Items of power lie waiting in forgotten temples and forbidden tombs throughout the world. Many an adventurer risks life and limb in pursuit of such items. However, in order to fully utilize a magical artifact, a character must learn the nature of the item they wield.
The most rudimentary of magical qualities can be discerned through a simple casting of Detect Arcana. This reveals the magical aura around an item and gives the caster a general impression of its strength. In the case of artifacts with an obvious function, such as swords and armor, this also reveals to the players the basic bonuses to damage, Fighting, Parry, or Toughness such items provide. Also, any obvious “always on” effect can be easily determined (such as how much extra fire damage is done by a sword constantly wreathed in flame).
More esoteric or specialized powers, however, need to be determined through research or foreknowledge. This includes extra effects a magical weapon may be capable of (such as damage bonuses against specific foes or elemental damage that needs to be activated), as well as any function of items such as rings, robes, amulets, or wands. Until these powers are understood, a character cannot use or benefit from them, even if the benefit is passive (such as a belt granting great strength). Seeing another character use an item provides foreknowledge of the item’s power, but only as it relates to the function witnessed. Otherwise, any character with Knowledge Arcana may roll at -4 to see if they recognize the discovered artifact. Should this roll fail, research is required.
In order to research an artifact’s nature, a character must have access to some store of knowledge. This can range from a personal collection of tomes and notes to a great library buried among the ruins of a fallen city. The minimum amount of time a character must spend in research is 5 days, at the end of which the character makes a Knowledge Arcana check. Every full 5 days additional the character spends in research prior to the check adds +1 to the roll. Based on the quality and extent of research sources, an additional modifier ranging from -2 to +2 should be applied to the roll.
Some magical items contain tremendous power that the wielder must exert willpower to summon, such as staves and wands. When attempting to activate the power contained within these items, the wielder must roll either their Spellcasting skill or their Knowledge Arcana skill, whichever is lower. If the roll fails, the wielder is shaken. If the wielder rolls a 1 on the skill die, regardless of the result of the wild die, then they suffer backlash. For most items, this is the same effect as spellcasting backlash, but certain powerful artifacts may have their own unique backlash effects. As always, the Perilous Practice rule applies.
Pitiless Blades of Apoth-Rün
These khopesh swords (damage as long sword) were created by the cultists of the demon prince Apoth-Rün, the Vizier of Exquisite Agony. They are enchanted with a +1 bonus to damage and do 2d6 extra damage on a Fighting raise (instead of the usual 1d6, not in addition).
Staff of Haantrax
Carved by an ancient Arethi mage who dwelt deep in the Tarkash Mountains, this pure ebony staff is topped with a brilliant, swirling opal. When activated, anyone within a cone template must make a Spirit roll at -2; failure results in a wound. Any targets incapacitated as a result of this wound die screaming in horrendous pain as their flesh and organs rapidly melt away from their bones. If the wielder incurs backlash, they take 3d8 damage and suffer the same fate if incapacitated. Even if the wielder survives, their skin sags and resolidifies, distorting and disfiguring their appearance. A permanent -1 modifier is applied to the wielder’s Charisma for every wound suffered from backlash.