Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Page Count: 286
Cost: $49.95 ($33.41 at Amazon.com)
Release Date: 07/16/2013 (Originally 3/13/2007)
Wizards of the Coast has done a great job with the premium reprints of Dungeons & Dragons books from past editions. I’ve been especially happy with the adventure collections and the reprints of AD&D 2.5. Having it in my hands now, I have to admit, it’s a wonderful resource for any person who likes to run a Dungeons & Dragons game using 3.0/3.5 rules. Is it necessary? No. After all, it’s missing a lot of basic items, so if you just have the big Compendiums from 3.5 (Rules and Spells) you’re going to be missing out on the common items of all, ranging from simple staves to the mighty vorpal sword or Holy Avenger. So unfortunately, while a fine resource, the Magic Item Compendium is missing a few item and isn’t as complete as I would like it to be.
I have to admit, I was surprised when I saw the Magic Item Compendium on the docket for a premium reprinting back when it first came out. After all, it originally was released in March of 2007 – a little over six years ago. You can find the original quite easily still, and for a fraction of the premium reprint, so unlike a lot of the other premium reprints which were out of print for at least a decade and a half, the Magic Item Compendium reprint feels like it will be a hard sell.
When you first take a look at the premium reprint of the Magic Item Compendium, you can instantly tell the difference between this and the original printing. The original had greenish-blue cover and the art featured a long haired, one-eyed Paladin with a red scroll in one hand and a magic sword in the other. The art and cover design was not very appealing. The premium reprint, however is so much better, it’s hard to put it into words. The cover is bone white with gold lettering and it both looks and feels like a mystical tome. The cover art is simple but amazingly effective. You have a potion with a red stopper and a gold dragon curled around it. The cover also features both etching and embossing, which just makes the book fun to just rub your fingertips across. Had I seen the original Magic Item Compendium back in 2007, I would have derided the cover and not even bothered to look at the contents. With the premium reprint however, I wanted to rip open the shrink wrap and read what lay between the hardcover binding, simply from the cover design. It’s hard to justify paying for just a swanky cover, but if you’re a 3.5 fan and have yet to pick up the Magic Item Compendium, this is definitely the version you want.
The book is divided into six chapters: Armor, Weapons, Clothing, Tools, Magic Item Sets and Using Magic Items. Each chapter gives you a list of qualities or effects to the chapter’s item for a magic effect. Then the chapter moves into specific premade items, for those of you who don’t want to build and calculate your own magic items. Oddly enough, a lot of key, almost iconic powers are missing from these chapters. For example, with weapons you’ll find there is no way to build a Defender, Flame Tongue, Frostbrand and the like, yet you CAN make a permanently blessed weapon. This, to me, is a perfect example of why I didn’t care for Edition 3.5, as it tries too hard to come up with “wacky” or overpowered unbalanced options, but then forgets the core and/or simple ones that made D&D popular and memorable to begin with. I understand they are easily found in the DMG, but the Magic Item Compendium really needed to include some of those iconic powers in the same manner they list all the new ones. This needed to be a one-stop shop, rather than just another weighty tome you carry around just IN CASE you might have a use for it at some point. Most D&D fans would rather be able to have, say, a sword of sharpness and know that, with a certain roll of the die, a limb gets lopped off, rather than to have to keep track of the fact their sword is a desiccating, fleshgrinding mindfeeder with Ghost Strike, and all the different rules, DCs and rolls that go along with it. In an attempt to include every possibility for a magic item, the Magic Item Compendium forgets the most basic and important magic weapons, and also overcomplicated the entire concept of magic items to the point where it feels like all the fun is sucked out of them by this process. I know some people must find having to have a separate piece of paper just to keep track of how to use your weapon fun, but I sure do not fall under that category.
Basically, what I took away from the Magic Item Compendium is that it is for gamers that want to roll-play instead of role-play. It’s for munchkin min/maxing gamers who would rather spend more time looking up precisely how and what to roll (and when) rather than trying to tell a fun story with friends. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not the type of gaming I enjoy. The second edition AD&D DMG has pretty much all the rules you need to make magic items, and it takes up, what, one-thirtieth of the space and works just as well? As does the regular DMG for both 3.0 and 3.5. Now, if you like to design magic items or are looking to supplement a previous list of magic weapons with the sheer myriad of options that the Magic Item Compendium offers, then knock yourself out, as this book works wonderfully as a detailed supplement that is nothing but “100% crunch”, as they say. However, it just doesn’t work as a standalone compendium (which is what the name implies), as it’s missing too much stuff. When you think of a compendium like the rules, spells or Monstrous ones, it implies a book you can just pick up and be the only one you will need for that specific niche. Unfortunately, it’s just not true in this case. I hate to be so negative in this review, as I’ve loved all the premium edition reprints Wizards of the Coast has put out so far, but the Magic Item Compendium just seems to be a mish-mash of well meaning ideas without the necessary common sense to make them stand on their own. I guess when you advertise a book as quote, “collecting the most popular magic items in the D&D game and presents them in one easy-to-reference tome” and its not all there as NONE of the most popular magic items from D&D are in this book AT ALL, I get a little disappointed.