Planebreaker: Review

Planebreaker has a really exciting pitch, something Monte Cook Games excels at. A cursed moon blasting through the multiverse, ripping holes in reality, allowing travel across not only the planes themselves, but any and all dimensions.

TM and © 2022 Monte Cook Games, LLC.

This fits the vibe for their Numenera and general Cypher system settings pretty well, with the idea of multiple realities that are similar, but not quite the same, allowing them to use the same game engine to power a steampunk mystery and a swords and sandals hack and slash. That said, Planebreaker is written out for 5e, which is great for me, as I’ve not been able to break the home group on trying out Cypher just yet.

Planebreaker is written in a style I wish more supplements were. You start with what is kind of an adventure path. It outlines what the planebreaker is, how it operates, and what challenges that may cause. It’s more of a scenario than true AP, which is great for me, since I find most APs pretty contrived once you get into them. There’s always the sense of “well we go this way because it’s what the module says and the DM bought the module so here we are” whereas in reality, your PCs would go off and become pirates or join the antagonists because their theoretical allies are actually in the wrong, or whatever. Then, it gives some planar locations. About 100 pages worth of them. Then we get the obligatory monsters and finally 20 pages or so of player options. What this approach does, is put all the tools in the sandbox for the DM to design an interesting arc that they know their players will dig into. Even nicer, in this specific supplement, it’s designed so I can insert it into whatever game I happen to be running. Forgotten Realms intrigue in Waterdeep? Meteor moon blasts overhead and we can get planehopping. Homebrew hexcrawl? Meteor. Spelljammer? Meteor. Shadowrun 3e game? Meteor. Gritty, realistic, war sim of the Battle of the Bulge? Meteor. This book’s easy to insert into whatever you’re running, and whatever your favorite game is. That’s a big boon for a book that occupies precious shelf space at your house.

The location chapters are great. These are the 100 or so pages, that describe 19 planar locations your PCs might go to. Each one is really well done, and makes for a cool NPC that you may want to battle, may Want to ally with, and may Have to ally with. They give you maps and encounters and such, so you can bash down the door and dungeon crawl if you want, but it’s not presented as the only option, or even the best option. I particularly like the first one, the Citadel of the Fate Eater. It features one of my favorite demons, the criminally underused mariliths, with a unique power, tragic backstory, and evil goals. You can go battle her if you want, but she could also be an ally who helps the PCs, or a future BBEG. If left alone, she doesn’t even really have much motivation to hunt out and battle the PCs, which is always a fun twist when the players encounter a demon. If you wanted though, her period of mourning could end, and she could be resuming her demonic plans for conquest, making her a direct threat once again. I could just flip through each chapter, and write up a similar paragraph, but they really are all genuinely usable as is. I’m probably going to be using a lot of these, even if I don’t use the moon in every game. Normally, in a setting book, I’m blocking out huge parts and ignoring them. In general, Planebreaker found a really great balance of enough information, without flooding me with stuff to skip because its not relevent to my game.

Under player options, things start to pull back in coolness. We get three varieties of humans who are a little different. One with magic map tattoos, one that shapeshift, and one with magic floating symbols. The shapeshifter one is probably the coolest, letting you rotate through other humanoid races at will, provided you eat some of their hair. You lose out on special knowledge stuff they may have had, like languages, but get other stuff. You’ll probably have to debate your DM a lot to determine if you get stonecunning or not, but of the three, this is the coolest option. The Inkarnate, symbol people, remind me a lot of 3.5’s Illumian’s, so much so that I had to check the authors (Monte, Bruce and SKR wrote a lot of 3e, but David Noonan gets credit for Races of Destiny). This incarnation is cooler, but I’m still not sold.

In subclasses, we see a return of the 3e design mantra “Fighters Can’t Have Nice Things”. Everyone else gets something awesome, just not fighters. The Chaos Blade Fighter subclass suffers from a classic “cool concept but terrified of power” design. Their 3rd level thing lets them summon a magic weapon, made of chaos. While cool, it’s not standing up in power to summoning echos, casting spells, or weird fighting magic. A fighter gets a sword for free, and this isn’t really doing anything special, aside from being summonable. Its a shame, because I want to pick cool stuff, but also not suck when a fight breaks out. At level 7 you can fly once per short rest for a turn, and by 10th level you can get some +1s to AC and resistance to damage, before your game falls apart because Jim’s hours changed for work and the game goes on hiatus. After the fighter subclass, we see things step back up. We get a cool planeswalker cleric domain “The Multiverse Domain”, bringing the new spells in the book into use. It also gives you the ability to just sort of teleport your party to the Planebreaker. Which is a really nice way to facilitate a party using the book like Gateway or something. Its also a good way for a cleric player to tie themselves to the metaplot. Or if your DM isn’t paying attention to options you pick, I guess you could derail the plot and take everyone to the Planebreaker without the DM having prepped for a space-multiversal meteor. Rogues get a really fun class, that gives them the ability to animate their shadow as a friend and have it do stuff for them like lift things, hide things, stab things, and whatnot. Very cool. Lastly, wizards get a cool crow familiar, and some spooky no face magic powers. They probably aren’t the most powerful of all wizard subclasses, but you could do worse. You get a spooky special crow familiar, a weird mask you can wear to cast spells that gives darkvision, resistance, and can wipe other people’s faces away. It’s flavorful, and a viable life choice.

Overall, Planebreaker is my kind of book. We get some new player options, a ton of cool evocative locations, and a neat story arc to add to your game. In my opinion, the meat for why you get this one are planar locations. Each one really is exciting and interesting, without being contrived, or hyper specific to the authors’ home games and of no use to other DMs. I highly recommend you check it out.

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