So Monte Cook (Prolific game designer and one of the minds behind Type III D&D) is writing a weekly column for WotC on their D&D site. In one of his columns he discusses magic items and their roles throughout the history of D&D, and how best they should be implemented.
In Fourth Edition, magic items are treated more like mundane gear; essential to character advancement and a mechanical expectation by players. Like a lot of other DMs, especially some in the DIY D&D scene, I feel like this treatment of magical items is ill-suited to D&D.
Magic items should never, ever feel mundane or ordinary.
Magic is wondrous and amazing and awe-inspiring and terrible! It should never become mundane, boring, or worst of all, a mechanical expectation.
So, here's my advice to you if you're running or playing in a 4e D&D game. Throw away all of your assorted +1, +2, and +3 trinkets and knick-knacks. Just toss them in your medieval fantasy dustbin. Right now. Here, I'll wait.
Thrown them away yet? Good.
Here's 10 magical items that really emphasize the fact that they're magical. They all work mechanically with the game, as well as provide a number of cool perks that fall outside of the rules. They're useful at any level of play, and all of them fall outside of the realm of "+1 bonuses".
1. Helm of Deceit
This cold iron helm is wrought with rubies and imbued with the souls of liars. It is said to have belonged to a demon prince, who lost it in a game of chance. He now desperately seeks to reclaim it.
-Once per day, you can tell a perfect lie. This lie will be believed by anyone you tell it to. Once told, you lose 3 healing surges for that day.
2. Amulet of the Succubi
This silver amulet is warm to the touch. It is a piece of solid silver, shaped to look like two eyes. It was made by the succubi of the Nine Hells, and is rumored to have ruined the lives of many lovers.
-Once per day, you can automatically succeed at any Bluff, Intimidate, Diplomacy, or Streetwise check, no matter the DC. Once used, however, you take a -5 penalty to all Athletics checks for the remainder of the day.
3. Ancient Wizard's Hat
This dusty, ratty-looking old pointed hat has graced the head of many wizards over the centuries. It has absorbed much of their sweat, hard work, and toil, and has been imbued with their power. Some say it belonged to the most hated mage in the world, while others think it belonged to your ancestors.
-Must be an Arcane class to use.
-Once per day you can double the damage of one rolled magical attack, or you can automatically succeed at any one Arcana check, no matter the DC.
4. Demon's Tongue Charm
Gross. The severed tongue of a demon, cauterized and tied with a leather strap. If you listen close to it, it's said you can hear the words spoken by demons and their kind.
-Allows the wearer to understand and speak Abyssal (or any demonic language).
-Holding it gives you kinship with any demons/demonic folk.
-Can be used as a Holy Symbol.
5. Totem of the Goblin Queen
This small goblin statuette is carved out of jade. It is imbued with eerie goblin magic, and many people claim that it is cursed. If it is taken from a goblin stronghold/dungeon/empire/temple, it confers its magic to the user.
-Once per day, you can activate the totem and make an Arcana check (High DC). If successful, you can use it to shrink one target to exactly one foot in height. This spell effect lasts 1d4 hours.
-If you fail the Arcana check, you are shrunk instead. This spell effect lasts 1d4 hours.
-The target's clothing/armor shrink with them. Their weapons do not.
-If you purposefully try to shrink yourself, the totem vanishes. It will reappear in a different dungeon.
6. Baby's First Summoning Staff
New from the Sorceress's Hegemony, it's an introductory summoning staff, able to rip a hole in reality and pull a creature from the void to do your bidding. Don't be shy now, give it a wave. Ages 11 and up.
-Roll a d6. You summon one of the following creatures. Creatures disappear at the end of the encounter:
1) Brain-slug. Toss this slug at an enemy as a ranged attack. If the attack hits, the slug dominates the target, obeying your command. Save ends.
2) Two-headed Scorpion Cat. Minion. AC 18 Fort 17 Ref 16 Will 15. Speed 7. Attack: Poison stinger +5 vs Fort, 1d6+5 poison damage.
3)Lesser Air Elemental Twister. Roll a d20. If you roll 11 or higher, the air elemental appears on top of an enemy. It tosses said enemy and anyone else in a close burst 1, 1d6x10 feet in the air. They take the appropriate falling damage.
-If you roll 10 or lower, the air elemental appears in your square, tossing you and anyone else in a close burst 1, 1d4x10 feet in the air. You take the appropriate falling damage.
-After this appearance, the air elemental fades away.
4) Little Tentacled Abomination. Select one enemy. The slimy tentacle monster appears in a square adjacent to the enemy. It makes a single attack with all of its tentacles at once (+7 vs Reflex). If it hits, the enemy is inflicted with 10 ongoing tentacle damage (Save ends). If the attack misses, the monster dematerializes. Once the enemy has saved, the monster dematerializes.
5) Key-shaped Mouse. This tiny mouse can magically take the shape of any lock, opening almost any locked door, magical or otherwise. Before taking the shape of a key, this magical mouse must be fed some type of cheese, otherwise no transformation will take place. If the party has no cheese available (not included in the adventurer's kit), it will vanish until re-summoned.
6) Mischievous Imp. Minion. AC 18 Fort 17 Ref 16 Will 15. Speed 7. Attack: Claw +6 vs Will, 1d4+4 damage. Once summoned, the Imp must be persuaded to fight for your side with either a Diplomacy or Intimidate check (High DC). If you fail the check, the Imp will turn against you.
This rubbery spiked ball-chain weapon is the pride of an oft-forgotten clan of amazons known for their prodigious girth and body size, as well as their uncanny ability to manipulate body fat.
- This is a +1 'Mace', dealing 1d8 damage, Prof. bonus +3
-Once per day, when attacking with this weapon, you cause the attacked target to spontaneously gain weight, bursting out of their armor/hide as they grow fatter. Target must roll 2d10, and gains the value of the roll times 10 in pounds. (ie, a combined roll of 7 equals 70lbs gained).
-If the target gains over 60lbs, they lose any/all armor bonus to AC. If the target is a monster not wearing armor, they lose 1d6 points from their AC.
8. Belt Buckle of the Demi-Lich
This belt buckle is totally bitching. Polished silver in the shape of a ram's skull, with little gems for eyes (what kind of gems? Nobody knows!). Wearing it makes you want to rush head-long into danger. After all, bones heal, right?
-If you are killed while wearing this belt, it will revive you, casting a 'Raise Dead' ritual immediately upon your body (with all the after-effects that apply).
-As a result, your body is marred by a demonic tattoo that can speak. It urges you to do unspeakable things. It is exceedingly difficult to remove, even by high-level clerics/priests.
-Once the belt buckle has revived you once, it no longer works and is just an ordinary belt buckle (though this knowledge is best withheld from your players).
9. Decanter of Never-Ending Wine
A handsome vessel, this small decanter is filled with expensive fine wine. Upon emptying, it refills itself. What a find! Still, after refilling a few-dozen times, the wine begins to taste a bit funny.
-The small decanter holds the equivalent of one glass of wine.
-Every time the decanter refills, have the drinking player roll a d10. It refills with the following per roll:
*1-5: Refills with fine wine
*6-8: Refills with cheap wine
*9: Refills with grape juice
*10: Refills with acid that looks/smells like fine wine. Deals 3d6 acid damage upon contact.
10. Rod of Wonder
The big enchilada. Rods and wands of wonder are priceless magical tools, able to produce amazing feats of magic. The only caveat is that the rod's wondrous spells are completely random. Using it could spell utter defeat for your party, or it could lead to ultimate victory. Take a chance, use this item!
-Rods of wonder can be used by any class of character. They require a command word to use.
These command words are often bizarre or silly (ie, "Wubba Wubba").
-The rod of wonder can be used as a minor action, once per turn. Once used, roll a d6 to recharge the rod. If you roll a 5 or 6, the rod can be used again that encounter. If you roll 1-4, the rod cannot be used again until the next encounter.
-Roll 2d10 or a d100 for a percentage roll:
01: Caster and target switch places (and undergarments).
02: 30 foot deep pit appears below target in a burst 1.
03: Caster's hair falls out. All of it.
04: Target is stunned. Save ends.
05: Target suffers 2d10 damage.
06: Caster and Target switch bodies until the end of the caster's next turn.
07: Target is polymorphed into a small cactus plant, permanently.
08: Target becomes gelatinous. All defenses lowered by 10.
09: 1d10 gold pieces shoot violently from rod's tip. Automatically hits one target within caster's line of sight. Deals 2d4 damage.
10: Target's sex is permanently changed.
11: Caster's sex is permanently changed.
12: Caster's sexual orientation is changed.
13: Target glows bright pink. Grants combat advantage.
14: Caster glows bright pink until end of encounter. Grants combat advantage.
15: Rod creates a blinding flash of light. Everyone is blinded until the end of the caster's next turn.
16: Caster smells delicious to all manner of beasts.
17: Target smells delicious to all manner of beasts.
18: Target falls hopelessly in love with caster.
19: Rod shoots out multicoloured sparks. Sparks are ineffectual.
20: Rod changes into a snake until the end of the encounter.
21: Rod disappears for 1d4 encounters. Returns to caster's hand.
22: 1d10 of caster's fingers turn to stone. All caster's attacks take a -2 penalty. Caster can only be cured with divine healing.
23: Caster sweats healing potion until the end of the encounter.
24: Caster is immune to ranged attacks for 1 round.
25: Target is immune to ranged attacks for 1 round.
26: Any/all undead around caster explode, dead.
27: Target is now covered in jam. Random flavour.
28: All of target's items vanish.
29: All of target's money (currency, gems, treasure) vanishes.
30: All of caster's money (currency, gems, treasure) vanishes.
31: Until the end of the encounter, caster must confess an embarassing secret before making any move actions.
32: Target's armor/hide turn to cheese. All AC bonuses lost.
31: Caster grows a pair of breasts. A second pair if caster is female.
32: Caster's ears replaced with cat ears. Gains +2 to Perception.
33: Target is immobilized until caster's next turn.
34: Caster teleports behind target. Target grants combat advantage.
35: Target's legs turn to tentacles. Speed reduced to 3.
36: Caster's legs turn to tentacles until the end of the encounter. Speed reduced to 3.
37: Caster suddenly bears a birthmark to the lineage of powerful kings.
38: Caster and one other party member switch minds. Each player must swap character sheets for the duration of the session.
39: Target enters a rage, deals 1d10 extra damage per attack.
40: Target terribly saddened, takes -5 penalty to all damage rolls.
41: Rod casts magic missile at target. Target automatically takes 7 force damage.
42: Vines sprout from target's footsteps. Every square the target touches becomes difficult terrain.
43: Vines sprout from caster's footsteps. Every square the caster touches becomes difficult terrain.
44: Nothing happens.
45: Time freezes for everyone but the caster for 1 round.
46: Target's clothes vanish. Loses all AC bonus.
47: Caster's clothes vanish until the end of the encounter. Loses all AC bonus.
48: Target is turned to stone. Cannot breathe or perceive anything.
49: Target is turned into feathers.
50: Target is turned into a Kobold Minion (same level as PCs).
51: Target is turned into a Young Red Dragon (same level as PCs).
52: Target is turned into an attractive serving wench, no longer interested in combat.
53: Target is turned into a mouse.
54: Target is turned into a handsome sofa. Can still speak.
55: Target is turned undead. Can reanimate after being reduced to 0 HP.
56: Target is turned into a +3 longsword. Can still speak, but will accept its fate as a weapon.
57: Target is turned into a living, sentient roast turkey.
58: Target is turned into a small pile of gold (6d6 gold pieces).
59: Target cannot see or perceive Fey creatures.
60: Caster cannot see or perceive fey creatures until the end of the encounter.
61: Caster is rendered mute. The rod gains the caster's voice. Will only return the caster's voice after being convinced with a simple skill challenge.
62: Target is destroyed.
63: Caster is reduced to 0 HP. Must make death saving throws.
64: Caster regains 2d6 HP.
65: Target regains 2d6 HP.
66: Target gains 10 temporary hit points.
67: Caster gains 10 temporary hit points.
68: Caster is killed. Every party member must make a saving throw. Any who succeed suddenly know the caster can be brought back to life by saying their name backwards.
69: Target has an orgasm. Grants combat advantage until the end of their next turn (but it's totally worth it).
70: Target is engulfed in flames. Target takes 10 fire damage and ongoing 5 fire damage.
71: Caster is engulfed in flames. Caster takes 10 fire damage and ongoing 5 fire damage.
72: A bouquet of flowers sprout from the tip of the rod.
73: Caster gains resist 5 to all damage until the end of their next turn.
74: Caster gains resist 5 to all fire/cold/lightning damage until the end of their next turn.
75: A parent of the caster is suddenly killed. The caster realizes this.
76: A lost relative of the caster is suddenly brought back to life. The caster realizes this.
77: Caster now permanently has 'low light vision'.
78: Caster's stomach is transformed into an organic bag of holding. Mouth can stretch wide enough to accommodate most things.
79: Caster is struck with a vision of his/her near future.
80: Caster's voice replaced with a dog's voice until the end of the encounter.
81: Target and caster each lose 10 HP per round. This effect ends when one of them is reduced to 0 hit points.
82: Target's XP value doubles.
83: Target's HP doubles (even past its maximum).
84: Target's speed doubles.
85: Target's treasure value doubles.
86: Target is dazed.
85: Target is dominated under the caster's control. Save ends.
86: Target loses all memory of why he/she/it is fighting.
87: Caster loses a hand. It is replaced by a silver hook.
88: Caster loses a leg. It is replaced by a functioning silver prosthetic.
89: Caster loses an eye. It is replaced by a Beholder eye. Confers a Daily eye-beam spell.
90: Caster is immune to all arcane attacks until the end of the encounter.
91: Target is immune to all arcane attacks until the end of the encounter.
92: Target regenerates 5 HP after every round.
93: Target gains a prehensile tongue, able to lash out as a basic 2 melee attack. Deals 1d8 damage.
94: Caster gains a prehensile tongue, able to lash out as a basic 2 melee attack. Deals 1d8 damage. Caster gains this until the end of the encounter.
95: All targets in the room are destroyed, even friendly ones, all except the PCs.
96: Caster is killed. If a PC is adjacent to the caster, he/she can perform a Heal check as a free action (DC 10). If successful, caster is only reduced to 5 HP.
97: Caster can move the target up to 6 squares in any direction (even up).
98: Caster is immobilized.
99: Target suddenly joins the PC's side, and will fight to the death for them.
100: Roll twice, use either result.
So there you have it. 10 magic items designed to increase the feel of things being "magical" in your game. If you have any ideas for more, leave them in comments!