Complete Control took character design out of the hands of game designers and put it back into the hands of the individual players where it belongs. However, with as much freedom as Complete Control does give with respect to the character design process there is still a certain amount of reality to the complaint that a character is largely defined by their items. From the player’s perspective, when so much thought is put into designing precisely the desired character why shouldn't that character define the items rather than the items defining the character?
From the perspective of the Game Master, treasure and NPC equipment are often on the top of the list of elements that suck the fun out of games. Many Game Masters complain about the fact that magic-marts destroy the believability of the game. Yet, without places to buy magic items the players complain that they are reliant upon the mercy of the Game Master in handing out treasure. Wouldn't it be nice to eliminate the time needed to prepare balanced treasure as well as remove the necessity of having a magic-mart in every city the characters might visit?
That is precisely the premise of this work. By using the rules presented here, players can take control of the items that their character uses. Game Masters can stop worrying about coming up with a meaningful yet balanced list of items and treasure. NPCs can use whatever items make sense to the character or monster without the Game Master worrying about unbalancing the game when the items fall into the hands of the characters. This work strives to take even more control out of the hands of the game designers and put it into the hands of the people who will enjoy wielding that very power the most!
As a note before the text of Complete Gear begins, I hope that this work is seen as an obvious supplement to the work done in Complete Control: Character Design for the Uninhibited.Yet, this work in no way assumes that Complete Control is being used in a game. Complete Gear is a stand-alone system of magic items and treasure that does not rely upon Complete Control in any way. It can be used in any game that uses gold pieces to define both character wealth and item purchases regardless of how character design occurs.
Infusion versus Influence
There are two perspectives on how characters in an RPG can enhance the items around them. One method is infusion. In the infusion model, characters take a part of their being and make it a part of the item. This model tends to direct thought into a model where magic items are permanently magical. It also pushes towards the idea that if a
character loses the item then the character has lost some part of them – even at some small insignificant level. It is not essential to see it that way, but that is a natural conclusion if the infusion approach is taken far.
This work intentionally takes a different approach. Instead of infusion, Complete Gear will speak of influence. A character influences the items around them for as long as they are in the character’s possession. A sword may be mundane in the hands of a peasant, but in the hands of a great warrior, that sword becomes a blade of legend. When the character relinquishes control of the blade and returns it to the peasant, the blade is no more powerful than when the peasant first held to sword.
The upside to this perspective is that a character does not permanently give a part of them into any item. If a sword breaks or gets stolen, it is merely a matter of finding a new sword to influence. If the character wants to shift from using a sword to using a war hammer, it is merely a matter of shifting influence from one item to the next. Items become much more fluid in Complete Gear, and adventuring becomes much more interesting with respect to how a character can choose to display their power.
Influences and Attunements
In this system, characters no longer need gold to benefit from magical items. Instead, characters automatically gain item Influence Points (IPs) either bit by bit as they adventure or all at once when they reach a new level. This choice is made completely at the Game Master’s discretion. With these IPs, a player can decide how their character bestows their influence upon the equipment that they carry.
An influence is any magical property that a character is able to bestow on an item. Examples might be: +3 Frost for a weapon, +1 Fortification (light) for armor, Cure Light Wounds for potions, or even Fireball for scrolls. There is no restriction placed on a character’s abilities as to what they can influence. The general rule is that if a character could buy the item in a standard game they can spend the IPs to make an influence upon a mundane item.
At first, it may seem strange for a non-spell casting, non-manifesting fighter to be able to influence a vial of water and make it into a potion of Cure Light Wounds. However, in terms of game mechanics this is no stranger
than the same fighter being able to go into a temple and buy such a potion themselves. The source of the power has changed, but mechanically the fighter is still healed the same amount. It is a natural extension that comes from understanding that a character can use their quality as an adventurer to take a mundane item and make
As with the rules of a standard game, special limitations on items do restrict use. For example, while anyone in a standard game can walk into a magic-mart and buy a scroll of Fireball, only a character with Fireball on their spell list could actually hope to use the scroll with any given success. The same is true in a Complete Gear game.
Any character could use their IPs to influence a piece of parchment to become a scroll of Fireball, but not every character can assume use of the item once they influence it. However, an item is only magical in the hands of the character that owns the influence. A character cannot give an item that they influenced to any other character and have them initiate the item’s use at all. A character can only use influences of their own making.
The process of bestowing an influence upon an item is called attunement. No mundane item can benefit from more than one attunement at a time. For example: while a character can be attuned to a flask in order to bring about a Cure influence (as a potion), the same character cannot also be attuned to the exact same flask in order to bring about a Sanctuary influence (as a potion). A character can have both of those influences at the same time, but the character would need to be attuned to two separate containers that are capable of holding a liquid.
Items designated for attunement can take any reasonable form. A glass flask might be attuned to a character’s Cure influence. However, this influence could also be made to a vial, a cup, or even a canteen (although all three would still only count as single-use items as a potion would). A pouch might be attuned to a character’s ability to create an extra-dimensional space, but the attunement could just as well be made to a knapsack, a backpack, a trunk, or even a chest. A twig might be attuned to a character’s ability to make it a wand, but the attunement could also be made to anything from a pencil, a candle, or a metal nail. A jeweled necklace might be attuned to a character’s ability to enhance their natural armor, but the attunement could also be made to a torque, a scarf, or a choker.
An item should make sense for any influence. But, this aspect should also allow players to be creative with their characters. Perhaps more importantly, items – and their pricing – that are designed for a certain body slot in a standard game should have that aspect honored in a game using the rules for Complete Gear.
The Same Economy, New Rules
Characters automatically receive greater ability to influence items as their own power increases within the game. Mechanically, as a character increases their overall character level they gain more IPs. The table indicates an appropriate guideline for Game Masters to follow in order to keep the assumed balance in the game. The values listed are an appropriate level for characters at the beginning of the indicated level. This table also assumes that if any treasure is being handed out it is for role-playing purposes (like tipping bartenders and paying for a night’s stay in an inn) rather than for purchasing equipment. The default understanding of Complete Gear is that gold is solely for buying mundane equipment while the IPs are for making that mundane equipment magical or psionic in nature.
It should be noted that for the sake of conversions, a cost of 1 gp in a standard game equals a cost of 1 IP in Complete Gear. What this means is that if a character in a standard game can purchase an item for 4,000 gp, in a Complete Gear game the item can be purchased for 4,000 IPs. However, in no circumstance should characters be allowed to trade treasure for an increase to their IP allotment. The IP values in the table should be set as cap for each character as they attain a new level.
Game Masters are welcome to hand out IPs as they see fit within the context of their own game. For Game Masters who want to deal with handing out IPs as the characters gain experience, they are welcome to do so in chunks. In this case, Game Masters can hand out IPs with the next level’s value as the goal during the course of the adventure. A Game Master taking their characters from level 2 to level 3 may gradually hand out IPs throughout an adventure to slowly bring them from 900 IPs to 2,700 IPs.
Some Game Masters prefer a simpler game where the characters jump from one IP level to the next as soon as their character level increases. This scenario completely removes the need for Game Masters to hand out anything but mundane treasure. In this case, the IP pool available to the character jumps when a character’s level jumps from one
level to the next. This can be quite freeing from a Game Master perspective.
A character can add any influence to their repertoire if they have the new mundane item for attunement in their possession and if they spend 1 hour meditating for every 1,000 IPs spent (Round up to get full hours). Due to the mental strain of attuning to items, a character can only enter one state of attunement per 24 hours regardless of how
long the meditative state may last. Characters desiring to create more than one influence to a proper number of mundane items can combine the IP costs and use the total in calculating the time necessary for attunement.
Attunements that last longer than 24 hours count as the attunement for all the days spent (including any portion of a day not fully used). Thus a character attempting to attune to a group of items for 30 hours would not be able to make another attunement attempt until the day that follows the day upon which the 30 hour meditation ended.
For example, a character can gain a +2 keen influence for their mundane rapier at a cost of 18,000 IPs and after spending 18 hours in attunement. At some time later, the character may learn that they are soon going to face an opponent with fire vulnerability. In this case the character can spend another 18 hours in attunement to alter the influence to either +1 flaming burst or a +2 flaming (or some other combination) for the same rapier. This alteration completely replaces the +2 keen influence that was previously held. Additionally, either of the mentioned
examples would not cost any additional IPs since the standard game costs are identical.
As a second example, suppose a character already has a Blur influence upon a flask (to create a potion of Blur). However, the character may know that a difficult battle is coming. The character may spend 1 hour in meditation and alter that influence to a single Cure Moderate Wounds or even 6 influences of Cure Light Wounds (assuming the character has 6 distinct mundane flasks to influence). Either of these changes would be at no additional IP cost since the gold costs in a standard game are all equivalent.
A character can change an influence to any other style of influence so long as they have the mundane item(s) in their possession and the time to meditate. In the above example with the +2 keen influence, the player could just as easily remove that influence from their character and replace it with a +3 Resistance influence upon a cloak, a +2 WIS influence upon a periapt, and a +2 DEX influence on a pair of gloves. Of course, this assumes that the character has the necessary mundane items for attunement in their possession. In this case, the character would actually have a net gain of 1,000 IPs to their unspent IP pool. This is because the +2 keen influence costs 18,000 IPs while the other
three influences combined only total 17,000 IPs. Changing the character’s influences in this manner would take 17 hours for attunement and it would render the sword completely back to a being a mundane sword.
Influences last until something in the game causes them to cease (player dismissing an influence, player replacing an influence with another, the character being subjected to disjunction or dispelling, etc). Thus, permanent influences like those of swords and armors would stay intact from the point of successful mediation until removal. Other influences are created to have a specific number of uses or charges. These influences last until the proper number of uses or charges have been expended. In this case the influence ends and the IPs that had once been spent of the influence are now treated as unspent. The character can be attuned to the item allover and gain a new set of charges if desired. Some influences, such as potions and oils, only have one use. After a character receives the effect of these kind of influences the IPs are immediately treated as unspent and the character has to again go through the process of being attuned to the item to gain another benefit.
A character can take simple actions while being in a meditative state for attunement. These simple actions are quite restricted. A character can move around; although they cannot be active in an area where other people are around without being distracted and ending the attunement attempt unsuccessfully. For example, a character cannot walk the streets of a town –or even the halls of an inn – while meditating. Furthermore, should a character move they must maintain line of sight with the item(s) to which they want to be attuned. A character can eat food that needs little preparation as they attune to the desired items. They could easily cut a piece of bread from its loaf or cut some cheese from its block. However they could not cook a meal if it involved following a recipe or concentrating on making sure the food is cooked properly. In general, if an activity requires any sense of concentration the activity is too strenuous to accomplish while attuning to an item.
Should a character be interrupted in the middle of an attunement attempt, the character is treated as though nothing changed from before the attunement began. If the player desires to have their character meditate again the character would need to meditate for the full amount of time. In the example above regarding altering a +2 keen influence into the three smaller influences, if the character was interrupted before the meditation was finished the character would still have a +2 keen influence and would not benefit at all from any of newly desired influences.
However, the failed attunement process does not count as a completed attempt. Thus, if a character is interrupted they can try another attunement attempt in the same day so long as the first one was unsuccessful. Once a character successfully completes an attunement attempt for any given day, however, they are done for the whole day.
If something happens to a mundane item to which a character is attuned, the influence is lost. The IPs that had been spent are treated as though they are unspent. Should the character come across an item identical to the item that was destroyed, the character still cannot use their influence until they are properly attuned to the new object.
For example, a player might spend enough IPs to gain the +1 Flaming influence for a particular mundane bow. That influence is specifically attuned to the bow in question over the span of 8 hours of meditation. Should the character have their bow shattered in combat and find a similar bow, the character cannot use their +1 Flaming influence on the new bow unless the character spends 8 hours attuning to the new bow.
Influences and Masterwork Weapons/Armor
Only masterwork items can be enchanted in a standard game. In a game following the rules for Complete Gear, this need not be the case. It is possible for the masterwork distinction to disappear from the game altogether (although it certainly doesn’t need to). It depends on how streamlined a Game Master would like their game to be.
To keep game balance within the expected costs yet not worry about whether an item is masterwork or not, the price for a masterwork item can simply be assumed into the price of the influence. Thus, a character wanting to influence a mundane mace would need to add an additional 300 IPs to the cost of the desired influence if the mace is not already masterwork. If the mace is already masterwork it is not necessary to include the masterwork cost in the cost of the influence. If the Game Master only wants masterwork items to be able to be influenced in their games, then the cost for the masterwork quality would always be paid with actual gold pieces instead of influence points. Those gold pieces would have to be made available to the characters, however.
Either choice regarding the necessity of masterwork quality is acceptable. Neither choice will change the balance of the game. Yet, allowing the players to not worry about the necessity of
masterwork quality may open the game up to a greater diversity in treasure hunting as well as
using items that are meaningful to the character.
Influences and How They Relate to Others
It has already been stated that a character can only use influences of their own making. A fighter who allocates IPs to produce a Cure Light Wounds influence on a flask of liquid is the only one who can use that influence. However, this does not imply that the fighter is the only one who can benefit from the influence. Characters can benefit from another’s influence so long as the one who created the influence is the one who uses the influence.
For example, suppose a fighter has a Cure Light Wounds influence upon a vial of water. If the character is in the middle of a fight when one of the character’s allies falls into unconsciousness or worse, the fighter could follow the rules of a standard game and administer to their friend the Cure Light Wounds potion that the fighter made through their influence. The effect of the influence would be resolved and the life of the fighter’s friend might be saved. Regardless of who benefits from the influence, the influence was still used by the character to which it belonged.
As another example, a character that is capable of using divine scrolls may use their IPs to create a Bull’s Strength (Mass) influence upon a piece of parchment (thus creating a scroll of Mass Bull’s Strength). Only the one who spent the IPs can use the parchment, but the effect of the Bull’s Strength (Mass) spell would occur naturally. In this manner, the allies of the character can benefit; but only the one who created the influence triggered its use.
The easiest means of dealing with special materials is to assume the cost of the special material into the influence. A player could use 4,000 IPs and purchase a Mithral influence for their character that is useable for any metal medium armor to which the character has been attuned. A player could purchase a +1 Mithral Glammer influence for a medium suit of metal armor for a final cost of 7,700 IPs. This influence could only be used on a medium armor that was made of metal and to which the character has taken 8 hours of meditation to become attuned.
Some players and characters will find this aspect of Complete Gear fascinating. Imagine having a character who venerates dragons and who can take a mundane piece of leather armor and seemingly alter it so that when they put it on it appears like dragon hide. Or perhaps there is a character that has a knack of always having silver arrows on hand when they are needed. The possibilities for characters being able to define their items is endless so long as the players have no problem seeing special material as part of what a character has the power to manipulate.
For Game Masters and players who do not want special materials to be handled in this manner, a variant rule is given later regarding how to treat special materials. That variant maintains the thought that an item’s material composition is unchangeable by a specific influence.
Hardness and Hit Points of Attuned Items
In a standard game, one tactic in hindering an opponent’s power is by sundering their equipment. This is still a valid tactic in a Complete Gear game – perhaps even more valid because in a Complete Gear game the attacker is no longer sundering their magic treasure! As one might guess from the process above, the effect of this tactic is much less significant in the long run since a player is much less likely to be upset if their favorite sword is sundered.
Should a character have their favorite piece of equipment sundered, it simply means the character has to attune to a new item. What is often a tragic moment in a standard game – wrought with anger and ill effects on the game – now becomes a memorable speed-bump on the character’s path to glory. The character defines the item, so the power remains in the character’s IPs (which are now treated as unspent) and not in the broken item.
That explanation aside, the rules for hit points and hardness are identical in every way to that of a standard game as long as an item remains in the possession of the character that imparts the influence. For every point of enhancement bonus placed on a shield or weapon, the item’s hardness increases by 1 and its hit points increase by 10. Other items made by an influence have the hardness and hit points of their magical counterparts. Should a character relinquish an item or give an item to another character, the item is treated as having the hit points and hardness of a non-magical item. If the character reclaims the item upon which they have an influence, the hardness and hit points resume as though it were a magical item once more.
Effect of Complete Gear on Item Creation Feats
In a game that completely removes purchasing magic items and instead replaces it with a system of character’s influencing items to become more powerful, there is very little point in having Item Creation Feats. Magic items are no longer created, they are influenced into existence. In some respects, this system grants every character a very limited use of every relevant item creation feat in the game. The short answer is that in a Complete Gear game, there is absolutely no need to even include these feats.
However, if a game is being played that uses the variant given in a later section regarding combining this system with the standard system of gold purchasing, Item Creation Feats can be included in the game and used as normal. In this case, items that are created can be shared with anyone while items that are influenced still remain usable only by the person who has made the proper attunement. Additionally, items that are created count against the character’s wealth according to how much gold was necessary to make the item – not how much the item would cost to purchase.
Influences and Dispelling/Disjoining
Influenced items react to both magical and psionic suppression in exactly the same way as their magically created counterparts in a standard game. Influenced items that are successfully targeted by a dispel effect lose effectiveness for 1d4 rounds and then regain effectiveness. Influenced items that are affected by a disjunction effect have their attunements destroyed and become non-attuned mundane items. However, the affected character can simply use their now unspent IPs to reestablish the attunement the next time that the character can meditate for the appropriate amount of time. In many respects, this makes disjunction much less dramatic and returns it to a fun tactic to be used against a party.
Any other effect that mimics a disjunction ordispelling produces similar results. Either the influence is suppressed and reforms after a limited amount of time or the influence is removed but can be attuned once more with meditation. A player should never lose permanent access to their IPs unless their character experiences some sort of permanent level-loss. Even then, the character would regain the lost IPs when they gain enough experience to regain the lost character level.
Intelligent Items are difficult to place in a campaign because they do take more work on behalf of the player. However, there is no reason that an intelligent item cannot exist within a Complete Gear game. The Game Master must approve of the decision to allow a player to create an intelligent item. Ultimately, however, the intelligent item creation process belongs in the hands of the player. This is a significant alteration to that of a standard game.
In an intentional balance of power, the only difference between Complete Gear and a standard game is that a player’s choice to influence an intelligent item is a permanent dedication of IPs unless the Game Master allows the player to alter the IPs spent on the intelligent item for a good ingame reason. The reason for this balance is because of the increase in attention towards the game that is necessary when an intelligent item comes into play. Only the Game Master can determine if an intelligent item has served its purpose or not and thus they retain the right to accept when an intelligent item can be made mundane once again.
The pricing guidelines listed for intelligent item creation can simply be converted from gold pieces to IPs. A player can create an item for their character by using the tables given in the SRD. Rolling percentages is not necessary; a player can choose from the options in the same manner as they can choose the properties of magical items. The choices selected will determine the other abilities of the item.
For example, a player may want an intelligent
item with the following statistics:
- Lesser Powers: 10 ranks in Spot (5,000 IPs), 10 ranks in Listen (5,000 IPs), and daze monster 3/day (6,500 IPs)
- Greater Power: Magic Circle against Evil at will (16,000 IPs)
- Two abilities at 18, one ability at 10; Speech, telepathy; 120 ft. darkvision, blindsense, and hearing (12,000 IPs, abilities defined by above choices for Lesser and Greater Powers)
- Special Purpose: Defend any goodaligned elf in danger
- * Dedicated Power: Confusion (+50,000 IPs)
This item would cost a total of 94,500 IPs. A player creating this intelligent item would have to dedicate those 94,500 IPs until such a time as they wanted to change attunements and the Game Master was agreeable.
However, notice that this item has not been given any form. It could be attuned to a falchion and joined with a +3 Flaming influence for an additional 32,300 IPs. Or it could take the form of a +3 Arrow Deflectinginfluence upon a shield for an additional 50,150 IPs. It could even take the form with an Evasion influence upon a ring for 25,000 IPs. Any item that is capable of attunement can hold intelligence. These costs assume that the mundane item is present and masterwork costs are in the influence cost where necessary.
Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects about the Complete Gear system is that the form of the intelligent item is completely fluid. To use the above example, the character could start out with the intelligent ring option for a total of 119,500 IPs assuming they have the time to meditate for 120 hours (5 full days). However, as the character adventures perhaps they desire to give up the ring influence and gain the shield influence mentioned. The character is welcome to transfer the form of the intelligent item from the ring to the shield so long as they have the extra 25,150 IPs available and the 145 hours (7 days, rounded) to meditate. In this instance the character must meditate for a time related to the new full cost of the item: 144,650 IPs.
In all other ways, intelligent items follow the rules of interaction as in a standard game. They are granted their own saves where appropriate. They respond to disjunction/dispelling as an intelligent item would in a standard game. They should even be treated as constructs – with an appropriate ego score and under the Game Master’s control – for as long as the player allocates IPs to maintain the influence.
Artifacts in the Game
In Complete Gear, artifacts can truly stand distinctly apart from items. Items are influenced by characters in Complete Gear. Items gain their power from the character that wields them. In contrast, artifacts remain a power unto themselves. They do not draw power from being held and their power is not diminished when passed from hand to hand.
In terms of game mechanics, artifacts need not change anything with respect to a character and their IPs. Artifacts cannot be made or bought and thus only enter into a game at a Game Master’s discretion. They have no determined price and thus have no IP comparison. A character has a particular artifact in a game solely because the Game Master has blessed the character with the artifact. As such, artifacts continue to play the same role. They are handed out by Game Masters as the game unfolds without affecting a character and their ability to use IPs.
At some tables, the Complete Gear rules open up the game for abuse – especially in terms of magical healing. In a standard game, a player who desires to heal their character through the means of a potion or wand must first find a shop – or at least a potion maker – from whom the character can buy the potion. This is not always easy to do in the middle of a dungeon or on an alternate plane of existence. However, the rules of Complete Gear automatically imply that a potion or wand of healing is always just an attunement away. It is an exploitable aspect of viewing items as defined by the character. To accommodate this possible abuse, the variant rule that follows can be introduced into the system.
As a variant, the process of attunement has a unique effect upon smaller influences. Any limited use influence that costs less than 3,000 IPs destroys the mundane object once the magical use has been expended. What this implies is small effects – such as most potions, oils, shards, scrolls, and wands – are limited in their ability to be used over and over again unless a character has access to a great many vials, flasks, or jars.
For example, a character may have spent 750 IPs on a Cure Serious Wounds influence to make a potion. When the character imbibes the fluid from the mundane flask, the character receives the effect of the influence. However, the object holding the potion is irrevocably destroyed and unable to be used again for the purposes of attunement. Should the player again want their character to spend their now unspent 750 IPs on another potion, they would need access to a brand new container.
Another interesting angle to this variant rule is with respect to most scrolls or power stones. Should a character use a few IPs to produce some usable scrolls or a few power stones, the character must do so knowing that the mundane element will be destroyed upon its use. There is nothing more unsettling than watching a character see his last piece of parchment disintegrate in the middle of an adventure, but it is a reality for this variant rule. Or perhaps when a power stone is drained of the few remaining power points and shatters into millions of harmless pieces of dust, it can have an interesting effect on any commoners who may not understand what happened.
Additionally, this variant can be extended to permanent influences of less than 3,000 IPs if desired. Permanent influences – like many of the cheaper wondrous items – are usually not affected by this so long as their effect is kept permanent. Should something come along to disrupt the functioning of the effect (like a null-psionic field, an anti-magic zone, a dispel magic/psionic effect, or even a player deciding to stop allocating IPs to the specific influence) then the mundane object is in fact destroyed. In this case, any IPs that had been allocated to the now useless influence are treated
as unspent. Should the character desire to use the lost influences again they will need new mundane items as well as time to spend in the appropriate attunement process with the new items.
Special Materials Variant
Some Game Masters and players may not be able to think of special materials as a property that a character can change about their weapon or armor. In this case, a simple variant to the rule should be employed. The data given on the table regarding Influence Points by level could be reduced by a specified amount so that the difference can be given to the players in the form of gold pieces. With that gold, a player can buy a piece of armor made out of the special material which can then be influenced by the character as the player desires. In the end, the result is the same.
As an example of this variant, a 10thlevel character should have 49,000 IPs available to them. If the player wanted to purchase an adamantine chain shirt in a game using this variant rule, the player’s IP pool could be lowered to 43,850 IPs and then given 5,150 gold via treasure in order to purchase a masterwork adamantine chain shirt. Of course, it is masterwork because items made of adamantine are always masterwork in quality.
The most important aspect to this variant is that communication of expectations needs to be made between the Game Master and the players. If the Game Master wishes to use this variant, it is up to the Game Master to ensure that they provide enough gold in treasure to accommodate any desires a player may have regarding special materials. Likewise, it is important that players communicate their hopes with respect to the amount of gold needed to purchase the desired material when using this variant. This is a discussion that should happen at the inception of the game so that the rules and expectations are clear from the beginning.
Cursed Items Variant
The easiest way to handle cursed items in a Complete Gear game is to simply ignore them. Most cursed items enter into a game at the Game Master’s discretion, so ignoring them and eliminating them from the game does not alter the balance. However, it does remove some of the fun of the game.
If a Game Master decides to allow cursed items, they can add an extra sense of intrigue. However, for the sake of game play the category of cursed items needs to be subdivided into two categories: Annoyance influences and light items. Annoyance influences are equivalent to magical and psionic cursed items that have a drawback or an ill side-effect but which might still be desired by a character. These items usually do not need a special means for removal or a have to avoid the effect of the item. On the other hand, blight items are items that have only a negative effect upon the character and usually have a specific means of being removed from the character. In cases where a blight item does not list a specific means for removal, Complete Gear adds the condition of needing a successfully cast Remove Curse spell or some sort of magical/psionic equivalent action.
If allowed in a game, annoyance influences can be brought about by a character through the attunement process. Just as it is possible for magic to go wrong in the item creation process, it is possible for something to go awry in attuning a character to an item. An example of when this might happen is if a character is interrupted slightly during attunement but not enough to disrupt the process. Or, perhaps the chance of making an annoyance influence increases when a character is using the last of their available IPs. In any case, a character who receives an annoyance influence can choose to accept the annoyance as is or drop the influence and go through the process of attunement on a different day. These are influences that add flavor to the game rather than punishments or problems that need to be solved.
Characters may wish to keep annoyance influences in some circumstances. One example of such an item in a standard game is the +3 Mace of Blood, which is actually discounted to 9,000 gp on account of the annoyance associated with the item. In a Complete Gear game, an influence that created an identical effect would naturally cost 9,000 IPs. Another example is the Cursed Backbiter Spear, which offers a much smaller drawback and a corresponding smaller decrease in cost.
Annoyance influences are always admitted to a game only with Game Master approval. Care should be taken to limit the number of annoyance influences that a character can have at one time. Annoyance influences can be seen as a boon in saving IPs, but the drawbacks should always match the discount. An influence discounted by half should only be half as effective, or effective only half the time, or some such equivalent drawback.
Unlike annoyance influences, blight items can only be made as side effects from spells, powers, and perhaps even incantations. They are never made through influences and attunements. This is because an influence can only be used by the one who makes the attunement. No self-respecting character would keep an attunement that left them completely cursed.
Blight items have an interesting affect upon those unlucky enough to don them. Not only do blight items grant the wearer the unfortunate side affect in their description and need a special condition to remove the item, but they also count against a character’s IP pool. As long as the character wears the blight item – or even keeps it in the character’s possession – the character must forfeit an amount of IPs from their pool equal to the cost of the blight item. This does not affect influences already in attunement, but it does prevent new attunements from being formed until the character has more unspent IPs than the cost of the item. When the character is able to remove the blight item, the character gains full access to their complete IP pool once again.
For example, an 8th level character should have 36,000 IPs at their discretion. Through adventuring, the character may find an interesting suit of armor and put it on – only to discover that it is a blighted suit of armor with the Arrow Attraction description. This armor is listed as having a cost of 9,000 gp. When the character dons the item, they do not immediately lose 9,000 IPs worth of influences. However, as some of the character’s influences become unspent (such as through the use of influences that act as potions or oils or perhaps through a player deciding to try and change an influence before they realize they have a blighted item on their person) those IPs are not immediately available to be spent again. Only after the character has 9,000 unspent IPs can the character manipulate their influences as normal. Even then, this player can only use 27,000 of the character’s 36,000 IPs available until the player has
found a way to remove the blight item.
Furthermore, blight items are made into mundane items when the condition for removal is met. For example, should a character be cursed with a -2 Cursed Sword, the only means for removal is through a limited wish, wish, or miracle spell. When the spell is cast, the blight item would become a normal mundane sword. The character could actually turn around and attune themselves in a meaningful way to the formerly blighted item with no side effects from the item’s former status as a blighted item.
Combining Rules for IPs with rules for GPs
Combining the rules for Complete Gear as well as the rules for treasure in a standard game does not have to be difficult. Of course, the standard in Complete Gear is that magical and psionic items are only attuned through influences rather than being made or bought. This position is taken because it is the simplest one that provides an aspect of game that has the least opportunity for mistakes. Yet it is possible to combine gold pieces and IPs.
The rule governing this variant is that the sum of a player’s wealth (equipment, gold, and gemstones) and their IPs should follow the guidelines for character wealth by level. In practice, one can simply deduct a character’s wealth from the value given on the table earlier in the work and find out the size of a player’s IP pool. This process can be seen in the variant above regarding special materials.
For example, a Game Master may want to include magic items and influenced items in a game. As part of the treasure for a particular combat, a player may discover a sword that has a gold piece price of 18,000 gp. If the character were to be 10th level, they would normally have 49,000 IPs available to them. As soon as the character brought the item into their possession for any reasonable length of time, they would find their available IP pool reduced to 31,000 IPs. Should the character also be carrying around 3,000 gp worth of gemstones the IP pool should be further reduced to 28,000 IPs. Using this principle always assures that a character can have a combined wealth and influence equal to what is considered balanced.
Of course, the mechanical answer is much easier than the in-game rationale behind the principle. Perhaps the IP pool decreases because when a character uses pre-made equipment it reflects a loss of faith in their own ability to make what they need. Perhaps all magical and psionic items have an aura that interferes partially with a character’s ability to use their influence on mundane items. (In this case the stronger the aura – either through high price or through many smaller magical items acting as one larger aura – the less a character can use their own influence) Perhaps the ability to influence is a divine
gift and reliance upon magical items is seen by the divine as a lack of trust. There are many reasons that can be used to justify why a character’s IP pool decreases when they come in contact with magical items that are made, not influenced. The trick is finding a reason that fits well with the particular character within the particular game world.