2019/04/29

OSR: Magical Industrial Music and Jokes

Magical Industrial Revolution has very few long backstory sections. Instead, I've decided to add in little popular songs or jokes to provide a sense of immersion (if the GM feels like singing) or background (if not). I'm not sure how many of these will make it into the final book, or if they'll all end up in some disused appendix, but it's a fun exercise.
(Prof. Runcible is a lecturer on history at Loxdon College.)
Professor Runcible
Is easily distractable
And totally intractable
And utterly implacable
His eyebrows are impeccable
His knowledge undebatable
But quite incomprehensible
Is our Professor Runcible
(Fatty Satan is a large crocodile that allegedly lives under the New Bridge. He's wildly popular with children.)
Fatty Fatty Satan,
Knocking at the door.

Silly maid let him in
He tossed her to the floor.
Gobbled up the children,
They say he ate a score.
Fatty Fatty Satan,
Knocking at the door.


Fatty Fatty Satan,

Hiding in a lane.
The costermonger's daughter,
Was never seen again.
Coppers searched the town for him
He always gets away.
Fatty Fatty Satan,

Hiding in a lane.

Fatty Fatty Satan,
Went to school one day.
Teacher tried to whack him,

Teacher went away.
All the happy schoolboys
Cried hip hip hooray.
Fatty Fatty Satan,
Went to school one day.
(George Miles, the inventor of the Moving Miracle, has a well-known and much-mocked dream of one day reaching the moon. Here's a popular "love ballad" on the topic.)
Where are you going,
Oh Miles oh Miles,
Where are you going,
Oh Miles of mine?
To the moon my dear Fanny,
Oh Fanny oh Fanny,
To the moon my dear Fanny,
Oh Fanny of mine.

They say on the moon there's a queen dressed in silver

With ivory skin and a palace of songs
Oh Miles oh Miles, if e're you meet her,
Will you be content to return to my arms?


I'll pick for you Fanny a bundle of roses,
Silvery roses that grow on the moon.
Oh Fanny oh Fanny, I'll fly to you safely,
You know I'll return to your loving arms soon.


And how will you get there?

Oh Miles oh Miles,
How will you fly there,
Oh Miles of mine?

On a tower of magic,

Oh Fanny oh Fanny,
I'll toss up a tower,
Oh Fanny of mine.
(The introduction of Portable Room, extra-dimensional spaces that can be added on to existing buildings, solved the housing crisis in Endon but introduced new complications.)
I've a room of my very own I do,
A room of my very own,
At the back of a house,
At the top of the stairs,
Is a room to ease all my troubles and cares.
It's a comfortable room I know.
For everyone tells me so.
I've a room of my very own I do,
A room of my very own,
At the back of a house,

At the top of the stairs,
Through a cupboard or two,
And then over some chairs.
It's a comfortable room I know,
For everyone tells me so.

I've a room of my very own I do,
A room of my very own,
Through a cupboard or two,

And a hostler's shop,
It's quite a long climb,
To get to the top.
It's a comfortable room I know,
For everyone tells me so.

I've a room of my very own I do,
A room of my very own.

I've yet to go in for it takes me a day,
To get from the street to the room where I stay...
And then I turn round and return on my way,It's a comfortable room I know,
For everyone tells me so.

Jokes

The following jokes were written to match Punch Magazine's style; a bit clunky by modern standards but excellent for setting tone and adding flavour. Some of them were adapted from actual Punch cartoons.

SCENE: A Tax Collector visits the house of a woman with nine unmarried daughters.

TAX COLLECTOR: Now, have you any enchantments?
WOMAN: None but dear Bertha's eyes, and our Mabel's singing voice, and it has been said Christina's lips are bewitching...

QUESTION: Is eating polymorphed meat advisable?

ANSWER: Yes, if you have a polymorphed stomach.

SCENE: A wizard berates a group of apprentices. 
WIZARD: You foolish, lazy, untrustworthy wretches. Which one of you threw an apple at my experiment?
PASSER-BY: You are far too kind to your apprentices. Back at my shop in Redding Cross...
WIZARD: Redding Cross? Redding Cross? There is no Redding Cross anymore! Now which one of you threw an apple at my experiment?

SCENE: A doctor examines a patient.
DOCTOR: This is a very serious case. I prescribe a long ice-cold bath every morning.
PATIENT: Surely that will give me pneumonia.

DOCTOR: True, but I know how to cure pneumonia.

SCENE: A child questions a wizard on a park bench.
CHILD: Is teleportation quite safe?

WIZARD: Yes child, quite safe. [pats child on the head]
CHILD: There are no adverse effects?
WIZARD: None at all. [pats child on the other head].

SCENE: Two coal magnates examine a newspaper.
FIRST MAGNATE: Did you read this? Another hundred people suffocated in the night due to thick fog. This is terrible.

SECOND MAGNATE: Yes, terrible. I will raise funds at once.
FIRST MAGNATE: What for?
SECOND MAGNATE: To buy out the publishers of this d--ned paper.

QUESTION: If it is possible to polymorph a mouse into a whale, could the Prime Minister be polymorphed into a wise man?
ANSWER: Some things are not possible even with magic.

QUESTION: If one is served by an illusionary servant, is it correct to leave a gratuity?

ANSWER: No. The production of illusionary money is illegal.

SCENE: A very nervous apprentice wizard is examined by a circle of glowering masters.
APPRENTICE: The eight colours of light are... red... white... claret... port...
MASTER WIZARD: No no, start over. Red, orange...

APPRENTICE: Lemon... pine-apple...

2019/04/23

OSR: Fantasy Prosthetics

The Death and Dismemberment Table is harsh. Adventurers are likely to lose digits, eyes, and limb. In theory, though I don't have any options to support it currently, they could even start without them. Sometimes, taking an Early Retirement or Retiring to Safety is the only way out, but rich, ambitious, or desperate characters might seek ways to remain ready for adventure.
Late eighteenth century beggar, clearly a former soldier, with two wooden legs. A. Smit after Pieter Barbiers. (Rijksmusuem.)
Taken from this article.

Basic Tier

Available nearly everywhere. Made from locally sourced materials (wood, leather, bone, iron, etc.).

Artificial Leg / Peg Leg: reduces Movement by 2. If both legs are replaced, user requires crutches, and can only wield daggers or other small weapons and at a significant penalty.

Artificial Arm / Hook Hand: cannot use the hand. Sharp hands deal 1d4 damage on a hit. Slightly fancier versions can have alternate attachments (fork, knife, pen, etc.) or support a shield. If both arms/hands are replaced, user cannot wield weapons.

Eyepatch / Mask / Wooden Eyeball: covers the hole(s) in your head and some of your scars. No bonuses but it might stop people from staring.

Fancy Tier

Masterwork creations of clockwork, springs, wire, and wood, these expensive non-magical replacements are only available in large cities. They take at least a month to build and test.

Artificial Leg:
Reduces Movement by 2. Can include a hollow compartment that can hold 1 dagger, 1 wand, or 1 vial of liquid. If both legs are replaced, user requires crutches, and can only wield daggers or other small weapons and at a significant penalty. Has a knee.


Artificial Arm / Mechanical Hand: can use the hand for some tasks, but cannot wield weapons. Deals 1 damage on a hit. Makes a distinct ratcheting sound. Extremely fancy versions can have a concealed dagger inside.
 

Glass Eye / Silver Nose / Painted Face Mask: covers most of the damage. May only be noticeable within 5', and even then only if people are paying attention.
Pamplona Bible 1197, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 108, fol. 179r

Magical Replacements

The soul is approximately the same shape as the body. This explains why ghosts have mostly human forms and why absent limbs "tingle" or experience false pain. After a traumatic injury, it can take the soul a long time to adjust to the body's new proportions.

A magic prosthetic limb simply replaces the original, trapping a portion of the user's soul in the same  manner as an enchantment (or undead binding, though few artificers relish the comparison). For maximum integration, a magical prosthetic must be permanently fused with the user's bones and flesh.

1. Troll Limb

The cheapest and deadliest method. Find a troll of a suitable size, lop off a limb, and stick it on to your bleeding stump. Stitches are useful for the first few hours. If your immune system survives the shock, you'll have a fully operational and mostly obedient new limb. A troll arm is considerably stronger than a human arm (+1 Strength) and regenerates damage just like a full troll. If the user dies or suffers a serious illness, the troll arm colonizes the body, takes over, and creates a new (if somewhat undersized) troll.


2. Living Wood

A misnomer; the wood is usually dead and varnished. Carefully fitted silver joints, wood measured and carved exactly to match the user's other limb (if possible), and layers of delicate enchantments can replicate the form and function, if not the feel, of mortal flesh. Such items are legendary works, kept as ancestral relics or produced by master enchanters for royal patrons. Their owners would be wise to keep the limb covered near avaricious wizards.

Desperate fools sometimes attack dryads to use their limbs. It could work in theory. In practice, death and misery are the only results.

3. Ghost Limb

Enchantments bound to the stump stabilize the soul-projection of the user's arm. (Ghost legs, while possible, are significantly less useful.) The arm is ethereal and invisible, but it can lift intangible items, interact with illusions, hold ghosts, and sometimes meddle with poorly designed magical locks and enchantments. A sufficiently magical or self-willed person may not even need extra enhancement to wield a ghost limb.

4. Fire Limb

The sort of thing undergraduate elementalists invent to deal with coursework-related injuries. Fire limbs fuse a fire enchantment to the user's soul. The user can project a mostly functional limb made of flame. Unarmed attacks deal 1d6 fire damage, but the limb also deals 2 damage per round to the user. It's more of a fashion statement.

5. Skeleton Graft

Bone remembers. Skeletons are soul-shaped containers just waiting for a spare soul or suitably crafted spell to hop in. Necromancers can attach a dead limb (the user's, if available, is best) and use a few simple techniques to convince the user's soul to inhabit the remaining structure. Users often report unpleasant cold shivers and vivid nightmares. A skeleton arm is a great way to meet the local authorities and see an spontaneous community-based bonfire event.

6. Gem Eye

Fairly common among wizards. Find a suitably large gem, enchant it, bind it to the user's soul, hope for the best. Poor-quality enchantments provide a smeared oil-painting view of the material world. The finest let users see souls, magic, ley-lines, magnetic fields, or the location of the stars during daylight.

7. Illusions
Elf Wizards can beautify and de-age a target with magic. This can't replace lost limbs, but it might restore hideous facial wounds,  missing teeth, and other perils of adventuring.

João Bragato
8. Crossbow Limb
Is this a good idea? Probably not. But some people are going to try. The enchantments are just to ward off infection and stabilize the bow.

9. Snake Limb

One of those rituals wizards read about in books and shrug off as fiction. Find a suitably large snake (none from Around Here; maybe in Foreign Parts). Cut off its tail and bind it bone-to-bone. Mingle the snake's soul and the user's soul in a high-power marriage ceremony. The user gains a limb with astonishing flexibility and a potentially venomous bite. The snake gains free meals forever. Some personality changes are inevitable.

10. Powderkeg Leg

Invented at least three times on three separate occasions, a powderkeg leg contains a powerful magical or conventional motive force. The user might hop twenty feet on a smoking column of fire or sail gracefully across a canyon on a beam of raw magic. Lightning strikes, botched landings, and the wrath of people they crash into tend to shorten the lifespan of their users.

11. Enchanted Armour
Plate armour can sometimes be enchanted to combat the deficiencies of its occupant. Despite being blind, nearly deaf, dropsical, and eighty-nine years old, King Gundobart the Bad of Waxburg famously killed twenty knights in at the Battle of Bogwell, though it is documented that four knights were from his own retinue. The king's enchanted armour gave him great strength and ferocious battle-sense, if not the finesse that he might have desired.

12. Golem Limb

Baked clay and a carefully worded scroll. The user must speak commands: "step", "grasp", etc, but the limb often functions with all the strength and ability of a flesh one. A mis-spoken command or a damaged scroll can lead to disaster.

13. Mindspikes

Found in forgotten tombs or carved from the un-spines of mind-devouring parasites, these fabled implements allow one creature to experiences all the senses of another. Blinded and scarred wizards might drive one spike into their own skulls and a second into a trusted acolyte or loyal familiar. 
Dan Mason
14. Fingerworms

Fat pink worms with lamprey mouths. Stick them on your finger-stumps and they obey your commands and suck on your blood. They're not as strong as normal fingers and they tend to alarm people if discovered. In fact, why are these things even on this list? They're gross.

15. Force Projection
Rather than a full limb, a properly aligned spell creates a permanent force-plate where the foot or palm of the user would normally rest. It's only as effective as a peg leg or hook hand, but it's completely invisible. Swords and tripwires pass right through the space between plate and the stump.

16. Ear Trumpets

Screwed directly into the brain. In theory, they could be enchanted to merely replace lost hearing, but why stop there? Hear through walls, translate languages, detect secret whispers of conspiracy and murder. Wizards tend to go a little overboard. Prolonged used leads to madness.

17. Magic Blaster
More than one wizard, clutching the stump of their shorn-off arm and surveying the remains of their latest disastrous experiment, has wished for a cannon-hand. The process is very basic and only requires bone-level integration if the user wants to trigger the device at a thought. The wand-limb can fire anything a normal wand could; some have slots for several devices. Be prepared for the recoil.

18. Grappling Limb
Fires up to 20' of rope or chain with a magical claw on the end. Yanks the user around. This might seem convenient but the strain on a user's frame inflicts 1d6 damage with each use.

19. Omnieye

Paranoid wizards enchant orbiting eyes or spinning spheres that can look in all directions at once. Someone with 360' vision is difficult to surprise but rapid movement or tumbling results in crippling nausea. The presence of a medusa is also unwelcome.

20. Mutation

Just pump a whole bunch of raw magic into the afflicted area and see if something useful bubbles up. What's the worst that could happen?
Nikola Matkovic

Replacement Parts as Treasure

Put some of these in your dungeons. Characters are always losing body parts. If they can't use a replacement limb, somebody else can and they'll probably pay well for it.

Your average village witch or reclusive wizard probably won't fashion magical prosthetic, but a large college or conference will probably have someone with the right tools and mindset.

2019/04/17

OSR: Pirates of the Merabaha, Session 8 & 9

Last session, the reckless pirates of the good sloop Magnificent explored a mysterious pyramid, sunk a Tarraconese ship, stole some gold, looted some supplies, and decided to sail for the Isle of Dread.

Captain Beatrix, a Tarraconese carpenter and hustler. Leads by confidence and example.

John Wex the Bastard, a literate sailor with a love of tall tales.

Margarita Duerte, Tarraconese blacksmith and secret practitioner of the dark arts.

The Crew. Yes, the Crew are a PC. Some are seasoned pirates, some are Chultan villagers.
Lorenzo Nuti
The Magnificent sailed west, trying to catch unfamiliar winds and reach the fabled Isle of Dread. Their fragmentary charts showed the island's latitude but not its longitude; Captain Beatrix hoped she had procured sufficient supplies for the journey.

Three weeks west of Chult, the crew spotted a small rocky island not marked on any chart. Hopes of turning it into a pirate hideout were quickly dashed. The "island" was, in fact, the back of a giant sea-turtle. While John Wex was delighted to see an ancient myth confirmed, the rest of the crew insisted on sailing away as quickly as possible.

After another two weeks as sea, the ship sailed through a group of small wooden boats. Lit only by the moon, the crew peered over the rails at the swarm of empty vessels. "Shipwreck?" Margarita speculated. John Wex volunteered to board one and search for clues. To his shock and dismay, he discovered the boats were, in fact, boat-shaped lobster-things floating on the surface of the sea. He escaped with a few deep scratches. The crew opened fire from the deck of the Magnificent and steered away from the false-boats.

"This sea is cursed," John Wex said, spitting over the side.

"They don't call it the 'Isle of Happy Fun Times' ", Margarita sighed.

After three more weeks of calm sailing, with fresh water running low and "dancing rice" infesting the flour, the lookout spotted an unmoving bank of clouds on the horizon. The next day, the top of a plateau and a thin green line of trees moved into view. "Land ho!" the crew shouted.

"Don't be rude," Captain Beatrix said, "we'll make land when we make land."
The pirates approached the island from the southwest, staying well off the shoals and steering for the distant smoke of cooking fires. There were no signs of "proper" civilization; no other ships, no docks, no church towers. Several peaks on the island appeared to be volcanic. The rest was jungle, rocky spires, and mist-shrouded highlands.

Three small canoes rowed out to meet the Magnificent as she sailed east. The olive-skinned locals didn't speak any language the crew could understand, but Beatrix managed to convey non-hostility, friendly intentions, and willingness to trade. The canoes lead the sloop to a small village. None of the islanders appeared over-awed by the ship, indicating that this wasn't their first visit from an old-world vessel.

Very wisely, Beatrix decided on an initially cautious policy. She offered iron goods and even weapons to the local leader, an imposing and stout gentleman with a few gold rings and piercings. Slowly convinced of the crew's good will, more and more sailors were allowed off the ship. The villagers organized a feast of pork, fish, and a hundred kinds of mysterious plants. The crew ate heartily.

After the feast, the crew was delighted to discover that many of the locals were willing to offer more than food for iron and rum. The crew stripped the Magnificent of every small portable iron good they could find. For the rest of the journey, the entire crew - apart from the captain and quartermaster - ate their meals using one spoon passed from hand to hand.

Two days later, more canoes arrived from other islands to examine the curious ship and scruffy-bearded pirates. The new arrivals brought an interpreter; a captured slaver from an ill-fated raid. The slaver cursed and swore and hopped in circles, demanding freedom and vengeance. Captain Beatrix wrung all the information she could out of him, used him as a translator, found out the locals got their gold from "the Forbidden Island" to the north, thanked him, and sent him back into captivity.

The next morning, the Magnificent sailed north through the island channels. The much larger "Forbidden Island" was cut off from the rest of the chain by a huge basalt wall, built by techniques no old-world mason could fathom. Each block was the size of a cottage, fitted without mortar and carved without chisel marks. The crew stocked up on supplies, loaded their guns, and marched through the shallow bay on the north side of the wall. It was a grand expedition to the Isle of Dread.

It went about as well as you might expect.


Halil Ural
1.While crossing the bay, several crew members are devoured by giant crocodiles.
2. The party tried following an ancient half-overgrown road. They encountered a truly gigantic four-legged lizard that seemed to breathe acidic fog. They fled into the jungle and got lost.
3. While making camp, John Wex discovers a buried structure. It appears to be some sort of dry well or air shaft with an iron grate at the bottom. The group ignores it and settles down for the night.
4. The next day, John Wex and two pirates descend into the underground structure. They find a large frog idol with ruby eyes. John pries out one of the eyes, releasing a stream of clear liquid. He pries out the other eye, doubling the liquid flow, then decides to test if it's flammable by touching it with his torch.
5. The resulting explosion kills one of the crew member, destroys John's left eye, right arm, and most of his skin. Screaming and flailing, John is hauled to the surface and given the best available medical treatment: rum and rag bandages.
6. That night, several crew members are attacked by "ghoul-like" humans from the air shaft. The pale cannibals are driven back.
7. The crew mounts a full expedition into the underground structure. John Wex and two crew members are left on the surface.
8. The expedition disables a pit trap, discovers evidence of more ghoul-people, and finds a gigantic spiral staircase leading downwards. They descend and are attacked by a huge flying snake monster.
9. An epic fight ensues. The crew take many, many casualties. Captain Beatrix is swallowed by the snake and dies. Margarita, with near-suicidal bravery, destroys the creature's three ruby eyes, turning it back into stone. The creature's blood solidifies into rubies. The surviving crew members are rich beyond their wildest dreams.
10. On the surface, John Wex and his minders are attacked by ghoul-creatures. John decides to descend into the underground structure to search for the crew; they should have returned by now.
11. Unaware of the now-reset pit trap, John Wex falls in. A 8" iron spike punches through his head, poking out his other eye and shattering the socket. He is rescued by the crew.
12. Three days later, the remaining survivors drag both John Wex and huge sacks of rubies back to the basalt wall.
13. More crew members die to deadly spiders in camp. Their bodies are used to distract the crocodiles. The venomous spiders are stored in jars for later use.
14. Much diminished, the pirates flee the Isle of Dread for the safety of the Magnificent.

Blind, miserable, and on death's door, John Wex insists on being left with the islanders. He hoped his share of rubies and some hoarded gold will be enough to make his final days pleasant, or possibly enough to fund a slow and painful recovery.

The surviving crew elected Margarita Duerte as Captain.

Another group of islanders "trade" one of their captives to the pirates; a banker captured by the slavers and briefly held for ransom. Dorfina von Dusseldorf was delighted to be rescued. She was less delighted to find her saviors were pirates who immediately elected her quartermaster "for her figuring with numbers was beyond the knowing of the rest of us."

At Margarita's direction, the Magnificent set sail back to Chult. One last reminder of their time on the Isle of Dread reared its head after they were out to sea. A princess of the islands, named Celeste by the crew to avoid learning a new language, had crept aboard to see the world. Her haughty manners and strange beauty entranced the crew. Captain Margarita, baffled and a bit annoyed, tried to teach her as much Tarraconese and sailing knowledge as she could.

With sacks full of rubies resting in the hold, the pirate crew could now afford anything they could imagine. But would they live to spend their treasure, or would the unforgiving sea claim them?

Find out next time.

Martin Seidl
Notes: I've glossed over a lot of the interactions with the islanders. There were names, factions, etc, but I cant find that page of notes. No "zombie masters" or stuff like that, just a culture trying to deal with an outside context problem. The Isle of Dread felt a bit like Tahiti to me, so I took that as a starting point. And yes, the crew (despite being mixed-gender and fond of free association) really did trade all the ship's cutlery for sex. There is precedent.

It was kind of amusing to have Beatrix's player go, "These people really like rum! We could trade them a lot of rum for all their valuables, maybe set up a trade route, get them hooked... oh dear."

The PCs have take a fairly negative view of slavery for various in-character reasons. They're not going out of their way to wreck the trade, but opportunities to profit by it have been vigorously declined.

When speaking in character (as the captured slaver or other NPCs), it makes sense to refer to the islanders or Chultans as "savages" or "tribesmen" or "pygmies", etc, because that's how the NPC would see them and frame the discussion. Out-of-character, I've been very careful to stick to neutral descriptions. The players, consciously or not, seem to have picked up on the distinction.

2019/04/14

OSR: 10 Magical Murder Mansion Monsters

After many tests, I'm moving to the following system-less format for monster stats.

[Name]HD: # (~4x# HP)
Found In / Number Appearing:

Appearance:

Voice:
Wants:
Morality: 
Intelligence:

Armour:
Move:
Morale:
Damage:

[Other Info]
Konstantin Kostadinov
And here's the justification:
  • Name goes first, obviously, for indexing and reference purposes.
  • Found In / Number Appearing: I've given up putting condensed statblocks into room descriptions. It saves time if monsters have nothing going on but HD and armour but how likely is that? Instead, I've put a page # reference to the monster section. To make it easy to flip back to the right room without having to use a page marker, I've included the room #s below the monster name. Number Appearing is for non-dungeon bestiary entries.
    • A space because room #s can get confused with HD and HP#s without some way to separate them.
  • HD goes next because it's an immediate indicator of danger and it's probably the bit the GM will need to look at the most.
  • Appearance after that, because once the GM finds the monster they'll probably want to describe what the PCs see. Same with Voice.
  • Morality is an odd one. It lets me add a bit more flavour to a creature's behavior without taking up too much extra space. It works for NPCs and slimes alike.
  • Intelligence is another helpful tool for GMs. How well can the monster plan? Not a number, but a brief blurb.
    • There's a space between the "descriptive" entries and the "combat" entries to allow GMs to quickly look at the relevant section. It might not seem like much but it really does help.
  • Armour is expressed "as plate", "as leather", etc. Damage reduction and immunities go here.
  • Move is expressed as "normal" or "1/2 normal" or "fly 2x normal", etc.  Useful for chases.
  • Morale is a number from 2 (craven) to 12 (unbreakable).
  • Damage deals with attacks (e.g 1d6/1d6/1d8 claw/claw/bite) and attack modes (1d6 claw or 1d8 bite) fairly elegantly. Damage is at 
    • There's another space. This lets GMs scan upwards from the bottom of the statblock to quickly find the damage rolls for a monster.
  • Special abilities, spells, etc. go below the main statblock.
Konstantin Kostadinov

Examples

Here are 10 monsters from my upcoming dungeon, Magical Murder Mansion, a funhouse dungeon in the vein of Tomb of Horrors or Tegel Manor, but with a bit less cruelty. You can see all 90 rooms (and get a free PDF copy) by backing at the $5 level or above on Patreon. Two of the monsters are adapted from a previous post. Thanks to Chris Wilson and Brian Ashford for the prompts.


Ancestral Statue

Found In: 17: HALL OF ANCESTRAL STATUES, 55: STATUE ALCOVE.

HD:
5 (22 HP)

Appearance: glowering men and women in antique costumes. All resemble Hubert Nibsley.
Voice: dolorous gravely groans.
Wants: to protect Hubert Nibsley's good name,
Morality: not vindictive but very thorough.
Intelligence: as smart as a very obsessive person.

Armour: as plate. ½ damage from slashing/piercing weapons.
Move: ½ normal, cannot leap or swim.
Morale: 12

Damage: 1d12 bludgeoning.

Ancestral Statues will rarely pursue more than one or two rooms away from their starting location unless antagonized.

Bound Ghost

Found In: 1: CLOAKROOM, 15: BOILER ROOM, 25: SIDEBOARD, Random Encounter Table.

HD:
10 (40 HP)

Appearance: ragged white shape with a human face. Foggy scraps of livery, mournful eyes.
Voice: deeply depressed grumbling or unnatural screaming.
Wants: to repeat memories of life.
Morality: deeply confused.
Intelligence: disjointed, like pages of a book put back out of order.

Armour: as plate. Can only by harmed by silver (½ damage), spells, or magic weapons (full damage).
Move: normal, through floors and walls.
Morale: 7

Damage: touch inflicts 1d8 cold damage or target ages 2d20 years. Target's choice.

Bound Ghosts were Hubert Nibsley's attempt at solving the servant problem. It didn't work.



Coal Golem

Found In: 16: COAL STORAGE.

HD: 12 (50 HP)

Appearance: a pile of coal, animated jerkily. Huge coal-toothed head, short coal fingers.
Voice: inarticulate roaring.
Wants: to crush intruders and stuff them in its mouth.
Morality: blind rage.
Intelligence: dumb as a rock.

Armour: as leather.
Move: ½ normal.
Morale: 10
Damage: 1d8+2 bludgeon / 1d8+2 grab. If grab hits, next round will try to eat for 4d6 damage.

The Coal Golem takes double damage from fire. If set on fire, it takes 6 damage per round and fills the room with thick black smoke.



Corpulent Callowfex

Found In: 30: CALLOWFEX MAZE.

HD: 2 (12 HP), +1 HD (+6 HP) every time it is hit.
Appearance: a sad fat iguana with mange. Lunatic eyes.

Voice: grunting at 2 HD, screeching at 5 HD, megomanical speech at 10 HD.
Wants: to bite things, to rule the world.
Morality: millions of years of cold lizard loathing.
Intelligence: dumb at 2 HD but rapidly grows smarter.

Armour: as leather, but cannot take damage (see below).

Move: ½ normal at 2 HD, normal at 5 HD, 2x normal at 10 HD.
Morale: 8

Damage: 1d6+HD bite / 1d6+HD claw.

The Corpulent Callowfex is a backwards castoff from an orthogonal timeline. Don't worry about it too much. Nobody understands time travel anyway. It needs to die to live. Every attack that hits it give the Corpulent Callowfex +1 HD instead of dealing damage. As it gains HD it gains power. By 10 HD it is as intelligent as a person, as large as a velociraptor, and as mean as the devil.

Anything that does not deal damage affects the Corpulent Callowfex normally. Tying it up works. Running also works; it wants to break out of the Maze and the Mansion and wreak havoc in the city.

Dire Phantasm

Found In: 33: GARDEN, Random Encounter Table.
HD: 0 (1 HP)
Appearance: a disconnected collection of parts. Giant clawed feet. Scythe-like claws. Slavering maw, teeth like railroad spikes, red glowing eyes.
Voice: heavy breathing, occasional raspy wheeze.

Wants: to feed off ambient fear.
Morality: animalistic.

Intelligence: minimal.

Armour: as plate+shield, but automatically hit by area-of-effect attacks.
Move: 3x normal.
Morale: 5

Damage: none.

The Dire Phantasm is mostly illusory. It feeds off ambient fear. The creature itself resembles and eyeless tailless mouse, but it creates the illusionary impression of a much larger, much more fearsome creature stalking through the grass. It is exceptionally quick and can scamper out of sight and range with ease.


Kiln-Fired Zombie

Found In: 5: VELVET BEDROOM, 11: BUTLER'S ROOM, 21: TORTURE CHAMBER, 27: MAIDS' QUARTERS, 56: LOUNGE, Random Encounter Table.

HD: 2 (8 HP)
Appearance: shuffling human corpse with spots of light brown baked clay. Dried, seared flesh, dense thumping step. Sometimes dressed in burnt and tattered livery.
Voice: silent.
Wants: to wring the life out of people.
Morality: none.
Intelligence: none.

Armour: as leather. Reduces all incoming damage by 1.
Move: normal.
Morale: 12

Damage: 1d8. Always strikes last in combat. Will only attack or pursue things they can see.

Hubert Nibsley attempted to combine legal golem technology with illegal necromancy. The results are less than spectacular. Kiln-Fired Zombies are slightly more durable than traditional zombies but are equally lousy servants.

Laser Rat

Found In: 8: BROCADE BEDROOM, 18: SOUTHEAST TOWER, 85: ARMORY ALCOVE, Random Encounter Table.

HD: 0 (2 HP)
Appearance: fat brown or grey rat with a glowing third eye on its forehead.

Voice: angry squeaking.
Wants: food, warmth.

Morality: none.
Intelligence: feral cunning combined with magical enhancement.

Armour: none. 25% chance to resist magic.
Move: normal, can climb anything.

Morale: 5.
Damage: 1d4 bite or laser beam (rat goes last in combat. Inaccurate. 30' range, 2d6 damage, Save for half damage. Hits everything in a straight line, reflected by mirrors and shiny surfaces. One use per day, makes a warbling raygun noise, sets paper on fire.)

Escaped experiments. If startled and threatened, the rats will blast threats with inaccurate laser beams and flee into the walls. They could potentially be tamed or trained.

Thirty-Inch Bookworm

Found In: 9: RUINED BEDROOM.

HD: 12 (50 HP)
Appearance: Fat grey worm, 30" diameter, coated in slime and bits of paper. Rotating lamprey-toothed mouth, no eyes.

Voice: gurgling.
Wants: books, to protect its eggs.
Morality: none.
Intelligence: moronic but dedicated.

Armour: as leather.

Move: normal, charge 2x normal.
Morale: 10
Damage: 2d12 bite or 2d6 thrashing (hits all adjacent creatures) or 1d20 charge (move at least 30', knocks target prone on a hit).

The saliva of the Thirty-Inch Bookworm dissolves paper on contact, ruining books and reducing them to a nutritious grey sludge. The Bookworm will pursue anyone holding a book, but will otherwise only try to drive explorers away from its eggs.


Tooth Fairy

Found In: 70: TOOTH FAIRY INFESTATION.

HD: 0 (1 HP)

Appearance: tiny flying insect-like humanoid. Pincer claws like a crab, wings like a dragonfly.
Voice: high-pitched shrieking. Nails on glass.
Wants: teeth. 
Morality: sadistic.
Intelligence: dim but cruel.

Armour: as plate + shield. No armour against area-of-effect attacks.

Move: fly 2x normal.
Morale: 8
Damage: 1 prodding or 1d4 tooth removal (only if target is being attacked by at least 2 other Tooth Fairies.)

Vicious little parasites, Tooth Fairies will try to pry an isolated target's mouth open and pull out their molars. They can be distracted by additional teeth. The lay eggs in molars, which hatch in 20 days to produce another full-sized Tooth Fairy.

Wrestling Angel

Found In: 38: "GOOD" CHAPEL

HD: 11 (45 HP)

Appearance: 10' tall glowing human in a white robe. Beautiful, androgynous. Has a gold halo and huge white wings.
Voice: booming, good-natured, excited.
Wants: to wrestle.
Morality: utterly and totally good and kind. Still wants to wrestle.
Intelligence: credulous.

Armour: as plate. None against unarmed attacks. Immune to non-magical weapons, except for unarmed attacks.
Move: fly normal.
Morale: 12

Damage: special.

The Wrestling Angel will pick one person and ask them to wrestle. If they show any signs of agreeing, or even if they hesitate, the Angel will try to grab them and throw them. The Angel does 1d4 temporary Constitution or Strength damage on a hit, or 2d4 if the Angel decides to throw their opponent through some pews. Using weapons will be greeted with "THAT'S CHEATING" and a vicious elbow to the stomach. It treats anyone who attacks it as an opponent and everyone else as an audience member. Once all opponents have been reduced to 0 Strength or Constitution, the Wrestling Angel struts around for a few seconds then ascends in a beam of light. Characteristic damage inflicted this way heals in 1hr and cannot kill a person.

Angel blood heals all wounds. A dead angel is worth at least 5,000gp but will probably attract questions.

2019/04/09

OSR: AD&D Artifact Generation

The Artifacts section in the AD&D DMG is a bit of a mess.

Artifacts are very powerful unique magic items. You've probably heard of the Hand of Vecna (or maybe the Head of Vecna). They have some fixed powers and some powers and drawbacks selected from list by the GM. They are typically found at the bottom of supremely murderous dungeons or equally dangerous and challenging locations. Searching for one could take years. Hirelings and minions can't be trusted with artifacts. Destroying an artifact is an enormously difficult endeavor.

Jeff Rients has a handy list of canonical AD&D artifacts
. Over at Dreams in the Lich House, there's a neat article on the implied design of artifacts and some of the drawbacks of the system.

There's a time and a place for artifacts that break all the rules, but the AD&D artifacts have kind of grown on me. They are, for the most part, created things, built by mortal or near-mortal hands using tools and components theoretically available to the PCs. They are the masterwork creations of mad geniuses. In the spell paradigm I use, they're essentially machines made of spells; self-repairing, supremely powerful, harmoniously configured (down to the use of pin-sized gemstones and gold foil), incredibly difficult to build, tune, and activate. Each one is the work of a lifetime.


Revision Principles

1. Get rid of the A-ZZ tables, convert to rollable d50/d20/d10 versions with categories wherever possible.
2. Combine duplicate effects. Does a list really need both audible glamer and ventriloquism?
3. Where possible, remove references to specific spells and condense the effects. AD&D's spell list is a nightmare to navigate, especially in the middle of a session.
4. Ensure downsides are interesting and possible to work around, manipulate, or exploit. 
5. Provide some sort of framework for GMs to build their own artifacts or effects.

I've always been a fan of giving players way too much power and watching what happens. It usually ends brilliantly. People seek revenge, try to build kingdoms, cheat their allies, betray their friends, summon horrors from bottomless hells and forget how to send them back, etc, etc. Accept that an artifact will probably change your campaign world. That's completely fine. If you didn't want your campaign world to change you shouldn't have run a game in it.

Source unknown.

The Artifact Tables

I've kept the same order and roman numeral scheme for full compatibility with existing artifacts. Some of the effects are new or substantially rewritten. Occasionally I've preserved a really evocative phrase.

Passive abilities are always on. Unlimited effects can be activated any number of times per day. Other abilities have a set number of times they can be used in a day, week, or month.

1d50

Table I: Minor Benign Powers


General 1d10
1 Add +1 to a random stat. Passive 1
2 User only needs to eat or drink once per week. Passive 2
3 Vastly extended lifespan (+10x normal lifespan). Passive 3
4 Bless a small group, granting +1 Morale, +1 to Hit for 6 rounds. Does not stack. Unlimited 4
5 Curse a small group, granting -1 Morale, -1 to Hit for 6 rounds. Does not stack. Unlimited 5
6 Create a number of food and water rations equal to the user's level. 1 time/day 6
7 Plunge up to a 15' radius in supernatural darkness for up to 1 hour. 3 times/day 7
8 Create a light as bright as a torch for 3 hours. 7 times/week 8
9 Heal a touched target for 1d8 HP. 7 times/week 9
10 Harm a touched target for 1d8 damage. 7 times/week 10
Detection 1d10
11 60' heat vision (infravision).  Passive 1
12 60' black-light vision (ultravision). Passive 2
13 30' soul vision (can see ghosts and spirits). Passive 3
14 User can touch a living creature to learn its true name. Passive 4
15 Can concentrate to hear through nonmetal walls up to 10' thick. Unlimited 5
16 Can concentrate to see any known location within 1 mile. Unlimited 6
17 Can see invisible creatures and objects for 1 minute. 3 times/day 7
18 Detect magic  and gain a vague idea of its strength and type for 1 minute. 3 times/day 8
19 Telepathic communication with any friendly person within 60' for 1 minute. 3 times/day 9
20 See location of traps and secret doors for 1 minute. 3 times/day 10
Movement and Language 1d10
21 Wearer does not leave tracks, disturb dust, leave a scent. Passive 1
22 Immune to falling damage (stop and hover at the last possible moment). Passive 2
23 User can walk on water or choose to sink.  Passive 3
24 User gains a fly speed of 60' per round for 1 hour. 1 time/day 4
25 Teleport to a visible location within 30'. 3 times/day 5
26 User can read, speak, and understand all mortal languages. Passive 6
27 User can ask a fresh corpse or ghost 3 questions and receive true answers. 1 time/day 7
28 User can mark a surface with up to 100 words in magic ink. 3 times/day 8
29 User can speak with a targeted plant. 3 times/day 9
30 User can speak with a targeted animal. 3 times/day 10
Defense 1d10
31 +2 to all Saves against magic Passive 1
32 User reduces all physical damage by 1. Passive 2
33 Immune to mind-altering effects (charm, fear, etc.), scrying, and divination. Passive 3
34 Immune to disease. Passive 4
35 Immune to gas of any type. Passive 5
36 Immune to hold person spells, manacles, binding. Can freely step out. Passive 6
37 Reduce one type elemental damage type (fire, cold, lightning, or acid) by 3. Passive 7
38 Artifact cannot be dropped, lost, or removed permanently from living user. Passive 8
39 Enemies must Save to attack user. 1 minute duration. 1 time/day 9
40 Improved invisibility for 1 minute (can still attack). -4 to hit wearer. 3 times/day 10
Misc. 1d10
41 User can breathe water as well as air. Passive 1
42 Summon a 10' cube within 100' with sticky webs. Save to move while inside. 1 time/day 2
43 Summon a 50' cube of light fog. 10' visibility, lasts 1 hour. 1 time/day 3
44 Create an obedient 10'x10' force field for 1 hour.  +4 Defence/AC on one facing. 3 times/day 4
45 Create an illusionary sound. Up to 10 minutes, up to a shout in volume.  3 times/day 5
46 Touch a small mundane item to repair it. 3 times/day 6
47 Extinguish all non-magical light sources in a 50' radius. 3 times/day 7
48 When revealed, creatures within 10' and line of sight must Save or be fascinated. 3 times/day 8
49 All creatures in a 30' cone must Save or be stunned for 2d6 rounds. 3 times/day 9
50 Raise a 1 HD zombie or skeleton under the user's control. 7 times/week 10



1d50

Table II: Major Benign Powers


General 1d10
1 +2 damage to all melee and non-magical ranged attacks Passive 1
2 Cure blindness by touch. Unlimited 2
3 Cure deafness by touch. Unlimited 3
4 Cure non-magical disease by touch. Unlimited 4
5 Strength becomes 22, +10 melee damage for 6 rounds. 1 time/day 5
6 Fully heal a touched target and remove all non-magical diseases. 1 time/day 6
7 Reduce a target to 0 HP and inflict a random non-magical disease. 1 time/day 7
8 Heal a touched target for 2d8+1 HP. 3 times/day 8
9 Harm a touched target for 2d8+1 damage. 3 times/day 9
10 Remove a curse by touch. 7 times/week 10
Detection and Transformation 1d10
11 X-ray vision (can see through 20' of nonmetal nonmagical material). Passive 1
12 See all invisible things, secret doors, illusions, etc. for 10 minutes. 1 time/day 2
13 All illusions within 100' are dispelled for 24 hours. 2 times/day 3
14 A spell or enchantment within 50' must Save or be dispelled for 24 hours. 2 times/day 4
15 All ghosts or spirits within 10' must Save or leave the area. 2 times/day 5
16 Animate and command touched object smaller than a cow for 10 minutes. 1 time/day 6
17 Turn up to 6x 10' cubes of rock into mud. 2 times/day 7
18 Create 6x 10'x10'x1' thick panels of fire (2d6 damage to cross) for 1 hour. 2 times/day 8
19 Create 6x 10'x10'x1' thick panels of thorns (1d4 damage) for 4 hours. 2 times/day 9
20 Create 6x 10'x10'x1' thick panels of ice for 6 hours. 2 times/day 10
Creatures and Control 1d10
21 Touched creatures must Save or be paralyzed for 1d4 rounds. Passive 1
22 Animals of 2 HD or less will not attack user. Passive 2
23 User can appear as any human-sized animal for up to 6 hours. Unlimited 3
24 All creatures in a 50' cone must Save vs. Fear. Unlimited 4
25 Up to 8 creatures within 100' must Save or be stunned for 2d6 rounds. 1 time/day 5
26 Create an illusion of a deadly monster for 6 rounds. 2 times/day 6
27 Person must Save or obey one simple non-damaging suggestion. 2 times/day 7
28 Up to 8 nearby animals of up to 32 total HD are called to aid the user. 2 times/day 8
29 Target person must Save or regard the user as a good friend for 12 hours. 7 times/week 9
30 Target animal must Save or regard the user as a good friend for 12 hours. 7 times/week 10
Attack and Defense 1d10
31 +2 Defense/AC Passive 1
32 Regenerate 2 HP per turn (unless dead). Passive 2
33 10' radius sphere prevents any low-level magic from entering for 6 rounds. 1 time/day 3
34 Melee damage dealt to user dealt back double to attacker for 6 rounds. 2 times/day 4
35 One creature or object up to a 10' cube in size must Save or disintegrate. 1 time/day 5
36 All wood within 50' must Save or turn to splinters, be flung 30' away. 1 time/day 6
37 50' cone, 10d4+10 cold damage, Save for half. 2 times/day 7
38 100' range, 20' blast radius 8d6 damage fireball, Save for half. 2 times/day 8
39 100' straight line, 10d6 lightning damage, Save for half.  2 times/day 9
40 Fire 3 magic missiles. Each has 100' range, 1d4+1 damage, cannot miss. 3 times/day 10
Movement 1d10
41 Double movement speed (on foot). Passive 1
42 User can move backward or diagonally as fast as they could move forward. Passive 2
43 User and up to 3 touched targets can act twice per round for 6 rounds. 1 time/day 3
44 User and up to 3 touched targets teleport anywhere within 100 miles. 1 time/day 4
45 Immobilize up to 4 creatures for 1d4 rounds, Save negates each round. 1 time/day 5
46 100' range, 20' radius explosion. All creatures in the area act at 1/2 speed. 1 time/day 6
47 User can alter gravity's direction in a 50' radius for 1 hour. 1 time/day 7
48 Teleport anywhere within 100'. 2 times/day 8
49 Telekinetically move up to 500lbs, speed up to 10'/round, for 10 rounds.  2 times/day 9
50 Create a 5' wide, 8' high, 10' deep passage through stone or other walls. 2 times/day 10



1d20

Table III: Minor Malevolent Effects

1 User's eyes become pure black or white orbs.
2 User visually ages 2d20 years on first use of the artifact.
3 User skin is covered in magic sigils and lines on first use of the artifact.
4 User's hair becomes pure white.
5 Tremendous noise when a Major or Prime power is used.
6 Blindness for 1d4 rounds when a Major Power is used.
7 Deafness for 1d4 rounds when a Major or Prime power is used.
8 -2 to all Saves vs. Magic
9 -2 to all Saves vs. Poison
10 -2 to all Saves vs. Fear
11 Use of a Major or Prime power alters local weather.
12 Minor cosmetic blemishes (acne, warts, skin flakes, splotches).
13 User's touch rots and blights green plants in 1 hour.
14 User's touch rots food in 1 hour.
15 User's touch rots wood in 1 day.
16 User covets the artifact, will not go more than 24hrs without holding it.
17 User must eat and drink six times the normal amount.
18 User must spend 1 round doing nothing after using a Major or Prime power.
19 The user is deluded into believing any plan they come up with is perfect.
20 User's shadow acts out their hidden desires.



1d20

Table IV: Major Malevolent Effects

1 Lose 1 level of XP on  first use of each of the artifact's Major or Prime powers.
2 Save or Die on first use of each of the artifact's Major or Prime powers.
3 After using a Major or Prime power, user takes 2d6 damage. 
4 After using a Major or Prime power, user takes 3d10 damage. 
5 After using a Major or Prime power, user takes 1 permanent HP damage.
6 After using a Major or Prime power, user takes 1 permanent damage to a random Stat. Always the same Stat for an artifact.
7 After using a Major or Prime power, user goes berserk and must attack any creature within 20' randomly for 2d6 rounds.
8 After using a Major or Prime power, user ages 2d10 years.
9 Artifact was built with a purpose in mind. If it is not being used for this purpose, user must Save before using a Major or Prime power. On a failed Save, the user takes 1d6 damage and the power fails to work.
10 Artifact is intelligent and self-willed. Must be convinced into acting or it will turn its powers against the user.
11 Yearning to be worshipped is uncontrollable. The user must Save or attack anyone who is insufficiently reverent.
12 Artifact contains the soul of a past user. After 2d6 uses of a Major or Prime power, the user's soul is drawn into the artifact and replaced with the soul of a past user.
13 Magic is drained from the most powerful non-artifact magic item within 20' every 1d6 uses of a Major or Prime power.
14 After 2d6 uses of a Major or Prime power, user is sucked into another dimension/evaporates/sublimates/ascends to the afterlife.
15 Sacrifice a certain creature to activate the artifact for 1 day.
16 Sacrifice a person to activate the artifact for 1 day.
17 Sacrifice 1,000gp in gold and gems to activate the artifact for 1 day.
18 Artifact can only be used during the day / during the night.
19 Item is powerless against 1-3 species of creatures.
20 10% cumulative chance every time a Major or Prime power is used that a random limb or facial feature rots and falls off. Chance resets every time a limb or feature is lost.

If a Minor or Major Malevolent Effect says it activates "After using a Major or Prime power", and the ability is Passive, the Malevolent Effect either activates whenever the power becomes relevant for the first time that day, at dawn each day, or not at all if the effect is relatively minor.


1d50

Table V: Prime Powers


General 1d10
1 All of the users stats are raised by +2 (18 maximum). Passive 1
2 Three of the user's stats are raised to 18. Always the same stats for an artifact. Passive 2
3 One of the user's stats is permanently raised to 19. Always the same stat for an artifact. Passive 3
4 The user can cast any number of low-level spells simultaneously. Passive 4
5 User can transform a creature or object into any other creature or object for 6 hours. Creatures can Save to negate. 1 time/day 5
6 User and up to 20 other creatures gain a fly speed of 80' per round for 6  hours. 1 time/day 6
7 User and up to 20 other creatures are transported anywhere in Creation. 1 time/day 7
8 Turn lead, straw, or blood into up to 1,000gp in pure gold. Does not count for XP purposes. 1 time/week 8
9 One wish. No strings attached. 1 time/week 9
10 Create a simple tower, keep, wall, or other stone building. Up to 200x 10' cubes of stone. Stone roofs and floors free. Minimal interior fixtures. 1 time/month 10
Detection and Healing 1d10
11 Artifact warns user of impending death. The next time the user would die, they somehow manage to escape death and return with 1 HP. Passive 1
12 User knows the location of one person or item and a path to reach them, no matter how improbable, unique, or difficult. 1 time/day 2
13 User can identify the type, power, creator, condition, etc. of all magic items touched for 1 hr. 1 time/day 3
14 Gain guidance from an extremely powerful demon, angel, or other supernatural figure. 1 time/day 4
15 Transmit a simple short message to all people within 10 miles of the artifact. This also reveals the user's appearance and approximate location. 1 time/day 5
16 Touched creature or object is locked in temporal stasis for a number of years chosen by the user. No Save. Can be cancelled with a second use of this ability. 1 time/day 6
17 User or one touched creature is fully healed and gains +10 temporary HP. 1 time/day 7
18 Reverse level drain by 1 level. Heal all temporary stat damage. 1 time/day 8
19 Restore a mostly intact corpse to life. 7 times/week 9
20 Youth restored to touched creature. 1 time/month 10
Mass Alteration 1d10
21 All creatures within 1 mile, except those designated by the user, must Save or fall asleep for 6 hours or until awoken by damage. 1 time/day 1
22 Up to 50 people within line of sight of the user must Save or regard the user as a good friend for 12 hours. 1 time/day 2
23 All plants within 10 miles wither, shrivel, and die. Large or magical plants may get a Save. 1 time/month 3
24 All crops and livestock within 10 miles become healthier and more fertile.  1 time/month 4
25 A dense forest is planted in a 10 mile radius. It will grow unnaturally quickly, reaching full maturity in 6 months. Buildings, roads, etc. will be disrupted and damaged. 1 time/month 5
26 An earthquake shakes everything within 1 mile, collapsing buildings and tunnels, hindering movement, and shaking trees. 1 time/month 6
27 Alter weather for at least 1 week in a 100 mile radius. Can only create weather that could naturally occur during the season.  1 time/month 7
28 All corpses within 1 mile rise as skeletons or zombies. They are not under the control of the user. 1 time/month 8
29 All undead of 3 HD or less within 1 mile are destroyed. 1 time/month 9
30 All animals within 1 mile grow hostile and unnaturally violent towards people and each other for 6 hours. 1 time/day 10
Attack and Summoning 1d10
31 User deals +1 magic damage per damage dice used in a spell. Passive 1
32 Single creature the user can see must Save or Die messily. 1 time/day 2
33 Up to 10 living creatures with total HD of 20 or less that the user can see die. No Save. 1 time/day 3
34 100' range, 8x 20' blast radius 8d6 damage fireballs, Save for half. 1 time/day 4
35 Up to 10 creatures or 10x 10' cubes of material must Save or disintegrate. 1 time/day 5
36 Summon a 20' square of insects, arachnids, and vermin for 10 minutes. Moves 10'/round, can climb walls. Any living creature touched by the swarm must Save or die. Must remain within 100' of user. 1 time/day 6
37 Summon an extremely powerful demon, angel, or other supernatural figure. Does not necessarily obey user. 1 time/day 7
38 Up to 32 nearby animals of up to 64 total HD are called to aid the user. 2 times/day 8
39 Summon up to 8x 16 HD elementals of one type (fire, water, cold, lightning, stone, or acid) for 24 hours. 1 time/week 9
40 Imprison target creature or object in an extradimensional prison. Target is in a state of suspended animation. Can only be retrieved with a ritual using the target's and the user's true name or by a second use of this power. 1 time/week 10
Defense 1d10
41 50% magic resistance. Passive 1
42 75% magic resistance. Passive 2
43 Immune to all non-magical physical damage. Passive 3
44 Immune to one type elemental damage type (fire, cold, lightning, or acid). Passive 4
45 Total resistance to heat or fire for all creatures within 20' of the artifact. Passive 5
46 Total resistance to cold or ice for all creatures within 20' of the artifact. Passive 6
47 No ghost or spirit can approach within 20' of the artifact. Passive 7
48 Spellcasting by anyone but the user is impossible within 20' of the artifact. Passive 8
49 All spells or enchantments within 50' must Save or be dispelled for 24 hours. 1 time/day 9
50 User absorb and cancel up to 20 levels worth of spells cast targeting anything within 50' of the artifact. 1 time/day 10



1d10

Table VI: Side Effects

1 Goals and desires of user permanently changed to goals and desires of the artifact or artifact's creator.
2 User's missing limbs or features replaced with nonfunctional marble, paper, wood, or metal facsimiles.
3 Using a Major or Primary power requires all creatures within 20' of the item, including the user, to Save vs. Fear.
4 Using a Major or Primary power requires all creatures within 20' of the item, including the user, to Save or become incredibly clumsy, dropping any held items (including the artifact).
5 Anyone who sees the artifact must Save or covet it. Friends and allies of the user have a bonus to Save.
6 User's touch inflicts poison (Save on contact, 1d4 damage per round for 1d6 rounds).
7 After using a Major or Primary power, 50% of all gold and gems within 10' of the item vanishes.
8 After using a Major or Primary power, user becomes ethereal until no longer stressed. 5% cumulative chance the user will become ethereal whenever a stressful situation occurs, remaining ethereal until stress is removed.
9 User has limited omniscience. Once per session, may ask the DM one question and receive an honest answer.
10 User cannot touch or be touched by metal, even magical metals, other than the artifact. Metal simply passes through the user's body as if it did not exist.
JakSavageFashion
The Teeth of Dahlver-Nor never looked so appealing.

Designing Artifacts

When selecting abilities, try to ensure the artifact's powers can't be used to cancel its malevolent effects (e.g. the artifact drains Charisma but can also set the user's Charisma to 19 at any time).

Try to decide how the artifact's creator dealt with its malevolent effects or drawbacks. How has it been used to change the world already? Where is it now?

The non-table effects and powers of an item should be powerful, weird, and exciting. The table stuff is also just a starting point? The Ur-Ooze of G'ront can summon oozes instead of elementals; the Calculating Sin Engine brings down fire and brimstone.

It seems that the number of Major and Prime powers is related to an item's portability or difficulty of assembly. A portable sword will be less potent than a seven-part rod or a giant delicate machine.

How Many of Each?

It varies. Check the AD&D DMG for examples.
Table I: Minor Benign Powers. Two or three per artifact. Typically level 1-3 spells.
Table II: Major Benign Powers: One or two per artifact. Typically level 4-8 spells.

Table III: Minor Malevolent Effects: One or two per artifact.
Table IV: Major Malevolent Effect: One or two at most. Possibly zero.
Table V: Prime Powers: One or two at most. Possibly zero.
Table VI: Side Effects. One, possibly zero. This table is a weird mix of benefits and penalties. Not sure what the original goal was, but use it to balance or round out an artifact.

Example 1: The Wand of Orcus

In my setting, Orcus is hell's own inquisitor, tasked with locating lost souls, the risen dead, and anyone else trying to evade their appointed afterlife. Orcus cheerfully operates on the "kill 'em all, sort 'em out later" plan.

Anyone (barring other divine figures) struck by the wand must Save or Die. In addition, the wand grants the following powers:


Minor Benign Powers (x4)
Reduce one type elemental damage type (fire) by 3. Passive
30' soul vision (can see ghosts and spirits). Passive
User can ask a fresh corpse or ghost 3 questions and receive true answers. 1 time/day
User gains a fly speed of 60' per round for 1 hour. 1 time/day


Major Benign Powers (x2)
One creature or object up to a 10' cube in size must Save or disintegrate. 1 time/day
Create 6x 10'x10'x1' thick panels of fire (2d6 damage to cross) for 1 hour. 2 times/day


Minor Malevolent Effects (x2)
User's eyes become pure black orbs.
User's touch rots and blights green plants in 1 hour.


Major Malevolent Effects (x1)
After using a Major power, user ages 2d10 years.


Side Effects (x1)
Goals and desires of user permanently changed to goals and desires Orcus (return undead to the afterlife, ensure sinners are rewarded, support the Authority's plan).

The wand's minor powers are fairly useful, but if the whole life-force-drain thing can be solved somehow, the wand's major powers can be used more-or-less constantly. It's just a matter of getting some extra years...

The wand is currently a secure vault in the Underpalace of the Arch-Lich Hronigal Sputomungus.

Example 2: Invulmnerable Coat of Arnd (altered)

Suiting up is a primordial feeling. Put on armour. Gird your loins. Tighten straps. Select equipment. Stride out, prepared and invincible, whether you're wearing full plate or winged eyeliner. It's pretty much Iron Man's core character concept.

This whole article came out of an idea; what would a paranoid wizard's armour look like? Mage armour, but liquid-fast, tied to a suite of other spells and detectors. I'd want to provide base but add some degree of customization for other GMs. Does AD&D have anything that would fit? Of course it does.

The Personal Fortress of Cheston Vole covers the wearer's entire body. While dormant, it consists of eight rings and an amulet, all made from the same very dense metal. It activates if:

-the user speaks a command word
-the user takes any damage
-the user, or an area within 20' of the user, is targeted by a spell

While active, the user is immune to all physical damage. The artifact adds +5 to all Saves, protects the user from non-magical fires, and reduces all fire damage by 2 per damage dice. The user is completely immune to acid, cold, and lightning.

Minor Benign Powers (x3)
Immune to gas of any type. Passive
Immune to hold person spells, manacles, binding. Can freely step out. Passive
All creatures in a 30' cone must Save or be stunned for 2d6 rounds. 3 times/day


Major Benign Powers (x2)
User and up to 3 touched targets can act twice per round for 6 rounds. 1 time/day
Strength becomes 22, +10 melee damage for 6 rounds. 1 time/day


Minor Malevolent Effects (x2)
User skin is covered in magic sigils and lines on first use of the artifact.
User covets the artifact, will not go more than 24hrs without holding it.


Major Malevolent Effects (x1)
Magic is drained from the most powerful non-artifact magic item within 20' every 1d6 uses of a Major or Prime power.


Prime Powers (x1)
User and up to 20 other creatures gain a fly speed of 80' per round for 6  hours. 1 time/day


Side Effects (x1)
After using a Major or Primary power, 50% of all gold and gems within 10' of the item vanishes.

The artifact is currently worn by its creator, Cheston Vole, a naturally timid and reclusive wizard who keeps a meticulously danger-free routine. He thinks everyone's out to kill him. If more people knew what the amulet and rings he wear did, they'd be right. The only trick is getting the artifact off him; it's not his only defense and he's a very light sleeper. It's so magic-hungry it converts gold and gems into raw magic to fuel its incredible abilities. Cheston Vole keeps all his money in the bank.

The amulet and rings separately might confer some of the Minor Benign powers, but the whole set is needed to get the full effect.

In Conclusion

I hope this article has revived some interest in the oft-overlooked artifacts section. If you build a particularly neat artifact, drop a link in the comments.