A treat for D&D fans, today: I worked this up as part of a book I did for a game company, but the line it was written for crashed and burned, so I've got two sourcebooks on my hard drive. (If anyone wants to publish them, I do own the rights free and clear, and the books are designed to be stand-alone. And they're, y'know, already done.) In any event, this was one of the magical items in the book, designed to be an artifact for a slightly tongue-in-cheek game...
Support Staff of the Magi: One of the strangest, yet most sought-after items in the Gardener, the support staff of the magi resembles its near-namesake physically. However, in terms of its power, it is very different. Once a character capable of using magic items grasps an inert support staff of the magi (“inert” meaning one whose wielder is dead), the five people with spellcasting abilities nearest to him must immediately make a Willpower saving throw with a DC of 20 or be placed under the thrall of the holder of the staff. If any of these five people succeed at their saving throw, the effect continues to radiate outward until it has ensnared five magic-users.
Once the staff has been activated, the holder can command the mages to cast any spell they are capable of casting. Each spell uses up a number of charges in the staff equal to the level of the spell cast. (Hence, a ninth-level spell uses up nine charges.) The holder commands the mage mentally, meaning that they can use the staff even if they cannot speak. They must maintain a hold on the staff, however, in order to cast spells. (If the wielder lets go of the staff, the mages are not freed—they instead enter a default state, remaining motionless until the staff’s wielder picks it back up.) The staff’s wielder cannot command the mages to do anything other than cast spells; however, they will perform any tasks they are capable of that can help the wielder of the staff, so long as it does not endanger them. This function does not use any charges on the staff.
Wielding the support staff of the magi gives characters a spell resistance of 20; they can, however, voluntarily lower the spell resistance of the staff in order to have it absorb spell levels as per a rod of absorption. This is the only way to recharge the staff. If, however, the number of charges exceeds the maximum the staff can hold (50), the enslaved mages go on a retributive strike, awakening from their trance with a compulsion to kill the person who has held them in thrall. Recharging the staff can be risky, since there’s no way of knowing how many charges it already has or how many levels a spell being cast at the holder will be, but since it is the only way to build charges in the staff, it can sometimes be necessary.
If the staff ever runs out of charges, it loses all its abilities save the ability to absorb spell levels. Any mages held under its thrall return to normal, without any memory of their entrancement or any sort of enmity against the wielder of the staff. As soon as the staff absorbs any spell levels, it will enslave new mages as though it had just been grasped.
If someone tries to take a support staff of the magi away from its holder, they must make a Willpower check with a DC of 25 in addition to their Strength check. Success means that they are now considered to be the wielder of the staff, and the original wielder joins the enslaved mages. Failure means that the would-be thief falls under the spell of the staff, and is subject to its effects. (This is the only way that a holder of a support staff of the magi can increase their following—by hostile takeover.)
Nobody knows who created the few support staffs of the magi in existence, but it’s suspected that a wizard with a fondness for very bad puns is responsible.
Caster Level: 20th; Prerequisites: minor artifact, cannot be duplicated; Weight: 5 lbs.