The Sword of Sorrow
by Brandon Cope
At first glance, the Sword of Sorrow appears to be a very well-crafted thrusting broadsword, with a ruby and diamond set into the pommel. Runes on the blade spell the name "Varaan." Further study (Streetwise, Area Knowledge, History or Research, all at -4 or worse, their applicability depending on the campaign) will reveal that a magic sword matching its description was created over 120 years ago in a long destroyed kingdom. Its capabilities are not mentioned, but the source indicates that it is a powerful weapon under some kind of curse.
Art by andi jones
HistoryOver a century ago a scout named Varaan was mortally wounded in battle when her unit was attacked by a group of trolls driven out of the mountains by dwarves. Her father, swordsmith of the local king, had one of the court wizards bind her soul (via a lost variant of the Sword/Weapon Spirit spell) to a magical sword being crafted for the king's oldest son. As Varaan was a respected soldier, there was no objection from the king or his son. Her father even thought of it as a form of immortality he was granting to his daughter. Unfortunately, no one asked her until the task was completed.
While Varaan wasn't eager to die, she didn't find the idea of (effectively) permanent servitude in battle any better and eventually turned bitter over what she saw as being an eternal slave. The prince, who quickly grew tired of her attitude, demanded that her soul be removed from the sword. Unfortunately, the king's mages discovered that doing so would result in the total disenchantment of the blade; apparently her being bound to the sword had the same effect as the Name enchantment. As the weapon was powerful and had been costly to make, this was not considered an option by the king, which angered Varaan even more.
The sword was passed down though all the princes, none of whom kept it more than a few weeks, and eventually it was sold to a wealthy merchant. He took the blade south and sold it to a warlord, who, not understanding Varaan's language, wasn't bothered much by her complaints and moodiness. A few years later he was killed in battle and the sword was taken as a war trophy. This cycle of constantly changing owners due to their untimely demise continued for nearly 30 years until the sword ended up in the hands of a wizard named Erdos as payment for various services.
The wizard was aware of the sword's dubious reputation and wanted to get to the truth. When he learned of Varaan's effective slavery, he sought a way to free her, but was unable to find a way that wouldn't "kill" her or destroy the weapon, until he remembered a spell used by an ancient and obscure enchanter he had stumbled across years earlier.
As a result of that spell (an obscure variant of Create Warrior), Varaan can assume a material body identical to her previous one for a brief period each day. Aside from radiating a slight magical aura, Varaan's form appears in all other respects human. While this wasn't the complete release Varaan had longed for, her outlook drastically improved. While she remains bound to the sword, she now has greater control over her "life." Perhaps even more importantly, the spell that has given her this limited freedom was a lesser spell of the enchanter, who roamed the continent over a millennia ago. Erdos feels that a more advanced and permanent version of the enchantment may exist, and the two search for it, separately.
Powers of the SwordThe sword has Accuracy +3, Puissance +2 and Quick-Draw and can function as either an Icy Weapon or Flaming Weapon (not at the same time, of course . . .). The user can also cast the following spells, at no fatigue cost: Blink, Deflect Missile, Resist Cold and Resist Fire. Due to the manner of the sword's enchantment, Varaan has no control over its powers (see below, however). She can, however, see, hear and smell anything within normal human sense range of the sword. Varran communicates by a limited form of telepathy -- she can only speak to those actually touching the sword.
Asking Price: Varies wildly. In the past, it has been sold for as little as a fast horse, while one merchant bought it for over $500,000. More than one owner has paid another person to take the sword.
Note: Individual GMs should feel free to vary to powers of the sword based on their own campaign; in a high fantasy setting the sword would probably have a few more enchantments, while in a more "realistic" fantasy setting the sword would be much weaker (perhaps only Accuracy +1, Puissance +1 and none of the four extra spells). Also, there is no reason the Sword of Sorrow has to be a sword; it could just as easily be the Axe of Sorrow or the Spear of Sorrow. Just remember to change Varaan's primary weapon skill to match the new form.
The Spirit of the SwordWhile stats are provided for Varaan, note that unless she physically manifests, only her IQ and mental skills, advantages, disadvantages and quirks will be relevant. Also, advantages and disadvantages related to being bound to the sword are discussed separately, after the stats.
Damage: Swing: 1d, Thrust: 1d-2
Advantages: Combat Reflexes; Ambidextrous; Alertness +3.
Disadvantages: Intolerance (Slave-holders); Stubborn.
Quirks: Dislikes nobility, Won't stay in the same area long.
Skills: Bow-14; Broadsword-15; Climbing-14; History-14; Knife-14; Riding (Horse)-1; Running-11; Shield-14; Stalking-15; Stealth-15; Survival (Forest)-14; Survival (Mountains)-13; Tactics-12.
Languages: Native at 11, a local at 10 and another four at 10-12.
It costs Varaan 1d6 Fatigue to manifest her physical form and another 1d6 Fatigue per hour to maintain it (determine Fatigue cost after the declaration to maintain), but regains Fatigue (however spent) at the rate of only 1 point per 30 minutes naturally. She cannot use HT or a powerstone to power or maintain her manifestation, though Lend Strength (while she is corporeal) can be cast on her normally. If the Fatigue cost to maintain her material form would place her at ST 0 or less, her physical body vanishes and cannot manifest for another three days.
Varaan may wield the sword and its powers in combat normally, but may not travel more than 20 feet from the weapon (or vice versa). If she is slain in physical form, her spirit returns to the sword where she must remain for seven days. Unless specified otherwise, she is affected as a normal human by all weapons, spells, psionics, poison, etc. Any damage taken is healed at normal rates. Destruction of the sword or its complete disenchantment will permanently "kill" her.
In corporeal form, she does have normal food, water and sleep requirements, assuming her manifestation continues for enough consecutive hours (when she manifests, assume she is fully fed and rested). She also seems to be aging at the rate of one month per year. She is not affected by Dispel Creation, Control Creation or Resurrection. Dispel Magic will force her back into the sword. As she is not haunting the sword, Exorcism and Remove Curse have no effect.
Campaign UsesThe Sword of Sorrow is an unusual item in that it is both a possession and (at times) a person. Varaan is very picky about her "owner" and can make life very tough for one she doesn't like. On more than one occasion the only manifestation her new owner has seen is her appearing next to the sword and attacking him with it.
While Varaan can be an Ally (of sorts), she tends to change "owners" fairly often and can be rather fickle about giving more help than advice, so a PC possessing the sword shouldn't be charged any points for the Ally advantage.
Note that a good roleplayer may want to run Varaan as a PC. This is really only appropriate to one-player or high- point campaigns; Varaan is easily worth 200 points, more if the GM charges character points for PCs starting with magic items (it should be noted that no attempt has been made to calculate Varaan's point value; GMs who like number- crunching and rule-twisting can do so if they like, but it should be remembered that Varaan is not really suitable for use as a PC).
The Sword of Sorrow works well as a "wandering" magic item; a powerful sword to be used by the party (or a lone PC) for a brief period, then to vanish shortly afterwards.
And, of course, Varaan will take a keen interest in any mage that likes to research obscure and ancient enchantment spells . . .
The Lost EnchantmentsFor those GMs who want a bit more detail about the two "lost" spells used on the Sword of Sorrow:
The Sword/Weapon Spirit variant requires Soul Jar as an additional prerequisite. It differs from the standard enchantment in that: casting costs are increased by 50%, the spirit of the weapon has full access to its memories, the spirit can improve IQ and mental skills over time and while a reaction roll is still made for each new owner of the weapon, the spirit will not be any more loyal than a normal person would be. Note that unlike the original version of the spell, the variant would likely be suppressed on religious grounds, since it does prevent the soul from passing on to the Otherworld (this suppression may, in fact, be the reason the spell has been lost).
The Create Warrior variant is a bizarre spell, in that it is not only useless but unusable (except as an enchantment on a magic item) to any living creature. Only entities that no longer have (or never had) physical bodies can benefit from the spell. It creates a perfect replica of the spirit's body prior to it's death (for entities that never had a physical body, roll 1d6+7 each for ST, DX and HT; these numbers become fixed for that spirit every time it manifests). Scholars believe that the spell was created by an (extinct ?) extraplanar race that wished to physically interact with our reality. Its only prerequisite is Simulacrum and the cost as an enchantment is 1,000. Effects are described above.
Article publication date: September 3, 1999
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