In this month's exclusive interview, the lead designer and developer of the new Weapons of Legacy accessory discuss these magic weapons that evolve and unlock new powers, and why a character's favorite weapon no longer needs be consigned once its owner has advanced.
Wizards of the Coast: From the Bones of Li-Peng: "If you meet the Enlightened One on the road, kill him." The student pondered this, and realized that what the master meant was that no man could lead another to enlightenment, and to claim otherwise was to be naught but a charlatan and a trickster." Well, that being said, I'm still hoping you can at least lead me partway to enlightenment regarding Weapons of Legacy! First of all, how did this book come about? Was there a desire to expand upon the brief legendary weapons section in Unearthed Arcana?
Bruce Cordell: I suppose that's it (from a Brand perspective), though I wasn't familiar with that section until I was well into design. To me, the idea was simply this: in fantasy fiction, a character keeps the famous weapon or magic item he acquires during the course of the story. In D&D, a character trades up the first chance he gets, leaving his ancestral weapon in some unnamed pawnshop. We wanted to create an experience in D&D that gave a character an option that allowed him or her to follow the fiction model with acquired magical weapons and items.
Wizards: As the intro states, a convincing argument could be made that Dungeons & Dragons is all about "the stuff." Was there discussion within R&D about taking a very item-centric approach with this book? There are fewer character elements (prestige classes for example, though the Legacy Champion and integral legacy feats are also introduced) in lieu of emphasizing the weapons themselves.
Bruce: Sure--this book is completely about the stuff. However, in developing an item of legacy's progression, an intimate knowledge of player character ability had to be kept in mind at all times. Because D&D characters are so concerned with their stuff, I'd say this book is as much about characters as any other player book, if not more so.
Stephen Schubert: Of course, but this book focuses just as much on the items of power as on the characters who wield them. Simply finding a legacy weapon won't boost a PC's power level dramatically--since most legacy items initially appear somewhat benign. The key is that a character needs to be of a certain level of power, and needs to accomplish specific goals, in order to unlock the full power of a legacy weapon. The result is a system where a character's item grows with the character himself. In this way, while the legacy weapon is an item of tremendous power, it doesn't overshadow the power of the PC.
Wizards: What defines a weapon of legacy? What sets it apart from a standard magical item (or even an artifact)? After all, a +1 longsword is always a +1 longsword... or is it?
Bruce: The defining characteristic of a weapon of legacy is that it gets better as a character does. Why? Because the item is either part of an epic history that the character slowly discovers, or perhaps the epic history is the one that occurs while the weapon is in the character's possession. The results are the same--the weapon's abilities advance.
Stephen: In general, a weapon of legacy has significantly more power than a typical magic item, and at the highest of character levels, a legacy item might rival a minor artifact in power. Standard items could transform into legacy weapons; a +1 longsword could become a weapon of legacy--perhaps it always was, but the wielder simply wasn't aware of its heritage until some specific condition was met, or perhaps its wielder founds a new legacy.
Wizards: I've known many a player who's refused to part with the first +1 weapon he's found for a +2 weapon or better later on, because they have such a connection and history with their trusty +1; in what ways do weapons of legacy compliment this playing style?
Bruce: Now that player doesn't have to let that weapon go--the rules allow that player to keep that weapon as a potent tool in his or her arsenal.
Stephen: As a DM, I've always liked having PCs that tried to keep the same weapon, assigning some historical or background significance to the item, and truly making that item part of the character. Weapons of Legacy encourages these PCs to grow the story of their weapon even further, and a legacy item can continue to remain relevant at all stages of an adventurer's career.
Wizards: Allowing players the ability to found their own legacies seems quite powerful indeed; how can players found legacies specific to their characters' needs? What powers are available?
Bruce: There is an extensive set of level-keyed menus in Weapons of Legacy that provide pre-balanced choices on abilities appropriate to founding and developing a personal weapon of legacy.
Wizards: At the same time, nothing comes without its price (I assume); are there potential drawbacks to possessing and wielding a weapon of legacy?
Bruce: Balancing a weapon of legacy against excepted character wealth at a given level was job one during the development phase of this project (which I was also part of). After pegging the allowed discrepancy between expected character wealth and what a weapon of legacy could provide, we developed a way to accrue non-monetary costs to wielders that make sure that each weapon's granted abilities at a given level is appropriate for the wielder. For instance, when you awaken an ability in your sword, you might also find that in order to keep that ability active, you suffer a -1 save penalty.
Wizards: There's a quite the array among the fifty fully designed weapons of legacy. Was there a desire to round out the weapons types, or focus on any type (i.e., swords) in particular? Do you have any favorites?
Bruce: We wanted to provide a few weapon types to every type of melee combatant, as well as provide items for non-melee combatants (such as staves and rings for magic user types). There are also a couple of psionic weapons of legacy, including a weapon that can fuse with a mind blade: Mau-Jehe, which begins life as a 'mundane' seeming +1 punching dagger.
Stephen: We made an effort in the development process to ensure that the weapons appeal to all the core classes from the PHB, and a couple that work for psionic characters. We didn't want the book to simply be a book of swords, but instead provide a wide range of options for PCs, including a variety of swords, as well as spears, clubs, flails, exotic weapons, monk weapons, and items that aren't weapons. Of course, the book also provides the rules for creating your own custom weapon of legacy. In lieu of a weapon customized for my character, I would want to work in flamecaster's bolt, since I've got a thing for crossbows, or the sling of the dire wind, because it's so unassuming to have a legacy sling!
Wizards: Each weapon also has its various degrees of known history, depending on the success of the Knowledge (history) check. Any inspirations to share on where these histories derived? Was there any insight gained from, or nods to, weapons of real world mythology/legacy (i.e., Excalibur)?
Bruce: The freelancers Kolja Raven Liquette and Travis Stout came up with most of the histories. However, one of those I did write was the weapon Exordius, which I suppose is inspired by Stormbringer, in that Exordius is an evil blade through which good is sometimes accomplished. In Exordius' case, the blade swallowed absorbed a pure soul that it couldn't digest, which transformed the blade into the ambivalent, but potent weapon that it is today. The scattered bits of chapter introductory fiction all deal with Exordius.
Wizards: Shuluth the Mind Flayer appears as a monster of legacy. Shuluth also appears in the recent creature competition--granted, this isn't a combat competition, but who do you really think would come out on top between Shuluth and the Succubus Paladin?
Bruce: Depends on whether the succubus fails its save against Shuluth's mind blast... :-)
Stephen: Well, the succubus would have ridiculous saving throws, owing to her Charisma bonus and strong base saves for being an outsider, so it would seem that Shuluth would be challenged to affect the reformed demon with any psionic powers. Shuluth as presented in Weapons of Legacy might just need to try a mind blast and plane shift away if it fails. But Shuluth is cunning, and the creature competition indicates that he may have picked up some psion levels since his stats were captured for the book -- and with the right selection of powers, he could find the upper hand. Shuluth is a mastermind, and his archvillain persona would take out the do-gooder succubus before she even knew he was there. At any rate, I'd like Shuluth to win. I have a thing for mind flayers, and they make great minis, too!
D&DWeapons of Legacy, July 2005 Release Date, hardcover, full color, 224 pages, $34.95.