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Friday, 21 January 2011

A Supplement To Treasure?

How detailed does your fantasy game get? When playing Dungeons & Dragons or the Retroclone of your choice, does your group prefer to grab the treasure and sell it without a thought? Or does it take the time to sift through the hoard and take notice of every single item, perhaps admiring a piece or two for their beauty, while still appraising each for their value and potential provenance? If your group happens to sway towards the latter style of play, then perhaps the latest pair of supplements from Faster Monkey Games – whose scenario, Wrack & Rune I reviewed last year – might prove to be useful tools to that end. All the Treasures of the World: Gems and All the Treasures of the World: Jewels are each written as resources that can be used to add detail to your game world. Both are designed specifically for use with Labyrinth Lord, the Retroclone from Goblinoid Games, but as with so much of the scenarios and support available for the Old School Renaissance, they can be used with the “Edition 0” RPG of your choice. This time around, I will just review the first in the All the Treasures of the World series, which is devoted to gems.

All the Treasures of the World: Gems is a short, twelve page PDF. Upon first sight, it appears to be just a series of tables devoted to its subject, and for the most part it is. From the initial table which establishes a gem’s Base Value, subsequent tables determine its type, size, and quality. For example, having rolled a Base Value of 25 gp, rolls on the other tables tell me that this is a green Tourmaline with a cat’s eye. Although slightly smaller than average, this Tourmaline is flawless, thus offsetting its smaller size and keeping its value at 25 gp. A much larger table gives me the basic information about every type of gem that appears in All the Treasures of the World: Gems. Under the entry for Tourmaline I discover that stones of this type are translucent and are polished rather than cut, usually into spheres. Noting that my Tourmaline has a cat’s eye, the author also explains that this is actually an optical effect called “chatoyancy” and is brought to best effect when by polishing the gem.

Simple rules are provided under Labyrinth Lord to allow a player character or NPC to appraise any single gem whether he wants to compare, identify, or evaluate a gem, or simply spot a fake. Jewellers, fences, and merchants all have an advantage in this, as do rogues and thieves. It is up to the GM to decide if Dwarves and Gnomes also do. The attempt to spot a fake is supported with a table of random fake gems and another of easily misidentified gems. The supplement is rounded out with a guide to buying and selling gems, including a discussion of how jewellers’ appraisal documents work, giving potential for any rogue worth a victim’s purse to run a con game of some kind. That rogue of course, being an NPC or a player character.

Given the number of tables contained in the pages of All the Treasures of the World: Gems, this supplement looks a whole lot more complex than it actually is. The GM only has to consult a few of those tables to determine the nature and value of any gem, and that only if he wants to. The contents of this supplement are designed to modular, so that he could just roll on the two tables to determine a gem’s Base Value and its type, and nothing more. The combined effect of using all of the tables and the new rules and guidelines is nothing more than one of extra added detail without overwhelming the user. To sum up with a little cliché, All the Treasures of the World: Gems is a neat little gem of a tool for your Dungeons & Dragons game.