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Item description

The following item was made with a 5th level ranger in mind. The goal was to create an item that is mechanically fitting, and combat-relevant but not a weapon or armor.

Amulet of the Predator

Wondrous item, uncommon (requires attunement)

While wearing this amulet, you gain a +5 bonus to initiative rolls. Whenever you take the attack action on a first round of combat, you can make an additional attack with the same weapon.

Related discussions on magic items

Weapon that allows an extra attack (as bonus action) every turn: Which rarity level is appropriate for this nerfed Scimitar of Speed with no bonus to attack and damage rolls?

Discussion of Sentinel Shield which gives improved initiative rolls: How powerful is a Sentinel Shield really?

As an alternative, I thought about adding proficiency instead of flat +5. There are features in the game that do similar things, although it seems, no official feature does exactly this. See the following question. Is There A Non-Homebrew Way To Add Proficiency to Initiative?

Question

Is this item completely unbalanced or abusable? Is it wildly inappropriate for level 5 / as uncommon item? If either variant (+5/+proficiency) is a lot more powerful than the other one, I’d be interested in the reasoning as well.

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Probably Uncommon, possibly rare

Ok, standard disclaimer: Magic item rarity and power is in no way precise. It is perhaps most useful as a rough measure to help give evenly to the players, but there's a lot of taking things on the feel on both sides. That said, comparisons:

The obvious comparison for me when looking at a bonus to initiative, is a weapon of warning which is uncommon, gives advantage on initiative, and also has a (quite good) situational benefit.

The proposed amulet on the other hand gives a +5 to initiative, and has a quite good (virtually) always-on benefit. +5 is approximately equal to advantage, but getting a bonus from an item is broadly better because it stacks with other bonuses including advantage. However, increasing your initiative roll has limited impact outside the joy (and benefit) of going first, and for subclasses which have specific benefit from going first, notably the Thief and Assassin archetypes for the Rogue.

So how much is benefit of the additional attack? It's hard to make actual, direct comparisons to the warning's second ability. But a singular added attack per encounter is quite good. Firstly more damage early is good because it increases the chance you'll take out one opponent early. Secondly, an added attack stacks with your per hit effects, like hunter's mark.

If trying to do the actual damage comparison, we're actually looking at comparing it to a spell effect, the attack's damage is 1d6/1d8 (depending on weapon) + 1d8 (from hunter's mark) + your ability modifier + possible Dueling bonus. Which is roughly in the 1st level spell ballpark. Because it is free with regard to action economy, it might be 2nd level.

So, the item confers (roughly) a 1st/2nd level spell's worth of power per encounter (which I'd argue is a limited number of times), the magic item creation rules (DMG 284-5) suggests it to be uncommon. However, if you have many encounters per day, and many bonuses which stack on attacks this item becomes more powerful. Whether that applies to your table, and whether you should care about it (the answer is probably no) I'll leave to you.


†: +4 is technically closer on average, but that's close enough for a magic item's bonus to initiative.

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I would say this item is rare due to the "free" extra attack

Regarding the +5 to initiative part

The obvious comparison is the Alert feat, which gives the following benefits:

  • You gain a +5 bonus to initiative.
  • You can't be surprised while you are conscious.
  • Other creatures don't gain advantage on attack rolls against you as a result of being unseen by you.

This is something a player character could have a level 4 (or level 1 if they're a variant human), so this implies that it isn't unbalanced for a player character to have an extra +5 to initiative at level 5.

If your item is roughly equivalent to a third of a feat (or half a feat if we assume that the +5 is the strongest part of this feat, which I'm not entirely sure is true), then finding magic items that are roughly equivalent to half a feat would be a good way to measure the rarity of this amulet.

Using the Alert feat again, the weapon of warning, an uncommon magic item that requires attunement, says:

While the weapon is on your person, you have advantage on initiative rolls. In addition, you and any of your companions within 30 feet of you can't be surprised, except when incapacitated by something other than nonmagical sleep. The weapon magically awakens you and your companions within range if any of you are sleeping naturally when combat begins.

This also seems to be roughly equivalent to half a feat, since it does everything the Alert feat does (if we consider +5 and advantage to be equivalent, as the rules for passive checks imply) except for cancelling out advantage for unseen enemies. If this is considered an uncommon item, I don't see how this aspect of your item would be considered rarer. However, it is clearly more powerful than the minor benefits of a common item, so I'd say that puts it quite squarely in uncommon territory.

As for using proficiency instead of the flat +5, I assume this suggestion was an attempt to make it less powerful if +5 somehow made this a rare item. Firstly, the fact that there's nothing official that grants proficiency to initiate, and that very few things add your proficiency bonus as a modifier to things outside of attack rolls, skill checks, saving throws and spell bonuses, implies that it probably shouldn't be done. What's more, it's actively worse before level 13, the same as a flat +5 until level 17, at which point they only have 1 more than your +5 bonus anyway. So I'd say keep away from giving proficiency to initiative and just keep the flat +5.

One final thing to be wary of; do you intent for this to stack with the Alert feat? Having a +10 to initiative with little effort might not be what you were intending. You could put in the magic item's description that it doesn't stack with the Alert feat, although that isn't something I've seen before on any official magic item (i.e. "this magic item only works if you don't have X feat"; seems odd to me). Maybe as an attunement requirement?

Regarding the additional attack part

This is essentially the same as the Gloom Stalker ranger's ability, Dread Ambusher, the 3rd level feature, which says (XGtE, p. 42):

If you take the Attack action on that turn, you can make one additional weapon attack as part of that action. If that attack hits, the target takes an extra 1d8 damage of that weapon's damage type.

Your item doesn't give the extra 1d8 damage, but it does allow the extra attack. Furthermore, this doesn't use up their bonus action, like a scimitar of speed:

You gain a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon. In addition, you can make one attack with it as a bonus action on each of your turns.

So, again, yours doesn't have the +2, just the extra attack part, but without using a bonus action. I think if it did use a bonus action, then I'd say that plus the +5 to initiative is probably still uncommon, but giving them an extra attack without costing them anything regarding their action economy pushes this into rare, since you're essentially handing out Extra Attack for free (to classes that don't have it, and Extra Attack (2), the Fighter's 11th level version, to classes that do have it, such as a ranger) for that first round of combat.

The reason I rate this highly, despite only being one round, is that, unlike the scimitar of speed (besides the bonus action thing mentioned above), this isn't limited to a specific weapon (i.e. a scimitar), but rather any weapon you are holding; this could apply to other magic items too. The Dread Ambusher feature does the same, so it's not unprecedented, but handing out a subclasses' level 3 feature should not be done lightly, especially since (you mentioned in comments that this is intended for a Hunter ranger) this ranger now has the features of two ranger subclasses (almost) thanks to a magic item.

If this were to use your bonus action, and still be restricted to first round only, then that may push it back down to uncommon, but allowing a bonus action attack every turn is then rare again due to this being an upgrade of the scimitar of speed, then +5 to initiative on top of that.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think I'll just cap initiative bonus at +10. That's the maximum you could attain with DEX + 5 and +5 extra. If there are more bonuses, the amulet will give a smaller benefit and with DEX 20 and alert it will give nothing. \$\endgroup\$ – Anagkai Jul 11 at 16:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Anagkai That's fair, I mean, +10 is pretty extreme already. That said, would this mean that if they were a Gloom Stalker ranger, gaining the bonus to initiative equal to their Wisdom modifier, would that be essentially taken away from them? What if they multiclassed into bard and gained extra bonuses from Jack of All Trades? See this question for the other ways initiative can be increased. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Jul 11 at 16:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS Seems like it. And also like this item gives only bonuses that the gloom stalker already has (somewhat). Then again, the character I designed this for is dual-wielding hunter. It doesn't matter in this case. But maybe we should put that in the question or answer, in case anyone else wants to use it. Posting it here, the idea is that other people can benefit from what we wrote... \$\endgroup\$ – Anagkai Jul 11 at 16:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer is weighing the extra attack of the proposed magic item as though it happens every round, like the fighter's Extra Attack, but the description in the original question says it occurs only in the first round of a combat, which is quite a lot less power. \$\endgroup\$ – Valley Lad Jul 12 at 0:57

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