A brief follow-on to yesterday’s diversion.
In discussing the idea of jade daggers, it was pointed out that jade is not a particularly good material for weapons. Historically it was used for axes and the like because it was relatively easily ground into shape and was pretty durable, but as other materials (bronze, iron, and steel) became available the use of jade diminished.
A ‘realistic setting’ would probably treat jade weapons as stone weapons. In Pathfinder terms this means they are less hard and have the ‘fragile’ condition… though I might not apply fragile to jade weapons because while jade is not a particularly hard stone, it is more resilient than many of the harder stones.
For similar reasons, when I wrote about ornamentation, I included some limitations on how much ornamentation could be applied to a single item. Ornamentation of up to 20% of a weapon’s weight could be applied without affecting the use of the weapon. Armor is heavier but takes more abuse, so I said that armor intended for use usually has no more than 10% of its weight as ornamentation, perhaps up to 20% for ceremonial armor.
For mundane, ‘realistic’ items I think this is pretty reasonable.
Fantastic items should not be so limited. They should not be only “unusually useful”, they should be fantastic, actually stand out as not normal. Ideally they will make use of associations such as those described yesterday. Jade is a purifier, and when used as a weapon is particularly good at fighting spirits (ghost touch), various impure monsters (bane), and/or could have various protective properties. This material is especially good for that purpose, and while I like items with tradeoffs, I think this should not be one of them. In fact, I’d rather that using jade for items like this rewards the enchanter, perhaps being easier or cheaper to produce than the generic method.
It would be appropriate to have items (in particular weapons and armor) made of unusual materials, when enchanted, be no worse than the default material. A jade dagger does not share the properties of steel weapons (not magnetic, not subject to heat metal spells) but is just as hard and durable. Similar, a bone sword with necromantic properties should be as tough as steel… and a weapon with cold properties, made of ice, should be able to withstand normal use and even summertime heat without problems.
This opens a huge range of options for fantastic items that will stand out from the mundane, metal-is-best-for-this expectation.