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Enchantments and Enchanted Items: Magic Items In Play


Alex Greene

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In my previous post, the creation of magic items was addressed. Various mechanisms were looked at, from the use of the sorcery skill Enchant (Object) through to the creation of religious artefacts and relics, and spirit fetishes.

This blog looks at the magic items themselves, and the impact they have in game.

Significance

No enchanted artefact should ever be insignificant. Every artefact carries with it the power to affect the outcome of an Adventurer's skill checks, if not the storyline of the scenario.

Even if the artefact carries some sort of minor "skill buff," such as automatically augmenting a mundane CHA-based skill check such as a musical instrument which offers an enhancement to Musicianship checks, it must never be discounted or glossed over, or traded up for a more powerful artefact in the next session. Every supernatural enhancement counts.

Investment

Enchanted items are never two-a-penny. Every artefact probably had a significant energy investment behind it, on the part of the creator. Enchanted items rarely, if ever, look like something rolled off a mass production line. They often bear marks, or artistic stylings, which identify their creators - makers' marks. This often makes enchanted artefacts unique, identifiable, and frequently irreplaceable.

Cultural Impact

Each enchanted artefact is the product of somebody's culture, shaped by that culture, fashioned from materials significant to that culture, and bearing the hallmarks of, and symbols of, that culture.

A Barbarian might fashion a pair of boots to allow them to travel for miles non-stop, augmenting their predilections for wandering through wildernesses. A Nomad from a riverine tribe could fashion a spirit fetish from an ocarina (see? I had to bring in ocarinas somewhere!) to whistle up fair weather or to appease hostile river spirits, Loreleis, Sirens and other predatory supernatural entities which, according to the Lore, would lurk around the more sluggish stretches of the river.

A Civilised sorcerer might enchant a cap and charge it with Enhance (POW) to boost their Magic Points supply, and another might create a mask which bestows the Change Gender Gift from page 202 of Mythras to whomsoever wears it.

Magic swords, axes and armour are not the only artefacts of significance to a culture. The real world historical Beaker Culture of Bronze Age Europe were characterised by the beakers with which they were buried, for instance. The Mold Gold Cape, another artefact dating back to the Bronze Age, is an artefact of huge cultural significance even to the modern day, due to the mystery of its manufacture - it is a mystery even to modern archaeologists, who still only have a general idea of how such a thing could be made, but can only guess at what tools they used.

The_Mold_cape.jpg

Artefacts include relics, the remains of saints, or objects which are reputed to have been in contact with someone supposedly blessed by a deity. Śarīra, for example, are pearl-like spheres which have been found among the ashes of Buddhist saints who attained Mahasamadhi (the ultimate Samadhi - death). Relics have cultural significance, since they are held to be tangible reminders that those who came before, whose lives and deaths shaped the contemporary religion, actually existed - they were real, not merely the products of storytellers' imaginations.

Expectation

The name of Sheffield Steel, or Clogau Gold, is a brand. There is an expectation of sublime quality to any item forged from such materials. In fantasy, a blade made from obsidian, or a cutting blade forged from meteoric iron, usually has some expected power of supreme sharpness and durability. Such blades are supposedly unbreakable, never dulling or losing their edge; or they may require the spilling of blood before they can be resheathed, once drawn.

Another, more modern example was the so-called "Welsh Blade" created during The Great War, when England wanted to terrify the Germans with their deadliest weaponised force ... er, Welsh people. To add to the propaganda, Welsh infantry units were issued with "Welsh Blades," on which the words "DROS URDDAS CYMRU" were etched or stamped. The propaganda painted the Welsh as some sort of mainland British Gurkha force, armed with savagely sharp "trench swords."

The main power of these items was expectation. When the hero brings out their prized enchanted item, there is an expectation that the hero will surely prevail; the magic of the artefact unleashed is expected to overwhelm anything the enemy can bring to bear against the hero and their people. This has a historical precedent going back to Roman Emperor Constantine, who conquered with a sign, the Labarum, also called a vexillum or Chi-Ro, which was emblazoned on a war banner as a symbol of Constantine's divine power. Even if, like the inscriptions on "Welsh Blades," that "divine power" was merely well-distributed propaganda spread in the enemy camps to prime the pumps.

The power of expectation can extend far beyond the reach of any powers an enchanted artefact may possess. A theist could possess some item, such as a Śarīra, reputed to have belonged to a Great Soul who spread peace during her life. The theist could prominently display this relic, signalling their desire for peace to the representatives of two warring nations brought to the table to sue for an end to the war.

A magic mailed gauntlet worn by a king in your setting, for instance, could be endowed with the power to heal plagues with a touch, or to cause wrongdoers to crumble into ashes. A theist could indeed embody a healing Miracle, or a sorcerer Enchant the glove with Transmogrify (to Ash) - but simple rumours, propaganda, and expectation can give an artefact a blessed, or cursed air, even if the Adventurers never get to see the artefact, or suffer its touch - though if an Adventurer does come into contact with the mailed gauntlet and survive, it could work to the advantage of the character: they were not turned to ashes, therefore they are not wrongdoers, and so on.

Enchantment

In the end, the nature of enchantment is as much the product of rumour, legend, and the Lore skill as it is the product of skill, craftspersonship and prowess with sorcery or other form of magic. A blade crafted by a mystic swordsmaster, whose Talent of Augment (Craft) allows them to fashion master-level blades, can be held with huge fear and respect, even if it is just mundane with a few ordinary Enhancements from the manufacturing process. A violin created by your setting's answer to Stradivarius, for example, can acquire a legend through association with stories of a devilish creature bargaining for the soul of some youngster in a contest of musical skill.

It all boils down to the concept of enchantments and artefacts being desiderata - objects which spark desire in those who see them. Mythras games are about the characters, and their achievements; but the existence of enchanted artefacts and relics, their legends and histories, can weave the characters into the items' stories and legends, allowing the characters to exploit those legends in an adventure, even if those items turn out to have no discernible magic powers whatsoever, but merely an association with something legendary within the setting.

Edited by Alex Greene

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