"Magic exists. Magic does not unexist. Only a fool believes he can kill magic, yes?"
In AD&D, little attention is paid to the destruction of magical items. How hard is it? Can it even be done? What happens when a magic item is destroyed? Of course, complete rules for the destruction of an artifact are given, but standard magical items are not covered. This system attempts to fill in that gap.
The Nature of Magic
Just what is magic? Well, simply put, magic is a form of energy, like any other. And like regular energy, magic can neither be created or destroyed. When a magician casts a spell or enchants an item, he draws in magical energy, channels it through his body, and uses it to create the item or effect he has in mind. Not even sages know for sure where this magical energy comes from. Some say it is a force which pervades the world - others claim it is the mage's own internal energies. Either way, magic exists, and can be manipulated.
This document focuses not on where magic comes from, but where it goes. When a magical item is created, it stores (either temporarily or permanently) an amount of magical energy consistent with the power of the item. A relatively weak item - such as a wand of magic detection - would store little power, whereas a powerful item - such as a staff of the magi - would store a great deal of magical energy. This energy is safely contained within the item, and can be used by the item wielder without fear. But what happens when a magical item is destroyed? Where does the magic go? Can the item even be destroyed? If so, how difficult is it, and is there a special process?
The Destruction of Magic
If an individual, for whatever reason, wishes to destroy a magically charged item, he may most certainly do so. However, said destruction is not necessarily an easy thing. Magical items, by their nature, tend to be made of the finest materials, which makes them more durable. Furthermore, enchantments placed on most magical items are there to protect the item from harm. Thus, destroying a magical item can be more difficult than one might imagine.
Also, while a magic item can be destroyed, magic itself cannot be. Thus, when a magical item is destroyed, the magic it contains has to go somewhere. Quite often, the magic seemingly dissipates, and fades away (some sages speculate that it goes back into the world's magical "pool"). Sometimes, however, the magic can do strange things, and affect the world around it in odd ways. Every item is assigned a Magical Effect Rating (MER), which is used later in the document to determine how likely it is that the destruction of a magical item triggers a Magical Effect.
For an idea of how various magical items can be destroyed, one need merely consult the Item Saving Throws table in the DMG (page 58).
The Endurance of Magic
Magical items are usually enchanted to resist decay and destruction. As such, these items are usually more durable than their mundane counterparts, and thus harder to destroy. Whenever a magical item runs the risk of destruction, the DM should assign a modifier to the item's saving throw, based upon both the power of the item and the type of destructive force applied. The following table gives some suggestions for saving throw bonuses for various materials and their relative magical power.
Table 1. Saving Throw Modifiers
The Release of Magic
When a magic item is destroyed, its energy is released. In most instances (base 100% chance), the power of the item simply fades, absorbed by the world around it. There is usually some form of minor display when the item is destroyed (flash of light, puff of smoke, that kind of thing). In some cases, however, the destruction of the item has a more dramatic effect. What that effect might be, and indeed, the chances of the effect even occurring, vary from item to item.
Every magical item is assigned a MER. These ratings are not set in stone, and are used only as a guideline. The DM should assign an item a MER based upon its approximate power level and function. It is possible for the MER of two seemingly identical items (for instance, two magical long swords +1) to vary, but hopefully not too dramatically. Below you will find relative powers for items, as well as some examples.
Temporary: These items, while magical, work on limited charges or one-shot only items. They include most potions and oils, as well as scrolls. Examples include a potion of water breathing, or a scroll with fireball written on it. Such items have a MER of 2-5 (or, alternately, 1d4+1).
Weak: These magical items are rather weak. While more permanent in use, they usually run off of charges. An examples would be a wand of magic missiles. These items typically have a MER of 2-7 (1d6+1). Moderate: This category covers most permanent magic items. They include low-power "plus" items (weapons and armor with pluses of +1 to +2), and certain rings, helms, cloaks, etc. Examples include a short sword +2, a cloak of protection +1, or bracers of archery. The MER of such items is usually in the area of 5-16 (1d8+4, +2 for every plus of the item).
Potent: These items are much more powerful than most. They include items with mid-range pluses (+3 or +4), as well as many of the more powerful items to be found. Examples include: two handed sword +4, cloak of displacement, bracers AC 6, amulet of life protection. Most of these items have an MER ranging from 15-33 (14+1d10, +2 for every plus of the item).
Extraordinary: These magical items are extremely powerful, and are rarely encountered. They are near-artifact level, and have numerous abilities and powers. Only the most powerful of items with pluses are included in this category, as well as other items with extraordinary abilities. Examples: bastard sword +5, long sword +2 (vorpal), robe of the archmagi, staff of the magi. These items typically have a MER ranging from 30-50 (29+1d10, +2 per plus of the item).
The DM must decide the approximate power level of an item if it is to be destroyed. He can then roll a random range (summarized below) or assign an MER himself. Of course, the powers and abilities of the item in question must also be considered. A short sword +2 is not as powerful as a short sword +2 of speed.
Table 2. MER and MEM Determination
Once the DM has assigned an MER, he must consider situational modifiers. If the item is being destroyed slowly (melting metal, for instance), the MER should be lowered (as a guideline, subtract 1d4 MERs for every ten minutes the item takes to be destroyed). If it is being destroyed very quickly (almost instantaneously), the MER should remain the same.
Once the MER has been decided, the DM rolls 1d100. Should the result be equal to or less than the MER, then a Magical Effect has taken place. Consult the following table to determine the potential form a Magical Effect can take. The DM is, of course, free to decide a Magical Effect on his own, consistent with the form of magic the item took. When rolling on the Magical Effect table, the DM should add the Magical Effect Modifier (MEM - as determined in the above table) to the die roll.
Table 3. Magical Effects
Magical Warrior: AL N (or as per item destroyed); AC 0 (regardless of armour worn); MV 20; HD 1 per 2 points of MER; THACO as per warrior; # AT as per specialized warrior; Dmg 1d8+10; SA specialized with long sword (which it creates as a part of its own essence - if sword is lost, it reappears in the warriors hand in 1d4 rounds); SD regenerates 1d10 hp of damage per day; ML 20; MR 1% per point of MER; XP Varies.
Table 4. Powerful Curses *