Ah ha! Here's one that does something! It is indeed a variant of the old instant fortress, but I like it. Adventurers are always looking for ways to satisfy their needs, and the need for shelter is an important one.
Again there is a good backstory, although a magic user that can comfortably or effectively man a tower shield in an unusual one by most standards. This has a feel that the creator was kind of patched together to try to make the item make sense.
All good and no bad is a fine line to walk too, but really, it's a tower. There were no drawbacks to the original, and what are you going to do to make a drawback? This item is fine without any hindrances thrown in that don't make sense.
I like it, a nice twist on the old Instant Fortress. The mentioned NPC strikes me as a bit odd, I get a mixed reading when I think of him. Is he a battle-hardened mage-soldier or has he never had to camp out on a battlefield? Seems like the kind of guy whose reputation isn't all it's cracked up to be. The shield itself though, certainly a fine and useful item with a decent back story.
It reminds me a bit too much of Daern's Instant Fortress from D&D 3.5 for my taste, that aside however it is well written and a bit more useful then the original artifact.
I am curious though if the fortress mirrors the damage it receives when being used a shield? (Is it magically healed when shape shifting? Does the shield regenerate damage?)
What happens if the tower shield is destroyed? Is the contents of the fortress suddenly expelled?
Also, what about removing some of the items that were inside when it was created? (Such as a cloak, or books) Can it be done? If so can they be re added at a later date? What about maintenance to the furniture inside? Would reupholstering a chair or new down for the pillows expel the entire object or be considered part of the original and allowed to stay?
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As it is with nothing new able to be kept inside having to lug around enough candles and/or lamp oil to light the tower could prove to be a pain for any owner that doesn't know magic for lighting. (Scavenging enough firewood to heat the thing in colder climates would be a serious hassle as well.)
A simple weapon perfect as a family heirloom and well suited for beginning adventurers. (Especially if the swords unique method of gaining it's magical properties still makes it appear to be a mundane weapon even when subjected to magical scrutiny and detection.)
Simple and straightforward item.
I'm not certain how to use it in a game, though. I think most games skip over the reality of sword care. There tend to be no penalties for not cleaning, oiling, or sharpening a weapon. This is good in one way because it ignores some of the more tedious tasks, but it does skip over the reality.
Of course, anyone who has ever owned a real high-carbon blade would kill for this weapon.