Sunday, November 15, 2009

Quests For Legendary Gems and Jewels

I purchased the double-disk set of Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer last week, and we watched "the Barbarian" friday night.

In Conan the Barbarian, Conan, Valeria and Subotai steal the legendary "Eye Of The Serpent" jewel from Thulsa Doom's Snake Cultists, and Valeria keeps it.

That got me to thinking about gems and jewels in Dungeons and Dragons: specifically, the lack of quests or adventures related to the recovery of legendary gems and jewels, and the absence of named jewels and jewelry. In D&D, most jewels and jewelry are immediately fenced and converted into cash, or, used as cash themselves. The jewels and jewelry treasures are usually described fairly generically, with, at most, the type of jewel or jewelry and the gp value disclosed. I can't think of very many ocassions where the jewels and jewelry were kept by the characters, for their own pleasure, or where the players discovered that the items had an interesting backstory.

This is unfortunate, particularly considering the classic image from the cover of the original AD&D players handbook, showing several thieves prying a huge gem from the eye of the temple's idol. Shouldn't those jewels have had some interesting name or backstory?

Magic Realm, one of my favorite games, has several named jewels and pieces of jewelry that the players can discover. Those include the "Eye of the Moon", "Blasted Jewel", "Dragonfang Necklace", "Eye of the Idol", "Glimmering Ring", "Glowing Gem", "Regent of Jewels", and the "Timeless Jewel".

I think it would be interesting to give backstories and names to the larger jewels and more valuable pieces of jewelry, and plant rumours periodically on where they may be found. Players may be more apt to keep those items if they have some interesting history behind them, or at least appreciate them more, prior to selling them off.


AndreasDavour said...

A really good idea! I have lamented the fact that magic items have become commodity, and this is also insightful.

I think I need to write a new adventure, incorporating all the good advice I've read in blogs the last year! :)

christian said...

I agree. This is a great idea. A stack of 3,000 gp might get ho hum after a while, but a single jewel with a great history would get a character's interest.

Fenway5 said...

Agreed, I have abandoned completely the common as rain in Seattle +X weapon/armor. In fact I do not give out much magical stuff at all. Those sorts of items (should be) are legendary! A magical item needs a name, a back story, and an effect beyond +1 to damage or +1 to hit. That keeps the special and treasured! I also write a brief section on my philosophy of rewarding treasure to players and doing it slowly so that it feels like treasure, not like pocket lint. Same should be true for storied gems and jewelry.

JB said...

A giant black pearl is the whole motivation for launching an expedition to the Isle of Dread in the classic module X1. I have seen players sell off half their treasure to invest in a ship and crew...all for a gem worth a few thousand (not nearly enough to recoup the investment)!

Carter Soles said...

Like Fenway5, I am pretty stingy with magic items and gems in my campaigns (probably a wee bit stingy with treasure, period) and I strongly believe that magical items of any kind, or even mundane items of exceptional value, should always be named and have back-stories. I like your linkage of this concept back to the first CONAN film and the 1e PH cover -- nicely done. It may inspire me to come up with a few legendary Arandish gemstones. . .

Dennis Laffey said...

In my recent occasional games of Classic D&D with my board game group, a couple of the women in the group decided they DID want to keep the jewelry they found, rather than convert to cash.

I split treasure XP evenly no matter who keeps it, so the other players were cool with that. So when I was writing rumors for my sandbox, I included some rumors of famous gems and jewels. I figure, most rumors are about the monsters to be fought, but since PCs are treasure hunters, and the girls seem to dig getting the bling, I'd include some rumors of what the treasures were to be had.

I also make sure every magic weapon, wand/staff/rod, or magic armor has a bit of description, a name, and some history or legends surrounding it to make them special.

WV: beadad--sounds like some mysterious gem that needs to be looted from a witch-king's tomb to me!

John B said...

I like the idea of treasure with a story. Most famous gems and treasure in our world have stories and curses associated with them, so it makes perfect sense to do this in game.

Also, Conan is awesome.

Obiri said...

Ironically enough back in those long ago days of playing B/E/C/M D&D, the PCs found a huge gemstone. The lead PC claimed it and made it the center piece of the vault in his stronghold.

It didn't have much back story but it did form the basis of a couple more adventures as a high level group of thieves once tried to make off with it.

Gems nowadays just get sold off as loot immediately.

Aaron E. Steele said...

Thanks, your comments and observations have convinced me that I need to come up with a couple of interesting "fabled" jewels and jewelry, with backstories, for inclusion in my sand-box "rumours" list!