Wednesday, April 25, 2018

"Robe of Useful Items" and other old D&D scribblings




Sarah and I broke out the dice and graph paper for a freestyle session of D&D last night. She created Daryl the Ranger, Phoenix the Wizard, and Pane the Thief and led them through the introductory stages of the exploration of a mysterious old house sitting atop a hill.1 I mostly did the DM work off the top of my head, streamlining everything greatly for simplicity. But, for the occasional inspiration — and to keep Sarah guessing about what might be around the next corner — I did some flipping through a few old-school modules that I brought to the table.

And that brings us to a "Tucked Away Inside" moment. Someone's old character sheets fluttered out from inside my used copy of The Ghost Tower of Inverness. They were pre-generated sheets for Li Hon the Monk, Lembu the Fighter, Zinethar the Cleric, and Hodar the Magic-User.2 Sarah thought they were really cool, and I found them nostalgic and amusing. Many, many moons ago, some kids clearly had a fun afternoon or evening with this 1979 module by Allen Hammack.

The characters went through some battles, for sure. Pencil additions show that Zinethar's hit points tumbled from 72 to 27. And Lembu's appear to have gone from 70 to 0. Poor Lembu.

Hodar's equipment list included a torch, a Wand of Wonder, a Magic Missel [sic] Wand, a ladder and the Robe of Useful Items. Regarding that robe, according to the D&D Wiki:
"This appears to be an unremarkable robe, but a character who dons it notes that it is adorned with small cloth patches of various shapes. Only the wearer of the robe can see these patches, recognize them for what items they become, and detach them. One patch can be detached each round. Detaching a patch causes it to become an actual item."
It's basically a deus ex machina as a piece of clothing. In this case, Hodar's magic robe contained patches for two daggers, two lanterns, two mirrors, two lengths of rope, two large sacks, and two of D&D's infamous ten-foot poles. Thus, the robe seemingly contained everything a party might need to get out of a jam when trapped deep in a dungeon and running out of time and/or hope. On the Giant in the Playground forum, BWR noted the following about the robe in 2013:
"The one time I've encountered it we argued about who was going to take the crappy thing. Next session it saved our lives and we started worshipping it. Being able to pull a large door, ladders, holes and whatnot from it can be extraordinarily useful. Of course, we were about 5th level when we got it, so its utility decreases as characters get better gear and, most importantly, more magic."
Some other fun tidbits from those old Inverness character sheets:

  • Zinethar might have had many dealings with snakes. He had a snake-charm spell, a stick-to-snakes spell, and a Staff of Python. He also had a Raise Dead sroll [sic]. Wonder if it was used to help Lembu?
  • Li Hon had a Cloak of Elvin Kind, better known as the Cloak of Elvenkind, which greatly improves one's ability to hide.
  • Li Hon also had a Cube of Force, which sounds way more complicated than anything I'd want to manage as a freestyle, storytelling DM.

Footnotes
1. I'm not sure if Sarah is reading this, but if she is, here are some hints: Go back into those rooms you already explored, and (a) look inside the suit of armor and (b) look under the rug. Always look under the rugs!
2. Not to be confused with that poor guy Hodor from Game of Thrones.

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