D&D Ideas — Beacons

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Welcome once again to the weekly newsletter. Here is the quote that inspired this week’s newsletter.

“Aragorn: The beacons of Minas Tirith! The beacons are lit! Gondor calls for aid!

Theoden: And Rohan will answer. Muster the Rohirrim!”

We were goofing around in our weekly meeting and this quote came up. Next thing we know we’ve agreed to make it our weekly D&D idea for the newsletter and Running D&D video. You can get the Nerdarchy Newsletter delivered to your inbox each week, along with updates and info on how to game with Nerdarchy, by signing up here. But before we jump into this week’s newsletter a quick reminder. You can still back Out of the Box: Encounter for 5th Edition. Or if you already did you can fill out your survey and make sure you get your stuff. Here is a link to the Pledge Manager. There is also a free encounter you can download in the Pledge Manager. This is available to anyone; it doesn’t matter if you backed the Kickstarter or not.

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Delving Dave’s Dungeon

Nerdarchy believes inspiration for D&D can come from anywhere. A simple word or phrase can an adventure or whole campaign. What can we do with the word beacon in D&D?

We can make it into a plot hook:

  • A neighboring kingdom has lit their warning beacons. Will your kingdom honor the old allegiance and answer the call?
  • The kingdom you serve is under attack and the warning beacons must be lit less all the kingdom will fall from an oncoming horde.
  • Adventurers delve deep into a dungeon unearthing an ancient chamber. Upon entering it a large hemispherical crystal mounted a top of a 3-foot tall pedestal begins to blink silently with an ominous red light. They have inadvertently triggered an arcane beacon. Who will answer it?

It can be a magic item:

Beacon in a Bottle

Potion, very rare

Glowing amber runes float through a clear liquid. When you drink this potion you can cast the sending spell without any components. In addition, you can share any of your memories of anything you’ve seen or heard with the target of the sending from the day.
Below, Nerdarchist Ted even makes it into a monster.

From Ted’s Head

I think there is a lot that can be done with a D&D idea when you look at the word beacon. Let’s look at some of the definitions:

  • A fire or light set up in a high or prominent position as a warning, signal, or celebration.
  • A hill suitable for beacon of fire or light.
  • A light or other visible object serving as a signal, warning, or guide at sea, on an airfield, etc.

As Nerdarchy has stated time and time again, steal and seek inspiration from anywhere you can. When I look at these definitions I certainly see some ideas forming. What about you?

I am going to make a magic item and a monster based off of this concept and definitions. So let’s get into it.


Weapon, rare, requires attunement

This +1 weapon sheds dim light in a 30 foot radius when being held. If there are enemies within 100 feet, the light changes to bright light in a 30 foot radius and dim light to 30 feet radius beyond that. If you are holding the weapon you have advantage on initiative rolls as the item grows warm to the touch when enemies are near.

My idea here was looking at the option of producing light and offering a signal or warning. Simple yet completely gets the point across.

Beacon Spirit

A beacon spirit is a warning spirit sent by the gods to look out for travelers and those that need their protection in a dangerous world. Beacon spirits are proof  there are dangers in the world and that the gods truly care for the mortals they look upon. Beacon spirits appear as a humanoid spirit made of light. Their melodic voices offer warnings to travelers about dangerous paths ahead and occasionally offer advice on paths to take when there are choices to make.

Travelers and adventures are wise to listen to their advice. Many of these consider them good omens and offer prayers to the gods in a beacon spirits presence for being looked after so directly.

Beacon Spirit

Medium celestial, neutral good

Armor Class 12

Hit Points 22 (5d8)

Speed 0 ft., fly 50 ft. (hover)

STR 1 (-5)

DEX 14 (+2)

CON 11 (+0)

INT 10 (+0)

WIS 14 (+2)

CHA 14 (+2)

Damage Resistances Acid, Cold, Fire, Lightning, Thunder; Bludgeoning, Piercing, and Slashing from Nonmagical Attacks

Damage Immunities Radiant, Poison

Condition Immunities Charmed, Exhaustion, Grappled, Paralyzed, Petrified, Poisoned, Prone, Restrained, Unconscious

Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 12

Languages Understands all languages, only Speaks in Celestial or Common

Challenge 2 (450 XP)

Incorporeal Movement. A beacon spirit can move through other creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain. It takes 5 (1d10) force damage if it ends its turn inside an object.

Brighter Than a Torch. When a beacon spirit is not invisible it sheds bright light in a 50 foot radius and dim light another 50 feet beyond that.

Invisibility. A beacon spirit can become invisible at will.


Forceful Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 10 (3d6) force damage.

Radiant Pulse. A burst of radiant energy to a radius of 10 feet. All targets within range must make a DC 12 Constitution saving throw, taking 2d6 radiant damage on a failed save, and half as much damage on a successful one. Creatures of good alignment make this saving throw with advantage, while creatures of evil alignment make this saving throw at disadvantage. The beacon spirit can choose any number of creatures it can see to not take damage from this attack when it releases the pulse.

Sense Evil. A beacon spirit knows of the presence of any creature with an evil alignment within 1 mile, though it does not know their location or direction. It can sense if it is close: within 100 feet, near within 500 feet or in the area within a mile.

There you have it. two ways to use such a singular cool word in Dungeons & Dragons.

Commander Sheperd’s encounter with a Prothean Beacon set off an incredible story in Mass Effect.

From the Nerditor’s Desk

I’m a huge Mass Effect nerd so when Nerdarchist Dave suggested beacons for the newsletter topic my first thought was the Porthean Beacon. Commander Shepard’s encounter with the Prothean Beacon on Eden Prime is the inciting incident for the epic story.

So naturally when I started my first fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign and mashed up everything cool I could think of, the beacon found a place. Deep in the ancient giant ruins beneath Korthos Island, Explictica Defilus found refuge after her spelljamming vipership Illrigger crashed on the planet. In her lair, the party discovered a strange crystal monolith after defeating the naga (who vowed to return of course).

When the party approached, the beacon activated and a series of saving throws ensued. All the characters were drawn to it physically and mentally. My idea was if a character succeeded on even one of the three or four saving throws they’d resist the pull. I wanted the scenario to be tense and dramatic, and it worked. The players were freaking out — they were only 3rd level and right after a very narrow victory against the naga now a weird artifact pulled them towards it!

Only one character became ensnared by the beacon, a monk. I took the player aside and described the chaotic imagery slammed into his brain. Crystal spheres shattering, devastation and carnage, and a star field vaguely shaped like a dragon seeping into the phlogiston and permeating all of the Material Plane.

“Beacon (noun): a light or other visible object serving as a signal, warning, or guide.”

Because the experience was so vast in scope and confusing for the character and players alike, trying to discern the meaning became a side quest for elven monk. Since he took the hermit background, the player and I came up with the idea of his character gained insight into the existence and nature of the crystal spheres with the Discovery trait. Up until that point the campaign was basically traditional D&D, set in my version of Collabris.

So that’s one way to use a beacon in D&D, as a tool to introduce information to the players and their characters without an exposition dump or NPC monologue. The adventurers’ knowledge of the setting increased, and at the same time they developed their own motivations about learning what the visions meant and wrapping their heads around the vast universe opening up before them. In our newsletter last week we explored the idea of aliens in D&D, and something like the Prothean Beacon could get a lot of mileage in a campaign featuring star spawn too, for example.

Until next time, stay nerdy
— Nerdarchy Team

P.S. Remember, you can still back Out of the Box: Encounter for 5th Edition. Or if you already did you can fill out your survey and make sure you get your stuff. Here is a link to the Pledge Manager. There is also a free encounter you can download in the Pledge Manager. This is available to anyone; it doesn’t matter if you backed the Kickstarter or not.


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[NERDITOR’S NOTE: 8:30 one of the best Nerdarchist Ted quotes ever.] 

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