Welcome to the Wednesday Review! This week I’m taking a look at Myriad, City of Tiers by Alan Tucker. This product is a huge 58 pages of content set in and around Myriad, and city of Alan’s own creation which could be set in the Forgotten Realms, Eberron or your own homebrew world. Myriad is a city that is entirely reliant on magic, as are its inhabitants. The product contains a bunch of new player options for the setting, a whole bunch of lore related to the locations and NPCs plus an adventure, and a handful of useful appendices. Because of the sheer size of this product, I’m going to be taking a more cursory look at and review.
Currently, Myriad, City of Tiers is available on the DMsGuild for $9.95. It has three reviews and ratings, all of which are 5 stars. The product comes in two forms – a print friendly version which is 105 pages long, or the interactive, hyperlinked version designed for digital viewing (which I’m working from) that is 58 pages long.
For those of you who’ve not read my reviews before, I use a trinity of qualities to review products, which are Design, Writing & Production. Design here will focus on the narrative of the adventure, as well as any mechanics presented. Writing is more about the style of writing than it’s content, namely how interesting, well-edited and comprehensive it is. Production focuses on layout and artwork primarily, but also the flow of the document.
Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary copy of this product but that doesn’t mean I won’t be honest with my opinions.
Myriad, City of Tiers provides one new druid circle with four associated monsters, two backgrounds linked to the setting, three feats including a new (to me at least) mechanic called fade, five spells and two new magic items. All of these options have synergy with the setting, and help to give an idea about the sort of people and things that one would see in Myriad.
The Circle of the Elemental and it’s associated minor elemental monsters is/are well balanced, but still competitive against other options presented in the core books. It is hugely flavourful and, due to its construction, is almost like four subclasses in one. Because you choose an elemental affinity within the subclass itself, this druid circle has serious replayability. The backgrounds are flavourful and help to paint a picture of what life in Myriadis like. This makes them useful for both players and DMs, as their features and themes can be added to NPCs with minimal effort. The feats too give you a small snapshot of the themes of the setting. They are well balanced and competitive choices when taken relative to those in the Player’s Handbook, and I think they cover new ground rather than being variations on already written material. The same can be said for the spells and magic items, all of which add to the feel of the setting, and are highly unique.
Design: 5/5 To me, player options that are not well designed and balanced stick out like a sore thumb. It can be tempting to make classes, spells and feats that blow the official material out of the water, and abuse the mechanics of the game. It takes great design chops to make considered, balanced work like that which is presented in this supplement.
Writing: 5/5 I can’t fault the writing in this product. I’ve not had to reread anything to get a full understanding of what it meant. Mechanics text is clear and to the point. Flavour text is evocative and fitting, and never drags. The writing of mechanics matches almost exactly the official style, making the whole project seem highly professional.
Production: 5/5 The digital document of Myriad, City of Tiers is a delight. The layout is landscape, with a hyperlinked contents down the left side which allows you to navigate throughout with ease. I never thought I’d like this type of layout, but I’m eating my hat here. The production style closely matches that of WotC and there is colour artwork on almost every page. Although the art is stock, it is well chosen for the most part, and makes the document great on the eyes.
Overview & History
This part of the product is essentially a setting book. The author has been quite clever here in terms of bending the ToC’s of the DMsGuild by creating the city of Myriad in a pocket dimension of the Forgotten Realms, thus kind of creating his own setting without breaking any rules. Myriad is a city that thrives on magic, and the descriptions of its history and more day to day life make this abundantly clear. This section includes a timeline and description of the cities’ history over the thousand or so years since Myriad was founded. If you need to run Myriad in a shorter space of time, the author has also included a summary of the important points at the beginning of the chapter, which gives a comprehensive starting look at the city.
In the beginning of Myriad’s history, the city was send to the pocket dimension by Ophandra the mage, who managed to create a protective crystal of extraordinary power. Once in the safety of its own dimension, the city grew to become more inclusive of the various deities of the Forgotten Realms, and their temples sprung up throughout the Common Tier. Over the next hundred years, the city became more reliant on magical, specifically the conjured elementals that the wizards used to power the Crystal of Ophandra, as well as the magical technology of everyday life. Two new varieties of spellcaster; sorcerers and wizards, also emerged during this time, leading to political tension between the casting groups. Eventually, this tension manifested after a magical disaster caused by a young sorcerer. The wizards saw it best to begin branding sorcerers, leading them to become known as the “Star-Marked”. After this, a new empire called The Emergence was founded beneath the city to give those dissatisfied with Myriad a place to escape. In present day, the magical walls around Myriad have finally been lowered, if only slightly, to allow limited mixing with folk from the outside world.
Design: 5/5 The narrative of the history of Myriad is compelling, and I doubt many will be able to stop after reading the brief synopsis.
Writing: 5/5 This section of the product truly reads like a novel, but in a good way. It’s actually quite the page turner!
Production: 5/5 As before, the production quality is superb. There is plentiful art throughout, and the hyperlinking within the documents makes navigation easy.
Factions & NPCs
After the lore of the setting, we’re given some NPCs who can populate the place including spellcasters, merchants and other important operatives within the city, including the leader of ‘The Shroud’ – Myriad’s thieves’ guild. Each of these NPCs has a detailed description of their physical appearance as well as the role they play within Myriad, and even within the adventure itself to a lesser extent. We also get portraits for each of these NPCs in more of a sketch style. The NPC section concludes with a diagram designed to help you understand the connections between characters and their alignments. I’m not sure if I find this useful or not. I think the colour coding is useful, but I’m not sure I find the alignment axis that helpful.
We also get a map of Myriad here with further explanation of the tiers of the city as well as the important locations within. The description of the map references back to the history in the previous section, making sure we’re constantly weaving a picture of the various aspects of the city together in our minds. This works well, and by this point in the product, it really feels like you could start running a game in Myriad.
Design: 5/5 Again, the narrative here is well crafted, and the interplay between various factions and NPCs is complex enough to keep new plot ideas springing up in your mind, but not so complex as to bog you down.
Writing: 5/5 As above, this sections continuous to feel like a work of fantasy literature. I have no doubt that people would want to run a game, and perhaps even read a novel, that occurs in this setting.
Production: 5/5 The added touch of a portrait for each NPC really sets this up as a high quality section. There is some mild clashing of styles between the painted artwork and sketched portraits, but the fact that money has been invested to create them in the first place absolves any minor art coherence issues.
The adventure opens with a fully hyperlinked, colour coordinated and shape-based flowchart. It sounds complex, but it’s actually remarkably intuitive. Just by taking a cursory glance over the diagram you can get an idea of what the adventure is likely to look like for your group, and you could use the chart as a quick reference should you ever become confused about what’s supposed to happen next. This kind of innovative design is great to see and, while it’s not necessary for a great adventure, will certainly help a DM run this to full effect.
The adventure begins with the characters flying into Myriad on an airship with a handful of other visitors, some of whom are not who they seem. When the characters dock, they are inspected by customs officers whose anti-magic field sets off a planted distraction in the characters’ packs. Depending on the actions of the characters here, their adventure can go in a number of different directions. Because of the sandbox nature of this adventure, it’s going to be hard to follow through a review of one narrative and get an all-encompassing look at the adventure. Instead, I’m going to pick out a few highlights.
In ‘From the Depths’ the characters visit a tavern named The Blind Minstrel where they are attacked by a rogue water elemental that has accumulated new matter within the sewers of the city. The encounter gives the characters a chance for some combat in this roleplay-heavy adventure, and also sets up a meeting with Arlon the Highest, ruler of Myriad and Prime Seeker Dolan Keerig, two of the major NPCs in Myriad and plot drivers in the adventure.
In ‘Items of Note and Interest’ the characters get the chance to truly explore Myriad and interact with the people and places it has to offer. This provides potentially dozens of great roleplaying opportunities, and immerses characters in the setting of Myriad. This particular piece is also like a primer for Myriad, and gives examples of the sort of things characters might come to discover about the place. The whole thing continues to set up this incredible picture of the city of Myriad, and encourages the characters to really get stuck in. Appendix A can really help you out here, as it is packed full of relevant NPCs that could be found in Myriad.
In ‘Everything is a Commodity, Including People’ the characters are sent beneath the city to break up a slavery network growing food in magically lit caverns. The ring is facilitated by the church of Bane. This presents characters with a quandary; do they free the slaves to the detriment of the city? This evocative location is filled with devils and the clergy of Bane, and should make not only for an ethics test but also some interesting combat.
In ‘Crystal Keep’, the characters come to the finale of the adventure, and face off against the true protagonist; the Crystal of Ophandra. The villain alone is interesting enough to carry the whole encounter series, but the design of the Crystal Keep and the discoveries within also enhance the whole experience. Fighting a sentient crystal and its elemental creations is something no party will forget in a hurry!
I’m going to lump in ‘Myriad Emerged’ here, which is a rundown of how the actions of the party influence life in Myriad once they have finished the provided storyline. The writing here is clear and concise, allowing you to quickly and easy determine the outcomes of the characters’ actions. We’re also provided with several new plot hooks to keep the campaign in Myriad alive. I have no doubt that we’ll see more adventures in this setting by the author!
Design: 5/5 Although the story weaves a lot depending on the characters actions, we are kept grounded at all times by the hyperlinked buttons throughout which almost turn this into a choose your own adventure book! The simple tricks works wonders to keep you on track.
Writing: 5/5 All the read aloud text and descriptions are well crafted and expressive, without becoming verbose. The mechanical and encounter text is easy to understand, making the DMs life a lot easier. Although in some sections there is a lot of text, a good read in advance of the session will do a lot to help DMs run the adventure to its full potential.
Production: 5/5 Hyperlinked plot advancement, colour artwork and maps, sidebars and read aloud boxes. Need I say more? The only thing that could boost this higher would be the inclusion of more custom art, but it’s already worthy of a 5.
Conclusion – 5/5
This is an incredible product. The production quality is highly professional, the writing is marvellous, and the adventure design is innovative and engaging. The setting itself is unique and detailed enough to provide session after session of incredible content. My biggest concern about the product is the relatively poor diversity of NPCs. Sure they’re all NPCs, but almost all of them are white. Diversity key to the growth and success of the industry, and we should all aspire to be more inclusive in our works. That said, if you’re looking for a new setting, an adventure with buckets of player agency, or simply a beautifully designed product, then this is the choice for you!
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