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D&D 3E
Magic Weapons. 
18th-Dec-2004 08:40 pm
So, this isn't really about anything...specific, as such, more of a general observation.

I don't know if any of you remember reading LotR for the first time, and being amazed at the magical weapons that sprung up there. They were all...specific. They had personality. They had oomph. They had character. There wasn't a +5 FLAMING GREAT AXE OF UNDEAD SLAYING HOLY BURST!!!!1111. There was Sting. Goblins were afraid of Sting. Sting lit up when Goblins were around. That was freaking cool.

So anyway, I was thinking...why is it D&D magic weapons have no personality? I mean, there are the few exceptions, most of them specific weapons. It seems to me though, that EVERY weapon should be specific. Somebody, somewhere, created it for a reason. That reason may have been as simple as to sell it and get more bat gauno so they could cast fireball. Or they made it to serve a specific purpose. Or they made it for a specific customer. Either way, it should have a use, a niche.

For example...Sting. Weapons have that % chance to glow or whatever. I don't think it would cost any more XP or gold or effort or magic to just say, this sword glows when goblins are within 60 feet (a torch has that well lit of 30, I don't think making it glow a bit at double that is too much). Then make it +1 (really, I think Sting was +3, or +4, but just to serve as the example here) and then throw bane on that thing, specifically against Goblins. Budda boom, budda bing, you have a weapon with personality.

Now in case you're thinking, gee, that's nice, anything else you'd like to rip off LotR, here's my own inspired weapon. I'm not going to include actual stats, just the basic outline. A staff. The concept is peace. The staff is Defending. The weapon must, and always uses it's enhancement bonus to help the user's AC. In addition, it grants it's weilder the Expertise feat. The weilder must use as much as possible, up to the max bonus. The staff also has the merciful trait (on both heads).

The same concept could be applied to armor...just add a fitting, relevant ability. Give it something neat, and unique. After all, how many +2 longswords are there? The market value has to be depressed on them. But a +1 longsword with Orc bane, that glows when there are Orcs around, and will all but automatically kill a regular Orc in one hit, assuming you hit...that's quite practical.
19th-Dec-2004 01:55 am (UTC)

Because GM's are boring and lazy. I know I am.
19th-Dec-2004 02:04 am (UTC)
good ideas. However, sting reacts to orcs, doesn't it? Not goblins? I don't think I'm wrong but I could be so somebody correct me if I am :)
19th-Dec-2004 02:05 am (UTC)
I may be confusing them...I was just thinking to the movie the other day, and it glew when they were in Moria, and those were Goblins. So maybe the book's different, or it's a different sword?
(Deleted comment)
19th-Dec-2004 03:21 am (UTC)
Bah. Beat me to it.
20th-Dec-2004 03:51 pm (UTC)
beat me too.
19th-Dec-2004 03:24 am (UTC)
I like to add flavor to magical weapons so they don't become common-place and expendible.

One of my favorite things to do is base the weapons' capabilities upon the wielder's power. They derive their bonuses directly from the skill and life of the user. In this way I am able to scale the weapons' powers and keep things balanced without the PCs getting new stuff and just tossing the old stuff.

Another thing to do is not to give concrete bonuses right off. Sure, tell them how strong or weak it is. But blurting out all the powers of a weapon on the first identification is just lazy and, in my opinion, takes a little away from the game.
19th-Dec-2004 03:27 am (UTC)
You know, I thought about that, too. The way I handled it, and this is an official part of my house rules, is that every magic item, from the lowliest boots of elvekind to the most amazingly awesome +5 keen vorpal dagger of stabbiness, has to have a name. It's great if you get a random name generator, and if you can bullshit out a history for it, that's pretty damn cool. Example: +2 longsword. Flindercrack, the +2 longsword that slew the minotaur warlord Krur'dak, the terror of the town of Eblain, created by the aged wizard Montrallar for the very young ranger Thom Adlers, savior of the townsfolk. Flindercrack ended up in the market after an estate sale from the last remaining member of Thom's line, who were on the whole rather dull, boring folk content to rest on the laurels and money of their adventuring ancestor.

A load of bullshit, but it's still better than a +2 longsword.
19th-Dec-2004 07:31 am (UTC)
Oh my god thank you and exactly!

It doesn't have to be bullshit either! They name rowboats and canoes, they name cars, they sometimes even name pipes and lighters! Why would you not name a sword!

If you use this every day to save your life, if it is the only thing between you and your foes, it should have a name too! And a history! Maybe it was the character's fathers... maybe the kings old sword, maybe the sword of the people of legend.

Sting had enchantment because...
a. It had a special property that does not even have to elicit a +1 benefit. It does something cool and different.
b. It has history. It belonged to someone great. It had already done great things.
c. IT WAS RARE! When you think about LoTR, what weapons are there? Sting, glamdring, and OrcKrist. Perhaps the sword of Sauron's Champion. Other magical items include Boromir's horn (maybe), the phial of galadriel...

There just weren't magic items floating around everywhere. Who else had a magic sword? It is unclear FOR SURE, but implied there just aren't any.

Does this mean leave magical items out of the game? No. But make them special, and even if everyone in the party has 12, they will have meaning and reverence.

My vampire, Kassamir picked up the sword of Kass once. Yes, it's an artifact but he was ECL 22 so it worked. Besides being extrememly cool, there was a story. Kass had once sired Kassamir, as well as being his mortal super-great grandfather. Throughout the game, Kassamir learned these secrets, and when he was given the sword of Kass, by Vecna himself, with it's story and a warning not to betray Vecna, it was my coolest moment of magic item getting every.

However, the sword he began with, Briar, had already built up such a reputation, it was hard to give it up. That is how you make magical items special. Give them names, and give them history and importance. Your players will appreciate it.
19th-Dec-2004 05:07 am (UTC) - the answer
Don't change the rules as they are. They do a very good job of balancing the abstract nature of magical weapons to something interesting. If you want to add something that has a game-effect, then treat it as a magical item.

However, just because your character as a +1 flaming holy longsword doesn't make it any more cookie-cutter than the Human Fighter 6 that wields it. Each one only develops character when that's built up over the underlying aspect, not by changing the aspect.

Hmm... it might be worth it to convert the dry wording of D&D magical items unto more flowerly prose. i.e., the aforementioned weapon could be an "eversharp blade blessed by heaven and infused with the element of fire." A +4 bow could be a "fourfold enchanted bow". Or somesuch.

19th-Dec-2004 06:45 am (UTC)
I aggree that the DMG of magic item description lack flavor, but that's kind of the point. It breaks the complex concept of enchanting magical items down to numbers. Without it reading somewhat like a technical piece, the enchanting of weapons is left very vague (ala Second Edition). I think the DMG assumes that the DM will add all the flavor he sees fit to make his campaign, well, his campaign.

Personally, I think naming items goes a long way for giving them flavor. I even stole the rule from Ghostwalk that the last part of enchanting an item is naming it and that so long as the item remains unnamed, so to it remains unenchanted. Giving it a name can, in many ways, also give clues as to its history. After all, PC's are more likely to remember a name like "Wyrmsplitter" than "+2 dragonbane longsword."
19th-Dec-2004 12:25 pm (UTC)
As several people have already said: just name the sword (or item) and give it some history. It can be a mere +2 admantine Longsword, but if iut has a cool name like "Starwielder" and it was found in the possession of the mummy of an ancient human prince blah blah blah.. then it becomes more personable.
19th-Dec-2004 02:47 pm (UTC)
Our cleric once found a mace that was named "Ye Olde Brainer." I'm not quite sure what it's magic effect was, but I'll always remember that weapon. ;p
19th-Dec-2004 04:57 pm (UTC)
In someways it reflects how common magic is in the world. Like in the realms, a +1 longsword, is /just/ a +1 longsword. Nothing of significance, requiring a name. It may even have been crafted especially for you. In a low-magic world (like middle earth), every weapon is going to have a name, a history, even legends about it.

And Magic-Item-Walmartness of 3rd edition makes it hard not to fall into that trap. I find it hard to give items personality as a DM when the players are going to run the local wizard and get it identified right away. That will tell them everything function about it, sort of kills the fun. (Though a number of my magic items aren't that easy to identify).

As a player, I try to give magic items personality if character would care about it. I had a halfling fighter/ranger recently that carried around a +1 adamantine longsword named 'Can Opener', he even went through the trouble of finding a wizard to ingrave its name into the blade (in halfling of course).

There weren't any legends about it (he picked it up off a local drug lord), and it didn't have any fancy magic powers. The first time after he got it that the party rogue couldn't a door, and he drew it, saying "Don't worry, Can Opener opener can pick the lock" and proceeded to hack his way through the door (obvious to the amount of noise that was produced), the item became memorable to the party.

Currently working up a character for an epic campaign. Half the stuff the guy going to be carrying is going to been some ancient relic (not rule-wise, but power/history wise).

So it's easy to add character to magical items, making them special, if the PC wants to. Unless the items in question are really legendary, it mostly an issue of the character. If Bilbo had gotten sting and thought, 'oh, nifty' and tossed it into his pack, it would have been different. The player has to work with you to make stuff like that happen.(Note to mention, a player or two that thinking naming weapons is stupid will quickly kill the practice at many tables).
20th-Dec-2004 02:17 pm (UTC)
.(Note to mention, a player or two that thinking naming weapons is stupid will quickly kill the practice at many tables).
The problem, of course, is that too often, the names are cliches. How many variations of "Skull-splitter" have we heard? "Sting" is a great name because it avoids the fantasy cliche. I once played a wizard named "Ironfist," so named by his parents because they wanted him to be a fighter. This was, of course, a nod to the fantasy cliche, and the character was always embarrassed by his ridiculous name.
19th-Dec-2004 05:09 pm (UTC)
just on the random note of weapons with personalities, one of the characters in my campaign has a sword called flesh reaver {i believe it's a kitana} which was once mishandled by elves and drow, so it actively hates both {it has an intelligence of like, 11}. the character and the sword are in love with each other, and periodically it takes control of her actions, which makes for some very interesting exchanges, particularly since prior to, said half-elf was sort of involved with my elf... at one point she got hit by death urge, failed her save, and thus tried to do the deed by making love to her sword, which then resulted in her doing the whole schizophrenic thing. very cool.
19th-Dec-2004 05:40 pm (UTC)
Regarding Sting, I would make a minor correction or suggestion. Since the item glowerd when in proximity to orc-kind, it is a bit more than just a Bane and a glowing trait. It would have to have have the something like Detect Animals or Plants spell, although that has range of Long (400+). Or I've seen published weapon abilities that do the same thing as a +1. That might be too steep a cost, but I would make a price bump regardless. And I know it was just an example. =)

In my campaigns magic items are pretty common. Anything that is a vanilla +1 or sometimes +2 doesn't get a name. Anything that has more significant abilities, I give it a name. It might be related to its abilities, its appearance, or based on some historical aspect. Even if you don't give it a significant back story, a name is nice. I've also started to create physical descriptions for items, again not your vanilla +1 stuff. I try to use the "card method" (put items on cards to make them more tangible).

Also in my campaigns, I many times don't allow Identify to work. I let them make Spellcraft checks and/or use Detect Magic to figure out the abilities, but many time I leave things vague. One of my favorite ones came from my current campaign. The party found a dagger:

"The handle is bloodstained carved bone of a screaming visage, it's mouth open wide enough to encompass most of your grip, the sharply carved teeth biting slightly into your skin. The blade is polished silver. The silver also emerges as two lines akin to tears streaming down from the carved eyes. As you grip it, you feel a sickness in your stomach."

The newest member to the party, a satyr rogue, declared, "I'm going to prick my finger with it." The dagger turned out to have the Vicous property. "Roll 3d6" I told him. The little 1 HP prick turned into 18 points as he did 2d6 extra damage to himself plus the 1d6 damage to the wielder (himself). I described it as a burning sensation in his finger that made his arm numb. He also felt a literally stomach renching pain (damage to wielder). =)
20th-Dec-2004 10:23 pm (UTC)
that is friggin awesome! great use of meta-gaming
20th-Dec-2004 12:59 pm (UTC)
You said it yoursel;f - a weapon with personality - all this is covered just fine under the Intelligent items section in the DMG...

BTW an ability of *species* detection is bloody useful and well worth a +1 ability. Can sense all of a given species in a certain range, including invisible, hidden, disguised etc - very handy
20th-Dec-2004 02:19 pm (UTC)
Sting and its kin are probably closer to artifacts than average magic weapons. They're not particularly powerful artifacts, but I think artifacts are their closest parallel.
20th-Dec-2004 03:25 pm (UTC)
I recently gave a pc in my evil campaign that liked to beat the other pc's to near death because of greivences and such an awesome weapon. (keep in mind he is a rogue, so it has more than one use in a game setting). It is a +2 merciful, humoniod bane shortsword. The catch is that it is stuck on non-lethal damage. Etched on the blade in Draconic is the word "NERF"(C)(TM) When he had it taken for identification the story he found aftewr paying for a week's worth of mage work to have it researched was that the sword was created for something called psychotherapy, the doctor who had it crafted had 5 made and only the origional enchanter knows the command to make it lethal. Its name is the foam padded stick of psychotherapy. He has now learned to use it as an effective blackjack for stealing from townsfolk... Now, that's orrigional.
20th-Dec-2004 06:56 pm (UTC)
Damn, dude, that's pretty cool.
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