Play the Madness, Been Re-Reading Fables, A Cheap Trick, Tiny Lair, and Blessed Nonsense.

You can find the ever-growing list of “Better Than Nothing” items  over on the right. Read ‘em, like ‘em, share ‘em, and comment.

Kortholt of the Brigh Delac

“The Congregation wiles and pomps,
For ever day and shine again,
When Revelrie and Revelire,
Set to dance the feet of men,
The king! The king! In tally grey!
No clever boy denies the fae.

While the song pipes on and on,
And while the lights burn bright and strong,
And breathless servants play along,
There’s no time left to die today.”

–written in blood in the underjail of Kremen Hold

System: The Grey Dancer, an Archfey of the Near Twilight Courts, brought blood and madness to the freeholds and dreaming things around the Seventh Falchion of the Lording. He brought wild song and wild fire and started a war that ended with the death of a god. In the eons since, the faen things have locked him from the world behind an adamant wall of lightless black stone where most of his power is barred from the worlds.

However, a descendent of his—Brigh Delac—crafted the kortholt, a reed instrument that produces a deep resonant tone despite its relatively compact size, and sent it out into the world of men and monsters to serve as a conduit to his ancestor’s power. Creatures of the fae cannot use the kortholt, they are barred by the laws that govern, but many a Warlock has used it over the years—those patroned by the Grey Dancer himself, and those Archfey who wish to bring him back.

The kortholt is around fifteen inches long as as big around as a dainty woman’s wrist with highly intricate craftsmanship inside producing a hauntingly melodic bass and baritone. It’s used much like any pipes or wind instrument with holes for playing two-handed.

Attunement requires playing a full Revelrie for fae creatures. This takes one hour in the company of at least a few of them, delighting and pleasing them on a Performance Check DC 20. Should the d20 show an odd number, the Revelrie turns into a Revelire and the joy turns to anguish and rage and madness and blood. The creatures attack the performer, to the death. Surviving this encounter still results in the instrument attuning if the check overall succeeded. Should the check fail, the creatures are unimpressed and will simply leave (coaxing new ones back for a new performance may take some careful doing).

Once attuned, the instrument grants the player a form of limited and temporary immortality. On any turn the player takes an action to play the kortholt (it is two-handed) and succeeds in a Performance check with a DC equal to 8 + their proficiency bonus + their primary spellcasting modifier (if they have one), they cannot be reduced to 0 hp from a direct attack (defined as anything requiring an attack roll to hit them, which exempts area effects and other circumstances like being shoved off a cliff with an ability check).

They still retain their bonus action, reaction, and movement during this time despite their action being taken by the performance.

Bluehorn Cloak

He’d come a long way and the hulking things he followed no more registered his presence as out of ordinary than they would their own. They grumbled about the weather, about the low quality of the weapons they’d been given by their commander. They bristled about some thing (another soldier?) doing something (it sounded like a bad bargain) the week before with some group (who knows?). They were, though monstrous and hideous, like any low warriors in any army. Concerned with wet boots and boredom, hoping to go home, talking about females.

But, Reinhardt had to follow them, had to find their leaders and then follow those leaders, and then follow them up the chain to the real authorities. The war had gone on so long, he’d been skulking after goblins and bugbears and ogres and worse for months. Learning. Thinking. Waiting for the right time to strike the head off of this whole evil empire.

System: When the Great Powers fell in the First Age, pieces of them were cast to the winds and carried off into the world: a hair from the head of the Golden Lady would resurface in millions of years as a rope of pure radiant light used by a great hero; a fragment of the Unseeing Teller’s last angry gasp becomes the quintessential foundation for a common spell conjuring fire; etc., etc.

A piece of the great cloak of Lord of Skies, a pure and brilliant blue scrap of unearthly cloth, laid dormant for eons until found by gnomish adventurers, passed down through generations, worked by gnomish magewright apprentices stumbling across it in a storeroom into a finely draping princely cloak to present as a gift to the King on his son’s Becoming Day in the times of the Old Empire. From there, it was lost to time, and then found by grave robbers in the far East and traded away as frippery.

The Bluehorn Cloak can be attuned only by a soldier and one who has fought in a war. Anyone with the Soldier background or experience in formal martial conflict between nations may attune it with a night’s rest underneath it, where they see visions of the Great War of the Powers in the First Age in their dreams. A violent and bloody clash of Metaphor and Dimension and Plane and Hosts long forgotten.

Upon attunment, the cloak itself is impermeable. The wearer, in normal course, is considered to have +2 to their AC as a function of cover (anything ignoring cover ignores this bonus). Should the wearer use a free hand to grab the hem of the cloak and use it almost as though a shield, the bonus increases to +5 as they draw it around them and use it as a blocking thing; however, doing this will also cost them the use of their Reaction for the turn as they are peeking from behind the cloak and wrapped up in it broadly. With both hands, they may draw the cloak around them tightly and at the cost of their Bonus Action and Reaction, may crouch and huddle within it for total cover. While wrapped up in it, they are immune to all damage types, but may still be susceptible to mind-altering magic that does not need an attack roll.

Note that while covered up in this way, all attacks and ability checks against the wearer are advantaged, the wearer’s own attacks and ability checks are disadvantaged, and being temporarily covered and invulnerable does not mean one is immune to physical manuevers like grappling (opponent can grab the cloak), pinning (opponent can work to wrap up the wearer in the cloak and restrain them), or being shoves or moved, etc.


Broadways shouted above the clatter and clanking of their feet on the stone, his voice both powerful and laced with some worry.

“Raffi, how many?!?”

The halfling kept pace, barely, chest roaring and burning as he struggled with the exertion of racing along with the talls up the stairs of this gods-forsaken crypt. He stole a glance back, went pale, and wish he hadn’t.

“Too many, boss!”

The six of them clawed their way up the stairs, slipping here and there on the wet stone. Meilla screamed an elvish curse Raffi didn’t know as she nearly toppled over the side when she lost her footing for a moment.

Eight of the white, clear-eyed things were coming and fast. They’d killed Braccus, their big meathead, in seconds with their fast and long knives. These were no mindless zombies, these were knowing things. Skilled killers. Things that came out of graves with purpose, with knowing, with murder in their minds. Braccus had opened one up with a fierce swing, belly wide, and it only chuckled a foreign word and put two feet of thin bone sword into the half-orc’s eye. Dead. And they were coming on fast.

He pulled his trusty tripstick out of his pocket as they cleared the doorway at the top of the stair, juked to the side as the rest raced on across the courtyard, and got ready to give someone a tumble.

System: Leave it to the underartisans of the Blackworks, an illegal “guild” of magical wondermakers that cater exclusively to the thieves and assassins and smugglers of the Empire, to mass produce an annoyance and encourage its use for profit.

The Lesser Immovable Rod quickly lost its formal name in light of the slang term its users gave it in the black market of magic items since the Purge by Emperor Malleus III. The knockstick is a short rod of copper, milled perfectly cylindrical and rounded at the ends roughly two inches thick and a foot and half long. Weighing nearly 20 lbs it is an impractical thing to carry around.

The only use for the knockstick is to stay put and in place for roughly ten seconds. The effect is very temporary. Activation of its power requires no more than a thought, so long as it is held with bare hands—the arcane copper taking its direction through touch.

With any action, bonus action, or reaction, one may activate the rod and it will not move for 1d2 rounds (roll a d4, evens it lasts for a round and odds it lasts for two). The most popular use of its short-lived properties are using a Reaction to hold the rod out so someone either runs face-first into it or trips over it. At the end of a creature’s movement, if they pass by a space the wielder can reach and the wielder has it in hand, the wielder may use their Reaction to (retroactively) have placed the rod and activated it either high or low (to either have them hit their head on it or trip over it). The distance of their movement is the DC of the Athletics or Acrobatics check the target must make or they suffer either 1d4 for every 5ft of movement they took between their move start and hitting the rod in bludgeoning damage (if placed high) or fall and are prone (if placed low).

One not need to move through the space to give this opportunity, if the bar is placed in the space where one ends their turn, they may still hit their head or trip. DM’s are encouraged to allow other temporary creative uses like a Reaction to hold on in case of a pit trap (for 1 or 2 rounds, pending the activation). Some things that fly or hover may ignore this, with DM discretion.

Calling Boots

“Let me go or I will burn you all, each of you, one by one. Ashes and charred, sticky bones, the lot of you. I will call the red river flows of the deep and violent turning of the world to my aid and watch you die as easily as chopping apples for grinning children.”

The Patrician stood before the gallows while the guards and officials watched, while the crowd murmured. They had doubt. Worry. Fear.

“Mayor Kaine, I’ll leave this town and never return—I give you this one chance, and only this one chance—unbind me or die.”

The sweaty-browed noble’s son looked uncertain, the guards unwilling to come much closer, the crowd at a near panic. He hated lying to these country bumpkins, but he was damned if he was going to hang for trying to save this stupid little village. Taking one slow breath, he looked at the mayor, squinted a silent apology, and set him alight with an explosion of smoke and brimstone and fire and light from the ground.

System: The power of sorcery is not the power of wizardry. The simple think them the same, spells and pinches of powder and rattles of trinkets and great flames and winds and creations abound. But the scholars and sages draw from their science, and the true sorcerers draw from the universe. The power is everywhere, in everything, in the air and the flesh and the trees and the unseen things.

Cleric valhorphian Smoot , the last priest of the fabled Golden Scales, who took his pilgrimages to the eight corners of the world to have the great Wyrms bless him and his quest, died nearly a thousand years ago. The cults and religious orders, over the centuries, that worshipped and revered him as the greatest prophet of the Draconic lines, held his staff and stone and clothes and boots as relics to be honored with great ceremony.

His boots, the Calling Boots—simply black leather with careful steel stitches, are the least of those treasures nearly lost to time.

To attune the boots one must have the blood of a dragon. Draconic heritage sorcerers automatically have this requirement, as do dragonborn themselves, all others must imbibe a vial of pure dragonblood from a pureblood dragon. This, itself, can be difficult to find on even the most exotic black market.

Once done, though, the boots call upon the deep well of power in the blood of a dragon—the damage type is based on the dragon blood in an appropriate way (DMs are the final arbiter, but red dragon blood is fire, white is cold, etc.). While wearing the boots, at the start of one’s turn, using a bonus action, one may bring into effect a minor Lair action by drawing the natural magical energies of the world around one’s self into sharp focus and giving it definition.

Either, one may bring 1 damage of that type to every 5ft square adjacent to one’s self (all 8 squares usually, unless otherwise different by virtue of size and thus more spaces) with fire and magma exploding in small fits and pockets all around or icy hail and winds whipping about one’s self, etc. Or, one may bring all that damage to bear on one 5ft space one is adjacent to (in most cases 8 damage, flat) by creating an isolated and intense version of that effect: a serious gout of lava and brimstone in one tight place or a thick, oily cloud of poison in a square.

Once one has drawn power from that area (the surrounding 5ft squares) there is none left to draw until the next day. But, so long as one moves around to new and untapped areas, one may do this every turn.

Holy Order

The witch had made the rest kneel. Brother Service listened to her babbling and the curious non-words she mouthed brazenly into the air with haughty demeanor. Broadways knelt, which surprised Service on every level. He almost laughed at the sight of the old paladin grimacing and staring hatred into the magus as his body forced itself down in supplication.

All of them did it. And while she laughed and cackled, green energies raking the walls, her gaze fell upon Service, leaning on his staff and smiling a dull and tired smile.

She called him a willful one and said she had something in mind for him, then went back to gurgling nonsense into the air with the careful determination of a professor at lecture. All nonsense, and Service raised his face to the sky and whispered his thanks to the Lord of Light and Truth.

She had just enough time to realize her incantations were useless as he leapt forward and broke her jaw.

System: The True, may his word hover over all and bring civilization to the minds of all things, plucked one perfect and powerful branch from the World Tree itself and rolled it between his great fingers until it was smooth and straight and perfect.

The Holy Order is a staff of a mysterious deep brown wood, as tall as a man, irregular in grain and yet perfectly smooth and strong.

Attunement requires a constant blessing of devotion to the True with a pure and honest heart. One need not be a cleric of the True, and may be a worshipper of other deities—the True is not jealous—but so long as one also pledges to keep to honesty and obey the laws of men and nations and hold others to it with all one’s ability they may attune the Order.

Once attuned, it acts as a +0 magic quarterstaff, but its real power lies in the divine grace that permeates it. While held, the staff grants the bearer an immunity to mind-altering spells and mind-altering magic done through verbal or auditory means. A dragon’s Frighten ability would still work, though it might be a magical effect, as it is visual and presence based; but a Charm command would simply autofail. One would be subject to an illusion of a bridge, but wouldn’t be subject to an illusory voice talking and simply know it isn’t real. A fireball has a verbal component, but is not mind-altering magic.

One still hears things, but the True intervenes and what one hears is the utterances and underlying false sounds that reveal it as magic. Keep in mind, this would also make one immune to a colleague’s bardic inspiration as much as their Dissonant Whispers. The DM should take some care in identifying whether a spell or monster effect is relying on mind-alterning language.  When in doubt, roll a d6, 1-2 it is, 3-6 it is not.


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