Most wizards worthy of the name, can, by intent or by accident, produce magic items dangerous to their users, but only the Banewrights have elevated it an art.
This secretive cabal of wizards produce the items as an act of worship for their dark patron, the god of Black Mischief. They do not use his powers in the fabrication for it is their personal effort that he prefers.
Most cabal members hold positions of power and responsibility in the world at large, keeping their 'hobby' as secret as possible, as for obvious reasons they have many enemies. Still, they sometimes require the assistance of those outside the cabal, and virtually all such contacts are with other underground societies, such as assassin's guilds. Thieves guilds are considered too common and untrustworthy to deal with.
The God of Black Mischief
The God of Black Mischief is not a jealous god - he does not care terribly much what other deities his followers may choose to worship, only that they carry out his proscriptions as well. His own favour manifests itself in improved luck and the occasional granting of divine curses on his worshippers enemies. He does, however, favour those most who help themselves. He never manifests himself physically - taking at most illusionary forms visible only to his followers or their victims.
The Banewrights care not for the ethics or ethos of their victims, striking down hero, villain or innocent with equal glee. They prefer their targets be of higher profile of course, but any victim is better than no victim.
Typically wizards, due to the opportunities provided by wizardry to sow chaos, there are Banewrights with alchemical, tinkering and herbalist backgrounds. Anyone capable of producing the various trapped items of sufficient discretion and effectiveness may become a member. Recruitment is one of the main ways that the God of Black Mischief impacts the Banewrights. He can enter people's dreams at night, those who show the correct aptitude for inclusion and lead them, through dreams, to find others of their ilk.
The items the Banewrights manufacture run the gamut of human artifacts, with virtually anything being trapped in some manner.
They do not produce weapons except as a trap for their user, for there is a shred of honesty in the bare blade or flying arrow. The way of the banewright is the trap, the deception, the betrayal.
Each Banewright has their own signature to their items, influenced by their available skills and magic, temperament and cultural background. Rarely these hints can be used to uncover a banewright, but they are very careful.
It is not absolutely necessary that their items cause death, though it certainly a frequent outcome. Injury or even grievous humiliation are also acceptable outcomes from using these items.
On occasion, their items may be useful, but only in very limited circumstances. If any use can be found, it is typically as traps for one's enemies.
Methods of Operation
Banewrights will attempt to replace existing magic items with trapped copies of the item, often at the final stages of item creation. Frequently these incidents are attributed to failures in the creation process, but the Banewrights do not mind - they are looking for havoc, not infamy.
The Bad Mcguffin
A more elaborate method, the Banewrights will arrange a need for a McGuffin to be retrieved, and the effort would be strenuous indeed. Perhaps a set of patsies hired or quested to guard the item, and a party is sent to retrieve it. Best if the party is hired by someone who honestly believes the item is needed. The item of course is trapped in some manner - to either target the party or the person who hired them.
A frequent approach is to simply sell the cursed items, using some easily forgotten nameless stall in a larger market. Or there is reverse-shoplifting, where the cursed item is placed among similar wares in an innocent establishment.
(Codex linking is having a problem)
Moonhunters worthy Garage_Sale_from_Hell
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? Responses (10)-7
Update: out into the field, half-baked ideas!
Update: Keeping this short - it could easily grow into a massive submission, and has sat in my in work for a long time.
Update: Aaand again - Out Wit Ye!
I look forward to writing something with or for the Banewrights
This, to me, is one of those organizations that your PCs would never actually encounter. They would be a solid justification for trapped and cursed items, but at most your PCs would find a signature mark here or there. Just another mystery with which to drive them mad.
I do think some examples would have been handy, whether it be of items in question or members.
I linked a couple of items that fit, though virtually all of the cursed items in the DMG could work :)
As for NPCs, I intend to add some in time.
Someone has to make all those Flawed Potions and items that go wrong. 5/5
Instant Dungeon: a long-lost 'foundry' or 'lair' of Banewrights has been discovered. The entire place is awash with ancient, cursed and bizarre magic items for the unwary to find.
'Okay, has anyone found anything that _doesn't_ explode?'
Like everyone else had said, a good background piece to explain the number of 'cursed or dysfunctional items' going around.
Something I don't quite get is the following line: 'They do not produce weapons except as a trap for their user, for there is a shred of honesty in the bare blade or flying arrow.' It's probably prose but I don't get how conventional weapons are inherently more 'honest' by nature or am I misinterpreting this whole line?