I'm trying to design a magic item that can eat other magic items to gain their abilities. However, I keep running into a problem. Eventually, the magic item becomes semi-omnipotent as the abilities stack, leaving no weaknesses.

Context: Magic items in the world are common and have a multitude of different abilities ranging from combat focused ones like damage absorption, to support ones like speed increase and utility ones like search (checks the area for hostiles and items). Some magic items' abilities are stronger than others, the stronger the ability, the rarer they are.

I want the item to gain a plethora of abilities while not allowing it to get too powerful. So what would be a plausible solution?

FAQ:

  • Do these items have charges? - The items have a set number of uses depending on their grade from 1-10 (10 being the highest). However, extremely rare items have an unlimited uses, such as the magic eating item itself.

  • Do you have to activate them? - Some do, others are passive and slowly run out of durability until unequipped, and those can be repaired.

  • Can they get damaged when you use them too often? - See above.

  • Can they overheat? - No.

  • Could they explode if used wrong? - No. Explosions only happen if its their intended function.

  • What would two conflicting enchantments do? - They can't be on the same item.

  • Are very powerful items also unstable or harder to use? - Just extremely rare.

  • Do you have a magic eating monster or a crazy lich collector actively looking for these items? - No.

  • 2
    Do these items have charges? Do you have to activate them? Can they get damaged when you use them too often? Can they overheat? Could they explode if used wrong? What would two conflicting enchantments do? Are very powerful items also unstable or harder to use? Do you have a magic eating monster or a crazy lich collector actively looking for these items? – Nuloen The Seeker Mar 8 at 22:57
  • Best solution? What do you mean by "best"? Unless you add criterea by which to judge answers, this question seems opinion-based to me. – AngelPray Mar 8 at 22:59
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    This question might be better suited for the RPG Stack Exchange. – ScienceKeanu Mar 8 at 22:59
  • Just make them not be able to get too powerful by limiting their number of ability or how powerful they can get before they implode or something. – A. C. A. C. Mar 8 at 23:03
  • Would this item absorb "magical curses" just like abilities? – Alexander Mar 8 at 23:06

12 Answers 12

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Here, I'll also give you multiple answers.

  1. Make it Charge based - You can make it so that the Absorber can only use one instance of magic item that is absorbed. So if your absorber eats one item, you can only use its effect once. If you give it a duplicate of the same item, you can use it twice. Think of it like bullets. The more bullets (magic items) you feed to your absorber, the more it can use each abilities. or...

  2. Make it EXP Based - Consuming a magic item learns it's magic but only at level 0 (or something). In other words, your absorber only gets a portion of the magic item's potency or to be blunt, a cheap imitation of the consumed magical item's effects.

    For instance Absorber (A) eats Grade 1 Item B (B). Then Absorber's Skill B has only 1/10 potency of the original item (Change the potency based on the grade of the magical item as you see fit). You should feed it the same kind of magical item to increase it's potency. This would limit its power when consuming Extra rare Magical items. For instance, If it eats only one instance of Grade 10 Magic Item (C) and coincidentally, there is only one C in the world, then you are forced to make Absorber's Skill C not as potent as the original one.

    This would also bring up the question "Is it worth to absorb? The its potency will be weakened. I don't think it's a good idea." Something like that.

  • I'm going to use both yours and crettig's answers to help me develop my item further. I've marked yours as the answer as its the one I will mainly draw from. thanks – The Last Remnant Mar 9 at 9:39
  • Oh. Thank you for accepting my answer. Glad to be of help. 😄 Which one did you choose though? The first or second answer? – Bwrites Mar 9 at 17:52
  • Mainly the first one. But I will also draw from the second – The Last Remnant Mar 10 at 18:45

The problem is that your phrasing, "eats other magic items to gain their abilities" causes you to subconsciously filter the attributes of the item and pick only the good ones. A process like that will always lead to unconstrained growth.

Instead, have your hungry magic item gain the attribues of the items it eats, some good some bad. It then must integrate these attributes into itself. It would naturally try to get all the benefits and mitigate all the drawbacks, but that's a hard process. If you eat a fire item and an ice item, its hard to grab the best of both without some of the disadvantages of one limiting the advantages of the other.

If the hungry magic item is not careful, it becomes "murky," where the positive aspects of the last few items are noticeably present, but aspects from older meals blend together into a sort of drab grey that doesn't really have much power. The magic item must be careful to cultivates the powers it wants to have if it wants to dominate.

This, of course, is exactly what happens with children. They suck up just about everything in their environment. As a parent, your job is to cultivate that environment so that the good parts of it that your child consumes resonante together and form a person that, one day, will take over for your place in the world!

  • 1
    Nicely thought through! – Stilez Mar 9 at 3:11
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    Love it, It eats wand and gains the ability to cast spell X unfortunately it also gains the wands attribute of having limited charges not even its original spells have to be cast from charges or not it casts all its spells using the same same trigger word, making getting the right spell a crap shoot.. – John Mar 9 at 4:46

Your item needs some form of drawbacks. As there is no cost to your current item, it is ripe for abuse. Some suggestions you can employ to make the powers of the item limited to superhuman instead of god levels. The "best" way to do this is to slap on limiters and try it out with different powers.

To avoid confusion, I'll refer to your item as the "Grand Absorber"

  1. Grand Absorber needs fuel: Grand Absorber can absorb another item to acquire new effects OR you can use it to gain more magical fuel to power the magic the Grand Absorber already has access to
  2. Grand Absorber has limited versatility: Grand Absorber can only remember a few spells or one spell at a time or only the most few recent spells absorbed or Grand Absorber memory is bounded by tiers of magic it is storing.
  3. Grand Absorber time limit: After your Grand Absorber has eaten a new item, there is only a limited number of time (you can spam a spell 24/7 for a month for example) or the spell can only be cast X number of times
  4. Grand Absorber is intelligent and greedy: Grand Absorber isn't too fond of freely handing you a crap ton of magic that it has absorbed. You're going to need to pay a price (this could be anything from your memories/gold/lives of loved ones) as tribute if you wish to use the magic
  5. Grand Absorber is TYPE limited: Your Grand Absorber can only take in spells of certain schools at a time. For instance your Grand Absorber can only eat magical items that are part of the evocation school. If a user wants to store a new type of magic (like swapping to abjuration/transmutation), the user has to drop all the spells the Grand Absorber uses.
  • I'm going to use both yours and Bwrites answers to help me develop my item further. I've marked Bwrites as the answer as its the one I will mainly draw from. thanks – The Last Remnant Mar 9 at 9:40

The easiest way is to have the effect non permanent.

You can do this two ways. Either the item can only store so many abilities so to take a new ability means losing an old ability. The other way is the ability fade over time which means it has to keep eating new abilities to replace the lost ones.

Diminishing returns. Back when you were an apprentice, successfully casting your first sputtering fireball to kill that enchanted giant rat near the entry of that haunted dungeon was worth enough XP to level up twice. Now, as a seasoned mage, you brush those creatures aside with a cantrip and get 0.001 XP for it. (Pardon the mix of internal and external viewpoints there.)

Same for the Great Absorber -- the more magic it holds, the more it takes to add to its power. There's a point where it's just not worth it any more.

  • Inversely: The more magical items/abilities it absorbs, the more they all cost to use. When the only item it had absorbed was the "Staff of Disintegrating Sphere", you could rapid-fire those things non-stop all day and lay waste to all in your path. Once it's absorbed a ton of other items (healing, shields, teleportation, etc) then it takes an hour to recharge after every cast... – Chronocidal Nov 2 at 8:45

Hybrid.

The Eater item, on eating a new item, becomes a hybrid of its former self and the new item - sort of like if you were mating two animals. There is some randomness involved. If you breed 2 very strong horses you might get a very strong horse or a super strong horse. If you breed a mastiff and a Great Dane you might get an extra large, lean mastiff. If you breed a mastiff and a Chihuahua you might get a chihuahua that was actually as tough as it thought was. Or you might get some unremarkable medium sized dog. Or a Great Dane with a Chihuahua looking head.

If the Eater could shoot fireballs, and it ate a shield generator, it might make fire shields, or shoot shield balls. Or possibly shoot small fireballs that impact on the inside of the small shield it makes. If the Fire Shield Eater ate a flying potion, it might allow you to make giant flight-like jumps from within your (smaller) fire shield. Or shoot shieldballs that fly all around.

You can make creative hybrids that are more, less, or weird combinations of their parents. If there are rules for how magical items hybridize you could decide what order your Eater will eat them to try to produce a desired final power.

When you said "a magic item that can eat other magic items", I imagined one with a mouth and teeth and wondered where the mass it eats goes?

Maybe if a magic item eats too many other magic items, eventually, it will become too big and too heavy to lift and can't be used.

Or maybe too much magic in one place will create a magic black hole and it will only suck in more magic and won't let any magic out, so in the end, it will cease to work as a magic item.

Well, one way to keep it from growing too fast in power would be to place a hard limit on how much it can absorb in a given period, for whatever reason.

Eventually, the item becomes self-aware. Either from eating another item that had the ability to become self-aware or as some sort of side effect from multiple other abilities combined together (much like how our own sentience is a by-product of several other features we share with various ancestor species).

Like Sylar from Heros, it initially enjoys adding new powers, but eventually finds that absorbing too much results in problems such as sensory overload, loss of their version of fine motor control, or concern over absorbing another power that supersedes their existing personality. If multiple such items exist, they may wish to avoid becoming so powerful that they become well known and thus a target of others who wish to absorb their powers.

  • It becomes the magic version of a wine snob? – arp Nov 1 at 21:36

Give it decaying power based on its power, at exponential rates.

Others are suggesting logarithmic functions, but these just don't "feel" right. Instead, give your item considerable amounts of power based on what it has consumed, but based on how powerful it is, it will decay to a level lower than when it started in a relatively short amount of time.

You can make this so consuming three magic items means you have to feed it at an ever increasing rate just to prevent the decay from destroying it. If you feed it slowly, you can constantly give it more power over a longer duration, but with less powerful effects. This gives the user more dimensions of usability.

Rates of decay, amounts of increase, and decay power can be fixed or vary based on a multitude of factors (i.e. matched item class decays less quickly, higher magic level increases power more, rare item reduces decay fallback, legendary item ensures the item decays to the starting point).

The magic item has a set amount of uses. Eating other items will allow it to use that items abilities, but the eater still has the same number of overall uses before it needs to be recharged.

Living things need to poop after they have eaten.

The Grand Absorber could poop out one or more items in it's inventory when it gets a new one, effectively having a rotating inventory of spells/abilities/powers. This is similar to item 2 in Crettig's answer of a limited set of abilities, but gives more flavor to the power.

This allows you to say "Welllll, this one wasn't compatible, so in a fit of indigestion, the Grand Absorber pukes it out" or something to that effect.

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