Sometimes, right in the thick of things, a DM has to create a monster or an item that just doesn’t exist in any Players’ or Dungeon Master’s Guide. Maybe the situation calls for a unique reward, maybe the storyline demands it, or perhaps the DM just wants to lay the smackdown on his/her PCs. Whatever the reason, a DM should never be intimidated to go off the beaten trail and improvise a good original idea. You never know until you try, right? In that vein, I thought I’d share with you seven of the more interesting items and monsters I’ve home-brewed when the situation required something completely different.
- The Doppelganger Mirror
This is one I made up for a dungeon many years ago and have brought it back at least two or three times since. It usually presents itself as a six-foot high floor mirror with some sort of canvas or sheet covering it. Once the PCs take the sheet off, the magic in the mirror activates and it creates a perfect, yet evil and violent, copy of the person/people that gaze into it, including their weapons, armor, items, and skills. In reality, these doppelgangers are just an illusion but can be deadly for those PCs that cannot disbelieve.
- The Character in a Crystal
Here’s a convention I’ve used dozens of times. Need an NPC to show up instantly? Perhaps a new PC has just joined the group and you are wondering how to get them into the game? Use a Character in a Crystal™! These are usually gumball sized crystals with a tiny figure inside or sometimes they are regular gems that project a weird telepathic voice when held. Either way, when you break these suckers open or smash them on the floor, a perfectly preserved person is summoned. These make great vehicles to introduce new characters because, a) the freed person is usually very grateful to their emancipators and may even owe a life debt which is a perfect excuse for them to tag along with the group; and b) perhaps the freed person has some vital knowledge on the dungeon or quest in which the PCs are currently engaged. Also, a new PC or NPC joining the party makes for more dynamic treasure than a bunch of gold coins. It’s also a little fun to see a player, who knows that they are trapped inside a gem, squirm and beg the other players to let them out.
- The Edible Spellbook
Alright, I have no shame in admitting that the idea for this one came from the animated Gargoyles television show, but I still think that it’s a cool idea. A Wizard’s spell book is the single most important item they will ever own and is one of the easiest items in the game to destroy/lose. Water damage, fire damage, acid damage, dispel magic, pick pockets, and many more threats are constantly trying to ruin your Mage career by making you bookless. Thus, my solution was to protect it in the safest place I could think of, my character’s own body. By placing a simple enchantment on the book, it would make it possible to ‘eat’ the book and regurgitate it back up whenever required. Maybe not the most elegant method but it worked for me. In recent years, I believe that this innovation has become somewhat replaced with the idea of tattooing your spells on your skin. Still, I find the notion clever and a lot less time consuming than putting on all that ink.
- The Lepreling
This was a creature/race of my own creation and it was born out of a simple question: What would happen if a Leprechaun and a Halfling had a child? My answer was a Lepreling! They are a slightly smaller version of a Halfling with many natural illusion abilities and an insatiable desire for collecting gold. They received bonuses to both dexterity and intelligence and were damn proficient with a sheleighleigh. Unfortunately, my prototype was very short lived due to his far too curious/greedy nature.
- Hat of Projected Thoughts
This was a cursed item that I came up with on the fly one day. Basically, whenever a PC or NPC puts the hat on, it immediately projects all of the wearer’s thoughts directly into the brains of any other person standing within ten feet. This could be handy if someone has information you desperately need and it can also be hilarious if someone is thinking about someone else in a less than flattering way. The only catch is, once the hat is worn only a powerful remove curse spell can get it off and eventually hearing everything someone else is thinking can get very annoying.
- The Wagon/Carriage of Holding
To quote Dr. Who, “It’s bigger on the inside.” I’ve used this creation many times usually when the PCs are going to be ‘on the road’ for a long periods. Although it may look like a normal covered wagon or enclosed carriage, the extra-dimensional space on the inside can be as large as a tennis court and is sometimes divided into inn-sized rooms so that each PC has their own personal space. The downside to this practical transportation is the fact that they seem to have a knack for falling off cliffs, bridges, and ravines or being stolen/borrowed by pesky NPCs with most of the player’s gear inside (wink).
- Displacer Dragon
I’ll admit that I created this horror to deliberately humble a party whose egos had inflated to roughly the size of New Jersey. As a lesson, I wanted to confront them with a nasty original creature with some unexpected powers and abilities. Thus I gave birth to the Displacer Dragon. This was an adult Black Dragon who had managed to blend its powers with that of a Displacer Beast. The result was a massive, spell wielding, multiple attack per round Dragon with the ability to blink in and out of existence and appear almost anywhere on the battlefield at any time. To make matter’s worse, this dragon was also capable of teleporting a random PC away into the void for a round at a time. In the end, the party settled for running away with only two of their five members unconscious. Mission accomplished.