Creations of Shadow – Do-it-yourself Charms and Talismans IV

Amulet depicting Abyzou whipped by Arlaph

Yes, but around here they really work…

And to continue with this series we have some more of Brett’s creations:

Onemind Amulet: Gives communication with other talismans that have been tuned to the same band and in a 1 mile range. Tuning is a thought activation free action. -Brett

This… simply isn’t going to work as a Talisman unless you’ve already got multi-band walkie-talkies or something similar to use as a base and simply want to enhance them. Talismans just do not have this kind of power; they’re more two-tin-cans-with-a-string level. To make something like this work I’m going to have to go with a Relic.

(Replacement): Palm of Shadow (One-Point Relic): This simple amulet allows it’s user to set up mental links with up to five other characters, allowing easy communications as long as they’re within a mile of his or her location. That’s Mystic Link x5, with the Communications and Transferable modifiers (24 CP), Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost: those linked can only locate each other or communicate while they’re within one mile, each linked individual must carry an especially-prepared mystical amulet (a Finger of Shadow, 25 GP), such “Fingers” can be used to eavesdrop on the parties communications if captured, communications can be overheard by other telepaths. Net cost; 8 CP or 1 CP as a Relic.

Collar (of) Idiocy: Gives Stupor effect rendering the collared creature docile and compliant but in effect in a walking sleep and unable to think. -Brett

It’s a bit hard to say what the limits are here – but an awful lot of mindless creatures manage to fight without thinking. I suspect that the intent is just to let you tow a creature around without having to carry it, rather than a version of Dominate Monster where the target creature becomes rather stupid. That – at least within limits – can be managed.

(Replacement) Puppeteer’s Gauntlet (Talisman): The slender slivers of bone mounted upon the fingers of this black glove serve as conduits for the user’s life force. The user may touch an unconscious body, corpse, or properly articulated construct (such as a suit of plate armor), channel some of his or her own hit points into it (1 for Tiny, 1d4 for Small, 2d4 for Medium, and 3d4 for Large; these hit points cannot be regained until the user ends the effect), and operate it like a puppet at ranges of up to thirty feet. Up to (Wis Mod, 1 Minimum) such puppets can be operated each round a free action, twice that as a move action, three times that as a full action, and four times that as a full-round action (if there’s ever someone tough enough to do that and with some reason to want to). Such puppets are far too clumsy to operate to fight effectively, but they can be directed to shamble about, carry packages, or put on clumsy shows. While animating corpses this way is not technically black magic (just distasteful), sharing your life with the dead can have very odd effects; if the spirit is still linked with it’s body it may start to influence the user – and, if not, you can expect nausea, nightmares about being trapped in a dead and decaying body, and strange illnesses if you overdo it. If you must walk a companions corpse out of some horrible situation, it’s best to animate his or her armor instead of the actual body.

(Suggested) Puppeteer’s Ring (Charm): This bone ring allows the user to animate Fine or Tiny constructs. The user must touch the constructs to be affected and voluntarily take one point of nonlethal damage per three Fine or one Tiny construct. The effect lasts until the user recovers the nonlethal damage, whether naturally or through special abilities, or a construct gets more than twenty feet away from the wearer. The effect is roughly equivalent to that produced by a skilled puppeteer, but a bit smoother – providing a +3 bonus on any relevant perform checks.

(Replacement) Choke Chain (Charm): When fastened onto an unconscious creature, this chain can inflict up to 1d6 points of nonlethal damage per minute, bypassing up to three points of damage reduction – and will do so to keep the victim from waking up.

Or you could just sit next to them with a sap, and give them another shot every time they start to wake up – but a Choke Chain is less annoying and time-consuming.

Lens Vision: Magnification and Low Light Vision. -Brett

Magnification is easy; a perfectly mundane magnifying glass will do it nicely – and low-light vision simply lets you see “twice as far as normal in dim light” (that must be impressive when a creature with low-light vision is out stargazing). Lenses were expensive and hard to come by in many areas historically, simply because good clear glass was very hard to get and lenses were a very low-demand article – which meant that lensgrinders were rare, and charged high. In a d20 game with magic, there’s really no reason to presume that lenses are particularly expensive (or that a telescope costs a fortune).

(Replacement) Anoptic Spectacles (Talisman): These lensless spectacles employ a subtle bit of magic to modify the optical properties of the air in front of the user’s eyes – providing up to 10x magnification (whether as magnifying lenses or as binoculars), providing basic protection from bright lights (sunlight, etc), allowing the wearer to alter the color balance of what he or she sees (tinting everything rose is strictly optional), or even compressing the visual field to improve peripheral vision (and degrade the normalvisual field; oh well). The user gains a +3 on relevant checks, including searching for fine details, trying to make things out at a distance, seeing in dim light, and on saves versus light-based effects.

(Replacement) Morphic Crystal (Talisman): This mass of optical-quality crystal can alter it’s form and color, in whole or in part, as it’s user wills. If you happen to need a fine telescope, a set of replacement glasses, binoculars, a microscope, a fiber-optic probe, or – for that matter – a glass dagger, a wine decanter, or a complicated bit of glasswork for your latest experiment in alchemy, than a chunk of Morphic Crystal will handle the job for you. Simple Charms can handle those functions as well – but each Charm can only handle a single application.

Bone Masks: A mask in the shape of a skull and a linked collar. The wearer of the mask gains enhanced health at the expense of the collared individual (who must be willing to accept wearing the collar). The wearer halts their aging, the bondmate ages at ten times the normal rate. The wearer doubles their natural healing, the bondmate only heals 1HP each day of bedrest and a single point of attribute damage to the most damaged score. The wearer of the mask take only 3/4ths damage from effects, the bondmate takes the full damage, bypassing any defenses or resistances. This rapidly causes the bearer of the mask to kill their bondmate if care is not taken to allow them to recover or a new bondmate linked. -Brett

Ah, old memories… my classic version of this was a necromantic ritual for first edition (Black Pentagram, in this list); you drew your mystical circle, bound the spirit of your sacrifice to it – and that unfortunate spirit took damage and other ill-effects for you until it was annihilated. That turned out to be problematic; it did give big bad guys a big buffer – helping prevent anticlimactic boss battles – but it also meant that the good guys could not score a clean victory without finding and releasing the victim first. An even more vicious version (using your own children or pregnancy for a power source) shows up in other systems, and there’s even a Talisman that works something like this already – the Spirit Cloak.

Of course, players being players… as soon as someone got a hold of the effect, there were all kinds of experiments – using a giant dinosaur with henchmen assigned to healing it to get a near-limitless supply of hit points, using rapidly-regenerating creatures, using things with immunities to many forms of damage, trying to use multiple bonds… it can get rather ugly. That’s why the Sacrificial Transference spell that went into Eclipse in the high-level spells section is a sixteenth level effect; it keeps it vanishingly rare.

Of course, with this particular version:

  • As characters go up in level it becomes harder and harder to find a donor who’s contribution will mean much of anything in terms of hit points – or who will survive more than one or two attacks. In terms of survival, there are probably more useful Talismans, such as a Helm of War.
  • Doubled natural healing is a bit odd since d20 healing is level-dependent; thus a low-level donor may well wind up “transferring” more healing than he or she actually gets. Still, the vast majority of characters using this sort of thing are likely to be NPC’s – and the details of NPC’s out-of-combat healing effects usually don’t matter anyway.
  • Transferring the damage from “effects” apparently covers attribute drain and damage, which is handy – but 25% off is rarely going to accomplish all that much.
  • It’s the blocking of aging that’s the handy part. With that, as soon as you have some fanatical followers who are willing to die for you – or at least willing to wear the collar and age for you a bit before passing it on – you can pretty much live forever. That can be distinctly awkward for most settings.

Still, if you want to use such an effect….

(Tweaked) Bone Mask (Black Magic Talisman): This mask is made from the bones of a child slain by torture – and is linked with a collar made from the fingerbones of one of the parents who offered up their life to save that child (and was, of course, betrayed). If a truly willing (prisoners, blackmail victims, people under charm spells, and such will not work) intelligent being wears the collar and allows it to occupy a Talisman slot, the masks wearer may opt to suffer only 50% of the effects of any damage he or she suffers (including the subtle damages of aging), rounded up. The collar-wearer suffers the full effects of such assaults whenever this option is exercised, bypassing any saves, resistances, and special defenses which would normally apply. Many users do not realize that anyone touching the collar is effectively touching them as well – and can let others bypass their defenses in the same way as the collar bypasses those of it’s wearer. Like it or not, an item forged in treachery cannot be prevented from betraying.

The Bone Mask goes well beyond the base power level of a Talisman – or even of two. Of course, like other devices of Black Magic, most of it’s power comes from the infliction of harm on others. I don’t think I’d actually want to add it to one of my games though; there’s certainly a place for such effects in at least some fantasy settings – but I think it works better as some sort of mighty dark ritual.

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3 Responses

  1. Onemind Amulet
    It would seem I drastically overestimated here. My reference point was the rings of communication from the Magic Item Comp, 2K rings can be attuned together then allow free action talking within a 1mi range. Whispering Wind and the Congress of Shadows Mystery from Tome of Magic were the closest spells, as well as the Whispering Sands as an example of how low level a spell could be that effectively allows communication on any level (in a nutshell L3, contact 1 target/lvl that has a trivial focus of dust or ash, cast as standard action, works for 10min/CL, any location on same plane).

    It seemed reasonable to me that:
    L0 Message gave you med range, target/CL, 2way communication;
    L2 Gives mile/CL to a target location one way, or target location and person 2way
    L3 Gives what more or less amounts to a hub and spoke type planar cellular system for CL*# targets.
    That L1 could do a fixed mile seemed workable for me.

    I suppose I might be not getting the exact underlying assumptions of how to balance the charms and talismans, beyond just simple power creep on my part. I understand Charms~L0 spell effects, Talismans~L1.5 spell effects. In general these are more turned into a item equivalent rather than just replicating a spell exactly, though there are exceptions usually with #/day limitations that also exist. I suppose I am asking if the above is correct and if there is a further important element to it. I know that most C&T do not have very significant ranges for their effects, they are meant to work as physical items more so than energy emitters really, or if they do tap into such energy they tap into it in a less “energy as a wave” type of way such as the Seeing Crystals or Scrying Mirror. Is the use of energy as a wave is easy to do technologically, but from a magical point of view it is easier to contact an outer plane than a removed area on the same plane?

    The Stupor Collar was meant to accompany the Slave Collar and impede higher mental functions and thinking. The Stupor Spell from BoVD gives a helpless creature a drugged condition that makes it possible to drag them along, but not able to do anything to actively resist. I liked the idea of providing a simple magical item to allow taking prisoners without the issues of “well as long as we keep them at 0HP they can’t really do anything, but they are still mobile so we don’t have to worry about how to drag them along”. It seemed an easy way to address an artifact in the game created by the HP system, put this collar on them, give them this injection, they are going to be docile and compliant until their friends get here to rescue them and remove it, give them the antidote, whatever.

    • And I finally have a few minutes again…

      Communications don’t generally require massive power sources. After all, you can broadcast short wave signals many thousands of miles with a hand-crank generator – and a crystal radio will receive (nearby) broadcast signals with no other power source than the signal itself.

      The problem here lies more in complexity; a Message spell is apparently simply channeling sound between the recipients – and so can’t handle more than a whisper, is restricted to open paths, and requires that no part of that path lies out of range. Just as importantly, that range is less than most people can achieve by simply speaking up, much less shouting. In effect “Message” IS the magical equivalent of tin cans and string.

      Similarly, Whispering Wind simply carries some words to a specified location (and brings nothing back) – pretty much the magical equivalent of a voice tube.

      Onemind Amulet: Gives communication with other talismans that have been tuned to the same band and in a 1 mile range. Tuning is a thought activation free action.”

      Unless a Onemind Amulet is scanning a one-mile radius for other amulets and setting up links to them as they move in and out of range, we’re looking at a broadcast of some sort from each amulet with enough power to reliably cover a one-mile radius. What’s more, they automatically pick up such broadcasts, are sophisticated enough to have multiple, tunable, “bands” available.

      Now if the effect is telepathic, why can’t psychics automatically pick up your broadcast? Is it encrypted somehow? And wouldn’t voluntarily opening up to whatever telepathic broadcast is being funneled into it mean giving up your save against mind-affecting powers? After all, you have no way of knowing what’s coming in until it’s already in your head. That’s one of the reasons why the Mindlink psionic power has to be set up at close range; that way the target knows that he or she needs to consent and can be reasonably sure of what he or she is consenting to.

      If the effect is to transmit spoken communications… then these amulets are taking spoken words and transforming them into a tunable magical broadcast while picking up, amplifying, and re-converting another such broadcast at the same time. Multiple, subtle, ongoing, transformations call for some pretty complicated circuitry in reality, and presumably call for equally complex magic.

      Personally I’d say that that’s why those communications rings cost eighty times as much as a talisman; they can do all that stuff automatically.

      As far as the Stupor Collar goes, that’s more of a communications breakdown than a design problem – I read “Gives Stupor effect rendering the collared creature docile and compliant but in effect in a walking sleep and unable to think” as I would with one of the mental patients – where “docile and compliant” is actually doing pretty well; they listen, they do the things you ask them to do (as long as they understand them) and they take their medications without a fuss even if they ARE just sitting around vaguely when no one is directing them. That would be way too convenient, especially when you had a creature with spell-like abilities or information you wanted or some such.

      The spells wording – a “state that does not allow the subject to think clearly or take actions…. The subject can be moved and even forced to walk on her own if dragged along, but she is unaware of what is going on around her” – seems a lot more limited. A Talisman with that effect should probably allow an initial saving throw and a new one every 2d6 hours or so (just as the spell would need to be periodically recast) – but there’s no reason why it wouldn’t work.

  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 Charms and […]

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