February 15, 2012

Magic Item: The Iron Codex

image from
Here's an old magic item I created for a now-defunt 4E D&D campaign. The campaign itself fell apart a little due to some of the players moving away, but then had a sort of rebirth in the form of my current campaign, the one that has the Lich-Queen's Beloved finale.

The item itself was a bit of a collaboration between myself, as Dungeon Master, and Jon Paul the Pontiff, as player. A huge amount of inspiration came from this early and expertly written DDi article from Dragon 372.

The dungeon where this item was found was the lost Temple of Bane, the last remnants of godly worship in the oppressive, Primordial-thrall empire of Arkhosia. The temple itself could be accessed only via a bridge made of a 1000 ft. long steel blade upon which the forces of morality (angels and demons) waged a constant war of unending bloodshed. Inside, the dungeoneers faced several non-combative trials, puzzles if you will, based on some commonplace Game Theory stuff, such as The Prisoner's Dilemma; albeit refluffed to fit into a medieval fantasy world. I find that kind of thing particularly interesting.

The item itself follows a similar pattern to how I had been handling magic items for awhile. The item was overtly too powerful, but had a substantial drawback. This formed a temptation of using the item's very impressive powers, but risking the potentially disastrous consequences of its severe drawbacks. You see this sort of dynamic in play in traditional mythology and folklore, as there are few magic items in those tales that do not come with a price. In actual play, it's added a special spark of wonder and mystery to these rarely found artifacts.

You'll probably notice, too, that the item doesn't have a type (weapon, implement, wondrous item, etc.) or any enhancement bonuses. That's because I don't believe in them. Those definitions are unnecessary and overly restrictive. I suppose you could say that all the magic items in the campaign are wondrous items. Any chump can pick up this supremely sacred magic item and use it, although it benefits some more than others. The campaign had inherent enhancement bonuses from the start, negating the need for any +1 this or +2 that. I just create magic items that fit the story. There's no need to worry about which dungeoneer can use the item or which dungeoneer is lacking in items or anything like that. My creativity refuses to be bound in such a way!

The Iron Codex
Magic Item
The heavy tome is bound in bands of iron and recounts the saga of The Dawn War.

Every time you make an attack that bloodies or drops a creature, you suffer a -2 penalty to all defenses until the end of the encounter.

Shield of Destiny
You gain a +2 item bonus to Armor Class, Reflex and Saving Throws.

Subjugation of the Weak
Free Action
Daily + Charm
Trigger: You score a critical hit.
Effect: The target takes normal damage from the attack, but is dominated (save ends).

The Book of Armaments
Minor Action
Effect: Your next attack in this encounter gains a power bonus to damage roll equal to your level.

The legend of the Iron Codex is told only when the winter is the thickest, and snow has covered all the roads of the land. A book of steel pages and wrought-iron bindings, the Iron Codex is said to destroy any agents of chaos who dare read from its pages. The weighty tome recounts the battles and skirmishes fought during The Dawn War, a cataclysmic struggle waged at the beginning of time. The tome was originally created by The Iron General himself, as a treatise on warfare to be passed down to his most trusted and skilled generals.

The pages within describe the Three Pillars of belief in Bane:

  • fear is a two-edged sword
  • order is sacrosanct
  • without strength, there is no victory

Long ago, the god of war placed it upon an altar, guarded and ensorcelled to keep the Codex undisturbed. He assigned a cadre of angelic soldiers to guard the tome and its secrets from enemies, and named them The Order of the Cleansing Blade. Chief among them is a being once known as a mortal woman, Lucresia Imscari.

Initially a camp follower traveling with an army led by officers devoted to multiple deities, Lucresia grew into a potent warrior by following the examples of discipline practiced by those officers who revered Bane’s teachings. She learned of Bane’s favored virtues: ambition, loyalty, pride, discipline, valor, cunning, and vigilance.

The woman grew in power within the army, learning the ways of warfare and from some of the most skilled war masters of the age. She became known as The Black Hand, and was feared throughout the world. Upon her eventual death, she was made into a holy vessel and avatar of Bane; not only because Bane favored the unstoppable ambition of a warrior rising to power from the lowest ranks of society, but also because of her detailed and disciplined accounting of the agonizing defeats of those who turned away from The Iron General, etched into The Iron Codex for all eternity.


  1. I love your approach to DMing and your creative and evocative style. Great stuff as always.

  2. Image: Magic the Gathering - Demonic Tutor(?)