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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Magic Item Saves

While looking up the information on magic items for the Magic Doesn't Stack posts, I was reminded of another set of rules that bear some re-examination: saving throws for magic items. Here's what page 38 of Monsters & Treasure says:
Magical items will, during the course of play, be struck by various forms of weapons. For the sake of simplicity it is generally easier to assume they survive unharmed if their wearer/user is not killed (exception, Helms). If the wearer is killed, or the items are alone, throw for them on the following table if struck by Fire (Dragon or Ball) or Lightning (Dragon or Bolt). Those items not listed should be assumed automatically destroyed.
There are only a few items listed:
  1. Staff of Power, Ring of Fire Resistance, or +3 Shield/Weapon;
  2. Staff of Wizardry, Ring of Protection, or +2 Armor/Shield/Weapon;
  3. Wand of Fire Balls/Lightning Bolts or +1 Armor/Shield/Weapon.
These are listed in order of worsening saves; a Staff of Power saves on 10+, a Staff of Wizardry saves on 12+, and wands save on a 14+.

The interesting thing about this is that there are no other save categories listed. If a wizard researches some kind of Rot spell, it will automatically destroy an item that could rot, like a Staff of Power, if it's not in the possession of a living (or at least intact) creature. The Disintegrate spell does not get a saving throw. Items are simply not as resistant to magic as a character.

Another interesting thing: Fire and Lightning are described as "opposites". What this means is that Lightning is slightly more likely to destroy a Ring of Fire Resistance or Wand of Fire Balls, and Fire is more likely to destroy a Wand of Lighting Bolts. These get a -2 to the saving throw.

Characters aren't likely to have many of these specific items, so there won't be many saving throws for items. Any othe itme is destroyed by fire balls or lightning bolts. No Save. These rules are harsh.

I think I would make them slightly harsher, for two items: scrolls and potions. Fire should have a chance of destroying these, whether the character saves or not. A 5+ on 1d6 means the character's pack or satchel catches fire; if the character does nothing to stop this, the scrolls catch fire and the potions boil away in five minutes.


  1. Fire should have a chance of destroying these, whether the character saves or not. A 5+ on 1d6 means the character's pack or satchel catches fire
    Would this d6 be the (or one of) the damage dice(s); or a separate roll?
    and if this is a separate roll, why not use a "classic" d20 Saving Throw?

    1. Well, I'd use a damage die. If you didn't, you could use a "classic" d20 saving throw, but remember: there is no listed saving throw for scrolls vs. fire, at least in OD&D. By default, I think they're just supposed to automatically burn.