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Leash of the Shadowhound


Round 1 - Open Call: Design a wondrous item

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

A stout strip of leather nearly 15 feet in length, a leash of the shadowhound is embossed with necromantic sigils along its length. Its possessor need only grasp it and utter the command word to summon a spectral hound as his defender. Unless the wielder lets go of the leash, the summoned hound serves him faithfully for 9 rounds, then vanishes. If the leash is released, the hound immediately disappears.

The summoned shadowhound is treated as a wraith in all ways, but manifests as an incorporeal black hound with glowing green eyes and ghostly light flickering along its flanks. It is bound to the leash, and cannot move more than 15 feet from its summoner. Like other wraiths, a shadowhound is powerless in daylight. The souls of those it slays rise as wraiths in 1d4 rounds, but the presence of the hound terrifies them, causing them to flee as if turned by a cleric.

If a leash is used more than once per day, the shadowhound turns on its summoner, attempting to slay him.

Moderate conjuration; CL 9th; Craft Wondrous Item, Summon Monster V, Enervation; Price 18,000 gp; Weight 2 lb.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

Holy smokes! Wraiths are level drainers. I don't think I want a level-drainer generation machine in the hands of the player characters.

I vote reject.

Qadira Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

Hmmm. I think handing someone level-draining isn't *necessarily* an auto-reject, though it need to be handled with care. The obvious comparison is a Nine Lives Stealer, but this is more complex.

The user summons a wraith, which then needs to do some fighting to drain anyone, and is useless in daylight. OTOH, it's hell on wheels at night.

I'd really want a villain to have this item. Heck, I might use it in my campaign. But it is awfully tempting to PCs, I'm sure.

Are we disallowing items aimed at villains?

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

Absolutely not.

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

Oh ho ho! I love this item! I have been looking for a good "bad guy" item. This one is finally it.

Frankly, I may use this in my home campaign regardless of whether or not it makes the cut :)

This is a huge keeper for me. But I will bow to the will of my esteemed fellow judges.

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

This one, on the other hand, I think still holds up. And since Erik just talked me out of the evil branding iron (for good reason) I want a good evil item.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

What happens if the shadowhound slays a character in round 6 of its activation, and the victim rises as a wraith four rounds later, one round after the shadowhound had disappeared. It's no longer hanging around to "scare away" the wraith (never mind the fact that undead are immune to morale effects). Just wondering.

Also, wraiths are _incorporeal_. So not only is this a level-drainer generator, but it's an incorporeal level-drainer generator.

I am in no way a fan of this item, but if you guys want to move it to the Keep folder, feel free to do so.

Qadira Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

I still think this is a good villain item. Keep.

Qadira Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

Kept.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

Erik Mona wrote:
What happens if the shadowhound slays a character in round 6 of its activation, and the victim rises as a wraith four rounds later, one round after the shadowhound had disappeared. It's no longer hanging around to "scare away" the wraith (never mind the fact that undead are immune to morale effects). Just wondering.

I tried to ensure that the leash had substantial drawbacks that could make it hazardous to the wielder. If the hound isn't around to drive off its progeny, the leash's owner better be prepared to deal with them himself.

Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

What I want as a villain item is something that will overcome the protection from death ward or any of those types of spells.

I find that when I'm using any level draining creature, I'm good for one round. Then the mass death ward goes up and all my nice creepy crawlers are mincemeat.

I do like the mechanic of it turning on the wielder. But I'd rather see it as a mechanic where it has a fixed number of charges, and when the charges run out it turns on the wielder. Now that would be fun.


Sir_Wulf wrote:
If the hound isn't around to drive off its progeny, the leash's owner better be prepared to deal with them himself.

I don't quite get it. A combat could very easily go:

Round 1: Summon hound. Hound damages creature #1.
Round 2: Hound kills creature #1.
Round 3: Hound damages creature #2.
Round 4: Hound kills creature #2. Wraith #1 rises and flees into the floor.
Round 5: Hound damages creature #3.
Round 6: Hound kills creature #3.
Round 7: Hound damages creature #4. Wraith #2 rises and flees into the floor.
Round 8: Hound kills creature #4.
Round 9: Hound damages creature #5. Hound disappears. Wraith #3 rises and attacks the party.
Round 10: Wraith #4 rises and attacks the party.
...
Round 15: Wraith #1 returns from fleeing and attacks the party.
...
Round 18: Wraith #2 returns from fleeing and attacks the party.

Are you really intended to fight a passel of wraiths every time you use the item? It seems like by the time you can safely survive the aftereffects the item, you're already too powerful to care about the item in the first place.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

That echoes my concern, but the item made it through by its chinny-chin-chin and we'll see what the author can come up with in future rounds!

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

Guys, thank you for the feedback! Iron sharpens iron, and I want to be as sharp as possible!

CNB wrote:
Are you really intended to fight a passel of wraiths every time you use the item? It seems like by the time you can safely survive the aftereffects the item, you're already too powerful to care about the item in the first place.

The leash's owner controls the shadowhound. If he doesn't want to face a wraith fiesta, he needs to rein the hound back or dismiss it before he creates a band of new foes.

I also didn't assume that the turned wraiths would promptly return to attack the leash's owner. Undead of their sort are free-willed and intelligent; once turned, they may choose to avoid the master of the hound.

Looking at the item in the light of several weeks of second-guessing myself, I would add additional limitations to the leash's use. It might drain the owner's ability to otherwise rebuke undead (Limiting the most obvious abuse, a high-level cleric using the item to build a horde of controllable undead) or the leash might have a slight chance of its magic failing with each use, summoning an uncontrolled shadowhound or failing altogether.

Osirion

I love this item. By far this is the coolest concept I've seen so far. I would have probably made the summoned creature some form of shadow planey thing to get past all the spawning problems. Heck, even if it was just a damaging effect shaped like a dog--like Spiritual Hammer, that would be fine. It's the Hound of the Baskervilles angle of coolness I love about this thing. It's all flavor. Love it.

Paizo Employee Senior Developer

Grimcleaver wrote:
I love this item. By far this is the coolest concept I've seen so far. I would have probably made the summoned creature some form of shadow planey thing to get past all the spawning problems. Heck, even if it was just a damaging effect shaped like a dog--like Spiritual Hammer, that would be fine. It's the Hound of the Baskervilles angle of coolness I love about this thing. It's all flavor. Love it.

Agreed. Love the flavor and the name, but I'd go for Shadow Plane over wraiths as well.

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Modules, Tales Subscriber

I like this too, and I'm wary of energy drain effects in general. Reminds me of a cursed Shadow Lantern from 1st edition. Summoned shadowed, but cursed to attack the summoner. The guy who had it kept trying to use it though.

In my experience, rarely is anything actually drained to death by negative levels, so I don't think the spawning is a large issue. Still maybe a bit low priced for players to use.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6 aka adanedhel9

Yeah, this item seems a little weird to me. While, yes, it can be increadibly powerful, it seems that the drawbacks of using it are so harsh that I'm not sure I could ever see a player, or even my own villain, using something like this. There's got to be better ways to spend your resources.

Andoran

What I like is the first time you summon the dog, it fights for you, and the second time it tries to smoke you.
I like perilous in my magic.


Heathansson wrote:

What I like is the first time you summon the dog, it fights for you, and the second time it tries to smoke you.

I like perilous in my magic.

That's not perilous, though. As written, the item might as well say "You can only summon the hound once per day"--the "it attacks you" bit is just a more flavorful way of saying it.

Perilous would be "You may use this item at will. Every time you activate this item in a day, beyond the first, you must make a DC 10 Will Save, at a -5 penalty equal to the number of times you have already summoned the hound that day. Failure indicates the hound turns on you, and attacks you instead of your intended target." Now you might consider trying to get a second, or even a third use out of the item.

Of course, that'd put the text over the word count limit. And I'm not altogether sure that flavorful bit is worth the extra verbiage; you'd have to price it higher to take into account any +37 Will Save characters who could abuse it.

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

I have to disagree, it is perilous, since the players won't have the description.

They use it once, it shows up. They think cool, they use it again, it attacks them.

Two days later, they think about using it. Will it work this time?

Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Not personally crazy about this one, but it does create some cinematic mind-pictures of a combat situation, and that's always worth something.


I like the concept for this item. Makes a great Villains item if used right. Myself I would modify it a little for use by a villain I think.

I would see it being a bit more frightening if it summoned more hounds, say 1d4. Maybe drop the wraith creation in that case though. Or another option would be to allow the user to control to created Wraiths for 1d6 rounds, then they become free willed and may or may not attack the user as per their own desires.

I could see a Necromancer type Villain with 3 of these items active to protect him while he finishes a spell to cause major havoc. Said Necromancer then decides to run the hounds through town and fill up his ranks with some Wraiths, since they can be easily created and any necromancer worth his salt should be able to control them easily.

An alternative use for the item though, would be for a party to have one, not for combat at all. If Wraiths are so scared of these dogs, simply active the item when confronted with wraiths and presto, no combat.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

I had considered having the hound devour the souls of its fallen foes, keeping them from rising as spawn (at the cost of one full round's ectoplasmic feasting). Like some other ideas, this was chopped to get the word count down.

Paizo Employee Publisher, Chief Creative Officer

That would have taken care of one of my main objections to it, and it's flavorful to boot.


gbonehead wrote:

What I want as a villain item is something that will overcome the protection from death ward or any of those types of spells.

I find that when I'm using any level draining creature, I'm good for one round. Then the mass death ward goes up and all my nice creepy crawlers are mincemeat.

Wraiths do not drain levels; they drain Constitution. I could not find anything in the text for wraiths, undead, or ability drain that indicates death ward would protect against a wraith's attack. It makes sense that the wraith's attack is a negative energy effect, but that is not stated anywhere.


Im using this item in my campaign. I have a player who loves to abuse magic items. This should teach him a lesson. *Evil DM chuckle*

Cheliax

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Seeing how people want to use it to give players some backdraft I'm finding this more a cursed item than a wondrous item. But they could be one and the same.

If I'd use it, I would use your version with devouring it instead of spawning wraiths.

Taldor

PandaGaki wrote:


If I'd use it, I would use your version with devouring it instead of spawning wraiths.

This is my feeling as well.

Silver Crusade Star Voter 2013

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

For real it is no too big of a problem to summon it a second time: the wraith attacks you, you let go of the leash, the wraith disappears.

Another question: What if the shadowhound is slain?

And I don't see that a wraith drains levels... it drains Constitution.
(Edit: as mentioned above from PJSlavner)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
PJSlavner wrote:
Wraiths do not drain levels; they drain Constitution.

Quite right - Constitution drain is quite nasty, too, though. I like the idea of the slain souls being consumed by the hound - this is an appropriate alternative to the normal effect of controlling the risen wraiths. Also, note that the wielder has to hold the leash continuously while the hound is active.


It's very cool and evil. My players would get in trouble for using an undead whether it was for a good cause or not(unless they're character's were evil). So that makes it a villain only item for me, which equals limited usefulness. I think I would have went for Shadow Mastiff instead (if that's in the SRD). Can the user do anything while holding onto the leash? Maybe he gets penalties from being jerked around by the hound? I would definitely like the not-sure-if-it's-going-to-attack-me-or-not even for a villain.


Having heard everything that got cut for word count, I begin to wonder if the limit should have been just 100 words hired to allow for cooler stuff.

Since word count is a critical I think this should have been judged more harshly, since it doesn;t, ihmo, work well as described.

That said, i think I may use a version with some of the notes added i this thread. I just wouldn't have thought of those on ym own.

Andoran RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka JoelF847

This item reminds me of the "invisible" dogs that are on sale at amusement parks....if I use it ever, I think I'll add that flavor to it when it doesn't have a shadowhound summoned.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32 aka Michael Kogan 74

I intend to use this item in my caimpaign with the following house rules.
1) May only be used by Evil alignment, anyone attempting to use this item with a good alignment takes 2d4 Con damage, Neutral alignment takes 1d4 Con. Fort save DC 14 to take half damage.

2) The Wraith Hound lasts the encounter, not just a few rounds. We are starting to see more effects lasting for "the encounter".

3) Any wraiths that rise due to its effects, become war dogs with the wraith template under control of the leash wielder. They vanish at the end of the encounter or if the Wraith Hound is defeated, which ever comes first.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

Michael Kogan 74 wrote:

I intend to use this item in my campaign with the following house rules:

1) May only be used by Evil alignment, anyone with a good alignment attempting to use this item takes 2d4 Con damage, Neutral alignment takes 1d4 Con. Fort save DC 14 to take half damage.

2) The Wraith Hound lasts the encounter, not just a few rounds. We are starting to see more effects lasting for "the encounter".

3) Any wraiths that rise due to its effects become war dogs with the wraith template under control of the leash wielder. They vanish at the end of the encounter or if the Wraith Hound is defeated, which ever comes first.

I strongly recommend against allowing the hound (or its master) to control any spawn it generates. If the shadowhound generates some uncontrolled undead, that isn't overpowering. If the hound's victims are under its control, the item becomes exponentially more dangerous. As the hounds multiply, they can "pack up" on their next victims, rapidly overcoming any foe with a weak Fort save.

Some commentors have been critical of the leash's potential for abuse, but as it is written, those abusing the leash would need potent necromantic or clerical abilities. Your recommended change limits the damage to one encounter, but makes it much more potent during that encounter.

Star Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

I think the biggest abuse is the XP generator.
Party: It's been a week. Have the kobolds reproduced?
DM: Yes the 2 you left have spawned 42 more.
Party: All right release the hound.
Kobolds: B-b-b-but we are only CR 1/3 why k... *splortch*
Party: are the kobolds CR 4 (wraith CR=?) yet?
DM: yes
Party: all right I attack with...

maybe I do not know wraiths well enough-I could be wrong. That said it is 'villain' item and parties using it would be villainized quickly. Congratulations!

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

Curaigh wrote:

I think the biggest abuse is the XP generator.

Party: It's been a week. Have the kobolds reproduced?
DM: Yes the 2 you left have spawned 42 more.
Party: All right release the hound.
Kobolds: B-b-b-but we are only CR 1/3 why k... *splortch*
Party: are the kobolds CR 4 (wraith CR=?) yet?
DM: yes
Party: all right I attack with...

maybe I do not know wraiths well enough-I could be wrong. That said it is a 'villain' item and parties using it would be villainized quickly. Congratulations!

I suspect that the experience penalty for such a dumb stunt would approximately equal the experience gained from fighting the wraiths...


Very creative I really like conjuration summoning items particularly for small 1, 2 or 3 man parties when it comes at good cost to utility so I find the Leash of the Shadowhound a very interesting magic item, but the warning bells went off when I saw this item. IMO this magic item will generally, tend to promote horror over heroics in most games it is utilized in once a player who can turn undead figures out he can use it to make a squad of undead meat shield combatants more or less as needed. I don't like experience generators, potential experience generators or potential undead army building magic items in the hands of players since there is way to much potential for abuse with a party specialized to deal with undead and wraiths. As bad as this would be in the hands of a single player who can contol undead and I can imagine what a party full of players who can turn undead in game could do with it.

IMO this item is really abuseable by a class that can control undead who uses it to make an army of undead troops every time he hits a dungeon or the player campaigns where the players go kill commoners before hitting the dungeon. The respectable evil mastermind or masterminds who use this to kill a commoner, sends the wraith away after making a spawn, takes control of the spawn and makes a few more from some of the commoners before hitting the dungeon and disposes of them at the end of the adventure before heading back into town. I don't play in those games myself but I've seen those kind of games and I'd prefer the neutral and good players not be overly tempted by the possibilities.

IMO "Most" DMs aren't really trying to kill their players normally, just challenge them and have some fun and this item would sort of make that an issue in most games. It could lead to lots of abuses with a lenient DM because it basically has unlimited summoning potential as written. The second summoning turning on the summoner is weak IMO as it would mostly be used when the undead player army was destroyed (Summon a second time, Tries to attack, player's controls the wraith and has it start making more wraiths).

IMO the wraith trying to kill a player who can turn or control undead or has a party memeber who can kind of makes that a non issue IMO.

My two suggestions for slightly tweaking this item mechanically while retaining all the cool flavor and originality:

Consider limiting the Leash to summoning a Shadow Mastiff and only a Shadow Mastiff as per the SRD SM5 spell, I would have no issues with the leash except that it could actually be overcosted if it were modeled on the SRD Rust Bag of Tricks mechanics and the summoning could actually be both increased and limited to a 10 minute summoning up to 10/week with a major price costing discount down to 6,300 gp. Powerful utility item for low to mid level parties.

If the item just has to summon wraiths in game IMO it is undercosted using the SRD spell constraint limitations so because of the in game abuse potential as currently written IMO even if never used by a party it is always there so I'd base the mechanics on the SRD Iron Horn of Valhalla and let it summon 1D4 + 1 wraiths from the Asgardian underworld 1/week for up to 1 hour "but" all spawn created by the summoned wraith would immediately arise in the Asgardian underworld and there would be a major price increase to 50,000 gp.

Thats my 2 cents. Looking forward to seeing your county submission.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

I can't help but disagree with many of the game balance issues that have been brought up so far. While an item like the leash could be very potent in a lower-level game, player characters at those levels won't have the ability to reliably control wraiths. By the time that the characters are potent enough to command such undead (for example, a 12th level cleric), wraiths just aren't that scary. The Fort save DC on their Con drain is only 14, so the majority of foes that would challenge a 12th level party will sneer at their attempts to drain them. There are many other abilities available to a party of such power that wishes to recruit a force of monstrosities.

Perhaps I should have been more clear in the leash's phrasing. I stated that it was treated as a wraith in all ways, with a few exceptions. The spawning effect of wraiths is limited to humanoid victims. Where I stated, "The souls of those it slays rise as wraiths in 1d4 rounds", it was not my intent to broaden that wraith ability to affect non-humanoid opponents.

As far as creating undead just to defeat them for experience, to me that is like summoning monsters to slay them. As a DM, I wouldn't give experience for doing that any more than I would let the rogue build a trap so that he could get experience for overcoming it. Only a very naïve DM would allow his players to "buffalo" him that way.


It is a very creative and interesting magic item and I am looking forward to seeing your country.

I am curious though if the wraith summoning and abuse is such a non issue in game why not go with an actual Shadow Mastiff summoning instead and base the item off the SRD Bag of Tricks summoning mechanics and get summoning up to 10 minutes up to 10 times a week for 6,300 gp and save 12,000 or so gp where the issue will never come up?

If you only want the summoning limited to 1/day the price could be lowered down to 4,200 gp or if you wanted to increase it to 3/Day it would go up to 12,600 or so gp.

There must be a reason. Why does it have to summon a wraith which can create spawn when there are other suitable things that could be summoned instead?

I disagree regarding the experience generation. IMO if a DM allows an item like this into his game he is allowing the players to use as it is designed not how he thinks it should be used in game and most players will get creative with it unless they are all good and will probably sell it since it summons undead because the DM gave them a brand new magical toy. Players don't generally underoptimize their gear or magic items in game and they gain levels normally by killing monsters. There are plenty of power games reviewing gaming threads. Players don't normally receive experience for overcoming summoned monsters except through defeating their summoner normally but the spawn created from a summoned wratih wouldn't be summoned monsters and would fair game for experience in game with the potential for building an experience arena. The summoned wraith only needs to create a single spawn which is easily controlled or contained at low levels like in an arena who can make more spawn.

A single Wraith is a CR 5 encounter, two are a CR 7, 4 are a CR 9, 8 are a CR 11 and there are games that would use those mechanics to their advantage to level in controlled environments. I don't encourage that kind of play but it is permissable under the rules.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

CastleMike wrote:
There must be a reason. Why does it have to summon a wraith which can create spawn when there are other suitable things that could be summoned instead?

CastleMike,

I appreciate your feedback about the leash's potential for abuse. I just wanted to express that it's not as potent as some people feared.

When I originally wrote the leash, I wanted it to be as sinister and ominous as possible, summoning a spectral horror. I started by writing up a "custom" haunting for the leash to summon, but it just took too many words to do it.

Why did I pick a wraith as opposed to a shadow mastiff? There wasn't any reason. I wasn't sure if the shadow mastiff was in the SRD off the top of my head, so I went with the wraith. I consider wraiths to be "spookier" monsters, so they fit my mental image better.


Thanks for clarifying that. Good luck with your country.

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