Friday, October 4, 2019

Magic Tool of Folklore

Many cultures tell stories about someone who carries a magic tool.  It could be a whistle that summons birds, a shoe that turns into a boat, a lasso that can catch stars...

a fishhook that can pull land up from the bottom of the sea

Stories like these are common in the Northern Lands, especially among the indigenous goblins, giants, and humans.  Like most folklore, these stories are full of myth and legend, but there's a chance that they contain a kernel of truth.

You might find one of these magic tools in your travels, and it might even have real magic.

Tool (d20)
3carving knife
4big straw hat
5leather boots
6woolen blanket
7gloves, mittens
8canoe, kayak
12sewing needle
13wooden mallet
14bow, arrow, arrowhead
17flute, whistle
18silver mirror
19copper kettle

a canoe that glides through the air

Whatever this magic item is, it's fundamentally a tool with an ordinary purpose.  In the stories, it's used in some special way:

  • Some tools are just very, very good at what they do: a key that opens any lock, an arrow that always strikes its target, a cooking pot that makes all food delicious.
  • Some tools are used in the usual way, but with a different target than you'd expect, or operating in a different medium: a canoe that glides through the air, a ladder to climb to the night sky, a drum that can only be heard by the dead.
  • Some tools are used in a very unexpected way, or used like something with a vaguely similar form: a spoon that digs better than a shovel, a tentpole that shoots like a musket, a mitten that unfolds to be used as a tent.

Supposed Function (d10)
1-4Used for the usual purpose, but works unreasonably well.
5-8Used in the usual way, but with an unexpected target or medium.
9-10Used in an unexpected way, or as something with a vaguely similar form.

an axe that chops down the largest of trees

In the stories, it was always wielded by the same person.  The item belongs to them, at least in the popular imagination.

Wielded By (d6)
1-2a clever craftsman who made it (d4) 1: a while back, 2: far away, 3: for a wealthy patron, 4: for the gods
3-4a rising figure out on the frontier (d4) 1: a warlord, 2: a prophet, 3: a bringer of justice, 4: a renegade
5-6a culture hero who might have been real (d4) 1: a trickster, 2: a wise grandmotherly figure, 3: a kid who always finds a way out of trouble, 4: a thief/pirate

a rope that can lasso the sun

The stories tell what this object looks like.  If it's a knife, it's not just a regular knife; it glows in the moonlight or it has blood on it that won't wash off.

Appearance (d8)
1writing/picture/symbol carved into it
2has blood on it that won't wash off
3much larger than it has any right to be
4wrapped/covered in crow feathers, salmon skin, buffalo hide
5shiny, brightly colored, glows at night
6got some kind of eyes, hands, or feet
7makes a ringing or singing sound
8in an ancient style, worn smooth

a harpoon that catches the skin off a creature while it swims off to grow a new one

Legends and powers aside, if you find this tool, you might not want it.  Rare and famous things bring all kinds of problems, but if you need some ideas for what trouble this brings, roll a die.

Problem (d8)
1stolen from someone very powerful
2broken, fragile, bent, missing a piece
3people expect its holder to fulfill the original role from folklore
4troubled people need its help
5believers say it is a sign of the prophecy
6thieves/pirates on the lookout for it
7said to work too well: axe that keeps cutting down trees, shoes that make you walk too far
8said to stop working at inopportune moments

Roll up your own magic tool of folklore:

random magic tool
wielded by