Hand-Crafted Items: Artifacts Grounded in Argea's History
In the grand library of Galkarru, you’ve read a story about an ancient city in the middle of the desert, situated near a fertile oasis. It was once a prosperous city of tall minarets and flowering gardens, ruled by a proud sultan who decreed that everything within his city’s walls belonged to him and him alone. When he saw a priestess of Aliltu who visited the city, he was struck by her beauty and wanted to have her, so he instructed his men to take her to his palace. But when she was brought before him and realized he wanted to make her a part of his harem, she cursed the sultan and his city: she doomed all who lived in the palace to live eternal lives, their bodies preserved at this moment in time, no longer aging – and unable to leave the palace grounds. The rest of the city she cursed to turn into scorpions, as they were as deceitful as scorpions, first showing her hospitality then allowing the sultan to take her as if she were his property. And so, the legend says, the dreaded scorpion people came into the world.
The story also describes the sultan’s scepter: a precious thing, made of gold and silver and a dozen jewels, and enchanted with powerful spells that enhance the wielder’s beauty and grant him a presence inspiring to all who are near him. The story is widely believed to be a legend, the city a mere symbol and warning of what happens to those of great arrogance. And yet, you set out to search for it. And there, deep within the territory of the scorpion people, you find the ruins of an ancient city partially buried by the sand. When you enter the palace, you are attacked by armed guards, nimble harem dancers, and the sultan himself – their souls driven mad by centuries of being cursed to stay within the palace. You fight them off, your blades granting them the sweet release of death, and when you examine the body of the sultan – there, in his hand, is the legendary scepter, just as it had been described in the story.
The magic items you can find in Realms Beyond are all unique, hand-crafted, and rooted in the world’s history. You won’t find randomized loot in your dungeon crawling adventures – everything is placed by our level designers. When you read about legendary ancient artifacts in the history books of Argea, it’s quite likely that they can be found somewhere in the world. But finding them is not always easy.
Time hasn’t been kind to some artifacts of the past. They were damaged in battle or by greedy looters and are now broken into several parts, and a player who wishes to make use of their power must first repair them. Two such examples are the Sandals of Queen Mirvala and the Singing Spear.
The Singing Spear was wielded by the legendary Pyrrhenian hero Lachides, who used it to slay the treacherous dragon-snake Lathraios. All who had attempted to slay it before him fell into its traps, for it was a cunning and stealthy creature, but the Singing Spear warned Lachides with its voice when Lathraios came upon him from behind, and he turned around and thrust his spear deep into the creature’s heart. In a later episode of Lachides’ adventures, he got into a fight with the hero Antikles, who hew the blade of the Singing Spear from its shaft with a quick strike of his sword.
Not much is known about what happened to the broken spear afterwards, but several contradictory tales are told by Pyrrhenian storytellers. Only one thing is common to these tales: the shaft and the blade went on different ways, going through many hands over the course of the centuries, and were never reunited. And indeed, the player will find blade and shaft at two different locations, far away from each other. Once both parts are found, the spear can be repaired by a skilled craftsman, but if the player has only one of the parts in his possession, he can use the shaft as a staff or the blade as a dagger.
Queen Mirvala’s Sandals are a pair of enchanted sandals once worn by the legendary sorceress-queen of the lost civilization of Virduris. Six gleaming jewels were set into them, each one imbued with a different enchantment – turning them into one of the most powerful pieces of equipment in the entire game. But while the sandals themselves are quite easy to find, still worn by the ancient queen’s magically preserved corpse, they are missing the enchanted jewels that turn them into such a powerful item. Mirvala’s tomb had been looted by graverobbers long ago, who pried out the gleaming jewels and left the leather sandals on her corpse. Tracking them all down won’t be easy, but it will be a worthwhile and rewarding quest. With each jewel you set back into the sandals, they gain an additional enchantment.
But not all enchantments are beneficial. Some magic items are cursed with negative effects and can only be taken off with a remove curse spell. Others might have two natures, with both positive and negative effects in their enchantment. One such artifact is The Burden of Knowledge, a crown once crafted by a sorceress to remind herself of the weight and responsibility her knowledge carried with it.
With unique items like these, varied in their effects and rooted in Argea’s history, the exploration in Realms Beyond: Ashes of the Fallen feels exciting and rewarding. Some of the more powerful artifacts even require the player to hunt down multiple pieces and have them reassembled – epic quests that might last from the beginning to the end of the game.
Of course, not only the items are hand-crafted with an attention to detail. The dungeons are all designed by hand, too, as are the enemy encounters. No random encounters, no procedural generation, no level scaling. Everything is built by the hands and minds of our writers and level designers, as human creativity is able to create more interesting content than computer algorithms ever could.