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I have an item in my DnD-5e story that is intended to have a warding effect, in that the story requires that it have a "magical ability" with the intention of warding or repelling people away from that location. However, this is an item the players must eventually obtain as it is crucial for the story.

My initial thought was to allow this item to use a spell like this Repel spell, if the players attempt to interact with it, but they need some way to overcome this spell and actually obtain this item.

How can I allow this item to ward players players away, while still having a way for the players to circumvent the warding effect and obtain said item?

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    \$\begingroup\$ How close do you want to them to get when they can't obtain it? They can see it but get repelled when trying to touch it, In the same room, same building, from a mile away? \$\endgroup\$ – Steve Oct 12 at 20:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hello zephyr, and welcome to RPG.stackexchange! Kindly take the tour. Our site doesn't really carry what we call "idea generation" questions – however, feel free to pop in our Role-playing Games Chat to discuss this. Someone'll probably come up with something you like. \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Oct 12 at 21:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ The player at least needs to be able to see it and I wouldn't mind if they could get within 30ish get of it. I'm even open to them being able to actually touch it before they're repelled by it. \$\endgroup\$ – zephyr Oct 12 at 21:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ How long are the players meant to be warded away from it? 2 hours in game? or 2 months, then they come back much stronger? \$\endgroup\$ – Jon Aristotle Oct 12 at 21:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not looking for the players to be warded away for a specific time period or level up to overcome the wedding effect, but instead be able to take some sort of action. I'm looking for a spell or something that has the possibility of negating it out overcoming it some way. \$\endgroup\$ – zephyr Oct 12 at 21:23
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DM fiat covers a lot of what you want. If you want the key to be unreachable then it is so.

You have different options for keeping the key out of reach. Keep in mind you don't need to stick to spells and items in the books. Some options are:

a) Have the item be behind a forcefield and the party needs a special password/item to bypass it.

b) Have the item be blazing hot - so how it will melt/burn through anything they try to pick it up with. They need some other item to cool it down first.

c) Have the item be out of phase with reality. They can see it, but they need some way of forcing it back into the normal plane of reality before they can touch it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you add some commentary around the pros and cons of these techniques? Otherwise, this seems like largely unsupported idea generation. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Oct 12 at 21:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I'm not sure what you mean. Any spell from the books that is cast on the item will eventually wear off. The only real option is DM fiat to justify why the party can't simply pick up the item up. Anything else is just flavor text. \$\endgroup\$ – Allan Mills Oct 12 at 23:28
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In addition to what Allan Mills provided, there is a method I have used from the book Tales from the Yawning Portal. In The Sunless Citadel, There is an object that plays music.

Any creature that can hear the music must make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw. On a successful save, a creature is immune to the music of the globe for 24 hours. On a failed save, a creature becomes charmed and, while charmed in this way, can only take the dash action [away from the object...]

This can easily be adjusted to accommodate for your party: higher DC for higher level players, Frightened instead of charmed for elves, longer distances or short distances they have to spend running from the object, etc.

I used this in a 5th level campaign, where the object was an enchanted lute, changed the saving throw to a DC 17 (Higher level players) Charisma (because I wanted the Bard to succeed) saving throw, and the players who did not succeed were, instead of running back, forced to run into a side room, where a shield guardian was activated,.

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