Hammer Time! Polyhedral Graded Weapons and Armor

A-Z 2016 "H"I admit, the title is a bit of a stretch, but it lets me publish this on ‘H’ day instead of waiting for ‘P’ day, and I do sometimes refer to the polyhedral process as a One True Hammer in my toolbox. I’ll roll with it.

The polyhedral process originated in Polyhedral Pantheons (and originally inspired by the Rose of the Prophet trilogy by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman). This process makes it easy to assign qualities to things in recognizable groups and fitting patterns.

Special items from a particular origin are likely to share common features and qualities. Dwarves (stereo)typically use hafted weapons such as hammers and axes suitable for their short but muscular stature, these weapons are often enchanted to be especially effective against dragons and giants, and so on.

Items recovered from the Ghost Hills are typically steeped in necrotic energy and

“have a magical affinity for death magics, positive and negative. They may be more likely to take on necrotic energy effects, or powers useful against the undead”

For that matter, many enchanted items that were lost in the Ghost Hills were already enchanted to be effective against undead.

I could use the polyhedral process to build a table that will help me design weapons recovered from the Ghost Hills.

Polyhedral Process for Graded Weapons and Armor

The polyhedral process is simple.

  1. Choose a polyhedron.
  2. Assign a quality to each point and face [not doing faces this time]
  3. Group qualities for each entity [represented by faces this time]
  4. Fill in the rest

Choose a Polyhedron

I’m choosing the icosahedron (d20) this time. This gives me twelve points to assign qualities to, and twenty faces to represent individual items. I could invert it and use the dodecahedron (d12), giving me twenty qualities and twelve items.

Assign Qualities to Points

I have twelve points to assign qualities to. I’ll start with five +1 enhancement bonuses. I don’t much care where they land, so I’ll roll 4d12: 4, 7, 9, 9, 12… doubled up on 9, I can have enhancement bonus greater than +1, so that’s okay. In fact, this gives me nine +1, three +2, two +3, one +4, and five +0 items.

There are still eight points that need qualities. Let’s start with holy and unholy (2 and 11), ghost touch (1 and 10 — no shared faces, and this quality is good for and against both sides), disruption and wounding (8 and 5), and undeadbane and humanbane (3 and 6; the Ghost Hills were originally a human land, and humans formed the bulk of the armies that defeated Miroslav Prizrak).

Group Qualities for Each Entity

I assigned the points and grouped them, giving me the table below:

Face Qualities Bonus Equivalent Total
1 ghost touch holy undeadbane +4
2 +1 ghost touch disruption +4
3 ghost touch wounding humanbane +4
4 +4 +4
5 +1 holy disruption +5
6 +2 unholy wounding +6
7 +1 ghost touch holy +4
8 ghost touch unholy humanbane +4
9 +2 wounding undeadbane +5
10 +1 ghost touch humanbane +3
11 +3 undeadbane +4
12 +1 ghost touch disruption +4
13 +1 holy undeadbane +4
14 +3 unholy +5
15 +1 holy disruption +5
16 unholy wounding humanbane +5
17 +1 ghost touch humanbane +3
18 +2 disruption +4
19 ghost touch undeadbane wounding +4
20 +1 ghost touch unholy +4

These are all starting points for item construction. Once I know what grade item I need, I can roll d20 on this table and start assigning qualities — possibly adjusting to meet the target grade, either adding or removing qualities.

Fill in the Rest

The PCs are 11th level and have breached a barrow in the Ghost Hills. They have defeated the wraiths within it, one of whom is bearing a rusty, pitted short sword that caused a great deal of grief for the party… and understandably so, I’d rolled an 8 when preparing the adventure: ghost touch wounding humanbane. As a graded item it has two grade 2 qualities (ghost touch and humanbane), and one grade 4 quality (wounding). At the least this would be a grade 9 item — a little light for the party, perhaps, but there are other items present.

Wraithblade (grade 9 short sword) +0 ghost touch wounding humanbane deceptive I short sword +0 (1d6/19-20 +1 bleed); +2 (1d6/19-20 +1 bleed, +2d6 vs. humans)

  • grade 4 wounding
  • grade 2 ghost touch
  • grade 2 humanbane
  • grade 1 deceptive I (+2 on Bluff checks)

Market Price 40,500 gp

Part of the reason the PCs had the success they did was because they had previously visited a cairn (burial place of a hero, and acts as a shrine and a safe haven in the Ghost Hills). They were able to speak with the spirit of Mikal of Dunallin, who granted them permission to use the Hammer of Dunallin, with the understanding they would return it to his cairn before leaving the Ghost Hills (I’d rolled a 12).

Hammer of Dunallin (grade 12 warhammer) +3 ghost touch disruption alert I warhammer +3 (1d8/x3, disruption)

  • grade 6 +3 enhancement
  • grade 4 disruption
  • grade 2 ghost touch
  • grade 1 alert I (+2 on Perception checks)

Market Price 72,000 gp

There were some other weapons present in the barrow, but they were mostly ruined. There was one salvageable weapon, and the PCs were lucky to find it at all.

Ghostbiter (grade 6 dagger) ghost touch undeadbane alert I hiding I dagger +0 (1d4/19-20); +2 (1d4/19-20+2d6 vs undead)

  • grade 2 ghost touch
  • grade 2 undeadbane
  • grade 1 alert I (+2 on Perception checks), grade 1 hiding I (+2 to Sneak checks)

Market Price 18,000 gp

Closing Comments

Items sharing the same origin will tend to have similar characteristics. The polyhedral process makes it easy to create a collection of items — deities, magic weapons, etc. — with combinations of shared characteristics.

My first attempt at applying the process was discarded, to be honest. Using the d12 and twenty qualities produced items much more powerful than I’d wanted, and the number of times I used each quality meant I had pretty homogeneous results. I inverted it for this attempt and got better results.

I think in future I’ll go to an even smaller die. Three qualities per sample seems a good starting point, and runs to an average total of +4 equivalent (minimum grade 9 item in practice). I suspect the d8 will give better results in the long run. I would consider the d10, but that’s moving back up to four qualities per face.

On the other hand, the list of qualities is only a starting point. The list of qualities can be used more or less as is (as with the wraithblade), increased (as with the hammer of Dunallin, I increased the enhancement bonus), or reduced (ghostbiter, I had rolled a 1 and removed the holy quality to hit my target.

I suspect I could have gotten better results had I considered my quality selection better. If the original (d12) attempt had been approximately a third to a half grade 1 (or scalable) qualities, a third to a quarter grade 2 qualities, and the remainder higher than that I think five qualities per face would have been better.

A few of the combinations are suboptimal (undeadbane wounding… undead are not susceptible to wounding). That is entirely a consequence of the origin, which has a mix of anti-life (necrotic) and anti-undead (to target the denizens of the Ghost Hills). Normally this would not happen because items from a single origin are more likely to have complementary qualities; in this case I deliberately had contradictory qualities and the results are a bit disjoint.

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  1. Pingback: Z-A Challenge 2016 Index | In My Campaign - Thoughts on RPG design and play

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