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I've homebrewed a rather cool item (in my opinion). The idea behind it is it can substitute for a shield and weapon, allowing the character two free hands while still being considered armed. It has several drawback mechanics to balance out the benefits. And of course, it requires you to cut off your own arm in order to use it in the first place.

Arm of Wrought Iron (requires attunement)

A prosthetic arm powered by magic, it is a cold, dark, metallic arm that serves offensive and defensive purposes. You can use this arm in place of one of your own arms. When wielding this item, you gain the following benefits:

  • You can use this arm normally, as if it was your own; you do not feel pain through this arm
  • Your Strength score increases by 1 (maximum of 20)
  • You have +1 to AC and are considered wearing a shield
  • You have +1 to hit on attack rolls with this arm and are considered wielding a one-handed heavy weapon
  • Your unarmed strikes with this arm deals 1d6+1 bludgeoning damage

In addition, it has the following side effects:

  • You take 1d4 more damage from lightning damage
  • If you drop to 0 HP while attuned to this item, it becomes unattuned to you
  • This item automatically attunes to you if you have at least half your hit points
  • You do not need a short or long rest to attune to this item

I considered what the damage die should be. A d4 would put it at par with an improvised weapon, which I thought would not be in line with the item's purpose (to discourage the character to wield a weapon in this hand), so I upgraded it to a d6. The +1 damage simulates a magical weapon of at least uncommon rarity.

The weird attunement mechanics are meant to give this item a serious risk if used, which hopefully balances out all its benefits. When unattuned, this arm becomes a limp hunk of metal until enough HP is regained to attune to it again. Thematically, this is the arm breaking due to wear and tear, and subsequently being repaired back to a functional level.

Having said all that, what should the rarity level of the above item be?

Clarifications

  1. Does the wearer have to amputate their arm to use this item, Vecna style?

    • Yes
  2. What happens if you wear a shield?

    • Choose from the +2 of the shield or the +1 from the arm, not both, because: PHB pg. 144 You can benefit from only one shield at a time
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is the +1 to Attack Rolls applied only when using the arm, or when making any attack roll? – David Wilkins Mar 21 at 14:19
    
@DavidWilkins It would have to be when you attack with that arm only – markovchain Mar 21 at 14:29
2  
@markovchain recommendation. Instead of added lightening damage, I would make it a vulnerability or disadvantage (or both) to saving throw vs lightening/electricity. – Escoce Mar 21 at 17:08
    
@Escoce Yeah, with vulnerability, the item rating should drop to Uncommon or Rare. I'm not changing the question as answers have already been made for the original design, but I'm taking the feedback and updating the actual item. – markovchain Mar 21 at 17:12
up vote 14 down vote accepted

I expect this may generate some oponion responses, but I will try to do my best to steer away from that and give ideas only based on references to the PHB/DMG.

  1. You grant +1 AC, which effectively puts it as a +1 armor. I discount the shield because I assume anyone using this could just simply use it as an arm and use two weapon fighting (or something similar). This puts it as Rare.
  2. A +1 Strength score is fairly big, easily comparable to 4 levels, or some of the weaker magical items with similar bonuses. This alone has probably a rarity around Uncommon to Rare.
  3. +1 to hit is a fairly good attribute, again on its own though is probably only Uncommon to Rare.
  4. There is some negative traits as you mentioned, but they don't seem to matter. The damage mentioned is minor at best and would only effect very low levels. As for the attunement, it seems that if you hit 0HP your character probably won't care that it is no longer attuned. If you wanted to actually counter this, I suggest the wearer becomes vulnerable to shock damage (that change would probably make this Uncommon/Rare).

Also please note the table on the DMG Pg. 285.

Magic Item Bower By Rarity

  • Rarity (Max Bonus)
  • Common (+0)
  • Uncommon (+1)
  • Rare (+2)
  • Very Rare (+3)
  • Legendary (+4)

I would say set the minimum rarity at Very Rare (+3).

You could probably argue for slightly higher depending on use in-game, if it is something you can find multiple of, etc.

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2  
You don't lose it after 50% damage, per the OP. You lose it when you hit 0 HP (it loses its attunement) and you gain it back (automatically attune) when you are restored to at least 50% of your HP. – LegendaryDude Mar 21 at 14:37
    
Ah my mistake - so I will retract that. Presumably then if it only becomes useless when you nearly die, probably your character won't care so much (since you know, they nearly died). – Sh4d0wsPlyr Mar 21 at 14:38
1  
There is a jump between Rare and Very Rare items in the DMG crafting magic items table. You may wish to cite that difference as a supporting point for your recommendations for rare/very rare for the final product. (That makes it less opinion based as the comparative power/rarity gets a bit more "in book" support.) – KorvinStarmast Mar 21 at 14:54
    
I'll add the supporting reference @KorvinStarmast, great point. – Sh4d0wsPlyr Mar 21 at 14:56
2  
+1 for mentioning that the negative effects don't really matter – Yotus Mar 21 at 15:06

I'll give answering my own question a shot. I'd been working on it after I posted the question, but I had to sweep through the DMG first for items with similar effects, which took a while.

Rarity Levels

From DMG pg. 285, the rarity levels are:

  • Common (+0 bonus, 1st level spell)
  • Uncommon (+1 bonus, 3rd level spell)
  • Rare (+2 bonus, 6th level spell)
  • Very rare (+3 bonus, 8th level spell)
  • Legendary (+4 bonus, 9th level spell).

+1 To Hit, +1 to Damage: Uncommon

The item is at least uncommon due to the +1 to hit on attack rolls and +1 to damage. An uncommon item like this already exists in the DMG.

DMG pg. 213

Weapon, +1, +2, or +3

Weapon (any), uncommon (+1), rare (+2), or very rare (+3)

You have a bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon. The bonus is determined by the weapon's rarity.

+1 AC: Rare

There is already a shield in the DMG that grants you +2 AC but leaves your hands free. It activates on a bonus action, is active for 1 minute, and ends when the user is incapacitated or dies.

DMG pg. 151

Animated Shield

Armor (shield), very rare (requires attunement)

While holding this shield, you can speak its command word as a bonus action to cause it to animate. The shield leaps into the air and hovers in your space to protect you as if you were wielding it, leaving your hands free. The shield remains animated for 1 minute, until you use a bonus action to end this effect, or until you are incapacitated or die

We must compare Animated Shield with Arm of Wrought Iron:

  • Animated Shield is +2 AC, Arm of Wrought Iron is +1 AC
  • AS lasts 1 minute, AoWI is always on
  • Both items leaves your hands free
  • Both items end when your HP drops to 0

There is another item that grants +1 AC while keeping your hands free.

DMG pg. 176

Ioun Stone, Protection

Rare

You gain a +1 bonus to AC while this dusty rose prism orbits your head.

Despite the previous item, it seems like the +1 to AC bonus keeps at Rare only, as an Ioun Stone already serves this same purpose.

+1 Strength: Rare

There are also Ioun Stones in the DMG that add +2 Strength, which we can base the item's rarity off.

DMG pg. 176

Ioun Stone, Strength

Very rare

Your Strength score increases by 2, to a maximum of 20, while this pale blue rhomboid orbits your head.

Scaling this down, this property would contribute something less than Very Rare to this item. Bumping it down one peg, it becomes Rare.


Tentative Rarity

Uncommon (+1 to hit), Rare (+1 Str), Very Rare (+1 AC)

Combining an Uncommon and two Rares into a single item puts this at either Rare or Very Rare.


Self-Amputation

While flavorful, you will most likely never take this arm off after lopping off your own arm for it. It probably contributes nor takes away any rarity ranks.

+1d4 Self Lightning Damage

At high levels, this doesn't affect the user much, as Sh4d0wsPlyr pointed out. The penalty would need to be higher to affect the rarity level. Currently, this neither contributes nor takes away any rarity ranks.

De-Attunement

This penalty kicks in too late, as noted again by Sh4d0wsPlyr. It was meant as something that would balance out the positive benefits by introducing a big risk to using it, but without introducing too complex mechanics. The idea was, if you get knocked out and then stabilized, you will have a very hard time regaining use of the arm again.

Thematically, it represents the mechanical failure of the arm at the wrong moment, leaving you suddenly vulnerable, but with a way out so you aren't completely screwed over by your own item.

As alternatives to this, I had been considering tune-ups every rest, mid-combat de-attunement on a natural 1 attack roll, separate HP for the arm itself that acts as a form of temporary HP and needed your hit dice to be repaired. I thought they were not a mechanic that was as simple as possible.

The current design, however, does not achieve this goal and neither benefits or suffers from this aspect of the weapon.


Final Rating

Its components are two Rares and one Uncommon. So it cannot go below Rare, and the synergy of the two Rare effects might bump this up to Very Rare simply for having a lot of Rare properties.

Pending nerfs and conservatively ranking, its final rating must be Very Rare.

share|improve this answer
    
You might want to go in reverse to check your work: compare it to a legendary item point for point and see if it stacks up. – KorvinStarmast Mar 21 at 16:13
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As for nerfing it - I would say make it act like a lighting rod and make the owner vulnerable to lightning damage. ;) – Sh4d0wsPlyr Mar 21 at 16:22
    
@KorvinStarmast It doesn't hold up to Luck Blade or Ring of Three Wishes, but it seems comparable to, but weaker than, Sword of Answering and Vorpal Sword. In general, I also don't really think this arm is the equivalent of a 9th level spell scroll (or an 8th level spell scroll, for that matter). – markovchain Mar 21 at 16:34
    
I'd say legendary calls for a slight boost in features. YMMV. – KorvinStarmast Mar 21 at 16:36
    
@Sh4d0wsPlyr That's a good suggestion. Vulnerability should, in theory, knock two rarity levels off the item. – markovchain Mar 21 at 16:47

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