KJ Davies’ RPG Blog Carnival about Fantastic Creations got me thinking about my own systems for magic item design. I’ve been a go-to designer for my group for a while; if someone wanted quirky, one-of-a-kind and still decently effective, they had but to go to me, and I’d set them up with something that looked spiffy, did a combination of things nothing before it had done, and had its own unique history to fit with the looks and the effects. It was a pretty good trade overall.
Old-timers might remember Anathema, one of my better pieces. It’s not that swords that kill things that can’t usually be killed are particularly rare in fantasy, mind you. Heroes of Destiny find them with almost obnoxious regularity. Anathema, though, had the advantage of being occupied by a very argumentative double-entity in the form of its least god, a rather distinctive design (relatively unornamented, but of an alloy of materials that shouldn’t have been possible without a god’s hand in the mix), and the fact that its creation was a case of direct divine intervention.
Then there was Lisbet, primary weapon for one of my PCs. The item’s actual name was a lot longer and more pretentious-sounding—its owner and its creator were both from groups that lived by pretentious-sounding names—but for reasons of concision, and for reasons of its owner’s characterization, it was more often known by the name of its primary occupant, the owner’s soulforged and very vocal sister. I could have given this character a sword, and it would probably have worked just fine—but a bone-graft that turned into a weapon seemed far more interesting, a source that would give her a strong attachment to it (and would occasionally let me have the character ‘translating’ for someone else) made for much more unique characterization, and it was pretty easy to justify the boosts it provided including a little bit of healing and a little bit of social savvy because of the nature of the occupant.
It’s not always weapons, either. One of my more recent projects was the… sixth in my line of clothing armor with added bonuses. This one, Cydonia’s Mercy (named because quince once had a reputation for protecting people) was designed as a healer’s pseudo-armor; it protects, it reduces the cost of magic for healing or plant-related applications, it looks like a green coat-robe with really nifty red and silverish embroidery down the front, and while it wasn’t actually designed for Samar (its original owner, the primary healer in the city it was found in at the time that that city lost its population, did far more with the plant-related applications), it still fit her and her concept pretty well.