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Thursday, 22nd February, 2007, 03:07 AM #1
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Loot 4 Less Volume II: Rods, Staves, and Wands
Loot 4 Less Volume II: Rods, Staves, and Wands is a short electronic book published by Bargain Book (by way of ID Adventures). The intent of the book is to provide cheap rods, staves, and wands that remain useful through the campaign.
The book is written by Owen K.C. Stephens, who has also written for Green Ronin (Advanced GMs Guide, Black Company), Wizards of the Coast (Dragon Magic, Critical Locations, and the upcoming Star Wars Saga Edition), and Sword & Sorcery Studios, as well as numerous magazine articles.
A First Look
Loot for less is distributed as a zipped PDF. The document is 16 pages including cover page, “back cover” blurb, and open game license. It’s available for a cool $1.25 through e23, RPGnow, and DrivethruRPG.
The book features no artwork. Formatting is a simple, crisp 2-column format, with good use of headers and sidebars. The narrative style is humorous yet professional.
A Deeper Look
The Loot 4 Less series provides the buyer with what appears to be a gap in the rules: inexpensive magic items that remain useful at higher levels. The author argues, for example, that to live up to their literary counterparts, even low level wizards should be able to afford a staff. And on the other end of the equation, the author laments that wands are essentially disposable, and can’t really become a career long staple for a character.
This case being made, the author provides a set of alternate rods, staffs, and wands all priced under 2500 gp that remain useful to a character. To do this, a few rules tweaks and variations are required. The author is very careful to let you know where he goes off the beaten path, the rules assumptions behind pricing, and his personal justification for living up to the archetypes in fantasy literature.
In particular, the staff variant provided here is called staff foci. Staff foci grant characters additional spells known; wizards can prepare the additional spell, sorcerers could spontaneously cast them. This is obviously a bit more of a benefit for sorcerers, so casting spells from a staff for spontaneous caster takes additional time. Clerics and druids gain nearly no benefit, but the author argues this is consistent with fantasy archetypes, but suggests you might use it as a means to add new spells from supplements into the game.
Wands, on the other hand, become spell enhancers, adding caster levels to spells cast for specific schools for specific purposes. So a wand might grant a bonus to caster level for the purposes of caster level checks, a different wand might grant a bonus to duration, and so forth.
Finally, we have the case of rods. Rods, Stephens observes, are a bit different from wands and staves, with no strict unifying theme. So the book doesn’t really create new rules for rods so much as dallies around with a few ideas for inexpensive and potentially useful rods such as a rod of bolt throwing, a telescoping rod, or a rod of rings (allows a user to quickly change between the benefits of multiple rings stored on the rod.) There are a few sidebars explaining how certain of these items are priced. Considering that much of the economic formulae behind the magic items in the d20 system run at cross purposes to making items cheap, these discussions should help mollify the teatotalers out there.
You may like this book...
You may like this book if you find that the existing formulaic rods, staves, and wands make them a bit too predictable and stale, to expensive for low level characters, and/or if would like such items in your games to more closely emulate archetypes from fantasy literature.
You might not like this book...
You might not like this book if you are insistent that wands and staffs should behave strictly as currently described in the core rules or feel no desire to emulate them as they behave in fantasy literature than they already do. Also, if you don’t concern yourself about the minutia of pricing items and tend to introduce whatever items you feel like in the game, the game-mechanical justifications might be lost on you.
(This section is the application of my personal values and my desire to represent my tastes. I recognize that not everyone has the same values in gaming books, from which I derive my rating. If you disagree with my rating, I suggest you read the rest of my review and draw your own conclusions.)
Loot 4 Less Volume II: Rods, Staves, and Wands provides a bit more variety to magic items without entirely eschewing the rules and without providing overpowering items to players. Stephens displays both his mastery of the rules and for keeping the game fresh and interesting. It’s a daunting task and he does it well.
At 1.25 USD, it’s really easy to scratch that itch if you fit into the “you might like this book if” category.
Overall Grade: B+
-Alan D. Kohler
Last edited by Psion; Thursday, 22nd February, 2007 at 08:17 PM.
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