Tag Archives: Magic Items

Magical Marvels 7: The Son’s Service

Zalekios Gromar's Kukri - The Son's Service. Art by cbMorrieAt long last, a return to my ongoing series of weapons which appeared in my Ascendant Crusade campaign. When this series left off in February, I posted about The Glare of Vecna. Prior to that I posted Gravewhisper’s Claw, Wallcraft’s Offerings and Kofek’s Tongue. All of those weapons, and now this one as well, were illustrated by my ladyfriend. You should check out more of her art on her DeviantArt page.

WARNING: This post covers material which is significantly darker than what normally appears on this blog. I’m not kidding, this gets very grim.

The Son’s Service
Artifact Kukri


PHYSICAL ATTACKS


(Kukri)(Attack) +5
(Kukri)(Damage) 1d4 + 5 (Slashing)(18-20/x3)


SPELLS GRANTED


4/Day – As a standard action, the wielder can ‘cut’ a door in the air with the blade, creating a Dimensional Door which allows the wielder to instantly travel up to 30ft.

1/Day – The caster can spend 1 minute scratching a door into a stone surface. When the door is completed, stepping through it will cause the effects of a Plane Shift spell for 1 minute. The plane the wielder wishes to travel to must be whispered to the blade before the creation of the door is begun. Anyone can step through the door, even enemies of the caster, so long as they do so within 1 minute of the door’s completion.

1/Week – If the hilt of the blade is held so the eyes of the skull meet the eyes of a helpless opponent, then the wielder may speak the trigger phrase “Love is weakness.” When this is done, a brief light will flash in the skull’s eyes. The victim’s dearest loved one must then succeed on a DC: 14 fortitude save against death. On a successful save, they still take 3d6 pain-based damage. When this happens, the victim will hear their loved one’s cries of pain, and suffers a -6 morale penalty to all rolls for the rest of the day. (This is based off of the Love’s Pain corrupt spell in the D&D 3.0 Book of Vile Darkness)

1/Week – If the hilt of the blade is held so that the skull is pressed against the heart of a victim, then the jaws of the skull will bite into the victim’s breast, tearing away a small bit of flesh. The victim will then immediately drop to -8 HP, and stabilize. No saving throw is allowed against this attack, however if the victim is wearing any kind of armor it is impossible. Making this attack in combat is extremely difficult, and works as a melee attack roll made with a -4 penalty. (No weapon bonuses are included in this attack roll, as the attack is not made with the weapon’s blade.) (This is based off of the Stop Heart spell in the D&D 3.0 Book of Vile Darkness)


SPECIAL ABILITIES


  • Anarchic Physical attacks against lawful creatures are made at a +2 bonus, and deal an additional 2d6 damage. (Cumulative effect with Goodbane)
  • Goodbane Physical attacks against good creatures are made at a +2 bonus, and deal an additional 2d6 damage. (Cumulative effect with Anarchic)
  • Ghost Touch Physical attacks deal normal damage against incorporeal creatures.
  • Stolen Youth The wielder’s aging is slowed to 1/3rd the normal rate. Any effects which would magically drain the user’s age are only 1/3rd as effective.
  • Gift of Agony The Intelligence of The Son’s Service suffers constant anguish over the tragedy of its creation. Once per day, it can transfer this pain to a victim through a touch attack, dealing 4d6 damage. If it has been lying dormant for awhile, it may choose to inflict this attack on the first person to pick it up.
  • Bodysnatcher If the blade is buried into the brain of a corpse, then The Son’s Service gains full control of that body, and any abilities it had in life. The blade’s first impulse will be to escape from its owner, and an ego check must be made to command the weapon to obey. Another ego check must be made if any attempt to remove the blade is made.

INTELLIGENT ITEM ABILITIES


EGO 32; INT 19 (+4) WIS 10 (+4) CHA 19 (+4)
Senses Darkvision 120ft, Blindsense, Hearing; Communication Speech, Telepathy
Languages Common, Abyssal, Vasharan
Alignment Chaotic Evil
Purpose The Son’s Service is a psychopath. It is constantly driven to perform vile, and harmful deeds. Most often directed towards lawful, or good characters. It loves nothing more than to be used as an implement of torture and slaughter.


APPEARANCE


The Son’s Service is a Kukri about 4 and 1/2 feet long from the end of the pommel to the tip of the blade. The entire thing appears to be made of bleached white bones. The hilt is made of a series of vertebrae, which end in a pointed pommel. The hilt of the weapon is a very small skull, and the blade protrudes from the crest of that skull. Upon close inspection, someone familiar with anatomy might recognize the blade as a warped rib-bone, which has been flattened and sharpened. Though normally dark, the eye sockets of the blade occasionally take on a faint glow when the weapon is focusing its attention.


HISTORY


The origins of the blade known as The Son’s Service are as dark and depraved as the master it was crafted to serve: Zalekios Gromar.

After the murder of his father, Zalekios was raised by the succubus, Setya. The demon knew how to feed young Zalekios’ psychopathy, and gleefully encouraged him in his childish pursuits of murder and mayhem. As he grew, Setya artfully crafted her Vasharan son into a weapon. A mortal man with all the rage and power of a demon. When he reached maturity, Setya bore for him twin children. One, a girl, she named Reizalla; destined to succeed Zalekios’ as Setya’s agent of chaos. The other, a boy, was sacrificed in a ritual so vile that it tainted the very air around it. Even centuries later, those who unwittingly stumble into the location where the ritual was performed find themselves choking and coughing as though breathing smoke.

The succubus then used powerful magics to twist and reshape the dead child’s fragile bones into a blade. One so strong it could crack steel. She dubbed the blade “The Son’s Service,” and gave it to Zalekios as a parting gift when he went forth into the world to spread chaos and death. Immediately upon accepting the blade, Zalekios could hear it cursing him in his mind. The weapon hated him with a pure malevolence, the like of which has never existed before or since. If it could, the weapon would destroy the father who cavalierly accepted the corpse of his own son as a gift. But it could not. In fact, the weapon could never take any action, or inaction, which would harm Zalekios. Nor could it even attempt to disobey him–such was the curse of the vile rituals Setya had performed.

Zalekios’ created a path of destruction throughout the world for decades. He murdered children or parents, he schemed to topple kingdoms, he did whatever would cause suffering. And always, The Son’s Service was by his side, opening the wounds which fed Zalekios’ blood soaked path. Were it not for the rancour the blade felt for its master, these would have been the happiest times of its psychopathic existence. Eventually, when Zalekios allied himself with The Whispered Queen, there was much less killing to do. She demanded a greater amount of subtlety from her companions than The Son’s Service would have liked.

Many years passed in the Whispered Queen’s service, and Zalekios grew restless. He chafed at taking orders from a woman he knew he could kill, and viewed her goals of bringing order to the world as perverse. But he could not stand against her. Powerful as he was, he knew how fiercely loyal the Queen’s other companions were. Even he would fall before their combined might. He brought to her a compromise: turn her forces on the Abyss. Let him lead her armies against the demon lord, Graz’zt. Zalekios would usurp the Demon Prince, and claim his throne for himself. Once he was a demon lord, Zalekios could spread chaos throughout the multiverse, and would have no desire to meddle in the affairs of the material plane. Besides–he argued–it couldn’t hurt to have a demon lord as a friend.

The Whispered Queen agreed, and began preparing her forces for a march into the abyss itself. The titanic army overran Graz’zt’s outer defenses, and penetrated deep into the demon lord’s Argent Palace. They reached the center of Graz’zt’s power, and with victory within his grasp, Zalekios charged the demon prince. But The Whispered Queen advanced no further. She and her forces stood in silence as Zalekios and those loyal to him were torn to pieces and devoured by demons.

The Queen had taken Zalekios’ advice to heart. It couldn’t hurt to have a demon lord as a friend.

After Zalekios’ demise, The Son’s Service was given to Reizalla for her part in the betrayal. But she found that the blade hated her for being the surviving twin almost as much as it hated Zalekios for being responsible for its existence. And the weapon was not magically compelled to obey her as it had been for their father. Reizalla traded the weapon to a balor, and ever since it has traded hands from one demon to another. Likely it now resides in the treasure vault of one mighty demon or another, yearning to draw blood once more.

May of the Dead: Undead Items

A Hero with a Jabbering Prophet (Actually "David with Goliath" by Caravaggio) It’s Friday again, which means it’s time for another undead-themed post as part of the May of the Dead Blog Carnival! This week’s entry is a new type of magic item which I call an “Undead Item.”

An Undead Item is not simply a magic item with an undead theme. Plenty of magic items have skull or death motifs, and many have effects which are related to undead. But though these items have an obvious connection to undeath, they are not themselves undead items. An undead item has an un-life all its own. While not necessarily intelligent, undead items are created by taking dead matter (such as a limb from a corpse) and empowering it with negative energy through an evil crafting ritual which creates–in essence–a very simple undead creature. A creature which usually cannot move or act on its own, but which instead serves to bestow its powers upon whoever wields it.

It is important to note that while many undead items are named for more well recognized types of undead creatures, the item itself is not necessarily made from that creature. In fact, as with other forms of undead, an undead cannot normally be created from a corpse which has ever been animated before.

Zombie Juice This swirling red concoction comes in vials of about 6 ounces each. If it is imbibed, then unintelligent undead will view the user as ‘one of them’ for one hour per ounce which is consumed. Zombies, skeletons, and other such creatures will not attack the user unless specifically direct to do so by their master. And, in such a case, commands such as “destroy the human!” will not work. The undead creature’s master must very specifically indicate which creature is to be attacked.

If anyone wishes to consume more than 6 ounces at a time, they must succeed on a constitution check (DC: 12 + the number of ounces over 6 which are being consumed). Failure causes the user to be incapacitated for 10 minutes while they violently vomit. After 5 minutes of vomiting, the any effects gained by the Zombie Juice disappear, and the incapacitated user is subject to attacks from unintelligent undead.

Crafting Materials: Blood from an intelligent creature which was alive when the blood was taken but has since died, Unholy Water

Deadman’s Gaze A Deadman’s Gaze appears as an eyeball wrapped in flesh, with eyelids intact. It sleeps much of the time when it is not in use, but occasionally looks around on its own, taking in its surroundings. From the back of the orb protrudes a 20ft long ocular nerve, thick and tough like a rope. Anyone whose skin comes in contact with this ocular nerve will see whatever the Deadman’s Gaze sees so long as their own eyes are closed. Whoever holds the end of the ocular nerve will also be able to control the eye, opening and closing it, and looking in whatever direction they desire.

The eye’s primary use is to scout dangerous areas without putting the user in jeopardy. It has also occasionally been used as a torture device, since it can be used to force someone to watch something they wish to look away from, even when their eyes are closed. One of its most useful applications is as an impromptu nighttime guardian. Someone holding the ocular nerve and closing their eyes will not find it difficult to sleep. They will see what the eye sees as though it is a noiseless dream. The eye will attempt to observe everything it can from wherever it is positioned, and will focus on anything which visually seems threatening, but it cannot sense audio indicators of danger.

Crafting Materials: The eye of a humanoid creature, a sliver of brain tissue from a humanoid creature, an ounce of freshly shorn humanoid skin, 20ft of finely crafted rope.

Dead Messenger This simple skull and jawbone can record any message which is whispered into its “ear.” Once the message has been spoken, a set of necromatic command words are used to determine when the message should be activated. The parameters of its activation must be relatively simple, such as:

  • A command word, or phrase is uttered within “earshot” of the Dead Messenger.
  • A creature of a certain type comes within 20ft of the Dead Messenger.
  • When the area the skull is in becomes illuminated.

When the parameters are met, the Dead Messenger will then repeat the message in its own, guttural, clattering voice. It will continue to do this, repeating the message any time the parameters are met, until it is given a new message set of necromatic commands.

Crafting Materials: One skull and jawbone from the same creature, one silver piece placed between the skull and jawbone.

Food Taster This un-decomposing humanoid tongue is wet with saliva. Though it is not necessary, many are mounted on a handle, since it is unpleasant to hold them in your hand. When a Food Taster is touched to a substance, it will turn green if that substance would have a negative chemical or biological reaction to the user’s body. It can be used to detect any kind of poison, whether it is an ingested, inhaled, intravenous, or contact poison. It can also be used to locate dangerous diseases by touching it to an infected individual. Note that this item cannot be used to determine any information about a dangerous substance, only that the substance is dangerous to the user. Note also that if the user is immune to a substance which might be dangerous to others, the Food Taster will will not turn green in the presence of that substance.

Crafting Materials: One humanoid tongue from a creature who was killed by a poison, venom, or disease.

Grip of Despair Two skeletal hands connected by a single radius and ulna (the bones of the forearm). When not in use, the hands clasp and unclasp, or waggle their fingers, looking for something to grab hold of. When placed on the arms or legs of a small or medium creature, the Grip of Despair functions as a pair of masterwork manacles. In addition to binding a creature, the Grip of Despair cause any creature they grab hold of to act as though Shaken for as long as the manacles are on. No saving throw against this effect is allowed, though creatures which are immune to fear effects are not affected. In addition, any creature bound by a Grip of Despair takes a -2 on all will saves, with an additional -2 for any will save against fear.

Crafting Materials: Two skeletal hands (one left, one right), one skeletal forearm.

Spinal Column Scimitar This +1 scimitar, composed entirely of vertebrae, pulsates with negative energy. When not in use, it can occasionally be seen flexing back and forth with its limited mobility. On a successful hit, the victim must succeed on a fortitude save (DC: 18) or be paralyzed for 6 rounds. Even on a successful saving throw, the victim will be paralyzed for 1 round.

Crafting Materials: The spinal column of a paralyzed humanoid.

Funeral Procession Carriage The body of this carriage has a largely normal construction–though many are ornamented with depictions of skulls or other deathly imagery. It differs from a normal carriage in that it has no wheels, nor any harness for horses. Instead, the carriage is supported and propelled by row after row of skeletal legs which move in unison. Each pair of legs is mounted to a pelvic bone, which is mounted directly into the bottom of the carriage’s coach compartment. The legs are speedy and agile, which allows the Funeral Procession Carriage to move faster, and across more difficult terrain than most carriages could manage.The legs are also capable of shifting to a kneeling position to facilitate easy entry and exit from the carriage.

In order to function properly, the skulls associated with each pair of legs must be included in the construction of the coach. This is sometimes accomplished by mounting the skulls on the carriage, but more often the skulls are broken into smaller pieces, and their shards embedded in the wood used to construct the coach. The shards are spread evenly throughout all the wood of the carriage, and so long as one skull fragment from a given skull remains as part of the coach, the associated legs will continue to function. This prevents minor damage from disabling any of the legs.

Most necromancers are able to control a Funeral Procession Carriage using necromatic command words. Most of these carriages are also designed to accept any commands spoken by someone within the the cabin, though some are intended for use as prisoner transports, and do not include this function.

Crafting Materials: One carriage, at least twenty skeletons (four rows, five columns. Torsos are not required), the brain of a carriage driver.

Jabbering Prophet An un-decomposed head with emeralds embedded in each eye socket. The stump where the neck would normally connect to the head is capped with a metal plate which has been bolted in place. The jabbering prophet speaks constantly about things which seem to be of little or no importance. In fact, these nonsensical utterances are a constant stream of information about the past, present, or future of random creatures which exist throughout the multiverse. Were anyone able to record and catalog all of this information, it would no doubt reveal a great many secrets, but the task would be an impossibly monumental undertaking.

Once every hour, the jabbering prophet pauses for 30 seconds, then its emerald ‘eyes’ look towards someone within its field of vision, and it speaks a prophecy relevant to that individual. This effect can be controlled by facing the jabbering prophet towards a specific individual, and ensuring that no one else stands within the head’s field of vision. The prophecy which is spoken will most often relate to events which can take place within an hour’s time, but occasionally an event of great importance which may not happen for many years will be prophesied. Examples of such prophecies include:

  • If you travel south, you will be ambushed by orcs.
  • If you visit the elves, a blade in hand will be more deadly to you than to your enemies.
  • The Duke of Elloron will deceive you thrice when you meet.

Aside from the pause it takes each hour, the jabbering prophet never stops speaking, though it does know to whisper if its wielder is attempting to be quiet. This causes a -6 penalty on all stealth checks. The sound of the prophet’s speaking can be muffled by cloth, or magically silenced. However, if the jabbering prophet is ever physically forced not to speak (such as with a muzzle) then it will strain to speak until it destroys itself.

Crafting Materials: The head of a diviner 12th level or higher, two emeralds with a spell of True Seeing cast upon them.

May of the Dead Banner

Unusual Magic Item Types

King Arthur, in a boat with Merlin, reaches for Excalibur, held aloft by the Lady of the LakeI’ve been feeling mentally drained lately, so I’m gonna keep things light around here for awhile. Fewer 2000 word posts where I try to suss out Pathfinder’s platonic ideal, more brief posts which don’t require much sussing at all. There has been an overabundance of sussing in my life, as of late. Doctor told me to cut back.

I’ve always liked the idea of odd magical items. In fact, I’ve occasionally made a game out of giving my players the most absolutely useless magical items I could imagine, just to see how they would use them. They always seem to manage it somehow. Magic Items 01, from Order of the Stick by Rich BerlewOne of my best is rope which immediately unties any knot as soon as the slightest amount of tension is placed upon it. But my favorite kind of unusual magic item is a type of item which is not normally magical at all. Weapons, armor, capes, and rings are almost magical by default in a Pathfinder world, while many other items are rarely even checked for dweomers. If you find a tapestry depicting a battle, rolled up in a dungeon, you’re likely going to view it as mundane treasure. But what if the tapestry is the result of an epic-level “Time Stop” spell cast upon a battlefield? If dispelled, the combatants depicted on the tapestry would suddenly appear in the room, and continue their fight.

So lets jump into some of the types I’ve come up with:

Scabbards: It is a little known fact that the scabbard of Excalibur was actually much more valuable than the sword itself. I’m not exactly an Arthurian scholar, but none of the texts I’ve read paint Excalibur as anything other than a very good sword. In some stories it’s maybe a +1 Longsword, whilst in the film named for the blade, it might be as much as a +5. But that’s hardly impressive as magical items go. Excalibur’s scabbard, however, may be the most powerful magic represented in Arthurian myth. Any who wore it could not be wounded. Arthur would have been invincible, had he not allowed his sister Morgana Le Fay, to borrow the scabbard so she could “appreciate its beauty.” By which she meant “have someone make a copy, then throw the real one into a lake.”

Giving a character an item which makes the invulnerable might be pushing it, but there’s no reason other magical affects couldn’t be granted by a scabbard. Fast healing, for example. Perhaps there could even be some manner of trade-off with the sword. When the sword is sheathed, the scabbard grants fast healing 10, or protection from arrows, or whatever. When the sword is drawn, the magic of the scabbard is reduced in power, or ends altogether. That could make the decision to engage an enemy much more relevant.

Tattoos: This one shows up now and again in various supplements–usually ones with an asian theme for some reason. Perhaps there is some originating mythology for magical tattoos found in asian cultures which I am unaware of. I don’t really care where it came from, it’s an awesome idea, and needs to be more prominent within fantasy. Whether it’s a tattoo of a magical beast which can “jump off” your body and aid you in battle, or something more mundane, it fits in with nearly any kind of setting where magic exists. And the possibilities are too numerous to name! What about a tattoo of an eye on the tip of your finger, which you could see out of by closing your eyes? Useful for looking around corners. What if clerics got their god’s holy symbol tattooed on their chests? It could never be taken away when you were captured. I once made a character who had tattoos of short swords on her forearms, and in a pinch she could reach “into” her arms and pull a masterwork short sword out of each.

Cosmetics: While on the subject of markings on the body, what about makeup? Not exactly the kind of thing we imagine a rough-and-tumble adventurer to be interested in, but adventurers aren’t always lacking in refinement. And even those who are lacking in refinement must often deal with the upper classes of society. Mayors, nobles, kings and queens; any or all might try to fool the adventurers with Lipstick of Lying. Or they could try to hypnotize the party with Mesmerizing Mascara.

"The Spoils of War - Dividing Treasure in D&D" from Dragon Magazine 327, by Jeff Carlisle

Piercings & Misc Jewelry: I honestly don’t understand why piercings are ignored by the rules. Earrings could be as versatile as Fingerrings. And a piercing could go any number of places! What about a tongue stud that made a wizard immune to any effect which would interfere with their spell’s verbal components? A belly ring could allow an adventurer to stave off hunger for weeks. Many types of obscure jewelry could be magical, in fact. Many cultures wear combs in their hair, and ancient Mayans used to replace some of their teeth with Jade. Tooth of Vecna, anyone?

Rations: We’ve all read Lord of the Rings, right? Or, at the very least, seen those films which were so popular? Lambas bread was a major plot point in the books, but you really don’t see anything like that in RPGs. This one might be more justifiable, simply because of the plethora of ways to avoid the need for rations in a basic D&D game. Clerics gain the ability to summon food and water pretty early on, and even if the party doesn’t have a cleric, bags of holding make it easy to carry a few month’s worth of rations with no problem. But still, you would think they’d put some rules for magic elven rations in the core rulebook.

Simple Tools: Hammers, Picks, Saws, etc could be enchanted to do their job exceptionally well. A saw which can cut down a tree in under a minute, or a pick which reduces an hour’s worth of work to a single swing. These items would have no combat benefits, but would make some types of work go much faster. This would be particularly useful to give to workers as they were constructing a stronghold.

What are some unusual magic item types you’ve encountered, or come up with for your own games?

Also, buttplug of protection +2. Because I can.

Magical Marvels 6: Succubic Shield

Succubus by Teddy Wright
Image Courtesy of landoftwiv.blogspot.com

Going through some old notes recently, I discovered the character sheet for a succubus named Setya. She’s the mother of the notorious Zalekios Gromar, and a former general in the Blood War under Malcanthet. After being taken as a prisoner of war, she was disgraced in her lady’s eyes, and ventured to the material plane to seek redemption. It was there that she sired Zalekios, and began shaping him into a paragon of chaos, which she hoped would please Malcanthet. On the character sheet I found a number of magical items I had created specifically for Setya, including this shield which I thought was interesting enough to share with all of you.

Succubic Shield
Heavy Reinforced-Silver Shield


PHYSICAL PROPERTIES


AC Bonus +4 [Shield(2) + Deflection Enchantment(2)]
Construction The shield is composed of silver, reinforced by mithril.
Weight
25lb
Arcane Spell Failure Chance 15%
Armor Check Penalty -1
(Shield Spike)(Attack) (Treat as one-handed, martial weapon)
(Shield Spike)(Damage)  1d6 (Piercing)(20/x2)


SPECIAL ABILITIES


  • Anyone who takes damage from the shield spike must make a DC 17 fortitude save. Failure indicates that the shield successfully inserts a tiny demonic parasite into the victim. This parasite immediately bestows one negative level on the victim. The parasite then remains dormant for 9 months before it awakens. The host is then entitled to another DC 17 fortitude save, or the parasite bestows another negative level on the host, before going dormant for another 9 months. This continues until either the host is dead, or the parasite is destroyed. The parasite cannot be discovered by divination magics. Removal of the parasite is difficult. The simplest method is to cast a spell of 6th level or higher with the [Good] descriptor on the host.  However, if the host is able to save against three of the parasite’s level drains in a row, the parasite dies of starvation.

APPEARANCE


The surface of the shield is deeply embossed with intricate imagery. The center of the shield is dominated by a man, depicted as helpless against a flock of succubi which surround him. Each entices him in different ways: power, wealth, numerous permutations of lust. The shield spike extends from between the man’s legs, and is engraved to resemble a phallus–though the conical spike shape is not significantly altered by these engravings.


WHERE IT CAN BE FOUND


A succubic shield is an item of exceeding rarity. They are only forged for those succubi who both participate in the blood war, and who choose to do so as members of the martial classes rather than as spellcasters. In all likelihood, the only way a party would encounter an item such as this would be to participate in the Blood War themselves. However, a handful of mortals, after doing just that, have managed to return to the material plane with a succubic shield. So in rare cases, it is possible to encounter these items in treasure hordes, or collections or rarities. It is also possible that one might encounter a succubus on the material plane who carries a succubic shield.


BACKGROUND


Mortals live and die. Empires rise and fall. Planets are born only to crumble again into nothingness. Even planes occasionally fold into themselves, or merge with other planes, reshaping the face of existence. And through it all, the Blood War rages on. The wild hordes of the abyss clash with the regiments of the nine hells without end. Sometimes one gains the advantage, sometimes the other, yet neither can ever hold it for long enough to claim victory. Neither side can relent, nor would either side ever want to. Only the gods remember when the conflict began, and not even they can guess what would happen if it ended. Some surmise that all war is merely a reflection of this one eternal conflict–others think that preoccupation with the Blood War is all that stops either side from completely overrunning the rest of the multiverse.

Every type of demonic and diabolic creature is represented in this conflict. From the mighty balors, to the lowly quaists, every vile creature has a role to play, including succubi. On this merciless battlefield, however, the seductive charms of a succubus are of little use. Most relegate themselves to supporting roles, serving as scouts and spies. Many others tap into their innate sorcerous abilities to serve as battlecasters. Some few succubi prefer to get their hands dirty. Those few train themselves in the skills of martial combat–often as anti-paladins–and wade into the thick of combat swinging a sword or flail. It was for these fearsome warriors that the succubic shield was first commissioned.

Designed by a succubus anti-paladin who had risen to the rank of general; the succubic shield pays homage to the succubus’ primary skillset–with a cruel twist. Oftentimes those injured by this shield’s wicked spike overhear a mumbled comment about “sticking it in,” or “just the tip.” The demonic creatures take great delight in inflicting a deadly ‘pregnancy’ in others, though they rarely speak about it in mixed company. Even with other demons they are cautious, hoping that the long gestation period of the parasite will prevent anyone from realizing that it is their shields which plants it. The secret of the shield’s construction is a closely guarded secret as well, known only to a handful of smiths on the 570th layer of the Abyss.

Note: This entire post is completely overshadowed by Tim Wright’s remarkable succubus art. Damn.

Reality is my Sourcebook: The Phylactery

Jewish Encyclopedia PhylacteryI learned something the other day.

The concept of a lich’s phylactery is taken from Judaic mysticism. In reality, phylacteries were a complex kind of ‘magic underwear’ which were apparently quite common in Jewish communities at one time. Jewish Encyclopedia.com has an absolutely fascinating article on the subject, written in the early 20th century. There’s an impressive amount of detail there, much of which I think I would need to know a lot more about Jewish tradition to fully understand. But enough of the article is written in plain English for me to learn a lot about the beliefs surrounding this tradition.

As I mentioned in my post titled Succubi Deserve More, I like to explore the mythology behind fantasy tropes. Not only does it result in me becoming a more educated and historically aware person, but the real-world mythology always offers fascinating insight into the fantastic possibilities. Whoever first decides to take some cultural or mythological element and include it in a fantasy story takes what works for them, and leaves the rest. That’s how fantasy writing works. But who is to say that the elements they left behind aren’t sometimes just as interesting as the elements they chose to keep?

For clarity’s sake, lets start with the explanation of what a phylactery is in Pathfinder, pulled from The Pathfinder Bestiary, page 188. For those curious, this excerpt is functionally identical to the same excerpt in the Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 Monster Manual.

A Lich Raises Undead Minions by Jeff EaslyAn integral part of becoming a lich is the creation of the phylactery in which the character stores his soul. The only way to get rid of a lich for sure is to destroy its phylactery. Unless its phylactery is located and destroyed, a lich can rejuvenate after it is killed. (See Creating a Lich, below).

Each lich must create its own phylactery by using the Craft Wondrous Item feat. The character must be able to cast spells and have a caster level of 11th or higher. The phylactery costs 120,000 gp to create and has a caster level equal to that of its creator at the time of creation.

The most common form of phylactery is a sealed metal box containing strips of parchment on which magical phrases have been transcribed. The box is Tiny and has 40 hit points, hardness 20, and a break DC of 40.

Other forms of phylacteries can exist, such as rings, amulets, or similar items.

Not a lot to go on, really. I also seem to recall very distinctly that the process of becoming a lich (and so, presumably, creating the phylactery) is supposed to be profoundly evil. To my knowledge, that is the sum of official material on what a phylactery is within the game world. There are probably a few dragon magazine articles, and sourcebooks from the 70s and 80s which contain further tidbits of “official” information, but for now the basic definition will do.

Before moving any further, I would like to again remind my readers that I am not a credible source on the topic of Judaic history and lore. The sources for this post, which have far more information on this topic, are the Jewish Encyclopedia.com article on Phylacteries, and the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible.

The historical phylactery, by comparison, was considered a very holy thing. In fact, if you look at the word’s etymology, the Greek root words suggest that it was intended to protect the wearer from evil. The Jewish custom is based on a number of passages in the Torah, most notably this excerpt from Deuteronomy:

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on they gates.

The ‘words’ this passage wants the reader to spend so much time talking about are, as best I can determine, God’s laws. Variations of this passage show up in a number of places, since repetition is an essential element in an oral tradition. The important part, though, is the bit I emphasized. That’s the origin of the historical phylactery. The exact means of how these devices were worn is somewhat unclear to me. The image at the start of the post demonstrates how complicated they appear to be–and every element was important. Even the way the knots were tied was meant to symbolize specific Hebrew lettering. Essentially, however, historical phylacteries are small boxes or pouches which are worn on the arms and between the eyes. Within the pouches are a specific arrangement of passages from the Torah, written on tiny scrolls of paper. This is likely where the idea of a lich’s phylactery being a metal box filled with tiny magical scrolls came from.

One of the archetypical things which liches do is hide their phylacteries. Common ideas are to hide it in a fortress somewhere, or to give it to a powerful dragon to protect. I’ve been involved in discussions on /tg/ and elsewhere which focus just on coming up with the most outrageous, funny, and clever ways to hid a phylactery. And I’ve heard some positively fantastic ideas. But the historical phylactery was a thing which had to be worn. You couldn’t leave it at home and continue to rely on the spiritual protection it provided.

Of course, if every lich was wearing their phylactery dangling between their eyes, the monster would loose all of its flavor. But what if there was a limit to how far away the phylactery could be from the lich? Say, it must be within 1 mile of the lich’s location. For each additional mile away, the lich suffers from 1 negative level, and if the lich reaches 0, it dies and re-forms at the location of its phylactery. Perhaps the lich might even get some kind of bonus if its phylactery is within 100ft, say, plus one caster level? Adding a mechanic like this takes nothing away from the the fun of hiding the lich’s phylactery, and in fact may end up being a great deal more fun for the players. Looking for a hidden item can be fun, but if that item is in an adamantite box which shifts to a random location in the multiverse every 30 seconds, the players are simply going to get bored. Adding limits gives the players somewhere to start their investigation. Plus, this adds a fun element to the game of a lich needing to actively manage their phylactery’s location in order to avoid negative levels.
A Lich King condemns you to die!
Also interesting is that the wearer of a historical phylactery was not supposed to enter a cemetery, or “any unseemly places” whilst wearing it. Again, this suggests some interesting possibilities for the lich’s phylactery. Since liches never have their phylactery, it wouldn’t make sense for certain places to only be accessible when the lich didn’t have it, but what if there were certain places a lich couldn’t enter UNLESS it had its phylactery with it? Such as an area which is consecrated, or perhaps they cannot go within 10 miles of their original birthplace without their phylactery. It might even be interesting to say that a lich could never enter a cemetery without its phylactery. Though, given a lich’s frequent need for necromancy reagents, this could make things difficult.

There are a number of rules for historical phylacteries…actually there are a plethora of rules. There is an entire pantheon of rules. This is, after all, Judaism. The rules range from the spacing on the letters on the little scrolls, to the attention span of the chap scribing those letters, to even the color of the case. Largely, I don’t think these have much application. They could be fun if one was trying to come up with a good ritual for creating a phylactery, but unless a character becoming a lich is the focus of a campaign, I don’t think it’s particularly useful to go into the creation process too much. Although that would be a kickass campaign.

However, this rule caught my eye: “The straps (Yad. iii. 3) were made of the same material as the boxes, but could be of any color except blood-red.” Perhaps I’m shooting in the dark, here, but what if blood were harmful to phylacteries? What if, perhaps, blood was the ONLY thing which could harm a phylactery. The blood of a goodly person–or perhaps even the blood of a fallen hero. The phylactery must be coated with it, and then it becomes as brittle as a twig.

I encourage you to read up on the historical phylactery yourself, and comment on your own ideas for making a lich’s phylactery more interesting!

Magical Marvels 3: Wallcraft’s Offerings

This week’s artifact duom spear, also from my Ascendant Crusade campaign, is again illustrated by my ladyfriend. You should check out more of her art on her DeviantArt page.

Duom Spear Wallcraft's OfferingsWallcraft’s Offerings
Artifact Duom Spear


DUOM SPEAR


The Duom spear, introduced in the Dungeons and Dragons 3.0 supplement Arms and Equipment Guide is a longspear with a standard spearhead, as well as two blades curved so that they point backward along the shaft. The weapon has reach, allowing you to strike opponents 10 feet away with it. Those proficient with the duom can also attack adjacent foes with the reversed heads using a practiced “reverse thrust.” Apply a -2 penalty on the attack roll if you use the duom to attack a second, adjacent opponent in the same round you attacked the first opponent. Duom spears cost about 20gp, deal 1d8 damage for medium creatures, with a critical multiplier of 3 on a natural twenty. They weigh 8 pounds on average, and deal piercing damage.


PHYSICAL ATTACKS


(Main Blade)1d8 + 5 (Piercing)(20/x3)(10ft.)
(Reverse Blades) 1d8 + 5 (Piercing)(20/x3)(5ft.)
(Shaft) 1d6 + 5 (Bludgeoning)(20/x2)(5ft.)


SPELLS GRANTED


At Will- Unhallow, cast by thrusting Wallcraft’s Offering into the ground for two minutes. (Pathfinder Core Rulebook Pg. 363)

At Will – Animate Dead, cast by letting the droplets of blood from Wallcraft’s Offering fall onto a viable corpse for 1 full round. (PFCR Pg. 241)


SPECIAL ABILITIES


  • Though Duoms are not made for throwing, Wallcraft’s Offerings magically gives it a throwing range increment of 20ft.
  • At will it can be summoned to its owners hands.
  • At will, the blood dripping from The Blind Empress’ hand can create a cloud of red mist around the spear’s blade, granting a +5 to bluff checks when attempting to feint.
  • Once per day, The Blind Empress’ discarded eye can guide the spear in magical flight. A target who is within the sight of the thrower must be selected, and the thrower must speak the command word “May Vecna make my aim true!” Wallcraft’s Offering then flies through the air at a speed of 120ft per round, following the target even around corners, and up to one mile distant from the thrower. After either hitting or missing the target, or reaching 1 mile of distance, Wallcraft’s Offering is magically summoned back to the thrower’s hands.
  • Wallcraft’s Offering grants the wielder a +10 on Spellcraft, Knowledge(Arcana), and knowledge (Religion) checks.
  • When attempting to recruit followers of Vecna, the wielder is granted +5 to their leadership score. All normal leadership restrictions apply.
  • The character wielding Wallcraft’s Offering is treated as one level higher for the purposes of determining how many undead they can control.
  • Wallcraft’s Offering can be used as a holy symbol by followers of Vecna.
  • Wallcraft’s Offering radiates a strong aura of Necromancy and Evil.

APPEARANCE


The blade’s shaft is made of a polished bronze, which is perfectly smooth, yet does not slide in the hand when gripped. The shaft ends in an expertly crafted bronze skull, from which springs the the adamantium spear blade. A pair of imp’s wings, torn from the back of one of the foul creatures, have been magically turned to iron and shaped into the duom’s reverse blades. The Whispered Queen’s eye, plucked from her own head, is mounted between the two wings. Likewise her hand, cut from her own arm, clutches the duom’s shaft just below the spear blade. Though it has been severed for years, it still bleeds profusely. Any blood which falls from it, however, disappears shortly after it touches the ground.


HISTORY


Not much is known about the early life of the woman for whom this weapon was named. She was always shrouded in mystery, and what was known of her has now been lost to the mists of time. What people do know are the titles she earned for herself. Vecna’s Heartfelt Voice, The Blind Empress, the Whispered Queen, Lady of the Ascent–Warmisstress Wallcraft. From her granite throne at center of the Citadel of the Seed, she ruled over the known world with an iron fist for a thousand years. Though it has been centuries since the end of her rule, there are few more terrifying figures in history than she. Perhaps even more so, now that she sits at the right hand of the god she served so well.

It is said that the Whispered Queen was chosen at a young age by Vecna himself. That he groomed her, and guided her to usurp the leadership of his religion from her long forgotten predecessor. That when she stood over the bloody corpse, she turned the knife on herself, and cut out her eyes and her left hand in honor of her god.

The followers of Vecna–those few who still remain–know the story to be a little less dramatic. The Whispered Queen did usurp leadership of the Cult of Vecna from the former leader, and in doing so, obtained both The Hand and The Eye. The removal of her own hand and eye were a gesture of faith, yes, but it was also necessary for her to affix the powerful artifacts to her own body. And she only removed one eye, as the other had been lost during her youth. But even the faithful do not know that tale.

After gaining control the Cult of Vecna, The Whispered Queen took her severed hand and eye, and forged them into one of the most magnificent weapons the world has ever seen. Working with her companions, including master tactician Kisteer Forktongue, The Whispered Queen systematically conquered kingdom after kingdom with ruthless efficiency. Often neighboring nations were completely unaware that their ally had been conquered until the forces of Vecna were on their own doorstep. The world fell before her might, and her empire lasted a thousand years.

But all empires must fall. The Whispered Queen finally met her end at the hands of upstart peasants, and Wallcraft’s Offering was seemingly lost to the ages.

What is not commonly known is that one of the peasants who defeated the Whispered Queen, a paladin named Toryan, tried to destroy the vile weapon, but could not. No fire would smelt it, no axe would sunder it, no hammer could even dull its razor edge. At a loss for options, she gathered together three dozen other paladins from her order, and they traveled deep into the wilderness. When they reached a suitable place, they all dug together for nine days, and placed the spear in a sealed adamantium box, upon which they placed powerful wards against evil and divination–hoping to keep its location hidden from the god of secrets himself.

The 37 paladins then buried the box again, and vowed to dedicate their lives to its protection. They settled there, and built a small farming community on the ground above their ward. Generations have passed, and the community has grown to a small town of 300 people. Most know nothing of their town’s founders, or of their town’s sacred purpose. They are no longer even deep in the wilderness: civilization has spread out around them, and there are several other communities nearby. Only the twelve town elders, and the town’s High Cleric know of the secret beneath the earth, and even they know only that a great evil rests there which must be protected.

But centuries have passed, and the magical protections have begun to weaken…

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