Magic Items That Aren’t Magical – April Fools!

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 1, 2011

Too often we take D&D too seriously. That’s not to say that funny things don’t happen during the course of an adventure, but when it comes to the rules and the mechanics of the game it’s usually all business.

Today, in honour of April Fool’s Day we’re taking a step back and adding a little bit of humour to one of the more serious aspects of the game – magic treasure.

As we’ve discussed before, the way the players describe their magical items is certainly not the way that their characters describe their items (see What’s a +1 Sword?). With that in mind, every now and then the DM should have some fun at the player’s expense. This isn’t intended to be mean spirited; it’s merely a way for the DM to inject some hilarity into the game by exploiting player greed.

The next time the party expects to find magical or otherwise special treasures don’t merely say that the find a Sword +1 or Armor +2. Describe the item in a way that would make sense to the character. Intermixed with the magical treasures throw in a regular, everyday item, but describe it in a way that might fool some players into believing it’s magical.

Here are some descriptions of mundane items with no magical properties whatsoever. A creative DM can describe these items in such a way as to imply that these items are more fabulous then they really are.

  • Blanket of Absorption

  • Daily Power: When moderate amounts of liquid come into contact with this 2ft x 4ft cloth they are immediately absorbed. If the Blanket of Absorption is hung up or left out in bright sunlight, the power can be used again after only 2 hours have passed.
    [Real description: Towel]

  • Stone Orb

  • This spherical implement is not as popular as the crystal or glass orb because it is usually so much heavier. Stone Orbs are exceptionally common and confer no implement bonus when casting spells.
    [Real description: Rock]

  • Flaming Club

  • When ignited this club will continue burning for 1 hour. The Flaming Club can be reignited if the club’s head is first coated with oil or another flammable substance.
    [Real description: Torch]

  • Bottomless Bag

  • PCs can load as much as they want into this sac; it just never seems to full up! Particularly observant characters may realize that the reason the bag never gets full is because of the gaping hole in the bottom.
    [Real description: Bag with a hole in it]

  • Vestments of Warmth

  • Donning these garments help the wearer maintain a comfortable body temperature.
    [Real description: Winter clothes]

At first this kind of intentional misdirection may seem silly and juvenile, but it can lead to memorable, and usually comical, moments at your gaming table.

In a recent campaign I threw a “Flaming Club” in with a bunch of magical loot. It was conveniently left resting in a small alcove, already flaming when the party found it. The eyes of player running the Warden lit up when I described it as a Flaming Club. (He was the only PC without a magical weapon at the time).

The rest of the party saw through the playful description and even said “It’s just a torch” but the player running the Warden adamantly disagreed. He’d made up his mind that it was magical. “If it was just a torch the DM would have called it a torch.”

The Warden took his Flaming Club into the next battle and used it to kill many monsters. It wasn’t until after the battle when the flames died out that he finally realized that it probably was just a torch after all. We still tease him playfully whenever someone lights a torch.

Something as simple as a creative (and often corny) description of a regular item can mislead a player into thinking that he’s found the crown jewels when in fact he’s just found a regular rock. By injecting a little bit of humour into your game you remind even the most serious gamer that at the end of the day the real objective of any RPG is to have fun.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alton April 1, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Hee hee! Good ones. How about:

Glasses of far seeing:

Once a character dons these glasses they see things from far away that they could not see before.

(glasses for far-sightedness)
Alton´s last blog post ..The Problem with Wizards of the Coast Part 3

2 Sunyaku April 2, 2011 at 8:38 pm

Some people like monogrammed belongings. I like the idea of adventurers (rarely) finding an item that has the name of its former owner, but confers no benefit.

Heck a particularly vain adventurer might even have his/her deeds inscribed in the item, which provides the opportunity to really play it up and make it seem special… when in reality its just a basic item.
Sunyaku´s last blog post ..Heroes of Shadow Blackguard

3 Sorain May 6, 2011 at 5:47 am

Universal Container: This stopper-able metal container is small enough to be placed in a pocket, and can hold a single dose of any liquid. When stoppered the liquid is preserved against both leaking and evaporation. Notably, it is not magically resistant to damage, so filling it with lava or acid is inadvisable.
(A flask, a totally mundane flask)

4 manofmidgard May 6, 2011 at 8:18 pm

don’t forget the pepper of sneezing and coughing or the universal super glue

5 Sorain May 6, 2011 at 11:09 pm

@manofmidgard
As much fun as the universal super glue is, there is an actual magical item which fills that role. I would say something like that fits better as ‘Princes Glue’ to fit the sovereign glue theme name. Pepper of sneezing is a good one. Ohh how about ‘Flour of Revelation’ , a white powder that you can toss into the air to reveal invisible creatures! (also makes a good fuel air explosion under the right circumstances, but you don’t want the PC’s figuring that out, trust me.)

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