One of the things I loved to do in our campaigns was give out magical items which were interesting but mostly useless. We’ve been trained by movies that if you find some seemingly unimportant bauble, then the story will later create a situation where it will be the key to solving a problem in an unexpected way.
My favorite was a rope I gave them that untied itself the moment you let go of the knot. It was pointless, but enough of a novelty that they hung onto it. Another was a chalice that would purify any water you put into it. It was sort of a magical water filter which could turn a glass of swamp sludge into mineral water in about five minutes. Another was a magic staff which had only one property: It could be placed tip-down on the floor and it would keep itself balanced.
Once in a while they would haul out one of these magical booby prizes and actually put the thing to some unexpected use. I always loved when they did that.
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A horrible, railroading, stupid, contrived, and painfully ill-conceived roleplaying campaign. All in good fun.
84 thoughts on “DM of the Rings XVII:
Of Dubious Value”
Damnit we will still have a use for that rope! Good to see your back and that your daughter is getting better.
I had a DM who loved giving us magic gizmos. One was a flask that chilled any liquid it held. Another was a saw that would cut wood by itself (though someone had to correctly position the blade on each item to be cut).
And let’s face it: in a REAL society that had access to magic items, things like that would be far more common than +2 Swords of Dismemberment.
The best silly item my guys ever used was a spoon that could instantly fill any vessel with gruel. It was a quick and easy way to deal with rations. Well once they were of higher level they got tasked with killing a black dragon in his cave to save the town. It was supposed to be a little filler between two long campaigns to buy me time to finish working on the second one. Well, it back fired.
They can the cleric cast mud to stone until they sealed the entrance to the cave. Next they made a small hole and then used the spoon to fill the cave with gruel. They drown the dragon and his minions in about 10 min leaving me with no filler and immediately progressing on to the next part of the campaign.
I later had a thief pick pocket away the spoon. I didn’t need them trying that with a castle or some other large staging ground. I would have to make all of the future battles outdoors.
That’s just brilliant! Drowning a dragon with stew.
Or how about a clipboard of dictation, which magically records everything said in hearing range (on paper provided by the characters), with notes as to who said it and what language it was said in, translated to Common?
Could be useful in a bizarre set of circumstances.
Heh. Your ideas are great!
As a GM, my favorite magic item ever for the party to have (I used it years apart, in two different campaigns with two different groups of friends) was an intelligent throwing dagger of bouncing. When drawn it talked loudly, quickly, and constantly (“Throw me! My friend, throw me now! I must taste blood! Why haven’t you thrown me yet! Are you too tired? Toss me to your friend and he can use me!”). When thrown it bounced, with velocity increasing with each bounce, until it hit a living target, and then it would always do at least one point of damage.
It was just useful enough to be worth keeping. It was certainly annoying and dangerous enough to only draw when absolutely needed. And once or twice it (and a lot of cleverness) saved the day.
Once I wrote a short comic about a subway going from nowhere to nowhere, inhabited by all the people with stupid super-powers that never would be allowed in a real superhero comic: the Anti-Orchestra, a villian whose power ruined anyone’s sense of perfect pitch within a hundred yard radius; FlavorMan, a hero who could make himself taste like anything he wanted but was unable to find employment in a child-friendly comic book; etc.
I never (until now) thought about saddling RPG PCs with very interesting but utterly pointless NPCs. Hm…
I used to love making stuff that wasn’t what it appeared to be. Either the item looked like something it wasn’t, or it had random properties, so when a player used it once and thought they knew what it would do, they were baffled when it did something else the next time (usually in combat, where the first response would have been useful). Or I gave them cursed items that made them believe one thing but it did the complete opposite. A mage put on a hat that dropped his INT to 3 but also made him convinced the hat had actually boosted his INT to 18, and he would die keeping the other players from removing it from his head. That was a great roleplaying moment, btw!
That knife could be really vicious. Got a room with a nasty in it? Big room, small nasty? Open the door, chuck the knife in, close and hold the door, and wait for the scream. If you’re lucky it’ll bounce lots of times and be going half light-speed when it hits, and it’ll splatter the nasty. And even if it doesn’t, it causes at least some risk-free damage.
Oh, please don’t stop. This is marvelous. The scene where Legolas introduced himself made me laugh til I cried. And the table chatter…it’s us…so horribly, horribly us. If readers contacted you privately, you could incorporate their war stories, as Scott Adams did with Dilbert.
I just got here via a link on Treasure Tables, and these comics are made out of awesome. The comments on PHP and monty python almost made me choke.
Had not laughed so hard in a long long time.
Found you via Metafilter.
To bad you took all our cool stuff when you wreck us upon the shores of..?
Aww poop I cant remember that damn land masses name. Eh well, we don’t have that stuff anymore and thats all that matters
*laughs* I had a DM give us “random magical items” once. I refused to use mine until someone told me what it did – good thing, because they all turned out to be cursed.
Yay silly comic!
Great comic… many punchlines in this one.
I once had my party find a small magic item which they were able to identify as a inter-dimensional gateway. Thing is:
1. It was a very small gate
2. It was to the elemental plane of fire
3. It worked only one way (fire –> prime material)
It was a lighter!
One of my favorite among the dumb magic items I gave out was based on the Ronco Mr. Microphone, a short wand that amplified your voice when you talked into the big end. The players actually got good use out of it, using it to amplify the roar of the monster-based PC, scaring some goblins they were fighting.
After learning that straight up rings of X-Ray Vision were too powerful at destroying suspense, I gave them one with the balancing factor that it was sentient, had a personality based on the genie in Bugs Bunny, and instead of giving the player actual X-Ray vision, it would describe what it saw to the PC, and refuse or lie if it felt abused.
many modern toys could be useless magical items, like those plastic tubes you can get at fairs that light up, but only for one night, and really only illuminate themselves.
I was pointed to this site today, and have been laughing – sometimes to tears – for the last hour!! Great series – keep it up!
I just had to add my own comment here about unusual magic items. Many years ago I was playing a magic-user character (low level) and I would hire a henchman/bodyguard to accompany me on our party’s adventures. Trouble was, I was better at spell-casting than fighting, and I would end up getting henchman after henchman killed off.
So finally, our DM connected me with a magical henchman that was ‘bound’ to my M-U character (so, I couldn’t just send him away). He was a level-5 human fighter, and generally appeared normal in all respects. But, if he ever hit 0 Hit Points, he would immediately/magically regenerate, but now into only a level-4 fighter. On next death, returns as level-3… and so on until he was only a level-1 fighter. If this now level-1 figher should ever drop to 0 hit points, the spell would be broken and he would explode in a huge fireball inflicting 10d10 damage to all around.
Believe me – I stopped getting my henchman killed! :-)
Hah! If I had a henchman like that, once he got to lvl 1, I would send him out into a large group and shoot him to death from afar.
i had a DM who had a set of storekeepers once, in a hard to navigate city, who had a water franchise. the catch was, there was a magic aura around a fairly large area of these water shops that caused enormous thirst. we lost so much money to those overpriced water stands!
At the last part of the comic, you spelt is “easly” instead of “easily”. =P
Well genius its ”spelled” not ”spelt”
Actually, bro, they’re both correct. So chill out, lol. He was just catchin a typo, no need to be spiteful.
It is is it’s, not its.
It is “is”, not “is is”.
Huh. It was actually a very useful magic item (Sword of Dancing) but the party had too much ****ing loot as it was, so when the Druid cast “Genius” in an effort to identify it, I told him it was “most powerful when not wielded” Silly thing stayed in its scabbard the rest of the campaign. :)
Keep going! These are so funny. Thanks for the laughs.
I gave a magic staff to a half-orc half fiend Paladin. Tap it three times it would root to the ground and turn into a massive tree. a portable doggy bathroom
The single most desirable magical item that I ever gave out to the party turned out to be a razor: which would always shave perfectly, without nicking. That one saw a lot of use!
My favorite seemingly useless magic item was a ring of silence, 5 inch radius.
Best magic item I ever saw was a cursed staff given by a GM who disliked excessive profanity to a player who cursed – in character and out – every third word. The stats on it were nice enough that the player kept it, but every time the character said “sh*t” a red dragon would fly by and take a dump on him.
Sadly, the player never learned. Our last sighting of this character was him running from a randy red dragon after saying “Oh f*ck!”
The most amazing magic item I’ve seen a player use wasn’t a magic item, per se…
At the start of the campaign, he asked to have a hat made. It would be white, cylindrical at the base (where it goes on the head) and poofy (like the top of a sleeve in a photo of King Henry VIII. At the front of the cylindrical part would be three red letters: “DDP”.
I had no idea what this was about, so I let him have it.
Later in the campaign, he walked into a room filled with creatures that, by all rights, should have had his innards for lunch. At that point, he pulled out the hat and cried, “Dungeon Delivery Pizza! Is this the Brimfondle residence?”
I was laughing so hard, I had to give him a head start on running away, just for the shock value.
This is hilarious! Fabiulous stuff and VERY recognizable! Keep up the good work!
Once one of my characters received a magic cup which would transform ANY liquid which went into it into wine. White wine if you put water into the cup, red wine for ANY (yes, ANY) other liquid. So pretty soon my character discovered that putting the glass at the bottom of a keg and then stirring the liquid slightly would soon create a keg of wine. He eventually retired, becoming filthy rich as a wine merchant.
About a year ago I had a player that had a mug that did the same thing. Except it could make any non damaging liquid. “To the mug” The first thing he did with it was look up the most expensive drink available, and made as much as he could. Luckily the law of supply, and demand kicked in, and it was cheaper than water.”I can’t remember the drink.”
My husband sends me strips from here periodically, but I’m now going through and reading them all. I had to comment on this one. I had a GM give a fellow character a whole host of “useful” items. Like a potion of delusion: delusion that you were poisoned. But you had to drink it. A cow bell that made cows unconscious. I know there were more, but those are the two I can remember. Especially since the potion saved one of the characters at one point.
My favorite magic item I gave my players was a “Real” Wand of Wonder. Unlike the one in the book this one would do random things such as you’d hear voices going “Oooh!Aaaah! Ooohhhh!!”, or emit loaves of bread in white wrappers with red and blue spots (Wonder Bread), or break into a chorus of “Wonder-wonder-wonder-wonder who (unh) who wrote the Book of Love?”…
OTOH, some players will think *anything* they find must be a magic item.
A fellow character stubbornly insisted on stripping a piece of armor we found, and keeping the little ornamental shield he found in it. Later, at random points during the game, he’d pull it out, craddle it in his hands and say things like “I concentrate on making it detect curses!” The only time anything ever happened was when he held it over his head, a ray of sun falling on it from a high window. It shone. Prettyly.
Our DM once gave our rogue a magical ball that rolled up hill. I don’t think it ever did anything useful other than keep the rogue busy. Which, admittedly, is QUITE useful sometimes.
There was also a cursed item, a sash that when put on would change the character’s gender and required a Remove Curse spell to take off again. The afore mentioned rogue doubted it The Sarong of Gender Bending and had been carrying it around ever since. She has used it as a disguise several times and once to freak out an obnoxious NPC (Who was not at all pleased to wake up as woman)
I gave out the Staff of the Illusionist. It was impressive. blue/green sparks of light flowed up and down it’s length and over your hand when you grabbed it. If grabbed firmly with both hands, sparks would flow up to your elbows. Tap it on the floor for a brief flash of light and bang sound. Or jerk it in a direction to have blue/green lights shoot out up to 3 yards in that direction. And that was all it did. But they got great use of it to impress villagers, scare off kobolds, make pursuers pause etc etc.
We once had a kettle that could boil water almost instantly without fire – which became very useful when our DM started punishing unruly PCs by changing their gender (or species – one male PC spent half an adventure as a female poodle) in Ramna 1/2 style, that is, caused by being doused with cold water and reversed by dousing in hot water. I love items like those.
Someone really close to me got from a DM who hated him a can of smoke one time. Everyone else got cool magical stuff but his roll “got” managed to get him the can…totally worthless, right? the thing is his character was a blind archer, and sometime later the DM got them into a fight with several high-level archers…my friend remembered the smoke can, searched for it in the book and it turned out to spread a thick and pretty large cloud of smoke, rendering all the other archers useless (but not the blind archer who had the necessary feats and skills to blind fight (blind shoot?) in the first place). The DM was so screwed by his own rules and his own “useless” gift…soooo sweet!
Ahhh, ‘useless’ magic items, I love ’em. Our scouts (assorted PCs who got assigned to the Scouts division of the army) were thrilled to find an already filled haversack. It was filled with the sweetest camping equipment. There was the bed that magically assembled itself, along with an assortment of silk pillows. The bed came unassembled so the pieces could fit through the bag opening. There’s also the small barrel of everflowing fresh fish and small keg of wine to go with it. The flask of everflowing warm water (& bathtub). You get my point.
Our current commander thinks that we’re bucking for a ‘section 8’ because we’re all sleeping in this tiny tent, set up _inside_ our barracks.
I at times bugged my one friend by having a hobbit arms merchant. Any time there would be a battle, he would scavenge all the weapons and armor (no mater how bad) and add them to a pack train for later sale at a town.
you could always use that staff to get a couple feet more of jump if you have a high balance check.
Speaking of hilarious items…a bag!
I remember the first time I played D&D I almost died trying to trap a kobold in a bag. Once I succeeded in getting him in there, I threw him at another player. Moral of the story: Chaotic Neutral is not hard to play when you call it what it is…INSANE.
Christ. I despise people who play Chaotic Neutral like that. That’s not Chaotic Neutral, that’s Chaotic Stupid.
For the record: CN != batshit insane.
A year or so ago, I was playing a beguiler in a D&D campaign. He was introduced late in the campaign when he was rescued from three years of captivity at the hands of, if I remember correctly, goblins.
While he was a very usefull addition to the group, this character was completely nuts. Among his many personality quirks, was that he needed a “magic” rock to use any of his spells. The rock of course, while very pretty, was simply an ordinary chunk of obsidian.
I once gave someone a figurine of a turtle along with a magic word that would make the turtle grow big enough to carry a whole party and animate it for use as a boat. After they used it the first time, the turtle looked at the guy who owned it and said, “That’s one.” and shrank back down. No one would ever use it again. :)
My favorite example of one of these was actually held by a recurring villain. Every time I described him, I made mention of what color the jewel in his ring was glowing. It was red the time he nearly killed everyone, green whenever he’d retreat, yellow the time they nearly killed him, and so on.
It got to the point where the PCs would put a lot of stock in the ring’s color – retreat wildly if it was red, get more aggressive if it was yellow, and so on. The ring thing culminated when, the one time he wasn’t wearing the ring (because he was in disguise), they had no clue how to handle him and retreated simply out of confused caution.
It was a mood ring.
Of course, the real trick with a chalice that purifies any liquid is that it should remove the nasty impurities, but not the taste…
I remember one of our group getting the Hat of Indiana Jones (at least that’s what we called it). Whoever wore it had improved luck (they could re-roll two or three rolls per day). On the down side, every time they started doing anything exciting, the Indiana Jones theme music would start playing, getting louder and louder and more dramatic as events unfolded. Made sneaking a little tricky…
The purification chalice could be really useful when you’re out camping. Say goodbye to giardia.
In an alternative to totally useless magic items, I enjoy equipping monsters with magic items that make perfect sense for them but do nothing for PCs. I remember that robbing a Lich once resulted in a magic ring that let the wearer cast Harm on himself once per day. It didn’t activate automatically or remotely and took an act of will by the wearer. But since Harm and Heal have reversed effects on undead, the Lich was very put out about losing that ring and ended up sending minions to retrieve it.
I gave out a lot of cursed items, but they’re no fun when the party find out about them. The real fun is making an item that’s practically cursed, but so useful that they won’t give it up. A while ago my players found a sword imprisoned behind a false wall and guarded by an undead dragon underneath the wizard’s guild. It had been created by a rather unhinged mage interested in trans-dimensional research, and he had bound the soul of a human from another reality into the sword, giving it power. The sword had a comb-like hilt and wrappings on its hilt of every color of the rainbow.
As it turns out, the creator captured the soul of a male hairdresser from California for the flaming short sword, which apart from its ability to speak can also cast Magic Mouth, Suggestion, and Enlarge Person once/day. The sword is particularly flamboyant and will tend to make inopportune comments at every opportunity (when the flaming power is activated, it says “I’m flaaaaaaaming!!”). At first the players were surprised the wizards didn’t want a powerful magical item back. Now they’re trying to find somewhere they can dispose of it (since nobody will buy it). Still, it’s very good at combat and it gets pulled out and used, despite its personality, more often than you’d think!
Is it just me or do these guys seem like the most jaded D&D players imaginable? If I was their DM, I would have aced the lot of them in-game, told them to quit eating the snacks I provided and to get the hell out my house, or my mom’s basement, or my 2 room apartment (DM’s come from many walks of life). I would then start playing a MMOG because there is no more thankless job on the planet than DM.
My 2 favorite “useless” magic items were basically the same as 2 mentioned above.
I had a Monk with a shaved head. We found a small crystal ball/sphere/marble that had gravity reversed for it, but only when touching something. Therefore it always rolled to the highest point of whatever it was touching. I put it on my head and left it there for the rest of that adventure (since it would balance on top of my head).
We also found a magic goblet that turned _any_ liquid into the most delicious port wine nearly instantly. The character that took it was our best fighter (a “Cavalier” if I remember correctly…2nd edition specialty class I think). After that, he spent most of his time filling up the goblet with various liquids and drinking them. When he discovered that it worked with urine, he nearly died of dehydration (and was pretty much drunk for the rest of that campaign, at all times).
^^ ahh trinkets! A few weeks ago we found a box kind of thing in the hands of a rotting orc in the caves of namarie (-.- dont look at me) officially weer not sure exactly what it is yet cause it refuses to do anything but Im pretty sure its a caster, we had one years back that made a thin light, like a spiders web, spin around somthing mid air, then it would flame green and dig in to their skin that was trapped in a music box in a princesses rom covered on congealed blood, somwhare near k’rathnathethsch (say: kur-ack-nath-eths)
yes yes. I still read and love this comic. absolutely LOVE. 2 or 3 times a year, or whenever i need a REALLY GOOD laugh, i start reading. my husband turned me on to this a couple years ago and there is a permanent bookmark for it on my computer and in my heart.
I once gave my players a ring of visibility… They managed to make good use of it by using it to find an invisible enemy.
I once had an alcoholic cleric of Nerull. He had a magical flask that was always filled with whatever I wanted it to be filled with (the DM and I decided that I wouldn’t be allowed to use it for magical potions). It would never go dry, but it only worked for me. Whenever anybody else tried to drink from it, they’d get a single drop of whatever I drank last. Whenever I took a drink, the other PCs would ask “Where is that coming from?!” My character, who was usually drunk, would always reply, “It’s in the flask.”
Ahhhh, the irresistable allure of cursed/useless magical objects.
My personal favorite without question was the inverted lantern — An innocent looking brass hurricaine lantern which provide illumination equal to whatever natural light (or absence there of) was present on the opposite side of the world at that exact moment. And it couldn’t be switched off.
So if it was noon where my players were, it would cast a 10′ sphere of darkness around them, but if it was midnight, then they’d be surrounded by a 10′ sphere of daylight. Likewise, if it was anywhere around dawn or dusk, it emitted extremely feeble light equal to whatever was already present in their surroundings (provided they weren’t in a cave or something)
Despite the fact that it called undue attention to them everywhere they went, and was less useful than a regular lantern 99.9% of the time, the guys utterly refused to get rid of it under any circumstances.
Oh, and from the player-side of things, the worst thing you can ever do as a DM is tell one of your players that an object is indestructable.
Said object will then become the default battering ram/projectile of choice for the rest of the campaign, and if the party is wealthy enough, expect to have at least one player request the local blacksmith build them a custom-made mace/spear into which the indestructable object can be fitted as a tip.
This doesn’t make the weapon unbreakable, in the case of a spear, the shaft would break and the unbreakable tip would probably fall at the bad guy’s feet.
I just thought I’d like to add to all this that I have indeed killed a twenty foot tall Earth Troll with a Bag of Devouring and a ruby shaped like a phallus.
One of my personal favourites was a bag of devouring – the party wizard lost his hand to it (lucky reflex save, otherwise would have been the arm up to the elbow). Although the wizard managed to get it regenerated, he was pretty miffed about the whole situation and put the bag, permanantly held open, at the bottom of a deep hole – the village cesspit
We did not get that many ‘useless’ magical items but what our DM in our not so serious gaming group did invent was the Zapp-shop: a shop that travels the planes and automatically gets attracted to those places where large amounts of wealth change hands. Killed a dragon and taken his horde? ZAPP, there is the zappshop rigth at your feet, inviting you in to transfer your money into any magic item you want, at a nice price ‘especially for you my friend’.
I read the whole strip and am now starting from the front again reading all comments. This will keep me busy for a while!
I’m not sure if the stone my DM ‘gave’ us would be considered as a “useless” trinket. It was pretty handy in scaring a couple of ogres from killing us, by giving it to them to make them think we could shrink them down to nothing.
It’s original use, by the DM, was to have a troll hiding in a temple’s poorbox to surprise us when we started winning the battle taking place.
In our campaign, (one of the wicked adventures I think) we found a stone that will heal one point of damage every time the holder says “sweet” – but if the holder says “wicked”, they are hit by tasha’s hideous laughter. So far it hasn’t come in battle-handy, but it’s nice for topping up a heal, and has made for some amusing moments with new players XD
I had a GM/DM give my character a magic bag (almost like a bag of holding) that would cause anything placed into said bag to vanish then fall from the sky. He did it because it was supposed to be useless and everyone was given a useless item.
Turns out there was a spell on the bag that caused anything placed into the bag to be teleported exactly 1 mile above the bag. We used it once to hide from a dragon by tieing ourselves to a tree first then climbing out.
Once to climb onto a tower that was unscalable.
Twice to sneak into places.
And lastly to kill an enemy he planned on having become our rival for the rest of the game.
That was a good time :)
I had a char once find a room full of invisible furniture. It was meant as a hazard to amuse the gm. But i broke it up and was able get one nice long shap shard of hte top and one whole leg. On two separate occassions i was able to kill an opponent by getting them to impale themselves on the shard. And i got a lot of use out of the leg as a club.
In the area where i first started playing, a lot of gms like to have players who insisted on using Detect Magic all the time find magic belly button lint. This didn’t do anything, it just glowed under the detect spell. Eventually someone realized that if you glued it to an ordinary weapon you could use against creatures whose stat’s included “can only be hit by magic”.
nice item ideas :D
the funnest magic item i had was an enchanted skull wich could speak but only i could hear.. it can be very, very, inconvinient when ur heard talking to a skull, especially when ur on a diplomatic mission to convince a dwarven empire to help out in a battle and they are in the proces of sizeing u up ^_^
I have an upcoming game I wrote, that contains a mix of modern and fantasy. I have 2 items I cannot wait to see how they play out.
Scroll of Identity:
Sign it and anyone can read it and learn everything about the signer. Skills, history, missions, everything.
Arrow of Experience: Useable 4 times.
Get 4-10 people to stand around. Throw it in the air. It lands pointing at someone randomly. Now everyone in the circle has to kill the one pointed at in 4 rounds to earn 25% of the required experience points to get to the next level.
I’ll post after I find out how they go.
My game sessions are comedic and pretty loose with essentially no fourth wall so my players often get items with overtly memetic or troperiffic names and functions. I can name two of them off the top of my head:
– The MacGuffin, a magic stone that would allow my playrs to skip a campaign right to the end, effectively moving the plot suddenly forward to when they’re rewaded for their “work” in the quest. It was made in case I ever wrote a bad plot for a campaign and they thought it was boring. When I started spending more time on my campaigns and realized that the MacGuffin could render that time wasted, I had them lose it.
– The McMuffin. That’s right, the McMuffin. Like I said, there is no fourth wall. The McMuffin was a magical plate made of purest mythril which allowed the user to create any food or drink of their choice. It has been the source oc their food during a recent journey which has given me some serious grief in trying to find some way to move the plot forward because I can’t go with the “you have run out of food” motivation. Eventually I was able to use the McMuffin as a sort of MacGuffin (do you see what I did there?) by having it stolen by a roving band of Orcs.
Your ideas are excellant by the way. I may have to steal them.
In all of my campaigns I used quirky/demented magical items. The few that I still remember the best were: a sword which refused to leave scabbard during night, cos it was afraid of the dark, then ring of spider climb which turned lower part of the wearer into a giant spider until sunrise/sunset, then magical ring of flying which worked great until you flew higher then 10feet, when it reversed its powers and became ring of heavy gravity; addictive potions of healing, magical bowstring which did nothing, and so on…great fun :D
Hi and thanks for the great comic!
Many years ago while GM’ing, I gave my players a wand of my own creation: a Wand of Butterflies! Each charge shot a small group of pellets at the target. When they reached the target they morphed into butterflies which flitted about the target’s head until they were swatted. As you can imagine this caused quite a bit of amusement. ;-)
Once the party escaped an angry giant using the wand. Another time a character used it on another character in the party who were courting a beautiful NPC-princess – while he was talking to her! XD
My guys didn’t found the two items I mentioned yet. Oh well. There is still time. :)
The purpose of the rope that unties itself is for making promises to the bad guy: “All right, we swear an oath that we will capture your enemy and tie him up with a magic rope so powerful that no person can ever untie it.”
My favorite example of a useless item becoming useful was with nothing magical. It was with a rusty dagger. My friend and I were taking turns DMing short little adventures. Mine involved spelunking through some ancient ruins in the desert, where one of the characters searched a long dead skeleton and found 5 copper and a rusty dagger. Later on, the party was trapped inside a haunted house and had just fought of a group of zombies. In order to escape, they had to remove a ring that was threaded through the strongest zombie’s anatomy. The bad news was that none of our characters used bladed weapons. The good news was that one of them remembered the rusty dagger.
In a not-too-serious campaign I was DMing, I gave the party’s wizard a scroll of Detect Plot. When cast, it would cause a 10-foot long, flashing neon arrow to fall out of the sky and point in the direction the party should go, or at a person they should talk to, or at an object they should investigate. He never did use it though.
In this same campaign, the villian’s favorite spell was “Little Cloud of Doom,” which followed the target around about a foot above their head, rained on them, and repeatedly said “Doom!” for 24 hours straight.
My all-time favorite magic item was like this: deep int he dungeon there is a sword in a stone. Any Detect spell can tell you it is dripping with magical power. Problem was, it really was the Sword int he Stone, and no PC was ever going to pull it unless they happened to be the True King of the Britons….
This was invented by someone who happens to toiday be my therapist. Make of that what you will.
Heh, I remember when, after spending/buying some loot post-dungeon-raid, I asked if there were any magical items for sale. The only one I could afford was a magical chair, which let you sleep for less time and get the benefits of a full night of sleep. So spellcasters could keep watch and still get their spells back. It also changed size for travel/different races.
The catch was, when you tried to leave the chair, you had to make a will save to overcome the magical comfort you were experiencing. If you fail, you are stuck for 5 rounds/30 minutes out of combat. No taking a 20. Sometimes, this led to a chair being dragged by the party while our wizard shot fireballs at a pursuing mob from the comfort of the ultimate chair. Pretty damn silly fun.
And then there was this talking book that kept trying to sabotage the party…. but it knew really useful stuff….. Oh man. Magical items are the best; I can’t wait for either an electronic, full-player driven D&D played online, or a very open ended rpg (so you could have literally anything).
And then there was my masterwork longspear, with a manipulate rope enchantment. It had a mithril cable attached to the haft that I could use for rope grapples as an extra attack each round. When the DM gives you an enchant weapon scroll, use it in ways he won’t expect. It took 2 dungeons for the DM to start using stuff that was strong at grapples (after the first mage we ran into only cast 1 spell, he got pretty miffed. And everyone else told me to use featherfall; it would be SO much more useful as a level 1 enchant (or was it 2?)). /rant
TL;DR magic items are awesome. Abuse the crap out of them.
We once found an item made specifically to kill any member of my species that touched it, as well as securing itself and not being removable by a member of that species, but it was defective so all it did was make me kind of sleepy. I convinced the DM that being sleepy would make my character flaw of “following violent impulses like an idiot” less so because that was tied to adrenaline and no one is both adrenaline-rushing and sleepy, and it became my signature item for the cost of a couple speed points.
One of my characters actually had a self-standing staff like Shamus described in his endnote. It gave a +2 bonus to balance checks. My character never needed to use it for that, mostly its purpose was to serve as a handle for an everburning torch because my character had normal vision.
Another favorite “useless” item was the Axe of Healing, which would inflict 1d6 healing at the same time it inflicted 1d6 damage. It turned out to be useful against undead (because healing does damage to undead). And if the DM allowed, you could deal subdual damage with the blunt side to heal a character, sort of. I have no idea how this would work in v5.0 though, I haven’t played D&D in years.
The chalice would be fun if it turned the swamp water to pure water only whilst it was IN the chalice, or reverted to swamp water a few minutes after being poured or drunk.
Speaking of “magical items which were interesting but mostly useless” how about the Disco Phial from Lego LotR? :D
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