Magic is a strange power, that can be harnessed (or not?), but never fully understood. Magic should be unique. Magic could be REALLY unique on this one world…
Say we have a fantasy world, knights, dragons, wizards and all the stuff. It is possible and common to brew potions, it is even possible to enchant weapons for short time periods with various effects. Technically it is relatively easy, even if requiring much more magical power and better material components, to create permanent magical weapons and items. But…
BUT it is impossible to create two permanent magical items of the same kind.
Magic is strange, and it seems to be not willing to be bound in the same way twice. So there is only one +1 weapon ever, only one +1 weapon with resistance to fire, etc, etc, etc.
While all possible combinations of all the possible bonuses are still a large number, this also means, that if it is simple, it was most probably done before. Want to create a +1 sword? No problem, prepare the money necessary, get the special components, the mighty wizard tries the ritual… and fails. There is a +1 sword in the world already. Same is true for all simple combinations of handy “weaker” powers. To combine more powers, and more exotical powers, you need much more resources. Some sages even speculate that once all possible combinations are created, free magic will not exist anymore.
Now think, how many magical items are in lethal dungeons, fallen in bottomless holes, never to be found again. Many are in dragon hoards, to get them you just have to ask the dragon, or kill him. Many are owned by other folk/monsters better not to mess with. Some may be lost with ancient civilisations, or be forever buried in the earthquake that happened yesterday. Some have simply fallen into the sea.
You see that many items are inaccessible for simple heroes, or mean a great deal of work and danger to get. To get exactly the kind of weapon you want, you must be very, very lucky.
- All permanent magical items become essentially artifacts. Does not mean they are indestructible, but are VERY expensive and quite hardy. There should be also no trivial way to break their magic.
- Enchanted weapons are common, but the spells work only for hours or days. There are also spells and monsters that can break the spell, or consume its magic.
- Permanent items are rare, and show wealth and power of the user.
- Identify should be forbidden or seriously limited.
- Attempts to create an existing item may have random effects, possibly dangerous.
- Are cursed items considered different, so there CAN be two +1 swords, but one must be cursed? Can the curse be removed, and what happens afterwards? Would the curse travel to the other one, maintaining cosmic balance? Nasty option, not funny.
Well, does it put some limit on gredy players? Or maybe too much? I am not entirely sure. What do you think?
Additional Ideas (10)
Need just to remind again that potions are certainly not permanent magic items, and are quite often created. These are the magic items even the average population can get hands on (not too often), and the bestseller healing potions have no moral stigma around them, are useful and handy.
A wand of fireballs or a +X sword is something different, it is good if in hands of heroes, but dangerous in hands of villains.
And one more thing: if a lowly peasant finds a potion, he is very likely to earn a little fortune in gold. If he finds a permanent magic item (a powerful and rare thing indeed), he is in trouble, for there are few willing to pay the right price, but many willing to take it by force.
This idea could also me a way to set up the differences in spiritual and arcane magic. Since arcane magic was fashioned my the will of mortal hands, it would be restriced to only one form, by artifacts, or rather relics, formed by the gods could have multiple instances, but is only present by the god's will, and if anyone should try to missuse it's power they would face the wrath of that god and likely drive it to let the relic cease to exist.
Another possible way to explain the single form of magic would be to make the permancy spell consume the casters life/spirit/essence. Since there can only ever be one person's soul with that person's point of view and memories, even identical twins wouldn't be able to form the same item since they have led seperate lives. This would cut down on the number of adventurers wanting to tinker around with making thier own artifacts and drive the price of creating them sky high. They'd best just deal with what they can find. Some people (wizard orphans) might shun artifacts in general, as they know very well that that wand of magic missiles was someone's parent/lover/sibling.
Where do items with charges fall in all this? They can only be used a limited number of times, so they aren't neccessarily permanate, but they can be recharged, so in a way, they are. Would these be permanancy spells gone wrong, or some dark and forbidden form of permanancy that consumes the soul of someone besides the caster? Or just regular items? If they ARE artifacts, shouldn't they be changed to a limited number of time a day to use them rather than charges?
For example, the Staff of Saoul, crafted by the eponymous wizard, draws on the powers of an ancient deity, trapped beneath the earth in a mighty cavern. The deity is too weak to grant its powers more than once every day and only then may they be used on a quest to free the deity. After the deity is sapped of its strength it can no longer grant powers to the staff, so the staff ceases to work as a conduit: in game terms it runs out of charges.
Each staff which is created is unique and individual, so though there may only ever be one "staff of snakes" a future wizard can base his design on that of the now defunct (i.e. chargeless) staff. It will have approximately the same powers, but slightly different: e.g. it will transform into a cobra instead of a viper. When a staff runs out of charges (however that is to be interpreted) it cannot be recharged, but a new staff can be made which monopolises on the powers previously held by the dead staff.
Once this is discovered there are always easy workarounds. I am not magic master but follow this logic.
Current systems allow for the enchantment of a plus sword against a certain species. That, I would think, would be a slightly complex enchantment. Has to take into consideration all the differences between each individual and be able to recognize that, right? But an enchantment against rocks would be just as difficult because of all the different compositions of rocks. Another complex enchantment I would think. But if you could bind a sword to a single rock that you already have available, I would imagine that to be much easier to do. You have the rock, able to mystically make the sword resistant to that rock or able to easily split that rock like it was butter, some sort of enchantment to make it unique. In that case, all you need is a handful of pebbles from a stream and you have the means to uniquely enchant +1 swords with immunity to a pebble.
Using the fire analogy, you could probably enchant a + sword with immunity to wood fires, candle fires, etc., because each burn would be chemically different then the other. You could make any number of concotions and/or mixtures of stuff to make a unique fire that the sword is immune to.
Just thoughts as I get ready to work.
I am pro magic, anti limiting it if you couldn't tell.
Somebody has got to defend that position.
I guess I have gamed with too many people like Strolen (or who game as Strolen presented), as I had already throught of the process to make it "player proof".
All you need to do is define what is an acceptable "field" or width for a modifier trait. Any new traits proposed must be of the same width as the existing traits and should not overlap an existing trait.
Example: You would have All Fire, Mundane Fire, Magikal Fire, and Dragon Fire as the four traits in the fire category. A player could propose a new fire trait. To be accepted it would have to be a type of fire not defined as above and be of the same width (atomic fire maybe?). So Candle Fire is a subgroup of Mundane fire, so it would be too narrow in definition. Chemical Fire has too much overlap with mundane fire. Pyros instead of fire would be disallowed because it is the overlap with all fire, being a synonym.
You would also have the category of weapon, sword, axe/mace, pole weapon, flexible weapon, and missle weapon. I would not do it that way. I would define it as Weapons, Earth Weapons (those of metal or stone), Wood Weapons (those of mostly wood). So three weapons of a given type would be possible that way. Note: You might have a Fire Weapon being invented when Black Powder weapons come of age. Water Weapons occuring in the age of blasters (fusion, don't you know).
Mixing and matching additional abilities would increase that 3, but it does put a dent in what is possible.
For ease of use you would create a list of common fields, which would help you define what is and is not generally possible. It would be used as an example for those that get "creative" in their enchantment.
In fact, I am sure there is a near immortal member of the mages guild that is the keeper of the book, that which they list what is and is not available to be used. His would be a sad job as he would be cataloging the demise of magik. (As traits are bound, then the items lost no longer available to be used... that magik is lost forever).
Heck if Corvus was in this world, it would be impossible to make an orb, as he would of created an orb of every trait. In fact, certain types of items, some of them quite common, would be lost to modern time because of the lost enchantments of previous times.
I guess I have gamed with too many people like Strolen (or who game as Strolen presented)
Hey, somebodies got to fight the fight otherwise we are all just agreeing. Drives out more ideas in many cases as well.
The ideas presented are good and I like them mucho.
How about if there was a way that another powerful wizard, through a most ancient or perhaps very new type of magic, found a way to *steal* the magic from others weapons and imbue it into their own. Basically tranferring the magic from one weapon to another. Mr. Evil could figure out this special technique and start collecting the magic of the world for his own. That would be a cool plot for a game
I will theorise for a moment freely, to see what happens. A whole night of thinking brought many ideas, I hope I can paste them together...
About magic and permanency:
So why exactly can't you have ten +1 swords, and the enchanted ones don't last long?
If I think about magic, I imagine waves: large invisible waves permeating everything, the whole world. Disturbances included. The waves of magic are akin to real waves, they may be slow, but with enough time they can level mountains and continents. And so do the waves erode concentrated magic. To hold against this neverstopping and random pressure, one has to use special formulas, and they better be not too complicated(6). So simple potions of healing are useful for weeks, even months, more complex potions may last good for days. Weapons you enchant are 'magical' for hours only. Basically, the more complicated ANY spell is, the shorter its duration. Magical portals would stay open for minutes or seconds only.
Alright, but how to make something permanent? If something is tightly anchored to same spot, it won't last against the sea. Now that everything is about waves and vibrations, why not something a vibration of its own? (1) Sounds weird, keep it.
Now to the problem of how to insert this uniqueness into play. Hmmm... One option:
In the process of creation of a permanent item, which uses up LOTS of magic, great waves of magical energy flow over the whole world (maybe too weird, but got no other idea at the moment). (2) What happens, if a given 'vibration' (a wave with a certain wavelength) meets the same kind of vibration? Let's suppose a resonance happens, the wave multiplies in power (3), and hits even back on the yet unfinished item. The result is obviously item destruction and random magical effects. (4) , (5)
About the sources of uniqueness:
1. The basic elements of Nature are unique in themselves. Simply reduce the weapon to 'its' element (metal to Earth etc.) and mix to the result with desired effects (+1 sword ). If it is new, it will work. (7)
2. Elements are nice, but have their limits. Besides the numerical limit, they can only have certain non-stop powers (protects against this, +X to fight). You get nothing more. So the other source of uniqueness is... a soul.
It is true, no two are the same. Every soul has a unique 'vibration' of its own. If you connect a part of it to an item, it can become permanent. What's more, it gains some of the abilities you have! As for the price, with a certain duality thought I have in mind, hm hm hmmm... it will be exactly half of your soul. Sounds weird, will keep it. Logically, you can't make more than one such item, unless you want to die immediatelly, or worse. So the item takes on a part of your powers (you must choose which ones to what part), and grows stronger as you do. Hmm... many possibilities. Say that as long as you hold it, you are a complete being, in fact something stronger because of the additional powers enspelled in the item. But if you loose it... oops. Note: The elemental items give no special power/bonus/resistance against races or monsters, but if you hate someone particularly, this kind of item may well do.
Will think about more options later, what happens in your afterlife, and other neat stuff. For now, let it be clear, that charged items can exist, and their magic comes from the same magic-gathering process wizards use. No wonder, 'cause there is a part of a wizard inside
One last thing: sure the wizards do the magic, but any person can have such an item made, so thieving implements, big warrior swords, all can be done. It's just all these items have a slightly more personal touch now.
(1) What happens, if you manage to create something with exactly the same 'vibration', as the surrounding magic? Maybe... nothing. Maybe... plot hook.
(2) May have ugly consequences on temporary items and spells nearby.
(3) Well, I know this might be completely wrong from a physic's point of view, but hey, this is fantasy physics. Don't worry, it will get only worse.
(4) Special circumstances might disrupt this wave-thingy and cause the item to survive. So there might be two (or more!) items of the same kind. I want them all unique, so will ignore this option. Those of you that don't, keep in mind the chance of disaster grows, and it will be MUCH worse when it comes.
(5) Random magical effects are likely to happen around the original item too. Possibly a way to wreak havoc anywhere on the entire world, where a special item is. Hmmm, will keep this for villains...
(6) Remember reading a long time ago about alchemists and astronomers of old. Symbols that are in some way perfect and unique... now what does this remind me of. I think it was Johannes Kepler that had this minor obsession with perfect polyhedral shapes (that means geometry, you pervert!). The cube is one. This may form very a strange base for the magic, based on math and perfection, see here for more. Cool and weird, but better OPTIONAL.
(7) Optional: allow for an unlimited number of items based on elements, for a more classical fantasy, with heaps of +1 swords.
(99) Hear the Beach Boys and their 'Good Vibrations!
- if you want a permanent magical item, you cannot simply ask for a nice +1 sword, you must think carefully and choose smartly something that is not likely to made ever before. Smart thinking was therefore expected.
- of course, candle fire would not be accepted. Nice try, Strolen!
- if someone comes up with a new trait, or actually a new category, it will be a much discussed news between all magic-users. Why was it not tried before? If it was, why didn't it work then, but does now? Can new traits or entire categories come into existence? How is it possible?
- hmm... elemental kind of weapons... interesting. Rhymes with elemental categories, and makes the entire world more focused on elements, and/or other uebermensch categories. Interesting world specificator.
I would also make dispell magic not work on permanate items, but still have the ability to prematurely end temporary enchantments.
Spiritual/Arcane magic are of course different and permanency may be much easier. But the thing is, gods would never make the same thing twice anyway... even if they could. And maybe they can, but that's not your problem, mortal!
Consuming life/spirit/essence... I have seen that somewhere. Let's say the first artifact costs 10hp, second 20hp, third 40hp, fourth 80hp... see where it is going? The loss is irreversible, and weakens for the same number of weeks - is it worth to recover for months?
Consuming the soul, or part of it, ohhh... not nice. I was thinking this world would be permanency-hostile enough!
Will think about charging items later.
Somewhere magic users are keeping track of what is possible in a book. There are many copies of said book, but the magic users might keep track of what is possible.
The mages might keep track of who has what, thus every weapon will have some history behind it.