As a DM, at some point, in one of your campaigns, you’re going to want to make a custom magic item. Most recently for me, I had the chance to work on a custom item for my daughter as part of our Sunday family and friends campaign. She is playing an Aarakocra cleric of light named Xander, who lost his ability to fly while a Drow slave. However, his faith kept the light alive – both literally and figuratively. While originally designing his concept, she had come across a homebrew magic item, and she hoped we could eventually work it in to the game. I’m glad we were able to make that happen. I’m going to go through how I created that item and give you some insight into making custom magic items in Fantasy Grounds.
Magic Items in Fantasy Grounds
Natively, Fantasy Grounds doesn’t handle all of the infinite possibilities that can be dreamt up to put on magic items. Some things are possible, like the bonus +1 damage on a weapon, or a +2 AC on a piece of armor. You can even change the type of damage or other standard properties.
However, if you want it to be able to handle the effects of a spell, or something else you’ve imagined for your wondrous item, you’re going to have to take care of it yourself.
Luckily, Fantasy Grounds comes with a robust way to code effects for spells and powers. Once you start working with custom effects, you’ll want to make sure you check out the Fantasy Grounds Wiki and specifically the section on 5e Effects.
If you want to have the effects already coded for you, check out a product such as 5E Automatic Effects – Dungeon Master’s Guide. Besides the time savings granted by that module, you can also use it as a how-to reference for many of the effects are considering using, and then combining them in new and unique ways.
For example, here we can see the coding used by 5eAE to create the Longsword Frost Brand (above). We add the extra cold damage, grant fire resistance and grant light, utilizing Fantasy Ground Unity’s new lighting effects.
On Your Marks…
Here’s the item that Xander was hoping to acquire, and ultimately turn into his holy symbol:
As you can see, there are a fair number of things this item can do, many related to light. The timing of the new lighting effects being added in Fantasy Grounds Unity couldn’t have been more perfect!
To handle the effects that we want this item to have, we’re going to create a power which will be used as a “holding” container for all of our special abilities. Both spells and powers have the ability to use actions and it doesn’t really matter which you start with. Since the final product will be stored in the spells section (as a spell), I sometimes use the two terms interchangeably.
While you could simply build out your power effects directly on your ability tab and leave it there, there’s a couple of limitations with that approach. Abilities are stored as part of the character. While this is a perfectly fine approach for a quick item, if you want any kind of reusability (for other characters or games) you’re going to make to want it more permanent. I’ll also talk about the interaction with extensions a little bit later as well and you’ll want your powers to be saved so that they can take advantage of that permanence.
One thing that is important to note with the coding effects as part of a power/spell is that they do not show up when looking at the object itself. It has to be added to the action tab in order to see which effects have been granted.
Here you can see where we leave all of the spell sections blank – level, school, range, etc.
When looking at the final spell, even though all of the effects are currently attached to it, you cannot see any of them. What you are seeing here is simply the description of the spell, where I’ve put the item effects for a reference to the player. These 6 bulleted items are just flavor text and don’t actually do anything mechanically in the game. We need actions and effects tied to our power to do that.
…Get Set. Go!
To start, you need to create a new empty power by clicking on the green plus button. You will give it a name and (optionally) a group. You can always change this later when adding this back to your sheet, so don’t worry if you change your mind.
Next, you will right-click on the new power, and choose Add Action from the radial menu.
A second radial menu will appear, and you will choose Add Effect. Your other choices allow you to add heal, add cast, and add damage. Depending on the kind of item you are making, these actions may be appropriate as well. For us, we just want effects at this point.
Once you have an empty effect, you can click on the magnifying glass to bring up the details that you are going to change.
The section at the top (Description/Conditions/Modifiers) is the really critical piece. This is actual coding that accomplishes the effect you are trying to produce. It is very important that you get the syntax correct. The text you include here will be a unique combination depending on what you are trying to accomplish. The targeting (you or someone else) and how long the effect should last are also both properties of the effect and will be different for each item.
For this lantern, my code included the name of the effect (for identification in the combat tracker) as well as the details of the kind of light it was going to produce. I chose several different preset lighting effects such as flame and light since they accomplished my goal. All I had to do was adjust the distances, using the proper lighting syntax, to match the original effect. My daughter has discussed changing the color of the light and we could either accomplish that in the effect directly or by making our preset (but that’s a different article)
I repeated this process 6 times, adding each of the 6 different lighting effects.
Next, this magic lantern has an ability called scorch which makes an attack against the target. To create this ability, we will need to create both a cast action and a damage action. These are added by same radial entry that we used earlier. Once again, you can use the magnifying glass to bring of the details of both actions and customize them as appropriate for item. When creating a spell, the DC will be based on the spellcaster’s ability. For this item, it was a known fixed value and type as well as taking half damage on a success. We simply have to match the item’s magical properties to the values of our action details.
Modifying the damage action, we can set the amount and type of damage. In our case, 2d6 fire damage.
As you work through the creation of all of these actions, you’ll want to test them to make sure they do what your expect. Create yourself a test character and put into into the combat tracker with a test NPC. Put them both on map and work through all of your effects to check on their functionality. If they don’t work, check your syntax, refer to the wiki, ask questions on the forums and try again.
Saving the custom power/spell
As I mentioned previously, you could stop right here and have the effects you need for your custom item. I had bigger plans in mind, so I chose to save my work into my campaign. Before I moved on to this step, I was 100% sure that my actions worked exactly like I intended them to.
You do this by dragging your spell’s link back into the Spells category. I’ve collapsed each spell just to make the screenshot easier, but all the actions are still part of it. You’ll notice that I’ve chosen to drag in back into a group named _Plague. This is the name of my campaign, so it will be easy to find later – rather than have to sort through the unassigned category. The use of the underscore prefix is a little trick to make sure that it sorts to the top and easy for me to find later. Fantasy Grounds sorts non A-Z characters first.
When you want to use it somewhere else. Simply drag it back to your character sheet and change the group name as appropriate to how you organize your action sheet.
You can use this process if you want to make changes or fix problems with your effects as well. Add the power back to your character, work on your revisions and testing, and then copy it back to the spells section – repeating as many times as necessary.
Additional “Bonus” Magic
If you were looking closely, you may have seen that I have broken the abilities of this item into 2 separate spells instead of having all of the actions on one spell and might be wondering why.
Let me show you what the potential problems and how I’ve chosen to deal with them.
I’ve been trying to find the best way to accommodate the charges of scorch. Typically, one would handle charges by treating them as “prepared uses”. If I had created all of the effects actions on a single spell, once I used all of the charges I would no longer have access to the “non-charge” effects – the light. So by splitting these up, I can handle them each independently.
Equipped Effects will match the item name with an associated power/spell and automatically load it. This is awesome when you have everything in one power/ability.
Here you can see that if I had left the spell with the name matching the item, when I equipped the item the spell would be automatically loaded. Although this is normally what I want, and how I handle most of my other items, on this particular item the splitting of the item effects into two spells prevents that.
This is where Kit’N’Kaboodle comes in. This extension will allow me to added custom powers to an item as well as handling the charges by adding an “action” tab to items.
As I work through the way I wanted this item to work, I was considering putting the scorch power onto the item directly and then have it be available when Equipped Effects did its magic.
Here you can see where I’ve added both of the powers directly to a different version of my item. It still suffers from the same issue of the “shared” number of charges that forced me to split the effects in the first place. So while I could use this version with Equipped Effects (by removing the “KNK Version” suffix so the names would match and have a more automated item, it didn’t meet my needs because of what I was trying to accomplish. It could absolutely work for you though!
Ultimately, this is still a work in progress for me as I try to tweak it to work within the limitations of Fantasy Grounds and with the added benefit of extensions.
For me, I chose to use a bit of a hybrid. I use Kit’N’Kaboodle to handle the scorch portion and charges, in combination with Equipped Effects. Then I put the light portion directly on the sheet. I’m still settling on the best solution for my campaign and I’m sure you’ll find a combination that works for you.