caldera of an extinct volcano. There's people to talk to and information to be gathered in the settlement.


An abandoned temple dedicated to Heironeous is up there in the caldera, rumoured to be haunted and generally avoided by the locals... and this, of course, is the location for the adventure itself. The plan provided is based on one of the Map-of-the-Week series from the Wizards of the Coast website (the original is still available at the time of writing via the link in the PDF), and there's a detailed description interspersed with more of the backstory. Interesting though it is, it is unlikely that the party will discover much of it as the main Bad Guy is not interested in talking, apparently he will fight to the death (or run away if he can), not being even interested in surrendering never mind any negotiation.


It makes for a neat interlude but given the near-impossibility of actually finding out what was going on, scope for further adventures is limited. Of course, the original plot behind it all may well still be bubbling along and erupt later if you so choose...



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Temple of Redcliff (3.0)
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Up Front Compilation Rulebook
by Scott B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/29/2016 22:26:57

This is great!!!
I made the mistake of selling my copy of UP FRONT
Thinking that the new one was comimg along soon
after that fell apart i was bumbed out!!!
VAULT to the rescue!!!!
Now I have game with the new errata cards!!!!!
And also the jungle deck ( no more pertending the
woods card is realy jungle) for my dealings with the
Japanese.
All 3 rule books now on my iPad what more could
one ask for?
IF your into Up front and even have the original
game I would get the jungle deck and the errata cards
at the very least!!!!
Thanks Wargame Vault.
Scott



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Up Front Compilation Rulebook
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Environmental Impact (3.0)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/29/2016 10:49:53

This adventure is a botanist's nightmare (or delight, depending on your point of view) as an ecoterrorist druid defends his patch of woodland against all comers. Havung started off as a botanist, I like adventures that make use of fantasy plants as well as fantasy animals...


Location-wise, all you need is an undeveloped forest area with a nearby human village, the frontier settler sort of place - so you can put it anywhere suitable within your campaign world. The DM's background explains exactly what's been going on - and going wrong - and there's a brief adventure synopsis before we get a few hooks to get the party involved. Most involve providing the party for a reason to visit the village in question, a place called Sumpter; but if your party boasts a druid amongst its number, he might be having disturbing feelings about a looming inbalance in the area, and want to do something about it.


The adventure opens the morning after they arrive in Sumpter, with a nasty encounter in the street outside where they are staying. The locals will be happy to supply them with what information they have, they are quite desperate for help. Rations are running low and the forest around the village is full of marauding plants and other monsters. You can see why a bunch of adventurers turning up is a welcome sight for them... and the remainder of the adventure involves exploring the forest and dealing with anything untoward that they encounter.


An area map is provided along with copious notes about what the plant monsters will try to do. They're running out of resources as well and becoming increasingly desperate... Various options for dealing with the situation are discussed, along with ideas for further adventure. It's basically a forest 'weedkilling' scenario, but if your group likes that sort of thing you could play up the horror angle of walking through a forest and not knowing which plant is about to pounce! A neat angle on the druidic love for nature.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Environmental Impact (3.0)
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Shoals of Intrigue (3.0)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/28/2016 10:32:03

Time to get wet! This adventure involves intrigue in a coastal town, but the investigation leads the party underwater - so you will have to make sure that they have access to spells or equipment to survive when submerged.


The backstory for the DM explains what has been going on in Flundspoor, Blakemire, and neighboring port cities - places where there is a thriving market for spies as the cities vie with one another for the best trade deals and other advantages. Sometimes, rarely, their competition dissolves into open warfare... and there are those who seek advantage from their squabbles. The general background as recounted here is common knowledge to locals, but there are some specifics that will, perhaps, become known as the adventure unfolds.


A wide array of hooks are provided to get the party involved, partly depending on where they happen to be. If they are in Blakemire, they might get hired by the local lordling: one of his spies is missing and he'd like him back. But there are other routes to get them into the adventure, some - as befitting a plot that involves spies - being quite devious.


Should they be able to do so, there's a fair bit of information to be gathered and they are going to need a ship - fortunately various routes are laid out whereby they can find themselves afloat. Once at sea, they will eventually come across a wreck - and that's where the adventure proper begins. Being a wreck, it has of course sunk and this is where the need to be able to get underwater comes in. The adventure assumes that the party has what it needs, so you'll need to make sure that provision has been made in some manner.


This wreck is near a chain of uninhabited volcanic islands and - in true James Bond style - the villain of the piece has made a lair in an inactive volcano. A basic map of the interior is supplied (based on one from the Map-a-Week series on the Wizards of the Coast website, the original is still available at the time of writing), but you'll need to come up with your own group of islands.


It's a delightfully original adventure, with opportunites to fight and to talk. In particular, if your party likes intrigue, the entire setting and background provides scope for a whole series of adventures based around the port cities and their fondness for espionage... and if they don't polish off the villian he's likely to have more plans for the area... and maybe for them, too. Or he might seek to hire them. The scope is massive, and I can feel ideas beginning to spawn even as I write.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shoals of Intrigue (3.0)
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H3 Pyramid of Shadows (4e)
by Scott S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/27/2016 12:58:34

Great adventure with a lot of details focused on intense confrontations and combat. While there are opportunities for a DM to build in more role-playing into the scenarios provided, the basic story line is a more straight forward dungeon crawl. I am actually using this as a 5E D&D caimpaign using the full H-series for my son with 5 characters (including 4 NPCs I run for him), so I am doing a lot of work to prepare and run this so my experience will be different than a true adult D&D game. However, as I'm reading through the materials I could see this being a lot of fun for adults too!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
H3 Pyramid of Shadows (4e)
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DDAL04-03 The Executioner (5e)
by James R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/26/2016 20:19:52

Basically unfinished, nigh unplayable, on rails to a degree almost never seen in any for sale adventure, with immense amounts of grammatical, spelling, and other typing errors, and a conculuted plot.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
DDAL04-03 The Executioner (5e)
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Into the Frozen Waste (3.0)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/26/2016 07:50:55

A trip into the frozen trackless wildernesses of the north are not to everyone's taste, but for those willing to brave the cold and other dangers, the rewards can be rich!


The DM's background explains what is going on, and says that - as is often the case in this series - the adventure maps are modified versions of ones originally published in the Map-a-Week feature on the Wizards of the Coast website. They are reproduced here, as although links to the originals are provided, they're not there any more.


Several hooks are provided to get the party involved. A druid called Agarathar, who likes exploring and mapping, is putting together a trading expedition and would welcome the company. Or maybe they've heard rumours about a sorcerer who lives on the roof of the world but who is helpful to those who seek him out. There are various ways of getting them into the right place. The adventure itself consists of five encounters and the exploration of the sorcerer's base, but everything starts in the small but prosperous port of Bethra, the last civilised outpost before the frozen wastes. The encounters provide plenty of excitement for the journey - by boat and then overland - to the sorcerer's home: it's nice to have the journey form an integral part of the adventure, particular as many adventures in this series have jumped straight from a town to the 'adventure site' without worrying how the party gets there. It's not just the environment that will present problems, either...


The sorcerer's home is built inside an iceberg and is a pretty chilly place. The welcome the party gets could be described as a bit chilly as well. The scenario ends with a few notes on further adventures (chiefly, getting back to warmer climes!). Overall it is nicely put together, and there's a real feel of character actions making a difference. The encounters are structured in such a way that the party should feel that they have considerable freedom of action, even though they are actually moving through a set sequence of events.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Into the Frozen Waste (3.0)
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Elemental Evil Player’s Companion (5e)
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/25/2016 12:09:37

A neuronphaser.com review.


Content (4/5)

The Elemental Evil Player’s Companion (A.K.A. EEPC) is a short book with only two chapters: one covering 4 new races for players to choose from for their characters, and the second covering 43 new spells that get spread among the Bard, Druid, Ranger, Sorcerer, Warlock and Wizard spell lists.


Races
The following races appear in the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion: Aarakocra, Deep Gnome (A.K.A. Svirneblin), Genasi, and Goliath.


Aarakocra
The aarakocra are an interesting race, as they have the ability to fly right off the bat, something most PCs don’t get until they pick up a 3rd level spell like fly (which would be at 5th level for a wizard) or luck upon multiple magic items that grant flying to the entire party, such as a carpet of flying (a very rare item), a few spell scrolls of fly (an uncommon item for 3rd level spells), or several potions of flying (also very rare). Because of this ability, they’ve already been declared illegal for Adventurer’s League play. What’s worse is that the descriptive text makes it hard to frame aarakocra as typical adventurers: they hate dungeons, are not motivated by treasure (though they like “shiny things” regardless of value), and they don’t understand the concept of ownership (which may not help with deciding on what’s party loot and what’s not).


Aside from those issues, the aarokocra are a pretty cool race, and it’s nice to see something so outside-the-box included early in 5th Edition’s life. These guys are slow walkers (25 feet), but fast flyers (50 feet)…if they don’t wear medium or heavy armor. Their talons form a natural attack that deals 1d4 slashing damage, which when combined with the armor restriction suggest they might be awesome Monks, Rogues, or highly mobile Rangers.


There’s a sidebar covering the geographic origins of the aarakocra in the Forgotten Realms setting, which is a great tool for helping players come up with their backstory. A quick search on the Forgotten Realms Wiki and you’ve got a dozen hooks to build an aarakocra character, which is a nice touch, especially for such an abnormal player race. Additionally, there’s a quick blurb on what Backgrounds from the Player’s Handbook are particularly well-suited to these birdmen.


Deep Gnome (Svirfneblin)
Although the deep gnomes also appear in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, it’s clearly not a direct copy-paste job, though the end result is (mechanically) the same; reprinted here among the deep gnome traits are the standard gnome traits, as well. The Elemental Evil Player’s Companion version does feature more text, fleshing out some deep gnomish psychology and attitudes, but not much, and certainly not in a specifically Realmsian way. No sidebars address their favored backgrounds or any Faerun-specific origins for the svirfneblin.


The Svirfneblin Magic feat is the first feat printed outside of the PHB (not counting some Unearthed Arcana articles, maybe) and is race-specific, granting the ability to cast nondetection at will, plus each of blindness/deafness, blur, and disguise self once before regenerating the castings after a long rest.


Genasi
Genasi are the only race that comes with a full listing of racial traits plus subraces, in this case mirroring the major elements: air, earth, fire, and water. Fire and water genasi get 1-2 more traits to play with than air and earth, but power levels don’t really seem affected by this, given what those traits are: fire genasi get fire resistance and darkvision, water genasi get the amphibious trait and a swim speed of 30 feet. Each race also gets an innate magical ability as well:



  • Air genasi can cast levitate once per long rest (a 2nd-level spell).

  • Earth genasi can pass without trace once per long rest (a 2nd-level spell).

  • Fire genasi gain produce flame (with no frequency listed), and then at 3rd level also gain burning hands as a 1st level caster, once per long rest.

  • Water genasi can shape water (no frequency listed), and then at 3rd level can cast create/destroy water as a 2nd level caster, once per long rest.


Genasi also get a sidebar explaining their place in the world of Dark Sun’s Athas, which essentially amounts to them being seen as beings whose birth and presence brings with it great omens and fortunes. Another sidebar on Backgrounds rounds out the genasi as it did the aarakocra, but there’s nothing suggesting Forgotten Realms-specific lore here.


Goliath
The goliath first showed up (to my knowledge) back in the latter days of 3.5 Edition D&D (2004’s Races of Stone), in a time when it felt like every book had to have oodles of New Mechanical Stuff for Players™! I’m not against that sort of thing, but the sheer volume of all that new crunch caused me to miss what was so special about goliaths, and when they showed up early in 4th Edition’s life in Player’s Handbook 2, I was surprised to see such a “second-rate” race show up so quickly. Now we have them in 5th Edition, and quite honestly, I was wrong about them: goliaths are pretty cool.


Framed as hardy, strong mountain men with a connection to elemental earth, goliaths could end up being slightly reckless PCs, but that’s pretty much par for the course in my D&D campaigns, so I’d say these guys are a welcome addition to the roster. Their truly special stats include a once per rest — short or long — damage reduction roll, which is a nice way of beefing them up without necessarily breaking the game’s internal logic around temporary or maximum hit points or healing surge-style mechanics that you might see with the fighter (Second Wind, for instance).


Unfortunately, unlike the aarakocra and the genasi, there’s literally no setting lore on the goliaths: no indication of Backgrounds that work best for them, or where they might have settlements of any kind (even nomadic) within the boundaries of the Forgotten Realms. This unfortunately reinforces their “second-rate” race status, making them look like a random add-on in this product just because they have a (very loose) connection to the element of earth. That’s not exactly award-winning writing and editing right there. Still, they are a fun race, but it’d be even more interesting if they got tied to Uthgardt tribes or other wilderness folk that crop up in Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide.


Spells
The 43 new spells covered in this book are (and their level):


Abi-Dalzim’s Horrid Wilting (8), Absorb Elements (1), Aganazzar’s Scorcher (2), Beast Bond (1), Bones of the Earth (6), Catapult (1), Create Bonfire (cantrip), Control Flames (cantrip), Control Winds (5), Dust Devil (2), Earthbind (2), Earth Tremor (1), Elemental Bane (4), Erupting Earth (3), Flame Arrows (3), Frost Bite (cantrip), Gust (cantrip), Ice Knife (1), Immolation (5), Investiture of Flame (6), Investiture of Ice (6), Investiture of Stone (6), Investiture of Wind (6), Malestrom (5), Magic Stone (cantrip), Maximilian’s Earthen Grasp (2), Melf’s Minute Meteors (3), Mold Earth (cantrip), Primordial Ward (6), Pyrotechnics (2), Shape Water (cantrip), Skywrite (2), Snilloc’s Snowball Swarm (2), Storm Sphere (4), Thunderclap (cantrip), Tidal Wave (3), Transmute Rock (5), Vitriolic Sphere (4), Wall of Sand (3), Wall of Water (3), Warding Wind (2), Watery Sphere (4), Whirlwind (7)


And now, for my random thoughts on them! I won’t cover every spell, just the ones that had weird balance issues, seemed especially awesome, or otherwise seemed to require some sort of commentary.


Abi-Dalzim’s Horrid Wilting: Creates an instantaneous 10d8 necrotic damage to a 30-foot cube. Roughly similar to incendiary cloud (which is a persistent area of 10d8 fire, which happens to be the most common damage resistance/immunity) but it is clearly weaker than sunburst (12d8 radiant plus blinded to a 60-foot area). As a sidenote, Abi-Dalzim doesn’t crop up anywhere I could find as a character, but there's a post by dongul at Canonfire! about his background and there are some 3.5 edition stats you can find with a quick web search.


Aganazzar’s Scorcher: Basically burning hands, but a die size better and it affects a line instead of a cone.


Beast Bond: Kinda combines speak with animals and animal friendship, but better. It does require animals to be friendly or charmed before you cast it, however.


Earth Tremor: 1d6 bludgeoning plus knock prone everyone within 10 feet (Dex save negates). This is a great battlefield control spell at level 1!


Elemental Bane: Negates resistance, but not immunity, which is an interesting conundrum for internal logic, but also begs for a thorough accounting of resistance vs. immunity for elemental damage types (acid, cold, fire, lightning, and thunder).


Flame Arrows: Compares well to lightning arrow (a 3rd level Ranger spell), and is a hair better than cordon of arrows.


Frostbite: When comparing with ray of frost, this spell shows us that “disadvantage on next attack” is much weightier than “speed is minus 10 feet.” Which is probably not surprising.


Immolation: Seems a bit weak for a level 5 spell as it deals less damage than fireball, only hits one target, and features a save ends on the continuous burning effect. Although, it does shed light out to 60 feet, so I guess that’s alright…?


Investiture spells (Flame, Ice, Stone Wind): These are all great, multipurpose spells providing damage immunities and resistances, special movement, and special attacks that makes it seem like your taking on a purely elemental form. Very cool.


Skywrite: This is the best version of the Warning Beacons of Gondor I’ve yet seen in spell form. A bit weak in the sense that it’s like a large-scale but one-off magic mouth or message spell, but still a great utility spell that could change how settlements communicate with one another, perhaps along the lines of magical semaphore. It’d be interesting to add this to some of the NPC spellcasters that represent village shamans and whatnot among regions like Ten Towns or in even tighter-knit communities.


Storm Sphere: This is an interesting take on a wizard/sorcerer version of call lightning, mixing constant bludgeoning, buffeting winds with a laser-like lightning bolt every round.


Thunderclap: Doesn’t seem like much, but thunderclap is actually a perfect alarm system for a party that is surprise attacked during a rest, as it damages anyone ganging up on the mage and blasts a call for help over 100 feet.


Watery Sphere: The manner in which a watery sphere moves with restrained creatures inside of it reminds me of the movie Bubble Boy (2001) with Jake Gyllenhaal.


Overall, that’s a pretty cool selection of spells, and the balance issues don’t swing way out of whack, so I’d say it’s a pretty successful bundle of new spells and/or updates to the 5th edition rules. There’s a goodly number that are combat oriented, which is to be expected, but the utility spells that show up are exciting and useful. While I’ve got some complaints with how spells are presented, I won’t repeat them here nor take off any points for that; if you don’t like 5th edition’s spells or the layout of spell stat blocks, this book isn’t going to change your mind, and it’s not really meant to.


What I will complain about is that the Spell Lists do their job…weirdly. The Player’s Handbook organizes the Spell Lists by class and then level within that. Makes sense, simple, and the only problem there is that there’s no page reference, though the spells are in alphabetical order, so I can shrug that off. The EEPC‘s Spell Lists do the same (again with no page reference), but randomly added the spell’s school as a parenthetical notation, like this: “Thunderclap (evocation).” Did we need this? Was there a big movement to add that in lieu of page references, or perhaps a more comprehensive table?


Dunno. Not a big deal, but it’s inexplicable to me.


Form (5/5)

I picked up the Softcover Color Book (Standard) version of the EEPC along with the PDF, and I’m quite pleased with it. It’s pretty pedestrian in terms of binding -- it won't lay flat without some stuff weight it down -- but the cover’s thick, the pages are thick, and the artwork and text didn’t bleed or darken in the process of printing it, so it gets my thumbs up.


The artwork and layout continues the tradition of Wizards of the Coast’s 5th Edition releases, which I’m very happy with. I’ll admit it’s maybe not for everyone — some people nitpick the images, some people don’t like that the text is left-aligned but not justified, leading to wavy right-hand margins — but none of that bothers me. It’s obvious that they put time and care into the packaging of these products, and for a free PDF and $8 book (I think it was like $12 total with shipping?), I feel like I’m getting both great content and a high-quality visual appeal for my buck. Can’t argue with that!


Critical Droll
The critic in me really wants to complain about what this product could have been, or could have added. Frankly, I’d pay a good deal more money for an Elementalist arcane tradition for Wizards and a bit more in terms of Backgrounds or setting info to get players into the Elemental Evil storyline (see the Resources section, below). But the fact is that they pushed this thing out for free (in PDF form) with content that can be used across D&D’s campaign settings, it’s well-balanced, and doesn’t tie itself so strictly to the Elemental Evil story that it ends up being useless content for anyone avoiding published adventure modules. It’s strength is that it’s a much more universal release, and yet it’s focused solely on giving players solid options that aren’t broken or poorly designed, and all of it in a package that’s nice to look at.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Elemental Evil Player’s Companion (5e)
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