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RPG Superstar 2015

Moonlight Flute of the Ghost Hunter


Round 1 - Open Call: Design a wondrous item

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2012 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Moonlight Flute of the Ghost Hunter
Aura moderate illusion; CL 11th
Slot -; Price 11,000 gp; Weight 2 lbs.
Description
This traditional Minkan wood flute often bears the symbol of a noble house, usually a flower or animal native to Tian Xia. When played by a creature who succeeds on a DC 15 Perform (wind instruments) check, the flute creates an illusory double of its player as the spell mislead. The double is obviously false to any living creature, appearing only as a pale moonlit reflection of the flute’s player, but haunts detect the double as a living creature. As long as the double is within a haunt’s area, the haunt will focus on it and not notice or target actual living creatures. A haunt will manifest as soon as the double appears to satisfy its trigger conditions. If the haunt’s manifestations are purely mental and only the double is targeted, the flute’s player is aware of the effects but not harmed by them. The illusory double lasts as long as the flute is played, which requires a standard action each round. If a living creature within the haunt’s area takes any action that would end a hide from undead spell or speaks louder than a whisper, the flute’s effect is ended. The flute can be used three times each day.
Construction
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, hide from undead, mislead, must be crafted in moonlight Cost 5500 gp

Contributor

This is a neat item, good for safely interacting with a haunt, perhaps to figure out what triggers it and how to end it. I'm not much into haunts, myself, but I think this would be a neat item for a haunts- or ghosts-heavy campaign.

Mostly good on the template, nice description, no backstory baggage.

Keep!

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

Good professional polish to this item and how it's presented (but still need another comma in the item's cost). Nice reach for the haunt mechanics. I'd suggest this flute really only work against haunts that are fooled by hide from undead, though. Not all haunts work on the exact same principle.

I'm also a little put off with the specificity of associating this flute just with Tian Xia and Minkai. I'd have liked to see that widened out so these flutes can originate in multiple places, not just a single corner of Golarion. As designers...especially for magic items...you need to be conscious of when you're limiting the item with this kind of background as opposed to elevating it with added flavor.

Other than that, there's a lot to like in this item. It's a flavorful interpretation of a fairly cool idea. This is definitely a designer I wouldn't mind seeing more from...and seeing how much they grow over the course of the competition.

Vote to Keep.

CEO, Goblinworks

This is a plot-device item. It would be unlikely to be crafted ad hoc, but would instead be created in response to a very specific condition. That condition is so obscure that unless an adventure hinged on it, this item is unlikely to be meaningful to anyone except the GM.

I do not recommend that you vote for this item.

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

I'm with Ryan. Plus the haunting glass is a way better item for the haunt mechanic. Weak reject. This can be someone else's golden ticket, not mine.

RPG Superstar 2011 aka Ignotus

A minesweeper for haunts. I’m trying to imagine the adventure where the party proceeds through a haunted house, stopping every few feet for the bard to rock out on his flute, and I am not envisioning a good time. Items that make interacting with ghosts safe and easy, or that make haunts feel like dumb robots, are not an element I’ve been longing for in my horror adventures.

Also, haunts can’t detect the illusions, and the living can… what about other undead? Presumably that’s just an omission from the item text, but what would be the explanation? Why can't my Moonlight Flute of the Ghost Hunter help me against actual ghosts? I think I would like this item better if it fooled all undead – but then it would feel more like a spell-in-a-can.

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

What I like:
The game can always use more magic musical instruments. I actually love the name on this one; it's possibly my favorite name out of all the items this year. It's very evocative, and, once the Tien Xia connection becomes clear, fits in well with that theme too.
What I love:
Wow, this item kept subverting my expectations and then doing it again. By the second sentence, I just thought it 'ghost doubled' the user, then the next sentence made me think it was intended for use against undead, and then the haunt aspect of it came to the fore and really surprised me. It's a little bit niche, as a result, but I don't mind that. Haunts are a really cool part of the game, and I love seeing more items that interact with those rules.
What needs a little sumptin' sumptin'...
But maybe part of that nonstop subversion was a little lack of clarity? "The double is obviously false to any living creature"... maybe you just should have dropped the living and just said 'to any creature'? Because as it stands I'm still left wondering if this should interact differently with undead. I'm 100% sure that's not your intent, and it's not like I would be confused ruling on that at the table if needed, but I did find myself rereading the description a few times to make sure I wasn't missing anything. (For the record, I don't think any anti-undead rules should be added to this item; I like the tight anti-haunt effect.)
Also, while I like the attempt to keep the theme going, the 'must be crafted in moonlight' part of the requirements is really unnecessary and a little indulgent.
All in all...
Apparently my only real problem here is one of phrasing; which, let's face is, is a really really minor thing to pick on. I quite like this item and can't wait to see more from you in the contest. Congratulations and welcome to RPG Superstar!

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 4 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014 aka Jatori

Welcome to the Top 32!

You've given us one of two haunt-related items to make it to the Top 32. I like the visuals that you've added in your entry, especially the idea of using music to conjure up an illusion. I also like the idea of using a proxy to interact with a hazard, much like a ghostbuster's 10-foot pole.

However, I do fear that your flute makes dealing with haunts a bit too safe. As written, a character can play the flute indefinitely and use it to scout around an entire haunted mansion. The invisibility effect of mislead, on the other hand, only lasts a round per level, somewhat limiting abuse. Perhaps a limited or timed hide from undead effect would have worked a bit better.

Good luck in round 2.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Neil Spicer wrote:
Good professional Polish

*chuckles*

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

I was a bit tough on this one--of course, keep that in perspective, I was tough on it but agreed it should be in the keep folder for us to pick from. I wish you the best, Sam! Good luck! Don't take my short comments as too critical.

Star Voter 2013

Hmm, it's a neat item, but I do agree it's a little niche. And maybe a little weak on the wording side of things. Some good flavor in it, so I hope you can keep it up next round!

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2012 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Thank you all for your feedback. I'm excited to have made the top 32, and I'm looking forward to even tougher criticism in round 2!

To address a few specific comments:

Clark wrote:
I was a bit tough on this one...

Be as tough as you can! I'm always working to improve my design skills, and I appreciate any critique you, the other judges, and everybody who takes the time to read this can give me.

P.S. I like the haunting glass too.

Jerral wrote:
I do fear that your flute makes dealing with haunts a bit too safe...

I thought about this too, but worried that if I limited it to uses or rounds per day, it would encourage a party to leave a haunted location and come back later, which I felt would do more to break the creepy haunted house mood than just letting the flute work all day.

Seeing how few haunts are fooled by hide from undead, I wanted a way to investigate a known haunted location that was a little more elegant than creeping around with a readied action to channel positive energy. The flute will allow players to bypass some haunts completely, but for persistent haunts, it will only give them a free surprise round. In addition, where there are haunts, there are usually other hazards... and some of them may react in amusing ways to intruders announcing themselves with musical instruments.

Sean wrote:
... maybe you just should have dropped the living and just said 'to any creature'?
and
Sam wrote:
haunts can’t detect the illusions, and the living can… what about other undead?

I took out the word "living" and put it back in my draft twice. Thanks for commenting on that, especially since it sounds like I made the wrong choice! My intent was that the flute would trick haunts, but not true ghosts or other undead creatures.

Star Voter 2013

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Overall, I like the concept, but the execution leaves a little to be desired. Others pointed out the working on other undead. Mostly, I have to agree with Sam on the actual ability. It turns a creepy adventure into something irrelevant. Haunts become a joke easily ignored. If a party has one of these, they can bypass too many niche encounters, but meanwhile it will not help the majority of the time.

I would like to see this expanded to other undead. I don't get why it would only affect haunts, and it hurts my immersion.

Star Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Congratulations Sam,
Originally I thought of the twin-tone flute, and the book of night without shadows. Fortunately neither is the case, and yours is an original. Good luck.


I like it, except for the fact that it seem like an auto-win vs haunts. I will also admit that I don't remember if haunts can make perception checks of any sort. In the end I think you will do well in the next round.


Congratulations on making the top 32 and good luck in the coming rounds.

Analysis
The Name: I like it, but I expect ghosts and get haunts. I like getting a little more of what I expect. Also it's on the long side, and "Ghost Hunter" being unrelated to what it really does, kind of makes this less than a good name.

Effect: Okay, I've got admit, I don't much like this one. I like haunts, but this seems a little too powerful. It seems like pretty much an auto-avoid and there'll have to be a serious lot of haunts for this to wear out at any point. That robs me, as GM, of something I like. It's a good idea though, and I don't might how you've done it and written it. I just need a little more.

That said, I'll be watching. Give me that little bit more with the organization, and you've got a good chance at a vote.

Contributor

Congrats on making the first cut!

Gotta say, I'm not a fan of the item, but the description is compelling and reasonably well done. There needs to be a limited use clause, and I don't like that it's such a niche item... only works against haunts. I can see other similar items: cloak of invisibility to kobolds, etc... that would not have made the cut.

I will be interested to see your organization!

Scarab Sages

This would be awesome for the carrion crown game I'm running soon. I just have to figure out when would be an appropriate time to give it to them - when it's not overpowered but still effective. The Haunting Glass would probably get annoying as a GM. Would this? Only if they had detect undead up constantly - and with dhampirs in the party, they might. Still, a haunt doesn't detect until the round it can be perceived - the round before the effects go off. I like it. It helps the party without negating the haunt.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Marathon Voter 2013

There is something appropriate about using the flute's melody to attract the attention of a haunt.

Although I can see the flute removing some of the risk from haunts, I think this benefit is balanced by the fact a character has to make music (i.e., noise) for it to work. Thus, the character might protect his party from haunts, but also attract unwanted monstrous attention.

Also, if the party spellcaster has to cast a spell with a verbal component, it ends the flute's effect, so I think the protection offered by the flute is nicely balanced out.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 8

Beautifully thematic, Sam. Creeping about a haunted house, playing the flute just loud enough to distract the haunt but fearfully on the lookout for more purposeful undead monsters is a great image for a scene. Tense!

I think it's up to the GM to see that this doesn't ruin their carefully calibrated hauntings. A Bard continually playing the flute anywhere creepy is going to bring worse things than haunts down on the party and, when the other PCs have made him "put that fricking flute away", that's when they fall into the haunt.

Lovely!


Very cool/original idea. Unfortunately I don't know what a haunt is (I do remember an old monster called a haunt). Sounds way too specific. Maybe less times per day and less specific.

Good luck.

Dedicated Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

This is a well-designed item. Your flavor is good, your mechanics are nice and clear, and this is a useful item, so you hit all the important bases. I just want to say that before I get into my personal tastes, which don't reflect on your design.

I like the idea of haunts, but the rules bug me. Whenever there's new material in that design space, I want it to ameliorate my problems with the existing subsystem. If it doesn't, I judge it (perhaps unfairly) as a failure. Your item addresses one of my problems with haunts while playing into another.

On the one hand, I dislike that players have so few options to handle haunts. This provides a new and flavorful tool and that's cool. As somebody who played through Haunting of Harrowstone without any divine casters in the party, I greatly appreciate efforts to make haunts more fun for diverse classes.

On the other hand, I never want haunts to seem mechanical. They aren't traps and shouldn't function as such. This flute, whatever its merits, results in the PCs standing around and watching as vengeful ghosts attack what is essentially a puppet victim. It has the potential to undermine the tone of a haunted area and to let the players see "behind the curtain" to the basically mechanical nature of haunts. That nature isn't your fault, but your item plays into it a bit much for my liking.

Again, this is more about my gripes with the subsystem you chose to explore. Overall, the flute is a cool item, and the game would be richer for having it. Nice work and good luck.

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

Threat Analysis

You could be serious competition because.... you put together a solid item, and were very clever in your choice of mechanics; making an item that interacts with the haunt rules strikes me as a clever tactical move, as haunts were a design space that was likely to be overlooked this year.

You could become an even bigger threat in future rounds if... you don't design yourself into a rules niche. Your item this round seems almost too narrowly focused, and could have benefited from a few broader benefits, especially for the price.

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

Nice! Another item that interacts with haunts, and the only musical instrument in the top 32. Tying the origins of the item to the new Pathfinder setting is an added bonus.

Congratulations, Sam, and good luck in the next round!

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014 aka motteditor

Hey Sam, I thought I'd be treading in rare ground when I chose to play with the haunts, but I see we both managed to succeed with very different items that use that rule subsystem. Glad neither of us cost the other a spot.

I like what you've done here, though I think like others, I might've liked something that affected all undead (or perhaps all non-intelligent undead, so it wasn't too undead pied piper?).

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Cool and thematic item, though I would have actually liked it to affect undead as well as just haunts—though maybe not to the same extent? Maybe affecting haunts and mindless undead, or allowing a will save for undead other than haunts to see through the ruse? I don’t have many characters who would use this item, but I am tempted to design one specially for the purpose of playing this flute.

Dark Archive

This isn't my favorite submission, however it is something that fulfills a definite purpose, isn't overpowered, and is nearly perfectly priced for what it does.

A couple of things could make an adventuring party just throw this into party treasure and sell it off the next chance they can get:

1. If the GM doesn't use haunts at all in their campaigns (they're not in the Core Rulebook, they're an optional super-cool thing from the Gamemastery Guide... personally as a GM I like them but I haven't had a chance to use them in my current campaign as of yet).

2. If no party member has any ranks in Perform (which means that using this is a Charisma check, and with the usual Charisma modifiers for that sort of party, a 13-14 or higher on a d20 is probably needed to acheive the effect).

So, from my experience as a player and a GM I think this item is a bit too niche for my tastes. However, you took a chance on a niche and received strong recommendations from 2 of the judges, and I salute you for that.

Best of luck to you, sir.

Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Ant Health Warning: this year, I really worked hard on technical execution of my item, so these reviews will likely reflect template use. Brace yourselves for the template fu - it can sting.

Template Use: 9/10

template fu was getting sadder and sadder... until he got to Cost, with great glee he ate a half point for that missing comma in the number and then ate the rest of the whole point due to wall of text description. He then pats his tum, with a yum, and allows me to continue.

Slot affinity: 7/10

Ok, ack! I saw the movie "Total Recall" recently - sorry, but as soon as you had your double image, I went straight to imagining Arnie getting all the poor soldiers to shoot themselves or chase the hologram double. Then it occurred that as you have to actually play the instrument, it kind of makes it a hand slot item in order to function.

Abuseability: 8/10

As a GM, I could so send the PC's the wrong way when chasing down the baddies. In fact, I see more opportunities for the NPC to cause bedlam than I can as a PC, normally it's the other way round, so this is a strange one.

Desirability: 8/10

Total Recall - oh man, I get to be Arnie! What more could I ask for?

Originality: 7/10

I have to be honest with myself, I couldn’t get passed the Total Recall portable hologram and so that affects this score a bit.

Ant Score: 39/50 (78%)


Sam Polak wrote:

Moonlight Flute of the Ghost Hunter

Aura moderate illusion; CL 11th
Slot -; Price 11,000 gp; Weight 2 lbs.
Description
This traditional Minkan wood flute often bears the symbol of a noble house, usually a flower or animal native to Tian Xia. When played by a creature who succeeds on a DC 15 Perform (wind instruments) check, the flute creates an illusory double of its player as the spell mislead. The double is obviously false to any living creature, appearing only as a pale moonlit reflection of the flute’s player, but haunts detect the double as a living creature. As long as the double is within a haunt’s area, the haunt will focus on it and not notice or target actual living creatures. A haunt will manifest as soon as the double appears to satisfy its trigger conditions. If the haunt’s manifestations are purely mental and only the double is targeted, the flute’s player is aware of the effects but not harmed by them. The illusory double lasts as long as the flute is played, which requires a standard action each round. If a living creature within the haunt’s area takes any action that would end a hide from undead spell or speaks louder than a whisper, the flute’s effect is ended. The flute can be used three times each day.
Construction
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, hide from undead, mislead, must be crafted in moonlight Cost 5500 gp

Disclaimer:

This post constitutes the views of a (very advanced) CE aligned succubus. Being such, Ask A RPGSupersuccubus is at complete liberty to change her mind on anything without giving any notice whatsoever. For those of you who missed last year (or as a reminder for those whose memories have failed) Ask A RPGSupersuccubus subscribes absolutely to balance, fairness, and logic in these reviews – in the sense that balance is what a couple of mortals on opposite ends of a plank pivoted on a rocky spire above a drop of several hundred feet into a pool of molten basalt frantically try to do, fairness is a term applicable to assessing either hair colour or more general beauteousness and logic is something which proves anything a demon of adequate status and charm requires it to demonstrate.

Note:
Ask A RPGSupersuccubus acknowledges the efforts of the ready supply of willing victims on the ‘Nine Blazing Months’ items thread, who inadvertently contributed to the development of weapons-grade questions for use in this round.

Fair is foul and foul is fair supposedly (trust a mortal to make up a piece of complete mumbo-jumbo – it is of course generally impossible to get anything much fairer in any context which actually matters than a succubus). Basically, though, does this item have any useful application in a spa?
It's basically a posh flute, for these intents and purposes. Conceivably vaguely useful if one has a retainer retained to provide entertainment in the form of background music, whilst one is lazing in a pool, although this is a bit more expensive a piece of gear than would ordinarily be useful for that.

Assuming for a moment that it’s more convenient to pay taxes than to circumvent the system, does this item look likely to be a tax-deductible business expense for a succubus art-dealer?
This is high-quality merchandise, but not tax-deductible.

Is the item useful in a strawberries-and-cream-tea context?
As with the spa situation, any function is dependent on a situation where absolute privacy is not essential, and an entertainer providing background music is useful.

Other Comments?
Probably most useful for a Minkai themed house-party. Otherwise, it's nice, but not the sort of thing I'd go out of my way to buy. If someone gave me one as a present, I wouldn't necessarily recycle it though, by passing it on to someone else...

Gollum Rating:
Ratings of items are prosaic and unfashionably conventional this year. Although rules are there to be broken (so long as they do not involve the dread lord, Orcus) as a general rule no items will thus be rated this year.

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