Friday, May 2, 2008

A Real-Life Magic Sword

All right, it's not really "magical", but the discovery of the Sword of Goujian has all the trappings of finding a D&D-esque magical weapon. An ancient and highly decorated sword that's been buried in a tomb for two thousand years, yet shows almost no signs of decay despite it's extreme age, and still able to perform impressive feats of cutting ability? Sounds like a Sword +1 at the very least!

I've always had issues with the idea prevalent in at least some iterations of D&D (not sure if it's discussed in all of them) that magical items should look just like any other "normal" item. This is, I suppose, to get PCs to waste time, money, and spells on detecting, testing, and identifying magic items, instead of just saying "Holy crap, that insanely cool-looking sword has to be magical!" and being correct.

On the other hand, the rules (when they exist) for making magical items go to great lengths to discuss all the GP and resources that have to go into making such items - the precious metals, the rare magical ingredients, the crushed gems and magical animal parts and the powerful spells (some of which can permanently cripple your PCs) that need to be used. You're telling me some powerful wizards or ancient Dwarven / Elven smiths are going to go through all this trouble to forge a magical weapon or other item, and then have it look just as shabby or ho-hum as any old 10 GP sword hanging on the rack? My guess is, not so much.

Instead of the "hiding in plain sight" mentality, I think magical weapons and the like need to be handled in exactly the opposite fashion - they should be stunningly gorgeous examples of whatever sort of item they might be, and anyone who even glances at one will immediately know what a rare and valuable (and powerful) item it is. On the other hand, such magical booty should not just be lying around in random treasure troves. It should be in the hands of powerful NPCs, or guarded by powerful monsters and deadly traps, the end result of an extraordinarily perilous quest. I've never really liked the idea of "run of the mill magic items" like the ubiquitous Long Sword +1 and the like, although I understand that a curve in the way of magical item power can sometimes be really nice.

I typically prefer fewer, more powerful items - I like the idea that instead of there being 100 Sword +1s out there, just have the Seven Swords of Power, and that's that. Perhaps you may have non-magical weapons that are effectively "+1" weapons, but without the ability to hurt certain magical creatures that require enchanted weapons to slay. This way, players can have "special weapons", without the campaign world seemingly possessing a magical sword factory churning out ensorcelled blades by the dozens (unless, of course, that is something you have in your fantasy world).

3 comments:

Sham said...

"You're telling me some powerful wizards or ancient Dwarven / Elven smiths are going to go through all this trouble to forge a magical weapon or other item, and then have it look just as shabby or ho-hum as any old 10 GP sword hanging on the rack?"

Heh, excellent point. I also agree with your 100 +1 swords vs. artifact type, epic weapons. I've used non-magic weapons of quality, +1 in some past campaigns. These two ideas form a good basis for keeping magic items magical.

Infamous Jum said...

Indeed! Magic swords should stick out like a swore thumb. I like to place non-magic weapons near anything magic the adventurers might find, so that they can see an obvious difference between a bunch of ancient, rusted weapons and shiny, razor-edged relic of old.

Badelaire said...

Quote:Heh, excellent point. I also agree with your 100 +1 swords vs. artifact type, epic weapons.

Well, I don't necessarily think you need "epic artifacts". But why bother with just a pile of Sword +1s when you can give each magical weapon some potent flavor.

Hrm, I smell a quick little blog post coming up...