literary source of the brooch of shielding?

The Brooch of Shielding (which absorbs 101 HP of Magic Missile attacks) was useful in early D&D editions, when evil wizards filled so many slots in the wandering monster tables and when there were so few low-level attack spells. By third edition, with the proliferation of monsters and spells, it was significantly less so. I bet that during the run of third edition, nobody’s Brooch of Shielding ever took 101 points of Magic Missile damage.

It’s not necessary to posit a specific literary model for the Brooch of Shielding: it’s not too hard to come up with an item that protects against missile attacks. Still, here’s a plausible literary source: a passage from Gardner F. Fox’s 1964 Warrior of Llarn, written by an author Gary Gygax admired (and who is part of the Appendix N pantheon) at a time when Gygax was reading practically all the sci-fi and fantasy that came out.

The Llarnians carry ornaments on them – the medallion on a chain was such an ornament – that counteract the deadly efficiency of the red needle beams. These roundels perform somewhat the same service to their wearers as do lightning rods on earth. Their peculiar metal absorbs the awesome power of the red rays as soon as they come within a foot of anyone wearing them.

I take the Brooch of Shielding’s 101-HP maximum to be a game balance thing; and I’m not sure what to make of the strange specificity of its description: “The Brooch of Shielding appears to be a piece of silver or gold jewelry, usually (90%) without gems inset.” I guess sometimes you just like to roll a d100.

5 Responses to “literary source of the brooch of shielding?”

  1. says:

    There’s also an amulet in one of the first Dying Earth stories which renders the wearer immune to the excellent prismatic spray.

  2. Pfooti says:

    The brooch still has utility in 3e, primarily in mid-levels. I’m sure it mostly depends on the campaign, but if your DM notices the predictable and steady output of the Magic Missile, you’ll want one for a bit. Various low-level caster NPCs with magic missile and empowered magic missile eating up their spell slots can do a pretty impressive amount of damage, especially since there’s no save, attack roll, or simple defense besides the Shield spell.

    In the 5-10 level area, a 1500 gp item is affordable and your HP are low enough that a 101 HP buffer is respectable. Unlike 4e with its huge body slot affinities, you can probably deal with putting your BoS on your neck slot.

    Then again, this is just from the perspective of a frequent player of a few campaigns, and not a broad player of many games, which tends to distort things as we all fall into patterns.

  3. ghost says:

    i am thinking the root of this is actually Princess of Mars, if i remember correctly? isnt there something like that? Fox’s Llarn books are basically riffs off of the Barsoom books, though very good riffs. I have only read Thief of Llarn, but enjoyed it.

  4. Claire Claire says:

    ha ha ha the ad on this page is for Pandora design-your-own jewelry: “Make her day Special!” I guess the day when my custom-designed brooch protects me from being killed by an evil wizard will be a special day. And so will the day when you give me an actual brooch of shielding and my eyes are opened to one of the following facts: 1) you have finally been sucked into the mind-altering, paranoia-inducing psychodrama that is Mazes & Monsters–I mean Dungeons & Dragons–or 2) we actually live in a world where I might be attacked by an evil wizard.

  5. paul says:

    And you will have 10% chance of getting a gem inset!

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