The Crown Of Thorns is one of eight example Legacy Items included in Assassin's Amulet

We continue to inch closer to the release of Assassin’s Amulet. From months, the time scale has compressed to weeks, and now is being measured in mere Days (how many of them is still being decided). It’s so close, we can taste it!

One of the ambitions that we have for AA is to break the content up into slices of particular value to a campaign, and to the Legacies series in general. These “Players Guides” and “GMs Guides” will be offered as free bonus publications to anyone buying the source E-book, and some may be offered as freebies and samples as well. One of the first of these, to be produced is “A player’s Guide to Legacy Items”, which excerpts 15 pages from the 300 that comprise Assassin’s Amulet and contains everything that a Player needs to know in order to receive and use a Legacy Item in play. This has been carefully edited to remove any game mechanics that the player doesn’t need to know – those will be in the “GM’s Companion Guide to Legacy Items”.
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Because it fits the theme of this month’s Blog Carnival, and because it’s cool content (IMHO), I have decided to present here the first half of a two-part excerpt from the ‘Player’s Guide’. This won’t tell anyone everything they need to know about Legacy Items, but it will speak to the concept of making the Loot Part Of The Plot, and – by way of example – illustrate how this can be done. And hopefully, it will entice a few more people to take the plunge when the time comes…

An excerpt from ‘A player’s Guide to Legacy Items’ – Part 1

Legacy Items are powerful arcane and spiritual objects that occupy a middle ground between relics and artifacts on the one hand, and ‘ordinary’ magic items on the other. Legacy Items begin their existence in a campaign as mundane pieces of equipment, and gradually rise in power as their owner grows in ability and prestige.

What is a Legacy Item?

Shared experiences leave a metaphysical fingerprint on the world. Some fingerprints are bound to the location of the events, and can be relived in dreams at those places. Others are bound to concepts, philosophies or personalities that resonate with those who experienced the events. This type manifests as paranormal experiences or extraordinary bonuses in support of, or more frequently in opposition to, others who represent the concepts or philosophies.

A few strong imprints can coalesce within an ideal object relevant to the source of the imprint. This transforms it into a connection that binds the Legacy of the experience to the individual who wields the item. As the object manifests greater and greater power in the hands of the individual, it subtly shapes the personality and ambitions of the possessor until they come to embody and represent those who shared the original experience, becoming heir to their thoughts, dreams, aspirations greatness and, yes, their flaws.

When the heir passes on, the Legacy begins anew to bind itself to a new inheritor. Over time, the term Legacy comes to apply to the original imprint and the current bearer of that imprint. Such a Legacy might embody any philosophy or emotional state.

The Legacy of a group dedicated to peace might become less willing to engage in battle until all other avenues have been exhausted. If the group whose Legacy this is were betrayed by orcs, there might be an exception made in their case, where the item possessor will come to instinctively distrust the race and all its representatives, and will encourage acts of aggression and violence against them.

A Legacy can be simple, such as “Death to trolls”, or as complex as desired by the GM. However, it always represents the philosophy and ideology and traumas of some long-lost (and possibly forgotten) group whose beliefs were strong enough to survive the destruction or failure of that group, and which find themselves a new home in the Legacy Item.

How is a Legacy Item Created?

In technical terms, a Legacy Item is a masterwork item that, unbeknownst to the creator, serves as a symbolic representation of a past group or race. Expecting the item to become enchanted, both mage and craftsman are astonished when the enchantment fails to take.

The binding of Legacy to “Home” must be complete for the potential enchantment to be consumed and bound to the Legacy, making it appear as if the enchantment has failed. If the process of enchantment is initiated prior to this binding being complete, the capacity for the binding is consumed by the enchantment, and the item becomes an ordinary magic item. This means there are few opportunities for Legacy Item creation, and even then they items are rarely recognized because this is not the only reason enchantments fail. If the enchantment is not performed correctly; if there is a hidden flaw in the item being enchanted; if there is any sort of disruption in the arcane or spiritual energies being infused in the item; if any of a dozen things go wrong, the enchantment will fail.

Sometimes, the process of the failed enchantment destroys the item. Other times the failure just mars it, leaving an ordinary and non-enchantable item. The enchantment might also become twisted and produce a cursed item. On rare occasions, the failure is the result of the intervention of an outside agency—producing a Legacy Item.

Most of the time, crafters and possessors discard Legacy Items as cursed or flawed. The items are never used long enough for others to recognize their true power and worth. And even when a Legacy Item’s powers and influence are known, they often become a closely held secret.

Legacy Items shape the user, making them the heir to everything that defined the particular group whose Legacy the item represents. Those who recognize this can use this shaping to their own benefit by inciting involuntarily reflex reactions from the Legacy and not from the wielder. As a result, wielders learn quickly to preserve the secret source of their enhanced abilities.

On rare occasions, a Legacy Item can be deliberately created by having such an idealized representation constructed at the exact location where a fingerprint resides, an echo of some great past evil or good. More frequently, though, happenstance and coincidence create them.

How Does a Character Acquire a Legacy Item?

Any non-enchanted masterwork item might actually be a Legacy Item. The only way to know is to use the item for a period, foregoing the advantages of using an enchanted item. If the wielder’s personality, motives or objective harmonizes enough with the Legacy Item, it will begin to bind itself to him.

Without sufficient common ground in these areas for the item and the character to relate to one another, the item remains seemingly inert. In these cases, the item begins to influence the character subconsciously, raising doubts and creating confusion until the character opens up to new concepts, ideas and ideologies. The item then exploits this opening to mould the character into the being the Legacy needs him to be.

If this process proceeds too slowly, or if the character proves resistant, the item will attempt to influence those around the wielder in a subtle manner. While the wielder is subject to overt and cumulative effects, those around him find their reactions and inclinations become stronger or weaker, which puts the wielder into circumstances more appropriate for the Legacy Item’s perspective.

It is usually in the Legacy Item’s best interests for the character to survive, so it will not go too far in these manipulations. It is also in the item’s best interests to avoid having its nature discovered by the wielder before the binding is complete, so it will be as subtle as possible.

It is also worth noting that a Legacy Item is not intelligent, though it may become so as the power of the Legacy grows. The effects described above are more like instinctive prompts on the item’s part, making the nature of the Legacy harder to discern.

Legacy Items in the hands of an unbound character

When initially wielding the item, a character gains no direct benefit. However, he will find that using the item feels ‘right’ in some indefinable manner, that it imbues him with a sense of confidence and certainty he will be a significant individual in the future with power and influence. He will feel his destiny being shaped by circumstance into something greater.

This confidence can manifest occasionally as a minor benefit to the character: a +1 initiative, +1 on a bluff or diplomatic skill check, +1 on a Fear save, +1 to hit, +1 to damage, and so on. These benefits manifest just on occasion, perhaps one time in ten, when possible. Each such manifestation counts as one aiding of the character—a total the player needs to track for reasons explained in the next section. When an aiding occurs, the character feels the item has made the difference between success or failure, or at least, made success easier to achieve.

When confronted with an opportunity to act in accordance with the Legacy when he would normally not do so, the character should make a Will save at DC 10 to resist instinctively following the influence of the item. This is true even if the character is normally immune to, or resistant to, mind-altering effects.

If the character is actively opposed to the philosophy and objectives of the Legacy, the Legacy Item will begin subtly interfering in the judgment and reactions of those around the character. These effects are more subtle, as described above, but are also harder to resist as a result; surrounding characters are required to make Will saves at DC 15 to resist.

Note that at this point in their journey together, the item’s influence is not strong enough to force the character into an alignment violation. However, it can imbue a desire to find a way to achieve a certain objective within the character’s alignment restrictions.

Binding a character to the Legacy

Ultimately, the time will come when the character makes some form of positive declaration of ownership or destiny relating to the item or the innate Legacy objectives.

In game mechanics, this occurs involuntarily when the item has aided the character a number of times equal to the character’s Wisdom score.

The declaration signals that the process of binding the character to the Legacy that item contains, with the item serving as an intermediary, has commenced.

When the character sleeps, rests, or meditates, he will begin reliving key moments of the past that is represented by the Legacy within his dreams or reveries. When he awakens, he will have difficulty remembering specifics, no matter how much he tries.

  • Recollection is vague and general: Will save DC 10
  • Recollection is an overall impression: Will save DC 12
  • Recollection is a specific event, bereft of context: Will save DC 15
  • Recollection is fragmentary and incomplete: Will save DC 20
  • Recollection is random and irrelevant to the current situation: Will save DC 22
  • Recollection is specific and relevant to the current situation: Will save DC 25

Until the binding process is complete, the character can still give up the item and its Legacy, though he will usually resist doing so once the binding process has begun, perhaps to the point of violence.

At the same time, the influence of the Legacy over the character will continue to grow. This first manifests in areas about which the Legacy directly relates. For example, a revenge-obsessed Legacy of violence toward dark elves would only trigger in circumstances where a dark elf was directly involved, and the save DC to avoid the prompting of the Legacy rises from 15 to 20.

Legacy Items can influence either the possessor or those around him, but not both at the same time. The item is no longer capable of influencing those surrounding the wielder while it directs its energies towards achieving a binding between the character and the Legacy.

It will prompt the character to take a more active interest and involvement in the affairs of significance to the Legacy. Those who know the character well or observe him closely may realize he struggles with some inner battle or temptation; sometimes he wins, and sometimes he loses. They may note that he acquires an interest in subjects that were never part of his activities in the past, or spends a growing part of his time pursuing new hobbies or avocations.

Over time, the Legacy will influence the character in situations where its motivations are only indirectly related. At this point, the character may even blame those against whom the Legacy is directed for what he is experiencing.

Eventually, the Binding will be complete. This is signaled when the character takes an action not previously within their personality, purely because of the influence of the Legacy Item. This action is in complete violation of his normal character, beliefs and alignment.

The speed with which this process proceeds depends (in game mechanics terms) on the power of the first significant ability granted by the Legacy Item. In Game mechanics, this is a number determined by the GM by means of a process described within Assassin’s Amulet.

In the interim, while the process of binding the character to a legacy remains incomplete, he will gain the benefits of an initial minor power, known as the First Inheritance. This is simply one of the unreliable benefits described previously: +1 to initiative, +1 on bluff or diplomatic skill checks, +1 on fear saves, +1 to hit, +1 to damage. However, the character can now use this power whenever he uses the Legacy Item.

Binding the Legacy to the character

When the binding process is complete, the character becomes the guardian and last representative of the Legacy. While he remains in control of his actions and choices, he will be aware of the inclinations of the Legacy he represents and feel urgings to behave in accordance with the beliefs and attitudes he now embodies. He gains a substantial ability, referred to as the Second Inheritance.

From time to time thereafter, as he gains in character levels, he has the opportunity to unlock powers, known as Inheritances, within the Legacy Item. Should he succeed in doing so, these powers are his to call upon thereafter; should he fail to do so, the power will not be available until the character next succeeds in unlocking a power within the Legacy Item, acquiring in the process not only acquire the new ability he has just unlocked but also the power he failed to unlock previously. The greater the power, the more difficult the challenge of unlocking that power will be.

And the subject of the powers of a Legacy Item is something that will be covered next week, in part 2 of this sneak preview…

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