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Homebrewing a Starting Magic Item

Dausuul

Legend
I'm playing in a campaign where PCs start with one uncommon magic item. I'm playing a fire sorcerer, and am contemplating a homebrew item to submit to the DM for approval. Here's what I've got so far; curious to hear feedback.

Spell Serpents (requires attunement by a spellcaster): This bracelet looks like three snakes twined together. One is made of gold, one of silver, and one of black iron. When you see a spell cast within 60 feet of you, if it is of a level you could cast, you can use your reaction to bind that spell into one of the snakes. If the snake already has a bound spell, the new one replaces it.

Each snake will only grant access to the newly-bound spell when a certain condition is met. You can then cast the spell using one of your own spell slots. When you do, it fades from the bracelet.


  • The gold snake requires a sacrifice of gems or coins. Treat this as an additional material component, consumed in casting. The sacrifice is 5 gp for a cantrip; 50 gp per level for a spell up to level 5; and 500 gp per level for a spell of level 6 or higher.
  • The silver snake requires that you have the original caster's spoken permission to use the spell.
  • The black iron snake requires that the original caster is dead (or destroyed, if it wasn't living to start with).

(The expectation is that the silver snake lets you back up an allied spellcaster on a particular spell, the black iron snake lets you steal a spell from an enemy in combat, and the gold snake holds a "rainy-day" spell that you won't use very often.)

In the days of yore, a big part of playing a wizard - and one I always enjoyed - was hunting for new spells. In the campaigns I played in, when you gained access to a new level of spells, you got one (1) spell of that level for your spellbook, and that was it. If the DM was nice, you got to pick which spell you wanted, but you still only got one spell every other level. For the rest, you had to beg, borrow, or steal from other wizards. 5E is much more generous to wizards, but not so much to sorcerers; this seemed like a neat way to recapture some of that "treasure hunting" feel. The gold snake also gives some incentive for actual treasure hunting.

Balance-wise, the pearl of power is probably the top end of uncommon items for a spellcaster. I felt like an item that gave three known spells (with restrictions on what you can put into it) but no extra slots was reasonably balanced against an item that gave one extra slot but no new spell options.

What do you think?
 
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Sleepy Walker

First Post
I..... like this a lot.

I think I would add an extra tier for the gold snake.
-5gp for cantrip
-25gp for spell levels 1 and 2
-250gp for spell levels 3 through 5
-500 GP for spell levels in excess of 5.
-Can only store level 9 spells with a gem worth 10,000gp or more

The biggest negative I see if determining original caster. Is it the first to ever cast the spell? Is it just the person you copied from?

With your permission I plan on adding this to a campaign I am writing. It should add quite a lot of spell-hunting incentive, as you designed.
 

Dausuul

Legend
I think I would add an extra tier for the gold snake.
-5gp for cantrip
-25gp for spell levels 1 and 2
-250gp for spell levels 3 through 5
-500 GP for spell levels in excess of 5.
-Can only store level 9 spells with a gem worth 10,000gp or more
So, you're thinking a flat amount for each tier, instead of per-level? Any particular reason, or just personal preference?

The biggest negative I see if determining original caster. Is it the first to ever cast the spell? Is it just the person you copied from?
The latter - it's whoever cast the spell that you used your reaction to copy. I'll rewrite to make that clearer, thanks!

With your permission I plan on adding this to a campaign I am writing. It should add quite a lot of spell-hunting incentive, as you designed.
Go for it. :)
 

Satyrn

First Post
I..... like this a lot.
Ditto.

If I was your DM, I'd approve it after eliminating the ability to absorb any spell of 6th level or higher; in part to get rid of the fiddliness in the pricing of the gold snake, but also because the game treats those high level spells as extra special I feel like binding that power should be the property of a very rare version of this item.
 

Sleepy Walker

First Post
So, you're thinking a flat amount for each tier, instead of per-level? Any particular reason, or just personal preference?
Oh, missed that per level bit.

Hmm, I think I would probably do what you have, per level costs. Yours are pretty reasonable. I think I would require a gem for the 9th level spell, just because it would be cool to offer a very expensive gem, have the snake hold it, and then infuse the gem with magic.

*edit: I see Satyrn's post and can't help but feel a little trepidation about the higher level spells as well. Higher levels could get out of control. If high level spells can be stored, I would keep a doozy of a price tag on that gold snake. I would probably also restrict the silver and black snakes to level 5 or lower.
 
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aco175

Hero
The only thing I may change is the level of spells you can steal from enemies. An uncommon item in my opinion should be capped at 3rd level. I would also simplify the fee for it. Make it a flat gp cost like 25gp or you can insert a diamond and it gets ground down each time something is cast making it less valuable. You can also have the snake bite the caster for HP damage, paying with his life. Since it is a free dispel magic combined with a free spell slot I may make it bite the caster to bind it. 1d6 damage per level of the spell and poisoned condition for 1 minute/ save ends.
 


CM

Adventurer
This seems crazy powerful to me, and definitely something I wouldn't consider having at early levels. Am I missing something?
I was under the impression it didn't dispel or counter the original casting. It just lets you learn/prepare up to 3 additional spells if you meet the conditions. Nor does it give you free slots to cast them.

Maybe a little strong for an uncommon but seems fine. Definitely stronger for classes with limited known spells than it is for wizards.
 
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Dausuul

Legend
I was under the impression it didn't dispel or counter the original casting. It just lets you learn/prepare up to 3 additional spells if you meet the conditions. Nor does it give you free slots to cast them.
That is correct. The spell takes effect normally, you just get to copy it later (once, using your own slots) if you meet the condition.

An item that gave you an auto-succeeding counterspell at will would not be uncommon; it'd be an artifact.
 

Eltab

Hero
I don't like this item for an L1 character showing up with it on Day One.

But it is an excellent Quest Item for a PC to be searching out.
It also could be something the PCs find as treasure and experiment with over time.
I think its best use would be as a Legacy Item (as in the 3e sourcebook): its capabilities grow along with you as you gain levels.
 

Satyrn

First Post
*edit: I see Satyrn's post and can't help but feel a little trepidation about the higher level spells as well. Higher levels could get out of control. If high level spells can be stored, I would keep a doozy of a price tag on that gold snake. I would probably also restrict the silver and black snakes to level 5 or lower.
It was indeed my intention to place that limit on all 3 snakes. I'm not sure it really matters, though, since the wearer needs to be 11th level to bind a 6th level spell anyway.

But then, we're not his DM, and my ultimate suggestion to the OP would be to present the item as written, adding in a clarification that there's no spellcountering going on. We don't want the DM reacting like lowkey.
 

Dausuul

Legend
The character is starting at level 6, not level 1. (That's why we get a magic item.)

Good points about capping the level on the spells. I don't think it has major balance implications, since you don't get any extra slots out of it, but it does feel weird to be able to manipulate 9th-level spells with an uncommon item. I'll have to think about where the appropriate place is to draw the line.

I'll also change "bind" to "imprint," which describes better what's happening.
 

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