PART 10 OF 12
Now we come to TREASURE, the cause of, and solution to, all of an adventurer's problems. First off, you know how the conversion rates between different coins always change from one game to another? Here's the formula in Holmes Basic: 50 copper = 10 silver = 2 electrum = 1 gold = 1/5 platinum. Since prices are listed in gold pieces, I guess the equivalent in the United States would be something like this: copper = 2 cents, silver = 10 cents (dime), electrum = 50 cents (just like the half-dollar, no one ever thinks about electrum), gold = 1 dollar, and platinum = 5 dollars. Of course, that's not really true, because in real life you're unlikely to find a horse for 200 bucks in the U.S.A., but as a way of remembering how all the coins add up I think it works okay. I wonder what the average price of a horse was in the late 1970s...
Gems, or at least ones generated on the enclosed random table, are always worth one of five prices: 10, 50, 100, 500, or 1,000 gold pieces. Jewelry is always worth a multiple of 300 unless it is damaged, in which case it's worth half that. Eh, fine by me. Keeps it simple. Not everything has to be realistic, especially in a fantasy game. Video games do things like this all the time, and I love video games. Of course, you could make a compelling argument that almost none of the video games I like would exist without D&D, so this is probably where a little bit of that abstraction comes from. That, and limits to computer memory/time/budget/giving a crap.
There are 20 categories of treasure hoarded by monsters, labeled A through T. It's the same kind of thing as in AD&D, although I don't have my other books on hand for comparison. Interestingly, a lot of these categories include a chance of finding a map. "Maps must be made up by the Dungeon Master in advance, showing the location of treasures in the dungeon or its vicinity. Such treasures would be guarded by appropriate monsters and the maps need not be complete, entirely accurate, or might be written as a riddle, etc." Remember that bit about Thieves above Level 3 being good with languages, and hence good with maps? Here's one reason that could be relevant. Making extra, incomplete maps ahead of time sounds like a lot of work for a DM to do just in case a map shows up in a random treasure pile, though, unless the DM rolls up all of the treasure during prep to find out if making a map is necessary. Maybe that's the intention. I have a feeling that if I were the DM, my players would end up with a lot of scribbles on the backs of napkins.
Enough about that; let's talk about magic items! Just like in OD&D, magic swords work differently from magic axes/hammers/spears/etc.* In the latter case, the bonus number (+1 or whatever) is applied to both to-hit rolls and damage, just like what I'm used to from D&D 3.5. However, such weapons never seem to have additional special powers.
Swords, on the other hand, only add their bonus to attack rolls and not to damage, unless they have a secondary power. For example, a "Sword +1, +2 against Lycanthropes" would have +1 to hit and +0 to damage against most targets, but would have +2 to hit and +2 to damage against werewolves and such. The random treasure table also includes a flaming sword (actually, a "Sword +1, Flaming, +2 against Trolls, +3 against Undead") and a "Sword +1, Locating Object Ability." Why are swords so different? Beats me. International arms agreement? Union regulations? Weird religious doctrines? Someone's really complicated fetish? Obscure literary reference? You decide!
Do daggers count as little swords? The only two magic daggers listed are a "Dagger +1 against man-sized opponents, +2 vs. goblins and kobolds" and a "Dagger +2 against man-sized opponents, +3 vs. orcs, goblins and kobolds." Also, do those daggers get no magic bonus at all against opponents that don't fit any of those categories? That's how I'm reading it.
Other things of note: Magic arrows have a +1 bonus to hit and to damage, but magic bows only add +1 to hit. Firing a magic arrow from a magic bow gives a total of +2 to hit and +1 to damage. Cursed armor gives your opponent a bonus to hit you. I don't see any instructions on how that "Locating Objects Ability" on that one magic sword is supposed to work. How often can you use it? Does it work like the Locate Object spell?
So I guess you really have four types of magic weapons: swords, daggers, axes/hammers/spears/bows, and arrows. Five types if you count bows separately.
You can take a little sip of a potion to find out what it does without using up its power. I wonder how this is intended to work. Does it cause a minor and relatively useless/harmless version of the potion's effect to occur, or does the person sampling it just psychically know what it does? I'm guessing this is just supposed to be left up to the DM. It's also a little ambiguous how long the effects of potions are supposed to last. If I'm reading this correctly, they're generally supposed to last 6 turns (an hour), plus a random number of turns rolled secretly by the DM. It doesn't say what kind of die to secretly roll, though. I'm guessing a d6.
The listed types of potions are Growth, Diminution, Giant Strength, Invisibility, Gaseous Form, Haste, Fly, Poison, Delusion, and Healing. Seems like a good variety. The Giant Strength potion is awesome: "Confers the full advantages of stone giant prowess, including doing 3-18 points of damage when scoring a hit, and having the same hit probability as a stone giant."
Scrolls seem like they work in the usual way, for the most part. One neat feature is that even though most scrolls can only be used by Magic-Users (and maybe Thieves above Level 3, but this book doesn't really cover them), protection scrolls, like the "Protection from undead" scroll, can be used by anyone. Interestingly, the "Protection from magic" scroll stops spells from being cast out of the protected area as well as into it. Also, much like how you can sip a potion to see what it does, you can open a scroll just a teeny-tiny bit and read the title without setting it off - unless it's cursed, in which case doing even that much activates it. The nature of the curse seems to be up to the DM; suggestions include turning the reader into an animal or making an angry monster teleport right next to them.
It occurs to me that the notion of a scroll not being activated if you just peek at the title implies that merely reading an entire scroll silently is enough to activate it, right?** That implies all kinds of neat things you can do with scrolls, from stealthy casting to tricking enemies into looking at scrolls for you if you suspect they're cursed, to using "Protection from magic" scrolls as Explosive Runes-like sight-activated traps for enemy Magic-Users. Neat!
I wonder if Magic-Users have to be careful not to look at the entire finished product when they write a scroll, rolling it up from the top as they go down the page just to be safe.
"Only one magic ring can be worn on each hand." D&D 3.5 had this rule as well. I think the in-universe explanation was that more than one ring per hand would cause magical interference between them, but out-of-character we all knew it was a balance issue. I'm not complaining. I just think it's funny.
For rings, the list includes Invisibility, Animal Control, Plant Control, Weakness, Protection +1, Three Wishes, Regeneration, Water Walking, Fire Resistance, and Contrariness. "Plant Control" also includes fungi, which sounds to me like a deliberate and playful attempt to piss off biologists. The Weakness Ring has a 5% chance of actually making you stronger the first time you put it on. The Ring of Protection +1, strangely enough, does subtract from the wearer's AC instead of the to-hit rolls of enemies, throwing off the consistency of what any particular AC number means for a PC. So much for that "AC 3 always means Plate Mail" thing. Oh well. I guess monsters threw that off, too. The Ring of Protection +1 also gives a +1 bonus to all saving throws, which is nice.
The Three Wishes Ring is kind of a Monkey's Paw. Asking for more wishes puts the character in a time loop, for example. "Wishes for powerful items or great treasure should, if possible, be granted in such a way that they are of no benefit to the wisher." The ring isn't completely useless, though: "Wishes that unfortunate adventures had not happened should be granted."
The Ring of Regeneration heals 1 HP per turn, even after dismemberment, "unless the ring wearer is treated as a troll," which I take to mean destroyed by fire or acid. That is just amazing. I could see a whole quest revolving around the merest rumor that this thing is in the dungeon. If a PC gets it, I could also see a particularly mean and petty DM throwing nothing but fire-breathing and acid-squirting monsters at the party from then on.
The Ring of Water Walking should probably go to the party's Cleric. Or comedian.
The Ring of Contrariness is hilarious because it makes the wearer kinda sorta do the opposite of what they're told. "If, for example, the wearer is told to not kill himself, he will agree — and instead attempt to kill the person suggesting he not kill himself." I'm not kidding when I say that Dr. Holmes struck comedy gold here. I wonder if The Maze of Peril is as funny as this book. I need to fit this into my campaign somewhere.
"Wands that have projectiles or rays are considered to do six 6-sided dice of damage and to have 100 charges or projectiles." Holy crap, that's a lot of charges! It's not even random! Put a Wand of Fire Balls or Wand of Cold in the hands of the party's Magic-User and I bet your group will start hitting way above its weight class.
The list includes the Wand of Magic Detection, Wand of Secret Doors and Trap Detection, Wand of Fear, Wand of Cold, Wand of Paralyzation, Wand of Fire Balls, Staff of Healing, Snake Staff, Staff of Striking, and Rod of Cancellation. The Rod of Cancellation can be used by any character, and it works only once and only by touch, but it disenchants a magic item permanently. The Staff of Healing and Snake Staff can only be used by Clerics. Otherwise, all wands and staves can only be used by Magic-Users.
I guess I've discovered a fifth (or sixth, depending on how you're counting them) magic weapon category: magic staves. The Staff of Healing does not list any offensive capabilities, but the Snake Staff does +1 to hit and to damage, and upon hitting it can turn into a snake and wrap around the enemy to make them helpless for 1-4 turns, while the Staff of Striking is basically a Magic-User-only weapon that does not give a bonus to hit but does do 2-12 damage.
And now for the "Miscellaneous Magical Item" section:
Crystal Ball - Magic-User only. Use it more than 3 times a day and go crazy. Use it for too long and you'll need to rest for a day. Still pretty convenient as far as spy cameras go, since you don't have to plant it and it probably won't be discovered by whoever you're spying on unless they have some magic tricks of their own up their sleeve.
Medallion of ESP - Works like the spell. Anyone can use it, but it has a 1 in 6 chance of malfunctioning.
Bag of Holding - A golden oldie. Filling it does add some weight, but not as much as just trying to carry stuff normally. A great space-saver, too.
Elven Cloak - Makes you "next to invisible," meaning you have a 1 in 6 chance of being spotted, and a Detect Invisible spell will reveal you.
Elven Boots - Gives you silent movement. According to the random table, seems to come with the Elven Cloak. Anybody can wear the boots, so presumably that goes for the cloak, too. But do you really want to smell like an Elf's feet?
Broom of Flying - Does exactly what it should. There's a note in the item description basically telling the DM not to be a dick by making it impossible for the command word that activates it to be found, recommending that it be engraved on the broom.
Helm of Telepathy - Not only does it let you read thoughts within 90 feet, but it also lets you try to control intelligent creatures to a limited degree if they fail a saving throw (at a penalty, no less). Probably up there with the Ring of Regeneration in terms of surprisingly powerful items.
Bag of Devouring - A device used to make the DM cackle manically.
Helm of Evil/Good - Cursed item that switches the wearer's alignment. "A neutral person wearing the helm will simply be totally self-seeking and do nothing to help anyone else in any way." So, what, the opposite of Neutral is Chaotic Evil combined with Chaotic Stupid? Oh boy, more confusing stuff about alignment...
Rope of Climbing - A very convenient grappling hook.
Gauntlets of Ogre Power - Makes unarmed attacks do 2-8 damage, adds an additional 2-8 damage to weapon attacks, grants 18 strength, lets you "grasp and crush things with great ease," increases carrying weight by 1,000 gold pieces if using your hands.
The section ends with a note about trying to make your hirelings or other NPCs test items for curses to keep your own butt out of the frying pan. Such cowardly and selfish behavior will make the morale of your hirelings drastically drop when they figure out what you're trying to do, or if they hear that you've treated other hirelings like guinea pigs. The book also suggests that if the item turns out to be beneficial, the NPC should demand to keep it, and if it proves to be cursed, they should seek vengeance. Great advice!
Next time: Simply Samples
*Well, I say "etc." but the only non-sword, non-dagger melee weapons on the magic weapon table are an Axe +1, a War Hammer +1, and a Spear +1.
**This is assuming one is a Magic-User and casts Read Magic, or the scroll in question is a protective scroll that anyone can read.