You can tell the story of your campaign milieu through the embedded stories of the magic items your characters encounter.
One of the magic items in my campaign is known as The Sword of Osmund. At first, the players only knew about its most basic mechanical benefits in combat. It is a +3 sword. It belonged to an order of knights whose last remaining members were some old men maintaining temple in a falling down castle. The players learned through the lore master of the order that the sword had belonged to a great hero of the order. The lore master was loaning it to them and they had to be cagey to keep the steward of the order from finding out.
Later, the party learned that the order was founded to deal with the threat of beings from other planes of existence. If you are wearing Ethereal Armor while using the sword, you can attack creatures in the prime material plane from the border ethereal.
The sword has some other powers. Each time I reveal something about the sword, the players learn something about the world.
- In the distant past there was a hero named Osmund
- There are other planes of existence
- Demons and monsters from other planes of existence used to be a problem
- “Might they become a problem again?”
- Osmund fought those monsters and he was good at it
- The knights used to have Ethereal Armor
- “Where can I get me some of that Ethereal Armor?”
- “Did Osmund have that armor?”
- “What would happen if I combined Osmund’s Armor with Osmund’s Sword?”
- How come the lore master can give me this sword without the steward knowing it?
- Do they have any more magic swords laying around that no body will miss?
With just a few details like these. you can create unique magic items that tell the players the history of your campaign setting without sending out a long file for them to read. It is revealed as time goes on and provides hooks and clues in future adventures.