In Soviet Pathfinder, Ring Wears You!
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Welcome to the second installment of a three-part series of Design Tuesday blogs exploring Intelligent Magic Items. Part 1 of this series can be found here.
Intelligent Magic Items: Part 2
Last week, we examined the basics of adding an intelligent magic item to your campaign. This week, we are investigating the process of determining the powers and abilities of intelligent magic items. While this process is not too complicated, what powers are given to an item greatly influence how it interacts with the game.
The process used in building intelligent magic items is relatively straightforward, moving from one step to the next, but there are a number of particular tips that are worth noting.
Cost: The price for an intelligent magic item can go up very quickly. As a result, intelligent magic items tend to be out of the reach of most low-level characters. This is one area, however, where the GM can relax the usual wealth guidelines a bit if it serves the story. In addition, the item might not have access to or choose to use certain abilities until its possessor is suitably experienced, meaning that the item's approximate value might increase over time, making it more affordable at lower levels. This can even extend to the powers granted by the base item on which the intelligent item is built. For example, an intelligent ring of protection might start out granting a +1 deflection bonus and be perfectly suitable for a low-level hero, but as time goes on, this bonus might increase and other abilities might reveal themselves as the ring learns to trust its possessor.
Ego: Most of the time, an intelligent magic item is more than willing to work with its possessor, but those with a high ego often try to control the relationship. When building an item, you should decide how its personality affects its ego score. While not all items act in this way, the following general guidelines should help you determine the item's personality. Items with an ego less than 10 are generally passive, willing to work with their possessors almost unquestioningly. Items with egos between 11 and 19 are confident and sometimes quarrel with their possessors if it is something they are passionate about. Items with egos between 20 and 30 are arrogant and believe they know what is best almost all the time. They are difficult to control. An item with an ego greater than 30 almost always tries to dominate the situation, seeing its possessor as a vessel for its supreme will, a tool to be used to achieve its ends.
Base Item: The base item can tell you a lot about the item and its story. As a general rule, items with interesting mechanics make for better base items. A cloak of arachnida is a lot more evocative than a cloak of resistance +2, but it is not always a bad thing to have a less interesting item as basis of an intelligent item. The cloak of resistance is more of a blank slate, allowing you to associate nearly any personality with the item, whereas the cloak of arachnida only makes sense with backgrounds and personalities of a specific flavor.
Keeping these in mind, along with the item's background and story, deciding on most of its powers and abilities is an easy process. The most interesting part is deciding on its powers and special purpose (if it has one). While Table 15–24 gives a good starting point for powers, it is not particularly evocative, primarily because the powers on this list are made to be used with any magic item in the game. You should feel free to use these as a guideline to design specific powers that better fit the item's theme, type, and backstory. To assist you in this process, here is a list of new powers designed for specific item types or story ideas, including their costs and ego modifiers.
Hiding: The item can make itself invisible as per the spell once per day. Although it cannot be actively used while hidden in this way, any constant powers or bonuses it grants or possesses remain active. Item Type: Any. Price Modifier: 1,200 gp. Ego Modifier: +1.
Leaping: The item can leap to its possessor's hand or become instantly equipped. As long as the possessor has the item on his person, as a free action he can call out to the item, causing it to jump into his hand (if that is how it is wielded) or equip itself in the appropriate slot (if it takes up a slot). Items that are not wielded or do not take up a slot cannot have this power. The possessor must have a free hand or the appropriate slot free for this ability to function. Item Type: Special. Price Modifier: 2,000 gp. Ego Modifier: +1.
Maneuvering: Whenever this weapon is used to perform one specific type of combat maneuver, usually disarm or sunder, the possessor receives a +2 bonus on the check and does not provoke attacks of opportunity when attempting the combat maneuver. This does not stack with the bonus gained from the feat that grants the same bonus, such as Improved Disarm. Item Type: Weapon. Price Modifier: 8,000 gp. Ego Modifier: +1.
Proficiency: The possessor is automatically considered proficient in the weapon's use. This power does not grant the possessor the ability to use other weapons of the same type or to use this magically granted proficiency to meet prerequisites. Item Type: Weapon. Price Modifier: 2,000 gp. Ego Modifier: +1.
Recharging: The item regains one charge each day that it does not use a power that consumes a charge. If the item is a wand, it is not destroyed when it is reduced to 0 charges. The item cannot have more charges than its maximum (50 for a wand, 10 for a staff). Item Type: Staff, Wand, or other charged item. Price Modifier: 18,000 gp. Ego Modifier: +2.
In addition to powers, you might want to consider giving the item a drawback or two, to fit with its flavor. These drawbacks reduce the ego of the item, but do not otherwise affect its cost. An item should not have more than one drawback. A caster that crafts an intelligent item cannot build it with a drawback. These develop naturally over time or as the result of a botched creation attempt.
Forgetful: The item does not remember its possessor. Each morning it treats its possessor as if it does not know him. As a result, he must constantly earn its trust. Ego Modifier: –1.
Secretive: The item's special powers are not discernable by detect magic or identify. The special powers can be identified with analyze dweomer. The powers and the abilities of the base item can be learned normally. Ego Modifier: –1.
Singing: The item sings or talks at inappropriate times, giving its possessor a –4 penalty on Stealth skill checks. The item must possess the ability to speak to have this drawback. Ego Modifier: –1.
Split: The item has two alignments, and each day the GM determines which one of the alignments manifests. These alignments are always opposite one another. Ego Modifier: –2.
Uncaring: The item does not care about its possessor's safety or goals, and will gladly put him in harm's way if it gets the item closer to its purpose. As a result, the possessor must make a Will save against the item's Ego each day. If the save fails, the item does not function that day, unless events or the actions of the possessor bring it closer to its purpose. Ego Modifier: –3.
Unreliable: The item is very old and has forgotten how to reliably use its abilities. Whenever a possessor attempts to use its powers, there is a 25% chance that the power does not work. Ego Modifier: –2.
That about wraps up our look at creating intelligent magic items. Next week we'll conclude this series by giving you a number of sample intelligent magic items.