Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Part of the excitement of playing D&D is getting to involve yourself in a world where anything is possible. When you find a magical sword hilt with a blade that ignites with holy light, you start to feel like a hero of legends.
Today, we’re going to be talking about an item that is as powerful as it is mystical. Actually, we’re going to be talking about several, since today’s article is about Ioun stones.
Read on to learn just how powerful these different stones can be, where you can find them, some enticing lore, and as always, a few hot takes you might not have heard anywhere else.
Top 5 5e Ioun Stones
- Greater Absorption
What Is an Ioun Stone?
An Ioun stone is the name for a group of magical items that all work in the same way. While each stone is typically made from a different material and grants its user different abilities, all of these stones orbit the user’s head when activated.
The result is often some incredibly powerful spellcasters with what looks like an asteroid belt floating around them.
Many types of Ioun stone exist, each type a distinct combination of shape and color.
When you use an action to toss one of these stones into the air, the stone orbits your head at a distance of 1d3 feet and confers a benefit to you.
Thereafter, another creature must use an action to grasp or net the stone to separate it from you, either by making a successful Attack roll against AC 24 or a successful DC 24 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check.
You can use an action to seize and stow the stone, Ending its Effect.
A stone has AC 24, 10 Hit Points and Resistance to all damage. It is considered to be an object that is being worn while it orbits your head.
While these stones may only have 10 hit points, it’s extremely hard to hit them out of the air.
Few creatures are going to even attempt a strike at these, not only because of how high the DC is but because that would mean wasting a hit on you.
You may run into powerful creatures or spellcasters looking to steal your stones, or you may want to steal the stones from the BBEG to weaken them.
In either scenario, 24 is a very high DC. It’s not impossible, which is generally accepted to be a DC of 30, but it’s going to be very hard to roll as high as necessary.
Naturally, rogues can be rather excellent at stealing an Ioun stone, and bards with expertise can also do a great job. I’d also add that I’ve ruled sleight of hand to be another way to steal the stones, but it does require you to be unseen.
If you choose to rule it this way, the creature is aware when they are no longer connected to their stone and therefore aware of your presence.
You’ll also notice that these stones have no time limit. While certain stones may have a limited number of charges or some other mechanic limiting their usage, the stones in general can be used as much as you want.
You don’t even have to put them away while you sleep, although it might be a good idea to keep them out of harm’s way.
The only other thing to note before we get into the actual stones themselves is the bit about attunement.
If you’ve been looking around at fun magic items, you’ve probably seen attunement crop up more than a few times. Basically, attunement is having a magical connection to an item that allows you to wield it properly.
Attunement matters because you can only be attuned to three items at a time. As of right now, the only way to increase that limit is by becoming an artificer.
The class that’s focused on magical ingenuity naturally gets some more attunement slots, up to 6 in fact.
If you don’t want to be an intelligence-based half caster, you won’t be running a character with a whole swarm of ioun stones anytime soon.
Of course, there are always homebrewed ways to get around this, but for right now we’re sticking to RAW.
21 Types of Ioun Stones in 5e
As of right now, there are 21 different types of Ioun stones in 5e.
That may very well seem like a lot, but there are even more that have been published over the course of D&D’s existence. For starters though, let’s look at what’s actually in 5e.
This first group of stones can be found in the DMG.
Description: Pale-lavender ellipsoid
Ability: Can counter/cancel spells of up to 4th level cast by creatures you see that target only you. Once this stone cancels 20 levels worth of spells, its magic burns out.
Description: Deep-red sphere
Ability: Dexterity score increases by 2 to a maximum of 20.
Description: Dark-blue rhomboid
Ability: You can’t be surprised.
Description: Pink Rhomboid
Ability: Constitution score increases by 2 to a maximum of 20.
5. Greater Absorption
Description: Marbled lavender-and-green ellipsoid
Ability: The absorption stone, except this works on spells up to 8th level and can cancel 50 levels worth of spells.
Description: Incandescent blue sphere
Ability: Wisdom score increases by 2 to a maximum of 20.
Description: Marbled scarlet-and-blue sphere
Ability: Intelligence score increases by 2 to a maximum of 20.
Description: Marbled pink-and-green sphere
Ability: Charisma score increases by 2 to a maximum of 20.
Description: Pale-green prism
Ability: +1 to proficiency bonus
Description: Dusty-rose prism
Ability: +1 to AC.
Description: Pearl-white spindle
Ability: Regain 15 hit points at the end of each hour; this stone is active, so long as you have 1 hit point.
Description: Purple prism
Ability: Stores up to 3 levels worth of spells. Spells can be stored in the stone by touching it while casting. The wearer of the stone can cast a spell at any time. Spells cast in this way use all the stats from the original caster and treat the wearer of the stone as the source of the spell. Once cast, the spell is no longer stored in the stone.
Description: Pale-blue rhomboid
Ability: Strength score increases by 2 to a maximum of 20.
Description: Clear spindle
Ability: Don’t need to eat or drink.
This second group of stones can be found in the Lost Laboratories of Kwalish adventure.
15. Supreme Intellect
Description: Faceted sphere
Ability: +1 to Intelligence checks.
16. Historical Knowledge
Description: Steel sphere
Ability: Proficiency, or +1 if already proficient, in History.
17. Natural Knowledge
Description: Brass sphere
Ability: Proficiency, or +1 if already proficient, in Nature.
18. Religious Knowledge
Description: Tiny golden gem
Ability: Proficiency, or +1 if already proficient, in Religion.
19. Language Knowledge
Description: Red jeweled crystal
Ability: Fluent in one additional language (DM’s choice).
Description: Silver gem
Ability: +1 to Intelligence saving throws.
This last stone can be found in the Infernal Machine Rebuild adventure.
Description: Marbled green-and-blue sphere
Ability: +1 to death saving throws.
While there are a lot of stones to go through there, they do break up into nicer little sections that we can review and talk about.
The ability score stones are absolutely amazing. They are one of a few ways to actually increase your ability scores that don’t involve waiting until you hit an ASI.
If you do come across another item, such as a Belt of Dwarvenkind, that boosts your ability score while also providing some other bonuses, that will definitely be the way to go.
Otherwise, if you find the stone that fits your build, take it, and run with it.
The absorption stones are probably the most powerful of these stones, which is why they do have a limited use. Deciding when to cancel a spell can be just as difficult as choosing when to cast a spell.
You’ll want to cancel any spell that targets you, but then you might be kicking yourself when you come across the BBEG and don’t have the stone’s power anymore.
Basically, if a spell isn’t going to kill you or worse, save the stone for later. If you’re a caster with access to counterspell, I would almost always use counterspell in place of the stone.
The only exception to this is if you’re in a setting or campaign where you can purchase or create your own Ioun stones. At that point, the world is your oyster.
The skill proficiency stones from the Lost Laboratory of Kwalish adventure module are just okay. Nature, history, and religion are all great skills, but they’re certainly not the most commonly used skills in a 5e adventure.
While a +1 bonus, or a proficiency where you didn’t have one, is always nice, it’s not something I’d want to waste an attunement slot on.
Another group is what I’m going to call the +1 stones. These stones, which give you a +1 on things like saving throws, proficiency bonus, and AC, are incredibly useful.
However, they do fall into a similar area to the ability score stones. If you can get any of these abilities through some other means with more benefits, do that instead, and save the attunement slot for something better.
Next, we have a few stones that don’t fit into neat categories.
The language stone is one that I would avoid entirely if you do run across it. While languages can be incredibly important, it’s not worth an attunement slot to learn a new one at essentially random.
Instead (and DMs take notes), let your character spend some time learning a new language.
This is a fantasy game where you can do things beyond your wildest imagination. You should be able to do things that I did in secondary school.
The sustenance stone is really remarkable in a game where food and drink matter.
Not all campaigns keep track of your dietary habits; I’ve definitely played in a few where my character would’ve died of liver poisoning because the only thing that went down the hatch was mead.
However, if your DM includes this stone as treasure, it’s probably a safe bet that this stone will make your life a whole lot easier. Think of this as the easy-mode stone; it will let you play like a lot of less-intense playgroups already do.
The regeneration stone needs no explanation. It’s a great stone that will keep you alive without having to worry about hit dice and healing spells.
While this won’t often matter in combat, its overall campaign effectiveness is absolutely incredible.
The awareness stone is really useful. With this stone, you can have an absolutely garbage passive-perception score and still act in the first round of combat.
Sometimes, that one turn of combat is going to be the difference between victory and death.
Finally, the reserve stone is basically just a smaller spell-storing ring. Instead of 5 levels of stored spells, you get 3 at your disposal.
Have your party fill it up with some solid low-level spells, and you’re well on your way to feeling like a half caster. If you can have this and a ring of spell storing, it’s over for the bad guys.
Ioun Stones in Other Editions
There have been a lot of Ioun Stones across D&D’s history. I won’t list every single iteration of this magic item from the last 50 years, but I will break down what types of stones have been published.
Hopefully, with all of this information you can come up with some fun Ioun Stones for your own campaign.
To make your life easier, I’m going to give you a list of categories. Then you can scroll to whichever one strikes your fancy.
I should mention that there can be some overlap between these categories. The main purpose is for ease of access and a clear guide on how to make your own homebrewed or 5e updated stones.
Types of Ioun Stones
- Spellcasting Stones – Stones that allow you to cast a specific spell or set of spells.
- Resistance Stones – Provide resistance to a source of damage or a damage type.
- Improvement Stones – Improve upon an existing ability or feature you have.
- Unique Ability Stones – Stones that grant you a special ability. Similar in theme to feats.
- Survival Stones – Stones that heal you or otherwise protect you from harmful effects.
- Item Replacement Stones – These stones give you the same benefit that another item might give you.
History of Ioun Stones
In 5e, these magical items are said to be named after the goddess of knowledge and prophecy, Ioun. It gives no information as to how they actually came to be though.
There are two schools of thought on the matter: the stones are either formed naturally, or they are created.
The Ioun Stone is originally from the Dying Earth novels by Jack Vance. In these novels, the stones were formed in the hearts of dying stars and were mined by beings that roamed the cosmos.
In D&D, the creation of these items is often attributed to Congenio Ioun, a powerful mage who was alive in the Age of Netheril.
Since arcanists at the time believed that large items like shields and swords were too big to be enchanted, he enchanted these stones to be sources of great power.
Nowadays, stones are either remnants of an ancient time or artifacts produced by powerful mages.
How you interpret the creation of these stones in your world is going to have a huge effect on just how common they really are and where exactly your players can find them.
There are actually two subcategories within this category, but you’ve already seen one of them in the 5e section above. A huge majority of stones from previous sections either allowed you to cast spells or counter spells.
Stones that allow you to counter or cancel spells have almost always worked like the absorption stone and have a limited use. There have been a few that worked in a more reflective manner though.
These stones allow you to either absorb a spell cast at you for later use or reflect a certain number of spells a day.
Either one is pretty impressive, and anyone who’s ever owned a Rod of Absorption can tell you how nice it is to be able to steal someone’s spell slots.
Now, stones that allow you to cast spells are a lot cooler in my opinion. These also varied, and we typically saw either spells that can be cast once a day or spells that are always active on you.
One of my favorites is the echinoid stone from 1st edition that continuously casts detect magic with its user as the source.
These sorts of stones typically cast lower-leveled spells, but some extremely rare stones have had the ability to cast high-leveled spells with few drawbacks.
A stone that offers a resistance to its user is incredibly useful. As with any magical item, the rarity will be directly related to how effective the resistance is. Some stones might even offer immunity.
Now, we’re not just talking about damage resistances either.
While some of these do have the straightforward “resistance to fire damage” or “resistance to damage from nonmagical weapons,” there’s also a healthy amount that resist harmful effects.
The awareness stone in 5e is a great example of this, protecting you from the surprised condition.
You might see bonuses to saving throws, protection from certain status conditions, or basically any effect that is going to make you less effective in combat.
There have been several iterations of stones that improve upon an ability score, but there are other ways that a stone can make your character more powerful. There’s even a stone that increases your level by one!
The more nuanced stones in this category affect a feature or ability your character already has. A lot of these are focused on spellcasting, allowing you to cast spells at higher levels or giving you access to more spell slots.
Of course, this opens up the opportunity to make very specialized stones.
A stone that gives a battle master more superiority die could be an excellent thing to introduce into a campaign with a fighter that’s struggling to ration their maneuvers.
Or you might make a monk stone that increases the user’s pool of ki points.
Basically, if a character has a pool of resources, this type of stone can make that pool more efficient. How that works is up to you as the DM.
Unique Ability Stones
This one is much harder to generalize, so let’s look at an example. The 5e language-knowledge stone makes its user fluent in an additional language.
This looks a lot like something you might see as a 1st-level feature for a subclass, a racial trait, or something you might pick up as a feat.
Coming up with ideas for this type of stone is not hard at all. The problem comes when attempting to balance.
Fortunately, the rarity system in 5e is deeply connected to tiers of play. Uncommon, rare, very rare, and legendary can be easily split up into the four tiers.
When you’re making an Ioun Stone with a unique ability, try to find a similar ability somewhere in 5e. The stone’s rarity should be similar to when you can take that ability.
This makes a lot of feat- or racial-trait-related stones uncommon, but if you feel that they should be harder to come across, bump it up to rare.
Survival is a pretty self-explanatory section. These stones help you to survive. While they might be similar to resistance stones, these can also heal you, give you a better AC, or make some aspect of mortality a nonfactor for you.
One stone even makes it so you don’t have to breathe. Throw this one on, and you can hide in a bag of holding or sink to the bottom of the ocean with no issues.
Item Replacement Stones
Again, I hope the name for this category explains what these do.
A stone that has the same abilities as another magical item, such as a Helm of Transportation or a Rod of Absorption, is going to fit into this category.
Since ioun stones are generally referred to as gems with powerful enchantments, they can pretty much hold just about any magical ability that you might find on another item.
Functionally, this just means that it looks a little bit cooler than a cloak or ring and is a bit harder to deal with for your enemies.
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As a kid, I was often told to get my head out of the clouds and to stop living in a fantasy world. That never really jived with me, so I decided to make a living out of games, stories, and all sorts of fantastical works. Now, as an adult, I aspire to remind people that sometimes a little bit of fantasy is all you need when life gets to be too much.