Not-Scrolls, Not-Wands, Not-Rods, and Not-Staves

So, one of the things that ended up changing in my game world in the long migration away from AD&D is that I changed the things that I really didn’t like, or wanted a different game experience of – namely those some semi-ubiquitous magical items. It’s probably worth explaining this so that a couple of things mentioned in the last Session recap make sense.

Scrolls, as a disposable magical item, never made much sense to me. So instead there are a couple of different things. Arcane magic tends to be contained within things called “D’lanni Stones” – these are roughly grape-sized (though they can be larger or smaller) crystals that operate the same way as a scroll does. Divine magic for Clerics (and Paladins) tends to be held in some reliquaries of divine energy called a Monstrance. These can be a specific spell, but in 5E terms are more likely the equivalent of a spell slot usable for any spell of that level. Monstrances tend to be “aspected” in that they are associated with a specific deity or religion, so while the Lightbringer of the Church of the Lords of Light could arguable use a Monstrance of the Goblin Court, it can end up being an alignment violation or just simply bad juju. Druids tend to create carved Runesticks that operate similarly to a D’lanni Stone. Yes this makes Monstrances more powerful, but they also tend to be more rare.

Like 5E, my home-brew system essentially had a set of rules around Arcane Foci, and as a result the presence of Wands, Rods, and Staves seemed to be oddly redundant or otherwise problematic. What I ended up doing was drawing from real world magical practice and occultism and looking at magical seals, cylinder seals and chops. So the concept of the “Wizards’s Seal” came into being for my world – generally being in the form of Cylinder Seals or Chops for complicated items, possibly a Pendant or a Signet for simpler (one or two effect items). Alternately they would be adapted in the same way as I changed the “Staff of the Adder” that the party just found into the “Armlet of the Adder” as some of them simply seemed to be better suited in that way.

Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t find a “Wand of Magic Missiles” or a “Staff of the Magi” in my game world, but this tends to be when someone has enchanted their personal wand or staff with those properties – and this sort of personal item tends to be both highly idiosyncratic as well as somewhat recognizable to other mages. In some cases it is quite the coup to be carrying around some particular mage’s staff, in others it just means that his friends and allies can find you easier in order to extract revenge and recover it…


Categories: Campaign Development, Game Design, House Rules, Magic Item | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Not-Scrolls, Not-Wands, Not-Rods, and Not-Staves

  1. Interesting concept of D’lanni Stones and Monstrances, they seem to be ideal disposable magic items. Please forgive my ignorance, but what are chops in an arcane or occult sense? I have often played with the idea that all magic is idiosyncratic and a knowledgeable observer could tell which mage cast a spell by simply seeing spell’s effect. Thanks for a grand post.

    • Yeah, I just always thought the idea of the “self-erasing scroll” was a bit wonky…

      “Chop” is the colloquial for seal in East Asia, you can Google “Chinese chop seal” to see what they look like. A cylinder seal dates back to the Akkadian era and was simply a rolling seal rather than a seal that one stamped – lots of examples online.

      Certainly there was a history of incantations being inscribed on cylinder seals which could then be impressed on material – I believe the same was true for chops – and there is a certainly whole corpus of lore around the magic of European seals. To extend the idea to D&D simply think about magical runes and writing systems, and then imagine a seal with the proper runes on it to “activate” rather than the more generic wand, rod, or staff – this also means that Identifying what they are and what they do is far easier with the proper language or Arcana check.

      Personally my favorite idea was a “Seal of Resurrection” (aka the magical Rod) which actually left a stamp/scar/brand/whatever on the person so brought back from the dead.


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