They were there in the first rulebook I ever saw and we have had them in our games forever - but who understands them?
Our understanding comes from the 5.5 rulebook and the information there is pretty sketchy (which is how I think it should be!). The basic understanding runs like this:
- the staff (or wand) has a demon trapped inside it
- the demon has an INT value and if a wizard with a lower INT grasps the staff the demon will possess the wizard
- the demon also has a WIZ value and a wizard controlling the staff (DMS) gets to use that WIZ - like a battery
- the demon's WIZ recharges just as the wizard's does
- the wizard can cast a spell himself or get the DMS to (the DMS learns all the spells the wizard knows)
Perusing various rulebooks, I see that DMS' are for sale! The price has fluctuated between a meagre 5,000 GPs and a hefty 50,000. I have no hesitation in leaning towards the whopping great price tag but...
Let's look at that 'but' more closely.
I imagined a L1 wizard named Noddy the Weak who finds a DMS in a dungeon. Noddy is very lucky indeed! Doubly so, in fact, because Noddy has an INT of just 12 and the DMS, 'Pffff' has an INT that is one point lower. Pffff has WIZ of a feeble 7 so it is not the greatest prize ever found in a dungeon.
What's the benefit of ownership to Noddy? Basically, that he can do an extra spell without exhausting himself and dying. Nice but not often a game breaker. If he had 2000 GPs to spare would be buy Pffff or purchase a L2 spell from the Wizards' Guild? I'd say that Poor Baby, Omnipotent Eye, Little Feets, Hidey Hole and the like are much more likely to benefit him and any party of delvers he's adventuring with so the value (to Noddy) of Pffff is significantly less than 2,000 GPs.
So is it just a matter of how much WIZ the DMS has? After all, if Pffff had WIZ of say 100, Noddy could blast away until the cows came home (in pieces).
Perhaps not... What is a smarter wizard stole Pffff from Noddy. :Let's imagine this wizard has INT of 30 and is L3, knowing all the L1-3 spells. This wizard, Smuglips, would make much better use of Pffff, instantly 'teaching' the DMS a bunch of spells and casting them all based on a much higher INT. Maybe the best thing Noddy can do is avoid Smuglips and get on and sell Pffff to a high level wizard at the Guild.
But hang on, Pffff only has WIZ of 7 and still only knows fairly simple spells. Why would the Guild supremo want Pffff?
We seem to be stuck with DMS' coming down to how much WIZ the demon possesses - plus an opening danger of it's INT overhwhelming a new owner.
Let's turn now to the question of who makes them. As mentioned before, they are for sale (presumably at Guild shops). We might imagine a transaction taking place:
Atomcruncher (promising L7 wizard with INT of 72): Good morning. I'd like to look at some of your DMS' please.
Ritayllakki (humble shop worker): Let me get my tape measure, sir - we wouldn't want any mishaps with something you couldn't handle!
Atomcruncher: We certainly wouldn't but I can tell you my INT is 72 so just show me the gooodies.
Ritayllakki: Very well, sir. We have many staves that would suit sir. Do you have any particular requirements - apart from not being possessed and humiliated?
Atomcruncher: Naturally, my good fellow. I want the maximum amount of WIZ a staff with an INT less than mine packs.
Ritayllakki:Of course sir does! Well, I won't show you the little one with WIZ of a humerous 3. I think you'll like this whopper - it has WIZ of 500.
Atomcruncher: Oh yes! I'll take that baby home and love it! How much does it cost?
Ritayllakki: Oh, they all cost the same. 50,000 gold pieces please. Just count them out in piles of 5, if you would be so kind.
So, what do we do? Just charge based on a multiple of WIZ?
I don't think so - mainluu because I don't care for the idea of them being easily makeable or for sale.
Let's think about how they are created.
My first take on Wizard Guild creation is that if they could make them, the market would be flooded with them! As soon as a benevolent high ranking wizard was faced with the proposition that dedicating his or her life to such a task would save many, many lives, that wizard would create a range of them with INTs to suit all sizes, packing as much WIZ as possible. I'm going to scratch that one out.
Now, I suppose just as a very powerful wizard can summon a demon or banish one, so one might be trapped within some wood but I think that would cost an awful lot of WIZ and would be inherently dangerous (in that one in eighteen times, the binder would roll a critical fumble) - so we can say this is possible but very rare. I'm picking such a spell to L20 or so on a par with 'Born Again' - except maybe for very puny demons if anyoine wants to argue the toss.
OK then - they can turn up in dungeons because mighty wizard gods and witch goddesses make them.
Apart from that?
I think that powerful demons make them. Why? My notion is that something on the Trollworld plane has pissed them off and they cannot travel there themselves so they charge their minions with doing as much harm to wizards as possible. That would mean that they would make DMS' with as high INT as they could (and let's assume they are not generally catastrophically intelligent!). What about WIZ? I'd think they would need to put a fair amount in to make them able to take over wizards.
Given all that, the tougher the dungeon level, the more dangerous INT-wise a DMS put there would likely be - and the more WIZ it would contain to power its work.
Turning back to the money question, what's a DMS worth? They would not be shop stocked items and it would be a matter of a willing seller meeting a willing buyer - a perfect capitalist equation for once. I don't think there would be many willing sellers because to have a powerful WIZ battery that you can cast spells through - thus reducing the risk to the wizard if a spell backfires - would be too good a treasure to part with.
Still, if they are just batteries (and if you don't play the 7.5 rule requiring an INT check to cast a spell they would seem to be no more than that) they are not want I think they should be!
Take a bow, Andy Holmes! The idea that Ominous Thunder actively protects its master is what makes a DMS exceptionally valuable. I think that could be applied to each and every DMS given their rarity.