Ted's RPG Rant

A place to rant about RPG games, particularly the Temple of Elemental Evil. Co8 members get a free cookie for stopping by. Thats ONE cookie each, no seconds.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Kecik! 76

Crikey, I made this back in July... wonder why I never got around to posting it?

The birds haven't been coming lately, but for a while there they were so eager they would literally come in to hurry us along. On one occasion, Yvy left the window open after cooking somehing and came back to find a lorikeet perched on the fridge.

I can live with that, but she was less than happy, as the comic says...


Friday, October 03, 2008

Metamagic Components Update

I'm sorta having a few second thoughts about elements of this.

Checking out the Metamagic Components SRD, they seem to be REALLY expensive. Really really REALLY. I understand the thinking behind this - balance, of course, and to make sure people still use metamagic feats rather than rely on the components, and the fact that being able to metamgick your middle level spells without sacrificing your high-level ones is a major boon - and I certainly won't say they are 'too expensive', because doubtless the folks who created Unearthed Arcana put some sort of testing and thought into it all, and I have done only a little of the latter and none of the former. But from the simple perspective of "if I mod this, will they come?" I am not sure it will be worth the effort. I haven't made up my mind, and I enjoy readfing up on this stuff, and I am not going to try and do any of it til my other priorities for KotB and the Co8 patch are done, but I was thinking of putting one or two metamagic components in the KotB Demo just to give folks a taste - maybe one to maximise Burning Hands or something, see what people think of it - and thats when I hit the costs. Some examples:

Repel Vermin Widened: Rare snakeskin worth 3,150 gp

Ok, we're not doing 'Widened', but this one caught my eye because rare snakeskins is something I could easily add as a component, what with all the animals and such running around in the woods outside the Keep. But I gotta ask, what is the point? Sure, it keeps the critters back twice the distance (or an extra 100% on the diameter, meaning an extra 50% in any given direction? Not sure). But they either push through the barrier and come at you, or they don't wherever the barrrier is (ok yes yes yes, this lets you protect a bigger party, I understand that, but you also get my reservations). I mean it's paying 3150gp when you could just say, "everyone bunch up!"

A similar example:

Glitterdust Widened: Ground topaz worth 1,950 gp

What 3rd level caster about to cast his 2nd level spell has 1950 gp to burn to make it work somewhat better?

Polar Ray Enlarged: Pale sapphire worth 1,650 gp

Again, we are not doing 'enlarged', but Polar Ray caught my eye because its one of our new spells and one of the ones that really got me thinking about adding Foci to the game. but 1650gp to make your close-quaters ray go a bit further? And its a ranged touch attack, for criminey's sake - what if it misses???

Flame Blade Extended: Masterwork scimitar worth 315 gp

This one is just ridiculous to me: a 3rd level Druid would hope to have a masterwork scimitar, if not an actual magic one yet (probably would - wealth by level and all that - but they aren't that common a weapon) but would he sacrifice it to extend a spell? Gimme a break!

For the record, we can do the following Metamagic Feats right there in the script:

- Extend
- Maximise
- Heighten
- Empower

I'm pretty happy with that. I don't think we can do:

- Enlarge
- Still
- Silent
- Quicken

and I am not sure about Widen: I suspect we could do the effect of Widen but it wouldn't be matched by the animation, so it would look like a cheap hack and increase the number of times you fry party members etc.

Getting back to it: now, I understand that Widen adds 3 levels, so a metamagic component lets a 2nd-level caster cast like he is a 5th level caster: no small bonus, that. But the fact remains its asking a 2nd level caster (that is to say, a 3rd level caster, if you take my meaning ;)) to burn nearly 2k gp on a spell that remains very much a 2nd level spell, just affecting a bigger area. Will anyone playing KotB ever do that? I have my doubts...

I am having the same issues with Alchemy (or Craft (Alchemy), and thats the last time I shall mention the distinction). I have a lot of ideas about adding Alchemy, and I think it could REALLY be done justice. I won't go into it right now: a pleasant surprise for somewhere down the track, I hope :) But again, look at the cost of alchemical items:

Acid (flask) 10 gp 1 lb.
Antitoxin (vial) 50 gp —
Smokestick 20 gp ½ lb.
Tanglefoot bag 50 gp 4 lb.
Thunderstone 30 gp 1 lb

I've pruned the list to those that can/will/might actually appear in the game (no Sunrods etc) and I have some other stuff in mind too. Very useful items for low-level parties, but look at those costs! Of course it is only a third of that to actually craft them - the whole point - but then you have the DCs of 20-25 for everything but acid. Pass a DC25 check to make a Tanglefoot bag, or burn 50gp buying it? Either way, you're looking at a few levels up before you can comfortably do either, and by then, why bother?

Annoying that, but again, necessary for game balance. I get that. I just don't like it :(

Moving on: lets look at the positive aspects of these ideas. There are some metamagic components whose pricing makes a lot more sense and would still be worth using. Some examples:

Barkskin Extended: Heartwood of venerable oak worth 340 gp
Bear’s Endurance Extended: Distilled alcohol worth 340 gp
Bear’s Endurance, mass Extended: Distilled alcohol worth 940 gp

Do Druids chop down venerable oaks to extend their spells? No stupider than them wearing hide armour I suppose : "look, an innocent creature of the forest - kill it for its hide, I need armour!" But I digress. Extending protective spells makes a LOT of sense and while on a dungeon crawl, being able to extend your protection past 1 encounter improves your chances of survival and also makes for a much better game (not having to run off to camp after every fight). And those costs aren't too high - by the time you can cast Mass Bear's Endurance, you can afford 940gp to Extend it.

BUT you wouldn't be paying 940gp: you would be paying 1/3 of that, because you would MAKE the distilled alcohol using your Alchemy skill :) So you could get a bigger bang for your 2nd level buck for only 113gp!

See where this is going? By having the Triad, as it were, of Alchemy, Material Components and Metamagic Components, you can open up a whole new section of the game. Every encounter, every area to explore, every professional you encounter, will have the possibility of contributing something for a material or metamagic component, many of which will have to be harvested or distilled or alchemically treated. Other examples (not necessarily ones I will use):

Cat’s Grace Extended: Vial of quicksilver 340 gp
Cat’s Grace, mass Extended: Vial of quicksilver 940 gp
Control Plants Extended: Alchemical defoliant 1,650 gp
Cure Light Wounds Empowered: Alchemical salve 700 gp
Cure Moderate Wounds Empowered: Alchemical salve 1,100 gp
Cure Serious Wounds Empowered: Alchemical salve 1,500 gp
Magic Weapon Extended: Alchemically distilled blood 250 gp
Magic Weapon, greater Extended: Alchemically purified blood 750 gp

Distilled blood? This makes for a nice segue into the next issue: harvesting things and other forms of material conponents.

Unearthed Arcana discusses the issue of harvesting tissue, which we already have in KotB based on a simple Survival check. That will remain for things like wolf pelts etc, because hunting and skinning is obviously a direct function of Survival, but for harvesting animal parts (be it for metamagic components, material components, poisons or just as quest items) UA recommends Profession (Taxidermy). This gives us an excuse to add a new skill with lots of potential uses - always a good thing, especially for spell-casters who generally have little interesting in the way of class skills beyond Concentration and Spellcraft - which can be pursued by those who want to focus in Alchemy and play that whole part of the game, and ignored by others who don't want a bar of any of it.

This again links up with both ordinary material components and metamagic ones: indeed the main use for it, I suspect, will be harvesting ordinary material components. Of course the occasional gorgon hoof, minotaur horn and rare toad skin will still pop up. Alchemical treatment can be applied on a case by case basis.

One last issue for today: corrupt spells. The Book of Vile Darkness lists some corrupt spells, some of which look relatively easy to make, and some other evil stuff. I don't fully understand the concept of corruption: take the second such spell, 'absorb strength'. You eat a chunk of fresh flesh, and you gain 1/4 the previous owners Str and Con scores as an enhancement bonus to your own fopr 10 mins / level. Interesting idea.

Now the corruption: 2d6 Wisdom damage as soon as the spell ends.

What is that? Temporary, like barbarian fatigue, or permanent? Are you assumed to carry a Restoration Scroll in your pocket? I don't think the book goes into nearly enough detail, but perhaps I haven't read enough of it: it may be dealt with elsewhere. The errata notes that the idea is present in 'Complete Divine' too. But if its permanent damage as it seems, you better be eating the flesh of some gargantuan critter like a dragon thats going to give you massive boosts to your scores, because you ain't casting that spell again in a hurry.

What has this got to do with material components? Ok, nothing, I was just throwing it out there on a tangent. But the idea of corrupt and vile magic is certainly there, and seems relatively straighforward in many cases. It also involves many sorts of material components, so expands that area of the game yet again. The Book of Exalted Deeds has the same sort of things: Distilled Joy, Pegasus Feathers, Unicorn Tail hair. Listen to the descriptions of some of these things:

Celestial Blood: If a spell to which this component is applied deals damage, there is a 30% chance that the spell deals an extra +2d6 points of damage to an evil target. The celestial who gave the blood must still be alive for this to function.
Couatl Feather: A spell to which this component is applied has a 35% chance to have its effective caster level increased by +2.
Couatl Scale: A spell to which this component is applied has a 30% chance to have its saving throw DC increased by +1.
Lammasu Claw: A spell to which this component is applied has a 25% chance to have any damage the spell deals increased by +10%.
Lillend Scale: If a spell to which this component is applied requires a Will save, there’s a 40% chance that the saving throw DC is increased by +1. When the scale is used by a bard, the chance increases to 60%.
Pegasus Feather: If this component is used when casting detect good or detect evil, the caster learns the number of evil auras and the power of the most potent aura in the first round of concentration instead of the second, and the power and location of each aura in the second round instead of the third.
Phoenix Feather: A spell to which this component is applied has a 10% chance to remain prepared even after being cast. Casters who do not prepare spells gain no advantage from this component.
Unicorn Blood: The blood of a living unicorn is a powerful alchemical substance. It can be formed into a ravage (see Ravages and Afflictions, above) that saps the strength of evil creatures.
Also, if a spell to which this component is applied requires a Fortitude save, there’s a 40% chance that the saving throw DC is increased by +1. In either case, unicorn blood retains its potency only as long as the unicorn that gave it remains alive.
Unicorn Horn (Sliver): Removing a unicorn’s entire horn kills it, but a unicorn may on rare occasions give a sliver of its horn to a favored ally. If a spell to which this component is applied requires a touch attack (melee or ranged), there’s a 40% chance that the caster receives a +1 sacred bonus on the attack roll.
Unicorn Tail Hair: A spell to which this component is applied has a 20% chance to have its duration doubled.

I do believe that little bit counts as 'fair use' and doesn't violate copyright ;) But look at them - they are metamagic components! Sure they don't work all the time - 30% chance here, 20% chance there - but they work on ANY good spell! Talk about powerful! Now check out the cost:

Ambrosia (distilled joy) 200 gp
Angel radiance 20 gp
Blink dog tooth 30 gp
Celestial blood 20 gp
Couatl feather 10 gp
Couatl scale 16 gp
Lammasu claw 30 gp
Lillend scale 15 gp
Pegasus feather 11 gp
Phoenix feather 40 gp
Unicorn blood 500 gp
Unicorn horn (sliver) 55 gp
Unicorn tail hair 25 gp

They are a FRACTION of the cost of UA's metamagic components!!!

Now THATS unbalanced...

It gets worse: now for the table from Book of Vile Darkness:

Agony (liquid pain) 200 gp
Humanoid eye 2 cp
Beast brain fluid 3 sp
Humanoid finger 1 cp
Bit of lycanthrope fur or skin 7 sp
Humanoid hand 3 cp
Humanoid heart 1 sp
Bit of ochre jelly or gray ooze 5 sp
Metallic dragon heart 7 gp
Soul in larval form 250 gp
Chromatic dragon heart 6 gp
Soul in receptacle 200 gp
Demon flesh 5 gp
Tongue of creature capable of speech 3 cp
Demon heart 18 gp
Devil’s heart 20 gp
Vial of humanoid blood 3 cp
Feather of an intelligent creature 20 gp
Vrock feather (only one usable per fiend) 1 gp
Humanoid bone 1 cp
Yugoloth’s brain 5 gp
Humanoid brain 4 cp

A humanoid brain, still fresh (or preserved), for 4cp? Ok, thats just ridiculous. (Admitedly there is a 10gp cost to preserve them, but what does that mean for the 4cp? You can't buy a fresh one unless you are standing next to the guy who just did the butchering as it happened, and you're telling me he's gonna hand it over for 4 coppers???) Indeed since so many of these are under 1gp, you can apply the 'don't bother to track them' rule and just announce that you are using them on EVERY spell. Thats right, EVERY spell can have a % chance of a metamagic-style feat being applied! Lets just look at the effect of the ones that are 1gp or less:

Humanoid Heart: A spell that this component is applied to has a 25% chance to have its effective caster level increased by +2. The heart must be intact and well preserved (still bloody).
Humanoid Brain: A spell that this component is applied to has a 50% chance to have its range doubled. The brain must be intact and fresh (or preserved).
Humanoid Child’s Eye: A spell that this component is applied to has a 20% chance to have its duration doubled. The eye must be intact and fresh or (or preserved).
Humanoid Finger: If a spell that this component is applied to requires a touch attack (melee or ranged), there is a 40% chance to receive a +1 profane bonus on the attack roll. The finger must be intact and well preserved (still

Hmmm... some of them aren't described, I think they must be specific components for evil spells (haven't read them all). But this lot give us the necessary ammunition for the discussion at hand - these are all metamagic feats (except the last one): 25% chance of Heighten +2, 50% chance of Enlarge, 20% chance of Extend - each for a negligable cost, and while they only work on Evil spells, they work on ANY Evil spells.


And - yup, you've guessed it, if we are going to allow these things to be harvestable, that means any old peasant in Hommlet or wherever suddenly becomes a wealthy repository of usable parts.

Perhaps not a direction we want the game to go...