Crown of Shadows
Shadows are strange, abstract entities that only truly exist in the realm of the Shadow – the psychic mirror of the material world. Many are benign, but the touch of even the best-intentioned can be dangerous to mortals. The Crown of Shadows is a simple circlet, like polished hardwood to the touch but appearing almost ethereal due to the constant play of iridescent colors on its surface. When not claimed, it vanishes as soon as it goes unobserved for more than a moment, and reappears on its home pedestal in the underground Hall of Visions, one of the places where the border between the physical realm and the Shadow is especially weak.
Any who claim the Crown are joyfully greeted by a quickly intensifying rush of all shadow-creatures in the immediate vicinity. The shadows will close in, reach out to touch their new ruler in greeting, and recede again like the waves of an incoming tide. For those without the proper protection, each touch draws the mortal more fully into the Shadow realm; they lose d4 kilograms of mass and one point from a randomly chosen stat each round for the first 20d20 rounds of their reign. This greeting can be forestalled as long as one remains bathed in unbroken pitch darkness or blinding light. Those reduced to zero mass are drawn fully into the Shadow, ironically leaving the Crown behind.
If the claimant survives this greeting, then as long as they possess the Crown nothing of the Shadow will harm them and they may converse freely with shadows; as long as they wear it, they may command shadows in the area to appear and give them aid (acting essentially like the Green Lantern’s ring). Each morning or evening (at least one camp action), the wearer is expected to hold court in a shadowy place and administer the disputes and other matters of the shadows – their language and daily affairs are somehow comprehensible to one wearing the Crown, although this knowledge cannot be satisfactorily expressed in any human tongue. On rare occasions, the wearer of the Crown may be asked to engage in a quest of behalf of their subjects.
The shadow sovereign may resign at any time simply by renouncing possession of the Crown, but shadows will continue to recognize them, and will respond to their presence based on what kind of a ruler they were: rulers who went above and beyond the call of duty in service of their subjects while demanding little of them will be respected and aided; rulers who asked much and gave little will be taunted and hindered in subtle ways, and Shadow-based magic will not aid them.
(Today’s magic item was inspired by last Friday’s musings on the Artifact Dash. I’m very pleased with both the danger that keeps it from being casually claimed, no matter how ready it might seem for the taking, and with the possibility for interesting consequences of its use even after being mastered.)