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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  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….

  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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