A Costly Grace, An Artful Ward, and A Level Playing Field…

Martyr’s Shift

The others were drunk or laughing or both, a high fire popping and hissing wood while they celebrated.  The road had been long, the journey fraught with peril, and today they won through. It was dead. And the long miles and weeks of hunting it back to its manse, dispatching it’s minions–even with the losses they suffered and the friends they buried–were worth it. As Sir Broadways watched them all smiling and cheering each other through the gap in his tent, he felt the costs more than the joy. 

He took off his heavy golden armor, piece by weighty piece, and slowly–laying each down with care and respect. He took his padding off, the old quilted garment common to thick plate, and knelt in his shift.  The old blood stains–here, from that crossbow bolt last year; there, from the ax of that vile dark thing from his youth–were accented by a fresh one still red and damp and sticky. The creature had conjured some fierce and dark lance and there is where it would have pierced him had the old paladin not stopped it.

A cheer went up in the camp and the explosive and infectious laughter of Tanner.  Let them enjoy themselves, Broadways thought, I can still pay the costs…

History:  (Religion DC 15) The old orders of knights and The Faith from the long fallen Northern Empire still carry some of the artifacts of power or piety with them. Among these few and far flung pieces of careful, divine blessing are Martyr’s Shifts–seemingly normal, though well-made, cloth longshirts.  If not for the golden thread in the stitching, one would mistake them for any such shifts any armored or active individual might wear under their clothes in any part of the world.

But these were created through a slow and careful pledge to their now half-forgotten goddess that their wearer would trade his life, in what bits and pieces they must, to fight on righteously for Her glory and to protect Her people. They’re the simple clothes of a long dead pious warrior. As venerable as the bones of a Saint. One must be baptized, wearing only the shift, in natural waters (no particular faith or creed necessary, only a rebirth and personal oath to live to protect the weak) in order to attune.

System: Once attuned (see History), the shift allows the wearer to negate damage against themselves after the damage dice are rolled.  After a successful attack hits them, and after the damage dice are rolled, but before they are applied to the character, the player may use their Reaction (assuming they have it available) to remove as many of the rolled damage dice as they want.

For example, in the case of a greatsword attack against them that hits and does 3 (dice one) + 5 (dice two) +2 (strength) damage against them, they may elect to use their Reaction to activate the shift and take the 5, the 3, or both away–this has no effect on the remaining non-dice related damage.

Doing so, however, runs a 25% chance of removing 1 permanent maximum HP from the character for every dice removed.  So, in the event of removing 1 dice, roll 1d4 and on a 1 remove one permanent maximum HP from the character.  In the event of removing 2 dice, roll 2d4 and for every 1 rolled remove 1 HP from the character.  These HP removals aren’t a curse (and cannot be fixed by uncursing or restoring), they’re a cost.  They may not be wished or miracled back in any conventional magical sense as they aren’t “lost”.  They’re freely given away, divinely.

Finding and returning the shift to a priest or temple of the old Northern faiths (rare and lost to time) may restore those “paid” HP to the character at the cost of ever being able to use it again–DM’s are encouraged to make finding such people or places whole adventure arcs on their own as it has been centuries gone.

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On Itemry and Trappery – Part 1

As my own 5e Eberron game returns to my table this week after a month on hiatus (players on travel and vacation), we’ll be getting into the dangerous world of life as the secret spies and adventurers for a growing city-state surrounded on all sides by enemy nations and vile conspiracies…

Normally, in a given week, I’d be adding to my Worrisome Trap or Better Than Nothing Item collections, but as I’ve made a whole bunch in running up to my game returning (and my players read my content all the time), I want to hold back a week before posting them up.  The sad part is you’ll have to wait a bit for a half dozen new traps (well themed for an Eberron game) and a few more flavorful magic items; the good part is they’ll be slightly more playtested and balanced than usual by the time they do post up here.

In the meantime, though, I wanted to share the first, high-level overview of how I approach the making of magic items and traps.  The first stages are the same for either, but I’ll emphasize items in this post and come around to traps later on. Now, I want to emphasize, this is just my own process for creating things.  Everyone has their own, of course, and the DMG has a few on top of that… take what you like, leave what doesn’t jive for you.

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Tools are for Fools…

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


Now that the brush was cleared away (thanks to Meilla’s controlled inferno), what they saw was arresting and ominous. A long hallway cut right into the side of the hill, tiled with clever small colored stones depicting a winding red path that extended farther than any of them could see. The little crimson stones almost pleaded “walk on me, for I am the safe way through this hell”. Mosaics and frescos on the walls ahead, too dark to make out perfectly, said this was the horrorful tomb they’d sought.

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Fiendish Drapery, A Study of You, Gangrel Were Awesome, Dark Sorcery Indeed, and St. Augustine Would Be Proud…

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

Blisterkrau Shroud

“I do not love you, Quix. I don’t even hate you. I regard you in the same way I regard the paper on which I scribble my careful messages or the base metal I forge into something of use. You’re mortal, which means you’re one of millions times millions of pestilential, short-lived things in this world and all others that I may use for a larger purpose.

“Should I tell you my purpose? Again? I’ve told you before, of course. Your mind cannot hold its grandeur and naturally burns itself free of the knowledge each time. You used to speak clearly, that stutter is a sign you’re slipping more. Your soul cannot handle the burden of my majesty. But, because it makes me laugh and happy, I’ll tell you again.

“Sshhhhh, careful boy, shhhh. No crying yet. I haven’t even started. You’ll need to steel yourself, you always scream at the end…”

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Grandfather Thunder, Savage Regalia, and The Science of Being -Resistable

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


Teller stared at the great, lumbering man. He’d only been with the group for a week, and already she couldn’t stand him. Huge, ugly axe on his back and a feathered leathern shield over it, scraggly haired and thick bearded—he was everything her tribe hated. When the people of the Reaches and High Places come to the kingdoms, most take them for brutes and illiterate savages—and Brau was why. He was crude, filthy, and little more than an animal most of the time.

No self-respect there, she rolled her eyes at the lazy way he scratched himself while they walked on. Here, truly, was a savage. May the Mountain Gods and the Death Bear eat his whole clan.

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Dramatic Gloves, Like a Foot Hammer, and Gilly Suits.c

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

Gloves of Ynx

Love is war. That’s what Grek-voke believed and in this moment, close enough to see every bead of sweat on his opponent’s brow—each weary line of the old Captain’s weathered face. He really felt close, emotionally significant, to the man. They were locked in the most honest moment of their lives.

Raef would likely try and ruin it, the child-like sneak would be circling around to the soldier’s flank and it boiled a small spite in Grek. It would only spoil this. The ache in his arms as he held his nicked and scratched falchion in two large hands, his shoulder forward and bracing was sweet and dangerous. The Captain’s own axe kissing his sword and the old man leaning into it just as deliciously.

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A Mad Book of Truth, the Lonely Song of Savages, and Whoopin’ Fisk

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

Darkle Fas

Wendell let them walk right into the path of the swinging log. Served them right, afterall—always on about him. Always judging. them with their noses high and their ways. If he’d had rich parents and all them trappings, he’d have done better than alright—it’s true. He’d be more lordly than their erstwhile bard, son of some count something or other.

And that paladin wouldn’t be so high and mighty. If Wendell’d been taught proper as a young thing, he could have set his mind on the gods and being fancy with that sword and whatnot. He could have owned the world, but here he was, sneaking and thieving for this group of right and full bastards.

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