Rules Index | GM Screen | Player's Guide

Chapter 2: Tools


Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 106
A globe of utter darkness that consumes all things. Powerful weapons created in antiquity carrying the hopes of an entire people. A simple deck of cards representing fortunes both transcendent and deadly. These are artifacts—items of incredible power, spoken of in thousands of stories and beyond the capability of modern people to create.

Stranger and more powerful than other magic items, artifacts can change the course of history in the right hands—or the wrong hands. Simply finding an artifact is a pivotal moment in your campaign, and its presence then ripples throughout your entire game, warping the story around it. Some entire adventures revolve around one artifact!

Adding an artifact to your game should never be taken lightly. Artifacts shouldn’t be found in normal treasure hoards, even at 20th level, and you’ll need to structure moments in your plot that play into the artifact’s presence. Prepare yourself for encounters being easily overcome by the artifact. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include such encounters, since part of the thrill of an artifact is that it breaks the normal rules! Though you should include an artifact mindfully, you should allow it to have its full impact so that it can do itself and the story of your game justice.

Artifact Rules

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 106
Every artifact is an item with the artifact trait. This trait means two things: the item can’t be crafted by normal means, and it can’t be damaged by normal means. Artifacts are always rare or unique. The ones found here are all 20th level or higher, which is typical for artifacts. The other rules for wearing or using the item still apply.

Artifact Destruction

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 106
An artifact’s stat block usually has a destruction entry. This details the extraordinary method needed to destroy the item. These entries can be highly specific. It could take completing an entire quest, or even an entire campaign, to finally destroy an artifact. However, the story of your game might require something different, so you can always change an artifact’s destruction requirement for your game.

Creating an Artifact

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 106
Mechanically, an artifact functions in the game just like any other item—only the scope of its abilities is different. Artifacts can and should do things normal items can’t, so you don’t need to apply the normal limitations on creating items.

When you’re making an artifact, start by defining its role in the story. Is it meant to be a powerful weapon against the forces of darkness? A mercurial force injecting random chance? A terrible danger that needs to be destroyed? The artifact’s role in the story affects the features you give it. Come up with some story beats that make sense for the item, then create abilities that enable those moments. An artifact can have more abilities than a typical item—just make sure they all fit its theme.

Give your item the artifact trait and either the rare trait (if there multiple items of its kind), or the unique trait (if only one exists). Other traits work like they do for any other item. An artifact is usually 20th level or higher, but its specific level is up to you. Imagine who created it and what their level likely was.

Though you can disregard most of the normal limitations on items, be careful not to create an artifact that will undermine your story. If your item’s abilities are so useful or strong that the best option in any battle is to always use the artifact to annihilate the opposition, the artifact has taken over your story instead of serving it. A 5th-level character with access to 10th-level spells through an artifact can lead to incredible stories, but if the DC is so high that enemies are guaranteed to critically fail against those spells except on a natural 20, the item will probably distort play more than you intended. To avoid this, you might set the item’s DCs, attack bonuses, and the spell levels of its offensive abilities significantly lower than they would be for an item of its level, especially if they can be used at will. You could also create artifacts that use the wielder’s spell DC instead of having their own DC, to make them more broadly usable at a wider range of levels. In addition, an artifact’s abilities should be somewhat narrow in their application; aim to make your artifacts very powerful in certain situations, rather than having broadly applicable abilities. For instance, the orbs of dragonkind each work against only a certain kind of dragon, which makes them hugely powerful when facing that one creature, but not against every foe the PCs run across.

Related Rules

Chapter 11: Crafting & Treasure (Source Core Rulebook pg. 531 4.0)