Living Magic – The Harvest

Seeds of Clausena lansium, photo taken in Hong...

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And here we have a question for The Practical Enchanter, from Derek

You mentioned living magical items in The Practical Enchanter, yet there is nothing on the tables for creating those that reproduce. How would you price a tree that casts Create Food and Water as a 10th level cleric daily and produces one viable seed per year?

Usually enchanting a living creature is just like enchanting anything else; you take the feat for the type of enchantment you want to embed in it, then throw in the Living Enchantment modifier – so that you can use it on a living creature instead of an object – and get to work.

If you wanted to give your familiar the ability to throw a Magic Missile spell at Caster Level Five three times per day, you’d want Enchantment with the Living Magic modifier to allow it, and the base purchase cost would be (Spell Level 1 x Caster Level 5 x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x.6 for three uses per day) = 6000 GP or 3000 GP and 240 XP. That could be handy…

That power, however, wouldn’t be passed on to your familiar’s offspring. That’s a good thing, at least from the viewpoint of all other species considering how fast rats – for example – reproduce. A rat infestation in the warehouse is one thing, a rat infestation where each rat can unerringly inflict an average of 10.5 points of damage at a range of a hundred and fifty feet three times per day is likely to wipe out the human race.

Creating a self-reproducing magic item is trickier.

  • First up, the item needs to meet the prerequisites for enchanting another living thing.

That requires Enchantment (or one of the other item-enchanting feats) with the Living Magic and Artificer (you’re best off with the Half GP Cost) modifier here) modifiers – two very complex mental feats. Bestowing those requires using the Surprising Mastery spell template and a fifth level effect. Technically that’s only needed for eight hours a day – so once per day at caster level ten will work.

That’s (Spell Level 5 x Caster Level 10 x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .2 for 1/Day, x.7 for only affects the item x.5 for only to reproduce the item, not for general use x.8 only once the item is placed in a fixed place = 5600 GP

  • Next up, creating another magical item is going to cost XP – so our self-reproducing item will need a source for that. The easiest is Harvest of Artifice with the Gleaning and Transmutation modifiers – another pair of very complex mental feats. Getting those, once again, requires an fifth level effect built using the Surprising Mastery spell template. This time, however, we need a constant effect – so that’s three times per day, for a net cost of 16,800 GP. That combination will yield up to 1800 XP per year for enchanting purposes.

Technically enchanting objects calls for “a fairly quiet, comfortable, and well-lit place in which to work”, valuable magical components, and – possibly – special tools, as well as having the required spell available once per day.

Fortunately, trees normally get planted in fairly quiet, well-lit, places – and the “Transmutation” ability can provide materials and “special tools.” (in this case, likely special fertilizers) as needed. Ergo, that package is really all we need for the job. Unfortunately, spells which provide very complex mental feats are “GM permission only” – but I’ll presume it’s been given for this bit of magical artificing.

The requested effect is Create Food and Water, at Spell Level Three (x Caster Level 10 x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .4 for 2/Day x .9 since one use per day is only to expend on enchanting the next seed x.8 as the tree must grow to a reasonable age and size before it will begin to bear and is immobile thereafter = 17,280 GP.

That gives us a total base cost of 39,680 GP. I’ll round that up to 40,000 and note that – while the fruit is considerably longer-lasting and much tastier than the food that’s normally produced by the Create Food and Water spell but is always the same, and so the fruits do get boring after a bit. They also don’t travel well, aren’t replaced unless they’re actually picked, and the juice will spoil in a few days, unlike the water normally created by the spell.

So creating the first such tree requires a tenth level spellcaster with Create Food and Water and two especially-researched custom fifth level spells – and has a net cost of 20,000 GP and 1600 XP. The self-reproduction ability, however, halves the GP cost since we got the trees the Artificer modifier. Our tree can produce one seed a year – and start another – if its fertilized with 10,000 GP worth of special fertilizers. Left on it’s own, it will provide those materials (and any conventional fertilizers or watering it needs) through transmutation and it’s own creation effect – but that process will require another 5000 XP. Without it’s special fertilizers, it will require (6600/1800) 3.7 years to produce a seed.

Ergo we have…

Bountiful Tree:

This modest tree is a living magical item which always bears a scattering of blossoms and a crop of fruit, regardless of the season. The large red-and-purple fruits are highly nourishing and are juicy enough so that those who eat them will need no other source of water – and each such tree yields enough fruit each day to feed up to thirty medium-sized creatures. Unfortunately, once harvested, the fruit bruises (and then spoils) very easily; it only lasts a week or two so if stored carefully and only for a few days if carried about. Even the juice will only remain fresh for a few days.

While a Bountiful Tree would be prized for those qualities alone, they have a far more wonderful ability; unlike common magical devices, Bountiful Trees can reproduce themselves. Untended, a Bountiful Tree will produce a single seed every three or four years – which, if planted, will eventually (in a number of years) grow into a new Bountiful Tree, to produce more such seeds in it’s turn. If tended and fertilized (at a cost of some 10,000 GP) they can produce a seed in a single year. Perhaps sadly, this isn’t especially common; given that they ARE self-reproducing anyway, relatively few people see the need to spend so much just to accelerate the process

Bountiful Trees can thrive in almost any non-arctic climate, weather extreme droughts with little or no difficulty (although they may slightly reduce their fruit output), and do not drop their seeds until the end of the trees roughly eighty-year lifecycle – although they can easily be manually harvested before then. Many fortresses include a few Bountiful Trees scattered through their inner courts, greatly reducing the difficulties involved in keeping the inhabitants fed.

Strong Transmutation, Caster Level Ten, the trees themselves are immobile, seeds can cost from nothing (if there are a few around already) to 20,000 GP or even somewhat more if they’re just being introduced into an area or into a desert or some such.

Naturally enough, this general setup will allow you to make other sorts of item-growing plants as well.

For an example, use Imbuement with the Artisan (half GP cost) and Bonded (the item uses it’s wielder’s caster level and attribute modifiers if those are superior to it’s own) modifiers in place of Enchantment. That gives us a tree or bush that can enchant spell-storing items.

Now, give it Cure Light Wounds once per day in place of Create Food and Water and have it make wands of Cure Light Wounds at caster level one. Those will cost 188 GP and 30 XP each to grow – allowing our wand-bush to grow slightly more than one such wand per week of proper tending (at a cost of 188 GP per week) or slightly more than one per month if left on it’s own.

Now, this bush won’t be self-reproducing – but it’s certainly a wonderful centerpiece for a temple of healing or some such.

I think that, in this case, I’d enforce the rule against spells bestowing very complex mental feats without special permission by assuming that only very, VERY, powerful entities – such as gods – can normally do it. While this variation still costs about 30,000 GP (as much as quite a few basic wands) I’d still expect to see them turning up enough to drastically alter the price of basic wands if mere mortal spellcasters can make them.

Besides, that sacred tree in the fire-gods fane which grows Fireball wands (with a base caster level of five, growing four per year if tended at a cost of 5625 GP per season or one every two years if left untended), or the boulder which produces stones which summon minor elementals when broken, or the berries which act like a particular potion, and so on, make good features for magical areas and interesting sources of rather specific treasure; if the lost temple of the healing god has gone untended for twenty years, what will the party do with 240 wands of Cure Light Wounds? Set up a trust fund? Trade most of them to the priests for higher-level spells when they need them? Hand them around during the siege of a town? That’s enough to break the market pretty throughly, and far more than they’re likely to need anytime soon. Besides… will grabbing them all for themselves upset the god? Or – more likely – is it a question of how MUCH it will upset the patron god?

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. 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.

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4 Responses

  1. Thank you!

    There are so many spells that can have interesting impacts on creature and magic item design. Awaken allows creatures to have intelligent offspring. Create water and continual light allow plants to survive underground. Cure disease and slay vermin allow plants to stay healthy until they die of old age. Protection from elements to allow creatures to live in odd climates. Plant growth for trees that have wood that can be harvested daily. Raise and lower water to allow fish to make, and provide access to, their own ponds. And on and on.

  2. I was reading my recent purchased download of the Libram Incarna, and read about the ‘Tongues of Heaven’, Items that are both relics and enchanted items. Could you do living items that way as well?

    • Living creatures usually can’t become relics simply because pouring your personal energies into them, and bonding them to your life force, tends to make them Companions instead.

      There are always ways around restrictions like that, but it would probably be more trouble than it’s worth. Companions can serve much the same purpose anyway however – and can certainly survive their original masters while retaining much of all of their power.

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