This site is games | books | films

Magic Items, Artifacts

This material is Open Game Content, and is licensed for public use under the terms of the Open Game License v1.0a.

An artifact is a rare and powerful magic item. The means to create artifacts are either unavailable to mortal ken, or else long forgotten. Artifacts are often unique or finite in number, and cannot be destroyed except by specific means.

Book of Gates

It narrates the passage of a newly deceased soul into the next world, corresponding to the journey of the sun though the underworld during the hours of the night. The soul is required to pass though a series of ‘gates’ at different stages in the journey. Each gate is associated with a different goddess, and requires that the deceased recognise the particular character of that deity. The text implies that some people will pass through unharmed, but that others will suffer torment in a lake of fire.


Ink & Quill
Author Thomas Knauss
Series Dragonwing Games/Bastion Press
Publisher DWBP
Publish date 2002

While most magical books grant readers one or more beneficial effects without harm, a few extremely rare books bestow tremendous powers at a terrible price. Hushed whispers describing these dreadful tomes of ill-gotten knowledge circulate amongst an overly ambitious circle of nefarious beings seeking their power regardless of the cost. Between the covers of these unique written creations lie secrets preferably left undiscovered and sickening rituals utterly defying logic. Most were written countless centuries ago by long deceased authors whose names still conjure fear and terror. Despite the horrific risks and foreboding legends surrounding them, scores of foolhardy and arrogant individuals remain convinced that they possess the inner strength to master the books’ dreadful mysteries while taming its malevolent side effects. Yet without fail, they eventually succumb to its will irretrievably enslaved and corrupted by its enrapturing words and awesome magical potency.

Artifacts possess unusual properties that differentiate them from other magical books; consequently they are governed by a different set of rules. All artifacts are unique creations incapable of being duplicated. Although its cover and pages can be physically removed or destroyed, mortal magic proves unable to alter, copy, destroy or dispel the written contents of an artifact. Physical destruction is merely a temporary setback, because the book inexplicably repairs itself, replacing damaged pages and covers virtually instantaneously. In contrast to other magical books, reading an artifact does not erase its mystical writing or dissipate the magical energy bound to its words. Furthermore, the powers bestowed upon the reader remain in effect so long as she maintains actual possession of the artifact.

Losing possession of the artifact negates all of the abilities bestowed by the artifact. Of course, separation from an artifact proves hardly an amicable split. The book’s reader faces a constant internal struggle against its baneful, hypnotic control over her mind. The battle only ceases when she reacquires the artifact or meets her demise.

Acquiring an Artifact

Artifacts by their very nature are extremely rare and difficult to acquire. The artifact’s current and previous owners constantly vie for its possession, unwilling to cede it without a protracted and often fatal struggle. Unlike other magical items, artifacts possess a limited Intelligence that craves attention and revels in the jealous emotions stirred by its mere presence. Imbued with its author’s obsessive vanity and primordial lust, their creators flaunt the item’s tremendous power, crafting the artifact from only the finest and most exotic materials. Despite its lustrous or sinful exterior, only magical investigation reveals its true nature. Artifacts possess SR 30 against magical inspection; otherwise they remain unaffected by mortal magic.

The act of merely reading a single word triggers an artifact’s incredible magical powers as it attempts to bestow a powerful curse upon the reader. At that point, she must decide whether to stop reading the book or continue. If she chooses to stop reading the artifact, she must make a successful Will save against the artifact’s difficulty class. Success enables her to walk away from the artifact without any ill effects. On the other hand, failure compels her to continue reading the artefact to its conclusion. Any external attempt to prevent a willing or unwilling reader from reading the artifact book to its conclusion subjects them to the consequences of its potent curse described in much greater detail in the next sub heading. The artifact’s owner continuously reads the book without respite for food, water, sleep or other necessity, even though she still suffers the effects of deprivation. Because of her maniacal drive to acquire its secret and powers, she reads a number of pages per hour equal to her Intelligence score.

Completing the artifact book bestows its dreadful abilities upon the reader.

The Artifact’s Curse

As previously mentioned, artifacts never willingly release its readers from its dreadful curse. The curse manifests itself in a manner unique to each artifact, however the basic principles remain unchanged. Somehow the artifact entrenches itself within its reader’s mind, subconsciously attacking her beleaguered psyche without respite. It remains a constant presence, never relinquishing its suffocating grip irrespective of the passage of time. In fact, artifacts use time as a weapon, eventually wearing down the resistance of its quarry until it again succumbs to its venomous will.

While the act of separating oneself from an artifact remains a conscious decision, the actual abandonment of the artifact proves a subconscious battle of will. Each artifact possesses a unique difficulty class that measures the artifact’s grasp upon its subject. Once per month, a reader may attempt to escape the artifact’s control by rolling a Will save equaling or exceeding the artifact’s difficulty class. If successful, the reader relinquishes possession of the artifact and is temporarily free from its influence. Failure reaffirms the artifact’s control over the reader, preventing her from making another attempt until the following month.

Those that succeed initially experience a wave of euphoria falsely believing that she exercised the artifact’s presence from her body. However, a day later she senses the return of its ominous force. At first, its yearning seems passive and meek, however in time the potency of its calling increases, constantly beckoning her to join it.

Resisting the urge to heed its call becomes a daily struggle of wills. Every morning, the character must make a successful Will save where the difficulty class equals the number of days that she has been separated from the artifact. Regardless of the length of separation, the Will save’s difficulty class can never exceed the difficulty class required to initially separate oneself from the artifact. For instance, if a 10th level wizard abandoned the artifact ten days ago, she must make a successful Will save (DC 10) to resist its influence. Failing this saving throw overwhelmingly compels the reader to retrieve the artifact as if under the influence of a geas/quest. However, unlike the geas/quest spell, no mortal magic is potent enough to remove the artifact’s curse. The reader either rejoins the artifact or dies trying. Some readers attempt to circumvent the artifact’s curse through the use of spells such as magic circle against evil and protection from evil. Although these spells inhibit the exertion of mental control, they do not negate the necessity of a daily Will save or prevent the consequences from a failed Will save. The artifact’s influence is the result of a curse and not a charm or other mind affecting magic.

Destroying an Artifact

Despite their virtual omnipotence, all artifacts are vulnerable to at least one means of destruction. However, any attempt to destroy an artifact or obtain information to that end subjects its owner to the same effects as separation from the artifact. Likewise, the artifact’s owner reacts to external attempts to destroy or acquire knowledge of the artifact’s means of destruction in a violent and hostile manner. For instance, if Shuranda the wizard possesses the Book of Insatiable Avarice, and her colleague casts a Legend Lore spell on the artifact to determine its potential means of destruction, Shuranda immediately attacks her ally. Of course, this situation is not applicable if neither Shuranda nor the artifact has any actual knowledge of the effort, such as her ally obtaining the services of a renowned sage without consulting Shuranda.

There are several methods of acquiring the knowledge necessary to permanently destroy an artifact. Powerful spells such as Legend Lore, limited wish, miracle and wish reveals this information subject to the artifact’s Spell Resistance against magical probes. Furthermore, a successful Knowledge skill check provides the information as well. (Each artifact describes the difficulty class and field of study necessary to acquire the data.) Either way, destroying an artifact proves an arduous and dangerous undertaking.


All of the artifacts presented here share the same format. Each subheading describes and discusses the artifact’s particular feature in detail.

Title: Self-explanatory
DC: This is the difficulty class used for all Will saves related to the reading, separation or destruction of the artifact.
Physical Appearance: The artifact’s physical appearance as well as its number of pages and materials used is described here.
Background: The artifact’s origins, previous owners and current whereabouts are described in this section.
Powers: All of the abilities bestowed upon the reader are discussed here.
Curse: All of the artifact’s malevolent side effects are described in this section.
Destruction: This section describes the means of destroying the artifact.

Examples in myth


Andvarinaut was a magical ring, first owned by Andvari.

The ring was acquired deceitfully from Andvari by Loki. In revenge, Andvari cursed  the ring to bring destruction on its owner.

Loki  disposed of it by immediately giving it to King Hriedmar of the dwarves (as a “reparation” since Loki and the other Aesir had killed his son, Otr, inadvertently). Hriedmar’s son, Fafnir, then killed him and took the ring. Sigurd  then killed Fafnir and gave it to Brünnehilde, who killed herself when he  left her

Gram  (also known as Odin‘s Sword)

Sigmund's Sword Johannes Gehrts (1889)
Sigmund’s Sword Johannes Gehrts (1889)

Gram  is the name of the sword that Sigurd used to kill the dragon Fafnir. It was forged by Weyland The Smith and originally belonged to his father, Sigmund, who received it in the hall of the Volsungs after pulling it out of a log into which Odin had stuck it nobody else could pull it out. The sword was destroyed and reforged  at least once. After it was reforged, it clove an anvil in half.

A dragon slayer +4, +5 versus dragons. In addition to its normal magical bonus, it does triple damage to red dragons and renders the user immune to all magical  or mundane fire damage


Naglfar was a ship made entirely  from the nails of the dead. During Ragnarok, Naglfar will be freed from the land  by a flood and sailed to Vagrond, the battlefield, by Hymir along with an army of giants. The ship will lead the hordes of evil against the gods in the last war at the end of time, before a new world will arise from the sea


Alberich puts on the Tarnhelm and vanishes, his brother Mime remains. Author Illustration by Arthur Rackham (1867 - 1939) to Richard Wagner's Das Rheingold.
Alberich puts on the Tarnhelm and vanishes, his brother Mime remains. Author Illustration by Arthur Rackham (1867 – 1939) to Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold.

Tarnhelm is the name of a magic helmet used as a cloak of invisibility that also allows one to change one’s form and to travel long distances instantly. Polymorph any object, Teleport without error


Tyrfing  is a cursed magic sword.

Svafrlami was the king of Gardariki, and Odin‘s grandson. He managed to trap the Dwarves Dvalin and Durin when they had left the rock where they dwelt. Then he forced them to forge a sword with a golden hilt that would never miss a stroke, would never rust and would cut through stone and iron as easily as through clothes.

The Dwarves made the sword, and it shone and gleamed like fire. However, in revenge they cursed it so that it would kill a man every time it was drawn and that it would be the cause of three great evils. They finally cursed it so that it would also kill Svafrlami himself.

When Svafrlami heard the curses he tried to slay Dvalin, but the Dwarf disappeared into the rock and the sword was driven deep into the rock missing its victim.

Svafrlami was killed by the beserker Arngrim who took the sword in his turn. After Arngrim, it was worn by Angantyr and his eleven brothers. They were all slain at Samsø, by the Swedish champion Hjalmar, and his Norwegian sworn brother Orvar-Odd; but Hjalmar, being wounded by Tyrfing, has only time to sing his death-song before he dies, and asks Orvar-Odd to bring his body to Ingeborg at Uppsala.

Angantyr’s  daughter, Hervor (by his wife Tofa) is brought up as a bond-maid, in ignorance of her parentage. When at last she learns it, she arms herself as a shieldmaiden, and goes to Munarvoe in Samsø, in quest of the dwarf-cursed weapon. She finds it and marries Hofund. They have two sons, Heidrek and Angantyr. Hervor  secretly gave her son the sword Tyrfing. While Angantyr and Heidrek walked, Heidrek wanted to have a look at the sword. Since he had unsheathed it, the curse the  Dwarves had put on the sword made Heidrek kill his brother Angantyr.

Heidrek  became king of the Goths. During a voyage, Heidrek camped at the Carpathians (Harvaða fjöllum, cf. Grimm’s law). He was accompanied by eight mounted thralls, and when Heidrek slept at night, the thralls broke into his tent and took Tyrfing and slew Heidrek. This was the last one of Tyrfing’s three evil deeds. Heidrek’s son Angantyr caught the thralls, killed them and reclaimed the magic sword, and the curse had ceased.

Angantyr was the next king of the Goths, but his illegitimate half-Hun brother Hlod  wanted half of the kingdom. Angantýr refused, and Gizur called Hlod a bastard and his mother a slave-girl. Hlod and 343,200 mounted Huns invade the Goths (See The Battle of the Goths and Huns). The Huns greatly outnumber the Goths. The Goths win because Angantyr uses Tyrfing. He kills  his brother Hlod. The bodies of the numerous warriors choke the rivers, causing a flood which filled the valleys with dead men and horses.

Throne of Kai Kavus

The Flying Throne of Kai Kavus is an eagle-propelled craft built by the king Kai Kavus

The Cup of Jamshid

Five thousand years ago the World was at peace when Jamshid proclaimed himself both as a King and high priest he then reigned for seven hundred years when he died his essence formed

The Cup of Jamshid, it is a cup of divination long been possessed by rulers of Mesopotamia. It appears as a golden jewel encrusted chalice. It is filled with an elixir of immortality. The whole world is reflected in the liquid, and divinations made within the Cup reveal deep truths

Roleplaying notes

Anyone looking into into the elixir can instantly find any-living creature in the world upon request, their alignment is also shown as an unmistakable aura around the creature

The elixer is enough for one person to drink only once and grants immortality so that he/she never ages. Once it is drunk the cup will revert to an old wooden cup, never to be used

Scroll to Top