The basic idea of this item was conceived by Manfred in the Gemstone Magic thread which was once in the forum and is now is the main site. It uses some of the ideas that are there.
And so it came to pass that in the 23rd year of the reign of Clarendon III, Emperor of Renmar, that the Ruby Sceptre, was found by Troog the orc, shaman of the Jackal Clan. Deep in the bowels of Mount Hrothgar he found it, led there by his dark arts. Few dare to tread upon the slopes of Hrothgar, holy mountain of the orc clans of the Barrens; better for us if Troog had never dared. But we knew not of this then.
It was two years later that Troog appeared before the high walls of Marwen, a rabble of orcs, goblins and trolls at his back. Five clans were there - Jackal, Wolf, Raven, Hawk and Boar - and Troog led them all, for the Jackal clan had become mighty in the last two years. Yet little did they of Marwen, northernmost fortress city of the Empire, care for that. Many times had the high walls of Marwen withstood the ill-disciplined onlsaughts of the barbarians of the Barrens and ne’er had the walls even been breached, not even when the Warlord Uthgol assembled 17 clans beneath his banner.
And so the soldiers of Marwen gathered upon the ramparts and jeered: of little account did they hold the tribal orcs compared to themselves, hardened soldiers of Renwold. Prendergast, Duke of Marwen, stood upon the high walls, 80ft above the ground and called out, “Go back to your homes, fools, and we may not slay you all.”
The orcish host fell silent. But Troog laughed and raised his hand, within which he held the Ruby Sceptre. He pointed, and Prendergast fell dead, slain in an instant by a fine lance of fire, not two inches in radius, drilled through his brain. And the men of Marwen were dismayed.
Once again Troog raised his hand, and the great gate of Marwen burst asunder in flame. Behind him his warriors poured through the breach, overrunning the stunned defenders and slaying all within their path. Great was the slaughter of that day, as the clans of the Barrens took their revenge for a hundred defeats. And Troog watched, and laughed.
Now the clans of the north rally to Troog; daily his host grows as orcs and trolls flock to his banner. He has made league with the giants of the mountain and the great trolls of the hills, and some whisper that our neighbours to the west are supplying them with weapons of fine steel. Meanwhile, we gather our armies and prepare for war. Weep, weep for the dead of Marwen and for the peace of the north torn asunder.
The Ruby Sceptre is part of the Regalia of Dominion and is a sceptre made of pure gold. Upon its top are seven large, identical rubies arranged in a ring, and an eighth in the centre. The rubies are all pointy (as in wide at one end and narrowing to a sharp point): the ones in the ring point to the centre one and the centre one is set on end and points outwards.
If one casts a fire-based spell at the sceptre it will focus the spell in to an extremely concentrated (and thin)laser-like beam. The more powerful the spell, the more powerful the beam, though the sceptre will itself boost the power considerably. As well as the obvious uses of killing people (not much can withstand a shot through the brain with this; in fact you might be able to get several people at once) it also has other uses: for example destroying a lock. With certain types of spell, the sceptre may again focus it in to a beam but then, upon the beam making contact with something, it will release the power of the original spell (which has, of course, been boosted by the sceptre) in a large fireball explosion. It was in this way the gates of Marwen were destroyed. Note that if you know no fire spells or cannot cast magic that the Ruby Sceptre is useless.
There is, however, a problem. Continued use of the Sceptre makes the rubies unstable (due to the energy that has been focused through them). At first there is no risk, but the more unstable they get, then there is a chance that they will blow up when a fire spell is cast through them. Eight large rubies blowing up, plus the fire spell, will almost certainly kill the wielder, plus most other things within at least 20-50m.
Droog would have about reached the limit of what he could do with safety (i.e. one medium use (killing Prendergast at long range) and one very major use (the gates)). He might well have been able to get out another minor-medium use with out too much danger (2-3%) but then after that the chances of things going wrong would start rising very rapidly.
The sceptre does recover in time as the rubies radiate their stored energy. I would think it would take 5-6 days to fully recover from Droog’s use (of course, after 2-3 days you could still use it to do a bit with safety).
A final problem is aiming it. Of course, technically you can achieve superb accuracy, but it will take you quite a bit of practice (it’s not as simple as “the line comes out the end”; it depends on the angle you shoot the spell in to it as well). This practice will take a lot of time, given the way the scepte becomes unstable with too much use.
I realise this is a very powerful item; I do not really intend it to be given to PCs. Rather it’s meant for either general world flavour or else as suggested here: as an artefact to base a whole campaign round. I am also about to post a plot that would say how to use it in a one-off mission.