“Hmmm? Oh, yeah…my character has a spellcasting focus. It’s…uhh…his staff. He put a crystal on the end of it.” I’m speculating here, but the odds are good that the majority of players don’t put much thought into a spellcasting focus. I know I haven’t. I’ve considered it. But that’s about it. Tyson VanOverhill’s Enhanced Focuses helps you bring this largely overlooked bit of character development to life. There are focuses aplenty whether you are a wizard, sorcerer, bard, a holy-rolling cleric or paladin.
Writer: Tyson VanOverhill, (edited by Ken Carcas)
Publisher: DMs Guild
Product Length: 24 pages
Enhanced Focuses is an accessory that provides several spellcasting focuses, guidelines for creating your own focuses, and suggestions for how to tie it all together. Its purpose is to create richer and characters that have more depth and, well, character.
In a nutshell, I love what Tyson has done with creating these focuses. The serve to add flavor to your characters that is more than just window dressing. He’s done well to break them out into common forms (amulets, blades, crystals, orbs, staffs, tomes, and wands) and provide suggestions for what each form is most likely to be geared towards. A crystal, for example, is more likely to involve Enchantment or Illusion spells while an orb would probably be better suited for Divination, Illusion, or Conjuration.
These focuses all serve a bigger purpose than to just supplant the need for material components for some spells. They each have a unique effect that is added to a specific type of spell that is cast with it. A Fortified Rod will award maximum hit points to any creatures it conjures, for example. Hence, they are enhanced. There are over 70 given spellcasting focuses in this accessory and good guidelines for creating unique ones for your session if you’d like.
The writing for Enchanced Focuses is mostly good. Each entry for the focuses is succinct and to the point. I felt the latter chapter that covers creating your own focuses to be a bit tedious and overlong. Examples are good to provide but they lost the hard-hitting punchiness of the earlier chapters because they were longer than necessary. I found myself skimming them more than I did anywhere else.
The art is good in that is it befitting what you would expect to find in a tome or a resource like this. However, It looks like the selected art was low-resolution and then scaled up to fit the size of the PDF. The result is that it is all unnecessarily pixelated. I don’t mean intentional 8-bit graphics style. It’s grainy because the source art wasn’t large enough to begin with. This is true of the Double Crescent Productions logo as well as item art, character portraits, and even the footer of each page in the document.
Additionally, and this is a recurring issue I see a lot, the parchment background is too dark and the reader may struggle a little to read the text. The contrast between text and background is not crisp enough and, consequently, the text doesn’t dominate the page. The background does.
Lastly, I mentioned that Tyson’s writing is proficient but the proofing and editing must have been perfunctory or hastily done. There are a lot of distractions like misspellings, unnecessary apostrophes, missing words, etc. For example, there are two instances of “teir” being used in place of “tier” and at least one occurrence of “censor” when the author is talking about arcane censers. This needed a second look as far as editing and proofreading is concerned.
Tyson has done well with the design. Everything feels balanced and even compelling. It makes me want to roll up a bard and create a reason for him to have an enhanced focus of his own. I’m thinking a draailier sounds good. I don’t want to do his work for him but I could see an added benefit for tables where a player or DM could roll to create random focuses. That might actually lead to some interesting results!
What this product may lack in production it more than makes up for in other areas. I’m not sure how often you’d use this tool since you will most likely only reach for it when you specifically want to introduce a new arcane focus to your player or group. You could do a lot with it though. Use any of them for an adventure seed or give one to an NPC the players will encounter. Or you could even create a quest out of a character’s desire to find or create their own focus. It’s a useful resource to have around but not one you’ll have at the table for every session you play or run.