Planescape in 5e: Mercurials

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This is my conversion of the Mercurial creature type from Doors to the Unknown, as well as the signature items designed for dealing with one. I opted to use Deva as a base, as it was pretty close to the original 2e implementation.

On one of the peaks of Mount Celestia is the realm of Beldaari, a land so deep into the plane of Lawful Good that it is almost beyond this pale cosmos. In this hyper-real forest, the beings of other planes seems lesser, barely real. Bathing in the light of their unnamed god of pure thought, the Mercurials exist in a state of contemplative bliss. While mostly similar to Devas, they have a strange ability to experience life from the bodies of other beings by shedding their own skin and bones. When they can be convinced to leave their home realm this ability to transcend their own form can make them profound allies to the Celestial forces, as they cannot be permanently harmed while they have left their flesh behind.

While most, beings of pure law and good, would only use this ability on the willing, and leave before doing harm, tales tell of one of their own that went mad. Lathuraz wished for a mighty weapon, had it granted by his god who could not believe betrayal was possible, and used it to cut his way free of his brethren, taking the forbidden portal into Sigil that opened on their land every 500 years. His brother, Zarulaz, trailing behind to try to stop him, he nonetheless wreaked havoc for centuries. When turned to evil, an unkillable, charismatic warlord who can steal the forms of his enemies can quickly amass a tremendous base of power. Finally, with the next blink cycle and the help of Zarulaz, Lathuraz was imprisoned behind one of the doors, awaiting heroes to gather the requisite tools to destroy him forever the next time the doors opened… or stand back as he began his conquest anew.


Medium celestial, lawful good

Armor Class 17 (natural armor)
Hit Points 136 (16d8 + 64)
Speed 30 ft.

18 (+4) 18 (+4) 18 (+4) 17 (+3) 20 (+5) 20 (+5)

Saving Throws Wis +9, Cha +9

Skills Insight +9, Perception +9

Damage Immunities bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons

Damage Resistances radiant

Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, frightened

Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 19

Languages all, telepathy 120 ft.

Challenge 10 (5900 XP)

Borrow Form. The mercurial may shed its skin and bones as an action. They are left in the space this action was performed as an object with AC 13 and hit points equal to what the mercurial had upon leaving them. While standing in the same space as its skin and bones, the mercurial may re-enter them as an action, setting its hit points to the average of its current hit points and those remaining in the object. While outside of its skin, the mercurial’s AC is reduced to 14 (unarmored).

While not in its own skin, the mercurial may attempt to “borrow” the form of another medium- or small-sized humanoid. The mercurial must successfully grapple the target, then attempt to borrow the form as an action on its turn. The target may make a Constitution saving throw (DC 17) to resist this possession. Upon failure, the mercurial disappears into the target’s form, and the target is incapacitated and loses control of its body. The mercurial now controls the body but doesn’t deprive the target of awareness.

While borrowing a form, the mercurial uses its normal statistics except it wears the armor and wields the weapons of the borrowed character. The borrowed character’s hit point total becomes temporary hit points for the mercurial.

While possessed, the host gains a level of exhaustion every X minutes (equal to the character’s Constitution score plus level or CR). The mercurial does not suffer the effects, but they will apply to the body when the possession ends. If the mercurial’s temporary hit points are reduced to 0 or six levels of exhaustion are accrued by the host, the host dies. The mercurial does not have to relinquish the form, but cannot re-borrow it upon leaving (and decay and damage will become apparent over time).

The possession lasts until the mercurial chooses to end it as a bonus action or the mercurial is forced out by an effect like the dispel evil and good spell. When the possession ends, the mercurial reappears in an unoccupied space within 5 feet of the body. The target is immune to this mercurial’s Borrow Form for 24 hours after succeeding on the saving throw or after the possession ends.

Innate Spellcasting. The mercurial’s spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 17). The mercurial can innately cast the following spells, but only while on its home plane, requiring verbal components:

At will: detect evil and good
1/day each: commune, wish

Magic Resistance. The mercurial has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Mercurial Weapons. The mercurial’s attacks are magical. When the mercurial hits with any weapon, the weapon deals an extra 2d8 psychic damage (included in the attack).

Regeneration. The mercurial regains 10 hit points at the start of its turns. It loses this ability if its skin and bones are reduced to 0 hp, either while worn or as an object (see Borrow Form). The mercurial only dies if it starts its turn with 0 hp while its regeneration is not active.


Multiattack. The mercurial makes two weapon attacks (either with wielded weapons or with its slams). One or both of these attacks can be used to attempt a grapple.

Longsword (or Other Host Weapon). Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d8+4) slashing damage plus 9 (2d8) psychic damage.

Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit:7 (1d6+4) bludgeoning damage plus 9 (2d8) psychic damage.

Mental Blast (Recharge 5-6). The mercurial magically emits psychic energy in a 60-foot cone. Each creature in that area must succeed on a DC 17 Intelligence saving throw or take 23 (4d8+5) psychic damage and be stunned for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.

Image of monster block

Anti-Lathuraz Items

Cloak of Trapping

Wondrous item, very rare
Keywords: Outlands, Confining, Cutting, Dark, Disjointed, Metallic

This distinctive black cloak with silvery star patterns can be used like a net to attack a creature with shapeshifting or possession abilities (and hits automatically if the creature is convinced to wear it voluntarily). Instead of being restrained, on a successful hit the creature is trapped in its current body and/or shape. Attempts to grapple such a target have advantage. While so trapped, the cloak cannot be damaged (attacks simply hit the captured target), and the target’s Strength check DC to escape is 18 (+1 per matched keyword).

It can be worn as a normal cloak by individuals without shapeshifting or possession abilities. It grants the wearer +1d4 on attack rolls to grapple a target. It can be removed quickly by such a bearer as part of the action to attempt to capture a target.

Rod of Mercury

Rod, unique
Keywords: Mount Celestia, Lawful, Good, Bright, Colorful, Metallic

This two-foot cylinder appears to be made of molten silver but is solid when touched. It tugs toward the nearest mercurial on the same plane, with increasing force if the target is close by (but never hard enough to pull free of a grip or move on its own). This allows the bearer to work out the direction and distance of nearby mercurials.

If there is more than one such creature on the same plane, the bearer may make a Charisma check to track a specific mercurial rather than the nearest. The bearer must have seen the target before and speak its name as a command word. The check DC varies based on the number of mercurials nearby and the distance to the intended target. It is generally equal to 15 +1 for every intervening mercurial but -1 for each matched keyword.

Manacles of Lesser Reality

Wondrous item, legendary
Keywords: Unknown Prime World, Confining, Disjointed, Invisible, Mystic, Smashing

This pair of iron bracers with sunburst designs on them have no obvious locking mechanism. While there is no visible chain, they are connected by an implacable force and cannot be separated by more than five feet before snapping back together. They can be attached automatically to the wrists of a willing or unconscious target as an action. If the target is active and unwilling, they must be applied as an action by an individual that has successfully grappled the target.

While worn by a target that would be affected by protection from evil and good, the manacles deactivate the target’s most powerful abilities and actions. In particular, innate spellcasting and attacks that produce energy are usually suppressed while the manacles are worn. If only one manacle is worn, the subject cannot use such abilities on the wearer of the other manacle, and that wearer gains the effects of protection from evil and good against the target. Further, the target cannot move the wearer of the other manacle by pulling against the invisible chain of force: the target simply becomes restrained upon reaching the end of the tether, and may only move in the direction of the other bearer. Any attempts to teleport the target fail if the other bearer objects to the relocation.

The being who applied the manacles may remove them as easily as using any other object, the manacles falling open at a touch. Otherwise, removing them requires a thieves’ tools check (at a DC equal to 20 + 1/matched keyword), on which the creature trapped has disadvantage. This DC drops by 5 if the one who attached the manacles is dead.

If willingly donned by a wearer that is not subject to the effect, the wearer can remove them at any time. They grant the wearer the benefits of the protection from evil and good spell while both bracers are worn, but prevent the wearer from casting spells of 4th level or higher or using supernatural class abilities granted at 7th level or higher. Further, the wearer can remove one manacle and attach it to another willing target or structure that the bracer can fit around (e.g., pole or rope) to make use of the force tether. In this case, neither target loses movement when at the extent of the tether, and physics determines movement.

Sword of Lathuraz

Weapon (longsword), rare
Keywords: Mount Celestia, Lawful, Good, Bright, Colorful, Metallic

You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon. The regeneration trait of a creature struck with this weapon doesn’t function at the start of its next turn (but functions on subsequent turns if not struck again by the sword). Further, a creature reduced to 0 hit points by this weapon that survives gains a permanent level of exhaustion (even if normally immune to exhaustion), and can gain additional permanent levels up to 3 if so “killed” multiple times, but at most one per day. This exhaustion manifests as permanent wounds from the weapon, and can only be removed by greater restoration or similarly powerful magic.

This longsword has an extremely wide-swept guard and appears to be made of silver and mithril that fade in brightness if the wielder is not lawful good. It was created in secret by the mercurial traitor Lathuraz, used to slaughter his way out of his home plane during his betrayal and fight off any of his kinsfolk that attempted to return him. It is said to have turned black as wrought iron when wielded by its creator after his escape.

The sword sheds light as a torch. If the bright keyword is matched, it sheds light as the daylight spell.

It is an ideal anchor point for visual illusions. Illusions that cannot normally move can be attached to it, moving as you move the item. If the colorful keyword is matched, illusions so attached cause the sword to deal bonus psychic damage on each hit equal to 1d4 + the spell level used to create the illusion (e.g., 1d4 for minor illusion or 1d4+3 for major image) until the illusion is disbelieved.

It resonates with nearby silver and mithril, granting advantage to detect hidden caches of these metals. If the metallic keyword is matched, attacks with the sword deal 1d6 bonus radiant damage on each hit against targets that are vulnerable to silver weapons (e.g., damage resistance overcome by silver or magic weapons).

The sword is uncomfortable to wield by characters that are not of lawful good alignment. If the lawful keyword is matched, chaotic wielders suffer disadvantage on attack rolls, and if the good keyword is matched, evil wielders suffer this disadvantage. If both keywords are matched, and the wielder is lawful good, spell slots expended to smite (or used to cast smite spells) with the sword are treated as one level higher.

D&D 5e Class: Survivor

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With a new Ravenloft book coming out in the near future, I got to thinking about how it’s easier to do horror games if the PCs aren’t… well… as powerful as 5e characters are out of the gate. So this is a class and a couple of house rule ideas to start out with characters that have a much lower power rating than normal.

Rerolled Random Stats

When you make your character, roll 3d6 six times to generate ability scores, and arrange them as desired. Each time you level up, roll another six ability scores. You may choose to keep your original scores or replace all of them with the new set of scores. (Ability score bonuses, such as from race, ability score improvements/feats, etc. are reapplied after replacing your scores.)

When you generate hit points, roll instead of taking the default values (i.e., maximum at first level, average rounded up at subsequent levels). Instead of rolling a new die when you level, roll all hit dice you’re entitled to. If the adjusted total (including Constitution and other bonuses) is greater than your previous level’s total, use the new total. Otherwise retain the total from the previous level. Make this roll after adjusting ability scores and hit dice.

The Survivor

Most citizens never plan a life of adventure until it is thrust upon them. Without years of training in combat, magic, and stealth they have to pick up these lessons as they go.

As a survivor, you were destined for a simple role as one of the common folk, until greatness was thrust upon you and you have to do your best to learn what you can before you die.

Level Proficiency Bonus Features
1st +2 Proficiency (Skill)
2nd +2 Aspiration
3rd +2 Proficiency (Saving Throw)
4th +2 Ability Score Improvement
5th +3 Class Training

Class Features

As a survivor, you gain the following class features:

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d6 per survivor level
Hit Points at 1st Level: 6 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d6 (or 4) + you Constitution modifier per survivor level after 1st


The survivor gains no initial proficiencies except those provided by race and background (and from your Proficiency class feature, below). Survivors that start especially young might not even have the benefits of their background at the start of play.


You start with only the equipment provided by your background.


You gain proficiency in one skill of your choice. At 3rd level, you become proficient in one saving throw of your choice.

All choices should be ones available to the adventuring class you eventually plan to join.


At 2nd level, you choose an aspiration that indicates how your talents will develop as you take on the role of an adventurer. Choose Adept, Expert, or Warrior, each detailed at the end of the class description.

Ability Score Improvement

When you reach 4th level, and again at 8th, 12th, and 16th level (if you retain this class that long), you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, you can’t increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.

Class Training

By 5th level, you have finally reached the point that you can begin to develop the skills of the adventuring class you have been working toward.

If you have an extended downtime, you can simply transfer directly into the appropriate class at the same level, replacing any statistics with their upgraded versions. You do not gain any abilities or proficiencies from this process that you would not have gained leveling in the class normally.

If you must train “on the fly,” then slowly add abilities from the new class at a pace set by your DM until you are a fully functioning member of the new class.

This class does not gain any new features past 5th level, but can continue to level if it takes a very long period to fully acquire the new class.


The first step to becoming a true member of an adventuring class is picking up the rudiments of magic, warfare, or expertise.


Artificer, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Ranger, Paladin, Sorcerer, Warlock, or Wizard

You were likely always somewhat odd, either overly studious or thought of as somewhat touched. Strange things happened near you, but for some reason your magical powers did not begin to come under your control until forced to develop them.

Starting when you choose this aspiration at 2nd level, you gain the ability to cast spells. Use the spells known and spell slots per spell level of a Ranger. Choose the spellcasting ability and spell list of the class you intend to become (Artificer, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Ranger, Paladin, Sorcerer, Warlock, or Wizard).

If you intend to become a Ranger or Paladin, you gain proficiency in light armor and simple weapons. If you intend to become any other type of spellcaster, you gain two cantrips from that class’ list.


Artificer, Bard, Monk, Ranger, or Rogue

You have always been studious and clever, just waiting for an opportunity to blossom.

Your hit dice for this class increase to d8 (including the one from 1st level, causing you to recalculate hit points). You gain proficiency in simple weapons. You gain proficiency in the skill of your choice (from the list of the class you intend to pursue: Artificer, Bard, Monk, Ranger, or Rogue).

If you intend to become a Bard, Ranger, or Rogue, you gain proficiency in another skill of your choice (from the class’ list). If you intend to become an Artificer or Monk, you gain proficiency in the second saving throw common to your class.

If you intend to become a Ranger, you gain proficiency in simple weapons. Otherwise, you gain proficiency in one tool or instrument of your choice.


Barbarian, Fighter, Paladin, or Ranger

You were always stronger and tougher than others, and are finding that manifested in your combat ability now that you have had to fight to survive.

Your hit dice for this class increase to d10 (including the one from 1st level, causing you to recalculate hit points). You gain proficiency in simple weapons, light armor, and one martial weapon of your choice.

Planescape in 5e: Four Keyworded Items

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Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Planescape keyword system has been the opportunity to really customize the low-level permanent items my players have been finding. The magical treasure tables in the DMG don’t really start handing out anything particularly exciting until after 10th level. So adding keywords has been a good opportunity to make the items they do find more unique and a little bit more useful, without becoming better than rarer treasure. The examples below show how the keyword system can be used to give theme and origin to even minor items.

The Stairwalker’s Shroud

Amulet of Proof against Detection and Location
Wondrous item, uncommon (requires attunement)
Keywords: Outlands, Disjointed, Invisible, Prophetic, Protective, Stonelike

While wearing this amulet, you are hidden from divination magic. You can’t be targeted by such magic or perceived through magical scrying sensors.

This amulet seems well made, but is worn as if it has seen years of hard use and come through them still in perfect working order, merely comfortably broken in. When reality is against you, it will see you through; once per day, you gain a point of Inspiration when you enter an anti-magic area.

It fades to translucency at the wielder’s desire, granting you advantage on attempts to conceal or hide it. If you become invisible, the item remains invisible even if you briefly lose control of it (though you retain an intuition about its location to enable you to retrieve it).

It always teleports with its owner if it is close to hand. If it’s within ten feet of you when you are teleported, it appears at your feet wherever you land. It will even travel with you if the mode of transport normally will not include items.

If the invisible keyword or at least two other keywords are matched, the item’s protections also apply to divinations that don’t target you directly, but just include you in the area (e.g., detect magic, see invisibility). Spells that grant a new sense (like truesight) may still be able to reveal you.

If at least four keywords are matched, illusion spells you cast on yourself are treated as if you cast them at one spell slot level higher.

If all six keywords are matched, you become slightly translucent at will, and can act as if you are in light one level darker (bright to normal, normal to dim, dim to dark) when attempting to hide or use illusion powers that key off of darkness.

The Alkaline Eye

Sentinel Shield
Armor (shield), uncommon
Keywords: Elemental Earth, Corrosive, Cutting, Dark, Stonelike, Toxic

While holding this shield, you have advantage on initiative rolls and Wisdom (Perception) checks. The shield is emblazoned with a symbol of an eye. It is made from a dark but lightweight natural iron streaked with greensteel veins which are more intensely present in the embossed eye.

It is resistant to harm from acid or other sources of corrosion, and will likely even remain intact if its bearer is disintegrated. It is also resistant to slashing damage, being almost impossible to sunder.

The shield resists petrification. It always retains its form, even if its bearer is turned to stone. If trapped by stone (e.g., held by a petrified former owner, pinned in a cave-in, clutched by an earth elemental, etc.) it is easy to withdraw and unlikely to damage the stone in the attempt.

If the dark keyword or at least two other keywords are matched, it gives you advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks in darkness or dim lighting by blending into the darkness and allowing you to hide behind it.

If the toxic keyword or at least three other keywords are matched, it can absorb and neutralize poison. You gain advantage on saving throws, or the attacker gains disadvantage on attack rolls against you, for attacks that throw or spit poison (such as the cantrip poison spray).

If the elemental earth keyword or at least four other keywords are matched, you gain advantage to resist negative planar environmental effects.

Fargullen’s First Escape Plan

Ring of Jumping
Ring, uncommon (requires attunement)
Keywords: Pandemonium, Chaotic, Evil, Dark, Motive, Tempestuous

While wearing this ring, you can cast the jump spell from it as a bonus action at will, but can target only yourself when you do so.

This ring is made of smooth black stone, and its dimensions don’t quite add up: held one way, it appears to be a perfect circle, but it looks oblong in different light, creating a vague unease in the viewer that only increases if it is carefully examined. It emits a vague, faint susurration when the listener is distracted which ceases when focused on. Sometimes, these noises seem to edge into faint whispers, urging you to take dangerous actions. No mental effects, be they compulsion or insanity, can make you forget that the item is yours, or give it away/discard it if you wouldn’t when in your right mind.

If the motive keyword or at least two other keywords are matched, treat your Strength as 5 higher when calculating jumping distance (whether or not the ring’s power is active).

It is virtually invisible in the darkness, granting advantage to hide it. If you are attuned to the item, you can see it clearly in the dark (even in supernatural darkness) and, if the dark keyword or at least three other keywords are matched, you gain Blindsight (5 feet) when you are in total darkness and otherwise unable to see.

If the tempestuous keyword or at least four other keywords are matched, and you are attuned to the item, you are constantly under the effects of the feather fall spell. Further, you may choose to move ten feet horizontally for every five feet you fall vertically as you are able to glide somewhat on the wind currents. If you already have a fly speed, it improves by 10 feet.

Bountiful Joy

Weapon +1
Weapon (Khopesh*), uncommon
Keywords: Outlands, Confining, Dark, Disjointed, Protective, Stonelike

You have a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.

This sword seems well made, forged of a particularly sturdy bronze in the style of the followers of the god Geb. It is worn as if it has seen years of hard use and come through them still in perfect working order, merely comfortably broken in. When reality is against you, it will see you through; you gain a point of Inspiration when you enter an anti-magic area.

Once per day, you may spend Inspiration to take no damage from an attack or effect from a spell that could plausibly harmlessly strike the sword instead of you.

It is always subject to freedom of movement. It doesn’t pass this effect onto the wielder, but means that the item can never become stuck, trapped, or bound in a way that you cannot simply pull it free. Similarly, it resists petrification: it always retains its form, even if its wielder is turned to stone.

If the dark keyword, stonelike keyword, or at least two other keywords are matched, you gain tremorsense with a 5 foot radius when wielding this item, as it subtly vibrates in response to disturbances to the earth and stone next to you.

If the disjointed keyword or at least three other keywords are matched, the sword gains the thrown (20/60) property, and immediately teleports back to your hand at the end of your turn after throwing it.

If the protective keyword or at least four other keywords are matched, once per day you gain a superiority die (as a battle master fighter) that may be used to make the parry maneuver. If you already have superiority dice, this die is the type you use normally; otherwise, it is a d6.

* Since my group is very Dex-heavy, I’m treating this as a larger scimitar (that does 1d8 but isn’t light), effectively a rapier that does slashing instead of piercing damage.

Planescape in 5e: Temporary Realm Keywords

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As I add more items to my Planescape campaign that have powers based on certain planar keywords in the area, I decided it was time to expand on the idea that certain spells can temporarily apply new keywords, as well as to add a new spell to do that directly and efficiently.

The following spells (generally spells of 2nd level+ that have an area and a duration) may temporarily add a keyword to a location. This is generally within the spell’s area of effect while it is active (though for some, the spaces adjacent to the spell effect also count).

Spells do not benefit from their own added keyword (e.g., Darkness does not immediately add the Dark keyword and then also increase in potency because of that keyword).

Spells in realms that have an opposed keyword may simply disable the opposed keyword in their area, rather than adding the keyword (e.g., casting Daylight in a Dark realm). (Some countering keywords make more obvious sense than others to ensure there was a way to counter every keyword.)

  • Bright: (counters Dark) Crusader’s Mantle, Daylight, Holy Aura, Moonbeam, Sunbeam, Dawn (XGE), Sickening Radiance (XGE), Wall of Light (XGE)
  • Cold: (counters Hot) Ice Storm, Sleet Storm, Wall of Ice, Investiture of Ice (XGE)
  • Corrosive: (counters Metallic) Vitriolic Sphere (XGE)
  • Cutting: (counters Fluid) Blade Barrier, Cloud of Daggers
  • Dark: (counters Bright) Darkness, Hunger of Hadar, Maddening Darkness (XGE)
  • Energetic: (counters Stonelike) Call Lightning, Storm Sphere (XGE)
  • Hot: (counters Cold) Flaming Sphere, Incendiary Cloud, Wall of Fire, Investiture of Flame (XGE)
  • Invisible: (counters Penetrating) Forcecage, Wall of Force
  • Mental: (counters Wooden) Antipathy/ Sympathy, Calm Emotions, Zone of Truth
  • Penetrating: (counters Invisible) Cordon of Arrows, Spike Growth
  • Smashing: (counters Protective) Earthquake, Evard’s Black Tentacles, Storm Sphere (XGE)
  • Sonic: (counters Colorful) Silence
  • Toxic: (counters Restoring) Cloudkill, Stinking Cloud
  • Bestial: (counters Tempestuous) Insect Plague
  • Colorful: (counters Sonic) Hallucinatory Terrain, Mirage Arcane, Prismatic Wall
  • Confining: (counters Motive) Magic Circle, Web
  • Disjointed: (counters Mystic) Arcane Gate, Gate, Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion, Teleportation Circle
  • Fluid: (counters Cutting) Control Water, Tsunami, Wall of Water (XGE)
  • Metallic: (counters Corrosive) Blade Barrier
  • Motive: (counters Confining) Animate Objects, Reverse Gravity
  • Mystic: (counters Disjointed) Antimagic Field, Circle of Power
  • Prophetic: (counters Transforming) Foresight
  • Protective: (counters Smashing) Forbiddence, Globe of Invulnerability, Guards and Wards, Mordenkainen’s Private Sanctum, Spirit Guardians
  • Restoring: (counters Toxic) Aura of Life, Aura of Purity, Aura of Vitality
  • Stonelike: (counters Energetic) Wall of Stone, Investiture of Stone (XGE), Mighty Fortress (XGE), Transmute Rock (XGE), Wall of Sand (XGE)
  • Tempestuous: (counters Bestial) Control Weather, Gust of Wind, Wind Wall, Control Winds (XGE), Dust Devil (XGE), Investiture of Wind (XGE), Whirlwind (XGE)
  • Transforming: (counters Prophetic) Move Earth, Spike Growth
  • Wooden: (counters Mental) Grasping Vine, Plant Growth, Wall of Thorns, Druid Grove (XGE), Wrath of Nature (XGE)
  • Chaotic: (counters Lawful) Temple of the Gods (XGE)
  • Evil: (counters Good) Hallow (Unholy), Temple of the Gods (XGE)
  • Good: (counters Evil) Hallow (Holy), Temple of the Gods (XGE)
  • Lawful: (counters Chaotic) Temple of the Gods (XGE)

Planar Haven

4th-level transmutation

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self (20-foot radius)
Components: S, M (an icon worth at least 100 gp crafted of materials native to a realm that has the desired keyword and designed to reflect that keyword)
Duration: Concentration, up to 8 hours

You surround yourself with a bubble of adapted reality, imposing some of the resonance of another realm upon the place you are standing. Within the area of effect, which moves with you, the selected keyword is added to those of the realm (or an opposed native keyword is suppressed within the area). If the realm has an environmental effect linked to a keyword (e.g., ongoing fire damage in a Hot realm), that effect is suppressed within the area when the keyword is countered (at the GM’s option, particularly intense or iconic effects may only be reduced). Similarly, if the realm lacks a desirable feature, adding a relevant keyword may add it to the area (e.g., Tempestuous to add breathable air to a realm that is otherwise void, or Fluid to permit liquid water to exist in a realm that otherwise makes it evaporate quickly).

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th level or higher, you may add an additional keyword for each additional spell level over 4th level. You require a separate icon for each keyword, and cannot “double up” to remove a keyword and then add its opposite.

This spell is available to all spellcasting classes.

D&D 5e: Plane Touched Feats

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The Fey Touched and Shadow Touched feats in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything are a much-appreciated addition to the ranks of feats that give you a mental ability score bump plus something else (I was so tired of taking Actor on all of my Charisma-casters). They’re a little bit identical, so very easy to expand to make sure all the other sorcerers and warlocks get a chance to pick up some minor upgrades based on their power theme:

Plane Touched

Your exposure to the magic of a certain plane has changed you, granting you the following benefits:

  • Increase your Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
  • You learn a single spell (listed below for the plane chosen) and a 1st-level spell of your choice. The 1st-level spell must be from one of the schools listed below for the plane chosen. You can cast each of these spells without expending a spell slot. Once you cast either of these spells in this way, you can’t cast that spell again until you finish a long rest. You can also cast these spells using spell slots you have of the appropriate level. The spells’ spellcasting ability is the ability increased by this feat.
Plane Spell Schools
Abyss Darkness Evocation, Necromancy
Air Gust of Wind Conjuration, Transmutation
Astral Mind Whip (TCE) Divination, Enchantment
Chaos Mirror Image* Evocation, Illusion
Earth Earthbind (XGE) Abjuration, Conjuration
Ethereal See Invisibility Conjuration, Illusion
Fire Scorching Ray Evocation, Divination
Heaven Spiritual Weapon Abjuration, Divination
Hell Suggestion Enchantment, Necromancy
Order Zone of Truth Abjuration, Transmutation
Outside Mind Spike (XGE)* Enchantment, Illusion
Water Blur Divination, Transmutation


* Either of these could have Crown of Madness instead, but only with Brandes’ fixes so it’s something a player might want to use.

D&D 5e: Coral Gear

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These were taken from the Planescape Doors to the Unknown module, where they were given much shorter descriptions and intended to quickly die off. But several of my players are into creepy body horror bioware and one is playing a Great Old One warlock, so I went ahead and expanded the descriptions to figure out how to keep them alive and give them more versatility. Taken all together, they paint a lovely picture of gear for a sahuagin or deep one assassin/infiltrator.

Not actually magical, these items are composed of a steel-hard shell of colorful coral with an internal biological system that can sprout cilia, crawl somewhat into position, and attach to a living host. They derive most nutrition from this symbiotic relationship, though the host and coral will be healthier with regular intake of seafood. They will also slowly deteriorate if not soaked in seawater for at least an hour a week (a soaked rag placed around the item will do), or periodically fed powdered limestone (or similar material like pearls). If damaged, they heal naturally with their host (undoing the broken condition after a long rest). They can be magically enchanted like the items that they are (though they would lose the enchantments if allowed to die). Their lifespan is unknown.

They can be coaxed to detach from a host with brimstone-based smelling salts, but otherwise must be violently ripped or cut free, dealing major damage to the host (and likely killing the item).

Carapace Breastplate

This large shell wraps the entire torso and shoulders in a thin and articulated but dense shell.

It functions as breastplate armor with no effective weight/encumbrance. It can be worn under clothes (though likely of a larger size than normally required).

If soaked in a solution of various expensive poisons carefully and gradually, it might develop an immunity to toxins that it can pass to its host, granting advantage on poison saves (from poison-coated weapons) and resistance to poison damage.

Claw Grapple

This item is an articulated three-fingered claw attached to a flexible, ropelike tendril. The rope attaches to the back of the wrist then compresses when not in use, the claw laying against the back of the hand. This can make bracers or the equivalent uncomfortable, but does not interfere with shields.

It can be launched to grab protrusions up to ten feet away. This can be used to snag small items at this range or to latch onto the object to yank or swing (and might require an attack roll to target, at the GM’s option). You have advantage on climbing checks and cannot fall more than ten feet (this may not be possible if the surface is extremely smooth and there are no possible grapple holds within range). You can make a grapple check at its range, though it simply tethers you to the target rather than restraining the target (the grapple releases normally with a contested grapple check, or if the target deals 4 or more damage to the rope, giving it the broken condition).

If carefully built up with a paste of high-quality pearls, the claws might be extended long enough that they can be used as a punch dagger, as needed, including striking at the grapple’s range.

Face Shell

This item is a smooth, blank shell the perfect shape to fit over a humanoid’s face and, in fact, happily binds itself like a mask if so placed. The host does not have any problem seeing or breathing, but needs to remove the shell to eat. Unlike the other devices, it seems a little easier to coax into releasing so its host can consume food, and can even be trained to move to sit on a shoulder when not in use as a mask.

The shell grants you darkvision to 30 feet, or 120 feet in saltwater. Additionally, it allows you to breathe water (or air, if you normally breathe water). Finally, it filters inhaled toxins, giving you advantage on saving throws against inhaled poisons or airborne diseases. However, due to its unnerving blank visage (the only sign of the eyes are slightly more vivid circles of color), you have disadvantage on any Charisma checks relying on generating positive feelings (e.g., intimidation is not affected).

A potentially unnerving feature of the shell is that it could be placed on the face of a corpse submerged in seawater and powdered hermit crab shells, gradually turning into a death mask of the subject as the body decays. You subsequently gain advantage on Charisma (Deception) rolls and similar rolls to masquerade as the subject using disguise self, alter self, or similar form-concealing magic. The mask helps mimic the subject’s voice and mannerisms. It can only retain one such subject at a time.

Mantis Blade

When detached, this looks like a long, thin sword blade. It can be attached behind the wrist, at which point it hinges back when not in use, resting against the back of the forearm. This makes it challenging to wear anything else on that arm, such as a bracer, shield, or even tight sleeves.

It functions as a rapier (but can instead act as a shortsword if you are not proficient in rapier or want to use it as an offhand weapon). It also works as a prybar, and has enough dexterity to be bent as desired to manipulate objects as would make sense for its structure.

If soaked in a bath of seawater and powdered silver, iron, or adamantine, it could conceivably take enough of those metals in to strike creatures harmed only by those materials as if made of that material.

Reservoir Valve

This item is a roughly cylindrical shell around the size of a large man’s fist. When attached, it flattens somewhat and tries to find a location on the back where it will not be an impediment.

The valve contains a naturally-generated healing potion. It can contain one charge at a time, and regains this charge when you take a long rest that you begin with both full hp and hit dice (i.e., it absorbs your unneeded natural healing). It can also have a charge restored by casting two levels of healing magic into it (e.g., either two first-level cure wounds or one cast at second-level). You can expend the charge as a bonus action to have it inject you with the potion so you heal 2d4+2 hp. Additionally, if you are reduced to 0 hp, the valve automatically expends its charge, if available, to heal you at the beginning of your next turn, before you have to make a death saving throw.

If bathed in a solution of several higher-powered healing potions as well as a high-quality oceanic chemicals, it might have the power of its healing solution improved to more closely mimic these better potions.

D&D 5e: Adjusting Monster HP

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0 1-6 13
1/8 7-15 13
1/4 16-49 13
1/2 50-70 13
1 71-85 13
2 86-100 13
3 101-115 13
4 116-130 14
5 131-145 15
6 146-160 15
7 161-175 15
8 176-190 16
9 191-205 16
10 206-220 17
11 221-235 17
12 236-250 17
13 251-265 18
14 266-280 18
15 281-295 18
16 296-310 18
17 311-325 19
18 326-340 19
19 341-355 19
20 356-400 19

One of the classic ways to put a higher-difficulty monster into a module for lower-level characters is to have it be already injured before they fight it, giving it fewer HP. Meanwhile, GMs often figure that if they just set a monster higher in its HP range (by default, they take the average dice rolls) that’s still fair but might make the fight a little more challenging.

If you haven’t looked into the monster math for 5e (starting on page 273 of the DMG), your intuitions about altering HP might be wrong. If you’ve come from previous editions where the total number of HD was equivalent to the monster’s level, that is no longer the case. The hit dice for a monster in 5e are basically completely arbitrary. The designer was trying to hit a certain HP total, and adjusted the number of HD until the average value of those dice plus Con mod got into the right range.

This means, if you try to adjust the monster’s HP, your intuition might be wrong for how much that lowers or raises the difficulty. Even a monster with extremely low HP might obliterate a lower-level party if it wins initiative (especially if it also has a high AC), since damage scales so high. And maxing out a monster’s HP could functionally double it, which could push it multiple CRs higher in some cases.

The relevant table is on page 274 of the DMG, but the important parts are to the right. Note that most of the published monsters are close to this system, but not exact, as they were likely tweaked in playtesting. But this is the official guideline for how monsters are supposed to be assigned a CR, and it’s at least in the right ballpark most of the time.

Essentially, to figure out a monster’s defensive CR, look up its HP on the table to get the basic CR. Then consult the target AC for that line. If the monster’s AC is different, move the CR up or down by 1 for every 2 points of AC. For example, if the monster has 110 HP and 15 AC, that puts it at CR 3, which has target AC 13. Since it’s 2 AC higher, its defensive CR is effectively 4. Special abilities might also increase this: if it has a lot of resistances/immunities or special defensive actions, it might bump up another couple.

Some monsters are glass cannons (high offense, but low defensive CR) and others are tanks (the opposite), so have their offensive CR and defensive CR averaged. Basically, if you’re looking at a monster before adjusting its HP, and its defensive CR comes out higher or lower than its listed CR, it may have more or less offense to compensate. Just keep that in mind.

To adjust the HP, figure out what CR the new HP total would put it at, then step up or down if the monster’s AC is not in line. Figure out how much that differs from the original defensive CR, and adjust the monster’s CR by half the difference (because you’re averaging the offensive CR).


The Inert Golem

This is basically what got me thinking about the problem in the first place. The Planescape module Doors to the Unknown‘s first chapter features a battleground where variant iron golems have gotten to 0 HP but not been smashed up, which means that if they take any fire damage, this causes them to heal HP and reanimate, attacking the party. They’re likely to acquire less than 20 HP from the various reduced-damage fireball effects in the area, but how high of a CR is an iron golem with only a few HP?

The base iron golem in the MM has 210 HP, AC 20, and a CR 16. 210 HP is right around CR 10, which expects 17 AC, so the 20 AC bumps that up a couple of CRs to 12. We can probably also assume that the golem immunities and special defensive abilities are good for a couple more points of CR, so about 14.

What if it only had at most a dozen HP from a stray 2d6 mini-fireball? That puts it at CR 1/8, which targets AC 13. The extra 7 points of 20 AC are now four steps up the chart, landing at 2, and the same immunities and such put that two more steps up to CR 4. That’s a 10 point difference, halved to 5, so lowers the CR to 11.

Is 11 too high for something that would go down in a single attack? Maybe? If nobody manages to get through its 20 AC (or its magic resistance, or targets an immunity accidentally) before it acts, it’s going to likely put out about 45 damage when it gets to act. Probably still doesn’t make it better than a Stone Golem (CR 10). It could wreck a low-level party that can’t manage to hit (especially if they don’t have magic or adamantine weapons), but this is an example of why you don’t want the offensive and defensive CR to get too far apart. It would probably make more sense to have a scenario where there’s a full-on fireball barrage that would probably get it to at least another CR threshold or two.

The Two Wolves

Winter Wolves are HP 75, AC 13, CR 3 with no real special defensive abilities other than immunity to cold. That HP total puts them right at CR 1, and the AC is correct for that CR. Which means most of its CR is coming from offense, presumably.

Maybe you want a threat for a first-level party, so try to have an injured wolf. Dropping it to half HP puts it in the CR 1/4 range, which doesn’t alter the AC, so it’s two steps down. That, halved, reduces it to a CR 2. It’s still, offensively, much more powerful: that cold breath could wipe out multiple low-level PCs if they get too close, and its bite might take out one every round. If there are multiple, Pack Tactics can be a big threat as well.

Conversely, you want a really chonky boi that’s been eating well and is at maximum for his (arbitrary) 10d10+20 HD: 120 HP. That puts him up at CR 4, and now his AC is a little low, so maybe a CR 3. That’s two points higher than the base for an averaged +1, and makes him a final CR 4.

5e Background: Sole Survivor

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Whatever you were before, your history pales before what you were made to be: the sole survivor of a horrifying event. It might have been a single night of terror, you and your friends stalked through the darkness trying to survive until dawn. It might have been years of slowly-dwindling resistance, trapped in an occupied city. Your tormentors may have been inhuman antagonists, impossible to communicate with or placate, or they may have been monsters of a worse sort: those who were much like you but chose to exterminate all you knew anyway. Whatever the tribulation, at the end, only you remained of those who entered the crucible with you.

Surviving something like that changes you deeply. Despite the nightmares and trauma, you never broke. Perhaps you can’t break, now: all the soft, vulnerable spots in your psyche have been made hard. That hardening, however, makes it difficult to connect with others who can’t truly know what it’s like to have such an experience. You’ve probably turned to adventuring because there’s no longer a place for you in normal society. Somehow, fighting for your life in the darkness again and again is comforting. At least, now, you usually choose what you face.

Skill Proficiencies: Choose two from Perception, Stealth, or Survival
Tool Proficiencies: One type of artisan’s tools (used to make items needed for your survival)
Languages: The language of the enemy that pursued you
Equipment: A simple weapon (a rare example of a fully-functional item you salvaged), a set of artisan tools with which you’re proficient, slightly-damaged common clothes, and a belt pouch with 10 gp worth of assorted coins you’ve scavenged.

Feature: Vigilance

It served you well during your ordeal to keep an eye on your surroundings at all times, waiting for an attack from any direction, and you have not gotten over this wary anxiety. You have advantage on rolls to detect an ambush or otherwise avoid attempts to surprise you with an attack, even while theoretically safe (which can counter disadvantage from these conditions, such as being asleep). (Opponents have disadvantage on rolls to ambush you that target your Passive Perception.)

Variant Feature: Improvisation

You can generally scrounge materials to create equipment that is serviceable from the detritus of civilization. Given access to your artisan’s tools and some kind of raw materials that would make sense in the construction, during a short rest you can cobble together an item that will be functional, if flawed. The item tends to break whenever you roll a 1 using it (or an enemy rolls a 20, for armor other other defensive items), and, in the case of alchemical concoctions, does half its normal effect and expires in 24 hours.

Suggested Characteristics

Sole survivors tend to be damaged in a number of ways, but with a deep inner strength and conviction that saw them through.

d8 Personality Trait

  1. The safest place for food is in my belly. I don’t know when I’ll get to eat again.
  2. I don’t talk much. I guess I got out of the habit.
  3. “Unflappable” is a good word for me: it takes a lot to make me flinch.
  4. There are a few seemingly meaningless perks of civilization that I’m disproportionately excited about. I never thought I’d see them again.
  5. People are neat (even people I don’t like). I’m just happy to be here, among the living.
  6. I relate many things back to anecdotes about people I lost; uncomfortably so.
  7. My humor is incredibly dark. If you can’t laugh, you’ll go crazy.
  8. While I understand the concept of ownership, I have few qualms about walking off with practical items that I think might be necessary later that nobody else seems to be using.

d6 Ideal

  1. Final Girl/Boy. When someone comes after you, you can only give them so much space before you have to push back. Hard. (Neutral)
  2. Protector. I lost a lot of good friends. No one else should ever die like that again, especially not my new friends. (Good)
  3. Reaver. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with what was done to me. I just need to be strong enough that it’s me on the other side, next time. (Evil)
  4. Sheriff. What happened to me was only possible because my allies didn’t stand together and fight back. I hope to show that if we all work together, society is stronger than the monsters. (Lawful)
  5. Survivor. At the end of the day, staying alive has its own meaning. Higher callings are all well and good, but every new sunrise you see is a victory. (Any)
  6. Wildling. While I hated everything about being hunted, there was something free about just me and my friends against the darkness. Being back in society, I feel like all its rules are only there to make us vulnerable to further attacks. (Chaotic)

d6 Bond

  1. I’m trying to find meaning in why these things happened to me. Is there ultimately a way to extract justice? Or was it just an evil I have to contend with?
  2. The friends I lost have no one but me to carry out their legacies. I need to protect those they loved and enact their agendas.
  3. I don’t think what happened to me was an isolated incident. I want to track down and stop similar things from happening again.
  4. The scars I earned in my trials still hurt, and I worry that I might be somehow infected. Am I doomed to become that which pursued me?
  5. I left something important behind in the place where I was hunted. Some day, I hope to reclaim it, but it is far and I am not prepared to revisit it, yet.
  6. I liked who I was before. I was happier then. Perhaps, by reconnecting with people and places of my youth, I might someday recapture that feeling.

d6 Flaw

  1. I can’t differentiate between the beings/nationality that attacked me, and have no belief that any of them can be other than monsters.
  2. They mostly came at night. I’m obsessive about maintaining a watch and don’t sleep soundly even in the safest locations.
  3. I’ll never fully trust anyone that hasn’t proven they’d die for me. Looking for ulterior motives and danger tends to alienate potential allies.
  4. I’m too trusting of anyone that isn’t one of my tormentors, so used to everyone banding together against the greater threat.
  5. Basically feral at this point, I have a hard time maintaining normal, emotional relationships. Everyone is either combat partner, risk, or threat.
  6. Because of incidents where my enemies played dead, I’m dedicated to ensuring my opponents can’t get back up when my back is turned. It’s gruesome.

D&D 5e: Average Treasure Hoards

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Page 133 of the 5e DMG suggests that a typical campaign* awards seven 0-4 hoards, eighteen 5-10 hoards, twelve 11-16 hoards, and eight 17+ hoards. I made a big spreadsheet and figured out what the average results of those tables look like, all added together:

CR Individual Award (per creature) Total GP Value of Cash, Gems, and Art Magic Item Table Rolls
0-4 5 gp 2,630 A x 6, B x 3, C x 2, F x 2
5-10 93 gp 81,797 A x 10, B x 9, C x 5, D x 1, F x 6, G x 2
11-16 947 gp 434,550 A x 4, B x 6, C x 9, D x 5, E x 1, F x 1, G x 2, H x 3, I x 1
17+ 8,470 gp 2,688,200 C x 4, D x 9, E x 6, G x 1, H x 2, I x 4


For reference, after all the hoards are awarded (and not counting the pocket change of individual awards) I got a total of 3,207,177.30 GP plus 104 items. The vast majority of the money comes from 17+ hoards, and there are only 46 items found in the first two sets of hoards (and most of it is from tables that primarily award potions and scrolls).

While I’m sure a lot of GMs enjoy rolling up loot at the table, I’m more methodical and also know that I will totally forget to give out sufficient** treasure if I don’t have a plan up front to award it.

For my games, I’m basically chopping this up into 8-13 packages per tier, making sure to give out at least one item in each package, and randomizing the distribution of the GP value a bit. Then, when I decide what each package makes sense for I split up the value into art, gems, and cash (e.g., a goblin hoard might be a ton of copper and silver, an elemental will be all gems, and humanoids with neat nonmagical gear will have that taken out of the budget as “art”). I’m also pre-rolling the items, so I also try to assign the containing package to an encounter that would make sense to have that particular item.

You could obviously also totally divorce the items from the value packages, and sometimes give out multiple items with little or no cash, and sometimes just nonmagical items of value.


* I assume this is for four PCs. Presumably you should raise the total by 25% for five, 50% for six, etc.

** Not that 5e really seems to care if you get anywhere close to the normal distribution.

D&D 5e: The 20 XP System

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The GM for one of the 5e games I’m playing got tired of doing all the math for standard XP tracking recently, and just switched us over to a milestone-based system (i.e., we’ll level up when it seems to make sense). One of the players opined that granular XP didn’t make much sense to him in the first place, in a level-based system where you weren’t allocating your XP to discretionary increases.

But my impression is that the main reason to track XP in D&D has generally been to incentivize optional objectives. In particular, “trash fights” feel worse if you realize you could have skipped them and you’d still level up as soon as you accomplished the main goal for the scenario. This is especially true if they don’t carry much monetary reward: if there’s no treasure and no XP, time spent on an incidental fight can feel wasted. Quests are similar: there’s a long history of awarding bonus XP for good-feelings quests without pecuniary remuneration.

Maybe that’s your jam: it’s not the worst thing in the world to train your players to try to use stealth, persuasion, and trickery to bypass fights. But if you’re disappointed, as a GM, when your players bypass a fight you prepared, it might be better to give some kind of reward. Similarly, doing good in the world might be its own reward, increasing reputation or eventually having karmic payoff, but actually telling the players to increment a number on the sheet immediately is a much more immediate way to train them to be heroic.

This system is just some quick spreadsheet work I did to try to reduce the granularity (and, thus, calculation and bookkeeping) of 5e XP awards as far as possible while still being more or less reflective of the standard XP curve. Basically, instead of leveling at an arbitrary point (usually based on finishing a chapter):

  • 20 XP must be earned between each level.
  • Fights of various difficulty award XP to each PC:
    • Easy: 1 XP
    • Medium: 2 XP
    • Hard: 3 XP
    • Deadly: 5 XP
  • A quest might also reward XP at a similar scale.
  • Optionally, at the level 5-10 tier, you might want to actually require 30 XP to level in order to stick to book standards (these levels have 50% more encounters required at the suggested XP ranges than other levels).
  • Optionally, at level 1-2, you might want to require only 13 XP to level (since those levels are so fast).

For example, a party that faces six Easy, three Medium, one Hard, and one Deadly encounters is ready to level up (1 x 6 + 2 x 3 + 3 x 1 + 5 x 1 = 20 XP).

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