Guide to Intelligent Weapons

There is an anomaly in the game which have to do with fighters. They start out more powerful and useful at lower levels, but gradually lose their meaning as they get tougher. Sure they are almost always guaranteed to hit, but compared to the powers of the other classes, this just doesn’t hold up well. The rules have been modified to aid this, by the introduction of specialization to the core rules, but this still isn’t enough. A little known rule that is barely mentioned and easily over-looked has fixed this problem. This core rule states that: 25% of all enchanted blades (namely swords) are intelligent.

This is a big deal, but it isn’t the game breaker that you think that it is. A higher level warrior honestly doesn’t really need any bonuses to hit, the odds of him missing, even with a standard weapon, are slim at best. What an intelligent weapon does is give him an additional ability which he wouldn’t normally have, but it is of limited use. Some intelligent weapons are capable of casting as spell, but even then they regulate themselves by limiting the ability. This gives the fighter more options then just hitting every thing.

The deal is, that the DM, when he rolls up, or decides to place an enchanted weapon, makes an additional roll. Like I said above, any plus sword has a 25% chance of being intelligent, and we also roll for any other edged weapons like axes, daggers, polearms, etc. but they only have a 5% chance of being intelligent.

But this really isn’t what I want to talk about, the specifics of generating intelligent weapons is properly detailed in the DMG, what isn’t in there is how to run these items.


The intelligent weapon, when first found, doesn’t look any different then any other sword unless it was hidden away by the former owner, then it will be found in a decorative box or other case which is probably locked. We do have to figure out where this thing come from, and how the player got their hands on it. Most weapons of this nature are found at the site of their owners death. Maybe a monster tried to loot it but it gave them bad luck? Maybe it goes crazy and just starts attacking everything, but more often then not, it is more or less sleeping at the time that it is first discovered.

Many swords have runes or names etched into their blades, or hidden in their decorative handles, a wizard is required to Read Magic in order to get the name. Once the owner knows this name, he can summon the magic of the blade and bring it back to life.

Once an intelligent sword has been activated, it puts off a dim light at all times. Everyone who sees this sword while it is drawn will be aware that this is a magical item. Of course each activation should be unique and different, but the end result will always be the same. The blade itself glows with some colored light.

Prior to activation, its history should be told in the form of its appearance. Maybe the monster who killed its owner didn’t take the blade, but did strip it of all of its gems and jewels, leaving ugly and twisted mountings all over the hilt? Perhaps a thick crust of rust coats the thing, requiring it to be cleaned before the name can be identified? Maybe the sword is broken and half of it can be found in one part of the dungeon, and the other half elsewhere? The sky is the limit, but we should keep things different and unique for each sword.


Not all intelligent weapons can talk, some just pulse, make the owners arm tingle, or cast a bit more light when its special power can be used, or to signal something which it is capable of sensing, but when a sword can talk, either actually or just in the fighters head, it has more personality. Swords always have two kinds of personalities, they have the standard personality which dictates what its goals are, and a secondary personality which is unique to it.


These really aren’t personalities, but goals that are common to all magical weapons. This is their true aim, and what they see as needs.

  • Eliminate all associates, henchmen, hirelings, or creatures which the sword finds to be distasteful.
  • Purge the owner of all other magical weapons.
  • Compliance from the owner so that the weapon can once again focus upon its own aims.
  • Hunting and exterminating the swords racial enemies
  • Decoration of itself and property with jewels, gems, and precious metals.
  • A decorative case to keep it safe in, which is protected by magic for its safe-keeping
  • Handsome payment for services that it provides.
  • To be carried by the owner at all times.
  • That the character relinquishes the weapon in favor of a more suitable person due to alignment differences or conduct.


The weapon has all of the goals above, but the DM should also randomly determine a personality for the weapon in the same way that he would for any other NPC. We’ll mix this with their alignment, which is a hard alignment. Swords are more in tune to such things then biological creatures are. They can sense a beings true alignment, and while they aren’t always verbal about it they are aware and seek to either kill or eliminate the person unless they feel that they have a use for it.


A sword which possesses a larger ego then the wielder dominates that person. Now naturally we don’t want to railroad a player, therefore we must really judge what the swords demands upon the user are. We’ll keep our interactions short and sweet, and only force the domination issue in specific circumstances, but the dominated fighter should be aware that he is dominated and should role-play this fact. Good players won’t be a problem, however those that refuse to properly role-play or don’t know how to will require some drastic measures. The more a player role-plays, the freer he is to dictate his own actions, but this list should help give the DM an idea of the types of actions which the sword is capable of forcing its user to perform:

  1. Compel the user into combat
  2. Refuse to strike an opponent which it doesn’t see as an enemy
  3. Assault the user or members of his party
  4. Compel the user to surrender to an enemy
  5. Cause itself to tumble from the users grasp

We’ll only do this kind of stuff if the player refuses to role-play, hopefully there is some sort of harmony between the two, however sometimes a sword will engineer its way into another persons hand for its own reasons, perhaps it wants to dominate a lesser fighter, or maybe it sees that another person is stronger which will allow it better chances of improving its odds of success.


While we don’t want the magical weapon to become the focus of our games, we don’t want it’s personality to go ignored either. Even if the sword is properly dominated by the warrior, it will still express its goals, and in essence, become a henchmen however the sword won’t deplete the total of henchmen a player can have.

When a sword does dominate the user, we can use this as a tool to introduce tention into the game, or force the player into some really uncomfortable circumstances, but we should limit ourselves to once or twice per gaming session.

We also don’t want to be the cause for the players death. If a player dies at his own hands and his own risk taking, then that is one thing, but to force him into a situation where he can’t survive is abusive and should be avoided at all costs. We can annoy the player, and pester him, but we shouldn’t allow the sword to actually kill him (unless the user is of an incompatible alignment), after all, the sword respects the user or even if it doesn’t, it sees him as a necessary tool to further its aims.

It is fine for the sword to get the party into adventures from time to time, but like all things, we’ll use this method sparingly.


Some weapons, such as Holy Avengers have alignment restrictions. It would make no sense to have them be anything except for their proper alignment. We must also make sure that our personalities don’t conflict with the alignment, random generation isn’t perfect and if something just doesn’t make sense and you don’t know how to spin it, then just reroll the thing.


There are no hard rules about WHEN to grant a warrior an intelligent sword, but since much of this is random, we may have to engineer it at some time, which is fine. This sword is meant to supplement a fighters powers and keep him relevant. The only thing that we should really engineer, however, is the swords alignment. We’ll keep the powers and chances of finding the sword up to the dice, but not much is lost if we simply decide that the sword is of the players alignment. With to much left up to random generation, the odds of actually stumbling upon the sword by chance alone are not in your favor.


Even a +1 intelligent weapon should have a back story. Naturally we don’t need one for everything in a treasure horde, but this is definitely an item which requires it. We need to figure out the answers to the following questions.

  • Who created the sword? Is the sword aware of this?
  • Why was the sword created?
  • What was its greatest triumph?
  • What was its greatest tragedy?
  • Who owned the weapon last?
  • What did they do with it, or treat it?
  • How did it get where the players find it?
  • What languages does it know and where and why did it choose to learn them?
  • Is the weapon afraid of something? What & Why?
  • Does it have a specific enemy? Who, and Why?

Of course this list is incomplete, but it is a good base. We don’t need to write all of this stuff down, but it is good to have it in the back of our mind when writing up our background story.


Burier, Long Sword +3; AL LG; INT 15; EGO 21

Powers: (minor) Detect Invisible objects, elevators, shifting rooms, & walls 10-foot radius, Detect precious metals (kind and amount) in 20-foot radius. (major) Heal 1d8 hp Once per day

Personality: Burier is highly opinionated, and always giving input about things that really doesn’t concern it whether it is wanted or not. It is also miserable, tired of an ancient hunt, and above all, tortured. It is lawful good, but its long confinement has left a black stain upon its soul, it isn’t as sure of itself as it once was but sees this as a weakness which it will never expose.

Languages known: Read/Speak Common, Ancient Religious Lawful Good, Chaotic Evil Magical Language, & Lawful Evil Demonic

HISTORY: Burier was created by a Lawful Good Priest whose name has been lost to history for the express purpose of hunting and destroying undead. The Priest issued this sword to the brave paladin Sir Guisius 400 years ago, and Burier served the brave knight well. Armed with Burier, Sir Guisius slew the arch-lich King Amozaz, permanently ending the undead Kings rain, but unwittingly setting up a Vampire by the name of Romlin to secretly attain the power which was lost by the death of Amozaz. It was Romlin and his minions which set a trap for the Paladin, allied with an unknown demon the two murdered the Paladin, and to mock the accomplishments done by the brave knight, it is believed that Sir Guisius now roams the earth, a shadow of himself, his body under the command of an undead which forces him to perform acts of Chaotic Evil while he can do nothing but watch in horror.

As for Burier itself, the Demon which captured it, has contained its power in a sheath constructed of human skin. Burier has forgotten what it is, its name obscured by thick leather straps covered in demonic runes which effectively reprogram it to act as a cursed sword (long sword –1). It no longer speaks, it simply has given up until the spell upon it can be broken.

100 years ago, the Demon was destroyed and its treasures scattered. The killer of the demon, unaware of the swords true power was slain in battle because of the curse laid upon it, the unknown warrior’s party returned the blade to its sheath and discarded it, believing it to just be a cursed item. For the last 3 centuries, the church has been never given up hope of locating Burier, believing that it alone can permanently put the monstrosity which was once Sir Guisius to rest.

APPEARANCE The sword will be found as described above, however once activated, and it’s personality restored, the blade will glow with an intense white radiance. The blade and hilt is almost silver in color, but is cast from a strange formula which could never be reproduced, that grants it with properties similar to steel, but of a lighter weight. The handle and hilt are made of golden steel which has been tainted from the exposure to the demonic magic that has contained it for so long, this will slowly become brighter and shinier with each slaying of undead but never truly achieve its former luster until the sword’s friend Sir Guisius has been slain.


The cursed leather must be removed from the handle, and the cursed scabbard replaced as well. This action will remove the curse and transform the blade to function as a standard non-magical long sword. A cleric must cast remove curse upon the sword, and its name, which can be identified by a unique holy symbol on the hilt (either sage with expertise in ancient religion or a high level cleric, or a wizard casting Identify upon the object. Once the name is known, the sword will activate as soon as it slays any undead, at that point its memory will be somewhat restored, as well as it’s prime quest which is slaying Sir Guisius.

Star-Slicer, Scimitar +1 AL: LN INT 12; EGO 2

POWERS: (minor) Detect Magic 10-foot radius. (major) Dispel Magic 3x per day, requires 1 turn of concentration.

Personality: Star-Slicer is semi-empathic, when magic is in the area it causes the owners arm to feel like it is vibrating, depending on the strength of the source the vibration can be just a simple tingling in the owners hand, all the way up to feeling the vibrations pulse all the way up the owners arm.

HISTORY: Star-Slicer was created by a grey elf who shares his name. This sword was made for the express purpose of requiring elven artifacts and bestowed upon the elven thief known as, Dark Larion. Since many of the artifacts which Larion was charged with recovering were protected by magic, Star-Slicer was created to allow the thief to by-pass them. Much success was attained and many of the clans most precious relics had been recovered until 40 years ago when the elven thief was slain. It is unknown where his body now lies, a party was sent to the location where he was last sent to, however he, nor the artifact which he was charged with recovering were never found again.

APPEARANCE: Star-Slicer is currently sheathed and still attached to the belt of Dark Larion, long since dead but whose soul has returned in the form of an evil Ghast. Dark Larion still commands the sword to do his bidding, however he has given up the hunt for artifacts and instead plots his revenge upon his clan who failed to recover his corpse. Star-Slicer as a sword has a hilt wrapped in purple cloth, it is decorated with small round marbles carved from blue gemstones of high value, and possesses a hilt that was carved of some very hard and cured wood. The blade itself is perfectly balanced and glows a dull blue when it is drawn.

ACTIVATION OF THE BLADE: This blade is already activated by the ghast of Dark Larion, though he is utterly lost and trapped in an unknown place he must be defeated. The blade will aid anyone of any lawful or neutral alignment, and seek to slay or harm any user who is chaotic in any way. It also dislikes wizards, and will seek to slay them as well. In regards to Dark Larion, he is utterly insane and the sword seeks to slay him as he is now Chaotic Evil, however the sword has no idea that Dark Larion is undead, its attempts to harm the ghast only serve to heal it instead, thus Larion will actually restore 2hp per round while it has the sword drawn.

DOOMPICKER, Bastard Sword +5; AL CE; INT 17; EGO 25

POWERS (minor) Detect Good, Large Traps, & Magic 10-foot radius. (Major) Flying, 120 feet per turn for 1 hour per day.

SPECIAL PURPOSE: Slay Good Aligned Creatures, to aid it in its war against good, good creatures struck by the blade, if they survive, must make a saving throw vs. spell or succumb to the effects of fear, as the spell for 1d4 rounds.

PERSONALITY: The personality of Doompicker can best be described as careless. While its power is beyond compare, it is reckless with resources, cares about nothing besides it’s own goals, and is prone to underestimate its enemies, unfortunately, its inflated sense of power is all too real and few, if any, truly pose any real threat to its designs. While the sword is aggressively careless, it is also level-headed and is capable of brilliant strategy and risk taking, the greatest failure however, comes from its uncaring ability to play until all of its pieces are gone. It doesn’t care! It thinks on a level which is unique to it, one which it knows that it has time on its side. It doesn’t like to wait, but when its last servant is finally slaughtered, it has no problem waiting for some other fool to pick it up centuries later so that it can try again.

HISTORY: Long ago, a great hero had a blade constructed, a great blade which he had hoped that one day would become the symbol of the new Kingdom, however this was just not to be, for his son betrayed him for reasons known only to himself. The power of the blade became corrupt, the blood shed upon the blade seemed to waken something up from deep inside of it. From that moment forth, it sought more and more blood, seeming to feed on the lives and souls of goodness. It became a simple tool of murder until it somehow developed a cult of human worshipers, and instead of a symbol for a kingdom of good, it became a symbol for a great and all encompassing evil.

Doompicker took a blood-thirsty fighter by the name of Horcus and transformed him into a Demi-god. Horcus ruled with terror and might for hundreds of years before being slain at the hands of adventurers, freeing the people of Horcus’s, and the swords dark powers. This sword remained lost, until an angry band of orcs, chased from their former home and bent on revenge, broke the seal which protected the world from its evil influence. Now the sword is again found, the orc quickly and gloriously slew the former King which had failed him, and has since gathered a large army who are pinning to retake what was theirs, but more!

This orc stood no chance compared to Doompicker, the sword quickly and totally dominated him. This orc now claims to be Doompicker, its aims and its goals are no longer its own, but the aims and goals of Doompicker. What its plans for the orcs are is anybodies guess, but rest assured that no good can be had from this terrible union. Already the orcs have forsaken their gods to worship Doompicker, collecting sacrifices for it to feast upon. Terror is rising in the mountains, and soon this horror shall be unleashed upon man-kind.

APPEARANCE Doompicker’s metal is stained black, and filthy. It reflects no light, its blood channels encrusted, the blade casts an anti-light, a mystical black, pulsing glow which seems to swallow and pervert all of the light around out, forcing bizarre and twisted shadows over everything around it. This blade prefers to talk from the orc who holds it, and it is highly intelligent. It’s control over the orc is total, but he is a willing participant to the power of Doompicker. Already the magical blade has found ways to pamper itself, it is cared for by 2 Chaotic Evil Clerics of extremely high level, these men serve the Orc who calls himself Doompicker, but the sword itself finds them unworthy as both of them could dominate the sword and this cannot be allowed. When engaged in combat, witnesses have reported hearing a maniacal laugh which chilled them to the bone, they have reported that no one, not even the Orc Doompicker was laughing at the time, in fact, they say that the orc had a look of utter terror on his face but considering the state of mind which these witnesses were discovered in, nobody can be positive of the value of their statements.

ACTIVATION: Only Chaotic Evil beings can activate this sword without consequences. Any other alignment will instantly suffer 25 hp of damage per minute/round that they try to use the sword. If, somehow the spirit of Doompicker can again be put to sleep, and the sword is reactivated by a player character, the sword will seek to slay them and may remain quiet until a more suitable owner can be found, at this time the owner is in grave danger. Doompicker sees owners more as a host, then anything else. If it is forced to deal with another alignment, it prefers Chaotic Neutral, it can manipulate them to discover a more suitable host and then do away with them. This blade is not to be trusted, and it is rumored that perhaps a band of Elves once formed an alliance to deal with this being, however that was so long ago that the information regarding it has long since been forgotten.


Brooser Bear said...


Good job on the intelligent swords, a better and ore detailed treatment than the other writing i've seen on the subject, treasure section in the Moldvay blue expert D&D rulebook.

With reghards to the D&D Warriors, I think that they have enough to balance them out against the other types of characters if you consider the options from Players Option Combat and tactics: They got additional proficienes noty available to other classes in two areas: Tactis, Survival and Leadership ability in mass combat and on batlefield. Also they have physical skills such as night fighting, distance running, use of armor, off hand fighting, etc, which develop the warrior into a better fighter, esp when combined with Weapon Specialization and master. The Other Intangible is the fact that in most medieval settings, the simple Warrior is the natural pool from which the knights and noblermen are chosen. In other words, a Thief can take over a guild, a cleric over his church, rangers are out there on the outskirts of society, but only a Fighter can get a land grant of a fiefdom, becoem a nobleman, and ultimately a King. Only a Fighter can be trusted to train the peasants to defeat the Monsters and fight off the invaders, to actually go out and fght, and they will get the respect from the Powerful of the World that other classes just would not get.

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