- by Telgar
I write a lot of Artifacts but each and every system created by White Wolf for creating them has failed spectacularly in my opinion. They base their systems for creation of Artifacts upon a point-value system where each dot of Artifact equates into a certain number of points to be spread amongst a variety of choices such as Game Impact or Power Level or Stats. I think that's fine for weapons and armor when writing the basic stat line. But the actual powers of the Artifacts as I feel simply don't work out well when reduced to point values and dots.
It's been my experience that using point-based Artifact creation systems simply encourages people using them to tack Charms onto their items, or Hearthstone powers or Spells or anything else with a set value, in other words: things that already exist. It involves no actual creation, simply arranging already existing powers in a new way. Mix-n-match Artifacts, which is not what I think is the way Artifacts should be made.
I won't set out here to tell people how to create their own Artifacts step by step, but I will give an overview of the process I use to create my own Artifacts and the general way that I evaluate the power and impact of an item on your average game as well as how I go about creating new powers for Artifacts
When creating Artifacts it's important to think of it a lot like creating a character. The Artifact must have an underlying concept. It doesn't need a detailed history or appearance, though that will help make it fuller and more fleshy. However an Artifact does need a personality and a life of its own. No, they're not as cool as characters, but they're not toys either. Well. They might BE toys but they shouldn't be treated like them. Artifacts are created for a specific purpose. To do something or to help someone be better at what they do. To answer some need. As an Artifact Writer you have to address that. Decide what the need is, what the concept is. What are you trying to write here?
Without addressing the literary merits or flaws of the following sources, lets look at some really great examples of Artifacts from various media.
From Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown comes the Blue Sword, Gonturan. She wasn't intelligent, exactly, but she could give visions of the future to her wearer. She enhanced their own natural magical ability to great levels. She could cut through spells and enchantments and destroy objects touched by dark magic. She would even refuse to be worn by a full-grown man, betraying him if he tried to use her. She's probably either a level 5 or a level N/A weapon because she's a plot device, but she has a lot of character. She reads, without taking anything away from the main characters of the book, like a person. She's memorable.
A more low-key Artifact comes from a variety of Japanese anime but most specifically to my mind, Ronin Warriors or Inuyasha. The six-ringed monk's staff that jingles to drive away evil spirits. A weapon with a statline, but also the ability to warn about evil and to drive it away or harm it. This is a far simpler Artifact then Gonturan, probably rating between 3 and 4 depending on how strong its anti-spirit powers are designed to be. Miroku's staff is probably a 3 where as the Ancient One's staff is likely a 4. Neither has significant plot impact, but they're both useful tools.
It doesn't really matter if your Artifact is a level 1 trinket or a level 5 world-smasher. It has to have a concept, a solid idea behind it and a reason for being. When creating an item's appearance and powers you have to be able to say "what does it need to accomplish its purpose? What suits this thing? Would that be out of place or just add to the functionality in a new way?" That takes personality. Think hard before ever writing down a single power or stat. Do some brainstorming. Create a story in which the Artifact could be used. Summon up a vision of it in action in your mind.
The First Things To Do
If at all possible decide the name, level and materials of the Artifact before deciding anything else. These three things will be your guide as you work on the details.
The Name of the Artifact
Naming an Artifact is a fairly simple task that sets up the entire nature of the item. If it isn't possible to come up with a cool, catchy name, then come up with a short, descriptive name and come back later for the catchy one. But it's important to have a short sentence or phrase that sums up the personality of the Artifact being designed. It will help set your mind on the theme and keep from straying too far into grab baggery.
The Materials in the Artifact
There are FiveMagicalMaterials in Creation plus an assortment of other materials that happen to be magical. Further the FiveMagicalMaterials break down into at least 9 more distinct types thanks to the five colors of Jade. There may be more in the Creation you are working with, if Jade has further colors (such as Yellow) or there are special varieties of the other four Materials. Aside from Jade, Orichalcum, Moonsilver, Soulsteel and Starmetal there is also Adamant, Black Iron, First Age Glass, feathersteel and so forth.
Each of the FiveMagicalMaterials has different properties and is used for different purposes. You wouldn't harness lightning with Soulsteel or build a blood-sucking scythe out of White Jade. Thus the purpose and character of the Artifact determines which Material or Materials it will be constructed of.
Level of the Artifact
It's alright to have a range of levels as long as it's from 1-3 or 3-4. Level 3 Artifacts cover a lot of ground as they are the midrange between low powered utility items (levels 1-2 and low end 3's) and high-powered unique devices (high end 3's as well as 4's and 5's). Knowing the level of the Artifact you want to build lets you set up a basic range for the powers and stats it will have. Trying to build an Artifact from scratch without knowing what level you're aiming at often makes for extremely over or underpowered items.
The next section will discuss the various levels and the power scope of each one.
Level 1 powers are generally things that can be done by modern appliances that are fairly common. Or they're something that fantasy doesn't consider very important. Some level 1 powers might include purifying drinking water by small incriments, testing for poisons, creating light, sound or heat or making a task of moderate difficulty easier or removing the need to roll at all for a very easy task. A toolkit that hands you the tools is a level 1 Artifact because it might add a die or two to Crafts rolls because it always has the right tool when you need it. A quiver with the same power might increase Rate by 2 or 3. Level 1 powers do that sort of thing, they're basic little fixes and power-ups that make life a bit easier.
Level 2 starts to reach powers that match modern technology at a slightly higher level and incorporate powers that are useful in combat and other important situations. Level 2 Artifacts are often baseline weapons and some types of armor. These are not, however, just statlines with nothing else to recommend them. At level 2, weapons should have at least one power in addition to their regular stats. A Daiklave might be able to do double damage to inanimate objects or inject poison into those it wounds. Such minor powers add flavor and make the weapon unique without taking it beyond the "actual" power of a level 2. Almost all items listed in the Exalted Corebook are simply templates which still need to be personalized with a unique power.
Creating Artifact Powers
I just want to say that I look forward to seeing how this turns out. It will be intresting. - Azurelight
Same here, although I often think Telgar's artifacts are slightly above the canon powerscale (not necessarily a bad thing, considering how naff the corebook puts artifact 1 at.)
I Like the intro a lot. Especially the first part. All in it has merits Even though we have slightly diffrent approaches, having point based system is not mutually exclusive. I humbly admitt that my need for it comes from my in ability to approach anything in a non-scietific fashion.
About the cannon artefacts. I susprct a bit of their problems comes from the fact that some people treat the artefact rating as a linear scale, which it is not. However, studies have proven that thinking non-linear when scaling is counter intuitive to most westerners at leaste...so...yeah. I think telgars power level is Just on the spot. - Azurelight