This entry seems to be about the Black Knight, it’s really all about his sword. He can do about 100 points of damage a round (though I’m sure that professional power-builders could make him do more), and that’s great. The sword, though. That’s cool.
Dane Whitman, the Black Knight, is the direct descendent of the first Black Knight, Sir Percy of Scandia, a knight in King Arthur’s court. Whitman is an expert swordsman, and an otherwise typical Champion Fighter. The most interesting thing about the Black Knight is the blade he wields: the Ebony Blade.
Crafted by Merlin from a rock that fell to Earth, the Ebony Blade is a powerful weapon, in the right hands. In any hands, however, it is deadly.
The Ebony Blade is a longsword that can deal either 1d8 slashing damage or 1d6 bludgeoning damage. The longsword only has the versatile property when it is used to deal slashing damage. The sword returns to wielder’s hand as long as the blade and the wielder are on the same plane. Blood Curse: When the Ebony deals slashing damage, its wielder must succeed at a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed saving throw, you must use your action to attack, and may not end combat as long as there are living creatures within sight. Each time you use the blade to slay a living creature, you may make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw to end the blood curse until the next time the blade deals slashing damage. If you are reduced to 0 hit points, the curse ends as though you had made a successful saving throw. Direct descendants of Sir Percy of Scandia have advantage on Wisdom saving throws imposed by the Blood Curse. In addition, the wielder refuses to use another weapon as long as they are attuned to the blade.
When the blade’s wielder reaches 3rd level, the blade takes a strong interest in preserving their life. You automatically stabilize if you have 0 hit points at the start of your turn. Blood Curse: The Wisdom saving throw against the Blood Curse is made with disadvantage as long as you have fewer than your maximum hit points.
The Ebony Blade becomes ever more deadly, over time. When the wielder reaches 6th level, the blade grants its wielder a +2 bonus to attack and damage, but only when used to deal slashing damage. Blood Curse: If the blade’s wielder fails the Wisdom saving throw imposed by the Blood Curse by 10 or more, they may not make any more Wisdom saving throws against it, and the curse can only end if the wielder is reduced to 0 hit points.
When its wielder reaches 9th level, the sword becomes particularly dangerous to inanimate objects: slashing attacks made against inanimate objects have advantage and the wielder rolls an additional die of weapon damage if they hit. Blood Curse: The blade’s wielder can choose to treat a failed Wisdom saving throw against the blade’s effects as a success. If the wielder uses this ability, they must succeed at an immediate DC 20 Constitution saving throw or be petrified for 24 hours. The wielder cannot use this ability again until they finish a long rest.
At 12th level, the blade’s mysterious anti-magical effects begin to manifest. You use your reaction to gain advantage a saving throw against a magical spell or effect targeting you directly. In addition, the blade can be used to attack permanent abjuration spells, or abjuration spells being concentrated on, as though they were inanimate objects with an armor class of the caster’s level and hit points equal to their spell level. Blood Curse: The sword haunts your dreams. If you have not used the sword to kill a creature, the next to you take a long rest you must succeed at a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or gain one level of fatigue.
When you reach 16th level, the blade gains the ability to absorb energy directed at you. You can use you reaction to gain immunity to one type of energy damage until the end of your next turn. If you use this ability, you can not use it again until you finish a short or long rest. Blood Curse: If you fail any Wisdom or Constitution saving throw against the Blood Curse, the Ebony Blade briefly takes control of your body. While under the blade’s influence, you attack the next creature you see. If you have multiple creatures in sight, you will always choose to attack the one that you care about, most. The blade’s control lasts until you are at 0 hit points, the creature you attack is dead, or you are disarmed.
Hacking the Ebony Blade
The Ebony Blade was a lot of fun to build. It’s a powerful weapon, but comes with a terrible price. In 5e, for the most part, weapons are either beneficial or they’re cursed, and this one is somewhere in the middle. The curse is really part of the balance: it’s actually a slightly over-powered weapon, but the drawback of attacking your friends (or turning to stone) should make up for that.
There are some differences between the Blade and my earlier legacy weapons. The Blade has an extra level of features (but this is, I think, balanced out by taking up two attunement slots), and the drawback is significant. In the comic, the blade can do all of these things, and the powers are balanced out by the needs of the story. In D&D, that balance doesn’t exist, so we have to find other ways. Attunement is one. The Blood Curse is another. The reaction is a third. I’ve read good arguments that the reaction is one of the key mechanics in 5e, and I think it makes sense to make the wielder choose which power is used in a given round.
I’m particularly fond of the “treat abjuration spells like inanimate objects” visual. In D&D, there is no way for a sword-wielder to “cut through” a circle of protection, but that image is pretty common in sword & sorcery stories. What do you think of that mechanic? Fun? Unbalanced?
I have a concern about the blade becoming more dangerous to the wielder as the wielder grows in power, which is a bit against the D&D grain. Usually, as characters get more powerful, they get easier at shrugging these effects off. I wanted the blade to be an exception to that, to mimic the ways in which the blade-as-plot-device works in the comics. The blade should be something characters are a little scared of, but can’t resist using (which is why they have the option of doing bludgeoning damage, but the blade is much more effective if they choose slashing).
What do you think? Is this a weapon you’d give your players? Is it too much trouble, or just trouble enough?