Game: 101 Mundane Treasures
Publisher: Philip J Reed
Review Dated: 7th, January 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 8
Average Score: 4.00
101 Mundane Treasures gets off to a magical start. In between downloading the product and starting the review I received a free upgrade. So did everyone else, I think, who ordered the original. Bonus.
The revised copy comes in two PDFs. There’s a full version and a cut-down black and white copy for printing ease. This review is of the latest full version. It’s a pretty version filled with bold colours, bold layout choices and full colour detailed illustrations. Philip J Reed.com seems to have the knack of picking talented and interesting artists. This time round it’s Studio Ronin. There is a solid colour sidebar but it’s on the right hand-side of the page not on the left. I don’t think words do that that justice. Years of the internet and traditional RPG book layouts have taught us to expect sidebars to appear on the left. You will notice the yellow bar on the right here even though it’s fairly slim. There are no traditional grey boxes for extra comments; there are yellow ones instead. There’s a yellow line at the top and bottom of each page. Yellow. Yellow. It works for me.
101 Mundane Treasure’s goal is simple – to give you 101 mundane but presumably interesting treasures. This new version actually squeezes in 104. A mundane treasure is a non-magical one, this doesn’t stop them having special features of their own though.
The first chapter is by far and my way my favourite. It was actually with some disappointment that I discovered the bulk of the download wouldn’t be more of the same. 101 Mundane Treasures is 26 pages long. As with the other 101s the supplement is concise and cheap. The Unusual Material chapter is 3 pages long and as it the name implies lists some interesting materials. Some of the suggested material seems rather unpractical for busy adventures but certainly has a lovely artist quality. Deepland Crystal, for example, seems rather too prone to breaking in your hand and stabbing you with splinters. Night Bark, on the other hand, strikes me as a great wood to make bows out of. For me, better than the game mechanic side of this are the short but effective descriptions for the materials. Night Bark is actually wood from the Midnight Trees. These tall and black trees grow in the frozen forests of the far north. Sure, okay, you’ll have to change that if you don’t have frozen forests in your far north but that’s easy enough to change. Either way the description is a winner. Stories tell that the Midnight Trees were once sentient guardians of the forest but who abandoned their posts. It’s this sort of flavour that I lap up and that inspires me to include these unusual materials in my game.
The great thing about the unusual materials is that they’re fairly generic. You can apply them to different equipment or weapons. I’ve already mentioned bows made from Night Bark but you could also make a shield. You could build your catapults or village out of it if you wanted to. Generic is good, specific is… well, it’s still useful but it’s not my preferred way to present equipment. The rest of the download is chock fill of specific equipment.
There’s strength in numbers. There’s therefore plenty of strength here. There is special strength in a PDF product too. With the aid of the find function it’s easy to whisk through all the leather items, mithril or so something that weighs exactly 50 lbs. You can do that in any PDF but it’s especially useful here.
There are four pages of armour. Since these are specific examples we’ve the likes of a damage set of chain (and appropriate modifier) that’s studded with gems (and appropriate cost). There are spiked shields (with damage rules) and orcish warlord half-plate.
There are just over two pages of clothing. Here we find everything from luxury such as sequined gloves to adventuring basics like leather scabbards. Nearly two pages of jewellery offer fantasy stalwarts like elf rings to more unusual items like the crown of the medusa. The miscellaneous section is about five and a half pages long. I found some excellent items in here; the costs and weight for a vial of poison, playing cards, dragon bone nice and crystal skulls. On the other hand some of the stats here are less likely to ever both a GM. I doubt I’d ever stress over the need to get the price and weight (let alone the description) of a vase correct or a set of iron keys.
I’ve often found it hard to get to grips with the costs of musical instruments in fantasy games. Should they be more expensive or less? The prices in the half page section here seem about right.
Yes, there are weapons too. There are four pages worth of masterwork or otherwise notable weapons with appropriate stats. It is worth noting that the pages here aren’t as long as a traditional layout is but they are probably a little wider.
It really is quite fun flicking through this visually impressive download on the screen. It’s less impressive but probably more practical once it’s printed off. The changes made in the revision are good; they take a product that does what it sets out to do (that critical point which marks an acceptable book in a GameWyrd review) and add a little bit more.