I always liked the idea of intelligent magic items in D&D with special purposes. I appreciate that 3rd ed expanded the options to include things other than weapons.
I was thinking, though... what if all permanent magic items had purposes? Maybe without a purpose, a magic item couldn't sustain its magic. This wouldn't require the magic item to be intelligent - the purpose would, in general, be that of its creator.
Cloak of Elvenkind
Old-style: gives a +5 competence bonus on Hide checks.
New-Style: The cloak was created by elves to allow them to ambush orc invaders to their woods. It gives a +5 competence bonus on Hide checks against everyone but elves. In addition, Orcs have a -2 penalty to their Spot checks against you. This penalty increases to +5 in forested areas.