Capitalism in the Heroic Sword and Sorcery World

Originally posted by Brianna Heine on the other (now defunct) version of this site.

by Miggs69

For those of you keeping score this post is a non-Conan topic though it is exploring facts I plan on incorporating into the Hyborian Age.

I have a HUGE problem with buying magic items in a fantasy game. I’m specifically speaking in d20 / Pathfinder rules.

Now let me start off by saying that I completely understand that in d20 a character’s ability to combat a threat is partially related to the magic items she has at her disposal. Technically speaking it doesn’t really matter all that much what equipment said character has but in the unlikely event the party Wizard winds up with a suit of full plate mail +2 he should have the opportunity to exchange it for something he can really use. Personally I think this problem can be combated by careful placement of treasure but players like customization as well. As I’ve said in previous posts players LOVE hundreds upon hundreds of options. In a future post I will discuss min/maxing and how it’s actually pointless in the d20 system but back to the matter at hand.

Continue reading “Capitalism in the Heroic Sword and Sorcery World”

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Indentifying Items, Magical and Mundane

It’s been a bit of a busy week at work, and I’m actually putting some extra mental energy into a couple things there, so it’s a short and simple one tonight.

I’ve been generous with giving out the values of gems and other objects thus far in my DCC game, and I want to pull back the reins a bit on that. So I’m codifying the skill check DCs for appraising items; like all skill checks if your occupation applies roll a d20 and if not roll a d10. Intelligence bonus is added:

Faceted Gemstone CollectionDC 10 – Value of gems, jewelry, and pieces of precious metal

DC 15 – Value of art objects and artifacts of semi-precious material

DC 20 – Value of objects of purely cultural or historical significance

Identifying the function and lineage of magic items is a bit more difficult. Anyone can tell the attack and damage bonus provided by a weapon and AC and check penalty bonuses from armor with simple testing. To utilize any other benefit, it must either be researched or naturally reveal itself, such as a magical sword revealing a power when its special purpose is at hand or a potion’s function being revealed by someone drinking it.

Any character with an appropriate occupation or class can make a DC 20 Intelligence skill check to see if they recognize a magic item and its function when first encountering it. If they fail, a wizard, cleric, or sage will need to research the item to divine its nature. It takes a week and access to some research materials (extensive libraries may provide bonuses), after which the character makes another check against DC 20, this time adding their level as well. Should the character fail again, every subsequent week spent researching the same item adds a +2 bonus to the check.

Alchemy in the Age of Ruins

The Alchemist by David Teniers the YoungerTonight’s short post brought to you courtesy of the now-broken stand on our artificial Christmas tree and the extra running around it necessitated.

The science of alchemy delves into the base elements of existence and the strange essence of the otherwise intangible. Alchemy is not magic, per se, but trained alchemists can achieve extraordinary ends with their concoctions.

In game terms, alchemy in the Age of Ruins follows Arcane Background: Alchemy as described on pages 23-25 of the Fantasy Companion with a couple minor alterations. The No Power Points rule applies as normal, giving a penalty to the Alchemy skill roll. Since there are no power points, is no limit on how many potions an alchemist can create at a time. However, there is an added economic component to somewhat compensate for this: every potion requires consumable components worth 75 silver per rank of the power. So a potion based on a Novice power costs 75 silver to create, a potion based on a Seasoned power costs 150 silver, and so on. Also, the time required to create a potion is increased to two hours per rank.

A simple failure on the Alchemy role consumes the materials and causes “noxious vapors” as per the Alchemy Backlash table. Rolling a 1 on the Alchemy die (regardless of wild die) requires the alchemist roll on the Alchemy Backlash table, following the modified results below. The Perilous Practice rule applies.

Alchemy Backlash
1-10: Noxious vapors per Fantasy Companion p. 24
11-17: Medium Burst explosion, 2d6 damage
18-20: Large Burst explosion, 3d6 damage

I’m still mulling over the list of power effects that alchemists can learn, but for now the Fantasy Companion list works, save for Fly and Teleport being removed. As with mage spells, effect/reverse effect powers must be learned separately and Boost/Lower Trait only applies to one trait each time it is learned.

Magical Artifacts in the Age of Ruins

Persian Amulet / Photo: Tamoikins Museum

Items of power lie waiting in forgotten temples and forbidden tombs throughout the world. Many an adventurer risks life and limb in pursuit of such items. However, in order to fully utilize a magical artifact, a character must learn the nature of the item they wield.

The most rudimentary of magical qualities can be discerned through a simple casting of Detect Arcana. This reveals the magical aura around an item and gives the caster a general impression of its strength. In the case of artifacts with an obvious function, such as swords and armor, this also reveals to the players the basic bonuses to damage, Fighting, Parry, or Toughness such items provide. Also, any obvious “always on” effect can be easily determined (such as how much extra fire damage is done by a sword constantly wreathed in flame).

More esoteric or specialized powers, however, need to be determined through research or foreknowledge. This includes extra effects a magical weapon may be capable of (such as damage bonuses against specific foes or elemental damage that needs to be activated), as well as any function of items such as rings, robes, amulets, or wands. Until these powers are understood, a character cannot use or benefit from them, even if the benefit is passive (such as a belt granting great strength). Seeing another character use an item provides foreknowledge of the item’s power, but only as it relates to the function witnessed. Otherwise, any character with Knowledge Arcana may roll at -4 to see if they recognize the discovered artifact. Should this roll fail, research is required.

In order to research an artifact’s nature, a character must have access to some store of knowledge. This can range from a personal collection of tomes and notes to a great library buried among the ruins of a fallen city. The minimum amount of time a character must spend in research is 5 days, at the end of which the character makes a Knowledge Arcana check. Every full 5 days additional the character spends in research prior to the check adds +1 to the roll. Based on the quality and extent of research sources, an additional modifier ranging from -2 to +2 should be applied to the roll.

Some magical items contain tremendous power that the wielder must exert willpower to summon, such as staves and wands. When attempting to activate the power contained within these items, the wielder must roll either their Spellcasting skill or their Knowledge Arcana skill, whichever is lower. If the roll fails, the wielder is shaken. If the wielder rolls a 1 on the skill die, regardless of the result of the wild die, then they suffer backlash. For most items, this is the same effect as spellcasting backlash, but certain powerful artifacts may have their own unique backlash effects. As always, the Perilous Practice rule applies.

Pitiless Blades of Apoth-Rün
These khopesh swords (damage as long sword) were created by the cultists of the demon prince Apoth-Rün, the Vizier of Exquisite Agony. They are enchanted with a +1 bonus to damage and do 2d6 extra damage on a Fighting raise (instead of the usual 1d6, not in addition).

Staff of Haantrax
Carved by an ancient Arethi mage who dwelt deep in the Tarkash Mountains, this pure ebony staff is topped with a brilliant, swirling opal. When activated, anyone within a cone template must make a Spirit roll at -2; failure results in a wound. Any targets incapacitated as a result of this wound die screaming in horrendous pain as their flesh and organs rapidly melt away from their bones. If the wielder incurs backlash, they take 3d8 damage and suffer the same fate if incapacitated. Even if the wielder survives, their skin sags and resolidifies, distorting and disfiguring their appearance. A permanent -1 modifier is applied to the wielder’s Charisma for every wound suffered from backlash.