Monthly Archives: June 2015

Angels, Mount Celestia, 4e and 5e

I generally liked the fluff in 4e. It had some flaws in presentation (efreets? Really?!) but generally thought pretty hard about crafting a cohesive whole from its bits and bobs.

I also generally like the 4e planar structure. D&D is better with a realm of faerie close to the world, and ditto a realm of death.

One thing that caught me off guard, though, even ignoring the mouthless 4e angels.
The mountains of Celestia got rearranged.

Quoting wikipedia,
Classic roster: Lunia, Mercuria, Venya, Solania, Mertion, Jovar, Chronias.
4e roster: Venya, Solania, Mertion, Jusar, Fulghen, Perantia, Chronias.
Nobody of importance lives on the last 4. Even weirder, planes above p. 44 claims the above list is descending order. Misprint?

Why did they change their names? What are these new under-detailed places like? Above all, why?

One guess: to avoid conceptual, even loosely, overlap with other layers of other planes, and to hammer home the mountain thing.
For instance, Lunia’s holy water healing like kind of moved to Empyron on Jusor, probably to condense and make room.

I kind of like it; it breaks me out of the mode where I’m just rattling off celestial bodies’ names.

In my campaign, the foremost “gods of good” are the rulers of these seven planes, and are titled as the layer they represent (though, as is traditional, Chronias is Chronias, the once and future.
They’re not gods of course, just the seven wisest and strongest beings in creation, with millenia of empathy and culture to fall back on, and a support structure of the best that the rest of the worlds have to offer. Millenia of magical items in their armory.

Venya is Venus and Elysium and Mariner’s Green. It is the champion of life, shelter, and bounty.
Solania is Apollo; skilled in all arts and crafts, active and energetic and creative. Athletes, scholars, queens and craftsmen live on itss slopes.
Mertion is Mars, red and vengeful. Here the hosts muster against eschaton; here heaven’s armory is built and maintained.
Jusor, Jupiter. I’m not sure how to unify “storm god” with “fourth-highest of holies”, but it seems worthwhile. Perhaps this is where heaven stores its armaments, a sort of heaven’s laboratory in particle physics and advanced arcana. Perhaps the storm is metaphysical, some sort of map-territory of the journey of the soul. Perhaps it’s a shard of thr chaos that precedes creation, curated in Heaven since where else would it go? Perhaps all 3.
Fulghen: no obvious analogue. We skipped mercury earlier, so this might be an opportunity. We could sort of put Mercury, Neptune and Bacchus in a blender and pull out Fulghen, patron of travel, trade, flux; passion, ecstasy and mad genius.
Perantia. Another no-specific-roman-planetary-equivalent-by-name. Saturn, yes okay no points; duty, civilization, law-against-chaos. But irritating, of course, because obviously Chronias is Saturn. But too little too late for this to be Lunia. Austere and humble, those who suffered in the cause of good receive their desserts here.
And, finally, Chronias. The hidden, the eldest, the endless light and the wisest spirit. What lies in Chronias is unknown, perhaps unknowable.


Boy, that took stupidly long

My first piece of rich-media, and I’m wasting it on this.


Continuing the theme of reagents, here are my further thoughts.
I don’t see how to avoid giving these reagents gp equivalents. Whatever spell they’re a gp equivalent for, we’ll call their price. There will be a few excursions from this; items which are over- or under- priced as a result of the spells they’re tied to or something, but that’s the base idea.
So given that I’ve decided these are sort of alchemical items, what sorts of items are we looking at? Let’s measure the intended price of the reagent against other items, gems a base.

Common (10gp) reagents: Obviously, these are the 10gp gemstones. But they’re also a broad swath of the equipment chapter of the PHB: 50′ of silk rope, a shortsword, a bottle of wine, 2/3 of a pound of saffron, even just an ounce of ink. These are things that can be grown in gardens and harvested from animals. Like, I don’t know if I’d permit eye of toad or wing of bat, but I’d definitely do tiger’s chaudron or a murderer’s hand or a virgin’s wedding-nighttears.
Uncommon (100gp) reagents: quelle suprise, the 100 gp gems. This is a more restricted segment of the PHB;  vials of poison, a magnifying glass, 2 flasks of alchemist’s fire, 2 lbs of gold, or a riding horse with tackle. This might include monster parts from the CR 3-5 range, or byproducts (dragon’s tears etc) from above that range. It might also include wine made by a duke’s hand, flowers or fruit or herbs picked at the peak of freshness (and only good for a limited time), a martyr’s bodyparts or the prayers of a few monks for a year, or other time-limited but otherwise attainable ingredients. I think mundane abstract quantities show up here, too: bottled ennui, parched discomfort, powdered tears, petrified fear.
Rare (1000gp) reagents: the 1000gp gems, obviously. PHB comparison items start topping out here; 2 pound of platinum, so rare minerals are still in play, but otherwise things like spyglasses, small ships, or platemail. If they’re not incredibly rare substances, and we’re pushing the limits of herbs here (perhaps a bloom which grows once a decade or something?), they’re highly refined cultural products. Maybe uncommon potions can be infused with 3 pounds of gold and distilled into something useable here; a lord’s child, or the prayers of 30 monks for a year. Intricately inlaid tangles of precious wire, extremely purified chemical reagents, positive abstract quantities start to show up (a maiden’s blush in a kerchief, a perfect summer dawn in a bottle, the age of three winters).
Very Rare (10,000gp) reagents: no mere gem table can contain these; they’re named and unique. In terms of finished goods they’re mid-sized ships and towers, small permanent structures that take many hands to render. That makes it difficult to name a similar hand-held object; not too many devices require the same sophisticated cultural apparatus. Ludicrous jewels and ludicrous-jewel-encrusted-objects count, though. We’re looking at once-in-a-century picked-by-a-virgin-with-a-silver-sickle flowers and fruit, or perfect anatomical replicas worked in gemstone, or the keygrain of a desert, the root of a mountain. You might have a bottle of wine filtered through the ashes of its vinyard, or a heartroot of a century-tree.

Fralex at enworld improved on my chart

No big thing. I orefer my sequence of values; they added more useful columns.

Too lazy to format this properly, I’ll come back and do it later.

Spell Level Rarity Permanent Price Consumable Price Max AC/Attack Bonus Single-Target Damage Multi-Target Damage Spell Attack Save DC
0 Common 50 25 1d10 1d6 +5 13
1 Common 100 50 2d10 2d6 +5 13
2 Uncommon 160 80 +1 3d10 4d6 +5 13
3 Uncommon 500 250 +1 5d10 6d6 +7 15
4 Rare 1,600 800 +2 6d10 7d6 +7 15
5 Rare 5,000 2,500 +2 8d10 8d6 +9 17
6 Very Rare 16,000 8,000 +3 10d10 11d6 +9 17
7 Very Rare 50,000 25,000 +3 11d10 12d6 +10 18
8 Very Rare 160,000 80,000 +3 12d10 13d6 +10 18
9 Legendary 500,000 250,000 +4 15d10 14d6 +11 19


Magic Item Marts in Feudal Societies

My players are starting to accumulate a little bit of gold. Upon what, dear reader, shall they spend it?

The TL;DR: Magic items borrowed, with a large cash security, from entrenched power groups.

As you can see, I’m plagiarizing^H^H^H^H noodling around with giving out parts of multiple magic items as treasure. Heart of flame, worth money towards this potion or time towards that scroll or makes a +1 sword flaming for 3 days. That sort of thing.

That requires large lists of treasurealikes to actually hand out. No good. Too much work.

Let’s work on something else for a sec.

The Duke is happy. He’s got a castle, a few badass men-at-arms who decided they’d rather get their treasure and magical items from the Duke’s pet artificers, who’ve got the blueprints and specialized forges to make +1 swords at below-market-rate, though they do need the brain of a treacher knight to quench the damn things cheap enough to make it worthwhile. He has the aforementioned artificers. He has the vaults in which the forges lurk. He has a small group of adventurers dedicated to putting down uncooperative bannermen, and he sends them out with chests of ice to bring the heads back.

In fact, due to this cycle, he has more swords than he knows what to do with. He can use them to secure leal servants and as gifts; he can give them to his second son and his favored gladiator. Sometimes these are gifts, but this is heavy munition; more frequently they’re loans used in pursuit of the Duke’s goals, or trades, or otherwise a financial transaction.

Let’s shift point of views. Let’s talk about the fighter for a band of adventurers. She’s doing pretty well. Killed a rust monster last week, lost her sword; she’s got her share of the Dragon King’s treasure burning a hole in her coinpurse. She needs a new sword, and the blacksmith won’t do. She wants a magic sword, but who just has a shop waiting for footloose adventurers to pop ’round?

Let’s introduce them. She knows the Duke probably has a laundry list of tasks he needs performed; she has loose coin. She wants to exchange the coin for a new quest for the party and some new trinkets.

She posts a bond equal to the sale price of the item, plus or minus whatever the Duke needs as a trustworthy quotient. The duke might ask 5x the sale price if he’s never heard of her and is playing 4e; he might ask 2x the sale price if she’s more trustworthy. He’ll give her a quest and, unusual in her line of work, the sword up front.

She can continue to wield it for as long as she’d like (and as long as the Duke doesn’t need it back, and as long as she doesn’t try to depose him — there’s a measure of control here, but realistically it’s not more than a local warlord with a band of thugs would’ve had organically), and when she’s done, she brings it back to the duke and swaps out. There’s some wear and tear on the blade, a matter of feudal obligation to consider, etc, but at the end of the day she gets a share of the original bond back (the “sale price”) and the Duke gets the sword back.

This isn’t necessarily a new system; the swords you’re finding in tombs that date back to ancient kingdoms had some form of this exchange occurring over them. Basically, this is feudalism in a nutshell, treating money as service and provision of arms as protection.

The Duke is probably not directly involved in these discussions; the Master at Arms is probably the one actually handling it; they’re in the Duke’s fortress and surrounded by guards, so the usual concerns about a “small defenseless shop” getting knocked over are somewhat lessened.

Okay, but that relies on a greedy medieval bastard going into sales. What if he doesn’t want to? Well, those pet artificers don’t grow on trees. Churches and universities and wizard guilds likely all have the necessary sorts of skill bases and facilities to run such an project. What they don’t necessarily have is the proper muscle. It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that the Invisible College keeps an Invisible Armory in their Invisible Fortress; they, too, operate on a lending basis with a massively overpriced bond to ensure the items come home some day. But the local church or hedge wizard probably doesn’t do this; instead, they keep a lot of raw materials on hand and are willing to craft whatever you want, but it’s bespoke and will take a week, as well as a quest to obtain a major missing ingredient. This stops the thief problem somewhat, though not entirely.

There’s probably a lot of work in retrieval, the old “go into the dungeon and take back the Flametongue sword that my loyal retainer got stabbed to death while wielding”. There’s also “so-and-so has turned treacher and needs to be stripped of their goods; reward equal to the treacher’s portion of the initial bond”. Where treacher is read as “kept something I wanted back”.

One use item costs,

Hokay, so, here’s the deal.

I read and it filled me with joy. Go read it and return.

I will return the favor by giving a list of spell-to-item associations for consumables.

A brief refresher: in 5e, items are costed by their rarity; those costs apply to crafting; crafting takes 1d/25gp of value. See the table below. You must be able to cast the spell you wish to scribe and must be of at least 3rd level to brew potions or scribe scrolls.

Common (Cantrips, 1) 100 gp, 4d, 3rd
Uncommon (2, 3) 500 gp, 20d, 3rd
Rare (4, 5) 5,000 gp, 200d, 6th
Very rare (6,7,8) 50,000 gp, 2000d, 11th
Legendary (9) 500,000 gp, 20,000d, 17th

These costs are intended for permanent items, I’m inclined to say they’re the right order of magnitude but still, too expensive for 1-use items like potions and scrolls. There’s a slight edge effect at the bottom; you have to be at least 3rd level to craft stuff and the first few prices are “funny” to match what you’d expect.

So let’s set the price for a scroll proportional to 10^(tier), that is:

Cantrip: 25gp, 1d
1st: 50gp, 2d, 2d
2nd: 150gp, 6d
3rd: 300gp, 12d
4th: 1,500gp, 60d
5th: 3,000gp, 120d
6th: 15,000gp, 600d
7th: 30,000gp, 1200d
8th: 150,000gp, 6000d
9th: 300,000gp, 12000d

Add to the GP cost (but not the time) the price of any spell components.

For me, whether scroll or potion or whatever, this is what it costs to make naively. The seller will also sell for this price, because nobody makes these things naively if they can help it; they use Reagents, as specified in That Other Post You Just Read Which I Will Later Publish A Followup Blog Post Alongside.

Fixing the Blade Pact Warlock

I do not like Eldritch Blast, and I do not like the Blade Pact Warlock’s design. Some of this I can and will fix; some I won’t.

First: Hairshirts and bellyaching. Eldritch Blast is a cantrip which scales by adding bolts (unique) and deals force damage (unique) and does d10s (not bad!). There’s some balance there, naturally, but… wow. In my ideal world, warlocks would deal poison or necrotic or elemental damage with their starter pistol: damage types which are resistable, work well enough for me to fit as a weapon of their patron, and don’t make them King Ghostbuster.

Second: The Blade Pact. As written, it’s kind of weird; it takes a magic weapon and pulls it into the character, but it doesn’t scale (like EB does), it forces multiple ability dependencies without giving anything useful in return, etc.

At first, I was playing around with defensive hacks; why not make it give you monk-like AC? But that feels wrong for something called “Blade”. Also, there’s the scaling problem, where the blade just won’t scale as fast

Pact of the Blade rewrite

You don’t bond with J. Q. Arbitraryweapon; instead, you have a lightsaber, a close-quarters manifestation of your pact. The concrete benefit of using this weapon — which glows as a candle — is that you may use the Attack action with it (and OA and otherwise use it as a melee weapon in all ways). When you do so, treat the weapon as dealing damage equal to a single blast of your EB, of the same damage type as the EB, with a range of 5′. It can cosmetically look like whatever you want. If you have multiple blasts of your EB, when you take the Attack action, you may take those iterative attacks. Blast invocations apply to uses of the blade, too. Attacks with it are spell attacks (they use your charisma to hit, you have proficiency, you don’t add charisma to damage unless you have that invocation).

The weapon itself takes 1 hand and has no tags (so you need Two Weapon Fighting to dual wield, etc).

New Invocation:

Scavenging Blade. As a reaction to an enemy you threaten dying, you may strike the enemy dying with your blade. You (also) count as having killed the foe for the purpose of triggering any abilities which key off of that.

Eldritch Blast damage type rewrite

Re: EB and dealing force damage. I’m not ready to do this yet, but I _might_ flavor the damage by patron, with a choice of types (changeable each time you cast the spell), which emulates the irresistability of force:
Fiend: Fire or Necrotic
Fey: Poison or Piercing (counts as magic)
Great Old One: Psychic or Radiant