Relics and Rituals – do-it-yourself Charms and Talismans V

The Mystic

The Talismans Are Out There!

Well, I’m approaching the end here – but who knows? By the time I get there there may be even more suggestions.

Nether Shroud: As Hide From Undead, but instead of being invisible the character is treated as a zombie of their race. If the user is killed while the shroud is active there is a chance they may [DMO] animate themselves as a free willed undead. -Brett

“Hide From Undead” is a rather powerful first level spell (arguably overpowered) – but it usually affects multiple characters, while Charms and Talismans generally do not. Just as importantly, it offers a saving throw – which will need to be defined here. Ergo, this will just need a bit of tweaking.

(Tweaked) Nether Shroud (Talisman): When wrapped around the user, this decrepit negative-energy infused winding-cloth makes the user seem to be a zombie to any and all senses, although intelligent creatures can make a DC 15 will save will penetrate the disguise. Sadly, any creature will automatically do so if the user acts in a way that a zombie cannot. If the user dies while so disguised there is a 25% chance that the corpse will rise after three days as a GM-chosen type of minor undead under the game masters control. An undead creature wearing a Nether Shroud will recover 1d4 hit points per day. Nether Shrouds are widely considered Black Magic since using negative energy is always an evil act – but they don’t draw power from harming others, so that technically isn’t accurate.

(Suggested) Veil of Life (Talisman): When wrapped around the user this splendid silk cloak’s aura of positive energy makes a corpse or intelligent undead creature with a mostly-intact body appear to be alive (if, perhaps, somewhat unwell) to any and all senses. Intelligent creatures get a DC 15 will save to penetrate the disguise. If the user employs an active negative-energy fueled power while wearing the Veil – including the negative-energy based attacks typical of the undead – it’s effects will be negated until it is re-attuned. If a living creature wears a Veil of Life while resting it will recover an extra 1d4 hit points per day. If a Veil of Life (attuned by someone else) is wrapped around a corpse, it will not rise as an undead until the Veil is removed.

Aegis of the Meek: Gives the user a level of Adept casting at caster level equal to their HD and 1 Positive Level. The actual form of this talisman is a shield and/or weapon, or less often helm. The character only gets these benefits when they are clearly using them in defense of a just cause or people. -Brett

Editorial-0 read this as granting adept spellcasting at a level equal to the user’s current level, but I think that this is intended to give the user one level of Adept Spellcasting (three level zero and one level one spells per day, plus bonus spells for wisdom) with access to the standard Adept spell list (0 Level: create water, cure minor wounds, detect magic, ghost sound, guidance, light, mending, purify food and drink, read magic, touch of fatigue. 1st Level: bless, burning hands, cause fear, command, comprehend languages, cure light wounds, detect chaos, detect evil, detect good, detect law, endure elements, obscuring mist, protection from chaos, protection from evil, protection from good, protection from law, sleep) and a caster level equal to the user’s level – plus, of course, one positive level.

Now, there is a Black Magic Talisman, the Spirit of the Unborn (created by a double murder and containing an infant’s enslaved soul) which grants a level in any one magical progression – but that level comes at the price of nightmares, likely madness, and inevitable corruption and even it doesn’t boost the user’s effective caster level by more than +1. Equally problematically, Adepts prepare spells, which means that we’d have to interpret “clearly using them in defense of a just cause or people” pretty generously to make it work. After all… isn’t going out to wipe out monsters, take their stuff, and become more powerful a very effective way of defending the local villagers? Ergo, I think that this needs a little subdividing.

(Replacement) Zealot’s Guidon (Natural Magic Talisman): Martyr’s Blades are not the only Talismans that can be empowered by the touch of those who fall in the service of a cause. While any item can become a Zealot’s Guidon, all are touched by the passion and devotion that drove the original bearer – and all serve to inspire others when they make that cause their own. When the bearer of a Zealot’s Guidon is directly and immediately serving the cause it embodies, they gain one positive level just as if a Mystic Artist was using Greatness on them – although how the bonus character points are spent is set by the nature of the Talisman. Such causes range from the noble (“defend the helpless!”) through the utterly insane (“smash the dams and let the waters run free!”) – but they are invariably relatively narrow. Like all natural magic Charms and Talismans, Zealot’s Guidons cannot be intentionally built; they only come into existence spontaneously.

In many ways a Zealot’s Guidon could be considered a zero-point spontaneously-created relic using a version of Mystic Artist with enough limitations (takes up a Talisman slot, only affects the bearer, only allows the use of “Greatness”, does not provide the usual temporary hit points, only works when in immediate pursuit of the specified goal) to Corrupt and double-Specialize it – thus covering Increased Effect (self-activating without expending a “use”) and still reducing the base cost down to 2 points (or (2/6) points as a relic).

Relics with greater costs, while far more powerful than Talismans, may spontaneously come into being the same way. A similar full-power relic might be a symbol meant for display, and might grant Mystic Artist, a +12 bonus in whatever skill is involved (usually Oratory), and the Echoes modifier – all Specialized and Corrupted for reduced cost (only works in pursuit of a specific cause, only works on those who agree with the principles of the cause in question, beneficial Inspiration and Synergy abilities only (synergy only up to the Harmonize ability), Echoes must be used immediately after the initial effect). With a total cost of eight points after those modifiers, this version would be a one-point relic, allowing its bearer to inspire others with considerable effect while in pursuit of a particular goal.

(Replacement) Spirit Crest (Charm): This intricately-inscribed medallion is a channel for the magical powers of minor, local, spirits (elementals, fey, ancestor spirits, etc). If the user spends an hour or two contemplating the mandala, he or she may be offered a task by the local spirits. If he or she undertakes that task in good faith, he or she will be granted an Occult Talent (a minor variant; the spells are chosen each day by the spirits rather than being fixed) for the duration and for a few days afterwards as long as he or she remains within the area. The Talismanic variant is capable of channeling enough power for the user to obtain an Improved Occult Talent (operating the same way), but the pacts involved – however temporary – are generally far more awkward. In either case, the spells provided will be related to the nature of the spirits granting them; pacting with the ancestor spirits of a village is very different from pacting with the spirits of a particular river. In either case, a Spirit Crest can only support a link to a single group of spirits, and thus a single pact, at a time.

This is a relatively “cheap” way for someone to attain the heady power of actual spells – but it’s also very, VERY, limited. If you really want to use spells, there are much more effective ways (that also allow for advancement) to go about it.

Transmogrant Serum: Gives the user a +2 save bonus on the immunities a construct normally has, DR 2/-, +3 Armor -1 ACP. This talisman permanently occupies this slot, causes the user to have half natural healing and benefits from Cure, though they also get half benefit from Repair spells as well now. This is an obvious effect once ingested and commonly causes social problems as the user now has profound problems relating to normal life (-3 on social skills). If the user’s standard of living drops below the ability to keep a talisman they loose all benefits but keep all disadvantage, until they can maintain a talisman again. -Brett

I’d guess that this is inspired by the Ashnod’s Transmogrant card from Magic: The Gathering, and partially transforms the user into a construct – but what really matters is that this is really far, FAR, too complicated for a Talisman. After all, a Talisman can be made in one week by anyone who can make a DC 20 Spellcraft check – so a small child with Spellcraft +1 (perhaps thanks to an interest in a relative’s magic) may get lucky and make one in Arts and Crafts. A good first level Talismonger (+4 Skill, +2 Int, +3 Speciality, +6 from Skill Emphasis, Focus, and Mastery at a cost of 5 SP and 12 CP) can reliably turn out two Talismans per week by “Taking 10″ on the checks. (With an Industrious Tool our Talismonger can turn out one Charm or Talisman per day of work – although it’s unlikely that he or she will have that many orders).

Charms and Talismans are simple tools; just using this posts examples so far… we have a piece of cloth imbued with a little negative energy, a piece of cloth imbued with a little positive energy, an item that carries a psychic impression of it’s last owners obsession, and a meditative focus that lets you entrance yourself enough to contact some local spirits. A few of the Charms and Talismans in The Practical Enchanter – such as the Filing Cabinet – show a certain amount of “intelligence”, but it’s always very, VERY, limited – no more than a partial imprint of the user’s or maker’s mind. Asking a Talisman to physically rebuild your body is a bit like asking a village blacksmith to build you a cybrenetic arm with a concealed laser cannon. Without a preset pattern to draw upon – such as a Shifter’s Cloak (itself damaging, dangerous, and limited use) or the prosthetics discussed earlier – this is very likely to go horribly wrong indeed. This kind of transformation calls for either a major spell, a fairly modest ritual, or just spending some of your character points…

What you’d be wanting to pick up is a +2 on saves against things affecting your mind (3 CP), +2 on saves against things that affect your body processes (+2) (3 CP), and a +2 on saves against things that directly affect your life force (3 CP), as well as DR2/- (3 CP), and probably Defender, Specialized for Double Effect/provides an armor bonus and so does not stack with armor (6 CP). That’s 18 CP – but the entire package is limited; the user becomes a hybrid construct / whatever they were originally and so is vulnerable to things that affect either, the user gains only half the benefits of healing and repair effects (including natural healing), suffers a -3 penalty on all social skills due to alienation, and is a blatantly obvious unnatural amalgam who is likely to be seen as a monster. I think it’s fair enough to count that as Specialized and Corrupted, bringing the cost down to 6 CP – the price of a standard Feat. There is a red flag there; Defender is Specialized for both Double Effect AND for Half Cost, but it’s saving all of 2 CP and seems reasonable enough.

Given that the ritual won’t be that big a deal (and certainly a lot less trouble than researching a spell to do it), if someone wants this package they might as well go ahead and buy it and figure that they sought out a ritualist during downtime.

If you want to get some of the effect through Charms and Talismans… small amounts of damage reduction are available through Wardstones, as are second-chance saving throws. Save Bonuses are rare in Charms and Talismans; about the only one normally available (discounting the GM-special Ray of Hope) is the Mother’s Tears amulet; +3 once per day. For armor there’s Shimmer Mail.

Clay Statue: As a minute long ritual the user may project a Level 2 Psychic Construct. It remains until dismissed, if destroyed the construct may not be used until the following day. The construct always has the menu selections of Semi Sentient and DR 5/Magic. The statuet and construct always appear to be golem shaped clay humanoids that look like the attuned user. While able to labor in a manner as an Unseen Servant the construct may also defend itself and anyone or anything the user indicates, the golem is however unable to initiate any offensive action against a nonaggresive creature. -Brett

Unfortunately, a fairly potent, active, and short-term level one effect is rather powerful for a Talisman to sustain – much less a level two effect. Still, the “noncombative” restriction is good enough to reduce things a bit. Ergo:

(Tweaked) Ushabti (Talisman): These small figurines are inscribed with the owners name and were classically intended to become real servants in the afterworld, capable of standing in for the owner when he or she was called on to labor for the gods… Talismanic versions can serve in the material world as well – sustaining a level-one Astral Construct with the Semi-sentient modifier. A Ushabti can thus perform a variety of simple labors, although it is restricted to medium range, may never attack (at best they can get in an attacker’s way), cannot attempt tasks with a DC higher than 10, and cannot use trained-only skills. Ushabti astral constructs always resemble a small, translucent, version of their owner. If destroyed, they will re-manifest at sunset seven days later.

If you’re using the Wealth Templates from The Practical Enchanter Ushabti are almost never important; if someone can afford a Talisman under that system they can afford employees too. If you’re using the Shaping-based version of Charms and Talismans, then Ushabti can have a very big impact indeed; anyone who learns to use Charms and Talismans can, if they wish, suddenly become five to seven times as productive. An Industrious Tool and a couple of Ushabti (working at simple tasks around the clock) can handle that – and the population can go from 80-90% hard-working farmers to 10-20% more leisurely farmers. Throw in a wife with an Ushabti of her own, perhaps an Ironcloth Loom, and a few household charms… and your setting has the equivalent of an industrial revolution and jumps from “Medieval” to “Victorian”.