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Background

One of my players would like a magical bow, but I want something more than simply giving flat bonuses or extra damage/effects. Ideally it should be something that I can tie into her story/background/path, and that evolves and grows with her. I would like it to feel special, and flexible, but not overpowered. I'm fine with this to be a unique object and the center of her upcoming quests.

For who's familiar with the world of Wildemount, this items follows loosely the format of Vestiges of Divergence, which are artifacts that "level up" with the wielder over time after key events (controlled by the DM) happen in game.

I'm looking for feedback about the power and viability of this item. I'm fine if the item has many cool uses outside of combat, but I want to avoid for it to be exceedingly effective in dealing damage or protecting the wearer compared to what the rest of the party can do. Unfortunately this item has to be a weapon, and has to give at least some basic bonus of combat capabilities, so it's quite a fine line to walk.

The Item:

Chainbreaker

Simple weapon, ranged weapon, artifact (requires attunement) 1d6 piercing - ammunition (80/320 ft.), two-handed

The shortbow is made of an extremely light wood with a deep brown color which shines golden reflections when exposed to the dawn and dusk light. The grip is wrapped in soft, white leather that seems impervious to dust and grime. All along the upper and lower limbs of the bow, there's a number of empty nooks and crannies.

Sentience: Chainbreaker is a sentient Chaotic Good weapon with an Intelligence of 15, a Wisdom of 19 and a Charisma of 16. It has hearing and blindsight out to a range of 120 feet. The weapon communicates telepathically with its wielder and can speak, read, and understand Celestial and Sylvan.

Personality: A Curious, incautious and excitable Fey spirit lives within Chainbreaker. It has an insatiable appetite for adventure, bold actions, and a very personal sense of justice and hatred for tyrants and bullies. The spirit wishes to learn more about the world and its inhabitants.

Dormant: The shortbow grants the following benefits in its dormant state:

  • You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.
  • You can speak, read, and write Celestial and Sylvan.
  • While holding the shortbow, you can use a bonus action to speak its Celestial command word, causing a flash of bright light to spark from the bow's handle. The flash reveals for 1 minute all hidden traps within 120 ft. You can't use this property again until you take a short or long rest.
  • While holding the shortbow, after you complete an Attack action, you can use a bonus action to magically teleport within 30 feet of the target of your previous attack. You can't use this property again until you take a short or long rest.

Awakened: When the shortbow reaches an awakened state, it gains the following properties:

  • The weapon's bonus to attack and damage rolls increases to +2.
  • Your movement speed increases by 10 feet.
  • While holding the shortbow, you can use a bonus action to speak its Sylvan command word, causing a gentle, warm (or cool, your choice) breeze to flow around you for the duration. For 1 hour, you and any creature of your choice within 20 feet of you will benefit from the effects of Freedom of Movement. You can't use this property again until the next dawn.
  • When you fire an arrow and speak a command word, it transforms into a bolt of pure force, forming a line 5 feet wide that extends out from you to a creature you can see within 120 feet of you. Each creature in the line, excluding you, must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, taking 5d12 force damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. This property can't be used again until the next dawn.

Exalted: When the shortbow reaches an exalted state, it gains the following properties:

  • The weapon's bonus to attack and damage rolls increases to +3.
  • You can channel the winds around you to support you in your movement. For 1 hour you gain a flying speed equal to your walking speed. This property can't be used again until the next dawn.
  • If you target a creature that is grappling or restraining one of your allies, you have advantage on all your attack rolls against that creature.
  • The shortbow doesn't need physical arrows when attacking. Translucent arrows of pure force magically appear as soon as you draw the bow's string. The base damage die of this weapon becomes 1d12, and the damage type becomes force.

The theme

This item is an artifact dedicated to a Goddess which values freedom, exploration, open spaces and hates injustice, bindings, and tyrants. I tried to keep it in the theme of the item with abilities for tactical teleport and bonuses when helping out people that are restrained by others. I'm fine with changing anything as long as it can be traced back to the theme.

Possible problem areas

I'm wary of giving out items that increase the effectiveness in combat for a character. I'm aware of the bounded accuracy concept in D&D 5th edition. I would be fine with re-tuning the +1/+2/+3 fixed bonus.

This item has probably too many things going on for a player to actively keep in mind.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This seems to be artefact-class weapon, which are generally supposed to be super powerful. What exactly do you want it to be balanced against? \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Feb 26 at 15:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik I don't know how to properly put it into the question, but I'd like to prevent the player with this item to outpace the damage output of everyone else in the party, assuming an average party with an average amount of magic items. \$\endgroup\$ – STT LCU Feb 26 at 15:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thematically, would radiant damage be a better fit? \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Richardson Feb 26 at 17:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ I suggested radiant, not because of good, but because the bow was thematically linked to sunrise and sunset. Mechanically, I wouldn't be too worried about a difference in the power level of these damage types, as noted by @RevenantBacon. \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Richardson Feb 26 at 21:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot yes, it's indicated just below the item's name :) \$\endgroup\$ – STT LCU Mar 1 at 7:58
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There are a couple abilities that could be better written.

The first, and also probably most egregious is the teleportation ability from the Dormant tier.

While holding the shortbow, after you complete an Attack action, you can use a bonus action to magically teleport within 30 feet of the target of your previous attack.

There are a few issues with the way this ability is written

  • There is no limit on the number of uses per day
  • The bow has a maximum range of 320 feet
  • When you make an attack, you can target a location, in hopes of hitting a creature that is there.

This means that you can target a space that is 320' away from you, then use a bonus action to teleport to within 30 feet of that space, effectively allowing you to move 350 feet every turn with no limiting factor. I expect that this is unintended.

  • It says you can teleport to within 30 feet of your previous target.

This wording is rather strange. If I have 2 attacks per turn, and I attack Monster A with my first attack, then attack Monster B with my second, I can use this ability to teleport to within 30 feet of Monster A, since it's the target of my previous attack.

I recommend the following changes to wording and number of uses.

While holding the shortbow, after you complete an Attack action, Once per day, when you make an attack using Chainbreaker, you can use a bonus action to magically teleport within 30 feet of the target of your previous attack that attack. You can use this ability twice each day when it becomes Awakened, and three times each day when it becomes Exalted. This ability regains all uses each day at dawn.

These adjustments allow the ability to be used in between attacks, which can be used to bring you from long range on a target into short range (removing disadvantage), but having a limit prevents it from being abused for a ridiculous effective movement speed increase.

Second is the Freedom of movement ability.

While holding the shortbow, you can use a bonus action to speak its Sylvan command word, causing a gentle, warm (or cool, your choice) breeze to flow around you for the duration. For 1 hour, you and any creature of your choice within 20 feet of you will benefit from the effects of Freedom of Movement. You can't use this property again until the next dawn.

The bits that are unclear on this is are:

  • Do the creatures need to be within 20 feet of you when you activate the ability, or can you choose to grant it if they come with 20 feet at a later time before the ability expires?
  • Do the creatures retain the benefit if they move more than 20 feet away? Do they get the benefits again if they were 20 feet away but come back to within 20 feet of you?

Last, this item does seem to be a little overloaded with active abilities.

You've given it 5 Active and 4 Passive abilities, but I would recommend tweaking it to ratio more towards more passive abilities and less active ones.

Here are some options for converting some of the active abilities into passive abilities.

First up is the Find Traps ability.

While holding the shortbow, you can use a bonus action to speak its Celestial command word, causing a flash of bright light to spark from the bow's handle. The flash reveals for 1 minute all hidden traps within 120 ft. You can't use this property again until you take a short or long rest.

Instead, consider this:

While Chainbreaker is on your person, you have Advantage on detecting traps and attempting to pick locks on cages, manacles, or other restraints in order to free a trapped creature. If you aren't proficient with Thieves Tools, you become proficient when picking locks on cages, manacles, or other restraints.

The next one is the Fly active. At the level that you're expected to get to Exalted (around 15 if I'm not mistaken), permanent flight is common. I recommend just giving them a permanent fly speed instead, probably around 30-50 feet.

The +X bonuses to attack and damage are fine, and are within bounded accuracy. The only other thing to keep an eye on is the damage increase from 1d6 to 1d12. Personally, I think this may end up being a little too high, so be prepared to cut it back to only 1d10 or 1d8.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Once per day is a harsh nerf for the teleportation \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Feb 26 at 18:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri I think you missed the part where it's got an effective three-hundred fifty foot range and can be activated with a bonus action. Being able to use it at-will is egregiously powerful, more powerful than every other ability on the weapon put together. Teleportation as a mechanic is just that strong, and the lack of restrictions on it as written mean that the character literally never has to suffer consequences, because there's nothing that can hope to catch them and pin them down. \$\endgroup\$ – RevanantBacon Feb 26 at 19:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nope, just don't think a restriction that would make me always forget about it is the right way to fix it. Most people I play with constantly forget about 1/day abilities. You are right though, unlimited, as it stands is broken. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Feb 26 at 19:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri I don't think "but they might forget about it" is a valid argument for determining if something is balanced. If they forget about it, that's on them, not on the designer. Also, I think your play group probably has a significantly different style than mine, as it's very rare for anyone in my playgroup to forget about any of their 1/day abilities. It's like saying your wizard didn't cast Fireball because he forgot that he has a level 3 spell slot available. \$\endgroup\$ – RevanantBacon Feb 26 at 19:35
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I think you probably meant this is based on the Arms of the Betrayers rather than the Vestiges, since they're sentient artifact weapons like you're making, rather than legendary wondrous items.

I think your instincts about your work are pretty good -- you've got too much going on here, and you've overshot your target on power pretty significantly.

Dormant

The dormant powers should be fairly minor powers -- a +1 weapon with the language thing and a single flavorful ability is probably plenty to start out with.

The "dormant" teleportation ability is good, but the way it's written invites shenanigans and is a bit unclear. If the player has Extra Attack, can you only teleport near the last target you fired at, or anyone you fired at during your attack action? Can you fire an arrow at a tree or rock to teleport near it even if it's not a creature? And really, be aware that even in the most limited case, your players WILL try to abuse this ability by taking a pot-shot at an ally while closing their eyes (for disadvantage) in order to teleport outside of combat.

My recommendation would be to make the teleport just be an action that doesn't depend on combat to make it work. I'd probably make it an action to fire a single arrow at a creature or object within the bow's short range (dealing normal damage on a hit), and you teleport to within 5 feet of where the arrow struck.

The trap reveal ability is probably too strong merely because of the short rest reset. That feels like something you should be able to use only once per day. That said, it seems very similar to the find traps spell, so you might consider just letting the wielder cast that spell, if you keep this ability at all -- it feels like a weak connection to the theme and the dormant form really doesn't need a fourth thing going on in my opinion.

Awakened

Being able to cast freedom of movement once per day is strong all by itself; the ability to share it is a really big deal. You need to clarify how this sharing works -- it isn't clear whether you automatically share it with everyone around you or just one, and whether you can change who's benefiting from it.

I think it would be interesting to have one freedom of movement, but you can swap it around. Something like, "You can speak the command word as an action. You are surrounded by a breeze that lasts for one hour and grants the benefits of the freedom of movement spell. As a bonus action, you can choose a creature within 20 feet of you or yourself; the breeze moves to surround the chosen creature, granting the effect to them."

The force blast is probably fine as-is.

Exalted

I think the anti-grapple/restrain effect is probably going to be a source of questions (Does a spider's web mean the spider has you restrained? Does a spellcaster's hold spell count?), but honestly it's unnecessary and anti-thematic. If you already can grant freedom of movement, then you can allow the ally to just escape from restraints or grappling, whether magical or physical, so giving a bonus to attack a grappling creature feels like you're encouraging the player to choose between freeing an ally or choosing not to release them in order to get an attack bonus. If it were an evil weapon, I might buy a "slightly betray your ally for personal gain" ability, but since it's good, I wouldn't do this. You don't really need it anyway, this is a solid weapon without that.

Granting the fly speed seems fine to me.

My only other comment is I don't think I'd boost the weapon damage when using the magic arrows; I'd just have it deal an extra 1d6 force damage (similar to the language used for Frostbrand). It's not a huge thing, it's just you don't want to potentially make the weapon less functional by adding an ability. (For example, making the bow suddenly not compatible with the Piercer feat from Tasha's Cauldron.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer doesn't account for the querent's edit, which placed the following restriction on the teleportation: "You can't use this property again until you take a short or long rest." \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Feb 26 at 23:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I made an update \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Feb 28 at 0:48
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I think you're on the right track

I took a look through the various Vestiges to give myself better context, but I think you're moving in the right track if your goal is to have a power level comparable to those in Wildemount. The burden will still be on you as a DM to keep the player's weapon from outpacing their allies, but that's the case regardless.

The only adjustments I'd make are as follows:

  • Under the Dormant state, simplify the teleportation to simply allowing the user to cast Misty Step once per day, don't tie it to attack rolls. It avoids all the issues that others have raised regarding long distance teleportation being available too early and there are already rules available for this via that spell's description. Since this is only once per day, you may wish to have a down the line improvement for this feature using the far step spell, perhaps on the Awakened state.
  • Under the Awakened state, you indicate using a Bonus Action to bestow freedom of movement upon any creatures within 20 feet. I think this is a really powerful ability as written, in my high level campaign, the casters occasionally need to dump all of their 4th level spells either mid-fight or pre-fight to cast this spell (they absolutely would've lost party members to the demon lord Juiblex without it). As you've written this, you've effectively given the character access to a 4th level that I'd argue is always useful, allowed it to be cast faster than normal, and switched it from Touch to a Mass version. Scale this back, simply making it a once per long rest freedom from movement upon the user is extremely useful, it'll keep this character from being grappled (which could be a big problem as an archer).
  • Under the Exalted state, you have a fly spell effect that is a once a day ability. You may want to improve that to something that recharges on a short or long rest, but temper it by consuming Concentration. A lot of Exalted state effects exhibit very high level properties (at-will invisiblity, free casting of 8th level spell, etc.), so if that feature comes online around 15th level, you probably won't be unbalanced.
  • Your Exalted improvement on the damage die has effectively created a +3 increase on the weapon's damage (ignoring crits), which isn't really seen elsewhere. This is a pretty large jump on damage, which is compounded by the +3 magic bonus. Consider the following change:

Dormant

  • You gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls, but not damage rolls with this magic weapon.
  • Chainbreaker doesn't need physical arrows when attacking. Translucent arrows of pure force magically appear as soon as you draw the bow's string. The base damage die of this weapon becomes 1d8 and the damage type becomes force.

Awakened

  • The weapon's bonus to attack rolls increases to +2.
  • The weapon's damage die improves to 1d10.

Exalted

  • The weapon's bonus to attack rolls increases to +3.
  • The weapon's damage die improves to 1d12.

This will help you have a themed feature that continuously improves as the weapon does, which seems to be consistent with these types of artifacts. I don't think you'll unbalance anything by doing so. Archers keeping track of ammo is generally not necessary, especially after 1st tier. Additionally, the arrows being force means they'll punch through most resistances, but that's no different than the arrows being fired from a magic bow.

As an aside, I had considered stepping up the uses on the Dormant feature's Misty Step ability, but I figured if you instead gain a use of Far Step down the line that is effectively an improvement.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It may also be worth factoring in the 120ft. of blindsight the artifact has, along with the artifact's ability to communicate telepathically with the wielder; that combination of powers is quite useful. \$\endgroup\$ – Zaelin Goodman Feb 26 at 15:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ By "isn't really seen elsewhere", do you mean outside of any other +3 weapon? Because that's how they function. Even with all of its abilities, it has less than the Axe of the Dwarvish Lords, which is +3, and has several other major benefits to boot. \$\endgroup\$ – RevanantBacon Feb 26 at 16:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RevenantBacon I think he means that the jump from 1d6 to 1d12 is an effective additionally +3 damage on top of the +3 magic bonus \$\endgroup\$ – STT LCU Feb 26 at 16:11

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