Saturday Sorcery - Old-Timey Magic Items

John has other commitments this week, and since my last post generated such a positive response, he asked me to fill in for him on Saturday Sorcery to talk about something magic-itemy.

If there's something I miss in 4E (well, there's a few things, actually, but this one stands out), it's the weird and crazy magical items. Nearly all the items in the latest edition are combat oriented (since nearly the entire game is now combat oriented), and without so much time spent exploring and discovering, you have far fewer opportunities to throw in items that encourage (or discourage) said exploration. Part of the problem is that they've moved the magic items from the Dungeon Master's Guide and put them in the Player's Handbook - it turned them from mysterious, forbidden artifacts of forgotten lore into a shopping list. Reading the gear section of the 4E PHB is like looking through a walkthrough guide for Final Fantasy or World of Warcraft.

Do you have a +5 vorpal holy avenger? Does it come in blue?

I recently went through my well-loved and well-worn 2nd Edition DMG, and reminisced about some items that don't really exist in the current incarnation of our favourite hobby. Here are 5 of my favourites, in no particular order.

Deck of Many Things
"A deck of many things (beneficial and baneful) is usually found in a box or leather pouch. As soon as one of these cards is drawn from the pack, its magic is bestowed upon the person who drew it, for better or worse."

Some sample cards:
Sun: Gain beneficial miscellaneous magical item and 50,000xp
Moon: You are granted 1d4 wishes
Throne: Gain Charisma 18 plus a small keep
Talons: All magic items you possess disappear permanently
Fool: Lose 10,000 XP and draw again
Void: Body functions, but soul is trapped elsewhere

Your campaign, about 5 minutes after introducing the Deck of Many Things.

This is the item you include in your party’s treasure if you’re bored of your campaign and want to end it. Seriously, you cannot insert this into your game without virtually destroying everything. Even if the players pull a card that does something great, like give them extra magic items or free experience points or whatever, that will just make them greedy so they’ll pull another card and kill themselves.
Still, if you’re bored, pull out this little gem. It livens up everything.

Wand of Wonder
"The wand of wonder is a strange and unpredictable device that will generate any number of strange effects, randomly, each time it is used."

If that's a wand of wonder this prank is about to go horribly, horribly wrong.

Like the Deck above, the Wand of Wonder just makes weird crazy shit happen. A few of the possible effects: You may get a fireball, a lightning bolt, a cloud of butterflies or a rhinoceros. I have a soft spot in my heart for players who purposely set off traps just to see what will happen (which in turn inspires me to come up with crazier and crazier traps), so using an item that you know will have a random effect, and keeping your fingers crossed hoping that it’s something good, just brings a joyful tear to my eye.

Rod of Resurrection
"This rod enables a cleric to resurrect the dead - even elven - as if he were of high enough level to cast the resurrection spell." (Yes, in the old days, you couldn't cast raise dead on elves. Suck on that, you pointy-eared freaks.)

Regarding the rod, see my last two entries, above. Sometimes it’s the only thing to keep a campaign going.

Girdle of Masculinity / Femininity
"This broad leather band appears to be a normal belt, but, if buckled on, it will immediately change the sex of its wearer to the opposite gender. There is no sure way to restore the character's original sex [...] it takes a godlike creature to set matters aright with certainty. Ten percent of these girldles actually remove all sex from the wearer."

You may notice a theme in my choices, here. Something about screwing players. In my defence, this item doesn’t actually kill or even physically harm the character. Also in my defence, in my three occasions of seeing this hilarious item in action, not a single player ever tried to have the curse removed. So, what does that say about my players? Are they secretly transvestites or transsexuals? (Maybe) Are they committed actors looking forward to the challenge of roleplaying a character of the opposite sex? (Not bloody likely) Are they horny teenagers/twentysomethings getting a kick out of talking about their boobs? (Bingo)

This is what happens if you try to pull the belt off before the curse fully takes effect.

Whatever the case, players always fall for this item. You would think the fact that it’s a “girdle” would make them suspicious, but the beautiful thing about this cursed belt is that most players’ favourite item is the girdle of giant strength, which appears exactly the same until you put it on. It’s your job as DM to try and keep from snickering while your players fight amongst themselves over who’s about to get a magical sex change operation.

Flying Beaver Cleaver

I know, I know, this is not an official item. I made it up. And no, it’s nothing dirty. It’s a magical battle axe forged for killing – you guessed it – flying beavers. I really wanted to make a weapon called the “Beaver Cleaver,” so I had to build into my campaign that demons invading from another dimension involuntarily changed their form so they looked like beavers in our world. Of course, most demons have wings, which is where the “Flying” part comes in. I thought it was brilliant at the time, so you can imagine my disappointment when my players said “Beavers? When are we going to fight beavers?” and promptly sold the weapon.

(Yes, I know the proper response in such situations is to then make the party face an unrelenting horde of beaver demons to teach them a lesson, but I was too pissed and spiteful. I gave them a Deck of Many Things instead.)

Do you have a favourite magic item from the old editions of D&D? Or maybe you know of something equally cool and hopefully ridiculous from 4th Edition? Tell me all about 'em!

On Tuesday, I'll tell you about a couple of things that I know now that I wish I knew then.



Like this?


  1. I'd have to say the Deck of Many Things is one of my favorites. The changes it brought about (at random) in a campaign were sometimes just what one needed. I also really dig the Apparatus of Kwalish just because.

  2. Having been the victim of the girdle, I can say it is a mean mean trick... however, once I had become a woman I would contest that is was about 50% wanting the challenge of playing through the character's emotions, and only 30% being able to play with my boobs. The other 20% was the fun of watching the other party members try to hit on me even though they were there for the sex change!
    It was one of the more bizzare d&d experiences, but it also (I think) made me a better player, and chose to play a female on our next game.

    I have to say I do miss some of the items, and a lot of the puzzle solving now that we're in a 4e game.

  3. CDGallant_KingFebruary 06, 2011

    Apparatus of Kwalish is also an exceptionally weird and silly item. Giant lobster submarine? Who comes up with this awesomeness?

  4. CDGallant_KingFebruary 06, 2011

    Well, we can convert your characters back down to a lower edition - I can't say I haven't thought about it. The guys playing dragonborn make take issue to it, though. :-)

    And thank you for sharing your experience with the girdle.


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