Epic & Amazing Magical Items

October 24, 2021

Seven Tricks To Make Magical Items Rock Your World

Player 1: "You say we Detect Magic within the chest - did the rogue check for traps? If so... we open the lid, why not?"

Dungeon Master: "It turns out you did disarm all the traps and there is a magic item inside. Well done. The chest opens up with only metallic squeaking and the groaning of old, dry wood. The hoard's treasure is yours! It gleams with all the promise to fulfill all your hopes and dreams!"

Player 2 "Fantastic! We could certainly use an upgrade after that battle. What is it?"

Dungeon Master (speaking in a dramatic voice): "1000 silver pieces and a... +1 short sword!"

Stunned silence.

Player 1: "Well, we can probably get some gold from the sword at least."

In 5th edition magic items are optional and supposed to be unpredictable. Rare. Mystical. Enchanting. This is one of the few times all the players pay attention to the DM. How do you make this work?

One: Lore, History & Epic Story.

Rather than putting your team to sleep with 743 years of history lessons, pick 3-5 most interesting points. Figure out how that impacted your magic item and describe it in the look or lay it out in brief comments from sages, bards and ancient creatures that live for centuries (elves, golems, treants, undead, sentient items and so on).

If you bring it up and the characters show interest, go with it - possibly generating an entire campaign. If not, save everyone the heartbreak and let it slide.

Two: Bells, Hoots & Whistles:

The add-on features for all magic items are usually variants of cantrips, long-lasting spells (like Magic Mouth) or a combination thereof. Pro-tip: if you want a 'permanent' spell to be tougher and harder to dispel, have it cast at a higher level, e.g. a Continual Light cast with a 9th level slot easily resists nearly all darkness).

  • Light: images that are glowing, pulsing, dancing - heat-free flames,spectral fragments and even disco lights - these are all tricks with light.
  • Tough: if a wizard spends hundreds of thousands of gold to get both patterns and construction of a Mirror of Life Trapping you would think they would also spend the extra 100 gold it costs to have the Indestructible enchantment built in.
  • Sound: Use one or more Magic Mouth spells for amazing effect. For ten gold they will whisper, chant, or sing these 25 words over ten minutes. You can buy a 10 g.p. shortsword and make it an 'angelic choir' Singing Sword for the same price. You can have a special message - if the players can dig up the long-lost trigger. Possibilities are endless. 'The joy is in the ears that hear.'
  • It Moves! Any magic item less than 10 lb. can fly itself wherever it needs to go by using a modified Mage Hand.
  • Be Inspired: take any idea that is fun yet harmless and see what your players do with it. Perhaps it floats 2" off the ground with the 500 lb. strength of a Tenser's Disk. Or a pendant with amazing scent (flowers? fresh baked cookies? after the rain?), giving advantage on persuasion. Have the item pull the owner to the nearest beer in 1000 feet range. Harmless, but adds plenty.

Three: Non-combat powers

These items can be fairly powerful but a bit like a curse as they impact the owner(s) and alert possible foes. Consider these:

  • Plenty of wind, enough to fill sails on a ship - never turns off / constant light breeze
  • Thick fog surrounds item: fills ground-up to 3' tall / 30' radius
  • Tremor sense, when touched to ground - makes loud / earthy ping-noise on activation
  • 4-8 shadowy folk forms, crawl / dance within 100', move at random / roll to mentally control one
  • A spotlight / pillar 20' radius of light beams up to the clouds, pinpointing item location for miles outdoors-nighttime
  • a large classical floating mirror-like image / 30' in front of item / allows sight around corners, periscope style
  • item summons a cloaked fog-image once a day: answers questions and delivers messages within 100 miles
  • item gushes water - use Decanter of Endless Water - liquid spews everywhere / not focused / always trickling
  • item has multiple Magic Mouth style enchants that sing amazingly well. Continuously. As a large choir.
  • owner now whispers ancient, valuable, lost lore continuously, even when asleep. Even if otherwise mute.
  • clean aura, 10' radius: all poisons & diseases at disadvantage, extra roll-save per day
  • Gorgon mist, 30' radius petrification fog, ten rounds. Power only functions for attuned / fleshy-vulnerable owners.

Four: Game-Campaign Relevance

'Your players will love this.' - before they even find it, players have heard rumours of an X-type weapon at location Y. Players were hyped and keen to go fetch this item. They go to location Y and the item is there. Weapon X is a lot like you suggested but with a few extra features and a fun curse. Pro-Tip: make any would-be curse fun as heck.

Five: Genuflection & Bragging Rights

Item recognizable by nearly anyone, even commoners, serfs and peasants. Imagine ancient armour in public is culturally similar to wearing a tux from a Charlie Chaplin movie today. People would totally tank. Now imagine that old-school tux shimmers &/or whispers in ancient languages - impressions abound.

Six: Focused-Specific Combat Powers

Making a Plus Twelve Two-Handed Thingy Of Destruction is utter ruin for any campaign: Monsters die too fast and one single player steals all the spotlight-glory. Solution? Have your item work really, really well against ONE monster... on one day. Moons match, special blood needed, must repeat lost words from that long-dead EverumKnight... whatever. It isn't ever a Deus Ex situation if the device is owned by the players and the use of it was their choice. Totally nuke that über-thing (dragon, vampire, golem, demon, whatever) with a heroic moment. Then it goes back to being a nifty-silly +1 whatever that everyone will love and remember forever.

Seven: Master Plans

See Lore, Story and Epic History, above? That's the items past. Do the future now: 3-5 points about what would-could-should happen with the item should players play along... wittingly or unwittingly. Once you know this set you can add suggestions as players go - even before they own the item. Lore is all around you!

When To Use This

Consider this for any treasure item - even consumable (potions / scrolls) or non-magical plot-devices (jewellery / art objects). Only place a few per treasure haul, lest a campaign grinds to a halt due to information overload.


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