Strictly talking about religion, a relic is the mortal remains of a saint; in a broader sense, the term can also include any object that has been in contact with that saint. Among the major religions, Christianity, almost exclusively in Roman Catholicism, and Buddhism have emphasized the veneration of relics.
In the context of D&D, though, a relic is a magic item that provides its full function only for a character devoted to the deity to whom the relic is dedicated. Back in the days of 3rd edition, the wielder had to devote a measure of spiritual energy to maintain a divine connection between the relic and his deity’s power; mechanically speaking, divine spellcasters temporarily sacrificed a spell slot of the level specified in the relic’s description. Those characters were not able to use the spell slot anymore, but they could use the relic’s powers instead.
When they were introduced as a type of magic items (I can’t remember what book they first showed up in, maybe Complete Divine, feel free to correct me in the comments), characters were only able to use them if they had the True Believer feat or used a divine spell slot in order to meet the requirements of a specific relic. Typically, their character level had to be high enough so they could cast spells of the level required for sacrifice if all their levels were in the cleric class. Some relics had two or more tiers of powers, each requiring a different level of spell sacrifice (or character level) and unless indicated otherwise, paying the second cost (or meeting the second level requirement) granted the character all its powers.
Additionally, all relics had a caster level of 20th, regardless of the actual creator’s caster level. In addition to its powers, each relic had some sort of basic effect or power available to any character whose alignment is within one step of the associated deity’s. In the hands of a character not of one of these alignments, the item had no magical abilities whatsoever. With a successful DC 20 Knowledge (religion) check, a character could identify any relic on sight. Finally, relics could be improved just as magic items (keep in mind that 3rd edition had very specific rules on how to create magic items).
Bringing relics to 5e is not hard at all. Mythic Odysseys of Theros brought the Weapons of the Gods of that plane, using the Piety mechanic (also introduced in that book) to increase their power according to the devotion of the wielder. Let’s settle some aspects of relics that you should abide to when introducing them to your campaign. When doing so, keep in mind that relics, being legendary magic items, shouldn’t be available for purchase and are tied to a particular deity. They can be used as the object of a quest a church might offer a reward for, or in very extreme circumstances, as a loan from such Church in order to facilitate the success of a quest of particular importance.
As precious treasures of the faithful, relics can be introduced in many different ways. Ylou can take these as inspiration:
- A priest from a traditionally opposed church has acquired a holy relic dedicated to one of the character’s deity. He’s willing to exchange it for one that is in the hand of the High Cleric and that was set for destruction soon. After convincing him, the PCs need to be sure they won’t be double-crossed and prepare for a very likely confrontation in which both sides will have new powers based on the relics they just recovered.
- A relic once wielded by a great hero might show up in the treasure hoard of the powerful monster (did anyone say «dragon»?) that caused the hero’s death many decades (or centuries) earlier. The characters might discover the relic unexpectedly or intentionally follow its trail, but they are not the only ones.
- In exchange for a great service to the church, one of the heroes might be awarded the use of a relic temporarily, but by using them against his enemies, they get the attention of an evil mastermind who see the relic as the perfect sacrifice for a foul ritual on behest of an archdevil.
The Sanctify Relic feat allowed a character to craft a relic for which he met the requirements back in 3e. As a DM, you could introduce story-based requirements or ramifications for a character who wants to craft such an item, or even better, sanctify an already existent magic item. By matching their deity’s alignment and ethos, and following its church mandates, such character can increase their Piety score, but if you’re not using it and you’re not planning to do so, there is an easy way to make any character feel like a soldier fighting for their god’s will. If the character has consistently invoked their god and behaved accordingly to its province, you can award them with the use of a Channel Divinity power related to the deity sphere of influence. For example, a follower of Onatar, god of artifice and the forge, can bestow the use of the Channel Divinity power for the Forge or Knowledge domains. For a character in the second tier of play (from level 5 to 10), this power can be used once before requiring a long rest; for a character in the third tier (from level 11 to 16), it can be used once before requiring a short rest.
This can be a little more difficult to settle in an Eberron campaign, as followers of the Sovereign Host would easily have access to almost any published domain. Most of the times, though, players will want powers who play well along their own class features, so there won’t be a problem settling for one or another domain power.
Relics of Eberron
Several hundres of years ago, Tira Miron, a paladin dedicated to Dol Arrah, received a powerful vision: a great rainbow-winged serpent warned her that a terrible evil was emerging in the east, riding crimson fire from the depths of Khyber itself. Tira never feared and rallied to defeat the dark creatures that had come to venerate the crimson fire and help free the malevolent entity trapped within its f lames. With her sword, Tira turned to face the emerging demon just as the great serpent with the rainbow-feathered wings of her vision appeared and dove headfirst into the fire. Tira watched as the serpent and the demon struggled in the flames. The battle within the fire seemed to last for an eternity, and as she watched the demon began to overcome the serpent. Horrified, she saw the demon strike a crippling blow. The serpent, calling on its last reserves of power, encircled the demon and buried its fangs into the fiend’s fiery throat. At the same moment, it sent a mental plea to Tira, and the paladin didn’t hesitate. She leaped into the fire, plunging her sword through the writhing serpent and deep into the demon’s flesh.
According to the legend, the hot crimson fire became a cool silver flame. Tira remained within, now part of the divine fire that had replaced the evil conflagration. She became the Voice of the Silver Flame, and a new religion was born.
Weapon (greatsword), legendary (requires attunement by a LG character follower of the Silver Flame)
Kloinjer, Tira Miron’s sword, had a Khyber dragonshard set into its pommel. Tira used it when she famously did battle with Bel Shalor in 299 YK, giving origin to the Silver Flame. Perhaps because of its Khyber dragonshard, the sword was able to bind Bel Shalor, Tira, and her couatl ally within the Flame, where they remain to this day. Kloinjer is now impaled nearly to the hilt in the ground at the point where the Flame emerges.
Kloinjer can not be removed from its resting place as it is believed it acts as the seal preventing Bel Shalor from reaching Eberron. A character in service of the Church of the Silver Flame, though, can request an audience with the Keeper of the Flame (currently Jaela Daran) and he or she can agree to perform a ritual for Kloinjer to bestow its might temporarily into a weapon they wield. When a cleric expends a spell slot at the same time another weapon is resting upon the hilt of Kloinjer, such weapon becomes a Holy Avenger for as many days as the level of the spell expended. Enemies of the faith faced with this weapon while having this property active may impose additional effects upon them:
- Slain fiends are not reformed on its home layer in the Nine Hells or the Abyss, being bound to the Silver Flame and unable to reform if the weapon is brought back to Kloinjer before it loses this bestowed property.
- Undead can not be raised again. Their Undead Fortitude trait doesn’t apply (this is redundant, as a Holy Avenger deals radiant damage to undead)
- Lycanthropes can be dealt damage as if the weapon were made of silver.
Relics are full with history about our world, and they are usually used as McGuffins for our campaigns. Feel free to drop in the comments and tell us the details! Or better yet, write an article of your own and participate in this month’s RPG Blog Carnival!