Treating Magic Items Like Spell Variants

On another blog post I talked about spell variants. (I just can’t remember exactly which post, because I want to link to it.) It occurred to me on the drive home from work tonight that the basic idea behind spell variants could also apply to magic items.

That is, it’s possible to either change or add something to a magic item to make a variant. The variant needs its own name, and it need only point to the original item it mimics, plus list what is different.

To wit (example of a spell variant):

Sling Stone (Variation: Magic Missile)
1st-level conjuration
This spell functions exactly like Magic Missile except that you create hard stones instead of glowing darts of magical force. The damage is bludgeoning.

Just like Magic Missile, there are plenty of magic items in the DMG that players are already familiar with, so they won’t need to look them up, and if they do then at least it’s in a book they already own, as opposed to having to read text in a product that’s mostly a reprint (which is a serious waste of space, in my not so humble opinion, and something a reader would have to be charged extra money for and that is not cool in my not so humble opinion).

OK then. Let’s pick a base item. How about the Dancing Sword (DMG:161).

This is a pretty cool item. Flies off and chops foes for you. Keeps your bonuses. Moves around at your command (bonus action, up to 30′) and falls to the ground after a quartet of rounds if you’re not close enough to grab it out of the air. Oh, and it’s very rare (honestly, I think it should just be rare, but no worries) and requires attunement.

So, what are some things we can tweak? We can…

1. Add a bonus. +1, +2 or +3.

2. Double the flight speed to 60′.

3. Change the weapon type to something other than swords.

4. Increase the number of rounds it can hover and attack.

5. Give it another ability, such as being able to perform one of the maneuvers from the Battle Master Archetype.

6. Subtract attunement along with other abilities to make a lesser/less fancier version of the magic item.

7. Tie a theme to the item, to help guide what changes to make to it.

8. Tie a backstory to the item, to help guide what changes to make to it.

9. Create a pair of the magic item, then note how the two items behave slightly differently when in close proximity to each other.

10. Create a version that can pass on the Dancing property to another item once per day.

That’s ten ideas, and a good start. Some of these ideas do stray into “whole other magic item” territory, and that’s OK too. Let’s use one of the ideas to make a variant of Dancing Sword. I like idea #5, so…

Sweeping Blade (Variation: Dancing Sword)
Weapon (any sword), legendary (requires attunement)

This magic item functions exactly like a Dancing Sword. Additionally, while this magic item hovers you may expend a bonus action to cause it to fly up to 30 to another spot within 30 feet of you. As part of the same bonus action, you can cause the sword to attack one creature within 5 feet of it and apply the effect of a Sweeping Attack (PHB:74). If you do so, you may choose another creature within 5 feet of the sword to attempt to damage, and you may roll one d12 for the superiority die. There is no limit to the number of times you may use this property of the magic item while the sword is hovering.

Cool! Powerful, but I don’t think it’s crazy powerful for a Legendary item.

What do you think, Dear Reader? Let me know.

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