Tome of Missing Magic for PFRPG
By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Asparagus Jumpsuit is 96 pages long, 1 page SRD/editorial, leaving us with 95 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
This pdf, sans frills etc., seeks to reproduce items from older editions and update them to PFRPG , including feats to make potions of higher levels and wands of higher levels (via a total of 4 feats). Without any ado, the pdf delves right into tables – a lot of tables, allowing you to make unbalanced treasure hoards via rolls of d%s: We get monetary treasures, magic treasures, items, potions, scrolls, scrolls of spells of wizards and clerics by level, 5 tables in miscellaneous items, rings, etc., ranged weapon abilities etc. pp. After about 10 pages of such tables, we delve into the descriptions of potions, which include ones of bear’s endurance, alter self etc. as well as potions that allow you dominate e.g. any type of dragon as per the dominate monster spell for 17 rounds. Sample scrolls of baleful polymorph etc. are included, but that’s where the problems creep in: This pdf provides a lot of potions, scrolls etc. that can be created via the standard rules as well as e.g. items like rings of confusion etc. – all coming with solid statblocks, creation rules, auras etc., including entries that point towards the core-rules for e.g. rods of lordly might.
Per se, this pdf’s massive collection of expertly presented items could be considered a nice professional offering, but honestly, the problem is that the items herein can be made by any DM worth his/her salt – no one needs these scrolls and potions, they can be created easily. The item-section could be considered an collection of them like the AD&D encyclopaedias of old – but by now, we have the APG, UM and UC – all of which are utterly ignored, with all the rules introduced by them. Now yes, if you’re like me, this pdf tugs at your heart’s strings with phylacteries of eternal youth, ropes of entanglement and especially the artefact section, but more on that later. Manuals for all attributes get a d%-table to determine their bonuses. Old-school, yes, but do we really need this?
The artefacts especially are a blast from the past, coming with advice and sample DCs for knowledge checks to know about their past. And oh boy, is this nostalgia tugging at the heart’s strings – whether it’s the arch-lich’s hand and eye or a staff made of 7 component parts – this pdf essentially provides you with the IP-free versions of artefacts like Vecna’s Hand and Eye or the Rod of 7 Parts and mechanically, they actually aren’t bad and come with nice consequences and means of destruction. They are well-made. Seriously.
We also get tables of e.g. banded mails from +1 to +5 with price, cost to create, total bonuses, max dex-bonuses etc., also in special materials – again, in tables upon tables, including modifications of e.g. mithral or adamantine, darkwood or dragonhide. Special weapon qualities (though called “templates”, which is an incorrect term in PFRPG) are also displayed, e.g. providing the cost etc. stats for a general axiomatic melee weapon +2. And yes, these weapons may again have the benefit of being ready-made for your convenience, but again: Every Dm could create them him/herself. The final section of this pdf is devoted to types of ammunition, including e.g. shocking burst +2 ammunition.
Editing and formatting are very good, bordering on excellent: I noticed no significant glitch over a pdf this long and the general presentation of the items adheres to all the conventions of PFRPG. Nice display of professionalism there. Layout adheres to a no-fills, 2-column standard with light green and orange used to highlight the respective item entries/table-entries, making the pdf generally rather printer-friendly – were it not for all the entries that only consist of the item’s name and a sentence pointing towards the core-book. Were the respective pointers towards other books also included, this would make sense – with the focus on just the core rules, though, this means that the entries only empty toner/ink-cartridges without contributing anything. Hyperlinks to d20pfsrd.com would have gone a long way there. Another major downer is the omission of bookmarks – at this length, they are not optional, but obligatory and searching for the right table in this pdf is without them an unnecessary chore. The pdf is small, though, which is neat indeed.
That being said, while at first the pdf may seem amateurish and its overall formal presentation surely is, it does a lot right: Adhering to PFRPG-standards in wording and formatting, item-blocks etc. I’ll come clear with you: Reviewing this pdf was a colossal pain that took me forever, including checking many of the item’s math and from what I could glean, they are correct, meaning that A LOT of work has gone into this pdf. The artefacts and their tugging of one’s nostalgic heart’s strings also means that grognards will probably find a collection of items that will have them smile.
In the end, a massive problem I have with this pdf is how to rate this: On the one hand, evidently a vast amount of work has gone into the creation of this pdf and generally, the result can be considered professionally appealing. On the other hand, the lack of bookmarks and artworks hurt this pdf when combined with one factor: The price. $14.00. Seriously? For this price, I can have a Paizo-module in print. Headless Hydra Games’ Mor Aldenn city setting comes with artworks, maps etc. and costs less. And just about all other 3pps have a better bang-for-buck-ratio. And there’s another problem: The lack of creativity. Much like academic writing and writing in general, game design is both an art and a craft – craft-wise, this pdf is devoid of flaws regarding the crunch, but it is also utterly artless. There’s no soul, no creativity herein. This pdf, for me, at once was nostalgic and terribly, utterly dreary to review. I couldn’t find a single piece of creative spark, of soul in these pages. Much like a Sepia-tinged photo of an unremarkable day (in contrast to e.g. a wedding or cherished childhood day) gone by, this pdf elicits feelings of nostalgia and can be considered useful, but fails to truly evoke an emotional response or excitement. It signifies towards a nostalgia, but offers not much soul beyond that, remaining a solid example of crafting, but much like something produced in a factory, it lacks the charm of e.g. a work of the “Arts & Craft”-movement.
In the end, whether this is a good purchase for you depends utterly on how lazy you are as a DM and whether you can live with the lack of bookmarks and artless presentation. If you can and are willing to pay the high price, this could be considered a time-saver and even a 3-star file. Now if you’re looking for originality, soul and innovation beyond what to me feels like hollow nostalgic pandering, then this pdf will disappoint you as much as it did disappoint me. Personally, for me this was both a chore to read and due to the lack of bookmarks and lack of innovation not a book I will use and rather be a 1-star, overpriced pdf. My final verdict will be in-between both extremes, at a 2.5 stars – which I’ll round down to 2 since at 14 bucks, not getting any bookmarks is downright insulting, no matter how good a book is – and yes, I stand by this verdict even with regards to the target audience.
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