Fantastic Creations: Questions about Beobachten

Sean Holland asked a couple questions about Beobachten.  From a comment on that post,

Very interesting. But how does it “consume” the treasure? And is it lost forever or is it in some extra-dimesional horde?

I think these are good questions, but I can’t really meaningfully answer them, for a simple reason — I honestly don’t know.  I originally responded to them in a comment, but decided a more thorough response was warranted.

When I was writing up the Dragon Watching, my thoughts ran something like

  • I like the idea of jamming the sword point-down into the ground so it acts as a sentry… maybe casts alarm to make this work better.
  • It was a dragon, let’s say it wants some ‘tribute’, or to remember its glory days, or whatever, and wants to be on some treasure when it does this.
  • … that it keeps.
  • Say, this could work well with his other powers — the dragon is somewhat mercenary.
  • Wait, why does it take the treasure?  Okay, nobody knows but there are a few ideas, throw them out as rumors.  If someone cares enough to try to find out we can decide later.
  • In the meantime, let’s use treasure acquisition to build up his power (gold to XP).  The more his power is used, the more powerful he gets (and thus the more power he has to use on the wielder’s behalf… or against the wielder, depending how it goes).

That’s about as far as I took it.  I like to leave little mysteries or questions about things.  One of my greater dissatisfactions with magic items in D&D 3.x is that they tend to be too clear-cut.  Wands all work the same, magic weapons (and weapon qualities) are consistent in their application.  There was a time when I really liked that because it made for a cleaner system, and I can still appreciate that, but over time it sucked the wonder out of them items for me.

Wonder, to me, requires that the subject is not fully understood.  The healing stick, the wand of cure light wounds, is no more wondrous to me than the first aid kit under my desk.  It is not a fantastic creation, it is a standard tool of the adventurer’s toolbox.

I want magic items to not quite make sense.  Make enough sense that they are usable, but have a little bit about them that is not known.  How does Beobachten ‘consume’ treasure?  Here are some possibilities:

  • Maybe it is simply absorbed into his blade.
  • Maybe the blade bends so the dragon’s head pommel can ‘eat’ it.
  • (I like this one) Maybe the handle separates from the blade and becomes a wee metal dragon that climbs down the blade and consumes the treasure.
  • Maybe Beobachten summons a creature to take it away for him.
  • Maybe Beobachten isn’t the one to consume the treasure, perhaps he projects his greed onto another character nearby who steals it.
  • Maybe it’s not consumed or stolen at all; Beobachten can’t use it himself so he compels those around him to just forget about it, or throw it into the bushes or something.

I can think of all sorts of possibilities for why the treasure isn’t there later.

Similarly, where does it end up?  Who knows?

  • Absorbed and/or ‘eaten’, the value gets absorbed as XP and it’s gone forever.
  • With a  summoned creature, it presumably takes it somewhere.  It might be worth trying to find it.
  • Similarly if someone steals it on his behalf, or perhaps there’s a big bank somewhere with branches where the thief can deposit the treasure for him.

There are two things I try to have when it comes to a magic item.

First, it somehow doesn’t simply follow rules.  It doesn’t just let you do more of what you could already do (such as a wand of fireball just letting you cast fireball a few — or a lot of — times, or a sword letting you hit a little more often), it lets you do things you could not do without it (Paliverea gives some extra fireball capacity, true, but is rechargeable up to a point and with limitations, gives you some delayed blast capabilities, and one honking big delayed blast fireball if you need it… but at cost).

Second, it should not be entirely understood, at least at first.  With many entities I like to leave at least a few questions there, and some paths to follow if you want to try to answer them.  In this case you might seek out Gidr Farnsehame to try to learn more… but you might not like what you learn.  Questions let me get a feel for player engagement.  If I tell them everything, I’m just lecturing.  I try to tell them enough for now, and if they want to know more they can look for the answer.

As an aside, despite how much it looks like I do, I try to defer decisions and work as much as possible.  If I try to figure out now, before it matters to me, how the treasure is consumed or where it goes, I spend time I could spend on something else thinking about something that does not yet matter, and might come up with an answer that when it comes time to use it that I end up throwing out anyway because after letting it lurk in the back of my mind for a while, I have a better idea.  That’s why I know little more about Gidr Farnsehame and Flante than that Gidr is a wizard, fairly old, probably a Baron (his land was granted by a Duke).  It was necessary to deal with a powerful dragon in order to make the area livable and get the grant, so Flante is presumably at or near the borderland at best, and still quite unsettled.  It’s probably a fairly rugged area, too (that’s where red dragons live).  There is probably a tower involved.

However, I don’t need to know these details yet, so I don’t really have them.  They are an assumption based on what I know so far, and I can throw them out — Gidr Farnsehame is a long-standing member of the nobility, who dealt with a problem suffered by a Duke of the eastern marches by removing a troublesome dragon in exchange for a bit of well-settled land near the capital, and of course the title, duties, and taxes that go with it.  In fact, the current Gidr Farnsehame is the grandson of the one who actually made the sword, who thought it was just a story his old granddad made up about the olden times.  Sorry.  You might find the burned-out remains of the Ducal seat and see if there are any clues there….

Finally, with the items I am presenting in Fantastic Creations, they are not necessarily exactly as they might show up in my campaign.  I want to provide some ideas about what they are and how they might fit in, but make it easy to file off the details so they can be readily adapted to someone else’s game.  Just as I want to provide only enough information to apply the item in-game and perhaps engage the players to ask questions (adventure hooks!), I want to give an idea to my readers what the item is and were it fits it, but leave lots of room for adaptation and fitting into their games.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Fantastic Creations: May 18, 2012 Roundup | Keith Davies — In My Campaign - Keith's thoughts on RPG design and play.

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