Game: Artifacts of the Ages: Rings
Publisher: The Game Mechanics
Review Dated: 17th, June 2005
Reviewer’s Rating: 3/10 [ Not good enough ]
Total Score: 3
Average Score: 3.00
It’s through no fault of the production quality nor quirk of The Game Mechanics’ writing style that this book put me to sleep.
Artifacts of the Ages: Rings is actually 80 pages running through magical ring ideas. It’s US$17.95. Magic rings… hmm. What an original idea for a fantasy roleplaying setting! I must pay for ideas and inspiration there. No really. Just in case we might have forgotten Artifacts of the Ages: Rings reminds us that magical rings feature in such books as Lord of the Rings. The introduction uses a few pages to tell us what to expect in the book (magic rings, perhaps) and how to use the book (as a source of magic rings, perhaps).
Artifacts of the Ages: Rings could have pulled something amazing out of the bag and found a whole new angle on magic rings and actually have found a reason to invest US$17.95. Let’s have a look. There are four types of rings; battlerings, spellrings, faithrings and swiftrings. Battlerings are for battling type characters and boost battle abilities. Spellrings are for spellcasters and boost spell abilities. Faithrings are for divine magic users and boost their abilities. Swiftrings are for characters with speed and dexterity and boost dexterity and speed. There isn’t an angle here which I find new or exciting.
To be fair there are some twists in the book. It turns out that gems and jewels are thrown into the “ring” classification too. Unfortunately this isn’t a twist which appeals to me. The ring is symbolic. It’s a closed loop. It’s worn around flesh. It’s man made. The same cannot be said for gems. I think there could have been scope in an Artifacts of the Ages book on gems – there’s a whole interesting and complex chemistry in the creation of gems in this world and I think that could have been extrapolated into something inciting in a fantasy word (perhaps opals are only formed in the right humidity, on the right mineral rich surface and where there’s 2% background divine magic). The first “ring” in the book is a magical broach. In fact we have jewellery as well as jewels in this supplement as well.
Sometimes the power-ups received for these artifacts are hard to justify or explain. A battlering, for example, grants the wearer the ability to hide from animals. I don’t get the connection. Why craft such an impressive magic item for a powerful warrior and even consider that hiding from animals as a possibility! One cynical theory is that “hide from animals” is a cut down version of the invisibility power of the One Ring. Imagine trying to base a campaign or even a scenario around tracking down the rare and potent artifact. After years in the wilderness, countless battles against orcs, political intrigue and near death situations – one fighter in the party can now hide from animals! Hardly seems worth it (and certainly not worth nearly US$18). Another battlering grants the heroic barbarian the ability to create rock from mud (wow). The special powers granted by these items range from the afore mentioned poor examples, through the game useful and finally to the, game balance dangerous, very powerful.
If the “hide from animals” ability is painful copy of One Ring behaviour then the two standard qualities of each ring are worse – these rings are unbreakable and can’t be lost. Lost rings have a way of making themselves found.
As is traditional for d20 products there are new prestige classes. In fact, prestige characters are tied closely to the ring types. If you have a battlering then you can become a Battle Scion prestige class, a spellring opens up the Spell Scion, the faithring allows the Faith Scion and the swiftring opens the Swift Scion. These are boring classes gaining either bonus feats or additional spell casting levels. If you loose your ring then you instantly transform your prestige class levels into levels of a suitable character class. You could leave your monastery as a young monk, find a swiftring (through luck or design), have it for years and gain levels in Swift Scion without ever spending any more time on monkish thoughts but then, weirdly, become an experienced monk should you loose your ring. I lost my ring and suddenly the cosmic truths of years of mediation are known to me! The Game Mechanics tries to apply some common sense to this weird character level reverting – you have to revert back to a related class (no becoming a barbarian after loosing your spellring) and you have to have at least one level in the fall back class. These are good ideas but it is possible to fall through the gap and not qualify for any character class.
It’s not all useless though. Artifacts of the Ages: Rings does do some good. Each ring has plenty of history and this is divided up into suitable knowledge checks for investigating characters. There should be a good sense of discovery for each “ring”. The unbreakable trait of each ring is used to good effect too – each ring does have a way of destruction – being tossed into a volcano, kept off the ground for a year, placed in the hands of a god or simply carefully dismantled.
In summary – no. Not impressed at all. In the unlikely event I can can’t create a magic ring of my own, or even wing one without any advanced warning, I can probably find thousands of ideas for free on the Internet (and many of these free ideas will be more original and interesting too).
Buy Artifacts of the Ages: Swords and Staves instead. The original book in the series proves that you can take a dangerously unoriginal concept and yet do enough with it to make the supplement a worthy addition to any RPG library.