Friday, January 31, 2014

Ring of Gravity [Item] [S&W]

Ring of Gravity
For one hour each day the wearer of this ring can treat any surface as “down”, allowing them to walk on walls, ceilings, etc. This effect extends to their items. Three times a day a ring-wearer can change another creature’s personal gravitational orientation to match their own; this effect lasts only a single round.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Rod of Revelation [Item] [S&W]

Rod of Revelation
This light, hollow rod allows the wielder to detect secret and concealed doors as an elf, and to find traps with a 3 in 6 chance of success. The end of the rod opens: the hollow interior can hold up to 50 feet of slender silk rope, lockpicks, or similar accouterments for the enterprising young lady. Pressing a stud on the rod transforms it into a +1 short sword; pressing the stud a second time changes it into an ornate metallic fan which functions as a +1 shield; a third press reverts the rod to its original form.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Rod of the Great Beast [Item] [S&W]

In case it's not clear, I've been working on magical rods.  I started off doing magical items in general, but turned out to be easier to focus on one kind of item at at time, and rods seemed like an easy choice to do "entire".  Frankly, anyone that knows me would be utterly baffled by the completest tendencies that have gone along with my OSR conversions, and I don't understand them myself.  I've got roughly fifty magical rods written up, and that number plus noted down. At least half, and probably more, are new items; the rest are conversions from various sources.  I'm consoling myself with the knowledge that rods, with their varied functions and lack of direct-spell-effects probably take the most writing of any class of magic item (followed by rings and wondrous items).


Rod of the Great Beast
This fearsome-looking bone rod can be wielded as a +3 mace. More importantly, when the command word is spoken, the wielder can bend a dinosaur to his will. The dinosaur gets a save; if the save is unsuccessful, the dinosaur will accept and carry the rod-holder as a rider. The effect lasts for as long as the rod-holder owns the rod and keeps it about their person, although actually guiding the dinosaur requires the rod to be held in one hand. Controlled dinosaurs are slightly but not greatly more docile than usual when the rod-holder is not about: using carnivorous great beasts as mounts is likely to result in the loss of stablehands (assuming one can find help willing to approach such a creature).

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Defining Magical Rods

Rods are the red-headed stepchild of magic items.  Not as prestigious as wands or staves, but a step above wondrous or "miscellaneous" magic items, they'e never had a well understood place in the pantheon of artifacts.  So what exactly is a magical rod?

There are two keys to identifying and understanding rods. First, they are usable by all classes. If any class is restricted in their use of rods, it is in fact likely to be magic-users and their ilk.

Second, rods transform. A rod with one shape and one function is a magical stick. Almost every rod transforms itself; many transform the wielder as well.

Rods are a symbol of rulership and supremacy.  Sceptres and crosiers are both forms of the rod. Many rods evoke this symbolism in their powers, whether conjuring rich clothing or followers, forcing obedience on those around the rod, or enforcing certain behaviors. Fighters, clerics, and to a lesser extent druids favor rods that create leadership effects. These rods are never subtle.

Rods are utilitarian. On the flip side of the symbolism is the utility of the rod. Fighters and thieves both enjoy more functional, less flamboyant rods that hold a variety of effects and tools. As a corollary to this, most rods are also weapons.

Rods are not defined by spells.  Rods are not collections of spells. If an item can be defined by the spells it casts, it's almost certainly not a rod. Spells are the hallmark of wands and staffs, not rods.

So a magical rod is an item that (primarily) benefits fighters, clerics, and thieves; has multiple functions and usually changes shape; and whose most prominent abilities are not spells.

(FWIW, a lot of 1e & 2e wands and staffs are now rods by my definition. Not all, but a lot of them.)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Chalkeion Rod [Item] [S&W]



Chalkeion Rod
This bronze rod can be used as a +1 mace or transformed into a +1 javelin.

By expending one charge, the rod-wielder can transform their own skin into a hardened substance resembling bronze that grants them an AC of 5 [14] while still allowing normal movement, and gains the ability to attack twice in a round. This transformation lasts for one hour. If the rod-holder is not a fighter, or is of less than 6th-level, and uses the transformation function of the rod, there is a chance of being transformed into a chalkeion. This chance is equal to 6% minus the character’s level, doubled if the character is a cleric, tripled if they are a thief, and quadrupled if they are a wizard. Nonhuman characters double their chances again.

The holder of a chalkeion rod can also summon 1d4+1 hoplite chalkeions for one hour; this expends two charges from the rod. The chalkeions will obey orders from the rod-holder, but are not magically compelled to do so. If the rod-wielder is a fighter of 6th-level or higher, and treats the chalkeions with honor and dignity, there is a chance some may seek her out later as followers.

A chalkeion rod is typically found with 2d20+20 charges remaining. It is rumored that a chalkeion rod can be recharged, but the secret of doing so is known only to the chalkeions.


Man of Bronze (hoplite): HD 5; AC 2[17]; Atk 2 weapon (1d6); Move 12; Save 12; AL N; CL/XP 5/240; Special: None. Monstrosities pg. 64

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Carpenter's Rod [Item] [S&W]

Carpenter’s Rod
This simple rod unfolds into a number of different configurations. It can be extended from 6 inches to 30 feet, closed, and then reopened to the same length. Placed on a surface (horizontal, vertical, or other), it will indicate degree of slope or pitch, and can indicate and lock at any angle. Markings on the rod assist the user in mathematical equations, to determine volume, quantity, and etc. A portion of the rod detaches; this portion will indicate distance and change in elevation from the main section when commanded. The rod can be separated into a chain reaching 66 feet; this chain is fragile and cannot support more than 10 pounds of weight. A carpenter’s rod does not use charges.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Magically Itemish Stuff

I've been converting magic items recently; a change of pace from working on spells.  A few observations:

  • If you see the words "+x circumstance bonus to [skill]", just move on. (Same for spells, actually.) 9 times out of 10 it's not worth it.
  • It's not worth cutting and pasting either. If one follows the format of the rule book, most item descriptions are one line. Just rewrite the thing.
  • Those one line descriptions are really perfunctory. It makes me a little sad. I might go through and spruce them up. 
  • It's a lot harder to find good collections of magic items than good collections of spells. Most magic items collections are themed.
  • The thornshield was (I think) one of the few items rejected from my Dragon magazine article (Gnomish magical items, #272) and the only thing (out of 30 or so) accepted by Bastion Press for their Arms & Armor book. Weird. (And that's the sum total of my paid RPG writing profession, folks. In hindsight, Dragon paid pretty darned well.)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Gnomes and Half-Orcs [Race] [S&W]

Gnomes
Gnomes can see in the dark (darkvision) to a range of 60 feet.  They can also speak to burrowing animals without the use of magic, and have a +2 bonus on their saving throws versus illusions.  Gnomes may be Illusionists, Fighters/Illusionists, or Illusionist/Thieves.  Fighters are limited to 4th level in the Fighter class, 8th level (9th with 18 Intelligence) in the Illusionist class, and 10th level in the Thief class. Gnomes have a +5 to all Thief abilities except Climb Walls. Gnomes that are solely Illusionists may take advantage of any XP bonus due to a high Intelligence score to gain experience more quickly.

Gnomes that are not player -characters might have abilities and limitations completely different from those of an adventuring Gnome. The nature of the gnomish race as a whole is entirely the province of the Referee, and might include non-player characters of any class.

Half-Orcs
Half-Orcs can see in the dark (darkvision) to a range of 60 feet.  They have a +4 on saving throws against poison and disease (+2 versus magical diseases).  Half-Orcs may be Assassins, Fighters, Fighter/Assassin, or Fighter/Thief. Multi-classed Fighters are limited to 6th level as Fighters, and may not advance past this point. Half-Orcs are likewise limited to 8th level as Thieves.  Half-Orcs that are solely Fighters may advance to 7th level with a Strength of 17, and 8th level with a Strength of 18. In the Assassin class, Half-Orcs have no level limit. A Half-Orc that is solely an Assassin may take advantage of any XP bonus due to high attribute scores to gain experience more quickly.

Half-Orcs that are not player -characters might have abilities and limitations completely different from those of an adventuring Half-Orc. The nature of the half-orcs and their place in the world is entirely the province of the Referee, and might include non-player characters of any class. In particular, half-orc assassin/clerics of dark and vile gods are rumored to exist.

Breaking Items Rules for S&W (rough draft)

Open Doors Method
Items have a rating of Fragile, Standard, Sturdy, Very Sturdy, and Extremely Sturdy. For Fragile items, roll a d4; Normal items roll d6; Sturdy items roll d8; Very Sturdy roll d10; and Extremely Sturdy roll d12.  Each result equal or less than the character's Open Doors chance on the Strength attribute table indicates a success. Fragile items require only one success; Normal and Sturdy items require two successes; Very Sturdy items require three successes; and Extremely Sturdy items require four successes to destroy. Each attempt takes at least a round, and possibly more.

An item can be damaged or disabled with one less success than is required to break it (automatically for Fragile items; one for Normal and Sturdy items, two for Very Sturdy; three for Extremely Sturdy items). A conventional roll to open a door in S&W disables a Normal item.

Glass, paper, and fine pottery are Fragile.
Most manufactured items (furniture, doors) are Standard.
Stronger wooden items (hammers, walls) are Sturdy.
Stone items and thin metal items are Very Sturdy.
Metal items are Extremely Sturdy.

Different materials might shift an item's rating up or down from "normal", or impose a minus (benefit) or plus (penalty) the character's Open Doors roll.

Save Method
Instead of the character rolling to break an item, items have a Saving Throw value and a required number of failed saves, as follows:
Fragile 20 (1 failure)
Normal 15 (2 failures)
Sturdy 10 (2 failures)
Very Sturdy 5 (3 failures)
Extremely Sturdy 2 (4 failures)
Once an item has failed the indicated number of saves, it is destroyed.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Profane Stare [Spell] [S&W]

Profane Stare
Level: Cleric 5
Range: 60 feet
Duration: 1 round per level
Good creatures take 3d6 points of damage and are paralyzed for 2d6 rounds upon meeting your gaze. Neutral or unaligned creatures take 1d6 points of damage and are paralyzed for 1d6 rounds  If they succeed on a saving throw, they take half damage and are not paralyzed. Evil creatures are not affected by this spell.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Symbol of Divine Illumination [Spell] [S&W] [3e/PF]

Symbol of Divine Illumination
Level: Cleric 3
Range: Personal
Duration: 1 round per level
You summon a small globe of pure sunlight that takes the shape of your holy symbol. The globesheds light as bright as full daylight in a 60-foot radius. Creatures that take penalties in bright light also take them while within the radius of this magical light, and you gain a +3 bonus to your Turn Undead roll.



Mark of Light
Evocation
Level: Cleric 4, Paladin 4
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Personal
Effect: One holy symbol of pure sunlight
Duration: 1 minute/level
Saving Throw: No; Spell Resistance: None
You summon a small globe of pure sunlight that takes the shape of your holy symbol. The mark sheds light as bright as full daylight in a 60-foot radius, and dim light for an additional 60 feet beyond that. Creatures that take penalties in bright light also take them while within the radius of this magical light, and you gain a +3 sacred bonus to your Charisma checks when attempting to turn undead.



The license for this entry is located in the Legal page above.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sphere of Disarmament [Spell] [S&W] [3e/PF]

Sphere of Disarmament
Level: Cleric 3
Range: 10 foot radius sphere centered on you
Duration: Instant
All non-magical, manufactured weapons within 10 feet of you are destroyed.


S&W Notes: Swords & Wizardry spells tend to be a little less defined than later edition versions, and more "stuff happens, no save", but I included "manufactured" to make it clear that the troll's teeth aren't going to suddenly fall out.  This would be interesting to try as a 2nd-level spell.


Shattering Disarm
Transmutation
Level: Cleric/Oracle 4, Sorcerer/Wizard 4
Components: V, S, DF
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Personal
Target: 5-ft.-radius spread
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Will negates (object); Spell Resistance: Yes (object)
Shattering disarm causes all non-magical weapons within 5 ft. of the caster to suddenly shatter on a failed saving throw. Weapons weighing more than 1 pound per caster level are not affected, but all other weapons are ripped to pieces by the spell.


PF Notes: I'm not expert in PF terminology and classes yet, so let me know if I make a mistake, or if a different class should have access to a spell.


The license for this entry is located in the Legal page above.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Heavenly Blessing [Spell] [S&W] [3e/PF]

Heavenly Blessing
Level: Cleric 3
Range: Touch
Duration: 1 round + 1 round per level
You turn a creature you touch into a semi-divine version of themselves, with golden or silvery eyes, golden tinted skin or silvery hair.They also gains a celestial ability or trait: roll a d6 on the following table.

Celestial powers:

  1. Menace: Opponents within 20 feet must make a successful saving throw or suffer a -2 penalty to attacks.
  2. Protection from Evil: Creature gains the benefits of a protection from evil, 10' radius spell.
  3. Immunities: Immune to electrical and petrification attacks.
  4. Resistances: +4 bonus to saves against cold, acid, and poisons.
  5. Keen Vision: Darkvision 60ft; can perceive color.
  6. Teleport: Can use dimension door at will. Only self and up to 50 pounds of objects.



Notes: Swords & Wizardry doesn't have the divine enhancement spells that become a staple of the cleric in later editions, so this is an atypical cleric spell at the moment. Protection from evil 10' radius and dimension door are both 4th-level spells with one hour durations, and S&W has more compressed spell levels for clerics than later editions do, so dropping the spell level makes sense - the caster gets a weaker version of 4th-level spells, and can't control the exact effect.



Heavenly Blessing
School: Transmutation
Level: Cleric/Oracle 6
Components: V, S, DF
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Touch
Target: 1 creature
Duration: 1 round + 1 round/ level
Saving Throw: Fort. negates; Spell Resistance: Yes

Drawing upon the powers of the higher planes, the recipient of this spell is slightly transformed, gaining golden or silvery eyes, golden tinted skin or silvery hair. She also gains a celestial ability or trait. The player should roll a d6 on the following table.

Celestial powers:

  1. Menace (Su): A look of righteousness surrounds the recipient in a 20ft. radius. All those in it must make a Will save (DC 16) or suffer a –2 morale penalty to attacks, AC and saves until they successfully attack.
  2. Magic Circle against Evil (Su): Same as the spell as if cast by a 12 level sorcerer.
  3. Immunities (Ex): Immune to Electrical and Petrification attacks.
  4. Resistances (Ex): Cold and Acid Resistance 20 and +4 sacred bonus against poisons.
  5. Keen Vision (Ex): Low-light vision and darkvision 60ft.
  6. Teleport (Su): Can teleport without error at will. Only self and up to 50 pounds of objects.

(The license for this entry is located in the Legal page above.)


Saturday, January 11, 2014

It's the Little Things

Ease of use is a big issue for me, and it informed a lot of the design of The Basic Illusionist.
For instance:

  • Be consistent in terminology and presentation.
  • Terms used in the work should be defined in the work.
  • Only define what needs to be defined.
  • Start with the basic or core concept, and then add on.
  • Make optional material distinct from core material.
  • Minimize page flipping.
  • Only change what needs to be changed.




  • As a consequence, a fair amount of thought and work went into the presentation of spells in TBI.  Even the spells I copied from the Swords & Wizardry rules got tweaked to standardize areas of effect (mostly brought into the Range entry in the stat block) and units of time (1 round instead of 1 minute; 1 turn instead of ten rounds or ten minutes). Some people think standardization = boring, but the idea, at least in this case, isn't to make things boring in the game; it's to make them easier at the table.

    Heightened spells are a standard spell that has extra effects as a result of being prepared (or memorized) as a higher level spell. In 3e Heighten Spell was a feat that could be applied to any spell; in TBI I created specific heightened variants for a number of spells. Mostly this was in response to the "phantom steed effect", where a low-level spell gets more powerful as the caster level increases, above and beyond the normal increases to duration, range, and damage. The heightened versions of a spell are simple variations of the basic spell, so a caster doesn't need to specifically learn them at higher levels.

    In TBI I noted heightened spells variants below the base spell descriptions (since English reads top to bottom, you get the complete basic spell first, then the additional material) like so:
        Heightened (+1): When this spell is prepared as a X-level spell....

    This is perfectly functional, but not very exciting.  There weren't too many heightened spells in TBI, so I didn't give it much thought.  The Complete Illusionist will have a lot more, however, and I thought it might be nice to give the variants their own name (but not their own full entries). Names give room for a little bit of creativity and make it easier for the DM to treat a variant as its own spell - including them in scrolls, for instance.

    Then the issue of indexing was brought up.  I wouldn't put variants in the primary spell list at the start of the spell sections, but an index at the end listing every spell and variant by name just makes sense. Phantom Steed (3rd-level) would obviously have an entry, but so would Yridon's Shadow Steed (Phantom Steed 4th-level); Aetherial Mount (Phantom Steed 5th-level), and Grail Horse (Phantom Steed cantrip).

    So I'll have to tweak how I note heightened spells. They'll still be at the end of the spell entry, but will probably become something like this:
        Grail Horse (cantrip): When this spell is prepared as a cantrip....
         Yridon's Shadow Steed (4th): When this spell is prepared as a X-level spell....
        Aetherial Mount (5rd): When this spell is prepared as a X-level spell....

    It's a little thing, but I think it'll make it easier for more DMs and players to use more of the book, and get more use out of the book, and that's important.

    A Question about Spells

    In The Basic Illusionist, I used "heightened" variants to merge some similar spells and introduce easy differences. How should these be labelled?

    (A)
    PHANTASMAL FORCE
    Level: Illusionist 2
    Range: 240 feet
    Duration: Concentration
    This spell creates a realistic illusion in the sight of all who view it. The illusion disappears when it is touched, but if the viewer believes the illusion is real, he can take damage from it. Unless the Referee rules otherwise, victims of the spell are permitted a saving throw, and the illusion cannot cause more than 2d6 points of damage per victim. This damage is illusory, and disappears 1 round after the spell expires.
         Heightened (+3): When prepared as a 5th-level spell, the duration becomes permanent.

    (B)
    PHANTASMAL FORCE
    Level: Illusionist 2
    Range: 240 feet
    Duration: Concentration
    This spell creates a realistic illusion in the sight of all who view it. The illusion disappears when it is touched, but if the viewer believes the illusion is real, he can take damage from it. Unless the Referee rules otherwise, victims of the spell are permitted a saving throw, and the illusion cannot cause more than 2d6 points of damage per victim. This damage is illusory, and disappears 1 round after the spell expires.
         Permanent Image (+3): When prepared as a 5th-level spell, the duration becomes permanent.

    or
    (C)
    PHANTASMAL FORCE
    Level: Illusionist 2
    Range: 240 feet
    Duration: Concentration
    This spell creates a realistic illusion in the sight of all who view it. The illusion disappears when it is touched, but if the viewer believes the illusion is real, he can take damage from it. Unless the Referee rules otherwise, victims of the spell are permitted a saving throw, and the illusion cannot cause more than 2d6 points of damage per victim. This damage is illusory, and disappears 1 round after the spell expires.
         Heightened +3, "Permanent Image": When prepared as a 5th-level spell, the duration becomes permanent.


    Note: I didn't use this in TBI, but  I could have. The only differences between phantasmal force and permanent image are spell level and duration.

    Thursday, January 9, 2014

    The Complete Illusionist update

    Work has recommenced on The Complete Illusionist.  I'm plugging through spells right now: including ones published in The Basic Illusionist, I've got 45 finished 1st-level spells (and 5 unfinished) , 30 finished 2nd-level spells (17 unfinished) , and so on.  There's a lot of time in going through the spells, checking various spells against one another, tweaking descriptions (mostly shortening), cleaning up the language, and adding heightened and diminished effects. I've got one or two other sources to check as well, particularly for higher level spells.

    One of the things I'm really trying to do is make sure related spells play well with each other. Spells in a "family", for instance, should have a similar appearance and effects (chromatic spells are sparkling and multi-hued).  Ideally they will also span a number of levels, either through separate spells or diminished/heightened effects. (chromatic dagger, a 2nd-level spell, includes a diminished and a heightened effect; chromatic blade, a 5th-level spell, also includes a diminished and a heightened effect, so the two together span 1st-6th level. There's clearly room for an 8th-level version if I want. Unfortunately, the two don't play well with chromatic orb, but that's really a prismatic spell anyway...)

    Other things to include in The Complete Illusionist:

    • a description of how heightened and diminished spells work (this should've been in TBI. Whoops.)
    • Illusionist NPCs
    • A more comprehensive description of the Aethereal Plane.
    • Possibly a description of the Umbral Plane
    • luminists and shadowmancers
    • apprentices, etc, etc.
    • More illusion & shadow related creatures.
    • Magic items
    • A short section on using illusionists instead of magic-users in a campaign.
    • Spell lists broken down by effect, school, subschool, so on and so forth

    Any other requests?