A place to share thoughts and ideas about Dungeons and Dragons
I was trying to figure out how (in 4th and 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons) a character could learn all there was to know about a magic item by simply examining it for an hour. This wasn’t possible in earlier editions. You could only learn about an item by trial and error or by some magical means. It is only now coming up because I never played 4th edition, and this is the first time I have been the DM running a 5th edition game.
After a lot of research (Google is my friend) I finely came to the realization that the nature of magic has changed. To make logical sense out of it all (assuming you can apply logic to the rules of magic in a fantasy game), this is what I came up with.
Nothing below is official. It simply represents my ideas and house rules.
Behind reality as the player-characters know it, there is a sort of internal “skeleton”, over which reality exists like skin atop muscle and bone. This “skeleton” can best be envisioned as an unseen essence that pervades all parts of the multiverse, directly linking everything to every other thing. This is the source of all magic. When you cast a spell, you actually create a specific alteration in the local essence, which then causes the spell effect you wanted in the ‘real’ world. Some call this essence “Mana”. In the Forgotten Realms it is called the “Weave”. If the Weave in an area is damaged or destroyed, magic is unreliable or impossible – that’s what creates Wild Magic and Dead Magic zones in the Realms.
All the physical laws of the universe are simply reflections of the true, background laws that govern this universal essence. The average person can only perceive normal reality, but some creatures are born with the ability to sense the universal essence.
All magic-using beings share an innate ability to manipulate the essence. Likewise, almost all those “gifted” with these abilities must receive training in arcane (wizardly) or divine (clerical) magic in order to learn how to manipulate the essence with finesse.
Bards learn that words and music are not just vibrations of air, but vocalizations with power all their own. They learn to untangle and reshape the essence in harmony with their wishes and music.
Clerics and Paladins are conduits for Divine magic, the power of the gods. Divine casting is done by channeling the essence provided by their deities and forming spells out of that.
Druids and Rangers revere nature above all, and can draw essence from the land, gaining their spells and other magical powers either from the essence that flows through nature itself or from a nature deity.
Monks make careful study of the essence that flows through living bodies. Most monastic traditions call this ki.
Sorcerers learn to harness and channel their own inborn magical abilities. They gather the essence to them from force of will.
Warlocks receive their magical abilities from a pact they made with an otherworldly being. This is similar to the way gods channel essence through divine casters.
Wizards create elaborate mental structures within the mazes of their own minds, traps which funnel magical essence like a roof collects rainwater for a barrel, stored and ready to be used over the course of a day.
This magical substructure to the universe, this unseen essence, can be manipulated by users of magic. It can sometimes be concentrated and placed inside a creature or object. Examples would include casting a spell on a creature to make it resistant to fire, or creating a ring of protection. These magic infused creatures or items emit a type of magical radiation. A creature with the ability to sense the universal essence can detect this magical glow, but it is invisible to all others without some magical way to detect it.
Magical radiation is similar to light in that it is dimmer the farther you are from it. It can pass through most objects, but is blocked from most forms of detection by 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt. For the magic radiation to be strong enough to be detected by the “detect magic” spell, you must be within 30 feet of the magic creature or item. If you sense magic in this way, you sense the presence of magic, but can’t determine in which direction, or how far away the magic item is. Anytime during the duration of the “detect magic” spell, you can take an action to see if there are any specific items or creatures within sight that you can identify as magical. You will see a faint aura around any visible creature or object in the area that bears magic. If you don’t see an aura around anything, then the magic that you sense must be out of sight. It could be one or more items or creatures that are invisible or hidden. For instance, they could be behind a door or in a box or under a secret panel in the floor. If you do not see it, you do not see the aura. This also means you cannot use this to locate invisible creatures or objects. Any aura detected can only be seen by the spellcaster. The color of the aura corresponds to the object’s school of magic. If the item has no particular school then the aura has no color. The brightness of the aura indicates the relative strength of the magic.
Unless the magic item is invisible, you can see it if it is within range but behind a transparent barrier, such as glass. You also perceive its magical aura. This includes potions that are in glass bottles. If the potion is in a container that is not see-through you will not see the aura unless you remove the cap and look directly at the potion.
If you were to touch a creature that possesses magic, you would not typically feel the magic. But if you were to hold a magic item for a few seconds (a round), you would feel the magical radiation generated by the item effecting your body and/or your mind in some way. The sensation will differ depending on the magic contained within the item. If you continue to hold the item and concentrate on it for a short rest, “At the end of the rest, the character learns the item’s properties, as well as how to use them.”
“Potions are an exception; a little taste is enough to tell the taster what the potion does.” You can’t hold a potion in your hand. The bottle isn’t magical, just the liquid it contains. You could stick your finger into it, and leave it there for an hour, but a drop on your tongue is much faster. A taste is not enough to receive the effects of the potion. If it is poison, a taste is not enough to do harm to the taster. When tasting it, the magic of the potion enters your body and instantly reveals its nature.
Magic items want you to know their properties! The magic is alive! Or, rather, it contains a life force. All life has magic flowing through it to some degree, and all magic has some degree of life flowing through it. This explains why some powerful magical items possess sentience. The item’s creator forced so much magical essence into the item that it became sentient. This also explains why magical essence tends to be attracted to living creatures (and sometimes to dead creatures). And why magic can create or destroy life.
This spell makes you more receptive to the magical essence of the item. To identify the magic in an object with this spell, you must remain in physical contact with it for at least 1 minute. “If it is a magic item or some other magic-imbued object, you learn its properties and how to use them” (That much is the same as you can get from examination alone. But with the spell you also learn) “, whether it requires attunement to use, and how many charges it has, if any. You learn whether any spells are affecting the item and what they are. If the item was created by a spell, you learn which spell created it.”
To use this spell to identify a potion still requires one minute, but you must come into physical contact with the potion, not just the bottle it is in. A drop on your tongue or on any spot on your exposed flesh is enough.
The identify spell won’t trigger a curse, but it also doesn’t tell you if an item is cursed. There is no easy way to know if an item is cursed except by trial and error. Even the legend lore spell may only hint that it may be cursed. The curse on an item may cause you to misidentify it.
There has always been a lot of discussion regarding the magic system used in Dungeons and Dragons. It doesn’t seem to be very “logical” and there are other systems that might be better. This is my attempt to address this with an alternative to the “spell slots” system that fifth edition uses. This uses the same spells and everything else as presented in the Players Handbook (PHB) except for replacing its “spell slot” system with a “mana” system. There are several systems out there that use Mana or Spell Points for magic. Let me know what you think of mine.
Each day a spell casting character has a magic threshold. We’ll call these mana points.
The mana cost of a spell is equal to the spell’s level. So to cast a 2nd level spell would require deducting 2 mana from a character’s mana points. Casting the spell does not remove the spell from the spell casters memory, and the same spell can be used over and over as long as there are mana points in the character’s mana pool. Spells that can be cast at higher levels require one additional mana point for each additional level.
Cantrips use a negligible amount of mana and do not deduct from a character’s mana points. Refer to the tables in the PHB for the number of cantrips each class receives based on their level.
To recover mana a character must rest. All spell casters except for Warlocks recover 100% of their mana after a long rest. Warlocks recover 100% of their mana after a short or long rest.
You cannot cast a spell that you have not memorized. To memorize a spell it must be in your spellbook. You prepare the list of wizard spells that are available for you to cast. To do so, choose a number of wizard spells from your spellbook equal to your Intelligence modifier + your wizard level (minimum of one spell). The spells must be of a level that you can cast.
You prepare the list of spells that are available for you to cast, choosing from the spell list for your class. When you do so, choose a number of spells equal to your primary ability modifier + your spell caster level (minimum of one spell). The spells must be of a level you can cast. The primary ability for Bards, Sorcerers, and Warlocks is Charisma. The primary ability for Clerics, Druids and Rangers is Wisdom.
You prepare the list of spells that are available for you to cast, choosing from the Paladin spell list. When you do so, choose a number of spells equal to your primary ability modifier + half your Paladin level (minimum of one spell). The spells must be of a level you can cast.
You can change your list of prepared spells when you finish a long rest. Preparing a new list of spells requires at least 1 minute per spell level for each spell on your list.
When you gain another level in your current spell casting class, you can replace one spell that you know with another that is on your list and that is of a level you can cast.
Spells of 6th level and higher are particularly taxing to cast. You can only cast two spells each of levels 6th and 7th, and one spell each of levels 8th and 9th. You can’t cast another spell of the same level until you finish a long rest.
You add your total mana points from all your classes. Multi class Warlocks only recover mana points equal to their mana points as a Warlock during short rests.
The maximum number of mana points a spell caster can have and the maximum level any spell can be is listed on the following table:
|Bard, Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, Wizard||Paladin, Ranger||Warlock|
|LVL||Max. spell level||Mana||LVL||Max. spell level||Mana||LVL||Max. spell level||Mana|
I found this online a while back. Thought I would share.
I found this on-line (I forget where). Thought I would share. [If you know who created the original, please let me know so I can credit them.]
Usually, the limit to how far characters can see will be some obstruction, such as a building, a forest, or some hills. Mist and darkness also limit vision. Sometimes, however, the characters will be on flat plains on a clear day and the only limit to their vision will be their perception and the horizon. Once something goes below the horizon, it can’t be seen. But where is the horizon?
|Height in feet||Miles away|
This table has been simplified for gaming use. On an earth-sized planet, the horizon for a six-foot tall person standing at sea level or on flat plains will be about 3 miles. This means that they can see features that are at ground level for up to three miles (depending, of course, on the quality of their vision and the size of the object). Features that are higher than ground level can be seen further.
To determine how far away you can see something, just add together all of the heights. For example, if a 6 foot man is on a 4 foot horse standing on a 30 foot hill, how close would you have to be to a 60 foot tall tower to see it? First add all the heights together 6 + 4 + 30 + 60 = 100 feet. Look at the table under “height in feet” and find 100 feet. Then look across under “miles away” to find 13 miles. So the tower could be spotted if it was no farther away than 13 miles.
You could see a 14,000 foot mountain a little more than 100 miles away.
This is good for seeing features on a map, such as lakes, forests, mountains, towns, etc. but knowing how far you can see is often not what your Player Characters need to know. Just because you can see 3 miles doesn’t mean that you can see a monster on the horizon. For that we need another table.
Perception Distance Table
|Creature – Fine||6” or less||30 ft. or less||5 ft. or less|
|Creature – Diminutive||6” – 1 ft.||30 ft. – 60 ft.||5 ft. – 10 ft.|
|Creature – Tiny||1 ft. – 2 ft.||60 ft. – 120 ft.||10 ft. – 25 ft.|
|Creature – Small||2 ft. – 4 ft.||120 ft. – 240 ft.||25 ft. – 50ft.|
|Creature – Medium||4 ft. – 8 ft.||240 ft. – 480 ft.||50 ft. – 100 ft.|
|Creature – Large||8 ft. – 16 ft.||480 ft. – 960 ft.||100 ft. – 200 ft.|
|Creature – Huge||16 ft. – 32 ft.||960 ft. – 1,920 ft.||200 ft. – 400 ft.|
|Creature – Gargantuan||32 ft. – 64 ft.||1,920 ft. – 3,840 ft.||400 ft. – 800 ft.|
|Creature – Colossal||64 ft. or more||3,840 ft. or more||800 ft. or more|
In this table “perceive” means that you can see it and may notice it with a perception check. If you do notice it you will recognize the creature type if you have seen one before. If you don’t know what type of creature it is you will be able to tell the creature’s coloration, size, shape, number of limbs, wings, etc. If the creature is moving, you will also be able to tell which direction it is traveling and about how fast.
“Identify” means that you can see details and may recognize an individual that you have met before.
Distance away (in feet) that you can perceive an item is its size (in feet) times 60.
Distance away (in feet) that you can identify an item is its size (in feet) times 12.
Round fractions down to the nearest 5 ft.
The item’s size is its longest dimension (height or width).
You can perceive a burning candle 1 1/2 mile away.
I ran across this Facebook site. Whenever you, as a DM, are trying to think of an original location for your next adventure, just browse through the photos on this “Abandoned World” site.
How do you smoothly run a weekly game if there is a lot of turnover?
What if you have dedicated players, for the most part, but every week you don’t know how many will show up? Some may have to miss a session (or two or three). New players may show up and want to join the group. Existing players may need to drop out but may want to re-join the group in a few months.
I think that the best way to handle this will be to have every session end back at the tavern, or some other busy place, or back at their home base wherever that might be.
It solves most of the problems and creates some new ones. It solves any leveling-up in the midst of play problems, all leveling up will occur between sessions. It makes it easy to accommodate missing players, their PC simply doesn’t play but can play next session. It also makes adding new players easy, their character simply joins the group for the new session.
It also creates some problems. The first is how can you do that, especially when higher level characters may be traveling far and wide? Even low-level characters that are adventuring close to home may have a problem leaving the dungeon and coming back in any reasonable time frame. It also restricts somewhat which adventures you can run. For example, any “ticking-clock” adventure where the characters must finish in a set time frame would be hard to run. Also, you couldn’t stop an adventure in the middle of an encounter, which isn’t a big problem, but it does limit you somewhat.
Here is how I propose would do this. Give the PCs a magical artifact (maybe the tavern owner gives it to them or they save a strangers life and he gives it to them). At first level, they take this with them and when they activate it, they are all returned to the tavern. When activated again, it returns them to wherever they were before.
To introduce it into an existing campaign, the PCs could find it wherever they are adventuring. When activated it sends them to the tavern. The tavern owner can be a sympathetic NPC who lets them continue to use it.
The owner of the tavern escorted us down the stairs to a large dusty basement. He then called for the crowd to gather around. He held up a large white chess piece and declared “One of you lucky people will be allowed to purchase this tonight. It is a magical key.”
“Have you ever been a long way from home and wished you had a way to return home quickly? With this magical key you can instantly return here any time you like. Just take it with you wherever you roam and when you want to return simply hold this key in your hand and say the magic words. It will open a magical doorway between wherever you are and this archway.” He pointed to an ancient arched doorway in the wall behind him. It was completely sealed by the same stone that made up the rest of the walls of this old chamber. “But wait, there’s more! If you want to go back to where you were, simply approach this archway with the key and say the magic words. It will open the doorway at the same location you left. You could take a long trip and return home to your warm bead each night. ”
At that point most of the crowd turned around and returned to the drinks, snickering and shaking their heads as they climbed back up the stairs.
To the few of us that remained, he said “You appear to be adventurers. Just consider the possibilities! Imagine you are cleaning out a dungeon. You have fought many monsters, defeated deadly traps and collected ancient treasures, but at the end of the day there are still other dungeon levels remaining to explore. With this key you could return here, sell or lock up your treasure, identify any magical items you may have found, replace any lost or broken weapons and amination, rest and heal your bodies. Then when you are ready you can return refreshed and resupplied. You could even recruit other adventurers to help if you need to and they could return with you. And if one or more of your party needs to stay behind while you return to the dungeon, the ones who return only need the key and the activation word.”
I asked, “What if we are being chased by monsters? How quickly could we open the doorways?”
“Well …” He swallowed hard and said, “You know this was never intended to be used as an escape from battle.”
“The magic word is really more of a ritual. It takes 10 minutes to activate the portal.”
“And what if we are being pursued? Can anyone pass through? How long does it stay open?”
”Well, yes any creature could pass through once it is open and it normally stays open for one minute. However, you can close it at any time by tapping the key on the side of the passageway.”
I thought about this for a minute and then said, “Okay, say we are in a dungeon, a patrol is approaching so we hide around a corner and use this to return here, are you saying that we could just wait here for a few minutes and, watching through the doorway, go back when the danger had passed?”
“Actually, no. I may have neglected to mention that you must wait until the next day, at least 8 hours, before you can return. Also, the two portals are filled with a mist so you won’t be able to see what is beyond.”
I asked, “So if we go from here to a dungeon we will have to wait 8 hours before we can return?”
“No, not at all. When you leave here you can stay as long as you like or you can return immediately. Or, I mean, after the 10 minute activation ritual.
“It is just that when you return here you must wait until the next day to return to the dungeon. And, even if it is the next day, you cannot return unless it has also been at least 8 hours. So you can come back here a little before midnight and return 8 hours later. If you return here after midnight, you will have to wait until after midnight the following day.”
I then asked, “What if I am in the dungeon and just need to store something we found, or retrieve something that I forgot? You say that the portal stays open for one minute. Could I open it and then quickly come here to pick up something and return? Or if someone is wounded, I could open the portal, let them run through and then close it behind them. If I understand what you have been telling me, I should be able to do that as often as I wanted to. As long as I am not on this side when I open the portal, I can open it whenever I want.”
He answered, “Yes you can do those things, however there is another restriction I forgot to mention. Each time you use the key to activate the portal, the key must pass through to the other side and remain there when the portal closes or it resets and can’t be used again for 24 hours.”
He smiled at me and said, “So, if you bring me the small sum of 5,000 gp tomorrow, this alabaster portal key will be yours and I will teach you the ritual required to activate it.”
|Alabaster Portal Key
Wondrous item, artifact
This 3-inch tall alabaster statuette resembles a chess piece (a castle). Anyone who holds the key and knows the 10-minute activation ritual can activate the artifact. This person does not have to have any magical abilities. When activated, you create linked teleportation portals that remain open for the duration. Any creature or object entering either portal exits from the other portal as if the two were adjacent to each other. One portal is the one named in the activation ritual, which is a specific existing 4 foot wide by 8 foot tall stone archway which becomes filled with mist. This stone archway and the portal key are two parts of the same artifact. If you are not within 10 feet of the stone archway, the other portal is created at a location you choose within 10 feet of you and resembles a glowing arched gateway the same size as the stone archway. It is also filled with mist. If the key is activated when you are within 10 feet of the stone archway, it opens a portal in that archway and opens the remote portal at its previous location, allowing return travel to the point where that portal was last created.
The portals remain for one minute or you can close the portals early by touching the key to the side of either portal.
When within 10 feet of the stone archway, the key cannot be used to activate the portal until the day following its last use and at least 8 hours have passed. Otherwise, when not near the stone archway, the key can be used at any time.
The key must pass through the portal and be on the opposite side when the portal closes or it can’t be opened again for 24 hours.
I would like to hear your thoughts on this topic (or on this artifact).
2016 was good for me as far as gaming goes. I was able to start playing again after a long time away from the table. I am now playing in a Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition game every Tuesday night and running one every Saturday. On Tuesdays, I am playing an orc barbarian in a Hoard of the Dragon Queen campaign. (I was playing a human bard until she got killed.) On Saturdays, I am the DM for an Age of Worms campaign. It was written for 3.5 but I am running it converted to 5th edition.
Earlier in 2016, I subscribed to Dungeon Crate and I have just started a subscription to RPG Crate. So far I like Dungeon Crate and will let you know what I think of RPG Crate. Reading the reviews, I have high hopes for it.
The response to this blog has been very encouraging. In January 2015 I had 58 followers. I now have 265 followers. Thank you very much! I will be adding my thoughts and ideas as well as reference material and updates to my player’s sheet. I didn’t work on my “Dragon Hunt” novel much last year, but I intend to get back to work on that this year. I expect there to be a lot of new material published for 5th edition this year. I am sure that I will be getting copies of all of the supplements, adventures, and expanded rulebooks, but I will continue to focus this blog on the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manuel.
In 2004 and 2005 Skip Williams (co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition) put a series of articles on the Wizards website with tips on playing each of the various character types. Wizards of the Coast has moved them to their D&D Archives, but you can still find them there if you are diligent in your search.
These are an excellent reference. They were written for D&D 3.5 but even if you are running a fifth edition game you will find then a useful reference.
Here are direct links to them:
And here is a link to the 3.5 D&D Archives page: