Saturday, 3 September 2011

Magic Items Belong to Somebody

I was continuing with my plotting out of a grand Yoon-Suin hexmap this morning; slow going, but enjoyable. As I was randomly generating a treasure hoard the thought occurred to me: somebody would miss this Banded Mail +4 if they lost it. A magical banded mail, particularly one so powerfully enchanted, would not be something that you would leave lying around. It would likely be an important family heirloom, once owned by the family of a king or noble, passed down from generation to generation. Once discovered by an adventurer, there would be a reasonable chance that somebody who was in the know would recognise it and word would get back to the original owner, or their descendants, presuming they are still around. These original owners might offer to buy it back. They might decide to seek bloody vengeance on the "thief" who now owned it.

This is a thought that has never occurred to me in all my history playing D&D, but I like it. So, a rule:

"That's the old duke's banded mail!" rule
Whenever a magical weapon or armour is discovered, there is a 10% chance per bonus that it is a "known" item and the original owners, or (more likely) their descendants, are still in existence. The DM should pick a suitable candidate in the region for ownership. Whenever the PCs visit any settlement within 50 miles of the location of this original owner(s), there is a 1 in 3 chance per day that somebody in that settlement will recognise the magic item and report it to the owner, unless it is kept covered. 
On discovery, the DM should roll a d6 to determine the owner's reaction:
1 - Jealousy. The owner will attempt to regain the item however he can.
2 - Anger. The owner will attempt to regain the item and, preferably, punish the PC.
3-4 - Vengeance. The owner will attempt to kill the PC and, preferably, regain the item.
5 - Appeal to authority. The owner will attempt to bring the PC to justice in front of the local ruler as a "thief".
6 - Plea. The owner will attempt to contact the PC to buy the item.


  1. Good observation. I like the rule, as well.

  2. One of my main complaints with AD&D was the generic nature of many magic items, especially armour and weapons, which rendered them, ironically, somewhat mundane. I like the idea you put forward here, which would have the two-stage effect of making items more individual and interesting, alongside forcing the players to consider carefully just where they sport that new armour, sword, shield etc. It's certainly an idea I'll use with when next I run some AD&D or similar style of game.

  3. I have done this often. Usually something like that was grave goods or looted from the body of the late Duke, or some kind of temple offering.

    Really magical stuff is valuable enough in my game world that much of the adventuring is at the behest of the church which is looking for saint's 'relics' and if necessary a background and link to the saint in question is invented by the church.

    If the item is exceptional somebody in the church will use it as a bargaining chip or favor, otherwise it is often sold.

  4. I'm with Rainforest Giant (awesome handle by the way), although often I used a slightly different scenario.

    Powerful and/or unusual magic items are (In My D&D) either the result of them being pasted down over the ages or they were custom made in the first place (or both).

    When someone walks around with a Bag of Holding they found, no one really notices or cares.

    When you walk around with 'Rothskovo's Talon', the echanted sickle shaped, short sword once owned by the family of the Lord of Borogovia, someone is going to notice.

    Maybe it's a Borogovian Merchant, maybe it's a Knight or Priest of Borogovian. Maybe it's the younger brother of the Borogovian hero when went to slay the monsters whose hoard you found the item in.

    "Good and noble sir. Thank you for retrieving this item I'll take in back now please."

    The young man may give you a reward for finding it or he may snap his fingers and have his 10 bodyguard/retainers come over and beat the crap out of you and take it. Pretty much depends on you...

  5. I like this, but think that one of the reactions should be to allow the PC to keep the item. Not every NPC would want to have the magic weapon/item back.

    "you are the rightful owner of this sword now, just go and do as my sainted father would have" etc.

  6. I really like this idea and I'm going to use it from now on.

  7. Nicely done. I entire agree. Though sometimes, the former owners (especially in a S&S styled game) will be so long dead that they will not have any living descendants.