In this installment: VECNA!
THE HAND OF VECNA: Here it is, probably the most iconic D&D artifact ever. For the probable few of you who don't already know, this artifact is a shriveled and blackened hand that is the sole remnant of an ancient lich who imbued it with power that has lasted long after his destruction. In order for the hand to be used, it must be attached to the stump of an arm, which has resulted in all sort of hilarity perpetrated on PCs over the years. The owner becomes undetectably evil, but can remove the hand at any point up until he uses one of its primary powers. After that, each use of a power drops the chance to remove it by 10%, until after ten uses it can never be removed. Not only that, but every use of a primary power subjects you to a negative effect from the artifact tables, so this is a very nasty thing to have. Even worse, none of these ill effects can be altered in any way, even by acts of the gods. This is said in ALL CAPS, so it is extra-true.
The hand has secondary powers that can be used without ill effect. They are: the user has an ever-increasing chance to automatically become ethereal when under stress, levitation, infravision, fly and detect traps and secret doors.
The hand's primary powers are the ones that come with ill effects. They are performed by making finger gestures, and can only be discovered by trial and error. Something tells me my players will go for the Ronnie James Dio horns first thing. The primary powers are: Sleep, double-strength slow spell, finger of death, regenerate half of all hit points lost in combat, teleport, monster summoning, x-ray vision, 10d6 cold ray, death spell, locate treasure, and your touch turns your opponent's bones to jelly. Oh, and you always get a premonition of danger just before it happens. Okay, yeah. I can see the upside to this thing.
THE EYE OF VECNA: I've always thought the eye a little creepier than the hand, so far as Vecna is concerned. Its existence is rumoured, and has yet to be confirmed, but is only talked about in hushed whispers, and never to strangers. I'll have to remember this if my PCs ever decide to hunt this thing down. Asking around for the Eye of Vecna could lead to trouble for them. It's also of interest that the eye glitters in the maner of a feline, and so may not have actually belonged to Vecna.
Much like the hand, the eye must be pressed into an empty eye-socket. Once it's in there, it can't be removed, and it turns the wearer Chaotic.
Secondary powers (no ill effects): immune to disease, clairaudience, water breathing, paralization.
Primary power: The wearer is granted one wish per week. Every time the wish is used, there's a cumulative chance that the power of the eye will break free, destroy the wearer's soul, and use his body to kill all of his hirelings and associates. Good times.
BABA YAGA'S HUT: This hut belonged to Baba Yaga, who is said here to have been the greatest Wizardress of all time. It's a hut that's bigger inside than outside, and it walks around on giant chicken legs that it can also use to clobber enemies. It's interesting to note that they are said to have a 30% hit probability. So this means that they completely bypass the Armor Class system? It can also cast a Finger of Death once a day, and the image of the hut pointing with a chicken leg to cast it already has me in hysterics.
IRON FLASK OF TUERNY THE MERCILESS: This is a heavy metal urn closed with a turnip-shaped stopper covered with mighty runes. Inside the urn is 'the Groaning Spirit', a devil or demon which can be loosed to perform evil deeds. The wielder needs to know a special word to open the stopper, the special spell which commands the Groaning Spirit, and the word of closure to seal it up again. Otherwise, shenanigans. It's got a few other powers as well: teleport, stone to flesh, the user receives a premonition of danger just before it happens. The urn will consume half-to-all of the user's treasure to sustain its power.
The question remains, though, who was Tuerny? A cursory bit of research reveals him as a wizard of Greyhawk, a former king, and a bad dude. I'll have to do some more poking around when I get into my post-OD&D research phase.
QUEEN EHLISSA'S MARVELOUS NIGHTINGALE: This is a bejewelled mechanical songbird held in a mesh of golden wires that springs to life when activated. Its song causes wondrous effects, as do the scintillating lights from its eyes, and the two in combination are said to be able to produce many powerful spells. It also has an aura that protects all nearby from detection spells, as well as hunger and thirst.
Suggested powers: detect evil, speak with animals, double-strength slow spell, restore one lost level per week. It's suggested that maybe the restored level can be taken from another nearby PC, but I don't think that's really appropriate for this item. It also has a cumulative chance that the power of the bird will break free, destroy the wearer's soul, and use his body to kill all of his hirelings and associates. This is harder to reconcile with a seemingly benevolent item, but I guess appearances can be deceiving.
Queen Ehlissa herself is said here to have reigned for several centuries, bending the nightingale to her will and never allowing it to escape.
THE MACHINE OF LUM THE MAD: This is a gigantic machine covered in levers and dials, with a large booth for people to stand in. Twenty of the levers and dials are unusable due to age, and the thing is too large and delicate to be transported with teleport magic. Anything in the booth will be affected when the levers and dials are operated. The thing has 80 powers, which is just about everything in the book, and the DM is also encouraged to come up with some things himself.
Who is Lum the Mad? Another quick check on the internet reveals him to have been a Baron and warlord who got betrayed and hurled through a dimensional rift into limbo. Again, more on this later I guess.
Next: More artifacts, more artifacts, more artifacts. I have a child, and so henceforth will refrain from promising to finish up with this next time.