March's Magic Item Compendium features several new magic item categories. This miniseries profiles three of the more unique item types, providing examples that illustrate the mechanics behind the item; the first type profiled is the augment crystal, followed by the runestaff and the magic item set. The final article in the series will examine how the book's items can be used in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.
The Augment Crystals
Augment crystals are small gems, crystals, or similar objects that imbue weapons, shields, suits of armor or other AC granting items (such as bracers of armor) with additional magical effects. They make magic item selection more flexible by allowing characters to change enhancements as they advance in level and face different challenges.
A +1 ghost touch bastard sword, for example, is a big commitment; a truedeath crystal (detailed below), however, is a small item that can be affixed to a weapon only when needed. If your campaign is undead heavy, the truedeath crystal might see a lot of use, but if encounters with undead wane in frequency, the truedeath crystal can be traded for a more appropriate augment crystal. This allows characters to add practical qualities to their favored weapons, without committing to items that could prove relatively useless over a large number of encounters.
An item can only hold a single augment crystal, but that crystal can be exchanged for another one at any time. Attaching or detaching an augment crystal from an item requires a move action, which does not provoke attacks of opportunity. In essence, each weapon contains an item slot that can house a single augment crystal.
Crystals come in three ranks: least, lesser, and greater. The rank describes two aspects of the crystal: its relative power level, and the minimum quality or enhancement bonus of the item required for the crystal to function. A least augment crystal functions when attached to an object of masterwork quality (even a nonmagical one). A lesser augment crystal functions when affixed to an object with a magical enhancement bonus of +1 or higher (such as a +1 longsword). A greater augment crystal functions when bonded with an item with at least a +3 enhancement bonus. Only the item's actual bonus matters: a +3 dagger can house a greater augment crystal, but a +1 flaming keen rapier cannot.
The fact that augment crystals come in multiple strengths means that they are available even at low levels, allowing DMs to spice up treasure hoards with nonstandard fare. At 2nd level, players might expect potions of cure light wounds and masterwork light crossbows, and will be pleasantly surprised if they also receive a least augment crystal. This makes augment crystals a great way to flavor low-level treasure, but without significantly increasing the power level of your game.
Crystal of Adamant Weaponry
Price (Item Level): 300 gp (2nd) (least); 1,400 gp (5th) (lesser); 3,400 gp (8th) (greater)
Body Slot: -- (weapon crystal)
Caster Level: 9th
Aura: Moderate; (DC 19) transmutation
This clasp holds a small diamond orb with a sphere of steel at its center.
A crystal of adamant weaponry strengthens your weapon against damage.
Least: This crystal improves the hardness of a weapon by 2.
Lesser: This crystal improves the hardness of a weapon by 5.
Greater: This crystal improves the hardness of a weapon by 10.
Prerequisites: Craft Magic Arms and Armor, diamondsteel (SC, pg. 64).
Cost to Create: 150 gp, 12 XP, 1 day (least); 700 gp, 56 XP, 2 days (lesser); 1,700 gp, 136 XP, 4 days (greater).
The crystal of adamant weaponry is the perfect accessory for a character particularly attached to his favorite weapon. It increases the hardness of the weapon, making it more difficult for enemies to sunder.
Crystal of Arrow Deflection
Price (Item Level): 500 gp (3rd) (least), 2,500 gp (7th) (lesser), or 5,000 gp (9th) (greater)
Body Slot: -- (shield crystal)
Caster Level: 5th
Aura: Faint; (DC 17) divination
This blue sapphire is cut into a large cabochon. It contains a small flint arrowhead in its center.
A crystal of arrow deflection protects you from ranged weapon attacks.
Least: This augment crystal grants you a +2 bonus to AC against ranged attacks.
Lesser: As the least crystal, except the bonus is +5.
Greater: As the least crystal, and you can deflect one ranged attack per round as if you had the Deflect Arrows feat.
Prerequisites: Craft Magic Arms and Armor, shield.
Cost to Create: 250 gp, 20 XP, 1 day (least); 1,250 gp, 100 XP, 3 days (lesser); 2,500 gp, 200 XP, 5 days (greater).
At low and medium levels, a crystal of arrow deflection provides significant protection from deadly ranged attacks. This shield crystal is especially handy against opponents with multiple ranged attacks, such as enemy rangers or manticores. At higher levels, the crystal allows the character to completely deflect ranged attacks.
Price (Item Level): 500 gp (3rd)
Body Slot: -- (armor crystal)
Caster Level: 5th
Aura: Faint; (DC 17) enchantment
This silver clasp is decorated with sparkling crystals shaped like stars.
A restful crystal is a great boon to any warrior who must stay always at the ready. Sleeping in armor that has this augment crystal attached does not make you fatigued.
Prerequisites: Craft Magic Arms and Armor, sleep.
Cost to Create: 250 gp, 20 XP, 1 day.
For low-level parties, every available defense is crucial. Many characters depend on their armor, but which inhibits them from getting the rest necessary to function at peak ability the following day. The restful crystal solves this problem by allowing characters to sleep in their armor, eliminating the fatigue normally suffered. They can be ready to fight in a moment's notice. Gone are the rounds or minutes of hastily donning armor.
Price (Item Level): 1,000 gp (4th) (least); 5,000 gp (9th) (lesser); 10,000 gp (12th) (greater)
Body Slot: -- (weapon crystal)
Caster Level: 5th
Aura: Faint; (DC 17) evocation
This amethyst is carved in the shape of a humanoid skull.
Clerics craft truedeath crystals to aid themselves and others in sending undead to their final rest.
Least: A weapon with this crystal attached deals an extra 1d6 points of damage to undead.
Lesser: As the least crystal, and the weapon also functions as a ghost touch weapon (DMG 224).
Greater: As the lesser crystal, and the weapon can deliver sneak attacks and critical hits against undead as if they were living creatures.
Prerequisites: Craft Magic Arms and Armor, consecrate.
Cost to Create: 500 gp, 40 XP, 1 day (least); 2,500 gp, 200 XP, 5 days (lesser); 5,000 gp, 400 XP, 10 days (greater)
Truedeath crystals are valuable to characters at all levels of play. At low levels, the least truedeath crystal provides a much needed damage bonus against undead menaces. At medium levels, the lesser version of the crystal can be added to a favorite magic weapon when incorporeal undead are encountered. For high-level rogues, ninjas, scouts and other characters whose worst nightmares include their inability to combat undead, the greater crystal is a tremendous boon. It allows these characters to harm undead with sneak attacks, sudden strikes, skirmishes--and of course critical hits!