Give an Unfortunate Player Competing Sentient Magic Items


Wizard of Adventure Arvindh shared this great idea on the Roleplaying Tips Discord for making a character’s life…interesting:

I have a player with an over-possessive sentient bow called Nuji.

There’s a lot of jealousy.

This woodelf has two named bows. One, an inheritance. The other, looted from The Room of Living Legends.

I run a ‘jealousy’ clock for this PC. When he uses the other bow instead of Nuji, the clock ticks up. And Nuji can speak up at… inopportune times.

The antics this PC does to keep his bow assuaged is ridiculous!

This is a great idea!

Competing sentient treasures will definitely make a character’s days busy, haha.

We can also use sentient items to encourage roleplay. For example, it might be less scary for a shy player to talk with their magic boots (i.e., the GM) than speak up and address the whole group.

Sentient items can also serve as one of your in-character proxies. When the party needs a clue, warning, setback, or other event, you can have the item play a role.

Or what about two characters, each with a sentient magic item? Interesting combinations arise there, with items that oppose each other, help each other, are jealous of each other, and so on.

In my book, GM Mastery: NPC Essentials, I recommend turning sentient items into full NPCs. For example, give them a history, personality, goals, short-term needs, friends, and enemies. This extra depth helps transform willful magic items from caricatures into (non-player) characters.

For the deeper roleplayers, we can use sentient treasure to highlight or juxtapose the wielder’s internal conflicts. The item can ask questions, challenge the character, or demonstrate to make its points.

For example, the woodelf might have strong family values, leading the PC to hold onto his inheritance. However, Nuji constantly urges the character to reconsider his familial loyalty by highlighting the character’s ongoing challenges, vulnerabilities, and instances of mistreatment at the hands of his elders, which we weave into the unfolding narrative.

A final thought. Following the second rule of DungeonCraft, give such rival sentient magic items secrets. Make them the source of ongoing surprises, twists, and hooks by revealing over time their opaque histories and the things they know.

Thanks for the fun idea, Arvindh!

Cheers,
Johnn
roleplayingtips.com
https://discord.gg/6MxTRAqQ76
Have more fun at every game!

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