Swindler’s Grasp

Open Call: Design a wondrous item, magic armor, or magic weapon

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

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Swindler’s Grasp
Aura moderate illusion; CL 9th
Slot hands; Price 12,000 gp; Weight 1 lb.
Wisps of darkness dance among the fingers of these pitch-black leather gauntlets. When the wearer reaches for an item carried by another creature, inky strands of gloom swirl around the gauntlets, making their movement difficult to follow. The wearer does not provoke an attack of opportunity when performing a disarm or steal combat maneuver. She ignores the penalty to her combat maneuver attack roll for attempting to disarm a foe while unarmed.

Once per day as a free action, upon using the gauntlets to steal from or disarm a foe, the wearer can activate an illusion that causes the enemy to believe the maneuver failed. The item taken by the maneuver becomes invisible to the target for 1 minute and a phantasmal duplicate of the item appears in the target’s possession for the same duration. This illusory item looks and feels like the original to its wielder but can’t affect any other creature or object. When it uses or attacks with a phantasmal item, the target receives a Will save (DC 17) to disbelieve the illusion. This is a mind-affecting phantasm effect.
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, darkness, major phantom object; Cost 6,000 gp

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

Upvoted this a lot, good luck!

Marathon Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

Woot! Congrats, Mark!

One of my favorites. This item is interesting because it also gives ideas for similar encounter strategies.

We've had a lot of disarming items both this season and last. This is my favorite.

It's well written and the idea of disarming someone while they continue to flail about in combat as if they were still armed is awesome (and a little funny).

Not sure if I like that it basically grants some free feats but anything that removes Combat Expertise as a feat tax gets a thumbs up from me.

Sovereign Court Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9


Glad to see you made it, fellow TFPC'er! I liked your item from conception, and I'm happy to see it all come together to this moment! Congratulations!

Now, show us an awesome map...again...for the third time!

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

Welcome back! Congrats and good luck next round!

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Congratulations, Mark! I'm so excited to run with you this year!

This item showed up on my voting roster a couple times, and I always voted for it. It's elegant in it's simplicity, and it shows how a simple illusion can really hamstring an enemy when used correctly. The name just ties everything up in a beautiful, thematic package.

Can't wait to see how you snatch away round 2!

Marathon Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Clouds Without Water

This isn't the item I thought it was by the name. I don't think I saw this one in the voting.

I'm not quite sure how the visuals work on the description. The inky strands of gloom get intense when the wielder tries to disarm someone? Kind of a big tell. :-)

Having said that, I love the actual effect. Disarming someone but leaving them thinking they're still armed is an inspired idea.

The best thing about it is that it will make the story recounting the combat later much more entertaining!

Way to go, finding a space to be both inventive and fun.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 7, Marathon Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

Nice item for sneaky types! I upvoted this quite a few times. Good luck in the rest of the competition.

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

Mark Nordheim wrote:
Swindler’s Grasp

Congratulations Mark & welcome back!

I upvoted for this a lot, though I think some of that opening paragraph sent some warning signals (no AoO? ignore penalty) to me. I loved the illusionary double though, and that is the sort of thing that usually gets my vote, so well done.

Good luck on maps, monsters & encounters!

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

Congrats, Mark! I've really enjoyed a lot of your work that I've seen -- as someone who's edited it, I know you've got a good command of rules and style (loved your small PDF of mounted combat feats) -- so looking forward to seeing what else you've got in store. Third time could be the charm for you.

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

Thanks to everyone for voting me into the top 32, and for the nice comments. I still have to finish my map, and I have a lot going on with work and family right now. But I hope that I can come back and respond to comments sometime this weekend.

Marathon Voter Season 9

Congrats on making Top 32!

I like this item a lot. The steal combat maneuver has always been the redheaded stepchild of combat maneuvers, and I like anything that gives it some love. My only question was, why darkness in the construction requirements? I get the description has the inky blackness going for it, but that's not something that screams to me "this needs to be justified in the construction requirements". Lots of dark looking items don't do that. If there is not mechanical aspect like the spell in the effect of the weapon, I would probably leave it out. Still, an item that causes an effect that will no doubt bring some chuckles to the players (as long as they are the ones using it) while helping out an undervalued combat maneuver gets a strong pass in my book. Well done. I look forward to seeing your map.

Best of luck in all future rounds!

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

Welcome to the Top 32, Mark! Your submission has overcome the magic item horde and the many culls to emerge at the top of the heap. Congratulations!

I'll be one of the judges for this first round, offering my humble commentary which I hope will be helpful to you moving into Round 2. I will be considering each item based on three factors: functionality (does the item fill a useful niche within the rules?), mojo ("wow" factor--would I point out this item to someone else, or immediately get some cool concept to go with it?), and writing (is the formatting and text clear and error free? Is the prose interesting and evocative?)

Combining these elements successfully is, I feel, key to defining that elusive "Superstar" quality that we all want to see.

So you know what I'm looking for, now let's move on to the good bit: your swindler's grasp!

Functionality and Usefulness
The lesser-beloved of the combat maneuvers are a good design space to play with. Disarm comes up rarely, and I'm not sure I've ever seen someone use a steal maneuver in-game, and that's unfortunate because combat steals are like a staple in my fond JRPG-playing childhood memories.

These gloves make stealing cool. In-game, anyway. Still not cool in real life.

The penalties for unarmed stealing are mitigated with built-in bonuses, and the illusory item double is clever and unexpected. Also funny. Outside of combat, I can see using these gloves to do some really obnoxious coin tricks.

The price point looks right. The DC 17 Will save is not going to be all that tough to beat, but should still get a round or two of deception out of it. Especially in combat, effects don't need to last long to be effective.

The negation of attack penalties and no AoO for the steal concern me a little. The gloves hedge on replacing both the Improved and the Greater Steal feats. At a minimum, I feel like Improved Steal should be in the construction requirements. And I don't see the need for darkness in there; no need to justify cinematics.

The Cool Factor/Mojo
Going into a little used design space shows good design instincts. Getting players interested in using an aspect of the game that is somewhat ignored is a part of what mojo is all about. These gloves do that, and do so with an interesting illusory double mechanic.

I like how you put it together, because it made me think of a concept and not really a class. Instead of thinking my rogue would like this, I think of a huckster instead.

I am not particularly impressed by the opening that's basically aspects of a couple of feats pulled out. The illusory item double shows the ability to innovate, however, and I do like it. I feel it might lead to some ridiculous scenarios a la the Emperor's New Clothes, but that wouldn't be against the item's style.

Prose and Editing
Well-edited and written overall. The inky gloom description is a bit hard to follow at first read. In the second paragraph, disarm comes before steal. Alphabetize everything that can reasonably be alphabetized.

You showed a professional level of writing here and presented something with style in a nice design niche. Apart from some minor concerns with the reach of its mechanics, I think it's interesting and done well. The core ability is clever and I think players would have fun using it.

Moving forward, I recommend focusing on bringing your style to the fore. Work on clearer descriptions and on getting to your star effects faster; don't bury the good stuff underneath side attractions.

I am honored to have been allowed to provide feedback this year. I look forward to your entry for Round 2, Mark, and I'll be looking for a map that's got some panache.

Congratulations again!

I will be starting my reviews soon, and they can be bumpy at times, so here's a starter for 10 on Template ...

You nailed it!

Wow, so many of you nailing the template this year, it is wonderful.

Sorry Fu, nothing to eat here.

*Fu sighs, kicks the video of Hitler not making the cut...*

Full review to follow in due course.

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

As promised yesterday, the GB&U this year is courtesy of me rather than GM_solsprial (he is busy drawing furiously). So without further ado, our amazing and awesome top 32+4 get the first set of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly critiques, and then on to everyone else who requested a critique in the CMI official thread, or in my shiny The GB&U Season 9 thread.

Swindler’s Grasp

The Good: Very neat take on an under used Combat Maneuver, good name, neat mechanics.

The Bad: For me the item description falls short of the coolness of the powers the item has.

The Ugly: If I build my PC right, I can pretty much disarm every BBEG of his shiny weapon and other stuff unless they are specifically tooled to counter. It would take dedication, but there is the possibility of utterly shutting down even powerful foes with this item.

Grand Lodge Marathon Voter Season 9

This was my favorite entry this year.

Liberty's Edge Star Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

This is a GREAT item. I am not a fan of the steal combat maneuver, but your flowing mix of visuals and crunch easily overcame that. I have some worries of possible abuse of the second part (though I cannot really pinpoint why, more of a vague foreboding), but the idea is great. And it adds even more value to the first part which was already topnotch.

I almost put this item in my Keep list, but found it a bit too simple in its effects for my taste. I am happy that the majority of voters propelled it to top 32.

I hope your map will convey the same creativity and efficiency as you item did :-)

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

Okay now that we have a few days before Top 16 reveals I've decided to comment on my competitors work. First, congrats one being a people's choice top 36. To me connecting more directly with the pathfinder community as an audience is even more impressive then clicking for a group of judges.

Mark I've always been a fan of your work and this is no different. Congrats on this and thank you for being a part of FPGs you always show up with a steady hand when we need you and I really appreciate it. Good luck on next round man.

Sovereign Court Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

The illusion portion of this item is really what makes it pop.

The first time I read it during the first paragraph it seemed like oh someone just wants to make it a lot easier to disarm/steal without investing feats ect. Then I got the the second part and sundenly it was "wow that is cool and unique"

Congrats and Good Luck!

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

Mark Nordheim wrote:
Swindler’s Grasp

Congratulations for making it into the Top 32!

Seeing as that's how I had to start this, you're already a potential "Superstar" so keep that in mind!

That out of the way, I'm going to treat your item the same as if I saw it in the Critique My Item Thread, which means I'll be using the following comments, and assuming you're submitting this item as your "sample" for an Open Call to Fat Goblin Game's Call to Arms book line.

Feel free to disagree with me and DEFEND YOUR CHOICES!

Superstar — This is a nice, simple, fairly solid item. The whole first paragraph could likely be reduced for clarity to something as simple as:

Wisps of darkness dance among the fingers of these pitch-black leather gauntlets. Inky strands surround the movements of the wearer when they perform a disarm or steal combat maneuver, preventing provoking attacks of opportunity and allowing the wearer to ignore the penalty for attempting a disarm attempt unarmed.

... or something like that.

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

Mark! Welcome back...to the Top 32!

As one of the judges who'll be along for the entire ride of the competition, it's my duty (and pleasure) to offer up some commentary on your winning submission, as well as a bit of advice for the challenges to come. First up...your item...the swindler's grasp...

Okay. The name achieves the desired effect of telling us what the item is likely going to involve. I'm still not a fan of names that don't tell us what the item is physically as an object, but, at least having "grasp" in the name hints at the fact that it'll be something you wear on your hands. The fact that these turn out to gauntlets is kind of a thematic surprise, though. I would have thought gloves. In fact, light-fingered swindler gloves would work just as well.

Mojo. The fact that this lets you steal an item (or disarm a weapon) from a target and leave behind an illusory, less effective double has pretty strong mojo behind it. Neat idea!

Cinematic. Yeah, you can imagine this playing out in all kinds of hilarious scenes. It's the perfect "steal you blind" item. And the target literally doesn't realize it until it's too late.

Usefulness. Pretty darn useful. Steal and disarm combat maneuvers don't always see a lot of play in a game. This ratchets up the "I win" element hard enough that a flock of players would start beating a path to your door to give them a try. Even the melee fighter with the high CMB who enjoys taking cool weapons away the BBEG opponent could absolutely own a hand-to-hand battle with these. So, in some ways, too powerful for my tastes, especially since it goes the extra mile in negating attacks of opportunity. I think that overreaches for this design.

Mechanics. You've identified some interesting existing mechanics to play around with...and then you did exactly what wondrous items are supposed to do, which is bend the rules a little, to interject a magical effect into them to do something cool and interesting. As I stated before, I think the impact of what this item can do routinely do with negating AoO's on every steal or disarm attempt goes too far. Meanwhile, you reined back the item's best power (i.e., the illusion that fools the target) to 1/day. I actually think it would have been smarter to go the other direction. Raise the amount of times the illusion can be conjured, and have it work even on regular Sleight of Hand checks as you pickpocket or pilfer something in the marketplace. Then, take off the AoO negation on the combat maneuvers and let the wearer apply that illusion on these types of actions 1/day. That would be stronger and more balanced, I think.

Polished. Template use pretty darn good. Like Victoria, I'd prefer to see darkness dropped from the construction requirements and toss in something more thematically appropriate like mislead paired with your excellent use of major phantom object. Nice job reaching for a spell for gnomes from the Advanced Race Guide, too.

Other than that, it's clear why this item resonated with the voting public and made the Top 32. It's fun. It's useful. It's got great innovation and mojo within the core idea. So, you'll be one to watch in the competition as we go along. For now, I'll close with congratulating you once more and wishing you good luck with your map in Round 2.

My two cents,

Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

Congrats on making top 32!

This item is hilarious (in a good way) and would be lots of fun for players. The fact that it utilizes an under-loved aspect of the game and makes it cool is an extra bonus (that I thoroughly enjoyed).

I like all the abilities you chose, although I wish the illusion ability was usable more often. Still, I enjoyed your item and voted for it quite a bit.

Well done and best of luck in the next round.

Paizo Employee Assistant Developer , Star Voter Season 6

Hello, Mark, and welcome to the Top 32!

I'll be a judge for this round, and I'm honored and pleased to offer feedback on your swindler's grasp. I hope this feedback provides some helpful insight to you as you move forward in the competition.

As an assistant developer at Paizo, I'll offer you three levels of commentary that approximate the development process: some first impressions, a deeper look, and some measured feedback.

So, let's get started!

First impressions: This item hits a really nice sweet spot between compelling cinematics and innovative, useful design. I GM lots of con games, and I always appreciate players who take underused elements of our combat rules -- like disarm and steal -- and build effective characters based on them. This is a great item for players like that; and for me, it's a nice use of a theme that's both thematically and mechanically interesting.

Deeper look: At first blush, these are pretty much wearable feats, but I think the 1/day ability really pushes the item into Superstar territory. I'd have actually liked to see that ability emphasized over the feat replications, both to make the item feel more wondrous but also to scale back the power level, which I think is quite high for the price.

Also, you'll want to watch your precision of language a bit. Unless I'm misreading the intent here, the illusory object the gloves create isn't a phantasm, which in game terms refers to a mere mental image that only the target can see (see the description of the phantasm magic subschool for what I mean; note that major phantom object is a spell of that subschool). This is an illusion anyone can see, right? I'd also clarify the saving throw line to allow a Will saving throw to disbelieve whenever the target interacts with the illusory item.

Measured feedback: You show a lot of design chops here, as this item's core concept and execution are solid. Just watch those rough edges, including your rules-language precision, and turn a careful eye toward how your design components can best accomplish your excellent ideas, and good things will happen for you moving forward.

That said, thanks for reading, and best of luck in the contest!

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

I really like the first paragraph powers, but adjudicating the second paragraph felt like a confusing headache at a table/in play.

Still, a very solid and well-themed suite of powers with elegant writing and a simple, descriptive title.

Well done Mark.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

Overall I really like this item, but I share the concern that some of the wording could be clearer.

Paizo Employee Assistant Developer , Star Voter Season 6

Edit my post above: Note that major phantom object is NOT a phantasm spell. :)

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 4, RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8

Congratulations on earning your spot in the Top 32, Mark! Here’s some of my thoughts regarding swindler’s grasp:

  • The name is an action, and though it’s not a bad-sounding name, it doesn’t work well as an item name.
  • Opening sentence is a clear, concise description of the item that can easily be lifted by a GM to quickly tell the players what they found. It also incorporates the item’s magical nature. Nicely done.
  • Enhancing the steal maneuver is a fun idea. So many items pander to grapple and trip. Steal is a viable alternative that’s fun and engaging.
  • You manage to dodge a critical design flaw too. I’ve seen many items over the last few years of voting that replaced a stolen object with an illusion, and I downvoted every one of them because they seemed like campaign items used by a GM to take the PCs treasure, or items designed by players that were pissed off that they keep getting caught while trying to be larcenous in town. Your item is used in combat though, and that’s the first time I’ve seen that kind of power used that way. It could be fun, and I’m willing to give it a shot to see how an encounter unfolds after it’s been used.
  • This is a great item for the enemy of the PCs to have, and one they PCs are likely to keep after they’ve looted it.
  • Your description reads well, and I don’t have any major questions about how to use it.
  • Activating the illusion seems like it should take some kind of action, swift of immediate. It might also warrant a save as soon as the item is stolen, as well as subsequent saves on use of the illusionary duplicate. A character tricked out to steal or disarm is likely to neuter a villain with this, and that kind of effectiveness should probably cost a little more. Of course, I play mostly PFS, where many of the villains are humanoids. A proper monster would be unaffected by these, so perhaps it’s more balanced than my initial impression leads me to believe.
This is a neat item that plays with a mechanic that doesn’t get a lot of attention. I’m eager to see where else you’ll take us as the contest unfolds!

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

So... I had to spend the weekend taking care of a sick baby. Therefore I didn't get a chance to respond to specific comments. But I wanted to thank the judges and everyone else who has weighed in since my last post. You have all made a lot of good points for me to consider. I appreciate all of your feedback a lot!

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka thornnm

Mark! Congratulations on making it through Round 1!

I really enjoyed this item! Not much more I can say that hasn't been said already, but great job nonetheless!

Best of luck going forward!

Dark Archive RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 9

You know I never saw this in the voting. But I like it very much!
This gives rogues more love, much like my own entry. Sorta glad we're both helping out there.

Well met, and good luck in the competition Mark!

Sovereign Court Marathon Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

Swindler's Grasp

"Gonna yoink yo' schtuff
and make you think it's still there!"
Flavorful, fun gloves!

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