Charlatan's Symbol

Open Call: Design a wondrous item

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 9 aka Netopalis

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Charlatan's Symbol
Aura None; CL 9th
Slot neck slot; Price 2,000 gp; Weight 1 lbs.
Designed to resemble a holy symbol of a genuine or fictional deity worn about the neck, the charlatan's symbol contains an extradimensional compartment which can hold one wand of a 1st level Cleric spell. A wand placed within the charlatan's symbol must stay in the symbol for 24 hours before it can be used. By speaking a command word or phrase, the wand inside is activated as if the user had succeeded on a DC 20 Use Magic Device check. Successful activation causes the charlatan's symbol to glow faintly; those observing a spell cast through the use of a charlatan's symbol must make a DC 15 Spellcraft check in order to determine that the spell was cast from a wand rather than through normal divine spellcasting.

The successful use of the charlatan's symbol gives the bearer a +5 circumstance bonus to bluff checks related to being a member of any religion indicated by the symbol.

Detect magic causes the charlatan's symbol to appear nonmagical, as if it were a standard holy symbol.

Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, eagle's splendor, magic aura, secret chest, creator must have 5 ranks in both Use Magic Device and Bluff; Cost 1,000 gp

Paizo Employee Developer

Pretty neat item. A little underwhelming as far as powers go, but the price is right. The detect magic bypass is a bit extreme, though this could be fixed simply by including the clause "(as magic aura)" somewhere in there so readers know that identify can still work around it. The second paragraph is a little vague (how long does this last? Is it only against people who have seen the item being used? etc).

weak keep

Publisher, EN Publishing aka Russell Morrissey

I like the idea, though I struggle with the image of a wand sticking into a holy symbol (though I guess that's why it's an extradimensional compartment).

Weak keep.

Paizo Employee Associate Editor

I agree about the odd mental image, but I could also see clear uses for this in our campaign setting. The wording could be tightened up slightly, but demonstrates no egregious problems.

Weak keep.

Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

This was a weak keep on my list--loved the concept, liked the flavor, passed on the details of the execution. Duration is a big question mark and the bluff bonus itself lacks the flavor of the primary effect. But it definitely tells a story, which is a bigger win.

(I can hear Template Fu drooling from here, though--lowercase the aura, "neck" sted "neck slot", 1 lb. should be singular)

Good luck in the next round!

Scarab Sages Marathon Voter Season 7

Pathfinder Card Game, Rulebook Subscriber

I really liked the idea behind this one. Good job!

Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8 , Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka WalterGM

The inspired design on this item alone put it into my personal 32, glad to see it made the real thing! Well done Netopalis!!

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 9 aka Netopalis

Thank you all very much! Special thanks to the judges for their kind comments. It's such an honor to be chosen, and I look forward to hopefully dazzling you all with my monster entry!

Liberty's Edge Contributor, RPG Superstar 2012 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 9

Having played a particular PFS scenario, I thought this would have been perfect for it. This was one of my favorites.

Good luck in the monster round!

Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka mamaursula

Congratulations on your Wondrous Item and good luck in the monster round!

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka JoelF847

I was underwhelmed by a very corner case item. Generally, characters who want to impersonate a spellcaster when they're not already have maxed out ranks in UMD, which makes this item only useful to low level characters from a narrow band of types who would even want to make use of it's powers.

I think it's actually more useful as a way to smuggle a wand somewhere without being caught between the can't detect it as magic and extra dimensional space, rather than the ostensible primary purpose of letting a non-caster use the wand.

Also, I really disliked the DC 15 spellcraft check to determine the magic came from a wand. When the wand is in an extra dimensional space, how could anyone know that? I would be fine with the spellcraft check letting someone know that the fake spellcasting didn't produce the effect, and even that it must have come from an item, but how would they know it came from the charlatan's symbol, much less an extra-dimensionally hidden wand inside of it. I assume the symbol doesn't glow or anything when used, that would defeat the purpose.

Congrats on making the top 32, but I'd advise to turn in a monster which really wows.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka theheadkase

The name was great on this and spot on for what it does.

I was not very enamored of this item in the voting. I have pretty much the same complaints that Joel Flank does.

Also agreeing with him that you need to swing hard with a monster entry...I look forward to it.

RPG Superstar 2010 Top 32, 2011 Top 4 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka DankeSean

2 people marked this as a favorite.

While this didn't make my personal list of favorites, it still saw a lot of upvoting from me. It's a niche item, but I can still see plenty of uses for it. And as a personal big fan of Razmir, the Living God, I absolutely love that this screams of being an essential item for his clergy without actually needing to namedrop. Congrats, welcome to the show, Andrew!

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka GM_Solspiral

Only item in superstar top 32 I never saw. Nice item with some slick applications for the sneaky types... Congrats and best of luck.

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Champion Voter Season 6, Champion Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Champion Voter Season 9

2 people marked this as a favorite.

This was my favorite flavor item. Perfect for a Razmiran campaign.

- Kilrex

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Neat idea. Somewhat weaker on the execution, though. Still, it's enough to see you into the contest, so take advantage of the opportunity.

Design Thoughts:


As written, I agree that the extradimensional space and placement of an actual cleric wand inside the holy symbol comes off a bit weird. You could get equal mileage out of a divine ring of spell storing and the imbue with spell ability to explain how the holy symbol holds such a spell. And, at higher caster levels, an imbue with spell ability could warrant having lesser and greater versions of the charlatan's symbol with access to more spells. Regardless, retain the Use Magic Device check to actually get the spell to activate from the holy symbol. Otherwise, it's cutting too close to an actual ring of spell storing.

One other aspect I'd have liked to see done differently is the +5 circumstance bonus on Bluff checks to pass yourself off as a member of the holy symbol's deity's clergy. That makes sense and everything, but it's kind of limited to have it just be for a single deity. Instead, weave some transmutation or illusion magic into this item and give it the ability to morph itself to appear as multiple holy symbols depending on the wearer's desire. That would lend more utility out of the item rather than having to limit it to a single clergy.

Lastly, if you really wanted to perpetuate the deception of this holy symbol (particularly in a greater version of the item), give the wearer the ability to channel 1d6 points of positive or negative energy like a normal cleric of the supposed clergy. Then, round out the construction requirements by slapping on a limited wish spell (for the crossover ability to duplicate cleric spells with an arcane spell) or a requirement that the creator possess the actual channel energy class ability and/or the Versatile Channeling feat. That way, you've got an explanation for why arcane casters can make them (i.e., Razmir) or priests of the gods of deception.

I bring up these suggestions not necessarily to critique the item as it appears here. Rather, these ideas came to me as I consider using it for my own games. And for that to happen, it means you're onto a great idea here. My only advice would be to double-down on your rules-fu and make sure your designs are executed with as much polish and foresight into how the game plays as possible. If you do that, your monster design should impress just as easily.

Good luck.

Dark Archive Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

WOOO! :)

In one campaign I had a very suspicious character cut his own hand and require the new cleric joining the group to heal him...

This item is a great idea!

1 person marked this as a favorite.

A "crutch" item made it to the Top 32. I suppose that if there was going to be one, this would be it. It was in my keep folder, as a revised version of it is going to be used by every PC/NPC bard priest of Razmir at my table. Best of luck in round 2.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7 aka Belladonna Blue

Didn't like it the first time I read it. Thought it was a sort-of pointless, yet another wondrous-item-wand item. Re-read it, thought about it, imagined the sorts of characters that would use it, then moved it to my "keep" file.

I upvoted it when I saw it after that and could easily build a character concept around it. Good stuff!

Dedicated Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Not enamoured of this - the 24 hrs before use (why do people use this 24hr thing?); the ultra-specificity of 1st level wand (why - thematically - is this only supposed to replicate low-level hucksterism?); the ultra-specific utility. I can see it being useful for those Golarion folk-without-a-real-god (Razmirites?) but having poor Golarion-fu it leaves me non-plussed.

However the judges make nice points about it, in which I can see the merit of the item. I never saw this in my voting.

Congratulations and I hope I like your monster in the next round!!!

I like the concept, the extra-dimensional space, and most particularly the specifically cleric spell in a wand - very thematic mechanic there.

Even with the level limitation and the 24 attunement (which I like), I do think it is underpriced for it's primary purpose. This could be considered a +20 (or even higher in rare cases) to UMD checks. Probably would be better off with leaving the UMD check as Neil suggested (perhaps with a smaller bonus), and you could reduce the price as well.

Overall, neat.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 9 aka Netopalis

Thanks everybody for your comments, both positive and negative. This item went through a lot of revisions when I was designing it, so I thought I would share some of the changes that it went through. Overall, I am happy with the final product, but I do feel that it could have used some additional polish.

The initial version had an entirely different set of spells - weaponwand and glibness. For some reason, though, I was skittish about including spells from ISM. I don't know why I thought that was an issue, but whatever.

In regards to the 24-hour period, that was done to provide a reasonable limitation on the item's power. Without that limitation, the item basically allows you to take 20 on any UMD check to activate a cleric wand, which is way, way too overpowered. An initial draft had the item being created with a specific spell in mind, ala page of spell knowledge. I ended up shifting how it worked due to the fact that this seemed like more streamlined language, and due to the fact that I was unaware of the community's dislike of attunement periods.

In regards to the first level issue, my next-to-last draft had varying versions for different levels of wand (Wooden for 1st level, Iron for up to 2nd level, Silver for up to 3rd level and Gold for up to 4th level wands.) I ended up cutting this mechanic for word count and because it seemed to detract from the overall purpose of the item.

On the whole, I think that I made some errors during development which probably should have been avoided, largely due to my inexperience. I am thankful that the voters and judges, however, saw enough creativity in here to warrant moving me forward to the monster round. I'm taking these suggestions forward and looking at how I can incorporate them into my monster design, as well as focusing on where previous monsters have succeeded or failed. It's my hope that you'll all be a bit more impressed with my submission there.

Thanks again! I really appreciate the constructive criticism - it's the only way to grow as an author.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

I came across this item while voting and instantly felt like it should have already existed as a special item for "priests" of the church of Razmir.

I would be curious what John Compton/Jokhas have to say about this item?

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

Andrew, this is an interesting item that immediately made me think about the priests of Razmir. It's a nice tie in to Golarion lore without being restricted to a single campaign setting.

I can easily picture a disguised bard or rogue using one of these to infiltrate an evil church. Though not terribly exciting, a nice idea and definetely a useful item for trickster characters.


Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Template Fu Review 2014 - Andrew Shumate - Charlatan's Symbol

Template Fu boilerplate: I have yet to make Top 32, therefore much of what follows is from someone learning from your item and may include suggestions you might agree with or not. Please consider anything suggested with your critical designer mind and know that nothing here is personal, it is about your item not you. I try to be thorough every year, taking an hour or more per item, so I hope you find something of value in the review that follows.

Name: A good start for me - I immediately expect some sort of bluffing, fast talking, is what it isn't sort of thing and that is exactly what is delivered. This means that when I think of your item name, it will be really easy to recall what it does - and the speeds things up for everyone around the gaming table. The symbol was a bit bland and I felt hinted at being a holy symbol, so for me, I feel some other word would have been better playing off of the diversionary nature of the item, but that's just me and I'm rubbish with names ;)
Template Fu scores you 9/10 on this.

Template Usage: Generally your template was good; the effort was made to ensure the tags were correctly applied. Auras are lower case, even though you have chosen to have a non revealing aura of none, it should have been lowercase for consistency. There is no such slot as "neck slot", just "neck" there. Where items are a singular pound in weight, the abbreviation lb. should be used where you have lbs. You did manage to get the spells alphabetically ordered and italicized individually excluding the intervening commas - well done.
Template Fu scores you 7/10 on this.

Game Balance: I do worry if this opens the game to some degree of wand abuse. I think I would have been more comfortable with a bonus to the Use Magic Device, allowing you the roll even when you wouldn't normally be allowed to, as written, it is effectively an auto success, and I am by nature very wary of such things. Another way of limiting it for balance would have been to have it limited to wands with spells of say 3rd level or lower.
I spotted your skill bonus to bluff requires that you follow the deity represented, yet in your description, it may not be representative of a deity - I would have expected this to be covered, perhaps with a lesser bonus.
I'm in two minds about the detects as non magical, I suspect most GMs would smile slyly at their players and say "I quite agree, the symbol doesnt detect, but the wand inside it..." - if we are allowing the wand to function out of the extradimensional space, then it should be detectable too. This can be argued both ways unfortunately, and that is what may cause problems in play around the table with the GM in the awkward position of having to make their call - work to avoid this situation when you can.
Template Fu scores you 7/10 on this.

Sight - check, a good description of what is seen when the item is used and the item itself. What to watch for here is to be more definite in your decisions. "Designed to resemble a holy symbol" could simply be "A holy symbol". Also your cool first power is included in the first sentence. The opening sentence is usually reserved for what things look like, feel like, sound like, taste like, etc with the cool power leading of the following paragraph - this is so that in game play, you can scan to the powers skipping the description rather than scanning a sentence or two to find where the powers start.
Sound - check, command words or phrase, command anything is so last decade and meh. Just use the item to use the wand. It's magic, let it be magic, it makes for stronger imagery and stringer writing.
Smell - n/a - doesnt really apply to this item unless it's made of something that has a scent - bees wax polished ebony for example.
Taste - n/a - this really only applies to the effects of the wands inserted inside. An interesting though occurred here - you could have had an interesting twist on the wands, e.g. if the symbol depicted an elemental deity of fire, would it let you use ice wands, or make them less power ful and enhance fire based wands perhaps?
Touch - missed opportunity - is it large or small, heavy or light, cold metal, warm wood, we have no idea. This is probably because you wanted to let the GM decide, but you should also be looking to weave the imagery of the item, make me desire it before I even get to the powers.
Cinematic Summary Fairly straight forward imagery, load with ammo, point, click sort of imagery. Here agin you could have made it affect the wand being used, imaging square fireballs, lightning bolts traversing away as a circling ring of light, etc.
Template Fu scores you 14/20 on this.

Musings, Meme, and One Step Further:
The visuals of the item very much depend on the deity symbol, the wands in use, so I think this is something you need to bring in round 2. Monsters are very much the visual treat/scare to the PCs, so bring it and show me you can do it.
Putting wands into things is quite meme, but I think you got away with it. I have seen items with wands in swords, empowering the sword with fire and lightning, I have seen wands in shoes that trigger when you start running to make you go faster. Really stretch your imagination for the next round and come up with something amazing.
I am personally very pro mythic at the moment, so you could have amazed me even more with some sort of mythic enhancement, maybe something like infusing the throw with mythic power causes the symbol to reflect your family tree or symbol, allowing you to be granted the full bluff effect even when you dont follow the normal deity represented. You chose to go non mythic though, so I respect that choice.
Overall, a very solid item, a few concerns for game table use for me, but not worryingly so.
Template Fu scores you 14/20 on this.

Your final score for this item is 51/70, or 72% - A good showing.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka John Benbo

I didn't get to vote this year as much as I liked, but this is another item that I saw post-cull. Like the others said, it instantly made me think of Razmir. I really liked the idea of this item and thought it had some great roleplaying potential. Congrats.

Shadow Lodge Star Voter Season 6

I like this item and I think your problems are pretty minor. "neck slot". The bluff expiration reads to me as "permanent until you've taken it off", though I can see why this should be clarified. I'm betting you didn't even think of the magic aura thing, I certainly didn't. Follows the KISS principle well.

This is an item I'd buy occasionally and cherish when I do. Useful without being overpowered.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

My homebrewed campaign setting uses only a small handful of clerics, but there are lots of witches and false priests. This item would be perfect for it! Looking forward to seeing your monster!

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7 aka Demiurge 1138

I'm not a fan. Thematically, it's on point, but mechanically it strikes me as being a much cheaper version of a ring of spell storing. The inclusion of magic aura is a good way to combine thematics and mechanics, though, which I liked.

Congratulations, and best of luck in Round 2!

Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

Congratulations Andrew,

This is well written, though I dinnae like the premise. It seemed an excuse for the barbarian to not need a cleric. The roleplaying aspects are cool however (Razmarans and all that). I expect your monster will be as well designed and wish you luck on R2 & R3!

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8 aka Jrcmarine

Well, you already know I liked your item very much. I too am a sucker for items that enhance role-play and the social aspects of the game.


I will say one of the ideas I considered submitting involved wands so great minds think alike!

Shadow Lodge

My problem with an item like this is that in spite of the flavor text and implications, this actually seems like a very cheap (which is good), must have item FOR Clerics/Paladins, not to imitate them. From trying to smuggle in a wand when no weapons are allowed to in a minor way being able to hold an extra item, it just seems like most Clerics would want to snag this up quickly.

I felt that the flavor is what sold a lot of people on it, (which is also good), but at the same time, the real benefit of the item is the exact opposite of that flavor. Just my thoughts. Congrats on making it this far though. :)

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8

I liked the flavour on this one alot, and the mechanics fit it well.


Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

I wanted to come back and say thanks for designing this item. :) It was perfect for my R3 concept. Finding an item with "charlatan" in its name and a monster with "imposter" in its name was a perfect match.

Initially, I didn't fully "get" the mojo of the item, and both up and down voted it. But it got you to the top 32, and after reading some of the voters comments and going through the text again and again, it really started to grow on me. Besides the obvious thing about posing as a priest, it has other uses such as smuggling wands as someone pointed out. It also gives any character the ability to heal with CLW, so you don't need a ranger dip just to be able to use CLW wands. And you don't need to spend an action on drawing a wand, or actually hold the wand in hand, which is very useful.

All in all, it's not a must-have item (which is good), but a very useful item that has many ways to use it. It's clever in that it's limited to 1st level wands (though different, more expensive versions would be nice) and it has an attunement period which I think in this particular case is a good design choice. I have to admit it'll mostly be used for CLW, but if wands with domain spells are also readily available, there'll be a lot of nice options for different types of characters. A barbarian might want to use enlarge person, for example, so he doesn't have to bug the wizard about it.

Anyway, well done. I hope you'll also enter next year. :)

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