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D&D 5E Magical Metals and Alloys: We Need More

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
D&D 5e currently only has two magical/quasi-magical metals in the core game; Mithral and Adamantine. Rules for armors that are composed of Adamantine and Mithral are contained in the DMG's Magic Items chapter (which IMO is a mistake), the DMs Tools chapter of XGtE contained rules for weapons made of Adamantine, and so far, we have no official rules for weapons made of Mithral (I have Mithral weapons count as being silvered, and heavy weapons no longer be heavy, and non-heavy, non-light weapons become light when they are made from mithral as a homebrew rule for my campaigns. I still allow GWM and similar features to be used on weapons that would be heavy if not made of mithral, though).

The next magical metal/alloy that was officially added and detailed in 5e was Mizzium from Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica. Mizzium Armor is basically Adamantine Armor, but it has the additional benefit of letting you take no damage on successful Strength and Constitution saving throws where you would normally take half damage on the success. The book also has a fluff-text side-bar explaining some of this alloy's other properties, and also has a Mizzium Apparatus (a.k.a. the most artificer-y magic item in the game that artificers cannot attune to until level 14) and the Mizzium Mortar (a.k.a. the most underwhelming cannon in the game).

Descent into Avernus introduced another such metal; Infernal Iron, but it failed to describe what the substance does when weapons and armors are made out of this extraplanar metal. However, it did give a few hints as to its properties throughout the books, like the Hellfire Weapons and Soul Coins alluding to it having an affinity for trapping/controlling souls, and Infernal War Machines being granted immunity to fire damage, likely due to being made of Infernal Iron. The book also mentions that gold that is stolen or bartered from Mammon has powerful magical powers, such as granting a vehicle that is coated in "Golden Death Armor-Plating" resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.



And that's it. That's all the official exotic/magical metals, and the only other metal in the game that has any sort of magical properties is Silver, and it being able to overcome the damage resistances/immunities of many magical creatures, such as Lycanthropes and Devils. In my games, I also let Golden/Gilded weapons have a similar property to Silver weapons, but instead of ignoring Lycanthrope and Devil damage resistances/immunities, a Golden/Gilded weapon ignores the damage resistances/immunities of Celestials of all damage types that the weapon's attacks deal (so a gilded-sword that a Paladin divine smites a Solar with would ignore its immunity to Radiant damage), but it costs 1,000 gold pieces for one weapon or 20 pieces of ammunition. I'm assuming that something like this isn't already in D&D because gold is a soft metal and a really bad material to make weapons out of, but impracticality never stopped D&D before (just look at Double-Bladed Scimitars!).

Other than 4 official magical metals (one of which is setting specific, and the other is planar-specific) and one semi-magical property for a real life metal, there's no other way to customize weapons based on what weapons they're made out of. It has no mechanical difference whether your sword is made of Steel, Bronze, Copper, or Platinum in D&D 5e. And to an extent, I agree that minor differences in what a weapon is made out of compared to another weapon shouldn't matter mechanically in the game. Too much options ends up bloating the rules too much for no good reason. However, I believe that the inverse is also true; not enough cool customization options for weapons and armors ends up making weapons very same-y in the game. A greatsword's a greatsword's a greatsword. If they're not Magic Items, they're identical in statistics in 5e.

I want customization to be a part of weapon choice. I want a character to think more about what weapons and armors they choose beyond "which weapon/armor that has the highest damage dice/AC rating can I use?", and I think that allowing for more metal/alloy customization could encourage creative decision making in many campaigns. A silver/silvered weapon would likely be better in a Descent Into Avernus or Ravenloft campaign than it would be in a campaign that involves having to fight Celestials, in which case a golden/gilded weapon that's using my homebrew rule for those weapons would likely be more appropriate. Mithral Armor would likely be better in a campaign that frequently used Stealth than Adamantine Armor, which would likely be better in campaigns with enemies that frequently knock PCs unconscious or paralyze them. IMHO, there should be more to wearing/wielding a suit of armor/weapon than just its damage/AC and its visual theme. A Death Knight that wears armor made of Infernal Iron should gain some sort of benefit from wearing that armor other than it just being plain awesome (which is a great benefit, but it isn't a good enough incentive, IMO).

Thus, this thread. Down below I will provide some examples of "magical" metals and alloys that I include/am considering including in my campaigns, and hopefully feedback and more ideas will be provided later in the thread.

First, let's start with the Alloys.

The simplest example from my campaigns is Electrum. Weapons made of/coated in Electrum count as both Silvered and Gilded, which makes them effective against Celestials, Devils, and Lycanthropes.

Next, Infernal Iron. This is an official magical alloy/metal, but it doesn't have any mechanical effects in 5e. In my campaigns, Infernal Iron is made from mixing either Demon Ichor or Soul Silt into molten iron, and then cooling the metal in the River Styx. Quite simply, armor and shields made of Infernal Iron grant the wielder/wearer advantage on saving throws that would Charm or Frighten them and Weapon made of Infernal Iron prevent creatures that have been dead for more than 1 minute from being raised from the dead while within 5 feet of the weapon.

Also in my worlds/campaigns, Orichalcum is an alloy composed of roughly 50% Adamantine, 33.33% Mithral, 10% Gold, 5% Platinum, and the last ~2% of the alloy is a mixture of Tin, Zinc, and Copper, and it is a pale yellowish-electrum color (looking a bit like the color of this example). It has a mixture of Adamantine's and Mithral's properties, allowing you to ignore critical hits and the disadvantage on stealth that the armor normally gives (it doesn't ignore the strength requirement, though, and can't be worn underneath normal clothes). Orichalcum is extremely expensive and rare, as the process of creating the alloy is incredibly difficult to execute successfully, and the metals required to make it are very expensive on their own. In my campaigns, I have both Mithral and Adamantine cost 1,000 gold pieces per pound, and as Adamantine is more dense than Mithral, it is more expensive volumetrically. So, for 10 pounds of Orichalcum, you would need 5,000 gold worth of Adamantine, 3,333 gold worth of Mithral, 50 gold worth of Gold, 250 gold worth of Platinum, and 10 gold worth of the mixture of Tin, Zinc, and Copper. Then, the process of making the alloy roughly triples the cost per pound to make the Orichalcum, ending up with the extremely rare alloy costing 2,700 gold pieces per pound, and each cubic foot of orichalcum weighing ~225 pounds (slightly more than 3.6 grams/cubic-centimeter for those that care about such things, ending up a bit more dense than barium, but much stronger and much more stable). Orichalcum Plate Armor would cost 87,500 gold pieces, and weigh about 30 pounds and an Orichalcum Greatsword would cost 8,100 gold pieces and weigh 3 pounds (assuming these are normally made of steel or iron), costing several dozens of times as much as a normal greatswords/plate-armor and weighing roughly half as much (on top of its more important mechanical benefits, such as ignoring critical hits and disadvantage on Stealth for the Armor and the Greatsword dealing critical hits on objects, not being heavy, and counting as silvered).

Second, the completely new metals.

Starsteel is a type of steel made from meteoric ore, where the meteorites that bring this metal are actually fragmented pieces of the ancient and decaying body of a dead god whose body floated in the Astral Sea for eons, before being sundered into millions of smaller pieces that travelled in all directions at incredible speeds, with many of which managed to wander through portals to other planes of existence (including the many worlds of the Material Plane). For some reason, Fey creatures have an inherent weakness to Starsteel, which burns them with its extreme cold that only they can feel. Weapons made of Starsteel give advantage on attack rolls made against fey creatures and ignores any damage resistances they may have, while armors/shields made of the metal give fey disadvantage on attack rolls made against them.

Crimsonite is a magical metal that was originally created by Deep Gnomes due to their love of Rubies and mining. Deep Gnomes grew tired of the dreary grayness of the Underdark, so they began to experiment on combining their skills in alchemy, jeweling, metallurgy, and control over elemental magic to create a more visually appealing metal to build their underground cities out of. After many years of hard work, they were able to use a magical process to merge many of the physical attributes of rubies with a specially created alloy for this project (they never told anyone what the alloy was made of). The result was a scarlet-red metal that was nearly as tough to break as diamond and capable of being worked in way similar to steel, which the Deep Gnomes dubbed "Crimsonite". The metal has another strange property; its melting point and its freezing point are vastly different temperatures. Crimsonite starts out in solid form, and melts at roughly the same temperature as Steel. However, Molten Crimsonite (which looks disturbingly similar to blood) can cool back down to room-temperature without solidifying again, it only freezes if it is reduced to -40 degrees (Fahrenheit or Celsius, it's the same temperature). Deep Gnome cities are hidden by terrain that blends into the natural Underdark and illusion magic, but once a character enters one that has mastered the practice of creating Crimsonite, there is a drastic change in visual appearance of the environment, with nearly everything in the city that would typically be made of Steel being made of Crimsonite (with white-marble roads, emerald-green glass for windows, checkerboard floors of topaz and amethyst tiles, and walls made of red-marble), and Molten Crimsonite being used to keep the city warm, as it's a great conductor of heat, so just putting a small, artificial "river" of Molten Crimsonite near a volcanic/ignan hotspot will allow for the heat to be transported throughout the settlement without the problem of it boiling like water would, which makes it ideal for a variety of purposes, such as heating water for cooking and bathing, creating superheated moats to keep out trespassers, and allowing for Rock Gnomes to play the strange sport called "Sapphire-Scuttle", which has gnomes wearing strange shoes that let them stand on a pool of Molten Crimsonite (similar to snow-shoes) who use miniature, one-handed lacrosse sticks to pick up a golf-ball sized Sapphire and then try to throw it into a net (first team to make it to 7 goals wins). Crimsonite weapons ignore damage resistances and immunities that Elementals have, and armors/shields made from Crimsonite grants the wearer the ability to take no damage on Dexterity and Constition saving throws if they would normally take half-damage on a success.

So, what examples do you have from your worlds/campaigns? What metals do you wish there were rules for in D&D 5e?
 
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Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
Cold Iron
Similar to starsteel, but forged from dug-from-the-ground iron that never got beyond dull-red-hot, and was beaten into shape rather than poured into a mold. Weapon blows ignore Fey immunity / resistance to the damage type it inflicts. Armor acts as a repellant to Fey creatures; any contact - a grapple, biting the armor, clawing it - forces a CHR Save; if failed the Fey must move away and engage a different target. Fey who pick up a cold iron object suffer small amounts of continuing damage until they put it down.

Copper
Copper conducts electricity. Holding a copper weapon or wearing copper-laced armor means any Lightning (only) damage you take is increased by 1d4. But as a reaction you can point the weapon and Zap any one target within your reach (normally, whoever you attacked with the weapon on your last turn) for as much Lightning damage as the Green Flame Blade 'splash attack' does. Using a Copper wand allows you to better aim Witch Bolt attacks and change targets without having to re-cast the spell.

Copper is intended as a one-off villain's gear, a fun trivia bit that allows a surprise event. Cold iron however could become important to a successful campaign plan.
 


AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
The 2e adventure, Gate of Firestorm Peak, had "nephelium", which was functionally identical to steel except that it was also transparent as glass.
Yeah, there seem to be a lot of those in fiction/fantasy works. I remember there being something like that in Star Trek, Crysteel/Glassteel from Eberron and other D&D settings, and "Glass" (a moonstone-malachite alloy) from the Elder Scrolls series.
 


Yora

Legend
In my Bronze Age setting, obsidian is the traditional material to hurt spirits, but it's really inconvenient to work with and brittle.
Meteorite iron also does the job, and you can make full size blades with it, which also work great at alround weapons against humans. But it's stupendously rare and expensive.
The only people who know how to make useful steel from iron ore are giants, which also harms spirits. But the giants aren't sharing the secret with anyone.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I am working on a different approach - the crafting rules in Xanathar's indicate that special ingredients or materials are required for making magic items - so, I simply have it that there's no difference between "magic weapon" and "weapon made from special materials".

This gets around some of the weirdness in which, technically, folks not proficient in Arcana can make magic items - for these, the above-normal abilities come from the material and details of forging process, not necessarily casting enchantments they'd not know how to use.
 

Panfilo

Existential Risk
This concept was one of the more popular choices in a poll I ran back in late April / early May, which I used to decide what my next DMs Guild project would be. Ultimately the Monster Menu won out, but I'll definitely include something deep on fantasy mining/smithing that focuses on materials more than magic items in my next poll as well. I think there's something primally satisfying about finding and extracting the special shiny rocks and harnessing them to discover a new use. Am I a dwarf?
 

Faolyn

Hero
Descent into Avernus introduced another such metal; Infernal Iron, but it failed to describe what the substance does when weapons and armors are made out of this extraplanar metal. However, it did give a few hints as to its properties throughout the books, like the Hellfire Weapons and Soul Coins alluding to it having an affinity for trapping/controlling souls, and Infernal War Machines being granted immunity to fire damage, likely due to being made of Infernal Iron. The book also mentions that gold that is stolen or bartered from Mammon has powerful magical powers, such as granting a vehicle that is coated in "Golden Death Armor-Plating" resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.
In 2e Planescape, they had Baatoran green steel, which is likely what Infernal Iron is supposed to be. I can't recall exactly what it did there, but in 3e gave a non-stacking +1 bonus to hit and damage. I found one fan site that decided it as leaving behind fragments in wounds, and thus gave it an exploding die. In 5e, I'd say that if it does max damage, it does an extra 1d4 damage--maybe regular damage, maybe poison or necrotic. And maybe if you're wearing armor made of it and someone attacks you and rolls a 1, it hits in a way to cause fragments to shoot off and injuring that person for 1d4 or 1d6 damage.
 

MarkB

Legend
The metal Byeshk from Eberron is kind-of canonical in 5e, in that it's mentioned in the Eberron sourcebook as an export of Droaam. But its properties aren't detailed.

In Rime of the Frostmaiden, the crystalline substance Chardalyn can be worked like metal in the fashioning of magical weapons and armour, but it tends to have a detrimental effect on the mental state of those who wear or wield it.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
The metal Byeshk from Eberron is kind-of canonical in 5e, in that it's mentioned in the Eberron sourcebook as an export of Droaam. But its properties aren't detailed.
That's a damn shame. In Eberron 3.5, or course, byeshk was necessary to overcome the damage reduction of creatures form Xoriat (basically the Far Realm), which included illithids.

Sad to hear they dropped that in the 5e version.

But that's really the purpose I think special materials should serve. While some, like mithril or the stuff drow armor and weapons are made from, are pretty common and just enhance typical items, the more exotic versions are needed to accomplish certain tasks or injure certain monsters.
 


Bolares

Hero
I like the idea of special alloys or woods in the game, but rather than having 10 different materials with specific gamefied mechanics for each of them, I'd rather make them ingredients for magical or specially crafted items. If you want a magic sword that kills fey, cold iron should be an igredient. If you want to build a flying ship, soarwood should be necessary. If you want a druid to have a greataxe or armor, get them some ironwood.
 

I am working on a different approach - the crafting rules in Xanathar's indicate that special ingredients or materials are required for making magic items - so, I simply have it that there's no difference between "magic weapon" and "weapon made from special materials".

This gets around some of the weirdness in which, technically, folks not proficient in Arcana can make magic items - for these, the above-normal abilities come from the material and details of forging process, not necessarily casting enchantments they'd not know how to use.
Regardless of edition, this is my preferred way to handle such things. IMO (and somewhat IME) it makes the world feel more magical--because the "riddle of steel" and otherwise being a smith of peerless quality really DOES mean you can have things transcend the limits of mundanity.

There are also materials lost to us now that really did exist, like "hepatizon" (literally "liver-colored") which was a special and extremely valuable type of bronze, or Damascus steel. And other real-world mythical materials that may or may not have existed, like "flexible glass," which could allegedly be beaten like a ductile metal without breaking.

Materials I've suggested elsewhere:
ravenglass: obsidian specifically formed by conflicting magical energy, often "water elemental quenching lava" or "casting blizzard and meteor storm in the same area." Develops a similar absurdly-sharp edge as regular obsidian, but much less prone to breakage. Not infinitely durable, but durable enough to make solid pieces out of (think "ebony" and/or "glass" weapons from Elder Scrolls).
vertigis: unusual green-hued metal that affects the "flow" of magic around it in different ways depending on what it's alloyed with. Vertisteel acts as a magic "sink," "grounding" magical fields around it (improving defense against magic but also making it harder to benefit from positive magic). Mythigis (mythril/vertigis alloy), on the other hand, acts as an overall magic amplifier, enhancing both positive and negative magic applied to the wearer.
unmelting ice: lightweight and obviously cold, but requires some minimal maintenance (e.g. water-polishing it to fill in nicks and dents), basically impossible to forge but can be slowly "grown" from seed crystals under the right conditions (no ice-nine here).
 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
That's a damn shame. In Eberron 3.5, or course, byeshk was necessary to overcome the damage reduction of creatures form Xoriat (basically the Far Realm), which included illithids.

Sad to hear they dropped that in the 5e version.
They droped that in the 5e version because DR is incredibly rare (I am not sure it applies to monster and I can only think of the rules on hitting objects like a wall). Instead, a sidebar in Exploring Eberron advises to have byeshk coated weapons cost 400 gp more and deal +1d6 damage to aberration and can't regain HP until the end of the next turn.
 

jgsugden

Legend
I'll share my original metal, something I came up when I was ~11 in the 1980s.

Chrysteel - This is a translucent metal. It is as light as mithril and tougher than adamantine. Sometimes known as Diamond Metal, it is exceedingly rare and the most valuable commodity in the known universe of my setting. One needs amazing circumstances to be able to forge it, and it is most often used in tiny amounts along the edge of an edged weapon (or the tip of a piercing one), giving it a 'wet look'. When crafted perfectly, it is entirely transparent, although it bends light dramatically creating rainbow sheens, or if crafted carefully, hues of only one color of light.

It holds enchantment very well (as it ties to the magical weave that holds the universe together), and in many cases can magnify magic.

The single most powerful artifact weapon In my setting is the Chrysteel Axe. It is a Waraxe of Dwarven make that has almost the entire head of the axe made of Chrysteel. The weapon can cut through anything. Unfortunately, during the forging of it, a lich snuck their phylactery into the core of the axe (which is now shielded by the Chrysteel), just behind the head, and thus it is essentially cursed. When one removes the axe from where it is stored, they must contend with the lich - and the only way to prevent the lich from respawning is to bury it within anti-magic when the lich is to return. As such, when the axe is to be used, the lich must be fought, the axe used, and then it must be returned before the lich returns... and that lich is off the charts nasty. The first priority of it is to escape when it is released, and if it does so, it becomes one of the worst threats to my multiverse. I have an entire campaign I've run through twice that starts with the PCs finding the axe, releasing the lich, and then spending their entire lives trying to stop it.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
They droped that in the 5e version because DR is incredibly rare (I am not sure it applies to monster and I can only think of the rules on hitting objects like a wall). Instead, a sidebar in Exploring Eberron advises to have byeshk coated weapons cost 400 gp more and deal +1d6 damage to aberration and can't regain HP until the end of the next turn.
It's not THAT rare in 5e; multiple monsters have resistances to, say, "bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks not made with silvered weapons."

Replace "silvered" with "byeshk" and there you are.
 

TheSword

Legend
Pathfinder has their 7 starmetals. described in book 1 of the Shattered Star adventure path (Shards of Sin I think)

As said earlier Magic of Faerun had about a dozen special alloys including a living metal. It also had lots of really nice properties of gems when used in magic items!
 

dave2008

Legend
It's not THAT rare in 5e; multiple monsters have resistances to, say, "bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks not made with silvered weapons."

Replace "silvered" with "byeshk" and there you are.
You could also just say: "a weapon made from byeshk is considered magical for overcoming resistances and immunities." Or something similar.
 
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