D&D 5e: Five Magic Maces (And a Talisman) 10


A little while back, I posted a collection of magic spears (and a magic helmet), and a reader requested a similar collection for maces. Another reader requested that I cover magic bows, and that’s also on my to-do list. Some of these weapons I treat as specifically needing to be maces, while others could be any type of bludgeoning weapon – but let’s not kid ourselves, it’s all arbitrary. If you like one of these but think it would be cooler as a greatclub, then you’re probably wrong, greatclubs are terrible be my guest. Two of these are direct lifts from magic items that saw extensive use in the Dust to Dust campaign.

Images: Shadecall and the Fist of Tharamon, made by Colin McLaughlin

Bloodless

Any bludgeoning melee weapon, very rare (requires attunement)

Bloodless (most often a mace) is a weapon with a dual nature. In its benevolent form, its head or striking surface resembles a person’s face, smiling beatifically. While this weapon is in hand, any time you restore hit points to a creature, it gains 1d10 temporary hit points. If its current hit points are less than half its maximum hit points, it gains 10 temporary hit points instead. As a bonus action, add one successful death save to an unconscious creature within 60 feet.

Each time Bloodless is used to kill a creature that is not of a construct, elemental, or undead, roll a special death save for the weapon. When it accrues 3 failed death saves, it shifts to its malevolent form. Successful saves have no additional effect.

In its malevolent form, its face twists into a snarl, with exposed fangs. You gain a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls with this magic weapon. The weapon has 5 charges. When you hit with an attack using Bloodless, you can spend a charge to deal 2d6 additional necrotic damage. You regain hit points equal to half of the 2d6 result. Bloodless also loses 1 charge at dawn. During a short or long rest, a creature may restore 1 charge to Bloodless by expending 1 Hit Die without regaining any hit points.

Turning a malevolent Bloodless back to its benevolent state requires that a raise dead, resurrection, or true resurrection spell be cast on it at dawn.

 

Bonegrinder

Weapon (any bludgeoning), very rare (requires attunement)

This magic weapon adds a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with it. When you deal damage with it to a creature that is not an ooze or plant, the creature takes a -10 penalty to speed, other than fly speeds granted by spells, until the beginning of your next turn. This speed penalty does not stack, but it is doubled on a critical hit.

This weapon is made from a massive femur, with steel flanges set into the striking surface. Its strikes feel as if it is grinding bones to powder, and it is uncommonly good at hitting legs right around the kneecap.

 

Fist of Tharamon

Weapon (mace), rare (requires attunement)

This mace has a stout wooden haft and a metal striking head shaped like a clenched fist. When wielded, it moves with the speed and force of the soul rather than the arm, like the armaments of the angels.

This magic weapon and divine focus adds a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls you make with it. You can use your Wisdom modifier in place of your Strength modifier for attack and damage rolls with this weapon. Spells and attacks made with it deal an additional 1d6 damage to celestial, fiends, and undead.

 

Ironheart

Weapon (mace), rare (requires attunement)

This magical mace is made of cold iron. It has heavy, wicked flanges but no core in its striking head, only a small hook. Certain talismans are designed to attach to such a hook. The talisman’s movement within the cage of the flanges creates a heavy tolling, like the bells of doom, regardless of its material. While you are attuned to Ironheart, you are also attuned to any talisman affixed to it.

When you strike a charmed or frightened creature with this weapon, you can end that same condition on creatures that you choose who can see your target within 30 feet. You can choose to deal only your Strength modifier in damage, as if you had rolled a 0 on all damage dice. This power can be used up to three times, and recharges at dawn.

 

Shadecall

Weapon (mace), artifact (requires attunement)

When the Burning Prince came at last to make war against the one known as the Rotting Hand, he struck true again and again. Though the Rotting Hand was among the mightiest of the Enemy’s servants, he came to the very brink of destruction. At the last moment, the Amethyst Queen came to his aid; her minions swarmed over the Burning Prince, her magic threatened his life, and he was forced to withdraw. In gratitude, the Rotting Hand – the greatest smith the world has ever known – fashioned a scepter out of a massive, four-foot-long piece of amethyst. On the Sacrificial Forge, he bound a soul into the scepter – one of the Queen’s most loyal advisers, who had lost her favor in the vicissitudes of courtly life in Halsethil. In this way he made amends for his whole family, and Shadecall’s loyalty to the Amethyst Queen was beyond question.

In the years since, Shadecall has become the foremost symbol of her authority. One who bears Shadecall speaks with her voice and can work her will in the world, including teleportation back to Halsethil and placing her Mark upon souls. It has received other monikers as well, applied to it by those who fought against the Amethyst Queen and her forces: Swiftdeath or the Shadow’s Call. Among the smith-cultists who still serve the Rotting Hand, it is venerated as one of his greatest works, and called the Dark Herald for Creating Destruction in Mace Form.

The soul within Shadecall has grown steadily in power in the long ages since its crafting. In addition to teleportation – one of the Rotting Hand’s personal trademarks – and an ever-greater command of the shade legions, Shadecall can still the breath in an enemy’s lungs, strike with lethal force, and many other gifts besides.

Magic Weapon. Shadecall is a magic weapon that grants a +3 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with it. It also acts as a sword of life stealing and a gem of seeing.
Random Properties. The scepter has the following randomly-determined properties:

  • 2 minor beneficial properties (suggested additional options: immunity to magical sleep; while attuned to Shadecall, you can cast misty step once per hour)
  • 1 major beneficial property (suggested: mass suggestion once per day)
  • 2 minor detrimental properties (fouling of holy water is particularly appropriate)
  • 1 major detrimental property (suggested: the soul in the weapon sometimes decides you are his political enemy at court, and interferes with you by trying to poison you. An average of twice a week, you have to roll a DC 20 Charisma (Persuasion) check or suffer 4d10 poison damage.)

Stilled Breath. When you hit with a melee attack using Shadecall, you can force the target to roll a DC 18 Constitution saving throw or begin suffocating. You can end this effect as a reaction. The creature can roll a new saving throw against this effect once per minute, ending the suffocation on a success.
Teleportation. As a reaction, Shadecall can teleport to Halsethil, or to the Amethyst Queen’s hand. Shadecall can choose to take you along, or not. This teleportation can cross planar boundaries.
The Queen’s Mark. When Shadecall is touching a willing, unconscious, or suffocating creature, you can impose one level of Soul-Marked on that creature.
Command the Shade Legion. When you are holding Shadecall and it is between dusk and dawn, you can use your action to conjure one wraith, or a number of shadows equal to your Charisma modifier. These creatures serve you with absolute loyalty until dawn or until they are destroyed. At any one time, you can command any combination of conjured wraiths and shadows equal to three uses of this action.
Destroying Shadecall. The only sure way to destroy Shadecall is to sunder it upon the Sacrificial Forge. Doing so would require a means of blocking its teleportation, which is difficult in the extreme. (It’s an artifact, a theoretical dimensional anchor spell probably won’t cut it.) It is also possible that the Amethyst Queen could simply command Shadecall to destroy itself, were she so inclined.

 

Talisman of Virtue

Wondrous item, rare (requires attunement)

This talisman, a copper plate 3 inches wide and 5 inches wide, is inscribed with a sigil of Tura Keshik. It is a suitable divine focus. When you are wearing or holding the talisman and you roll initiative, you can spend a spell slot to cast bless, shield of faith, sanctuary, or warding bond without spending an action.

When you fail a saving throw to maintain concentration, you can choose to succeed instead. Once you have used this feature, it can’t be used again until the next dawn.

Some magical maces, staffs, scepters, shields, and armor are designed to receive and hold talismans. While you are attuned to a talisman affixed to such an item, you are also attuned to the item itself.

 

Design Notes

I haven’t spent a lot of time designing artifacts or sentient magic items in 5e, and Shadecall should really be both. The rules above under-emphasize the role of its bound soul as the guarantor of the Queen’s will. For those reading this who didn’t play Dust to Dust, it was one of the magic items that the players saw most often, but never actually wielded – starting from the first full event. Oh, and I guess I’ve also failed to list some of the other Brustian pieces, like its ability to absorb and protect the wielder’s soul when they die, making them easier to resurrect later on. If you’re looking for the full DtD or Dragaera experience, be prepared to bolt on additional features. You can’t unbalance it – it’s an artifact, already wildly too powerful! (Also, hilariously unsuited to PC use – it’s functionally a secondary bad guy that teams up with various other servants of the big bad.)

The item + talisman thing is my response to socketing gems into magic items. I’m fine with socketing gems into gear in video games, but it becomes difficult to support all of the different properties that multiple gems should add to weapons. Talismans are intended to fit into only a limited selection of items and never allow more than one talisman per item. A talisman affixed to an item probably results in an item one rarity grade higher than the rarity of the higher of the two items. Players and DMs alike love items with a clear promise of growth in the course of the story, and even better if it’s a side-quest that has something for more than just them.

Also, I just really like the image of metal, stone, or paper talismans dangling from or within gear. The visual aesthetic of the Empire in Warhammer Fantasy has never lost its hold on me.

I find the design of Bonegrinder to be the weakest of the bunch. I started with the name, which I still like, but had a hard time figuring out what that would mean in context that doesn’t have meaningful hit locations. I decided that if it’s okay to spam ray of frost, it’s probably okay to use the same slowing effect in a melee weapon. Maybe.

Also for those who didn’t play Dust to Dust (or those who didn’t pay attention to Oresund NPCs), the Fist of Tharamon was a Named Weapon that we wrote long before the start of the campaign. Tharamon was one of the Primarchs, the angels that the PC celestials directly reported to, which is what’s going on with the whole angel theme here. Its extra damage against celestials is, of course, about beating the crap out of the Fallen. I didn’t look up what powers we gave it in DtD, because I specifically wanted to do something with it that would be meaningless in a LARP – the Wisdom-instead-of-Strength thing.

With Bloodless… well, I always like multi-state magic items, and this one lets me slide in some wordplay. I dithered a whole lot about the mechanics of the two states. I also think there’s a good argument for different collections of creature types you’re allowed to kill – oozes and aberrations might be A-OK, depending on your story for who made the weapon and why it is this way. Bloodless has a pretty strong case for being sort of low-grade sentient.

Overall, maces aren’t terribly common in D&D outside of the hands of clerics, because they’re relegated to being simple weapons and just aren’t competitive with the various martial weapon options. My hope is both that these magic items give melee clerics something fun to want, and that they might offer sufficiently compelling features to get fighter-types to consider using them.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

10 thoughts on “D&D 5e: Five Magic Maces (And a Talisman)

  • Max

    Sorry, your website decided my long post was spam. Here it is, formatted in small, easily digestible chunks for a cautious webpage.

    WANT WANT WANT WANT WANT

    Ahem.

    I like Bonegrinder the best out of all the maces. Maces are so underrated. Anyway, here’s some ideas for Bonegrinder:

    THONK
    On a crit, the target creature must make a DC 16 Con save. On a failure, roll a d4 and consult the table below. On a success, the creature suffers the effects of a critical hit but nothing else.
    What is Crunched? (d4)
    1. Torso. The creature’s maximum hit points are decreased by an amount equal to the damage taken, and it is knocked prone.
    2. Leg. The creature has disadvantage on all Dexterity saving throws and takes a -20 ft. penalty to movement speed until it regains hit points.
    3. Arm. The creature has disadvantage on all weapon attacks and Strength checks until it regains hit points.
    4. Head. The creature is stunned for 1 minute.

    If there are no leg or arm or even head equivalents, substitute the Torso effect.

    Of course, this is rather pointless against oozes, but perhaps the Torso effect might work on plants.

    • Max

      Weight of the Ages
      Bonegrinder has 3 charges. It regains 1d3 charges every day at dawn. The wielder of Bonegrinder can cast these spells while attuned to it.
      Slow (requires 2 charges)
      Speak With Dead (requires 2 charges)
      Thunderwave (first level, requires 1 charge)
      When you hit a creature with Bonegrinder, you may use a bonus action to cast Thunderwave centered on that creature. You automatically succeed on your saving throw.
      Bonegrinder maintains concentration on the spells for you, but you still must make a Con save to maintain concentration when hit with an attack.

      Grinder
      3 times a day, when you hit a creature with Bonegrinder, you can force it to make a DC 16 Con save. On a failure, the creature takes an extra 1d12 bludgeoning damage. It continues to take this damage at the start of each of its turns as its bones spontaneously crack, shatter, and twist. At the end of its turn, it may repeat this saving throw. If the creature is reduced to beneath half its hit points and takes this damage, it has disadvantage on all attacks and ability checks, and it cannot Dash.

      • Max

        I think that the spells give it a nice archaic flavor. Substituting Animate Dead for Speak With Dead could give it a more necromantic feel, especially if you refluff it to raise zombie deinonychus or lizard skeletons instead of regular humanoid stuff. The casting Thunderwave on a hit, for me, is reminiscent of a pally smite. Like a Hulk Smash that throws out a large cloud of gritty bone powder. I think that just adding the spells to what you already have should give Bonegrinder a bit more bang for its buck.

        If you want more unique options, the crit table is a great way to add flavor. Y’know, describe shattered elbows and bones sticking out of thighs and crushed ribcages and dented skulls. Of course, enemies that can regenerate can avoid two of these effects, but its fun to watch players’ faces as you describe the gory wounds they inflicted sealing up.

        The Grinder option seems to get to the heart of bone grinding. Just an ongoing crunch, crunch, crunch. The mechanics are a bit clunky, but it seems to me that if you reduce a creature below half its hit points by slowly crushing its bones, that creature ought to actually suffer from its osseous deformation.

        Just a few ideas.

        • Brandes Stoddard Post author

          I like what you’re doing with Weight of Ages, though I would probably go a touch more generous on its charge limit (but keep 1d3 charges regained per day), just so your combination of effects in a day is a little more varied.

          Grinder is probably my favorite of your takes on it. I initially misread the conditions around your if-bloodied effect, but now that I go over it again, I think you’ve got something good there. Does the disadvantage on attacks and checks, and no Dashing, end once you pass a save?

          Crit tables are really, really not my thing – not because of what you’ve done with THONK, but as a broad statement in games. Also be extra careful with “stunned for 1 minute” in 5e, because it’s the same as saying, “go play a video game or something, we won’t need you for the rest of the fight”, unless there’s a fresh save at the end of every turn.

          I am very glad to see that Bonegrinder interested you so much! Thanks for the contributions, and for soldiering on through difficulties posting your comments. Your earlier attempts didn’t even get as far as my Dashboard-side spam filter. :/

          • Max

            Yes. Grinder ends with a save. And stunned on the table should have a save too.

            Unless…
            4. Head. Target is stunned for a number of turns (no save) equal to your Str/Dex score minus its Constitution modifier.

            This makes Bonegrinder really good against weaker creatures and gives characters with high Str/Dex an incentive to keep it around. Also change the wording on Grinder (and all of them) to “hostile creatures”.

            I think if you take the above effect and have it trigger on a crit, it might be pretty good along with the movement speed reduction.

            See below.

          • Max

            Bonegrinder

            This magic weapon adds a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with it. When you deal damage with it to a creature that is not an ooze or plant, the creature takes a -10 penalty to speed, other than fly speeds granted by spells, until the beginning of your next turn. This speed penalty does not stack, but it is doubled on a critical hit.

            Additionally, on a critical hit, you can use your bonus action to force the target creature to make a DC 16 Constitution saving throw. On a failure, the creature is stunned for a number of turns equal to the ability score you used to attack with minus its Constitution modifier.

            This weapon is made from a massive femur, with steel flanges set into the striking surface. Its strikes feel as if it is grinding bones to powder, and it is uncommonly good at hitting legs right around the kneecap.

            Note that this won’t do too much, necessarily, against a BBEG like an ancient dragon, because of Legendary Resistance, their ridiculous saves, and their great Con mod. Also, in battles with a lot of participants and lots of turns, the stunned effect might not even last a whole round. For example, in a fight with 4 players and an orc shaman, and orc Eye of Gruumsh, 3 orcs, and a Tanarukk, there are 10 possible turns. The DM will probably have the orcs act at the same time and the tanarukk separately to not just have PC-PC-enemies-PC-PC as initiative, but that’s still 6 turns. I seem to recall that orcs and tanarukks have a positive Con mod, so if the cleric with 14 Str crits an orc that fails its save, he stuns it for probably 12-13 rounds. That’s 2 or maybe 3 orc turns of stun. With more combatants, the time that orc spends stunned is the same, but the number of turns he spends stunned is less.

            Point being, sometimes I like to impose save-or-suck occasionally. Considering that my stun effect only has a 5% chance to trigger and allows a save, I think it’s not bad. And the bonus action economy prevents the Champion fighter from crit fishing for a lot of free stuns.

            Also consider that Bonegrinder is functionally Ray of Frost in melee.

            For whatever reason, this has touched off something in me.

            Also, maybe Fist of Tharamon could allow you to add your Wis modifier to initiative rolls. Fits the fluff.

          • Brandes Stoddard Post author

            I’ll add them to the list. Crossbows and bows will probably be in the same post. In case you haven’t seen it, I created a small collection of magic firearms many years ago: http://www.brandesstoddard.com/2012/11/four-more-magic-items-of-aurikesh/ (Note that I wrote these while the D&D Next playtest was quite early in its run, and I have not updated them. Also, I would definitely alter their alignment-linked mechanics if I were creating them today!)