Rules Index | GM Screen | Player's Guide

Chapter 5: Treasure Trove / Relics

Discovering a Relic

Source GM Core pg. 308
Some relics might begin as ordinary items with a rich history. They might be part of a character's starting gear, only to have their true powers uncovered later during play. Other relics can be acquired during play as part of the ongoing story. Regardless of their origin, these powerful items might not appear to be much at first, but they contain the potential to become something truly great.

For example, an old, tarnished amulet found around the neck of a buried king might turn out to be an item of deep historical significance that awakens to great power. The seemingly ordinary family sword, passed down to each new generation, might unlock hidden potential through the deeds of its owner.

The PCs might immediately recognize a relic for its ability, or they might carry it for a time before its true nature becomes apparent. The story of a relic should be a tale of discovery. At first, a relic's wielder likely doesn't fully understand the item's power, or might be unable to use it, learning of its abilities only after a momentous event or fortuitous breakthrough. Ultimately, relics are powerful tools in service of the story, working as a valuable tie to the narrative, but their growth and development are in your hands. Because of the place relics hold in the story, they aren't available for purchase, nor can they be crafted.

Pay attention to the characters' backstories for potential relics, and look for spots in your narrative that might be suitable for campaign relics. If you're planning to use relics in your game, let the players know in advance, since their ideas and plans can guide you and give them greater investment in the relics.

Background Relics

Source GM Core pg. 308
A background relic is tied to the history of a character, and its form and abilities should draw inspiration from the story of their character’s life or the past of the item. The relic could be a gift from a friend or mentor, an heirloom from the character’s family, a found object from their upbringing, or even the first item they ever crafted. The player should select the form of the relic (a battered longsword, a copper ring, or a threadbare red cloak, for example).

Campaign Relics

Source GM Core pg. 308
A campaign relic is drawn from the ongoing story of the campaign. You decide the entirety of the item, from its form to its aspects (described below) as part of the story of the campaign. Use campaign relics to reinforce and foreshadow the themes of your game. Relics come to those who need them to do great deeds, after all, so finding a relic with the perfect aspects for your future challenges is entirely likely. Unlike background relics, campaign relics typically have magical abilities when first found.

Relic Aspects

Source GM Core pg. 308
Each relic is associated with aspects—typically two—that speak to its overall concept and purpose. The individual gifts each have an associated aspect. You should almost always select gifts that have an aspect matching one of those found on the relic. For example, a brass dagger recovered from the Medina Mudii'a might have the fire and mind aspects, which means that it could have the flare bolt gift (which has the fire aspect), but not the rolling geode gift (which has the earth aspect).

Usually, you can determine at least one aspect of a relic easily by looking at the history of the item or personality of the character. For example, if a player decides that their background relic is a rusty mace wielded by the character's great grandmother in battle against rising undead hordes, the mace might have the life aspect, as it was used to slay countless undead creatures. There's no harm in letting the player choose an aspect for a background relic; through play, the item will reveal another aspect associated with it. In the previous example, the mace might reveal itself to have powers against demons as well, in which case its aspects might be celestial and life.

Advancing a Relic

Source GM Core pg. 309
As a relic's bearer performs mighty deeds and advances their story, the relic gets stronger. The most basic advancement for a relic is its level, which always matches that of its owner. Weapons and armor can gain fundamental runes normally. You decide what, if any, property runes can be added to a given relic; by default, they can't have property runes, like any other specific item.

The more complex advancement comes from gifts. The Relic Gifts table shows the typical number of gifts a relic should have at a given level, but relics don't follow this strictly. Rather, gifts arise according to the pace of the story, the needs of the campaign, and the relationship between the character and the relic. Generally speaking, this results in a relic gaining one gift for every 4 levels its bearer has, but this might fluctuate as the campaign progresses. For example, a relic might gain its first gift at 4th level after the bearer defeats a powerful foe. It might then gain its second at 7th, after they perform a special ritual. That same relic might not gain another gift until 13th level and then again at 16th as the player reaches other major milestones.

The gift types—minor, major, and grand—indicate their general power level. Again, the table indicates what's generally appropriate at certain levels, but you can alter them as you see fit. You should usually avoid giving a minor gift at 10th level or higher, because it just won't be that impressive, though some of them scale well enough to be interesting at higher levels. The Gold Piece Equivalent entry for each gift helps you determine how much you should reduce treasure when using relics (see Adjusting Treasure below).

Table 2–22: Relic Gifts

Number of GiftsMinimum LevelGift TypeGold Piece Equivalent
11stMinor20 gp
25thMinor160 gp
39thMajor700 gp
413thMajor3,000 gp
517thGrand15,000 gp

You decide what gifts a relic gains, generally by either selecting a single gift or offering two paths for the relic to grow and allowing the player to choose, but this should be informed by the story and the nature of the character bearing the relic. A relic should complement the bearer, bolstering the bearer's strengths and helping to overcome their weaknesses. Within that framework, you should try to maintain a cohesive theme for the relic.

Adjusting Treasure

Source GM Core pg. 309
When you incorporate relics into your game, you can adjust the treasure gained by the party down to account for the relics increasing in power. Essentially, some of the treasure from the Party Treasure by Level table on page 59 should be replaced with relic seeds and gifts instead. You can use the relic's minimum level, replacing a permanent item of that level, or you can use the gp equivalent. Keep in mind that relic gifts are often a little more powerful than other items with the same Price even when they start out, and they often scale without any additional costs, so PCs with relics will usually be a bit more powerful.

If you prefer, you can grant relics in addition to other rewards. This means PCs will be much more powerful, but you're rewarding their investment in the story.

Making Relic Seeds

Source GM Core pg. 309
A relic seed can be quite simple: imagine a standard item with two aspects and an appearance that matches the theme. You can also use an existing magic item for a campaign relic; pick two aspects for it, and tweak its appearance or characteristics to make it clearly different from other items of its type. You can choose a tradition for the seed and apply that trait to the seed and all the gifts of the seed. This tradition might be derived from the background of the item, or it might appear or change through story moments involving the relic.

If you want a relic to have an additional special benefit, you can design it to grant a bonus to a skill, typically a +1 item bonus for a 3rd-level relic.

Relic Gifts

Source GM Core pg. 309
Gifts are divided up into three tiers. Minor gifts grant useful, often scaling abilities and are available early in a character's career. Major gifts define a relic, determining its true purpose and granting powerful abilities. Grand gifts are the pinnacle of power, and most relics never have more than one.

The more gifts there are of one aspect, the more the relic reflects that aspect, and the more influence the aspect has on the character who wields it. An item with multiple shadow gifts might begin to lose its color. With four or five, the character that wields it might take on an ashen tone and the relic might become entirely made of shadow.

Gift Saves and Spell Attack Modifiers

Source GM Core pg. 309
Many gifts allow for a saving throw or have other abilities that change as the relic goes up in level. The DC for any saving throw called for by a gift is the higher of its owner’s class DC or spell DC. The spell attack modifier of a gift is 10 lower than that DC. A relic’s counteract modifier is equal to its owner’s counteract modifier.