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RPG Superstar 2015

Locket of the Umbral Kiss


Round 1 - Open Call: Create a Wondrous Item

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014 aka Draconas

Locket of the Umbral Kiss
Aura moderate necromancy; CL 15th
Slot neck; Price 130,000 gp; Weight 1 lb.

Description
This tarnished silver locket hanging from an equally tarnished silver-link necklace has seen better days. The locket and necklace are constantly cold to the touch and if opened without being worn, the innards of the locket are empty with only a blank space waiting for some drawing or keepsake to be inserted. Originally created by Nidalese Shadow Priests as a precaution in their dealings with the Plane of Shadow, these lockets have since found their way into circulation amongst adventurers.

When worn by a living person, the locket immediately traps the wearer’s shadow within its heart and leaves them unable to cast one. If opened while worn, a black silhouette of the wearer is displayed within the locket. A shadow thus trapped is only returned if the wearer willingly removes the locket.

While the locket contains a trapped shadow and is worn, the wearer benefits from improved resistance to negative energy and death magic as if the wearer was under the effects of death ward with the trapped shadow absorbing it all instead. Once per day, the wearer can siphon negative energy from the locket and make touch attacks as chill touch (CL 15th).

If a user is slain while wearing the locket, the trapped shadow is released from its bindings as an undead shadow (CR 3, see Pathfinder RPG SRD).The shadow attacks whoever slew the locket’s wearer until it succeeds in killing the individual or is itself destroyed. If successful, the shadow acts normally as per its kind, however, the locket’s wearer cannot be revived via magic or otherwise until the shadow is destroyed.
Construction
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, chill touch, death ward, create greater undead; Cost 65,000 gp

Paizo Employee Editor-in-Chief

This one's pretty close, and a great example of how far a strong story and world tie get you. The author obviously knows Golarion and even though I'd ding him on a few writing issues, the sentiment remains solid.

But then the rules are pretty weak. It pretty much just does death ward. And then it's unclear if the other effects require the wearer to have been affected by negative energy or death magic to operate.

The whole, your shadow takes the ill effects and goes off and fights folks if you're killed bit is neat, but really feels more like an adventure gimmick than a tool useful to PCs.

Close, but not sure if it's quite there yet. Lets see how things play out.

Contributor

I've left this one sitting for a while because I'm ambivalent about it. I share Wes's concerns but I also agree that it's a neat item--with some weak mechanics.

Anyone who can afford this item is pretty high level. Anyone able to kill the wearer is likewise powerful, and a measly common shadow isn't going to be a threat to them, so the revenge aspect of it isn't really a threat.

I'm not quite ready to reject it yet.

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

It has problems. I agree that if you can afford it, a shadow is out of place for a revenge bit.

I also dont like the first sentence. It makes the item sound unique and one of a kind, which wondrous items are NOT. Plus, there is no reason the item must by definition appear to have seen better days. But I digress.

I like this and say we keep it. This shows good, tight theme and design. This person is an idea person and likely would be a good part of the contest.

Full of flavor. And maybe I am biased but you throw in some undead and I'm all good.

Contributor

I say... keep!

Paizo Employee Editor-in-Chief

Going back over this I do like this a good deal more than most of the others I've seen this year and several in the Kept folder.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

I really like the core idea behind this item. Flavor-wise, it's fantastic! It has a great Golarion tie-in, and kudos to you for handling that well. You also avoided the trap of offering up too much backstory and that shows excellent restraint. I like the element of someone wearing this locket having no shadow. It sets up a spooooky feel (wave your hands, Wes!) when encountering a Nidalese priest with one of these things. And the notion that the wearer is then protected from negative energy by having it transfer to the shadow is a great idea. And I like siphoning that negative energy to empower a chill touch attack option. That's great stuff!

Mechanically-speaking, you went off the rails, however, with the last paragraph involving the undead shadow bit. I think maybe you failed to resist the urge to glom too many things onto your item...and you probably talked yourself into doing so because of the cool factor of summoning a vengeful shadow, empowered by the user's original shadow which the locket preserved. Again, flavor-wise, I love where you were heading with that. But, rules-wise, it sets you up with problems. To pull that off, you had to cite create greater undead in the construction requirements, which is an 8th level cleric spell...and thus, the main contributor to your item's pricing. And, as the judges pointed out, a PC would have to be very high level (somewhere around 14th or 15th) to reasonably expect them to have spent 130,000 gp on this locket. Thus, any adversary who takes them down is probably on par with them or even a couple of levels higher. Thus, a generic CR 3 shadow would get blasted out of existence almost as soon as it appeared. So, it's a design mistake to include it. If you chopped out that last paragraph, removed create greater undead as a construction requirement, and re-priced the remaining features of the item, you'd have a much tighter design across the board.

For kicks, I also checked into the possibility of bumping your shadow up to a CR8 greater shadow or even a CR9 greater shadow with the advanced template, but even then, I'm not sure the summoned shadow would do much against whomever slew the original locket holder. And, given that you're going for the notion of Nidalese priests (and not just their high-priests) having such an item, I really think you would have benefited from getting your pricing down to make it more accessible to lower level PCs and NPCs. And, alternatively, I think it might have been more interesting to toy around with the Shadowdancer's prestige class abilities to replace your vengeful shadow summoning with something different anyway. Something like their "shadow illusion," "shadow call," or even "shadow jump" abilities might have rounded things out if you really felt compelled to throw in one more ability. To tone it back down, you could always say the last power only becomes available if the locket has absorbed negative energy within a certain timeframe.

Regardless, you can see by the amount of thought I put into thinking through alternate powers that I really DO love this item. It's in my Top 5 for flavor. And has about a 90% successful execution from a mechanics perspective. So, very well done. Welcome to the ranks of RPG Superstar! Congratulations, and I really look forward to seeing what you do next. Keep bringing the mojo and tighten down the mechanical execution and you should be good to go. Best of luck!

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2009 Top 4 , Star Voter 2013 aka raidou

Neil and I have similar views on this one. At its core, this is a neat idea and an item that fills a gap: protecting its wearer against negative energy. I don't think another core item provides a constant-effect Death Ward. Siphoning on reserved negative energy to create a chill touch is a fine effect, and the vengeful shadow is quite flavorful. You've put a lot of thought into the "how it works" aspect of this item. It's the mechanics and cost where this thing flies out of control.

Be mindful of this as you go. At the level at which this item is going to come into play, chill touch effects and monsters such as shadows are just not going to seem threatening. You damage a really good idea when you don't carefully step through the actual gameplay effects. That said, you've got the talent to get this far! Let's see where it takes you. Best of luck in the coming rounds!

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 4 aka K. B. Carter

Strangely, I think my PCs would like the idea that they no longer cast a shadow, even though it has no overt effect on the rules. Everyone likes to feel special, and this is a great way to make a player feel special without disrupting game mechanics. So the item has a lot of flavor that most players would respond too, even though I can't remember the last time I've seen a player cast cast chill touch. The spell isn't that bad, but there are usually too many other superior options to use an attack action on (vampiric touch would have been more practical, at least for my PCs).

The shadow released on death makes me think this item is for NPCs villains, and I can actually see it working well in that regard. PCs wouldn't enjoy this feature of the item as much, because if you're character is dead, you're already bummed out, and releasing an avenging shadow isn't going to change the equation much.

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

The balance here is weird. Constant death ward = very powerful, very cool. Chill touch and summoning a shadow = cool, but aimed at a much lower power bracket. Those abilities I think would be more appropriate for an item that gave you negative energy resistance or the like, rather than blanket immunity to negative energy.

It's an interesting item, but it definitely has issues.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014, Dedicated Voter 2015 aka MythrilDragon

I like how you tied the item into Golarion, good luck with the next round.


The item seems appropriately priced which is the thing I would normally be concerned about given the constant death ward effect, but the chill touch and shadow which attacks enemies seem a bit at odds with the major power, almost as if added as afterthoughts.

Congratulations on reaching the top 32, however.

The Exchange RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

Congratulations on your Top 32 Joshua!

I don't play high level games much so it's hard for me to judge something like this but my feeling is some of the abilities fall short of what you would expect for the price.

The flavor is excellent and I like that you don't cast a shadow.

Good luck on your monster entry, I look forward to seeing it.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka A Man In Black

What's to stop an aspiring villain from getting together a bunch of commoners, giving them each this amulet in turn, and then shooting them in the head? And I'm not familiar with the particular shadow priests, but would they be the sort to make an item that could start the shadowpocalypse accidentally? The most powerful effect doesn't seem to be the death ward, but instead the infinite at-will Create Greater Undead.

I love the concept and the flavor but it has weird effects on worldbuilding.

Shadow Lodge Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 8 aka Benchak the Nightstalker

This item just gives me the creeps in a way Shadows never have before. I think its the fact that you're doing this to your own shadow, that just hits a button somewhere for me. I like it :D

Not casting a shadow is just icing on the cake. Well done!


A Man In Black wrote:

What's to stop an aspiring villain from getting together a bunch of commoners, giving them each this amulet in turn, and then shooting them in the head? And I'm not familiar with the particular shadow priests, but would they be the sort to make an item that could start the shadowpocalypse accidentally? The most powerful effect doesn't seem to be the death ward, but instead the infinite at-will Create Greater Undead.

I love the concept and the flavor but it has weird effects on worldbuilding.

Well...considering that any aspiring villain who does this would need to, in some way, command or control the Shadow they released, I'm not sure it's wise to use it in that way. He did specify that the Shadow immediately attacks whoever slew the wearer of the locket.

EDIT: Also...Centerville, GA? Wow. Talk about close to home. I live 30 minutes from there.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka A Man In Black

Phillip0614 wrote:
Well...considering that any aspiring villain who does this would need to, in some way, command or control the Shadow they released, I'm not sure it's wise to use it in that way. He did specify that the Shadow immediately attacks whoever slew the wearer of the locket.

Presumably they'd cast command undead or use the command undead feat; shadows aren't terribly dangerous in a one-on-one fight and those abilities are available at low levels. Once the BBEG has a few shadows, it's shadowpocalypse time because the boss shadows are under the BBEG's command and any shadow spawn are under the boss shadows' control. An undead villain of an anarchic bent doesn't even need to be able to control the shadows, since he's completely immune to the shadows' only attack.

While the idea of the shadow coming free and attacking the slayer is visually neat, the item turns into the ultimate weapon for any undead or undead-controlling foe who can slay the wearer. Since I presume from context that it was intended for those who fought undead and undead-controllers, that seems to be a problem.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, 2011 Top 32 , Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

I like this one a lot. It's like a junior phylactery for shadow worshippers! I totally want a mid-level minion to have one of these. Off the priest and wham! he rises again as an undead shadow. Nice. Anything that startles my players makes my hard DM heart grow by two sizes. And then shrink again with evil glee. I should probably see a doctor about this...

Congrats!

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014 aka Draconas

A big thanks to the judges and everyone else for the critiques and support.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014 aka Draconas

Funny enough, I smacked my head a couple days after I submitted cause I completely forgot that Shadows come in more than one flavor. I'd have used the greater shadow had I remembered it. This is what I earn for getting too excited and rushing my entry out the door. Which is probably the cause of some of the mechanics problems as well.

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

Draconas wrote:
Funny enough, I smacked my head a couple days after I submitted cause I completely forgot that Shadows come in more than one flavor. I'd have used the greater shadow had I remembered it. This is what I earn for getting too excited and rushing my entry out the door. Which is probably the cause of some of the mechanics problems as well.

At least you didn't turn your magic item in to the Love cup ;-)

Paizo Employee Modules Overlord

The flkavor here is great, and shows a feel for what PCs want even when there may not be a game-mechanical reason to want it.

If there was a shdow template, that'd be the way to go with the vengeful shadow. As it is I think I'd make it a greater shadow in my homebrew games, but limit it to 1 or 2 rounds or activity.

Even so, a top-4 item for me. Very cool.

Scarab Sages

I like the item.

It's the create greater undead spell that makes the cost wonky.

Do they all have to look alike or is that a side effect of the creation and tie to negative energy?

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014 aka Draconas

Patrick Walsh wrote:

I like the item.

It's the create greater undead spell that makes the cost wonky.

Do they all have to look alike or is that a side effect of the creation and tie to negative energy?

You mean the tarnished look of the locket? Yeah, in my mind it was a side effect of being tied to negative energy. The constant entropic force contained within is enough to leech the vibrancy from the silver.

Scarab Sages

Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Joshua Kitchens wrote:

Quote:
When worn by a living person, the locket immediately traps the wearer’s shadow within its heart and leaves them unable to cast one. If opened while worn, a black silhouette of the wearer is displayed within the locket. A shadow thus trapped is only returned if the wearer willingly removes the locket.

What happens if someone forcably takes the locket off a living person?

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014 aka Draconas

Charles Scholz wrote:
What happens if someone forcably takes the locket off a living person?

That was something I did think about but ran out of space to cover. I'm sure if I'd given it more time I'd have reworked some of the wording to allow space for it.

But to answer the question: The shadow remains trapped in the locket if it is taken by force. If the original wearer is slain, the original shadow returns to its body. The locket won't function for another until its empty.

Liberty's Edge Contributor , Star Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

The flavor was a little strong for me, but the effects of the locket won me over. I especially like the shadow being released as a shadow if the owner dies. Good stuff.

Congrats and best of luck in the next round.

Scarab Sages

I love the flavor of the item, but the cost is insane, for what it does, making some of the effects obsolete by the time the item could be realistically available.

I would keep the chill touch / create-shadow-upon-death features, but chop the death ward effect down to a +2 to relevant saves and a form of negative energy resistance that reduces hit point damage from negative energy (say, from Channel Energy) by 5-ish and ability score damage from negative energy (say, from the touch of a Shadow) by 1.

This would be a lower-powered effect than the +4 saves / blanket immunity conferred by death ward, and would justify a lower cost.

With a requirement of *dying* to activate this power, and not having a permanant duration, using the base cost for Create Greater Undead isn't really appropriate, which should also help make it a bit more affordable.

[I made a spell ages ago, for Relics & Rituals 2, that 'cursed' the caster so that her soul would tear free from her body as an incorporeal undead to attack her slayer if she died during the month-long duration. A similar spell was a necromantic version of mage armor that used a skeleton as a material component, and cause the bones to wrap around the caster as armor. If the caster died while the spell was in effect, the bones animated as an undead skeleton to attack his slayer. It was a theme, I guess, necromantic spells that attacked one's killer, but neither spell made it into the book. Obviously, I'm a fan of seeing that aspect of the locket!]

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

Jared Goodwin wrote:

What's to stop an aspiring villain from getting together a bunch of commoners, giving them each this amulet in turn, and then shooting them in the head? And I'm not familiar with the particular shadow priests, but would they be the sort to make an item that could start the shadowpocalypse accidentally? The most powerful effect doesn't seem to be the death ward, but instead the infinite at-will Create Greater Undead.

I love the concept and the flavor but it has weird effects on worldbuilding.

Probably just the fact that they could achieve a better payoff buying a couple dozen scrolls of create greater undead (if you want it to go quickly), or just one scroll for 3 grand and a barn full of commoners. Much cheaper and just as shadowpocalypsy.

Besides, once you can afford a 130K item, you're no longer an aspiring villain, you are already a big baller and a shot caller in the villain world. Using NPC wealth by level, you'd need to be 20th level in the heroic tier to afford one, and that is only if you use almost all of your dough (159K) on this one item.

Constant DW is pretty sweet, if not as insanely awesome as it was in 3.5, but a regular shadow undead avenger is kinda lame at this power level. A simple alteration to, say, make it a greater shadow and say it persists for 1 hour (or some other set length of time) or until it kills your killer, whichever comes first, would probably fix the issue.

I like the item - it's very cool, nice theme. The power level of the item's abilities is kinda all over the place, but they all fit together logically. The Golarion flavor and background is good but verging on overboard.

All in all: Good job. Good luck in the rest of the contest!

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

Set wrote:

I love the flavor of the item, but the cost is insane, for what it does, making some of the effects obsolete by the time the item could be realistically available.

I would keep the chill touch / create-shadow-upon-death features, but chop the death ward effect down to a +2 to relevant saves and a form of negative energy resistance that reduces hit point damage from negative energy (say, from Channel Energy) by 5-ish and ability score damage from negative energy (say, from the touch of a Shadow) by 1.

This would be a lower-powered effect than the +4 saves / blanket immunity conferred by death ward, and would justify a lower cost.

With a requirement of *dying* to activate this power, and not having a permanant duration, using the base cost for Create Greater Undead isn't really appropriate, which should also help make it a bit more affordable.

[I made a spell ages ago, for Relics & Rituals 2, that 'cursed' the caster so that her soul would tear free from her body as an incorporeal undead to attack her slayer if she died during the month-long duration. A similar spell was a necromantic version of mage armor that used a skeleton as a material component, and cause the bones to wrap around the caster as armor. If the caster died while the spell was in effect, the bones animated as an undead skeleton to attack his slayer. It was a theme, I guess, necromantic spells that attacked one's killer, but neither spell made it into the book. Obviously, I'm a fan of seeing that aspect of the locket!]

Nice - I like these changes and actually think this puts it in a much better classification for an item that hangs together not just conceptually but also mechanically - the power levels fit together much better.

Plus, this puts the item at a place where it's much more likely to see some use!

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

Great job making the top 32! I think the locket has lots of great flavor and an awesome description. However, once you get to the mechanics, you run into some problems. In addition to the odd mix of low and high power effects already mentioned, I couldn't really follow some of the rules on how the locket works. First, "the wearer benefits from improved resistance to negative energy and death magic as if the wearer was under the effects of death ward with the trapped shadow absorbing it all instead" made me really have to think to figure out the last bit. I first read it to mean that the shadow absorbed the death ward, but figure you meant the shadow absorbed the negative energy or death magic.

With the shadow absorbing the magic and using that to power chill touch, it's unclear on if you can use that power if nothing has been absorbed. Also, how long does absorbed magic stay in the locket?

The part about the revenge shadow leaves a few questions also. What if the wearer is slain by something with no clear way for the shadow to know who killed him, say by ingested poison? Or what if the wearer is slain by something other than a creature, such as by a forest fire or avalanche? Finally, why is the word shadow bolded in this last paragraph?

Dark Archive RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015 aka Boxhead

This is a very cool item, that has a few (relatively) minor problems. The shadow is the clearest, but also the most easily remedied. Does not casting a shadow have other effects? Penalties to Handle Animal or is it all benefeicial? I think there was place for more flavour here, not that it needed it. Chill touch feels out of place.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 , Star Voter 2013

This has enough flavor for an entire buffet. Not casting a shadow is an interesting wrinkle. Very evocative.

I'm not sure how much the chill touch ability would be used at the level the character would need to be to afford this, and the death-shadow ability is similarly restricted. (As noted upthread)

I think the cost on this item illustrates why the Scarab of Protection is charged. (Well, aside from the history of it being charged from 1e).

Congrats on Top 32 and good luck with your beast!

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32, 2011 Top 4 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015 aka DankeSean

Really cool fx work on a fairly cool item. Yeah, the mechanics are a little off, but I can think of some players who'd want one of these JUST for the side effect of not casting a shadow. Rule of cool. And there's absolutely no point in your career when you're not going to be happy to have death ward up and running at all times. The rest is minor, in comparison, really, and possibly gilding the lilly a bit, but it doesn't besmirch a really good item regardless.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32 aka Hydro

I love the bit about it releasing its shadow should the wearer die. I'd like to see that on a lower-powered item, so that the effect would be more than a nuisance.

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