A quintessential icon of fantasy. One of humanity’s oldest inventions. Sorcery’s other half.
The significance of the sword, in the history of fiction, RPGs, and the world itself, is difficult to overstate. Swords bear the weight of enough symbolism and cultural baggage to bend the blade of a lesser weapon, and yet they do not break! They still captivate us and appear time and time again at our tables to guide us through forest and field, through dungeons and dangers.
But eventually, you feel like you’ve seen it all. How many more flaming swords will we find jutting conveniently from a pile of gold? How many more times will we roll our eyes at the suggestive comments of swords containing the souls of salacious demons? Sometimes, you want something weirder. Something your players have never seen before. Sometimes, you want a far-future, post-post-apocalyptic “magic” sword.
These weapons are designed with Icosa—a radioactive, quasi-medieval, science-fantasy world—in mind. This is a world in which the word “magic” often refers to devices and phenomena that simply fall outside the limits of common understanding. However, the ideas behind these swords can be adapted to any setting. I think magic items are at their most interesting when they have narrative, rather than mechanical, effects. A really weird object with a personality and a story, which requires creativity to use to its fullest potential, is much more exciting than a simple numerical bonus (unless it’s tongue-in-cheek; see no. 12). As such, you won’t find any stat-blocks here—just descriptive starters to get your imagination going. Throw them into any system! Ready in five minutes! Just add numbers! Go crazy.
Note: Entries marked with an asterisk are based on concepts by Jeremiah Scott, a close friend and known genius. The illustrations accompanying “Serrulata” and “Hammer of the Gods” were drawn by the incredibly talented Samuel Harrison Butler, whose Instagram can be found by clicking this text. Ven’s Autoknight was illustrated by Balo Scott, whose portfolio, Patreon, and social media can be found by clicking this text. Used with permission.
On to the list!
Any smith can beat a lump of metal into an edge and call it a sword. But only the magic of the Outsiders could create these weapons. When, in your travels, you chance upon a famous, ancient blade, you would do well to remember what I’ve told you. Take care that you know who is the wielder and who is the tool, and wit thee well: some blades can cut more than flesh.
Oh, and mind the pointy end.
- Sheath*: Fie! This sword appears rusted and chipped to the point of uselessness! Its dull edge would be better suited to cracking open leechnuts than cutting. But it is much heavier than it looks, and the blood it spills reveals the true shape and size of the invisible blade as it dashes across the steel.
- Heart: The chipped obsidian blade is always precisely as heavy as its wielder’s heart. When one is in high spirits, it is as light as a feather; in dark times, it may prove too heavy for even an ox to pull. Heart was most famously used by the master ascetic Abbot Kastelo, a monk who had achieved such perfect mastery over his emotions that he could change the weight of the blade in the midst of a strike.
- Devotion: This elegant estoc was once the blade of a proud knight, sworn protector of an unknown heiress. After making the ultimate mistake, the grief-stricken knight sought out the forbidden magic of the Outsiders in the darkest places of the world, desperate to find a way to return his charge to life. Alas, naught but her memory is preserved in eternal half-life within the sword. When the blade draws even a drop of blood, the holo-gem in its hilt will project a shimmering likeness of the heiress, who will loose a single, unfailing arrow at the wounded foe.
- Paladin: Paladin is a small brooch in the shape of a comically-proportioned knight in shining armor. When the tiny button on his shield is depressed, the brooch manifests a hovering sword of rose-gold hardlight, much too large to be wielded by a person of average size. The sword will attack any lifeforms that enter a small radius around the brooch, prioritizing the protection of the wearer at the exclusion of all else.
- The Lovers: According to local folklore, a sentimental wizard forged these arcane sabers for two young hearts in the throes of a forbidden romance. By virtue of The Lovers’ telepsionic flatwave oscillators (of Outsider design), the bearers of these two swords will always know the emotional condition of one another. Further, they may freely speak to one another, as tenderly as if they were locked in a florid embrace, no matter distant they may be. Tragically, the affair ended soon after the young lovers were united. As it happens, holding both swords at once creates a cerebral feedback loop that is quite literally head-splitting.
- Pocket Corp Calloused Hands: The Pocket Corp Calloused Hands are a pair of blood-red ceramic gauntlets that, once donned, can never be removed without the intervention of a skilled Nullmage. When the wearer mimes the action of drawing a sword, the Calloused Hands’ hypnic frame exaggerators project a weightless blade of neon-sharp hardlight. Virtually nothing is known about Pocket Corp, but they are assumed to be the wizard responsible for creating this magic sword.
- Dot Wave: When the tip of this rippling flamberge is placed on a solid surface, the sword reacts to the trace reverberations of any sound waves that have recently passed through the object. As the blade shifts mercurially into an oscillating waveform, the vibrations pass through the wielder’s body and into the fine, trembling hairs of the cochlea, where they are perceived as sound. A spy’s best friend, Dot Wave can whisper remnants of conversations that transpired hours before.
- Scrivener: Scrivener is the perfect weapon for the warrior concerned with his legacy. Using a suite of sensors in conjunction with a divine algorithm of incomprehensible complexity, this seax records its wielder’s deeds in dactylic hexameter and prints them on a scroll kept rolled within the hilt. Although it records non-violent deeds as well as martial ones, it must refill its ink reservoirs with the blood of slain foes.
- Gloria: Confusion at the idea of a pacifistic sword and contempt for its seeming uselessness have caused this falchion to remain unused throughout much of her long life. Indeed, some unknown force does seem to restrain the wielder and prevent the sword from striking. However, when her charge is wounded, Gloria autonomously launches into a dazzling fury of flashing steel that few have lived to recount.
- Ven’s Autoknight: An articulated metal arm holds this plain katana in an unbreakable grip. The assembly is fitted to a weighty harness worn about the torso. Legend has it that the arm once belonged to the guardian of a child king. When the warrior fell in battle, the arm, which still remembers the technically-exquisite movements of its master, was refitted to the harness so that the guardian could continue to protect the child king from beyond the veil.
- The Wielder: The silver blade is polished to perfection, and as you look into your gleaming reflection, you can make out every detail of your own inquisitive eyes. When you take the hilt in your hands, your senses abandon you. You see nothing; you have no eyes. You hear nothing; you have no ears. You are vaguely aware of motion, violence, and stillness. You feel as though you have become a weapon—a tool. When you come to your senses, the blade lies on the ground before you, pristine. You see yourself in the perfect reflection, soaked in blood.
- The Plus-Five Longsword: This sword appears plain and rustic, all straight lines and unpolished steel. The fullers, however, bear the perplexing inscription from which the sword derives its odd name: “+5 Longsword.” What properties that famous epithet refers to, no-one knows. It seems to have no exceptional physical or supernal qualities whatever. Yet, it is said that the life of one who wields the Plus-Five Longsword always ends in old age—never on the battlefield. As you test its weight and balance, you cannot deny that it feels… extra-ordinary.
- Serrulata: Everyone has heard tales of sentient blades—swords possessing the essence or consciousness of a person. This spatha, however, possesses the essence of the cherry tree from which its still-blossoming hilt was made. Where other sentient blades are motivated by revenge, ideals, or other short-sighted pursuits, Serrulata’s agenda is that of a more long-lived species. Merely holding this blade grants serenity, impartiality, and the inclination to view matters from a broader perspective—all of which may prove beneficial while pursuing your short-sighted aims through savage combat.
- Metaknife: The blade of this aquamarine short sword is subatomically sharp. When the capacitor is overcharged and the blade slung forth, it is capable of severing the supersymmetrical exclusion current underpinning this reality, shearing away its victims’ fundamental qualities—their physical attributes, their spatial location, even their opinions and memories.
- Module XII*: This blue sword is blunt and exceedingly plain, distinguished only by the name inscribed on the crossguard. There is, however, a small button on the hilt. When it is depressed, nine dulled swords, identical except for being crimson instead of blue, materialize in the air and commence a furious attack on the wielder. Perhaps this sword was conceived as a training device for aspirant knights in the Age of Attendance?
- Violator: This frightful blade was forged by Outsider psionicists to be the ultimate psychological weapon. In reality, it is nothing but a hilt. But when the weapon locks on to a target, its beta wave-analyzers determine what sort of weapon would be most intimidating to the particular foe, and its psionic actualizer subroutines manifest an illusion of that weapon in the opponent’s mind. Although no actual blade exists, the wounds it creates are real enough to trigger a psychosomatic pain response. This effect is often enough to instigate death from shock. Note that the Violator can only exert its influence over one mind at a time, and if one’s opponents become wise to the deception, the blade is powerless.
- Blood-drinking Sword: This vicious khopesh was once a mere hunting knife. Subjected to an essence-warping encounter with the acausal power of the Outsiders, it has gained the ability to assimilate the blood it spills into its material composition. It must feed regularly to maintain its size, and with each drop of blood it absorbs in surplus of its needs, the blade grows longer, heavier, and ever-so-slightly sharper.
- The Gate: Wizards often mistakenly claim that this man-sized claymore is capable of cleaving the veil that separates our world from the other freeholds of the Outsiders. In fact, the ancient blade is all that holds that veil together, and the seal will fail if the sword is moved too recklessly. Indeed, in the presence of The Gate, the very air quivers with a certain anticipatory fragility.
- Soothsayer*: It is not known what mechanism this fortune-telling blade uses to peer into the unresolved strands of the future. It seems to be possessed of the ability to accurately answer any yes-or-no question that directly concerns its wielder’s future. However, these answers are costly, and this price suggests a darkness within the mysterious sword; ask a question and draw blood with the edge of the blade—if the victim lives, the answer to the question is yes…
- Hammer of the Gods: An artifact on the pommel of this broadsword blares a romping, up-tempo song from the Deep Past from the moment it is drawn to the instant it is sheathed, and it derives its curious name from the lyrics of this ancient tune. Some wielders find the song invigorating—their own personal theme music. For others, it is grating and abrasive, shattering concentration and inflicting constant distraction. If one is possessed of the disposition to benefit from the sword’s booming melody, and they find themselves pitted against opponents who do not share their appreciation for the arts, the weapon might just prove its worth.
Thanks for reading! Naturally, feel free to use these in your own campaigns, and if you do, transmit a message to Irth to let me know how it went! Also, don’t forget to check out 1d20 Far-Future, Post-Post Apocalyptic Ruins to Explore. If you like this stuff and want more of it to exist, do us both a favor and check out the Patreon by clicking here! There, you can get early access to new stuff, influence what I make next, and support the creation of weird stuff! Or, click here to follow on social media for news and updates about upcoming content. Thanks again!