Inspired by this post from Game Knight Reviews, thought I’d have a go at designing some simple rules, suitable for any game, that will allow characters to create their own magical items during the course of a game.
Whenever a character uses an item in the course of some action, be it a sword in combat, a lantern whilst searching a tomb, or playing the lute to entertain the patrons of a tavern, and if the action has meaningful consequences– such as life or death in combat, finding a secret door leading to a way out or treasure, or persuading the barkeep to divulge information– then at the end of the gaming session, the player may declare that they wish to roll to see if an item has gained some sort of magical power as a result: a sword, for example, might become known as the Orc-Hacker due to its recent use in slaying orcs, and the player might want to see if the sword begins to exhibit magical powers. The player can suggest what the magic is, but the GM has the final say, and the guidelines below can be used as a guide.
The base chance of an item gaining some sort of magical effect is equal to the character’s level, as a percentage; this base chance can be modified, see table below. If successful, the item in question becomes magical.
- Weapons, armour and shields should have no higher bonus (to-hit and damage pluses) than half the character’s level, rounded up;
- Items should have a number of powers no more than the character’s level divided by three, rounded up (1-3 is one power, 4-6 is two etc);
- Powers should either emulate existing items, spells, or feats/proficiencies/skills, depending on the system. with a rough power level equal to half the character’s (rounded up);
- Ideally, powers should make sense within context of the situation from which the magical power was awakened.
Modifiers to Base Chance
- +1% for each Hit Dice/Level of a defeated opponent, if in single and glorious battle;
- +5% for a dramatic, heroic or life-changing event.
Cedric, a paladin with a nice sword, fights a dramatic battle against twenty orcs: he single-handedly defeats them, saving the lives of his allies, and earning a reputation amongst the orcs that manage to flee. The player, at the end of the session, decides she wants to roll for the sword to become magic; gives it a name, Orc-Bane, and wants +1 to-hit/damage and the ability to cause fear in orcs. The paladin is 6th-level, allowing a maximum of two powers, +3 bonus, so the GM agrees too the roll. The base chance is 6%, modified by +5% for the heroic stand; the player rolls 1d100 and gets a 02! Success! Orc-Bane is born.
Porthus, halfling chef and wizard, is trapped in a tomb, looking for a way out and with his failing lantern he manages to find the secret door that leads outside. Afterwards, his player wants to make a roll, for the lantern to be ever-full and lit: as Porthus is level 2, and the power is similar to continual light, the GM agrees but at a compromise, saying that the lantern will act as a light spell, three times a day. The player has a base chance of 2%, makes a roll, but fails. He may try again in the future, especially if the lantern proves useful.
It’s a rough idea. What do you think, could it work in a game?