Sunday, 18 October 2009

Magical Cigarettes, Pipes, and Other Smoking Paraphernalia

I'm only an occasional smoker (and I used to smoke a lot more than I do now) but it seems unfortunate even to me that the depths of tobacco-related products are so unplumbed by D&D designers. After all, just look at how cool Gandalf, the chain-smoking wizard, is. The reason for the deliberate oversight is obvious - the designers didn't want to encourage kids to smoke, or at least didn't want to be accused of doing so. But hang on, isn't this a game in which the characters routinely engage in murder, theft, whoring and torture?

There are six categories of magical tobacco and tobacco related paraphernalia:
  1. Tobacco or other smoked material that causes its effects on the body via direct inhalation, i.e. which affects the physiology of the smoker;
  2. Tobacco or other smoked material that causes its effects on the body via indirect inhalation, i.e. which affects the physiology of those who the smoke is blown at or who inhale it second hand;
  3. Tobacco or other smoked material with effects that come about through the act of exhalation, i.e. with smoke which is itself intrinsically magical;
  4. Smoking-related equipment which conveys miscellaneous magical proporties to ordinary smoke;
  5. Smoking-related equipment which conveys miscellaneous magical properties to the smoker;
  6. Smoking-related equipment with miscellaneous magical properties which come about through the act of smoking but do not directly affect the smoke or smoker.
Of these, I would argue that the third is perhaps the most interesting, as it allows for the possibility of pipes, cigarettes etc. which summon beings from the Elemental Plane of Smoke. Hence:

Pipe of The Mephits

This is a very long and thin smoking pipe, with a stem made from amber and a graphite bowl. Both the bit and the bowl are decorate with whorled etched patterns inlaid with brass. The entire pipe is apparently impervious to harm and never shows signs of wear.

When the pipe is filled and puffed it takes one round for sufficient smoke to build in the immediate area. After another round the smoke begins to coalesce into vaguely humanoid, winged shapes. Finally, after the third round, 2d3 smoke mephits will have taken shape around the smoker.

These mephits always obey the smoker, though they are not mindless automata: their nature is capricious and wicked and they will take every opportunity available to twist, ignore or pervert the commands given to them. Their summoning from the Paraelemental Plane of Smoke is generally permanent, however, and they will be bound to the smoker until destroyed or released (by the smoker's death or command). The only exception to this is if they can immerse themselves in the smoke released by zinc burning in air; this allows them to break their bonds.

The Pipe of the Mephits functions as an ordinary pipe once it has been used to summon mephits in this way; it cannot summon more until the first group have been destroyed or released.


  1. It's a lovely and evocative idea (proper wizard = wreathed in smoke or pungent incense), but you know the "Legalise it!" crowd splashing about in the shallow end of the cultural reference pool would ruin it for everyone. :(

    That said I'll be yoinking this for future reference.

  2. I know the original books had to have disclaimers and stuff, but i think you might be reading too many good intentions into the work of the original authors. It could be they were just a bunch of carrot-up-their-arses non-smoking prudes, and so magical smoking paraphernalia didn't occur to them.

    I'm all for chain-smoking wizards and magical smoking paraphernalia!

  3. There's a scene in the movie Barbarella where she comes across a group of women smoking from a giant hookah, in which a man is trapped. One of the women offers Barbarella a toke, explaining that it's "essence of man."

    Does that fit into your thesis?

  4. Chris: Thankfully I don't game with many of those people.

    faustusnotes: I dunno, I always thought that early D&D was associated with lots of drinking and at least pot smoking. Maybe I'm wrong...

    Alexis: It certainly does; it probably comes under item 4 or 6. It's also a very nice spur for the imagination...

  5. faustus:

    Gygagax smoked. He talks about it in the "wisdom vs. intelligence" section of the AD&D DMG.

  6. haha! so he thought it was wise not to encourage it in the treasure section? surely would have been intelligent though... he could have charged Phillip Morris for product placement!

  7. oops, that was faustusnotes. silly blogger...

  8. Oh, and then there's the frontispiece of the DMG: