Tag Archives: treasure

Dungeon World bag of holding

Image from Wikipedia

Dungeon World has some excellent, interesting magic items. There are very few simple +1 style items, and most of them have clever drawbacks. My only (minor) complaint is that I think the collection would benefit from more consumable or impermanent items, which lead to interesting resource management and also militate against accumulating lots of permanent enchanted items as a campaign progresses.

As an example, consider the DW version of an old classic, the bag of holding. This item is a huge boon, because it allows one to worry less about encumbrance and thus be more likely to have the tools needed for a given situation. This version has a nice twist: you can’t always find exactly what you want, or at least not quickly.

Bag of Holding – 0 weight

A bag of holding is larger on the inside than the outside, it can contain an infinite number of items, and its weight never increases. When you try to retrieve an item from a bag of holding, roll+WIS. ✴On a 10+, it’s right there. ✴On a 7-9, choose one:

• You get the exact item, but it takes a while
• You get a similar item of the GM’s choice, but it only takes a moment

No matter how many items it contains, a bag of holding is always 0 weight.

Yes, this includes some player narrative control, but that’s easy enough to fix if you don’t like it. Here’s a version I might use with OD&D.

When you try to retrieve an item from a bag of holding, roll 1d6. You find:

  • 1-2: junk from the inter-dimensional nexus (ask referee)
  • 3: something similar that you have never seen before
  • 4: something similar that put in previously
  • 5: what you were looking for, but it takes a full turn
  • 6: what you were looking for immediately

That could probably be tightened up a bit, but you get the idea.

The quoted item description above is from DW page 333 and is creative commons licensed. Dungeon World can be found at RPGNow.

Hexagram Treasure Overview

Excalibur the Sword (source)

There are two major categories of treasure: mundane and wondrous. Mundane treasure includes money, valuables, simple machines, NPC favors, and other such things. The most important quality of mundane treasure is that it is not connected to character traits in any meaningful way. There are no prerequisites for use. A sack of money can be used by a squire just as easily as by a powerful sorcerer.

Wondrous treasure is not necessarily more potent than mundane treasure (though it often is). The defining quality of wondrous treasure is that use is dependent upon character traits. Some traits may also be primarily concerned with using (or even creating) wondrous items. All wondrous items have a rating, from 1 to 6, which relates to a specific character trait. There are traits on every path which relate to different kinds of wondrous items.

Exactly how wondrous items interact with character traits varies by item. Some require a minimum level of a certain trait in order to function at all. For example, a certain magic sword may be inert (that is, function as a mundane sword) for warriors with less skill than 3 in melee combat. Other items may require a successful trait check (less than or equal to the trait value when rolling a d6) before the item can be used, or even per use. For example, an antediluvian gauntlet may allow reaching into stone as if it were water, but only with a successful antediluvia trait check.
The wondrous items related to the path of battle are magic weapons, which are governed by either the melee combat trait or the ranged combat trait (depending on whether the item in question is a melee weapon or a ranged weapon). The wondrous items related to the path of guile are antediluvia (artifacts left over from before the deluge). The wondrous items related to the path of wonder are spell formulae, potions or potion recipes, magic devices, and scrolls. Though anyone can use a potion, it can also be reverse engineered. Thus, potions straddle the line between mundane and wondrous treasure.
As wondrous items are keyed to specific traits, not paths, characters with points in the necessary off-path traits can potentially make use of any kind of wondrous item. For example, a sorcerer with melee combat 3 can make use of a potency 3 sword just as well as a character on the path of battle (though it would have been more costly in terms of experience for the character on the path of wonder to develop that martial skill). The most complex antediluvia might only be usable by a character on the path of guile (based on the cap for off-path traits), but other less complex items are usable by any character with the appropriate trait.
One method for placing wondrous items: roll d6 to determine if there is a wondrous item; on a 6 there is. Then, roll another 2d6 and take the lowest number to determine the potency or complexity. Finally, roll on the following table to determine the wondrous item type.
  1. Potion
  2. Antediluvian item
  3. Weapon of power
  4. Scroll
  5. Magic item
  6. Spell formula
All wondrous items should be unique to a given campaign. Though not all wondrous items need have drawbacks, they should all have quirks and idiosyncrasies. Some wondrous items may have no direct adventuring use, only being able to generate strange seemingly useless effects. Few wondrous items are both of unlimited use and without potential drawbacks.

I am building a system for generating campaign-specific wondrous items as part of the referee scenario design process.

Ritual of Return

Old school dungeon exploration play is commonly organized as one delve per session. It is expected that PCs will return to town between sessions. This is advantageous for a number of reasons. For one, continuity of players is not required (something that is particularly difficult to achieve if your players are adults with jobs, families, and other commitments). This style of old school play is sometimes maligned as “the 15 minuted adventuring day,” but if not exaggerated this structure naturally fits the requirements of the gaming session. However, a problem occurs when the session is drawing to a close but the PCs are nowhere near the surface.

There are several ways to approach this problem. One is to hand-wave it and just assume everyone is able to make it out. This may run into logical problems depending on the obstacles that the party has navigated, but can usually work. Another well known approach is The Triple Secret Random Dungeon Fate Chart of Very Probable Doom, which is basically a table of (mostly bad) outcomes if PCs are unwise enough to not ensure their own exit prior to the session end. I have also considered a “dungeon escape” saving throw (maybe the PC can choose their most advantageous save number). Failure would indicate death occurred on the way out.

The Diablo series of video games has a common item called a scroll of town portal. This item allows adventurers to return to town from any area in a dungeon once they have exhausted their carrying capacity. The portal also allows (one way) return travel so that the adventurers can proceed exploring the dungeon from where they left off. Here is a version of the town portal scroll with flavor appropriate to a tabletop RPG.

A scroll of return is part of a teleportation ritual commonly employed by magic-users. The ritual has three parts: first, the scroll of return must be scribed and a circle of return must be prepared. The third part of the ritual is the casting of the spell inscribed on the scroll. The circle of return must be prepared under the gaze of the sun. Thus, it can only be constructed on the surface under open sky. Once these two elements are created, they both radiate magic to detection spells.

Because the gaze of the sun is necessary to the ritual, the current weather is important. I suggest using a standard 2d6 reaction roll to determine the weather if you don’t already have a more complicated system (interpreted based on the season). For example, bad weather might only occur on an “immediate attack” (2) result during the summer, but during the winter might occur on all reactions neutral or worse.

The ritual’s potency is measured by level. A magic-user may create a scroll of return of level equal to or less than their class level. The cost of the components required for the ritual is 100 GP per level (like Holmes scroll creation rules). No matter the level, the creation of the circle and scroll take one day. The scroll only remains potent for a number of days equal to the scroll’s level, and the range of the teleportation is limited to 6 miles per scroll level. The ritual’s caster can sense if they are out of range, and going out of range does not destroy the magic (the scroll may still be employed when the magic-user comes back within range). A magic-user may prepare a lower level ritual if desired (for example, a level 5 magic-user may prepare scrolls of return of any level between 1 and 5).

When the ritual’s magic has expired or is completed successfully, the scroll crumbles to dust. The circle remains and looses its ritual power (and value in terms of components) but still functions as a magical signature that can be identified by other magic-users if not later destroyed. When completed, the ritual returns the magic-user (and companions) to the circle of return. Intoning the spell on the scroll requires a full turn (10 minutes within the game world) of undisturbed concentration. If interrupted, the ritual is not ruined, but the magic-user must start over. Companions to be transported with the magic-user must stand nearby and unwilling creatures may not be transported (though unconscious ones can).

If the circle of return is disturbed, the ritual is disrupted, and the scroll will crumble to dust. For this reason, circles of return are often well hidden or protected. Battlements atop a magic-user’s tower are popular locations for established wizards, but less powerful magic-users may have to make due with isolated glens. A skilled diviner can user either end of the ritual (scroll or circle) to locate the other end. Scrolls of return may be found as treasure. Who knows where the party will end up if the ritual is completed? Maybe some form of magic research could be undertaken to determine where the scroll leads or perhaps such scrolls must be approached blind by those who did not participate in fabrication.

Some sages have speculated that the ritual magic draws power from the sun, and that the slow darkening of the sun over the past thousands of years has been caused by the greed of magicians.

Some variations: if you want the creation to be less fiddly, you can ignore the bit about the weather (I am, however, quite fond of using a reaction roll to determine the weather). You could also allow a one-way return as Diablo does. Perhaps other classes are able to use the scroll once created, not just magic-users (much like scrolls of protection).

Counterspells Draft

Rather than take a standard action, a magic-user may ready a counterspell. When deciding to ready a counterspell, the magic-user must select a target caster and must be aware of the target (this awareness can either be via direct physical perception, or can use an intermediate medium such as a scrying spell). From now on, the target will be referred to as the caster. As when casting a spell, no movement is permitted. A magic-user may not use a counterspell when surprised. Only magic-user spells (that is, not cleric spells) may be countered. Countering spells may result in gridlock while both magic-users wait for their counterparty to take the first action. This is intended.

There are two kinds of counterspells, temporary and permanent. A temporary counterspell prevents the casting of a spell, but does not wipe it from the target’s mind (or consume the scroll if they were casting from a scroll). Any magic user may always attempt a temporary counterspell. A permanent counterspell wipes the spell from the caster’s mind as if it had been cast or consumes the scroll. A permanent counterspell costs a spell slot of equivalent level from the countering magic-user. For example, if the target is casting levitate (a second level spell) and the countering magic-user wishes to attempt a permanent counterspell, the countering magic-user must also have a second level spell prepared, though it need not be the same spell. That spell is expended during the countering attempt (whether the counter is successful or not). If the countering magic-user does not have such a spell prepared, treat the countering attempt as temporary.

If the target casts a spell while the magic-user is in countering mode, a counter attempt may be made. If the spell being cast is one that the countering magic-user has in a spell book, the countering magic-user will be aware of which spell is being cast before they must decide whether or not to attempt a counter (though they will still be unaware of details such as the spell target). The caster must make a saving throw versus spells, with penalty equal to the highest level spell the countering magic-user can prepare. If the save is successful, the spell goes off as normal (i.e., the countering attempt has failed). If the caster fails the counterspell save, the spell is countered.

If a 1 is rolled on the counterspell saving throw, the caster must roll on the counterspell catastrophe table (see below). If a 20 is rolled on the counterspell saving throw, the countering magic-user must roll on the counterspell catastrophe table. Engaging in sorcerous combat is always dangerous, and opens a countering magic-user to a magical counterattack. Rather than rolling on the catastrophe table, referees may also make something up that is suitably nasty.

New Magic Item: Counterspell Scroll

A counterspell scroll is a “bottled” version of a permanent counterspell. A counterspell scroll has a level, determined by the scribe. Costs are as per Holmes scroll creation rules (page 13): 100 GP and 1 week of time per scroll level. A higher level magic-user may produces a lower level counterspell scroll at correspondingly lower cost. Thus, a seventh level magic-user may produce up to fourth level counterspell scrolls. Such a fourth level counterspell scroll would cost 400 GP and take four weeks to produce. Counterspell scrolls are consumed when used even if the target caster makes the counterspell saving throw.

Counterspell Catastrophe Table

  1. 1d6 psychic damage
  2. Lose another prepared spell (determined randomly)
  3. Thrown 2d6 feet in a randomly determined direction
  4. Struck blind for 1d4 turns
  5. Screams due to severe pain (wandering monster check)
  6. Age 1 year (may include hair and fingernail growth)
  7. Knocked unconscious (as per sleep spell)
  8. Mind violation (as per ESP spell); duration 12 turns
  9. Develop spell allergy: future casting of countered spell always requires save
  10. Polluted luck: penalty of 1 or 2 (depending on die) to all rolls for 12 turns
  11. Weakness: movement and all physical ability scores halved for 12 turns
  12. Warped reality: all missiles within 50′ arc to target the subject for next turn
  13. Feeblemind (as per spell) for remainder of encounter
  14. Hostile 1 hit die elemental summoned (determine element randomly)
  15. Strange gravity: as if in 0 G environment for 1 turn
  16. Riposte: other magic user gets free spell or attack against subject
  17. Entrancement (as charm person, another save applies)
  18. Moon curse: exposure to moonlight causes 1d4 damage (remove curse ends)
  19. Sun curse: exposure to sunlight causes 1d4 damage (remove curse ends)
  20. Hostile 1 hit die demon summoned

Magic Item Experimentation

One of my recent rules clarification questions was:

17. How do I identify magic items?

This is one of the questions that in hindsight I wish I had asked in a more detailed way. Specifically, how do the PCs know something is magical at all? Never mind what it does or how it is used. Mass-market fantasy now often portrays magic items as glowing or otherwise visually marked. Games like Diablo color items based on their rarity and power. This is not totally without precedent in the foundational literature (Bilbo’s Sting did glow blue in the presence of orcs, though this is less like an identifying mark and more like a power). Did Excalibur glow? I don’t think so. What about the hide of the Nemean Lion? Characters knew that these items were powerful because they were singular and legendary within the story as well as outside of it.

Is every richly embroidered robe and jeweled sword possibly a magic item? Because of practical game considerations, probably not. The most common solution to this problem is to allow PCs to just sense magic in some way or another. That is fine and workmanlike, but robs magic items of a sense of mystery and a need for background. This is one of the many reasons that D&D magic can often feel mundane and commonplace.

Assume for the moment that the first hurdle has been cleared. The item is known to be enchanted. How do the PCs discover what it does and how to use it? The most common answer I have seen to this question is to experiment. What does experimentation mean? For a potion, the convention is to take a small taste (enough, perhaps, to trigger a poison potion). But what about other kinds of items? Is it enough to pick up a wand and wiggle it? Is it enough to say “I experiment” in much the same way that, in some games, it is enough to say “I search for traps” without further detail? And, if so, how is the result determined? Must there be a diegetic aspect to the activation such as a control word that the players must discover by interacting with the campaign world? A diegetic method would be very engaging if you have such details prepared (or a method for generating them on the fly).
In my current game, I use a simplified version of the arcana skill (4E PHB page 181) for detection of non-obvious enchantment. Generally, I just make this a DC 15 arcana check available to characters that are trained in the skill. Sometimes I adjust the DC if there is some reason that someone might have been trying to conceal the magic (such as a trap), and sometimes I just assume that arcane classes can “pick up the vibes” (or whatever).

If I were starting a new B/X game, I would be sorely tempted to not give away which items are enchanted. It would make detect magic a more valuable spell. And it would give sages more play, as adventurers would need to get their loot examined to make sure that they were not accidentally selling some ancient artifact as a simple piece of jewelry. Even if you generate treasure by the book, I think this would result in fewer magic items in the campaign, which would make the items that were discovered that much more special.

Terrafugal Rope

A terrafugal rope is a length of rope (usually fifty feet) made of an unknown but vaguely silky material. These items fall up rather than down. If you release a terrafugal rope outside under open sky, it will fall up to the heavens, never to return. Terrafugal ropes will lift items less than their own mass, and will also function as negative encumbrance (that is, they will lighten loads by their encumbrance value).

Sages say that terrafugal ropes are:

  1. Woven from the manes of flying horses
  2. The uncoiled internals of antigravity plates from before the cataclysm
  3. Possessed by lobotomized air elementals
  4. Sky-serpent tadpoles planted in the underworld that yearn for the heavens
  5. Crafted from moon-grass smuggled from lunar enclaves
  6. A common magical research project for undergraduate magic-users

This was somewhat inspired by the light-seeking floating stone head in Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom.

Ancient Power Armor

Suits of ancient power armor are remnants from an age of lost technological marvels. Most suits will be found in varying levels of disrepair, and are sometimes mistaken for statues.

Power armor operators have AC as plate. The suit of armor has a pool of hit points which is depleted prior to the user taking any damage. Each suit of ancient power armor has a level, which corresponds to the number of hit dice rolled for max armor HP. For example, a 6th level suit of armor will have 6d8 HP. To randomly determine armor level, roll 2d4.

Movement while wearing power armor is 90′ (3/4 unencumbered human movement) but is not decreased further by any but the most extreme encumbrance. Depending on the suit in question, using conventional weapons may be awkward (resulting in an attack roll penalty).

There is a 50% chance that power armor will have offensive systems, which by default are a pair of energy canons (one mounted on each arm). Each blast consumes a charge from a super science battery, and does 1d8 damage per blast. Both arm canons may be fired in a single round.

Operating the power armor requires a successful “use super science” check. This is 1 in 6 for most classes, 2 in 6 for dwarves/engineers (*); the chance is also raised by 1 for high intelligence (13 or greater). No more than one check per character is allowed per suit. One check is required for mobility and defensive systems, another check is required for offensive systems, if they exist. A week of work, plus another successful super science check, will repair 1d8 HP worth of damage. Referee ruling may require special materials or GP expenditure as well.

When the power armor HP is reduced to 0, it ceases to function immediately, damaged beyond repair. Any extra HP damage spills over onto the user. Extraction from the suit requires 1d4 rounds and a successful strength check, or a full turn of careful manipulation.

In no circumstances can a wearer of power armor ever cast spells or use magic items.

Many varieties of ancient power armor exist. For example, some are designed to function underwater and supply oxygen. Others have variant offensive systems, such as flame throwers. Some suits of power armor also grant immunity to certain forms of attack, such as fire or electricity.

(*) I haven’t posted in detail about it yet, but the engineer is a human reskin of the dwarf B/X class.