Resource Review: Enhanced Focuses (Tyson VanOverhill): 4 Stars
A vine crept up Selvas’s arm, binding itself to her, before raising a dirt-covered root ball and placing it in her hand. The wind whispered in her ear, “Thank you, my student. You are now the master; take my gift and go forth”.
In this supplement, Tyson VanOverhill and Double Crescent Productions aim to provide more meaning to the bland spell focuses that people tend to overlook as mere “matters of fact” or “footnotes.” By and large, they succeed. In reality, this is a resource filled with very niche magical items that are flavored as spell focuses. It is in this flavor, as well as their ability to help players craft their characters into super-niche rolls, that make this supplement an excellent addition to any DM’s library.
What I Liked
Artwork: The artwork was well done and added to the feeling of the supplement as an ancient piece of parchment found in a treasure hoard. Though it’s line drawings with no color, the style and detail brings to life the magic items you find within, and though its well done, it’s not distracting from the words. The focus is not the art, but the art draws your attention to what actually matters.
Production: The supplement is generally professional. The layout is excellent, and the writing style is not distracting and generally easy to read. There are a few distracting typos or grammar issues, but not many. The product includes a full version (parchment background), and “ink friendly” version (white background), and “fast and light” version.
Content: In general, I really loved these 70+ unique items that add a lot of very specific flavor to the game. The real value is in the how tailored they are to specific niche builds–abjuration magic, summoning, wildshape, channel divinity–they have the ability to either augment a very specific role, or gently guide characters into a focus if the DM feels they’ve lost the core of their character. While some of them seem a bit over powered, the author assures me they have been playtested. Their balance also comes from the very specific, situation driven use. You won’t be able to use them all the time, but when you do, it will be worth it. Even so, they can always be used as a spell focus. Finally, the fact that they take up an attunement slot prevents them from being a “free item”.
Stylistically, each section (arcane, druidic, holy symbol, bardic) comes with thematic vignette from (I think) one of the author’s own players. These help show how the DM could introduce these focuses. There are also several pages detailing how to create your own focuses, and suggestions as to how to make them unique and introduce them in a way that is special to your PC’s background. This is more than just a supplement with focuses–it is a guide to making them an important part of the game. It accomplishes its goal nicely.
What Could Improve
Besides the few spelling errors, and a few personal preferences about a few of the magic items, there is really only a single issue I have with this resource: it seems very “back loaded”. By that I mean most of the items are rare or very rare. While there are one or two “uncommon” options for each section (and actually several for the bard), most of these focuses couldn’t be used until higher levels without risking overpowering a character. Because they are so specific in nature, my concern is that most players wouldn’t even get to play with many of these items until after level 10–a point where many campaigns never even reach.
All things considered, I’m giving this resource 4 stars and tagging it as a Must Have product. I absolutely love quality, flexible products that you can use in almost every single campaign. This is one of them. Click the pic below to grab it now!