Originally announced and funded via Kickstarter last October, Planebreaker Path is the latest foray into the fifth edition of the rules for Dungeons & Dragons by Monte Cook Games. This time veteran J&D designers Bruce R. Cordell, Sean K. Reynolds, and Mr. Cook himself offer players and game masters the wonders of traversing different planes of existence, where time and reality can warp and bend to unexpected results. Divided into seven parts and just under 250 pages, twenty distinct planar locations join the titular Planebreaker itself to provide material that will allow you to launch a new campaign or insert those extradimensional spaces into an ongoing campaign as a pretty paradigm shift. And the strong Fifth Edition rule frameworks are naturally integrated into the locations featured here. These work well with the core of J&Dand that seems to fit very naturally with the number of people likely to play the game.
As one of the architects of the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons, Cook is no stranger to classic d20 fantasy or planar adventures. He was the author of 1996 on the planar theme Planeswalker’s Handbook for Advanced Dungeons and Dragonsas well as many other supplements for the enigmatic setting of Planescape (who J&D editor Wizards of the Coast has announced its return to his last presentation). To cookspear his own venture in 2012 with the acclaimed science fantasy futurescape by Numberingand Monte Cook Games has made a name for itself with mind-blowing titles like The strange, unseen sunand a suite of excellent settings and source material for its own RPG set rules, the encryption system.
Fans of the company’s games may have been skeptical of MCG creating another fifth edition book. But if this entry is anything to go by, the team has the right minds for the system and should definitely consider making more. And I say this as a fan of Cypher System.
The company has already jumped into fifth edition, with a set of books that help translate Numbering at J&Dthe formula d20 of , and the return of Ptolea home setting that served as the testbed for the third edition of the classic RPG. Planebreaker Path should also receive a Cypher System treatment next year for those of you who like to triple.
This is MCG’s 5th best book to date. Although it is much slimmer in its narrative offerings than the colossal re-release of Ptole it came out in 2021, i found it embedded the 5e mechanic in its prose much better than what was in previous MCG offerings Arcanum of the Ancients and under the monolith. It’s a supplement that’s a bit more valuable to a dungeon master than a player, and it’s more of a source of settings and locations, adventure hooks and characters than a collection of building blocks. player stats and mechanics.
The differences between the MCG Cypher System and the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons reflect the differences between free jazz and classical music. One favors improvisation with genre-infused concepts that don’t always have a clear expectation or outcome, while the other has more rigid rules and steps to follow with more expectations of tradition. The beauty of a tabletop role-playing game, however, is that it’s not strict definitions, and they operate on the hardware of the human mind. There are always ways to add more structure to a lightweight rule system and free up stiffer frameworks where it makes sense. That said, MCG has chosen to bring Planebreaker Path to gamers in the form of the fifth edition first. So how does it stack up?
I think some areas of this book could have included a bit more rules frameworks given the system this release is aiming for. If you want to expand what’s here over a long campaign, you might hit a few more monsters than what’s on offer here. I would like too seeing more NPC stat blocks. This book will go well with the three core books of J&D, The Player’s Handbook, The Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manualbut you could get by with just the 5th DTH, or systems reference document, if required. This is firmly a complement to the other Fifth Edition Core Rules, and a powerful one at that.
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While this may be outside the scope of the product MCG wanted to design, I found the fiction, which focuses on the comet-sized Planebreaker smashing through different planar realms, leaving a traversable path in its wake for the players and NPCs to follow, be intriguing enough to have an even wider scope, maybe something closer to enterprise scale Ptole. That said, the collection of unique spells, items, and feats really help make this a worthwhile 5e book. Also, the fact that it includes subclasses as opposed to new classes really makes it feel more appropriate for an existing campaign where players have already progressed through different class-based progression paths.
But for a book whose premise is focused on offering new locations and settings to an existing campaign, it excels. Solid 5e rulers are seamlessly integrated into the presentation. Bold fonts are used to indicate answers to critical questions 5e players are likely to ask. It’s here that Planebreaker Pathbefore even getting to the narrative content, really shines.
In Dungeons & Dragons, players are likely to engage with the world through its systems. Arcana and Perception test requests, casting detect magic or other spells, and feats and functions are likely to occur before free-form narrative description which aims for rhetorical style rather than mechanical substance. And Planebreaker Pathlike a tuning book, get this. The fiction here is truly great, but this book excels as a remarkably useful supplement that gives the answers to what happens when players cast a spell to learn more or roll the Arcana checks right into the prose itself.
Each of the 20 meatier planar locations in the second part of the book give DMs what to say to players pestering them with knowledge checks. You won’t be caught off guard when performing the game. And if you like to have more rhetoric and storytelling in your style, these helpful DCs will give you the grounding you need when the dice hit the table. The end of each planar location also contains player-based adventure hooks to consider.
Part Three has over two dozen additional aircraft, though these lack the detail pages that the showcases have in the previous section. Don’t worry, while these are mostly narrative frameworks to get you imagining possible worlds, you’ll also find suggested 5e standard rules when it seems most needed.
Globally, Planebreaker Path begs to fight your way through the ongoing 5e campaigns that wish to tear down the walls of the world and offer new horizons with a wondrous plot and well-designed maps for dungeon crawls that can be completed in maybe two sessions of a game. New options can help players expand existing characters with details you won’t get anywhere else. This book is excellent for theming and supporting a solid planar-themed campaign arc that has a lasting impact in the saga of your heroes and villains.
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