Throughout an adventurer’s life, they will face many challenges, ranging from vicious battles with formidable monsters, to games of wit and guile in a political struggle, or, one of our favourites, simply trying not to fall to their death when trying to jump over a crevasse.
The rewards for one’s bravery (or villainy) can vary from the affection of the townsfolk to the respect of nobility. One thing is certain: you will gain sweet, sweet loot.
D&D has a cornucopia of magical weapons and items that can turn the tide of battle, sway a disapproving king or help you land that tricky jump without compound fracturing your ankle. However, for every all-powerful vorpal sword and ring of invulnerability, there are items that some adventurers and dungeon masters alike strike off as “useless”.
A Vorpal Sword is one of the most powerful weapons in D&D. It gives a player a +3 to their d20 dice roll to hit and their damage roll and ignores resistance to slashing damage. Also, if you manage to roll a natural 20 you can decapitate the enemy in front of you, killing them instantly if they can’t survive without said head. Very cool.
However, some of these “useless” items are anything but that, and, in fact, offer some of the most interesting and inventive role-playing options available to a party.
Wondrous Item, common (requires attunement): Whenever you roll this six-sided die, you can control which number it rolls. (XGtE pg.136)
[Editor’s Note: Item descriptions come from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything which we’ve helpfully shortened to XGtE followed by a page number.]
At first glance, the Charlatan’s Die seems like a fun, ineffective tool for an adventurer. When fighting off hordes of zombies, what good is a loaded die? What you need to remember is that not all problems can, or should, be solved with violence.
Let’s say that you are trying to save a town from a roving band of bandits. The moral implications of cutting them down are massive. After all, they are humanoids with thoughts, feelings, and families that may enact revenge.
Instead, challenge the bandit leader to a game of chance: it’s one you’re sure to win. Your charismatic bard could easily outwit the brutish bandit leader by simply rolling a die, forcing the bandit leader to move on if he loses the bet. An elegant solution to a bloody problem.
Plus, you could probably earn a few coins in the local tavern, just for good measure.
Cloak of Billowing
Wondrous Item, common: While wearing this cloak, you can use a bonus action to make it billow dramatically. (XGtE pg.136)
In the heat of battle, a character already has a lot to think about: should I move to stab this giant spider? Should I use a spell slot to heal my friend? Should I use my action to try and hide? It’s easy to get overwhelmed.
Really, the only thing an adventurer should be thinking is: “how can I look as badass as possible?”
Enter: the Cloak of Billowing.
Most classes, especially at earlier levels, are limited in what actions they can make in a turn, and have very little they can do with their bonus action. Why not channel your inner Jon Woo or Darkwing Duck and billow your cloak dramatically after hitting your arrow shot.
You never know, doves might fly out of it in slow motion. Cool.
Wondrous Item, common (requires attunement): This artificial eye replaces a real one that was lost or removed. While the ersatz eye is embedded in your eye socket, it can’t be removed by anyone other than you, and you can see through the tiny orb as though it were a normal eye. (XGtE pg.137)
Ersatz Eye, I must admit, is a rather situational item, but something that is absolutely worth holding onto. In the course of battle, injuries and accidents can happen. If you have a particularly mean DM, maybe a critical hit from an enemy archer has rendered you blind in one eye, leading to a permanent disadvantage to ranged attacks?
The Ersatz Eye alleviates the burden and returns your sight. Outside of it being lodged in your skull, the eye could be used as a recon tool if a particularly savvy magic user casts Clairvoyance on the eye and rolls it into a room to inspect the surroundings.
The Ersatz Eye is an excellent example of an item’s utility outside of its description, and paired with your imagination it’s an item that’s more fun that it seems.
Heward’s Handy Spice Pouch
Wondrous Item, common: This belt pouch appears empty and has 10 charges. While holding the pouch, you can use an action to expend 1 of its charges, speak the name of any non magical food seasoning (such as salt, pepper, saffron, or cilantro), and remove a pinch of the desired seasoning from the pouch. A pinch is enough to season a single meal. The pouch regains 1d6 + 4 expended charges daily at dawn. (XGtE pg.137)
In a world of swords, magic and mystery, why on earth would you possibly want or need a magical spice rack? Well, this spice pouch’s uses can range from simple “flavour” (I’m not sorry) text in downtime moments to an essential infiltration tool.
Maybe the gruel the local tavern is serving is particularly lacking salt? Maybe you’re having a roasted lamb that could use a sprig of rosemary? Maybe you need to sneak into an enemy barracks so you decide to season the soup pot with a healthy handful of habanero spice?
Sure, Prestidigitation fundamentally does this job already, but why shouldn’t non-magic users also have the opportunity to take a one-way ticket to flavortown?
[Editor’s note: You can arrest us for that joke because it’s downright criminal.]
Tankard of Sobriety
Wondrous Item, common: This tankard has a stern face sculpted into one side. You can drink ale, wine, or any other non magical alcoholic beverage poured into it without becoming inebriated. The tankard has no effect on magical liquids or harmful substances such as poison. (XGtE pg.139)
Look, after the end of a long hard day of being awesome, any good adventurer wants to settle in for the night at a cosy tavern and get toasted.
The Tankard of Sobriety would seem to be the exact opposite of what you want then?
Well, within these cosy walls, there are often informants and miscreants that have information you want. Why not challenge them to a drinking contest? Or simply join them for a night of revelry. Whilst they become more and more liberal with their knowledge, you can chug down that fine ale* in the knowledge that this information, along with your stomach contents, will not be lost to you by sunrise.
Just because we’re in a tavern, does not mean we have to drink alcohol. Millions of people around the world do not drink alcohol for many reasons, from religious to dietary to just plain ol’ personal choice. This choice should always be represented in your D&D games. Here are couple of “fantasy” themed soft drinks for the less boozy among us:
|Turmeric Puff: Add a spoonful of turmeric to a glass of condensed Griffin milk for an aromatic milky treat. Players have advantage on all nature checks surrounding Griffins for one hour.||Feywild Lemonade|
The most succulent of lemons hand picked from the magical land of elves. Players can speak elvish for five minutes after drinking.
|Waterdeep’s Special Triple Espresso: In a bustling metropolis like Waterdeep, keeping your edge is a must. Players gain the effect of the haste spell for one round, but afterwards have the jitters.|
This is but a small example of some fun and interesting role-play orientated magical items D&D has to offer.
Remember these when you are looking to give out rewards in dungeons or for completing tasks.
Wondrous, silly items like these make players feel rewarded for their hard efforts and lets them experiment with new toys, without having to completely destroy the world they live in.
And if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can delve into the world of creating your own items for campaigns, or use other fan created items like Bernie’s Mittens.
Michael is a freelance journalist currently living in Western Japan. When he isn’t trying to assert his dominance in Overwatch (which is not going well) he can be found playing wholesome games whilst eating baked goods. Has a crippling crush on Garrus Vakarian.