The Magic of Magic Item Origins

When you’re a player and you get a new, shiny +1 long sword to swing at your enemies, do you look a gift horse in the mouth? Not usually. Sure, you might be a little paranoid and hope it’s not cursed in some way, but usually you’re just happy to have a better tool for the tool box. At least, I know I usually am.

robe_of_eyes_magicka_by_sharkinabox-d7olis7And when you get a better item like a Robe of Eyes, you’re probably laughing your way to the next adventure. (I found the image in the forums at Paradox Interactive for Magicka: Wizard Wars – Shark is a talented artist. The image is kind of freaky! 🙂 )

But if you’re anything like me, eventually you hit a point where you wonder where some of these items came from. Who made them? Why were they made? When were they made? Who owned them before you?

I’m going to look at three different items and come up with some backstories for them to show what a bit of a history might bring to your game table. As a GM, I almost feel compelled to give things a bit more detail than a simple description.  The three items I’ll work through will be:

  • Ring of Regeneration
  • Snake Staff
  • Helm of Evil/Good

All of these items are detailed in the Mazes & Perils Deluxe book, but now we’ll give them a bit of a past to go along with that description.

Otivor’s Ring of Regeneration

tumblr_mkbch8mdrw1ryfivao1_500Obvious benefit: Heal 1 hit point each turn. Normal healing restores 1-3 HP per day with rest in a safe place. This accelerates that process greatly.

The wizard Otivor encountered a mummy during one of his expeditions to seek the lost books of his master Sovius. When Sovius disappeared one night, he swore he would find his teacher and friend. When his body was left at the tower door, shriveled and wizened like a wrinkled grape, he swore revenge. But first he had to track down some of the more powerful tomes that were taken the night Sovius was.

After the mummy attack, Otivor knew he was dying. He could feel his insides slowly turning to dust and knew his master must have succumbed to a similar fate. But he also knew that somewhere, Sovius had a spell that would accelerate the healing process. It took two weeks of agony, but he found the spell and was able to bind it into a ring. Within a day, he felt almost human again.

Able to continue his quest, Otivor searched high and low for his master’s killer before removing the ring to let fate run its course. Any who find this ring may have the misfortune to find it on the hand of a mummified wizard who may not want to give it up…

Staff of the Serpent Queen

Obvious benefit: better to-hit and damage bonuses (+1 for each) plus the ability to coil around an enemy on command.

snake-staff-transparentWhen the Queen of Serpents (also known as “the Goddess”) ruled the world of man, she had an army of priests to keep her subjects under her control. A few of those high priests were given items imbued with a few of her own abilities to aid in that task.

The Staff of the Serpent Queen offers three key benefits.

  • If necessary, a wielder could strike down her enemies with speed and strength to remind them of her own mighty power. This ability was to be used against her enemies, not her faithful, and if misused would turn upon its wielder. The Goddess knows when her people have strayed from her path and will take care of them swiftly. (+1 to Hit and Damage quickly becomes -1 to Hit and Damage and the staff will bind its owner)
  • On command, the staff will attack a target within reach and coil around it like a snake. This renders the target helpless and prevents a counterattack for 1d4 turns. At the end of that duration, it then crawls back to the priest and into his hands, turning back into a staff.
  • Lastly, the staff will “bite” the priest when the Goddess desires an audience. The bite injects a venom that enables the priest to hear her words, even from her banishment in the Beyond.

Only a handful of these staves remain intact from the time before the Goddess’ banishment. Most were destroyed in the madness of that time.

Naleus’ Helm of Reversal

Obvious benefit: chaos. When a character places this helm upon his head, his alignment immediately changes to the exact opposite and it may only be removed with a Remove Curse spell.

Naleus was a wizard of chaos during the dark age of the Vampire Lords. He served his masters by offering entertainment in the hidden arenas in the bowels of the city-state of Zhilin. There they would take prisoners of the state and pit them against each other. And if they refused to take part in the games, they would have a Helm of Reversal forcibly placed on them.

Tales are told of childhood friends battling to the death on the arena floor. Brother against brother. Parent against child. The depths of the Bloodlords’ depravity knew no bounds and Naleus was content to watch it all.

Most of these Helms were destroyed when the West was liberated from the Bloodlords, but a few have survived and appear from time to time in lost caches of items in the dark places that have remained undiscovered. Woe be to the party who stumbles upon one of these rare artifacts…

Conclusions

As you can see, the three descriptions go far beyond the original paragraphs written about each item in the Mazes & Perils Deluxe book. Some may add a bit of the “why” to the equation. Others may add a new dimension. But all give these items a backstory that could easily be developed into one or more adventures for your heroes.

Would you like me to do this for all the items in the Mazes & Perils book?

Leave me a note in the comments!

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