"Forcing" players' choice in authenticating legendary weapon


Advice

Grand Lodge

Hi folks

The PC's in my campaign are after the legendary Axe of the Dwarvish Lords.

https://www.d20pfsrd.com/magic-items/artifacts/major-artifacts/axe-of-the-d warvish-lords/

They are very close to (hopefully) acquiring it.

Idea 1: In my campaign legendary artifacts need proof that they are the real deal. A +6 bonus is not something visible, nor is a keen ability, and the exterior ornamentation can be forged. The only visible characteristic of the item is Hands of the Maker. i.e, if you hold it/use it for an extended period of time (a few weeks), and you are not a dwarf, you will turn into one.

This is essentially the only proof that the Axe is the real one.

Since finding the axe is supposed to convince an entire dwarven populace to gather behind the PC's, I feel that the more suspicious of dwarven rulers will require proof before expressing their allegiance.

Idea 2: an offer is being made to the PC's, that one of them who is not a Dwarf will carry the Axe instead of his usual weapon. If he begins to show dwarven physical attributes, then this is the proof that the PC's have acquired the artifact.

My concern: this will involve "forcing" a player to use a different weapon then the one they carry. They might like the idea, they might not like the idea. The party has three PC's, so there are two possible choices since the third one is a dwarf.
I believe both other PC's are proficient with martial weapons.

Of course, the PC's can refuse to do it altogether, so in that sense I'm not really forcing anyone, but let's be honest: it will be evident to them that this is the way story "should" progress. Now, I'm completely open to them refusing and to any creative alternative solutions they may find for the problem. But my players seem to sense when I would prefer them to go in a certain direction even if on my part they have the freedom to do whatever they wish.
For me, having another character use the weapon is an interesting idea because it involves themes of sacrifice and camaraderie. (of course I will not let the affected PC remain a dwarf unless they would wish to).

The question: do you think it's a good idea to even introduce such an element into a campaign, where a players choice, at least on paper, seem to be restricted by what the GM wants? I don't want someone with a powerful magic sword he worked hard to acquire to be given the Axe (a powerful weapon in itself, to be fair) and then resent it, nor do I want the dwarf to resent not being able to wield the Axe himself, even if it's only for a limited time. I plan to have at least two full session where the Axe will be wielded by a non-dwarf.

Your opinions are welcome!


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The plot requires someone to become a dwarf by carrying this artifact, so that it's identified as an artifact? I'm not sure why the player wouldn't ask: "You can't cast detect magic to see if it has an overwhelming aura? You can afford an artifact, but not identify or legend lore? What are you really up to here? You know what? No. This smells like a trap."


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So...nobody the King trusts can cast Legend Lore? While Legend Lore won't reveal what the axe can do, it will reveal the history of the specific item if the caster is looking at it. So they'll know who made it, where its been, any major incidents it is involved in, and a list of previous owners.

It might not reveal anything about the party, since it only shows major events and what the party has accomplished may or may not be considered important.

More of a concern would be other Dwarves challenging the PC for the axe. If a dwarf considers himself to be a better candidate to rule, why wouldn't they challenge for possession of the axe?

One of the big temples should volunteer a high ranking member to Legend Lore the axe. Maybe even a counsel of religious leaders because they think one religion could try to gain control over the Axe if its real, or make a fake axe.

Grand Lodge

Thanks.

First of all, I was not aware of Legend Lore. The party has no Arcane spellcasters so my knowledge regarding Arcane spells is limited. If I'm not aware of it, almost certainly my players won't be aware of it.

(I have to admit one of the issues I have with high-magic fantasy setting is the way spells seem to fix everything, while reducing dramatic tension. Someone died? No problem, we'll go to a cleric and they'll resurrect them for a fee. Need to fix your sword? Need to authenticate your item? There's a spell for that. Yeah, I know, it's my campaign so I can ban these spells if I wish, but I'm just saying this as an aside.)

So basically you're telling me that it's not a great idea. Not only does it force the players to do something they might not like, there are also several ways in the rules to solve the issue and authenticate the artifact.

I do like the idea of other dwarves contesting for the axe, it's just that the PC was mentioned in a prophecy as the wielder of the axe. This is another aspect I'm considering, how many dwarves believe in said prophecy.


So how many dwarven clans may have issue with the prophesy and attempt some under handed dealings to prevent a non-dwarf from fulfilling the prophesy? Yes, there will be challenges, but likely some assassination attempts, where the axe may be the PC's only weapon of defense, like caught in their bed chamber, dwarven assassins standing between them and their armor and weapons, back to the bed when the stumble and their hand comes to rest on the handle of the axe mysteriously hidden under the bed before all this confrontation occurred. As an Artifact, it may be intelligent, or simply blessed like "Rabbit Slayer" from the old dragon lance books, always finding its way to it's owner when in need.


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Umm...on Golorian in the modern age nobody believes in Prophecy ever since the human god was killed before he could fulfill his prophecy and bad things happened. I'm a bit fuzzy on the bad things, but I think the World Wound is involved?

Your game doesn't sound like its based on Golorian, but in your own world. Even if belief in prophecy is strong there it is usually possible to crock a prophecy enough to twist who the prophecy is about. And there should still be plenty of pragmatic people who would be willing to ignore the prophecy until a few other people die trying to get the axe.

Or someone could try to make the prophecy be fulfilled in some trivial manner so they can declare it is finished and take the axe afterward. Oh sorry, 'now the prophecy has been concluded, and the axe needs to be returned to its rightful ancestral owners. Long will your heroic deeds to <blank> house be remembered by our future heirs.'

And even without being able to use a spell, 'experts' could authenticate the axe in a more trusted way than 'well, they just used some magic trickery to make that dwarf look like a human and they got rid of it to make it look like the axe is real now!' kind of story for anyone that wants to cast dispersion on the axe being real.

Of course nobody would start these sorts of rumors before the PC turns into a dwarf. Only after the PCs can't prove it isn't true would they do such a thing.

Grand Lodge

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You are right, somebody could turn someone else into a dwarf through magic as well, so if someone doesn't believe the Axe is real nothing will persuade them. Good point!

My campaign is based in Golarion because it's easier for me to use pre-constructed maps and places and even events, but it is not 100 percent compatible to official Golarion history and to Everything That Ever Happened. My players know next to nothing about the world, only what they get through me, or what's relevant to their current adventure. They had the option to read the Inner Sea Guide but opted not to, so as far as I'm concerned I'm free to play fast and loose with the rules without a player coming to me and saying "hey, nobody believes in prophecies because of this and that". Golarion for us is just where the adventures happen. I would be happy if the campaign was deeply rooted in the history of the place, but since my players don't care about that too much, I don't either. Sometime I mention something from the distant past, for example, one of the adventures took place around the Eye of Abendego, and I mentioned it was caused by the death of Aroden, explaining who he is, but I got the distinct feeling that my players are just doing a mental shrug when they hear these things, for them, what matters is that they have this eye of the storm they need to navigate around, they don't really care how it got there. I guess I could've made more effort to teach them about the world, but at some point it was evident it's not really an issue as far as the game goes, so... I prefer to focus on concrete, immediate goals then to lecture them about history and endless exposition.

So you could say the campaign takes place in a modified version of Golarion that suits my players' style.


Since the Axe is supposed to unite the dwarves why not have it be something any dwarf instinctively recognizes. A dwarf in its presence does not need any magic to recognize the Axe for what it is. To any other race it appears as just a powerful magic item.

Grand Lodge

Yeah, I know. You can spin it so many ways to suit your purpose. I came up with this "proof" idea not because I didn't think anybody will recognize it, just as a device for dramatic tension between the players. And it made sense to me. But following the comments here I was persuaded to not follow through.

But I suspected it was problematic, that's why I came here for some feedback.


If you think it is good for the story, go for it. A shared setting always get remade into the GMs version of it even if they want to follow the written lore because that is how stories are told.

And if they come to you after reading something, just shrug and say 'yeah, but this is a slightly different version just for this game.' I think most people accept that sort of thing.

And if you think your original idea will give an interesting result, try it. Or not. The main thing is trying to make a strong story that eveyone will remember and feel they had a part in shaping that story.

Grand Lodge

Thank you!


Lynos wrote:

Yeah, I know. You can spin it so many ways to suit your purpose. I came up with this "proof" idea not because I didn't think anybody will recognize it, just as a device for dramatic tension between the players. And it made sense to me. But following the comments here I was persuaded to not follow through.

But I suspected it was problematic, that's why I came here for some feedback.

Maybe it is something that any dwarf can recognize, but there are factions involved that want "their" side be the one that unites all the dwarves. Even if religion A casts legend lore on the party's axe and confirms it's the real deal. What's to stop religion B from "casting" legend lore on an axe that they have and "confirming" their's is the real deal? Or worse religion A refusing to publicly confirm that the party's axe is real unless the party backs their agenda.

Political intrigue can easily screw things up and the party may find that facts don't matter quite so much as political influence.

Grand Lodge

Yeah, that's kind of what I was thinking, that spells that "confirm" such things can easily be manipulated by politics.
Unless you decide you play in a world where nobody contests such things and magic is the final word.

I may not go with the "tuning into a dwarf" storyline, but I don't see why accepting the axe as the real deal should be straightforward and simple. It's not really the axe, it's what it represents.


You could also give the axe another power that is not listed. It could easily be something minor that has no real game affect, but is still verifiable. Maybe something like changing the appearance of a dwarf that holds it. It could be something like turning their beard or skin to the color of steal. Another idea would be that it glows in a place sacred to dwarves.

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