Weapons of Legacy – Is The Hate Justified?

By Ken Wai Lau


Weapons of Legacy – a whole new meaning to ‘double edge sword’.
Artwork © by Nikitina Nina

On Sunday, I published an article expressing my desire for magic items to be made a bit more interesting in D&D Next. I stopped short of suggesting they should rewrite Weapons of Legacy, because of the general negative reaction generated by the content of the book.

Speaking of which, I want to make Weapons of Legacy the subject of this blog post today.

Have An Axe to Grind

Search any Dungeons and Dragons related forum such as Giants in the Playground for ‘Weapons of Legacy’ and you can see most players are warm to the concept of weapons that become more powerful as the character progresses. On the other hand, the D&D community are unanimous when voicing their disapproval of the book.

This is due to the drawbacks of bonding to each of the items in the book. Each item will generally impose penalties on three of the following: base attack bonus, one or more saving throws, skill checks, spell slots and skill points.

On one hand, I can understand why it’s such a turn off for many people. With the freedom to craft magic items – tailor made according to your own desires – it’s only natural that Weapons of Legacy would seem so underwhelming in comparison. The ability to create any item you want is merely a feat selection away, though you also need to have the appropriate spells available if you want to add other weapon abilities beyond the pluses.

On the other hand, if magic items were more strictly regulated by the DM, people may find Weapons of Legacy intriguing. The drawbacks could really make your character stop and think about whether or not the benefits are worth the cost. In some cases, they might not be and there is no way of knowing until you bond with the weapon.

It would represent something of a gamble, but by sacrificing something of himself, he could potentially obtain great power in return – or be severely crippled.

In short – roleplaying opportunities abound.

More Than Your Money’s Worth?

Perhaps the best defence one could make can be found in the treasure rules in the Hypertext D20 3.5 SRD. Let’s jump straight to level 20 and as you can see from this table, the average value of treasure wrested from the cold dead corpse of a level 20 combat encounter is 80,000gp. This is, at best, the equivalent of a +6 weapon or a +8 armour. The numbers may deviate in either direction, but not by much.

Now, let’s consider one of the weapons in the Weapons of Legacy book, the Desert Wind. Aside from being equivalent to a +7 weapon at level 20, you will also have unlocked additional spell like abilities such as gust of wind, fireball and disintegrate. It also grants you a neat +6 to dexterity (freeing the glove slots) and a constant Endure Elements effect that cannot be dispelled. It’s also worth noting that Legacy weapons are also much more difficult to destroy.

So you can see that a weapon of legacy can exceed the base assumptions of the SRD by a fair amount. With all this power, it seems only fair to impose some restrictions to prevent characters from running away with it in your campaign.

Do the benefits, then, justify the cost? I suspect it depends on each item and the circumstances within a campaign, but speaking from my own personal experience, I dare say that the benefits can outweigh the cost. Sometimes the penalties may seem harsh, but until you put the mechanics into practice, there is no way of knowing if it is balanced or not.

That said, I was playing characters who were especially gifted – in a gestalt campaign which included the Tome of Battle.

It would be interesting to see how well it fares in a core-only campaign, so maybe I’ll experiment with it and post my findings in the not too distant future.

If you’ve used, read or had experience with Weapons of Legacy in your campaign, good or bad, I’d love to hear from you. Please share your stories and experiences in the comment section below.


  1. Gilbert March 18, 2014 1:38 pm  Reply

    I think the only way Weapons of Legacy will work is if your campaign is low magic and you remove the item creation feats. Otherwise, there are far superior options when it comes to magical equipment.

    • Ken Wai Lau March 18, 2014 4:04 pm  Reply

      True, but the flavour of some of the items are pretty awesome. If nothing else, you could just milk the book for ideas that you can refine and build your items around, especially if you’re struggling to come up with ideas of your own.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *