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RPG Superstar 2015

Talisman of Whispering Souls


Round 1 - Open Call: Design a wondrous item

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Aotrscommander

Talisman of Whispering Souls

This amulet is made of rune-carved bone with two inset rubies like eyes on a fine silver chain. The amulet grants the wearer a +1 bonus on Turn or Rebuke checks. While worn, the talisman may be activated as a standard action three times per day for ten minutes each time. When activated, the user is surrounded by motes of spectral mist which circle constantly and a continuous sound like the whispering of many indistinguishable voices just on the edge of hearing is audible. While the amulet is active, the user gains the following powers: they can communicate magically with any intelligent Undead regardless of language, even if the Undead creature cannot normally communicate. The wearer is invisible to mindless Undead, but this effect ends if the user attacks any Undead creature. The wearer can see any incorporeal or ethereal Undead within 120’, even through walls or solid objects, as they are silhouetted as if with blue faerie fire visible only to the wearer (as the spell, but the effect is not blocked by magical darkness).

Moderate Divination and Necromancy; CL 9th; Craft Wondrous Item, Detect Undead, Speak With Dead, True Seeing; Price 50,000 gp

The Exchange Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

Maybe I've spent too much time in the Empire of the Ghouls lately, but this really excites me. I haven't seen items that play with the turning mechanic much, and it's a great idea.

I know many clerics and necromancer players who would jump at this one. And it works well for villains too.

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

I do wish that the writer would link the effects to spell effects. It is so much easier to know what the thing actually does.

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

And, for the record, great name. That counts for something.

I want, as a player, to have that written on my character sheet. I want, as a DM or designer, to put that in the text of a treasure trove. I want, as an editor, to stop nesting silly phrases. :) Sorry about that. :)

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

Reminds me of the various "life detection" items from Oblivion. I certainly wouldn't reject this one out of hand.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

Three weeks later I'm going to revise my vote:

Weak Keep.

The Exchange Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

Yeah, this was a lot more exciting before the competition got quite so intense.

I still like that it designs in a way to communicate with undead, allowing for some potentially interesting encounter resolutions.

Keep.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

Kept.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

I am ready to change my vote on this. In light of the quality of the other finalists, I now regretfully vote:

Reject.


Thus far this is one of my top favorites. I'm really excited to see so many magic items that have to do with undead. Undead make me happy, not as happy as lycanthropes, but happy never the less.

I'm curious as to why you decided to reject Eric? That is if you're willing to reveal the reason.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

I like the lower power effects a lot. Not so keen about the "true seeing" part.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

I liked it up until the very end, when we were making Sophie's Choices. I don't think I disliked anything in particular, I just liked other items a bit more. That said, I think it's definitely one of our better submissions and I am happy that it made it to the final round.


Erik Mona wrote:
I liked it up until the very end, when we were making Sophie's Choices. I don't think I disliked anything in particular, I just liked other items a bit more. That said, I think it's definitely one of our better submissions and I am happy that it made it to the final round.

I love the item, I might yank it for a home campaign here in the near future honestly. I can certainly understand your reasons for rejecting it Eric. Just seeing what's been listed as winners, I don't know how you managed. If the countries come in as cool as the wondrous items have, I'm going to have a serious time making my decision for voting purposes.

Edit: Missing word.

Sovereign Court

Surprisingly, I find myself liking this one.

Founder, Legendary Games & Publisher, Necromancer Games, RPG Superstar Judge

Cappa, I wanted to thank you for improving the tone of your comments. I really appreciate it. I busted on you a bit in another thread. So I felt it was only right that I came in here and said thanks. :)

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

I do this hesitantly, because I don't want to be attacked in return for offering a critique.. but in good faith that this okay, because it's going to be encouraged in later rounds- I have concerns with this item.
**************************
The spells used in the creation don't seem to substantiate the function.

For example: the item implies that you can have an on-going dialogue with the undead- which isn't not supported by the speak with dead spell. The spell allows a few brief questions. Neither is speaking with the undead at all, the spell only addresses corpses, not the undead. Neither speaking with undead of any language, the spell specifically does not bridge a language barrier.

The detecting undead seems alright, except you have a lot of overlap between Detecting Undead and True Sight, when you don’t have enough rationale for the other abilities. I would have been more inclined to fudge this a little instead of focusing two spells in order to accomplish it.

The invisibility from mindless undead is straight out of the Hide From Undead spell (where mindless undead receive no savings throw), but that spell isn't represented in the creation of the Amulet.

The bonus to turning and rebuking undead, where is this ability derived from?

The whispering voices and swirling lights, is this purely cosmetic? Fine if it is, but I might suggest that the whispering voices might actually be the voices of the undead themselves, i.e. this is how the ability manifests itself.

Conclusion: I do realize that some wondrous items are more than just pouring in the prerequisite spells, and that some abilities should just be "gimmees" so long as you have enough of the right ingredients so that you can fudge the rest.

And I do think this is a cool item.

But I am politely questioning the design. Too much was taken for granted. For example if more of the abilities had been covered, I wouldn't nail the speak with dead spell like ability so hard.

OR the turning bonus.. But both?

And I think you pretty much need Hide From Undead to make this work and that's not a high level spell either. The Hide from Undead fits in so neat with the mindless undead I come close to wondering if wasn't in there in the first place and then dropped out of the ingredients before submission. Make it cheaper?

I'd be happier the creation components covered more of the functions, and just let one of the abilities slide. This gives too much utility, for what actually went into it.

Theme wise? I thought it rocked. Alex has here a great idea.

I probably wouldn't have voted for it on that alone however.

Nevertheless Alex, congratulations and best of luck in Round Two!

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16

As someone else mentioned, it would be a great item for a cleric or necromancer. The communication with any intelligent Undead could create some great roleplaying moments. A bard asking a mummy how it manages to keep their wrapping still tight after centuries of combat. Classic.

Liberty's Edge

I think this item would work best in a movie or a video game; the lack of visuals doesn't do the item justice. Cool effect.

Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Erik had asked in another thread for an example of an item that made it into the top 32 that we found surprising. For me, this is one.

Without editing, I'd call this item unpublishable, which given the sheer number of entries I thought would make it a sure pass. Several sentences have ambiguous subjects, run on, or are repetitive. For example: "This amulet is made of rune-carved bone with two inset rubies like eyes on a fine silver chain." What is on the fine silver chain? The amulet, or the hypothetical eyes? And what is "rune-carved?" Can I buy a comma, Pat? Wouldn't "This amulet, carved from bone and inset with two eye-like rubies, dangles on a fine silver chain." be more mechanically sound? In such a small passage, the intended meaning can be inferred and the prose is merely akward; but in a larger work, (like, say, the submission for the next round) such transgressions will likely spell disaster.

Just my $.02, and I hope I didn't hurt anyone's feelings. Congratulations to *all* 32 who got in, and good luck in future rounds. You definitely have my envy. :D


Watcher! wrote:


The spells used in the creation don't seem to substantiate the function.

For example: the item implies that you can have an on-going dialogue with the undead- which isn't not supported by the speak with dead spell. The spell allows a few brief questions. Neither is speaking with the undead at all, the spell only addresses corpses, not the undead. Neither speaking with undead of any language, the spell specifically does not bridge a language barrier.

Spells used in an items creation are the closest thematic fit you can find after a reasonable search. There is absolutely no requirement that a magic item emulate the spells used in an items creation, just that they seem like the closest fit considering all the alternatives.

So speak with dead is a pretty reasonable option considering that there does not really seem to be a spell that makes undead able to communicate in the SRD. I'd feel that comprehend languages could have been put in place just as easily but it does not really read as well thematically as speak with dead. Certainly the authour is well within the rules and the spirit of magic item creation with this choice.

Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

The writing is a bit rough, but it's a coherent item with some obvious and some subtle uses. The sort of thing that makes gaming fun.


I could see this being used by the same villain that has the Leash of the Shadowhound. The combination, while not to overpowering would be useful, as you could keep track of the fleeing Wraiths. Could be very interesting to see, as said Villain could see if the Wraiths were coming back and time other things accordingly.

The Exchange

Watcher! wrote:

I have concerns with this item.

I was going to comment but I think I must say that watcher sumed up almost everythign I was goign to say quite eloquently

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Aotrscommander

Watcher! wrote:

I do this hesitantly, because I don't want to be attacked in return for offering a critique.. but in good faith that this okay, because it's going to be encouraged in later rounds- I have concerns with this item.

**************************
The spells used in the creation don't seem to substantiate the function.

For example: the item implies that you can have an on-going dialogue with the undead- which isn't not supported by the speak with dead spell. The spell allows a few brief questions. Neither is speaking with the undead at all, the spell only addresses corpses, not the undead. Neither speaking with undead of any language, the spell specifically does not bridge a language barrier.

I thought Speak with Dead was a better thematic fit than comprehend languages, though I agree, you can make a viable argument for the latter.

Watcher! wrote:

The detecting undead seems alright, except you have a lot of overlap between Detecting Undead and True Sight, when you don’t have enough rationale for the other abilities. I would have been more inclined to fudge this a little instead of focusing two spells in order to accomplish it.

The invisibility from mindless undead is straight out of the Hide From Undead spell (where mindless undead receive no savings throw), but that spell isn't represented in the creation of the Amulet.

Okay, fair point. I think you're right, Hide from Undead is probably a better fit. I'm not sure why I didn't use that, actually. Probably it's a bit of a casualty of me playing around with the abilities and wording as I went along, and I think Detect Undead was one of the first prereqs I put down.

This is why under normal circumstances, when I design something, I try and pass it through an idiot test by getting other people to look it over and see if there's any glaring obvious errors.

Watcher! wrote:
The bonus to turning and rebuking undead, where is this ability derived from?

Okay, you got me there. That was entirely ad hoc, because I felt the Talisman ought to give you some small benefit when not activated, and Turn/Rebuke seemed like a good option.

Watcher! wrote:
The whispering voices and swirling lights, is this purely cosmetic? Fine if it is, but I might suggest that the whispering voices might actually be the voices of the undead themselves, i.e. this is how the ability manifests itself.

I am a subscriber to letting the flavour of rules be mutable. You could easily decide either way. Given more word-count, I'd have expanded the flavour a little more, saying it was the actual dead, whispering into the subconcious and speaking the words in conversing with the Undead right into your head. Still, I think what I put down suitably captured the imagination - which is what I was going for - as it stood.

(You will probably notice I tend to go on a bit if given unlimited space (I looked at the word count for one of the countries in my own homebrew world and realised it was about 7000 words!); I tend to have to go through quite ruthlessly to keep within the word count, since I will try and cram as much probably superfluous detail in as I can.)

I should also add that I don't create magic items very often - or at least not with an eye to how they were made, so there's a bit of a learning curve in there, too. Unlive and learn, as they say...

bugleyman wrote:

Erik had asked in another thread for an example of an item that made it into the top 32 that we found surprising. For me, this is one.

Without editing, I'd call this item unpublishable, which given the sheer number of entries I thought would make it a sure pass. Several sentences have ambiguous subjects, run on, or are repetitive. For example: "This amulet is made of rune-carved bone with two inset rubies like eyes on a fine silver chain." What is on the fine silver chain? The amulet, or the hypothetical eyes? And what is "rune-carved?" Can I buy a comma, Pat? Wouldn't "This amulet, carved from bone and inset with two eye-like rubies, dangles on a fine silver chain." be more mechanically sound? In such a small passage, the intended meaning can be inferred and the prose is merely akward; but in a larger work, (like, say, the submission for the next round) such transgressions will likely spell disaster.

Just my $.02, and I hope I didn't hurt anyone's feelings. Congratulations to *all* 32 who got in, and good luck in future rounds. You definitely have my envy. :D

Point noted. I think my usually reasonable English suffered a bit with the word count, since I was going through and trying to say what I wanted in the least number of words so as to be able to say more. As mentioned, naturally I tend to ramble on in long sentences (which I try to cull at the best of times) - it comes from the natural urge for Liches to monologue you know - rather like I'm doing now. Your points are noted, as having made it this far, I shall be getting some other minions to look over round two and try and avoid making more of the same mistakes.

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Alex,

After talking with Wolfgang and Erik in the Beacon of Hope thread (and another than spun off it), I'm done deconstructing items for game mechanics.

But you replied, so I'll clarify a little on what I did say without saying any more:

Jeremy makes the counterpoint (to me) that all you have to do is make a reasonable effort to get pretty close, and he feels that you did that.

I agree with Jeremy in spirit, but I don't think you were close enough, at least not for me. I guess you look okay by his standards.

Let's take that Speak with Dead ability for example. If that was the only liberty- I say go for it. You would be close enough.

It's when there were other holes that I became concerned.

Sort of like:
If a magic item is 70-75% spell-like ability, 25-30% can be bull-crap. The Feat makes up for it.

I was saying, you're more like 50-60%. I wouldn't question it if it was a little closer in line.

For instance- if you had Speak with Dead, Hide from Undead, Detect Undead, drop the True Sight (as overkill).. I'd let you bend the rules Speak with Dead, and take the +1 Turning Bonus as a theme element.

I wasn't saying everything had to be accounted for, just kinda even it out a bit. If when you're done and it ends up being too cheap, swap out True Sight for Detect Undead, and that will keep it nice and pricey.

You had a creative item, and you're not going to need mechanics in the next round. Definitely get some buddies to proofread and will see what kinda magic you can work. Good luck!

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Aotrscommander

Watcher! wrote:

Alex,

After talking with Wolfgang and Erik in the Beacon of Hope thread (and another than spun off it), I'm done deconstructing items for game mechanics.

But you replied, so I'll clarify a little on what I did say without saying any more:

Jeremy makes the counterpoint (to me) that all you have to do is make a reasonable effort to get pretty close, and he feels that you did that.

I agree with Jeremy in spirit, but I don't think you were close enough, at least not for me. I guess you look okay by his standards.

Let's take that Speak with Dead ability for example. If that was the only liberty- I say go for it. You would be close enough.

It's when there were other holes that I became concerned.

Sort of like:
If a magic item is 70-75% spell-like ability, 25-30% can be bull-crap. The Feat makes up for it.

I was saying, you're more like 50-60%. I wouldn't question it if it was a little closer in line.

For instance- if you had Speak with Dead, Hide from Undead, Detect Undead, drop the True Sight (as overkill).. I'd let you bend the rules Speak with Dead, and take the +1 Turning Bonus as a theme element.

I wasn't saying everything had to be accounted for, just kinda even it out a bit. If when you're done and it ends up being too cheap, swap out True Sight for Detect Undead, and that will keep it nice and pricey.

You had a creative item, and you're not going to need mechanics in the next round. Definitely get some buddies to proofread and will see what kinda magic you can work. Good luck!

Yeah, in hindsight, the seeing incorporeals through walls funtion was perhaps a little dubious (and that's where True Sight, came in; I used the Gem of Seeing as a rough guestimate for the cost as well). Also, not having done this before, I treated the creation spells as perhaps more flavourful than mechanical than I should have done. Like I said, unlive and learn.

Constructive critism is always useful, so thank you too!


You avatar thieving... skeleton! And wipe that smirk off your... skull!

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Aotrscommander

Kruelaid wrote:
You avatar thieving... skeleton! And wipe that smirk off your... skull!

I always feel slightly insensed at the fact there are never enough skeletal avatars. What, do the mortals think we all look identical or something? We're only important enough to have one avatar between us, are we humans? Discrimination against the Undead, that's what it is. Humanocentric arrogance!

Livists!

And anyway, what smirk? That's just my natural expres- oooh. Right. Sorry.

(Actually, aside from my custom avatar, I love the one on my WotC account, because that one actually has eyeglows.)

Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Alex Handley wrote:


Point noted. I think my usually reasonable English suffered a bit with the word count, since I was going through and trying to say what I wanted in the least number of words so as to be able to say more. As mentioned, naturally I tend to ramble on in long sentences (which I try to cull at the best of times) - it comes from the natural urge for Liches to monologue you know - rather like I'm doing now. Your points are noted, as having made it this far, I shall be getting some other minions to look over round two and try and avoid making more of the same mistakes.

Minions are always good. :)

Honestly your brief post above demonstrates an ability to write clearly. You obviously have the creativity part down, I'd just save a little time at the end for an editing pass. It often helps if you can let your work "sit" for a day or two and review it again, though that might be impossible with the short time table.

Anyway, I look forward to the next round. Good luck!


I like this enough to add it to my game. It's not a WoW item, but it's solid.

Thye visuals are cool, which makes me think the creator will do well in rounds with more creative room and less focus on new game mechanics.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Aotrscommander

bugleyman wrote:

Minions are always good. :)

Honestly your brief post above demonstrates an ability to write clearly. You obviously have the creativity part down, I'd just save a little time at the end for an editing pass. It often helps if you can let your work "sit" for a day or two and review it again, though that might be impossible with the short time table.

Anyway, I look forward to the next round. Good luck!

That's why I got started straight away. I spent most of yesterday on it, playing with the wording, read the critiques of the talisman here and on Justin Jacobson's thread and got my Dad to read it over (who's conviently a top-end engineer at Rolls-Royce and so quite good at picking out idiot mistakes). I nearly had a couple of my RPG group look it over too in yesterday's session, but we didn't have time. I finished the second pass last night, and I now intend to leave it fallow until I can get my Dad to do one final look-over tonight before I submit it.

Never let it be said I don't learn from my mistakes!

(I submitted the talisman I think after I got back from my Monday group one night; in hindsight, I should have had someone look it over. Wouldn't have fixed the mechanical issues, but at least I might have been able to clean the presentation up a bit.)


You could always ask a few of us not in the competition to go over it. heck everyone could.

Look through the threads. find some people who's opinion seems valid, well-though-out, and well written. Ask if they'll look through your next sumbmission. then, if you win the final prize, sneakl a thank you into your opening paragraph.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Aotrscommander

Dungeon Grrrl wrote:

You could always ask a few of us not in the competition to go over it. heck everyone could.

Look through the threads. find some people who's opinion seems valid, well-though-out, and well written. Ask if they'll look through your next sumbmission. then, if you win the final prize, sneakl a thank you into your opening paragraph.

I may well take you up on your generous offer if next time comes around. (This time, due to my time constraints, I made my entry yesterday evening after much tweaking and minion-viewing.)

What I find slightly frustrating is that with only 50-200 more words (or hell, 20 more) I could have filled out the bares bones (forgive the pun) of what I wrote a fair sight better. Still, it's all about wordsmithing to restrictions and I did the absolute best I can do with my efforts, so there you go. Now we shall have to wait and see whether it is good enough.

On the other hand, whatever happens, I'm damn well putting a new country in my current campaign world!


Honestly I don't know I am the right girl to ask (though if any of the entrants did, I am sure I'd accept). I didn't even enter the competition (my own write-ups make sense to me, not anyone else), and my typing and grammar are attrociaous.

But it does seem to me there are some good reviewers looking at these things, who might make great editors for a contestant.


Very interesting and creative item. Have similar mechanical concerns already addressed. Good luck with your country.

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