d&d 3.5 spell: inhabited object

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


This is the first entry into a serie about D&D spells. I've run a few games that have gone over level 20 (the highest average level reaching 35 in a traditional game and over 60 in special games), and have had to create strong creatures, traps, spells and scenarios to keep up with my players.

In 2018-19 I fell out with my group and haven't been able to play so I'm sharing some things here to help others and to provide my ideas a place to grow in our communities.

 

Background and Lore Stuff

If you want to get right to the spell itself then you can skip ahead to the next section. I just want to give examples of the spell in play and discuss how it affects the game differently when a PC casts it as opposed to the GM.

I created this spell to facilitate a rather powerful creature in my campaign which was meant to help the PCs both mechanically and narratively. The result of my first technical casting was an inhabited key named Marciel. As a creature it was fine in size (literally one inch tall), it could wield it's key as a longsword but it's size made it very impractical for combat. Being a key originally gave it access to Open Lock, Disable Device and Appraisal. From a game standpoint this was meant to give the players a way to find and identify valuables because none of the PCs were equipped to handle wealth but the campaign itself had a narrative focus on magic items and economic strife (this game was played throughout 2010 and 2011).

The hook for Marciel was that she (as the players addressed her) was the creation of an artificer that the party knew from the starting town of the campaign. It was at first implied that Marciel was created in the weeks before meeting the PCs, but the reality which the players were not aware of was that she was created several-hundred years earlier. In the story, her creator wanted to let the PCs borrow her. This artisan was fond of the PCs through previous encounters and wanted to protect the party that had too little magical support (this was early on in the campaign too, the game started at level 6 and I gave them some free junk at their request. It just so happened that nobody asked for anything practical to the theme, lol).

The problem for me as a DM was that Marciel knew things... lots of things. I had already decided that she cut her teeth on the last world-threatening event in this setting which I had been running games on since my teens. I had a rather concrete timeline handy and logically that would place her in conflict with a very strong Inevitable called "War". Without getting into details I can say that what Marciel knew about the world was grave and heavily overshadowed the goal of the then-current campaign. So her creator cut her down, killing her and dematerializing her body and wiping her memory of everything later than a few days before.

In the spell's rules this is reflected by an enhancement loss which reduces the base creature's stats but can be restored with wishes. So Marciel joined the game only with knowledge of her creator, an NPC animist who was not-exactly friendly but not out to kill the party, and a fatherly Dwarf PC that was an off-and-on NPC. Throughout the course of the campaign, if Marciel encountered something that she conceivably could have known I would roll her INT check for memory and on 15 or higher she recalled a fact of some sort.

In this way, Marciel the inhabited key was able to help the party with some bits of random knowledge, and also with pricing and sorting of key items. The drawbacks for the party were that Marciel wanted to be human and although she was a construct she deliberately acted organic to fit in. She would pretend to be drunk, pretend to forget things, pretend to be hungry and thirsty, pretend to sleep, and she lied about unimportant things. On top of this she would eat gems. Her body was humanoid and made of smooth steel with etched features that shifted to show emotions. She told the party that she needed to eat the gems to maintain her powers. None of them check her facts and none of them had running/active knowledge of constructs so they went on feeding her (which became a problem when they wished on a monkey's paw for a bag of gems which resulted in a full session just for that incident, but that's a spoiler so I'm not talking about it here).

That campaign went on to see the high teens and Marciel started out being a very strong ally, but by the later part of the game she became more of a burden, although the PCs seemed to enjoy her company and insisted she was necessary to continue keeping. To their credit, they were rarely held up by locks and traps.

The second time I used this spell I gave it to a party of low-20's as loot. I thought I could be ready.. in a way I knew what I was getting in to but kinda-sorta. I thought they might copy it into a spellbook and make a nasty staff into a caster ally. Someone could take Leadership and set a ridiculous sword as their cohort. This game was intended to go from level 20 up to 30 or higher depending on how hard the players wanted to go at it.

The PCs and I each created two inhabited objects during that game. I made mine before the game started (they are useful for introducing concepts to plot). The players made their first one before seeing my creations and the second one after, and I only mention this because the player's mindset made a drastic change after seeing what I had in mind.

The first one was intentional on my part. I had already given them a cursed wishing wand called the Release of Wish. This wand gave them three wishes per month (omg yay!) but it activated only anytime the one holding it said the word "and" (omg no!). They discovered this effect with the identify spell, but they thought the curse was that wishes would get corrupted. I ensured them the wishes were pure and they were doubtful. Then one of them tried to settle an in-game argument by saying, "And you can't stop me from leaving this conversation right now". The wand lit up, the PC exited the scene altogether and none of the other PCs even tried to stop him (they chose to leave the scene, I didn't make them go that far but it was a good roleplay moment).

As an inhabited object it was shy and quiet. It's body was made of glass and it stood at two feet tall with humanoid features. It listened and was thoughtful, but it took some convincing to do what the players wanted. As per the spell description, it was fond of it's creator (inevitably the same PC that would create the other I.O.), but it was anxious about being useful. If the PCs couldn't convince it that it would make a positive change with it's wish then it refused to cast for them. According to the description it would get one wish each day, but I explained to the player how that could seriously alter the game (even at such a high level) and I changed the uses to 3 per week. It wasn't too difficult to lie to it or persuade it to get wishes (I didn't want the players to lose the functionality of the item especially since their caster drained a few thousand EXP into it).

Shortly after that they met my creations. The first was an inhabited chess set that controlled a door puzzle. It was only an arm and a head, and it had spent all of it's waking life in that room just to control the door with a chess puzzle. It was argumentative, but fair. It asked to play a real game of chess but the players refused. A very sad affair really.

Then beyond that room was the inhabited cloning vessel (as described in the Clone spell in the PHB). The inhabited version contained a ghostly-pale image of the human form of the antagonist (a strong lich in this case). It was restricted to responding to a structured format of language (like talking to a computer program) and had information about much of the world, in specific it knew about plot details but also gave general information and hints about world lore. While the cloning chamber was indeed the object inhabited, the lich had housed his discarded organic brain in the vessel. This was the basis for it's knowledge and a reason for it's complete lack of mobility (I chose to give it dexterity but it couldn't escape it's vessel anyway).

Finally, the caster with access to the spell got an idea and did research about a magic item. In a previous game I made a dagger that could sever the magic of a divine source. The player knew about this dagger and the character wanted that effect to stop the lich (whom they knew was a cleric and physician in life). I loved the ingenuity of this idea and after the PC made their checks they discovered a lead to get the dagger (this resulted in a couple sessions of side-adventure which was very welcome in the tense atmosphere of the game).

The inhabited dagger was named H'seem and had a very serious attitude. It's body was made of electrum and silver and was just over four feet tall. H'seem hated magic of all types and was inherently distrustful of any caster that wasn't it's creator. The rest of that story I might save for my own uses, but at the turning point of the game they managed to get H'seem killed and it became more of a backup plan. H'seem reawakened with it's reduction penalty and lost most of it's memories which wasn't too much of a setback in the long run but the players decided to spend a day to reintroduce the plot to the dagger as it only remembered who they were and what they did, but the reasons for why were lost.

I made a few different iterations on the inhabited cloning pod but only in the interest of having different types of casters making them (all deceased during the game they were featured in because it's cool). I've also used it to turn traps into multi-part encounters where the PCs avoid a triggered trap only for the parts of the trap to awaken and manually engage the party in combat. More than once I made my players fight a trap and each time it was incredibly funny to see how the players reacted.

Ultimately the end results of this idea are up to the DM running it but I find it's most useful as a narrative device, and if the players find the means to create or buy this spell it can create some very engaging sessions for everyone.

 

Inhabit Object

 

Schools: Transmutation and Conjuration (Creation)

Spell Level: 9th Sorcerer and Wizard, 8th Druid, 8th Starshaper† Domain

Components: Verbal, Somatic, Material, Experience

Casting Time: See Text

Range: Object touched

Duration: Instant

Save: Will Negates (object)

Spell Resistance: No

 

DESCRIPTION:

This spell transforms a physical object into a talisman and creates an effigy in a form suitable to wear, carry or use the object. The item becomes the subject of the spell and is referred to hereafter as the Base Creature (or the creature). The creature is aware of itself and it's surroundings, and so gains a Wisdom and Charisma score, as well as an Intelligence score if it did not already have one. The base score of these abilities is equal to 10+ the original object's active enhancement bonus (max +5 as with magical items).

The created effigy grants the creature Strength and/or Dexterity as is appropriate for it's form. The exact form is determined by the castor but must be able to wear or use the original object in a reasonable fashion. The effigy's body is considered to be made of the material that the original object was made of.

To determine stats use the following formula:

-HD are d10s and the creature's total HD is equal to the original object's HP (I.E. a door with 5 HP would become an inhabited door with 5d10 HD)

-Hardness becomes damage reduction that is overcome by magic (DR x/magic)

-Base Attack is 3/4HD+enhancement bonus (so the inhabited door would have a BA of 3.75, round down to +3 as per basic rules).

-Base Saves are 1/3HD +enhancement bonus

-The creature gains skill points equal to [2+(INTmod, minimum 1)*(HD+3)]

-The base creature's class skills include anything the object could have been used for (DM discretion is needed, but generally this is meant to give the creature behavioral style. For example, an inhabited grappling hook would have Climb as a class skill, but could reasonably also have Use Rope or Escape Artist depending on the needs of the caster or campaign).

 
-If the original object had access to spells (such as a wand or staff) then it can cast each of those spells a number of times per day equal to 1/5th the charges that the original object possessed at the time of casting Inhabit Object, minimum of once per day (Please be aware if a PC is casting this spell then they should work with the DM to ensure the best results for the campaign).

 

-The base creature gains construct traits and is considered an extraplanar outsider when not on the Astral plane (or similar concept for your game). The base creature’s body also has a strong aura of Conjuration and Transmutation magic at all times.

 

If the base creature’s HP reaches zero outside the astral plane, it fades away and the object cracks reducing it’s enhancement bonus by 1. The object can reawaken after one week and loses any memories older than 2d4 days (if medium or smaller) or 3d6 weeks (if large or larger). The enhancement bonus can be restored with a wish or miracle spell, as can the base creature’s memories with a separate casting. If the object’s enhancement bonus drops below zero or the base creature is slain on the astral plane, the object shatters (destroying the base creature) and it’s pieces are scattered between the plane it was slain on as well as the astral and shadow planes. Creature’s within ten feet of the object when it shatters each have a 1% chance to be forced into the ethereal plane (Reflex save DC 15 to negate).

 

An antimagic effect can dissipate the base creature’s body temporarily, leaving the object it inhabits unattended (although also subjected to antimagic) without damaging either. Once the antimagic is gone the creature’s body returns as normal.
Casting Magic Disjunction (PH Page 255) directly on the inhabited object destroys it safely and permanently, but the object is treated as an artifact as per the description of Magic Disjunction.

 

Casting takes one day and 1000 EXP per HD of the completed creature, during which time the caster may only stop to eat or sleep. The caster must also place a number of gems around the object equal to it’s value in GP; these gems become useless rocks after the transmutation part of the spell.

†The Starshaper domain is my own creation and I never made a full list of spells for it. Currently I have two spells for this domain and some lore to tie it together but that's going to come in a future post on the topic of spells.


Submitted: May 21, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Alma R.. All rights reserved.

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