D&D Greyhawk magic items

February 6th, 2013 by paul
This entry is part 11 of 18 in the series New Schooler Reads OD&D

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!

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3 Responses to “D&D Greyhawk magic items”

  1. Michael "Gronan" Mornard says:

    The “Vorpal Sword” is the sort of thing that “THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!”

    I don’t think anybody in Greyhawk EVER got one. They were an example of “top level” magic item, and were supposed to be INCREDIBLY rare, not handed out like M&Ms.

  2. Rowboat says:

    I’m mildly amused by the evidence in the shield’s description of players’ attempts to unmask such shields in advance. Of course, I can imagine the arguments some groups might still have had about whether that skeletal archer or pellet-shooting golem can actually feel anger, or whether that hired assassin might be acting not out of anger but out of professional obligation and pride, or whether the city guard who’s mistaken the party for a(nother) notorious local band of brigands should count as a true enemy.

  3. paul paul says:

    I think there’s a story (that I probably included in Cheers Gary but have now forgotten) that one of Ernie’s characters got, by random rolls, the only two vorpal swords that Gary ever gave out. And he dual-wielded them.

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