Procrastination: Noun. The act of playing Sims 4 for extended periods of time instead of writing a book review because the pets expansion went on sale and you REALLY want to recreate your dog in digital form…then deciding that you’ve waited so long that it would be better off to just save it for the new year.
Happy New Year!
Disclaimer: I was asked to review this product by its publisher, and was provided with a review copy.
There are going to be some people who absolutely ADORE the Comprehensive Equipment Manual. The sheer amount of work that must have gone into this book is daunting. It presents hundreds of new armors, shields, weapons, adventuring items, and vehicles. It has rules for buying monsters, new methods of rewarding and keeping track of treasure, new starting wealth tables, new rules for crafting magic items, and rules for investing your treasure as a player. The word “comprehensive” is appropriate, because this book is PACKED with information. If this is the kind of thing you’re looking for, then the $13 that Wraith Wright publishing is charging is an absolute steal.
All of that said, I cannot say that I personally cared for it all that much.
But before I expand on that, let’s break down what’s actually in the book.
This book is divided into two halves. The first half is an equipment manual along the lines of the Arms and Equipment Guide for 3rd Edition or Ultimate Equipment for Pathfinder. The second half is a very long exploration of using treasure in your games. It discusses coinage, trade goods, finding buyers and sellers, non-material rewards and assets, starting wealth, treasure charts, magic item crafting rules, valuing magic items, adding quirks and histories to magic items, and investing your wealth as a player in order to gain more wealth, renown, or even military might.
Part 1: Armaments
This chapter introduces new arms and armor for you to use in your games. And, for the most part, they’re fine. I really like a lot of what’s going on in the armor section. Coin armor is a gem from a storytelling perspective, and the division of shields into categories is done well.
I do have a few qualms with the way weapons are executed, though. The author has elected to utilize damage kickers and half/odd dice to differentiate many of the weapons from those in the core rules. For example, a kukri deals 1d4+1 damage, while a pellet shortbow or trombash deal 1d5 damage (roll 1d10, divide by 2). I understand the thought here, to create damage ranges that better reflect video games like Diablo or Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, where they’re not limited by dice. But at the table, I’ve seen these systems get confusing for players who aren’t particularly math-inclined.
There are also rules for creating masterwork armor and weapons here, as well as piecemeal armor rules and new race-and-class based weapon lists.
Part 2: Gear
Have you ever wanted to know the exact rules on how to use a snorkel in your game? Then this chapter’s for you. It has spy drills, coin grinders, weaponblack, 34 new equipment packs to choose from during character creation, new arrows, bolts, and sling bullets, new alchemical items like bladefire and tanglefoot bags, rules for using your herbalism kit, new tool sets and rules for how to use their proficiencies, musical instruments, and of course an entire section on mounts and vehicles.
I have no complaints with this chapter.
Part 3: Exotic Lists
The short version is that this is where we include the “non-standard” items, including boats and ships, double weapons, hybrid polearms (glaive-guisarme), firearms, airships (cheekily named “fantasy flight”), sale prices for captured monsters, farm tools as weapons, and of course, armor and weapons from…ahem…the “orient.”
Without soapboxing too much, I do not blame the author for using the archaic “orient” when referring to East-Asian equipment in this document. It’s practically D&D tradition at this point to refer to Japanese, Chinese, and Korean-inspired ideas as “oriental.” And while it is not the job of this author to take a stand against these sorts of colonial ideas, I really don’t see why sectioning off Japan as “exotic” is necessary or helpful. The standard Arms and Armor lists in this document already include South-Asian weapons like the scimitar, tulwar, and kukri; including the katana, daikyu, and kanabo isn’t going to hurt anyone’s feelings. If you need inspiration on how this can be done well, look no further than Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, where Samurai and Kensei are presented without comment alongside knights, monster slayers, and shadow sorcerers.
Also of note: several of the rules associated with weapons in these lists (particularly firearms) are located in the Armaments chapter, nearly 100 pages earlier. This created confusion for me reading the document, since I was seeing rules for weapons that apparently didn’t exist while reading chapter 1. It could easily get confusing and annoying for players who are just want to know how their pistol works, but don’t realize they have to turn back two chapters to learn that information.
Overall, I like the idea of setting-specific weapon and gear lists, but I think the author missed the mark on this one.
Part 4: Wealth
This chapter literally deals with wealth. It discusses coinage (including three new types of coins), trade goods, buying and selling valuable items, non-material assets like titles, favors, and renown, awarding downtime as treasure, and a very in-depth breakdown of assigning wealth at levels above 1st.
The only criticism that I really have is that I would have liked to see an analysis of using feats, spells, and ability score increases as treasure. Overall, though, it’s a pretty interesting chapter, and gave me some neat ideas for future games when it came to coinage and creating treasure lists and bundles.
Part 5: Trinkets
This chapter is amazing. Trinkets are amazing, and a huge (and very carefully-crafted, I might add) list of new ones is VERY appreciated. I intend to use this list in literally EVERY campaign I run from now on.
Part 6: Magic Items
This entirely-optional chapter (that’s not me being snide; it’s noted in the text) establishes a new wealth system called essentia that is used exclusively to create and alter magic items. It also introduces a new system for valuing magic items, and assigns values to most (all?) magic items in every official D&D product so far.
In addition to this, it has a variety of new details and features that you can add to your magic items in order to give them a little more flavor.
The one thing this chapter doesn’t have? Any new magic items. So if that’s what you’re looking for, then you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Part 7: Investments
The final chapter deals with a problem that many players and DMs seem to have: where to spend all that money you’re getting on your adventures. It talks about crafting, running a business, non-profit investment, construction, and even building your own army. The detail into which the text delves, particularly when discussing construction, is astounding.
Conclusion: Why Didn’t I Care For It?
About eight years ago, this book would have been a staple at my table. I would have deceptively printed out all 255 pages in 10-page increments at my college library and bound them in a binder to use at my game table because the book has rules for A WAR SCYTHE AND THAT IS AWESOME! I would have pored over the Treasure Bundle rules and meticulously built treasure tables for each of my players. I would have encouraged them to open a business JUST so I could use the optional business rules and give them exact costs for each room in their secret basement hideout.
Because eight years ago, when it came to D&D, I was obsessed with OPTIONS. I wanted more and more and MORE options at my table. Every time a book came out with a new class option or a new set of weapons, I hunted it down. I have a shelf full of books sitting beside me now that’s filled to the brim with Complete X and Ultimate Y, because I wanted it all.
Today, I’m a different kind of GM. I’ve owned my copy of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything for over a month, and I’ve barely read it. I’ve barely used my copies of Tome of Beasts or Volo’s Guide to Monsters, because all those stat blocks just aren’t that important to me. Most of the time, when I write down a monster stat block, it’s 3 lines long. I let my players use their spells and class features in ways that were NEVER intended by the designers because it’s cool or it makes for a good story.
When it comes to adding options to my game, I tend to just create them as they come up. Writing an adventure that includes a fight against death-worshipping cultists? I make rules for a scythe. A character wants to play a traditional samurai with a katana and wakizashi? I make a katana and wakizashi. The idea of cracking open a giant tome filled with new armor, weapons, and gear sounds more tiring than inspirational.
HOWEVER. And this a big however. I do understand that I am not in the majority of Players and DMs in this regard. There’s a reason that equipment guides, magic item compendiums, monster manuals, and similar “splat books” are some of the best-selling books out there. People love new options and new rules. And if you’re among that majority of gamers who want a book filled to the brim with new options and new rules, then this is ABSOLUTELY the book for you, and I can’t help but recommend it.
If, however, you’re more like me, and giant lists of new stuff to go through sounds less than thrilling, then maybe give this one a pass.
Regardless of your position, though, keep a weather eye on Wraith Wright Productions. This is one HELL of a book, and they’re sure to keep making great stuff moving forward.
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