Unlocking the Vault dives into magic items from the Vault of Magic. Each installment looks at one particular magic item.
We’ll look into variant rules or ways to bend the current rules, to make items even more interesting and fun. And we’ll offer ways to integrate items into your campaign world, introduce them to the player characters, and make the item more useful to player characters and NPCs.
Only the Shadow Knows
The Book of Ebon Tides is a repository of knowledge about the Plane of Shadow, providing the owner with a number of spells that can be cast from the it.
More importantly, with enough study of the Book, the possessor can manipulate reality itself within the Plane of Shadow to suit their whims, if they possess enough knowledge of the arcane to accomplish it.
Destroying the Book unleashes its dark powers in a massive wave of damage to all nearby. There’s plenty here to satisfy any wizard character who attunes to it, and any GM that wants to introduce it to their campaign.
Examining the Ebon Tides Ability
With 100 hours of study over a period of a month, you can perform a ritual to change the physical features of the Plane of Shadow. Once you complete the study, you can enact this ritual whenever you wish, assuming the Book has enough charges to do so.
The only obstacles to using this power are an Intelligence (Arcana) check or the presence of a powerful ruler from the Plane of Shadow who can stop such changes in their presence (or within their domain).
The first is a fairly low hurdle; wizards are trained in Arcana and generally have a high Intelligence score. The second is trickier, but manageable. Just stay out of the presence of a powerful ruler and off their property.
If you must be in their domain though, improvise. Call at their abode and ask for permission. This might be a good thing! Being a vassal might come with benefits. A wizard might receive a fiefdom within a larger domain, shaping it to their whims, so long as they faithfully serve. (A powerful patron from the Plane of Shadow is also a great source of adventure hooks!)
Once rights are established, the uses of this power are manifold. Change the landscape for strategic advantage. Want to hide and ambush with missile weapons and spells? Create a small forest for cover. Need the high ground? Create a hill (or a mountain) and make the enemy come to you. A river makes a fine obstacle or (perhaps coupled with a folding boat) a quick means of escape. If you already have a river, but it doesn’t flow the direction you need it to, change its path entirely. Delay enemies by eliminating the road they’re traveling on or remove signs of your passage to keep trackers from finding you.
Okay, we’ve delved into the existing uses of this ability. However, as a very rare item, perhaps we can tweak it to do more. What if we allowed for construction of artificial features? What if, instead of a hill, you create a manor house? Instead of a mountain, a fortress? Perhaps even a village?
Powerful, yes, but not out of bounds for an item of this magnitude. The GM must determine the maximum scale and number of buildings, and the intricacies allowed. Basic building features could be crafted, let’s say, such as chimneys and doors. But more intricate aspects, such as traps or a waterwheel, for example, would need to be added by hand.
What else might an ambitious wizard craft with this power? What about portals?
This is within the realm of possibility, given the power of the item. A GM could double the number of charges used and allow for a chance to open a gate from the Plane of Shadow to the Material Plane. This could be a permanent two-way portal, a one-way portal (a back door if in, an emergency escape if out), or a keyed portal, where a particular object or ritual opens it. Details are up to the PC to determine when the check is made, perhaps with a scaling of the DC depending on the type of portal they wish to open.
Inserting the Book of Ebon Tides into a Campaign
Introducing this powerful magic item to an ongoing campaign requires only a little bit of peril for most adventuring parties.
A Shadowy Patron. A powerful figure from the Plane of Shadow (a fey noble, an archfiend, or even a deity) wishes to acquire the services of the wizard PC and their companions. They are offered the Book of Ebon Tides as an enticement, taught its properties, and allowed to shape a fiefdom within the patron’s territory (subject to the patron’s final approval, of course). This becomes the base of operations for the PCs, where they begin various high-level quests on behalf of their patron.
Usurpers. Conversely, the PCs can defeat a powerful denizen of the Plane of Shadow, gaining possession of the Book from the entity’s hoard. They claim the realm as their own, shaping it to their tastes as they prepare for further adventures. Such adventures include fending off other denizens that come calling, seeing themselves as the rightful successors to the domain.
Retributive Shadows. Focusing on the third and final power of the Book, it is in possession of a nemesis of the PCs and has been used to cause much harm. Their goal isn’t to possess the Book, but to destroy it. After defeating their foe and claiming the Book, they turn their attention to another foe, seeking to both defeat them and destroy the Book in one fell swoop.
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