Weapons of Ascendancy

Way back during the days of D&D 3.5, they came out with a book called Weapons of Legacy. It was pretty neat, but flawed. Just look around the internet and see the reviews on this thing. I’m in the boat with most who thought it was a great idea, poor execution. Since I started playing RPGs way back in the days of AD&D 2nd Edition—to some of you, that makes me old while I just made the rest of you feel old—my friends and I did a lot of house and homebrew rules. Who didn’t, right?

There were numerous times I worked with my friends to do what Weapons of Legacy was trying to do. In essence, that was to create weapons that levelled along with the player characters. Most of it involved a lot of hand waving. And, while there is nothing wrong with that, I—like many others—always wanted something more. Jonathan Henry would say I wanted it “codified.” He’d be right, too.


For some time now, I’ve been trying to find a way to do this. It’s not that I couldn’t think of anything, mind you. I just didn’t like what I was coming up with. I didn’t think anyone else would like it either. For awhile, I even toyed with trying to make the weapons somehow level as they were used, but that seemed like something that works much better with the processing power of today’s video and computer games. I didn’t want Pathfinder or D&D characters to have to trade off their precious feats. I didn’t want the trade-off of curses or the like.


The root of the issue for me was that I hated the fact that I could have a character start off with some ancestral weapon only to discard it in favor of the next best thing I found in some dragon’s horde. I know I’m not the only one who felt that way (or, still feels that way, as the case may be). Imagine my surprise when I was talking it over with Mark Knights and he suggested that I do exactly what I was avoiding doing and leveling weapons through use. We played around with that idea for a day or two, but saw serious flaws in it. We went back to the drawing board, but didn’t completely scratch the base concept. We did, however, come up with something new we’re looking forward to playtesting. I’m posting it here for you to give your feedback, maybe playtest a bit on your own with your group and get back to us.


I call these Weapons of Ascendancy, although the concept can easily be applied to any magic item—boots, armor, staves, etc. It works rather simply.


The items each have ways to gain XP. Those XP are specific to the items. It’s easy enough to keep track of with hash marks or something similar. The amount of XP needed was figured that, mathematically, characters will go through about 20 encounters to gain a level. It could be more, it could be less, but it worked out to an approximation. I also figured that, on average, you might gain 1 or 2 XP per an encounter. This math might be wrong and is the strongest aspect I need to have playtested.


With that, I figured that 50 XP per +1 would be about right. That means every two to three levels, you’d be gaining a +1 to a weapon. That’s perhaps a bit on the high side. We also gave the GM control over how quickly the weapon could level…more or less. There would be story components important to the item, so you’re strengthening it by fulfilling its story and making its story part of your own. You can only gain the bonuses in the order of completing the story, a few bonuses being freed up with each question completion. I have figured that, for completing these quests, the normal XP you would gain would be about the same and as such is totally separate from the XP gained toward unlocking the powers of the item. Yes, the abilities gained would be different than simple enchantment modifiers. They would include other enchantments such as fiery or bane. Each of those enchantments in Pathfinder and D&D have equivalents on the bonus modifier scale.


+1 = 50 XP

+2 = 100 XP

+3 = 150 XP

+4 = 200 XP

+5 = 250 XP


Let’s have a look at one of the samples I put together. That should give you a better idea of what I am talking about.


Courtesy sxc.huh

Knight’s Blade


When first found, the blade seems like a normal longsword, although the years have not been kind. The handle’s weave is worn and frayed. The blade itself is tarnished and slightly pitted. It is still usable and more than sharp enough. A successful spot roll DC 12 or thorough examination will show ancient runes carved into the handle below wrapping.


The name of the blade is written in these ancient runes. It will most likely take some study and searching to decipher, although the GM may rule a character might be able to decipher them on a successful History check DC 18. The name reads “Shadow’s Folly.” Speaking the name while holding the blade causes a faint white glow to appear momentarily. The blade is now a Longsword +1.


The character may invest 50 XP to make the weapon a Defending Longsword +1.


With research, the character will find that the blade once belonged to a powerful knight in ages of yore. The sword’s handle had previously been wrapped with a straightened tuft of Troll hair. The weave itself requires DC 10. Once the character has completed the weave, a faint glow returns to the blade, now a Defending Longsword +2.


The character may invest 50 XP to make the weapon a Courageous Defending Longsword +2.


The character may invest 50 XP to make the weapon a Benevolent Courageous Defending Longsword +2.


Further research will lead to the discovery that the blade can be restored only in the flames of the forge where it was initially created. The forge was located in a volcano. The forge itself is long since gone, but the molten lava will suit the purpose. Undertake and complete this quest to transform the weapon into a Keen Benevolent Courageous Defending Longsword +2. (Dungeon quest).


The character may invest 150 XP to make the weapon a Keen Benevolent Courageous Defending Longsword +3.


The character may invest 50 XP to make the weapon a Keen Benevolent Courageous Defending Longsword of Dragonbane +3.


The sword speaks to its new owner through dreams. It shows images of a black dragon destroying villages. Fighting the dragon only to fall. If the character has taken time to learn the weapon’s story, they will know that the previous owner fell fighting a black dragon. Seeking out and completing that battle and defeating that dragon will transform the sword to a Keen Benevolent Courageous Defending Longsword +4.


The character may spend 50 XP to make the weapon a Corrosive Keen Benevolent Courageous Defending Longsword +4.


Gain XP by:

Confirm a Critical Strike with the blade +1 XP

Strike the killing blow +1 XP

Reclaim the weapon after being unwillingly disarmed +1 XP


So, there it is, in a nutshell. What do you think? Is it something you would use? If you do use it, be sure to let us know how it turns out. Hate it or love it, be sure to let us know.


  1. So, I understand wanting to have weapons progress with the characters but I’m not certain having them level up is the right thing.

    You might look at how MMOs have sockets on some items, and have the players weapons start out with empty sockets that can be filled with better gems. Or a sword hilt could be replaced with a better better one. Spear hafts could be replaced with stronger wood, etc.


    1. Funny you should mention gems, I actually did that awhile back (http://goo.gl/WhdKxb)–and still do.

      The other option, swapping out components is one I considered, but feedback I got on that was players feeling it stepped into the realm of crafting rules which are already pretty well defined.

      By the same token, you can use rules as they currently stand to keep on enchanting a weapon or any other item.

      So, this was something designed to allow those items to gain greater power without dealing with economic or crafting rules.


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