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

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I had a strange, contrarian thought when I read this. One that is negative, but I will share because I think it might help you think more clearly about what you want to achieve:

What is the point?

What's the point of having all these magical materials. So what? Does it add anything to the game? Most importantly: what are you trying to achieve?

Now this sound like me poo-pooing your idea, but I think that if you can answer that clearly, especially the last question, it may help you achieve said goal better. There may be other ways to accomplish said goal.
 

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MarkB

Legend
I had a strange, contrarian thought when I read this. One that is negative, but I will share because I think it might help you think more clearly about what you want to achieve:

What is the point?

What's the point of having all these magical materials. So what? Does it add anything to the game? Most importantly: what are you trying to achieve?

Now this sound like me poo-pooing your idea, but I think that if you can answer that clearly, especially the last question, it may help you achieve said goal better. There may be other ways to accomplish said goal.
Special materials have a lot of good uses in game terms. One that's been discussed here is that it allows non-spellcasters to reasonably craft magical items. Another is that they can be a good stepping-point along the way for a character to craft a truly personalised magic item, one for which they've sought out specific ingredients and found particular places and/or techniques to craft them into something unique.

They can also be useful non-singular MacGuffins, with a party being tasked to gather a specific material that is useful in combating a particular type of foe. It can also act as a soft 'gate' against the PCs heading off to face tougher foes than they can take on, by giving them a tangible in-universe reason why that foe is currently out of their league.

They can be good signifiers of a particular faction. Nation A has a lot of material X, and so tends to work it into the weapons and armour of their higher-tier soldiers. So you'll more easily recognise them on sight, you'll know they have certain unusual capabilities, and if you come across someone at random who wields similar items, you know that person most likely has some connection to this faction.

And finally, they just add a little extra flavour to the world, giving it the feeling of being a more fantastical place from the ground up, so to speak - even some of the basic raw materials of this world are substances that wouldn't be found in our mundane reality.
 

SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
Special materials have a lot of good uses in game terms. One that's been discussed here is that it allows non-spellcasters to reasonably craft magical items. Another is that they can be a good stepping-point along the way for a character to craft a truly personalised magic item, one for which they've sought out specific ingredients and found particular places and/or techniques to craft them into something unique.

They can also be useful non-singular MacGuffins, with a party being tasked to gather a specific material that is useful in combating a particular type of foe. It can also act as a soft 'gate' against the PCs heading off to face tougher foes than they can take on, by giving them a tangible in-universe reason why that foe is currently out of their league.

They can be good signifiers of a particular faction. Nation A has a lot of material X, and so tends to work it into the weapons and armour of their higher-tier soldiers. So you'll more easily recognise them on sight, you'll know they have certain unusual capabilities, and if you come across someone at random who wields similar items, you know that person most likely has some connection to this faction.

And finally, they just add a little extra flavour to the world, giving it the feeling of being a more fantastical place from the ground up, so to speak - even some of the basic raw materials of this world are substances that wouldn't be found in our mundane reality.
Well said indeed.
 

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!
I keep Magic of Faerun easily accessible for this exact reason. Weapons and armor made out of the special materials usually give a small amount of damage (usually +1) or resistance (usually 2, although for 5e I'd move it down to 1) of a certain energy type without being magical, so they are nice to give out at lower levels as treasure.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
The word for the metal "adamantine", comes from English "adamant", ultimately from Greek adamas (gen. adamantos). It literally means "invincible", "non-conquerable". The Greeks used the term "adamas" to describe the hardest substance in existence. This adamas is actually gem, a crystal. It is probably the corundum, relating to sapphire and ruby typically clear but can be about any color of the rainbow. The corundum is almost as hard as diamond, but is much tougher than diamond, and more resistant to fire.

It would be cool to see weapons and armors, made out of transparent crystal gems, including rubies and sapphires of various colors.

The gem would have to have the crystal grow into the desired shape. Once attained, the shape could never be altered because the gem itself is indestructible.

The adamas could be a normal corundum, or some inherently magical gem resembling it.
 




CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
How about some non-metal materials?

Armor made from Ironwood, chitin, various types of beast hides and scales, all would be welcome additions to the game. Particularly for druids...it's my preferred method of addressing the non-metal armor restriction of druids. (Which is being discussed in great detail over in this other thread.)
 
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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Here's some non-metal materials and magical armors that I cooked up.

Chitin: this is the hard exoskeleton of giant insects and crustaceans (especially chuul and giant beetles). A skilled craftsman can shape this material into shields, breastplates, helmets, and similar items. Armor made from this material is functionally identical to steel.

Umbrite: the boiled sap from a rare tree, mixed with other ingredients and heated to a putty-like consistancy. It is malleable while still hot, and quickly cools into a durable, lightweight material that is functionally identical to mithral.

Ironwood: the Ironwood Tree is one of the few trees in the realm that draws minerals and metal salts from the groundwater and incorporates these substances into its cellular structure. The result is a wood that is incredibly strong, heavy, and dense, and laced with trace elements. The few ironwood trees that grow near meteor impact sites, rare metal veins, and magical leylines can produce wood that is exceptionally hard and dense...functionally identical to adamantine.

Bullette Hide (medium armor (hide), very rare, requires attunement): this suit of magical armor was made from the hide of a rare and dangerous monster known as a bullette. The armor is exceptionally flexible and crush-resistant, and earth and rock seems to slide easily off of it. The wearer of this armor gains a burrow speed of 10 feet, and has resistance to bludgeoning damage.

Scarab Beetle Shield (shield, rare, requires attunement): this vibrant, iridescent shield was fashioned from the polished carapace of an enormous scarab beetle. It is highly-reflective, and scatters lights into dazzling and beautiful patterns. The wearer of this shield is resistant to Radiant damage. Once per long or short rest, the wearer of the shield may cast color spray at 1st level, without using a spell slot.
 
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MarkB

Legend
Here's some non-metal materials and magical armors that I cooked up.

Chitin: this is the hard exoskeleton of giant insects and crustaceans (especially chuul and giant beetles). A skilled craftsman can shape this material into shields, breastplates, helmets, and similar items. Armor made from this material is functionally identical to steel.

Umbrite: the boiled sap from a rare tree, mixed with other ingredients and heated to a putty-like consistancy. It is malleable while still hot, and quickly cools into a durable, lightweight material that is functionally identical to mithral.

Ironwood: the Ironwood Tree is one of the few trees in the realm that draws minerals and metal salts from the groundwater and incorporates these substances into their cell structure. The result is a wood that is incredibly strong, heavy, and dense, and laced with trace elements. The few ironwood trees that grow near meteor impact sites, rare metal veins, and magical leylines can produce wood that is exceptionally hard and dense...functionally identical to adamantine.

Bullette Hide (medium armor (hide), very rare, requires attunement): this suit of magical armor was made from the hide of a rare and dangerous monster known as a bullette. The armor is exceptionally flexible and crush-resistant, and earth and rock seems to slide easily off of it. The wearer of this armor gains a burrow speed of 10 feet, and has resistance to bludgeoning damage.

Scarab Beetle Shield (shield, rare, requires attunement): this vibrant, iridescent shield was fashioned from the polished carapace of an enormous scarab beetle. It is highly-reflective, and scatters lights into dazzling and beautiful patterns. The wearer of this shield is resistant to Radiant damage. Once per long or short rest, the wearer of the shield may cast color spray at 1st level, without using a spell slot.
Those are some good options. I particularly like the bullette hide.

One that I introduced in a desert-centric campaign is Dragonshell. This material is derived from the discarded eggshells of dragon turtles, harvested from the single massive beach that serves as their spawning ground. When subjected to certain alchemical treatments the shells become as soft and pliable as leather, but once they're treated with the curing agent they harden to a durability close to that of steel.

The material is sometimes used in crafting armour, but it's mostly used in the construction of the sandskiffs that ply the desert trade routes between settlements, being both strong and very lightweight, and easily worked into complex shapes before it hardens. In other settings it would work equally well for the construction of airships.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
Here's some non-metal materials and magical armors that I cooked up.

Chitin: this is the hard exoskeleton of giant insects and crustaceans (especially chuul and giant beetles). A skilled craftsman can shape this material into shields, breastplates, helmets, and similar items. Armor made from this material is functionally identical to steel.

Umbrite: the boiled sap from a rare tree, mixed with other ingredients and heated to a putty-like consistancy. It is malleable while still hot, and quickly cools into a durable, lightweight material that is functionally identical to mithral.

Ironwood: the Ironwood Tree is one of the few trees in the realm that draws minerals and metal salts from the groundwater and incorporates these substances into their cell structure. The result is a wood that is incredibly strong, heavy, and dense, and laced with trace elements. The few ironwood trees that grow near meteor impact sites, rare metal veins, and magical leylines can produce wood that is exceptionally hard and dense...functionally identical to adamantine.

Bullette Hide (medium armor (hide), very rare, requires attunement): this suit of magical armor was made from the hide of a rare and dangerous monster known as a bullette. The armor is exceptionally flexible and crush-resistant, and earth and rock seems to slide easily off of it. The wearer of this armor gains a burrow speed of 10 feet, and has resistance to bludgeoning damage.

Scarab Beetle Shield (shield, rare, requires attunement): this vibrant, iridescent shield was fashioned from the polished carapace of an enormous scarab beetle. It is highly-reflective, and scatters lights into dazzling and beautiful patterns. The wearer of this shield is resistant to Radiant damage. Once per long or short rest, the wearer of the shield may cast color spray at 1st level, without using a spell slot.
Back in the 3e days, i ran a campaign that partly occurred on the Plane of Earth. There, PCs might acquire "xornoceros" hide, "flintelope" leather, and "bebewyn skin" (aka "gritskin," which was just gargoyle skin). Any of these could be crafted into nonmagical armor or clothing of various sorts which typically conferred some minor earth-related bonuses or resistances, such as hiding in rocky terrain or the like.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
I had a strange, contrarian thought when I read this. One that is negative, but I will share because I think it might help you think more clearly about what you want to achieve:

What is the point?

What's the point of having all these magical materials. So what? Does it add anything to the game? Most importantly: what are you trying to achieve?

Now this sound like me poo-pooing your idea, but I think that if you can answer that clearly, especially the last question, it may help you achieve said goal better. There may be other ways to accomplish said goal.
Basically what @MarkB said. IMO and in my campaigns, they typically fulfill the following main purposes:
  1. Building Stories. IMO, it's much more epic and exciting for me to describe how the Paladin uses a "bright, golden blade forged from ore mined straight from Mount Celestia, imbued with the very essence of the Divine, to cleave through a bloated fiend, that then explodes into a goopy puddle of demon ichor, with the corrupting essence of the abyssal liquid boiling as it splatters onto the Celesteel blade, with the holy metal overcoming the impure magic of the demon ichor" than "your steel sword cuts through the demon, which then dissolves into a pile of abyssal ichor". The paladin will feel much more epic in that moment than they would if the material didn't matter to the weapon's attacks.
  2. Giving Martials (more) Choice. Although it will be nowhere near as much choice as most Spellcasters get, making the material that the weapon is made of matter will let them feel like they're getting choices similar to those that the casters get. Giving different benefits for different materials of the weapons/armor they're wearing will let them mix-and-match different combinations depending on the campaign/scenario, and plan ahead in similar ways to how Wizards can. If you're in Ravenloft and are worried about encountering a Lycanthrope, keep a silver dagger on your person. If you're about to venture into a dungeon created by ancient dwarven artificers that is likely to be filled with elementals/constructs, keep an Adamantine weapon handy.
  3. Worldbuilding. Similar to the example of Crimsonite that I gave in this thread's OP. Giving different materials to different race/cultures can help differentiate between them, like the Aereni Elves of Eberron using Bronzewood and similar plants instead of metal weapons/armors, Dwarves using Adamantine, Celestials using Bronze/Copper, and so on all helps to give them their own identities and this also helps you Build Stories (example #1) based on the weapon/armor materials that your Martials Choose (example #2). These different materials can work as mini-Macguffins, help both DMs and Players be more descriptive/imaginative in roleplaying inside combat, and create NPCs around forging with specific metals (you need to find a dwarf that knows how to forge Adamantine, while you'd need an angel/aasimar that knows how to forge Celesteel, or a gnome that can forge Crimsonite, etc). If you have a Macguffin that is broken and needs this specific rare type of metal to be fixed that can encourage better story-building and interesting recurring NPCs.
I'm sure I could think of more examples, but those are the main ones that come to mind at the moment. Does this help you understand why I created this thread?
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Ya'll seemed to like the first batch, so here's a few more:

Petrified Hide: this armor is made from leather that has been moistened, pressed, and shaped, then petrified with a flesh to stone spell. The resulting armor (usually breastplate, half plate, or plate) is very heavy, but it is resistant to corrosion and decay, and is usable by druids.

Gossamer: this magical fabric is woven from the silk of certain monstrous caterpillars and silkworms native to the Feywild. It is exceptionally light and strong, with a tensile strength higher than steel. If you are wearing an outfit sewn entirely from gossamer (typically considered "fine clothes"), your armor class cannot be less than 14. Clothing sewn from gossamer is not considered to be "armor," and does not require armor proficiency to wear.

Ebon Fly Armor (medium armor, very rare, requires attunement): this glossy black breastplate has shimmering, 4' long wings that fold behind it like a cape. It was crafted from the thorax and wings of a monstrous wasp, dragonfly, or robber fly. Once per long or short rest, the wearer of this armor may speak a command word and cause the wings to spread out and begin to beat, allowing its wearer to fly (per the spell) for 1 minute.
 
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Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
For Gamma World I created a tree that absorbs ambient radioactivity and stores it in its core. When there is enough, it triggers a pseudo-nuclear reaction and blows the tree's seeds all over the landscape. This is not the problem it sounds like because areas radioactive enough for the tree to work are too radioactive for people to live near, and the reaction will (over generations) use up the radiation and cleanse the land.

Besides the description of 'biggest natural firework evah', groves of this tree is a reason why the edge of the map is just there.
 

the Jester

Legend
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.
I actually really like the idea that (f'rex) someone really good at making swords can make magic swords even if they don't have any other magic skills.
 

the Jester

Legend
The 3e Stronghold Builders Guidebook has a building material in it that is stronger than adamantine; it may have a couple more materials in it, but my copy has been MIA for some years now, gods dammit.

I have my own version of orichalcum, whose properties are anti-divination and anti-scrying in nature. I also use nephelium (mentioned upthread), psychoplasm, and a few other special materials, but most of them are basically there to be used as ingredients in item formulae.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I lost my notes on the stuff I was making, which is a source of constant aggravation, and I haven't dug back through to try and remake everything again. But, a few things I remember.

I took the idea of Baatorian Green Steel and combined it with a ruleset for leaving shards inside a person. The Green-steel shards cause the poison condition while enough of them are embedded in the person. I can't remember what the armor did.

I also made a celestial version... which I don't think I called Celesteel, but now that is all I can think of. It allowed one to put a portion of one's soul into the metal, for different effects. The cost was a hit die (which I have people use on long rests, so they are more valuable than normal) and they either did extra damage or shoved a good distance. The Armor turned the die into Temp Hp.

I don't remember what I called it, but there was a porous metal that absorbed any liquid you submerged it in, and then slowly released it. Not useful for armor or weapons, but you could submerge a necklace in poison and make a poisoned gift. Or, maybe you could use it to make a scented bracelet, thought he stuff was kind of ugly looking.

And finally... I think I had Shadow Silk from Giants Spiders, for the elves. Bows made with it took on the property of maintaining stealth on a miss (yea, I know it wouldn't really work, but come on) and was thinking that it was what stealth suits and elven cloaks were made out of, since the stuff blended into shadows due to how it was treated. Also counted as armor, if made into normal clothes.


I had two more I think, but I don't remember.
 

Casimir Liber

Explorer
I must say I am not fond of names that don't mean anything like "byeshk" and prefer "cold iron" etc. with some sort of reference, though I guess once familiar they become familiar words. Good thread.

Here is a reddit thread on galvorn (if anyone has space for a black super hard metal in their campaign :))
 

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