Arcana: Magic Items

  1. Spells
  2. Arcana
  3. Magic Item Examples

Magic items are things that carry magic, divine, or psychic powers. Potions, scrolls, amulets, rings, and weapons can carry magic. Each type carries magical effects appropriate to its use.

Some magic items have an intelligence. They can communicate to their bearer, giving advice and information. Normally, intelligent items are permanent items, such as weapons, rings, or amulets. Potions and powders are rarely if ever intelligent. Intelligent items are always created through ritual.

Magic items are created through spells, with the appropriate specialties. Magical and religious artifacts can be created by gods, prophets, and sorcerors in places of power, and sometimes through an act of immense sacrifice by other archetypes.

Some magic items will be created by the player characters. A few might be acquired through their clans or masters. Most are acquired by adventuring in hidden places.

All magic items should have a known origin. Magic items pass from hand to hand and have a mythic history before being lost in a ruined dungeon. You don’t need to know everything, just enough to name the item in your notes.

Most magic items are created using a combination of spells such as “Permanent Enchantment”, “Protection from Dispel”, and “Target Contingency”. “Indestructible Object” is used to protect permanent magic items. The alchemical specialties will also be used to create truly permanent magic items, especially potions and scrolls.

It’s a good idea to keep magic items relatively rare and reasonably powerful: weapons should have +2 or more to attack and damage rather than +1, for example.

Intelligent magic

Some magic items are “intelligent”. They can communicate with their bearer in some way (empathy, telepathy, or speech) and advise the character; some may also attempt to dominate the character. Such items will have an intelligence, a charisma, a wisdom, and a creature or archetype level.

Telepathy or speech is reasonably exact; speech requires that both bearer and sword know the same language. Empathic communication is done through emotion and “urging”. The character may feel, at the item’s urging, hatred for a particular target if the item is designed for smiting that individual or kind of creature. Or the character may feel the urge to detach her military unit from the whole and circle around to engage the enemy from behind, if the item feels that would be a better tactic.

If the item decides to forcefully control the character’s actions, it will force the character into a battle of wills. The character may do the same if the weapon is in control. The character and the item each make a willpower roll. If the party trying to take control fails, nothing happens. If both parties are successful, neither may take any action. If one party is successful, that party is in control of the body.

Items that communicate telepathically gain a bonus of 1 in the contest. Those that communicate empathically gain a bonus of 2. For every moral code side (good/evil and order/chaos) that the item has that the character does not, the item gains a bonus of 1 (the reverse is also true if the character has more moral code parts than the item).

The loser is unable to counter-dominate until the next scene.

Prophets, Sorcerors, and Monks

Sorcerors can enchant almost anything to create a magic item, even mundane items. Prophets prefer to place their spirits in potions, staves, and symbols. Potions require faith on the part of the drinker. Staves represent steadfastness, a prime quality of faith. Monks must use special crystals if they wish to siphon their power for later use.

When a magic item embodies a spell, spirit, or power, and it allows the bearer choice to shape the spell, spirit, or power, the item will usually only be usable by the appropriate archetype: sorcerors for spells, prophets for spirits, or monks for powers. Thus, a necklace of the spell change shape into bear could be used by anyone; but a necklace of change shape with no restriction could only be used by sorcerors. Only a sorceror can choose how to shape the spell’s result.

Spirit items usually specify a default manifestation, but a prophet can channel the spirit into any of the spirit’s potential manifestations.

Magic Items: Books

Librams and Tomes usually offer some form of magically enhanced training or knowledge. The reader must be both pre-disposed to the training and able to read the book. Usually, this means that certain books require that the reader both know the language and be a specific archetype. The book of the Wudan in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon offered clearly enhanced training to warriors if the warrior could decipher the book. Simply looking at the pictures wasn’t enough, nor could the ability to read it help a thief, no matter how skilled.

Magic tomes can be mojo resources, helping increase archetypal fields and skills, or can offer access to new specialties. Books often require months of study to gain the benefits of the teachings therein, and may remain useful to the reader for years.

Incense and candles

Magic incense and candles often affect an area, or help with ritual magic. They are useful for area effect spells and spirits, such as protections. They might protect an area from evil spirits, or protect individuals within their radius of effect from magical scrying or mind-reading. They might even protect from physical effects such as poison or extreme cold. They will have a duration (the period of time it takes them to burn out), and candles last longer than incense. Candles can be started and stopped, so as to prolong their usefulness.

Mirrors and paintings

Magic mirrors and paintings often allow strange dimensional effects, such as long-distance travel, or entering another world. They might also invoke spirits or demons for divinatory purposes. Crystal balls offer similar magical effects, commonly allowing their owner to see into the future, observe far away events, or even communicate across great distances.

Magic Items: Potions

Anyone wishing to take advantage of a potion must drink the potion. It is one thing to drink a potion offered by a trusted sorceror, and quite another to drink potions found at random in a dungeon or stolen from an evil wizard’s lair. Potions generally alter the body, stature, or physical makeup of the drinker. Potions can heal, they can increase fighting prowess, and they can change the shape of the drinker.

Potions also can offer some mental abilities, such as the ability to control a specific type of animal or monster.

Potion effects are almost always temporary, the major exception being “heal” and “poison” potions. Individual potions can have widely varying durations and numbers of uses, but in general a potion will contain enough for one usage. Potions take effect at the end of the round in which they were quaffed.

Powders and oils

Powders and oils are usually sprinkled or rubbed onto the recipient and offer some protective power or bodily change. An oil might turn the recipient invisible, or grant the ability to walk through walls. A powder might, as in Peter Pan, allow flight.

Powders usually take effect immediately. Oils require two to three rounds to apply.

Magic Items: Relics

Relics are a special kind of magic item. Besides being unique, they usually have a mythical status in the world, having been created by or for the Gods, or perhaps with a special purpose at the beginning of recorded history. The Ark of the Covenant was a relic in the Old Testament, and the Grail was a relic in Arthurian legend. Relics carry special responsibilities as well as special powers, and they often have a corrupting influence on the bearer, as the One Ring had on the characters in Lord of the Rings.

Where the acquisition of a normal magic item is the subject of one or two adventures, the acquisition—or disposal—of a relic could well be the entire campaign.

Relics can come in any form, from the One Ring to the Carriage of the Sun to the Mighty Organ of the Great Bard.

Rings, amulets, boots, and belts

Rings and amulets are worn, on a finger or around the neck. They often offer a protective benefit, such as a defense bonus (a “+2 ring” is one that offers a bonus of 2 to defense, and often to reactions), or a protection from missile attacks. They might also offer bonuses to ability scores. Belts especially are known to enhance strength or physical prowess. Boots might assist in running, jumping, or stealth.

Magic Items: Scrolls

Scrolls are spells or spirits inscribed for instant use. Only sorcerors and prophets may use scrolls, and each may use only their own kind of scrolls. Scrolls are usually inscribed to be cast at the spell or spirit’s level, plus d6.

A few scrolls are designed to be used by anyone who can read them. These are usually protective scrolls, cursed scrolls, or ritual scrolls.

Wands and staves

Wands and staves often offer powers very similar to spell-based or spirit-based powers, and are often usable only by sorcerors or prophets, depending on the item. Wands and staves are usually “charged”: they can only perform their tasks a limited number of times. A wand, when found partially used, will usually have d100 charges remaining. A staff will have 2d20 charges remaining. Wands will function at a sorceror or prophet level of 4+d6, and staves at a sorceror or prophet level of 4+2d6.

Wands usually contain spells. Staves might contain either spells or spirits.

Magic Items: Weapons

Magic weapons are usually swords. The Green Dragon of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a magic sword, as is Excalibur from the movie of the same name. Both weapons were magically sharp, able to more easily cut past an opponent’s defenses.

Weapon magic is most often expressed in terms of bonuses to attack and to damage. A +2 sword, for example, gives a bonus of 2 to attack and to damage (survival point loss). A +2/+3 sword has an attack bonus of 2 and a damage bonus of 3.

Special weapons might offer other powers, such as increased defense, additional attack forms, or divinatory powers. Often weapons that grant additional powers bear some intelligence or some ability to control the bearer.

Cursed weapons can work in one of three ways: they can force themselves magically to hand whenever the wearer enters combat, they can make the wearer more aggressive, or they can influence the wearer to believe that the weapon aids rather than hinders. Cursed weapons can give penalties to attack and survival point loss, or they can hinder the bearer in other ways.

  1. Spells
  2. Arcana
  3. Magic Item Examples