Damaged magic items

 […] A loud bang echoed around the stadium and a jet of green light shot out of the wrong end of Ron’s wand, hitting him in the stomach and sending him reeling backwards on to the grass… Ron opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. Instead he gave an almighty belch and several slugs dribbled out of his mouth on to his lap.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 7

What happens if a magic item gets damaged? Does it just stop working? Does it explode? Is it completely destroyed? Or does it still work with limitations?

Back in Averoigne, when I had an almost completely new party, they were distinctly short of magic items, so I decided that Nathaire and the apprentice necromancers travelling with him on the shoulders of the colossus would have a selection of magic items, and when the colossus was defeated, the people would be crushed in the fall, leaving the magic items for the party to discover and collect.

Unfortunately, the party were more paranoid than I expected, and swooped around firing attacks into the midst of the pile of bodies. Given this, I felt there was no way the magic items could have survived unharmed, but I still wanted them to have some magic items. So that got me thinking that maybe some of the magic items were still functional, but had some sort of flaw to them.

Singed cloak of Invisibility

There was a wand of fireballs in the cache, and I decided that was just too volatile to survive – so that exploded flinging body parts everywhere (remember it was buried under the remains of the colosssus, which had been created from a large number of bodies). The scrolls then obviously got burned up, and I decided potion flasks didn’t survive either, and so the potions trickled away and were lost.

I hadn’t completely got round to deciding which items were in the cache, so I went rummaging through the DMG, and I realised that if the items were damaged I could give them some slightly more powerful items. So the next item was a cloak of invisibility…which was distinctly singed in the explosion but somewhat protected by the magic. So now it works…mostly… Except every now and then it will malfunction and instead of making them invisible it will outline them like Faerie Fire.

Singed bag of tricks

The other item which survived the explosion (to a degree) was a bag of tricks. It still has the fuzzy balls, and they work like normal – pick one and throw it away and it changes. And sometimes it does indeed change into the creature listed in the DMG, but other times it turns into something else – a ball which explodes in the hand, a ball of bright light which can’t be moved and won’t extinguish for several hours (they left the inn in a hurry after that one)…

What else could you have?

  • Boots of the Winterlands which every so often let through and amplify the cold, giving you vulnerability to cold damage and/or which act as if they are soled with ice like a grease spell?
  • Boots of speed which every so often stick together when you click your heels, making you have to jump instead of walk for ten minutes, halving your speed and giving advantage to attacks against you?
  • A Crystal Ball which every so often backfires, broadcasting your image and sounds to the intended target?
  • A Lantern of Revealing which every so often casts a globe of Darkness instead?
  • A Rope of Entanglement which every so often entangles the user instead of the intended target?

Lots of opportunity for fun here…but make sure the flaw is foreshadowed and don’t suddenly make it manifest itself for the first time at the crunch point of a crucial battle.

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