I wanted to make a bow that embodies the idea of Karma: Not only the concept that one's actions can come back to bite them, but also that good actions tend to give small returns while evil actions (to use D&D alignment terms) will result in drastic returns.
I also wanted to create a bow that might be found in an early dungeon at first, assumed to be the results of an apprentice learning to enchant weapons due to its minor debuffs, yet one that grows with the character as they use it and polishes to be a fine weapon in battle.
In searching for magical items and spells that would feed into the lore I created, I found:
- Absorb Elements, a spell that uses an enemy's attacks against them.
- Rod of Absorption, a magical item that stores the energy of spells to be used at a later date.
- Ring of Spell Storing, a ring that can profess a spell, and not just it's energy.
- Spare the Dying, Cone breath weapons and Conjure Volley, which seemed like a good base to use for the consequences the bow would give.
Borrowing the aspects mentioned from the list above, I created this bow:
Bow of Karma(any bow, attunement, uncommon)
Grabbing this bow, you feel the weight of your actions and how they might lead to unexpected results. The first time you lay eyes on its elvish design, yew and ash limbs and aspen riser embellished in jade, you feel this bow might be hiding some potential.
At first glance, this bow's extra 1lbs weight gives a +2 bonus to attack rolls, but once you're attuned to the bow, you discover that it also has the ability to store a number of spell slots, depending on the kind of bow you have:
A small creature shortbow: 10 slots
A small creature longbow/medium creature shortbow: 15 slots
A medium creature longbow: 20 slots
The slots are filled by converting half the damage of an attack that deals either acid, cold, fire, force, lightning, necrotic, poison, psychic, radiant or thunder type damage into pure energy to fill one slot per attack. The slots stay filled until expended on one of the bow's known spells or is attuned to a new character. Though the expended slot can be refilled once used, the bow needs at least 1 spell slot empty to absorb an attack's damage.
With all but it's first spell immune to Identify, the bow only reveals what it can do as you grow with it. Each spell requires you to gain a certain number of character levels from when you first acquired the bow to unlock the ability listed:
Second Chance (Upon attunement, costs 1 spell slot) when your HP reaches 0, as a reaction, the bow stabilizes you.
Saving Ally (1 level, costs 1 spell slot) When the HP of a creature you can see reaches 0, you can spend one attack to dry loose your bow towards them. The creature becomes stable.
3rd Law (3 levels, cost 3 spell slots) you fire a mundane arrow towards an enemy. The arrow turns into a cone of force arrows that fly the length of your bow's normal range then disappears. Each creature within the area of attack must make a Dexterity saving throw. That creature takes 3d8 damage upon a failed save, and half as much upon a successful one. Additionally failed saves render the creature stunned until their next turn. (distance range is used with sharpshooter feat)
Wrath of Yin (5 levels, cost 5 spell slots) You fire a mundane arrow into the air and choose a point within a 150ft range. Hundreds of force arrows descend in a volley causing all creatures within a cylinder 20ft high with a radius of 40ft to make a Dexterity saving throw. The creature takes 8d8 force damage on a failed throw and half as much on a successful one. Additionally, failed saves render the creature stunned until their next turn, or unconscious for 3 turns if already stunned. The ground within the area of effect becomes difficult terrain.
A few extra points to address:
Rarity: I am slightly unsure how to rate this bow, however I rated it as an uncommon magical item as it would only be seen as "a bow that transfers some damage into chances not to die" and thus be more likely to be overlooked compared to even a +1 bow.
Spell slots: I feel like using an elemental/magical damage to fill up spell slots would best represent how karma builds up over time from current events but doesn't always show immediate consequences. Being unable to absorb attacks when all the spell slots are filled shows how one cannot rely on karma alone, and having it refillable rather than a one-time-use item shows how karma is with us throughout our lives. As for how much they fill, I thought that this weapon is complicated enough to leave it at 1 slot per attack, rather than adding a spell weight calculation to it.
Spell slot amount: Previously, I had used Jade Orbs as a way to physically quantify the bow's ability to hold onto pure energy, however, realizing this lead to much confusion, I decided to keep the bow's methods vaguer and just write it with the same idea of a container: the bigger the container, the more stuff you can put in it.
Materials: Though no one seemed confused on this, I'd like to take a second to mention the significance of the composition. Under the Druid's Sacred Plants, yew represents death and rebirth, Ash represents life, and Aspen represents air. Jade is also the stone of karma, making this a bow constructed of Life, Death and consequences manifested by ranged (air) attacks.
+2 bonus on attack rolls: This is based on a tidbit I learned about Olympic shooters. they equip their bows with extra weights on the handle called "stabilizers" that help keeps their hand steady when drawing a bow, resulting in a more accurate shot.
Damage Type: As probably noted, the bow is based on absorbing all damage types except those found in melee weapons. Like Absorb Elements, this would include things like breath weapons, but also acts as a double-edged sword: As it can absorb more elements and gives equal value to all damages, there's a bigger chance that the spell slots will already be filled at the earlier levels. In other words, it's rather useless at the beginning but turns that weakness into a strength as it grows. Additionally in my prior rendition, I mentioned "attacked by magic", however, returning to my printed copy of XGE rather than DNDBeyond, I realized that I was trying to talk about Damage Types.
Stun Effects and Spells: While the first two spells are based on good karma and the spell Spare the Dying, the last two spells are based on bad karma (consequences) and spells like Conjure Barrage/Volley. However, I wanted to embody the saying "that really knocked me for a loop" and used Force damage as a way to add impact, much like an uppercut can cause you to be stunned or can knock you out. Additionally, I changed the names of the spells to avoid confusion and used "Wrath of Yin"'s difficult terrain to physically represent how hard these force arrows hit.
I hope this answered the main concerns presented by my first question, though I did leave the question of balancing out, because I'd like the main focus of this question to be about that. By balance, I don't mean "Is this of equal value to a Rod of Absorption" because I feel that would be more speculative than anything, but rather I'd like to know if it's balanced as in:
Rarity as a magical item
Mechanics being not game-breaking or godlike
Lore being realistic for a D&D campaign
Progress and Spell effects being kept reasonable
Usefulness, as in something you'd consider finding in your next campaign
So with all that said, I'd like to ask: Is my concept for this Bow of Karma well balanced as a magical item?