Modified Attunement for 5th Edition Magic Items

Derek Holland
Attunement is a simple method of preventing characters from getting outside the parameters of bounded accuracy and yet the rules for it are boring to be honest. They work obviously but a Game Master could modify them to make them more thematic, wondrous or to provide more adventure hooks. Attunement can also be used for other forms of magic and this article introduces the Mystical Location. 
 
New Components for Attunement
In addition to the existing rules (a short rest with constant physical contact), additional components could be added to attunement such as materials, locations and participants.

Materials are very much like those for spell casting. Discovering what materials are needed for a specific item may be easy if they are written or symbolically represented on the item or it imparts this knowledge to all who touch it. The discovery may be more difficult and require a casting of True Seeing or visiting a spirit of magic, sage specializing in magic items of that culture or creator or even communicating with the creator of the item. Material components for attunement are usually consumed in the process. The costs of the components are variable and relate more to the creator's whim than the power level of the magic item.

Locations are usually those of great importance to the creator of the item by may include nodes of ley lines that contain magics related to the item, religious sites of the gods of magic or where the item was created. Most can be used at any time of the day or year, but some have further requirements such as performing the attunement ceremony at midnight or noon on the summer solstice.

The participants component is one place where the rules for attunement may be bent. Some unusual items may allow more than one being to attune to them at the same time. It still takes up one of each being’s attunement slots and only one can use it at a time. Other forms of this component include a member of the creator’s race assisting the process, a captured monster that is within the item’s theme or contact with the creator himself. In the last case, the Speak with Dead spell can be used if the creator is dead and the corpse still exists. A trip to the afterlife may be needed otherwise.
 
Partial Attunements
With items that have several powers, such as most staves, there is the possibility that some of their powers can be unlocked, but not all of them as some, or each, have its own attunement component. This allows the character to have a powerful magic item early in their adventuring career and yet needs to perform several deeds to gain access to all of its powers. In any case, a single item (or pairs in for gloves, boots and the like) still only takes up one attunement slot. In other words, a magic item that has partial attunements does not require a slot for each attunement. Unless the Game Master deems otherwise, of course.  Some partial attunements are the result of race, class and/or alignment restrictions. It is possible, though very rare, to have an item that works in very different ways for two different classes or races.
 
Mystical Locations
These are places where characters can attune themselves to the innate power flowing through the locations. The results are usually represented by bonus feats, specific cantrips, advantage on skills or enhanced racial traits. The GM may also design other powers using the blessing, charms and boons found within the DMG as suggestions on power levels for the characters as well as those from their own imaginations. Unlike items, locations may take up one, two or all three attunement slots, though each will have its own associated effect or power.
 
Examples
Belittler is a sword of sharpness that was created by a warlock as a reward for a fighter’s actions in protecting one of the patron’s sacred sites. To attune to it, a fighter, and only a fighter, must personally find three herbs important to the patron and ritually burn them while chanting scripture during a short rest. When the character ends the attunement, the patron curses them, inducing a –1 penalty to all their saving throws for the next 24 hours.
 
Jammer is a doss lute that was created by a bard that is the very epitome of hippy mixed with conman. She is still alive and will help a character attune to her instrument for the very low cost of five thousand gold pieces, a week of backbreaking labor on her estate that will earn the character 1d4 levels of exhaustion or an equally valuable magic item. During the ceremony, she points out the subtle differences that make Jammer different from other doss lutes and how to make the most of them. What she doesn’t tell the character is that this only provides access to the instrument’s basic powers. To gain access to the rest, a second ceremony is needed and that will cost the character a great deed. The lute’s user must go to the rulers of several kingdoms and convince at least two of them to allow the bard to have a day of celebration of her works, including a performance that includes Jammer and a couple of her other instruments of the bard. Where the other ones are, well she may or may not know.

Space Seeker is a robe of stars that was commissioned by an astrologer to allow him to travel between the planets via the Astral plane so that he may gain a greater understanding of his life’s work. This differs from the standard robe of stars in that the wearer can select which planet he wants to materialize on. The location for each of the planets does not change, though. Its attunement is surprisingly easy considering how vast its reach is. All one needs to do is perform the attunement ceremony during the summer solstice at midnight under the open sky.

The Fist of Beldam was created by Chaos Lords to bring disorder to the world. It is a warhammer that when struck against the ocean's surface, creates a tsunami that will cover an area of land five miles wide by two miles deep. The hammer must be used within five miles of shore, otherwise the effect is wasted. No harm comes to those struck by the wave and it does no damage to objects either. Rather creatures must make a Wisdom saving throw against a DC 20, failure resulting in polymorphing into a random creature that can not be the victim's original race. Objects are Polymorphed into other objects and are Animated. They act as if under a Confusion spell. All of this lasts for 2d4 weeks and then everything that survived returns to normal, though objects will not return to their original location. They simply deanimate. Attuning to the Fist of Bedlam requires the death of a hierarch modron within the twisting realm of Limbo and feeding its body to a slaadi of any color.

There are many Anvils of Soul Forging, usually hidden in halls of gods of creation. In addition to those that can create entire races, there are those used by small gods to create champions of their own cause or portfolio. If a mortal is able to convince such a being to allow them to attune to their anvil, something that requires a minor quest in the god's name, they can then forge souls themselves. Unlike gods, mortals can only create the unborn, be it an embryo, egg, seed or similar young creature. The resulting creature will have the desired alignment, one of their ability scores will have a +2 bonus (maximum 20) and their appearance can be generally defined. Each soul created requires a separate attunement and it is unlikely the gods will be willing to give up their tools for very long.

Key Coins are actually medallions that exist to make their creators very wealthy. Each allows access to one or more demiplanes that act as enhanced treasure vaults. Unlike those spaces created or used by the Demiplane spell, these have an interior of 20 acres and ceilings 50' high. Any object grasped by the coin bearer will be taken to the demiplane as long as it will fit. This can be done repeatedly until the space is filled. Removing the objects takes more effort as they have to be lifted and dragged out the door. Each attunement slot allows access to a different demiplane. Those who wish to use a Key Coin must find its creator and pay at least 25,000 gold pieces in cash, magic items or actions. Some characters will desire much more as the demiplanes already have valuables within them.

Silver Streak is a wolf's skull with silver inlay. It can be used after an attunement ritual that requires a dozen live, unrestrained and awake dire wolves (who then go free and flee the character). The first power allows the bearer to use the skull as a light hammer. If thrown, it returns to its wielder at the end of the round. It also does an additional 1d6 points of cold damage, but only when thrown. The names comes from the fact that the skull makes a silver blur in midair when thrown.

The Twig of the World Tree is a staff that was taken from Yggdrasil and allows its bearer a trio of powers, each that needs to be attuned separately. The first requires a trip into the roots of the world tree and allows using Planar Binding against the root gnawing dragons found among them. The second allows the staff bearer to use Conjure Fey to gain the assistance of einherjar and requires a visit to the tree's crown. The third power allows the bearer to use Plane Shift to reach any of the planes found within the world tree's branches. Attunement for this power can be done anywhere on the tree itself (rather than the planes it holds). All the powers can be used once and then refresh with a long rest.

Silver Stone is a mountain pass several miles long that has two fortresses at either end up on the mountainsides. Attunement allows a character to move as if they had a permanent Spider Climb cast upon them while in the pass or on any of the mountains of the range. All of the forces of both fortresses have this power and it allows them to attack from above. They do not divest how the ceremony is performed and one must visit an earth spirit at the peak of the northern mountain and prove their worth to it to learn the secret. To do this, the character must show he is an ally of the kingdom that rules Silver Stone and has its best interests at heart. If they are successful, attunement requires a pound of foreign silver to be placed on the ground at the center of the pass, where it will melt and become part of the mountains. Unlike many location attunements, this power does not require reattunement if the slot is not used and the character returns to the mountains.

Graveheart is the site of an ancient cemetery, one that held the bodies of some of the greatest necromancers in history. Many wizards go there to learn its secrets and clerics and paladins to destroy the undead drawn to its dark powers. This is made more difficult as many of the intelligent undead attune to it, making them more difficult to turn. They receive advantage to their Wisdom saving throw versus turning. The process is simple for them as all they need do is eat the heart of a zombie that was created here and they are a great many wandering about. Wizards of any tradition who attune to Graveheart gain +2 to their Constitution scores, maximum 22, and the ability to cast Speak with Dead three times without expending a slot. This refreshed with a long rest. To attune to these powers of darkness, the wizards must find a wraith or lich to discover the details of ceremony. It involves casting Animate Dead to create a dozen zombies made with corpses brought in from elsewhere. Eleven are to be set free and allowed to wander unmolested. The twelfth is used as the material component for the attunement ceremony and is destroyed, forming a specter. If the wizard leaves Graveheart, they lose both the Constitution bonus and Speak with Dead power and must reattune if they return.

Red Coral Isle is found in tropical waters and is a vacation site for the very wealthy from several worlds and planes. The rulers insist on attunement as this prevents most visitors from becoming violent. The ceremony is simple and requires a 10,000 gold piece diamond that is consumed. The character gains the Magic Initiate feat with the spells Mage Hand, Minor Illusion and Comprehend Languages. He also gains a form of empathic feedback where any harm he willingly inflicts upon another he suffers twofold (i.e. he takes double the damage he causes). Both effects require a single attunement slot. People who attune to the isle are obvious to each other and anyone caught that has not will be subjected to Feeblemind until they fail their saving throw, or escape, and will be banished forever.

Krieth Hill is a giant ant mound that was blessed by nature spirits. The average worker has an Intelligence score of 8 and the drones and queen have a score of 4. The ants are known to be effective earthmovers and are hired to do such work as ditch digging, redirecting rivers and wall building. The druids and ancient oath paladins who visit the hill can attune themselves to it. The ceremony requires feeding and caring for the queen for a week and a day and a sacrifice of a bull to the workers. Those who do this gain darkvision to 60’, an inability to become lost within the mound and can cast a version of Commune with Nature spell that has a range of 100 miles without expending a slot. The ability to cast the spell works once and refreshes with a long rest. Unlike most location attunements, this power does not require another ceremony if the slot is left unused and the character returns to the hill.

The Twilight Lands are the realms of the fey lords. Long ago they discovered a way of reducing the impact on intruders by forcing them to use their attunement slots. Anyone visit can perform three short ceremonies, each taking a short rest, and gain wondrous abilities. The first allows the character to wild shape into a songbird at will. The fey lords decreed that anyone found in such a shape shall not be injured or captured unless they are known fugitives or found in forbidden locations. The second allows the character to cast Protection from Energy without expending a slot. This refreshes with a short rest. Some of the Twilight Lands are hazardous to mortals and this ability allows them to visit such places. The third allows the character to cast Haste once and Slow once without expending a slot. These refresh with a long rest. These spells have no effect on fey of any sort and allow the character to change their experience of time to allow them to properly interact with fey that are faster or slower than mortals. Visitors to the Twilight Lands do not have to attune all three powers, but those who do not are marked as potential troublemakers and watched.

Cobbleweb is the last remnants of a capital city that fell in the recent past. The buildings evaporated under a magical assault, leaving the cobblestone roads behind. What people don’t know is the magic inherent to the place interacted with the invaders’ and the result is a nexus of energy. If a druid, sorcerer or wizard studies the place, they can find runes within runes in the web of roads that will reveal how to attune to the nexus. Doing so requires the blood of both the race that dwelled or ruled here and the race that destroyed the city, ten potions of healing and an effigy of the web one foot in diameter that costs at least 50 gold pieces. The result is one additional slot of the second highest and third highest levels of spells the caster has access to. As he increases in power, so do the slots. Of course they fade away when the character leaves Cobbleweb and reattuning is required to get it back if he returns.

The Great Fountain at Salat is one of the smallest mystical locations known. The fountain is connected to the plane of water and marids use it as a portal. If a character was to beseech the genies and the ruler of Salat, they may be allowed to attempt to attune to the fountain’s power. Unlike other mystical locations, the ceremony is fraught with danger. It requires the character to touch their soul to the power and if done incorrectly, this is lethal. This is represented by an Intelligence saving throw versus a difficulty check of 24. Failure results in the character permanently transforming into a water weird. Only divine intervention can reverse this. Success gives the character power over the world’s weather for as long as he remains conscious. Once the character leaves the fountain or drops from exhaustion, the attunement ends and the character must go through the process of asking permission once more if they still desire such power.

The White Bubbles of Kumulus are found in the greatest cloud giant city, floating many miles above the ground. Each bubble is 100 feet in diameter and reflects visions of strange places known to any sage. The giants are not pleased with visitors and they need to be bribed with eggs of rocs, magic items and many silver coins, at least 10,000 per intruder. The attunement ceremony is easy and requires little effort or time, though the class of the character matters. Martial classes, those with no spell casting capability of any sort, see reality as it is and can cast True Seeing and Zone of Truth on their own memories. Bards, eldritch knights, arcane tricksters, sorcerers, warlocks and wizards of any sort see a vision of reality that adds one spell of the player’s choice to the character’s mind. This will increase spells known for spontaneous casters and allows wizards to add the spell to their spell book. Which spells are selected by the GM. Clerics, druids, paladins and rangers gain a vision from the divine or philosophical source of their magic that gives them two additional slots of the second highest spell level they have access to. Elemental monks also receive a vision, one from the origins of their power. They can add another elemental discipline spell of their choice. Unlike most mystical sites, these powers are permanent. Martial characters can always look to their memories and see what is real and spell casters have those additional spells, slots or disciplines for the rest of their lives.

The Golden City of Ripple is a flat disc only four inches in diameter and yet has a population of millions of many races. It is known as a place of chaos where all magic used; be it spell, racial trait, or item; may result in a wild surge (1 on a 1d20). Those who find it (it is quite small and easy to lose in one’s pockets) have two attunement options, though one is required to gain access to the other. The first ceremony involves the destruction of a giant’s eye and results in the character being miniaturized and teleported to the city center. The second must be done within the dungeons of Ripple, a thoroughly hazardous place where monsters abound and wild surges happen to all spell cast. Those who survive and attune here gain control over wild sorcery while in the city. They can not prevent wild surges from happening, but can select the result for themselves and anyone else in their line of sight. If two or more characters attempt this on the same surge, the highest result for an Intelligence check wins with ties going to the higher leveled character. If the GM is willing, such control can also allow for new results that are not found on the wild sorcery table.

Lights and Sounds is a party house known for its exuberant displays of raw emotion. Though it is fun on its own, the building can be attuned to as to increase emotional responses. This costs a good bottle of booze (to the house) and 100 gp worth of burning incense during the ceremony per person wishing to join the fun. Those who are attuned sense the emotions of others and if there are enough people in the same emotional state, join them if they fail a Wisdom saving throw with a difficulty class of 12. Only a few times has this resulted in a riot. The downside to attuning is the massive hangover. It lasts for a week and during that time, an affected character suffers disadvantage to his Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma saving throws and skill checks. Lesser Restoration ends this effect.

The Green Cauldron is a jungle with few humanoid inhabitants. Long ago the local nature spirits were enraged by some action on the part of a humanoid tribe and the reaction was horrific. Now a lethal disease strikes all humanoids that dare enter unless they make a Constitution saving throw with a difficulty class of 14 once per day. Strangely one can still attune to the forest and doing so allows the character to avoid the plague by wild shaping into a tapir (boar) or jaguar (panther). The ceremony takes an hour and requires the skin of one of the animals from the Cauldron. Those who take the animal forms are immune to the disease and it vanishes from their system if they do have it. The character will remain in that form up to three weeks (i.e. it does not end when he falls asleep). He will then have to go through the attunement process again to regain the animal form, using a new hide. The Cauldron is more popular than one might think because the astounding flora and fauna found within it are a source of alchemical reagents that allow for substances that can be created in no other way.

Worlds with Worlds is an observatory that allows users to peer into other planes. Those who are not attuned can make simple observations at specific locations they select when activating the apparatus. This costs 500 gp per hour in the form of fuel for the apparatus and payment for the staff. Attuning costs 10,000 gp as payment to the managers and an ounce of starmetal for the ceremony. Those who undergo this can give new insights into the politics and disasters going on in the planes they study, thus allowing the characters to potentially act upon such information. A couple centuries ago this allow mortals to ready themselves to repel an invasion from the pit when one demonic warlord routed the forces of another right to the material plane.

The Hall of Heroes was abandoned several centuries ago and only recently has it been explored by adventurers. The Hall is a small part of a larger dungeon complex that was an adventurers’ guild. Unfortunately all the written works in the Hall that explained what it is and how it works have long since rotted away. If one were to contact the spirits of those who lived and worked here, usually by traveling to the afterlife, they can discover the existence of the Hall’s armory. That one room is empty of anything but dust to those who have not attuned to it. Those of good alignment who perform the ceremony, which is a simple mantra repeated over and over, will see dozens of suits of magical armor and scores of weapons. They can touch such gear and take it from the Hall, but there is a downside. If the equipment is not returned within a year, it automatically teleports back along with all the permanent magic items the character owns. This enchantment was to ensure those who fell in battle or turned evil would not be able to use the arms and armor for long as well as provide more material for the fight against darkness. The character’s magic items are then considered part of the armory’s gear forever more.

The Valiant is one of the few mobile mystical locations. It is a large sea vessel of whatever type the GM determines. It is so large that it contains its own inner complex of rooms, sort of a dungeon with walls of wood rather than stone. Those rooms have their own monster population, one that stays below decks because of the magic of the ship. It is a mixture of sea monsters as the creatures can phase through the bottom of the vessel to come and go as they please, but only below the waves. If a character were to enter the dungeon and either defend himself from the monsters or pay them off with a preponderance of jewels, he can perform an attuning ceremony that takes an hour and requires the consumption of 50,000 gp worth of pearls. The result is the ability to either raise land and form an island or peninsula or sink land and enlarge the sea. In either case, the area can be no more than ten square miles per attunement and the range for the effect is ½ mile. The character must concentrate for one hour per square mile. If disrupted before he is finished, the character gains 1d4 levels of exhaustion and must reattune to finish after resting (i.e. ending all exhaustion effects). When the character is done with whatever changes he wants to make, then he does not become exhausted and can leave whenever he wants.

The Shattered Lands are a place of great violence constantly wracked by storms, earthquakes and meteor strikes. There is little soil left and fewer creatures. Only incorporeal undead can be found in any numbers. Surviving long enough to attune to such a place is difficult even with magic items and powerful spells, but those who do can tap into the destructive forces and do the almost impossible- break artifacts. Attunement takes a day and five magic items made of metal must be destroyed in the process. Once that is done, the character can then destroy the artifact with his bare hands. That action will start a cataclysm that will transform the bare rock into a form of quicksand that will drown anyone and thing alive in the Shattered Lands who do not escape quickly (within 3d6 minutes). The cataclysm lasts for 2d4 months and then the lands turn back into a place of lesser violence and solid landscape.

Sal’s Fishing Pond is more a small lake, about fifty acres in size. Sal is a fey lady who host fishing tournaments for her fellows every few years. Mortals can enter, but the cost is high (10,000 gp worth of magic items) and the prize is bragging rights in fey circles. If Sal’s mortal workers are bribed, usually with fine mortal food and drink, they may reveal that the lake holds a secret. Those who attune to it may catch enchanted fish. May being the optimal word as doing so requires success on a Survival skill check with a difficulty class of 25 per fish and only one can be caught every hour. Attuning takes a short rest and 500 gp worth of star sapphires dropped into the pond. Enchanted fish may be cooked and eaten, providing the benefits of a potion selected by the GM. Each fish has some physical feature that hints at what power it holds.

The Ice Well is a small lake from which all the cold weather in the world emerges. A nexus of ley lines, it is surprisingly fragile when it comes to interactions with other forms of magic. Attunement requires the sacrifice of a living adult remorhaz. The result is the ability to survive extreme cold for a month. This works even if the character leaves the Well. If someone who is attuned and at the lake and then casts any spell of level 7 or higher, the Well is disrupted. Cold based spells and effects the world over stop functioning for 3d4 months. After that the Well reforms and starts to chill the world once again.

A dragon’s nostril is literal. Any dragon will do, though most are not large enough for a human sized spell caster to enter and be able to move enough for most actions, much less the attunement ceremony. Those who do fit and are willing to enrage a dragon if they are caught can tap the great beast’s power. The attunement ceremony is quick, only a short rest long, and gives the caster the ability to create one common, uncommon or rare magic item that fits within the dragon’s habitat or energy theme. For example, a red dragon could be used to make a wand of fireball. The crafting process takes four hours and there is no raw materials needed- the item is created from nothing. Dragons try to kill those who spread the knowledge of this ceremony through print or verbal discourse in a public location as they really, really hate waking up and finding a sorcerer stuck in their nose.

Comments are appreciated!