Keyword Design – Counter

In Keyword Design, I use a single word as inspiration for a mundane item, a magic item, a feat, a spell, and a class option. Today’s word is “counter” as suggested by Aaron.

I wonder if Aaron realized how loaded his suggestion was. On the surface, it’s a great word with a connection to both combat and magic. A little deeper, and you find one of the most contentious feats in Pathfinder history, Crane Wing. Introduced in Ultimate Combat, Crane Wing allowed characters to block an attack. It’s an original purpose of many ancient martial arts and is popularly scene in choreographed fight scenes, particularly post-Phantom Menace. But Pathfinder wasn’t build to handle it. With no limit per day, no action or roll required, and no restriction on relative size of attacker and defender, this one feat neutered monsters built around a single massive attack. Halfling monks were waxing off t-rex bites and there was nothing GMs could do about it.

Even without designing a Crane Wing like option, I managed to flex the meaning of the word. Please enjoy these counter options.







New Mundane Items
Cost: 150 gp Weight: 1 lbs
The braiding of this 1 ft coil of rope is unusually dense and easily mistaken for a harmless strap. When targeted with a combat maneuver, the wearer can make a Sleight of Hand check as an immediate action to negate the attack. The DC of this check is equal to the attacker’s combat maneuver attack roll. Successfully using a defensive lanyard destroys it.

As usual, the mundane item was the hardest counter option to conceptualized, but it came together as soon as I did. I toyed with a locked gauntlet that could be activated as an immediate action, but that was boring. Next I tried to think up a unique defensive weapon but the good ones are already in the game. So I researched modern defensive weapons and came across the tactical battle lanyard (pictured).  It perfectly lined up with my image of a street tough grabbing someone seemingly vulnerable only for that someone to bust out some martial arts and flip them around. In this case, the person unfurls a length of rope and redirects the attack.
The price never seemed quite right, with me revising it more expensive several times. I settled with 150 gp, but maybe it should be more expensive.

New Magic Item
Aura strong transmutation; CL 15th; Slot -; Price 5000 gp; Weight 5 lbs
Lined with lead and covered with metal rivet, coin conversion purses are oversized belt pouches for carrying coins. Contained within is an nondimensional space with the capacity of a bag of holding type I. However, when coins are placed within, the platinum purse immediately polymorphs them into the equivalent value in whole platinum pieces. Remainder coins are unaffected until enough value has been added to the purse to make another whole platinum piece. When items other than coins are placed within and a command word is given, the platinum purse turns the items into a number of platinum coins equal to half their listed prices, rounded down.
Craft Wondrous Item, polymorph any object; Cost 2500 gp.

Yes, this is a coin counter. I’ve actually heard items like this used as an example of what not to submit to RPG Superstar. But this isn’t RPG Superstar, is it? Basically, the arguments against it involve it being too convenient, a bit meta, and not sexy enough. Personally, I find shopping the most tedious part of the game and welcome an item that cuts that tedium down.

New Feat
As soon as you sense you are being manipulated, your mouth starts moving.
Prerequisite: Cha 15, Diplomacy 5 ranks
Benefit: When you are called upon to make an opposed Sense Motive check, you make use your Diplomacy modifier instead. You must be able to speak at that time and share a language with your target.

We all have that one friend…

New Spell
School conjuration (summoning, teleportation); Level bard 5, cleric/oracle 5, sorcerer/wizard 5, summoner/unchained summoner 4, witch 5;
Casting Time 3 rounds
Components M (a piece of Medium-sized mundane furniture)
Range object touched (see below)
Effect touched object and a nearby mimic transposition
Duration instantaneous
Saving Throw none; Spell Resistance no
You transpose a Medium-sized piece of mundane furniture with the nearest mimic on your plane. The mimic is summoned the instant you remove your hands from the touched furniture, seamlessly replacing and perfectly imitated the teleported object. A careful observer must make a Perception check opposed by the mimic’s disguise check to notice the true nature of the furniture.
Although you do not control the mimic, it will not attack you unless attacked.

This spell is 100% born of the countertop meaning of this week’s keyword. I like it, though. There’s only so much you can do with summon spells and this is subtle and nefarious, something no other summon spell has in common with it. It might be most nefarious to the poor mimic, one second in the shape of a chest in the bowels of a dungeon, the next a seat at a jarl’s table in the frigid arctic. As an example.

New Class Option
When street fighting became a competitive circuit, there was great concern about how magic would influence the sport. Built around might testing mettle, a competitor casting fireball  changes the purpose of the competition. Bookers trained or hired ringers who specialized in disrupting magic to beat enchanted cheaters into submission.
Magical Scholar: an antimagic strangler adds Knowledge (arcane), Knowledge (religion), and Spellcraft to her list of class skills. She gains 2 bonus skill ranks at each level, which must be allocated among these skills.
This ability replaces brawler’s cunning and alters the brawler’s class skills.
Spell Submission (Ex): an antimagic strangler is so physically grounded that when she grapples a target, she can end ongoing spell effects cast on the target. In addition to the normal actions a character can take when grappling an opponent, an antimagic strangler can attempt a spell submission. This works exactly like the targeted dispel function of dispel magic, except the antimagic strangler’s dispel check is 1d20 + her class level.
This ability replaces martial flexibility.
Evasion: At 4th level, an antimagic strangler can avoid damage from many area-effect attacks. If she succeeds at a Reflex saving throw against an attack that normally deals half damage on a successful save, she instead takes no damage. Evasion can be used only if the antimagic strangler is wearing light armor or no armor. A helpless antimagic strangler does not gain the benefit of evasion.
This ability replaces AC bonus.
Dispel Strike (Ex): At 4th level, once per day an antimagic strangler can strike down a magical attack  targeting her. When targeted with a spell or spell-like ability that allows a saving throw, she can instead make an attack roll as though she were attacking with an unarmed strike. If her result matches or exceeds the DC to save against the spell, she is immune to the spell’s effects. At 10th level, the antimagic strangler may use this ability twice per day; at 16th level, she may use it three times per day.
This ability replaces knockout.

Grave art from Jon David Guerra’s Nightmare Pro Wrestling comic, used with permission

First, I need to thank Aaron for inspiring a class option that then inspired a product idea. My original class option was a chain wrestler (as in they chain wrestling moves, not that they use a chain while wrestling) brawler archetype. While developing rules to turn grapple from 1980s WWF (WWE) heavyweights into 1990s WCW cruiserweights, I realized that I was designing a subsystem, not a class feature. So that work went into a folder marked Grapplemania, we’ll see if/when that turns up next.
With catch-as-catch-can wrestling no longer being the subject of my counter class option, I switched gears instead of changing directions. That’s how I ended up with a wrestler who wrestles magic away from opponents, basically turning the spell dispel magic into a wrestler. I wanted to go for some over-the-top lingo, hence the cheesy name.

Thanks again to Aaron for the keyword suggestion. If you have thoughts on the balance and use of these abilities, or you would like to offer a single word that you think can inspire a mundane item, a magic item, a feat, a spell, and a class option, let me know in the comments below.

Ryan Costello

What started as one gamer wanting to talk about his love of a game grew into a podcast network. Ryan founded what would become the Know Direction Podcast network with Jason "Jay" Dubsky, his friend and fellow 3.5 enthusiast. They and their game group moved on to Pathfinder, and the Know Direction podcast network was born. Now married and a father, Ryan continues to serve the network as the director of logistics and co-host of Upshift podcast, dedicated to the Essence20 RPG system he writes for and helped design. You can find out more about Ryan and the history of the network in this episode of Presenting:


  1. Quo

    The anti-magic brawler is so so nice! I need to make an NPC with this and use him against the wizard in my Runelords game. It would drive the player bananas!!

  2. David

    I love the anti-magic strangler as well!

    As for the Platinum Purse, I’m with you. I’d definitely buy that just for the convenience.