Relics – sometimes also called reliquaries – are sacred magic items. Relics are objects (or they contain objects) that were somehow connected to a saint or other important religious figure. Sometimes the reliquary is an object – such as a sword, staff, or amulet – that was used by the saint. Other times, the relic contains or is made of pieces of clothing the saint wore, pieces of a chair the saint sat in, pieces of a burial shroud the saint was covered with, and sometimes even the bones, hair or teeth of the saint herself. On rare occasions, a relic is a piece of artwork – called an icon – that depicts the saint.
Reliquaries are in many ways similar to artifacts. They are unique and one cannot create a duplicate short of using a carefully worded wish spell (even then, odds are very, very low that the duplicate would actually function in the same manner as the original). Unlike artifacts, or other magic items, relics are not created. Relics gain their divine power either through the will of the saint they were part of or belonged to, through the will of the faithful who direct prayers toward the relic, or through the direct divine intervention of the deity the relic is sacred to. Reliquaries are never found in random treasure hoards and are never offered for sale by anyone but the most unscrupulous of fences. Most reliquaries are in the possession of a priest or temple and are jealously guarded at all times.
Some reliquaries were already magic items before becoming a relic. For example, the staff of the repentant avenger was a normal, but magical, staff of the polymorpher, before the half-elf who carried it rose to sainthood. After his ascension, however, the staff took on sacred, divine status and became a relic of the faith, guarded carefully by the priests of the cat goddess and used by trusted priests only during the most extreme times of need.
Other relics were normal, non-magical items before achieving sacred status. The process of becoming a relic – which is mysterious and not entirely understood by scholars and sages – infused the item with magical energy.
All reliquaries share certain traits and powers. Beyond these basic powers, each reliquary has powers unique to the specific item. Some reliquaries are far more powerful than others. It is not the actual power of the item that makes it sacred to the faith; it is the fact that it was used by a long-ago saint, or was part of the saint himself.
All relics share the following traits:
Aura – a reliquary sacred to a chaotic, evil, good or lawful deity’s faith radiates a powerful aura corresponding to the alignment of the deity. See the detect evil spell description. Note: In the stat block at the start of each reliquary, the “Aura” stat refers to the arcane aura the item radiates when using detect magic.
Positive/Negative Energy Conduit – a reliquary serves as a conduit for positive or negative energy. This conduit of energy manifests as a bane or bless effect that can be activated as a standard action by the bearer of the relic. The effect fills a 50-foot burst area centered on the bearer of the relic and lasts for 1 minute per character level of the bearer.
A neutral character bearing a relic sacred to a neutral deity can choose to open a conduit of either positive or negative energy to activate either the bane or bless effect. The decision must be made at the beginning of each day whether the conduit will be of either positive or negative energy and cannot be changed until the next day. However, a neutral cleric bearing a relic sacred to a neutral deity can only open a conduit to the type of energy they have chosen to channel at 1st cleric level.
In addition to the bane/bless effect that any character can activate, a cleric or paladin can use the positive/negative energy conduit to channel energy two extra times per day, as if they had the Extra Channel feat. If the cleric or paladin already has the Extra Channel feat they can use the relic to gain one extra channel energy per day.
Alignment Restriction – a reliquary sacred to an evil deity cannot be safely handled with bare hands by a good character. Likewise, a reliquary sacred to a good deity cannot safely handled with bare hands by an evil character. Relics sacred to neutral deities cannot be safely handled with bare hands by good or evil characters, unless the character is a follower of the deity.
A character of the wrong alignment that attempts to handle a relic barehanded suffers from one permanent negative level for as long as the relic is held. The negative level remains so long as the relic is held barehanded but vanishes if the relic is put down or held in some way other than barehanded.
The only way to safely handle a relic of an alignment different from a character’s own alignment is to do so while wearing gloves, or to wrap the relic in cloth, leather or some other material. Holding a relic in such a manner does not allow the bearer to activate any of the typical reliquary traits (Aura or Positive/Negative Energy Conduit), but the bearer can still activate any other powers of the relic.
Compulsion – because of the nature of the sacredness and divinity of a reliquary, the bearer of a reliquary will feel the compulsion to perform deeds or acts of a type that matches not only the faith that holds the item sacred, but also matches the personality and deeds of the individual to whom the item once belonged.
A character of the correct alignment that touches a relic barehanded must make a DC 21 Will save in order to resist the compulsion of the relic. If the compulsion is resisted, the character must save again the next time the relic is touched barehanded. If the character fails the save, he is compelled to act as described in the individual relic entries below. A character suffering from a compulsion is allowed a new save every month. If the save is successful the compulsion is broken, though if the character again touches the relic barehanded another save is required.