Tabletop Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium

Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Authors: Jeremy Crawford, Stephan Schubert, Matt Sernett
Page Count: 160
Release Date: 09/20/2011
Cost: $29.99
Get it here: WotC Game Store Locator

There are lots of iconic characters in Dungeons and Dragons. Drizzt and Eliminster are legends from the Forgotten Realms. And anyone that ever stepped into the Demiplane of Dread, will never forget the name Strahd. But before there was a Ravenloft and a Forgotten Realms, and heck before there even was a Dungeons and Dragons, there was Greyhawk. And probably the most important character from Greyhawk was Mordenkainen, because you see Mordenkainen was Gary Gygax’s player character. So when Gary played the game that would become Dungeons and Dragons, he played as Mordenkainen the wizard. Over the course of time, Mordenkainen became a powerful wizard that kept the peace in Greyhawk. He maintained the balance between good and evil. He also obtained and cataloged the many fantastical magical items he came across in his travels. And this compendium of magical items is contained in Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium.

At first glance you may assume Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium will be a book of nothing but magic items for your game. If you thought this you are wrong. It’s more than just magic items. It’s more of a book of anything your character may want to buy. You’ll find a wide assortment of magic items, standard adventuring gear, and hirelings and henchman. You’re also given the cost of buildings as well. What better way to help part your players from their gold than some real estate speculation. There is wide variety of items, with something for every class. So let’s delve a little deeper and see exactly what we will find in the emporium.

First you are greeted with an introduction by Mordenkainen. He also introduces every subsequent chapter. This adds some nice flavor to the book, which is very flavorful in general. In this book you will not find a generic +1 sword. Every magic item has a description with a little backstory as well. The main goal of this book is to give you unique magic items to add to your game. Long time Dungeon and Dragon’s players may even recognize from of the magic items from early editions. The Helm of Brilliance returns to D&D in this book. It has a similar feel to its 1st edition counterpart but is not quite as lethal to the character if they are hit with a giant fireball. Ioun Stones are another item returning to D&D. With the Ioun Stones you lose some of the variety contained in the 1st Edition stones. The stones that enhance your ability scores are still present, but the stones that absorb and store spells are nowhere to be found. There are lots of items that players of previous editions will recognize, but all of them have a slight twist that prevents them from being their identical to their previous versions.

And the reason for those changes, besides the obvious rules changes, I suspect are due to a change in philosophy in Wizards of the Coast. Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium originally had a Spring 2011 release date but was pulled from their release schedule for additional playtesting. WotC is now focusing on playtesting more and making sure what is in the books work as intended. They want to minimize the online errata and offer a better playing experience straight from the book. And in a book of magic items this is appreciated. I’m sure long time player can all think of a magic item from an earlier edition that were quite game breaking when left in the hands of an ingenious players.

Something else WotC did unique to this book was make it a Game and Hobby Store exclusive. You will not be finding this book in a Barnes or Noble or being sold directly by Amazon. The only place this book is available is your friendly local game store. This doesn’t mean you cannot find a copy online since FLGSs can sell this book online. But this book is another way WotC is helping drive people to their local game store.

There are a lot magic items in the book. You have magic rings, swords, implements, armor, and other miscellaneous magic items, but there is also some content specifically for players as well. Several new armor types are introduced in this book that will be familiar to older players, such as banded mail, ring mail, splint mail among others. And with those armor types comes the appropriate armor proficiency feats. There are also new weapons and weapon feats. There are two types of weapon feats Weapon Training and Strike Specialization. The three new weapons training feats are Fail Expertise, Pick Expertise, and Polearm Expertise. Each gives you a bonus to your attack. As for Strike Specialization, there is a feat for each melee weapon group and each has a different effect depending on the chosen weapon group. Power Strike is a prerequisite for the feats so really these feats will only appeal to the melee combat heavy characters in the game. Do not think our magical characters have been forgotten about though. There is a new for them as well Superior Implement Training. This gives characters access to the superior implements in the book, which enhance the magical ability of the user by increasing their attack bonus, enhancing damage, or giving a defensive bonus among other things.

There is also additional content for DMs beyond the slew of new items to integrate in your game. DMs are introduced to artifacts. These are the items legends are made of. These are one of a kind, super powerful items that can be the focus of an adventure or campaign. It’s also best these items are in the hands of players temporarily otherwise you may find the players are powerful beyond their levels due to these items. And once again we see a two items from prior editions return one being the Codex of Infinite Planes and the other Jacinth of Inestimable Beauty. Something that I miss in the artifacts in this book that was present in prior editions is the customizability of the 1st Edition artifacts. The 1st Edition artifacts have power slots that a DM could fill in from several lists of powers. Some were good for players, some were bad for players and some were just plain annoying. This made the artifacts truly unique and no amount of player knowledge would help players when dealing with the artifacts since no two DM configure the same artifact identically.

The next thing present for DMs is something I love throwing in my games, cursed items. These are great for a group of players that insist on looting everything in the game. You have Boots of Uncontrollable Dancing, Armor of Vunerablity, and a Backbiter Spear among other things to make your player’s a little more cautious about picking up those gauntlets in the corner.

The concept of Story Items is also introduced. These are magic items that require no game mechanics and help the players overcome an obstacle. Basically you use the item, it helps you get past a specific obstacle and it’s job is done. They give an example of Jack’s beans from Jack and The Beanstalk as an example of a story item. The beans give Jack a way to the giant’s castle, with the obstacle being overcome in this example getting to the giants castle. This seems like a concept most experienced DM would already be using, but this could be good for newer players teaching them new concepts to integrate into their game. Several pages of examples of story items are given and these are worth looking through, whether you’re an old or new player, for potential story ideas for your game.

Out last chapter is our standard adventuring gear. This section is a mixture of standard items and alchemical items. The standard items focus on the concepts of kits, pre-grouped items that would be useful for a particular task or tape of character.. There’s a charlatan’s kit for the con-artist, devotee’s kit for the religious, a delver’s kit for those that go deep in the earth, a sage for the sage, and a travellers kit for well….the traveller. Each kit contains items appropriate for that type of character. Also tucked in this section you’ll find a sidebar with rules for gambling and how to use the gambling cheat items in the charlatan’s kit. So if you ever wanted to know how to run gambling in your game without slowing the game down by actually playing a game of chance, now you have your rules. The alchemy section adds another feat, Alchemist that gives a character the ability to construct alchemic items. There are several pages of alchemical items as well. There is enough variety to keep the alchemist in your group in the lab for quite some time. It’s also in this section we are told the cost of building construction. So just remember a castle with a dungeon cost 1,000,000gp before you go plopping them in your campaign willy nilly.

The final section of Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporioum is the appendixes dealing with hirelings, npcs, and henchmen, and some charts breaking down the magical items contained in this book by level and rarity. In the NPC section you will find the cost for hiring an experienced crew for your ship or a linkboy to hold your torch. It is nice for those DMs that want to know the abilities and cost of skilled NPCs the players may hire. Henchmen on the other hand are the NPC that go adventuring with the players, the rules for creating henchmen are actually contained in the Dungeon Master’s Guide 2, so all you get here is a brief description the three types of henchman and 5 sample henchmen complete with backstory for your game.

Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium is a book filled with both fluff and crunch. You have tons of stats for new magic items and new feats mixed with the backstories and descriptions of the unique magic items. I can easily recommend this book for DMs that are looking to add some flavor to the magic items in your game. There is also enough fluff that a DM should be able to walk away with many ideas for their home adventures. Now if you’re only a player, then it’s not as easily recommended. Yes there are some new feats and equipment, a majority of this book is geared towards DMs. It’s hard to recommend this book to player’s with the amount of player’s content it contains. If you’re a player that likes reading the fluff of magic items then it may be worth looking at. Really I don’t see the need to have more than one copy of this at the gaming table. But I think there definitely should be one copy of this at the gaming table.

Tags: