Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
This article is about artifacts in fantasy and roleplaying. For other definitions, see Artifact (disambiguation).
In role-playing games and fantasy literature, an artifact is a magical object with some marvelous and alarming power, so great that it cannot be duplicated by any known art allowed by the premises of the fantasy world, and cannot be destroyed by ordinary means. Artifacts often serve as MacGuffins, the central focus of quests to locate, capture, or destroy them. The One Ring of The Lord of the Rings is a typical artifact: alarmingly powerful, of ancient and obscure origin, and nearly indestructible. In the trading card game Magic: The Gathering, an artifact is a type of card representing a magical item.
This interpretation may have arisen as an extension of the archaeological meaning of the word; fantasy artifacts are often the remains of earlier civilisations established by beings of great magical power (cf. many artifacts in Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, as well as the "Forgotten Realms" Dungeons & Dragons setting).
In Dungeons & Dragons, artifacts are magic items so powerful that they either cannot be created by mortals or the secrets to their creation were lost ages ago. In any event, artifacts have no market price, have no hit points (that is, they are indestructible by mundane means), and usually possess a long, mythical creation history. Artifacts typically have no charges, and if any limitations are placed on their powers, it is a number of uses per day. Under strict rules, any artifact can be destroyed by the Sorcerer/Wizard spell Mordenkainen's Disjunction , but for the purposes of a campaign centered on destroying an artifact, a plot-related means of destruction is generally substituted.
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