Product: Secrets of the Sylvera Academy (Kickstarter)
Author: W. Adam Clarke
Publisher: Single Step Gaming
System: Dungeons & Dragons 5e
Summary: From the Kickstarter – The Secrets of the Sylvera Academy is a 5E Compatible source for new spells with new art, fiction, & EIGHTY NEW SPELLS levels C to 9
Pledge Tiers: From $5 up to $100
Kickstarter Ends: April 1, 2023
Author W. Adam Clarke of Single Step Gaming approached us with the offer to take a peek at a draft of his new supplement Secrets of the Sylvera Academy, now open for funding at Kickstarter. At the time of this writing, the project is fully funded (and approaching 300% funded). We agreed to take a look and write some thoughts about it – no requirements were made upon us to give a positive review.
What is it?
The summary is pretty self explanatory – at least 80 new spells for your D&D 5e, or compatible system, game. A number of stretch goals have already been hit and more spells are guaranteed. In addition to the spell crafting work by W. Adam Clarke, there are a number of artists and narrative writers lined up to provide original art and lore around the spells and the Academy. Clarke has over a decade of experience in the industry, so a great deal of thought and knowledge has gone into devising these new spells.
Included are some optional rules around Spellcaster Duels, which are a welcome and creative attempt to make caster duels more dynamic in 5e. The rules go well beyond the tired and limited Spell-Counterspell-CounterCounterspell rules we currently have. We haven’t tried them out, but it leans into opposing schools and the tried-and-true rock/paper/scissors/lizard/spock mechanics. Definitely something fun to play with in a high-magic setting.
What makes it good?
With the caveat that we’ve only seen an incomplete draft so far – there are a number of spells that seem like no-brainers once you’ve read them. As in, “Oh yeah, I can totally see a spellcaster doing that – why is this not already a thing?” It’s a good question, and it’s answered by this product. Among the cantrips we thought Flash and Eamon’s Open and Close were particularly useful spells, and the 3rd level Lost Without a Trace was inspired. There is plenty of creativity to be found in this grimoire.
The spell Haloras’ Knowledge of Other Lives, a 3rd level Divination spell, is one of the most fun spells we’ve seen in a while. We’d absolutely be memorizing or casting this one regularly. It allows the caster to break through the multiverse to learn a random ability (temporarily of course) from another instance of themselves. A really cool idea that could never disappoint a creative player. Among higher level spells, the 8th level Arcane Redirection and 9th level The Ending of All Things are standout entries.
Who doesn’t want more spells? Well, OK – 3rd party spellbooks do come with risks to your game. If they haven’t been play tested, or are poorly thought out, they definitely can completely overturn the balance and feel of your game. Always consult with your GM on bringing in new spells. Even some “official” WotC spells have issues, so it’s not unfair to be concerned.
That said, the spells in Secrets of the Sylvera Academy are not slapdash additions to the game. They’re crafted by an experienced designer, edited and playtested by experienced people. We, personally, feel the spells we’ve seen so far are balanced, useful and designed to fit in with the general ecosystem of the game without ruining it. A GM should feel pretty confident that dropping these spells into their game won’t break things, and a player should feel confident that their GM will give these spells a fair shake. We would absolutely allow these spells in our game.
And of course there is always the concern that a Kickstarter won’t fulfill – we’re still waiting on some from a decade ago! But we have high confidence on this one – it is digital fulfillment of a PDF, the draft we’ve seen is well over halfway done, and Clarke has been responsive and open to our questions and requests for clarifications. This is a professional operation.
What’s Yet to Come
While our draft copy came chock full of spells, we only saw a hint of lore. Much of it is still yet to come, and understandably so. This supplement is meant to fit into a campaign setting that Single Step gaming intends to release at a later date.
If you’re a spell collector, this is a pretty easy choice to back. For as low as $5 you get at least 80 quality spells to add to your game. They run the gamut from Cleric to Warlock. As a GM you can drop them into grimoires or academies to surprise and delight your players. As a player, you can use these to craft a unique spellcaster. Casting spells is one of the most fun things in a fantasy game, and this is just more opportunity to do that.
We’d be remiss to not mention the underlying cause this Kickstarter supports. From the Kickstarter post: All paid writers and artists on this project are Trans people, and all writers on this project set their own rates for their work. In addition, we expect about half of all stretch goals for the project to be for additional artwork and written segments, which again go entirely to Trans writers and artists. Further, once the project is finished and listed (the expectation being DriveThruRPG and/or Itchio currently) a portion of each sale will be donated to Trans Lifeline. We at Busy Wyvern applaud this – and will be very clear – Trans Rights are Human Rights. And we support Human Rights, period.