By Linda Curtin
Today we're having a look at one of my favorite gaming accessories. Before you get all excited about looking for the crunchy bits, here is part of Rick Swan's review from Dragon Magazine 192:
"Where the Arms and Equipment Guide concentrates on the AD&D game’s reality-based wares, Aurora’s Whole Realms Catalogue (TSR, Inc., $7.95) focuses on the whimsical stuff. Aurora, the fictional proprietress of a medieval Wal-Mart, offers an eclectic inventory. Better suited for browsers than hardcore gamers, Aurora’s Whole Realms Catalogue is among the least essential of the equipment guides, but it’s one of the most entertaining."
I respectfully disagree with Mr. Swan. These items are reality based, what's more real than needing a safe place to sleep in the woods, or some trail rations?
The layout of the book is modeled on an actual turn of the 20th century catalogue with all the exaggerated selling points that were popular in advertising at the time.This page is from an old Sears and Roebuck Catalog.
The bonuses listed for these great items were originally for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition, but they should work with most fantasy games.
I used the heck out of this book in my campaign (as you can see from the wear). There are all kinds of items for the adventurer, laborer, innkeeper, and shop owner as well as many other folks your players might run into.
For instance when describing a person walking along the road, instead of saying he's a farmer, you could say that he's walking along in sturdy garments carrying a large pole with two handles and a blade at the end, and show them a scythe.
When your party walks into say a shop that has food for sale, you don't have to wrack your brain thinking of interesting food products, just whip out your copy of Aurora's, look at the Larder page for general necessities.
You can tell them that Mist Cheese, Turmish Brick and some Lurian Spring Cheese are available, but the shopkeeper warns any halfling character against the Spring Cheese.
They'll need bread for their cheese such as sourdough and hardtack, then you can add in any unusual grain products that might be available locally such as noodles in an Asian setting, or tortillas!
If they are in a really upscale shop, you can offer them exotic items like rice candies or coffee.
Now that your players have shopped for consumables, they might need some items for their manor or castle. If they don't have a manor or castle you can use these items to furnish the home of the next person they visit looking for a quest. It can be great fun to spend time describing an ornamental bell pull and then watching your players try to determine if it is magical, or if they might need it for some reason. Even better is when they are creative enough to use an odd item to save the day. If someone has used a bell pull or some other mundane item to great effect we'd love to hear about it in the comments.
Of course any well appointed home needs light sources. Why rely on a drippy hazardous candle when you can have self dousing lanterns. My character could have really used one of these when she dropped her lantern to deal with a threat. It fell over and the fire blocked our exit from the room. Better yet free your hands with a spelunker's lantern.
Regardless of their class or occupation, almost everyone needs clothes. Aurora provides "off the rack" clothes of all sorts. Dying is available for most items. Some of the more interesting offerings are; Fullcloth, well crafted long underwear for the coldest climes. Hose Supporter, so your bards nice hosiery doesn't sag or fall down. Also included are all your standard clothing items, dresses, several types of pants, doublets, tabards, and girdles. One of the things that were used a lot in my campaign were the Hip Boots. These are basically hip waders made of fine leather and sealed in pitch to make them watertight. A must have for any swamp.
Next we have some diversions. These are items purely for amusement. Many are items that you might give to your character's friends children, such as dolls, or a rocking horse.
Others would be great for passing some time when you are adventuring. Marbles, tops and dice are all very portable amusements. If you don't have encumbrance problems you could take a Draughts board or some Fighting Dolls.
Also available are items from DaRoni's Workshop. A Light Splitter, if used properly, can make shadow illusions to confuse your less intelligent foes. A Telescope is always useful and at a mere 70 gp including the stand it's a great deal.I would think very carefully though before investing in his Air Screw or other flying contraptions, the chance of failure is a bit high for my taste.
Weapons of war are also available, bladed devices for scraping the orcs from your battlements, ladder tippers, a rock thrower, and for mounted combat a chariot that protects your horses while arming them.
There are also items useful for every character class. Take a look at the Bard's Emporium. Some great portable instruments for entertaining or inspiring on the road. Why settle for a lute or harp when you could have a psaltery or a yarting? Of course every well appointed castle should definitely have a harpsichord.
Every cleric needs a holy symbol and Aurora's has them all in your choice of gold, silver or bronze. You will need to take them to your temple to be blessed for spell-casting or turning. Your party would really look like pros with a censer, and the extra 10 yards of range couldn't possibly hurt. Be aware that you won't be doing much sneaking or surprising anyone while it's going. You'll also be needing incense for it, and Aurora has over a page of different kinds available.
There may come a time when your party has to go adventuring without a
cleric. But fear not, Aurora has you covered. Shop the "Priest in a
Poke" section for some handy items at times when magical healing isn't
available. Broken leg? Use the Limb Rod to set it perfectly every time,
then use the splint set to stabilize it while it heals. Sometimes you
need to do a little cutting to keep someone alive, Knife Kits provide
the right knife for any surgical needs. What medicine cannot cure a good
leach sometimes can, available in jars of approximately ten. Bandages,
balms and even hand hooks and peg legs are available.
There are all kinds of standard items for Rangers. Traps, snares, rope ladders and beds that can be used in a tree. All manner of bird and animal calls are also available, as well as calls to repel certain animals. The image next to the thieves items shows a Ranger in a tree seat, using a field glass.
Aurora must truly love Thieves, there are pages and pages of wonderful items to set your thief apart from the crowd. Resin to make your fingers sticky and powder to make them glide, a fine finger knife for cut purses, and even a garotte for the worst and most vile of Thieves.
She also has spider poles for climbing, Bladeboots and files should you need to escape, and masks so you might not have to.
Wizards don't spend all their time in dungeons, so they need tools to ply their alchemical trade. Gloves for handling acids and sharp things, hourglasses to time your experiments and an Ice Chest in case your potions or supplies need to be kept cold. Of course ice is also available, fresh from Icewind Dale.
The Scribe's Desk also has many items useful to both scribes and wizards. Ink, pens, blank books, and even a portable bookcase should you decide that you need to travel with your library. The book safe is always useful, hide your valuables in plain sight.
I hope that you enjoyed our little tour of Aurora's shop, she appreciates your patronage!
Let us know in the comments if any of these items or other "whimsical" items have come in handy at your table.