Items of Power and Ambition
By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Purple Duck Games is 24 pages long, 1 page front cover/editorial, 1 blank page, ½ a page SRD and a cove page as a separate jpg, leaving us with 21 ½ pages of content, so let’s check this out!
Being a collection of loosely-themed magic items connected by a common theme of being created for/by rulers and their servants, the pdf kicks off with shields and armours, providing 6 different ones – there would be the armour of Mars, which reduces the first crit the wielder suffers each day to a normal hit, a half-plate that gets another +1 when mounted and does not impede the rider when riding and then, with the mariner’s shield, we get the first item I’d actually consider interesting: We get a heavy wooden shield +1, but one that actually is buoyant and may support a grown man and thus keep him from drowning. A GREAT idea! The excellent full-colour artwork provided helps to entice one to the item as well – it reminded me of the Iron Isle’s crest of house Greyjoy. Now Mathilda’s Shield has nothing to do with a particularly bright young girl and weird powers, but rather is a shield that can extend its protective capabilities to adjacent creatures and allows the wearer to punish those who would attack innocents via AoOs. The Shield of the People is a symbol of revolution and becomes much stronger when leading a group of people. It also has the option to grant rather significant bon uses for one combat via a rousing speech by the wielder. The Skirmisher’s shield absorbs some damage from magic missiles and 1/day makes the wielder faster.
The section on weapons kicks off with two new qualities: Steady weapons (+5000GP) grant the wielder further +1 to atk when braced and the option to AoO a charging foe and save at +6 vs. breaking due to impact. Wicked weapons enhance their damage die by one step and cost either +1 bonus or +6000GP, depending on base damage. After these qualities, we’re off to a very cool hand crossbow that can be assembled and disassembled fast into innocuous bits and which may also shoot silencing bolts a limited amount of times per day – Assassin’s Friend indeed! The Battle Staff works as a mace that can be extended to a quarterstaff. Okay, I guess. The Cat’s Paw is a foldable dagger that can greatly enhance your thieving skills.
It is after that that we get one of the most iconic magic items I’ve seen in a while: The Centipede Net – lavishly illustrated with a disturbing full-colour image, the weapon not only seeks to subdue those it captures – if one tries to cut oneself free, the loosened centipedes turn into fiendish centipedes that attack. Have I mentioned that the net repairs itself? Cool, disturbing, evocative. The Crytsal Ice Stiletto is also rather smart – an enchanted cylinder that, when the command words are uttered, can create a magical stiletto when filled with liquid. Said stiletto degenerates in power over 10 rounds before it melts away – yet another great tool for killers. The Demon Death Dagger also has an interesting unique ability – once per moon cycle, a wound struck by the weapon is a bleeding wound and for each round the victim bleeds, dretches are summoned to do the bidding of the dagger’s master. In direct comparison, the Disciplinarion’s Baton, which grants bonuses to intimidate and a temporal morale bonus, feels bland.
Dragon Claw staves can be used as either scythes or quarterstaffs and are tuned to an appropriate element that they can add to damage. Dragonpoints are used to modify other weapons and add dragon-appropriate minor elemental damage to the respective weapon. Against particular bloodlines, though, they and their greater cousins are truly devastating. The Dragon Spine-Maul allows the wielder to name a foe and gain a single-minded determination to slay that foe. The Evergreen Staff of Spring, blessed by the Fae, can lead to their court and protect the wielder from the elements, while the fate-cutting arrows are truly magical and cool: By spilling blood (1 Con damage) and a year of the archer’s life, the arrow can be made a +2 named-bane wounding arrow that ignores DR, halves range penalties AND adds the Cha-bonus, if positive, to crit confirmations. VERY cool! The Fever Blade also rocks – not only is this blade the bane of casters (who find fousing while feverish hard), the blade also allows its wielder to go into a Veitstanz-like fever trance that makes him faster and deadlier, but also knocks him out afterwards and deals con-damage…
Flashing spears can change between short and long spear – lame. Not lame at all, though, would be the Flying Tiger’s Sword, which enhances WuXia-like stunts you might wish to make. Ghoul’s Claws may transmit your touch attacks via the blade (something players should imho NOT get a hold of) and there also is a magical bamboo spear that may sprout more spears and a halberd keyed to protecting a particular bloodline is especially effective when protecting members of it. Among the cooler items, there’s also a bow that, when touched to a tree, causes the tree to grow arrows that are particularly effective versus undead when fired from the bow. Javelin-fighters should rejoice, by the way – 5 new javelins are included herein, including a good reasoning for pricing them like ammunition (unless they do not break). Ever wanted a blade that can turn into a lightning bolt? Well, there’s one in here as well, as are viper arrows, enchanted sling-stones, cesti and even a whip-sword! And no, I didn’t mention all items.
Up to now, I went through the items piece by piece to allow you to make up your mind on how you’d like them – in the section on the wondrous items, I’m only, also for sake of brevity, gong to mention some of the items I considered distinct: Take for example the Golem Helmet, suitable for elite taskforces since it deadens the emotional capabilities of the wearer and increases analytical prowess of the wearer, making the wearer great at performing tasks that would otherwise shake them to the core. Or take Odalam’s Ward, keyed to a structure and allowing you to look at any point of the structure as if standing there, thus making it great to react to threats. We also get magical saddles, a stylus that shields the owner, an amulet to silence impertinent subjects, a magical cravat and rings that allow you to avoid geas and quests.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to PDG’s 2-column standard and the full colour artworks provided for some of the items are BEAUTIFUL – Tamás Baranya has done a great job. The pdf is fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for maximum ease of use and the pdf, like all PDG-offerings, is also relatively small, fitting on mobile devices.
I’m not a big fan of regular magic item collections. All too often, they just don’t elicit excitement from me, feel like something churned out and lack…well, magic. Add to that the fact that I prefer less and instead powerful items and you’ll realize what exactly made me appreciate PDG’s acclaimed “Legendary”-series so much. That being said, Sean Holland has managed quite a feat with this pdf and delivers an array of items that one and all have something going for them. Granted, not all of them excited me, but most of them did – be it via non-numerical benefits like floating on water or leading to the fae courts or mechanical ones like the awfully delightful centipede-web I can’t wait to inflict on one of my players – especially since we play with my homebrew insanity-rules and the character has a crippling phobia of insects… Add to that items like Helms of the Golem (which should be fitting for a certain former elite-squad of Korvosa to far-out items, I can pronounce that there is a surprising number of winners among these items that should put a smile upon a DM’s face. Since I honestly and against my expectation really enjoyed reading this pdf and since I consider Sean Holland’s offering here to be among the crème of magic item books and since I don’t have anything to complain about on a production quality-level, I will grant this pdf the full 5 stars – well done indeed and I look forward to a potential sequel, especially if such a sequel can get rid of the few fillers that are all that make me withhold my seal of approval for now.
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