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In the continuing journey of my DMing I've finally had a campaign reach the point where my players have gotten the position to obtain a legendary item. Having focused on artifacts to create world building elements and specialized lesser magic items, I have an interesting lack of experience and confidence with legendary items.

So, with that lack of overall knowledge base, is this item consistent with other legendary items (even though it largely follows another legendary item's tracks)?

Mæv's Treasury

Wondrous Item, legendary (requires attunement)

Long ago, Mæv Serphentis commanded the arcane as one of the premiere mages of Atlas. They utilized their arcane supremacy to bend reality to their whim and could create and destroy regions on a whim. They studied the secrets of Atlas before record of those secrets ever existed. It is said they hid relics across Atlas and beyond for those brave enough or foolish enough to seek them out.

The treasury was said to be filled with arcane knowledge that surpasses the teachings of even the most astute archmagi. It is rumored only to be filled with countless arcane formulae and runic inscriptions.

To attune to the treasury, it takes 7 days of concentrated study—at least 8 hours per day—to attempt to understand this treasury. After completing this study, you must make a DC 25 Intelligence (Arcana) check. If this check fails, you take 10d10 psychic damage, and you can attempt the check again after another 7 days of concentrated study.

When you succeed on the check, you gain the following benefits:

  • Your Intelligence score increases by 2, to a maximum of 22. Once you gain this benefit, you can’t use this treasury to increase your Intelligence again.
  • You gain the ability to cast legend lore. This ability can't be used again until the next dawn.

While you are holding the treasury, you can use it as a spellcasting focus for your spells, and you gain a +3 bonus to spell attack rolls and to the saving throw DCs of your spells. Additionally, if you spend 1 minute studying the treasury, you can expend 1 spell slot to replace one of your prepared spells with a different spell from your class spell list of the same spell level as the slot expended.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Nice use of the ash letter \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Jul 2 at 13:06

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This is a bit too much for too little

This clearly is based on the Nether Scroll of Azumar, so we can use that as a a benchmark.

Firstly, you have lowered the price of entry: only 7 days instead of 30 (which may make a big difference depending on how much time pressure the campaign has), and 10d10 (55) damage instead of 16d10 (88). This is more than a quantitative easing, because at 88 points, this can spell death even for high level mages, while at 55 points, they should be able to take the hit and live. ( E.g. with +1 Con bonus and default values, they will have 57 hp at level 11, and 87 at level 17).

Thus, this should be weaker in its other attributes not stronger.

  • The first benefit is identical.
  • Your second benefit is clearly weaker. The scroll confers effectively Magic Resistance. Legend Lore is a nice thematic spell, but nothing too powerful. So far, so good.

Your final benefits are A LOT more powerful than what the scroll has: the scroll gives you a stone golem once, immediately. That is like a souped up version of Manual of the Golems, a single Very Rare item. And once the slow, clunky Stone Golem dies, no benefit remains (unless you believe you can summon it again, I don‘t. Even if you do it will take another 30 days).

You provide +3 to spell attacks, equivalent to the Very Rare Wand of the War Mage +3, +3 to DC, equivalent to the Very Rare Arcane Grimoire +3, and on top of that you add the flexibility of replacing prepared spells (I‘m not sure how powerful this is with the slot cost, but removing one of the fundamental restrictions for a class is always dangerous).

That is at least more than twice as powerful. It provides the two most desirable mechanical bonuses for wizards at the highest level and without consuming multiple attunement slots or free hands. And it has no risk of being lost.

If I compare this to other high-end legendary items for wizards, like Staff of the Magi, you might want to limit these static bonuses to +2 instead.

As it is right now, I‘m not even sure it would be balanced if you use the full time and damage cost to get there. I would pick this over staff of the magi for my wizard for sheer power1 if I had a choice. That's not a good sign unless the idea is that this item is the coolest, most desirable item for wizards in your entire game world. Even if you think otherwise, this still is a lot stronger in total than the scroll, the most similar item, so it is not consistent with other legendary items.

PS. The text could also benefit from a bit of copy-editing.

  • Use of whim two times in short succession reads awkward
  • Why „only“ to be filled? Seems superfluous
  • The legend lore ability should say that once it has been used, it cannot be used again until the next dawn. Or better yet, until after a long rest - not all worlds have dawn

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1The staff can cast a lot more utility spells, but spell slots are often not the limiting resource at high levels. A +4 boost to your spell DC on the other hand is insanely strong, due to bounded accuracy.

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This is actually pretty meh, but that is actually on par with other legendary items

I don't know if the intention for legendary items is to be the most powerful tier of magical equipment, but I find that is rarely true, even with the incredibly poorly balanced magic item rarity system.

So when I am creating a legendary item I don't balance around existing ones, I balance around what I as a DM want in my world, and what the players want for their characters.

Here for example you have a +2 bonus to INT. This is a great buff, but pretty boring and I would hazard a guess to say that if you are handing this item out, the same player won't also find a manual of 'whatever bumps INT'. So I would pretty much skip over this from a balance point.

Then you have a free cast of legend lore. Woo. That's really not exciting. Legend lore is a tool for the DM to give players background information on the world and honestly as a DM you should be finding way to do that anyway so while giving the spell for free is one of those ways, it doesn't even register on the power scale and I would skip this from a balance point as well.

You also have +3 to saves and attack rolls. This is VERY powerful, but again pretty boring. However it isn't much more powerful than some existing non-legendary items. It is also worth considering that increased attack bonuses on a wizard (I assume this is aimed at a wizard) aren't as powerful as they are on other classes because frankly wizards have better things to do with their time than trying to hit targets with damage spells. The DC increase is the big ticket item here. Also it depends on what threats your characters are facing at these levels, if there are lots of legendary resistances in your world the best spells won't be ones that care about attack bonus or spell save DC. In a 'boss fight' this item will likely be useless (or encourage burning through legendary resistances, which is a terrible tactic).

Lastly you have the ability to swap spells at the cost of a spell slot. I like this thematically, but at high levels wizards have so many preparation slots that it is only going to be useful for the most poorly prepared wizard players, and they really need all the help they can get anyway. I actually let poorly prepared players just swap spells out anyway and pretend the character always had it memorised so this would really be a nerf in my worlds.

So overall I think this is weak and most importantly BORING.

I would rethink the item and make it have abilities that the player gets to actually interact with and activate. Let them think about when they use their legendary item and really feel like it is a huge part of their character, not just something they add to the stat block and never think about again.

For what it is worth I entirely disagree with Groody on this one, the Staff of the Magi wins hands down, and that isn't even the most powerful wizard staff.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While others may not appreciate your criticism for not really directly answering the overall question, I appreciate the sentiment inside the criticism even though it relies on assumptions that may not be necessarily true. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 2 at 16:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think your point about static mechanical bonuses being the most boring way to make an item is spot on. I didn‘t downvote, btw. And I actually would pick the staff too, not because it is stronger, but because it is more fun. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 2 at 17:04

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