Magic Lamp
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Basic Information

The magic lamp - as featured in the story of Aladdin and some other Middle Eastern legends - is a member of a much larger class of vessels containing jinn, bound within them by powerful figures - often King Solomon, by way of his seal, other legendary theurges or occasionally sha'air (Arabic wizards, often thought to derive much of their power from bargaining with or enslaving jinni). Such vessels are generally metal lamps or bottles, but can also be made of ceramics or glass and may also take other forms … even down to pieces of jewelry. (In the story, Aladdin had two djini, one in a magic lamp and the other in a magic ring.)

In the Aladdin legend, the jinn was bound perpetually to the lamp and obliged to serve the lamp's possessor to the best of its ability - in other legends, the jinn is bound (either by honour, or by a condition of the binding magic) to perform a series of tasks (traditionally three) for the person that frees it.

Those raised on disneyfied depictions of these things, should bear in mind that to an Arabic speaker "jinn" covers an enormous range of creatures and many of them were imprisoned for very good reasons. Even the permanently bound ones may have amusing conditions that have to be complied with before they can be safely commanded (for example, the jinn must be commanded in the name of Solomon or it is temporarily … or permanently … freed), and even those that are reasonably well controlled may be free to obey only the letter of a command, rather than the spirit and may come up with some creative interpretations. Also, the power available to these creatures may vary - and even those capable of doing something properly may take the route of least resistance (or the one most likely to cause trouble for its master) if it finds an opportunity. Those who serve in return for being released are prone to be even more dangerous - once their tasks are complete, they are free to do whatever they feel like … which may well include revenge on humanity for being imprisoned in the first place. A wise user might well save the last task to make sure that the jinn is obliged to leave him alone in perpetuity … but may need to word it very carefully to avoid all forms of revenge.

There are, of course, plenty of ways for a lamp to be magical without being full of jinn … the old AD&D module Lost Caverns of Tscojanth1 featured a device, possibly called the Lamp of Daoud2 which was actually a lantern whose magical effects could be focused and altered by the use of coloured gemstone lenses. Also the webcomic Girl Genius features a lamp called Prende's Lantern, the light of which seems to have time bending properties. Other magic lamps might be simply windproof (which brings them into magic torch territory), or usable as scrying speculae, or might have warding, healing or illusion piercing properties. Also, their light might be specifically enchanted to reveal hidden things …whether doorways or honest men.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Properly used by a cunning GM, this, and its sibling artifacts may well persuade wise players to dump all unattended medieval Arabic house goods into the Challenger Deep on a precautionary basis.
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