Bring on the magic!

The Magic Circle by John William Waterhouse, 1886

Hello friends!

Let’s talk about magic items. If you’re a GM, are you placing them in your adventures? If you’re a player, are your characters finding them in their delves? I hope so!

Magic items are fun to discover and use, and if you treat them as more than contextless powerups they can inject history and weight to your campaign.

First, I should note the way I present magic items in Torchbearer has shifted a bit over the years. In the core book, items had levels and you had to be of the requisite level to use the item. I’ve since tossed that restriction by the wayside because it’s artificial and cumbersome. The magic items in Middarmark don’t have levels. That’s why.

It’s my hope that dropping the level restriction also makes it easier for you to design your own magic items and drop them in your games. To help get you started, here are the various magical effects a magic item can provide. If I’ve missed something, let me know in the comments and we’ll discuss!

Magical effects:

  • Break ties in your favor
  • Confer belief
  • Confer instinct
  • Confer special ability (fly, remain unharmed by fire, walk on water, etc.)
  • Confer spell effect
  • Confer traits
  • Confer wise
  • Increase Might
  • Provide advantage to abilities
  • Provide advantage to skills
  • Treat conditions

You can use these singly, or in combination to create more complex magic items. For instance, you can use the Confer belief, instinct, or trait effects in combination with something else to create a cursed item, or an item with a personality that weighs upon the bearer. In general, Confer belief and Confer instinct should replace the character’s existing belief or instinct, not add to it.

Try to give each item you introduce into the game a bit of lore, even if you’re using one from a book or adventure. What’s its name? Who made it? Why? What little nugget of history can your players discover by studying the item? Even a lowly ring of invisibility might have an epic history behind it.

Back in November, I posted a few new magic items. Here are some more to whet your appetite. What’s their story? How would you use them in your game?

Aegis Bracer

These leather bracers are crafted from a combination of supple leather, rawhide and boiled leather, all intricately burned with arcane sigils of defense. They protect the hands and forearms.
Effect: If you are targeted by a successful Attack or Feint in a capture, drive off or kill conflict, roll a d6. On a 4+, reduce your opponent’s margin of success by -1s. This effect works once per conflict. Attacks or Feints with spears, bolts and arrows are not affected.
Inventory: Hands/worn 1
Type: Magical clothing

Frostreaver

A sword of pale blue metal covered in fine crystalline hoar frost. The sword emits a powerful chill and a faint frosty vapor rises from it when unsheathed in above-freezing temperatures.
Effect: The subject of a successful Attack with Frostreaver is chilled to the bone, suffering -1s to their team’s next action. Frostreaver otherwise confers the normal sword benefits. Frostreaver’s cold is punishing. The wielder must wear thick leather gloves or similar protection to shield the hands or suffer the injured condition at the end of a conflict or turn in which it was used.
Inventory: Hands/carried 1 or belt/weapon 1
Type: Magical weapon

Jade Diadem

A crown of creamy white jade made for an ancient tyrant surrounded by scheming courtiers.
Effect: The wearer is immune to all mind control effects and gaze weapons.The wearer of the Jade Diadem gains the Suspicious trait at level 2. The wearer of the Jade Diadem is deeply suspicious of all who would approach them. It is extremely difficult to trick or lie to them, but they have a hard time trusting even the most altruistic people.
Inventory: Head/worn 1 or pack 1
Type: Magical jewelry

Keep Your Eyes Open

As a final note, as part of the #ZineQuest initiative on Kickstarter I plan to launch a new Torchbearer adventure on Sunday, February 17. It will join The Grind, another Torchbearer zine by our friends at Mordite Press. Check in here for announcements!

Notable Replies

  1. I just want to thank you for continuously plugging The Grind as much as you have. I don’t think we’d be nearly where we are without your support!

    And of course the upcoming zinequest offering is an automatic backing from me.

  2. Thor says:

    The feeling is mutual! We’re very thankful that you and your crew put as much effort into supporting our game as you do.

  3. Shaun says:

    The Confer Belief/Instinct/Trait effects give me that Stormbringer vibe. It might be cool to make one that goes both ways. I like the idea that the character and the item could each influence the other. You could even engage it in some kind of conflict to master it, or to become a slave to it.

  4. We’ve got one like this in Roost of the Condor Queen. :slight_smile:

  5. One thing I would suggest about “life improvement” magic items (and I don’t know if this is already on your mind) is to try not to completely remove the danger of light, food, and inventory without some kind of trade off. It can take some of the oomph out of the game to not have to deal with these things anymore. It can be more interesting if they modify how these problems manifest.

    Like maybe an Animated Backpack has a Hiding nature, and occasionally it attempts to hide from monsters (and PCs), or goes down a different hallway. Or maybe an Everlasting candle works by drawing light from other sources, causing torches to go dark or snuff out with a twist.

    Creating special twist conditions or trade offs gives these items personality, and are especially important if they obviate the constant pressures of the adventuring life.

Continue the discussion at forums.burningwheel.com

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