I wanted to talk a little about consumables today. I think with judicious use you can help to balance a party and encourage them to try new things.

Consumables are a great way to give out treasure without impacting the game in the long run. An abundance of heal potions too powerful? No problem, stop handing them out and the problem should slowly go away.

Consumables can also be a way for a DM to help shore up party weaknesses. If the party is light on healing, more cure pots are always appreciated. No wizard? Find ways of working in items with utility uses.

I especially like consumables because they can help give an “epic” feel to big fights. If the party has a limited resource pool they don’t often tap, a really tough fight will force them to spend what they have. This makes the fight feel really knock down and drag out, and can allow an epic fight to continue longer than the players without consumables could normally go. They’ll remember that victory against the dragon where they had to pull out all the stops and still barely squeaked by.
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“The moon is dark, and the gods dance in the night; there is terror in the sky, for upon the moon hath sunk an eclipse foretold in no books of men or of earth’s gods.” – H.P. Lovecraft

This is my second post creating Lovecraftian monsters for the D&D world (see the first here.

Today I’m working on the taker, a disgusting horror found in fetid swamps. The taker is monstrosity resembling a cross between a leech and a hydra. It’s long, black and faintly segmented body is ten feet long and glistens with slime. The front ends in a mass of squirming rubbery black tentacles. The tentacles expand and contract like worms, and each ends in a small, circular toothless mouth.

This monster follows the common theme of “disgusting tentacled thing attacking under water” (see A New Hope and Fellowship of the Ring). However, it should be found on land in swampy areas as well, and adds a few horrifying elements to the mix.

The taker preys on fleshy creatures, ambushing them from under the water and moss covered pools in dark bogs. Each limb makes one grapple attack when the taker uses a standard action to attack (like a hydra). The taker may attack with every tentacle on an attack of opportunity. On a successful grapple each tentacle deals constricting damage and drains the victim’s blood. Each point of constitution drained grants the taker 5 temporary hit points.

If the grappled target fails a Will save (DC 15), it suffers 1d4 points of Wisdom damage as the taker’s alien mind forces itself into their consciousness. The taker now controls the creature for 1d6 rounds as per dominate. The taker can communicate using a grappled creature as a mouthpiece. This ability is useable once per day.

Any victim drained to 0 Constitution rises in one minute as a zombie, its grey flesh covered in bruised sucker-bites. The zombies ignore the taker, and the taker ignores the zombies.

Because of this side effect, many casters ally themselves with takers, providing victims and then commanding or controlling the undead.
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Sunday Fluff:

Erinbar’s Fork Of Prodding
 
This ornate silver dinner fork is decorated at the end with a clear gem. When the fork is touched to an object, the gem lights up to indicate various properties of the object:

  • Green: Object is poisonous
  • Red: Object is magical
  • Yellow: Object is undead
  • Blue: Object is pregnant

 
(In the unlikely case that more than one effect applies, the gem winks each relevant color in series).
 
The divinations offered by this fork are continuous and useful, and many a user has had their life saved by noticing a green glow indicating the steak they were about to dig into has been poisoned.


 
Healing can be a pain sometimes. Sure, some people really do like spending their actions healing their party members, or simply don’t know enough about the game / aren’t assertive enough to do anything more than react in pre-programmed ways. However, for a lot of people that end up playing a healing class or a main party healer it becomes a chore.

Fourth Edition will be solving this to some degree. WotC has acknowledged that most group buff and group aid powers will not consume your actions. As an example, they have mentioned healing auras and the healing smite power of the paladin (hit your enemy and it heals an ally). While the flavor of that may be a bit strange, it does address a gameplay issue.

Here I will address what can be done in 3.5, focusing mostly on the druid (because the main party healer I DM for is a druid). Some of the solutions, however, are not in the SRD, but could be roughly duplicated using their base concept and some house rules.
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It’s been announced that in Fourth Edition there will no longer be any rolls necessary to confirm criticals. This reduces the number of rolls in the game (I think a good thing) and increases player enjoyment (also a good thing!). However, this got me thinking about the math behind 3.5E criticals.
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It’s a classic, but it’s hilarious every time: the backfiring wand of fireballs. I almost never give out genuinely cursed items in my game, so this really took the players by surprise.

Description: This slender ebony wand identifies as a wand of fireballs (caster level 8) with a full 50 charges. When used, the fireball detonates in the square it was fired from. Any character using identify on this item may make a Spellcraft check (DC 25) to discover its curse.

 
Because it has a full 50 charges players should be tempted to use this item often instead of saving it for desperate fights. This reduces the chance they will cripple themselves in the process, leading to laughter instead of anger. (I would also consider changing the curse on the fly to be “fizzling” if the party attempted to use it when they were in a very bad way).

I think this item can really lighten up a game. I actually laughed out loud when my group decided to give it to the party bard because he felt like he wasn’t contributing enough in combat. Like all cursed items, though, it should be handled with care.


 
A while ago while browsing the Internet I discovered the Italian town of Viganella. This town is situated in a steep mountain valley and suffers a unique affliction: every year for 84 days the town receives no sunlight whatsoever.
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