In the suggestion pot, Zig had a fun idea. He requested that we hit our magic workshops, slave over toys, and report on what the little girls and boys thought. Wait, that’s not it. Here’s what he really asked.

Hi, Guys.

Something I would find very interesting and useful would be a collaboration article from all of you about one unique magic item you have each had in a campaign you ran.

Also I think the comments for such an article if you asked the readers would be interesting reading and certainly useful. I, and I assume most GMs, are always looking for good ideas that have worked for other GMs.


When I offered to organize the replies, my fellow gnomes were quick to start throwing cool items at me. (Some of them were thrown a little hard… I have some ugly bruises guys!)

Matthew Neagley shared the spooky Torc of Golgothas

The Torc of Golgothas takes up a neck slot. It confers an unholy bonus to the wisdom of the wearer of +1 for each soul they have stolen with it in the past 24 hours up to a maximum bonus of +5. To steal a soul, the wearer first takes a standard action to allow the tortured souls in the Torc to speak through him to a target. The target is then marked. If the target dies while so marked, their soul is pulled into the Torc and slowly tortured over the course of the next day before being released to it’s final resting place, though the day of torture often destroys the sanity and morality of the soul, condemning it to a dire fate.

The process of marking a soul allows any of the souls currently being tortured, or that were tortured in the past to speak. This is often a cacophony of wails and gibbering, but sometimes (DM’s fiat) relays a piece of cryptic information that might be useful.

Phil followed that up with The Sand Temple (epic level/artifact)

This is a temple made of flowing sand. It is granted as a gift, to the follower of the deity (in my game the All Father). Once daily on the command of the follower, the Sand Temple can appear, anywhere outdoors, regardless of weather. The interior is large enough to house a 20 people. In the center of the temple is a pool of water. This pool of water can perform Heal 5/day, Cure Disease 5/day, and Raise Dead 1/day. The temple also provides food and water for up to 20 people. Finally, the Temple can travel anywhere in the world once daily, and appear in a location as determined by the follower. Though at times the deity will re-direct the Sand Temple to deliver the follower (and party) to a location of his desire, for the followers to perform some task.

Telas went above and beyond with two items for two different game systems.

Bag of Teleportation – D&D 3.5 – The Dustdiggers of the Academy of Lore are famous for their ability to acquire relics of the distant past, whether from dusty tombs or the locked vaults of their improper owners; one of their less-talked-about tools is the Bag of Teleportation.

This sturdy sack seems to be a Bag of Holding, as its internal volume is greater than it appears to be. However, when a certain time of day passes (usually sunset or sunrise), anything inside the bag is Teleported to a specific location. The location is determined when the bag is manufactured, usually a locked cell in the Academy grounds, although it can be altered by an enchanter of sufficiently high level. Many consider these to be a Bag of Devouring, but divination magic will determine the truth.

(The most fun way to use a Bag of Teleportation is to have the party find it on a dead Dustdigger…)

Vengeance – Savage Worlds – When the hero Cayden was mortally stabbed with an orc’s spear while trying to rescue his son Taggart, the child squirmed free and pulled the spear from his father’s chest. Healing energy flowed from Taggart to his father, closing the wound. Taggart was dragged away by the Dark One’s minions as Cayden fell unconscious. Awakening, Cayden found that he still had the spear, and that its healing power continues.

Vengeance is a simple but well-built spear with a leaf-shaped blade and a strong butt-spike. Even in the coldest weather, it feels very warm to the touch. Once per session, the wielder may make a Soak roll without expending a Bennie.

John Arcadian had to match Telas item for item.

Spirit Shard of Unending Interstice
Created by the mage Vascily, this item is in truth a split spirit elemental which is fused to a person’s soul and grants strange powers that prevent them from ever being contained within a barrier or locked within an area. The other half of the spirit elemental is held by the mage controlling the item. The item was created to undo barriers from the inside and to release ancient evils, or open the way for the controlling mage to enter areas forbidden to him.

Crafted onto the spirit of a person with less taint in their soul, preferably an adventurous sort, the enchanted will travel the world engaging in their business and often entering places which they were prompted to explore by third parties hired by the mage. Once the unwitting pawn is past the barriers or doorways, the magic activates and prevents them from being closed again, alerting the mage responsible for the item to the presence of strong magic or items of interest.

The item works by a variety of means and has one single purpose, to unlock any door that it is trapped behind. It will use telekinesis, opening spells, magic dispelling effects, teleportation portals, etc. and will combine its powers to the greatest effect all with the intent of bypassing any barrier so that the mage who controls the spirit shard can get inside. Guided by the intellect of the shard of spirit elemental, and powered by his seemingly endless reserve of energy (constantly refilled from the unwitting pawn it is merged and sometimes draining manna or healt), the spells are truly devastating to all but the strongest of barriers. Though normally invisible, certain effects which reveal magic can reveal the words “Let this door never be closed to me” floating above the head of person the shard is merged to.

Sagacitem-Via Table
Originally created by the powerful race of world conquering elves, Sagacitem-Via tables were used to chart courses throughout the seas and airways by making any map which was placed on top of them accurate to the current time and location. If a known location, such as the hidden base of rebel forces, was on a map with at least a passing resemblance to the actual location the magic of the table would place the marker for the base at the exact spot and align all landmarks accurately. It would also create scale and distance markers, enabling accurate navigation to any point that is represented on a semi-detailed map. The table will not make accurate the locations of non-terrain elements, such as ships or soldiers, but it will place towns and other locations in their proper places.

In modern times these tables are very rare, due to cartographer’s guilds disliking their tendency to cut in on business. Grave consequences occur for any guild cartographers who are found using a Sagacitem-Via navigation aid. More expensive, and much more rare, versions of the item are sometimes available as compasses which can be touched to maps. These are great boons for people attempting to travel into fey enchanted lands, where the terrain often gets up and moves, or to sea and airship captains who wish to navigate safely through hazardous shoals or locate constantly moving airborne islands.

Martin contributed the Sphere of Total Observation:

This magic item comes in three parts: an uncomfortable-looking crescent-moon-shaped bench and a tiny golden sphere, which is suspended from the highest point of the crescent, and a much larger crystalline sphere (3′ in diameter).

When the user lays on the bench and grasps the sphere, their senses fade away entirely, save for their sight. Their sight expands to encompass 360 degrees, extending outwards from the crystalline sphere. The larger sphere can be placed anywhere within one mile of the bench and the smaller sphere.

After a few minutes to adjust to the rather unpleasant sensation of all-around vision, the user can manipulate their field of view to focus on particular objects or take in everything around them at once, making this item a fantastic defensive mechanism. With due care for its fragility, it can even be used for scouting in military operations.

In my last campaign, I introduced Cylinders of Communication:

This magic item is created as a linked pair of scroll cases. The cylinders often appear as battered leather containers for scrolls, like any courier or poor wizard might carry. At dawn and dusk the contents of the cylinders are switched via teleportation, allowing field agents to secretly report the information they gathered over the last few hours. Similarly, getting new orders to isolated agents is easy… as long as they retain their communication cylinder.

More powerful cylinders might be equipped with magic linking the case to its owner. These special cases prevent enemies from intercepting orders and reports by failing to work when they aren’t in their owner’s possession. Another popular enchantment is to conceal the magical aura, so the scroll case doesn’t reveal its unusual nature to casual inquiry. Whichever version of the cylinder of communication is used, orders and reports are often written in ciphers or obscure languages to prevent the critical information from falling into enemy hands.

Your Turn

Now that you’ve seen what gnomish craftsmanship is like, it’s time to display your own handiwork. Like Zig asked, please share a cool item from one of your campaigns– and its effect on your game– in comments.

About  Scott Martin

Scott is an engineer turned gnome and game store owner. He lies awake at night building intriguing worlds and plotting your character's demise.

16 Responses to A Mess of Magic Items

  1. I gave the players in my Nobilis game a berry from the mistletoe which grows on the World Tree. Their Imperator had used the soul of a mortal magician to enchant the berry in such a way as to make undetectable any miraculous intervention cast with the berry in hand. It is a single-use item, and I intended them to use it later on to circumvent active countermeasures on a highly suspicious object, or possibly for some kind of sneaky strike against an enemy.

    As it turns out, that lot don’t do sneaky very well.

  2. Oh and I forgot, much longer ago in a game of Paranoia. It wasn’t a magical item, since Paranoia doesn’t really have those, but it was the closest equivalent.

    Briefing Officer: “This is the Special Mission Equipment Carrier designed by Alpha Complex’s finest Research and Development technicians. Stocked with everything the Troubleshooter needs to carry out his day-to-day mission objectives, the Special Mission Equipment Carrier is impervious to laser fire, heat, shock, cutting implements and radiation and cannot be smashed, sliced, cut, melted or blown up, shrugging off even the attentions of a plasma generator or tactical nuclear warhead.

    Your issued equipment has been placed within these Special Mission Equipment Carriers.

    You have a question, citizen?”

    Troubleshooter: “How do we open it?”

    Briefing Officer: “Why would you want to do that?”

    Troubleshooter: “To get the equipment out.”

    Briefing Officer: “If you took your issued equipment out of the Special Mission Equipment Carrier, it would no longer be protected from harm. Do you want to cause harm to The Computer’s equipment, citizen?”

    In the end they discovered that you can open it if you happen to be a mutant who can stick their hand through solid objects, because the catch is on the inside where it can’t be accidentally triggered, leading to damage of the valuable equipment.

  3. One of my favourite Magic items is in my Ars Magica game:

    A monkey, with cymbols, over a sealed box. It… encourages my players to take risks in the lab through the power of… serendipity. Things… usually… just happen to be moved around so that reagents that cause interesting effects are right under your hand.

    Here are the powers that they’ve discovered so far:
    ReVi(TeHe) 20 – Moves items around in the lab to make useful items closer to hand. (+1 general quality, +1 warping(Serendipity)
    MuVi 30 – Sometimes the moved items suggest interesting experimental combinations. (+3 experimentation, forces risk modifier of +1) Giving the monkey more things to experiment with (+1 upkeep, additional +1 risk modifier, or -1 safety)
    MuVi 40 – If left to his own devices in a lab unused for a season, there is an automatic roll on the experimental effects chart that may apply to the lab or the next project, depending on suitability, however, the monkey’s experimenting will generally help the project and so this is accompanied by a simple roll to help the lab total for the next project. These accumulate every season, though the actual effects (excepting a botch) will not be disclosed.)

    My second most favourite item is a musical box that, if tipped on its side, will do two things. One, it will create a melody that, if anyone hears it, will physically cause them to dance. (Not mentally compel, but physically shove their various appendages around in wonderful wonderful dance steps. Forever.) Second, it will cause the box to remain on its side and keep playing the melody (kind of like a rain stick that has the beans magically teleport to the top when they hit the bottom.) My players are trying to figure out how to fish with it.

  4. Do Sith and Jedi Holocrons count? :)

  5. @MaW – Ah, the computer. How we love it! I suppose that the carrying case works as an impervious shield, even if you can’t get the other equipment out.
    @Denubis – That monkey sounds interesting– a fun way to make interesting things happen during research and downtime.
    @BryanB – Of course! Sure, they teach you, but it’s all the unique effects that really made the holocrons in your game.

  6. In place of a further cash reward, Igave my players in our Shadowrun game an “ancient trinket” called that the shaman who gave it to them called “The Conch of Fates”.

    Once per week they could ask the Conch any question and it would provide an answer. The catch was that the answer provided could either be the truth or a lie, with no real way to know which was the case without investigating it further.

    The further trick was, if the Conch DID tell them the truth, it would invariably be in such a way as to cause them undo hardship. Ie: Q: Where is the drug dealer? A: Go to the docks at midnight. At midnight, the drug dealer does indeed show up, along with his posse, and the Triad group he was meeting with and the Knight Errant police force surveiling the area and probably a Yakuza force that crashes the party, any part of which could end the teams day quite poorly.

    In the case that the Conch was in fact lying about its answer, then it would be for some unrelated benefit. Ie: Q: Where is the drug dealer? A: Go to the docs at midnight. When they get there, the drug dealer is no where to be found nor has ever been there, but they discover information about Police surveilance of Triad activities with local drug dealers which gives them valuable information to cell, or other contacts to persue in their mission.

    They haven’t used it too much, but we’ve run a couple side plots on it and invariably it leads to all kinds of tension. They never know if the path it leads them on is going to prove useful to their grand intentions, or, if it does, if they’ll get screwed in the deal.

  7. @Denubis – I love that your players are trying to fish with the box, My players made friends with a mimic last game. Why do toothed boxes speak common?

    On the subject of magical items, I had a dungeon with Mirrors that shifted you through time. I left quite a few careful hints about that all over the place, but my players thought it was shifting them between realities. The goal of the dungeon was to steal the artifact powering the mirrors and walk out to discover that though they’d been in the dungeon for two days, it was dusk the day they’s left when they walked out. Instead my players stole a mirror, synchronized their efforts on both sides of the time stop, and dropped the magical orb plot device through to the dawn side, and walked out the instant they’d walked in, confusing everyone involved. It was hilarious.

  8. Thanks for selecting my suggestion pot posting for an article. I’ve loved seeing all the great ideas from the Gnomes and from the readers here in the comments.

    I like using unique magical items in my campaigns a lot. Things that the players would never have seen in any rule book.

    Here are two I’ve used. One useful and another just silly.

    The useful one was a dark mirror which could be asked a question once per day. The mirror interpreted the question literally which could cause problems for the players, but once they learned to phrase their queries more carefully they got some good use out of the mirror. Basically, once a question was asked, the mirror would cloud up and then show a scene without audio that would be related to what was asked often giving the players some insight into a problem they were facing. As a GM this item was also useful in that I could help the players out a bit if they were stuck.

    Once the question was answered the mirror would speak and ask a question of the character that did the asking. The character had to answer truthfully or else the mirror would shatter cursing them with bad luck along with denying a useful asset to the party. This was often useful in getting background information on characters whose players weren’t into coming up with a detailed back story. It was also fun to watch a player squirm if they were asked about something they didn’t want another of the characters present to know. I kept a list of a few questions for each of the characters so I was never caught flat footed in what to have the mirror ask.

    The silly item was an obsidian figurine of a nattily dressed halfling. It could be used once per day. Once activated the little statue would become a flesh and blood halfling manservant who would perform mundane tasks for the figurine’s owner for a period of one hour. Nothing combat oriented. Things like cleaning, tailoring and polishing. Really not useful, but the player whose character had it truly treasured the item.

  9. For while the swords below were the focus of the Campaign (2nd Ed Rolemaster) –>

    • The Swords of the Apocalypse

    In the depths of the past, a God/Goddess of Destruction commanded his/her/its followers to begin a project of ultimate evil design. This was to forge a group of swords, each enchanted to slay a particular race of the world of the deity. The weapons were worked slowly and carefully over eons to prevent notice by forces of Law and Justice. The swords were to be brought together to be placed in the hands of the deity and the apocalypse would ensue. This, fortunately, was not to happen. The swords were scattered before they could be used to complete the dark design. Story and song suggest that the swords have been captured by members of the various races they were meant to slay.

    The swords of the apocalypse are relatively unremarkable in appearance; but of magical forging (+10M). They are said to be able to change size from dagger, at smallest, to two-handed sword, at greatest. The swords glow when their intended victims come within 50′ R, and can identify particulars of such 5 times a day. Each sword possesses a spell list designed to be effective vs. its target’s race. Each weapon strongly desires to slay its target race.

    EXAMPLE: Deadslayer, a +10M sword. Can assume 10 shapes/sizes (dagger to two handed sword). Slays Undead. Imbed¬ded spell list Repulsions to 10th level, 20 PP inherent in the sword, 10th level effect for spells. Identify Undead 5 times per day. Detect Undead 50’R (Blue Glow). High Intelligence. Will: 50

    In addition the swords can be combined into one entity of increased power. Add +5M to the base +10M bonus for each blade absorbed. Add +10 PP for each sword. Add +5′ R to combined Detects for each sword. Add 1 to daily number for identification. Add +10 to will. All spell lists are available to the combined weapon.

    ** NEW ** If four swords are brought together, the weapon does 2x Damage. If eight swords are brought together, the weapon does 3x Damage.

    Should all twelve swords be brought together they form the mighty blade to be called Apocalypse: +65M, of Slaying all races, 4x Damager 12 lists to 10th, 130 PP, 105’R detects, 16x Daily Identify, Will: 160
    The forces of Morgoth constantly work to that end.

    HISTORY: On the world of Arda, followers of Morgoth, the Destroyer, forged the 12 Swords of the Apocalypse with the power of a major earthnode. The twelve swords were Deadslayer, Demonslayer, Elementslayer, Spiritslayer, Monsterslayer, Elfslayer, Dwarfslayer, Humanslayer, Hanislayer (Felines), Mahenslayer (Simians), Stshoslayer (Humanoids) and Kifslayer (Lizards).

    After the final sword was completed, the priests of Morgoth began the rituals to bring their Lord to Arda to wield the swords as one. Before this dark deed could be completed, a titanic burst of earthpower destroyed the ritual site and caused the catastrophe known as the Cataclysm. Morgoth’s priests and the swords were scattered across the world. Five thousand years later eight of the swords have resurfaced.

  10. @ggodo – They… shouldn’t? I mean in a 4e game, mimics are supposed to be this cunning race of infiltrators instead of GM gotchas… but even so. I’m glad you like the box. I’m amused that they’re using it in this way.

    @Scott Martin – My favourite part is the 1 lab warping. It allows me to be… creative. (well, and the leaving the monkey alone in labs. They’ve never done that though.)

  11. a gnome hat, that when put on, makes one gnome sized

  12. @BishopOfBattle – That conch is interesting– guaranteed to be useful, but usually not in the way you anticipate. Sounds like a good trade-off– and an interesting challenge to the GM when they use it.

    @ggodo – That’s an impressive dungeon– and it sounds like your players were up for it!

    @Zig – Halflings make great menservants, it’s true.

    The dark mirror is interesting; it’s usefully limited for divination (so one question doesn’t blow a plot) and develops characters. That’s a great double use out of one item.

    @Old Man – Sounds like a serious plot driver. Did your players ever recover one of the swords?

    @amzyr – I’m sorry, there is no shortcut the the awesomeness that is being a gnome. Clearly you’ve been fooled by an illusion or a Nystul’s Magic Aura. 😉

  13. one of my favourite ones is a dagger that erupts into a fireball when it contacts blood.

    these are great if you throw them – but problematic when people hold them to stab someone else…

    …especially if you give the explosion some concussive force from its centre point and scatter all the people nearby a number of squares.


  14. Haversack of Camping
    This looks like a typical adventurer’s backpack. Whoever has it can pull out the poles, ropes, etc to put up a pavilion-sized tent (housing four comfortably, six tightly). Once the tent has been assembled, the interior is temperature controlled, plus sound and light proof (better keep watch outside). One side pocket of the pack carries enough pillows and linens to provide comfortable bedding for up to four individuals. The other side pocket contains a collapsible tub; one that comes with temperature controlled flowing water (enough to fill the tub but not more) and one dish of soap. When the tub is collapsed, the water and soap disappear.

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