Artifacts of Oerth Article: B-Sides and Errata
Date: Mon, September 16, 2002
Topic: Greyhawk Apocrypha
Unpublished information from the Living Greyhawk Journal 10 article "Artifacts of Oerth" (which appeared in Dragon 294, April 2002)
"Artifacts of Oerth" b-sides and errata
By grodog (see also http://www.rpg.net/ehp/imrryr/greyhawk.html)
Copyright 2013 by Allan T. Grohe, Jr.
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.
Due primarily to space considerations, the following text was cut from the published version of the "Artifacts of Oerth" article from Living Greyhawk Journal 10. While the article was written by Allan Grohe and Erik Mona, the following text was written by Allan, and he is solely responsible for any errors in it.
This section was originally a sidebar that would have appeared on the same page as the "Using Artifacts in a Greyhawk Campaign" section.
Strategies for Introducing Major Artifacts into Your Game
The following guidelines should help a DM who wants to introduce a new major artifact into her campaign, but who doesn’t know where to begin. This blueprint can also be used to retool a published artifact to fit another campaign setting, or to design an artifact from scratch.
For a high-fantasy campaign, you can apply these steps to multiple artifacts, which also opens the possibility of artifacts interacting with one another if they’re in close proximity (whatever “close” is to an artifact), and generating strange resonances throughout their surroundings. You can also choose to eliminate artifacts, or to place “purposeless” artifacts: if Vecna isn’t a god in your campaign, then perhaps his Hand and Eye don’t exist; if Vecna has been destroyed, what effect does that have on the Sword of Kas?
Select the type artifact you want to bring into play: evil vs. good, natural vs. divine, earthly vs. multiversal, etc. This decision should be based on the type of impact you want the artifact to have on your game. The Hand of Vecna will create a completely different adventuring environment than the Mighty Servant of Luek-O. Think about how your players will react to either the temptation to use ultimate power, or being opposed by it, which should help steer your decision accordingly.
- Decide the artifact’s age; its original creator(s) and their race(s); why it was created; any natural enemies and/or allies of the artifact and/or its creator(s); and its means of destruction (if this is known). Expand on these foundational ideas to flesh out the artifact, as you would one of the main NPCs in your game. You don’t necessarily need to start out knowing everything about any artifact, although deciding what is common knowledge is a good place to start. The more thought you invest in an artifact up front, the fewer internal inconsistencies you’ll have to fix later while detailing its abilities, curses, myths, owners, etc.
- Design the artifact’s powers and side-effects (if any); determine the artifact’s sentience (if any; create its personality if needed); determine the artifact’s impact on its surroundings, as it is moved around, or when it stays in one location for awhile (it’s “wake”). Don’t allow yourself be bound by the rules for creating magic items written in the DMG, or by the known meta-magic feats, or the power-levels of ninth-level spells (or eighteenth-level spells for that matter): free your mind from the rules, and design effects beyond the scope of mortal magic. An artifact’s powers should be epic in scope and proportion, not just a series of quickened, maximized, silent spells culled from the PHB. Consider how the artifact’s powers relate to its original purpose, and whether it has gained or lost powers over time.
- Fill in the artifact’s true history, from its origins through the present (or as much as you’re willing to allow the PCs to discover). Build secondary lore that’s not directly related to the artifact itself (like myths that detail where a soul is trapped when The Void is drawn from a Deck of Many Things). Lay the foundations for some red herrings and false leads.
- Create legends and stories about the artifact, both true and false in nature, based on the history. Use this folklore to obscure and hide the artifact’s true origins and powers by blurring the distinction between the artifact’s abilities and those of its wielders, and by imagining how a legend would be distorted over a thousand years (or however long it has been since your artifact was created).
- Build a paper trail for the legends, owners, and signs of the artifact’s presence (its wake above). Then decide who knows about the legends (sages, loremasters, archmages, savants, ancient elves, etc.), and what interest they have in the artifact. These will be the people that the PCs first solicit for advice, so detailing a few in advance is a good idea (Otto, of the Circle of Eight, and the clergy of Phaulkon have strong interests in collecting artifact lore, for example). Decide on the hook that will first set the PCs to seeking the artifact.
- Place the artifact in its current location, whether that is in the hands of a 14th level paladin, or in ruins long since buried by Lake Matreyus’ waters, or in the City of Brass. You don’t need to design the artifact’s current owner, or its dungeon, right now, you just need to know where it is, and if its moving around, etc. This is the end-point for your PCs, so you should have a fair amount of time before they discover the artifact’s whereabouts. Even when they do find the site, they still need to journey to it (and hope that the artifact is still present when they arrive). Set the whole process in motion, and let the fun begin, one clue at a time.
Allan attempted to reconcile the different versions of the Crook of Rao as described in WG6 Isle of the Ape and From the Ashes, by creating the Mace of Rao, and attributing the fiend-banishment effects to the use of both artifacts in conjunction. Erik liked this idea, but it took too many words to develop properly, and was somewhat confusing, so it was dropped from the final manuscript.
The Crook of Rao (Major Artifact)
Among the most revered relics in the entire history of Oerth, the Crook of Rao currently enjoys a reputation shared only by true messiahs and the gods themselves.
In Coldeven of 586 CY, His Venerable Reverence, The Savior of Our Lands, Canon Hazen of Mitrik used the Crook to stunning effect, effectively banishing thousands of demons, devils, yugoloths, and other outsiders from all parts of the Flanaess, and possibly from throughout the lands of all Oerth. Though a few sages suspected the item's potential for awesome power, none would have predicted such pervasive effectiveness. The assistance of nearly every priest of Rao in Mitrik, as well as the aid (some say manipulation) of the archmage Bigby, certainly played an important role in the effort's success.
Hazen's victory allowed many goodly armies to gain advantage against the formerly fiend-stacked armies of Iuz and the former Great Kingdom, and Rao's popularity, even far from his clergy's base in Veluna, has never been stronger.
Prior to these events, the Crook played a relatively minor role in the affairs of the Flanaess. Many believe that the relic's existence predates that of humanity, and perhaps even that of Oerth itself. Raoan scripture claims that the Crook alone protected Oerth from the insurgence of evil outsiders prior to the discovery of magic by the world's denizens, though many of rival faiths dispute such boasts.
To the average man of the modern era, the Crook existed only in scripture and hymn. In the mid-sixth century CY, however, the adventurers Tenser, Terik, Merlynd and Robilar discovered the artifact in the depths of Castle Greyhawk, only to lose it again in a bizarre demiplane known as the Isle of the Ape. The artifact’s subsequent rescue by a group of adventurers led by the redoubtable Warnes Starcoat, of Urnst, is now a popular tale with bards throughout the Central Flanaess.
After its rescue, the Crook somehow fell into the hands of Drax the Invulnerable, the calculating animus lord of Rel Astra. In the closing days of the Greyhawk Wars, Drax and Hazen worked out a trade, and the Crook soon came to the location where it would become the most influential item in the modern history of the Flanaess.
Appearance: The Crook of Rao is a crooked staff not unlike those used by shepherds across the Flanaess, crafted from a lustrous auburn hornwood. Round-cut jacinth, angled alexandrite, fiery sard, golden topaz and other stones set it apart from its counterparts, however, as do the cold iron and silver that form its shaft and headpiece. Despite the expensive materials that dress it, the Crook gives the impression of age; those in its presence feel as though they gaze upon a remnant from a bygone era.
Recorded Powers: Before the Flight of Fiends, few would have ascribed planetary banishment abilities to the Crook of Rao. Now, many see the staff as a relic of near limitless power – the infinite will of a god given form. The majority of the pilgrims now flocking to Veluna discount the fact that many fiends escaped banishment, and point to the gains in Nyrond and Furyondy as evidence of Rao's influence on the Oerth. Though the Crook’s current resting place in Mitrik is known to all, rumors circulate that the banishment drained the Crook of all power, and that it exists now only as an icon of Rao's gift of mercy to the Oerth.
Regardless, the powers of the Crook prior to the Flight of Fiends are well chronicled. Any mortal being grasping it and invoking the name of its creator (Rao himself) may use the Crook to turn evil outsiders (demons, devils, yugoloths, etc.) as a 20th level cleric of Rao. The bearer must check against the cleric turning table, with a result of "turn" or "destroy" instead resulting in the banishment of the outsider for 100 years (evil outsiders receive one-half of their spell resistance to withstand this effect).
An evil outsider's gate ability will not function if attempted within a mile radius of the Crook's location. Further, the bearer of the Crook of Rao is protected as if by a permanent dispel evil spell (gaining a +4 deflection bonus to AC against attacks by evil creatures). Attacks with the Crook are as a +3 quarterstaff, with successful hits driving evil outsiders to their plane of origin.
If new powers have manifested following the Flight of the Fiends, they have not yet been recorded by any save the Canon's closest advisors.
Curse: The use of the Crook of Rao does not seem to trigger a curse of any kind. Because of this, residents of the dark quarters of Veluna and further afield speculate wildly on what the use of the artifact might have "cost" Hazen of Rao, or even those assisting him.
These rumors became something of a cottage industry within two weeks of the Flight of Fiends, when tales told as far as Ratik intimated that the pontiff may have vanished from the site of the ritual entirely, perhaps as a sacrifice to the Crook's power, or perhaps because Rao decided to bring him to his Sacred Realm in the Seven Heavens. Since Hazen remains in Mitrik, the tale has been discounted. However, a now-excommunicated underpriest by the name of Jander Semmisel, who can be found in various drinking establishments in Veluna City, claims that he took part in the ritual, and personally witnessed the Canon vanish completely for at least fifteen seconds at the culmination of the ceremony.
In light of any concrete evidence on the matter, most expect speculation to continue for years to come.
Current Location: The Crook of Rao can be seen, in public display, at the Crook House, in downtown Mitrik. There, pilgrims from across the Flanaess flock daily to hear sermons of salvation given by the faithful of Rao
Suggested Means of Destruction: Invoking the power of the Crook on every layer of the Abyss within the same Oerth-day; cutting its supply of power by killing Rao, himself; assaulting the Crook with illogical and unreasonable riddles every day for 300 years (rumors tell that Tenser and company discovered the Crook in a chamber within Castle Greyhawk that featured mindless automatons speaking such nonsense from day to night).
Mace of Rao (Major Artifact)
The Crook of Rao is certainly the most famous artifact in recent memory, for having caused the Flight of the Fiends in 586 CY. However, what is not commonly known, is that the Crook was not the only artifact involved in Canon Hazen’s ritual. The group which Tenser sponsored to recover the “Crook” in fact recovered this artifact, the Mace of Rao, which has been confused with the Crook throughout their history. This confusion stems, in part, from the similarly rich materials from which both artifacts are made, and can also be traced back to the “scholarly” efforts of the addled sage Rorge Nilag, who’s treatise “On the Beginnings of Adventures in Oerth” proved to be very popular in its day, but to lack a sound scholarly foundation. This work caused much of the confusion between the two artifacts, and downplayed the power of the Mace over the Crook.
The Mace of Rao has flitted in and out of history, but it rose into prominence when Canon Hazen was granted a vision from Rao in 583 CY, in which he saw himself performing the great Miracle that was The Flight of the Fiends. In his hands, he held the Crook of Rao, a staff known to be in the possession of Drax of Rel Astra, and an unknown mace. After many prayers and research throughout Veluna’s libraries, the mace was eventually identified, through the assistance of the archmage Tenser. Tenser offered to field a team to recover the Mace, and at the same time Canon Hazen began to negotiate with Drax. Hazen and Tenser intentionally conflated the descriptions and effects of the artifacts, in order to further their secret agenda, and to prevent any outside interference from the lower planes (neither believed that Drax would complete the trade if he knew that doing so would risk losing the services of his Fiend-Sage). The rest is history: using the Crook and the recovered Mace, Hazen performed the miracle according to Rao’s vision, and the Oerth has been a more blessed place since.
Appearance: A small, toy-like mace, eleven inches long and sized as if for a child. It is fashioned of white gold, nickel, silver, platinum, and electrum, with multifaceted agate, diamond, jacinth, and carnelian and other gems, inlaid in both the shaft and the flanged head. The head is black iron, and gemstones encrust its surfaces. The handle is six inches long and about 1.5 inches thick, with the base of the handle being slightly thicker (2 inches). The head five is inches long, with a sharp, 45 degree angle taper up and out from the handle; the head is about five inches in diameter. It appears to be more of a work of art, than a weapon---almost like a replica or miniature of some great mace.
Recorded Powers: The Mace of Rao is known to be a mace +5, with holy and lawful qualities. When held aloft and Rao’s name is invoked, the a LG wielder can pronounce a holy word against evil outsiders within a 100 foot radius. In addition, the Mace can channel Rao’s power directly, when Rao is so inclined to do so. The secrets of its use in conjunction with the Crook are known only to Hazen and his closest advisors, but it is believed that he used the Crook’s banishment abilities, and the Mace to amplify them through the direct intervention of Rao’s grace.
Curse: None known, however, once its abilities have been used, the Mace attracts the attention of evil powers like a beacon. Evil outsiders despise the Mace, and they can detect its use within one mile. They will home in on it, and attack its wielder at every opportunity, in an attempt to capture the Mace and to seal it away from use by the forces of light.
Current Location: Unknown. Canon Hazen is thought to have secreted the Mace within one of Rao’s cathedrals in Veluna, in order to deter any fiends seeking it, and to keep it safe. The fact that the Mace has not been seen since the night of the ceremony of the Flight of the Fiends has caused some to speculate that it was destroyed, or consumed as part of the ritual, or that it disappeared
Suggested Means of Destruction: Bathe the Mace in the heart-juices of an archdevil, demon prince, and the General of Gehenna; toss it into the shredding shards of The Cabrir, the mysterious mirror demon of the Abyss; have it used by the chief druidical Hierophant to perform an act of pure chaotic evil.
In addition to the four major artifacts published, Allan created two minor artifacts for the article, also cut due to space constraints.
Amulet of Time (Minor Artifact)
The Amulets of Time are thought to have been created by Lendor and Cyndor in concert, for use by their favored worshippers and clerics. They will function for anyone who dons the amulet, however, regardless of whether they worship either deity. The secrets of the Amulets’ manufacture were lost during the Rain of Colorless Fire, and neither Lendor nor Cyndor have reintroduced such knowledge in the centuries after the catastrophe.
Appearance: A pendant on a fine chain-link necklace, with one “charm” on either side of the pendant. The metal of the chain, the charms, and the setting are all of a blue-silver ore similar to mithral. The amulet is a hollow, hour-glass shaped stone of pale green hue, while the charms are a small, closed book and a crescent moon.
Recorded Powers: The wearer of an Amulet of Time is immune to all arcane, divine, or psionic effects based on time, whether of beneficial or detrimental nature (including haste, slow, temporal stasis, timestop, the effects of a staff of withering, a ghost’s aging, a potion of longevity, etc.), unless caused directly by Lendor or Cyndor. In addition, the wearer can draw upon the following benefits and powers:
- The wearer will always know the correct local time, according to whatever method and standard by which it is measured.
- The wearer’s perceptions extend very slightly into the Plane of Time, which allows her to scan ahead into the future, and grants a +4 luck circumstance bonus that can be applied to any one CR check (in combat as a to hit or damage bonus, to a saving throw, to a skill check, etc., etc.). This bonus will stack with other luck bonuses.
- A wielder can summon a Time Elemental once per month (see the description of the goddess Istus for an explanation on Time Elementals), which will carry out tasks as assigned as if summoned by Lesser Planar Ally, but with no return favor requested.
- Once per year the wielder can step out of, and then back into, the time stream; this allows a PC to re-enact any one action that has failed, and to guarantee its successful outcome.
Curse: The wielder is always aware of the passage of time, and, over prolonged exposure, grows more sensitive to “wasting” time on “trivial” tasks, rather than focusing on the “truly important” work that calls them. Eventually, unless of great willpower, the wielder will grow so indecisive as to be paralyzed, unable to choose between any action, since every moment should be pondered and spent as wisely as possible.
Current Location: Amulets of Time are rare devices, and can sometimes be found in lost temples buried within the Sea of Dust, or in other locations where the worshippers of the gods of time congregate. It is believed that one or more of these devices are hidden in the Lendore Isles.
Suggested Means of Destruction: Expose an amulet of time to the Ever-Changing Chaos of Limbo, which may over-load the amulet’s ability to track time; place the amulet into a plane where time does not flow and it may implode.
Daern's Instant Fortress (Minor Artifact)
Daern’s Instant Fortress is a wondrous item known to many adventurers and wizards, who are familiar with its well-documented and useful functions. The secrets of their manufacture, and repair, are known to Daern’s clergy (see “Blood of Heroes” in Living Greyhawk Journal #3). Daern grants any of her worshippers or clergy access to the additional powers locked into each Instant Fortress, generally through visions and dreams, or through contact with her higher-ranking priests and priestesses.
Appearance: A one-inch cube carved from smooth metal or granite. When the proper prayer to Daern is spoken over the cube, and it is blessed in her name, icons are revealed to be carved into each face: a castle tower with battlements in silhouette, a shield (with a griffon emblazoned upon it), a spider web, a tower viewed from above and surrounded by a moat, and a half-spear (with the tip of the spear pointing toward approximately two o’clock), with one face remaining blank.
Recorded Powers: In addition to the abilities detailed in the DMG on page 214, in the hands of a worshipper or cleric of Daern, the Instant Fortress commands these additional powers (which function at 17th level for purpose of duration, DC to resist, etc.):
- Daern’s Searing Strike: the wielder hurls a bolt that strikes as a thundering, brilliant energy ballista +3 (3d6+3 damage + 2d8 sonic/x3 critical), with a range increment of 150; usable once per day, inside or outside of the tower.
- Daern’s Shield: similar to the wizard spell shield, but it provides 90% cover and spell turning against 10-15 (d6+9) levels of targeted spells; usable three times per month, each for nine rounds’ duration.
- Guards and Wards: This effect protects the entire tower, and is activated by pressing the spider web. It is usable twice per month.
- Daern’s Perimeter: once per month, the Instant Fortress can be surrounded by a moat that is 15 feet wide, 15 feet deep, and begins at 15 feet from the outer wall; it is filled with clear water that cannot be controlled by an enemy in any manner (nor can the stone and metal of the main tower).
The tower icon activates the Instant Fortress, while the blank face deactivates it. All powers are usable only while the Instant Fortress is activated. In addition to the above abilities, clergy of Daern may pray for healing spells and use them to heal damage to any Instant Fortress. Each spell cures for half of the usual amount of damage (rounded down), while heal will repair 25 hp of damage (wish and miracle remain unchanged). Such healing spells may not be spontaneously cast.
Curse: None known, although worshippers of Daern tend to treat such wondrous items with far more reverence than any other character would. Their reaction to unbelievers’ lack of respect has been known to cause friction and strife from time-to-time.
Current Location: Daern’s Instant Fortresses can be found scattered across the face of Oerik. Those few who know about its additional powers, however, tend to congregate in the lands of Old Aerdy.
Suggested Means of Destruction: Beat the fortress into rubble, per the DMG description. Once an Instant Fortress has been reduced to 0 hp, it is destroyed and cannot be repaired further, even by a wish or miracle.
As pointed out by Maldin, the Oerth Stone as named on page 93 of the article should more properly be called the Earth Stone. In addition, Allan transposed the locations of the Oerth Stone and the Obelisk (although the addition of the demiplane location for the Oerth Stone was intentional, removing from the rock column in Greyhawk Ruins encounter P715, page 56).
Note that one of the possible means of destroying Kuroth’s Quill references Gresil, mentioned in Excerpts from The Demonomicon Of Iggwilv: Abyssal Genealogy and that the Mace of Rao similarly references Excerpts from the Demonomicon of Iggwilv: The Cabrir
artifact, Grohe, Mona