After vanquishing the dragon, the heroes discover its treasure hoard. Underneath a pile of gold and silver lies a finely crafted greatsword, its hilt wrapped in crimson leather. Thanks to your carefully prepared notes, you know the sword's long history, from its creation by dwarves in the volcanic depths of a distant mountain range to its role in the defense of the kingdom against the last flight of dragons to rampage across the land. A cornerstone of your world's timeline, the sword has waited decades for worthy hands to wield it once again -- worthy hands like those of the paladin who struck the death-blow against the dragon.
"It's a +1 dragonbane greatsword," says the wizard after studying it for a few minutes.
"That would've been useful a few minutes ago!" complains the paladin. "Oh, well, at least we can sell it for 4,000 gp."
Has this scene happened to you? If so, Weapons of Legacy may be exactly what the doctor ordered. Between the covers of this book you'll find nearly 50 unique magic items, each with a history and set of magic powers all its own. But even better, the book contains rules that allow each one of these unique items to grow more powerful along with its wielder. No more will the fighter's one-of-a-kind weapon end up sold to a local merchant; instead, the character and the weapon become intertwined, and the legends of your world can live on in the hands of your player characters.
In addition to a detailed history, each item featured in Weapons of Legacy includes a sample encounter for introducing the weapon into your game. These encounters can be used either as the goal of a quest -- for characters following rumors and stories of one of the fabled legacy weapons -- or as part of an otherwise normal adventure. A character may even come across a legacy weapon without realizing what he has found, though that realization shouldn't be long in coming.
The entry for Crimson Ruination (pages 61-63) is crucial, though most of the sword's powers won't come into play during this session. Still, you should be comfortable with the weapon's array of abilities before introducing it to your campaign.
Consider skimming the first few pages of Chapter One: The Legacy for more background on legacy items, including What Is a Weapon of Legacy? (pages 5-6, or read it here in June's Previews) and Designing Legacy Adventures (pages 7-9).
Review the statistics for a very young red dragon (Monster Manual, page 75). If you choose to make the dragon more powerful, either create a new set of statistics or consult Draconomicon for a full writeup of a red dragon of your choice of age category.
This fabled greatsword was first wielded by Sir Endrik van Ibnacht, a legendary dragonslayer who lived centuries ago. A gift from the dwarves, Crimson Ruination is said to have been crafted from the bones, skin, and blood of a red wyrm slain by Sir Endrik himself. It makes a good legacy weapon for your campaign because the prerequisites to properly wield it are easily met (base attack bonus +3, any nonchaotic alignment) and because the details of its history should fit well into any traditional D&D campaign. (If none of your PCs are likely to want a magic greatsword, feel free to change Crimson Ruination to a bastard sword or a longsword. You can even change it more drastically, though in this case the illustration is no longer useful for depicting the weapon to the PCs.)
The sample encounter provided in the weapon's entry doesn't require that the PCs be hunting for Crimson Ruination (or even for a dragon's lair). If your characters are already in an area where the cave can be placed without difficulty, you can have them come across the dragon's grave as part of their normal explorations.
If, however, you want to place the weapon and/or the lair in more context, consider using any or all of the adventure hooks provided below.
- A dwarf known to the PCs (or perhaps the dwarf is one of the PCs) is a distant descendant of the thane Croi Machroi. In his youth, the dwarf learned of the thane's friendship with a human dragonslayer named Sir Endrik and the priceless gift given to the human by the dwarves in thanks for his defeat of a red wyrm plaguing their lands: a one-of-a-kind greatsword named Crimson Ruination. Sadly, the weapon was lost or stolen not long after Sir Endrik's death, and its current whereabouts are a mystery.
- A would-be dragonslayer of some repute claimed that the blade he wielded was an ancient weapon of great power. Unfortunately, no one has seen the dragonslayer in many months. Characters who dig around for rumors can learn that he was last seen setting out to find the lair of a powerful red dragon in the mountains.
- Heroes looking for a challenge (or a treasure horde) come across a map that purports to lead to a red dragon's lair high in a forbidding mountain range. (Though the dragon described in the map has already been slain and its hoard largely looted, the previous looters overlooked one valuable item.)
As with the other encounters in Weapons of Legacy, the Dragon's Grave is most appropriate for low-level characters. If your party is higher than 4th level or so, consider increasing the age of the dragon to make it a memorable encounter for the PCs. (Perhaps it has been decades since the previous occupant was slain, or maybe it had a mate that was away from the cavern when it was killed.) Ideally, its CR should be 1 or 2 points higher than the party's level.
Alternatively, you can add additional and/or more difficult threats in and around the cavern to make this adventure more challenging. Perhaps scavengers have descended upon the carcass; a pair of carrion crawlers makes an EL 6 encounter, while a black pudding makes a deadly EL 7 encounter. Maybe one or more intelligent creatures (such as an ogre mage and a troupe of four ogres [EL 9]) have taken up residence in the cavern, relying on the dead dragon's reputation to keep pesky adventurers away. The corpse of the dragon itself might even still be a threat (see Draconomicon for rules on creating special skeletal or zombie dragons).
Ultimately, the characters should discover the side chamber and the weapon lying hidden there. When this happens, describe the appearance of Crimson Ruination (see the opening paragraphs of the weapon's entry). Anyone gazing at the sword should catch a glimpse of reflected flames playing along the blade, even though no fire is present. If a character grasps the weapon, note how it feels warm to the touch despite the cool air and stone around it.
Smart players should realize that this sword isn't an ordinary magic weapon, but if they don't, allow a DC 15 Knowledge (history) check to recognize the weapon as Crimson Ruination; give that character the information provided in the first paragraph of the History entry. (At your option, you can allow a DC 20 Knowledge [arcana] or bardic knowledge check to substitute for the Knowledge [history] check; this increases the odds that someone will recognize the blade's identity.) An identify spell doesn't reveal the weapon's hidden powers, but a legend lore spell might well provide useful information. Adjudicate the effects of other divination spells as you see fit, but remember that the most important issue right now is that the characters recognize they have something unusual on their hands.
Regardless of the method, you want the end result of this encounter to be the characters wanting to find out more about the blade they've discovered. A bard, loremaster, wizard, or sage might well point them in the right direction. Use the information presented on pages 8 and 9 to guide their search for information, doling out bits of the weapon's history as appropriate to the success of their attempts. Depending on the level of the PCs, they may be ready to complete one or more of the legacy rituals required to unlock the powers of Crimson Ruination. Each one of these can become a full-fledged adventure, providing many hours of excitement for your PCs. Be sure that everyone in the party gets a chance to shine in these adventures -- just because one character needs to complete the task to unlock the weapon's powers doesn't mean he should hog the spotlight.
Another possible outcome is that other characters in the party may seek out rumors of additional legacy weapons. As a DM, you should welcome such inquiries. Not only are these characters providing you with the opportunity for plenty of adventure hooks, but they also allow you to enrich your players' involvement in and appreciation of your world's history by exploring its myths and legends.
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About the Author
By day, Andy Collins works as an RPG developer in Wizards of the Coast R&D. His development credits include the Player's Handbook v.3.5, Races of Eberron, and Dungeon Master's Guide II. By night, however, he fights crime as a masked vigilante. Or does he?