Steal This D&D 5e Magic Item: Jug of Bad Ideas

Some of you might remember back when I spoke about the information economy of Dungeons and Dragons, that weird conceit to the shared fiction that basically goes as follow: The DM knows all there is to know about the world and the Players have to ask questions and make dangerous assumptions until they get the facts straight. Now, many words have been written about this central topic, but when I was a young DM coming up in the old days when we had to hunt our Tarrasques uphill, both ways, through the snow and save versus Rod/Staff/Wand to do it, I wanted to give my players a way to “metagame” just a little. I didn’t want them to ask what the hitpoints or the armor class or whatever was, I just wanted them to have a way to ask me the simple questions “was that a dumb idea?”

This is a question that I think a lot of people who are new to the hobby ask an awful lot. Or, maybe they think it, keeping it secret in their heart of hearts while they take their first steps into roleplaying. They want to engage, and they think they have a good idea, but they get analysis paralysis and hesitate, and then Gary jumps in and supplies an answer and the moment is lost. So, to give my newbies a way to engage that was low impact and fun, I started off with the Helmet of Bad Ideas.

The Helmet of Bad Ideas was a goofy little magic item that would allow the wearer to get feedback on possible actions before they took them. It was a bucket-helm with a crystalline globe affixed to the top that, when a bad idea was spoken to the helmet, would begin to softly glow. Think of it kind of like Augury but only on actions that are just about to happen. Is attacking this ogre in the dark as a lone level 1 wizard a good idea? The helmet would light up. Bad idea. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it got a few laughs, and I had a couple newbies who thanked me for letting them peek behind the curtain and see whether or not their creativity was about to make things way worse. Do I stick my arm in this green imp’s mouth? Lightbulb.

Flash forward, and editions crawl on and infinite Augury feels just a little overpowered. But I’ve still got newbies that shy away from doing the sorts of heroic things that Dungeons and Dragons lends itself to, because they’re afraid of looking dumb. Nothing makes you feel dumber than a natural 1. You can be a crafty thief or a musclebound fighter or a powerful mage, but the moment that natural 1 comes up, you’re not just failing, you’re flailing. People hate that, especially when Dungeon Masters flavor that as a dramatic failure. Don’t even get me started on fumble tables.

So, to give a little leeway now for a little more trouble later, I brewed up the Jug of Bad Ideas.


The Jug of Bad Ideas

Wonderous Item, Rare (Requires Attunement)

This earthenware jug is about a foot tall, and looks as though it might contain a quart or two of liquid. Its lid is sealed, and while you can hear a vague sloshing sound inside, there doesn’t seem to be any way to pour out its contents. Common tumbles or fumbles will not crack or mar it. Faces, grim rictuses of shock, dismay, and eternal screams of warning are carved where most amphorae have handles.

When a character fails a skill check with a natural 1 while attuned to the Jug of Bad Ideas, they may treat the roll as a roll of 10. If this skill check beats the DC of the attempted action, the Dungeon Master should adjudicate it as a success, though preferably with an added cost, complication or drawback. If the skill check still fails to match the DC of the action, the Jug acquires 1 charge, and the character fails the action as normal.

When the Jug of Bad Ideas has three charges, it creates a localized wild magic surge per the chart in the Players Handbook (Page 104). The Jug loses charges at a rate of 1 every week.

You had a feeling that lugging around this screaming jug was a bad idea.

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