Review: Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium

I received my copy of MME last weekend at PAX. This excellent resource is scheduled to come out September 20th (premier game stores will have it early) and it’s suggested retail is $29.95. If I hadn’t already gotten it, I definitely would be dropping the bucks to buy this beauty.

The book is hardcover, standard D&D book size, with quality glossy pages inside. The spine is sturdy and the binding seems very good. My husband accidentally stepped on the spine of my copy and it did not suffer for it (but my husband did!) it is still in excellent shape. I have to say I really like the cover art more than the Adventurers Vault books, more of a visual kick. Inside is a mix of new and recycled art. There isn’t too much recycled art either, so the book doesn’t feel dated.

Inside is well organized and readable. One thing I really enjoy are the excerpts from Mordenkainens “journal”, especially the tidbits quoted throughout the item entries. They go a long way to making the book feel less like a dry index of equipment and more like an interesting catalog of fascinating creations.

There are new armor proficiency feats to take advantage of the new armor properties. Certain new armors have non-magical properties to reduce damage taken, or thwart critical hits. This is a fun element, I think it will be especially great for campaigns that focus a bit more on realism, or low-magic campaigns were even a non-magical suit of armor is valuable (Dark Sun, I’m looking at you). There’s also a handful of new weapon feats, mainly expertise and strike feats, and the book moves briskly on to the good stuff: magic equipment.

The magic items are varied and interesting. I haven’t had the time to read every single item entry but out of the dozen or so that I have read they all seemed balanced, useful, and sometimes entertaining. Most items include a snippet or two about the item – usually a bit of fluff about it’s origin. These bits are gems amid the item entries. You’ll feel like you actually want to sit down and read this book, versus flipping through it to scan for certain items and only reading relevant sections.

The items run the usual gamut from armor to wonderous items, including consumables, artifacts, and cursed items. The cursed items are well presented and include suggested mechanics for overcoming those curses that are very attainable. After these, the Emporium introduces a new item type: story items. Story items are basically MacGuffins, magic items that are more important as plot devices than they are as equipment. This sounds the same as an artifact, in fact the book even says in the artifact section that artifacts are mostly important as plot devices – so what is the difference between a story item and an artifact? That mostly depends on the DM. A story item could have virtually no mechanical benefits, or it could be completely unique item with powers and motivations similar to an artifact. I have a hard time seeing much separating them other than the story item section doesn’t suggest implementing Concordance. In my eyes, the difference is a blurred line.

Still, the story items section gives useful information for creating and implementing them in your game by providing examples, inspiration, and framework for making story items. New DMs that feel anxious or uncertain about inventing weird items that don’t follow typical item rules will find these guidelines very useful. Experienced DMs that don’t hesitate before inventing crazy magical talking spoons that know the location to the lich’s phylactery may still gain some inspiration by browsing example items provided in this section.

Next is a section on mundane equipment. Great stuff like ball bearings, jar of glowworms, or a charlatan’s kit (which includes great things like a disguise kit, a glass cutter, and gambling cheats) await you in this section. If you have one of those players that come up with a 100 uses for every mundane item in the PHB, reward them with some of the great gear in this section.

Finally, the last section in the book is a number of extremely useful appendixes. Hirelings and henchmen provides costs and services for commoners that might help your players. Magic item stories suggests that even the lowliest +1 dagger can have a unique background and provides two tables so you can generate random item backgrounds with a d20 roll. Item levels as treasure suggest that instead of constantly replacing items, DMs can allow players to increase their items power (some I already do in my home game: I call them “heirloom items”). Last of all is the Items list. This is no squinty-eye list in the tiniest font crammed onto a single page. Spread across multiple pages, with well formatted tables sort the items by level, cost, rarity, and page numbers makes this index a useful and usable quick reference for DMs and players.

Altogether I found this book very satisfactory and one of the best equipment books released by WotC. While the Adventurers Vaults bring a lot of great gear to the table, they’ve never truely impressed me like the Emporium does. If you’re a new DM, I recommend this book because it will be a great resource in multiple ways – helpful DM advice, rarity tables, and story items. If you’re a DDI subscriber and you’re thinking about passing on this book because eventually the items and feats will be in the Character Builder and Compendium, then I must point out you won’t get to enjoy the wonderful fluff text liberally included in this volume. If that doesn’t matter to you, fine, but if you love gobbling up well written fluff then don’t miss out on this book.

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One thought on “Review: Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium

  1. I also aquired a copy of this book at pax, and your review is dead on, I really enjoyed this book. Well mostly , a couple peices of art were a little rough, but other then that I am so glad I got it, otherwise I would have need to race out and get this book

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