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Intelligent Items

Magic items with a mind of their own have been a hallmark of myth and fantasy for millennia. When integrated into a campaign, they can become memorable characters in their own right.

Intelligent items are a special kind of magic item that straddles the line between treasure and NPC. An intelligent item might be another type of item as well: it could be an artifact, a cursed item, or even a relic that grows with its wielder.

Introducing an intelligent item is an effective way to subtly alter the party dynamic. An intelligent item works well when its personality makes it a natural complement or foil for its partner: the PC investing, holding, or otherwise interacting with the item. An intelligent item that can communicate only with that particular PC is also a great way to engage players who are a bit quieter, or those slower to speak in a scene where all the PCs can talk to a particular NPC. Due to their inherently limited agency, intelligent items are at less of a risk for stealing the spotlight than other NPCs who travel along with the party.

Intelligent Item Rules

Every intelligent item has the intelligent trait. Intelligent items can’t be crafted by normal means—typically an accident, a divine act, or a major sacrifice on the part of the creator is required to grant the item the mental essence it needs for sentience, and in some rare cases the spiritual essence it needs to have a soul of its own.

Because of this, intelligent items are always rare or unique. The normal statistics and rules for wearing or using an item of its type still apply to an intelligent item. In addition, intelligent items have a few statistics other items lack.

Alignment

An intelligent item always has an alignment trait, just like any other creature, even if it isn’t fully sapient. Few intelligent items are capable of growing and changing their alignment and fundamental nature; most are fixed at the time of their creation.

Perception and Senses

An intelligent item that has any sense of the world around them has a Perception modifier. Intelligent items have only the senses listed within their entry, rather than the assumed assortment of senses that most creatures have. If an intelligent item notices something its partner doesn’t, it might be able to communicate with its partner and let them know.

Communication and Languages

Intelligent items almost always have some means of communication—an easy way to demonstrate an item’s intelligence! The most common ways are via empathy, speech, and telepathy. Speech and telepathy function as they do for any creature, while an empathic connection allows the item to share only emotions. Empathic and telepathic connections are often limited either to the item’s partner or to a certain distance.

If an intelligent item understands or speaks any languages, they are listed in parentheses in its Communication entry. If the item doesn’t have speech listed, it can only understand the listed languages, not speak them.

Skills

Intelligent items might have skill modifiers for Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma-based skills that fit their nature.

Ability Scores

Intelligent items have Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores, though as inanimate objects, they don’t have Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution entries.

Will Save

Since they have their own minds, intelligent items might be subject to mental effects that require a Will save.

Item Agency

As a default, intelligent items have control over all their own magic, meaning an intelligent magic weapon could deny the effects of its fundamental and property runes if it so chose, and intelligent items perform their own activations when they wish. Intelligent items can typically use 3 actions per turn, acting on their partner’s turn. These actions don’t count toward their partner’s 3 actions. They have a reaction if any of their activations requires one.

Beyond denying magic effects and communicating their displeasure, intelligent items can usually influence or hinder their partners only in subtle ways. If the item is a weapon or tool necessary for an action (like thieves’ tools), it can at least be disruptive enough to make its partner take a –2 circumstance penalty to associated checks, much as if the partner were using an improvised weapon or tool. If an intelligent item can have a greater effect, such as seizing control of its partner’s body for a time, the intelligent item’s entry includes those abilities.

Designing Intelligent Items

When you first set out to create an intelligent item, ask yourself what role you expect the item will play in your game. Unlike any other item, the intelligent item is a character of its own and adds to the group dynamic, usually in ways similar to a minor NPC who follows the party throughout the adventure. That means it’s important to have a clear role in mind. Is the item an ally in the PCs’ dangerous quest? A kindred spirit and confidante? A foil for the PC? A morally ambiguous ally worth handling for its great power? Or perhaps a bit of comic relief? Once you know what you want in the item, you can develop its personality and abilities in parallel, coming up with thematic links between them.

When choosing values for the intelligent item’s statistics, you’ll often want to use values suitable for a creature of its level.

You could use much lower values if you want to give it a weakness, but keep in mind that a low Will modifier might make it particularly easy to control, which could be a problem if it can make life miserable for its partner. Because the item can usually activate its abilities on its own, the intelligent item is essentially adding a limited additional character to the PCs’ team, so consider its effect on the encounters the PCs face. For example, a high-level normal item that lets a PC cast a 3rd-level fireball every round might be reasonable given that it counts toward the PC’s available actions, but an intelligent item is adding that fireball on top of everything else the PCs can do.

Specific Intelligent Items

Genius Diadem Item 18

Rare N Apex Arcane Divination Intelligent

Usage worn circlet; Bulk L

Perception +22; precise vision 30 feet, imprecise hearing 30 feet, constant detect magic

Communication speech (Common, Draconic, and eight other common languages)

Skills Arcana +34, seven Lore skills +28, Occultism +28, Society +28

Int +8, Wis +0, Cha +4

Will +24

The genius diadem is a diadem of intellect that typically acts like an arrogant professor or mentor, often boasting that it is a certified greater intellect and far superior to your own intelligence, even after the benefits the diadem grants you. The genius diadem encourages you to learn things for yourself rather than actually attempting to Recall Knowledge for you, though you or your allies might be able to play on its arrogance using Deception to trick it into doing so. In addition to allowing you to activate it, the diadem can use the diadem of intellect’s hypercognition activation with its own actions, though if it does so, the diadem gains the benefits instead of you. Only the diadem can use the following activation.

Activate [two-actions] (command, Interact) Frequency once per hour; Effect The genius diadem casts 7th-level feeblemind.

Martyr’s Shield Item 7

Rare LG Abjuration Divine Intelligent

Usage held in 1 hand; Bulk 1

Perception +12; precise vision 30 feet, imprecise hearing 30 feet Communication speech (Common and Celestial)

Skills Diplomacy +15, Religion +13

Int +0, Wis +2, Cha +4

Will +15

A martyr’s shield is a lesser sturdy shield imbued with the compassion of a devout champion of a righteous deity who sacrificed themself to save an ally. In addition to good-naturedly attempting to convert you to its religion, the martyr’s shield can use 1 reaction each round that, when raised, it uses to Shield Block to protect an ally adjacent to you, with the effects of the Shield Warden feat. The martyr’s shield uses this reaction whether you would prefer it did so or not. The martyr’s shield can be upgraded to a stronger form of sturdy shield by paying the difference in cost between its current type of sturdy shield and the new type.

Singing Sword Item 5

Rare CG Enchantment Intelligent Occult

Usage held in 1 hand; Bulk 1

Perception +11; precise vision 30 feet, imprecise hearing 30 feet Communication speech (Common and four other common languages)

Skills Performance +15

Int +2, Wis +2, Cha +4

Will +13 (+17 against attempts to quiet its singing)

A singing sword is a +1 striking longsword imbued with the consciousness of a boisterous bard, and therefore constantly sings at all times. A singing sword can’t stop singing and in fact communicates in no way other than by singing. A successful Diplomacy or Intimidation check against its Will DC can convince it to quiet its singing to a whisper for 10 minutes, or 20 minutes on a critical success, though it quickly grows displeased at anyone who attempts this repeatedly.

The singing sword can spend its actions to attack on its own, with the effects of a dancing weapon’s activation, except that its attack modifier is +12. Additionally, it can perform the following activations; each casts a composition spell and follows all the usual rules for compositions.

Activate [one-action] (command) Frequency once per minute; Effect The singing sword casts inspire courage.

Activate [one-action] (command) Frequency once per minute; Effect The singing sword casts inspire defense.

Activate [reaction] (command) Frequency once per hour; Trigger You or an ally within 60 feet rolls a saving throw against an auditory effect; Effect The singing sword casts counter performance.

Section 15: Copyright Notice
Pathfinder Gamemastery Guide © 2020, Paizo Inc.; Authors: Alexander Augunas, Jesse Benner, John Bennett, Logan Bonner, Clinton J. Boomer, Jason Bulmahn, James Case, Paris Crenshaw, Jesse Decker, Robert N. Emerson, Eleanor Ferron, Jaym Gates, Matthew Goetz, T.H. Gulliver, Kev Hamilton, Sasha Laranoa Harving, BJ Hensley, Vanessa Hoskins, Brian R. James, Jason LeMaitre, Lyz Liddell, Luis Loza, Colm Lundberg, Ron Lundeen, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Jessica Redekop, Alistair Rigg, Mark Seifter, Owen K.C. Stephens, Amber Stewart, Christina Stiles, Landon Winkler, and Linda Zayas-Palmer.