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Thanks everyone for the insightful advice you offered for the first iteration of this unique artifact for one of my players. If you'd like to read the background and initial considerations on this item, please refer to the previous question: Is this homebrew shortbow unique item balanced?

Changes and considerations

  • Reduced the amount of active abilities in favor of passive ones;
  • Reduced the flat +1/+2/+3 bonus to hit and damage for a lower +0/+1/+2;
  • Reworded and clarified the teleport ability, and made it a bit more "dangerous" to use;
  • Clarified the Freedom of Movement aura ability, and made it shorter-ranged as well so that there's more risk in jumping in the fray to help out a restrained ally;
  • Changed damage type from force to radiant to stay closer to the theme;
  • The line attack changed from a creature within 120 feet to a point within 80 feet, to match the range of the weapon and to make it a bit more versatile to use. Not sure if it's really relevant or recommended;
  • spread the damage increase across the levels and capped it to 1d10;
  • Fly became passive and permanent instead of limited to 1h;
  • Added a passive ability that would protect the user from conditions that could reduce their agency against manipulative monsters.

Item levels reference points

  • The item is going to be awarded somewhere around character level 6, and it'll start from Dormant
  • The item is going to be Awakened around level 10 or 11, depending on the roleplay of the user
  • The item is going to be Exalted around level 15, with the same caveat as before.

Eleutheria, The Chainbreaker

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

The shortbow is made of an extremely light wood with colors that vary between walnut and cherry. When exposed to dawn or dusk light, it shines with golden reflections. 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, unusually shaped grooves and slots.

Sentience: Eleutheria 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 80 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 Eleutheria. 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 can speak, read, and write Celestial and Sylvan.
  • The attacks of this weapon are considered magical.
  • The shortbow doesn't need physical arrows when attacking. Translucent arrows of pure energy magically appear as soon as you draw the bow's string.
  • When you make an attack against an hostile creature using Eleutheria, you can use a bonus action to magically teleport to a space you can see within 15 feet of the target of that attack. You can't use this property again until you take a short or long rest.
  • While Eleutheria is on your person, you have Advantage on Intelligence (Investigation) checks made for detecting traps and Dexterity checks for 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.

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

  • You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.
  • Your walking speed increases by 10 feet.
  • The base damage die of this weapon becomes 1d8.
  • While holding the shortbow, you can use a bonus action to evoke 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 will benefit from the effects of Freedom of Movement while they're within 5 feet of you. You can't use this property again until the next dawn.
  • When you speak its command word, your arrow transforms into a beam of pure radiant energy, forming a line 5 feet wide that extends out from you to a point you can see within 80 feet of you. Each creature in the line, excluding you, must make a DC 16 Dexterity saving throw, taking 5d12 radiant 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 +2.
  • Your walking speed increases by an additional 10 feet.
  • The base damage die of this weapon becomes 1d10.
  • You can channel the winds around you to support you in your movement. You gain a flying speed equal to your walking speed.
  • While attuned to the shortbow, you can't be charmed, frightened, petrified, or forced to be prone.
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    \$\begingroup\$ You can remove the bullet "The attacks of this weapon are considered magical." since it's a magic weapon, it's just redundant to state it. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Mar 2 at 13:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ What is the intended purpose of the item? Per the DMG, "... introducing an artifact into a campaign requires forethought. The artifact could be an item that opposing sides are hoping to claim, or it might be something the adventurers need to overcome their greatest challenge." What does the story need that this item is being designed to fill? \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Mar 3 at 6:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GcL It's mainly intended as a driver for internal roleplay actions for the player. By making clear that this item is expected to level if the character actively works towards their stated goal, I'm hoping to have this player take more of an active role during roleplay and tactical combat. It'll also give me plenty other campaign hooks, as you say with an artifact usually comes a set of baddies that would like to take/defile it. \$\endgroup\$ – STT LCU Mar 3 at 8:29
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I think there are improvements, but several major issues from the first iteration remain.

  • 80' Blindsight

You've given the bow itself 80' of blindsight, which presumably is to match the short range increment of the weapon. I think the range is fine from a flavor perspective, but blindsight is extremely powerful. This will render most traps that rely upon visual illusions ineffective against the player and to have such a feature as an 'always on' feature is extremely powerful. This isn't as powerful as True Sight, but it's far superior to the 120' Darkvision that we typically see on the comparable artifact items (specifically I'm comparing to Arms of the Betrayers (AoB) from Wildemount).

To give a sense of some of the impacts of this, currently in my 20th level game, I have players battling with Fraz-Urb'luu the Demon Prince of Lies. So much of this demon prince's ability to effectively combat the players relies upon visual illusions that it becomes extremely worthwhile for the players to burn 6th level slots on true seeing regularly so that they can make sure they're attacking an actual threat. If this artifact was in my game, it would nix a lot of the inherent threat of these illusions.

I think your best best is to make this darkvision. You can have it be 80' for the presumed thematic reasons or match the 120' seen in the AoB artifacts from Wildemount. Either way, I'd avoid giving free blindsight as it's far more powerful than I think you've accounted for.

Dormant

  • Gain Celestial and Sylvan

No problem, pretty much exactly what we see in the AoB.

  • Magical damage and arrow creation

Consider rephrasing these 2 bullets as follows to be more concise:

This magic weapon does not require arrows, while attuned to it you can cause translucent arrows of pure energy to magically appear as soon as you draw the bow's string. These arrows deal radiant damage instead of piercing damage.

For reference, I've tried to consolidate the phrase 'magic weapon' into another feature as it's a very important key phrase and most other magic weapons that don't include inherent plus-type bonuses typically convey their magical nature as part of another magical feature (i.e. dancing sword, flame tongue, mace of disruption, etc.). Additionally, I've also referenced the sun blade for phrasing on how to convey that the weapon's damage type is wholly changed to radiant.

Additionally, as written, this feature has not granted the character any kind of flat plus on attack or damage rolls. Per your comments, this was intentional presumably in favor of giving more bonuses to other features.

  • Teleportation feature

I'm guessing that this feature is really important to you because of the changes that you've made to it between the first and second iteration. Unfortunately, I think it's still extremely powerful. As it's currently written, it's probably going to be an always useful emergency escape option; to mean that if you suddenly have a massive brute hitting you in melee then you can turn around, find a minion to take a shot at and escape. The recharge on short rest means that this will almost always be an escape button available to the player. For reference, the AoB Silken Spite does give the character some ability to teleport subject to restrictions and it's an Exalted property that recharges at dawn.

That said, gaining access to some spells 5th level and below isn't abnormal in the dormant state for AoB artifacts; we see this with The Bloody End, which grants a once per day dominate person along with a few other spells.

I reiterate my previous recommendation on this to simplify this to give the character a once per day misty step. The spell is cast with a Bonus Action, which will allow them to escape from an iffy situation without losing their Action and avoids many of the phrasing issues that trying to tie things to a 'hostile' creature typically creates. Furthermore, it doesn't completely negate the efforts a brute might've expended to get themselves into melee with the character since the potential distance traveled isn't so great that it negates the possibility of pursuit. Later on, probably at Awakened, you can improve this to far step once per day.

  • Skill bonuses

I think you're probably giving a bit too much away here. You've given Advantage on both the checks to find traps and to disable them. Furthermore, you've given the character proficiency with thieves' tools, which is a fairly substantial gain.

For reference, The Bloody End grants Advantage on just Charisma (Intimidation) checks in the dormant state. Another legendary item, the Infiltrator's Key, entire dormant feature focuses on free proficiency with thieves' tools and advantage on Dexterity (Stealth).

To fix this, I'd scale back. Simplify this to just Advantage on Intelligence (Investigation) checks to detect traps and to Dexterity checks to pick locks. The scope of the benefit is more narrow than what The Bloody End gives, but combined allow the player to have better than average odds at succeeding at the task they set out for. In case you're not sure, proficiency with thieves' tools is not required to try and use them, the proficiency just gives you the bonus. Thus, some characters which have already earned that proficiency will see greater mileage from this feature than others who don't. But even the ones that don't will benefit from having Advantage on their roll.

Awakened

  • +1 bonus

No issues.

  • Walking speed bonus

I think this is fine. Other AoB give features like spider climb or burrowing speeds; I don't think a 10' increase on your walking speed will be unbalanced.

  • Base damage increase

Be aware that this coupled with the +1 bonus above effectively makes this tier unusual as it causes the attack roll to gain a +1 bonus and the damage roll gain an effective +2 bonus.

  • Freedom of Movement

Per this revision, you've resolved some previous issues, but created new ones and unfortunately I don't think you've succeeded at your goal. Your intended goal is to have the player run in, allow them to bestow their aura's benefits upon their grappled/restrained/paralyzed ally and then have the ally escape on their turn using the aura thereby leaving the character with Eleutheria behind.

However, a few things to consider. First, if a monster grappling an ally wants to prevent this and their turn will occur before the ally's, then they can simply drag the grappled ally away and out of the aura; characters under freedom of movement don't automatically escape grapples they have to spend 5' of movement on their turn to do so. Secondly, should an ally instead be paralyzed by some sort of effect, it should be noted that when they are within the aura the effect is simply going to suppressed, not ended; so they'll move 5' away and then immediately be paralyzed again. Thirdly, regardless of intent, you've created a feature that heavily suggests upon players to group themselves around a character to gain the benefit; typically what happens then is players forget that they've left the aura but keep applying the benefits which leads to a potential need to retcon.

I have a few recommendations to simplify this. If you want to go extremely simple, make it so that the wielder can cast freedom of movement three times per day.

Another possibility is that you can give the character a feature similar to the Benign Transposition feature gained by the Conjuration Wizard and restrict it to once per day. If the character were to use this Benign Transposition feature with their Action, they could then fall back on their Bonus Action to use the misty step feature discussed above and thus rescue their ally.

A third possibility is to give the character a short, themed list of spells. I'd specifically recommend a once per day casting of far step and thunder step. If you've ever seen Dimension 20's Crown of Candy, you've seen how effective thunder step can be for pulling an ally out of danger. This expands on the spells available from misty step above. I personally think this is the most thematic fix as you've got a base feature that you introduced on the Dormant level (misty step and you've simply expanded it in a manner that makes sense. If you want to include freedom of movement you could, but keep it to once per day if you're adding it to this list.

  • Beam attack

Inclusion of this beam attack is dependent on how you handle the freedom of movement feature above. I think if you just do the Benign Transposition feature I described above, then you're probably fine to include this provided you scale back the DC to 15 which is in line with other AoB's at the Awakened level.

However, if you are going to grant several spells per day then I think you have to nix this feature. There's already a lot happening at the Awakened level which is toeing the line of unbalanced compared to the other AoBs and this easily kicks it over the edge.

Exalted

  • +2 bonus

No issue.

  • Second walking speed bonus

So I don't like the idea of a second walking speed bonus because at this point, you've made the character nearly twice as fast as most creatures. In order to gain this kind of speed bonus, you have to go at least 10 levels into Monk or 5 levels into Barbarian and 2 levels into Monk. Throw on top of that the gaining of an always-on fly speed equal to this improved walking speed and I anticipate problems.

I would recommend nixing this bonus entirely.

  • Base damage increase

Be aware that this coupled with the +2 bonus above effectively makes this tier unusual as it causes the attack roll to gain a +2 bonus and the damage roll to gain an effective a +3 bonus.

  • Flying speed

I think this is fine at the level you proposed.

  • Immunities gained

So the list of immunities you're granting are a bit unusual and feels disjointed. Specifically, I was having difficulty identifying some sort of common theme between them that you might be shooting for. Charmed and Frightened, ok so mental assaults and control. Petrified and forced prone, ok so physical assaults and control. But what about being Grappled or Restrained?

Additionally, I was having difficulty finding any comparable immunities being granted by an AoB. Immunity from Charm pretty much nixes all mind control effects, immunity from Frightened covers a lot more than just a dragon's frightful presence. Immunity from Petrified is unusual as it makes me wonder what happens when a character fails their save against flesh to stone which starts off with the restrained effect before progressing. Immunity from Prone is not a common thing and I think you're thematically shooting for the flight feature above keeping them from falling down so it makes some sense.

These proposed immunities are also pretty potent. Air elementals have a lot of them and a demilich has all of them. Alternately, you can get a lot of it from a pair of mid-level Oath of Devotion and Oath of the Watcher Paladins standing next to each other. In other words, you've got a ton of power packed in here.

As I've said before, I would simplify this. The character is under a continuous freedom of movement effect. It covers a lot of physical and magic things, but doesn't give the character immunities on par with 2 mid-level paladins.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your well-reasoned answer to my question, it's much appreciated. I'll surely keep your advice in mind for the third iteration :) To follow up on some of your points: - Magical damage and arrow creation: Should I leave the base damage as "piercing" and let this property change the type? - Base damage increase: I'm aware of the effect that it effectively increases the average damage by 1 point each step. I'm less concerned with extra damage than I am of higher to-hit chances, so I can confirm this is intentional. (cont.) \$\endgroup\$ – STT LCU Mar 5 at 8:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ - Beam attack: one of the main wish of this player is to increase her damage output, so I'd still like to keep some form of nova/beam/special attack in the properties of this weapon. I'm not married to the idea of the current beam, though, so I'd be fine with any other proposed suggestion that keeps it not too overpowered. A once-a-day bonus damage on the next hit, that scales with the weapon level perhaps? \$\endgroup\$ – STT LCU Mar 5 at 8:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @STTLCU I think you should leave the base damage as 'piercing'. Doing so would permit someone that's not attuned to it to be able to pick it up and fire regular old arrows if they were so inclined. In order to get the special radiant arrows, you need to be attuned. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Mar 5 at 14:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @STTLCU regarding the nova option, I think you're stuck with an either/or situation. From the information you've provided, this artifact has a theme of freedom and liberation. I'm not sure how a bunch of damage necessarily achieves that. That said, freedom and liberation mean different things to different people, hence why I offered the choice of options on how you could include the nova feature provided you eliminated the granting a bunch of spells at the Awakened level. That said, I would point out that the Thunder Step is a big ol' AoE on damage. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Mar 5 at 14:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm considering a comprimise such as 1 cast/day of Far step OR thunder step (character choice each day at cast time), plus 1 cast/day of a 5th level lightning bolt-like spell. How would that look like? \$\endgroup\$ – STT LCU Mar 5 at 14:42
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I actually think this is pretty weak

Roleplay considerations

If your ranger is not a small race they might find it strange to be wielding a shortbow, I know that my mental image of my own ranger character would not be as good if I was given a shortbow.

Dormant state

Languages: Meh. Usually if a character cares about a language they take them at creation, or try and learn them in downtime

Free arrows: Meh. Not many people even track that anyway.

Teleport: Meh. Occasionally useful for an escape if they are surrounded, but if they are surrounded on a ranger character they made a mistake. Teleporting to within 15ft of an enemy is likely to not be much use, and this seems to me that it would encourage shooting a friend just so they can teleport somewhere safe.

Traps: This could be quite good, but is pretty campaign dependant and part of me suspects that this will either make traps too easy, or they will be adjusted to be more difficult to compensate for this. There are enough problems with how traps work in D&D and actually this seems to make that worse rather than better in my eyes.

Awakened state

+1: If this comes online at level 11 then I would be left wondering why I didn't get a +1 longbow at level 5

Walking speed: On a ranged character this has limited use

1d8 damage: Why wasn't this a longbow doing 1d8 all along?

Freedom of movement: Awesome! But very situational

Radiant damage: Line spells are awful, radiant damage is good. Potentially this is useful, but at levels where doing radiant damage is required (ie; vampires) 5d12 isn't that much. This is ok, but not great, and very situational.

Exalted state

+2: Useful in a low magic setting, but at high levels actually falls behind some items

Walking speed: Again not that useful on a ranged character

1d10 damage: Less then 1 point of damage per shot. Meh

Flying speed: Useful, but at high levels the party can probably already fly

Immunities: Very useful, and actually the only thing that in my eyes would make me want this bow

Other considerations

I am assuming this is going to use an attunement slot, whereas a standard +x longbow doesn't. This means that it isn't competing with any other longbow, it is competing with another magic longbow AND another magic item.

The only thing that I think is worthwhile on this bow is the final list of immunities, but even then at high levels immunity to frightened might be available from various other sources.

I think what is happening here is that this bow is giving a lot of things, but none of those are very good. Yes that adds up to a 'balanced' item, but if my DM spent weeks homebrewing this for me I have to confess that I would be very disappointed.

My advice

There is no such thing as balance for magic items (lord knows WoTC didn't manage it in any way, shape or form), because if they make encounters too easy the DM simply rebalances. What you need to do is look for cool, and then 'balance' it by ensuring all the other players get something cool too. Then just adjust the encounters accordingly.

Your first attempt was broken with the teleportation (until you added the rest limit which in my eyes just made it a forgettable feature), but this has gone too far the other way.

Find out what the player wants, or likes, and give them their awesome. Balance, schmalance.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This review is incredibly unhelpful, as it isn't really very constructive, and mostly consists of "this is bad" without offering any actual suggestions for improvement beyond "make it do more damage". \$\endgroup\$ – RevanantBacon Mar 2 at 20:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ I get that this is a complex item with lots of features for consideration, but each feature still needs to be given due attention. You seem not to have done much at all beyond given a first-glance feeling about each feature without really exploring how well (or not well) they work. . \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Mar 2 at 21:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ The shortbow is more appropriate for the type of religion and imagery involved in the deity that powers this item: the shortbow is more agile than the longbow, more flexible in its use, and it's harder to hinder in close spaces, leaving the user with more freedom (of course this is purely roleplay, with no mechanical disadvantages). \$\endgroup\$ – STT LCU Mar 3 at 8:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ The teleport ability cannot be used by shooting at friends. It states that you can only target hostile creatures, which excludes friends and neutral bystanders. \$\endgroup\$ – STT LCU Mar 3 at 8:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ I might consider starting from a 1d8 as base damage and grow to 1d12 over the three statuses. Thank you. :) \$\endgroup\$ – STT LCU Mar 3 at 8:35

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