In most fantasy worlds which have any magic items at all, there are usually three categories of them.
There are comparatively minor trinkets, relatively common items of limited power and use. The equivalent of modern cigarette lighters, concealed pockets, dehydrated rations, pocket flares, and similar devices. A few may possess slightly greater power, but such items are generally defined by their limitations. They won’t usually have a big impact on the activities of the characters, but they can make life a good deal more comfortable. Most games don’t even bother to cover them. You can find a selection of such items in The Practical Enchanter (available as a Shareware PDF and in Print) in the Charms and Talismans section.
If you want to use such items in a setting that doesn’t normally consider them – at least presuming that you’re using the Classless d20 rules from Eclipse: the Codex Persona (available in print HERE and in a shareware version HERE) – you can get fancy and build the ability to do so using Shaping from the Path of the Dragon (Corrupted and Specialized for increased (level one and possibly weak level two) effects/can only produce the effects for which the user has the appropriate foci ready, can only support a limited number (seven and three) of minor charms and more notable talismans at one time, charms and talismans are modestly expensive and take some time to attune for use, 6 CP. You can also take a version that Specializes to reduce the cost, limiting the user to Charms at a cost of only 3 CP).
There are intermediate-level limited use items – potions, dusts, charged talismans, minor wands, and various kinds of magical batteries, whether those are in the form of crystals, powders, or staves. The stuff that has a reasonable level of significance, but is still more or less disposable. In fact, if the old seer has provided you with three healing potions and a handful of dust which banishes evil spirits, you can be quite sure that you’re supposed to use all of that stuff up along the way – although heaven help you if you use whatever-it-is up too early.
Most fantasy literature treats this sort of thing as rare and special, but available if you know where to look or happen to be a skillful enchanter or some such. Many d20 worlds make items on this level a bit too common for some game masters, but it’s usually nothing that can’t be dealt with by simply asking the characters to buy an appropriate Contact or Privilege if they want to have regular supplies of this sort of item.
Next up are the major enchantments – ancient magical swords, rings of power, scrying tools, transmutation devices, and enchanted armor. In most settings, that kind of thing is rare, and no one character is likely to have more than a few items in this category, even after a long and successful career. They’re also likely to be unique products of long-gone events and spellcasters.
Unfortunately, in d20, magic items are often weak or of intermediate power rather than being really notable, they tend to be widely available, and they tend to be swapped out regularly. It just isn’t the same.
To handle this, Eclipse has Relics – items which expand their user’s capabilities, and thus can be built on and which often grow with the user, which are pretty much always of significant power, which are usually unique, and which – since they cost permanent personal character points to create – are in rather limited supply. To make sure that most characters don’t use too many, require that created relics either require the investment of personal character points when transferred – a version of Corruption that affects the cost of attuning them later, but not the initial price of creating them – or make sure they have serious drawbacks and play up those drawbacks increasingly as the character acquires and uses more Relics.
To buy the ability to attune a limited number of relics, but no more, buy Double Enthusiast, Specialized in Relics for Increased Effect (6 CP). That will let any character “attune” a total of 4 CP worth of Relics – which is enough for them to have a pretty potent item or two. Lower-level characters can even Corrupt that, limiting themselves to one and two-point relics, to reduce the cost to 4 CP.
Of course, if they want to make their own relics, rather than being content with the ones made available by the game master or which they can obtain through Privilege, they’re going to have to take “Create Relic” – although, any heroic types with Action Hero/the Stunts option can spend two action points (one to get Create Relic and the other to get Immunity to the usual time requirements) to leave a relic behind as a final action or some such.
Still, if you want to take this route, I’d recommend simply setting one or both of the recommended purchases as a World Template. Thus, all characters in your setting would get:
Shaping, Corrupted and Specialized for increased (level one and possibly weak level two) effects/can only produce the effects for which the user has the appropriate foci ready, can only support a limited number (seven and three) of minor charms and more notable talismans at one time, charms and talismans are modestly expensive (and thus limited by wealth and lifestyle) and take some time to attune for use (6 CP).
Double Enthusiast, Specialized in Relics for Increased Effect (6 CP)
Where could those points come from? Well, it is a world template, so they don’t really need to come from anywhere – but we could quite fairly note that this would mean a world without access to several of the Item Creation Feats or the ability to invest character points in relics normally (a couple of incidences of the “Blocked” disadvantage, for -6 CP), which would cover the basic “Access to Charms and Talismans” power. Heroes, of course, are the only ones likely to be attuning Relics – and Heroes INVARIABLY have notable enemies (Hunted/the powers of Darkness, -3 CP) and Obligations (saving or threatening all the normal people, -3 CP) – and there’s no limit to game-master assigned disadvantages.
Now, for a few sample Relics…
Once, there was a fanciful youngster with a little magical training and more imagination that was good for him. Almost by accident, he managed to create a relic – and to give a character from one of his favorite stories a real and solid form.
Later on, his mother remarried – mostly for the money – and he acquired an abusive stepfather. Soon his Pirate Ferret friend took on a considerably darker aspect (and grew batlike wings) – and not too long after that, the abusive stepfather mysteriously fell down the stairs in the dark and broke his neck. Fortunately, the candle he’d been carrying had apparently gone out first, and thus the house didn’t burn down.
Encouraged by his impish companion, our young mage ran away a few years later and embarked on a career as an adventurer.
Today, there remains:
The Hat of the Demon Pirate Ferret:
All powers Specialized/the Demon Ferret is generally helpful – but it’s actually a portion of it’s “masters” unconscious mind given form: it’s mischievous, impulsive, and inclined to go out and swipe things it’s “master” wants or to try and ambush his lesser enemies.
All Powers Corrupted/the user must invest his own CP in the Pirate Hat to call the Demon Ferret into being.
Companion/Ferret (as per Weasel, uses the Familiar progression, provides it’s “master” with a +2 bonus on his or her Reflex Saves, 2 CP).
Returning: As long as the hat exists and someone wears it, the Demon Pirate Ferret will return. Thanks to this, there is no penalty if it’s “Killed”, since it will be back in a day or so anyway (2 CP)
Might (4 CP): +2 to BAB, Saves, and AC, adds Equipage with Signature Equipment Package – a pirate outfit, including clothing, eyepatch, and a hat to suit, a tiny +1 Flaming Light Crossbow (2d4+2 total), ten potions of Cure Light Wounds, twenty assorted level one potions (sadly, potions must either be replaced normally or it will take ten weeks each to get them back), and a collection of tiny “normal” gear – cutlass, coil of rope and grappling hook, lockpicks, crossbow bolts, and other items.
Template/Half-Fiend (4 CP).
Immunity to the usual duration limit of the Signature Equipment Package (Common, Minor, Major, Corrupted/only as long as they items remain on his person, 1 CP).
Net Cost 13 CP, or 2 CP as a Relic.
The Chessboard of the Invisible Hand:
The Chessboard of the Invisible Hand is a potent and dangerous device, tied to the threads of fate. It’s operation is simple; you attune and activate the board, you set your mind on how you want to change the world, you sit down, and you play. More experienced players can produce greater changes, although not even they can do so often. Better players may hope to minimize the side effects of such changes – although no one can fully control them.
Action Hero/Influence Option, Specialized and Corrupted for triple the number of Action Points normally available and triple the normal accumulation limit. Users must either undertake a mission chosen by whatever powers created the board or accept whatever side effects of their changes may arise and a would-be user must invest his own personal CP in the board to activate it. (6 CP, Net cost as a Relic = 1 CP).
Once activated, the board immediately awards the user’s current levels allotment of Action Points. From that point on, the total will increase with the user’s level and decrease with expenditures normally, even if the board is only intermittently activated or is used by someone else.
The Cloak of Zorro:
The Cloak of Zorro tends to turn up as the legacy of some old friend or relative, arriving in a characters possession more as an obligation than as a gift. To further confuse the issue however, and in violation of the usual pattern for Relics, there seem to be several of the things in circulation.
Guises, Quick Change, and Mental Guise, Specialized/a single civilian identity only, Corrupted/the identity cannot be changed after it is created and the user can only switch between his or her identities while out of sight (5 CP).
Immunity/People making the connection between the user’s two identities (Common / Minor / Major). Corrupted/only works as long as the user does not change identities directly in front of people and is not formally unmasked (4 CP).
Action Hero/Stunts, Specialized: the user will attract villains, suffer from bizarre coincidences, and generally wind up in cinematic situations all too regularly (3 CP).
As a Relic, the Cloak of Zorro costs 2 CP. Unlike the previous two relics, it doesn’t require that the user assign his or her own character points to activating it. It’s enough trouble without that.
The Kether Scrolls:
The Kether Scrolls were one of the most legendary treasures of a lost world. The indestructible Kether Scrolls had long been believed to contain the magical secrets of that world’s creator gods, and had required centuries to decipher – but had given immensurable power to the mages who did so. Moving them to another world revealed the Scrolls to be something much simpler, and in some ways more terrible. They did not record the deepest magical secrets of a lost world; they simply mirrored the deepest basis of magic in whatever domain they were in. Perhaps fortunately, only the most skilled of mages can understand enough of the magical structures the scrolls display to accomplish much.
+36 Spellcraft: Specialized, requires hours to decipher, cannot more than double the user’s basic Spellcraft skill (18 CP) with Unique Returning (Specialized and Corrupted: Only applies to the Scrolls themselves, 6 CP – for a net total cost as a Relic of 4 CP). They may – indeed, they probably do – have other powers, but that’s enough to start with.
The Kether Scrolls don’t require that their user assign any personal character points to them. On the other hand, they’re almost invariably far more useful to vastly-powerful (and often somewhat crazed) non-player-characters than they are to a player character. That tends to draw trouble.
The Malachite Bindings:
The Malachite Bindings are a dark tome that deals with the imprisonment, compulsion, and transformation of minds and spirits. The tome itself is bound with corroded copper-alloy plates showing the usual blue and green patina. Perhaps fortunately, lesser copies simply deal with a selection of unpleasant alchemical recipes, various bits of ritual black magic, and a few noxious spells. The original version is a nigh-indestructible relic, allowing it’s user to channel negative energy and command the undead – and to convert that negative energy into a group of extremely potent spells
Channeling/negative energy, (3+Cha Mod uses at +8 Intensity, 21 CP) with
Conversion (4x L8 Spells; Trap-, Compel-, Bind- and Transmute the Soul, 27 CP). Both Specialized: The basic channeling effect is physically draining, casing 3d4 damage, while the conversion effect costs either an action point or 200 XP per use).
That brings the total cost as a relic down to 4 CP. Once again, the user doesn’t need to invest any personal CP in this relic to use it. Of course, the possessor will inevitably be pursued by cultists, madmen, and power-hungry bastards.
The Skull of Scykanthos:
In legend, Scykanthos was the first and greatest of werewolves. In reality, he was certainly a powerful one – and a skillful ritualist as well. A portion of his power and knowledge still lingers about his skull, making it a powerful – and very dangerous – relic.
Occult Ritual (6 CP)
Specific Knowledges/magical rituals: Aspect of the Wolf (become a werewolf for some time), Summon the Hunt (calls up a pack of werewolves to assault a target), and Generational Curse of Lycanthropy (inflicts a hereditary curse of Lycanthropy – of any of a variety of types – on a family). This provides a knowledge of the relevant rituals at +15, but only grants a +5 on actually performing them (3 CP)
Major Privilege (the Skull counts as a +5 component in rituals related to Lycanthropy, 6 CP)
Professional in Spellcraft/Specialized for double effect, only for rolls related to Lycanthropy (6 CP).
The entire package is, of course, corrupted by a curse: anyone using it will slowly begin to crave blood, enjoy taking lycanthropic form, and will – eventually – voluntarily curse himself or herself, and any family members he or she might have, with a Generational Curse of Lycanthropy. This reduces the cost of this relic to 2 CP.
Arnwen’s Sacred Sunstone:
Long ago, a powerful priestess of the Light, of a sect which viewed the sun as a holy manifestation of sacred purity, fought many battles against the undead and other creatures of the darkness. For long years she focused her sacred powers through a rare Sunstone Amulet – a minor enough charm to be sure, but one she was comfortable with, and even the slight help it could provide was sometimes enough to make a critical difference.
Like most such heroes, she fell at last – but channeled her dying energies through the stone which she had used for so many years, taking the Lich she was fighting at the time out of the world with her. Despite it’s hidden phylactery, it never returned; perhaps the priestess exerted herself beyond death to preserve her homeland from one final menace.
Later, the Sunstone was recovered with her body and given to her best student – who said that he often felt his mentor’s hand beside his upon the stone when he wielded it, and found that it still retained some fraction of her power.
Action Hero/with the Stunt option, Specialized in Solar/Purification effects only for double effect (gain [4 + 2x Level] Action Points per level, may accumulate up to [4 x Level + 20] AP at any one time, and may briefly gain 12 CP worth of Solar/Purification abilities by spending one, 6 CP).
Immunity to “Contamination”, such as poison, negative energy effects, and possession. (Common, Major, Minor, grants a +4 bonus on relevant saving throws, 6 CP).
Inherent Spell with +4 Bonus Uses (a L3 effect 5 times per day/any first level Solar or Purification effect, 12 CP).
All three powers are, of course, Specialized/they only work in the hands of an individual that the ancient priestess thinks is currently worthy and requires that the user invest his or her own character points in the amulet to get it to work. That reduces the net cost to 12 CP, or 2 CP as a Relic.
As should be obvious, Relics – particularly Corrupted and Specialized relics can be quite powerful.
Arguably, that’s the way major magic items should be.