Saturday, February 1, 2014

Different Magic Swords, A Proposal

 In my last post I pointed out I felt a +1 bonus was boring. The “+X” magic weapon is iconic and a handy shorthand notation but is ancient and dull as dirt. A different method of defining magical swords might be interesting to try out with a campaign.

Get rid of the traditional +1 nomenclature. Dump it, get rid of it, say goodbye. Replace it with something else of course. But what?

Well it has to be something identifiable with the game as it is now (or has been), all new is just going to be disregarded and lack significance. One way to go in changing the notation is also changing the application at the same time; plus this, plus that leads to an ever creeping numbers bloat that some don’t care for. Let’s change magic swords to define how well one fights with a magic sword in hand not how it modifies their ability to attack.

So in this suggested method magic swords could be rated equivalent to how well one compares to an experienced fighter. A magic sword will not be +1 or +2 it will be a Hero’s sword, A Super Hero’s Sword and a Warlord’s Sword each allowing the wielder to attack respectively as a 4th level fighter, and 8th level fighter and a 12th level fighter. I used level titles for the 1st two grades of attack and made up one for the last . One could certainly be pickier with a more levels of swords tied to more levels but this serves for the example here. If able to use a magic sword one attacks as per the ability of the sword or their own capacity if greater (still being able to use special powers and strike foes only harmed by magical weapons).

Variable damage bonus. I’m keen on dumping the flat damage bonus to be something variable. There are three reasons for changing from static to variable: increase uncertainty and increase the capacity of magic sword wielding fighters (boosting fighter types vs spell casters not allowed to use swords), and lastly to have an easy and consistent method for tracking banes and boons related to a magic sword.

One could key the dice ranges for added damage to keywords or note the damage bonus in dice. I like the keyword method but it really needs to be a set keywords for each grade not just one per grade to keep the mystery up. Lacking a set of keywords simple dice notation would do the trick of course.

Banes are troublesome features of magical swords and boons are special attack results. A weak bane would rear it’s ugly head any time a bonus die comes up a 1, a stronger bane on a 1 or 2.  A weak boon would only come into play when a damage bonus die comes up a 6, a stronger on a 5 or 6, I suppose if one were wildly generous there could be some awesome magical swords that had a boon on a 4,5,or 6.
Boons could be vorpal strikes,fear bursts, hp  drinking, stoning attack, knockdown foe, shield breaking and such.
Banes could include self immolation, backbiting, hitting adjacent allies, frightening wails driving off allies and such.

Here’s a couple examples for consideration:

Xiphos of the Ancient Hero, +1d6, L: sunder shield on 5 or 6. Fight @F4

Sword of the Bear-king, +2d6, Paralyze foe with fear on 5 or 6, allies within 10’ must save vs fear or be shaken until end of next round on 1.Fight @F12

Dancing Blade of the Swordmaster, +2d6. Extra attack vs foe within 30’ on a 6. Fight @F8.


  1. I like the nomenclature, but I think I might use it as a requirement for who can wield the sword effectively. Thus, a hero's sword can only be wielded by one who fights as a hero (this would be a fourth level fighter or a higher level member of another class).

    I also like the idea of tying banes to low rolls of extra damage. Backbiting and self-immolation are maybe too penalizing though, but I like the wailing example (random encounter check triggering, presumably).

  2. The drawback to the Hero's sword idea is magic item obsolescence. I don't like the idea of a magic item with an expiration date (and I didn't like it in 4E either).
    Magic items should remain useful (even if players may find better eventually.)

    1. I can see that sorta but the sword is still striking as a magic weapon and pumping out extra dice of damage

  3. I think you're the one who started this recent trend of giving cool powers and stories to +1 swords. I wanted to thank you for getting the ball rolling, and to share my entry in the series:

    1. I think Gus at dungeon of signs posted a similar post the day before, but still glad you liked the idea. I like faeblight on your post.