Rules Index


Chapter 2: Tools

Intelligent Items

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 88
Magic items with a mind of their own have been a hallmark of myth and fantasy for millennia. When integrated into a campaign, they can become memorable characters in their own right.

Intelligent items are a special kind of magic item that straddles the line between treasure and NPC. An intelligent item might be another type of item as well: it could be an artifact (like Serithtial on page 112), a cursed item (page 90), or even a relic (page 94) that grows with its wielder.

Introducing an intelligent item is an effective way to subtly alter the party dynamic. An intelligent item works well when its personality makes it a natural complement or foil for its partner: the PC investing, holding, or otherwise interacting with the item. An intelligent item that can communicate only with that particular PC is also a great way to engage players who are a bit quieter, or those slower to speak in a scene where all the PCs can talk to a particular NPC. Due to their inherently limited agency, intelligent items are at less of a risk for stealing the spotlight than other NPCs who travel along with the party.

Intelligent Item Rules

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 88
Every intelligent item has the intelligent trait. Intelligent items can’t be crafted by normal means—typically an accident, a divine act, or a major sacrifice on the part of the creator is required to grant the item the mental essence it needs for sentience, and in some rare cases the spiritual essence it needs to have a soul of its own. Because of this, intelligent items are always rare or unique. The normal statistics and rules for wearing or using an item of its type still apply to an intelligent item. In addition, intelligent items have a few statistics other items lack.

Alignment

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 88
An intelligent item always has an alignment trait, just like any other creature, even if it isn’t fully sapient. Few intelligent items are capable of growing and changing their alignment and fundamental nature; most are fixed at the time of their creation.

Perception and Senses

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 88
An intelligent item that has any sense of the world around them has a Perception modifier. Intelligent items have only the senses listed within their entry, rather than the assumed assortment of senses that most creatures have. If an intelligent item notices something its partner doesn’t, it might be able to communicate with its partner and let them know.

Communication and Languages

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 88
Intelligent items almost always have some means of communication—an easy way to demonstrate an item’s intelligence! The most common ways are via empathy, speech, and telepathy. Speech and telepathy function as they do for any creature, while an empathic connection allows the item to share only emotions. Empathic and telepathic connections are often limited either to the item’s partner or to a certain distance.

If an intelligent item understands or speaks any languages, they are listed in parentheses in its Communication entry. If the item doesn’t have speech listed, it can only understand the listed languages, not speak them.

Skill

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 88
Intelligent items might have skill modifiers for Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma-based skills that fit their nature.

Ability Scores

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 88
Intelligent items have Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores, though as inanimate objects, they don’t have Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution entries.

Will Save

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 88
Since they have their own minds, intelligent items might be subject to mental effects that require a Will save.

Item Agency

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 88
As a default, intelligent items have control over all their own magic, meaning an intelligent magic weapon could deny the effects of its fundamental and property runes if it so chose, and intelligent items perform their own activations when they wish. Intelligent items can typically use 3 actions per turn, acting on their partner’s turn. These actions don’t count toward their partner’s 3 actions. They have a reaction if any of their activations requires one.

Beyond denying magic effects and communicating their displeasure, intelligent items can usually influence or hinder their partners only in subtle ways. If the item is a weapon or tool necessary for an action (like thieves’ tools), it can at least be disruptive enough to make its partner take a –2 circumstance penalty to associated checks, much as if the partner were using an improvised weapon or tool. If an intelligent item can have a greater effect, such as seizing control of its partner’s body for a time, the intelligent item’s entry includes those abilities.

Designing Intelligent Items

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 89
When you first set out to create an intelligent item, ask yourself what role you expect the item will play in your game. Unlike any other item, the intelligent item is a character of its own and adds to the group dynamic, usually in ways similar to a minor NPC who follows the party throughout the adventure. That means it’s important to have a clear role in mind. Is the item an ally in the PCs’ dangerous quest? A kindred spirit and confidante? A foil for the PC? A morally ambiguous ally worth handling for its great power? Or perhaps a bit of comic relief? Once you know what you want in the item, you can develop its personality and abilities in parallel, coming up with thematic links between them.

When choosing values for the intelligent item’s statistics, you’ll often want to use values suitable for a creature of its level. You could use much lower values if you want to give it a weakness, but keep in mind that a low Will modifier might make it particularly easy to control, which could be a problem if it can make life miserable for its partner. Because the item can usually activate its abilities on its own, the intelligent item is essentially adding a limited additional character to the PCs’ team, so consider its effect on the encounters the PCs face. For example, a high-level normal item that lets a PC cast a 3rd-level fireball every round might be reasonable given that it counts toward the PC’s available actions, but an intelligent item is adding that fireball on top of everything else the PCs can do.