Shattered Blade

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

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

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Shattered Blade
Aura faint evocation and transmutation; CL 5th
Slot none; Price 11,308 gp; Weight 3 lbs.
The blade of this +2 obsidian longsword appears haphazardly pieced together as if once broken into several jagged shards. As a free action when striking a creature, the wielder may shatter the weapon into a swarm of floating shrapnel that occupies a 10-foot cube engulfing the target. Each round at the end of the wielder’s turn, creatures within this area take 2d6 points of slashing damage. Spellcasting or concentrating on spells while inside the cluster of shards requires caster level check (DC 20 + spell level), and using skills involving patience and concentration require a DC 20 Will save. Once per round, the wielder can direct the cluster to move up to 30 feet toward any creature struck by the weapon in the past round.

The shattered blade functions as a +2 obsidian dagger while the cloud of fragments remain active. The shrapnel lingers until the wielder speaks a command word to disperse the cloud. When dispersed, the shards harmlessly fly toward the weapon and reassemble the blade into a longsword. Feats and abilities such as Weapon Focus and the weapon training class feature always consider a shattered blade as a longsword regardless of its current form.
Requirements Craft Magic Arms and Armor, make whole, shatter; Cost 5,808 gp

Star Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 9

I have to say, I loved this item, and though I only saw it once, it immediately made my personal keep pile. Good work, and congratulations!

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

My second favorite weapon! Good job.

Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

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I was concerned that this weapon is overpowered. No limit on duration, no limit on uses. It seems a bit much for 11K gp.

Star Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9

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This weapons is so damn cool. I mean pardon my French but jeez Louise the imagery is spot-on.
I will say that I think applying the effects of feats that are longsword-specific regardless of the current form is a bit odd. Everything else fits together so well, but that one little bit is something I can't connect to the theme or imagery.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Dedicated Voter Season 8, Marathon Voter Season 9 aka Petty Alchemy

Dude, loved this item!

My concerns were the lack of a save against the shrapnel cloud, and it also seemed a little underpriced to me (since 8k of that is the +2 enh), but it was still a strong keep for me because it had pretty much everything else going for it. The name, the function, the imagery. Fantastic.

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

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Congratulations, Garrick!

I'm very happy to see this magic weapon here, both for the item and the designer who created it.
While I share some of the concerns mentioned by previous posters, this weapon made my personal Top 32.
Garrick has been an active poster on the homebrew forum. His critiques, while sometimes harsh, show a deep understanding of the game and I have no doubt that he has what it takes to be a great designer.

Good luck in the next round!

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

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Congratulations, Garrick!

I've seen weapons that break things apart and items that put other things together, but this is the first that I've seen that does both in one. That fact that it is obsidian just makes it even cooler - it's very fitting with the real-world qualities of volcanic glass. I do worry that anyone who can create a floating cloud of 2d6 damage per turn with no save would have little reason to use the original longsword version, but those concerns could be worked out with further development and they don't detract from the inherent mojo of the weapon.

Can't wait to see what you piece together for round 2!

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

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Congrats, Garrick. I've been impressed with your design knowledge since I got to know you last year so looking forward to seeing what you can do now that you're in the Big Show.

1 person marked this as a favorite.

One of my favorites, upvoted it every single time!

It's a very evocative idea, presented well and mechanicaly interesting.
Taking the fragile property and making it a boon was just genius :)

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Dedicated Voter Season 6, Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9 aka Hodge Podge

I knew this would make it. I think I saw it about three times and always upvoted it!

You had me at the dagger bit. Totally makes sense, and shows how items do best when the mechanics are a natural result of the premise.

Congrats, and welcome! :)

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

Congratulation on earning a spot in the Top 32, Garrick. Here's some thoughts on the shattered blade:

  • The idea takes a striking and dramatic image and turns it into the function of the item. Cool.
  • Using obsidian is nice touch.
  • The wielder does not appear to be immune to the shrapnel damage, which could make things interesting. I want to have an enemy disarm or steal this weapon while in use.
  • It seems like the owner is getting a little too much for too little though. The DCs for caster level checks and concentration checks are always high, but being able to inflict a mobile cloud of caster doom at will for so cheap is just too much. Especially when the wielder gets to still take advantage of all their feats despite the nature of the item changing. Making the wielder deal with now having a dagger instead of a longsword could have been a fun and sensible drawback.

Good work so far. I look forward to seeing what you bring to Round 2!

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

Garrick, congratulations on making the Top 32! For just over 11k a swarm-sized storm of stone razors seems to be a bit much. I think you should have mimicked the flaming sphere spell instead of a swarm.

Let's see if you can shatter our expectations in round 2.

--Lava Vrock

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

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Nice use of obsidian. I saw a number of swarm related items this year, and this one was one of my favorites. Good luck in the rest of the competition!

Marathon Voter Season 9

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Congrats on making top 32!

I like the item, as it just lends itself to cinematic moments so well. It does raise a few questions for me though. There is no action listed to direct the swarm, nor info on it this concentration might incur AoO's. It also uses different rules on when the damage is done than most similar effects. Oddly, and entire army could run through the cloud without taking damage as long as nobody is in it at the end of the wielders turn. Also, since it is the end of your turn that it does damage, given that you can direct it, and because there is no save there is basicly no way out of this for casters. I would much rather this use rules more like existing effects. The lack of any duration is also a killer.

Overall, wonderful idea, great combination of concept and cinematic effect, but I feel some rules aspects were not fully realized, and that playtesting might show some munchkiny uses. I would love to see a polished version in my games though!

Best of luck in all future rounds!

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, Garrick!

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!

Well, my first scan through didn't notice anything, so you are sitting pretty without feeding the Fu at this moment in time - well done.

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.

Shattered Blade

The Good: You used obsidian, and I have a soft spot for that most noble and sharp of volcanic glasses. It is pretty and hurtie, and for this, we thank you.

The Bad: No mention of the action type (swift, move, etc) of commanding the shrapnel swarm.

The Ugly: I find it hard to wrap my head around the idea that I can still use the weapon while the blade is shattered and in shrapnel form. Simply rendering the weapon unusable until restored would have made more sense IMO.

Dedicated Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

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I am generally not a fan of shattering blades, but this is one of the best ones I have seen.

I also don't like that there doesn't seem to be any limit on how often the blade can shatter. What is to stop me from using the blade in the first round of combat each fight, then switching to a different weapon to keep dealing decent weapon damage as well?

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

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Welcome to the Top 32, Garrick! 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 shattered blade!

Functionality and Usefulness
This is one of two weapons that played with obsidian, and one of three items to play with a breaking/reforming mechanic. Let's see how this one differs.

So the wielder can hit a creature, shatter the sword, and put the target in a shrapnel cloud dealing 2d6/round and making spellcasting and many skill checks pretty excruciating, both for the target and anyone caught within the 10-foot-cube (including the wielder, as written, if he can't move out after activation by the end of his turn). The cloud lasts until the wielder dissipates it. While the cloud is active, the wielder still has a +1 dagger that still lets them use longsword feats and abilities. And this can be done as many times per day as the wielder can hit someone.

It's certainly powerful, but there's some red flags in there. An automatic 2d6 damage every round until the wielder calls it off is pretty crazy. There needs to be a maximum duration. Also: you call it a swarm, but I can't tell if you're intending to invoke the actual swarm mechanics or not. If so, then it needs swarm statistics so it can be attacked.

This is devastating in close quarters. An NPC wielding this could engulf the whole party if they got stuck in a room or corridor together. That's 2d6 a round, every round, spellcasting/skills severely hindered, with no way to get rid of it. At the price point, this can drop a caster in a few rounds. Ouch. It doesn't need concentration to maintain, so the wielder can also be doing whatever to the party in the meantime, too (though probably not melee, unless he wants a taste of his own medicine).

This begs for some limitation. The shrapnel should automatically reform back to the sword after a certain number of rounds, or require concentration to maintain, and the shattering ability should have a limit of uses. It's still very, very good, even with some limiting factors.

There's no specifics on the action to move the cloud. Move? Swift?

I'm glad you specified what happens to the sword when it's in its shattered condition, but I'm not sure I agree with giving the dagger longsword feats/abilities. It makes little sense, and losing access to those is a drawback the owner of this powerhouse can probably live with.

That said, the shatter/shrapnel cloud is a clever design space. I definitely like the concept and with balancing issues managed, I'd like this a whole, whole lot better.

The Cool Factor/Mojo
Great visuals and a power that makes innovative use of the shatter/make whole combo. Obsidian is a fond material to many, and working with it helps this weapon fill a special niche. The shattering effect plays nicely with it, too.

This shows cohesion as a theme and you show design focus in building entirely around the shattering.

Prose and Editing
Your wording is good, apart from a few missteps needing more specifics (i.e., action type to move), and your descriptions are pretty good. The writing is clean and I don't spy any major errors there. You know how to put this together the way a freelancer needs to.

You've got design chops, but I'd like to see some restraint moving forward. Be careful about leaving rules open to exploitation and abuse, and pay some mind to balance to make sure you're not creating something that is out-of-place--too much or too little--for the levels it's intended for. The balance issues here are concerning, but I do look forward to seeing what you come up with moving forward.

I am honored to have been allowed to provide feedback this year. I look forward to your entry for Round 2, Garrick, and expect I'll see a map entry with the style and imagination you had here.

Congratulations again!

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

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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.

Congrats on this as I've sen folk try to pull this off before but never this well. Congrats and best of luck with next round.

Sovereign Court Marathon Voter Season 8, Dedicated Voter Season 9

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I really like the way this one works for the most part. I love that it works as a dagger when most of it is swarming around.

First: a 10 ft. cube around the target (depending on walls and so forth this might also engulf the wielder).

Second: no duration limit, I could shatter it on my friend, and move it toward him (but not on him each round) using this as a way to move it on to enemies, especially problematic as the movement seems to be a free action.

Good job and Good luck!

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka Cyrad

Thank you for your insights, Judge Victoria Jaczko.

I thank the rest of you for your feedback and take your criticism to heart. At a later time, I will post my designer notes and a revision of the Shattered Blade that reflects the feedback I received for this round. For now, I intend to honor your patronage with entries I provide in the following rounds of this competition.

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

Garrick Williams wrote:
Shattered Blade

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!

Publishable — This is an interesting idea, but there are opportunities to abuse it extenisvely, especially as its 2d6 damage in a 10x10 cube... I think I'd have shrunk it to a 5'x 5' area, and/or reduced damage... as it is, and how it can seemingly be used all the time, it lets my character walk around with a fully direct-able 10 foot cube blender right? The concentration checks, etc. add to the effect too...Seems powerful for the price. What I were dual-wielding these badboys?

RPG Superstar 2009, RPG Superstar Judgernaut, Contributor

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Garrick! 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 shattered blade...

Okay. The name fits and makes sense. We also know immediately that it's a weapon, and because it's both a sword and eventually a dagger, I'm cool with just calling it a blade.

Mojo. Big-time mojo to strive for a shattering sword that continues to fight for you.

Cinematic. Great visuals on how this item does its thing.

Usefulness. A bit too useful given the ongoing "swarm" damage of the shattered fragments. The wielder also gets to keep his own attacks with the shortened dagger, which really just takes his base damage down from an average of 4.5 to 2.5 per round.

Mechanics. A handful of concerns here. Controlling the "swarm" of shattered fragments requires an action of some kind. The part about having it chase after someone you've struck and literally controlling which squares it occupies creates a mobile, controllable swarm effect that should preclude the wielder from also continuing to make attack actions with the dagger. This should border more on spiritual weapon or flaming sphere, or maybe like a dancing weapon, in some ways. Some of those mechanics should get examined as you consider both how it functions in gameplay and what it should cost.

Polish. Pretty tight. You know what you're doing, and the attention to detail pays off.

Other than that, this item got you into the Top 32 with a unique ability and slightly loose mechanics. Now, it's all about seeing what you've got for us in Round 2.

My two cents,

Scarab Sages Assistant Developer , Star Voter Season 6

Hello, Garrick, 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 shattered blade. 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: Neat concept, visually and mechanically. But the wielder can shatter the weapon as a free action whenever she strikes a creature? That's pretty darn strong. And then she can move that swarm to chase down an enemy? Whoa!

Deeper look: The shatter ability is cinematically awesome, but it absolutely needs to be pulled back to a 1/day or a 3/day. Otherwise, that's all the wielder is going to do in combat; when an item becomes a PC's entire suite of offensive tricks by default, it's a sign that the item is too good. And, even with the ability tamped down in power and usage, this item is still priced too low.

Also, you'll want to avoid the use of the word "swarm" in describing this item's ability, because swarms are a specific game term that means something entirely different than what's happening here, even if there's a thematic connection.

Measured feedback: Keep your awesome themes and your eye toward design usability in combat, but take care that your execution does not smash the power scale to smithereens. A good rule of thumb is to take your first wild idea for a powerful design, dial it back by about half, write up the text, dial it back a bit more, then do some careful math to make sure your pricing and abilities are in line. Keep that in mind and I think you'll do great moving forward.

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

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

The one thing that keeps it from being crazy-powered is that it can only move toward a creature it's already damaged in the past round. So you can't effectively just stroll around with it.

What tripped me up during voting was trying to imagine a sword shattering into enough pieces to fill a 10x10x10 ft. cube. That's a lot of space!

But...magic, I suppose.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 7, Star Voter Season 8 aka Cyrad

Thank you for taking time out of your weekend to provide your insights, Judges.

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

First off, congratulations on making it through the first round!

I liked the mojo of your sword, but wasn't as big a fan of the mechanics. Still, the flavour kept my attention :)

Good luck in the rest of the competition!

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

I thank everyone for taking the time to respond to my entry.

For those who haven't seen me around before, I am a software engineer who moonlights as an indie game developer and got into tabletop game development in order to build my game design skills. When I'm not working on my puzzle platformer Displacement, I write free Pathfinder RPG content and serve as an active member of the homebrew forum. My work includes the runari race based on the characters of my indie computer game and the artiforged, a base class that takes a setting-neutral approach to creating a cyborg-like character.

So what went behind the creation of the shattered blade?

Inspiration: I imagined the idea of this weapon long before I got into tabletop gaming. I also always believe that the form of a magical item should match the function. No better way to exemplify that than with a "broken" sword made from a material well known for shattering into dangerous shards.

Design Goals: My goal was to use the shattering flavor to create a weapon that provides at-will zone control at the cost of reducing the weapon's damage. It sucks that characters normally can't get weapons with interesting abilities until around level 8-10. Most existing items with such abilities are once-per-day affairs. So, I aimed to have an item with an at-will ability or one close to it. I knew this was a very risky design, but after "playing it safe" for the past few years, I relished the challenge.

Implementation: I attempted to balance the weapon's at-will ability by having the weapon transform from a longsword to a dagger. This change also reduces the damage from Power Attack, a staple feat for most longsword-wielding combatants. The line that allows a wielder to apply longsword feats actually provides two uses in the weapon's design.
1) It prevents the dagger drawback from becoming so crippling to incentivize wielders from switching weapons after invoking the cloud.
2) It mitigates abuse from dagger-specialists. Since the blade always counts as a longsword, a character can't avoid the drawback of wielding a dagger instead of a longsword by specializing in daggers.

Finally, my playtests using the ability to move the shards to a hit creature (which I meant to be a free action) showed that this allowed a player to direct the shard cloud while preventing it from becoming a ranged harrassment ability. It's very difficult to move the cloud onto an enemy you aren't engaged in melee with. On the other hand, it also means the wielder can also force their target to suffer the shards, which leaves me to my next section...

Post Mortem: I must agree with the feedback that the item overreaches in terms of power. I did not do enough to offset the at-will nature of the weapon's ability. Despite my lofty design goals, it may have been better as a limited use ability. In addition, I definitely should have listened to my pit crew to lower the shard cloud's damage and/or make it a Reflex save to avoid.

However, I am happy that my work left voters with an item that intrigued. I hope for the chance to continue to surprise in future rounds.

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