I’ve managed to get a copy and plow through the Adventurer’s Vault 2. In the first book WoTC added a little more to the book by including alchemical items, mounts, and additional mastercrafted weapons and armor. This was nice as it became more than just a list of new magic items. AV2 is just magic loot. Nothing additional other than more items your players can drool over. But what they added fills a few holes in the previous lists, and for the most part I think are worthy additions.
I think one of the strongest points of the book are the variety of new items provided. Even if a folks might think game effects of magic items are tepid at best (I really think for the most part magic items are the new feats from 3.5), having some concrete examples can act as a springboard for new homebrew items. As I noted before making custom magic items can be pretty easy, especially adding spell effects to items. So armed with some official examples, I think DMs could whip up something of their own making and not worry about creating some overblown powerful artifact. So on to some specific points…
Ammunition – Finally some one shot ranged items. I can see some DMs feeling a little hesitant about handing out powerful magical ranged weapons. As an alternate, these items are great for those players that typically snipe away from afar by offering something small to add to their attacks. A few choice, one-shot arrows is something I’ll be giving out in my regular group frequently. It’s a step down from a solid powerful magical weapon, but having that one arcane bolt, made for that one special attack, just oozes with exciting RP potential. I can’t wait for one of my players to drop the next main bad guy with such an item.
Tattoos – For those primal heroes, I can totally see this fitting in with their theme. It is an interesting concept to have a permanent fixture on a character’s body that empowers some magical force. Have your shaman find a magical etching on a piece of leather. A local medicine man can transcribe the etching using special inks. After the tattoo is inscribed the etching fades away. A suitable mini-quest with lots of RP, much better than the same shaman just looting something out of a treasure horde.
I’d add DMs should take the tattoo idea and run with it. With the appearance of tattoos as a magical item, I’m seriously considering taking a look at tweaking Eberron’s dragon marks for a home brew campaign. Tattoos are a neat idea and I’m glad WoTC jumped at providing some ‘official’ examples.
Wondrous Lair Items – I can see as players approach the paragon tier, they are going to begin attracting followers and needing a more stable home base of operations. Having a few of these items can provide a cool home lair for your players. Also having these items can serve as inspiration having your player’s attacked on their home turf. Nothing like seeing their secluded keep as a target for marauders.
These items (and sets which I’ll talk about shortly) taps into a problem I see a bit with larger parties. By level 7 or 8, likely you will have players that managed to pick up a good set of armor and/or weapons. An upgrade I’m sure is welcomed, but some players might find their needs for loot sated with the stuff they already picked up. Handing out these wondrous lair items makes for a nice alternative, where the players get a chance to get something cool to add to their possessions (rather than just replacements for stuff they have)
Item Sets – I feel these are a great way to add small items to a player, slowly increasing his abilities, rather than completely overhauling gear he has. The sets also might work as a good hook. A rumor of gaining another item to round out a set likely would be tempting, despite what dangers await. I especially like the idea of group sets. Another way to cement the party with something that binds them together and makes them more powerful
I think a key way to introduce sets is to ignore the potential of combined abilities and treat them as regular magic items initially. Just use them to fill out treasure parcels. As the players move along the campaign, gradually reveal the items have some manner of synergy. I think this way the items evolve in power, hinting to the player that there is some larger story behind the artifacts.
Speaking of story, I enjoyed the item lore sidebars in AV2. A little more detail of lore for specific items, and especially the adventure ideas, were a worthy addition to the book. I’m a sucker for little tidbits and adventuring ideas for one-shot sessions.
The Good – Lots of magic items, and some new types too. I was happy to see just about all the bases covered, even the addition of totems and tomes. I was also happy to see they included some items that dipped into the other campaign settings (Eberrron and FR), but were nice enough to include the rules for those abilities. The lore and adventure ideas related to certain items were a nice touch. One thing I absolutely love was the index. All items were not only broken up by level, but by type and slot too. Hopefully WoTC will look into providing an errata of the first book to have a similar index.
The Bad – Not all items are hits out of the park. I especially am befuddled with the inclusion of immurments. These special terrain enchantments seem better in DM hands as hazards. I guess for the ultimate ambush, something like this could be used by a group (or for the ultimate hunt luring a monster). Still it seems a little out of place. Also, where are the bard items? I guess they are still stuck with the items from PHB2.
The Verdict – Is this absolutely needed? No. I think with the first AV, a DM will have plenty of neat magic items at their fingertips. If you have the money though, I would recommend picking it up. The types of items covered makes for a good addition, and the types alone can spark a lot of homebrew creativity. Not to mention, the item sets and lore sidebars can offer a few adventure ideas themselves.