Friday, June 27, 2008

RC Hacks and House Rules: Page 249 - Artifacts!

Flipping to the randomly generated page 249, here we have a sample Artifact: Mask of Bachraeus. Somewhat strangely, I haven’t been able to locate any additional information on Bachraeus in my Mystara material, and some digging around online seems to confirm that here, tucked in the Treasure chapter of the Rules Cyclopedia of all places, we’re given a new Immortal in the sphere of Entropy, from the flavor text, we can determine that Bachraeus is the patron of Medusae. Oh, the ideas...

I’m tempted to hook this into that bit at the end of B2 and turn the Keep into the first stop on an arching artifact-based adventure path. Who could forget that shapely prisoner imprisoned in the Caves of Chaos? With WoAdWriMo rapidly approaching, I'm being bombarded with ideas from every direction. Hopefully I can stick with one long enough to contribute this year.

As an aside: I’ve always had a soft spot for Medusae, but I definitely tend to portray them as much more classical, breathtakingly beautiful and sinister foes in my games. I really prefer this to the depiction they were given for 3rd (and carried over for 4th, unsurprisingly) edition.

Exhibit A: Bad Medusa.

I like to go with the "cursed by the gods" for their beauty and hubris angle a little more I suppose. Here you have an amazingly gorgeous woman, and a mere glance at her will turn you to stone. Avoid the gaze, and you've still got the copperhead coiffure to contend with. Granted, it's really hard to argue with the awesome-ness of the serpentine Medusa from Clash of the Titans, and I also did enjoy Jeff’s Medusae (adapted from Marvel Comics), but when I think about Medusae, my brain instantly links to Caravaggio's depiction.

But back to our sheep, the system of Handicaps and Penalties outlined here is an interesting guideline, although I must confess, I'm pretty prone to shoving tiny magical quirks on virtually any magical item that my player's get their grubby hands on. This helps reinforce the idea that magic is unpredictable, and honestly, no two plus two swords should really be identical. The Handicaps associated with artifacts look pretty brutal, but the Penalty-per-use seems like a pretty way to balance an effectively limit-less spell casting item. I think in most cases, owning the artifact is enough of a problem as it is, and in the case of the Mask of Bachraeus, the players would probably have to contend with a rather perturbed nest of Medusae1, eager to get their precious artifact back.

ars ludi recently touched on making treasure special, and the artifact creation rules within the RC definitely seem to encourage this. By tying an epic history to an artifact, you can subtly encourage higher-level players to follow up on all those wonderful plot hooks and ideas that you've been itching to try out. In fact on the page there’s this lovely tidbit:
This artifact will shatter irrevocably if its gaze is ever reflected by the Golden Mirror of Ka. The wearer of the mask will be immediately stunned for a full turn and will remember nothing of what he did while wearing the mask, but he will be otherwise unharmed.
Aspiring DMs are given a springboard for the creation of their first artifact, within the description of the sample artifact! Golden Mirror of Ka you say? The one that was lost when Milenia was sacked and razed by the Bogdashkan Orcs?

Anyone care to take a crack at stat-ing the Golden Mirror of Ka in the comments? If you do, feel free to also provide a page number of the RC for me to tackle next!

1. Medusae need a collective noun. In searching for a suitably snake-y noun, I did come across a rhumba of rattlesnakes, which is great.
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