So I wrote previously about various odds and ends that interest or inspire me because I enjoyed thinking about pleasant things in a world where sometimes we don’t get to dedicate enough time to consciously enjoying things. It seems a lot of people agreed with that sentiment, as I got a lot of very kind feedback from folks who were excited to talk about the little hooks and the shared interests. It also garnered hundreds of hits in an extremely short span of time. Given my own enjoyment and the fact others seemed to come along for the ride, I thought I’d do it again and maybe make a series out of it.
Last time, I came up with hooks or general ideas that were inspired by pondering the stuff I like; this time around I think I’d like to post some treasures/magical items/miscellany that comes to mind as I write about the stuff I like.
1. I like the Roman Legion.
I like ancient Rome. I like the red and gold or red and silver look. I like the way the Legion was equipped; it’s reminiscent of very modern militaries in the way each soldier was outfitted shockingly completely, with an arsenal suited to specialized combat. I like the clear evolution of arms, such as the way the pilum was eventually designed to neutralize shields at range and to be useless to the enemy once thrown. I like the utilitarian design of the gladius. I like the ornate banners announcing the identity of units, and I like the custom breastplates and helmets of wealthy soldiers and generals. I like the dominance of disciplined and professional soldiers aided by reserve auxiliaries.
Some Roman items that come to mind:
- The Gladius of Legate Hadrius Aquila, magical short sword +1; giant slayer (+3 vs ettins, ogres, titans; double damage to all true giants). Faintly radiates golden light from its razor-sharp, wasp-waisted blade. Its olivewood hilt and pommel are detailed with amber and ivory in the shape of tigers and elephants. Its grip is decorated with inlaid rings of the same materials. Its scabbard is constructed of leather and bronze and wrapped in tiger’s fur, with several carved discs of ivory decorating it on front and back; the carvings depict the six great deeds of Hadrius Aquila, who won the lost city of Shangri-La for the empire after striking down the elephantine giant Tenzin in a decisive hand-to-hand combat of champions.
- The Standard of the Lost Legion, magical staff; all friendly forces within 30′ are rendered immune to fear and morale penalties, any enemy who touches it takes 1d10 fire damage; standard is immune to flame. This ornate standard once marched with a doomed expedition into the wild unknown of barbarian country. It features an eagle with laurels in its beak sitting atop the open palm of the emperor, beneath which a crimson vexillum fringed with gold braids hangs. Five silver discs dangle from the banner’s tassels. When found, it is surrounded by two rings of ancient skeletons – those who died in a last stand and those they killed in the process, and a smaller, closer ring of scorched black skeletons immediately surrounding the standard.
2. I like Sword and Planet.
I like sword and planet stories. I like the pulpy sense of the unknown, the sense of wonder and menace. I like the idea of a daring hero fighting monstrous alien beasts in unfamiliar landscapes. I like the way colors are described to paint lurid landscapes not seen on earth, with purple moons and green skies and orange rocks. I like the idea of technology indistinguishable from magic, of psychic princesses, of ancient empires with disparate access to and employment of technology. I like the idea of a cutlass or a saber being as effective as a Venusian blaster gun. I really like the idea of all the worlds of our solar system being inhabitable and filled with people and creatures, a special sort of conceit held by fanciful speculators in the age before concrete answers.
Some items inspired by the sword and planet genre:
- Jovian Moonsaber, magical sword +1; all attacks made at nighttime are +3 to hit and damage, once per day cast Strength upon user. This artifact is a masterwork blade from the flying cloud cities of Jupiter, where the loyal servitors of the Jovian empire mercilessly subdue the troglodytic reptilians of the diamond-crusted surface with powerful weapons. The moonsaber has a swept blade of bluish metal and a closed hilt with guard and pommel of Jovian bronze. As Jupiter is ringed by dozens of moons, the bountiful magic of this radiance has been harnessed by Jovian craftmages to empower moonsabers; when it is night, even if the blade is hidden from the actual glow of a moon (such as deep underground), it is still invigorated so long as it has seen moonlight within the past fortnight.
- Silian Oil, uncommon mundane substance; extremely suitable for use as lantern oil or to soak a torch, burns for 10x the length of normal oil or torches and cannot be quenched by water. Harvested from the sea monsters of Barsoom, this material is very good at feeding flames as a long-lasting fuel. Though it has any number of uses related to arson, this is especially valuable to those who must delve deep into the inky blackness of the depths.
- Xexot Ceremonial Mask, magical armor/item; detect invisibility when command word spoken while worn, causes wearer to mildly hallucinate while worn (impose penalties to tasks involving dexterity or movement speed). This hideous artifact is a priestly devotional device from Pellucidar, the world within our own. Though it causes the wearer’s vision to mildly swim and tints colors randomly, it also allows the wearer to invoke the name of Pu, almighty Xexot god, to dispel the mists of invisibility that shroud creatures or objects. It resembles a horrifying tusked man with bestial features.
3. I like Food.
I like food. I like all food, from all around the world, and was blessed to grow up in an exceedingly multicultural city where foods are celebrated and people visit from thousands of miles away to play food tourist at our restaurants. I like when fantasy offers concrete and tantalizing glimpses at its food, mundane and fantastic alike. I like when L.E. Modesitt describes the simple peasant foods eaten by his characters. I like when you can take a couple of sentences and reverse-engineer a recipe from it. I like when wyvern egg omelettes are casually mentioned in high fantasy, and when the grittiest story mentions a pauper’s musty squirrel stew. I like the way it lends reality and weight to worlds where dragons soar into combat with gryphon riders from halls carved deep into mountains; even if the dwarf king rides against the undead at dawn, tonight his men dine on wheels of sharp cheese and loaves of soft bread with soups full of hearty vegetables just the same as you or I might do.
Foods you might find delectable:
- Algor Ale – A strong dwarven brew famed for its fabulous flavor and golden color.
- Mordak Sharp – Sold by the wheel (or fraction thereof), this cheese keeps well.
- Freehold Stew – The town of Freehold is recognized for its cheap, delicious mushroom stew.
- Eel-on-a-Stick – Common street food in cities near tributaries.
- Godmilk – An extremely expensive beverage consisting of a strong hallucinogen made from rare spider poison mixed into yak’s milk; +1 INT -1 WIS for 1d12 hours; imbues those who consume it with the ability to speak with animals and plants while active.
- Mutton Chops with Mint Jelly – Favorite of country folk across the hilly ranges.
- Sorgothian Lizard Steaks – Made from the huge monitor lizards on the island of Sorgoth.
- Twin Goose Pie – Filled with saged two-headed goose, gravy, and local root vegetables.
- Drake Yolks – Lesser drake eggs are inedible except for their yolks, which taste like rancid chicken and which leave a lasting delusion of grandeur behind; +1 STR +1 CHA -1 WIS -1 CON for 1d12 hours due to magical after effects of the dragon lineage.
- Roast Gryphon – Lean rump cuts seasoned with peppercorns and butter.
- Rat Jerky – Travel food for the poor and downtrodden, common in many major cities.
- Spiced Mead – A fortifying beverage from the wintry regions of the north.
- Hearthloaf – Dense dwarven bread which keeps very well; nourishes a man with a single slice.
- Snake Ribs – The giant constrictors of the jungle make for great smoked meat.
- Elfroot – A beneficial tuber found only in the forests of the elves, these yam-flavored roots are cooked in a myriad of ways by elven chefs; consuming a full meal of elfroot will make the eater immune to disease for 1d6 days.
4. I like Atlantis.
I like the Atlantis myth. I like the ongoing search by curious parties to locate the real inspiration for the Atlantean empire. I like the pseudoscience of the 1800s and 1900s claiming to know the historical limits of the reach of Atlantis, and its location and details. I like the idea that there was once another great classical age (or pre-classical age, as it were) civilization. I like the utopian vision of ancient authors. I like the variations that describe Atlantis as vastly advanced, or aliens, or water-breathing ocean kings with great submarine cities. I like the idea of these people being involved in the colonization of the world with their seafaring prowess. I like the fantasy of the hubris of their magic or their technology causing their eradication.
Some Atlantean treasures for you:
- Trident of the Trierarch, magical polearm +3; fishbane (+4 vs sea creatures), allows bearer to walk on water and breathe while submerged. This ornate trident was once issued as a gift of station to the greatest admiral in the Atlantean navy after a decisive victory against invasive fishmen. It is made of golden orichalcum and engraved by an artisan over its entirety with maritime motifs.
- Atlantean Globus, magical artifact; serves as a holy symbol for clerics of any lawful faith, allows the bearer to cast minor globe of invulnerability once per day, cast exorcism once per month at maximum bonus, and provides +2 CHA to the bearer. Held by authority figures at the highest echelons of Atlantean rulership, these spheres ordain the holder as a high priest in the Atlantean faith which is the predecessor of all other worldly faiths.
- Seasilk, mundane fabric; 3000gp per bolt. This silk is produced by the caterpillars of the stunning windspray butterflies. It is as light as a feather, dries extremely fast, and naturally has a splendid opalescent shimmer. Garments made from this fabric are extremely handsome and fetch tremendous prices from royalty and aristocracy around the world; it is especially valued by elven royalty.
And that wraps up another installment of some things that I like. There’s so many interesting things out there, it’s just nice to take a minute to appreciate them every once in awhile. Hopefully this article inspires something fantastic to happen behind your DM screen next time you’re at the table or preparing a session. Do any of these already feature in your games? Have your parties left the Flanaess and ended up on Barsoom, or perhaps Atlantis has risen from the deep to terrorize the Picts once more in your AS&SH game? Maybe you just hate when I do this and you want to let me have it. Either way, let me know on Twitter @dungeonspossums or below in the comments.