Hero weapons

Image from Dark Classics

The weapons most receptive to enchantments are those wielded by great fighters. Unlike some weapons of power, hero weapons are often plain to the eye, deriving their power from the experiences and events surrounding their use. Hero weapons are most commonly swords, but may also be other types of weapon.

Advancing a hero weapon works like magical research. Attaining level 1 is as researching a first level spell, attaining level 2 is as researching a second level spell, etc. Sometimes expenses required involve reforging parts of the weapon and sometimes they are used entirely for the components required in the enchantment process. Upon gaining a level, the weapon gains a rank in an attribute (see list below).

Attributes may be rolled for or chosen. If chosen, they should have some connection to the character’s exploits. For example, if the sword was used to slay a medusa, petrifying might be appropriate. When advancing the weapon past first level, the same attribute may always be taken (this is encouraged, for thematic consistency). However, that said, effects may be mixed and matched, within reason (according to good taste and referee ruling). No more than one elemental effect may be chosen per weapon.

In most cases, a magic user with ability to cast spells of level greater than the sword must assist with the enchantment process (though occasionally simply defeating a powerful magical enemy may be enough to embue a weapon with power). The weapon level may not be higher than the fighter’s attack rank (or level / 2 if not using attack ranks). Max weapon level is 6, as with spells.

The powers of enchanted weapons only manifest to those with attack rank greater than or equal to the sword level. Sometimes, a weapon of power will even curse an unworthy character that dares to attempt to use it.

A bond develops between the sword and its wielder as its power increases. This doesn’t mean that no other character can use it (assuming the user has sufficient attack rank to be worthy of the weapon), but it does mean that the hero will always be able to find the sword if lost, though exactly what is required to do so varies based on the sword and situation. Perhaps the warrior will see a vision of a lost weapon in a dream.

No matter the attributes, hero weapons are considered magical for purposes of hitting monsters with immunities. The level of the weapon can be used in place of the plus value required to hit (so a level 2 weapon can hit monsters that might otherwise only be vulnerable to enchanted weapons of +2 or greater).

Ranged hero weapons impart their attributes to ammunition fired (when appropriate, or re-roll).


  1. Telekinetic. Weapon need not be held to be used, and may be used at reach (10′ per level of telekinetic attribute). Can also be used to trigger things at a distance, much like a 10′ pole. Weapon may be called to hand telekinetically at any distance (assuming there are no physical barriers). If thrown, the weapon returns automatically.
  2. Summoning. No matter where the weapon is, it can be caused to appear out of thin air. This process takes one turn and require concentration or some special process (decide on details).
  3. Protean. Weapon may change form as desired by master (only to other melee weapon types).
  4. Fire. Weapon will become wreathed in flame at the will of the wielder. +1 damage per level of fire attribute and all damage inflicted is considered fire-typed. Can be used to ignite flammable materials. Illuminates as a candle when ignited (magical fire is paler than torch-fire) — 5′ radius.
  5. Lightning. Weapon will crackle with electricity at the will of the wielder. +1 damage per level of lightning attribute, and all damage inflicted is considered to be electricity-typed. Serves as lightning rod (save to absorb damage from lightning attacks; this may be used a number of times per combat turn per level of lightning attribute).
  6. Frost. Manifests freezing aura at will. +1 damage per level of frost attribute, and all damage inflicted is considered cold-typed. Plunging weapon into water will freeze solid one approximately 10′ x 10′ area per level of frost attribute per turn of water to 1′ depth.
  7. Spell-thief. Weapon will steal prepared spells (up to spell level of spell-thief attribute, determine which spell randomly) from a spell-casting enemy on a successful hit. Stolen spells may be stored in the blade and cast by the wielder when desired. A number of spells equal to spell-thief attribute level may be stored. Magic-users that lose a prepared spell to a spell-thief weapon must save versus magic or go insane.
  8. Necromantic. Any living enemy of hit dice not greater than the necromantic attribute level slain by the weapon rises from death to serve the wielder. This process takes one turn. A number of creatures equal to the attribute level may be controlled (but note that further creatures slain will continue to rise, and will likely be hostile).
  9. Poisonous. A hit against a creature of hit dice not greater than the poisonous attribute level must save versus poison or die in agony. Creatures with hit dice greater than the attribute level must save versus poison or take an extra die of poison damage.
  10. Doom. Living creatures hit are cursed. Every following combat turn the curse does damage equal to the level of the doom attribute. The curse may be lifted with remove curse.
  11. Spirit-blade. Weapon exists simultaneously in another dimension and may attack the soul of enemies directly. The victim may save versus magic to resist the damage (no attack roll is required assuming that enemy is within melee range). Characters with less attack ranks that the overall weapon level cannot even grasp it physically (hands just pass through it). Soul damage is one die +1 point per level of the spirit-blade attribute.
  12. Energy. Weapon may attack at range using a ray of energy. No attack roll; enemy gets a save versus death ray to avoid (at penalty equal to level of energy attribute). On an odd damage die roll, the energy is temporarily exhausted (but will recharge after a turn while not in use). The ranged energy attack does not propagate effects from other attributes. The energy blast does one die of damage +1 point per level of energy attribute.
  13. Bane. Weapon does an extra die of damage per level of bane attribute against a certain kind of foe. Wielder can never be surprised by this type of enemy (decide how warning is manifested — perhaps a glow, or an audible whisper).
  14. Warding. An effect similar to protection form evil may be called forth. The warding is cancelled if the wielder attacks. The aura may be extended to effect a number of nearby companions equal to the level of the warding attribute.
  15. Alacrity. Wielder may always attack prior to initiative rolls (but can still be surprised). The weapon is so quick that it may be used to cut mundane missiles out of the air (save versus wands). The anti-missile ability may be used a number of times equal to the alacrity attribute level per combat turn in addition to the standard attack.
  16. Anti-magic. As a reaction, wielder may save versus spell once per combat turn to counter a spell (of level no higher than anti-magic attribute level).
  17. Paralytic. Those of hit dice not more than the paralytic attribute level hit must save versus paralysis or be paralyzed. If they make the save, they act last for the rest of the combat rather than following the initiative die. Just touching the blade to the skin of an enemy is enough to trigger the paralysis, and no save is allowed as long as contact is maintained. Enemies of higher hit dice must save or be slowed as described above.
  18. Petrifying. Creatures with hit dice less than or equal to the petrifying attribute level must save versus paralysis when struck by the weapon or be permanently turned to stone.
  19. Vampiric. Wielder gains one HP for every die of damage successfully dealt against living enemies of HD less than or equal to the level of the vampiric attribute. Wielder may be corrupted by long use.
  20. Terrifying. Living enemies with HD less than or equal to the terrifying attribute level must immediately make a morale check when presented with the bare weapon. Further, such enemies must save versus terror if struck or flee.
  21. Fortifying. Re-roll any HD that comes up less than or equal to the level of the fortifying trait (this probably only makes sense in my game where hit dice are re-rolled per session — maybe +1 HP per level of fortifying per hit die in other games).
  22. Whirlwind. Attacks may affect one opponent per level of whirlwind attribute as long as all opponents are adjacent to the wielder. This ability is not multiple attacks; only one attack and damage roll are required, they just potentially affect more than one enemy.
  23. Inspiring. In martial situations (e.g., recruiting retainers, intimidation, combat), +1 to reaction rolls, retainer morale checks, and charisma checks per level of inspiring attribute.
  24. Multiplicity. For each level of the multiplicity attribute, there is a copy of the magic weapon (but as one level lower). These lesser copies may be used by the fighter’s retainers or servants and are inert to all others (including other PCs, who have autonomy with regard to the fighter).
For example, a level 4 sword might be terrifying-2 and fire-2, meaning that it does +2 fire damage when ignited and also causes enemies of 2 HD or less to make morale checks immediately and save versus terror when struck. Such a sword functions as +4 for purposes of hitting monsters that can only be damaged by magic weapons.

10 thoughts on “Hero weapons

  1. Gus L

    I like these rules a lot. Quests and a research for fighters. Nice. Adopting in Pahvelorn or is this a hexagram thing? I also think some less clearly magical effects might be cool – like atmor piercing (+ to hit), Bliodthirsty (wounds for continius damage/beserking) and fortifying (max hp on 1st die while wielding?)

    Of course effects are easy to think of with an idea this good. I sort of see these things a family heirlooms for military dynasties.

    1. Brendan

      Definitely available to fighters in Pahvelorn.

      I very consciously avoided any bonuses to hit because of the flat AC structure that I use. Bloodthirsty I like (the doom attribute is sort of like that). Fortifying — excellent!

      Fortifying – Re-roll any HD that comes up less than or equal to the level of the fortifying trait.

      (I really like that one.) Maybe we can get this up to a d30 table.

      The trick though is that the best designed attributes should have an incentive to take more than once (though a few of the ones in the original list really don’t make sense to take more than once, like summoning).

      I’m sure that a few of the ones above also probably need a bit of adjustment, as none of them have been play-tested.

    2. Gus L

      Totally understand on the to hit bonuses – my thoughts on it were actually a result of the LOTFP game we played a while back – A good fighter of decent level will hit all the time anyhow. It’s just that his damage remains static without magical bonuses. The trade off with a to hit bonus is 1. Non-magic damage (sorry it still misses the ghost) 2. lower damage per round. Of course I can see it the other way as well. So +1 hit is great at level one – three, but for your legacy sword it’s meh once you hit a few more attack ranks.

      If I think of anymore I’ll let you know – maybe “inspiring” or “ornate” which gives one a chr bonus or morale bonus to hence cause the weapon makes them feel like you’re important.

    3. Brendan


      Inspiring. In martial situations (e.g., recruiting retainers, intimidation, combat), +1 to reaction rolls, retainer morale checks, and charisma checks per level of inspiring attribute.

  2. knobgobbler

    Reminds me a bit of how magical weapons work in Earthdawn… though I feel that that game’s process gets a bit more mechanically convoluted than it needs to be.
    I agree that I’d like to see some less overtly magical qualities.
    Earthdawn’s version of this sort of thing also covers tools of all sorts… one guy in our group has a chisel from a legendary sculptor.

    1. Brendan


      I could see more non-magical attributes working, as long as the spell research expense still makes sense (something like reforging by a dwarven smith for harness, for example). Structurally, the empowering of the weapon needs to consume GP, which is why the magic-user assistance makes so much sense.

      On another topic, I always admired the art in Earthdawn advertisements, but never actually read the game.

  3. Brendan

    Another possibility, which could be potentially mundane or magical in origin:

    Whirlwind. Attacks may affect one opponent per level of whirlwind attribute as long as all opponents are adjacent to the wielder. This ability is not multiple attacks; only one attack and damage roll are required, they just potentially affect more than one enemy.

  4. Tom Roy

    This is great. It seems a fun and specific way to amplify a fighter. My only concern, easily resolved would be the perpensity for weapons to get: Damaged/Broken/Lost. With exegesis, or MU research there’s not threat of that. So I wonder would you have to start from scratch if such an event occured, or pay to place (already learned) enchantment on a new weapon?

    1. Brendan

      I would imagine that magic weapons are immune to damage and breakage as long as they are not dropped into Mt. Doom or something like that.

      Being stolen is potentially a problem, but magic-users can have their spell books stolen too (and that is probably a bigger hit, actually). I also built in the weapon bond thing in paragraph 6, so I think that should probably cover things.

  5. Anathemata

    Brendan, this is the kind of magic weapon approach I’ve wanted for a while. No +1s, just a lot of unique abilities of varying levels and utilities. This is a great list, especially when combined with your damage-by-HD approach (which I like more and more as I use it). Thanks!


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