One of the things that makes Pathfinder such a great game – at least, to me – is its sense of continuity. Yes, it has its own set of mechanical changes, and we needn’t mention its original campaign setting, but there’s still a strong feel of connection to earlier editions. Unfortunately, it’s inevitable that, for various reasons, some aspects of the game fall by the wayside.
It’s therefore a great joy when somebody decides to pick up one of those lost aspects of the game, dust it off, and update it to the Pathfinder rules. That’s what Asparagus Jumpsuit has done here for magic items in their Tome of Missing Magic Items. Let’s take a look and see what’s to be found within.
The book’s technical presentation is perhaps its weakest aspect. At ninety-six pages long, there is no table of contents nor bookmarks, dealing a substantial blow to its usability. With no way to easily navigate through it, or even get an at-a-glance overview of what’s here, the book’s functionality is impaired. This is perhaps its single greatest weakness, and definitely worth knocking a star off its rating.
Luckily copy-and-paste is enabled, so there is that. I’m also of two minds about the complete lack of artwork. While I’m in favor of printer-friendly options for PDF products, that’s usually something I like to see in addition to a version with artwork, rather than instead of it. As it is, there are no illustrations of any kind to be found here. The best you’ll get it shaded headers and table rows.
I’m also slightly miffed at the incorrect use of the OGL. While the book does seem to comply with the Pathfinder Compatibility License, and does reproduce the OGL at the end, it doesn’t have a Section 15 citation for itself – worse, it has no declaration of Product Identity or listing of Open Game Content. Part of the strength of a work like this is that it allows for other companies to reuse what’s here and help proliferate the missing items back into the game. That’s hard to do if you’re not sure what’s OGC and what isn’t. Hopefully there’ll be an update to correct this soon.
Beyond the technical issues, what’s actually to be found here? Perhaps surprisingly, there’s a great deal more than just a collection of updated magic items; quite a bit more.
The book opens with a serious of random tables for determining treasure hoards and magic items – note that there are many more tables dedicated to randomly determining the latter. In fact, the sheer degree of tables is slightly awe-inspiring for how deep it goes. For example, you can roll “scrolls” on the random magic items table. You then go to table 4-1 to determine how many spells and of what level are on the scroll (or it could turn out to be a protection scroll or even a cursed scroll – can you feel the First/Second Edition vibe starting to ring through?). You then follow this up with a roll on table 4-2 to determine if the scroll’s spells are arcane or divine in nature. And then, you roll on the indicated set of tables for spells by level (e.g. a table for 1st-level arcane spells, one for 2nd-level arcane spells, etc. for all arcane and clerical spells). As a quick aside, this is only for spells in the Core Rulebook – and standard for all parts of this sourcebook.
As mentioned above, this trends very strongly towards the manner of magic item determination in First and Second Edition. I actually pulled out my copy of the 2E DMG and compared its magic item tables to this one – while not identical, the degree of parity was pleasantly great. There are even insightful footnotes for things like rolling randomly for how many charges rods, staves, or wands will have, and there’s even a(n extremely small) chance that you could find an artifact!
It should be noted, by the by, that these tables also extend to magic weapons, armor, and shields. I find this noteworthy because the tables allow for not just the random determination of what magic properties are present, but also what type of weapon/armor/shield is found, its size, etc.
After the sets of tables are the magic item descriptions. You’d think that, for a lot of these (such as potions and scrolls, certainly) the book simply doesn’t bother to give a full description – but notwithstanding the scrolls that just have random spells on them, you’d be wrong. Full magic item descriptions are given for things like potions (which, quite amusingly, have a paragraph of description regarding things like their smell and flavor) – though they refer you to the Core Rulebook for the effects of the spell effects – wands, and certain scrolls. Since the aforementioned tables are meant to be somewhat holistic in scope, they also listed standard magic items in the Core Rulebook as well; these are given an entry in the descriptions section that simply refers you back to that book, striking what I thought was a nice balance between needlessly reprinting existing materials word for word and omitting those existing materials entirely.
Of course, as mentioned before, there are a lot of magic items here that are from older versions of the game that have been updated to Pathfinder for the first time here. If you have fond memories of using things like an Alchemy Jug, a Chime of Hunger, a Girdle of Opposite Gender, or a Phylactery of Eternal Youth, you’ll be delighted to find these again here (perhaps with slightly different names). Even some existing items have tables given (e.g. what kind of ioun stone did you find, exactly?).
All of this takes us to just under halfway through the book, at which point we come to the section on artifacts. Here, the book takes a slightly different tact. The author denotes that a lot of what made artifacts such fun back in earlier editions was how they presented aspects of a greater campaign world without explanation, as though the reader were already familiar with the game world’s history. Correctly noting how this spurred the imagination, the author tries to take a similar tact here.
Each artifact is clearly an IP-free version of an artifact from the olden days of the game. One can’t look at the Cup of the Martyred Saint or the Iron Urn and not see the author quite clearly winking at the reader. What’s interesting is that the artifact’s description gives a few paragraphs of descriptive text, which clearly makes reference to the existing game world, but at the same time isn’t afraid to change minor details (or perhaps it’s more correct to say “necessarily changes minor details”).
The format of each artifact is that it opens with its typical game information (e.g. caster level, body slot, aura, etc.) before giving us its overview and history. We’re then given its powers, and the various DCs of Knowledge checks that can be made to learn more about the item (though I found these to be a bit too low for my liking). There’s also a section on the consequences of using each particular item – focused almost solely on the in-campaign ramifications of having an item of such fame and power – and the possible method of its destruction.
Interestingly, these artifacts don’t seem to have been “scaled up” to match with the generally increased power in Pathfinder. While I won’t say that these aren’t powerful, they don’t seem to subscribe to the theory that artifacts need to be uber-epic magic items in order to be awe-inspiring. Take that as you will.
After this, there’s still more to the book. In fact, the next sections are ones that most gamers will likely be split on, as they delve into the area of pre-listing things that GMs could make themselves – it’s a question of whether or not you find value in something doing calculations and writing listings for you (personally, I do find such things useful, so I’m inclined to look favorably on that).
To be more clear, it’s at this point that the book starts giving us full listings for various specific magic armor, shields, and weapons. I say “specific” here because you have things like a table for each kind of armor, which lists it with enchantments of +1 to +5, and the corresponding mechanics for that, such as the total armor bonus, price to create and cost to buy, speed reductions, arcane spell failure chance, etc. It’s basically a complete overview of that armor or shield with each enhancement bonus.
It doesn’t stop there, as it also has tables for each single kind of armor magic weapon property (presuming a +1 enhancement bonus) with tables to determine what specific kind of armor has that property, and the various statistics such armor would have (e.g. total bonus, arcane spell failure, etc.). There are even tables for those armors made out of special materials as well. All of the above also applies to shields as well.
In essence, these tables allow you to pick whether you want to start with a specific kind of armor/shield, or a specific enchantment, and cross-index from there.
The information for magic weapons is presented slightly differently. Each weapon is presented in the format of a specific magic weapon, a la how they appear in the Core Rulebook, but the actual weapon isn’t specified. So you’ll have a magic item entry for “melee weapon, dancing, +4” just waiting for you to plug in a particular type of weapon, such as a heavy mace or longsword, with all of the existing magic item information given (and even a few suggested weapons listed). Ranged weapons and even ammunition have their own sections.
What’s fairly clear in the above sections is that the book is again harkening back to earlier editions, when all magic weapons, armor, and shields were specific in what powers they had, rather than having powers layered on them from a master list. This is evidenced much more strongly in the weapons, but the undertone is there through this entire section.
The book closes out with four new feats presented which, collectively, allow for the creation of potions and wands containing spells of up to ninth level, along with the associated costs.
Overall, the Tome of Missing Magic Items is a book that splits the difference between nostalgia and utility, something for which I think the author deserves a great deal of credit. He could have simply dumped some updates of old magic items on us and run, and that probably would have been enough. However, he took the old-school mandate further and created a comprehensive set of randomized tables which, collectively, not only evoke the feeling of older editions, but help put forward a play-style in that manner as well, since you can now randomly determine most – if not all – of the treasure and magic items your party finds (be warned through, this means necessarily eschewing a great deal of the “game balance” as its presented in the Core Rulebook with regards to treasure).
How much you get out of the Tome of Missing Magic will depend not only on how much you want to see older-edition items updated to Pathfinder, but also how much you value the use of tables for random treasure content, and how much you prefer to have game books list mechanics in for you (rather than you doing it yourself). Personally, I adore all of these things, and so I think the Tome is an incredibly useful tool for an old-school Pathfinder GMs. The only major flaw I find with it is its lack of ease-of-navigation tools; an update on that score would find my upping my final score to five out of five – as it is, the content alone earns this book a healthy four out of five stars. Find what you enjoyed about magic items in previous editions with the Tome of Missing Magic.