Game: Tome of the Ancients Volume 1: Artifacts
Publisher: Dungeon Dwellers Guild Games
Series: Tome of the Ancients
Review Dated: 9th, September 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10 [ Something special ]
Total Score: 12
Average Score: 6.00
Tome of the Ancients Volume 1: Artifacts
Dungeon Dwellers Guild Games
By John C. Walborn and Theodore C. Zion
Is a +1 sword just a +1 sword?
This is the first in a series of e-books by Dungeon Dwellers Guild Games. This d20 book proposes to aid Dungeon Masters in creating material for their own games, rather than “cluttering your game with more content.” This work strives to assist in storytelling and creating a more dynamic game world by improved descriptions of magic items. New tools are often welcomed by both beginning and experienced DM’s; this book provides more examples using the Dungeon Dwellers’ methodologies. This book helps create unique magic items, each with a history and description.
Based on the premise that no magic item is spontaneously generated in a treasure trove, TotA:A guides magic item creation starting with background on each item’s creator. Tables for race and alignment are included–and were expected–but random rolls for faction and climate are also given. Additional random charts are included for the items themselves. These are intended to spark ideas for the GM. Additionally, each section (weapons, armour, etc.) includes twenty examples, for a total of one hundred ready-made magic items in the book. The focus is on creating a mental image of the prospective magic items–no game mechanics are given until the Weapons chapter.
The Weapons chapter considers the significance of the item to determine any bonuses. Note that it is possible to create a special item that is non-magical. Items that were intended to be more important are more likely to have greater bonuses and special abilities. Following the short section covering actual charts and mechanics, is the list of examples. The examples in this and the following chapters form the bulk of the book. I like the first example; it was telling as to what the book was really like:
Gured´s Heavy Crossbow of War: This Dwarven heavy crossbow is crafted of oak and iron and has been painted entirely black with the name “Gured”, in Dwarven runes, carved into the stock. Its magical bonus is a simple +1. The crossbow is in the possession of a vendor and available for sale.
The remaining chapters: Armor, Jewelry, et al. operate under similar means. There are some nifty abilities in the charts, like armour that heals damage, but nothing world (or campaign) shattering). Personally, I see this as a good thing, as it is very unbalancing if a random roll can give one player something that can easily overwhelm all obstacles. Tome of the Ancients Volume 1 keeps the results rather low key. This is especially good as the objective is to help DM’s create unique artifacts instead of being a power-player wish list.
I liked the “Base Power” concept introduced in the Clothing chapter. This is not quite the same as giving “magical plusses” to clothing items, but rather allows a variation in power levels. For example, a cloak may give a +2 to disguise, while a more powerfully enchanted pair of lucky socks may grant a +3 bonuse to saving throws.
There is a short (one page) chapter covering Miscellaneous Tables. These add extra descriptive notation: material, colour, location, reason. Another single page chapter covers the Customization of the charts for your own games. The final chapter covers how to include these Artifacts in Your Game.
Good points: I love details. This is the sort of thing that I long for–well thought out ideas and histories rather than mere lists of numeric bonuses. This would work ideally in a low-powered campaign with players who can appreciate the “flavour text,” and would rather explore the nuances of their world than run amok looking for the next beast to slay.
Bad points: This would be a bit much for high-powered games. If your treasure counting method involves something along the lines of, “put all the +2 daggers over there,” then the amount of preperatory work needed for the DM can become quite disheartening. This is addressed somewhat, as to how to handle this. Beyond the covers and initial page, there are no illustrations; I’m not to concerned on this point as I prefer substance over style.
I expect a typical response from some to be along the lines of, “but they didn’t include creation information.” If you are expecting lists of increasingly powerful magic items accompanied with minimum levels, spells, feats, and experience point costs, you are looking in the wrong place. There aren’t new rules, just new ways of using the existing set to fashion a better game. If you desire the ability to enhance your game with better descriptions, this may be what you are looking for.