Statesman's Top Hat

edited June 2018 in DesignFinder Chat

Statesman’s Top Hat

Aura Moderate Enchantment    CL 10

Slot Head            Price 16,800gp                   Weight 1lb


A favorite among unscrupulous Gnomish politicians, this elegant silken top hat looms imposingly at nearly a foot and a half in height. Despite its unwieldy height, a Statesman’s Top Hat remains snugly upon its wearer’s head and is not in danger of falling off.

The wearer of a Statesman’s Top Hat appears to stand at an imposing height to observers, regardless of their actual height, causing the wearer to be treated as one size larger than they actually are for the purpose of size modifiers to Intimidate checks. Additionally, once per day when the wearer uses the Intimidate skill to force another creature to act friendly towards them, the wearer may activate this item by tipping their hat in respect to enhance the attached Intimidation. When the Intimidate expires, the creature does not automatically become unfriendly and must succeed at a DC:16 Will save or forget that the wearer had Intimidated them, removing the memories of being Intimidated (as per Modify Memory).


Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, Modify Memory, Enlarge Person; Cost 8,400gp


JACOB: First of all, congratulations; welcome to the Top 16 of the very first DesignFinder! I like the area this item plays around with; size effects are not overly used, so are a fertile design space, in my opinion. It’s a solid item that could see use in a lot of games. I’m personally not a big fan of items that feel anachronistic (which this does to me, though I think some may certainly not feel that way), but this was able to win me over despite that. I also don’t love the opening clause, about being a favorite -- that opening sentence in my opinion should be basically a read-aloud for the GM to describe what the PCs see when they see the item, and using “favorite of” assumes something that may not be true. Gnomes might be treated completely differently in a homebrew/other campaign setting, and may not have this type of whimsy associated with them.

I do have some concerns about the designer’s ability with the mechanical aspects of games writing. There are a lot of style errors in this, including some that diverge from the template we provided (the semi-colons were removed in place of tabs, it looks like). Some other issues: spells should be lowercase, as should the name of the item in the description) and the aura and slot. The CL should be 10th, not 10; there should be a space between the price/cost and “gp” and the weight and lb.; the spells should be in alphabetical order in the requirements. Also, it should be a DC 16 Will save, with no colon (but good job making sure it says they must succeed at the save, not just attempt).

Why does all that matter? It can be the difference between becoming a successful freelancer and not. If a developer has to spend tons of time fixing basic formatting mistakes, he/she is not going to want to hire that freelancer again. Round 2 is lighter on the rules content, but if this designer advances to Round 3, I’ll be keeping a close eye on his/her ability to present the information the way it’s expected.

KATE: This is a really fun item! I think it would be really popular among Small PCs who want to use the Intimidate skill, since that size penalty can be killer. The image of the wearer tipping the hat to use it is great. The opening has some presumption about the setting, and I think it would be better to rewrite this without the specific “Gnomish politicians” reference. I also feel like this item could use one more related ability, though that wouldn’t be absolutely necessary. Jacob covered the template issues pretty thoroughly. Nice work!

MIKE: This is a great item which is useful not only for Small characters trying to make their way among humans and other tall folk, but also for Medium characters who have to deal with giants and other intelligent, large creatures. You eschewed granting a flat bonus to Intimidate checks and used the more flavorful option of increasing the wearer’s effective size. The top hat’s additional effect of removing the memory of an Intimidate effect was a nice touch, and it adds a social/intrigue dimension to using the item. As mentioned above, you could do away with the initial clause entirely; a GM can decide who favors this item in their campaign setting. The rest of the description in the first paragraph is wonderful, though.

Congratulations and welcome to the top 16!

Congratulations! While the “favorite among” or “favored by” is cliched language, I nonetheless appreciate the particular imagery depicted in the item, which is also well designed mechanically for the most part. It’s not overly powerful, and it serves a distinct purpose. One nitpick on mechanics however: if the intent is that the target does not become hostile at the end of the effect, I’d rather that have been said explicitly. Template is good, but remember that spells (and everything in its own category) get listed alphabetically. While the copy is mostly clean, you could have benefited from one or two more proofreading passes.


  • edited June 2018
    As I already use the size modifiers extensively in my homebrew campaign world, I can say that they're way more fun then flat bonuses. I have some races which "count as large despite being medium" which makes the tophat highly valuable to anyone facing them.

    And i'll put it on one if my island half-giants now. Intimidate as if huge should be fun.
    It somehow made me think of Baron Samedi from the Bond movie "Live And Let Die" too.
  • Congratulations on being selected for the Top 16. The only thing I might add that wasn't touched on by the judges from my own point of view, would be the wording at the start of the second paragraph: 'The wearer of a Statesman’s Top Hat appears to stand at an imposing height to observers, regardless of their actual height ...' While I can assume that 'their' implies the wearer, not the observer or target, the wording makes it seem like a stone or storm giant would be intimidated by a gnome in a top hat, regardless of size, but when looking at how Intimidate works, it's a +4 bonus if you're larger and still a –4 if smaller, so in actuality a large creature still wouldn't be impressed by a gnome in the hat, and in fact the wearer would still be at a penalty (obviously if you can at least match the target's size you can negate a penalty).  The wording could be streamlined to something like, 'The hat makes the wearer taller and more imposing, counting as one size larger ...' and saving word space (for additional description or fun things or just making it more concise and compact).
  • edited June 2018

    The following assessment is purely on the item as presented. I am in no way affiliated to the competition, Paizo or the judges in any way, so take what you like and ignore what you don’t as you prefer. You may also agree or disagree with things I say, but please keep in mind I all my comments are sourced from years of experience in RPG Superstar.

    TemplateFu says:

    Aura entry – the strength, etc., should not be capitalized, i.e. moderate enchantment
    Aura entry – should terminate with a semi-colon

    CL – the caster level should end in st, nd, rd, or th appropriately, in this case “10th”

    Slot entry – the name of the slot should not be capitalized
    Slot entry – should terminate with a semi-colon

    Price & Cost – should be a space between the number and the “gp”
    Price entry – should terminate with a semi-colon

    Weight – all weights except “-” end in a period, so 1 lb.

    Requirements – spells should be listed alphabetically ordered and not capitalized.

    DCs in descriptions don’t use a colon.

    Spell names are italicized in description but just like in Requirements, they should not be capitalized.

    Spells check:

    Modify Memory – 4th level bard enchantment, compulsion, mind-affecting – would give moderate strength aura.

    Enlarge Person – 1st level sorcerer wizard transmutation – would give a faint aura. As it is a lesser aura than moderate, fine to not list it.

    Spell DC = 10 + spell level + bonus of minimum ability score necessary to cast the spell = 10+4+ (Charisma needed = 10 + 4 = 14, a bonus of +2) = 16 – spot on per the DC listed in the description.

    To cast 4th level spells, the bard needs to be 10th level, the highest needed, but the bard cannot cast enlarge person as it is not on their spell list, so an extra level is needed for 1 level of wizard/sorcerer making the caster requirement 11 caster levels, 10 bard and 1 wizard.

    Pricing check:

    I may not come to the exact same number, but so long as we are close it’s all good.

    Category of effects for me are Spell Effect, use activated or continuous

    Spell Level x caster level x 2000 gp

    (Note on calculation is:  If a continuous item has an effect based on a spell with a duration measured in rounds, multiply the cost by 4. If the duration of the spell is 1 minute/level, multiply the cost by 2, and if the duration is 10 minutes/level, multiply the cost by 1.5. If the spell has a 24-hour duration or greater, divide the cost in half.)

    4 x 10 x 2,000 = 80,000 (Modify Memory)
    1 x 1 x 2,000 = 2,000 (Enlarge Person)

    82,000 price so far. But duration of modify memory is permanent, so the 80,000 is halved = 40,000, bring us to 42,000. Enlarge person is listed with duration in minute increments, so the 2,000  is multiplied by 2.

    The price is currently at 44,000

    We have a once per day effect, coming from the modify memory spell and not from the enlarge spell. So, We divide the modify memory part by (5 minus the charges per day), so, 40,000 / 5 = 8,000.

    Now we have multiple abilities, one an illusory effect – see spell synergy assessment section below – and one spell effect.

    No, needing to decide the main power and the additional power…. The continuous effect from the enlarge is the source of all other effects, so I would say that the enlarge person is the main power for this part of the calculation, so the 4,000 part is unchanged, but the 8,000 for the spell like effect has a 50% price hike, bringing it to 12,000.

    Our price is now 12,000 + 4,000 = 16,000.

    There’s no real component costs involved, so I am happy with my calculation thus far, so onto the gut feel. What else costs 16,000 as a wondrous item?

    The price puts us right in the middle of the medium wondrous items table competing with:

    Amulet of mighty fists +2, Bag of tricks, tan, Belt of giant strength +4, Belt of incredible dexterity +4, Belt of mighty constitution +4, Belt of physical perfection +2, Boots, winged, Bracers of armor +4, Cloak of resistance +4, Headband of alluring charisma +4, Headband of inspired wisdom +4, Headband of mental superiority +2, Headband of vast intelligence +4, Pearl of power, 4th-level spell, Scabbard of keen edges        

    Two considerations to make now

    1)      Are there existing items contending the same game space as this item at this price level? In this case, I think not, so this minimises contention when deciding to acquire this item.

    2)      Is my desire for this item equally strong as other items at this price point. Here I think, is the issue, I would likely prefer most of the other items at this price point, and looking at the slot, I have 3 head slot items already at this price point so another one is too crowded in this pricing point.

    Scanning the table, I think a drop to the 12,000 pricing point is a better placement for this item.

    So for me, the price / cost should be 12,000 / 6,000.

    We aren’t very far adrift and your price point sits nicely with my calculated price point. It’s always adviseable to do the “art” or “gut check” at the end, as often you will adjust the price for a better feel.

    Spell Synergy Assessment

    The spells selected do account for the effects of this item…


    The phrasing, by using the word appears, the size change has moved from a physical result described by enlarge person to an illusory effect. This is a disjoint for me in the item as described. Due to the description of the item, I would look at maybe using Disguise Self spell – due to duration and lower spell level, the aura would come out as faint illusion and transmutation, the pricing then falls naturally into the 10-12,000 range and the spell selections and effect wording synergy is much stronger.

    <continued next post> Hah! Review Box Limits, I live to break them!

  • Gut reaction

    A favourite start has the same problems as Favored by, and similar opening clauses. Its done to death and immediately made me groan. It’s also treading very close to “history” and anyone checking the superstar advice posts on items in past competitions will understand why this is such a groan inducing meme.

    Fix, lose the first six words up to and including the comma, start straight in with the item description.  There is also a quick double reference to the height which I found jarring.

    Fixing both these opener issues could have resulted in a shorter and snappier opening, something like…

    “This elegant silken top hat looms imposingly at nearly a foot and a half in height. It fits snugly upon its wearer’s head resulting in no danger of falling off.”

    Words on items are a premium, use too many and you often will have less room in a product for more items.

    Additionally – is an additional and unnecessary waste of word count in that it doesn’t add anything to the effects or powers. It is simply what is known as a fluff word. It’s also another meme that causes groans.

    Paragraph break at “Additionally”, losing that word and comma, and start the paragraph with Once per day…

    The reason is when you have multiple effects in the same paragraph, it becomes what is known as a “wall of text” in that it hampers finding the information you need quickly at the gaming table. Separation of powers into their own paragraphs speeds this making the use of your item in game a more pleasant experience for all. It also helps the designer identify if they are trying to do too many things because they end up with too many paragraphs.

    Lastly, I would break out the end effect to a separate paragraph, just for ease of reading. I would also remove the “as Modify Memory”, it simply isn’t needed. I would then revisit the whole section to see if I can reword it to remove the need for this paragraph entirely and to use the more standard form of “(Will DC 16 negates)” used in many of the wondrous items that have DC saves in them.

    I like what you were going for, you just need to make sure your wording and description match more closely with your chosen spells and with the phrasing used in the sourcebooks of your target system.

    You definitely need to work on your following of provided templates and guidelines when given design tasks going forwards. It is this reason only that your final overall score dropped as much as it did.

    TemplateFu scores

    Template Use… 5/10
    Pricing Art… 8/10
    Spell Synergy… 7/10
    Desirability… 7/10
    Overall… 6/10

  • Holy hand grenades, it's Template Fu!!!
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