I was amazed at how many entries I received for the first challenge and I hope the second one generates as much interest. Almost all of the entries were written for OD&D (or Swords & Wizardry), which I think says a lot about the general readership of this blog. Likewise, most of the entries were for monsters rather than treasures, which I also think is significant. The quality of the entries was very high and it was tough to choose a single winner, particularly since the one that finally won me over was written by Kevin Brennan, an old and dear friend of mine (and best man at my wedding, in the interests of full disclosure). I was in fact probably harsher in judging his submission than I was on most, simply because I wanted to be sure I was fair in my final assessment. Of course, as old schoolers know well, this is the job of a good referee and it's one I took seriously.
Consequently, I have no qualms about saying the magic item he submitted, the devil's eye, was my favorite, for reasons I'll explain. First, here's the item in question:
This monocle reveals fell intent and impure motives, but it is also intended to sow discord and eventually violence among those who rely too much on it. The wearer can tell when any person he sees is lying to him. However, there is a 1% chance that the monocle will cause the wearer to believe that a person is lying when they are in fact telling the truth. This chance increases by 1% each time the monocle is used. If this chance increases over 25%, the effect will persist whether or not the monocle is in use.There are several reasons why I liked this submission, but chief among them was that it's a useful cursed magic item. The devil's eye struck me as quintessentially pulp fantasy in its inspirations, which I love. It's the kind of item that reminds you that magic isn't something to be trifled with and that every boon it grants might come with a price. More to the point, there's an actual temptation to use this item, because the boon it offers is a good and useful one. It's a screw job that players will seriously consider using rather than just a game mechanic designed to emulate a screw job (like cursed swords). The devil's eye also includes an escalating random element to it, which I love. Randomness is key to old school feel, as is a "gambling" mentality. Being able to play the odds is an important part of player skill and it tickles me to consider how even a player who knows the curse of the item would try and use it in the belief that, because he has only used it a few times previously, the odds favor its working properly this time. Finally, this is an item whose mechanics are simple, require no special rules, and -- most importantly -- generate fun situations. The devil's eye is the kind of magic item that doesn't just sit there and do what it does on your command; sometimes it does what it wants to do and from such things are good adventures made.
Congratulations to Kevin. He's got his copy of Monsters & Treasure and I hope he enjoys it. I also hope that I get as many super entries for Challenge #2 as I got for this one. There are lots of great old school ideas out there, it seems, and I want to see more of them!