Intelligent Item Set - Creative Make-Up for Sunday Morning Heroes

I'm probably not got to get to the backlog of Missed SMH videos (I'm about 4 behind), because it's a much lower priority than TDDC, and I thnk I need new ideas to inspire more of these.

But in the meantime, we missed a weekend after a decent streak of consistent streams, so here's the latest creative Make-Up video:

Full Transcript here (probably full of typos):

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Greetings, I'm Demonac, and this is a Make-Up video, where I make up an RPG element, like an organization or monster or an exotic location, based on viewer suggestions. I'm trying to make one of these every time we miss a Sunday Morning Heroes D&D5e livestream, but it's lower priority than my real series, TDDC, so I probably won't catch up on the backlog of about 4 I 'owe' right now...

I had a couple requests for intelligent items - for a non-weapon non-armor item, and for a set of intelligent items, so I'm going to present an item set. Of course, as usual this video is focused more on brainstorming and giving you ideas than on mechanics, so I'm going to present a couple of different themes.

Generally, the purpose of a magic item set is that wearing multiple items or the full set provides more power than the sum of its parts, while assembling the set becomes a quest (or side-quest) in its own right.

Intelligent items in D&D are items which are more than just tools - they have a purpose of their own, and a will bent on accomplishing that purpose. Typically, such items are more powerful than most, rewarding the wielder for working toward the item's goal, but also trying to bend the user toward that goal, and if they resist - if they act against the will of the item - the item may become ornery, or activtely hamper them, and if they conflict too much, ultimately the item may try to find itself a new user somehow.

I would suggest that Intelligent Set items would almost by definition have one other trait - any intelligent item which is part of a set (whether the other parts of the set are individually intelligent, or collectively form a single personality) - any intelligent set item must either want to join the rest of the set, or, since they may have their own will, want to AVOID joining the rest of the set. One or the other - an Intelligent item that is part of a Set really shouldn't be indifferent about whether or not the set should be assembled.

All this put together means that a Set of Intelligent items is bound to become a prominent part of a campaign - though not necessarily right away. Let's look at one version of this idea:

 

In ancient times there was an item now known only as The Ark. Its nature is shrouded in mystery, but we know that a small group of powerful heroes assembled to protect The Ark - to keep its power out of evil hands. These Sentinels of the Ark protected their charge for the rest of their lives, but when the first of them - a human - finally succombed to old age, their wizard - the elf Velthalas - was concerned that as the Sentinels passed, the heroes of the future may not have the power to guard The Ark against the gathering forces of darkness. And so the remaining Sentinels made a pact, to stand against that darkness for all eternity. Velthalas bound the soul of their fallen comrade into his already reknowned signature magic boots, allowing their friend to communicate to the wearer, while the wearer of the boots could access some of the great warrior's power in battle. And so, as each of the comrades passed, in time, the longest lived of them - the elven Wizard - bound each of them into one of their signature magic items, and finally set into place contingencies to ensure that upon her own demise, she herself would in the same way become bound to her mighty magic amulet, so that in the future, should The Ark be threatened, it would always be possible for new heroes to arise, and for them to bring to bear the power of all the Sentinels to protect their charge - and by extension, the world.

The number of Sentinels is left purposefully vague; because it is probably suspiciously similar to the number of player characters in your campaign. I'll make a sample set, then go through some of the innumerable ways that you can modify and play around with this concept to tailor it to your game, defy expectations, and maintain the mystery in your campaign.

The Sentinels of The Ark (in this sample universe) are a set of four Intelligent items, each containing the soul of an ancient hero. Each is aware of anything which can be seen or heard within 20 feet of them, can choose to communicate with the wearer (either telepathically, or in another way, specific to the item, at GM's discretion), as well as having a very general sense of the current emotional state of the wearer. Each item has an agenda, and goals based on the personality of the original hero, and if the wearer acts in accordance to their desires, the hero whose essence is within the item can choose to reveal themself to the wearer, a ghostly image which stands next to the item while it is worn. If the wearers go against the desires of the Sentinel whose magic item they wield, the item may attempt to punish them in some ways, to force them "back on track". Each item can also sense the direction to the next closest member of the item set, and can estimate the distance very roughly, such as "5 days ride".


 

Example items:

The Gloves of Narja [aka the Missing Fingers]

 

Probably the first item of the set to be uncovered, these slick, black, fingerless gloves may initially appear to be simple gloves of Dexterity. As the first Set item, these have to start the Quest to assemble the Sentinels, if the party was not already searching for them.

 

These gloves contain the essence of Narja, an epic halfling thief and 'scoundrel'. She was well-meaning, always there for her friends, but... maybe a kleptomaniac? The first sign that these may be more than ordinary stat-gloves is that small items start unexpectedly ending up in the wearer's pockets or pack - including some random and/or valuable junk (from passersby, NPCS, or even other player characters), but also potentially plot-relevant items, like the keys to the jail cell to which they were escorted in manacles? Narja always had to be doing something with her hands, so when trying to restrain herself from pilfering everything in sight, she tended to doodle, and the wearer will likely start doing the same. The character may not carry chalk or a quill-pen... but they might find one in their pocket.

 

As an intelligent item, the Gloves of Narja have a will, and an objective of their own. Their primary goal is to protect The Ark, if it is found again, but in order to do that, they want to assemble the the full set - to rejoin with all of Narja's friends, the ancient Sentinels of The Ark. Narja's essence, in particular, has a tendency to encourage the... er... taking of small objects. But she also particularly wants to be closer to the essence of her best friend (and general foil), Bruno, a human warrior who now exists within the Boots of Bruno.

 

The Missing Fingers are actually pretty passive and easygoing for an intelligent item under most circumstances, not necessarily revealing their intelligence until they (or the wearer) see or hear information about The Ark or the other Sentinels (either in life, or in their current itemized form). At that point, though, the gloves may begin speaking telepathically to the wearer, in Narja's cute halfling-y voice, or GM's option, they may only communicate by writing cryptic notes using the wearer's hands, but the rogue's own tiny handwriting. If the wearer is receptive, and embraces Narja's desire to fight dirty (but only against the forces of evil), and to gather information for the party (either by chatting with people or by scouting ahead), she may become more attuned to them. The gloves become less attuned when the wearer fights dirty against obviously innocent or neutral forces. When properly attuned, Narja's spirit (or at least, a ghostly image of her) can actually emerge from the gloves, visible only to wielders of The Sentinels, but able to move up to 20-feet from the gloves (while they are being worn), including scouting and reporting back information the wearer couldn't see or hear themselves.

 

BASE ITEM: Gloves of Dexterity (with additional stats or abilities at GM's discretion)
ABILITIES: The wearer gains a backstab ability, dealing +1d6 damage against Evil Creatures only - obviously cumulative with any actual backstab ability of the character. If backstabbing an Evil Creature with more than 100 current HP, the backstab deals an additional +2d6 damage (for a total of +3d6)

 

Each of these items also has an "assist" ability, making them work better in conjunction with the wearer of another specific set item. This ability reveals itself when the wearers of the two items are working together, OR if a character wears both items at once. The Gloves of Narja have:
ASSIST: If the wearer of the Boots of Bruno [aka the Iron Boots] assists the character in making a leaping charge (for example, in 5th Edition D&D, this might be using their reaction to make a Strength check to help 'toss' the wearer of the gloves), the wearer of the Gloves of Narja gains +10 speed and +4 AC during that attack. Yes, I know charge is only with a Feat in 5th Ed, this would probably just be for moving 20+ feet in a straight line to make melee attacks.


 

The Boots of Bruno [aka the Iron Boots]

 

These well-worn grey leather boots, once worn by Bruno of The Sentinels of The Ark, have very long laces (enough to wrap around the boots several times in addition to criss-crossing their way down), and contain the human warrior's courageous spirit - his mix of crazy risktaking and duty-bound desire to protect his friends. Unlike the relatively chill gloves, the moment these boots are worn, Bruno asks if The Ark is safe, and begins trying to find out what has happened and where the other Sentinels are. Bruno is insistent that you should immediately go after the nearest of the Sentinel set items not worn by a member of the party. At GM's discretion, the boots may (instead of telepathy) attempt to communicate by spelling out words with their long laces. WARNING: This is a cool idea, but a slow mode of communication and probably a pain in the ass. Though it WOULD be a cool way to communicate something against the will of the wearer...

 

The Boots become more attuned to the wearer if they attack enemy spellcasters first in combat (as expediently as possible, regardless of what foes lie in between), or if no enemy spellcasters are around, face the most dangerous enemy first. The Boots become less attuned if the party retreats from battle, unless the wearer is the the last to run (guarding the rear).

 

BASE ITEM: Boots of Striding and Springing (additional stats or abilities at GM's discretion)
ABILITIES: If the wearer attacks a creature in melee, then until the beginning of their next turn, any physical attack by that creature against the wearer that deals 10+ damage has its damage reduced by 2. Any physical attack by that creature against the wearer that deals 20+ damage instead has its damage reduced by 5, and any physical attack by that creature against the wearer that deals 30+ damage instead has its damage reduced by 10.
ASSIST: If the wearer of the Amulet of Velthalas casts a damage-dealing area spell on the wearer of the Iron Boots/Boots of Bruno, the Amulet's wearer can spend their reaction to make an Intelligence check (Say, DC 8 + spell level); it successful, the wearer of the Boots takes no damage from the spell, though they may suffer other effects of it; on a failed check, the wearer of the Boots still takes only half damage, wich may be further reduced by resistances, the spell's saving throw (if any), etc.

 

The Amulet of Velthalas [aka the Elfmind Amulet]

 

This silver amulet has a trio of pink gems set in the front; the gems are not symmetrical; the different sizes representing the Id, the Ego and the Superego. The Amulet contains the logical, patient, contemplative intellect of Velthalas, the wizard of The Sentinels, and the one who bound their spirits to these items. Her primary concern is to learn of the current fate of The Ark, and to reassemble the Sentinels to protect it, but unlike Bruno, the elf is hesitant to reveal too much until certain that the wearer can be trusted. Even then, she may be doubtful of the trustworthiness of their friends, because the amulet cannot sense their emotions the way it can sense those of the wearer.

 

The Amulet will communicate telepathically with the wearer (and this is the wizard; it doesn't have some fun alternate means of communication), though if you are using the alternate means for the other items, this actually makes her telepathy stand out as special. At first, it will attempt to give information to make itself useful, but simultaneously to try to discern the wearer's intentions - which can lead to some misunderstandings, because to know if the wearer can be trusted, depending on circumstances, it may have to test them, with ideas which the wearer should reject, but which may cause the wearer to themselves suspect the Amulet.

 

The wearer will become more attuned to the Amulet if they pass her tests, acting against evil, rejecting courses of action which would harm innocents. They can also become more attuned simply by gathering the other Sentinel items together. The wearer becomes less attuned if they fail any tests, fail to act righteously in the face of tough decisions, or resist the quest to assemble the Sentinels and eventually find and protect The Ark.

 

BASE ITEM: Amulet of Psychic Resistance (additional stats or abilities at GM's discretion)
ABILITIES: Whenever the wearer drops an enemy to zero HP, the Amulet of Velthalas heals 1HP and gains 1 charge. If the enemy defeated was a large creature or spellcaster, instead gain 2HP and 2 charges; if the enemy defeated was a dragon or a huge or larger creature, instead gain 3 HP and 3 charges.
As a Reaction, if the Amulet has 8 or more charges, the wearer can expend ALL charges to cast Counterspell as the spell; if the wearer is not a spellcaster, use Intelligence as the spellcasting ability if required. The minimum charges required to trigger this ability is reduced by one for each other piece of the item set worn by an ally of the caster (within 100 feet).
ASSIST: Once per short rest, if the wearer of the Cloak of Shariffe (aka Cloak of The Guardian) is within 100 feet of you, as an Action you can teleport them to your side [the Cloak's wearer must be willing; if they do not accept the teleport, the action is spent but this ability is not]. Once per short rest, as a reaction, you may grant advantage on any one skill check being performed by the wearer of the Cloak of Shariffe.

 

The Cloak of Shariffe (aka Cloak of The Guardian)

 

This flowing blue cloak with a silver-edged hood, contains the essence of the healer of The Sentinels of The Ark: Shariffe the Stern. The priest was known for his fearless determination to keep his allies alive no matter what, with his protective magics, and for remaining stoic in the face of suffering and loss, but also for his extremely dry (even dark) sense of humor.

 

The Cloak will communicate telepathically with the wearer, to encourage them to find the other Sentinels and together, to protect The Ark. If alternate methods of communication are in use, it might work by pointing with its corners or tugging (like Dr. Strange's Cloak of Levitation), OR perhaps the abstract or runic pattens of the trim form themselves into legible words when needed. The Cloak becomes more attuned as you bring hope to people who lack hope, but also as you use dark or dry humor to fight against fear and despair among your allies (including yourself). It will become less attuned if you act in an overtly silly manner, or if you choose protecting yourself over aiding your allies.

 

BASE ITEM: Cloak of Protection +1 AC, +1 Saves (additional stats or abilities at GM's discretion)
ABILITIES: Whenever the wearer heals hitpoint damage with a Level 1 or higher spell, if a single target was healed, they gain 4 Temp HP, or multiple targets instead gain 2 Temp HP each. If it was a Level 3 or higher spell, if a single target was healed, they instead gain 10 Temp HP, or multiple targets instead gain 5 Temp HP each. If it was a level 6 or higher spell, if a single target was healed, they instead gain 20 Temp HP, or multiple targets instead gain 10 Temp HP each. All temporary HP from this ability last for up to 3 rounds.
ASSIST: If adjacent to the wearer of the Gloves of Narja, the wearer of the Gloves can use their Reaction to make a Stealth check; if successful, the Cloak wearer gains +10 speed and does not provoke opportunity attacks until the end of their turn.

 

Those are some fairly generic versions of the items and of the Sentinels. You should absolutely create your own stats and/or abilities of the items, and change or create totally different histories and personalities of the Sentinels, to better fit your campaign world and the story you want to tell. I would also change the number of set items to match the party - four items for 3 players is probably fine, but if you have more than 4 PCs, I would add more Sentinels to match the party size. Though more than 6 is may be too many. Remember, as the items become more attuned to the wearers, each item may begin to show the ghostly image of its hero, and if you wanted, you roleplay between them and their wearers, or even between each other, playing out the friendships and rivalries they had in life.

 

Here are some more important ways to change and adapt the whole dynamic of the item set though:

First, what is the nature of the Ark? Is it a power which can be unlocked by the sentinels to be used against evil? Or a power which must forever be guarded, not to fall into evil hands. Is it against evil in general? Or is it the only counter to some very specific Grand Evil. OR, is the legend all wrong - a trap - and the sentinels are decievers who want to be united in order to unlock a great evil and take over or destroy the world?

Regardless of the nature of The Ark itself, there will doubtless be other parties seeking to unite the Sentinels, either for The Ark, or just for the powers of the items themselves - if a pair of items are worn by one individual, it may allow them to use one of the Assist powers. If ALL the items were worn by one individual, they could use all their assist powers. Because of Bruno's blunt and straightforward nature, a villain who puts on the boots would immediately learn of The Ark and the nearest of the Sentinels' items, pitting them against the party on the quest to unite the set.

Then there is the Set Bonus. When all the Sentinels are assembled, either on one person, or on a group of allies as intended, they should gain some great power to make it all worthwile. What should this power be? I would probably allow them to communicate telepathically with one-another at will, then give them some simple but awesome power (in 5th Ed, maybe increase their Proficiency bonus by +1, which makes them slightly better at basically everything). Then, there should probably be some very strong power to counter the main evil which threatens The Ark (or which The Ark protects against), such as Resistance or Immunity to a damage type used by the enemy. Imagine a terrifying demon which nobody could oppose, because its aura deals 10d6 Necrotic damage per round to all beings within 60 feet. If the Sentinels made the wearers immune to Necrotic damage, the demon might still be a great combat threat, but one which true heroes could defeat - with the power of the Sentinels. Maybe it's some deadly being which can mind-control any creature with no save, and the wearers of the Sentinels are immune to this power (or the creature has to focus on a single target, who gets a save thanks to the power of the item set). In any case, I think it's a good general plan for the set bonus to have both a game power which the heroes can use and feel good about, AND a plot power which makes the set inherently critical to the adventure.

Finally, whether the original Sentinels were true heroes or surprise villains, there's an extra element you could add into the mix (or not): a traitor to the group. Most likely culprits in the particular example group described above are the Wizard (who may have had a sinister agenda, or may have lived long enough to regret the oath through which they trapped themself in this eternal limbo), or the first of the Sentinels to die - if you recall, in my story, the idea of the item set came AFTER the first death, meaning that individual didn't get a choice in life. What if they hate being trapped in the item, or are just angered because they never had the choice, but ultimately, when the fate of the world is at stake, they would have a change of heart and help save creation anyway? The traitor might seek to unite the set for some sinister purpose of their own, or they may seek to prevent the items from being assembled.

Again, I'm just providing ideas - I hope something here gives you some ideas for a major or minor element of your D&D campaign.

I want to thank all my generous Patreon Patrons for helping me keep making videos of all sorts, particularly Pericles, Lord Eibon, Tyrano McG, Zombi, Sarosh, Warsor and surfusa - the members of The Organization.

Make sure to make suggest your own weird or interesting ideas in the comments or on twitter @TalesDDC; and don't get too overly specific, because you never know what you'll get. Brainstorm away, whether for RPGs or for any fiction. Of course, if you want to see a lot of my crazy RPG ideas in action, check out the epic illustrated Tales From My D&D Campaign!

Demonac

D&D Dungeonmaster and Storyteller

Long, long ago, I created Another Gaming Comic, the world's ugliest webcomic. After about a 10 year run the writer's block piled up and I couldn't continue it. I don't want to call it dead - there was more to tell - but I also don't have time to go back and getting it going again would be hard.

I also created text-based D&D Excerpts, from some campaigns where I was a player (the first one was INSANE and hilarious). But by the third "season" of D&D Excerpts, that was a game where I was the GM, which meant I had GM notes, and it really changed the flavor. 

Then, I experimented with doing those same excerpts on youtube, and Tales From My D&D Campaign was born...