Rings, across all games, are highly coveted. Most RPGs have holes in their characters’ sheets waiting to be filled, and players can’t wait to fill them. For Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, rings begin appearing in loot tables around level 5. They provide that extra stat boost or ability to make your character that much more unique. No matter what kind of ring it is, an empty slot is filled is an upgrade.
Most item rules make sense. You can't wear two suits of armor. Wearing more than one helm is impractical. You only have one pair of feet for boots. But rings have always had a rule in the background that you can only ever wear two—one on each hand. This begs the question, what happens if you put on three?
In standard D&D lore, powerful magical rings are antiques from former great craftsmen and wizards. The average person would have little chance of wearing one magical ring let alone two. Players, however, will see a lot of loot move across their sheets over the course of a campaign. Early in your game, establish these rules gradually through roleplaying interactions. Players will understand their limitations while being excited about ways to exploit the system. Taking a firm stance will greatly enhance the flavor of your world. Players might even be curious to see for themselves what happens.
Here are three options for rings in your world:
1) It is absolutely impossible to wear more than two rings. If a character attempts to place a third ring on their finger, the other ring is pushed off as if through a magnetic force. Magic item in this world are commonplace and engineered for safety. Craftsmen can easily produce common and uncommon items, and there is a healthy market for their sale.
2) Wearing more than two rings is dangerous. Magic flows up the arms to the heart and brain where it enhances hero’s attributes and abilities. Three rings oversaturate the body with magic, causing them to become irradiated and sick. Players can make Constitution checks each round to maintain their consciousness, otherwise, they become ill and pass out. The character remains catatonic until the ring is removed. Magic items in this world are looked upon with suspicion and usually found or sold at eccentric specialty shops. Those that create magic items do so without full knowledge of how their magic works, instead using materials that are already magical in nature.
3) Wearing more than two rings is deadly. Wearing a single magic ring is exhilarating since heroes can immediately sense the presence of their granted abilities. At two rings, players feel the energy coursing through their veins. Magic items in this world react poorly to one another. Three rings could exploit the heart or cause horrible mutations as the body attempts to even out the flow of magic. Items can be directly linked to powerful craftsmen, even embodying some of their personality, making a wearer foolhardy or evil over time. Those who create magic items must be extremely careful or suffer the consequences.
Introducing rules about magic items can be done in a number of ways. Telos Darkweaver, for instance, is a cultist DMs can use to introduce rings into their games.
Armor Class 13 (Leather Armor)
Hit Points 66 (12d8+12)
Speed 30 ft, fly 60 ft.
Str Dex Con Int Wis Cha
8 (-1) 14 (+2) 12 (+1) 15 (+2) 13 (+1) 14 (+2)
Skills Deception +4, Persuasion +4, Religion +2
Senses Passive Perception 11
Challenge 5 (1,800 XP)
Dagger. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack +5 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit (1d4+2) piercing damage.
Wand of Magic Missiles. Automatic Hit, range 120ft, one target. Hit: 1d4+1 damage
Fabian’s Hand of Glory: A mummified hand hangs around Telos’ neck, giving him the benefit of a third magic ring.
By combining a Ring of Jump, Ring of Feather Fall and Ring of Free Action, the Hand of Glory has given Telos rudimentary flight. He also possesses a Ring of Mind Shielding and a Wand of Magic Detection.
Telos Darkweaver is a High Priest of The Order of the Broken Moon. He appears as a pale, bald human of 40 with an air of supremacy as though highborn and aristocratic. He wears light leather armor covered in a dark purple robe wreathed in poorly stitched pockets. He is fond of wearing his ritual mask during introductions but removes it eagerly at the first chance to dramatically expose his identity. When he moves, his wrists jangle with luck charms and bangles. Around his neck hang a dozen religious necklaces which he searches nervously through when things go wrong.
Despite being born into a sorcerer-rich family, he has no natural magical abilities. In his younger years, he found kinship among other cultists who felt they had been denied their greatness. He now leads a small sect of his own and works for The Order as an artificer and field operative.
What Telos lacks in natural ability, he compensates for with a stockpile of magical items. All of his possessions have been self-recovered from dungeons and tombs during Order business. He self-appraises his own items and believes that he has full mastery of each. His signature item is his self-crafted Hand of Glory made from the hand of Fabian Borage, an ancient craftsmen of powerful rings. With it, he can safely wear three rings. Whenever possible, he attempts to deceive enemies into believing his powers are natural and beyond their comprehension.
Using Telos Darkweaver
Unless you're running a super campaign, initial adventure arcs usually finish around level five. Most classes have unlocked some of their signature abilities at this point and magic item power is quickly ramping upward. Telos is best used to tie together a number of multiple smaller quests and dungeon delves into an overarching storyline. He is particularly interested in liberating magic items off the players. If he reaches a destination before the heroes, he might be stuck in a puzzle room with his lackeys or waiting to spring a cunning trap. If he knows the players are already inside, he stages an elaborate welcoming party outside, planning to take the items they recovered for his own.
Telos is an exercise in pacing and keeping you aware of your group’s mindset. For the most part, Telos always has a way to escape through his powers of flight or other magical item means. He has very little health compared to most fifth level enemies, so he pelts players with magic missiles from behind his minions and keeps an eye on the escape in case things turn sour. Three escapes seem to be the most a party will put up with before you need to allow them to put him down. Let them feel clever by trapping him in an anti-magic zone or taking the fight to his lair. He should have a comeuppance-worthy death, perhaps killed by a magical overload when his Hand of Glory is destroyed. Without the hand’s power available, players will be more likely to divide up the rings evenly.
This doesn't have to be his end, however. If he’s wearing a Ring of Mind Shielding, he can still share valuable information from within the ring, his mind trapped inside. Despite my own group’s frustration at his many escapes, they kept him alive to identify cursed items.