Sadly, the maddest and most self-assured of egomaniacal villains are exceedingly difficult to judge by this artifact. But then, perhaps nothing else can stop a certain nefarious antagonist except the black sword of the crown?
I can think of something to add - a note of how the willpower "test" is affected by circumstances: so may the life-giving judgment be more difficult as time passes from the death of the one to be restored. The more powerful the life-force of a target, the more difficult it is to snuff out with the black flame. Etc.
I really like this item. I've been reading your series of the seven artifacts and found it really enjoyable, but this one is my favorite so far.
It's probably not something that I'd actually give to PCs, but it's a brilliant item. I really like the imagery of the flame wreathed crown, and having the judgement be a willpower contest is a wonderful idea.
I can see an entire campaign built around these seven artifacts, with a failing kingdom, and a band of adventurer tasked with finding all seven tokens and match them to seven worthy descendants of the original seven kings to restore the kingdom to its former glory.
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Looking forward to the other artifacts.
I will admit that I wasn't really thinking about balance when designing these items -- it would indeed be foolhardy to give the party anything with this much power straight up. However, that's the whole point of the set really. Even if the party manages to recover 3-4 after years worth of effort, they still will not have access to the full powers of each artifact. Since most gaming groups have fewer than seven players, they would also have to find some trustworthy NPCs to wield the remainder if they ever wanted to unlock the full potential of the Seven.
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On the other hand, a group which has collected several of these would be strongly motivated to cooperate. I *think* that the price of betrayal -- losing most of their item's power and suffering additional ill effects -- is high enough, but more penalties can always be added by the GM. I never considered that the party might be motivated to recover these for someone other than themselves, but I like really your campaign idea. Thank you for the constructive feedback, and I hope that you enjoy the last three artifacts as well. :)
It seems that a lack of willpower would start a vicious cycle. Failing once might give the sovereign more trepidation the second time around, making it easier to fail. And so on. The reputation of the king would suffer publicly. I doubt such a ruler would last long on the throne with the strong-willed and power hungry about.
Of course, the reverse might also be true. A strong king, able to intimidate all law breakers would be perceived as unbreakable of spirit.