Do-It-Yourself Charms and Talismans

Basil and Lord Henry survey the portrait of Dorian

Yeah. Watch out for these things.

Some time ago I was asked to take a look at some suggested Charms and Talismans to add to those in The Practical Enchanter. It’s taken some time to get to it, but here we go!

Charms and Talismans are the occult equivalents of basic hand tools – channels for ambient and personal magic just as hand tools are channels for the user’s skills and muscle power. When you compare them to full-fledged enchantments… you see the difference between a blacksmith’s hammer and an automatic hydraulic drop forge capable of exerting 425,000 pounds of pressure.

As tools, Charms and Talismans are not, in themselves, much more magical than any random rock. In fact, with a little work, the occasional random rock makes a perfectly functional charm (“Wellstone”). There aren’t any feat requirements for making them either – although the game master may require you to spend a few skill points on knowing the equivalent of a “book of formulas”. To quote the rules from The Practical Enchanter

Charms are straightforward: they’re made using the Spellcraft skill as a craft skill. The base cost is normally 100 silver pieces, the DC is 15, and there usually are no special requirements. A skillful charmsmith can turn one out in a few days if he or she knows the formula. Talismans are trickier: they require minor special materials, have a basic cost of 250 SP, a Craft DC of 20 (with a relevant craft skill) to make, and require a DC 20 rite to empower. Most talismongers will need a week or two to make one unless they subcontract the crafting part – which usually cuts it down to three days.

Thus, given that basic lack of power, Charms usually have level zero effects and are either constant or operate a few times per day. A few are “charged”, and can have up to fifty charges. Talismans can have effects of up to level one or even level two in rare cases – but those with active effects are often a strain to wield, often temporarily draining one of the user’s attributes (inflicting “ability damage”) to provide the power. They normally take several hours to attune, and so can’t be traded around quickly. In either case, their user’s can normally only power a few of them. Some worlds make Charms and Talismans available naturally, or through the use of the Practical Enchanters Wealth Templates. In others, you can buy the ability to use them at the cost of six character points (in Eclipse) or one Feat (in standard d20). That will buy you…

Talismanic Magic: Shaping, Specialized and Corrupted for increased effects/can only produce the effects for which the user has the appropriate foci ready, can only support a limited number (seven and three) of minor charms and more notable talismans at one time, charms and talismans are modestly expensive and take some time to attune for use (6 CP).

The Practical Enchanter includes quite a list of Charms and Talismans – but here’s a list of homebrew suggestions from Brett. I suspect that I’ll be cutting a lot of them back a bit – but that happens a lot with suggestions.

Trail Boots: While using overland movement always treated for self as if having a Trail and drastically lowers the likelihood of encounters with animals etc. Favored by ranger and scout types, gives mobility bonus for those attuned to the ‘wilds’ – Brett.

Well, “Guide My Feet” – a zero-level spell that lets you move through “trackless” terrain as if you were on a trail for a bit seems pretty reasonable. Throwing in that it helps you avoid normal animals while engaged in long range travel shouldn’t really break anything, however convenient that spell would be for a party with unlimited use of it at low levels. As for the “Mobility Boost” – well, that could mean movement rate, but a movement-booster – even if it is wilderness only – starts getting into “must have” territory, which really isn’t what Charms and Talismans are all about. Still, the power level is relatively low and if you’re using Eclipse getting yourself a small movement bonus in a limited environment is going to be pretty cheap anyway.

(Revised) Trail Boots: The wearer moves through Trackless Terrain as if on a Trail. If he or she would normally have a random encounter with an animal while engaged in overland travel, he or she may make DC 15 Survival Check. On a success, he or she may opt to go around the animal instead. Talismanic versions might come in a variety of styles. Pick any one of:

  1. Talismanic Trail Boots provide an additional +5′ to movement while in the wilds. Simple, straightforward – and a very easy choice for any wilderness game.
  2. Talismanic Trail Boots allow the wearer to duck and weave through the obstructions of a natural wilderness environment; the user gains a +2 to his or her armor class to evade attacks of opportunity in such environments and is immune to the Entangle spell.
  3. Talismanic Trail Boots grant their user exceptionally sure footing, granting a +4 bonus to rolls made to maintain their balance, climb up rocks, and otherwise avoid slips and falls in such terrain.

Boots of the Canopy: Give roughly the benefits of the spell Branch to Branch from the Spell Compendium; +10′ run along tree branches +10 Climb on trees. They’re used by elven warriors to enhance their home field advantages – Brett.

Well, that’s very situational, which fits – but the power level really calls for a Talisman. Ergo;

(Revised) Boots of the Canopy (Talisman): These soft, gripping, boots grant a +10 bonus to the wearer’s attempts to climb trees, run along tree branches, and jump from branch to branch.

Living Phylactery: Preserves the body (to various degrees, usually cosmetic or aging only (but versions abound) in a manner similar to the portrait of Dorian Gray. This is the singular most common type of demonic or devilish ‘corrupting gift’ as it costs little effort and strongly encourages the lower pursuits that draw one to further corruption – Brett.

For comparison, a Grace of Miravor Charm prevents most illnesses including arthritis, incontinence, and the various infirmities of age – but not aging penalties. A minor variant that simply prevents the infirmities of age while providing the appearance of youth (but no actual extension of lifespan) is entirely reasonable – especially as a Black Magic Charm. A Wardstone Charm can easily eliminate aging penalties to attributes since the amount of wear and tear on the body in any given day is minuscule, but such stones are rare, simply because actually benefiting from one requires essentially giving up a charm slot perpetually – and other options tend to be far more attractive at any given time. Just as in reality, people know that self-discipline may pay health dividends later – but how many of them actually give up all those unhealthy foods now? Even the ones who intend to do it tend to say “well just one more won’t hurt…” – and the harm done by using a different Charm for a few days is even more subtle. Ergo, since a Black Magic Talisman is stronger than usual but always has some sort of price, this can become…

(Revised) Living Phylactery (Black Magic Talisman): While this seductive talisman comes in a variety of forms – dolls, portraits, statuettes, and even “autobiographies”, it always takes on the image of it’s owner. While it does not extend the user’s lifespan, it does prevent physical aging while it’s attuned – and provides DR 1/- versus physical damage. Unfortunately, like all Black Magic, such a talisman does exact it’s price. Such a talisman reflects the one point of damage it prevents from each physical injury, and if it is ever de-attuned or destroyed, will return that damage to the user all at once. More subtly, a Living Phylactery draws power from it’s owners youthful excesses; if the user reduces their sexual indulgences, use of drugs and intoxicants, and recruitment of others into such activities for long, the aches and pains of aging will return, as will the damage that has accumulated in the Phylactery. This does offer an escape – a few months of self-denial, pain, and catching up on your aging will bleed off the damage stored in a Phylactery and allow the user to de-attune it safely – but few of those who would attune a Living Phylactery in the first place are so inclined.

Silverskin Armor: A reserve of a psyoreactive liquid metal that replicates a small range of gear, usually leather armor, light shield and the adjustable choice of a dagger, whip or lasso (change as ‘drawing’ a weapon). Also provides a single THP and a ‘Field’ effect that prevents actual physical contact with a substance, usually to limit disease or poison exposure. The field is extant as long as the THP is present, if damaged lose the THP first as normal, at the start of the turn the THP returns, if that same THP is present at the next turn the field is reestablished. This was developed by the Synod as a means of limiting exposure to the glistening oil it also provides protection from more mundane poisons and diseases – Brett.

Now this one is a bit over the top. The Flux Iron Charm is essentially a reserve of metal that the user can mentally reform, but allowing it to emulate leather and rope as well as metal would definitely make it a Talisman. Throwing in the ability to become several items at once makes it even more powerful – and putting in a once-per-round temporary hit point and protection against poisons and diseases would make it even more powerful. I’m afraid that this will have to be split up;

The Bracers of Force Charm creates minor force fields – capable of withstanding one point of damage, and of warding off physical contact by rain and bugs and similar annoyances. A minor variant – perhaps the “Ward of Sekhmet” will do.

(Replacement) Ward of Sekhmet (Charm): This useful charm creates a low-grade force-aura around it’s user. The aura can absorb only one point of damage before collapsing, but will restore itself one round later. While the field cannot prevent the passage of gases or massive applications of liquids (such as corrosive breath weapons, being engulfed in slimes, and similar troubles), it can hold off rain, splashes of dangerous liquids, casual contact with slimes, toxins, infectious body fluids, and a variety of similar hazards.

(Replacement) Crafter’s Belt (Charm): This broad belt gives protection equivalent to heavy leather without it’s encumbrance. While this does provide the wearer with a +2 Armor Bonus, it also wards off thorns and itchy plant saps, splinters, sparks and embers, and similar annoyances, making such a belt a favored accouterment amongst farmers, gardeners, craftsman, and others. As a side-benefit the user may simply touch items to the belt and have them “stick” to it, as well-secured as if they had been hung on a loop or tucked into a pocket. A Crafter’s Belt will also obviate any need for suspenders, trusses, or weight belts*.

*Not that d20 characters ever actually need any of those. Of course, considering some of the outfits that players describe their characters as wearing, some sort of charm may be needed to hold them up and together.

And finally…

(Replacement) Assassin’s Bracer (Talisman): This light bracer unfolds into a light steel shield on command – and will reveal, on it’s back, holders for a variety of light weapons which the user may exchange as if simply drawing a weapon. Sadly, no individual weapon may weigh more than two pounds and it cannot hold more than ten pounds of weapons in total.

Diamond Kaleidoscope: Usually built more as a chandelier though many forms exist. Gives multiple ‘Mage Hand’ level servants that take simple instruction, usually used to staff a location in the manner of simple servants and go-fors. Such servants have a range of 300′ or the building, but in the later the boundaries of the building need to be marked by some inexpensive powders to attune the kaleidoscope. This provides the not uncommon situation of making actual servants expensive ostentatious luxuries and allows for many more creative uses – Brett.

Hmm… Well, this has much greater range than a normal Mage Hand spell, doesn’t require concentration, and can perform simple services on it’s own – basically an Unseen Servant effect. The Warding Cartouche Charm maintains a specialized Unseen Servant effect for the user – but only one (maintaining a limited version of a level one effect). This one pretty much comes down to “too big a scale even for a Talisman” – and there’s no easy way to break down the effects either. Now if you could hook some much more powerful source of magic into the effect, or amplify the magic, or handle the effect elsewhere…

(Replacement) Star Stone (Charm): This crystal feeds a tiny trickle of magic into something else (and glows with ever-shifting colors while it does so). They’re usually combined with Applied Spellcraft (Practical Enchanter, Page 120) Power Amplification (+1 or +2 to a Specific Spell) and Runic Formula effects to allow them to empower a level zero (amplification +1) or even first level (amplification +2) effect every 1d4 rounds. Sadly, unless the application also includes a Caster Level Increase, the effects are only “cast” at caster level one. Talismanic versions may convert the user’s personal energies into magic; the user may expend 2d4 hit points to produce a L0 burst of magic or 1d4 Constitution points (ability damage) to produce a L1 burst of magic.

There. With a Star Stone set into an appropriate Runic Diagram (1′st level spell formula (DC 10), Amplify Specific Spell +2 (DC 15), Combined DC 20. Setting this up in paint – probably on the ceiling to reduce the chance of damaging it – will require about fifteen days) you can readily spawn enough Unseen Servants to look after your entire mansion and any parties you may throw.

To be continued…

Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion. Here’s a Featured Review of it and another Independent Review.

The Practical Enchanter can be found in a Print Edition (Lulu), an Electronic Edition(RPGNow), and a Shareware Edition (RPGNow).  There’s an RPGNow Staff Review too.

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3 Responses

  1. The feature of the Talisman Star Stone, when you say it produces bursts of L0 or L1 magic, do you mean the power/spell levels to do so, or do you mean any “known” spell effect, or that it can produce any L0/L1 effect the user desires? Is it possible to use it to just create the power/spell energy for an effect the user knows or to fuel some ability that uses them for fuel the user might have?

    A related question I wanted your opinion on. Another brewer made a more streamlined power system using 3.5 rules and powers as the base. The idea was to unify the powers that should be augments of each other, rather than distinct powers. One of the things they created was a L0 Cantrip/Orison equivalent. It required expending psionic focus to manifest the power. The most contentious of these was one that had a manifesting time of 1 min and gave the user a discrete pool of 1 power. With the 3.5 rules this meant they could manifest any known L1 power with that single point, but could not augment it in any way. I wanted to get your opinion on that balance wise, as well as the separate issues it creates given the exploitability of the witchcraft system. Basically at the cost of most of the known L0 powers this would give a power bank resource similar to having Unity and Pulse of the Dragon, though at a much slower rate of 1P/min rather than 2P/round.

    • Both the Charm and Talisman versions of the Star Stone produce raw magical energy. It doesn’t have any structure to it and it isn’t under the user’s control or a part of their reserve. By default it will dissipate into the ambient background if there isn’t something set up to channel it – thus the need for a preset external channeling system to turn that power into something useful. You could use a miniaturized runic inscription to turn this into a portable way to repeatedly produce a minor spell effect – but at that point it probably is easier to simply invest in a genuine enchantment.

      If the user has some ability that can be fueled by raw ambient magic, that would work, but unless it’s combined with a lot of fast healing or something it will probably be more efficient to just get some Path of the Dragon or innate enchantment or some such if an item won’t do.

      Commenting on a system I haven’t actually seen is always a bit awkward – although I’ll hazard a guess that what powers are aspects of what is going to be pretty subjective. For an example, there are theories that the entire universe is fundamentally just information, with it’s “physical” aspects nothing but a projection of that information. From that point of view there’s really only one basic power – “rewrite informational substrate”. All other possible “powers” are simply aspects of that one. Similarly, from a quantum perspective… “probability control” can do anything whatsoever if you’re good enough. Is “reality” consensual? Large-scale hypnosis will let you change it and you could override it locally by pure acts of will. Is the world described by the structure of space-time and the mass-energy within it? Three basic powers then; Spatial Manipulation, Telekinesis, and whatever Perceptive Sense it is you use to know what you’re affecting. (Hm… I may have to rummage out the old Continuum II Psionic Power listings. Those got fairly lengthy).

      As for the “gain one power” function… I can see where there might be some theoretical problems with that, especially if there are no further restrictions and you combine it with a relatively cheap Cognizance Crystal (charge up crystal one point at a time, discharge it using higher level power, and repeat as needed). In actual practice problems with psions and casters usually have more to do with high level powers and spells than they have to do with them spamming lower level ones – which is one reason why you find Rite of Chi, Triggering, Innate Enchantment, Siddhisyoga, and various other ways of spamming low-level effects in Eclipse already. Given that those are best at powering low-level stuff, that tips things a bit towards the minor powers that are available to pretty much everyone.

      The Path of the Dragon and Unity aren’t sufficient to build a regenerating power-bank on their own though; Unity just lets you use – say – “Dispel Psionics” to get rid of magic and “Dispel Magic” to get rid of psionic effects even in worlds where psionics and magic do not normally interact. Similarly, Pulse of the Dragon doesn’t automatically put the power it summons under the user’s control; it just summons raw energy without providing any way of using it. At it’s base it’s mostly a way to charge things – such as runic inscriptions – up or power rituals. If you want to use it yourself, you’ll need either some way to absorb and store it (thus the note on Pulse of the Dragon combined with Eye of the Dragon) or “another way of gathering the energy” that will satisfy the game master. A number of the sample characters get away with that as a side effect of drastic usage limitations (if you have usage limitations it must be under your control in some way) or through local world laws (Huh. The fighter equipped himself with powered battle armor, a machine gun, a grenade launcher, a fusion missile launcher that does 5d20 damage in a radius, an automatic medical pack, and an implanted battle computer… I guess I’ll let you use that Path of the Dragon combination to throw all the first level stuff you want).

      Finally, witchcraft is more or less meant to be exploitable; there’s nothing but the game master to keep a player from buying a massive power pool relatively cheaply – but while Witchcraft offers a good deal of relative power at low levels, it tops out fairly rapidly in the early mid-levels – making it a relatively poor investment for a primary caster type, but an excellent one for boosting non-casters. Just as importantly, witchcraft powers are cheap to use to start with. Even a basic witch will usually have enough power for a single fight, and it’s easy to expand on that to cover all the fights you’re likely to have in a day – and thus a serious witch will rarely run out of power anyway.

  2. […] =-it-yourself Charms and Talismans: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, and Part VIII. Exotic proposals for more […]

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