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Every couple of months as part of Unearthed Arcana, Mike and Chris review the latest material on the Dungeon Masters Guild and choose the best of the best to highlight.
This month, Unearthed Arcana takes a break from giving the D&D design team a chance to introduce new material for your games. Instead, we’ll take a look at some of the most interesting and fun new material to appear on the Dungeon Masters Guild.
If you’re not familiar with the DMs Guild, it’s a website that allows you to post and sell your own D&D creations, including new material for the Forgotten Realms. We’ve already seen an overwhelming response to the site, and we can’t wait to see where the community takes it.
This article is the first in a new series in Unearthed Arcana. Starting this month, and continuing every other month, we’ll dive into the Guild and highlight some of our favorite products. In addition, we’ll include this material in our future surveys where appropriate, and if the demand is there, we’ll work with creators to include some or all of their material in future products as official D&D content.
Enough with the introductions. Let’s get into the material!
Once we incorporated the concept of using Hit Dice to heal during a short rest into the game, we took care to avoid giving players other ways to use Hit Dice. That design direction was driven by a sense that players would burn through Hit Dice to boost themselves for a single fight, trading away success now at the cost of running short of hit points later.
Blood Magic dives into the idea of using Hit Dice as a character resource, and it does so in an evocative, fun way. In seven packed pages, this PDF provides an overview of blood magic—a practice that allows a caster to trade life essence away for power. The Blood Magic arcane tradition and the King’s Blood sorcerous origin allow you to incorporate blood magic into your campaign.
These mechanics give a wizard or sorcerer character a creepy, macabre edge—perfect for a group running the upcoming Curse of Strahd adventure. Wizards with the Blood Magic tradition can inflict wounds upon themselves that drain their Hit Dice. In return, they gain blood points that improve their defenses, allow them to detect living creatures, and lace their spells with additional psychic damage. Sorcerers of the King’s Blood origin can capture the life spark of a fallen enemy, gaining a benefit dependent on the type of creature defeated. For example, slaying a dragon allows a character to gain advantage on a saving throw, while defeating an elemental grants a bonus to AC.
A set of four new magic items rounds out the package, including the potion of cruor, which restores spent Hit Dice, and the cursed sanguine blade, which compels its wielder to finish off wounded foes.
The fusion of flavor and mechanics drew my eye to Blood Magic. It’s a good example of taking a thematic element of a campaign and expressing it as a new option for different character classes.
BOOK OF BEASTS: DEMON DEPOSITORY
Book of Beasts, design by Jonathan Leitheusser
Who doesn’t love demons? Other than players who have faced the Out of the Abyss campaign, everyone loves adding a few new chaotic fiends to their campaign. The Demon Depository updates a number of classic demons, making them an ideal resource for Out of the Abyss or any campaign with an abyssal edge.
This volume provides stats for the blood demon, the bulezau, the fire demon, the maw demon, the rutterkin, and the scion of Zuggtmoy. The maw demon is a personal favorite of mine, and its implementation here does a great job of capturing its essence. Coming in at CR 1/2, its most notable ability is its snapping jaws that distract opponents, granting advantage to the demon’s allies. A small pack of maw demons make perfect sidekicks for a powerful demon or cult.
All the demons in this volume have similar flourishes, drawing on their fourth edition design but elegantly bringing that design forward to fifth edition. If your group loves a tactical challenge, this is a great volume to supplement your roster of monsters.
BATTLE FOR THE UNDERCITY
Battle for the Undercity, written by Monica Valentinelli
Every DM needs a quick adventure now and then, and Battle for the Undercity features three short, focused scenarios to drop into your game. Eminently adaptable to any city in the Forgotten Realms or any other D&D setting, Battle for the Undercity features a clever concept to make prep easy. It describes a section of labyrinthine sewer tunnels, stocking them with three distinct groups of villains. The adventure then gives an overview of three separate missions to throw at the party, each of which matches the characters against a different group. The nice thing about this approach is that it makes prep easy. By reading over the map and key, you’re ready to run three different scenarios for your group. The factions are also detailed enough that you can drop them into your campaign as an ongoing menace.
As someone running a city-based campaign at the moment, I found this format easy to pick up and a great way to bolster my stock of off-the-cuff material. I hope this format catches on. It’ll make many DMs’ lives easier.
About the Authors
Mike Mearls is the senior manager for the D&D research and design team. He led the design for fifth edition D&D. His other credits include the Castle Ravenloft board game, Monster Manual 3 for fourth edition, and Player’s Handbook 2 for third edition.
A member of the Dungeons & Dragons brand team, Chris Lindsay is focused primarily on product development, which is a lot like herding cats in a darkened room with no doors and no windows.