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RPG Superstar 2015

Malleus Maleficarum


Round 1 - Open Call: Design a wondrous item

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16, 2010 Top 4 aka Alexander MacLeod

Malleus Maleficarum
Aura faint divination; CL 5th
Slot —; Price 10,400 gp

DESCRIPTION
Also known as the Hammer of Witches, these heavy books are always bound with cold iron, often embossed with the symbol of a lawful deity. The parchment pages within are filled with cramped and ancient writing pertaining to every aspect of discovering and defeating the magics of those who traffic with fey, demons, and other dark forces.

A Malleus Maleficarum grants anyone who can spend 1d4 rounds purusing its pages a +2 circumstance bonus on Knowledge (arcana) checks, and the book itself can be wielded in combat as if it were a cold iron +1 warhammer.

Finally, three times per day, anyone who understands Infernal can command a Malleus Maleficarum to reveal nearby witches. This causes chaotic or evil spellcasters within 30 ft. to glow (as if affected by faerie fire) in the eyes of the book’s wielder. The language requirement of this last power has gaven rise to the rumor that it was Asmodeus himself who penned the first copy of the Hammer of Witches.

CONSTRUCTION
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, detect chaos, detect evil, detect magic; Cost 6,200 gp, 336 XP

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

I don't love that this takes its name from Earth history, but I do like its powers and the fact that you can wield it like a weapon (sort of).

It is not, however, written in the SRD style. Is this enough to trigger an auto-rejection?

It probably should be.

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

I like it. I thought it was over 200, but it isnt--its 195.

I think it should be more in teh form of a paragraph, like items are in the SRD. But I dont want to reject this entry for that. This is cool.

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

A lot of the cool factor here comes from the author having the balls to stat up a real-world item. So, points for that.

At the same time, I'm not really happy by the definition of witches imposed here, which seems to be "any chaotic or evil spellcaster". That's...messed up.

As for the formatting, designers should know what the requirements of a project are. I like this better than a lot of what we've seen, but should we have an auto-reject for improper formatting? I leave that to the Paizonian crew.

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

Where are they getting this format from? I have seen it repeated in another submission, which leads me to believe somewhere there is a source they are drawing from that does things like this. Any clue? The content is all there, but the format is whack. But I dont want to punish them if they are using some SRD resource that formats stuff like that. Or was it the way someone posted a sample on the Paizo boards... Hmmm.

Wolfgang, I am having a REAL hard time getting past that definition of witches that you brought up...

A witch is a servant of a devil (or maybe demon). How about someone with an infernal or abyssal pact or an arcane or divine caster who worships a demon or devil or maybe a evil-aligned thaumaturge or something.

That may be a fatal flaw in an item that I really really like.

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

Clark Peterson wrote:
Where are they getting this format from? I have seen it repeated in another submission, which leads me to believe somewhere there is a source they are drawing from that does things like this. Any clue?

I believe it's the newish WotC format. It's a space hog on the page, but otherwise fine.

I'm fine with leaving the item in the running for now. But... it has issues.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

Could it be that the "fluid" definition of witches here is an intentional way to model the "one size fits all" approach the real witch-hunters took? That part didn't bother me in the least.

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

Thats a pretty broad definition: chaotic or evil spellcasters. I presume that is arcane and divine. Wow. :)

I still like it.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

I still like it too.

I've been reviewing all of the items in the folder from the bottom up, and while most that still remain are at least decent, I think this is better than decent.

Keep.

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

I'm actually more impressed now than originally: it takes guts to try to do something historical.

Keep.

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

Kept.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

Is Asmodeus not WotC's IP? I might be wrong though, I'm no expert on the topic...


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
dsancho wrote:
Is Asmodeus not WotC's IP? I might be wrong though, I'm no expert on the topic...

Cleverly, while Asmodeus is used by WotC they clearly cannot extend copyright over the name, since he shows up in several earlier works such as the Talmud and, indeed, the Malleus Maleficarum.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

He's from real world mythology.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber
CNB wrote:
Cleverly, while Asmodeus is used by WotC they clearly cannot extend copyright over the name, since he shows up in several earlier works such as the Talmud and, indeed, the Malleus Maleficarum.

I just read the Wikipedia entry of Asmodai and saw that the Malleus Maleficarum is a real-life book. I had no idea! Pretty ballsy to create an item out of it. Excuse my ignorance earlier.


This one is near the top for me. The fact that it can be used in combat is just gnarley. It would be a great item for a cloistered cleric of a LN deity. Bravo.

El Skootro

Dark Archive

This one is really starting to grow on me. I'll likely make use of this in my own games.

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

Yeah, I liked the idea you can whack someone with it. That pushed it over the edge into fun and cool for me.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8 , Star Voter 2013

I like the hammer effect, and that it doesn't differentiate between that chaotic good sorcerer and the lawful evil priest of asmodaeus.


Alexander MacLeod wrote:

Malleus Maleficarum

Aura faint divination; CL 5th
Slot —; Price 10,400 gp

I had to sleep on this one to decide what annoyed me the most about it, so here I go. (If this is a duplicate post..sorry having problems posting of late to these boards)

Firstly let me state that the item is technically well written and balanced power wise.

My whole problem with this item stems from the fact that it is based on a real world item. IMHO this is not anything close to superstar level work, any GM/DM worth their salt should be able to do things like this. I also feel that it violated the spirit of the rules in that it should have been an ORIGINAL Wondrous Magic Item, not a display of your ability to give game statistics to a real world item.

If the creator of this item had changed the title to something other than Malleus Maleficarum I would have still been upset but not as much. The use of this book is actually very insulting to me, mainly as I have members of my gaming group who are Wiccan, and my own personal beliefs would have me condemed by the orignal authors of the Maleficarum. Changing the title to The Tome of Lux Lucis (Loosely translates to The Tome of the Light in Latin) would have been smarter and references to witches could have been changed to simply "chaotic or evil spellcasters and demonic thralls" or something similar.

This item will not see play in my campaigns and I devoutly hope that the creator puts more effort into the next round of competition.


Quote:
My whole problem with this item stems from the fact that it is based on a real world item.

I think that's what makes it. I love things like that.

Mark

Dark Archive RPG Superstar, Contributor aka Leandra Christine Schneider

I really like this one.
Especially that it reveals any chaotic OR evil spellcaster because it fits that "blind, zealous inquisition" flavor.

To wield it like a weapon is genius!

Oh, I don't mind the historical context, but I could see it might be complicated to put into certain campaigns.
(It is always like that with items that have fluff)

Dark Archive

malleus maleficarum... creates visions of the Empire of Sigmar in the Warhammer Fantasy Setting.

Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

Certainly a coherent item, everything is in line with the basic concept. Using it as a weapon is a very nice touch, though I'm undecided about the basic real-worldness of it.

Not that I didn't sort of steal from the real world myself. Cough.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

I don't think Wiccans should get bent out of shape about this.

The item's own description of evil involves good creatures, which shows exactly what douchebags witch hunters were.

Somebody did a much-appreciated Jack and the Beanstalk riff. The DMG is loaded with folkloric items. There was certainly no prohibition against following along in that tradition (although I'll point out that the judges were not unanimously thrilled by the approach).

--Erik


Congratualtions and good luck in the future rounds. Definitely a Wow item really like the real world historical twist.


Erik Mona wrote:

I don't think Wiccans should get bent out of shape about this.

The item's own description of evil involves good creatures, which shows exactly what douchebags witch hunters were.

The DMG is loaded with folkloric items. There was certainly no prohibition against following along in that tradition (although I'll point out that the judges were not unanimously thrilled by the approach).

--Erik

I did note that you were all not happy with the approach, and I am also glad that I am not getting flamed to harshly here :>

I think your reasons for keeping it in were sound as the item is mechanicaly viable and otherwise an "I want this" kind of item. I also have no plans to hold this item against him in future rounds of the contest, I would just like to see a little more spark of originality.

I agree that there are folkloric items in the DMG/SRD however, they are not (as far as I can recall with a quick scan of the SRD) directly named after the item from the tale/myth. This item is so named and as I recall the rules were to create an original magic item. This is not, to me, original. Yes I love the mechanics from a DM standpoint, the warhammer attack has much coolness and he tied in the asinine attitudes of the original hunters. From that standpoint it is a good item, however, he only took an existing literary object and gave it in game abilities, this is not being original this is being good at modifying something. If he had used the Maleficarum as an inspiration for a new magic item, I would never have voiced my opinions on the matter, other than saying I would be extremely careful introducing this into my campaign world.

I am not saying that he should be kicked out of the top 32, because he DID NOT violate the written rules as far as I can see. I think he failed to follow the spirit of the rules. He has the makings of a RPGSuperstar in the crunch section of this item for sure and his pricing seems good. It is just lacking in the fluff/naming of the item, and in this case I think that is enough to make me seriously worry about this entry.

I am not trying to be grumpy, this item blows mine clear out of the water, thats for sure. Hats off for good mechanical work.

The Wiccan comment in my earlier post is also why I would not include this item in my campaign period with its current name. *shrug* Everyone is different in how they react to something used to persecute their predecessors, why risk it when a simple change of the item name and phrasing in the text could nullify it?

The Exchange

For the most part an item that touches in anyway something from the "real world" bothers me, for a number of reason I will not go into. That being said.....I kinda like this for a number of reasons. As has been noted before there is no distinction between a 1st level chaotic good sorcerer and a 20th level lawful evil cleric.... while mechanically this is bad I could easily see a group of palidins that have been convinced that this "Artifact" will show them the "evils" of the world and that hey use this book to "find" thier foes to vanquish. the roleplay acspect alone means it was worth mentioning in this list.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16, 2010 Top 4 aka Alexander MacLeod

Erik Mona wrote:
The item's own description of evil involves good creatures, which shows exactly what douchebags witch hunters were.

Thanks, Erik, that's exactly the idea I was trying to get across with this item. Though I would have said "prat" rather than "douchebag."

I think it would be a great item for Pathfinder's Hellknights, or in any game with witch hunts, as such things are truly vile and quick to get far out of hand -- just in time for adventurers to show up and save the day.

A. MacLeod

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Radavel wrote:
malleus maleficarum... creates visions of the Empire of Sigmar in the Warhammer Fantasy Setting.

Ah! I've been wracking my brains as to where I've seen a 'witch-hunting' type book that can be used as a physical weapon before, and I think that might be it - Warhammer or Mordheim. Thanks Radavel.

(Not to imply that's where this idea came from ... it's just been bugging me where - if at all - I've seen an idea vaguelly similar to this one before.)


I like this item a lot. One of my favorites of the top 32.


Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

I like this one - the real world basis doesn't bother me since it at least is faithful to the real Malleus in spirit.


I guess if your item is cool multiple spelling errors don't detract.


I am a witch. This item is offensive. The fact it is offensive doesn't bother me much, because it's based on something offensive.

As someone said, it makes an unfair withch-hunt likely and "reasonable." It is, in that regard, a good item.

But it makes me very uncomfortable. folks, don't forget that witch is a term of respect in a current, major real-worl religioun, like preacher or Bishop. Just be careful with that.

Overall, a slightly nervous thumbs-up.


[Monty Python peasant voice]
Burn the witch!
[/Monty Python peasant voice]

I've read the original. The staggering ignorance and cruelty stunned me. I actually didn't like this entry because of the feelings I associate with the actual book. I think it would have been better to rename it, personally.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Dungeon Grrrl wrote:


But it makes me very uncomfortable. folks, don't forget that witch is a term of respect in a current, major real-worl religioun, like preacher or Bishop. Just be careful with that.

I’m not trying to dismiss the discomfort that you feel on this. And you are correct in saying that the word witch is a term of respect in a modern real world religion. But like many words, it has a number of valid meanings, both modern and archaic. Because a word or term can be coopted to mean a variety of things, does that mean it should no longer be used in its older or original meanings?

I do not think it is implied anywhere in the item description that the author is referring to practitioners of Wicca by his use of the term witch.

Sorry, I’m not trying to have a go at you here Dungeon Grrrl, I was thinking along these lines when another poster described similar concerns with the item and the term. I’m not trying to belittle your beliefs, I’m just questioning the validity of suggesting a term should not be used in it’s original meaning just because it now has several other meanings.


It's okayt. If i couldn't take the heat, i wouldn't stay in the forum.

I never said, and wouldn't say, you shouldn't use the word witch. It's a free country, and a free and open exchange of ideas and beleifs is critical in maintaining that freedom. However;

The word witch didn't "originally" mean an evil woman with a poisoned apple. It mean a wise womna, skilled in healing and herbs. It was based on older words with benign and honored meanings (weihs and weihan). I'm not talking about being cautious when using terms like goblin or dragon. I'm talking about a title of respect, both originally and now, that is core to many people's existing beleifs. You have to pick a single span of time, when new religions were villifying older ones, to find a classic evil ;witch."

Why assume it's a valid definition just because some people us it? I think we can all think of some words that were once commonly used by people who claimed they meant nothing offensive by them, which polite society no longer accepts. Can you pick any definition from anyone?

And if you're going to do that, why not evil efreeti-summoning Imam. Certainly during the crusades that term meant a man of evil intent to the crusaders. Rabbi were said to eat children, but I don't see any canabalistic rabbi in gaming. In the real world, there are baptists, preachers and catholic priest who have molested children, but gamers don't like naming a whole group of rapists baptists.

One more thing to keep in mind. The Malleus Maleficarum was real. There was an actual manual by that name used to justify the torture, rape, and murder of women. Some were really witches, but most weren't. Many of us honor those women as martyrs to the cause of truth, killed by evil men using an evil book as an excuse. Real, flesh and blood women, were accused of being witches and killed as a result of this book. Is it too much to ask that while you create such an item, inspired and named after a device of horror, lies and torture, that you show extra sensativity to those who suffered at its hands, as well as those of us who honor them?

This book was refuted as immoral and illegal even at the time it was written. The catholic church banned it. It claimed women were inherently weaker than men and thus prone to witchcraft. It is, in short, among the most offensive and misogynist tomes ever to be written. When you hold it up as an item even a lawful good paladin may find useful, I'd ask you show some extra sensitivity.

There are lots of words much more interesting than witch, with a lot less baggage. You could have called them hexen, lamiak, flamen, thakathi, diabolists, idolaters, or kashaph, just to name a few. That would have shown some awareness that this book isn't just something you find in a warhammer novel, but a real thing used to justify killing women under false pretenses

So, yeah, it makes me uncomfortable. I'll cope, but I ask everyone think about my point.

Star Voter 2015

No one said anything about "purusing"?

I like that it can be used to flesh out under-used witch-hunters, which can always be a good source of DM/PC fun, however I'd go with witch-hunters that had fake items, high bluff, and secret vendettas. Either way, I like ideas that help nudge others in directions they may not tend to use. Something like this can have a cascade effect of ideas.

Is the wording about the +2 circumstance bonus for bestowing a permanent bonus, or until the next check?


Moik wrote:

No one said anything about "purusing"?

I noted that there were several spelling errors above, but I just didn't feel like writing them out. Good eye.

AND

I think Dungeon Grrrl's point about it looking like an item from the Warhammer mini game or novel to be a really serious indictment. It really isn't creative at all, and being able to whack someone with it doesn't really justify its position in the top 32. Frankly, I think some far more creative items were left out because they were plot tools, but I don't see how being a plot tool is a more serious problem than being unoriginal, or even worse, an acutal vile document from history - DG's explanation above.

AND SPELLING ERRORS. Just to harp on something that should really have been considered.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 , Star Voter 2013 aka exile

Man, oh, man, this one is stirring up a bit of controversy. I must plead ignorance in regard to this item's real world origin (I used to be so much smarter before my general surgery training brainwashed me). That said, I like the item, I like it a lot. I can see it being used by PC and NPC alike. I'm anxious to use it in a game.


exile wrote:
I must plead ignorance in regard to this item's real world origin. That said, I like the item, I like it a lot. I can see it being used by PC and NPC alike. I'm anxious to use it in a game.

If you want to know more about the real world Maleficarum, and internet seach should do you. It's a famous and evil book, with lots of serious, scholarly research about it.

If you do decide to put it in your games, do consider the impact if anyone outside your core group (who I trust you to know well enough to assume they won't be offended) ever hears about your games. for some of us, this is no different than a lampshade of human skin. It has meaning.

If your games are entirely private (as many are), and no one in your games practices any of the relevent religions, I'm sure you'd be fine.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

When I first saw this entry my reaction was a bit of huh? In the top 32? Aside from the wonderful pun possibilities, (Time to hit the books, throw the book at him, we do this by the book etc.) the origin of the actual Hammer of the Witches is a huge distraction.
Ignoring for the moment, the perceived offense to Wiccans, this book is a pretty vile chapter in human history (oh jeez another pun, sort of). Associating it with a LG organization in the D&D world is a bit difficult to stomach. The Spanish Inquisition is not most people's idea of the Church of Pelor nor the nutjobs that ran the Salem trials.
To be honest the Malleus would work great for a LE church. Twisting the law under the guise of protection but providing the opportunity to dispose of any enemies.

Anyways the real world roots of this item are problematic. As evidenced in other posts we're not talking about something like Baba Yaga's hut. As for the actual idea of the book as a weapon... Well its amusing I suppose.
Well for me its time to close the book on this one.

Star Voter 2015

B_Wiklund wrote:
Time to hit the books, throw the book at him, we do this by the book etc.

This item will now be joining my campaign.


I think using it as an improvised weapon because of it's cold iron and silver qualities would be exciting once. Using it as a normal weapon repeatedly seems kind of silly.

Love the detect chaotic spellcasters thing. I think some of the writing or grammar on this one threw me off a bit. It's also another artifact-like item that would only ever be seen once in my campaign and then it would never be created by a PC.


Verging on cheese, but manages to stay on good side. The part about evil or chaotic spellcasters is indeed bit of genius, much better than if it was just evil or spellcaster connected to infernal powers (and as it covers also fey, hehee...)
Yes, I like items with history and bit of nasty edge in them, and this is one of them.


IMO, a work that is supposed to be entirely original should not "draw" a name from any source. I do like the simplicity and usefulness. Clerics the world over would like this one! Good luck in the next round.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

This was one of the few items I didn't read before the countries came out, the name turned me off as a bit too ostentatious but I didn't recognize it. On the funny side, the name of the country drew me in.

I'd say the strong feels the item (name and powers) provokes actually proves it to be quite a good one. It would be a potent item in the hands of an NPC, both from its powers and as a role-playing prompter. It also has powers useful enough (see invis practically!) that a party would keep it around.

Quite a rare item to be alignment bent and still useful to both sides.

One beef (not quibble): It should have had Craft Arms and Armor as a prerequisite.


I recently ended a two-year campaign introducing several pagan friends to Dungeons and Dragons. I was the only non-wiccan there, and a Christian, but a friend. One of the players had a witch (we used a modified template from a sourcebook he found and the spellbook from the DMG). He thought it was cool to have a character that reflected aspects of his real-world self. And he was emotionally grounded enough to accept his lack of combat-heavy spells.
Strangely enough if a band of paladins were to have come across the party- the "witch" would have been the last person they would have gone after; they would have been hot-footing after the party's sorcerer (he was training to be a Necromancer!).
- Arch


I think it's ironic to consider that such an item so named passed the "originality" barrier. In addition, it's not some random name that I'd consider common knowledge. If someone pops out this term, I'd assume the person has come upon the term out of at least some sort of elementary research into the Burning Times, the Inquisition, or other related terms.

Having known many pagans, researched paganism/ world religion, every faith that has suffered persecution will regard certain associations more critically than other groups. To the average uninformed person, this term will not hold any significance. In the US, you can still buy "witch" accoutrements for Halloween and most pay no additional mind to that. To the average person coming across the life-sized "witch that has crash-landed into the side of their house" item is just as funny and harmless to them as the "Santa Claus likewise crash-landed into the side of the chimney" item. Then you have those who still perceive "witches" to be evil and devil worshippers, and you have pagans who are anything but. If one reads "Drawing Down the Moon," one becomes aware that there's so much diversity and complexity to paganism and wicca, that using terms such as "witch" as a catch-all feels inappropriate when one wishes to be respectful.

I'm trying to see how this could be wielded in combat since I've seen an actual copy of it under glass on display in the San Francisco Main Library. It'd require a STR minimum just to lug it around, and it wouldn't fit into a medium-sized backpack.

Having sufficient familiarity with the item, I don't know if I could swallow seeing this in a publication.

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