Pernicious Poet's Pen
Pernicious Poet's Pen
Aura moderate enchantment; CL 7th
Slot none; Price 14,000 gp; Weight – lbs.
This silver inkpen bears a golden nib that produces its own ink, creating beautiful calligraphy regardless of the writer's skill. Up to three times per day as a standard action, the pen may be commanded to act of its own accord, casting all creatures within a 60-foot radius as players in an impromptu poetic drama. All creatures within this area must make a successful DC 15 Will saving throw or be compelled to speak in flowery verse for 4 rounds, narrating their actions as though part of an epic poem. Affected creatures increase the time required for any action by one step (free actions become swift, swift actions become move actions, etc.). Actions taking one full-round action or longer cannot be performed while under the effect of a pernicious poet's pen and certain surreptitious actions (such as using Stealth to hide) may be considerably more difficult while narrating their effects. This is a language-dependent mind-affecting effect.
The user of the pen may choose a number of creatures equal to their Charisma modifier or ranks in Perform (act or oratory) to exclude from the effect, whichever is higher.
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, fumbletongue, slow; Cost 7,000 gp
COMMENTS FROM THE JUDGES:
JACOB: First of all, congratulations; welcome to the Top 16 of the very first DesignFinder! This is a fun idea, which in the hands of the right players/GM could make for a very memorable/amusing encounter. (I think it’s fine for those who are less comfortable -- you simply say the NPC narrates his actions and announces he’s going to cast spell X and then he does so.) This brings enough flavor to make Ogden Nash and his Custard the Cowardly Dragon happy (sorry, I felt I had to work at least one poetry reference into these comments). I like the idea of increasing action times -- I think it’s something we’ll see a lot in 2e, based on the playtest blogs, but there’s no reason it can’t be done here (though as Kate notes in her comments, I’m not sure there are “steps” for actions). As always, I like when designers think about caveats/details with their items, though I’m not sure this needs to be language-dependent; that indicates that it “uses intelligible language as a medium for communication. If the target cannot understand or hear what the caster of a language-dependent spell says, the spell has no effect, even if the target fails its saving throw.” I don’t think that applies here. I think it more needs to be the target must be able to speak a language, otherwise it can’t narrate. I also wondered if this would have some other effect on abilities that require verbal components (including bardic performances, challenges, etc.). Clearly nothing’s meant to happen that hampers it, but I wonder if that should be called out more specifically? Also, does someone have to announce what spell they’re casting, or just that they’re casting? That could very much matter and I’m not sure that’s as clear as my previous question. I think it’s interesting that the 4 rounds -- which is often the duration of an entire combat -- might not be long enough in this case, as it would likely mean no iterative attacks at higher levels … except: I really dislike the exclusion factor. Attribute (or skill ranks)-based aspects throws off the pricing of magic items, as this item becomes more valuable to certain characters than others. I think I’d have rather had it just affect enemies if you were going to effectively allow it to do that (for most PCs, by the time they get to sixth level, they’ll have enough ranks to exclude all their allies). Honestly, I think it’s more fun if the PCs have to follow through too, though I can see why that would make it less appealing.
Template/style-wise, I don’t see anything wrong. Nice job!
KATE: This item literally made me laugh out loud, so I really like it. The effect is just fun. It is a bit whimsical for many audiences, so this wouldn’t be appropriate for every publisher. It also might pressure players and GMs to have to come up with flowery prose on the spot, if folks feel like they need to speak exactly as their characters would. Mechanically, I’m not sure that there’s a specific progression for increasing actions by one “step,” so I think I would have simply spelled out the effect on each action type. This is a pretty powerful debuff, so the effects need to be really clear. The user of the item doesn’t seem to be automatically excluded from the effect, which I’m not sure is intended. Nice work on a compelling and interesting magic item, and thank you for the giggle!
MIKE: For some groups the pen will be a fun item at a rate of three times per day. I know I personally would have a blast having my NPCs and creatures narrate their actions. For many groups this would also be an enjoyable item, but maybe once. For proper use of the pen, it would require the players and the GM to get into the right mindset. The GM would take on most of the burden with this, since many owners would have the requisite Charisma score or ranks in Perform to exclude their allies. That is a minor concern (for which I would suggest a 1/day usage) that really doesn’t detract from the pen’s inventiveness.
Congratulations and welcome to the top 16!
REP: Congratulations! Your item’s effect is amusing, and as a literature geek I particularly enjoy picturing this in action. I wish this had been refined and worked on a little more thoroughly; e.g., in saying, “the pen may be commanded to act of its own accord” -- “of its own accord” needs defining: is it actually writing, or is it just the focus of the spell? While you later clarify that the interaction/skill of the user is necessary, this is not clear from get-go and I’d prefer clearer activation requirements up front. 60 foot radius = 120 foot diameter = ridiculously huge area of effect.