Game: Personal Artifacts
Publisher: Ronin Arts
Review Dated: 8th, October 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 5/10 [ Perfectly acceptable ]
Total Score: 17
Average Score: 5.67
I suspect many people will think that I’m being rather backwards about this. I like Ronin Arts‘ 101 Mundane Treasures so why am I not so impressed with Personal Artifacts? I don’t get 101 of them for a start.
Mundane treasures are hard to think up. They require a bit of lateral thinking. Magic treasures, especially the game mechanically powerful ones like these Personal Artifacts are easy to conjure up. In fact, they’re all over the Internet, leaking out of Geocities and Tripod pages, begging people to come and pay attention to them. Well… I suppose the idea of a “personal artifact” took a little guts. It’s not quite an artifact, that’s too powerful, but it’s still a magic item outside the normal power limits.
Munchkin. Ah-ahem. I was reminded of the fabulous Munchkin game from Steve Jackson when I opened up the Personal Artifacts PDF and scrolled down to the familiar yellow-brown of the faux old parchment background. Items like “Ship in a Bottle”, “Sword of Bleeding”, or even “Rod of Many Weapons” might just be treasure cards but actually belong in this PDF.
The Amulet of Cleric Multiclass might give the wearer to Turn or Rebuke Undead, the Scribe Scroll Feat and even Extra Turning. The first six levels of a character class might land on someone’s lap. The Amulet of Sorcerer Multiclass would reward the lucky wearer with a Familiar and even magic abilities. It’s not the huge amounts of power – and I think six free levels of a character class is huge power – that concerns me though. I just don’t like the game mechanics having such a strong presence in the campaign world. Let’s keep the Out of Character bits of the game out of the In Character bits. The fix is easy; rename the damn thing. The Amulet of Ferdinand.
I tell you what; I’ll be renaming the “Baubles of Ancient Power” too. Some ancient magic has enriched these small gems with the ability to make things harder. They’re like viagra for your adventuring equipment. This hardness appears just to be a welcome side effect! You’d really want to find a specific bauble – like the Bauble of Ancient Critical Hit Power – and use it wisely. In this case, you’d infuse it into your sword to make it harder and better at thrusting. Get a critical hit, roll a 10 (on a d10), and the unlucky target drops dead without a save. Come here Thor, you wimp. Once again I’m being a bit mean – the text for each item does suggest a common name. The Bauble of Ancient Hardening Power (AC increased by 50%) is also known as the Shield Stone. If you are a GM in a hurry then you don’t have to use these silly generic names and do have easy access to monikers friendly to the flavour of the game.
After these two categories of items Personal Artifacts temps us with specific items. These are the one off items. There’s the Bow of Splitting, for example, a +6 Composite Bow that magically duplicates any arrow fired from it. Even magic ones. If you happen to be level 22 then your arrow will duplicate twice. I quite like the idea behind the Candle of Darkness. It doesn’t emit light, it oozes darkness – in this case, since it’s a baby artifact, it oozes darkness for a radius of a mile.
There are 32 pages of this sort of powerful magic item. I think that’s good value for just US $5. It’s a professional PDF too. I’ve already noted on the fetching background colouring – and it would be remiss of me not to point out the quality front cover and line drawings inside. Ronin Arts tend to put their PDF pages together in landscape – wide but short, rather than tall and thin, and this does make the electronic document easier to read on screen. Jumping around from artifact to artifact is easy since the PDF is properly bookmarked. There’s a black and white edition, free with the purchase, that’s ideal for printing out.
I think author The Le has found an honest to goodness niche within the d20 system. There is a gap in the power hierarchy for magical loot and there will be plenty of players, used to the high level games, bored with the standard +3 toys and plenty of DMs unwilling to dish out artifacts. This PDF is ideal for them. Bastion Press’ high magic Oathbound campaign setting rushes to mind as the ideal location for some of these items too. I have to admit, these Personal Artifacts might not appeal to my preferred way of fantasy gaming but they professionally polished inspiration and am always able to better my gaming experience with some of that.
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