||The humorously titled Artifacts I: Ducks of Ultimate Doom is a book of artifacts from The Le Games. The book takes its name from one of the artifacts it details: a set of magical wooden ducks. Each artifact is given game statistics and a brief history. There are 21 magic items in total.
The very first things that grabbed my attention, unfortunately, were the typos. The errors aren?t the worst I?ve seen, but they?re obvious enough that I?m not sure how the author missed them. It seems like every other page or so contains a few small typos or grammatical errors. They?re minor, but they add up.
The ideas in Ducks of Doom are clever. Their presentation, however, is not up to industry standards. Reading this product, I get a real sense of the author?s enthusiasm. He has some cool ideas, he?s just not the most skilled at presenting them in a manner consistent with d20 conventions. The item descriptions are unnecessarily confusing and wordy, and could have been clarified by simply emulating the magic item write-ups in the DMG.
For example, I scratched my head when I first read that the Aegis armor ?contains 2 charges, which are regenerated daily. The wearer may use these charge[sic] to enchant the armor (or himself) with one magical property for up to one hour.? Wouldn?t it have been easier to say ?twice per day, the wearer can activate one of the following abilities?? The wording problems are worse, I think, because they take away from otherwise interesting and creative magical items.
Other design issues are more subtle. For some reason, many of the artifacts scale in power based on the level of the character wielding them. While there?s no problem with this mechanically (you might even think it?s a good idea), it makes these items different than artifacts as otherwise defined in a conventional d20 campaign. The book explains this design decision?to a degree. The author contends that different D&D campaigns have different perceptions on what constitutes a powerful magic item, thus artifacts should scale accordingly. While that?s technically true, the default rules are built around an assumed magic item progression. In other words, unless you?re playing a very heavily house-ruled campaign, a +2 magic sword will never rightly be considered a very powerful magical weapon (as the book suggests). If the author understands the underlying magic item progression of the default rules, why design artifacts this way?
Other than the mechanics, each item is given a bit of history. Unfortunately, the detailed histories are so full of references to kingdoms and power groups that they?re useless. I could rewrite them so that they mesh with my campaign world of choice, but that would defeat the purpose of having them in this book. What would have been better, I think, would have been to include histories that pulled from thematic elements common to generic D&D.
I hate to be so hard on The Le. I rather like many of the magic items in this book, and the product is very inexpensive. If The Le could take some extra time to clean up their grammar and mechanics, I think they could put out some really great PDFs.
LIKED: If you?re looking for some neat items that you could use in your campaign with just a little work, this book is worth the price.
DISLIKED: I hesitated to give this one 2 stars, since I do like many of the items?but the poor game mechanic descriptions and writing issues were too much to call this book a 3. Sadly, its below the bar of expectations. The artifacts in Ducks of Doom could be used without too much trouble in most D&D campaigns, but the presentation just doesn?t meet d20 standards. The rules are poorly described and the item histories aren't very useful as written.
Call my final rating 2.5 stars.
[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]
[2 of 5 Stars!]