Thursday, December 2, 2021

d20 Orbs


1. Cursed Orb of Evil Snowmen

A heavy white orb, like a small felted bowling ball.  Once you hold it in your hand, it begins turning into a snowman.

The white felt turns into snow, and it begins growing.  It gets heavier.  You probably set it on the ground.  

A small sphere appears on top of the first sphere.  Now there is a small snowball on top of a big snowball, both growing.

Then a third snowball appears, even smaller than the first two.  This continues until it is snowman-shaped.

Two lumps of coal extrude themselves from the head.  Then a mouth appears.  Then, all of your internal organs are teleported into the snowman.  

You can survive by running out of the snowman's line of sight.  Smashing the snowman while it is growing just makes more growing snowmen.

The cursed orb of evil snowmen can be recovered once the snowman melts.

This drawing is by Angus McBride
He painted it for a 1993 Middle Earth Roleplaying splatbook called Valar and Maiar

2. Orb of the Bounce

A red, rubber ball the size of your first.

The next time you would take fall damage, your body becomes elastic and you bounce back up onto whatever ledge you fell off of.  You take no damage.  This works even if you fall on spikes. 

In your pocket, the rubber orb shatters like glass.

3. Applejohn's Orb

Looks like wood covered in shiny red paint.  A silver band holds it together.

If you wear it or carry it, any arrow that would strike you will strike the applejohn instead.  If the orb is unattended, the radius of the attraction is 3'.

The applejohn shatters the first time a single source deals it 6 points of damage or more.

4. Glass Eye 

If you put it in your eye socket, you can see out of it. 

If you take it out of your eye socket, you can continue to see out of it (until someone else puts it in their eye).

5. Orb of Unlucky Arachnids

Black and shiny, like an insect.  It has a pale, wrinkled side, yellow-white like the bottom of a melon.  You can hear soft rattling when you shake it.

During combat, whenever you roll an 8, you become covered in spiders.  (Bite for 1 damage on the first round, 2 damage on the second round, and so on, until you spend a round brushing them off.  Lasts 5 rounds if uninterrupted.)

During combat, whenever an enemy rolls an 8, they become covered in spiders.

This orb shatters the first time it triggers twice in one combat.

6. IOUN Medic

Once per day, the first time you start dying, the medic heals you for 1d6-1 HP (min 0) and lectures you in the language of the stars.  (All IOUN stones used to be stars.)

Whenever you would actually die, the medic turns you to stone and embeds itself in your forehead.  All you need for a full recovery is stone to flesh and heal in the same turn.

7. Treacherous Bubble Demon

About the size of a cantelope.

Whenever the treacherous bubble demon would normally be popped by something sharp (arrow, armor spikes), the sharp thing pops instead, and the treacherous bubble is unharmed.  Swords break, armor shatters, spiky creatures take 1d6 damage as their spike explodes.  (Magic items get a save.  Epic items are immune.)

Whoever holds the Wand of Bubble Command can command the treacherous bubble demon to fly around at a rate of 30' per round.  You can also shove it in your pocket if you want--the bubble doesn't mind.  It has a Str of 0, but it can carry tiny objects (a scrap of paper) inside itself if you poke it in there.  Dex 0.

All attacks automatically hit the bubble, and it dies the first time it takes damage from a non-sharp source.  Dead bubbles look like a greasy, torn plastic bag and can be resurrected if fresh air is blown into them by someone who is truly innocent.  (The average farm toddler will suffice.)

If you ever come across a bubble breeder, your pet bubble will instantly ally itself with the breeder.

8. Orb of Ultimate Safety

A blue glass orb, with darker swirls going from pole to pole.

When activated, the orb instantly grows to encase you (and any nearby allies you designate).  You are all safe inside the 10' orb, which is as hard as steel.  Usable once per day.

It lasts until you dispel the effect, or until you pass out from carbon dioxide buildup.  (This occurs around 6 hours, assuming a single person in the orb.)

Anyone outside the orb can easily roll it around.

9.  Orb of Holiday Snow

A blue glass orb filled with fake snow and ethanol.  A miniature snowman is barely visible among the flakes, wearing a hat and with a blue circle on his chest.  On the bottom of its wooden pedestal, a tiny plaque says "shake and invert".

Whenever it is shaken and held upside down, it will begin to snow.  This even works indoors.

For most players, this is all the orb of holiday snow will ever do.

After about an hour of constant shaking and flipping, you will have enough snow for a snowman.

Each hour of work gives the snowman an additional Level (up to Level 5).  If you put a hat on the snowman and shove the Orb of Snow in the snowman's chest, it will animate.

A snowman is an intelligent and sensitive creature.  It speaks Gospeltongue.  It will be confused and horrified to find itself suddenly alive and sentient.  Unless it is in a naturally cold place, it will begin melting at a rate of 1 HP per 10 minutes (an very painful process).   It will probably die cursing your name (and rightfully so).  

50% chance that it uses its last moment of life to reach into its own chest and crush the Orb of Holiday Snow, so that no more snowmen will know its suffering.  (Although the exact percentage will depend on the situation and the conversation.)

10. Flesh Orb

Everyone who gazes on this soft, fleshy, pink ball will find it very sexually attractive without really understanding why.  (If you find nothing to be sexually attractive, you are immune to this effect.)

The effect isn't strong enough to magically compel people to hump it.  It's just strong enough to bring any dinner party to a screeching halt.  33% will disgusted by themselves.  33% will be disgusted by the flesh orb.  33% will be disgusted by the flesh orb but will discreetly ask how much it costs.

I'm gonna be honest with you here--the sages are just as stumped as you are.  Our best guess is that it's some god's boob, probably.


11. Orb of Pondering

A character who is at least level 3 may spend a whole session pondering your orb, thinking about a particular question.  (This requires the player to use an alternate character this session.)  At the end of the session, roll a d4.

1-2    Your question is answered by the DM.  (DMs are encouraged to be generous with their answers.)

3+    Almost. . . you need more time to PONDER YOUR ORB.  You will go insane if preventing from pondering your orb.

Every time you roll a 3 or higher, increase the size of the die.

 12. Orb of Annihilation

Four feet across, it hangs in the air like a blind spot in the universe.  The light around it is distorted like a lens.  There is a decent wind here, as air is annihilated upon contact and there is a constant vacuum at the surface of the orb.

An artifact called the Amulet of Annihilation allows the wearer to command the orb.

Whenever the orb sees a new creature (cat-sized or larger), it has a 5% chance to be interested in them.  It will pursue these creatures in a straight line (even through walls) until it either catches them or they move more than 100' away.  Do not repeat this roll each time you meet the orb.  The orb is either interested in you or it isn't.

After the orb annihilates someone, it sits in place for 54 seconds.  Although humans can't hear it, the orb emits a complex sequence of subsonic tones.  Some parts of this "song" are unique, some are common to every "song", and some parts are repeated several times within the "song".  After the song is complete, a liquid fraction from the consumed creature flows out of the bottom of the orb.  (For humans, this fraction is essentially a purified blood sample.  Other creatures yield other fractions.)

The orb is capable of more complex, unforeseen behavior.  To this day, no one knows why it suddenly lunged at Ascorion the Annihilator, the last wearer of the Amulet of Annihilation.

13. Orb of Orb Control

Black, shiny, covered with miniscule spikes.  It would be good for massages.

You can control anything orb shaped.  If you spend your turn holding up the Orb of Orb Control and shouting commands, you can rotate, roll, and move orb-shaped objects around.

It even works on the sun and moon, but they return to their normal positions as soon as you stop concentrating.  If you change the phase of the moon, all the normal werewolf stuff happens.  You can move the sun closer or farther, changing the temperature by as much as +/- 20 F (or 12 C).

Fucking around with the sun and the moon has a 90% chance of attracting an angelic strike force (1d6 angels of Level 8) in 1d20 minutes.

The Orb of Orb Control probably works on the Orb of Annihilation, but watch your back, dude.  That orb is plotting something.

14. Spherical Tutor

A sphere inside a sphere inside a sphere.  They are not fixed in place, and move slightly when you shake it.

Allows you to use the compress ability.  Once you successfully use the compress ability to kill a creature, the Orb of the Spheres turn into the appropriate monsterball.

Alternatively, if you boil the Orb of the Spheres until it becomes gelatinous, you can spread it on toast and eat it in order to gain your first level in Spherical Wizard.  (The toast is optional, but traditional.)

15. Orb of Lykorum

Oil slick.  It seems to vibrate.  If you hold it for too long, your joints ache.

When you activate this orb, it turns into a cube and shunts the current room off into a non-Euclidean dimension, and you along with it.

Each door connects to the door across from it.  If you look out the north door, it's like you're looking in the south door.  You can see your own ass.  The rooms that used to connect to this room are now connected to each other (like the map was pinched together) in whatever way makes the most sense.  If there's an odd number of doors, a new door sprouts. 

Everyone is trapped here until you deactivate the cube.  You cannot cut people in half with this effect--the extra dimensions have soft edges.  Every time you use this orb, there is a 1-in-6 chance of it breaking (reverting everything back to Euclidean space).

It works similarly on outdoor areas, but the scope is highly variable.  It's typically about the size of a large meadow, though.

16. Graviton Orb

Polished bronze.  Mechanisms visible beneath its skin, silently moving.

It has a nubbin on the bottom.  Whenever you point the nubbin down, activate the orb, and rotate the orb, whichever direction you rotate the nubbin becomes your new down.

You can use it once per hour.  The new gravity direction affects you as long as you hold on to the orb.  The new gravity direction affects the orb until someone reassigns it a new gravity.

17. IOUN Morningstar

Orbits your head, about 60 rpm.  Looks like the head of a tiny morningstar.

Gives you a free attack once per turn (as if it were a morningstar +1) but if you are also making an attack this turn, there's a 50% chance the morning star hits you instead.  It's got a pretty erratic orbit--best keep your hands close.

18. Prison Orb of the Bone Needle Men

A spaghetti-maze of thin, fused bones.  An evil red light bleeds out of a peephole.

Anyone who looks in the peephole will see a large cave, a thousand times larger than the sphere.  At the back of the cave, there is something approaching.  Anyone who watches this scene intently will see something that looks like a bone needle man, at which point they are sucked into the sphere.  The sphere seals up.  The prisoner remains in stasis until the orb is shattered.

19. Crystal Ball

You may ask a question of the crystal ball and gaze into it for 1 hour.  

During that time, the spirit trapped inside the crystal ball will show you a scene: near or far, past or present.  Everything the crystal ball shows you is true, but there is a 50% chance that the crystal ball is trying to deceive you.

Examples of deception: You ask where the magic sword is, and the crystal ball shows the king.  (In actuality the king doesn't have the sword, but he does know where it is.)  The crystal ball technically answered your question. . . sort of.

Another example of deception: You ask the crystal ball who killed the priest, and it crystal ball shows the priest's mother.  (In actuality, the priest's mother caused his death by allowing him to be born into this world.)  Same thing.

Essentially, unless you see it happen, don't trust what the crystal ball shows you.  On the other hand, it is obliged to show you a correct answer, so it's not useless.  The identity of the priest's mother is not useless information.

The deceptive nature of the crystal ball is not commonly known or easily identified.  It's akin to a cursed item in that way.  (The trapped spirit is hoping that you will become frustrated and shatter the damn thing.)

Once someone has used the crystal ball, they can never use it again.

20. The Sports Ball

When bounced three times on the ground, it compels nearby creatures to play a good-natured Ball Sport game.  Out of all the creatures in the area, whoever has the best Save makes a single save on behalf of everyone.  If the save is failed, everyone stops what they are doing and plays a good-natured game of Sports Ball.  

The save fails automatically if the bouncer is not being a Good Sport.  (For example, by trying to use the Sports Ball to distract the enemy while allies sneak in and rob the place.)

The save automatically fails if anyone is doing anything that demands immediate attention (e.g. putting out a fire).  

During the Ball Sport game, no one plays to win.  Everyone just plays to have fun.  Everyone should make some rolls.  What kind of rolls?  Whatever!  Attack rolls!  Barely-relevant skill checks!  Just try to roll big numbers and have fun!  You get points!  You all get points!  (DM: figure out some fair way to actually generate a score with all those checks, though.  Scores are fun.)

You have about 30 minutes of in-game time to discuss whatever you want.  That's 30 minutes where the dragon isn't trying to kill you.

Afterwards, everyone is well-inclined towards each other.  If people were about to murder each other before the game, now they just want to shake hands and walk away.  It's tough to kill your teammate.  Besides, there's plenty of time for 

The Sports Ball contains all ball sports.  There is always an appropriate Ball Sport game to play, no matter the circumstances.  The Sports Ball works even if 30 peasants and a dragon want to play a game.  The Sports Ball works even if two people locked in a chest want to play a game.  The Sports Ball works even if a thousand snails in a field want to play a game.  The Sports Ball is for everyone. 

The Sports Ball is usable once per day.



  1. Flesh Orb - Imagining this was what the bard Angus the Younger spoke of when he sang:

    > Some balls are held for charity
    > And some for fancy dress
    > But when they're held for pleasure
    > They're the balls that I like best

  2. Goblin Punch is back baby. The OSR is good again. Awoou (wolf howl).

    I enjoy the mix of ridiculous and horrifying in the list of orbs, especially the Orb of Orb Control.

    1. OSR good again indeed; I hadn't seen that many blog posts since before G+ was a thing!

  3. Arnold, please. Keep this blog sfw. I scrolled down until reaching that last pic and was suddenly too hot and bothered to consider orbs.

  4. Rereading: wow, most of these could have been 2 sentences if I tried.

    1. You could have made the blogpost shorter if you'd had more time to write it?

    2. Very true. :\

      Being too enthusiastic also hurt.

  5. Orb of orb control seems like a particularly deadly orb for spherical wizards

  6. Good stuff.

    My main complaints are two, both for the Evil Snowman orb:
    1) It doesn't make clear if it only kills the one who activated the orb, or everyone in line of sight. This is a relevant question, as it makes the difference between the cursed orb as a trap and the cursed orb as a BOMB.

    2) The taking of one's organs doesn't immediately follow from the premise of it being an evil snowman. It's just kind of random. A more thematic demise might be "you're frozen solid from the inside out".

    1. 1. Both versions are viable. Consider it as entries 1A and 1B. Use whichever one is best for your campaign.

      2. I think DnD overthemes things, and it makes the world feel cheap and plastic. Why would merfolk be able to control fish if humans aren't able to control monkeys? Merfolk with fire/boiling powers are much more evocative world, and piques players curiosity. (Temperature is just as important to merfolk as to humans. If you limit them to water magic you should also limit humans to air magic.)
      Is an underwater volcano involved? A steam God?

      The trick for using both a snowman-full-of-guts and merman-with-fire-magix in your game is to make sure you can provide a follow-up if your players decide to investigate. I have a loose idea for why the snowman works that way (secret snowman lore) but if I had a player that wanted to investigate, I could flesh it out for them. It raises questions.

      Snowman-full-of-guts shouldn't feel random. It should feel like there's more here to discover.

      A snowman that freezes you feels expected, and does not encourage curiosity.

      3. I certainly *could* have included backstories for each item, but whenever I read magic item backstories, I always end up thinking "this is inappropriate for my game; I wish they had used to space to print more magic items". I usually have no problem coming up with ideas for backstories on my own.

      Some possibilities for the orb of evil snowmen.

      A. It contains a murderer's soul. He killed people and hid their corpses inside snowmen. By the time they thawed, he would be off to the next town.

      B. It contains the soul of Moktagar, a snowman from the plane of ice. Moktagar lived in one of the warmer regions where he studied fire magic and used it to kill hundreds of his fellow snowmen. For his crimes he was exiled here. If the orb is ever activated by a snowman, frost elemental, or ice golem, the orb will absorb the creatures icy ley-organs, returning Moktagar to full life. Moktagar will be dismayed to find out that his fire magic is nearly useless against humans (not hot enough) but if he is ever able to learn ice magic he will be especially proficient. A potential ally or enemy.

      C. It's actually two magic items fused into one. A regular snowman-making orb (a common toy among elven children long ago) was infused with an elven organ-stealing cantrip. It was created to assassinate a singular elven child long ago.

      You can probably come up with more. You should use whatever is best for your setting. Hopefully, the snowman-stuffed-with-organs sparks some stories.

  7. Someone's been enjoying the Demon-Bone Sarcophagus updates (specifically update #26 from Dec. 5th). Either that, or there's some freaky OSR memetic interchange going on between you and Patrick.

  8. Amazing stuff, Arnold, good to have you back :)