Form of Magic Items

One of my favorite DM tricks these days is to take an existing magic item and change its physical form, often into something less useful or more finicky.  It’s not only limits the power level of certain items, it adds a lot of personality the campaign.  Often these items become treasured not just for their powers, but for their uniqueness and character.

For your pleasure, here are a few examples:

Hookah of Healing – I think this is the first one I did.  It operates as a normal staff of healing, healing 1d6 of damage to any number of individuals, but each target can only be so affected once per day.  Unlike the staff, the hookah requires a bunch of setup time and is more bulky and fragile.  I created this after watching my players use a staff of healing in a long running campaign, and I noticed it often got passed around at the camp site after a day’s adventuring.  I thought it would be funny to reinforce that usage and limit the actual combat usefulness in a later campaign by introducing the hookah of healing.

Plate Mail of Water Breathing – I think this usually comes in ring form, but this enchantment just feels so obvious for plate armor.  It’s always the heavily armored fighters that get very skittish around water.  They’d love magic armor that solves that problem, right?  And yeah, it is basically an old-timey scuba suit – it’s not like it weighs less or makes you an expert swimmer, but you can slowly walk across the bottom of a lake.  In my campaign, it was heavily styled to resemble a crab.

Plate Mail of Feather Fall – This one just hit me as I was writing up the previous one.  The water breathing armor came from a real campaign, but feather fall also feels like a natural enchantment your heavy armor wearer might like.  Hm, what other rings can we turn into plate armor?

Thorned Crown of Regeneration – I know, it’s a bit biblical.  The idea is that it’s basically just like a ring of regeneration, but very fragile.  I mean, it’s made of twigs!  Similar to the hookah this removes the combat usefulness of this item and forces it to be used strictly in the aftermath.  You could wear it into combat, but my players were never willing to take that risk.  They even spent a considerable sum of money having a custom water-tight metal box made for it.  Hm, that would be an interesting way to discover it – sunk at the bottom of a lake or well in a water-tight lead box.

Pottery Wheel of Commanding Earth Elementals – OD&D lumps all the elemental summoning/controlling items into one group and says that they “all are rather bulky and require one turn to set up or store away”.  In which case, a “stone” of commanding earth elements seems pretty weak.  So let’s play it up – get that wheel set up and start making a pot for the elemental to emerge from!  We can also do this with the other elements: Bow of Commanding Fire Elementals (not like a bow that shoots arrows, but a bow for starting fires), Bellows of Commanding Air Elementals (very big, requires two people to operate), and Shovel of Commanding Water Elementals (you have to dig until you hit the water table).

Camp Stool of Levitation – Clearly not quite as useful as boots.  It’s not like you can just click your heals and up the cliff you go.  It’s still portable, but you’ve got to get it out of your pack and sit down to activate it.  And the visual image of a floating person sitting on a camp stool is just delightful.

Table of Teleportation – Unlike the helm, this is meant to transport an entire party.  Of course, the entire table and all the chairs go with them.  I’m imagining a big heavy wooden table with some solid chairs, not something you want to idly use to take you to random locations.  Maybe if you know of a castle or cave near your destination where it could be safely used, it could cut out a lot of wilderness travel.

OK, I admit, some of those got a little silly.  Still, I think the idea in general has a lot of legs, and I challenge you the next time you roll up a random magic item to stop for a moment and think of what physical form you could change it to that while perhaps not quite as useful, is at least far more memorable.

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6 Comments

  1. LOL at the thorned crown of regeneration and the pottery wheel of earth elementals; those are amazing! (I even want to give a starting 1 hp damage for putting on the crown before the regeneration kicks in.)

    The one thing that be different for me (re: elementals) is how I’m fond of the interpretation that you need a big quantity of the element in question before pulling an elemental out of it. So that would suggest, I don’t know, a huge crook/brazier you can only light from at least a bonfire, or a pump to pull sufficient royal water out of a river or lake.

    1. I feel like there’s a limit there somewhere – too unwieldy and the players will simply disregard it as useful treasure. That said, it does open the door for interesting uses by the bad guys without worrying about giving the players an overpowered item. Yes, you killed the bad guys who had a magic item for commanding fire elementals, but it’s the entire forge including a 3 story chimney built into the castle – how exactly are you getting that home?

      PS – Congratulations on writing the 1,000th comment on my blog. 🙂

  2. It’s always been a bugaboo that magic items were tied to form factor first, effect second. Especially in 3rd ed with the way item creation feats worked. I can make a magic ring, but not a belt/earring/bracelet?
    I could see a quick and dirty replacement magic item chart, one roll for magic, one for form factor. Invisibility Dagger, Vorpal Necklace, Continual Light Shoes….

      1. OK,
        Took me a while to get around to it.
        Found a nice table for mundane objects that I modified and pulled the list of effects from LBB listed magic items.
        Roll Item
        1 Roll Again
        2 Amulet
        3 Anvil
        4 Backpack
        5 Bag
        6 Bandage
        7 Bandana
        8 Banner
        9 Barding
        10 Barrel
        11 Basin
        12 Basket
        13 Bedroll
        14 Belt
        15 Beverage
        16 Blanket
        17 Blouse
        18 Bone
        19 Book
        20 Boots
        21 Box
        22 Bracelet
        23 Brazier
        24 Bucket
        25 Buckle
        26 Cage
        27 Candle
        28 Canteen
        29 Cauldron
        30 Censer
        31 Chain
        32 Chalk
        33 Chest
        34 Chisel
        35 Climbing gear
        36 Cloak
        37 Clock
        38 Coal
        39 Coin
        40 Collar
        41 Comb
        42 Cowbell
        43 Crib
        44 Crown
        45 Crutches
        46 Cube
        47 Cup
        48 Curtain
        49 Cushion
        50 Deck of Cards
        51 Desk
        52 Die
        53 Doll
        54 Dress
        55 Drum
        56 Earring
        57 Egg
        58 Fan
        59 Feather
        60 Flag
        61 Flint and iron
        62 Flower
        63 Flute
        64 Fork
        65 Gem
        66 Girdle
        67 Gloves
        68 Goblet
        69 Harp
        70 Harpoon
        71 Hat
        72 Healer’s Kit
        73 Heavy Armor
        74 Helmet
        75 Hood
        76 Hook
        77 Horn
        78 Horsesoes
        79 Hourglass
        80 Incense
        81 Ingot
        82 Ink
        83 Jar
        84 Jelly
        85 Jewel
        86 Juice
        87 Kettle
        88 Key
        89 Kite
        90 Knife
        91 Ladder
        92 Ladle
        93 Lamp
        94 Lantern
        95 Large Weapon
        96 Light Armor
        97 Liquid
        98 Lock
        99 Lockpicks
        100 Loom
        101 Lute
        102 Manacles
        103 Mask
        104 Matchbox
        105 Medium Armor
        106 Medium Weapon
        107 Mirror
        108 Mitten
        109 Mortar & Pestle
        110 Mug
        111 Nail
        112 Necklace
        113 Needle
        114 Net
        115 Oil
        116 Painting
        117 Pan
        118 Pants
        119 Paper
        120 Piece of Cake
        121 Pillow
        122 Pin
        123 Pipes
        124 Poison
        125 Pot
        126 Potion
        127 Pouch
        128 Preserved Organ
        129 Quartz
        130 Quilt
        131 Quiver
        132 Ranged Ammunition
        133 Ranged Weapon
        134 Rations
        135 Rattle
        136 Ribbon
        137 Ring
        138 Robe
        139 Rock
        140 Rod
        141 Rolling Pin
        142 Rope
        143 Sack
        144 Sandals
        145 Sarcophagus
        146 Sash
        147 Satchel
        148 Scabbard
        149 Scale
        150 Scarf
        151 Scroll
        152 Scroll case
        153 Seal
        154 Shawl
        155 Shears
        156 Sheath
        157 Sheet Music
        158 Shell
        159 Shield
        160 Shoes
        161 Shovel
        162 Skirt
        163 Small Weapon
        164 Soap
        165 Soup
        166 Spade
        167 Sphere
        168 Spike
        169 Spoon
        170 Staff
        171 Statue
        172 Statuette
        173 Stick
        174 Stone
        175 Stool
        176 Sundial
        177 Tabard
        178 Tent
        179 Thimble
        180 Tobacco Pipe
        181 Tongs
        182 Tool
        183 Torch
        184 Totem
        185 Towel
        186 Tower Shield
        187 Tray
        188 Tunic
        189 Unknown Machinery
        190 Vase
        191 Vest
        192 Vial
        193 Vice
        194 Wagon
        195 Wand
        196 Waterskin
        197 Whetstone
        198 Whistle
        199 Windchime
        200 Wine

        Roll Power
        1 +1
        2 +2 Vs Lycanthropes
        3 +2 Vs Magic Users and enchanted Monsters
        4 Locate Objects
        5 +3 vs Trolls
        6 +3 vs Clerics
        7 Flaming
        8 +2 vs Trolls
        9 +2 vs Pegasi
        10 +2 vs Hippogrifs
        11 +2 vs Rocs
        12 +3 vs Treants
        13 +3 vs Undead
        14 Wishes 2d4
        15 +3 vs Dragons
        16 +2
        17 Charm Person
        18 +3
        19 Life Draining
        20 Cursed -2
        21 +1 and Roll Again
        22 +2 and Roll Again
        23 +2 vs Goblins and Kobolds
        24 +3 vs Orcs, Goblins, and Kobolds
        25 Returning
        26 Growth
        27 Diminuation
        28 Giant Strength
        29 Invisibility
        30 Gaseous Form
        31 Polymorph (Self)
        32 Speed
        33 Levitation
        34 Flying
        35 ESP
        36 Delusion
        37 Healing
        38 Longevity
        39 Clairvoyance
        40 Clairaudience
        41 Animal Control
        42 Undead Control
        43 Plant Control
        44 Human Control
        45 Giant Control
        46 Dragon Control
        47 Poison
        48 Poison (Hidden)
        49 Invulnerability
        50 Fire Resistance
        51 Treasure Finding
        52 Heroism
        53 1 Spell (25% Divine)
        54 2 Spells (25% Divine)
        55 3 Spells (25% Divine)
        56 7 Spells (25% Divine)
        57 Protection from Lycanthropes
        58 Protection from Undead
        59 Protection from Elementals
        60 Protection from Magic
        61 Cursed Transport to another Plane
        62 Cursed Transport 1000 miles away
        63 Cursed Ploymorph into insect
        64 Cursed Disease, Fatal in 3 tunes
        65 Cursed attacked by Monster
        66 Mammal Control
        67 Weakness?
        68 Protection
        69 3 Wishes
        70 Water Walking
        71 Protection 5′ Radius
        72 Regeneration
        73 Djinn Summoning
        74 Telekenisis
        75 X Ray Vision
        76 Spell Turning
        77 Spell Storing
        78 Many Wishes 2d6
        79 Metal Detection
        80 Enemy Detection
        81 Magic Detection
        82 Secret Doors and Traps Detection
        83 Illusion
        84 Fear
        85 Cold
        86 Paralization
        87 Fire Balls
        88 Lightning Bolts
        89 Negation
        90 Commanding
        91 Snake
        92 Striking
        93 Withering
        94 Power
        95 Wizardry
        96 Scrying
        97 Holding
        98 Elven Kind
        99 Read Magic
        100 Roll Twice

  3. Great stuff!

    I adore the Pottery Wheel for earth elementals, as I agree that the Stone was pretty weak sauce. (Unless you made it some kinda menhir, that would be kinda cool, if much less portable.) One wonders if you’d actually have to work some clay on the wheel to activate it, and what comes from the results. Normal pots? Little figurines? Potion flasks?

    The Bow for Commanding Fire Elementals is cool, in the sense of a making a campfire type bow, but when I first read it it sparked (no pun intended) the idea of a shootin’ bow created by marauding barbarian wizards for siege warfare that fired flaming arrows that would summon a fire elemental wherever they hit. Probably more than a little OP, that one. Pretty much a city killer.

    You could also go with an Oar of Commanding Water Elementals. Or maybe a Kayak or Coracle of Commanding Water Elementals, and you have to ride atop the elemental like a howdah atop an elephant and control it by paddling.

    The crown of thorns has a very relic-y flavor to it. Seems like you’d find it on a moldering satin pillow in a bejeweled glass reliquary.

    Would the Table of Teleportation lose its power if you lost any of the chairs? Or what if the party just had to climb up on the table and ride it to their destination on a crazy, Bedknobs and Broomsticks style flight from place to place?

    I love this sort of thing. 😀

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