Sunday, August 5, 2012

Magic Items in High Fantasy

Illustration from an early edition of High Fantasy
(image appropriated from Tome of Treasures website)

What happens when magic items are used against one another? How is it determined which magic item shall prevail?  Page 27 of Jeffrey C. Dillow's High Fantasy posits the following example:
[A] magic spear is thrown at a shield of missile protection. One way to decide which will win is for the Judge* to assign a magic rating (between 1 and 100) to all magic items. Then when the above example occurs the first player to make his magic rating roll, or to roll below it, wins. If both players make their roll at the same time the higher roll wins.
This method is presented as “one way,” but no other methods are suggested. One assumes that items of greater power would have higher magic ratings. It would have been simple enough to provide recommended ranges of magic ratings for each of the “fifty magical items that the judge should use to spice up his own adventures and make-believe world” presented in the rules; however, this was not done.

Dillow doesn't supply a table à la Gygax with which to determine one of his fifty listed magic items randomly.  Rather he provides them as examples to “help prospective judges in stimulating their own imaginations to dream up many more magical items for their players and monsters to use.”  Dillow's example items are divided into five groups:  armor (8), jewelry (9), potions (8), weapons (13), and 'odds and ends' (12).  Without further ado, your humble host supplies some selections; however, some of the truly imaginative items – such as “The Jason Tree” and “The Black Raintree” – are too awesome to depict here.
Gauntlets of the Panther – These are black gloves covered in a coat of fur with ivory claws protruding from each finger tip. For every turn a player wears these gloves he can add 10% to his offense. Each turn the player's coordination improves, his killer instincts become keener and his hearing improves. But woe to the player who wears these gloves too long. Each turn, along with the plus 10% to offense, the player will begin to take on the aspects of a panther. Hair will start to cover his body, whiskers will grow, etc. until by the tenth turn the player is walking on all fours and has become a – supercharged panther! If the player takes the gloves off before the tenth turn he will revert back to his normal self. When he puts them back on, he will resume where he left off. Once the player has reached the tenth turn and has become a panther the gloves will have become attached and cannot be removed! The player will then lose control of his character and will start attacking anything in sight. Use the players offense and defense statistics assuming that all armor and magical items have fallen off. The only thing a party can do for the player is try to find a high level wizard to remove the curse or let an animal master try to train it.

Necklace of Greed – A very beautiful necklace mounted with diamonds, rubies, and other gems. If placed around the neck it will strangle the victim into a stunned status** in 6 turns. Only a negate spell will get it off. The necklace is magical and cannot be broken apart to sell for its apparent gem worth. The necklace has often been given by kings to unwanted queens and tiresome mistresses.

Prism Sleds – These are teardrop-shaped prisms that are flat on one side. They are six feet long with a hole at the point where a golden rope is threaded through. The black priests of the east use these flying sleds to travel their territories to force “charitable” donations from the countryside. The prisms are guided by the rope and can travel up to 40” (200 feet) per turn. As the sleds travel they leave a 200 foot black trail behind them. Anything touching the trail will take damage...The priests often maneuver their sleds so that the sun casts a rainbow effect in the area they are about to land. [sic] This ads splendor to their arrival and intimidates a lot of the country folk into cooperating.

The Drink of Delusion – A potion that will cause someone to believe anything that they want about themselves. When the player drinks this potion the judge should ask, “What do you think is happening to you?” The player will then retort something about “not having the slightest idea.” The judge should then repeat the question until the player answers. Once he answers tell him, “that is exactly what is happening!” For example, if the player says he feels that he can fly then tell him he is flying. Actually he won't fly but will really be running across the ground flapping his arms. Hopefully he won't try jumping off of cliffs or flying over pits. If he does he will take normal damage.

The Sword of Life Draining – This sword feeds upon the life of the person who uses it. When a player first picks up the sword it feels extremely comfortable and becomes as easy to use as their own hand. Actually, the sword has taken on the same life force. The sword adds +40 to the users [sic] offense! This will at first seem like an incredible weapon. But the sword draws its power from the life force of the person using it. Every other time the person using it scores a critical hit against an opponent he loses one skill level. Once the player drops below first level consider the sword as having drained the life from the player. When the player's life is drained out all that is left is a husk of a body and a magic sword that is now intelligent and can talk.

Same deal as above

The term judge” is usually not capitalized in High Fantasy; this instance is an exception.
**  Upon reaching stunned status, a character “will expire in 5 minutes if not treated.”

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