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:

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.

Known Spells

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?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 13, 2020 at 21:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ What rarity would this item be? What level do you want it to be balanced for? \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Feb 13, 2020 at 23:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ This question seems to have plenty of details/clarity. If there is something specific missing, maybe it should be in the comments so future readers (like me) who are confused about why it is closed can understand? \$\endgroup\$
    – CollinB
    Feb 14, 2020 at 15:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CollinB Rubiksmoose moved the majority of the issues were moved to a chat as I had a lot to clarify. I rewrote it paying special attention to the reasons it weas closed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    Feb 14, 2020 at 15:53
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB My point being that in the future, key issues regarding clarity should be left in comments. In this case, you, the asker of the question, acted perfectly, but in other scenarios, the question might not be updated for a while, and it would be good for readers to see why the question has been closed. \$\endgroup\$
    – CollinB
    Feb 14, 2020 at 16:04

3 Answers 3


It's an artifact

Every ability it has is way out of line with the power level of all but the strongest magic items in the multiverse. It gains new powers via plot points. Its construction and details are the GM's pet project and each aspect of the item is intended to be meaningful and symbolic and stuff. It has exactly one physical form it takes, specified in its description. Sounds like an Artifact to me!

Artifacts aren't intended to be balanced against each other or other magic items, so it's perfectly balanced for an artifact in that way. It is, however, still broken, in that each artifact needs a unique method of destruction and most have some sort of drawback. You should probably include two rolls on the minor negative properties table or choose some appropriate ones or something like that, and also come up with a unique method of destruction.

You should not try to get this down to an 'uncommon' or 'legendary' item, because the basic idea you have here, of a bow that gives you stupidly incredible buffs even when not attuned and then even more power when attuned you can use for several different effects and even more when you level up, is not representable within those tiers of item.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I didn't even think about this an artifact - but that's a great way to look at it. +1 \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Feb 14, 2020 at 18:05

This is way too powerful

This is the first red flag:

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.

It sounds like this is a magic item that gives you resistance to all energy attacks, provided at least one of its slots is empty.

If so, we can start by comparing this item to the ring of resistance, which is a rare magic item which provides resistance to only one of the ten elemental types. So the magic item you described is as good as ten rings of resistance.

We should also note that this is a +2 weapon, which normally would be a rare magic item just for that. So far, this is a magic item that is as good as 11 rare magic items.

I don't have a good baseline for comparison for the AoE attacks the bow unlocks at higher levels. I suspect that they're also too powerful, but that they'd be okay if you removed the stun ability.

It's not clear where you got the stun ability from -- conjure volley doesn't have it. An AoE stun is an extremely powerful effect because you spend action to deny the enemy several actions. You shouldn't apply it to something lightly.

Note that the user can add/remove charges artificially

It looks like you're considering this bow to be difficult to use because it's hard to build charges and (initially) hard to get rid of them. I don't think this is true in practice, though. Someone who wanted to remove charges could deliberately get knocked unconscious several times, just before a long rest, to drain the charges. Someone who wanted to gain charges could get the party spellcaster to use a damage cantrip on them repeatedly before a long rest.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, it's not technically a +2 weapon. It's +2 to attacks, but not to damage. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Feb 14, 2020 at 17:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Though I respect what you said and am seriously considering it, I think that there are a few things to note: the spells Conjure Barrage and Conjure Volley, which I based the two last spells on, actually have worse conditions as they multiply whatever you use. IE. use walloping arrows (a common magical item) and they have the effect to cause prone. or Alchemist Fire and you have an area of attack filled with fire damage. That said, I mentioned that I added the stun in the idea that the hit of the bow is hard enough to shake the enemy up. \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    Feb 14, 2020 at 17:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, the idea was not to create a global resistance but to have the bow use Absorb Elements (a first level spell) naturally and delay the added damage. I only added force, necrotic, psychic and radiant to the list. The last note is that someone would have to have a party member try and kill them, not just be knocked unconscious, as being KO doesn't mean having an HP set to 0. Doing so 10 times might not be good on the party member's psyche. \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    Feb 14, 2020 at 17:52
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @VictorB You cna always find a way to convince a party member to want to hit you. Also, if they know that the bow is going to save you (and there are healers standing by) that doesn't count as "trying to kill you" for any but the most squeamish. "It will be hard on the PC's psyche" is not a good balancing mechanic, unless you invoke actual rule effects for such things (which you haven't). \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Feb 14, 2020 at 18:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Conjure Volley only works with nonmagical ammunition, so you can't use walloping arrows with it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Feb 14, 2020 at 20:49

Very Unbalanced.

First off, you're giving +2 to attack rolls. That's already better than an uncommon item. +1 to hit, +1 to damage fills out the "uncommon" budget all by itself, and damage is cheaper than hit bonus. So, it's already more than uncommon with just that. The rest is just gravy.

Past that point, there are a number of weird issues.

  • When all you have is the "damage absorb" and "stabilize" parts, the damage absorb is the more valuable one... which means that you have an incentive to let yourself get beaten down to 0 HP so that the bow can stabilize you.

  • filling slots can be done with cantrip attacks... which means that if you can take the damage (perhaps aided by resistance) and you have someone with a nice, weak elemental cantrip to throw at you (produce flame is notable for not increasing in damage as you level, but by no means the only option) you could have someone of 6th-8th level able to fire off three Wrath of Lin pretty much every fight. The damage you can throw with the thing is utterly unbalanced for the levels you seem to be suggesting that it's intended for.

...and that's on top of what everyone else has identified.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Those are good points. I was not considering a masochist when making the bow, as I expect that wanting to have harm done to you willingly would work on the psyche... I was only considering up to the attunement for levels, though I might have left too many spell slots open when creating this bow. \$\endgroup\$
    – Victor B
    Feb 14, 2020 at 17:59

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