When one runs a network of spies and informants that spans multiple continents, couriers and homing pigeons simply don’t suffice.
-Cunraden Valieryth, elven spymaster.
The history of these items is shadowy. They are the tools of spies, so their very existence is difficult to confirm. Bardic knowledge (DC 35) or Knowledge (history) (DC 40) reveals clues to their use, but the details of their creation have been lost for centuries.
The first set of rings was commissioned by an elven monarch eons ago. His original intent was to facilitate communication with his widespread children. Upon his death, the master ring disappeared. A few centuries later, the elven spy network began to communicate with efficiency beyond the capabilities of mundane methods.
The spymaster of the elves had somehow discovered the rings and began equipping his agents and spies with sending rings. However, no one ever found the master ring. The spymaster never wore it. The crafty old elf had given the ring to his pseudodragon familiar, in addition to a ring of greater teleportation. The familiar retrieved the dispatches and brought them to his master. As far as is known, the current spymaster still uses the same system.
Over the course of time, other sets of these rings have been created. In some cases, it is thought that a captured or killed elven spy was found to have a sending ring and a sage or wizard was able to determine its full use and recreate the master ring. In other cases, allies of the elves have suddenly stopped using couriers while enjoying an improvement in communication. Either way, as there are no unique spells required, any enterprising wizard could recreate the rings if given the idea and a suitable commission.
These rings always exist as part of a set. Both types appear to be normal signet rings made of brass. Each set includes several sending rings and one master ring.
Sending rings have two powers. The first is an enhancement of the base function of the signet ring. In addition to the mundane wax seal, an invisible arcane mark (Player’s Handbook pg. 201) is cast with every use. This mark is always the same as the ring’s insignia, but need not be. The mark is set on the surface below the wax seal. Even if the wax is later broken, the arcane mark will remain. If the wax seal and the arcane mark are not perfectly aligned, it is an immediate clue that a message may have been tampered with.
Once per day, at the first use for that day, affixing a seal also invoke a sending that targets the wearer of the master ring. This works as the spell (Player’s Handbook pg. 275-276) except that no response is given and the message only indicates that a new dispatch has been prepared.
A sending ring can only be keyed to one master ring, which must be done at creation. (See below)
The master ring is the key to the usefulness of these rings. The wearer of the master ring receives a sending from any sending ring as soon as the power is used. Once a sending has been received, the wearer of the master ring may benefit at will from the effects of discern location to find the nearest dispatch. This works as the spell (Player’s Handbook pg. 222) except that the only item that can be sought is the closest dispatch marked by a sending ring. Once a dispatch has been collected, touching the master ring to the seal will end the ability to find that particular dispatch and allow the next nearest to be sought. Note that transportation to a given dispatch is not provided.
Master rings will only receive sendings from rings of the same set. In order to include a ring in a given set, the master ring of that set must be touched to the newly forged sending ring at the time of its enchantment.
Faint evocation; CL 9th; Forge Ring, arcane mark, sending, the master ring which will be the target of the sending; Price 10,500 gp (sending ring); Strong divination; CL 15th; Forge Ring, discern location; Price 120,000 gp (master ring).
Use in the game
While the original set was made by the elves, there are copies. Any secret society or government with appropriate wealth could make use of these rings. If a character works for one of these governments or societies, he or she could be given a sending ring. If the party kills or finds the body of a spy or agent of the crown, they could find one. Acquisition of a sending ring, however, is only part of the puzzle.
Master rings should only be found in the possession of those who organize communications for a particular network. If a master ring is acquired, it can be used to make more sending rings for that set. It cannot be used to track the owners of existing sending rings. Because of the specific nature of these items, neither ring should be found on a random chart.
Finding a full set of rings is rare. More often, a set is either commissioned or created from the master ring. A typical set includes the master ring and ten sending rings at a cost of 225,000 gp.