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My Fighter has taken a level in Kensai recently, but I've yet to enhance his signature weapon (which is just a perfect greatsword for now) because I want to be sure that I can make it glow like a magical weapon.

The DM of the game I'm playing is pretty strict on rules and generally only accepts RAW or, in cases where multiple manuals need to be used, takes the most literal intepretation possible.
Therefore I want to be sure I'm understanding the rules correctly.

The Complete Warrior manual, in the section about Kensai enhancing their weapon says:

The process for imbuing a signature weapon with power is a simple one. The character must find a quiet, safe spot to meditate (and pray, for those kensai who serve deities) for 24 hours. At the end of this meditation, the kensai sacrifices a number of experience points, essentially shifting some of his life force into his signature weapon. The signature weapon then becomes a magic weapon (if it wasn't already) and gains an enhancement bonus and/or special abilities.
(emphasis mine)

The Dungeon Master guide on the subject of creating magical weapons states the following:

[..] At the time of creation, the creator must decide if the weapon glows or not as a side-effect of the magic imbued within it. This decision does not affect the price or the creation time, but once the item is finished, the decision is binding.

Considering this, is it correct to say that RAW a Kensai can decide to make his signature weapon glow when by imbuing it with power he turns it into a magical weapon?

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This DM would say Yes

I understand that your DM is pretty strict on the rules and everything, but the detail that the question mentions—magic weapons (and swords specifically) glowing—is a legacy that dates back at least to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, that game's Dungeon Master's Guide (1977) saying, "Most swords (and all daggers) of a magical nature shed light when drawn from their scabbard [sic]…" (165). I suspect that here Third Edition is just maintaining the ambiance of its earlier iteration and probably not deliberately creating something you and the DM should argue about overmuch.

Especially since a glowing magic weapon—and double especially if it's a kensai's signature weapon—is as much a burden as a benefit. That is, everybody who sees it knows it's magical and enemies will target it because of that, and it's pretty much impossible to sneak around while wielding it. The upside? No need to carry another light source… which can be a significant upside if the wielder's human, magic items are rare, nobody's around to cast the 2nd-level Sor/Wiz spell darkvision [trans] (Player's Handbook 216), and the human kensai wants to wield his two-handed favored weapon in the dark!

So this DM would just say yes. It's a balanced ability, and the Dungeon Master's Guide (2003) doesn't even ascribe a price to it. This DM would just allow the kensai to pick it or not upon making his nonmagical signature weapon magical.

Make the magic sword shed light later for only 500 gp

The magic weapon special ability illuminating (Magic Item Compendium 36) (500 gp; 0 lbs.) can be added to an existing magic weapon by a friendly magic item creator quickly and with relative ease. The weapon will then shed bright white light when drawn to 20 ft. and shadowy illumination 20 ft. thereafter.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ There's also the weapon augment crystal crystal of illumination (lesser) (Magic Item Compendium 64) (400 gp; 0 lbs.) that grants to the wielder of any magic weapon to which its affixed the ability to take a swift action to have the weapon shed light like the magic weapon special ability the answer describes. On a kensai's signature weapon, though, a weapon augment crystal is extremely valuable real estate, but it might be worth it for a kensai to have that crystal instead exactly so his weapon doesn't shed light all the time. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 9 at 15:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Great answer! Thanks to what you pointed out about game balance I was able to convince the DM (he was skeptical at first) \$\endgroup\$ – Sogaki Apr 11 at 7:34
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Really it's going to be up to you and your DM to decide. The rules don't really say one way or the other in this case. There is no official rule about the creation of magical items from mundane ones. This means that such decisions about if that's possible are going to be up to the DM. Now if your DM allows for the enhancement of mundane masterwork items into magic items then the "time of creation" is clearly when the item was enhanced. If your DM does not allow additions to already created items, then there is no precedent set on this and they'll have to decide. Do keep in mind that you can only make a masterwork weapon into a signature weapon, and unless your weapon is completely destroyed and unable to be reforged, you are stuck with it forever. You may find this useful

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