Steel Temptations of the Sea

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Three artifacts for use in the AD&D Forgotten Realms campaign setting, 2nd Edition Rules, written around 1999 for the old “Long Knights” website. Update as needed.

With her one good eye, the mariner is already staring at you when you notice her: a strong, stoic woman wrinkled by time and salty air. She dips her nose in a glass of water and inhales deeply. “Only so many times you can be made to breathe water, children, before the body starts to believe,” she says. She chuckles, and gestures for your party to join her at her corner table.

You buy her a mug of Dragon’s Breath. Then another. She drinks the brew slowly and carefully, as though needing every bit of concentration not to spill. Finally she sets her mug down and tells you: “My price is six rubies.”

You hesitate. She responds. “Three items, two gems each. It will cost you much more than that, if you truly seek the world.”

You pay it. She examines them individually, and, content with the gems’ value, she settles back and grins. She turns first to the paladin among you. He leans forward with pride.

“Your faith, no doubt, is admirable, and there is no greater glory than to win the approval of the gods, to feel that approval within,” she tells him. “But you need to quest with your head as well as your heart, child.”


Collectively, the dwarves of Ammarindar never harbored any specific animosity toward elvenkind. So it is with some surprise for outsiders to learn that this instrument of genocide was forged by Ammarindar hands.

Not a hundred years before the fall, the withdrawn dwarven cleric Sok sojourned from his homeland, only to be scorned by the outside world. Although the mild insults he received were merely responses to his own ill-temperament, Sok believed them to be attacks on his race and culture. He took refuge with other dwarves from other clans–in other situations–and found in them a dedication to dwarven purity which Sok admired and, ultimately, emulated.

Upon his return, Sok preached against other races, especially elves, whose treatment of him was unforgivable. His fellow dwarves cared little for his ministry of hate, but respected his piety enough to avoid rather than discourage him and his teaching. Not dismayed, Sok thus turned inward again in search of solution and spent two decades in seclusion as he crafted his Hammer of Cleansing.

When the other priests of Ammarindar first learned of his project, they dismissed it as irrational but harmless, given Sok’s apparent limitations. However, when Sok completed the Hammer, they elected to confront him before there was an embarrassment to the clergy and, ultimately, the clan.

Sok’s Hammer was confiscated and buried beneath the temple. Sok called his peers and superiors traitors. When Sok refused to recant what he’d done, they banished him from Ammarindar forever. But he never forgot about his Hammer.

A few years later, as Ammarindar fell, Sok sent a band of human mercenaries to steal back the Hammer of Cleansing, and then–in a surprising turn–allowed these humans to keep it. Those same mercenaries, never before swearing allegiance to anyone, soon fought alongside the woodcutters in the Battle of Singing Arrows against the elves. A mystery, that.

Lothla, an elven priestess took possession of the Hammer in battle, and, struck with hatred of her own kind and self, detected the hammer’s corrupting power. She rowed out into the Sea of Fallen Stars and, full armored and with the Hammer braced tightly to her belt, threw herself into the water not twenty miles from the mouth of the River Arkhen.

The Hammer of Cleansing looks and feels like a solid-steel hammer +1 designed for human hands, but paladins, clerics, or other characters with heavy religious background see their holy symbols (or, if faiths do not have a symbol per se, they see the face–real or imagined–of their gods and/or goddesses) engraved on the handle. They also feel their deities beckoning them to wield the weapon for their faith’s greater glory.

When wielders strike an elf with the Hammer, its enchantment changes to a +2. When they slay an elf, it becomes a +3. When they slay an elven priest, it becomes a +4. The change is permanent only for the slayer; any new wielders find its enchantment at +1 until they use it to strike an elf.

Wielders who cast priestly spells find themselves casting at two levels higher than their actual level while holding the Hammer. They also feel safer, as it acts as a ring of protection +2 and shields the wielder from all mind-influencing spells. The Hammer of Cleansing constantly encourages its possessors in the convincing voice of their gods, offering a morale bonus of +1 whenever they listen and/or heed the Hammer’s encouragement. The Hammer’s words are never heard by anyone other than its carrier.

In addition, the Hammer of Cleansing grants its possessors the following spells (as if from a 16th level spellcaster): blade barrier (2/month), slay living upon opponent struck (1/month), water breathing (2/week), cure serious wounds on self (1/day), and know alignment (3/day), although all elves and half-elves, according to this spell, will always appear as evil to the wielders of the Hammer.

In-between its offerings of encouragement, the Hammer will speak of elvenkind as a filthy infestation bringing ruin to the realms. To elven wielders, the Hammer will be considerably more subtle, but speak the same idea, negating any morale bonus from encouragement.

The Hammer will periodically make requests for the destruction of anything elven in proximity, including the elves themselves, accusing them of blasphemy and offense. If its wielders object, the hammer claims that, for denying their god, they are no longer granted priestly powers or even the comfort of prayer. Indeed, the characters’ spells thus fail if attempted, and their prayers seem hollow and unfulfilling, even when the Hammer is out of reach. This remains so until they succumb to the request or are released from the Hammer’s power.

When priestly spellcasters grip the Hammer, the Hammer steals all spells from them, and thus has the authority to grant or deny them their own powers as if it has become the wielders’ god. In addition, the Hammer steals one point of Constitution from its wielders per day, even though their Constitution apparently remains the same while physically within one yard of the Hammer. When their actual Constitution reaches 1, the Hammer steals Wisdom, then Charisma and, finally, hit points. This results in wielders needing the Hammer more and more for their survival, above and beyond the corrupting nature of the artifact.

To be released from the Hammer of Cleansing, the affected must be separated from the weapon for three weeks. During those three weeks, they gain back no ability scores, and no priestly powers. They continue to crave the Hammer and see it as their only path to their deity.

At the end of three weeks, former wielders gain back ability scores and hit points at one per week, beginning with the last one lost. It may take them the rest of their lives to put their faith somewhere other than in the Hammer, as, after their restoration, they have but a 3% chance of understanding their predicament each day they spend in devotion and prayer.

The Hammer of Cleansing may only be destroyed by the willing sacrifice of a dwarf who demonstrates true love for one of the elven race.

“Interestingly enough,” the mariner muses, “the elf’s armor was almost rusted completely through, and that Hammer imbedded in its side looked as pristine as the day it was forged.”

You exchange inquisitive looks with your comrades, but no one feels willing to challenge the old woman’s truthfulness.

She turns and looks sternly at the thief in your party. “I know what you seek, child.” She shakes her head gravely. “You don’t want it.”


In the years before his demise, the beholder Xanathar’s status as the sole crimelord in Waterdeep was generally uncontested. So he grew into the habit of actually seeking out potential upstarts.

One of Xanathar’s men, Eckard, was an ambitious and charismatic thief who gained the favor of the beholder’s other underlings. Xanathar predicted that his own time was limited, and he suspected Eckard was in a position to rally his men against him.

Since Faul, Xanathar’s best assassin, was kindred to Eckard, the beholder commissioned the Dagger of Prosperity and presented it to Faul as a gift with the order of Eckard’s disposal.

Faul’s love for Eckard did not win over the Dagger’s urge to strike, and he killed Eckard with little hesitation. But the Dagger also instilled in him a greed which led him to also betray his boss. He hijacked a shipload of Xanathar’s finest stolen gems, slaying all the crewmen in the night and stealing the ship out to sea.

The beholder did not seek to confront his assassin directly, but ordered Faul’s ship burned at sea. Xanathar’s fleet quickly caught up with the asssassin.

Faul’s evasive attempts were thwarted by his lack of seamanship, and he and his newly stolen ship–with its boatful of gems–went down somewhere just north of The Whalebones.

The Dagger of Prosperity looks and feels like any common dagger, but has a crude diamond grafted into the bottom of the hilt. The Dagger has a +3 natural enchantment. Wielders of the Dagger notice an increase in agility allowing all thieving skills to be attempted with a +20% bonus. Vision also increases, and they may see in non-magical darkness as if in perfect daylight.

In addition, the Dagger of Prosperity grants its possessors the following spells (as if from an 8th level spellcaster): spider climb (2/week), invisibility (1/week), deeppockets (1/week), knock (1/week), locate object (1/month), and suggestion (2/month).

Wielders develope an almost vampiric thirst for blood. It is actually the Dagger’s thirst, but its wielders feel obliged to quench it. In fact, they feel slightly drained (-1 to dexterity) until drawing 4 HP of blood that day with the Dagger. The dexterity loss is cumulative and, after the initial twenty-four hours, the loss may only be regained by a physical kill: 1 hitpoint regained for every hit die killed. The Dagger will not speak to its wielders, but will send impulse urges instructing them how to satisfy the thirst.

Wielders may choose to cut themselves for 4 HP or, as an alternative, to crush a red gem of significant value under the hilt of the Dagger. The first gem crushed must be worth 100 gp or more, and, should they continue with this option, the value of the gem must increase each day by 10 gp, else the crushing will have no effect. Otherwise, either of these options will satisfy the Dagger’s thirst and prevent the loss of a dexterity point for the day.

Wielders also discover that their skin becomes poisonous to all others of their race. Those touching them at any time they possess the Dagger must make a save vs. poison or lose 2d4 HP each round for four rounds.

Should they discard or lose the Dagger, former possessors will act as if the wizard spell fumble is continuously cast upon them for one week. Each time they attempt feats which require any coordination–this includes such simple tasks as walking and picking up objects–they must make a save vs. spells or fail miserably.

The Dagger of Prosperity may be destroyed if continuously burned for six years.

“You don’t want it,” she repeats to your thief. “It’s an ugly looking blade anyway.”

And then she looks at you. You see the word in your mind and in her eyes before she speaks it.

“Power.” She looks away. “You’ll get it if you want it, child. But you won’t have it all to yourself.”


The Black Hand wizards foretold of the coming of seven sisters, all destined to be champions of good. Not seeing their own imminent demise before the seven would even come to power led them to believe that the Sisters would be the next great threat to their cause. The Black Hand thus began fashioning a blade of incredible power for the express purpose of defeating them.

Wered, a master artisan and enchantress within their ranks was sent away to develop the blade, just months before the defeat of the Black Hand. She did not hear of her brothers’ end, but continued her work for years. So, as the Seven Sisters grew in age, experience, and power, so too Wered refined the Sister Slayer in craftsmanship and magical might.

When she finished nearly thirty years later, the Black Hand was all but forgotten. However her mission had been clear, and she sold the blade as a stylish broadsword +3 to Maik, a reputable adventurer of some renown in Calimshan and its bordering regions.

Not long after, Maik caught up with a young Dove Falconhand on a pirate’s vessel on the Shining Sea. The fight was long and tedious for both parties, but Maik fought with more desperation than skill, allowing Dove to eventually land a mortal strike, severing Maik’s head at the neck. His body, keeping a firm grip on the Sister Slayer, slumped behind his head into the sea.

It took Dove weeks to recover from the battle, although for years something continued to disturb her about her opponent’s unreal bloodlust. It remains a mystery. Now she has long since forgotten about the battle, and the dark-bladed opponent she defeated on the Shining Sea.

The Sister Slayer is a +3, +5 vs. any of the Seven Sisters, black steel broadsword created solely for the destruction of the Seven Sisters. It offers 25% magic resistance (50% vs. any of the Seven Sisters) for its wielders. Its wielder can know exactly where any of the Seven Sisters are at any time both they and that Sister are in Faerun. Should a Sister ever grasp the hilt of the Sister Slayer, the blade will teleport itself and only itself to another random part of the world 1d20 x 100 miles away.

The Sister Slayer also bestows its possessors with the following magical powers (as if from an 18th level wizard): magic missile (1/day), mind blank (2/month), repulsion (1/week), teleport (1/week), chaos (2/week), and friends (1/day).

Once per week, wielders must make a save vs. spells or the blade will lure them to seek the destruction of the nearest Sister. All other goals and duties become second to this. Should they come into contact with any of the Seven, they must make an additional save vs. spells at -4 or attack immediately, no matter how powerless wielders are when compared to the Sister.

The Sister Slayer can only be destroyed when either each of the Seven Sisters are dead or when it has drawn the blood of each of the still-living Sisters. When all the Sisters are dead, the sword will become brittle and may be crushed beneath a common stone. When it has drawn the blood of each the still-living Sisters, it may be destroyed with a wish or disintegrated.

“Maik’s head touched down only a few feet from his body on the ocean floor,” she muses. “It’s kept surprisingly well.” There is a silence and series of uneasy glances around the table. You clear your throat and thank the mariner for her time and information. She shrugs. “Weigh the cost, my children,” she offers.

Your party says nothing as each member rises to leave, no one wanting to look the mariner in the eyes. Can what you want and the consequences of getting it be so far apart? As you near the door, you give a look back to the old mariner. She is pressing one of your rubies to her breast, and a tear falls from her one good eye.

You judge it inconsequential and turn to leave, electing not to tell the others.

If you decide to use any of these items or characters in your campaign, I’d love to hear about it. Special thanks to those Forgotten Realms experts back in college and on the ‘net who gave the article a decent “fact-checking” prior to its original release.

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