When searching for interesting player rewards, as DMs, we often reach for our treasure trove of magical weapons a bit too much. However, not all rewards need to be magical. We often overlook the craftsmanship of a master smith, or someone who has spent centuries perfecting their unique skill. Some players just see a masterwork weapon as a “+1” and move on, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Especially at lower levels, before you start handing out magic weapons like candy, perhaps try an interesting masterwork weapon such as the Sword of Parrying.
Sword of Parrying:
For our swashbuckling adventures in the realm, a slight boost to their defenses, along with a flavorful ability, can be a fascinating reward. Of course, you can still have the “+1” to reflect the weapon’s masterwork quality , but I would include a small ability that captures the specialization the smith has worked so hard to obtain. At its core, the sword would allow the player to attempt and parry a blow that would otherwise hit. As a DM, you will want to limit this ability, and there are various ways to do so depending on the system you are playing. For D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder, you can allow this ability to be used 2-3 times a day while also utilizing the character’s reaction. Mechanically, I like the way D&D 4th Edition designed the Sword of Parrying, and the rule-set fits in almost any system. How it works is, when the character is hit by an attack, they can attempt to parry the blow. The player can make an opposed attack roll, and if it hits, the blow is parried with no damage taken by either combatant. Again, you can limit this ability with a number of uses per day or per combat, but keep in mind the player still needs to roll a successful attack to gain the benefit and uses up their reaction, so I would recommend providing the player with at least a couple of uses. As players, we often view additional mechanical affects as the cause of magical enhancement, but this doesn’t have to be the case. A strong, well balanced sword can give a character the edge in that split second to deflect an attack, and I feel there is more we can do as DMs to set these masterwork weapons apart. Another way could be the inclusion of more role-play elements.
Just because a weapon isn’t magical, doesn’t mean it lacks a storied past. Just off the top of my head, I can see a master Elven smith that crafts perfectly balanced short swords that are lightweight, yet stronger than they appear. These qualities make this weapon ideal defending oneself from incoming blows. Crafting a wide variety of weapons, all marvelous works in their own right, the Sword of Parrying sits atop the mantle as the Elf’s most prized possession. The master smith has spent a lifetime perfecting his/her technique, and may not want to part with their magnum opus. The players may have gold, however, think of what else they can do to win the smiths favor. Maybe there is a competition in the city that commemorates a great battle. If the players use the sword and win the competition, highlighting the craftsmanship of the sword, perhaps it will be gifted to them. During this competition, you can highlight the strength of the weapon by having the player face off against a hero of the city. I picture a barbarian that utilizes devastating attacks, but is largely unarmored. When in a rage, the barbarian lowers their defenses allowing the player to deftly side-step and parry the brutish attacks, therefore, showing off the quality of the blade and honoring the Elven smith. Something small like this will allow your players to feel excited by their new toy. This role-play also provides a lasting effect on your players which will be remembered when wielding the blade.