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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9 thoughts on “Unusual Magic Item Types”

  1. For some reason we always seemed to end up with items that are in a box. Like a magic flame in a box that would always light if you opened the box. And a wizard in a box who would cast spells that high end players don’t want to like identifies.

    1. Those are pretty cool, but you’ve gotta learn to think outside the box!

      Okay, that was terrible. But cool item ideas!

  2. These are really good! One of the favorite items I gave to the party was a +1 grappling hook. They always found some insane yet useful way to use it. I also like to throw in small, practical items that some wizard somewhere would have eventually thought up anyways. Spoons that stirred for you, pots that heated without a fire, simple things to make home life/adventuring easier. For whatever reason people love those things, and their faces always light up when they think of some clever way to use it in a dungeon or a challenge.

    I also like to throw out intelligent items occasionally. Especially if the item is a little overpowered for the level the party is at, I can throw some personality into it that makes the party a little more wary to use it.

    FInally, +2 condom of magic missile. 0% Miss Chance AND force damage. Haha, seriously though, another great article!

    1. Occasionally, I do something sinister like include an item which is PERFECT for one of my players, but make it an Intelligent item of the opposite alignment.

      It’s really pretty mean.

      If we’re introducing “Condom of Magic Missile,” I think a diaphragm with force protection and a +3 deflection bonus to AC is in order.

  3. Unusual Magic Items? How about a [Magical Seed (Consumable Conjuration Item)] that will instantly grow to be a sword-like plant made by vines, thorn and flowers that will always follow their master and fight alongside him/her until it’s reach 0 HP or withered in 1 week?

    1. I had completely forgotten about seeds! There’s a lot of potential in magic plants.

      What if a rogue was able to acquire seeds which instantly grew into some time of monstrous Venus Fly Trap? The party could use it to prevent monsters from sneaking up on them.

      Magical seeds could also cause vines to instantly grow up the side of a wall to make climbing easier.

      There’s a lot of possibilities there.

  4. I love these items!

    Also one of the less common arthurian myths states the sword drawn from the stone was “The Sword of Kings” And when it was broken he journeyed to the lady of the lake and received Excaliber as a reward. They both were able to summon the power of Mars/Ares/God to bolster Arthur when he was at a disadvantage. The scabbard offered invulnerability when the sword was sheathed when it was drawn it would slowly heal his wounds.

    Seeds could really make some interesting items. A seed that creates a hut/mansion.

    On the point of tools, I have given my players a Pickaxe using the rules in one of the Pathfinder books. In combat it was just a mwk pickaxe but if used in digging it would clear out a 15ft cube from the point of impact based on the player’s wishes.

  5. The Mace of Healing! Every time you swing it at somebody, you roll 1d6 damage, followed by 1d6 healing. Given enough time, everybody can be battered back to perfect health, and it is never ruled to cause a death because it’s supposed to be a fun only item.

    We are always happy to have one. We are always equally happy to get rid of it ^^

  6. Those are some fun ideas. I love getting creative with loot. I just gave a player a magical codpiece that will help you determine your direction at will. You activate it by thought, causing it to begin making a chirping noise that increases in tempo the closer to due north the codpieces points. It also starts chirping if you see someone that arouses you, and you cannot stop it without removing the codpiece, which looks like you’re fumbling with your breeches.

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