RPG Superstar Task – Design a Wondrous Item – Choose Your Base Power

Choosing your Base Power

Let’s continue our examination of our base item choice which we started in the first of our item design posts.

In that post, we started looking at the attributes of what the snail shell is and does in the real world and how we could portray that withing a magical item. So, let us continue or examination of this early part of item design and see where it leads us. 

What we have done so far

In summary from that first post, we have so far looked at:

  1. The base item might cause a yuk feel, but is something we hope to overcome with our design.
  2. It could be treated as a wind instrument, like a trombone for example, which may lead us to being somewhat class specific. Yet it does play with the often overlooked area of sound effects in items.
  3. We looked at the protection aspects, this would be very obvious though for such an item, so isn’t likely to be noticed as it is an obvious choice for the item. For Paizo‘s RPG Superstar, we need to get noticed, so this is unlikely to be our best base choice for effects.
  4. We also looked at entering it in some way, this introduces a movement aspect which was quite visual, but again, I feel it is somewhat lacking.
  5. We then considered size changing as part of that entering effect, again very visual and easy to imagine, but when considering the benefits of being so small, it doesn’t excite me so much in game terms.

So, let’s dig deeper.

More Ideas post Taking a Break

It has an occupant, a snail, it’s slow and slimy and doesn’t inspire too much, except for the eye-stalks. I now imagine some sort of “feeler” that can stretch from the shoulders of the item user/wearer that are sensitive enough to assist in searching for secret doors or touching substances safely which we aren’t sure are molds, slimes, acids or poisons.

Going off tangent can offer nice surprises!

Then my thoughts went off at a tangent – allow yourself to do this, really explore everything about your base item choice. In my case, I asked myself about other shell wearing creatures. I recalled immediately the hermit crab, in particular, that it could “move house” by changing the shell it calls home and it’s very quick scuttle – they are incredibly fast when they want to be.

Moving house brought to mind some sort of item that could allow you to quick change your apparel – from armor to elegant dress for visiting the local royals for example. It feels promising.

But, the thing that has really grabbed my attention is that quick scuttle movement of a hermit crab. It is so evocative in my mind and I immediately realise it could be a useful defensive manoeuvre type of effect in game terms.

Imagine your best power choice in action

My mind asks the question, what if, when you are in melee and are struck by a critical blow, the item activates causing you to scuttle quickly, turning with the blow and allowing it to deflect or miss either negating the critical aspect or making it a miss altogether.

Now, I have something that is use-able by multiple classes, it isn’t a simplistic bonus to armor, it isn’t at all yukky or slimy, it has an eye-catching visual that can be described in a cool way. Yes! This is our core item and power – we started with snails and ended up with hermit crabs and how they move!

Make your choice and move onto the  next stage

I am now ready to move onto the actual item design, looking at my core effect, considering it’s power and game balance – we are going to start with the item description. Once we have nailed that, we can look at the spells and construction and other technical template areas and then proceed to that last stage, the mystic art of pricing.


Next post, we will come up with a wonderful name for our item ( bearing in mind I call myself the Undisputed King of Bad Names 😉 ) and look at the general break down of the item description part of the template.

Anthony Adam (Template Fu)

Anthony Adam