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Your Whispering Homunculus: 20 Malfunctioning or Disappointing Magics

Your Whispering Homunculus: 20 Malfunctioning or Disappointing Magics

Your Whispering HomunculusMaster Pett’s Your Whispering Homunculus presents only the finest in British gaming. Indeed, you are not likely to find a more comprehensive assortment of miscellany anywhere.

(So much more than just another bloke in a dress.)



“A moment, slug-thing.”


“Magic, magic, magic. Why does magic held in magic items always work? What happens if the wizard gets it wrong?”


“Are all wizards perfect? Do they never make mistakes, do things for devilment, or learn from their errors? I think not. Everyone makes mistakes, so magic may be flawed or fickle occasionally as well…”

Not every creation of a wand of fireballs goes without error, and not all learning spellcasters get things right. Sometimes, wizards deliberately flaw their magic or impart fickle or dangerous magic into their items. These items are not cursed per se: they are simply broken, wrong, or deliberately malfunctioning. Adding the occasional item from this list adds a little flavor to treasure troves, makes magic a little more unpredictable, and spices up more mundane items.

As ever, be careful not to overuse such items. Occasional use can be fun, too many such items annoys players and may make them mistrust magic in general. These items also can be fun in the hands and lairs of non-humanoid spellcasters, particularly those who only rarely find spellcasters among their ranks.

A Spellcraft check (DC 15 + 1/spell level) identifies the flaw, and a Spellcraft check (DC 25 + 1/spell level) repairs the fault, as long as the character spends 10% of the base cost of the item in question. Repairing an item takes half as much time as creating the item.

1. Wand of Unpredictable Fireballs: While this wand functions as a normal wand of fireballs, there is a 1-in-12 chance for each charge used that the fireball explodes centered upon the wand itself.

2. Wand of Twisted Magic Missiles: Each charge used allows the wielder to attack with three magic missiles; however, one of the missiles attacks a random target in range (including the wielder).

3. Bag of Not Always Holding: While in general this bag functions as a bag of holding of the appropriate type, occasionally things held in it vanish. Every week, there is a 10% chance that one item (a gold coin, a magic item, a sack of silver) vanishes, and a 10% chance that a missing object (including those from previous owners or perhaps even the previous owner itself) reappears.

4. Headband of Almost Always Alluring Charisma: While this item functions as a headband of alluring charisma of appropriate bonus most of the time, there is a 1-in-12 chance that the bonus becomes a negative when dealing with a specific individual.

5. Bracers of Armor for the Front: This item functions as bracers of armor of the appropriate bonus. However, the armor effect only functions against those directly in front of the character in question. Flanked characters gain no AC bonus.

6. Disappointing Potion: Disappointing potions last only 10–60% of the time a normal potion would, or they function at half the appropriate benefit. For example, a disappointing potion of bear’s endurance would only add +2 to the imbiber’s constitution.

7. Flawed Cloak of Elvenkind: Although under normal conditions the cloak, like a standard cloak of elvenkind, adds +5 to the wearer’s stealth checks, under certain pre-determined conditions (such as when it rains, on night’s of the full moon, or when within 50 ft. of water), the cloak becomes a normal cloak until removed from that condition.

8. Staff of Uncertain Passage: This dangerous item malfunctions 1 in 10 times, randomly sending the user to a point dependant upon which spell is used: a dimension door sends the user to a random place in the range of the spell, a teleport lands the user off target, and an astral projection sends the user to a random plane of your choosing.

9. Staff of Unpredictably Swarming Insects: The insects summoned attack the summoner 1 in 12 times.

10. Gloves of Arrow Snaring and Attracting: While these gloves confer all the bonuses of a standard pair of such gloves, they have an unfortunate tendency to attract every arrow fired within 30 ft. of the wearer, as long as a clear line of sight exists between the wearer and the attacker.

11. Unsure Sword: Unsure swords don’t always confer the bonus they are endowed with. Generally, such swords affect every creature save a certain type, generated in the same way that a slaying arrow would be (see Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook). Other types of unsure swords exist that confer no bonus against two or even three types of opponents, fail to operate under certain conditions, or just randomly fail to work.

12. Ring of Uncertain Invisibility: When activated, the ring only keeps the character invisible for 1d12 rounds.

13. Spellwrong Scroll: A spellwrong scroll is difficult to detect from a normal scroll with a particular spell written upon it—a second passenger spell is weaved into the runes. If the spell written on the scroll has a range, the range is reduced to 0 when the spell is cast (so a cloudkill spell, for example, centers on the caster). If the range is personal, the spell affects the nearest adjacent character (friend or foe).

14. Disappointing Item: Like the disappointing potion, the spell held within the item is of a weaker type and either its duration or its effect (your choice) is 10–60% of the standard effect. The choice for duration or effect is made at the time of the item’s creation and cannot be changed.

15. Robe of Crossed Eyes: While almost all the time this item functions as a standard robe of eyes, whenever the character wearing it is attacked by a flare spell, the eyes cross and remain crossed for 24 hours. A character wearing the robe at this time must make an immediate Fortitude save (DC 20) or be nauseated until they remove the robe.

16. Jealous Scabbard of Keen Edges: This scabbard does not like to give up its sword, and while it functions as a normal scabbard of keen edges, the character drawing the sword must make a Strength check (DC 20) to successfully pull the sword from its scabbard.

17. Unwelcome Spell Item: An unwelcome spell item is a standard magical item that has a secondary spell effect that is (almost) always harmful to the user. The spell in question does not need to have any logical relationship with the item’s function, so for example, an unwelcome spell gloves of swimming and climbing always activate a summon monster I spell, summoning an angry giant water spider that attacks random opponents. An unwelcome spell folding boat releases a stinking cloud spell whenever activated. In general, unwelcome spell items are only prevalent in magic items that do not have continuous effects. Generate unwelcome spells randomly taking into account the cater level required to create the item in question, so for example, drums of panic only ever have an unwelcome spell of 4th level or lower attached to them.

18. Slippers of Spider Climbing and Other Arachnid Habits: While these slippers work perfectly as slippers of spider climbing, the wearer inherits some other, less attractive spider habits. While wearing these slippers, a character finds it difficult to resist trying to catch flies. Should flies be present when the character uses these slippers, a Will save (DC 18) is required each round, or the round is spent attempting to catch and eat the flies. Also, the wearer is considered flat-footed during these attempts to eat flies, but if attacked, responds normally.

19. Plummeting Carpet: This device functions as a carpet of flying except, when a particular precipitation event occurs, such as heavy rain, snow, or hail, it immediately ceases to function until it is dried out.

20. My Item Magic: These items function as the magic item only in the hands of their creator or the person to whom the creator assigns function when they are made. To everyone else, although they radiate the appropriate type of magic, they do not function in any way unless returned to their original owner once more.

10 thoughts on “Your Whispering Homunculus: 20 Malfunctioning or Disappointing Magics”

  1. I love imperfect magic. I think most games I play need a little variance of quality and craftsmanship in their mystical wonders.

  2. Hoorah,

    glad you like these, I’m always a little nervous of tweaking anything that borders on the well established. Now I can go away happily and think of another one for sometime in the future thanks to your support.

    As long as there’s homunculus, there’ll be d12 love Shoanti.

    Ever since the wind and heavy rain article rain its been raining and blowing like barmy here. I’m off to write a tropical paradise set of rules…


  3. [quote]I hope the homonculi articles one day appear in a collection for purchase from Open Design![/quote]
    Ditto James. I’ve said this before and will shout it again.
    The homonculi never disappoints.

    I love the idea of ripples in the expected. And magic is one of those things that should have some level of failure (more so from the numerous flaws that might appear in casting than simply wearing armor.)

  4. Is this article supposed to be funny? And here I was hoping these times of DM’s putting a big FVCK YOU! into their player’s faces were over. Imagine a precious artifact the group just earned vanaishing in that bag – hilarity ensures. NOT. Or the carpet? Yeah, flying over the mountains toward the dragon hoard and have this thing failing will really improve everyone’s gaming experience.

  5. Interesting ideas, but I think my players are too new to… shall we say… “appreciate” having things like this happen to them.

    Although I do like the “bag of not always holding”. :-)

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