Wizards’ Favorite Tool

by mshrm

“Your love of the Halfings’ leaf has clearly slowed your mind.” — Saruman

Gandalf really set the fashion for dungeon-delving wizards. (Rather funny, when you consider what killed him.) The standard uniform is robe, pointy hat, beard, staff, and pipe. Even if you’re looking at a young, spry wizard, you can bet he’s leaning on some kind of walking stick… and apparently, the last test of apprenticeship is taking up smoking, with a side line in smoke rings.

(Pulls a stump up to the fire, strokes his beard, and with a look of deep reflection in his eyes, says, “Back in my day…”)

I ran a little D&D campaign back in the early 1990’s, just a couple of players and the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia. It was a sort of game in miniature, in a lot of ways. We used the Cyclopedia because it was self-contained. The whole campaign was that one volume, a few sheets of loose-leaf notebook paper, and a scrawled map of the world on hex paper. Using a packaged campaign world would have involved adding another book, so we made up the world from scratch. It turned out quirky, as one might expect.

One of the quirks was the rule for wizard’s pipes.

I had just come off reading Madwand, by Roger Zelazny, which contains descriptions of a sort of world’s fair for wizards. I was quite taken with the idea, and wanted to steal it for myself. To support the idea of a periodic get-together, the campaign world had a powerful wizard’s guild. To demonstrate the power and presence of the guild, there were rules and rituals that wizards had to observe. A lot of those rules amounted to “keep your place, you low-level whippersnapper”. The pipe rule was a key piece of the strategy.

The point of it was that a mighty wizard should have a pipe appropriate to that wizard’s power and prestige, while a lesser wizard would have a more lowly implement, and an apprentice shouldn’t be allowed to smoke at all, but should be kept busy keeping the real wizards’ pipes (and wine glasses!) properly topped-off. This many years later, I can’t be entirely sure that I remember the details correctly, but I think I remember the gist of the rule. In that version of D&D, a character could be anywhere from 1st to 36th level. The rule was simple:  a wizard could have a pipe no more than two inches long for every level.

Thus, your 1st-level just-graduated apprentice has to make do with a little two-inch toy of a pipe. A 1st-level wizard can’t grow the coveted bushy beard of an archmage, because it gets singed off regularly. As I recall, the PC wizard started off with a little stub of a corncob pipe.

It’s got “Made in Narnia” stamped on it.

Higher-level wizards, on the other hand, could carry a pipe measured in feet, not inches. A travelling wizard, like Gandalf, might have a pipe of only about a foot or so for the road, of course, but they would be sure to have something overblown and ostentatious for special occasions. The most powerful wizards would have teams of apprentices acting as a sort of smoker’s pit crew, with one or two tasked solely with maneuvering a monstrosity of over five feet in length.

A mighty wizard, indeed!

Years later, I told this story to Jed’s player, when he mentioned how Jed picked up some “goblin cigarettes” on the way out of town. Jed’s got a kind of Rat Pack vibe about him, so they’re all part of his persona. Anyway, the player appeared to be quite charmed at the idea, and demanded that I institute the same sort of custom in the world of Tembladera.

Well, clearly, “two inches per level” isn’t going to do it. GURPS ain’t got no levels. Even trying to hang it off Magery seems unlikely; a span of six values doesn’t give a lot of room for subtle nuance. Luckily, there’s a better, more realistic way to get the same effect. In GURPS, what’s the difference between a cheap suit, and the kind of suit you find on billionaire playboys? The “ornate” modifier, and all of its ornamental cousins. A fresh apprentice, at 250 points and average starting wealth, is going to invest in the standard, off-the-shelf pipe, at most. As that apprentice gains power and wealth, that original clay pipe will be discarded in favor of fancier versions. At some point, no doubt, gemstones will come into the equation.

* * *

A standard baton, staff, or hatchet can have a smoking pipe added for a cost of 1sp and an additional 2 ounces of weight. The same can be done to a wizard’s wand, so long as the physical modifications are made before enchanting.  (I’ll go ahead and answer the next question:  Yes, Jed can have one built in to his hat, but he can’t wear the hat and smoke at the same time. That costs more.)

Pipes are meant to be semi-disposable, at best. A nice, basic meerschaum can be had for 3cp, or 7cp if elaborately carved, as they often are. The equivalents in dragonbone would still only cost 5sp, or 6sp, respectively. The good news is, even pipes suitable for enchantment are relatively inexpensive. The bad news is, since they’re so fragile and wear out so quickly, very few are given enchantments of any great power.

For example, an elaborately carved dragonbone pipe, enchanted to allow the smoker to cast the Smoke spell, would cost 74cp. This is a fairly common gag around Tembladera. Practical jokers will find a public area near their targets, light up, and start producing a cloud fit to clear the room. For the same price, the considerate smoker might get one enchanted to cast Purify Air, so the martial artist in the party doesn’t get all “my body is a temple” when the wizard needs to take a moment to relax and regain energy.

More subtle jokers go cheap:  for 16sp, one can have a pipe enchanted with Odor, set to any one smell. Honest tradesmen offer pipes enchanted to create pleasant smells, like sandalwood. Novelty shops provide an array of less-desirable scents best left to the imagination.

Those who want to weaponize their pipes might choose one enchanted to cast Stench, for 21sp.  The thing to keep in mind here is, Stench doesn’t just make the place smell like old fish; that’s the job of Odor. Stench should really be named something like “Mustard Gas Won’t Be Prohibited By The Geneva Convention Until TL 6”. If you ever wanted your wizard to be able to massacre a crowded inn using nothing but smoke rings, this is the tool for you.

The dedicated hobbyist smoker, though… The kind of wizard who puts points into Connoisseur (Pipeweed)… Now, that wizard is going to be interested in a certain couple of enchantments. For 31sp, one can buy a self-cleaning pipe enchanted to cast Clean. For 43sp, 2cp, one can get one that’s self-igniting, enchanted to cast Ignite Fire. (These prices assume an unlimited enchantment, meaning that the self-cleaning pipe can not only clean itself, it can turn its enchantment on your robe or hat or what-have-you as well. There are cheaper, limited versions of both, but it’s beneath the dignity of most wizards to quibble over such details.) Finally, for 68sp, 2cp, one can pick up the masterpiece, enchanted with both.  Just add pipeweed.