Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Another Quirky Cursed Item: Maldric’s Cloak of Flying

I suggested we might have another look at quirky items in our last installment of our Curses series, and here it is: a cloak of flying that wants a little something in return. A lot of little somethings, in fact.

Maldric's Cloak of Flying is more developed than most items that will be presented in this series. But the level of detail, including the Tale of King Nides and his Flying Court and the details of the Maldric cloaks' debut show how an item might be integrated into a campaign, and suggest ways in which knowledge of its powers and drawbacks can be made known to PCs.

Maldric’s Cloak of Flying
Francis Maldric was known for decades as the miracle mage of Barclave, a figure of wonderment who would work a year and a day in his workshops to produce a limited series of exclusive magical items. One season he might offer exquisite music boxes complete with little animated figures reenacting popular operas, in another a series of magical waterclocks that warned of approaching storms.

Just possessing a Maldric original was a mark of distinction, and they were much sought after by members at Court. Until, that is, the year he offered his Cloak of Flying.

It was, in many ways, a bad year for Maldric. His wife had discovered all three of his mistresses and trashed his workshop before stalking out of his life. The five-month siege of Barclave was also an unwelcome surprise. In short, Maldric was behind schedule on his latest project, four remarkable cloaks of flying, which he had foolishly boasted of while in his cups—and were now eagerly anticipated by the royal family itself. The worst blow came just weeks before the debut—the king’s birthday—when he learned that the ship bearing the cloaks’ final and key component from the southern colonies—a bag of roc feathers—was lost at sea.

Desperately combing his archives, Maldric hit upon what he thought would be a viable substitute—giant bat wings. Daring a series of unconventional shortcuts in his enchantments, Maldric completed his cloaks with just days to spare, and in a series of limited test flights was confident he had pulled it off.

The king’s birthday dawned bright and clear, and it was with a cheerful heart and not a little ceremony that Maldric loaded the 12 wooden boxes containing his latest creations on the gilded wagon that would bear him and them to the palace.

The presentation of the gifts at the height of the party was everything Maldric had imagined it would be. The king’s delight knew no bounds, and donning his own cloak, he pressed the others on his family. Away they soared, now arcing high into the clouds, then swooping low over the harbor to the amazement of all below.

After an hour or so, when it seems that the king’s party must tire and return to the pavilion for refreshment, its members developed a singular game in which they took turns buzzing the grounds, passing through the orchards, and flying through the vineyards, all the while snapping their mouths in the most remarkable fashion.

At length the party began to return. First were the king’s daughters, who collapsed as soon as their silken slippers touched ground and began sobbing. Next to alight was the queen, who fainted dead away from exhaustion. Finally, the king alighted, and without a work of explanation, ordered the stunned magician seized. His head was removed from his body before the hour was out.

For a time the cloaks were stored in the palace, but they soon passed out of reckoning and who can say where they might be found? The ballad of Old King Nides and his Flying Court is well known in the taverns of the land, and it may be that some old gaffers can recall some details of that day long ago. What so displeased the king no one can rightly say.
Maldric’s Cloak of Flying. This fine cloak is fashioned from durable wool and topped with a clasp bearing the mark of the magician Maldric of Barclave. By holding the edges of the garment, the wearer is able to fly as the third level Fly spell. The wearer may fly as he will for 1d6 turns (this roll is kept secret from the players), after which the appetite of the cloak awakens. At that time, the user must save versus spells. Success means the cloak ceases functioning immediately, leaving the wearer to make his own way to the ground. Failure means the cloak continues to function, but the wearer is compelled to seek out and eat his weight in insects, an act that takes an additional 2d6 turns. Happily, the cloak conveys to the wearer a keen sense of where all bugs in the area are, making the task somewhat easier. After performing this action, the wearer is deposited to earth, now empty-bellied and exhausted. The cloak can be used just once per day regardless of the length of time spent flying.

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