In D&D, magic items can turn vulnerable characters who flinch at the slightest threat into powerhouses who slay gricks and golems with ease and panache. The core rulebooks offer a vast range of different enchanted items that increase a character’s chance to hit, boost their damage output, and provide them with an array of other arcanely enhanced benefits that aid them in battle. Better still, there’s also a boatload of items that make an adventurer’s life easier in many other ways, ranging from strange objects that magically enable luxurious camping, mystical tools for safekeeping valuables, and miraculous means of transport from one place to another. And that’s considering only the Dungeon Master’s Guide, because there’s also a vast wealth of homebrewed items created by third-party publishers.

What’s more, magic – including magical goods – is part of a fantasy setting’s core features, and one of the aspects that most distinctly sets it apart from the mundanity of the real world. As such, magic items are commonplace in Dungeons & Dragons, and they’re often an adventurer’s most prized gear. Few things scream fantasy more loudly than a flaming sword or glowing runes swirling around a robed mage.

As a DM, it’s tempting to heap new and entertaining magic items onto your players, who usually respond by appreciating your imaginative work (or by selling your beautifully thought-out magic staff at the nearest marketplace two minutes later, but that’s a different story). However, while it might be tempting to add a metric tonne of amazing items to your campaign, it’s worth being aware of the ones that might totally upset your plans or make a mess of story arcs. Because there’s a huge difference between an item that’s just supremely powerful, such as the Eye of Vecna or the Sword of Kas, and other objects that might turn a tidy setting into a carnival of unforeseen events. So read on for a few glimpses of magic goods that might be best left outside of your world!

magic items
Some magic items have such powers that they can easily turn quests into cakewalks or derail entire campaigns! (Photo credits: Carlos Felipe Ramírez Mesa)

Player of an Exploitative Mindset

Never heard of this object? Doesn’t sound to you like an item at all? You’re quite right – I’ve made it up. However, rest assured that if the adventuring party is in possession of one, or perhaps I should say cursed by its presence, this is by far the biggest threat to any campaign! I am, of course, talking about the dreaded situation when one of the players in a session is hell-bent on abusing every single loophole in the rules. Such people can turn an everyday magic item into a veritable chaos-sprinkler that causes your campaign to slide into anarchy.

This might seem like an obvious and unnecessary observation, but it’s worth repeating: within the already whimsical and fantastical framework of the D&D rules, magic items are truly wondrous things, and they require a group with level-headed players who respect the storytelling and don’t go off on power-grabbing tangents. A fair-minded player who is engaged with the narrative will have no problems using tremendously mighty items, even one like an Orb of Dragonkind!

That’s enough scowling from me – let’s dive into the list of arcane goods that might even accidentally lead to calamity and mayhem!

Bag of Holding

This little piece of gear has the potential to bring untold damage to any balanced game. Sought-after by most veteran players as it enables their characters to lug around a colossal amount of things, a Bag of Holding is a prized item among most adventuring parties. Possibly for the same reason, it’s also quite common, and often considered a fairly harmless addition to the inventory of a group.

But be ye warned! The bag can store a total of 500 pounds of, well, anything, while it never weighs more than 15 pounds. Canny characters can quickly see the advantages of this. Stuff a mound of poison in the bag and dump it at the feet of the villain. If your setting allows explosives, fill the bag with the substance and set it off in the enemy’s castle. Hide an assassin in the bag and smuggle them inside the closely guarded fortress. Use two of the bags under the snout of an ancient dragon to fling it into the Astral Plane, no saving throw or chance to escape, and then plane shift back. One Bag of Holding lost, one dragon’s hoard gained! As mentioned above: sensible players who care about the shared experience and the DM’s efforts in telling a story won’t use the bag to break the adventure, but it’s always good to be aware of how versatile some magic objects are.

Ring Of Three Wishes

The potential implications of allowing this object in your campaign are kind of immediately obvious. A Ring of Three Wishes does what it says on the tin (or, more likely, pure gold): the wearer gains the ability to cast wish three times, and there’s no end of dilemmas and dramas that can arise from that spell. There isn’t even any need to be attuned to the ring. In short: unless the characters’ are extremely high-level, it’s probably for the best if they don’t get their hands on one of these.

This being said, there are some interesting benefits to players having access to the spell wish, especially if it’s available only a limited number of times. In our campaign, one of the characters came across a fully charged Luck Blade which, for inexplicable reasons, was tucked deep in the catacombs of a certain vampire’s castle. (If the vampire had carried the sword by its side at all times, it would have stood a much better chance against the intruding adventurers and perhaps avoided being slain in his kitchen!) The player’s character has been carrying the sword around ever since, which theoretically makes them much more difficult to kill as they can use the sword to bring fallen characters back to life. However, this has also resulted in that the DM – yours truly – has sprung much more lethal monsters upon the adventurers, which in turn has made many of the subsequent sessions more intense and tense.

Amulet of the Planes

The campaign-collapsing possibility of this item is easy to outline. Someone who wears the amulet can use their action to speak the name of a place on any plane of existence and immediately teleport the whole group there through the use of the spell plane shift. Rinse and repeat as many times as you wish! But that’s only if they succeed on a DC 15 Intelligence check – because if they fail, the wearer is teleported to a randomplace on the desired plane or a different plane altogether – along with all creatures and objects within 15 feet!

Consequently, your players will have access to unlimited travel everywhere, and make plenty of use of this opportunity – but sometimes, perhaps even frequently, they will also end up in the wildest of places, which might call for lots of intervention (and inspired innovation!) by the DM.

Immovable Rod

This is one weird magic item: essentially, it’s a metal road that becomes fixed in space at the push of a button, and light again at another push. In this instance, “fixed” means that the rod remains exactly where it was when the button is pushed – even in mid-air! – and that the rod won’t move unless it’s subjected to a force that exceeds 8,000 pounds. That’s a lot of pressure.

To be fair, this item is not necessarily a campaign-breaking one, but its properties enable creative players to use it in ways that might catch even a veteran DM off-guard. For example, it’s possible to argue that it can be used to climb to an infinite height through clever use of actions and bonus actions along with repeated activations of the rod. The rules are somewhat unclear on exactly whether or not this is doable, but you might need to brace yourself for a debate on this.

Alternatively, it can be used by characters as a kind of emergency break or anchor point. For example, if the adventurers are facing a giant with a taste for grabbing its opponents and tossing them over the nearest mountain, some quick and aptly timed button-pushing might thwart the giant’s strategy. Yet another strange but technically possible use of the rod is for a character to teleport themselves into the belly of a sufficiently large monster (or even to allow a monster to eat them), activate the rod inside the monster, and then use an ability such as, for example, fey step to re-materialise outside the monster again. This might cause tremendous problems for a monster and even root them to the spot!

Deck of Many Things

A list of this kind would not be complete without the inclusion of the famous Deck of Many Things. This item might wear the crown as D&D’s most well-known magic device, and its powers are manifold as well as astounding – but its campaign-wreaking potential is found in the randomness of its abilities, along with a certain lack of constraints in how it can be used. The rules for using a deck are a bit complex, but bear with me.

Here goes: there are multiple decks of this kind, some holding thirteen cards while others are holding twenty-two. When one wants to use a deck – and may I just caution everyone against doing this! – the person in question must state how many cards they wish to draw. The cards are always drawn at random, and each card’s power immediately takes effect. Anyone who draws further cards finds that the cards don’t have any effect at all. After one has drawn a card, the next card must be drawn within one hour. There’s a heady mix of beneficial and detrimental cards in the decks, so what happens to an adventurer who draws, for example, two cards is entirely down to chance.

However, it’s perfectly possible that the person in questionends up incredibly rich and gains a stack of new levels that instantly makes them out of place in the party. Oh, and that’s if they don’t also get to cast a wish – or gain the opportunity to alter reality and erase a moment from the past. Yes, that’s a moment from any time in history! I reckon that the myriad knock-on effects of changing a critical event in the distant past will give many DMs a headache. That wicked mage who was slain so that the town could prosper. They’re alive again! The ancient dragon that was tricked into a trap a millennia ago? It’s back and it’s angry! And so on.

Orb of Dragonkind

Speaking of dragons, this artefact has the ability to have a huge impact on any campaign. Originally crafted to control dragons, the orb grants its owner to cast a number of useful spells and some other positive abilities. However, the dangers of an Orb of Dragonkind are found in two of its abilities. Firstly, the orb can summon dragons that are of an evil alignment and present within a 40-mile radius of the artefact. This call is not a friendly request for the dragons’ presence! On the contrary, the dragons will feel a strong need to show up, much like they’ve been ordered around. And as they’re of the non-good variety, it’s highly possible that they’ll be in a terrible mood to boot. Now, let’s imagine that the orb is used in the middle of a town that happens to be situated in a region where there are a number of old, nasty dragons sleeping away on their hoards. One moment, the sky is clear and the sun is shining – then suddenly, the air is filled with infuriated chromatic dragons who decide to torch the entire community to vent their anger.

And that’s just one of the problems! Another volatile aspect of the orbs is that they’re sentient, and also can charm their owners! In other words, someone who claims one of these orbs might end up being a puppet under its command, which, depending on the mood and mentality of the orb, might lead to all kinds of catastrophes.

These is just a handful of the may magic items that are found in D&D. Don’t be deterred from allowing powerful items – as mentioned above, they add a high fantasy flair to the world and they’re often coveted by players. Most items are safe to add to campaigns, as long as one is aware of their powers. Just be mindful of what they might do in the hands of creative players!

Midnight Tower consists of Tove and Erik, who have been players and DMs of roleplaying games for more than 25 years. At present, Midnight Tower has released several D&D adventures, six printed books,...

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