Steal This D&D 5e Magic Item: The Last Ward
I think we can all agree that magic items are pretty neat. I mean, if you’ve clicked on any of my other homebrew items, you probably didn’t need me to tell you that I like to liberally sprinkle magic throughout my campaign worlds. I’ve been told that 5e has seen a radical decrease in the overall background magic count than it’s enjoyed in earlier editions, and I think that I would feel sad about that if I felt like I was in any way beholden to what Wizards of the Coast told me was good for my game. I put magic in front of my players pretty early and pretty often.
The conceit, of course, is that too much magic in the world makes the game feel like a free-wheeling avalanche of increasingly ludicrous upgrades that the DM must constantly run ahead of else his game be swept up in a cascade of Wishes and Decks of Many Things and Holy Avengers and all semblance of challenge, balance, and indeed plot, be lost. I’ve heard that complaint from a lot of Dungeon Masters, but I don’t think I’ve had that problem for a long time. Actually, I think the last time I had that problem was when I was 15 and agreed to let a buddy of mine run a Gary Stu Fighter/Thief with a Charisma dump stat of 17. Let’s be honest, there wasn’t going to be any balance in that game anyway.
Here’s the real secret, though. Are you ready? Magic that’s fun isn’t inherently overpowered, and magic that’s overpowered is rarely fun. Yes, the math will be affected if you start handing your scrappy level 1 PCs legendary artifacts. It won’t make the game not work, it’ll just mean that it will take more to challenge your party. That’s not bad. It’s not an “I win” button to have a +5 sword at level 1. It’s still doable, and can be fun so long as it’s not just one guy with a crazy powerful item and the rest of the party acting as his supporting cast. Let’s not pretend that the balance in Dungeons and Dragons has ever been more than tenuous at best.
I’m sure there are half of you nodding along. Half of you are stacking kindling around the stake and opening bags of marshmallows. That’s fine. I’ve got a magic item for both of you today. See, magic is fun. Big magic is fun. You know what’s even more fun? What happens when we turn the magic off?
Greebo Downhollow stepped back from his workbench and smiled for the first time in a week. He’d been humiliated when Sylvio Fontana had won their friendly sparring match at the last gathering of wizards. It was hardly fair. Greebo was an Abjurer, for pity’s sake. Pitting him against an Evoker like Sylvio was hardly sporting. No matter the wards and barriers that Greebo summoned, there was always another fireball. Pfah!
Clearly, Greebo was the superior worker of the Art. All of those big-bearded tallfellows knew it. He reached out to pick up the bauble that he’d sung spells over the past seven days, feeling the weight settle comfortably in the hollow of his hand. Grant victory to Sylvio would they? First Enchanter was he? Fine. Let the arrogant long-shank have the last word. The next time Sylvio chucked a bolt of lightning at Greebo when he wasn’t looking, he’d get the Last Ward.Whispers from the Loreheart
The Last Ward
Legendary Artifact, Requires Attunement
This unassuming piece of caramel-colored metal fits snugly into the palm of a small-sized humanoid. Splines radiate from a central, hollow hub, looking like nothing so much as a cogwheel from an overlarge pocket-watch or perhaps a very small mill. On closer inspection, two of the splines are noticeably shorter, rough and warped as though by fire. When fire is brought near the surface, runes of purple energy flash into being, covering the strange little artifact. They weave in a spider’s web of enchantment, pulsing feebly.
A creature may only attune to the Last Ward if they succeed on a Dexterity saving throw to resist the effects of a spell. Once attuned, a creature has advantage on Dexterity saves to resist the effects of a spell. In addition, they may, as an action, create a zone of anti-magic in a 10 ft. radius around themselves. Creatures must make a DC 17 skill check with their spellcasting stat to cast spells while inside this radius and damaging spells have their damage reduced to zero. All enchanted equipment in this radius becomes mundane equipment while within the radius. This effect may be dismissed as a bonus action.
The Last Ward has 1d6 charges and may hold up to 10 charges total. While the zone of anti-magic is inactive, the creature attuned to the Last Ward may spend a charge to use a reaction to reverse the effects of any damaging spell cast upon them with an Intelligence check opposed by the caster’s spellcasting stat. Lightning strikes as a return stroke, fireballs bounce backward, magic missiles reverse in their tracks. Charges may be gained only by negating a damaging spell as above.
If ever the Last Ward is depleted of charges, it ceases to function, reverting to a mundane chunk of sung-brass. Fire no longer reveals the purple runes of Greebo Downhollow. If ever the Last Ward gains more than 10 charges, it immediately shatters, causing a magical deadzone within 60 ft. of its destruction in which all magic ceases to function permanently.