Use What’s in the Book

I flip through pages and pages of magic items and I see these mechanics that are clunky or useless in the game. I get that everyone plays a different game and an item in yours might be amazing, but in mine worthless; one man’s trash, etc. My problem isn’t the variety, it’s how many items are just reinventing something that’s already a mechanic.

For instance, I find it pretty amazing that any character can use a Heal check to force an ally to take their second wind. Or they can grant them a save, or just provide them a +2 to their next saving throw. It’s built into the system already, no need for extra powers. Now, the conditions on that ability are kinda harsh: you have to be adjacent, and it’s a standard action. Eesh. Well, why isn’t there something out there to facilitate that? In all honesty, there are some things similar to this, but they all fall rather flatly. Then, of course, there is Healing Word which is twice as good as any Heal check, and clerics get that at 1st level. Not to mention the bevy of powers and feats that help grant saves or force second wind. Uh, but what if you don’t want to be a cleric, or a warlord, or you don’t have the prerequisites for that feat? It seems like with 4e’s versatility of propping up hedge classes, it would be a no brainer to start with something available to all classes and offer options to improve those options over the course of a character’s career. All of this while never quite stepping on the toes of those who are masters at such tactics.

For instance, I first envisioned a feat that would allow one to use the First Aid mechanic of Heal as a minor action. Oh wait, there’s one right here I see in the compendium…Combat Medic. Wait, stabilize the dying? That’s it? Okay, I see the +2 to Heal checks, thanks, but what I really want is to just use all faculties of the First Aid action as a minor action—stabilizing the dying happens so rarely. Why is this feat so poorly written (for me)? Can I make something that isn’t broken that serves the purpose I’m after?

The Power is in Your Hand

I actually enjoy how rings are rather inaccessible until low paragon tier. They should be the ultimate powerful items in the game, they always have been. It’s just so darn tempting to build one that is just within reach of heroic tier that doesn’t break the bank on abilities, mostly because each character gets TWO slots for rings—it’s like they MAKE you want to decorate that xmas tree.

Anyway, I was thinking about the properties of each of the item slots and how the ring really does symbolize power and magic as it rests on the end of our pointers and manipulators and feelers and clenchers. Hands are where the power is, and a ring seems to magnify that. The power is already there, in the book with rules that provide each character to make use of their skills, despite being trained or not. Any character can make a perception check, not just the ones that are trained. Any character can make a thievery check to disarm a trap or steal something from an unwary person. It’s sad to me that players, given this freedom, don’t take more chances on things they don’t have a bazillion skill points in, or that they stack themselves with items that boost their bazillion skill points by 2 more to make them unstoppable in one or two departments, literally being unable to fail a Hard DC of certain skills.

The Right Skills

I know I am not wholly innocent in proper skill use; one of my characters has Arcane Mutterings, a 2nd level utility skill power that allows him to use Arcana for any Diplomacy, Intimidate or Bluff skill once per encounter. I find that to be a unique way to twist the game’s mechanics in his favor; I have forced an enemy to surrender several times now using Arcana, and I believe (I hope) it has been for the ease of our party’s adventuring.

I’d love to see that adjustment to skill use manifest in other ways. The point here is to empower the PCs to make decisions they normally feel are too risky for an attempt, or that those decisions disarm them from the stuff they really want to do. If you wanted to be a “combat medic,” you’d be using Heal all the time, bouncing from ally to ally keeping them alive. There’s already a cap on how often you can use your Second Wind, and saving throws are dicey enough already, so this mechanic doesn’t seem broken to me.

If you had the power to not necessarily improve your odds, but make the rules that are already in the book a bit more palatable, would you? Adding a +2 to Stealth isn’t doing anything for our most powerful items in the world, it’s making the world a math game, and a math game already has its outcome determined. Try these new items on for size and let me know what you think.




Laboratory: All Consumables Should Be “Alchemy”

Welcome to the Laboratory, a series here at Rules As UNWritten solely focused on Alchemy in 4e Dungeons & Dragons. Alchemy is a cumbersome, confusing and rather unsupported subsystem in D&D, and this series aims to improve that. Check out previous posts in this series here, and as always, feel free to voice your reactions to our take on Alchemy and the new and reworked options we’re offering.

I’ve often noted that when a PC needs a specific thing to happen at a specific time, Alchemy can be that go-to guy. In 4e D&D, you don your Christmas tree of items with all their synergies and great versatility, but inevitably there’s going to be an instance or situation where you just need a bomb, or a way to pull that Vrock down from the sky, or a way to get the warlock back on her feet from 10 squares away. Generally speaking, consumables of all rotes actually serve these desperate instances, one, because you might want the benefit of teleporting like an eladrin, but you don’t want to play an eladrin (Fey Step Potion), and two, you might want to tip the scales of a certain skill in your favor once in a while, but don’t want to drop the coin down for a slotted item that is always active (Talent Shard). Alchemy comes with the benefit of versatility and low expense.

Alchemy Is More Than Chemistry

Potions, oils, elixirs, heck even feather tokens are all built on the premise that the magic they have is cool and helpful, but not something you want to be doing exclusively. They’re also rather inexpensive for the effects they provide. This is why I believe, as we approach the dawn of a new iteration of D&D, that “Alchemy” should be separate and defined from other forms of magic item making in that the category of crafting is limited to single-use, consumable items of all kinds. A potion should be “alchemy,” an elixir should be “alchemy,” and poisons should be “alchemy.”

With Wizards of the Coast pronouncing that they hope to eliminate a lot of the jargon in the next edition, this would be a welcomed streamlining of item crafting that would help make alchemy important and viable again. Some might feel that clumping magic item crafting into alchemy is disingenuous because alchemy is supposed to represent some form of mystical chemistry and less magical enchantment. They say that alchemy shouldn’t allow an effect that alters your form to appear like another creature (Elixir of Chameleon Power) because that is a magical effect, and something not achievable by science. They say that alchemy is rudimentary chemistry and basic science used as an interpretation of magic-like effects, only useful for things like like fire bombs and noxious gases.

I feel like you could certainly paint your own campaign in that light if you’d like, but I’d much prefer we scrap the pretense and remember that D&D is based on the premise of a magical world. How did Dr. Frankenstein raise his creation from the dead? Um, science. How did Peter Parker become the deft web-slinging hero of Spider-Man? Yup, science. I actually prefer to think that alchemy is just a refinement of magical and mundane materials in Dungeons & Dragons; you’re simply adding the right bit of this with the right bit of that, so that when you need it, it does its thing and then its gone. And, oh yeah, it’s relatively uncontrollable and can get you in some serious sticky situations.

If that’s the definition, then who cares if it is magic or not: it’s versatile, consumable and inexpensive. Alchemist’s Fire, Tanglefoot Bags, Potions of Heroism, and Flash Flower reagents should all be alchemy, and they should all be separate from enchanting a blade or shield with dedicated, permanent, and pricey magical abilities.

Covering Your Bases

All that said, I want to offer another item that follows those principles and opens yet another door to a budding master of concoctions (Severus Snape). In this case, I’ve noticed the repertoire of alchemical items out there is decidedly lacking in supportive materials. Healing, granting saving throws, increasing defenses, providing resistance…all these techniques are generally considered in the “leader” department, but most alchemical items tend to be debilitating, harmful or, like, they just stick things together. Useful, sometimes. But also useful is getting your rogue unstuck from an icy slowing effect so he can dart forward and stick his knife in the baddy, or freeing your wizard from a disorienting dazing effect so she can do more than sustain her well-placed vortex spell.

If versatility is going to be part of the definition for alchemical items (and consumable items in general), and I definitely believe it should be, then support utilities should be part of the arsenal as well. Considering the fact that one of the primary practitioners of alchemy is considered to be the artificer, a leader, some extra items to provide different auxiliary effects I think is warranted. And let’s face it, the Wound Patch is disgraceful.

So here is an offering of crunch that might help your alchemist, or any character in need of a little support option: the Analgesic Spur. I hope you enjoy this concoction, and whether you do or don’t, I’d love to hear your reactions to its design in the comments below!

This is Your Game

Who out there has ever run a pre-generated adventure to the letter? Who has played this game without adjusting one feat, power, or spell? Even if you are out there, you are definitely in the vast minority. Why? Because D&D is built on tailoring the game to your group or to your adventure. If there is one rule to Dungeons & Dragons, it is that you make the rules.

The advent of Wizards of the Coast’s announcement yesterday about a new iteration of the Dungeons & Dragons game has spurred quite a bit of discussion. At Rules as UnWritten, we’d of course like to editorialize as much as the rest of the blogosphere, but we’re here to attempt bringing crunch with every post as well. A lot of you gamers out there discussing the new edition have a lot of good ideas already, and I’m sure you’ll handle the constant buzz well, and I truly hope the community’s voice is represented in the design of the new iteration as WotC’s play test strategy promises. For me, the heart of the announcement is that the creators realize that the game is never going to be theirs, their property. It can be a difficult business for you to 1/ sell a product that encourages the user to make the product themselves, and 2/ have that product hinge on the mind’s imagination, a resource that is only as good as the user can make it.

For me, this is brilliant. I like to have a positive outlook on it all as I am a creative type as well; I believe, even if they are indeed creating ideas, sculpting them into a form that follows rules, and then selling them to me even though I will not necessarily even use them whole cloth, I am willing to appreciate and purchase their hard imaginative work. I consider what I purchase from WotC like the first baton pass in a relay race. You’ve gotten me this far, pretty fast, you’ve given me this thing I need to win the race, but the rest is up to me.

I hope Wizards takes this realization to the next level with their next iteration of the game. No matter how they want to rebuild the “sacred cows” that are classic fundamental qualities of the game, whether spells are memorized and have a set number per day or whether they exist as encounter and daily powers, in the end, the players will do what they want. The employees for Wizards of the Coast are, and sometimes I believe unfortunately, our parents: no matter how they try to raise us, no matter what kind of wisdom, money, experience they can provide, we are going to play the game that we want.

Wizards: you might as well give us the keys to the car, because we’re going out tonight either way.

In that spirit, as we have always felt at Rules as UnWritten, we’re here to offer some crunch to your blogging diet. 4th edition isn’t dead yet, and in fact it is my hope that many of the features they developed to streamline and redefine Dungeons & Dragons get represented in this new forthcoming iteration. There’s a lot of talk out there right now about what exactly are the sacred cows that define the game intrinsically (an inspired article by Arcane Springboard comes to mind), so I could think of no better way of thematically tying the big news with my strong opinion that D&D should be your game through your choices and only merely based on a structure of rules that the creators design.

With that I present to you the Sacred Cow, a wondrous lair item that can provide some help to keep your characters centralized a specific area, something given to them in thanks for completing a quest, or perhaps something that just follows them home. I also want to encourage you to home brew your own blessing in the utility power that might be more tailored to your party members—cause after all, this is your game.

Caravan Peddlers: The Appraiser

So your group has all this loot but they’re not sure what to do with it—especially if its in the form of a giant ivory sculpture of a behir or a cup of treant tears. It’s all valuable, but how do the characters hock it for their own means? In some cases, the DM might even restrict what kinds of magic items the players can purchase or craft themselves, or the party is way outside of any civilized area to trade in a pristine gem encrusted chalice for some much needed material components.

Enter the Caravan, a D&D device which takes the form of a pack of vagabonds traveling the world like a mini point of light adding a refreshing break from dungeon monotony or survival challenges, all whilst providing a means to do business and bartering with the characters. The Caravan can contain any number of NPCs that can be helpful (and fun) for the characters. I’ll build this as a series then, adding a new gypsy, acrobat, peddler or performer to the cavalcade each time. These little mobile merchants offer the opportunity to trade on the road first and foremost, but a savvy player might gain a bit more that the expert caravaners keep close to the chest, like sage advice, uncommon or even rare items, training in powers the characters didn’t know about, or even more mysterious boons, like fortunes, curses or rituals.

From a DM’s perspective, the Caravan is untethered and wandering all the time, so part of its brilliance is you can pop it into a adventure or keep it out at your leisure. Also consider that the Caravan is easily justified as dropping off or picking up experts from around the world at any time; the beastmaster they learned Mounted Combat from two months ago jumped off the wagon and may not be there any more when next they meet. Further, consider containing the amount of gypsies you equip in the Caravan at any one meeting—the Caravan might be fun, and lucky, but too many options and NPCs can bog down the flow of your game. Always keep it moving, just like the emcee hollers.

So here we go, the first character in a list of optional huskers to add to your game.

The Appraiser

Gems and art have sort of lost a part of their luster since previous editions. The fact of the matter is that appraisal is a skill that is so recondite that it doesn’t really fit well into the category of exciting adventure. Or does it?

The Appraiser can take an assessment of a party’s stock of artwork, jewelry and gems in order to offer an in-game benefit that they can actually use. An Appraiser, however, may not always be the most honest sort. When a DM pronounces to a group of heroes they’ve found a finely dodecahedric-cut ruby, two wax-polished brimstone onyxes, and 25 small but perfect gleaming bench-beveled cut sapphires with sterling silver inlay core-reduced with — yeah yeah yeah, they just want to know the gold piece value so they can liquidate it into funds for magic items that they actually want!

The Appraiser knows this too, and can offer the players a chance to put his talents to good use in other ways. The Appraiser isn’t necessarily out to take advantage of the PCs, but purchasing all the junk the PCs haul in could end up gaining a lot of cash for such an expert, and in the mean time, the PCs could learn something. Consider an interaction with the Appraiser more like expert advice, but only if they understand it all. Don’t think I didn’t take some tips from The Antique Road Show for this either!

If the party would like to have their wares appraised, they must first pay for the Appraiser’s services. An appropriate amount for such services would be in the neighborhood of the price of a consumable magic item of the party’s level minus 2 (if you didn’t know, a consumable item is typically one fifth of the price of a regular magic item of the same level). A party of level of 11 would then expect to pay an Appraiser 840 gp. While the Appraiser is estimating the party’s valuables, a single character can make a Dungeoneering check. The result indicates how much the character gleans from the Appraiser’s evaluations about their loot. Compare the check result with the DC in each of the Alternative Rewards listed below, giving the player the reward of the highest DC they reached.

Side Note on Dungeoneering: This check for a Caravan Peddler represents a character’s understanding of the true value in gemstones, art objects, luxury and adventuring items, as well as oddities and trade goods. Why Dungeoneering and not History or Arcana? Well, we could parse out each piece of treasure and target a specific skill that makes sense for each, but this seldom used skill seems to incorporate a panoply of things outside of the usual. Other than the direct connection to mining for precious stones and metals, Dungeoneering also encompasses knowledge of survival and of creatures from the Far Realm. Either way, it is up to the DM if they would like to honor a different skill for this check.

The Appraiser is suitable for characters from 7th to 17th level. At 17th level, the appraisal cost would be 5,000 gp, the exact amount of the boon gained by hitting the hard DC. Still, if the hard DC isn’t reached, that character would be out 4,000 gp, and that might bruise the purse, even at that level. If they don’t even make the DC of the middle item, they’d be out even more. If a character was higher than 17th level, they would be losing money no matter what the outcome (until we publish a higher level Caravan Appraiser that is!). A character of 6th level is going to have a pretty mediocre chance of even hitting the lower level item’s DC, and at 168 gp for the service, they’d still be losing out quite a bit.

The Appraiser uses an idea of fixed DCs and comparable fixed rewards instead of variable DCs that might scale better in level, therefore, tread carefully and give the players a decent explanation of the risks. In essence, a visit with the Appraiser ends up being nothing more than a gamble, but it can still provide a character with a significant advantage when they need it, especially those versed in the ways of Dungeoneering.

So, in terms of concept the players aren’t actually gaining any value on the gems or art they found in their pile of loot, per se. The check represents  more of an abstract education of something from the Appraiser, and then taking away that knowledge for use at a later time, probably in a more dire predicament. The DCs and amount the players must pay for the expert’s services should, on average, net them a little value, but cost them a little coin.

Common Items and Milestones

So Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium was released not long ago, and with it came many a new rare item and not so many a new common item. If you have any interest how WotC is reacting to that subject, I would point you to their community board. Now that they have thrown all this material out to the masses, it would appear that they want us to figure out how it should work. Perhaps professional sports teams will soon be calling me to play for free, but still make me pay for a seat in the stands. I digress.

I have mixed feelings about the new item rarity system that was put into place with the creation of Essentials. As a DM, I love it! As a player, I hate it! I am assuming that is a general gut reaction for most people in one of the two roles. As both a player and DM, I was really hoping that WotC might print (or again redefine) some more common items. Currently it is pretty depressing if you start a game beyond level 1 and try to find anything to suit your character. Currently available (according to the Compendium) there are 3,449 magic items in D&D 4e. Of those, 161 are common items. Ouch right? It gets more upsetting when you consider that of those 161 items, 41 of them are consumables or alchemical items.

Common In Value Not In Presence

So common that they make up less than 3% of all of the items in the game? Other than this very annoying fact, I can actually get on board with item rarity. I believe it affords a DM and players the chance to make items quest worthy and certainly a little more likely to put your life on the line for an uncommon item, let alone a rare item. Indeed, I think you can even make the goal of item creation into a potential story building effort between DM and players.

That said, one thing did take an undeniable hit from the item rarity system: milestones. Don’t get me wrong. I love action points. I would gladly do some disturbing tasks for extra action points, but with unlimited daily item usage now the only way to fly, milestones look like Pan Am (the defunct airline or soon to be cancelled tv series, take your pick).

Two Birds With One Stone

My main complaint would be bad cliches, but my second biggest complaint would be that milestones are not really that milestoney any more. There are still rings to look forward to, but you will not see one of those until paragon. That is a real shame I think. If there is something I have to give kudos to, it is the designer of rings for 4e. Great design choice. And while I understand they wanted to do something unique for rings, I do not believe this particular milestone tie-in property should be exclusive to rings.

Rings are unique enough without milestones, in that they are (or should be) a little more powerful than other items of their level and their abilities should extend beyond typical “slot roles.” In slot roles I mean how waist slots often apply to fortitude and strength while head slots focus on will and mental attributes.

I do believe that common magic items could have a milestone tie-in property to make them more appealing, yet simple enough to be even handed compared to other items. Plus since the item’s true power would not yield dividends until later milestones are achieved, I think you can balance the powers relatively well and keep it a common item. Here are some that I came up with (excuse the cheesy names, also all of these were generated with power2ool.com, great program check it out):

Cursed Items, Part 1

Curses were written about in Dungeon 182 in September 2010 by Peter Schaefer, and although I applaud Wizards for breaking out of their usual mold and suggesting that there are plenty of things out there they want to play with but have not written official rules for, I have to say I was a bit disappointed with their outcome to one of my favorite aspects to the game. I’ve always enjoyed curses, but even more, I’ve always loved cursed items. Cursed items go way back into the history of D&D and at one point I remember them being so prevalent that a player was practically paranoid of powerful-seeming items when they collected them for fear they would backstab them in some way. But we’ve evolved, and here we are with books and books chock full of items, all with unique powers and all that are ready and willing to bolster your characters no questions asked. There are a few ideas that have been presented that add more than standard flavor to your treasures, primarily artifacts, first introduced in the first Dungeon Master’s Guide, but artifacts are different, as I feel they should be, because they are plot items. Schaefer also believed that curses should be plot techniques and he built his idea of them being dispelled or complete when plot points were satisfied. Now, this is certainly a viable option (one could easily have a cursed item that is also an artifact), but I just don’t see why we need to bring the story into this. Further, if the party finds a cursed item, it’s a great means to bring in a skirting story or aspect to the campaign in the light without affecting the important story line at all.

What’s the Difference?

So here I am, looking for a means to bring cursed items into D&D again without their being any story involved (in the mechanics!) so we can watch our PCs squirm with both trepidation and hopefully a little delight. To do this, we have to figure out what makes an item cursed? I don’t mean what causes the item to be cursed, that’s up to the DM and there are one thousand ideas there from the get go. But what’s the difference between a regular magic item and a cursed one? In my opinion, a few things:

1/ A cursed item should not be allowed to be removed or denied without some special circumstances or aid
2/ A cursed item should grant exceptional power, but require exceptional expense
3/ A cursed item should be fun

That last one is a no-brainer of course for all things we’re making here at Rules As UNWritten, but I felt it was important to reiterate in this circumstance, mostly because the history of cursed items comes with it some sort of reputation for pain or punishment to the PCs, and delight merely to the DM. That’s hogwash, and completely not in the spirit of the game, so it’s important to remember that everything, EVERYTHING, developed for the game should be fun for everyone, even if it is at the detriment to the players. That’s a tough challenge though because players hate to lose. As a DM, I don’t want to see them lose, I don’t even want to see them struggle, but I do want to see them challenged, because overcoming a difficult challenge brings more delight than overcoming a cake walk. With that, it’s important to find a balance with dangerous encounters, formidable villains, and in this case, even a treacherous item. We need to make the item challenging, but also make it fun.

You Can’t Take it Off

So I’ve experimented with a new mechanic for cursed items, and here’s where I’ve discovered that balance. The first rule to cursed items is that whomever dons it, picks it up, or uses it (depending on the kind of item it is) is connected to it. The DM informs the player if they should want to take it off or put it down that they cannot, that they feel unusually bound to the item. This may incite a bit of panic for the player, especially if they picked up a dagger and they usually use a two-handed long spear. That’s okay, don’t gimp the player, that’s not good gaming. They can put the dagger in their belt, they can stow the mirror in their bag, etc, but the conditions to the item still apply. Implore the player, however, to use the item, as the benefits of using it should be on par with or even outweigh the use of their usual facilities. But no matter what rituals or spells in the world you use, you cannot remove the item until it has been used, at least once (details on that later). Use discretion in handing out items with curses that you believe none of the players could or would want to even use—again, that’s not good gaming. This is the same discretion you would use to not drop an incredibly powerful shield in a parcel for a group of adventurers who have no one in the group who uses shields.

No Really…How Do You Remove It?

How do they remove the item then? It’s not going to be too terribly difficult actually, but cursed items should inspire at least one attempt to use it, nay, they cannot be removed without using them. Cursed items come with a scale, very closely resembling Schafer’s model. You see, Schaefer was on to something with his affectation design: there should be levels of danger involved with a curse, in this case a cursed item. Bad things should either be affecting you, or happen to you when you utilize the item, but the fun comes when the player chooses to utilize the item for a greater benefit. Gimping a player straight out and telling them that they can shed the curse by finding an archon to grant them clemency is stupid. If you want to hook a player with an item, come up with something better than gimping them. Story hooks aren’t hard, there’s no reason you should tie a player to penalties to get them to find your archon.

Ability Checks

You get rid of the curse by removing it yourself. This is represented by an ability check. Before you gasp, this is precisely where an ability check is appropriate in this game: the cursed item requires you to break the curse in some way, internally or externally, by yourself, without help, because that is your destiny with the thing. That’s the concept behind cursed items, and no amount of book study on the feywild, wittily pleading with it, or even the use of powerful rituals (though they may help, details on that later) is going to make the mirror stop ringing in your ears. A constitution check, however, may be what you need to do—to outlast and out think the semi-sentient thing. But only if you want to, and only if you have tamed it so far.

Stages

So you’ve got stages with a cursed item, 1, 2 and 3. You start out at stage 1, and the risk reward is relatively low. You always want to lower a player down the rabbit hole, don’t toss them down there like a well bucket. While owning the item, or when they use the item, the player incurs a cost of some sort. I have found the most basic of costs is the taxing of hit points at the end of an encounter in which the item was used. After the player incurs the cost, that is when they get to make their ability check to determine how they deal with the item. There is an Easy, Moderate, and Hard DC to reach with the ability check. If the PC does not reach the Easy DC, then the stage of the cursed item goes up by 1. If the PC reaches the Moderate DC, then stage remains the same. If the PC reaches the Hard DC, they may choose to increase the stage by 1 or decrease it by one (removing the item if they are already at stage 1).

Remember that the trigger for this check is when they incur the cost or penalty, and the cost or penalty comes when they use the item. This means that the player must use the item at least once to gain a chance at removing it. This check also puts a bit of the power in the player’s hand. It is always best to put the well-being of the PCs in their own hands; if they want to dance with the devil, let them, half of this is their game and their story too.

It Can Be Useful Though…Very Useful

Using the item should come with some reward though. In my first example, below, you’ll notice that the item’s power doesn’t necessarily get greater (though the initiative bonus goes up), but the power is usable more and more times per encounter at higher stages. The power is pretty nice for any class really so it’s risk/reward should be an enjoyable choice for the player. After they use it once, they take the cost, which in this case is damage, and they make the ability check, which in this case is a Wisdom check. If they make the check and were unhappy with the results of the item, they can choose to release themselves from the cursed item and take it off. If they were happy with the result they may choose to upgrade to stage 2 if they make the check, but if they don’t then they may not have a choice.

In a design like this the DM is separated from directly doling out undo damage or penalties, and the player has somewhat of a chance to tailor their reaction to the item. Shown below is the item, which I’ve named Stigalda’s Ring, but feel free to call it whatever you like. In my campaign, Lady Stigalda was a practitioner of magic long ago, but something went awry. On her bony deceased finger the PCs find this ring, and after putting it on they might get a clue as to how Lady Stigalda died.

I’ll followup with another item next time and some more exploratory notes on designing cursed items. Until then, enjoy!

Ritual Book: Cooking the Books

This is the Ritual Book. In this series we will look to explore and expand the role of rituals in Dungeons & Dragons 4e. We will focus on character options for players who want their ritual casters to cast more frequently and more effectively in game. In addition, we will offer up advice on how dungeon masters can make rituals a more important or integral part of the game. The goal is to encourage ritual use in general.

In this first installment, I would like to explore the financial aspect of ritual casting. One of the harshest criticisms of rituals is the constant financial tax. It can be very difficult for a player to make a choice between saving up for an important magic item or slowly whittling away at her resources to cast rituals throughout her career. It can be even harder to rationalize spending resources on rituals if your fellow players or dungeon masters are not keen on the time and results of rituals. With that in mind, I want to look at some character options for free or reduced cost rituals.

What Options Do I Have?

There are few ritual caster classes already out there for budget conscious ritualists. Currently the wizard and bard have the most freebies. A wizard receives two rituals to start as well as two free rituals of her level or lower at 5th, 11th, 15th, 21st and 25th. The bard is allowed lots of component free casting with bard rituals, once per day at heroic and one additional time per day at each tier. Do not forget you can pick up the Bardic Training class feature with the Bardic Ritualist multiclass feat if you like casting bard rituals for free. After that the field is slim. Psions, druids and invokers each receive one ritual they can cast for free whenever they like.

Some more versatile choices would be the skill powers Improvisational Arcana and Experienced Arcana. Both options are daily utility powers that cut the cost of a ritual in half, with some additional riders as well.

And that is about it. Unfortunate for sure. There are many ways to make multiple rolls on your ritual attempts or gain bonus to skills associated with rituals, however not many selections to reduce the financial burden of being a ritual caster.

Creating Options

I would like to propose several alternatives to help alleviate the financial strain of ritual casting. The goal here is to provide additional avenues for ritual casters to either offset the cost of buying rituals in the market or consuming gold for casting rituals.

Feats:


Class Features:

Magic Items: