Thursday, June 11, 2020

New Home for the Blog

I'm not closing up shop on this blog yet, but all of the new posts are going to:

whatdoIknowjr.com

I have migrated the posts from here to that blog. The 2020 posts have been checked for formatting errors, but 2011-2019 will have to wait a little bit longer.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, June 4, 2020

What Do I Know About Reviews? Xanathar's Enemies and Allies (Dungeon Masters Guild Product)


I am a big fan of having lots of NPC stat blocks, especially in Dungeons and Dragons. While I don’t think they were executed as well as they could have been, I liked the concept that D&D 3.5 attempted with adding in different “monsters” with class levels in the Monster Manual 3 and 4, and I think one of the things Pathfinder did right in this regard was to market a product as only stat blocks for various levels, so purchasers didn’t go in wanting brand new monsters and getting a more utilitarian product.

Because of that thought process, I wanted to pick up Xanathar’s Enemies and Allies, a Dungeon Masters Guild product that came out close to when Xanathar’s Guide to Everything was released. Because there has been much real-world chaos, this one fell off my radar for a bit, but I wanted to revisit it.

Structure

Xanathar’s Enemies and Allies is a 44 page PDF. The formatting looks spot-on for the D&D 5th edition standards, and it uses existing artwork to illustrate the various NPCs. There is a title page that includes credits and legal information, and inside cover illustration, and a table of contents. There is also a one page summary of stat blocks by CR. The rest of the product is filled with stat blocks, one or two to a page.

Faces in the Crowd

The product is grouped by themes, often tied together by introducing power groups and organizations from the past of the Forgotten Realms, or by introducing newer groups tied to the lore of the setting. The individual NPCs all use character options introduced in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.

I am very interested in seeing NPC stat blocks based on subclasses, especially since many of the 5e stat blocks that emulate a subclass don’t literally port a player character sheet into NPC format, but rather pick out a few signature abilities that would show up in NPC interactions.

I also like to have a wider range of NPC stat blocks at multiple challenge ratings. I am a fan of having evil warriors, spellcasters, priests, and assassins at all levels of a campaign, in addition to ever larger and weirder monsters. In the context of the Forgotten Realms, I also like having the building blocks for potential rival adventuring parties. All of that having been said, let’s look at how well this product pulls this off.

Challenges

The challenge rating for these NPCs stretch from CR1 to CR 13, so while you don’t have NPCs in this product for the loftiest challenge ratings, it definitely provides more options moving into tier three play. There is a lot of concentration around CR3 and CR9, and there are 50+ NPC stat blocks total.

The NPCs are “general” NPCs, meaning that they represent an archetype of characters, not a singular “named” character.

Organizations Referenced:

  • Aglarondan Foresters
  • The Summer Court
  • Corvus Nightfeather’s Circus of Wonders
  • Blingdenstone Badgers
  • Children of Stronmaus
  • Church of Bane
  • Clan Melairkyn
  • Cormanthyr Guard
  • Council of Dreams
  • Creel Demonbloods
  • Eldreth Veluuthra
  • Hammers of Moradin (Citadel Adbar)
  • Kozakuran Shogunate
  • Ledgerkeepers of Jergal
  • Order of Saint Dionysus
  • Purple Dragons (Cormyr)
  • Revenant Blades of Kiaransalee
  • Saviors of Peace (Eldath)
  • Servants of Discord (Malkizid)
  • Shadow Resistance (Netherese)
  • Shadow Thieves
  • The Shadows of Bregan D’aethe
  • Sparks of Mystery (Sorcerers from Silverymoon)
  • Sun Souls
  • Ships of Luskan
  • Spirit Protectors of Ubtao
  • Stormborn of Ruathym
  • Tel’Teukiira Horizon Walkers
  • War Wizards of Cormyr



While many of the religions that get NPC representatives have been touched on by 5e material, many of the nations have not been visited, and a few organizations have been referenced that aren’t regular staples of 5e adventures. I appreciate this in that 5e D&D both is and isn’t the Forgotten Realms. What do I mean by that? In a lot of cases, Forgotten Realms lore is pertinent, and added to the adventure, but in other cases, many Forgotten Realms specific elements are ignored in favor of bringing in more broadly “D&D” threats. This is a long topic for another day, and I’m pretty sure I’ve touched on it elsewhere.

Essentially, we’re getting a few deeper cuts, and a wider view of the Realms beyond the Sword Coast. The biggest downside to this approach is that since these stat blocks are meant to showcase the options in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, there isn’t a separate call out to detail the faction that the character is affiliated with. I realize this would have potentially caused some concept drift for the product, but I would have liked a simple paragraph about the organization and some bullet points on what it means to work for the organization and what their goals are. In many cases, this information is present, but it has to be reverse-engineered from the details about the NPCs.

Format

For most of the entries, there are a few paragraphs generally describing the group of NPCs to be detailed, and then a few more paragraphs that give specific details on how these NPCs serve their organization. For example, the Blingdenstone Badgers have an entry that gives a paragraph on Blingdenstone, and then three paragraphs talking about how these specific NPCs defend and inspire their community, and operate in combat.

Like NPCs in other products, these aren’t just PCs in NPC stat block format. Most abilities are expressed as “X/day” abilities or as recharge abilities. While many of the NPCs are given the spellcasting ability appropriate for their subclass, and have some of the signature abilities of their subclass, they often have other thematically appropriate abilities that aren’t present in their subclasses. For example, the Scythe of Jergal gains an ability to attack bloodied opponents with advantage. This stat block is based on the Grave Domain cleric, and gets the signature Sentinel at Death’s Door ability, but the advantage versus bloodied opponents isn’t something the subclass normally receives.

Choices

There are some interesting story element choices made by combining some bits of lore with some of the classes included. In some cases, this is taking existing political entities and detailing new agents or military units from the region. Other choices aren’t decisions I wouldn’t have made, but I like the concept, and can follow the logic. For example, Malkizid is a fallen celestial, not unlike Zariel. The warlocks affiliated with him have the Pact of the Celestial, and honestly, I don’t think I would disagree that it works, since it was an aspect of who Malkzid was, and how he presents himself to potential followers.

There is a split in philosophy based on some of the naming conventions used, which causes me to weigh in on a few things. Xanathar’s Guide to Everything introduced the Kensai and the Samurai subclasses. A lot of long time players want East Asian subclasses in the game, even if those subclasses represent archetypes that are similar across different cultures, for the level with which Dungeons and Dragons relates to those archetypes. For some players, these subclasses are meant to represent characters from East Asian analogous cultures.

So, in this particular product, we have kensai, who are represented as dwarven warrior monks from Citadel Adbar, and samurai, who are Kozakuran adventurers. I want there to be more diverse representation in D&D, even though I’m not fond of overly Earth analogous countries in the Forgotten Realms. I would have rather had Kara-Tur representative characters that didn’t have East Asian named subclasses in this supplement, so we can see what about a Samurai, in D&D, makes it an adventurer archetype, other than “East Asian Knight.”

The choice I’m having the hardest time with, however, is with the Eldreth Veluuthra. The Eldreth Veluuthra were elf supremacists in previous editions of the setting. They first came about from families that disapproved of humans allying with elves to form Myth Drannor, and they decided that humans were vermin that needed to be exterminated, and that they needed to put elves in power that agreed with them, for the good of all elves.

In this product, the Eldreth Veluuthra are presented as having been “more extreme” in the past, but their main goal is “defending nature,” and they were overzealous about that in the past. On one hand, I understand the difficulty of presenting a full-on racial supremacist organization, but on the other hand, “reforming” a racist organization in this era by saying they had some good ideas and just went astray, really does not sit well with me. It reminds me way too much of how many modern hate groups have survived to the modern-day. I am certain this isn’t what the designers intended, but it echoes too much given my previous knowledge of the organization.

In fact, one of the reasons I liked having the Eldreth Veluuthra as villains in the past is that they represented the idea that elves are often considered “good,” and these are clearly surface elves that are reprehensible and evil. It was an example of breaking biological alignment determinism, and it was an example of doing it by showing that racism is evil. I can understand trying to decouple any fantasy racism from the main narrative of the game, but I don’t think the best way to do it is to reform an existing group that was specifically noted for their supremacist ways.

Champions of Valor

There are a wide range of stat blocks for anyone that wants more NPCs to use in their games, and with a wider variety of concepts based on the newer subclasses in D&D. In addition to more NPCs with a wider range of challenge ratings, some NPCs utilize other elements of the game that don’t get used as often, such as goliath NPCs. Even if a game focuses on the Sword Coast, it’s nice to have backgrounds based in the wider Realms to at least hint at the broader aspects of the setting, to make the world feel bigger and more diverse.

Champions of Ruin

I really wish the individual organizations had gotten a little more utilitarian write up, so that they could be used as factions for player characters, or better integrated into wider plots for the GMs. It's nice to see some information in 5e on these older regions and power groups, but it’s great when that information doesn’t have to be reverse-engineered from context. The issue with the Eldreth Veluuthra is probably going to vary a lot based on your previous knowledge of the group, but for me, it resonates too much with current real-world revisionism to not feel like a sour note.

Tenuous Recommendation--The product has positive aspects, but buyers may want to make sure the positive aspects align with their tastes before moving this up their list of what to purchase next.

I wanted just a bit more broad utility from this product, and I’ll admit, I really have to think about how much unintentional parallels to the real-world subtract from the usefulness of a product, but at the moment, it definitely is something that weighs on me. Mechanically, these are great, but from a setting perspective, and with story context, I’m having a harder time giving it a broader recommendation.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

What Do I Know About First Impressions? Mythic Odysseys of Theros (D&D 5e)

I had a chance to look through Mythic Odesseys of Theros the last couple of days. This isn't a full review (and I've got away from doing a lot of official WOTC reviews, because they are ubiquitous, and from more talented people), but there is a lot I wanted to mention.

This first impression is based on the material released in the D&D Beyond version of the product, and doesn't represent a full-read through of the book, cover to cover. The following will highlight the sections where I spent the most time.

Character Creation

I really like the idea of the Supernatural Gift as part of character creation. It synergizes nicely with getting a new one in the Wildemount book, and it adds something to distinguish heroes that are going on "big time" adventures.

I kind of like the implementation of an Epic Background from Heroes of Baldur's Gate a wee bit more, for making Backgrounds more widely useful, but I still really like this idea. I also like the concept that it's intended to be roughly equal to a feat as well.

Being roughly equal to a feat informs design space. I also like that between the Iconoclast feature and the ability to ditch the supernatural gift for something that resembles a feat, you can play with the dials without going fully into "chosen one" territory.

Also, I risk drawing some fire here, but if I had to pick one cat humanoid, and just one, I'm pretty sure I like the Leonin more than the Tabaxi. I blame the subliminal conditioning from Ajani and my white decks.

I really like the College of Eloquence, and I specifically like the Living Legend feature of the Oath of Glory paladin, if only for the bit about how your legend empowers you even if the deeds are exaggerated. It reminded me of Dwayne Johnson's Hercules movie.

Gods of Theros

I really like the concept of Piety, and the consistent threshold points. I like anything that moves away from "I'm LG, and so is my god, so I must be making them happy," because that cuts out a lot of interesting story.

It would be easy to adapt piety for other deities by looking at the examples given, and port this over to other settings. It even works for other aspirational concepts as well, like if an organization has set goals.
In fact, if you look at alignment as aspirational for player characters (as I have been recently) instead of proscriptive or descriptive, you could even make a piety scale based on how well someone does certain things, rather than as a hammer to punish them for "infractions."

For anyone interested in more mechanical weight to a divine character changing gods, the Piety system addresses this more directly than anything else has in 5e to this point, as well.

Friends and Foes

The thing I am most excited about, however, are the mythic monsters. This is a great evolution from the rules surrounding Legendary creatures, and also taps into the "boss monster" zeitgeist that has evolved in the time since D&D's birth.

If you don't have the book, Mythic monsters have an ability that they get once per rest, to trigger their mythic trait. This usually means when they hit 0 hit points, they get back a bunch of hit points, and they get new actions they can use as Legendary actions.

The bits that change vary depending on the monster. For example, some of them get X number of hit points, others have a thematically explained number of hit points that are temporary (for example, temp hit points = swarms acting as ablative armor).

This is great D&D game tech, and it may be incorporated into the end of my current Midgard campaign in a few weeks. I would love to see this used beyond Theros.

Magic the Roleplaying

I'm a lot more excited about this book than I was with Ravnica. I still feel like I'm not really sure what to do with Ravnica, as a campaign, and the extra tools it provides for other games don't feel especially keyed to Ravnica's theme, other than the guild backgrounds.

The guild backgrounds are so tied to Ravnica, it's harder for me to think about "drifting" the tech. Do I want to use this as a template for a Zhentarim "guild" background? I don't know, should I give out extra spells for the Zhents? Do they have a tenuous peace with anyone?

On the other hand, it's hard not to see how to use this book. A lot of modern fantasy adventuring tropes are influenced by Greek myth, so it's not hard to envision adventures.

The concepts of superheroic player characters, piety, and really special boss monsters crosses into being useful for multiple campaigns, but also tie very closely to the themes of Theros.

For a gamebook that felt like a reflexive purchase when I first put in my order, I'm really invested in seeing what I can do with the tools within.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

What Do I Know About Reviews? Return to the Glory (Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition)


I like orcs. I also like to challenge narratives. Not by completely denying previously established tropes, but by adding nuance and context to those tropes, and adding new aspects to what we have known before. In 5th edition I’ve played an orc wizard looking for ancient orc historical sites, an orc paladin of Baghtru, who was focused on protecting orcs rather than conquering, and an orc bard in an Eberron game.

In previous editions, I’ve been fascinated by the Forgotten Realms lore about the Orc Gate Wars, where the orcs were brought to Faerun by a portal created by the Imaskari in ancient times, and the implied orc world where the armies originated.

The narrative of orcs in Dungeons and Dragons really flared up on social media recently, with much of the discussion revolving around the intentional or unintentional messages sent by the implications of biological determinism, such as negative intelligence modifiers, and inborn alignment.

And that brings me to Return to the Glory, a recent adventure released digitally by Wizards of the Coast, with the proceeds going towards the Red Nose Day charity. This is an adventure that is specifically written with orc PCs in mind, assuming that orc player characters will be entering a dungeon complex that was once an orc city, reclaiming that city from the monsters that have come to inhabit the caverns.

Digital Format

Return to the Glory is a 38 page adventure, which, being a WOTC release, follows the same formatting of the standard Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition products. Maps are by Dyson Logos, and are clear black and white in format. Images used throughout are existing art pieces from various products, including orc images from the Monster Manual and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, and other monster images gleaned from other WOTC official sources.

There is a single page primer, with the next 20+ pages detailing the dungeon complex, five pages of monster stats (usually monsters unique to the adventure, like NPCs, or monsters from sources outside of the Monster Manual), two full-page overview maps of the dungeon, and a final page of credits.

Dungeon Layout

The adventure doesn’t spend much space before it dives into detailing the dungeon. The dungeon itself has various locations that tell the story of the old orc compound. The settlement was comprised of multiple tribes that worked together, ruled by a leader called the Overlox.

The compound isn’t just a huge war camp or an undeveloped set of caves. There are graveyards, parade grounds, aqueducts, divination chambers, a sacred lake, overgrown gardens, shrines, infirmaries, wolf pens, and a library. Several tribes are associated with specialized tasks keyed to various locations. For example, one tribe was responsible for the engineering, while another was responsible for training the settlement’s wolves.

The settlement is located in Turmish, but other than being located in the Orsraun Mountains, the adventure doesn’t interact with Turmish to any significant degree. The stronghold isn’t given a name, and the cataclysm that befell the stronghold isn’t detailed. This makes it easy to port all of this to another setting, but it also doesn’t use some of the pre-existing orc lore in the Forgotten Realms, which would have worked well with this scenario.

The player characters can learn about how the stronghold functioned, and some general details about events, somewhat detached from a larger timeline. In several places, the DM is encouraged to improvise individual events in which some of the ancient orc heroes participated. The only real clues about the fall of the stronghold come from some hints that the orcs of the stronghold pursued unwise ongoing wars with elves, and suffered due to their greed.

Several of the orc tribes are given specific omens and superstitions. Orc PCs are encouraged to be from the tribes that founded the stronghold, so that they know these omens and superstitions. In several places the observance of these traditions provide clues for some of the puzzles present in the dungeon.

The complex is large, and is expected to take player characters from an average party level of 6 to an average party level of 9 by the end of the adventure. While I’m not a big fan of sprawling dungeons, the fact that the various sections of the stronghold tell different stories about what that section of the stronghold did, and who dwelled there, means it’s not just dry dungeon crawling, but also an emerging narrative told by the environment, which I appreciate.

While some of the current inhabitants of the dungeon complex are going to be hostile, there are several encounters where player characters are not assumed to directly come in conflict with the other beings encountered. In several places, undead exist to instruct and guide, groups of settlers are willing to share their space, and the player characters aren’t assumed to be carving a bloody red swath through their ancestral home.

The player characters will encounter an undead champion that needs a task done, or will reawaken the magic present that helps with the infrastructure of the stronghold. What is likely the final encounter, knowledge of the player character’s goals will be important to adjudicate what they see.

As a final note, I love the detail about how orc skulls are prepared for the afterlife. It was a very nice touch that I had never thought about before.

Player Facing Material

There are several important points about running this adventure mentioned in the product. Player characters are instructed to pick one of the tribes that once inhabited the complex, so they know what omens and superstitions are known to them. The DM is also instructed to have the player characters determine what their hopes and goals are, related to reclaiming the stronghold, so that the final encounter can be customized. Finally, the importance of lines and veils is mentioned regarding using the hopes and dreams of the PCs for the final encounter.

First off, I’m thrilled to see lines and veils mentioned in an official Dungeons and Dragons product. I really want to see more formal discussion of safety and content warnings in Dungeons and Dragons products, since it is the most widely played and visible roleplaying game. I just wish the discussion of lines and veils had come at the beginning of the product, and spend a little more time elaborating on what those terms mean for someone that has not encountered safety discussions in RPGs previously.

The individual tribes have some nicely diverse interests, like rebirth, infrastructure and engineering, guardianship, song, purification of nature, healing, kinship with wolves, and recording history. Some pursuits are often downplayed when orcs are depicted. For example, the orcs of the stronghold taught their young to be literate, and kept libraries of books on the lower planes that were shielded from the youth.

I like the way the omens and superstitions are worked into puzzles in the city, but I wish there were more context to some of them. The stereotypical view of superstitions is that they are irrational observances made by cultures that don’t know any better, but that’s common to almost any culture, and with context, the observances usually made sense at some point in time, or are actually understood to be rituals without direct supernatural power. I would love to see a little more orc folklore to provide context for some of these observances.

There have been some great tools provided recently when it comes to story-based prompts with several of the subclasses in Unearthed Arcana, or with the Debts and Regrets or the Prophesies in Eberron Rising from the Last War and Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount respectively. I would have liked a few aspirations/goals/wishes for the refounded stronghold, either for players that don’t have a strong idea in mind, or for players to work from when coming up with their own examples.

I know it's beyond the scope of a relatively short adventure for charity, but I would have loved to have had specific orc backgrounds, possibly with some of the individual tribe flavors baked in, not unlike the guild backgrounds in Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica. My biggest wish is way beyond the scope of this, or even more extensive products, but it’s always going to be hard to add nuance to orcs when their entire pantheon is evil.

By D&D alignment standards, they are all “villains.” Some of the orc gods need to be reframed beyond being evil, and new gods need to be added to the pantheon (of course, that’s also a pitfall of providing racial pantheons instead of setting based deities, but that’s a whole other discussion).

Victory Shout

The dungeon does a good job of telling a story with the various elements, from NPCs to puzzles and other details within the complex. Not only does the adventure assume that orcs will be the protagonists, but the action assumed by the dungeon isn’t limited to hack and slash adventuring, but also involves puzzles, traps, and negotiating with potentially friendly NPCs. The tribal specialties introduced add nuance and depth to the orc culture being presented, and move things beyond the “warrior culture” stereotypes.

Howl of Agony

I don’t generally complain about the lack of deep lore connections in modern D&D products, but in this instance, tying orc culture to the Orc Gate Wars and the undetailed “orc world” could have added some gravitas to people that think this level of culture for orcs is a new development. I wish the omens and superstitions had just been called “observances,” and given a bit more historical context. There are some good ideas for orc PCs in keeping with the adventure, but a lot of the player-facing material has to be mined from the text on the dungeon complex. This was probably done for the sake of efficiency, but it’s not the most table friendly setup.

Recommended--If the product fits in your broad area of gaming interests, you are likely to be happy with this purchase.

I was initially going to be a little less enthusiastic with a broad recommendation, but given the scope of the project, and the fact that this is for charity, I think this is a good pickup for just about anyone interested in Dungeons and Dragons, and for people that are interested to see potential emerging orc narratives.

I would love to see a little more connection to existing lore, not unlike the way the Ordening was used to reinforce the giant’s storyline in Storm King’s Thunder, and I would love to see a little bit more orc player character support (including better stats, but again, that’s for another day). I’m hoping with enough attention, we’ll get more content along these lines, pushing the boundaries of what we expect from player character narratives in Dungeons and Dragons.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

What Do I Know About Reviews? Fey Gifts and Bargains (Dungeon Masters Guild Product)


For whatever reason, Dungeons and Dragons hasn’t quite spent as much time developing the hierarchy and politics of the fey courts as it has spent exploring the politics of the Nine Hells, the interaction between the layers of the Abyss, or even the mercenary tendencies of Gehenna. There have been products here and there, but not with the level of detail that the lower planes receive.

This might be because demons and devils, despite the amount of time that spent on their politics in the game, can still be counted on to be villains consistently. The fey, on the other hand, can be . . . complex. The fey can literally turn into antagonists without directly trying, just by being true to their nature.

Why do I immediately think to compare fiends and the fey? Because they share some common tropes, like convoluted political maneuvers and bargaining with mortals. As a slight digression, Shadow of the Demon Lord makes this superficial resemblance a more explicit connection, but that’s not what we’re here to look at today.

Before I dive into today’s review, a slight disclaimer. I’m a patron of Brandes’ Patreon, so I get to see a lot of his work as it comes together. He’s got a lot of great ideas, and it’s well worth following his account. Today, we’re looking at the Dungeon Masters Guild product Fey Gifts and Bargains.

The Form of the Pact

The product is a ten-page PDF, with a full-color cover, and a single page index with the standard legal information for a DMs Guild product. There is colorful half and quarter page artwork in the product, and the formatting looks very similar to standard 5e formatting, with red headers, separate sidebars for call-out information, and the standard light parchment background.

Structure

The product gives a brief introduction to fey bargains, and then explains the overall hierarchy of the fey courts, with example creatures at each level. It then moves into a section looking at what the fey ask for in their bargains, and what they offer in exchange. There are example fey charms, example fey NPCs to show what different fey may ask and offer. The product concludes with several fey themed magic items.

Fey Hierarchies

The fey hierarchies are divided into the following levels:


  • Commoners and Exiles
  • Pages
  • Knights
  • Lords
  • Archfey

One of the things I appreciate about 5e is that the game has become less focused on creature type as the final determining factor on where creatures may be allied, and a sidebar explains how firbolgs and fomorians can be included in the typical fey power structures.

The levels are important for the next section, which details what fey ask for, and what they provide in exchange for what the mortal is willing to give. It makes sense that a fey commoner might abide by their deals, but can’t promise the magical wonders available to a Knight, or especially an Archfey.

Fey Economies

While not explicit in the text, the feeling is that making bargains is natural to the fey because giving and receiving based on agreement is the trade by which fey society works. For magical creatures with a very different view on the universe, secrets and service is often going to be much more desirable than gold or gems.

Bullet points under each “rank” of fey give examples of how much value an item offered by the fey might have, what rarity of magic items might be offered, or how much service the fey is willing to agree upon. More powerful fey often offer the service of their vassals, and the Lords and Archfey may offer secrets, tasks only they can do, or fey charms (supernatural gifts signified with a physical manifestation).

The fey don’t trade this for just anything a mortal can offer, so they are examples of what memories or services a mortal might offer to obtain the items that the fey bargain with. Unlike fiends, the fey aren’t usually too interested in souls, although they may take one in a pinch.

Contracts and Supernatural Gifts

There are example physical objects that serve as the manifestation of a contract, as well as examples of what happens when mortals or the fey break their end of a contract. Also included are supernatural gifts, not unlike the Charms detailed in the Dungeon Master’s Guide’s chapter on treasure.

There are fourteen new fey charms in this product, taking out almost a whole page. They have varying effects, and the number of uses, or the amount of time that the charm functions are flavored to fit in with the fey mindset. For example, they may work a set number of times, total. They may operate until the death of the giver, or they may last until the change of the season.

These range from charms that push back aging, allow you to avoid attacks, summon items, or gain resistance to elemental damage, among other effects.

The Bargainers

In addition to giving examples of what the trade between fey and mortals may look like, and what the mechanical effects of those bargains may be in the game, the product also provides four example fey that can be bargained with. These are from various ranks within the fey courts, and each of them has traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws, as well as sections listing what they want, and what they are likely to offer.

I’ve said this in at least one other review, but as much as I wish they worked better as triggers for PCs, I love getting traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws for NPCs, because they give a lot more benchmarks for roleplaying the NPC. It’s even more important for NPCs that are negotiating for something they want.

Fey Magic Items

There are 10 new fey magic items included in this product as well, including spears, axes, invitations, teeth, swords, falconry tools, necklaces, arrows, and bows. The themes of these magic items include dreams, cannibalism, heat and cold, strengthened life force, and stealth.

I love the little details of these items (like the implied use for recycled teeth, or the alignment of items to a fey court). I’m never going to complain about getting more magical spears in the game.

Sealed Bargain

This delivers on what I wanted from it. There are some clear examples of what the fey want, and it reinforces a dreamy, ephemeral understanding of what can be traded. The gifts feel appropriate for the themes of the fey, and I appreciate that the fey charms call back to the existing examples in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and that we also get some magic items that the fey may offer for trade within the parameters of the example lists. I especially love getting some example NPCs to show what an individual fey may be looking for, and how they might go about bargaining.

Broken Pact

There isn’t much that I can complain about this product. It is very specifically focused on fey bargains, and it delivers on this theme. That may be too narrow a theme for some, although it’s a pretty focused delivery. The only other thing I may have wanted was just a few more examples of fey bargainers, especially since we get a commoner and an exile as examples, who have the same relative bargaining power, but we don’t see a knight or an archfey (the latter just being me wanting more archfey, which is probably way beyond the scope of this product on its face).

Recommended--If the product fits in your broad area of gaming interests, you are likely to be happy with this purchase.

I’m really happy with this product. I wish I had access to it before I started running my Tales of the Old Margreve campaign, since I used charms to signify pacts between various fey lords and the PCs. Since I’ve got another player joining near the end of the campaign, at least I’ve got some new options to look at when Reynard The Fox Lord enters the picture.