I’m highlighting a new DM’s Guild release today: “Make-Up Mayhem” by Sharang Biswas, with illustrations by Mary Georgescu. This supplement offers six cosmetics-themed magic items and one cosmetics-themed monster for 5e, priced at $1.99. Sharang is a friend of mine and I received this review copy for free, but I don’t feel that those things have significantly colored my commentary here.
First off, I appreciate the pitch of this product. “Cosmetic” is a word that we often use in game design conversations to mean “has no mechanical effect,” so I appreciate this gentle reminder that cosmetics do have real impact on presentation and perception. This product focuses attention on a character’s appearance in a way that marries mechanics to narrative. The magic items emphasize Indian culture as written by an Indian writer; I feel very much invited in to enjoy the things that are cool about this.
New Monster: Tressefinctus
The initial concept of this monster strikes me as silly – it’s a hairdresser monster? – but the flavor text and mechanics elevate that into a surprising mix of Weird Fiction worldbuilding and high-society manipulation. There are strong themes of hypnosis and manipulation, built on the trust and vulnerability of letting someone work with your hair and scalp. It winds up as a grounded, compelling idea that you could easily hang a whole storyline on, if your setting is good with this level of high fantasy weirdness, or if it’s kept hush-hush in society.
New Magic Items
Of the six new magic items here, only one – the body-stain brush – is cosmetic in the game design sense, and even there, I bet you can find strange and fun ways to benefit from a brush that only marks skin. (Off the cuff, my favorite: is the exterior of a disguised mimic “skin”? Can you use this as a litmus test for mimics?)
The rapturous teeth lacquer (phenomenal name, oh man) is a great story-driving item, triggering visions to hook adventures with while also showing you when NPCs have been using this item. This item is a super strong fit for my homebrew campaign and I’ll be using it soon.
Rajkumari Bhoomika’s bridal henna is by a large margin the most distressing magic item I’ve read in this calendar year. It’s sort of… what if V:tM Tzimisce’s Vicissitude, but henna? Something went a little sideways in Homebrewery formatting on this one (in the Mutilate option… is that irony? I think that’s irony), but you can still get what it’s saying. The story here is that the applied henna grants supernatural powers to the recipient’s hands. Strong, disturbing imagery at work here.
The last three items are collectively the wise women’s bindis – limited-duration consumable magic items.
- The healing bindi offers a range of information-gathering properties that you can’t easily get from another single spell or magic item – though detecting a possession early can unravel a whole storyline, so approach with some care.
- The judgment bindi offers lie detection that circumvents the speaker’s immunities by working solely on the listener – another magic item to be careful with. Let’s mostly assume you’re only putting these into a campaign if you’re sure about their use.
- The officiant’s bindi lets the wearer use one of five different effects, a total of three times. I like what goes on here, though I have seen enough conversations around mental influence magic in D&D to worry about the use of the compulsion spell here. Compulsion doesn’t, in itself, do anything bad in that sense – it’s “just” forced movement – but the “heightened sexual and romantic arousal” description attached to it may be trouble for some.
Overall, I really like this short PDF of magic items and a monster. The strong story potential and imagery is more than worth the price of admission. The worst I can say of it is that the part of my brain that is invested in rigid 5e formatting has some issues, but none of those issues break anything.