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In their next session, the players will encounter one of the major NPCs involved in a massive plot to free a banished god from the Abyss. This NPC (the Count Dooku of the story so far) has a way to travel from place to place very quickly, but he isn't a magic user.

The idea I have in mind, is for a portable door: A tiny trinket which, when placed in an arch or doorway, transforms into a door that leads to a location the owner of the trinket has previously been (so long as there is a suitable doorway on the other side).

There's the chance the party will obtain this trinket. So the question is, would it be overpowered and game- or campaign-breaking in their hands?

I can be talked out of this idea if there's a better way to accomplish this goal (rapid travel from place to place for a non-caster).

As requested, an in-game description of the item I'm thinking of:

Portable Door
Wondrous Item, (Very Rare)

This wooden carving of a door fits neatly into the palm of your hand. Twice per day, the item can be placed in an archway or doorway; it then creates a portal to a suitable doorway or matching doorway at a location you have previously visited. If there is no suitable doorway at the location you wish to travel to, the item has no effect.

The portal is large enough to allow one Large creature to pass through comfortably, and remains open as long as the user concentrates on it, up to 1 minute.

The item can be retrieved from the other side by simply reaching into the portal and retrieving it, at which point the portal closes immediately.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Metagame question: how important is actual "overland" travel in your campaign, and how much time pressure is there? Is this an in-game way to hand-wave getting back to town after dealing with the dungeon, or would it break the "you have X days before The Plot happens, and X+Y days' worth of possible things to do" set-up? \$\endgroup\$ – minnmass Feb 11 '17 at 17:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Overland travel isn't a big deal. On the other hand, using it to escape from important encounters would be. \$\endgroup\$ – Mike Hofer Feb 11 '17 at 23:38
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It depends on the party's level.

I'd say that that item is similar to a magic item that casts the 7th level spell Teleport. The limitations and benefits of that item are a bit different, but we can use it as a rough guideline.

Using the guidelines for making a magic item (DMG 284), a magic item that casts a 7th level spell once a day falls into the Very Rare category. According to the table on DMG 135, such an item should be found by characters of 11th level of higher.

Balancing it for lower level characters

If your party is much lower level than that, you could simply make the item less functional for the players. Maybe the item gets damaged in combat, and will break on the next use (or can only go to one destination), or it requires some magical secret to operate that the players don't know. You can then have the item get fixed as the party advances in level, so that it remains level-appropriate. For example, in a campaign I played, the DM gave us, a 5th level party, a stone of Wish that could only be used for a single purpose.

Placing such strict limitations on items like this turns them into plot devices rather than traditional, versatile magic items, and alleviates a lot of the concerns around balance.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So then it's totally inappropriate for my group of level 3 characters. I'll have to shelve this one for later use, though. So long as the idea's not total crap. \$\endgroup\$ – Mike Hofer Feb 11 '17 at 16:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've added another section about making it reasonable for a level 3 party, if you still want to use the idea. \$\endgroup\$ – Icyfire Feb 11 '17 at 16:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's actually a great idea. If I "break" it, I can increase the charges per day, and then only have it work once or twice after the characters use it. Then a detect magic spell would reveal that there's still magic there, but it's wonky. They'd have to do all the footwork to get it fixed. Neat! \$\endgroup\$ – Mike Hofer Feb 11 '17 at 17:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1. This item is similar to the boots of teleportation, but can transport an almost unlimited number of creatures per use. That's a capability low-level parties don't usually have - and it'd be worth a vast amount of gold if sold. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Feb 11 '17 at 22:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MikeHofer As discussed in the comments on rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/70368/… , you could move a army of thousands through your teleportation door in the minute before it closes; Unless you change that, it'll be a threat to the stability of every realm in your campaign setting, and should carry a commensurate price tag. Simply limiting the number of creatures who can pass through it in a single use to around five is the easiest option, and the option used by most existing teleportation effects. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Feb 13 '17 at 9:58

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