D&D 5E [Let's Read] Solasta Campaign Sourcebook: Revised Edition

Libertad

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Modiphius Store Page. Right now you can only get the PDF by preordering the physical book. Around September you should be able to buy the PDF separately.

Before Baldur’s Gate 3 came onto the scene, there was only one video game RPG that explicitly used the 5th Edition system. As the studio was a small independent outfit, Tactical Adventures made a special deal with Wizards of the Coast to incorporate a modified version of the OGL. Taking place in a homebrewed world, Solasta: Crown of the Magister was a bonafide fantasy dungeon crawl experience incorporating many iconic elements we all know and love. As the OGL versions of the core rules are quite sparse on their own, original content was made to allow for a more complete feeling, ranging from various subclasses and a crafting system to new lore and monsters. Such as the wicked race of shapeshifting lizards known as the Sorr-Akath, who served as the major antagonists of the first campaign. With two DLC campaigns and a Dungeon Maker to allow players to make their own custom adventures (including an entire conversion of the Temple of Elemental Evil!), Solasta managed to make quite a complete game given their size and resources.

The wider lore of the world of Solasta was briefly touched on in the game itself, and while there was a campaign sourcebook, it was a KickStarter exclusive that only around a thousand people had access to. The community was remarkably loyal in that fileshared PDFs weren’t really passed around. As time went on, one of the most frequent demands was to make the sourcebook available for sale, which due to licensing agreements Tactical Adventures was unable to do until very recently. Due to the addition of new content in the video game, this is an updated version of the old sourcebook, notably including all of the new subclasses from the DLC. With a recently purchased PDF sitting on my hard drive, I’m eager to share with you the tales of the realm of Solasta!

Introduction & Chapter 1: What Is Solasta?

Our book opens up with a series of in-character journal entries written by two individuals who left on an adventuring expedition into a newly-opened road into the Badlands. This spell-scarred stretch of land is where a grand empire once stood, before a Cataclysm changed the world forever. The expedition gradually goes south, as some unseen foes begin to silently kill members of the group over time, eventually causing them to take shelter in a series of ruins. The dreadful truth is that their pursuers are the Sorr-Akath, a race of reptilian humanoids once thought to be the stuff of legend, and one of them impersonated a member of the group before being found out and tortured to death.

The Introduction gives a kind of horror-tinged dark fantasy feel, where the kinds of places adventurers go into are realms of terror where one is bound to befall all manner of maladies. While Solasta is more on the standard fantasy side of things, it does a good job of playing up how the setting’s primary antagonists mess with people’s heads.

Chapter One gives a general rundown of the setting’s history and major themes. The world as it’s known is called Solasta, and the continent of Ferandragh is the section of world that comprises the known setting, which had much of it ruled over by the Manacalon Empire. This Empire came about in earliest recorded history, when dragons and elves warred against each other. The Dragons won, but in order to gain the consent of the people they ruled they turned a trusted circle of elven servants into puppet rulers. These rulers told the elven populace that they had won the war and the dragons retreated into unknown lands. Meanwhile, the dragons used polymorph spells to walk among the elves, changing their society into an authoritarian high magic empire that invaded and conquered the other races. Non-elves became slaves, and the elves who objected to these new ways broke off in a series of rebellions, being pushed into the eastern forests and becoming the subrace of sylvan elves. Meanwhile, the imperial elves became the high elves. The Manacalon Empire managed to conquer all lands save for the far north, where various runaway slaves, governments in exile, and others fled. The land was poor in resources, but the dwarves made great fortifications in the mountains.

The Empire’s downfall would come during the Cataclysm. At this point in history, the concept and existence of gods was unknown, and horses and other forms of riding animals weren’t native to the plane. For long-distance travel magic was used, such as teleportation circles. But bordering Solasta’s Material Plane was an alternate one known as Tirmar, home to humans, gods, and the Sorr-Akath. The Sorr-Akath were making great gains in conquering much of that world, including taking over one of the most popular gods, forcing the rest of them to find a new world for humans to escape. A Rift opened up in the Empire’s capital, and the high elves treated the human refugees as invaders and massacred many of them, forcing them north.

This would prove to be the Manacalon’s first of several mistakes. They had gained humans as an enemy, but humans had several things going for them: first off, they had gods and thus divine magic, mastering various spells unknown to the people of Solasta. They also had horses, and used Mongolian archer-style cavalry tactics to strike at the high elves. The humans would pass on these unique gifts to the other races who were enemies of the Empire, and in so doing helped cement their race as a rising power in the world to come after the Cataclysm.

The Sorr-Akkath also came across the Rift, at first in secret but then as great armies. For the first time in history the Manacalon Empire and its enemies signed a nonaggression pact to find a way to close the Rift and be rid of the Sorr-Akkath. The Magister, the leader of the Empire, along with some of the greatest mages, ventured to the Rift to close it. They drew on the mana of the world itself, which disrupted the flow of magic worldwide. This closed the Rift, but caused widespread destruction. Dormant volcanoes erupted, destroying many dragon hatcheries which the volcanoes served as incubators for. Arcane magic ceased to work and became a lost art for centuries. Natural disasters of various kinds swept across the land, and Aer-Elai, the central province of the Empire, turned into a wasteland now known as the Badlands.

The Empire fell, causing new kingdoms to rise in its stead. While the magical knowledge and power of the old days would never come again, new innovations such as divine magic and cavalry arose with the aid of humans. Over time the world itself healed, gradually restoring arcane magic. While there is a New Empire claiming to be on the way in reclaiming the “good old days” (for high elves), it is an empire in name only and most civilizations are independent kingdoms and settlements at the feudal level.

Campaign Themes covers the elements best emphasized in a Solasta campaign. As you can expect, the history of the elven empire and the Cataclysm that arose from it are major elements, for the ruins of the past serve as the primary “dungeon crawls” in this world, with knowledge and artifacts without comparison that cannot be found anywhere else. Many groups, from various adventuring parties to the nations of the land, all have their own agents seeking to claim such fines first and foremost. The Principality of Masgarth’s proximity to the best routes into the Badlands makes it a valuable economic power that have caused all manner of political dirty tricks, from conspiracies to assassinations, in order to gain favored access. Finally, the setting has a central Evil group to fight: the god Sorr-Tarr and his race of devout Sorr-Akkath, who seek to plunge Solasta into warfare again and open the Rift in order to take it over. By using cults, shapeshifting, and their status as being believed extinct, they sabotage positions of power across the land to spread conflict and strife.

Thoughts: Solasta’s history goes down the checklist of Typical Fantasy Tropes. We have the Fallen Empire, Elves being awesome and awesomely racist, powerful Dragons now In decline, Not-Sauron and Not-Orcs forcing the Four Tolkien Races to unite against him, and an entire industry of ruin-delving adventurers seeking treasure from the Fallen Empire. The less conventional aspects I spot are that not once, but twice did shapeshifting lizards infiltrate the halls of power to reshape society to their whims. Insert David Icke joke here. Another difference is that while humans are a rising power, the book gives explicit reasons for their prominence in the world besides vague gestures of “ambition” or high reproduction rates. Making them be responsible for horses and divine magic is a neat touch, although I will say that the idea of Solasta not having mounts at all begs the question of just how easy it is for even commoners of the Manacalon Empire to use teleportation networks. From what I got from the video game, such things are mostly placed in strategic areas. For more rural and typical trade outside the big cities, travel would be quite limited if foot traffic is the norm.

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Chapter 2: Ferandragh

This chapter is the gazetteer of Solasta, detailing 12 nations/regions of the world and the pantheon of six gods. Ferandragh is the continent that the Manacalon Empire almost entirely took over, and any other lands beyond aren’t really detailed in this book. Broadly, the continent is divided into two broad regions: the Eastern Nations are closest to the Badlands and were the center of many conflicts. A geopolitical alliance of nations here signed a Three-Century Pact to put a temporary end to war, while the Legacy Council hosts representatives from these various nations to govern regulation and trade for the adventuring economy that evolved out of exploring the Badlands. The Western Nations instead are focused on control over the Avendore River, which runs between the northern Inner Sea and Southern Ocean and is an economic powerhouse for any kingdoms that claim it. The river’s namesake nation of Avendore doesn’t control all of it, for its neighbors promised mutual defense pacts to go to war if they get too greedy in controlling it.

An interesting note I’d like to point out is that humans aren’t the racial majority in Solasta; there’s only a few kingdoms where they have a clear majority, and most regions tend to have either a more cosmopolitan demographic spread or near-monoracial makeup. The latter of which are explicitly nonhuman regions. If we want to break things down, there’s only 1 nation where they have even percentages with other races (Masgarth), 1 where they have a plurality (Avendore at 40%), 8 where they’re a minority (Colthannin, Gallivan, the 2 Hill Dwarf Kingdoms, New Empire, Olme Fen, Snow Alliance, Southern Islands), and only 2 where they have a clear majority (Borealis at 80%, Salvanneth at 60%). For the minority ones, the ones with the highest percentages are Gallivan and the Snow Alliance at 25%, with Colthannin at 15% and the Hill Dwarf Kingdoms at 5%.

What this tells us is that Solasta is a world where humans aren’t necessarily the “norm.” Your Stereotypical Medieval Fantasy Village isn’t guaranteed to have round-ears around every corner, and the Tolkien Fantasy Races aren’t necessarily secluded off into their own specific patches of land or big cosmopolitan population centers.

The Principality of Masgarth is the kingdom where the original Solasta campaign is set. It is a cosmopolitan monarchy with various duchies and guilds that run things at more local levels. In terms of race there’s an even mixture of humans, dwarves, and elves with a halfling minority, and its proximity to the Badlands and reliable routes make it the unofficial adventurer capital of the continent. Additionally, a restored teleportation circle in the capital city of Caer Cyflen makes it a vital trade hub. Masgarth’s neighbors all would like to take such bounty for themselves, so the kingdom relies on political subterfuge to encourage any rivals in sabotaging each other instead. The Legacy Council is in theory a multinational academic institution focused on preserving and rediscovering the secrets of the Manacalon Empire for societal improvement, but in truth they all play nice on the surface and view each other to varying degrees of rivalry in claiming the best finds first.

The Kingdom of Gallivan is more solidly a monarchy than Masgarth, for everyone’s rank in society is predetermined by their parents’ station. An Assembly of Nobles votes on matters affecting the whole kingdom, where the amount of votes a person has depends on their feudal rank. While the King can in theory be checked by a majority vote, in practice this has never happened, but the possibility has often been enough to keep the King from going too power-hungry. That being said, the current King looks forward to the Three-Century Pact ending soon, for it will give him the opportunity to invade Masgarth and gain access to its trade networks. While Gallivan has a slight high elven majority, it has cast off the racial supremacy of the Manacalon Empire and non-elves can also be found among the ranks of the nobility as well. Trade and cultural exchange with sylvan elves in Colthannin makes the kingdom famous for magical wood-warping techniques, with living trees molded into all sorts of buildings and furniture.

The New Empire has its origins from a high elven warlord who was lucky enough to have enough troops after the Cataclysm to hold onto the remnants of his territory. Without having access to arcane magic of the past, this petty kingdom became ever more reliant on slaves to power its economy, a practice that is implied to be illegal elsewhere in Ferandragh. In addition to being open about wanting to retake the Manacalon Empire’s old borders and only high elves being free people, they’re pretty much a pariah state disliked by everyone. Their major source of soft power projection is taking advantage of desperate communities in the Marches (section of less-dangerous Badlands home to scattered isolated settlements), promising to give them regular shipments of resources and protection from monsters in exchange for letting the Empire establish military bases there. The New Empire is also home to the Silver Whisper, an intelligence network and secret police that also operates internationally and has a fearful reputation throughout the continent.

Various facets about the New Empire are contradicted throughout the book, specifically in regards to its religious traditions. This chapter says that the realm has no official religion, maintaining that magic itself and the Emperor are the ultimate power and authority respectively, although many people worship the gods in secret. The Religion section later on says that temples to Einar are popular all across the land, and his temples can be found everywhere save the New Empire. But in the next chapter of Caer Cyflen, Einar is said to even have some temples in the New Empire. Additionally, Maraike’s worship is tolerated by the New Empire’s high elves, but only the ruling class are allowed to receive aid by her priests.

The Snow Alliance is the northernmost nation of Ferandragh, a diverse society of mostly snow dwarves (new subrace) along with humans, sylvan elves, and halflings along with other races, and its land is home to the most multi-racial communities. While there was always a network of some sort, the Alliance as a federalist form of government arose from legions of undead spilling out of the Badlands, creating more explicit ties and promises of mutual defense between communities. The central government only handles a few major tasks, with everything else being delegated to local clans. Every community sends two representatives to the Assembly, which is irrespective of land size or population. In theory this is to ensure that even the most meager settlements have an equal voice, but the larger communities still hold sway due to economic dominance, such as the ones controlling trade routes into other lands.

Borealis is the northernmost of the Western Kingdoms, and was one of the few lucky communities to remain out of the Manacalon Empire’s reach due to its remoteness. Its government is a curious blend of secular oligarchs tasked with managing economic affairs and a theocracy that handles everything else. Both forms of government frequently attempt to gain more power and influence at the expense of the other, and the trade guilds have monopolies in their respective fields to the point that even the clothes one wears is mandated by their laws. Borealis is also one of the only two nations in the setting with a clear human majority at 80% of the population. Einar is the most popular deity, albeit Pakri is essential for the educated class and those who maintain the laws.

The Realm of Avendore used to be a rural frontier region during the days of the Manacalon Empire, but it recovered faster after the Cataclysm and had the power to repulse invading neighbors. In spite of its wealth and influence, the Eastern Nations rejected its offer of membership in the Legacy Council. Therefore its government is conducting its own independent expeditions into the Badlands and floating the idea of setting up a Western Council. Avendore is a monarchy in theory, but its King is a lazy ruler. Families of rival merchants are the true power in the land, fighting amongst each other but portraying themselves as a united guild to outsiders who don’t know better.

The Hill Dwarf Kingdoms are the westernmost nations of Ferandragh, divided into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. They had a common cultural origin in pre-Cataclysm times as the Fire Mountain Kingdom, but earth-shattering events caused most of them to flee to the surface. Generations of isolation from each other caused two distinct cultures and royal bloodlines to arise, but instead of being enemies they decided they’d be stronger together as trading partners. They’re your typical Fantasy Dorf Realms, although their noble leaders are given titles by consent by the governed rather than birthright and are frequently deposed if they don’t live up to expectations. There’s a growing trend among rich dwarves in aping sylvan elven culture via imports of their goods. Poorer dwarves take issue with this, feeling that they’re become less culturally dwarven over time.

The Kingdom of Salvanneth used to be a patchwork assembly of autonomous towns ruled over by local warlords, but invasions from Avendore and the New Empire forced them to appoint a noble leader to prevent foreign domination. This came from pressure by the merchant class against the wishes of many warlord-turned-nobles, and it's only through trade that this fragile state of affairs manages to hold together. Many citizens of Salvanneth treat their home regions and towns as being equally important, if not more so, than any national identity. A common cultural factor is reverence for nature, and even more fancy luxury items incorporate rustic aesthetics such as carved bone and furs.

Olme Fen dominates the continent’s northeast, and isn’t a nation or kingdom so much as a region. Home to the Marsh Halflings, they are a rural people who live subsistence-level in swampland and the primary social unit are extended families banding together to make a larger settlement. They are aware of the outside world, but based on what they hear from outsiders they think it is a crazy place best avoided. And beyond some trade with sylvan elves from Colthannin, most outsiders have little interest in them. Marsh halfling religion is based on folkloric tales of spirits to be appeased or avoided, but deities are considered foreign and therefore not to be trusted. That being said, Maraike receives some worship as her portfolio is most useful to their way of life.

The Forest of Colthannin dominates the continent’s far east and is the traditional homeland of the sylvan elves. Like the high elves, they too had their own teleportation network linking settlements that also collapsed during the Cataclysm. They were eager adopters of the gods and divine magic, grateful in learning of the ways of human newcomers to make up for the loss of arcane magic. The Forest is ruled over by a King, but local settlements are governed by a council of elders.

The Southern Islands are the traditional homeland of Island Halflings, the other major halfling subrace of Solasta. They’re basically a whole race of lovable swashbuckling rogues who believe that life should be celebrated and are famous for their culinary innovations, songs, and storytellers. They have a presence in every port city and have trade networks across the continent. During the days of the Manacalon Empire they used superior naval skills to keep themselves free, and they still engage in lower-scale piracy against the New Empire.

The Marches can be summed up as the “outer Badlands,” being next to said territory but not as severe. It is a lawless region of self-sufficient communities which more or less have to be on a constant battle footing due to the ample dangers of the region. It is a common waypoint for adventurers traveling via the Copperhead Road, and strange magical phenomena and malfunctions that occur in the Badlands happen here as well but with less frequency. Just about every kind of community and system of government can be found here, with the only commonality being the lack of large, connected geopolitical territories. The town of Coparann is the most well-known settlement, as the Legacy Council has in the works a project to turn it into a major trading station for adventuring into the Badlands. Coparann’s major economic output is its mines, but it has some outlying farming communities that feed the town. Unlike the other regions in this chapter, the Marches and Coparann have sample encounters and adventure hooks. Nothing too detailed, basically short paragraphs to fire up the DM’s imagination.

Thoughts: A lot of the regions are quite brief and tend to strongly hew to one theme: the New Empire are your Lawful Evil Racist Slave Owners, the Southern Islands are your Fun-Loving Pirates, Olme Fen are your Backwoods Superstitious Swamp People, and so on. The Principality of Masgarth gets the most coverage and adventuring opportunity, which in a way makes sense as that’s where the video game’s default campaign takes place. Sadly, besides Masgarth and the Marches, most places don’t really have any built-in big adventure hooks beyond broad and vague mentions. Sure, Borealis has Corrupt Medieval Megacorps in the form of trade guilds and Salvanneth is a fractured realm of stubbornly independent fiefdoms, but we don’t have specific examples of notable NPCs or locations that set the DM’s mind alight with inspirational fire. Compare this to something like the 3rd Edition setting guides to Eberron or the Forgotten Realms, high-quality 3rd party settings like Kobold Press’ Midgard. Such books grant us a wealth of this kind of material, that can make even more obscure nations have a lot of adventure ideas.

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Religion

The world of Solasta differs from other DnD fantasy settings in that the gods don’t have a hand in the creation of the world, nor were they here since time immemorial. They came through the Rift with human refugees, and were soon adopted by other cultures. There are six gods that are the most popular and well-known, and the book notes that there are other deities known in Solasta (and also ones that didn’t make it out of Tirmar), but they aren’t detailed.

Einar is the Lawful Good God of Valor and Fidelity, your stereotypical defender of the meek and fighter against evil and injustice. His teachings encourage good behavior and his temples fund various orders of warriors, healers, and lawyers to ensure that people’s needs are being met. This makes Einar the most popular god in Solasta by far, and his Church has near-universal good publicity.

Pakri is the Lawful Neutral Goddess of Law and Learning, responsible for giving humanity the capability to learn and improve. Their priests typically work as scholars and lawyers of various sorts, and their temples are the largest repositories of written lore in many population centers. The two major Orders among her followers have ideological differences: the Order of the Book are lawyer-priests who primarily serve the needs of the wealthy, while the Order of the Owl are travelers who primarily aid poor and rural populations in the matters of healing, education, and legal assistance. The Owls view the Books as having been corrupted by the pursuit of wealth, while the Books view the Owls as having strayed too much from the path of law by tolerating “rabble-rousers” and “malcontents.”

Maraike is the Neutral Goddess of Life and Death, worshiped in dual facets as a protector of women* and the sick, and an avenger of the wronged. Maraike’s temples and priests primarily act as healers and gravekeepers. Two organizations of interest to adventuring types include the Order of Life Regnant who are traveling healers and warriors, and the Order of Oblivion who search for and destroy necromancers and undead for crimes against the natural cycle of life and death.

*This implies that Solasta may be a patriarchal setting, which from playing the video game I didn’t get, as there were quite a number of women in various occupations as well as adventurers.

Arun is the Neutral God of the Elements, and through that the natural world. Arun used to be the leader of Tirmar’s pantheon and the first to be worshiped by humans, and his base of worshipers is very diverse: druids, farmers, sailors, and basically anyone whose livelihood depends on said elements and nature. While many clerics often specialize in one of four elements, it is encouraged to branch out and high-ranking priests almost always master all four.

Misaye is the Chaotic Neutral Goddess of Mischief, looking out for anyone who balks at authority and the burden of rules. Misaye also holds influence over luck and battle, which are less popular aspects. Given the large number of criminal types among her faithful, the worship of Misaye is outlawed in most places, with the exception being Colthannin and among sylven elf communities in the Snow Alliance. As to why, the sylven elves seem to like her whimsical personality.

Sorr-Tarr/Arivad is the Lawful Evil God of Evil, and a story of two gods in one. Arivad was a Timarian god of law and justice, a proto-Einar who was a shining example for good in that world. Sor-Tarr was the evil god responsible for empowering the Sorr-Akath, and the two gods waged endless battles against each other. When it seemed that Arivad would triumph once and for all, Sorr-Tarr sought to switch from open warfare to sabotage. Arivad’s followers were so infected, becoming little better than tyrannical bullies who saw Sorr-Tarr’s growing influence as all the more reason to do “whatever it takes” in order to defeat evil. Even Arivad came around to thinking this way, and the Timarian Inquisition gained a foul reputation for condemning many innocents to death. Once it seemed that Sorr-Tarr’s armies were defeated for good, they invented other threats to maintain their power. In reality, Sorr-Tarr managed to find a way to merge with Arivad when it became clear that the latter god’s power was coming from his hated foe. Refusing to give up such power, Arivad merged with Sorr-Tarr into one god, and the remaining good nature of Arivad split off to become Einar.

While Arivad’s fall from grace and the Timarian Inquisition are well-known among human historians, the god’s merging with Sorr-Atarr is almost unknown. Even most Sorr-Akath regard Arivad as a fallen enemy rather than presently residing in their deity. Thus, most followers of Solasta’s sole evil deity are split into two primary groups: worshipers of Arivad typically seek some form of power or vengeance, often in an ends justify the means style of “hard men making hard decisions.” Worshipers of Sorr-Tarr are the Sorr-Akath and their brainwashed servants.

Thoughts: I do like how most of the gods have specific named Orders that contribute to the adventuring lifestyle or have a clear hook for a PC Cleric to explain how they got their training. Another thing I like is that Solasta’s pantheon is rather peculiar, since four of the six deities are neutral on the moral alignment axis. Said deities’ portfolios are closer to cosmic concepts than moral living; Misaye and Pakri may have worshipers inclined towards certain ethical outlooks, but their dominion over law vs freedom counts equal numbers of justice-seekers, tyrants, freedom fighters, and criminals. In this way, it can make sense to have religious orders who worship the same god be given over to sectarianism; Misaye encourages rule-breaking for the sake of it and warriors on both sides of the battlefield pray to her, while Arun is someone you go to to get a fruitful harvest or a little more wind in your sails for a swift voyage, rather than asking for moral guidance. Einar serves the general purpose for those who want Clerics who “live righteously,” and Sorr-Tarr is the only evil god and is more or less hated by the rest of the pantheon and illegal to worship virtually everywhere. Which is fine, given he’s the setting’s designated BBEG.

That being said, I do feel that the six gods we have are kind of sparse. While I understand that when designing the video game they didn’t want to bloat things up too much as they already had a lot of Cleric Domains, a few alignments and popular portfolios are lacking. Like the lack of a Forge/Creation deity for example, although I suppose Arun can fill that niche given his mastery over the elements. As for alignment, there’s no real option for Chaotic Good and Evil Clerics and religious types besides Misaye, which push those archetypes into the Rogue/Criminal side of things by association.

Thoughts So Far: Solasta hews very close to a lot of generic fantasy tropes, which is unsurprising as the CRPG sold itself as being “DnD 5e, but a video game.” So having a certain level of familiarity was a smart and safe choice rather than going too out there with something like Dark Sun or Eberron. And in the places that it does depart from the tropes, there are some neat and nifty ideas that grab one’s attention. Like humans having a more unique origin story and role while also not being omnipresent in the world. My major criticisms are that the rest of the world beyond Masgarth/the Badlands need more hooks for adventuring types, as they feel too bland in comparison to the “default” region.

Join us next time as we cover the city of Caer Cyflen and the treacherous region known as the Badlands!
 
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bedir than

Full Moon Storyteller
As for alignment, there’s no real option for Chaotic Good and Evil Clerics and Paladins besides Misaye, which push those archetypes into the Rogue/Criminal side of things by association
As a reminder, 5e dropped the idea that a Paladin needs a god. If you want to be a CG or CE pally find an oath that fits.
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
Solasta does suffer from the common trope of "The really cool stuff happened in the past." But in contrast it does have an extensive amount of negative space to game with if you just want to play dungeon crawls without baggage, kind of like 4e's Nentir Vale setting.
There are six gods that are the most popular and well-known, and the book notes that there are other deities known in Solasta (and also ones that didn’t make it out of Tirmar), but they aren’t detailed.
The big advantage of having a world that explicitly wasn't created by gods, is that there doesn't need to be a god for everything, or even a god that covers any particular thing, which is another form of negative space to explore. The forge god could have been corrupted by by Sorr-Tarr, maybe they stayed behind on Tirmar to close the gate behind them, perhaps they were lost between the worlds, or they simply didn't catch on for whatever cultural reasons and wasted away to naught but a memory after the cataclysm. But either way the vacuum itself is what creates the story. What does it mean to have known gods in a religious setting, but work in a profession or otherwise live a life that isn't governed by them?
 

Weiley31

Legend
I'm actually glad it's being sold for purchase. IIRC, this was originally a backer only reward type deal when the developers launched the Kickstarter to secure funding for the video game version of Crown of Solasta.
 

Libertad

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Chapter 3: Caer Cyflen

Now that we covered the big picture of Solasta, we’re going to zoom in on the locations of pertinent interest to PCs for the next two chapters. The first is Caer Cyflen, capital city of the Principality of Masgarth. The book even notes that it was designed to be the starting area/central hub for campaigns, given its prominence to the adventuring economy.

Caer Cyflen has its origins as a meager fishing and trading settlement at the meeting point of the Soiltafyn and Galisca Rivers. During the days of the Manacalon Empire it was turned into a fortified way station to shepherd troops and goods around, which explains its teleportation network. Like many other settlements it suffered greatly during the Cataclysm, and its ruler instituted martial law in order to maintain control of what territory they had. But humans and other refugees were allowed to settle in pre-designated sections of the land, and helped in reconstruction efforts. In particular, horses aided in establishing trade and contact at greater distances, while various clerics of Einar and Arun helped reduce casualties. Various duchies came into contact with and then under control of Caer Cyflen, turning the land into the Principality of Masgarth as it’s known today. The land’s standard of living gradually improved over the centuries, especially from reactivating the teleportation gate. It has also sponsored multiple expeditions into the former imperial heartland, helping grow the local adventuring subculture.

The monarchy is a high elven family known as the Silverflowers, and the current ruler is Princess* Ceiwad Silverflower. During her tenure, she managed to re-establish contact with various isolated civilizations in the Marches, most notably Copparan. Realizing they had a lot to lose from invasion due to their favored economic status and position near the Badlands, the Princess established the Legacy Council to pacify the Eastern Kingdoms’ desire to profit off their findings.

*As to why not Queen, it’s a more popular term by the general populace and it since stuck as official designation.

Caer Cyflen’s major districts are separated by walls, with three bridges spanning the rivers giving primary access to the city itself. The Palace Complex is where the Princess and those in close contact with her live and do business, and is protected by heavy security in the form of well-trained guards and multiple magical effects along with invitation-only authorization. The Inner City is right outside the walls of the Palace Complex, originally a neighborhood built for human priests and is home to many temples of the various deities. It is also a hub for adventurers, being home to the popular inn known as the Gravekeep’s Cask as well as as shops specializing in gear and magical items. Three of the major factions of the Legacy Council have offices here: the Scavengers’ Guild, the Circle of Danantar, and the Tower of Knowledge.

The Noble Quarter is where the nobility unconnected to the Princess and various wealthy merchants live. Several Ducal Palaces are located here, serving as temporary residences for the rulers of Masgarth’s duchies for when business takes them to the capital. The Garrison is a neighborhood that was originally dedicated to the Manacalon Empire’s soldiers, and it still has a similar function today along with having the city’s major navy that regulates and taxes river-bound trade. The Merchants’ Quarters are a series of business-focused neighborhoods dedicated to all manner of trade and industries, while the Harbor and Fish Town are Caer Cyflen’s poor districts where people can find all manner of illicit goods and services.

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The Legacy Council is a multinational alliance of five organizations representing different political groups, plus a sixth one with honorary observer status. In addition to acting as a goodwill gesture on Masgarth’s part, it allows Princess Silverflower the opportunity to have better access to the various representatives of foreign governments. Each organization sponsors and makes deals with adventurers operating out of the Badlands, offering rewards and favors in exchange for their discoveries. The Council is capable of prosecuting adventurers who act independently and without the blessing of said organizations for the crime of smuggling. In practice, such smugglers most often take the form of adventurers hired by factions paying for exclusive access to knowledge or artifacts, as all findings purchased from expeditions must be reported to the Council. Sometimes the Council as a whole hires adventurers rather than specific groups, usually when multiple factions have something to gain.

Each organization has its own preference for adventuring types, the types of treasure they’re interested in, and the kinds of quests and services they offer to PCs. In the video game, this took the form of granting access to exclusive vendors once you earned enough favor with them, which took the form of a points system based on treasures donated to them. Sadly there is no such robust system in the sourcebook, instead being guidelines for the DM. We also have brief write-ups on important NPCs and their relations with specific factions, but I won’t be covering those and instead focus on the organizations in broad terms.

The Church of Einar serves as the neutral party on the Council, for it is popular across the continent (save for the New Empire) and thus doesn’t owe allegiance to any one government. They are your typical “good-aligned church” and like PCs who conduct themselves honorably and fight the forces of evil. Their goods and services specialize in healing, divine magic, and martial weapons and armor.

The Arcanaeum is the representative of the New Empire. Members of the Silent Whisper are present among them in disguise as various academic occupations. They are most interested in archeological findings of the Manacalon Empire, even more so if they’re given to agents without the rest of the Council knowing about it, and give preferential treatment to high elves over other races. Their primary goods and services center around arcane magic, particularly scrolls.

The Circle of Danantar is the representative of the Principality of Masgarth that originated as a military institution training spellblades (OGL equivalent to Eldritch Knights) in the Manacalon Empire. They are tasked with securing discovered routes into the Marches and Badlands as well as watching over dungeons recently cleared by adventurers. Favor can be earned with them by undertaking tasks ensuring the safety of Masgarth’s citizens and are interested in items and research that are helpful to gish types. Their goods and services are the jack-of-all-trades of the factions, being a broad variety but with gear of interest to aforementioned warrior-mages.

The Guild of Antiquarians are representatives of the Snow Alliance, a broad network of scholarly adventurers that act as a decentralized university. They are primarily interested in powerful magic items from the Badlands, and actual knowledge takes a secondary priority. Their goods and services specialize in academic resources, divination magic, and translating texts.

The Tower of Knowledge are representatives of Gallivan, and are similar to the Antiquarians in being primarily an academic institution albeit they have a serious rivalry with the Arcaneum. Engaging in skullduggery against that faction is another way to gain their favor along with engaging in covert smuggling for their exclusive use. They also give favors to those who can make scientific and artistic breakthroughs regarding the Manacalon Empire, although the book notes that this is something adventurers don’t typically do since it’s not their area of expertise.

The Scavengers’ Guild is an observer member on the Council and maintains neutral relations with everyone else. This is due to the fact that their services are of use to everyone and they don’t discriminate when it comes to patrons. Given that ruins in the Badlands are sprawling places, your typical 3-6 adventuring party cannot hope to even scratch the surface of archeological findings as well as treasure in general. Whenever a group of adventurers clears out a place of dangers, they can report the area to the Scavengers who will undertake extensive clean-up operations to find and transport everything of value back to civilization. In exchange, the Scavengers take 20% of the proceeds from such treasures sold, and have access to spells and equipment that can transport particularly large and cumbersome items like furniture and broken pieces of architecture.

PCs can still gain favor with Scavengers by making sure that cleared-out dungeons are safe of hazards, and leave enough sellable items for them to profit off of as opposed to virtually empty ruins with hardly anything of value remaining. Favor can provide better share of proceeds, being given first dibs on items they sell at auctions, and new information pertaining to otherwise cleared-out dungeons.

Thoughts: I like the concept of having various factions for PCs to do business with, and can turn overwise bland “we just sell everything for X amount of gold” shopping trips into more involved cases of political intrigue. Exclusive goods and services for treating one or a few groups as favored clients gives more substantial rewards than mere gold pieces, which tend to be a flavor thing in 5th Edition past a certain level. Barring the Antiquarians and Tower, the factions have little overlap in this regard, so most players should immediately be able to figure out the trade-offs: “okay the Arcaneum are racist jerks, but they may be our best shot at getting more spells for the party wizard.”

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Chapter 4: the Badlands

The shortest chapter in the book, the Badlands stands in stark contrast to Caer Cyflen in that it doesn't have specific named locations so much as general trends. This is mostly to preserve the feel of danger and mystery, of how the Cataclysm turned this region into a place full of eldritch horrors where reality itself is no longer following a consistent set of rules. The region is the stuff of nightmares, full of monsters unseen anywhere else in Solasta along with entire cities’ worth of ruins still home to high elven treasures and magical wards. Being encircled by treacherous mountains, the Badlands remained largely cut off from most of the world before the discovery of the Copperhead Road as a reliable mountain pass.

In broad terms, the terrain of the Badlands should be just as much a threat as random encounters with monsters, and magical weirdness should let the DM run their imagination as to what can be found: valleys filled with mist made from foul vapors, old Manacalon or Timarian ruins that have been literally turned upside down and whose structures are jutting into the earth, entire graveyards’ worth of dragon skeletons, and mobile forests whose plants are able and willing to attack travelers. The disruption of mana still persists in places, so arcane magic can be harder to cast such as requiring higher level spell slots for normal effects, or in some cases easier when it comes to concentrated pockets. There are no explicit rules modifications for this last part, but there is a small worldwide setting house rule buried in this section: post-Cataclysm, arcane spells of 9th level are impossible to cast, for the world’s mana supply hasn’t recovered to the point that such magic can be used.

There is one sort of consistency when it comes to Badlands terrain in the form of Manacalon Ruins. Manacalon cities tend to have a lot of towers and other tall vertical buildings. Given that much of their economy and architecture was reliant on arcane magic working properly, most of their facilities are unable to be practically repurposed or used save as crude shelters by monsters and wildlife. Forts were rectangular institutions with practical grid layouts, and often served as equivalent to small towns in having a sizable civilian population providing goods and services so that the soldiers could focus first and foremost on warfare and defense. Each fort was also home to a teleportation circle, allowing for rapid transport of troops across the Empire. The vast majority of such circles are inactive or may end up leading into more dangerous places, and research is still being done on how to get them up and running. That being said, in the video game such circles served as a convenient “fast travel” system for moving quickly between locations, so I can see a DM using this as a method of convenience and reward for PCs.

As the Empire was a slave society, the feudal style of small rural villages with town councils and commoners who may only occasionally see their barons was unknown. Instead, most rural Imperial population centers were sprawling slave plantations where a ruling high elf family was tasked with managing large groups of slaves growing crops. The slaves lived in squalid quarters that differed little from barns for animals, while overseers and armed guards lived in barracks and houses. The ruins of such plantations in modern times vary widely: sometimes all that remains are dilapidated buildings with parched soil, while others may have now-wild crops and cattle transformed by magical energies into their own alien ecosystems.

Last but not least, centers of magical learning often took place in towers, and the high elves spared no expense in making architecturally impossible designs so as to show off their arcane skills. Stairs were the most rudimentary method of transportation, with levitation and teleportation magic being preferred means of vertical transport. Summoned extraplanar beings, constructs, and undead were favored methods of security, as their immortal natures allowed for them to serve as guardians far beyond their original summoner’s lifespan. Many such creatures still stand guard today. We get one more “buried in the text” change to setting assumptions mentioned here: in addition to cutting off 9th level arcane spells, the Cataclysm also cut off contact to the outer planes, so extraplanar beings cannot be summoned to the world. Any in Solasta have since existed before the Cataclysm, and as such are one of the “virtually extinct/nonexistent” monsters of the setting in the same vein as lycanthropes are in Eberron or orcs are in Dark Sun.

The chapter wraps up with discussion on volcanoes and lava fields, but sadly there’s not much interesting to say about them that you can’t already imagine: hot, dangerous places where it’s hard to find potable water and food. The most interesting feature is that lava tubes are expansive networks home to orcs and other monsters, and are the most reliable method of safe travel and food sources in such regions.

Thoughts: Personally speaking this chapter is a bit too brief for my liking. While it does a good job in setting up a broad-picture view of the Badlands, I would’ve liked to have more specific examples of terrain and dungeons.

Thoughts So Far: I don’t really have any strong feelings on these two chapters as a whole. I do understand their specific regional focus, but Caer Cyflen feels rather skeletal as a described population center. Much of the meatier parts of the text focus on the Legacy Council’s factions instead, which is my favorite part. Due to this, the city feels more of a springboard to having exciting adventures elsewhere rather than a location in which to have adventures. Which then makes the section on the Badlands feel all the more odd, as it’s shorter than the city chapter.

Join us next time as we cover new options for PCs in Chapter 5: the Peoples of Solasta and Chapter 6: Classes!
 

Libertad

Hero
As a reminder, 5e dropped the idea that a Paladin needs a god. If you want to be a CG or CE pally find an oath that fits.

Thank you for pointing that out. I decied to change mention to "religious types" instead given that covers a broader focus.

Solasta does suffer from the common trope of "The really cool stuff happened in the past." But in contrast it does have an extensive amount of negative space to game with if you just want to play dungeon crawls without baggage, kind of like 4e's Nentir Vale setting.

The big advantage of having a world that explicitly wasn't created by gods, is that there doesn't need to be a god for everything, or even a god that covers any particular thing, which is another form of negative space to explore. The forge god could have been corrupted by by Sorr-Tarr, maybe they stayed behind on Tirmar to close the gate behind them, perhaps they were lost between the worlds, or they simply didn't catch on for whatever cultural reasons and wasted away to naught but a memory after the cataclysm. But either way the vacuum itself is what creates the story. What does it mean to have known gods in a religious setting, but work in a profession or otherwise live a life that isn't governed by them?

That is an interesting idea, although sadly the book doesn't really explore or touch on this.
 

bedir than

Full Moon Storyteller
Thank you for pointing that out. I decied to change mention to "religious types" instead given that covers a broader focus.



That is an interesting idea, although sadly the book doesn't really explore or touch on this.
I really like your review.
I'm considering the physical book, as I like to have a variety of content to pull from for my world
 

As a reminder, 5e dropped the idea that a Paladin needs a god. If you want to be a CG or CE pally find an oath that fits.
This isn't quite the case in the computer game. The computer game removed alignments half way through development. but paladins are required to select a deity (limited to Einar or Pakri I think). So you could play a chaotic evil paladin of Einar. Of course the computer game had very few real choices, so opportunities to be evil are limited.

The way I would handle this is to remove any vestige of the "one step rule", that was never really part of 5e anyway. There is no requirement that a worshiper should have a moral code that is in any way similar to their deity's (atheism doesn't seem to be a thing in the computer game, most characters worship one of the standard deities). The Solasta-specific paladin subclasses don't have a moral code attached.

This book hasn't been updated with the stuff on the Snow Alliance from the second expansion pack? That is a far more interesting setting than Masgarth and it's boringly generic capital city.
 

Weiley31

Legend
This book hasn't been updated with the stuff on the Snow Alliance from the second expansion pack? That is a far more interesting setting than Masgarth and it's boringly generic capital city.
Perhaps the 2nd Expansion would end up being its own book if they decide to release a second book for Solasta
 

Libertad

Hero
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Chapter 5: the Peoples of Solasta

Another short chapter, this section details the major groups of humanoids that call Solasta home. Despite being much less humanocentric than other settings, the vast majority of the population hews to the Tolkien classics in being humans, dwarves, elves, or halflings along with the subraces specifically listed here. Other races and subraces can be found but tend to be very rare. Which is unfortunate as the DLC for the game expanded options for dragonborn, gnomes, and tieflings, but they get no mention here.

Dwarves, elves, and halflings are all native to Solasta, with humans being the exception in having Tirmar as their ancestral homeland. It’s often believed that these four major races are strongly associated with one of the four elements: elves are associated with air, dwarves earth, and water for halflings given their predisposition for living on islands and in marshes. Humans are a matter of scholarly debate, as while sometimes placed alongside fire, their foreign origin speculates that their method of creation sits outside the evolution of Solasta. Sylvan elves maintain that there’s a fifth element known as wood. None of this has actual game effects or objective fact; elves aren’t better with air or wind magic, nor are halflings adept with water spells.

For existing OGL PHB options, we have humans, hill dwarves, high elves, half-elves, and half-orcs. In spite of its brevity this chapter has a lot of padding, repeating the game stats from the aforementioned base races and subraces and more or less going down the list of checkboxes for fantasy cliches: half-orcs are viewed as part-monster and treated badly by both human and orc society, hill dwarves are obsessed with family and tradition and innovators in mining, etc. In terms of flavor text, there’s honestly not much to say which would really make these new and existing races stand out that hasn’t already been covered in earlier chapters.

The new subraces include Sylvan Elves (like wood elves, but instead of increased speed and camouflage their gain proficiency in Athletics, Survival, and roll advantage on Survival for hunting and foraging), Snow Dwarves (+1 Dexterity, proficient in all crossbows, take less damage and auto-succeed vs cold damage and cold hazards and can cast Protection From Energy once per long rest vs cold), Marsh Halflings (+1 Constitution, darkvision 60 feet), and Island Halflings (+1 Charisma, proficient and expertise in Acrobatics).

Thoughts: The Sylvan Elf feels like a downgrade from the base Wood Elf, as that persistent 5 foot speed can make a lot of difference in combat. Snow Dwarf abilities are just too situational given that cold isn’t one of the most common damage types. As for the halflings, darkvision is boring yet practical, as halfling abilities strongly hew towards roguish pursuits but the base race’s lack of darkvision hinders them in this. Double proficiency with Acrobatics is a bit of an acquired taste, as besides broad feats of agility its most explicit use in the base rules is as an Athletics alternative for resisting grapples.

Chapter 6: Classes

Now we get to the most thorough chapter of the book, and what makes this version Revised given it incorporates subclasses from the video game DLC that wasn’t present in the original sourcebook. With each class gaining 3 new subclasses (save the Cleric which gets 6 and the Wizard getting 4), we have an awful lot of options here.

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Barbarians are common among hunter-gatherer and subsistence cultures, and the most well-known races who count them among their ranks are humans, snow dwarves, and marsh halflings.

The Path of the Claw are descendants of dragons who draw upon their heritage’s powers in battle, such as gaining a 30-foot breath weapon cone that can be used once per rage, adding bonus damage in line with their dragon element on melee attacks, and while raging gaining resistance to that damage type as well as adding their Rage Damage bonus to AC when not using a shield.

Path of the Magebane are those who passed down memories of the horrors of the Cataclysm and taught people that magic is a vile force that can destroy the world. Their features are explicitly designed to counter spellcasters, such as letting out an AoE battlecry as a reaction once per rage to grant advantage on saves vs spells to allies and deal psychic damage to enemies, impose disadvantage on concentration saves on a target they damage in melee, and as their capstone ability can dispel magic effects on a target like Dispel Magic by hitting them in melee. Including things that can’t otherwise be damaged, such as Cloudkill!

The Path of Stone is all about pushing one’s body to be able to survive anything and turns the Barbarian into a tank, such as gaining temporary hit points equal to their class level each turn when raging, can choose to add their Constitution modifier to saving throws instead of the normal ability score when they’d make a save, and gain cumulative +1 AC (maximium +4) for each enemy they’re adjacent to while raging.

Thoughts: Of the three subclasses, I think that the Claw is most appealing. Being able to deal elemental damage is useful for getting around damage resistances (and possibly exploit vulnerabilities), the AoE cone is a good multi-target option, and the AC bonus certainly doesn’t hurt either. Magebane is a bit too situational, as it’s explicitly against enemies that use spells vs anything vaguely magical, so its usefulness hinges greatly on what enemies the DM throws at you. Stone’s refreshing temporary hit points are good, but the problem is that it doesn’t really punish foes who can outmaneuver the Barbarian and go for their allies instead, which Path of the Ancestral Guardian is built to handle.

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Bards are common to all cultures, as everyone has one or more musical traditions. Various races and cultures prefer certain instruments, such as snow dwarves using throat-singing and mountain horns or high elves using operas and stringed instruments.

The College of Heroism lives to help others achieve their dreams rather than themselves, and the subclass makes heavy use of Bardic Inspiration. For example, allies can roll BI twice and choose which roll to use, they can still grant BI when they run out by opting to take psychic damage, can once per long rest give a nearby ally advantage on saves and immunity to frightened for 1 hour, and their capstone ability lets them once per long rest sing a concentration-based song where for the next minute they can spend their bonus action to grant nearby allies advantage on saves and resistance to all damage.

The College of Hope focuses on healing, such as letting those they grant BI to the ability to immediately spend Hit Dice to heal themselves or gain temporary hit points, gain bonus spells such as Prayer of Healing and Revivify, an effect similar to the Aid spell at the end of a short or long rest based on the roll of their BI, and as a capstone ability can restore a target reduced to 0 hit points up to half their hit point maximum as a reaction once per long rest.

Finally, the College of Tradition treats music as a scholarly field. Their initial abilities let them treat any Insight or Intimidation check of 9 or lower as a 10, and every time they have the opportunity to learn or replace a bard spell they can also choose from the wizard spell list. At 6th level once per rest as an action they can verbally castigate a target, and if they fail an Intelligence save they subtract a BI roll from any attack, ability check, save, or damage roll until the start of the bard’s next turn.* And their capstone ability lets them once per rest gain a free BI as a bonus action they can give to themselves and an ally and have the maximum result for the die.

*The Bard doesn’t have to spend BI in order to use this ability.

Thoughts: The College of Heroism is a welcome addition to any party. BI is a very useful thing given its broad applications, and being able to not only make it better but gain more uses in favor of taking damage can see a steady increase in higher rolls for when they matter. Hope isn’t as impressive, as healing in 5e is suboptimal to do except when outside combat, and as it mostly focuses on healing damage and doesn’t grant things like Raise Dead or Remove Curse they’re still shown up by Clerics, Paladins, and other dedicated healer types. Tradition’s focus on Insight and Intimidation generally aren’t as useful as Eloquence’s broader Deception and Persuasion. While Insight can be useful, Wisdom isn’t really a score the Bard class emphasizes. Gaining access to the Wizard spell list is really good, and the 6th level debuff is like a more powerful version of Eloquence’s Unsettling Words in that it can apply to multiple rolls, but it can be resisted by a save and comes in at higher level.

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Clerics originated among humans, but like bards can be found among all peoples now. Not everyone who works at a temple is even a cleric or spellcaster, such as guards, clerks, and the like.

The Battle Domain is associated with Einar and Misaye, reflecting those who know that arms must be taken up in order to live by their principles. Their domain spells focus heavily on buffs such as Haste and Stoneskin, but also includes the ever-useful Shield and Phantom Steed. They’re a front-loaded subclass, gaining proficiency with martial weapons and can use somatic and material components even when their hands are occupied by shields or weapons. Once per long rest they can also gain temporary hit points equal to 3 times their class level as a bonus action. Their other abilities include a smite that deals bonus force damage and can incapacitate a target on a failed Constitution save, Extra Attack at 8th level, granting a +1 to attack and damage rolls to themselves and allies within 10 feet, and can give their Channel Divinity a secondary AoE damaging effect.

The Elemental Domain is associated with Arun, representing the many facets of nature. Its bonus spells center around damage and battlefield control, such as Scorching Ray, Sleet Storm, and Control Water. At 1st level they can learn a bonus cantrip that deals fire/cold/lightning damage from any class’ spell list, and whenever they cast a spell that deals any kind of damage they can opt to change the type to one of the 3 aforementioned types. Their Channel Divinity is selected from one of three weather-based abilities, dealing 2d8 + Cleric level of an appropriate damage type along with a secondary effect on a failed save such as buffeting winds that can shove and knock prone targets. At higher levels they add their Wisdom modifier to cleric cantrip damage and gain improved uses of Channel Divinity, such as making a shield to grant immunity to an incoming elemental damage type and gaining temporary hit points equal to the damage they would’ve otherwise taken.

The Insight Domain is associated with Pakri, representing clerics who prioritize truth and the pursuit of knowledge. Their bonus spells are invariably divination in nature, such as Identify, Tongues, and Arcane Eye. At 1st level they gain proficiency in Insight and two Charisma skills, and have double proficiency in Insight. Their other initial ability lets them add their Wisdom modifier to Charisma checks provided that they spoke with the target they’re influencing for at least 1 minute. Their Channel Divinity lets them predict an opponent’s future attacks for 1 minute, imposing disadvantage on attack rolls against the Cleric and they can switch to a new target as a bonus action. At 6th level they become partial scouts, gaining permanent Detect Magic and Insivibility along with adding double proficiency to all checks for finding traps and hidden stuff. At 8th level they add Wisdom to cantrip damage and at 17th their Channel Divinity grants the Foresight spell for 1 minute instead.

The Law Domain is favored by Einar and Pakri, representing those who use the law to punish evil and exalt good. Their bonus spells are a broad variety with a few debuffs, such as See Invisibility, Counterspell, Hypnotic Pattern, Faithful Hound, and Geas. At 1st level they gain proficiency with martial weapons and double proficiency with Intimidation, and advantage on checks and saves vs forced movement and the prone condition. Their Channel Divinity lets them infuse a melee attack with bonus psychic damage that can frighten a target if they fail a Wisdom save. At 6th level they can force a creature concentrating on a spell to lose that concentration if they fail an Intelligence save a number of times per long rest equal to their Wisdom modifier, and at 8th and 14th level they add bonus force damage to weapon attacks. Their 17th level capstone lets them deal psychic damage and restrain a target for 1 minute, where the target takes damage each turn but has the ability to end it early if they succeed on a Wisdom save.

The Mischief Domain is Misaye’s purview, and its bonus spells focus heavily on illusion and deception such as Invisibility, Grease, Nondetection, and Confusion. At 1st level they can reroll a failed d20 result they don’t have disadvantage on a number of times per long rest equal to their Wisdom modifier, and can opt to go over this limit in exchange for suffering bad luck where the DM can give them disadvantage on one future roll per additional use until the next long rest. They also gain Vicious Mockery and proficiency in Deception or another roguish skill if they’re already proficient. Their Channel Divinity turns them invisible and imposes a random debuff on foes within 10 feet for 1 turn. At 6th level they can spend a reaction to gain a free use of Dodge and Disengage if they’re hit by a melee attack, add Wisdom to cantrip damage at 8th level, and at 17th level can spend a bonus action once per long rest to gain advantage on all d20 checks for 1 minute.

The Oblivion Domain is a reflection of Maraika’s darker aspects. Its bonus spells focus on necrotic damage and the quietness of death such as Cam Emotions, Sleep, and Banishment. At 1st level they learn Chill Touch, gain advantage on death saves and grant advantage to allies within 30 feet provided the Cleric remains conscious, and their Channel Divinity is an AoE attack dealing necrotic damage and causes foes to have disadvantage on attacks and ability checks for 1 minute (can make a new save each round to end it early). They also become immune to all forms of magical sleep, can remain awake during long rests, and magically awaken allies automatically when combat begins. At 6th level, a number of times per long rest equal to their Wisdom modifier, they can mark targets with curses that deal bonus damage equal to half their Cleric level whenever the target would take damage for the first time on their turn. At 8th level they add Wisdom to cantrip damage, and at 17th marked targets also have disadvantage on rolls relevant to one chosen ability score.

The Sun domain is associated with Arun, favored for its ability to make crops grow and being the bane of many sunlight-hating monsters. The bonus spells heavily focus on fire and radiant damage but also include related things such as Color Spray and Plant Growth. They learn the Sacred Flame and Light cantrips, and foes suffer disadvantage when saving against the former spell. Their Channel Divinity creates a 10 foot aura of fire that damages foes within, granting temporary hit points to friendly targets. At 6th level they can touch an ally as a bonus action and remove the Charmed, Frightened, or Incapacitated condition a number of times per long rest equal to their Wisdom modifier. At 8th level they add their Wisdom modifier to cantrip damage, and at 17th level they gain resistance to fire and radiant damage and can have spells dealing these types of damage to overflow and damage nearby targets for 2d8 beyond the originally affected.

Thoughts: When it comes to the subclasses, the Battle Cleric is extremely powerful. They can gain an awful lot of temporary hit points, and since they last until they’re gone or a long rest it effectively puts them on par with a Barbarian in terms of staying power. The ability to cast spells with their hands full is really good, and getting the Shield spell is helpful. The Elemental domain is focused around being blasty, and being able to change damage types of spells is nice. However, the three damage types they focus on have more enemies resistant to them than radiant (one of the common damage types for cleric spells), and in terms of being an offensive mage they’re still upshone by the Warlock with their nifty Eldritch Blast and short rest refresh on spell slots. Insight is nice for face builds in that 1 minute of conversation before rolling a check is a pretty generous window. As for being the party scout, the constant spells and double proficiency for searching is good, but as Clerics by default don’t get stuff like Invisibility or prioritize a high Dexterity they’re still not as good as Bards or Chain Warlocks with familiars for being sneaky casters. The Law domain is kind of a paladin-lite in using martial weapons and focusing on melee weapons, and making a caster lose concentration via a rather rare save of Intelligence is pretty good. However, the Battle cleric and paladins with smite are still overall better, and their 17th level capstone feels a bit underwhelming as single-target restrain is something far lower level spells can replicate. Mischief is front-loaded in that being able to reroll failed rolls is useful at all levels, but their Channel Divinity and Dodge-Disengage are more situational in when they’re optimal to trigger.

Oblivion isn’t very impressive given that necrotic is a commonly-resisted damage type in comparison to Light’s similar AoE, and while advantage on death saves is pretty good, a cleric with Healing Word is still easily able to have PCs avoid certain death. The immunity to magical sleep and awakening asleep allies is another situational use. As for the Sun domain, it’s inevitably going to be compared with the existing Light domain, and sadly it doesn’t measure up. Warding Flare and its improved version are a better option than being able to remove a limited number of conditions by touch, and their Channel Divinity is much shorter range and more or less requires the Cleric to be up close and personal with enemies in order to get the most out of its damage potential. Additionally, Light’s 17th level capstone imposing disadvantage on saves vs fire and radiant damage can deal a lot more potential damage than the 2d8 to secondary targets.

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The tradition of Druids originated among sylvan elves and marsh halflings, coming upon shared truths about the world in parallel development. Over time druidism spread to the rest of Solasta, for everyone could use an edge in surviving in nature.

The Circle of Balance are those who uphold the loving, harmonious side of nature and the cruel, violent side in equal measure. They can heal and uplift, or ravage and slay, when the situation demands it. Their bonus spells are a mixture of healing and necrotic damage, and whenever they use a spell to restore hit points they also heal an additional amount equal to half their druid level at the start of their next turn. At 6th level, targets who fail a save against their spells take necrotic damage equal to the druid’s proficiency bonus and can’t regain hit points for one round. At 10th level a number of times per long rest equal to their Proficiency Bonus, whenever another creature takes damage within 30 feet, the druid can spend a reaction to heal a different creature within 30 feet an amount equal to half the damage taken. At 14th level once per long rest they deal an AoE necrotic damaging attack to all hostile targets within 60 feet when they drop to 0 hit points, and regain health equal to the total damage dealt.

The Circle of the Kindred Spirit represents a druid who can summon a portion of their spirit into the world, taking the form of a mundane animal. At 2nd level they can spend uses of Wild Shape to summon a Kindred Spirit which has a stat block that improves with level on relevant aspects (hit points, proficiency bonus, attack and damage). In addition to halving telepathy with the druid as well as Pack Tactics, it more or less uses the rules for companion-based class features but takes actions independently of the druid’s. The druid takes 1d4 force damage per level if the Kindred Spirit is reduced to 0 hit points, so it can be risky to have it used as a meat shield even though that’s its primary purpose. At 6th level the Kindred Spirit’s attacks are magical, and whenever the druid casts a leveled spell the Kindred Spirit gains Temporary Hit points equal to half the druid level. At 10th level the Kindred Spirit can also attack twice per turn, and whenever it takes damage the Druid can spend a reaction to split the damage between themself and the spirit. At 14th level anyone the spirit attacks grants the druid advantage on attack rolls vs the target and the target takes disadvantage on saves, while in turn the spirit deals 2d8 bonus force damage on attacks on any target the druid cast a spell on. Finally, the spirit auto-succeeds vs any spells the druid casts unless the PC desires otherwise.

Circle of Winds represents druids who use air currents to reshape the flow of mana to heal the world after the Cataclysm. They are a mobility-based subclass, and their bonus spells are all wind and air related such as Feather Fall, Fly, Freedom of Movement, and Conjure (Minor) Elementals. At 2nd level they gain the benefits of short-term +10 feet to movement speed and Disengage whenever they cast a leveled spell. At 6th level they can use a bonus action a number of times per long rest equal to their Wisdom modifier to shelter allies within 30 feet via a nice breeze, granting themselves and allies advantage on all saves until the start of their next turn. At 10th level they can grant increased mobility to an ally after they cast a spell or cantrip, giving them +20 feet speed and they can also Disengage as a bonus action until the end of their turn. At 14th level the druid’s speed increases by 5 feet permanently, they gain +3 on initiative checks, and once per short or long rest they can choose to gain the immediate benefits of Freedom of Movement whenever they’d be grappled, paralyzed, or restrained against their will. Is there any other kind, really?

Thoughts: As I mentioned before, it’s hard to do a healer-focused subclass in 5e, but I think that the Circle of Balance manages to succeed on this for several reasons. The main reason is that it takes advantage of the action economy in a way that doesn’t interfere with most of the druid’s existing options and is tracked separately from spell slots. There’s not a lot of class features or spells that a druid can use with a reaction, and as the 10th level feature is congruent on a very common trigger in combat (anyone taking damage nearby), there’s hardly any penalty for using it vs something like spending an action and spell slot to cast Cure Wounds. The 14th level capstone is also nifty in that it grants the druid a nice AoE burst that avoids allies and immediately puts them back in the fight without any aid from their allies.

As for Kindred Spirit, it is competing with two other minion-focused subclasses: Spores and Wildfire. Wildfire’s minion has more going for it, with a fly speed immediately whereas Kindred needs to be at least 8th level, a variety of condition immunities, and it doesn’t punish the summoning druid with damage should it be slain. What Kindred Spirit has going for it are better AC and more hit points (10 + half your hit points vs Wildfire’s 5 + [5 x druid level]) along with damage.

Which brings us to Circle of Spores, which wins out over Spirit in terms of action economy and being meat shields. While the minions Spores can raise are individually not very powerful, they do a better job at putting themselves between the Druid and enemies in that there’s more of them on the battlefield rather than one minion. Additionally, the subclass grants the spell Animate Dead, which lets them create even more minions on top of what their subclass features normally give them.

Circle of Winds doesn’t really do it for me. A lot of their mobility-based bonus spells require concentration, forcing them to compete with other druid spells. And things like Fly and Expeditious Retreat are also competing with Wild Shape forms that are also speedy or can fly once the druid gains access to winged animals. As for its subclass features, only the group advantage on saves really stands out, as the uses of Disengage and bonus movement speed don’t last very long and are mostly best for kiting archer and sniper types who need to move away so that they don’t suffer disadvantage on ranged attacks. The 14th level capstone feature also feels unimpressive even if a bonus to initiative isn’t something to sneeze at; the prime features are reactive rather than active, and replicates the use of a spell they already got at lower level.

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Fighters can be found the world over, for there has always been a need for people able to injure and kill others, be it for mere survival or a greater cause.

The Commander represents those who lead the charge in battle, from military officers to charismatic partisans. Initially they gain proficiency in Intimidation and Persuasion (or from a small list of skills if they’re already proficient in one or both) and can choose to add their Strength modifier on top of Charisma when using such skills. They can also a number of times per long rest equal to their Constitution modifier give a Rousing Shout as a bonus action, granting nearby allies advantage on their next attack roll until the start of the Fighter’s next turn. At 7th level they can give up one attack from the Attack action to grant themselves or a nearby ally a free use of Dodge. At 10th level their Rousing Shout increases to 60 feet rather than 30 and also grants temporary hit points. At 15th level they can mark a target (no action required) whenever they hit one with a weapon attack, and until the start of their next turn the creature takes 1d6 additional damage whenever they’re hit with an attack. Their 18th level capstone lets them perform a Last Stand as a reaction once per long rest when they or an ally within 60 feet has fewer than 50% hit points remaining. This is a broad buff, granting them and allies +2 to attack, AC, saves, and don’t fall unconscious at 0 hit points. The Fighter risks exhaustion every turn they maintain this buff, with a progressively higher Constitution save, and it ends if they fall unconscious or die.

The Mountaineer is a post-Cataclysm martial tradition that arose out of people fighting monsters in the Badlands, Marches, and other dark corners of the world. Initially they can use shields as a 1d4 bludgeoning martial weapon, can shove or make an attack against opponents with shields as a bonus action, add a shield’s AC bonus to Dexterity saves vs single-target spells and harmful effects, and can spend reaction to take no damage vs such effects if they’d take half damage instead. They also can move through the space of creatures one size larger, and whenever they’d impose forced movement on a creature no more than one size larger they can swap places instead. At 7th level they gain additional +2 AC when in total cover (+7 AC total) or when next to a wall or other obstacle that can grant such cover. At 10th level a number of times per short or long rest equal to their Proficiency Bonus, anyone they hit with a shield suffers from mechanics identical to the Slow spell for one turn if they fail a Constitution save. At 15th level they can swap places with an adjacent target about to be hit by an attack and take the attack instead, and at 18th level their AC bonus for total cover/walls also grants +2 to attack rolls and applies when they’re adjacent to allies no more than one size smaller than them.

The Spellblade is an “I Can’t Believe It’s Not An Eldritch Knight” subclass, originating from the Manacalon Empire but now the Circle of Danantar are the most well known practitioners. It even has almost-identical spell slot and level progression. But unlike the Eldritch Knight, the wizard spells it can learn are broader, including the Conjuration, Enchantment, Evocation, and Transmutation schools. But no Abjuration, so bye-bye Shield! Initially they can treat any melee weapon as a spellcasting focus and perform somatic components with the weapon instead of a hand, and they ignore disadvantage on ranged spell attack rolls due to adjacent opponents. At 7th level they can imbue their weapon with energy whenever they cast a spell or cantrip with a casting time of 1 action, giving their weapon +1d10 bonus force damage on attacks until their next turn. At 10th level they automatically gain a number of temporary hit points equal to five times the level of a spell they cast. At 15th level they can change a spell with a casting time of 1 action to 1 bonus action once per short or long rest, and at 18th level they can spend a bonus action once per short or long rest to enter a dance-like stance for 1 minute, granting them a bonus equal on attacks, AC, and saves equal to the level of a spell they cast for 1 round.

Thoughts: More than the other subclasses, the Fighter subclasses are inevitably going to be compared to existing official options. The Commander to the “leader-like” Battlemaster maneuvers, and Spellblade to Eldritch Knight. First off, the Battlemaster maneuvers that do similar or equivalent effects (Distracting Strike for advantage on attack rolls, Rally for temporary hit points) are single-target, whereas the Commander’s features affect multiple allies. And like Maneuver Dice, the Commander’s non-capstone features also refresh on a short rest. So the Commander has the upper hand in being multi-target, but the Battlemaster has the advantage in that allies don’t have to stay close until the double-digit levels, as buff-based maneuvers have much more generous ranges like Rally’s “friendly creature who can see or hear you.” As for trading in attacks for Dodge, I can’t see this being as useful save for the Fighter using it on themself, and even then. The best defense in 5e is a good offense, and given that Fighters are great at mowing down enemies via damage, there’s not many times when I can see them giving up one or more attacks to make them and their allies harder to hit.

As for Mountaineer, it is good for sword and boarders via a shield shove or bonus attack, albeit that is partially replicating something an existing feat already does. As for the +2 AC from cover-based structures, by my reading it sounds like it can apply even when they’re not in total cover but merely adjacent to such a thing, meaning they can get this bonus when they are next to a wall but targets otherwise have unobstructed line of sight. I believe that’s how it worked in the video game. Otherwise, a lot of the abilities focus on situational things, like only being useful against foes within a certain size category.

Finally, the Spellbade. First off, being able to cast a spell with an occupied hand is great, for it makes sword and board gishes viable. Whereas the Eldritch Knight gains bonus action weapon attacks with a cantrip and eventually leveled spells, the Spellbade cannot typically attack and cast during the same turn. But +1d10 force damage can make up for this next turn, particularly when combined with Action Surge. They can attack-cast with leveled spells earlier than the Eldritch Knight (15 vs 18), but that is refreshed by rest rather than at-will. Gaining temporary hit points with leveled spells helps their staying power, and having a wider array of spell schools to choose from is also good. I’d rate them higher than the Eldritch Knight, but losing out on Abjuration hurts them.

This post is getting lengthy, so I’ll cover the rest of the subclasses in the next one.

Thoughts So Far: The chapter on races and subraces left me rather cold, particularly because they didn’t include discussions on the races added in the DLC, and also because the new subraces felt rather bland. As for the new subclasses covered so far, there’s a mixture that are both cool and practical, but also some that fall short of existing official options. Only the Battle Domain for Clerics feels overpowered to the point I’d take some heavy convincing to permit them in a campaign. It’s clear that a few of them were made to fill in the gaps for subclasses not OGL-friendly like the Sun Domain or Spellblade, but otherwise most feel original enough to have a unique place in the world.

Join us next time as we finish up character creation with the rest of Chapter 6 as well as Chapter 7: Backgrounds
 

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