Quest Chests helps Game Masters & Players unlock adventure and tell unforgettable stories. With first-hand experience, we put out articles every week to address topics/questions for both Game Masters and Players.
The D&D Emporium is a series dedicated to exploring magic items found in The Dungeon Master's Guide and offering advice for how a Dungeon Master can introduce them into their campaign setting. What is a Trident of Fish Command? This trident is not the typical three-pronged polearm; sharp drill-shaped seashells adorn its points, seafoam-colored jewels set into coral-encrusted tines. Exotic fish fins decorate the weapon’s shaft. The appearance of this item makes its mythological connection to the sea even stronger. In addition to functioning as a normal trident (1d6 piercing damage, versatile, can be thrown), a Trident of Fish Command can also cast dominate beast on any creature with a swimming speed. The item has three charges and regains 1d3 charges per day, making it a useful reusable item in a maritime campaign. How Much Does It Cost? An uncommon wondrous item, the market value of a Trident of Fish Command ranges from 100 to 500 GP. If there are no magic item vendors in your world, players can craft them as a downtime activity for 500 GP in materials. What Does It Do? It does exactly what it says it does: commands fish, allowing for a very broad definition of fish. If a creature has an innate swimming speed (that is, it’s not a creature polymorphed into a manatee or something), it can be affected by the item. The dominate beast spell creates a telepathic link between the caster and the monster, allowing the caster to issue simple commands to the monster. Will It Break My Game? The item’s Wisdom save DC is 15, so more powerful sea creatures such as dragon turtles should be able to avoid the item’s effects easily. Creatures with legendary actions, such as krakens, are immune to the effects of dominate monster. Furthermore, creatures the caster is hostile to have advantage on the saving throw, and the types of commands a dominated monster will follow are limited to simple actions such as “go here” or “attack that.” The item is balanced insofar as the dominate monster spell itself is balanced, and the item’s three daily charges further limits its power. Creative, mischievous players can have a lot of fun with an item like this, but its effects are nothing game-breaking. Where Can It Be Obtained? In a high-magic setting, a Trident of Fish Command might be a staple of every fishing vessel. Otherwise, you can find these in merfolk settlements, the hoards of bronze dragons or marids, or in the temples of water deities. Where and How Is It Made? The trident pictured in the DMG is adorned with seashells, coral, and exotic fish fins. If the party wishes to craft one, you may ask them to harvest coral from an enchanted reef claimed by sahuagins or sea hags, or collect seashells from a particular beach, an act which may anger the bronze dragon protecting that region. Blood, chum, worms, or crickets are used to attract fish; it would make sense that these things would be used in the crafting process of an item that controls fish. In the same vein, a fish’s lateral line detects vibrations in the water and allows it to swim in a school (or something like that. I’m not a marine biologist); wizards may have come to understand through trial and error rather than through rigorous scientific investigation that this part of the fish can be incorporated into a magic item and used to compel the actions of swimming creatures. How About a Different Way? A typical use of a Trident of Fish Command would likely involve turning enemies against each other during a combat encounter in an underwater or coastal environment. The item is particularly useful in this regard if the enemies in question have a low Wisdom score. Magic items such as this one, however, can cause the party a lot of trouble in the hands of a crafty opponent. Swarms of bats, rats, insects, and ravens can be controlled as single entities; why not a school of fish? Underwater adversaries can create environmental hazards in an underwater encounter by positioning a school of fish between themselves and the party. These fish can also be used to slow the party’s swimming speed and obstruct their vision, or even to attract sharks to the area. Pirates armed with a Trident of Fish Command could dominate a giant squid, shark, or whale, and use it to harass and distract vessels they wish to plunder. They might also use a marlin or swordfish as a weapon, aiming a living harpoon at a creature on the deck of an enemy ship. It’s not just fish that can be commanded using this item; any creature with a swimming speed may fall under its spell. That means that lizardfolk or kuo-toa archpriests can craft these to call giant crocodiles from rivers and swamps to fight at their side. Finally, an unscrupulous rogue posing as a cleric might want to use this item to trick worshippers of water deities into joining a cult. “Witness the power with which Umberlee has blessed me,” the robed rogue cries, standing knee-deep in the surf, sweeping the trident overhead. The crowd gasps in awe as a shark leaps out of the water and arcs over the robed figure before crashing back into the sea. Another group of gullible villagers falls under the rogue’s command. The Trident of Fish Command is another seemingly weak low-level magic item that has a surprising amount of versatility. How will you incorporate it into your next session?
Combat in tabletop games can take place in a wide range of challenging terrains -- mountainsides, caves, even airships where you can easily plummet to your death. However, one location that pops up more often than you might expect is underwater. While the fantasy worlds we play in vary widely, their geographical makeup is often based in large part on that of Earth’s, which means there’s a lot of water to go around. After all, 71% of the earth is covered in water, so similar Earth-like fantasy worlds are often just as blue. That means that as the Dungeon Master (we call them Quest Masters), you have to be prepared to run underwater combat. Water: A Difficult Terrain The first thing you need to keep in mind about water is that, for most races, it is difficult to move in. There are of course exceptions, everything from races to feats that allow you to move about easily in water, but for most player characters, maneuvering underwater is going to be a challenge. In fifth edition, water qualifies as difficult terrain, meaning that players can only move at half movement. This can impede how they’re able to fight, and as the QM you can play up that difficulty. Describe how unwieldy and clumsy they feel in the water, how heavy their arms start to feel as they try to power through the water toward their foes. In contrast, player characters who are able to swim easily can enjoy this time to shine! Their familiarity with the water can be a great aid to a struggling party. Take a Deep Breath Most player races can’t breathe underwater without some magical assistance. If your players don’t have a potion or spell that allows them to breathe underwater, they’re going to need to know how long they can hold their breath. Thankfully, the formula is simple. 1+CON modifier tells you how many minutes they can hold their breath. After that, their CON modifier tells you how many rounds they can survive without drowning. At the start of their turn after that last round, their hit points drop to zero, and they cannot be healed or revived until they can take a breath. Soggy Spellcasting One way that some players may try to get around that movement hinderance is by hanging back and casting spells. While that may work in some cases, many spells are going to be difficult to pull off. As you likely know, spells may require somatic (hand gestures), material (supplies), and verbal (speaking) components. While the first two can generally be handled underwater, the last one is a challenge -- one there’s been a lot of debate about in the D&D community. The general consensus seems to be that if you can’t breathe underwater, your spellcasting will at the least be very limited, mostly to one spell before you’ve used up what air you have in your lungs and possibly start drowning. If you can breathe underwater, it gets more complicated. While D&D pros like Jeremy Crawford have claimed verbal spellcasting is doable in that situation, it really comes down to what you as the QM want to do. Decide ahead of time and be consistent with your players. Also important to keep in mind in regards to spellcasting: any creature that is immersed in water is resistant to fire damage. Waterlogged Weapons Fortunately, when it comes to weapons, the underwater combat rules are laid out a lot more clearly. If you’re attempting a melee attack with anything other than a dagger, javelin, shortsword, spear, or trident, it’s going to be at disadvantage unless the character has a swimming speed. For ranged weapon attacks, nothing beyond the normal attack range will hit. Attack rolls for crossbows, nets, and weapons thrown like javelins (like darts, spears, or tridents) will be normal, but everything else will be at disadvantage. When you’re facing off against enemies who can slip effortlessly through the water and bite or strike out with a tentacle without disadvantage, these changes can drastically increase the tension of an otherwise simple encounter. Time to Dive In As the QM, all of this is very easily explained by the fact that things move differently in water. There’s a lot more resistance, not to mention currents that move in ways the characters may be unable to anticipate. While this may be frustrating to your players at times, it can also help make the game much more memorable and immersive (pun fully intended). Whether your players have taken a dive into the local coral reef or been transported to the water plane, you’re ready for them to encounter anything from a shark to a kraken with these water combat rules. Have you ever ran an underwater encounter in your game? Tell us about it below!
In a campaign I ran a few years ago, the PCs cleared out a pirate cove and claimed the pirates’ treasure horde for themselves. The greatest prize of all: the pirates’ cog, a single-mast, two-deck ship small enough to be operated by a crew of 4-6. They also found a map of the coast and some offshore islands and a wand that could create gusts of wind. There was only one problem: None of the characters knew the first thing about sailing. The ranger could keep them from getting lost, but none of the other members of the party could hoist a sail or cast an anchor or tell a mainmast from a mizzenmast to save their lives (and neither can I, to be honest). Before they could use this ship, they would either have to hire a crew, a great expense for a mid-level party, or get themselves some training. Your own party will likely find themselves in a similar situation at some point in their adventuring careers. However you come into possession of a ship, it’s important that your characters know how to use it! The Mechanics of Navigation Movement The ships listed in the Player’s Handbook move between 2.5 and 4 MPH, which means they will traverse anywhere between 60 and 96 miles in 24 hours. Bad weather or favorable winds can lengthen or shorten a voyage. Skill checks Sailing is hard work. It’s also a team effort, and a safe voyage will require successful skill checks in all six abilities. Securing sails and rigging, climbing masts, hoisting anchors, and even turning the wheel all require some amount of strength, and working long shifts in heavy wind and rain on rough seas requires a fair bit of endurance. Characters with high Strength and Constitution scores are well-suited to the more laborious aspects of ship navigation. High-dexterity characters also have a part to play. There are lots of knots to tie, and a ship at sea for any length of time will need some repairs. You want a rogue with a strong sense of balance. Intelligence and Wisdom are probably the most critical abilities when it comes to navigation. In the absence of navigator’s tools, a smart enough PC can figure out how to use a map, star chart, or compass with some accuracy (that is, if they pass a DC 15 Int or Wis check). Charisma might seem purposeless on the high seas, but someone has to whip your crew into shape! A high-charisma character, such as a paladin, warlock, or bard (if the bard isn’t busy keeping the crew entertained) is a natural fit for this position. A PC in the captain role can win and retain the loyalty of the crew, without whom all the astronomical and nautical knowledge in the world is useless. Navigator’s Tools Navigator’s tools include everything a character needs for navigating at sea. It is safe to assume that these tools include maps, star charts, a compass, an astrolabe, and a sextant. Characters with the sailor background gain proficiency in these tools. The rules do not state which type of ability check is associated with navigator’s tools, but it considering what it takes to use them, Intelligence and Wisdom are probably the abilities most likely to be called upon in the course of navigating a ship. Who Should Pilot? Most ancient and medieval sailing ships could be operated by crews as small as ten, so a D&D party who finds themselves in possession of a ship could fill half of the roles themselves. Rather than hire a navigator for 2 GP per day, a member of the party with the right skills could navigate the ship themselves. A character with the sailor background is a clear choice for navigator since proficiency in navigator’s tools is a must for this role. A knowledge cleric could also fill in in a pinch using their Knowledge of the Ages ability, which affords proficiency in any tool kit for 10 minutes per day. Ten minutes might just be enough time to read a map or use a compass and plot a course. A ranger’s Natural Explorer ability would also be useful for a different kind of navigation: reading the stars, the sun, the wind, the waves, and even the shapes of clouds, like the ancient Polynesian explorers. Rather than just a convenient excuse for fast travel, a ship holds vast potential for both mechanical and role-playing fun. Thinking about the possibilities makes me want to develop a campaign in which the PCs are the crew of a ship myself.
The structure of a monarchy can vary depending on the size of the city, ruling classes in place, and general mission, but all monarchies share a similar structure, organization, and functionality. Combining these details allows you to create an immersive and realistic monarchy for players to interact with. Size The size of a ruling class in a monarchy is one of the first things to consider when characters travel to a new land. The number of them determines how quickly information passes between nobles, how fractionated the government is, and how many tiers of nobility there are. A small monarchy may only have lords and the ruling monarch, whereas a larger monarchy may also include barons, dukes, earls, viscounts, and more. Multiple tiers of nobility introduce additional bureaucracy, further separating higher-tier nobility from the people and making them more difficult for characters to access. The larger the government is, the more likely there will be subgroups with different, possibly hidden, agendas. Factions may be ancient, consisting of allied houses which work towards the same goals, or may have arisen recently with the purpose of deposing the current monarch. This can also lead to information siloing, where factions hide information from each other, preventing the ease of access to information among the nobility. It is more likely for rumors to arise in this culture, as well. Location, Location, Location Nobles typically manage their own estates, with each house or family owning a large plot of land and having separate business interests. Additionally, some nobles live in the castle, attending to the monarch as advisors, handmaids, ambassadors, and more. While most nobles can be found at their estates, they often travel to arrange business in neighboring lands or vacation at their summer home or other noble estates. Because of this, it can be challenging to locate a specific noble at any given time. Structure The structure of a monarchy determines which nobles interact with each other and in what manner, as well as their specific roles within the monarchy. While smaller monarchies may give each noble a particular area to oversee, such as farming, trade, ambassadorial duties, etc., larger monarchies create sub-councils with various nobles each to monitor these areas. The nobles on each council are determined by a house’s previous responsibilities and station, as well as each noble’s aptitude. Different factions within the nobility may strive to eliminate rivals on certain councils and influence the decisions of others to create outcomes which are most favorable to their own interests. While each council oversees different areas of interest, they all ultimately report to the monarch, who has the final say on any decision. Depending on the monarch’s thirst for power and control, each ruler may give more or less authority to each council. Especially power hungry monarchs may create committees to provide the appearance of democracy, while secretly ignoring the councils’ suggestions and making whatever choices the monarch desires. Government The overall focus and drive of the government is determined mostly by the monarch’s personal will, as well as the history and customs of the land. The drow nobility of the Underdark often have religious fervor, seeing their sovereign as not merely a drow but a being who channels Lolth’s will and guides their race to ultimate domination. Their societies are deceptive and cutthroat, with nobility frequently assassinating each other to gain favor in the eyes of Lolth and their Monarch. The behaviors they practice are primarily reflected in their religion. However, dwarven monarchies are strong and enduring, practicing a strong ethic of honor and pride. Dwarves are steadfast in their beliefs, with a single family serving as the monarch for generations, facing no opposition from within the nobility. The dwarven nobility is stable and rock-solid. Any disagreement between houses is resolved in the open, without underhanded techniques. Role-Playing the Monarchy Nobles within the monarchy are often cutthroat, striving to gain the favor of the current monarch. The nobility that are in favor can change overnight, depending on the moods of the monarch. The same effect happens if the ruler is assassinated or abdicates the throne. Because of this, many nobles spend most of their time and energy protecting and trying to advance their position by creating several layers of backup plans to ensure they and their house will continue to survive, regardless of what changes come. The monarch is often preoccupied with ruling the country and has little time for other endeavors. Tired and overworked, they task trusted nobles and citizens with affairs of state and security. Because of this, monarchs are often betrayed by those closest to them. Knowing this, monarchs often seek the help of adventurers to investigate delicate matters or take care of secret tasks. They can provide ample resources and reward for any support the adventurers offer. In conclusion, nobles are the lifeblood that fuels a monarchy. Knowing each individual’s goals and the power structure of the government is necessary to better understand and manipulate the royal environment.
“Something Different” articles explore race and class combinations that are just a little bit off-center. Jrkglur and the others of his low caste, urged on by the whips of stronger goblins, hack frantically with stone axes at cave walls. The other Pariahs, weak and dim as they are, deserve this fate. But not Jrkglur. Jrkglur smart goblin, with wits in ears. With nimble clawed fingers, he digs a stray bat skull from the rubble, tucks it into his ragged tunic. He grins to himself. As soon as the lashers look away, he whispers to the goblin beside him: “Goblins dig for great treasure to give boss. But Jrkglur find it first.” He glances left and right, draws the worthless skull from its hiding place. “This skull of tiny demon prince. Shrunk by sorcery. Contains much booyagh,” he says, dramatically drawing out the vowels of the goblin word for “magic.” “I give to you,” he says, “if you let me go nap, and wake me when lashers come again.” Goblin with no wits agrees, and Jrkglur slips away. Jrkglur knows he’s better than Pariah. Jrkglur teach himself letters and ciphers from stolen book, speak both in both goblin-tongue and the ape-noise common speech of surface-dwellers. Jrkglur finds a small niche between two stones to crawl into and sleep. He dreams of an oozing portal, a slimy tangle of tentacles, and a voice: The ninety-nine skulls of Yhv’thgon have remained buried for nine times nine millennia. He who first disturbeth them acquireth a most momentous quest: thou shalt retrieve my ninety-nine skulls and return to me the corporeal form through which I once dominated this realm, for thou art my servant, and I shall bestow upon you the power to reclaim my grim splendor. And that is how Jrkglur became strong warlock and blasted his way out of the goblin lair and into a career of adventure. Why It’s Different Monstrous and evil PCs are already rare, and among the typically-evil monster types, goblins are a strange candidate for adventurer. At least orcs and lizardfolk are brave warriors seeking after glory. Goblins are cowardly, preferring to set traps and hide from an enemy than confront a challenge head-on. Even if a goblin is brave enough to strike out in search of adventure, goblins, according to Volo’s Guide to Monsters, aren’t often magic users. They tend to lack the intelligence, patience, or access to training required of most spellcasters. Because of their cowardly disposition and lack of ability, few warlock patrons would actively seek out a goblin. Goblin warlocks are rare among the already small group of goblin spellcasters. Goblin spellcasters are rare also because the mental attributes necessary for arcane ability—Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma—aren’t exactly the goblin’s strong suit. How It Can Work Goblins are cowardly and seek protection from stronger creatures. A fiend or Great Old One who sees potential in a lowly goblin may make them an offer they can’t refuse: "Serve me and gain unimaginable power. Take vengeance on the Lashers who beat you for not working hard enough or fast enough. Destroy the hobgoblins and bugbears who look down on you. Learn the secrets the Booyahg sorcerers jealously horde for themselves." Your goblin warlock might not have intentionally set out to become a warlock, as in the case of Jrkglur above. This could allow for some interesting role-play opportunities, your goblin warlock forced into situations they would rather run and hide from. You would develop a cunning, resourceful character who ultimately unlocks an inner strength they didn’t know they had. How to (Roll) Play It Ability Scores: Charisma, the warlock’s spellcasting stat, should be your highest. Since goblins gain a +2 to Dexterity, eschew high strength and double down on dexterity. Pact Boon: Pact of the Blade. Choose a finesse weapon (rapier, scimitar, short sword, or whip) as your pact weapon. Otherworldly Patron: A Great Old One patron offers a variety of spells and abilities that synergize with the goblin’s ability to hide or disengage as a bonus action, from telepathic communication at 1st level to phantasmal force at 2nd and telekinesis at 5th. These spells and abilities can make your goblin warlock a frustrating, mobile opponent for enemies to deal with, much like an arcane trickster. Background: The character backstory at the beginning of the article describes a goblin pariah charlatan whose scam is convincing people that worthless items are actually valuable artifacts. Outlander or urchin are good choices for pariah goblins, while acolyte or soldier may be appropriate for lasher or hunter goblins. Combat: Ultimately, your spell and weapon choices should reflect your character’s personality. Does this goblin want to show off his great power at every opportunity, throwing eldritch blasts around the battlefield and hexing enemies before cutting them down? Or does their goblin cowardice still rule despite their arcane abilities? A goblin warlock may be reluctant to wade into the thick of battle, preferring to cast sinister spells of subterfuge from the shadows. They may protect themselves with the Armor of Shadows incantation and place themselves in an advantageous position with misty step. How to (Role) Play It Goblin society is divided into four castes: Lashers at the top, Pariahs at the bottom, and Hunters and Gatherers in between. Pariahs, being the weakest and least intelligent goblins, get stuck with the dirty jobs no one else wants. What happens when a more capable goblin is born into this caste, a goblin who cannot be browbeaten into cowardice by the whips of the Lasher caste, a goblin with ambition and the ability to realize that ambition? That goblin might just strike out on their own and become an adventurer. Our sample goblin warlock PC is one such goblin. If you’re interested in a good-aligned goblin and a redemption story, a Hunter or Lasher with a conscience might make a good candidate for a goblin warlock PC. Hunters are the warrior caste of goblin society, while Lashers are the overseers, literally whipping lower-caste goblins into shape. In order to escape this cruel society, a goblin from one of these castes may strike a bargain with an archfey. The archfey patron may take a bemused, detached approach to the goblin, viewing them as a thought experiment: can a creature as evil and selfish as a goblin be redeemed? Alternately, a Hunter or Lasher may be specifically chosen by a fiend, or they may have sought out the patronage of such a being as a way to gain power and ultimately take over their clan. Whichever approach you take, the goblin warlock is an excellent source of untapped role-playing possibility. Share your ideas for this unique race/class combination in the comments!
Dungeons and Dragons is viewed by many as a pretty complicated game, and not without reason. The rule-books are hundreds of pages long, there's plenty of math involved, and lots of campaigns involve such complicated stories that the players have to take notes. In comparison, when we think "kids’ games,” we tend to think of things like Candyland and Go Fish -- not exactly difficult or heavy on the rules. The two are so disparate that it may seem impossible to cross the two and run a game of D&D for your kids. However, it is not only very possible, but I firmly believe that it's a great way to improve a lot of core skills that every kid needs… while also having fun and spending time together as a family. Essential Skills I currently run a game every other weekend for a few friends, my husband… and our seven-year-old son. He's been playing for about a year now, and I'll admit I was wary of it at first. After all, it's a complicated game! However, he'd seen us playing and expressed interest, and as a homeschooling parent, I was struggling to find ways to make simple addition more interesting. Enter skill checks. I was playing in a separate campaign when he wandered into the room and wanted to 'help.’ As a way of giving him something to do, I started having him add the numbers up for me every time I made a skill check. I expected a fight, but this kid who fought worksheets and homework set out to do my math. For fun. Happily! From there, he started reading the Monster Manual to practice his reading, and when we made his first character, he had to help read through that section of the Player's Handbook (PHB) as well -- and as any player can attest, the PHB is a good challenge for anyone’s reading comprehension, much less a six-year-olds! Long story short, he was reading and doing math without ever realizing he was working on the same thing he'd been struggling with in school just hours before. Critical Thinking Beyond the obvious reading and math skills involved in D&D, there are also a surprising amount of critical thinking skills required. Most campaigns, no matter how simple, demand some level of investigation and deduction, and you'll be shocked at how capable kids can be of sussing out what's really going on. Critical thinking isn't just about investigating either; sometimes it involves kids figuring out morals and how they apply in the game. I'm not going to lie; I absolutely expected my son to go full murder-hobo. I'm sure you can imagine my surprise when he encountered a possessed man in the game, and he refused to hit him back when attacked, choosing instead to take the damage without fighting back because "it's not his choice to be hitting me!" Putting kids' characters into situations they'd never encounter in real life encourages critical thinking on levels they aren't likely to be asked for at school, and frankly, that's a skill we all need to develop more. Running a Game for Kids Once you've decided to try a game of D&D with kids, you need to determine exactly how you're going to do it. Are you going to have your child play with a group of friends, or perhaps let them join in with an adult group you already play with? Either way, you need to know a few things going in. Kids hyper-focus. This is especially true of younger kids; they're going to find one aspect of the game that they really enjoy, and they're going to want to do it over and over again. It might be talking to every NPC they encounter, it might be stealing things, or, if it's my kid, it might be describing what his character cooks for breakfast every morning in great detail (who knew carrot soufflés were even a thing?). Anticipate this and plan to help mitigate it to help move the story along. Fluff the danger. You want the kids to feel like their characters are in mortal danger, without the possibility of actually killing their characters, unless you're familiar with the child you're playing with and know they can handle that. If that means fudging a few die rolls, so be it, because "don't kill kids" is always a good rule of thumb. Play by the rule of cool. I know how tempting it can be to rules-lawyer everything. The rules exist for a reason after all, right? While this is true, you can't expect a kid to read and remember the whole PHB. If they want to try something cool that isn't strictly allowed, consider letting it fly anyway. There will be plenty of time later for learning all the nit-picky rules. As far as everything else goes -- how hard to make the puzzles, whether to simplify the story overall, how intense to describe the fights -- only you as the dungeon master (we call them Quest Masters) can determine what will work best for your group. You know your kid well enough to guess what they can handle, and if you're running for their friends as well, you'll figure them out soon enough. As with running any D&D campaign, flexibility is the name of the game. Be prepared to adjust when things don't go to plan, and I can almost guarantee the kids will lead you somewhere an adult party never would. Have you ever run a game for kids? What was the most memorable moment from the game?
The D&D Emporium is a series dedicated to exploring magic items found in The Dungeon Master's Guide and offering advice for how a Dungeon Master can introduce them into their campaign setting. What is a Chime of Opening? A Chime of Opening is a magical item that mimics the knock spell, allowing the user to magically open locks. The Dungeon Master’s Guide doesn’t explicitly describe it as “knock in an item,” but its effects are similar enough to that spell to place it in the transmutation school of magic. How Much Does it Cost? A rare wondrous item, a Chime of Opening costs about 5,000 GP. What Does it Do? When pointed at a lock within 120 feet and struck to produce a tone, the lock will open. Each use opens one bolt, and it can be used ten times before it cracks. Assuming it works like the knock spell, a Chime of Opening will unlock an object locked with the arcane lock spell for ten minutes, after which time the arcane lock will retake effect. Will it Break My Game? If thieves’ tools and knock spells don’t break the game, then a Chime of Opening probably won’t either. Its rarity and price tag also help to balance its utility. If you really want to keep your players out of a particular room, the area surrounding the door could be warded with a silence spell, making the Chime of Opening useless. A more mundane yet perhaps more paranoid way to protect treasures against a Chime of Opening is placing eleven locks on a door or chest. Since the item only has ten charges and it takes one charge to open each lock, using eleven locks will render the item useless. What Does it Look Like? The Chime of Opening looks like a typical chime: a foot-long, one-pound metal tube, its metal beater (the object used to strike the chime to produce a tone) attached to a ring at one end by a chain or string. Where Might the Party Have Seen One? Because it can be mistaken for a regular chime, the party might come across one and either overlook it or sell it as though it were a mundane item. They might not realize that this is more than a tube of metal until they find an overeager buyer for this seemingly useless trinket. In the 2e Encyclopedia Magica, the Chime of Opening is associated with bards, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to carry over this association to your 5e campaign. The item might be found in the inventory of a bard, and a bardic college might outfit its faculty and students with these chimes to provide limited access to different parts of the college. Where and How Are They Made? All that is needed to construct a Chime of Opening is a chime, the knock spell, and the time and money required to craft the item. Crafting magic items often require special components, so you may require your players to find a particular type of metal and then have a renowned smith in a distant land craft the chime. Continuing with the bardic theme, bards craft them at bardic colleges, and they may even be sold at magical music stores in a high magic campaign setting. An item that opens other people’s locks, however, might only be constructed in more nefarious settings such as thieves’ guilds. Being caught in possession of one might raise a guard’s suspicions. Where Can They Be Obtained? In a high-magic setting, the same people who make them might also sell them. The bards who craft them may be willing to part with one for a hefty price, or a party might be able to commission a bard to construct one. In a low-magic setting, a Chime of Opening might be found in the private collection of the master of the bardic guild or college or in the reliquary of a temple that uses music in their rites. Both situations contain the seeds of an adventure if you make the players gather the crafting components themselves. How About a Different Way? Since the item is a foot long, it is difficult to conceal, but it’s not impossible to imagine a criminal in chains hiding a Chime of Opening in their clothing and using it to unlock their manacles. In a high-magic setting, the Chime of Opening’s chime and beater might take the place of a lock and key. Since the beater is attached to the chime, and both are needed to use the item, a Quest Master may reasonably establish that the two objects are enchanted together, and only a particular beater can activate a specific chime. A door’s locking mechanism may be hidden inside the door so that it cannot be picked. The chime would be secured flush to the wall beside the door, perpendicular to the door jamb, so that it is pointing at the lock hidden inside the door. Only the person possessing the chime’s beater can activate the chime and open the door. Without the beater, the only alternatives are the knock spell, which produces a thunderous knocking sound that would alert anyone within 300 ft. to the presence of intruders, and beating the door down, a similarly noisy strategy likely to attract unwanted attention. Finally, an interesting riddle would involve a chest with multiple locks that must be opened in a certain order. Chimes of Opening tuned to different frequencies open each lock, so the party would have to somehow figure out the melody that opens the locks in the right order. Magic items like the Chime of Opening are fun ways to add some flavor to otherwise bland scenarios. How have you used the Chime of Opening in your campaign as a Dungeon Master?
Are you looking for a 4th-level spell that can bring your enemies to their knees? A spell that allows you to shape any lake, river or ocean to your will? Let me introduce you to Control Water. How Does It Work? Control Water is a spell that can be learned by clerics, druids, and wizards takes a single action to cast and requires verbal, somatic and material components. When cast, the spell has a 300 ft range and affects all freestanding water within a 100 ft cube. The caster chooses from one of four effects (Flood, Part Water, Redirect Flow, and Whirlpool) and can change the effect as an action on each of their turns. This spell requires concentration and lasts for up to ten minutes. What’s So Great About It? While this spell is situational, in that it is primarily useful around large bodies of water, it is incredibly powerful and offers unrivaled utility for the spellcaster. Flood causes the water level to rise up to twenty feet. If in a large body of water, you can instead create a twenty-foot tall wave that travels from one side of the 100-foot cube to the other, before crashing down. As it travels, the wave pushes all huge or smaller vehicles along with it, with a 25% possibility of capsizing the vessels. Part Water causes water to part to form a trench within the 100 ft cube. The spell does not specify the width of the trench, so this could vary from a narrow passageway to opening up an enormous area. Redirect Flow causes the flow of water to change to the direction of your choosing. The water will flow over obstacles, up walls, or in other unlikely directions as needed. Once beyond the spell’s area, the water flows in its natural course. Whirlpool necessitates a 50-foot square body of water at least 25 feet deep, in which a whirlpool forms. The whirlpool is 5 feet wide at the base, up to 50 feet wide at the top, and 25 feet tall. Creatures within 25 feet are pulled towards it at a rate of 10 feet per round, requiring an Athletics Check (DC equal to the spellcaster’s spell save DC) to swim away from the Whirlpool. Whirlpool also deals damage to creatures trapped within it each round: on a failed Strength saving throw, creatures take 2d8 bludgeoning damage and have disadvantage on Athletics checks made to escape the whirlpool. On a successful save, creatures take half damage. What Can Neutralize the Spell? There are two main magical defenses which can neutralize Control Water: Counterspell and Dispel Magic. When casting Control Water within the range of an enemy’s Counterspell (60 ft), there is the possibility that it will be Counterspelled. Of course, you could Counterspell the enemy’s Counterspell, but if another enemy caster is present, they could Counterspell your Counterspell, and so on. Because Control Water has a 300 ft casting range, it is easy to cast from afar and avoid enemy counterspells. Additionally, Dispel Magic can be used to target the spell effect of Control Water. This is a likely possibility, as the effects of Control Water can last for up to ten minutes. Other Uses Control Water is an incredibly versatile spell with many uses. Control Water can be invaluable in seafaring battles. A series of tsunami-like waves can be used to capsize smaller ships. Redirect Flow can be used to slow down pursuing ships, and Whirlpool can trap enemy ships and slowly damage the hull, causing the vessel to sink. In addition to combat, Control Water can be used to help others. Redirect Flow can be used to push commoners or injured people to shore during combat. Part Water can be used to create a path across a raging river, so fleeing villagers can escape monsters or an army. Redirect Flow could be used to change the course of a river temporarily, either to flood drought-ridden fields or refill a reservoir. Even though Control Water is most effective with large bodies of water, it can be used on any water within a 100 ft cube. For instance, Flood could be used to fill all partially-filled glasses of water in a tavern or to refill a dried-up well in a village. Overall, Control Water is a surprisingly powerful spell which can be useful in a vast number of situations. As a 4th level spell, it is something that a moderately leveled spellcaster can learn and use to turn the tide of battle in favor of your party. How have you used Control Water to defeat your enemies and ensure victory for your party? Tell us in the comments below!
There aren't many D&D stereotypes more widely known than the dungeon filled with nasty monsters. However, not many Dungeon Masters (we call them Quest Masters) stop to ask themselves how these monsters survive and interact with each other. In a previous article, I argued the importance of working out who built the dungeon and why. This article offers guidance on creating a dungeon ecosystem that makes sense and supports itself. The Challenge Rating Food Pyramid Most monsters are carnivores or at least omnivores—that’s what makes them a threat to PCs—so it stands to reason that more powerful monsters prey on weaker monsters. This should be true not only for individual monsters, but for groups as well. For example, a small group of seasoned kobold hunters could take down an owlbear, whose meat will feed their tribe, but an owlbear will make short work of a lone kobold. In a dynamic dungeon ecosystem, the PCs aren’t the only ones in danger. What happens when the party encounters that group of kobolds engaged in battle with an owlbear? Do they allow the owlbear to overtake the hunting party, or step in and help take down the owlbear, winning the favor of the grateful kobold clan? The point of all this is that while a kobold or a goblin isn’t much of a threat on its own, groups of weak-but-intelligent monsters can find themselves higher up the food chain. A simplified dungeon food chain might look like this: Predators and Intelligent Monsters Beholders, dragons, mind flayers Orcs, goblinoids, drow Omnivores and Mundane Animals Flumphs Bats, bears, frogs Decomposers and Scavengers Carrion crawlers, giant fire beetles, zombies Giant centipedes, rats, spiders What this means for your game is that you might find dragons and aboleths leaving their lairs deep in the dungeon and stalking the upper regions for prey, or that the party should stumble upon carrion crawlers and oozes even in the deeper levels of the dungeon, where they fill an ecological niche as decomposers and scavengers. All ecosystems need producers (plants that produce nutrients), consumers (creatures that require nutrients), and decomposers (things that break down matter to feed the producers) to survive, and the dungeon ecosystem is no different. As long as you think about all three roles when stocking a dungeon with monsters, animals, plants, and water sources, your dungeon will seem like a plausibly self-sustaining environment. However, creatures—and adventuring parties—invading the dungeon ecosystem can have profound effects on this delicate balance through over-hunting and over-harvesting (i.e., killing and taking everything in sight). Such an ecological disaster can be reflected in your campaign world through events such as monsters attacking cattle and livestock on the outskirts of civilization as they search for new food sources. Overall, think less about making each level “balanced” and more about making it feel like a dynamic, unpredictable environment, even if it means making your level 4 party hide from an adult red dragon (that dragon is probably after something more interesting than a low-level adventuring party anyway). Flora, Fauna, and Water A dungeon doesn’t just contain monsters. If it is to resemble a living ecosystem, those monsters are not going to feed only on other monsters, but on more mundane flora and fauna, as well. There are all sorts of cave-dwelling creatures in the real world that can be easily incorporated into the dungeon such as bats (and their nutritious guano), fish, crustaceans, and insects. Consider the relationship between these animals and the monsters in the dungeon. They may be competing for the same resources, or the animal life of the dungeon may be prey for monsters. These relationships will add believability to your world and enhance immersion. For example, you can establish in your campaign that goblins love the taste of bat meat, while cave scorpions are a delicacy of grimlocks. The next time your party runs into a pile of cave scorpion exoskeletons, they’ll be preparing for an encounter with grimlocks. I Just Work Here The monsters that PCs encounter might not even live in the dungeon. If they are intelligent, they might be there for the same reason the PCs are: they’re looking for treasure. They might also be scouting new settlement locations or hunting and foraging. Non-intelligent monsters could be looking for food and water or a place to lay eggs or hibernate. Intelligent monsters who have goals similar to those of the PCs are inherently more interesting because they aren’t just there to be killed. If they’re also looking for treasure, these monsters would be just as likely to try to recruit the party as allies or take them prisoner to extract information as they would be to fight. Non-intelligent monsters who are only visiting the dungeon might simply run when encountered by the party, or they might be hungry, injured, or protecting their young, making them more aggressive. Beyond the Dungeon Clues the Quest Master leaves in the wilderness can help the party prepare for certain kinds of monsters when they venture into the dungeon. Just as monsters may visit the dungeon to hunt, dungeon denizens may also range into the wilderness beyond to find food. In this case, an adventuring party might stumble upon evidence on their way to the dungeon: the remnants of a campfire, littered with bones that have been cooked, the tracks or spoor of a creature known to live underground, or the remains of an animal bearing the bite or claw marks of a subterranean monster. Imagining these relationships help the Quest Master (QM) to develop a more logical, and as a result more immersive, sense of the game world as a living, dynamic environment. But not all QMs subscribe to a high level of naturalism in their games. Are realistic—or at least plausible, internally-consistent—dungeon ecosystems important to you? Let us know how you go about building a believable ecosystem in your dungeons.
Are you looking for a 4th-level spell that can effectively remove any enemy from the battlefield? A spell that every caster should have in their toolbox? Let me introduce you to Banishment. How Does It Work? Banishment is a spell that can be learned by paladins, clerics, sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards, takes a single reaction to cast, and requires verbal, somatic, and material components (an item distasteful to the target). When cast, banishment attempts to banish one creature that you can see within 60 ft to another plane of existence. The target must succeed on a Charisma saving throw or be banished. If the target is native to the caster’s current plane, they are banished to a harmless demiplane for one minute (or until the caster’s concentration is broken). If they are not native to the current plane, they are banished to their plane of origin; if concentration on banishment is maintained for one minute, the target will be permanently banished to their home plane. Otherwise, the target reappears in its previous location after one minute has passed, or once the caster loses concentration on the spell- whichever comes first. At higher levels, banishment can target additional creatures. For each spell slot above 5th, banishment can target one other creature. What’s So Great About It? This spell provides powerful battlefield control, allowing a caster to eliminate up to 6 creatures from the battlefield at a time. Because it requires a Charisma throw to resist the effect, it is effective against many monsters, especially tanks, that have low Charisma. After removing these mooks from the battle, it is easy to focus and defeat the remaining enemy spellcasters and more intelligent targets. Banishment also allows characters to set up the most optimal battlefield conditions. After banishing an enemy, characters can move into strategic positions around where the enemy will reappear. Characters can ready a round of attacks for when the creature returns to their plane of existence, allowing them to have an extra round of attacks, potentially crippling if not outright killing an enemy. What Can Neutralize the Spell? Counterspell can interrupt and prevent the casting of banishment. Dispel magic can also dispel the effect of banishment after it has been cast. Because banishment requires the caster to maintain concentration on the spell, any damage or other effects, such as paralysis or incapacitation, that causes the caster to lose concentration, will interrupt the spell. Other Uses Banishment is primarily used as a combat spell, but could also be used in non-combat situations. For instance, banishment could be utilized in infiltration or stealth situations, to banish any guards that notice the party before they can raise the alarm. Banishment can also be used to protect vulnerable ally targets. For instance, if characters are tasked with protecting a royal family, and the family is under attack or being carried away by enemy combatants, banishment can be used on the royal family to keep them safely out of combat until the enemies can be dealt with. Banishment can be especially potent when fighting creatures from other planes. If there are a few other-planar entities, a single spellcaster that successfully banishes those creatures can “defeat” the monsters with only a single spell slot. This saves the party time and valuable resources. Banishment also has some powerful synergies with sorcerer metamagic which should be mentioned. Once sorcerous metamagic, called Distant Spell, allows the caster to double the range of a spell cast as long as the spell’s range is 5 ft or greater. This is especially powerful with banishment because you can sit outside of the range of an enemy’s potential counterspell ability and banish enemy targets. Because they are unable to counterspell you when you are over 60 feet away, you can successfully banish them without fear of retribution. Overall, Banishment is a powerful spell that can counteract any spell being cast by an enemy. Plus, as a 4th level spell, it is something that a mid-level spellcaster can learn and use to easily turn the tide of battle in favor of your party throughout your entire campaign. How have you used Banishment to defeat your enemies and ensure victory for your party? Tell us in the comments below!