Blog Archives

Cantrip-Based Items for PF1

Yes, these are yet more inexpensive, nonconsumable items for 1st edition Pathfinder, but these are all united by being based on cantrips. The idea is to create items that boost the utility and functionality of low-level spellcasters in a different way that giving them minor scrolls or wands. These items popped into my head over the past few days, inspired by a conversation I had with longtime (37+ years) gaming friends earlier this week. (I’m also making them available to my wife, who is running a currently-5th-level PF1 campaign, in case she wants to pass them out as loot).

Blooddrop Pin
Aura
faint necromancy; CL 3rd; Slot head or shoulders; Price 1,500 gp; Weight
This long silver pin has a bright, blood-colored, teardrop-shaped garnet in the handle. It can be worn as a hairpin (taking the head item slot) or as a cloakpin (taking the shoulder item slot). It can also be used as a Small or Medium dagger without being considered an improvised weapon, but its base damage is 1, rather than 1d4. A spellcaster who has the bleed cantrip on their class list can learn it from the blooddrop pin as if the pin was a scroll, without damaging the item. The pin also allows the spell bleed to be targeted on a creature with a positive hp total, causing them on a failed save to take 1 hp and gain a 1 hp bleed effect. Multiple bleed spells cast on a target in this manner do not increase the bleed effect to more than 1 hp/round.
Craft Wondrous Item, bleed; Cost 750 gp

Brightstrap
Aura
strong (no school); CL 17th; Slot —; Price 250 gp; Weight
A brightstrap is a silvery silk-and-leather strap roughly 6 inches long that can easily be tied to a weapon, torch, holy symbol, belt, glove, or most other common adventuring equipment. A spellcaster who has the light cantrip on their class list can learn it from the brightstrap as if the strap was a scroll, without damaging the item. When a spellcaster casts the light cantrip on a brightstrap, it does not count against their maximum of 1 active light spell at a time.  This item does not grant the ability to cast light, just to modify the spell if the caster already has access to it.
Craft Wondrous Item, continual flame, light; Cost 125 gp

Charcoal Cord
Aura
strong (no school); CL 17th; Slot —; Price 1,500 gp; Weight —The charcoal cord is a short length of dark gray cording that appears to be covered in charcoal, though it leaves no powder or mark behind. The cord can be worn nearly anywhere on the body (wrapped around the wrist, tied to a belt, used to hold back hair, etc), and does not take up a magic item slot. A spellcaster who has the detect poison cantrip on their class list can learn it from the cord as if the cord was a scroll, without damaging the item. Three times per day, the charcoal cord allows a character casting detect poison to do so as a move action. This item does not grant the ability to cast detect poison, just to modify the spell if the caster already has access to it.
Craft Rod, Craft Wondrous Item, Quicken Spell; Cost 750 gp

Guiding Star
Aura
strong (no school); CL 17th; Slot belt, body, chest, or shoulders; Price 1,500 gp; Weight
The guiding star is a fine cloth sash with small patterns matching constellations sewn into it. It can be worn as a belt, shoulder sash, chest wrap, or numerous other ways that allow it to take one of a number of magic items slots (see above) and still function. A spellcaster who has the guidance cantrip on their class list can learn it from the sash as if the sash was a scroll, without damaging the item. Three times per day, the guiding star allows a character casting guidance to have the spell last up to 10 minute pers level (until discharged). This item does not grant the ability to cast guidance, just to modify the spell if the caster already has access to it.
Craft Rod, Craft Wondrous Item, Extend Spell; Cost 750 gp

Ring of Trifles
Aura
feint transmutation; CL 7th; Slot ring; Price 500 gp; Weight
A character able to prepare cantrips can prepare one additional cantrip when wearing this ring. The ring must be worn or 24 hours before it can be used.
Forge Ring; Special creator must be able to prepare cantrips from at least 2 different class spell lists; Cost 250 gp (1st)

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More Minor PF1 Magic Items

More minor magic items for 1st edition Pathfinder.

Beneficial Beltpouch
Aura
minor conjuration; CL 5th; Slot —; Price 500 gp; Weight 1 lb.
This appears to be a typical beltpouch, appearing large enough to hold about a quart of material. In fact, it is like a bag of holding and can actually hold material of as much as 2 cubic feet in volume or 20 pounds in weight.
While such storage is useful enough, the purse has an even greater power. When the wearer reaches into it for a specific item, that item is always on top. Thus, no digging around and fumbling is ever necessary to find what the beltpouch contains. Retrieving any specific item from a beneficial beltpouch is a move action, but it does not provoke the attacks of opportunity that retrieving a stored item usually does.
Craft Wondrous Item, secret chest; Cost 250 gp

Eldritch Brazier of Focus (1st-Level Spell)
Aura strong transmutation; CL 17th; Slot —; Price 1,000 gp; Weight 1 lb.
Once per day a character able to prepare spells of at least 1st level can burn this brazier while making their preparations, allowing them to prepare one additional 1st level spell. A character can only benefit from a single eldritch brazier per day.
Craft Wondrous Item; Special creator must be able to prepare 1st-level spells; Cost 500 gp (1st)

Ring of Escape
Aura moderate illusion; CL 8th; Slot ring; Price 2,000 gp; Weight
Once per day as a reaction when the wearer takes damage or fails a saving throw, they can become invisible as if they had cast vanish, using their character level as the caster level.
Forge Ring, Improved Initiative, vanish; Cost 1,000 gp

Satchel of Endless Bandages
Aura
faint conjuration; CL 8th; Slot —; Price 250 gp; Weight 1 lb.
This shoulder satchel has a faintly pleasant, herbal smell to it, and has a clasp in the form of a snake woven around a small staff. It functions as a healer’s kit, but never runs out of charges.
Craft Wondrous Item; goodberry; Cost 250 gp

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“Loot 4 Less” for Pathfinder 1e

In 1st edition Pathfinder, it can be tricky to give players interesting, useful, nonconsumable treasure at low levels. I did a whole line of Loot 4 Less books to extend the options available, but it’s often still useful to come up with new inexpensive-but-nice items for characters under 6th-7th level.

Here are some I have written up.

Boots of Quick Pace
Aura: faint Transmutation           Slot: feet              CL: 1st    Price: 1,000 gp  Weight: 1 lb.
These boots increase the wearer’s base land speed by 5 feet.
Construction
Feats Craft Wondrous Item; Spells longstrider; Cost 500 gp

Oil of Reforging
Aura: faint Transmutation           Slot: —   CL: 1st    Price: 450 gp      Weight: —
When applied to a weapon, this oil turns the weapon into a shiny mass of claylike material. If the claylike material is then applied to a second weapon, that weapon gains any masterwork, special material, or magical property of the first weapon that can apply to the second. The first weapon is destroyed, and the duration of this change is instantaneous. If for some reason granting the second weapon the appropriate properties would cost more than forging the first weapon, the difference between the two must be added to the oil bottle prior to adding it to the first weapon. If the oil is applied to a weapon to make it claylike, and that clay is not applied to a second weapon within an hour, the claylike material returns to its original weapon state, and the oil is expended.
Construction
Feats Brew Potion, Craft Magic Arms and Armor; Spells polymorph any object; Cost 225 gp

Resistant Mantle
Aura: faint Abjuration    Slot: Shoulder    CL: 1st    Price: 340 gp      Weight: —
Once you have worn this mantle for 24 hours, you gain a +1 resistance bonus to your lowest saving throw category (Fort, Ref, or Will) while wearing it.
Construction
Feats Craft Wondrous Item; Spells resistance; Cost 170 gp

Rod of Cantrips
Aura: faint Transmutation           Slot: Held             CL: 1st    Price: 650 gp      Weight: 1 lb.
While holding the rod, when you deal damage with a cantrip that has no other enhancement to its damage and has not been augmented by any form of metamagic, you add your caster level to the damage dealt (maximum +5 damage).
Construction
Feats Craft Rod; Spells spiritual weapon; Cost 325 gp

Weapon Talisman of Eldritch Blows
Aura: faint Transmutation           Slot: —   CL: 1st    Price: 400 gp      Weight: —
This silken ribbon is roughly a foot long, with an apparently wax seal bearing a sigil of crossed staff and scimitar. It can be wrapped around any nonmagic weapon, the wax seal affixing it in place, at which point it changes coloration and symbols to match the patronage, deity, order, or personal mark of the weapon’s bearer.
Once per day when an attack is made with a weapon it is attached to, as part of the attack the wielder can activate the talisman, causing the attack to be affected as by magic weapon (+1 enhancement bonus to attacks and damage for 1 minute).
A weapon can only benefit from a single weapon talisman each day.
Construction
Feats Craft Magic Arms and Armor; Spells magic weapon; Cost 200 gp
Special
Like a +1 magic weapon can be upgraded to a +2 magic weapon, a weapon talisman of eldritch blows can be augmented to work more often, with its total cost increased as noted below
2/day    800 gp
3/day    1200 gp
4/day    1600 gp
Permanent         2300 gp

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Some Custom PF1 Items for Witches

Just a few magic items I designed at request, to add to a haord that was supposed to include multiple witchy things.

Doomblood Athame
Aura necromancy; CL 8th
Slot none; Price 18,000 gp; Weight 0.1 lbs.
While this cold iron dagger is on your person or in your possession (it need not be welded), the first time each round a target makes a saving throw against a hex of yours, you may choose to take damage equal to half your hexcaster level (all levels in classes that give you access to hexes, or half your character level, whichever is higher) to create a blood curse. This damage bypasses any defenses you have, and cannot be recovered through spells or channeling (though hexes and other spell-like abilities, potions, and natural healing, work normally).
If you are affected by this damage, the target is sickened for 1 round. This duration can be extended with the cackle hex. This effect can be removed with a remove curse or remove disease, but requires a caster level check against a DC equal to 10 + your caster level. Once you have used the doomblood athame’s blood curse against a target, you cannot use it against that target again for 24 hours.
Additionally, when you use either the doomblood athame or a natural weapon or unarmed attack to attack a target that has failed a save against one of your hexes within the past 24 hours, you may use your hexcaster level as your bonus to attack (in place of your base attack bonus and any ability score bonus you would normally add to the attack), and your attack is considered bane against that target (an additional +2 to your attack roll, and +2d6 damage).
Construction
Requirements Craft Arms and Armor, must know a greater hex; Cost 9,000 gp

Slippers of the Glacier
Aura moderate transmutation; CL 8th
Slot feet; Price 6,000 gp; Weight 0.1 lbs.
You ignore all movement reductions and skill check penalties from ice, cold, snow, and other winter hazards (mundane or magical). Additionally, if you have hexcaster levels (levels in a class that give you access to hexes), once per day you can cause a whirlwind of snow and ice to surround and support you as if you were using the flight hex. (If you have the flight hex, instead double the number of times you can use levitate, or the number of minutes of fly you receive).
Construction
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, flight hex; CL 5th; Cost 3,000 gp

Ring of Favor
Aura moderate transmutation; CL 8th
Slot ring; Price 7,500 gp; Weight
This ring appears to be a tiny silver chain with a thorny rose vine intertwined among the links. However, when worn by a character who has the hex class feature, it changes form to look like their personal symbol of heraldry (or a thematically appropriate appearance if the character has no heraldry). When the witch casts a hex on an ally, they can choose to have this symbol appear briefly over the ally, as a sign of the witch’s favor.
When word by a character who has 3 or more hexes gained from classes or feats, this ring grants one bonus hex known while worn. If the wearer has 6 or more hexes, it grants 2 bonus hexes. If the wearer has 12 or more hexes, the ring grants 3 bonus hexes.
The bonus hexes must be selected from the following list: Ameliorating, Aura of Purity, Fortune, Healing, Protective Luck, Ward.
Once made, the selection of bonuses hexes cannot be easily changed. Each time a character gains a new level in a class that grants hexes, they may change what bonus hexes they gain from the ring.
Construction
Requirements Forge Ring, must have patron class feature, CL 8th; Cost 3,750 gp

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Loot 4 Less for Pathfinder 2nd Edition?

I’ve been considering what a Loot 4 Less line of books for the 2nd edition of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game would look like. Of course the price point would be insanely different– 2,000 gp is a LOT more money is 2nd ed than 1st ed. But if I decided to limit myself to 200 gp, is that too high and easy, or about right?

Anyway, here are a couple of items that evolved just from the thought experiment.

Able Armor Seal Item 6
Abjuration Invested Magical
Price 200 gp
Usage affixed to armor
Activate Single Action; Bulk L
This cast iron seal has a depiction of two hands clasped in friendship. Armor with this affixed can be donned in half the normal time. With a successfully use of the Armor Assist feat, it takes only 1/3 the normal time.

Silver Serpent Item 5
Divination Invested Magical
Price 175 gp
Usage worn earing; Bulk L

This small silver serpent is a piece of jewelry that sits wrapped around your ear, molding itself to match the size and shape of your ear and holding itself firmly in place until intentionally removed. Each silver serpent is attuned to a single Lore skill, and whisper information about that Lore in your ear as it become relevant. You treat your proficiency rank in the related Lore skill as one degree better while wearing the silver serpent. If you are already Legendary in that Lore, you instead gain Assurance with that Lore.

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Role Relics, Pt. 2

Role relics are magic items designed to encourage specific roles or playstyles (perhaps given to children who enter a fantasy world on a roller coaster and each are given a single relic to help them out). I did two already in Part One.

Since these are designed to be character-defining relics that stand outside normal rules, I’ve written only sketches of how they work, so they are compatible with most d20-evolved RPGs. A GM who wants to fill out details like item level and school of magic are free to do so, but the core idea here is to offer legendary items that make it easier for a character to fulfill one classic heroic role.

Cloak of Stealth
Once activated (which can be done as part of any other action taken on the wearer’s turn), as long as the character wearing the cloak takes no actions other than movement, they can make a Stealth check against all senses and detection abilities of any creature. For these Stealth checks, the wearer rolls twice and takes the best result. Each activation lasts no more than one minute, and the cloak then cannot be used again for ten minutes.

(Art by Grandfailure)

Energy Bow
The energy bow automatically creates magic arrows when used for attacks, and does not require any ammunition. These arrows are Force effects, and do untyped pure magic damage. They ignore false images of a target, and any magic or technological effect that creates a flat chance of missing even if a an attack roll is successful.

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Role Relics, Pt. 1

I’ve just been thinking about what magic items designed to encourage specific roles or playstyles (perhaps given to children who enter a fantasy world on a roller coaster and each are given a single relic to help them out) might look like.

Two came to mind immediately. I’m vague on details like cost and such, because these are designed to be character-defining relics that stand outside normal rules. And these should work for most d20-evolved RPGs.

(Art by Андрей Трубицын)

Shield of Tanking

While you have this shield equipped, any foe that can see you and has line of effect to you, but has not attacked you in this combat or forced you to make a saving throw, takes a -2 penalty to attacks and against anyone else and the save DC of effects against others is reduced by 2. The first time a foe attacks you, if they do damage, you take half damage. If a foe’s first attack against you also attacks other targets or forces them to make saving throws, the foe does not take the shield of tanking’s penalties against those targets.

Staff of Acrobatics

Any round in which you make no attack rolls and do not force anyone to make a saving throw, you roll twice and take the better result on all Strength- and Dexterity-based skills based on movement or maneuvering (such as Acrobatics, Athletics, Balance, Climb, Escape Artist, Swim, and so on), and gain a +4 bonus to your AC and all saving throws. If you fail such a check, and it was to get you to some location you could have arrived at through flight, the check is treated as a success, but your turn ends.

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Starting With Ideas: Really Wild West “Oddities” (for Starfinder)

Fairly often, I get asked how I START a big project. Like, if I know I want a chapter of magic items for the Really Wild West, where would I begin organizing my thoughts and planning that out?

Assuming the pagination and wordcounts was already done by someone else, I’d start with ideas.

Especially for a series of elements using the same basic rules subsystem (such as the features of one character class, a series of magic items for one campaign, feats, spells, new superpowers, whatever), I like to start the conceptual work by spitballing ideas to myself. This isn’t an effort to create completed rules elements yet, just to begin filling out what kinds of ideas I want those rules elements to cover.

There are numerous advantages to this for me. First, I can begin to hash out a tone and flavor for the section. Second, I find it easier to figure out how to use rules to model concepts if I have several of those concepts already in a hopper. Third, often coming up with interesting ideas is the important part of a project for me.  I can’t do it all in one sitting. By making a list early on, I give myself time to iterate, modify, and even reconsider if I need to.

After I have a fair percentage of the ideas I think I need, I’ll go back and begin turning the ones I like best into full rules elements. this lets me see how much wordcount those take up, which lets me know how many ideas I’ll need to fit the space.*

*(Unless the project is based on a specific number of items– like a list of 100 NPC catchphrases or 2 things to do in a dungeon when you’re dead, in which case I still like this process but the thing I learn at this stage is if I need to modify how much info I am putting in each entry to the pre-determined number of items will fill up the pre-determined wordcount. IN this case the feedback loop may be more likely to tell me if my concepts need to change to be more of less detailed.)

I often do ideas in three big waves–when I first start a project, when I run out of those ideas I started with, and when I have a good idea how many ideas I’ll need to finish it. Sometimes one or more of those waves isn’t needed–occasionally I find my first brainstorm gave me everything that will fit, for example. I also jot down ideas as they come to me when I am working on other parts of the work, or even other projects.

So, what do I mean by spitballing ideas?

I just want some sense of what the item is going to be. Maybe a name, maybe a description. If I have some idea of how the rules for the idea should work, I jot that down.

Here’s an example of those spitball ideas (cleaned up to a standard format for presentation on its own, rather than as notes only I will see). These are concepts for “Oddities,” magic items that occur as a result of weird events and energies, rather than being created intentionally, for my Really Wild West setting. Each of these gives enough info to see how it might work in game, but doesn’t yet worry about things like item level, cost, and any special rules Oddities may have as opposed to typical magic items.

RWW Glass Eye

(Art by i-pciture. Of the Eye by the Witch Hazel Pentafaust)

01. Weathered copy of a leather-bound book titled “Diplomacy Through Other Means.” It has hardness 20, 20 hp, and can be used as a light simple melee weapon dealing 1d4 damage (+1d4 per 4 ranks of Culture you have). You can’t add Strength (or any other any ability score modifiers) to damage dealt, but do add you ranks in Culture.

02. Pearl-Handled corkscrew. When screwed into people (normally a full round action that requires they be restrained and which deals 1-2 hp) it forces them to reveal their name, even if they don’t know it themselves.

03. Small hourglass filled with dark blue sand. If flipped and allowed to run normally without being moved, when it goes off it casts a random summon creature (or a random spell level) which no one has any control over. It lasts 1 hour if not otherwise damaged or dispelled.

04. Single old scarf about a yard long, with a smoke stain near top. Does not conduct heat (but can burn), thus can be used as perfect oven mitt or grant fire resist 20 for a thing you touch with it.

05. Zippo lighter with the kanji for “stork” on the side. If used to illuminate a written word medium (scroll, book, so on), the text within it slowly scrolls by in the shadow created by the flame.

06. Wire-frame glasses. If kept tucked in a pocket, halves falling damage for possessor.

07. Stained paper map of Fort Harrison, Indiana, from 1823. If mis-folded and then opened, it creates a fog cloud (as the spell). The map itself is always torn free by a gust of wind that brings in the fog, and normally takes (4d4 – 1d4) x 10 minutes to find.

08. An 1888 John J. Loud ball point pen with green ink. Rapidly (and loudly) clicking the pen gives a +5 bonus to Perception checks, but only against people using Stealth.

09. Small box of “Court Orlock” brand safety matches. If thrown at someone within 15 feet they must make a Will save (DC equal to the touch attack roll to hit them) or spend 1 round picking up the matches. Has 1d4 uses per day.

10. Wicker Picnic Basket, with its own plates, cutlery, and stacking cups as service for 6. If loaded with food and taken out of any settlement and then used for an hourlong or longer picnic, the ort remaining can be interpreted as a diving device. It may act as augurydivination, or commune, as randomly determined by the GM. One of the picnic participants will then have an encounter within 1 week of a high enough CR that average treasure for that encounter would pay for a spell gem of the divination spell gained. The basket don’t work again until the creature using them has had this encounter, which doesn’t have any actual treasure associated with it.

11. Tortoiseshell make-up compact. Anyone who has the powder from the compact (requiring an successful EAC attack against an adjacent creature) blown on them is slowed (as the spell) for 1 minute, and the person who used it is slowed for 10 minutes. Only a creature not slowed can use it.

12. Dried pea. If placed up your nose, it grants a +4 bonus to saving throws against poison, and a successful save always ends the poison. Someone who knows you have it up there can get you to shoot it out with a successful dirty trick maneuver (replacing the normal options for dirty trick).

13. Cork table coaster. Anything placed on it doesn’t experience any passage of time as long nothing else is touching it but air. This DOES keep drinks cold (or hot) much longer, but it also prevents fruit from spoiling, dynamite from exploding, radioactive isotopes from decaying, and so on.

14. Wooden, obviously-toy pistol. When pointed at an animal and the trigger pulled, causes the animal to talk randomly in French for 1 round. There is a 10% chance the first time it  is used each day the animal says something useful and relevant to the user holder.

15. Worn leather coin purse. As long as nothing but coins are stuffed into it there does not seem to be a limit how many fit in, but they can only be added or removed at a rate of 4 credits per round.

16. Tablecloth-sized parchment with complex diagram for an unidentified steam engine. If placed on a stationary, prone creature the piping diagram changes to represent the organs (and injuries) or that creature, granting a +5 bonus to Medicine checks with that creature.

17. Old-style iron key. Fits in any lock. Can’t unlock a lock, but can lock it. If it was already locked, the next person to touch it takes 1 point of electricity damage.

18. Small pot of glossy black lipstick. Never runs out. The first time each day someone wearing the lipstick is damaged by an attacker the wearer has not ever damaged, the wearer may kiss a weapon. That weapon delivers critical hit effects (but not critical hit damage) against that attacker the first time it successfully hits and damages the attacker.

19. A granite die with 20 sides, numbered 7-26. Anyone with this on their person is lucky (gain one reroll each day, rerolling after you see the result of a roll and taking the better of the two results) except in games of chance (always roll twice and take the worst result for all games of chance).

20. Carved whalebone whistle. If blown directly in someone’s ear is heals them for 1d8+1 damage, and they are deafened for 1 hour per hp healed. If the deafness is removed early, the healing is also removed. It cannot heal someone temporarily deaf from this effect. The healing appears to be the revelation the wound wasn’t that bad to begin with — there’s never any actual sign of improved health. A person cannot benefit from this again until after they next expend 1 RP to regain SP after a 10-minute rest.

21. The Sinister Glass Eye of the Witch Hazel Pentafaust. This cracked, yellow glass eye spins and looks about of its own accord. When held in a closed fist, it causes you to be shaken (despite any immunities you might have) and automatically be able to identify any spell you see being cast.

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Hex Rounds and Wandshells for Starfinder

Yesterday we presented spell guns and runethrowers, magic devices that can produce spell effects from battery power. The next obvious question is — can you have magic bullets that produce spell effects?

Of course you can. Presenting: Magic Muntions!

Magic Bullet
(art by Yuri Hoyda)

Magic Munitions                     Item       Credit
Item                                            Level      Cost       Bulk
Hex round, 0-level spell          2             140           L
Wandshell, 0-level spell          3             325           L
Hex round, 1st-level spell       5             450           L
Wandshell, 1st-level spell       7             750           L
Hex round, 2nd-level spell     8          1,400           L
Wandshell, 2nd-level spell    11         3,250           L
Hex round, 3rd-level spell     11         3,700           L
Hex round, 4th-level spell      14       10,600          L
Wandshell, 3rd-level spell      15       17,500          L
Hex round, 5th-level spell      17       36,650          L
Wandshell, 4th-level spell      19       81,000          L
Hex round, 6th-level spell      20     112,800          L

Magic munitions allow you to load a one-shot, consumable version of a spell into a weapon. Any spell with a casting time of no more than 1 standard action, that does not require Resolve Points or materials with a cost, can be turned into a magic munition. Activating a magic munition is a standard action, and when you do so the weapon does not have its normal effect (and does not use any ammo or battery beyond the magic munition). The magic effect normally originates as if you had cast the spell. If the spell has a range of touch, you can instead target any legal target within the weapon’s reach of first range increment. The caster level for the spell effect is equal to the magic munition;s item level.

A hex round can only be fired from a spell gun or runethrower able to cast a spell of the same or higher level, or a weapon with the spellthrower fusion. A wandshell can be loaded into any weapon. As magic munitions these ammos can be loaded into any ranged or melee weapon, even ones not designed for physical ammunition or that are normally totally unpowered. Loading a single he round or wandshell into a weapon is a move action. A weapon can’t have more total item levels worth of magic muntions loaded into it at a time than its own item level. Thus a item level 9 laser pistol with the spellthrowing fusion could have one hex round with a 2nd-level spell, or three wandshells with 0-level spells.

Magic munitions not loaded into a weapon are easily identified as magical at a glance, of even by their unusually heavy heft. Most have the spell loaded into them carefully noted on their casing. You cannot craft a a magic munition of a specific spell unless you can cast that spell, or have someone able to cast the spell available to do so when you create the munition.

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Spellguns and Runethrowers for Starfinder

As soon as you say a setting has spellcasters and blasters, there’s a group of players who want to have spellguns. And that’s fair. After all there are numerous examples of spell-generating hybrid technology in science-fantasy fiction (my specific inspirations come from The Irregular at Magic High School and Outlaw Star, but there are many more examples).

But Starfinder doesn’t really have anything like that. There are spell ampules and spell gems… but those are 1-shot consumables, not the spellguns we want.  So I was going to post a few examples of spell guns last Friday… and realized I hadn’t written how how I figured the item level and cost of such things. So I delayed the article to today, and you get a enarly-double-length Monday article that both shows the design process I used, AND presents two sets of finished spellcasting weapons.

So how do we figure out the effective item level of a device that can cast detect magic using a battery, and how do we scale that against a baleful polymorph rifle?

Well, let’s start with something we CAN easily scale — damage. If we can find a relationship between damaging spells at each level and weapons that are roughly as effective, and spells of each level have roughly the same impact on the game as one another, that should allow us to set item levels for devices that create other spells effects of each level.

It’s best if we pick a few spells that come as close as possible to JUST doing damage at each level. We can then figure out a rough benchmark for the typical weaponlike damage each of these things does, looking back at our benchmarks for weapon damage. There’s some subjectivity there of course, but in general we can compare these to damage from weapons (treating a save and attack rolls to be about even in terms of damage-per-round options, and treating area or ongoing attacks as being 10-20% more damage for benchmark purposes) to tell us roughly what item level weapon does comparable damage.

We want two effective item levels (EIL) for each spell — one taken from the closest equivalent longarm or advanced melee weapon (representing an item used by people skilled in combat), and one taken from the closest 1-handed basic melee weapon or small arm (representing an item use by those unspecialized in combat). Those are listed with a slash as skilled/unspecialized. We’ll go into why we want those separate numbers in a moment.

Technomancer spells have the following exemplar damage spells at each spell level:

0-Level
Energy Ray (1d3, single target EAC ranged)  EIL – 0/1

1st-Level
Jolting Surge (4d6, single target EAC melee) EIL – 12/15
Overheat (2d8 energy in a cone, save for half) EIL – 11/15

2nd-Level
Caustic Conversion (4d6 energy, single target EAC ranged, ongoing damage) EIL – 13/18

3rd-Level
Arcing Surge (10d6 energy, line, save for half) EIL – 19/24
Explosive Blast (9d6 energy, radius, save for half) EIL –  19/24

Since we already hitting item level 19+ by 3rd level spells, it’s pretty clear 4th-level and higher spells would be beyond the scope of even 20th level equipment.

So, erring on the side of items that duplicate spells skewing up at lower item levels (as we not the benchmark damage for low-level weapons is a bit off, a weirdness the designers accepted so no one would actually have a weapon that did 1 point of damage), and standardizing the curve between skilled and unspecialized, we come up with the following typical item level for something that can reliable reproduce magic effects:

EIL by Spell Level
0-Level Spells: 3/8
1st-Level Spells: 11/16
2nd-Level Spells: 13/18
3rd-Level Spells: 19/24

We know from the price difference in spell gems vs spell ampules that giving a spellcaster access to more spells from their spell list is cheaper than allowing anyone to use that magic effect, so let’s use the same logic here. The lower “skilled” EIL is what we use for “Spell Guns,” which we define as only being able to be used by a character who can cast spells of the same spell level and class list as the one reproduced by the spell gun. So a microbot assault spell gun can only be used by a technomancer who can cast 2nd level spells.

The higher-level EIL we’ll use for Runethrowers. They function just like Spell Guns, except they can be used by anyone.

Also, we’ll use Small Arms proficiency for Spell Guns (so any spellcasting PC can use them), and Longarms for Runethrowers. Of course attack rolls won’t matter for all spell effects, but we’ll rule that any nonproficiency penalty you take with with a Runethrower impacts both any related save DCs, and reduces the Runethrower’s caster level.

We’re also going to ban any spells that require Resolve Points, have a casting time greater than 1 action, or require an experience material mentioned in the spell description. Otherwise each item casts a spell and works like a spell-like ability with a caster level equal to the item level, and all decisions made by whoever pulls the trigger.

So, borrowing some typical costs and battery usages from appropriate items:

Small Arms

SPELL GUNS                    Item     Credit      Spell
Name                              Level    Cost         Level   Battery  Usage
Spell Gun, Apprentice        3         1,500       0           20            2
Spell Gun, Mage               11       26,000       1           40            4
Spell Gun, Arcanist           13        52,000       2           80            8
Spell Gun, Archmage        19      600,000       3         100          10Spell Gun by info at nextmars dot com
(art by info@nextmars.com)

Longarms

RUNETHROWERS                 Item     Credit      Spell
Name                                    Level    Cost         Level   Battery  Usage
Runethrower, Neophyte       8          10,000       0           40            4
Runethrower, Warlock         16       180,000      1           80            8
Runethrower, Theurge         18       400,000      2         100            10Spell Rifle by info at nextmars dot com
(art by info@nextmars.com)

Runethrower (neophyte, Warlock, Theurge)
A runethrower is a hybrid weapon that contains a single spell of the listed level. It can convert energy from a battery into the energy needed for that spells, using a rune embedded within the weapon to provide all the eldritch control needed to create magic effects.
Only spells that can be cast in a single action or reaction can be placed in a runethrower (and always use a standard action to activate), and it must not have any Resolve Point cost or require any material with a cost (as noted in the spell description). A runethrower’s caster level is equal to its item level, and any decisions that need to be made when it creates a spell effect are decided by the user.
A runethrower can normally only have a single spell added into it. That spell can be changed to another spell of the same level by anyone with the ranks needed to craft the runethrower, at half the cost of creating a new runethrower. A runethrower can also have a additional spells of the same or lower level placed within it as Weapon Fusions (at the normal fusion cost, though it cannot be transferred from another weapon). Each weapon fusion of this type is treated as a weapon fusion with a level equal to 5 + the level of spell it contains. If a runethrower has multiple spells, the user decides which one to use each time it is activated.
Any penalty to attack rolls a character takes applies to a runethrower’s save DC, and if a character is nonproficient, that penalty also applies to the ruenthrower’s caster level when they use it.

Spell Guns (Apprentice, mage, Arcanist, Archmage)
A spell gun is a hybrid weapon that contains a single spell of the listed level. It can convert energy from a battery into the energy needed for that spells similar to a runethrower, but rather than have an internal rune that provides the directions to create a spell effect, requires an eldritch spark from the user to initiatie this conversion. Thus a character can only use a spell gun if they are of a class and level able to cast the spell contained within the spell gun (though it need not actually be a spell known).
Spell guns otherwise follow the rules for runethrowers.

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