Discworld - Magic Items

by Terry Pratchett and Phil Masters

Art by Paul Kidby

Ajandurah's Wand of Utter Negativity

This ancient magical device has nothing to do with fairy godmother wands, being more the sort of thing that wizards go for -- although actually, it makes even wizards nervous. Unseen University has prohibitions on such weapons. (Basically, think how a loaded assault rifle with grenade launcher and bayonet would go down in a university engineering department. They might be able to tell you how it worked, but would rather not have it waved around when they were trying to have a peaceful chat.) A very few are known around the Disc, showing up in the armouries of people with more mana than sense.

The wand has the simple ability to annihilate any matter, living or inert. (Wizards say that it makes the target somehow never have existed, but that may be a slight exaggeration.) It requires Magery to use, and costs one energy point (from fatigue, a staff, or whatever) to destroy up to 300 lbs. of mass up to a hundred feet away. Increasing its range costs one extra energy per hundred feet added, and larger targets cost +1 energy per extra 150 lbs. of mass. The control is fine enough to destroy part of a target (such as a single limb) and leave the rest intact; an IQ roll may be required in such cases, at the GM's option.

These wands may go back to the time of the Mage Wars; the spells needed to create them are not currently known on the Disc, and anyone researching the topic would probably be subject to pre-emptive psychological treatment (involving a few fireballs) by other wizards. No standard price can be quoted for the item; trading in such things is a bit like dealing in weapons-grade plutonium -- you get the best deal you can, and you probably don't really want to do business with anyone who wants to do this sort of business.

The Creations of "Numbers" Riktor

"Riktor the Tinkerer" was a lecturer at Unseen University who firmly believed that the universe could be understood in terms of pure number, and indeed that it was numbers, at some very deep level. (He was obviously unusually rationalistic for an old-style wizard.) He built many magical measuring devices to demonstrate his theories; reproducing them would be a lengthy research project for a magical engineer. They included a Mouse Counter (it counted every mouse in the building), the Rev Counter (which did much the same for priests), the Star Enumerator (guess), and the Swamp Meter.

The Resograph

Potentially Riktor's most important creation, the Resograph ("Reality-Meter") stood at UU. It was housed in an antique vase, with pottery elephants around the side. The partly-octiron internal mechanism sensed distortions in the fabric of reality, and caused the elephants to "spit" small lead pellets in the direction of the event, to a distance in proportion to the size of the effect. Riktor calculated that a serious distortion could cause a couple of pellets a month to be projected a few inches. During the invasion of the alien Moving Picture imagery, the Resograph became seriously dangerous to be around, firing salvos of pellets at firearms velocities, before it finally exploded.

Magic Swords

Magic swords are traditional heroic appurtenances on the Disc, but most of them are rather old; they were generally originally made by dwarfs with Long-Forgotten Rune Lore, great wizards, or blacksmith gods. The first are, well, long forgotten, while wizards have long since gone off swords (which always seem to fall into the hands of heroes, who have an unpleasant penchant for using them on wizards), and blacksmith gods are usually employed these days improving the style of the balcony railings and door furniture around Dunmanifestin. Wizards also object to the rather erratic magic of many blades, which can scramble the calibration on magical instrumentation for miles around, and tend to arrange for such swords to be lost at every opportunity. Still, a wide range of enchanted edged ironmongery is available around the Disc, and some of it is even black, sentient, and possessed of personality problems. GMs are welcome to plunder GURPS Magic, GURPS Magic Items, and GURPS Magic Items 2 for ideas.

Signs and Door-Furniture

A brass plate that speaks the name of the occupant of a house when approached is an old-fashioned, standardised piece of minor magical engineering, although of course it has to be customised for each user. It costs a base $200 in Ankh-Morpork, or any other town with a large wizardly community -- more or less for different sizes and qualities.

A door-knocker in the form of a demonic face that can talk, naming the inhabitants of the house, or announcing visitors to those inhabitants, costs about $500. It can be treated as having IQ 8, although it may be a little unimaginative. Such faces tend to have speech impediments, as they usually have a hinged brass ring though their nose.

Magically-illuminated "neon" signs are sometimes acquired by optimistic shopkeepers. They cost about $100 per letter for letters a foot tall; larger costs more in proportion, but smaller does not cost much less. They usually last 2d years (larger tends to be shorter-lived), then start buzzing and flickering.

Room Temperature Control Device (Experimental)

Recently suggested by an alchemist, and not yet on the market, this device consists of an invisible telekinetic imp that sits over a doorway or window and controls the movement of air in or out, permitting only warm air to enter and only cool air to leave, or vice-versa. Obviously, one such imp would be needed for each door or large window for the system to be reliable. The concept still needs work (the imps keep complaining that they can't see what they are doing, for some reason) but the designers are very hopeful.

Caroc Cards

Caroc Cards are used on the Disc for both divination and card games, including a hideously complex game of bids, partnerships, ruffs, and grand slams, whose name Rincewind tentatively identified as "Aqueduct."

The deck contains eight suits: Octograms, Turtles, Elephants, Swords, Sceptres, Cups, Coins, and Crowns. Each contains numbered cards from Ace to Eight, a Knave, Knight, Queen, and King. There are also the Major Arcana, which are dealt out of some games (but which are used in "Aqueduct"); they include the Ruler, the Star, the Importance of Washing the Hands, the Dome of the Sky, the Pool of Night (which may be the same as the Moon), and Death. (As in the terrestrial Tarot, Death does not always mean death. It's symbolic, really. Honestly.)

Caroc-readers claim that the deck contains the distilled wisdom of the universe (or the ancients). Other people -- even wizards -- mutter that this is rubbish. Shrewd witches regard the cards as a concentration aid that helps focus innate powers. Both fortune-tellers and gamblers require good dexterity, to shuffle a hundred-card deck.

Cripple Mr. Onion: This card game is played by two sorts of Discworlders; "Winners" and "Losers." It uses the eight Minor Suits only (you don't want to play with people who use the Major Arcana as well). It is similar to poker, with an initial deal, then a series of betting rounds until all but one player have folded or the bets are equalised, in which case a showdown follows. One may also buy extra cards.

Combinations include the Two, Three, and Five-card Onions, Broken Flush, Double Bagel, Double and Triple Onions, Great Onion (the second-best hand), and Nine-Card Run (a nine-card straight flush -- the best possible hand). For quick game resolution, use Gambling skill as usual. Characters with ESP and Precognition may roll on that and add the amount that it is made by to their Gambling, but this does not guarantee victory; a truly skilled player is adept at juggling an assortment of uncertain futures.

Article publication date: July 31, 1998

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