Magic Item Compendium Review
Published: 7/25/2007 by ArtMonkey
More magic items than you can fit in a bag of holding!
It's hard to give a very interesting review to a good deal of the d20 based products because really, they're all kind of the same. That's not bad really, but once you get to the point where you assume that the art is the same (very good) standard as it always is, and that there aren't typos everywhere and that everything seems balanced and that there's a fair amount of new "crunch" in each book, there's not really much more to say, except to highlight any innovations. So here we go.
The Magic Items Compendium is 286-page hardbound Dungeons & Dragons supplement. It contains, all in one place, a great deal of the magic items introduced in other books, as well as many new items as well. The art is good, the writing is interesting, and if you like magic items, this book is filthy with them. In an effort to organize the book, they've broken down magic items into categories based mostly on how they're "used". There's Armor, Weapons, Clothing, Tools and Item Sets (more on this later). The last chapter is dedicated to clarified and revised rules and advise regarding identifying and using magic items as well as the best way for the DM to incorporate them into play. It also includes new things like Augment Stones, Relics, Runestaffs and more.
Most of the book is filled with a ridiculously large list of magic items. They're organized in the book by type/chapter, and then alphabetically. Each item is described much like a spell, with a standard format that includes Name, Price and "Item Level", Body Slot, Caster Level, Aura, Activation, and Weight, followed by some flavor text and a full description of the item. Many popular and less popular magic items have been redesigned to be more useful (or less overbalanced) when compared to their costs, so that players aren't all focused on only choosing from a pool of "optimal" items.
Magic Item Sets are groups of three to six thematically linked items (like sword, shield and helmet, or a pair of gloves and a mask) that have power of their own, but gain enhanced abilities when used together. I like this idea as it makes finding one piece an instant motivation to quest for the rest. Each item has the standard magic item description as above, but also has a Lore listing which allows various knowledge checks to find out more about the items.
Augment crystals are a cool idea. Essentially they're a magical item attribute bound to a gem. By mounting the crystal (which appears to happen sort of automagically) to an appropriate mundane or magical item, that item gains an ability, like "impaling" or "ghost strike" or "acidic burst". Essentially it's a portable magical property. Find a new sword that you like better than your current one? Take the augment crystal out of the old one and mount it into the new one. Awesome! To be honest, this sort of thing feels like it "demystifies" magic items a bit more than the item-creation rules already do, but if you're cool with that, the only thing left to complain about is that you can only have one augment crystal mounted in any given object. Still, that's some pretty versatile stuff, and it only takes a standard action to make your "ice sword" into a "flame sword" when taking on those trolls.
Runestaffs are pretty easy. They simply let you use an appropriate prepared spell or spell slot to cast on of the spells that the runestaff "knows". That's it. Basically it adds a little versatility to your repetoir, which is great, especially if you're a sorcerer!
Really, the book is a long time coming. For something as important to the D&D game as magic items, this book is a must. If nothing else, it's better organized. I'd really have to say that, for the GM at least, and perhaps for your item-crafting players, this book is well worth the investment of $35.00 US.
Any questions? Let me know in the forums!