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Abjuration (Enchanting)

This article serves to explain one of the secondary magic systems in this world, also known as "Luxavian Magic". (The primary being Breath). It combines the Enchanting mechanics from the Codex pp 290-305 with some ideas from the Familiars & Homonculi rules found originally in the Magic Burner pp 63-69 plus some minor aspects of the Amber magic system. More specific text from those books will be re-repoduced here than is usual in these articles, so most credit goes to BWHQ and the late Erick Wujcik. Adaptation by Seraaron.
Enchanting is the science of imparting otherwise mundane objects with magical properties. When a sorcerer wishes to create an item of power, he tests his Enchanting skill plus any bonus dice accrued from the Vessel and Name, from the Antecedent, the Target, Durations, and Triggers, and from FoRKs and Help. Enchanting has a lot of requirements and restrictions, but it can also produce a lot of varied and powerful effects. This is probably the most complex magic system in the game.


True Enchanting (as opposed to 'Imbuing' on the right) requires a core or root substance that possesses a similar nature to the power to be infused into the artefact. This root is called an Antecedent. In game terms, the Antecedent is is a Trait extracted from a creature, plant, or mineral, and re-purposed for the enchanting process. Further below you will find the eight step process for making artefacts.  

Requirements and Restrictions

An Antecedent is extracted for a specific enchantment. It cannot be used for more than one enchantment. Nor can it be used for multiple purposes within the same item. A player must declare their intent—the nature of the enchantment—when extracting an antecedent (see below).   The extraction test in step 2 may only require a tool kit, but the full Enchanting test requires a workshop, and most enchantments also require a vessel (see below).   There is no Tax for Enchanting, but there are failure consequences. It cannot be used quickly, carefully, or patiently. Finally, Enchanting may not be used to create items that directly or indirectly give advantages to the Enchanting skill or to any emotional attributes.  

1. Concept

Take some time to describe the sort of item you want to make. As with character creation, the hook is the most important but oft-overlooked step. What makes this item cool and unique? Enchanting can be used to create almost anything: Shape-changing weapons, telepathic amulets, machines and mechanical armour. With enough skill, you can even create sentient automata or entirely new beings. It can also help to draw a quick sketch of your idea, or find some inspirational art online.  

2. Extracting Antecedents

You do not use the Enchanting skill itself to extract Antecedents. Alchemy or Apothecary, and Taxidermy or Surgery are used instead. Surgery and Taxidermy are used for extraction from a creature carcasses; Apothecary and Alchemy may extract chemical components from plant and mineral samples. This is a process of careful study, dissection, and preservation. It is delicate and difficult. If the test is failed then the inherent power of the Antecedent is lost.  
Identifying Traits
Obstacles to identify the traits in a subject requires a linked test with Aura Reading or an appropriate wise. The Obs are as follows:
  • Ob 1— Cosmetic / Character Traits: Allow you to make an Enchanting test but grant no bonus.
  • Ob 2— Call-on Traits: Grant a +1D bonus to the Enchanting test.
  • Ob 3— Die Traits: Grant a -1 Ob bonus to the Enchanting test.
  The obstacle to extract the trait once you've identified it is equal to the points cost of that trait. (Unpriced lifepath traits are Ob 4 and common traits are Ob 3). The enchanter must obtain a trait which represents the source for his enchantment. The trait, separated from it's source, is the Antecedent. Antecedents are meant to be figurative and metaphorical, but since some are more difficult to extract than others the call-ons and die traits have a mechanical effect too (as seen above).  

3. Find and Name a Vessel

If the enchantment is designed for a specialised item like a sword or article of clothing, then that item must be created and infused with the Antecedent before making the Enchanting test. The proper skills, materials and tools are required to create this Vessel, though there is no extra Ob penalty for the test. Such skills can be part of the sorcerer's repertoire or they can be accessed via help. If the item is just a mere bauble or trinket (i.e. something you could easily pull together from resources in your workshop) then no additional crafting or materials are required. If the enchantment is going to create a vehicle, homunculus, or living being; then you'll need a suitable Vessel prepared with the Antecedent imbued in it somehow (which can be a Frankensteinian task in it's own right).   Successfully obtaining a Vessel grants +1D to the upcoming Enchanting test only if you give it a unique name.  

4. Choose Effects

There are many different effects that an enchanter can bestow upon the object or item. Multiple effects can be combined in a single enchantment, and the same effect can even be taken multiple times with a different Target, but the total obstacle can quickly stack up:
Make Magic
Invest the item with a 'dweomer'. This is a mark of the enchanters craftsmanship, unique to each enchanter, like a fingerprint or a signature. It may be easily noticed, or it may be invisible and only seen by an aura reader. The Ob for this effect is 1, and it makes the item magical; and thus any dice rolled in association with it's intended use or the original concept will be naturally open-ended.
Bestow bonus dice onto the Target for an ability of choice. The Ob is 2, 3, or 4 to grant a +1D, +2D, or 3D bonus respectively; to grant +4D use Ob 6, and Ob 10 to grant +5D.
Impose an obstacle penalty onto the Target for an ability of choice. The Ob is 1 to 3 to add a +1 to 3 Ob penalty respectively; or Ob 5 to grant +4 Ob, and Ob 9 to grant +5 Ob. Alternatively, for Ob 4 the effect can double the base Ob of the ability test in question.
Negate Penalty
This enchantment negates an obstacle penalty for the Target from a thing like poor lighting, difficult terrain, bad weather, a superficial wound, tight quarters, an obfuscate action in a duel of wits, the stunning effect from a block or push during a fight, wrestling with a larger opponent, the enmity clause, and so on. The Ob for such an effect is 2 per negated source.
Grant Skill
Grants a skill of choice to the Target. The obstacle is equal to the skill exponent to be granted. The skill must have been possessed by the creature that was the source of the Antecedent. The shade of the skill matches the shade of the enchanter's Enchanting skill. The Target may choose when using it whether to test with the item and help it with his own skill, or to test with his skill and receive help from the item. Thus, the item can help to teach the Target the new skill if they do not otherwise have it.
Note: By default, the skill of the item is fixed and cannot accumulate tests or advance. To allow it to learn and advance the skill add +1 Ob.
Grant Stat
Grants the Target a new stat exponent. The obstacle is equal to the stat exponent to be granted, which can be any number between 1 and the maximum stat of the creature that provided the Antecedent. The Target may choose when using it whether to test with the item and help it with his own stat, or to test with his stat and receive help from the item.
Note: By default, the stat of the item is fixed and cannot accumulate tests or advance. To allow it to learn and advance the stat add +1 Ob, and to let it open and advance new skills rooted in that stat add an extra +1 Ob.
Trait Transference
Use this to add most game-breaking, rules-bending, and fiction-altering effects to the item; like flight, underwater breathing, dark vision, etc. This comes in the form of a trait. The trait must have once been a part of the Antecedent's source. The Ob is the points cost of the trait (and Ob 4 for unpriced lifepath traits, or Ob 3 for common traits).
Note: To transfer multiple traits from multiple sources you will need multiple Antecedents (or break the enchantment into blocks using the 'Modularity' option in step 8).
Test Tweaks
This slightly quirky effect forces the Target to make a test when activated. Thus you can create doors that resist opening, pictures that seduce on-lookers, or gloves that grab things they shouldn't. The item causes a versus test between itself and the Target. The ability comes from the source creature, and the ability that is challenged in-kind is chosen by the enchanter. This is an Ob 2 effect. (For Steel, which is not generally used in versus tests, this effect instead forces the target to make a standard Steel test.)
Weapon Enhancements
The effectiveness of a weapon may be increased or decreased with these effects. You may choose as many as you like, but the Obs stack. (If the vessel is not normally a weapon then start from a base-line of 0 in everything).
  • Increase VA— Ob 1 plus the value of the new VA.
  • Increase Pow— Ob 1 plus the value of the new Power.
  • Change WS— Ob 1 plus the absolute difference between the new and old weapon speeds.
    (Count WS 'X' as a 5 for this purpose).
  • Reduce Add— Ob 4 to reduce by 1. (Add 1 is the absolute minimum for a weapon).
  • Change WL— Ob 1 to magically reduce by one weapon length. Ob 2 to increase by one weapon length.
  • Make Spirit Weapon— Ob 3 to make the weapon capable of harming creatures of a Spirit Nature.
Note: So long as at least one of these options is chosen, the weapon's damage will take on the same shade as the crafter's Enchanting shade. (Or if you don't want to change any weapon stats except the shade just use Ob 1 here).
Magic Armour
This effect lets the item confer armour-like protection onto it's Target. There are four body locations in Burning Wheel: Head, arms, torso, and legs. This effect can add 1 to 5 armour dice for +1 Ob per die, per location. These dice are the same shade as the creator's Enchanting shade. By default, these dice won't get damaged by normal use, but the enchantment can break by other means (see Durations below). If you want them breakable like 'run of the mill' armour dice then take +1D to the Enchanting test.
Note: The item provides no 'clumsy weight' penalties from these armour dice (unless the original vessel was also armour for some reason) but they also do not stack with other armour bonuses, just use the highest in each location.
Useful Magical Device
There are several options here that you can choose from. Like weapon enhancements, you may choose as many as you like, but the Obs stack.
  • Tools— Ob 2. Despite it's unlikely appearance, the item can be used as a tool-kit for skill-type of choice. (If the vessel is already a tool then you don't need this option.)
    Note: If the item also has one or more of the skills that it is a tool-kit for, then with limited Mobility (below) it can perform tasks autonomously.
  • Mobility— Ob 2 allows the item to move of its own accord with whatever equivalent means of locomotion the vessel possess (wheels, legs, wings, treads, slowly inching along, etc.) with a limited but sensical Stride value. Ob 3 increases that Stride to be roughly human or horse-like, and Ob 5 will double it to engine speed.
  • Vitality— Ob 2 gives inanimate objects a weak animal vitality, or gives animistic vessels a stronger more human vitality (see the Creature Codex for reference).
    Note: If the item has already been granted Forte and Power stats then this option calculates the object’s Health and Mortal Wound by the usual rules instead.
  • Empathy— Ob 2 to give the item animal-like sentience (low Steel), Ob 3 for mannish sapient senses (high Steel), and Ob 5 to give it a machine-intelligence and sympathy (perfect Steel). (For this to work, the source of the Antecedent must have had a similar level of mental sensitivity).
  • Psychic Sensitivity— Ob 1 allows for a mild telepathic link between the item and anything that touches it, though it’s intelligence and speech capacity are limited unless it also has Empathy (above). For +1 Ob the psychic link between the item and it’s owner is extended to several dozen paces, or for +2 Ob it’s extended several miles.
Note: All of the Useful Magical Device effects always Target the item itself and so always grant +1D (see below).

5. Pick Targets

To whom does each effect affect?
  • +1D— The item itself.
  • N/a— The wielder of the item (touch range).
  • +1 Ob— Single target (presence range, paces = Will of the enchanter).
  • +2 Ob— Group of targets (handful of individual targets within sight range).
  • +4 Ob— A crowd, copse, or cluster (tiny area of effect).
  • +5 Ob— A village, pond, or grove (small area of effect).
  • +6 Ob— A town, field, or castle (medium area of effect).
  • +7 Ob— A city, forest, or pasture (large area of effect).
  • +8 Ob— A mountain, prairie, or lake (huge area of effect).
  • +9 Ob— An entire biome (gargantuan area of effect).
  • +10 Ob— A whole continent, the ocean, or the sky (colossal area of effect).
That is, each effect that you chose in step 4 should each have their own Target, and yes the Obs stack.  

6. Determine Duration

How long does the item hold the enchantment? Does it fade over time? Does it have to be used within a certain time?
  • +2D— Lasts until a specific physical condition is met (see below).
  • +2D— Only lasts until the end of the session.
  • +1D— Lasts until first used, and is then expended.
  • N/a— Lasts until the first failed test.
  • +1 Ob— Lasts multiple tests after the first, until a DoF rolls a 1.
  • +2 Ob— Lasts until the end of the current arc or adventure.
  • +3 Ob— Lasts until the end of the current campaign.
  • +4 Ob— Lasts forever.
Specific Physical Condition
Most of the above 'internal durations' are fairly self explanatory, but this one is tricky. The item's power will only fail if a specific condition is met (or unmet). The condition can be completely unique—which also makes them the most fun—and can written almost like an instinct for item itself. Examples include: The item can never touch the ground, or it must never get wet, or must always be held, or the owner must never refuse a handshake else the power fades. These conditions can heavily influence the way a character behaves. The enchanter may choose this condition when he makes the item, but it should neither be too obscure nor overly common.
  If you are creating a homonculus (see right side-bar) then the specific physical condition is chosen by default, and the condition is the failed Resources test. But in this special case, the enchantment itself doesn't fade, just the enchanter's control over it. If you would like a homunculus with a different external duration then just choose a different one.  

External Durations

If one or more of the enchantment's effects have an external target (i.e. +1 Ob or more in step 5) then this is to determine how long that effect lasts. If your enchantment only affects the item or the wielder of the item—like a weapon, piece of armour, or most homunculi—then ignore this next list:
  • +1D— One test / instantaneous.
  • N/a— One scene or conflict.
  • +1 Ob— Until the end of the current session.
  • +2 Ob— Until the end of the current arc or adventure.
  • +3 Ob— Until the end of the current campaign.
  • +4 Ob— Forever.
In other words, how long are you frozen if I hit you with my freezie wand?  

7. Pick Triggers

What activates each of the effects? How is the magic evoked from the item? Potions and the like have an obvious somatic trigger; one must merely drink them. A magic wand that shoots lightning bolts at the caster's mental command uses the thought-control property. Magic swords and armour, and most useful magical devices won't have a trigger at all, they just work (though don't get cheeky with this one and create wands of ever-burning-gouts-of-flame).
  • +2D— Perform some crazy ritual.
  • +1D— Somatic, verbal, or material condition.
  • N/a— No trigger, or need only be touching the bearer.
  • +1 Ob— Mind-meld / thought-control.
For the somatic / verbal / material component, this means the item requires that a spoken command or unique gesture be performed or a specific material be sacrificed. The creator may determine which is most appropriate. (If used in a Fight then it takes a full physical action).   For the crazy ritual, the creator describes the format of a task and an appropriate skill test required to activate the effect of the item. This is an Ob 2 test for the skill, and it usually takes an hour or so; so it can't be used in a conflict. If the test fails then the item can't be used again until the next session.  

8. Final Choices

We're almost there. You just have some final decisions to make:
By default, the magic is spent once the internal duration (determined in step 6) comes to an end. After that power is used up, the enchantments are rendered inert. However, for +1 Ob the enchanter can build in a way to recharge that lost power. The creator must detail how the item can be recharged. This process may require a test of an appropriate ability, a quest for some rare item, or to bring it to a specific location, or perhaps it simply needs a change of ownership (but can never have the same owner twice).
If you would like the item to be designed such that further enchantments can be added in the future, then add +1 Ob. This means that the next time you come to enchant this item, no new vessel will be needed, but a new Antecedent will be. With repeated use of this option you can eventually build yourself a super weapon, or your perfect homunculus, or whatever you need or want really; but it's an expensive and slow process, and each time you're risking failure (see below).


What if you want to make a whole batch of these objects? It would be a pain to make each one individually—and while you can do that, it requires a new Vessel and Antecedent for each—very tedious. So instead we generally use this final and most dangerous option, which let's you increase the number of item's you're able to make from a single Antecedent and Vessel by several-folds.
  • N/a— Unique. You get 1 of the item.
  • +3 Ob— Named and numbered. You get about 2-12 near-duplicates of the item.
  • +5 Ob— A Horde. You get whole bunch of them, like 50 or something.
  • +7 Ob— Hundreds. Enough to outfit a small fighting company.

Roll Dice!

Once the sorcerer finally feels that they have everything laid out just the way he wants it, it's time to sum up the total obstacle and make an Enchanting skill test plus any bonus dice accrued from the Vessel and Name, from the Antecedent, the Targets, Durations, and Triggers, and from FoRKs and Help, and any other advantages he can scrounge. The test is naturally open-ended, requires a workshop, and takes a number of days equal to the obstacle.  


When an Enchanting test fails the GM has several options his hands—Straight Failure, Sacrifice, Curses, and Perversion—which he should pick and announce before the test based on the item's nature and concept. Though the exact effects often depend on the margin of failure and a bit of interpretation.  
Straight Failure
The simplest and most boring option. Usually best to only use this when the original intent and task was quite simple or basic. If the margin of failure is one to four then the test still requires the full time to complete, but the finished item is functionless. If the test is failed by five or more then the test took a few days of mucking around before you made such a mess of it that you just stop.
These corrupted items require a sacrifice in order to function. This counts as an additional trigger for the item. This sacrifice can come in a variety of forms: blood, wealth, harvest, or something else interesting the GM can think of. The margin of failure determines the severity of the sacrifice required; for blood it's Wound-types; for wealth it's the Resources Ob; and for harvest it's the a Farming or Animal Husbandry or similar test.
The curse can take many forms, but the typical one comes in the form of greed: The item is so desirable to everyone who comes into contact with it that it destroys the relationships of those who use it. If the current bearer ever wishes to relinquish ownership of the item they must make a Will test at an Ob equal to the margin of failure. And if, during play, another character offers to purchase or trade for the item and the bearer fails that Will test, then he get's cursed too! He gains the benefit of the Enmity Clause when dealing with the current bearer of the cursed item.
A perversion is a twist in the nature of the item. A perverted enchantment's effect changed to the opposite of the original intention. If the item was meant to heal, it harms. If it was meant to protect, it makes vulnerable. If it was meant to aid, it hinders.


Imbuing is a quick sort of enchantment. It only takes a few hours and it grants a simple effect which it lasts until it's activated or the item is destroyed.
Once activated the effect lasts for the remainder of the scene.  
Complementary Skill
In order to Imbue items with power, the enchanter must have complementary knowledge. This is a skill that provides the spark of magic that the enchanter blows on like an ember so it blossoms into fire. The skill must be of the Academic, Artist, Artisan, Musical or Special type, and the item being enhanced or the power being bestowed must relate to the chosen skill.
Make a linked test with this skill at an Ob equal to 1 less than the Imbuing Effect Ob (see below) with any appropriate FoRKs except Enchanting. This test takes a few hours usually, but can be done in advance or retroactively with the aid of an Instinct.

Imbuing Process

After the linked test, the magician should choose an effect from the options below and make an Enchanting test (with any appropriate FoRKs or Help). The test requires a sorcerous skill tool-kit, is naturally open-ended, and only takes a few moments of concentration and chanting.
Failing this test test simply means the item cannot contain the energy and your time earlier was wasted, but the materials remain.
Imbuing Effects
Choose one of the following effects to imbue into your target object:
  • Ob 3— Grant +1D advantage for tests once item is activated.
  • Ob 4— Open-ended tests for one ability once item is activated.
  • Ob 3-5— Impose a +1 to +3 Ob penalty to tests once item is activated.
An item may be imbued with multiple effects before being activated, but you must prepare for each roll separately (counts as a series test).
Imbuing can be performed quickly, carefully, and patiently.


An object that has been enchanted with 'vitality' and 'mobility' is called a Homunculus. If the creature also has empathy and psychic sensitivity then the homunculus and it's master are connected in mind and spirit. They will both the the other's location at all times. The master enchanter may command his creation, and it will inherently perfectly obey.  
Homunculus Stats
If you've given it a vitality boost, then it's fair to just give the creature the basic stat line of an animal in the Creature Codex. It should be thematically fitting, so don't go giving the stats of a warthog to a little clockwork doll. But you can also use the 'grant stat' effects to boost these figures up. With enough tinkering and re-use of the 'modularity' option, you can make the perfect companion for yourself.
Maintaining Your Homunculus
A homunculus is a burden on the enchanter's Resources. These semi-living beings have strange needs and requirements. The summoner suffers +1 Ob to their Resources Maintenance Cycle test for each functioning homunculus they own. If the test is failed, the homunculus feels spurned and neglected by it's master. If you have a psychic connection, you will still know their location, and you'll have to convince them to come back to work for you again. Without a psychic link, it will be completely freed of your bondage.
Failed Experiments
This is the fun stuff! The GM can use these rules instead of the standard failure options when an enchanter fails their Enchanting test while making a homunculus:
  • Ooze— The experiment dissolves into an acidic gelatinous mess. All of the materials are consumed and wasted. But perhaps there's some sentience left in that puddle...?
  • Púca— The experiment gives birth to something wholly unexpected. Rather than a homunculus, the sorcerer has created something like the 'Grey Gremlin' found in the Creature Codex. The púca will initially appear obedient and helpful, but will begin to wreak havoc at the soonest opportunity.
  • Mimic— The vessel was unknowingly possessed by some sort of minor spirit, demon, or ghost during the creation process. The homunculus will initially form and animate as it should, but it will have the stats and powers of something more powerful, like a 'Lesser Imp' or something from the Creature Codex. The mimic will do everything in its power to reassure the sorcerer that it is working as intended, until it gets the chance to sabotage or murder it's creator.
  • Freedom!— The experiment was a complete success. Except that it got away. Treat this result as though you immediately failed a Resources Maintenance Cycle (see above).

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