Wondrous Items: Magic Mirrors
This installment of the Wondrous Items-series clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1/2 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 1/2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
“Mirror, Mirror” – not only are those two words an utterly iconic component of Snow White, they also are the title of two of my favorite power metal songs (Halloween and Blind Guardian, for those so inclined…). Beyond this utterly useless factoid, I was always stumped by the relative lack of magical mirrors among the magical items for any d20-based supplement. A brief glance at real world mythology renders this oversight even more stupefying. Enter this supplement by Kobold Press – but will we get items worthy in concept and execution of the iconic premise?
Well, first of all, the issues of portability and magical solutions for this issue of logistics as well as claiming ownership for a given mirror are covered in concise rules. After that, we immediately receive the rules for the respective mirrors – and a short glance at the item’s weight-lines does show that one ought to take them seriously – not all mirrors are small, hand-held devices and weight-lines of 70 lbs., for example, demand creative solutions if the PCs want to benefit from the mirrors.
Alas, a look at this line also shows that the very first mirror already has a typo – alas, not the only one herein – a weight of “5 3 lbs.”[sic!] for a handheld mirror seems excessive and makes me believe that the 5 constitutes a typo, not the blank space. But what does it do? Well, here, I am grinning again – you throw it into a designated square and determine the height at which the mirror is supposed to float. Henceforth, the mirror is treated as your line of effect, effectively ricocheting your missiles towards enemies that have cover. A similar mirror also exists for rays, magic missiles and line-shaped spells, btw. Generally, I am not sure whether this mirror is supposed to also negate total concealment of magically granted cover or not, constituting a minor nitpick against it, but seeing how it generally sports well-written rules-mechanics for such a complex rules-interaction, I am willing to consider this in dubio pro reo and assume that it ignores all types of cover and not total cover etc. and chalk it up to magic.
A looks-enhancing mirror with a charm effect is pretty basic, but there are also less conventional mirrors to be found herein – take a mirror that can store diseases, poisons and curses to be negated at a later time – but also the option to unleash said affliction son unwitting people looking right into the mirror. Generating a flank-enhancing hazy duplicate of the owner also can be considered an interesting idea/effect. A mirror that can be used to empower rays or create a somewhat mutagen-y distorted image of the creature peering into it, granting physical bonuses at the cost of temporary penalties. What about a mirror that can create a ghast-doppelgänger of a creature that had the unfortunate honor of being reflected in its surface? Yeah, pretty much narrative gold there. Paired mirrors that can be sued to create temporal stasis when placed opposite each other should also be commended – the effects of mirror-contractions have always fascinated me, so yeah – interesting imagery and quite some interesting narrative potential, also due to the trap/trick-component inherent in the unique behavior of the mirrors.
Among the most powerful of mirrors, journeying into an alternate reality is a classic, almost artifact-level item that not only supports a MASSIVE amount of interesting plot-lines, it also can be used for great effect to negate an almost-TPK…or even a TPK in progress. A mirror that records identities and allows you to assume them is also damn impressive as far as cool plotlines go.
On the more offensive side – what about a mirror that can be struck against a solid object, unleashing multiple silvery blades which can be animated? Or a mirror that can store sunlight, to later act as a way to combat the creatures of the night? Retrying failed int/wis-based checks at the potential cost of one’s sanity should also be considered as a smart, flavorful choice. Memory storing, eavesdropping…being turned into a hideous gargoyle, being targeted by a terrible jealousy – the mirrors herein carry, much like mythic Narcissus, their risk for those not careful. That being said, emitting shadowy duplicates or instant-changes of clothes make surprising sense and can easily provide some neat hooks.
Catching rays, mirror images, mirrors acting as relays, mirrors that can store summoned creatures in stasis and soul-storing – a significant array of nice tricks is available here. The final page also has nice lists of the mirrors by price.
Editing and formatting are good, but not perfect – there are some minor glitches to be found herein. Layout adheres to Kobold Press’ beautiful two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.
Mike Welham’s magical mirrors are surprisingly complex items that dare to tackle highly complex rules-interactions and iconic narrative tropes. Now not all of the former rules-tricks work perfectly or completely smooth, but unlike quite a few pdfs attempting this level of complexity, the book manages to render all items operable. Sometimes with a couple of rough edges around the corner-cases, granted, but that is, at least in my book, offset by the significant array of mirrors that are NARRATIVE GOLD. From the potential campaign-savers to exceedingly smart traps that reward brains over brawn, it is with the wholly unique benefits that this pdf shines. Where things get full-blown odd and far out, this installment starts becoming utterly fun. The best of magic items can spawn ideas for whole adventures or campaigns and this pdf does sport numerous of these iconic examples of their craft – enough to counteract the minor blemishes the pdf has. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.