30 Not So Mundane Items
By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Rite Publishing is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisements and 1 page of SRD, leaving 6 pages of content for the 30 items – but are they really something special?
The pdf wastes neither time nor space and immediately presents you with its first item, the banjo of the raconteur, which not only could work as a bardic instrument to recall odd pieces of knowledge (granting a bonus to the skill), but could just as easily be played by another character to accompany and support the bard – if he can beat the low DC to use the ability, that is.
Useful items, like a bottomless inkwell or a bowl of poison detection stand side by side with e.g. a favourite of mine that will conquer the hearts of my players – burning caltrops that explode when stepped upon. Cheap enough to never leave home without a bag of them! Blankets that enable you to sleep comfortably in armour, a case that can contain 100 scrolls – adventuring just got a whole lot more comfortable. If you want to wash the taint of the grave away, there’s a green, flowery-smelling soap that gets rid of negative levels for you.
Some of the items are simply iconic, like the crowbar of demolition and some make for captivating plot elements, like the thief’s broom that sweeps evidence away (though I’d limit it to making tracking impossible, but that’s just my preference) and the supremely useful torch of detection that detects secret doors while its limited fuel flickers away. My favorite, though, would be the immovable block and tackle that can defy gravity and hold up to 10000 pounds – pure awesome and guaranteed to make for interesting plans and problem solutions by the players. I only had a gripe with two of the items, first being the flask of healing, which can transform water into a potion of cure light wounds up to 5 times per day. While not unbalancing per se, I don’t like this item replacing a steady drain on PC resources by providing 5d8+15 points of healing per day for a price of only 6500 GP. While adequately calculated, I think the craft rules fall short here. Not the designer’s problem, though, and subsequently no reason to detract from the final score. The last item I personally didn’t like (but that is still a valid idea), is a compass that shows the next exit out of an enclosed space like a dungeon or a maze. I generally dislike items that provide shortcuts though trials and this one fits the bill – again, though, a personal preference.
The pdf closes with a table of the prices of the items, showing that they range from humble 150 GP to 197500 GP. All items come with auras, caster-levels, weight, slot, prices and the necessary information to craft them yourself.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice even a single glitch. Layout adheres to the classic two-column b/w-RiP-standard and the artwork is unassuming, yet fitting stock-art. The pdf is bookmarked, which is nice to have, even at this length & price point. I have to say that I’m probably not the easiest audience for any given file, but especially for magical items. This is due to a plethora of factors, first being that I abhor magic item inflation, the commoditization of magic and the general tendency to make magic items feel rather mundane. The title of this pdf thus hit a spot with me and I was both intrigued and doubtful whether author David Mallon could pull off a pdf like that. Turns out he can – many of the items herein could find their way even into the most low-magic of low-magic campaigns, either as modified alchemical items or ones that have this ephemeral quality of subtle magic suitable for such settings. That is not necessarily how they’re presented, but the option to do so is a sure-fire sign of versatile ideas. Even better, though, is that the wondrous items herein are truly wondrous, i.e. they don’t feel like bland duplicates of spells or effects, they don’t feel like “just another tool”, but rather like precious magical trinkets the heroes of our childhood’s fairy tales might have had with them on their quests and ultimately used in creative and intelligent ways to prevail. That’s how magic is done rite. While there is a set of lockpicks that is bland (bonus to disable device – surprised?) and I personally didn’t like two items, that still leaves the vast majority of the pdf for cool items brimming with imagination. We need more books like this. My final verdict will be 5 stars.
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