About Intelligent Items

Magic items sometimes possess intelligence of their own. Magically imbued with sentience, these items think and feel the same way characters do and should be treated as NPCs. They can be many things to characters - valued ally, wily foe, or continual thorn in their side. Intelligent items have extra abilities and sometimes extraordinary powers and special purposes. Only permanent magic items (rather than those with one use or with charges) can be intelligent. (This means that potions, scrolls, and wands, among other items, are never intelligent.) Melee weapons have intelligence 15% of the time, ranged weapons have intelligence 5% of the time, and items of other sorts are intelligent only 1% of the time. Intelligent items can actually be considered creatures since they have Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. (See the entry on constructs in the Monster Manual.)

The DM is encouraged to design unusual magic items along special themes and for specific campaign purposes. Just because a power is rolled does not mean it must be given out. If you feel a combination is too bizarre or too powerful, simply change or ignore it.

The first step in determining the properties of a random intelligent item is to determine its general capabilities. See Random Item Intelligence.

Intelligent Item Alignment

Any item with Intelligence has an alignment. Note that intelligent weapons already have alignments, either stated or by implication. (A foekiller mace made to kill chaotic outsiders would hardly be chaotic itself; it would be lawful.) If you're generating a random intelligent weapon, that weapon's alignment must fit with any alignment-oriented special properties it has (such as "holy").

Any character whose alignment does not correspond to that of the item (except as noted in the item description), gains one negative level if he or she so much as picks up the item. Although this never results in actual level loss, the negative level remains as long as the item is in hand and cannot be overcome in any way (including restoration spells). This negative level is cumulative with any other penalties the item might already place on inappropriate wielders. Items with Egos (see below) of 20 to 30 bestow two negative levels. Items with Egos of 30 or higher bestow three negative levels.

Languages Spoken By Item

Like a character, an intelligent item speaks Common plus one language per point of Intelligence bonus. Choose appropriate languages, taking into account the item's origin and purposes. For instance, an intelligent drow weapon would probably speak Elven, and a holy weapon might speak Celestial.

Intelligent Item Abilities

Using the number of capabilities determined above, find the item's specific abilities by rolling on the appropriate tables below. If the same ability is rolled twice or more, the range, frequency, or effectiveness of the power is doubled, tripled, and so on.

All abilities function only when the item is held, drawn, or otherwise brandished and the possessor is concentrating on the desired result. Activating a power is a standard action, but using a free feat is not. Feats may be used regardless of prerequisites, but the item still must be held and drawn. At the DM's discretion, an intelligent item might activate a power on its own.

If the same extraordinary power is rolled twice, the uses per day are doubled, if true seeing or passwall is rolled twice, roll again.) Powers chosen by the possessor are then set and never again changing for that character.

Powers function only when the item is drawn and held, and the possessor is concentrating upon the desired effect. Activating a power is a standard action. At the DM's discretion, an intelligent item might activate a power on its own.

Special Purpose Items

Items with special purposes are a challenge to run. However, they are worth the trouble, because they can deeply enrich a campaign.


An item's purpose must suit the type and alignment of the item and should always be treated reasonably. A purpose of "defeat/slay arcane spellcasters" doesn't mean that the sword forces the wielder to kill every wizard she sees. Nor does it mean that the sword believes it is possible to kill every wizard, sorcerer, and bard in the world. It does mean that the item hates arcane spellcasters and wants to bring the local wizard's cabal to ruin, as well as end the rule of a sorceress-queen in a nearby land. Likewise, a purpose of "defend elves" doesn't mean that if the wielder is an elf, he only wants to help himself. It means that the item wants to be used in furthering the cause of elves, stamping out their enemies and aiding their leaders. A purpose of "defeat/slay all" isn't just a matter of self-preservation. It means that the item won't rest (or let its wielder rest) until it places itself above all others. A lofty - and probably unrealistic - goal, to be sure.

Special Purpose Power

A special purpose power operates only when the item is in pursuit of its special purpose. This is always up to the purview of the item. It should always be easy and straightforward to see how the ends justify the means. That is to say that if the player's reasoning for how a particular action serves the item's purpose is not completely believable, the item won't allow it.

Item Ego

Ego is a measure of the total power and force of personality that an item possesses. Only after all aspects of an item have been generated and recorded can its Ego score be determined. Ego is a factor with regard to the dominance of item over character, as detailed below.

Item Ego
Attribute of ItemEgo Points
Each +1 enhancement of item1
Each +1 bonus of special abilities1
Each primary ability*1
Each extraordinary power*2
Special purpose4
Telepathic ability1
Read languages ability1
Read magic ability1
Each +1 of Intelligence bonus1
Each +1 of Wisdom bonus1
Each +1 of Charisma bonus1
*If double ability, double Ego points.

Thus, a +2 short sword (2 Ego points) with an Intelligence score of 10, Wisdom score of 13 (1 Ego point), and Charisma score of 11, plus the primary ability of finding traps (1 Ego point) has an Ego score of 4. By contrast, imagine a +1 flaming longsword (3 Ego points, 1 for the +1 enhancement bonus and 2 for the +2 bonus value of flaming [see Weapon Special Abilities]) with an Intelligence score of 16(3 Ego points), Wisdom of 15 (2 Ego points), and Charisma of 19 (4 Ego points). Add the primary abilities of detect magic, Sunder, and Evasion (3 Ego points), the extraordinary powers to heal (2 Ego points) and fly (2 Ego points), and the special purpose power to disintegrate spellcasters (4 Ego points). Also include the fact that the weapon is telepathic (1 Ego point) and reads languages (1 Ego point), and the sword has a total Ego score of 25.

Items Against Characters

When an item has an Ego of its own, it has a will of its own. The item is, of course, absolutely true to its alignment. If the character who possesses the item is not true to that alignment's goals or the item's special purpose, personality conflict - item against character - results. Similarly, any item with an Ego score of 20 or higher always considers itself superior to any character, and a personality conflict results if the possessor does not always agree with the item.

When a personality conflict occurs, the possessor must make a Will saving throw (DC = item's Ego). If the possessor succeeds, she is dominant. If she fails, the item is dominant. Dominance lasts for one day or until a critical situation occurs (such as a major battle, a serious threat to either item or character, and so on DM discretion). Should a item gain dominance, it resists the character's desires and demands concessions such as any of the following:

In extreme circumstances, the item can resort to even harsher measures:

Naturally, such actions are unlikely when harmony reigns between the character's and item's alignments or when their purposes and personalities are well marched. Even so, an item might wish to have a lesser character possess it in order to easily command him, or a higher-level possessor so as to better accomplish its goals.

All magic items with personalities desire to play an important role in whatever activity is under way, particularly combat. Such items are rivals of each other, even if they are of the same alignment. No intelligent item wants to share its wielder with others. An intelligent item is aware of the presence of any other intelligent item within 60 feet, and most intelligent items try their best to mislead or distract their host so that she ignores or destroys the rival. Of course, alignment might change this sort of behavior. A holy avenger, for example, would certainly not allow destruction of any other lawful good item and might encourage their discovery, even at the risk of having to face grim odds to do so.

Items with personalities are never totally controlled or silenced by the characters who possess them, even though they may never successfully control their possessor. They may be powerless to force their demands but remain undaunted and continue to air their wishes and demands. Even a humble +1 weapon of unusual nature can be a vocal martyr, denigrating its own abilities and asking only that the character give it the chance to shatter itself against some hated enemy.

Note: You should assume the personality of the item as you would with any NPC.

Magic in the Realms