An amulet is a name given to any magic item worn around the neck. Numerous different magic items of this type exist, which are best known for their protective properties.

Appearance[edit | edit source]

An amulet is an object typically worn around the neck on a string or chain.[1] Amulets are made from a variety of materials, but are commonly made from metal such as gold or silver for durability and appearance.

A gemstone worn as an amulet is known as a periapt. Any piece of jewellery worn around the neck may be considered a necklace, a term which also describes rows of beads or solid pieces of metal. Similarly, a brooch is pinned to clothing near the neck, typically to fasten a cloak, rather than held around the neck by a chain.

The terms medallion and scarab are functionally equivalent to "amulet", with scarabs often detailed in the style of a carapaced insect. An amulet activated by being held in the hand is known as a talisman.

Properties[edit | edit source]

Amulets have a variety of magical properties. They are best suited to magical effects which include protection and discernment.[2]

Notable amulets[edit | edit source]

For a full list, see Category:Amulets.

Items which are not specifically named "amulet", but are nonetheless worn around the neck and may sometimes be considered amulets include:

History[edit | edit source]

Amulets have been worn by powerful individuals throughout history, primarily as protective measures.

Recent history[edit | edit source]

Amulets were commonplace among the powerful rulers of the Flanaess on Oerth. Archmage-Prince Lakaster wore an amulet of perpetual youth which reduced his age by twenty years, while numerous evil lords, including Overking Xavenar of Ahlissa, wore an amulet of proof against detection and location to protect themselves from powerful enemies.[3]

Publication history[edit | edit source]

Original D&D[edit | edit source]

The first amulets to appear in Dungeons & Dragons were introduced by Greyhawk (Supplement 1) (1975), which introduced the amulet vs crystal balls and ESP and amulet of inescapable locating. It also introduced the medallion of thought protection, scarab of protection from evil high proests, scarab of enraging enemies, scarab of insanity, scarab of death, necklace of missiles, necklace of strangulation, talisman of lawfulness, talisman of chaos supreme and talisman of the sphere.

Basic D&D[edit | edit source]

AD&D 1st edition[edit | edit source]

AD&D 2nd edition[edit | edit source]

D&D 3rd edition[edit | edit source]

Amulets appear in the D&D 3rd edition Dungeon Master's Guide, where they are included as standard equipment for NPCs of high level. A character can only benefit from one item worn around the neck at a time, a category which specifically includes the amulet, brooch, medallion, necklace, periapt, and scarab. They are considered a subtype of wondrous items.

Amulets in the Dungeon Master's Guide (3.5) (2003) include amulet of health, amulet of mighty fists, amulet of natural armor, amulet of the planes and amulet of proof against detection and location. Other amulet-like neck-slot items include the brooch of shielding, medallion of thoughts, necklace of adaption, necklace of fireballs, periapt of health, periapt of proof against poison, periapt of proof against poison, periapt of wisdom, periapt of wound closure, scarab of protection, and golembane scarab.

Cursed items of this sort include the amulet of inescapable location, medallion of thought projection, periapt of foul rotting, necklace of strangulation, and scarab of death. The body slot affinities rules (p.288) assert that items worn around the neck are best suited to protection and discernment.

D&D 4th edition[edit | edit source]

D&D 5th edition[edit | edit source]

Item slot rules were relaxed in D&D 5th edition. Amulets and similar items are classified as wondrous items, and a character can wear multiple such items if the DM asserts that this makes sense.

Amulets depicted in the Dungeon Master's Guide (5e) (2014) include the amulet of health, amulet of proof against detection and location, and amulet of the planes. Additional items worn around the neck include the brooch of shielding, medallion of thoughts, necklace of adaption, necklace of fireballs, necklace of prayer beads, periapt of health, periapt of proof against poison, periapt of wound closure, and scarab of protection.

Creative origins[edit | edit source]

Amulets of various sorts were worn in mediaeval Europe, where they were believed to protect the wearer from dangers. According to Religion and the Decline of Magic', amulets made from the wax of holy candles or inscribed with the gospel of St. John were thought to protect the bearer from the Devil, as well as against such specific dangers as lightning, fire and drowning.

One contemporary author wrote of the practice:

About these Catholics' necks and hands are always hanging charms,
That serve against all miseries and all unhappy harms.

The scarab originates in ancient Egypt, where stone amulets carved in the form of scarab beetles appear in numerous archeological finds.

Reception and influence[edit | edit source]

Magical amulets, necklaces and the like frequently appear in computer roleplaying games.

Several amulets originating in Dungeons & Dragons appear in the game NetHack, including the cursed amulet of strangulation. The goal of that game is to recover a unique item called the Amulet of Yendor.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Dungeon Master's Guide (5e) (2014), p.150.
  2. Dungeon Master's Guide (3.5) (2003), p.288.
  3. WGRX Ivid the Undying (1995), p.67.
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