(DM’s note: This is a trial of a new, experimental game mechanic and may be subject to change as the DM sees fit, for the health and balance of the campaign.)
A legacy item is always a singular, unique magical item, capable of incredible power. Often former possessions of mighty heroes, legacy items are frequently legendary and renowned as well. They differ from standard magical items insofar as they form bonds with particular owners, and have the capability to grow in power as these bonds strengthen. A great number of legacy items possess a degree of sentience, and may not bond with those whose outlooks and attitudes differ greatly.
In order to bond with a legacy item, the owner must invest some of their life essence in the item. Then, as the owner grows in strength and ability, the item will begin manifesting greater and greater powers. These powers do not automatically become available however. Oftentimes, it is necessary for the owner to prove itself worthy of the power, or honor the legacy of the items’ former owner(s). These bonding rituals are necessary to “unlock” the greater powers of the item. They may range from the mundane (travel to the former owner’s grave with a gift of no less than 1000gp and spend 24 hours in silent meditation) to the fantastic (land the killing blow on a huge green dragon and bathe the item in the dragon’s blood).
An example of a legacy item: Oathkeeper
Legacy Item Game Mechanics
A legacy item will always have a base power level, that anyone, bonded or not, can utilize. In order to unlock the greater powers of the item, the owner must sacrifice one healing surge. This represents a portion of the owner’s life force merging into the magic item, allowing its power to grow. Sacrificing the healing surge can be done at any point once the PC has the item in his/her possession, although most wielders will wait until they begin the first bonding ritual.
The sacrificed healing surge is not permanently lost, although it remains unavailable for all normal usage. If at any point the owner chooses to release its bond with the item, the sacrificed surge is immediately restored to the PC. The owner must be conscious in order to release the bond. Any existing bonding rituals are essentially erased, and if the PC chooses to restore the bond with the item, the bonding rituals must be undertaken again in order to utilize the higher powers. Becoming unconscious or even dying will not sever the bond, so if the owner dies and is later raised, the bond and any previously taken bonding rituals will remain intact.
If, during the course of a battle, the owner has fallen to zero healing surges, he may gain access to and be able to use the sacrificed surge. Firstly, the PC must have zero healing surges. Secondly, the PC must have failed their first death save. At this point, the PC’s heroic destiny is triggered and the character MAY utilize the sacrificed healing surge as they would a normal healing surge. They are under no obligation to do so, however, and may choose not to.
When the surge is restored via the heroic destiny, much of the invested life force is returned to the owner. Any of the item’s additional powers or item bonuses are immediately lost, although the item’s enhancement bonuses will still remain at their previous level. In order to restore the lost powers and bonuses, the owner must take an extended rest, at which point they must sacrifice the surge once again (although still only one surge total is lost). The powers and bonuses will return in ascending order, one for each milestone the owner reaches. At epic level, the lost powers and bonuses will return faster, one for each encounter the owner survives.
Aside from the owner severing the connection, the bond between a legacy item and owner is difficult to dissolve. Merely being taken or used by another person is not enough to destroy a legacy bond. Only if another being should take the legacy item and successfully accomplish a bonding ritual, then the bond to any previous owner is released (and any sacrificed healing surge is immediately restored to them).
Another way to unintentionally end a bond is to undertake actions that are opposed to and in conflict with the item’s purpose and outlook. For example, if Oathkeeper was created to protect and defend the Twilight Vale, then intentionally harming innocent residents, or aiding those intending harm, may cause the sword to dissolve the bond, independent of its wielder’s wishes.
For each higher power or bonus associated with a legacy item, there is a corresponding level number. This level is the minimum level the PC must be in order to perform the ritual and unlock the associated power. The rituals and powers must be performed and unlocked in sequential ascending order. For example, you must perform and unlock the level 10 ritual and power before you can attain the level 12 power. You cannot ignore or bypass a ritual or power and attain a higher level power.
Bonding Rituals are rarely given outright, but often can be guessed from the tales and histories of the item and its previous owner(s). These can often be uncovered via a hard Arcana or History skill check. There will be ritual that corresponds to each power, and that specific ritual must be completed in order to unlock that specific power. You cannot perform a higher level ritual to unlock a lower level power. Only the corresponding ritual will suffice.
You must be an an appropriate level in order to perform the bonding ritual. Note that it is possible to know the bonding rituals for higher powers before you qualify for them. Performing a higher level ritual that you do not qualify will not count toward a successful bonding ritual. So performing the level 16 bonding ritual while your PC is only level 12 will not count as a successful ritual. Upon attaining level 16, the PC would need to accomplish the ritual over again in order to successfully unlock the level 16 power.
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