I have developed a homebrew magic item designed to give more choices to a ranged weapon user so that it isn't just attack rolls every round. I think I have a good solution, but I'm inexperienced with the numbers.

I want the extra damage to be consistently 4dX, and I also want the power levels of each choice to be similar. I know that something like the force effect below brings little to the table, but something like the poisoned effect is very strong. I've given my best guess. I am not concerned with the overall power level of the item, just the relative power of the different choices.

What dice should each of the effects below be and why?

Enchanter's Quiver

Legendary wondrous item, requires attunement

This small side quiver holds 10 arrows or bolts. Each dawn, whatever 10 pieces of ammunition are in the quiver will become enchanted until the next dawn. While an ammunition is enchanted in this way, you can speak a command word corresponding to one of the below enchantments. When the ammunition is launched, it gains that benefit. If the arrow misses, the arrow returns to your bow and remains enchanted, but if it hits, it loses its magic.

Acid. The arrow does 4d6 acid damage in addition to its normal damage. If the target is wearing any armor, it is corroded, causing the enemy to take a -2 penalty to AC while wearing that armor. This penalty cannot reduce the target to below the base value for AC, but can stack with itself.

Cold. The arrow does 4d8 cold damage in addition to its normal damage. The speed of the target is then reduced to 0 for 1 minute. At the end of each of the target's turns, it can make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw, increasing its speed by 10 feet on a success. Once the target has no speed reduction, it is no longer affected.

Fire. The arrow does 4d8 fire damage in addition to its normal damage. At the beginning of each of the target's turns, it takes an additional 2d8 fire damage until it or a creature within 5 feet uses an action to stop the target from burning.

Force. The arrow does 4d12 force damage in addition to its normal damage. If this damage reduces the target to 0 hit points, it is disintegrated. A disintegrated creature and everything it is wearing, except magic items, are reduced to a pile of fine grey dust. The creature can be restored to life only by means of a true ressurection or a wish spell.

Lightning. The arrow does 4d8 lightning damage in addition to its normal damage. Each other creature within 5 feet of the target must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, taking 2d8 damage on a failed save and half that on a successful one.

Necrotic. The arrow does 4d6 necrotic damage in addition to its normal damage. The target has disadvantage on Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution saving throws for 1 minute.

Poison. The arrow does 4d4 poison damage in addition to its normal damage. The target then becomes poisoned for 1 minute. While poisoned in this way, whenever the target attempts to take an action, they must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw, spending their action vomiting on a fail. On three successes, the target is no longer poisoned.

Psychic. The arrow does 4d6 psychic damage in addition to its normal damage. The target has disadvantage on Wisdom, Intelligence, and Charisma saving throws for 1 minute.

Radiant. The arrow does 4d8 radiant damage in addition to its normal damage. For 1 minute, the target has a sparkling silhouette that removes the benefits of invisibility and gives advantage on all attack rolls against the target.

Thunder. The arrow does 4d10 thunder damage in addition to its normal damage. The target is deafened for 1 minute and pushed 30 feet in the direction the arrow was traveling.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 17 '18 at 22:12

Compare to spell damage

What you have here is a 10/day resource, that can produce one of 10 different effects each time it is used. That sounds a lot like having 10 spell slots and 10 different spells to cast through them. When designing custom effects such as these, the easiest basis for balance comparison is the spell list itself.

Start by choosing a spell level to set the overall power-level you are aiming for. Keep in mind that even if you expect this Legendary item to be appropriate for max-level characters, not even a max-level wizard gets that many 9th-level (or even 5th-level+) spell slots per day.

Once you have a spell level in mind, peruse the list of spells at that level to get an idea for what effects and how much damage is appropriate for that power level. Don't be afraid to go up or down a level as well, as long as no individual power is strictly better than another.

  • \$\begingroup\$ If I read the description properly, it is more than 10/day resource, as on a miss it returns. A spell that fails to "hit" is gone. \$\endgroup\$ – KevinO Jul 17 '18 at 20:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you expand on why you think this legendary item is more excessive than something like the Staff of the Magi? \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Jul 18 '18 at 16:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical did you mean to post that comment on another answer? I tried to avoid judgment of the item as written, instead providing guidance on how to go about balancing it. \$\endgroup\$ – starchild Jul 18 '18 at 17:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KevinO sure, it makes some difference. The Archery fighting style is already exceptionally accurate, so I don't think return-on-miss actually helps all that much, maybe an extra 2-3/day on average. This detail isn't really relevant to the answer, so I chose not to include it to avoid muddying the point. \$\endgroup\$ – starchild Jul 18 '18 at 18:04

I'm going to answer this one line by line, since it's the most practical way to.

I don't really see an issue with the damage you specified, the damage output of someone using the Staff of the Magi could be comparable, so damage is whatever. But the aftereffects are really overpowered so I'll address them based on info from the rules. I've not specified what the required DC is since you didn't care about the power of the item, but obviously there's a huge difference between between DC10 and DC20 (though other legendary items tends to use DC17):

Acid Damage is fine, this isn't any worse than a 2nd level spell. The aftereffect's AC penalty, though, is massive whose only precedent is in Black Oozes. Modify this effect as follows: Nonmagical armor worn by the target is partly dissolved and takes a permanent and cumulative -2 penalty to the AC it offers. The armor is destroyed if the penalty reduces its AC to 10.

This change enables the item's effects to be extremely potent in situations involving nonmagical things like what enemy minions might possess, but sees itself not becoming a death sentence when the BBEG is a Death Knight.

Cold Damage is fine. This is slightly worse than a 2nd level spell, but not by a noticeable amount. Revise the aftereffect to be a DCXX save Constitution save (similar to Cone of Cold) or be restrained for 1 minute. The restrain effect has roots in Entanglement, so there's some basis for it. The target can repeat the save at the end of each of its turns.

Fire Damage is fine for the same reasons Cold is. Aftereffect is fine as well, this isn't comparable to a Fire Elemental's ability to set someone on fire.

Force Damage is fine. The aftereffect is also fine.

Lightning Damage is fine as is the aftereffect, though you may find 5' to be a pretty small radius. You might want to consider how Chain Lighting works and permit it to affect up to 3 additional targets within 30' of the target instead of everyone adjacent.

Necrotic Because the aftereffect is so awesome, I'd reduce the damage to 4d4. The aftereffect as written, is insanely potent, I would never not use this. As written, this is more powerful than successfully connecting with 3 Bestow Curse spells and has none of the Concentration issues. I recommend you rewrite the aftereffect as follows based on the Bane spell: Upon a hit, the target must make a Charisma saving throw. On a failure, any attack rolls and saving throws made using Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution must subtract 1d4 from the attack roll or saving throw.

This is a brutal effect, but does permit a chance to save. There is no concentration like Bane would require, but this also only targets half the normal stats making it a slightly unique effect. The inverse of this can be used on the Psychic attack as well.

Poison I would up the damage to be at least 4d6. The poisoned condition is serious and most nothing doles it out without a save. A lot of things have poison as an add-on to their attack, but this obviously isn't the same.

I recommend modifying the effect to more closely mimic creature attacks that bestow the condition. For example, "The creature must save on a DCXX Constitution saving throw or be poisoned for 1 minute. The creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success."

Psychic Because the aftereffect is so awesome, I'd reduce the damage to 4d4. The aftereffect, as written, is insanely potent, I would never not use this after I'd hit with Necrotic. As before, this is more powerful than successfully connecting with 3 Bestow Curse spells and has none of the Concentration issues. I recommend you rewrite the aftereffect as follows based on the Bane spell: Upon a hit, the target must make a Charisma saving throw. On a failure, any attack rolls and saving throws made using Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma must subtract 1d4 from the attack roll or saving throw.

This is a brutal effect, but does permit a chance to save. There is no concentration like Bane would require, but this also only targets half the normal stats making it a slightly unique effect.

Radiant The damage and aftereffect are fine, but just give the aftereffect a Dexterity save similar to Faerie Fire and you're fine.

Thunder I'd bring the damage on this effect down to d8s just to keep things relatively even with the rest. The aftereffect isn't overly powerful, Deafened is usually more of a nuisance, but the knockback is actually worse than you think it is at first glance. 30' is quite a lot of knockback and you could easily be looking at 60' of knockback every round which means a Fighter doesn't get to hit you until your quiver's empty.

I'd implement a DCXX Constitution save which will negate the effect of the Deafen and knockback effect.

In general, I don't see issue with the damage values you listed. They're mostly comparable to 2nd level spells and since you're not worried as to whether that damage is too much, it's mostly a non-issue. High level Wizards get to fire off 2nd level spells whenever, so I sort of consider it similar to that.

The biggest issue with this item is that the aftereffects are pretty much: "If I hit, you will die. No save." And that runs very contrary to how 5e works. There are effects that don't permit a save, they're rare and mostly 7th level spells and up, and even then they have caveats.

It's extremely easy to score a hit in 5e if you work at it a little. So it's never appropriate to tie very potent effects to just hitting. You should include an appropriate save with it. Whenever possible, I always recommend with unique items to not create your own language and effects, more often than not there's something comparable in the rules to what you want already so just recycle that in where it's appropriate.


The Item you're proposing is incredibly powerful

Consider, as an example, a dex-based Fighter (Specialization TBD) at level 20 (a typical level for legendary item acquisition):

Damage: 10 (1d8[4.5] + 5Dex == 9.5)

Now consider their attacks if they use this ammo instead, using the weakest effect in its arsenal (Poison, for 4d4):

Damage: 20 (1d8[4.5] + 4d4[10] + 5Dex == 19.5)

So this item, Legendary though it might be, doubles the damage output of their attacks. And using the most powerful effect in the arsenal (Force, at 4d12), their damage goes up to 36 (35.5), which is a 260% improvement in damage over their baseline.

Which, by the way, is per-attack, meaning you're giving a Fighter the ability to deal >140 damage in a single round, before using any limited-use class abilities, 2.5 times a day. That's a really intense damage spike. An Action-Surged Arcane Archer would handily destroy many high-CR creatures in a single round.

Meanwhile, Very Rare +3 Arrows are

  • Consumable, requiring (expensive) replenishment
  • Only increase damage to 13, as a 30% improvement.

The mitigating factor is in the fact that this ammo is limited to 10 per day, but not many adventurers could afford to keep a daily stockpile of +3 arrows anyways, so either way, I don't think it's an unfair comparison to suggest that these arrows are incredibly powerful.

And none of this even begins to take into account the secondary effects of the arrows in question, which should give you a sense of scope for the sheer power you're packing into a single item.

My proposed changes

If I were designing an item like this, I'd probably make the following changes:

  • Ammo becomes equivalent to +3 ammo, no other extra damage
    • Consistent with being "Very Rare, + some additional benefits == Legendary"
    • Maybe the fire effect I'd add an extra 1d6 at the beginning of each of the target's rounds, if they're still ignited
  • Add initial saving throws to all the secondary effects
    • Maybe Int-based Saving throw, instead of a flat DC for the item itself?
  • Effects which last 1 minute instead last until the end of your next turn
    • Alternate: their saving throws repeat each round

If you're already allowing ammo enchanted by this quiver to be used 10 times a day, and with missed shots being reusable, I don't think it's necessary to make this item any more powerful than what I've proposed, unless you're planning to give similar caliber items to all your players.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you expand on why you think this legendary item's damage output is more excessive than something like the Staff of the Magi? \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Jul 18 '18 at 16:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical I don't know that I'd use the Staff of the Magi as a reference point for balancing items, since that too is way beyond the power curve I'd allow even in a high level campaign. \$\endgroup\$ – Xirema Jul 18 '18 at 17:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ I reference it because it is included in RAW and although you might not permit it in your game, that doesn't mean others wouldn't include it in theirs. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Jul 18 '18 at 17:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical I don't see that as justification to use it as a baseline for balancing. \$\endgroup\$ – Xirema Jul 18 '18 at 18:03

This is how I would pair 4dX damage to each effect.

I will ignore how insanely OP this Enchanter's Quiver is and merely rank the arrow enchantments with each other to determine which should be 4d4, which 4d12, and which lay in between.

I will also consider each effect in its optimal scenario, because as it's currently written, I can pick the same arrow multiple times, so there is no reason to use an arrow that is sub-optimal in any given scenario.

Where applicable, I'll consider how many Legendary Resistances a BBEG is likely to spend on each effect as a means of comparison.

Acid. I would have to hit two or more of these to match the advantage given by the radiant arrow, but unlike the radiant arrow, these stack. 4d8

Cold. This is hard control against any creature that is primarily melee, it is also perfect to prevent enemies from fleeing, and it causes flying targets to fall (if they cannot float). The BBEG would probably pass the saves easily, but no amount of LR will help regain the speed faster than you can shoot these arrows. 4d6

Fire. The ongoing damage is virtually useless compared to almost every other arrow. (still legendary though) 4d12

Force. Very niche, but as I've said in the introduction, that does not matter. What matters is that if I really need this effect, I'll need it more than any thing else. 4d4

Lightning. The AoE damage is only slightly better that the fire arrow's ongoing damage. Simply put, no amount of damage will compare to the utility of the other other arrows. 4d12

Necrotic. This combos with your caster friends and some of the other arrows. It will indirectly consume all of the BBEG's LR. 4d6

Poison. This is likely to consume at least one Legendary Resistance. 4d8

Psychic. This one affects more important saves than the necrotic arrow, but does not combo with your other arrows. 4d6

Radiant. Useful against anyone. 4d8.

Thunder. The ability to push 30 feet is good, but a lot less useful than the cold arrow (though it combos perfectly with said cold arrow when necessary). I have never encountered a scenario where deafening an enemy was important. 4d8


I do not recommend the use of this Enchanter's Quiver. Even if I outright removed all the 4dX, I would still rank it above Artifact, let alone Legendary. Simply put, the Enchanter's Quiver is equivalent to 10 powerful spells that consume no action economy, require no concentration, and offer too few saves.


Compare to wands

You're handing the player the ability to effectively cast spells in portable form... with some adjustments. That's sort of like a wand.

  • wands for 3rd-level spells are rare. Wands for 1st-level spells are uncommon.
  • attack wands tend to have 7 max charges, recovering 1d6+1 per day, and possibly being lost forever if you use them too much. By comparison, 10 per day, every day, with no potential for going over is probably worth about two wands. Normally you could get two different wands, and improve versatility, but normally that would cost two attunement slots, and this only costs one, so that's something of a wash.
  • Normally, wands are only available to spellcasters... but assuming your ranger is a spellcaster, that's okay.
  • We could try to compare attack spells to the ranger's basic attack, but that's a lot of effort for relatively little payoff. Better to start from an attack-buffing spell to begin with. The closest are the paladins line of smite spells. Note here that that's pushing things a bit, because paladins are the only ones who get to smite, and they get it because of a class feature. Understand that by handing over this artifact, you're handing over some of the paladin's burst damage feature. It may be somewhat unbalancing, and if you have an actual paladin in the party, it's likely to overshadow them to a degree. It's not just a quiver full of spells, it's a quiver full of paladin smites.
  • The paladin smite spells take both bonus action and concentration. If you want to drop the concentration requirement, that's a notable upgrade, especially for spellcasting Rangers, who have hunter's Mark, and don't want to disrupt their concentration. If you want to drop the bonus action requirement as well, that's even more of an upgrade.
  • You're giving a large set of options, many with significant tactical implications. invis prevention doesn't matter... except when it does. Disintegration doesn't matter... except when it does. By default, wands have one option. The degree of additional flexibility you're offering is a pretty big deal. It would be a pretty big deal even without any damage add at all.

Basically, I don't see a way to balance your original concept at all, unless you're giving absolutely everyone over-the-top awesome stuff and/or your ranger is lagging behind badly for some reason. If you really want to try to balance it, I'd suggest using logic more or less like the above to try to get there. I don't think you'll wind up even close to 4dx.


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