Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Ultimate Sandbox: Supplement I - Greyhawk Part 9

More magic items today, followed by a wrap-up for Supplement I and a dissection of the illustrations.

DUST OF APPEARANCE: Throw it in the air and it lets you see creatures that are invisible, out of phase, or in the astral plane. Whether it allows you to attack astral and out of phase creatures is left vague, but I would rule that it doesn't.

DISAPPEARANCE DUST: Makes anyone it's sprinkled on invisible, and that invisibility is undetectable by magic. I remember that later versions of this aren't negated when you attack, but this version doesn't mention that power (which I exploited oh so effectively in Curse of the Azure Bonds).

DUST OF SNEEZING AND CHOKING: If it's thrown on you, save vs. poison or die. The intent is that players will think it's one of the above items and try to use it, but in my experience it's more often deployed as a weapon against monsters.

TALISMAN OF LAWFULNESS: This is great - it gives any Patriarch the ability to 'sink an Evil High Priest to the center of the Earth forever.' Sweet.

TALISMAN OF CHAOS SUPREME: The opposite version of the Talisman of Lawfulness. It's cooler, though, because it is evil.

TALISMAN OF THE SPHERE: Increases a Magic-User's chance to control a Sphere of Annihilation, and damages anyone else who touches it. More on the Sphere later.

JAVELINS OF LIGHTNING: What it says - javelins that become lightning bolts when thrown. Why is this in Miscellaneous and not Weapons?

ARROW OF DIRECTION: Seven times a week you can ask a direction (nearest cave, way out of the dungeon, etc.) and the arrow provides it.

SAW OF MIGHTY CUTTING: Allows you to cut down a tree in about an hour. I don't know much about tree-cutting, but it doesn't sound all that impressive.

MATTOCK OF THE TITANS: It's a great hammer that's primary utility seems to be in smashing down doors. Alas a player can't use it in combat - it's sized for Giants and Titans.

SPADE OF COLOSSAL EXCAVATIONS: Dig a hole of 1 cubic yard in ten minutes. Pretty good, but again not exceedingly magical.

WINGS OF FLYING: Stick them on your back and you can fly like a Gargoyle.

CUBE OF FORCE: Creates a force field around the user that can only be brought down by a few things, including a ton of flaming oil.

PORTABLE HOLE: A hole you can carry about with you whereever you go. It opens into an extradimensional space, but that space has no oxygen.

HORSESHOES OF SPEED: They make your horse go faster.

SPHERE OF ANNIHILATION: A globe of nothingness that utterly destroys anything it touches. It is moved via force of will, and if there are two potential users a contest of wills can occur. The players in my campaign have got a Sphere at their disposal at the moment, which may have been a mistake - but I have plans...

CHIME OF OPENING: It's worth 30,000 gp, but its true value is that it opens any locks or doors nearby when it is sounded.

PIPES OF THE SEWERS: Wisely, they didn't call these sewer pipes. But when you sound them you can summon 10-60 giant rats - that's pretty awesome! There's a small chance they won't be obedient, but that many giant rats are always going to come in handy.

LYRE OF BUILDING: Negates a Horn of Blasting, and can also do the equivalent of a week's work by 100 men.

FIGURINES OF WONDROUS POWER: Figurines that come to life and obey your commands. There's an Ebony Fly that can be used as a mount, a Marble Elephant that can be used as a war animal, 2 Golden Lions which also melee, an Onyx Dog that can sense things like a Robe of Eyes, and 3 Ivory Goats. The goats are: The Goat of Fleeing, which can carry you to a named haven; the Goat of Fighting, which is pretty badass in combat; and the Goat of Slaying, which is even more badass and has horns that convert to magic weapons.

WIZARD'S ROBE: Dramatically increases the effectiveness of Charm, Hold and Polymorph spells. These robes all have an alignment, but how this affects anything is left unexplained.

ROBE OF BLENDING: This robe changes to match the surroundings - and as well as mimicking terrain it can make the wearer look like nearby creatures as well.

ROBE OF EYES: The wearer can see in all directions, and detect invisible and hidden enemies. The best thing about it, though, is that it makes the wearer immune to surprise.

ROBE OF POWERLESSNESS: When you put it on, you forget all your spells and become weak, stupid and foolish. Some characters may appear to be unaffected.

MANUAL OF PUISSANT SKILL AT ARMS: And now we come to the various manuals, each one keyed to give Experience Points to a certain class. This one grants extra XP to Fighters, but if a Magic-User reads it it breaks his brain and he loses XP.

MANUAL OF STEALTHY PILFERING: As above, but keyed to Thieves, and any other class reading it loses XP.

BOOK OF EXALTED DEEDS: Any Lawful Cleric who reads this immediately gains a level. Neutral Clerics lose 1, Chaotics lose 2. Chaotic Clerics also have a 50/50 chance to repent and become Lawful. Anyone else either loses XP or hit points - some Lawful book this is!

BOOK OF VILE DARKNESS: So iconic they named a 3e supplement after it. It's the reverse of the Book of Exalted Deeds, but it's even nastier to those who read it - Lawful Clerics are stricken insane, Neutral Clerics become Chaotic, and Paladins need a whole suite of divine blessings or they lose thier Paladin status forever.

LIBRAM OF SILVER MAGIC: Much like the Book of Exalted Deeds, this advances Lawful Magic-Users, changes the alignment of Neutrals, and drains a level from Chaotics.

LIBRAM OF INEFFABLE DAMNATION: Best name evar, and it's the opposite of the Libram of Silver Magic.

This implies that Law and Chaos are important factors to Magic-Users, or at least they were when these books were first created. More to think on.

MANUAL OF GAINFUL EXERCISE: Gives anyone who reads it a +1 bonus to Strength.

MANUAL OF BODILY HEALTH: As above, but +1 Constitution



TOME OF CLEAR THOUGHT: +1 Intelligence


MANUAL OF GOLEMS: Teaches magic-users how to make a specific type of Golem, Flesh being the most likely and Iron the least. Fighters and Thieves only have to handle the thing to be damaged, and Clerics that read it lose XP, which is a shame - I like the idea of Clerics creating Golems. Anyway, they're expensive - 1,000 XP per hit point!

BOOK OF INFINITE SPELLS: Has a number of pages, each with a spell on it. When the book is open to a certain page, the spell on that page can be cast as many times as the caster likes - but as soon as a page is turned it can never be turned back, and there's a 10% chance of the page turning every time the spell is cast. Not to mention wind and other regular things that can turn pages...

The Books all appear to be identical, and there's certainly a story in that - were they all invented by the same culture at roughly the same time? It seems likely.

DECK OF MANY THINGS: Ah, breaker of many a game, instigator of many an adventure. There's nothing like a Deck of Many Things to make a game interesting. It has the potential to ruin your character utterly, or to propel him to some giddy heights.

Basically, you pick a card from the deck, and whatever comes up affects your character for good or ill.

Ace of Hearts - +50,000 XP
King of Hearts - Gain a Miscellaneous Magic Item - of your character's choice!
Queen of Hearts - Gain 1-3 Wishes
Jack of Hearts - Help from an 8th level Fighter with lots of magic items

Ace of Diamonds - Map to richest treasure on dungeon level
King of Diamonds - Gain 5-30 pieces of jewelry
Queen of Diamonds - Scrolls of 7 spells, no 1st levels guaranteed
Jack of Diamonds - +1 to any score you want

Ace of Spades - -1 level
King of Spades - Lord with magic items attacks you, and his magic items even disappear when he's defeated
Queen of Spades - Die, no save!
Jack of Spade - Surprised by 5th level monster

Ace of CLubs - Alignment change!
King of CLubs - Lose your favourite magic item
Queen of CLubs - Turn to stone (No save)
JAck of Clubs - -1 to Prime Requisite

Joker - +25,000 XP or pick two more cards

It's not as fun or game-breaking as the version in AD&D, but there is still plenty of mayhem to be had. It should be placed into a campaign only with extreme caution - or if you don't care about such things go ahead and leave it in the random chart. Just be aware of the potential for chaos.

And gods be praised, that is all for magic items. We're now through the section of Supplement I that corresponds to OD&D's Vol. II (Monsters & Treasure), and are into the area that covers Vol. III (The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures).

This begins with an expanded list of tricks and traps, and there are some doozies here. For my campaign I plan to incorporate all of these into Castle Greyhawk directly, or into other dungeons nearby.

The standard array of traps that befoul mapping attempts and drop the PCs to lower levels of the dungeon are present, but there are a few more interesting samples as well. Some highlights follow:

A box of animal crackers which spring to life when grasped. This highlights the often whimsical nature of the Greyhawk campaign, especially when you might get a bear that will dump its bowl of porridge on the head of a player. It's not really my thing as far as humour goes, but there are some other viable options as well.

Various gases are mentioned, and of particular interest is the one that changes the victim's sex. This is a common theme that Gary repeatedly returns to.

Another testament to the free-wheeling nature of OD&D is the variety of effects that can be had by pulling strange levers. Aside from old standbys like alignment change, a PC could change class, or even become a monster.

A room full of animated furniture is mentioned, and it is specifically noted that a variation of this dubbed "The Living Room" is a part of Castle Greyhawk. Pied Piper Publishing has released a product by Rob Kuntz detailing this room, and I'll be adding it to my version of Castle Greyhawk when the time comes. The full description for posterity:

"Furniture which is animated to trip, confine, and smother (rugs and carpets) or move about and hug and kick (stools, chairs, divans) or blinds and throws down (tapestries and wall hangings). (Ours is known as "The Living Room".)"

A type of lice that becomes a burrowing killer if disturbed is mentioned - an obvious precursor to the Rot Grub of later editions.

Bas-Relief Faces which might bestow great knowledge, or possibly cause the viewer to become a wart on the face... Abraham Merritt's Face in the Abyss is specifically name-checked as an inspiration here, but I haven't read it yet.

Treasure as part of the monster! Anyone who has ever read the AD&D Monster Manual knows what I'm talking about - valuable fur, gems in gizzards, that sort of thing. Gary used this a lot.

A forge for magical items that is run by near-invincible creatures. The items can be bought, but they might not necessarily work. So Gary wasn't against magic item shops, just ones that provided a benefit to PCs. Ones that screw them over are all fine and dandy! In a similar vein he also mentions the possibility of a gambling hall where all the games are fixed.

Following this is a section on unusual monsters, and monsters used in combination:

The multi-headed giant that can never be surprised seems to be a prototype for the Ettin.

Fire-resistant mummies are mentioned, the first of many monsters specifically designed to go against what the PCs have learned in their adventures.

Skeletons that can hurl their finger joints like magic arrows. This one is memorable, simply because I saw it in the Mentzer Basic Set, my first D&D product.

It is mentioned that Castle Greyhawk had a fountain on Level 2 that issued a continuous stream of snakes. More tidbits, huzzah!

A list of similar monsters acting in concert: Medusa riding a Gorgon, a Balrog riding a Red Dragon (yikes!), a Frost Giant on a White Dragon, etc.

Dissimilar monster combos:

Troll with magical spear riding a Purple Worm (so random it's awesome)
Thieves and Bugbears acting in concert (this one tickles me for some reason)
A Cloud Giant riding a T-Rex!

And finally, for maximum coolness and just plain WTF-factor...

Mars mounted on the shoulders of Talos

Yes, the Roman god of War, Mars, on the shoulder of Talos, the giant man of bronze. Weird. But it does establish that the Greek/Roman pantheon is around in this era of the World of Greyhawk.

Other weird monsters:

Gary's love of puns gives us the Ogre Jelly, which is an Ochre Jelly shaped like an Ogre I guess.

A few others are mentioned, mostly variations on oozes, but I especially love the Symbiotic Dragon which spits Ochre Jelly and Black Pudding.

RANDOM MONSTERS: The tables for wandering monsters in dungeons get completely replaced to incorporate the new monsters from this Supplement. This is how I plan to introduce those monsters to the campaign - first I'll substitute the old charts for the new, so the PCs will start encountering new stuff occasionally, then I'll start adding in some set encounters with Greyhawk monsters. It's just a shame that the Wilderness Encounter Tables didn't get the same treatment.

And that's Supplement I done. I just need to go through the illustrations for some possible ideas:

JAPANESE OGRE: This is an illustration of the Ogre Mage, and it really hammers home what this monster is really supposed to be - the Oni of Japanese myth. Plus, it's another Earth-based reference - more ties between our world and Greyhawk.

GREAT STONE FACE: There's a picture of a stone face, sort of like the heads on Easter Island, in a dungeon chamber facing two archways. It's listed as an 'Enigma of Greyhawk' and I've seen Gary discussing it, so it will be going in my Castle Greyhawk in some form.

BOOBS: Yep, it's a naked woman being sacrificed to a giant snake, while a barbarian tries to rescue her. Nothing like the classics! It just means I'll need to include a snake cult that sacrifices women to its serpent god, and that's no problem for me.

BUGBEAR, GHOUL AND FRIENDS: The Ghoul is awesome. The Cockatrice is cool, that snake thing is fine. It's the Bugbear that's the problem. You know the one - it has a halloween pumpkin for a head. The big shaggy body is fine and suitably Bugbear-ish, but that head doesn't square with any later depiction of the monster. So I have a solution - Bugbears wear carved pumpkins on their heads as a sort of ceremonial battle mask. I don't know why and I may never explain it, but that's all I can come up with for that picture.

And that's a wrap on Supplement I - Greyhawk. Tomorrow I'll be delving into The Strategic Review #2 - more monsters, and the first D&D FAQ.


  1. Bugbears with pumpkins as ceremonial battle masks; that's is so awesome it makes me think maybe I should include bugbears in my campaign too as I have never used them, being previously too similar to the other humanoids for my liking. But wow, that's an a great idea :-)

  2. In the theme of cursed items that appear to be beneficial:

    TOME OF STANDING UNDER - an anvil drops on the head of anyone who reads it.

  3. Yeah, the pumpkin-wearing bugbears are probably my favourite thing I've come up with for this project so far.

    And the Tome of Standing Under? Awesome. Something tells me Gary would have enjoyed that.