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In the index of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragon's second-edition Player's Handbook (revised), there's an entry for "Ego weapons" referring to page 143 in the section on treasure. However, the section doesn't even mention "ego weapons", let alone define the term. Web searches turn up uses of the term, but so far none found the definition.

What does "ego weapon" mean in AD&D?

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    \$\begingroup\$ FWIW, the cross-index of the DMG (Revised) also lists "Ego Weapon" (no comma) on page 143 of the PHB(R). It has additional entries for "ego" (and "alignment," etc) under "Weapons" which correctly refer to the section of the DMG(R) dealing with intelligent weapons. The original PHB does not contain a listing for "Ego" either alone or under the weapon section. The original DMG does have a listing for "Ego, of intelligent weapons" referring to page 188 of the DMG (the intelligent weapon section), as well as "of weapons" reference under "Alignment" but neither trait appears under "Weapons" \$\endgroup\$
    – A C
    Mar 24, 2023 at 23:48

2 Answers 2

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Intelligent weapons have an Ego score

My copy of the PHB does not have an index listing for Ego Weapon, but my DMG has an index listing for

Ego, of intelligent weapons

Thus I have to wonder whether what you are reading as "Ego Weapons" is meant to be written as "Ego, weapons".

As far as I know, there is no such thing as an Ego weapon per se. Rather, there are Intelligent Weapons, and all Intelligent Weapons will have an Ego score. The Ego score is based on the number and power of the special abilities of the weapon. Weapons that have a high enough Personality (Intelligence + Ego) can dominate the characters that try to use them.

2e DMG (Appendix 3, Section 'Intelligent Weapons', Subsection 'Weapon Ego')

Only after all aspects of a weapon have been determined and recorded can the ego rating of a weapon be found. Ego, along with intelligence, will be a factor with regard to the dominance of weapon over character, as detailed on table 119.

Although the calculation of the Ego score differs, this is essentially the same concept as was found in both first edition and the Expert rules of BECMI. According to Daniel R. Collins, the concept goes back to OD&D.

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    \$\begingroup\$ To clarify, "ego weapon" is a synonym for a sentient weapon? Would you add the page number reference for the quoted text? \$\endgroup\$
    – outis
    Mar 24, 2023 at 5:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks; checking my copy of the revised DMG, that's page 249. A bit of searching finds it's page 188 of the original 2nd edition DMG. In the revised editions of both the DMG and PHB, the index entry is literally "Ego weapons" (no comma, same capitalization), and both refer to the PHB, p. 143. The index entry from the original edition, "Ego, of intelligent weapons", no longer appears in the DMG. \$\endgroup\$
    – outis
    Mar 24, 2023 at 6:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @outis As my edit to the answer shows, I don't think the term "ego weapon" is ever actually used in the text (outside the index) although it seems reasonable that it could be a shorthand online neologism. As far as your suggestion about their propensity to dominate, the DMG explains that all weapons with intelligence have ego and will seek to dominate any character when they are powerful enough. Even if they are not, "Weapons of this nature will never be totally controlled or silenced by the characters who possess them, even though they may be heavily outweighed by personality force." \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Mar 24, 2023 at 14:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @outis: "ego item" is simply not a term of art in any early official D&D text. Kirt might wish to add Original D&D (1974) to his list of editions with this same concept of intelligent weapons (swords). It's the primary and first thing discussed in the treasure section (OD&D, Monsters & Treasures book, p. 27-30); some argue it's a defining feature of the fighter class (only fighters can use swords, and only swords can be intelligent). \$\endgroup\$ Mar 24, 2023 at 15:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ To quote Larry Niven's Dream Park (1981) novel: "The Fighter's Lament_ (to the tune of the Beatles' "Norwegian wood") I once had a sword, or should I say, it once had me. I just picked it up, oh what a sword, it was plus three. It's Ego was twelve, a fact of which I wasn't aware; Then I tried to leave and I found that the sword didn't care; oh, ... ... And when I awoke, I was alone, that sword had flown. Now I use a club; isn't it good... no-ego wood. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 24, 2023 at 17:10
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Similarly to other answers talking about DnD 2, even the Dungeon Master's Guide for DnD 3.5 only mentions them indirectly in the chapter on "Intelligent Items". The term "ego" is not used in the combination of "ego weapon", and it is also not coming up very early during the chapter, but there is this paragraph later on:

ITEM EGO

Ego is a measure of the total power and force of personality that an item possesses. Only after all aspects of an item have been generated can its Ego score be calculated. An item’s Ego score helps determine whether the item or the character is dominant in their relationship, as detailed below.

From this, it seems pretty fine to me to use "ego item" as an alias for "intelligent item". Ego is simply a stat or attribute of these items. Similar to how you could informally call a rapier or another weapon with Finesse a "dex weapon".

That said, I certainly do remember the term "ego item" in other contexts. For example the very old roguelike game Angband has ego items as an explicit ego category, with semantics matching the description in the 3.5 DMG (well, as far as applicable for a very old computer game, they certainly are special in game and have enhanced descriptions, and can develop over time, but are not what we would call "intelligent" nor with a perceivable "ego").

Interestingly, a blog entry about the Angband ego items attributes them to Gary Gygax himself.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Similar to how you could call a Scimitar a "dex weapon". - A scimitar has a dexterity score in 3.5? I would have thought that Dex is a stat the wielder might want, which is quite a different thing from something the weapon itself possesses. An ego item seems more analogous to a "dex fighter", a PC of that class with a high dex score. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 25, 2023 at 13:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nevermind, I ment the Rapier, @PeterCordes \$\endgroup\$
    – AnoE
    Mar 25, 2023 at 14:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ My objection still stands. A rapier lets the wielder use Dex, but the rapier on its own just sits there. It doesn't have a dexterity score of its own. Unlike an Ego weapon. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 25, 2023 at 14:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ really nice seeing a question that isnt dnd 3.5! we all know what an ego weapon is. hes asking for in-system definition. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dor1000
    Mar 26, 2023 at 11:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dor1000, fair enough - then I'll let my answer stand as is just in case there is no in-system definition (and still isn't in 3.5, much less 2); this way it explains where the thought may have come from that there could be a formal definition for the term. If someone actually finds one, I'd surely be interested and will happily delete the answer. And FWIW, why would you assume that "we all" know what an ego weapon is? I certainly would never have heard the term if I hadn't been a player of that very old game, decades ago... I will make a short reference to DnD2 in the answer though. \$\endgroup\$
    – AnoE
    Mar 26, 2023 at 15:52

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