Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: Monsters & Treasure Part 7

More magic items today - wands, staves, and miscellaneous bits and bobs.

WANDS AND STAVES: Before 3e came along and reclassified them, wands and staves weren't quite so rigidly defined power-wise. The main difference between them was that staves were longer, and had more powers.

The wands are all pretty basic stuff, and only usable by Magic-Users: Metal Detection (for the old days when getting treasure was everything), Enemy Detection, Magic Detection, Secret Door and Trap Detection, Illusion, Fear, Cold, Paralization, Fire Balls, Lightning Bolts, Polymorph and the most interesting - the Wand of Negation, which can be used to negate the effects of a single other wand or staff.

The Staves are more potent, with a few exceptions like the Staff of Healing which just does Cure Light Wounds (and only once per day to any one person! Harsh, Gary.). The Staff of Commanding works on Animals, Plants and Humans, so that's nifty - not monsters though! The Snake Staff is killer - it's +1 normally, and can turn into a snake that entwines the victim. The Staff of Striking deals 2d6 damage, and the Staff of Withering ages the victim 10 years! And here Gary makes things super-ambiguous - first he says that the life span is shortened by 10 years, and that the victim is not matured - then he says a man struck 4 times will be doddering! So which is it? I go with proper aging - makes things a bit more dramatic.

The Staff of Power is the mother-lode, though. It's got Cold, Striking, Fire Ball, Lightning Bolt, Continual Light, and Telekenesis - all very handy, but the real attraction is the Final Strike - break that staff and every creature in range takes 8 points of damage multiplied by the number of charges left. It's like a tactical nuke disguised as a walking stick.

The Staff of Wizardry is even more uber - it has all of the above powers, Final Strike included, and packs Paralization, Pass-Wall, Invisibility, Whirlwind, Wall of Fire, Web, and it can summon 1d4 Elementals!!! Do I even need to comment? All I will say is that the Web here is the first instance of that spell effect in D&D - the actual spell of the same name doesn't come until a little later.

MISCELLANEOUS MAGIC: The random stuff. This is usually where all of the weird effects and groovy cursed items reside, so this ought to be fun. They're arranged in loose categories, so I'll try to hit everything in that manner.

CRYSTAL BALL: The ubiquitous Crystal Ball, which allows Magic-Users to scry on people. It's not so good over long distances, it can't see through lead, and if you use it too long you have to rest. And Gary has already foreseen the PC abuse of this item - if you use it more than three times a day, you go mad. Super.

MEDALLIONS: One gives ESP, there's an amulet that protects from ESP and Crystal Balls, and the ultra-specific Scarab of Protection from Evil High Priests, which covers the glaring hole in the Ring of Spell Turning by granting immunity to the Finger of Death.

BAG OF HOLDING: Standard bag that holds more than it should. None of the funky extra-planar stuff gets mentioned yet, alas.

ELEMENTAL ITEMS: There are four items for summoning Elementals - a brazier for fire elementals, a bowl for water, a censer for air and a stone for earth. There's also the Efreet bottle, which houses an Efreet that will serve the finder of the bottle for 1,001 days, for that Aladdin's Lamp feel.

CLOAKS: The Displacer Cloak is here, somewhat before the Beast of the same name. As usual, it makes you appear a bit to the side of where you actually are, which can be handy. The other cloak is of the elven variety, and it makes you near-invisible; it's handily packaged with elven boots that make you silent.

BOOTS: Boots of Speed give you the speed of a Light Horse for a day before you have to rest, so they seem more applicable to overland travel than anything. Boots of Levitation are just like the spell with no limits on duration. Boots of Traveling and Leaping just let you walk further in a day - ho hum.

BROOM OF FLYING: What it says - a flying broom so you can have proper Witches and such.

HELMS: One lets you read magic or any language, another grants telepathy (with a suggestion power thrown in on top), and another teleportation. The teleportation one is interesting. The wearer can teleport "endlessly around the universe"(!) so long as he's got a Teleport spell in his memory, and the standard danger of landing half in the floor isn't there. Then we get our first cursed item - the Helm of Chaos (or Law if you prefer) - which reverses the character's alignment. Ya gotta love the classics.

The great thing about these helms is that they're specifically called out as not being suitable for combat - try and protect your head with one, and there's every chance it's going to get ruined (the helm that is, and your head as well probably).

FLYING CARPET: The Arabian cousin to the flying broom, I guess. It carries more people.

MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS: The Drums of Panic cause fear, and might make all sorts of weaklings flee the battlefield. The Horn of Blasting is pretty nasty, dealing 2d6 damage, and it can blow down walls as well.

STRENGTH-BOOSTERS: Every fighter's best mates - the Gauntlets of Ogre Power, and the Girdle of Giant Strength. Given that Strength plays such a minimal role in OD&D combat, though, they aren't the bee's knees just yet. The Gauntlets just let you strike as an Ogre (+2 to damage?), and the Girdle bestows the strength and hit probability of a Hill Giant.

MIRROR OF LIFE-TRAPPING: If you look in it, you're trapped inside until the owner lets you out - it's basically just a very nasty trap. And whatever you do DMs, don't let one of these bad boys get in the hands of your players! They'll be carting it around and trapping everything in sight, maybe letting them out and picking them off one by one. Not pretty...

And we're through the magic items - the list is a lot smaller than I was expecting! It's still a good sampling of essential D&D magic items though - you could survive with nothing but these in your game for a long while.

ITEM SAVING THROWS: Ah, a lovely obscure rule that is most hated by players! How it works here is, if your character is killed by a magical attack like a fire ball (or an untended item is hit), it has to make a saving throw or get destroyed. Leaving it for the times when your character is killed seems fair, until you check out this cracker of a line: "Those items not listed should be assumed automatically destroyed." And what's listed? The Staff of Power, Staff of Wizardry, Fire Ball Wand, Lightning Bolt Wand, Ring of Fire Resistance, Ring of Protection, Magic Weapons, Armor, and Shields. Anything else? Destroyed no save. Ah-hahahahahaha. Gary is my hero.

ARTIFACTS: Artifacts here are defined as powerful items of Law or Chaos - which cements those two as the primary forces of the OD&D universe in my mind. There are some examples named, but not described, and I don't recall seeing them in later products - they may be fodder for me to expand upon myself. The list is: Teleportation Machine; Fighter's Crown, Orb and Sceptre; Magic-User's Crown, Orb and Sceptre; Cleric's yada yada yada; Stone Crystalization Projector. Some example effects are given that may have seemed powerful in 1973, but for artifacts are pretty weaksauce. "Instant Death" has a ring to it, though.

If I do have to figure these out myself, the Teleportation Machine will be the portal I'm placing under the campaign's Adventurer's Guild. The various crowns, orbs and sceptres will be linked to the head of each class within the Guild, though they'll probably be lost in Greyhawk Castle. I'm not sure what a Stone Crystalization Projector is, but my guess is that it turns it's victims to stone? Doesn't grab my fancy, really.

COINS: And finally! At the back of Volume II! We get the exchange rates for the different coins - there's 10 silver to a gold, as I'm used to. There's five copper to a silver, which makes 50 copper to a gold - copper is more valuable here than in later editions it seems. Electrum is an optional coinage, and it's worth either half or double the value of gold. I'm taking that literally - some salesmen/merchants/shopkeeps will prize it highly, and others not so much. Platinum is also there, worth five times as much as gold.

GEMS: Specific gem types aren't given, just some base values rolled on a random chart. If you roll well enough (and the odds are pretty slim) you might end up with one worth 500,000 gold pieces.

JEWELRY: Jewelry value is done much like Gems, but the base rates are a bit higher - there doesn't seem to be as much potential for astronomical figures here, though. Shame.

And we end with the note that fire and lightning melts coins, just to discourage those trigger-happy Magic-Users. Yea, verily Gary giveth with one hand, and he taketh with the other.

AND BY GOD THAT'S VOLUME II DONE! Vol. III, which I'll be starting tomorrow, will be a lot quicker, I can assure you of this - and then it starts to get a bit more interesting with regards to fitting stuff together as we delve into the Supplements, The Strategic Review, and later The Dragon.

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