Artifacts throughout fiction

Discuss this tome of artifacts done right!
Mouseferatu
Ghast
Joined: 20 Nov 2002, 18:18

10 Feb 2007, 21:57 #1

I know that some people are uncertain how to incorporate artifacts into their campaigns, seeing them only as mega-powerful magic items that will unbalance the party. I thought, rather than trying to address that issue myself, I'd just point people to stories that have done so. Each of the objects discussed below would qualify as an artifact--they may not all be insanely potent, but they are all unique items with a rich history and/or purpose in the setting.
The One Ring (Lord of the Rings)
The Glaive (Krull)
The Dark Crystal (The Dark Crystal)
The Ark of the Covenant (Raiders of the Lost Ark)
The Orb of Aldur (The Belgariad)
Blue Rose (The Elenium)
Stormbringer (Moorcock's Elric series)
Excalibur (the King Arthur legends)
The Great Machine on Epsilon 3 (Babylon 5; I realize this is sci-fi, not fantasy, but as an ancient source of great but mysterious power, the Machine's purpose in the story is still very much that of an artifact)
The Black Cauldron (The Black Cauldron)
The Spear of Longinus (Constantine)
There are plenty of others, but these, I think, make the point I wanted to make. Image Ari Marmell
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Mouseferatu
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Ari Marmell

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JoeGKushner
Death Knight
Joined: 10 Jun 2002, 05:37

12 Feb 2007, 16:58 #2

Strombringer, for all it's base power, isn't really an artifact per say.
It's just a powerful sword that in a magic rich D&D campaign has a ton of disadvantages. For example, it's useless against constructs and undead.
Excalibur falls into the same camp.
Powerful, to me, does not equal artifact.
Now if we went with that crazy armor Thomas gets in Magician that turns him basiclly into a god, then sure, that's an artifact.
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Mouseferatu
Ghast
Joined: 20 Nov 2002, 18:18

12 Feb 2007, 18:38 #3

My whole point was that power isn't the issue. An item's purpose in the story, and the history behind it, is what makes an artifact. Excalibur is an artifact because of its history and its importance to the tale, not because of its power (which, other than the fact that the scabbard can prevent wounds, is largely undefined in most Arthurian myths).
Edit to add: That doesn't mean, of course, that the Tome includes anything like a simple +1 sword, writes a background, and calls it an artifact. Most if not all artifacts should, indeed, have some manner of unique ability. But my points were simply that
A) Each of the objects from fiction mentioned above are, or have abilities, unique to their own settings, regardless of how D&D might or might not model them, and
B) The specific power level of an artifact is secondary to its background and the purpose it plays in a story/campaign setting.Ari Marmell
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keevan
Necromancer
Joined: 14 Mar 2003, 03:50

12 Feb 2007, 19:00 #4

I'm not sure artifact needs to translate into raw power.
And why wouldn't things like the classical 7 wonders fit as artifacts in some sense? or even smaller things like the recent greek timepiece/computer thingy. or the statues on easter island?
i can think of artifacts as more mundane, unique (or very very rare) items. the declaration of independence, the magna carta, the gutenberg bible. the crown jewels. a ring for superbowl X. an oscar or grammy. these could all be artifacts in that sense. they needn't be limited to superbig items of power and mythology...
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JoeGKushner
Death Knight
Joined: 10 Jun 2002, 05:37

12 Feb 2007, 19:22 #5

But traditionally, that's how they're thought of.
We don't think of the hand and eye of vecna and think, "meh, eye of seeing" or something along those lines.
One of the areas where having magic items so codified, as they are in 3rd ed, works against the very feel of fantasy and the magic becomes another subsitution for technology without actually, you know, making sense in that context.
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Mouseferatu
Ghast
Joined: 20 Nov 2002, 18:18

12 Feb 2007, 19:28 #6

Oh, absolutely. The codified nature of magic, while perhaps good for ease of gameplay, does indeed work against the feel of items like artifacts. As I said, don't worry that you're going to see "standard items redressed"; that's not the route we went.
I was just suggesting that one cannot judge artifacts in fiction by the same yardstick one judges artifacts in D&D, and all the above examples can offer DMs good ideas as to how to incorporate artifacts into their campaigns. Image Ari Marmell
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JoeGKushner
Death Knight
Joined: 10 Jun 2002, 05:37

12 Feb 2007, 20:32 #7

heck, I want something like the Titan armor that the old Planewalker from Magic the Gathering wore and designed for his fellow Planeswalkers. Image Think something along the lines of the Machine of Luke-O.
Obviously too late now, but Archmagics from Role Aids had some interesting bits in it too.
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keevan
Necromancer
Joined: 14 Mar 2003, 03:50

12 Feb 2007, 22:22 #8

well, i guess what people traditionally think an artifact is comes from their expereince with the game. i've played in a low magic setting, with a lot of detail: a potion of healing might be cerulean with an effervescent bubbling and somewhat medicine smell (think nurse blue alkaselzer). magic is rare, unique, and interesting.
artifacts, believe it or not, end up being MORE common in this setting (if less powerful). making a magic sword isn't something that you just walk into ye old weaponsmith and crank one out. you end up questing for the rare refined metal, you need the scales of a quilled dragon for its keen edge, etc. it may not be a world shattering "excalibur" but very intersitng in their own way.
personally -- i really hate how "codified" and common magic is in most worlds.
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Diabolus
Vampire
Joined: 10 Jun 2003, 12:55

12 Feb 2007, 23:13 #9

Quote:
Think something along the lines of the Machine of Luke-O.
Groan. I think you're blending the Machine of Lum the Mad and the Mighty Servant of Leuk-o (which was essentially mecha battle armor - see the WotC site for a d20 modern web enhancement, where the Mighty Servant of Leuk-o is possessed by a Type III demon)
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Patrick Lawinger
Vampire
Joined: 06 Jan 2002, 05:37

13 Feb 2007, 01:45 #10

Guys, you need to see the book. I mean, some of the artifacts are very "mundane" yet can affect the world and/or even how the PCs view the world after they deal with them.
I mean, one of the "artifacts" I created was a set of paint brushes ...
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