Friday, January 17, 2014

More Magic Item Origins

At the suggestion of someone on the forums, I went to check out the magic item section of the D&D Next playtest. I'll say this for WOTC, they get points for flavor-- so many of the items in it are shot through with interesting details and story hooks (and they even snuck in a little 4e/Points of Light setting reference in the Ioun stone entry!) One of my favorite parts was including a series of tables to help spruce up some of the less inherently flavorful magic items, like +1 swords. There were tables for special details of its history like being featured in a prophecy, minor special properties like glowing in the presence of a certain type of monster or functioning as a key to a door somewhere in the world, minor disadvantages like being painful to use or making you covetous of the item, and the subject of tonight's post: Who made the damn thing in the first place (and how it might look as a result.)

If there's one downside to those tables, it's in that last one: The damn thing doesn't even cover half the alphabet! It goes from Abyssal to Gnomes. But I aim to correct that egregious oversight. I'm not going to include the other table-- if you want it it's the work of five minutes to find the 5e playtest and put it to use. Magic items have a 50% chance of being rolled on that table or this one, or you could combine them and use 1d4 and 1d10.

Primitive Human

Goblin: This item was crafted by Goblins, Hobgoblins, or Bugbears for one of their many, many wars. At once it gives off the regular, precise feel of being mass-produced and the curious uniqueness of a one-of-a-kind item. It is wicked-looking, with carefully-placed hooks or barbs, and may be adorned with hide or teeth taken from wolves, worgs, or other beastly allies of the goblins.
Hag: This item was granted to a mortal by a hag, or perhaps a hag created it to accomplish some nefarious purpose herself. From some angles, especially in moonlight, it appears beautiful and well-crafted, but in others it is a horrible thing made of twisted hair, disembodied eyes, or the bones and teeth of children.
Halfling: This item was made by the halflings. While halflings make few magic items, like everything the halflings make, those they do are simple, sturdy, and functional, and tend to have some useful built-in feature for everyday life or travel. It feels comfortable to hold.
Illithid: This item was crafted deep underground, in the secret vaults of the Mind Flayers. It is supernaturally light (half the normal weight), as if held aloft by their dark wills. Leather or cloth components have a strange rubbery smoothness, or are made from the hides of their thralls, whereas metal components are made of clear crystal of surprising strength. Brainlike wrinkles, tentacles, or symbols of forgotten gods of madness adorn it.
Infernal: This item is almost mathematically perfect in its shape and balance. Any metal in it is iron black as night, and cloth or leather is wrought from the hide of devils. Close observation reveals impossibly tiny runes on every surface that spell out an exacting and detailed contract, one you hope that by taking up the item you have not inadvertently become party to.
Kobold: This item, made by the kobolds, is crafted in imitation of a draconic item. As such, the shed scales, fangs, feathers, and claws of kobolds are implemented into it. Hidden compartments for poison or other such dirty tricks are often built into the item itself.
Lizardfolk: During their long-ago heyday, the lizardfolk crafted items such as this one. Patterns of thick but intricate lines decorate it, as do scraps of hide. Obsidian or flint, bone, and wood replace worked metal, which the lizardfolk have always been trepidatious of, though inlays of gold and copper are not unlikely.
Orcish: This item of black iron looks somewhat crudely made and feels quite hefty and brutal. It is notched, and may be decorated with trophies taken from foes, whether monsters or men, that fell to its original owner.
Primal: This item was a gift from a spirit of the natural world. It appears unworked, as if it were not so much crafted as plucked whole from the environment in which the spirit lived, or perhaps even the body of the spirit itself. When you handle it, you get some inkling of what the spirit is feeling, if it still exists in the world.
Primitive Human: This item feels impossibly ancient, perhaps as though it was created by some of the first men in the earliest days of their civilization. Or perhaps it is not so old itself, but the work of cunning barbarian shamans using techniques passed down ever since those first days. Raw hides, wood, stone, bones and teeth, clay, horn, and feathers might be used in it, but never metal, and it is adorned with simple fetishes lashed to it with narrow strips of hide.
Sanctified: This item was bestowed on the world by a god. It is made of impossibly fine materials, and holy symbols of that god feature in its design in some way. It may even be a near-perfect imitation of an artifact closely associated with that god. Followers of the god who created this item feel the divine presence most keenly when they handle it.
Shadow: This item was created by those few creatures who live in the shadowy reflection of the material plane, along the roads to the next life. It seems unnaturally colorless and flat, except in areas of relative darkness, where its elaborate beauty comes into greater focus. You can just barely hear the whispers of those who have taken the longest journey when this item is near to you.
Technological: This is the artifact of a supremely-advanced civilization now forgotten, or perhaps visitors from a distant star, who have learned to harness the energies of magic to power their machines. It may look fiendishly complex, or deceptively simple, but after a moment's trial and error you figure out how to make it work. It is possible that it may not resemble a typical magic item, for instance a technological +1 sword may be a narrow tube about the length of your arm that produces a humming shaft of blue or green light when you press a button on it.
Undead: This item was suffused with necrotic energies from the moment it was crafted by the dead hand of its maker. It is cruel-looking enough even without the symbols of death and pestilence worked into it, and always feels cold and unwholesome to the senses of the living.
Yuan-Ti: The items the ancient serpent-folk created often bear serpentine motifs such as coiled spirals, fangs, or rattles, when they are not outright made in the (extremely realistic) likenesses of snakes. Their weapons almost always bear hidden compartments and channels for poison.


Bruno Galan said...

Yoinks! Using this!

Rachel Ghoul said...

Hee! I'm flattered, Bruno. Do check out the other table too.

Bruno Galan said...

It would be kinda funny to have a character dual-wielding one primitive weapon in one hand and a high-tech one in the other...

Rachel Ghoul said...

I think you mean "awesome".

Bruno Galan said...

As with so many things in D&D, it can often be both. :p