Drive Thru Review: Spheres of Might

At first glance, Spheres of Might appeared to be just a new talent system to add to or replace the current Feats option in D&D. Those sorts of supplements tend to have issues with overpowering characters, but the concept seemed solid, the artwork was top notch, and really, who doesn’t love spending talent points? After really digging into it, I quickly realized that this was one of the most in-depth, well balanced supplements that I’ve seen in years.

The piece includes background traditions for building characters, new classes based on their Sphere system, and a complete martial skill system that is entirely customizable for each individual character. The amount of options presented is impressive and the fact that most of it is grounded in basic D&D skills and mechanics even more so. This supplement doesn’t try to reinvent the game, but it does offer a whole new evolution. So without further ado, let’s dig into it.

Martial Traditions

Spheres of Might provides a more nuanced method of developing a new character by creating Martial Traditions. These traditions provide both a character background as well as a set of spheres which not only grant skills, but help to define the character’s combat and play style as they progress in levels, through spending talent points. It also establishes equipment proficiency—with an easy to use process for applying the new system to base D&D classes.

The fact that each tradition uses a mental ability (Intel, Wisdom, or Charisma) as a Key Ability Modifier might be a little confusing for warrior players that only focus on Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution. Many of the skills and features provided in the classes and spheres use spell-like abilities, so these modifiers are important for those uses (think spell save DC).

The traditions are broken down into archetype backgrounds, which then include individual traditions, purely for ease of reference. Examples would be the Acolyte background that includes traditions like the Healer and the Shield of Faith, or the Folk Hero background that includes Highlanders, Militia, and Stone Throwers. Each has an Equipment Sphere skill, as well as another sphere or two associated with it.

This section is probably going to be the sticking point for a lot of players. I recommend scanning through the entire document and getting a feel for the classes and spheres to see what these skills are actually going to be doing and then come back to this section. It will make a lot more sense that way. As stated in the book, these traditions are just suggestions put together by the authors—there’s a lot more combinations and backgrounds that an individual could come up with on their own.

The Martial Traditions really show how much this book is building on the strong foundation of traditional D&D play, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. It provides new and exciting content, but within a familiar framework. The next section, Classes, continues this practice, but with some nice surprises.

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Classes

If not for the unique sphere system, some of these classes could be subclasses for vanilla D&D. The Armiger is a fighter type the focuses on varying weapon usage, the Commander is an interesting take on a Warlord type class, and the Striker is like playing a Monk as a boxer. Between the new system and the unique class features, however, every one of them stands on their own fairly well.

A few of the classes offer some pretty unique stuff that I, for one, will be implementing for some new NPCs for sure. The Artisan is sort of an Artificier that concentrates on other fields, such as the Chef option provided in this book. Since I’ve actually had a player become more interested in their in-between campaign work as a bakery owner than in their player class, I can really see some players being drawn to a class that gives them options to actually play adventures using those sorts of skills.

The Alter Ego is another that really stands out, providing one of the most versatile D&D classes I’ve ever come across. The Batman-like Vigilante option had me chuckling and the entire idea of multiple personalities as a class feature provides for near limitless customization. That sort of customization is really a defining feature of the entire book and I think that alone makes it worth a look.

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Spheres

On to the core feature of the book: the Spheres themselves. These spheres provide skill trees that help focus a character’s build through talents that can be gained every level. Some of them—such as Acrobatics/Athletics and Equipment—sound a little mundane, but even then they provide skill features that either give concrete rules for things a player might try in game, or provide new and unique features that can help focus a class. As a DM, I rather appreciate such things, since trying to come up with homebrew rules on the spot every time a player tries something can be frustrating.

Other Spheres evolve current game mechanics in a way that lets a player do some really cool things—such as creating a powerhouse grappler with the Wrestling Sphere that can use weapon attacks to grapple, stop casters from using verbal spells with a choke hold, and brutally slam an opponent, causing nearby creatures to become frightened. The Guardian and Shield spheres combined can create an ultimate tank character, able to do things like use their shield to protect allies or disarm attackers, as well as guarding an entire area 15 feet on a side with the Guardian’s patrol feature.

Legendary talents are also provided, such as the Fencer’s ability to parry spell attacks or the Scoundrel’s ability to steal hearts (charm). These talents are part of a caveat that sort of says, “This stuff is cool, but maybe overpowered (or out of place), so talk to your DM.” Which goes to show how much effort the authors put into balancing the book.

Honestly, there’s so much content here that I could write volumes just on the Spheres alone. The Leadership Sphere—a full fledged sidekick system that would also be perfect for a solo game—could be a stand alone supplement all by itself. Same goes for the Tinkerer Sphere and all the gadgets they provide, (Turtle shell pack to protect from opportunity attacks anyone? How about goggles that help with investigation checks or seeing into the ethereal plane?)

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Final Thoughts

When I first looked at it, I did not at all expect the amount of content and level of detail, balance, and customization that Spheres of Might provides. I was hesitant to even review it, considering the current price tag of $20 (I’m a big proponent of lower priced supplemental material in general). With the truly game changing content that this book provides, however, I think the price tag well earned.

Even from just a DM’s perspective the spheres allow for the creation of unique NPCs that won’t be overpowered, but that build on foundational D&D mechanics to do cool things. Maybe even helping to show more novice players how to really take advantage of what D&D offers. All things considered, I can’t imagine a single D&D player not getting their money’s worth out of this one.

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Published by Shaun Thomas-Arnold

I'm a writer, a fantasy geek, a book-worm, a sci-fi nerd, and I'm sure a few other names you could call me. I also think that tabletop games are better than video games in nearly every way. Some of my favorite writers are: Ursula K. Le Guin, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, and Susan Kaye Quinn.

2 thoughts on “Drive Thru Review: Spheres of Might

    1. That was the plan, been working on a project for the Tales interactive fiction app, but that’s turning out to be more long term so I’ll probably just take a break to finish the Spheres.

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