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Thursday, 29th September, 2011, 04:52 AM #1
Defender (Lvl 8)
Review of Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium by WotC
“… take what you learn here, and put it to sensible use.” ~ Mordenkainen, from the introduction of the Magnificent Emporium
For D&D gamers “of a certain age”, or at least well-versed in previous editions, Mordenkainen is THE ARCHMAGE, the pinnacle of the magical arts, and all-around bad-ass spell-slinger you don’t want to cross. Created by Gary Gygax himself as his player-character alter-ego, Mordenkainen came to be around the time the first Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books were being published, and became a major motivational force in the Greyhawk Campaign Setting as the leader of the Circle of Eight.
Yeah, he’s kind of a big deal…
So it’s intriguing to find his name tied to the new D&D 4E magic item book, a book of a quite different scope from the previous Adventurer’s Vault and Adventurer’s Vault 2. For in Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium, we find the Wizards of the Coast developers taking a new tact into magic item design, to their role and value in the game, and in some cases, a change in the potency of magic items which are one of the great “rewards” for all the “risk” of all dungeon-delving, monster-slaying heroes.
Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium
- Designers: Jeremy Crawford, Stephen Schubert, Matt Sernett
- Cover: William O’Connor
- Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
- Year: 2011
- Media: Hardbound (160 pages)
- Cost: $29.95 (available only from your local gaming stores)
Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium is a role-playing game supplement which introduces a wide range of new mundane, superior, and magical items of all kinds for use with Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition. In addition to items, Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium provides new artifacts, new rules for handling cursed items, as well as adventuring gear, hirelings and henchmen, and more.
Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium is an amazing book, both visually stunning and a pleasure to read. Readers will find that the “fluff” as well as the “crunch” of the new gear and rules are well-written, and presented in a logical format that uses the established item templates recognizable to any 4E gamer.
One of the best features about the book is an appendix of all magic items introduced in Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium, listed by level, and providing a page number reference for ease finding the specific entry. The items are broken down by type and rarity within each level as well, so for instance, finding a 7th Level Uncommon Wondrous Item can be located quite quickly in the supplement from this appendix.
The artwork in Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium is very well done, and shows items both as static objects and used in action scenes. However, I was a bit disappointed at the sparseness of the illustrations, and many items are simply left un-envisioned by the artists. I recall from the previous edition a certain Magic Item Compendium being lavishly illustrated, with nearly every item rendered in some fashion, even if it was as a single work showing multiple items lying jumbled on a table for comparison.
The Magnificent Emporium: What’s Old is New Again!
When reading through Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium, it did not take long to begin to encounter items from the “old days” of D&D – in fact, around page 8. New armor, shields, and weapon types, which had previously been a part of older D&D editions, but not 4E, were now making their debut – but updated with 4E style rules and embellishments.
Oldies but goodies such as ring mail, splint mail, studded leather, and full plate are suddenly back in D&D 4E, and with new properties to make them different than previous armor types. These properties include tough (resist the first critical hit of an encounter), durable (damage resistance of 2-3 on the first hit in an encounter), and barbed (causes damage when you escape a grab or when a creature escapes your grab). New feats are included to allow characters to qualify to use these “new” armor types.
There are “new” weapons coming into 4E play from the previous editions, such as the light mace, pike, and lance. In addition, some weapons have been slightly altered by the small property, allowing small creatures to use them as easily as medium-sized ones – the light war pick, serrated pick, and war pick are some examples of these changes. In addition, there are new feats for Expertise with flails, picks, and polearms, and a new type of feat category of Strike Specialization, which benefits characters with the power strike power.
Introduced for the Essentials fighters in the HotF books, this encounter power can now be paired with a feat in order to produce unique effects based upon the weapon type being used. For instance, the Heavy Blade Strike feat allows a for an extra melee basic attack against an additional foe if the attack using power strike drops the initial target to 0 hit points – sort of an old school cleave ability.
But the real nostalgia for old school D&D gamers is going to hit when they start perusing the actual magic item lists themselves. In his Legends & Lore articles, Mike Mearls mentioned getting back to the core basics of what made D&D, well, D&D - and reading through the magic item lists was like grabbing the old AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide and leafing through the magic item sections all over again.
If you’ve been pining away for your character to have the old Flame Tongue, Frost Brand, Mace of Disruption, Maul of the Titans, or Mighty Dwarven Thrower like your favorite old edition character had – well get ready to do a jig of glee, because they are back in 4E. Your cleric feeling lonely without his Necklace of Prayer Beads, Candle of Invocation, or Phylactery of Faithfulness… no worries, they’re back! How about Rods of Absorption, Death, Beguiling, and Smiting? Check, it’s in there. And those kick-butt wondrous items of yore (yore = earlier editions) like the Helm of Brilliance, Helm of Teleportation, Ioun Stones, Amulet of Life Protection, Ring of X-Ray Vision, Belt of Dwarvenkind, and Daern’s Instant Fortress?! You don’t have to hold your breath any longer, because they have all been upgraded to D&D 4E. Without actually counting, my impression is that about half the items in Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium are older edition magic items given new stats for D&D 4E gaming.
Of course most of the oldies-but-goodies are Uncommon and Rare items, which are now considered “black box tech”, and cannot be made anymore by modern enchanters of magic items. They must be found or quested after – only Common Items can be re-created or bought at Ye Local Magick Shoppe.
However, the author’s did a fairly awesome job of recreating the power structure of the old items under D&D rules, and many have Properties and Encounter powers as opposed to just a Daily power. In addition, each item comes with a paragraph or two of introduction, detailing the history and origin of the item, to add a role-playing depth to magical gear. And I should mention that consumable items were also given some boosters from the old editions, including a “new” line of healing potions with the familiar monikers of Cure Light Wounds, Cure Serious Wounds, Cure Critical Wounds, and Heal.
There are also six new Artifacts in the game, and again are throwbacks to the “old school” D&D days. The Book of Infinite Spells, Codex of Infinite Planes, Hammer of Thunderbolts (go Thor!), and the Jacinth of Inestimable Beauty are resurfacing in 4E, and ready to blow the minds of Paragon and Epic Tier characters when they stumble upon them. But also there are now Cursed Items in the game again, but the mechanic is not as bad as it was in the old days.
Under the new rules, a cursed magic item is still a magic item, and the curse is sort of an overlay effect which is triggered. For instance, the Necklace of Strangulation can be dropped onto any neck slot item, which operates normally until the curse is triggered – in this case when the owner becomes bloodied and is affected by ongoing damage. At that point, the item starts doing additional ongoing damage to the character, as well as making them vulnerable to ongoing damage attacks, and causes a penalty to saves. Fun! But the authors created rules by which the curse can be permanently lifted, using Arcana skill checks, and returning the item to its normal functions.
Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium also includes more than just standard magic items and artifacts. The authors also include a section on Story Items, which are special items used in the midst of the story arc of a quest in order to accomplish the end goal. An example of a story item might be the magic beans in “Jack and the Beanstalk”, and the authors expand upon this theme offering over a score of these plot devices to use when making quests and adventures.
There is an entire chapter devoted to Adventuring Gear, which includes minor mundane items which grant skill bonuses, such as Camouflaged Clothing, Footpads, and Investigation Gear. Personally, I don’t think the game needs more skill bonuses, as we are already seeing “bonus creep” make skill challenges a joke, but perhaps it might help untrained members of the party be better at certain skill sets. There is also a list of buildings an adventurer can buy, ranging from your average cottage (400 gp) to a castle with a dungeon (1,000,000 gp). And there are new Alchemical items available, which include the famous Oils of Etherealness and Slipperiness from yester-year.
Finally, Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium rounds out with a series of appendices, including the aforementioned item list by level and rarity, but also includes a section on Hirelings and Henchmen for use by player-characters. Personally, the latter was a bit of a disappointment, given that previous editions made it a fairly big deal of the way that henchmen were gathered, requiring a Leadership feat, and offering tables for determining the type and variety and number of followers which could be had. Here the authors did not bother with looking to the old school, and the system for attracting and maintaining henchmen is fairly blasé, and takes up a whole three pages, and another 3 with examples of already made up NPCs which any good DM can make for themselves.
Overall Score: 3.75 out of 5.0
For the most part, I really enjoyed Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium, and found myself grinning at many of the entries which were the 4E interpretations of items from older editions of D&D. This book has a high nostalgia factor, and the re-inventions of “old school” armor, gear, and magic items into 4E statistics were pretty darned good, and I’ll be excited to use them in my campaigns. The new design paradigm of creating interesting stories behind the magic items is definitely good for role-playing - and I forgot to mention that Mordenkainen has many sidebar comments to augment the lore on the items, which could be used as a jumpstart for adventures to locate and retrieve the Uncommon and Rare magical goodies found in this book.
My biggest complaint was the fact that I had to drive all the way out to my “local” gaming store in order to buy the book at full retail price, plus tax, because Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium is not available from the big online mail-order bookstores. Given that my “local” gaming store is a 45 minute drive each way from my house made purchasing this book feel less like fun, and more like overpaying, once you add in the price of gas. I understand the desire to support the brick-and-mortar stores, but making the consumer inconvenienced for a game supplement is not going to make me treasure it more, so much as make me feel like the publisher is really pushing my limits of “brand loyalty”.
So until next review… I wish you Happy Gaming!
Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)
- Presentation: 4.0
- - Design: 4.5 (Excellent design; a great read)
- - Illustrations: 3.5 (Nice, but needed to have more)
- Content: 4.25
- - Crunch: 4.5 (Good interpretations of old school magic items)
- - Fluff: 4.0 (Decent fluff; makes magic items more interesting)
- Value: 2.5 (Highest priced 160-page supplement WotC has published for 4e.)
Thursday, 29th September, 2011, 05:33 AM #2
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
So after gushing about this book for several paragraphs, you gave it 3.75 because of the availability constraints? Really? How about you add that in a post-script, but not have it affect the score? I'm sorry you had to drive and get the book, and maybe WotC will learn from this fiasco, but in a month's time are any of us going to remember or give a crap about this roadblock? Remember, there was a time when this was NEVER going to be available. We're lucky to have it at all.
Thursday, 29th September, 2011, 06:55 AM #3
Enchanter (Lvl 12)
For what it's worth, I just checked my go-to board game site and they had it available at a competitive price ($20.99). It doesn't appear to be available on Amazon, which is a bit annoying, but it's still available online...
Thursday, 29th September, 2011, 07:45 AM #4
Novice (Lvl 1)
No need to drive to your FLGS if it's that far away. I ordered it online at my FLGS who has an online store - as convienient as with any other book retailer (and at a reasonable price). The book itself rocks!
Thursday, 29th September, 2011, 09:50 AM #5
Lama (Lvl 13)
This is the sort of revisionism I've come to tire of when it comes to Enworld (postings and reviews). A new product will come up and be proclaimed a great departure from previous designs, and to finally cater to the type of designs fans have been clamouring for.
Case in point: Gardmore Abbey is hailed as the first 4E adventure that puts adventure up front and encounters later. Actually, HS 1 came first. No need to build up fake hype for the new shiny.
So it’s intriguing to find his name tied to the new D&D 4E magic item book, a book of a quite different scope from the previous Adventurer’s Vault and Adventurer’s Vault 2. For in Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium, we find the Wizards of the Coast developers taking a new tact into magic item design, to their role and value in the game,
What bollocks. AV 2 was vastly different to AV 1 in exactly the quoted regard, and to lump them together to make MME stand out more smacks of bad advertising.
You continue in that vein and undermine your own credibility with pontifications like these:
How about Rods of Absorption, Death, Beguiling, and Smiting? Check, it’s in there. And those kick-butt wondrous items of yore (yore = earlier editions) like the Helm of Brilliance, Helm of Teleportation, Ioun Stones, Amulet of Life Protection, Ring of X-Ray Vision, Belt of Dwarvenkind, and Daern’s Instant Fortress?! You don’t have to hold your breath any longer, because they have all been upgraded to D&D 4E
I can't be bothered to check them all, but some of these things I didn't have to "hold my breath for" because they were already in 4E. E.g. Ioun Stones in AV 2.
In fact, you completely fail to mention that a lot of material in MME is repeated from AV 1 and AV 2. I understand that MME is the bees knees for players who only own the pithy equipment sections in one of the "Heroes of" booklets, but to gush over the book and say 'oooh, now that's much better than AV 1 and 2' can't be taken seriously.
Last edited by Windjammer; Thursday, 29th September, 2011 at 10:01 AM.
Thursday, 29th September, 2011, 02:17 PM #6
Defender (Lvl 8)
Enjoyed the review. I thought your score very fair BTW, the breakdown makes it clear.
Thursday, 29th September, 2011, 02:47 PM #7
Hydra (Lvl 25)
Thursday, 29th September, 2011, 02:58 PM #8
Defender (Lvl 8)
And I never made any claim that D&D fans had been "clamouring" for a new design type. But I did note that MME had substantial origin "fluff" information regarding magic items, plus many entries containing 4E interpretations of "old school" magic items from previous editions, and new rules for armor, weapons, cursed items, etc.
Any "clamouring" mentioned in my review was with regards to experienced D&D gamers finally getting access to magic items they remember fondly from previous editions on their old characters. I've seen interest in "old school" magic items from players in my own games, heard it at gaming conventions, and read it in comments on various blogsites - I think adding so many of them back into 4E is a good thing, right?
And yes, MME has substantially more "fluff" text and sidebars regarding magic items than AV2 had. Pointing this out should not be interpreted as maligning AV2, but rather as encouraging WotC to continue their trend of presenting more background material and adventure hooks when they write their supplements, which offers more options for DMs to create unique adventures for their groups by expanding on the "fluff".
Arm Slots - 11 new, no reprints
Feet Slots - 7 new, no reprints
Hand Slots - 5 new, 1 reprint
Head Slots - 14 new, 4 reprints
Neck Slots - 11 new, 5 reprints
I hardly think that 10 items out of nearly 60 named here counts as "a lot" - but then it's a subjective term, and open to interpretation. You're certainly entitled to your opinion and interpretation.
However I still stand by my review and the ratings I gave this supplement, and thank you for your feedback, which I hope offers other readers more insight into the review process.
Thursday, 29th September, 2011, 03:07 PM #9
Defender (Lvl 8)
Thursday, 29th September, 2011, 03:24 PM #10
Hydra (Lvl 25)
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