Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Treasure Chest: Black Dragon Bone Armor Set

Something Josh and I end up talking about a lot recently is loot. We both had phases where we handed out far too much of it too fast and now we're both on this kick where we want to continue to thrill players with the loot they get, but not give them too much of it or things that are too powerful too quickly.

During one of these discussions something Josh brought up was set bonuses for armor. You get it a lot in video games but it's been a super long time since I've seen it done in a tabletop (and actually I'm not 100% sure I ever have). The idea is to have a set of matching armor maybe with a weapon or some kind of utility artifact that are all useful on their own but when equipped together give you a set bonus that makes them even better.

The trick is not to give the player the whole set at once. Say you're going through a dungeon and a player finds this helmet that gives them resistance to electric damage. It's made of dragon bone and juts out like a skull and whether or not they're dragonborn it still fits them. And then a few dungeons later they get into the treasure room and find a breastplate made from the same bone and you make it totally clear that they're meant to go together and imply that there are more pieces to be found.

Suddenly it's not just loot anymore. This is not just a magical item, it's a piece of a set that has a story and the rest of it is out there, and if the player likes what they have already they're going to want to go track down the rest of it. If they want it badly enough you might even be able to use that as an adventure hook to get them to go where you want.

I did homebrew the Dragon Bone Armor set. I have a couple others sitting on my hard drive but I plan to bust this baby out the next time someone in the party decides to play a dragonborn. It can be worn by anyone but only a dragonborn can get the best use out of it and this is how it works. (It's worth noting that in this instance "set piece" means that all pieces of the Black Dragon Bone armor set are capable of sharing the same attunement slot.)


Black Dragon Bone Helmet (Wondrous item, uncommon, set piece, requires attunement) - This helmet was fashioned out of the skull of a black dragon, and will fit perfectly over the head of a dragonborn or decently well over the head of another adventurer, though the snout will stick out a little bit over the face and shade them. While wearing this helmet, you have resistance to electric damage.

Black Dragon Bone Breastplate (Wondrous item, uncommon, set piece, requires attunement) - This scale mail breastplate was clearly fashioned over the spine and rib cage of a black dragon, with the scales sewn to overlap around the bones. When equipped, the bones will fit themselves to the torso of whoever is wearing it and loosen themselves when the buckles on the sides are unhooked for ease of removal. This scale mail breast plate does not impose disadvantage on stealth checks.

Black Dragon Bone Spaulders (Wondrous item, uncommon, set piece, requires attunement) - These spaulders were fashioned out of the hind claws of a black dragon and curl around the shoulders of whoever is wearing it when equipped. While wearing these spaulders, you have advantage to hit on ranged evocation spells.

Black Dragon Bone Grieves (Wondrous item, uncommon, set piece, requires attunement) - These grieves were fashioned out of the leg bones of a black dragon and are meant to be belted around the shins of the wearer. Once per long rest, you may activate the grieves. They will remain active for two minutes, during which you will be made swifter and more agile as if under the effects of the "Haste" spell.

Black Dragon Bone Tail Guard (Wondrous item, uncommon, set piece, requires attunement) - This tail guard was fashioned out of the tail bones and scales of a black dragon. It is made to fit over the tail of a dragonborn and does not restrict the movement of the tail in any way once equipped. It may only be equipped by dragonborn. It acts as a special weapon that deals 2d8 Slashing damage only to targets who are directly behind you. This attack can be made as a bonus action.

Four Piece Bonus: +2 to the wearer's Charisma score.

Full Set (Five Piece) Bonus: Frightful Presence – Each creature of the wearer’s choice that is within 60 feet of the wearer and aware of them must succeed on a DC16 Wisdom saving throw or become frightened for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on success. If a creature’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the creature is immune to the wearer’s Frightful Presence for the next 24 hours.


They have varying degrees of usefulness on their own, but when you've taken the time to collect the whole set Frightful Presence is certainly nothing to sneeze at. As long as you're careful not to drop the armor pieces all at once the full set bonus should come about at a relatively high level. It's probably going to be a little while before I actually get to drop this loot into a game but when I do I will definitely let you know how that works out for me.

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