Magic Items Should be Magical

Once again, Creighton Broadhurst has made a post that has touched on one of my complaints with some Role Playing Games.  Magic Items aren’t magical anymore.  This is one of my many complaints about 3E and 4E D&D (see paragraphs 4 and 5).  Magic items in these games become tools, like those that one may purchase at a hardware store or thrift shop.  Magic items become less magic al because there is nothing “magical” about them.

When all magical items can be codified and cataloged and any relatively aware person can look at a magic item and know its workings, then such things become no different than the often glossed over pitons and rope at the bottom of an adventurers backpack.  Magic items should have an air of mystery about them, a mystique that make even hardened adventurers and their players just a tad wary of them.

Way back in the days of 1E, I often played fast and loose with magic items.  You probably didn’t find much more than potions before you reached 4th level, but after that, watch out!  I loved weird magic; things that the Players wouldn’t expect.  Instead of dropping a ring of invisibility into a game, I’d drop a cap of invisibility or a sword of invisibility.  My players might find a ring of fireballs, instead of a wand of fireballs.  One of my favorite magic items was the lightning stone.  It was an electric blue crystal that would build up and discharge a blast of lightning ever 500 turns (a turn was time unit equal to 10 minutes in those days).  It could be discharged early, by throwing it against a hard surface, resetting the build up time.  If my Players went several days in game time without discharging the lightning stone, I would start counting down from some random number under 20.  They would panic and start shouting at the Player whose character was carrying the stone, “Throw it!  Throw it!”  Magic Swords, I loved magic swords with unreasonable powers.  Once I gave a player a sword that could cast a 100 d6 fireball that was a mile in diameter; the catch…ground zero was the sword.  Then there was Narnfriend, a dagger that could be used to cast a power word: Kill spell.  The only problem is that the caster had to make a Saving Throw or die, too.  Magic items were fun in 1E and 2E.

Magic items lost much of their fun after 2E.  In my 3E and 4E games, most magic items were nothing more than stat enhancers.  With Feats and Skills that allowed PCs to craft, modify, or completely remake magic items based on their spell selection, 3E made it very hard to make “magical” magic items.  The rules didn’t even, really, allow a GM to make items that had curses or quirks.  There were exceptions.  Raven Al’Bari, a PC in my Divlos campaign, crafted a series of Rings that had non-standard powers.  I let a Player get a Red Cap’s red cap.  So you know, a Red Cap is a type of murderous fairy; after it kills its chosen victim, the Red Cap soaks its cap in the deceased blood.  In my game, a red cap also granted a special form of invisibility called fairie invisibility, but for the cap to retain its power, it had to be regularly soaked in the blood of the wearer’s victims.  That made for a slightly morbid scene from time to time.  That cap reappeared in my 4E game with an additional power that allowed its wearer to phase thorough material objects.  It could be done, but the rules didn’t encourage it.

My 5E games are proving more “magical” than my previous games.  The characters in my Zentlan campaign have reasons to slay the fey lord Doresh, Lord of the Fading Dream, but to do so, they need a special sword.  The crippled storm giant Gormagon forged them a sword that can damage Doresh, whether he is in Dream or in Reality.  Last game, the aquagith swordsmith, Ja’Ruhl tempered the blade so that it is silvered and does psionic, as well as, slashing damage.  The characters will need to continue to seek out famous smiths and get them to enhance the weapon until it is truly a blade worthy of fighting a Lord of the Fae.  I, also, dropped a load of items of adaption on them, but what they are going to do with those rings, torcs, and bracelets, I’m not sure.  In my Bazarene Circuit game, my Players have found a slew of elemental crystals.  They are not magical in themselves, beyond their soft glowing, but they are useful ingredients in various magical spells and items.  They have also found two Masks of the Smoke Dragon; they may need to be wary of them.

A Mask of the Smoke Dragon grants its wearer darkvision and makes him or her immune to the effects of smoke and other airborne contaminants.  It’s not too powerful of an item for a 2nd level character.  It will let a PC move through a darkened room filled with poisonous gas without any inconvenience.  End of story, right?  I have a few questions for you all, Dear Readers.  1) Who made the masks?  2) Why were the masks made?  3) What is the Smoke Dragon?  4) Is the Smoke Dragon a real entity or a magical effect?  5) What were/are the aims of the Smoke Dragon and/or its creators?  6) Are there additional enchantments on the masks that the PCs do not know about?

Until next time, Game On!

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Io-Vol (A Dragon for My 52nd Birthday)

So, my inaugural post of 2016 is going to be about a dragon.  Are you surprised, dear reader?  You really shouldn’t be.  Today, I present unto you the Dreamwrath Dragon, Io-Vol.

When I got the 4E book, Draconomicon: Metallic Dragons, I was thrilled.  It was, yet, another jewel in my relatively extensive hoard of tomes.  It held the two lost metallic dragon-types that I love the best (the brass and the bronze).  It had draconians.  It had a cool dragon-led organization that attempted to control the portals to Sigil.  But the pièce de résistance was the picture of an artifact on page 79: the flask holding the Blood of Io.

The Blood of Io was held in a flask shaped like a sitting dragon with it wings folded at its back and its tail wrapped widdershins around its base.  The stopper of the bottle was a horned dragon that had two faces.  It appeared that the head of the dragon was going through mitosis and had yet to form two distinct wholes.  I loved it.

Now, I do not use the dragon creation mythology of the Forgotten Realms setting, so I had no use for the artifact as it was written.  The image was so compelling, it nigh demanded to be used in a game and since I could not use the artifact as it was, I took to looking for other ideas to help me use the Blood of Io (Draconomicon: Metallic Dragons PP 78-79)) in Rilmorn.  After much thought I added the Blood of Vol (a religion from the Ebberon setting (Eberron Campaign Guide, PP 248-251) and the dreambreath dracolich from Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons (PP 78-79).  With all three parts, I crafted the history and powers of Io-Vol the Dreamwrath Dragon and her blood.

Io-Vol is a dragon, now, long lost to time, but age ago, she tormented her foes and terrified her children and allies by her power over dreams.  Io-Vol had the power to manifest in any of her descendants (literally, in anyone who bore her blood), as long that being was dreaming.  In addition to this power, Io-Vol was a powerful dream mage and had access to spells that could force her targets into REM sleep when ere she chose.  This gave her the ability to appear anywhere in the world at any time.

Only Io-Vol remembers who or what brought about her downfall, because only she is left.  Whoever or whatever killed all the beings that bore any kinship to Io-Vol.  While she was still a powerful spellcaster and enchanter, Io-Vol was rendered weak with her ability to travel freely and safely about the world taken from her.  Io-Vol knew it was only a matter of time before her enemies came for her, so she began to craft a magic flask to act as her touchstone to reality and a backup plan.

When Io-Vol finished her crafting, she filled it with her blood and sent it away.  She then began casting a series of spells and rituals that would render her immortal.  Before she finished her work, her enemies found her.  While they slew Io-Vol, theirs’ was a pyrrhic victory.  Io-Vol lived on in a dreamscape of her own making and was able to manifest in the material world once again, when beings began to use the artifact containing her blood, the Blood of Io-Vol.  With this power, she destroyed the last of her enemies, but lost the flask holding her Blood.  Io-Vol fell into a dreamless sleep and remained there, until the Blood of Io-Vol reappeared in the world.

The Blood of Io-Vol appeared in my game and was used by Feldspar, a shifter warden.  When he used its powers in combat, the Blood compelled him to eat the hearts of his fallen enemies.  In time, he and his fellow adventurers slew a dragon and Feldspar ate its heart.  Feldspar transformed into a dragon and became subject to Io-Vol’s dream magics when he fell asleep.  After an encounter with faery magic Feldspar shed his dragon form and hid the Blood of Io-Vol, but not before Io-Vol discovered and freed one of sons who had been trapped in a mirror of life trapping for centuries before Io-Vol fell to her enemies.

Io-Vol is becoming more active in the world of Rilmorn.  She is being drawn to Lord Doresh of the Fading Dream on Zentlan and to Metabular, a dragon in the dreamscape known as the Isle of Celstia.  Soon, she may make a new bid for power on her old home world.

Game On!

A is for Aries

As I have mentioned before, I think that I originally named the months of the Rimoric Calendar after the twelve signs of Western Astrology, so that the month names were both familiar and exotic.  Whether that is true or not is irrelevant.  What is relevant is the idea that 1 Aries 1 Age of Silver is first date of recorded history for Rilmorin.  It represents the beginning of timekeeping in my games.

Timekeeping in a role playing game can be a thankless job.  How many days does it take to travel to the next dungeon?  How long will it take for the mage to make a magic item?  How many weeks are the PCs sidelined, because they are trapped in snowed-in village?  Does it really matter when the dragon laid it eggs?  Since RPGing is a game of imagination, why even worry about keeping track of the days, weeks, and years.  Gary Gygax, in the 1E DMG (PP 37-8), explains the importance of keeping time in a campaign and offers up a system for doing so.  I do not necessarily agree with all of Mr. Gygax’s ideas on how to keep time flowing in a campaign, but I do agree with him that if you are running a campaign, then you need to have a system in place to keep track of time.

Wandering through the corridors of my memory, I have come to this conclusion: I may have begun playing D&D and running games in 1979, but I did not start running a campaign until I was running a regular game at the Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church parsonage with Andy Cotten, Brad Corner, Rick Harris, Russell Badders, and Thom Thetford.  I had other gaming groups and they had serial and connected adventures, but it was not until Thom wrote down a timeline of one of our game sessions and used the actual dates on the Gregorian calendar that I named the months and started keeping timelines, chronologies, and histories for my games.  Oh, how things have grown since then.

1 Aries, the Vernal Equinox, is the beginning of each year according to the learned on the continent of Moytonia.  It is the time when the old is put away and the new is presented for all the world to see.  It is also the time of renewal and growth.  If one is not putting away the old, then one must take the old and reinvigorate it; the month of Aries represents that process.  I feel this idea is symbolic of what is happening in and on Rilmoryn.  I have two newborn campaigns in play right now, Pellham and Zentlan.  Neither of them will use the Calendar System of Moytonia, so old things must be put away.  Yet, both of them will see the same skies and stars and will be subject to the same celestial forces, so the old must be renewed.

By Western Astrological count, in the Northern Hemisphere of Earth, today is the 12th day of Aries.  The Vernal Equinox has come and gone and the next full moon is Saturday, April 4, 2015, thus the festival of Easter is only 3 days away, all times and ideas of rebirth and renewal.  Things are changing in the world in which I live.  My granddaughters are growing.  I am seeking more money and better hours for my employment.  I’ve got lots of work to do in my games and I need to work on my fiction and my reviews.  So, I ask my readers and myself in what ways will you and I renew the worlds and games in which we live and play?

Game On!