Sunday, February 16, 2014

Even More Magic Items (and Monsters) in Empire of the Petal Throne

Amulet of Venus and Mars from Oedipus Ægyptiacus by Athanasius Kircher

Previously, I wrote about “Eyes.”  Among “other types of ancient mechanisms [that] are encountered [in the underworld],” there are Amulets.  With Eyes, a referee is encouraged “to insert other types into the game as he sees fit.”  Not so with Amulets; Barker describes exactly twelve types and does not suggest that others might exist.  Of course, there is nothing to stop a referee from inventing other Amulets, yet that was not Barker's intent.  Barker treated Eyes and Amulets differently and must have had a reason to do so.  Many of the Amulets could just have easily been Eyes, some even have 'charges' that are recharged in the same manner as Eyes.

Barker states that, “Like the 'Eyes,' Amulets are rather rare.”  Interestingly, when describing Eyes, he writes that Eyes are the “most frequently encountered” ancient devices with which “Tékumel abounds.”  I suppose the professor meant that most people neither own nor have access to working ancient technology/magic items.  Compared to Eyes, Amulets are much less common.  A 2nd level Non-Player Character Priest or Magic-User has a 13% chance of having – at most – one Amulet; however, that same character has a 20% chance of having at least one Eye (and possibly as many as six).  Also, according to the Treasure Determination Table, Eyes are more likely than Amulets to be included in any randomly generated treasure hoard.

It is assumed that if a character wanted to buy an Amulet, the likely way to purchase one would be from a temple (except there is only a ten percent chance that the temple would be willing to sell any given Amulet).  Prices for Amulets are determined like prices for Eyes; rare types can be more expensive than relatively common types by an order of magnitude.

The Amulets are described below.  They are grouped according to rarity.

Relatively Common Amulets
The Amulet of Finding Treasure in the Underworld:  This is a one use item.  Within a range of three hundred feet, “It infallibly guides the user to the nearest treasure hoard in the Underworld.”  What constitutes a treasure hoard?  Two thousand copper Qirgál?  A flask of water would be treasure to a man dying of thirst.  What does “nearest” mean?  Let's say there is a hoard 150 feet to the west and another 250 feet to the east.  To get to the western hoard, the party would have to traverse 500 feet of corridors but only 300 feet of tunnels to get to the eastern hoard.  Which is the nearer hoard?  What if, when infallibly guiding the user to a hoard, the Amulet detects another hoard that was previously out of range but is now closer than the original hoard?
The Amulet of the Good God:  Hrá are undead entities that can only be destroyed be depleting their hit points, then touching them with this Amulet.  Because of this, Hrá in the presence of the Amulet are likely to retreat; even other undead might retreat.  “[A]n evil being picking it up suffers 1-6 6-sided dice of damage...”
The Amulet of Mastery over Rényu:  Rényu (mentioned previously) are humanoid 'animals' that can be trained to speak and use tools and weapons.  This Amulet allows the wearer to control 1-3 Rényu without going through the process of subduing or training them.  What happens when a character removes the Amulet?  Does it still work as long as it is in his or her possession?
The Amulet of Perceiving the Scintillation of Metal:  By expending a charge, this Amulet “will point to the largest hoard of metal of any kind within [20 feet].”  'Largest' hoard in volume or mass?  What about degree of refinement of the metal?
The Amulet of Power Over the Undead:  This Amulet gives a Magic User an 80% chance to cause various forms of undead to retreat.  An Amulet can attempt to affect any given undead being only once.

“Rare” Amulets
The Amulet Against the Iniquitous Nshé:  A product of ancient sorcery, a Nshé is a being composed entirely of viscous, watery liquid.  It sometimes assumes a 'solid' form.  A person reading the inscription on this Amulet (written in the Language of Tsáqw) will cause Nshé to retreat automatically.  This is ineffective against any Nshé that “has taken on its man-like form.”  (The Nshé creature listing implies that the Amulet is ineffective after the Nshé adopts any form.)
The Amulet of Invincible Steel:  Ngáyu are “flattish crustacean creatures” that can “squirt some 20 feet” a liquid that destroys metal.  I think of them as the Tékumel equivalent of a rust monster.  This Amulet protects the wearer's belongings from the Ngáyu's secretions.  (The description of the Amulet makes specific reference to steel, but I suppose all metals are protected.)
The Amulet of Warding Off Thúnru'u:  Thúnru'u are known as 'the Eaters of Eyes' and they are “somewhat manlike, doughy and blubbery looking.”  Appropriately named, “This amulet causes 1-6 Thúnru' flee.”  If one does not have access to this Amulet, Tsúral buds can repel Thúnru'u 80% of the time.

Very Rare Amulets
The Amulet of Peace Amongst the Servers of Ksárul:  As indicated previously, Ksárul is one of the 'evil' gods.  The Priests of Ksárul 'create' various Underworld creatures.  By expending a charge, this Amulet causes such creatures “to cease hostility against the user” for three turns (although they will defend themselves).
The Amulet of Protection Against the Grey Hand:  'The Grey Hand' is a potent spell learned by Magic-Users no earlier than eighth level.  It can be used once per day.  If the victim is successfully touched by the Magic-User, “the victim is reduced to a heap of greyish dust” – no saving throw.  The wearer of this Amulet, however, is immune.  Each Amulet attunes itself to its owner; until the owner dies, no one else can benefit from the Amulet.
The Amulet of Ruling the Ru'ún:  The Ru'ún are described as “manlike bronze demon-automatons some seven feet tall.”  They have three attacks per round:  “a powerful electric shock,” “a +1 sword,” and a “device...which casts steel bolts 30 feet.”  They cannot be surprised.  Anyway, assuming the owner knows the Llyáni language, this Amulet gives the owner a 60% chance of controlling 1-4 Ru'ún for two turns.
The Amulet of Safety Amidst Putrefaction:  The Shunned Ones are an intelligent race that has been on Tékumel since before the arrival of humans.  “This Amulet allows the wearer and 1-6 comrades to move unharmed among the Shunned Ones.”  Each charge lasts four turns.  My interpretation is that this Amulet counteracts the Shunned Ones' “terrible and repellent stench which drives off humans and non-humans alike.”  Let's say you have this Amulet and you have seven comrades.  At least one comrade will succumb to the Shunned Ones' odor.  When do you know how many are protected?  What decides which are protected and which aren't?

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