Ancient Folklore, Castles & Crusades, Celtic Folklore, Christian Folklore, Demon, Demons, Devil, Devils, Elf Shot, Flying Ointment, Folklore, Hand of Glory, Infernal, Magic, Magic Items, Medieval Folklore, Medieval Magic, OGL, Witch Ball
The magic items that follow are inspired by actual Western folklore. Many are made of materials that that can charitably be described as “vile”. Some have no use but to be instruments of malice. Traditionally, the methods to create such items are taught by Demons and Devils in order to spread misery. Such items are often very hazardous even to their users. Many are intended to tempt their users into evil acts, and sometimes even eventually kill them (so the powers of Hell can claim the soul). Such items are definitely not for every campaign, but will add a certain authenticity to suitably dark milieus.
I have written the items for use with Castles & Crusades, but they should be easily adaptable for use with most OGL simulacrum and retro-clone games.
In describing these items in game terms, I have tried to err on the side of the folklore itself. In Western folklore magic is dangerous, unbalanced, and often evil. Many CKs will no doubt feel that some items (such as the Poppet of Suffering) are unbalanced and unfair. Such items are best used as plot devices, rather than as randomly placed treasure.
Castle Keepers may arrange for player characters who acquire certain of these items to be approached by a Pact Devil offering a contract of continued aid, in return for the character’s soul. Any character who signs such a contract should get what they deserve.
Created by Fairy Folk, dark fae, and elves allied with demonic powers, Elf Shot resembles a small triangular piece of stone or glass. Anyone proficient with darts can throw a piece of Elf Shot. Alternately, Elf Shot can be mounted on an arrow shaft and shot from a bow. Upon a successful hit, the victim must save versus Constitution or be Paralyzed for 1-10 turns, sickened and incapacitated for 1 day, or be killed instantly (equal chance for each effect). The victim will take no other apparent damage, and the used piece of Elf Shot itself will disappear.
There will be from 1-8 pieces of Elf Shot when found.
Adventure Seed: There has been a rash of healthy people dying or becoming paralyzed in the village, without any seeming reason. They have been felled with Elf Shot used by an evil Ranger in love with a princess of the Unseelie Court. As part of her challenge to her suitor, she gave him Elf Shot and demanded he use it to spread panic and chaos for her amusement.
Value: 5,000 per piece Experience: 1,000
A mainstay of evil witchcraft, Flying Ointment is a thick salve that grants its user the ability to Fly (as the spell) for 8 hours. The user must apply the ointment to their entire body. After 10 minutes, the magical effect will begin.
Flying Ointment is highly illegal in most civilized nations. It is much cheaper to create than an alchemical Potion of Flying, requiring neither sophisticated equipment nor rare ingredients. It is spiritually and physically perilous to make and use, however. The recipe require the fat of a humanoid, the skins of toads, and several common but extremely poisonous herbs. Any Paladin who encounters Flying Ointment must immediately destroy it, and arrest or kill anybody seen making, using, or possessing it. A Paladin or good-aligned Cleric who willingly uses Flying Ointment will be instantly stripped of all special abilities.
Due to the extreme toxicity of its ingredients, there is 5% chance that any batch of Flying Ointment created is a virulent poison that will instantly incapacitate its user and cause death after 1-6 turns of delirious agony. There is no saving throw against this effect. The creator or would-be user of Flying Ointment has no way of knowing (short of magical divination) whether or not a batch is poisonous.
Adventure Seed: Fresh graves are being opened and the bodies desecrated. The fat from the bodies is being stolen by servants of the local Baroness, who is secretly a witch. She is making Flying Ointment that enables her to covertly visit her lover, who is her husband’s political rival.
Value: 150gp Experience: 500
Hand of Glory
This mummified humanoid hand is coated with wax, with a wick projecting from the wax at the end of each finger. Alternately, a hand of glory is sometimes found in the form of a pickled hand with 4 candles positioned between the fingers. Either way, if a finger or candle is lit, it will burn for ½ hour. During that time, all within 30′ of the wielder will be affected by a Sleep spell. Once a finger or candle is lit, it can never be used again. Obviously, once all the fingers or candles are lit the hand is exhausted and useless.
Hands of Glory are beloved by thieves and Assassins, and consequently possession of one is a capital offense in most areas.
Adventure Seed: An assassin is killed before he can enter a wealthy merchant’s home. When his body is examined, he is found to be carrying a Hand of Glory, originally cut from the corpse of an executed criminal hung up outside the city gates. The adventurers are paid to track down the maker of the hand, and bring him to justice.
Value: 600 or 750gp Experience: 400 or 500
Ointment of Transformation
Similar to Flying Ointment in composition, an Ointment of Transformation changes its user’s form into that of an animal for a period of 8 hours. The exact animal form bestowed is fixed at the time of the Ointment’s manufacture. Typical forms include wolf, black cat, crow, horse, toad, or owl. Like other magical Ointments, an Ointment of Transformation must be rubbed over a person’s entire body to be effective. Evil witches will sometimes use an Ointment of Transformation to change an unsuspecting or unwilling victim into another shape. Unwilling subjects receive a Wisdom saving throw (with a Challenge Level equal to the level of the witch who made the ointment) to avoid transformation.
An Ointment of Transformation is made in a base of humanoid fat, with various inexpensive but highly toxic herbs. In addition, it also requires some part of the animal whose shape the Ointment bestows. Naturally, Ointment of Transformation is illegal in most civilized realms, and good-aligned clerics will try to eradicate its manufacture and use.
A person under the influence of an Ointment of Transformation, willingly or not, is trapped in animal form for the full 8 hours of the Ointment’s effect. There is a 5% chance per use that a transformed person will assume the mentality of their assumed shape, and be stuck in it even after they transform back into their natural body.
Adventure Seed: The mayor’s wife has disappeared, and her relatives are sponsoring a search. In actuality, the mayor’s new horse is his wife, kept in horse form by constant applications of an Ointment of Transformation. The Mayor is secretly a demon worshiper, and he bargained for the recipe so he could punish his wife for being such a nag.
Value: 4,000 Experience: 500
Poppet of Suffering
This small, loosely-sewn cloth doll contains a potent and malevolent enchantment. In order to use a Poppet of Suffering a witch must first gain access to some part of their intended victim, such as hair or blood. They must thereafter combine the piece of the victim with the poppet in some way, such stuffing it with the hair or a cloth stained with the blood. The Poppet then becomes a tool of pure evil.
By manipulating the Poppet, a witch can cause corresponding damage to their victim. Sticking the Poppet with a pin will cause the victim to suffer 1d4 points of damage. Twisting the Poppet’s limbs (which can be done once per limb) will cause the corresponding limb of the victim to break. Subjecting the Poppet to extreme heat or cold will cause 1d8 points of damage to the victim. Finally, the witch can decide to cast a single spell upon the Poppet, which will affect the victim as if the spell had been cast directly upon them.
A victim receives a Wisdom saving throw each time a witch attempts to affect them with the Poppet of Suffering, with a Challenge Level equal to the user’s Level. Success means that the attack has no effect, and the victim is immune to all further attacks from that Poppet. In the case of a spell cast through the poppet, the victim gains the benefit of both the Wisdom save and any save allowed for the effect.
Whatever effect a witch decides to inflict with it, a Poppet of Suffering can only be used 5 times, and only against a single victim. It has a range of 1 mile. Victims who survive the assault will know the identity and location of the witch who attacked them.
A Poppet of Suffering is defeated by such spells as Protection from Evil, Sanctuary, Mind Blank, or any other spell or effect that protects against skrying, possession, or mental influence.
Possession of a Poppet of Suffering is often punishable by being burnt alive in the town square.
Adventure Seed: A month after a drunken night with a wench, a PC is attacked by a witch employing a Poppet of Suffering. Surviving and learning her identity and location, he realizes that the witch is the mother of the wench. The wench is now pregnant, and had asked her mother to punish the PC for skipping town .
Value: 34,000 Experience: 5,000 (also awarded to surviving victims)
Skin of Shifting
If this enchanted wolf skin is worn during the hours of night, the wearer will be physically transformed into a Dire Wolf. The transformed character retains his hit points and intelligence, but otherwise the character assumes the characteristics of a Dire Wolf (including attacks, armor class, etc.). Once transformed, a character cannot revert to their normal form and remove the skin until daylight.
Every time the Skin of Shifting is used there is a 1% cumulative chance that the user’s Alignment will permanently change to Chaotic Evil.
Any armor of clothing (other than the skin itself) worn at the time of transformation is ruined. The Skin of Shifting is sometimes encountered as a belt or girdle of wolf fur, rather than a whole skin. The properties of the item are the same in any case.
Adventure Seed: The beast who had been killing local livestock has moved on to attacking clergy. The beast is actually an ex-Paladin returned from the Holy Crusade, driven mad by the atrocities he was told to commit in the name of the God of Mercy. Given a Skin of Shifting by a disguised demon, the former Paladin has recently developed a taste for clerical flesh while in his wolf form.
Value: 8,500 Experience: 800
A Witch Ball appears to be a multi-colored glass globe approximately 3-4 inches in diameter. Further examination will reveal that the interior of the globe is filled with criss-crossing strands of glass. The object is very fragile, and must be either hung up or else carefully carried to avoid breakage.
A Witch Ball creates a 30 foot diameter zone of Protection From Evil (as the spell) around itself. This zone cannot be destroyed or dispelled without breaking the Ball itself. Attempts to use items such as a Poppet of Suffering against anyone in a Witch Ball’s protected area will automatically fail. Any astral or ethereal creature (including partially ethereal creatures such as incorporeal undead) entering the protected zone must also save versus wisdom each round or become trapped within the Witch Ball. Similarly, any attempt to use Magic Jar or similar effects within the protected zone will automatically fail, and the would-be possessor must save versus Wisdom or have their soul permanently imprisoned within the Ball. The Witch Ball itself is completely immune to magical attacks of any kind or Level.
Naturally, even the smallest hit upon a Witch Ball will automatically destroy it, releasing any souls or creatures trapped inside.
Adventure Seed: The local wizard wants to assassinate a rival by sending him a trio of succubi, but the rival appears to be protected from such attacks by several Witch Balls. Since the rival wizard is far too powerful for the PCs to confront directly, they are paid handsomely to instead gain access to his hidden mansion and destroy the items protecting him.
Value: 25,500gp Experience: 3,000