Here at AdventureAWeek, we produce high quality adventures in both the D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder formats. Luckily for us, the two systems are very similar, so it’s easy to write for both systems. However, there are just enough differences between the two that you can’t use a 3.5 character in PF as is and vice versa. There need to be a few changes made. One of my many jobs at AaW is to make sure that all of the monster stat blocks are converted correctly. I’m going to give you a few times on how to do that.
The first thing you need to be able to do is to be able to recognize when something is in one format, but not the other. The Listen skill is 3.5, whereas Vital Strike is a Pathfinder feat. If you don’t have access to the 3.5 Player’s Handbook and the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, you can use the same tools we do, which are the D&D 3.5 Wiki (http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/Main_Page) and the D&D Hypertext (http://www.d20srd.org/) and the Pathfinder System Reference Document ( http://www.d20pfsrd.com/). These are invaluable resources.
Secondly, understand the formatting differences. The two systems use largely different formats for their stat blocks, plus different terms in their blocks. But I’ll get into the different terms as I go along. I’m not going to get into the differences in formatting, as they should be fairly obvious.
The biggest differences between the two systems are Skills, Feats, and the CMB/CMD/Base Attack/Grapple systems. Almost everything else stays the same.
Skills are the biggest change, because there are no more “cross-class skills” in Pathfinder. There are now Class Skills and Non-Class Skills. Instead of putting half-ranks into cross-class skills like in 3.5, in Pathfinder, you put in single points. If you put one skill point into a class skill, for that first point, you get a +3 instead of +1. If you put one skill point into a non-class skill, for that first point, you get +1. Obviously, this doesn’t count in the ability modifier. Also, you don’t multiply your skill points by four at 1st level.
The biggest difference in Skill between the two systems is that numerous D&D 3.5 skills that were folded into single skills in Pathfinder. Hide and Move Silently became Stealth. Listen, Search, and Spot became Perception. Balance, Jump, and Tumble became Acrobatics. Decipher Script, Forgery, and Speak Language became Linguistics. Open Lock is now part of Disable Device. Gather Information is now part of Diplomacy. Use Rope is now part of the CMB/CMD system. So, how do you convert them?
The most accurate way is to break down how many skills points this particular monster should have and go through and figure it out by hand. For us, however, time is usually not something we have a lot of, so I’ve devised a way to do a quick and dirty conversion which, while not 100% accurate, is accurate enough for game play. I’ve never seen one or two extra skill points break a game.
Going from 3.5 to Pathfinder, the easiest way is to simply keep the same score, but add the new skill name. For example, if a monster had a +5 in each of Balance, Jump, and Tumble, change it to Acrobatics +5. Going from Pathfinder to 3.5, it can be a little more difficult, but really, just look at the concept of your monster before deciding which skills to use. If your monster has a Pounce attack, it should probably have Jump as opposed to Tumble. If it’s an underwater monster, you might want to give it ranks in Listen instead of Spot.
On to Feats. There are no feats that disappeared from 3.5, but quite a few changed due to the changes in skills. The Stealthy feat gives a bonus to Stealth (PF) instead of Hide and Move Silently (3.5). There are also quite a few new feats in Pathfinder In the 3.5 Player’s Handbook, there are two pages of feats. In the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, 3 ¾ pages of feats, so there’s a much greater variety to choose from. When doing conversions, just like skills, understand the concept of the monster and the feats should be easy to figure out.
Lastly, the Base Attack/Grapple and Combat Maneuver Bonus/Combat Maneuver Defense mechanics. All of the various combat maneuver mechanics in 3.5 have been replaced by the CMB score. The CMB is pretty easy to figure out. The Base Attack Bonus should given in the stat block. The formula for Grapple is:
Base Attack Bonus + Strength Modifier + Size Modifier
In most cases, the CMB is the same as your Grapple score. The formula for CMB is:
Base Attack Bonus + Strength Modifier + Size Modifier
You roll a d20, add your CMB to see if it beats your opponents CMD. The defense from combat maneuvers in handled by the CMD score. The formula for CMD is:
CMB + Dexterity Modifier
That’s it. Just add the Dexterity modifier to your CMB and you’ve got your CMD. Piece of cake.
Note: A creature can also add any circumstance, deflection, dodge, insight, luck, morale, profane, and sacred bonuses to AC to its CMD.
Those are the major difference in stat blocks between the two editions, other than formatting. Just make sure you take your time and converting from one to the other should be easy.
Children of the Night: Making Vampires Scary Again
“I am Dracula. And I bid you welcome, Mr. Harker, to my house.”
Dracula (1897), Bram Stoker.
There was a point in fiction and gaming, not so long ago, that vampires were villains. They were monsters and people were right to fear them. They had great strength, speed, and many abilities that normal humans could not cope with. These days, it’s all sparkly skin and brooding angst and self-loathing, with a vampire playing the sometimes-reluctant hero. As a huge fan of vampires, while I don’t have anything against the vampire hero, I miss the days of the vampire being the villain and being feared.
In this week’s Critical Hit to the Blog, I’m going to give you some tips and ideas on how to make vampires scary again.
Bumps in the Night
One of the many things that vampires represent is the fear of the dark, of the unknown. However, it’s not the dark itself that people find frightening, it’s what’s in the dark that is scary. Rats. Bats. Snakes and spiders. All of these things are creeping while you’re sleeping and sometimes, you don’t know they’re there, but you might think they’re there and that’s enough.
The vampire has a few abilities that can allow you to play into that fear of the unknown. The first is Children of the Night. This ability allows the vampire to call rat swarms, bat swarms, or wolves that serve the vampire for up to one hour. Using these allies to harass and harry the PCs can run the PCs ragged, making them use resources that would make a confrontation with the vampire easier. One thing to remember about this ability is that if your base creature is an outsider or has a non-terrestrial subtype, you might want to consider letting the vampire summon other creatures, such as half-fiend wolves or a barghest or hellhounds instead of wolves and a vargouille instead of bats.
The second ability is Dominate. This allows a vampire to control someone as though the vampire had used dominate person by 12th level caster. That means this ability lasts for twelve days. The reason this is frightening is that the PCs can’t know for sure that one of their allies is under the control of a vampire or not. Assuming the party knows that a vampire is involved, this can cause rifts in the party, which can only make things easier for the vampire. Even if they don’t know a vampire is involved, assuming the party posts guard at their camp during the night, their guard could become compromised due to this ability and the rest of the party wouldn’t even know it.
The third and fourth abilities are the vampire’s ability to change shapes. The vampire can take the form of a dire bat, a wolf, or assume a gaseous form. These powers can be used to play a cat-and-mouse game with the PCs. As the PCs chase the vampire, the vampire can change shape, so that they don’t notice the bat, which then starts following them in gaseous form, only to appear in front of them as a wolf later on.
Lastly is the vampire’s spider climb ability. This lets the vampire climb any surface as if they were under the spider climb spell. The vampire turns a corner ahead of the PCs, but when the party turns the same corner, there’s not sign of the vampire, because the vampire climbed straight up the wall and is hanging from the ceiling above them. Since most people don’t think to look up, the vampire can hide easily. And when you add in the vampire’s +4 bonus to Dexterity and a +8 racial bonus to Stealth, this becomes even easier.
Wile E. Coyote: Super Genius
In a previous blog, I talked about how to make your villain really evil and all of those traits can be used with the vampire, but if there’s one thing that infuriates players, it’s having an enemy that’s smarter than they are. Build the vampire as brilliant and don’t forget to add their +2 Intelligence bonus from the template. Pairing the power of a genius with the vampire’s +4 to Charisma and +8 to Bluff, Perception, and Sense Motive can allow you to play the vampire in a way that will prevent the players from being able to tell exactly what the vampire knows and what they don’t.
A genius makes their opponents approach them at less than full power. Therefore, a genius will set up challenges and encounters for the PCs that require the PCs to use up their resources, such as healing potions, healing spells, scrolls, wands, and most importantly, hit points. If the vampire can use minions that do ability damage or ability drain, the party will most likely be weaker when they finally get to the vampire.
Change Things Up
The current view of vampires is that they males are square-jawed and handsome and the females are the most beautiful, most sensual/sexual things on the planet. Even the picture in the Pathfinder Bestiary is fairly sexualized. But if you look back at the movie Nosferatu (1922), the vampire Count Orlock was hideous and looked like an anthropomorphized rat. By making a vampire look different or giving them different abilities than what the players are expecting can make a vampire scary.
One way to do this is add the vampire template to a humanoid creature other than a human being or to add the template to a character that has class levels. A vampire Cleric would certainly be interesting and unexpected.
You could change the gaseous form ability to invisibility or make the regular bloodsucker into a psychic vampire by having them damage Intelligence or Wisdom instead of Constitution. This way, you can let the vampire attack without having to grapple, say an attack range of 30 ft., and the victim could have a Will Save (I’d say DC 25 or so).
My personal favorite way to alter monsters is to use the Monster Modifier by Adamant Entertainment. With a few rolls of the dice, you can completely alter the way a monster looks, how it moves, or what it can do. For example, I was running a module for my Pathfinder group that contained a monster called a barrow spider. The party was a higher level than the module, so I was adjusting as I went. I got to the barrow spider and got out the Monster Modifier. A few rolls of the dice later, the spider was one size category larger, was a different color and had 12 legs instead of 8. The four extra were two human legs and two grasshopper legs, which gave the spider ranks in Jump, which was a surprise to the group.
You can find the Monster Modifier at DriveThruRPG here: Monster Modifier. It’s $2 and in my opinion, very much worth the investment.
By mixing things up, you can really throw the party for a loop. Is the vampire not a spellcaster but can suddenly use fireballs? Is their dominate ability changed to a gaze attack that paralyzes or petrifies instead of commanding? What if the vampire can change into an elemental instead of a bat or a wolf? If your base creature has spellcasting ability and can use alter self (and it’s chain of spells), elemental body, or beast shape, this can also help throw the heroes off the scent by changing into other people, elemental creatures, or animals other than a rat or a bat.
Casting Against Type
The “standard” image of the vampire is well dressed and well mannered. An opera cape and a widow’s peak don’t hurt either. But what if your vampire is nothing but a flying head, like the penanggalen, or a spirit that doesn’t have a physical form, like the lamia from Greek myth (which is totally different than the lamia presented in the Bestiary 3)? In Filipino myth, the aswang was a woman who, after rubbing a magical ointment on their skin, turned into a large bird that flew through the village and released a long, pointed tongue that the aswang would use to drain blood. There are also stories of vampiric rabbits, so using animal vampires is also possible.
Because the vampire template can be added to humanoids, fey, or monstrous humanoids and not just humans, your options expand greatly for the base creature. A vampiric Minotaur. A vampiric pixie. A vampiric storm giant. Let your imagination run wild.
There are a few classic weaknesses of the vampire, such as garlic, the crucifix, and mirrors. Vampires also have an aversion to running water and sunlight. Everyone who has seen a vampire movie will know these weaknesses and act on them. The best way to combat this is to alter or remove weaknesses. There have been jokes and movies that have to deal with Jewish vampires that aren’t repelled by the cross, but are driven back by the Star of David. Use that. If your base creature is part of a particularly strong religion, replace the crucifix with the religious symbol of that religion. If nothing else, that requires the characters to figure out why a crucifix didn’t work.
The vampiric aversion to mirrors was created in Dracula (1897), but has been interpreted as the vampire, being undead, has no soul, and therefore casts no reflection or shadow. If your vampire is a spellcaster or has a spellcaster on their staff, a simple application of the prestidigitation spell can either present a reflection or shadow or, if needed, remove a shadow or reflection to cast suspicion onto someone else.
Normally, a vampire cannot enter a private home or dwelling without permission of the owner, but adventurers usually stay at an inn or tavern; these are public places, so in that case, the vampire can enter freely. And there’s nothing in the rules that says the vampire has to gain permission while the PCs are standing there. If the party is helping with a “vampire problem,” then the vampire might have already obtained permission to enter someone’s house before they were suspected of being a vampire.
According to more modern vampire movies and books, vampires are destroyed by sunlight, but in Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula was capable of walking around in broad daylight. He wasn’t destroyed but he did lose his powers, making him more or less a normal human being. This can also help disorient the characters. If they see who they think is a vampire walking down the street at noon, they may be convinced that that person isn’t a vampire.
A stake to the heart (originally it was a spike to pin the corpse to the ground) will kill a vampire and the vampire will remain dead until the stake is removed, unless the head is cut off and the body burned or anointed with holy water. However, in one Batman comic, Batman fought a vampire who had removed his heart and hid it so that the vampire was unkillable until Bats found the heart and pierced it with an arrow. In this case, the heart worked similar to a lich’s phylactery. You can do all the damage to the body that you want, but until you find the heart, the vampire won’t die. This could be turned into a search through a haunted house for the vampire’s heart with the vampire and vampire spawn and minions hunting the PCs.
Another option in making your vampire menacing is to make them Lawful Evil and then team that vampire up with the PCs for some reason. They are ordered to accompany the vampire, but they only have his word that there will be no neck biting in the night (“But he’s evil!”). The party might be tempted to stake their “partner” in the day and be reluctant to trust him when it comes his time to stand guard. Have the PCs (particularly the female ones for a male vampire, males for a female vampire) make Perception/Spot checks when the entire party is together. If they succeed, they catch the vampire staring at their neck. Are they sure he is Lawful Evil? Maybe he’s Neutral Evil and simply playing a game with the PCs and will attack given any opportunity or even the worst possible moment.
This can also go back to the dominate ability. Perhaps the vampire has taken control of one of the party members or an NPC, like a hireling or follower, and the PCs aren’t aware of it. When will this NPC turn on the PCs and help the vampire?
Vampires, for all of their brooding and sparkling and their nice clothes and fancy accents, are predators. Watch other predators like lions and tigers. Do they stop and chat and try to seduce or dominate their prey? No. They chase their prey, bring them down, and tear into the flesh to get what they want. Make your vampire that way, too. If the PCs discover a body, the throat might be slashed open from side to side or the body even decapitated.
Unless the vampire has used its dominate ability, there should be nasty defensive wounds on the body, usually claw or bite marks on the outside of the arms. Since the vampire most likely has a high Strength score (Van Helsing said that Dracula had the strength of 20 men), broken bones and cracked ribs are a definite possibility.
A victim’s best bet is to hope for a Lawful Evil vampire. At least that way, there’s a chance of negotiating their way out. If the vampire is Neutral Evil or Chaotic Evil, then forget it. Unless you want the suave, sophisticated vampire, these two are the vampires you want to make your villains. They have no remorse and will do whatever they want.
Make them savage and cunning creatures of the night. Reduce the bonuses to Intelligence and Wisdom and increase the bonuses to Strength and Dexterity (for better Armor Class) or Strength and Charisma (for more hit points).
Mix it Up
When a party of PCs shows up at the bad guy’s door, the group is usually made up of various classes. When facing a (suspected) vampire, have the PC encounter various minions, each with a different skill set. This will make it more difficult to focus on one enemy (the vampire) because the various characters may be needed to deal with a specific threat.
For example, if the party has a Monk, the Monk may be needed to negate an enemy spellcaster. The Fighter, Barbarian, or Paladin (or possibly all of them) might be needed to handle the vampire’s “muscle.” Clerics might need to turn or damage undead that work for the vampire, as well as healing. And don’t be afraid to have the minions switch “partners” on the PCs. Keep the players (and their characters) on their toes!
Looking for Group
Vampires in fiction tend to fall into two types. The first type is the angsty loner who might or might not be trying to redeem himself. The second type is the “nest,” where any vampire can come and be considered “family.”
Just like any family, these vampires will work together to defend their home. The “savage” vampires will wade in and deal physical damage, while the psychic vampires can target the spellcasters, which usually stay in the back. The “normal” vampires can play the middle, by targeting melee types with their domination ability.
As with the section on mixing it up, vampires often kept human slaves or minions. These helpless or dominated minions might make assaulting a vampire lair more difficult. Do the slaves/minions immediately become enemies? Is it possible to save them? If the party does save them, what happens when the party gets them out? Will the vampire chase the party down to get his slaves back? Will the party be able to fight back while protecting the slaves or will everyone become too vulnerable? What will a vampire’s wrath contain?
So, there you go. Some tips and ideas on making vampires scary again.
A brave band of adventurers is fighting their way through Castle D’Evil, when Fortuitous the Brave, a Paladin of some renown, perishes under the overwhelming attack of the rabid dire badgers! Once the evil badgers have been dispatched, Porcini the Monk, to whom Fortuitous was betrothed, begins weeping openly for the loss of her love. Tankeroneous the Fighter places a comforting hand on Porcini’s should. “Don’t worry, Por. The nearest high-level cleric is only a day’s ride away! Forty will be back on his feet in no time!”
Death is something that everyone must face, especially RPG characters. It’s a fact of life, so to speak. As a group, you may allow for the “character’s twin brother” to appear, claim their stuff, and continue on. Or you might require the player to roll up a new character. But what are the actual effects of character death? Unfortunately, the questions that come from this topic are difficult to answer and, ultimately, the DM has to come up with those answers.
In this week’s Critical Hit to the Blog, I’ll be looking at character death and what it means for you (the DM), your players, your world in general, and what you can do about it. This week’s example character will be poor Fortuitous the Brave. This article was inspired by “Back From the Dead” in Dragon #210 and “Cheating Death” in Dragon #342.
WHO Am I?
So, Fortuitous is dead. Maybe he was eaten by wolves or zapped by a Wizard or they suffered from a terminal case of pointy-metal-stick-to-the-gutsosis. But it just so happens that a wandering (or wondering) Cleric strolls by and by taking 1 minute out of his day (and giving up a diamond worth 5,000 gp), casts raise dead, and Fortuitous is back! Huzzah! More stabbing!
But wait. Is Fortuitous the same person he was before he died? What did Fortuitous experience when they were dead? Heaven? Hell? The Abyss? Celestia? New Jersey? Was he happy where he was, only to be sucked back to earth for another chance to put the beating on the evil archmage? Okay, I know that the character’s soul must be free and willing to return to the body for any of the raise dead chain of spells to work, but the point remains. It’s possible to guilt a soul into coming back, I suppose.
But I’m getting off topic.
Anyway, the description for raise dead in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook says, “Coming back from the dead is an ordeal.” Granted, the description continues with the physical description of the ordeal (2 permanent negative levels or 2 points of Constitution drain, depending on level), but what about the mental ordeal?
If Fortuitous is a melee type and is constantly getting hurt and healed, dying might not be so bad. Physical trauma can be mentally wearying. Death would give Forty a way to not be beat up anymore more. It might be peaceful and welcoming.
Coming back from the dead should have an effect on your character other than what’s listed in the rules. Fortuitous the Brave may develop a phobia regarding what killed him. If Orcs killed him, role-play the fear that comes up the next time Orcs appear! Fortuitous, a Greatsword-focused Paladin, may suddenly switch to a crossbow because he’s afraid of dying again.
More questions arise. If your character dies and is resurrected, who gets his stuff? Fortuitous died, right? That means his property should go to his heirs or family. If there are none, the party usually splits the gear. But he’s alive again, right? Does he still have a claim on his gear, land, and holdings? Is he still betrothed to Porcini?
A Cleric who can cast resurrection is a minimum of 13th level. The rules for resurrection (and true resurrection) state that a Cleric can bring someone back to life as long as they haven’t been dead more than 10 years per caster level!
So, there’s King Filetmignon, happily ruling his country, when his (great x4) grandfather, King Fortuitous (he got a lot of promotions) comes striding through the door, still brushing dirt off of his burial clothes, demanding to have the throne back. Who has the rightful claim to the throne?
If Fortuitous is declared the King, and he didn’t die of natural causes, those that killed him will want to kill him again. If he’s not declared King, he may think he deserves to be King and raise an army to take on the “usurper.” How do the PCs react to the situation? Are they part of the King’s Guard? If so, which King do they follow? Are any of the PCs related to the current King or King Fortuitous? That could be awkward.
Let’s say our pal Forty and Porcini got married, but alas, poor Forty was ambushed by the Rabid Badger Gang and died. Porcini is devastated, but eventually gets over her grief and married Tankeroneous. Then, thirty years later, Fortuitous walks in the door to find his wife in the arms of his friend. Now, most marriages are “’til death do us part’ and Forty died. But he’s back and alive now. Are Forty and Por still married? Would Porcini still want to be married to Fortuitous?
The PCs enter the dungeon of Castle D’Evil and they fight their way through the monstrous guardians and make off with the loot. What happens a couple of months later when Fauntleroy D’Evil (he gets around), resurrected by a cohort, has lawyers that appear and want all of their (now re-living) client’s stuff back? They have a list of what was taken and want every single gold piece back. What then? If they can’t return everything, having spent the gold and traded away magical item, does it go to court?
WHAT Am I?
So, Fortuitous has been killed and brought back to life. Is he alive or undead? The use of Necromancy might lead some people to say that Forty is now some type of intelligent undead. This could lead to some Cleric orders refusing to deal with “his type” or anybody who associates with him. This could be difficult for the party to get healing or magical assistance.
But wait. I hear you saying “All undead are evil!” Forty was a good guy in life, so he couldn’t possibly be evil in undeath could he? Actually, yes he can. Every undead listed in the three Pathfinder Bestiaries has Evil in their alignment.
Let’s say that Forty, who was Lawful Good in life, was turned into a vampire, and became Chaotic Evil. As he’s contemplating his now immortal life, he decides to go through some of the loot he meant to deal with, but never had time. He puts on this nifty looking helmet that happens to be a helm of opposite alignment. With the helm, both axes of alignment change to the opposite, so Forty the Vampire is now (again) Forty the Lawful Good Vampire. He goes to the King and explains the situation and is believed, so he pledges to protect the King as long as he is able.
Sixty years down the line, a group of adventurers is hired to destroy a vampire that haunts the castle. Guess who? That’s right, a rival of the King hired the adventurers to take out Fortuitous so that the rival could get a shot at the throne. The group manages to kill Forty! Hooray! No more vampire!
But another twist! The King had decided (and wrote down) that Forty counted as a citizen, so killing him is murder and whoever killed him would be brought to justice, just as if they had killed the dockworker or the apple cart salesman. Does the King resurrect Fortuitous again, in hopes for another semi-immortal protector or reward him by letting him rest in peace?
The easiest way to avoid these problems is to simply say to your players, before play begins, “There is no coming back from death. If you die, you roll up a new character.” Personally, though, I hate using the “Because I said so” reason and prefer an in-game reason. That’s what this section is about.
Ways and Means
First off, you can limit who has access to resurrection magic. Maybe only certain (evil) religions (or cults) that worship the God or Goddess of Death have access to resurrection. Maybe there is a special rite all petitioners must go through for the church. If the party contains a Paladin, or especially if the Paladin is the one who died, the Paladin probably won’t want to come back, if he’s being raised by an evil organization. Deeper still, if the party gets a member resurrected by this evil church/cult, then the party might owe the organization a favor on top of the price for the spell.
Even deeper yet, the political power of such a cult increases dramatically as the rich and powerful are indebted to the cult, especially if this church is the only one with access to that magic.
Make each raise dead, resurrection, or true resurrection unique to each dead person, so the party’s Cleric can’t prepare those spells “just in case.” If a party member dies, then the Cleric must prepare one of those spells the next time they prepare all of their spells.
Require a feat at 9th level (the lowest level needed to cast raise dead) to cast resurrection spells. This makes the Cleric have to decide if resurrection magic is important enough to take a feat to cast it.
Make resurrection spells rare by placing them on scrolls that need to be adventured for or that are exorbitantly priced. Place a specific church’s seal on the scroll, so that only a specific church or member of that church can use the scroll.
The Deity of Death does not give up souls without getting something in return. A life for a life. Potentially, the Deity may tell the party that, in addition to the normal spell components for resurrection, that the Cleric must sacrifice a creature of the same time. This might raise a few objections among the party, especially if Forty isn’t the one who is actually dead (for once).
Places and Times
Another way to limit resurrection magic is to limit when or where it can be used.
Many cultures believe that there is an actual realm where the spirits of the dead rest after death. Make the party venture to the Land of the Dead to find the soul they need and convince the soul to return to the body when the spell is cast.
If the party needs a rift or gateway to get to the Land of the Dead, they will have to find one and it may be guarded. The PCs would have to negotiate with whomever hold the rift, owing favors (as above), money, or even loyalty. Even if there is no one currently guarding such a portal, there’s nothing to say that ghouls, ghasts, or other undead might have gathered, drawn in by the link to the Land of the Dead. At that point, the party has to decide whether it’s worth trying to fight through the opposition, possibly losing more members, to get to the portal or spend more time looking for another location. Not to mention a potential chance of another, possibly malevolent, spirit coming through the portal as well. If that happens, the rest of the party must defend the Cleric while the Cleric is casting the spell. This would be made extra difficult because the party is already down one member (the dead one) and are now down another (the Cleric), especially since the Cleric wouldn’t be able to use any of their abilities to help damage or turn the undead.
Next is the Eve of Spirits. Halloween is considered by some to be the day that the fabric between the realms of the living and the dead are the thinnest, allowing spirits to cross from one to the other. This can happen once a year (a specific holiday), four times a year (solstices and equinoxes or the day the seasons change), or once a month (three days of the full moon). You could also place this Eve once per week, such as on the Deity’s holy day in the hour of noon or midnight.
The positive side to this is that it limits the use of resurrection magic because of the short time window the party has to bring the character back to life. The negative side is, you guessed it, that it limits the use of resurrection magic because of the short time window the party has to bring the character back to life.
Another positive to this is that the DM can reinforce the importance of the day by having festivals or processions to remember certain events or people. The DM can also introduce spiritual phenomena, such as faint wailing or moaning being heard, small objects being moved, ghostly writing appearing in the dust or dirt, or someone feeling a chill when moving through a certain place (feel free to add your own).
Missed it By That Much
But what happens if someone is brought back to life without it being the Deity’s holy day or the spirit hasn’t been spoken to? Does the spell still work? Or does the PC come back…different? Here are a couple of options for the time-crunched PC who doesn’t want to wait until next Thursday before coming back to life.
The spell works and the PC comes back to life. Mostly. Until the PC can get to a priest of the Deity of the Dead on the Deity’s holy day, the PC doesn’t progress. They don’t gain XP or new levels, so now more hp, skills, or feats until they complete the necessary steps to finish the rite to bring them back to life. It’s hard for the character to learn anything new and they have a hard time remembering anything that has happened since the day they died.
If you use this idea, I would suggest only doing this for a short time, as you don’t want the stunted character to fall too far behind, especially if raise dead was used, as that causes a loss of 2 levels.
Foot in the Grave
The character is brought back to life, but not completely. Their soul is stuck part way between the Land of the Living and the Land of the Dead.
Ways to portray this may be to make the character constantly fatigued, the character has a lower number of hit points (say, -1 per Hit Die), only receives 1/2 the number of hit points from cure spells or a Cleric’s Healing Burst, or takes a -4 on saving throws against enchantment effects.
So, you don’t want to actually limit the use of resurrection magic, but you feel like there should be something that comes out of it. What options do you have?
First, there’s a Mark of Passing or a Mark of Resurrection. This is a non-removable mark on the character’s hand or face (somewhere obviously seen by others) and it tells other people that the character has died and come back to life. This can lead to that character being ostracized, refused service, and some members of superstitious societies might consider the character to be as evil as the undead.
Another variant is to have the resurrected character have a chance to bring another spirit back with them. The spirit would be someone connected to the character in some way, whether that’s a friend, loved one, or enemy. The haunting would last until the raised character can find someone to exorcise the spirit.
Until the spirit is exorcised, this is a great role-playing opportunity for the character. The spirit can talk to the character, but none of the other party members can hear it. Maybe the spirit is actually a poltergeist and moves the raised character’s things around.
So, there you have an entry on the difficulties of character death. I wish I had more answers, but there really aren’t any “correct” answers for me to give. These questions will need to be answered by your group, especially the DM.
Time to Grow Up
You can also use these variations for NPCs and start leaning your campaign toward something more “adult” by turning these options into something horrible.
“Please! You have to help me! My wife was killed by bandits and when I went to the church to bring her back, she turned into…something else! Something evil!
Maybe it was just done on the wrong day. Maybe the wife’s spirit wasn’t contacted. Or maybe the wife’s spirit didn’t want to return (for whatever reason) and instead, a malevolent spirit came back and inhabited her body.
This can be used to give your campaign a little nudge toward something more serious, especially if this is used to give the PCs their first glimpse into what can happen when someone dies. This can show the PCs (and the players) that death is serious business and it isn’t always resting in peace. If something goes wrong, it can have consequences.
So, there you go. A discussion about character death, what it can mean, and how to handle resurrection magic.
More Than Stealing Candy: Making Your Villains Evil
Last week, I posted a blog entry on how to create a memorable villain. That was good character design. Lord Fauntleroy D’Evil could be a memorable villain, but he wasn’t that bad. So, how do you make your villain, well…villain-y?
In today’s Critical Hit to the Blog, I’m going to talk about how to take your memorable villain and make them more evil. In last week’s episode, I gave you a villain whom the heroes will hate due to how he was portrayed. This week, you’ll get tips on how to make your heroes hate the villain due to what he does. In this week’s entry, the example villain will be Fauntleroy’s sister, Lucretia D’Evil. Let’s get started.
Fear is a great role-playing tool. One good way to use fear is to find a way to get your players to fear for their characters. Give your players praise when they get past a challenge, whether that’s combat, diplomacy, or a trap. Get the players to write a back-story for their character. Make your players become emotionally attached to their character. Then put the characters in serious danger. But how do you do that?
Make the villain extremely tough. Give them magical items or spells that the players may not have a way of beating. Increase the villains Armor Class or give the villain armor with the Fortification special ability, which may negate extra damage from sneak attacks or critical hits. But if you take away one weakness, you have to give the party a way to find and exploit another non-obvious weakness. Let’s say your party’s spellcaster is fond of fire spells, like fireball or burning hands. Lucretia, being intelligent (I’ll get to that in a minute), has scouted this and is wearing her Salamander Armor, which gives her total immunity to fire and DR 10/magic, like a real salamander. Great! The party’s main tactic is foiled! However, Salamander Armor, just like a regular salamander, makes the wearer vulnerable to cold. And look! The party picked up a wand of cone of coldearlier in the adventure! Huzzah! Have the players make Intelligence checks or Knowledge rolls to see if they can figure out the new weakness. If so, the battle might go quickly. If not, well…they could possibly still win the fight, but they’ll have to expend more resources than they thought.
Another way to show invulnerability is to give Lucretia numerous minions, especially high CR lieutenants. The players want nothing more than to get to Lucretia, but they have to fight their way through her half-dozen 3rd level Minotaur Barbarians who are led by an Ogre Mage who has three levels of Sorcerer. This group, as an example, should be able to hold off most adventuring parties long enough for Lucretia to get away. And by the time the party defeats the Ogre Mage/Minotaur combo, who knows what new and powerful minions Lucretia may have waiting for them?
Lucretia is a Wizard of epic proportions. She is the smartest person to ever live. But the average person isn’t that intelligent, so how do you play a genius? Easy.
If the party is making an assault on the fortress of the villain, then the villain probably knows that the party is involved and would do some research on the party. This is where you, as the DM, have to know the characters. Strengths. Weaknesses. Favorite tactics. Look at things from a player’s point of view and then plan against whatever you come up with. Following the previous example, if the party’s mage enjoys a number of fireballs, then the guards may have a magic item or potion that helps them resist fire damage. If the party uses sonic attacks, because not too many monsters or people are immune to sonic attacks, Lucretia hires/conscripts troops that are deaf. These deaf troops have created their own sign language for simple things like “Attack!” or “Retreat!” or “Flanking action!”
Does your “genius” villain spend all day in their tower simply waiting for the PCs to show up? Then that’s not so smart. But if Lucretia has used her über-powerful spellcasting to set traps, along with physical, mechanical traps, then that is smart. Anything that makes the party expend resources before confronting Lucretia obviously works in her favor. But just like with the Invulnerability section, you have to give the PCs a way around the problem. A scroll of teleportation, cleverly hidden and possibly missed, can make a good way around the traps.
If your players are afraid of something, then odds are that their characters will be afraid of that same thing. Use that. Pick monsters from the Bestiaries/Monster Manuals that will evoke that fear. Arachnophobia? Lucretia has made a deal with local Driders for combat support. Acrophobia? Lucretia has a castle in the clouds and you have vivid descriptions of the distance between the flying carpet and the ground. Claustrophobia? The path to Lucretia’s inner sanctum is through a narrow cave system with no natural light.
Another way to use phobias is if Lucretia has the ability to read minds and generate illusions. There are a few spells that will change Lucretia’s appearance so that she resembles a character’s (and player’s) worst fear.
Remember, though, that phobias can be pushed too far. If one of your players is deathly afraid of snakes, do not go into excruciating detail about how the scales feel on their skin or the sounds of the rattles. If it goes too far, it removes the player from the game and could potentially ruin the game for that person. You don’t want that, so if you’re going to try these tactics, make absolutely certain that everyone is okay with the idea and that you’re reading your players correctly.
If Lucretia is an evil Wizard that lives in a secluded tower and is terrorizing the populace and experimenting on the homeless, then the PCs, as the King’s Champions, have every right to bash down her door and dispense justice, in which ever form is deemed necessary.
But what is Lucretia has no magical abilities, but is a mayor? Or senator? Or Queen? Or that she lives in the middle of the city that the PCs have sworn to protect? What is she does have her magical power and she’s a Court Wizard that has served the ruler faithfully for many years? She’s popular with the people, she’s well liked by the ruling class and the King and Queen are her greatest supporters. She would have tremendous political power. But then the PCs find out that she is experimenting on the homeless. How do they go about reporting the popular, faithful Court Wizard as a creator of monsters that she wants to use to kill the King and Queen and install herself as the new monarch?
Without casting a single one of her numerous spells, Lucretia can destroy the PCs. They can be fired from the position of King’s Champions, their reputations can be destroyed, the King’s own assassins can be charged with killing the PCs, or they can be arrested and their prized possessions can be taken from them. Even the PCs loved ones can be threatened.
But how is this frightening? Because the DM must make it absolutely clear that something very bad will happen to the PCs if Lucretia finds out that they know her plans and something even worse will happen if she finds out they are trying to stop her. The PCs will have to be extremely careful, keeping their own plans a secret from Lucretia even while trying to save the King. One wrong move, one question too many asked to the wrong person, and it’s curtains for our heroes. The PCs will have one chance and one chance only to take down Lucretia and if they fail, they will be ruined and hunted forever (or worse).
This is one of my personal favorites. At some point, the PCs will feel that they have no one to trust and nowhere to hide. The enemy has surrounded them and controls almost every aspect of a situation. Even the most trustworthy NPCs seemed to have turned against the party.
But why don’t the PCs trust anyone? Plenty of reasons. Maybe Lucretia, among her many talents, wields mind control magic. Maybe she has a small cadre of doppelgangers working for her. As the Court Wizard, maybe she has placed a rather large bounty on the heads of the PCs and everybody they know wants to collect or she has planted evidence accusing the party of experimenting on the homeless for their own ends.
To make this work, the DM has to burn the party over and over. Every NPC they come in contact with recognizes them and wants a piece of the action. The PCs closest friends (or who they thought were their closest friends) lure them in with promises of security and safety, only to try to trap the PCs for the large reward.
Even better is when they first come in contact with Lucretia, she makes a comment that is verbatim something that the PCs said that they were sure was private. When that happens, the party might turn on each other. If they were in private, how did Lucretia know their plans? Is there a rat in the party or was she scrying? Who can the party trust if they can’t trust each other?
So far, the players should hate the villain because that villain is tougher than they are, smarter than they are, knows their worst fears, and is feeding their paranoia. But while the players may hate the villain for the villain’s abilities, it’s what the villain does with those abilities that can truly push the players over the edge from “I hate that woman.” to “Let’s go kill that woman!”
And when that villain is finally defeated, the players will feel an incredible sense of satisfaction. But how do you get the players to that point?
Like I said earlier, Lucretia could threaten the PCs loved ones. The Paladin’s uncle Siegfried might be threatened, but if Siegy’s a one-dimensional character, the players might not care, or it they do it’s only superficially. An NPC that you want to put in danger later on has to have a personality and a connection to the PCs. It’s their matronly aunt or the guy in the back of the potion shop that can get them the “good stuff.” Someone they deal with regularly and feel a connection to. That way, when they are threatened, the players want to do something about it. If you have to give the players even more motivation, kill the NPC. Do it in front of the PCs eyes. The heroes run in just as the killing blow strikes and the villain teleports away. Evil laugh is optional, but recommended.
Make your villains the lowest of the low. They torture peasants and burn fields. They lie, they cheat, and they steal to get whatever they can. They release plagues, they steal candy from babies, and they kick puppies.
Even more, they commit these crimes against the PCs! The PC comes back from saving the town/country/world and they find their own house on fire! That was where they kept their stuff! When the villain unleashes its ravening horde of gorilla-bats, the PCs probably see this as a chance for some combat and maybe get to the villain themselves and lay down a smacking! But when the villain goes that extra step and attacks the heroes specifically, but indirectly, then it gets personal.
This one works well with Paranoia. In the case of betrayal, the heroes have just accomplished their goal of rescuing the Princess or saving the town, but then someone, maybe the Princess herself, turns around and accuses the party of being in cahoots with the villain or is even the villains themselves! The “thieves” that were caught by the PCs and hauled off to jail instead insist that they were paid to rob places so that the PCs could catch them, thereby increasing the notoriety of the PCs! If one of the thieves happens to have something that belongs to one of the PCs, then even better! Pour on the paranoia!
There you go. Ways to make your villains even more villain-y. The worse you make the villain, the more the players will want to see the villain dead, which is exactly what you want.
Darth Vader. Hannibal Lecter. Jason Vorhees. Freddy Krueger. The Terminator. All memorable villains. Why are they memorable? Because we get to learn about them. Who they are and what they want. Where they’re from and how they got their start. By giving the audience information, they make the villain a character instead of just a scare machine. Okay, Freddy and Jason may be scare machines, but we know how those characters came to be.
Villains, as much we hate them and want to see them get their comeuppance, we love to watch them. When they are played correctly, they leave a lasting impression on the audience. Villains are also necessary. Without villains there can be no heroes. But what makes a villain hate-worthy? Why do your players want to get the bad guy so bad?
In today’s Critical Hit to the Blog, I’ll be discussing how you can create a memorable villain that your characters will hunt to the ends of the earth. To do that, we’re going to look at the classic questions of Who, What, Where, When, Why?
Who is your villain? What’s their name? Where is your villain from? How many brothers and sisters do they have? What are their hopes and dreams? What are their hobbies? Are their parents still alive? How did they get that scar and why do they walk with a limp?
My villain is named Lord Fauntleroy D’Evil (may or may not be his real name). We have a name now, but who is Fauntleroy? Fauntleroy is a relatively high-ranking (8th to 10th level) Lawful Evil Cleric of Asmodeus who is currently under the disguise of a Lawful Neutral Cleric of Abadar, acting as a Judge. By using the Law domain, Fauntleroy is able to keep up the pretense of Judge while influencing the flow of money that the worshippers of Abadar are likely to have. One thing to keep in mind when determining the “who” is alignment shift. Fauntleroy may have started out as Lawful Evil, but given his role as Judge and maintaining his cover, he may shift to Lawful Neutral unintentionally and without realizing it and. He’s not necessarily in any trouble with Asmodeus, as he’s still one step away in alignment.
What is the goal of your villain? Maybe they want wealth. Maybe they want power. Maybe they want the girl or guy. Maybe they want to rule the world!
Maybe they just want to be famous. Or maybe they were bullied as a child and are now bullying others.
Once you’ve figured out their motivation, I would suggest doing a little research on the psychology of your villain. Find the basics of why a megalomaniac acts the way they do. It will take your villains and make them just that little bit more “real.”
Here’s a quick note on those “rule the world!” type villains. If ruling the world is your villain’s goal, that’s fine. Just have some idea of what your villains will do with the world what it’s firmly in their clutches. Just having the world isn’t enough. Are they going to enslave everyone? Are they going to install a different type of government than is currently in power, with themselves at the top? Are they doing it for kicks?
What? can also refer to what tactics your villain will use to accomplish their goal. Does he use force or persuasion? Is he up front and in your face or does he work from the shadows, using subtle influences? Does he take hostages? Is he willing to kill to get what he wants? Is he willing to die? Is he a martyr for the cause? How far is your villain willing to go in order to realize his plans?
Fauntleroy’s goal is to be filthy, stinking rich since in his mind, once you have money, you can buy women, fans, and fame. By influencing the flow of money, he makes sure that quite a bit of money ends up in his own pockets by adding on interest payments and late fees to be paid through him. These additional payments rarely make it to their intended recipient. He uses his influence on a less than knowledgeable populace, but if push comes to shove, he has no problem upping and relocating to another remote village to continue his schemes. Taking a few silver or a gold or two from a few peasants isn’t worth dying over in his mind.
Where is your villain? Where is their headquarters? This will (likely) be based in your campaign world, whether that is Greyhawk, Golorian, or your homebrew world. Another consideration is another plane. The Astral Plane is home to the Githyanki (from WotC) and the various Elemental Planes could be home to a villain, depending on their ability to survive.
Fauntleroy is smart enough to make himself rich by relative standards, but he’s the big fish in a small pond. He lives and works in Smorgas Bjord, a town with 15,000 people, but he also serves as a Judge for the surrounding counties, so his “fees and taxes” haven’t impacted the people so much that the authorities have been called in.
This is dependent entirely on your campaign, but Pathfinder and D&D in general tend to assume you’re running a pseudo-European Middle Ages campaign.
Something that can be done to help establish your villain is to tie them to an event that happened in the past. Maybe they caused it, maybe they rose up from the event, or maybe their connection to the event is simply coincidence. If the connection isn’t explained, then the PCs can jump to the conclusion that the villain was responsible and if/when they find out their conclusion is wrong (if it is), then that bring up the question of what else are the PCs wrong about concerning this villain?
Lord D’Evil is 38 years old and rise to prominence during a drought that was occurring around Smorgas Bjord. He isn’t mentioned by name in any records prior to the drought twelve years ago. He claimed to be a priest of Abadar and since the populace had no reason to doubt him and they could use a Judge, they accepted him in that role.
The question of When? can also apply to the time frame that your villain is using. Are they waiting for an auspicious occasion, such as a Spring Festival to launch their attack? Do they have to wait until a Celestial Conjunction happens?
If your villain isn’t currently in the middle of his dastardly plan, why not? What is preventing him or her from reaching their goal? It could be that they’re waiting for information or troops that were promised to them by an ally. Timing could be everything to the villain and disrupting the timing of the plot could give the PCs another chance to stop the plan.
This category ties back into What? Once you know what the plan is, you have to know the motivation behind the plan. What is the personal, driving force behind this villain? It could be something as simple as an underboss protecting his superiors from the PCs out of loyalty (or money) or it could be as grandiose as the main villain attempting to become a god because the villains life has been so bad and “unfair” that the only way to exact revenge on the universe is to become one of its rulers.
Every villain has a motivation. Something to keep in mind when thinking about motivation is the alignment of your villain. There aren’t too many Chaotic Evil villains who want to rule the world. That’s just not their thing. Those would be Lawful folks. And don’t forget: Lawful Good characters can be villains, too!
See, the stereotype of the uptight, inflexible Paladin is a good example. If your party is a majority of Chaotic and Neutral characters, then a holy (Lawful Good) organization that has decided that the monarchy is doing everything wrong and that their way is the one “right way,” then that could certainly make the Lawful Good church the “villains,” even though they are positive they are doing the right thing.
Fauntleroy is in the business he is because of greed, plain and simple. While Fauntleroy works to line his own pockets, as a side effect, he manages to hand down (mostly) fair judgments and makes sure that people who sign into agreements honor those agreements. He knows that the only way to continue to increase his holdings is to maintain the status quo and work within the system, as Lawful Evil will do.
Okay, you know who your villain is, what they’re doing, and why. But how do they act? Are they boisterous or quiet? Are they brilliant or a few sandwiches short of a picnic? What are their mannerisms?
Just like I talked about in my entry on Getting Into Character, you should come up with some mannerisms or a speech pattern for your villain. If you can’t come up with on your own, they go to YouTube and enter “Villain Speech.” That should give you plenty of ideas.
Also remember that ability scores can be a source of role-playing. What if Fauntleroy has high Wisdom but low Strength or Constitution? He would most likely be a spellcaster first and a melee combatant last. As a spellcaster, he might have loyal or charmed servants to fight for him. That might give him a sense of invulnerability. Make sure to play that up. “You’ll never get me, heroes!”
One more tip I will give you is that unless your players just aren’t buying into how bad you villain is, don’t have them commit atrocities simply to make them “bad.” A lot of times that kind of thing won’t necessarily sit well with the players. Not every villain has to be a butcher of babies and kittens. Obviously, your group’s make-up will determine how far can (and have to) go on the evil your villain commits.
Run With It
Sometimes when you’re running a villain that the party hasn’t met yet, something will happen and you’ll get an idea of how to change the villain. That’s fine! People change all the time. The best part is that the party doesn’t know about the change because they haven’t met the villain and only know that there is a villain somewhere.
When the party and the villain come face-to-face, make sure to play off of the party. When they level accusations, unless your villain is a megalomaniac, neither confirm nor deny those accusations. Ask them if they have proof! If they do, own up to it be remember that your villain is superior to the PCs! They can’t possibly beat your villain! He’s too smart and too powerful! Make sure, though, that if your villain is supposed to be recurring, then you have to play it that they’re smart enough to know when to escape.
On the off chance that the party manages to kill what is supposed to be a recurring villain, whether through spells or lucky rolls, don’t be angry. Mourn the villain’s death and gives them a memorable exit. But always remember: you can create another villain.
There you have some tips on how to make a memorable villain. Remember to play with archetypes and tweak them until you have the right character. Push the envelope just a little and you’ll have a villain that your party will love to hate.
Magic items, whether they’re weapons or wands, are something every player looks forward to. You can find them as loot from enemies or, if you can find the right magic shop, you can buy something right off the rack. The question becomes, then, if you do find that magic shop, what do you buy?
This entry will begin a series of blog entries dealing with magic items, their mechanics, and what might make for the best item you can buy. In today’s Critical Hit to the Blog, I’m going to look at magical rings and what might be best for your character based on class. To do that, I’m going to look at a 5th level character, which is about where magical items start becoming commonplace.
First off, let’s take a look at ring mechanics.
Rings are almost always permanent items and anyone can use a ring. A character can only get the effect of two rings at a time. A third ring does not work. Rings are usually activated by a command word or they have a continuous effect. A very few (1 in 100) rings are intelligent and approximate 30% of rings will have a design, inscription, or something similar that will provide a clue to its function and activation. Rings with charges can never be intelligent.
If a ring has a specific method of activation, this method is up to the DM, possibly with player input.
According to the d20 Pathfinder System Reference Document (Character Advancement), a 5th level character should have right around 10,500 gold pieces. Let’s take a look at what you can get for 10,500 gp.
There are 14 rings available for 10,500 gp, but if you can convince a friend to load you another 300 gold pieces, you can add a 15th, ring of animal friendship.
Let me state for the record that the ring of feather falling is never a bad buy for anybody. You never know when you’re going to get to the top of the wizard’s tower and be bull rushed out a window. If you see piles of bones at the bottom of the tower, you’ll know what to expect.
Now, based on class skills, you might want to look at the rings of climbing, jumping, or swimming, or their improved variants. If you run into these types of checks frequently, then they are certainly good buys, as the regular rings provide a +5 competence bonus to those checks and the improved rings give a +10 competence bonus.
However, one thing to keep in mind is that when a Barbarian goes into Rage, he takes a -2 penalty to his armor class. Two rings can overcome this: ring of protection +2 and the ring of force shield. Both rings give a +2 to armor class, the ring of protection is a deflection bonus, while the force shield is a shield bonus. The only thing is that, read as written, the ring of force shield is wielded as it were a heavy shield. That means the wearer has to use a one-handed weapon. If that’s the way you run your Barbarian, then the force shield is for you. If you prefer a two-handed weapon, then I would suggest the ring of protection +2.
The Bard can benefit from the same two rings I suggested for the Barbarian, the ring of protection +2 and the ring of force shield. But, since the party’s Bard has the Fighter and Barbarian to get him out of trouble, then there are two other options to consider.
First, there’s the ring of counterspells. This ring will absorb a spell of up to 6th level and, if that spell is cast on the wearer again, the spell from the ring is cast as a counterspell immediately. Bards don’t seem like they would need this ring, as they get the Countersong ability at 1st level, but that ability only effects spells that are sound based. If you’re going up against a wizard who absolutely loves the fireball spell, this might not be a bad pick.
Secondly, there’s the ring of mind shielding. This ring makes the wearer continually immune to the spells detect thoughts and discern lies, as well as any attempts to magically determine the wearer’s alignment. If your Bard is prone to getting himself in trouble with the law, this option can’t be overlooked.
The ring of counterspells and the ring of protection are obvious choices for a Cleric, as is the ring of force shield, since most Clerics choose one-handed weapons.
However, another ring to consider is the ring of the ram. Clerics generally aren’t know for their Dexterity, so their use of ranged weapons tends to be mediocre until they can cast area effect spells. To counter this, they could use the ring of the ram. This ring has 50 charges and by using 3 charges, the wearer deals 3d6 points of damage at a range of 50 feet and if the target is within 30 feet, they’re subject to a Bull Rush attempt. Now, this is still a ranged attack, but dealing a potential 18 points of damage and pushing the enemy away is worth the attempt in my book. The ring of the ram also opens doors with varying strength based on the number of charges used.
With a little help from your friends, you could get the ring of animal friendship. This would give you the benefit of preparing another spell in places of charm animal. The various rings of climbing, jumping, or swimming would also look tempting, as they would help your Wild Shape form even more.
However, I would suggest the ring of protection +2. The reason for this suggestion is that while worn wondrous items continue to function, any armor and shields you carry cease to function in Wild Shape, possibly decreasing your armor class. Any +2 you can get to armor class will always come in handy.
The two obvious choices here would be the ring of protection +2 and the ring of force shield, for reasons similar to the Barbarian. These are perfectly good choices because they will both give a +2 to your armor class and both are easily used, depending on what type of weapon you prefer.
Another choice to consider is the ring of sustenance. This ring means you don’t have to eat or drink and allows you to gain the benefits of eight hours of sleep after sleeping for two hours. That means you can recover your full hit point per level in just two hours and the party can sleep easier knowing that the best combatant (probably) is awake and alert on guard duty.
Again, the ring of protection +2 seems like a very tasty option. Since a Monk can’t wear armor without losing a lot of class abilities, this is a very good choice. As I said with the Druid, any +2 you can get to your armor class is always worth it.
But, because a Monk has Acrobatics as a class skill and at 5th level, the Monk adds his Monk level to any Acrobatics check for both vertical and horizontal jumps, plus always being considered running, a Monk also can spend a Ki point to add a +20 to their Acrobatics check made to jump, the ring of improved jumping means and extra +10 on Acrobatics checks to jump. At 5th level, a Monk with a Dexterity of 14 (+2) and maxed out Acrobatics (+9 total) who uses a Ki point to get the +20 to Acrobatics also gets a +4 for having a base land speed higher than 30 ft. and uses the ring (+10), gets a total bonus of (5+9+20+4+10) +48 to add to their d20 roll. You can only jump as far as your movement, which for a 5th level Monk is 40 ft. and the DC for that jump is 40. Easy peasy.
As with the Barbarian and the Fighter, the ring of protection +2 and the ring of force shield are the two optimum picks. This time, I can’t actually argue for picking any ring other than one of those two. The ring of counterspells maybe. The ring of the ram maybe. But since Paladins are almost always in melee combat, anything they can get to make it hard to hit them is the most valuable.
The ring of protection +2 is the obvious choice in this situation. The Ranger often acts as a scout and is therefore often on their own. If the Ranger has taken the Archery combat style, then the ring of force shield wouldn’t be a bad choice, either.
For my money, though, I would get one of your richer friends to chip in and get you a ring of animal friendship. The reason for this is that the Ranger’s numbers of spells are very limited, with only having one spell slot, not counting bonus spells, at 5th level. If you use that spell slot for speak with animal, then you can combine the that spell with the ring to make your woodland friends more helpful. They could become extra scouts and defenders if necessary.
For the Rogue, I can see four excellent choices. First, the ever popular ring of protection +2. The benefit here is obvious.
Secondly, there’s the ring of climbing or its improved version. When you’re doing second-story work, climbing is absolutely essential and you want to be as good at it as possible.
Thirdly, there’s the ring of mind shielding. The spell detect thoughts works in a cone, so the user doesn’t even need to know you’re there. Once they get you in the cone, though, they know there’s someone there and will focus on that area. This ring prevents that.
The fourth and final ring is the ring of sustenance. Simply go to sleep at midnight and at 2 am, you can be up and refreshed and out taking other people’s stuff! This would also allow you, if you want to help the party, to scout the enemy’s defenses at a time when you’re less likely to be seen and the guards themselves are more likely to be tired.
For these two classes, the ring of counterspells seems like a natural fit. These are the characters most likely to get into a magical slugfest where a ring like this would make the most sense.
The ring of protection +2 is also another good choice. Since these two spellcasters can’t wear armor without a chance that their spells won’t work, beefing up their armor class mystically is the way to go.
This one may be a little surprising, but these two could also use the ring of force shield. The shield itself has no armor check penalty and no chance of arcane spell failure. This could be essential if the mage finds themselves in melee combat, which they never want to do, or they are ambushed. In melee, the mage could use the shield and his dagger without penalties, so this is also an attractive option. This is especially tasty if the mage has taken a level in a class that gives him access to martial weapons.
Well, there you have rings. Plenty of choice to be made when you have enough cash. Just remember that you can pick any ring that you want if you think it will make your character fun and interesting. Next time, I’ll be looking at rods, so make sure to check back soon.