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RPG Superstar 2015

Desna's Triptych of Threefold Wisdom


Round 1 - Open Call: Design a Wondrous Item

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16

Aura moderate divination, illusion; CL 9th
Slot —; Price 21,000 gp; Weight 3 lbs.

DESCRIPTION
This icon of Desna is a three-paneled, illuminated screen which is hinged and can be folded for storage. The two smaller panels depict the Night Monarch, which appears as a huge butterfly, and Sorrowbrand, who appears as a Lillend with tears of stars. They face the center panel, in which Desna appears as a serene elven woman with butterfly wings, clothed in billowing clouds on a background of starry night. The icon is exquisitely constructed and painted, with silver leaf and gems accenting the scenes, all worth 5000 gp.

When the triptych is opened, any good-aligned priest or priestess may pray before the icon for an hour and activate the following magic, depending on which panel is invoked. The Night Monarch panel allows the use of divination, 1/day. Sorrowbrand’s panel allows the use of dream, 1/day and Desna’s panel allows the use travelling dream (Gods & Magic, pg. 13), 1/day. Use of a panel precludes the use of the other panels until the next night.

CONSTRUCTION
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, divination, dream, travelling dream; Skill Knowledge (Religion); Cost 10,500 gp

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

This item does lots of things that normally I would say are fatal.

Its a swiss army knife and spell in a can item that deals with divinations and it has a huge overdone backstory.

But for some reason I like it. I cant put my finger on why.

Wolf? What do you think?

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

I actually like it as well, because it totally nails Desna and Pathfinder flavor. This could come right out of a Pathfinder gazeteer, not as a knockout item, but as something really *right* to find in a temple of Desna.

I agree it breaks a bunch of our usual standard rejections. What impresses me is that it breaks them for a good design reason, namely matching world-specific flavor.

Inclined to keep this.

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

Kept.

I decided to back down on my overdone backstory complaint. Really, it isnt so much overdone backstory as it is overdone description. But that isnt really that bad. Plus, the item is just so well done from a thematic standpoint and it is very "Pathfindery" as Sean said somewhere else.

Contributor

Good theme, good flavor, and the powers are related enough that I wouldn't call it a Swiss army knife.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

Congratulations on making it into RPG Superstar 2009!

This is a really cool item. The description is perhaps a bit overdone, but it is also very evocative and flavorful. You have a theme and you play it up big time. I was uncertain, though, about two things:

1. It's a three-paneled illuminated screen. It weighs 3 lbs. It can be folded for storage. But how big is it? Is it like a small metal shrine screen? Or is it a large wicker/paper dressing screen? The latter would probably be more than 3 lbs, but it was a little odd to have all this glorious detail about what's ON the screens but not actually provide the most basic detail about it.

2. It is decorated with "gems accenting the scenes, all worth 5000 gp." Since the total value of the item is 21000 gp, presumably this use of all means "altogether" rather than meaning "each," but it's unclear. Also, what happens if you pluck these 5000 gp gems off of the screen? Maybe more to the point, this is always a confusing bit when you have magic items that have jewelry value as well (say, a magic sword with a gem-studded hilt) - do you add the gem/jewel value on top of the magic value, or is the gem/jewel value only relevant for people who don't know it's magical, since it's worth more as magic than it is as an art piece.

Anyway, I like everything else about the piece.

Summary: Yes it's spells in a can and yes it's divination and yes it does several different things and yes it's a lot of description for a wondrous item - Wolf pointed out very aptly that this is more the kind of item you would find in a PF/Golarion adventure or sourcebook rather than a generic PF RPG chapter - but all of the elements fit very well. Heck, my item last year, the phial of ebon flame was a thematic sort of spell in a box riffing off of, among other things, the quench spell. That kind of item can work if you do it right, and you did. Very good job.

Dark Archive RPG Superstar, Contributor aka Leandra Christine Schneider

Clearly a Pathfinder item. That’s already a small plus. Additionally, a triptych is not common at all, so I am grabbed by what the item will do.
Ok, it offer’s spells. Unfortunately this is not “that” exciting, but after all it is solid.

Positive:
Very good Pathfinder tie in and an uncommon base item.

Negative:
It is a spell in can, which might turn some people away from it.

After reading all entries:
I think this one has the best Pathfinder background of all items. It is fairly well executed, has no big failures and is unique in appearance. Good work there. Mechanically, it is among the least exciting items, but it is solid stuff. Welcome to RPG Superstar!

Paizo Employee Senior Developer

Great Golarion flavor! A bit too much description (I wouldn't call it backstory, exactly) at the beginning for a wondrous item. That kind of description would be better in a Pathfinder article about relics of Desna's faith. Jason's comments about the item's dimensions are important - how portable is this thing? I disagree that it's a swiss army knife, and if it's a spell in a can, the theme and flavor more than make up for it. She's the goddess of dreams, after all. And Desna seems to be a popular deity among Golarion fans, so you've tied into that zeitgeist. Solid theme, clean & simple mechanics, tons of flavor, and good (if a bit too much) description. And kudos for making a magical triptych, NOT your standard magic item at all, but again, solid tie-in to the theme. Good work, and congratulations on joining the ranks of RPG Superstar!

Dark Archive RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4, Contributor

So, I guess I'm the one guy who just doesn't dig on this item very much. I can't say that ever seen either divination or dream used at any gaming table I've been at, and while I appreciate the cool thematic execution (and longer duration!) of the arcane-eye-for-clerics that is traveling dream, I've never seen it used either.

Now: this item is visually and emotionally rich. And yes, it feels like the sort of thing that would be designed & used by worshipers of the Goddess of Dreams. But I think, as was said before in higher-praise context, that it serves as a Gazetteer item, at least as far as MY table is concerned: these are the tools of high-level NPCs, not adventurers.

Maybe I'm a jerk, and maybe I'm too Gonzo for my own good, but I can't see handing this to players except as what amounts to a personal check - lug it back to a temple of Desna & get your reward.

Still: cool item, neat design, and I look forward to seeing what else you have up your sleeve as Superstar! continues!

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8 , Marathon Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka Demiurge 1138

I'm with you, Clinton. This item nails Pathfinder flavor, but it's not very special mechanically.

Liberty's Edge Contributor, RPG Superstar 2012 , Star Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

Sometimes a wondrous item is good because it is very evocative of a personality. This fits Desna perfectly, I think.

Congratulations!

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16 aka Clandestine

The flaws of this item are it's also it's greatest strengths. I won't be one to gripe about backstory or excessive detail, I love making vibrant items and making up system properties on the spot.

What others may see as a weakness of your entry, I see a strength; in a gamer's perspective, you raised the CHA part of your item, neglecting the INT part. That is why it's so hard to point a finger and say immediately why is your entry so likeable.

I don't mean to insult you in any way - increasing charisma is an art all by itself. Part of the Superstar craft, I think!

P.S. I almost forgot - this is one looong name. Uncommon words, a bit hard to remember outright. But this is a negligible flaw.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32 aka flash_cxxi

Demiurge 1138 wrote:
I'm with you, Clinton. This item nails Pathfinder flavor, but it's not very special mechanically.

I like it and I totally agree.

The flvour can almost be seen oozing out of this item. It nails Desna right on the money.
Mechanically it is not game breaking, or even particularly powerful, but as Wolfgang said it is something that is likely to be found in any major temple of Desna.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 aka Gamer Girrl

I do love this, but my problem is that Desnans, on the whole, don't have temples. And I don't see this surviving much in one of the outdoor shrines.

"Desna's church is extremely disorganized with few actual temples or settled priests" (From [u]Rise of the Runelords[/u] write up of Desna)

But it is so utterly cooly Desna.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16

First off, thanks to all those who commented. I really appreciate the feedback.

When I ask for feedback from my players and friends, I usually get stuff like "That's fine, Doyle, how much xp did we get?” or “Who’s Desna again?” so it’s nice change, believe me.

(Edit: No comments on specific feedback until end of contest. Agggh. I just saw this on another post, so I am deleting my detailed comments until then.)

Thanks for the advancement, and I'll see you all next round!

Doyle

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka amusingsn

Desna's Triptych of Threefold Wisdom is definitely not a bland utility belt item, and that alone makes it stand out over most of the items I've looked at thus far.

I don't really "get" the item, but I've a feeling that's because I'm not up on the whole pantheon thing.

The front-loaded fluff seems just a little too rambling, and you may have benefited by spreading out among the crunch a bit more.

All in all, not a bad job though.


This is a really nice and very tight item, which shows much of what is good about interesting story over interesting mechanics.


Congratulations on making it through the first round!

I agree, while this item screams Golarion, and the description is both thorough and well written (maybe a bit too much so, but it's an uncommon type of item and as such a description is warranted), there are some issues.

As was noted, worshipers of Desna are often travelers; I feel dimensions are a must for this item, as it would often be packed up and carted off to the next site its owner visits. Additionally, when you get right down to it, it is a spell in a can. Perhaps a very well described and detailed can, but still a apell in a can. You could have probably added a little more utility, some unique effect tied to the item, and avoided such a categorization altogether. Finally, the price of the gems does seem out of place; can they be removed, and if so does the item cease functioning?

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16

Heaven's Agent wrote:

As was noted, worshipers of Desna are often travelers; I feel dimensions are a must for this item, as it would often be packed up and carted off to the next site its owner visits. Additionally, when you get right down to it, it is a spell in a can. Perhaps a very well described and detailed can, but still a apell in a can. You could have probably added a little more utility, some unique effect tied to the item, and avoided such a categorization altogether. Finally, the price of the gems does seem out of place; can they be removed, and if so does the item cease functioning?

I would very much like to answer yours and Jason's specific questions about the item itself, but I need to make sure that doesn't violate any contest rules. If anyone is listening that is an official, could you please inform us as to whether or not this is acceptable?

I'll contact Vic Wertz later today, and ask directly.

Thanks!

Doyle

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015 aka Epic Meepo

You had me at "triptych." With a name like Desna's triptych of threefold wisdom, this item could have done freakin' anything and I've have thought it was cool.

Also, seeing your descriptive text makes me anxious to see your entry for next round. I get the sense that my villain concept is going to have some stiff competition.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16

Erik Mona has posted in another wondrous item entry that responding to feedback for the magic item round is OK, so...

I expect each panel would be 12 to 16” high, and 6 to 8” across, and 2” deep, for a total of six inches when folded. It’s made of wood and about the size of a large shoe box or boot box, when folded. That would correspond to historical triptychs, I think.

I did struggle a bit with how to describe the dimensions, as I wanted prioritize the appearance. In the end, weight seems to matter a lot more than dimensions on a character sheet, so I stuck to ‘3 pounds’. I wanted it to be big enough to be interesting and small enough to carry in a bag of holding.

As for why nearly half the word count is description, I have to tell you my players never manage their magic item inventories well. They forget to write down items, or forget to cross them off when used, or forget to use the items when they need to. I wanted the description to be interesting enough so that the players would remember the item, and thus use it more. That and I needed to tie it in to the various lesser servants of the Golarion Gods, as historical triptychs usually dealt with saints.

I did intend for it to be an item used by PCs, though obviously it works as a plot device. (Go forth and return the sacred relic to us, smiting those who would seek to defile it, etc.) I don’t find divination to be that scary, as the games I run (one of which is Age of Worms, currently) are complex enough in plot that I find players need the help of divination, while dream and traveling dream are useful for communication and scrying, neither of which I believe to be game-breakers, when properly handled.

The intent of the item is that you pray for an hour and then go to sleep, when Desna reveals all through dream symbology, at least for divination, as the other spells take place during sleep anyway. But I wanted to avoid a can of worms by having a bad description of activation, so I left it to the DM’s ability to read between the lines. That way, if they wanted to just use the spell as it’s described, they could. Or if they wanted to riff of the whole dream motif, they could do that just as easily.

The part about the item being worth lots of money is a rip-off of Gygaxian prose style, as well as a way of allowing the looting the thing for all the jewels and silver leaf, as some players will no doubt want to do. I assumed that the base price included the all the gem, leaf and craft work. If you pry up the gems and scrape off the leaf, no more magic item, I would assume. That and you’ll have bad dreams for a very long time.

More than anything else, I struggled with the pricing of the item. Eventually I gave up on using the tables and eyeballed it. Robin Laws, my favorite designer, says that eyeballing is nearly always superior to calculating balance and usefulness using abstract formulas or tables.

Is it too much description/backstory/whatever? Yeah, for a generic magic item, sure. Most of what I have written in the past, for Call of Cthulhu or Pendragon, relies on story stuff first, and mechanics second. The best GMs I know are able to cast away mechanics in favor of a good story in a heartbeat, so mechanics always seem secondary to me. I am afraid this is probably a terminal weakness of mine. But I know that this is not the ‘best’ or only way to play the game, so I hope I disciplined myself enough to create a useful as well as interesting item.

Thanks!

Doyle

Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps Subscriber

Doyle, your item, Desna's Triptych of Threefold Wisdom is by far my favorite of the top 32. Congrats! And way to go. I look forward to your villain concept (and the villains of the remaining 31, oh plus the alts too.)
Desna is one of my favorites of Golarion's deities, and I totally want to offer this to a player of mine in my re-launch of CotCT. (A halfling bard who venerates the Song of the Spheres.)

Once again, good job. Keep it up.

Cheers!

Dean the Minstrel Wyrm


Doyle:
I don't know if you're an RPGSuperstar, but from what I see here, it looks to me that you can write solid Golarion-related material. :)

Good luck with the future, whether you only make it to the next round, or all the way to the finals.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2008 Top 6, Contributor , Dedicated Voter 2013

Plenty of existing items skip dimensions, so I'm okay with that. The flavor text was a little shaky for my tastes - I think it could stand with some tighening up by eliminating the two uses of "who/which appears", the second one being particularly jarring. But it captures Golarion flavor nicely, I can see a Desnan carrying one of these in a wagon or on their pack mule. Makes my top half for the contest, and a nice way to finish off my comments for the round.

Interesting that we never use the term "diptych" these days :)

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

This thing does manage to pack in the Golarion flavor! But mechanically, this item is boring. A few basic spells 1/day is not all that appealing to me. Putting it on a triptych was a cool idea, though. I don't think I've seen a tryptych item before.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Great item! You know I always wrestled with how to avoid "spell in a can" or "swiss army knife" items, because sometimes I felt they were justified. I'm glad to see the judges giving a nod to this one. Because all those powers should be together in an item dedicated to Desna. I don't care if they're simply duplicating spell effects you could get off a scroll. The triptych brings them altogether in one portable item. You designed it very well. You gave very flavorful descriptive text. What's not to like?

Welcome to the Top 32. You deserve it! And good luck in future rounds...

My two-cents,
--Neil

Scarab Sages

I like this item, and I love the word "tritych"! Still, it is kind of a siac/swiss army knife/divination item. I like it though; congrats!

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32 aka Lord Fyre

Gamer Girrl wrote:

I do love this, but my problem is that Desnans, on the whole, don't have temples. And I don't see this surviving much in one of the outdoor shrines.

"Desna's church is extremely disorganized with few actual temples or settled priests" (From Rise of the Runelords write up of Desna)

But it is so utterly cooly Desna.

True, but the item is small enough to be packed in a wagon, which many of Desna's elder priests would likely use. :)

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka JoelF847

I agree that this is a great item that I'd love to see in a Golarion book, but the mechanics leave me wishing it had been more. I think your tight theme and good research for the description will serve you well in the future rounds though. Good luck!

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32 aka Gamer Girrl

Lord Fyre wrote:
Gamer Girrl wrote:

I do love this, but my problem is that Desnans, on the whole, don't have temples. And I don't see this surviving much in one of the outdoor shrines.

"Desna's church is extremely disorganized with few actual temples or settled priests" (From Rise of the Runelords write up of Desna)

But it is so utterly cooly Desna.

True, but the item is small enough to be packed in a wagon, which many of Desna's elder priests would likely use. :)

Shows what a difference size can make ::laughing:: I had one of those gothic/byzantine triptych's in my head, the ones that can almost double as room dividers. This is instead much more personal and portable, in the smaller sizing, making my original objection go away :)

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2013 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015 aka Steven T. Helt

What Boomer said.

I dig that it's unique to Golarion and makes a great holy symbol. Just seems like one of those magic items you skip over on your way to the next one.

Good luck though, and look forward to seeing your villain. Your wondrous item entry was overly descriptive, I think, but i think that level of detail might be good to you next round.

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