In Curse of Strahd, area K74h of Castle Ravenloft (p. 81), there is a certain magic weapon:

Treasure. The source of the underwater glow is a sentient lawful good +1 shortsword (Intelligence 11, Wisdom 13, Charisma 13). It has hearing and normal vision out to a range of 120 feet. It communicates by transmitting emotion to the creature carrying or wielding it.

The sword's purpose is to fight evil. The sword has the following additional properties:

  • The sword continually sheds bright light in a 15-foot radius and dim light for an additional 15 feet. Only by destroying the sword can this light be extinguished.
  • A lawful good creature can attune itself to the sword in 1 minute.
  • While attuned to the weapon, the sword's wielder can use the sword to cast the crusader's mantle spell. Once used, this property of the sword can't be used again until the next dawn.

The last bullet point describes that, if you are attuned to the weapon, you are granted the ability to cast that spell; I assume that the +1 is a "passive" ability that does not require attunement, but that casting the spell is what being attuned gets you.

My question is about the requirements for attuning to this particular weapon in the first place (i.e. my question mostly concerns the second bullet). The first bullet seems to describe an always-on effect and is therefore irrelevant to my question about attunement.

Typically, a +1 weapon does not require attunement, so we cannot rely on the generic rules for +1 weapons; we must rely on the description given in Curse of Strahd.

The second bullet describes that a lawful good creature can attune to it in 1 minute, but normally attuning to magic items (including magic weapons) takes an hour, so how should I parse this? I see two possible interpretations:

  1. That only lawful good creatures can attune to the weapon at all, but when they do, it only takes 1 minute.

  2. That a creature of any alignment can attune to the weapon, but it would take them the full hour, and only lawful good creatures get the reduced attunement time of 1 minute.

Which interpretation is correct (or is there a third interpretation)? Could, say, a chaotic evil or even a neutral good creature attune to the weapon (although it would take the full hour for them, due to them not being lawful good), or can the weapon only be attuned to by a lawful good creature?


The second option, with some caveats.

While Dale M's answer is technically correct, we should also consider sentient weapons' traits mentioned in DMG (p. 216):

A sentient item has a will of its own, shaped by its personality and alignment. If its wielder acts in a manner opposed to the item's alignment or purpose, conflict can arise. When such a conflict occurs, the item makes a Charisma check contested by the wielder's Charisma check. If the item wins the contest, it make one or more of the following demands:


If its wielder refuses to comply with the item's wishes, the item can do any or all of the following:

  • Make it impossible for its wielder to attune to it.
  • Suppress one or more of its activated properties.
  • Attempt to take control of its wielder.

So, while a character of any alignment can try to attune to the sword, a sentient sword might try to actively resist it, if the new wielder is not up to the weapon's taste.


Anybody can attune to it, but the weapon is sentient; it has the final say

This sword is a sentient weapon and as such the following rule applies:

[...] Sentient magic items function as NPCs under the DM's control. Any activated property of the item is under the item's control, not its wielder's. As long as the wielder maintains a good relationship with the item, the wielder can access those properties normally. If the relationship is strained, the item can suppress its activated properties or even turn them against the wielder [...]

[...] If its wielder refuses to comply with the item's wishes, the item can do any or all of the following:

  • Make it impossible for its wielder to attune to it.
  • Suppress one or more of its activated properties.
  • Attempt to take control of its wielder.

- Dungeon Master's Guide (page 214, 216; chapter 7: Treasure - Sentient Magic Items)

If they wanted for only lawful good creatures to be able to attune to the item they could have spelled it out more clearly, though they could not have done what they usually do with such items as this item is not formatted like most items (it's tossed in descriptively, not with an actual item-style statblock). So it does seem that anybody can try to attune to and use the item but since it is sentient, it will always get the final say as to how well it functions.


The Second Option

Anyone can attune to the weapon, assuming the sentient weapon allows for it, but only a lawful good character can attune to it within 1 minute. As has been pointed out, because the item is sentient, it may resist your attempts to attune to it for any reason it chooses.

An interesting thought might be to use Magic Aura to change your perceived alignment to be Lawful Good so that you can attune to it within 1 Minute. The spell description says:

Mask. You change the way the target appears to spells and magical effects that detect creature types, such as a paladin’s Divine Sense or the trigger of a symbol spell. You choose a creature type and other spells and magical effects treat the target as if it were a creature of that type or of that alignment.

I would argue that a magical weapon determining your alignment could be considered to be a magical effect - as it would have to determine your alignment magically.

This means that any creature, no matter what their alignment is, can attune to the weapon within 1 minute, assuming Magic Aura is cast on them beforehand to make them appear to be lawful good. This would also mean that, even if the first interpretation was true, you could overcome its restrictions using this spell.

(Note, I can see the argument for this not being a magical effect but, as a DM, I might allow for this to work anyway - simply because I think it would be interesting to see what happens when the spell ends and the creature’s alignment returns to normal.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ An interesting option, although I imagine the weapon won't be too pleased once the spell wears off a day later and it finds out what alignment you really are... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Dec 7 '19 at 12:02

The second option

There is no general alignment based restrictions on attunement and alignment takes 1 hour. The item changes the attunement time for Lawful Good characters to 1 minute but nothing else.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer strikes me as right, or partly right, but could use a bit more support. (The DMG bit on sentient weapons seems to apply, since this short sword is explicitly described as a sentient weapon) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 9 '19 at 14:23

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