By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Rite Publishing 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-star-file and thus I’ll settle for 4.5 stars, for me personally as a sucker for cursed items, rounded up to 5.
101 Malevolent Magic Items is available from: