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Sora Esma's Tome of Urban Legends: 13 Across Eberron Folktales $9.95 $8.96
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Kanga K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/30/2020 15:24:51

I'm ecstatic to see another high quality release from the Across Eberron team. These urban legends stand out from the rest of their releases, which shows an incredible display of flexibility and range from the designers and editors involved.

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I've personally been anticipating this release for months now, but I was pleasantly surprised by what was included. As far as I'd understood it, this project was going to be a list of urban legends, folk tales, and the like from the setting of Eberron. That's definitely included, but the bulk of the work itself is primarily stat blocks by page count. However, don't underestimate them. Most of the stat blocks are huge, taking up entire pages by themselves, and are a great example of a product that tells its story through its mechanics - something that's very rare to see in 5e design. It's worth noting the layout work here: none of the statblocks awkwardly overlap onto other pages, and most of them are accompanied by great pieces of art that accentuate the themes going along with them.

Speaking of the art, this is a major selling point of the product. Of course, there are folk tales - but there are also lovingly-crafted pieces of work for every single major tale, and several for the specific statblocks. It's harder to find pages that lack illustrations than pages that have them, and they're not just haphazard or ill-fitting; all of them match and emphasize the tension and suspense (or sometimes, even levity) that the stories bring.

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So, why get this supplement? To me, it comes down to three major factors: the stories, the stat blocks, and finally the art.

The stories themselves fit perfectly into Eberron. Jarrod Taylor's love of the setting really shines through as the stories touch on almost all parts of the world, from the Basura Swamp in Q'barra to the streets of Little Graywall in Droaam, to even the (former) palaces of Metrol in what is now the Mournland. Most of the stories do, however, center on Khorvaire - that being said, some do explicitly mention Xen'drik or Sarlona, and could be integrated in further locales. They range from suspenseful to downright scary and even a little funny; there's definitely a tale for every table. The only problem is that they are fairly short - as a general rule, about 1-2 paragraphs per cryptid, just enough to get you the general idea but not exactly a whole story in and of itself. For the length of the supplement, that's pretty understandable, but it's important to note that if you do want a whole story for Malleon's Despot, you'll have to write it yourself.

That being said, the narrative is where the stat blocks come in. Throw away any preconceptions of Monster Manual statblocks you have; this supplement tips that design idea on its head, and instead presents HUGE statblocks that are mostly a whole page, to show you the story of these legends. It accomplishes this in a few ways, primarily with unique and quirky Actions and Legendary Actions that characterize even the most basic of the statblocks. A prime example is the Expeditious Escort, a terrifying Orien conductor-construct who attacks you with its "Ticket Ripper" attack. Each statblock also includes a perfectly storybook "Weakness," which is a major factor in how GMs would foreshadow the creatures and tell these tales to the players.

While the mechanical design is imaginative - for example, one of the Baker's spells are described not as "at-will spells" but as "limitless desserts" - it is probably one of the largest stumbling blocks of the whole work. In some cases, like the one mentioned above, some level of clarity is lost for narrative and flavor. With that said, problems are very relative, and most of the stat blocks do not suffer from this issue; as a general whole, it is almost unnoticeable. Given the aim of the supplement - to create very narrative encounters - it might not matter at all, so this is more of an aside. What is not minor, though, is how seamlessly and well-integrated the next part of the supplement is with the narrative and the statblocks.

I am of course talking about the art. As I mentioned earlier, it's harder to find pages WITHOUT art than with art in this supplement, and what's even more amazing is that all of the pieces included tie in so well to the themes of the page and the stories being told. Again, just like the stories and creatures themselves, it can vary from cute, cartoon-like art (as for the Littlest Overlord) to images that are legitimately scary (like the Mask of Metrol). While some pieces might be familiar to frequent DMsG users, many are unique and new, to the point where I was legitimately surprised how many new pieces of art exist for this supplement alone.

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As a final verdict, this product absolutely succeeds at delivering great storytelling opportunities with memorable and unique characters. It breathes life into the setting and gives tools to the GM to make engaging encounters that are full of narrative consequence and entertaining payoffs. It doesn't matter what season it is, buy this, it will be an amazing boon for you and your Eberron.



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Sora Esma's Tome of Urban Legends: 13 Across Eberron Folktales
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