So, there was one final order in 2020, as Miniature Market did an end of year sale on their sale items. Now, I will say, I didn’t only pick up sale items, but I did pick up two games that I’ve been looking at for …
We’re back with the next ten, a bullet point of what I said in the first part (which you can find 100 through 91). If you aren’t caught up, you can find yesterdays 90 through 81 to see as well. But we’re back for the next …
In D&D, and other RPG’s, fairly often a special item is just something like a +1 sword, yay, you can hit better and do more damage, but not all that exciting. Every adventurer worth their salt has a +1 sword. The same for a ring of walking on water, okay, that one is cooler. But a lot of the times what players want, because of their practicality is the +1 weapon and the +1 armor. Those a great and fine for mechanically in the game, but not that interesting, and a +1 sword gets tossed aside when the +2 sword comes along.
So what can you do to make magic items still be useful but more interesting? There are several different ways you can do that, and it ties some into my Friday Night D&D that was also posted today, but you can name the weapon, make it sentient, make it cursed, give it unique properties, or let it evolve.
The point of naming a weapon is that a +1 long sword isn’t that exciting, but Gregor Falhelm’s Long Sword or The Shadow Blade, those are interesting. Who is Gregor Falhelm and why is this sword known as that? That’s something the players can checkout. The Shadow Blade clearly has a lot of history with it as well. Now, they’ll still probably toss it aside when a +2 sword comes along, but in the mean time, you can have a quest for them to track down the history of the sword. Maybe Gregor Falhelm was a famed adventurer who was known for something and now the player will try and live up to it. Or The Shadow Blade is a weapon from a famed assassin that had belonged to a thieve’s guild years ago but had gone missing, and now that you have it and people have seen it, the thieve’s guild wants it back. The names can generate more story for you to play with and make it more memorable than just a +1 long sword.
Another thing you can do is give the weapon a personality. Allow it to communicate telepathically with it’s wielder. Maybe Gregor Falhelm died defending an orphanage and because of that his soul was attached to the blade and he can tell them about years ago or give advice when needed. Or The Shadow Blade because of all of the assassinations it has helped with and all the blood on it, maybe it has a dark personality that urges that player to kill. Again, only a +1 sword, no extra abilities, but now you have something more for the player to interact with. How do they deal with a sword that is constantly urging them to kill? Gregor Falhelm is interesting to listen to, but very long winded, what does the player think of that. Give it a unique personality so that the players get a memorable experience with that weapon and it’ll be more than just a +1 long sword to them.
Cursing a weapon is always a fun surprise to pull to make it memorable as well. With a curse, make it something that is annoying but not game breaking. Maybe The Shadow Blade thirsts for blood and will cut the wearer if they don’t get blood on it otherwise. Maybe if they get too far away from it the cursed soul of Gregor Falhelm, because he couldn’t save the orphans and now it’s just a constant weeping that only the player can hear from the sadness and they have disadvantage to hit because Falhelm doesn’t want to kill anymore. There are a lot of negative things you could add to a magic item to make it more interesting. A wand of fireballs, but you don’t know where they’ll go. A ring of water walking that walks your feet along the surface of the water, but from the bottom side. Be creative with the negative affects because again, we’re trying to make things more memorable.
Unique properties is one that is fairly tame, kind of like naming the weapon. Just give it something small or as big that it can do as well. +1 sword, well there’s a magical word to make it glow. Now you don’t need more torches, but the sword is more interesting. Or the word for the glowing sword is common so it’s possible that it could be triggered at the wrong time by anyone saying the wrong thing. One idea I had was a sword of reincarnation. If you died by that sword, within 7 days your soul would find a new body to go into, so you really aren’t dead, but you’re probably pissed that someone tried to kill you. That makes for a great story. It could just be that the +1 sword of Gregor Falhelm glows blue whenever an orphan is near. Or The Shadow Blade adds a mark for each person it’s killed on the blade and if it ever gets full something will happen.
Finally, make it evolve. Take what you’ve learned from above and make it get better along with the player. Now The Shadow Blade, which was just a +1 sword will start to grant a bonus for stealth the more the person kills with it, or when the player character hits level twelve, not only do they get a +2 to attack and damage now it gives a +2 to stealth and deception. Gregor Falhelm’s sword glows in the presence of orphans but the player can unlock what is basically the ability the detect evil with the sword once per long rest or once per short rest. The example I gave in the Friday Night D&D was to make Mjolnir. Don’t start off with this amazing hammer that the person can use to fly with and call lighting with, but start out with just a simple +1 hammer, eventually it does an extra 1d4 of lightning damage. Then the player can once per long rest do 3d10 lightning damage on an attack. Eventually at a higher level, at the start of combat the player can cast call lightning and either use it as a one off level 9 call lightning or it can deal and extra 3d10 on every successful attack. Mjolnir, then, which might have started out as at level one as just a regular war hammer could be for the final epic battle a hammer that grants the user flight (though technically it’s just throwing it and forgetting to let go), throwing it and it returning, +3 to hit, +3 to damage, call lightning at level 9 for a one time affect or call lightning at level 3 for an additional 3d10 lightning damage on every attack. You have the weapon evolve with the player and they don’t forget their their awesome weapon.
So there are a lot of interesting things you can do to make it more than just a +1 long sword or a +1 shield, or even a ring of water walking. You can create something unique and create unique situations for them to use it in. It’s silly for Gregor Falhelm’s sword to glow around orphans, but useful if an orphan is lost in a labyrinth and it glows brighter the closer to the orphan you are. So if you create something odd like that, use it in the story. That’s the other and really the biggest thing, none of these things will make the magical item stand out unless you use it in the story. The item being part of the story and important to the world is going to make it more memorable than anything else, so maybe The Shadow Blade is just a regular long sword with a +1, but if the thieve’s guild is coming after the players, it’s interesting.
What are some memorable magical items or moments with magical items in D&D or other RPG’s that you’ve had in a game? Do you use magic items a lot?
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So, one of the interesting things from the Covid-19 pandemic is that we’re seeing some movies that wouldn’t have hit streaming nearly as quickly get a streaming release, and one of these films, Onward, was one that I had been planning on seeing, not in …
Like normal, I’m stealing from popular culture for my idea for a game, this time from the Netflix show and comic books, Locke & Key, as well as maybe some from the show The Order.
In Locke & Key, it’s a story about a family who return to their father’s family house and the kids start finding magical keys throughout the house. Right there you have a basis for a game of D&D, so let’s see how I’m going to suggest turning it into one.
To start off with, you are likely not going to have kids nor, in a heavily fantasy setting, do I think that you’ll want to have a particular house or single location where all these keys are stored. Instead, you have Ashiri, a famous wizard from thousands of years ago, who legend has it, created many magical items and drove the fields of magic forward. No one knows what she created, but there are a lot of people who would love to get a hand on her work. Unfortunately there are a lot of con artists out there as well who claim to sell her items.
The game would start around discovering some sort of clue to the location of one of these items. Or the location, maybe, of one of the places that she worked, something where a lower level party is going to be able to do a dungeon crawl through it. Come up with a reason, such as the manuscript with it on having just been found as to why people haven’t gone there to loot it before. And don’t just give the players the information make them buy it, somehow, they can decide if they want to owe a favor later, agree to give away 75% of what they find, or something like that.
Give them a dungeon crawl but when they make it to the place, they find a locked door, not magically locked, from the outside, but something that a rogue would be able to pick, a wizard magic open, or a barbarian bash open. Let them get inside, and then that’s when you start having fun, you close the door behind them, even if the fighter or barbarian bashed through it, the door reconstructs and it’s magical, so immune to all damage, can’t be picked, and while the wizard can cast magic on it, if they have identify, they’ll know that it needs a particular magical item to open it, but what that item is, who knows.
Then give them a dungeon crawl, and hide a couple of keys in there. Don’t make them easy to find, but with two keys in there, and again, if they have identify, they’ll know they are magical and match up with the door. But only one of them should allow them out. The other one should do something else. I like the idea of the mirror prison from Locke & Key, where a player character might end up getting trapped. And maybe even have them find a third key that they think will work on the door but is more like the head key from Locke & Key where it goes into the back of someone’s neck.
I wouldn’t really put a ton of monsters in this dungeons, maybe some skeletons or something undead that Ashiri could have used as guards, but this place is meant to have been sealed up for a long time. Instead give them challenges and puzzles. Maybe there is a trap in a hallway that they can see because there’s a dead skeletal person in armor who has been cut in two. Well, they know there’s a trap there, and with a perception check they can see where blades or something that had cut them in two and also spot some pressure plates or something on the far end of the room that stops it. So give them things to do that focus on the characters abilities.
Once they get through this and have dealt with all the traps and they’ve headed back, I don’t know that you need to double cross them, but maybe have it that the person who got them to do this was blackmailed by someone else to send someone into get this, because the last person they sent in had failed, can even be the dead guy cut in half, so you could start tipping off the players. Or if the players get greedy, have someone come after them and start chasing them down. But while doing this, start hinting that the keys work anywhere, and have given them a clue to more of Ashiri’s locations.
Eventually, I think the campaign ends with them finding a near immortal version of Ashiri who has been twists and corrupted by some sort of magic. There can be some lesser bosses along the way, those who just want the keys for their own nefarious purposes. But make Ashiri someone who isn’t hiding away in one of her former places but is living publicly somehow. That’d make the players questions some of the things, or maybe Ashiri has been cursed to never enter her former places because she was going to bring on the end of the world. But go with an epic climax like that where whom the players thought someone was, it wasn’t the case.
I think that there’d be good buy-in pretty often from groups of players for this, and there’s a lot of room to play with it as the DM. You can create keys that do anything, which is the great part, and you can borrow from Locke & Key. The Head Key, from Locke & Key would work great if someone has gone insane and they have to go and rescue themselves from their own head or something like that or go into someone else’s head to try and pry out some information that they don’t remember. The Echo key to bring back a twisted echo of someone, especially if it’s a fallen player character would be amazing twist on things.
So would you play in a game like this or run one? What sort of character would you want to play?
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