First, a little side note. I grew up in Muncie, Indiana and was introduced to gaming (at a young age) on the Ball State Campus. I am very pleased to have the rich gaming life of that town immortalized by Jolly Blackburn.There is just something special about a Holy Avenger, or a Giant Slayer, or a Sword of Sharpness. Naturally, the best of these also have special abilities. And the best of those have - an intelligence. Now, intelligent swords are a mixed blessing. A really powerful one can take over its owner in a number of ways and they can have a wide array of powers. Of course, there aren't many of them. If you are rolling for any magical items (some treasure types are limited to weapons and armor, etc) only 11% of magic items are magical swords. But 25% of all magical swords have some special ability!
Second little side note. This means that, statistically speaking, swords with special abilities are just as common as +1 swords. That has some serious implications!And 11% of all magical swords can speak! Holy Moley, over 1.2% of all magic items are talking swords! That means, if you use the random treasure charts, talking swords are almost exactly as common as Potions of Healing.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Another interesting fact is that about 1.2% of all swords with special abilities have a Special Purpose, so 3 out of every 1,000 magical swords have a Special Purpose.
So 1 in every 7,000 magical swords can Disintegrate at least some targets.
A bit more directly applicable is the alignment chart. Here are the odds of a sword with a special ability having a particular alignment:
Lawful Evil - 5%
Neutral Evil - 5%
Chaotic Evil - 5%
Chaotic Good - 5%
Lawful Neutral - 5%
Chaotic Neutral - 10%
Neutral - 20%
Neutral Good - 20%
Lawful Good - 25%
Specific alignment swords (Lawful Good, True neutral, Chaotic evil, etc.) only want to be used by the same specific alignment while the 'mixed neutral' swords (neutral Good, Chaotic Neutral, etc.) allow anyone who matches the non-neutral element of their alignment to use them freely.
So Neutral Evil characters can freely use 5% of all aligned swords; Lawful Evil characters can freely use 15% of all aligned swords; True Neutral characters can freely use 20% of all aligned swords; and Lawful Good characters may freely use 50% of all aligned swords.
Advantage - the good guys.
Implication - most aligned swords are made by/for good guys.
Speaking of implications, let's talk about the implications of these bits in light of other rules and see what we can deduce about campaigns.
In Appendix P: Creating a Party on the Spur of the Moment, we can deduce that both fighters and paladins have a 2.5% chance per level of having a sword with special abilities. Druids have a 1.75% chance of the same, assassins have a 1.25% chance, and thieves have a surprisingly high 2.75% chance.
So that long set of rambling essays on the number of non-placed NPCs (the last of 6-7 posts is here) comes in handy again!
Ready for some crazy speculation using a ton of assumptions?
Assuming that the per level odds of having items is correct AND
Assuming these ratios are roughly true all over the gaming world AND
Assuming a world population of the gaming world roughly equivalent to Earth in 1300 A.D.
I conclude that my campaign world has roughly 12,300 magical swords in the possession of NPCs.
As my oldest son pointed out, roughly half will be in Asialand, mostly in Chinaland. But this means that there are about 3,075 swords with special abilities and, of those, 1,230 or so can talk.
It also means about 37 swords have a special purpose and 1 or 2 of those special purpose swords can Disintegrate at least something.
Of course, 1,530+ of the aligned swords are usable by a Lawful Good character but only a little over 150 are usable by a Lawful Evil character.
Since my campaign area is only a small portion of my campaign world, I need only actively fret about, oh, 30-32 NPC-held sword: 8 of them have special abilities and 3 can talk.
No wonder the section on followers specifically states a fighter's followers' swords do not have special abilities!
In the next section we will continue to talk about magic swords and their implications!