On Discerning the Nature of Magical Items With Respect to Alignment With Law Versus Chaos
By Keeper the Arcanist (Formerly known to man as Keeper the Trapper)
Enchanted items with a strong disposition toward Law or Chaos disturb the surrounding
magical aethers in a manner that may be discerned by the prepared scholar. An
uncomplicated ritual, utilizing some simple tools and reusable materials, can reveal the
nature and approximate strength of an item's alignment along the axis between Law and
To determine whether an item of a magical nature associates itself with the forces of Law,
one must first prepare a mixture of equal parts silver dust and powdered quartz totaling
not less than two gills by volume. This preparation must be charged by exposure to eight
hours of moonlight under a gibbous or full moon, and must be used within a fortnight
thereafter lest the charge dissipate.
Performing the ritual requires the aforementioned mixture and a tuning fork tuned to
middle C, and must be performed on a flat, smooth surface such as a silk cloth or a well polished tabletop. Lay the enchanted item in the center of the surface. Pour the mixture in
a closed circle around the item, rotating deasil. Finally, strike a note on the tuning fork
and place the end of its handle firmly against the surface, outside of the circle.
If the item is aligned with Law, the vibrations of the fork conducted through the surface
will agitate the particles of the mixture in a manner sympathetic with the pattern of
magical disturbance caused by the item's alignment, causing them to form an
equilateral triangle with the item at its center. The strength of the item's affiliation may
be judged by the sharpness of the shape's lines and the speed with which it is formed;
items with a very weak signature may require multiple strikes of the tuning form in
order for the shape to become apparent.
It is of scholarly interest that the triangle resulting from this ritual will always have one
point facing due north, regardless of the physical orientation of the item from which it is
derived. However, as the triangle is equilateral, this fact is of no use in navigation.
Identifying a magical item's association with Chaos involves a similar ritual, but
requires different ingredients and produces a different result. The requisite preparation
must be composed of iron filings and coarse salt crystals in a two-to-three ratio, and
must be charged by exposure to eight hours of direct sunlight. This period must include
the light shed by the sun while at its zenith or the charge will dissipate rapidly.
The ritual itself requires the same flat surface, as well as a wooden drum with a head
constructed from goatskin and tuned to the key of A sharp above middle C. Once more
the item should be placed in the center of the surface and the mixture poured around it in
a closed circle, but in widdershins rotation. The drum should be placed on the surface,
outside of the circle, and struck firmly and repeatedly.
As with the ritual for identifying Law, the vibrations produced by the drum and
conducted through the surface will cause agitation in the particles of the preparation
sympathetic with the eddies in the aethers caused by an item that is Chaotic by
disposition. In this case, however, the shape formed will be an eight-pointed starburst, and
the item itself may or may not be at the shape's center. As with the ritual for determining
association with Law, the strength of the item's affiliation can be estimated by the
definition of the shape's lines and the time required for the shape to form.
Due perhaps to the nature of Chaos itself, the orientation of the starburst shape around the
enchanted item will vary with each performance of the ritual, even if the item is not
moved between performances.
(DM's Note: This manuscript was handed to me before a recent game by one of the players. He'd printed it out in a handwriting script on a parchment background and then torn the edges of the pages to give it that final “old scroll” look. I *immediately* gave him 4 XP and told him to try this out when they got back to town after the party defeated The People of the Pit...which they have now done!
I think this was in part inspired because rather than rolling for how spells manifest, I asked the players to create both unique spell descriptions and magical components and then explicitly *describe them in play* before they'd get to roll to cast a spell. This was new to them (they were used to just saying “I cast sleep” or whatever in D&D) but they took to it with a gusto.
So, for example, Keeper's magic missile requires him to make serpentine gestures with a silver snake skull from which ghostly green serpents emerge and fly with a screaming cry towards their target. But the other mage in the party, who was formerly a wainwright, casts magic missile by gesturing with his hammer to manifest wagon wheels of blue energy that roll through the air to crush his enemies.
Anyhow, I pass this on to you all because “It just might be true!” and your players may want to try it out should they learn this arcane science via a scroll or old tome...
All the best,