The introduction lays out the idea behind this work, to make treasure hoards a bit more interesting by providing background information, descriptions and uses for gems - frequently found in the loot but rarely considered beyond their monetary value unless they happen to be spell components for something the party wizard can cast!
We start off in Chapter 1: Gemcutting 101 by looking at the craft of gemcutting (or lapidary), the different cuts and cateories of gemstones and how the wise character will realise that a pile of rough uncut coloured rocks will repay careful treatment to provide the characters with wealth indeed - if one of them knows how to cut gems properly! This leads on to a discussion of the use of Craft: Gemcutting as a skill and how to administer it in game terms. This can be a straight roll against an appropriate Difficulty Class, but more complex mechanics are provided for those who wish to go into greater detail. It's all easy enough for even someone with little knowledge to follow, and yet play or interact with a real expert in the game.
Chapter 2 is a survey of the different gems mentioned in the Dungeons Master's Guide. As well as a description, there is an optional check (using Appraise) to enable a character to even know what the gem is - after all, not every swordswinger is a jewellry expert as well! Each stone is illustrated as well.
Chapter 3 introduces new rules for gems. For those who believe that gems can contain mystical energies, there is a new feat, Harmonise Gemstone, to enable them to tap into these energies. Based on the stone type, this confers certain benefits such as a bonus to an appropriate skill check - if you are wearing the gem at the time, of course. Spellcasters may prefer to use the Harness Gemstone feat instead, which lets them use a given stone to give a boost to an appropriate spell, releasing all its energy and shattering the stone in the process.
Finally Chapter 4 looks at ways of making use of gems in the game, over and above as loot or spell components. Perhaps the characters will interact with the Lapidary Guild, likely one of the wealthiest organisations in the city. Or there may be spellcasters who actually specialise in the use of gems in their work. If you manage to collect enough, and know how, you can make a gem golem. Needless to say, there are other groups who don't like gems being used this way, and will do anything they can to keep them out of the hands of any passing wizard. Plenty of thoughts which could power subplots or interesting consequences when characters come back to town with their new hoard of gems.
Overall, this work gives an interesting spin to that common component of the average treasure hoard, the gem. If you like layers of reality and plenty going on in your game beyond the 'hit monster, steal treasure, amass cash' route, this could be an interesting addition to your bookshelf.
Return to Treasure Chest Unlocked: Gems page.
Reviewed: 22 April 2007