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Special Magic Item Features: History

The special features tables for magic items are among 5E’s most flavorful additions. These details grant even the plainest of such items a unique feel. Still, any given list of options only remains fresh for so long. Presented in this series are additional random tables, adding new details and features. Last time we looked at magic item origins; in this instalment, Ari Marmell offers new historical details or events for your magic items.


What Is a Detail From Its History? Roll 1d8 on the table below!

1. Champion’s Prize
The item was once presented as a reward to the winner of a famous competition: a series of games and sporting events with competitors from multiple kingdoms, the first successful completion of an arduous religious rite, a scavenger hunt put on by multiple guilds, or the like. Depending on the significance of the competition and how long ago it occurred, this could simply be an interesting piece of trivia, or it could have major repercussions for the wielder, who might be seen as unworthy or a pretender to unearned glory.

2. Conflict
This item was the spark that ignited some sort of conflict, as different sides or factions vied to acquire it. This might have been as minor as a social struggle between two politicians or local guilds, or as large as a full-scale war. People often expect strife and struggle to follow the item and its wielder, especially if the item doesn’t seem potent or important enough to have been worth such effort and violence.

3. Hero’s Victory
Whether used to slay an infamous monster or taken from that monster’s hoard, this item represents a great victory over a destructive or evil force. It is, in the minds of those who recognize it, associated with that specific event, rather than the identity of the adventurer who won that victory. People may expect the current wielder to perform feats of equal valor, and those with a tie to the original hero—or the monster or villain—may become hostile.

4. Incomplete
Although still fully functional, the item is incomplete. A sword might be missing its pommel; a shield might be short a strap; a bag might lack a clasp or a tie. Was the item created this way, or has the absent bit been deliberately removed? Why? Is anything unusual destined to occur if the item is ever fully restored?

5. Monstrous Materials
This item is crafted, in whole or in part, from the remains of monsters. A cloak might be made from the leathery wings of a chimera, for instance, or a blade from the shell of an iron golem. Other creatures of that type, if intelligent enough to recognize it, likely don’t take kindly to anyone wielding such a thing, while common folk assume the wielder, as an obvious hunter of vile creatures, will be eager to aid them with their own monster problems.

6. Part of a Set
This was crafted as part of a set of matching items. A magical weapon might have been forged along with a specific shield and suit of armor. Magical boots or a haversack might have been part of a complete outfit. The items all have similar design, and likely bear specific marks. Matching up items of the same set, assuming they all still exist, likely has no benefit other than aesthetics—but then again, they just might boast some additional power when combined that they lack when separated.

7. Remnant
This item is one of the last surviving relics of a community, a culture, or even an entire region that has since been lost, either through natural disaster, war, or similar catastrophe. It carries an almost palpable sense of woe. Historians and any survivors of the disaster might seek to obtain the item for themselves, even if only to ensure this last trace of a dead people is never lost.

8. Resemblance
For whatever reason—be it artistic inspiration, simple coincidence, or deliberate deception—this item looks almost exactly like another, much more important or powerful magic item, such as a historical treasure or even an artifact. Those who seek this item’s “twin” are unlikely to believe the wielder’s claims that this isn’t the genuine article.


Yep. Love these articles. I remember 3E DMG2 had such charts and I still get them out. Love adding more to every single MI, rather than just stats and appearance.

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