what is more iconic in fantasy gaming, what defines the world more than magic? And waht would our hobby be without magical equipment? Magic items are importnat for our games and, while I like them as much as any DM out there, I also feel that in recent editions there has been a terrible inflation of magic items and, more importantly, they have become somewhat predictable for many players. WhenI introduced a flaming sword in my very first campaign, my players would gasp in awe. Today, they ask: Flaming or flaming burst? Plus: We've all seen fighters carrying around a whole armory of magic weapons where I prefer magic to be rare and...well...magical.
Today's books try to remedy this situation: Legendary Weapons provides weapons that scale with your level, gaining power as your PCs do and 101 Malevolent Magic Items shows that magic is not and should not be treated as a commodity.
So let's dive in!
This pdf is 46 pages long, 5 pages are taken up by the SRD, the first page contains both ToC and editorial, leaving 40 pages of content for a very low price.
The first page introduces the concept of magical weapons that level with your character, providing the frame rules. If you have already checked out the predecessor of this book, Legendary Blades, you already know these.
After that, we get the weapons:
-Apocalypse Hammer: A hammer devoted to Armageddon, this one can damage the wielder and summon creatures associated with the end-times. It includes two statblocks for summonable creatures, an advanced riotus [sic!] Dire Wolf (CR 5), the mid-level summon being an elder fire elemental and an advanced crag Linnorm (CR 15). I liked this weapon, it's dangerous potential and the flair it has. I didn't like the one typo.
-Gambit: An acrobat'sblade that is the ultimate boon for groups sans rogues, as it enables the wielder to disarm traps and gain trap sense etc.
-Giant Killer: A Glaive for little people, this weapon is the bane of giant creatures and great for small characters.
-Heartwood Staff: A staff fashioned from a Treant's heartwood, this one didn't impress me too much. heard that one before. Plus: One ability talks about a "smite" ability that has not been mentioned in the weapon before. We also get stats for an advanced treant fighter 8 (CR 16).
-Hysteria's Chosen: A Hellraiseresque Morningstar of insanity and pain: What's not to like?
-Mischief's Bow: A Bard's bow/instrument focusing on luck and trick shots.
-Night Axe: A weapon forged against the creatures from beyond the stars, the theme is actually not darkness, but rather the void beyond. The weapon comes with a stat-block a CR 5 lesser from of Star-Spawn (Mi-Go).
-Reaper's Scythe: Inspired by Poe's "Masque of the red Death", this scythe brings pestilence and death. The mechanics for its famine ability are a bit subpar.
-Shadowblade of the Dark Mistress: The blade of the servants of the Succubus Reviewer Queen, this sword has acombination of charm and shadow abilities.
-Spear of the Four Winds: A cool, Asian-flavored spear that can conjure up damaging winds.
-Spirit Glaive: A Glaive that can grants soul-tokens that can be used in a variety of ways and bind souls. There is a rather awkward sentence explaining the token mechanic that feels like the sentence parts before and after the comma have been jumbled.
-Stargazer: A great staff for mages, this one uses star-associated magic and some divination-abilities. Nice. There is also a little piece of unobtrusive advertisement here.
-Temple Sword: A sword that focuses on light-abilities and summoning cohorts. I liked this one, though the table says it's a temple sword and no properties are given for the quality.
-Woodman's Axe: An axe doubling as a feather token takes focuses on taking out evil plant creatures.
The pdf closes with a ToC.
Layout is quite printer-friendly and minimalistic, Editing has some minor glitches but none that really detract from the enjoyment of the pdf. I really liked that the weapons all come with quite cool computer-generated artworks, making it easier to picture the weapons and providing some nice pieces to show to your players. I could have done without the additional b/w-illustrations, though, as they somehow feel misplaced when compared to the nice weapon artworks. The writing of the prose has improved since the last installment and is more versatile - while, due to the nature of the book, it is still generic, the prose for the weapons is actually nice and makes you want to implement the weapons. Another improvement over the predecessor is, that some abilities are more complex /far-out, although I would have liked to see more of the rather unusual ones. I also like that we get some weapons that belong to other types than swords, as we had enough of them in the last installment and I could have managed without the ones herein. Usually I'd rate this book somewhere between 3.5 and 4 Rudii, but due to the extremely low price and some cool ideas, I'll settle for a solid 4.5 Rudii - There is still room for improvement, but this is a great purchase nevertheless.
The second book I'll take a look at today deals with cursed items. A lot of them.
This pdf is 35 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisements, leaving 30 pages of content.
First of all, I have to get something of my chest: I've been waiting for this book. As a long-time Ravenloft-DM, I love cursed items and the fact that they showcase that magic is not and should not be a commodity. As such, I consider well-written cursed items to be one of the staples of gaming that work against the predictability of magic in any game. It should come to no surprise to you that I was one of the folks who asked for more items when ECS: Kavit M. Tor's Emporium was released and subsequently am looking forward to reading this book. Due to the nature of the cursed items and the fact that I don't want to spoiler potential players, I'll divert from my usual reviewing format for the 101-series and not provide a list for the items, but instead try to comment as content-neutral as possible on the items.
The book starts with 2 pages of advice on how to use them and an introduction to their cursed items. Instead of a market price, the items get a means to cure/remove them. Some items are twisted normal items and their usual enchantment is given. Some are specifically created as cursed and thus have a market price.
We get 11 Armors & Shields (3 pages): I especially liked one of the armors that is a devious death-trap and the one that influences your footing.
Next are 11 new weapons (3 pages): These are better than the armors, and not really weapons, but rather weapon properties. Some of them twist the classical elemental bonus damages. My favorite weapon is the traitorous one, though.
Then we get 7 Potions & Oils (2 pages): These are gold, pure and simple and iconic.
The next section provides us with 11 new Rings (2 pages): Devious, deadly and in case of the "Ring of Vanishing", downright sadistic - Great new material.
5 new rods are introduced (1 page): The rods actually work well, offering power at the risk of the curse firing back at the user.
The 5 new Scrolls ( 1page): These scrolls slowly corrupt the targets/catsers. Nice work.
Thereafter, we get 6 new staves (2 pages): One of them actually can infect other items.
We also get 6 wands (2 pages):The curses here range from weaker effects to addictive qualities and degeneration.
The penultimate section of the book provides 29 wondrous items (7 pages): This is, where the book starts to shine. The "Bag of Troubles" e.g. will drive PCs potentially nuts. A cursed bed is very iconic and I won't spoil it here. The "Gem of Horrific Truths" appeals to the horror-DM in me and the "Hangman's Rope" is another definite win. What I really liked, though, was the "Widow's Cloak", which has a 5-step curse. I would have loved to see more such complex curses.
The final chapter details 10 legendary cursed items, complete with their own back stories and this is where the book reaches it's full potential: The concise prose manages to tell exciting little stories in the limited space available and the means of destruction for the items often go beyond "Cast it into Hell" and the cures are actually more versatile.
The pdf follows the RiP-two-column-layout standard, is extensively bookmarked and the b/w-artwork is public domain but nevertheless fits the theme of the book and manages to evoke a consistent style. Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any mistakes.
I'm a sucker for cursed items. I admitted that much. I want to see more of them. However, I've also got some criticisms to report: Many of the items can be either put away once their curse has been identified or be removed via the simple casting of remove curse. I would have loved for some additional, role-playing means being given to rid the bearer of the item. Many of the items are twists of normal magic items and, while I liked them, I would have preferred more original/unique ones, as this is where the book really stands out. I would have liked it, if some sample ideas for the given mishaps that resulted in the individual cursed items, had been given, too. While I want to emphasize that this is criticism on the highest level, these minor flaws keep the book from being a straight 5-Rudii-file and thus I'll settle for 4.5 Rudii, for me personally as a sucker for cursed items, this is a five-Rudii-file, though.
Alright, that's it for now from me, as always: Thank you for reading my ramblings,