Tactics and Tips06/19/2007

The Forgotten Magic Cache (Part 2)

A New Look at Infrequently Used Magic Items -- Aquatic Themed Items

In this series, we'll take a look at infrequently used, or little understood, magic items described in the Dungeon Master's Guide, plus we'll give you some creative uses and reasons to include them on your character's inventory.

Like spells, there seems to be a list of magic items that are considered crucial to an adventuring party -- cloaks of resistance, rings of protection, and potions of cure light wounds, for example. Of course, with hundreds and hundreds of magic items to choose from, some magic items are going to get short shrift. But what should players and DMs do when the random treasure table turns up something unusual? Toss it and move on? Or maybe they can open up their minds and build a character (or adventure) around particularly interesting magic items.

In this installment, we'll look at those magic items with a distinctly nautical feel to them. In games taking place exclusively on land, these items may appear worthless. Indeed, many of the items described here won't even function if they are not employed in or on the water. So, for the purpose of this article, we'll assume that the adventure is taking place partly or wholly on the sea, along a river, or on some other large body of water. Folding Boat

Magic Items and Specific Circumstances

In most cases, the inherent worth of a magic item isn't the cost to purchase, but how and where a magic item can be used. Certain items, such as a cloak of resistance, are incredibly useful because its bonuses apply regardless of the situation. But others, particularly those of an elemental nature, can be used only in extreme heat, high in the air, deep in the earth, or in or on a body of water.

For adventurers, this limited usage also reduces the likelihood that the item is worth the cost, or even the bother, of toting it around, waiting for just the right situation where it can be employed. While this is true, players shouldn't always sell off or trade some magic item because it doesn't appear to have an immediate purpose. By building a character (or, for the DM, an adventure) around a magic item's effects, you can breathe some life into his personae. Which is more interesting, a wizard wearing a cloak of resistance or a cloak of the manta ray?

For more on this topic, come back for the fourth installment of this series!

This magic item produces not one, but two different types of waterborne craft. That said, buying three mundane craft of the same type listed would probably cost more than this magic item -- now that's a bargain for something that you can fold up into a small box and tote around during your adventures!

Here are a few things to keep in mind when your character acquires a folding boat:

  • For seaborne adventures, the folding boat is the perfect headquarters, since you can pack it up and tote it along with you. Even on land, you could activate the large ship mode to provide you a place to stay for the night or a battlement from which to barricade yourself and fight off interlopers.

  • Just like the Quaal's feather tokens described in the previous article, the folding boat can also be activated and used as a large roadblock or other impediment.

Folding Boat -- For the DM

One curious omission from the folding boat's entry in the Dungeon Master's Guide is that it doesn't say what happens to any objects or creatures inside the boat if the command word is spoken and the boat folds back into its box form. There are three possible outcomes that you need to determine ahead of time.

The first, and easiest solution, is that the command word fails if there is anything inside the box -- everything and everyone must be removed first before the boat folds back into a box.

Second, all objects and creatures are ejected on the same turn as the boat folds up, resting gently in the nearest available space.

The third, and potentially most powerful (and abusive), is that everything inside shrinks and goes into some form of suspended animation. You could amend this to say that only inanimate objects shrink. However, this means that your players could easily abuse the rules by turning this relatively low-cost item into a bag of holding in addition to its regular abilities!

Cloak of the Manta Ray

The cloak of the manta ray is a great magic item for use during sea-based campaigns. In addition to allowing a character to breathe indefinitely and swim at high speeds, the cloak allows a character to use his arms and attack with his normal weapons. Keep this in mind when you go under the surface: You can make a sting attack, swim, and use your regular weapons.

Cloak of the Manta Ray -- For the DM

Because the cloak of the manta ray functions only in sea water, it's easily overlooked or ignored as a useful resource by adventurers unless they know (or suspect) that they will be heading to the ocean. If your game is taking place on the water, then here are a few ideas to include the cloak of the manta ray:

  • A pirate captain wears a cloak of the manta ray. During boarding actions against merchant vessels, the captain -- a truly sadistic and cruel individual -- enjoys pulling victims off the decks and into the water. Once there, he polymorphs into the manta ray form and stings his victims.

  • A professional thief makes his hideout in an underwater cave that can be reached only by going under the surface. He uses the cloak of the manta ray to swim back and forth to his cache. If any adventurers go under water to investigate, the thief disguises himself in manta ray form, looking innocuous while waiting for the right time to strike.

About the Author

Eric Cagle cut his teeth at Wizards of the Coast, but now lives the extravagant freelancer lifestyle. Look for his name on D&D, d20 Modern, and Star Wars books. Recent credits include d20 Apocalypse, Monster Manual IV, and the Tome of Corruption from Green Ronin Publishing. He is also a contributor to the Game Mechanics, Dragon Magazine, and this lovely website. Eric lives in Seattle where the coffee is dark and bitter like his goddesses.

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