Monday, 5 April 2021

Bard Stones

 Welcome back to the Vault! I've been spending some hobby time painting base colours onto another Death Guard unit and I'm pretty sure you don't want to see *more* pictures of half finished 40k models, so today's post is something different.

My friend Chris has been posting some articles about various properties associated with different gemstones. I've been on a bit of a D&D campaign planning kick recently and the articles got me thinking about incorporating some of this information into D&D.

Gemstones have long established associations with magic in table top RPGs:

  • As expensive components (e.g. diamonds and pearls) for powerful spells in D&D
  • To power and store magic (Power Crystals and True Stone) in Runequest
These gemstones are rare and/or expensive (no doubt because of such uses!) and I'd like to explore something more "every day" that makes use of more accessible stones and crystals. By making the material more common place it helps build flavour into a campaign setting, but also gives those boring "semi-precious stones" worth X gold which turn up in loot piles much more interest. So let's get cracking!
Here are the core principles:
  • Bards gain access to an ability to store Inspiration dice in gemstones (we'll call such gems Bard Stones)
  • Each gemstone has a number of associated properties or keywords
  • When an in-game situation requires someone carrying a Bard Stone to make a dice roll, and that situation is related to one of the stone's properties, then the bearer can use a reaction to spend the stored Inspiration dice to modify the dice roll.
So lets dig into each of these in turn. First up is creating a Bard Stone which is achieved via a new spell:

Stone Singing
2nd level Enchantment

Casting Time: 1 minute
Range: Touch
Components: V,S
Duration: Instantaneous

You sing ancient words of power into a piece of gemstone held in your hands. The gem glows as it captures some of your Inspiration (costing one of your uses of Bardic Inspiration, which is recharged as per usual), becoming a Bard Stone.  A Bard Stone may be used by the spell caster or given to another individual.
  • A Bard Stone will have a number of associated descriptors or key words determined by the type of gemstone. When a situation arises and the bearer of a Bard Stone is required to make a dice roll, if situation relates to one of the stone's key words, then the bearer can use a reaction to spend the stored Inspiration dice to modify the dice roll. At this point, the gem is no longer treated as a Bard Stone.
  • A Bard may create a number of Bard Stones up to his Proficiency Modifier. 
(The usage of spell slots and capping the number of Bard Stones a character can create is a deliberate means to stop this ability from being overly spammed!)

Next up is to provide some examples of stone/crystal types and some descriptions. This is by no means exhaustive and there are plenty more gemstones/crystals to add. It would even be possible to add world-specific/fantasy examples.

Snowflake Obsidian
Helps to bring peace and inner calm. Aids in recognising patterns of behaviour.

Bloodstone is a healing stone that increases physical strength and promotes courage.
It is helpful in business and legal matters.
Bloodstone has been found to increase the effectiveness of spells. 
Can be used for invisibility (in the form of not attracting attention to yourself).
Soothes the mind, removes toxins from blood, combats physical trauma.
Removes emotional blockages. A talisman for warding off all accidents and disease.

Promotes creativity.
Especially good as a healing stone, particularly emotional pain, it stimulates balance, love, prosperity and truth.
It also enhances tranquillity and peace.

I like that these descriptions are open to interpretation; there should be an opportunity for both players and DMs to agree when use of a Bard Stone is appropriate and build it into the narrative accordingly.

How would these work in play? Here's an example:

Let's say Bob the Bard is travelling through the harsh Borderlands. His horse is startled by the howls of wolves in the night and Bob needs to settle him down; he uses his Snowflake Obsidian to add an Inspiration dice to his Animal Handling roll to calm his mount.

Later in his travels he spots bandits on the road; he uses his Bloodstone to add an Inspiration dice to his Stealth check to try to bypass them without notice. Alas he is spotted and so approaches the bandits to negotiate with them. He uses his Aventurine to add an Inspiration dice to his Persuasion check to allow him to pass without interference!

I think there's definitely the bones of something to work with here. I'll do a part two at some point to expand the list of Gemstone descriptions. Let me know what you think in the comments below.


  1. 'Gemstones have long established associations with magic in table top RPGs' I love this! They've been used magically, one way or another, since time began. Early man strung stones together as jewellery and they gained worth in society. Crystals were traded, exchanged, even ground down for use in medicines! I think using their various properties in D & D works really well I shall follow this with great interest

    1. Thanks for the comment Chris. I'll do a part 2 in due course!