Indentifying Items, Magical and Mundane

It’s been a bit of a busy week at work, and I’m actually putting some extra mental energy into a couple things there, so it’s a short and simple one tonight.

I’ve been generous with giving out the values of gems and other objects thus far in my DCC game, and I want to pull back the reins a bit on that. So I’m codifying the skill check DCs for appraising items; like all skill checks if your occupation applies roll a d20 and if not roll a d10. Intelligence bonus is added:

Faceted Gemstone CollectionDC 10 – Value of gems, jewelry, and pieces of precious metal

DC 15 – Value of art objects and artifacts of semi-precious material

DC 20 – Value of objects of purely cultural or historical significance

Identifying the function and lineage of magic items is a bit more difficult. Anyone can tell the attack and damage bonus provided by a weapon and AC and check penalty bonuses from armor with simple testing. To utilize any other benefit, it must either be researched or naturally reveal itself, such as a magical sword revealing a power when its special purpose is at hand or a potion’s function being revealed by someone drinking it.

Any character with an appropriate occupation or class can make a DC 20 Intelligence skill check to see if they recognize a magic item and its function when first encountering it. If they fail, a wizard, cleric, or sage will need to research the item to divine its nature. It takes a week and access to some research materials (extensive libraries may provide bonuses), after which the character makes another check against DC 20, this time adding their level as well. Should the character fail again, every subsequent week spent researching the same item adds a +2 bonus to the check.

Author: John Carr

Gamer, comic guy, office drone.

2 thoughts on “Indentifying Items, Magical and Mundane”

  1. So I’ve always had a problem with researching an item’s powers. I think for me it makes one of two assumptions.

    First: Every item is unique. i.e. This EXACT sword is UTHBERT. It was forged by the Dwarves of the Fire Mountains in the 113th year of the 2nd age. It was used by the hero Bjorn Ironside to slay the Orc king Grubbish the bold. It is a +1 sword.


    Second: Every sword of the EXACT same powers has identifiable marks. i.e. all +1 swords are identified by the inscription UTHBERT upon the length of the blade.

    I kinda like the first idea. You’re saying EVERY magic item is unique. In my opinion you shouldn’t have two +1 swords unless you’re going to make the history of them VERY unique AND important. Otherwise what would be the point? “yay… we both have +1 swords… glad I’m so different from you”

    The second method should make identifying similar items easier the second time. If you can look in a book for what makes an its one thing or another than after uou identy the first UTHBERT every time you see UTHBERT on a blade you just know it’s +1. But this is boring.

    I think if I were to use the first option I’d try to follow the template below:

    Name: (of item)
    Crafted by: (Person/race/region)
    History: (one significant detail per power)
    Roleplaying: (possible story arcs/reactions from npc’s)

    “BEHOLD! I weild the blade UTHBERT! Slayer of Orcs!” *Orcs cower in fear*

    1. Assumption one is my preference as well, and what I’ll be going for in probably all of my foreseeable future fantasy games. In fact, that is the baseline assumption that DCC suggests, even providing a nice beginner table for randomly determining previous owners of a magical weapon. Actually, it takes things one step further into Appendix N territory and rules that there is no such thing as a magical sword that ISN’T intelligent to some degree and striving toward some special purpose.

      A caveat: there may be non-unique magic items but they should at least be tied to a culture and a time. “This is one of the fabled axes of the Praetorian dwarves of Quilistus!”

      Also, I don’t expect potions to be unique, but the research there is more alchemical in nature. That, or just drink it and see what happens.

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