Psionic and Magical Items
This is something I originally submitted for Paizo's RPG Superstar competition. Because it's an artefact and not a 'wondrous item' (as I realised too late), it's not gonna go anywhere, so I'm posting it here in the full version (with all of the back story).
The three leather masks rest in a black velvet-lined wooden box carved with three scenes from famous Athasian plays: a comedy, a tragedy
and a war epic. Their wearer must focus on a target to disable the opponent with uncontrollable laughter, sadness or rage.
The target needs to make a Will save of DC 13 + users charisma bonus (minimum 1). The range of the mask's effect is
25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels, the duration 1 round per level. Bards can affect one opponent per level, non-bards can only ever
affect a single person. If used more than once per day wearers must make a Will save or be affected by the respective emotions
Moderate enchantment. CL 5th; Craft Wondrous Item, Perform (5 ranks). Spells: Tasha's Hideous Laughter, Rage, Crushing Despair. Caster Level 5th. Price: 27,000 gp. Weight: 2 lb/box.
History: Lazara was a Nibenese bard whose performances, so the legend goes, were so intense that she could make her audience feel her character's emotions. After her death a set of masks appeared bearing her seal. Some people believe they fused with Lazara's face and projected emotions onto the audience. A more sinister story tells that the masks were crafted from parts of the bard herself. Given Lazara's magical powers as well as her ties to notorious warlords and other 'colourful' figures, it is also likely that she enchanted these masks for self-protection.
Game Use:The PCs may find the artefact as part of a treasure or see a bard use it either as part of a performance or in combat. Alternatively there could be a fight between different bards over the set.
This is a "converted" artefact from the Earthdawn RPG, but since it makes such good adventure material I just had to mention it here...
The Amberstone is an ancient magical artefact from the Green Age which detects defiling magic and evil aurae (no matter how well hidden they may be).
History: The Amberstone is the result of very unorthodox preserving magic.
It is not simply an enchanted piece of jewellery, but actually contains an intelligent
life-form, a Pixie, which can be seen at a closer look.
The Pixie Kaijaa, a preserver herself, was captured during the Green Age by a human magician who knew about the innate ability of the Athasian Pixie to see the world with an additional sense that no other race possessed. Amongst other things, Athasian Pixies were known to immediately know a person's aura, to see through illusions and to feel tainted magic (which did not prevent them them from being swept from the planet's surface...). The magician believed that if he managed to somehow integrate the Pixie into his artefact, he had the ultimate weapon against defilers and their allies and spies. And indeed he managed to create the desired object...
Game Use: The Amberstone could be in possession of one Veiled Alliance Leader/Member
in a certain city state. The VA member may be or may not be aware of the captive creature
inside the artefact. After a while the Sorcerermonarch of the city state learns of the VA's tool
to discover his spies. The artefact has to be stolen or destroyed. An agent of the King or Queen
poses as a VA member and hires the PCs to steal/destroy the "evil parasitic artefact", because
they will be in a position to do so.
Alternatively good-aligned preserver PCs could receive a vision of the Pixie enclosed in the Amberstone when they are within a certain radius of the artefact. They feel the urge to go looking for the artefact to aid Kaijaa.
The Dragon Skimmer is a psionically powered vehicle found abandoned in the Sea of Silt.
History: The origin of the ship and the dragon head and body is unknown.
Game Use: Who dares to command it? What is the story behind it?
Masks as magic or psionic artefacts have always played an important role on Athas: be it the infamous face covers of the shadow elves, the agifari, bone and skin constructs of the druids, earth clerics, shamans or necromancers, the sinister obsidian pieces of the fire clerics or the life-shaped eccentricities of the rhul-thaun - mask on Athas are transcending borders of race, alignment and class. Even in everyday life, masks can be encountered as fertility symbols or symbols of worship, as a means to ward of evil spirits, or as mere decoration (such as the masks of the dancers in Nibenay).
In this section I would like to introduce a selection of Athasian masks. I would also like to recommend the article "Imaskarcana - Faces of Magic" (p.86-89 in the Dragon Magazine no. 281, march 2001). Masks especially suitable for Athas from this article would be "Shade's Veil" (for Shadow elves or shadow mages), the "Mask of Abberation" and "Ynaerv's Mask".
Psionic Masks have a more functional than ceremonial role. Exceptions are the Villichi who use ceremonial, passage or war masks.
This mask is made from a piece of a kank carapace with stiffened mandibles decorating the top and the sides like a crown. The bottom of the mask was psionically shaped to resemble a face.
This mask was created by a famous Nibenese psiducer (see Classes) who was rumoured to have had occasional encounters with Sorcererking himself.
The wearer of the mask is granted the following powers at will:
Domiation, Attraction, Inflict pain, ESP, Project Force, Telekinesis, Control Body.
This mask bears a hidden secret: When a certain password phrase is sent mentally,
the mask will enable the wearer to use a different set of powers, which KaraŽdra
used to interrogate and torture "clients" for Nibenay.
The additional powers are:
Probe, Psionic Blast, Ego whip, False sensory input, Id insinuation, Identity Penetration, Invincible Foes, Mind Thrust, Phobia Amplification, Truthear, Molecular Rearrangement, Molecular Agitation.
This mask was orignially used in the gladitorial arena of Draj. After a gladiator escaped with it and became the leader of a slave tribe, it was taken from him when he was murdered by a member of his tribe who fled to Raam with it. This man is now a self-proclaimed warlord in the anarchic city.
The Warrior Mask bestows upon the wearer the ability to use 3 of the following telepathic powers once per day: Awe, Synaptic Static, Mass Domination, Mindwipe, Tower of Iron Will, Ego Whip, Invincible Foes.
This is probably the largest category covering everything from cursed life-draining
defiler mask to intimidating or entertaining bard or gladiator masks.
Scorpio Mask (bard)
The Scorpio half-mask is made from enchanted parts of the Athasian Desert Scorpion. It stays on the head with the help of two stings which the mask automatically hooks into the back of the wearers head.
The Masks enables the wearer to use his teeth and fingernails like scorpion poison stings. In addition, the wearer's blood becomes poisonous. He/she can also approach a victim silently, move at advanced speed and climb walls and ceilings. Other benefits are: improved senses and reaction, non-detectabiliy as an intelligent life-form and improved armour class.
The mask also has a "curse": Each time the wearer must make a constitution check
to which an additional -3 penalty is added each time it is used over the duration of
over 1 hour. If the constitution check is failed, the wearer must make a roll against
poison. Otherwise he/she is poisoned by his/her own blood.
Long-term use of the mask causes nervous twitches, schizophrenia (the other persona of the mask user behaves very animal) and a shift towards chaotic evil alignment.
Alternatively the mask can fuse with the victim's face leaving it in a horrible grin after the victim has died.
Shadow Catcher (shadow mage)
The featureless masks of the shadow mages obscure the faces of their wearers and bring them closer to their element of worship. For instance, they enable them to take on different characteristics of shadow people.
More about Shadow Mages at Rays of Life and Death, a Dark Sun site by Gabriel Cormier
Although created from a large obsidian shard, the Shadow Catcher weighs virtually nothing.
Powers: The wearer can use shadows to form objects or can direct shadows to perform certain tasks for him, e.g. "catch the man that is running away"(works a little bit like the 5th-level wizard spell "Major Creation"). In the example, the shadows will have the qualities of rope or net and bring the victim back to the wizard.
Afterwards, the shadows have to be appeased with somebody's life-force. This can be part of the life-force of the wearer. The mask itself was created by a dignified shadow mage who used his own life-force to thank the shadows.
The Mask can also be used to catch "escaped" bits of Black or to gain control of the Black if something has gone wrong during a spell. It can only be used by shadow mages. If used by a non-shadow mage, the shadows/the Black will attempt to consume the wearer.
Inititate's mask (necromancy)
The masks of necromancers are almost exclusively made from the materials they work with, namely bone, skin and hair. They are both functional and ceremonial. Less powerful or important masks often lack decoration whereas the more powerful ones tend to be elaborately design (such as the ones used in the presence of kaishargas).
This is an example of a low-level bone mask. Its powers are:
Chill touch, Corpse visage, Detect Undead, Ray of Fatigue, Choke and Hold Undead.
It can be used by non-necromancers.
Clerics, even more than mages, have to obey their element in regard to shape and decoration.
Conjuration mask (earth)
Conjuration masks are worn by earth cleric to show respect to the elementals they summon. Usually the shape of the mask is told to the earth cleric by his element in a vision. By wearing a mask, the summoning becomes more easy and it is also easier for the cleric to control the elemental. Some masks have the power to summon more powerful elements than the mask-bearer is able to summon by himself. Usually masks contribute to the morale of an elemental.
A Nurturer provides nutrition and pain relief while travelling (compare with water cleric "Carer").
Fire Spitter (fire)
Fire Spitters are the feared combat masks of fire clerics. Fire-spitters are made from a light-weight magically created/altered mixture of materials ususally a combination of obsidian, charcoal, ceramic and sometimes rubies. Extremely ancient and powerful masks have a high metal content. The colours of these masks are black and red.
Fire Spitters are hard-wearing, but not impossible to break, especially not with magical weapons. This is a means of protecting oneself from the fire spells the cleric is wielding.
The Carer is a means for survival in areas where water is difficult to access. The mask has to be worn the whole day since it partly recycles sweat and body wastes. Carers come in different sizes from tiny headpiece to full-body mask (think "Dune").
In times of co-operation, air clerics exchange Windspeakers in order to
communicate with each others. Alternatively, Windspeakers can be given to non-clerics
so that they can report back to the cleric.
A different type of Windspeaker receives sounds from objects previously enchanted by the air cleric wearing the mask. These objects then function as "bugs".
Druidic masks have the greatest variation of shape, decoration and material. This is a result from the diversity of spirits and the way they communicate with the druid. Druids use a large number of full body masks.
Like clerics, druids are an odd and eccentric species. After millennia of strategic extermination and set-backs, druids have developed extraordinary means of surival. In order to protect valuable artefacts, spells or components, they thought of a number of ways to hide them: defiler proof cases, tree safes, encoded spells etc.
One means of hiding or obscuring thing is the "Troyan" method: an object is either hidden within another object or the object itself is created in a fashion that it looks uninteresting. In this case we have a Troyan mask: a high-level artefact that looks like a piece of dry wood or the result of child's play.
Often "Troyans" are used to cause havoc such as this mask which was once placed in a camp of travelling Templars. The druids, knowing that the Templars would just laugh and destroy a ridiculous mask like that, cast a spell on the mask that would call an armada of agony beetles as soon as the mask was subject to destruction or vibration.
Draj City Spirit Mask
With the help of this mask the wearer can call upon the aid of the city spirit of Draj - if in the range of the city. The spirit will only help if the wearer proves worthy. If the spirit does not think the person is worthy he will leave him/her with no memory of the encounter. The person will basically think that the mask does not work.
There are currently two origins of life-shaped masks: one part is of rhulisti
origin and can be found in ancient ruins or the caverns beneath Athas. Most often
these mask are in an appaling state after millienia of abandonment. Rhulisti masks
can be underwater breathing masks, full body mask for medical operations or simple
cosmetic mask. But they can also be infested by parasites, masks intended for
torture or drug induction.
The other mask are the ones crafted by the rhul-thaun. Rhul-thaun masks tend to be less powerful than their rhulisti counterparts.
Poison Devil (symbiot, Warrior)
The Poison devil is of rhul-thaun origin. It was constructed by the secret dark master of Gil-ogres who is officially the student of Loi Far-oneth. Hidden in a secret vault under the Life-shaper tower, the intelligent Poison Devil is waiting for a host...
When taken out of its case, the Poison Devil's tentacles at the back of the mask will come to life and grab for the next person's face. Once attached to the face, the mask fuses with the wearer (the Devil's head becomes the head of the wearer and the mask's frame rests on the wearer's chest, shoulders and back like a second skin) and tries to take control of him. This control can be avoided through a successful constitution and Willpower roll. If in control, the wearer can use the following psionics (telepathic powers) at will:
Awe, Domination, Mindwipe, Tower of Iron Will, Ego Whip, Invincible Foes.
As the mask's name implies, the moving tongue and tentacles are poisonous and are controlled by the creature itself. The Devil will try to pull a victim close to its shorter, even more poisonous tentacles and will try to drain the person's life-forces (and juices).
Alignment: Poison Devils were created to be lawful evil, but most turn out to be chaotic evil.
Poison Devils can be removed if the wearer is injected a certain sleeping-drug. Removal leaves the wearer weak, scarred and temporarily drained of two strength points.
The ravager is also a rhul-thaun construct. It is based on a sketch in one of the oldest manuals on life-shaping. While Master Life-shaper Loi Far-oneth considers the book a witness of the brutish beginnings of life-shaping, Gil-ogres deems the power and rawness of these beginnings most appropriate for this time. He intends to test his prototypes soon on fellow rhul-thaun. For this purpose he also needs opponents for which "inferior races" such as humans, dwarves or elves would do...
The Ravager injects regular doses of drugs into the wearers body. During combat, the mask-bearer will turn into a blind rage that completely erases other emotions or thoughts. The warrior is fearless, powerful and merciless. If captured the mask injects a drug that prevents the warrior from talking. If the mask is removed without injecting a specific substance, the warrior will die.
Shamans use their mask as a means to travel to the spirit world or to transform themselves in the eyes of a patient to achieve a degree of professional distance. Shamans have different masks for different activities, although a mask can perform several functions at different times.
Soulcatcher (tribal shaman)
The Soulcatcher consists of a hand-sized painted wooden disk which attaches itself with a leather string to the shaman's head and small soft roc feathers which hand to either side of the shaman's face.
If the shaman communicates with a spirit, the face of the spirit shows on the shaman's face between the roc feathers. The person in front of the shaman can ask the spirit 3 questions which the spirit will answer is a very obscure way.
Masks are just another object through which a Sorcerermonarch can channel power so that a templar can wield it. Templar mask are most common in the city states of Draj, Nibenay and Gulg.
Tyrian Torturer (psi/magic)
The Tyrian Torturer is designed to inflict physical and mental pain on victims of interrogation. It is made from darkened mekillot hide and iron spikes which appear to go through the Templar's skull.
Examples for powers are:
Magic: Paintouch, Throbbing Bones, Age ...
Psionics: Domiation, Attraction, Inflict pain, ESP, Project Force, Telekinesis, Control Body, Probe, Psionic Blast, Ego whip, False sensory input, Id insinuation, Identity Penetration, Invincible Foes, Mind Thrust, Phobia Amplification, Truthear, Molecular Rearrangement, Molecular Agitation...
In a largely insect and reptile based society such as Athas, hives and insect breeders are a common sight. While many insects cannot be domesticated, species such as the pulp bee, the Athasian locust and many beetle species can be kept as food, medicine/poison and building material sources. It is rumoured that insect breeding practices originated with the thri-kreen and spread to other cultures.
In addition to natural hives, built by the bees and wasps themselves, Athasians construct artificial hives with whatever resources they have at their disposal. Freuquently, these are made from woven leaves that allow for good air circulation in the heat. Most hives are suspended from trees, beams or ceilings, to keep them safer from predators. Harvesting techniques depend on the species. The majority are so aggressive when approached by humans that they have to be drugged with herbal fumes or have to be killed by closing the hive and letting the creatures overheat. Some species can track their honey by following pheromones over some distance, in which case hives and honey either have to be separated by quite a bit of distance for safe consumption - or the pheromones have to be masked by additional flavourings such as essential oils.
There is one type of bee which builds a wall of pod-like structures across natural and artificial walls. If a colony settles onto a house wall, this is often seen as a mixed blessing. The pods provide the house with a nicer climate and a food source (eggs, larvae and the bees' food stores can be eaten; secretions can be used for paper and glue), but the creatures make a hell of a noise.
Insect breeders are boxes or hive-like constructions that Athasians use for breeding insects (and related creatues) such as locusts, worms, beetles or even spiders. As insects require little food, care and time to mature, and on top of this deliver delicious protein, food related breeders are very common, even with nomadic elves. They can be found on poor people's and nobles' premises alike and are sometimes operated at an industrial scale.
Poison and medicine related insect breeders are also quite common, especially in remote areas with little protection or access to temples. These usually require more care and maintenance, as the insects must be kept alive for haresting the precious substances.
Insect breeders used for sericulture (silk farming) are a much more specialised device. Silk-production is mainly centred around Nibenay, with smaller operations taking place in Raam and in the Jagged Cliffs, where silk is prized in the construction of hang gliders.
In addition, insects are kept as pets, especially beetles with hypnotic colours or sounds.