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My group will be performing some undercover scouting in restricted territory that will limit participants to just a few members of the group. I don't want to force a complete party split, however, so I came up with the idea of letting them borrow (and potentially keep if they do well) an FBI-like earpiece item that could give those who are left behind a chance at backseat "helping". It's basically one ear piece, and one speaker. I followed the style of Sending Stones for activation and mechanics.

Is this homebrew magic item abusable? How could I regret giving this out?


Resonant Tether

Wondrous item, Minor, Rare

Description:
The Resonant Tether has two parts: A hard ball of wax tiny enough to squeeze into someone's ear and a thin 1 foot wide metal drum covered by a hard waxy head. The ball is strangely weighted, and far heavier than it looks. The drum is useless for music, as any tap or strike on the head creates no sound what-so-ever.

Features:
While you touch one of the parts, you can use an action to silently cast Clairvoyance from it. The spell uses hearing as it's sensor option, and the sensor target is attached to the opposite part. If a creature is touching the opposing part, it can use its reaction to silently cast Clairvoyance in a similar manner from it. If no creature bears the opposite part or if no creature uses their reaction for the associated casting, you know that fact as soon as you use the Resonant Tether and don't cast the spell. If one bearer loses concentration on the Clairvoyance spell, both spells are ended.

The sound transmitted by the spell emits from its spell source object barely loud enough to be audible within a limited range. The waxy ball's range is a 1ft radius, and the metal drum's range is a 10ft radius. The transmitted sound is inaudible beyond this range.

At the end of each use of the Resonant Tether, roll a d4 and add the number of times it has been used since dawn. If the total is 6 or higher, the Resonant Tether releases a squeal of high pitched arcane feedback. Any creature within the associated range of either object must make a DC 13 constitution saving throw or become stunned for 1 round and deafened for 1 minute. In addition, the squeal is audible (but not harmful) to all creatures within 10 times the associated range.

Notes:

  • This (hopefully) acts as one end being an ear piece, and the other end being a speaker.
  • The Clairvoyance spell has a duration of 10 minutes, range of 1 mile and requires concentration.
  • The Clairvoyance spell normally has verbal component and a casting time of 10 minutes, but this is bypassed by "use an action to silently cast" and "use its reaction to silently cast".
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  • \$\begingroup\$ I can't think of a way to abuse it, but should your players do, just let something happen to it. All my headsets break sooner or later 😂 \$\endgroup\$ – findusl Apr 25 at 16:48
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Any magic item can be abused in certain scenarios.

What you describe here is not game breaking, it really only allows the party to communicate. If you don't want them to rely on it to heavily (because they probably will if they permanently have it), just put charges on it. Make it only usable X number of times then the magic item doesn't not work.

There are two ways you can do this:

  1. Give it a number of charges per day
  2. Give it a total number of uses before it permanently stops working

Personally, I like option 2 because it keeps the party on its toes and they cannot rely on it forever. If I was given something that was only usable 3 times, I would be very careful about using it for the proper situation.

Whether or not this can be abused really comes down to your adventure. I honestly can't think of any situation I have personally run where this item would give the PCs any real advantage. Usually when possible parties tend to stick together, so most of the time they can communicate with one and other.

If your future plans would suffer from them having this item full time, go with a charge system. If you do go with a charge based system, you will need to tweak the last paragraph a bit. Personally, I would remove that bit altogether.

Communication between the party is a good thing overall, so why have a potential punishment for using it?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Based on how a lot of magic items in 5e DMG work, the uses per day approach (option 1) is probably more consistent (in a general sense). There are some "use until it expires" items as well (Necklace of fire balls as an example) to support your option 2 recommendation. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 25 at 14:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast there are a few items like that. I know I ran a campaign with an item that only had 3 uses. I never really thought much of it at the time, but the party was convinced that there was a reason it was a 3 use item, like I had specifically set up 3 instances for them to use it. In reality, I just thought it sounded cool. It was really fun to watch them debate when to use it. \$\endgroup\$ – SaggingRufus Apr 25 at 15:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ your evil-DM grin is noted with approval 8^D \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 25 at 15:10
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At the end of each use of the Resonant Tether, roll a d4 and add the number of times it has been used since dawn. If the total is 6 or higher, the Resonant Tether releases a squeal of high pitched arcane feedback. Any creature within the associated range of either object must make a DC 13 constitution saving throw or become stunned for 1 round and deafened for 1 minute. In addition, the squeal is audible (but not harmful) to all creatures within 10 times the associated range.

Possible "High Pitched Squeal" Abuse

I would recommend having the device become nonfunctional for (X) minutes after emitting the squeal - otherwise a group of entreprising players might use it as a feedback bomb, triggering it consecutively as a 10ft ranged AoE stun.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ keeping in mind that if they attempted to set a trap, they could actually succeed the roll and nothing would happen. Or if they were in range, they would also be stunned, but I do agree with you. \$\endgroup\$ – SaggingRufus Apr 25 at 15:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Alternately, add an additional clause, such as "if the total is 9 or more, the Resonant Tether is unusable until the next dawn." This would also prevent them just finding other ways to hide or deal with the squeal, effectively giving them infinite uses per day. \$\endgroup\$ – Phlarx Apr 25 at 18:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SaggingRufus Use it 5 times in a safe spot. Now every time you use it it sets off the squeal-bomb. High-con character holds the drum. Other character just touches the earpiece, not letting it near the ear. \$\endgroup\$ – Yakk Apr 25 at 19:23

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