Magical Mondays: The Brewer’s Bonsai   Leave a comment

I’ve developed a magical item for my gaming sessions.  Originally it was created by an artificer of mine to help speed up the creation of potions (though ‘potion’ may not be an accurate word, as you’ll soon see.)  After it saw some practice in play with the help of my GM, I modified it a bit and decided to start figuring out where it might exist in Cantadel, my homebrew setting.

The item is a bonsai tree of sorts, in that it is a miniature tree in a small pot or tray.  (My modest research into the practice of bonsai hasn’t yet demonstrated that this item wouldn’t technically qualify as a bonsai tree, but I’m going to assume that its magical nature alone is a reasonable reason to disqualify it.)  The tree will grow carefully on its own, and requires no more maintenance than a standard bonsai tree.  The rules for the tree are as follows:

The Brewer’s Bonsai
Aurua faint transmutation; CL 5th
Slot none; Price 3150 gp; 12 lbs.

The Brewer’s Bonsai is a small tree, grown in a stylized shape.  Unlike a nonmagical Bonsai tree, the Brewer’s Bonsai is capable of growing magical fruits over the course of a day’s time.  If a magical character who knows how to brew potions spends some time brewing and seeding the tree, it will grow a fruit with juice or pulp that can act as a magical potion or oil.  This fruit grows as if the character was brewing such a potion on their own (generally over the course of eight hours, but this time can be reduced for especially cheap potions with certain Pathfinder rules, or through other obscure methods of reducing the amount of time that a character might spend brewing a potion.)  Unlike most potion brewing, the tree grows the fruit on its own without any supervision from the brewer once the process has started.  The Brewer’s Bonsai requires fifteen minutes of preparation, during which time the brewer casts spells, uses material components and pays associated costs as if brewing the potion on his or her own.  The brewer must also make a check equal to DC 15 + the level of the spell to be used in the potion (or the highest level spell to be used in the potion if, somehow, more than one spell is used to make the potion.)  The check must be either Craft (Alchemy), Heal, Profession (Herbalist), or Knowledge (Nature), skills that represent the player’s ability to understand either the magic at work or the capabilities of the tree itself.  Failure at this check means that the fruit is lost and the costs spent on attempting to create the fruit are wasted.

Construction Requirements

Brew Potion, Craft Wondrous Item, Training in one of the associated skills (Craft (Alchemy), Heal, Profession (Herbalist) or Knowledge (Nature), Plant Growth, Prestidigitation, Warp Wood, Wood Shape; Cost 1575 gp



It’s worth noting that three of the spells required to create this item are druid spells, and one of the spells is a wizard or sorcerer spell.  This is intentional.  A wizard wanting to create an item of this sort would need to seek out a druid for assistance, or a druid would need to seek out a wizard.  A multiclass character could theoretically do it, but the caster level for each spell is 5, so most people who qualify in this fashion would need to be at least level ten (barring the various ways that players or other characters can increase their spell level.)

Note also that the weight for this tree, and its relative size, mean that it’s technically portable but not something that someone would want to carry with themselves at all times.  Theoretically, larger versions of the tree could be created, each capable of doing something more than this basic model, but the secrets behind such things are very mysterious and generally not accessible to player characters unless it’s important for their character story or the campaign itself.  In short, they’re incredibly low-powered artifacts.  Not powerful enough to stand as a story plot on their own most of the time, but outside the ability of most players to reproduce.

The price for the tree was something I went back and forth with.  Ultimately, I found an item from the most popular d20 roleplaying game that did the same thing, but for scrolls.  Potions are (arguably) twice as useful as scrolls since 1) anyone can use them without spellcasting ability, and 2) they cost twice as much.  Honestly, the second one of those was the one that I was more interested in, because it gave me a starting point.

I also didn’t want the item to be as easy to use as the item that creates scrolls.  I wanted to emulate the time and care that people who work on bonsai trees put into it, without necessarily being a hindrance to a character’s adventuring time.  I picked a very likely skill (Craft (Alchemy) is all-but a given for Pathfinder players who brew potions, and a useful skill even for people who don’t create potions), but gave four other skills to represent the focus on the plant’s life.  This isn’t a magical item that could survive if you left it exposed to a blizzard, and someone with any of the three other skills would likely understand that.  Because of how necessary skill usage is to the creation and usage of this magical item, I reduced its price by ten percent as the core rules suggest.  (Those rules probably only meant that a single skill would be used instead of four, but I’ll leave the price as it is for now.)

In my campaigns, I alter the Brew Potion feat a bit to make it more appealing to players.  It can be used to create elixirs, ointments and other similar substances if the character has a reasonable number of ranks in Craft (Alchemy).  The Brewer’s Bonsai tree is capable of creating these things as well for me; if you don’t like the sound of that addition to the Brew Potion feat, then feel free to leave that capability out of the Brewer’s Bonsai’s abilities.

I’ve not had much time to drop this into a place where my players can poke and prod at it to see if it’s broken, so use it at your own risk.  In fact, if you *do* use it at your own risk, I’d be interested to know your thoughts on how it works, if it works, what might need to change, and other things like that.  As for me, I’ve got a few places in Cantadel where this item exists.  Feel free to use these as story hooks if you need a way to introduce the item.

-An unusually large Brewer’s Bonsai exists at Thandal Henge, Cantadel’s most prestigious institution for the study and training of magic.  A collaborative effort betweena one of Thandal Henge’s oldest wizards and a druid who arrives to aid the wizards in their more primal studies two or three times a year, this tree seems to have benefited from their years of expertise, tweaking, and personal achievements.  While neither of these two researchers is able to brew potions that are noteworthy on their own, they have discovered that their tree is able to create fruits that emulate the effect of magical spells much more powerful than those typically found in potions.

-In the island city of Shale Quay, a wizard has developed a technique for using his Brewer’s Bonsai to craft a (poor tasting) plum-like fruit with a pit that acts as a Pearl of Power of up to third level.  The wizard has not revealed his method for doing this with his Bonsai, but has started selling these pits at low prices.  Unfortunately, he is only now learning that each of these pits loses its ability after a number of uses, or if a month or two passes.  An angry pirate wizard feels cheated when her discounted Pearl of Power stops working one day, prompting her to return to the town to kidnap the one who sold the plum pit to her so that she can be sure to have a steady supply of these items.  The city is offering a reward to anyone who can either capture the pirate or rescue the kidnapped wizard.

-A truly massive Brewer’s Bonsai has been spotted in a dark forest, known to be the home to very territorial treants, hostile magical beasts, and sinister fey led by someone that the local legends call the Queen Tenebrous.  No one has yet gotten to the tree, but a large, unidentified fruit is seen hanging on its branches.  When one brave adventurer spoke to the Queen and asked about the fruit, she reportedly said “It’s for anyone who wishes to gain a mighty blessing and untold fortune, in addition to a horrid curse and catastrophic doom.”  The adventurer might have been lying, though, as nearly every other account of the Queen Tenebrous has depicted her as being silent, and more than willing to kill any trespassers that she catches in her shadow wood.


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