Where do they store artifacts?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


Are they usually just put in a museum? Or somewhere more secure? I'm guessing the second. Also, what kind of defenses might be there to keep people from stealing it? I think such a plot would be interesting (not just for Evil PCs either, I could see Good characters needing said artifact to beat the villain du jour, but being denied permission to borrow said artifact and having to resort to extralegal means.)


I think most artifacts are out in the world, not stored anywhere. They're either being wielded by individuals powerful enough to be worthy of them (or sometimes not powerful enough, leading to catastrophoc/hilarious circumstances) or they're lost in some tomb or at the bottom of the ocean or something similar, waiting for some hapless person to stumble into their destiny.


MrCharisma wrote:
I think most artifacts are out in the world, not stored anywhere. They're either being wielded by individuals powerful enough to be worthy of them (or sometimes not powerful enough, leading to catastrophoc/hilarious circumstances) or they're lost in some tomb or at the bottom of the ocean or something similar, waiting for some hapless person to stumble into their destiny.

Well, ya, but I meant ones that have already been recovered (most likely by other adventurers.) I suppose some adventures might just keep them but good adventurers at least would probably want to give them to a museum or whatever country first created the artifact in some cases (such as the Axe of Dwarvish Lords.)


i think i remember reading somewhere that some mythic giant? has the axe of the dwarvish lords


If a nation rather than an individual has an artifact it's either a curse or a strategic weapon. It would be stored accordingly, under lock and key. What that means exactly depends on the means the nation has but it's at least a solid dungeon.


Yeah probably not a museum, artifacts are powerful magic items, so it'd he more like modern secret military research facility, where it can be researched and/or used in a tike of need. Of course equating that to a medieval society might just mean the king keeps it by his side, eg. Excalibur.


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Artifacts are so powerful that whole campaigns revolve around them. That being said, there are a few tropes you can follow:

1. The Ultimate Bunker: There's a castle on a cliffside crag, nearly impossible to summit with mundane means, or even through modest arcane power. Below the castle are extensive sea caves which have been rough hewn into a labyrinth. Within the labyrinth is a carefully guarded entrance to a demi-plane; within this is yet more dungeon and at the heart of THIS is a single, lead-lined room. All of this has been built to house the Aparatus, the alien construction that, if set loose upon the Prime it could destroy every army in its path without end

2. Hiding in plain sight: The Axe of the Dwarvish Lords may have been crafted for kings, but it was not meant to be hoarded by nobles. It MAKES kings of its wielders. This is why, in the lore it takes so many different forms. It seeks champions, most often wise souls from the most common backgrounds, so in myth and legend it has been a felling axe, a simple hatchet and even a broken piece of junk in the depths of a fallen hall. Always it is found in these common circumstances; always it's greater nature is revealed.

3. Scattered pieces: After a decades-long campaign, Lady Dolane Mishnada finally came face to face with the demon-prince Arioch. In the climactic battle the Rod was brought to bear. The war was won; the elf-queen's righteous vengeance was at hand. With defeat inevitable, Arioch enacted his terrible contingency, unleashing the power of the Heart of the Abyss. In the blink of an eye, the forest empire of Impasse was blasted to ash and waste; Lady Dolane was flung through time and space into the unknown future; The Rod was shattered into 9 pieces. This was a thousand years ago. Now a one-eyed elf maiden wanders the outland wastes of Impasse, spending every waking moment trying to drink herself into oblivion and the spectre of Arioch, the Victor of the War of Sundering, looms over us all. But there are rumors in the west that one piece of The Rod has been found; the signs of it's miracles are indisputable. So we, the Loremasters of Thrune, have assembled you adventurers to embark on a legendary quest...

Lastly artifacts are supposed to be, I don't know... mysterious as well as powerful. This unpredictability makes them just as hard to hold onto for the people who own them as for the people that want to possess them. Think the SCP Foundation - if you have a bonafide artifact on your hands it's like a nuclear weapon and there might be completely bizarre storage requirements for them.

The Axe of the Dwarvish Lords may need to be sung to in Dwarvish 3 times/day or else it animates and carves its way free; an Orb of Dragonkind may have to be suspended in all four breath weapon energy types at once; The Aparatus of Kawalish (if that's even a thing anymore) constantly whispers and begs it's captors to look upon it; anyone who makes eye contact with the device is absorbed into the chassis and re-configured into another one of the weird limbs that extend from the Aparatus. For this reason only permanently deaf guards are allowed within 600' of the Aparatus of Kawalish at all times.


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Museum would get a replica, just as heavily guarded as the real thing, but entirely useless other than a display piece.


...I think to make this a meaningful conversation you have to consider the nature of Artifacts.

Minor Artifacts are (generally) items that mortals could create in the past, but the technique has been lost. Most of these items have a useful effect, though not necessarily one that adventurers would find useful. An example of such a minor artifact are the Runeslave Cauldrons. They were used in ancient times to form an army of giants. There were lots of these cauldrons a long time ago. Now? I'm sure some countries would welcome such an item, but its useless to adventurers.

Just because a Minor Artifact is something that was once made by mortal hands doesn't mean they have to be weak. The Staff of the Magi is a minor artifact. So is the Powered Armor from Iron Gods AP. The best of the minor magic items are incredibly useful to adventurers. Most minor artifacts lack significant drawbacks found with Major Artifacts.

Which brings us to Major Artifacts. Every major artifact is a story in upon itself. Almost all of them are a singular unique item. Most of them are moved by and ruled by mysterious forces that go beyond mortal understanding.

Major Artifacts can disappear. If the item wills it, it will vanish. Generally such items don't appear again for decades, though its possible that a major artifact could choose its own wielder. Usually the item will urge its current wielder to cross paths with a more suitable wielder...and then force a situation to exchange ownership. One way or another. Often times in a way that seems to go along with the personality of the item.

Even 'unintelligent' major artifacts seem to have a personality. Going against a major artifacts nature is a sure fire way to lose it.

A major artifact may be passed on from generation to generation, but that is at the items choice. Mortals can't prevent a real major artifact from disappearing. Gods may be able to stop this, but not via proxy. And most deities aren't willing to devote eternity to babysitting an item that will defy them constantly.

Also a large number of major artifacts impose rules and restrictions on the wielder. Some provide curses. Others withhold power from the unworthy. Still others grow with great deeds performed that align with the item's goals and interests. Some attempt to control the wielder directly.

Also most artifacts aren't going to directly destroy a country or an army. Most of them are interesting and powerful items, but they generally aren't better than the best items money can buy. There are a few exceptions. Very few. And none of them can be controlled, only used till the day the item decides to move on.


Major artifacts are supposed to be incredibly rare. They are unique items that only one copy of exists anywhere in the universe. With the number of planes and planets that exist that means that most major artifacts will not exist in any particular campaign. Each campaign probably has a handful of major artifacts at most.

If a major artifact does exist in the campaign it is generally either lost, or being wielded by someone. Considering how powerful they are the majority of them are probably lost. Those that are in active use are more likely going to be in the hands of extremely powerful characters or creatures. The crown of infernal Majesty for example is owned by the Queen of Cheliax. Any active major artifact is going to create a powerful entity.

Minor artifacts are simply magic items powerful enough that the GM is going to want to control access to. So for those, check with your GM about availability and location. Don’t be surprised or upset when they are not available.


In previous editions artifacts didn't radiate magic. So, it was possible that they could end up in a museum along with other non-magical items of historical note. Having been discovered in a ruined tomb or the estate sale of an eccentric collector.

However, in pathfinder since artifacts radiate magic it's unlikely to be mistaken as a mundane item and/or treated as such for very long. An artifact will be treated like an advanced firearm scavenged from a crashed alien space ship (kept under high security, studied and/or used) rather than being placed in a museum like a civil war era rifle.


LordKailas wrote:

In previous editions artifacts didn't radiate magic. So, it was possible that they could end up in a museum along with other non-magical items of historical note. Having been discovered in a ruined tomb or the estate sale of an eccentric collector.

However, in pathfinder since artifacts radiate magic it's unlikely to be mistaken as a mundane item and/or treated as such for very long. An artifact will be treated like an advanced firearm scavenged from a crashed alien space ship (kept under high security, studied and/or used) rather than being placed in a museum like a civil war era rifle.

This is one of the reasons why, above, I suggested that the Axe of the Dwarvish Lords sometimes disguises itself as rubbish or a common hatchet.

Imagine that a dwarf king is riding his majestic dire boar at the head of his army over spruce-dotted mountain pass. He is ambushed by a massive horde of orcs and just at the moment his legendary greataxe should serve him it falters, becoming as heavy as an anvil in the king's hands.

Mysteriously, during the slaughter the axe is flung from the king's hands and lost in the chaotic melee. The weapon topples end over end down the sheer mountainside, only to embed itself a thousand feet below. Afterwards the surviving lieutenants search in vain but find no traces of the mighty artifact. Their ranks broken, the king defeated and the axe lost, the great army disbands and flees.

For 500 years the Axe of the Dwarvish Lords is nothing but a myth; a story the scattered clansfolk, once united but not tossed like so many pine cones across the disparate slopes of these lands, to tell their children around the hearth. It is a dream of better days that none quite remember anymore.

Then Hrothgar, a lowly warrior and woodcutter, deemed so low by his mine-bound brethren that he must gather the spars that only serve to support THEIR work, is scouting a new stand at the base of a cliff when he hears a strange sound, like the echoes of a distant battle. Hrothgar rushes to the far side of the stand, but finds nothing save for a shallow earthen cave. Even as he spies it, the darkness of the crevice comes alive as a hungry wolf, starved by the long winter, lopes forward. A snarling growl across its bared teeth inform young Hrothgar that there is no calming this beast.

The wolf hurtles forward, it's jaws slavering with the thought of it's intended meal. Hrothgar releases his felling axe only in time to have the animal clamp down on the haft. The dwarf lad and his would-be slayer struggle wildly in the snow until a final reversal puts Hrothgar's head mere feet from the entry to the den, the wolf bearing down on him with the axe handle in a death grip between its teeth.

Then came a SNAP, and from it fled all hope in Hrothgar's heart. The felling axe, already weakened from overuse, had broken in twain. The only thought in the lad's mind was a simple one, a pure one: I've let the clan down once more, and they will suffer all the more at my disgrace.

As if in response, the sound returned. Steel clashing with steel from somewhere far off. Hrothgar cried out for aid and threw his own forearm up to offer the beast a distraction. The wolf's jaws savaged his flesh even through layers of pelts and vambrace, the warm blood like ambrosia to it. Out of the corner of his eye, Hrothgar noticed something in the cave, something glinting... something metal.

His other arm flung into the darkness, his dwarven sight spying the target in the gloom. It was s hatchet, no greater than his hand, but it was his only hope. Desperation fueled Hrothgar's reach and his fingers wrapped around the small tool even as the wolf released the mangled forearm for the side of the dwarf's now exposed neck.

"It all happened at once!" Hrothgar would later tell Forgepriestess Ingarret. My hand closed around the hatchet and I felt this, I don't know... HOPE or something, like as if my arm knew I would survive what my mind swore I could not. The hatchet circled back towards the beast's neck even as he drove for mine, but the blade got there first. Cut clean through it's scrawny neck it did!" Hrothgar boasted. While the others assembled to hear their cousin's tale rolled their eyes and groaned with incredulity, Ingarret merely nodded, completing her rune of healing.

The hatchet, a dull-looking iron tool of unremarkable construction, seemed light, almost flimsy. It was impossible to think such a thing could have completed the grisly task. Even as Hrothgar displayed the wolf's head he was rebuked. "It was a starving wretch, already dead on it's feet when it attacked you!" they jeered, "he probably lopped it off with the head of the busted felling axe after the tussle!" another snarked. But Ingarret remembered something most others didn't, the name of that particular cliff beneath which the hatchet was found.

"Kyrralbukashkhe" Roughly translated from the Eld Dwarven, it means King's Fall in the common tongue.

- Excerpt from Hrothgar the King, Volume 1 of 9


The Id Portrait can be stored in any museum or art gallery. Any owner who knows about the portrait's powers can dress like a noble, tap into the painting to get sucked into it and have his or her duplicates donate the painting to a gallery.

If the painting is stored with other similar portraits, nobody will suspect it to be a minor artifact.


I think most people in the Western Medieval fantasy genre who have artifacts are using them, falling prey to them, or destroying them rather displaying them. We display our ancient artifacts in museums because they are useless. When I want to go to war, I don't have the blacksmith forge me a matchless sword, anymore. We have guns. Artifacts for us are more valuable for their historical context, their individual stories and what they can teach us about how people used to live their lives.

During the Dark Ages, most of the knowledge was old, and most of it forgotten until the 14th century when treasure hunters like Brunelleschi explored Ancient Roman ruins, he began by learning the engineering that the Romans used to already know. An accidental discovery of Ancient Roman law books led to the opening of whole new law schools in Italy. It was the uncovering of those artifacts and using the power it gave them to change the world.

I think typically Medieval Heroic Fantasy RPGs treat artifacts more the way they historically treated them in the Dark Ages. Creating a museum for magical artifacts puts a very modern spin on the genre. Paizo has done this. There are Pathfinder Society Adventure where we explore a museum owned by the powerful Blackrose Family.

Yqatuba wrote:
I think such a plot would be interesting

I agree. I think there is real potential for some very fun stories spinning on this conceit.

Yqatuba wrote:
Or somewhere more secure? I'm guessing the second. Also, what kind of defenses might be there to keep people from stealing it?

White Plume Mountain.

Yqatuba wrote:
I could see Good characters needing said artifact to beat the villain du jour, but being denied permission to borrow said artifact and having to resort to extralegal means.)

Like when Harry Potter robbed Gringotts Bank to find Horcuxes and magic swords for destroying Lord Voldemort.

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