I have created this D&D 5e item for a player's Bard character in my new campaign, but I'm not sure if this could be abused or is simply over- or underpowered. This is a brand new campaign with a player who has never played D&D before.

Magical Mandolin

The Mandolin has been enchanted by [someone who links with the character’s backstory] and contains 3 enchantments that come into effect upon playing a song.

  • Song of Healing: All characters (including the caster) and friendly allies in a 15ft. diameter circle get healed 2 hit points. Effect requires concentration to maintain.

  • Song of Swiftness: All characters (including the caster) and friendly allies in a 15ft. diameter circle get increase movement speed by +5 feet. Effect requires concentration to maintain.

  • Song of Damage: Upon casting, 4 magically enhanced shockwaves emanate from the instrument, dealing 1hp each. Limited to 15 feet away from the caster.

The Mandolin also can produce a sonic shockwave that knocks back all characters out and away of the caster’s healing and swiftness radius.

Upon leveling, all spells upgrade according to the following table:

\begin{array}{cl} \text{Level} & \text{Upgrades} \\ \hline 1 & \textit{As above} \\ 2 & \text{Increase casting range and areas to 20ft.} \\ 3 & \text{+1 healing, +5 ft. speed and +1 damage respectively} \\ 4 & \text{Increase casting range and areas to 30ft.} \\ 5 & \text{+1 healing, +5 ft speed and +1 damage respectively} \end{array}

In the campaign it is highly unlikely the characters would reach beyond level 5.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Since there's been a lot of comments on this question (now probably mostly obsolete) they have been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 1, 2017 at 8:50

1 Answer 1


This item is overpowered

Let's go point by point:

Healing: This is roughly equivalent to casting Healing Word for free every round. Concentration is much cheaper than a bonus action+spell slot, and it ensures that your party members can literally never die if they're near you. Consider that the Paladin, who is focused on buffing auras, never gets a healing one. Additionally, low-level characters have very little health, so 2hp is actually quite a lot.

Swiftness: This is a weaker version of Longstrider. I have never seen anyone use that spell, and extra movement is generally not that useful (it doesn't affect CR, for example).

Damage: This, along with the pushing effect, is equivalent to a successful-save thunderwave. However, as the damage increases, it becomes almost strictly better than casting the spell.

The fundamental issue with this item is that it allows you to cast the equivalent of 1st level spells without requiring spell slots. A 1st level bard only has 2 1st level spell slots, but one with this item effectively gets an infinite number. This is particularly problematic with the healing, as this results in unlimited healing out of combat, making things like traps and attrition worthless.

Balancing the item

Consider the DMG's advice on magic items (285):

Maximum Spell Level. This column of the table indicates the highest-level spell effect the item should confer, in the form of a once-per-day or similarly limited property. For example, a common item might confer the benefit of a 1st-level spell once per day (or just once, if it's consumable). A rare, very rare, or legendary item might allow its possessor to cast a lower-level spell more frequently.

Your item lets your player cast lower level spells infinitely.

The best way to fix this is to introduce a fixed number of charges. Many staves in the DMG have a fixed number of charges, and can expend them to cast various spells. For example, the staff of frost (DMG 202):

The staff has 10 charges. While holding it, you can use an action to expend 1 or more of its charges to cast one of the following spells from it, using your spell save DC: cone of cold (5 charges), fog cloud (1 charge), ice storm (4 charges), or wall of ice (4 charges).

You could decide that your item starts with, say, 1 charge, and it costs 1 charge to use the song of swiftness, 2 charges for damage, and 3 charges for healing. As your character levels up, the item is able to have more charges, and can thus access the more powerful abilities.

Adding charges mostly solves the overpowered-ness of the item and adds a built-in method for progression, which can replace the more convoluted progression that you have now.

A few more small things: while it's implied, you should explicitly state that each use of the mandolin's powers costs an action to use, and give them a defined duration (note that lots of concentration spells still have finite duration). This will save you lots of headaches from creative players in the future. Finally, while it's not totally necessary, almost all sources of damage in the game are die rolls--you can replace 2 damage with 1d4, for example, to be consistent with the rest of the system.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thankyou so much. I feel kinda silly forgetting about spell charges and the staff of frost is a very good comparison. I really appropriate your help with this and ill try to be more informative and informed next time. (for instance i forgot to specify that the shock wave doesn't do damage). \$\endgroup\$
    – Youjay
    Oct 1, 2017 at 6:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Excellent answer! I think unlimited healing between combats is especially major and would deserve an explicit mention. \$\endgroup\$
    – kviiri
    Oct 1, 2017 at 14:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just a thought that might help this answer, thematically linking the charges to the bards capabilities to maintain/tune the instrument will help explain how an item might regain charges during a long rest. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 6, 2017 at 13:47

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