[HR] A Different take on Dwarven magics

3 posts / 0 new
Last post
James S
Adventurer Conqueror King BackerPlayer's Companion BackerDwimmermount BackerDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters BackerBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu ContributorACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Contributor
Joined: 2011-07-29 12:36
[HR] A Different take on Dwarven magics

Here's a thing. I'd be extremely grateful if people could pick holes in it for me and identify how it can be horribly abused so I can refine it :-)

I came up with this idea when I was extrapolating from my concept of how dwarves are created in my setting. It ties in with the general ‘dwarves don’t do arcane magic’ thing that was popular back in the day and the myth of ‘real’ dwarves that tells us they’re a people of smiths who can work wonders with metal – creating artifacts for the gods. So, if they’re not magically proficient and you didn’t want all their items to be divine in origin (although that’s an interesting thing in its own right) how do the dwarves make these wondrous weapons, armour, etc?

My answer lies in the nature of what the dwarves are – a major secret of my setting (albeit one that has to come out eventually, else there’s no fun in it except for me). Without going into what that is in any detail, here’s how dwarves make objects of power:

Dwarven craftsmen are legendary. They are capable of creating objects of such quality that they are said to possess magical qualities, despite not actually being enchanted, in an arcane or divine sense

Due to their special bond with metals and stone, Dwarves have the unique ability to invest a portion of their being in items that they have either made themselves, or have specially prepared. Any dwarf can do this; it does not require a Craftpriest or any other divine power. By investing an item with a portion of their being, the dwarf gives the item special bonuses that vary by type of item, the amount invested and the desire of the dwarf.


1) Any dwarf character can ‘invest’ up to 3 attribute points (Strength, Dex, Con, etc) into dwarf-made items they possess or have created.
* A 3 point limit feels appropriate when the maximum bonus from an 18 stat is +3. Also, spending 3 of your own attribute points should be a very expensive proposition. This probably only works with 3d6 in order stat generation – certainly not with point buy approaches where you could attempt to optimise.

2) Once invested, the dwarf loses the attribute points from their own stats (an 18 will become a 17, etc.). A player cannot take an attribute below 9.
* The lower limit seems sensible and natural. Only a total nutjob would want to cripple themselves. Mind you, I’ve played with such players.

3) The attribute points can all come from the same attribute, or be different. They do not all have to be invested at the same time. If they come from the same attribute, they stack.
* Allows for diversity or specialisation, and is a way of getting +3 weapons, for example.

4) An item can receive a maximum of 3 points of investment.
* The item limit is to stop something being passed around and stacked up with bonuses from multiple dwarves. However, there’s a special case where that can be exceeded.

5) Rule in thought – A dwarf can invest 1 point at L3, 2 points at L6 and 3 points at L9.
* This is to prevent immediate power jumps to having a +3 hammer. However, whether this works in practice would depend on how potent an item a Wizard could do, for balance purposes. I get the feeling it fits ok, but I’m concerned that the more obvious self-limiter is the fact that you’re dropping stat points, which shouldn’t be done casually and might be a sufficient limiter already.

6) Rule to ponder – Investment requires Money and Time, in the same way as for spell research or creation of a Machinists Automaton.
* Because creating a money sink is always a good idea. Also, can be explained by having the item require inlaying with precious metals, carved more ornately etc – to reflect the fact that it’s special in some way. Maybe there can be exceptions, but this could be the norm.

7) The specific effect depends on the nature of the item and which attribute is invested.
* Weapons will generally not get defensive bonuses whilst furniture will generally not get combat oriented bonuses, and so on.

8) Invested objects must be chiefly made of stone or metal or some derivative
* E.g. glass or mineral based paints. An iron axe with a wooden shaft would be ok, but a short bow would not.

9) If the investing character dies, the item makes a saving throw vs Death (at the characters level) or the bonuses lost. If the save is made, the bonuses linger for 1d12 months before fading.
* Also, Permanence cast on the item will freeze the bonuses before they fade.

10) If the item is destroyed, any points invested do not return to the character. In order to recover the attribute points the character must be the recipient of a Restore Life and Limb spell.
* Because it’s like you lost a limb.

11) An invested object gets a 1% chance per bonus invested per year to become a permanent effect rather than a temporary one. If this happens, the character regains the stat points and the item retains the effect but counts as no longer having those points invested. Roll per stat invested rather than per point (so a +2 STR has a 2% chance, a +1 STR and +1 CON has two) 1% chances
* Dwarven items of legend. This is where they come from.

The idea here is that you effectively sacrifice flexibility for specialisation, though at an effective exchange rate. It might not seem appealing for a Strength 18 Vaultguard to invest a point of Strength into an item and lose the +3 bonus, but investing 2 points of Strength will give an effective +2 bonus as well as the +2 bonus for having Strength 16.

I’m shying away from the idea that it’s a flat +x bonus, and more that yeah sure you can get some numerical bonuses and also you could get some interesting abilities – spell-like effects, bonus proficiencies, and so on. I think it would be down to the Judge to work out how powerful a specific effect is. Fortunately the ACKs Players Companion gives us some terrific guidelines to work within – both for Spells and for class powers.

Patreon SupporterPlayer's Companion BackerDomains At War BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2012-03-08 01:21

Hmm... I could see this being problematic with a character who has a 12 in one stat. By dropping it to a 9, they gain a +3 magic thing without reducing any of their modifiers. It might elevate risk of modifier reduction from aging if it were a physical stat, or from being Cursed, but I'm not sure those are sufficient deterrent. By comparison, one could put those three points into 1.5 points of prime requisite, which would gain you at most a +1 extra modifier and possibly +5% XP at the 15-16 threshold. I guess under rule 6 you could argue that investing three points of intelligence into a weapon isn't going to do much but make it sentient...

James S
Adventurer Conqueror King BackerPlayer's Companion BackerDwimmermount BackerDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters BackerBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu ContributorACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Contributor
Joined: 2011-07-29 12:36

Yeah, I can see the attraction in finding yourself a 'dump stat'. I think there are potentially ways of avoiding it, that I have yet to fully flesh out :)

Thank you for the feedback!