Tactics and Tips
The Forgotten Magic Cache (Part 3)
By Eric Cagle

A New Look at Infrequently Used Magic Items -- Expensive and Powerful 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.

What happens when your high-level party gets a hold of a seriously expensive and powerful magic item -- but they have no idea what to do with it? In this installment, we'll look at a few of these pricey white elephants and perhaps turn them into animated white elephants of smiting.

Apparatus of Kwalish

The apparatus of Kwalish is quite possibly one of the strangest magic items in the Dungeon Master's Guide. If you find the secret catch of this apparent iron barrel, you'll gain access to your own walking, crushing tank-lobster. The sheer size of this magic item means that it's unlikely that your characters will be toting one around with them, but who knows? Here are a few ideas on how to make use of such an unusual and unwieldy magic item.

  • The apparatus of Kwalish can fit two people inside. While cramped and limited, using both spots is a good way to safely move an injured, unconscious, or otherwise incapacitated party member off the battlefield.

Apparatus of Kwalish -- For the DM

Just by its very nature, the apparatus of Kwalish is more of a plot device rather than a practical magic item for PCs. When piloted by an NPC, however, the apparatus has all sorts of possibilities for good adventure material.

  • Numerous merchant vessels have been attacked and sunk near a particular outcropping of rocks close to a port city. The few survivors have reported that that the attacker was some type of giant crab. In reality, an entrepreneurial thief has discovered or built an apparatus of Kwalish and now uses it to go after the big prey -- ships!

  • A mastermind's underwater lair includes an apparatus of Kwalish as an escape plan, allowing him to slip into water in case his sanctum is breached.

Daern's Instant Fortress

Daern's instant fortress is the perfect magic item for adventuring parties on the go. This powerful item creates a remarkably hard (and hardy) shelter that's perfect for defense. Here are a few things to keep in mind when your group gets a hold of one of these items:

  • Make use of the "instant" part of Daern's instant fortress by creating a great, nearly indestructible roadblock, perhaps in the middle of a bridge or narrow chasm. Wait for your companions to get past the magic item before uttering the command word to block off anyone else.

  • At the DM's discretion (see below), the sheer force that a Daern's instant fortress produces when activated can damage and even destroy nearby objects, such as walls, buildings, bridges, and the like. Just set it near the object, utter the command word, and stand back!

Daern's Instant Fortress -- For the DM

This magic item is great for NPCs to hole up within when facing the PCs, since it lets them create their own incredibly difficult defensive location from which to cause mayhem and confound the players.

  • The Dungeon Master's Guide doesn't specify what happens if you try to activate a Daern's instant fortress in an area that is too small. Thus, you'll need to decide on one of two possibilities. First, the magic item fails to activate at all. Second, the fortress deals the damage described to any nearby objects. If the damage is sufficient to destroy the object, say an overhanging bridge, then the instant fortress achieves maximum height and width. Otherwise, it expands only as far as possible and then stops.

  • The command unit of a marauding army uses a Daern's instant fortress to keep key members safe during encampments. High-level spellcasters combine this with other spells to keep scrying and other divination spells from peering inside.

Orb of Storms

Weather is one aspect of a campaign that rarely comes into actual play in most D&D games. Except for extreme examples, such as a vicious thunderstorm or blizzard, then the weather typically becomes a non-issue. However, if your DM wants to drop the effects of weather into your game, then the orb of storms becomes a magic item worth its cost.

  • Instead of relying on multiple castings of endure elements or having to wear extremely heavy outfits when traveling through cold and snowy terrain, the orb of storms can make a range of pleasantly warm weather for an adventuring group to travel through. Of course, the unseasonably warm temperatures may gain the attention of curious creatures and NPCs . . .

Orb of Storms -- For the DM

The orb of storms becomes a much more interesting, useful, and powerful magic item if you're willing to take weather into account during your campaign. If you want to throw some wind and hail at your characters, then consider using an orb of storms to rain on their parade.

  • An evil druid attempts to stop encroachments into his forest home by using an orb of storms to alter the weather patterns to create a combination of drought, followed by torrential downpours to create flash floods. Anyone who comes investigating runs the risk of becoming a target of the orb of storm's storm of vengeance ability.

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.


1995-2008 Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All Rights Reserved.