Thursday, February 17, 2011

Weird Arcana - True Name (New Arcane Bond)

This new arcane bond is a tricky one – in part because it’s a classical theme and it has already been done in different forms (The Tome of Magic is the latest example, while I’m sure there’s a DRAGON Magazine of the 3.5 era with another). Also it’s difficult power from a design point of view because it deals with a class feature that gives both boons and curses. While I firmly believes that that mechanical approach is a valid one, I likewise know that it’s something very hard to properly balance (without simply resorting to GM’s calls).

For this ability’s purpose, a creature’s True Name is either the one it was given when she was born or a new one bestowed by a divine rite or initiation ritual. All intelligent beings capable of speaking or communicating through words have a True Name. To most people it’s the name they were born with. Certain lands, like most magocracies, have a long tradition of giving to each spellcaster a ‘Shadow Name’ – a false name used in everyday business and social relations. Usually only the spellcaster’s mentor knows his pupil’s True Name (a sure way of guaranteeing obedience). Neighbor countries tend to establish similar traditions in response to better defend themselves against these wizards normally through baptism and holy rites – the priesthood grant the deity’s followers with a True Name known only by the naming priest and the respective believer.

The GM is invited to toy with the concept of True Names beyond these guidelines – for example: is it possible to change one’s True Name using a wish? And how about to steal another person’s True Name? Can someone change his True Name by joining a new faith? Will this person be cursed by his former deity? There’re plenty of adventure seeds within these questions.

Finally, I never saw two True Name mechanics that were alike. The following is just my humbly take on the subject, I hope you enjoy. And yeah, I believe it still requires lots of playtesting, because lately I am having trouble scheduling games. I can’t end this text without mentioning Green Ronin’s outstanding Black Company d20 RPG and the equally awesome supplement True Sorcery for D&D 3.5 – both were inspirations for the lite rule system below.

Arcane Bond (True Name) (Su): The wizard has invested a portion of his power into his True Name and, as a consequence, established a resonance with the True Names of other intelligent creatures.
At 1st level, the wizard can, once per day, spontaneously substitute his True Name for a somatic, verbal or material component (costing 1 gp or less) of a spell. If used to substitute the verbal component, the wizard’s spell will work even inside an area affected by silence or similar dweomers. This carries the risk of revealing his True Name to enemy spellcasters.
At 3rd level, the wizard can insert another person’s True Name in a spell to make rather for her to resist it. If the wizard knows the target’s True Name, she suffer a –2 penalty to saving throws against the wizard’s spell. However, if the wizard employed the wrong Name, the mystical disconnection grants the target a +4 bonus to saving throws (the wizard doesn’t know if the Name employed was the right one).
At 7th level, the wizard can, once per day, invoke his True Name to grant additional power to his dweomers. He can use his True Name to instantly add a metamagic feat to the prepared spell been cast. The metamagic feat used must increase the spell slot by a maximum of 1 level. For every 4 levels, this limit increases by +1 (to a maximum of 4 spell slots at 19th level). This carries the risk of revealing his True Name to enemy spellcasters.
At 9th level, the wizard always knows when his True Name is spoken and can, as a swift action, cast scry as a spell-like ability to see who spoke it.
Attempts to reveal the wizard’s True Name through compulsion effects cast on him are treated as “self-destructive orders” and, therefore, ignored.
To vainly invoke one’s True Name is dangerous. In the situations noted above, other spellcasters within hearing range can attempt a Spellcraft check (DC 15 + the wizard’s caster level) to discover the wizard’s True Name.
If successful, they can use the wizard’s True Name to execute one of the following option: impose a –2 penalty to the wizard’s saving throws against their spells; ignore any SR possessed by the wizard when targeting him with a spell; or use the True Name as the mystical equivalent of a “body part” for scrying purposes on the wizard.
Finally, rivals with the Craft Magic Arms and Armor item creation feat can inscribe the wizard’s True Name in a weapon (this doesn’t cost any extra XP or GP and requires only a masterwork or magic weapon already made). This weapon ignores any supernatural or magic protection of the wizard and automatically confirms any critical threat against him.