I was provided a free copy of Deep Magic: Alkemancy by Kobold Press, and for the past few weeks I’ve been reviewing it. If you haven’t seen my previous articles, please check those out first, then come back to this. Today, we’re embracing RPG materialism and talking all about items!
Alkemancy magic items
Alchemically-themed magic items are a really nifty concept. The notion of combining potions with items and enchantments is really cool, and it slides cleanly into my personal favorite fantasy genre: arcanepunk!
That being said, this idea was reserved for nonmagical items. The magic items, by contrast, were different potions. These fill the ranks of potions that feel woefully absent in the main game.
When it comes to the magic items in this supplement, there’s nothing wacky or ridiculously out of the box, if you’re familiar with fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. In fact, most of the magic items — almost all potions — just make sense in the context of D&D. For example, ever wonder about the mysterious liquid mind flayers extract from spellcasters ? That stuff is called Brain Juice, and this supplement codifies why the mind flayers want it.
There’s also mechanics for a special sort of metling pot that lets players extract magical essence from magic items to enable repurposing, much as we saw as being prevalent in fourth edition D&D. There are more potions than these, but these two magic items were my favorites.
When it comes to balance, judging potion balance is always tricky, as I mentioned in previous articles, and a lot of this stems from the notion that there’s just so little support for potions in the base game. As it stands, there are a few potions that do interesting things, but each one is so isolated in its uses it feels like each exists in a vacuum. Furthermore, while spells and spellcasting are codified with numbers that can be mathed out, the main method of categorizing magic items is through subjective language: rare, very rare, legendary, etc.
Further muddying this balance comparison is these magic items span groups of levels, as opposed to a single level. I’m not saying I dislike that by any means, but I am saying it makes it hard to quantify balance when it comes to magic items, especially consumable magic items no longer accessible once they’ve been used a single time.
Mundane alchemical items
The non-magic items are really clever in this supplement. While I would grouse about the extremely limited number of non-magic items, I also think that’s a bit of a testament to how flavorful and fun these items are.
The hyperdermic arrow may be the most cartoonish, but it’s also my favorite. It’s strange, because this one in particular feels the most distant from the setting it’s supposed to support (Midgard), but I still love it. The notion of a syringe as an arrow tip is absolutely brilliant, and it hits a lot of animé vibes for me.
So, what are my overall thoughts? You can find a more detailed overarching review on my YouTube channel.
Deep Magic: Alkemancy is an absolutely evocative supplement. Is it flawed? Yes. Is it weird? You bet! Does it fill a creative niche at a fantastically affordable price? Absolutely.
Overall, if I were using a star system of rating, I would give this a 3/5. It’s solid. It’s fun, and even the weaknesses I presented provide an excellent framework for a little home balancing and allowance for some epic moments.
You can pick up your own copy of Deep Magic: Alkemancy here.