As I continue to flesh out the Aurikesh setting for what I hope will be its first adventure in the coming week, I am also working on getting comfortable with design inside the rules structure of D&D Next. Especially for magic items, they’ve created two really interesting hooks to hang additional powers upon: secrets and attunement. This isn’t spelled out quite clearly enough in the rules as written, but there’s nothing stopping the DM from customizing the requirements for secrets and attunement to things that make sense for that particular item (a more exceptional version of the Easygoing property, for example). The holy avenger is a fine example of an item with a requirement attached to attunement – I’d like to see that become reasonably common, if appropriate to the item’s individual story. I’ve tended to use Secrets a little more in the vein of Earthdawn than the WotC designers have: an extra power, always-active, once you learn an important part of the item’s history. The means of attuning to an item could, of course, be an interesting secret as well, but my feeling at the moment is that if the characters have put forth significant effort to learn the secret, the item probably shouldn’t also use up one of their precious attunement slots.
The items below are starlock (that is, flintlock) weapons, because a week or so ago, there was some discussion in a Google+ circle I read about how no one ever creates cool magic weapons that are anything other than swords. The one part of magic item design I’m not yet at peace with is rarity designations – they are really power designations, but the system doesn’t quite bring itself to admit that.
The Shale Pass Sentinels
In the province of Tyrema Ridge, there is a settlement – little more than a border guardpost – at Shale Pass, the broad, clear, stone-paved pass through the mountains between Gallmonte and Tyrema Ridge. As recently as ten years ago, Shale Pass was staffed by a few good riders and an enchanted item to speed communication. As relations between Tyrema and Gallmonte soured, however, the Prince of Grevanda poured resources into the post; it is now filled past capacity, with sixty soldiers and a detachment of twenty scouts. More famously than this, however, the Prince bargained with the wizard Mandarnek to enchant weapons that would make a difference in the defense of the outpost. Ever one to seek out challenges to his magical might and creative thought, Mandarnek accepted. After a full year of work, Mandarnek delivered just three weapons; the Prince was enraged, but it is never wise to cheat a wizard, and Mandarnek received his payment. Even worse, when he subjected the long rifles to their first trials in Grevanda, they were only marginally better than a standard-issue long rifle.
Mandarnek observed, “Your Highness, you did not ask me to protect Grevanda from straw dummies.”
Once the Prince saw the Shale Pass Sentinels in action against Gallmontese scouts, he realized his error.
The weapons have since become the pride of Shale Pass, and there are yearly contests among the soldiers stationed there to win the title of First Rifle. This title grants the right to be the first to wield the rifle in battle; every soldier of the post is expected to pick up a Shale Pass Sentinel and wield it with distinction if one of the current wielders should fall. Within the past two years, volunteers from Chardecum and Adeschon have likewise arrived on the day of the contest, though they are subject to close scrutiny lest they be Gallmontese infiltrators.
Many in court who opposed the expense of the rifles wonder what will happen if the Gallmontese ever raised their banner over Shale Pass: would the guns then serve the Grand Duke?
The Shale Pass Sentinels are a group of three +2 starlock long rifles. Powerful in the hands of a trained soldier, but nothing truly extraordinary, they do not even receive the benefit of their enchantment in target practice.
Attunement: Within twenty miles of the banner that flies over Shale Pass, the Shale Pass Sentinels may be attuned with ten minutes of effort. This attunement automatically fades if they are taken outside that area. While attuned:
- The range increment increases to 200/800.
- The wielder gains training (+3) in Spot and Listen. If the wielder already has both of these, she instead gains advantage on all Spot and Listen rolls.
- Up to three times a day, whenever the wielder reduces a humanoid target below 1 hit point with an attack from this weapon, the wielder gains five additional charges of powder and shot, one of them loaded into the gun directly. As a result of this power, the wielder may use the Cleave maneuver (if she possesses it) with this weapon’s ranged attacks.
- This weapon always misses any person that the Grand Duke or Duchess of Gallmonte has designated as a herald, unless and until that herald makes an unprovoked attack against a subject of Tyrema.
In the year 1418, Fortunata of Suralinn built the first starlock long rifle. For the next three years, Fortunata received from Saivel the Great more wealth than she could count, or ever spend; Saivel demanded that Fortunata spend every waking hour producing more long rifles for her army. Nor would the queen allow Fortunata to train more apprentices to expand her shop’s production; Saivel feared that this would only hasten the spread of long rifles to other domains. Fortunata was torn: she came to despise Saivel, but she would not give the soldiers of Rindaria – many of whom were her friends and kinsmen – shoddy weapons, and the range and stopping power of her guns kept many of them alive in Saivel’s reckless war. When she refused to continue forging more guns, Saivel built bars around her forge and posted guards.
Finally Fortunata got word of her plight to the Iron Temple, who had opposed Saivel from the start. For the Iron Temple, this was just another example of Saivel’s gross breach of justice, if not the law, as this was closer to slavery than conscription. In a daring pre-dawn raid, the knights of the Iron Temple overwhelmed the soldiers on guard, leaving them alive but chained to the bars of Fortunata’s prison. They marked each guard with the sign of Talend, the hammer and crown, and conveyed Fortunata out of the city and away to their temple in Ferradona.
In her wrath, Saivel rounded up everyone who shared even a drop of Fortunata’s blood, imprisoning as many as 120 men, women, and children in her strongest dungeon. Mere days later, reports arrived from the front lines of battle that an elite cadre of Eksorines now wielded long rifles as well. Convinced that Fortunata was now committing treason and selling weapons to Eksoris, Saivel ordered the execution of one-tenth of those she had arrested.
When they received word of this, Fortunata’s grief was equaled only by her desire to avenge her kindred. Before a priest in Talend’s holy temple, she swore an oath of vengeance against Saivel and all who would kill innocents in such a way. The priest, Brother Aquilon Calett, was deeply moved, and bound his holy symbol (itself a significant item of magic at the time) to the rifle’s stock by the symbol’s chain. Light flared, and both chain and symbol became completely one with the stock, in a way that does not impede the rifle’s use. Fortunata permanently lost the gift of gunsmithing, which was likewise part of Talend’s domain, and in exchange gained extraordinary personal capacity for war – both in herself, and in the form of the now-enchanted long rifle.
Fortunata and Aquilon traveled to Eksoris, where even they were not enough to stem the tide of Saivel’s gradual advance; when Eksoris fell, they were among the leaders of Tarimel’s Defiance. Aquilon was eventually handed over to the forces of Rindaria by treachery within the organization’s own ranks. As a subject of Ferradona, he was executed for treason on the same day. After that, Fortunata left Tarimel’s Defiance, and fought on alone. First she slew Aquilon’s executioner, and then she hunted down the soldiers who had slain her family. Before she could kill Saivel, however, the war ended and Saivel the Great was deposed, dragged through the streets of Eksoris and kept in the palace at Morisceth, in Dalassiria, as a prisoner for life. Fortunata was denied her final vengeance, for she could not slay the innocent guards who had been commanded to protect their prisoner.
Fortunata’s Slayer is a +3 starlock rifle made from blackened steel and covered in tally marks. Whenever the gun passes to the hands of a new wielder, the tally marks are wiped away and that wielder’s personal tally with the rifle appears on its barrel and stock. It deals an additional 1d10 holy damage on any attack made against a target who has dealt damage to a Good-aligned target in the last round. In battle, the wielder feels nigh-invincible, and is easily incited to violence by any act of aggression that someone else takes against someone the wielder regards as innocent.
Attunement: Fortunata’s Slayer can only be attuned in a temple of Talend, with the aid of an ordained priest. This attunement involves naming an individual or small group of individuals against whom the wielder has just cause for deadly vengeance. While attuned, it gains the following properties:
- Once per day, it provides guidance to the wielder as per the augury spell (no material components required). It sometimes activates this power without the wielder’s intent.
- The weapon deals an additional 2d10 holy damage against those who have dealt damage to a Good-aligned target in the last round.
- The wielder gains resistance to holy damage.
- Expertise dice spent on maneuvers with this weapon against the named targets of vengeance are increased by one die step.
- Any attack made against one that the wielder regards as innocent causes the wielder to suffer the amount of damage that a successful attack would deal to that target, regardless of whether or not the attack hits the innocent. (This most often comes up in the case of protectors throwing themselves in the way of the bullet.)
- Upon completion of the oath of vengeance, the attunement ends. In most cases, the wielder can never reattune Fortunata’s Slayer.
In 1310 KR, Grisigon Tambrith, a human, and Drussea of Mar Kandol, a kagandi, created the first starlock musket and the first blackpowder, respectively. Grisigon’s creative process was a bit unusual; he had been laboring in vain to design and fashion the mechanism for nearly two years. One night, he was visited by a mysterious stranger, a woman who was almost completely shrouded by a gown and shawl of midnight blue. At first it seemed to him that she wore gauntlets, or gloves of silvery leather, but when her hand clasped his, he realized that it was her skin itself that was mirror-bright metal, but the palms of her hands were marred as if by many cuts.
He asked what she wished, and why she had come to his workshop at this late hour (though he was still at his labors). She replied, “I can reveal to you the answers that you seek.”
Suspicious, he asked, “You have learned the making of this weapon? Why would you share such a secret?”
She replied, “Is it a weapon? I care only for the steel itself, and its shaper. Your hammer cannot yet make what your thought shows you, but I can school your hands to shape the metal.”
Grisigon remained suspicious, but her confident manner eroded some of his reluctance. “What price would you have of me?”
But the answer has been forgotten. Grisigon accepted, and with her aid he shaped with his fingers what his hammer would not shape: the striker of the first starlock. Instead of leaving his thumbprint in the steel, the striker is marked with a rune of power, repeated in several places. Thus Grisigon’s first musket became one of his greatest creations, and ever after, neither he nor any other gunsmith found it unusually difficult to form the striker correctly. In the centuries since, Grisigon’s Thunder has become known simply as Grisigon.
Grisigon’s Thunder is a +2 starlock musket. It has the power to cast thunderwave in place of any attack. It possesses 10d6 of potential for thunderwave, though a single shot may not be fewer than 2d6 or more than 5d6. It also has the ability to dispel silence effects (standard action, always successful). It is incredibly difficult to damage or mar; if it can be destroyed, no one has yet found the means. The runes of the striker and the marks of Grisigon’s tools on the barrel glow with fiery light whenever the weapon is near a functioning forge.
Secret: If the wielder learns the nature of the price that Grisigon paid to the woman, the weapon gains additional power: it deals an additional +2d8 damage, up to once per round, against characters with the ability to cast divine spells.
The Court’s Justice
In Gallmonte, where the Code Duello is most praised and respected, the Grand Duke commissioned the creation of a brace of incomparable pistols, intended to put the greatest strength in the hand of the one whose cause was the most just. He believed that he was wasting his time in hearing endless complaints of neighbor against neighbor, and he feared that a coin-flip would often be more just than his decisions. He did not get exactly what he wanted, however. As he began his labors, the smith was suborned by a potentate of Hell, who believed that the Grand Duke was abdicating his divinely-ordained duty to his people, and deserved a carefully-orchestrated punishment. The potentate enchanted the pistols along a different course: the one with the clearest perceptions of reality deserved the victory, for that one would best serve the purposes of Hell in purging the world. The Grand Duke believed that the pistols were made correctly, of course, and now puts less effort into seeking out the just solution to conflicts than he ever did before. He convinces himself that the “decision” of the Duello Court is truly just, if the pistols have deemed it so. Far more such duels are lethal than ever before, though.
The Court’s Justice are a brace of perfectly identical +1 starlock pistols. They are truly magnificent: they weigh half as much as normal pistols of their size, and they are decorated with incredibly minute engravings depicting the grandeur of the Abbey of the Immortal Saint, the palace of the Grand Duke in the province of Eldion. No force in the world may cause them to rust or corrode in any way (they are immune to damage from acid). Any damage or mark applied to one of the pair instantly appears on its twin as well.
There is nothing stopping more weapons like The Court’s Justice from being created, and in fact the Grand Duke has encouraged the rulers of neighboring domains to do just that, so that their people can flourish under the sure justice of the Code Duello.
Attunement: These pistols may only be attuned in preparation for a formal duel. Attunement takes place in the time between drawing the pistol and firing it; this can potentially be less than one second. The process of attunement requires three Wisdom checks; insight-related skills apply. Good-aligned characters and characters who openly serve Hell have advantage on these checks. Neutral-aligned characters who do not serve Hell have no modification to their rolls, but evil characters who do not serve Hell are punished for their insolence and self-deception, and suffer disadvantage on these checks.
- Three failed checks: no attunement occurs. The pistol fires as a +1 starlock pistol.
- One successful check: lesser attunement occurs. The pistol fires as a +2 starlock pistol.
- Two successful checks: greater attunement occurs. The pistol fires as a +2 starlock pistol, and deals an additional 1d4 damage on a successful hit.
- Three successful checks: masterful attunement occurs. The pistol fires as a +3 starlock pistol, deals an additional 1d4 damage on a successful hit, and reduces incoming Wounds from the opponent’s shot in that duel by 5. (This references a part of the rules for Pistol Dueling, which I’ve assigned a… possibly very clunky… set of rules.) One or more natural 20s rolled in attunement, and three successful checks: In addition to the benefit of three successful checks, the wielder makes psychic contact with the potentate who enchanted the pistols. This is really very bad for anyone other than someone already engaged in a pact with Hell.
Rarity: Very Rare