Last week, I spoke about making treasure interesting again. I mentioned crafting custom tailored magical items for your players to make finding said magical items more interesting. This week, I’d like to go into a little more detail with regards to those magical items and offer a few examples of such fantastic pieces of loot.
I’m going to be looking at three examples here and give you my reasoning as to why these would make for engaging magical weapons, what could perhaps be improved for them and giving some tips and tricks on making your own.
So, example one: the situational weapon. I’m currently running a Magic the Gathering inspired campaign on the plane of Zendikar. It’s great fun and really shows off how well D&D 5e can work for a much more fast paced campaign. My players are playing a group of treasure hunters, scouring ancient temples and ruins for valuable pieces. And because it’s a D&D game, of course they’ll fight monsters on the way and find treasures. Before I get to talking about the weapon itself, you should know a little about the party composition. The party consists of a Ranger, a Barbarian, A wizard and a Sorcerer. Most of the party prefers not to get stuck in fights even though the ranger’s actually pretty deadly in melee.
So they found the following weapon:
Sword, Two-handed, Heavy, Magical, Requires Atunement
Ability: The character wielding this weapon gains the Pack Tactics special feature.
Ability: Beginning at 5th level, this weapon’s wielder gains a +2 bonus to damage for each ally in reach of the creature they’re attacking.
As far as weapons go, it’s fairly unremarkable, however, it accomplishes a few very important things.
One, it’s a magical weapon, which is a big deal since barbarians usually aren’t all that well suited to dealing with things that are resistant to their preferred method of murder.
Two, it provides a damage increase compared to most other mundane weapons, which makes the players likely to wield it and keep it. Sure, it’s a static bonus which is pretty boring, but in this case, the static bonus isn’t the main meat of the weapon.
Three, and this is where the main meat of the weapon sits, it provides the wielder with pack tactics and another damage bonus at later levels. Note that both these bonuses are situational and often require the rest of the party to take some measure of risk to achieve. With this weapon, the Barbarian can unleash some truly horrific damage… If his party members are willing to get close to the thing that requires such damage.
In a different campaign, the party is delving deep into a dungeon, fighting demonic servants, undead elves and ancient golems. Here, they may find the following weapon:
Dagger, One-Handed, Light, Finesse, Attunement
Ability: Once per long rest, whenever the wielder kills a living creature with this dagger, they may, as a reaction, recover a number of spell slots with a total level no higher than half that creature’s hit dice.
Ability: Once per short rest, the wielder may, as a bonus action, expend a spell slot of first level of higher to gain +xd4 bonus damage (force) for one minute where x is the level of the spell slot expended in this way. If x is 3 or higher, the weapon gains Reach for the duration.
This weapon is interesting, mostly because it’s a weapon designed for a class that, typically, doesn’t use weapons. Or, at the very least, intended for a class that doesn’t typically lug swords and spears around. This is a sorcerer or wizard weapon and will be found on one.
Through its abilities, it enables the typically frail spellcasters to engage in melee combat, and rewards them for doing so. It’s an exceptionally powerful ability that can turn the tide of an encounter or enable the party to push beyond the point where they would have exhausted their resources.
And more importantly, this weapon provides a temptation for the player character. They could get a little more extra juice and all they need to do is kill a living being. That’s not so bad is it? In that way the weapon reinforces the themes of the game, where the dungeon the PCs are in is a force of change for their characters and they may not like what they have become at the end of it.
Last, we have an item that will serve as a quest reward in a few levels for my dungeon campaign. One of the characters is a big game hunter type of ranger who’s come to the dungeon to find monstrosities to hunt. As part of their personal quest line, they’ll face ever more dangerous bests. At some point, they may end up with the following as a reward
Abilities: The wearer of this cloak gains the ability to borrow some of the abilities of the creatures they stalk and kill.
The wielder of this cloak may place it over the corpse of a monstrosity they recently killed. In doing so, the cape will absorb some of the creature’s essence, conferring one of their abilities to the wielder. This ability will be available until a new creature’s abilities are taken or the next full moon, whichever comes first
While not as immediately powerful as the previous two items, this one is incredibly versatile. Gaining a Bulette’s deadly leap ability, the Hydra’s ability to survive decapitation or a Rust monster’s ability to destroy metal objects can be tremendously powerful and serves as an awesome reward for tracking down and killing these dangerous creatures.
In addition, the item hooks into the game’s lore by referencing one of the primary dieties, thus suggesting questions and drawing the player more into the world.
So those are three items and an explanation as to why I think they’re good choices. Feel free to steal them for your game or to post your thoughts in the comments below.