Booty And The Beasts: Booty!
Booty Call! Booty and the Beasts Magic Items
You know, there’s plenty of web sites and articles out there describing the more outre critters to emerge from the game of Dungeons & Dragons over nearly four decades, but magic items get short shrift, and I have no idea what a “shrift” is, but it’s clearly got a +2 size bonus to Armor Class. (The jokes don’t get any better, folks. You’ve been warned.) This is a shame, because, looking back on my munchkin days… and I do not mean my time writing “The Rainbow Connection“… the “bling”my characters were covered with was far more important than their mostly non-existent personalities. Let’s face it, if you’re in the kind of game where galactic dragons and dredbots can be expected to show up, you want a lot more on your side than a “Dagger +1, +2 vs. Amphibians”. You want a mote of galvanic scintillations or a United States Army Pulse Rife.
Oh, if you somehow got here following some kind of weird link to “booty call”, this article is part of a series discussing the 1979 highly unofficial Dungeons & Dragons supplement “Booty And The Beasts” by Fantasy Art Enterprises, with art by the justly iconic Erol Otus.
Read on for the booty! (And the gumbos. Please read on for the gumbos.)
The “Booty” section is divided into two parts, just like the lovely assistant of a magician who hasn’t mastered the whole “buzzsaw” trick. Beyond that, there’s not much organization in terms of sub-types or power level or alphabetization. Anyone familiar with products from the dawn age of gaming is not surprised.
Wand Of The Marrow Squid
Oh, this is a sweetie. You aim it at someone up to 60′ away, and if they fail their save, the wand sucks out all their bones. I just want to say that again, because it’s so cool. It sucks out all their bones. But, it gets better! What,you may ask, could possibly be better than sucking out someone’s bones? If they roll under half their Constitution on a D20, they are still alive! They’re a gibbering pile of muscles and organs and skin in a helpless blob, but they’re still alive. You could have quite a collection of deboned enemies stored in big glass vats in your mansion, feeding them via tubes or just pouring porridge onto them and letting them try to slurp it up if they know where their mouth is. Of course, the DM would probably whine that Sir Nobel The Just, Paladin Of Holy Goodness, shouldn’t do things like that, but you can just point that they were all evil, and it would be wrong to kill a helpless creature, so you are being perfectly Lawful Good. Being a paladin in a classic old school game was good training for being a spin doctor for (insert your personal icon of corruption here).
Ring Of Gumbos
This ring is shaped like a bunch of gumbos holding each other, and the user can summon forth one gumbo at a… eh? What’s a gumbo? Well, it’s a type of southern cuisine, usually associated with New Orleans, but it’s also a… it’s…
Yeah. Those. (Hey, I just discovered “Edge Effects” in Snagit! Cool, huh? Whee, I’m at 1995 levels of image processing technology!)
Gumbos have one hit point and no offensive capabilities. They are completely mindless, and follow orders without question. Suggested uses include having them open cursed chests, distracting demons while the PCs escape, and opening trapped doors. In other words, they’re used just like typical hirelings (or the character your friend’s annoying little brother rolled up and you had to let him play or your friend’s mom would kick you out), but without having to pay them any gold, run a risk of them betraying you, or being an a little tattle-tale and running off crying. You get 3-36 of them per ring. You know, I could write this up for 4e pretty easily… toss it to my players, see what they do with the little buggers.
Amulet Of Octodefense
Remember, forewarned is half an octopus! Nah, maybe I should work in an Octomom joke? Hot dogs down a hallway, and all that? Meh. This handy amulet limits the damage you can take from a single attack to a maximum of 1/8th your total hit points. It can’t reduce damage that is more than 8 times your total hit points, and it doesn’t protect against being hit by a falling moon or a hydrogen bomb. I find the fact that those events were specifically listed — and as examples to be used as a guideline for other, similar, events — tells me oh so freaking much about the kind of games Paul and Erol were playing in. God damn I’m jealous. I never got hit by a moon. The closest thing was when the Kinunir crashed into the City State Of The Invincible Overlord.
This item looks like an embryo 3 inches long, carved from pale opal.You point it at an orc (or dragon, or devil kraken) and say “Return to the womb!”. The target saves or loses 1d100 years off his present age (half this many if he makes the save), which can reduce him to an embryo (hence the name). Of course, this has a few minor drawbacks, one of which is that many, many, critters in D&D land have lifespans in the hundreds or thousands of years. Aim this at an elf who is harassing you, and, if you’re lucky, he’ll lose a few grey hairs and say “Thank you” before he eviscerates you. Lest you think you can just zap away a century or so each round, the embryizor can be used but once a day.
Wand Of The Intense Mandible
This is a fairly basic device, creating two crushing fields of force that bite down on the victim, causing 4-48 damage and breaking 1d12 bones. It’s the “1d12 bones” that does it for me; I do not know why, but something so prosaic really sums up a lot of what I remember most fondly about gaming back in the 1970s. “You’re hit by the wand of the intense mandible! Take (roll) 27 points of damage and you break (roll) 7 bones!” Now we go to the bone chart and roll 7 times to see which were broken. Yeah, I got your healing surges right here, bi0tch!
Mote Of Galvanic Scintillation
I did a good deal of writing for the Dying Earth RPG from Pelgrane Press, and the very best part was writing in Jack Vance’s style, or, rather, writing in my pathetic, shallow, and flawed imitation of his style. “Vancian” names were a big part of early D&D, and I still greatly prefer them to (gag) “White Raven Assault” and similar. Anyway, the Mote of Galvanic Scintillation is a fist sized piece of azurite which shoots out lightning bolts in all direction, striking each creature in range 1-20 times. Each bolt does a “mere” 1d8 damage (but remember, you’re being hit by 1-20 of them), and if you fail your save (which is at -1 for each bolt which hit you) you get to roll on a chart to see what kind of merry havoc is being played with your nervous system, which can include wandering around talking backwards, or believing friends are enemies and vice-versa.
Helm Of The Heinous
Other than the fact it looks like a World of Warcraft epic helm a good quarter century early (well, if WoW wasn’t censored to a PG level), this wonderful little device lets you speak with the dead, as well as solicit the aid of demons when you meet them. The demons won’t be compelled to obey you, or anything, but they’ll go along with your suggestions if they would be likely to do that anyway, which really makes me wonder what the point is. It’s like saying the helm gives you the power to ask Donald Trump to be an egotistical megalomaniac if, you know, he wants to. You also can fire a beam 3/day which will make the victim immediately try to kill himself in the most expedient manner possible. (And this is where your
asshole clever Dungeon Master says something like, “OK, the dragon decides the best way to kill itself is to attack someone as obviously powerful as you.”) It can only be used by evil beings, but, surprisingly, doesn’t turn you evil if you put it on. Go figure.
Durian Fingernail Polish
Another entry in the “women are strange and alien creatures that we don’t fully understand” category, this is magical fingernail polish which can be used solely by females (the “Drag Queen” class was promised in “Arduin, Bloody Arduin”, and we all know how that turned out, sigh.). When the wearer claps her hands together, burly football players show up to beat up the D&D nerds. No, wait. This produces magical bolts, based on the color of the polish, which makes you wonder if Durian women chose their fingernail polish based on if it matched their dress or if they expected to fight wizards (in which case you’d want pearl) or fire demons (in which case you’d want ebony).
A really nifty idea, these devices burrow into the soil and peek out with their bulbous eyes. They see invisible, ethereal, astral, and any other -al your bastard DM has come up with, and they can shout a warning or just go “kaboom”, which strikes me as warning enough. It’s noted that they will not, of course, attack their owner and will be “happy” to be with their master again, which just makes me think of them as some sort of magical, semi-aware kitten like thing that is all snuggly and affectionate and then you order it to bury itself in the ground and blow itself up because you’re too damn cheap to hire guards. You bastard!
OK, so much for magic items… tune in when I get around to it for the very final part of this series, the technological items!
Sorry, just going back through your older posts (I always get a good snicker out of your writing):
Wow…had no idea you wrote for Pelgrane’s Dying Earth RPG. That is a great, great game, and the Vancian writing is part of what makes it wonderful. Good work, man!
“…it’s like saying the helm gives you the power to ask Donald Trump to be an egotistical megalomaniac if, you know, he wants to…”
Posted in October 2010? Mmm. Mmmmm…
Yeah, I was rereading this today (and wincing at typos and other errors), and I noticed that sentence, too. Hmmmm, indeed!