DMs Guild Review – Ishavar’s Guide to Curses

A dark-themed supplement with monstrous races, cursed subclasses, and over 40 new blessings and curses.

dms guild review

A review copy of “Ishavar’s Guide to Curses” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Designed by: Matej Budimir

Evil and monstrous player characters are often sought after, and often a headache for DMs to incorporate, even when their role-played as “one of the good ones.” Ishavar’s Guide to Curses adds several new, and most importantly well-balanced, player races, subclasses, and curses which should satisfy both sides of the table.

The supplement is beautifully illustrated with a professional layout that looks exactly like officially published 5e products. The title is a bit of a misnomer, as the new curses take up only three pages of the 30-page supplement. “Curse” is used as more of a theme here, with the addition of cursed player races, several dark-dabbling subclasses and two new backgrounds.

There are five new races, most of which we’ve previously seen in the Monster Manual as enemies, such as Medusa and Harpies. New additions include the smoldering Ashen, who can literally glow and eventually generate a damaging heat shield, and the Half-Vampire, which is a noble attempt to turn a powerful monster into a balanced player race. Hell yes I want to play as the D&D version of Blade!

The races feel very well-balanced given their restrictions and limitations, or in the case of the Half-Vamps, some significant weaknesses (shout out to Drow and Duergar for also surviving with sunlight sensitivity).

The Harpy’s flight, for example, can only be used in short bursts, meaning they fall at the end of their turn. Many of the bestial signature abilities, like the Harpy’s Song or Medusa’s Petrifying Gaze, can only be used once per Long Rest.

dms guild

Several new Racial Feats are utilized to help balance the monstrous races. By using Feats a DM can easily ban them entirely, as feats are technically optional. Each feat also has a level requirement. The Harpy PC has to forego a precious ASI and reach level 9 to unlock truly unlimited flight via the Harpy Flight feat, or a level 7 Ashen gaining full fire immunity with Ashen Resilience.

The four new subclasses are the Cleric Fortune Domain, Paladin Oath of the Damned, Sorcerer Flameborn, and Wizard Blood Mage. Like the new races, everything here is well thought-out, balanced, and themed. The Cleric can alter luck and fate by using Channel Divinity to turn enemy crits into normal attacks or re-rolling a non-proficient skill with advantage (cleverly named Beginner’s Luck).

Flameborn pairs beautifully with an Ashen character, providing lots of great fire-themed abilities, like spending a Sorcery Point to negate a creature’s pesky fire resistance, and gaining a fiery aura when casting fire-spells that can later repel enemies.

Over two dozen curses are divided into minor and major categories. Minor curses incur familiar penalties, like vulnerability to a certain type of damage, disadvantage on attacks, or -2 to an ability score. Major curses are complete game-changers and should be used sparingly, like imprisoning the target inside an object, or basically inflicting them with the Death Curse from Tomb of Annihilation or Grayscale from A Song of Ice and Fire as they gradually rot away. There’s some neat ideas in here, as well as over 30 blessings  for giving players various temporary boons as rewards.

The final chapter is a bestiary that expands upon the new content, such as Ashen NPCs, Blood Spawn for the Blood Mage to summon, and a few more undead variants. Ashen in particular are given lots of extra lore, including a big bad CR 25 King of Ashes titan, which could be the awesome culmination to an Ashen player’s personal arc.

My only complain in this otherwise fantastic supplement resides in the title. Who the hell is Ishavar? I get the naming convention from other 5e products, Volo’s Guide to Everything, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, etc, but those are in-universe NPCs that provide colorful commentary and sidebar notes throughout the pages. Poor Ishavar is just a name on a book, and doesn’t appear anywhere beyond that.

Pros:

  • Incredible original character art and professional layout that looks like an official 5e product.
  • Five monstrous races, four evil-themed subclasses, and two sinister backgrounds.
  • Over 40 new blessings and curses.
  • Over 10 NPC statblocks that expand on the new player races and subclasses.

Cons:

  • Who is Ishavar?

The Verdict: Gorgeous artwork and a professional layout make this excellent collection of monstrous player races and subclasses impossible to pass up.

A review copy of “Ishavar’s Guide to Curses” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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