One of my players desperately wants to play as an intelligent item. I know intelligent items exist as "npcs" and I was hoping for some canon way to do this for him. Or at worst home-brew it.

Character level 6 so a lot of the classes that grant demon possession of item stuff or mind swap stuff don't work great unless he pays a spellcaster to swap him into things. Are there any ways to play as an intelligent item?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you asked the player why playing an intelligent item is his dream? Is it the comparative invulnerability? The ability to participate in the action without suffering many of the consequences? The desire to mess with other PCs without them suspecting? (Knowing why might allow answers to offer alternatives that satisfy this unknown desire without the PC playing a nonliving creature with no limbs that can't advance.) \$\endgroup\$ Nov 26, 2017 at 19:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ He mainly just thinks it's a cool idea, he's fine with homebrewing so that he isn't impervious and mainly just thinks it could be really fun for everyone narratively. He doesn't much care about the power implications. Though as a dm of course I do. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 26, 2017 at 20:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Khaldhool Check out my answer, I think you'll find it easier to work with. Also, as some general advice, you may want to wait a few days before selecting an answer to give late comers a chance to do some research. Someone may come up with something even better!! \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Nov 27, 2017 at 3:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ The following question is relevant: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/30783/… \$\endgroup\$
    – ZwiQ
    Nov 27, 2017 at 4:43

3 Answers 3


The Sword & Sorcery book, Book of Eldritch Might III: The Nexus, written by Monte Cook (one of the authors of 3e DMG), has 3.5e-compatible rules for intelligent magic items as NPCs. These rules contain a 20-level class for intelligent items, skills and feats. The catch is that the items cannot gain XP themselves, but need to be fed by others; but you could think of something as the DM.

As an "official" example guideline; the TSR AD&D 2e sourcebook Books of Artifacts has a short section that describes the way intelligent magical items are made. For this a high-level spellcaster has to put her own life force into the item. The caster looses all prior race and class features and all physical statistics; effectively starting the game as a new character with 0 XP. She retains alignment, can speak in previously known languages. As an item it only gains XP for activities it participates in; for example a "sword only earns XP for slaying monsters", not from achieving story goals. At each 100k XP earned, it gains one new power.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there any reason this item from eldritch power could not also take ranks in other classes? Say psion or sorcerer so that they could take the leadership feat and have a follower to wield them? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 27, 2017 at 21:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ The book leaves multiclassing as an optional variant rule. So yes, the item can become a sorcerer if you allow it. However it would be useful to think whether your campaign's own flavor supports such alternatives. For example if sorcerers gain their spellcasting ability from their draconic bloodline, how would the item carry such ability? Also, for spells with somatic components, a metamagic feat might be necessary. On the other hand, the intelligent item class already gives 1/day spell-like abilities, and feats for influencing the wielder are present, so you might not need the extra stuff. \$\endgroup\$
    – ZwiQ
    Nov 28, 2017 at 5:50

A character with the Fiend of Possession prestige class (Fiend Folio, p. 204) can indefinitely possess an object. There's nothing stopping your player from possessing a single item and just...playing as that item for the whole campaign.

While the most powerful abilities of this class (possessing and controlling creatures, possessing extremely large objects or groups of dispersed objects, animating possessed objects as if using Animate Objects) require multiple levels in the class, it sounds like your player wants to play a character who's basically stuck in an item. That can be achieved with only a single level in Fiend of Possession, as early as ECL 5.

Methods of entry include:

With the type and subtype requirements out of the way, all that's left is to meet the base will save +5 requirement. This can be done with three class levels, divided as you choose among at least two classes with high base will saves. For a character who plans on spending all their time possessing an object, I highly recommend playing a psionic class, such as Psion or Ardent (Complete Psionic, p. 5). While possessing an object prevents a Fiend of Possession from taking physical actions, they can still take mental actions, including manifesting psionic powers.

Sample Build

Race: Human Mulhorandi Divine Minion of Sebek

Ability Scores (32 point buy):

  • Strength: 13
  • Dexterity: 8
  • Constitution: 14
  • Intelligence: 14
  • Wisdom: 17
  • Charisma: 12

Level Progression:

\begin{array}{l|l|l|l|l} \text{ECL} & \text{Class Level} & \text{Feats} & \text{Special} & \text{Powers Learned} \\ \hline 1 & \textit{Divine Minion LA} & - & - & - \\ \hline 2 & \text{Ardent 1} & \text{Power Attack,} & \text{ Creation and} & \text{Energy Ray,} \\ & & \quad\text{ Overchannel} & \quad\text{ Energy mantles} & \quad\text{ Astral Construct} \\ \hline 3 & \text{Psion (Telepath) 1} & \text{Practiced Manifester} & - & \text{Mindlink, Missive,}\\ & & & & \quad\text{ Create Sound} \\ \hline 4 & \text{Ardent 2} & \text{Boost Construct} & \text{Force mantle} & \text{Energy Push} \\ \hline 5 & \text{Fiend of Possession 1} & - & \text{Wisdom 18} & - \\ \hline 6 & \text{Fighter 1} & \text{Improved Bull Rush} & - & - \\ \hline 7 & \text{Fighter 2} & \text{Quicken Power} & \text{Dungeon Crasher} & - \\ \hline 8 & \text{Ardent 3} & - & - & \text{Telekinetic} \\ & & & & \quad\text{ Maneuver} \\ \end{array}

Right off the bat at ECL 6, this character can permanently possess an item, and use its psionic powers while doing so. Abilities include summoning an Astral Construct (possibly one that wields the weapon you're possessing?), communicating with party members via powers from Telepath, and attacking enemies directly via Energy Ray and Energy Push.

At ECL 8, you gain an additional trick: using the Telekinetic Maneuver power, you can make bull rush attempts every round, knocking enemies into walls or each other to trigger bonus damage from the Dungeon Crasher ACF (Dungeonscape, p. 10).

Options for further advancement include:

  • Focus on Dungeon Crasher damage (you get additional damage dice at Fighter 6)
  • Advance Fiend of Possession to be able to animate the objects you possess, and eventually possess and control creatures
  • Advance Ardent to focus on psionics; good options here include taking expanded knowledge for the Schism power (which can then spend its standard action concentrating on your Telekinetic Maneuver for you, so you can spend your actions on other powers), or beefing up your Astral Construct with feats from various web sources

Note that this build requires the RAW ruling on the maximum level of power an Ardent can know. If you rule that maximum power level is determined by Ardent class level instead of manifester level, this build's higher level powers won't come online until much later, making it significantly weaker. Since you're the DM, this is up to you.

Balance-wise, this character is unlikely to make any waves. Prior to ECL 8, their primary contribution to fights will be via their Astral Construct (which are roughly as strong as equivalent-level Fighters). Once they hit ECL 8, this is augmented with a telekinetic Dungeon Crasher bull rush once per round, adding a bit of damage and battlefield control to the table. Other powers will need to be saved for close fights, since power points are limited.

This character is extremely hard to kill. It's quite difficult to even notice that an item is possessed (the Fiend of Possession gets to roll their Hide skill against any magic that would otherwise detect them). If a creature succeeds at that, they still have to destroy the item in question, and even if they do, that just forces the Fiend back into their ethereal form. Only a creature who can recognize that the item is possessed, destroy it, and then trap or destroy an ethereal opponent will pose a serious threat.

The build above is just an example; one level of Fiend of Possession can be worked into lots of builds, as long as they have useful mental actions they can perform. See if anything along these lines will work for your player!

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1, but I think this answer would be better if it addressed balance more directly. Is this way better than a "conventional" level-6 character? Is it way worse? It sounds like the character would spend most rounds not being able to take any useful actions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Nov 27, 2017 at 2:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DanB Added a couple paragraphs addressing balance. You're right that this character will be short on good ways to spend actions prior to ECL 8, though I would hope that having an Astral Construct to control would help keep a player from being too bored by it. Telekinetic Maneuver is duration: concentration, though, so once you've got that, you can cast it once and keep it up for a fight. \$\endgroup\$
    – A_S00
    Nov 27, 2017 at 2:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ What if they had a spell or crystal or something of animate weapon? Which they used on themselves? This could allow them to attack in combat consistently... as long as they don't fail a concentration check haha. Or even a use activated crystal of creating an astral construct? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 27, 2017 at 3:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Khaldhool Three more levels of Fiend of Possession would allow the character to permanently animate the item they were possessing, as if by the Animate Objects spell. \$\endgroup\$
    – A_S00
    Nov 27, 2017 at 5:38

This can be done easily with straight canon.

The DMG p.268 says:

Intelligent items can actually be considered creatures because they have Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. Treat them as constructs (see page 307 of the Monster Manual).

There is no reason why a construct could not be crafted into the form of a sword, or a staff, or even a spoon. Unlike normal constructs, Intelligent items don't usually have STR or DEX scores, unless they have some sort of permanent Animate objects effect on them OR they were crafted with parts that could function as arms and hands, legs and feet, so that aspect will need to be taken into consideration at character creation time.

Furthermore, the Monster Manual allows Intelligent items to progress and gain construct hit dice:

Increased Hit Dice: Intelligent creatures that are not humanoid in shape, and nonintelligent monsters, can advance by increasing their Hit Dice. Creatures with increased Hit Dice are usually superior specimens of their race, bigger and more powerful than their run-of-the-mill fellows.

Buried in the Monster feats section of the SRD is the text of the Craft Construct feat:

Craft Construct [Item Creation] Prerequisites Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Craft Wondrous Item.

Benefit A creature with this feat can create any construct whose prerequisites it meets. Enchanting a construct takes one day for each 1,000 gp in its market price. To enchant a construct, a spellcaster must spend 1/25 the item’s price in XP and use up raw materials costing half of this price (see individual construct monster entries for details).

A creature with this feat can repair constructs that have taken damage. In one day of work, the creature can repair up to 20 points of damage by expending 50 gp per point of damage repaired.

A newly created construct has average hit points for its Hit Dice.

There is no limit on the shape of the construct, or even materials used. For example the packmate is a mobile chest or trunk, while the arbalester is a walking crossbow. There are swarm, serpent, and arachnid types covering your creepy-crawly body shapes, steed types which are quadrupeds, and even incorporeal types which are definitely not made of flesh, rock, or metal. I recall that there is a magma type and a force type as well.

For a detailed listing of all kinds of constructs, I suggest the Mechonomicon. You can even find Boots, Book, and Boat type constructs!

Constructs also have a fair number of abilities based on their type, which may or may not be considered appropriate for a 6th level character as they result in a fairly high Level Adjustment, listed in part here:

  • No Constitution score.
  • Low-light vision.
  • Darkvision out to 60 feet.
  • Immunity to all mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, phantasms, patterns, and morale effects).
  • Immunity to poison, sleep effects, paralysis, stunning, disease, death effects, and necromancy effects.
  • Cannot heal damage on their own, but often can be repaired by exposing them to a certain kind of effect (see the creature’s description for details) or through the use of the Craft Construct feat (see page 303). A construct with the fast healing special quality still benefits from that quality.
  • Not subject to critical hits, nonlethal damage, ability damage, ability drain, fatigue, exhaustion, or energy drain.
  • Proficient with no armor.
  • Constructs do not eat, sleep, or breathe.

One possible solution (if this is considered a problem) is to use the Living Construct type from the MM3 instead of the Construct type, which would remove some of the problem abilities that most PCs would not come easily by:

  • Unlike other constructs, a living construct has a Constitution score. A living construct does not gain bonus hit points by size but gains (or loses) bonus hit points through a Constitution bonus (or penalty) as with other living creatures.
  • Unlike other constructs, a living construct does not have low-light vision or darkvision.
  • Unlike other constructs, a living construct is not immune to mind influencing effects.
  • Immunity to poison, sleep effects, paralysis, disease, nausea, fatigue, exhaustion, and energy drain.
  • A living construct cannot heal damage naturally.
  • Unlike other constructs, living constructs are subject to critical hits, effects requiring a Fort save, death from massive damage, nonlethal damage, stunning, ability damage, ability drain, and death effects or necromancy effects.
  • Unlike other constructs, a living construct can use the run action.
  • Living constructs can be affected by spells that target living creatures as well as by those that target constructs. Damage dealt to a living construct can be healed by a cure light wounds spell or a repair light damage spell, for example, and a living construct is vulnerable to a harm spell. However, spells from the healing subschool provide only half effect to a living construct.
  • A living construct responds slightly differently from other living creatures when reduced to 0 hit points. A living construct with 0 hit points is disabled, just like a living creature. He can only take a single move action or standard action in each round, but strenuous activity does not risk further injury. When his hit points are less than 0 and greater than -10, a living construct is inert. He is unconscious and helpless, and he cannot perform any actions. However, an inert living construct does not lose additional hit points unless more damage is dealt to him, as with a living creature that is stable.
  • Can be raised or resurrected.
  • Does not need to eat, sleep, or breathe, but can still benefit from the effects of consumable spells and magic items such as heroes' feast and potions.
  • Does not need to sleep, but must rest for 8 hours before preparing spells.

Advancement becomes the next issue. Should your player character madly desire to be an exact replica of an Intelligent item as per the DMG entry, including the tables of lesser, greater, and dedicated abilities, then you'll have to figure that out. In such an extreme case, I suggest using the Table 7-30: Item Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma, and Capabilities on DMG p.269 as if it were an Intelligent Item "class" instead, with each entry being one or two or even more Hit Dice per "level".

Should the player instead prefer class levels, your job becomes easier. They start off with as many HD as you feel appropriate for their item type - For example, if they choose to be a magic sword, then assign as many Construct (or Living construct) Hit Dice as would be needed to match the typical Hit Points of a normal sword; and any Level Adjustment that you feel appropriate for any special abilities they may have. After that, they simply advance by character class.

As a side note, and as a personal favorite, the Psionic power of Steelsteal allows one to leave their body and possess a bladed weapon. (If you check out the link, you may need to 'select all' in order to see the text, it displays as white on some browsers.) I have a build based around this concept located here. (Do a keyword search for "steal steel" and click on the spoiler tag of #8 to reveal the build.) The basic concept of the character is someone who specialized in Astral Constructs and passes herself off as a magic item to everyone else. I even figured out a method to store her body safely while she is off adventuring as a dagger.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you expand on what you mean by "There is no reason why a construct could not be crafted into the form of a sword, or a staff, or even a spoon"? I tend to think of most constructs as having canonical shapes (e.g., an iron golem is humanoid-shaped). Are you saying that Craft Construct allows creating constructs in shapes other than the ones in their monster descriptions? Or are you just suggesting creating "playable intelligent item" as a new homebrew construct? \$\endgroup\$
    – A_S00
    Nov 27, 2017 at 5:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ As you're a psionics fan, I'm surprised to see no mention of the power stealsteel. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 27, 2017 at 19:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Ah, I was going to by including a link to minmaxforum.com/index.php?topic=1179.msg8717#msg8717 but I ran out of time. ^^ \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Nov 27, 2017 at 19:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @A_S00 Looking at the Craft Construct feat, there is no limitation on the nature or type of construct which can be crafted. One simply needs to meet the prereqs for any given specific construct in order to build it. Note the Packmate and Arbalester which are constructs decidedly non-humanoid in basic form, (being a chest or trunk, and a crossbow respectively) but with necessary limbs added after the fact. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Nov 27, 2017 at 19:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Okay, updated to include my link. ^^ \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Nov 27, 2017 at 19:34

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