Bonedancer Bodhrán


Open Call: Design a wondrous item

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

5 people marked this as a favorite.

Bonedancer Bodhrán
Aura moderate necromancy; CL 3rd
Slot —; Price 6,700 gp; Weight 1 lb.
Description
This calf-skin drum is painted with an image of a grinning skull, and comes with a giant’s finger bone to use as a beater. A creature with at least 1 rank in Perform (percussion) can play a steady rhythm on the drum as a standard action. This grants all undead within 30 feet of the player a +2 profane bonus on attack rolls, damage rolls, and Will saves during each round the drum is played. Alternatively, the drummer can instead force undead within the area to dance in place to the beat of the drum; in this case, affected undead cannot leave the spaces they presently occupy and they take a -2 penalty to Armor Class and Reflex saves for as long as the drummer plays. Intelligent undead can resist this effect with a DC 12 Will save; those that fail their saves can still take actions that do not require them to leave their spaces, but they take a -2 penalty on attack and damage rolls and must succeed on a concentration check (DC 10 + spell level) to cast spells. Mindless undead receive no save and can take no actions other than dancing. The drum’s magic can be used for 9 rounds per day.
Construction
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, command undead, bardic performance class ability; Cost 3,350 gp

Paizo Employee Developer

Great item. Highly useful, appropriately priced, succinct rules text. Versatile but not overly so, making it useful to both adventurers as well as the enemies they probably find the item on. The name is weird.

Keep

Publisher, EN Publishing aka Russell Morrissey

I love this. Great flavour, easy to understand, nice and evocative.

Keeper.

Paizo Employee Associate Editor

Clearly explained, and the two uses are nicely complementary. Name fits perfectly.

Keep.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Darkjoy

Really liked this one, looking forward to your monster!

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

This one bounced onto and off of my like list. I love the flavor and the gonzo element (and frankly thought it'd hurt you with voters). It crams a lot into a tight word count, the price is good, the name is evocative.

My only concern was the necessity for a DC vs. intelligent undead if the DC would be that low, but it still feels appropriate for the power level.

I've got a soft spot for creators with a weird edge, so I'll be looking forward to your monster round entry! Good luck!

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

Thank you all for your support, I really appreciate being given this opportunity!

Paizo Employee Associate Editor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

This was one of my top three, in part because the mental image was so great. Good luck with the next 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 and Good Luck in the next round!

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7 aka primemover003

This drum is pretty awesome for a dirge bard. This would be a nice addition to the combat gear/ treasure of a certain encounter in the second half of Broken Moon in the Carrion Crown AP.

Good luck in Round 2 Christopher!

--Vrock & roll the bones!

Star Voter Season 7

Very cool! When used in Golarion, I think it would often be used to play "Princess Urgathoa," a song from Wayfinder #7.

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

This item's imagery overcame my ambivalence toward the effects. I hope to see an equally (if not more) evocative monster from you in the next round.

Congratulations and good luck!

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

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I remember loving this... reminded me of the how necromancy works in the Dresden files but that is not a bad thing. Killer name too. Good luck and Congrats.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

This was another of my top picks for the Top 32. A necromatic item that has great mechanics and classic flavor, without all the over-the-top grossness that seems to be in vogue for items of this type. Well done! I look forward to seeing your entry for round 2.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka MythrilDragon

Cool Name, Cool Item...I loved it and vote it up a bunch. Congrats on the top 32 and good luck.

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

Best name of all the items I saw. So evocative and dread, the threnody of doombeats and the tattoo of dire drumming.

Absolutely love what it does - and more points for providing two effects, the second of which really, really rocks, all perfectly in keeping with the item's name and theme.

Given the name, the flavor and the effect I'm not surprised this was one of my very few actual likes throughout the round voting.

Congratulations on creating a flavorful item that excites even from the name. I look forward to seeing an equally distinctive monster...

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

So very, very cool. Really flavorful, concise explanation, and tight mechanics. I think I'm biased towards musical instruments in the first place, but they're hard to pull off well and this one definitely succeeds. It makes me think of Camille Saint-Saëns's Danse Macabre.

Make your monster equally evocative!

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

Cool, this was one of my top 32 picks. Glad I got SOME of those right.
I am a fan of the weird, enough so that I often can't tell something is weird. Since people are claiming this is weird, maybe that's why I like this. The save DC is so low for intelligent undead that it feels like it might as well not even be there, but then this is a low-level item, given the price. I'll just pretend that a greater version exists somewhere so I can make the Whispering Tyrant dance for me.
Congratulations, really looking forward to see what else you come up with!

Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

This item was in my top three. I love it!

Dark Archive

I like that this item is useful whether you work with undead, or fight against them, making it far more versatile than an item that is only useful to the bad guys (and therefore basically worth half it's gp value to the heroes) or only useful for the good guys (and therefore unlikely to be found as treasure, or useful for the GM against the heroes).

The limitation on rounds per day, instead of the more typical '1/day' or '3/day,' also makes it more versatile, and not like many of the items in 3.5's Magic Item Compendium that were basically 'use 1/day, and then throw back in the haversack.'


Oooh, another item that caught my eye.

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8

It is a very useful item but I feel I have seen the idea of a drum to make undead stronger (or let you cmommand them) several time in the past.

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

I can't say I didn't like this item...I downvoted it a couple times only because it was against my favorites.

I liked the name as it was weird and evocative. I could do without the undead dancing part but the abilities are cool and the writing was clear and good.

Let's see what you weird into shape for R2!!!

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

The link between music and the dead is a folkloric niche that doesn't come up nearly often enough in RPGs, so I'm quite pleased to see you exploit that here. I like that it's useful to both necromancers and those that fight them.

Congratulations, and best of luck in Round 2!

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

This is a great item. I agree with all the above comments above that it's really nice it has both a good guy and bad guy use.

Good luck next round, Christopher!

Shadow Lodge Star Voter Season 6

Doesn't this trivialise any encounter full of mindless undead to the point where PCs can shoot arrows at them and the undead are powerless to do anything? No saves, no break-free-if-they-attack effect? I don't think 9 rounds per day balances that, does it?

Also, I think an "a" with an accent on it in the name is going to cause some chaos. Turn it into a regular a to fix that, and it's a cool name. I have no idea what other implications that might have.

Nicholas Herold's comment is right - it was a cool idea, and some cool mechanics. The intelligent undead effect is interesting, especially in comparison to the mindless undead effect.

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

Avatar-1 wrote:

Doesn't this trivialise any encounter full of mindless undead to the point where PCs can shoot arrows at them and the undead are powerless to do anything? No saves, no break-free-if-they-attack effect? I don't think 9 rounds per day balances that, does it?

Also, I think an "a" with an accent on it in the name is going to cause some chaos. Turn it into a regular a to fix that, and it's a cool name. I have no idea what other implications that might have.

Nicholas Herold's comment is right - it was a cool idea, and some cool mechanics. The intelligent undead effect is interesting, especially in comparison to the mindless undead effect.

It's a good point, one that I thought about quite a bit when designing this item. I ultimately decided that by the time PCs (or the NPCs they would be fighting) could afford a 6,700 gp wondrous item, most mindless undead would already be fairly trivial opponents; this item just gives bards a way to memorably participate in undead-based encounters and maybe save the party some resources that could otherwise be used against more challenging foes. It wouldn't be good if the item risked breaking encounters with intelligent undead, though, which is why the save DC for them to resist the effect is so low; it might work on a pack of ghouls, but almost certainly not on vampire spawn or other tough undead. Plus, command undead (the spell upon which the item is based) doesn't allow a saving throw for mindless undead, so I saw no reason to allow one with the item.

I honestly don't know how the "á" might affect publishing, but I think that's a pretty quick fix; like you said, just change it to a normal "a" and problem solved. I included the "á" because it's part of the spelling of the drum's name in the original Irish language.

I do appreciate your criticism, though! Thinking about and accounting for these kinds of issues is the only way for me to become a better designer, so it's good for me to have people with keen eyes and sharp minds reviewing my work for holes. And I appreciate the praise for my idea and mechanics as well!

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

I did get to see this item in the little bit of voting I got in and I thought it was very creative. I was a little concerned about the low Will save (no lich is going to fall that), however, it still makes their spellcasting that much harder and a penalty if that lich tries its dreaded touch attack. But overall, an excellent job on this. Congrats!

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

Congratulations Christopher,

You had me at bodhran and kept me with the finger-bone beater. Nice visual description. I feel you managed to not make this a channel energy/turn undead item. The dancing and inspire make perfect sense. This is a very well rounded item.

Keep it up for R2! Good luck.

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 guess I'm not seeing what lots of others did with this item. While it does have a nice description, the effect was essentially "pick unhallow or command/hold undead" for 9 rounds, and felt like an appropriately themed competent SIAC item to me.

That being said, you have a flair for descriptive writing, and know your mechanics enough to turn in a solidly written item, so looking forward to your monster.

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

I too was reminded of Mr. Dresden's exploits when I saw this item, however it wasn't the first memory that was sparked in my brain. The first thing I immediately thought of were the dancing skeletons in the WoW dungeon Razorfen Downs boss. I always loved that part of the dungeon and so I found a huge grin on my face when I saw this item during voting. And then after reading it again I remembered the bad guys using the drum in the Dresden files. And a whole new smile graced my face. Thank you for this item, I loved it!


Excellent entry Christopher Wasko! Any magic item that requires a prerequisite to use (such as a feat, skill rank, class ability, alignment or worship of a deity) is a win in my book. Adding value to PCs taking a rank in Perform skill is fantastic.

I'm surprised the author, judges or others haven't commented that the save should be DC 13, not DC 12.
"For a saving throw against a spell or spell-like effect from a magic item, the DC is 10 + the level of the spell or effect + the ability modifier of the 'minimum ability score needed'* to cast that level of spell."
* "To learn, prepare, or cast a spell, the wizard must have an Intelligence score equal to at least 10 + the spell level."

The concentration check (DC 10 + spell level) to cast spells is the best choice, matching that for "Vigorous motion".
(DC 13 + spell level) is tempting based on "Affected by a non-damaging spell while casting = DC of the spell + spell level" but in this case "Vigorous motion" is a better fit.

I initially didn't think I could reword the item any better...but now I may have.
(237 words)

Bonedancer Bodhrán
Aura moderate necromancy; CL 3rd
Slot —; Price 6,700 gp; Weight 1 lb.

Description
This calf-skin drum is painted with an image of a grinning skull, and comes with a giant’s finger bone to use as a beater. A creature with at least 1 rank in Perform (percussion) can play a steady rhythm on the drum as a standard action. This grants all undead within 30 feet of the player a +2 profane bonus on attack rolls, damage rolls, and Will saves during each round the drum is played. Alternatively, the drummer can instead force undead within the area to dance in place to the beat of the drum. Mindless undead receive no save and can take no actions other than dancing. They cannot leave the spaces they presently occupy and take a -2 penalty to Armour Class and Reflex saves for as long as the drummer plays. Intelligent undead can resist this effect with a DC 13 Will save; those that fail their saves dance with the same penalties as above, but can take actions that do not require them to leave their spaces. They take a -2 penalty on attack and damage rolls and must succeed on a concentration check (DC 10 + spell level) to cast spells. The drum’s magic can be used for 9 rounds per day.

Construction Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, command undead, bardic performance class ability; Cost 3,350 gp

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

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Template Fu Review 2014 - Christopher Wasko - Bonedancer Bodhrán

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 weird name, but I really like it - I just don't understand it - I wonder if Bodhrán is a foreign language word for drum maybe? If it is, this is dangerous to do as using real world languages for names can cause issues should the game get translated to that language.
Template Fu scores you 9/10 on this.

Template Usage: Slot, as of 5th printing should be none; as mentioned in the freely available errata documents. As a designer, when designing for a game, ensure you are fully conversant with all of the latest errata.
The construction contains unusual phrasing for the creator/crafter requirement - checking the PRD immediately confirms that this part of construction is usually worded "creator/crafter must be/have...", so for this item, I believe the formal wording should be something like "creator must have the bardic performance class ability".
Wall of words. Been said in other item reviews, the same applies here. Think of scanning the item for rules in play at the table - facilitate that by sensible paragraph breaks.
Template Fu scores you 8/10 on this.

Game Balance: Ok, I have two concerns on game balance, both kind of personal, so here goes.
I don't like the unlimited effect of this item in that it can affect any undead and potentially a large quantity of any undead. I'm sorry, for me, there are some undead this simply should never have a chance of affecting, like a lich or dracolich, for example. I am talking about both effects, a dracolich cannot be made to dance and so also cannot benefit from the bonuses when used that way. To fix this, I would simply have added a maximum number of Hit Dice that can be affected, starting with the lowest hit dice. This would also solve the almost unlimited target count, yes it is a 30 foot radius around the user, but that means you could run into an army of skeletons, get surround, and have a skeleton in each of the remaining 35 squares, thus 35 creatures, become helpless. Then if you have some low level flying undead in the 6 x 6 x 6 cube of space, then that's potentially even more targets affected. So for me, a HD limit is really needed.
The other problem I have is that at lower levels, it has the potential to completely negate an encounter - oh look, 6 skeletons are approaching, drum beat starts, Gm rolls poorly, not abysmally, but poorly enough - laughing, the PC's just bash the helpless skeletons to bits, no threat, no danger, no excitement, no thrill.
No actions other than dancing means no self defense, no dex bonus to AC, treat the target as dancing flat footed - the target cannot defend itself, it can only dance. In any campaign that starts with low level undead, if the PC's pool their resources to get this item as early as possible, they negate a size-able chunk of the early campaign.
So although in general terms, your item is reasonably balanced, it is of such strength that it could be used to abuse in an undead heavy campaign.
I also find the 9 rounds a rather odd number, checking other items, the magic number around this size is most commonly 10.
Template Fu scores you 7/10 on this.

Cinematics:
Sight - check, for me, the imagery trumps the potential for abuse, the visuals are truly strong. Well done.
Sound - check, fully part of the imagery, a contributing a necessary factor of the whole cinematic!
Smell - not applicable to this item.
Taste - not applicable to this item.
Touch - not applicable - although not really touch, I wonder how big the drum is. is it a singular hand sized drum, a kettle type drum, something larger or something in between those two? I suspect if I knew what a Bodhrán was, I might know, but then I am being forced to look something up to find out its size and appearance - consider this when using unusual words - do you need to include such description so the item stands alone for players and GMs?
Cinematic Summary I really like the imagery of this item, it captures the minds eye so well and trumps my concerns for undead based campaign abuse.
Template Fu scores you 17/20 on this.

Musings, Meme, and One Step Further:
As the item stands, I simply cannot get past how ripe this item is for abuse in undead sections of a campaign and how totally it can negate threats from undead lower levels minions. This is a shame because you had balanced the item so well in every other respect.
My gut feel is the price might be slightly low on the item, but that is probably colored by my feelings of unease about its power over mindless undead.
Another option that could have been open to you would be to have treated the bonuses as penalties when the undead are forced to dance. This would allow them to defend themselves in the space they are in, albeit less effectively and so would not completely have negated their threat. Or even simpler, when they are attacked, the hold of the dance is broken allowing them to react and attack normally on their next initiative.
Template Fu scores you 16/20 on this.

Your final score for this item is 57/70, or 81% - Super strong visuals, tight design.

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