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View Full Version : DM Help Powerful, mysterious artifact! So what's it do?



TheOneHawk
2014-08-17, 02:41 AM
So I have a small adventure planned out loosely in my head, my player are currently exploring a ruined castle that's been abandoned and forgotten for hundreds of years, and I plan on them finding an ancient... something. It'll take them a good bit of research and travel to figure out what exactly it is, finding ancient libraries and all that fun stuff. But my problem is that I can't come up with a particularly good power for it to have. Any ideas, playground?

Mr Beer
2014-08-17, 03:11 AM
Do they get to keep it? If so, what would they like?

EDIT

Personally I think artifacts should be McGuffins, so think about how you want the plot advanced and go from there. Maybe it's a really cool hammer but hey the dwarves want it back, bang instant plot. Or the king wants the crown of uber-rulerness but guess what, so does the other king and the other other king. The players are caught in the middle.

I like the idea of something the players want but causes unintended problems i.e. adventure. An artifact should never be a mere super awesome sword without associated drawbacks.

DM Nate
2014-08-17, 03:42 AM
I love cursed items, specifically. Even a useful sword with Taint on it could be fun.

TheOneHawk
2014-08-17, 04:27 AM
I completely agree that it should and will come with drawbacks. I don't know yet if I want it to be something they can use or more of a political thing, though. The castle they're exploring is a ruin from an ancient Elven empire that collapsed a while ago, and there's gonna be an elf coup in a nearby country soon so there's definitely gonna be some people who want this, whatever it is.

I think I can rule out weapons as it's a three person party with 2 full progression casters and 1 monk type who fights unarmed.

Whatever it is should be important to that fallen empire, I think I want it to be useful in combat so that the players have a reason to keep it as well.

DM Nate
2014-08-17, 05:34 AM
A cloak or amulet with something besides just +1 would work well. Like lesser invisibility or something.

DigoDragon
2014-08-17, 08:24 AM
One of my favorite drawbacks for an artifact is that it damages the user's stats to activate. Like the old 'Ring of Xray Vision' that damaged your CON score for using it. It keeps the players from abusing the artifact, but still can be useful if they're willing to sacrifice a little of themselves for powerful abilities. :smallsmile:

Angelalex242
2014-08-17, 01:28 PM
You've got a monk in a party with 2 tier 1s?

Make it a belt of perfection. +6 to all stats. The monk could use it just to keep up. Presumably, it's something the king used to wear so he made good decisions and could take care of himself in a pinch.

Drawback? But the spirit of the last king lurks within it, and he's gone CE crazy...

(Fortunately, monks have great will saves and still mind to fight the mad king off with. However, he'll roll a 1 eventually...)

Anxe
2014-08-17, 01:58 PM
A time travel box. 2 foot cube that sends stuff back and forwards in time.

nedz
2014-08-17, 02:03 PM
Make the artefact intelligent but then give it a quirky personality.


You've got a monk in a party with 2 tier 1s?
Should be fine as long as the casters buff him. Being MAD, Monks are very buffable.

S@tanicoaldo
2014-08-17, 02:39 PM
Well what is the plot of your adventure?

It really depends it may be the Phylactery of the evil lich they will figth in the future, a gateway to another dimension or a doomsday divice.

It really depends on where the adventure is going.

TheOneHawk
2014-08-17, 03:16 PM
Actually I have a tier three that's more highly optimized than the rest of the party in a party with two tier 2's. It's working out just fine. She's a Dreamscarred Press Warlord with the Steelfist Commando archetype, while the other two are a wildblooded fey bloodline sorcerer and a scarred witch doctor.

There isn't really a defined plot as of yet. I have a bunch of threads of where it could go, and it kind of depends on their choices. I'm making a point of not planning too far out, because they tend to not go where I expect. The idea with this item is I kind of want to craft part of a story around it. Intelligent items are pretty cool, for sure. I'll probably make it intelligent but dormant, and they have to find out how to awaken it.

veti
2014-08-17, 06:32 PM
Do you want them to be able to use the... thing? Or is it more of a McGuffin for driving future plots?

I like artifacts that are incredibly powerful, but pretty much useless to the average adventurer. Example: a throne you sit on, that gives you excellent mental buffs, protections and psionic abilities, but only while you're within a certain distance of it (say, the same building), and only if you're its rightful owner. Extremely useful to a king (or other politicker), but considerably less so to a dungeon-basher.

TheOneHawk
2014-08-17, 06:53 PM
I do want it to be something they can use, if maybe not to its full potential in a dungeon. I can craft a story around it and make it a mcguffin as well, but right now I'm just stumped as to what the hell it should do.

+100 to perform (dance). It was crafted so the old king could still partake in his favourite dancing parties even as he was on his deathbed.

Winter_Wolf
2014-08-17, 07:09 PM
I do want it to be something they can use, if maybe not to its full potential in a dungeon. I can craft a story around it and make it a mcguffin as well, but right now I'm just stumped as to what the hell it should do.

+100 to perform (dance). It was crafted so the old king could still partake in his favourite dancing parties even as he was on his deathbed.

I'm guessing that eliminates anything like Heward's Mystical Organ (or whatever it was called). It was very much immobile, even though there was the potential for absolute mayhem because of all the potential settings. It was immobile on top of anything else, so eventually someone (thing) could (and would) come and wrest it from you if you didn't destroy yourself with it beforehand.

TheOneHawk
2014-08-17, 07:30 PM
Yeah, nothing immobile, though now I want to see what that organ does. I can't find it though, lol.

Vrock_Summoner
2014-08-17, 09:19 PM
Use to its full potential, but maybe not in a dungeon...

Well, it's an artifact, not a regular magic item, so... Perhaps a crown that forces non-mindless creatures to respect and love its wearer, unless they've ever been in the same room as somebody putting on the crown. So the party will presumably never be affected by it even if a bad guy steals it since they'll all be there when somebody first tries it on after it's found. This could be interesting if a powerful person steals it, as the party could realistically be the only people capable of opposing them, and they could have some fun abusing it first before it's stolen if they're that kind of adventuring party.

Or, hm, if you want it to draw stories/adventures... Maybe a pendant that is cursed in that it ties itself to the soul of its wearer, so in order for it to be removed the previous bearer needs to either just die (in low level games, where that's permanent enough) or have their soul destroyed for the pendant to be wearable by anyone else. Then give it an effect other people really need... Like, it neutralizes the DR and/or Magic Resistance of [Evil] creatures when its wearer does combat with them.

"What, some scrappy little adventurer like you is the only one who can fight the Ultimate Dark Lord of Evil-Sounding Adjectives unless we kill you and give that to one of our more-capable champions? Sorry, we're a kingdom of Good Elves and all, but that can't fly... Somebody bring me my sword."

Cikomyr
2014-08-17, 09:39 PM
It doesn't have to be a portable artifact, you know.

You could have it being a big, big item that cannot be moved (or can only be moved through really anormal means). Maybe a piece of furniture, like a Throne. Or a Round Table (nobody ever had the idea of having the actual Round Table of myths being magic :smallbiggrin: ).

Or it could be a ziggurat. Or a shrine. Or maybe even a pillar, around which the castle was built.

Having the artifact being immovable may create future story potential. It creates a location important to protect for your PCs and their allies. Its defense (or reclaim) could be a fantastic showdown for your climatic events.

I personally like the idea of a Throne-Artifact. The Throne of Hades, maybe. Powerful Necromantic, making you Absolute Lord of a Necropolis. Because anyone who dies in your domain while you are sitting there comes back as an undead; the higher the level of the individual, the more powerful the undead.

And, intelligent or not, they are all swearing allegiance to you as long as you sit on the Throne. Just don't get up.

However, the Throne does not provide for your health. It does not sustain you. It does not provide for your need of sleep. If you want to remain safe, you have to keep sitting on the throne for the rest of your life.. and be careful not to die while sitting on that very Throne... Because the Gods hate paradoxes...

Winter_Wolf
2014-08-17, 10:16 PM
Yeah, nothing immobile, though now I want to see what that organ does. I can't find it though, lol.

It was specific to the world of Oerth/Greyhawk campaigns, but it made an appearance in the 2e Book of Artifacts. Essentially it allowed the DM to pull things out of their fiat bag (better in my book) or roll on the tables buried in the book which predictably had "meh, but safe" and "awesome, but dangerous" results. Really though, it was one of the "safer" artifacts in 2e AD&D, probably because it wasn't exactly portable.

Knaight
2014-08-17, 10:29 PM
Yeah, nothing immobile, though now I want to see what that organ does. I can't find it though, lol.

Speaking of organs: What about a mechanical organ of a different sort, that requires the permanent loss of a real one. Perhaps it's a pair of mechanical lungs, which pump tons of air into the system of the wearer (constitution/stamina/whatever boost), filter the air which comes in (immunity to inhaled poisons, maybe even water breathing), and seriously damages volume modulation when talking, creating a signature booming voice. Maybe it's the still beating heart of a dead god, which provides extreme power to whoever cuts their own heart out and puts it in in its place - while attracting the enmity of the people who killed that god in the first place, and while slowly transforming the character into the new vessel of the god, which will eventually destroy them s a person.

An upside to the second one is that it is also an evocative image, and has a lot of potential even before the players know what it is - starting with how carrying around a beating heart in a box is pretty noticeable, and looks a bit dubious. Plus, even the still beating heart is of interest to the organization that killed the god in the first place, though they'll put far less effort into destroying it before it's in somebody's chest. Mechanically, boosting every stat along with the skills that relate to whatever this god was is a pretty good start.

TheOneHawk
2014-08-17, 10:40 PM
I love the still beating heart. Can't be a god's though, as my mythology is pretty set and known to the players. No dead gods available. Another problem is I don't want whoever cuts their heart out to be more powerful than the rest of the party by any significant margin. Maybe something immobile but powerful for the group as a whole would be better after all.

I REALLY love the idea of a still beating heart though. The mythology does have immortal celestials who are the servants of the gods and who can manifest in the material plane (mechanically outsiders of various kinds) Maybe the still beating heart of one of them? I still don't see a way for that not to unbalance the party in favour of that one player who has the balls to cut their heart out.

Demidos
2014-08-18, 12:47 AM
All allies within 60 foot radius gain temporary HP equal to 3*Level of heart weilder, refreshes when sleeping. Or something. just make it an area effect.

endoperez
2014-08-18, 12:49 AM
For a really weird feeling, have it do something that the rules don't normally allow. For example, in D&D, most things are numbers. If you want to make a powerful artifact, make it something that bypasses numbers, or changes the rules in some way.

For example, a protective artifact could negate all damage from a single attack as a free attack - bypassing any amount of damage. This is a free action, and can be done after you know how much damage you would be taking.

For crafting, make an anvil that can be used to forge anything (that is, use Craft(smithing) ) in an hour. As in, look at the normal crafting rules, do everything exactly as is normal there, but it only takes a single hour.

A crystal that lets you experience things in your dreams as if they were real. You can't bring anything from the dream to the real world, and you can't gain experience points, but you can cast spells in your dreams and wake up already buffed, you can read a book, or go check the lower level of a dungeon. The further you go from your current location and powers, the less you remember, and the less stays with you, when you wake.
A fighter who dreams that she is a mighty magician might get a free flaming burst on her criticals for a day. A rogue who dreams he explored the dungeon "remembers" the locations of all the traps he could have found with a natural 20, and has a feeling when he's near secret doors. A wizard who dreamed he had access to a spell library can memorize a few spells he doesn't have in his spellbook (but attempts to scribe them into scrolls or into his spellbook fail).
Sometimes the players don't get the dream they wanted.

There could of course be limits, or a cost, that might or might not use normal rules - charges, uses per day, gold or experience cost, ability damage/drain etc.

nedz
2014-08-18, 03:26 AM
It was specific to the world of Oerth/Greyhawk campaigns, but it made an appearance in the 2e Book of Artifacts. Essentially it allowed the DM to pull things out of their fiat bag (better in my book) or roll on the tables buried in the book which predictably had "meh, but safe" and "awesome, but dangerous" results. Really though, it was one of the "safer" artifacts in 2e AD&D, probably because it wasn't exactly portable.

It was also in the 1E DMG and possibly other books before that. I ran it once. The party made it their career to raid evil temples, being short of cash they decided to raid the main temple of the god of corruption (CN) for a change. This is where I placed the Organ. Cue the (usual) fight with the temple guards whilst one of the priests played the Organ, calling down various high level spells; Cue the race to stop the Organist.

Vrock_Summoner
2014-08-18, 03:32 AM
It was also in the 1E DMG and possibly other books before that. I ran it once. The party made it their career to raid evil temples, being short of cash they decided to raid the main temple of the god of corruption (CN) for a change. This is where I placed the Organ. Cue the (usual) fight with the temple guards whilst one of the priests played the Organ, calling down various high level spells; Cue the race to stop the Organist.

This is honestly the first time I've ever seen the word "organist" used. Also, when you say "a god's organ" I usually don't think of an instrument. :smalltongue:

DigoDragon
2014-08-18, 07:57 AM
I like artifacts that are incredibly powerful

Speaking of organs

One powerful artifact I gave to the PCs one time was a fist-sized d6 made of crystal and had an eyeball preserved in the center. The die had 3 'Yes' and 3 'No' answers on the sides. How you work it is you ask it a Yes/No question and roll the die. Kind of like a Magic 8-Ball. The cursed power of it is that the die will give you the answer least favorable to you and then adjust fate in subtle ways to make it happen (subtle as in using powers available in say, a casting of Limited Wish).

Example: The PCs asked if the necromancer they were about to fight was going to be tough. The die rolls a 'Yes' and the necromancer's undead minions all got buffs for the battle.

Since the PCs could fight fate (i.e. they could still win that tough battle) it wasn't an all-powerful relic, but it just kept working against the PCs. Funny thing is if the villain got a hold of it, it would ruin him just the same. :smallbiggrin:

Knaight
2014-08-18, 04:14 PM
I love the still beating heart. Can't be a god's though, as my mythology is pretty set and known to the players. No dead gods available. Another problem is I don't want whoever cuts their heart out to be more powerful than the rest of the party by any significant margin. Maybe something immobile but powerful for the group as a whole would be better after all.

I REALLY love the idea of a still beating heart though. The mythology does have immortal celestials who are the servants of the gods and who can manifest in the material plane (mechanically outsiders of various kinds) Maybe the still beating heart of one of them? I still don't see a way for that not to unbalance the party in favour of that one player who has the balls to cut their heart out.

The immortal celestials are more than good enough for a still beating heart - I used a dead god because it's a classic image, but it's not really necessary, particularly if you had some sort of celestial who was deified by a cult, while not actually a god.

Avoiding making one person more powerful is a bit more of an issue. One option would be to have aura effects - they're particularly suitable given the context (though they work better for an actual dead god), they improve the entire party, and as they can scale up to followers and such it provides the incentive for the opposition to get in their and kill the heart-bearer.

I'd probably still have some sort of power boost for just the heart-bearer, as they're the one that will eventually be consumed by the heart. Plus, there's no guarantee that a PC is even going to be the one to use the heart in the end, though it's a much more compelling scenario if they are.

TheOneHawk
2014-08-18, 10:22 PM
Ok so I think I have the basis of a plan here. Still beating heart of a celestial is what they find, they have a few options they can use it for. They can put it in themselves, granting a stat increase and race change to basically become a celestial, but they are suddenly bonded to the god who controlled the original celestial and can be commanded to do stuff for that god (there are no evil gods, nor are there good gods, all gods have aspects of both so sometimes these commands could get pretty harsh). They could also put it into a dead person to bring them back to life (resurrection doesn't exist normally in this setting) Not sure if I want them to get the same buff as the living person would, but still the god commands. Or they can find the celestial's original body, buried in a crypt on the fringes of the fallen empire, still somewhat alive but unable to act, and return the heart to it. Maybe grant a miracle/wish thing for that if they find and choose that option.

Thoughts?

Knaight
2014-08-19, 02:58 AM
That sounds pretty reasonable, but it might help to make the options all a little less benign. The fallen celestial in particular - that heart was removed for a reason, and if it is returned it might help to make the reason very clear, and to have removing it again likely be the best option.

Mastikator
2014-08-19, 04:04 AM
Actually reviving the celestial should give a more lasting reward, since the other two options give permanent rewards. Maybe they are given some holy symbol that they can activate to summon the celestial being at any time to help them with whatever they need. Since it owes them its life it is bound to them for the remainder of their lives. Be sure not to make it into a DMPC, it helps them if they ask for it, leaves when they dismiss it, offers council if asked, but won't take charge even if asked to. A super powered cohort that is literally only there when they want it there.

A single miracle would be forgotten and can easily be wasted.

TheOneHawk
2014-08-19, 04:39 AM
I wanted saving the Celestial to be the 'good' option, since I want to give the elven empire that did it a slight evil bent, and have them do things like that in their search for ever greater power. I don't want to have the Celestial help them whenever they want it, I don't really want to have anything approaching a DMPC, I like focusing on just running the campaign as smoothly as possible.

How could I make the options where they use the heart themselves less benign without basically railroading the characters to do what the god wants all the time?

Mastikator
2014-08-19, 05:35 AM
Send them out on a non-linear quest. Something like "expand my follower base, you figure out the details" or "Build me a temple, you decide where". It's a clear command but there are no rails to follow. Basically let the PCs be the artists that design the quest. It would be something they do while they're doing other stuff and it won't send them away from their other pursuits.

Diachronos
2014-08-19, 01:11 PM
The REAL Head of Vecna.

Segev
2014-08-19, 02:54 PM
For a low-level party, it needn't be truly an artifact. It could just be a magic item or four that are well above their usual level. You mention wanting to make them have to research and try things out; the Rings of Elemental Command (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/magicItems/rings.htm#elementalCommand) may fit the bill nicely.

For genuine, campaign-shaping artifacts, you might consider one or more Orbs of Dragonkind (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/magicItems/artifacts.htm#theOrbsofDragonkind).

dilepoutee
2014-08-22, 05:04 AM
Well what is the plot of your adventure? Basically??