7
\$\begingroup\$

I am adding a unique magic item to my game, but I want it to fall within the Rare category, and I'm not sure how to judge that in this case.

Silver Chronometer

This silver pocket-watch is inscribed with the phrase "Take the time to think" on the inside of the cover. While wearing the watch, you can activate it as a reaction to cause time to slow to a crawl for a few subjective seconds. During that time, your body is unable to move significantly, but you can observe your surroundings and think normally. You may take a single action to make an ability check that does not require moving your body, such as Wisdom (Perception) or a roll to recall facts about a subject. Alternatively, if you activate the watch in response to an effect that calls for a Dexterity saving throw, you grant yourself advantage on that roll. Once the watch has been used, it cannot be used again for one hour.

Is once an hour too often for a Rare item? And (as I'm using Xanathar's modified magic item distribution system) do you think it would count as a minor item or a major item?

I'm looking a giving this to a party around 7th level. I don't want to give them something unintentionally game-breaking, and I'm not sure how to count this one.

\$\endgroup\$
16
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Not exactly a balance issue, but "once per hour" might be difficult to adjudicate in practice, depending on how you keep track of time in your games, and it might create an undesirable "5-minute adventuring hour" effect. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 7 at 1:42
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Would this allow casting a Stilled Silent spell? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 7 at 2:01
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Obligatory reminder that rarity seldom helps to determine power-level and is only a rough estimate of that at best \$\endgroup\$ Oct 7 at 2:14
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Another thing: the more typical way I've seen items like this implemented is "X charges per day" or "X charges, recover dX each dawn". (See the wand of magic detection, for example.) It might be useful to imagine switching the item to "X charges per day" and figure out what X would result in the intended power level. (Anyone please feel free to write a answer based on this concept.) \$\endgroup\$ Oct 7 at 6:14
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The fact that one of its described uses wouldn't generally work might affect how you think about the power of this item: perception checks under the described circumstances would be somewhere from very difficult to impossible. With time basically frozen there's no sound to hear, and a sight-based perception check where you can't turn your head or even move your eyes is going to be very constrained. \$\endgroup\$
    – smorgan
    Oct 7 at 16:51
2
\$\begingroup\$

The power-level is appropriate and not game-breaking.

This watch specifies that the user has an action that they may use to either perform an ability check or to gain advantage on a Dexterity saving throw (and not any other actions such as making an attack or casting a spell). By specifying the action thusly, you rule out a lot of exploitable situations - unless the table uses a considerate amount of house rules that interfere. For a 7th-level character, even on a one-hour cycle, the power level is well below other major magic items that they might access.

The game effects behave like a significantly nerfed version of a Haste spell without most of its usability - a third level spell would be appropriate for that rarity (for reference compare to Magic Item Table G), and while a one-hour cycle lets you use the item an unusual amount of times, the niche benefit of performing an ability check is a ribbon in many situations that empowers the player to use actions they often don't use in a tight action-economy. The advantage for Dexterity saving throws is more conditional and weaker than that of many major rare items, but also has a broader use than most of them (in particular compared to flat advantage against a broad category such as granted by the Mantle of Spell Resistance or a narrow category such as granted by the Dragonguard).

The rarity is unusual - complicated, and you might want to adjust it. But does it matter?

Major rare items with entirely different but comparable effects tend to have charges that restore at dawn/dusk, a short or long rest. Wands usually hold more charges than rings and have a chance to crumble to dust. Essentially this magical watch has a highly unusual amount of charges between rest circles. The amount is more akin to major very rare magic items like the ring of regeneration that restores 1d6hp every 10 minutes.

In its current iteration, its activation method makes it more akin to major very rare, wondrous item, item behaviour. Major rare items tend to have set conditions compared to very rare major items. Generally, the rarity categorisation is a rather vague concept, and the categories and the implied availability should service what happens at your table. The DMG uses the legendary major item ring of invisibility as a narrative storytelling tool as an example - see the Rarity section in the DMG.

Ask yourself why the item rarity matters in this particular situation and pay attention to unnecessary restrictions that might hinder enjoyment at your table. Rarity is a pacing and availability tool - that is the primary concept underlying handing out magic items to your players. See the DMG chapter seven and XGtE chapter two, which provide guidelines on how many magic items a party should have by each level. We also have Q&As about the power level and rarity and the vagueness of rarity when looking at the rarity of mundane items.

I would suggest changing the verbiage slightly and adding attunement to make it more in line with a major rare item:

Silver Chronometer

Wondrous Item, rare (requires attunement)

This silver pocket watch's inscription on the inside of the cover reads: "Take the time to think". While wearing it, you may activate it as a reaction to think and perceive at an accelerated speed for a few subjective seconds while time around you seems to move slower. You may take a single action to make an ability check that does not require moving your body, such as Wisdom (Perception) or a roll to recall facts about a subject. Alternatively, you may activate the watch in response to one effect that requires you to make a Dexterity saving throw, you grant yourself advantage on that roll. Once activated, you cannot activate the watch again for one hour.

This formulation adds precision to the number of effects and its cooldown and uses accessible language - the flavouring is a flourish that doesn't change the effect. I believe it makes it more comprehensible.

Additionally, one hour is difficult to track for the GM, and you equip the player with something that not only tells the time but integrates it as important due to their fun magic item. Making time more important might change dynamics in a way that gives you less flexibility and creates more work at the table.

\$\endgroup\$
4
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't get the suggestion that having an unusual watch-like recharge cycle inherently makes the item equivalent to one of the strongest healing items in the game. A weak item that's useable at will or once a minute is still a weak item. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 7 at 19:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DarthPseudonym Generally power level is only roughly tied to rarity. The mechanic of the item that you propose are in other aspects behaving more like a very rare item. See Nitsua's answer on one of the linked Q&As. The title reads "Rarity and usefulness/power are very weakly correlated, in my experience." and I think the answer goes into more depth than my comment would. :) - If I know why rarity is important to your situations, I can provide you with a more indepth section about that as well :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Oct 7 at 19:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DarthPseudonym A lot of times "pick the rarity that fits your table" is a good suggestion, but since you tagged this with balance I gave you a more cautionary answer. The ring of regeneration is just one example, I can provide others if that helps you out. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Oct 7 at 19:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DarthPseudonym Updated, let me know if any reasoning is unclear :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Oct 8 at 16:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.