Earthdawn's magic items are they own magical beings, created by heroic deeds, instead of a mage in his tower. This way, each magic item is unique, has its history and various powers that relate to it.
You can't simply identify the item with a scroll or magic spell like it is done in D&D and other major fantasy RPGs. To benefit from the magic item's power you need to to magically attune yourself to it. It is done by finding a "key knowledge" about the item and spending some time and Exp. The key knowledge might be the item's name or part of its history. Even achieving a particular deed with the item can count as a key knowledge and unlock new powers.
Each item has a several levels of power and key knowledge requirement. So the first power might be unlocked by identifying the items name that was given to it by its original owner. Next, you might have to learn that the item was used to slay a particular beast. Then you have to slay the same beast yourself. This approach changes the magic items from simple tools, into plot hooks and I think would be a great addition to any fantasy campaign. This is my take on this system for Savage Worlds.
PremiseThere are no "mass-produced" magic items. Each is a unique being with its own history and "soul". Those items have levels of power that can be unlocked. The character feels the magic flowing trough the item (knows that it is a magic item) upon touching it, but needs to learn about it before it can harness this power. The item can always be used as a mundane version of itself. As the characters learn the item's secrets, they can unlock more of its powers by attuning themselves to it.
Power Level and Key KnowledgeEach magic item has various power levels (explained in its description). To unlock a power, the character has to learn the key knowledge of the particular level and spend a Bennie. The key knowledge can be anything from the item's name, history, name of its original owner, finding out the origins of the metal that was used in forging it. It can also be a deed, like slaying a particular monster or bringing the item to its original owner's resting place.
A low level power with an easy key knowledge will give the character small benefits, like +1 to a particular task, or making the sword's runes shine brightly and giving as much light as a torch. The higher the power level, the bigger the benefits. At third level the weapon can grant extra damage dice or shoot beams of light. The character who is attuned to an item at a high power level has access to a whole selection of powers. Achieving a higher level of attunement does not cancel the access to previously unlocked powers.
Heros of LegendThis is my favorite part of the system. Sadly I don't think it got much of a spotlight in Earthdawn. The idea is, that heroic or life changing deeds create magic items. After all, If there is magic flowing trough the world, it is only logical that some of it will get attached to the heroes... and their equipment.
If a player wants to create a magic item after achieving something truly heroic, allow them to buy Trademark Weapon Edge next time they gain an advancement. The heroic deed filled the item with magic. The item will get +1 to Fighting if it is a weapon, +1 to Toughness for armor, or +1 to some applicable skill for other items. From now on, this item can gain Power Levels. Unlocking the new powers requires spending a Benny and completing another heroic deed.
This doesn't change the game mechanics too much, but now, the player has a customized magic item. Spend some time with the player to create a new powers for the item.
This post is a translated and abridged version of my first blog post ever written on my old Polish-language blog: Nieregularnik Brawurowy. It is far from perfect, but I still like and use this mechanic...and I was feeling a bit nostalgic today.