Keyword Design – “Virtual”

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 “virtual” as suggested by Peter.

Great word today. It can mean (wait for it) virtually anything (nailed it), but also has a sci-fi bend to it. Funny enough, even though my first thought went to holograms, I almost didn’t include any sci-fi options.

Mundane Item Mandible gauntlets Metal gloves with serrated plates turn hands into claw-like weapons.
Magic Item Sandscape A pool of animated sand that reenacts distant performances.
Feat Master Actor Use Perform (Act) instead of Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate
Spell Dream match Create a dreamscape arena in which to settle real world disputes with minimal real world consequences
Class Option Godless evangelist  A prestige class for healers who use gods for their own gain.

New Mundane Items
Exotic light melee weapon
Cost: 16 gp
Dmg: 1d2 (S), 1d3 (M) Critical: x3 Type: P
Range: – Weight 1 lb
Sharpened fingertips and serrated plates turn these typical metal gloves into particularly deadly weapons. Masterwork mandible gauntlets count as having claws for the purposes of qualifying for prerequisites, although the wearer still counts as wielding two light weapons and not a set of natural weapons.

Virtual claws! Your Wolverine dreams can finally come true! Or Jean-Paul Vallee Batman! Or some Wolverine-Batman amalgamation, whatever that might look like.

I had some trouble pricing this one. Exotic weapons cost a feat, and while the benefits of this weapon open up a lot of builds, those builds most likely require more feats. Still, it’s more powerful than most exotic weapons, so if I price this like them, it’s underpriced. That’s where the masterwork angle came in. You probably only want these at 3rd or 5th level anyway when you have two attacks or can take Two Weapon Fighting, so you have a few levels to save up for the masterwork version, but you can give your Dark Claw build claws from level 1. Everybody wins!

New Magic Item
Aura strong divination and illusion; CL 16th; Slot -; Price 242 000 gp; Weight 900lbs
This pool of sand is built into a polished stone reservoir, like a well, and generally stands a few feet off the ground. Each sandscape pool has 2-8 stone chalices attuned to it. When one of the associate chalices is filled with sand from a sandscape pool, it becomes a beacon for the pool. 3/day, a chalice can be activated to send a message to the sandscape as long as they are on the same plane. The sand in the sandscape pool animates, recreating the face of anyone the mouth of the chalice is pointed at. Those near the pool and activated chalices can hear one another, including those with chalices hearing one another if multiple chalices are activated, but only those who can see the sandscape pool can see the speakers.
Craft Wondrous Item, clairaudience/clairvoyance, programmed image; Cost 121 000 gp

Maybe it’s the growing integration of cell phones into our culture, but more and more I find one of the recurring issues for my character when playing Pathfinder is sending information over a marginally long distance. This can be an entertaining and immersive challenge, like if we need to light the beacons or if it’s a race to deliver a message before whatever the message alludes to reaches the destination first, but mostly it’s just a desire to deliver a quick update or ask a follow-up question and the obstacles for this small goal are unrealistically surmountable.

A table of sand that acts as a communication network with chalices as camera phones is a cool visual that solves my issue with long distance communication without ruining the potential interesting and immersive challenges.

New Feat
Your acting ability supersedes your true feelings.
Prerequisite: Cha 19, Skill Focus (Perform (Act)), 5 ranks in Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Perform (Act).
Benefit: You can attempt a Perform (Act) check in place of Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate checks.

I’m not the only one who thought that acting was basically like being allowed to lie, right? On top of that, the more actors I got to know, the more I realized the skills actors learn often leak into all communication. How can they not? If you are taught how to be a scary villain, the passionate politician, or the charming con man, how do you not channel that when trying to get your way?


New Spell
Dream Match
School illusion (phantasm) [mind-affecting]; Level bard 6, mesmerist 5, psychic 5, sorcerer/wizard 6
Casting Time 1 minute
Components V, S, M (metal scraping from a steel bar)
Range touch
Target 2 or more creatures touched
Duration instantaneous (D); see text
Saving Throw Will negates; see text Spell Resistance yes
You create a temporary, illusory demiplane on which worldly grievances can be settled in mortal combat without worldly repercussions. You create a 30′ x 30′ contained space with the terrain of your choosing. Designate a number of  starting areas equal to the number of sides of the dispute, as much on opposite extremes as possible. They automatically appear in the same area as their allies; neither you nor any participant can “trick” the plane into placing them on the opposite side of the argument’s starting area.
The demiplane exists until only one side of the argument remains. As long as the demiplane remains, the bodies of those who willingly accepted the spell or failed their save are in limbo, their consciousness on the demiplane. In that time, any target of the spell who succeeded at their saving throw can close their eyes and see the demiplane from the perspective of a someone on their side of the argument. As long as someone on their side of the argument is still alive, they can, as a full round action, join the fray. They are teleported to the demiplane in their side’s starting area.
Targets arrive exactly as they were when the spell was finished casting, but they return with 50% of damage taken on the demiplane as nonlethal damage, and a 50% chance any resources spent or spell cast in the demiplane is expended in the real world.

Another option based on a pun that I think turned out pretty cool. Also, another opportunity to work wrestling into Pathfinder. I know it says on the label that there’s no lasting effect, but I added the cast spells and spent resources rider so casters couldn’t just go nova, and the nonlethal damage because it felt right.

New Class Option
The gods grant powers to their most devout followers and the most worthy examples of their teachings. Occassionally, someone becomes familiar enough with who a god rewards and why, they are able to emulate the behaviour of a faithful worshipper and receive some of the same benefits.
Class Details
Hit Die: d8.
To qualify to become a godless evangelist, a character must fulfill all the following criteria.
Spells: Ability to cast 2nd-level spells.
Skills: Bluff 5 ranks, Knowledge (religion) 5 ranks, Use Magic Device 5 ranks
Special: A character who lost access to class features in a class for grossly violating the code of conduct of the class (such as an ex-cleric, ex-monk, or ex-paladin, but not an ex-barbarian) can ignore one of requirements of their choice for this prestige class.
Class Skills
The godless evangelist’s class skills are Appraise (Int), Bluff (Cha), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Heal (Wis), Knowledge (history) (Int), Knowledge (planes) (Int), Knowledge (religion) (Int), Linguistics (Int), Profession (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Spellcraft (Int), and Use Magic Device (Cha).
Skill Ranks per Level: 4 + Int modifier.

Table: Godless Evangelist


Level Base Attack Bonus Fort Save Ref Save Will Save Special Spells Per Day
1st 1 1 0 1 Domain invasion, false prophet, godless healing
2nd 2 1 1 1 Spontaneous forgery +1 level of existing class
3rd 3 2 1 2 Divine trickery +1 level of existing class
4th 4 2 1 2 Channel energy +1 level of existing class
5th 5 3 2 3 Greater domain invasion +1 level of existing class

Class Features
The following are class features of the godless evangelist prestige class.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Godless evangelists are proficient with all simple weapons, light armor, medium armor, and shields (except tower shields).
Domain invasion (Su): A godless evangelist chooses a god at 1st level, regardless of her alignment. She gains the first granted power of one of this god’s domains, as a cleric of her character level.
False prophet (Ex): A godless evangelist passes as a cleric of her character level for the purposes of qualifying for feats. Additionally, she gains a bonus to Bluff and Disguise checks equal to 4 plus her godless evangelist level when attempting to pass as a cleric of the god she chose for domain invasion.
Godless Healing: A godless evangelist gains Godless Healing as a bonus feat at 1st level. She gains additional uses of this feat at 3rd and 5th level.
Spontaneous forgery (Su): At 2nd level, if a godless evangelist is a prepared spellcaster, she can lose a prepared spell, as a cleric, to spontaneously cast a cure or inflict spell of the same level as the lost spell. If she is a spontaneous caster, she adds all of either the cure spells or the inflict spells to her list of spells known.
Either way, she must choose whether this ability applies to cure or inflict spells when gaining her 2nd level of godless evangelist. Once this choice is made, it cannot be reversed.
Divine trickery (Su): At 3rd level, a godless evangelist is better able to cast as the cleric she pretends to be. If she is a prepared caster, she can prepare 1 spell from the cleric/oracle spell list when she prepares her spells. If she is a spontaneous caster, she adds 1 spell from the cleric/oracle spell list to her spells known for the day. In both cases, she must choose a spell she is high enough level to cast, and she can choose a different spell every day.
Channel energy (Su): Once per day at 4th level, a godless evangelist can channel energy as a cleric of her character level. If she chose to spontaneously cast cure spells, she channels positive energy. If she chose to spontaneously cast inflict spells, she channels negative energy.
Greater domain invasion (Su): At 5th level, a godless evangelist can choose either the second power granted by her domain, or the first power of another domain granted by the god she chose at 1st level.

I’ve long thought the ex-X (where X is a class with an alignment or code of conduct restriction) is an interesting design space that’s largely been ignored. I know some politically or socially super-motivated people who have flipped their position but not their passion. These people are more defined by their ability to be passionate than what they get passionate about. That’s the angle I see interesting options for ex-clerics or ex-paladins or whatever. The character that can go from “I LOVE MY GOD! I turn undead!” to “I HATE MY GOD. I’m a necromancer now!” Their time spent on the opposite end of the spectrum surely gives them unique insight into their new end of the spectrum.

That’s the crux of my inspiration, though not entirely applicable here. But I do like that I allow being an ex-X to substitute for another prerequisite. I think prestige classes should have multiple paths of entry, and that special requirement means the Godless Evangelist is as likely to be a pure charleton as he is someone who started out sincere in their devotion then settled for a shortcut because they were more interested in the destination than the journey.

Thanks again to Peter 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: