The Loot Pile: Banshee Oil

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#1

BANSHEE OIL
Magical item

An alchemical unguent the consistency of petroleum jelly, used to coat blades and arrowheads. A small jar that fits in one’s palm will have D20 uses as a weapon augmentation (a larger jar will have D100), allowing standard bladed weapons to inflict damage on any incorporeal undead creature, rendering them susceptible to normal nonmagical melee attacks if they would not be so usually. Corporeal undead and other creatures not normally susceptible to nonmagical melee weapon damage are likewise unaffected by weapons treated with banshee oil. Banshee oil only lasts for one strike on single-use ranged missiles, such as arrows, quarrels, and crossbow bolts, but the thick, slick, waxy paste is also easily smeared on the blades of swords, daggers, axes, and spears, where it will remain effective for D4 strikes that deal slashing or piercing WEAPON damage. It does NOT work on blunt trauma weapons (e.g., maces, hammers) or blunt missiles (e.g., sling stones) that do bludgeoning damage. Banshee oil takes an action (1 round) to apply to any melee weapon or missile. Banshee oil does not go bad, and it has mundane uses such as starting fires, lunricating mechanical devices, or salving dry skin, burns, and minor lacerations. It should not be ingested in large quantity—which would be a waste of a magical item—but it is nontoxic. It makes an excellent lip balm.

Notes:

  1. Inspired by The Witcher III: Wild Hunt and Zee Bashew’s The Cold Road.
  2. If you want to bump up the spice, have a high-grade version of banshee oil that does increased damage to more powerful undead creatures, granting a damage bonus of +1 per heart of the target undead creature. (A damage coefficient, e.g., 2D6 for two hearts, 3D6 for three hearts, would probably be overkill (as much fun as spanking a vampire might be), but it’s your table if you want to explore it…)
  3. See what else is on top of The Loot Pile.

#2

I like that this can be used for multiple things unrelated to combat. Very cool!


#3

Many thanks. I like the idea of having lots of different options for useful and powerful limited-use magic items at the GM’s disposal, especially those that are niched like this one. It allows the DM to seed powers and abilities within a dungeon adventure as needed without worrying about “breaking the game” or forever wiping out an entire category of challenges for the party. Well hidden or apply timed, they are a great reward for players who engage with the exploration and discovery aspects of the game, and they can make for some dramatic and rewarding moments when the items and their abilities are uncovered. (I say that realizing that those who have a more up-front “meta or bust” gaming philosophy don’t have time for sh!t like that, which is fine, but I still see it as a boon to the play experience.) I also find that theorizing and deciding on some basic item-specific use mechanics, such as the reapplication timer above—things that are bound to come up in play anyway—can preserve verisimilitude and add a little extra in-game excitement when the PCs bump up against them.