RPG Design – Sunday Spell: Storm of Tricks

Storm of Tricks

School universal; Level bard 2, sorcerer/wizard 3
Casting Time 1 standard action
Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft. per level)
Components V, S
Target, Effect, or Area see text
Duration 1 hour per level
Saving throw: see text; Spell Resistance: see text

This spell works similarly to prestidigitation, but includes a number of more powerful effects. For the duration, you can perform a number of minor tricks simultaneously,  up to one per caster level. You can also make minor changes to a creature or object, such as causing their ears to grow longer or cause makeup to appear on their face, although the target stays recognizable and this spell cannot be used to create a disguise. In the case of directly affecting a target, the creature gets a save, and spell resistance (if any) applies. Additionally, any 0-level spells you cast while a storm of tricks is active appears to be part of the show, and viewers must succeed on a Spot check to realize that such a spell is being cast (DC is equal to 15 + your caster level). Add +4 to the DC of the Spellcraft check to for other creatures to identify the spell being cast.

Hidden within caravans and groups of performers traveling the countryside are tricksters and fortune-tellers who want to do more than delight and amaze their audience. These magic folk want to evoke a sense of wonder, or of awe. However, their tricks are frowned on by the authorities, and so they must hide their little magics. 


I like the idea of hiding magic, and of mixing spells and skill checks. It helps bring back a sense of wonder to spellcasting, and keep it from getting rote or predictable. Plus, haven’t you always wanted a higher-level version of prestidigitation?

– Max Porter-Zasada

RPG Design – Feat Friday: One Hunter

One HunterOne Hunter
You become one with the creature you ride into battle.
Prerequisite: Animal Companion class feature, Mounted Combat, wis 13
Benefit: While riding your animal companion, you may use any of the following senses if possessed by your animal companion: darkvision, low-light vision, and scent. Also, if your animal companion has a racial bonus to Perception, you gain a +2 circumstance bonus to that skill as well.


I want there to be reasons to ride your animal companion around other than taking mounted feats for extra charge damage.


-Max Porter-Zasada

RPG Design – Theme Thursday: Quest Rewards

Quest rewardsTheme Thursday: Quest Rewards

If you’re the sort of GM (and hopefully you are) who wants players to remember their adventures, to think of them often with a fond laugh, a wry smile, or even a bitter grimace, then you may want to consider adding some better quest rewards. Nobody really remembers which part of the frost giant adventure they got their +2 frost axe from, or which level of the Abyss they found that Helm of Teleportation–indeed, in my games these are considered onerous bookkeeping activities.

The solution is to give your players rewards that are inherently tied to each adventure. Unfortunately, no one wants to bother with named magic items, because “I attack it with the sword of Dead King Jorgrim the Unyielding Warrior that we got from the Necropolis of Demondread with a +14 modifier including the magic bonus” is far too much of a mouthful. Instead, it has to be a reward that stands outside the basic rules, so that there’s no need to boil the reward down to a number. On the other hand,  adding capabilities and power to the players runs the severe risk of unbalancing the game. The solution is to make the quest rewards a one-time-use proposition; after being expended, the reward is gone forever.

Quest Rewards faceFor a long time, I’ve given out one or two action points and (with the advent of the Advanced Players’ Guide) hero points at the end of adventures or for doing heroic deeds. These work, in that players feel personally rewarded for going beyond the call of duty or for playing with panache. However, given a little time the memory of how someone got those 5 action points fades, leaving us with the mere numerical bonuses. It became a little boring.

Thus, we have quest reward power cards. These are one-use cards with unique powers and abilities on them, each themed on some part of the completed adventure. But don’t let the players throw them away once used! There may be mysterious methods of re-activating the cards for a second round–such as the expenditure of action/hero points.

I simply take a couple of index cards, cut them in half, and write the power on the lined side. On the back of the card, write the name of the completed adventure–I add a little illustration of what the power does, because I like to place the cards face down on the table at the end of the adventure and let the players each choose one based on the illustration. If you design highly tailored cards, such as spellcasting-related cards that could be drawn by a fighter type, either allow the players to trade cards or dispense with the face down idea.

It’s best to design cards without too much power, even if they are one-use. Best of all are cards that refresh power or abilities in some way, because these unbalance the game the least while giving players an enormous satisfaction.

These cards have revolutionized the game I’ve tested them in– the players are more involved, more interested, and remember the story much better than before.

Let me know what you think!


Max Porter Zasada