Music to Our Ears

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Previously the Pile showcased the terrain and DM prep for the C2 Well encounter inside the D&D 4E Pyramid of Shadows module. That battle features a Satyr Piper who just happens to play a wicked pan flute. Ben wants to turn his instrument into a mischievous new magic treasure item. Let’s venture forth to see if he played all the right notes.

RPG Crowd Sourcing
The Old School Gamers Facebook club is a collective group of pure DM genius. Naturally Ben wanted their wisdom as he went forth to build this magical boon. You can read the entire thread here but this post will showcase some of the collective feedback (all of which was very good btw).

The Mechanics
The Pile lives in the D&D 4E universe so this item will be usable as a daily power (with both good and bad effects learned over time).

Play the flute correctly and its author unlocks its soothing sounds and beneficial powers. Botch the notes however and suffer unfortunate effects. The character can use skills like Insight and Arcana to attempt to play the proper notes The DCs will be harder at first but become easier over time (practice makes perfect, right?).

The Premise
So a mysterious item needs a good overall premise and a sound set of operating principles. Gamer Eric suggested that having the instrument be the one that calls all the shots. Eventually the possessor will realize that the flute didn’t belong to the Satyr…the Satyr belonged to the flute. Brilliant! Addiction and mind control always makes for a great ongoing story.

To paraphrase Eric’s initial premise: “A great negative for the flute is once you start playing it, you want to keep playing it. You play it whenever you get the chance. It’s all you can think about each day.”

The End Game
So the curse realization will be gradual. After a certain number of attempted plays and a certain number of failed saving throws, the holder will slowly start to turn into a Satyr himself – the curse of curses. It will start with a little extra hair on the back of one’s neck and move to sudden elongated ears after an extended rest – wild body transformation stuff. The body silhouette worksheet from will come in handy here.

The Immediate Effects
DM Ben is going to release subtle effects for failed musical plays in an attempt to masquerade the overall effect. As Chris shared, “Anyone within 30 feet must make a will save or be struck with Otto’s Irresistible Dance.” Peter and Russell suggested other negative caster effects like Summon Swarm and Entangle which will go off against the enemy on a positive Will save but revert negatively onto the caster in the event of a failed Will save.

Two Card Monty
The DM will have a table to roll against to initially to randomly introduce the flute’s powers (which Chris suggested pulling from the Bard Spell list). Ben made up “Fury” because in the end we all know that the rhythm is gonna get ya.

Possible spells rolled on a d12 via a random table could go something like this:

  • 12: Otto’s Irresistible Dance
  • 11: Silence
  • 10: Charm monster (1 round)
  • 9: Mirror Image
  • 8: Entangle
  • 7: Summon Monster III (30 HPs)
  • 6: Summon Monster II (20 HPs)
  • 5: Summon Monster I (minion)
  • 4: Cure Light Wounds
  • 3: Fury (add 1d6+4 to damage)
  • 2: Blur
  • 1: Sleep

Dwarven Ale suggested building the flute’s different melodies over time and then allowing the holder to pick one or two (based on the character’s level) at the start of each day – almost like a spell book. Ben loves that angle.

Ben made two versions of the card (DM vs. Player). He will allow the players to pencil some notes on the back of the card as they discover new melodies.

This should be a fun magic item that grows over time and leaves the game table with some great future stories to tell. And it’s all because Ben gets to be part of such a great RPG community. Thanks again, everyone.

Side Note: a big shout out to Aaron Sims for his amazing Satyr illustration.

Until next week.

Questions to Ponder: Would you incorporate the Satyr magic flute into your own game? What do you think could be improved? Have you ever encountered a similar item in a previous D&D game edition? How do you think this will play out over time? What other subtle Satyr transformation twists could the DM add?

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One Response to “Music to Our Ears”

  1. Mark Says:

    LOVE THIS!!! Will definitely be incorporating this idea into a future game!!

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