Sunday, February 2, 2014

More Magic Items in Empire of the Petal Throne

or “The Eyes Have It

Among the types of magic items in Empire of the Petal Throne, first and foremost Barker discusses “Eyes” (thus capitalized).
...Tékumel abounds with devices surviving from the ancient and glorious days of high technology.  The most frequently encountered of these are the “Eyes,” so named because they are shaped like small, dull gems, with an eye-like aperture on one side and a protruding stud on the other, which activates the device.
Barker describes thirty-six Eyes, although he states, “The...list is not exhaustive, and the referee may insert other types into the game as he sees fit.”  Eyes are common enough that they are in circulation, so to speak.  Various private interests (including temples) are in possession of Eyes and they are sometimes available for purchase (rarely) or loan (more commonly).  Eyes are common enough that “Many fakes are manufactured.”

I would think that anyone possessing an Eye would have the wherewithal to retain it (i.e., guard it from the acquisitive), else they would not possess it for very long.  Still, what's the point in having an eye if you're not going to use it?  I'm certain Eye owners could be enticed to use them in the right circumstances.  Barker tells us that “The Tsolyáni themselves do not use money much, employing a system of cross-clan obligations and favours...”  I can easily believe that use of an Eye could constitute a “favour” – perhaps not often, but certainly something to consider when bargaining.  Given these circumstances, I imagine that most Tsolyáni have seen an Eye or two and – although not a common occurrence – have probably seen one being used.

The use of Eyes is all the more precious in that every type of Eye (save one) requires an expenditure of “charges.”  Apparently, each Eye can hold one hundred charges.  (When an Eye is found, percentile dice are rolled to determine the number of charges.)  About half of all Eyes have “a tiny dial just below their operating stud which indicates charges remaining.”

A person finding an Eye is, of course, ignorant of its function.  About half of all Eyes have “a tiny inscription on the back, written in one of the ancient languages.”  Eyes tend to have grandiose names, such as 'The Eye of Being an Unimpeachable Shield Against Foes' and 'The Eye of Ruling as a King in Glory'.  So, even if the inscription can be read, the name of an Eye does not necessarily describe exactly what happens when the Eye is activated.  Characters might need to experiment with an Eye to determine its function.

Eyes, of course, are very old – perhaps lying around unused for thousands of years.  A recently found Eye has a small chance of being defective.  There are four possible defects:  (1) the Eye no longer works at all, (2) the Eye has only half the number of charges indicated, (3) the Eye has a distorted or opposite effect, or (4) the Eye explodes when activated.

Barker states there is a ten percent chance of 'common' Eyes being available for purchase.  He provides two examples common types ('The Eye of Frigid Breath' and 'The Eye of Illuminating Glory'), but we are left to wonder what other types might be classified as common.  “Less common (or more destructive) types” might have a five percent chance of availability.  If available, common types can cost from 1,000 to 100,000 Káitars and less common types, ten thousand to one million Káitars.  Finally, “really rare varieties” can cost from one hundred thousand to ten million Káitars.  I assume these 'prices' are symbolic given the nature of the Tsolyáni economy.

Some examples of Eyes:
  • The Thoroughly Useful Eye – This is the one type of Eye that does not cost charges to use.  In fact, the function of this Eye is to recharge other Eyes.  “It is naturally the rarest of all varieties of Eyes, there being only four known specimens in the Empire and two known in other lands.”
  • The Eye of Retaining All Things – When activated, this Eye becomes a portal to an airless void where up to 100,000 Káitars in weight may be stored.  “Any size object may be sucked into this Eye, providing only that some small corner be small enough to fit within it.”  I assume magic prevents suction from drawing air and unintended items into the vacuum.
  • The Eye of Strengthening the Majesty of Weapons – Each charge imparts a cumulative, permanent +1 to “weapons, armour, shields, etc.”  The maximum bonus to any article is +2, except edged steel weapons have a maximum of +3.
  • The Eye of Opening the Way – Each charge allows the Eye to function for two turns.  During this time, it “automatically finds and opens secret doors” within its range and it buzzes when brought within one foot of a trap.
  • The Eye of Calling Forth an Unconquerable Army – This Eye brings 1-100 automatons from “another dimensional plane” for a maximum of two turns.  They are only capable of fighting.  Successive uses still bring up to 100 automatons “even if some have been slain previously.”

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