A Costly Grace, An Artful Ward, and A Level Playing Field…

Martyr’s Shift

The others were drunk or laughing or both, a high fire popping and hissing wood while they celebrated.  The road had been long, the journey fraught with peril, and today they won through. It was dead. And the long miles and weeks of hunting it back to its manse, dispatching it’s minions–even with the losses they suffered and the friends they buried–were worth it. As Sir Broadways watched them all smiling and cheering each other through the gap in his tent, he felt the costs more than the joy. 

He took off his heavy golden armor, piece by weighty piece, and slowly–laying each down with care and respect. He took his padding off, the old quilted garment common to thick plate, and knelt in his shift.  The old blood stains–here, from that crossbow bolt last year; there, from the ax of that vile dark thing from his youth–were accented by a fresh one still red and damp and sticky. The creature had conjured some fierce and dark lance and there is where it would have pierced him had the old paladin not stopped it.

A cheer went up in the camp and the explosive and infectious laughter of Tanner.  Let them enjoy themselves, Broadways thought, I can still pay the costs…

History:  (Religion DC 15) The old orders of knights and The Faith from the long fallen Northern Empire still carry some of the artifacts of power or piety with them. Among these few and far flung pieces of careful, divine blessing are Martyr’s Shifts–seemingly normal, though well-made, cloth longshirts.  If not for the golden thread in the stitching, one would mistake them for any such shifts any armored or active individual might wear under their clothes in any part of the world.

But these were created through a slow and careful pledge to their now half-forgotten goddess that their wearer would trade his life, in what bits and pieces they must, to fight on righteously for Her glory and to protect Her people. They’re the simple clothes of a long dead pious warrior. As venerable as the bones of a Saint. One must be baptized, wearing only the shift, in natural waters (no particular faith or creed necessary, only a rebirth and personal oath to live to protect the weak) in order to attune.

System: Once attuned (see History), the shift allows the wearer to negate damage against themselves after the damage dice are rolled.  After a successful attack hits them, and after the damage dice are rolled, but before they are applied to the character, the player may use their Reaction (assuming they have it available) to remove as many of the rolled damage dice as they want.

For example, in the case of a greatsword attack against them that hits and does 3 (dice one) + 5 (dice two) +2 (strength) damage against them, they may elect to use their Reaction to activate the shift and take the 5, the 3, or both away–this has no effect on the remaining non-dice related damage.

Doing so, however, runs a 25% chance of removing 1 permanent maximum HP from the character for every dice removed.  So, in the event of removing 1 dice, roll 1d4 and on a 1 remove one permanent maximum HP from the character.  In the event of removing 2 dice, roll 2d4 and for every 1 rolled remove 1 HP from the character.  These HP removals aren’t a curse (and cannot be fixed by uncursing or restoring), they’re a cost.  They may not be wished or miracled back in any conventional magical sense as they aren’t “lost”.  They’re freely given away, divinely.

Finding and returning the shift to a priest or temple of the old Northern faiths (rare and lost to time) may restore those “paid” HP to the character at the cost of ever being able to use it again–DM’s are encouraged to make finding such people or places whole adventure arcs on their own as it has been centuries gone.

Stopchalk

“It’s goddamn gaining on us!!!” Meilla shouted from somewhere behind him–oh, but hell that woman can scream when she wants to. It’s all murmurs and mystery right up until the shit hits the fan, then it’s “halp, halp, save us”. Bruze really did not at all like magicians and wizards and the like. If it were up to him, he’d leave the bookhumpers at home when these sorts of jobs came up.

Spelljockies… complete waste of breath in the deep places.

His pulse barely above a mild country two-step, he slowed his run down just enough for her to catch up. 

“Get through that door, I got this” he drawled. Her normal cool and placid face was flush with fear and exertion.  Bruze rolled his eyes as she loped furiously toward the archway–running. Who dies of a heart attack while bloody running?  

As she leapt through into the next room, with Bruze right behind her, he skidded to a half-crouched halt and spun around to see the great lumbering troglodyte hunch its shoulders and lean into a charge.  Pulling the chalk from his pocket and trying to ignore the frantic panicking screams of his companion as she realized this was a dead end room, he swiped a line across the floor with casual grace and leaned back onto his haunches.

The thing barreled toward Bruze and to meet the crouching halfling full on, it dove the last ten feet with claws and teeth cared.

Barely eight inches away, Bruze winced as it broke its dumb neck and hoped Meilla would hyperventilate or something because he’d had it waaaaaay up to /here/ with the freaking out today.

History: (Arcane DC 16) There are two things you can count on finding in the great free cities of the Bay to the distant East: (1) new and exciting ways to be robbed and (2) some of the most practical and least flashy enchanted tools and items anywhere in the world. The thieves and gangs and syndicates of those chaotic towns long ago saw to it that the one variable in their criminal equations they did not control–magic–would be brought to heel.

The Purge killed or drove out virtually every wizard and warlock and sorcerer around the Bat, and the Arcane Tricksters and Artificers employed by the gangs went to work on their own school of magic they dubbed The Black Art (more for hype than it being particularly “dark”). The Black Art is focused on practical and material magic with simple, potent power that runs a low risk of being abused (the bosses wouldn’t want underlings to get too big for their britches) or dangerous (consorting with outsider beings, evoking explosive magic, controlling minds… all very risky stuff).

Stopchalk (items of the Black Art are fairly literally named) is a stick of chunky white chalk that would be indistinguishable from any other normal chalk except it gives off a light and faint smoke when you draw anything with it. It was invented, originally, to quickly secure an area, though some have found more painful uses for it.

System: A stick of Stopchalk has 10 “uses” and doesn’t replenish. When draw across a (mostly) horizontal surface like a floor made out of stone, wood, or a combination of the two, the line drawn becomes a completely impassable and invisible physical barrier as wide as the line drawn and as tall as the ceiling (could be 10ft, could be 100ft).  If one placed their hand on the “barrier” it will feel diamond hard though there is no visual reference.

The limitation of Stopchalk, however, is that barrier, once created, only lasts for as long as nothing impacts it physically. If you touch it, it will exist, and then will immediately vanish afterward.  Whether a delicate finger touch or a hammer strike or a runaway mining cart, it will stop (as though the object hit a perfectly invulnerable wall) whatever hits it… but then anything may pass as though it’s not there.

The barrier has no effect on magic unless by stopping some physical object (fire, lightening, etc. do not count as physical objects for this purpose) it stops the magic–like a magic sword being blocked because the sword (the delivery mechanism for the magic) is still a physical object.

Every 5ft of line counts as one “use”. In combat, drawing a line is an action. If drawing a line shorter than 5ft, it still counts as one “use”.

The Agate of Time

Nera and the rest climbed down into the labyrinthine ant hill of tunnels and passages. The omnidirectional nature of the paths betrayed the alien nature of the thing that lived here. As they climbed down a sheer hole in the bedrock that opened to a series of off angled other paths, she could feel the thing watching them.

It wasn’t the feeling of being watched by a mind, it was this whole place.  This lair, so long and deeply infused with the thing’s own wrongness and evil, was watching them. It was reading them and staring at them through a thousand flecks and facets in the rocks they passed. When time came, she was sure the vain thing would call upon horrors here in the heart of it’s power. She’d seen it before.  Been trapped in a world that worked to destroy them as surely as the beast that lived there.

But she had a trick up her sleeve that might just give them all a chance…

History: (Nature DC 17, History DC 22) The world does not speak in prose, but action.  It does not reveal itself in moments, but eons. And the Druids called forth from the swarm of mortals that live on it are but thousands of tiny ants working towards a goal greater than their knowing and often over time longer than their lives. It became known as The Pigrimage amongst their own. To outsiders, it would look like a form of madness, a boy wakes up and knows he must travel to a distant mountain and spend a year hammering at a rockface with a stone and by hand. Years later, a woman of means abandons her family to go there, doing the same.  Yet more years later, a man wakes up from a drunken stupor and travels to that rockface (now showing a vague tunnel-like shape).

Over the millennia, hundreds of people–anointed by the forces of the World to be it’s Druids, it’s keepers–would have this gaeas upon them. None knowing why. None questioning it. Such is the way of Druids.

Eventually, several hundred meters deep in the rock and hundreds of years ago, a young girl–hands bloody and raw, having pounded at the rocks for months already–broke through to reveal a small cavity in the mountain where a fist-sized chunk of mineral lay that would be known as the Agate of Time. That girl would grow up to be a great Archdruid, and the Agate was one of her greatest tools.  Attunement to the Agate requires speaking the girl’s name, possibly long lost to history now. DM’s are encouraged to heavily reward a party that has a Sage-background PC, given how few characters are built on it.

System: Once attuned, the Agate’s only property is forcing the unnatural and alien nature of Lairs to cleave to the character’s own Initiative and activity.

Rather than a Lair leading off a round at initiative 20 or likely going before most of the party, the Lair will go immediately after (on the same initiative) the character who is attuned to the Agate. In addition, if the character does absolutely nothing (no talking, no moving), the Lair will also do nothing as the Agate tames the world around it.

You can find the ever-growing list of “Better Than Nothing” items  over on the right. Read ‘em, like ‘em, share ‘em, and comment.
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