There are a whole lot of new magic items in this supplement, as well as updated treasure tables that incorporate them all. So at about the time I introduce the new Greyhawk monsters, I'll start using the new magic item tables as well.
I'll be covering everything except Miscellaneous today (as that section is a whopper). We begin with swords, to which are added quite a few new special types.
NINE STEPS DRAINING: This one's a corker - the first time you roll a natural 20 with it, it drains one level from the victim. The second time, it drains 2 levels. Then 3, then 4, and so on until it deals a hit that drains 9 levels. After that it's just a normal +2 sword, but man that's really cool. And if you really want to be a Rat-Bastard DM, put one that's at the point of draining 9 levels into the hands of an enemy of the PCs.
HOLY SWORD +5: This sword's true abilities only function when wielded by a Paladin - it negates all spells in a 1" range. I'm of the opinion that Paladins are powerful enough as is, they certainly don't need complete magic resistance to help them along. And don't forget that this baby will be intelligent as well, with all the extra powers that entails.
SWORD OF COLD: It's the original Frost Brand, being +3 normally and +5 against fire monsters. It also deals triple damage on a 20, dispells a Wall of Fire, and acts as a Ring of Fire Resistance. Plus Drizzt has one, so it's just gotta be cool. (Old-school cred... fading... fading...)
DRAGON SLAYING SWORD +2: Does 4-40 damage against a specific dragon type. Very specific, but when it comes into play it would be so awesome. And with the low hit points dragons have in OD&D compared to later editions it would be extremely effective.
SWORD +1, CURSED (-2 also): Never leaves the wielders hand, and forces him to fight as many monsters as possible - it basically forces the player to an eventual death unless Remove Curse or Wish is used. Sounds like a lot of fun to me!
DANCING SWORD: After a few rounds of melee it leaves the wielder's hand and fights by itself for three rounds. So the character can get two attacks if he wants, which is pretty rare in OD&D.
SWORD OF SHARPNESS: Another type of Holy Sword, but on a high enough attack roll it can sever head or limb. It still has the anti-magic ability for Paladins as well! You know, I never knew that all of these were Holy. It's a great weapon, but it kind of pales in comparison to...
VORPAL SWORD: Like the Sword of Sharpness, but it always severs the neck. Only Lawful Fighters can use it, and only Paladins get the anti-magic. But it totally cuts people's heads off dude! It's every 13-year-old kid's dream to have one of these things. I never saw a DM with the guts to hand one out.
Some more classics appear here, and the bonuses now go all the way up to +5. It's noted that +4 armor is always made from 'mithral' (is TSR already getting hassled by the Tolkien estate?) and +5 armor is made from a strange alloy known as 'adamantite'. Mithral I will run pretty much as it is from Tolkien, and if I remember rightly Adamantite is usually found in meteorites, so the inhabitants of Greyhawk will view it as some kind of divine gift from the skies.
And now some specific armors:
SHIELD OF MISSILE ATTRACTION: Appears as a regular magic shield, until someone fires a missile at the character. Then the shield attracts the missile and gives the wielder a -1 AC penalty. And just to head off PCs testing these things with a spot of target practice, the shot must be fired 'in anger'. So what happens if a skeleton or something without emotions fires it? The obvious intent is for any missile fired by an enemy. I always figured this would be a great item, because who wouldn't want a shield that draws arrows directly to it? I guess it doesn't quite work that way, though.
ARMOR OF VULNERABILITY: Appears as +1 to +4, but is actually the reverse, revealed again when the opponent 'strikes a blow in anger'.
ARMOR OF ETHEREALNESS: It's the most magical of all armor, at least so far. It's +3 normally, and the wearer can become ethereal. He's able to pass through objects, and can only be hit by other ethereal creatures. I always wanted a set of this armor for my thief, but I never did get any.
ARROWS OF SLAYING: Yikes. A hit from one of these will kill the target instantly. They can either slay any monster, or only work on a specific type (Undead, Giants, Flyers, Enchanted, etc.). Best handed out sparingly, I feel.
CROSSBOW OF SPEED: This is a pretty nifty item. It allows the wielder to fire even when surprised, and also grants a +3 on his initiative dice. It cocks itself, and so can be fired as quickly as a bow.
CROSSBOW OF DISTANCE: Crossbow. It fires further. Move along. (It's unimaginitive magic items like these that really get my goat, but that's a topic for another time and place.)
MACE OF DISRUPTION: Ooooh, I love these. It works like a regular +1 mace, until it hits some kind of undead - and then it, and I quote, 'disrupts its molecular structure'! Any undead hit must roll as if turned by a Patriarch, which means that anything other than a Vampire, Spectre or Mummy is automatically destroyed.
CURSED SPEAR OF BACKBITING: A normal magic weapon until it's used on an enemy. At that point it curves around and stabs its wielder, whether thrown or thrust. It's a nice little cursed item, but it only works once before the PC will throw it away.
I'm noticing a trend here - This book is chockers with cursed items. It seems to me that a lot of Greyhawk is designed to include stuff that screws over the players (in a good way) and makes them more cautious about their magic items. The new monsters are similarly those created to mess with the tactics of certain players. The D&D arms race started right here.
There are only a few new potions here, and two of them are just improved versions of old ones. Not much to discuss here.
EXTRA-HEALING: A triple-strength healing potion.
SUPER-HEROISM: It's like a potion of heroism, but better. Remember it only works on Fighters, though.
OIL OF SLIPPERINESS: So what, like regular oil then? A character has to rub this on himself, and it makes him immune to being caught or tied up - but it takes 24 hours to wear off, which I'm sure is a recipe for unintended hilarity.
OIL OF ETHEREALNESS: Much like the armor, the character can walk through walls and such.
Again just a couple here. One is very nice, and the other's cursed.
SHOOTING STARS: A handy little ring, which isn't too overpowered offensively. It can cast Light spells, fireballs that do 12 points of damage, or a ball of force for similar damage. If I understand rightly, this is all without charges, so it would be a nice one for wizards once their spells run out.
CONTRARINESS: Makes the wearer act in the opposite way he intends at all times. I can see all sorts of wrangling with this one, and players saying they want one thing to get their character to do another thing. Items that take PC control away from players are never good. Won't stop me using it though!
WANDS, STAVES AND RODS
There are some real game-breakers in with this bunch.
STAFF OF STRIKING: This one appeared in OD&D, but it's clarified that the staff uses a charge whenever it is used to strike. The same also applies to the striking power of the Staff of Power and Staff of Wizardry.
ROD OF CANCELLATION: This one is pretty potent - if you hit a magic item with it the item loses all of its power permanently. It's good for getting those unwanted items out of the game, but it's also good for making your players want to punch you in the face. Use at your own peril!
ROD OF BEGUILING: Charms all enemies in a 20' radius, which is pretty super. It only lasts from 4 to 16 turns, though - so be prepared for angry monsters once it's done.
ROD OF ABSORPTION: The rod can absorb spells and redirect them back at the caster.
ROD OF LORDLY MIGHT: This is a favourite of mine. It has a number of buttons and catches, and can transform into a number of weapons - a glaive-guisarme, a flaming sword, a +2 axe, a +3 spear, and even a ladder. Not only that, but it can paralize enemies, or make them flee. Plus, say it in a fake British accent - LOOOOORDLY MIGHT! Awesome.
ROD OF RULERSHIP: Lets you command from 200 to 500 levels worth of creatures - GOOD GOD GARY WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!? Actually, its power only extends to 10', so good luck getting those 1,000 kobolds into the area of effect. It probably means 10' in D&D scale, which would be something like 1,200 feet if my math still works. Still, this is super-powerful, and by my reckoning it ought to be an artifact.
ROD OF RESURRECTION: Whoops, something's gone wrong here. It starts off by saying that the rod allows the user to resurrect people, then it gets to rambling about ESP medallions and other such things that make no sense. Errata is required methinks.
Tomorrow I'll try and get through the section on Miscellaneous Magic Items. But be warned, I went a bit overboard there - it might be a two-parter.