Magical Weapons and Players

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Magical Weapons and Players

Postby Mage » Sun Apr 08, 2012 4:40 am

I'm running a MRQ 1 game for my gaming group and one of the players is haggling with a merchant in a large trading city (homebrew setting) who happens to have two magical swords for sale, but these are more 'back room' or 'black market' items as there is a strict import rules on magical items. The merchant snuck them in.

I came up with all this on the fly as the player in question was role playing their character, getting into the game, and looking for something. He seemed to enjoy the role playing of talking to the merchant and had a hard time up to this point in the game. Whenever a group of monsters attacked the group, the fickle dice made sure he was hit, and critical-ed, with high damage rolls, despite his low HP and armour,

So anyhow, there is a big tourney and festival in the city for a few days, thus the merchant with his 'rare' items. The end price for the items, was, I think, 5K silver pieces, for MRQ 1.

Now, I am in a foggy area. I am not sure how good to make the pair of swords. I don't have a problem with coming up with rules, and I am not looking for someone to spoon feed me what to do, nor do I want to steal anybody's ideas, but I am at a 'dead end'. I am not sure how powerful to make the weapons for the price.

Do I give him a decent weapon that ends up breaking the game. Or is there a more sinister side to the twin blades?

Basically, the swords are large ornate scimitars, one fire red, the other ice blue, wielded as a pair. In my setting scimitars do d8 damage, it is just my personal preference. I have in the past given players bonuses or items on the fly which have broken games, and I am not the type of GM to screw them out of their items once they have them either.

Please, help :)

Thanks in advance!
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Re: Magical Weapons and Players

Postby Matt_H » Sun Apr 08, 2012 8:08 am

If you decide to make the blades some long forgotten, overlooked artifact you have the basis for a whole campaign that may take years to gradually unlock their history and powers, but this is a major game changer.

A more mundane option is to give the weapons a minimal bonus to damage (+1) with the option to 'charge' them by spending magic points for a bigger bonus (1mp add d4 fire or ice, 2 mp adds d6 fire or ice etc). That way its up to the players judgement when to blow his power, which will be limited to the sum of his magic points

Alternatively, you could just have the weapons exhibit their greater or a different power on a crit (seems less point to this as a critical is already a good hit) and show their dark side on a fumble (harms user).

But as GM you can make them work as you want, start off with a little bonus...let it grow as the character learns more about the weapons, and take it away if it becomes too powerful (and there is another quest to find out why and if they can make the swords work again). Don't consider this "screwing them out of something", just work it into the flavour of the game.
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Re: Magical Weapons and Players

Postby rust » Sun Apr 08, 2012 8:17 am

One way to handle this would be to treat the scimitars as magic
weapons designed to be used against specific types of enemies
instead of giving them a general bonus against all types of ene-
mies. The red scimitar could have a bonus only against creatu-
res of type A, the blue scimitar only against creatures of type B.
How useful the scimitars would be during the campaign would
then depend on how often you introduce encounters with these
types of creatures, so you could control the actual impact of the
weapons on the campaign.
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Re: Magical Weapons and Players

Postby ThatGuy » Sun Apr 08, 2012 8:52 am

I like the solutions above.

I will offer one other solution.

If the problem seems to be the PC always getting smashed on, maybe the scimitars serve a more defensive purpose.

Sure, they can have a simple +1 damage each, and maybe even some other effect (the +1 could do heat or cold damage to armor for example), but make the real advantage defensive. Maybe a +5% or +10% to all parries (and maybe the +1 Heat/cold Damage applies there too), or the "charging" of MP into the blades, improves the degree to which the defend (so 1 MP makes for a 2% Parry bonus. 5 MP makes for 10%, 10 MP makes for 20%- or whatever scaling works for you).

Personally, I am very much into keeping bonuses minimal (+1 & +5% is awesome and expensive in my games), usually just to make a magical weapon NOT break the game (GM: The Sword is created by a son of the God of Smithing. It does +2 dam and +10 percent to hit AND parry. PC's: Wwwwwooooowwww!).

So my advice is: make it simple, and make it address the players glaring need.

Maybe the swords are simply very forgiving to cracks in defense (perhaps they curve abnormally). The PC can force an opponent to re-roll a critical hit once per day, or some such.
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Re: Magical Weapons and Players

Postby Dan True » Sun Apr 08, 2012 9:42 am

In my opinion magic items are most interesting when they offer possibilities, instead of simply a bonus to something.

This is of course much harder to design and monitor. For instance, give both weapons some enhancement (e.g. +5% from simply being awesome, not magic) and then mare the rest more circumstantial. Perhaps if you parry with both weapons (foregoing your dual-wield CA for that round) it always generates a defensive CM.. or perhaps the red scimitar can catch fire as if it was covered in oil (effectively making it a fiery sword, but one that needs a torch to start up .. and can/must be doused).

It could be many things, but my point is that often magic items gets more interesting when there are some more circumstantial or story-related bonusses. Many magic swords in stories and sagas were described as simply awesome quality, plus some weird magical bonus such as always being cold to the touch, shining when orks are nearby etc.

Giving some bonus that requires spenditure of MP is also a good idea.

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Re: Magical Weapons and Players

Postby alex_greene » Sun Apr 08, 2012 3:07 pm

They are also potent symbols.

ABC Warrior Deadlock drew the Ace of Swords to Hammerstein's Ten of Swords in battle; Frodo had Sting, which was a family heirloom from Bilbo; Aragorn had Anduril, the Broken Blade Reforged from the shards of Narssil which symbolised his rightful claim to be the Heir of Isildur; and in mythology not related to modern fiction, we've had Beowulf's Hrunting and Nægling, Sigurd's sword Gram, Manannan MacLir's sword Fragarach that could cleave any armour, Fergus macRoich's sword Caladbolg, Excalibur - King Arthur's sword of war ... and the sword of peace Clarent which was stolen by Mordred and used to kill King Arthur.

Sometimes, a sword might not itself have any magical properties beyond something like granting the rightful wielder a bonus to non-combat dice rolls or the equivalent effect of the Lucky Common Magic spell once in a while, but only under circumstances where the wielder's destiny is under threat.

The thing being, "rightful wielder." The swords won't just choose anybody. Let's say that whoever takes the swords who is not destined for something like, I dunno, saving the kingdom or ascending the throne over a mountain of the bodies of his enemies, receives 1d6 damage to both arm Hit Locations per combat round, which would be recoverable at a rate of 1 per minute.

So just having the blades means that the character has some sort of a destiny - which could translate to the aforementioned luck bonus above, or access to a Heroic Ability that allows the character to cheat an untimely death, something like that - but in combat the blades might not grant the wielder a single magic bonus or special effect whatsoever. The character has to rely on his own skill, abilities and luck to get him through combats.
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Re: Magical Weapons and Players

Postby DamonJynx » Wed Apr 11, 2012 2:16 am

Interesting post. The scimitars sound a little like Drizzt Du'Urden's from the Forgotten Realms stories by RA Salvatore. Icingdeath and Twinkle I believe they were called, but I'm not sure about that.

Anyhow, there are some very good idea's here. Personally, I'm in the camp of making them more a storied item with a purpose, rather than a + this or + that kind of item. Ideally, both should be wielded together to get their properties to function, whatever they maybe.
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Re: Magical Weapons and Players

Postby alex_greene » Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:13 am

DamonJynx wrote:Ideally, both should be wielded together to get their properties to function, whatever they maybe.
Though not necessarily by the same person.

Remember how the movie Bulletproof Monk ended? Two people ended up qualifying for the role of immortal guardian of the scroll and its secret knowledge. As long as you have two characters in your group who work well together, I don't see why they can't both share.

I definitely recommend having the prospective candidates have to pass some sort of tests before they can qualify to use the blades. Something demonstrating nobility of character, such as fighting to defend a complete stranger without having been asked to, facing - and turning down - a temptation to do something douchebaggy however lucrative that may have turned out, and last of all a willingness to fight and die if necessary to protect life.

Some sort of thing like that.

You could throw in a bane dagger into the mix - something to be worn and used by the complete antithesis of the guardian, something made of a weird green metal with a handle that looks like it's made of snakeskin leather, and which can only be used by someone demonstrating unswerving selfishness, an inability to refuse temptation whomever it might hurt and a lack of moral backbone when it comes to preserving any life but one's own.

Actually, that sounds like a clinical sociopath. Have fun running that guy ...
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Re: Magical Weapons and Players

Postby Mage » Fri Apr 13, 2012 4:24 am

@ Matt H

I like the idea outlined in paragraph 1. It gives a lot of potential for storytelling changes.

The MP idea for charging is nice, as is the fumble and dark side concept. I might let it grow, the bonuses that is, as the power is unlocked or ‘levelled up’.


@ rust

I already gave the group ‘Holy Swords’ that were shortswords that did an extra d6 damage against undead, so I won’t rehash that idea. There was an ‘Unholy Sword’ but a Templar in the group grabbed it as soon as the boss dropped it and tossed it into the ocean from the ship they were on. Ce la vie!



@ That Guy

Maybe one Scimitar could be defensive, the other offensive? I really like your ideas. I may have to ‘borrow’ them.


@ Dan True

You present interesting options for me to think over. I like your ideas of them being story and circumstance related. I used to have one such weapon in a campaign I used a while back, ah, nostalgia! I might take a cue from Elric and make the swords semi-sentient, and it could cost a player a MP and I roll on a secret charge to determine the bonus for the weapon. One blade could be ‘Fate’, the other ‘Fortune’, or something…


@ alex_greene

Maybe a nice side quest would be finding the origin of the blades. I never knew there was a sword called Fragrach. I coincidentally named a water familiar that, thinking it was jibberish in a Shadow Run game a few years ago. Odd coincidence. I most likely will not do the rightful wielder thing, as I have not decided on the origin of the blades yet. I like the idea of possessing them giving them a destiny. Maybe the skill the character has with the weapon, in this case 1H sword, could equate to what bonuses the weapon grant, maybe the blades are looking for a worthy wielder and comrade for combat?


@ Damon Jynx

Drizzt? Krud, I don’t want to imitate something that is already highly established… May need to go back to the chalk board on this, there have been thousands of Drizzt clones in campaigns over the years. I might take a mix of all the ideas presented. Using one or separating them will grant not bonuses, that is a good idea.


@ alex_green (again! )

I like the idea of the ‘anti-weapon’ you propose.
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Re: Magical Weapons and Players

Postby alex_greene » Fri Apr 13, 2012 7:33 am

I think that the whole concept of the "+X bonus" thing, established early in the roleplaying hobby by D&D, established a dreary legacy which, sadly, nobody's ever really examined to see whether or not it is even appropriate any more.

A wondrous weapon that does +X more damage or that is +X more likely to hit, like any wondrous source of power, like the concept of magic points, like the concept of Divine Magic that fades away once cast - they're legacy concepts from simpler days when wargamers had to put specific, measurable ranges and durations on everything, and ask "How many times can this spellcaster chuck his spells around?" and "The arrows from this +X bow can pierce hardened leather armour like a hot knife through butter, but can they penetrate plate mail?" and "The spell lasts only three turns and fades after the action part of the turn and just before the bookkeeping part." Ubermechanical stuff like that.

But if you read fantasy stories, you'll find that the concepts are far more fluid, and focus on dreams and feelings rather than ranges and durations. Sometimes the rules are meant to be there to keep the game from getting silly - but sometimes just thinking within the framework of the rules can stifle the creativity you might need to come up with something awesome.

I took a look at the Enchantments section of Arms of Legend, and something drew my attention there - the Skill Condition -

"Skill Condition
This condition prevents an enchanted item from being used unless the user has a specific skill and a specific percentage within it. For example, ‘Athletics 60%’ means that, although Athletics is a Common Skill, only those with 60% or higher can make use of it. Basing the condition on an Advanced Skill reinforces it still further. The skill condition can also be applied to magical skills, too."

The Skill Condition suddenly sets the bar on what sort of a character the wondrous item is looking for. Let's say the sword's very choosy and wants a swashbuckler type to wield it. The skill conditions are: Acrobatics 55%+, Athletics 60%+, Insight 60%+, Perception 75%+, Dance 70%+, Seduction 70%+, (sword combat style) 70%+. Unless the character's a right charmer, a hit with the ladies and one to swing into action as soon as you look at him crosseyed, the sword refuses to even be pulled out of its scabbard.

H'mm. I wonder if Nikolai Dante's interested in this sword now ...?
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Re: Magical Weapons and Players

Postby Mixster » Fri Apr 13, 2012 8:12 am

Whatever you do, remember that allowing your characters to buy a magic item, and then telling them, no you can't use it (or you die from using it) because the swords are choosy, is like giving someone candy and then it turns out to be poop.

What if the blades can be used individually but are better as a pair?

For example, the blades are called "Harm" and "Heal". Harm can deal extra damage when it hits but it deals the same amount to the wielder, so it can be powered to do extra damage from the weapons own hit points. While Heal can heal it's wielder when used or whenever MP is challenged into it. Suddenly Harm might seem like a pretty sure way to die quickly if you don't have a sure way to get those hit points back, and heal might seem like a circumstancial bonus, if it weren't because your other sword could actually make use of the fact you can heal yourself.

Or if they were "Fate" and "Fortune" like someone else suggested, and fortune replenished a magic point whenever you made a critical success and fate allowed you to re-roll a non-fumbled skill roll by spending a magic point.

Making magical weapons into items out of sagas is all well and good, but then the story of how the character got it should be something else than "well I bought it from this merchant downtown". Because Lord of the Rings would be a wholly different story if Gandalf went to a merchant in Gondor and bought Glamdring.
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Re: Magical Weapons and Players

Postby duncan_disorderly » Mon Apr 16, 2012 12:30 pm

..or a sword with a prophecy (or curse) attached - Are the benefits of using it now worth the risks that using it might bring in the future

It's a good sword and such a handsome shade of black...
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Re: Magical Weapons and Players

Postby mwsasser » Mon Apr 23, 2012 3:06 am

I like the concept for requiring rituals for magic items or even to disconnect yourself from the item. It would tie in perfectly with the devotional spending POW on the item like with divine magic. More powerful items might have skill requirements or even intelligence.

My only thought now is how to charge POW based on the magic features the magic item might have.
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Re: Magical Weapons and Players

Postby DamonJynx » Mon Apr 23, 2012 4:55 am

mwsasser wrote:I like the concept for requiring rituals for magic items or even to disconnect yourself from the item. It would tie in perfectly with the devotional spending POW on the item like with divine magic. More powerful items might have skill requirements or even intelligence.

My only thought now is how to charge POW based on the magic features the magic item might have.
Each use of a feature of the weapon/item costs the player 1 MP, much like an Heroic Ability?
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Re: Magical Weapons and Players

Postby Simulacrum » Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:43 am

I think the Pact thing is neat, and ticks off the process of 'attuning' an item. It effectively then has the MPs required to charge it permanently dedicated. The Pact may operate like a Passion trait - for example a (slightly cursed) sword that requires minimum 1POW dedicated, and offers a Damage and to hit bonus perhaps scaled to the Pact; but once the Pact score is generated, it is used as an opposed roll with the owner's Persistence every time a potentially violent confrontation arises - if the sword/pact wins, the character chooses to settle the matter with the sword.
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Re: Magical Weapons and Players

Postby mwsasser » Mon Apr 23, 2012 1:55 pm

Where are the Passion Traits explained, that is a very nice idea.

And no DamonJinx, it would be a 1 time cost and act exactly the same way Divine Magic works with POW. You dedicated the item to you through a ritual which could be as simple a ceremonial statement. "Azure bowl of divine gruel, I dedicate myself to you. Here is my offering." Put some oats with water into the bowl and the ritual is complete. Or something a great deal more complex for a powerful sword dedicated to your deity.

I don't really want to tie a skill like Pact in to the ritual, rather make it easily discoverable for the most basic items. But the spending of dedicated POW keeps you from packing a ton of magic around.
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Re: Magical Weapons and Players

Postby Simulacrum » Mon Apr 23, 2012 3:33 pm

mwsasser wrote:Where are the Passion Traits explained, that is a very nice idea.
To be honest I don't remember - there must be Passions rules lurking in one of the RQI or RQII publications (or in Elric?), it's not a new concept. I'm including simple Passions rules in the Age of Treason Companion (but it's not out yet) where they serve as useful measures of the personal motivations behind a plot, as well as providing rules for the effects of Curse and Passion spirits, henchmen loyalty etc. A Passion is works a bit like a skill, it's a percentage score. It might drive a course of action, or its critical range can augment an attempt to accomplish something in keeping with the trait.

Loz has flagged there will be Passions rules in RQ6.
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Re: Magical Weapons and Players

Postby DrBargle » Mon Apr 23, 2012 7:19 pm

In Pendragon (a BRP game, really, just multiply the skills by 5 to get percentiles), a character can be inspired by their Passions, if they apply to the situation. So they might attempt to be inspired by Love (Family) to fight for their honour, and if the Passion roll is a success, they will gain (quite large) skill bonuses to all actions in pursuit of that passion for a period of time. If they fumble, though, well, the character has been overcome by the situation and sinks into disabling (and Arthuriana appropriate) melancholy.
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Re: Magical Weapons and Players

Postby DamonJynx » Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:00 pm

mwsasser wrote:Where are the Passion Traits explained, that is a very nice idea.
For Legend/MRQ2 they are in the Elric Core Rulebook pg 54.
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Re: Magical Weapons and Players

Postby Prime_Evil » Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:11 pm

If you like, you could also permit the wielder of the swords to use one or more Heroic Abilities at the cost of magic points.

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