In the Seven Kingdoms, there are three types of magic items. The most common are essentially "spells in a bottle." These are single-use items that just have a pre-cast spell stored in them. You may recognize these better as the D&D items potions, scrolls, and, on a more powerful level, wands. The least common are items of true power, akin to "artifacts" and "relics" in D&D. In between are items of rare craftsmanship and exotic materials, the work of extremely gifted smiths.
This post is regarding that third category.
The Magic of the Forge
In medieval Europe, smiths were often revered as having near-magical, or even outright magical, talents. After all, turning a lump of rock into a sword is a mysterious and arcane process. In the Seven Kingdoms, even your common village blacksmith is still viewed in this way. However, among smiths, there is a class of masters that take the craft to an altogether different level. (For an example of this concept, look up the legends of Weyland, the smith who forged Excalibur.)
Magical arms and armor are not enchanted, in the D&D sense of the word. In most cases, there is no mage or priest involved in the creation. (Though, admittedly, many of them are blessed by a priest.) Instead, they are more like the "masterwork" property taken to the extreme. They are so finely balanced, have such keen edges, and have such a perfect blend of strength and suppleness that they grant you bonuses in combat.
As an example, let's look at one of the primary inspirations for any swashbuckling game, Princess Bride. Inigo's father was clearly a master smith, in the category that we are talking about here. Read the section in the book where Inigo describes what he went through to create the sword. When he is done, he has created a work of art. Wesley specifically says that he has never seen its equal, and the DPR has probably seen some fancy blades. So, without the intervention of any wizard (or even miracle man), you have what could well be classified as a +3 blade.
The other way in which weapons frequently take on special qualities is through the materials which are included. Good, plain steel is fine for workaday arms. But, a true hero deserves something a bit more ... unusual.
- Starmilk - This is a peculiar metal, found nearly exclusively in Amazza. It is soft and malleable, like lead or gold, but no forge has yet discovered its melting point. In its pure form, it is a very poor choice for armaments, though it is used by some for jewelry. However, once properly alloyed (in itself a very difficult process), it can be exceptionally useful (see below).
- Mithril - An alloy of silver, tin, and starmilk, mithril has two exceptionally useful properties. First, it is as strong as fine steel but at roughly a third the weight. Second, it is an spectacularly good conductor of magical energy, which can be important for any number of applications.
- Adamantium - An alloy of steel, tungsten, and starmilk, adamantium is the hardest substance known to man. It is nearly impossible to break, or even to dent. Indeed, crafting an item out of adamantium is a dicey business, as it must be drop-forged (like cast iron) and, once set, is impossible to correct. Adamantium is much more common in armor than weapons. It is intensely difficult to add an edge to an adamantium blade (though, once you do so, the edge almost never dulls).
- Dragon Glass - (Disclosure: This was the substance posted by WolfSamurai that started this post.) Out in the deserts of Davrakotia are strange pits that look as though they were once the sites of massive battles. The Ouroborans claim that these sites are where mighty dragons once perished, the final flames of their lives melting and fusing the sand into glass. That glass holds within it the memory of that fire. When a blade is fashioned out of dragon glass and properly polished, flames can be seen flickering within it. The blade can be used as a weak source of light. But, more importantly, anything that is cut by dragon glass will also be burned by the flames (typically igniting flammable items like tinder or cloth).
- Silver - While silver is typically a poor choice for a weapon, as it is too soft to stand up to serious use, it does have a property of being a strong conductor of magic. This not only allows certain individuals to use it for special effects (such as a Shard channeling her power through her sword), but also means that many creatures that rely on magical protections (such as lycanthropes and hellspawn) can be wounded by the weapon.
- Cold Iron - This is iron which has never known the heat of a forge, having been shaped by nothing more than brute strength. It has a look very similar to cast iron, and is fairly brittle. As with silver, despite its general unsuitability as a material, it does come with some unique advantages. Iron is opposed to magic in general. A cold iron weapon can shatter wards that it strikes. It is also death to faeries, and more harmful than normal to feylin.
- Jekla Wood - This is wood from the Deep Forest to the north of the Lohe Selg mountain range. It is extremely dangerous to collect, and very hard to work. But, once fashioned, it has some remarkable properties. It is as strong as steel, though a bit heavier. It is pitch black, which makes it desirable to those who wish not to be seen. It also absorbs nearly all heat, making it both useful against those who wield fire as a weapon, and to those who must serve in the deserts of Davrakotia.
- Asgyrn - This substance is supposedly the treated bone of a deep-sea leviathan. As no such leviathans have been spotted in living memory, and no new asgyrn has been produced in living memory, it is hard to dispute such claims. It is ridiculously heavy, being even denser than lead or gold, and very hard. This makes it most useful for war axes and great mauls.