5E D&D Magic Item Deep Dive — Stone of Good Luck
The stone of good luck, or luckstone, has been a staple good, yet persistently underrated, Dungeons & Dragons magic item since some of the earliest editions of the game. It retains this status in 5E D&D, as an (un)common item virtually any player would say is good, but which nonetheless gets overlooked compared to other items. In my experience, for the cost of one attunement slot, there are few items out there — even of higher rarity — that greatly surpass the luckstone for a wide variety of characters, though any given class or race has some specific items that beat it out.
5E D&D luckstone :
Great D&D magic item or greatest D&D magic item?
For the uninitiated, we find on page 205 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide the luckstone is an uncommon item that grants a +1 bonus to ability checks and saving throws. Most players will recognize the value of the saving throws right away. Improving saving throws is worthwhile for anyone. Full stop. And in 5E D&D, with bounded accuracy being a feature of the game where fewer items grant saving throw bonuses (and the bonuses they grant are smaller than in previous editions) even a +1 bonus is nothing to sneeze at. This is the major selling point of the luckstone, but I think the other benefit — the bonus to ability checks — is often overlooked and can be of great value to almost any class.
For starters it’s important to realize this bonus to ability checks applies to all ability checks, not just skill checks. This means, among other things, it applies to initiative rolls, since initiative is an Dexterity check. Another thing this means for players is it applies to all sorts of ability checks that are called for in combat and adventuring.
Maybe monsters have attacks that automatically impose the grappled (and sometimes restrained) conditions on a target that is hit. This applies, for instance, to a giant octopus’s tentacle attack. Once hit, a victim must succeed in an ability check to escape, generally either using Dexterity (Acrobatics) or Strength (Athletics). A luckstone would help with this ability check, while items that offer only saving throw bonuses would not. This means a character can make use of this offensively as well, if the character is the one initiating a grapple or attempting to shove an opponent. In that case, the luckstone would help. What’s more, while there are myriad ways to get advantage on an ability check (the Help action being a common way), there are few ways to get a flat bonus that applies on top of advantage and ability modifiers. Spells such as the guidance cantrip do that, but getting a bonus is rare compared to getting advantage.
Another generic advantage the luckstone offers is it does not specify it needs to be worn anywhere. A character may create a wrist bangle for it, string it on a necklace, keep it in a pocket, set it into the pommel of a sword… or even swallow it! It’s entirely up to the player where the luckstone ends up being carried. What this means is the luckstone need not ever get in the way of another item by occupying a specific spot on a character’s body, making it yet another favorable aspect of its versatility.
To go into greater detail about the advantages of a luckstone, I’ll look at it on a class-by-class basis in the order the classes are presented in the Player’s Handbook.
Barbarians are pretty straightforward in terms of their role in a party, especially when it comes to combat. With the damage resistances they get from their Rage feature, and how they are often using their Reckless Attack feature in conjunction with this, they are not served as much by improvements to Armor Class as other classes are. They benefit more from hit points and healing. As such, if the choice is between attuning to a luckstone or to something that grants a better Armor Class, the luckstone will often be the better choice. When you’re a barbarian, you’re kind of expecting to get hit, but the hope is you’re hitting the bad guys a lot harder than they’re hitting you, and someone in the party will be available to heal you.
Another benefit barbarians get when fighting in a rage is advantage to Strength checks. This is potent for controlling the battlefield and enemy mobility by way of grappling and shoving, and throwing in the +1 bonus from the luckstone in addition to proficiency in Athletics can really put you over the top. This extends to initiative rolls for higher level barbarians who acquire the Feral Instinct class feature, and for those who choose the Path of the Totem Warrior all three of the Aspect of the Beast features involve ability checks.
Without getting into spells (we’ll investigate that later in the wizards section), we can see right away the luckstone is a major help to bards by how it intersects with all of their skill-based abilities. Bards first get the Jack of All Trades feature, which adds half of the character’s proficiency bonus to all ability checks that don’t already include a proficiency bonus. The luckstone enhances this further, potentially making them legitimately competent in a good many skills. Bards then get Expertise, which when combined with high ability scores and the luckstone can push (and perhaps even break through) the upper limits of bounded accuracy.
Bards of the College of Lore get more skill proficiencies as a feature, and then get the Peerless Skill feature at higher level. This, combined with expertise and a luckstone means the bard can very easily handle checks of medium and hard difficulty (see PHB page 174), and can start to reliably handle very hard and nearly impossible tasks. They go from being the “jack of all trades, master of none” to being the “jack of all trades, master of some.” [NERDITOR’S NOTE: Either of these is, of course, ofttimes better than master of one.]
Clerics are in the position, perhaps more than any other class, of having a signature skill tied to an ability that is not their primary ability. I’m talking about Intelligence (Religion). For all those clerics tired of getting shown up by the party wizard in religion checks, the luckstone could be just enough to tip the scales in your favor. Another area where a cleric skill can be crucial is the Medicine skill. In high fantasy settings where magic is plentiful and characters are powerful, a Medicine check may hardly ever get used, but in low-magic games, especially at low levels, a successful Medicine check can be the difference between life and death. A luckstone is just the sort of eccentric magic item that could appear in such a game, too.
In looking at specific domains, the luckstone obviously pairs well with the Knowledge Domain, since it works to enhance both the Blessings of Knowledge and Knowledge of the Ages features. To a lesser extent, a luckstone can also benefit the bonus skill proficiency granted by the Nature Domain.
Cleric is a class where some of its most effective spells in combat, such as bless or spirit guardians, often require the character to make a bunch of concentration saving throws to avoid having the spells spoiled. I doubt there is any bigger target on a battlefield than a cleric wading into the proximity of enemies with a spirit guardians spell in place, so I’m sure the +1 to saving throws is greatly appreciated in those moments.
Druids are in a similar position to clerics with regard to one of their signature skills. Intelligence (Nature) is tied to an ability other than their primary ability, so they immediately gain the same benefit of achieving slightly more competence in their signature skill so as not to be overshadowed by intelligence-oriented characters who aren’t even proficient in it. That said, the obvious biggest advantage of the luckstone to a druid is it does not have to be worn anywhere in particular, meaning there is a good chance it can be used when the character makes use of the Wild Shape feature.
A character could wear it on a long leather strap, or stick it around their ankle on a band, or perhaps place it in a small neck pouch. If the druid has sized things appropriately, whatever the luckstone is attached to or held in may be able to be worn in the druid’s new shape. A neck pouch that is loose on a humanoid druid may fit just right on a tiger or bear. A wristband may be a great accessory for a lion’s foreleg. A small finger strap may fit very well on an owl’s ankle. If the Dungeon Master is nice enough to let you swallow a luckstone, then you’re in business, since every beast has a stomach. Regardless, the luckstone is an item where good and sensible arguments can be made for it to be used in a beast form without things getting ridiculous. Nobody likes a ridiculous druid trying to wear boots and a cape as a crocodile.
Fighters have few set uses for skill checks that are explicitly integrated into the class, but the Champion archetype does give a bonus to Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution checks in which the character is not already proficient. The extra bonus from the luckstone will be welcome for the Champion employing tactics that make use of the feature. Much of what makes a fighter is in the increased number of ability score improvements that can be used for feats. A quick glance at the feat list shows 13 out of the 42 feats described in the PHB involve skill or ability checks of some sort. Fighters who make use of the Shield Master feat, for instance, will enjoy the benefit of the luckstone’s bonus to ability checks every time they attempt to shove a creature with their shield.
Another area where the luckstone helps the fighter is with the Indomitable feature. It can be just enough to let the fighter preserve a use of this feature, turning a failed saving throw into a success, or it can be just enough to turn a borderline-hopeless use of this, where the fighter is very much a long shot to succeed on a second attempt, to at least being worth making the attempt. It also adds to Bardic Inspiration, bless spells, advantage, or any other sources of shoring up a fighter’s weaker saving throws, as failed Charisma, Wisdom, or Intelligence saving throws can often have disastrous consequences.
Like fighters, monks are not the most skill-oriented class. Many of their features revolve around ability modifiers and ki points, which tend to trigger saving throws instead of opposed ability checks. Monks of the Way of the Shadow frequently make use of Stealth, and any bonus is always welcome there, but monks otherwise are not very skill-based.
Monks, however, benefit greatly from improved saving throws. This happens with the Evasion class feature, and even more so when the monk gains the Diamond Soul feature. At that point, the monk becomes a saving throw machine and can be relied upon to face down spellcasters and other enemies with fearsome abilities that trigger saving throws. When that becomes the monk’s role in the group, any further bonus on top of their great baseline saving throws is much needed, because high-level foes sometimes have abilities with very high DCs. Even at high levels, the humble luckstone, merely an uncommon D&D magic item, can be among the best choices for a monk serving as the party’s first line of defense against powerful enemy spells and abilities. This is doubly the case since monks can often get away without devoting any attunement slots to weapons, since their unarmed strikes are always pretty effective.
Monks also tend to be on the perceptive side, so a bonus to Perception can help them avoid surprises. And since monks usually have high Dexterity, a bonus to initiative rolls can help them act sooner rather than later, and perhaps land a Stunning Strike the whole party can benefit from right away. For this reason, monks are one of the classes to benefit the most from high initiative bonuses, so the luckstone is of particular use to them.
Paladins are in much the same boat as monks, since they are not highly skill-based and their Aura of Protection grants a bonus to their saving throws but, unlike monks, they wear armor, carry shields, and use weapons, which may preclude them from being able to attune to an item such as a luckstone. Also, between the two, a monk can stand near a paladin and benefit from Diamond Soul and the paladin’s Aura of Protection at the same time, pushing the upper limits of bounded accuracy for saving throws when combined with items such as the luckstone and other enhancements to saving throws. The luckstone can be of decent value to a paladin at lower and middle levels, but it is unlikely to be the best choice once the character is entering into high level territory. Paladins are typically better off with items that improve armor class and saving throws, but not necessarily ability checks.
Rangers are, at least thematically, one of the more skill-oriented classes and benefit accordingly from skill improvements. Rangers are iconic for being perceptive, being able to track quarry, and being able to sneak up on enemies and scout locations. A luckstone helps with all of these tasks.
In terms of game mechanics, this plays out in the Favored Enemy, Natural Explorer, Hide in Plain Sight, and Vanish features. Success at these skills can make a big difference in hex crawl games where a party is exploring the wilderness and trying not to get caught off-guard in the process. Rangers are often maligned as being decidedly weaker than other classes, but in certain contexts they can be indispensable contributors to the party, all the more so with some extra juice on their ability checks.
For rogues, it’s all about the Stealth. I don’t know of too many rogues who wouldn’t take an improvement to Stealth checks, since so many class features are tied to that ability. They can Hide as a Cunning Action, and when they are unseen by their target they get advantage on the attack. If it hits, they get Sneak Attack on the damage. All of this can be dependent on a Dexterity (Stealth) roll.
Rogues, like bards, are also highly skill-oriented, getting the most starting skills of any class, plus Expertise. Other signature rogue features are also tied to ability checks: Wisdom (Perception) when looking out for traps and other hazards, Intelligence (Investigation) when trying to figure out how to open a secret door or disarm a trap, and Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) for picking a pocket or two.
In terms of specific archetypes, the Thief is able to use Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) as a bonus action, Second-Story Work ties into climbing checks, and the Supreme Sneak ability makes the most of a good Stealth score. Assassins benefit more than any other class from a good initiative score, so the bonus conferred to initiative rolls by a luckstone is of paramount importance to them. Their Impostor feature relies on Charisma (Deception) checks, which being based on an ability that isn’t the rogue’s primary one, definitely benefits from a little extra help to make it more usable against wary onlookers. The Arcane Trickster similarly benefits from improved ability checks by way of its mage hand Legerdmain and Magical Ambush features.
Sorcerer and Wizard
I’ve put these two together because neither class is too skill-based (though a persuasive sorcerer or knowledgeable wizard is always a plus), and because both share many of the same considerations as spellcasters. Several spells involve ability checks, a few of which are extremely important spells in almost every arcane caster’s repertoire: counterspell and dispel magic. Both of these spells involve ability checks when the caster is attempting to counter or dispel a spell of higher level than the slot being expended for the counterspell or dispel magic.
Anyone who has spent much time playing a sorcerer or wizard knows that this comes up a lot once a campaign progresses into second and third-tier play. When using the rules from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything about Arcana checks to identify a spell as it is being cast, the luckstone bonus also comes into play.
Some other spells also involve ability checks, such as telekinesis, but far and away the most common ability check a sorcerer or wizard is likely to make in any fairly typical 5E D&D campaign is for counterspell or dispel magic, and any bonus a character can muster for those checks is likely to be very welcome, since the consequences for a failed check can range from inconvenient to disastrous. For wizards of the School of Abjuration, the bonus from the luckstone could make it very hard for their enemies to slip spells past an attempt at countering or have spells withstand an attempt at dispelling.
Warlocks occupy a particular niche that few other classes can fill, which is being masters of the opposed ability check by way of imposing disadvantage on targets via the hex spell. It’s a lot more fun being a suave and deceptive fast-talker if the target is also having trouble with their Wisdom (Insight) check to oppose your Charisma (Deception) check. It’s even more fun when you’re also benefiting from the bonus provided by a luckstone.
This type of dynamic can lead to a lot of possibilities for creative warlock ability usage outside of combat. Warlocks can become the masters of social manipulation, be it through deception, intimidation, or persuasion. In combat, warlocks can also do things like combine hex spells with attempts at escaping grapples by giving their foes disadvantage on the opposed check, again benefiting from the luckstone’s bonus to their own check.
In fact, the potential for creative use of the hex spell in conjunction with bonuses to the warlock’s own opposed ability checks can lead to all sorts of interesting and different warlock builds that move away from a nonstop volley of eldritch blasts every time a fight breaks out, and this is on top of all the considerations mentioned above that also apply to sorcerers and wizards.
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