Dungeons & Dragons Online

Working Wise or Wizardly Working: how magic items affect the world

Magic items. Objects imbued with magic in order to make them better, or even gain a completely different function. But apparently the only places they exist are in monster hoards and adventurers' backpacks.

Realistically however, everyone wants things that are better at what they do. And eventually, people get what they want.

Today i will go over some objects that are useful outside of the context of adventuring, as well as how they might change the world around them. I will not mention artifacts, since those are one-of-a-kind objects with pre-established locations, usage, etc.

While the topic has always existed, Tasha's Cauldron has added a few interesting toys to our proverbial tool box, which makes this as good a time as any to take a look and

Much like in the Spells and Society post, the rarer an item the more amazingly powerful it must be to be worthy of mention. Actually i recommend reading that post before this one. Since a lot of magic items just allow you to cast spells for free, knowing which spells alter the world gives a good idea of which items can do the same.


Uncommon

+1 tools.

That's right, +1 tools. Not +1 weapons.

Consider a guard. How much of his time is actually spent fighting? A minute every other day? That's not getting a lot of use out of his sword. Even a soldier spends weeks marching, or months guarding a fort, and then only fights for a few minutes or hours. Even if a guard has a superb weapon that doubles his combat effectiveness, it only makes him 1% or 2% better at being a guard<1>. Given a choice of uncommon item, any guard and most soldiers would rather have a Weapon of Warning to prevent being backstabbed, ambushed or caught off-guard.

Now consider a lumberjack or miner. They spend several hours a day hitting trees and rocks. An enchanted axe, saw or pickaxe would see continuous use in their hands. Not only that, magic items are also described as being "at least as durable as a nonmagical item of its kind. Most magic items, other than potions and scrolls, have resistance to all damage". This means the +1 pickaxe would be far, far more resilient to wear and tear than a mundane one, potentially being passed down for generations. And with your miners and lumberjacks being more efficient, you need less of them. Which in turn means you get to have more guards.

Another noteworthy thing here is adamantine items. They deal automatic critical damage to objects and are much harder to destroy. In other words, they're great at chopping trees and ores, bending hot metal, cutting cloth, plowing a field, etc. All while having a fraction of the wear and tear.

Bags of Holding, Handy Haversacks and Portable Holes.

AKA your transporty boyes.

The bag of holding is an old favorite among players, and the reason is obvious: it has a million uses.

Most adventurers use it for carrying all their junk. The bad guys in the original Baldurs Gate game used bags of holding to smuggle whole shipments to and from their iron mine base with just one guy. One of my players once put a huge boulder in it, then flew up and dropped the boulder on an enemy transport ship. And let us not forget the classic Arrowhead of Total Destruction.

All of these are perfectly valid uses. Smuggling a small object is easier than smuggling a large object. Dropping huge objects from a high place turns anything that flies into a siege weapon. And the Arrowhead, while expensive, can deal with very large threats that could level a city.

But honestly, every merchant is a smuggler at heart. After all, as long as brigands roam the roads, there will always be a need to hide your valuables in an extraplanar space small enough to fit any orifice. Not only that, the bag allows you to dump a cart entirely and just ride to your destination much faster (and therefore, more safely).

Of course not every merchant can afford a bag of holding, so this brings about an interesting topic of inequality in your campaign. Some merchants can go from A to B faster and more safely on a horse, while the majority must go with a bull-drawn cart that is slow and vulnerable. And bags of holding don't even require attunement, so once you have one and your income soars you can get another, and another… Its a serious rich-get-richer situation, and you risk running all the mundane merchants out of business.

Broom of Flying.

I'm gonna start this one with saying that brooms of flying and carpets of flying are overpowered. They are consistently better than items of similar rarity that provide the same benefit, like boots and wings of flying. The reason here is, in my humble opinion, the same reason why Fireball deals more damage than any 3rd level spell and most 5th level ones: its iconic.

As for the item itself, its pretty much a permanent flying speed of 50 while carrying up to 200lbs, or 30ft. speed while carrying 201-400lbs. Its a deliveryboy's dream… except not.

You see, the broom of flying isn't just a hoverbike, its also a drone. You say the command word, and it flies up to a mile a way. Say it again, it comes back. In other words, the crazy wizard in his tower can just tie some money and a note on the broom and send it to a shop, then call it back once the shopkeeper has tied the groceries to it. Poor delivery boy just lost his job.

But wait, there's more! If the broom can fly on its own, can it plow a field? Can it spin an "animal" traction mill? The answer is: yes. But there's no reason to use magic where a common animal would do, unless its a crazy high magic setting or something.

Decanter of Endless Water

I think anyone can see how infinite water is broken as fuck<2>. But that's not all. By speaking the command word and pulling the lid, you can cause 30 gallons (136.4 litres) of water to pour out with enough force to push a 200 pound object 15 feet. This action can be repeated every turn (6 seconds), since a decanter of endless water has no limit on how often it can be used.

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So a decanter is not just infinite water, but also infinite energy provided you have enough technology to build a mill. Even more energy if you activate the decanter in a high place and use gravity to give those 30 gallons even more potential.

Do keep in mind however that in 5e there must be someone using their action to activate it every turn. In previous editions however one could leave the decanter open and it would pour water constantly.

Hat of Disguise

This wee cap is not game-breaking for its great usefulness, but rather for its ability to fuck the world up. Any charlatan with a Hat of Disguise can walk into a bank, guild, ship, etc. and pretend to be anyone. Sure it doesn't happen often, but when it happens the crime spree is enormous. And while there are ways to work around disguised criminals, the fact people have to work around it is an issue in and of itself.

Societies based on trust pretty much can't function. Does everyone sign everything? Do people start using IDs? Do organizations start using items or employing animals that can see through illusions? Is there an industry for door frames that detect illusions?

Even without the hat, Disguise Self is still a 1st level spell. Yet somehow the sourcebooks have no mention of how the world might adapt to the idea that you can't trust people to be who they seem to be. And if anyone with access to 1st-level spells can walk up to the king without difficulties, you wont have kings for long.

Ring of Mind Shielding

A great item, if you're an asshole. Keeps people from sensing your evil alignment, keeps them from reading your evil thoughts, keeps pesky zones of truth from sensing your lies, and it even makes itself invisible so nobody can notice you're wearing the "i am evil" ring. It even keeps your immortal soul from going into eternal damnation!

One thing i always think of soul-trapping items is that they're a good way for evil people to avoid the afterlife. If you're good, you want to go to Celestia, Elysium, Arborea or Ysgard. Yet if you're evil, being stuck in a ring and talking to its wearer might be better than Baator, Carceri or the Abyss.

Sending Stones

Another classic, unfortunately the stones were nerfed and now can only Send to each other once a day.

Still, long range communication is nothing to scoff at. And while hiring someone to Send for you is cheaper, the stones provide more privacy and can be sent to far off corners of the world where you can't afford to station a caster full time.

Expect each mayor or baron to have one of these, while someone in the capital answers their "calls". Something of a royal secretary if you will. While magic items are expensive, shaving days off of your disaster response time can be the difference between having a kingdom and having ruins.


Rare

Bag of Beans

An often overlooked item, the BoB is crazy powerful. It has 3d4 beans, each of which can trigger a random effect. Notably they have a 10% chance of creating a random potion that lasts 30 days, a 10% chance of creating 1d4+3 eggs that can permanently raise an attribute by 1<3>, a 9% chance of spawning a full on pyramid with a mummy lord and appropriate loot<4>, and a 1% chance of leading anywhere.

Why bother with tomes when you can get twice as many stats from a bag of beans?

Helm of Teleportation.

1d3 castings of Teleport every day, plain and simple. That means 9 people can travel about 14 times in a week<5>.

That's a lot of potential trading to be had for sure, but why stop there?

Say your kingdom spent tons of time and money training and equipping an elite unit. You wouldn't want them to spend 80% of their time on the road and 20% solving issues right? One rare item can make your 9-men unit five times more efficient.

Adventurers are in much the same boat: small group, lots of capital invested into their gear and training, yet they somehow spend most of their time going back and forth between adventures (until level 9 if they have a bard, sorcerer or wizard in the party, past 9 if they don't). It honestly amazes me that the Helm of Teleportation is not listed more often as a must-have party item.

Manuals/Tomes

For those unaware: there are 3 manuals and 3 tomes in the game, each increases an attribute by 2 when used and then loses its magic for 100 years.

The #1 item on any adventurer's to-get list, the existence of the tomes raises far more questions than answers. Who makes these? Why are they not mass produced? Can i get a magically accelerated demiplane, throw the books in and recharge them in a fraction of the time? Why do people not abuse the f*** out of them?

And when i mean abuse, i mean make smart use of them. Say a kingdom has, over the course of generations, acquired 5 or so tomes. Then the ruler reads them and becomes super smart/wise/popular. That sounds like the sort of thing that would make the whole realm prosper. Do it on an elven/dwarven kingdom and the ruler can read his tomes multiple times, granting him a godlike mind.

And that's without considering the idea of immortals. Or even high level druids. Any lich or vampire could become insanely powerful, not only from being able to use each tome a dozen times, but also from having eons to look for more or even craft them<6>.

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One thing i really like about tomes is watching the party decide what to do with them after spending the magic. Do they auction the books? Trade with some elf for favors? Give it to a friendly vampire?


Very rare

Candle of Invocation

For 4 hours clerics and druid of the proper alignment within 30ft can cast 1st level spells without using spell slots. In other words, crazy amounts of healing. Pop one after a battle and in a few minutes your whole army will be ready for more. Or pop it during a battle, and have the Healing Word the crap out of your troops from a safe-ish distance.

Carpet of flying, Peregrine Mask

Carpets of flying function much like brooms of flying, except they are faster or carry more weight (depending on size). They would be a strict upgrade, except they lack the drone function the broom has.

A peregrine mask provides a flying speed of 60, but has no carrying capacity. That means if you have a Powerful Build or a similar feature it can actually carry more than the carpets.

Cauldron of Rebirth

If there's one thing Tasha's Cauldron has brought us, its this cauldron.

It has some minor uses for scrying making potions, but here's the deal breaker: you put a corpse in the cauldron, fill it with 10gp worth of salt (200lbs.) and it casts Raise Dead on the creature.

Resurrection normally costs 500gp. worth of diamonds. With the cauldron it costs 10gp worth of salt. Sure there's a one week cooldown, but who cares? I see two scenarios here: either a resurrection every week is more than the local demand, or less than the local demand.

If its more than the demand, that means everyone who dies of unnatural causes and has 10gp to spare gets resurrected.

If its less than the demand, that means you're raising one person every 7 days. Depending on how high the demand is you could be making as much as 500gp a week, or 26k a year. Considering that the DMG says a Very Rare magic item costs 10.000-50.000 gold, the cauldron can pay for itself in under two years. Even if the math is way off for some reason, it is still crazy strong.

Honestly, this should be an artifact. Or at least have some heavy downside. The idea that someone over at Wizards of the Coast read this and said "Ah yes, 10gp resurrection, perfectly fine" simply boggles the mind.

Crystalline Chronicle

Speaking of items that make things cheap, 1d3 times a day this spellbook allows you to cast a wizard spell without material components of up to 100gp.

That means two spells on average, so let's take a look at a few good options: Continual Flame<7>, Magic Circle (exactly 100!), Stoneskin (100!), Teleportation Circle and Astral Projection.

The ones that stand out here are Continual Flame and Teleportation Circle. Both cost 50 and have a huge demand in the world. Where a permanent TP circle would normally consume 18.250gp worth of materials over a year, it will now cost nothing<8>.


Legendary

Staff of the Magi

This is, i think, the most powerful item in the game.

Has a bunch of charges, yadda yadda, here's the important part:

  1. When someone else casts a spell on you, you can use a reaction to absorb the spell. The staff then gains charges equal to the level of the spell it just ate.

  2. It can cast Plane Shift for 7 charges.

This means on an average day you get 16 charges, or two Plane Shifts, from the natural charge generation. But what if you could have someone cast spells on you without spending spell slots?

There are several monsters who can cast spells at will, too many to list. But there are also a few ways for players to do it. The first that comes to mind is the level 18 Wizard feature Spell Mastery, allowing any 2nd level spell. There's also the level 15 invocation Shroud of Shadow that allows infinite casts of Invisibility. Either case allows a duo to have infinite Plane Shifts a day, which is really powerful.

As usual, trade comes to mind. But with infinite charges you might as well start a tourism agency or a hotel and/or casino that brings in people from all planes. Yet what few people realize is that Plane Shift can be used offensively in order to permanently banish anyone to any plane. Infinite save-or-die effects.

You could also just settle for a fuckton of Shifts instead of infinite, and use a warlock or four-elements monk to convert their short rest resources into charges for the staff.

Now think of the possibilities and plot hooks. Mad king banishing dissidents, Red Queen style. Alternative death sentence. A high level wizard/warlock stranded somewhere because the guy who was attuned to the staff died or got separated from him. Random archdemon bringing an army to the Material Plane a couple demons a minute.


Notable mentions

These are items i left out, but which i will get yelled at in the comments if i "forget" about them.

Anything that creates energy

The truth is that a lot of magic items can do that. Fire for heating things, wind or water for pushing things, etc. For an energy source to be noteworthy it has to provide a considerable amount of continuous energy, without charges or daily limitations. Otherwise you might as well just use a regular water mill or a bull.

Alchemy Jug (uncommon)

It creates an amount of a liquid (beer, honey, etc) every day. It does nothing that cannot be done by an amount of workers, and for it to be world-altering we'd have to go into a lengthy math argument of how many labor hours of a bee farmer are needed to make a gallon of honey, and how that compares to the initial investment of hiring a wizard to make the item.

As a general rule, if something can be done mundanely it will be done mundanely. Let the casters focus on stuff where they have an infinite comparative advantage, like flying stuff, teleportation, resurrection, etc.

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Cap of Water Breathing (uncommon)

It allows you to breathe underwater indefinitely. Can be great if you have important stuff to do underwater, and might enable interaction with sentient water folk. But in and of itself, not a world-altering item.

Horseshoes of Speed (rare)

Essentially +30 speed for hooved creatures, without requiring attunement. Honestly this item does not really fit this list, but i just thought the idea of pegasi flying real fast with these was worth mentioning. Sure a helm of teleportation outclasses it entirely for travel, but that's not useful in combat.

And i really want to play a centaur monk with these some day. Unfortunately the item description specifically says you have to have four equipped to benefit, so don't even think about it you satyrs and tieflings out there.

Lyre of Building (rare)

At a glance this looks like a regular magic items, with nothing too weird about it. Until you look at its spell selection and notice you can cast them as an action.

Mending normally takes a minute to cast, with the lyre its an action, and you can do it at will even without knowing the spell.

Fabricate takes ten minutes to cast, with the lyre its an action. That means once a day you can turn the ground under an enemy into a spiky cage, his sword into sword parts, etc. Until the lyre came about the only way to instantly cast fabricate was with a Wish, and that is a pretty good combat use of the 9th level spell.


Conclusion

To be quite frank, a lot of these item uses are a little niche and wont work in every setting. Then again, that that is never the goal with these posts. I hope i have provided you with at least a few interesting plot hooks and other crazy ideas, whether to amaze your players or ruin your DM's plans.


Notes

<1> There is a notable exception however. If your kingdom has a group dedicated to fighting monsters, some of which are resistant to nonmagic damage, then those guys should be prioritized. Not only does the +1 weapon double their damage output in this scenario, it also prevents your kingdom from losing special soldiers that are very expensive to train and replace.

<2> Stuff like constant abuse of Decanters of Endless Water are why in my setting there is a doomsayer cult that believes the world will be flooded some day. As they say it, every time someone activates a decanter, magically creates water, creates food and water, opens a portal to the Plane of Water, etc; the amount of water in the world rises just a bit. Given enough time, everything will be flooded by it. Unless someone like, puts a Sphere of Annihilation by the shore or something. But nobody said the cult has to be right.

<3> The bag has 3d4 beans. Each bean has a 10% chance of spawning 1d4+3 eggs. That means 7.5*0.1*5.5 = 4.125 raised stats, on average. Sure I'm assuming you'll pass the DC20 save every time, but with proper preparation its quite doable. Be near a paladin, get bardicly inspired, have someone cast Resistance, find ways to reroll a failed save, etc. Since the eggs last forever, you have all the time in the world to stack the saving throw in your favor. Or just use Portents.

<4> The mummy lord could have anything, even another bag of beans!

<5> Someone will say "but what about the chance of going off target? What if nobody has teleportation circles?" To that person i say: associated object. Get a pebble every time you're in a region, and you wont need a circle. Buy a bit of silk and you can teleport to any place along the silk road. Buy a used horseshoe and you can go all over the country. Now I'm just imagining this badass-looking special-ops soldier, clad in the finest plate, wielding a blazing blade, his cloak cackling thunder… and with a rusty-ass horseshoe tied to his helmet.

<6> And thus is born the legend of Swolomon the Buff. He was once a base vampire, who got stuck in a tomb for 4000 years with nothing but a Manual of Bodily Health and a Manual of Gainly Exercise. Now he's… selling supplements or something.

<7> See On Spells and Society linked at the top for why there's a near infinite demand for Continual Flame.

<8> You can even make two circles at a time, but there's some math about it. You have 3 charges, use 2, so you should always be with one to spare. Until you roll a 1 on the d3, and then its gone. After that whenever you roll a 1 without first rolling a 3 you'll have to pay the 50gp or let the circle go to waste. In other words, you'd be paying roughly 1/6 of the regular cost.

Source: reddit.com

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