Thursday 21 January 2016

Lost Treasures

Treasure is an important part of Pathfinder games. Players often get very attached to their characters' equipment—enough so that being the target of mage's disjunction, a spell that destroys magic items, is often considered a worse fate than dying. At high levels, death is not that hard to reverse in Pathfinder. Replacing powerful magic items can be much more difficult. It is a bit unfortunate that acquiring monetary wealth is such a principal motivator for PCs, but the fact is, the ownership of magic items is tied into the very mechanics of the game. PCs need wealth just to keep up. Fortunately, there is lots of treasure to be gained on adventures.

Unfortunately, when treasure is so prevalent, it starts to become very generic. A +1 longsword doesn't seem all that special, when virtually every adversary has a +1 weapon of some kind. I've had players comment on the sheer volume of rings of protection they find during an adventure path. Each time another one comes along (and more come along quite frequently), they redistribute the ones they have and mark the leftovers with the lowest bonuses for sale. Although these are technically magic items, their sheer “normalness” makes them seem not very magical at all.

Of course, it can be very difficult to make every item unique. It would take a huge amount of work to do so, especially given the amount of magic characters are expected to possess once they reach higher levels. As such, it's natural that significant portions of that magic will become somewhat generic. However, that does mean that when a more unique item does come along it can really stand out. One avenue the game has for more unique items is through artifacts. The book, Artifacts & Legends provides many sample artifacts for GMs to use in their games. However, artifacts tend to be very powerful and can unbalance games if not carefully handled. They work best in high-level games. So what about less powerful magic items in lower-level games?

This is where Lost Treasures comes in. This book provides a large number of unique (or nearly unique) magic items, complete with background stories and adventure ideas for using them. It's a good book for GMs looking to add a few treasures into the game that stand out from the typical +1 weapon or cloak of resistance. A few are powerful items; many others are considerably less powerful; some aren't even magic items, but just mundane items of high value or historical importance. However, all the items have their own individual character to them and will add a ton of flavour to treasure hauls. Even the mundane items here are anything but mundane.

Lost Treasures consists of a short introduction and only two chapters—with the second chapter representing the bulk of the book. The introduction is in the form of a Pathfinder field report and includes brief details on a number of other treasures that GMs might want to expand upon and include in their games.

The first chapter provides some brief rules guidelines for how characters can learn about and search for treasures, including things like research, legends, and maps. The chapter then provides details on twelve treasure hoards that GMs can add to their games. This is a bit misleading, however. The chapter does not actually describe any of the hoards themselves. Rather, it describes locations where great treasure hoards may be found, allowing GMs to customize the treasures for their own games—even to incorporate one or more of the items from later in the book if they desire. It makes sense to take this approach as every GM is going to have different needs. However, the decision to call the section “Lost Treasure Hoards” rather than something like “Lost Treasure Hoard Locations” is a bit mystifying.

The locations themselves offer a good variety of options and are spread out across the Inner Sea Region of Golarion (with one, the Shrine of the Naga Prince, outside this area, in Casmaron). There is a map showing the location of each. The locations vary in style, from undead-infested cairns to ruined prisons and ancient temples. The lengths of each entry vary a little, but are generally around a third of a page long. The first chapter concludes with some sample curses that might protect lost treasures, and a selection of magical treasure chests.

The second chapter takes up the majority of the book, and is filled with forty-six specific items and their stories. Each item description contains its game statistics, history, and “legacy”. The legacy section contains brief plots or events that gamemasters can use to build adventures that feature the items. Most of the item descriptions are one page in length, although two (the Champion of the Gilded Host and the Feathered Galley of Ataylos) are two pages. A few of the items (including the two with longer entries) have additional material beyond just the history and legacy sections, such as a new simple template for the Atavistic Splinter and a new bard masterpiece for the Songs of Shazathared. The items come from areas all across the campaign setting. Some are ancient; some are more recent creations. There is also a wide range in power levels of the items. Overall, there's enough variety here that most GMs should be able to find something that fits their needs.

I'm not going to list all the items here, but I will mention a few of them to help illustrate the variety available. The Bell of Obedience dates back to the time of Earthfall. It can be fitted with different clappers and has different effects depending on the material used for the clapper (such as a good hope effect for bronze). The Champion of the Gilded Host was a colossal construct designed to fight the Tarrasque. It now only survives in several pieces. Fiendsplitter is a +1 demon-bane battleaxe forged by the spirits of the inhabitants of an Ulfen town killed by a horde of demons. Gaspodar's signet is one of the non-magical items in the book. It is the signet ring of one of the kings of Cheliax, still on his severed finger and preserved in a sealed glass jar of honey. The Kiss of Noctura is one of the more gruesome items. It is the severed lips of a succubus. To use the item, a character must graft the lips onto his or her own face. Mishan's Melodious Feather is another of the non-magical items in the book. It contains the record of an ancient people wiped out by the Keleshite Empire. The record is written in miniature print on a single feather.

One of the best things about treasures with unique histories is it's easier to tie them into the stories of adventures the PCs partake in. They become more than just random treasure. Finding a ruby worth 500 gp is nice, but finding a Leng ruby worth the same amount carries with it so much more weight and intrigue. Leng rubies are used as currency by the denizens of Leng. What dealings did the creature the PCs acquired the Leng ruby from have with these myserious beings? Could it have any impact on the PCs themselves?

Lost Treasures provides GMs with more than just treasures to hand out to PCs to help meet the wealth-by-level guidelines. It provides them with story ideas and information about historical people and places. It provides the seeds for adventure, and GMs really can't go wrong with that.


  1. Very nice review for a book i'm likely gonna get after reading this. I especially like the presence of "mundane" object in it.

    Thanks !