Giving Personality to Intelligent Magic Items

Yesterday, I went through the basic considerations of creating an intelligent magic item. It’s a good summary, but it skimps a bit on personality. Today, I’m going to fill in the gaps.

Photo by ATunska of stock.xchng.  Is that not the biggest bronze (brass?) fly ever?

In giving a magic item personality, many people start with the form. Weapons as often as not end up violent, desiring combat; jewelry is often proud, insisting that people admire it; an automaton is likely to have either a near-human nuance of emotion or be singleminded in its devotion to its purpose. It’s easy to oversimplify this, though; Limyaael remarks on the irritating regularity of swords that mutter “Blood” at their owners, for instance. Might a weapon dislike the hazards of being used in combat (being parried, for instance, or acquiring chips)? Could a cloak wonder what it’s like to be muddy? Might a jewel’s attention wander to any source of light that hits it?

Purpose is also vital to personality, particularly in the case of magic weapons. Most intelligent magic weapons weren’t made to kill things in general, but to do away with specific things (sometimes species, sometimes individuals), in defense of a particular location, or occasionally just to be picky about their wielders for other reasons; it’s not too hard to adjust a personality to fit, and it’ll help to avoid “Blood”. Magic items made to carry on one of the crafter’s goals due to the crafter’s short lifespan will probably bear elements of the crafter’s personality.

One can also consider how an item was crafted. This can include materials, decorations, and patterns; it might also include the method or the crafter. One on which hours were spent on little details might be particularly detail-oriented or perfectionistic. Something of innately valuable materials could consider itself above normal things. A steel or stone item would probably have a more rigid mindset than a gold one. There’s a lot that can be done with this.

Of course, it’s not that hard to go the opposite direction from the above, with items that have personalities that seem to be in spite of their forms, functions, or workmanship. With situations like this, there’s often an explanation; perhaps it was meant to be something different, or the designer was crafting one thing and thinking another. Or maybe it was a magical accident, and the sentience was attached or triggered due to something else entirely.

And then there are the items whose intelligence comes from having somehow incorporated another sentient being’s spirit. These come in three basic varieties: individuals who arranged for their own prolonged existence within the items, often so as to oversee a project or a goal past their own allotted lifespans; individuals who were placed in the items unwillingly, usually through rituals and/or sacrifices; and individuals who due to some magical accident ended up incorporated into the objects. Typically, the first group are a lot more cheerful about their lot in life than the others, and the second group are likeliest to be angry, but that too can depend. Perhaps someone managed to get in on a far more interesting life as an object than he could’ve ordinarily. Or maybe someone else tried to become part of an artifact as a way to continue the goal, but has since been frustrated by how hard it is to get the task done through intermediaries—or by being put on a shelf and forgotten for a few years. There’s a lot that can be done here.

These are just the guidelines; magic items have room to be every bit as unique as living characters. What kinds of personalities could you see?

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