An exerpt from the deceased Archmage Dorvasol's journal:
My initial reaction upon receipt of these mitts was one of disappointment; at first glance they appeared quite unextraordinary, even a bit ragged in that several places the underlying mesh had begun to fray. The edges of the metal coverings had the telltale signs of rust from either unuse or misuse. In any case, I would have made to discard the items were it not for the presence of Gustaf. So as not to hurt his feelings, I made the commotion of being intrigued by the gauntlets, giving several obligatory grunts of interest before cataloging and setting them aside. However, as I was about to discard them onto my workbench, I thought I noticed a sudden increase in their weight; it felt as if someone had suddenly dropped a small rock in the opening of each. It caught me quite off guard, and I was going to mark it up to yet another sign of a doddering old wizard's failing health. Yet seconds later, it happened again; the gloves suddenly increased perceptibly in their weight. Gustaf must have caught my startled expression, for he grinned and reported a similar sensation whenever he handled the gloves. Against better judgement, I impulsively slipped the gauntlets on. Over the next several moments as I studied the gauntlets, they continued to grow in weight; to the point where I wondered whether I would be able to hold my hands up any longer. The weight gain tapered off and stopped after approximately 30 seconds; the weight was such that it was uncomfortable to raise my hands, but not impossible. However, upon lowering them back to waist level, I noticed an even stranger property; the gloves appeared to be resisting my motions, even against gravity. Further experimentation indicated that this resistance occurred along almost all planes of motion; attempting to swing my arms out to the side encountered a similar resistance. An interesting find; these gloves may warrant further study. Nevertheless, this will have to wait until the Twelve Scrolls of Savalor have been fully deciphered; paying customers come first. At any rate, I paid Gustaf fifty crowns. I think he was hoping for a bit more, so I promised him that further payment would be forthcoming once I had a chance to better study the gauntlets.
What with the fiasco surrounding the Blood Crown of Durenhold, it was a bit before I could get back to this particular item. One would think that, at my venerable age, I wouldn’t make such juvenile errors in handling cursed items! At any rate, with all the hoopla I had all but forgotten about these gloves; it was by mere coincidence that I stumbled across them sifting through the components bin. Margot has told me for years that my methods of organization are for want, but I’m probably far too old now to change my ways.
But once again, I digress. The weight of the gauntlets, unworn is approximately three and a quarter pounds for the pair; surprisingly light for their size. Summoning Ivan, I ran through a similar, somewhat more thorough examination of the gloves properties using him as the wearer. The lad confirmed that the mitts did indeed appear to grow in weight as he wore them; he reported that they felt uncomfortably heavy after about half a minute. Similarly, the gloves also seemed to resist all arm movements; providing some form of inertia against motion in all directions, including downward as well. Another interesting property was that this resistance appeared to affect other appendages as well; Ivan reported a greater level of difficulty with actions such as walking, bending over, and squatting. Weighing the gloves immediately upon their removal, they once again weight three and a quarter pounds; no difference from before the test.
The gauntlets do indeed possess an arcane aura; initial tests indicate traces of transfigurational magic. Due to their nature of apparently affecting the wearer’s mind with impressions of weakness, I would have thought that the aura would be more of a mind-influencing nature. Another perplexing aspect of the gauntlets is that, although the overall effect appears to be detrimental, they are by no means cursed. The gloves can easily be removed, and the effects disappear once they are cast off. I am at a loss for why anyone would purposefully lay such a bizarre enchantment on gauntlets. One possible answer may be that these are accidental in origin. At any rate, I do not believe these gauntlets to be of any practical value, although they may prove to be an interesting novelty item to someone. Cataloging and storing in bin 42.
It turns out that there may be more to these gauntlets than I initially concluded. What initially promised to be a sad misfortune ended up turning into quite the discovery. Under my direction, Ivan was assembling an expansive assortment of vials and beakers in preparation for what promised to be an arduous enchantment. I had stepped out to meet with a potential customer when the clumsy Ivan managed to topple an entire rack of components. He endeavored to clean the mess up quickly, but even his addled mind realized the caustic nature of many of those spilled components. Spying the gauntlets, he put them on and proceeded to gather the shattered containers and strewn materials. It took him quite a while to clean the mess up; he was just finishing up as I returned. I must have caught him by surprise, because he stood up quickly; knocking back against yet another large rack of tools. The top-heavy rack began to topple towards the ground, but with a surprising display of both strength and agility that was quite atypical of his normal behavior, Ivan lithely grabbed and steadied the rack with just one hand. Although relieved that he had managed to avert a second mishap, I was nevertheless quite angered at the half-wit for his initial carelessness, and began to berate him. Ivan, however, paid no attention to me; staring, instead, at his still-gloved hands. “Gone!” he exclaimed. I asked him what the devil he was talking about. Ivan explained that, just for a moment, the resistance afforded by the gloves disappeared entirely; allowing him to move freely and unhampered as he righted the rack with a single hand. But even as he spoke, the resistive properties of the gauntlets returned.
I really couldn’t afford the time to dabble in side projects, but nevertheless took a bit of time to further investigate the gloves. With Ivan’s help I deduced that, when the wearer comes under duress, the resistance generated by the gloves disappears entirely. Although interesting, I did not feel this warranted much more time at this critical juncture in my other endeavors. Nevertheless, partly out of curiosity, and partly out of a desire to punish Ivan for his carelessness, I instructed him to leave the gauntlets on. He was to wear them for the next two weeks and report back to me on any other properties he noticed.
Ivan came early today, his face was flush, and he had an odd gleam in his eye. He reported that he had dutifully worn the gauntlets at all times, save for eating and sleeping. During that time, he explained, the resistance afforded by the gloves did not wane at all. He would have expected to at least grow accustomed to their inertial nature, but the gloves appeared to grow more and more resistive over the days. In fact, there were certain brief periods where the resistance would suddenly amplify many times over; making it extremely difficult to accomplish whatever action he was in the middle of performing.
Yesterday evening, however, Ivan was on his way to draw water from the village well when he had a chance encounter with Orin Feltsharn; one of the many local ruffians who seemed to take particular pleasure in tormenting him. It appears that Orin attempted to wrest Ivan’s bucket away from him with the intent of flinging it down the well. Instead, Ivan not only maintained a solid grip on the bucket with just one hand, but also cuffed Orin soundly with the other; knocking him flat. Initially, I considered that perhaps the hardness of the metal-clad hand was sufficient to knock Orin senseless, but Orin is almost double Ivan’s weight and girth. Ivan also insisted that the force of his blow actually knocked the big oaf off his feet.
Ivan went on to describe that, for the duration of the altercation, the gloves did not hamper his movements at all. Furthermore, he mentioned noticing that his body seems to have undergone some changes since initially donning the gloves. When I asked him what he meant, Ivan pulled off his tunic and I saw for myself. After a sick childhood, Ivan was a thin young man; what little meat he had on his bones was fairly flaccid. Now, however, his muscles had appeared to take on both noticeable girth and tone. Sticklike arms were replaced by rippling sinews. His once-visible ribcage was now buried beneath a layer of muscles. Ivan also mentioned that, since he started wearing the gloves, he was always quite hungry; ravenous to be exact. This contrasted greatly to his typical appetite; which was usually almost nonexistent.
Ivan’s report prodded my curiosity, and this time we set about investigating the properties of the gauntlets in greater earnest. As I had mentioned earlier, the gauntlets hamper all motions of the arm and torso. This resistive nature actually appears to increase greatly at times; during certain tests Ivan was almost unable to complete the simplest motions. Under duress, however, this resistive nature appears to entirely disappear; resuming when the crisis has alleviated.
In summation, it appears that the magic in the gauntlets is geared to use the body’s own systems to enhance physical strength. Although the gauntlets themselves are indeed arcane in nature, strength enhancements derived from wearing them are a natural reaction of the body to the added stress of the gauntlets. The constant resistance they provide forces a gradual increase in recruitment of muscle fibers in order for the body to accommodate the added stress. But that cannot account for all the strength gain. Then I remembered Ivan mentioning the brief periods of increased resistance; an extreme level of resistance, applied briefly, would likely trigger the body’s own hypertrophic responses. In other words, the muscles themselves would be stimulated to grow in order to be able to accommodate such high loads.
I initially thought it odd that the gauntlets were created to deactivate only under times of duress, but after some contemplation, I think I see the logic behind it. It has been proven that a muscle, while active active, is actually stronger than it is at rest. Some have theorized that this is due to the increased blood flow, others have deduced that, as load increases, more muscle synapses begin firing. At any rate, keeping the muscles in an active state makes them both stronger and more responsive overall. This adds to the muscle growth resulting from varied resistance, resulting in a significant increase in functional strength.
I would guess that, since such gains are a natural response to the resistive stimuli generated by the mitts, there is probably a physiological ceiling to the gains in functional strength afforded by such items. In other words, the results will probably vary with each individual.
At any rate, I bade Ivan to continue wearing the gloves in order to further test them; which he was happy to do. I could see why; his improved strength and physique seemed to inspire in him a sense of confidence I hadn’t seen before.
I had managed to line up a buyer for the gloves; a swarthy, cash-laden mercenary who bragged about the size of his sword and claimed to earn his keep by slaying dragons. When I told him about the gauntlets, he expressed quite an interest. However, when I summoned Ivan, he arrived without the gloves. Apparently, the young fool had misplaced the gauntlets several days ago while swimming in the nearby creek. When he climbed out of the water, his clothes were accounted for, but the gauntlets were missing.
Apparently, the effects of the gauntlets dare indeed a natural occurrence; Ivan still sported a lithe physique. That was fortunate for him, for I had to settle for giving Ivan a good tongue lashing as opposed to the beating he so richly deserved.
As an alternative to items that directly enhance a character's attributes, consider instead items which provide such benefits indirectly. Since the results are not immediately obvious (and in this case, apparently detrimental at first glance) it will take the PCs a bit more time, energy, and roleplaying to more fully understand their function. They might even shy away from the items for a while until they get a better feel for them.
"That damn wizard sold me these stupid gauntlets that are supposed to make me stronger. I think I got swindled."