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D&D 3E
Questions about constructs and other intelligent things. 
13th-Aug-2004 05:06 pm
Disney-Mermaid MythandMagic
Between my two campaigns, I've recently come up with a few questions that I'm hoping you can help me with.

Critcal Mimic?

This past week, my Wednesday group came upon a door during their dungeon crawl that proceeded to fight back. The party (especially my lawyer) was a little surprised to find that crits did double damage on this adversary when the idea of critical hits is that you can find the critical limb to cut off, etc. A door should not have critical points and thus should be immune to crits, which is why constructs are uncritable. This is correct, however, the PCs were facing a mimic, which is categorized as an aberration and is not immune to crits, at least according to the MM. I realize that as a living creature (if a magically messed up version of one), mimics can be critted, but the mimics also spend their time in the form of objects and furniture, thus making it similar to an animated object. Can anyone tell me, philosophically, where the line is? I guess the question comes between shapeshifters and constructs... why does one have 'crit points' and the other not? Does a mimic in the form of a door have 'crit' points that an animated door wouldn't have? I realize this is nitpicky, but I'm feeling philosophical and am curious if any of you have thoughts on the matter.

Spawns and Constructs

My second question comes from my other game. The party is on their way into a swamp filled with magical creations of a black dragon overlord. There are even creature templates for the kinds of 'experiments' she does on the creatures she gets ahold of. One of those is the dragonspawn, which turns a humanoid into a monstrous humanoid with some dragonlike abilities (breath, etc.) Now, I've been trying to come up with a single magic item for each character to help them with their trip into the swamp and for our mystic/cleric I am looking at the Mace of Smiting from the DMG (pg 227). I would adjust it to be a light mace and alter its damage accordingly. My question is this. Could I justify altering that so a crit on one of the spawns or other magical experiments that they face has a, say, 50% chance of also being disintigrated? I realize that these creatures are not constructs because they are not altered objects but altered living beings. I also realize what since this is my game and I'm the DM, I CAN do anything I want to, but I wanted to propose it to you guys. Does anyone have any advice? I don't want the weapon to be too powerful, if you have any suggestions on how to tweak it, let me know.

Dawn of Intelligence

My last question is more of a proposal, really, and I want to see what you guys think. In coming up with a magic item for each character in my game, I keep coming to the idea of intelligence. I am shying away from it for the most part, because it's troublesome both for me and the characters. And I have so many NPCs as it is. But the idea still intrigues me. So, I played around with it and came up with a thought. My idea is to give our bard a magic item that is still dawning it's intelligence. Right now, it's at the barebones, Int, Cha and Wis at 10. There is a story behind why it's dawning consciousness, but I won't go into it. With stats like that, it can't do anything, and really isn't 'intelligent'. However, it bonds with its wielder and will grow into alignment, purpose, abilities, etc, with our bard. The idea is that whenever our bard rolls a nat 20 on a skill or spell, he can roll a will save. He if either makes or fails his will save (haven't decided which), his rod grows a little bit by learning from the bard. If it is a spell, the rod gains a point in cha. If it is a knowledge or perception type skill, the rod gains a point in int. And if it is a skill that deals with understanding, working with, or leading other people, the rod gains a point in wisdom. When the rod gets 2 of those stats at 12, it will gain empathy and a single lesser power. It also will slowly alter its alignment to match its wielders (since its like he's learning from the bard as he grows, not being a fullfledged intelligent item yet), but I'm not sure how that will work exactly. Also, I'm considering the idea that if the rod does gain a stat point, the bard will feel the affects, by feeling temporarily fatigued, as if he just took a really hard final exam that fried his brain. Haven't decided about that, either. And lastly, the question of spells brings me to wonder if I should make him roll a spell penetration or spellcraft for every spell he casts, since spells don't always require rolls? It's all a jumble, but these are my random thoughts on the matter. Let me know what you think and if you have a beautiful way of combining it all to be simpler, I would be grateful.

(X-posted to dnd_women)
Comments 
13th-Aug-2004 02:20 pm (UTC)
Critical Mimic
The mimic attacks by extending tendrils. Though it may look like a chest or door, it has a mouth, which is vulnerable, as well as a tongue and possibly tendrils. As a DM, you could certainly rule that crits do not work if you wanted to.

Mace of Golem Smiting
My old character had a mace of smiting. The save for the smite ability is only 14. There is not reason you cannot give it 100% chance, if you want it to ever happen. Critical hits happen very infrequently with a mace, and you only fight golems and constructs some of the time... So a mace which has a 5% chance of destroying a creature, and only then if it is the correct type of creature. Not so unbalanced. And with a save of 14, it is certainly easier to resist by powerful adversaries. I never rolled a single crit while I had that mace of smiting.

Dawn of Intelligence
This one depends on How quickly you want it to gain intelligence. If you want it to go very slowly, give it 1-2 points of a stat per level based on in general what the character did with it in his possession. If you want it quicker than that, do it at the end of each session when you award experience, just do not tell them. Describe the effects during the next game as they play. Just a thought. Don't make your life too complicated.
13th-Aug-2004 02:42 pm (UTC)
I never rolled a single crit while I had that mace of smiting.

*laughs* Isn't that always the case? My own DM and I have a joke that you can spend all your time and energy on getting keen edge and improved critical, etc., but the wider your crit range is, the less likely you are to ever crit. It's one of Murphey's Laws for D&D, I swear.
13th-Aug-2004 02:46 pm (UTC)
This one depends on How quickly you want it to gain intelligence.

I would like it to grow slowly, and you make some great suggestions. I do have a habbit of overcomplicating matters. Thanks!
13th-Aug-2004 02:28 pm (UTC)
On the mimic thing; I think it may have to do with the material that the mimic or object is constructed of. Mimics are living creatures regardless of their forms; they have organs (presumably) and other body functions that a simple door or other object woudlnt' have. Therefore, when a mimic takes a certain form, their organs and other body parts have to go somewhere, and when you shove an axe through one, it's going to spurt blood and entrails as opposed to wood and splinters (Or so has always been my interpretation). They aren't actually made of the material they are mimicing, and so, are not immune to crits.
13th-Aug-2004 02:51 pm (UTC)
That's a great way of putting it. Thanks!
13th-Aug-2004 11:03 pm (UTC)
ah, yeah, you beat me to it. the difference between a mimic that looks like a door and an animated door is that the animated door doesn't bleed. granted, it's bright green, ichorish aberration blood, but it's an important distinction.
13th-Aug-2004 02:34 pm (UTC)
is your icon a gi joe character?
13th-Aug-2004 02:43 pm (UTC)
*chuckles*. No, that's Queen Kay from The Twelve Kingdoms Here's another one of her.
14th-Aug-2004 02:36 pm (UTC)
She is vaguely Scarlettish, though Scarlett never had bangs and she wore her ponytail lower.
13th-Aug-2004 03:08 pm (UTC)
For your growing intelligence, wouldn't you have it start with like an int of 1-2, so it would have animal intelligence? and then have it gain in powers similar to familiars or animal companions. Using those as bases will also help you keep the item balanced with the rest of the game.
13th-Aug-2004 03:56 pm (UTC)
It might be a good idea to start the stats lower. Though I don't know about using the familiar stats, for a couple of reasons. For one, what about the other two stats? Do they all gain together? And secondly, something in me wants to randomize it a little. But you are right, that's about as fast as I want it to grow.
13th-Aug-2004 05:18 pm (UTC)
Intelligent Items:
I would personally start the items out more like Int 3, Wis 12, Cha 8. Then I would increase the Int 1-3 a level, depending on how fast I wanted it to increase. The Wis and Cha may or may not go up, or if they do they'd do it much slower. Perhaps 1/4 levels, like character stats. You could alter/swap the Wis and Cha if you want it to be more "aware" (Wis) or more "forceful" (Cha). If you have multiple items for the multiple characters, you can have different distributions. The warrior might have one that is 1/6/12, being like a warrior (dumb and forceful, but magnificent in its own right). The bard might be more 6/12/8, being aware and resourceful and unassuming.

If you're looking for some decent alternatives for rules on intelligent items, I really like the rules in Monte Cook's Book of Eldritch Might (#3 or the "complete").
http://www.montecook.com/mpress_BOEMC.html
http://www.montecook.com/mpress_BOEM3.html

Smiting:
You could make it a blanket chance for *every* hit with a boost on critical. Maybe it is 40% (13-20 on d20) with 60% on critical. If you aren't shy on math, you could have it be scale by damage dealt, monster's HD, or even player's HD. It all depends on how complex you want it and how savvy your players are. You may not want to do it by monster HD because then you're revealing quite a bit about the monster to the players. If it were *my* campaign (my players are mostly advanced), I'd try 25%+5% per point of damage.

As with anything, things may need to be tweaked later on. My philosophy is to TRY things and figure it out as I go. =)
13th-Aug-2004 11:08 pm (UTC)
ok, this might sound a wee bit odd, but bear with me here. i was watching blade runner right before i got on here, and maybe your spawn creatures could be likened unto the replicants, i.e., biological constructs. it's a big piece of flaming dm bs, but it kind of sort of makes sense in a way, in that they were "made" and are essentially constructs created to mimic living beings. actually, now it sort of hooks up to your mimic problem, too, just backwards. maybe the spawn are constructs so advanced that they are crit-able and all like a living being, but still smitable like any other constructed being. i dunno. it is rather late, and all the movies have made me fuzzy, but it seems workable. good luck.
14th-Aug-2004 06:57 am (UTC)
Actually, there are templates for partial constructs in the MM's. As long as any creature has a vital area, it can still be critted.

I ran across a cyborg lizardman once. o.O Freaky thing to imagine.
14th-Aug-2004 07:07 am (UTC)
That's pretty much the way I was thinking, wondering if they would be considered biological constructs. They certainly aren't shapechangers like the mimic. Thanks!
14th-Aug-2004 02:40 pm (UTC)
Makes me think of the Star Wars droids, or of the warforged in Eberron
14th-Aug-2004 01:13 am (UTC)
Mimic and crits:

Despite being able to alter its shape and appearance to look like a door, a table, a chest, whatnot, a mimic is still a critter of flesh and blood and presumably has organs (my organs!) that can be hit. Regardless, as you note it is type aberration and thus is crittable.

Spawns:

Sure, its your adventure, if you want the mace to destroy them, why not?

Intelligence:

Set caps for how smart and powerful that item can get, and if they Bard rolls every time they cast you can bet that once they make the connection they'll just sit around casting spells like mad to get more opportunities to roll a 20... I'll second the suggestion of using the intelligent items from Monte Cook's Eldritch Might book. :)
14th-Aug-2004 07:02 am (UTC)
Dawn of Intelligence: Starting with stats of 10 across the board makes it as capable (minus the physical side) as an ordinary human. To say that it was "not really intelligent" would be to say that none of the NPC's the players come across are intelligent either. True, it has nothing to really denote it as a super-being, other than the fact that it's an intelligent object, and therefore has a leap over all of its kin. (Do items have kin?) In any case, I would go with what edobrzel said and lower the Int score. As for the Wis or Cha scores...well, that's really up in the air. It's entirely dependant on how you want it to grow.

Just remember though that rolling a saving throw is generally to prevent something from happening that you wouldn't want to happen. Unless the character is aware of the item "learning" from him/her or leeching as the case may or may not be, you should probably roll it in secret and have the effects pan out for all to see afterwards.
14th-Aug-2004 07:10 am (UTC)
Unless the character is aware of the item "learning" from him/her or leeching as the case may or may not be, you should probably roll it in secret and have the effects pan out for all to see afterwards.

Now that's a good point. I've had too many problems from characters making will saves and assuming something dastardly is at hand. Thanks!
14th-Aug-2004 08:05 am (UTC)
In my campaign right now (I'm DM), I have one in the party that has an intelligent weapon and doesn't know it. It is slowly drawing life energy (minor amounts of XP). Rather than roll a Will save (because I don't want them to actually make the save), I give them nightmares every time they level. Funny how they haven't figured it out yet. At some point soon I do plan to have the item make its sentience aware to the other players. It should be fun.
14th-Aug-2004 10:09 am (UTC)
What a brilliant idea!! Thanks!!
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