What Do I Know About Reviews? The Game Master’s Guide to Evolving Magic Items
I would just like to start this review by saying bless you to anyone making some bite-sized content for various RPGs, so I have something to talk about while I’m working on larger review projects. Today’s bite comes via Teos (Alphastream) Abadia. Last June when he was a guest on Dragon Talk, the official D&D podcast, he wrote up the rules he presented at the time as Rules for Collaborative Campaign Creation.
Teos has visited Dragon Talk in the interim, and the fruits of one of those visits is what I’m looking at today, The Game Master’s Guide to Evolving Magic Items.
I bought this myself. No review copy. It’s for D&D 5e, and I’ve run a few of those sessions.
This is an 18-page PDF. It has nice, clean, two-column layout, with black and white and color stock artwork. The pages include a credits page, a table of contents, and a closing page with links to other works by the author as well as contact information.
The main sections in this product are as follows:
- How Much Treasure? How Often?
- Cursed Items
- Creating Engaging and Rewarding Magic Items
- Evolving Signature Magic Items
While the title may imply that the point of this product is creating magic items that change over time, it has a broader purview. Much of this product is about looking at what makes magic items special. This involves looking at how often magic items should be introduced into the game, how powerful those items should be, what makes fun cursed items, and how often characters should expect to find magic items.
One of the most useful things about this product is that Teos is well-read when it comes to D&D 5e. He presents rules that have appeared in different D&D products, as well as citing various blogs, and his own experience with design.
Teos addresses that there isn’t a set “expected” amount of treasure designed into D&D 5e, but there are some benchmarks that have appeared and may serve as best practices. I enjoy that Teos “does the math” when he posits what a DM may want to do when running a game.
While the book has a broader scope than the title might indicate, the structure also does a good job of layering on concepts in order to build towards the thesis statement of the title. By examining what makes magic items fun, and how often magic items might be introduced into the game in order to make them feel special, Teos lays the groundwork for how to use that collection of pacing, expectations, and observations to streamline new elements into a singular magic item to “refresh” the wonder of the item.
Does This Tell You Exactly What Levels and What Powers to Add?
No. While this product does a good job of providing references to various sources so the reader can look at the core material that informs this discussion, it doesn’t present granular rules or summarize them in tables or charts. The closest you get is the idea that if you get something every X level, you can look in these sources to look at what you want to add to an item, after creating a theme for that item.
It also presents the concept of getting a broad idea of what players will find interesting without “promising” a specific magic item, by having broad discussions about character expectations and desires for a campaign.
In addition to citing specific of various core D&D books, there are also a few links to a few DMs Guild products that deal with the same topic. These sources engage the topic in more granular, formally summarized ways.
I really enjoy gaming products about the underpinnings of gaming, and Teos does a fine job of building an argument and presenting ideas. What makes this product enjoyable isn’t so much that it introduces a solid modular set of well-defined rules, but that it has an engaging discussion for how and why magic items are special in the game.
When Does the Curse Kick In?
The same thing that I enjoy about this product is what some people may not–this isn’t a rules module to snap on to the game, but good advice to internalize, a list of sources to explore, and the broad map of what to use in order to make your own modular additions to the game. If you aren’t as interested in exploring the why, and just want to see the final product, you may not get everything you want from this.
Qualified Recommendation–A product with lots of positive aspects, but buyers may want to understand the context of the product and what it contains before moving it ahead of other purchases.
The only reason I manage this recommendation at all is that this speaks directly to D&D 5e players, and there is a solid contingent of 5e fans that want “hard” rules versus “soft” rules. Even then, I think it’s worth it to see the other resources that Teos cites, and for some of the great examples that Teos provides when describing what evolving magic items might look like and how to build their histories.
While I don’t normally discuss how to purchase something, I also think that if you are the type of person that likes this level of analysis, you may want to subscribe to Teos’ Patreon instead of individually purchasing some of these gaming aides.