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Sentient Magic Items

Some magic items are sentient and sapient, possessed by a spirit or given life through arcane power. Despite their outward appearances these objects are full fledged characters with their own agendas, desires, and personalities. Unless otherwise specified, sentient items are NPCs under the Narrator’s control, and adventurers must negotiate with and become allies to them rather than simply use them as items. A sentient item’s properties and abilities are under their own control rather than the wielder’s, and accessing them requires the item’s willful cooperation.

Ability Scores

Sentient magic items have a mind and so also possess mental ability scores (Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma). Each sentient item has these ability scores defined in their descriptions, and is capable of making checks and saving throws just like any other creature.

Unless otherwise specified, sentient magic items don’t possess a typical body and thus usually don’t have Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution scores. These sentient items automatically fail any checks or saving throws made for these ability scores.

Durability and Hit Points

Most magic items are already far more durable than their mundane counterparts but the enchantments required to encapsulate a sentient mind must be steadfastly reinforced. Some sentient magic items have hit points listed within their description along with other statistics normal for a creature. Sentient magic items without hit points can only be broken by special and specific means detailed within the item’s description.

Senses and Communication

Sentient magic items rely on magical senses and forms of communication that can vary wildly between items. Some items may be able to communicate telepathically with their wielder or see with extranormal senses, or they may be severely limited in their capacity to interact with the world around them. Each sentient magic item’s description details its unique sense and communication abilities. Unless otherwise specified, assume that a sentient magic item can at least speak and understand Common, and can see and hear its surroundings as a typical humanoid creature would.

Personality and Conflict

Just like any NPC, sentient magic items have their own unique personality. Some have very specific goals in mind, while others may operate on guidelines or ideals. Sentient magic items can be as deep and complex as any character with intricate backstories and motivations that cannot be summarized by a single attribute or phrase. However, most sentient magic items have some issue or trait that can lead to conflict.

While a sentient magic item and a creature wielding it are not in conflict, the wielder has access to the abilities and properties of the sentient magic item. While a sentient magic item and a creature wielding it are in conflict, the wielder may lose access to some or all of the sentient magic item’s abilities, and the sentient magic item may even be able to inflict additional negative effects or influence the wielder’s actions.

Exactly what leads to conflict, what happens during conflict, and how these conflicts can be resolved depends on the personality of the sentient magic item (detailed in its description).

For example, a lance containing the soul of a righteous cleric might deal radiant damage to its wielder whenever it is used to commit an evil act, and will refuse to function for that wielder until that evil act is atoned for. Alternatively, a staff haunted by an arrogant wizard may refuse to attune to a wielder unless flattered with a high Charisma check, forcibly ending the attunement if it feels unappreciated or insulted.

Creating Sentient Magic Items

Creating a sentient magic item has elements of both character creation and item creation. Use the Backgrounds , Cultures , and perhaps even the Destinies in Chapter 2: Freelinking: Node title Origins does not exist to develop their personality and the information elsewhere in this chapter to create the sentient magic item’s traits and other statistics. In addition, make sure to include the following features:

Sentience: Include the item’s Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. The Narrator can simply select these scores or determine them randomly by rolling 4d6 for each, dropping the lowest roll and totalling the rest.

Then, describe how the item communicates and what languages it knows. Some common forms of communication include:
• Telepathy with the wielder or others.
• An actual audible voice.
• Vague impulses and feelings empathically transmitted.

Finally you’ll need to describe how aware the item is of its surroundings:
• Vision common to most humanoids.
• Darkvision.
• Blindsight.
• Shared awareness using the wielder’s senses.

Personality: The description of a sentient item’s personality can be a simple list of traits or as extensive as a full backstory. Whatever level of detail, the Narrator needs at least some indication of the item’s motivations, what will bring the item into conflict, the repercussions of conflict and how to resolve it.

Common causes of conflict include:
• Going directly against the item’s values.
• Fighting against creatures aligned with the item.
• Insulting or causing the item injury.

Common repercussions of conflict include:
• Damaging the wielder.
• Blocking access to one or more of the item’s features.
• Attempting to control the wielder temporarily through a battle of wills, resolved with a contested Charisma check.
• Forcibly ending attunement.

Common resolutions of conflict include:
• Apologizing with a high Persuasion check.
• Bringing current actions back in line with the item’s values.
• Performing tasks or favors that benefit the item.