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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Ancestral Items

Ancestral items are a concept I introduced into one of my campaigns. They provide a means of introducing magical items tailored to a specific character in a consistent way. They can also provide story hooks based on the history of the item and its former owners. In the original campaign mithril was a an extremely rare and valuable substance, providing a needed limit on the availability of ancestral items. Feel free to substitute another material suitable to your own game.

Mithril has many unique properties of interest to the mage. One such property is the ability to capture the essence of a bloodline in a magical construct, forever tying it to a specific person and their descendants.

At its initial forging an ancestral item is unremarkable except for its unique tie to a specific person, though additional magical properties can be imbued into it when created. Over time the item absorbs the spiritual energies of its owner, binding them into its own enchantment. The absorption process is not harmful, though it does strengthen the bond between the pair. The owner may feel uncomfortable without the item nearby, and a sentient item may use its powers to return to its rightful place.

As the item absorbs energy from its owner it gains powers and abilities suited to the owner's nature. The type and number of powers gained is subject to GM discretion. As a guideline, add one minor power or enhance an existing power every five or six game sessions. Powers gained should reflect both the nature of the item and the nature of the bearer.

Ancestral items can be dangerous to their owners, as items with long history and great power can control a weak-willed bearer. In these cases the bearer may find themselves mimicking the behavior of a long-dead ancestor or carrying out deeds they would ordinarily find distasteful.

Ancestral items radiate a magical aura, but behave as normal items in the hands of one not of the proper bloodline. They may even feel off balance, distasteful, or slippery in the wrong hands. Attempts to discern an ancestral item's nature by magical means will reveal its bloodline, Great enchantment magic, plus any mundane enchantment initially placed on the item.


Very few possess the knowledge required to create an ancestral item, as it involves magical effort, skilled crafting, and proper materials. The process of creating an ancestral item takes weeks and costs thousands of coin in time and materials. The mithril required to create even a small ancestral item would cost 2000 or more coins if it could be found at all. The following outline summarizes the skills and steps required to make a basic ancestral item.

Gather materials - The divination at this stage determines the exact items required to correctly link the item to the appropriate bloodline. A failed divination might reveal incorrect items or materials. All materials should reflect the nature of the owner. Extra materials and items might be prudent.
  • Great test of divining magic to determine appropriate materials
  • Raw materials - Materials suitable for the basic item construction, at least Great quality
  • Special ingredients - At least 3 unique Superb quality ingredients
  • Mithril - Sufficient quantity to infuse the entire item
Create the item - The proper structure of the item is determined at this stage. Failure of the enchantment test might result in an incorrect pattern. Failure to create the basic item destroys the raw materials. Failure to place the special ingredients destroys them, though the basic item is unaffected.
  • Great test of enchantment magic to design the pattern or template
  • Good test of crafting to create the basic item using the raw materials
  • Great test of crafting to place the special ingredients in the basic item

Imbue the item - Prepare the mithril for use and imbue it into the item. The purification process can be repeated if it fails, the imbue test destroys the item if it fails.
  • Superb test of enchantment magic to purify the mithril
  • Superb test of crafting to imbue the item with mithril

Association with the bloodline - Tie the item to the owner. Failing either test in this stage requires the entire stage be repeated.
  • A blood sacrifice from the owner
  • Great test of enchantment magic to link the item
  • Great test of willpower by the owner to accept the enchantment


Ancestral items are, for the most part, indestructible. Their parts can be separated with a Superb test of crafting. Destroying the parts and their intrinsic magic is nearly impossible, requiring an Epic test of enchantment magic. If the parts of an ancestral item are scattered, any one part can be used to lead to the others with a Good test of divination magic.

1 comment:

Roger said...

Speaking of being normal in another's hands, I was thinking of having my +(level) sword look dull when not being wielded by the owner. When the owner picks it up, it gets shiny and reflective.