Product Review – Game Mastery Item Cards

Ah, Paizo Publishing. Right now, they’re my favorite publisher. If I didn’t have a 4e game, I’d happily be spending my money on Pathfinder and its supplements, buying books that I would never get to use, but nevertheless will enjoy reading. Much like 3rd Edition, really.

However, in that nail-biting gap between the announcement of the end of the Dungeon Magazine and Dragon Magazine licence, and Paizo’s own announcement that they would be publishing their own d20 compatible RPG, Paizo began to make a line of products that were a little different. Unable to decide exactly what system they’d be supporting, Paizo created a line of products that supported no system at all.

This became Game Mastery, game aids that are advertised for use with “any fantasy role-playing game” but naturally, we know there’s really only two they would be used for: Dungeons & Dragons, and now Pathfinder. But any good Game Master will tell you that the presence of system-neutral items is a good thing.

I was planning on having this be one post, but since there are three lines I buy into frequently, I figured I’d make three posts. The three lines are Item Cards, Map Packs and Flip Mats.

We’ll start with the products I’ve begun using most recently, the Item Cards. I forget exactly why I decided to start buying these things. Probably because I have some trouble assigning item parcels to my players, and I figured a visual aide might help.

So I wound up buying a few… Quite a few, really. I’m glad my players like them so far, really…

Currently, I own Essentials, Dragon’s Trove, Adventure Gear, Adventure Gear 2, Wonderous Treasure, Weapons Locker, Elements of Power, Friends & Foes, Rise of the Runelords and Curse of the Crimson Throne.

On the last two, I wasn’t going to pick them up, but I found them on clearance, and thus got them both for $7 total, instead of $20. I’m rather glad I did, as they actually did inspire me for my own campaign. More so than the other items did, but that’s due to the items in those two sets sharing common themes.

Each deck has a number of cards, most of them more than 50. Each one has an item illustrated upon it: A weapon, a piece of armor, a potion, a wand, a staff, a miscellaneousĀ  item, and so on. On the back, there is a short description of the item, and a space for taking notes on what the item really is. No stats are listed for any of the items, meaning they can be anything, from mundane armaments and adornments, to arcane implements of earth-shattering power.

Overall, the only sets I’m disappointed by are the Adventure Gear decks, which are entirely mundane items. However, I find that mundanity is often overlooked. Also, these decks evoked reactions from my players, so it’s possible they’ll see some use anyway.

Also, Friends & Foes isn’t item cards, but “face cards,” portraits of people of varying races and appearances. Apparently made from art recycled from the Pathfinder books, it nevertheless provides some interesting characters. Likewise, I’m looking forward to Villains, which is coming out soon.

Really, these decks are fun. If nothing else, they provide easy to use, yet still high quality props for your games. And frankly, some of the items are so mysterious, they cannot help but evoke ideas. My personal favorite is one from Wondrous Items, the “Devil Box.” An otherwise nondescript red box with a five-pointed star emblazoned on the lid. What’s in it? Who knows?

And that’s one of the things I love most about this game: You never really know what’s inside the box. It could be anything.

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