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Review – From the Laboratory of the Mad Wizard Shadmar (Revision 2)

7 November, 2009

From the Laboratory of the Mad Wizard Shadmar (Revision 2) is a 36-page PDF (32 after cover, OGL and ads) for D20 Fantasy written by Craig Tidwell, Daniel Deadmarsh, David Sanders, Daniel Hodge, Nitehawk Jarrett (though only Tidwell and Deadmarsh get cover credit) and published by Nitehawk Interactive Games.  This is part of the Outlandia line of game accessories.

The layout is mostly in the standard clear two-column design which is easy to read (though some of the paragraphs failed to indent).  Each of the items is given an illustration, several of which are in full color, the art ranges from passable to good.

The product begins with a brief introduction to where the items came from and the role they can play and well as some notes about the way the cursed items function in general before moving into the meat of the product, the nineteen items themselves: Each item has an illustration, which is good, a full description of the item and its powers and curse and one or two plot hooks.  More could have been done with the plot hooks, most of which are fairly obvious and basic.

The items range drastically in power level and in the danger of their curses.  The items are mostly interesting variants on standard items with a few items that have very interesting powers that are potentially off the usual curve (and thus, must be watched carefully).  Two of the items (a rune sword and a razor shield) are from other Nitehawk products and their statistics are not provided which could make use of the enchanted versions thereof problematic.  A few items are unclear about how, exactly, they work.  The curses, in general, are less subtle and clever than I would like often of the “you cannot take this item off and must suffer” variety and one has a curse that transforms it from a helpful tool to a potent weapon (as the adventure seed makes clear).

One of the items is a spell book which also comes with six new spells.  All are 4th level or higher, and all could have benefitted from longer descriptions to clarify their use.

After the items, there are various appendices including: a character writeup for Shadmar.  A map of Shadmar’s tower.  A discussion of Outlandia currency.  And a reprinting of the section on cursed items from the SRD.

Using cursed items in a campaign is always problematic and deserved to be discussed a bit more than it is in this product.  While there are good ideas here, it is likely that they will have to be adapted for an ongoing campaign.  If you are looking for inspiration for cursed items in your campaign this may be a worthwhile investment.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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