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My players are currently level 9 as part of a campaign that I anticipate extending to somewhere between 18-20. The overall world is between low to medium magic. For context, the most powerful magic item the players have is a +1 longbow that also does +1d6 fire damage.

I am proposing to include 8 powerful artifacts, which will play a part in the overall story. Each is intended to be tied to a school of magic.


Here is what I have so far:

Abjuration - Human - Neverwinter Arcanist District

Abilities:

  • +2 spell level for all abjuration spells cast by wielder.
  • +2 AC Wielder can cast dispel magic as an action, with range touch, without using any spell slots.

I am attempting to determine if this artifact's power is unbalancing.

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closed as unclear what you're asking by Tiggerous, Oblivious Sage, V2Blast, Purple Monkey, Ruse Sep 20 '18 at 23:19

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is it intended that this use of Dispel Magic does not have a per-day use limit? \$\endgroup\$ – Xirema Sep 20 '18 at 20:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Couple questions: "Abjuration - Human - Neverwinter Arcanist District", what does that mean? What does +2 spell level mean for all abjuration spells? Does that mean if I cast Dispel Magic with a 3rd level slot, it automatically casts as a 5th level spell? Do you intent for these to be on par with Minor Artifacts or Major Artifacts? Have you based any of this upon any existing rules or are you winging it? \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Sep 20 '18 at 20:05
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I don't really anticipate that "Balance" is a serious issue for an item like this. This is one of the central "Relics of Great Power" associated with your campaign; it would be pretty strange to receive one of these and not have it be tremendously powerful.

My main concerns have to do with the fact that as-written, the item leaves a lot of ambiguity about its function.

+2 spell level for all abjuration spells cast by wielder.

First there's the semantics issue: does this mean all Abjuration spells are cast "as though" they were cast at two levels higher, or does this mean all Abjuration spells require a Spell Slot two levels higher? I'm certain it's the former, but to avoid ambiguity, you should specify that in detail.

Also, is the adjustment based on the spell's base level, or the level you specifically use? Additionally, does this permit using a 3rd level spell slot to cast a 5th level spell, or does it simply cause a 3rd level spell to be Upcast as a 5th level spell?

I'm going to suggest a wording by making some assumptions as to what the answers to these questions are, but what's important isn't my specific suggestion, what's important is that these questions have definite answers in your item description.

While Attuned to this item, any Abjuration spells you cast are cast as though you cast them with a Spell Slot two levels higher than what you used. This does not affect the Spell Slot requirements of the spell; a Fourth Level Spell still cannot be cast with a Second Level Spell Slot, for example.

If the effective spell slot level exceeds 9th level, the spell is treated as being cast at 9th level.

+2 AC Wielder can cast dispel magic as an action, with range touch, without using any spell slots.

This is clearer, but still needs some extra clarification.

  • How many times per day can this effect be used?
    • The text implies that it's as many times as you want, which is fine, but it's good to make this intent explicit (the usual 5e phrasing is "at-will")
  • Since Dispel Magic is itself an Abjuration spell, does this benefit from the aforementioned effect where the caster casts all Abjuration Spells as though they are two levels higher?

This is how I would word it. Again; it's not important you follow my wording exactly, since your answers to those questions might be different from mine. What's important is only that you provide concise, clear answers to these questions in the text of the effect.

While attuned, this item gives +2 to your Armor Class.

While attuned, this item may cast Dispel Magic at-will, with a range of Touch, as a Third Level Spell, as though cast by a Wand. The Spellcasting modifier for this effect is +5. The prior effect of increasing the power of your Abjuration Spells has no effect on this specific use of this item.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ To be honest artifacts of great power usually have some ambiguity about them. No all the abilities are recorded in history and every time they are found they could have others. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Sep 20 '18 at 23:07
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No, you will have to significantly adjust encounter difficulty as time goes on with these powers as written

I caught your original post, I'll address the specific crystal in the block. Long story short - you are going to throw you campaign way outa whack when you introduce those into your campaign at 10th level. And since your planning on progressing it, they will be getting 1 or two more crystals per level as you reach 18th or 20th level (or more if you cap out sooner).

You should tone them down, and either allow them to grow with the caster (Base Bonuses = 1/2 your proficiency bonus), or have their powers "Unlockable" later as the campaign unlocks with either a McGuffin or research into these Legendary/Artifact level baubles.

Everything here is opinion. It's my take on it. Can be thrown out. =D

Without knowing the composition of the party - I don't know if these are balanced or not. Party composition and tactics have more to do with party combat effectiveness than +1 weapons and raw levels. But one thing is certain, you will need to start throwing in either more, or stronger monsters at the party than their CR would allow as they collect more crystals.

The +2 spell level is a bit - unclear. Don't make it cast as if using a spell slot 2 levels higher. Don't give this to your warlock, or anyone with a half casting spell progression. This is essentially a 4-6 character level boost to the wielding caster and does not affect all classes equally. So at level 10, your looking at trying to effectively combating level 14-16 Casters in your challenge ratings, while your fighters and rouges are still level 10.

A +1 or +2 to bonus modifier to casting ability score (Not Attribute) would work well. Similar to a magic weapon. The attack rolls and spell DC's would go up without effecting counterspell or adding a ridiculous number of damage dice / number of affected creatures when casting with higher spell slots. +2 spell levels would best be saved for the artifacts "Final Form" when your characters are at God tier levels of play. It would be assumed you could throw a creature at the one caster with all the crystals and the fighters and rouges will still have something they can do.

There are 8 crystals, make attunement a requirement. 1 Crystal per player, make them choose

Imagine your monk, or your cleric, or your bard with the bonuses of every crystal. This will overbalance a single character and ruin inter party balance in regards to combat effectiveness.

At 10th level, you need the crystals to remain relevant through the course of the storyline... so I would suggest toning down many of the outright powers, and make a widget or widgets you can drop crystals into (Bracer / circlet / staff / Amulet / Ring). The widget either give a minor LATE GAME boost to empower the crystals and then allows more than one attunement?,

Better would be a single widget you have to start putting things into. The final widget can only be used by one person, and only for a short amount of time. Then the party can choose who wears the widget and risks going all Vecna on the party, and who is holding one of the crystals in the "Crown of the Lich King" or something silly like that.

Abilities. You don't have to have them with god tier abilities out the gate. The one true ring from LoTR was an invisibility ring until it woke up. You can up the power quotient with research or as quest rewards. But I would say anything at will with unlimited uses - should be thrown out no matter the power level. This leads to game breaking abuse, where you have to do some crappy game breaking things to your party to challenge them. The Rod Of 7 Parts quest from 2nd Ed D&D ran into this problem and ruined a lot of friendships when it was published. So be careful and keep it toned dow.:

  • Abjuration - Remove Dispel at will - change it adds proficiency bonus (or advantage, not both) to dispel or counter spell rolls. Spell slots = resources. No resources = instant player abuse.
    Dispel magic every 5 feet anyone?
  • Conjuration - Alternately you can say saving throws to resist the wielders banishment attempts are at disadvantage.
  • Divination - Fine as is.
  • Enchantment - I would say make this function more like a ring of storing. The ring has the concentration slot and can hold concentration. After words to put a new spell into it requires a long rest. So you can still have "Double" concentration for the big fight, but your no longer risking stacking abuse.
  • Evocation: - Meh balance. Potential for your warlock to pump out double ridiculous spell damage every turn. Its a free average 9 damage (or basically an extra attack) + Cantrip damage (Eldritch blast... 3d10+ch for your warlock). If they cast using a bonus spell, they can only cast another cantrip during their turn. So yes, this has a balance mechanic built in.
  • Illusion: Put a time limit on this sucker and a number of uses per rest. This one gem - has essentially turned your battle field controller into the guy sitting in the corner twiddling his thumbs.
    I'll make an illusionary wall of force in a sphere around the entire enemy encampment.... Now it's real... and that only cost me a cantrip or 2nd level spell slot? I'll make the illusion that the floor is nothing but instant glue 2 1/2 feet deep... This one gem will single handedly shut down 99% of all encounters and fights. Give it late game or don't give it.
  • Necromancy - This one is easy - give it a specific number (like 1/2 your level) of zombies that can be raised... and specifically state that this gem does not allow you to control more zombies than you normally would. Requiring raise dead or the like to re-assert control after the long rest using spell slots. Keep the million man dead army in check... at least until you get the widget and they can fight gods. Otherwise, I kind of like it.
  • Transmutation - This one is actually perfectly balanced. Mind you it's infinite gold and wealth - but combat wise it allows you to change swords to match damage vulnerabilities... Now does this work to change 1 cubic foot of material (the enemies head) into lava? Or just their helmet... or just the stone brick above their head... How about "Sun Plasma"

Conclusion

At 10th level, definitely tone all of them down. And don't leave your non-casters out of the mix with stuff they can do. The gems requiring attunement and only being able to attune to 1 gem unless they have a widget are going to be critical for keeping game balance until you can get them up into the 14 / 16 /18 level power breaks, where it won't hurt as much. Give them meaningfull options of "Choosing this crystal, or that crystal, but not both" and the power levels will stay in check, and it will still add a lot of fun flavor. Be careful not to fall into the 3.5 trap where spell casters do EVRYTHING once they hit 14th level, and your non caster classes are just meat shields or the peanut gallery.

Okay that's all I got.

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    \$\begingroup\$ FYI, I downvoted because you explicitly stated these were your opinions without backing it up and you provided answers to parts of an earlier question in this one where it wasn't relevant to the actual question. If you can support your opinions and reduce the scope to what OP asked, this can definitely turn into a well-earned upvote :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 21 '18 at 17:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ I deliberately went out of my way to answer the OP first question (the one put on hold before this). I'll gladly take a downvote in order to deliver this to a new user who was asking for wholistic help/opinion on campaign balance. The OP ran into an issues with the curators of the site continuously holding his questions to re-wording and specify rather than taking it holistically. I understand that specificity is important in Q&A, and couldn't figure out how to get ahold of the OP off site or out of thread within EULA. I know I can legally link to external forums. \$\endgroup\$ – Play Patrice Sep 21 '18 at 20:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am going to leave this up as is. I am trying to address and help the person, rather than the question, as I think they were getting pretty frustrated trying to understand formatting and I'm not sure if they have seen it. If OP says this isn't what they were looking for I'll simply delete the answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Play Patrice Sep 21 '18 at 20:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Absolutely your call to make. I just wanted to explain why and bring up the issue of the importance of backing up opinions when answering questions. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 21 '18 at 20:29

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