Erf's Circlet of Leaves - Item Proposal


Item Proposal

Erf's Circlet of Leaves

A small darkwood circlet wrapped in living ivy, its only ornamentation a series of simple carved symbols each representing a season at four equidistant points.

Effect: The circlet extends the ability of a Forest Gnome to speak with forest animals to all animals, and allows communication as per the Speak with Animals spell if that Forest Gnome is possessed of the Wild Empathy class feature.

The forest gnome ability is described as follows,
a simple language that enables them to communicate on a very basic level with forest animals (this replaces the rock gnome’s speak with animals ability).
Base Price: 1,800gp Creation: CL 1, Speak with Animals, Craft Wonderous Item, 900gp, 2 days, Creator must be a Forest Gnome with the Wild Empathy class feature.

Mechanics and basis:

I am basing this on the price of the Hat of Disguise which still seems to be at least as good and is certainly more sellable - though it should be noted Erf is unlikely to sell the item. According to the DMG a continuous or use activated item costs Spell Level x Caster Level x 2000gp. Which would equal 2000gp, the item has a significant requirement which should reduce the price by 10-30%. Since the hat appears to the aptest comparison I decided the same price would be appropriate.

In game terms this item would be used to add more flexibility to the use of summoned animals, and to communicate with Erf's beloved companion Fenenn. It will also serve to allow me to ignore the confusing mess that is the forest gnomes ill defined ability to speak with forest animals.

As for the item being engineered for the character, which it definetly is, it is far from unabalancing imo, cuts down on some frustrating aspects of the current system and could potentially make for some fun RP. Having an animal companion who can speak with its owner is really little different than a familiar - the animal is far less intelligent in fact. Erf is also crafting these items himself meaning he has expended a valuable feat slot, etc.
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Well, since no one else has chimed in on this, I will. I'm not crazy about the idea of getting a discount on an item crafted for your character, by adding requirements that your character just happens to meet. The argument that it will be harder to sell back doesn't really fly, since this is D&D and you can just sell it back to any NPC merchant.

The item itself, obviously I have no problems with. I think you've asked me about it before. I just think it should be priced by the book. Besides, it's not like you'll pay full price anyways. Orussus is crawling with PCs that can craft wondrous items.


Well the by the book price would be 2,000gp, which I could certainly live with. I would argue that your such a point of view utterly negates the accepted idea in DND that such limiters are in effect, who crafts items that have prequisites, surely those who meet them, right? The 200gp price reduction hardly seems unreasonable to my eye, but it is not something that worries me.


It looks good to me.
The 200gp discount due the requirement of a forest gnome with wild empathy sounds fine.

One small thing: reword the following phrase " if that Forest Gnome is possessed of the Wild Empathy class feature."


A continuous / use-activated item costs 2000 x spell level x caster level x an additional modifier based on the usual duration of the spell. For a spell lasting 1 min/level, this is x2. The guideline price would be 4000 gp, then.

So if I understand correctly: the proposal states that the item can be made by a forest gnome with at least 1 level in either Druid or Ranger. The gnome himself wouldn't need to possess the Craft Wondrous Item feat, due to cooperative crafting rules.

If used by a forest gnome who was not a druid or ranger, the item would allow him to use his inherent 1/day 1 minute CL 1 Speak with Animals ability on any animal, sidestepping the need to identify which particular animals are 'forest animals'. That's a rather minor effect, probably not worth 4000 gp. If the gnome does have Wild Empathy, then it allows unlimited use of Speak with Animals, superceding the gnome racial feature entirely.

I don't think any price reduction should be permitted. An item that expands a gnome racial feature that can only be made by a gnome? That in practice will have nothing to do with the gnome racial feature? What? Beyond that, considering that judges have to examine each item on a case by case basis, it would be tedious to have to repeat the process for the next druid or ranger who pops up who happens not to be a (forest) gnome.[sblock=That damn spell]So, since it will be getting a lot more use, just what does Speak with Animals do? It might be nice to tie this down before a range of DMs face it in action. The spell has a range of Personal, so it's definitely NOT cast on the animal in question. If the caster is in a farmyard, would a single casting let him talk to both the horse and the cow? Or would he need two castings? Must he 'engage with' each animal in order to subsequently understand its responses? Or can a passing pig make an interjection? Can he understand the chirps of nearby birds that aren't even directed at him? The rules here are far too vague.[/sblock]The item description should make clear the mode of activation. If it's use activated, then an animal cannot initiate a conversation when the item is inactive (after 1 minute of not talking), since it is not the user. But that would just lead to the user throwing out an animal-speak "Good lad" every 60 seconds. Better that it be continuous. But then, can he understand every animal vocalization, whether directed at him or not?

Now, what does this get the user?

His animal companion gains the equivalent of the 'talk with master' ability of a 5th level familiar, though is still of lower intelligence. Most animal companions have the Scent ability. Where before the animal companion was limited to growling a general warning, now it can say "Hey, boss, there's an orc hiding upwind, about 40' away" ("Creatures with the scent ability can identify familiar odors just as humans do familiar sights" - hmm... "hey, boss, that masked guy you had me track who got away has just come into the room"). It's not quite granting scent to the character, but it's close.

Note that LEW has a Lesser Scent ability (20' range, requires a successful Search DC check) that can be taken by a Ranger 4 as an alternative class feature, instead of an animal companion. Who'd do that, with this item available?

Companions that lack scent tend to be birds with a raw Spot check unachievable by the master before 10th level or so.

Notifying the master of a detected scent or distant sight is, of course, nothing more than some familiars can do, but it does remove the primary difference between familiars and animal companions, which cannot routinely speak but which otherwise get all the advantages (real d8 HD (as opposed to pseudo d2) that grant new feats (unlike a familiar) and skills (which are independent of those of the master, unlike a familiar's), bonus Str, and so on).

Possibly, or possibly not, the wearer can routinely understand the vocalizations of any animal nearby, if he pays attention. Most of the time, this will be useless, or maddening, as well as DM make-work, but animal alarm calls might convey useful information.

The item interacts synergistically with the lower level Summon Nature's Ally line of spells. Most often, all a summoned animal can do is attack an opponent it's summoned beside. What tricks does a summoned animal know, anyway? None, I suppose. Can the druid make it do anything else with Handle Animal? Presumably, with a full round action and a DC 25 check. But if he can speak to the animal, according to the SNA description, he can instruct it to perform other actions (as a summoned creature, it's effectively dominated, so Handle Animal doesn't apply when a simple verbal instruction can be given).

This certainly increases the utility of the SNA line. A monkey or ape can do practically anything it's told. A crocodile can carry poor swimmers across a river. A dire badger can dig a traversable tunnel (druid's Rope Trick! :p) Fliers can do something to take advantage of their mobility, I'm sure.

So, I think for a character with an animal companion and/or access to the SNA line, it might well be undervalued at 4000 gp, and definitely at 2000 gp. I don't have a clue what it's really worth. Certainly not 64,000 gp like by-the-formula Nasal Spreaders of Scent would be based on the Psy War 2 power. But perhaps as a guide, note that the Ring of Invisibility costs a 2/3 premium over its bookprice, because of the extra utility of renewable invisibility.

How expensive would it have to be before you'd say "Yeah, I'll pass"?

Edit (1): Torc of Animal Speech (from Masters of the Wild) costs 12,000 gp.
Edit (2): There has been a similar item in LEW's very own history - a Ring of Animal Speech costing 10,000 gp
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Well lets see...

If used by a forest gnome who was not a druid or ranger, the item would allow him to use his inherent 1/day 1 minute CL 1 Speak with Animals ability on any animal, sidestepping the need to identify which particular animals are 'forest animals'. That's a rather minor effect, probably not worth 4000 gp. If the gnome does have Wild Empathy, then it allows unlimited use of Speak with Animals, superceding the gnome racial feature entirely.

Hmm, thats not exactly what I meant though its been a while and it certainly reads that way. Frankly I would be happy for it to work as such if the Forest Gnome ability were better defined - without the Speak with Animals effect. But the Forest Gnome ability is so poorly defined,
  • Can an animal be instructed to grapple?
  • Can an animal be instructed to engage a particular target?
  • Can an animal give information from scouting, what is the extent of this information?
I would allow all of the above, but often give out scent information and scouting information in a confusing manner.

Finally what is the difference between it and Speak with Animals? Given that animals have an intelligence of 2 or lower anyway it seems to be extremely minor, surely something possessed of intelligebce 2 can only communicate in a basic way anyway, the spell even aludes to this fact.

Again comparing to a similar item Disguise Self has a 10 minute rather than 1 minute duration. Again for me personally the Hat of Disguise is an incredibly versitile and useful item.

Second most of the situations where such an ability would come in extremely helpful can be replicated by a cheaper wand of Speak with Animals. Getting ferried across a river, scouting, etc. These situations come up so infrequently that 50 charges should be more than sufficient imo.

Second lets consider the Summon Nature's Ally list, I would argue that after 1st level the best summons cease to be animals. As soon as 2nd level summons become available a druid is a mug not to be summoning the mechanically superior Hippogriffs - everything else on the list pales in comparison, as does much of the 3rd level list. There is also the fact that a Forest Gnome can already speak with an extremely large proportion of the animals on the list - albeit with a poorly explained ability, but then that is why I wish to create the item. So take a look at the list of available summons below and see which a character possesing the item would be able to speak to that a Forest Gnome without the item would not.

[sblock=Early Summon Natures Ally List]




The level of utility added is rather low and more importantly from my point of view eats away at a rather worrying grey area. The biggest part of my reasoning on this item is to specifically expand upon the Forest Gnomes poorly defined racial ability to speak with forest animals. Covaithe ruled that this only applies to animals which have forest in their area of origin, definetly a fair and reasonable rule. However, I find the MM designations of origin often silly, while it is reasonable to suppose that every eagle summoned comes from mountains I do not think the same can be said of summoning an animal companion. It seems clear to me that most DMs would allow a Forest Gnome to call a forest dwelling eagle, is it then possible for him to communicate or not?

As to an animal companion gaining the utility of a familiar I am not convinced, an animal still has an intelligence of 2, that is an extremely important distinction. I think Trouvere vastly overestimates the utility of speak with animals as part of the scent ability, in most cases the growl is going to contain as much information as the animal could give. True I would allow an animal familiar with Orcs through experience to identify an Orc, but generally that is not in itself going to be hugely helpful, you still do not have the creatures precise location, class, etc., and in most cases the fact that you are faceing Orcs is unlikely to be helpful. In cases where the animal is not intimately familiar with the scent I would say that the information is virtually useless, how would an intelligence 2 animal describe a scent?

So for 1,800gp a Forest Gnome Druid would gain a little more information on Scent checks, less worry about handle animal checks - which in my experience are either irrelevant, never used or simply forgotten. Their summons would become marginally more useful, but then that could already be said of half of their list due to their Forest Gnome racial ability.

Basically I would like the Forest Gnome racial ability to be far better defined and not to serve as a limiting factor on summoning and animal companion selection.

As to the question would I buy the item for 4,000gp, no I would not I would much rather have 4 pearls of power. More versitile, more useful when Wild Shape becomes available, etc.
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Blah. I wrote a load of stuff. Then I re-read it, and I just don't care enough to argue the point.

Assuming a forest gnome can talk as much as it likes to a forest animal, which is a surprising advance over the rock gnome's 1 minute per day...

and looking down the (admittedly inaccurate and inadequate) list, there are 26 forest animals and 52 non-forest animals and a handful that are ubiquitous, like rats,

then the forest gnome can already speak to 1/3 of the list, and the item adds another 2/3. Therefore if the item can be used only by a forest gnome, it could be priced as 2/3 of a general at will item of Speak with Animals usable by anyone, which by precedent is 12,000 gp or so. That gives a price of 8000 gp.

And I don't have anything else to say! :)
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Well in the example you posted Trouvere the party sold the item in question for 5,000gp, from what I can tell not vaguely interested in it due to the fact that it was ludicrously overpriced - okay they were not quite so emphatic. A link to the thread where the items creation was discussed would be more useful.

To be honest I am barely interested in the item at 4,000gp, as I said I will take Pearls of Power.

I do have to ask what precedent sets a continuous use of a 1st level spell at 12,000gp? And who would buy such an item? I would also like to know why the Hat of Disguise is not an appropriate comparison. The most appropriate comparison items I can find are the Hat of Disguise, Ring of Featherfall, and Horn of Fog - all of which come in around the 2,000gp mark.


I believe the precedent Trouvere is referring to is the Torc of Animal Speech from Masters of the Wild, which costs 12000.

I believe the balance concern at hand is the synergy with an animal companion who has, e.g. scent or low-light vision. It's the difference between:

Fenenn's hackles rise and he growls when you open the door
Fenenn says "Boss, there's an ogre hiding in the closet in that room"
Now, as you say, a wand of SwA would probably do most of the same job, for a significantly lower price, but would take a couple of actions:

Fenenn growls. Erf digs out his wand (move action), taps the dog (standard) and Fenenn says "Boss, I can't smell anything downwind from that barbarian. Can't you get him to bathe?"
But I get the feeling that with a continuous-effect SwA, Erf would do a lot more talking with Fenenn than he would with a wand. A wand might be hoarded against future need. Not to mention, how many 5th level druids are there with the Craft Wand feat? I don't think LEW has any.

I think I agree with you that it's overpriced at 12k, but I think I agree with Trouvere that it's underpriced at 1800g. I think somewhere in the 4k-6k range is about right.