At this point of our campaign, my players discovered a sword with a strong ego (25). Its alignement is very different from the one player that took it and in RAW it says :

When an item has an Ego of its own, it has a will of its own. The item is absolutely true to its alignment. If the character who possesses the item is not true to that alignment’s goals or the item’s special purpose, personality conflict—item against character—results. Similarly, any item with an Ego score of 20 or higher always considers itself superior to any character, and a personality conflict results if the possessor does not always agree with the item.

When a personality conflict occurs, the possessor must make a Will saving throw (DC = item’s Ego). If the possessor succeeds, she is dominant. If she fails, the item is dominant. Dominance lasts for 1 day or until a critical situation occurs (such as a major battle, a serious threat to either the item or the character, and so on). Should an item gain dominance, it resists the character’s desires and demands concessions such as any of the following:

  • Removal of associates or items whose alignment or personality is distasteful to the item.
  • The character divesting herself of all other magic items or items of a certain type.
  • Obedience from the character so the item can direct where they go for its own purposes.
  • Immediate seeking out and slaying of creatures hateful to the item.
  • Magical protections and devices to safeguard the item from molestation when it is not in use.
  • That the character carry the item with her on all occasions.
  • That the character relinquish the item to a more suitable possessor due to alignment differences or conduct.

In extreme circumstances, the item can resort to even harsher measures, such as the following:

  • Force its possessor into combat.
  • Refuse to strike opponents.
  • Strike at its wielder or her associates.
  • Force its possessor to surrender to an opponent.
  • Cause itself to drop from the character’s grasp.

To be more precise, here is what is happening :

  • NPC found sword a few years ago and killed everybody in his house with it before going to the big boss HQ for training under the sword's domination.

  • NPC in question is NE whereas sword is LE so 2 negative levels.

  • PCs fight and kill said NPC. One of them (low will save), take hold of the sword.

  • PC (NG - 2 negative levels), fails the saving throw therefore the sword get the dominance.

Campaign related question : I was thinking of doing the same thing as what happened a few years before, that is try to kill all his friends and going to be trained by the boss. What do you think ?

General question : Does that mean that the wielder of that weapon has to obey it and try to kill its friends for exemple ? If not, how can it manifest its dominance ?


2 Answers 2


When a creature fails the saving throw against the intelligent item's ego, the creature wearing or wielding the intelligent item obeys for 1 day the intelligent item's boring commands… or the creature wearing or wielding the intelligent item obeys until the conclusion of 1 significant event the intelligent item's commands.

If the intelligent item has its wearer or wielder make an attempts on the life of a friend of the wearer or wielder, this likely qualifies as one of these more significant events, and the intelligent item's dominance ends afterward. (But may resume again afterward if the wearer or wielder doesn't make concessions to the intelligent item's will then fails another saving throw—there's no limit to the intelligent item's ability to dominate its so-called owner!)

However, just wearing or wielding an intelligent item of substantially different alignment carries with it severe penalties:

Any character whose alignment does not correspond to that of the item (except as noted by the asterisks on the table) gains one negative level if he or she so much as picks up the item. Although this negative level never results in actual level loss, it remains as long as the item is in hand and cannot be overcome in any way (including by restoration spells). This negative level is cumulative with any other penalties the item might place on inappropriate wielders. Items with Ego scores (see below) of 20 to 29 [like the item in the question] bestow two negative levels. Items with Ego scores of 30 or higher bestow three negative levels.

This means that a CG, CE, LG, LE, and N intelligent item bestows negative levels on any wearer or wielder that has an alignment that doesn't exactly match the item's alignment, and any LN, NE, NG, CN intelligent item bestows negative levels on any wearer or wielder that has an alignment that doesn't match the item's non-neutral portion of its alignment. In short, this means a creature should be instantly aware upon picking up the intelligent item that the creature and the intelligent item are incompatible.

Thus—with the bestowing of one or more negative levels as a tip-off—it should come as no surprise to a PC that employs an intelligent item of a radically different alignment that the PC finds himself dominated occasionally by the intelligent item.

Play an intelligent item intelligently!

The typical intelligent item can't further its agenda absent a wielder or wearer. That means every time it exerts its dominance, it risks—after its period of dominance ends—being chucked in a pit, buried in the middle of the desert, or sold to a collector to rot forever under glass. In other words, an intelligent item's first act upon gaining a new wearer or wielder should not be to order that new wearer or wielder to kill his friends! That'll just make that new wielder angry and make the new wielder likely to toss aside the intelligent item.

Instead, an intelligent item that dislikes its wielder's friends should attempt to persuade its new wielder—in a totally mundane fashion using lies, half-truths, and actual truths—that the wielder should find different friends, whether because the wielder's current friends are untrustworthy or the current friends are holding back the wielder. Controlling the wielder directly should be a last resort used when negotiations between item and wielder have utterly failed, when the item's trying to make a point, or when the item can seriously further its agenda and the wielder resists.

In the case described in the question, the PC who takes the intelligent sword likely shouldn't see himself dominated immediately—the sword's and the PC's alignments just aren't that different. It's entirely possible the sword can convince the PC to do the sword's bidding without dominating the PC, and that's far more endearing than just usurping control of the PC. Likewise, if the other PCs are willing to hang with an evil PC, maybe they can also be used to further the sword's agenda? An intelligent item can afford to make long-term plans—it should survive long past this group, after all—and also shouldn't put itself in such a position where its wielder will feel like it'll be better off without it… by, like, ordering the wielder to kill its friends.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Erik It's all in the intelligent items section, which isn't particularly well organized, but I added a link in the answer to that section nonetheless. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 26, 2017 at 14:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ On your second (and really good) suggestion, it also helps if this item is cursed, especially one of the nasty new curse variants from horror adventures which makes the item a pain in the ass to get rid of. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Jun 26, 2017 at 15:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ I totally agree on the "play an intelligent item intelligently". Please excuse me, I think my original question was not clear enough. The Sword knows the PCs come to kill its master. They are a few hours away from finding him. I felt it was like its one and only chance to stop them, instead of trying to find a better wielder. Especially since, the combat just ended, and everybody is tired With that in mind, do you think its too much ? \$\endgroup\$
    – Binochio
    Jun 26, 2017 at 15:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Binochio If the intelligent item's previous bearer is dead, the intelligent item's first order of business is Find a new bearer! That should trump everything else—bearers come and go but its agenda is forever yet that agenda can't be furthered absent a bearer! I'd have the sword—perhaps desperately—try to convince the party that they are better off with the sword on their (yet actually, of course, its own) side than without the sword! (I'm still not 100% sure that helps your question, though!) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 26, 2017 at 15:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Part of the description of the sword : "Fanatical in the extreme, thesword seeks to force its wielder into serving theboss and furthering the boss's goals. To enforce this purpose of their existence, it can use its intelligence and special abilities to aid and manipulate those who think to wield it." I think the sword reaction I'm proposing is ok, but at the same time, I'm afraid to go a little overboard... \$\endgroup\$
    – Binochio
    Jun 26, 2017 at 15:40

Dominance is not equivalent to a domination effect, it only means, as you quoted, that the item "resists the character’s desires and demands concessions". Then there is a list of concessions which includes "In extreme circumstances (...) Strike at its wielder or her associates".

I wouldn't classify "a PC just picked the sword from the treasure" as "extreme circumstances", so I would rule that this concession can't be asked right now. The item will have to wait some special moment, like if the PCs are just in front of the creator of the weapon, or if they just directly insulted the memory of its precedent bearer. "extreme circumstances" is a vague term and you have to define that for this very item.

Anyway, let's assume these extreme circumstances happened. As stated:

Dominance lasts for 1 day or until a critical situation occurs (such as a major battle, a serious threat to either the item or the character, and so on).

I am pretty sure that the PC starting to attack his buddies counts as a "critical situation", so he would benefit from a new save in this case.

As an advice on how to play the item, think about the One Ring (from Lord of the Rings): it can push people to do some punctual things it wants (like using it, drop it, be mean with their friends, or even have accesses of brutality) but can't just make the bearer randomly attack everyone until there is nobody alive. The One Ring is not a magic item from Pathfinder but it really seems like the rules intend intelligent maleficent items to work that way.

In your case you have to decide what exactly is the item's motivations. Just "kill the PCs" is not a credible motivation, unless it was specifically created to kill them. "Avenge its master" or "Defeat the enemies of the Lich King" are more consistent ones.


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