View Full Version : Shadow Compass [Artifact, PEACH]

2008-03-17, 05:51 PM
I'm making a "minor" artifact to give to the characters of a very-low-power game. I wanted something that would, first, serve as a call to adventure, and second, give them a couple of very useful tricks. What I didn't want to do was break things. I was looking for the Ring (in the Hobbit, not in the Trilogy) - really helped Bilbo out, transformed him into a potent individual, but had its limitations.

Shadow Compass

Originally created for navigation through the Plane of Shadows between different Prime Material Planes, a Shadow Compass appears to be and acts as an ordinary, though well-wrought, directional compass, with an onyx face, silver inlays to show the directions, and an iron needle. Its casing is polished darkwood which opens on a silver hinge. The needle always points towards the south pole, not the north; the symbols representing the directions are in no known language or alphabet, but are easy to translate once this discrepency is accounted for. The inside of the top is inlaid with silver two calligraphy words in a language known to none. The compass is subtly different each time it is opened; the grain of the darkwood will have shifted, the markings will be thicker or thinner, the needle will rest closer or further from the face, or the onyx facets will be patterned slightly differently.

The two words inside the compass's cap are the command words for its powers. The Decipher Script skill (DC 10) and spells such as Comprehend Languages will reveal how to pronounce the words, but not their meaning. (In actuality, they don't have meanings.) Additionally, anyone who spends one round holding the compass and examining the words will get the sense that they ALMOST comprehend them, and anyone who focusses on either one in particular (std action) for a full minute knows how to pronounce it, though not what it means or what effect saying it will have. Both writing and command words change every time the compass is closed or ceases to be held.

The compass is sentient, having int 12, wis 12, cha 10, empathic communication, a true neutral allignment, 10 ranks in Knowledge (Planes), and 12 ego. It is indifferent to its user's identity, his or her allignment, and any other sentient items he or she may carry. However, it may fight the user for control when its Cross Over ability is used, and will always do so during or just before exposure to sunlight. It will also attempt to help its carrier survive in other planes, using its empathic ability and its Knowledge (Planes) ranks.

- Find the Path - at will: The command word closer to the cap's hinge activates this power. As the spell, save that the duration is for however long the compass remains open and held by the user, the chosen path may include up to two uses of the Cross Over power (below) if the user is not fatigued, and the chosen path will never pass through direct sunlight. In addition to the user knowing the direction to travel, the needle ceases to point south for the power's duration and instead points along the path, spinning when a use of Cross Over is required.

- Cross Over - 1/hour: The command word further from the cap's hinge activates this power. As the spell Shadow Walk, with the following variations. Exhausted characters and characters immune to fatigue may not use this power. Using this power twice in a single day causes the user to become fatigued. The shift to the shadow plane is instantaneous (rather than of limited duration) and cannot be dismissed. Another use of this power from the shadow plane will return the user to the prime material plane. If Crossing Over at a certain location is recommended by the compass's Find the Path power, those affected are not displaced randomly as normal for Shadow Walk. In addition to the user, five other people within 60 ft of the compass can be brought along. The user is not prompted to concentrate on which ones to bring and will only learn how to bring someone along with experience, but may do so if he or she wishes. To do so, the player should list which ones are being brought along in order of importance, as the compass may fight the user for control and more important ones are less likely to be left behind. The user may also mentally add the requirement that anyone not on the list is not affected by the power. (Often, a first-time user will be unaware of the ability or risk of bringing others along.) Each additional person receives a DC 20 will save to resist this power, which they may choose to voluntarilly fail. The user receives no such save.

Additionally, one or both of the following effects may be added to the Cross Over power. Each counts as an additional use for determining when the compass may next be used to Cross Over (2 or 3 hours) and how fatigued the user becomes. Neither of these effects may be added if the user is already fatigued.
- 6 more people can be transported, for a total of 12 including the user. This effect cannot be applied mulitple times to the same use of the power -- no more than 12 can be transported at a time.
- Deeper Darkness centered on the user just prior to the normal Cross Over ability. This effect remains behind in the Prime Material Plane. This is used automatically if the location is not normally dark enough for the Shadow Walk spell. In this case, if Deeper Darkness fails (perhaps due to a more powerful light spell), or if it cannot be used because the user is already fatigued, then the Cross Over power also fails (and can't be used for an hour), and the user does not become more fatigued.

The compass has its own ideas of who should come along on these trips. Its choices are first, the user, second, anyone else who has used one of the compass's command words in the past 24 hours (most recent first), third, anyone it transported to or from the shadow plane in the past 24 hours (most recent first, then by what order they appeared on that transit's list), fourth, anyone the user specifies in the order the user specifies them, and finally, anyone else within 60 feet of the compass (chosen randomly). It will always attempt to bring 6 along. If the user wishes to transport someone not on the compass's list or not to transport someone on the compass's list, the compass will fight for control to see which list is used.

Bright light is harmful to the compass. One minute of exposure to direct sunlight or a daylight spell forces it into dormancy. When dormant, it cannot sense its environment, cannot communicate even empathicly, and cannot be used except as an ordinary compass. It comes out of dormancy one hour after removal from the light. The compass detests light of this brightness, and will fight for dominance to force the user to put it somewhere dark (like a pocket), leave the area (perhaps using the Cross Over power), or not enter the light in the first place. It's indifferent to how the user protects it from the light; if it tries to force the user to leave the light and instead the user wants to drop it in his or her pocket, the compass will accept the compromise.

A shadow compass weighs 2 lbs, and detects as moderate illusion. It has 30 HP, but can only be damaged by Light effects which ordinarilly cause damage, such as a sunburst spell, a crystal dragon's breath weapon, or a lamp archon's rays. Nothing else will so much as scratch it. If not at full HP, the compass will, once per day and without consent, force a user who isn't already exhausted to take a DC 15 fort save. If the user fails, he or she becomes fatigued and the compass regains 1 HP.

2008-03-18, 05:31 AM
Really nice. But won't find the path tend to break the game?

2008-03-18, 08:37 PM
No, for four reasons.

First, I don't intend to run many traditional dungeons. The closest will likely be several "sneak past the guards" encounters. The players will learn pretty quickly that the fastest route also tends to be the most-travelled route.

Second, the sunlight exception. After a couple of long, meandering routes where they say, "hey, that bright, sunlit courtyard looks familiar! We could have walked right through it instead of going the long way around!", they'll be second-guessing the provided route left and right.

Third, the shadow-jumps in the route. The compass might think the best route is through the plane of shadows, but fatigue and exhaustion are significant at first level. (So are the type of critters you can encounter on the plane of shadows. So, for that matter, is the prospect of staying there for an hour.) If just as often as not the cost of using that power is being delayed on hour in the plane of shadows and getting fatigued (or exhausted) to boot, they'll think twice before using it.

And finally, Find the Path is itself limited. You can't use it to locate people or items... just locations. Which is more common? A dungeon where you have to find your way to a specific location which you've identified ahead of time, or a dungeon where you have to find your way to a specific people or items?

This isn't to say that it won't be useful. But if the PCs end up relying on it to do all the thinking for them, then either they or the GM aren't very bright.

All that said, it WILL make trapfinding rogues largely irrelvant... unless they, say, have to get into a trapped chest or vault or something.

2008-03-18, 09:02 PM
It is certainly... intersting.
I like magic compasses, though, so it passes.