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This is the second iteration for the magic weapon that I designed for the Barbarian of the group for which I am DMing: the first version can be found here. For reference, I report the motivation behind this new item creation:

The reason why I created this weapon is because she desired to have a good ranged weapon in case she can not reach immediately, i.e. in the first round of combat, the heat of the battle (and sometimes it happened). She uses two handaxes in melee combat and tried to use javelins for ranged attacks, but we felt that this kind of weapon does not fit with the character.

The Barbarian is going to reach level 10 in the next sessions. The new description is the following one.

Handaxe of the storm

Weapon (handaxe), uncommon

The blade of this axe is finely decorated with images of storms and lightning.

When making a ranged weapon attack, you can spend one or two charges to hurl a copy of the axe, made by crackling light, whilst the weapon remains in your hand.

When one charge is spent, on a hit it deals 11 (3d6) lighting damage to the target.

When two charges are spent, dozens of axes appears around the original copy in a cone of 15 ft. The point of origin of the cone must be within 15 ft of the target and it must lie on the line linking you and the target. Each creature in that cone must make a DC 13 Dexterity saving throw, taking 14 (4d6) lightning damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. On a hit, the target of the attack takes 11 (3d6) lighting damage

When used as a melee weapon, the axe counts as a magical weapon for overcoming resistance to non magical damage. Its range is 40/80 ft.

The axe has 3 charges, which are renewed each day at dawn.

Following the suggestions from the answers to my previous question, the Javelin of Lightning was the baseline for damage and save DC, but I modified the AoE and the damage to the target:

  • If used on a single target, the damage is 3d6 rather than 4d6 because with 3 charges this can be done 3 times per day, instead of only once as for the Javelin. Moreover, in this way the damage output is only slightly larger than the expected damage of a normal attack (1d6+7, under rage).
  • The range has increased to 40/80 ft.
  • She throws a copy of the handaxe, instead of the weapon itself: this is meant to be a replacement of the classical returning property (like Mjöllnir's), I designed in this way to add some flavor and cinematic.
  • The weapon counts as magical, even if it does not have any +1 to attack roll or damage.
  • I removed the attunement requirement.

Is this magic weapon appropriate for a 2nd tier (level 10) Barbarian? In particular I have the following concerns:

  • Maybe the description of the point of origin of the cone is quite convoluted: I wanted to emphasize that the point of origin must be in a particular position and that it cannot be positioned anywhere.
  • I allow the damage of the AoE to also affect the original target of the ranged attack. Indeed, even against a single target, the Barbarian can still use this feature using 2 charges. If all the charges are spent against a single target (2 for the AoE and 1 for the other attack), assuming that she hits all the times, a grand total of 10d6 (or 8d6, if the saving throw is successful) lightning damage is dealt, against 9d6 using 3 separate charges: from a damage point of view I do not see so much differences, I think it leaves some strategy to the player, but maybe I am missing something here.
  • I doubled the range, but I wonder if it sufficient.
  • With 3 charges, she can use the AoE once per day: this was deliberate, because I do not want her to replace the role of the spellcasters with AoE spells (which already are difficult to put in place, since the melee fighters are always close to enemies).
  • for a soon-to-be 10 level barbarian, maybe the damage is too low: should it be a +1 weapon?
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Your weapon seems conceptually similar to the Sunforger from Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica. Maybe that would be a good starting point for comparison? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 21, 2023 at 14:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Slaves_of_the_Coast I do not have such manual: I would be glad if you can provide some insight on this, maybe in an answer if you want. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Mar 21, 2023 at 15:05

1 Answer 1

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You could make the weapon simpler and more powerful

There are analyses (See for example here) determining that by the typical loot suggested in the DMG, a character gets their first rare item between level 8 and 10. This would mean that a rare item would be reasonable for your case.

I suggest the Flame Tongue which gives a flat elemental damage bonus of +2d6 albeit on every attack. You could simply apply a similar always-on bonus (potentially reduced to 1d6 and of course lightning instead of fire) plus a once-per-day AoE attack similar to the Javelin of Lightning, thereby keeping the key properties you desire, namely

  1. Lightning flavor
  2. Limited uses for the AoE effect

while getting rid of the unnecessarily complex charge system.

Further points

Range: Whether or not the range is good depends entirely on the encounters that your players face. What distance do opponents typical start a combat at? This is a question that I cannot answer but you can because you're the Gm and make the encounters.

Magical: This is standard. If an item is a magical weapon, it's attacks count as magical whether or not it has any effects that pertain to attack or damage bonuses.

Origin of the AoE: This is indeed complicated. My proposed solution is to have the tip of the cone placed on the target of the ranged attack, in the direction of the throw, affecting the target of the ranged attack.

Save DC: A level 10 spellcaster will typically have Proficiency+4 and spell casting modifier+5 for a spell save DC of 17. A level appropriate magic weapon can be around the same value, especially for a once-per-day effect. I therefore suggest increasing the save DC.

Bonus+1: +X bonuses a valuable from a strictly mathematical perspective on damage output. They aren't however valuable from a lore or flavor perspective. From your question I gather that this is an important concern for you and your group. I therefore recommend putting the item's power somewhere else.

Suggested item text considering all my comments

Handaxe of the storm

Weapon (handaxe), rare

The blade of this axe is finely decorated with images of storms and lightning.

When making a ranged weapon attack, you can hurl a copy of the axe, made from crackling light. This works as if you made a thrown weapon attack using the axe, except the real weapon remains in your hand and the range is 40/80.

This weapon deals an additional 1d6 lighting damage to each target it hits.

When you make a ranged weapon attack with the axe and speak its command word, dozens of axes appears around the original copy in a cone of 15 ft. The cone points in the direction of the throw originating on the position of the original target. Each creature in the cone (including the original target of the attack) must make a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, taking 4d6 lightning damage on a failed saving throw, or half as much on a successful one. This property of the axe cannot be used again until the next dawn.

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