Thought to share my "expanded" Grail. Posted here because this is an AP specific item, and also because this is a GM only post.
In my view the name of the thingy is way cooler than its actual abilities. In short, given how the chance of at least one character participating in this AP being chaotic is close to 100%, this item amounts to three daily level 2 Restorations.
Nothing more, nothing less. No risk, no randomness. To me, that's somewhat of a missed opportunity, partly because of the cool name, partly because this item gets no story powers.
So instead I thought of the AP theme "recruit various people to your circus". Some of the people the players will want to recruit (as opposed to the NPCs specifically marked as recruitable by the adventure) have an evil alignment. In my case, the players made an honest effort of recruiting the carnival barker Ruanna Nyamma (page 17 of #2). It didn't lead to anything (the character rolled a natural 1) but still.
So here is a version of the Grail linked to Nocticula, the redeemer queen (and not coincidentally, a deity circus people might revere). You should easily see why Aroden clergy might find the item heretical and dangerous.
Comments welcome! :)
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Grail of Twisted Desires
Unique Conjuration Magical Invested
This timeworn chalice is constructed of dull tin. It has an unassuming appearance save for the gold, silver, and ebony rings that encircle its rim.
You gain a +1 bonus to skill checks related to furthering Nocticula’s edicts. By breaking one of Nocticula’s anathema you immediately become uninvested, and suffer Nocticula’s curse for one week.
Edicts: create art true to yourself, protect marginalized artists, punish those who take advantage of offered trust and shelter
Anathema: deny shelter to the desperate, destroy harmless art you dislike, finish a work of art during daylight hours
Curse: you are plagued with doubt in your own skills; you count as if untrained with Crafting, Performance, and one other skill themed to the event that brought on your curse (determined by the GM).
Activate 1-action envision; The chalice fills with wine. If the wine is not drunk within one minute it disappears. The chalice’s spell save DC is 29, though people coerced into drinking the wine get to treat the result of their check as one degree of success better. Then roll a d6, adding 1 if activated during daytime. If the result is equal to or greater than the “dormant” number, the chalice goes dormant (cannot activate) until sundown tomorrow.
Choose one effect:
Pleasant The wine is non-magical but of the highest quality. Dormant 7
Adapting The drinker is affected as if you cast a 1st-level adapt self spell on it. Dormant 6
Restoration The drinker is affected as if you cast a 2nd-level restoration spell on it. Dormant 5
Retribution The next time the drinker sleeps it is affected as if you cast a 4th-level nightmare spell on it. Dormant 4
Infatuation The drinker is affected as if you cast a 4th-level charm spell on it. Dormant 3
Restoration, greater The drinker is affected as if you cast a 4th-level restoration spell on it. Dormant 2
Redemption The drinker must make a Will save. Failure means its alignment shifts one step toward Chaotic (or to Chaotic Neutral if already Chaotic). This might allow the creature to renounce its former allegiances, but might also invoke the wrath of its allies or patrons. If the creature doesn’t desire the shift in alignment, the atone ritual might reverse the change. Once the drinker’s alignment becomes Chaotic Neutral you might persuade the drinker to become a follower of Nocticula. In doing so you gain a permanent ability boost for as long as the drinker lives as a follower to Nocticula. The chalice can only grant an ability boost for a given ability score to one creature at any one time. Dormant 1
Very interesting idea that definitely spices up what is a throwaway grail, although I do have a bit of a weird lore-related grumble. About how Nocticula's Grail was justifiably locked away due to it being demon worship at the time, but does also create a strange oddness of how the grail's current effects reflects the current day Nocticula rather than past Nocticula when the grail was likely created. Although potentially explained away with "well, the grail was affected by Nocticula's change".
My mechanical small grumble (beyond how Redemption could lead to forcing an alignment change, damning clerics until they can get the atone ritual going) is I'm curious how the Infatuation effect would work if you triggered the chalice and then drunk its contents (i.e. casting Charm on yourself).
Definitely has piqued my interest since the GMPC (for when the party needed a cleric healer, so I made one for them) in the campaign is a Nocticula cleric who might take great interest in the relic.
I can easily envision the grail's origin being tied to Nocticula's ascencion.
After all Ulthadar himself doesn't know what the room contains, so we know the golem and its treasure is "newer" than him.
I am personally having no problem making it as new as the "new" Redeemer Queen. I am not an expert sage on Pathfinder lore, however.
I can only make the case that winging it here have the great benefit of tying the story to the adventure theme - it allows heroes to seriously consider even chaotic evil NPCs, since they can be "redeemed".
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I unfortunately can't imagine the grail being tied to Nocticula's ascension. The text on page 38 of Book 2 reads "priests after [Ulthadar]'s time installed the doors and locks". The lore of the temple is after Aroden accidentally'ed to death once upon a time, the temple pretty much fell apart soon after and was left to rot. Ulthadar had died before Aroden's death, hence his ongoing denial that it had happened fuelling his ghost form.
While Nocticula was redeemed, I believe, in the Tyrant's Grasp AP only a year or three ago (in game and out of game). So we're talking about priests somehow sticking around for hundreds of years since Aroden's death until a few years ago as Nocticula ascended, then suddenly letting the temple rot in that time. I love your take, just unfortunately I'm a bit of a Pathfinder lore nut and it'd wind me up behind the scenes (even if my players wouldn't catch on).
Also, believe me, you don't need magic items to start redeeming CE and NE foes. My group recruited the boss at the top of the tower of Book 1 into the circus with just a bizarrely fantastic diplomacy roll.
It's still an amazingly thought out idea and I'd snatch it in a heartbeat if it wasn't making the lore feel bizarre. I originally thought maybe replacing it with Cayden Cailen so the wine makes sense, but again we are talking about a full one hundred years between Aroden's banana-peel slip into the afterlife and Cayden Cailen's ascension. If it was somehow Nocticula could affect the wine so it isn't as evil as it once was during her ascension, that could explain why everything is still locked up tight and why her item is more chaotic/redeeming than evil.