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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide - Magic Items

I am going through the 5th edition DMG slowly and carefully, doing my best to highlight the most interesting parts to give you a good idea of what's in the book and what 5th edition is like. The section on magic items is so gigantic that I've decided to give it an entire post.

You can buy the Dungeon Masters Guide here:

Dungeon Master's Guide (D&D Core Rulebook)

If you missed the first two parts, they are here:

Part 1: Play Style, Creating a World, The Planes
Part 2: Adventures, Encounters, NPCs

The first thing to note, and this really cool, they have art of almost every single magic item in the game. It is pretty amazing. I imagine this was inspired by Pathfinder and their item decks. I think it is a great idea for wizards to eventually put out cards with an item's picture on one side and what it does on the back. I already give my players index cards with what their item does, so this will just save me time and will make my game cooler.

This chapter kicks off with a full page piece of art featuring a dragon and a wizard on a flying carpet. I think it is a William O'Connor. Pretty cool!

We get into charts of gemstones and art objects. Then there's a discussion on magic item rarity and how much they are worth. There's a handy chart for that, too.

Identifying Magic Items

Identifying a magic item is always a tricky thing in D&D. It's nice to let PCs fiddle with an item and try to figure out if it is magic, but that wastes a lot of precious table time and sometimes the players get frustrated when they spend so much time testing a bunch of mundane items. On the other hand, it doesn't make much sense for a hero to touch an item and immediately know that it can store spells.

This is probably my favorite. I love the eyes
The DMG has a simple way to work around this (aside from the identify spell). A PC can take a short rest and focus on an item, and at the end of the rest they will know what it does. Potions are an exception to this - they have their own delightful tasting rules.


Most of the more powerful items require "attunement". Attunement means that you take a short rest and bond with the item. Once attuned, you can use the item's magic properties. You can only be attuned to three items at a time. This is an interesting way to prevent PCs from being overloaded with powerful magic items. Not sure if it will work. I guess we'll see as time goes on.

There's pages of tables to create a magic item's backstory. There are also piles of tables to roll on to see what magic items, if any, your PCs have found in a treasure hoard. When I was a kid I used to love to sit around and roll on the charts in the 2nd edition DMG. After that comes the list of magic items..

When I first saw the above image, I thought it was a photo. There's a pile of fun little details in there.

I am going to go through and detail a bunch of magic items in the book, to give you an idea of how magic items work in 5e. There's some interesting things that they've done to try to keep the items from becoming too powerful, mainly by using the "X charges per day" gimmick.

A chart of all the items listed by rarity can be found here.

Amulet of the Planes: Pick a plane, make a DC 15 INT check. Success means you plane-shifted there. Fail means you and everyone within 15 feet travel to a random destination or plane. Yikes.

Bag of Beans: I always loved this item in AD&D 2nd edition. You can plant them in the ground and then roll on a chart to see what happens. A bean might spawn a treant (!), or a statue in your likeness that badmouths you to everyone nearby, or a fruit tree whose fruit mimics the effect of a magic potion. How awesome is that?

Cloak of Displacement: I love the art of this, as it makes it clear that the cloak is made from the hide of a displacer beast. This cloak is pretty epic - creatures have disadvantage to hit you due to the displacement effect. If you are hit, the effect ceases to function until the start of your next turn.

Deck of Many Things: I've talked a lot about this item before. If you look at the art, you will see that wizards is using the same art as they did for the 4th edition version of the deck. Now is a great time for you to track down the Madness at Gardmore Abbey boxed set. In it is an actual deck of many things. You'll also get some awesome poster maps and counters, as well as a well-regarded 4th edition adventure. I am seeing one on ebay for $17.50, which in my opinion is a great deal for the deck and the poster maps alone.

Efreeti Bottle: You open this and summon a fire genie. You roll on a chart. Most of the time, the genie will serve you for an hour, then you have to wait 24 hours to use the bottle again. There's a 10% chance the genie will attack you, and a 10% chance the genie will grant you three wishes (!). You might want to use the genie wish rules from Al Qadim, which I talked about here.

Flame Tongue: Who doesn't like a fire sword?! It does an extra 2d6 damage and sheds light in a 40 foot radius.

Gauntlets of Ogre Power: Bumps your Strength up to 19.

Helm of Teleportation: It has 3 charges. You can use a charge to teleport as per the spell. 1d3 expended charges come back at dawn. I like the way they are handling charges in this edition. The old way of having a set amount of charges and then either questing to find a way to re-charge it never really worked out (did anyone ever make an adventure about going to a place to re-charge an item? They should have if they didn't).

Immovable Rod: It has a button on it. Press it, and the rod just stays where it is, even if in mid-air. It can hold up to 8,000 pounds in weight. Press the button again to make it movable. A clever player can do all sorts of fun things with this.

Manual of Bodily Health: Bumps your constitution by 2 once you've spent 48 hours reading it.

Nine Lives Stealer: This sword is a +2 weapon and has d8+1 charges. If you get a critical hit on a creature with less than 100 hit points, they must make a constitution save or be slain instantly " the sword tears its life force from its body". It loses 1 charge when this happens. Get a load of this: "When the sword has no charges remaining, it loses this property". Use it sparingly!

Oil of Slipperiness: It's black and sticky and when you cover yourself in it, it's like the freedom of movement spell has been cast on you. If you dump it on the ground, it's like a grease spell.

Potion of Speed: You gain the effects of the haste spell for one minute. Haste was a huge problem spell in earlier editions. Let's see what 5e haste does: Doubles your speed, +2 to AC, advantage on Dex saves and gives you an additional action on your turns! Wow. That action can "only" be used to attack, dash, disengage or hide. This is a pretty great potion.

Ring of Regeneration: You gain d6 hit points every 10 minutes if you have at least one hit point. If you lose a body part, it regrows in d6+1 days. That is interesting. Older versions of the ring had you regain a hit point every round.

Sphere of Annihilation: This is a 2-foot-diamter hole in the multiverse! It obliterates all matter it comes in contact with except for artifacts. It does 4d10 damage to anything that touches it. You can try to control it with a DC 25 Intelligence (Arcana) check. There's rules for when two people try to fight for control of it, and an awesome chart of effects for when the sphere comes in contact with a planar portal.

Talisman of the Sphere: This thing gives you a bonus to control a sphere of annihilation and lets you move it farther per round. I love the art of this one, as it refers to one of the most iconic D&D adventures.

Vorpal Sword: This is a +3 weapon that, when you roll a natural 20, beheads the target. If it's a hydra or something and wouldn't die from this, it takes an extra 6d8 damage. Not sure how I feel about the art of this one. The blade is red and black. It's cool, I guess.

Wand of Fireballs: It's got 7 charges (d6+1 expended charges come back each day)  and each charge can be used to cast a fireball spell. If you spend additional charges, you can bump the spell slot up by one. So if you spend 6 charges, you can cast a fireball that does 14d6! I think if I was a player, that would be my gimmick. I'd do one ridiculously massive fireball every day. If you use all 7 charges, you have to roll a d20. If you roll a 1, the wand crumbles into ashes.


The book has stats for many iconic artifacts, including the Wand of Orcus, The Hand and Eye of Vecna, and all three White Plume Mountain artifacts (Blackrazor, Wave and Whelm). There are charts to make your own artifact. I decided to go ahead and make one using the charts.

As I rolled its' properties, it became clear that this ring was tied to fey concepts. You can roll both good properties and bad properties, minor and major. I rolled a bunch of good ones, and the 2 bad ones - one minor and one major. They ended up having a "madness" theme. I used lore from the great 4e "Heroes of the Feywild" sourcebook to add backstory and flavor. Here is the artifact:

The Shinaelestra Ring

This ring was worn by Calenon Thay, the ranger lord of the Feywild city of Shinaelestra, passed down from generation to generation. The city was claimed by the wilderness. The ring whispers that the wearer must reclaim the city, promising great rewards. The fey rangers of Shinaelestra hunt for the ring and want it back. Shinaelestra periodically appears in the mortal realm at midnight, and a band of hunters scour the lands searching for it.

They want the ring to battle their enemy Queen Connomae, a fomorian who lives in the Feydark beneath the city.
The ring was made to aid in the killing of giants. The spirits of past wearers has seeped into the ring to create a semi-mad consciousness obsessed with killing all giants.
  • The ring is made of mithril and silver, and glows in moonlight
  • The ring glows when a giant is within 120 feet
  • The ring grumbles and mutters in Elven, sometimes offering useful information
  • The wearer gains +2 to constitution when wearing the ring
  • The wearer of the ring can't be charmed or frightened
  • As an action, the wearer can cast the True Strike cantrip. For one round after, the wearer can speak and understand Elven and will mutter in elven as the ring floods the wearer with memories of the glory days of Shinaelestra.
  • The wearer can cast stoneskin once per day. For the duration of the spell, the wearer sees those with evil alignments as giants and feels the urge to destroy them. 
  • Creatures can't take long or short rests within 100 feet of the wearer, because as the wearer rests the area slowly becomes overgrown with fey vines and foliage.
It seems a little weak for an artifact, but that is what I rolled. I'd probably add regeneration, or +3d6 damage to giants, or maybe give giants disadvantage to hit the wearer. Or maybe give the wearer the ability to become giant-sized. something like that.

Other Rewards

At the end of the chapter there are alternate rewards, stuff like land, titles, charms and my favorite, blessings. Blessings are when a deity rewards a PC by enchanting their item, or enhancing a stat, etc. Very cool.

The last page lists "epic boons", special powers only available to level 20 PCs who have accomplished a great deed. The boons grant all sorts of crazy abilities, including the innate power to plane shift to a specific plane of your choosing, adding 40 hit points to your maximum, or even immortality - you stop aging.

We're almost done! Nest up is the final part, which covers what is my favorite part of the book. Click here to check it out.

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