Saturday, December 30, 2006

Totem of Prowess - Varied Wondrous Item

Totem of prowess: These totems are made from the skull of a creature with the ability to use a spell like or supernatural ability. It is painted or carved with invocations to the spirit of the creature it came from, binding part of their soul to the totem, and putting it in command of the wielder.

Each totem is keyed to a different kind of supernatural or spell like ability, and has a different power level. When carried in the left hand of a creature with hands, or worn around the neck of a creature without, a totem of prowess adds a bonus to the difficulty checks of the ability it is keyed to.

For instance, a totem made from the skull of a succubus might add +2 to the DC of the charm monster spell like ability of a mind flayer who wields it. Often totems are made by supernatural creatures who lead groups of their own from the skulls of their predecessors, in order to boost a spell like ability common to them. The Ogre Mage Ovomin owned the skull of Tethyrium, her mother, which allowed her to throw a fridgider cone of cold.

The market price of a totem of prowess is the bonus squared, multiplied by 1,000. A totem can boost the DC of two or more powers. The market value of such a device would be the number of boosts it granted added together, plus 50%.

Caster Level: 5th; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, creator must be of he same race as item’s donator, or Spell Focus in a relevant school; Market Price: 500 gp (+1), 2,000 gp (+2), 4,500 gp (+3), 8,000 gp (+4), 12,500 gp (+5); Weight: 1 lb.

NPC Gear: +2 totem, 5th
Treasure Value: +2 totem, 6th

Math: cost of a resistence bonus to all saves, across the board, is bonus squared *1,000. I price limited resistences (+1 to a single save type) as bonus squared*1,000. A bonus to the save of a single spell like or supernatural ability must be worth less than an across the board save.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

While looking to okay a comment on my blog, I noted that a gentleman using the handle Rafilar had posted a couple that I failed to okay. My bad.

This one drew my interest.

"This item is problematic for me, because it provides an odd-strength bonus to an ability score. The general rule in 3.x is that only even-strength bonuses should ever be given. (WotC has followed this rule moderately well, most 3rd-party companies less so. Malhavoc's good at it.)

Let's say I give a +1 cloak of charisma to my party. Half of them have even Charisma scores, so they find the item to be completely valueless. The other half has an odd-score, so it's worth as much benefit to them as a +2 cloak of charisma (4,000 gp). Mathematically, a +1 should cost 1,000 gp given the standard formula. This is not the same as, say, splitting the difference between the 0 gp and 4,000 gp that my players would value it at. Even if it was, that wouldn't be good either, because the players who have an odd bonus are getting as much benefit as from a +2 cloak at much less cost. So an odd-bonus item is either much more cost effective than an even-bonus item with the same benefit, for some players, or completely worthless, for other players.

In essence, it is my opinion, *and* the opinion of the people who designed the DMG and the magic item pricing system, that an item that gives an odd bonus to an ability score is inherently unbalanced."

This is interesting, because I never sat and thought about the pure economics incentives of a +1 stat bonus item. It is a cheaper bonus for charisma using characters that are on the cusp of a modifier boost.

In fact, it would probably be a really bad idea to create an item that did nothing but give a +1 bonus to an ability, although I could see places where it might be interesting: for instance, a wizard might wear a belt of strength enhancement +1 that boosted his strength from 11 to 12, and I wouldn't think an extra +1 to hit and damage for him would not be unbalancing in day to day play. A fighter, at higher levels, would rather have a +4 belt of strength.

One of the reasons I do the wacky ass items with odd combinations of powers is as a rules shim for "flavor," a game reason for PCs or NPCs to use an odd item.

The other is that I like to give suboptimal items to NPCs in order to boost their ability to challenge PCs, without loading the PCs down with treasure afterwards. Nobody wants the PCs to have too much treasure. It causes back strain.

There are several things that could make a +1 stat boosting item sub-optimal:

1) Item slot competition: RAW, items with certain abilities should have "favored" slots, which I tend to ignore. The cheapness of a +1 item would make it useful at lower levels, but at higher levels, PC's would want to swap it out with more powerful items.

I would stretch my strength-enchanced wizard argument above to suggest that at low levels, small bonuses are far less unbalancing than large ones. A +1 bonus to the strength of even the most ubered out 3rd level barbarian isn't going to add so much to combat. A +1 bonus to a 3rd level bard's charm person save DCs, probably less. It probably won't be with the party long, but might make a goblin slightly more interesting in battle.

2) Combination with other abilities: If you slap a +1 bonus onto an item with another ability, you're actually inflating the worth of either. Then the PC has to decide if either of the abilities is worth taking up an item slot for. If not, the item isn't unbalancing: it's raw gold for whatever else the PCs want to buy. It's a forced choice.

3) In the case of the item in question, the shimmering cloak, the +1 charisma bonus is added to color spray twice a day and +2 to perform checks, for a total cost of 3300 gp. Most bards, especially as they go up in level, would probably prefer a straight up cloak of charisma +2 for 4,000 gp. That color spray won't do much good at higher levels, unless you run a campaign that's heavy with low level mooks (I use a lot of mid-level mooks). A thief might prefer the item, which would be a pretty sub optimal combination of abilities, but still might add a flourish to the character. At that point it's a very expensive +1 enhancement bonus, in a slot that might be better used for something else.

Looking back at it, it is a sub-optimal magic item, even for my uses. By value, it is a suitable treausre for a 7th level NPC (say, a 7th level Sorcerer (CR 7), or a 7th level expert (a performer? CR 6). It would be given as a treasure for an EL 8 encounter. PCs wouldn't reasonably encounter one until they were at least 4th level, at which point they'd probably be saving for a +2 cloak, and the usefulness of the color spray will soon be eclipsed for the PCs. A 7th level NPC using it in a climactic encounter might find it handy against a party of 3rd or 4th level PCs, but it would be of little use to a run of the mill or filler encounter vs. a party of it's own level. RAW, I can't even see a real reason for anyone to make such an item.

As a magic item, it's sort of an aside. A misfit toy, to use the parlance of the season (I have a four year old: I've seen Rudolph 3 times this year. Erg.)

What it would be useful for is as a surprise: The smooth talking but corrupt alderman (Aristocrat 6, Rog 1, CR 6, natural charisma 15) uses it to take down the Ranger's animal companion. A rules shim for flavor.

Worse than the half bonus, I think, is that the bonus is a variant named, making it stack with regular enchancement bonuses. I should probably rewrite that.

A large number of my weird items come from the fact that can't stand giving mook PCs a bunch of cloaks of charisma or another wand of magic missles, than maybe you'll give them a shimmering cloak, and the sorcerer minions of the cult of shining glances now has a stock item that identifies them to PCs.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Skin Totem - Varied Wondrous Item

Totem, Skin: This handheld totem, a leathery bundle made out of a bit of pelt and bone from an animal, are often found with hunters, rogues, and adventurers: anyone who has a frequent need for a quick getaway or a quick boost in fighting power. The more powerful ones are harder to make; druids rarely like the spoilage of ecology that comes with depleting large predators.

When held in bare hand and the name of the animal who donated the fur is spoken aloud, the holder can wildshape into that creature as a move equivalent action. Each skin totem is made differently, and each has a different duration, ranging from one to twenty minutes. Skin totems are destroyed when they are used.

The market value of a skin totem is determined by multiplying the hit dice of the animal it transforms it’s user into by the number of minutes the effect last, and then by 50. For instance, a leopard skin totem created to last 3 rounds would have a market value of 3 (HD) * 3 (rounds duration) = 9 * 50 = 450 gp.

Caster Level 5th; Create wondrous item, druid with wildshape ability or polymorph; Market Value: as noted above.

Treasure value: Leopard Skin Totem, 450 gp, 2nd
NPC Gear Value: Leopard Skin Totem, 450 gp, 1st

Note: Make this item a potion and call it a leopardsoul potion. Or liquid leopardsoul. Or something like that.
I started my totem series today, the first of which isn't exactly relevant to last week's description: items that enhance your monster's powers. The next two are spot on topic.

When okaying a very nice comment on my last post, I found two comments I hand't even realized existed. I okayed them, but one brought up an interesting balance point that I wanted to address. That post is sitting at home, currently. I will try to post it tonight.

I hope everybody had a happy holiday weekend.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A'ight. Ended my series of protective items for mooks.

Next week, Tuesday, I start my series on totems to make your monster mooks more effective.

Just out of curiosity: anybody reading the articles I post, other than the Maguc Items?

Bueller?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Turnaway - Minor Wondrous Item

From the address of the Grognard Phung Waal in his address to the Kauncil of the Scorpion Klans decennial business aggregation.

“It is a reality of today’s world that men of conscience or bold action who do not study the arcane arts are at a distinct disadvantage to the common rabble who do. Unarmed and with only negligible material aid, a wose anark or red coast infiltrator can enter a public house, or even a parliament, and burn or pinion a citizen with rays of elemental energy or force. The wise councilor or businessman, faced by the petty jealousies of the less fortunate, will turn to the alchemist or charm monger to protect his body and those of his servants from arcane attacks.

So were born the jurin, turnaways, and the cloaks of false life. The former act to absorb damage of a specific energy type, the latter allow you to shrug off a certain amount of physical punishment. Neither are inexhaustible, being quickly used up. However, they are superior to more permanent protections in their thriftyness, and will cause your attackers to either waste valuable resources on their first application, or waste time as they hold back trying to guess how well protected you are. As men of action well know, a few brief seconds can make all the difference in moments of dire peril.”


Turnaway: These torcs are made of mithril and gold twisted together in intricate pattern and capped with balls of leaded glass. They are worn about the throat. Each is attuned to a kind of energy: Fire, Cold, Acid, Sonic, or Electricity.

Turnaways activate when their wearer would be damaged by the energy type they are attunded to. They give their wearer a certain amount of resistance to that energy type for five minutes. The typical turnaway is crafted in increments of five: 5, 10, or 15 points of energy per day.

Minor abjuration; CL 5; Create wondrous item, energy resistance; Cost 300 gp per point of resistance, 1,200 gp (5 resistance), 2,400 (10 resistance), 3,600 (15 resistance)

Treasure Value:

5 energy resistance: 4th
10 energy reistance: 7th
15 energy resistance: 9th

NPC Gear:


5 energy resistance: 3rd
10 energy reistance: 6th
15 energy resistance: 7th

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Jurin - Minor Wondrous Item

From the address of the Grognard Phung Waal in his address to the Kauncil of the Scorpion Klans decennial business aggregation.

“It is a reality of today’s world that men of conscience or bold action who do not study the arcane arts are at a distinct disadvantage to the common rabble who do. Unarmed and with only negligible material aid, a wose anark or red coast infiltrator can enter a public house, or even a parliament, and burn or pinion a citizen with rays of elemental energy or force. The wise councilor or businessman, faced by the petty jealousies of the less fortunate, will turn to the alchemist or charm monger to protect his body and those of his servants from arcane attacks.

So were born the jurin, turnaways, and the cloaks of false life. The former act to absorb damage of a specific energy type, the latter allow you to shrug off a certain amount of physical punishment. Neither are inexhaustible, being quickly used up. However, they are superior to more permanent protections in their thriftyness, and will cause your attackers to either waste valuable resources on their first application, or waste time as they hold back trying to guess how well protected you are. As men of action well know, a few brief seconds can make all the difference in moments of dire peril.”


Jurin: A jurin is a gold or bone amulet, upon which are written runes of abjuration. There are as many different kinds of Jurin as there are arcane energies: cold jurin, sonic jurin, fire, force, acid, and lightning jurin. When worn at the wrist, throat, waist, or brow (taking up a gauntlet, necklace, belt, or hat magic item slot), they will absorb some of the energy they are attuned to.

Each Jurin has a capacity: 5 hp, 10 hp, 20 hp, 30 hp, or even a fraction of that if they belonged to another user and have seen action. Jurin’s can be created to absorb up to 100 points.

Multiple Jurin of the same energy type may be worn at the same time. Damage is taken by all of them equally. Jurin of different types cannot be worn together: they will cancel each other out, and none of them will function.

Weak abjuration; CL 5th; Craft wondrous item, protection from elements; Cost 12 gp per point of absorbtion; 120 gp (10 point), 240 gp (20 point, 360 gp (30 point), 480 gp (40 point)

NPC Gear:

10 points of energy absorbtion: 1st
20 points of energy absorbtion: 1st
30 points of energy absorbtion: 1st
40 points of energy absorbtion: 2nd

Treasure Value:

10 points of energy absorbtion: 1st
20 points of energy absorbtion: 1st
30 points of energy absorbtion: 2nd
40 points of energy absorbtion: 2nd

Math: Fiddling around with resist energy and protection from energy spells spells cast at various levels, I determined that a good rule of thumb is that a point of energy absorbtion, as a one shot item, is worth 12 gp, the rough average per point point of a protection from energy spell tricked out as a single shot item.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cloak of False Life - Minor Wondrous Item

From the address of the Grognard Phung Waal in his address to the Kauncil of the Scorpion Klans decennial business aggregation.

“It is a reality of today’s world that men of conscience or bold action who do not study the arcane arts are at a distinct disadvantage to the common rabble who do. Unarmed and with only negligible material aid, a wose anark or red coast infiltrator can enter a public house, or even a parliament, and burn or pinion a citizen with rays of elemental energy or force. The wise councilor or businessman, faced by the petty jealousies of the less fortunate, will turn to the alchemist or charm monger to protect his body and those of his servants from arcane attacks.

So were born the jurin, turnaways, and the cloaks of false life. The former act to absorb damage of a specific energy type, the latter allow you to shrug off a certain amount of physical punishment. Neither are inexhaustible, being quickly used up. However, they are superior to more permanent protections in their thriftyness, and will cause your attackers to either waste valuable resources on their first application, or waste time as they hold back trying to guess how well protected you are. As men of action well know, a few brief seconds can make all the difference in moments of dire peril.”


Cloak of false life: These deep, jewel colored cloaks of cotton are often embroidered or painted with the simple curling designs: Red on purple, black on red or blue.

If the cloak has been worn for at least eight hours in the previous 24, when donned for the first time each day, a cloak of false life bestows a number of temporary hit points. They come off the wearer’s hit point total first.

Weak necromancy; CL 3rd: Craft wondrous item, false life; Price 400 gp per temporary hp each day.

Cost: 1,200 gp (3 hp), 1,600 gp (4 hp), 2,000 gp (5 hp), 2,400 (6 hp), 2,800 (7 hp), 3,200 (8 hp), 3,600 (9 hp), 4,000 (10 hp)

NPC Gear:

3 hp: 3rd
4 hp: 4th
5 hp: 5th
6 hp: 6th
7 hp: 6th
8 hp: 7th
9 hp: 7th
10 hp: 8th

Treasure Value
:

3 hp: 4th
4 hp: 5th
5 hp: 6th
6 hp: 7th
7 hp: 8th
8 hp: 8th
9 hp: 9th
10 hp: 9th

Math: Fiddling around with cure spells and false life spells cast at various levels, I determined that a good rule of thumb is that a hit point, usable once per day, is worth 400 gp, the rough average per hit point of a False Life spell cast at every level it is beneficial 3-10.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Elemental Gauntlet - Medium Wondrous Item

Elemental Gauntlets: There are four types of elemental gauntlets: Fire, Acid, Lightning, and Cold. Each manifests as a nimbus of the force embodied. If someone puts their hand into the nimbus, the glow will adhere to their hand. The wearer is wearing a glove of pure elemental force.

The wearer gains a +1 bonus to the difficulty checks of spells they cast with the same elemental descriptor as the gauntlet. They gain +1d4 energy damage with natural attacks and tiny weapons while wearing the gauntlets, of the gauntlet’s type. They also receive 5 points of energy resistance, against the gauntlet's type of energy.

Moderate evocation; CL3; Create wondrous item, burning hands, endure elements; Price 10,500 gp

Treasure Value: 13th
NPC Gear: 11th

Math:

1*1*1000 plus half = 1500 for +1 DC
1*1*2000 (as if it were a +1 weapon bonus) plus half = 3000 for damage bonus
5*1,200 fire resistance 6000 gp for energy resistance

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Cloak of the Light Step - Minor Wondrous Item

Cloak of the Light Step: This magical cloak is made of fine linen died in sprightly floral colors. It is embroidered with representations of eyes on the hem, and birds on the shoulders.

When worn, it provides a +1 dodge bonus to the wearer’s AC against one creature that the wearer is currently in melee with.

Light transmutation; CL 3rd; Craft Wondrous Item, cat's grace: Price 1,000 gp.

NPC Gear: 2nd
Treasure Value
: 4th

Maths - I value feats at roughly (1+# of prerequisites)*(1+# of prerequisites)*1000 gp. I think. A +1 bonus to armor class is worth 1 K for armor, 2 K for other types, but this dodge bonus is so limited (only one other creature) that it deserves to be slashed by at least half. So I figure it's priced about right.
So... I just realized I skipped the end of last week. Work is ghastly, and will continue to be so through the end of the week. I will post normally this week, and then I will post a three item series next week. All magic items that are great for low to mid level NPC mooks and villains.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Cloak of Darkness' Servants - Major Wondrous Item

Cloak of Darkness’ Servants: This inky black cloak has no features, but its hue is so deep that it makes people looking at it feel slightly vertiginous, as if looking down a very deep hole.

Once per day, in conditions of shadowy illumination or darker, the wearer can use it to summon 1d4+1 Yeth Hounds who pour out of the cloak as if it were a portal into a shadowy realm. Although anyone can summon the hounds, they will only serve evil summoners, turning on and attacking good or fully neutral ones.

Moderate Evocation; CL 11; summon monster VI; Price 18,500 gp.

NPC Gear: 14th
Treasure Value: 15th

Math

Summon monster VI

6*11*2000

/5 - for once a day

- .3 - item requires specific alignment/environment to use

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Crystal Marble - Minor Wondrous item

Crystal Marble: These thumbnail sized beads of glass are strikingly clear, but tinted in bright primary colors. Crystal marbles are dropped using molten glass that is mixed with powdered aurichalc along with trace elements of other metals, to give them color. The glass of a crystal marble is so clear that it is nearly invisible, which is why they are tinted.

When crushed on ground, an invisibility sphere is centered around the crusher, as if the spell of the same name were cast by a 5th level caster.

Moderate illusion; Create wondrous item, invisibility sphere; Price 1,500 gp

NPC Gear: 4th
Treasure Value: 5th