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Dungeon Mastering Reviews: Adventurer’s Vault

Written by Nicholas - Published on November 17, 2008

Nicholas is the columnist in charge of Nerd Watching and part-time Expy wrangler. He also works as the community manager, so keep an eye out for him on RPG blogs and forums.

magic swordsSo you’re wondering if it is worth your hard earned treasure to unlock the wonders of the Adventurer’s Vault? Let us break it down for you.

THE GOOD

Second Verse, Same as the First: All the item types make their return in the Adventurer’s Vault to expand your choices considerably for all slots and bring you a healthy selection of new wondrous items. Additionally there are a few new subcategories under the wondrous items heading, however these feel very tacked on. For instance the addition of battle standards is a very neat concept but there are only eight to choose from and they fall in two very narrow level ranges, levels 2-4 and levels 16-20. In short if you liked the way magic items were done in the PHB, you’ll find a lot more to love here. If you didn’t like the magic item system itself don’t expect to this book to change anything.

Chug, Chug, Chug!: If you’re anything like me you were very disappointed with the potions in the PHB. Who wants nothing but four different types of healing potions? The Adventurer’s Vault corrects this oversight, adding a robust selection of potions with a variety of purposes. In addition the vault includes several new types of consumables, including reagents and whetstones which characters can use to add one time bonus effects to their weapons and spells. The book also contains an alchemy system, which works similarly to rituals and enables characters to produce their own oils, explosives and miscellaneous concoctions.

Pimp Your Ride: The vault contains rules and stats for a variety of new mounts and vehicles. The vehicles section is primarily practical, containing rules for such common modes of travel as wagons and longships. There are a couple strange inclusions, like an ornithopter but they are exceptional. The mount section is quite the opposite and I love it! I have never found myself struggling because I didn’t have the rules to ride around on a rhino or a giant ant (if you have than I want to join your group), but now that I have them I want nothing more than to use them.

magic coins

Mundane, But Not Forgotten: The magical side of things is much more heavily favored but the vault does contain a selection of mundane weapons and armors. The weapons focus on superior quality selections and the more exotic choices that were cut from the core rules. So if you happened to miss being able to wield the kukri or a trident than this book has you covered. The highlight of the mundane section is the aptly named new property “Brutal”. Brutal enables you to reroll your 1s (or 1s and 2s for the more powerful weapons) on all weapon damage dice until they come out to a higher number. It is a potent ability but available almost exclusively on superior quality weapons.

Great References: A minor point to players but as a DM I found it very useful that the book had a solid index. Each section begins with a table organizing the contents of that section by level. The back of the book has an overall table of magical items separated by level, alphabetized with a column of what slot it fills and another of what page it can be found on. It may be a nerdy thing to like but it is a valuable tool to a DM planning his rewards.

THE BAD

Power Creep: It seems that with every new book that comes out the abilities and items available to the players get just a bit more potent. This book is no exception, the items both mundane and magical have a slight edge over their PHB counterparts in my estimation. It is not a game breaking problem but if you are worried about monster encounters being too easy or power disparities in the party than it is something you should be aware of.

Infused with Vitamin M: The rules for enchanting your own magical items are not very rich in the PHB and the Adventurer’s Vault offers little aid. The book offers some common sense rulings about increasing the power of an existing magical item and gives players a new ritual to transfer the magic of one item to another eligible item. These are calls that most DMs who run enchanting characters have probably made for themselves and it offers little additional depth to magic item creation.

Buy adventurer's vault

Good Stuff is Behind the Counter: Back in 3.5, my favorite book “Unearthed Arcana” offered a prestige class that is a scion of a legendary item. When I first read this class I was intrigued, followed by disappointed. The problem is that there were four types of scions and each one had only a single example item, highly restricted ones at that. In addition there were no rules for designing your own legendary items for scions. I share this story for two reasons. First, I still like the idea of item scions and hope that someone will read this and point me towards something cool like it. Second, I wanted to illustrate that I love artifacts and legendary items and Wizards love to burn me on it. I am excited about the new system for artifacts in 4 ed but the DMG comes with only four artifacts to cover characters of all types and levels. In the lead up to the Adventurer’s Vault I loudly wished to anyone who would listen that the book would have lots of delicious artifacts. As for the number that turned out to be in the book, some ancient cultures has no word to describe it. If you attempt to divide by it your calculator will give you an error and your head might explode. There are no artifacts and no rules for making them to be found in the vault. Wizards has seen fit to give us three versions of the bag of tricks but on the most game breaking items possible we are left to stumble in the dark.

The Verdict

The Adventurer’s Vault has an impressive collection of magical items, but does no drift far from the established formula or take any risks. The increased selection makes it worth owning one or two among the group but there’s no reason every player needs one.

Tell us if this review was useful to you – we’ll be doing more review over the next few weeks. Also, honk if you love artifacts!

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Written by Nicholas

Nick DiPetrillo is the original author behind the games Arete and Zombie Murder Mystery available at http://games.dungeonmastering.com

Nick is no longer active with DungeonMastering.com, however he is an accomplished writer and published his first game in 2009.

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Nicholas is the columnist in charge of Nerd Watching and part-time Expy wrangler. He also works as the community manager, so keep an eye out for him on RPG blogs and forums.

 

 Comments

11 Responses to “Dungeon Mastering Reviews: Adventurer’s Vault”
  1. greywulf says:

    Honk!

    In a way, I’m glad artefacts aren’t covered in great detail because I think they deserve a whole book to themselves; I’d much rather see them given the pagecount and treatment they deserve rather than have them be squeezed into a too-small-space at the back of the book. Artefacts should be game-shaping, campaign moulding things, more like plot elements than “mere” magic items. Me, I’d rather take your average Ring of Invisibility, wave my GM’s Wand of Storytelling over it and turn it into something that’s going to drive the campaign for the next few adventures. Now, a book full of those plot elements, legends and campaign ideas….. I’d love that!

    Good review.

  2. Praesul says:

    I understand your disappointment with the lack of artifacts, but from my perspective I would rather they leave designing artifacts up to DMs and players. Even if a group is using a pre-fab campaign and adventures, pre-fab artifacts would still fail to be tailored specifically to the exact characters in the group. I would much rather see, as they published in Dragon, some general rules on how to design artifacts rather than, as Greywulf suggests, a book filled with them.

    I would have been disappointed if the Adventurer’s Vault had been crammed full of artifacts as I would have been very unlikely to use them. I would not be interested in a book that listed only artifacts either. There was a book like this created for 3.5, though I am pretty sure it was made by a third party publisher. It would be interesting to see how well that book sold.

  3. Toord says:

    I actually gave this primer a fairly good read the last couple of days @ my local bookstore. I thought about buying it, but alas, I didn’t really like it :D I agree with you that it seems that with this book there will a strong potential for characters to become a bit overpowered if they get a hold of certain items. Yet one more reason to keep rolling 3.5 style!

  4. Brian Dirk says:

    I found the Magical Equipment section in the 4.0 PHB to be a bit refreshing. Finally the Players don’t need a DMG to look up “I want that” items. And it was a short enough list, that you could look through it fairly easily. The Magic / wondrous items listings and descriptions in the 4.0 DMG was MASSIVE and sort of tacked on: as if WOTC figured that another “core” source book would act as a barrier to entry, and added a badly indexed and compressed version to the 4.0DMG.

    The 4.0 PHB magic item is noce: but it’s list for stuff for lvls 1-8 was kinda puny. I was absolutely WAITING for this expansion. As I Draw my 3.5 game to a conclusion, I might switch gears into 4.0 fully now.

  5. halflingzombierunforyourlife says:

    HONK!

  6. Nicholas says:

    @Praesul: My ideal book would be stuffed with sample artifacts, each one with a few ideas on how to tweak them to suit different games. It would also include some rules and guidelines for making your own artifacts. I feel like I’ve been left to stumble around on my own in every edition. You mentioned some artifact creation rules in Dragon, when was that? I must admit I am not familiar with them.

    @Brian Dirk: I agree, I was thrilled that magic items were put in the PHB where they always belonged.

    Also, HONK!

  7. Bald Orc says:

    Honk! Honk!

  8. Elda King says:

    I don’t think artifacts should occupy a place near “average” magic itens in Adventurers Vault. They aren’t on PHB also: because they are not “equipment”. They are tools for crafting a story. But I think 4E really gave less atention to artifacts than should have been: they are more like relics than artifacts, have less story, and there are too few (considering the DMG is the smaller basic book).
    I liked the first concept for 4E magic itens much better than the final system: there should be very few of them, but they should be awesome, and still not have many different powers…

    Maybe that’s why I liked Weapons of Legacy so much. The itens weren’t allways so interessant, the system of rituals was not so good, but the idea of having a single powerful magic item with a story the players must reveal was great.

  9. I love the Adventurer’s Vault. So many OMGWANT! items in there. I think it would be really fun to run a game where each player was allowed to pimp their character out with whatever they wanted (within a level range).

  10. Steve-o says:

    I really like the Adventurer’s Vault and glad I picked it up. I would have liked to have seen more artifacts and perhaps a wider variety of common items that players could pick up. I’ve had my wizard ask me numerous times how much does it cost for a empty scroll case and things of that nature. It definitely helps out martially, though. For the more mundane, nonmagical equipment items, I went back to the old tables. Still worth having, though.

    And I definitely agree that you really only need 1, maybe 2 if a large group, of these books at the table at most.

  11. Snakeyes says:

    Thanks again for the reviews, they’ve been helpful to know what to expect when ordering books.

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