I’ll admit it. I love magic items. I’m having a bit of trouble adapting to the 5th edition’s new lean and mean magic item ratio. I get the rationale for avoiding the item bloat of 3rd edition, and I can see the appeal of focusing on a few, more powerful items over a whole plethora of almost required min/max trinkets.
I realize now that what I really miss are the more practical, even utilitarian items that made the whole game world, well, more magical. Sure, as a player, I’d love a Staff of the Magi for my wizard, but the item I just absolutely had to have was a Heward’s Handy Haversack. I mean, how cool was that item? You could just reach in and pull out any item you’d put into it without having to search around. The tactical possibilities were endless. Things like Feather Tokens and Immovable Rods were also personal favorites. Give me a Decanter of Endless Water over that +2 shortsword any day of the week. They didn’t break the game, they just provided opportunities for creative play.
As a GM, I’ve started throwing a few more of these types of items into my own game for the players to find, often replacing the more powerful magic items I would have thrown into the loot pile in a previous edition. The players get their limbic reward, but I don’t feel like I’m breaking the game. So far, it seems to be working. They still feel like they are getting the cool loot they so richly deserve, while I don’t feel like I’m running a table of power-gamers. (Well, admittedly, one fellow has managed to get to a 23 AC, but that’s a different story and was achieved with just two fairly minor items at that.)
My point is that magic items don’t break the game; magic items with direct game mechanic functions do. It’s not the items; it’s the plusses they give. So if you just give out items that don’t add bonuses, everybody wins. That’s my theory at least.
However, now I’m running out of items like that in the DMG that my table of players–many of whom cut their teeth on AD&D decades ago–haven’t encountered before in one edition or another. So I’m coming up with my own minor and essentially utilitarian items to reward them with, and I thought I’d share a few of them here. All of these items will have little or no combat utility and very few should require attunement. I’ve created a few of these practical magic items, so I’ll be posting one or two every few weeks as I sort them out and play test them a bit. I may also throw in a few spells I’ve created that function on the same principle, allowing casters to do cool noncombat things. Most of these are ritual spells, which are a great and underutilized feature of this edition as well.
Without further ado, here are the first fruits of my attempts to create some utilitarian magic. I hope you enjoy them.
Note: All of the magical items described below are designated as Open Game Content. This designation covers statistics and textual item descriptions, but not any accompanying images. (Click here for license.)
Sentry Stakes (rarish, no attunement required)
This set of five stakes, each about two and a half feet in length and a bit less than three inches in diameter, are intricately carved in clear totemic patterns that represent five different animals: an owl, a cat, a hawk, a deer and a dog. When each of the stakes are planted in the ground within a hundred feet of each other and the dog stake is told to “guard,” the sentry stakes begin to survey the area around them for intruders.
Each stake surveys an area of 60 feet in all directions. They each have a passive perception of 18 and benefit from darkvision out to 60 feet. It is possible to sneak past them, but if two stakes overlay an area they are considered to have advantage on their perception checks for that area.
The stakes consider anyone or anything they notice that was not already within their perceptions at the time of activation to be an intruder and relay a silent warning to the dog stake which lets out a low howl followed by a growling statement of which stake alerted it. For instance, if the owl stake detected an intruder, the dog stake would let out a low howl and then growl “owl.” The sound of the dog stake’s alarm caries about 60 feet and is plainly audible to anyone in that area.
Mostly these stakes are used to ward a campsite by placing the owl, cat, hawk and deer stakes at the corners of the perimeter and leaving the dog stake at the center to sound the alarm. However, other configurations are possible as long as all the stakes are within 100 feet of each other at the time of activation. None of the stakes will activate if they are not all within 100 feet at the time of activation. The stakes can be turned off by touching the dog stake and speaking the word “rest,” allowing the stakes to be reset.
Somnabuala’s Sack of Serene Slumber (very rare, does not require attunement)
This sleeping bag has an outer covering of rugged but supple leather, but the inside is lined with smooth blue silk stitched with designs of leaping sheep and stuffed with the softest down. No matter how hard the surface is upon which the bag is placed, any occupant lying within the bag will feel as though he or she is resting on the most comfortable of feather beds. Furthermore, the bag is always comfortably warm as long as the outside temperature lies within the range of -30 degrees to 130 degrees (or normal, nonmagical cold or heat if you don’t want to get technical).
These features alone would make the bag a welcome addition to any adventurer’s kit, but it provides two other notable benefits. First, it allows its user to sleep comfortably in any form of medium or lighter armor. To rest in heavy armor, the sleeper must make a DC 15 Constitution check. If this check is failed, the sleeper rests, but gains only the benefit of a short rest instead of a long rest. The sack also allows the sleeper to gain the full benefits of a long rest after only 7 hours instead of the regular 8 hours.