Saturday, September 19, 2009

House rules: Magic item and intrinsic creation

Magic item and intrinsic creation

Player characters wishing to create permanent magic items or enhance themselves with new intrinsic abilities will follow this procedure for preparing and then creating a magic item.

These rules apply to creating any kind of magic item or supernatural ability, with the exception of magic scrolls and magic potions. The standard rules for the creation of potions and scrolls still apply, including costs, time, and prerequisite feats.


  1. Prerequisites:
    • you must have one of the new feats, either Craft Magic Item or Imbue Supernatural Ability.
    • When using craft Magic Item, you must be able to use the item you are trying to create.
  2. Spend money preparing a raw, non-magical item. If you have the appropriate crafting feat, you may make a crafting check to reduce the overall cost. The amount you spend determines bonuses to the final check.

    • If you wish to prepare an item for a particular purpose or ability, you must include some aspect of the final product as a specific raw material.
  3. Attempt to perform a binding act to imbue the object or individual with magical power. Announce what kind of magic item is being bound.

  4. If the binding act is successful, determine the total bonus to the item creation roll. Bonuses are determined by amount spent in the initial creation and appropriateness of the binding act, and may be modified by whether a specific item is being attempted, whether an item which is already magical is being enhanced, and whether the enhancement is an improvement to the existing ability or is an unrelated new power.

  5. Determine the value of the item created; GM and player discuss and agree on the exact stats of the item created using the value as a guideline.

Prerequisites In Depth

To create a magic item other than a scroll or a potion, the process is detailed here.

New Feats

Craft Magic Item

This feat replaces Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Craft Rod, Craft Staff, Craft Wand, Craft Wondrous Item, and Forge Ring. (The Brew Potion and Scribe Scroll feats remain unchanged.)

Total Class Levels 6.

This feat allows you to perform a binding act which creates a magic item from a prepared item.

The prepared item must be an item that the character can use without penalties or making a special check such as Use Magic Device. Armor or weapons for which the character does not have the requisite feat may not be created with this feat. The character does not need to have prepared the item himself.

Details about the use of this feat are discussed below.

Imbue Supernatural Ability
Craft Magic Item, total Class Levels 10.

This feat allows you to perform a binding act which imbues the character himself with an intrinsic power. It requires that the character has prepared himself as if preparing a magic item to use Craft Magic Item.

Details about the use of this feat are discussed below.

Encounter Challenge Rating

To create a magical item or imbue oneself with a special ability, the character needs an encounter with a CR at least equal to the character's total character level. Thus a binding act to create a magic item always requires at least a CR6 encounter; a binding act to imbue oneself with a supernatural ability always requires at least a CR 10 encounter. More details about the nature of the encounter may be found below.

Preparation in Depth

Most of the following is meant to apply to both magical item creation, and the use of Imbue Supernatural Ability to give oneself an intrinsic ability.

In order to create a magic item, the character must prepare the item in advance. The first, required, step is that the character must spend a certain amount of money on materials, ceremonies and craftsmanship making the item. The amounts to spend are given below, broken down by category. There is a minimum cost, and an additional amount which may be spent to get a bonus to the final roll. See table below. On the left is the character's total character level. On the right are the amounts to spend to get a bonus to the binding roll. No amount of additional money will grant a preparation bonus greater than +5, regardless of level.

This cost in GP represents time and effort spent making the item as appropriate as possible a vessel for magical energy. For weapons and armor, it usually represents crafting a masterwork blade or suit of plate mail, out of rare and arcane materials.

When the character is attempting a binding act which will grant an intrinsic ability, this represents time and money spent preparing oneself for the binding. It may literally involve personal adornments (artificial teeth to get a magical bite attack, tattoos to bind spell-like abilities, and so on) or it may represent the time spent physically preparing oneself, visiting remote masters for guidance, and so on.

Total CL [*] +0 +1 +2 +3 +4 +5
6 1000 1900 3000 4400 6200 7500
7 1250 2350 3750 5550 7850 10850
8 1500 2900 4700 7000 10000 14000
9 1750 3550 5850 8850 12850 17350
10 2000 4300 7300 11300 15800 21800
11 2500 5500 9500 14000 21000 30000
12 3000 7000 10500 18500 27500 37500
13 3500 8000 15000 24000 34000 48000
14 4000 11000 20000 30000 44000 61000
15 5000 14000 24000 38000 55000 76000
16 6000 16000 30000 47000 58000 83000
17 8000 22000 39000 50000 75000 105000
18 10000 27000 36000 63000 93000 128000
19 12000 33000 58000 88000 123000 163000
20 15000 40000 60000 105000 145000 190000
[*]Note that the actual bonus may not be the same as what the character expected when doing the preparation. For example, if a level 6 character spends 7500gp on preparation, then gains 2 levels before attempting the binding act, the bonus is only +3 in accordance with the table for a level 8 character, not +5 (as it would have been at level 6).

The second, optional step gives the character the ability to prepare the item for a particular purpose. This gives a separate bonus on the final roll, but only if the encounter is thematically related to the purpose for which the character prepared (see guidelines below for binding act themes).

Preparing an item for a particular purpose grants you a +1 bonus to the binding roll, if the encounter is themed similarly to the purpose. For example, if you prepared an item by adding a rare metallic poison to its construction to get magical poison damage added to the attack, you will only receive the bonus if you fight something poisonous. If you end up binding the weapon with a non-poison-related theme, you do not receive the +1 binding roll bonus.

Binding Acts in Depth

A binding act occurs when a player announces her intent to create a magic item, and the character has already prepared an item in advance and has it on her person. Only one binding act may be attempted at a time.

Upon announcing that she is going to perform a binding act:

  1. She asks to create an item with a particular theme. For example, "I want to add additional critical hit damage to my longsword", or "I want to turn this wand into a wand of lightning bolt."

  2. The GM announces a trial that must be met. The trial will be in some way related to the power requested by the player. For example, must successfully score a critical hit during the next encounter, or the character must kill one creature in the encounter with a lightning bolt. The difficulty of the challenge may also depend on how difficult the encounter is.

    Challenges usually involve only a single encounter, but not necessarily. For example, to create a sword vs. orckind, the GM may create a challenge that involves slaying 50 orcs. However, if a binding act requires more than one encounter, the character must not rest between encounters. Stopping to do anything else during a binding act is an automatic failure.

    Challenges should involve the direct action of the player, but if the challenge is to defeat an enemy, with your party, the character performing the challenge only needs to be involved.

    The encounter and challenge need not be combat-related.

  3. The encounter or encounters run as usual. The GM determines whether the challenge has been met.

  4. If the challenge is met, the binding act is complete and a magic item is created (pending the binding roll, see below). If the challenge is not met, the item is always either destroyed or cursed. Binding acts to imbue with a supernatural ability which fail result in the character being cursed; see [1].


Encounters, and magic items, have particular themes. They may have many, in fact. For example, a fight with a huge earth elemental is earth themed. It may also be brawn-themed. Depending on the actions of the characters, other themes may come into play; for example, if the party kills it primarily with fire-based attacks, the encounter may be fire-themed. The actual themes are at the GM's discretion.

The challenge should be related to the theme of the encounter, and the encounter theme should be related to the theme of the power. Non-combat encounter themes will tend to create items that are not destructive in nature. Conversely, it is usually not possible to create a non-combat item in a combat encounter.

The equipment being created is also themed. The player decides what kind of item they are attempting to create, and is free to interpret the theme of the encounter as they do so. For example, in an encounter with a greater basilisk, they may decide to create a helm of stoneskin. They do not have to, though. If the item requested is not obviously tied to the encounter's theme, it is up to the GM to come up with a challenge that suits it.


  • with your party, defeat the gorgon
  • in the next battle, fight the kraken, and land a hit on it that does at least 25 damage
  • kill at least 20 orcs without rest
  • succesfully negotiate a treaty with the warlord
  • assist your party through the swinging blades trap without anyone getting injured


One final way the character can enhance the item or ability is by requesting that the GM attach a drawback to it. This is some flaw, penalty, or restriction on the item which makes it either somewhat dangerous or somewhat harder to use.

If the player elects to give the item a drawback, the character will receive up to +4 on the binding roll, depending on how severe the drawback is.

For the GM, when selecting a drawback, consider that drawbacks should be fun to roleplay, but must represent a genuine challenge to the player using the item. The drawback should be suited to the theme of the item. For example, a ring of diplomacy with a drawback might, on a roll of 1 in 1d20, cause the user to speak in the wrong language when the item is being used.

Also consider that drawbacks should not render the item so dangerous or hard to use that it is effectively useless.

Binding Roll in Depth

Once the challenge is completed, the final step of binding a magic item is the binding roll. Determine bonuses to the roll according to the following chart:

Bonus to Binding Roll Reason
Up to +5 Additional money spent in preparation
+1 Prepared for a purpose and appropriately-themed encounter
+2 Item has a moderate drawback
+4 Item has a severe drawback
Up to +2 Theme of the encounter matches theme of the item extremely well (GM's discretion)
+1 Item is already magical, and power being added aligns with theme
-5 Item is already magical, and power being added is not thematically aligned

Then roll 1d20 on the following chart. Down the left column is CR of the encounter which occurred during the binding act (GM's discretion, if the binding act actually involved several encounters in series). For example, if the party fought a huge earth elemental, that creature is CR7, so find the CR 7 row and read across.

CR 1 or less [†] 2-17 18-19 20-21 22-23 24-25 26-27 28-29 30+
6 Item destroyed 6000 7800 10000 12800 16400 21000 27000 35000
7 Item destroyed 7800 10000 12800 16400 21000 27000 35000 44000
8 Item destroyed 10000 12800 16400 21000 27000 35000 44000 58000
9 Item destroyed 12800 16400 21000 27000 35000 44000 58000 76000
10 Item cursed [1] 16400 21000 27000 35000 44000 58000 76000 96000
11 Item cursed [1] 21000 27000 35000 44000 58000 76000 96000 124000
12 Item cursed [1] 27000 35000 44000 58000 76000 96000 124000 158000
13 Item cursed [1] 35000 44000 58000 76000 96000 124000 158000 200000
14 Item cursed [1] 44000 58000 76000 96000 124000 158000 200000 250000
15 Item cursed [1] 58000 76000 96000 124000 158000 200000 250000 300000
16 Item cursed [1] 76000 96000 124000 158000 200000 250000 300000 350000
17 Item cursed [1] 96000 124000 158000 200000 250000 300000 350000 400000
18 Item cursed [1] 124000 158000 200000 250000 300000 350000 400000 450000
19 Item cursed [1] 158000 200000 250000 300000 350000 400000 450000 500000
20 Item cursed [1] 200000 250000 300000 350000 400000 450000 500000 550000
[†]On a roll of natural 1, the binding is always a failure, regardless of modifiers. Nothing special happens on a natural 20.
[1](1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12)

Nature of the cursed item is at the GM's discretion. When an item which already had abilities is cursed, there may be additional consequences.

When the character is using Imbue Supernatural Ability, the curse is on the character herself, and is permanent. It can only be removed by a limited wish, wish, or miracle.

Now the GM and the player should decide on what the actual powers the item will have, or on the nature of the intrinsic ability. Use, as a guideline, the market prices for magic items given in the magic item tables you are using for your campaign.

If the character succeeds in their binding roll but the value of the ability or item they desire is more than the value they rolled, the GM should substitute a similar but less-powerful ability or item near the value rolled.

Spell-Like Abilities

When determining the market price of a supernatural spell-like ability, use the following formula (similar to the market price for wands):

level of the spell x uses per day x total CL x 750gp

So, to get an innate fireball ability that can be used once per day, the market price of an equivalent magic item for a level 10 character would be 3 x 1 x 10 x 750 = 22500gp.

The caster level for innate spell-like ability is equal to one-half the character's CL, or the lowest level caster necessary to cast the spell, whichever is greater. For the fireball example above, the caster level for the ability will be 5 since that is the lowest level of any class that can cast fireball.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

House rules: alignment change

Alignments should not be chosen lightly; they determine the effects of lots of game mechanics while simultaneously dictating a certain style of play.  Character is everything in role-playing, and sticking to your character makes the game more fun, so to the extent that alignment determines character, it should be stable.

Still, sometimes people decide that they want to play a differently aligned character (or that they have been, all along).  They should be able to do so, but not lightly.  There are two ways to change alignment in the world of the Nest of Candles: By Quest, or By Ability Drain.

By Quest

Changing your alignment By Quest means you arrange with the GM in advance for a solo adventure, the primary outcome of which will be to change your alignment.  If you change your alignment By Quest, the GM will design a quest which has trivial or no benefits whatsoever, other than the alignment change.  It should fall in line with the existing story and make sense in the context of both the character you have been playing and the one you want to change.

By Ability Drain

A character can change alignment at any time by agreeing to an alignment drain.  The penalty is: -2 wisdom, and -2 to ability score of the player's choice, per notch on each axis.  For example, Ferdinand the level 7 Berserker wishes to change from Chaotic Good to Chaotic Evil.  This involves no change in the Ethics axis (Chaotic->Chaotic) but two notches shifted on the Morals axis (Good->Neutral->Evil).  Ferdinand chooses to penalize Charisma, and therefore takes a -4 wisdom penalty and -4 charisma penalty.

The ability drain may not be restored by any spell; it goes away on its own the next time the character gains a level, and prior to applying any other level increase benefits.  At level 8, Ferdinand gains back his charisma and wisdom, and then gains his permanent ability score increase, as usual.

It should be noted that the guaranteed wisdom drain means that clerics will be penalized more heavily for alignment changes than other classes.  This is intentional, as clerics' dieties do not take lightly to alignment changes.  In most  cases a cleric will not need to choose a new diety (as gods of Gabbent are not explicitly aligned), but may choose to do so at the same time as they make the alignment change.

In addition the ability drain, any other penalties related to class or race or special circumstances (such as a paladin losing all class abilities) that accrue due to the alignment change still apply.  Any penalties that accrue due to changing a worshipped diety also apply.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Selt Lat

The characters reach the underground town of Selt Lat.  Here's a synopsis of some things that happened:

  • The characters first enter the impoverished shantytown where the bugbears live, but find nothing of interest there.

  • They next visit the orcs. A large group of box zombies passes by them, and the rest of the inhabitants give it a wide berth. The zombies pay no attention to the party.

  • There they also meet a female orc apothecarist (who helps them identify potions), and a grotesquely rotund orc weapon dealer.

  • The orc apothecarist tells them of Mohjgan, a beneficent individual who wishes to lift the orcs up above all other races by destroying them.

  • They purchase a non-magical shield and a ton of arrows from the weapon dealer, who also shows them a few magical items he has for sale, including a very valuable shapeshifter's sorrow (longsword). Tiffy vows to steal it.

  • They pass through a checkpoint separating the largest orc area from the largest lizard area. Orcs guard it on the west side, lizard men on the east. One of the lizard guards reaches out to stop the party and question them, but another lizard man stops him and lets them go by.

  • The visit the jeweler's in lizard territory and sell gems.

  • They visit the tavern in lizard territory. There they encounter a gargoyle named Cul-de-Gil and his two gargoyle friends. Cul-de-Gil asks the party to destroy some boats, in exchange for a large ruby he owns. He will not say why he wants the boats destroyed, or why he won't do it himself. He does show the party where they can be found. The party hears an accompanying rumor that the boats were left there by a Valkyrie, who failed to bring a number of viking ships to Valhalla.

  • In the tavern they also hear these rumors:

    • Mohjgan is conducting a violent campaign against the "scum" races to elevate lizard mankind above all other races;
    • Don't eat the fish from the fishmonger;
    • A vampire, in the form of a flock of birds, was seen flying through Selt Lat recently, but nobody can agree on which way he went;
    • The bugbear chieftain was murdered by a medusa named Carcatta.
  • On the subject of Carcatta, Dev recalls that she assisted the party when they were fighting the grimlocks; she was their shaman, until she determined that the party could help her, at which point she briefly fought with them against the grimlocks.

  • The party stays the night in a lizard inn. When they wake up, Meraud is hysterical; it seems that Jago has disappeared in the night, and she claims that it is "impossible" that he left on his own.

    • She explains that vampires exist because of their "contract", which somehow makes them possessed by a single mortal master. They must obey the master.
    • Jago had his contract transferred to Meraud long ago.
    • Since Jago was ordered not to leave her side he could not have left on his own, and he must have been physically stolen.
  • The party decides to go find Carcatta in bugbear-town. There they meet Carcatta, who has once again set herself up as the shaman of a tribe. The bugbear chieftain is still around and alive, although they do not meet him.

    • Carcatta asks the party to go find her sisters and shows them where her sisters can be found.
    • She asks them to bring her sisters back; she promises that if they bring a message to her sisters, she will use her network of contacts in Selt Lat to find Jago.
    • Everyone in the party (except Ellira) allows Carcatta to inject them (by snake) with a special poison. She says it will have no ill effects, but will allow her sisters to smell them and identify them as her friends.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Side Quest #2: Maurice vs. the Vampire

An episode from Maurice's past.

Maurice Fitzcecil is travelling west out of Catam, away from unspecified troubles he has had in the empire, away from Catamrab, the capital city.  He is down on his luck and almost out of cash, but he moves on, hoping for a better payoff in a future adventure.

He stops in a small town named Dagger Rock in western Catam, where he eats a meal with a strange, lonely merchant who drinks too much and talks too loudly.  The merchant, himself feeling the sting of recent poverty, tells a rum-doused tale about a treasure hidden in the nearby graveyard.  An ancient exporter, powerful and wealthy when alive, is buried there, he says, entombed with his favorite weapon.  That weapon is a sword forged of Abyssal ice, and he says it will still be there and its powerful magic still active.  He wants to steal that sword, and any other treasures they may find, and sell it all for enough money to put him back on his feet financially and re-establish his trade caravan.  Maurice agrees to go help him.

In the deep night they stumble drunkenly through the outskirts of town and arrive at the crypt.  There, Veikko (the merchant) tries the door to the crypt and finds a way in - the door is inexplicably unlocked, and the merchant stumbles in first.  They set about searching the crypts, looking for an ancient merchant's sepulcher.  Maurice finds one that indeed might fit the bill, but when he goes to bring Veikko to see, he hears the merchant fighting with someone else, and they are talking to each other as if they knew each other already!  Maurice senses trouble and decides to flee, but something flies out after him in the night, catches him, and orders him to walk straight back to the crypt.  Maurice is helpless to resist.

When they get there, Veikko and Riikka, the vampire, tussle with each other as Riikka reveals his true purpose: to kill Veikko and avenge a bad debt on behalf of an employer in Catamrab.  Maurice manages to shake his domination, and when Riikka kills the hapless merchant, Maurice finds the sword he came to find in the first place; but it turns out to have been Riikka's sword all along.  He brandishes it, and Riikka explains his true purpose and the reason Maurice is there in the first place.  The vampire was magically ordered to have a witness present when he murdered Veikko, and he tricked Veikko into bringing along his own witness.  Part of the ruse was to have been the hidden sword (to match the story Veikko would tell), but Riikka in a lapse of judgement forgets to reclaim the sword.  Now that Maurice has it, the balance of power has shifted.

Threatened with the sword, Riikka explains that he cannot kill Maurice anyway; he must bring him back to Catamrab alive to be his witness, or the magical geas will destroy him.  Maurice agrees to do so in exchange for the sword, and its lore.  They set off together the next day.

After a hard ride back toward Catamrab, Maurice insists on a rest, and Riikka agrees to stand guard at night.  But a short time later, Maurice is woken up by a dire wolverine sniffing at his backpack.  Soon he finds himself attacked in the middle of the night by two of the insane beasts, driven there by Riikka.  On the point of death, he hears Riikka explain: "I control them.  Give up the sword and I won't allow them to knock you unconscious."  Maurice agrees to toss the sword back to the vampire, but in the meantime he has wounded both animals with the evil, greedy blade.

This turns out to save his life.  The wolverines, confused by the power of the blade, no longer obey the vampire; in fact, they turn on him and attack!  Maurice manages to pick the sword back up, and he and Riikka take turns for a while fighting the animals off as they seem to have no idea whom they wish to kill.  Riikka manages to ignore most of the injuries, his vampiric powers keeping him safe, but he is unable to gain a clear advantage.  Maurice attempts to turn the vampire, but this action has no effect.  The vampire in turn attempts to dominate Maurice, but cannot command him to do anything before the wolverines tear him down again, and Maurice protects himself from the domination with a protection from evil spell.

Maurice finally manages to break the standoff by attacking the vampire directly with the blade.  This destroys the Abyssal weapon and its black shards melt into the ground as the vampire, his magic broken somehow by the evil weapon, collases and expires.  The last remaining wolverine is finally driven off by Maurice.

The cleric is victorious over the vampire, and travels off into the sunset, with but one token of the events: a black shard of ice, still permanently frozen, left over from the Abyssal weapon.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Road to Selt Lat

The party begins to explore an extensive and intricate cave system underneath Grimcatch, looking for a way down to Dol Gemen Lom.

They find the place mostly barren and deserted.  They track bare footprints through the dust for a while that seem to go nowhere, and in the empty echoing halls find the skulls of grimlocks, spiked to the walls with sharp iron stakes, and another skeleton spiked to the ground (and a potion and a gem nearby).  There are wide, maddeningly deep chasms crossed by rope bridges (which are at least in good repair), and a lot of twists and turns and dead ends in the rock.

They come upon a place where a tribe of primitive humanoids has made a home, but find that it is quite recently scoured by fire, and all the humanoids are dead, their paleolithic artifacts left where they lay and a pile of burned bodies off to one side of the cave.  (Mixed among those bodies, there are also the bodies of zombies, the less-recently dead.)  Near that, they find a very strange zombie with a wooden crate instead of a head.  This creature has had its arms and legs destroyed by the fire, and it strikes itself in the head repeatedly with its remaining arm stump.  Tiffy stabs it to death, and then pries the lid off the box but finds nothing but an infestation of spiders and some kind of recently-living internal organ on top of its neck.
After a bit of investigation, they discover that the box is some kind of spell container.  Written on its front, in infernal, is the word "Purge".  On the inside they find the spell summon swarm (spiders).

Deeper still into the caves, the party finds another chasm and another bridge.  This time they spot a bunch of the zombies standing near a lit torch.  They start to move toward the heroes, but Maurice cows them with a powerful rebuke, and only a few are left to attack.  Tiffy and Ellira begin to spray them with lightning, but this has an odd effect; spells seem to go off randomly every time one of the zombies loses its head.  When the party finally manages to immobilize all the zombies with webs and rebukes, one ill-timed lightning bolt splits open a crate that causes a powerful fireball, which consumes several more zombies, causing lightning bolts to fire back at the party, a magic mouth to start screaming, and other strange effects.  Ellira ends the threat of the remaining zombies by magically warping the bridge to drop them into the void, and the party continues on.

Finally, they arrive at Selt Lat.  This appears to be some kind of underground haven for monstrous humanoids.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Down and Dirty

The heroes make a decision: they are going to accompany Jago and Meraud, and try to find out whether anything bad has happened to Dol Gemen Lom.

They climb down the chain to the cage where they entered the Soft World through a lacuna.  There, Meraud drops a little bombshell: by virtue of having spent time in the green air of the Soft World, they are all infected with something called "ice ash", which has two cures: remove disease, and waiting out the infection.  (The latter option results in painful death within 6-8 hours, she duly informs everyone.)  Since they do not have enough spells to cure the ice ash for everyone at once, they decide to rest again inside the cage and fix that.

Fortunately nothing happens to them while they're in there and everyone manages to get remove disease prepped.  When they advance through the lacuna, they quickly cure themselves of the ice ash infections and shortly decide that the best way to reach Dol Gemen Lom is by going back to Jeraslan and transitting Grimcatch one more time.  On the way there they are blocked by a camp of Catamese army soldiers, but they use invisibility and bluff their way through with a story about trying to find truffles at the behest of Xabier Lubo and his fickle taste buds.

They find Grimcatch still burned, the way they left it.  Everyone ties handkerchiefs around their noses and proceeds.  A series of barely-glimpsed movements and phantom sounds dogs at them as they proceed through the tomb-like lost home of the grimlock tribe.  A mysterious voice taunts Jago at one point, laughing and saying his name, and Jago responds by unleashing a torrent of small black birds which seek out the meddler.  In response, another swarm of birds mingles with his swarms, but nobody is revealed in the area.

Finally the party finds the locked iron door that they never explored, and unlocks it.