Continuing my readthrough of TSR books in publication order, I’m up to the magic items of the Greyhawk supplement:
sword of cold: In addition to the bonus shown vs. creatures of fiery origin, the weapon scores triple damage whenever a 20 is rolled. It is able to dispell a Wall of Fire and gives its user the same protection as a Ring of Fire Resistance.
This is an example of what I’d be glad to see in a 4e or 5e magic item. It’s a reasonably powerful weapon, but not overpowered compared to other magical weapons; it has a lot of thematically-related abilities; and it reminds the owner of its presence (its acting as the ring of fire resistance, for instance, makes you glad you have it in several non-hewing situations). It also has a very satisfying crit power.
shield of missile attraction: This item will appear to be a perfectly genuine +1 to +5 shield until missiles from true enemies are shot at its user in anger. It will attract such missiles and reduce the person’s armor class by 5% (-1).
Depending on how you read it, this might just be another “bummer” cursed item, or a quite interesting one.
It might be a shield that seems to be a magic shield, but when used turns out to be a -1 shield against all attacks, and it also “attracts missiles” in some undefined way. Or, it could be read as an ordinary magic shield against melee attacks, +1 to +5, but -1 against all missile attacks. This makes the shield a situationally valuable, but very dangerous, item that might cause some angst to the player! “Do I keep this shield? It might get me killed! But it might save my life!” Seems like a nice model for cursed items, but D&D didn’t go in that direction.
vorpal sword: The Vorpal Blade differs from a Sword of Sharpness in several ways:
1) its bonus hit probability is +2;
2) it needs only 10% over the required score to hit, or an 18 through 20 in any event to sever, and it will always sever the neck; and
3) it will perform in the hands of any Lawful fighter, although it requires a Paladin in order to act in its anti-magic capacity.
Wow, this weapon is crazy. It kind of makes a mockery of the D&D combat system.
It’s +2, and if you get 10% more on the attack roll you need, you sever the target’s head. Note that that +2 and 10% cancel each other out on the attack die. That’s roughly equivalent to (but better than) a sword with no pluses to hit, that does A MILLION DAMAGE on a hit. Combats are going to be a lot shorter with this weapon. I don’t know how the DM could continue to challenge a party with this sword, except send them a constant stream of gelatinous cubes and other headless creatures.
Arrows of Slaying: Special magical arrows which are specifically enchanted to slay Monsters with a single hit. The referee may distinguish them by basic types if he wishes, or they may each slay any monster. Basic types would be: Giant Class, Undead Class, Flying Monsters, Other Monsters, Enchanted Monsters (Invisible Stalkers, Elementals, Golems, Aerial Servants, and so on).
I want an “Arrow of Slaying Other Monsters”. It’s an arrow that’s defined only in relationship with other arrows! It’s a meta arrow!