Vidya: Legend of Grimrock

Legends of Grimrock Front Page ImageAs a general rule, I try to keep things on this blog strictly related to Paper & Pencil role playing games. Not only do I feel I owe it to my readers to provide content in keeping with the blog’s purported theme, but I find that having a focused topic helps me keep more of a focused mind. However, every now and again, something comes up which cannot go unshared. Something which may be only tangentially related to the blog’s subject matter, but is so profoundly awesome that to keep it to myself would be criminal. Legends of Grimrock is one of those somethings. It’s an oldschool style dungeon crawler, like the ones which were popular in the late 80s through mid 90s–many of which were licensed AD&D titles. Games like Eye of the Beholder, where the player took on the role of a party of adventurers, moving through a dungeon 5ft square by 5ft square.

Legends of Grimrock appears to have taken that formula of a video game infused with grognard style, and updated it in the best way possible. Just take a look at their beautiful trailer:

Looks amazing, right? But that’s just a trailer. Any game can have a good trailer, the question is what the game plays like, not how awesome it can look when you video-capture all the most visually impressive moments.

Well they’ve got plenty of gameplay trailers out as well. Like this one:

I’ve really been getting back into World of Warcraft the last few weeks. (I used to be quite the WoW nerd!) But after seeing these trailers, I can’t help but wonder if my subscription’s days are numbered. I haven’t been this excited about a game’s upcoming release since Batman: Arkham City.

Legend of Grimrock will be released April 11th, and will be available through Steam for $14.99 USD. BUT, if you’re as excited as I am, save yourself a few bucks! Go to the Legends of Grimrock website and pre-order the game for a measly $11.99 USD.

I’m sure I’ll be doing a full writeup of the game once I’ve had some time to play it. That is, if I remember I have a blog to maintain at all!

Cultural Oddities

Dance is an important element of culturePart of creating an immersive world is creating a wide variety of people to live in it. Variety which extends beyond accents and alignments. If you’ve ever had any kind of significant encounter with another culture, you begin to understand how very different humans can be. Things which you take for granted, things which seem fundamentally true, simply do not occur to someone raised on the other side of the world. Your fundamental beliefs about society and identity might even seem ludicrous to them. You may feel as though your way of thinking is the correct way, you may even be right to think that. I, personally, refuse to accept the profound sexism which is inherent to many cultures as a simple difference of opinion. But whether or not I accept it doesn’t mean jack shit to the ten million, or two hundred million, or two billion people who were raised in that culture. The fact is that culture defines us in ways that we cannot even comprehend. It’s something I’ve touched on before.

We're all elves, yet we're so different!When creating a unique culture for a game world, it never hurts to throw in a quirk or two which will help the players connect to just how different these people are. It’s not too terribly hard to come up with this kind of stuff, as sources for inspiration are plentiful. If you watch Star Trek (and lets face it, you do) there are plenty of episodes where cultural oddities are a plot point. This is a good source for inspiration on genetic oddities which would influence culture as well. You can also look at lists of wacky laws. The Internet has been in love with these since the earliest days of elderly folks forwarding emails to everyone they’ve ever met, so it should be no trouble to find them on google. And, as always, reality is a wonderful sourcebook. I just finished explaining how unusual human culture can get, and ten minutes of research will likely turn up a dozen things your players will find pretty damned unusual. No need to limit yourselves to humans either! Animals have their own cultures, and the mating habits of the angler fish would make a wicked awesome cultural quirk.

To get you started, here’s a list of some stuff I came up with. Some of these are inspired by reality, others are straight up lifted from science fiction. Anybody who can guess where I lifted the third one down from gets a cookie.

  • Either as a baby, or during a coming of age ritual, a child is bitten/stung by a poisonous animal which is sacred to the culture. The poison is allowed to fester, and the pain is seen as a spiritual test. The oddly shaped mark left by the experience will be interpreted by a religious figure within the culture. Generally the meaning will be derived from the scar’s shape.
  • Each member of a culture has a riding creature with which they form a special bond. If the two go into battle together and the riding creature is slain, but the rider is not, then the rider is sent alone into the wilderness. If they bond with another companion, then that creature is said to be the original creature, reincarnated. If the deceased companion instead wants its rider to join it in death, he or she will be unable to find a new companion creature.
  • A culture believes it is arrogant to use personal pronouns, because using one implies that everyone should know who you are. Instead, each creature uses its personal name whenever it needs to refer to itself. If a member of this culture is ashamed or embarrassed, they may seek anonymity by using their surname to refer to themselves (or in extreme cases, their clan, or even species name.)
  • The dead are buried in graves, but a small hole is left in the ground so that relatives may reach into it and touch the forehead of their loved ones.
  • This culture prefers dirt floors. Even if their civilization is advanced, with paved roads, and high towers, the floors of their homes will be dirt and plantlife. Even floors above ground level will have high enough ceilings that a couple feet of dirt can be piled onto the floor.
  • Most of a culture’s males are eunuchs. Depending on the size of the group, different numbers of breeding males will be allowed. Once a year, all males of a certain age gather for some form of contest. Either they fight for the right to breed, or the breeding males are selected by the culture’s females.
  • Male and female members of a culture live completely separately, coming together only occasionally to trade, and mate. As an example, the women of the culture build cities, and represent their culture to others, whilst the men of the culture are nomadic, and spend their lives hunting and patrolling the culture’s territory. The males return to the city perhaps once a year.
  • Certain tasks which are necessary are considered taboo, and cannot be performed in a direct manner. For example, a cleric can only examine a patient’s back by looking at it in a mirror, because the back is considered taboo.
  • Children are married to one another within the first few months of their lives, and one child is given to the parents of the other child. The “married couple” are then raised together by a single set of parents. Their upbringing focuses heavily on learning to function together as a unit.
  • A culture’s leaders are brought back as a special type of undead which exists primarily to give advice to the current leader. The leader of a small tribe might have a small council of 5-10 previous leaders to call upon. While the monarch of a long-standing kingdom might have an elaborate crypt filled with former rulers extending back dozens, or even hundreds of generations.
  • A certain day of the year is considered extremely unlucky, and any children born on this day are killed.
  • The wedding ceremony is a ritual combat between the bride and groom. The victor is the “head” of the relationship, and the other must swear to obey them.
  • While a mother is engaged in labor, the father must leave to search for a precious stone. This stone will be fashioned into a piece of jewelry which the child will wear throughout their entire life. He must return either before sundown, or before the child is fully born (whichever comes last), or the child will be given a simple piece of stone. Purchasing a stone, receiving help in finding the stone, or hiding the stone away before labor begins, is grounds to execute both father and child. The value the stone holds within the culture will determine the child’s social standing for the rest of their life.
  • One gender owns all property, but is not allowed to govern it themselves. The other gender may own no property, but governs over the property of their mates. The property-owning gender is at liberty to switch mates at any time if they are unhappy with their partner’s ability to govern.
  • All crimes are punishable by death. With such a steep cost, who would break even a simple rule? You’d have to be stupid to do something like step in somebody’s flower garden.
  • Ears, teeth and scalps are common “trophies” for savage races, but why stop there? Hands, tongues, noses, big toes, even internal organs like kidneys could be dried out and made into keepsakes.

Any thoughts of your own?

How Players Make Enemies & Influence People

Robby Flay, Head Chef of Stormwind, and NPC extraordinaire In my experience, NPCs are an underutilized element in most role playing games. They serve a few very limited, very one dimensional roles. That NPC is a quest giver, those NPCs are vendors, and this NPC is a villain. GMs tend either to treat NPCs as “their” characters (a bad idea), or as static game world elements which exist to serve the player. The king would never be found outside of his throne room unless it serves a specific purpose. And once an NPC’s immediate usefulness has ended, or the players have moved on to a new location, the NPC’s notes are filed away, or crumpled up and forgotten. This later method isn’t entirely bad, it’s just not as good as it can be. The basic premise of it is true: non-player characters exist for the sole purpose of serving the players in one way or another. The trick, though, is that the players shouldn’t realize the NPCs exist only to serve them. There are a number of ways to accomplish this which I may discuss at a later time, but for today I’d like to discuss Contacts and Foes.

One of my favorite GMing tricks is one which I admittedly stole out of the online comic Goblins by Tarol Hunt. When I’m first dealing with a group of new players, I like to start things out on the stereotypical side. Taverns, villages under attack, or any typical plot hook will do. Eventually this hook will lead the players to a tribe of typical level 1 monstrous humanoids, such as Kobolds, Goblins, Orcs, etc. Now I should point out that I always go out of my way to avoid having these creatures be responsible for anything evil, and I make sure to drop four or five hints that negotiation is an option. Most of the time, the players assume these creatures are evil, and attack. And in another GM’s game, this might be the right choice, but in my games the only creatures which are evil incarnate are creatures like demons or devils. In matter of fact, the creatures the players are attacking are usually neutral. The creatures defend their home, and then they die. I then point out to my players that they, not the monsters, were the aggressors in this situation. I don’t force any alignment change or anything like that, I simply let the players know that, in the future, they’ll want to pay more attention to the specifics of a situation. It’s a learning experience for them, and the hope is that they apply their learning to all aspects of the game. Players who pay attention are players who survive.

The game moves on without the players being aware of the secret penalty I’ve given them. A group of creatures escaped the destruction of their tribe, and have vowed revenge. After acquiring a few class levels, they’ll hunt the PCs down, and attack them at a later date.

If you think about it, players are making friends and enemies every day. Every person they kill is a person that other people card about. Every plan the players foil is a plan other people were invested in. Every treasure they recover is a treasure other people want. And it works the other way as well! Every person the players help is a potential ally in the future. That doesn’t mean that every creature the players encounter ought to show up at a later time, that would just be a clusterfuck of self referential bullshit. But if a character is interesting, or a quest is particularly engaging for the players, you can reintroduce those elements into your game in a completely different place an time.

Not only does this give your game world more coherence, but it enhances the player’s sense that they’re having an impact on the world. Just don’t make the mistake of expecting your players to remember your pet NPC. I recently made that mistake myself by assuming my players would remember a halfling scout named Tacha. When they first met her she had been a bandit, but after briefly joining the PCs’ party, she decided to settle down. When she had been in the game, they players had loved her, and talked about her for several days afterwords. But even that level of involvement in the character didn’t mean they remembered her when they encountered her as the captain of a city’s guard a few years later.

How Zalekios Gromar Learned Clarity

Sahuagin from the D&D third edition Monster ManualToday, for the first time in a few months now, I managed to get together with my friend Jeremy to play a session of our Zalekios Gromar campaign. For me, this is always a huge amount of fun. Not only is Jeremy an entertaining fellow to sit around and chat with, but he’s also the only person I know who is willing to occasionally take on the mantle of game master. Most of the time managing the game is my responsibility, and I love it. That’s why I have an entire site dedicated to running Pathfinder games. But being the game master can also be both limiting, and stressful. Taking some time to be a player rather than a GM lets me cut loose a little bit. All I really need to worry about is my own actions, and how I can survive and succeed with my own goals.

Being a player also allows me the opportunity to see the game from the opposite perspective. No matter how concerned I am with ensuring that my players are having fun, it’s always valuable to sit down, be a player, and figure out what I want. Are the things I want as a player being facilitated in the games I run as the game master? Which elements of the game am I enjoying, and which am I finding arduous? I find that my occasional jaunts to the other side of the GM screen are often more educational than a week’s worth of reading blogs and old Dragon magazines. And tonight, two lessons stood out to me.

First, some quick background on the game. Zalekios is currently working a number of angles within the game world, many of which are indirectly opposed to one another. Not only is he working for a kingdom, but he’s also working for someone else who wants to destroy all the kingdoms, whilst simultaneously attempting to establish his own kingdom. It can become a little confusing, but I’ve got 23 charisma and 10 wisdom, so what do you expect? Anyway, the kingdom Zalekios is working for (Angle #1) sent him to investigate some strange attacks which were destroying ships as they left a nearby port city. This worked to Zalekios’ advantage, since he needed to scout that same port city as part of a plot to destroy all the kingdoms (Angle #2). In the city, he booked passage on one of the ships, and sailed with it until it was attacked. He captured one of the Sahuagins, and forced it to lead the vessel to the mysterious “Wet Gnome Lord” who was behind these attacks.

So here’s a bit which will become relevant later. Having captured this creature, I began forming plans for how I might find use for it as a minion. So, when we left the ship to venture to the island home of the Wet Gnome Lord, I took the Sahuagin with me. Memory may fail me, but my conversation with the GM went something like this:

Me: I’d like to take the…Sha-hugga-mug with me.
GM: The Sahuagin?
Me: Yes. That. I’ll untie him from the mast, but leave him tied up with some loose rope for me to hang onto.
GM: Like a leash?
Me: Yeah, kinda like a leash. How long can he go without breathing water?
GM: Lets say 48 hours.
Me: Alright, well, we’ve been sailing for over 30, so I’ll let him swim to the island in the water, whilst I hold his leash from within a rowboat.

Now, what I understood to be happening was that the Sha-hugga-mug’s arms were tied to its sides, and I had a rope around its neck to serve as a leash. I figured it could swim well enough with its legs, and if it couldn’t…well, Zalekios is Chaotic Evil. Sahuagin from D&D 1st edition Monster ManualKeel hauling a sea creature is far from the worst thing he’s done. Hell, earlier in that same session I’d committed a murder simply to enhance an intimidation check. Then killed the fellow I had been intimidating to keep him from pinning the murder on me!

Once we reached land, we entered the Wet Gnome Lord’s tower, and that’s about the time my ladyfriend joined the game, once again playing as Zalekios’ four faithful level 1 goblins. We encountered the wet gnome lord, and I completely ruined all my GM’s plans by negotiating with the session’s endboss. (Let that be a lesson to all GMs: players will always defy your expectations.) It ended up being well worth my while, because not only did I convince a powerful wizard to leave the ships alone (Thus fulfilling my obligation to Angle #1), but I also convinced him that we were allies, making him Angle #4. I am a devious little schemer, yes I am.

To solidify our partnership, the Wet Gnome Lord asked Zalekios to take care of a golem which had gotten a little out of control. Zalekios agreed, and climbed up into the locked attic, where he found the golem walking around in circles, paying the intruders no mind. Zalekios moved off to kill the creature, and assumed the four goblins would find some way to help (or, more likely, find a way to make things much more difficult) We rolled initiative, and I leaped into combat. It was then that the GM asked;

GM: So, wait a minute, you’re just leaving the Sahuagin there unattended?
Me: So what? It’s tied up.
GM: No, it only has a leash.
Me: …fuck, yeah, I guess that’s how you would have interpreted that. What I meant is that its arms were still tied to its sides.
GM: Then how would it have swam?
Me: It has webbed feet, I figured that would be fine.
GM: No, it would need its arms to swim effectively.

Oops.

Wait, what's a Murloc doing he-GARGBFBLFBLFBLFBLFBLFBI was already engaged with the golem, so I wasn’t going to bother with a low level creature like the Sha-hugga-mug when I was already facing something which could probably kill me. Fortunately, thanks to the marching order, my four goblin worshipers had the creature surrounded. So whilst I battled the golem, they subdued my prisoner. They even managed not to kill him! Though he will have a nasty burn on his face, and a bad limp from now on. Everything went better than expected, but this all goes to illustrate a point. I wrote recently on the point of GM clarity, but this story goes to show that player clarity is just as important. There was no clear point during play when my GM being more clear with me would have fixed the problem. Even if he had allowed me to have the creature’s arms bound due to the misconception, that would have meant changing a minor ruling from an hour’s worth of game time prior. (Namely, whether or note the creature could swim, and thus continue to survive on land). The entire problem could have been fixed had I, as the player, simply been more clear about my intentions.

On an unrelated note, a funny story from this game session: one of the four goblins, named Poog, is a cleric. He cast the spell Burning Hands on the Sha-hugga-mug during combat, and I quickly looked it up in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, where I was surprised to learn it was a 15ft cone. My GM, also surprised, said “Well I guarantee you it wasn’t that way in 3.5.” So, I got out my 3.5 PHB, and we looked it up, and much to our surprise, it had been a 15ft cone in 3rd edition as well! Flustered, my GM added “They must have changed it from second edition!” So, I pulled out my 2nd edition PHB, and he found the spell and read the description aloud.

GM: When the wizard casts this spell, a jet of searing flame shoots from his fingertips. His hands must be held so as to send forth a fanlike sheet of flames: the wizard’s thumbs must touch each other and the fingers must be spread. The burning hands send out flame jets 5 feet long in a horizontal arc about 120 degrees in front of the wizard.”
Me: …So, it’s a cone?
GM: Shut up.

Good times.

Colorful Characters 16: Novre Homberk, Tailor Savant

16th Century TailorLittle Novre Homberk never really seemed to be paying attention to anything. It concerned his parents, Helen and Krastus, that he would rarely look anyone in the eye, and did not start to talk until he was four years old. The child spent much of his time staring into the distance, twisting his fingers together and untwisting them, or playing games no one around him really understood. The other children sensed something was different about Novre. At first they avoided him out of fear, but as time passed, they took to teasing him for his apparent disconnect from the material plane.

After Helen died, Krastus was left to raise his son alone. He started to drink heavily. Occasionally he would even beat his son whilst in a drunken rage, but he was not so much a monster that he didn’t regret it once he’d sobered up. His business as a small town’s clothier and tailor began to suffer. Orders were ignored, and the quality of his work began to drive people away. All Krastus could do was drink more and more heavily, decreasing the quality of his work further. Losing his livelihood seemed to be a foregone conclusion, until one day he stumbled in through his shop door to discover that he had accidentally locked 9 year old Novre in the night before; and that all of his tailoring work had been completed.

And not only was everything finished. Everything was done with a remarkable quality which Krastus could never have matched in his life. His customers were ecstatic, and congratulated him on sobering up. Seeing an opportunity to make a great deal of money, Krastus took the money he had been spending on booze and bought materials of higher quality than he had purchased in many months. He gave the materials to Novre, and watched in astonishment as the child created some of the most beautiful clothes the tailor had ever seen. Elaborately embroidered dresses, robes, shirts, pants, gloves, the child seemed possessed of some type of divine talent, and Krastus was not about to let it go to waste. He immediately began selling the boy’s work as his own, and his business grew at an exponential rate. Within a year nobles were traveling for days simply to buy the magnificent clothing which Novre was quietly creating in the back room.

A local wizard of small repute named Erlem, himself a member of the nobility, eventually came to investigate Krastus’ shop, and was very pleased by the elaborate and fashionable items sold there. He purchased a number of clothes for himself, and returned to his home. Erlem was proud of his new clothes, and wore them whenever he found an opportunity, but when he did he sensed something strange. The clothes felt somehow…off, to him. He began to study the clothing in earnest, and was surprised to discover that not only were the clothes very fine, they were magical. The pants he had purchased granted the wearer the ability to resist spells, and the gloves made his somatic gesturing somehow more precise. Erlem was pleased, but confused. He had paid a hefty price for the clothes, but the magical abilities of the clothes made them worth fifteen or twenty times more than what he had paid.

Erlem was not very skilled with divination, but spent the next few days observing Krastus and Novre via an expensive crystal ball. That told him everything he needed to know: Krastus didn’t understand the depth of his son’s talent. Somehow the boy was creating powerful magical clothing, and the father was selling it for a pittance because he thought its value was purely aesthetic. Erlem returned to Krastus shop the next morning, and placed an order so large that the fraudulent old tailor fainted. It cost him much of his fortune to do so, but in the months following the delivery of the goods, Erlem made his fortune back many times over by quietly selling the clothes to adventurers and other wizards.

That arrangement has existed now for a year or so. Erlem the wizard exploits Krastus the tailor by purchasing clothing well below market value, and reselling it at a fair price. Krastus, in turn, exploits his son by selling his son’s magnificent work as his own. And Novre, now a boy of 18, doesn’t care. He happily creates beautiful garment after beautiful garment, content in the act of creation.

Thoughts on Use

The players might encounter either Erlem, attempting to sell them magical items made of cloth. This encounter might end with the purchase of the clothing, or if the players have some reason to be suspicious, they might inquire as to how a low-level wizard of no great skill produced such fine garments. Erlem is terrible at keeping secrets, so it’s only a matter of time before he spills the beans to someone. Alternatively, the players might encounter Krastus as a purveyor of fine clothing.

Magical Garments

Novre can craft any magical item which is made from cloth within 1/8th the normal amount of time it would require, using materials which cost 1% of the normal cost for the item.

Novre Homberk (CR 2)
XP: 600
Male Human Expert 4
CN humanoid
Init +2; Senses Perception -3


Defenses


AC 16, Flat Footed 14, Touch 16 [10 + Dex(2) + Jerkin of Deflection(4)]
SR 19
hp 28 (4d8 + 8)
Fort +6 Ref +6 Will +11 (+2 to disbelieve Illusions)


Offense


Speed 30ft
Melee Unarmed +5 (1d3 + 2; 20/x2)


Stats


Str 15 (+2) Dex 14 (+2) Con 10 (+0) Int 6 (-2) Wis 4 (-3) Cha 18 (+4)
Base Atk +3; CMB +5; CMD 17
Feats Naturally Gifted, Skill Focus (Craft: Cloth), Skill Focus (Craft: Clothing)
Skills Craft(Cloth)(+10), Craft(Clothing)(+10), Spellcraft(+7), Use Magic Device(+7)
Languages Common
Gear Jerkin of Deflection +4, Sewing Kit


New Feat: Naturally Gifted


You are able to call upon extraordinary abilities without first gaining the usual prerequisites.
Prerequisites: Level 1, Character must be an NPC
Benefit: Damned near anything. A natural gift can take whatever form the GM wishes. For Novre, it is an uncanny ability to create magical items of cloth. But for other characters it might be the ability to unerringly see the future, or to solve complex magical formulas.
Drawback: While not strictly required, it is customary for characters who receive such marvelous gifts to suffer a corresponding drawbacks. Characters who can see the future may be blind, or they may be cursed to never be believed, or they may simply be unable to express themselves in a clear fashion. Novre has savantism as his drawback. While he excels in creating wondrous and magical clothing, he is disconnected from the real world, and will never be able to function as an adult.
Normal: You’ve gotta kill a bunch of shit and take their stuff and level up and it’s this whole thing.

Order of the Stick by Rich Berlew

Unusual Magic Item Types

King Arthur, in a boat with Merlin, reaches for Excalibur, held aloft by the Lady of the LakeI’ve been feeling mentally drained lately, so I’m gonna keep things light around here for awhile. Fewer 2000 word posts where I try to suss out Pathfinder’s platonic ideal, more brief posts which don’t require much sussing at all. There has been an overabundance of sussing in my life, as of late. Doctor told me to cut back.

I’ve always liked the idea of odd magical items. In fact, I’ve occasionally made a game out of giving my players the most absolutely useless magical items I could imagine, just to see how they would use them. They always seem to manage it somehow. Magic Items 01, from Order of the Stick by Rich BerlewOne of my best is rope which immediately unties any knot as soon as the slightest amount of tension is placed upon it. But my favorite kind of unusual magic item is a type of item which is not normally magical at all. Weapons, armor, capes, and rings are almost magical by default in a Pathfinder world, while many other items are rarely even checked for dweomers. If you find a tapestry depicting a battle, rolled up in a dungeon, you’re likely going to view it as mundane treasure. But what if the tapestry is the result of an epic-level “Time Stop” spell cast upon a battlefield? If dispelled, the combatants depicted on the tapestry would suddenly appear in the room, and continue their fight.

So lets jump into some of the types I’ve come up with:

Scabbards: It is a little known fact that the scabbard of Excalibur was actually much more valuable than the sword itself. I’m not exactly an Arthurian scholar, but none of the texts I’ve read paint Excalibur as anything other than a very good sword. In some stories it’s maybe a +1 Longsword, whilst in the film named for the blade, it might be as much as a +5. But that’s hardly impressive as magical items go. Excalibur’s scabbard, however, may be the most powerful magic represented in Arthurian myth. Any who wore it could not be wounded. Arthur would have been invincible, had he not allowed his sister Morgana Le Fay, to borrow the scabbard so she could “appreciate its beauty.” By which she meant “have someone make a copy, then throw the real one into a lake.”

Giving a character an item which makes the invulnerable might be pushing it, but there’s no reason other magical affects couldn’t be granted by a scabbard. Fast healing, for example. Perhaps there could even be some manner of trade-off with the sword. When the sword is sheathed, the scabbard grants fast healing 10, or protection from arrows, or whatever. When the sword is drawn, the magic of the scabbard is reduced in power, or ends altogether. That could make the decision to engage an enemy much more relevant.

Tattoos: This one shows up now and again in various supplements–usually ones with an asian theme for some reason. Perhaps there is some originating mythology for magical tattoos found in asian cultures which I am unaware of. I don’t really care where it came from, it’s an awesome idea, and needs to be more prominent within fantasy. Whether it’s a tattoo of a magical beast which can “jump off” your body and aid you in battle, or something more mundane, it fits in with nearly any kind of setting where magic exists. And the possibilities are too numerous to name! What about a tattoo of an eye on the tip of your finger, which you could see out of by closing your eyes? Useful for looking around corners. What if clerics got their god’s holy symbol tattooed on their chests? It could never be taken away when you were captured. I once made a character who had tattoos of short swords on her forearms, and in a pinch she could reach “into” her arms and pull a masterwork short sword out of each.

Cosmetics: While on the subject of markings on the body, what about makeup? Not exactly the kind of thing we imagine a rough-and-tumble adventurer to be interested in, but adventurers aren’t always lacking in refinement. And even those who are lacking in refinement must often deal with the upper classes of society. Mayors, nobles, kings and queens; any or all might try to fool the adventurers with Lipstick of Lying. Or they could try to hypnotize the party with Mesmerizing Mascara.

"The Spoils of War - Dividing Treasure in D&D" from Dragon Magazine 327, by Jeff Carlisle

Piercings & Misc Jewelry: I honestly don’t understand why piercings are ignored by the rules. Earrings could be as versatile as Fingerrings. And a piercing could go any number of places! What about a tongue stud that made a wizard immune to any effect which would interfere with their spell’s verbal components? A belly ring could allow an adventurer to stave off hunger for weeks. Many types of obscure jewelry could be magical, in fact. Many cultures wear combs in their hair, and ancient Mayans used to replace some of their teeth with Jade. Tooth of Vecna, anyone?

Rations: We’ve all read Lord of the Rings, right? Or, at the very least, seen those films which were so popular? Lambas bread was a major plot point in the books, but you really don’t see anything like that in RPGs. This one might be more justifiable, simply because of the plethora of ways to avoid the need for rations in a basic D&D game. Clerics gain the ability to summon food and water pretty early on, and even if the party doesn’t have a cleric, bags of holding make it easy to carry a few month’s worth of rations with no problem. But still, you would think they’d put some rules for magic elven rations in the core rulebook.

Simple Tools: Hammers, Picks, Saws, etc could be enchanted to do their job exceptionally well. A saw which can cut down a tree in under a minute, or a pick which reduces an hour’s worth of work to a single swing. These items would have no combat benefits, but would make some types of work go much faster. This would be particularly useful to give to workers as they were constructing a stronghold.

What are some unusual magic item types you’ve encountered, or come up with for your own games?

Also, buttplug of protection +2. Because I can.

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