Industrial Wrights And Magic Part II and a Half: Questions

I’m somewhat uncertain as to the practical impact of the “ambient magic” limitation. Looking over it in The Practical Enchanter (p. 126) – where it’s part of the Arcanum Minimus feat, aka the non-Eclipse version of the Compact metamagic theorem – the main drawback seems to be that it increases the casting time, but that’s not really a factor for a continuous-use magic item, so I’m not sure why it’s then worth a discount when creating such items.

Also, given how these are non-combat items that make use of very low-level spells, I’m curious how many of these could be charms or talismans? While most of them are continuous, which makes them strong for either or those, their low level of power/functionality makes it seem like that would be possible?


Well, with spells of levels 0, 1, and 2, adding the Ambient Magic limitation to a device that casts them is basically taking 50% off the price in exchange for raising the activation time to at least one minute. It could, in theory, be much longer – which would offer a possible explanation for those items that need to be worn for a day before they start to work.

While that does have little effect on uses/day items beyond making them useless in combat, on unlimited use items that keep casting useful spells it means that the spells go off no more than once per minute instead of once per round – effectively reducing what can be accomplished by 90% to achieve that 50% price break.

To look at the individual items…

A Straw Golem simply takes a minute to activate. Of course, this rarely matters – but Straw Golems are very vulnerable and are of very limited use in any case even if they can keep going for twenty-four hours a day. After all, any normal six year old child is stronger, faster, smarter, just as capable of “taking 10″, and enormously more versatile than a Straw Golem. Straw Golems are best used for tasks so repetitive and boring that the kids keep quitting. In their case the price break is a purely mechanical thing with no real game impact, although, fittingly enough, the same could be said for a Straw Golem.

When it comes to Charms and Talismans, they’d probably fit in as one of the many, MANY, versions of the Animated Implement (Charm).

With the Owl Post the Ambient Magic limitation means that you can only send messages or packages once every minute or two instead of once every turn or two – saving 500 GP at the cost of giving opponents as minute to try and intercept things before the second spell goes off and a 90% reduction in capacity. Admittedly, that will rarely be of importance – but if you’re running a kingdom or providing messaging services for a major city, you may well want to pay the extra 500 GP.

The constant repetition of a pair of first level spells is beyond a Charm, or even a Talisman’s powers. You could make something like a…

Quill of the Hawk (Talisman): (2 + Level /3) times a day you may use this quill to write an address, or a description of a location, on a small letter or package. The package so addressed with transform into a hawk, take wing, and fly for up to two hours to reach the target location before turning back into a letter or package.

The Beasthorn does not have an ambient magic limitation since, if you are trying to bring in a sizeable flock, herd, or similar group of animals, and you can afford to buy a specialized magical device to make it quicker and easier, making it take ten times as long to save 100 GP didn’t seem reasonable.

A Beasthorn makes a reasonable Talisman – although I’d be inclined to let a character with a good Perform skill push the limits a bit.

An Automagic Loom is using a spell that processes one cubic foot of material to turn fiber into cloth. (While a square yard of cloth generally represents a lot less material than a cubic foot, I’m presuming fluffy skeins of yarn). Applying the Ambient Magic limitation saves 187 GP by reducing the output by 90% – casting the spell once per minute instead of once per turn. Presumably this also makes it a lot easier for the operator to monitor things and keep up with the fiber demand.

In theory such devices can easily be used to break the d20 economy – for example, instead of ten looms use one that’s ten times as fast and have the other nine weavers take “aid another” actions instead of making cloth on their own to produce superior cloth exponentially faster – but the d20 “economy” comes pre-broken anyway and you don’t actually need a magic loom to pull that trick.

As a Talisman, this is simply a version of an Industrious Tool (Loom).

A Ring of Aesculapius saves 180 GP by reducing the number of patients that you can treat by a factor of ten. Admittedly, that will rarely have any impact unless you’re dealing with a massive plague, but then there’s very little other point to buying this item at all.

This, once again, is really beyond the reach of a Charm or Talisman. They’re just not up to producing an endless font of even low-level externally-directed spells. You could, however, make something like a…

Pulque flask of Patecatl. When filled with agave sap these hammered golden flasks will ferment it within a week, transforming it into 2d4 doses / sips of Sacred Pulque – a marvelous tonic which functions as both a Relieve Illness and a Relieve Poison spell. Unfortunately, to be effective a dose of Pulque Tonic must be consumed within five minutes of being decanted.

An Elfin Harvest Basket saves 36 GP with the Ambient Magic limitation with no particular cost associated; taking a minute to activate it rather than a turn means next to nothing as a part of a multi-hour project. It is taking advantage of the rule simply to make it available to the peasantry for a reasonable price. Of course, it’s an item that’s does nothing but take up storage space for a sizeable chunk of the year.

Skipping the Ambient Magic limitation and going to “Unlimited Uses” would only cost another 324 GP – but once you start doing THAT, you might as well invest a total of 2160 GP and get some similar items for the Turn Soil, Sow, Ward versus Vermin, Weedkill, and Thresh Hedge Magic spells. Then you retrain all of the peasantry save for a few factory-farming specialists to do something more profitable than farming. A few years after that you just get an Endless Sideboard and forget farming entirely. Ergo, this item is designed for the benefit of the peasantry, rather than to make them obsolete for the benefit of the local lords.

If you just want some treasure for a higher-level Commoner… 216 GP invested in items that cast each of those spells once per day, six straw golems (one to use a swape to raise water, one to maintain the irrigation ditches and direct the water to each field in turn, one to remove rocks and condition the soil, one to keep up the field-boundaries (fences, walls, and hedges), one to tend your barn and animal pens, and one to feed and milk cows, 405 GP), and a few more convenience items and for less than 1000 GP you can have the complete “gentleman farmer” package, where you stroll around, look over your well-tended fields and flocks, and do very little actual work.

Given that – at base – these devices use externally-directed second level spells, they’re a bit beyond what can readily be done with Charms and Talismans. Of course there are all those legends about helpful fey who help with various kinds of work if properly propitiated. Brownies help with chores, Moniciello helps with wind and vineyards, others help plants grow, and so on. Ergo, a set of Charms or Talismans allowing the user to contact such creatures and ask thing to help out seems reasonable; various Elfin Song Charms can replicate the effects of a level zero Hedge Wizardry Spell if left alone for at least an hour with the task to be accomplished – given a small (typically food or some trinket) offering to the spirits and a DC 14 Knowledge/Nature check. Various Elfin Song Talismans can similarly duplicate a first level Hedge Wizardry spell given a DC 16 check, a slightly larger offering, and at least three hours alone – or a second level Hedge Wizardry spell given a DC 18 check, an even nicer (if still minor, such as a small bottle of alcohol) offering, and being left along until the next day.

A Millstone saves 25 GP by requiring a full minute rather than a single turn to reduce a bushel of material to powder – but this hardly matters for its intended uses on a once-per-day item. It DOES matter with unintended uses – for example, when some adventurer wants to create a dust explosion, fill the air with powdered (whatever some creature has a severe reaction to) to try and get it into its lungs, or otherwise get clever. If they want to pull off stunts like that, they’ll just have to pay another 25 GP for a custom version which works in a single turn.

A Millshaft uses the modifier to reduce its potential output by 90% – which is still sufficient to meet the needs of some 3000 people. Doubling the price to meet the needs of 30,000 would be more efficient of course, it would also be a fearsome bottleneck, as was illustrated by Wittigis’s siege of Rome in 537, where stopping the flow of water which drove the city’s gristmills was nearly catastrophic for the defenders. Paying a little more for a more distributed system is probably well worthwhile.

A Millshaft is far beyond a Charm or Talisman’s power to duplicate, but a Millstone makes for a reasonable charm. The instant version that’s of interest to an adventurer would be a Talisman.

A Cleansing Ring or Fountain uses the Ambient Magic modifier for purely mechanical purposes – to reduce the cost. Reducing the amount of laundry and polishing you can do in a given length of time is pretty meaningless when there is no actual need to ever even mention doing any laundry or polishing in the first place. This is basically a certificate that says “I am nice to the servants / I don’t have an appropriate cantrip and want to be ready for court at a moments notice / I want to show off my prosperity / I want to justify adding a “neat and tidy” line to the description of the local inhabitants” – and so there’s a minimal game cost for something with no game effect.

The Fountain is, once again, too powerful – but the charm list already includes the Cleansing Wand, the Polishing Cloth, and the Mandarin’s Pin. (I suppose a Talismanic version of the Mandarin’s Pin – perhaps an Imperial Clasp – which kept the entire party clean, neat, and well-mended would make a reasonable Talisman).

The Contraceptive Amulets with the fancy names are ridiculously cheap – to the point where the ambient magic limitation saves less than ten gold pieces. That’s a purely rules-mechanical thing given that it normally takes more than one minute to get to the point where pregnancy becomes a possibility and to the fact that the spell need only be cast once a day for males and once a month for females. Of course, many settings note the existence of various herbs, teas,, charms, prayers, or other cheap contraceptive methods (often without specifying a price), while many more are simply silent on the issue.

These, of course, are intended to place the issue of “what effect will cheap, reliable, contraception have on the setting” front and center – and are as cheap as possible in order to make sure that the impact of having them around is as great as possible.

The Charms and Talismans list already includes a reliable contraceptive amulet. It does not include one with the “virginity restorer” function, but a Talismanic version should suffice for that if you would like it.

Cleansing Candles don’t use the Ambient Magic limitation because the Prestidigitation spell seems to indicate that each tiny trick is a separate, if very small, act of magic. Otherwise why would “tricks” be plural and why would the spell be any better for magical practice than any other cantrip? Ergo, applying the Ambient Magic limitation might reduce it’s ability to clean by 90% – and the ten minute figure is already based on cleaning one cubic foot within it’s range each turn. Making it slower would not fit in, given that it is obviously a pure luxury item in any case.

A version as a Charm seems entirely reasonable.

A Carcass Chute (and it’s possible leathermaking “attachment”) uses the Ambient Magic limitation to slow things up a bit, reducing the processing rate by 90%. As usual It’s still far higher than there’s any reasonable need for outside of a major city, but it is very convenient and far less smelly than conventional methods.

This will not work as a Talisman – the power demand is simply too high – but a blade that helped you cut up an animal far more quickly than usual is already on the list as an Industrious Tool.

Finally, Composters use the Ambient Magic limitation to reduce their processing capacity – and remain odoriferous for a minute as a result. The household version isn’t really very important and the high-speed model is beyond the power of a Charm or Talisman again. If you really want to make compose with Charms and Talismans… get a Warding Cartouche Charm (which makes a continuous Unseen Servant) and have it collect the trash and tend the compost heap.

Industrial Wrights and Magic Part II – Industries and Services

This time around it’s another selection of socially useful magic items – things that can be found making life easier in towns and villages and castles, rather than in the hands of adventures being used to slaughter people.

Straw Golems, sometimes known as Ushabti, are literally animated Scarecrows. They’re slow, clumsy, weak, and utterly ineffective in combat – equivalent to nothing more than an Unseen Servant – but they can be left on their own to carry out some simple task and do not have to remain near their activator. Unfortunately, any given Straw Golem can only handle a few, fairly specific, tasks. For example, one might be capable of assisting a cook, hauling water to irrigate plants, and harvesting a kitchen garden – but those are the only tasks it would be able to handle. Another might be able to deliver packages and messages to a specified location, clean a house, and (very slowly, due to it’s weakness) split and carry in firewood.

  • Scarecrow (Hedge Magic). Spell Level 1 reduced to (1/2) by the Ambient Magic Limitation x Caster Level One x 1800 GP for Unlimited-Use Command Word Activated x.5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) x.5 (Conjure) x.2 (One Use Per Day) x.5 (each variant of the Scarecrow spell can only handle the task it was made for. While each Straw Golem will have at least three variants built in, it can only do one thing at a time – rather than creating three “unseen servant” equivalents that can each work independently) x3 (for three separate spells) = 67.5 GP. Note that the Scarecrow spell has a twenty-four hour duration, so a Straw Golem remains permanently animated.

Owl Post: This small altar is dedicated to both the god of messengers and the powers of nature. To use its power you need merely lay an appropriate package upon it and recite a brief prayer that it will go to a particular place or person. A moment later it will turn into an appropriate small animal and head off to deliver itself, although it has a mere two hours until it turns back into the original package.

The Hidden Key: Druid 1, Ranger 1, Components V, S, Casting Time: One full round, Range Touch, Target one nonmagical package, a potion, or a scroll, weighing up to eight pounds. Duration Two Hours/Level, Saving Thrown None, Spell Resistance No. The Hidden Key transforms its target into a tiny animal for up to two hours per level of the caster. While such creatures are relatively tame, they otherwise behave quite normally – making it an excellent way to hide things. Sadly, if the creature is killed, the message or package is destroyed – so if you have to have it, you will have to catch the creature alive.

  • The Hidden Key and Animal Messenger, Spell Level 1 x Caster Level 1 x 2000 GP Unlimited Use Use Activated x .5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) x .5 (Immobile) x2 (Two Spells) = 1000 GP.

The problem with this is that d20 movement speeds do not model reality well. For example, red-tailed hawks travel at between 20 and 40 miles per hour. The peregrine falcon is a bit faster at 60 miles per hour. Hawks achieve a more spectacular speed when stooping; a red-tailed hawk dives at a speed that can exceed 120 miles per hour. A diving peregrine falcon can reach a speed of 150 miles per hour. They may migrate up to 8000 miles each way at an average speed of just over 30 MPH.

This does not match up with “Flight 60 feet” and “average maneuverability”. In this case I’m going to use 30 MPH as a reasonably average speed for some sort of bird (presuming that the package doesn’t push itself), giving the Owl Post a range of some sixty miles. That’s actually quite good for a d20 world, so if the Game Master wishes to limit things to the base values from overland movement (for ground-bound creatures since there are no specific rules for flyers) the range is 16 to 20 miles depending on his or her interpretation.

Communications are one of the spots where d20 has a difficult time. Telepathic Links need to be set up in advance and maintained, Sending Stones (MIC) only come in matched pairs and are only usable once per day, Whispering Flame Candles only last for a total of eight hours and come in matched pairs again – although they do only cost a second level spell. Rings of Communication (MIC) only have a one-mile range and cost 2000 GP each to joint the network, Aspect Mirrors get expensive. Farspeaking Amulets (MIC) only offer a limited number of links and those have to be handed out in advance, Sending spells are of annoyingly high level for what little it does, Dream is level five, summoning teleporting messengers is (once again) rather high level, Correspond (Psionic) is better than sending but still fourth level, and Whispering Wind may only be level two, but it also has a range of only one mile per caster level.

Weirdly enough, Animal Messenger can be one of the most effective long range communications spell available at low to medium levels. Technically you don’t really need “The Hidden Key” to send messages, but it seemed like an amusing way to send packages.

Assassins have a second level spell that produces the same basic effect – but which turns their message or package into a flying dagger or arrow that will “nearly” hit the target, embed itself in a nearby surface, and THEN turn back into the message or package.

Beasthorn. Blowing a Beasthorn gives one personal domesticated pet within ten miles, or one known and named domesticated animal within five miles, or any single domesticated animal within long range (known or not), a strong urge to come to the user. There is no save unless the user means to harm the animal or the animal has good reason to resist – such as if the route is dangerous. This does not necessarily mean that the animal will come though. It simply feels a strong urge to do so, so if it is busy defending it’s offspring or some such, it is likely to ignore the call. The urge only lasts an hour, so if the trip takes longer than that, the user may have to blow the horn again.

  • Call Domestic Animal (Hedge Wizardry). Spell Level 0 (1/2) x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) x.5 (Conjure) x .8 (User must regularly spend hours out of his or her day caring for animals) = 200 GP.

A Beasthorn is rarely a particularly vital piece of equipment, and it (thanks to the limitations of the pricing system) doesn’t help nearly as much as a much cheaper Millstone – but it can be awfully convenient.

Automagic Loom: A weaver equipped with an Automagic Loom can turn out one yard of good-quality cloth every minute. Unfortunately, this does not bypass the need for supplies of thread or yarn of skill in weaving; it simply speeds the process up.

  • Process (Hedge Magic, Spell Level One reduced to (1/2) by the Ambient Magic limitation x Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited Use Use Activated x .5 (Conjure) x .75 (semi-mobile at best) x .5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) = 188 GP.

A Ring of Aesculapius allows a skilled healer to drastically reduce the effects of an illness on those he or she tends – granting their next three saves against said illness a +4 enhancement bonus and reducing the attribute damage resulting from a failed save by two points and making the sufferer feel a great deal better. It remains in effect for three saving throws or until the victim recovers, whichever comes first. Even better, providing such care can be done in a mere ten rounds.

  • Relieve Illness (Hedge Wizardry) Level One reduced to an effective Level 1/2 by the Ambient Magic limitation x 1800 GP for Unlimited-Use Command-Word Activation x.5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) x.5 (Conjure) x.8 (Requires the Heal skill at 5+) = 180 GP.

Relieve Illness is not a cure, but it will make most illnesses far, FAR, more survivable for a low-level character – and they allow a physician to effectively care for an entire village of victims.

Elfin Harvest Basket. This light wickerwork bushel basket is simply carried into the field or orchard to be harvested in the morning, placed, and a sampling of the crop or crops to be harvested is placed within it. Over the day the crop from up to two acres of land will quietly harvest itself, placing itself in available baskets, bags, sheaves, or whatever around the Elfin Harvest Basket.

  • Harvest (Hedge Magic), Reduced to L1 via Arcanum Minimus (Ambient Magic), Spell Level 1 x Caster Level One x 1800 GP (Unlimited-Use Command-Word Activated) x .2 (One use per day) x .5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) x .5 (Conjure) x.8 (the person placing the basket must know how to properly harvest the relevant crop) x .5 (effect requires the entire day, rather than half an hour or so) = 36 GP.

As a very rough estimate (loosely based on current Amish farms and what information I have on my Grandfather’s farm), it takes a crew of four an average of about three days to harvest an acre with medieval techniques and implements – and you may want a supervisor to organize things, an assortment of wagons, wheelbarrows, and other minor equipment, and someone to bring water and food, for a total expense of about 3 GP (a lot more if paying wages for experienced farmers). Throw in the fact that getting the harvest brought in quickly avoids the hazards of storms and such and an Elfin Harvest Basket will probably pay for itself within the first year – even if a lot of that “savings” simply goes to giving the peasantry more free time.

A Millstone is very simple. Once per day you can drop it into up to a bushel of grindable material and command it to grind. Over the course of the next minute the humming stone will reduce that material to a coarse meal, to fine grains, or to powder, at the option of the caster. For example, a bushel of wheat will yield sixty pounds of whole-wheat flour – enough for ninety one-pound loaves of whole wheat bread.

Grinding a bushel of wheat into flour would take ten to twelve days with a push-and-pull millstone. With a crank and a hand quern a worker could do it in a day. With a Millstone… it can be done in a single minute. Given that it will only be needed in the kitchen once or twice a week, the rest of the time it can be used to grind up other things – for example, reducing pumice to scrubbing powder, turning dangerous shards of bone from butchering into useful bone meal, turning broken clay pots into useful grog (bits of pulverized ceramic mixed with the clay to improve the quality of new pots), or (if your alchemist is so inclined) to turn coal into a potentially-explosive powder.

  • Mill (Hedge Wizardry, L0), Ambient Magic Limitation (reducing the effect to level (-1) – treated as 1/4’th) x Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x.5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) x .5 (Conjure) x .2 (one use per day) = 25 GP.
    • Removing the “once per day” limitation raises the cost to 125 GP, but creates a device – perhaps a Millshaft – sufficient to provide milling services for a sizeable town. If, for some reason, 125 GP is still too expensive, add the “Immobile” modifier to bring the cost down to 62.5 GP.

For comparison, in the Roman Empire the Barbegal aqueduct and mill used water dropping a bit over sixty feet to drive sixteen water wheels and their associated mills, with a total grinding capacity estimated at 2.4 to 3.2 tons per hour – about 350 pounds per hour per mill. Milling technology had not improved very much when, in 1086 AD, the Domesday Book noted the presence of 5624 operating mills in England – one for every 300 people.

A single Millshaft can grind 3600 pounds of grain an hour. That’s roughly equivalent to the output of ten full-scale classical mills. And it can run any time, on an instants notice, with no maintenance required, no need for wind or water power, and complete safety.

A Cleansing Ring cleans, presses (if necessary), folds (if desired), and performs minor repairs on one large basket worth of goods – whether cloth, leather, fur, or even jewelry or metal (removing tarnish and similar) when they’re dumped through the ring, although the process requires one minute to complete itself. If someone wants to climb through it, they will emerge unharmed – although whatever appropriate items that they’re carrying or wearing will be cleaned and mended if they give the Ring sufficient time to work.

  • Clean Clothing (Hedge Wizardry, L0), Ambient Magic Limitation (reducing the effect to level (-1) – treated as 1/4’th) x Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x.5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) x .5 (Conjure) x .2 (one use per day) = 25 GP.
    • Removing the “once per day” limitation raises the cost to 125 GP, but creates a device – perhaps a Cleansing Fountain – sufficient to provide cleaning services for a sizeable town. If, for some reason, 125 GP is still too expensive, add the “Immobile” modifier to bring the cost down to 62.5 GP.
    • While not as vital, or as time-saving, as a Millstone or Millshaft, this does put an end to “washday” literally taking up almost an entire day…

Occluded Yin Moon Amulet. A female who voluntarily wears this simple charm through the night of the New Moon cannot become pregnant until the next New Moon has passed.

  • Contraception (Hedge Wizardry), Spell Level 0 (Treated as 1/4’th due to the Ambient Magic limitation) x Caster Level One x 2000 GP (Unlimited-Use Use-Activated) x .5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) x .5 (Conjure) x .05 (One Use per Month) x.7 (Females Only) x.8 (Must be worn all night during the New Moon for the protection to last through the month) = 3.5 GP.

Clouded Yang Sun Amulets are the version for males, and are more expensive, since they have to be capable of casting the spell once per day (x.2 instead of x.05), are for males only (x.7) instead of females, and – rather than having to be worn during the new or full moon – stop working once they’re taken off (x.7) and must be worn for twenty-four hours before they take effect (x.8). That gives them a net cost of 10 GP.

Greater Amulets of the Occluded Yin Moon look much the same – but can, if worn through the night of the Full Moon, also be used to restore the hymen and original vaginal tightness – the classical “Tokens of Virginity”.

  • Add Cure Minor Wounds, Spell Level 0 (Treated as 1/4’th due to the Ambient Magic limitation) x Caster Level One x 1800 GP (Command Word Use-Activated) x .5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) x .5 (Conjure) x .05 (One Use per Month) x.7 (Females Only) x.8 (Must be worn all night during the Full Moon to take effect) x.7 (does not restore a hit point, stabilize the user, or have any actual game effect) = 2.45 GP – raising the total price to 6 GP.

Optionally, Occluded Yin Moon Amulets and Occluded Yang Sun Amulets may prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases – a function which is generally free since such diseases are so insignificant in d20 terms that the only rules for them are in a few obscure third-party supplements, meaning that including this function has no game effect whatsoever.

Technically these amulets take up a magic item slot – but anyone who cares about having too many magical items for their available slots can afford to double the price to make them slotless. Far more importantly… cheap and reliable contraception (much less the tacit elimination of “virginity” as gauge of a woman’s worth) brings an immense array of social changes along with it. It’s also an important counterbalance to the fact that even minor healing and anti-disease magic gives d20 children a vastly improved chance of living to grow up in comparison to most children through history – at least if they don’t get eaten by monsters. (If the predation rate is too high humans and demihumans will have a hard time maintaining their populations at all, in which case contraception will NOT be in common use in any group that avoids extinction for long).

Cleansing Candle: These useful – if very minor – items light a 10′ radius as effectively as any other candle, but everything the light shines upon will become clean, shiny, and sweetly-scented (and, if it matters, quite sanitary) over the course of the next ten minutes. Once set alight, such a candle “burns” with no smoke or heat indefinitely.

  • Prestidigitation (Hedge Wizardry) (Spell Level 1/2 x Caster Level One times 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x.5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) x .2 (cleans only, with a spark of light that only marks the area being cleaned) x .5 (Conjure) = 50 GP.
  • Cleansing Candles are occasionally permanently installed in messy areas, but they’re more often put in lanterns and carried about by servants; the servants straighten up the place while the Cleansing Candle gets everything sparkling clean.

Carcass Chute: This is pretty simple; you dump a carcass in at one end, and (provided that the carcass is no bigger than “Large” and that you have enough containers handy at the bottom – one minute later you have a bunch of piles and containers of neatly cut meat, bone meal, glycerin, sinew, hide, fat, rennet, and other meat byproducts, all neatly sorted.

  • Render (Hedge Magic), (L2 reduced to L1 by the Ambient Magic limitation, Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Use-Activated x .5 (Immobile) x .5 (Utilitarian Magic) = 500 GP.
  • If you want to turn the raw hides into Leather and Pelts, throw in Cure Hide (Hedge Magic) (Level Zero, 125 GP with the same limitations) – and the hide will emerge as leather. Given that tanning a hide can be a laborious six-month process, adding this attachment is generally a VERY good idea.
  • If you want to wind up with preserved meat – salted, dried, smoked, whatever – you will also have to add Preservation (Hedge Magic) (Level One) without the Ambient Magic limitation (so as to get enough capacity) but with a x.5 Modifier (Only works on Meat) for +250 GP. Similar items can turn fruit and sugar into preserves, or dry fruits, vegetables, and herbs. A general system costs twice as much, but can perform all three tasks as needed.

You can usually get the neighbors to loan you the money for a Carcass Chute or a Leathermaking attachment. Slaughterhouses and Tanneries are usually messy, smelly, blights on the entire area.

Composter: Compost is basically just rotted organic material, but it is extremely useful to farmers – and almost all the wastes of a fantasy city save wastewater, chunks of rock, broken ceramics, and bits of metal (all of which are best recycled or used in some other fashion) are suitable for composting. The trouble is that getting stuff to rot is a messy, smelly, and lengthy process – and trying to speed it up and ensure good results involves a great deal of mixing, turning, and nursing the conditions.

Unless, of course, you cheat.

Putrefy Food and Drink causes organic material to rot near-instantly – turning household wastes, manure and urine, spoiled food, wood chips, sawdust, pulled-out weeds, floor-rushes, wood ashes, cloth too far gone for any other use, and more, into a valuable product instantly. As a side benefit, the result is not especially odorous and is about as sanitary as ordinary dirt is (which is not something you’d want to rub in a wound, but is not really a big problem either).

  • Composters can handle up to one cubic foot of material per minute. (Spell Level 0 (1/2), effectively reduced to 1/4’th by the Ambient Magic limitation x Caster Level 1 x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x.5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) x .5 (Immobile) = 125 GP. Composting Chutes are simply the industrial model – removing the “Ambient Magic” limitation to get ten times the capacity at twice the price.

Compost isn’t worth a lot on its own – but waste disposal, removing odors, improved sanitation, and eliminating all the work of natural composting, are all worth something in their own right. Turning all that waste into something that people will pay for (even if it’s just a copper piece per cubic yard) is just a bonus.

It’s The d20 Economy, Stupid?

Here we have an offline question – but one that’s certainly common enough. It basically comes down to “Help me make the d20 Economy make at least a LITTLE sense!”.

It is pretty common to complain that the d20 economy – whether in 3.0, 3.5, Pathfinder, or many another version – is broken. After all, the rules are full of exploits that “ought” to get you all kinds of cash, ranging from the simple and stupid (“Iron is worth 1 SP per pound and is classified as a Trade Good so I can get full price. I buy a thousand 100 Lb Iron Anvils for 5 GP each and sell them as Iron for 10 GP each!”) on through various methods of exploiting skills like Profession or Crafting, casting spells that produce salable materials or items (“Wall of Salt” or “Fabricate”), right on up to abusing Crafting Magical Items. This wasn’t a problem before third edition because – before then – getting money got you experience points, but the money itself was basically useless afterwards – at least to you personally. Magic items generally weren’t for sale, it took quests rather than money and die rolls to make them, and you could only eat so much fine food – so all you could do with your money was buy land, build castles, rescue orphans, and so on.

But after 3.0 came along money translated directly to personal power – and the best way to get more power was to supposed to be to go out and adventure and gain more experience and money. Unless they were supported by things like the “Landlord” feat (which got you a pot of money that you could not use for anything but building a stronghold) paying for castles and charities and such just left you way behind the power curve – and if a particular character got a hold of too much money they would outshine everyone else.

Suddenly, to keep personal power at the appropriate levels, the game master had to enforce Wealth by Level. (And, incidentally, kill off things like the classical “Ever Full Purse”). Now that the players were really concerned about what happened to the money, they wanted to take up sidelines in merchandising. Previously artworks, crowns and jewels, and similar stuff had just tended to pile up; since money didn’t really do anything, there was no real point in trying to convert them to cash. But now a handful of self-contradictory price charts and rules about selling loot that had been meant to create challenging (but easily survivable) logistics and supply problems for low level types got pressed into service as an economic engine.

That has yet to work.

There have been a lot of proposed fixes. The only ones that really work basically discard wealth, and the system of magical items built around it, generally in favor of personal talents and perhaps a few modifiers for being “poor”, “well-off”, or “rich” – the approach used in The Practical Enchanter. There is another approach though; you can simply accept the rules.

If you do that… then D20 doesn’t have an “Economy”. It has a very superficial list of goods and a vague illusion of currency, trade, and economic activity glossing over the mysterious laws of nature or divine mandates that enforce Wealth By Level. There may be variances – some Feats or special skills may let a character get a limited allowance of extra funds, or let you get some items at half the usual cost, or something – but the universe/GM will find a way to enforce those wealth by level limits (and keep the game playable) regardless.

Are you planning on breaking Wealth-By-Level by selling masses of Salt from your Wall of Salt?

Then Wealth-By-Level will actively fight back = and it blatantly has the power to govern the entire world, and all it’s monsters, deities, and powers, without any serious difficulty. It has a LOT more power and resources than you do.

Perhaps the exchange rate will collapse, or – at least as likely – you will simply get entangled in adventures that lack rewards other than experience points and getting to keep the money you just acquired until your level is once again appropriate to your wealth. Perhaps you will have to break the royal monopoly that the salt cartel holds, and evade their assassins, and investigate their heavily guarded “salt mine:, and deal with their attempt to get you outlawed, and then fight the wizard who uses “Wall of Salt” to supply THEM with cheap salt, and so on and so on. It will just keep going until your wealth-to-level ratio is back to normal.

Or perhaps currency manipulations will undermine your fortunes. Or a monster stampede will come through and destroy your house and scatter much of your wealth. Will thieves and taxes put in an unwelcome appearance? Will your faith call for a Crusade? Will you suddenly have to support a bunch of orphaned relatives?

Those below their allotted Wealth-by-Level will find it easy to buy cheap. Those above it will find it impossible to sell high. Similarly, short of voluntary asceticism or short-term efforts to live above their station (fairly common during courtships) a characters lifestyle will correlate with their wealth level without impacting on it. High level characters will eat splendid meals, sleep in feather beds in the finest inns, give generously to charity, pay their taxes, and live in castles without it impacting their personal wealth and power; such minor expenses will be covered by gifts, taxes and rents from their own properties, sycophants currying favor, people wanting to persuade them to undertake various missions, politicians trying to use their reputations, and so on, Characters with low wealth by level will find themselves eating cheap meals in equally cheap inns, being victims of petty theft, having to pay taxes and fees, being victimized by petty scams, having to pay small bribes to keep the local officials and constabulary off their backs, having to constantly repair or replace their worn, low-quality, (if functional) gear, being cheated of their pay, and otherwise being constantly drained of any excess funds gained from their jobs or other sources.

Fortunately, the “laws” of Wealth By Level are a bit more complicated than a simple chart.

  • Characters with an relevant skill get two-thirds off the cost of the relevant category of mundane items of the appropriate type. Weaponsmiths can make their own weapons, cooks can make their own meals and rations, and so on. Some Eclipse-Style “Occult” skills may provide some of the effects of wealth without the actual wealth as well.
  • Characters with an appropriate item creation Feat can get 50% off the cost of a particular category of magical gear.
  • Characters with feats devoted to normal kinds of wealth – “Landlord”, or “Stronghold” and “Mighty Fortress”, or “Imbuement” (which effectively provides you with a free magical weapon, freeing up that cash for other purposes), or similar, basically get a free, scaling, pool of “cash” (or some equivalent) to devote to such purposes.
  • Characters with particular special abilities devoted to obtaining generic cash – whether those are class abilities or Eclipse abilities such as “Stipend”, “Major Privilege: Wealthy”, or “Tenebrium’s Coin” – generally get a +1 bonus on their effective level for purposes of calculating their Wealth by Level. If they have many such abilities they MIGHT get a +2 – but there would need to be a very good reason for a Game Master to allow that.
  • A character could take a one level penalty to their Wealth by Level as a disadvantage – but few will want to.
  • The Game Master may opt to apply a circumstantial adjustment. If a character or party is doing a lot better than expected – whether by managing to accomplish some extraordinary (even for adventurers) feat, pulling off some really clever series of schemes, or gaining the backing of some mighty empire (or perhaps are second-generation adventurers with concerned and high-level parents), then treating them as being a level – or possibly even two levels – higher for their Wealth by Level calculations may be in order. Unfortunately, such adjustments are temporary. They will fade after a time – most often as the characters go up in level and “catch up”. Circumstantial reductions (the characters have been shipwrecked, they have been outlawed and cut off from some of their usual sources of supply, etc) may impose equally temporary penalties. In either case, such effects do not have to manifest as new or lost equipment; magical items can be powered up or lose power as the prayers of the faithful on your behalf, or the gratitude of the orphans, or your reputation, or any of a thousand other possible sources of magical power wax and wane.
    • This, of course, also provides many motives for adventuring; if a part of your personal power relies on some external power source, you now have quite a motive for developing and protecting that power source – or for attacking your enemies power sources to undermine them.
  • Optionally, Game Masters using this system may choose to permit tradeoffs of Wealth and Level – allowing characters to take a penalty to their effective level for everything else in order to obtain more wealth, or vice versa. For example…
    • A goodly priest gives so much of his wealth to charity that his Wealth by Level rating is two whole levels below normal – but the gods are so impressed by his generosity that he gains a +1 to his effective level as a Cleric.
    • A sorceress might spend so much time selling spells, making items, and managing her money that her effective Wealth by Level is two levels higher than usual – but this leaves her little time to develop her personal powers – reducing her effective level as a Sorceress by one.

Finally, of course, if you want to discard Wealth-by-Level (and all the economic arguments that go with it, including bothersome questions like “why is the Paladin getting another +1 to his sword that he will hardly notice instead of spending that 40,000 GP feeding the countries starving children for ten years?”), Eclipse will let you do that. Dump conventional magic items in favor of Literary Relics (Samples HERE), Charms and Talismans and (possibly) the Wealth Levels from The Practical Enchanter, and just build your characters to function without an arsenal of magical items. Alternatively you can use the Talents rules (again from The Practical Enchanter), or skills like Legendarium, Dream-Binding, and the Shadowed Galaxy Equipment and Action Skills.

And thus the real answer to “Help me make sense of the d20 Economy!” questions is “First, disbelieve… you are trying to “make sense” out of an illusion”.

Then send them to see THIS video and it’s Sequel. It might help.

Industrial Wrights and Magic, Part I

Fantasy cities are notoriously impractical. They sit on the peaks of inaccessible mountains, drift in the sky, are lonely secrets hidden in impassable valleys in haunted forests, or are tunneled out deep underground. Sure, there are a few more reasonable ones built on major ports and such, but a lot of them will have a very hard time meeting their needs using quasi-medieval methods. Even worse, virtually all the magic to be found in d20 is designed for adventuring and battle!

Or maybe it’s just that that is what most sourcebooks focus on. The Practical Enchanter included the Hedge Magic feat and a chapter full of social magic items, but there’s no reason not to add a few more. For this segment I’ll be focusing on a city’s basic needs – and those basic needs start with water.

Water: People use rather a lot of water. They drink it, cook with it, clean with it, water their gardens, use it in their jobs, and more. A city really should have natural water sources, but there ARE places like Los Vegas – and more than a few cities have needed supplemental supplies. Given that aqueducts are insanely expensive and horribly vulnerable, many fantasy cities will turn to magical sources. To magically obtain water use a Perpetual Fountain (The Practical Enchanter, various levels of the Create Water spell template): Spell Level x Caster Level x 2000 GP (Unlimited-Use Use Activated) x .5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) x .5 (Immobile).

  • Type 0: CL 1, 250 GP, 2 Gallons/Round, can support about 600 People.
  • Type 1: CL 1, 500 GP, 8 Gallons/Round, can support about 2400 People.
  • Type 2: CL 3, 3000 GP, 75 Gallons/Round, can support about 22,500 People. Note that this is far more efficient than a Decanter of Endless Water (9000 GP, 4500 GP if Immobile, 30 Gallons/Round) – mostly because a Decanter of Endless Water is made for adventuring, and so has combat functions.
  • Type 3: CL 5, 7500 GP, 500 Gallons/Round, can support about 150,000 People.
  • Type 4: CL 7, 14,000 GP, 2800 Gallons/Round, can support about 840,000 People.

Practically, while the efficiency of supplying the water goes up with the class of the Fountain, so does the cost of distributing it. After factoring in those costs it will often be more practical to install several smaller Perpetual Fountains rather than one large one – and such a distributed system is more robust in any case.

It’s important to note that Perpetual Fountains can be designed to produce liquids other than pure water.

  • A Fountain that produces things like soapy water, clear broth, “plant food”, vinegar, or similar liquids has its flow rate reduced by one level.
  • A Fountain that produces things like thin gruel, milk, warm broth, whipped cream, coffee, tea, small beer, or pudding has its flow rate reduced by two levels.
  • A Fountain that produces things like lamp oil, concentrated vinegar / mild industrial acid (1d6 damage/round), cream, rum, holy water, or hot chicken noodle soup has its flow rate reduced by three levels.
  • A Fountain with multiple settings, which can thus vary what is produced, has it’s flow rate reduced by an additional level.

Food: Presuming that everyone does not wish to live on a fountain of soup, the population needs to eat. While a classical castle may make do with a few Field Provision Boxes (MIC, 2000 GP, feeds 15/day), the best solution for a city is probably an Endless Sideboard (The Practical Enchanter, 27,000 GP). An Endless Sideboard can feed about two thousand people per day, limited mostly by how many can file past it and fill their plates for each meal. More restricted versions are popular, with the most basic simply being Immobile (13,500 GP) or immobile and requiring an operator from a specific religious sect (8100 GP).

Taleout Menu: Optionally, you can throw in a greater choice of flavors and textures with a Takeout Menu (Prestidigitation, SL 1/2 x CL 1 x 1800 GP for Unlimited-Use Command-Word Activated x .5 Utilitarian Village Magic) x .5 (Immobile) x .4 (only for imparting odor/flavor, appearance, and texture to food) = 90 GP. Just let people carry their plates past it after they pick them up.

Heat isn’t just for survival, or even for comfort. You need it to cook, to work metal, to make beer, to distill perfumes, and to perform any number of other crafts, to dry and preserve food, to fire bricks for building, and for a thousand and one other purposes. Fire is as much a foundation of civilization as twine, agriculture, pottery, stonework, and the domestication of animals.

  • A Fireblock is a simple, flat, palm-sized chunk of volcanic stone, engraved with the sigils of Fire. Given it’s command word it will begin to generate a small (eight inch) ball of fire, which will build to it’s full size and intensity over the next minute – although without any actual fuel, it consumes no oxygen and produces no smoke. A Fireblock is easily damaged if exposed to harm, but is usually found in the firebox of a stove, or on a hearth, or some similar sheltered place. If you need more, or hotter, fire… use more than one. Overlapping the effects increases the effective temperature quite nicely. A Fireblock can only be activated once per day with it’s command word (which is usually engraved on it), but the fire can be maintained for a full twenty-four hours.
    • Hearthfire (Hedge Magic), reduced to Level One via the Ambient Magic Limitation times Caster Level One times 1800 GP (Unlimited-Use Command Word Activated) x .2 (Usable once per day) x .5 (Conjure) = 180 GP. All right; that triples or quadruples the cost of a portable forge, or iron stove, or masterwork tools for a smith (or worse if you need two or three to increase the heat) – but (at least according to Aurora’s Whole Realms Catalog) good coal is quite expensive (mostly due to transport costs), and Fireblocks produce no cinders, ash, sparks, or fumes and need no bellows.
  • A Forgestaff uses much the same design, but is unlimited-use, at a cost of 900 GP. While the Ambient Magic limitation still means that it summons fire once per minute at most, many a household and business is more than willing to take the 1-3 CP a day that would normally have gone for firewood and pay it to a firemonger for a three to five minute daily visit to give them three fires (stove, hot water boiler, and hearth) without smoke, having to store the firewood, fire tending, or sweeping chimneys.

A few entrepreneurs have commissioned versions from crafters skilled enough to apply the +0 Elemental Manipulation / Alter Element Metamagic to alter the type of energy, thus making Ice Batons and allowing Icemongers to sell air-conditioning and refrigeration – but the demand for such services is far more limited. Fire is a necessity, while refrigeration is a luxury. Still, that also means a somewhat higher price, making the two businesses quite comparable.

A Fire- or Ice-monger can fairly readily make anything up to a gold piece, or possibly even two, each workday – and can potentially share a Forgestaff between shifts. While the initial investment is formidable, it will pay itself back in anything from less than a year (round-the-clock use) through about two and a half years (one shift per day) – and Firemongers may well be subsidized by a wide variety of groups; they preserve woodlands, prevent smog, and greatly reduce the incidence of accidental fires (and completely eliminate chimney fires).

Electricity has very limited use in most magical cities. It may turn up in alchemy, or perhaps in electroplating – but why bother? “Coat (or “Soil”) a surface with a very thin layer of something” is a perfect job for Prestidigitation. A Sonic “hearthfire” may be useful in breaking down materials, such as in reducing grain to flour or bone to meal. If you feel the need, a small variant on the Forgestaff can answer it!

  • Wind Flag: Households and businesses wanting air conditioning will probably want a Wind Flag or two to go with their ball of supernal coldness, and perhaps to distribute the heat more of their Hearthfire more evenly in winter. A Wind Flag simply creates gentle breezes, and is functionally equivalent to a modern box fan.
    • Prestidigitation, Spell Level 1/2 x Caster Level 1 x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Command-Word Activated x .5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) x .5 (Conjure) x .1 (makes breezes with no actual game effect only) = 22.5 GP.

Yes, there are advocates for powering steampunk systems through Permanent Walls of Fire and such – mostly based on their supposed power output (a very dubious calculation in itself given that the ones I’ve seen rely on comparing Walls of Fire to Walls of Ice, when neither actually behaves like natural fire or ice) – but those are extremely expensive and very difficult to make use of, while a Hearthfire spell is about as cheap as it gets and is almost perfectly controlled straight out of the box.

After our population has water, food, and warmth, we need to clothe them. For this we want fiber – to be twisted into twine and rope, to be woven into cloth for clothing, tents, and sails, and for a thousand other uses. Interestingly, however, there is already a Pathfinder item for producing fiber – even if the writers obviously never really gave any thought to it’s implications.

Fiber can come from a Robe of Infinite Twine (1000 GP) can produce 432,000 feet (82 miles or 257 Skiens or enough for 165 yards of coarse 24-thread (yarn or twine strands) count cloth or about a hundred yards of good 40-count cloth) of twine, yarn, string, or thread or 144,000 feet (27 miles, “valued” at 2880 GP) of rope per day.

If there was ever an item that was ASKING for the “Immobile” and “Utilitarian Village Magic” modifiers to be applied to it, it’s this one. That gives us…

  • Endless Skein: Produces up to 81 miles / 500 skeins of thread, or 250 skeins of thick yarn, twine, or string, or 27 miles of hemp rope per day, at a cost of a mere 250 GP. This is enough to keep ten people busy weaving, pretty much perpetually.

Clothing and tents are all very well, but a real city calls for permanent structures – which calls for at least basic construction materials. At the very least you want mud brick and a little lumber, but you’ll want fired brick, a fair quantity of lumber, and some stone if you can get it. Fortunately, such things are relatively easy to obtain.

Construction Materials: To get something to build your city out of, you can use a…

  • Brick Press can produce one cubic feet of fired bricks (about 14 standard-sized ones) every minute – provided that someone is handy to open the lid and take each batch out. Such bricks are solid, real, and quite permanent – if entirely ordinary in quality and their red-brown color.
    • Create Element (one cubic foot of loose clay) Spell Level 0 (1/2), Caster Level 1, Unlimited-Use Command-Word (“Make Bricks” usually) Activated (x 1800 GP), x.5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) x .5 (Conjure) x .4 (Clay Only), plus Process (Clay into Ceramics, L1 reduced to L0 (1/2) by the Ambient Magic limitation) x Unlimited-Use Command-Word Activated (x 1800 GP), x.5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) x .5 (Conjure) x .3 (makes simple, standard-sized and standard-shaped bricks only), for a net cost of 157.5 (Call it 160) GP.

Construction-grade clay and dirt are rarely especially scarce resources (although fuel to fire them with may be) and they’re rarely very expensive – but a Brick Press, like similar magical items, will provide them without any further cost, at the job site, and at a steady rate, indefinitely. A Brick Press may not pay for itself all that quickly, but it will certainly do so over time.

Similar items can make basic glassware (or, with a Hearthfire spell or two added, provide glass for glassblowers), ceramic dinnerware, clay pipe, mortar (derived from bits of limestone), make cinderblocks, or produce cheap pottery souvenirs. More versatile items that can produce a variety of shapes are a bit more expensive though.

Lumber is a bit more difficult; trees are living things with a complex internal structure, and so they (like crystals, heavy elements, and so on) require considerably higher level spells to create – at least in permanent form. Wall of Wood (The Practical Enchanter) is level four, meaning that an Endless Lumberyard looks something like this…

  • Endless Lumberyard: Wall of Wood with the Ambient Magic modifier to reduce it to level three. Caster Level Five, x 1800 GP for Unlimited-Use Command-Word Activated x.5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) x .5 (Immobile) x .5 (makes a simple piled-up barricade of posts and planks only) = 3375 GP, plus a specialized immobile Phantom Mill (The Practical Enchanter, 500 GP, providing many Unseen Servants to move things around) to handle sorting it out, stacking, and so on, plus Process (Hedge Magic, a version made to sand, paint, cut, and stain wood), L1 reduced to L0 (1/2) by the Ambient Magic limitation) x Caster Level Five (this will allow it to keep up with the Wall of Wood effects production) x Unlimited-Use Command-Word Activated (x 1800 GP), x.5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) x.5 (Immobile) = 1125 GP, for a net cost of exactly 5000 GP. An Endless Lumberyard produces up to forty cubic (“board”) feet of finished lumber per round – about a dozen 2 x 4 x 8 feet boards.
    • If you want more versatility – and MUCH more cheese – substitute Summon Genie (Pathfinder, Summoner 4) for Wall of Wood, and get nine cubic feet of any kind of vegetable material each minute. Unfortunately that stuff has a duration of “permanent”, not “instantaneous” -o Dispel Magic (and similar) will make it disappear. Given that the stuff doesn’t really exist, there seem likely to be other limitations.

Personally I prefer a

  • Lumberjacks Axe: With this powerful tool a worker can fell a great tree with a few minutes work – and turn it into a collection of smooth, well-cut boards, shingles, sheets, pulp, stakes, reasonably-sized chunks for firewood, and other bits and pieces within a couple more. While it makes the Axe more expensive, it is still generally considered best to avoid the “Immobile” and “Conjures” modifiers; it’s a lot easier to carry the axe to the tree than it is to carry the tree to a sawmill or some such.
    • Power Tool (The Axe is as effective as a large chainsaw), Spell Level One (reduced to 0 by the Ambient Magic limitation) x 1800 GP (Unlimited-Use Command-Word activation) x .5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) plus Tree to Lumber (Spell Level Two, reduced to 1 by the Ambient Magic limitation) x Caster Level One x 1800 GP (Unlimited-Use Command-Word activated) x .5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) +50 (The Axe is a masterwork tool for woodworking, 50 GP) = 1400 GP.

It’s worth noting that a Phantom Mill (The Practical Enchanter) is basically the industrial revolution in convenient amulet form; Unseen Servants aren’t very strong and they aren’t particularly skilled – but they can quite competently perform a wide variety of basic tasks over and over again with absolute consistency. Given a load of simple tools and either a supervisor/manager or it’s own intelligence and skills… a Phantom Mill can handle pretty much kind of manufacturing that doesn’t involve complex chemistry or microelectronics.

A basic Phantom Mill costs 2000 GP – half that for a dedicated-to-a-purpose version and a quarter of that for dedicated and immobile systems. While they only generate 50 Horsepower (or 36 KW), that’s still roughly equivalent to the power output of a large Dutch-style Windmill or four twenty-foot overshot water wheels. But a Phantom Mill needs no maintenance and no fuel (or food), provides power for twenty-four hours a day, suffers no conversion losses, and generally doesn’t call for much actual machinery to do a job. It can move bar stock into place, pick up some hammers to hammer it into sheet metal, and stack it, all at once. It can sweep the floor, haul water, feed grain into the grindstones, turn the grindstones, and bag the flour all at once. It can weave basic cloth and perform thousands of other tasks – all without ever getting injured, being sick, or having to be paid.

Stone is generally straightforward to obtain; even if it calls for a bit of digging first, you can find stone in most places. Obtaining good, solid, well-cut, high-grade building stone is harder, but it’s usually manageable. Can you do it with magic?

Certainly. The usual go-to spell to get magically-created (but real and permanent) rock is Wall Of Stone. Unfortunately, while the Wall is useful and shapeable, the spell is high level and thus very expensive. We do know that spells can create real and permanent rock at low levels though.

Hail of Stone (Spell Compendium) is level one, drops rocks on everything within a 5′ radius, and has an instantaneous duration – so the rocks it creates are real and permanent. The section on “Falling Objects” in the SRD implies that it must be drop some pretty big rocks too; nothing under thirty pounds would inflict damage at all if dropped from the effects forty-foot maximum height – and there have to be enough of them to score direct hits on everything in the area. That could be a LOT of rock there.

Sudden Stalagmite (Spell Compendium, Druid 4) only makes a bit over two and a half cubic feet (about 400 pounds) of stone – but it makes it at medium range, can inflict up to 10d6 damage with it’s sudden growth into a spike, traps its victims, and threatens even more damage if they try to break free.

I’d peg a spell that simply creates a sizeable lump of rock at level two. Call it… Gravestone


Conjuration (Creation) [Earth], Level Druid 2, Components V, S, Casting Time 1 Standard Action, Range Short, Target One block of stone, Duration Instantaneous, Saving Throw Reflex Half, Spell Resistance No.

Gravestone summons a lump of rock weighing up to 100 pounds per level of the caster (up to a maximum of 500 pounds). The rock does not need to sit on a supportive surface, may take any relatively simple shape (sphere, rectangular slap, platonic solid, grave marker, etc) desired, and may bear a simple inscription if the caster so desires. If used as an attack by dropping it on someone it requires a ranged attack roll (at -2 per 20′ increment, counting the distance to where it is created and the distance it falls) and anyone who would be hit may make a Reflex save for half damage. Note that dropping it on a dragons tail is NOT recommended. (This is a tolerably effective attack in 3.5, but poor in Pathfinder).

Now that we have a spell, we can make a few items. Most notably a…

  • Mason’s Trowel: This simple trowel is used to spread mortar – but it can also create the blocks of stone needed to complete a structure or for many other tasks. The user need merely select a spot for the stone, point with the trowel, and spend a minute carefully envisioning the shape of the needed stone – whereupon it will quietly appear.
    • Gravestone (Spell Level Two, reduced to 1 by the Ambient Magic limitation) x Caster Level One x 1800 GP (Unlimited-Use Command-Word activated) x .5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) x .6 (User must be a member of the Masonic Order) = 540 GP +50 (The Trowel is a masterwork tool for Masonry) = 590 GP.
    • Higher ranking Masons use versions with higher caster levels (up to five, at a cost of 2750 GP) – allowing them to accomplish up to five times as much work since they can create stones up to five times as large, making their walls even stronger, and allowing them to make more effective foundations.

Now if you want fancy stone, or ore, or some such… the easiest way is to go and get it. For that we’ll want several separate items to support our quarrying or mining operation.

Automated Resource Harvesting calls for…

  • A specialized version of a Phantom Mill (The Practical Enchanter) set up for mining and quarrying stone (1000 GP). As noted earlier, this basically gives you a “workforce” of 600 Unseen Servants. They aren’t all that strong or skilled, but basic quarrying and digging is within their abilities.
  • A Foundation Stone (The Practical Enchanter). This basically generates a giant “floating disk” made up of many smaller floating disks and can keep it up indefinitely. Given that stone and ore is very heavy, a Caster Level Two version capable of carrying 120 tons is in order, at a cost of 4000 GP.

The cost of transport was an ENORMOUS part of the cost of building supplies and pretty much anything else that required overland bulk transport in medieval times. A couple of oxen and a heavy wagon (a total cost of about 100 GP in d20, about 1 GP a day as a basic cost) could haul a ton or two ten miles a day – if the drovers were lucky and road conditions were fair. A second level Foundation Stone can transport sixty to ninety times as much material at ten times that speed under a far wider variety of road conditions, with no need to feed oxen or make repairs. Admittedly you’ll need two or three attendants – but the off-duty ones can set up a comfortable tent on the disk, nap, and do their cooking while one man strolls along.

Or you could make the Foundation Stone Intelligent, give it Mage Hand (it can’t move itself directly with that, but it CAN pick up the bit of entirely mundane chain that it’s mounted on and move itself indirectly) and make your transportation / haulage system entirely automated at a cost of +2000 GP (Mental Stats 10, Speech, Mage Hand). This also has the advantage that you can pretty well forget about guards and bandits. The item cannot be made to cooperate, so no one will steal it, the goods cannot be effectively transported in bulk without the items cooperation, and – if it’s attacked in an attempt to hold it for ransom or something – it can just hide under thirty or forty tons of rock.

Some adventurers like to set up little fortifications on them, so that they can bring along a well-defended base while they travel.

  • Two hundred sets of Basic Artisian’s Tools for Mining and Quarrying (1000 GP).
  • A Furnished Caravan, suitable for the Quarry Master or Mining Master and his family to live in, including built-in seats, cabinets, and wardrobe, two person bunks in the rear, a chest of drawers (who’s top serves as a table), a small larder, a wine rack, a glass-fronted china cabinet, and a set of shelves with bars to keep things from falling off. Small windows and a skylight allow for light in the daytime, brackets supporting oil lamps serve at night. There is a small porch on each end. Racks and cases along the outside fold out to provide storage for goods, a set of masterwork tools, a workbench, and an wide variety of storage spaces and barrels. An assortment of minor items – pots and pans, water tank, supply of foodstuffs, clothing, bedding, an (average) door lock, soap, and similar miscellany – is included at a net cost of 400 GP (Caravan 300 GP, Tools 55 GP, minor goods 45 GP).

That gives you a fairly major, readily mobile, and almost transport and labor cost free mining / quarrying operation in a box at a price of 6400 GP plus the salaries for the supervisor and two or three transport specialists (about a gold piece per day, throw in a couple more for maintenance on the tools if you like) – as opposed to buying hundreds of oxen and wagons (20,000 GP or more), about the same quantity of tools (1000 GP plus maintenance), feeding the oxen and paying the salaries of several hundred miners, drovers, and supervisors (about 60 GP a day) – and still having to put up with much slower deliveries. The magical version is less than a third the initial cost and one-twentieth the ongoing cost and is far more efficient.

If you want to go all-out… make the Phantom Mill sapient too; You’ll want to give it +5 skills in Quarrying and Mining (raising the price of its intelligence to 6000 GP, since you can drop the Mage Hand in favor of it using one of it’s own Unseen Servants to move itself) and throw in a few light sources to allow twenty-four hour operation – but now you’ve tripled your output and virtually eliminated your expenses. Dropping the Caravan, you also have an entirely automated 14,000 GP package in the form of a large trunk that you can simply send out your autonomous probe-system to bring you an endless stream of raw materials.

Throw in another Foundation Stone, a Forgestaff, and a couple more Phantom Mills and sets of tools (set up for lumbering/carpentry, smelting, metalworking, and construction) and you have an automated “build a city/castle/whatever” package at a net cost of 35,000 GP. Sure, it will take a while – but it’s a wonderful way to get an area ready for colonization.

Light is vitally important for underground settings, and every helpful in virtually any city. The fact that magical lighting is utterly safe, can be quite permanent, requires no fuel, and produces no fumes, smoke, or soot, is an unbelievable boon. Enormously reducing the risk of fire in your city is worth far, FAR, more than the purchase price of a 3000 GP Brazier of Eternal Flame (The Practical Enchanter, Page 151). The ability to imbue more than 14,000 objects a day with Continual Flame at no cost pretty much solves any city’s lighting problems and even provides an exportable (if minor) good; even if you sell such items at a 95% discount from their base price you can still make an excellent profit.

Commoner Wealth By Level – Purchasing the Basics

According to Pathfinder (where the wealth-by-level tables are open game content), two first level commoners can be expected to have a combined wealth of 520 GP. That’s actually fairly impressive – so what can you expect to find on a basic peasant farm?

The Land (No Cost): While the most important piece of a farm is, of course, the land, land isn’t something that peasants (or most other d20 characters) normally own – at least not in the modern sense.

In classical (that is; theoretical) feudalism, land ultimately belonged to the King, because the King was the ultimate organizer of the realm’s defense. The king essentially rented out chunks of land in exchange for service – and those nobles sublet some of that land, and so on, creating a a complex (if mostly improvised) “system” of obligations, defining a network of protection in return for service. At the bottom were farmers – people with little or no military power and basically considered a part of the land – the part needed to make it useful.

That was pretty messy in practice, and full of thousands of complications and exceptions since I’m summarizing complex social systems that existed across Europe over several centuries in a short paragraph. In part thanks to those messy complications medieval governments were nowhere near as efficient as an imperial government could be as far as massive public works and armies went – but the many, MANY, variations on the general theme worked well enough to get along for quite some time in the real world.

In d20 however… Claiming a piece of land in d20 probably calls for dealing with various divine mandates, making pacts with entities from other dimensions who hold power or influence in the area, negotiations with nature spirits, bargaining with beings who may have far older claims to the land, encounters (and mining and weather rights claims) with creatures that live under or above it, and defending against raiding horrors.

And no, farmers aren’t up to dealing with that themselves – although it could provide a better-defined hierarchy for fantastic feudalism; the King literally balances the divine mandates governing the land (and gains divine powers of kingship), the major nobles deal with the extradimensional entities (and gain strange magics), intermediate ones deal with nature spirits (gaining some druidical style powers), and so on – right down to the local nobles who fight the minor monsters (gaining combat experience points) and hold the lines so that the local farmers can actually do something with the land (and hopefully produce enough of a surplus to support the rest of the pyramid).

Regardless… the farmers work the land. Some will pay rent, a few will hold the right to work some land without paying thanks to various grants, others owe the local lord labor on his lands, others share their crops, some “own” land (at least until someone more powerful claims it), and so on. The details rarely matter; the peasants have land to work and it hasn’t got any kind of a consistent “value” – and so does not count against their personal wealth by level.

Besides; there are no rules anywhere that I can find on pricing or simply owning land. You can buy buildings, and control domains, but d20 doesn’t seem to consider “real estate” by itself to be a meaningful form of wealth.  That alone makes it pretty much impossible to set a value.

Housing (120 GP): Peasant farmers may not own their homes either – but they generally have a well-established interest in them. A wattle and daub cottage would “cost” about 35 GP – given that the raw materials were a few posts and stakes, some brushwood to weave between them, and mud. More elaborate ones with multiple rooms and a few sheds will cost a bit more. However, given the danger level of a typical d20 universe, a nice solid Log Cabin (90-120 GP, depending on how elaborate) is about the minimum; it will at least keep out bears and wolves and slow up minor raiders and monsters for a few moments. We’ll take the large economy size in case of kids, for 120 GP.

But wait! The SRD says that a House costs 1000 GP! Therefore all first level characters must either live in communes (or perhaps tents) or go homeless!

Well no, not really. That is – at least presumably – the price for a modern-sized stone house with roman-style central heating, running water (from an aqueduct or rooftop cistern), glass in the windows, a full set of good furnishings, at least basic locks, fireplaces, hearths, and chimneys, dedicated bathrooms with some ventilation, and various other goodies. The kind of house that comes fairly close to what most PLAYERS will think of as a decent house. What we’re talking about for the peasantry is more of a big box with a bar for the door, a hole for smoke to get out of, a fieldstone hearth, and some boards which can be put in place to seal the windows. Such houses are fairly quick to build, use little in the way of materials beyond what is ready to hand, and are fairly cheap – even in realty at current prices, much less at quasi-medieval ones.

Furnishings (17 GP) weren’t a big thing for the peasantry normally – but d20 peasants are both far better off and have more leisure time. This is fairly crude and straightforward furniture; the fancy upholstery and finely finished (anyone can POLISH) surfaces are generally for the rich.

  • Large Table (1 GP).
  • Small Table x2 (1 GP).
  • Shelves or Cabinets, Assorted, x4 (2 GP).
  • Chairs x5 (2.5 GP).
  • Benches x3 (1.5 GP).
  • Cots / Basic Beds with blankets, simple pillows, and bedding x5 (5 GP, the parents will usually put theirs together of course).
  • Medium Chests x2 (4 GP). Yes, the SRD says 10 GP – but these are just sturdy boxes to keep things in, not travelers chests with basic locks and such.

Clothing (10 GP):

  • While the rules state that characters begin with one outfit valued at 10 GP or less for free, peasants probably don’t. On the other hand, d20 Peasants are actually quite prosperous – and are not likely to wear a “Peasants Outfit”. A choice of the equivalents of an Artisan’s Outfit, Soldier’s Uniform, or Traveler’s Outfit (at 1 GP each) is reasonable. Given that they don’t need combat mobility and such, normal people simply add layers when it’s cold, a second set for each family member is also reasonable, at a net cost of (5 GP).
  • Common Copper Jewelry (5 GP). In practical terms this is a bit of money stashed away in the most secure available place – on the owners person in difficult-to-steal forms.

Livestock (85 GP): Here we have the largest “treasure” on a classical medieval farm – and many modern ones. In many cases this represents a share of the village herd/flock/whatever, but that makes no real difference.

  • Pigs x4 (12 GP). Normally turned loose to forage in the woods, pigs turn bitter acorns, chestnuts, various household wastes, and other roughage into rich, tasty, pork. While only about 65% of a pigs weight is reasonably good eating for humans, 100% of it is usable for other things or can be fed to other farm animals.
  • Chickens x50 (1 GP). While finding the eggs from your free-range chickens was a knack, chickens were also invaluable in keeping down the bugs. As long as you keep the foxes and other predators away (and perhaps scatter a little loose grain every so often) you can easily have plenty of chickens.
  • Goats x4 (4 GP). Goats browse brush and leaves and will help clear your land, producing a fair quantity of milk, some meat, and modest quantities of woolly fur along the way. They also smell terrible, but most livestock doesn’t smell all that nice anyway.
  • Sheep x8 (16 GP). Sheep need good grazing, but are more productive than goats – producing lots of wool, a fair amount of meat, and a little milk. Unfortunately, they require a lot more care than goats as well.
  • Cows x2 (20 GP). Milk goes bad, but butter and cheese keep quite well – and each cow will produce a heifer or calf every year. The stomachs of young cattle are also vital for providing Rennet, with which to make cheese.
  • Oxen x2 (30 GP). Pretty much a necessity for hauling carts and plows. Note that bulls are valuable – cows need to be bred regularly to keep the milk coming – but they are big, dangerous, and uncooperative. Generally only one or two farmers in an area keep a bull, paying for it by renting out its services in breeding cows.
  • Beehive (2 GP). Once you find a wild swarm, bees are actually pretty easy; you dump the swarm into a container and install it in a box or woven beehive and that’s about it. A broken jug on a pole will do to scoop them off a branch. European honeybees are pretty cooperative; swarms that let themselves get collected get protected and leave lots of descendent swarms. Swarms that flee from farms don’t get protection. Selective breeding – however unintentional – strikes again!
  • Cats (Number Unknown). There’s no price on these since “barn cats” don’t really belong to anyone in particular; they just wander in and out, ensuring their welcome (and the occasional bit of milk, food, warmth, or petting) by keeping down the vermin.
  • Dogs x2: There’s no price on dogs either; unless they’re well-trained and proven exceptional. Dogs produce plenty of puppies, and more than a few are given away by owners who don’t need that many dogs.
  • Other Animals x0 (0 GP): If there are ponds or streams, ducks, geese, and fish join the list – but they’re iffy, and breed themselves. There’s no assigned cost. If you need to buy some to start, they’re a bit more expensive than chickens, but not horrendously so.
  • Horses x 0 (0 GP). Horses are rare amongst the peasantry; while horses are faster, they need a higher quality diet and more care. Horses are thus preferred in battle, and may be encouraged by landlords who want a pool of breeding stock. Oxen, however, are just as enduring – perhaps THE primary factor in farm work – and so peasants commonly prefer the cheaper ox.

This is, of course, a VERY prosperous little farm – not just one but two cows, no need to rent oxen to pull the plow, pigs enough to have meat regularly throughout the year, chickens for eggs, sheep for wool, bees for wax and honey, and goats for whatever it is that they want to do with goats. (It’s also an unusually diverse farm, but this is a generic list. If you only want sheep remove some other animals and spend more on sheep. Or wait for level two, and more wealth by level).

Tools and Supplies (95 GP) are the next major component of taking care of a farm. Unfortunately – if quite understandably – what “Artisan’s Tools” might be is never specified. Ergo, here are some lists – Artisan’s Tools: Ten sets, at double cost (100 GP) since these are fairly through sets. That also ensures that there are always enough tools for two people to work at once without sharing any. Overall, however, I’m taking 5% off to represent duplication given that almost every set of tools includes knives and hammers.

  • Animal Husbandry: Harnesses and Yokes, Butter Churn, Cheese and Butter Molds. Cheesecloth, Restraints, Gelding Kit, Horn Rasp, Hoof Knife, Hoof Pick, Nippers, Hoof Stand, Shearing Tools, Pitch Ointment, Branding Iron., and Goad.
  • Butchering: Smokehouse, Flensing Knife, Bone Saw, Knives, Hand Axe, Grill, Meat Hooks, Brine Tub, Bacon Hangers, Scrapers, Sausage Grinder / Stuffer, Boning Knife, Whetstone, Cutting Boards, Netting, Salt, Gut Hook, Skinning Knife, Carcass Rack, and Drying Rack.
  • Ceramics: Potters Wheel, Kiln, Throwing Rib, Rags, Knife, Turning Blade, Beating Tub, Drying Boards, Mallet (for breaking up clay), Sieve (to remove bits of stone and rubbish from clay), Vats (to let clay settle out of water in), Waiting Boards, Molds, Roulettes, and Awls.
  • Clothworking: Loom, Spinning Wheel, Carding Combs, Needles, Pins, Thimbles, Scissors, Shears, Needlecase, Pincushion, Bobbins, Reels, Threadholders, (Cloth) Iron, Lucets, Spindles, Beaters, Dye Vat, Fulling Hammers, Tenterframes, Hecklers (beds of spikes for getting the fiber out of flax), Washboard, Buttons, and Press.
  • Cooking: Iron Pot, Skillet, Grill, Skewers, Tripod, and Cauldron, Cutting Board, Knives, Ladle, Cleaver, Strainer, Sieve, Colander, Mallet, Whisk, Spoons, Rolling Pin, Buckets, Grater, Drying Rack, Mortar and Pestle, Quern / Handmill, assorted Jugs and Clay Pots with Lids, Pitchers, Pickling Crocks, Bowls, Canisters, Pans, and various local or otherwise easy-to-find Seasonings.
  • Farming: Axe, Billhook, Flail, Harrow, Haymaking Fork, Hoe, Mattock or Pick, Maul, Moldboard or Wheeled Plow (to suit local conditions, although plows were often communally owned), Rake, Scythe, Shears, Scythe, Sickle, Spade, Box Sieve, Wheelbarrow, Winnowing Basket, and Bells, Rattles, and Drums (to give the kids to keep birds away from freshly sown seeds; this can make a rather large difference in yields).
  • Fishing: Birchwood Rod, Fishing Net, Fish Trap, Silken Line, Cork Bobbers, Steel Hooks, Lead Sinkers, Velvet Lures, Narrow Netting, Trident, Fish Drying Rack, and minor items (tiny file for sharpening hooks, etc). .
  • Metalworking: Forge, Crucible, Molds, Anvil, Tongs, Plyers, Wedges, Punch, Bending Fork, Bellows, Hammers, Swages and a Swage Block, Fullers, Sledge Hammer, Punches, Drifts, Axe, Chisels, Bits Augers, Files, Whetstone or Grinding Wheel, and Metal Polish. Another kit that would probably be more than 5 GP as a base since an anvil alone is listed at 5 GP (and, according to the trade goods section, contains up to 10 GP worth of Iron. Oh well. It averages out anyway since many other tool sets should be cheaper than 5 GP).
  • Tanning / Leatherworking: Vat, Scraper, Various Awls, Punch, Knives, Shears, Stropping Stick, Whetstone, Needles, Paste Horn, Pincers, Polishing Bone, Burnishing Stone, Tacks, Thimble, Thread, Stamping Irons, and a source of Tannic Acid (often Oak or Chestnut shavings).
  • Woodworking / Carpentry: Awl, Cording Mallet, Hammer, Clamps, Saw, Square, Chisels, Chalk, Prybar / Crowbar, Bow Drill, Ladder, Plane, Rasp, File, Mallet, Plumb Line, Knife, Axe, Draw Knife, and Lathe. Nails were expensive, and generally purchased for a job. For most work pegs were quite sufficient.

This is, of course, rather absurdly complete. No normal medieval peasant household would have ALL (or even most) of those tools or even most of the relevant skills. Villagers tended to specialize a bit (that’s a manor point of living in a community). In reality, most would only have some basics and would assemble others or improvise as needed. Secondarily, there’s probably a good deal more than 5% overlap between the various sets of tools – but that 520 GP worth Wealth-by-Level has to go into SOMETHING, and it’s better to be vastly over-equipped than under-equipped.

Lighting (3 GP). Lighting was normally a rather limited thing for the peasantry, and was often restricted to the light of the hearthfire – but a dawn-to-dusk workday didn’t leave a lot of time or energy for activities beyond having a snack and going to bed after the sun went down anyway. If the night was long… waking up for some conversation, or lovemaking, or prayers, or to urinate, or some such would be natural enough – but that sort of thing didn’t call for much light. Thus most peasants made do with a few rushlights or candles for those limited times when they were up at night. We’ll do better here since these peasants are pretty rich by earthly standards.

  • 2 Lamps (2 SP). Cheap, simple, and often used to burn animal fat. It’s important to keep the wick well trimmed to get as much light as possible.
  • 18 Pints of Oil (18 SP). That’s 255 hours – enough to leave a light burning all night for several weeks if something comes up.
  • 1000 Rushlights (1 GP). These are simply peeled reeds soaked with animal fat (usually mutton fat or tallow, although lard or any similar fat would do. A little beeswax was sometimes mixed in since it was said to improve the light and unsalted fats were preferable), and are virtually free (10 per CP). These are quite fragile, give poor light, and only last half an hour or so, but they will generally suffice for “I got up to check the kids / go to the bathroom / secure a loose window shutter / find out what that noise was / have to finish something up despite the sun going down” and can easily be lit from a smoldering hearthfire or any other flame.
  • If a nearby town or noble has an Eternal Flame (The Practical Enchanter) the local farms are likely to have Continual Flame light sources at a comparable expense.

Medication (30 GP).

  • Midwife’s Kit (10 GP). Hopefully you will have an actual midwife on hand when a baby comes – but if not, this is much better than nothing.
  • Blessed Bandages x2 (Magic Item Compendium, 10 GP Each, 20 GP). These are mildly expensive – at least a weeks income for our little peasant family – but if the baby tips over the boiling cauldron on itself, or a kid falls out of a tree and lands badly, or a youth gets kicked by a horse, or there’s an accident with an axe… there is very little time to get help, the odds of a patient stabilizing on their own are poor, and most peasants aren’t skilled healers. A Blessed Bandage, and automatic stabilization for a dying character, is all too likely to be the difference between “Full Recovery” and “Holding a Funeral”. Any sane parent will find that money. At higher levels you will want a few more – because that will mean that you will NEVER have to choose who lives and who dies.
  • Normal Bandages may simply be cut as needed from the supply of Flannel (under Miscellany).
  • In reality the medieval peasantry had access to a wide variety of herbal remedies, some of them reasonably effective – but that sort of thing doesn’t exist in d20. Fortunately, most of the things that they treated don’t exist in d20 either; the rules only cover things that are serious threats to adventurers. If you want to presume a stock of herbal remedies, go right ahead; no game effect = no cost.

Religion (19 GP):

  • Five Wooden Holy Symbols (5 GP). Going without a symbol of divine protection is just stupid.
  • Cheap Holy Text (10 GP). A rarity in reality – if only because most actual medieval peasants couldn’t read anyway.

Here’s a test. If you can read the following passage out loud – whether or not you understand it – then under mediaeval English law (established in 1172, enshrined as a legal literacy test in 1351, and not fully abolished until 1706), you would be presumed to be a priest or monk, would get the Benefit of Clergy, and could not be legally executed for any crime short of high treason. In all likelihood, if accused of any minor crime, you’d go free.

“Miserere mei, Deus: secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam.
Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea: et a peccato meo munda me.”

The idea was very simple: only clergymen were literate – so being able to read that text was legal proof that you were a priest or monk, outside the jurisdiction of royal courts, and thus exempt from the most serious punishments.

That doesn’t actually not PROVE that most people at the time were illiterate, but I’d say that it’s pretty good evidence.

  • Household Shrine (Icon or crude statuette, 3 GP). Peasants rarely had these in reality, but then in reality you generally don’t see gods having fistfights in the streets.
  • Votive Candles/Incense/supply of other tiny symbolic offerings (1 GP).

Recreation and Education (11 GP): This wasn’t that big a concern for actual medieval peasants, but d20 peasants are RICH peasants. Why shouldn’t their kids get a few toys and a bit of education?

  • 5′ Ball (2 SP).
  • Five Board Games (5 SP).
  • Bowling Set (5 SP).
  • Playing Cards (1 SP).
  • Dice (1 SP).
  • Dominos (1 SP).
  • Horseshoes Game (5 SP).
  • Five Hornbooks (1 GP). These are single (two if two sided) printed sheets, glued to wooden paddles and covered with thin, transparent, layers of horn. They basically highly-condensed children’s primers. They usually show the alphabet, some religious bits, numbers, and a few other important bits of elementary education at very modest prices. Basically the extreme Cliff’s Notes version of an elementary school education.
  • Five Wax Slates and Styluses (1 GP). These are basically two boards with slight rims on them, bound together and with the inward faces coated with dark wax. You can write on them with a stylus, and smooth them over to reuse with a bit of warmth.
  • Common Musical Instrument (5 GP). Honesty, a set of reed flutes or some such ought to be free – but music was one of the few things shared by rich and poor alike.

Storage (18 GP):

  • 5 Barrels (10 GP). The large economy size.
  • 10 Baskets (4 GP). Also large, and with lids.
  • Sacks x 40 (4 GP).

Provisions (1 Year for a family of Five, 75 GP): As a note, this comes to about 4 CP per person per day – and represents eating well above the basic “subsistence” level, which is about 2-3 CP per person per day.

  • 2500 Lb of Grains (25 GP). Milling Grain and Baking Bread were traditionally village-level monopolies granted (and taxed) by the local Lord – but in d20 taxation is usually a little more direct; given the number of monsters nobody has the time to run around enforcing this sort of thing.
  • 400 Lb of Dried Beans or Lentils (8 GP). This presumes that bread-and-beans is the staple diet, and pretty well covers basic nutrition in terms of calories, proteins, and carbohydrates. Fats are needed in relatively small amounts and some vitamins and minerals must be added by gathering greens and/or eating a little meat –
  • 200 Lb of Nuts (6 GP). These cover the fat requirements, and are nutritious and tasty to boot. What’s not to like? At least given that d20 really doesn’t have serious allergies.
  • 400 Lb of Root Vegetables (Potatoes, Turnips, Carrots, Onions, Etc – whatever is cheap, 4 GP).
  • Assorted greens and herbs. These are mostly gathered, or grown in the kitchen garden, at no real expense – but should cover any remaining need for vitamins and minerals.
  • 4 Lb of Salt (20 GP). They’ll probably need a lot more salt over a year for preserving meat, pickling things, and similar – but they won’t have it on hand at any given moment and won’t need it for the table.
  • Ale (5 small kegs, 1 GP).
  • Common Wine (5 Bottles, 1 GP). Mostly for weddings and other celebrations.
  • Sundries (10 GP). A bit of spice, fruit, and beer here and there.
  • Meat, eggs, butter, cheese, and milk come from the livestock in quite adequate, if not enormous, quantities. Fish are normally obtained fresh from ponds and streams with nets, traps, and fishing rods.

Miscellany (37 GP):

  • Cart (15 GP).
  • Flint and Steel (1 GP).
  • Grooming Kit (1 GP): Comb, scissors, nail file, sponge, hairbrush, very small mirror, soap, chewing sticks, and tooth powder.
  • 5 Mess Kits (1 GP) – plate, bowl, cup, fork, knife, and spoon each.
  • 20 Lb Plaster of Paris (1 GP). This has rather a lot of uses, from patching walls to making molds for casting things.
  • Canvas: 40 Square Yards (4 GP). In the period this was probably made of hemp. While industrial hemp is not the miracle plant that it’s promoters describe, it IS pretty good and makes cloth of good quality.
  • Flannel: 40 Square Yards (4 GP). Another cheap and highly servicable cloth, Flannel tends to become clothing, then polishing cloths, then cleaning rags.
  • Hemp Rope, 250 Feet (5 GP). It does take several people, a ropewalk (a long series of supports to hold the rope up), and a set of geared hooks to twist several strands of twine into rope – but a few not-especially skilled youngsters would be expected to produce about three miles of rope a day (better than a hundred GP worth). Yet another item priced for adventurers.
  • 5000 Feet of Twine (1 GP). The earliest known twine dates back 32,000 years – and represents one of the most valuable inventions in history. Twine was the basis for snares, rope, nets, cloth, restraining animals, gathering wood, carrying tools, and thousands of other activities. Respect the twine!
  • Winter Firewood (100 Days, 1 GP).
  • Two Pots of Glue (1 GP). Peasants will make more when they need it – it is an animal byproduct after all – but it is always good to have some on hand.
  • Leather, Thin, 2 Square Yards (1 GP). Straps, laces, patches… A bit of leather has many, MANY, uses.
  • Mops, Brooms, Dusters, Etc (1 GP). You tie some straw to a stick for a broom, a bunch of twine to a stick for a mop, and some feathers to a stick for a duster. A bit of glue to hold things together better is optional.

And there we have our 520 GP – and, by classical real-world standards, an absurdly wealth set of peasants – and it will get even better for them as they go up in level. You also have a list for what can be found in a village, and what bandits can steal from one.

Items that are specifically NOT on the list:

  • Block and Tackle (5 GP). This actually isn’t very useful on a farm when you have oxen handy. Dragging heavy stuff around is what oxen are really good at.
  • 3.5 and Pathfinder both list Ink at 8 GP per ounce. The recipe for classical India Ink (a staple for many centuries) is to grind dry hide glue, burnt vegetable oil, soot, and charred bone together in a mortar and pestle. This gets you powdered ink. Add a little water, press it into a mold, and let it dry to make ink sticks, add a larger amount of wanter and bottle it to make battled ink. Berry juice, salt, and vinegar makes colored ink. Boiled walnut shells and vinegar make walnut ink. Ink is easy, and I will assume that the peasantry prepares some if they want to mark things.
  • Writing Quills aren’t priced in Pathfinder, although metal-tipped pens are at 1 SP. If a fantasy peasant wants a quill pen goose and swan feathers were the classical choices (but who knows what a fantasy universe will favor), need to be collected (usually from molting birds), cleaned (cutting off most of the barbs and cleaning the inside with something long and thin), stuck into hot sand for half an hour or so (to draw off the oils and “temper” them), and cut a proper tip – by far the trickiest part, but still only a minutes work.
  • Brushes. Classically a Brush is simply some fur tied and glued to a stick. There’s not much cost to this if a peasant wants to label some stuff.
  • Pathfinder paper is apparently twice as expensive as parchment (although the price drops by 50% if you have it bound into a book). Small farms produce animal hides, and thus can produce parchment for free. They could make paper too, but it would call for another set of tools.

Zhan Rayden, Master of the Earth, Levels 9-12

Zhan Rayden, Master of the Earth

“Earthbender” (Eclipse Kineticist-Style Build) Mystic Architect

Zhan Rayden is now approaching what used to be called “Name Level” – the point at which the characters were supposed to start collecting followers, founding domains, and otherwise having a larger-scale impact on the world rather than simply going out to fight monsters. The faster level gains and classes-for-all system introduced in third edition have pushed that to a much later point (if it ever happens) – but I happen to think that people who battle dragons, create mighty magical devices, teleport across the world, and explore other dimensions SHOULD be very important and noteworthy people. Given that Rayden was already an architect-builder, expanding his influence beyond his personal reach is a fairly obvious path to take anyway – so I’ll be including some such options in these levels.


Level Nine:

Basics: +4 SP (+2 Int Mod, +2 Human Fast Learner, Committed to Adept Skills, +2 Doubled Pathfinder “Favored Class” Bonus)) +30 CP (Base plus L9 Bonus Feat), +1d4 (+Con Mod, +Wis Mod) HP. “Healthy One” (+2 CP to become more durable).

Basic Attributes: Str 15 +2 (Wrath) +6 (Shift) +1 (Level) +2 (Enh) = 26, Dex 16 +8 (Shift) +2 (Enh) = 26, Con 19 (17 +2 Pathfinder +2 (Wrath) +4 (Shift) +1 (Level) +2 (Enh) = 28, Int 14, Wis 16, Cha 13.

Adept Skills:

  • Avalanche Fist Martial Art +12 (Base) +6 Con +3 Path: Net +21, Toughness IV, Attack II, Combat Reflexes, Breaking (Specialized for double effect/only against earth, stone, and metal), Versatility, Vanishing and Inner Strength.
  • Craft/Stonemason: +12 (Base) +3 (Int) +3 (Path) = +18
  • Earth Rune Magic/Casting +12 (Base) +3 (Wis) +3 (Path) = +18
  • Earth Rune Magic/Mastery +12 (Base) +3 (Wis) +3 (Path) = +18
  • Perception: +12 (Base) +3 (Wis) +3 (Path) = +18
  • Profession/Architect +12 (Base) +3 (Wis) +3 (Path) = +18
  • Profession/Engineer: +12 (Base) +3 (Wis) +3 (Path) = +18
  • Use Magic Device +12 (Base) +1 (Cha) +3 (Path) = +16

As for those 30 (+2 from “Healthy One”) CP…

  • +1 BAB (+11 Total) Specialized in Melee (3 CP)
  • Hit Die: d4 (0 CP). Rolls: L1d5 (5), L2d4 (2), L3d4 (3 +2 Path), L4d6 (6 +2 Path), L5d6 (6 +2 Path), L6d6 (3 +2 Path), L7d4 (2), L8d4 (4), L9d4 (2), Immortal Vigor +2d6 (12), +11 x (Con Mod + Wis Mod) = 185 HP.
  • Increase his Damage Reduction to 3/- (Specialized for Double Effect (6/-, 10/- with Toughness) / Only versus physical damage), (1 CP + 2 CP from Healthy One). That’s getting quite impressive; in combination with his massive number of hit points, he can wade through quite a lot of minor foes with no difficulty.
  • Body of Stone: Immunity / Sneak Attacks and Critical Hits (Common, Major, Major, 9 CP). This reduces the extra damage from Sneak Attacks and Critical Hits by 30 points. That won’t stop a serious crit-build, but it should suffice versus
  • Saves: +1 Will (3 CP) (Net Fort +6/Ref +6/Will +4)
  • Skill Points: 2 SP (Pathfinder Bonus, 0 CP). These are going to Linguistics and Stealth.
    • Linguistics +4 (SP) +2 (Int) +3 (Path): Common, Terran, five other languages.
    • Ride: +1 (SP) +3 (Dex) +3 (Path) = +7 (+11 when Armored).
    • Stealth: +12 (SP) +4 (Dex) +3 (Path) = +19 (+23 when Armored).
  • Hammer of the Underworld / Augmented Attack/+2d6 (taken as +5) Damage to overcome Damage Reduction and Hardness Only, Corrupted / only with melee combat (4 CP).
  • Upgrade his Metamagical Theorems: (Elemental Manipulation and Amplify with Streamline II, Specialized and Corrupted: Only to add +2 levels of Infliction and Empower to Fists of Stone and Stone Mountain Stance (8 CP)) to Specialized Only (Also adds two levels of Empower to his Force Shield and Force Armor – raising their effective bonuses to +6 and providing a now-needed +4 to his AC) (4 CP).
  • Strengths of the Earth IV: +4 Bonus uses for Rite of Chi, Specialized and Corrupted / only to restore Mana, requires at least one hour of sleep per die regained (2 CP).
  • Upgraded Strengths of the Earth: Rite Of C’hi, Specialized and Corrupted/only to restore Mana, requires at least one hour of sleep per die regained (2 CP). This gets his effective Mana Recovery Rate up to 2d6 per hour of sleep (Since he has two instances of Rite of Chi, even if each takes an hour to work), up to a maximum of 17d6 per day. Given that Rayden only has 5d6+6 (25) Mana at the moment, this is far more than enough unless he takes a nap later on in the day.
  • Upgrade Runic Ritual to cover Combat Spells – however rarely this is practical (2 CP).

Magic Items: With 46,000 (or +13,000) GP to spend, it’s time to consider these again:

  • Armor:
  • Belt: Healing Belt (MIC, 750 GP. 3 Uses/Day, spend 1/2/3 to heal 2d8/3d8/4d8, +2 to the Heal Skill). Includes Attribute Boosters: Str, Dex, and Con, each +2 (12,000 GP. Per the rules in the MIC these functions can be added at cost to any item which occupies an appropriate slot).
  • Body: Ghost Shroud (MIC, 5000 GP): +1 Deflection to AC, all Melee Attacks are treated as Ghost Touch.
  • Chest:
  • Eyes:
  • Feet: Combined Item; Boots of the Earth (Pathfinder, Inner Sea Gods, user may plant his or her feet as a move action, gaining Fast Healing I and a +4 bonus to CMD to resist bull rush, reposition, and trip combat maneuver attempts. These effects end if the wearer moves or is moved, knocked prone, or rendered unconscious, 5000 GP) and Vanguard Treads (MIC, 3100 GP, lets you ignore difficult terrain, slippery surfaces, +8 CMD versus bull rush and +4 CMD versus reposition attempts – but +10 to attempts to track the user). As combined, these have a net cost of 9650 GP). Given how many HP he has for his level… he needs these badly, just to get healed up each day.
  • Hands:
  • Head:
  • Headband: Third Eye Clarity (MIC, 3000 GP, 1/day immediately remove daze, stun, etc).
  • Neck:
  • Ring:
  • Ring:
  • Shield:
  • Shoulders: Cloak of Protection +1 (1000 GP)
  • Wrists: Wristbands of the Poseur III (8000 GP. Note that between his Use Magic Device check and attributes he can get full use out of these quite easily).
  • Slotless Items:
    • Everfull Mug (MIC, 200 GP)
    • Handy Haversack (2000 GP).
    • Ioun Torch (75 GP)
    • Cracked Dusty Rose Prism Ioun Stone (+1 Competence to Initiative, 500 GP). He may have implanted this, since that only calls for skill checks, not money.
    • Cracked Magenta Prism Ioun Stone (+2 Competence Bonus to any one skill, may be changed once per day, 800 GP). Mounted in a Wayfinder (500 GP) to provide a Resonant Power (a +1 nameless bonus on any one saving throw. He usually takes Will).

This comes to 43,475 GP – leaving 2525 GP available for minor supplies. He really ought to upgrade to at least a +2 Cloak of Resistance – but he can’t quite afford it at the moment. It is worth noting that he has rather a lot of unused item slots. As usual for an Eclipse character, the magic items are nice, but they aren’t really required for him to do his thing.

Ninth level brings Rayden the ability to penetrate Damage Reduction to a modest degree, as well as a bit more magic and a drastic boost to his ability to resist sneak attacks and critical hits. Those aren’t especially dramatic powers, but they’re very useful. One thing he still doesn’t have is any Energy Resistance. He’ll probably have to come up with some soon.


Level Ten:

Basics: +4 SP (+2 Int Mod, +2 Human Fast Learner, Committed to Adept Skills, +2 Doubled Pathfinder “Favored Class” Bonus)) +24 CP (Base), +1d4 (+Con Mod, +Wis Mod) HP. “Healthy One” (+2 CP to become more durable).

Basic Attributes: Str 15 +2 (Wrath) +6 (Shift) +1 (Level) +2 (Enh) = 26, Dex 16 +8 (Shift) +2 (Enh) = 26, Con 19 (17 +2 Pathfinder) +2 (Wrath) +4 (Shift) +1 (Level) +2 (Enh) = 28, Int 14 +2 (Enh) = 16, Wis 16, Cha 13.

Adept Skills:

  • Avalanche Fist Martial Art +13 (Base) +6 Con +3 Path: Net +22, Toughness IV, Attack II, Combat Reflexes, Breaking (Specialized for double effect/only against earth, stone, and metal), Versatility, Vanishing, and Inner Strength.
  • Craft/Stonemason: +13 (Base) +3 (Int) +3 (Path) = +19
  • Earth Rune Magic/Casting +13 (Base) +3 (Wis) +3 (Path) = +19
  • Earth Rune Magic/Mastery +13 (Base) +3 (Wis) +3 (Path) = +19
  • Perception: +13 (Base) +3 (Wis) +3 (Path) = +19
  • Profession/Architect +13 (Base) +3 (Wis) +3 (Path) = +19
  • Profession/Engineer: +13 (Base) +3 (Wis) +3 (Path) = +19
  • Use Magic Device +13 (Base) +1 (Cha) +3 (Path) = +17

As for those 24 (+2 from “Healthy One”) CP…

  • +1 BAB (+12 Total) Specialized in Melee (3 CP)
  • Hit Die: d4 (0 CP). Rolls: L1d5 (5), L2d4 (2), L3d4 (3 +2 Path), L4d6 (6 +2 Path), L5d6 (6 +2 Path), L6d6 (3 +2 Path), L7d4 (2), L8d4 (4), L9d4 (2), L10d4 (3), Immortal Vigor +2d6 (12), +12 x (Con Mod + Wis Mod) = 200 HP.
  • 4 CP – two from “Healthy One” and (2 CP) – are being invested in buying an Extra Hit Die, but that costs 8 CP, and so will not be available until next level.
  • Saves: +1 Fortitude and Reflex (6 CP) (Net Fort +7/Ref +7/Will +4)
  • Skill Points: 2 SP (Pathfinder Bonus, 0 CP). These are going to Linguistics and Stealth.
    • Linguistics +5 (SP) +2 (Int) +3 (Path): Common, Terran, six other languages.
    • Ride: +1 (SP) +3 (Dex) +3 (Path) = +7 (+11 when Armored).
    • Stealth: +13 (SP) +4 (Dex) +3 (Path) = +20 (+24 when Armored).
    • (From Int Boost) Concentration +12 (Hit Dice) +9 (Con) +3 (Path) = +24
  • Gather Power II: Immunity/the Mana Cost of using Rune Magic, Specialized and Corrupted: Requires a move action, produces a spectacular display of elemental energy, usable for earth rune magic only, if the users spell is interrupted he or she must make a concentration check (DC 10 + Damage Taken) or lose the accumulated energy taking 3d6 Damage per point of Mana Gathered (Common, Major, increased from Major to the Epic (2 Mana Point maximum) level), +6 CP after limitations).
  • Initiate of the Earth V: +1d6+2 Mana, Specialized in Rune Magic, Corrupted/includes no Natural Magic (3 CP). This gives him a total of 6d6+8 (30) Mana. For most utility effects he’s going to be relying on Gather Power and Runic Ritual to conserve his Mana. That’s not such a good idea in combat, but in combat he will usually be relying on his blasts.
  • Mystic Artist/Modifiers/Seeking, Specialized for half cost / Only works with massive fortresses, soaring cathedrals, and similar mighty and enduring works (3 CP). This allows him to build targeted effects into his works. Given that he’s making fortresses and temples and such, bonuses that target their rightful occupants are likely.
  • Mystic Artist / Stonemason, Specialized for half cost / Only works with massive fortresses, soaring cathedrals, and similar mighty and enduring works (3 CP).

With this combination Rayden can design and build some very impressive structures indeed. Since he’ll presumably be using Harmonize on both sets of abilities, this will let him build in two double-effect abilities and two standard ones – which offers rather a LOT of options.

Magic Items: With another 16,000 GP to work with, it’s time to invest in an upgraded Cloak of Resistance (Increasing it to +3, at +8000 GP), a Pathfinder Style Amulet of Mighty Fists (gives his fists the Warning ability as per a +1 Modifier, 4000 GP), and adding Intelligence Enhancement (+2, provides (Hit Dice) ranks in the Concentration skill) to his Headband (4000 GP).

With this level Rayden basically picks up another attack, gets a bit better on his utility earth magic and becomes a better architect. That’s potentially VERY useful later on, but – at least at the moment – isn’t particularly dramatic. Still, despite his defenses Rayden still has several major vulnerabilities. Perhaps most notably, he has damage reduction and armor class for physical attacks and can automatically make a few saves to avoid save-or-die (or save-or-suck) effects – but he doesn’t really have any special defenses against energy attacks. He’ll have to pick up at least a little.


Level Eleven:

Basics: +4 SP (+2 Int Mod, +2 Human Fast Learner, Committed to Adept Skills, +2 Doubled Pathfinder “Favored Class” Bonus)) +30 CP (Base plus Level Eleven Bonus Feat), +1d4 (+Con Mod, +Wis Mod) HP. “Healthy One” (+2 CP to become more durable).

Basic Attributes: Str 15 +2 (Wrath) +6 (Shift) +1 (Level) +2 (Enh) = 26, Dex 16 +8 (Shift) +2 (Enh) = 26, Con 19 (17 +2 Pathfinder +2 (Wrath) +4 (Shift) +1 (Level) +2 (Enh) = 28, Int 14 +2 (Enh) = 16, Wis 16 +2 (Enh) = 18, Cha 13 +2 (Enh) = 15.

Adept Skills:

  • Avalanche Fist Martial Art +14 (Base) +6 Con +3 Path: Net +23, Toughness IV, Attack III, Combat Reflexes, Breaking (Specialized for double effect/only against earth, stone, and metal), Versatility, Vanishing, and Inner Strength. Note that – when it comes to smashing rock and metal – his effective “strength check” now has a +46 Bonus. This will allow him to casually smash iron doors, reinforced masonry, and most walls.
  • Craft/Stonemason: +14 (Base) +3 (Int) +3 (Path) = +20
  • Earth Rune Magic/Casting +14 (Base) +4 (Wis) +3 (Path) = +21. Rayden can now throw his earth spells at an effective caster level of ten.
  • Earth Rune Magic/Mastery +14 (Base) +4 (Wis) +3 (Path) = +21. Rayden can now throw fifth level earth spells.
  • Perception: +14 (Base) +4 (Wis) +3 (Path) = +21
  • Profession/Architect +14 (Base) +4 (Wis) +3 (Path) = +21
  • Profession/Engineer: +14 (Base) +4 (Wis) +3 (Path) = +21
  • Use Magic Device +14 (Base) +2 (Cha) +3 (Path) = +19

As for those 30 (+2 from “Healthy One”) CP…

  • +1 BAB (+13 Total) Specialized in Melee (3 CP).
  • Completing the purchase of an extra d4 Hit Die (4 CP – two from “Healthy One” – for a total of eight character points including those spent last level).
  • Hit Die: d4 (0 CP). Rolls: L1d5 (5), L2d4 (2), L3d4 (3 +2 Path), L4d6 (6 +2 Path), L5d6 (6 +2 Path), L6d6 (3 +2 Path), L7d4 (2), L8d4 (4), L9d4 (2), L10d4 (3), L11d4 (3), second L11d4(3), Immortal Vigor +2d6 (12), +14 x (Con Mod + Wis Mod) = 244 HP. Honestly, after a point hit points are no longer a very important part of your defense – but having a lot of them is nice and Rayden automatically gets a fair chunk of them every level now anyway.
  • Saves: +1 Will (3 CP) (Net Fort +7/Ref +7/Will +5)
  • Skill Points: 2 SP (Pathfinder Bonus, 0 CP). These are going to Linguistics and Stealth.
    • Linguistics +6 (SP) +3 (Int) +3 (Path): Common, Terran, seven other languages.
    • Ride: +1 (SP) +4 (Dex) +3 (Path) = +8 (+12 when Armored).
    • Stealth: +14 (SP) +4 (Dex) +3 (Path) = +21 (+25 when Armored).
    • (From Int Boost) Concentration: +14 (Hit Die) +9 (Con) +3 (Path) = +26
  • Feet Upon The Ground / Leadership with Strength in Numbers and Horde, Specialized in Stronghold Staff – servants, repairmen, guards, minor clergy, cooks, a couple of mages with repair spells, your friendly alchemist, and so on. This thus provides support personnel and a garrison for his holdings, but not direct adventuring assistance (6 CP).
  • Continental Drift / Immunity to Effects that Impede Movement (Common, Major, Major, 9 CP). This provides protection against effects that impede movement of up to level five – including grappling, being underwater, and effects such as paralysis, solid fog, slow, and web. Higher level effects are not cancelled, but the user gets a +6 bonus on saving throws and other rolls to resist their effects.
  • Master Builder / Action Hero; the Crafting Option. Specialized for Double Effect, Corrupted for Reduced Cost / provides 2x the base number of Action Points to work with and covers the GP cost rather than the (non-existent) experience point cost (4 CP). Basically, Rayden can now complete at least one really major project, whether the rest of the party has been helping or not. This is also why I haven’t gotten him a Lyre Of Building (or variant thereof); between his earth magic and Crafting he doesn’t really need it to get things up rapidly.
  • Endurance of the Mountain: Damage Resistance 2/- (3 CP), Specialized in Energy Resistance for Double Effect (4/-). That isn’t a LOT of general energy resistance, but he can build on it later.

Magic Items: With another 20,000 GP to spend… Add +2 Enhancement Bonuses to Wis and Chr to his Headband (8000 GP, no surcharge per the MIC) and get a Hat of Disguise (1800 GP), just for the fun of it. Yes, that does leave 10,200 GP unspent – but I’ll just be saving that for his next level. You never know when there will be unexpected expenses in a new domain.

With this level Rayden basically gets a bit better on his utility earth magic – and gets to use his powers to build himself a free castle, complete with Mystic Artist and Ward Major functions. I’m going to presume that he (sensibly) gets himself a dedicated crafter of some sort (and perhaps someone like Verdigrised Forge to help maintain things), so as to be able to get his items on the cheap. From this point on, his magical items are 50% off.

He hasn’t, however, really upgraded his offensive capabilities or armor class since level eight very much beyond simply getting another attack. They were high-end then, and are still decent, and his other capabilities are quite good – but he IS a dedicated “blaster” type after all. He’ll have to be getting a few upgrades here too. He still won’t even remotely be a match for an Ubercharger, the “Mailman” Optimized Blaster, or a battlefield control Wizard – but he should be doing just fine in competition with Swordsages and such.


Level Twelve:

Basics: +1 Attribute Point (Cha), +6 SP (+2 Int Mod, +2 Human Fast Learner, Committed to Adept Skills, +2 Doubled Pathfinder “Favored Class” Bonus)) +24 CP (Base), +1d4 (+Con Mod, +Wis Mod) HP. “Healthy One” (+2 CP to become more durable).

Basic Attributes: Str 15 +4 (Wrath) +6 (Shift) +1 (Level) +2 (Enh) = 28, Dex 16 +8 (Shift) +2 (Enh) = 26, Con 19 (17 +2 Pathfinder +4 (Wrath) +4 (Shift) +1 (Level) +2 (Enh) = 30, Int 14 +2 (Enh) = 16, Wis 16 +2 (Enh) = 18, Cha 13 +2 (Enh) +1 (Level) = 16.

Adept Skills:

  • Avalanche Fist Martial Art +15 (Base) +6 Con +3 Path: Net +24, Toughness IV, Attack III, Combat Reflexes, Breaking (Specialized for double effect/only against earth, stone, and metal), Versatility, Vanishing, and Inner Strength.
  • Craft/Stonemason: +15 (Base) +3 (Int) +3 (Path) = +21
  • Earth Rune Magic/Casting +15 (Base) +4 (Wis) +3 (Path) = +22
  • Earth Rune Magic/Mastery +15 (Base) +4 (Wis) +3 (Path) = +22
  • Perception: +15 (Base) +4 (Wis) +3 (Path) = +22
  • Profession/Architect +15 (Base) +4 (Wis) +3 (Path) = +22
  • Profession/Engineer: +15 (Base) +4 (Wis) +3 (Path) = +22
  • Use Magic Device +15 (Base) +3 (Cha) +3 (Path) = +21

As for those 24 (+2 from “Healthy One”) CP…

  • +1 BAB (+14 Total) Specialized in Melee (3 CP)
  • Hit Die: d4 (0 CP). Rolls: L1d5 (5), L2d4 (2), L3d4 (3 +2 Path), L4d6 (6 +2 Path), L5d6 (6 +2 Path), L6d6 (3 +2 Path), L7d4 (2), L8d4 (4), L9d4 (2), L10d4 (3), L11d4 (3), second L11d4(3), L12d4 (4), Immortal Vigor +2d6 (12), +15 x (Con Mod + Wis Mod) = 278 HP.
  • Saves: +1 Fort and Ref (6 CP) (Net Fort +8/Ref +8/Will +5)
  • Skill Points: 2 SP (Pathfinder Bonus, 0 CP). These are going to Linguistics and Stealth.
    • Linguistics +7 (SP) +3 (Int) +3 (Path): Common, Terran, eight other languages.
    • Ride: +1 (SP) +4 (Dex) +3 (Path) = +8 (+12 when Armored).
    • Stealth: +15 (SP) +4 (Dex) +3 (Path) = +22 (+26 when Armored).
    • (From Int Boost) Concentration: +15 (Hit Die) +9 (Con) +3 (Path) = +27
  • Mastery of the Elements: Elemental Manipulation and Amplify with Streamline IV, Specialized in specific boosts for his innate enchantments (6 CP after the twelve CP already spent).
    • Stone Strike and Mountain Stance: Double Effect (total of 2d6 Base with +4 Enhancement for Stone Strike, +4d6+2 for Mountain Stance), Two levels of Infliction Effects (Save DC 10 + Spell Level 1 + 10 Con Mod due to Empowerment), and two levels of Twining (adds a secondary elemental effect, for +50% (3d6+3) damage). That still isn’t as strong a blast as a Kineticist will have, and he has no area-effect options and fewer boosting tricks for it, but he gets more of them.
    • Force Shield and Force Armor: Double Effect (+8 AC Each – although this is reduced again by his Wrath ability).
    • Storm Of Stone: Range Increment becomes 200′
    • Ride the Earth: +60 Speed, +1 attack whenever attacking (not just with full attack).
    • Volcanic Wrath: +4 to Str and Con, +2 to Will, -4 to AC.
    • Immortal Vigor: +24 + 4 x (Con Mod) HP.
    • Geokinesis: The “Unseen Servants” can now perform multiple tasks without implicit direction.
    • Dust Weaving: Can now include minor sounds – although they always have a whispery, “dusty”, quality.
      • Unfortunately, the item-class enchantments do not use spells directly, and so cannot be affected by adding metamagic. This is, of course, some fairly heavy optimization – but it’s definitely time for it.
  • Endurance of the Mountain II: Increase Energy Resistance to 6 (1 CP + 2 CP from Healthy One).
  • Upgrade Mystic Artist/Stonemason from Specialized for Half Cost to Specialized for Double Effect (3 CP).
  • Contact (1 CP): The local overlord, governing council, or similar. If you’re going to be erecting at least one major public work (likely a mighty castle) of great magical power you had BETTER get acquainted with the local power structure.
  • Contact (1 CP): The local religious authorities or similar. They are almost certainly going to want to get in on the “mighty cathedral action” too – and ignoring them is NOT a good idea.

Creating a mighty castle offering various benefits and massive defensive bonuses for the secular authorities, or a cathedral with numerous boosts for the faithful, and then throwing in a Ward Major that bestows permanent benefits on any of the kings loyal knights / faithful followers who visit the place might be worth a great deal – quite enough to “buy in” as a major noble. If you prefer to build in the wilderness, and start founding your own nation… this sort of thing is a big, BIG, step towards doing so. A player character is likely to want his or her own base first – but there will be plenty of Crafting points available for construction later on.

Castles are an awkward thing in d20 and many similar games. Trying to sort out their “real cost” is an exercise in futility (Edward I spent about 80,000 English pounds building ten castles in the late 1200’s – one of few sources for their actual cost. Sadly, converting that to modern currencies beyond saying “a whole lot” calls for an endless maze of assumptions. D20 currencies are even worse, since they’re rarely even remotely consistent and pay no attention to actual economics. Common conversions run from $10 = 1 GP to $100 = 1 GP, but those are based on little more than handwaving). Still, the 3.5 DMG said 150,000 (a “Keep”) to 1,000,000 (a “Huge Castle”) – pretty pricey.

But in d20 a castle is pretty worthless. It remains an administrative center and a place to put your stuff, but a simple adamantine blade can easily take down your walls even before we start talking about magic and monsters. It may provide quarters and working room for a lot of folk, but there’s a funny thing about that; when you hire people they usually handle most of the details of getting themselves set up on their own. The “build a smithy to put a smith to work producing tools” sort of procedure is an artifact of games like “Civilization” and “Colonization”.

Thus I usually allow would-be landlords to just spend a few character points on a castle if they wish, as covered in the Castle Hieronymus article. If you want to go with cash… just remember that that 20,000 GP Holy Sword costs enough to feed and clothe 5000 Orphans, or to hire 137 laborers (normally with families), for a year – and it is still virtually nothing next to the actual cost of a useless castle.

  • Upgrade One With The Land: Immunity/Dispelling and Antimagic from (Common, Major, Great) to (Epic), Specialized and Corrupted/only protects his Earthbending abilities, 3 CP). This covers Dispel Magic, Greater Dispel Magic, Antimagic Sphere, Disjunction, and similar abilities of up to, and including, level nine.

Magic Items: Rayden picks up 26,000 GP worth of stuff at this level (and 10,000 GP left over from last level), and is now getting his stuff at half cost. This time around he’s going to be upgrading things. Cloak of Resistance to +4 (3500 GP), Upgrade Wristbands of the Poseur to Type V (Jumping right past Type IV, 24,250 GP), Upgrade his Amulet of Mighty Fists to +2 (Provides Warning (+5 to Insight to Initiative) and Whirling (3/Day you may spend a full round action to make one attack at full BAB against each opponent within reach. Given that Rayden effectively has Reach 35, this can be quite effective), (6000 GP), and double up the charges on his Belt of Healing (+750 GP, discounting the cost break from not needing another +2 on the Heal skill). That leaves 1500 GP left over for minor equipment.

  • Armor:
  • Belt: Doubled Healing Belt (MIC. 6 Uses/Day, spend 1/2/3 to heal 2d8/3d8/4d8, +2 to the Heal Skill). Includes Attribute Boosters: Str, Dex, and Con, each +2 (Per the rules in the MIC these functions can be added at cost to any item which occupies an appropriate slot).
  • Body: Ghost Shroud (MIC): +1 Deflection to AC, all Melee Attacks are treated as Ghost Touch.
  • Chest:
  • Eyes:
  • Feet All-Conquering Brogans (10,000 GP): The wearer ignores the effects of non-magical difficult terrain (such as rubble, undergrowth, steep slopes, stairs, and snow) and slippery surfaces (such as ice, wet stones, etc) and gains a +4 to his or her CMD versus attempts to move him or her (Bull Rush, Drag, Trip, Reposition, Grapple (being thrown or moved), etc) attempts – but anyone attempting to track him or her gets a +10 bonus. In addition, the user may plant his or her feet as a move action, gaining Fast Healing I and increasing the CMD bonus to +8 – although these effects end if the wearer moves or is moved, knocked prone, or rendered unconscious. (This is a combination of Boots of the Earth (Pathfinder, Inner Sea Gods, 5000 GP) and Vanguard Treads (MIC, 3100 GP). Given how many HP he has for his level… he needs these badly, just to get healed up each day). (Yes, I’m giving these their own name and a slight price increase, just because).
  • Hands:
  • Head: Hat of Disguise (SRD). This lets him look normal while still “wearing” his “armor”.
  • Headband: Third Eye Clarity (MIC, 1/day immediately remove daze, stun, etc). +2 Enhancement to Int, Wis, and Chr (Per Pathfinder, the boost to Intelligence provides the Concentration skill).
  • Neck: Amulet of Mighty Fists II (Pathfinder, provides the Warning and Whirling abilities).
  • Ring:
  • Ring:
  • Shield:
  • Shoulders: Cloak of Resistance +4 (SRD)
  • Wrists: Wristbands of the Poseur V. Now with Caster Level Seven and spells of up to the fourth level.

Slotless Items:

  • Everfull Mug (MIC)
  • Handy Haversack (SRD)
  • Ioun Torch (Pathfinder).
  • Cracked Dusty Rose Prism Ioun Stone (+1 Competence to Initiative). He may have implanted this, since that only calls for skill checks, not money.
  • Cracked Magenta Prism Ioun Stone (+2 Competence Bonus to any one skill, may be changed once per day). Mounted in a Wayfinder to provide a Resonant Power (a +1 nameless bonus on any one saving throw. He usually takes Will).

Given that I’m well past the requested levels, it’s time to get back to heavy optimization, and this level has a pretty big dose of it; upgrading all those innate enchantments boosts his armor class and damage output substantially. Becoming a major factor in local politics is, in optimization terms, simply a bonus associated with arranging to buy his magic items at half cost. Personally, I’d say that getting into politics is a fairly major step for a character, but I do have to admit that it doesn’t add much to your combat abilities in a dungeon.

D20 and the Lyre of Building

And today it’s another question – and an examination of a very classic item; the Lyre of Building.

While it’s not quite feasible at his current level, I’d expect that Zhan (Levels -2 to 2, Levels 3-8) would benefit greatly from purchasing Siddhisyoga and using it with a Lyre of Building.

Of course, it’d be a bit awkward to have to make a Perform (string instruments) check with an absorbed magic item, but at worst that would necessitate taking Finesse – probably specialized and corrupted – to change it to a different sort of Perform check (ideally the one used in conjunction with Mystic Artist). Given that it’s easy to pump up skill bonuses, it’d be simplicity itself to get it high enough so as to never fail the DC 18 check. At that point, the sky’s the limit with regards to what can be made.


The Lyre of Building is really hard to pass up isn’t it? A mere 13,000 GP and a reliable DC 18 Perform check (Say… 1 SP, +4 Charisma, +3 Pathfinder, and Specialized Mastery (3 CP) to “Take 10” if your game master won’t let you do so normally – and you can reliably do this at first level) and you can perform rather a lot of work per hour.

Lyre of Building: If the proper chords are struck, a single use of this lyre negates any attacks made against all inanimate construction (walls, roof, floor, and so on) within 300 feet. This includes the effects of a horn of blasting, a disintegrate spell, or an attack from a ram or similar siege weapon. The lyre can be used in this way once per day, with the protection lasting for 30 minutes.

The lyre is also useful with respect to building. Once a week its strings can be strummed so as to produce chords that magically construct buildings, mines, tunnels, ditches, or whatever. The effect produced in but 30 minutes of playing is equal to the work of 100 humans laboring for three days. Each hour after the first, a character playing the lyre must make a DC 18 Perform (string instruments) check. If it fails, she must stop and cannot play the lyre again for this purpose until a week has passed.

Faint transmutation; CL 6th; Craft Wondrous Item, fabricate; Price 13,000 gp; Weight 5 lb.

Er… Exactly how much work? Is it skilled work? How skilled? Is it done as if with tools? Are materials needed? If materials are needed, can they be raw materials as available in the surrounding area or do they need to be ready-to-use? How do you convert work-time into actual construction? And is there much of a point? After all, in d20 from the middle levels on up (where you might have this item) a standard medieval castle is only a little more defensible than a circus tent.

A large part of this is because the Lyre of Building is an early first edition legacy item – from before there WERE skills, or much of any rules about materials, or buying magical items, or wealth-by-level. It was also rather more limited in first (and second) edition; you got thirty minutes of construction per week, and a roll to see if you did it right – not a roll to see if you could keep on going after the first hour. It still didn’t translate well into the building system though, since that was based on costs and didn’t really mention the size of the work crews save for a note under digging ditches.

First edition did make it clear that “a day of work” was always eight hours long though, which at least gives us one figure – 2400 hours of work per half-hour, 4800 per hour.

That’s still a big, BIG, multiplier.

How skilled? It IS a powerful magical tool dedicated to a particular function – so I’ll presume that it gets a generic +5 bonus (since it’s a lot more expensive than a cheaper device that can simply summon swarms of unseen servants) and always takes 10 – giving it a check of “15″ unless the user opts to use his or her own (and presumably superior) skills instead.

For materials, stuff materializing out of nowhere is overpowered (who wants to build a platinum castle?), but calling for ready-to-use stockpiles pretty well eliminates most adventurous or military uses – so it looks like it should be able to use available raw materials, turning trees into lumber, outcroppings of stone into blocks, clay into bricks, and (in about the worst case) dirt into adobe. The work of doing so does count against the work it can accomplish though.

If you want to do anything too elaborate, you’ll need to either be, or consult, a competent architect and/or engineer. If you have no such skills you can just rely on the Lyre’s automatic “15″ check, which is enough to design serviceable basic structures.

That still leaves us with a major rules chasm between us and actually getting something done though; there really aren’t any rules for how many man-hours it takes to accomplish something except for Crafting and the castle books for 2.0 and 3.0 – and 3.0, at least, intentionally tried to downplay using magic for construction so that strongholds would still be money pits.

That’s not too surprising given how incredibly situational (and rarely useful) any kind of man-hour estimate is, but it’s still a problem.

Well, we shall work with what we’ve got.

According to the rules for Crafting… We can set the DC at 5 (the basic labor of building is pretty straightforward), so a +10 makes it 15. With the Check at 15, you get 225 SP worth of progress towards your goal per “week of work” (presumably 40 hours). That measure says that the basic “value added” rate for the Lyre is 2700 GP per hour. Sure, you’ll need to increase the cost of what you’re building by a third if you’re having to harvest and process raw materials (since those cost a third of the projects cost) – but that takes us to an effective (rounded down) 2000 GP per hour for creating buildings starting from nothing but locally available resources.

Taking that as the baseline, from the SRD’s building costs you can build two Simple Houses* per hour, a Grand House in two and a half hours, a Tower or a Moat with a Bridge in a day, a Mansion in two days, a Keep in three days, a Castle in ten days, and a Huge Castle in twenty days – presuming that you’re undead, or a construct, or otherwise have no objection to playing for twenty-four hours a day.

*Please note that a “simple house” is a good-sized stone dwelling with multiple rooms. If you are throwing together wattle-and-daub cottages for the peasants, or log cabins… what references I can find suggest about 80 man-hours and 200 man-hours respectively. That’s sixty cottages or twenty-four cabins per hour of playing – although they will be pretty minimal designs. to get fancy, just reduce the numbers.

How reasonable are these results? Well, buildings vary a LOT, but basic Motte-and-Bailey “castles” are surprisingly standardized – and according to some classical accounts 50 workmen could build a Motte-and-Bailey castle in about 40 days. That’s about three and a half hours for the Lyre. But it’s not like that figure has been well tested; it’s based on a scattering of notes from historical accounts from varying locations, situations, and structures.

Is there something that IS being tested? We’re in luck there! There is indeed!

Project Gueledon is using 13’th century techniques to build a 13’th century style castle, with a dry moat, curtain walls, corner towers, and a tower keep. It’s expected to take 50 workers a total of 25 years. I’ll presume they’re doing a modern, full-time, schedule; medevial workmen probably worked longer days, but they also had to take more time off for malingering, holy days, illnesses, injuries (a VERY big factor), and similar issues. Secomdarily, castles are only worked on during good weather, which lets out a third to almost half the year. So… 50 Workers x 25 Years x 250 work days per year x 8 hours per workday x 60% of the year = 1,500,000 hours. That’s 312 hours of playing, or about 13 days

Given the number of approximations involved in those calculations that’s really remarkably close – certainly close enough for game purposes.

So we have a reasonable approximation; the Lyre accomplishes about 2000 GP “worth” of work per hour of playing.

So how will that work out in whatever setting you’re using?

The next major problem with the Lyre of Building is that third edition turned it from a near-unique wonder out of legends into a common – and relatively cheap as far as magic items go – tool. After a certain point (and not even a particularly high level one) there’s little reason to build things in any other way unless you want to install some special magic or have other exotic methods available.

And that may be a good thing. Europe is full of structures that are many centuries old, and still standing. In a d20 world, on the other hand, there are adamantine blades, stone-smashing techniques, dragon attacks, stray elementals breaking stuff, iron golems wrecking the roads while walking about, and a thousand other menaces. Given the likely rate at which the infrastructure gets destroyed in a d20 universe it’s quite possible that the populace needs access to some Lyres of Building just to keep up.

From that point of view buying yourself a Lyre of Building may simply be a way of purchasing a lifestyle:

Lyre of Building: Characters who purchase this item get to live in very large and fancy houses or small palaces, in clean towns with nice buildings, little risk of fire, roman-style streets, aqueducts which provide fresh, clean, running water, drains which carry away the stench and the sewage, an adequately housed populace, and have many small luxuries, such as some competent servants. In addition, their holdings, dependents, and properties can be assumed to automatically survive the occasional dragon-raid, firebombing, earthquake, and similar disaster, entirely intact.

Why is that? It’s because a Lyre of Building means that “all inanimate construction (walls, roof, floor, and so on) within 300 feet” can be rendered invulnerable for half an hour each day.

Invulnerability. For half an hour. In a three hundred foot radius. Go ahead, let the epic Wrath of God spell rain down 500d6 of annihilation over the village. As long as everyone stays indoors they’ll all be fine. Are your shutters latched? Then the latch, the shutters, the hinges, and the wall around them will stand up to that rampaging dragon for half an hour.

How many other 13,000 GP items can accomplish THAT? Even if it is a bit special purpose? About the only comparable item in the game is the Rod of Security at 61,000 GP – and it can only affect 200 people, who must be holding hands, and only works once per week. Even then, it involves fleeing to a pocket dimension – and “not being there” has always been one of the best available defenses.

Most d20 battles are a lot shorter than thirty minutes. D20 is, after all, the game system that brought us “Rocket Tag”, “Scry-and-Die”, and many similar tactics.

Bridging at least a part of this disconnect is actually pretty simple though: just note the fairly obvious point that – regardless of the purely theoretical cost of building a major structure the old-fashioned way with hand labor – it’s actual cost is going to be based on “how much do the people with Lyres of Building want to charge?” – and that’s generally going to substantially less than the cost of getting your own Lyre and doing it yourself, although those few constructs and undead who can play straight through may get a premium for speed on larger structures.

They may not though; no one says that you can’t hire four guys with Lyres and quadruple your speed – or find a serious expert with better skills.

Either way though… that means that the towns are likely to have walls and citadels (they may not be very effective, but they’re nice and cheap!), oversized drains that rogues can hide in, basic water systems, and more. Even if those walls and citadels aren’t really much use, they’re cheap enough to get them anyway just for those rare occasions where they ARE useful.

Now if we want a more reasonable version…

Rod of the Imperator (CL6, 12,000 / 6000 GP, Moderate Transmutation, Craft Rod, Fabricate).

The Rod of the Imperator accomplishes construction and engineering work and provides simple services. It is capable of setting up camps, digging ditches, building bridges, cleaning, serving food, assembling locomotives, cleaning, fitting, quarrying stone, making mortar, harvesting trees, basic carpentry, mending clothing, mining and crudely smelting ore, helping men get their armor and weapons on (30 man-sized creatures or 10 horses may be so readied per action), repairing structures even as they are being attacked, and so on.

  • The Rod’s function has a range of three hundred feet. .
  • It can function for up to three hours per week. This use need not be continuous, but any usage is rounded up to the nearest full minute.
  • Each full action spent giving commands and pointing with the rod accomplishes ten man-hours of work if the user can make a DC 18 Perform / Oratory check. Failures accomplish nothing, but still count against the available time.
  • Such work is performed as if by a craftsman or servant equipped with the proper tools, using materials available in the area, and either “taking 15″ on any necessary skill checks or using the wielders relevant skill check. (Very complicated buildings may call for input from a professional architect).
  • If using a table of construction costs each round of use “purchases” 5 GP worth of work – although (if these are available in the setting) no one will be paying anything approaching that rate for any construction, any more than modern construction companies pay extra for moving earth by hand instead of using bulldozers. If set yourself up in a town or a city and can reliably make the necessary skill check you can reasonably expect to make 2d4 x 50 GP / Week – adding a d4 during times when such work is in great demand and subtracting a d4 during slack times.
  • Each round spent on performing repairs to structures or other inanimate objects repairs 5d6 points of damage
  • Variant forms occupy item slots (and usually use Craft Wondrous Item instead of Craft Rod), but may use other skills. For example, Architects Spectacles and Engineering Goggles both occupy the Face slot, but allow the use of Knowledge / Architecture and Engineering in place of Perform / Oratory.

There. That’s really useful and highly versatile – but it isn’t overwhelmingly world-wrecking or capable of defeating epic menaces. It will, however, set up a well-fortified camp each night, plug leaks in levees, dig tornado shelters in mere moments, perform swift repairs during a siege, and much more.

I may give Zhan something like that at higher levels, but not for a bit.