Weapons (Magical)

Last I posted, I presented some details about weapons in Delve—that is, the normal, everyday weapons that a Hero starting on the journey can purchase and use. But that’s only the beginning of the story. There are names etched in myth and fiction: Excalibur, Glamdring, Ruyi Jing Bang, Stormbringer, Ascalon, and the Father of Swords, just to name a few. These weapons are more than just names and a collection of powers but are supporting storied actors in the tales, treasures gained through deed or legacy, companions in their own right, and sometimes actors with their own personalities and even goals.

Of course, not all magical weapons need to be such epic creations. Sometimes a simple sword with the most basic enchantment can be a treasure in its own right, and given away or traded in for something better down the line. 

The Doomhammer sisters doing their worst to an ogre’s head. He never had a chance against these two. Art by Rick Hershey.

When designing the system for magic weapons in the Delve Roleplaying game, I wanted to build in as much flexibility as possible to engage all the various modes of weapons in myth and fiction. More often than not, a game proffers the basics when it’s first published and later tries to shoe-horn the existing rules into ways to make more storied weapons. More often than not, the result is either overly complicated, doesn’t mesh well with the original rules, or is released as an option for higher-level play out of the scope of where most play happens. At this point, the complexity and balancing mechanisms introduced into the system often make such weapons more of a chore than a boon. For this reason, I wanted to make the possibility of storied weapons a possibility at 1st-level, and built upon as the character progresses. I also wanted it to work seamlessly with other magical weapons in the game.  

The most dynamic form of magical weapons in Delve are the matrix magical weapons. As the name implies, you create these weapons using lists of abilities to create a weapon of your choosing. Magical weapons, like all magic items in Delve Proto, are split into three categories: Trivial, Minor, and Major. These elements describe their power level, determine the ranges of their cost in currency (assuming you want to treat magic items as a commodity in your campaign), and provide the primary benchmarks for crafting such items. Matrix magical weapons start as a blank slate, full of potential but no power. It’s up to you to decide what enchantments and enhancements those weapons gain. Let’s take a look at the three basic templates for matrix magical weapons. 

So each tier of weapon allows you to layer on enchantments and enhancements. Enchantments are magical tricks that grant the weapon various increases to either accuracy or flexibility. While enhancement increases the effects of damage, either by providing some form of extra damage or the ability to apply states or other effects. Like the weapons themselves, the various enchantments are also on the Trivial, Minor, and Major scheme, allowing the creation, at least with Minor or Major magical weapons, to create more versatile weapons, or a weapon one, greater effect. 

So, what is on the list of enhancements and enchantments? Well, the complete list (as well as the full rules text for matrix magical weapons) is featured on the Delve Patreon for Delvers, but we can look at an iconic example—the Doomhammer! 

For those of you who have participated in a Delve playtest at some convention, physical or virtual, you’ll likely remember the Doomhammer. The dwarven iconic Brumtha Doomhammer wields it, and it packs a powerful punch. It’s also an example of a matrix magical weapon. Let’s take a look at the Doomhammer as it appears in the iconic rules block:

The Doomhammer is a Minor weapon with two Trivial enchantments and one Trivial enhancement. Breaking it down, here are those various parts

Putting those things together, Brumtha has a weapon that enhances her already formidable presence on the battlefield. But that is only a part of the Doomhammer’s story. The Doomhammer is not just important because it’s a powerful weapon. It’s a symbol of Brumtha (and her sister Doma’s) family. It’s the same item that gives those dwarves their name. And Brumtha gained in not as part of a treasure horde but as an Heirloom.

Heirloom is a choice of a 1st-level general talent, meaning any character can take it. But unlike most 1st-level talents, you must choose to take it at 1st level. It grants you a single Minor magic item that is tied with your character’s background. It’s significant to your Hero’s story, and there are consequences if you lose it. Here’s the text of the talent.

Yeehaw! You get a powerful weapon at the start of your adventuring career! But taking a look at the fine print, it comes with some long-range complications. The details of the weapon are entirely within the Delve Master’s purview. This isn’t done to screw you over, but it is done for the Delve Master to add drama around the item if desired. Heirlooms are often about legacies, and legacies are rarely uncontested. Heirlooms are great ways to introduce a family or organization’s struggles into the story of your campaign. For instance, in the story of the iconics, Brumtha carries the Doomhammer and is destined to wield it in the dwarves’ constant fight against the giants. Her sister, Doma, believes in this destiny. She has seen it with every throw of the runestones and aids her sister every step toward that destiny. But, what is not revealed is that Brumtha and Doma took the Doomhammer against the wishes of other members of their family—members who feel that Brumtha was not called to carry the family’s weapons and is searching for the sisters with the ultimate goal of retrieving an essential family item that they feel was stolen from the clan. And one day, these other Doomhammers are going to find the sisters…

Heirloom is both boon and a potential weakness. It’s a way to add some vestige of personalized kryptonite into a Hero’s story if you so choose. The consequences for losing such an item, especially for long periods, are steep. Losing out on advancement and only gaining a small fraction of it back once the item is recovered is both penalty for the loss and motivation to get it back. If it’s stretched out a bit, it is one of the very few circumstances that a Hero can become lower level than the other members of the adventuring fellowship. 

Of course, that’s if you want that sort of thing in your roleplaying. On a fundamental level, the talent is a way to gain some magic power early at a comparable cost for those who are Saturday night dungeon crawling. And of course, there is a host of middle ground and variations on the themes one can engage in. And the options don’t stop there. Whether you have an Heirloom or not, you have this option as a 3rd-level general talent. 

This talent does a couple of things. If you have an Heirloom, it allows your Heirloom to advance with you. If you didn’t pick Heirloom at 1st level, it would enable you to create an heirloom with or without the legacy baggage, depending on how you and the Delve Master want the story to progress. After all, a magic item that seems simple at first blush can hide unknown secrets unlocked over time and familiarity. Or maybe you and weapon have a tied destiny, with each increase in power mutually as the story progresses. The story of the hows and whys is kept ambiguous, though with some guidance and suggestion, allowing you to create the story you want to play. It taps into old archetypes rather than forging mechanical shackles. 

When reading the current text for Signature Weapon, something to keep in mind is that it’s designed for the Delve Proto, which presents the first five levels of adventuring, so the talent is incomplete. When more levels are added to the game, this talent will expand to create a solid progression for the talent throughout the game’s level advancement.

So weapons are all fine and dandy, but what about the magic items that spellcasters care about? 

Next time we’ll take a look at arcane implements.

Until then, be happy, game when you can, daydream when you can’t, and stay safe, my friends.

Interesting Things

Last time, I told you about a Pathfinder Second Edition game that I’ll be playing in over at Azmyth Busters. Well the game is going really well, and the team has put up a bunch of videos including a session zero and three sessions from our Fall of Plaguestone game. You can check them out here. A new session goes up on Monday, and every Monday morning until we defeat this adventures challenges or die horrible deaths.

The Azmyth Busters team is also putting up some supplementary material including this discussion on dice. And I can neither confirm or alignment deny that there may be something coming up very soon where a group of game designers talk about how experience points may or may not be bullshit. So, keep an eye out…maybe.