13. Bestiary: Dwemer Animunculi

Profiles for ancient constructs of Dwemer design.

Bestiary

Dwemer animunculi, also known as automatons, centurions, or robots, are steam-powered constructs created by the Dwemer as guardians and war machines. Made from a special Dwemer metal, they continue functioning centuries after their creators’ disappearance. Without the Dwemer to control them, the animunculi revert to their default settings, maintaining their underground cities and attacking intruders. A construct may never hurt a Dwemer without being ordered to do so by another Dwemer. Some adventurers use this to their advantage, masking themselves with illusion magic.

In combat, the animunculi deploy surprisingly effective tactics such as ambushes and coordinated attacks. They focus the most threatening and vulnerable targets before moving on. Knowing no fear or sympathy, they ignore casualties on both sides. However, they will retreat if doing so is tactically advantageous.

Scholars and mages find these constructs fascinating and many try to uncover the secrets behind these technological marvels. Each of these constructs is powered by steam, but some of them also use electricity or soul gems as a backup or auxiliary source of power. All artifacts taken from Dwemer ruins are considered to be the property of the Emperor by Imperial Law. This includes Dwemer constructs, which means that honest merchants will not buy the remains of destroyed animunculi. Smugglers and fences, however, will gladly buy anything a daring adventurer brings from a Dwemer city.

After analyzing constructs in the Monster Manual, I deduced that most of them share a set of characteristics:

  • natural armor depending on the material they are made from
  • immunity to poison damage and sometimes psychic damage
  • immunity to several conditions, most commonly charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralyzed, petrified, and poisoned
  • blindsight or darkvision
  • constructs do not require air, food, drink, or sleep

In addition to these traits, the Dwemer animunculi have additional features because they are steam-powered. These include:

  • fire absorption (fire damage heals them instead of damaging them)
  • larger constructs can vent steam to heal themselves, damage others, and create an obscuring cloud

Based on this information, I have created stat blocks for the most common Dwemer constructs. Detailed descriptions can be found on these pages:

Centurion Spider (CR 1/4)
Centurion Sphere (CR 1)
Dwemer Ballista (CR 3)
Steam Centurion (CR 9)
Advanced Steam Centurion (CR 12)


Commentary. I’m not completely sure I got the CR right for most of these constructs as they were made mostly from scratch and they feature rare abilities and synergies. I might return to them and do some rebalancing after I playtest them some more. Steam centurions were made to represent the Morrowind version, while the advanced steam centurions are more similar to those that appear in Skyrim. It was a lot of fun creating the upgrades for these constructs, and I only hope someone finds them useful.

12. Character Options: Way of the Voice

A remake of an unappealing monastic tradition.

Character Options

The Way of the Four Elements monastic tradition is widely considered to be underpowered and unappealing. I analyzed this subclass and looked at the ways others tried to fix it (here is one example) in order to come up with my version of an update. This is what I came up with.

The core of the problem, in my opinion, lies in the fact that the only bonus this subclass gives to a monk is the ability to cast a limited number of spells using the same resource that powers their other abilities. This is very problematic because they are given a choice: use regular monk abilities, or use the Elemental Disciplines, as a monk does not have enough ki points for both, especially at lower levels.

I had several ideas on how to fix this. I thought about giving these monks spells slots in a same fashion as an Eldritch Knight or an Arcane Trickster. This was unsatisfactory because it doubled the complexity of the subclass and provided only a few low-level spell slots. Other problems included making a whole spell list for this subclass, and casting higher-level spells. I considered giving them a feature that allowed replacing spell slot levels with ki points (for instance, casting a 4th level spell by expending a 2nd level spell slot and spending 2 ki points), but in the end decided  to scrap the concept as it was too cumbersome.

The best I could come up with was giving these monks additional ki points that can be used only for their elemental disciplines. This one feature wasn’t enough, so I decided to give them additional traits that they learn at levels 6, 11, and 17. All other monastic traditions grant features at these levels, but the Way of the Four Elements only grants one new elemental discipline.

This is my way of fixing this archetype. Simply add the following features to the Way of the Four Elements monastic tradition and you are good to go.

Way of the Four Elements (remake)

Enlightened: At 3rd level, you discover deep reserves of inner energy inside your soul. You have an additional number of ki points equal to your Wisdom modifier. These extra ki points can only be used for elemental disciplines.

Energy from Within: At 6th level, you have developed an intimate connection with the ki flowing through you. Whenever you spend ki, you regain hit points equal to twice the number of ki points you spent.

Mystic Assault: At 11th level, you can augment your physical attacks with your elemental disciplines. Immediately after you take the Attack action on your turn, you can use a bonus action to cast an elemental discipline spell with the casting time of one action.

Mastery of the Elements: At 17th level, you can disrupt the ki inside other creatures with your strikes, making them more susceptible to your elemental disciplines. When you hit a creature with an unarmed strike, that creature has disadvantage on the next saving throw it makes against an elemental discipline you use before the end of your next turn.

Additionally, choose one elemental discipline that you know and that has no level requirement. You need to spend one less ki point when using that discipline. This can reduce a discipline’s ki cost to 0.


But this is an Elder Scrolls homebrew page, and I just had to make a more complex and more flavorful version of this monastic tradition, based on the Shouts that appear in TES V: Skyrim. Below you will find all the features of this monastic tradition, which can be used to replace the Way of the Four Elements in an Elder Scrolls campaign.

Way of the Voice

Disciple of the Thuum: When you choose this tradition at 3rd level, you learn magical disciplines that harness the power of your voice. A discipline requires you to spend ki points each time you use it.

You know three shouts of your choice, which are detailed in the “Shouts” section below. You learn one additional shout of your choice at 6th, 11th, and 17th level.

Whenever you learn a new shout, you can also replace one shout that you already know with a different shout.

Using Shouts. Each shout has two levels: the basic level and the empowered level. The exception are the shouts learned at 17th level. To cast a shout, you need to use your action and spend the indicated number of ki points, choosing between the shout’s basic and empowered effects. If you choose the empowered effect, its ki cost and effect are added to the basic effect.

Shouts produce a loud noise that can be heard up to 300 feet away. If a shout requires concentration, it follows the same rules as spells that require concentration, as described in the Player’s Handbook on page 203. You cannot use shouts if you cannot speak. This includes situations when you are gagged, underwater, or in an area of magical silence.

The list of shouts is provided at the end of this class description.

Enlightened: At 3rd level, you discover deep reserves of inner energy inside your soul. You have an additional number of ki points equal to your Wisdom modifier. These extra ki points can only be used for shouts.

Energy from Within: At 6th level, you are deeply connected with the ki flowing through you. Whenever you spend ki to use a shout, you regain hit points equal to twice the number of ki points you spent.

Mystic Assault: At 11th level, you can augment your physical attacks with your shouts. Immediately after you take the Attack action on your turn, you can use a bonus action to use a shout that spends up to 3 ki points.

Mastery of the Voice: At 17th level, you can disrupt the ki inside other creatures with your strikes, making them more susceptible to your shouts. When you hit a creature with an unarmed strike, that creature has disadvantage on the next saving throw it makes against a shout you use before the end of your next turn.

Additionally, choose one shout that you know and that has no level requirement. You need to spend one less ki point when using that shout. This can reduce a shout’s ki cost to 0.


Shouts: Shouts are presented according to the level when they become available. If a shout requires a level, you must be that level in this class to learn the shout.

Aura Whisper (Concentration).

Basic (1 ki): This shout is silent, and produces no more noise than a whisper. You gain heightened senses for 10 minutes, choosing one of the following options:

Keen Sight – You have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight. You can see up to 1 mile away with no difficulty, able to discern even fine details as though looking at something no more than 100 feet away from you.
Keen Hearing – You have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing. You know the exact location of every sound produced within 60 feet of you.
Darkvision – You gain darkvision out to a range of 60 feet. If you already have darkvision, its range is increased by 60 feet.

Empowered (1 ki): You also know the direction and distance to all living creatures within 60 feet of you. This does not include constructs and undead.

Disarm.

Basic (1 ki): Force one creature of your choice within 10 feet of you to make a Strength saving throw, dropping one item it is holding on a failed save. The item, such as a weapon or a shield, falls to the ground in a random place within 20 feet of the target.

Empowered (2 ki): You get to choose the place where the dropped item lands. Additionally, you can attempt to catch the dropped item if it would land within your reach. To do so, you must have at least one hand free and use your reaction to make a DC 10 Dexterity check. On a success, you catch the item in your hand.

Elemental Fury (Concentration).

Basic (2 ki): You imbue your strikes with elemental power. For 1 minute, you gain a +1 bonus to all attack and damage rolls made with melee weapons or unarmed strikes.

Empowered (1 ki): The next time you hit a creature with a melee weapon attack or an unarmed strike within the next minute, your blow is charged with elemental energies and the attack deals an extra 2d6 cold, fire, lightning, or thunder damage.

Fire Breath.

Basic (1 ki): You breathe dragonflame in a 15-foot cone. Each creature in that area must make a Dexterity saving throw. A creature takes 3d6 fire damage on a failed save, or half as much on a successful one. The fire ignites any flammable objects in that area that aren’t being worn or carried.
You can spend a number of additional ki points up to your proficiency bonus to increase the fire damage of this shout. For each additional ki point spent, the fire damage is increased by 1d6.

Empowered (1 ki): Creatures failing the saving throw are set ablaze, burning continuously. A burning target sheds bright light in a 15-foot radius and dim light for an additional 15 feet. At the end of each of its turns, a burning creature repeats the saving throw. It takes 1d6 fire damage on a failed save, and the effect ends on a successful one. These magical flames can’t be extinguished through nonmagical means. If damage from this shout reduces a target to 0 hit points, the target is turned to ash.

Kyne’s Peace.

Basic (1 ki): You use the power of your voice to influence a nearby beast. Choose one beast within 30 feet that can hear you. The beast must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or be charmed by you for 24 hours. A beast that is already friendly to you can choose to fail the saving throw. If you or one of your companions harms the target, the effect ends.

Empowered (2 ki): You can communicate with the beast as if it knew one language of your choice. The beast is friendly to you and your companions. Roll initiative for it in combat, where it takes its own turns. It obeys any verbal commands you issue to it (no action required by you). If you don’t issue any commands to it, the beast defends itself from hostile creatures, but otherwise takes no actions.

Throw Voice.

Basic (1 ki): This shout is silent, and produces no more noise than a whisper. You project your voice (saying a short message) as if it is coming from a location within 60 feet of you. This can be used to distract or confuse others. A creature that succeeds on a Wisdom check against your Ki save DC realizes that the voice is an illusion, but doesn’t know your location.

Empowered (1 ki): You can add your Wisdom modifier to any Stealth and Sleight of Hand checks you make for 30 seconds after using this shout.

Unrelenting Force.

Basic (1 ki): You use the power of your voice to stagger all creatures in a 15-foot cone originating from you. Those creatures must succeed on a Strength saving throw or take 2d8 thunder damage and be pushed 10 feet away from you. A creature that succeeds on the save takes half as much damage and isn’t pushed.
You can spend a number of additional ki points up to your proficiency bonus to increase the thunder damage of this shout. For each additional ki point spent, the fire damage is increased by 1d8.

Empowered (1 ki): Creatures failing the saving throw take an additional 1d8 thunder damage and are knocked prone in addition to being pushed.

Whirlwind Sprint.

Basic (1 ki): By harnessing the power of your voice, you move 60 feet in a straight horizontal line. You count as if you are flying during this move, so you do not leave footprints and can cross pits and similar terrain. You stop if you encounter any solid obstacle such as another creature, a stone column, or a wall. You cannot use this shout if you are carrying weight that exceeds your carrying capacity.

Empowered (1 ki): You can move through creatures during this move. Additionally, you can make one unarmed attack against each creature that you moved through.

Dismay (6th Level Required, Concentration).

Basic (3 ki): The power of your voice is so strong it breaks your enemies’ will to fight. Each creature in a 30-foot cone must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or become frightened for the duration. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on a success.

Empowered (2 ki): A creature failing the saving throw takes 3d10 psychic damage.

Frost Breath (6th Level Required).

Basic (3 ki): You breathe frigid air in a 30-foot cone. All creatures in that area must make a Constitution saving throw. A creature takes 6d8 cold damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. A creature killed by this spell becomes a frozen statue until it thaws. Ice forms on any liquid surface within the area of this shout.
You can spend a number of additional ki points up to your proficiency bonus to increase the fire damage of this shout. For each additional ki point spent, the cold damage is increased by 1d8.

Empowered (2 ki): Each creature that fails the saving throw while standing on the ground is also restrained as its legs are encased in ice, binding them to the ground. A restrained creature can use its action to make a Strength check against your Ki save DC. On a success, it frees itself.

Battle Fury (11th Level Required, Concentration)

Basic (4 ki): Choose up to six creatures within 30 feet of you that can hear you. Whenever one of the chosen creatures makes an attack roll, a damage roll, or a saving throw within the next 10 minutes, that creature can roll a d4 and add the number rolled to the attack roll, damage roll, or saving throw.

Empowered (2 ki): The chosen creatures also gain temporary hit points equal to your monk level + your Wisdom modifier. These temporary hit points last for 10 minutes.

Become Ethereal (11th Level Required, Concentration)

Basic (3 ki): You, along with everything you are wearing and carrying, become halfway ethereal, gaining resistance to nonmagical bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage for 10 minutes. While in this state, you cannot make unarmed attacks or weapon attacks, but can still use shouts.

Empowered (4 ki): You become fully ethereal, gaining immunity to nonmagical bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage, as well as resistance to all other damage for 10 minutes. You can also move through other creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain. You take 5 (1d10) force damage if you end your turn inside an object. While ethereal, you cannot make unarmed attacks or weapon attacks, but can still use shouts.

Call Storm (11th Level Required, Concentration)

Basic (3 ki): A storm cloud appears in the shape of a cylinder that is 10 feet tall with a 60-foot radius, centered on a point you can see 100 feet directly above you. You cannot use this shout if you can’t see a point in the air where the storm cloud could appear (for example, if you are in a room that can’t accommodate the cloud).
When you use this shout, choose a point you can see within range. A bolt of lightning flashes down from the cloud to that point. Each creature within 5 feet of that point must make a Dexterity saving throw. A creature takes 3d10 lightning damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. On each of your turns until the spell ends, you can use your bonus action to call down lightning in this way again, targeting the same point or a different one.
If you are outdoors in stormy conditions when you use this shout, you gain control over the existing storm instead of creating a new one. Under such conditions, the shout’s damage increases by 1d10.

Empowered (2 ki): The area underneath the cylinder is considered difficult terrain for flying creatures. The area is heavily obscured, and exposed flames in the area are doused. If a creature is concentrating in the spell’s area, the creature must make a successful Constitution saving throw against your spell save DC or lose concentration. Attacks with weapons using arrows, bolts, and other ordinary projectiles passing through the area have disadvantage (boulders hurled by giants or siege engines, and similar projectiles, are unaffected).

Slow Time (11th Level Required, Concentration)

Basic (3 ki): For 1 minute, time is slowed for everyone except you. During this time, your speed is increased by 15 feet, you gain a +2 bonus to AC, have advantage on Dexterity saving throws, and gain an additional action on each of your turns. That action can be used only to take the Attack (one weapon attack or unarmed strike only), Dash, Disengage, Hide, or Use an Object action. When the effect ends, you can’t move or take actions until after your next turn, as a wave of lethargy sweeps over you.

Empowered (6 ki): You briefly stop the flow of time for everyone but yourself. No time passes for other creatures, while you take 1d4 turns in a row, during which you can use actions and move as normal.
This effect ends if one of the actions you use during this period, or any effects that you create during this period, affects a creature other than you or an object being worn or carried by someone other than you. In addition, the effect ends if you move to a place more than 1,000 feet from the location where you cast it.

Call of Valor (17th Level Required, Concentration).

Your shout summons warriors from Sovngarde, who come from the afterlife to aid you through advice or combat prowess. A number of warrior spirits appear in a space within 60 feet of you. The spirits use the berserker, veteran, or archer statistics from the Monster Manual or the Volo’s Guide to Monsters. The spirits returns to Sovngarde after 1 hour or when they drop to 0 hit points. You can summon up to 3 spirits, spending 3 ki points for each spirit summoned. You can summon a specific spirit if you know their name and they are willing to lend you their aid.

Dragon Aspect (17th Level Required, Concentration).

You spend 7 ki points to take on the mighty aspect of a dragon, with an armored hide, spectral wings, and powerful claws. You gain the following benefits for 10 minutes:

Claws. Your unarmed strikes use 2d6 for their damage dice and deal slashing instead of bludgeoning damage.
Draconic Resilience. You gain resistance to fire and cold damage, and your AC is increased by 2.
Spectral Wings. You have a flying speed of 60 feet. If you are still flying when this effect ends, you fall unless you can somehow prevent it (such as through the slow fall trait).

Soul Tear (17th Level Required).

You spend 8 ki points to harness the darkest powers of the shout, destroying a creature’s body from the inside and rending its soul. A creature within 30 feet must make a Constitution saving throw. It takes 5d8 + 30 necrotic damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
A humanoid killed by this shout rises at the start of your next turn as a zombie that is permanently under your command, following your verbal orders to the best of its ability.


Commentary. This homebrew is NOT PLAYTESTED. It likely suffers from some balancing issues, but it is at least a viable subclass unlike the original Way of the Four Elements. If you decide to use these rules, do not hesitate to make changes as you play. I would greatly appreciate any feedback on these rules.

The shouts in Skyrim have three levels, but I decided to give each shout only two because I couldn’t think of additional effects for many of them. When creating these shouts, I wanted to keep them both flavorful and mechanically sound. Most of the shouts replicate effects of spells from the Player’s Handbook, but use a cone for their area of effect and have other minor alterations.

I have updated the Nords’ racial feats, Thuum, to provide the same version of the shouts that are available in this monastic tradition.

11. Worldbuilding: Fighters Guild

A faction for those who live by the sword.

Worldbuilding

Overview

The Fighters Guild (also spelled Fighter’s Guild and Fighters’ Guild) is an Empire-wide organization that regulates the training and hiring of mercenaries. It dates to the second era, and has guildhalls in every major city. Every province has its own branch of the Fighters Guild, each overseen by a Guild Master. This faction should be appealing to those of a martial vocation, and many adventurers join for a steady source of work. This faction is great for barbarians, fighters, monks, paladins, and rangers. The Fighters Guild has good relations with other Imperial factions: the Mages Guild and the Imperial Legion in particular.

Symbol: Two swords crossed behind a kite shield.
Motto:Swords For Hire

Joining and Ranks

Anyone capable of skilled fighting can join the Fighters Guild, provided they have a clear criminal record, i.e. that they do not have a bounty on their head. Each new member joins at the rank of Associate, and can advance in the Guild by completing contracts and performing duties. The Fighters Guild charges a one-time fee of 25 gp for joining to discourage passive members and fund some of its services. Here are the descriptions of Fighters Guild ranks:

  • Associate: New recruits who have yet to prove themselves. They have full access to all guild facilities. When they complete their first contract, they are promoted to the rank of Apprentice. Stewards often pair associates with a more senior member so the newcomers can learn from the example of more seasoned fighters.
  • Apprentice: Members who have some fighting experience, and are ready to tackle contracts on their own. They enjoy discounts for many services provided by the Fighters Guild and are usually stationed at one Guild hall. An apprentice might be called by a Steward to perform a special duty for the Guild. If the apprentice manages to do it without messing up, they gain the Steward’s trust, are promoted to Journeyman, and sent off to another guild hall.
  • Journeyman: These members spend some time in a couple of different guild halls, meeting other members, seeing the world, and getting rich from completing contracts. After they make a name for themselves by diligently serving three Stewards, they are instructed to see the Guild Master, who will determine their future in the Guild. From here, a member can become either a Protector or a Warder.
  • Protector: A protector has enough experience to obtain a serious function in the Guild, which is determined through an interview with the Guild Master. They might work as trainers, smiths, record keepers, or Stewards’ personal assistants. After years of such work, they might advance to the position of Guardian, but only when the more senior member retires, steps down, or dies. Protectors are given a minor salary from the Guild as an incentive to remain with the Guild instead of finding employment elsewhere.
  • Warder: These experienced warriors fulfill the most dangerous (and lucrative) contracts, leading small parties of Guild members when a group effort is needed. They are respected for their fighting prowess and bravery. The Guild Master’s Champion is usually the Warder with the best record and most fighting talent. A Warder uses their free time to either improve their already considerable skills, or offer training lessons.
  • Guardian: This rank is occupied chiefly by Guild Stewards. They serve as the Guild’s paymasters and are in charge of a single guildhall. Their duties include managing the recruitment and advancement of new members, taking on contracts and distributing them to Guild members, and generally making sure that their guildhalls run smoothly. They get a salary from the Guild, but must fulfill a yearly quota of new members and fulfilled contracts. They gain bonuses if they go over the quota, and many Stewards compete to see whose guildhall performs best.
  • Champion: The Guild Master chooses one Champion to serve as their right hand. This means acting as an emissary to lesser guildhalls, where they perform inspections and bring errant Stewards to heel. Some Champions are Guild Masters’ bodyguards. It is more of a political function, but every Champion is also a capable fighter. They are paragons of what the Guild wants in their members, and their presence can awe and inspire new recruits. A champion’s time is mostly occupied by their duties, which means they rarely go on contracts. However, they receive a salary from the guild.
  • Guild Master: Every province has its own Guild Master, the most respected member who has the responsibility of setting Guild policy and managing the large-scale operation of the Fighters Guild. Becoming the Guild Master is not easy work, and it requires skill at arms for fulfilling contracts, patience for the years of advancement through the ranks, and cunning to outmaneuver rivals and navigate the treacherous waters of Guild politics. Guild Masters are stationed at the guildhall in the province’s capitol. They are rich and influential, as they can take a small cut from every contract the Guild fulfills, and they have to manage the Guild’s relationship with other factions. Guild Masters do not go on contracts, but have been known to lead parties or send their Champions on missions that they find of great importance. When the Guild Master dies or steps down, the senior members of the Guild (those of Journeyman rank and higher) who have been with the Guild for at least a year vote on who will be their successor. This duty usually falls on the best qualified Steward or the Champion.

Members

The Fighters Guild employs people of all races, but they must possess some skill at arms. If you need a stat profile for a Guild member, you can use the statistics provided in the Monster Manual (berserker, gladiator, knight, scout, thug, and veteran) or in the Volo’s Guide to Monsters (archer, champion, martial artist adept, swashbuckler). This should give you a wide variety of different warrior types. You can easily modify them by giving them benefits based on their race, different weapons and armor, or modifications such as feats and class features. You can also make them from scratch if needed, or make them like you would a PC, using class progression. If an NPC features prominently in your campaign, give them a distinctive look and personality; pages 89-93 in the Dungeon Master’s Guide are a good place to start.

Services

Contracts – Every member can accept a contract from a Guild Steward, fulfilling it in return for gold. All contracts are in accordance with Imperial Law, so there is no fear of doing anything illegal while working for the guild. Contracts can come from a variety of sources: shopkeepers, local rulers, nobles, and others who can afford it. Each member can accept only one contract at a time, and more senior members are given more difficult contracts. Sometimes, a Steward will send a pair or a group if they gauge the contract as too dangerous for a single member. A character who completes a contract gains a discount (20-50%) on one purchase with the guild smith, or on one training lesson in the next month. Anyone can also hire a mercenary from the fighters guild; adventuring parties that need more muscle often do so. Fighters that die on a contract are still expected to be paid, and the money goes either to the guild or the dead fighter’s family.

Training – Fighters Gild members often provide training services, teaching their students various skills. Unearthed Arcana had an article on Downtime this section will be based on. In short, training takes a number of workweeks and costs 100 gp per workweek. It should be used as a downtime activity, and each trainer should give lessons in one to three of the following areas:

  • Weapon Training – A character trains using one weapon, first against a target dummy, then in duels against their trainer (or using stationary and mobile targets for ranged weapons) . This takes 2 workweeks for simple weapons and 4 workweeks for martial weapon, and gives the character proficiency with the weapon they trained with.
  • Athletics – A character performs climbing, running, swimming, and other exercizes under the guidance of a trainer. This takes 6 workweeks and gives the character proficiency in the Athletics skill.
  • Smithing – A smith can provide more than advice on maintaining equipment, teaching characters the craft of smithing – after these lessons (which last 10 weeks minus a number of weeks equal to the character’s Intelligence modifier), the character gains proficiency with smith’s tools. A smith can also teach the character to make items in a specific style (e.g. Elven or Orcish) or to work with exotic materials like ebony and glass. Such lessons take 4 workweeks, but the character needs to already be proficient with smith’s tools.
  • Fighting Style Training – After 8 weeks of practice, the character gains one Fighting Style, as described in the Fighter’s class description in the player’s handbook at page 72.
  • Feat Training – This includes rigorous training that develops a special talent. This takes around 10 workweeks and gives one of the following feats from the Player’s Handbook: Athlete, Charger, Crossbow Expert, Defensive Duelist, Dual Wielder, Grappler, Great Weapon Master, Heavily Armored, Heavy Armor Master, Lightly Armored, Mage Slayer, Martial Adept, Medium Armor Master, Moderately Armored, Polearm Master, Savage Attacker, Sentinel, Sharpshooter, Shield Master, or Tavern Brawler. Feel free to include additional feats and other bonuses. Remember that a character must meet any prerequisites specified in a feat for this training to have any effect. A trainer should be able to provide lessons in only one feat, unless they are an exceptionally versatile and skilled.
  • Special Training (optional) – If you wish to allow players to learn special and unconventional skills, this is a good place for that to happen. This type of training takes between 5 and 15 workweeks and awards one feature granted by a warrior-type class (barbarian, fighter, monk, paladin, ranger) that is focused purely on fighting and has no ties to magic or other class specialties. Alternatively, a character can learn a custom-made feature, determined through discussion with the DM.

Guild Smith – Almost every Guild hall employs a smith to care for the members’ equipment, forge weapons and armor to be sold to the public, and make new items that meet a member’s special requirements. Guild smiths also make equipment that is used during training, and might lend working weapons and armor to newer members.

Quests (contracts and duties)

Contracts are received from Guild Stewards, and each one gives a monetary reward (usually between 100 and 1.000 gp). Contracts can include a variety of missions. The first contract given to players should be quite straightforward and used to boost their confidence. Subsequent contracts can be more interesting, so feel free to include twists, moral dilemmas, and other complications. Here are some examples:

  • Bounty – A contract where the character has to kill a monster or a criminal. Make sure to give the target some special traits and develop their personality to make them interesting. A player can lead a short investigation before embarking on this quest to gather more information on their target and make preparations for the ensuing fight. Make sure to include interesting combat encounters that will last for at least a couple of turns; it is anticlimactic to kill the target of your bounty just one round of combat.
  • Delivery – The character needs to make sure some cargo comes to its destination. They could be guardiang a caravan against raiders or a ship against pirates. The delivery can be a sealed message that needs to arrive quickly, or be very fragile so the player must pay close attention it doesn’t break. It could also be a mysterious crate that is covered in strange seals or rattles from time to time as if there is something alive inside. The crate might have a captured Dwemer spider inside that attacks the character as they peek in, or it might contain drugs. What will the character do in such a situation?
  • Escort – Here you need to make sure that a scholar/pilgrim arrives to their location unharassed, usually trekking through hostile terrain. This type of mission puts emphasis on roleplaying and the interaction between the protector and its charge. Including a twist is a good way to make such a quest memorable: the person that needs to be protected could be working with a group of vampires as bait, which should be hinted at through conversation. The party can also be ambushed by an overpowering enemy, and the player must make a choice whether to run or try to save their charge.
  • Rescue – Criminals, trolls, cultists, or someone else has kidnapped a person and their friend/spouse/employer wants you to bring them back alive. The person might be held in a heavily fortified location, requiring stealth and clever roleplaying instead of brute force. The rescuee could be heavily injured, and the character needs to keep them alive until they find a healer. The kidnapping could also be a fake, with the person running away from their former life because of money troubles, an abusive relationship, or some other problem, which gives an additional layer of interest to the mission.

Duties are less direct quests that deal with the Guild itself. They are not as lucrative as contracts, but help foster relationships between Guild members and show that the character joined the Fighters Guild for more than just money. Rewards could include small sums of gold (100-300), items from the guild armory, and/or better relationships with other Guild members, who can be called on for favors in the future. A few examples of such quests would be:

  • Debt – A member left the Guild with some unfinished business; they didn’t pay for some service or item. Track them down and collect the money owed. This can be complicated if the person doesn’t have any money, so the player needs to find a way to extract value from them. They could also be hiding the money and need to be intimidated, persuaded, or tricked into giving it away.
  • Errant Member – One Fighters Guild member has been acting out lately: drinking, brawling, and generally marring the Guild’s reputable name. The character needs to find them and reign them in, which is a good spot to include some heavy roleplaying and character development. Have the unruly member have good reasons for what they are doing: they are being threatened, they are in love with the Guild Steward who doesn’t reciprocate the feelings, they lost a limb on the last contract and feel entitled to a pension the Guild refuses to provide. Have the players sympathize with them: maybe the only thing they need to get better is a drinking companion, some understanding, or even a harsh word.
  • Lost Item – A valuable item has disappeared from a Guild member, and it is up to the character to find it. The character has to lead an investigation: searching the Guild hall for clues, checking with fences and pawnbrokers, talking to the person whose things are missing, etc. The outcomes could be varied: the item was simply misplaced in an unlikely location, one of the Guild members is a thief, the Thieves Guild stole it, or it was destroyed.
  • Missing in Action – A guild member didn’t return from a contract. The character has to make sure they return alive, or at least to confirm their deaths. The player receives a bonus if they also finish the contract the other member failed.
  • Miscellaneous – This category covers tasks that do not include actual adventuring. A Guild Steward could ask the character to clean up the whole Guild hall, help out the Guild smith, assist a member with training lessons, do paperwork, make a list of all items in the Guild armory, or scout for new potential members. Such work should be given if the Steward doesn’t like or trust the character, or there simply is no other work. It also a decent explanation what a character was doing if their player missed a session; they were bogged down in Guild business, causing them to miss some adventuring.

Commentary. I had to make up a lot of things for this post, most notably the rank progression and the motto. The motto was kept simple and to the point, following the Guild’s philosophy of broad accessibility. I decided to drop some ranks to keep things simple. Some quest suggestions are based on actual missions in the Elder Scrolls games, and some are original. The training section is good for filling up players’ downtime, but runs the risk of greatly increasing their power level. To combat this, you can include limitations on training or give training a chance to fail.

10. Armory: Arcane Spells and Soul Gems

Five new spells and the rules for soul gems.

Armory

In this post I will feature several spells that appear in the Elder Scrolls games but do not have clear counterparts in D&D 5E. I will also include rules and lore on soul gems.

These spells fall under the arcane category (as opposed to divine and nature), and most of them are available to bards, sorcerers, and wizards.

Soul Trap

2nd-level necromancy (bard, sorcerer, warlock, wizard)
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Touch
Components: V, S, M (a soul gem)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute

You touch a creature, and that creature must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or become soul trapped for the duration of the spell. The soul trapped creature takes extra 1 damage from all sources. If the target dies while under the duration of this spell, its soul is trapped inside the soul gem if the gem is large enough to hold it.


Fphyggi’s Gem Feeder

3rd-level necromancy (bard, sorcerer, warlock, wizard)
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V, S, M (a soul gem)
Duration: Instantaneous

A bolt of negative energy surges from your outstretched hand toward a creature of your choice within range. Make a ranged spell attack against the target. On a hit, the target takes 6d8 force damage. If this damage reduces the target to 0 hit points, it dies and its soul is trapped inside the soul gem if the gem is large enough to hold it.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, the damage increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 3rd.


Conjure Daedra

3rd-level conjuration (wizard)
Casting Time: 1 minute
Range: 90 feet
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 hour

You summon a Daedric creature of challenge rating 3 or lower. It appears in an unoccupied space that you can see within range. The Daedric creature disappears when it drops to 0 hit points or when the spell ends.
The Daedric creature is friendly to you and your companions for the duration. Roll initiative for the creature, which has its own turns. It obeys any verbal commands that you issue to it (no action required by you), as long as they don’t violate its alignment. If you don’t issue any commands to the Daedric creature, it defends itself from hostile creatures but otherwise takes no actions.
If your concentration is broken, the Daedric creature doesn’t disappear. Instead, you lose control of the Daedric creature, it becomes hostile toward you and your companions, and it might attack. An uncontrolled Daedric creature can’t be dismissed by you, and it disappears 1 hour after you summoned it.
The statistics for Daedric creatures can be found here.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, the challenge rating increases by 1 for each slot level above 3rd.


Ondusi’s Unhinging

2nd-level transmutation (bard, sorcerer, wizard)
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Touch
Components: V, M (a small brass key)
Duration: Instantaneous

You attempt to unlock a door, chest, set of manacles, or a similar object that you touch, using magic instead of thieves’ tools. Make an ability check using your spellcasting ability modifier. The DC is the same as for an ability check that would use thieves’ tools. If you succeed, the target is unlocked.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, you gain a +2 bonus to the ability check for each slot level above 2nd.


Ekash’s Lock Splitter

4th-level transmutation (bard, sorcerer, wizard)
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Self
Components: V, M (a silver key worth 50 gp)
Duration: Instantaneous

Choose an object that you can see within range. The object can be a door, a box, a chest, a set of manacles, a padlock, or another object that contains a mundane or magical means that prevents access.
A target that is held shut by a mundane lock or that is stuck or barred becomes unlocked, unstuck, or unbarred. If the object has multiple locks, only one of them is unlocked.
If you choose a target that is held shut with arcane lock, that spell is suppressed for 10 minutes, during which time the target can be opened and shut normally.


Soul Gems

Soul gems are specially processed crystals that can house a non-humanoid creature’s soul. They can be made from any regular gem of a specified value using a magical process. The Mages Guild sets the standards for soul gems, dividing them into five categories: petty, lesser, common, greater, and grand. Each soul gem has two properties: its minimum price and the maximum CR of a creature whose soul it can hold. A filled soul gem has its price increased by an amount equal to one fifth of the experience points granted by the creature whose soul it holds. For instance, a greater soul gem with a Dremora‘s soul in it (CR 5, 1.800 XP), is worth 175 gp + 360 gp = 535 gp.

  • Petty – 10 gp, CR 1
  • Lesser – 50 gp, CR 2
  • Common – 100 gp, CR 4
  • Greater – 175 gp, CR 6
  • Grand – 300 gp, CR 10

Soul gems are created out of ordinary gems (such as rubies, emeralds, sapphires, etc.). To create a soul gem, a character proficient in Arcana has to perform a one-hour-long ritual while holding the gem and expend a spell slot of a certain level: 1st level for petty soul gems, 2nd level for lesser, 3rd level for common, 4th level for greater, and 5th level for grand soul gems. This process doesn’t increase the gem’s value, and the gem can be recognized as a soul gem with a successful DC 10 Intelligence (Arcana) check). To determine the type of soul inside a soul gem, a character needs to cast the identify spell on the soul gem or use similar magic.

Soul gems can be used to replenish charges to magic items, to create spell scrolls, and as an ingredient in crafting magic items. To replenish charges to a magic item, a character proficient in the Arcana skill needs to perform a 10-minute ritual while touching both the item and the soul gem. The magic item then regains a portion of its charges depending on the CR of the creature whose soul it holds. A CR 1 soul replenishes one tenth of the charges, a CR 4 soul replenishes four tenths of the charges, while a CR 10 creature replenishes all charges (always round up when determining the number of charges restored). After using a soul gem in this way, it loses its power and crumbles into worthless dust. The soul gem can only restore charges to items that can regain charges (for instance, at dawn). Magic items such as the Luckblade and the Ring of Three Wishes never regain charges.

To create a spell scroll, a character needs to crush a soul gem into powder, mix it with ink, and scribe the scroll with this ink. This process takes time (at least 8 hours of work per day) and a specific soul strength, as shown below. You cannot create a spell scroll of 6th level or higher. You must also provide any material components required by the spell. Moreover, you must have the spell prepared or among your known spells in order to scribe a scroll of it, and you must have proficiency in the Arcana skill. The spell scroll uses the spell attack bonus and spell save DC you had at the time you started scribing the scroll.

  • Cantrip – 1 day, any soul
  • 1st level spell – 2 days, CR 1 soul
  • 2nd level spell – 1 week, CR 2 soul
  • 3rd level spell – 3 weeks, CR 3 soul
  • 4th level spell – 4 weeks, CR 5 soul
  • 5th level spell – 5 weeks, CR 8 soul

Additionally, a character crafting a magic item using the downtime rules presented in the Unearthed Arcana can do so using a filled soul gem. The soul gem can either replace the exotic material needed to craft the item (use the CR of the creature whose soul is trapped inside the gem), or reduce the crafting cost by twice the soul gem’s value.

Mages, especially artificers, will gladly buy soul gems, both filled and empty. There are rumors of black soul gems, which can soul-trap humanoid souls. Such gems are reportedly used by necromancers in their foul rituals, and are destroyed by the Mages Guild.


Commentary. Soul gems and spells that soul trap creatures are an integral part of the Elder Scrolls lore. Using them in your campaign is sure to add to the Elder Scrolls feel. They also provide the players with extra options when it comes to using and creating magical items. Ondusi’s unhinging and Ekash’s lock-splitter are spells that appeared in Morrowind. They are included as an alternative to the knock spell (which cannot be used stealthily, at least on its own), allowing mages to unlock doors and chests. This means that the party doesn’t need a character proficient with thieves’ tools, allowing for unusual party compositions. In the original D&D, there are no spells for summoning demons and devils, but mages in the Elder Scrolls routinely summon Daedra. Therefore, I decided to include the conjure Daedra spell, but limited it to wizards for balance purposes (they are the only class that can conjure creatures at low levels using arcane magic).

9. Armory: Magic Items, vol. 1

A miscellany of magic items tailored for an Elder Scrolls campaign.

Armory

Here I will present eight of my favorite magical items I have used in my Elder Scrolls campaigns. Each will have a short description and my commentary. Items will be presented in alphabetical order and are a good mix of different types of magical items.


Armor of Comfort
Armor (splint), uncommon
The interlocking plates, greaves, and gauntlets of this armor appear heavy and cumbersome to wear. However, once the armor is donned it feels comfortable and light as a well-tailored tunic. The armor also exudes a faint scent of lavander to cover up any unseemly warrior odors.

This suit of splint armor offers an AC of 17. Although it imposes disadvantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks, it has no Strength requirement. Furthermore, it is quite light, weighing only 12 lbs when worn.

Commentary. I remember finding this item in the Neverwinter Nights game and loving it at first sight. It is exactly the kind of item that would exist in a realistic fantasy world, where people value other things besides efficiency. The description of this item was copied from the one presented in-game.


Fiend Weapon
Weapon (any martial weapon), rare
At first glance, this weapon looks quite ordinary. Upon closer inspection, you can see faint Daedric runes etched into it.

As a bonus action, you can utter the fiend weapon’s command word to transform it into a Daedric weapon for 1 minute, after which it reverts to its original form. This ability can be used only once, and the weapon regains this use every midnight.
While in its Daedric form, the weapon gains a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls, and you gain a +1 bonus to your AC.

Commentary. These weapons appeared in the Morrowind game, and are excellent for characters of all levels. They are perfect for boss fights because of their limited duration and once per day use. The concept is really cool too, a powerful weapon that hides behind a guise of mediocrity and reveals its true nature when the wielder needs it the most.


Gem of Ease
Wondrous item, rare
A small blue gem cut in the likeness of a beetle and ornamented with gold filigree. It shines with an inner light, and makes you feel like anything is possible.

This magical gem can be socketed into any suit of armor or weapon, provided that the item has a metal part large enough to hold it. This process requires a successful DC 15 Dexterity check with jeweler’s tools. A professional jeweler might charge around 50 gp for this job.
You can wield or wear the item the Gem of Ease is socketed in as if you were proficient with it. All other requirements still apply, such as the Strength requirement for heavy armor, or class restrictions for magical items.

Commentary. I lifted this item from Diablo 3, where it granted extra experience and removed level requirements for items. You have to be careful when using this gem, as it can lead to some sick combos if your players are smart and creative.


Illkurok
Weapon (spear), rare (requires attunement)
A magical spear of Dwemer make. Its head is adorned with a carving of an eye.

You gain a +1 bonus to your attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.
While attuned to this weapon, you gain the following benefits:

  • You have darkvision out to a range of 60 feet. If you already have darkvision, its range is increased by 60 feet.
  • As an action while holding the spear, you can shift your perception to look through the eye carving located on the spear’s head. You can use this ability to look around corners or look behind you without turning around.

Commentary. A nice piece of loot for a Dwemer-themed dungeon, it appeared in Morrowind as a unique item. It is useful because it can be used by almost every class, including clerics, druids, monks, and warlocks. Also, it can grant darkvision to that one character in the party who cannot see in the dark, saving money on torches. The wielder can also check behind corners for dangers so they are less likely to be surprised.


Mentor’s Ring
Ring, very rare (requires attunement)
A beautiful silver ring inlaid with large square amethysts. Wearing it is said to make even the biggest fool appear smarter. The ring was created by the High Wizard Carni Asron, and was intended for his less promising pupils.

If your Intelligence and Wisdom scores are both 15 or less, you gain a +3 bonus to these scores while wearing this ring.

Commentary. It sometimes happens that a player rolls really crappy ability scores for their character. Those characters are sometimes spellcasters reliant on Wisdom or Intelligence. Sometimes, a DM takes pity and puts an item like this in the first dungeon for the character to find. Sometimes, even DMs can be nice. This item appeared in a tomb near the starting town in Morrowind, and I always collect it when starting a new game.


Stink
Weapon (dagger), uncommon (requires attunement)
This finely crafted dirk is made from the best steel and silver, its edge honed to a razorlike sharpness. It features ornaments wrought in mithril.

You gain a +1 bonus to your attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon. This bonus is increased to +3 against goblinoids and giants.
Additionally, the blade emits a pungent odor whenever goblinoids or giants are within 120 feet of it. Therefore, you can never be surprised by enemies of these types.

Commentary. This magical item is an obvious reference to Bilbo Baggins’ Sting from the Hobbit novel. I gave it a little twist to make it humorous and memorable.


Torchbug Charm
Wondrous item, uncommon (requires attunement)
A small piece of amber with a torchbug trapped in it.The torchbug seems to still be alive as it glows at night. Such charms are said to bring good ideas and inspiration to whoever finds them.

You receive a +1 bonus to all Intelligence saving throws and ability checks while this item is on your person.
Additionally, you can hold two inspiration points at once, instead of only one.

Commentary. I like to award inspiration points for good humor, giving it to players who make the whole group choke with laughter. They often generate inspiration points faster than they can spend them, so this item can help remedy that. I also think it is pretty flavorful, as inspiration and ideas are sometimes represented by a glowing lightbulb, which resembles a torchbug.


Vvardvark Cloak
Wondrous item, very rare (requires attunement by a Druid)
A cloak made from the hide of a great vvardvark, a rare beast endemic to the island of Vvardenfell in Morrowind. The cloak has a silver clasp with Daedric runes spelling a grim warning: ‘Don’t laugh, it works.’

You gain a +1 bonus to AC and saving throws while you wear this cloak or are using your Beast Shape feature.
Additionally, you can transform into a great vvardvark using your beast shape feature. The statistics for that beast can be found here:

Great Vvardvark

Commentary. This item is a reference to the Armadillo Cloak, one of my favorite Magic: the Gathering cards. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to include it in my campaigns, and since the inclusion of Vvardvarks in the Elder Scrolls Online, I have an actual excuse to do so. Just make sure to give it to a druid that is powerful enough (I recommend 5th or 6th level), lest they upset the balance of your game.

8. Armory: Materials and Styles

Optional rules for customizing non-magical equipment.

Armory

In this post I will introduce the Armory, a segment in which I discuss equipment, magical items, spells, and other gear that could be made available to players in an Elder Scrolls campaign. This post will focus on weapon and armor styles, as well as various materials that can be used to create equipment.

There are two approaches to this feature, both of which have their merits. The first one is to make the changes cosmetic only, with no impact on gameplay mechanics. Items can still be master-crafted, which increases their effectiveness (see the commentary). This solution is elegant and simple, it focuses on roleplaying, and is beginner-friendly. However, it might leave some players with a sour taste in their mouths when they uncover an ancient armor of Dwemer make, only to realize it’s just a regular suit of plate armor.

The second approach includes giving minor and flavorful customizations to each style and material while trying to avoid the regular numerical bonuses to AC and attack and damage rolls. This way of thinking is appealing to players who are immersed in the campaign’s lore, love customizing their characters, and pay close attention to their equipment. The downside is that it is easy to lose track of all the various bonuses, and some players and DMs find this extra layer of complexity burdensome.

The first approach is self-explanatory and requires no further elaboration. If you wish to use it, well and good; this post, however, will deal with the second approach.


First let us cover those styles that provide no extra benefits as they are made of regular materials (wood, iron, steel) or of regional equivalents (bone, chitin, bronze). Some races use weapons that are not present in the Player’s Handbook, and those will be listed here as well. Here are some examples:

Imperial weapons and armor take after those of the Roman legions. The most common weapon in the Legions is the gladius, a short stabbing or slashing blade issued to every Legionnaire. Legion scouts and rangers wear leather armor and are armed with bows and crossbows. Medium infantry, such as archers and support troops, wear chain shirts and are known to use a variety of weapons including battleaxes and warhammers. Frontline infantry are outfitted with segmented armor, large square shields, and spears so they come prepared for any situation. Imperial knights are armored in chain mail or plate armor, and their preferred weapons are lances and longswords.

  • Gladius – martial melee weapon, 1d6 piercing or slashing damage, light (8 gp, 2 lb.)
  • Segmented armor – heavy armor, AC 15, disadvantage on Stealth, no Strength requirement (50 gp, 45 lb.)

Nordic equipment is modeled after those used by Normans/Vikings. Broadswords are much in use, as they are easier to wield than longswords but deliver the same amount of damage one-handed. Nords also like handaxes, battleaxes, light hammers, and warhammers. Scale and splint armors are also much in use. The Companions, a group of respected warriors who take on public contracts in Skyrim, are armed with weapons of Skyforged steel. These weapons should use the rules for master-crafted items (see the commentary section at the end of this post).

  • Broadsword – martial melee weapon, 1d8 slashing damage (10 gp, 3 lb.)

Akaviri weapons and armor resemble that of the Far East, especially Japan. The Dungeon Master’s Guide provides equivalents for Far Eastern weapons on page 41 (Wuxia Weapon Names). For samurai armor, feel free to use half-plate, splint, and plate armors. Common akaviri weapons include kamas, tantos, wakizashis, katanas, and dai-katanas. If you want special properties for katanas, here is my take on it:

  • Katana – martial melee weapon, 1d8 slashing damage, versatile (1d10), finesse (35 gp, 3 lb.)
  • Dai-katana – martial melee weapon, 1d12 slashing damage, two-handed (60 gp, 4 lb.)

The Dunmer use special equipment because their homeland, Morrowind, has very few iron and copper deposits. They have to rely on rare volcanic minerals (ebony and glass), and some more organic materials: chitin and bonemold.

Chitin weapons and armor are constructed from the carapaces of insectoid creatures native to Morrowind: silt striders, nix-hounds, and the kwama. The insect shells are chiseled into shape, then attached to a leather base with resin or string. The color of the chitin depends on the animal it came from, but it is often bleached or dyed. Ashlands tribesmen, bandits, and mercenaries often use chitin equipment as it is easy to craft and maintain, and can be bought on the cheap.

Bonemold armor is composed literally of bone. Its construction includes grinding bone into dust, mixing it with resins to create a paste, and then shaping it into armor plates. It is flexible and durable, taking on a sandy-yellow color that becomes golden with age. As this kind of armor takes great skill to create, it is reserved for nobles and enforcers of the Great Houses, who usually ornament their outfits with gems and carvings.

Chitin and bonemold armor is usually aerodynamic to better endure ash-storms common in the Dunmer homeland of Morrowind. As there is no wood in Morrowind, bows are made from these materials as well. Native Dunmer materials are rarely encountered outside of Morrowind. The prices remain the same for these items. If you wish to use these armors in your campaign, I suggest the following rules:

  • Chitin armor can come in three varieties: light, medium, and heavy, which depends on the creature whose chitin was used in its construction: nix-hound, kwama, and silt strider, respectively. Light chitin armor can use rules for leather armor, medium can be represented by a chain shirt, and heavy armor by chain mail.
  • Bonemold armor is made from plates of specially processed bone; breastplate, half-plate, and plate armors are an excellent fit. Same as with metal armor, it just depends what portions of the body the armor covers.

Elsweyr, the home province of the Khajiit, has no iron mines, but is rich in tin and copper. Therefore, most Khajiit weapons are made from bronze. While not as strong as iron, bronze has other qualities to compensate for that: it doesn’t rust, can be reforged easily and can be molded into finished products. A famous Khajiiti weapon is the khopesh, also known as a sickle-sword. The Khajiit also use bolas, which are made from two or three wooden balls connected with a length of string. This weapon is thrown at an enemy in order to entangle them. To represent these weapons, use the following rules:

  • Khopesh – martial melee weapon, 1d8 slashing damage, light (25 gp, 2 lb.)
  • Bolas – martial thrown weapon, range 20/60, 1 bludgeoning damage, special: A medium or smaller creature hit with this weapon is restrained until it is freed, and must succeed on a DC 12 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check or fall prone. Bolas has no effect on creatures that are formless. A creature can use its action to make a DC 10 Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check, freeing itself or a another creature within its reach on a success. Dealing 5 slashing damage to the bolas (AC 10) also frees the creature without harming it, ending the restrained condition and cutting the string connecting the bolas. When you use an action, bonus action, or reaction to attack with bolas, you can make only one attack regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make. (2 gp, 2 lb.)

Argonians do not work metal, instead relying on bone, bark, wood, and stone for their weaponry. Their weapons are usually simple, but this does not mean they are primitive. Skillfully shaped hardwood clubs and quarterstaffs, as well as blowpipes, bows, and slings make for excellent weapons. Bone can be sharpened and turned into daggers or tied to sticks, forming war picks. Wooden or bone armor is nothing to scoff at either, especially in a very humid environment with no solid ground where heavier metal armor is more hindrance than help. Argonians can make most simple weapons and light and medium armors. Their price, however, should be doubled because of the rarity of indigenous Argonian craftsmanship. Their value can further be increased if items are ornamented with gems, fur, and feathers, or feature intricate carvings and other decorations.


Now to cover styles and materials with special properties. Sometimes an item can have a combination of style and material (e.g. an Elven Glass scale armor, or an Imperial Ebony plate armor). In those cases, add both bonuses to the item and increase its price accordingly.

Elven Style

Equipment made by several of the Elven races: Altmer, Bosmer, Ayleid (Wild Elves), and Falmer (Snow Elves). Elves forge their gear from a special alloy of silver and steel that is both light and strong. Their armor and weapons are beautiful and delicate things with fine ornaments and decorations. Elven armor is often enameled with moonstone for additional hardness and beauty. Common Elven weapons are bows (including compound bows), shortswords, longswords, and rapiers; Elves almost never make bludgeoning weapons. Elves prefer light and medium armor, which allows them greater mobility and is much less cumbersome than heavy armor. In comparison to generic weapons and armor, Elven gear is somewhat lighter and more expensive (20-50%). Optional rules for elven equipment:

  • Medium armor counts as light armor for purpose of proficiency.
  • Weapons that have the heavy property lose the heavy property. Weapons without the two-handed or versatile property gain the light property.
  • Compound bow – functions as a longbow with one additional property: A character adds their Strength modifier to the damage rolls made with this weapon, but the character must have a Strength score of 15 or greater in order to draw this bow.

Orcish Style

Orcs make their armor for durability and reliability, not to be pretty in it. It often looks crude and uncomfortable, but is also strong and well-made. Orc smiths forge their armor and weapons from a slightly different kind of steel, adding in more ingredients and using secret processes. The end result is equipment that does not rust or fall apart. Common Orcish weapons include warhammers, mauls, battleaxes, greataxes, and longswords. Orc elite warriors most often wear splint armor, while plate armor is reserved for chieftains. Orcish equipment tends to be heavier and more expensive (around 30%) than generic weapons and armor. To customize Orcish gear, use the following rules:

  • Heavy armor counts as medium armor for purpose of proficiency.
  • Battleaxe and warhammer gain the heavy property and can reroll 1s on their damage rolls (if the character has chosen Great Weapon Fighting as their Fighting Style and is wielding the weapon in both hands, they can reroll 1s, 2s, and 3s on their damage rolls).

Dwemer Style

The ancient Dwemer made many marvels from a special alloy known only as Dwemer metal. This metal resembles brass and is stronger, harder, and heavier than steel. It also doesn’t rust or degrade in any way, so Dwemer equipment is in top shape even after millennia of negligence. Common Dwemer weapons are crossbows (all varieties), shortswords, maces, battleaxes, warhammers, spears, and halberds. Dwemer items are worth twice as much as their generic counterparts, but their sale is illegal under Imperial law. Here are some suggestions on how to customize Dwemer equipment:

  • Heavy armor (usually chain mail or plate) has no strength requirement because its weight is perfectly distributed on the wearer’s body with straps and buckles. Plate armor might also have pistons that make movement easier.
  • Weapons are reliable, never dulling with time or breaking. This allows you to roll with advantage on any fumble table used by the weapon. (I will discuss fumble tables in a later post.)

Mithril

This light and flexible metal can be described as steel-silver, and is sometimes used to make high-end weapons and armor by Imperials and Altmer. It is usually used to create very sharp blades and suits of quality armor (any medium or heavy armor, except hide). Mithril, or mithral, is quite rare, with only a few mines in Cyrodiil and the Summerset Isle. One pound of mithril is worth 100 gp. Mithril confers the following bonuses:

  • Mithril weapons count as magical for the purposes of bypassing damage resistances and immunities. This makes them invaluable when fighting Daedra and Undead. A weapon has to be made completely of mithril to gain this benefit. However, the craftsmanship required to make a weapon increases the price fivefold. Therefore. a mithril shortsword is worth 1.050 gp (10 for the shortsword + 200 for 2 pounds of mithril, multiplied by five).
  • Mithril armor doesnt’t impose disadvantage on Stealth checks and never has a Strength requirement. Furthermore, a chain shirt or breastplate can be comfortably worn under normal clothes. Armor has to be made of at least 50% mithril to gain this benefit. Therefore, a mithral chain shirt would be worth 50 gp (for base chain shirt) + 1.000 gp (for 10 pounds of mithril) = 1.050 gp.

Adamantium

An extremely rare gray-green metal used primarily by Altmer smiths. It is a ferrous metal, but doesn’t rust, and is thought to be one of the hardest materials in existence. Most deposits of adamantium (also called adamantine or adamantite) have been exhausted, but there are rumors of more ore underneath the city of Mournhold in Morrowind. Due to its rarity and special properties, one pound of adamantium is worth 75 gp. Those special properties include:

  • Weapons made of adamantium score critical hits on a roll of 19 or 20. They also count as silvered, as described on page 148 of the Player’s Handbook. A weapon has to be made completely of adamantium to gain this benefit. However, the craftsmanship required to make a weapon increases the price fivefold. Therefore. an adamantine morningstar is worth 1.575 gp (15 for the morningstar + 300 for 4 pounds of adamantium, multiplied by five).
  • While wearing a suit of adamantine armor (any medium or heavy armor, but not hide), any critical hit against you becomes a regular hit. Armor has to be made of at least 50% adamantium to gain this benefit. Therefore, a suit of adamantine chain mail would be worth 75 gp (for base chain mail) + 2.100 gp (for 28 pounds of adamantium) = 2.175 gp.

Glass

This volcanic material can usually be found in caves on the foothills of Red Mountain in Morrowind. It is lightweight and flexible, and most commonly a bright green in color. Glass has a high tolerance for magic, which means that armor made from this material can absorb magical force. Glass is very valuable (worth 400 gp per pound), but only small amounts of glass are needed to reinforce a suit of armor. Glass has a much smaller density than ebony; a shard of glass is five times lighter than a shard of ebony of equal size. Equipment made from this material has the following properties:

  • Weapons that deal piercing and slashing damage gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls. When you score a critical hit with a glass weapon, you deal maximum damage instead of rolling dice (e.g. a glass dagger would deal 8 damage on a critical strike instead of 2d4). The weapon then shatters and needs to be repaired (you do not need to pay for materials if you can collect the shards of your broken weapon). This applies only to the weapon’s original damage, not to any damage added by features such as Divine Smite or Sneak Attack. A weapon has to be made completely of glass to gain this benefit. However, the craftsmanship required to make a weapon doubles the price. Therefore, a glass rapier is worth 1.650 gp (25 for the rapier + 800 for 2 pounds of glass, multiplied by two).
  • Glass can be made only into suits of studded leather or scale armor. Such armors gain a +1 bonus to their AC. Additionally, you can reduce any damage you take from spells by your proficiency bonus while wearing a suit of glass armor. A leather armor with glass studs is worth around 1.200 gp and requires around 3 pounds of glass, while a suit of glass scale armor can fetch a price of 2.000 gp, requiring 5 pounds of glass.

Ebony

Rumored to be the crystallized blood of the gods, ebony is extremely hard and durable, surpassing even the finest steel. It is black as the void and very heavy. It can be formed into weapons and armor by only the most skilled smiths and this process is said to involve some kind of magic. Besides weapons and armor, it is used to make art objects (statues, masks, goblets) and jewelry (rings, crowns, etc.). Only those with deep pockets can afford such items, many of which are treasured heirlooms of noble houses. One pound of ebony is worth 250 gp, approximately five times the worth of gold. The few blacksmiths who can work this material charge enormous sums to craft even the simplest items. Ebony weapons and armor gain these bonuses:

  • Weapons made of ebony count as magical for the purposes of bypassing damage resistances and immunities. They also gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls. A weapon has to be made completely of ebony to gain this benefit. However, the craftsmanship required to make a weapon increases the price threefold. Therefore, an ebony longsword is worth 3.075 gp (15 for the longsword + 750 for 3 pounds of ebony, multiplied by three).
  • Ebony armor is made by adding a moderately thick layer of ebony over steel plates. Ebony can only be used to reinforce a scale mail, breastplate, half-plate, or plate armor. It grants the armor a +1 bonus to its AC. A medium armor requires 6 pounds of ebony (additional value of 1.500 gp) to gain this property, while plate armor requires 12 pounds of ebony (additional value of 3.000 gp). This extra weight is added to the weight of the armor.

Commentary. The approach described here is sort of a middle road between what would be ideal for D&D 5E and what is flavorful for the Elder Scrolls universe. The fifth edition sacrifices detail for smooth gameplay, which is a choice I greatly support. However, the Elder Scrolls games always include a wide variety of different weapon and armor styles/materials that are expected to have beneficial properties. It is up to you to decide which path to take, as none of them are exactly perfect.

Do not be confused by the names of glass and ebony as they have no relation to their real-world counterparts. Elder Scrolls glass has more resemblance to malachite, but is much more durable and can be used to make weapons and armor. Elder Scrolls ebony is not a type of wood, instead being a super-strong, obsidian-like, and almost magical material.

I decided not to include Daedric items as they are a special category. Daedra-forged steel looks different, but offers no additional benefits. Ebony armor and weapons made in the planes of Oblivion, however, often have Daedric spirits bound to them, which would essentially make them magical items, a topic for some other time. Dragonbone and Stalhrim items are so incredibly rare that they are also at the level of magic items; I think approaching them on a case-by-case basis is better in their case.

Master-crafted items are also an interesting concept. They are supposed to represent nonmagical items that are superior in every way to their run-of-the-mill counterparts. This article by Cristopher Delvo provides an excellent analysis of master-crafted items, and I recommend you use ‘the right way’ in your campaigns. In short, master-crafted items gain a numerical bonus to attack and damage rolls for weapons or to their AC for armor. Have in mind that you can combine master-crafted bonuses with material and style bonuses, which gives you a wide variety of options.

I relied on some magical items in the Dungeon Master’s Guide to create properties for some of these materials and styles. Elven Chain was my base for Elven items, Adamantine Armor for adamantium armor (obviously), and Mithral Armor for mithril armor (again, obviously). As all these items are uncommon or rare, this shouldn’t upset the balance of the game too much.

This post includes weapons that break some conventions in D&D: light weapons should never deal more than 1d6 damage, finesse weapons can only be wielded one-handed, and heavy weapons cannot be wielded one-handed. These conventions exist for a reason, as nonmagical weapons should be limited in their power. However, I wanted to make exceptions that are rare and very specific- players need to put some thought and effort into obtaining those items, making them, in a way, special.

Item values have really complicated this post, but I fear that was required in order to retain some semblance of balance and to set a realistic value on these items. This way players know exactly how much a certain item is worth and how many pounds of material they need to craft it. I thought about using price multipliers, but this didn’t make much sense as items require different amounts of materials and vary greatly in price and mass. I’m not saying this is the perfect system; I will probably rework it later, when I think of something better or stumble upon work done by someone smarter. If you know of a better way, please let me know in the comments.

7. Bestiary: Daedra

Profiles for the vile denizens of the planes of Oblivion.

Bestiary

It’s time for the first Bestiary post. These will contain stat blocks for monsters and NPCs that might appear in an Elder Scrolls campaign. They will also include physical descriptions, behavior, and other info that might be useful. Each creature will get its own separate bestiary entry; click on a creature’s name to check it out. I will later provide lists of creatures ranked by type, challenge rating, and sorted alphabetically.

First up I decided to create profiles for some Daedric creatures as they are a core part of the Elder Scrolls lore. After some experimentation in my campaigns, analyzing the Monster Manual, looking at the creatures as they appear in the Elder Scrolls games, and looking at other people’s work, this is what I came up with.

A note on the names of Daedric species. Most are the same in singular in plural, but names that are derived from English words have a regular plural. For instance, dremora, ogrim, and xivilai are the same in both forms. On the other hand, hungers, dark seducers, and winged twilights have regular plural forms.

Now to explain my design process for the Daedra in general. They are creatures non-native to the material plane, they often have special powers, mages summon them, they are dangerous and unpredictable, they are innately magical. Therefore, they should be mechanically similar to fiends, fey, and celestials. After a quick look at creatures belonging to these three monster types in the Monster Manual and Volo’s Guide to Monsters, I found some abilities that would unite the Daedra and give them a special feel:

  • Darkvision. The Daedra are used to the planes of Oblivion, which are usually dark and desolate places. Even darkness of night on the material plane does little to impede their senses.
  • Immunity to Poison. Most Daedra are only semi-corporeal, so poison cannot do them any harm. They also vile creatures, and only very foul poisons would have a chance to affect them.
  • Magic Resistance. The Daedra are so suffused with magic that it has a lessened effect on them. Mechanically, this means they are twice as likely to resist annoying spells such as banishment.
  • Resistance or immunity to damage from nonmagical weapons. The Daedra are otherworldly creatures, and weapons of mortals can do them little harm. Some are also semi-corporeal. This also makes them a serious threat because magical weapons are in short supply. Only adventurers and very rich or influential people have access to such weapons.
  • Saving Throws. Many Daedra have proficiency in multiple saving throws. They are cunning and powerful creatures, and it will take the adventurers’ best effort to take them down.

When killed on the material plane, a Daedra is not dead for good. Instead, its essence goes to the space between planes (the Void, or the Waters of Oblivion), where it slowly regains shape. When this process is complete, the Daedra reappears on the plane of Oblivion where it originated. To completely kill a Daedra, it must be destroyed on its native plane or soul-trapped so it cannot reform.

Each Daedric creature should present its own set of challenges that make them interesting. This can easily be achieved by giving them the innate spellcasting feature or some other special ability. For instance, Clannfear are all about melee combat, but have little else. The key is to use distance and vertical terrain as your ally. Ogrim are meant to provide much the same challenge as giants. They are very big, they smell bad, and they can eat you. However, they can be easily outsmarted. Offer them a cask of ale and suddenly the fight is much easier as you are fighting a drunk foe.

That will be all for now. I hope this was a more engaging read than my previous couple of posts. Up next I will analyze various materials and styles present in the Elder Scrolls universe and publish some of my favorite custom magical items.


Commentary. This has been a very long post, and I am sure I’ve made some errors. If you see one, please let me know so I can correct them.

Atronachs are technically Daedra, but they fall under the elemental category. I will make profiles for them as well at a later date. Some Daedra can appear at multiple power levels, so I will likely make a post about boss-level Daedra sometime in the future (dremora lord, ogrim titan, and some of my own making). I had to tweak many Daedra to fit the D&D mechanics. While doing so, I tried to follow the guidelines I set up in my first post. Most information about Daedra was gathered from the UESP wiki or from my experience as a player of the Elder Scrolls games.