Magic Weapons & Armor

I was thinking again about magic weapons and armor the other day. Like many I want these items to be more than just a +1 or whatever. I also was thinking about in most of the wondrous tales that we’ve read over the over the years that the characters get a magic item and keep it. Unlike most RPG characters who constantly upgrading to items with more bonuses. Or in even more extreme circumstances, they may be carrying around a golf bag full of magic swords to have just the right weapon for whatever monster they may be facing at the time.

I know things like this have put forth before but there’s so much gaming junk bouncing around my head that I can’t remember where exactly. With that being said, here’s a couple of ideas. These ideas are based around just the base bonus for a particular item, not any additional special abilities.

A really quick method. For this I’m starting with the assumption that these magic items were tailor made for someone besides the player character and designed to be optimized for the original bearer. Additionally, magical power is primarily determined a character’s mental ability scores (Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma) and not their physical scores (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution). So a magic item doesn’t have it’s own bonus but could have a maximum possible bonus. The bonus is determined by one of the ability score modifiers when the item is made. A mace originally made for a High Priest would probably use Wisdom. A dagger made for a Wizard, probably Intelligence. A short sword made for a wily thief, probably Charisma. Say later that some other character comes into possession of the item, then it would go off that character’s modifier. What if a character has penalty? I’m also assuming that each item has a little bit of sentience. It doesn’t like that character and the item in essence becomes cursed while in that character’s possession.

This is easy but if a character is average in their non-class ability scores then they are pretty much screwed. But it’s an interesting idea.

The more involved way. For this method, you keep track of XP for the items and its “level” becomes its bonus. I suggest using the Magic-User XP progression tables since those are the highest. So how do these items gain XP? Well, first the bearer may sacrifice/give a portion of their XP to the item. Magic weapons gain XP for killing things. If the weapon lands the deathblow on a monster then it gains XP based on the HD of the monster similar to the way a character would. For armor, it’s a little different. Whenever an attack from a monster reduces the bearer to 1/4 of their HP or less then the item gains XP based on the HD of the attacking monster if the wearer survives the encounter.

I know this is a little rough around the edges. I just may have to polish it up later on,

2 thoughts on “Magic Weapons & Armor”

  1. I’d do it like gaining feats. When a PC first gains an enchanted “class item” it has no specific bonus, it just functions as a magical weapon for striking incorporeal foes. Then as the PC levels up, the player can “level up” the item as well, and gain an ability for every level or every two levels or whatever progression you like.

    So, you could give the item a +1 to hit one level, and a +1 to damage the next. Abilities like Frostbrand or Flaming or Holy might be available only after the weapon was +2 +2 or better.

    These items would function only for the PC who owns them–if that PC dies and another character picks up the weapon it would go back to being just the base enchanted until the new owner starts leveling it up.

    A wizard’s staff would gain spell slots with levels, allowing the wizard to cast that spell from the staff like an ability, once per day.

    Does that make sense?


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