D&D General World Building: Artifacts and Relics

So I asked for general DM advise, because hello I am new to Dming. However I would like to start a series of specific posts asking about different parts of world building. This isn't a plus thread per say, but if you think I should not world build that is not very helpful.
Also Warning, I ramble when I am excited even in text.

(if you want to see part 1 https://www.enworld.org/threads/world-building-commerce-and-gold.698360/ if your want to see part 2 https://www.enworld.org/threads/world-building-army-building.698375/ and there is a part 2b someone else spun off https://www.enworld.org/threads/wor...-in-military-application.698390/#post-9051859 )
Part 3 https://www.enworld.org/threads/world-building-tech-magic-and-society.698394/ (and 3b spin off again where I get told that a cantrip can't do what a cantrip says https://www.enworld.org/threads/worldbuilding-destruction-and-siege-via-mold-earth.698457/
And another spin off about the mechanics of spells https://www.enworld.org/threads/wor...ics-of-spellcasting-tell-us-of-flavor.698470/
Part 4 https://www.enworld.org/threads/world-building-did-magic-evolve.698479/
Thanks to DnDWarlord https://www.enworld.org/threads/world-building-mix-and-match-editions.698606/
And part 5 theme and theft of ideas https://www.enworld.org/threads/world-building-theme-and-idea-theft.698607/

So for 6 I have: How do you use Artifacts to build out your world in theme history and scope?

Also side note, I never understood the difference between Artifact and Relic, I have had DMs use them in a way I think are pretty interchangeable.

So I have played in games with artifacts before. Sometimes things the DM brings from the DMG, or a supplement, or even an older edition of the game. However what I always love is when the DM makes one that fits their world and teaches a bit of its history and or lore by just being. The Eye of Vecna is cool, the Eye of Aggomoto is really the time stone and a funny MCU tip of the hat. HOWEVER the Eye of Lashail the fallen Solar that fell in love with a Tiefling and was punished with most of her divinity stiped but not her full immortality, that was in order to be killed was cut into parts separated and burned… but her left eye somehow survived and now has a bunch of powers just fills out the game more. The fact that it could be attuned as a third eye instead of replacing like vecna made it feel even more unique even if it came with some MASSIVE down sides.

So I am making artifacts for my own game world based on a mix but loosely on star gate, my "ancient gods" were the lords of order (and chaos but there stuff is different) and so my first idea was the helm of nabu (I will rename) that gives the attuned wearer the ability to use a wild shape like body switch to a demigod archmage… BUT when you use it you have a chance that demigod takes control and maybe keeps it. In star gate at the end we find out some of the ancients did not ascend they were trapped places and still held information (Merlin ark of truth) so I was thinking that this was a lord of order that was kicked out and was held in the helm as punishment BUT also as a in case of emergency break glass type weapon.
Now I am going to start a different thread just about my ideas LIKE that for artifacts, the mechanics and trying to balance it all out and when I do I will make sure to label it 5e. However I am putting it here as a concept.

The helm is a part of the history of the world, even if never used as an item just being found and researched it influences the feel of the game (I hope).

How do yall do it? Do you take artifacts and just plop them in, do you make your own? Do you use them as tools to talk about the history of your world?
 

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Voadam

Legend
Relics are historically generally remains of dead saints that become holy objects. For one meaning of the word relic.

I have seen this in a campaign where relics were things powered by gods, while artifacts were things of big magic. A god could fill anything with divine power by choice, artifacts generally take lots of work.

In practice in most of D&D the terms artifacts and relics are not really defined beyond really big magic things.
 

Relics are body part of some Saint or important being. They were commonly worship during Middle Ages.
 
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Relics are historically generally remains of dead saints that become holy objects. For one meaning of the word relic.

I have seen this in a campaign where relics were things powered by gods, while artifacts were things of big magic. A god could fill anything with divine power by choice, artifacts generally take lots of work.

In practice in most of D&D the terms artifacts and relics are not really defined beyond really big magic things.
Relics are body part of some Saint or important being. They were commonly worsh during Middle Ages.
Okay, I think the other DMs were just doing divine magic-relic arcane magic-artifact that makes sense now.
 

Voadam

Legend
How do yall do it? Do you take artifacts and just plop them in, do you make your own? Do you use them as tools to talk about the history of your world?
Mostly I include artifacts when they are in a module I am using, and otherwise mostly use them as lore hooks without introducing them directly.

A PC in one of my games had a 1st level hexblade concept that he was a fallen dark lord, formerly a high level LE blackguard hell knight wielder of the Sword of Kas who had gone after the Eye of Vecna and things had turned out poorly crippling his body, now he was the CG butler of the guy who had saved him, but the Sword of Kas now calls to him as a warlock hexblade patron and he manifests a shadow of the artefact sword he previously wielded directly. That was fun.

When I was running a rotating shared campaign world with two other DMs I worked in world shaping artefacts (Elemental Shards) that the other DMs had come up with into plot hooks to continue with the themes already developed. Two PCs had connections to the Earth and Water Shards so I wove the Fire Shard into plots for modules I was running.
 

Incenjucar

Legend
My one use of an artifact was central to the campaign and was mostly a souped up standard magical item: A sextant of the planes that, when fully assembled (needed a part for inner, prime, outer, transitive) made a normal ship into a flying "planejammer" vessel that could warp around as needed without bursting into flames etc.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Artifacts are quest items so when Ive used them they are unique and the focus of an adventure.
In my last campain the PCs helped a Fey Lord who rewarded them with a self repairing ship built by spiders, they then went to find the Calabash of Winds, a compass that allowed the bearer to summon the right winds for their journey to the Seas of Ice and Storm (Antarctica) to speak with the Sea goddess
 

Voadam

Legend
I know I have used the Mithril Breadknife of Greyhawk (1e), the Crown of Soldiers (2e), and the Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga (twice, 2e and Pathfinder 1e) directly in my games.

I had plans for a one shot flashback game that would have put the Sword of Kas in a PC's hand.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
So for 6 I have: How do you use Artifacts to build out your world in theme history and scope?

Also side note, I never understood the difference between Artifact and Relic, I have had DMs use them in a way I think are pretty interchangeable.
For my part, "artifact" is generic, "relic" is specific. An "artifact" is any extremely powerful magic item that either can't be made anymore, would take an enormous effort to create today, or is the direct product of incredibly rare materials/forces/divine boon/etc. "Relic" is a specific subtype of "artifact," which is either truly unique (e.g. there can be many truly-bottomless Bag of Holding artifacts, but only one Hand of Vecna) or from a very small set of similar things (e.g. perhaps there are only and exactly three Holy Avengers, like Esperacchius, Fidelacchius, and Amoracchius), and which has a strong and identifiable story/history to it. So, Thor's Hammer would be a relic, but a vorpal sword might be "merely" an artifact.

How do yall do it? Do you take artifacts and just plop them in, do you make your own? Do you use them as tools to talk about the history of your world?
I like to build up to them, but still present them. Here are some examples I have provided in my Dungeon World game:
  • A living wood staff, which turns out to be the haft of a Druid artifact, intended to have a scythe blade. The choice of material for the scythe blade matters; the Druids of the Sun used sunstone, while the Druids of the Moon used moonstone. If our party Druid had used blood obsidian for his blade, that would have had...mythological implications.
  • A cloak that allows the wearer to blend into natural surroundings (the Druid, who spent most of his time in shapeshift form, called it a "cloak of natural smells.") Not quite an invisibility cloak, per se, more like the classic D&D "cloak of elvenkind." Except this is part of a set, which I would collectively consider a relic, though the individual pieces are not: the Panoply of the First Sultan. Our party Ranger, who is descended from the First Sultan through two different bloodlines (a rare occurrence in this context, for social reasons), has collected three pieces of the Panoply (spear, bow, cloak), and as he collects more, the power of all of the items increases. Hence why I consider the full set a Relic (as only the First Sultan himself ever had a full set, even though others did carry parts of a set.)
  • Our party Battlemaster's leaf-bladed greatsword. It is preternaturally light and easy to wield; despite being a greatsword, he uses dexterity for his attacks. But its greater powers are that it can absorb the powers of weapons it "defeats" (meaning, enemies it attacks and overcomes)...and that it is one of the three "keys" needed to bring back the ancestors of his people (the long-lost "El-Adrin"), who sequestered themselves in a pocket-plane bubble because the world was "changed" somehow, long ago, which would have made their society fail due to the specific magic it was dependent on. Three sets of three keys were made: the blade, the mirror, and the gem. He started with the blade (inherited from his mother), and received a gem from a friend, and is now hunting for the mirror.
I love artifacts, especially ones that are incomplete or broken or just the first part of a bigger puzzle, because they make AMAZING adventure hooks. Everyone likes shiny loot, but shiny loot that leads to more story, or pushes new objectives, or adds depth to a character? At least in my experience, it's a big hit.
 

cbwjm

Seb-wejem
I don't really have much to say on this topic because I don't really worry about integrating artefacts into my game, but I feel like relics are divine artefacts. It could be the finger bone of a saint, it could be the armour of a legendary paladin, it's an artefact but because of it coming from a religious bent, it might be called a relic rather than an artefact.
 

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