How may times have you read a book in which a famous hero’s sword is treasured and valued, not because it is magic, or because of its powers, but just because the hero wielded it. The “Sword of Enthar” the great warrior may just be a normal steel broadsword; but because he used it, it will be prized and treasured.
In many fantasy books, however, there is more: a sort of “legendary” twist. Often, when a person picks up this sword, he then goes on to do great deeds with it and to fight well. It’s not because it’s magical because it’s not. Who knows why - maybe its because the person is inspired and driven to courage by the knowledge that he is holding the same sword that the famous hero did. Whatever the reason, I’ve recently set up a new thing in my roleplay system that attempts to recreate this legendary/heroic feel.
It essentially says that items become powerful (pseudo-magical) just by being carried by powerful people. Basically, any person of level 7 (in my system there are around 750 level 7 people per 100 million of the population: i.e. it’s pretty powerful and you’d likely be famous if you were that good) can create a heroic item. Unlike normal magic item creation (which can only be done by people of level 11 or higher (2 per 100 million of population)), you need no skills, spells or anything else to do this.
Mechanistically this means that they share up to 20% of their experience with the item, and once it has accrued enough it gains a “pseudo-magical power”. This is minor-ish: for example a +1 to hit; a +1 to courage; a staff glows in the presence of magic, etc. An item may not be increased beyond a PR of 3 in this way (i.e. you can’t create really powerful magical artifacts this way). In game terms it’s a definite advantage to do this.
The other requirement is that you have to be using the item a lot during this time. It could be the weapon you primarily fight with, a ring that you always wear, etc.
Some advantages to this are:
a) It provides a reasonable rationale for having quite a few weak “magic” swords, staffs etc. around (which I and my players like) without removing the “awe and wonder” of true magic items. After all, lots of people can “create” heroic objects but then they’re not that powerful: a true magical item (with big bonuses to hit, special powers, curses, etc.) is very very rare under this game system.
b) It gives a sort of heroic/legendary feel to it.
c) It lets you build them in to the game world. Because they are powerful because they were carried by mighty warriors/wizards/thieves etc. you can say things like “This is the very sword with which X slew the moster Y”. Hopefully you will have mentioned these legends before at some point!
d) PCs can create them themselves (eventually) without spending years of down-time or having special skills. One added benefit to this is that if, e.g. you are playing a second campaign in the same world as one you did previously (with some of the same people), then the “heroic items” possessed by their old characters can crop up.
Additional Ideas (1)
To me, this thread also has a similar feel to CaptainPenguins' Boots Too Fine for the Earth. Or my The Art of Healing
The boots are simply... so good... that they refuse to touch the ground. This is due to the many years love and care that Firefly River used to make it. Perhaps that care rubbed off into it to give it its properties. That may be how you could explain these heroic items, as non-enchanted magic. Perhaps you can go even further, and say that this is what TRUE magic is. Enchantments and spells are just a simple imitation. A shadow of this.
Heroic items like these won't lose their enchantments with some spell cast on it, like enchanted items might. They are more permament.
So examples in the citadel are such as The Sadist Dagger, Boots too fine for the earth and The art of healing.