Ravelling Tunic

edited June 2018 in DesignFinder Chat

Ravelling Tunic

Aura faint transmutation; CL 5th

Slot Chest; Price 8000 gp; Weight 2 lbs.


This finely spun cotton tunic seems to shift and flex like a living creature; the occasional loose thread wriggling back into place in moments. Whenever the wearer of this tunic is struck by a melee or ranged weapon, the ravelling tunic gains one charge as the fabric sustains rips and tears.

Upon gaining three charges the wearer may, as an immediate action, expend all of the tunic’s charges as it wildly stitches itself back together. All creatures within 5 feet of the wearer must make a DC16 Reflex save or become entangled as hundreds of errant threads bind their body. Entangled creatures can break free with a DC 20 Strength or Escape Artist check. Once charges have been expended in this manner, no further charges can be gained until the following day.

Alternatively, the wearer of a ravelling tunic may expend a single charge as a move action to cast a thread up to 50 feet in any direction and lasso an appropriate anchor point, immediately pulling the wearer in a straight line to that location as the thread weaves itself back into the tunic. This movement is treated as a Withdraw action for the purposes of provoking attacks of opportunity. However, if the wearer is struck by an attack of opportunity while moving in this fashion, they may instead halt their movement rather than taking damage as the thread pulling them is severed by the attack.

Unused charges expire after one hour as the tunic fully repairs itself, also regaining any hit points the tunic may have lost.


Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, animate rope, mending; Cost 4000 gp


JACOB: First of all, congratulations; welcome to the Top 16 of the very first DesignFinder! What an interesting shirt, which I can see almost any player wanting in their closet. I like that a lot of its abilities can be offensive or defensive and I’d be very curious to see how people use it in practice, which I think would vary a lot depending on what type of character is wearing it. Visually, it’s interesting as usually we pretend our characters’ clothing just magically emerges unscathed (at least mechanically, and at least in my groups) from all the fighting they do, but this makes the damage much more explicit. I am a little concerned that it might involve a lot of bookkeeping to keep track of all the characters. To try to make it easier, maybe have it be any round in which the wearer is hit adds a charge instead of every attack (at high levels, the wearer could get hit three times in a single round....). I also don’t really like it being an immediate action to do entangle; that’s a pretty strong ability as is, considering there aren’t a ton of immediate actions competing for attention. I do like that it’s all creatures within 5 feet, not just enemies, as that means it requires a little more tactical thought from anyone using it.

Template-wise, this looks pretty clean. It’s missing commas in the price and cost, and you don’t need to capitalize “withdraw” or the slot (“chest”). Also, it’s preferred to write that a target “must succeed” at a saving throw, not “must make.”

KATE: This is a fun item with some really neat visual descriptions of its effects! I like how both the effects really tie to the theme of raveling threads. (I don’t know the author’s provenance, but I would change this to the American spelling raveling for an American publisher.) I did have some lingering mechanical questions. When the opponents are entangled, are they attached to the wearer by the threads, or are they simply entangled in their own threads which have detached from the tunic? I also noticed some subtle grammar issues, such as the sentence fragment after the semi-colon in the first sentence. Nice work on an interesting and thematic item!

MIKE: The tunic is an evocative magic item with a lot of great imagery. You kept to a tight theme for the item, and all its effects are nice outgrowths of that theme. The way it gains charges is cool (I agree with Jacob that it should be limited to 1 charge per round the wearer took damage) and something a more combat-oriented wearer will encounter often enough to make use of it. The lasso effect is great. Like Kate, I was a little confused about the mechanics of the entangled effect, since it seemed like the threads were still attached to the tunic.

Congratulations and welcome to the top 16!

REP: Congratulations! What a great idea! I like imagining this at work, and this is a fun item in particular for its slot. I assume “within 5 feet” should actually read “adjacent” (otherwise some might presume this means 5 feet away, which is different). The Withdraw feature is particularly cool, though it took me a couple readthroughs to understand properly how it worked.


  • Congratulations. You've accomplished quite a feat! Some things I wanted to mention from my reading:
    Like Kate, I envisioned the entangling threads as extending from the tunic and effectively linking the wearer with the surrounding creatures, though further reading leads me to conclude that this isn't the intent. Use of phrasing to clarify that the entangling threads are free-flying or unattached would clear this up.

    The withdraw ability is pretty cool.  I think its usage is clear enough that it's understandable how to judge an attack of opportunity that deals no damage, ie. a trip or grapple. The target is only protected from actual damaging AoOs, and still affected by other outcomes.

    As a personal opinion, I probably would prefer a duration on the entangle ability (likely 5 rounds based on CL).  Otherwise, it's read as a permanent effect until the targets break free. While this is certainly do-able, in such cases (and at that cost and caster level) the DC 20 to break free or escape can mean that even Taking 20 and spending 2 minutes can be a failure for any creature with a Strength penalty or a Dexterity penalty.  Even with the understanding that weaker creatures probably have better Dex for Escape Artist, being entangled is a –4 penalty to Dex. If you want it permanent, I would personally set the DC at about 15 (or 16 to match the Reflex DC made to avoid being entangled), which means that Taking 20 could get almost anyone free (eventually, assuming they aren't killed by then).
  • Just want to thank the judges and other forum goers for their comments on my item, it was really useful feedback.
    I'm absolutely stoked that I made it through, particularly looking at the items made by the rest of the Top 16, they are amazing and I'm looking forward to seeing what we all produce for Round 2.
  • @piratej out of curiosity, why are the Strength/Escape Artist DCs different than the Reflex save DC? For entangle the DCs are typically the same. Seems like having 1 DC to keep track of would be easier than having 2. Just my 2 cents. Also, from a design perspective, how did you decide on the DCs? Would love to hear your insights. Thanks!
  • Design Deconstruction - Raveling Tunic
    A deconstruction of what went into designing my item for DesignFinder 2018.
    I will examine the inspiration and seed for the design, the base effects for the item (and early design prototypes), how I balanced the numbers and finally responses to the suggestions (hint: they were all pretty excellent suggestions).

    One aspect of magic that I often like to explore in both fiction and games is that of inconsistency. Magic in fantasy often does not behave in consistent, reproducible ways, it gets out of control or does something unexpected. This can be difficult to explore in game mechanics because it can make it difficult for a player to judge the difficulty of doing something eg. I've never really liked any incarnation of wild magic rules.
    However, one place where I think the idea of inconsistency (or uniqueness) can be used effectively is in the feel and history of magical items (their flavor rather than their effect). For example, I really enjoyed cyphers within the Numenera system because they did often feel like clunky, cobbled together remnants of a previous world.

    With that in mind, I approached the design challenge with the constraint that my item be a simple idea, that then 'went wrong.' So I started with the idea of a shirt with a mending charm cast on it, a very simple idea but one that would be useful and desirable for anyone, not just adventurers. And from there I tried to imagine what would happen if the enchantment went wrong...

    Pt 1 of 3
  • Design Deconstruction - Raveling Tunic (pt 2 of 3)
    Base Design

    There are three components that went into the base design of the Raveling Tunic; the entangle ability, the lasso and how it gains charges. 
    The most straightforward of these components is how it gains charges. Most Pathfinder items either simply require the appropriate action type (standard, move, swift etc) to activate and may limit this by a certain number of uses per day. However, this didn't feel very organic to the idea of a self-mending tunic. Gaining charges as the wearer (and by extension, the item itself) takes damage ties much more closely to the theme of the item and makes a lot of intuitive sense.

    Now, the entangle ability. While I think the thematic link between this effect and the flavor of the item is pretty straightforward, there were a few finicky decisions to make and this ability probably had the most tweaks and changes made to it.
    One element of this design that I consider strong is requiring the entangle ability to not only use three charges, but to use up all charges and then prevent further charges being gained. This essentially makes the entangle ability a 1/day effect (which is good because it can be potent) but also requires tactical decisions in its use, since it also prevents the use of the lasso ability, and you must trade off between the two.

    One of the early prototypes for this ability was the simple change that the entangle ability activated immediately upon hitting three charges, no action required but also not controlled by the wearer. This could have led to even more interesting tactical decisions as the player has to decide not between whether they want to entangle or keep using their lasso ability (two actions which they control) but between whether they move or risk being hit and losing their lasso ability. This could have also led to interesting play when the tunic is used as NPC/villain gear, as the players can learn how the item works over the first couple of encounters, and exploit that knowledge in later fights (such as triggering it early with ranged attacks and entangling the villains own allies). 
    Ultimately though, I thought it more important to allow a player who purchased this item the agency to decide when the entangle ability triggers (the earlier example against a villain with the item would be much less fun for the player to be on the other end of).

    Finally, the lasso ability. This ability answers the question of what happens if damaged pieces of the tunic are thrown away from the whole. This also gave the item a repeatable ability over the course of the day (As a player, I sometimes end up not using X/day abilities as I'm waiting for the 'perfect' time to use them). While I had a very strong idea of most aspects of this ability; distance moved is 50ft (as a standard length of rope) and movement must be in a straight line, the interaction of this movement with attacks of opportunity was less obvious. I contemplated preventing AoOs entirely, this would have been the simplest option but it also doesn't feel right, being dragged along by a magical thread definitely feels like it should provoke AoOs. 
    On the other hand, I considered a worst case where you might use this ability; where you are overwhelmed by enemies and need to retreat. Taking AoOs and possibly dying could be much less preferable than simply standing and fighting and dying anyway. Attacks of opportunity can sometimes really inhibit tactical and dynamic movement around an area as many players (and GMs) hate provoking them.
    Using the withdraw action I felt, was a nice middle ground that felt right. It also allowed me to include the further option of preventing the damage at the cost of stopping movement, another tactical consideration of using this item. As might be clear, I really enjoy options that give you more decisions that are 'difficult.'
  • Design Deconstruction - Raveling Tunic (pt 3 of 3)
    Crunching Numbers

    When assigning specific numbers to this item, I was keeping in mind when I envisioned this item seeing play, which was around levels 5-9 and most of the balancing was done with this in mind. 

    For the DC 16 Reflex save, this was selected simply as a number that sat well within this level range for likely foes, having a >50% chance of affecting lower CR monsters or ones with bad reflex saves while having a much lower chance against monsters of higher CR/good reflex saves. Simple as that, no messing about without minimum save DC like you would with a wand or scroll. This DC seems like it would be good and useable over several levels while not being too overwhelming. There are several magical items that have really interesting effects that (at least I) simply don't use because the DCs are too low. I could say that I decided the DC was 10+CL (5)+spell level (1) because that sounds Pathfinder-y but I didn't do that and I don't know of anywhere that uses that as a formula. It is just happy coincidence. 
    Originally, I was going to use the Strength/Escape Artist DC as the same as hemp rope (since that was what I was basing the movement length on for the lasso ability. However, that is DC23 which is FAR TOO high. Instead, I decided on using the same DC as the rope of entanglement which had an analagous effect.

    Often, caster level has little effect on a magic item and the default is to use the lowest CL for the spells used in the item requirements, which would have been CL 1. However, this can often make things feel a bit wonky. Two factors helped me decide on the CL. One, I had decided that a faint magical aura would be appropriate for the item, the base concept was a self-mending shirt which didn't seem associated with particularly strong magic. The second factor was that CL affects crafting DC and an item's saves (when it has to make its own). Thus I used CL 5 since it gave it the highest possible saves (which I wanted since it's self-mending) while retaining a faint aura.

    Finally price. If we were simply to use the magic item formulas we would get a price of around 3,500 gp (1x1x2,000gp (animate rope, don't divide by charges/day because one of the lasso effect is not limited) + 0.5x1x2,000x1.5 (mending)). However, this just seems way too cheap and doesn't reflect the inclusion of both abilities. If we included the cost for a second level spell (the ranger spell burst of adrenaline, has a similar effect as the lasso) we get a price closer to 12,000gp + 600gp + 1,500gp, or 14,100gp. This price feels closer but I had two reservations. The first being that it is a little too expensive for the low end of where I wanted this item to see play (level 5 WBL is 10,500gp). And even though level 6 and up can afford it, it is not the first item a player would buy (magic weapons/armor/stat and save boosters being much higher priority. The second reservation is that this price does not take into account the limitation on the lasso ability (that it is disabled by using the entangle) and that the uses aren't 'free,' you actually have to be hit to gain charges. So you are kinda paying hit points to use the abilities. So I split the difference in the prices and placed it at 8,000gp, affordable at levels 5-9 while being cheap enough you can buy the must-haves as well.

    And here at the end of this deconstruction I wanted to address what I thought about the comments/suggestions from both the judges and a few others. Because pretty much all of them were great.

    Gaining charges 1/round - Both Jacob and Mike suggested that the tunic should only gain charges 1/round instead of each attack. I think given the incarnation of the tunic I went with, they are totally correct as it makes tracking charges a bit simpler and means you can't gain charges too quickly. The each attack decision was a holdover from the early prototype where the entangle effect was not voluntary, as it made it easier for the tunic to be overwhelmed and I simply forgot to re-examine the decision when I made the change.
    Confusion about the entangle effect - my intention with the entangle effect was simply that the threads were free-flowing as @pizza_lord interpreted however, I can definitely see that that was not quite clear. I do like the interesting different tactical considerations that would arise from enemies being attached to the wearer.
    AoOs - The possibility of trips/disarms/sunders being used was actually a niche case that I didn't take into account which is why this was slightly unclear. I think it totally reasonable that any of those three combat maneuvers could simply apply their effects without preventing movement. The only ones that might require a bit more ruling for would be the drag and reposition (with the Quick CM feats from Ultimate Combat) and the grab monster ability. Great catch @pizza_lord.
    Duration of entangle ability - as soon as I read this suggested change to the item, I was immediately on-board. It gave another reason for the CL to matter and it made complete sense. Again, @pizza-lord with the great suggestions.
    Difficulty to escape DC - both @pizza_lord and @noisyninjaneer raised the question of why the escape DC was higher than the initial reflex save. In hindsight, I agree with them, it would have been simpler to keep the escape DC at 16. Originally, the threads also had hit points (2 hp as, hemp rope) but I believe I cut that to improve flow/make word count.
  • Thanks for all the info @piratej, very insightful! I COMPLETELY agree with your design intent of creating difficult (I tend to use the word "interesting") choices. Well played.
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