Elysian Harp

edited June 2018 in DesignFinder Chat
Elysian Harp

Aura faint enchantment; CL 3rd

Slot none; Price 24,500 gp; Weight 3 lbs.


This delicately carved wooden harp is strung with silver wire and can be held comfortably in a single hand, although both hands are required to utilize its special qualities. When played, an elysian harp produces notes of purest clarity, granting a +2 competence bonus on Perform (string instruments) checks made with this instrument. Starting such a performance is a standard action, but it can be maintained each round as a free action.

Any evil creature listening to the performance finds it repulsive and painful to listen to, taking a -1 penalty on attack rolls, damage rolls, saving throws, skill checks and ability checks for its duration. Additionally, for each full minute of playing the evil creature is exposed to they must make a DC 13 Fortitude save or be permanently deafened as per the blindness/deafness spell.

Due to the elysian harp’s music becoming distorted and jarring in the ears of evil creatures, they are immune to any use of the bardic performance class feature attempted with this instrument.

The harp bestows one permanent negative level on any evil creature holding or carrying it. The negative level remains as long as the creature has the harp and disappears immediately when the harp is no longer held or carried. This negative level cannot be overcome in any way (including by restoration spells) while the bearer has the harp.


Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, sacred space, creator must be good; Cost 12,250 gp


JACOB: First of all, congratulations; welcome to the Top 16 of the very first DesignFinder! A solid item that feels like its main use is combat, but which could have some nice out-of-combat uses in a political/intrigue-style adventure. I do wonder if that might make the permanent deafness a little overpowered (whereas it’s not likely to come into effect often at all in combat)? I think maybe toning it down so it deafens the creature to everything but the music for 1 day for each save they fail (saves would have to be made every round) might make it a little less of a potential plot-wrecker. Or perhaps limiting that effect to creatures with the evil subtype (as is, it would get the neutral evil blacksmith who’s biggest crime is he cuts some corners but isn’t out being a mwahaha villain; though I suppose that also poses a potential moral dilemma for a good user of this). I like that the designer thought through the use of bardic performance in terms of targets of this, but can it be combined with a bardic performance that benefits the user’s allies? It looks yes, though it would take two standard actions to do that, but it might be nice to call it out.

The template use looks good on this. The only thing I noticed is that restoration isn’t italicized in the last paragraph.

KATE: I really want there to be more specific musical instruments out there, so I love the idea behind this item! Since harps are so strongly linked to angels, I like the design choices here to create a harp with good-aligned abilities making music that is painful to evil creatures. I also appreciate how the author thought through various implications of different ways evil creatures might interact with the instrument and its songs. The DC for the deafening effect is pretty low for the level at which you could afford this item, but at the same time, this item would be too powerful if it consistently deafened every evil creature the owner faces. I’d also like the first paragraph to be a little more explicit about whether the performance also counts as a bardic performance. Altogether, I think this is a fun, evocative, and strongly thematic item. Nice work!

MIKE: I appreciate a magic instrument that affects specific creatures, and this is an appropriate instrument for good characters (not just bards). The name fits the type of instrument and its usefulness against evil creatures. This went above and beyond a static penalty to evil creatures by adding the possible deafness effect. You also did a good job of including the bit about evil creatures possessing the harp (although restoration should have been italicized). The only real issue I had when reading through this was the activation, especially with respect to high-level bards who can start a performance more quickly than using a standard action. The way this is written, a high-level bard cannot use this any more quickly than a low-level bard or a non-bard. That is a minor quibble overall, though.

Congratulations and welcome to the top 16!

REP: Congratulations! I’m delighted to see a magic instrument that isn’t tied into boosting a bardic performance, per se, and yet the item type absolutely makes sense thematically (angels, harps, etc.). I wish the effect had a little more pizzazz than a debuff+blindness, but the nuances make it more than a SIAC (if just) and the theming elevates it. The third paragraph gives me pause -- you could first of all do without it, probably, and as worded, the ability suggests that, for example, a good creature could not harm an evil creature with deadly performance--when indeed it should perhaps be even more harmful (I presume the intent is that such creatures can’t benefit from bardic performances). Given the effects of the item, I would add blindness/deafness to the construction requirements.


  • edited June 2018
    Well done on your advancement into Round 2 as one of the top 16. It will be fun to see what you bring to the table in the next round.

    Some things I would mention (which are purely personal opinions) from a strictly objective view:
    I would probably put a range on the ability.  While the item is quite costly, I think unrestricted range puts a lot of bookkeeping and pressure on a GM to get a location on any potential 'listening' evil creatures, and then having to possibly make Perception checks while doing calculations of distance penalties for each 10 feet away, intervening barriers, etc. as well as at what point does the DC exceed a chance for each one of them (who might have different Perceptions) to hear it. I would probably stick with 60 feet range.

    Additionally, your wording uses 'listening' in regards to evil creatures being affected.  As any woman who ever dated me might tell you, there's a difference between hearing and listening and that wording could leave room for someone to claim that they aren't 'listening', just hearing it and not paying attention. Probably safer to just use 'hearing'.

    Thematically, I would prefer a clause about not allowing Performance bonuses where any reasonable percentage of an audience might contain evil people. Visualizing that a person might be performing on the street and be getting a Perform bonus (thereby conceivably receiving additional funds and income for a good performance) while simultaneously creating a horrific (and debilitatingly painful) sound to potentially 1/3rd of possible passerbys (obviously alignment spread varies by settlement) is a bit wonky (but granted, this isn't likely to be a game breaker of a quandary).

    The main issue I would have from a thematic/power-scale is that there is no real requirement for the user to have any training in Perform (stringed instruments) or any appropriate skill at all to gain full benefits (nor is there a save for anyone affected). This means anyone can just pick up the harp and with a standard action be debilitating a sizable area of effect and creatures who get no chance to resist the painful effects (small penalties though they be. Yes, the deafening after one minute allows a save, but I think that's fine if they've been subjected to one minute of it).  Whether you're a fully trained bard or someone who's made an effort to at least spend a skill point here and there or you've never seen a harp before except in a book, the effect is all the same and the bonus the harp itself provides to Perform (stringed instruments) is almost of no nevermind at all in so far as it pertains to the item's powers. Possibly there could be a set, small save DC with an increase to the DC based on the success of a Perform check. I would also, probably change the wording that they are affected for its duration to 'they are affected as long as they can hear it' since becoming deaf should prevent them from having any further penalties, but that's just my thoughts on it.
  • Good item with a clear theme, well done!

    It looks like Kate and I had similar concerns: the DC is pretty low given the item's cost and effect. Maybe lower the duration of the blindness/deafness and up the DC, perhaps preserving the permanent blindness/deafness as a limited use effect with a long cooldown.
    I also agree that being more explicit about how the item's use interacts with bardic performance would be helpful.

    The others've brought up good points re: using this item in a setting with "mundane" evil creatures, like Jacob's blacksmith example. If the intent were to have the harp's main effects work on "big" evils like devils, then perhaps as simple solution is to limit it to creatures with the evil subtype.

    The above are minor notes*; your item has a strong theme, is well written, and does something cool! Good luck in the next round!

    *Just like what a devil'd hear from the harp—eyyyy, music puns
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