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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.

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Design Tuesdays Magic Items Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Cheliax

Thanks for this instalment of Design Tuesday Yakov Smirnoff Bulmahn.

Don't forget:

In Grand Lodge, you can always find a party;
In Soviet Pathfinder, Communist Party always finds you.

In Numeria, you listen to radio,
In Soviet Pathfinder, Party radio listens to you.

Spoiler:

“In Soviet Union we only had two TV channels. Channel One was alway Party propaganda. Channel Two is only a KGB officer telling you: Turn back at once to Channel One.”

In Andoran, your job determines your marks.
In Soviet Pathfinder, Marx determines your job.

In Korvosa and Galt, you assassinate leaders.
In Soviet Pathfinder, Party leaders assassinate you.

In Absalom, you throw party;
In Soviet Pathfinder, like Whispering Tyrant, Party throws you.

I like 2011 gamer girls! They do things sexually 1970's gamer girls never dream of doing - like showering.

And classic Yakov:

"The first time I went to a restaurant, they asked me 'How many in your party?' and I said "Six hundred million."

That is all.


Fun and interesting ideas here.

Unfortunately, I also can see some player trying to put the recharging power on a ring of three wishes ...

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Nice to see the 'Secretive' drawback in there, after last week's discussion, though I think the written description should be the default position (ie +/-0 Ego), until the user has owned the item long enough to prove themselves. Then the truly 'Secretive' items could hide their normal enhancements?

"Uh-oh. Here comes that wizard again. Don't like the look of him, or this study. Too many skulls and diabolical whatnots; bet he works for a right bastard. Here he comes with his pearly owl-paste...dear oh dear. Don't want to get identified, or I'll be stuck here...What? No, mate, I'm not magical. Really. I'm just a boring masterwork blade. This is all a Magic Aura. Looks like you got sold a lemon. Better take me down the pawnshop, pronto!"


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Great info here. I especially love the drawback list. Hah, imagine how difficult it could be to deal with a Hiding, Secretive, AND Uncaring intelligent item.

Better hope that that chainmail of Hiding that you found likes you. If it doesn't, you'd better be wearing full clothes under it or it might try to embarrass you at bad times...

Cheliax

Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps Subscriber

Makes you wonder what it'd be like to be an intelligent item that has yet to be discovered.

"Come on someone find me, I have been staring at the lid to this chest for 100 years. Enough already!"


Good article but not really relevant to my game or of great interest to me. We don't really use intelligent items much. I like the series though so hopefully the topics will skew towards my interest soon. Thanks.


"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."

I like this ability, and I expect it will be quite popular. I have two questions about it.

Wand - The Pathfinder Core book states that only permanent magic items are ever intelligent, and specifically mentions wands as temporary magic items that don't qualify to be made intelligent. Are you issuing a change to that rule?

PRD:

"Only permanent magic items (as opposed to single-use items or those with charges) can be intelligent. (This means that potions, scrolls, and wands, among other items, are never intelligent.) In general, less than 1% of magic items have intelligence."

Staff - "The item regains one charge each day that it does not use a power that consumes a charge." Is this in addition to potentially being recharged by its owner?


Todd Morgan wrote:

Makes you wonder what it'd be like to be an intelligent item that has yet to be discovered.

"Come on someone find me, I have been staring at the lid to this chest for 100 years. Enough already!"

Unless it spent it's time counting seconds I'd imagine it would lose track of time. Without any biological rhythms to mark time, being stuck in an abandoned treasure hord would become a blur.

A related question, would such an item go insane? Personally I think not if it was stuck in a fairly static environment. If it worked like a human mind it would basically shut down cognitively. Depending on its nature and Ego i could see it taking some time to even realize it had been "retrieved".

Taldor

Very cool article.

The leaping ability might solve a problem or two for those who play a Magus with the Wand Wielder ability...

Taldor

Blueluck wrote:

"[...] If the item is a wand, it is not destroyed when it is reduced to 0 charges. [...]"

Wand - The Pathfinder Core book states that only permanent magic items are ever intelligent, and specifically mentions wands as temporary magic items that don't qualify to be made intelligent. Are you issuing a change to that rule?
** spoiler omitted **

Staff - "The item regains one charge each day that it does not use a power that consumes a charge." Is this in addition to potentially being recharged by its owner?

Yes, I think this article updates the Core rules in saying that you can make a wand intelligent, BUT such a wand MUST have the Recharging ability (otherwise it is not a permanent item)

And yes, I believe a staff would get one charge per day of non-use, *in addition* to any other charge given by a spellcaster...

Paizo Employee Lead Designer

Blueluck wrote:

Wand - The Pathfinder Core book states that only permanent magic items are ever intelligent, and specifically mentions wands as temporary magic items that don't qualify to be made intelligent. Are you issuing a change to that rule?

** spoiler omitted **

Staff - "The item regains one charge each day that it does not use a power that consumes a charge." Is this in addition to potentially being recharged by its owner?

This does indeed change the rules. It allows wands if they have this ability.

As for staves, yes, this is in addition to the caster's recharging ability.

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer
Paizo Publishing

Paizo Employee Lead Designer

cibet44 wrote:
Good article but not really relevant to my game or of great interest to me. We don't really use intelligent items much. I like the series though so hopefully the topics will skew towards my interest soon. Thanks.

That is, indeed, half the point of this particular series of articles. I wanted to start off by looking at a part of the rules that many groups just ignore and do not use. Future topics I am sure will wander into more "mainstream" rules.

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer
Paizo Publishing

Taldor

Jason Bulmahn wrote:
cibet44 wrote:
Good article but not really relevant to my game or of great interest to me. We don't really use intelligent items much. I like the series though so hopefully the topics will skew towards my interest soon. Thanks.

That is, indeed, half the point of this particular series of articles. I wanted to start off by looking at a part of the rules that many groups just ignore and do not use. Future topics I am sure will wander into more "mainstream" rules.

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer
Paizo Publishing

Cibet44 might not be using any intelligent items, but I am just about to reveal one in my campaign this very week! What happens when a group of dungeon delvers finds the branding iron of the Runelord of Lust's chief torturer? Well when said branding iron IS actually the chief torturer things can get mighty interesting!

Spoiler:
Al'Xor the Persuader is a +1 Intelligent Quickiron Icy Burst Heavy Mace... So far my campaign idea is for the weapon's purpose is to defeat creatures of the Fire Subtype and the primary foe of the campaign is a Red Dragon.

--Vrock Garden

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
King of Vrock wrote:
Jason Bulmahn wrote:
cibet44 wrote:
Good article but not really relevant to my game or of great interest to me. We don't really use intelligent items much. I like the series though so hopefully the topics will skew towards my interest soon. Thanks.

That is, indeed, half the point of this particular series of articles. I wanted to start off by looking at a part of the rules that many groups just ignore and do not use. Future topics I am sure will wander into more "mainstream" rules.

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer
Paizo Publishing

Cibet44 might not be using any intelligent items, but I am just about to reveal one in my campaign this very week! What happens when a group of dungeon delvers finds the branding iron of the Runelord of Lust's chief torturer? Well when said branding iron IS actually the chief torturer things can get mighty interesting!

** spoiler omitted **

--Vrock Garden

a branding iron with

Spoiler:
icy...
what a great and interesting combination!

used spoiler in case any of your players might be lurking... shame on you if you are!


Can you people imagine how mad would be an intelligent magic item lying in a dungeon for a few centuries, or used as an execution tool? Now that would be a drawback - magic item insanity...

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Jason Bulmahn wrote:

That is, indeed, half the point of this particular series of articles. I wanted to start off by looking at a part of the rules that many groups just ignore and do not use. Future topics I am sure will wander into more "mainstream" rules.

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer
Paizo Publishing

Is there less use of such material these days, due to modern players kicking up a stink about it?

I read Howard from pre-teens, and Moorcock in my teens; the idea that magic is something inherently 'wrong' that you mess with at your own risk; that crafters do not have total control over the results of their meddling; that the resulting items have sentience and an agenda of their own, is inherently reasonable to me.

Unfortunately, there's a players' lobby out there, who denounce any attempt by a GM to deviate from a God-given, predetermined 100% PC success rate, or their carefully planned, 20-levels-ahead always-available shopping list from the ever-present Magic Mart.

A GM inserting a mouthy or recalcitrant item, could be accused of railroading the game, or at least using a DMPC as a back-seat driver.
In the hands of a dictatorial GM, it could be a problem, but I think most GMs are above that.
They want to give the players some variety and RP opportunities, but just don't want the hassle of having to argue with their players mid-session; alignment debates aren't usually much fun when you're supposed to be gaming.

Qadira

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Jason Bulmahn wrote:
cibet44 wrote:
Good article but not really relevant to my game or of great interest to me. We don't really use intelligent items much. I like the series though so hopefully the topics will skew towards my interest soon. Thanks.

That is, indeed, half the point of this particular series of articles. I wanted to start off by looking at a part of the rules that many groups just ignore and do not use. Future topics I am sure will wander into more "mainstream" rules.

Please, don't hurry to head to mainstream waters. I'm enjoying the crinkly bits round the edges.

Taldor

Jason Bulmahn wrote:
cibet44 wrote:
Good article but not really relevant to my game or of great interest to me. We don't really use intelligent items much. I like the series though so hopefully the topics will skew towards my interest soon. Thanks.

That is, indeed, half the point of this particular series of articles. I wanted to start off by looking at a part of the rules that many groups just ignore and do not use. Future topics I am sure will wander into more "mainstream" rules.

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer
Paizo Publishing

More mainstream?

MOUNTED COMBAT! MOUNTED COMBAT! MOUNTED COMBAT! MOUNTED COMBAT! MOUNTED COMBAT! MOUNTED COMBAT! MOUNTED COMBAT! MOUNTED COMBAT! MOUNTED COMBAT! MOUNTED COMBAT!

PLEASE? :P

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Looking good! :thumbs up:

Qadira

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
brock wrote:
Don't hurry to head to mainstream waters. I'm enjoying the crinkly bits round the edges.

Actually Jason, should you still be glancing in this direction, one thing that I would love to see covered, as a married gamer with young child, is adapting and writing adventures for one-on-ne play.

I have my own mental list of rules (never make the solution to an issue class-specific and always have a plausible reason why the PC didn't have their throat slit if unconscious) but I would love to see a professional take on this.

Andoran

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.

I looked in the core rulebook under intelligent items. I found nothing for how a pc can make an item intelligent. This rule would suggest it can be done. Are the only requirements the item creation feat or is there something I am missing? I can't see a 3rd lvl character with cwi being able to do this just because they hade the resources


It's Tuesday, where's the next one?


Great article, however I'm concerned more about players crafting their own intelligent items - there's no minimum crafting level like there use (was that left out of PF on purpose or not?) to be and costs seem really low. Are you going to be discussing these issues at all?


HalcyonAndOn wrote:
Great article, however I'm concerned more about players crafting their own intelligent items - there's no minimum crafting level like there use (was that left out of PF on purpose or not?) to be and costs seem really low. Are you going to be discussing these issues at all?

I realize this blog isn't new - has anyone put level limitations on crafting intelligent items?

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