10
Aug
11

When Magical Blades Ruled the Earth

Another rule with possible wide-ranging consequences. From Monsters & Treasure page 30:

…the origin of each sword is either Law, Neutrality, or Chaos, but some of these weapons are forged by more powerful forces for an express purpose… …a score of 91 or higher indicates the sword has a special mission. Swords with special purposes automatically have intelligence and ego categories moved to the maximum score…

One in ten magical swords thus has an ego of 12. Depending on your exact interpretation of the rules, such a sword will automatically gain control of any fighting-man of level 6 or less, and wins a contest of wills 75% of the time versus a fighting-man of up to level 10.

These swords will dominate those around them and use those human resources in pursuit of a special purpose. Such weapons surely become objects of fear and simultaneously sought-after sources of power. Such swords could produce:

  • A Kingdom whose ruler is possessed by a neutral Sword +2, Charm Person Ability. The sword has built a charmed army of tens of thousands, biding time before moving in pursuit of its mysterious special purpose. All visitors to the Kingdom, including PCs, are immediately hauled into royal audience for charming.
  • A bandit troop leader controlled by a lawful sword with the special purpose: steal from the rich and give to the poor.
  • Hapless low-level fighting men possessed and relentlessly ridden to exhaustion or death in the pursuit of a sword’s special purpose (for instance forcing a hero to march in the direction of the sword’s chosen enemies non-stop for days until worn out, then passing the sword off to the next likely body…).
  • A chaotic sword made for slaying clerics, whose preferred wielder is afflicted with mummy-rot or some other terrible disease but of course every time they go looking for a cure…
  • Famous swords whose exploits are legend but whose owners are anonymous and even bards struggle to remember their names. “Harken to the story of the famous Durandal, held by Rolo, Rollie, no, that’s not it, um…”
  •  A lawful sword made for slaying fighting-men; its wielder is made to provoke duels of honor with any prominent hero they come in contact with, including the PCs.
  • High-level lords, wizards, and patriarchs striving at any cost to collect and remove such blades from circulation.

In a world containing some of the above, PCs may be more squeamish about picking up magical blades.  Or perhaps not…

 (Please feel free to add your awesome ideas in comments)


15 Responses to “When Magical Blades Ruled the Earth”


  1. August 10, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Good stuff – I played in an OD&D campaign where one of the characters became one of the greatest swordsmen in the land but he was in possession of a Lawful pacifist magic sword, which forbade he to kill, so he could only subdue his foes, all the young bucks trying to make their name by killing him, the assassins sent by his enemies.

  2. August 10, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    very interesting indeed….

  3. 3 Charlatan
    August 10, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    I like the potential of willful weapons, but this post makes me reconsider the distinctions between beneficial and cursed magic items (I can hear Tavis giggling and clapping at this already). I have a saltbox post in the works about some curses for items, and some of them are very reminiscent of your sword ideas.

  4. August 10, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    “I’m Fred the Talking Fish! I can do anything! Enough of it is true that you will keep carrying me around, giving Tavis opportunities to do loud goofy role-playing and create wandering monster checks whenever he feels like it!”

  5. 5 Charlatan
    August 10, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    A while back I played in a one-off in which my character had a ring of djinni summoning with a really difficult, invisible resident djinn. Still, I faithfully summoned him at every opportunity, hatching grand plans for what we might accomplish together and constantly explaining away our failures to an exasperated party. It was great fun.

    While we were packing up, the DM explained that it was a ring of delusion. His tone suggested a certain incredulity that I couldn’t put two and two together about the useless, invisible djinn that only I could interact with. I felt suddenly sheepish.

    I guess what I’m saying is: I look forward to meeting Fred.

  6. 6 maldoor
    August 10, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Charlatan, I for one would welcome Oscar the Swamp-Seer’s return. Next game is likely in late August and with prompting I am sure Tavis would do his Fred impression. Along with a wandering monster check.

    Once the ego of the swords is taken into account, the really powerful ones are very troublesome. This is one situation in my own game where I have so far used my judgement to ignore rolls for a special purpose. In addition to more-or-less turning a character of less than level 6 into an NPC, they create a huge imbalance in play. As written in the OD&D rules, for instance, a chaotic sword with purpose of killing fighting men has the power to disintegrate any lawful fighting man struck. Yikes!

    I think as the campaign develops I will set a number of the swords loose in the world, a la Fred Saberhagen.

  7. 7 Cautiously Pessimistic
    August 10, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    Something to keep in mind: the 1 in 10 odds don’t necessarily apply to all swords, but rather to all swords the players find. Depending on how biased the rules are towards narrative or simulation, it could very well be that almost no swords are egomaniacs… it’s just coincidental that the main characters keep stumbling across the darn things.

  8. August 10, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Has anyone read Warbreaker? That’s what the DnD intelligent swords make me think of. And since I don’t want to drop spoilers if you haven’t, I’ll have to leave it at that, I guess.

  9. 9 zhai2nan2
    August 10, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    ‘A while back I played in a one-off in which my character had a ring of djinni summoning with a really difficult, invisible resident djinn. Still, I faithfully summoned him at every opportunity, hatching grand plans for what we might accomplish together and constantly explaining away our failures to an exasperated party. It was great fun.

    While we were packing up, the DM explained that it was a ring of delusion. His tone suggested a certain incredulity that I couldn’t put two and two together about the useless, invisible djinn that only I could interact with. I felt suddenly sheepish.’

    This is one of the many reasons that tabletop games lose market share to more predictable games, such as card games and computer games.

    The DM is the only conduit of information about the world.
    The world does not obey the laws of physics – generally it is not internally consistent.
    And yet players are expected to make sense of the DM’s challenges, to the DM’s satisfaction.

    Some DMs can handle this and keep their players coming back. Other DMs consciously choose to become griefers. Many players regard their DMs as griefers, even though those DMs do not consciously try to grief their players.

  10. 10 zhai2nan2
    August 10, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    ‘Such weapons surely become objects of fear and simultaneously sought-after sources of power. ‘

    You make a good point about the cursed power of such swords – they could easily rival Stormbringer in their tragedy potential.

    The flip side is that the OD&D rules, as you mentioned, need to be interpreted heavily. They are not so much rules as guidelines. AD&D was needed because the original rules were producing chaos. A guy would go from a Monty Haul campaign with no cursed treasure to a killer DM campaign with 75% cursed treasure. The game experiences were so broadly different that it provoked a lot of customer complaints.

    The premise of D&D is not just that the game world does not make sense right now, the game world is forbidden from ever being more than slightly predictable or consistent. Unless a skilled DM railroads the guidelines into something resembling a story, the D&D rules pull in different directions and the game world becomes incoherent.

    D&D lost market share to other games for many reasons, but one reason was that other games had more consistent rules. Players preferred to spend their imagination-time in more consistent imaginary worlds. The sad part of that is that the wide-open potential of the OD&D rules flared briefly, then got lost, and a lot of new D&D players thought D&D could only produce rip-offs of Driz’zt fan fiction.

  11. 11 Adam
    August 11, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    A friend ran a con game where all of the PCs were intelligent magic items. Depending on circumstances, the wielders of the items could function as trusted allies, henchmen, or mind-controlled adjuncts who were more like items than people with separate identities. One of the interesting aspects was that it was desirable to trade-up to more powerful wielders, producing interesting scenes where the PCs forced their “wielders” to give them to more suitable wielders (who the items then sometimes mind-controlled). The game was a lot of fun. I’ve often thought that powerful intelligent items made for a really interesting campaign wrinkle, although I’ve rarely seen it in practice.

  12. 12 Charlatan
    August 15, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    I should clarify that I didn’t feel at all “griefed” by that DM- I was at a table of friends; I had a lot of fun playing out my fruitless, imagined interactions during that adventure. So much so that I welcome the next chance to roleplay a cursed item- that’s what I meant by the last line in that comment. My sheepishness was only in response to how bleedingly obvious it all was in retrospect.


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