A small box, about 2 feet cubed, made of pitted pig iron – seemingly of six separate plates of metal somehow fused together – melted in heat unimaginable at each seam where two plates meet. The metal itself is pitted and crude, yet solid, hard enough to resist an axe chopping away. Brute force is unlikely to be the means with which to open such a thing…
Perhaps it was found buried under an old abandoned wagon just off a road or was discovered deep in an underground system of tunnels, sitting on a throne made of obsidian. Maybe it’s available to purchase in the back of a shop known mostly for selling fine statuettes of flowers only found in foreign lands.
Regardless, the box itself is hollow, and some reports have been made that something is in fact inside the box, rattling sometimes when the box is shaken or sometimes rattling all by itself with no one holding it at all.
The GM should roll 1d6 on the table below at the beginning of each session where the box exists in game, specifically in the possession of the party or a notable NPC and the players are aware the box exists. The contents of the box should change accordingly based on what is rolled below.
- 1: The inside of the box is empty if opened, runes of an unknown origin have been drawn on the inside of it, and forcing the box opened, breaks the seal by breaking the runes. Whatever it was inside has been freed if the box is opened.
- 2: A baby, alive and well, and seemingly impervious to harm. Her skin has a golden hue, and she doesn’t appear to have any need to eat or drink. She has a mysterious mark on the palm of her left hand – a tattoo or birthmark?
- 3: If pierced, the box explodes outward, causing 1d6 damage to whoever fails a DEX saving throw. A piece of the box is embedded in everyone who is hit, impossible to pull out through mundane means – a blessing from a priest of the Hidden God will cause it to fall out, otherwise the person may develop a mutation…
- 4: A snake slithers out of any hole that is made in one of the plates, no matter how small the hole is. The snake is a large python with a long running script in Elvish tattooed upon its belly, visible only under moonlight. To those who can read it, it speaks of a dire warning of an apocalypse yet to come that cuts off access to all of the Bridges, effectively destroying all magic.
- 5: A small box with a little bow wrapped around it is inside. Inside this box is a bit of parchment and a ring. The parchment has a note written in one of the party member’s own hand writing promising that the ring will only fit the hand of the true queen, and that the party member whose hand writing matches the note must find her.
- 6: The box is empty with nothing inside, no special markings, nothing.
The metal that the plates are made out of can be crafted into items by a master craftsman who works with only the hottest bellows one can find. It is possible to harvest 1d8 components worth of material from the box. Each one-handed weapon takes 1 component, a shield or two-handed weapon 2 components, and armor 3 components.
Weapons or armor made with the plates provide a reroll on DEX saves when utilized to do so. They give a glimpse into a possible future to the user, allowing them make a different move. This ability has a Ud4 number of uses per day.
I love the freedom of designing for OSR games.
This springs from previously putting a “sealed iron box” into my ancient battlefield generator table of things that could be found on such a site. Naturally I began thinking well, what is in the box? I also watched Tenet recently for my birthday (I don’t care haters, I loved it), and so it got my brain really going into timey-wimey time travel stuff.
I went with a “Shroedinger’s Side Quest” kind of approach with it, and I particularly love the fact that what’s inside changes on a daily basis until it’s opened up.
But then I was also thinking, what about the box itself? Might as well make something neat out of it too, and I ended up making an incredibly simple crafting system, cause why not?
Ideally the box is found somewhere incredibly unexpected. The more surprising the place it’s found in, the more fun you can have with it as a GM, in my opinion.
One final note, the seams have been welded shut – so if you’re looking for a way to describe it, look at some pictures of really great welds – that’s what I’m going for. No, I don’t know how whoever made the box got a hold of a welder, but make sure you never say it’s a weld – just describe it and let the players wonder for themselves. Less is more!