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The Sacred Ash (Relic)

posted Thursday, May 29th 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.

When the head priest of an old cathedral was discovered to be acting suspiciously, one of his subordinates began to spy on him, only to find out a dark secret – the head priest was a vampire! Unfortunately, the poor priest was attacked by the vampire immediately after he discovered this secret. Fumbling for a weapon in the ensuing fight, the young cleric picked up the end of a chair leg broken in the melee, quickly blessed it and killed the vampire with the weapon.

The Sacred Ash is a simple, pale wooden stake made from ash wood, which glows faintly with sunlight when any vampire comes within thirty feet. When used as a weapon, the stake is treated as a +1 dagger, except that its threat range is 20/x2 instead of the usual 19-20/x2. By its unusual blessing, it ignores a vampire’s natural damage reduction, and furthermore its warming glow inflicts 3d4 extra damage against any creature for whom sunlight is deadly.

Faint transmutation; CL 5th; Price 13,000gp; Weight: 1lb.

Fourth Edition Character Sheet: First Look

posted Friday, May 23rd 2008 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionNews, Reviews & Culture

Wired has an exclusive preview of the Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition character sheet. This is perhaps the biggest piece of information we’ve had on the new edition to date. Let’s go over some of the details revealed:

Ability scores: Largely unchanged, there’s a new column for “ability modifier plus half level”. This is the new bonus for ability checks; initiative is essentially a Dexterity check.

Skills: The skill list has been consolidated to seventeen skills: Acrobatics, Arcana, Athletics, Bluff, Diplomacy, Dungeoneering, Endurance, Heal, History, Insight, Intimidate, Nature, Perception, Religion, Stealth, Streetwise and Thievery. As in Star Wars Saga Edition, skill bonus is half your level plus ability score modifier, with +5 if you’re ‘trained’. All Strength, Dexterity and Constitution based skills suffer armour check penalties.

Combat: Gone are multiple iterative attacks and huge damage bonuses, with the sample 15th level character dealing a reasonable 1d8+8. The sample character at 15th level has a base attack bonus of +15, calculated as half level + Strength modifier + a “proficiency” modifier of +3. Movement is now officially measured in ‘squares’, and armour check penalty (luckily these are lower than in third edition) applies directly to movement rate.

Armour class and saving throws: Saving throws and AC are both calculated as 10 + half level + ability score; remember that in Fourth, the enemies roll against your saving throw value much like third edition’s spell resistance. Interestingly the character sheet suggests that saves now use the higher of two ability score modifiers; for example, either Strength or Constitution can apply to your Fortitude save. Class seems to apply less to saving throws, with our sample 15th level paladin applying only +1 to all saves from class.

Getting beaten up: As seen in previous suggestions, a character becomes ‘bloodied’ at half hit points, a status effect which we’ll see defined when more details are available. Players can also activate a “healing surge” to restore one-quarter of their hit points a certain number of times per day, presumably as a kind of “brief rest to regain stamina”. Other effects listed are a “second wind” ability useable once per encounter, and what seems to be a “three strikes and you’re out” rule for Bodak-style death effects – it’s not detailed if this is per-day, per-level or per-character.

Alignment: As previously announced, Fourth edition says goodbye to the magic square of nine alignments (ten, if we count the spoof alignment ‘Batman’). We now have a five-alignment track of Lawful Good, Good, Unaligned, Evil and Chaotic Evil. Interestingly, in another break from AD&D tradition, the sample paladin is listed simply as Good, not Lawful Good – in fact, her deity is the traditionally Chaotic Good deity Kord.

New features: Prestige classes are replaced with “paragon paths”, and epic prestige classes with “epic destinies”. There’s a very cool sounding “Astral Weapon” paragon path that paladins can take. Action points are core rules now. “Passive senses” give a flat “10 + modifier” number to Insight and Perception, presumably for when someone sneaks up on the character.

Rusted Faith (Relic)

posted Thursday, May 22nd 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.

Garamond, a fallen holy warrior who had lost his paladinhood, searched for five years for the legendary Holy Avenger in the hopes that finding it would restore his faith. When on a stormy night he reached an impassable river that marked the eastern border of the kingdom, he threw his sword into the torrential river in despair, and when he realized what he had just done he attempted to drown himself in the river. When he awoke a week later, he found himself washed up on his shore with his rusted sword next to him. Taking this as a sign, he fought unwaveringly with the sword for the rest of his life.

Rusted faith is a +2 holy longsword – although some reports claim that it may be a bastard sword. It appears as a slightly rusted, corroded sword, but in practice is miraculously just as strong as a normal sword of its type. Baptized in the river instead of by the hand of a mage, the weapon is not detected by detect magic, but has a moderate aura when detect good is used. As long as the weapon is carried, wielded or is set down sheathed within five feet of its owner, it sustains them without the need for food, water or air.

Furthermore, the wearer can activate the weapon’s Rusted Blade ability once per day as a free action, giving the weapon a rough orange glow until the ability is discharged. The next time the blade strikes a creature or object vulnerable to rusting, it infuses the “impureâ€? material with corrosion, affecting them as by a rusting grasp spell. The wielder of the weapon is immune to his own Rusted Blade ability.

Moderate transmutation; CL 11th; Price 37,315gp; Weight 4 lbs.

Särkijärvi’s Law

posted Wednesday, May 21st 2008 by Jonathan Drain
Game Design

If I have one piece of advice to players, writers and dungeon masters this week, it’s this: Just because it’s fantasy, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be realistic. Third edition Dungeon Master’s Guide author Monte Cook terms this realism ‘verisimilitude’, the property of a setting being believable through internal consistency. It makes the game fair as well as improving atmosphere.

Fourth edition playtester and fellow blogger NiTessine agrees with me, posting recently to complain about a frustrating suggestion that peppers forum discussions about fantasy realism: “There’s no point in arguing for realism when there are wizards lobbing fireballs.” He’s coined what he calls Särkijärvi’s Law:

“I therefore present Särkijärvi’s Law, in echo of Godwin’s Law: As a discussion about realism in a fantasy setting grows longer, the probability of someone claiming the irrelevancy of realism in the presence of magic approaches one.”

In other news, Penny Arcade has new comics up featuring none other than the Deep Crow. Depending how this arc turns out I may have to amend the creature’s stats.

Revenge for the Drop (Relic)

posted Thursday, May 15th 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.

An unusually tall halfling by the name of Perrick was hanged by the long drop for the murder of a nobleman. When by luck a wandering priest offered to raise the nobleman from the dead, it was discovered that the nobleman was not murdered but had committed suicide – Perrick was innocent! The Priest attempted to resurrect Perrick, but was unable. The superstitious priest, fearing a curse of revenge, ordered the hangman’s rope and platform burned to ashes, but the noose itself mysteriously refused to burn. It was buried underneath the ground and forgotten, and only the vengeful ghost of Perrick knows where it was hidden.

Revenge for the drop is a slightly charred hangman’s noose, with the end of the rope burned off. When worn around a person’s neck similarly to an amulet, the wearer feels an unusual sense of power from the noose, an emotion of quiet anger.

Three times per day as a standard action, the wearer may unleash Perrick’s revenge on an opponent. A noose appears around the opponent’s neck and springs to life, making a grapple check with a bonus equal to the wearer’s base attack bonus plus his Charisma modifier. If successful, it manages to lift its victim three feet off the ground, strangling it for one minute (ten rounds), or until the strangled creature escapes from the grapple or the noose is cut. A strangled creature takes 1d6 damage each round, including the round that the rope initiates the grapple, in addition to suffering the usual consequences of both being grappled and of choking. A creature can only be grappled by one rope at a time.

Faint necromancy; CL 4th; Price 7,000gp; Weight: 1lb.

Dungeon Master Links Roundup

posted Saturday, May 10th 2008 by Jonathan Drain
Dungeon Mastering AdviceLinks and ResourcesNews, Reviews & Culture

I’ve located a few resources this week that Dungeon Masters may find useful.

Zen and the Art of Dungeon Mastering: At thirty-thousand words this collection of articles is a lengthy but valuable read. It dates back to old AD&D, but the advice contained is just as relevant in any edition.

The puzzle structure of Ocarina of Time: Gareth Rees analyzes a highly successful adventure videogame that holds similarities to Dungeons & Dragons. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time stars a heroic swordsman who enters dungeons and fights monsters to find loot and magic equipment, so you may be able to apply this to your own dungeoncrafting.

Story structure: it’s not just for movies anymore: Screenwriter Todd Alcott examines videogame Half-Life, a classic first-person shooter famed for introducing story to a genre previously characterized as “a dungeon crawl with guns”.

Pilgrim’s Hood (Relic)

posted Thursday, May 8th 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.

This simple-looking peasants robe looks and feels mundane, appearing non-magical even to detect magic. To look at it, few people would know that it was several centuries old. The Pilgrim’s Hood was the sole possession of Saint Taren of Rynwold, a pious king who eschewed his material wealth and traveled his kingdom anonymously, helping those in need. Some faithful villages still believe that Saint Taren walks among them unnoticed in times of strife, and parents in parts of the land commonly name their sons after this honorable figure.

The wearer of the Pilgrim’s Hood is divinely sustained without the need to eat or drink as long as he prays for ten minutes each morning and night. In addition, he begins to take on some of the mantle of the robe’s original kind-hearted owner. Spot checks to recognize his identity take a -4 circumstance penalty, and he gains a +4 competence bonus to Diplomacy checks. Like Saint Taren, they no longer fear journeying in hostile weather, and ignore the effects of both extreme hot and cold weather.

Faint transmutation; CL 5th; Price 6,000gp; Weight 1lbs.

Lucky Underwear (Relic)

posted Thursday, May 1st 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.

Junnobel the Flighty was a traveling dilettante who made an incredible fortune as an adventurer by risking his life against unbeatable odds. When asked what his secret was, he jokingly replied, “I’m always wearing my lucky underpants!â€? That night, thieves replaced his underwear with an identical pair, and the next afternoon he tripped and fell from the top of a tower, dying on impact.

The otherwise mundane pair of underwear, it seemed, was a lucky charm after all. The player of a character wearing a pair of lucky underwear may, once per day, immediately choose to re-roll any die roll she just made. She must re-roll it after seeing the die roll, but before seeing the results – for example, if she rolls a natural 1 to save versus an unknown spell, she must choose whether or not to re-roll it before seeing the spell’s effect.

Moderate enchantment; CL 10th; Price 25,000gp

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