I'm creating a world in the Golden Age of Pirates. I want to add a little bit of magic but no magicians or mana or something like that. I thought of unique magic items that have interesting twists.
A magic item is a seemingly ordinary everyday object but with a positive and a negative effect if you use or carry it. The positive effect is the effect why you want to use the item and the negative effect is the effect that discourages you from using the item.
My goals with this "positive and negative effect" mechanic are:
- force interesting decisions (decisions where, when, how and even if to use a magic item)
- limit the use of magic items (and therefore limit the benefit of the positive effect) through their negative effects rather than through mana or something similar
Also the negative effect can get stronger over time (where time is measured in uses or carrying time depending on the effect) so for example a pair of magic shoes that make you run faster may make you run less faster over time to the point where you can barely walk so you don't want to use them all the time.
To weaken the negative effect the magic item has to rest (not being used/carried) for a time. The longer it rests the weaker the negative effect will get. This mechanic is my explanation for why magic items are often hidden or burried and have weak negative effects when you find them.
For now I think I have one good example for an item and a few interesting negative effects but I lack good positive effects or thoughtful effect combos. I don't know if it would be correct to ask directly for ideas here* so instead I'm asking for a method to come up with good effects/combos.
Example: Magic Key
- positive effect: Fits in every lock.
- negative effect: If you stick it in a lock it will not get out of the lock for some time (like an hour or a day or a week - depending on how often you used it).
- rationale: Who wouldn't want a key that fits in every lock? You can go to places where you are usually not allowed to go to. But oops - the key gets stuck and so limits the number of locks you can open in a certain amount of time and also increases your chance of getting caught at the forbidden place!
Examples: negative effects
- when using it there is a small chance that something bad happens (e.g. you get sick or wounded) so the more often you use it the more probable it gets that you get the negative effect
- the more you use it the greater the sacrifice needed to activate the magic (e.g. a chest that needs something of value inside it to do something but it gets more greedy with time)
- the more you use the item the more fragile it gets (this is not directly harmful but you have to be more and more careful when handling it)
- the longer you possess this item the more it attracts thieves - no matter how well you hide it, thieves will intuitively look for it in the right place
* My reasoning here was that asking for concrete ideas would not be as well received because there would not be a single best answer.