Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The New Ring of Protection

The following is Open Game Content according to the Open Game License.

It looks like re-imagining magic items is going to be a fairly regular feature of this blog. Today I'm tackling one of the most common magic items in the game of D&D: the Ring of Protection.

First, a recap for the uninitiated. As written in the rules of various editions of the game, the Ring of Protection, when worn, simply makes the wearer harder to hit. The ring's effects are expressed in purely mathematical terms: a Ring of Protection +1 adds 1 to the wearer's armor class (or subtracts 1 in the older systems, where lower is better), a Ring of Protection +3 adds 3 to armor class, etc. This is a useful item for characters to give themselves a fighting chance against creatures with powerful natural defenses, such as dragons. Put on a ring, and your opponents have to roll a higher number to hit you. It's effective, but there's not a whole lot of mystique going on here. Nothing that feels, well, magical about it.

Imagine this, then: you're in a dark dungeon corridor when you and your party come across a pit. Peering down into it you cannot see the bottom. It's certain death if you fall, but it's only 9' across, so you can probably jump across it, no problem. Everyone else goes ahead of you and makes it to the other side with no fatalities, although Lyra the Diminutive falls short and barely manages to catch herself on the far side. You get ready to make the leap, back up a bit, and brace yourself to sprint. You try to clear your mind and concentrate. Visualize the jump, you can do it, on three, one...two...thr--

"Wait!" cries a tiny voice that only you can hear, and you feel an acute squeeze from your magic ring.

Hmm, that's odd, you think, but you disregard it and prepare to jump.

"Whoa, slow down there!" it says again. "Shouldn't we think this through? That suuuure looks dangerous. Maybe there's a way around."

"No, there's no other way!" you cry, and you take off at a sprint toward the pit. No sooner do you start, though, than the ring becomes impossibly heavy and drags you to the floor, preventing you from attempting the leap. Your companions look at you like you've lost your mind.

Meanwhile, in the real world, here's what happened: The GM determined that the DC for the character's jump would be 10, and the character's Acrobatics skill bonus is 5, so on a d20 the player would need to roll a 5 or above to succeed in the jump. That's a 16:20 probability, or 80% chance to succeed. By the same token, it's a 20% chance of failure. The GM rolled d% prior to the skill check (or d20), and since the roll was 20% or less (i.e., equal to or less than the failure probability), the ring decided the jump would be too dangerous and tried to prevent the action.

At this point it was a battle of wills between the character and the ring. The character needed to make a Will save against a DC equal to 10 plus the ring's bonus (a +4 ring is more stubborn than a +1 ring) to override the ring's will. He's low level and not very wise, so he only has a +2 Will save bonus. He needed to roll an 8 or higher, but he only rolled a 6, so the ring won and dragged him down. His only recourse if he wants to jump now is to remove the ring.

Alternatively, if the character's charisma modifier plus half his level is higher than his Will save bonus, he can apply that instead to override the ring. Think of it as applying his charm and confidence to put the ring at ease.

I'm still working out the mechanic for creature encounters. The probability that the ring will try to "save" its wearer from the encounter will probably be tied in to the creature's Intimidate skill bonus. With older systems you could probably tie it to the difference between the character's and creature's hit die. If the character does override the ring's will, the ring will provide the normal AC bonus.

To keep this item fun and not too much of a hassle, the GM can limit the number of times per day the ring is able to protest, and perhaps only use it at his or her discretion to maximize fun at just the right (or wrong) moments.

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