Fantasy media

Genre studies


In role-playing games and fantasy literature, an artifact is a magical object with great power. Often, this power is so great that it cannot be duplicated by any known art allowed by the premises of the fantasy world, and often 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: it was alarmingly powerful, of ancient and obscure origin, and nearly indestructible.

In fiction

This interpretation may have arisen as an extension of the archaeological meaning of the word; fantasy artifacts are often the remains of earlier civilizations established by beings of great magical power (cf. many artifacts in Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, as well as the Forgotten Realms Dungeons & Dragons setting).[citation needed]

In Dungeons & Dragons

In Dungeons & Dragons, artifacts are magic items that either cannot be created by players or the secrets to their creation is not given. In any event, artifacts have no market price and have no hit points (that is, they are indestructible by normal spells). Artifacts typically have no inherent limit of using their powers. Under strict rules, any artifact can theoretically 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. Artifacts in D&D are split into two categories. Minor artifacts are common, but they can no longer be created, whereas major artifacts are unique – only one of each item exists.[1]

In Magic: The Gathering

In Magic: The Gathering, artifacts are man-made objects of different degrees of power. While usually inanimate objects of some sort, they can sometimes be living creatures. There are very few artifacts that require a specific color of mana to use. One particular storyline of the game, Mirrodin, is focused heavily on artifacts.


  1. Cook, Monte (July 2003). Dungeon Master's Guide (v.3.5 ed.). Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast. pp. 277–280. 

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