From the Archives, Vol. 1: Vorphalach

This is one of the oldest magic items that I created that’s still in a readable condition, and it shows. Every so often I find him and poke at the wording, but this has actually been a pretty constant weapon.  Only one player ever got his hands on it, but he was killed shortly thereafter by that most insidious of TPKS: gamer ADD.

Stats are for AD&D 1e, as far as I can tell. This was mostly randomly rolled, then rather extensively interpreted from the combination of effects.


(named after a member of Dimmu Borgir, so I was about 18 when I wrote this)

Frostbrand +1, +4 vs.  disgraced Clerics [addendum; and fallen Paladins]

Int 12, Ego 12, Faint empathy, Lawful Evil. (Note that its powers affect good and evil alike, and the sword does not blast characters of other alignments: see below)

Powers: Detect Apostate 10′ radius, detect sloping passage 10′ radius.

Special Purpose Power: +2 on saving throws, -1 on all dice of damage sustained.

Vorphalach was once a faithful servant of the god of Death. On his demise, he begged to be allowed to continue to serve his master on the Prime. As punishment, the priest was granted his wish: he became the animus of a magic blade. His newfound purpose in his prison is punishing religious Oathbreakers (any such person attempting to wield him, regardless of alignment, is blasted for 2D6 damage). He still finds satisfaction in slaying Undead, serving his Master’s original designs, but this is not technically part of his remit.

The sword has a hilt of petrified bone (the priest’s thighbone), and a plain but very sharp blade tinged with hoarfrost.  There is a faint scent of jasmine flowers and blood when the sword is drawn: the scent and extent of the frost intensify when the blade is blooded. On the command word “Morituri salutamus*“, or a close variation in any language, the blade is transfigured into a glowing amber crystal as the Frostbrand powers activate. The floral scent becomes choking, and the blade cannot be sheathed until it the owner dies or slays an intelligent being.  If the sword is left in this form, its curse has a 20% chance of striking per hour until the blade is sated.

The scabbard and hilt are bound in blue dragon-leather, and the chape depicts a dark elf stabbing a dragon in the base of the skull.  The sword remembers much of his history, but can neither speak nor communicate with telepathy on his own – only faint emotions emanating from the blade hint of its intelligence.

There is one exception to his memory: the blade is Cursed. Each day an intelligent being is not killed in the wielder’s presence, there is a cumulative 1% chance that the sword will attempt to possess the user (as per normal artifact possession).  This chance resets following a kill. If the user draws the sword for a purpose other than combat, it will occur immediately. Otherwise, the curse will activate as soon as the user attempts to sleep. In either case, when possessed the user draws  the sword, speaks its command word, then challenges and attacks the closest intelligent being at full strength for one combat round.

If the user succumbs to possession, neither he nor the sword will remember the incident, even under the influence of a Zone of Truth. If the holder of the blade succeeds, he will (drawing the blade) feel a sudden wash of blinding murderous intent, then nothing or (if sleeping) have a nightmare of killing the person he loves most in gruesome detail. This curse affected Vorphalach in life, and it is now bound nigh-inextricably with his soul.

Order of powers for Identify: A very powerful dweomer: powers of ice, a bane to the apostate, it will lead you to them, it will defend you against them, the sword has a mind of its own, it can find hidden geometries.

(false powers for 1e Identify) a bane to dragons and their kin; grants its full powers in the hand of an Elf; the scent of flowers grows stronger when Wyrms come near.


He must drink, or other payment will be taken.

Only the man who is already dead can know his true powers. Honor death, and be rewarded (command phrase)

Hold fast to your vows, and fear not the Oathbreaker. But woe betide the Fallen should he wind them.

*”We who are already dead salute you”

For 3x/Pathfinder (sorry, you’ll have to work out XP value/cost yourself):

An intelligent, LE Unholy Frostbrand (+1d4 ice damage, +1d4 Unholy damage, Bane vs. earth-based and heat-based creatures). Bane vs. any being that has broken a religious vow and not Atoned.

Base 1% chance, checked once per day (cumulative until triggered, when it resets) that the sword will lash out and attack the nearest person to the user when first drawn. The sword is unaware of this curse.

Leave a comment


  1. I’m about 75% sure you showed me this before. I remember giving something very similar to this to a heretic hunter hero antagonist going after a villain protagonist antipaladin in a BFRPG campaign I ran.
    The antipaladin trying to claim it as spoils after the battle was blasted for 12 points of cold damage, and died.

  2. Yup, showed you the second (still handwritten!) draft of this back when we were first setting up as roommates. This is ..#5, I think.
    And I giggled at that image. Badass Antipaladin strides up, “I claim this fool’s weapon as the spoils of wa-” *sound of flash-freezing*
    “From Hell’s heart I stab at thee..”


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