• Justin Handlin

Treasure Trails | Alternatives to Treasure Maps in Dungeons and Dragons


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In a world imbued with magic spells, mystical artifacts, and arcane creatures, it only makes sense that the traditional treasure map would come in all shapes and sizes. While sheets of parchment with clues and trails are most common among the mundane commoners, pirates, and bandits. Items can be a powerful alternative to the more traditional treasure maps. Each item can have its own intrinsic worth, but can also contain hidden secrets to even greater riches. Below are a couple items that they themselves may be found in a dragon’s hoard and are valuable in their own right. However, each one also serves as a “map” to even more wondrous items, though it may not be clear at first. These examples can be used to get you started on creating your own Treasure Trails for Dungeons and Dragons.


Horn of the Traveler

This horn of blasting (requires attunement by a good-aligned creature) is twisted and crooked. It was carved from an obsidian tusk, horn, or spike of a powerful devil. When sounded it emits a baleful howl that echoes across the land for miles. Farther than most horns of its kind. Its unique sound tends to attract the curious adventurers, bandits looking to do some raiding, or even some lumbering beasts looking for a feast.


When sounded blue translucent illusory footprints appear on the ground and stretch off into the distance. So long as the user of the horn has traveled at least The prints wind their way around obstacles, travel over water, and tend to provide the most direct route to their destination. The illusory footprint effects last for up to 8 hours. Should the character be traveling not using their own feet, such as riding a horse, or using magic such as the fly spell that causes the glowing footprints to disappear after a few minutes.


Should a character follow the footprints, it eventually leads to a hidden temple in a swampy forest. The creator of the temple sent out the horn of the traveler seeking a worthy successor to his ancestral item, the Horn of Valhalla.


Seeker’s Blade

This well-balanced blade +1 rapier has etchings written in gnomish across the length of the blade that says “Are you as sharp as me?” When someone reads this out loud in gnomish a magic mouth appears and says the following riddle in gnomish, “I have seas without water, coasts without sand, towns without people, and mountains without land. What am I?” A character that succeeds on a DC 17 Intelligence check is able to deduce the answer is “a map.” When the riddle is answered the magic mouth will speak one last riddle that leads to a lost castle to be claimed by the characters to become a home or base of operation. As GM you can decide the exact location and details of the castle. Feel free to tweak the riddle to point to a specific location.


The riddle is, “I have a halo of water that protects my stoneskin. I have a wooden tongue and have stood since (Here you can Insert historical detail that indicates the specific castle). My fingers have a short reach to the sky, and men live and die inside my heart. What am I?” The character that succeeds on a DC 21 Intelligence (History) check deduces the answer is “a castle”. If you added specific details, they should be able to identify the specific castle. Once the riddle is solved, the character who solved the last riddle has an annoying compulsion in the back of their mind to move in the general direction of the lost castle until they come to it.


Do you like this concept? If so, then send us your own creations at critacademy@gmail.com. If we receive enough submissions, we will put out a reader-submitted compilation.


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