Tags

,

There’s something about having a source book full of goodness which shouldn’t be shared with players.  Flipping through looking at hidden secrets which you can’t wait to introduce to your games. When doing my flip through of Raging Swan’s Dungeon Dressing book I mentioned that I hadn’t got round to picking up All That Glimmers. Well the very nice people at Raging Swan sent me a hardback copy and asked me to do a flip through of it and it is exactly that type of awesome GM only book which I love.  I still haven’t recorded the flip through (which I feel really bad about) but I have gone through the book and done my prep for it which I thought I’d share here.

I have, and use, pdfs but personally I find them uncomfortable and clunky and would much rather have a physical copy. I’ve had All That Glimmers on pdf for a while and I knew it had good stuff in it but because it was electronic I hadn’t really explored it. When I got Dungeon Dressing as a hardback I didn’t give the excerpt of All That Glimmers in the back of it as much attention as I should have but to be fair there’s a vast amount of other cool stuff in Dungeon Dressing to get distracted by. Now that I’ve got a hard copy of All That Glimmers in my hands I remembered how much awesome and inspiring stuff it’s packed with.

Split into sections on general treasure hoards, armour, weapons, coins, gems, miscellaneous objects, spellbooks, intelligent magic items and treasure maps it gives you flavour, background and a way to increase immersion, or even just interest, in all of those. I hate hearing myself describing a weapon or armour as “being of really good quality” because while it sounds better than “it’s a masterwork whatever” it still just feels really lifeless. While I won’t use All That Glimmers to describe every gold piece or sword my players find, for those items that I want to have stick in their mind I know I’ll reach for it almost immediately.

As with Dungeon Dressing while All That Glimmers is mechanically designed for Pathfinder most of it is immediately useable for D&D 5th Edition and probably any other fantasy game on the market.

The review is going to be quite long as I’m going to go into detail on each section but I really don’t feel that I can do it justice any other way.  Since having the book I’ve used it several times for everything from working out which gems were in stock in particular price brackets when my players decided to buy something that looked expensive but was actually cheap through to stocking chests and book cases in an adventure that I wrote.  Each time I’ve gone to it for inspiration I’ve come away with exactly that in boatloads.

Treasure Hoards

The first chapter is packed full of ready built treasure hoards. There are 12 level one hoards (each worth between 250 and 270gp), 12 level two hoards (each worth between 540 and 590gp) all the way through to 12 level twenty hoards (each of which has a value between 60,000 and 73,000gp). That’s two hundred and forty ready built hoards each one of which is made up of assorted coinage and several items which are described in loving detail.  Each level comes with a quick random roll table that summarises the value of each followed by the detail of each.  Picking a couple of items from hordes at random immediately shows why these spark my imagination (I’ve summarised the descriptions slightly).

  • A packet of wasabi spice that is folded and twine tied in waxed paper (worth 20gp;DC20 Appraise values).
  • Masterwork manacles (Pathfinder stats – worth 50gp; DC20 Appraise check values it) which uses a star shaped key.
  • Never-dull shears are magically sharpened scissors, sized for humans (Pathfinder stats -faint [DC17 Knowledge {arcana} transmutation];DC17 Spellcraft identifies; worth 200gp).
  • A gilded ship’s sextant with gold trim and studded with opaque pink coral and lavender jade (worth 1,550gp; DC20 Appraise values).

If you’re stuck for inspiration for an adventure simply picking a hoard would make an interesting starting point by thinking “who would have gathered a hoard like this”.

Armour

The second chapter is all about armour.  In total there are a couple of hundred different descriptions of armour and shields all of which come with descriptions that will help your players to feel like they have an actual item in their hands rather than a generic helmet with a +2 sticker on it.  Again there are random roll tables first for picking the category of armour and then for individual items with each item’s price listed as well as a nice description.  Again I’ve picked out a couple of examples of items that caught my eye reading through them

  • Blood red studded leather armour covered in sharply pointed black steel studs and fastened with toggles made from bear claws.
  • Matt black chainmail, with a fine silk lining to minimize chinking when the wearer moves.  Popular with the Gray Rooks, spies and assassins of Kjarran.
  • Iron banded mail, engraved with intricate knotwork designs; the iron helm has ram’s horns and is studded with yellow citrines.
  • Light weight black steel shield of drow manufacture, damascened in silver with a delicate spider web pattern; very light weight.
  • Leather barding with air bladders affixed fashioned to allow the mount to float in water.

You can see immediately from these why I’m excited.  I’d make my characters roll a local knowledge or history check for the chainmail and give them the background if they succeeded.  If they didn’t then the next time they’re in a strange tavern they may be getting strange looks from a couple of old men.  If another party member asks them about it then maybe one of them would talk about memories of seeing someone in their family being cut down by soldiers from Kjarran fleeing from local soldiers.

The section on armour also has five famous suits or armour including names, appearance, history, who owns it, etc, etc.  I won’t go into details but certainly I can think of characters in my game who would be very interested in some of these and may in the near future go questing for them, especially if they think that the dread armour of Prince Kaspar may give them an edge against the rising forces of Braal.  A trek all the way to the ruined tower on the Blasted Steppes to see if it is still worn by the mysterious skeletal corpse reported in the last known sighting would be a great addition to my campaign.

While still on the topic of armour there are some great random tables with adventure hooks and complications.  Whether the iron helm with ram’s horns and yellow citrines was stolen by Myrtle Thornbury from Basmar Teletz who will stop at nothing to regain it or just stinks of blood and old sweat it’ll be more real to the players as a result of a roll or pick from these tables.

Weapons

The next section gives weapons the same treatment as armour had in the previous chapter.  My players are always more interested in weapons than in armour and so this section is possibly the most useful in the book to me.  During a roleplaying encounter with a ghost at the Priory Of Cymer in Raging Swan’s excellent adventure Retribution the cleric in our Woodshed Poet’s game was gifted with a silver blessed aspergillum (a mace that can be loaded with holy water which it douses opponents with on a successful hit).  Various of the party have masterwork weapons but this one really lives in the imagination of not only the player whose character owns it but the whole group.  They’re always looking for an opportunity to use it and I know that they see it as a specific item rather than as an abstract way to do damage.  The tables in this section are full of such items and if you can find a drawing to go with some of them when you describe them (especially one the player can file with the character sheet) then you’ll see them relish the ownership of the item.

Some examples from the standard tables are…

  • A punching dagger with a wooden hilt carved with snakes and grinning devils.
  • A javelin with a barbed iron head, mounted on an elm shaft carved with angular patterns.
  • A bronze throwing axe with a whalebone handle covered in scrimshaw depicting dragonships.
  • A heavy pick decorated in gold with the stern likeness of the dwarf king Odvin Hammerschlag.
  • A black iron great sword with a dragon skull shaped pommel; the skull has red spinels for eyes.
  • A maple short bow with a handgrip of camel hide dyed red; the limbs are embellished in gold leaf with desert scenes.

Again there are famous weapons (seven this time) which like the famous armour will bring life to your campaign.  I personally love the idea of the urgrosh of king Odvin Hammerschlag which is said to still lie undisturbed atop his remains in his sarcophagus, in a hidden trap-filled tomb.  Certainly letting the characters discover both the history of Hammerschlag, of his urgrosh Trollslayer and the renowned weaponsmith Yorrim Flintheart who forged it can’t help but immerse the players further into the campaign.

For slightly less unique and deeply detailed items the hooks and complications tables for weapons have you covered.  Was the maple shortbow lost in the Tangled Wood by Tarrin Longstrider or does it bear more than a passing resemblance to a bow that shot the young white dragon Hoarfrost the Red-Eyed out of the skies?  Unlike armour though weapons also have tables for inscriptions and marks (which could also be used with armour if you wanted) as well as further complications.  A perceptive adventurer may notice that the black iron greatsword is marked with the clenched fist and sword symbol of the Ever-Resilient Blades mercenary band and notice that it becomes warm to the touch in battle.

Miscellaneous Treasure

Chapter four is a catchall for other types of miscellaneous treasure.  As in the previous sections there is a lot in here.  If you want to make your coins stand out in your players mind then you may want to use the table that describes the reverse side of the coin or the one that describes strange shapes/types of coin.  If you need to describe gems (as I did in a recent game when the players wanted to visit a gem merchant to purchase something to front a bluff they were trying to make) then this really has you covered with detailed descriptions of four different categories of stones from purely ornamental and costing around 10gp per stone to gems starting at 1000gp each.  Jewellery is often overlooked but is more than just the sum of its parts and if your character rolls low on their Appraise check they’re unlikely to realise that the disc-shaped pendant made from a black and white patterned spider shell hanging on a delicate silver chain is actually worth 250gp.  There are five tables of jewellery each for different values allowing you to roll for something appropriate to the party/location regardless of whether you’re looking for something only worth around 100gp or something worth 20,000.  There are sections similar to these (all just as creative) for books and scrolls, art objects and truly miscellaneous objects.  Again the section is ended with four tables of hooks and complications which are all screaming to be used.

Spellbooks

Chapter five takes a shift away from the previous types of items and focuses entirely on spellbooks.  I’ve used spellbooks as treasure before, especially on the occasions when the party have killed wizards, but this section really made me realise that I could up my game when it comes to describing them.  None of mine have previously had titles or authors for example, this is definitely about to change and I can see my party finding The Profance Dissertaion of Inhipel the Ratblooded or The Treatise of Charcoal by Valendorn the Bronze.  I’ve seen random lists in other places that suggest possible materials for pages and covers of books but the ones given here go way beyond those (if the cover is made of the skin of a familiar it suggests possible inscriptions) and also includes the cover condition, paper condition, distinguishing features, the type of ink, what is written in the book other than spells and what kind of protection is on the spellbook!

In a minute using this section of the book and some dice I randomly rolled up the following tome which I’m sure will live in the memories of my players far longer than the black leather spellbook with brass corners which my Al Qadim party found recently…

The Unknowable Manual of Toadmaster Sandovan Hawkeye.  The title is obvious as it is burned into the scratched minotaur leather cover.  A small plate is inside the back cover which reads “This book is made from the enemy of Grodge the Mighty, unstoppable warrior, inescapable tracker and master taxidermist.”  Opening the book reveals robust parchment made from cleansed yellow musk creeper pulp while any who have the skill to identify this will also note that the ink used is wolfsbane tincture.  Flipping through the book it is noteworthy that there is a recipe for brewing mushroom ale scrawled in a different ink (possibly cecaelia ink) on the third page.  It’s also obvious that there are small drops of dried blood and smears of ashes at the bottom of some of the pages, a DC20 knowledge arcana check will reveal that whenever the Sandovan Hawkeye scored a kill with one of the spells from this book he marked the spell with a drop of the victim’s blood (or ashes where blood was no longer available).  If the character manages to roll a DC25 check then they will also remember a song about Sandovan being abducted and dragged underground to entertain a particularly sadistic group of duergar which was written by a young bard several years ago.

Of course in order to be able to find out most of this information the character opening it will need to get past the explosive runes and sepia snak sigil (DC 14 reflex save each) hidden by the spell secret page (level 5).  I won’t bother to list all the spells although there are random tables for that.

Intelligent Items

Chapter six is all about intelligent or sentient magic items. One of my players became the owner of a Vizier’s Turban recently (a symbiotic creature who bonds with spell casters but looks like a turban from second edition AD&D) and I know from that how effective realisation that what they thought of as an object is actually a being. As in previous sections the number of ideas packed into a very small space is huge.

There are a good number of awesome example items many of which will also inspire further ideas in the minds of creative GMs almost all of which made me want to drop them into a campaign somehow.  Each one features lore about the item, details of its personality and its background turning each into an NPC rather than an item. The random table of initial encounters with the item (how do my players find this item) is a full of great ideas and a brilliant kicking off point.

The examples include armour, weapons, clothing, rods and some great miscellaneous items which include a psychopathic flying carpet and intelligent folding boats. The only problem I have with this section is that intelligent items should be rare and I want to use all of these.

Treasure Maps

The final chapter is on treasure maps.  Everyone loves a treasure map, including one in a hoard somewhere instead of treasure itself is a great way to get players interested without feeling short-changed about what they’ve found.

The section is short and while it’s got a couple of examples it’s not packed full with them but that isn’t really its strength or what you’re probably looking for as a GM.  There are lots of places to get maps from and if you’re planning to have your characters explore somewhere you’ve probably got something in mind anyway.  I recently gave my players a map of Hadramkath and replaced the one that is in this book with something taken from Dyson’s Dodecahedron because of what I thought the players would enjoy.  The excitement from my players has been palpable and they’re desperately trying to pick up clues about where Hadramkath is so that they can use the map.

What this section does do is give you ideas and random roll tables for map veracity, distance and location, likely protection of the location and how difficult the location will be to explore.

Conclusion

If you haven’t guessed already I can’t believe that I had the pdf of this sitting around for over six months without properly realising what I had.  In the month or two that I’ve had it I’ve used it multiple times for various different purposes and every time I’ve been inspired in ways that I otherwise wouldn’t have been.  The Dungeon Dressing book is absolutely awesome but I’m genuinely surprised to find that at only 152 pages this book is giving me almost as much inspiration and is definitely having me reaching for it regularly both while planning games and also in session when my group do something unplanned.

If you’re not sure there are excerpts available from the Raging Swan website but basically I can’t recommend it enough and yes a video flip through will be on the blog soon, honest.

Advertisements