Magical Mondays: By The Lore Of The Law   Leave a comment

Do you, as a GM, prefer to live by the Letter of the Law, or the Lore of the Law?

This is, of course, just a different way of saying “Spirit of the Law”, but I think Lore of the Law actually gets the connotation better (and connotation is what I’m speaking about here, so it seemed, by the letter of the law, best to go with my feelings.)  This is a tricky concept for a lot of GMs and PCs everywhere, an it crosses the line between different kinds of game systems, but I think it’s a crucial distinction to make.  If you’re a GM who plays one way with PCs who want to play another way, you’re going to have someone being disappointed somewhere.

As a beginning reference: I’ve spoken before about my problems with potions on Magical Mondays, and some homebrewed rules that I use to get around some of those issues.  This is due to a quirk in the wording of the Brew Potion feat causing an effect that appears to be in line with its name, while the name, in fact, has little to do with the feat itself.  A person looking at that feat might think “Taking this feat, I will be able to brew all sorts of powerful potions, amazing alchemical alembics and mysterious mixtures.”  In actuality, what the feat does is allow you to create a one-use spell that can only affect one person or object without needing any particular spell effect.  There’s a hard and fast equation that you have to follow when using this feat, though Wizards of the Coast did have a few obscure items that acted differently that still required Brew Potion instead of the usually inescapable maw of the Craft Wondrous Item feat.

On the other end of the spectrum you have the Craft Rod and Forge Ring feats.  Unlike Brew Potion, these feats come with no rules.  Instead, you’re given a lot of example Rods and Rings, along with a set of guidelines you can use to give prices for magical items.  There are a lot of vague, thematic cues for these items, and ones that are up to the DM and PCs to negotiate when these items are created.

DMs make a lot of compromises here, some more obvious than others.  Case in point, Craft Wand is another feat from the third edition of Dungeons and Dragons that defined a very rigid formula for a very defined effect.  The D&D artifact known as the Wand of Wonder didn’t quite fit this formula.  In third edition, we no longer have the Wand of Wonder… though we gained the Rod of Wonder.  The difference between the two items is largely the name.

Whether you play a game like D&D or Pathfinder, or some other game system that uses magic, it’s good to know where you fall on the lore/letter spectrum.  I’m personally more of a Lore fan, though many of my players prefer the Letter for most of the things they interact with (not all the time, though.)  One possible compromise you can make is to define new methods of creating and using magic items that will be more in line with whatever campaigns you run.  A “Fire Item” feat might allow a player to create Wands of Fire, Potions of Fire, Cloaks of Fire, any magical fire-themed item even.  That might be a little broad, but it gives you a lot to work with.

Here’s a feat that I’m considering for an upcoming campaign of mine.  The setting will probably use the 5th Edition Rules, but I’m creating other options for players who prefer to see it using Third Edition or Pathfinder rules.

 

Vitalizing Animism [Item Creation]
You can channel a spark of life from yourself to awaken another lifeless thing.
Prerequisite: Member of the Animists, must have encountered Petra Vitae or a Knowstone that came from it.
Benefit: Using the arts of the animists, you can channel the energies of life and lightning.  You can animate an item to move to a different location and perform a task as if you were using it yourself (with your own skill checks, BAB modifier, and so forth).  The item will act for a number of minutes equal to your hit dice, unless engaged in combat in which case the effect’s duration loses one minute’s worth of effectiveness per turn.  This ability can also restore 1d4 hit points to another living creature per hit die you possess (so, a level seven character could use it to restore 7d4 hit points.)  This latter ability may be used once per week, while the former ability may be used a number of times per day equal to one plus the greater of your Wisdom, Intelligence, or Charisma modifier.  This ability may not be used to harm undead.

 

This isn’t a perfect feat, but the feat will allow a player to create a number of temporary “magic items” that are more or less mundane apart from acting like Animated Items.  Taking the feat would also tie the character to the Animists and the Starstone known as Petra Vitae.  I’ll go on the record as saying that I think this feat wouldn’t be great in most settings, but given the significance of the Animists in my campaign, it will work there.

If you play with 3.5 or Pathfinder rules, or other game systems that use the d20 OGL system, you may not want to tinker with feats as much as this.  However, you can use the preexisting magic item creation rules thematically to open up other options for players.  If you give more items to a feat, I advise you not to take them away from the other feat (so, if a person creates a salve of slipperiness with Brew Potion, you probably shouldn’t deny Craft Wondrous Item players the ability to make it as well.)  If you want to pursue this sort of thing, though, here are a few options:

Scrolls: Generally, Scrolls are just pre-prepared spells on paper.  If you want to expand this a bit, feel free to make any magic item that uses books, bindings, or the written word be craftable with this feat.  I once made an artificer with plans for a deck of cards that would act like the Mirror Image spell, but every card that was turned up would create that many duplicate selves.  Scribe Scroll was the feat I used, even though it didn’t really fit the pattern (the pattern was more like a potion since the item was use activated.)

Potions: Any salve, elixir, ointment or paint could easily be made with Brew Potion.  I generally allow this in my campaigns to any person with Brew Potion who also has five ranks in Craft (Alchemy).  It’s always dangerous to promise that something won’t break a game, but in this case I’ll go out on a limb and say that if this manages to break your game, you may have problems that run deeper.

Wands: Wands are strange in that they are almost mini-staves.  A wand is generally inferior to a staff, though a staff could be created identically to a wand if you’re going by the strict rules.  I would allow a player who wants to create almost any strange effect with a baton-like item to make it with a wand, even if rods would be the better choice by RAW.  (If it’s a baton instead of a scepter, make it a wand.  That won’t be helpful by RAW, but it should be helpful through connotation, I hope.)  For instance: if a person wanted to create an Eternal Wand from the Eberron campaign setting with the Craft Wand feat?  I’d allow it.

That’s all for this week’s Magical Mondays!  As always, I’ll see you next time.

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Posted September 8, 2014 by John Little in Gaming, Magical Mondays

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