Magic Items in Crypts and Things

“Begone Satan! Never tempt me with your vanities! What you offer me is evil. Drink the poison yourself!”
Inscription on the Saint Benedict Medal.

I can see the way that I deal with magic items and C&T may niggle some D&D purists. To them I say simply ignore it and use the standard Swords and Wizardry tables, or those of your old D&D edition/retroclone of choice, perhaps reserving the fifty or so new items for special/artefact status.

This is from the current draft of the Treasure chapter, which sums up my philosophy here:

Magic items in Crypts and Things are rare special items. They are artefacts of numerous ancient wars and demonic summoning, and as a result their purpose is always malign. At most only one is found in a particular Crypt or adventure and they are the stuff of legend and renown. Also quite literally they are always a Poison Chalice, being at least as much a curse as well as the blessings they bestow. Often their long term use is hazardous to the mental and physical well being of the character that possesses them. If for nothing else that other powerful jealous sorcerers and villains desire them, making the character the target of theft and assassination.

Part of my reasoning behind it is a better modelling of how magic items are presented in Swords & Sorcery stories. Take Elric (from the Michael Moorcock books), he doesn’t go around weighed down with magic items of all manner of description. He’s just got Stormbringer and from memory the only other magic item he ever possesses is the Horn of Fate. I’m also not a big fan of the rather bland +1 Sword, +1 Leather armour approach to magic items, which sees players discard or trade items as they seek ever more powerful items. Why not put those items in their hands and make them colourful and dangerous 😉

Here’s an example:

Black dread wings
These black leathery wings with a wingspan of ten foot are living and demonic. They attach by grabbing into the character’s flesh and they cause causing 1d4 damage when attached or unattached. The wings allow the wearer to fly at a rate of 18. Their use terrifies the innocent, -4 charisma when dealing with NPCs and hiring retainers.

About Newt

Games Designer, Publisher, Web Developer, Dad.

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4 Responses to Magic Items in Crypts and Things

  1. Dave Howard says:

    Love this. Real magic items should be dangerous and exact a price on the user for the benefit.

    Personally, I’ve always thought a +1 sword should be considered a high-quality blade, not enchanted.

  2. David Macauley says:

    I’m a D&D man and I love your treatment of magic items, it’s the sort of thing that would add tremendous flavour to a campaign. Looking forward to seeing C&T.

  3. I don’t know if you’ve taken a look at Platemail, but it manages the neat trick of having +1 swords and armour be flavourful and unique.

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