All adventurers need good equipment, both magical and mundane, and even the most creative DM sometimes needs ideas for interesting treasure hoards for the characters to, ahem, liberate... so here is a book packed full of goodies to serve both interests. The Introduction explains the organisation of the work: a chapter each for equipment and magical items, plus a couple of appendices mostly for the DM, one with ideas for using magic items and one with them listed by level for ease of hoard creation.
Mainly intended for the character looking for some retail therapy, Chapter 1: Equipment is broken down into sections detailing all manner of gear. It begins with masterwork armour, and also covers weapons, mounts, vehicles and even alchemy - both that which can be purchased and things you can do yourself if possessed of the appropriate tools. Masterwork armour is often necessary for those seeking to enhance their protection with magic, and it also provides an inherent bonus due to quality. Several interesting new materials to use in armour fabrication are introduced, along with fascinating snippets about how they first came to be used, excellent for those who like a bit of background and history to their alternate reality.
Next comes a selection of weapons, this time seeking to augment the common ones in the Player's Handbook with some more unusual items. Perhaps you'd like a triple-headed flail or a repeating crossbow: look no further. My favourite blade weapon, the kukri, is here, so is an executioner's axe and some strange-looking double-bladed weapons which can be whirled around so as to attack with either end. The weapons are followed by the mounts (some of whom class as weapons, don't mix with a warhorse!), and pays due attention to this being a fantasy game by looking well beyond conventional riding animals like horses, camels and elephants. So you can ride a giant ant, a hippogriff, or a shark; with each creature being given full stats so you know what your mount can do and how fast it can travel. There's also equipment and barding (armour) available for them.
If a riding animal does not suit, next there is a selection of conveyances - boats, chariots and the more exotic - along with the rules necessary for using them in travel and in combat. There are also a few ideas for using transportation to bring the campaign world to life. Finally, the chapter looks at alchemy. If you want to practice alchemy yourself, it works pretty much like ritual magic and you need to have the alchemy feat provided herein. Then you need to find out the correct formula for whatever it is that you want to make, before obtaining the right ingredients and spending time in your laboratory. There is a huge list of alchemical items to make - or to purchase if you cannot make them for yourself - along with details of cost, effect when used, and how long it takes to manufacture.
Chapter 2 looks at Magic Items. The items are categorised according to whether they are armour, weapons or implements, or by where on the body you'd wear them (rings, footwear, etc.) along with wonderous items and consumables (one-shot items). There are even items designed for companion animals. For each, there's full details of what it does and how much it costs. The system is versatile - for example, many of the magic armour effects can be applied to different types of armour rather than being only available for one sort. Weapons are given a similar treatment. A nice touch is that the description often gives an idea of the item's appearance, which can be used to good effect by the DM who enjoys having the characters figure out for themselves what the weapon they have found or the armour their foe is wearing does.
Next comes a section on holy symbols, which can be a whole lot more than just jewellry to demonstrate which deity you worship. You might even want to carry a selection to cater for various situations. Other items are also covered here: orbs, rods, staves (the plural of staff is not staffs!), and wands. Moving on, items that are carried or worn on the arms - chiefly shields and bracers - are described, and so on through each body part on which you can wear a magic item. If you happen to have an animal companion or a mount, there are even items which your animal can wear but which you activate using your own actions rather than those of the creature. Most items, as is central to the current incarnation of D&D, enhance your combat prowess in some way, but the collection of wonderous items present a wider range of effects for all occasions. Reverting to combat, an original addition is a range of battle standards each having its particular effect when flown during combat. The chapter rounds off with a selection of potions.
Appendix 1 looks at ways to customise magic items, ways to make them other than mere valuables to be 'liberated' from the monsters you encounter, ways to make them into unique and personal items your character may treasure throughout his career, or which might actually have a part to play in the plotline. One method is to give selected items a full backstory of their own, making them unique amongst similar items. There are also ways of using an item's inherent characteristics and manipulating item levels to make them more interesting and personalised - perhaps an item requires certain conditions to be met before its full powers are released. Appendix 2 is a master list of items by level, to make it easy for the DM when planning treasure hauls.
Overall, this is a good collection of items magical and mundane which can be used 'as is' or adapted to suit your needs, using the Appendix 1 rules as necessary if you want to be systematic and certain that your modified items remain balanced with the rest of the ruleset. A useful tool for the organised DM and, to a lesser extent, players.
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Reviewed: 4 February 2009