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Printed in Xanathar's Guide to Everything on page 138, the magic item Orb of Time has the following description:

Wondrous item, common
Minor tier
3 lb.
While holding this orb, you can use an action to determine whether it is morning, afternoon, evening, or nighttime outside. This property functions only on the Material Plane.

During a PvP one-shot, I pulled this object out of my pocket, as the one Common-quality Magic item each player was entitled to, and declared "I use my action to make it midnight!", expecting that the sudden loss of sunlight would confer advantage to one of my Shadow Blade-wielding rivals (whom I expected would be easier for me to fight than the opponent she was up against).

My DM then informed me that that wasn't how the item was meant to work, and we had a laugh about how my character believed that that's how the item worked and so just assumed from the [lack of] outcome that she was not on the Material Plane.

She's 800+ years old with an Intelligence of 8, it's entirely in character that that's what she would think it would do.

But, it begs the question: which of us were actually right? Is the Orb of Time capable of literally changing the time of day, or is it a glorified pocketwatch?

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    \$\begingroup\$ You wanted time stop power in a common magic item? Really? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 27 at 18:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Insert animated gif of Moon Knight & Khonshu rolling the sky back to a specific date... \$\endgroup\$ Jun 27 at 20:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast If it functioned as envisioned that would be along the levels of light and darkness (but weaker), not time stop. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 28 at 1:20

1 Answer 1

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It's a watch.

An imprecise watch.

An imprecise watch that only works on the material plane.

5e's goal is to use natural language, specifically. You've quoted precisely what it does:

you can use an action to determine whether it is morning, afternoon, evening, or nighttime outside.

"Determine" is the sticky wicket here because it can mean "cause to be" or it can mean "ascertain". Being able to control time has enormous ramifications in and out of game, so the Orb of Time wouldn't be that powerful and reasonably still be a Common item.

P.S.

For more information as to why an imprecise watch would be considered a wonderous item, from the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide:

Most people don’t keep track of the time of day beyond notions such as “mid-morning” or “nigh sunset.” If people plan to meet at a particular time, they tend to base their arrangements around such expressions.

The concept of hours and minutes exists mainly where wealthy people use clocks, but mechanical clocks are often unreliable, and rarely are two set to the same time. If a local temple or civic structure has a clock that tolls out the passing of the hours, people refer to hours as “bells,” as in “I’ll meet you at seven bells.”

Despite being imprecise by today's standards (which didn't become standard until the 1880s), and unable to solve some of the problems of navigation, if you are mining or exploring underground, being able to tell and keep time precisely enough without any natural cues becomes incredibly useful.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1. XgtE, p 136 explictly states about common items: "The Dungeon Master's Guide includes many magic items of every rarity. The one exception are common items; that book includes few of them. This section introduces more of them to the game. These items seldom increase a character's power, but they are likely to amuse players and provide fun roleplaying opportunities." \$\endgroup\$ Jun 27 at 10:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin I don't know about you, but with the help of my common item that let me control time I would both be amused and have fun role-playing. :-) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 27 at 13:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ For reference: the DMG on 'designing new magic items' has a crude guide to determine the rarity level of an item. Basically, a 'Common' magic item should be no more powerful than a 1st level spell. So, unless you can see planetary-scale time manipulation as being a 1st level spell...a common magic item cannot possibly change the time of day. ref \$\endgroup\$ Jun 27 at 13:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ thanks for explaining the confusion in the word "determine". I couldn't see how anyone would interpret it as the ability to set the time of day, and because of your post I now understand why someone would draw that conclusion. \$\endgroup\$
    – Brian J
    Jun 27 at 20:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Arguably, being able to change time to the period of their choosing might still not be worth much more than a Common item; in practice, the time of day has minimal effects on combat. \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Jun 30 at 7:49

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