Magic Items & Character Builds

D&D4e emphasizes a concept that 3e popularized, the “build”—a specifically constructed set of mechanical character choices for purposes of optimization. This largely comes from the game’s increasing emphasis on choice in character building, from the race/class matrix to feats, variable racial ability bonuses, and the menu of class powers and features that are available to players. All of these things were added to a relatively linear core through the span of several editions, replacing chance or single items with player decisions.

One part of the build, however, has remained squarely in the DM’s hands through editions—equipment. Although back in the day this was often supported by random item tables, the role of the DM in item placement was always clear—campaigns such as The Rod of Seven Parts or the central story of Dragonlance revolve primarily around the location and control of several plot-central artifacts. Other items, such as the Hand and Eye of Vecna, the Apparatus of Kwalish and its corresponding control rod, and even rare weapons such as holy defenders are set forward as potential campaign hooks or engines. In 4e there is the magic item “wish list,” which the players offer to the DM as a plea that he will offer items that are appropriate to their characters. This is nonetheless DM-driven, and furthermore it is a little artificial-feeling to my sensibilities.

In Journeys to Tanelorn, I don’t necessarily want all the work of distributing items to be in my hands. While there will be times when I hand-pick items to offer the players, for much of the campaign I want item selection to stay player-driven, so I’m adding a series of items I call warstones.

Warstones are conceptually similar to materia from Final Fantasy 7—when mounted in a weapon, they confer mystical properties upon the weapon in question. To permit choice and create simplicity for me, there are a limited number of warstones and each stone type covers a series of enchantment types; a particular warstone also has a level that limits the level of a magic item that it can create. Naturally it’s impossible for me to cover all the enchantments in this way, so some particular weaponry will need to be hand-crafted by experts or found as unique treasure.

Warstones can only be used to enhance armor, weapons, and implements.

The list of warstones is as follows:

  • Alabaster: Milky white alabaster creates acid magics.
  • Almandine: This reddish-purple warstone is used in healing applications.
  • Amberheart: Found in the brains of dragons, golden amberheart confers lightning enchantments.
  • Cairngorm: Smoky yellow cairngorm, found in old tombs, is used for necrotic magics.
  • Cymophane: A sap-green cat’s eye gem, cympohane warstones generate thunder enchantments.
  • Girasol: Red-gold girasol, filled with flashes of yellow and green, girasol is used in radiant enchantments and various holy items.
  • Jade: Many-colored jade does not offer any special effects, but can create magic weapons or enhance the level of other warstones.
  • Minium: An opaque red, waxy stone that offers enchantments that deal with “blood,” fear, or enhancing damage. Minium used with a blood sample creates a bane weapon.
  • Mormorion: Nearly-black mormorion is used as a locus of illusion enchantments.
  • Orpiment: A sparkling yellow ore that generates poison enchantments.
  • Plasma: A black stone marked with yellow speckles, plasma is useful for charm and fire effects.
  • Vermarine: Fragile blue-green vermarine warstones are the focus for force and psychic enchantments.
  • Water-sapphire: Changing color from blue to violet when viewed at different angles, water-sapphire is useful for teleportation and cold effects.
The Enchant Magic Item ritual is used to install a warstone; the gem replaces the ritual’s standard material cost. As an example, a level 13 plasma warstone can be used to create the following: fireburst armor up to +3, flameburst weapons up to +3, flaming weapons up to +2, a rod of the pyre +2, staves of fiery might up to +3, wands of fiery boltfire burst, and witchfire up to +3, and so on.

3 thoughts on “Magic Items & Character Builds

    • I am not sure! As an on-the-spot proposal, you can only have a single warstone that creates an effect – no flaming dancing holy defender scimitars, but you can add extra warstones to power a main stone’s effect (probably by simply adding up the GP value) in order to enhance it to a higher level.

      I might add a Fuse Warstone ritual that serves that function.

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