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I am running a 3.5 campaign and in this game I have decided that I will give out treasure entirely randomly, as opposed to tailoring loot based on the party as I usually do. In this instance, the party seriously lucked out and got a "Holy Avenger" the specific item. There are no paladins in the group, but even the base +2 effect is attractive for our fighter who only has a +1 burning greatsword at level 13. He has died a few times, so he is starting fall behind the rest of the party, who average 15.

We have a dwarven cleric in the party who is a master blacksmith and has “Craft Magic Arms and Armor”, and she asked if she has the ability to change the longsword into a greatsword and keep the enchantment. I don’t know of any rules about this. I want to say no, but I want to be sure that there isn’t some obscure entry somewhere in the encyclopedia of all D&D knowledge offering guidance.

My knee-jerk reaction is to require the cleric to add an additional effect to the weapon; a rule I have already home-brewed which allows items to be upgraded by paying only half the cost of its current effect when adding additional effect. I would call it something like “Morphing”, which would be a +1 effect that just allowed a weapon with this quality to take the form of any other weapon with a command from its wielder as a standard action. But if I do this, then the Holy Avenger, a traditionally +5 effect, would have to become +6, which would necessitate “Craft Epic Arms and Armor”.

Thus I want to ask the internet what it thinks I should do.

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As far as I know,¹ there are not rules allowing this, but there is good reason for a DM to do so.

There are a lot of character options that require one to pick a particular weapon for them to work with, or which are locked into one particular weapon as written. The vast majority of martial characters will miss out on substantial chunks of their character if they use a different weapon; in almost all cases, it simply isn’t a realistic option. Such characters are locked into one kind of weapon and cannot realistically justify using another given the option.

Moreover, since upgrading weapon enhancements is no difficulty, it’s fairly typical for a character to start with a masterwork weapon, that they just keep improving (or having improved). It’s very common for characters to have very specific needs from their weapon, so random found treasure is very difficult to use, so in my experience characters won’t more often than they will. This is relevant because choosing a masterwork greatsword over a masterwork longsword costs practically nothing at the start. Re-doing enhancements, on the other hand, costs a ton.

Finally, weapon choice—for all you get locked into something due to character options that make you pick a weapon—rarely matters that much.² A given character might need something that works with Weapon Finesse, or has reach, or whatever, but outside of the broad strokes, which one they pick often isn’t all that important. So very often, in the end, which compatible weapon is selected is often about aesthetic. It’s about the way the player imagines their character and backing that up with the choices they make. This is very important to a lot of players, and is something the DM should support—it promotes engagement, and in some cases can avoid bad feelings.

So for all these reasons, PCs tend to stick with one type of weapon, if not with exactly one weapon (or pair) total. This conflicts very heavily with your desire to use random treasure! Especially if someone’s specialized in the use of a rare weapon that may not appear in random weapon tables at all. What usually winds up happening in such cases is that weapons—really, most treasure—is just sold. It’s usually sold for 50% of its base value, but at the same time, you as DM are intended to keep the party members at roughly their “Wealth by Level” as indicated by Table 5–1: Character Wealth by Level on Dungeon Master’s Guide page 135—so if the PCs keep getting treasure and selling it for 50% of the value, you need to start padding their treasure with extra to make up that difference. At that point, selling this longsword, and then crafting a greatsword with the same enhancements, costs money that the PCs will eventually “get back,” and just wastes time (and if the cleric does it herself, XP, which can become a massive headache for you, as DM³). It’s a bunch of time and effort to achieve something that makes no difference in the end.

So skip all that. Let people use the weapons they want or need to use. Whether that’s a “transfer enhancement” ritual, or a ritual to change the underlying longsword into a greatsword, is up to you, but one of those options or both is very appropriate in this situation. I strongly recommend you allow it.

  1. D&D 3.5e is vast, and while I’m an expert in the edition, there’s just so much in it that I can’t guarantee a negative, particularly if you start including more obscure supplements or Dragon or Dungeon magazines.

  2. Except when it does, which usually means that character options have been invested in things that only work with a particular weapon—a cleric or champion of Corellon Larethian might be obligated to use his favored longsword, a finesse tripper might really not have any compatible alternative to spiked chain, etc.

  3. When the cleric spends XP on crafting, it means she won’t level-up at the same time as other PCs. Split-level parties are extremely difficult to DM for, and worse the difference in level means you have to calculate XP separately for each of the PCs (since she is lower level, she is supposed to get more XP from the same challenge). All these kinds of things are why Pathfinder just ditched the XP costs of crafting items.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with basically everything you said. The fighter is already behind others anyway because being on the front line is dangerous. The poor guy gets his brain messed with in a good half of their encounters now as it is. I want to give him this item for lots of reasons, but not the least of which is I think he deserves some good things to happen to him. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 16:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LankeyDragon Yeah, unfortunately, the fighter class has a lot of problems in D&D 3.5e. At mid-to-high levels, they can become kind of insurmountable! (Which is why a lot of 3.5e games use E6 to stop at 6th.) In terms of nice things for a fighter, I recommend Tome of Battle; if he got the opportunity to ret-con his fighter class levels as warblade levels (read: “fighter as it should have been,”) he may be much better off. (Ironically, one of the nice things the warblade gets is the ability to swap weapons without losing features.) \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 16:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have been burned by supplement books before. Complete Arcane has destroyed 2 of my multi-year campaigns. I limit everyone to core 3 books. I import rules piecemeal that I agree with after some testing, like the no XP for item creation from Pathfinder just makes sense. I also like the 1/2 +1 option for HP at level up from 5th. I have found that all those supplements make things unnecessarily wacky and even more difficult to track rules. I am not judging how others do it, I just find that supplements tend to cause problems without enriching the game. shrugs \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 18:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LankeyDragon Every book has its pros and cons—the “nine swords” that Tome of Battle gets its Book of the Nine Swords subtitle from are awful—but unfortunately, core is really the worst of them. They made so many mistakes early on that only slowly got improved by supplemental material. (Complete Arcane was still rather early.) I’m not saying you should run with material you don’t know, but Tome of Battle is one that is very, very much worth looking through, especially if you’re already having issues with underpowered martial characters. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 18:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well I would be foolish to solicit feedback without considering it. Next game I run, I will open it to all the supplements, and see what happens. Within reason. No Initiate of the 7 veils, No Oriental Adventures, and everyone has to be okay with things becoming suddenly not okay during play if its disruptive or seriously unbalancing the party. I will talk with the players ahead of time about my concerns, so we are all on the same page first. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 18:36
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You can achieve this with the 1st-level spell Weapon Shift, from the Spell Compendium p.237:

A weapon shift spell allows you to temporarily transform any one melee weapon into a different melee weapon. Thus, a greatclub could be transformed into a greatsword, a light pick into a morning star, or a dagger into a battleaxe.

Improvised weapons and double weapons cannot be targeted or be the result of this spell. Magic weapons transformed retain all their special abilities as long as the new form could legally have those abilities, and weapons made from special materials retain their special materials.

Now, the spell only lasts 1 minute/level, and the average fighter can't even cast the spell, but there are some ways you could address this.

  1. Consider allowing this spell to be a valid target of the Permanency spell. This is the most straightforward method I can think of. Since it is a 1st-level spell, making it permanent would require only caster level 9 and 500XP. Should the fighter want to pay someone to add this to the holy avenger, it would cost him 2,960gp (10gp for Weapon Shift, 450gp for Permanency, and 2,500gp for the 500XP).

  2. Make a custom wondrous item of continuous Weapon Shift that can be attached to the sword, a la augment crystal. Should the fighter want to buy this, it would cost him around 4,000gp, according to the rules for estimating magic items gold piece values on the Dungeon Master's Guide p.285.

  3. Add an Oil Chamber (Dungeonscape p.33) to the sword, and carry a good supply of Weapon Shift Oils. An Oil Chamber allows one to apply a pre-loaded oil to a weapon as a swift action, and a CL 1 Weapon Shift Oil is only 50gp. It would last only 1 minute, but a combat rarely lasts longer that that, and a 13th-level character should have plenty of wealth to afford expending 500gp every 10 encounters. The Oil Chamber itself would be a one-time modification made to the sword, that costs 1,000gp.

There are plenty other options to use this spell, but they get more expensive (afaik). And there's possibly more efficient methods with the help of other characters, depending on the party composition.

And I'm sure there must be even other ways to achieve this, as KRyan said, 3.5e is vast. For example there's actually a "Morphing" weapon property on the Magic Item Compendium, and it does something similar to what you wrote, but it does not work in this case because it can't change one-handed weapons into two-handed weapons.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It’s worth noting that each of these options puts the weapon’s greatsword status at risk of dispelling. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 17:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan True, dispelling is specially awful with permanency, which is why I usually house-rule that the effects come back 1d4 rounds later like with items. I guess that if the campaign is heavy on enemies with dispel magic (demons for example), only option 2 would be worth it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yopi Lapi
    Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 17:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ As long as you're going this route, you may want to suggest using that dispel magic on the holy avenger longsword so as to make it temporarily a nonmagical greatsword then casting on it polymorph any object to turn it into a greatsword. When the dispel wears off in 1d4 rounds, the polymorph effect should remain. (Talk to the DM about constant targeting first.) Also, of course, just sell the holy avenger! Then straight-up buy a +4 flaming greatsword (or whatever the fighter wants) and go nuts with the remaining 10,000 gp! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 17:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I don't believe that works, the spell would end once the item stops being a valid target of the spell, but that could be a discussion for another question. And yeah, selling is always an option (and usually the best) but it can vary a lot from game to game, having access to a community with a high enough buy limit to buy something that expensive can be difficult or straight up impossible. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yopi Lapi
    Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 17:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah they could sell it if they found a buyer capable of throwing around that kind of cash, but items of higher than about 20k, I would want them to have to quest for or go to a place like Sigil and have commissioned by a 'legendary arcane smith' or something. I think I have decided. I want them to be able to change it, so how about the below as an option? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 4, 2021 at 18:26
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There is a precedent for the kind of weapon you need in 3.5

The Morphing weapon special property has already been mentioned, and correctly discarded as not being quite what is needed.

However, the original book the Morphing special weapon property came from originally is not the MIC, but rather the Underdark book.

In that same Underdark book, there is a magic weapon: the Everchanging Blade. This is a +1 metalline morphing sizing longsword that can become ANY +1 weapon the wielder desires.

It requires Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Enlarge person, Polymorph Any Object, Reduce Person as prerequisites. Metalline is a +2 equivalent, Morphing is a +1 equivalent, and Sizing is a +5000 gp value.

Using the "Improving Magic Items" rules in the MIC, starting on p233, you could add the required properties to make the Holy Avenger into an Everchanging Holy Avenging Blade. This means the weapon will fit into the the +10 equivalent enchantment bonus limit, the +5 maximum bonus to attack limit, and the 200,000gp maximum non-epic magic item cost limit.

If your party can meet or find someone to help them meet the spell requirements, then they should be able to change the Holy Avenger to meet their Greatsword needs. Sounds like a great adventure seed for a most excellent quest to make your fighter more like a post-master Sokka. ^^

Please note that you do NOT need Epic crafting, since a non-epic weapon in 3.5 can go up to a total value of +10 maximum equivalent bonus. While the total bonus to attack cannot exceed +5, the magic effects you need do not increase the attack bonus, so you will be able to craft this weapon non-epic.

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