Decaying ruins and ancient civilizations are time honored tropes of many table-top games, and with good reason. They are an easy way to communicate a sense of history and exploration, as well as provide hooks for adventure and mysteries. Investigating ruins and forgotten places are great ways to let players dictate the direction of the game, and really give them agency in their decision-making and pursuit of goals. Of course, no archaeological story is complete without at least one, preferably two, opposing forces. These forces want to uncover ancient objects and secrets not only for their own ends, but to the detriment of others. This is obviously well-worn territory, but there is still plenty of room for a good adventure story. One way to drive a story like this is to use to tie one of the desired objects directly to the story advancement of the adventure and other pursued objects. Raiders of the Lost Ark has the staff, Last Crusade has the diary, and National Treasure has the Declaration of Independence. The conflict over these items reveals setting history, character motivations, and serves as an instrument of propulsion. What’s great about this device is that they can easily be setting agnostic with only a little tweaking, and can be fit into most campaigns, even if it just serves as a single adventure. Presented here is one such item, the lyre of the last dance.
Lyre of the Last Dance
Wondrous item, Legendary (requires attunement)
The lyre of the last dance was created by a culture who has long since fallen into ruin. As their civilization fell, they knew that much of their history and art would be forgotten, and memory of them would fade from the world. The lyre was created as a safeguard against time and memory. Specific songs may be played upon this lyre to reveal the mysteries of the past. While within ancient ruins or places of importance, a song made be played to create an illusory re-enactment of important moments in the culture’s history. Other songs may be played to dispel illusions, disarm magical traps, or open magical locks created by this culture. These songs might be intrinsic to the lyre itself, or they may need to be collected and learned, at the DM’s discretion. In addition to these culture specific powers, the lyre of the last dance provides the following abilities:
- The user may substitute a performance check for a history check once per short rest, with an illusion of the past coming to life to re-enact what is being sought
- The user can attempt a DC 15 performance check to give allies advantage on acrobatics, athletics, investigation, non-lyre based performance, and thieves’ tools checks performed while the user is performing. This ability recharges when the lyre is exposed to the rays of a setting sun.
- The user may attempt a DC 20 performance check as a reaction when targeted with a ranged-missile attack to shatter the missile in flight, negating the attack. Once used, this ability may not be used again without a short rest.
- The user may attempt to stun a melee attacker as a reaction when targeted with a melee attack. The attacker must succeed against 8+proficiency bonus+CHA bonus or be stunned until the start of his next turn. Once used, this ability may not be used again without a long rest.