EZG reviews Wondrous Items II – Helmets & Shields made from Monster Hides
This pdf clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1/2 a page editorial, leaving us with 11.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
After a short introduction on harvesting items, we get 3 feats – one that enhances wild-shape as if you were wearing a toke or trophy of a vanquished foe, one that allows you to substitute Craft (Taxidermy) when making items from monsters as crafting skills and one that nets you a circumstance bonus to intimidate when displaying trophies. Got that? Great!
So let’s take a look at light helmets: Helms made from aranea chitin enhance web-spells and spell-like abilities while wearing it. Grisly trophies, helmets made from dwarven skulls confer some of the dwarven hardiness on the wearer and are particularly effective for green skins, conferring additional bonuses. Meduas Helmets make the wearer more adept at intimidation (wouldn’t you be? I know I’d be afraid…) and masks crafted from powerful night hags protect against charm and fear-effects as well as granting minor DR. The helmet made with the antlers of the rare onyx deer help against intimidation and allow wearers with improved unarmed strike or multiattack a gore attack – which should specify that it is a primary attack, but that’s probably me being nitpicky. The same holds true for the Minotaur helmet’s potentially granted gore attack, btw.
The skull caps of red caps make you more deadly, but also more disturbing. Among medium helmets, we get one that enhances your fly speed as well as provide resistances, a helmet with an integrated snorkel made from the remains of giant frogs. Or what about making a helm that helps prevent being restricted in movement? You just have to slay a spider eater and get to work! If you’re looking for protection versus mind-reading or charm-effects, you might want to go for a Dark Naga Skull Helm. Also exceedingly cool – the Flail Snail Helmet – on a 1-70, spells cast at the wearer misfire; from 71-90 work normal and at 91-100 are reflected back on the caster. This one is cool, but it needs some caps – the automisfire is too strong – why not go for a concentration-check for the caster? A helmet made from a giant ant can also be considered problematic in the right hands – getting essentially the grab-quality with a bite feels too strong. The same issue can be said about the shield made from dire crocodiles. The item also fails to mention the ability’s name and the action required to activate it. Evil characters might also craft helms from young silver dragons – nasty.
Now this book also features shields – what about shields studded with incisors of barrow rats that can be used for bashes? This one has an issue – it uses the utterly non-sense per-encounter design-humbug to judge when its stoneskin secondary effect kicks in. I’ll spare you the rant. Bunyip Maw Shields may cause bleed damage when used to bash. Generally, the shields tend to provide minor save-bonuses or resistances and provide options to make shield bashes with them more unique. Howler Quill Buckler can fire their quills out to 30 ft, which is kind of nice. Those made from nightmares can be set ablaze, which is also quite cool. Speaking of which – the concise rules for rust monster-based shields make them rather neat as well – slowly degrading the weapons of adversaries. The engulfing shield made from Giant Fly Trap Leaves could require some clarification – what exactly does the “being engulfed” entail, rules-wise? I don’t know. Scythe Tree shields and Remorhaz shields are cool, as is the troglodyte’s shield that helps hiding in rocky environments.
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches apart from the lack of an italicization here and there – the usual. Layout adheres to a two-column, full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks.
Authors Frank Gori and Jeffrey Harris continue one of the series I’m currently most in love concept-wise – I’ve been using the requirement of monster parts in my game forever. And indeed, I do think the concept needs much more love – it rocks. Better yet, this pdf is definitely a step forward – less ambiguities, less issues, all the good stuff I loved in installment no.1. now not all items are perfect in balance etc. and the shields could have used some additional diversity in their abilities, but still – this is a good pdf at a very fair price and in spite of the minor hick-ups here and there, is too good to rate down. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.