Magical Monday is one of a few weekly Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition columns I plan to write, as both a way to build a good posting habit as well as explore ideas for the new D&D. Every Monday — fingers crossed — I will be writinga short article for 5th Edition centered around magic — spells, items, locations, its impact on society, and so on — with game rules included for using those magical elements. As we are still months away from a full release of the game, early posts like this one will be utilizing rules found in the Starter Set and the free Basic Rules PDF. With each major release (Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide) the scope of these articles will expand. Enjoy, and thanks for reading! Also, come back in a couple days for the first installment of Wicked Wednesday, my weekly installment of tricks, traps, monsters and other methods with which to torment player characters!
Magical fountains are a mainstay of what is now considered Old School gaming. The original Dungeons and Dragons game modules and imitators included all kinds of weird magical fountains into the underground labyrinths and lost cities. Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition is designed at least in part to embrace all modes of D&D play, including that old school vibe. Therefore, iconic magical fountains seems like a perfect place to start for Magical Mondays.
What is a Fantastic Fountain? At their most basic, fantastic fountains are actual fountains, including a basin and some sort of spout from which liquid flows. They are found in any adventure locale, sometimes integrated into the architecture (perhaps in the central square of a long abandoned and overgrown city of antiquity) and sometimes completely out of place (a beautiful marble cherub and pool in the depths of an underground, monster filled maze). No matter the form or the location, a fantastic fountain possesses strange and wondrous (and sometimes dangerous) qualities. The fluid that flows from its spout is no longer simple water — though it may appear innocuous enough — but is instead a powerful potion or strange brew from another world. In some cases, fantastic fountains were enchanted upon their original creation, blessed with powers for the benefit of any and all who could drink from their waters. But far more often, the fountains gained its power by accident — perhaps a great hero bathed in its waters upon her death and her blood empowered the cool water, or perhaps the malevolence of a vile necromancer’s lair leached into the water over the length of an age. Some fountains are actually conduits between worlds, the liquid within actually essence from some far off dimension, while still others tap into the primal magic of the world itself, the mystical waters representing the smallest drop of the true power of unfettered magic.
How to use a Fantastic Fountain. Because magical fountains are usually anchored to the adventure locations in which they are found, they generally do not count as “treasure.” Instead, they are just another weird element with which the player characters must contend, perhaps beneficial and perhaps treacherous. (It is possible, of course, for PCs to gain permanent use of a Fantastic Fountain if they take ownership of the site in which it is located, but that is beyond the scope of this article.) The characters will encounter the fountain, either use it or avoid it, and then move on, but may return. The more beneficial the fountain, the more likely the characters will come back to it or even choose it as a base of operations; the mare dangerous, the more likely they are to avoid it. It is best, then, to couple both beneficial and dangerous qualities of the fountain in order to make the choice to return to it one of debate between players and consequence for characters. Placing a powerful healing fountain in an area heavily patrolled by enemies not easily eliminated is one strategy. Another element to consider is how much use an individual fountain can provide. Some fountains are essentially limitless, their waters unending. Other fountains may have but a single use: only the first one to sip from it or throw a coin in and wish will gain the benefit or other effect. In these cases, clearly establishing that the fountain is fantastic with some general clues about its powers will help make the debate over not just whether to use it, but who gets to do so, much more lively. Between these two extremes are fountains with some limited number of uses, which may be known or unknown to the characters, that may or may not recharge after a period of time. It is generally a good idea to limit the more powerful fountains, but this is not a requirement, especially if the effects are temporary in nature.
Two Fantastic Fountains: Following are two examples of fantastic fountains for use in 5th Edition D&D games.
Spring of Renewal: Located deep in rugged hills infested with orcs, ogers and worse, the Spring of Renewal is a fountain created by a good and just deed. For centuries this wilderness has been a place where newly knighted paladins have come to test their mettle and fight the forces of darkness. Many earned their first battle scars here, while many more perished unequal to the challenge of their vows. Among those lost was a knight called Lady Morn, who abandoned her husband and children to become a questing knight after a righteous vision. She killed many beasts and fell warriors in the wilderness, but one day heard the cries of a traveler waylaid by orcs. She ran to the rescue, but the orcs were many and she barely overcame them and even then after the one she was trying to save had already fallen. When the battle was over Lady Morn saw that the victim of the orc attack was her husband, who had followed her to the wilderness to beseech her return to their family home. Lady Morn carried his corpse to a gently flowing spring and washed the blood and dirt from his body. She built a cairn over the spring and interred him there. That night, she wept for him and prayed to the powers she had chosen over her family to return him to life. At dawn, Lady Morn’s husband woke to find his wife a statue overlooking the bowl shaped cairn she had built for his grave. He returned home to raise their children and the tale of her sacrifice and the Spring of Renewal spread. Any character that comes and bathes at the Spring of Renewal (this takes approximately 1 hour) is affected as if having drunk a Potion of Vitality. An individual character can only gain the benefit of the Spring once per day but there is no limit to the number of uses total per day the Spring has. Only up to four individuals can bathe in the Spring at a time. The Spring of Renewal can be located in any wilderness adventure area and a DC 15 Intelligence(Religion) check reveals its history and powers.
Font of Shadows: In eons past, when slithering things ruled and their foul gods crawled the earth, shadows cloaked the world. It was an age of darkness and cold and few good things walked in the twilight. Eventually, a spark broke through the gloom and a long war between umbral power and luminescence took place. In the end the slithering masters were destroyed and their gods burrowed deep to escape the light, going into hibernation far below light of the sun. But even as they were forgotten and the younger races grew to power in the light, they slumbered and did not perish. When those races learned that the deep earth held treasure — gold and jewels for the taking with just a few lashes of the whip — they began to dig. Inevitably, in their greed, they dug too deep and they followed their veins of ore into the very bodies of those sleeping elder gods.Most perished. Some were consumed. But one resisted the horror just enough to feed upon its power. Already a wicked taskmaster, the one known as the Night’s Gaoler converted the mine into a cathedral dedicated to evil and darkness. The shadow power that seeped from the dead god’s wound transformed slaves into twisted minions and the Night Gaoler emerged on moonless nights to capture victims for foul rights and prisoners to torment. Over the place where the elder god bled gloom, he built the Font of Shadows, distilling the darkness into a black, viscous liquid. One drop would turn any mortal into a thing of night under the Night Gaoler’s command. Eventually, the depredations of the Night Gaoler reached the ears of the good and valiant. War between light and dark waged again, if in miniature, and once again light prevailed. They forces of light sealed the dark place and destroyed all knowledge of its existence — or so they thought. The Night Gaoler had built many exits and some still stood open so that the degenerate spawn of his slave things could yet hunt the dark of moonless nights centuries later. The Font of Shadows is located in any deep dungeon populated by horrors from beneath the earth. It appears as a twisted obelisk with a basin full of black liquid at the base. Anyone who tastes the liquid must make a DC 18 Con saving throw or die instantly. If the taster succeeds, she must make a DC 19 Int save. If she fails, she falls into a coma for 3 days before rising as a Nothic. If during that time the victim is brought into the full light of the sun, she is granted a second second DC 18 Int save. Failure this time grants a merciful death while success cures the condition. Success on the original DC 18 Int save grants permanent dark vision (double the range of the darkvision if the imbiber already possesses the ability).