I was recently contacted by Mike Myler and given a sneak peak into his upcoming Mists of Akuma setting for 5e. It’s going to be released by Storm Bunny Studios, with the Kickstarter going live on April 29, 2016. Described as “Eastern Fantasy Noir Steampunk” for 5e D&D, this is a setting that absolutely drips with flavor.
“The year is 3466; monsoons have become more and more common since the roiling, demon-spewing Mists of Akuma first appeared, and the sun’s light grows duller with every day that passes after the end of the War of Kaiyo more than a century ago. A pall of darkness has fallen on Soburin and even its greatest heroes are mired in the petty intrigues and never-ending slights of aggressive clans. Spellswords and mercenaries cross the countryside in search of fortune, leaving the poor and meek to fend for themselves or die in the harsh reality of a broken world where technology has been either abandoned as heresy or perilously embraced.”
Full disclosure: I’ve never gamed in an “eastern setting”. My only experience is many readings of the old AD&D Oriental Adventures book, and a devoted watcher of Bruce Lee and Kung Fu Theatre on the USA Network in the ’80s. I did allow a few OA characters in my Greyhawk games back in the day, though.
So, pulling from that experience, Mists of Akuma hits all the right notes. Samurai, ninja, wu jen, hengeyokai and martial arts galore! The “steampunk noir” elements are evocative of Into the Badlands on AMC.
I’ve gotten to see several early documents. The Primer is a sneak of some setting specific backgrounds like the ronin and shinobi. Races such as the shikome and tanuki (anthropomorphic raccoon dogs).
The two class archetypes are excellent, the paladin Samurai sacred oath, and the wu jen warlock.
The flavor suggestions on the wu jen is great, such as this from the Summer Patron:
Pact of the Tome. Your Book of Shadows might be a crimson red tome with a gold engravings of fire that is always warm to the touch no matter how cold the environment around it is.”
The Autumn, Spring and Winter are just as evocative.
EnWorld has done a nice preview of the Martial Arts section. Overall I really like the flavor and imagery of the martial arts. It is feat driven, and in the raw playtest document that I got to peek at provides a monk martial arts monastic tradition that pretty much gives you additional martial art feats as class abilities, including the ability to use more than one stance at a time.
Making these available as feats allows all classes to dabble in martial arts. Rogues and fighters, with their additional feats will really be able to be fleshed out as ninjas and bushi, and the martial arts monastic tradition monk will really shine.
Of course, no eastern setting would be complete without the Imperial Dragons!
Here’s what the setting contains, according to the quick primer they sent me.
Like I’ve said, I’ve gotten a sneak peak of a 44-page playtest document as well that provides a really nice collection of all the crunch mentioned above, and really only hints at the setting. Still, a lot of great inferences can be gleaned and I’ve gotten a pretty good feel of what’s to come.
There are a few things that I’m not a huge fan of. Many of the feats have ability score requirements, which is different from core 5e. I can see the reasoning behind the prerequisites, but it is a break from the base rules. While other feats are class specific (for the wu jen). Maybe these could be worked in as wu jen options instead of taken as a feat? They are reminiscent of racial feats that WoTC has introduced, but I don’t like them either.
I do like the steampunk vibe, but I’m not 100% sold on the implementation that I’ve seen. These are from the playtest, and are still rough at this point. The tsukumogami I find a bit weird. These are normal objects that on their 100th birthday can animate and become aware. I know these are from Japanese folklore, but even in their mythic sources I find them strange.
They also include a variety of “cyborg like” enhancements (my words, not Mike Myler’s). Base rules, but not to much to them at this point. James Introcaso has an excellent system for bioorganic items for his Exploration Age campaign setting that I feel is absolutely brilliant on this point.
Overall, I do really like what I see here. The art and layout that I’ve seen is gorgeous and evocative. It hits all of my “Eastern Grognard” checkmarks on what I would like to see, as well as the post-apocalyptic pseudo-magicitech that I like and want to bring forth in my own Eska setting. I eagerly anticipate the upcoming April 29th, 2016 Kickstarter, and can’t wait to see more.