March's Magic Item Compendium explores several new item types. The first two entries previewed in this series dealt with augment crystals and runestaffs . This installment covers magic item sets, groups of thematically linked magic items that when worn together, grant greater power than if the items are worn individually. These abilities increase or scale with the number of items worn. If the wearer collects all of the items in a set, she gains a potent ability that follows the set's theme.
Each individual item in a magic item set is a viable piece of treasure on its own. A character can wear or use this item as he would any other, without ever knowing (or needing to know) about the other items in a set. Any item can, however, be the jumping off point for collecting the entire set. In other words, the items do not need to be acquired in order. Generally, however, items are accumulated based on their price. DMs are likely to include lower cost items in low-level treasure hoards, waiting until the characters have reached a sufficient level before introducing costlier items into the game.
Each magic item set is based on a theme or story. The items began as an original set, a legendary group of items belonging to a great hero or affecting the results of a monumental event. Their secret was subsequently learned, allowing the items and their collective benefits to be recreated.
Two tables accompany each magic item set. The first table, "Set Name Pieces and Abilities," summarizes the abilities of the set's individual items, their prices, and the body slots they use. A quick glance at this table helps to determine if the item would be useful to an individual character; most item sets are of greatest benefit to a specific class (such as Gharyn's Monastic Array detailed below, for the monk) or subset of classes (skill/scoundrel types or arcane casters). The second table, "Set Name Collection Benefits," summarizes what is gained by collecting more than one of the items in the set. It mentions how many items are necessary to gain each benefit and what happens when all of the items have been accumulated.
Magic item sets are a great plot device for any game. With built-in stories, these items can be dropped into many campaigns with fairly little additional work. Because the items are typically scattered all over a campaign world, they provide an avenue for collection quests: adventures series designed to bring items together for a greater purpose.
Gharyn's Monastic Array
The half-moon shaped blade of the kama is dangerous enough, but it becomes deadly when infused with the power of ki. When wielding this array of monastic tools, you become as the wind: at times violent and unstoppable, at other times a darting blur of speed.
Gharyn's monastic array is most useful to a monk, especially one who uses a kama to enhance her hand-to-hand fighting. Each of the items allows its wielder to better mimic the natural movements of a certain animal, and some wielders believe that by mimicking the motions found in nature, they will be able to merge their physical and spiritual consciousnesses.
Characters who have ranks in Knowledge (arcana), or who have the bardic knowledge ability, can research Gharyn's monastic array to learn more about the items. When a character succeeds on a check, the following lore is revealed, including the information from lower DCs.
DC 15: The original monastic array was discovered amid the ashes of a fallen monk known as Gharyn. He died sacrificing his life to protect his brother monks from the wrath of a red dragon. Many believe that the dragon's fire charged Gharyn's array with magical power.
DC 20: The Monastery of the Lone Dove, a haven for ascetic monks devoted to Pelor, had strict policies of asceticism, silence, and discipline. Brothers ate two bowls of rice per day, were allowed to speak ten words outside of prayer, and had to be in their chambers by sundown. Some brothers chafed under this strict regimen. One was a monk named Gharyn.
Gharyn didn't believe such restrictions applied to him. While he espoused the support of law and order, he felt the monastery's strictures were meaningless, and he claimed they even hindered the success of a lawful society. Needless to say, this belief did not make him particularly popular among his very conservative and traditional brothers. He knew that a change was needed, but that it had to occur gradually for the brothers to accept it.
Gharyn slowly altered his behavior and routine. He substituted barley for his bowl of rice and used long, multisyllabic words for his ten per day. He was in his room by sundown, but stayed up well past midnight.
While many brothers objected to his actions, Gharyn developed a cult following in the monastery. He began to train his supporters in unusual fighting styles from around the world. He urged them to reject meaningless strictures, but encouraged people to follow the greater rules of society. This was not a rejection of order as much as an acknowledgment of the universe's true laws and mysteries.
The Monastery of the Lone Dove had begun proceedings to expel Gharyn, but fate stepped in when a flight of rampaging dragons attacked. Many of the monks, so used to their daily routines, were unable to conduct a proper defense against a siege by dragons. Gharyn took charge and led the monks in battle, proving an able leader. In the end, he sacrificed himself by shielding the other monks from the breath of a red dragon. His sacrifice gave the others time to mount an offense that repelled the dragons. In his ashes, three items remained: a set of foot wrappings, a mask, and a kama.
The items that remained among Gharyn's ashes became the uniform of the Monastery of the Lone Dove. The monks traveled far and wide, popularizing the beliefs--and attire--of Gharyn.
DC25: A monk named Nobara Lame decries Gharyn's memory, saying that those who fondly remember the rebellious monk are lying to themselves: Strictures bring structure, structure lends itself to law and an ascetic lifestyle. Nobara's anger over the rebellious spirit popularized by Gharyn's "lucky" sacrifice has grown so extreme that his days are now spent traveling between monasteries to proclaim his views. Whenever he comes upon someone wearing a piece of Gharyn's monastic array, whether original or a copy, he calls that person out in a duel to the death.
DC30: A check result of 30 or higher reveals the location of another piece of the set. Use this to drive further adventure and direct the PCs toward some location or story you would like them to explore.
Any combination of two parts of Gharyn's monastic array grants deadly efficacy to your stunning attacks and gives your physical movement an animalistic swiftness and savagery. When using all three pieces, your arm briefly seems to take the form of a striking scorpion's tail.
2 Pieces: Add +1 to the save DC of your Stunning Fist attacks.
3 Pieces: When you score a critical hit with a scorpion kama, you can expend one of your daily uses of Stunning Fist as a free action to make that attack a stunning attack. (If you don't have the Stunning Fist feat, this benefit has no effect).
Price (Item Level): 1,400 gp (5th)
Body Slot: Feet
Caster Level: 5th
Aura: Faint; (DC 17) transmutation
Activation: Free (mental)
These simple green straps are meant to be wrapped around the feet.
When you make an unarmed attack at the end of a charge, immediately after you attempt the attack, you can activate cobra straps to move 5 feet away from the target without provoking attacks of opportunity.
Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, expeditious retreat, possession of a piece of the set.
Cost to Create: 700 gp, 56 XP, 2 days.
Price (Item Level): 2,700 gp (7th)
Body Slot: Face
Caster Level: 5th
Aura: Faint; (DC 17) transmutation
This silk half-mask unmistakably mimics the visage of a hunting cat.
A panther mask grants you the benefit of the Run feat. If you wear light or no armor, you also gain a +5-foot enhancement bonus to your land speed.
Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, longstrider, possession of a piece of the set.
Cost to Create: 1,350 gp, 108 XP, 3 days.
Price (Item Level): 6,302 gp (10th)
Body Slot: -- (held)
Caster Level: 10th
Aura: Moderate; (DC 20) transmutation
Weight: 2 lb.
This simple kama is unadorned except for a single scorpion etched into the blade.
This +1 kama deals damage equal to your unarmed strike damage (if that is greater than the normal damage for a kama).
Prerequisites: Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Stunning Fist, magic weapon, possession of a piece of the set.
Cost to Create: 3,000 gp (plus 302 gp for masterwork kama), 240 XP, 6 days.
Gharyn's Monastic Array Pieces and Abilities
|| 1,400 gp
|| 1/day move 5 feet after charge
|| 2,700 gp
|| Run; +5-ft. bonus to speed in light or no armor
|| - (held)
|| 6,302 gp
||+1 kama deals unarmed strike damage
Gharyn's Monastic Array Collection Benefits
| 2 pieces
|| +1 to Stunning Fist attack DC
| 3 pieces
|| Critical hit with scorpion kama delivers Stunning Fist attack
Gharyn's monastic array is an example of a magic item set created during a dramatic event. In this case, the idiosyncratic monk known as Gharyn sacrifices his life to protect his brother monks; his immolation charges his monastic equipment with supernatural power. Later generation study the items, learning their secrets and becoming able to recreate them.
Gharyn's monastic array is an example of a smaller magic item set available at low-to mid-levels of play. While the set is of primary use to a monk, the panther mask is useful to all characters, and some characters that use unarmed strikes might make use of the other two items.
While each item is perfectly functional on its own, it is only when all three are accumulated that their synergy is truly reached. When two items are collected, all stunning attack DCs are raised by 1. When all three items are collected, the wielder can make a Stunning Fist attack as a free action whenever she scores a critical hit. A character with all three items is a blurring human weapon of great speed and unpredictability.