While discussing the last post with some folks on Facebook, it came up that it might be fun to show how a single magic item could be described in different ways to fit better into the setting and genre. That provided more than a few bits of inspiration, so I wanted to explore it a bit.
In Mazes & Perils Deluxe, we describe the Ring of Animal Control:
“Animal Control – The wearer can command 3d6 small, 2d8 medium, or 1d6 large animals. The character must think of simple commands like “heel!”, “attack!”, “fetch!”, etc. Only 3 commands per turn can be given to an animal. Constant concentration must be maintained to keep control.”
The item doesn’t offer the ability to communicate with animals, but offers a one-way solution to suggesting that they do a particular action.
Now, before folks get upset about “controlling” imaginary creatures in fictional worlds, no animals are being harmed by the use of this type of magic. As a GM, I might go so far as to ensure that if virtual animals were harmed it was the only way to save other lives. And some “animals” might even get a Save vs. Magic if they possessed a particularly strong will or intelligence. I’m not a fan of using animals in cruel and unusual ways at my tables, though I may occasionally use that as a way to show how cruel a particular evil bastard might be.
That said, let’s look at the way this might present itself in-game.
The Band of Arduinna, Huntress of the Forests
This blessed leather band, created for the followers of Arduinna, goddess of the forest and a huntress herself, enables its wearer to guide the creatures of her forest to do their bidding. If they are hunting creatures themselves, such as wild dogs or boars, they can be convinced to attack the wearer’s enemies. If they are gentler creatures, they will not go against their baser nature but can be directed to find items or move in a particular way to serve as a distraction. This item works best in the wild and operates less effectively in urban settings.
Only simple commands may be used, such as “stop!”, “run!”, “gather!”, and “attack!” And the commands can be combined during a single turn (no more than three commands in a single turn) for more complex directions. “Run! Fetch! Shiny things!” could be used to direct a small group of rats to collect coins spilling from a victim’s coin purse.
While offering commands to a group of creatures, it requires complete concentration on the part of the wearer. Any distraction will disrupt the process and the creatures will return to their normal behaviors and probably flee the scene.
Rings of Animal Control of the Dúnedain
During the War for the RIng, the rangers of Arnor moved fast and far on their quests against the orcs and other forces of evil led by Sauron’s gaze. Though they did their best to rise above the carnage of their enemies, occasionally they would have to resort to using their animal allies in battles. Most would willingly fight against these unnatural foes alongside their ranger allies. Some of the rangers without strong magic themselves wore rings specially created in the forges of the North to help them in this time of need.
The animals under a ranger’s control could follow simple commands such as “stop!”, “go!” and “attack!” but would fight against any commands not in their nature. Rabbits could not fight as hard against the darkness as wolves would, for instance. But these animal allies would work tirelessly and sacrifice themselves willingly to stop the blight that the forces of Sauron was spreading across the land. As many as two or three commands could be combined for more complex requests as well, such as “run to the sun, turn, and attack!”
While controlling their animal allies, a ranger must concentrate with all their might. Even the slightest distraction would cause their companions to lose focus and return to their wild state.
Warmind’s Ring of Animal Control
In the darkest ages of man, the wizard simply known as the Warmind used his powers to control creatures great and small to do his bidding. He was not a kind master and would turn simple woodland animals into creatures rending death and destruction on his enemies. And one of the tools he used to help him in his quest for world domination was his Ring of Animal Control.
The Ring grants the wearer the ability to dominate lesser creatures into obeying his commands. A warren of rabbits could be used to wreak havoc on a group of mounted warriors passing through an area. A swarm of rats could be used in the dankest sewers to steal items from buildings nearby. A flock of birds could be directed to drop flaming branches across a peaceful camp, causing destruction and chaos. Warmind was a merciless force for evil and did all these things and worse with his ring.
Animal victims would get a chance to Save vs. Magic against any commands that were not in their base nature, but at a severe penalty.
The ring’s only weakness is that the wearer must direct total concentration to his task. If he is distracted, even in the slightest, he loses control and the animals flee the scene immediately.
These are just a few ideas to show how a simple item could be changed to not only fit the setting and mood of the story, but changed to fit the creator and wearer of the ring. An item offering control over the animal kingdom can be used in friendly ways and unfriendly ways – it’s up to the wielder. Even in the case of Warmind’s Ring, a good character could choose to use it in a less domineering fashion than it was intended. In fact, all of them could be used in ways other than they were intended. But the text offers a bit of flavor to provide some guidance.
What kinds of items have you created in this way? Share in the comments!!