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Your Chance for an Artifact
D&D Alumni
Bart Carroll and Steve Winter

Search ye far and search ye near…

So begins the cryptic poem by the wicked sorcerer Keraptis—wizard, overlord, and thief of three highly-valued magical weapons with the cryptic names of Wave, Whelm, and Blackrazor in the 1st Edition adventure module S2: White Plume Mountain. In this special holiday edition of D&D Alumni, we look back at these weapons… and ask for your help in "recovering" the last of them (Blackrazor). For those who succeed, there are treasures to be gained…. treasures such as a copy of Plane Below as well as a complete set of Savage Encounters minis.

Are you up for the challenge? Then let's go on with it!

Several weeks ago these magic items disappeared from the vaults of their owners. Rewards were posted, servants were hanged, and even the sanctuary of the Thieves' Guild was violated in the frantic search for the priceless arms. Despite this, not a single clue was turned up until the weapons' former owners, all wealthy collectors, each received a taunting note signed with a symbol that research has found to be that of the wizard Keraptis, thought to be dead for over 1,000 years.

The First Items: Wave and Whelm

Of the three magic items, two of them have resurfaced. Whelm appeared in Open Grave. Secured within the pages of Plane Below, you'll find the 4th Edition incarnation of Wave; in fact, you can examine this artifact now in our online excerpts. Compare that version to the original:

While a trident of fish command is self-explanatory (but which in the 1E DMG explicitly excluded "mollusks, crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and similar sorts of non-piscine marine creatures"), the trident of warning only gave out information about "hostile and/or hungry marine predators." It was the cube of force that provided the greatest benefit. Cubes of force resembled 6-sided dice, with the ability to press one side and create a force field against the following:

Cube Face

  • 1: keeps out gases, wind, etc.
  • 2: keeps out non-living matter
  • 3: keeps out living matter
  • 4: keeps out magic
  • 5: keeps out all things
  • 6: deactivates

It was possible to damage the force fields with certain attacks draining the cube's 36 daily charges (e.g., fireball drained 3 charges, disintegrate 6). Wave, however, appeared to be a chargeless device—creating infinite, unbreakable force fields!

Wave is a magical trident, dedicated to the god of the sea Poseidon (or a sea-god of your choice). Fashioned for a champion of the sea-god, it brings death or disfigurement to any who do not convert to the worship of this god. It commands the fish of the sea and allows its bearer to live beneath the sea as he can upon the ground. Its bearer can communicate with it and with sea creatures using only his mind. It has control over water, locating the nearest water source; it withers its enemies, drying their bodies to dust.

Wave, a neutral +3 trident which does 1-10 hit points of damage. 14 intelligence, 20 ego. Purpose: death or disfigurement to all who won’t convert to the worship of Poseidon (or any similar sea-god you choose). Powers:

  • Functions as a trident of fish command.
  • Functions as a trident of warning.
  • Finds water.
  • Confers water-breathing and underwater action abilities upon bearer.
  • Confers cube of force ability.
  • Possesses speech and telepathy (in the common tongue as well as the languages of all sea creatures).
  • Dehydrates: On a natural roll of 20, in addition to its normal damage, Wave dehydrates its opponent, draining one half of his or her remaining hit points (compute normal damage first).

What's changed? For starters, the former magic item has become a full-fledged artifact. While it may have lost some of its overpowering (read: unbalanced) characteristics, it's gained better value for an entire party, possibly allowing all allies the ability to breathe underwater. To better match 4th Edition sensibilities, Wave's devotion to Poseidon has transferred to Melora.

Recover the Remaining Item

Which brings us to the remaining item: Blackrazor. In a moment, we'll supply you with the original description and powers of this item. But first, here's our incentive for those willing to risk life, limb, and Keraptis for this quest.

What We Need from You

You've seen Wave. We'd like to see your version of Blackrazor. Take a look at this weapon through the editions and give us your version as a 4th Edition artifact. We're looking for sound 4th Edition design mechanics and sensibilities while also keeping true to the original nature of this item. Please submit your entry using our Online Entry Form, and please also keep to the template of a 4th Edition artifact. We've provided a blank template at the bottom of this article. Deadline: January 15, 2010.

When you're ready, just submit your form to:

What We'll Give to You

In return, at the end of January we'll select two winning entries for Blackrazor. Each winner will receive a copy of Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos as well as a complete set of Savage Encounters minis.


Down the left-hand branch of White Plume Mountain, Blackrazor's guardians included, of all things, a frictionless room, a suspended stream, and an inverted ziggurat (holding giant crawfish, scorpions, sea lions, and manticores)—and all that before meeting Qesnef, the ogre mage! Blackrazor was extensively described as:

Weapon Intelligence and Ego

In AD&D, powerful weapons and artifacts were assigned Intelligence and Ego scores. If the weapon and its wielder were of different alignments, the weapon had an unusually high ego, or it had an agenda of its own, the character and the weapon could find themselves at odds with one another. A powerful character stood a good chance of maintaining the upper hand in these conflicts, but as he took damage in combat (or lost levels to undead monsters), his ability to control the weapon diminished. It would make demands on the character, either to further its own goals or simply to throw its weight around. These could vary from demanding to be decorated with gems and precious metals, to insisting that certain characters be excluded from the adventuring party, or even that the character give the weapon to someone more deserving.

Swords of this nature will never be totally controlled or silenced by the characters who possess them, even though they may be heavily outweighed by personality force. They may be powerless to force their demands, but they will be in there plugging. Even a humble +1 sword of unusual nature can be a vocal martyr, denigrating its own abilities and asking that the character only give it the chance to shatter itself against some hated enemy, etc.

Most players will be unwilling to play swords with personalities as the personalities dictate. It is incumbent upon the DM to ensure that the role of the sword is played to the hilt with the DM assuming the persona of the sword if necessary.

…a magical sword, black as the sky, yet glistening as through with starlight. In battle, the owner is immune to fear, and his actions are quick as lightening. Yet, it devours souls, they say, even that of the man who bears it.

Blackrazor, a +3 chaotic neutral sword, intelligence 17, ego 16. Purpose: to suck souls. It is a black sword that shines like a piece of night sky filled with stars, and it is sheathed in a black scabbard decorated with pieces of cut obsidian. On a killing stroke, Blackrazor temporarily adds the number of levels of the dead foe to its bearer‘s levels (in terms of fighting ability). The bearer also temporarily gains the full hit points of the victim. All subsequent damage to the sword’s wielder is removed from the added hit points first. The extra levels and hit points last a number of turns equal to the number of levels received. The souls of all entities killed by Blackrazor are sucked out and devoured; those killed by the black sword cannot be raised.

For every three days the sword remains “unfed’, its ego increases by one point, until it can compel its bearer to kill a human or humanoid being. Upon feeding, its ego returns to 16.

The DM will note that Blackrazor is a negative-energy entity that exists by absorbing positive life energy levels from those it kills. However, if it even strikes a negative-energy being like an undead (except for ghouls and ghasts), it will work in reverse, transferring one level and corresponding hit points from the wielder to the creature attacked. It will do this each time that it strikes. Under these conditions, the wielder can actually die and have his soul sucked out by his own sword. If the wielder survives, he will need a restoration spell or twice the usual number of levels received from positive “kills” to replace the lost levels. Those killed for replacement must be of the same race as the sword-wielder. Blackrazor (and you, the DM) may very well keep this little drawback a secret until the first time the sword bites into a wight or a vampire. The DM must remember that Blackrazor exists solely to feel power and souls coursing through itself, and sometimes it may not be too picky about where the energy is coming from.

In addition to the above, the sword has the following powers:

  • Speech and telepathy (common and whatever tongues its wielder knows, which it learns telepathically).
  • Detects living creatures (souls), 60' radius.
  • Haste spell (bearer only, 10 rounds), once per day.
  • 100% magic resistance to charm and fear (exact percentage chance of resistance will depend on the level of the opponent casting such a spell).

The 3.5 version recast Blackrazor as a weapon of legacy, designed by Andy Collins—adding the revealing notes that: "No living being can positively identify the material from which Blackrazor was crafted because the sword comes from another reality, now long dead, whose physical laws varied from those defining the multiverse known to today’s sages and planewalkers. In the dying days of that reality, the wizard Keraptis brought the weapon out of its native multiverse into his own."

Artifact Template

As mentioned, we'd like to see Blackrazor reimaged as a 4th Edition artifact, in the proper format. For your help, we've included the following blank template.

(Artifact Name)


Goals of the (artifact)

  • Bullet list

Roleplaying the (artifact)

Concordance Table

Pleased (16-20)
Flavor text

Satisfied (12-15)
Flavor text

Normal (5-11)
Flavor text

Unsatisfied (1-4)
Flavor text

Angered (0 or lower)
Flavor text

Moving On
Flavor text

The Fine Print

Winners will be notified in late January. Best of luck, and have fun exploring the halls of White Plume Mountain in your quest for this item. Don't worry. You'll like it here!

About the Authors

It is possible that Bart Carroll is a relative of the beholder, for there are remarkable similarities between the two species. Bart dwells only at great depths of the ocean, floating slowly about, stalking prey. He has two huge crab-like pincers to seize its victims and a mouth full of small sharp teeth. His primary weapons, however, are his eyes. The author has a large central eye which emits a blinding flash of light to dazzle and stun those in its unless a saving throw versus death ray/poison is made. The author also has two smaller eyes on long stalks with which he is able to create an illusion; or, acting independently, the small eyes are able to cast hold person and hold monster spells respectively.

Steve Winter is a writer, game designer, and web producer living in the Seattle area. He's been involved with publishing D&D in one form or another since 1981. Tiny people and monsters made of plastic and lead are among his favorite obsessions.

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