One of the things that's always bugged me about fantasy games is the prevalence of magic and magic items. Magic should be rare and exciting. Picking up a +2 sword at the magic shop is boring. Finding a sword with a long history and a name is exciting.
I love the show Warehouse 13 for this reason. Yeah it's all about chasing down cool magic items, but the show never says "Look, there's this thing that turns people into zombies, go and get it." Rather they say "There's the artifact that's a mason jar recovered from the site of the infamous Donner party. It was used to store valuables through the winter. Now this taco wagon is using it as a tip jar and everybody who puts money in it gets turned into a zombie and will eventually freeze to death."
In other words there's a reason for the item to have unusual powers because of the history of the object. As such I give you a new magic object, Skod's Shield.
This was an interesting project for me to do. I started thinking about the history of this object and then found that trying to figure out what the powers would be was far more difficult than I thought it would be. It's easier to come up with the powers and then do the history, but I like doing it the other way around.
Oh, and I have to say that there were several conversations on Google Plus that were invaluable (as well as interesting) in helping me out with this
Skod winced as another sword slammed into his shield, sending shards of pain up his broken arm. He couldn't remember when the arm had been broken, it may have been when he braced himself against that last horse charge, but now it hurt like the fires of hell every time a blow landed on the shield. Glancing around he felt despair. 'There are too few of us to hold them off longer' he thought. 'We have to get the prince away!'
At that moment the object of his thoughts picked up a spear and threw it at the approaching hordes. 'What a king this one could've been' Skod thought with a smile. 'Only 11 and fighting alongside the shield wall like a man'.
There were only 6 of them left now, out of the 27 that had set out to bring the prince to the summer castle. Then they'd been attacked by the men of the prince's uncle who had sworn vengeance on the royal family after being exiled for cowardice on the battle field.
'Should've just cut the bastard's head off' muttered Skod to himself. 'Then we wouldn't have this problem'. The bastard's men had attacked them on the road mere hours after the group had set out. The bastard kept getting reinforcements from somewhere, because Skod knew for a fact that his men had sold their lives dearly.
"Fall back!" he roared. "Protect the prince and fall back!"
The group took another 6 or 7 paces back, setting up a defensive position in front of the bridge. Skod took a deep breath and then made the decision that he knew had to be made. Grabbing his second in command, Ulric, he whispered in his ear. Ulric paused, looked Skod in the eye and then nodded briefly. That was all that needed to be said.
"Come and get me you sons of whores! Today is a good day for me to die. Is it a good day for you to die!?!"
Behind him he could hear the rest of the men grabbing Prince Eric and bodily carrying him away, despite Eric's screams and demands to be put down.
"What's the matter you cowards!?!" he bellowed again. "Are you afraid to meet me in the field of battle?"
Skold smiled contentedly ss the remainder of Leifr's men charged towards him.
Three days later a large party bearing the prince's sign of the One Tree set out from his mother's summer castle. Coming to the bridge where Skod had made his last defense they stopped and stood in awe. Skod was dead of many wounds, but he was surrounded by at least 20 dead men, and there were signs that another 10 men had been drug away. In one hand he held a shattered with blood on the jagged end and in the other was his shield.
Skod's shield is named after the legendary fighter who sacrificed his life to save that of his prince. It's a simple shield, round with an iron cross bar and a metal dome in the middle. On the outside of the shield there is a large red stain that can not be removed, no matter how much cleaning is done. One of the metal cross bars is chipped away. There are splinters from the wood of the shield and chips around the edge.
Constant power: When in use the shield grants an automatic 20% bonus to all defensive abilities (convert appropriate numbers to the system you're using)
Minor power: When the bearer is down to 50% or less of their hit points, the shield will soak 1/3rd of the damage rolls of any successful attack.
Major power: Once per session the player may declare that a Shield Wall is now in affect. When that happens all of members of his party get a 20% bonus to their defense for 4 rounds. However, choosing to activate this power will stop the minor power. The Shield Wall is an act of great sacrifice and should feel like it.