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Drake’s Helmet (Relic)

posted Thursday, March 27th 2008 by Jonathan Drain
Game MaterialMagic Items & GearThird EditionWondrous Items

This magic item originally appeared 17 Relics by The Le Press. A relic is a powerful magic item which once formed part of the body or belongings of some great figure. See Seventeen Relics for special rules on relics.

Lord Barrack, a hero of legend in ancient feudal times, crafted this helmet from the first dragon he slew at the age of fifteen. Later that year, Barrack wrested control of his treacherous uncle’s armies and lands, and by the age of twenty-two he had conquered half of the country. He is said to have worn this helmet into a hundred battles, and never lost once.

Drake’s Helmet is made from the head of a red dragon, such that the wearer’s face appears to peer from the dragon’s open jaws. The head extends at the back to a long dragonhide cloak with the claws forming the epaulets.

Once per day while engaged in battle, the wearer may call upon the spirit of the slain dragon by making a roar or shout that causes all enemies within 30 feet to believe for a moment that he is a ferocious dragon. They become panicked and flee unless they succeed at a Will save (DC 15 + Cha modifier). This is a supernatural, mind-affecting effect.

The helmet is reputed to hold Lord Barrack’s indomitable spirit, and grants a +4 resistance bonus to all saves, increasing to +8 versus fear effects. If the wearer has the Leadership feat, then the prestige of owning the helmet increases his Leadership score by 1. However, for the purposes of how many magic items a person may wear, this powerful relic takes up both the “helmetâ€? and the “cloakâ€? slot.

Moderate enchantment; CL 14th; Price 42,000gp; Weight 3 lbs.

Deathscythe (Relic)

posted Thursday, March 20th 2008 by Jonathan Drain
Game MaterialMagic Items & GearThird EditionWeapons

This magic item originally appeared 17 Relics by The Le Press. A relic is a powerful magic item which once formed part of the body or belongings of some great figure. See Seventeen Relics for special rules on relics.

In a kingdom ravaged by terrible creatures of living dead, the Deathscythes were first discovered as the weapons of choice of a new and powerful undead abomination formed by an archlich whose name is not spoken even today, lest it wake him from his sleep. Originally a nonmagical farming scythe, the corrupted spirits of ghostly slain farmers leaked into these weapons and gave them supernatural efficacy. Only a few Deathscythes are thought to still exist.

A Deathscythe is usually a +1 ghost touch scythe, although some are more powerful than normal. In addition, the vicious, life-hating spirit of the weapon deals +1d6 negative energy damage on a successful hit against a living creature.

Once per day, the wielder may call upon the fragment of undead spirit in the weapon and declare one attack a “Reaping of the Scytheâ€? before he rolls it. If the attack successfully hits and deals damage, the wielder must make a Fortitude save (DC 5 + half wielder’s character level+ Cha modifier) or be struck dead instantly. This is a death effect.

Moderate necromancy; CL 16th; Price 40,000gp; Weight 10lbs.

Bravestone (Relic)

posted Thursday, March 13th 2008 by Jonathan Drain
Game MaterialMagic Items & GearThird EditionWondrous Items

This magic item originally appeared 17 Relics by The Le Press. A relic is a powerful magic item which once formed part of the body or belongings of some great figure. See Seventeen Relics for special rules on relics.

Several thousand people attended the funeral of Saint Wesseth, a fierce holy warrior and an equally valiant diplomat. This unparalleled respect for the hero did not carry forth into future generations, and soon his resting place became a mere novelty for travelers to gawk at as they passed. Worse still, these passers-by would often stop at the grave, not to pay their respects to the hero, but to chisel off a shard of his gravestone to be worn on an amulet as a cheap souvenir. Eventually, not even a piece of his gravestone remained, and his shrine was forgotten.

Although taken with ill-respected, these pieces of stone still have meaning when worn by the faithful. If blessed by a cleric and dipped in holy water, a single Bravestone lends any faithful wearer some of the courage of Saint Wesseth, conferring them with a +4 bonus on saves versus fear.

Faint transmutation; CL 4th; Price 4,000gp; Weight: 1lb.

Bone of Contention (Relic)

posted Thursday, March 6th 2008 by Jonathan Drain
Game MaterialMagic Items & GearThird EditionWands, Rods & Staffs

This magic item originally appeared 17 Relics by The Le Press. A relic is a powerful magic item which once formed part of the body or belongings of some great figure. See Seventeen Relics for special rules on relics.

Long ago, two young elven scribes were taken captive by a ruthless lich. The boys were kept locked up and fed poorly for centuries – for most of their natural lives. Both attempted suicide on several occasions, only to find their wounds healing instantaneously through some unknown curse placed in their cell. Anger at their captor filled them and bubbled like a kettle of water on a stove. Eventually, the rage became too great, and one of the elves turned on the other without reason, murdering him with his bare hands. The anger took too great a toll on the survivor who died on the spot of a heart attack, and the lich harvested one of his bones for use as a powerful relic.

The Bone of Contention holds such hatred that the mere sight of it can drive a man to violence. To use it, the wielder must hold it forth, which is a standard action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity, similar to turning undead. Anyone viewing the bone is inexplicably inspired to anger and feels a compulsion to attack the nearest person or creature, believing them to be an enemy. They must succeed at a Will save (DC 15) or else succumb to this urge, which they follow for one minute or until their target is incapacitated or dead. The current holder of the bone and his allies are immune to its effect, but feel a faint and ineffectual hatred if they stare at it.

However, the bone has a drawback. Once per month at a seemingly random time, the owner of the bone must make a successful Will save or become suddenly filled with hatred and immediately believe that the next person he sees is an enemy. This mental illusion lasts for one hour, after which the owner of the bone regains his senses.

Faint enchantment; CL 4th; Price 25,000gp; Weight: 1lb.

Improve Your Game with The Art of War (Part 3)

posted Monday, March 3rd 2008 by Jonathan Drain
Player Advice

Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is an ancient military treatise that has since been applied to fields as varied as business, sports and personal relationships. This past month I’ve discussed Chapter 1: Laying Plans and Chapter 2: Waging War and how these can apply to your Dungeons & Dragons. This week continues with Chapter 3.

Part 3: Attack by Stratagem

Sun Tzu says:

In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole and intact. To shatter and destroy it is not so good… Hence, to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence. Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting. Thus, the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy’s plans; the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy’s forces; the next in order is to attack the enemy’s army in the field, and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.

Common sense would dictate that kick-in-the-door style play is best in D&D. Sun Tzu tells us that this isn’t necessarily so. Victory may bring treasure and experience points, but it’s usually at the expense of resources: hit points, spell slots, uses-per-day abilities. Thus, actual fighting should take place only when the enemy cannot be stopped by other means.

For example, an enemy can be tricked, reasoned with, bribed, cheated, intimidated, coerced, blackmailed, captured, poisoned, disabled, convinced to mutiny or made to flee. Fight smarter, not harder! Remember that an enemy overcome still provides experience even if you don’t kill it outright.

There are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army. One, by commanding the army to advance or to retreat, being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey. This is called ‘hobbling’ the army. Two, by attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which obtain in an army. … Three, by employing the officers of his army without discrimination, in igorance of the military principle of adaptation to circimstances.

While a D&D player has only one character under his control, each character has an army of powers at his disposal. Thus, having limited resouces, he must take care to use them wisely. To begin with, he must not use an ability which cannot succeed; as mentioned later in this chapter, to do this he must both know his enemy and know himself. Do not waste the use of spells or weapons which will be ineffectual.

Consider also the circumstances of combat and adventure, rather than the ideal conditions; equip yourself with the current adventure in mind. Finally, always be sure to select the best tool for the job. In third edition D&D, for example, Power Attack may be excellent against low-AC creatures such as oozes, but it’s often too risky against well-armoured opponents.

There are five essentials for victory. One, he will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight. Two, he will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces. Three, he will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks. Four, he will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared. Five, he will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign. Hence the saying, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

Winning a battle is broadly the same whether you’re fighting in the Forgotten Realms, ancient China, or a modern-day urban battlefield. Sun Tzu states that there are five points which must always be adhered to.

First, know whether or not you are able to fight. In D&D we largely expect to fight swarms of weaker enemies, but it’s preferable to avoid combat when clearly outmatched. Second, know how to handle superior and inferior opponents; earlier in the chapter Sun Tzu counsels to fight if the enemy can be overpowered, to flee if they cannot, and in doing so to avoid loss. Third, the spirit of teamwork must not be underestimated; working together toward a common goal is superior to each man doing his own thing in anarchy.

Fourthly, to be prepared oneself and launch attacks when the enemy least expects it, while being immune to unexpected attacks oneself, confers a great advantage. Make use of stealth and deception to ensure that your enemy doesn’t fully know what to expect. The fifth point is less relevant since a player controls his character’s actions directly without interference, but it remains to suggest that a player who has ability and can be relied on without prompting from other players or books will succeed.

Part 4 next week

Stay tuned for the next part of this article in a week’s time. You can subscribe to this blog via the RSS feed, the Livejournal feed, or if like me you prefer the old-fashioned method, simply bookmark the front page.

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