I have been really pushing the mechanical aspects of the
game, so for today I’d like to address something that is more lore related.
Creating lore is probably the most rewarding aspect of Dungeon Mastering, with
the growing dependency upon modules, this aspect is being forgotten. In worlds
such as Forgotten Realms, people are so obsessed with canon lore that they
spend more time looking for somebody else’s work than just sitting down for a
moment and writing it on their own. The more WE know about the world, and how
it works the better, and players appreciate a unique spin (or even a stolen
one) on an old idea. The problem is that people are at a loss when they are
staring into the abyss of a blank page, how does a DM create something from
seemingly nothing? That answer is simple, we ask ourselves questions.
So the fighter has a magic sword. Typically this is as far
as the idea goes, unless the DM adds stuff to it, which he should! A Sword+3 is
kind of like calling the gal who works at the tavern “Serving Wench #4”, but I
am going to assume that you know all of this already. We can add an adventure
seed by asking one simple question, who owns this? Chances are, especially with
a powerful item, it ISN’T the PC.
I suppose this question leads us to define the weapon even
further, who constructed it? In my worlds, once in a while a very skilled
craftsman can create a +1 weapon; a king can gather the finest materials in the
land and have a weapon constructed that is capable of great things! There are
always exceptions to the rules, but for the most part, magical weapons are
relics of a lost civilization, or the fantastic creations of the great fantasy
races, the dwarves and elves. In this case, as they are longer living races,
perhaps they see ownership and lending differently than humans do?
Is it a far reach for a fighter to defeat a powerful enemy
and claim his sword as his own? We all know that the enemy was one dubious
fellow who deserved what he got, but where did he get the sword+4 from? Maybe
it was looted and stolen from the crypt of a great hero of men, and the sword
had been gifted to this hero by the elves, who allowed the sword to be buried
with him. Now, how do you think that they will react when they see the PC
carrying it around?
In the land of Dwarves, they have long memories and have
lost much of their culture, are they going to look kindly upon a man finding a
relic that had been lost and who refuses to return it to them?
Now I am guessing that this is going to create some drama at
the table, because PCs aren’t willing to drop torches and store bought junk
never the less a cool magic sword that they righteously feel that they had
earned. How they keep it is up to them and you, perhaps the dwarves will allow
it to stay with the character if they perform a brave act which furthers their
Elves are a secretive race, the player characters will no
doubt be arrested while a long drawn out discussion may eventually turn into a
trial, assuming that they are cooperative, which probably won’t happen. Maybe the
players will escape with the sword, maybe they won’t? Being forced into a
situation that they don’t want to be is fun! Do they engage in combat with the
elves, further convincing them that the party is evil, or do they find some
other means of resolving the situation nonviolently?
Do you hear the voices? Perhaps the sword itself can
communicate to the loremaster what had happened, that the PC had saved it from
committing vile deeds? The weapon need not be intelligent as defined in the
DMG, but it can still have a voice that speaks to those who know how to listen.
Maybe there is even a hidden power in it? The sky is the limit! And stories
like this make an item more than just a string of numbers on the Character
Perhaps the lore master charges the player to return the
sword to its dead owner who is terrorizing the countryside in the form of an
undead creature? Perhaps the loremaster is full of beans, and though he says
that it should be returned, using the sword to slay the previous owner is
enough to quiet the creature as it sees that the blade has betrayed it . . .
then again, maybe it will refuse to betray it.
All of this from one question, who REALLY owns the item? Once
you start with a seed, and ponder its implications the lore will flow from you,
and I guarantee you that your stories will be better than anything that Wizards
of the Coasts will ever publish.