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1d8 Sentient Magical Swords
I like sentient magical swords. This hearkens back to the earliest years of D&D, where it was expected as a given. The fathers of our hobby were influenced by many works, like Moorcock’s Elric, Anglachel in Tolkien, and some versions of the mythical sword Excalibur, to name but a few. The players of the early editions expected this quality to emerge when they finally scooped a magical sword from the hoard of a dragon – no mean feat in early D&D.
I cut my teeth on a hand-me-down collection of books comprised mostly of AD&D 1e and AD&D 2e books, with about half a BECMI core set scattered in there. I had no idea exactly what I was doing, precisely, and I wasn’t clever enough to know what was and was not exactly compatible between the bunch, but it didn’t matter one lick – I was hooked on imagining all the ideas presented in these books. One of these ideas was magical swords full of personality, embodied especially in the tables that generated randomized variants. Intelligent magic weapons have been a mainstay for me ever since I got that introduction. They often appear in my games. Not every magical weapon is sentient. Not every sentient weapon has much of a personality. But some of them are, and some of them do, and they’re always fun additions.
About a year ago I filled a tiny pocket-sized notebook with short roll tables in quiet moments here and there during my shifts at work. Over weeks and months, I filled it up. None of them are incredible, or terribly new ideas, but hopefully they can at least give something to some of you. The first of these is below:
1d8 Intelligent Magical Swords
Lain, the Kingsword
Unfortunately, I cannot figure out how to make Blogger act like a 21st century software and center that table. In fact, I had to generate html by hand for it to even exist in the first place, because somehow Blogger lacks this power itself. Fortunately, however, to make up for this, I doodled a bunch of swords and have expanded their tiny notebook write-ups here to go along with them!
1 +1 – Etrius – 12INT – LG
Etrius was a paladin in ages long past. He was so zealous a champion that he chose to have his soul enshrined within an artifact longsword so that he could live on vanquishing his foes. His soul was sealed within the blade and the tale of his sacrifice was affixed to the pommel. Time has not quenched his zeal. He still loathes the forces of darkness and will communicate his desire to seek dangerous enemies of the righteous and eradicate them. Etrius speaks with conviction and urgency, and sounds like an echo trapped in a tunnel. On a critical hit against the undead, demons, or devils, this blade erupts into a flaming brand and does an additional 1d6 damage on the strike, after rolling the critical damage as normal otherwise.
2 +1 – The Berserker – 6INT – CN
A warrior once returned home from a pillaging sojourn abroad to find his village scoured of life, with all signs leading back to a cavern opened in a nearby quarry. In the depths he met the duergar dancing amongst the bones of his kinfolk, and he slaughtered scores in his rage – but eventually he was subdued. As their twisted punishment, the duergar cursed the barbarian, that his soul (and femur) became central to the construction of a black steel greatsword fueled by overwhelming rage. The Berserker cannot speak, but he can communicate visceral, empathic urges – desire to flee, desire to fight. Overcoming these urges is difficult. Versus duergar, svirfneblin, and drow, this greatsword rolls its damage as 3d4 instead of 2d6.
3 +1 – August Calling – 14INT – NG
This saber of silvered steel was created by a council of wizened sages to defend against rampaging warmages, emboldened by a sorcerous pact with a fey witch queen, in a siege long forgotten. The blade of a mage hunter, this weapon is very wise, quite smart, and extremely impatient when being employed for “lesser” tasks. Jewels dot its golden hilt, and fine patterns are engraved with a delicate touch on its hilt and guard. August Calling can cast Detect Magic once per day as if he were a caster of equal level to his possessor.
4 +1 – Hiss – 10INT – CN
This shortsword of blue steel is decorated with a rose and snake motif and features a deep fuller that goes fully two-thirds of the length of the serrated blade. The blade was forged for an assassin, and though no one knows how it left her possession in the first place, everyone who speaks of it in hushed rumors is certain it has slain many important people. It speaks in sibilant, hungry hisses, urging the bearer to feed it; it is never satisfied and will constantly cajole its user to slay in cold blood if combat is not forthcoming. Critical hits with this sword cause the wound to immediately fester with black marks, for an additional 2d4 of poison damage.
5 +2 – Lain, the Kingsword – 12INT – LG
Created by the royal swordsmith of the lost kingdom of Ysent, the orichalcum longsword known as Lain was the symbol of office for the king. It passed from ruler to ruler until the kingdom fell to the sands of time – but this haughty, self-important sword will be first to ask those who listen: how can a kingdom truly be extinct when there remains a witness, a being that considers itself a citizen? The Kingsword is decorated with laurels and an ornate pommel. This sword considers it to be a rather embarrassing imposition to be used by anyone other than the rightful heir of Ysent, or at the very least, some kind of noble, and will often opine as much. Lain can detect nobility and royal blood if held by the subject of questioning.
6 +2 – Leaf-Falls-In-Silence – 10INT – NG
A people who lend themselves well to art, the elves forge slender sabers of extremely fine steel and give them names which feature a poetry lost in translation. This weapon speaks only elven, and sparingly at that. It is a stoic ranger’s companion, designed for use by woodland scouts at the frontiers of elven lands. It is ornately decorated with engravings of leaves, flowers, and vines. A bronze wire vine descends from hammered bronze flowers, and wraps the length of the grip. When it speaks, it sounds like a distant voice beneath the rustling of leaves. When in possession of this blade, bearers can see twice as far as normal with perfect clarity, and trees and other sylvan spirits are more amenable to conversation.
7 +2 – Marwicke – 18INT – CG
Three centuries ago, the brilliant but absent-minded wizard Marwicke accidentally trapped himself inside a magnificently-appointed, bejeweled longsword. He doesn’t seem to mind, much, or really notice at all – he’s really quite insane, these days. Picture Professor Farnsworth in a sword, and you’ve met Marwicke. He means well, even if he thinks he’s hosting dinner guests in the pommel sometimes, and suggests fire as a solution to half of all problems, no matter how inappropriate. Can be used as a source of illumination on command, as if the Light spell had been cast on its blade. Once per day, this sword can cast the Magic Missile spell, and if it does so, Marwicke will often taunt his foes in battle with some utterly nonsensical trash talk (which, of course, inexplicably still manages to enrage goblins).
8 +3 – Lordmaker – 16INT – N
It doesn’t look like much: bronze in an age of steel and sorcery, with corrosion and dings and chips throughout the length of the blade. However, Lordmaker is somehow razor-sharp, as if in defiance of expectation. Spoken of by many names in legend and myth in many kingdoms, this shortsword dates back to an ancient empire in ages long forgotten, when it was wielded by ten generals, one after another. Each general set the empire’s borders broader in every direction by conquest, and each attested their success was ordained by the gods. In the lands these generals once conquered, stories remain common to bards and skalds, speaking of a line of warlords commanding their forces with a lion-headed sword of dark, golden metal. Lordmaker speaks only on matters of utmost importance, and only to a warrior destined for conquest. When it does speak, it speaks with the even tone of a scholar, and uses the pragmatic words of a veteran soldier. Lordmaker strikes a critical hit on any roll of 18-20 and has a 2-in-6 chance to remove a limb if it does so.