Nameia's Crimson Tome
by Stratos Fotakis
So for the most part I had a fun time reading this. Once I actually sat down and had gotten my other obligations out of the way I went through it pretty quickly. There was one bit that was less fun for me and I'll get into that late but overall it was a good time.
Two things before I get into my favorite subclasses, first I will not be talking about the balance of these classes. After some mind-numbing comparisons as far as I can see they are all pretty well balance and will instead be focusing on flavor and some of their abilities.
Second I just wanna say it's really easy to fall back on villainous tropes when it comes to individuals that practice some for of blood based ability but not every subclass has an evil bent. Sure they can be taken that way as with all things but some are more neutral or even good.
Druid Subclass: Circle of the Blood Court
There are two reasons I really like this subclass. First it gives Druid Circles the teeth I feel like for the most part is missing in the current options for Druid Circles. "Dabbling" in blood magic to protect nature gives me the same energy as a feral wolf protecting its cub.
The second reason is one of its abilities uses hit dice. Hit dice are deeply underrated and underused in the game. I've taken a stab at trying to give them more use but always fell flat so a subclass feature like this is perfect.
Paladin Subclass: Oath of Blood
So far there is only one Paladin, Oath of Conquest, that players can pick (technically two if you count the oathbreaker) that have an evil bent towards them. I really think that Paladins which are often associated with with good individuals need different subclasses that stray away from that so there is built in mechanics for it. I know that as far as roleplay goes any subclass can be evil but I like it to be there in the mechanics and lore of the class as well.
Warlock Subclass: Blood Lord Patron
I'm really just in love with warlocks. They are my favorite class and I love when they get cool shit, and this subclass is cool shit. While a Vampire Patron can technically fall under the Undying Warlock, it having its own subclass gives some much needed variety between the different types of Undying patrons. Some I really like is how this subclass starts to convey some of the undying nature of whatever Blood Lord you choose to the warlock.
Okay I like this spell but I have a problem with this spell. I am worried about the potential damage output at first level. So each round that the spell lasts the damage increases and if the spell lasts for 10 rounds that's 55d6 worth of damage at first level. Now of course most fights will be over long before that but a) for the fights that do last this is a very dangerous spell especially when you get to higher levels and b) from what I gather the average number of rounds for a fight is 4 - 5.
Let's air on the higher side of things and say 5 rounds. This spell can potentially do 10d6 worth of damage (average of 35 points) in a standard fight - which isn't as much damage as five burning hands, dissonant whispers, guiding bolt or inflict wounds, but you also have to consider the fact that it doesn't have the same cost as these other spells would if someone wanted to cast them repeatedly since it only uses on spell slot for a potential 10d6 points of necrotic damage.
LISTEN!! I love this spell and its counterpart, detect blood, because it's perfect for mystery/CSI type games. I played in a game where we were all detectives in a city and had to investigate crime scenes and I could have sworn there was a spell that let you rebuild a crime scene, turns out I was remembering a spell from one of the Sookie Stackhouse novels. I was very disappointed it didn't actually exist in the game along with the lack of other spells that could aide in that type of campaign so I am super excited to see some spells that fill that gap in the game.
Black Blood Armor
I love anything that utilizes hit dice! I've said it once in this review and I'll say it again they are underused and underrated and need more love and this spell does just that! Trade in some hit dice, you get temporary HP and the chance to poison someone if they hit you with a melee weapon attack. Pretty straight forward but awesome nonetheless.
I am a big Forgotten Realms lore buff, that is to say that I frequently watch youtubers that talk about the lore and one of my favorite youtubers, MrRhexx, talked about higher level spells that require multiple spellcasters to cast. Ever since then having collective rituals exist has been rolling around in the back of my mind but I never actually sat down to figure out how I would do it. Now I don't have to.
Create Greater Undead
Okay so the highest CR undead creature that can be created by individual spellcasters is a Ghoul (CR 1) using the 6th-level spell Create Undead. There are undead that go up to CR 28 so you can see that this is a pretty small section of what people are able to create. This spell bumps it up a bit and allows a group of people to create a number of Wights (CR 3). As far as content goes there isn't a lot that allows people to create different undead so anything that adds more variety, is a welcome addition to the game.
Summon Elder Elemental
I was the happiest to find this collective ritual within this book. In my current campaign the tier 3 BBEGis going to be a combination monster of four different elder elementals and even thought it's a ways off, my players are only 2nd level at this point, I still like to think about how this stuff will work in the future. This particular ritual solves 4/5 of my problem and it's very straight forward and easy to understand.
The Crimson Order
The crimson order is a secret cult of Haemnathuun, the Blood Lord, kept in the shadows, put together long ago from nobles looking to extend their power and influence. The Blood Lord (an elder-evil) was slain long ago by Bahamut, Bane, and Ioun, but his 1000’ long-dead body remains as a mass of bloodstone in the Astral Sea.
There are only whispers and rumors, being very careful with whom they approach to stay unknown. Most of the members belong to noble families, who strive from a young age to climb their way up to the Order's hierarchy. Its highest authority members are masters of the arcane, demonologists, battle tacticians or deadly assassins.
Okay so I was not expecting this order to be so multi-facet. Like there are a number of different people in the order and all of them feel like fully fleshed out and realized individuals. Like if I had to run any of them I could do it without having to come up with virtually anything. Also the responsibilities for the different members makes sense, and all of the ranks are distinctive and will offer a lot unique experiences for DMs and players alike.
Another thing that I think really sets this order apart from others that I've read in other products (official and third party) is that there is a whole ass traitor in the upper ranks!! Like what a fucking twist! I was legitimately not expecting that and it made the order all the better.
Armor of the Blackguard
While the benefits for this armor are pretty cool that isn't the reason why I like this item. One I think it has pretty good lore behind what it's made out of. The metals to create it are found in the Nine Hells and specifically were stolen from Mammon's Treasury which just opens up so many story opportunities. The first thing that comes to mind is a bounty hunter coming to claim the armor and whoever is wearing it to be put on trial in the Nine Hells. Two IT'S CURSED! I love a good cursed item especially for players that like to touch shit before getting it checked out.
This was a really enjoyable read from start to finish. There are definitely fugitives in here that I am not going to use because they aren’t really my style but nonetheless, I enjoyed reading about them. There are overlaps for crimes, but every story and fugitive are unique. Also each criminal comes with a content warning, which I really liked. Safety tools being practiced in products is only ever a good thing.
Vial of Sorcerous Lineage
I don't know what it is about the fact that consuming a beings essence (blood in this instance) gives someone permanent abilities but I just love it. As soon as I read it I knew I was gonna use it in my game. The abilities that come with it range from decent to really good as far as balance goes adding it to your game won't break anything.
I like the blood fiend a lot, depicted earlier in the article, because it answers the question "who hunts the monsters?" The way a vampire hunts humanoids a blood fiend hunts other fiends and can transform them the same way a vampire can a humanoid.
Before I begin talking about this monster I want to preface this with I know that not everyone has knowledge on this topic and that lack of knowledge does not make someone a bad person or even inherently racist. The big problem here is that there is a history of d&d as whole (older editions) misusing the wendigo and influencing current creators who don't have the knowldge of the creatures origins.
The way that we see wendigos portrayed in popular media is an example of cultural appropriation. It is often an example of "how non-Native people tend to simplify Indigenous beliefs and often strip them of cultural context in the process." There is a specific context in which wendigos are evoked by Native Americans, specifically the Algonquian people, that is stripped away by Western media. Here is a link on the topic for anyone that wants to read more about it.
There is a lot of racism, which cultural appropriation falls under, in D&D 5e and the older settings and it's important for creators of content, DMs and players to try their best not to contribute to that.
Aside from my issues with the use of the Wendigo, which I want to reiterate doesn't make the author a bad person or this product completely terrible, I really had a fun time reading through this and even if its just to cannibalize some of the mechanics or NPCs it's worth the money.