Archive for the ‘3.5’ Tag

The Fate Roll: Handling Initiative In A Split Party   1 comment

I had a curious situation this last Tuesday: I had a 3.5 gaming group where nearly every player had a character who would be in an entirely different place, doing different (though related) things at the same time.  I wasn’t sure how best to handle this… my instinct said that they should just roll initiative, but initiative wasn’t really a good story-excuse for ordering; initiative is about who can get the upper hand, about who’s faster, and about who’s wily enough to get the drop on other people.  And I didn’t want to just make it a “roll off” where everyone rolled a d20 and the number on the die was your order; one of the subtle brilliances of initiative is that it has an automatic tie-breaker, wherein those who get the same “score” can still check sheets and determine that even in a tie, one player would logically be faster than the other (though this can still lead to more ties, causing a roll-off, but that only has about a 1 in 400 chance of occurring, and then only between characters with identical Dexterity scores.)  So I wanted a Dexterity tie breaker, even though Dexterity was pointless.  Clearly I needed another stat… but all the stats were seemingly useless.

Enter the Fate Roll.  Borrowing some ideas from a few different games, I had the players add their Wisdom and Charisma scores together and divide by 2.  Wisdom tends to model your awareness of the world around you, and Charisma tends to model your self-assertion within that world, so it seemed logical that those two things might be related to a character’s ability to manipulate their own fate or destiny or what have you.  (This was probably way too much math to demand of my players; going with a Wisdom or Charisma score was probably enough, but dangit once I was committed to the idea I was gonna do it, no matter how many players had to double check what I was asking.)  This number would then be rounded down to derive a “Fate Score”, a sort of seventh ability score that could represent Luck or Fate or whatever.  Then a simple roll off to determine order of group.

As it turned out, the order was a decent one.  Everyone only had two “turns” for the entire session, but each turn represented an hour of in-game work.  In the current game, I’ve set things in Eberron and I’m using the Alabaster Cup tournament as presented in the book Complete Warrior.  It’s set in Karrnath, and many of the players joined the tournament while a few others chose not to.  The previous events have included Archery, an Obstacle Course, Wrestling, and Jousting, and the players have been trying to keep the campaign’s villain from winning the tournament since (in my version of the tournament) the winner has historically been able to ask for a “reasonable favor” from the monarch of whatever nation the tournament is held within.

All of those previous events, as you can probably imagine, didn’t really require much of a change to the order; people either did things at the same time (like in the archery tournament), in a turn-based fashion (such as the obstacle course), or they were randomly assigned placement in a bracket (like in wrestling or jousting.)  Hunting is the next stage, though.

One of the real benefits of doing it this way is that I was able to involve the players who weren’t in the tournament, who have been good sports the last few session while the action hasn’t really focused on their characters.  I grouped them together as a sort of security detail to watch the forest, and I’ve had them work as a group to discover an ominous figure who they know to be working with the campaign’s villain, apparently working with rival packs of Winter Wolves and Worgs.  They don’t know the reasons why,  yet, and they opted not to attack the figure in the forest or his wolves, but they were able to advance the story itself rather than wait for the other players to “be done” with their hunting.

Anyway… this in’t a hug revelation, and it could have been handled in a fashion as easy as me saying “Okay guys, we’re gonna go around the table from me, clockwise, to figure out what order you go in” but I liked having an actual reason. for it.  Take care, all!

Magical Mondays: (Over)Reacting To D&D Next’s Magic   9 comments

Jim Darkmagic

It seemed fitting to let Jim Darkmagic (owned by Mike Krahulik (AKA Gabe) of Penny Arcade fame) be the top image of this post since Jim Darkmagic (of the New Hampshire Darkmagics) was easily one of the best things to come out of Fourth Edition.  What awaits him in the future?  I’m sure Wizards of the Coast will sponsor Acquisitions Incorporated again before too long and we’ll find out.  Anyway, on to the post.

This last week, Wizards of the Coast released the Basic Rules for D&D Next, called 5th Edition by some (though I think WotC is trying hard to make us think of it as an all new form of D&D rather than just the “next edition” of the AD&D that’s been going on for so long). Needing a topic for Magical Mondays, and given my nature for veering into D&D territory on occasion (don’t know if you’ve noticed or not), I figured that I should look into D&D Next’s magic as seen through the guise of the Basic Rules. This is all subject to being updated bit by bit, as is the nature of D&D products, and as such keep in mind that anything I say may be premature. For instance: it’s probably not fair for me to criticize the spell list for not having Wish when I know very well that the Player’s Handbook will probably have it. There were a lot of things that I really, really, really liked about what I saw. There was also one big giant thing that I absolutely hated. I’ll start with that so that I can end on a positive note.

I hate The Weave.

Seriously. I absolutely, positively hate The Weave. It’s one of the primary reasons that I never play Forgotten Realms games. I’m sure there are many people who disagree with me on this front, many people who love The Weave. And these people are in for some great news because according to the Basic Rules, Every Setting Has The Weave Now. They say that it might be called different things in different places, but it’s always The Weave.

 

The Weave In Loom

 

Why do I hate The Weave so much?  It’s honestly hard to say.  I think the primary reason is because it takes some of the richest and most imaginative settings’ magic systems and tops it off with an origin that has this weird sameness to it.  Cleric, Psion, Sorcerer, Druid, Wizard, you’re ultimately just tapping into this artifice to access the “true magic” that you’re not allowed to get at because you’re a mortal.  I can barely tolerate putting all arcane magic under the same definition on a good day, but all magic regardless of origin?  My mind shudders at the thought.  This is similar to the Well Of Furies problem from City of Heroes: in City of Heroes, your character eventually had the chance to become an “Incarnate”.  Now, before you became an Incarnate you declared that your hero (or villain) gained his or her (or its) powers through Science, Technology, Mutation, Magic, or Natural training and abilities.  The fan base recoiled when these options seemed to be trumped by the Well of Furies, which seemed to give you Magical powers whether you wanted them or not.  This was eventually revealed by the developers and writers to not have been the intention; rather, it was meant to imply that the Well was trying to make you achieve a level of power through your regular means, just advanced to the level of Sufficiently Advanced Technology, effectively making it indistinguishable from magic.  The (necessarily) uniform story that put you on this path suggested such a thing (depending on your origin you see a strange thing that represents your powers, be it an unimaginable piece of technology or just a mirror that reflects back at you), but it was missed by many of the players.  Sadly, The Weave doesn’t offer us such an out.  You’re pretty much stuck with The Weave, and the knowledge that even if you call it something else it’s still The Weave.

Shadow Well

Fortunately, City of Heroes never had Dark Astoria give us a Shadow Well, or Lord Recluse attempting to make his own… Well… actually, no, he tried that, didn’t he? Lousy Recluse, always being villainous…

My other objection to The Weave comes from the vague feeling that this is somehow related to marketing.  Call it paranoia, but 4th Edition demonstrated that WotC wasn’t a fan of creating material that might not fit in the games of all fans.  Will your Eberron players buy a book about Baator when they have Khyber instead?  Not likely.  (Curiously enough, Baator wound up being placed in the realm of Syberis instead of Khyber when that marketing decision happened, possibly due to Syberis’ stronger association with Law.)  Some settings handled this mandatory uniformity better than others (ironically, the Forgotten Realms may have been the most damaged by such things.  Was the plane of Dwarfhome even referenced in Fourth Edition?)

Enough of my ramblings about this one problem I have with the rules so far, though.  Let’s move on to the GOOD stuff!

D&D Next is taking significant strides toward embracing not only its historical roots but also the flights of imagination that created the game in the first place.  Vancian Magic is, of course, well represented through clerics and wizards who prepare spells in spell slots before casting them like tiny spell bombs.  I’m hard on Vancian Magic on this blog, but let’s be honest: there’s a certain charm to knowing that you “prepared magic missile” that morning.

Players of earlier editions (particularly third) will find that spells look familiar.  A lot of classics are represented (magic missile, fireball, wall of force, etc.) but a number of new ones are worth looking at.  Fire Bolt, for instance, is a cantrip that deals a good amount of fire damage if you make a successful attack with it.  Oh, I forgot to mention: cantrips aren’t expended in this edition, so even if your Wizard runs out of regular spells during a fight there’ll still be some combat options upon which he or she can fall.  (Fire Bolt isn’t the only offensive cantrip, of course, it just seems the most flashy and new.)

The thing that’s really worth mentioning is arguably a holdover from 4th edition (or some of the later elements of third edition): rituals!  Ritual magic is back, and possibly better than ever.  In third edition rituals were usually story specific and hard to find.  In 4th edition, rituals were a specific alternative to spells (and, in fact, many classic spells were removed and reclassified as rituals.)  Ritual spells in this edition share the best of both worlds: you can choose to memorize a spell and cast it as normal in a flash, OR you can not memorize it and take a longer amount of time to perform a ritual that generates the magical effect.  Even if a wizard or cleric doesn’t “have that prepared today”, there’s a chance that they might know it as a ritual, in which case there’s no need to sleep for eight hours (after waking up at dawn and having two or three fights that end in less than an hour.)  So even when the caster runs out of spells, the caster can keep on doin’ stuff.  Sometimes pretty awesome stuff.

Tier Envy

Even better, WotC has simplified some of the mystical, non-rules related aspects of the game.  Clerics can still turn undead, of course, but now instead of looking up a complicated chart and rolling different kinds of dice against the number of hit dice that an undead creature has (and don’t forget its turn resistance), you pretty much just declare that you’re turning the undead and the poor undead creature makes a save to see if it resists.  That’s it.  Even better: advanced clerics can now ask their deities for direct intervention.  Yeah, direct divine intervention.  Do you *need* a deus ex machina in this situation? Well, you’re in luck, there’s a tiny chance that the cleric might just be able to arrange for that to happen.  It can’t be used too often, and before the class capstone there’s a very good chance that it won’t work at all, but still.

Oh, and if you love unanswered mysteries as much as I do: just take a look at the table you can roll on for Trinkets.  That’s just an awesome list of stuff.

Anyway… my reaction to the magic stuff in D&D Next is, ruleswise, almost entirely favorable.  There is the… unpleasantness about The Weave.  Fortunately, I don’t need to incorporate that into any games I run.  It’s annoying that I’ll be working against the official lore when I do so in my games, but it’s ultimately something I can work through.

That’s it for this week’s Magical Mondays, folks.  Seeya later!

Magical Mondays: The Enemy Invincible   Leave a comment

So you want your players to fight a memorable foe.  But the problem you face is that your players are moderately organized, modestly optimized, and advantageously armed.  You, my friend, have a group of average players, fully capable of taking out absolutely anything of their CR.  You also don’t feel comfortable dropping them into a fight against a monster *above* their CR because you’re worried it’ll kill too many of them too quickly.  (It won’t.  But it’s good to try to not murder your players, so you should practice.)  I suggest giving your villain du semaine a single change without changing his, her, or its CR at all: just make it invincible.  Seriously, think about it: make it something that your players won’t be able to drop through a solid application of hit points or wounds or similar things.  Do all this, but don’t change its CR.  How do you make a villain like this?

Image

Okay, maybe not like that.  (Credit to 8-Bit Theater for that.  Seriously, it’s a fun webcomic, go read it.  I’ve linked to the first comic in the archive for you, just go bookmark it, read a couple pages, then come back here.)  Back? Okay, good, back to invincibility.

Making a villain magically invincible is surprisingly easy.  Basically, whenever the villain is not in an area or under the effect of something that causes magical abilities to be suppressed, decide that any situation that would cause injury or remove hitpoints doesn’t do that.  Pretty straightforward, right?

But John, you frantically wail, won’t this make my villain too dangerous?!  What if the players die!

Stop wailing, it never helps.  The thing is, your players won’t die.  Their *characters* might, but they’ll be fine.  Now, I don’t advocate setting up unwinnable situations, and some players have an attachment to their characters that goes beyond making death acceptable, but in a group of mature role players character death can add to the story.  However, I don’t think your players will be at much risk.  Instead, I think that your players will realize that, for the first time in a long time, they’ll have to strategize.

Your players will need to engage crowd control tactics.  Also, remember that Invincibility doesn’t necessarily mean Super Strength.  Three or four players can still pin down even a very strong opponent while they try to figure out what to do with it, and a bull rush attack is almost always a good way to end a fight.  In fact, I recommend building a rule-breaking villain like this around a short story progression if you’re worried about how it might play out.

Act 1: The players are ambushed by this person who was hired by a bigger villain to defeat the players.  Or maybe the invincible figure is the servant of a lovecraftian horror that knows that only the players can actually stop it.  Either way, this person is The Dragon of whoever the real villain is.  Make it possible for the heroes to escape, because The Dragon will attempt to ambush the heroes in such a way that provides an advantage.  Careful application of minions and scenery (goblins from a catwalk who fire arrows, for instance) will stop the players from being able to effectively grapple.  The players might not recognize that as the reason at first (or at all), but when it becomes apparent to anyone trying a grapple check that all twelve goblins up above are firing at anyone trying to grapple, doing so will quickly be apparent as a suicide move, hopefully before the player attempting that bites the dust.  It’s important that you describe all of the attacks that strike this figure as hitting, but not causing damage.  (“Your war axe swings majestically and hits your enemy squarely in the chest, but it simply rebounds from this figure’s frame, shaking violently as not a scratch mars him!”  For extra fun, require a reflex save to avoid dropping the weapon if they land a critical hit.)  This will be the warning the players need: you need crowd control, but the crowd is too big to control this situation; fall back, retreat, regroup.

Act 2: The story outside these three acts progress to some crucial point.  Ideally the players will have done some research and figured out the name of this invincible person (though if they haven’t don’t worry about it.)  A future fight ends with the players in a time crunch.  For example, a crumbling ruin in a city that floats in the sky.  Something the players did causes the crumbling ruin to start shaking itself apart violently, meaning that there are mere moments before the entire structure simply falls apart, killing anyone still inside.  Strongly imply that the players will only need a single hand to count the number of turns before they need to escape, and then have the invincible enemy return, this time alone.  The advantage you give to the players in this situation is not the ability to escape, but the NEED to escape joined with ideal terrain.  Either (a minimum) of one of your players is going to lose a character here, or they’ll figure out that they can bull rush the invincible person.  Whether or not the players escape before a life is lost, make the crumbling ruin (or whatever) cause the villain to fall to what would be certain death for almost anything else.

Act 3: By now, the players have learned a method of depriving this figure of its invincibility, or perhaps a very particular weak spot.  The ideal time to stage the final confrontation will be when the players are busy with something else, but probably wary that the Dragon will be around somewhere.  The “real villain” is an ideal spot for this.  Players need to do something to counteract the figure’s invincibility, but removing this effect needs to be complicated in some fashion.  And here’s the hard part: for this fight, the invincible warrior should actually be able to fight.  Even without invincibility, this figure needs to prove itself harder to fight in single combat than almost any other “regular” fighter they’ve seen yet.  Having some new super weapon or power granted by the real villain to “finally crush these nuisances” might be appropriate.  Alternatively, you could turn the Dragon into a total pushover when the invincibility is lost (and really, what’s more of a pushover than a single level-appropriate enemy?), but then your players might feel cheated unless they either really like the story you’ve crafted (or are big fans of Puzzle Bosses.)

But John, I hear you cry, what if a player brings an antimagic spell or something that nullifies magical effects?!

The simple answer: reward them.  Have it work; completely take away this guy’s invincibility.  For a more tactical approach, this warrior could have a caster as a helper, prepared to counterspell any such things, but that starts to cheat.  If you’re worried that you won’t be able to have the invincible warrior extricate him or herself from the challenge before the players finish him or her off, then consider adding a note when the players research the fellow to say that it’s been tried before, but never successfully; attribute it to being a “long lost magic” or “gift of a powerful genie” or other such long-lost ability.  This has the nice secondary benefit of making the power very hard for the players to replicate on their own.  If you feel a need to represent this with rules (say, in 3.5/Pathfinder equivalent rules), have the ability be Extraordinary instead of Supernatural, and have the note in the research indicate that the figure gained them in a way that made the ability “inherent”, and not subject to the rules of traditional magic.

Remember, you can plan for player creativity in a way that makes sense in a story, but you should NEVER cheat your players by changing the way the magic for a villain works on a whim.  (Note: You should also NEVER make an absolute rule when it comes to storytelling, so feel free to weigh that previous sentence appropriately.)

That’s all for this week’s Magical Mondays.  I’ve got a post on CIY 2014 in the works, and I should have that in the next day or two.  Later!

Magical Mondays: The Eyes of Argus   Leave a comment

For today’s Magical Mondays, I’m going to be describing a magical item that can be thematically dropped into most gaming sessions, though the exact details may alter from system to system or from setting to setting.  I’ll include rules for a possible 3.5 item of this sort, but the lore of the item could, be used in any location.

An Eye of Argus is an amulet, normally made from a valuable gemstone decorated with peacock feathers.  The amulet channels the powers of a genie, Argus the All Seeing, in a way that grants its wearer impressive divinatory abilities, as well as abilities useful to any guard.  The amulet obviates the need for sleep, and enhances the sight of anyone who wears it.  Unfortunately, Argus himself disapproves of these items and may, in fact, experience discomfort whenever one is used.  Argus attempts to track down the bearers of any such item so that he can destroy them.  While Argus is willing to let people go if they were unaware of the discomfort these items caused him, he is also willing to harm or kill to claim such items.  Another oddity is that only seventeen such items can exist at any one time; if seventeen exist, and someone creates another, then the oldest of the existing seventeen will cease functioning.  Some believe that this is due to the fact that Argus only has seventeen eyes, and that each amulet gains its power directly from one of the genie’s eyes.  Some have pointed out that it isn’t actually known how many eyes Argus has, and that most reports that claim to know suggest he has an even hundred.  Suspiciously round numbers aside, seventeen appears to be the limit for whatever reason.

Argus the All Seeing is, of course, based on Argus Panoptes from Greek Mythology.  Argus being used here as a genie instead of a giant comes from me using a genie of that name in a story I have called Thimble, a story about another world where people pull powerful entities thought to be genies from other realities.  One of the reasons I went with this particular lore is because it’s a good example of designing an item around a story, rather than designing an item around the abilities that it grants.

Argus is known for two things: seeing everything, and for guarding.  I was originally making this item as a generic item that could see through illusions.  However, once I reminded myself what the story of Argus involved, the fact that he was a guard of epic proportions helped to make the item more useful and, honestly, more interesting.

The other aspect that I’d like to point out here is that this item specifically has a source of power: Argus.  Generally, we don’t know why magic items work in games like these; we just know that the do.  In this case, we know that whoever creates these items must tap into the power of Argus.  I like the impression that magicians are always doing this kind of thing (though, hopefully, usually not from sentient creatures as in this case.)

The fact that only seventeen can exist at one time, and that Argus might track down anyone who uses these amulets, give some risk associated with the creation and use of the item.  If you don’t use the item very often, it’s possible that seventeen other people will create an item after you and that the item will become useless, effectively causing your own resources to be wasted.  On the other hand, if you create the item and use it too often, you might have an angry genie figuring out where you live and coming to have some very harsh words with you about the migraine that you cause every time you turn that item on.

Little touches like this can make magic more mysterious.  Not even magicians always have a complete grasp on just why their magic works the way it does, and potential consequences like this can lead to trouble.  For example: at the moment, I have a player playing a Warforged in an Eberron campaign.  He wanted a laser arm cannon.  I figured that this was reasonable, if a little powerful, and introduced that player’s character to some shady back alley characters who dealt with experimental weaponry and Warforged components.  His arm cannon was, basically, a wand of Scorching Ray that he could use as a non-caster at the expense of one of his hands (an expense that has come up from time to time.)

However, merely losing an arm wasn’t quite enough since he rarely used two-handed weapons anyway.  I had the player roll a secret number that I added to another secret number (his Con modifier), and then I started counting down from that number.  And, one day, that number reached zero.  Ever since then, the arm cannon has been uncomfortably hot, and every time he uses it he thinks he can feel the scratching of claws from inside the metal.  And after we counted down further to his Con score again, he started having to making Fortitude saves as the scratching sound from within became worse.  Now, I’ve known for well over a year just what that scratching sound is… and, really, if I said what it was in game terms, it would cheapen it and make it less fun for everyone involved.  But not knowing what the magic is doing to his arm cannon is one of the little mysteries that makes the magic worth it, and more than just a simple widget to contain a game effect.  (Don’t worry, though: at a certain point, his character will be able to get a non-cursed version of this and he’ll be able to blast away to his heart’s content.)

Anyway, for those of you who play D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder, here’s what I recommend doing to make the Eye of Argus in your game: first, anyone who wears the Eye of Argus gains the benefit of the Awareness feat (which stacks with the Awareness feat if they already have it from some other source) and doesn’t need to sleep, just like an elf.  Unlike an elf, magical sleep effects can still put them to sleep, but they gain a +5 bonus to save against the effect.  They are also able to see invisible creatures and objects in their area.  Magic users who wear the amulet gain the ability to see magical auras (as if they had Arcane Eye cast upon themselves).  They may also cast any Divination spell from the Wizard’s spell list even if they don’t know the spell by sacrificing a number of spell slots equal in combined level to the level of the divination spell that they need, AND by taking Con damage equal to the level of the divination spell that they wish to cast.  (So, to cast a sixth level Divination spell, they could sacrifice two second level spell slots, two first level spell slots, and take six points of Con damage.)

Meanwhile, I’d say that you probably shouldn’t worry about other Eyes of Argus being created in great enough numbers.  Magic items should be mysterious and rare, and a wizard who knows about this particular magic item is likely to create something else instead.  Still, if you have a campaign setting with a high level of magic item production and you think that enough magicians would know about it and want to keep track of such things: Every day, roll a percentile day.  On day one, there’s a 1% chance that that many Eyes of Argus are made, and that percentage increases by one every day.  Seriously, though, it’s just a lot of paperwork to worry about that.  I’d recommend only doing this if you have a particular story you want to tell about it.

For Argus, though, that’s another story.  I’d say that for every time after the first time a particular Eye of Argus is used, roll a d12.  On a roll of 12, Argus can see enough of the surrounding area to figure out who is using the eye and where that person is.  It then takes Argus 1d20 days to travel to the player and otherwise make plans for the best way to approach this player and acquire the character’s eye.

The best part about this?  Argus exists as an automatic way to take the item out of play if it starts to unbalance things for you.  If the players start to rely too much on the eye?  You’ve got a powerful genie on the way to take it back.  Treat Argus as an entity that can regenerate over time, so even if the players believe that they have “beaten” him, it turns out he’s merely plane-shifted away, or that Argus is truly immortal and regenerates elsewhere whenever beaten.

Using a similar strategy, you, too, can create awesome magic items for even your low level players to enjoy and, temporarily, get too comfortable with.

That’s all for this week’s Magical Mondays!  I’m hoping that it actually goes up.  This week, real life is taking me away for a week as I’ll be partying with my church’s youth group as we go to CIY.  It’ll be an awesome week, but one thing that we ask the students to do is to leave their cell phones and other wireless devices behind.  While there’s no rule about that for me since I’m a leader, I’m going to be leaving my laptop at home.  Ideally, this means that Magical Mondays will automate as I tell it to this week.  If not… sorry for missing last week, and I hope that you enjoy this week’s late episode. 😉  Later, all!

Magical Mondays: Spells for the Discerning Enchanter   Leave a comment

For this week’s Magical Mondays, I’d like to offer a few spells. These spells should be suitable for anyone playing a Pathfinder, D&D 3.5, or other similar d20 OGL fantasy game. Specifically, these spells are for the Discerning Enchanter, a series of spells catalogued by the mage’s college of Thandal Henge for those specializing wizards who have developed other spells outside of the normal. Even more specifically, these spells were developed (or at times discovered and documented) by Haselar Charl, one of Thandal Henge’s chief researchers into enchantment. While there is always some risk when using unknown enchantment spells, these spells all bear Thandal Henge’s seal of approval. The land of Cantadel has many similar spells, though much of the art of enchantment is known only to the fair folk and the bards who throw themselves into such studies.

 

Haselar’s Placebo
School Enchantment (compulsion) [mind-affecting]; Level Bard 0, Sorcerer/Wizard 0, Witch 0
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, M/F (see text)
Range touch
Targets one willing living creature, plus one per three levels to a maximum of five
Duration 1 hour per level (D)
Saving Throw Will negates (harmless); Spell Resistance no
The caster uses magically-enhanced suggestions to make a target believe, on some level, that a material component or focus item will grant resistence to some physical or mental malady. The target gains a +1 morale bonus to an expected Fortitude or Will save in the near future, such as to an impending effect from poison or disease. The material component (such as a cup of warm milk or harmless pinch of flour) or focus item (such as a holy symbol placed on the target’s head or a packet filled with mustard seeds worn around the neck) is not actually magical; however, the spell allows the target to believe the dubious claim enough to grant the boost to morale. The morale bonus increases to +2 at level 5 and +3 at level 10.
Any other morale, alchemical or circumtance bonus does not stack with this spell. (For instance, a +1 morale bonus granted by this spell would be completely nullified by a paladin’s Aura of Courage against a fear effect. However, a +3 morale bonus granted by this spell at level 10 would override a +2 circumstance bonus against poison granted by a Heal check assisted by a medical kit (or looked at another way, the user of this kit would gain a +3 bonus instead of the usual +2 bonus when making a Heal check in the place of the patient’s Fortitude save against the poison effect.) Any Fortitude or Will save encountered before the duration of Haselar’s Placebo ends will end the spell prematurely even if the benefit from the Placebo spell isn’t used.

Devil’s Advocate
School Enchantment (Charm) [mind-affecting] [language dependant]; Level Bard 1, Sorcerer/Wizard 1, Witch 1
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S
Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Target one living creature with an attitude of indifferent or greater toward the caster
Duration 1 hour/level
Saving Throw no; Spell Resistance yes
The favorite spell of many an evil advisor who wants to steer a king in a certain direction, this spell makes the words of everyone but the caster seem flawed, illogical, or untrue. While the actual opinion about others might not change, it becomes harder for others to convince the spell’s target of anything (and easier for the target to lose standing.) In order to improve the attitude of a target of this spell through a Diplomacy check, the check results needed are as if the target was one category more hostile toward the speaker (unless the speaker is the caster of the spell.) For example, the DC to improve the attitude of an Unfriendly NPC would be increased as if the target was Hostile. An NPC who begins as hostile has the DC to influence its attitude increased by 5.
(When using Pathfinder rules, Diplomacy DC modifiers for making a Request of a person increase by 5.)
The verbal component of the spell consists not of magical words and phrases, but instead is comprised of comforting statements, reassurances, and reminders of all the ways that the caster supports the target of the spell. The spell automatically fails if cast at a target with an attitude of unfriendly or hostile.
As a final benefit of the spell, the caster gains a +2 enhancement bonus on Diplomacy checks made to influence an NPC.
(If you play with the houserule that social skills can affect PCs as well as NPCs, this spell will provide the same bonuses against PCs.)

Lizard Lackey
School Enchantment (Charm) [mind affecting]; Level Sorcerer/Wizard 2
Casting Time 1 full round
Components V, S, M
Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Area Multiple targets, no two of whom can be more than thirty feet apart
Targets Humanoids with the lizard subtype, up to one HD per class level
Duration Instantaneous
Saving Throw yes; Spell Resistance yes
This spell improves the attitude of one or more humanoids with the lizard subtype to helpful. The targets become loyal and willing to help the caster, even to the point of taking great risks. The spell grants no direct control over the target, and the target will likely disobey an obviously suicidal command, though a target may be willing to take incredible risks such as fighting an obviously superior foe while the caster escapes.
The target remains loyal and helpful to the caster as long as its attitude remains helpful or friendly. Poor treatment by the caster may cause the target’s attitude to drop as it would any other NPC.
There are rumors that this spell occasionally works on goblinoids. While the relative scarcity of goblinoids has prevented Thandal Henge from testing regularly, field studies have indicated that this is not the case. It may simply be an equivalent spell discovered by other enchanters. Similarly, rumors of variations on this spell that effect humans, elves and orcs exist, but may simply be urban legends intended to frighten. However, research into spells of that type has often quickly, and mysteriously, been stopped.
Finally, researchers have not yet determined how villainous casters of this spell seem to get away with browbeating, insulting, and sometimes physically attacking targets of this spell without the attitudes dropping again. It could be a stronger variation of the spell, or it might be the result of multiple castings. The bizarre possibility remains that these villainous spell casters might simply be very diplomatic, or capable of bribing or threatening minions without the use of magic. Stranger things have happened, after all.

Fairy Field
School Enchantment (Charm)[mind affecting] [language dependant]; Level bard 2; sorcerer/wizard 3
Casting Time 1 minute
Components V, S
Range personal
Effect gain a miss chance equal to ten times the caster’s Charisma modifier
Duration 10 min./level
Saving Throw yes; Spell Resistance yes
Calling upon the powers of the fair folk, this spell causes adversaries to see the caster as a dear friend, surprisingly beautiful figure, pitiable entity or other sort of person who should not be attacked even though they may know better. People attacking the caster of this spell who fail a saving throw have a chance of missing the caster equal to ten times the caster’s Charisma modifier (to a maximum of 50% with a Charisma of 20.) Those who fail the saving throw suffer the miss chance for the duration of the spell, while those who succeed can shake off the charming effect and don’t need to roll again on subsequent rounds.
The spell is only effective against creatures of the caster’s type or who resemble creatures of the caster’s type (a doppleganger could gain this benefit against a human, for instance). It is similarly only effective if the attackers are capable of seeing or hearing the caster (though in the latter case, the caster will need to speak every round for the enchantment to remain effective.)

 

Haselar Charl and the rest of the department of enchantment believes that this taste of the enchanter’s art will be sufficient to attract potential enchantment students to declare their specialization early on in their career at Thandal Henge. Your average enchanter focuses on the ability to case Charm Person, Hypnotize crowds or otherwise Fascinate multitudes, but there are, as you can see, more options.

Since you don’t play in the Cantadel setting at home and likely don’t use Thandal Henge (though feel free to include it in a game if you need a quick name for a college of wizardry and magical research), the contributions of Haselar Charl aren’t as important as the spells themselves. I created these spells (and then wrote them into Haselar’s history) to create some interesting spells for players to find in the spellbooks of enchanters because there’s very little that a player enjoys more than a new magical toy.

More to the point, each of these spells also represents something that I could see an enchanter doing in a story that wasn’t yet covered by the rules. The Placebo Effect is a real-life phenomenon and this magically enhanced one called Haselar’s Placebo is stronger than the real world’s by a notable amount; the ability to persuade someone that they are getting better echoes the illusionist’s ability to persuade people that they’re getting worse. The Devil’s Advocate spell is my personal tribute to Wormtongue from Lord Of The Rings, and every evil advisor who’s ever poisoned their boss against other people. Lizard Lackey is simply an explanation for how evil spellcasters manage to get their gangs of surprisingly loyal minions (and the presence of other versions of this spell is a terrifying thought that could easily make people fear the abilities of enchanters. Are you their friend because you like them, or because they made you like them?) Finally, Fairy Field is a the ability for an enchanter to gain such a beguiling personality that other people don’t want to harm them (and it’s easier for Bard’s. “You wouldn’t hit a guy with glasses, would you?”)
If you’re a player, feel free to use these spells, but make sure to get your GM’s permission first. A new spell can upset an evening’s gameplay significantly.

That’s all for this week’s Magical Mondays. As a final note: I’m considering changing Magical Mondays to a different article called Monstrous Mondays. While I love discussing magic, the topic is so wide and varied that I always feel a bit overwhelmed when I sit down to think about what I’m going to write in a given week. I may be fooling myself when I think this, but it seems that monsters would be a narrower focus. There may be some overlap as I consider this concept: some of my monster ideas definitely fall in the scope of magical discussion.

I’m also considering dropping the monday article in favor of creating free content for GMs on Thursdays (the night before weekend gaming would begin for many gamers out there.) It would, after all, be very easy to create a self-contained adventure that demonstrates some of the concepts in Magical Mondays without just talking about them like they’re far-off topics. Plus, it would make it easier for me to provide material for games that don’t come up in magic-related topics. Cosmic Patrol and Adventure! have both snuck into my talks here, for instance, and make scenarios for systems like that might be a fun variation for a week.

This is all a bit in the future, though. For now, prepare to see Magical Mondays again next week here at Crater Labs.

Magical Mondays: By Any Other Name   Leave a comment

In your campaign world, what, exactly, do people mean when they say “Wizard”? This can be a good question to ask yourself, because it can help to increase the flavor of your world’s magic beyond the scope of its spell slots.

In this week’s Magical Mondays, we’re talking about the difference between class names and in-world description. Ask yourself, if you play the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons, does the player playing the Thief say “Allow me to introduce myself: I’m a thief”? Probably not; the member of a thieve’s guild might take some pride in boasting about their profession, but a loner character who merely has the ability to find traps and issue deadly strikes from the shadows doesn’t necessarily think of itself as a thief. Third edition is a bit better, but a person identifying him or herself as a “rogue” is probably going to make people assume that you’re someone who needs to be watched closely.

The “rogue problem” is one of the places where the disparity between class name and story title is most apparent. If you have a world like that seen in The Order Of The Stick, this isn’t a problem. In such a world, characters can self-identify as rogues or fighters easily, and in more extreme cases rules such as “saving throws” and “base attack bonus” are measurable laws of physics (or at least biology) that can be observed, tested and qualified. Your world may not be quite as on-the-nose as that, but you might be fine with the world’s in-game culture corresponding to some of the terminology that you use as a player.

On the other end of the spectrum, you can have classes that are identified the way trees are in real life. Trees, unlike many types of plant, are sometimes identified more for their form and function than for their biological roots (sorry, couldn’t resist.) Two trees can be very different life forms, but the classification of “tree” still works if it has a trunk, a crown, and leaves. If you begin defining a wizard the way you define a tree, it opens up a lot of options. All wizards will have spell slots, Vancian spell magic, and a similar number of spells available per day. Just like the biology of a tree, however, the magical traditions behind each individual wizard might be very different from another one.

What follows is a list of names for magical traditions that might exist in your world and corresponding classes from Pathfinder and the third edition of D&D. If your players aren’t expecting this kind of thing, don’t be the jerk who has everyone in town calling the villain a wizard when it’s actually a warlock unless there’s some reason for the confusion. If players expect a word to mean a certain thing, ease them into the possible changes. (As a sidenote, I’d like to say that Magician is one of my favorite words for spellcasters in games. It gives the players no preconceptions about what class they might encounter, without sounding like a “generic spellcaster” title.)

Wizard
Wizard (duh)
Mage
Arcanist
Sage
Wise One
Spell Weaver

Sorcerer
Sorcerer
Blood Caster
Blood Cursed
Blood Favored
Dragonchild
Witch
Mage
Mutant
Spell Weaver

Bard
Bard
Scop
Scald
Charlatan
Beguiler
Prestidigitater
Chanter

Cleric
Cleric
Priest
Miracle Worker
Prayer Shaper
Faith Caster

Paladin
Paladin (especially in a real-world style campaign with a France analogue)
Holy Knight
Sacred Steel
Knight
Lorefighter
Blessed Brawler

Druid
Druid
Skin Changer
Fey Friend
Wildwalker
Beast Brother

Artificer
Artificer
Alchemist
Tinkerer
Magician
Spirit Waker
Battle Blesser
War Wright
Mithril Maker

Psion
Psion
Psychic
Mind Mage
Mutant
Witch
Thought Taker
Mind Master

Enchanter
Enchanter
Mind Mage
Spellbinder
Entrancer
Witch

Diviner
Diviner
Prophet
Fortune Teller
Soothsayer
Truthwright
Knowledge Maker

Conjurer
Conjurer
Summoner
Mystic Maker
Diabolist (for specializing in summoning fiendish creatures)

 

These are generic titles (though some might fit a given campaign setting better than others). Your own setting might have some campaign specific concepts that would work on their own. It may help to come up with the name (or concept) of a magical tradition before deciding what class represents it. I’m going to use a certain category of magical names borrowed/stolen from games like The Bard’s Tale and books like Master Of The Five Magics.

Thaumatugrist
In Master Of The Five Magics, Thaumaturgy is a school of magic based on two laws, one stating that like produces like, and another stating that once something is together it is always together. Staple abilities include the ability to change a person’s appearance through a voodoo-doll style control of magic and the ability to move some things (or many things) by manipulating something like it, or something that was once connected to it. The best bet for this would be a Transmuter specialist wizard, though you might also make it a Sorcerer who focuses on Transmutation and also has a focus on arcane variants of Cure spells.

Alchemist
In Master Of The Five Magics, the path of an Alchemist is a difficult one. Thematically, the best bet would seem to be a Specialist with a focus on alchemy, though a Magewright might be the better way to go. For a PC class, it’s hard to ignore the Artificer, and a potion-focused Artificer can make a lot of headway.  I wouldn’t urge a player to be an Alchemist of this sort in a game, however; one of the sad rules of Alchemy was that, unlike with real science, the results weren’t always reproduceable.  Your formula might not work the first time, or the second, or the fifth, but if you kept doing it you could, hopefully, eventually make it work.  Players tend to avoid that kind of headache.

Conjurer
In The Bard’s Tale, Conjurers conjure things. The D&D 3.5 Conjurer specialist wizard is, unsurprisingly, an almost perfect fit.

Magician
Now things get a little bit interesting. “Magicians” are the creators of magical items in Master Of The Five Magics, and they do it through long, extended rituals. Similarly, in The Bard’s Tale, Magicians are ones who can magically enhance material that’s already there.  Players of role playing games may appreciate that one of the problems with being a Magician in Master Of The Five Magics is the fact that it costs a ridiculous amount of money. Artificer is the obvious class to turn to, but the focus on ritualized perfection almost suggests that an Artificer who multiclasses Wu Jen would fit the feel better (probably with aspirations toward the circle magic practiced in the Forgotten Realms Thayan tradition.)

Sorcerer
In both The Bard’s Tale and Master Of The Five Magics, the art of sorcery has nothing to do with vancian spells cast through a probable magical lineage. Instead, they are spells that have to do with the mind. An Enchanter is a good model, but for the full flavor you might actually want to go with a Telepath instead. A multiclass Enchanter/Telepath might be perfect. Spell Focus on Illusion for the full ability to make people take damage from things that aren’t there.

Wizard
In what feels like an even greater departure than the Sorcerer, Wizards in The Bard’s Tale and Master Of The Five Magics are a lot like a cross between Conjurers and Necromancers. Their abilities conjure and create undead creatures and demonic entities in these traditions. A Necromancer with a spell focus in Conjuration, or the other way around, would fit this perfectly. The emphasis on having to break the will of some conjured creatures implies that the Binder class from Tome Of Magic might also work.

A good way to get a feel for what kind of names might work would be to invest in a few premade adventures (something made easier than ever thanks to Wizards of the Coast creating the PDF store) and looking at what certain types of NPC are called. A number of NPCs in certain factions in material that WotC released for certain premades and in older issues of Dungeon magazine and Dragon magazine had intriguing titles. One of my favorites, for instance, was the description of Dreadhold Prison in Dragon #344. Two of my favorites from that article include Chainmakers (artificers charged with maintaining the prison’s equipment, traps and construct guardians) and the Lawkeepers (Clerics who dabble in the Dragonmark Heir prestige class so that they can focus on maintaining order in the prison both through divine might and healing and also through their dragonmark abilities.) Oh, and the Wandguard troops of Dreadhold are a really nice “magical guard” concept that could challenge the players without being too capable on their own. Seriously, that article is a great read for this kind of thing; I believe it’s currently available as a PDF through Paizo’s online store. I’m going to conclude this article with a few more “magical tradition” names and some quick guidelines on how you can make them.

Pyromancers
While there *is* a Pyromancer class on its own when I play in Cantadel, a generic Pyromancer that doesn’t rely on my homebrew material is simple. Using an evocationist or conjurer would be easy, but I think I’d prefer a sorcerer who sacrifices one spell slot per level and the ability to have a familiar in exchange for a “fire spell” slot that can be used for a fire spell of any sort of the appropriate level. Unfortunately, these sorcerers can’t cast cold spells without a severe class level penalty.

Fortune Tellers
These are Clerics, usually ones dedicated to deities of chance or luck, with a few levels as a Diviner that allow them to take a level of Mystic Theurge. Never as powerful as comparably studied spellcasters from either the divine or arcane side of things, Fortune Tellers devote a great amount of the spellcasting ability to learning the future. Those who take it as a job sometimes purchase or create crystal balls that are capable of replenishing divination spell slots cast for other people rather than for themselves.

Spell Wardens
Usually Wizards with the Improved Counterspell feat, a level of Fighter and one level in Eldritch Knight, they serve as mercenary peace keeping forces that keep a low profile while offering their services to cities that need their help. They use magic to enhance themselves for physical combat, but keep a number of high-level spells of many sorts (usually necromancy, conjurtaion and evocation if they don’t know what they’re getting into in a day) so that they can intentionally counterspell the spells of rogue magic users. Their mobile bases (very sturdy but otherwise plain carriages most of the time) generally have divination material available to try and give the Spell Wardens a heads up on spells that it would be good to prepare for the coming day.

Underkeepers
One of the reasons for why Undertakers are seen as creepy, the Underkeepers are Necromancers who practice undertaking and taxidermy while also taking the Craft Construct feat. They make miniature flesh golems from the well-preserved bodies of hunted animals to patiently guard their homes. Their “flesh golems” tend to be of much higher quality than others, and many sentimental people who have lost beloved pets (or even family members and friends) have tried to bring them back through an Underkeeper’s capabilities. The Underkeepers themselves generally refrain from pointing out that the golems will not have the same “soul” or “identity” as the original, or that the creature may be prone to explosively violent tendencies. Far less flashy than most wizards, Underkeepers are often difficult to notice at first, but are well prepared for many dangers if they are ever discovered.

 

With luck and some careful application, these names will suggest magical traditions to your players in ways that grant the story depth of character classes without the extra paperwork required. And, of course, a great story can be told.

Magical Mondays: The Magic of Kings   Leave a comment

For today’s Magical Mondays, we’ll be discussing the magic of kings and queens, kingdoms and queendoms, royalty and nobility. Many fantasy role playing games prefer to avoid the mechanics of familial blood ties and the even more fluid designations of political structures. However, the trappings of noble families and the pageantry of Arthurian honor are staples of fantasy stories.
The most famous, possibly the most classic, example is The Sword In The Stone. A noble sword is jammed through a stone and anvil, and the word spreads that whosever can remove the sword will be the ruler of all the land. Often said to be Excalibur, though many sources indicate that Arthur didn’t acquire Excalibur until much later as a gift from The Lady of The Lake, this particular Sword is a peculiar thing. When Arthur pulled the sword from the stone, as just a boy no less, he clearly wasn’t imbued with some supernatural amount of strength or blessed with a mighty technique. Arthur just took the sword. In a fantasy story, this makes perfect sense. In a game, though? Is there a way to represent that outside of just hoping that the story works out that way?
That depends on the kind of game that you want to play. For most games that bother with such things, I’d argue that introducing a mechanic is unnecessary. Talk to your GM during character creation if possible, find out if it’s going to be a world that supports this sort of thing. If your GM is so inclined, you’ll already have everything you need to pull a sword from a stone (or whatever) whenever it comes up. This is probably the preferred method: the stories will evolve more naturally, and you, as a player, won’t waste any in-game character resources on the concept.
If you need a mechanic, or if you want to discern some sort of in-game mechanical benefit, you need to define some things. What makes a True King or Queen? If the queen’s evil brother arranges a kidnapping of the true queen so that he can seize the throne, it’s pretty obvious that this evil brother won’t be the true king. If a settler reaches a previously unexplored region and builds a castle for himself and declares himself king, there’s probably nothing to it… at this point, it’s just a self-imposed title from a madman with lots of resources. If you’re a barbarian leader who storms through a territory and murders the current rulers, the barbarian’s claim to be king may be acknowledged, but if a baby prince or princess is hidden away somewhere until the child can grow old enough to challenge the barbarian to the throne, the story archetypes make it clear which one will be the “true” ruler of the land.
Historians and students of real world politics might chafe at the thought of a ‘true’ ruler. In fact, much of western civilization is based on the assertion that no one can be born into the right to rule. The worlds of fantasy role playing games don’t necessarily follow those same rules, but I think that real world concepts like governmental legitimacy can put players and game masters onto a path that might work for a game environment.
Looking at the examples above, what if any of those fake rulers managed to last? What if they lived their whole life unchallenged, or at least unusurped, and arranged for their children or other heirs to take over for them? If the people of the land didn’t accept the first one but managed to accept the second, would that person be a true king or queen? How about their child? What about theirs? And the generation after that?
All noble families start somewhere. Someone has to be the first crackpot, or the first conqueror, or just the first really wealthy farmer who gets less wealthy farmers to trade skill for lodging. Fantasy glosses over this… let’s be honest, real life history glosses over this… and deposits us into a present where the “true king” or “true queen” has legitimacy. Legitimacy is an intangible concept, but a GM and player can work together to define it for the purposes of a single campaign or family.
In my opinion, the absolute minimum you would need to say that a character has legitimacy is three generations. If a character’s grandfather started the royal line, then that character would either be the first to benefit from it or the one who makes the rest of what happened before “real” enough for the purposes of magic. A safer number might be seven, with the seventh generation being the first one that might be supported both by the land and the people of the land. By the seventh generation, it’s highly unlikely that any living human will be able to remember a time before this family ruled the land. That, plus “seven” is one of those nice, magical numbers. Ultimately, the exact number of generations doesn’t matter for story purposes, a GM can just declare that the family has ruled for “many generations” and leave it at that. What DOES matter is that any usurper does NOT have that claim of generations.
This basic concept of bloodlines can fit a lot of things other than royalty. An orc tribe’s warchief, for instance, or a military family where every generation has a student enrolled in a military academy (and has managed to get the same room every generation) might carry the same kind of impressive weight. You might even downgrade a True King or True Queen concept so that it’s merely a True Baron or True Duchess or something along those lines. If your great-great grandmother was a spice trading tycoon then people will trust your family’s expertise. Merchant lords will likely have fewer opportunities to make use of the concept of legitimacy, but the concept still works for character building.
When it comes to defining the benefits that a character can gain through legitimacy, there are two ways the magic can work in a d20 system. For specific approaches, a GM and Player could work to introduce feats to represent ways that the nobility can come into play, generally against nobility-specific situations, which is to say those things that a noble would be good at (generally somewhere between a bard-like ability to inspire bravery or loyalty and the ability to never, ever be comfortable if a pea is under a mattress. Select the ability in question with caution.) For more general approaches, a GM and Player could work together to create a unique creature template. This template would grant very general bonuses that would likely come into play only in dire and highly specific situations (such as having to defeat a monster that poses a distinct and immediate threat to the landscape.) This latter approach would have to be highly specific to a campaign and would require a great deal of planning from both the GM and Player. Feats are another matter entirely, however, and we homebrewers on the Internet can churn them out as if they’re made from nothing more than electrons zipping through ethereal networks.

Noble Feats: A Noble Feat is a feat that can only be applied to a character with a historical legitimacy gained through either birth, marriage, or adoption. They may be gained after first level, but only after the character has grown into an acceptance of their place both in relationship to their lineage and to the environment their lineage supports (such as a nation or a people.) The GM has the final say on when a character has gained this state of self identity, and all Noble Feats must be gained with a GM’s approval. The previous prerequisites are assumed in all the following feats, and any listed prerequisites are in addition to these.
(Note: in the land of Cantadel, the following feats are all tinged with magic. A Detect Magic spell would detect a faint aura of a non-specific school (effectively universal) when a character makes use of such a feat, even if in just a passive way. This magical effect won’t be identifiable by most, but someone detecting it who has at least 5 ranks in Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) will be able to automatically identify the feat being used and the specific benefits within the feat description. An anti-magic field will not suppress these effects, though certain modified arcane variations of the Unhallow spell might. Cantadel’s rules may not be your own, however, and a GM may choose to instead rule that there is no magic here, with the benefits being entirely based on the character’s morale and sense of self.)

Vanquish The Usurper
With a blow fueled by your lineage, the land, or possibly just your own sense of noble entitlement, your seemingly normal blow deals a potentially crippling amount of damage to the one who dared conspire to take what was yours.
Prerequisite: Fighter Level 3, Knowledge (History) 3 ranks
Benefit: When in combat against an enemy who has attempted to seize control of your throne, you may add your Base Attack Bonus as an untyped bonus on any damage rolls made against this enemy. In addition, if the enemy has damage reduction it is reduced by your Base Attack Bonus on this attack.
Special: A Fighter may take this feat as a Fighter bonus feat.

Refined
Though people of lesser upbringing may never detect the tiny flaws around them, your senses are refined to the point that only the finest is good enough for you.
Prerequisite: Appraise 3 ranks, Perception 3 ranks
Benefit: Your senses can detect the mildest of flaws, particularly in attempts made to deceive or test you. You gain a +2 to see through disguise checks made to impersonate a member of your family, staff, or similar figure (one associated through tradition or business style, such as a wedding caterer you’ve never met before pending GM permission.) You can also gain a +2 bonus on checks to determine tactile sensations (such as when trying to determine if the new clothes are actually invisible or, sadly, when trying to sleep on a pile of mattresses that have a small item hidden beneath them.) Finally, you not only gain a +2 bonus on saves to resist ingested poison, you may also choose to replace a fortitude save to resist such a poison with a reflex save as you keep yourself from consuming the poisoned food or beverage. (“Odorless they say? Maybe most of the time… but one whiff of the Chateau Blanc 948 certainly told a different story.”)
Special: The +2 bonuses increase by 1 for every level of Aristocrat that you have.

Witch Queen/Witch King
Your ancient lineage meshes with your arcane studies in a way that even a mob of rioting peasants would fear.
Prerequisite: Arcane spellcaster level 5.
Benefit: Whenever you cast a spell that is limited by the number of hit dice of the target (such as cause fear, hypnotism, or sleep), the maximum number of affected targets is increased by a number equal to the level of the highest arcane spell slot available to you.

War Chieftan
By standing with your subjects in the face of impending combat, you can inspire them to acts of great violence.
Prerequisite: Rage class feature
Benefit: By spending an extra round of your rage duration every turn and shouting encouraging (or threatening) words to members of your tribe, kingdom, or other organization that grants you your legitimacy. You can grant all such people within twenty feet of yourself the benefit of a +2 bonus to Strength and Constitution and a -1 to AC while they stand and fight for you. This is a language dependant, mind affecting effect.
Special: You gain an extra five feet on the effect for every two levels of Barbarian. For example, a seventh level Barbarian with this feat could inspire allies who serve him up to thirty-five feet away instead of twenty feet away.

Finally… let’s say that you want to influence the game from the other side of things. You don’t want to be royal or a noble, but you DO want to affect those who are for some reason. This is a simple enough effect, and the following spell might aid people looking for something along those lines.

Immovable Sword
School Transmutation; Level Bard 6, Cleric 6, Sorcerer/Wizard 5
Casting Time 1 day
Components V, S, F
Range Touch
Targets 1 Masterwork Sword and 1 Large or Larger Item
Duration Permanent Until Dispelled (See Text)
Saving Throw No (harmless); Spell Resistance No
This spell entraps a sword or other weapon significant to the legitimate bloodline of a nation or similarly large organization. The weapon must be of Masterwork quality and be worth a minimum of 500 gold. At the conclusion of the spell, the sword is thrust into its entrapping item (usually a boulder, an anvil, or some structure that is generally stationary and non-portable.) The sword easily moves into the item before stopping just before the hilt (or other suitable handhold) at which point it becomes held stationary. The sword and item both become effectively immovable; the sword is now a part of the larger item, and the item melds with the scenery. The larger item resists movement (a DC 30 Strength check to move it up to ten feet in a single turn), and both items become indestructable, even in the face of most offensive magic.
The spell cannot be dispelled by the caster. Instead, the spell is dispelled at by a rightful heir to the legitimate bloodline associated with the sword. Terminating the entire bloodline will also end the spell.
For some unknown reason, attempts to use this spell on items that grant bonuses to AC have always failed, likely due to the fundamental nature of armor being associated with an ability to move. Still, researchers are working on ways around this problem.

One final note about this spell and the feats in play: they are obviously meant for low powered campaigns. The Immovable Sword spell isn’t castable until 9th level, and the flavor of it assumes that you’re not going to find a caster much more powerful than that. Obviously, a 20th level Sorcerer can just cast disjunction upon such a magical sword of that sort. The concerns of royalty and nobility, fun as they are, could easily become seemingly uninteresting to the superheroes who walk the earth as you approach twentieth level (and some of these could be abused at those higher levels in unfortunate ways). GMs, approve the use of this kind of thing with caution.