Everyday Magical Treasures

Since its inception, the Dungeons & Dragons game has kept magic items firmly in the realm of those things which are of direct use to adventurers. Weapons, miscellaneous items, magic rings and wands, etc.; all provide some benefit in combat, or are otherwise useful in an adventuring setting (with notable exceptions such as the spoon of stirring…).

However, given a world in which magic does exist, it stands to reason that such would be used for more mundane purposes far more often than to assist adventurers in, say, discovering the location of secret doors. One has only to look at the “real world” magical grimoires and Black Books with their spells for curing impotency, discovering the identity of one’s future husband, etc. to see that such practical magic was of much more immediate interest to those who practice the art, presumably because they could be paid for it more often than for more esoteric and exotic applications.

Where this leaves us, in game terms, is a class of magic items that are of little direct use to adventurers save as treasure to be sold for coin. As such, the can be thought of as belonging to the same class as tapestries, statues, jewelry, and the like. The mere fact that they are magical in nature doesn’t imply a “high magic” setting; indeed, in a low-magic setting one might expect to see more of this sort of magical item; scarce magical resources would be used in ways that would most practically benefit the practitioner.

So here I present a sampling of such items, which are magic items intended only for sale, rather than the direct use of the adventurers. Of course, adventurers being what they are, they might well find some creative use for such things in the course of their quests, but at the end of the day these creations are intended for the use of non-adventurers. Often a village will collectively own one of these implements, lending it out to villagers as needed. Command words, if present, are usually engraved in an inconspicuous place on the item.

Anvil of Striking: Metal worked on this enchanted anvil will be harder and stronger than normal, and yet easier to work while it is still hot. It is worth 1,000 g.p.

Barrel of the Gods: This large oaken barrel will always produce a superior vintage of wine, when aged in this barrel. Up to 60 gallons can be aged in such a barrel. It is worth 750 g.p.

Broom of Sweeping: This item appears to be similar to any sort of enchanted broom. When the command word is spoken, however, it will begin sweeping the floor of whatever space it is in, in a 10′ radius. If a door is present within 30′, it will sweep towards that portal (the nearest one, if more than one door is present). It is worth 500 g.p.

Chest of Cooling: Seemingly an ordinary chest, this device will keep whatever is within it at a constant temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing food to be stored for much longer periods than is usually possible. A small chest is worth 750 g.p., while a large chest is worth 1,500 g.p.

Golden Spindle: Fiber spun on this enchanted spindle will be twice as strong as ordinary string or thread. It is worth 500 g.p.

Jug of Fine Brew: When used to brew ale or mead, this covered jug will always produce a superior-tasting beverage, and will never not ferment. It is worth 750 g.p.

Millstone of Productivity: Allows grain to be milled 50% faster than an ordinary millstone. It is worth 1,000 g.p.

Playing Board: This appears to be an ordinary board with a design on it for playing Nine Men’s Morris, and appropriate black and white stones will be found with it. When the command word is spoken, the board will play the game against an opponent. It is not a perfect player; roll 1d6 for the player and 1d6 for the board, adding the appropriate INT score. The highest total wins the game.A board that can defeat someone with an INT of 6 is worth 100 g.p., one that can defeat an INT of 8 is worth 150 g.p., one that can defeat an INT of 10 is worth 200 g.p., and so on, but fancier boards made of precious substances are not unknown and could command great prices. Boards capable of playing other, more complex, games are obviously worth considerably more.

Plough of Mighty Furrowing: Cuts through the toughest sod with ease; a team of horses or oxen can plough a patch of ground in half the time it would normally take. It is worth 1,000 g.p.

Vermin-stone: This enchanted stone will cause bedbugs, cockroaches, weevils, mice, etc. to flee from its vicinity, with a 20′ radius of effect. Magical vermin, creatures with an intelligence of semi- or higher, creatures under magical control, or monsters (including giant rats) are not affected. It is worth 1,000 g.p.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

6 thoughts on “Everyday Magical Treasures

  1. While “everyday magic items” are always a fun read, I can’t help but feel that you’ve got a flawed underlying assumption. In our real world, practitioners of magic generally didn’t have to invest tons of gold pieces in their training and equipment. They only had to use their imaginations and fool themselves and the occasional customer, for middling returns. While in the understood world of D&D, enchanting items is the province of high-level characters who’ve spent a lot on their training and ingredients. There is also a fantasy economy of wealthy customers to purchase rare enchanted items for magnificent sums, and who can then either go adventuring or sponsor adventuring parties to harvest the riches of fantasy “dungeons.” There’s no ninth level magic-user going to make a broom of sweeping for a chambermaid and get paid sixpence for all his investment. He’ll make a Vorpal Blade and be rewarded handsomely. As I said, “everyday magic items” are a fun read, but a comparison of the D&D magic economy to our real world’s history seems fatally flawed.

    1. I’m not sure I agree with your logic. By that standard, doctors would never operate on poor people, because they make more ministering to the wealthy.

      I also most definitely think comparisons of our real-world magicians to those who live in a world where magic actually works (and has a relatively mechanistic set of rules governing how it does so) are not at all realistic. You’re comparing fakirs with what are essentially engineers, with completely different motives, skills, and expectations of their outcomes.

      But I do appreciate the thoughts!

    2. There’s nothing here a wealthy patron wouldn’t buy. Kings want the best armor, and an Anvil of Striking fits the bill. And if a Duke likes entertaining, a Barrel of the Gods is a useful status symbol. Oh, and a lord wishing to improve harvests on their personal estate might spring for a Plough of Mighty Furrowing. Wealthy patrons have always been where it’s at. Adventurers are in rare supply, and most probably die. No, in this and any world, the deep pockets (and stable riches) of the nobility are always the better choice…

  2. I thought you were going somewhere entirely different with this in the first paragraph and was going to say “AD&D1E cantrips” but then you went where you did and now I’m thinking, “Genius!”

    For when you’ve given out your third “jade and silver bracelet” in two weeks and are looking for a way to make that detect magic spell worthwhile, but don’t thing they deserve a new +1 Dagger for their trouble.

  3. The 2E Forgotten Realms module Four From Cormyr included a few magical items that would be of limited (necklace of memory enhancement, which helps the wearer recall past conversations and things they’ve read but doesn’t impact spell memorization) or no (keychain of domestic propriety, which allows the user to cast various house-cleaning cantrips, carried by a noble’s butler) use to adventurers. I like these kinds of magical items, since they add extra detail to the world and show how the presence of magic might impact the lives of NPCs who would never adventure but still have their own roles and jobs in the world.

    Even in 1E, there were a couple of magic items that didn’t seem immediately useful to adventurers but that could be cleverly used by adventurers outside of a straight battle. Unearthed Arcana had the Zagig’s flowing flagon, which one of my fanfiction protagonists used to get a villain and his cronies passed out drunk before another protagonist disguised herself as the villain and ordered the release of the rest of the party from the villain’s dungeons.

    Or, consider the girdle of feminity/masculinity. Its change is likely upsetting to someone who is changed without their consent, but what if a transgender player wants that as part of their character’s development? One of the character’s goals might be to find such a girdle to transition, or find some other means of doing so such as through a wish spell. This wouldn’t be the only story arc the party deals with, and the character might play a secondary role in stories where other characters are the focus, but when the focus is on them it can be an important part of their development.

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