Keyword Design – Cunning

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 “Cunning” as suggested by Aaron.

Here’s a confession: I haven’t been using cunning correctly. At first I thought it was a synonym for intelligent, so I started brainstorming intelligent idea. Then I questioned if it was maybe more instinctive intelligence, which is Wisdom-based options. So I looked it up and found that cunning is, specifically, deceitful intelligence. That changes everything!

Mundane Item Spitting Tobacco Phlegm-building tobacco especially good for expectorating.
Magic Item Watchful Weapon special ability for the rogue-weary.
Feat Chatterbox Talk your way through crowds to find important NPCs.
Spell Naïveté Target wants to believe the next lie they hear.
Class Option Hexrager A bloodrager archetype that crushes unfortunate enemies.

New Mundane Items
Cost: 25 gp Weight: 1 lbs (10 doses)
This strain of uncrushed black tobacco leaves notorious for the amount of phlegm built up while chewing. If chewed for at least 1 minute, it is especially good for expectorating, allowing the user to perform a Dirty Trick combat maneuver to blind a target from a range of 10 feet. This expends the dose of spitting tobacco. One 1 dose of spitting tobacco can be chewed at a time.
Like regular tobacco, spitting tobacco is addictive (Fort DC 10 to resist).

When I thought cunning equated to intelligence, I was all set to write about a chamomile tea that’s ideal to drink when researching. Instead I had to go with leaves of a grosser variety.
I wanted to work a Big League Chew reference in there, but it just didn’t fit the lingo. Instead, I fit in another reference that I’m happy with. I would never include it in a paid turnover, but in a blog where I can have a bit more fun, why not?

New Magic Item
Dozens of glowing beads and reflective surfaces on this melee weapon allow the wielder to mind their flank in combat. They only count as flanked if both flanking creatures have a higher base attack bonus than the wielder.
Moderate transmutation; CL 8th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, countless eyes; Price +1 bonus

Poor rogues.

New Feat
Your gift of the gab helps you find important influencers.
Prerequisites: Bluff 3 ranks.
Benefit: When making a discovery check to recognize particularly prominent NPC using the influence subsystem, you can make a Bluff skill check in place of a Knowledge skill check.

I’m not saying it’s a flaw that the influence subsystem relies on Int- and Wis-based skills and not Cha-based skills, but I am happy that there was obvious design space to fit a cunning feat.

The Gamers Ⓒ Dead Gentlemen Productions (2002)

New Spell
School enchantment (charm) [mind-affecting]; Level antipaladin 1, bard 1, mesmerist 1, psychic 1, shaman 1, sorcerer/wizard 1, witch 1;
Components V, S, M (a vial of snake oil)
Range close (25ft +5 ft/2 levels)
Target one humanoid creature
Duration 1 min./level or until discharged
Saving Throw Will negates (harmless); Spell Resistance yes
The target of this charm becomes particularly susceptible to lies. The first time they are the subject of a Bluff skill check to deceive them, they want to believe the lie, granting the liar a +5 bonus to the check.

Spells are not my forté, so I am especially proud when I think I’ve come up with something good. Usually there is a series of long steps between an idea I have for a spell and finding the right mechanics for it, especially the level. This time, it was everything I wanted it to be right out of the gate. Except the name. It ends up, a similar spell with the original name I wanted already exists. Not only that, but it was designed by our very own Alex Augunas. The betrayal! Stealing my spell before I even had time to design it.
Knowing that Gullibility exists, I considered scrapping this spell. But I liked it soooooooo much. So now there’s lesser gullibility.
Also, I feel like there’s a “gullibility isn’t in the dictionary” joke here, except gullibility is in the PFSRD.

New Class Option
HEXRAGER (Bloodrager archetype)
A hexrager’s emotional state is intertwined with the threads of fortune that tie all creatures together. He tightens and releases them just as he releases the reins of his emotional state.

Bonus Feat: At 1st, 3rd, and every 3 levels thereafter, a hexrager gains a bonus feat. He can choose a metamagic feat, a combat feat, or Extra Hex.
This ability replaces bloodline and all bloodline feats.

Hexes: At 1st level, 4th level, and every 4 levels thereafter, a hexrager picks one hex from the witch’s hex class feature. He gains the benefit of or uses that hex as if he were a witch of a level equal to her bloodrager level.
This feature replaces bloodline power.

Spell Casting: At 4th level, when a hexrager gains spells, his spells are derived from the witch spell list.
Additionally, he chooses a patron from the witch patrons, gaining the patron spell normally gained at 2nd level at 7th level instead, the patron spell normally gained at 4th level at 10th instead, the patron spell normally gained at 6th level at 13th level instead, and the patron spell normally gained at 8th level at 16th level instead.
This modifies spell casting and replaces bloodline spell.

This was almost the bookrager, the wizard answer to the sorcerer/barbarian hybrid bloodrager. Funny enough, the backup plan in this case was the easier design, and probably the better theme. I wish I had narrowed the bonus feats down, but given that the class loses the focus of bloodlines and doesn’t gain a familiar, and has a less combat-oriented spell list, I at least hope it is still balanced.

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:

Burst of Insight

1 Comment

  1. Quo

    As someone who used to chew tobacco, I love the mundane item. And yes, even a poorly placed spit ball of tobacco juice was a very useful distraction technique.
    I love the spell. It’s something that would be extremely I would think.
    Future Key Word suggestions: malice, brew, shepherd, & prosthelytize