5e, Game Mechanics, Items, Tales, World Building

Magic Item: Icelock

by Anna G.

“Look, there!” shouted the young man, voice cracking with excitement.

Professor Smithson swiveled his head to follow Henry’s pointing finger, his eyes widening in anticipation. “By the Crafter’s Hammer, you’ve found it!” The older man adjusted his spectacles and carefully picked his way across the cracked, frozen soil and into the shadow of the icy cliff-face. He squinted, his eyes adjusting to the relative dark, and picked out the delicate shape in the distance. “I say, it’s glowing! Do you see this, Henry?” he called, beckoning to the lad.

The ruddy-faced assistant tromped forward, ice crunching under his snow shoes. “I do, sir! And it’s… becoming dimmer?”

The professor rubbed his eyes then suddenly propelled himself forward in an ungainly sprint. “You’re right! The bally thing’s disappearing!” He dove towards the cliff, grasping at the faintly glowing flower, only to watch in shock as it vanished, his fingers passing ineffectively through the spot where it had glimmered moments before. Colorful, multilingual oaths floated through the frigid night air and echoed off the icy formations as the professor vented his frustration to the uncaring moon.

Thousands of miles away, in the Khuurai Desert, a boy of six shaded his eyes as he peered curiously at the side of a dune, heedless of the caravan that was steadily leaving him behind. “Jarakun, come along!” called a tall, muscular man, as he led a team of horses pulling a wagon. The child ran, his steps propelling dust into the air behind him as he sprinted the across the short distance and launched himself into his father’s waiting embrace. “What are you looking at, my boy?” laughed the man as he tousled the boy’s hair and casually placed him onto one of the horses, which whickered in protest.

“Papa, I thought I saw a beautiful flower, all the colors of the rainbow! But it disappeared before I could pick it for Mama.” replied the lad, a bit sadly.

His father glanced at him, brown eyes sparkling. “Really! It disappeared, you say? A fantastic flower indeed!” His eyes returned to the horizon, scanning through the heat haze as though seeking some distant object. “You know, I’ve heard tell of such a thing before. It is a sign that Emamu is with us on our journey.” He glanced up at his son, grinning broadly. “What an important discovery! We’ll have to be sure to tell your mother you found Emamu’s Blessing.” His son returned a gap-toothed grin just as broad as his father’s, eyes glowing with anticipation.


Icelock


Icelock

Wondrous item (uncommon)

This magical plant grows in frigid conditions. Its crystalline nature provides excellent camouflage within these icy landscapes, making it difficult to detect without a keen eye.

Despite the fact that this natural anomaly is more crystal than plant, icelock possesses a slender, graceful stalk that curves gently under the weight of the 5 delicate petals at its end. Tiny leaves protrude from the stalk itself, each one ending in a gossamer-thin strand that curls gently back upon itself. The stalk gleams a pale green in the moonlight and the crystalline structure within the flower itself catches and refracts the light, creating a milky white translucency.

Icelock doesn’t grow like a normal plant, but appears spontaneously when the appropriate conditions are met. Scholars have concluded that the following conditions are necessary for growth:

  1. A clear night with a full moon,
  2. Icy terrain, and
  3. A location shaded from direct sunlight; it is especially abundant in the divots within ice walls and ice shelves.

Icelock grows magically in the hours between midnight and sunrise, and dissolves into a glittering mist when sunlight hits it. The mist produced is extremely cold and can cause frostbite if touched. If the plant is picked before it disappears, its crystalline structure solidifies and the flower becomes stable, retaining its form permanently. A plucked icelock continuously emits a slight misty vapor and is permanently cold to the touch, like a small flower made of ice.

This rare flower is sought for many reasons, ranging from folk remedies to potent magical concoctions:

  • It can be used in the crafting of potions, especially those that produce a cold- or hardness-based effect.
  • It can be used to create a lens that reveals magical auras.
  • If crushed into powder, it can be mixed with food and medicinal pastes. Folk wisdom suggests that in this form it can cure a wide variety of ailments from baldness to lycanthropy.
  • Powdered icelock can also be incorporated into magical forgework, although few possess the mastery to accomplish such a feat.

Aurora Icelock

If icelock grows under the light of an aurora, it is considered especially fortuitous and there is a chance that a variant specimen will grow. The crystalline petals shine with an iridescence that mimics the deep blues, greens, and purples of the aurora. The magical effects of this variant are ten times greater than those of a normal icelock. Some additional magical properties have been noted as well:

  • Rather than disappearing normally, sometimes this plant will shimmer for a moment, growing dim and transparent, before vanishing completely. Arcane botanists still debate the nature and mechanism of this disappearance. One compelling treatise holds that the plant physically travels, and includes numerous reports from around the world of a mysterious, colorful flower glowing briefly before shimmering into mist.
  • Aurora icelock powder, if treated and mixed with a proper base, can be used to create a dye that shimmers with a beautiful iridescent sheen. Products fashioned with this dye are prized for their beauty, and it has been said that even kings pride themselves to own such a rare treasure.
  • Stories tell of a legendary sword with the power to transcend planes, forged by the gods themselves and infused with aurora icelock.

For more info on the legendary weapon mentioned above, check out our newest release: Unique Weapons, part I!


 

Featured image by Noel Bauza from Pixabay

5e, Musings, Pathfinder

Making Your Boss Fights Epic

by Jonathan D.

Dragons look just about as terrifyingly badass as they actually are. By which I mean that if my level 3 warlock encountered one while trekking through the wild rainforest, he would probably try to use it as a mount. That’s one way to honor your bargain with Cthulhu prematurely! Well, I’m pretty abnormal, and poor Kilax the warlock (name and class changed to protect anonymity) has the scars to prove it. Any sensible person confronted with a dragon would run. That’s one of the great things in fantasy stories – the scariest foes look as dangerous as they are.

That’s not the case in real life, of course, where thieves and ne’er-do-wells can lurk undetected for years and a lethal case of heart disease might hide beneath the surface until it’s too late. A sharp knife or massive claymore may look flashier than a gun, but you’re more likely to survive an encounter with the knife. Deadlier still is the Ebola virus, which enters the body with almost no fanfare, but has a fatality rate substantially higher than either the gun or the knife.

In stories, however, we like characters that wear their power on their sleeves – and for good reason. Ninja cosplayers look incredibly badass, but their intimidating presence is dramatically reduced by the knowledge that they can’t actually bury a shuriken in your face at three hundred yards. On the other hand, a fuzzy bunny rabbit will never appear threatening even if it can shoot deadly laser beams out of its eyes or rip a knight to shreds in three seconds. Some people might even find it comical. This is why, from anime to fantasy to science fiction, the rule mostly stands: make your powerful things look powerful. The spiky-haired gentleman with the eyepatch and the sword three time as tall as he is, the giant flaming demon monster the planet-sized super-spaceship – these are generally things whose coffee you do not want to be caught urinating in. These things are all the more badass because not only do they appear badass, but you know that they could immediately vaporize you in the aforementioned scenario.

This puts you the DM in a difficult position, because you want your boss to feel epic and dangerous, but your players are only level three (or six, or ten, or whatever). The point is, you want your boss to seem incredibly powerful and awesome so that your players come away from the encounter feeling epic, but you also want them to defeat the boss without losing too many limbs. Fortunately, I’m here to offer some good solutions to this conundrum!

The most important thing to remember is that in D&D, unlike in most fantasy novels, there is often little correlation between power level and the appearance of badassery. Summoning meteors from the sky may seem awesome, but it’s probably not as good as a spell that confuses all of your opponents. And then there are the villains. Dragons do look just as strong as they are, but this doesn’t hold true for every monster. An ugly little gnome with a stick might be the most powerful being in existence. This is intentional. You want the difficulty level in your adventure to remain fairly constant, whether at a climactic boss fight or in the cave outside. By breaking the rules, D&D lets you throw appropriately difficult trash mobs at your level fifteen and level three players alike, while saving impressive and awesome boss monsters for pivotal storyline moments.

And while the weaker spells and abilities in D&D may seem pointless to the munchkins among us, they, too, can help you with balancing. Is the team’s cleric bleeding to death under the wrathful laser-vision of a rabbit whose morning coffee got ruined? Try having your bestial bunny use one of his flashier, but less powerful attacks. On the other hand, have the players brought the full brunt of their force to bear against the furry fiend faster than you imagined they would? Let the rabbit use its strobe-o-vision to hypnotize their entire party while he feasts on the fighter’s feet. As a side benefit, giving your casters a wide variety of spells and abilities can spice up a combat and keep the players guessing.

From my time as a DM, I’ve come up with a few other tips for keeping your boss monster awesome but beatable. First off, area-of-effect damage spells are your friend. Particularly at higher levels, these satisfying sorceries drop epicness on the party like napalm. Sometimes AS napalm. Who doesn’t want to rain burning hellfire on those goody-two-shoes players? And such spells often have truly impressive damage numbers attached to them, which are sure to overawe your hapless heroes. These spells seem more effective than they are, because they divide the damage equally among all of the players, and damage doesn’t really do anything unless it actually kills one of them. An excellent bonus for these spells is that they let the wizards and other squishies on the back line feel like they’re in danger too, as the hp of the whole party falls dangerously low.

By the same token, if you’re worried about a boss being too strong for your players, avoid group crowd control spells and instant death attacks. These spells frequently eliminate or incapacitate one or more of the players, reducing their damage output and team synergy significantly. This is generally more potent than area of effect damage, but it doesn’t leave an epic impression behind. If the fight is progressing too much in the players’ favor, or if one player in particular is hogging all of the glory, consider deploying a tactical crowd control strike to fix the problem.

For my second tip, why not use some interesting mechanic to lengthen the battle?  Often when you grab a published stat block for a pivotal boss encounter, the heroes finish the battle before the Big Bad has a chance to use its most awe-inspiring abilities.  This is especially true of caster bosses.  The most conventional strategies for drawing out pivotal encounters rely on reinforcements and magical protections. Take, for example, a hypothetical encounter with the Chief Diabolical Archmagus of Pointy Hats. If your nefarious gnomish wizard were beset by the group’s three barbarians, he would die quickly on his own; however, if the bruisers are busy battling the wizard’s giant mole companions, then he is free to lob generically earth-related magics at the players the entire time. Huzzah!  Alternatively, you can let the gnome magically solidify his skin into solid rock, granting him the effects of stoneskin. This achieves a similar effect but can get frustrating for players who may feel their attacks are mostly ineffective. Or, I guess you can just make your gnome really buff and double his HP or something. The best method, as usual in D&D, is to be creative. Perhaps your gnome wizard can transfer his consciousness into his mole friends, continuing to cast his infernal incantations at your players until they slay every last mole. Or perhaps your diminutive villain has trapped the souls of unfortunate villagers within the crystals in his lair, and when his HP starts to run low, he consumes one of the souls to heal himself. Creative use of wibbly-wobbly magicky stuff can help extend a battle and stretch its proportions to the truly epic levels that Glitterbob the gnome wizard truly deserves.

My third and final suggestion to increase the epicness of a grand showdown is foreshadowing. Have you ever wondered why most novels start off a bit slowly, introducing their characters, describing potted plants, and developing immersion? It’s because the more time you take to establish the foundations of your story, world, and villains, the more impact the exciting parts at the end of your story will carry.

In the early levels while your players are fighting goblins, try spreading hushed whispers in the tavern about some particularly threatening cadre of nasty monster chieftains. Let the players know about the pyromaniac cyborg troll, and the legendary giant whose hammer is rumored to turn those it strikes into stone. This will build their excitement, and when they finally do meet Pyrsibog and Grindlehammer, the fight will be all the more exciting because they know they’re fighting bigshots. Additionally, Grindlehammer’s ability to turn her foes into stone won’t be nearly so threatening, because the players will have the chance to prepare counter measures, such as the stone to flesh spell. And they might bring a bucket of water for Pyrsibog, too.

Or, taking an example from my experience, suppose your boss is a powerful mage who enjoys transforming her enemies into penguins (who doesn’t)? The party’s cleric has one save from the polymorph spell, and then suddenly the newly rotund healer is waddling ineffectively around the battlefield. As you can likely tell, this is a fun spell for roleplay reasons, but it’s also one of those spells I previously advised you against using on your players. It doesn’t feel good for a player to spend the majority of the climactic boss battle searching for fish. Besides, the presence of such a high-quality instant death ability could cripple the party. In our case, the DM mitigated the strength of the spell by warning us of some of the boss’s more powerful abilities through dreams and advice earlier in the campaign. This served to hype up the battle for maximum effect, but also allowed us to prepare ourselves by acquiring magical items that protect against hostile polymorph effects. Each of us had at least one such item, and several of them activated during the battle. I quite enjoyed the fight, which became my favorite encounter in the campaign.

So, if you want to kick up the awesomeness level of your climactic boss fights without overwhelming your players, try using some of these tips next time. Your players will have fun with it, you’ll be happy because they’re happy, and when they’re happy, sometimes one of them actually brings the food. Most importantly, Sparkles the cyborg laser rabbit will thank you. But hopefully he won’t bring the food, because his taste in food is terrible. He’s British.


Image by momo_sc from Pixabay

5e, Game Mechanics, Items

Magic Item: Bracers of Terrible Vengeance

by Michael J.

What’s this?  A new magic item approaches!  Take a look, try it out this week, and let us know what you think!


Bracers of Terrible Vengeance

Wondrous Item, uncommon (requires attunement)

If you receive a critical hit from an attack while wearing these bracers, the bracers activate, forming glowing runes that spell the name of the creature that attacked you. The next time you make an attack roll against that creature, your attack is an automatic critical hit, and the bracers become dormant again. These bracers can activate only once per short rest.


Have you ever felt like the dice are out to get you? Like every single goblin you encounter has ungodly luck? And then, when you try to kill the bastard, the best you can roll is a 3? Well then, these bracers are for you. Wade into combat knowing for certain that if a lizardman slices your head off, you’ll turn around and do the same to him (right after the cleric heals you). As an added bonus, if you find yourself at a party and can’t remember the name of the cute girl in the corner, just convince her to punch you really hard, and the bracer will be your cheat sheet. Plus its so stylish! Be sure to order yours today at The Yellow Scroll. Act now and we’ll throw in a free scroll of true strike!

5e, Game Mechanics, Spells, Tales

Spell: Misalign

by Anna G and Timothy G

Today, we’re pleased to present a new 2nd-level spell for bard and warlock.  Check it out!


Misalign

2nd-level enchantment
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V, S
Duration: 1 hour

Choose an alignment axis (law/chaos or good/evil) and a direction (law, chaos, good, or evil). A sentient creature you can see must succeed at a Wisdom saving throw or its alignment shifts one step in the chosen direction along that alignment axis. As long as the spell is active, that creature acts according to its new alignment. When the spell ends, it reverts to its original alignment and realizes it has been enchanted.

At Higher Levels: You can target one additional creature for each slot level above 1st. They must be within 30 feet of each other when you target them.


Editor’s note: the opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the chaotic neutral tiefling bard 3/rogue 2 who wrote them, and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of Pandamancer Games.

It happens to everyone eventually: You come up with the perfect plan, the peak of ingenuity, the quintessential solution to your problem, and present it to your comrades. All of them ooh and ah at your great cleverness, your brilliance, your ability to carve a path through difficult terrain as it were…or at least, all of them except (*sigh*) Randolph. The goody-two shoes just won’t let go of his blind infatuation with rules-following. If he did, he’d see that this is the best solution! He always ruins your plans, with his law-abiding, holier-than-thou affect. Why can’t he just see it your way? If he could just swing a little bit more…chaotic, or even neutral, why…you could see a lot more of your ideas come to fruition.

Well good news, intrepid adventurer! This newly-discovered spell will ensure that all of your friends will be able to see things your way, whenever you want! No more dilly-dallying or debating over moral high ground and ethics, no sir! With just a little bit of prompting (and a failed wisdom save) your comrade will understand why your way is better! But don’t worry, the effects just last long enough for you to set your plans in motion – they’ll be back to their old fuddy-duddy self in just an hour, guaranteed!*

*see a cleric if you experience an alignment change that lasts more than 4 hours.

This spell is useful for any alignment, anytime! Need to convince the rogue not to break into the noble’s house during your investigation? Misalign will help her see the light! Does the mercenary have a good idea but the paladin just won’t listen? A quick misalign from the bard can help your party set the plan in motion! Need to convince the guard that pickpocketing isn’t that big a deal? Misalign has your back!

If you think about it, misalign is really just an advanced form of debate. What better way to convince a friend of your viewpoint than to align their expectations with yours? It’s no different than laying out the pros and cons of a case, but with fewer preconceived notions and moral baggage! All the benefits of a high-brow debate with none of the time constraints – a win-win! You’ll be able to connect with people from all walks of life, from demon lords to paladins, and show them why you’re right and they’re wrong. A true innovation! Every caster should have this brilliant spell on the tip of their tongue. Learn it today!


“I’m here for the money, it’s me job,” rumbled the half-orc, half-sympathetically. Estella glanced behind her at the cowering youth, then tried reasoning with the tough again.

“I understand it’s your job, but it’s not fair that you’re coming after a…a kid!” she sputtered, indignantly. “He’s not the one who borrowed the money, couldn’t you just leave him alone?” She steadied herself, meeting the unwavering gaze of the brute.

Org’rathnor snorted derisively. “Don’t matter he didn’t borrow it, his pa’s debt is his debt now. We’ve been very patient, but if boss doesn’t get his money soon he’s gonna get angry.” His eyes flashed dangerously at the word as he loomed closer, towering over the elven bard. “Now are you gonna give me what’s owed, or do I need to take it by force?”

Estella dropped her gaze to hide her whispered incantation as she flicked her hand in an almost derisive manner. The collector seemed to sway slightly for a split second, before regaining his composure and glaring at her. The bard steeled herself, hoping the gambit was successful, and threw her gauntlet.

“You seem a reasonable man,” she lied. “What’s the difference of an hour in getting your money? Jake doesn’t have it now, but we can collect enough for a payment if you give us just a bit more time. So what if it will be after sunset? Your boss needn’t know you gave us an extension…” She paused, gauging his reaction.

For the first time, uncertainty flickered across Org’rathnor’s face. “…Just one hour, and you’ll have a payment?” He mused, considering, then locked eyes with the bard once again. “…This once, I will allow it. You will meet me back here, with the 200 gold. If I have to hunt you down…” He seemed to fill the entire room with his intimidating physique. “You will not enjoy what happens next.” He loomed a moment more, glaring at the trembling lad, then strode heavily out of the room. “Your hour has started. You’d best get moving!” he called over his shoulder, then laughed dryly.

Estella waited a few moments, then checked the area outside of the warehouse. It seemed the collector had truly gone. Jake followed her, still wide-eyed with fright. “Where are we going to get all that money?” he asked tremulously.

The elf glanced at him and chuckled. “What money? We’re leaving. Get your things! We’ve got a 45-minute start before they realize anything’s wrong.”


Top image by Chetan Dhongade from Pixabay

5e, Game Mechanics, Items, Tales, World Building

A Matter of Masks

by Jonathan D.

The following is a short story from our upcoming campaign setting, featuring the city of Cantovar. At the end of this post, you’ll also find a fancy new magical item featured in the story. The final published setting will include the adventures of Copper Vrie and several others, along with some of the items, locations, and NPCs featured in them.  Please enjoy!


Copper Vrie skidded across the rooftop, sparks flying from her shoe studs as she drove them deeper into the soft wood of the beam. Sharp furrows stretched in two parallel lines from her boots to the soot-black chimney on the far side of the building. Displaced rain slats clattered down the sides of the roof, gleaming red in the noonday sun as they tumbled through the air and shattered unceremoniously on the distant ground below. She brushed her windswept golden bangs out of her face and glanced over her shoulder at the rocky escarpment behind her. The unsettling robed figures remained yet at the edge of the cliff, staring calmly from empty eye sockets, expressions of consternation or anger hidden behind those dark, impassive masks. Her heart skipped a beat and she shivered involuntary. Seas, but her nerves would be shot after this. The Nameless One only knew why anyone paid to see the shows put on by those creatures. Gistik was right. The old bastard was always right, of course, but this time he was more right than usual. Copper wouldn’t dare to steal from those creeps again.

But the reward, she reminded herself. She would be eating well for a month off of this job. No zwill and porridge for Copper Vrie for a few moons. Mead and seafood, and maybe even a trip or two to the Bohemian. That would be nice, if imprudent. She would have to leave most of the cash with Kartouk, of course. As much as she loved showing off, well, the quickest way to lose a fortune was to let your friends know about it. She used the term ‘friend’ loosely, as of course you had to in her profession. Shouts from the streets below snapped her from the daydream. Now was not the time to count her fortune. Now was time for the fun part. And it would be fun. She was determined to enjoy at least part of this day.

Copper sucked in several deep gulps of the chilly morning air that whipped about her, counting beats in her mind as she regulated her breathing. She tasted the salt spray on the breeze and relished the moment, letting her eyes wander over the red brick and rich brown of rooftops, gangplanks, and barges of Cantovar city, then onward to the sparkling green and foamy white of the distant waves in the harbor. She could probably afford to wait a few more minutes to enjoy herself and catch her breath. She would need to be at her best for what came next. Suddenly, the yelling resumed, louder and coming closer. Someone had caught sight of her perched atop the building. She would have liked to stay here longer, but such was the lot of a thief.

Copper Vrie dashed gracefully over the remaining expanse of rooftop, gathering momentum and throwing herself across the fifteen-foot gap between adjacent roofs. Cool wind lashed her face, straining ineffectively against her lithe body. For an instant, she felt her stomach lift inside her as that wonderfully familiar vertigo mixed with a burst of adrenaline and surged through her. Then, she hit hard on the wood of the roof, her feet skidding as the spurs sliced through the wood, the resistance gradually eroding her speed. She lifted her weight off the spurs and transitioned back into a run.

Leaping from rooftop to rooftop, she let instinct guide her as she chose a path across the upscale merchant dwellings bordering  the tower district. The wooden homes and shops would give way to barges farther out into the harbor, and in this part of town they took good care of their roofs. It was always embarrassing and painful when a roof caved in beneath the force of her jump. She proceeded across the city’s pinnacle, faster by far than any of the circuitous routes below, which wound among the buildings along bridges and alleyways. And then, after all too short a journey, she chose a convenient set of drainage channels to scramble back down to street level. She stood with her back against the building she had clambered down and her front facing a large industrial barge. She glanced down the alley, but saw no one in either direction. This was definitely the right place. Copper knelt at the edge of the wooden quay, and she pumped her fist triumphantly as she found the tiny yet distinctive markings she had etched into the pier. It was always the worst when she misplaced her cache, but she had to hide the indicators well, or else someone else might find it. She quickly followed the marks to a thin, almost invisible wire, and gave it a firm tug. A small black container jolted to the surface, dangling at the end of the line.

She lifted the container from the water and depressed a small button on the front. The cover popped open, and as quickly as possible, she withdrew a small bag of fabric – her ordinary street clothes. She removed her wig and wiped her makeup onto a small cloth before stowing them within the bag and pulling her street clothes over her thief’s outfit. While she skimmed the sky, she was the Kestrel, one of the best thieves in the city of Cantovar. Down here, without her disguise, she resumed her life as Copper Vrie, inconsequential scion to a destitute minor noble family.

She smiled. Being inconsequential was almost as good as being invisible. She strode down an alleyway, climbed some painfully steep and narrow wooden stairs, crossed a water-damaged, partially rotted bridge, and emerged onto a bustling thoroughfare, moving with a confidence born of years spent winding through the labyrinthine byways of the city. Her escape had taken longer than expected, and she had little time to waste. Still, she thought, as a warm yeasty aroma tickled her senses, she did have at least a little time. A few minutes and two of Pella’s signature sweet buns later, Copper emerged from the shop with a skip in her step and a grin on her face.

The cloaked man was already waiting when she arrived several minutes ahead of schedule. She always hated his fashion sense. She supposed that anonymity was useful in their business, but come on—everyone who saw him immediately thought that he looked suspicious. Besides, black really just lacked the flare that made a thief’s life worth living. The man was quite a bit too serious for her tastes, but even so, he generally didn’t arrive early. She clucked her tongue. Ol’ Stekkard’s client must really want this mask. She considered inspecting it before turning it over to the man, then shrugged her shoulders. The less she knew, the better.

“You have the item?” came a distinctive gravelly voice. Cinnet, her contact in Stekkard’s organization. His hooked nose, pale skin, and powder blue eyes always struck Copper as strange. She wondered if he might be albino, which would at least explain his appearance. Not that it concerned her in any way, but the cloak continually obscured his features and made it hard to get a read on the man. She wondered if that was intentional.

“Money first,” said Copper. She wouldn’t take any chances.

The man nodded hesitantly, and produced a small bag of coins from somewhere inside his long black cloak. He proffered it to her. She hefted the bag, listening to the pleasing clink of metal, then opened it up and peered inside. It looked and weighed about right, and it had the clink of real gold.

“And what about my bonus for quick service?” she asked.

The man grunted.

“You receive the agreed-upon sum,” he replied. “As usual. The item?”

Copper sighed, and handed the bundle over to the man. It was worth a shot. She pocketed her payment and turned to go.

“Pleasure doing business with you,” she called over her shoulder, then stuck her tongue out at the tall man.

Copper strode away, contented. It had been an exhilarating day, and she could go home with her pockets that much the heavier for the gold that now resided inside them.

As she left, the cloaked man turned and stepped into the shadows, where another figure waited.

“I delivered, as promised. You’ll let the girl go?” the second figure asked in a grating, nasally voice.

Cinnet nodded, tucking the mask into his cloak.

The second figure stepped forward into the half-light, revealing the pocked features and thin nose of a middle-aged goblin.

“And the fake? Stekkard will be furious if he discovers we’ve tricked him out of his prize,” the goblin replied.

“Here it is,” Cinnet replied, producing an identical bundle to the one he’d tucked away a moment before. “And Gistik? Thank you. It would not have been good to allow one of these out of our clan.”

Cinnet reached up to his face and pulled.  The skin peeled away to form a mask in his hand, revealing a the face of a young elven lad of perhaps eighty or ninety years. The face of Dras Markeli, an adopted child of the Markeli clan. He was not Cinnet, and had never been.

“And Stekkard’s agent, this Cinnet? You will give him the fake?” Dras asked, his voice hale and free of the gravelly tone.

“Yes, yes, of course. I’ve simply delayed him by having one of the lads slip something in his drink. He’ll be here shortly. And I’ll pay you back your fee once I have it from Cinnet. Now, be on your way, or he’ll suspect a rat.”

“Thank you once again, my friend. We Markelis owe you another debt,” the elf replied before turning to leave.

“I’ll have you fulfill your debts soon enough, I think,” Gistik called after him.

Gistik hated betraying one of his own people, but Copper would never be any the wiser, and, competent or no, she couldn’t afford to offend the Markeli players. If she wouldn’t look to her own welfare, Gistik supposed he would just have to take care of her himself. He chuckled at his own private joke as he awaited the arrival of the real Cinnet.


Magic Item: Wood Striders

It had taken her some time, and a lot of bruises and sprained ankles, but once she learned to use them, Copper had to admit that the boots were everything the broker had advertised. Were it not for the steep learning curve, she expected every thief in Cantovar would have a pair already. Well, that and the price tag. Experimental or no, you couldn’t get enchanted gear without expending a pretty penny. Not that she begrudged them the price, she admitted. The boots never wore out, and no matter how much wood they sliced through, the spurs remained as sharp as ever. Actually, exactly as sharp as ever, which meant they always slowed you down at exactly the same rate.

Wood striders make use of several low-level enchantments to achieve a useful effect. By combining a simple conditional grease enchantment with a couple of perpetually sharp spurs, the boots allow the wearer to travel across wood much as ice skaters can move along ice. While quite dangerous for new users, the boots allow veteran wearers to control their momentum and land difficult jumps across long distances, as long as they stick to wood. Unfortunately, the boots also leave behind deep furrows as the spurs cut into the wood underneath. Wood striders are illegal in most cities for this reason.

Wood Striders

Wondrous item, uncommon

If you are not proficient with wood striders, you have disadvantage on Dexterity (Acrobatics) checks and on Strength (Athletics) checks made to jump while wearing them, and you treat all terrain as difficult terrain.  After you roll five such checks over the course of at least a week of time, you gain proficiency with wood striders.

If you are proficient with wood striders, you instead have advantage on all Dexterity (Acrobatics) checks while on wooden surfaces and on Strength (Athletics) checks made to jump to or from a wooden surface. Additionally, your speed is increased by 15 feet while moving on wood.


Image by Raventhorne from Pixabay

5e, Game Mechanics, Spells

Spell: Glamer Object

Today we’re pleased to present a new 1st-level spell for bard, sorcerer, and wizard!  It’s called Glamer Object.  First, let’s take a look at the details:


Glamer Object

1st-level illusion
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: touch
Components: S, F (a glass gem)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 hour

This illusion allows you to slightly change the appearance of a single object. The item could appear to be more lustrous, beautiful, and valuable than it really is; it could also be modified in other ways. This spell’s effects are very subtle. It could, for example, remove an impurity from a gemstone, hide a chip in a vase, alter a signet on a ring, or make an ordinary dagger appear to be made of mithral. It cannot change an object’s nature completely. By using an action to examine the object, a creature can roll an Intelligence (Investigation) check against your spell save DC. If it succeeds, the creature realizes it is an illusion and can see the object as it truly is.


 

So, what is Glamer Object good for?  Its applications in counterfeiting and fraud are most obvious, but it is also useful in myriad other situations.  Found some mephits in a cave and need something shiny to distract them?  Glamer some quartz to look like diamond.  Need access to the queen’s court?  Glamer your ring to make it look like the prince’s signet.  Want to swap out a fake painting for the real one at a ritzy art auction?  Glamer it!  The potential uses are endless, and it beats other illusion spells in situations where the effect needs to be subtle and relatively long-lasting, giving you time to get away.  So go ahead and take this spell, and next time your party questions you about your whereabouts on Friday night, you can just pull out a coaster from that seedy duergar dive and glamer it into something respectable.  An opera program, maybe.  Yeah.  You went to the opera.

Safely past the guards, Chancellor Brigid Stormfeather turned to her students.  “A basic illusion, class.  Best suited for when you need something similar to, but not quite, what you have.”  She turned and walked down the hallway of the treasury, the royal dispensation in her hand shimmering for a moment before turning back into a grocery receipt.  “Next, children, we’ll practice our stealth!  Is everyone ready?”

5e, Musings, Pathfinder, Spells, World Building

Reincarnation and You

by Jonathan D.

Today I want to talk to you about a matter close to my heart: overpowered game mechanics. I’ll admit it—I’ve been known to be a bit of a min-maxer (more on that in future posts). Actually, today’s topic is especially close to my heart because it encompasses another of my favorite rant subjects: realism in D&D. Now, these two topics frequently relate to one another. In a realistic setting, for example, most of us would be surprised if the wood elf barbarian we were fighting abruptly transformed into a bear and ripped out our larynxes. Some abilities are so busted that players will sacrifice realism to make themselves more awesome.

I’ve got something else in mind. Move aside, bearbarian. Who needs Elven Accuracy or Eldritch Blast? I’m not talking about your simple, garden variety busted here. I’m talking world-breaking, history-rewriting levels of busted. I’m talking about a level 5 druid spell called Reincarnate.

Are you underwhelmed yet? Unconvinced of the true magnitude of power contained in this spell? Well, if not, then you probably aren’t aware of how Reincarnate works. I will discuss the 5e version of the spell in particular, but it’s been around since original D&D and the important bits haven’t changed very much. Reincarnate is essentially a weirder druid version of Raise Dead, your lowest level resurrection spell. You can use it on any humanoid that has been dead for 10 days or less, and you need a piece of the body. So, if your half-orc buddy Chris chokes to death on his owlbear steak, just call up your neighborhood druid! 1 hour and 1000 gold pieces (500 more than Raise Dead) later, he’s back to life, good as new…except that he’s a gnome now, and his name’s Christina. To summarize, Reincarnate costs more than Raise Dead, works at the same time interval after death, and you come back as the wrong race. So what exactly makes this spell so great?

Well, first off, it only requires a piece of the target’s body. This is helpful if, for instance, most of Chris’s internal organs are trapped in the belly of a giant squid. But second (and most importantly), it fashions you an entirely new body, free of all the quirks and problems of the prior one. This includes a pesky thing called “age.” Chris’s new body is a fully grown adult body, without his old aches and pains, and with his hair returned to the glorious luster of his youth. For an adventurer like Chris, this benefit isn’t especially attractive since the debilities of age are years away. But what if Chris were an all-powerful monarch, a mighty tyrant, or even the grand progenitor of a great globe-encompassing secret society? This spell is suddenly a very attractive solution.

Every other resurrection spell specifies that the target cannot have died of old age. Not so Reincarnate, because it completely resets your age. For a man of wealth, such as a king, or even the head of a noble family, 1000 gold pieces really isn’t all that much. And time and time again within D&D narratives, powerful sorcerers turn to great extremes to defy the aging process. Some of them become liches, others imbibe strange concoctions, and a few spend their entire lives pursuing the philosopher’s stone. You may say that being the wrong race is inconvenient, but it’s much easier to change your appearance than it is to achieve agelessness any other way. Besides, if you really want, you can always just cast the spell over and over again until you get a body you like. And so why not simply have a friend ready to Reincarnate you as soon as death comes knocking at your door? Why not rise again to lead your family into a new era of prosperity–one in which your dynasty will never end? Besides, it also gets rid of that nasty case of herpes you got from that lamia in Skullport. I’m talking, of course, about cold sores.