Hello, and welcome back to d20diairies! August 2019 is a crazy month for d20 releases, so buckle up! We’re in for one exciting ride!
Dungeons & Dragons
Although there’s no big D&D releases this month, highlights from last month include the first two releases in the Young Adventurer’s Guide line: Monsters & Creatures and Warriors & Weapons! Both of my kids are huge fans of these books. For more information check out our review on the Young Adventurer’s Guides here.
Last month marked the finale of the Tyrant’s Grasp Adventure Path with Pathfinder Adventure Path 144: Midwives to Death by John Compton. This was the final Pathfinder First Edition adventure to be released. But, as First Edition comes to an end, Second Edition begins. And WOW, there is a LOT of Pathfinder Second Edition products coming out this month!
First and foremost: The Core Rulebook (also available in a Deluxe Edition). This massive 638 page tome contains (almost) everything you need to get started playing Pathfinder Second Edition. With a highly intuitive gameplay system, and incredibly varied character development choices that can be made at every level, Pathfinder Second Edition is shaping up to be absolutely awesome. We’ve just finished reading the rules and can’t wait to get started playing some mini-adventures. GMs, like myself, will also need one other book to play: Bestiary! The Bestiary (also available in a Deluxe Edition) is 357 pages long and contains over 400 creatures with dynamic and diverse abilities. Coming out later this month is another hardcover I’m particularly excited for, Pathfinder Lost Omens World Guide, which advances Golarion’s timeline ten years and shows us what’s happening throughout ten mega-regions of the Inner Sea Region. There’s plenty of changes coming, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us.
It may be new, but there’s already plenty of exciting Third Party Publisher releases for Pathfinder Second Edition. Although we haven’t had a chance to read many, below are a few we’re particularly excited for.
Everybody Games has two issues of their ‘Files for Everybody’ line out. Issue 1: Nashi, by Alex Augunas, brings raccoon-folk to Second Edition, while Issue 2: Acrobatics Feats, by Dustin Knight, contains ten new General Acrobatics Skill feats.
Rusted Iron Games recently launched Tombstone, a gritty alternate history wild west setting compatible with Pathfinder Second Edition rules that pits PCs against monsters, magic, and The Blight, a terrifying infection from beyond the stars. A mixture of western, fantasy, and occult horror, it’s shaping up to be a fun and quirky twist on RPGs. Current releases in this line include Ancestries of Tombstone: Chupacabra by Joshua Hennington, Ancestries of Tombstone: Jackalope by Jacob W. Michaels, and Ancestries of Tombstone: Rougarou by Dennis Muldoon, all of which are available on DriveThruRPG. Upcoming releases include more ancestries, and class feats. My daughter has decided to make at least five jackalope characters — one for each heritage — so my PDF is proving well worth the money.
And finally, WizKids! This month saw the launch of the Pathfinder Battles: Legendary Adventures Preview Pack, an 8 miniature sneak peak of the upcoming Pathfinder Battles: Legendary Adventures miniatures. Later this month D&D: Icons of the Realms: Baldur’s Gate: Descent in Avernus is scheduled to launch! This set of random booster boxes features 45 different plastic pre-painted miniatures.
And that’s what we’re touching on this month! Got a favourite release? I’d love to hear about it!
A new series of Dungeons & Dragons books aimed at children is scheduled to launch next week and we are absolutely thrilled to be in possession of advance copies of these delightful new books, which we’re going to share with you today!
The Dungeons & Dragons Young Adventurer’s Guide series is written by Jim Zub, Stacy King, and Andrew Wheeler. The series begins with two simultaneous releases on July 16th, 2019: ‘Monsters and Creatures’ and ‘Warriors and Weapons.’ There are two more books in development that are scheduled to be released in Fall 2019 (Dungeons & Tombs: A Young Adventurer’s Guide) and Spring 2020 (Wizards & Spells: A Young Adventurer’s Guide) and, if they’re popular enough, there may be more beyond that in the future. The D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide series is intended for middle-grade readers (ages 8-12) and meant to inspire these young readers to read, write, create, imagine, and of course, play D&D. The American cover price for each of the books is $12.99, with the Canadian cover price $17.50. Each book is 105 pages long.
Before we take an in depth look at each of the books individually, let’s talk first impressions…
These books look and feel great! They have high quality hard covers, sturdy glossy pages, tons of unique full colour art, and a design aesthetic that’s in line with the adult D&D releases. These books feel like they’re a part of the Dungeons & Dragons line — which is absolutely awesome! It makes my kids feel like these books are just as important as the rest of our D&D books, which in turn makes them feel included and a part of the hobby.
Taken on their own, the Young Adventurer’s Guides have a nice layout, easy to read text, beautiful art, and are well organized. They’re approachable, interesting, engaging, and clearly written for kids, but, at the same time, the books don’t talk down to the reader. These books are written with care, and meant to provide younger audiences an easy to understand introduction to the world of roleplaying games and storytelling, as well as inspire them to make the world and stories their own.
I have two children, a seven year old girl and an eight year old boy, making them on the young end of the intended audience for these books. Both of my kids have very good reading comprehension for their age. That said, both of my kids thoroughly enjoyed these books. My son had no problem reading the books and seemed to understand everything he read. My daughter, understandably, had more trouble, having to sound out a tricky word or two with each flip of the page, and often asking for definitions of words. Despite this, she was fully engaged with reading the books, and never got frustrated. As is typical with many fantasy books, the trickiest words are fictional names of characters and places. While many kids will stumble over these words once or twice before internalizing them, just as many will skip over them and move on. My son didn’t come across any content that he found inappropriate or too mature for him, while my daughter came across a few creatures she decided were a little ‘too spooky’ for her right now, so she skipped those pages and continued on enjoying the rest of the book. Considering the age and reading abilities of my kids, I think these books are well suited to the middle-grade reader level they’re advertised as. My kids loved them, and they definitely have room to grow with the books. We haven’t had them long and already my kids have read and re-read them more than a few times. They’ve already started utilizing information they picked up from the books in their play, storytelling, roleplaying, and gaming. These are the sort of books my kids get a ton of use out of, coming back to them often, and using different sections for inspiration at different times.
It’s important to note that these books are NOT a replacement for the D&D Player’s Handbook or the Monster Manual. The Young Adventurer’s Guides do NOT contain game mechanics or rules. They lay out the major concepts, roles, gear, and monsters in a way that is easy to understand, approachable, and engaging. They’re meant to inspire creativity, without overwhelming readers with rules. I highly recommend this series for for any kids who love adventure, fantasy, horror, monsters, roleplaying, storytelling, or who have exposure to RPGs.
Monsters & Creatures: A Young Adventurer’s Guide is an illustrated guide to the many beasts of Dungeons & Dragons. Featuring one-of-a-kind entries for some of its most memorable monsters, and over 60 brand new illustrations, this book is sure to ignite the imagination of young readers. This book begins with a short, one page introduction which gives the book some context and explains the books ‘Danger Levels,’ which is a 0-5 point scale meant to show how tough a creature is. Although similar to Challenge Ratings in D&D, these numbers are NOT equivalent. Beginning at 0, which denotes a creature that is essentially harmless, moving on to 1, which is an acceptable challenge for low-level or beginning adventurers, and ending at 5, which is a difficult challenge for high level heroes. There is one Danger Level higher than this: EPIC, which denotes a creature so powerful only the most legendary heroes could hope to triumph over it.
The creatures in this book are sorted by the regions they call home, beginning with underground creatures, which are found in ‘Caverns & Dark Places,’ moving up onto the surface with ‘Forests, Mountains, & Other Terrain’ dwelling creatures (which also includes a special sub-chapter on giants of all kinds). Following this is ‘Moors, Bogs, and Boneyards,’ a chapter which primarily focuses on undead creatures with a special sub-chapter on vampires, and ‘Oceans, Lakes & Waterways,’ which is packed full of aquatic creatures. Finally, airborne monsters can be found in ‘Mountain Peaks & Open Sky,’ which also contains a special sub-chapter on dragons. Each monster profile contains information on the size of each beast, its danger level, and tips for how to survive an encounter with one. There’s also lore, special abilities and powers, typical tactics, and a handy list of do’s and don’ts for dealing with these beasts. Finally, new art! This book is packed full of it!
Monsters & Creatures also features encounters, which are short, one page stories that introduce a famous D&D character, place them in a perilous situation involving one of the described creatures, and then ends, leaving each opening scene with a cliffhanger ending. Following this is questions that ask the reader what they think the characters should do next, what would happen in response to those actions, and what the characters should do afterwards. These encounters are meant to guide kids to roleplay their own endings to exciting stories, and question the ramifications of their actions. This problem-solving is a great way to introduce kids to RPGs as both a player and DM.
The book ends with a short chapter on how to use monsters to tell stories, and important questions to contemplate for kids who decide to make stories or engage in RPGs on their own. Things like, ‘who are your characters,’ ‘where does your story take place,’ ‘how do things change as the story proceeds,’ and so on. Finally, there’s a short blurb about Dungeons & Dragons, and how to get into the game.
So what creatures, exactly, are featured in Monsters & Creatures? Plenty! ‘Caverns & Dark Places’ includes the beholder, bugbear, carrion crawler, flumph, goblin, mind flayer, myconid, and the legendary Demogorgon. ‘Forests, Mountains & Other Terrain’ includes the centaur, displacer beast, owlbear, sprite, treant, unicorn, hill giant, stone giant, frost giant, fire giant, cloud giant, storm giant, and the legendary fire giant Duke Zalto. ‘Moors, Bogs & Boneyards’ includes the banshee, skeleton, vampire lord, vampire spawn, and the legendary vampire Count Strahd Von Zarovich. ‘Oceans, Lakes & Waterways’ includes the aboleth, dragon turtle, and merrow. ‘Mountain Peaks & Open Sky’ includes the griffon, pegasus, white dragon, green dragon, black dragon, blue dragon, red dragon, and the legendary Tiamat, Queen of Evil Dragons! Encounters are included for the frost giant, green dragon, myconid, skeleton, and unicorn. My son most enjoyed reading about unicorns, flumphs, blue dragons, and vampires. My daughter most enjoyed reading about the beholder, flumph, dragon turtle, dragons, and Tiamat. My daughter also came across a few creatures that she decided, either from the art or after reading the first few sentences, were ‘too spooky’ for her. She promptly skipped those monsters and moved on with the book. The monsters she skipped were the carrion crawler (she’s afraid of bugs), the aboleth (she thought it looked creepy), and the mind flayer (it had a giant brain behind it and she was pretty sure she didn’t want to know why).
As an adult reader, I was pleasantly surprised with the array of creatures featured in this book. There’s a lot of iconic monsters in here, a ton of fantasy staples, and some quirky creatures that most kids will be discovering for the first time. Some of the choices were a bit gutsy for a kids book — the mind flayer and demogorgon, for example — but I’m thrilled to see them included. I’m pleased to see that not all of the monsters are evil creatures, there’s plenty that can be befriended or negotiated with. The information included in the monster entries is absolutely wonderful. There’s integral information, great advice, and enough engaging descriptions to get my kids interested and curious. The encounters were a definite highlight of the book, as was the beautiful new artwork found throughout. The book is high-quality and sturdy, which is important since our copy is sure to take a beating. I’m far from the intended audience for this book, but I really enjoyed reading it. Even more than that, I loved sharing this book with my kids. I loved watching them discover and wonder over the creatures inside. Monsters & Creatures is a refreshing new take on the world and lore of D&D, sure to delight young readers, spark their imagination, and inspire them to tell stories of their own. Cover to cover it’s great fun.
My daughter: “I loved this book. It was fun to read and the pictures were beautiful! I give it two thumbs up! I think I will read it again and again. I really loved the flumph! It was the best creature in the book. That’s what I think.”
My son: “I think that I love this book. All kinds of kids should read it. I think most would love it, too! Especially if they already like D&D and RPGs and things. I think that it is fun and I’m going to read it a lot!”
“Monsters & Creatures is a refreshing new take on the world and lore of D&D, sure to delight young readers, spark their imagination, and inspire them to tell stories of their own. Cover to cover it’s great fun.”
Warriors & Weapons: A Young Adventurer’s Guide is an illustrated introductory guide to the many kinds of warriors you can create in Dungeons & Dragons, along with the weapons, armour, and adventuring gear that they’ll make use of. Featuring one-of-a-kind content and over sixty new illustrations, this book gives young adventurers the information and inspiration they need to create their own characters.
Warriors & Weapons begins with a quick introduction that makes it clear that this book is meant to help the reader and their friends make characters of their own. The rest of the book is divided into three major sections: fantasy races, character classes, and equipment. There’s a large array of fantasy races covered in this book — most I expected to see included, but a few were surprises that I knew of but didn’t expect to make the cut. Each race is covered in two side-by-side pages. It starts with new art and a few questions that can help kids figure out if they’ll like playing that race. You’ll also find information on their age, size, attributes, and a few paragraphs about the race and how they act or fit into the world. The races included in this book are human, dwarf, elf, gnome, half-elf, half-orc, halfling, dragonborn, kenku, tabaxi, tiefling, and tortle.
Warriors & Weapons is a book about warriors. It should come as no surprise then, that not all of the character classes are covered in this book. The martial classes are included. That means there are six classes covered in the chapter on classes: barbarian, fighter, monk, paladin, ranger, and rogue. Each class entry contains a few questions that can help kids figure out if they would enjoy making a character of that class, information on the class, its major low level abilities, and the weapons, armour, and gear they’re capable of using. Many also include information on the various archetypes, paths, and specializations available to those classes. After each class entry is a two page spread that takes a look at a famous example of that character class. These ‘legendary heroes’ include Wulfgar the Warhammer, Bruenor Battlehammer, Whey-Shu, Redclay, Minsc the Mighty, and Shandie Freefoot. The class section also includes a little flowchart that can tell kids what class they’re most like, and a short section on character backgrounds, attire, details, inspiration, and flaws.
The Equipment section takes a quick look at weapons (swords, polearms, other melee weapons, ranged weapons, and special weapons), armour (light, medium, heavy, and shields), survival gear, adventuring gear, tools, and some special packs for more specialized endeavours (burglar’s pack, dungeoneer’s pack, explorer’s pack, and vampire hunter’s pack). All of the weapon and armour entries talk about the pros and cons of utilizing items of that types, and showcases a few popular versions. The other equipment entries talk about the purpose of different kinds of gear, being prepared for your adventures, and why selecting the right equipment for your character is important. Finally, this section also contains a quick monster entry about the terrifying… rust monster!
The book ends with a few comments about how you can use your characters to tell stories of your own, and a quick blurb about Dungeons & Dragons and how to get involved in the game. Most of the information on these back few pages is the same as that contained at the end of Monsters & Creatures.
My kids both adored this book. They love flipping through the races and classes, answering the questions, and making up characters. My daughter particularly enjoys the flowchart that helps you pick out the class you’re most like, and has spent a lot of time making up her own quizzes to determine our race and class. She often sits down beside me, flips open her book, and announces, “Mama! Pick a race!” I cannot stress enough how much she enjoys using this book to make characters and character concepts. My son really enjoys reading about the legendary heroes, with both of my kids agreeing Minsc the Mighty and his hamster Boo are the coolest characters in the book. (I’m pretty sure Boo the hamster would win in a popularity contest between the two of them around here, haha). When it comes down to it, I think they enjoy the sections on races and classes more than the section on equipment. Warriors & Weapons is, without a doubt, a book that has sparked my kid’s imaginations. It’s inspired them to create characters, make stories, and share their ideas with the people around them. With a few flips of the page they imagine themselves heroes. And what could be better than that? This book is sure to have a place on my kids’ bookshelves for years to come.
My daughter: “I loved this book! Especially the little chart! It’s so much fun! It was a great book and I give it two thumbs up!”
My son: “Warriors & Weapons was pretty much as good as Monsters & Creatures, but I liked Monsters & Creatures better. I love how it lets you make your own characters with races and classes. The legendary characters were the coolest part. Especially Whey-Shu and Boo.”
“Warriors & Weapons is, without a doubt, a book that has sparked my kid’s imaginations. It’s inspired them to create characters, make stories, and share their ideas with the people around them. With a few flips of the page they imagine themselves heroes. And what could be better than that? This book is sure to have a place on my kids’ bookshelves for years to come.”
My family and I had an absolute blast with these books. Monsters & Creatures and Warriors & Weapons have both been read a lot by my kids, and I expect them to continue to see heavy use in the future. My kids have already decided they would each like their own copies, so they’re saving up their money to pick up an extra copy of each book. We’re very excited to hear there’s more Young Adventurer’s Guides on the horizon, and will definitely be picking up a copy (or two) of Dungeons & Tombs and Wizards & Spells when they come out.
We’d like to give a special thanks to Penguin Randomhouse Canada for sending us advance copies for review.
Thanks for stopping by d20diaries! We’ll chat again soon.
Things are pretty crazy around my house right now. My son’s sick (again), and both of my children had their birthdays this past week. But, as things begin to settle, we’re ready to get right back into the swing of things here on d20 Diaries. So today, we’re taking a look at another book I recently got my hands on: Pathfinder Player Companion: Adventurer’s Armory 2!
The Adventurer’s Armoury 2 is a sequel to the ever-popular Adventurer’s Armory, which was also released as a Player Companion back in April 2010. As a product from the Player Companion line, it’s a thin, soft-cover book intended for use by players, which clocks in at 32 pages in length. In my opinion, the Adventurer’s Armory was among the most universally useful books in the Player Companion line, so I was thrilled to pick up the sequel.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at what’s inside…
The inside covers both feature purchasing charts showcasing the new equipment in this book. The front inside cover’s home to weapon and armour charts, while the back inside cover’s where you’ll find everything else. This includes adventuring gear, alchemical remedies, alchemical tools, alchemical weapons, poisons, clothing, magical items, and mundane tools. Looking past the covers we find the table of contents and then the introduction.
Although it doesn’t sound very exciting, the introduction’s home to one feat, Equipment Trick, which is an old, quirky feat originally printed in Adventurer’s Armory which allows your characters to make interesting uses out of a specific type of equipment chosen at the time of taking the feat. Only certain items have equipment tricks written for them, and in order to use each trick you must meet its specific requirements. Sound confusing? No worries. You take the feat and select which kind of item you’re going to learn tricks with, then read the list of tricks. If you meet the requirements for any of those tricks, you can use them. If not, keep an eye on them. You can use the trick as soon as you do meet the requirements, even if its many levels down the road. Curious what kind of equipment you can utilize? We’ll touch on that again later. For now, just know there’s plenty.
After the feat, you’ll find a collection of five traits which are all themed around where you buy your goods and feature some of the most infamous marketplaces in the Inner Sea. Including Absalom’s Coin District, Cassomir, Katapesh, Ostenso, and Riddleport, each of these traits are flavourful and fun. That being said, they’re not staples. You won’t read them and decide every one of your characters has to have it. My personal favourite? Absalom’s Amiable Briber, which is a social trait allows you to offer bribes without fear. The first time someone refuses a bribe you offer, that person’s attitude towards you doesn’t worsen, even if the offer normally would offend the person. Cool! Cassomir’s Bountiful Herb-Lore and Riddleport’s Master Messenger are also pretty cool, so be sure to check them out.
Lastly, the introduction features a handy rules index that lists the page numbers of each feat, trait and other rules option presented in this book. By now, one thing’s already clear: not everything in Adventurer’s Armory 2 is new. Some of the equipment and player options in this book are reprints from other out-of-print books. An understandable move, and helpful for those of you who might not own the original sourcebooks.
Moving on from the introduction we come to one of my favourite sections of the book: Equipment Packages! What, you may ask, is an equipment package? Simple! It’s a big collection of gear that your characters can choose to start with. What does it cost you? Two things! First, it costs a trait: Well-provisioned Adventurer. Second, it costs your starting gold. That’s right! If you take this trait you don’t staring gold at all. So, are these equipment packages worth it? That depends. In terms of value, each of these packages is worth about a thousand gold pieces. That’s a lot! In addition, the gear is well-chosen, and varied. Each allows for a minor amount of tweaking with GM approval, which should make them even more accessible. Having that much extra wealth can mean the difference between life and death at level one. However, whether or not you personally feel the gear is better than a +1 to a saving throw, a bonus to a few skills, turning a skill into a class skill, or picking up a quirky minor ability, is entirely a personal preference. My husband wasn’t wowed by it, but I certainly was, and my kids also loved it. I wouldn’t use it for all of my characters, of course, but for plenty these equipment packages are an option I’d consider. In addition to a well-chosen set of equipment geared at many different class types, these packages also include the weight for both medium and small characters already calculated. A wonderful thing if you don’t really like number crunching weights and carrying capacities, determining the adjusted weights for small sized characters, or coin counting to the copper piece. These equipment packages can also be purchased for 1,000 gp, for those of you who don’t want to use a trait to get one. As an aside, GMs can also use these equipment packages as rewards, care packages and gifts to be handed out to your players by grateful NPCs. The only obvious downside? They’re heavy. With the lightest weighing in at 44 pounds (28 3/4 for small characters) your low-strength characters are bound to be overburdened by them. I’d love to see some more light-weight options appear in the future. My favourite equipment packages turned out to be the Arcane Adept (intended for arcane spellcasters) and the Daring Bravo (intended for any lightly armoured combatant). My young son loved the Wilderness Warrior, while my daughter loved the Mystic Guide (which she’d like to use on her next druid). After you’ve given the equipment packages a read, leave us a comment and let us know if you intend to use any. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Next up we come to what most people will purchase this book for: armour and weapons. First up’s the armour. With eight new choices varying in price from 1 gp to 2,100 gp, there’s a wide variety of new armour, even if there aren’t many. My personal favourites are the Erutaki coat, the Varisian dancing scarves, and the reinforced tunic. In addition to armour, this book introduces a new type of item called a modification. Modifications can be applied to armour by a skilled smith, and offer both a benefit and a drawback. You’ll also find a feat later in the book that allows players to better utilize armour modifications. Although cool, none of these modifications are cheap, so invest with care. I’d recommend the nimble modification, which increases an armour’s Max Dex by two, reduces its check penalty by one, but costs 1,000 gp, and adds five pounds to its weight. Burnished also sounds like lots of fun at lower levels. For a cost of 500 gp, five pounds of added weight, and a -10 penalty to stealth in areas of bright light, you can dazzle your enemies with your brilliantly shining armour! Capable of targeting everyone who can see you within 30 feet, this ability has the potential to be really effective. However, each target can only be affected once per day. Other armour modifications include deflecting, double-plated (which I expect will see a lot of use), jarring, nimble, razored, slumbering (which is SUPER handy) and vitalguard.
With that we come to the Weapons. There’s a whopping twenty-five new weapons in this book, most of which are exotic, and only one of which is simple. I’m pretty partial to the cutlass, the lantern staff, and the spiral rapier. That being said, the flask thrower’s going to be incredibly handy for some characters. Past the new weapon options you’ll find a handy list showing what weapon group each belongs to, followed by seven weapon modifications. Weapon modifications work in the same way as armour modifications do, and also feature some feats which can improve their efficiency and capabilities. In addition, modified weapons have their weapon type increase by one step (from simple to martial, and martial to exotic). The weapon modifications included in this book are brutally weighted, dual-balanced, jagged hooks, razor-sharp, serrated edge, tactically adapted, and versatile design. Personally, I think that dual-balanced (which reduces the penalties for two-weapon fighting by -1) and tactical adapted (which allows you to add weapon qualities like blocking, disarm, and nonlethal to a weapon) are bound to see the most use in play.
All in all, I like the idea of modifications more than I like them mechanically. I’m unlikely to invest in them due to their hefty price tag, and the extra weight. Of course, if I’m playing a character who has extra cash to spend, a wide array of proficiencies and carrying capacity to spare, I’d give definitely them a try. I’m very curious to see them in action.
Next up we have a single page of feats. There’s nine of them total, and all of them are combat feats. Seven have to do with armour and weapon modifications, while the last two involve utilization of the dwarven dorn-derger, an exotic weapon that appears in this book. Although I’m sure some people are bound to try out the modification feats, especially Creative Armorsmith and Creative Weaponsmith, I found the feats on offer so specialized that I’m highly unlikely to use them. It’s a shame, but luckily these aren’t the only feats up for offer in Adventurer’s Armory 2.
Leaving the weapons and armour behind we come to the next section of the book, which showcases eighteen new pieces of mundane gear. Of them, I’d guess that only five or six will see play with any kind of frequency. The most useless item on the list would definitely be the false teeth, while the most universally used would probably be the charcoal. It’s so much better than buying ink and an inkpen! But, my favourite? The spring-loaded scroll case. This snazzy little case is five gold, and can be hung from a belt or backpack. It holds a single scroll which can be retrieved as a swift action. Shiny!
After the adventuring gear is a new type of equipment known as preparatory gear. These are items that you practise with for an hour everyday, then make a specific skill or ability check. If you pass, you gain a benefit that lasts for 24 hours. For example, the drowner’s helmet can help train you to hold your breath longer and the practise straitjacket can help train you to escape from bindings. There’s only two other preparatory gear in this book: the hanging board and a thief trainer. Each option’s a bit pricey–between 35 and 200 gp–but is certainly useful. The one hour daily training requirement might be a turn-off for some players, but I don’t mind at all. It’s particularly useful for non-spellcasters who travel with spellcasters and can give them something to do while your casters prepare their spells or pray to their deities. Since the benefits of each last 24 hours, training can also be done at night before heading to bed. All in all I think it’s an intriguing concept, and I’m excited to see them put to use.
Up next is some equipment tricks for use with a few fun bits of mundane gear: ladders, lanterns, mirrors and poles. Each type of gear has between three to five tricks associated with it (poles have three, ladders have four, while lanterns and mirrors have five each). Some of these tricks require a number of ranks in an associated skill to utilize, while others require specific feats as the prerequisites. The lantern tricks are the most utilitarian, and allow users to make their lanterns burn brighter or dimmer and explode like alchemist’s fire when thrown. When being held in the same hand as a shield, your lantern can deal some fire damage with each shield bash. Finally, you can toss lantern oil in an opponent’s eyes with the dirty trick maneuver (your lantern or theirs) which can both blind and burn them. The mirror tricks also sound like lots of fun. My personal favourites let you shine light into your opponents eyes, reflect gaze attacks, and even penetrate illusions! No longer is your mirror just for looking around corners!
Leaving behind the mundane adventuring gear we head into the exciting world of more mundane gear! This time it’s tools and tool kits we’re taking a gander at. Both of these sections are small, with only six items in each. As far as tools go, I was excited for a duo of new bear traps, while my daughter insisted that the portable terrarium was the greatest item in the entire book. (Warning: She may have been biased by the adorable picture of the terrarium, which features a cute little frog in a glass globe…). As for tool kits, I’m partial to the elemental explorer’s kit, and the underground survival kit, although I’m more than ready to admit that the fiendslayer’s kit and the undead survivor’s kit will see more use in play. And what other kits are up for offer, you ask? The emergency interrogation kit, and the invisible enemies kit.
The next section is a single page that features seven new poisons. The cheapest poison up for offer is the delightfully named rainbow scarab shell. At a price of only 150 gp per dose, this iridescent toxin deals strength damage upon injury once per round for four rounds. Although it’s not particularly difficult to resist or overcome, victims who reach 0 strength also begin to suffocate. The priciest poison also happens to be my favourite. Grinding joint paste is an ingested poison with a ten minute onset which costs a whopping 2,100 gold per dose. Made from dried and ground up cockatrice organs it causes a decent amount of Dexterity damage for six minutes. In addition, movement becomes so painful that the victims take damage whenever they swing a two-handed weapon or move more than ten feet in a round. Ouch! I’m also pretty partial to the Leng’s tears, which is a fast acting contact poison which causes vivid hallucinations and paralysis. Failing just once causes a full ten minutes of paralysis, with unlucky victims being unable to move for an entire hour. Nasty!
Following these nasty poisons is another set of equipment tricks, this one for instruments. Of all the equipment tricks offered in this book, this set are by far my favourite. In fact, they might be my favourite equipment tricks ever. I love them! Attention grabber lets your character draw attention to themselves in order to cover their allies movements. Goad animal lets you command friendly animals to perform tricks they know as a free action or push them to perform tricks they don’t know as a standard action. Jaw-dropping distraction lets you feint with a perform check instead of a bluff check. Play to the crowd let’s you use a perform check in place of an initial diplomacy check to influence an NPC, and finally, ruffian’s riff lets you treat an instrument as an improvised weapon with the performance special feature. Got a masterwork instrument? Then it counts as a masterwork weapon. Got a magical one? It’s treated as magic for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction. Awesome. I’m definitely going to be giving these tricks a try.
Side by side on the same page with the instrument equipment tricks is a column that I actually loved a lot. Examples of masterwork tools. I know, it doesn’t sound very exciting. But, think of it. How often do you purchase the generic ‘masterwork tools’ from the Core Rulebook. On occasion, right? Maybe if you’ve got a character who has a craft or profession. But this list reminds us that these tools are far more useful than the average player has been giving them credit for. This lists a large number of skills (which don’t already have a designated tool or tool kit), and provides example tools that you could purchase to improve those skills. Want to improve your acrobatics check? Pick up a balancing pole, gymnast’s slippers or a vaulting pole. Feel like being menacing? You could invest in frightening tattoos, an executioner’s hood, or a set of torturer’s tools. How about a reference book to help with a knowledge check, or lubricating oils to help escape bonds. This list really got me thinking about the term ‘tool’ and how they can be applied to a wide variety of characters and skills. I was honestly surprised how useful I found this little column, and I’m sure plenty of other players will get good use out of it, as well.
The next two pages revolve around clothing, with the first page being ten new articles of clothing, and the second being six new spells that need to be cast upon specific articles of clothing. The burglar’s outfit, courtesan’s outfit and squire’s outfit all provide great new options for starting outfits, while the spells allied cloak, grappling scarf, and surefoot boots were all great fun.
Past clothes we get to one of my favourite sections in the book: impromptu equipment. That’s right! Want a list of example objects and their damage for reference? It’s here! Want some magical items that help improvised weapons? Also here! There’s also a few neat feats and, my personal favourite: special qualities that some improvised weapons can possess. So whether you’re wielding a pronged taxidermic moose head, a gross hunk of rotting meat, a heavy anvil, or a burning log, these improvised weapons qualities are a lot of fun that can really get your player’s creativity flowing. It’s going to be a blast! As for feats, check out hook fighter, which lets you turn a grappling hook into a deadly weapon. For magical gear be sure to pick up gloves of improvised might and quick metal bracers, both of which are awesome options for characters interested in focusing on improvised weapons.
As we near the end of the book we find ourselves among a pile of products that can be created with arguably the most popular type of crafting in Pathfinder: alchemy. This section features two new alchemical remedies, three new alchemical tools, and seven new alchemical weapons (four of which are forms of alchemical bolts). My personal favourites were troll stypic (a painful paste which can grant users fast healing for up to 8 rounds) and the tress tincture (an alchemical weapon that causes raid hair growth, which can be terribly irritating, as your opponents hair constantly gets in their eyes and obscures vision. Yes, you read that correctly!). In addition to new alchemical substances we also get three new sets of equipment tricks which showcase the classics of alchemy: smokesticks, tanglefoot bags, and thunderstones. Exciting! Although all three are awesome, the tanglefoot bag tricks are my favourite. If you’ve got a sneaky or stealthy character, definitely give the smokestick tricks a read. The final part of the alchemy section is a new kind of brew called concoctions. These creations are less stable than your typical alchemical creations and are known for having bad side effects. In addition, players who consume more than one concoction at a time roll on a table of random effects. Half of these effects are good, and half are bad. Of those, they vary from alright and not too bad, all the way up to amazing and horrible. If you’re a gambler this can be great fun to fiddle with, but with the options ranging from ‘unleash the full potential of my body and mind’ which allows you to gain a +4 bonus on two ability score for 24 hours, all the way to the concoction explodes within your stomach, or is highly toxic, I’m not really into to testing my luck. The concoctions themselves are typically 50 gold each with the priciest being 100 gp. Each offers a benefit and a drawback. The crystal-sweet concoction gives you +2 on diplomacy and -4 on sense motive, while the sphere-song concoction gives you +1 on Will saving throws and a -2 on initiative. Although interesting, I think these items have great potential for GM
use. These can easily be added into drug dens, dangerous bars and high-end noble parties. They can also be focal points for social encounters, or used as a ‘test of faith’ or as ‘dares’ by gangs, religious organizations and the nobility. Whatever use your group happens to find for them, they’re certainly a colourful (and potentially dangerous) experience.
The next two pages of Adventurer’s Armory 2 feature a variety of equipment from two distinct regions: the Dragon Empires and the Padishah Empire. Each region has an entire page to itself, and contains a few articles of clothing, alchemical remedies or tools, and a special material. Spirit-vision ink turned out to be my favourite piece of equipment from Tian Xia, while the special material, sunsilver, was my favourite object to come from the Keleshite culture.
The final section of this book turned out to be among my favourites. It releases rules for a brand new type of construct you can make right from level one: poppets. If crafting’s not your cup of tea, you can also purchase these little fellows. Although too costly to purchase as a brand new level one character, they’re certainly affordable by the time level two rolls around. These tiny or small creations can be upgraded and modified with a host of abilities, and can even be taken as familiars with a special feat. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you may have already heard me speak about poppets. My seven-year-old son made a mad scientist who is obsessed with creating new life, and currently has two poppets he’s hand-crafted with care. To read more about poppets and our experiences using them in games, read my blog post Character Focus: Professor McMaan, and Crown of the Kobold King: Part One. Short summary: we love them.
I think so. This books features a lot of new equipment and gear, as well as some cool new rules to go with them. Although most of the rules are quite specialized and exclusive to certain character builds, the items in the book are much more varied and useful. It’s one of those books that you’ll pull out every time you’re making a new character, and pull out again for your first few level ups. Certainly, it’s not as useful as Ultimate Equipment. And with the upcoming change to Pathfinder Playtest this next August, it’s unlikely to be as popular as its predecessor, Adventurer’s Armory, was. But as far as Player Companions go, it’s definitely one of the most universally useful ones they’ve printed. In my opinion, it’s worth it.
Have a copy of Adventurer’s Armory 2 at home? Let us know what you think in the comments! Do you have a favourite item featured in its pages? Let us know that, too!