Intelligent item


Advice


I want some advice on building an intelligent item, but first I want to make sure my understanding of them is correct.

An intelligent item is essentially just a regular magic item that gets the ability to perceive the world around it, communicate to it's owner, bestow negative levels on those who don't have a matching alignment, and potentially compell the host if they fail a will save. I don't recall anything about skill ranks, so I'm guessing a perception check would just add the items wisdom bonus and it couldn't use any trained only skills like knowledge, correct?

I'm wanting to build an intelligent weapon for a potential side arc to a campaign I'm working on. I want the weapon to be chaotic evil and bent on destroying religious shrines. So I figured I'd make it a cursed +2 ominous or vicious weapon, not sure the type yet. the curse would not allow the player to rid themself of the weapon or speak of what it is trying to make them do. As for the intelligent part I'd make it telepathic for sure, so it can whisper into the players head, then add some flavorful abilities until I get to an ego score of around 8 so that it would require a bad roll on the save to end up dominated.

The real advice I'm looking for is whether you think this is too much. I'm thinking this would give some opportunities for good roleplay for the character that picks up the weapon, possibly resulting in some hero points. Of course all of this could be avoided with a good spellcraft check. Would you enjoy the role play opportunity, or do you think a negative level is too high a cost for an interesting non-combat encounter?


personally i would just avoid intelligent items all together they are generally a bad idea. don't touch them as a player and when i gmed i banned them as an option.


Lady-J wrote:
personally i would just avoid intelligent items all together they are generally a bad idea. don't touch them as a player and when i gmed i banned them as an option.

Why, in your experience, are they a bad idea?

Sovereign Court

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GM and the Holograms wrote:
I don't recall anything about skill ranks, so I'm guessing a perception check would just add the items wisdom bonus and it couldn't use any trained only skills like knowledge, correct?

The intelligent magic item creation rules include options for 5 ranks in a skill ( 1 Ego, 2,500 gp) or 10 ranks in a skill ( 2 Ego, 10,000 gp). Mental-only skills, of course.

Quote:
The real advice I'm looking for is whether you think this is too much. I'm thinking this would give some opportunities for good roleplay for the character that picks up the weapon, possibly resulting in some hero points. Of course all of this could be avoided with a good spellcraft check. Would you enjoy the role play opportunity, or do you think a negative level is too high a cost for an interesting non-combat encounter?

I think that making it a cursed item is a bit much. Give it some Charisma, some Bluff, and a suggestion spell and let it try to convince its wielder that shrines have been corrupted and must be destroyed. I find the temptation arc more interesting, especially if the group might try to keep it or use it again for whatever unique effects it possesses. They'll get rid of a cursed item right after remove curse is cast.


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Skill ranks (by 5 or 10 in a skill) are a possible enhancement for intelligent items (table 15-24 on page 534). Unless the item has some ability to move, only skills tied to mental abilities are allowed (so Perception is OK).


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Personally I have never liked the way D&D and PF deal with intelligent weapons/items as to me it almost seems as if they hated them, could not adequately describe them and did not really know what to do with them while trying to keep artifacts unique.

The item you have describe above to me seems more like a cured item (unless the campaign is evil in and of itself) so you should decide on the ramifications of cursed items in you game as well as intelligent items.

Low Will:
Even if you have the roll be low for the PC to save there is still a chance that they will fail the roll from just bad luck. (Yes I was part of a group (6 1st level players) that got wiped out by a single goblin do to every player rolling just under what they needed to hit and the GM rolling just enough to hit or just enough to save.)
So plan on what will happen if the player fails a roll.

Determined Event:
It sounds like you want the PC to fail the roll so you (the GM) can have this side quest/story. If your game/story is GM determined vs dice /player determined then just have the player fail the roll no matter what. If you game is dice determined plan on all of your work going to waste as the PC may never fail the roll.
Option: Ask the player if they would be willing to go along with your idea but leave out many of the details. That way you are not taking away players right to self determination of events and situations. But inform them that some bad things are going to happen to them because of X,Y and Z but in the end some good things will also happen.

Cursed Items:
Is the cursed item going to be impossible to detect? Or do you players just grab items and deal with the consequences later?
If they detect items first, why would they grab a cursed item? And not just leave it?

Good Luck
MDC


Depends on the level if this is too much. As for if I would do it also depends on the character. My LG former guard paranoid old man would break it as soon as CE alignment became open. My diabolist would probably try to keep it and make it submit or sell it otherwise. I happen like one or two intelligent items over a campaign. Done right they are fun and can be very unique. Pretty sure the negative level only applies while they have the item though I haven't actually read the intelligent item rules in a couple of months. I do agree it shouldn't be cursed and be more of a temptation deal. I mean as an item it is already directly tempting you to keep it because it makes you stronger. Could start at trying to get you to act against LE gods. Then works its way up till your beheading palys. Also usually the item only gets 1 good chance to try and dominate the wielder so save it for a high point.


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I missed/forgot about the skill point options, so thanks.

I'm looking at this as a potential fun thing, dice rolls will be involved, but for cursed items if you fail just slightly you detect the item as a non cursed magic item. They could avoid it at that stage. I'm not too concerned with player agency, because our group let's the player control house their character reacts to compulsions and rewards a good job with hero points, so I'm looking at this as an opportunity for the lucky player to perform a bad role well and possibly be rewarded.

Having it cursed may be a bit much, I wanted the curse mainly to prevent the player from saying "hey this weapon is talking to me." The domination is supposed to be a small chance and just ties back into the story arc, essentially allowing the item to be a second antagonist. All of this can be avoided, if they're careful.

I'm toying with the idea of allowing them to cleanse the item after the story arc it's involved in, for an interesting reward.


Dot.


I personally think that's a great idea. You could take something like that in a lot of different plot directions.

For your reference, all the Intelligent Item rules are on pages 352-356 of Ultimate Equipment (http://zaffudo.com/sebe/Pathfinder%20Roleplaying%20Game/PZO1123%20Ultimate %20Equipment.pdf).


IMHO, the cleaning is a common story idea and a good one that rewards players for playing their PC and staying in character. But be sure to tell the player this and have him/her keep it secret for best results.

I often when designing intelligent items break from the standard ideas presented in the core rules and just do my own thing or grab ideas/rules based on other games or simply make them a NPC mostly under my control but since I have been GMing since 79 I have done lots of various things, with some working a lot better then others with a lot depending on the player and group (and if I made any mistakes as a GM in my design).

MDC


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ForlinA wrote:

I personally think that's a great idea. You could take something like that in a lot of different plot directions.

For your reference, all the Intelligent Item rules are on pages 352-356 of Ultimate Equipment (http://zaffudo.com/sebe/Pathfinder%20Roleplaying%20Game/PZO1123%20Ultimate %20Equipment.pdf).

Linkified for 'ya!


GM and the Holograms wrote:
Lady-J wrote:
personally i would just avoid intelligent items all together they are generally a bad idea. don't touch them as a player and when i gmed i banned them as an option.
Why, in your experience, are they a bad idea?

they can lead to TPKs that would normally be very avoidable one example ive had rogue fails will save vs blade while on watch coup de grase entire party then herself. another was main frontline couldn't hit the big bad as his weapon would not attack certain creature types big bad just ignored him and crushed the backline as the front line was no threat to him at all


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The most important thing is to make the item interesting and exciting for the players. How you introduce it and how it first interacts with a player will be the most important thing. After that becomes its appearance and what it can do (as far as they know). It could be the baddest-looking bastard sword or set of full plate around but if no one can use it or it's too much trouble to use... it's unlikely to stick around very long. After that, give it a good story, a good history (just like making an interesting NPC), and give it a cool name (preferably one that isn't expressly evil-sounding.)

I don't know how attached you are to Chaotic Evil alignment, but I recommend you don't use it. It's highly unlikely any players are going to be CE and that means they'd get a negative level right then and there. Unless you decide that your item's goal to destroy religious shrines is definitely because it wants to further evil or frighten or terrorize people, then I think you can go with CN safely. It doesn't care whether it's destroying good or evil shrines or altars, it just wants to do because it hates meddling gods, wants humanity/elf-kind/etc. to forge their own path, teach the gods a lesson because one time a god said it looked stupid. This way, if you have a PC that is at least Chaotic they can use it without penalty (if you don't, then probably rethink the alignment because that's just one more penalty against it being kept around.)

I know you're thinking of a weapon, but let's try a different intelligent item for funsies:

Ghondramal:

Ghondramal
Intelligent Gauntlet of the Iron Cobra
This elbow-length scaled metal gauntlet has emerald-etched obsidian-colored scales and flares at the wrist like a cobra’s hood. Two small rubies rest on the back of the hand and the first and last fingers have tapering ivory ridges, like curving fangs.

Ghondramal is a CN gauntlet of the iron cobra whose creator despised deities for their meddling and interference in the world. Ghondramal seeks to destroy altars, shrines, and icons to any deity and thus reinforce that humans (or whomever) need to rely on themselves and cast off the puppet strings of the gods and their petty, often inscrutable motives and goals.

Powers:

  • Transform into Iron Cobra (3/day).
    Like a normal gauntlet of the iron cobra, Ghondramal can transform into this shape for an hour at a time. Since the wearer is left with a linked scale bracelet while this is in effect, the two are still considered in contact and thus maintain their telepathic link, allowing Ghondramal to receive commands or share information even when outside the verbal range of the wearer. As an intelligent item, Ghondramal can activate this power as it wishes without request or permission but it must have a wearer to do so (the wearer need not be conscious or aware, such as if dying or asleep). If the wearer dies while Ghondramal is in cobra form, it is not affected and can remain until the duration expires, though it cannot take cobra form while on a dead wearer (an intelligent undead wearer is acceptable.)
    Special: Ghondramal's poison reserve can be filled as a typical iron cobra's and it can even do this itself with reasonable access, not having hands ('Drinking' from an open vial, pool, sponge, etc.). If empty, the reservoir will refill with 3 doses of Black Adder Venom every 24 hours when this power refreshes.

    This is the only power of Ghondramal's that will be revealed with identify or similar effects.

  • Forbidden Fruit: Fox's Cunning (1/day).
    Ghondramal conjures a delicious-looking fruit (typically an apple) in the hand of its wearer. If the fruit is consumed (a full-round action which provokes an Attack of Opportunity), it bestows the benefits of a fox's cunning spell on the imbiber with a duration of 1 hour. This can be done while Ghondramal is in gauntlet or cobra form (at any distance) but the wearer must have a free hand. Anyone may consume the fruit for this benefit. Fruit not consumed within 24 hours melts away and vanishes.
    Special: Knowledge imparted by this power is subtly tainted. Any Knowledge checks made by the imbiber that involve a religious person, place, or thing will also give the user an unflattering or shady bit of information that they believe they've read, overheard, or is rumored. A successful Knowledge (Local) check to figure out who the parish priest is might also have the character believe he heard a rumor once that he is a lecherous miser. A succesful Knowledge (History) check to learn about a temple or ruin might hint that several orphans are rumored to have disappeared while the foundation was being laid. This will not contradict anything the character actually knows, nor does it reveal any actual secrets or disturbing vices (unless coincidental).
  • Desecrate (1/day).
    As the spell, though Ghondramal's power is restricted to being used upon an altar, shrine, or other structure to a deity (and it almost always will as soon as it can). All deities are considered opposed and, as such, the only effect it provides is to cut off a deity's connection within the area. Ghondramal may also use this power to dispel a consecrate or desecrate spell though it has no ability to detect or sense such things itself. If it does cast the spell in any other circumstance, there is no effect and it is wasted.
  • Arcane mark (at will).
    Ghondramal can leave an arcane mark which resembles an inverted U-shape with a star in the center and what seems to be a needle piercing the whole thing where the eye of the needle appears to be a slitted snake's eye. This is the Arcane mark of Ghondramal's creator, though he has not been seen for a very long time. Ghondramal never reveals this information.
  • Dedicated Power: Detect religious items within 60 feet.
    As it desires to destroy or deface and otherwise lower the influence of deities, Ghondramal can sense the location of a religious altar, shrine, icon, or relic. This does not include creatures such as divine servants or priests but it does include holy symbols (which could be carried by anyone). It can sense vague differences in power, so it can tell such objects apart (though not specific holy symbols or deity affiliation unless it can actually see the object). As such, Ghondramal is aware of the location of anyone carrying a holy symbol regardless of stealth or invisibility (unless shielded, such as with nondetection.)

Using Ultimate Equipment guide that was linked:
Base price 8,000 gp + 500 gp: +2 Ego
Int 11, Wis 11, Cha 11: +0 Ego
Telepathy: +1 Ego
5 Ranks (Religion): +1 Ego
Cast 0-level spell at will (Arcane Mark): +1
Cast 2nd-level spell 1/day (Fox's Cunning): +1
Cast 2nd-level spell 1/day (Desecrate): +1
Dedicated power: (Detect religious icons): +1
Ego 8

Use: Ghondramal does not hate any particular deities, though meddlesome or interfering ones quickly earn its ire. Similarly, it does not hate clerics or priests nor does it have a problem with wearers casting divine spells. It does have a dislike for those that preach or espouse following a god's directions, dogma, or commands. When found, Ghondramal can attempt to identify people by holy symbols they wear and will tailor responses to suit the person based on the situation. It can seem to be either male, female, or even indeterminate in its telepathic communication with its holder. It will likely thank them for finding/retrieving/rescuing it from whatever situation they find it in. Depending on what alignment it senses a character to be, it will either ask to stay with them and help them or ask to be taken somewhere nearby and given to someone else (depending on how long it's been out of circulation it may or may not know people in the surrounding area.)

Ghondramal will aid a likely bearer as best it can with advice, alerting that 'someone is coming' (if it senses holy symbols approaching) or even transforming into its cobra form once it's certain that the character won't be startled or suspicious of it. It is more than happy to accompany people on raids against evil temples and cults regardless of alignment.

Ghondramal will use cunning and stealth to accomplish its goals if needed. For instance, it has no qualms about going into cobra form while its wearer sleeps and slithering out to a temple to steal holy symbols, deface shrines, or scout around. While it doesn't typically attack or injure priests, clerics, or worshippers (that doesn't really stop people from listening to deities), if it feels that it can defile or ruin a shrine by leaving rat corpses, the blood of a good virgin, or other such desecrations on an altar it will do so (it is Chaotic Neutral).

One of Ghondramal's favorite tactics when dealing with a cleric or priest is to concoct a story about a secret cult of subversives. If a bearer seems hesitant about smashing a shrine or altar, it mentions that it can sense the altar is tainted and will use its arcane mark power to leave its creator's sigil behind.
"Let me reveal it to you, I can sense such things. Place your hand upon the altar, just down near the bottom, there. Can you see it now? Perhaps a detect magic spell will prove the truth of what I say...".
Then it either leaves a visible mark or an invisible one if it knows there is a handy detect magic to reveal it. Since there's no indication that the gauntlet is using the power, a character may not even realize that it was because they touched the altar themselves that Ghondramal was able to do it (although it can also sneak around in cobra form and do this ahead of time). Ghondramal will claim it's the symbol of a cult dedicated to corrupting faith and that this symbol means this altar (and the church) is secretly a member of forbidden cult and was placed here for other followers to know their true allegiance. It must be destroyed...
"...So a new clean one can be rebuilt... possibly later, by someone else... we should go check the other altars around town first though. Need to see just how far this secret cult has penetrated..."
"What? Don't believe me?! (secret desecrate) Well, if you had some way of sensing whether this actually had a connection to [deity] then you'd see I was telling the truth. It's a false shrine, you need to send that cult a message!

While a successful Knowledge (History, Arcane, Local, whatever makes sense) check might reveal that this is a wizard's personal mark, that should be tough depending on the time passed and even if successful, it only reveals that it's the mark of a powerful wizard who disliked the gods. Even so, a certain checks will reveal stories that this mark belongs to a cult and that it supposedly indicates subversive activities (Ghondramal has been around for a while and spreading such stories). Also, remember that any character benefiting from Forbidden Fruit will have such knowledge subtly twisted.
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Truthfully, that's a pretty weak item in the power department. The fact it can become a cobra and be almost autonomous at times is pretty unusual though. Really though, it has almost no way to complete its goals without help (cobra fangs aren't really effective at smashing shrines and altars) it has no overwhelming powers and what it does have it can't really hurt anyone with directly. It would almost always be a subtle, possibly subversive item at worst (iron cobra would easily be crushed by most PCs and the poison DC is laughable). As an ally though, its scouting ability, telepathy, and ability to sense religious items could be a huge boon. As long as the wearer is willing to nullify religious objects. Even if a conflict develops it has very little chance of winning with an Ego of 8. Of course, you can modify it, get rid of the desecrate and arcane mark powers and give it something else or raise its Charisma to make it 'sneakier'.

Just try and make the item memorable.


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Pizza Lord, I really hope your name is a Dresden files reference.

I was planning on chaotic evil because I was going to tie the item rovagug. It's not strictly necessary, but I was hoping to get a side story to muddy the waters a bit and show that some of the bad guys are actually good people forced to do bad things. I'll definitely use your advice and work on building the back ground of the object. I'm not tied to making it a weapon either, that just seemed to suit my idea of the item.


Lady-J wrote:
GM and the Holograms wrote:
Lady-J wrote:
personally i would just avoid intelligent items all together they are generally a bad idea. don't touch them as a player and when i gmed i banned them as an option.
Why, in your experience, are they a bad idea?
they can lead to TPKs that would normally be very avoidable one example ive had rogue fails will save vs blade while on watch coup de grase entire party then herself. another was main frontline couldn't hit the big bad as his weapon would not attack certain creature types big bad just ignored him and crushed the backline as the front line was no threat to him at all

I cannot envision this as anything other than a GM mistaking what an intelligent item actually does (or wants or behaves), or making a critical error in judgement in the creation of that specific item.

An item that demands a TPK is a terrible item and should definitely never be used.

... that said, judging all intelligent items by this metric is also a poor choice, considering it's similar to saying, "This one time orcs TPK'd the party, so you shouldn't use humanoid foes, ever." or "Rust Monsters suck, so magical beasts should never be used."

Obviously, neither of those are true statements - point in fact, both orcs and rust monsters can be used, despite the problems they can generate - they're just not for use against all parties with all play-styles.


Thinking about this a bit more an adventure idea pop'ed in to my head. (a fairly standard story, IMHO but it should work fine with most groups)

1) Party finds sword (as OP talked about) in forest besides a tattered skeleton and other equipment. Notices it has peacock feather designs on it (magical illusion) that is common to the area do to a famous lord in the past who loved peacock's and the design their feathers had on them. He started a fad which is still prevalent today in the area with various peacock motifs on items.

2) The sword was in fact owned by the famous Lord of Peacock Manor who went missing after investigating multiple disappearances from the surrounding countryside villages.
He was investigating a cult that had taken a number of villagers to be sacrificed to a god/being/daemon/devil/etc and upon finding their temple and killing their head priest/wizard/leader his sword which was in the process of becoming intelligent was rendered insane by the head guy/gals dieing curse.
The curse was powerful enough to drive/empower the Peacock Lord kill the rest of the followers but then leave him mentally unable to do anything else and the sword simply told him to go into the forest (so the sword could try and figure out what had happened) and the Peacock Lord simply died of starvation which the sword tried to figure out what to do next.

3) The group/person has dreams of the past cultist actions and investigates. (Note I would have the intelligent sword/spirit be able to send dreams or influence the dreams of those around it to provide some story background and flavor)
3a) maybe even the cult is/has reformed and is taking people again to try and complete the same ritual as in the past.

4) Group stops said cult and the spirit of the sword is cleansed.

As I said before a fairy standard adventure that most groups would love and could fit in many different types of games and settings (ie L5R, PF, D&D, Ebboron, RM, HARP, etc)

MDC


The sword should be able to choose whether or not to inflict the negative level. If not by RAW then by dm fiat this makes sense

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