Friday, October 22, 2021
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Review: Arcana of the Ancients

Arcana of the Ancients is a Kickstarter project from MonteCook Games which is designed to bring the acclaimed Cypher-system campaign world of Numenera to 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons.

This is a different type of product – a bolt-on supplement to the Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide and Monsters Manual – that brings science-fantasy to your traditional Dungeons and Dragons game.

Within its covers the book contains:

  • numerous magical-item equivalents called cyphers (limited use item like a spell scroll), relics (technological equipment), and ironflesh (bionic implants) for you to use in the game.
  • monsters including ones you could drop in your fantasy game and no-one would know to creatures, half organic half mechanical, and creatures that are straight out of a Hollywood special effects department for the creatively weird.
  • GM advice on how to introduce science fantasy to a traditional fantasy game including how science and technology works compared to magic.
  • three adventures: one for 3rd level characters and two for 4th level.

The art is fantastic and worth the price alone.

Artwork to support the science fantasy theme is outstanding

The order in which the material is presented is initially off-putting with the book commencing with the 3rd level adventure followed by a chapter on cyphers and other items.

Its not until you reach page 250 you reach the information that explains to GMs what the book is encouraging and facilitating and how you should use it. People with hardcopies from Monte Cook Game rave about the colour coding in the physical text to help you find the material you want but when you are navigating by PDF only the order of contents is off-putting and it was nearly a year before I felt like delving into the material after being baffled by it.

Once you overcome this the contents in this book is very useful, and whilst I am biased towards a fantasy game I can see myself introducing this world into my game as small element in a longer campaign arc – and certainly as an alternative to voyaging in a different plane within the Dungeons and Dragons multi-verse.

If you were thinking of running a Githyanki themed campaign making the Gith world science-fantasy styled using the contents in this book is certainly something you can do, as your players just create and run characters as they know them – you are just adding little bits more in digestible chucks during gameplay.

Nope its a scifi twist on the fantasy creature you are likely thinking of

Arcana of the Ancients is a great mashup between traditional fantasy and pure science fiction for 5e. Montee Cook have created material in 5e to support this title but you can happily purchase and use lore from Numenera (such as the 9th World Guidebook) just fine.




Once you discover that the material to make sense of this book commences on page 250 you will discover you have a tome that will allow you to take your party firmly and confidently into the world of Science-Fantasy. The years of developing Numenera for the Cypher System have ensured that this book is the best pathway into this role playing theme for 5e.