Staff of the Thieving Magpie


Open Call: Design a magic armor, weapon, ring, rod, or staff

Dark Archive RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Mozenrath6

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Staff of the Thieving Magpie
Aura strong transmutation; CL 13th
Slot none; Price 82,000 gp; Weight 5 lbs.
Description
This black staff generally has a feather motif carved throughout, with greedy black eyes peaking through and is topped with a silver bird’s talon. Created by a nefarious wizard to steal the arcane secrets of his peers, it allows the following spell:
Pilfering Hand (1 Charge)
In addition, the wielder can use the staff to cast any spell on their class list they have successfully identified being cast by another spell caster with a Spellcraft check in the last minute. It can cast a 1st-3rd level spell using 2 charges, a 4th-5th level spell using 3 charges, and a 6th-7th level spell using 4 charges.
If the wielder has cast an observed spell through the staff and has the ability to learn additional spells by making a Spellcraft check, they may attempt to learn the spell or teach it to their familiar. This must be done on the same day the spell was cast through the staff.
Construction
Requirements Craft Staff, Pilfering Hand, Mnemonic Enhancer, Creator must have 5 ranks in the Sleight of Hand skill; Cost 41,000 gp

Webstore Gninja Minion , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Hi there! I'll be one of the judges for this round, and I'll be looking at a couple of key points for your item: flavor, usability, and how the item is presented. For some background, I helped found the Wayfinder fanzine before I started working for Paizo, and I oversee every third-party Pathfinder Roleplaying Game product that makes its way onto Paizo.com.
Flavor
"X of Y" item, "generally", and the lack of descriptor for the wood used in the staff makes me sad. There's a whole host of dark-grained wood, and even a modicum of research would have revealed this.
Usability
This staff has one spell, and the ability to recast another spell—any spell from any caster. Sounds like a GM's way of giving the PC casters a taste of their own medicine.
Presentation
Homophone alert and passive language alert in the first sentence. Formatting doesn't adhere to staves as presented in Core Rulebook. Spell names are capitalized (and shouldn't be).
Final Thoughts
A hearty "meh"—this feels like it was reskinned from something else. I do not recommend this item for advancement.

Paizo Employee Designer , Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

Formatting and wording issues. Combining pilfering hand with whatever spell the wielder happens to see as a spell list is a pretty neat trick, though with a cooperating caster, that could be an awful lot of options. Even so, the high charge cost actually makes the price pretty close to right, which isn't easy when dealing with items of this magnitude. The fact that you have to not only see the spell but also use the staff to steal and duplicate it in order to add it to your spellbook makes the spell learning ability much less abusable than it might otherwise seem, as even with a cooperative caster and learning low level spells, you can still only use it once every 2 days in the steady state. Would it need some changes in exactly how it's executed? Absolutely. But given the ambitious nature of the item, less than I might have expected if I heard a freelancer's pitch for a staff that steals spells and casts any of those stolen spells. Weak Keep from me.

Paizo Employee Designer , Marathon Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7

Kept.

Scarab Sages Modules Overlord

My approach to judging these items is "How would I approach this as a developer?" If I would be pleased by the turnover and not see any reason to give negative feedback to the writer, that's great! If I'd keep it but it would take a lot of work or I'd want to let the writer know what needed improvement, that's fine but not perfect. If I'd scrap the item because it would be faster to write new material myself, that's bad.

Making magic staffs more than SiaC, without having them not act like staffs, isn’t easy. I love this thematically, and it would play well for trickster-style spellcasters with access to pilfering hand. The spell-stealing ability would likely get toned down, but the core idea is solid and the mechanics not too far from how I'd leave them. The description is nice. The writer might get some comments from me about the power level of higher-level spells, but overall I'd be happy to include this in a product. Keep.

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

This was my single favorite item from voting that I saw. It also was similar to an idea I had shortly after submitting my own entry this year (so there goes that idea from my list), but had a much cooler name than I had come up with. So you're now my vicarious proxy I'm rooting for this year!

Between the name and mechanics, I can see this being a favorite for a tengu spellcaster. Good thing you didn't include in the text that it's favored by tengu though.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka motteditor

Congratulations, John.

I have to admit, some of the style errors -- capitalizing the spell, the "created by" reference -- in your staff turned me off. I'd encourage you to buckle down on those details, since they can be the difference between going on or going home as the contest progresses.

That said, like Joel, I do think magpie was an inspired choice for a name. That can be such a big part of making a winning item and I think you really nailed it. Where the staff is missing flavor as Liz notes, the name on its own adds in more.

Best of luck with your map.


I voted this up. It is mechanically weird, but at least it is interesting, and the name is good. I remember having the thought this this should be a rod.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

Rats are doing the Conga for you, all over Golarion. Good job.

I am suspicious of being able to duplicate so many different spells, especially given the potentials of cooperative casting.

But to each her own, I suppose. You've convinced the judges that this is approximately balanced, so I won't contest that. I'd just be unlikely to allow it in any campaign I might run.

Sovereign Court Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

I had a great mental image of the staff when I read your description. Well done and good luck for round 2.

Silver Crusade Star Voter Season 8

I like the idea and execution but there are some problems with this item. While it is capable of casting spells up to level 7, it can be recharged by a caster capable of casting pilfering hand (bard 2, cleric 2, magus 2, sorcerer/wizard 2) and while this hands to staff to pretty much every class that seems to fit, it means that recharging the staff isn't very taxing for casters (considering the price).

I really like the chance to learn the spells (and extra credit adding some language to teach it to a familiar even considering that witches don't seem to be able to recharge the staff).

And now the "meat" of the staff, casting other peoples spells. There are two pats to this ability, copying the spells of other party members and copying the spells of your enemies (the second option seems to have the highest potential to learn new spells).

Copying the spells of your allies can be really really good, especially considering the number of low levels spells (ranger, paladin spell lists) with a personal range, or those with an expensive material component ( stoneskin, restoration,raise dead).
It seems that John realized this an added the requirement that the spells must be on your class spell list. And while this still allows a cleric user to copy, the raise dead cast by another character, restricting it to be able to copy only enemy doesn't seem like a workable solution. Adding some text regarding material components above a certain threshold seems like a decent idea.

With the class spell list restriction, the staff becomes far less useful in published adventures (yeah I make the distinction, since GMs are likely to throw the character a bone, and add spellcasters with appropriate spells) but frankly a character can still benefit by stealing the spells of his party members.

The ability to "copy" the spells of your party members seems to be the real power in this staff, and while I can see plenty of ways to abuse it.. the item isn't cheap, it is original and fun^^

Oh and adding some language. regarding the charge cost, when the spell you copy has a lower/higher spell level when cast by the original caster and/or has different levels depending on your class spell lists (wizard/druid trying to copy dispel magic is level 3 for the wizard and level 4 for the druid).

Good luck in the next round.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka Cyrad

Congratulations on reaching the Top 32, John.

Your item has a fantastic name, and I like the general idea of a staff about stealing spell knowledge. However, I honestly did not vote for this item. Even with the staggering price, the mechanics strike me as rather game breaking in a way that's only fun in an abusable sense. At a glance, a staff that lets you spontaneously cast any 7th level spell your friend casts when you only need to spend a 2nd level spell to recharge it doesn't sit well with me. However, I see the last two lines as the bigger issues. A party of mages can pass the staff around to learn each other's spells. There's no reason for a sorcerer to not buy this staff as they can use it to break their spells known limit. All the optimal uses for the staff go completely against the theme of being a spell thief. These mechanical issues coupled with the confusing writing and template errors were major turn offs for me.

However, the staff's theme was strong enough to carry you through. So make sure you create a map that will take your farther! I really don't want this staff to be my fondest memory of your work, so I'm cheering for you! Good luck in Round 2, John.

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 saw this staff once relatively early on in my voting.

I like the opening sentence, but would have worded it differently to make more active and strong. Personally, I would have dropped the "created by" bit.

Great niche to fill with the theme being dead on, "stealing" spells and magpies and so on.

Last critique, the writing in general isn't as cinematic as many items. It made it through because you did a great job at setting a stage and letting our imaginations take it...but you'll need to make your next entries even more explicit in awesome to continue on.

Overall, I'd probably make a spell level cap, but this is a solid entry in the Top 32. Not the leader of the pack, but with some practice on active and evocative writing you would do very well.

Star Voter Season 8

Congrats, I saw this one 9 times in the polls. I gave it some thumbs up. Needs a few more spells I think like mage hand, and maybe something to boost DEX and/or Sleight of Hand. Good luck.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

I think my biggest dislike of this item is that it only naturally comes with one spell. That being said the rest of the item is very interesting and the ability to re-cast spells of your class that someone else just cast is really handy.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

Congrats John!

At first I didn't care too much for the staff, with only 1 spell on it. But I saw your item quite a bit in voting, and it really grew on me to the point of making my top-20 list.
Thinking about different characters utilizing it makes me smile inside.

Good luck in future rounds

Dark Archive RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Mozenrath6

Thank you all so much for the votes, critical feedback and the amazing chance to continue on. I was very excited this year with the change up from wondrous items, and became enamored with the idea of making a staff not a SiaC, but still having it feel like a staff. Once I came up with the name, a lot of it fell into place. I'll be much more careful with my formatting in the future, and thanks again for this incredible opportunity.


I liked this staff a lot, and it made my list easily. I recognize some of the balance/power issues pointed out above, but the great theme and concept overshadow that.

Dedicated Voter Season 8

First, congratulations on making the top 32.

I will admit that I'm not overly fond of this staff, though I do consider it interesting. I saw it a lot of times in voting and voted both for and against it at different points.

I do like the idea of spell stealing and I'm mostly fond of the name. However, I do agree with most of the objections noted in other comments.

Marathon Voter Season 8

Congratulations on making it to the Top 32!

I really like how you went off the beaten path to make a truly unique staff that's sure to be fun to play with. And yes, it is expensive, but this is the sort of item I'd gladly give my players in the mid-levels, trusting them not to sell it because it's so useful. True, it has a lot of potential for misuse, but nothing that can't be fixed with some tweaking.

To nitpick, I'm personally not a fan of the imagery. Magpie as a thieving symbol seems overly used and the pilfering hand spell doesn't quite work for me for some reason. Though I can't think of any other spell that might fit better, so perhaps it's just me. And I must admit that it took me a while to warm up to this item, because the description is kind of heavy and not very evocative.

Still, I did warm up to this and I'm glad it advanced. The best of luck onwards!

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 8

Congratulations, John! I usually upvoted this one due to it being consistently paired with a glaringly weaker item, but now that I've had the chance to actually sit down and read it I think it's a neat effect. It taps the "steal your enemy's powers" well without actually stealing their powers, which is my biggest pet peeve about items of that style. Well done!

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Amanuensis

Congratulations, John!

I liked this item's name - it would make a neat item for a high-level tengu rogue, provided this staff could be UMD'd like a regular staff. While I'm unsure if the mechanics are balanced, you admittedly found a new and creative way to play around with staves mechanics.
I would have voted for this item more often if you had created some synergy between pilfering hand and the spell copying effect to underline why it had to be a staff (instead of a wondrous item).

Good luck in the next round!

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32 , Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9 aka Morphemic

This is one of the items I liked quite a bit during voting because it pulls off some difficult things. In addition to making a staff that was more than just a spell list but still felt like a staff, you managed to pull off the "steal someone else's power" trope in a relatively balanced way. Most attempts I have seen at this cause major game balance problems, but the way you handled it for this have balance problems that you managed to avoid.

Congratulations!

Champion Voter Season 6, Champion Voter Season 7, Champion Voter Season 8, Champion Voter Season 9

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Congratulations on making the Top 32! Good work!

The theme is stealing and your design holds to that very well. However, in a party of multiple casters this can become a nightmare with massive fireball and cone of cold spells firing into battle with minimal spell slot use.

Marathon Voter Season 8

Disclaimer:
So, I am making a point to comment on every item in the competition now, and I it is no longer kosher to start a thread just for your own comments. So, here we are.

Why am I critiquing every item? Well, frankly, I love this sort of thing. I sincerely enjoy editing and the art of the critique. I have long considered starting a blog to that end, and maybe this will be the kickstart I need. Speaking of which, if you want to hire an editor, I'd be happy to help ;)

Regardless, the point of my criticism is always to help. Nothing is perfect, so everything can potentially be made better. My comments will often be less than flattering, but they will never come from a place of malice. The point here is to make your item better, not to make you feel bad.

So, what am I looking for, here, when I judge these items? My primary focus is on rules knowledge, clarity/simplicity, and usability. You can come up with the most creative item on the planet, but if nobody is going to actually use it in a real game, who cares? And it doesn't matter if nobody uses it because it's obviously too strong, too weak for its price, too confusing/complicated to actually adjudicate at the table, or just too niche to have an actual target audience.

Finally, know that I did not read any critiques of your item yet. These are all my first thoughts based only on the item itself, so, I apologize if I repeat things others have said already.

Now, let's get to the critique!

As always, congratulations on making the top 32. No matter what I thought of your item, you won, and you should feel awesome!

Wow, no offense, but I am stunned to see this in the top 32. This was only slightly less ridculous to me than the Dynamic Staff was. "Here, have this staf. Oh, what spell does it cast? All of them."

I get the theme, and that works/is pretty cool, sure, but it's just not ok in my book to allow you to cast ANY spell, even if you have to see it cast first.

Beyond that, there are also some clarity issues in the writing, and, wow, it gets worse because wizards/witches can apparently just learn their entire spell list from watching other casters.

Does it work with SLAs?

If my party found this, we'd think the GM was nuts. We'd keep it, of course. At least one of us has a great UMD check, so, we could fake any spell list necessary. If allowed, yeah, I think every party would want this, cost be damned. Casting ANY spell is just too good.

So, yeah, overall, I just find this to be way too powerful.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

Congratulations on making it to the Top 32 John!

The staff of the thieving magpie presents some interesting options in combat, and is something I would be eager to own with either an arcane trickster, counterspeller or arcanist. I like that you thought to play around with how magic interacts with the staff and you seemed to curb too much abuse by including stiff charge requirements and spell list restrictions. Good work.

An easy way to avoid common pitfalls in item descriptions (saying it "generally looks like..." or "is often used by...") is to assume that a GM just rolled that item on a random magic item table and needs to quickly describe the item to his players. He opens the book to the page reference and wants to just read the item to them. There shouldn't be any information in that description that would slow the GM down by having to read around it to avoid information the players wouldn't know or care about. This is what it looks like. This is what it does. That's all you need. This information is also useful for that tagline of description at the beginning of a monster entry. The GM should be able to just read it to the players as if that's what they see, regardless of the setting details. Hope that will help you in the upcoming rounds!

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32 aka jeffh

I quite like this one, perhaps predictably because I'm a Final Fantasy buff and this is basically the Staff of Make Almost Anyone A Blue Mage, whether it was intended to be or not. If that was the starting point, though, I like that that's not where it finished; you played around with the flavour enough to make it seem like a more natural fit for the Pathfinder way of doing things. The familiar bit was a nice touch, too.

Congratulations on making top 32, and I look forward to seeing what kind of map you come up with.


John Laffan wrote:

Staff of the Thieving Magpie

Aura strong transmutation; CL 13th
Slot none; Price 82,000 gp; Weight 5 lbs.
Description
This black staff generally has a feather motif carved throughout, with greedy black eyes peaking through and is topped with a silver bird’s talon. Created by a nefarious wizard to steal the arcane secrets of his peers, it allows the following spell:
Pilfering Hand (1 Charge)
In addition, the wielder can use the staff to cast any spell on their class list they have successfully identified being cast by another spell caster with a Spellcraft check in the last minute. It can cast a 1st-3rd level spell using 2 charges, a 4th-5th level spell using 3 charges, and a 6th-7th level spell using 4 charges.
If the wielder has cast an observed spell through the staff and has the ability to learn additional spells by making a Spellcraft check, they may attempt to learn the spell or teach it to their familiar. This must be done on the same day the spell was cast through the staff.
Construction
Requirements Craft Staff, Pilfering Hand, Mnemonic Enhancer, Creator must have 5 ranks in the Sleight of Hand skill; Cost 41,000 gp

Disclaimer:

This post constitutes the views of a CE inclined Very Advanced succubus. For those uncertain what that should imply, congratulations, you're at least thinking along the right track, but probably not worried enough. No: almost certainly, not nearly worried enough. Unless you happen to be that glovier from Magnimar that I had for tea last weekend, in which case it's a bit too late now anyway, but my apologies to your next-of-kin for the scorch marks on your hall carpet (but I *DID* put the tablecloth in to soak in good time, so the wine stains *should* come out).

Is the Item Decorative?
Since the item has apparently befuddled the mind of the person presenting it on this thread, as to his ability to describe it, this is difficult to assess. I'm going to err on the side of caution and say that the item is probably moderately decorative.
Decorative score? 2 out of 7.

Does the Item have Any Obvious non-Decorative Use Around the Home?
The item has no obvious non-Decorative use around the home. It would be pointless to employ any of its powers on one's servants or retainers, and it would be rude to employ any on one's invited guests; and it would be exceptionally unwise to use it on any door-to-door salesdemons or errant adventurers, as it might give them odd ideas and encourage any survivors to try and 'call back'.
non-Decorative Domestic Use score? 0 out of 7.

Does the Item seem Likely to be Helpful in the Fantasy Setting of an Imaginary World where 'Operation Sealion' is taking Place?
So the (for simplicity's sake) Nasties are lining up with all their little boats to launch an invasion-attempt across a strait upon a nation of perfectly (socially) harmless tea-drinkers. And then there's this item.
So what impact is this item likely to have on proceedings?
This item really is not designed to be of any real use in the majestic sweep of the battlefields of 'Operation Sealion'. There's not exactly much call for slightly wobbly efforts to steal items at relatively short range, nor opportunity to duplicate spells, in the full-throated midst of war in that fantastic world.
'Sealion' score? 0 out of 7.

Total: 2 out of 21.

Further Disclaimer:
Sighting of a post by 'Ask A RPGSupersuccubus' is by no means a guarantee that any further posts will be forthcoming anywhere, in this contest. Voters should obviously vote for whomever (if anyone) they feel like voting for.

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

Congratulations for having made it to the Top 32, sorry you didn't move on.

Sorry I'm late to the party, I hadn't realized how big a task commenting on everyone else's items was going to be in the Official Critique Thread!

Seeing as how many other people have commented above me, and you've moved well on from this point... I'm going to keep my comments brief. To understand my rating system, see my larger post on my critique thread.

As an overall comment, each and every one of you that made it to the Top 32 must have had a "Publishable" item in my opinion because you appealed to not only the voters but also the judges -- so if I say "Rewrite" it's more to be "rewriteable to be SUPERSTAR!"

Publishable -- I like that you have a "different" kind of staff, and that it made it to the Top 32. Makes me think if my item had been better written I "could" have made it. Anyways, I like this one and I would totally allow its use at my table and I'd like to see it in the UE2

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

John Laffan wrote:
Staff of the Thieving Magpie

Congratulations John!

I voted this down more than up for two primary reasons. It isn't a staff IMHO. This functions better as a rod since it has only one spell. Second, it is way too powerful. Any level is pretty powerful enough considering a 13th level caster caps at 7th level spells. Your 'charges used by level' might remedy this, but it is unclear in the writing that 7th is the cap. Any spell includes divine and arcane (fortunately you included r 'from their spell list' to limit this.) I think even two extra 7th level spells could really break a theurge. And someone level dipping into paladin or bard which only has 6 caster levels. Regardless pilfering hand and magpie seem to miss the mark in tying everything together.

What I DO like--and this is big, because I have been trying to figure something out for a long time now--is the ability to learn a spell from its casting. This version needs work, observe and cast is too easy, but it is the best I have seen. Wordcount often forces designers to use sorcerer's over wizards, because spells known can be huge list. 90% of that list won't be used in game so is wasted words for the designer. So wizard PCs mostly encounter sorcerers. This IMHO, limits some of the flexibility advantage a wizard should have over a sorcerer. 'Tis a small thing, but I like that this staff gives the wizard an option to learn a spell from a witch, sorcerer, bard, and dare I say it alchemist. etc...

Good work on that original thought and the design space. I hope we see you back soon. :)

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