The following artifact, called the 'Sword of Forgotten Heroes', is a powerful artifact loosely modeled after the Sword of Kas and the Wand of Orcus. It was created with a specific player in mind who plays a fighter (subclass Rune Knight) that has a couple of other homebrew abilities. (They have had no input in the artifact's creation or abilities.)

We have plans for our current campaign to go well beyond 20th level, and I want this sword to serve them well throughout the entire time. That being said, the current plan is to give it to them at their 14th level. I might be able to give it to them a little bit later, but 14th level would overall be the absolute best time to give it to them and cause me the least headaches.

However, I am worried that the item may be too powerful, even as far as artifacts go. My main concern is that it doesn't have a good drawback-to-ability ratio, but given how many abilities it has, I also see the possibility of its features being exploited too easily.

Without further ado:

The Sword of Forgotten Heroes

Weapon (any sword) Artifact (requires attunement)

(Long backstory here. Basically, it was created using the soul of a willing dragon. That is pretty much the only relevant part.)

The Sword of Forgotten Heroes is a magical, sentient sword that grants a +3 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with it. This sword magically conforms to whatever type of sword its owner is proficient with, or switches at random times if they are proficient with none. The sword scores critical hits on a roll of 7 as well as rolls of 20(a), and deals 2d6 extra damage to constructs.

Any inherently magical creature (such as fey or unicorns) within 50 feet of the sword can sense its presence, making sneak attacks on them nearly impossible. They cannot pinpoint its exact location, but the few creatures that know of the sword are absolutely certain it is in their presence.

Most dragons feel a sort of kinship towards the sword, often going out of their way to take steps to preserve it. As a result, this sword can commonly be found among the treasure in a dragon's horde, or in possession of those that raid them.

This item automatically has the 'Guardian' and 'Song Craft' minor property, along with the 'metamorphic' quirk. These properties are only present when this item is attuned to its True Owner.

Random Properties: The Sword of Forgotten Heroes has the following random properties:

  • 2 minor beneficial properties
  • 1 minor detrimental property
  • 1 major detrimental property

True Owner:(b) This artifact has certain abilities that can only be used by the True Owner of the item. To become the True Owner, a creature that can wield the sword of Forgotten Heroes must land the killing blow on the previous True Owner, or the person who has it in their possession (they can be the same creature, but either way both must be killed.) If the True Owner of the sword is brought back to life afterwards, the sword of Forgotten Heroes disappears and reappears in the previous Owner's hands.

Spells: While attuned to the sword, its True Owner can use an action to cast one of the following spells from the tip of its blade:(c) Prismatic spray, Death Ward, Charm Person, Heal, and Shield. A casting of any of these spells causes a wild magic surge. Once you use this sword to cast a spell, you can't cast that spell again from it until the next dawn.

Magic grafting:(d) The Sword of Forgotten Heroes possesses a unique ability. If its True Owner has any other type of magic sword that is not legendary or an artifact, they may graft the sword's magic onto the sword of Forgotten Heroes by completing a 5-minute ritual. This ritual consumes the other sword, as well as its worth in gems, rare herbs, or other forms of material wealth (land and property excluded). Once this ritual has been performed, the magical powers of the previous sword are transferred into the Sword of Forgotten Heroes. For example, a vicious weapon in the form of a longsword that is grafted would grant the Sword of Forgotten Heroes the extra 7 damage on critical hits.

Only one weapon can be grafted onto the sword at once. Grafting another onto it destroys the previous sword's bonuses. Grafted weapons do not add their bonuses to attack and damage rolls, unless that is their only magical function.

Wish: The Sword of Forgotten Heroes has one final, powerful ability. Whenever it gains a new True Owner, it gains three charges. The True Owner can then expend 1 of these charges to cast the spell Wish from the sword. However, these charges tie the dragon's soul to the sword, and using them weakens the connection. For each use of wish, roll a d6. The sword then loses the ability to cast one of its spells, according to the following table:

1: Prismatic Spray

2: Death Ward

3: Heal

4: Shield

5: Charm Person

6: No spell is lost.

In addition, for each use of Wish, the following effect occurs:

  • On the first expended charge, the sword retreats into its scabbard and can't be used for 3d4 days or until a person succeeds a DC 26 strength (Athletics) check that can only be preformed once every long rest. Afterwards, the sword can be used normally again.

  • On the second expended charge, a great force of the sword's will is discharged and manifests itself in the sword's True Owner. The True Owner is then required to give up something immeasurably valuable to them, beyond the price of gold(e), as if required by a geas spell. This effect can manifest itself immediately, but more commonly it lies dormant until a good qualifying thing is found (the Sword of Forgotten Heroes cannot qualify.)

  • The third expended charge is both mighty and terrible. The ground shakes, magic wavers, and beasts scream when it is expended in their presence. When this charge is expended, the person attuned to this artifact gains the DM's choice of a minor or major detrimental effect. In addition, the Sword of Forgotten Heroes loses the grafting ability. Any abilities currently grafted onto the sword remain, but no new ones can be added, and performing the ritual does nothing.

The only way for charges to be restored is by the sword finding a new True Owner. When this happens, the dragon's soul is revitalized, and its connection to the sword is restored.

Sentience: The Sword of Forgotten Heroes is a sentient, chaotic good weapon with an Intelligence of 13, a Wisdom of 15, and a Charisma of 17. It has hearing and vision up to 60 feet.

This weapon can understand all spoken languages. It also can speak imprecisely in a strange dialect that can't be perfectly translated, yet still gets the sword's point across perfectly (even to those who don't understand it).

Personality:(f) The sword is endlessly loyal to its True Owner, but it does not believe them to be without fault. The Sword of Forgotten Heroes encourages righteousness in its owner, and sometimes will flatly refuse to do deeds that it sees as directly evil.

The sword's goal is to spread hope and song throughout the multiverse, often causing rebellion against corruption in its wake. In order to further this goal, the sword tries to constantly be on the move, and those that stay in the same place have to mentally fight the sword to keep it from slipping away from them.

Destroying the Sword: To destroy the sword, all of the charges of Wish must be expended. Then, the sword must be brought to the ethereal plane, where the soul of the dragon cannot go. In its weakened state, this will sever the connection between the soul and the Sword of Forgotten Heroes. The soul of the dragon must then be destroyed (having the same statistics and abilities of a Draconic Shard.), at which point the now-nonmagical sword can be destroyed by being blasted with a Hollow Dragon's breath weapon for 15 consecutive minutes.

If the Draconic Shard gets away, it can eventually perform a ritual to create a new sword to inhabit, which will then become the new Sword of Forgotten Heroes. If the physical sword is not destroyed, it will slowly draw the dragon's soul back, even from death. It becomes fully functional in 10d10 years, when the process is complete.

a. I'm trying to decide on whether the critical hit happens if they hit against the armor class, or whether it should happen regardless. I think the final interpretation should be determined based on how overpowered/underpowered the rest of the sword is.

b. This feature is mainly so that I, as DM, can have a measure of control over who gets the sword. The party has many selfish PCs, including one that happens to be an excellent thief, so I don't want any fights breaking out over who gets it.

c. The Sword of Kas says "While this sword is on your person", but I like the thought of setting remote-control traps for unsuspecting monsters. Will this wording have unintended consequences? Undoubtedly. However, it will certainly make something a little more interesting.

d. Of all the Sword of Forgotten Heroes' abilities, this is the one that I am least attached to, and also the most likely to be unbalanced in my inexperienced opinion. However, it does make for a good threat for the third use of wish.

e. As much as my Rune Knight loves the idea of wish, they come into contact with things they consider more valuable than money almost biweekly (remember those homebrew abilities I talked about earlier?) I will be interested to see how much this little consequence limits them.

f. This personality type doesn't exactly conflict with the personality of the player, but at the same time, they are far from 'righteous'. I'll just have them consider it another downside of having an artifact.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ What are those random abilities? where are they noted? \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Sep 23, 2022 at 6:25
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @Trish i'm assuming they mean the tables in DMG in the chapter on artifacts, it's pages 219-220 in my version \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Sep 23, 2022 at 8:14
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri I think the magic item stepping on or invalidating another class as absolutely a major part of balance for this kind of magic item (in so far as balance of magic items are a working concept) and would love that to be part of a full answer \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Sep 23, 2022 at 14:19

2 Answers 2


TL;DR: The artifact is likely balanced as long as you maintain a somewhat reasonable level of benefit from the wishes

To start with let's break down the features into an easier format for analysis. Certainly, I would present them to the players as you have done for flavor purposes, but if I take all of that away for simplicity:

  • +3 to attack and damage rolls
  • extra critical hit chance
  • 2d6 extra damage against constructs
  • random properties
  • +2 bonus to initiative
  • spells (1 7th level, 1 6th level, 1 4th level, and 2 1st level)
  • the benefit of another sword that you graft on
  • wish but at a cost

Let's compare these to the artifacts you mentioned.

Sword of Kas

  • +3 bonus to attack and damage rolls
    • neutral
  • extra critical hit chance
    • neutral
  • 2d10 extra damage to undead
    • better
    • more damage against a more common enemy type
  • random properties
    • slightly better
    • major beneficial instead of a minor beneficial
  • +1d10 to initiative
    • better
    • averages to 5.5 bonus rather than 2, and 1d10 can more frequently guarantee going first, while +2 simply gives a small bump in order
  • spells (2 7th level, 1 3rd level)
    • slightly worse
    • I would say that a 6th level instead of 7th level, 4th instead of 3rd, and two extra 1st level is a small improvement, but this is debatable
  • Defender effect (trade attack and damage bonus for AC)
    • slightly worse
    • Defender is one of the better choices for a grafted sword, but the extra versatility of grafting (even though it requires an additional magic weapon) is a small improvement
  • adverse personality
    • slightly worse
    • eventually causing the wielder to obsess over destroying the Eye and Hand of Vecna is a small detriment
  • lack of wishes
    • see later

Wand of Orcus

  • +3 bonus to attack and damage rolls
    • neutral
  • lack of extra critical hit chance
    • worse
    • doubling the faces resulting in a critical hit is a reasonably powerful effect, especially considering extra attacks and sources of advantage
  • 2d12 extra damage
    • significantly better
    • more damage against all enemies
  • random properties
    • slightly better
    • gains a major beneficial in exchange for one minor detrimental
  • lack of Initiative bonus
    • slightly worse
    • +2 is a reasonable bonus but not dramatically
  • spells (versatile choices, but can be mapped to 2 7th level, 1 3rd level)
    • neutral
    • like with the Sword of Kas, you get less spells, but the extra versatility makes up for this
  • Call Undead
    • better
    • this is like casting animate dead at 4th level 12 times, and not needing a bonus action to command them. Having almost 40 skeletons can be absurdly powerful even at high levels, but considering you won't always be able to leverage 40 skeletons effectively, this isn't quite as strong.
  • lack of wishes
    • see later

How good are the wishes?

As you can see, the Sword of Kas and Wand of Orcus are better, maybe even significantly better, than your Sword of Forgotten Heroes on balance without considering the wishes. How strong is three wishes giving the down sides you present?

Let's start with this: If your player is using the wishes to duplicate magical effects, this is a fairly weak benefit. The permanent costs to the power of the artifact are not worth such a minor effect.

In this case, we are evaluating the alternate effects. I'm going to just look at the ones listed in the spell and assume that the DM balances any beyond scope effects with suitable "great latitude in ruling."

Best standard alternate effects from wish

  • fully heal the party
  • immunity to a single spell or magical effect
  • force a reroll
  • permanent reistance to a damage type

While there is certainly some variance in power, the best use of these is as a lynch pin for the party defeating a powerful foe they would have otherwise failed to defeat, and thereby gaining a treasure hoard.

Now it is likely the character will never get the chance to cast a third wish since there is a 1 in 3 chance that they lose the ability to cast wish from these alternate effects.

That being said, two of these effects should definitely allow a lower level party to take on a CR 17+ foe. A CR 17+ treasure hoard grants the following treasures:

  • about 350,000 gp worth of treasure, gems, and/or art objects
  • 2-3 powerful magic items

I'm going to assume the party would be going for these hoards instead of the lesser CR 11-16 hoards which give:

  • about 30,000 gp worth of treasure, gems, and/or art objects
  • ~1 powerful magic item

As such, the net benefit of being able to target more powerful enemies by using wish is more than 300,000 gp and 1-2 powerul magic items.

This is certainly enough to put your Sword of Forgotten Heroes in the lead compared to the Sword of Kas and Wand of Orcus

Do the downsides balance it out?

The extra costs of using these two wishes is not being able to use it for a couple weeks (at the longest), and something of indiscernable value. These downsides are impactful surely, but not quite enough to bring it back in line with the other artifacts I looked at.

The main cost is the loss of spells, which weakens the Sword of Forgotten Heroes as a whole against other artifacts even more so. This should bring the sword into balance overall even considering the dramatic impact of a couple wishes.

DM Input

It is worth noting, though, all of this analysis is DM dependent. Because wish is either entirely up to the DM, or else the types of monsters and hoards available to utilize the standard alternate effects is up to the DM, you can easily reign in the effectiveness of these wishes.

As such, I see no major issue in introducing this artifact when comparing against other artifacts as long as you ensure that you be careful with how much impact the player can get out of the wishes

A level 14 artifact?

While I think this artifact can certainly be kept within range of other artifacts, I don't think introducing an artifact as early as level 14 is a good idea. The incredible power of artifacts can sometimes overshadow new class features, meaning that the normal excitement a player gets from hitting some high level capstones from level 15-20 is curbed by having artifacts so early.

Since you are planning on playing well beyond 20th level, I would wait to introduce the artifact to around level 18. This will make sure that the level advancements to that point still feel impactful.

Make sure everyone gets something

You mention that you added the True Owner feature to keep the sword for one particular party member. While this isn't necessarily the case, you want to make sure that when you provide a powerful boon for one party member, you also provide the rest of the party with something useful. There are two main reasons for this.

The first is the avoidance of the appearance of favoritism. If you spend a lot of time making a unique artifact for one player and nothing for the others, it can look like favoritism even if that isn't your intention.

The second is maintaining party balance. If one character becomes dramatically stronger than the others, that character can tend to drive the story more. You don't want the other players to be left out. At some tables this isn't a risk, but it's worth mentioning because at many tables it is.

The extra benefit that other players get doesn't have to be their own artifact. It can be a different magic item, another variable award (maybe specialized training for a feat or something), or even a major story beat (which can make up for a loss of power by helping develop that particular character hits a major point of character development while waiting for their next power bump).

As long as it is clear that you've given thought to the other players and tried to ensure party balance to a reasonable degree, you should be safe when introducing an artifact.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you! This is exactly the type of answer I was looking for. Serious bummer about the level-fourteen plan, but I kinda saw it coming. Great answer overall :) \$\endgroup\$ Sep 23, 2022 at 16:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm putting my money on this answer earning its author one of the site's rarest badges: the lifeboat! \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Sep 24, 2022 at 19:20

Overall whether it is balanced depends on you (the DM) and the players, and the characters.

While mechanical balance is valuable to consider (and outside of the wishes, this sword is largely in the same range of power as other artifacts), with things like this the narrative balance must also be considered. If this character is already more powerful than other party members and gaining a large share of mechanical spotlight in eg, fight scenes, due to that, them getting additional power without the other characters also being powered up will only work in certain parties.

While the '1 player is Link, the others are the supporting cast' approach isn't the usual D&D one, it does work. I've both seen it work, and heard about it working, for all kinds of reasons (very different reasons and compositions in some cases). But usually, Dungeons and Dragons aims for a more ensemble cast vibe where players should have roughly the same level of mechanical utility and narrative spotlight time.

However, at this level, giving a Fighter an artifact sword may simply bring them in line with other characters. Short of a Fighter 11/Barb 3 utilizing battlemaster or echo knight to drop 9 GWM-boosted high str polearm attacks to utterly monopolize the 'dealing damage' role, fighters with their lack of out of combat utility and limited in combat options vs many categories of enemies that begin to show up in combat encounters at levels past 10, can seriously fall behind in terms of narrative agency vs the increasingly more powerful spellcasters who have varieties of magical options at their fingertips, and can more easily change their capabilities via changing out underperforming spells or focusing their spell slots on those spells which are relevant or performing well.

So whether or not this sword is balanced depends on who it is being given to, and the relative power level and spotlight focus of the different characters at the table. It could quite easily be not enough of a power boost at some tables, while at others it would be seen as wildly overpowered and gamebreaking. The only person who can typically make that call is the DM, and maintaining game balance and parity of narrative agency/spotlight time is one of the major roles of the DM in the game.


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