Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Dungeon Factory Checklist (Part 1)

These are some things that I try to include in every dungeon or de facto dungeon. I don't always succeed, but it's handy to have them all typed out.

Theme: Each dungeon should have a theme. Sometimes it's locational, like "we're underwater" and imparts a sense of direction to the dungeon rooms. Sometimes it's strategic, like "if any fight lasts longer than two rounds, the monsters in the adjoining rooms will join in" to make the way the party approaches the dungeon fundamentally different.

Boss Monster: A climactic fight that will serve as the dramatic capstone to the dungeon. It is not necessary that the players clear every room or whatever, before hitting this.

Mini Boss: A second boss creature that needs to be killed to get to the main boss, or that is optional and gives extra treasure.

Saving Throws: Something should be included that targets every saving throw. If shy a Fort or Reflex save, I can usually add a trap. If I am shy of Will saves, I can add a boss aura that causes fear or otherwise needs a Will save to negate. Additionally, if there is only one or two instances of a particular save in a dungeon, I tend to make those saves more important.

Environmental Hazard: Something that makes fighting in that area different or dangerous. A ledge, a pit, a pool of acid, wind that pushes the players and hinders ranged attacks, whatever.

Outre Battle: An encounter that will overmatch the players if approached without imagination or advantages. This should be fairly clear to the players before the battle begins, if you want to be nice, or it can become clear after the fight starts, in which case the players should probably work out a retreat or other alternative strategy.

Reinforcements: An area whose inhabitants reinforce the other major battles in the dungeon, but that will stop reinforcing when cleared.

Puzzle or Problem: Something that can't be solved by a die roll. Bitter experience has taught me that failing to solve these should not be a hard stop, but rather should make things more difficult or deny the players some advantage. Usually, the advantage is treasure or information.

Jalea Acta Est: Some kind of item or shrine that offers a permanent, random modification to a character. Things on the result chart need to be weighted so that there is a really slim chance of something horrible happening or only a moderate chance of something annoying happening. This is one element of old-school D&D that I definitely like.

Cursed Items: The "you must use this for x sessions or x levels" way of working cursed items is really great, as is the "it's almost worth it" method of cursed item design. I think cursed items should ideally offer something that is not normally available to a player, but at some terrible cost that makes the character dangerous to others and himself.

Minor Resource Conservation: This is something that I oscillate on. By shifting to per encounter abilities, things have definitely moved away from the old resource conservation aspect. Hit point totals have also been more or less easy to keep filled up. This is nice, because the "i rest after each fight" thing was horrible. The thing is, it's hard to view a dungeon holistically if there is so little carry over from each fight to the next, and including things like vile damage or lasting debuffs only seems to aggravate players. Still, it is sometimes worth having a couple of traps in the dungeon with penalties like "if you fail to save against this pungi stick then you are slow during the first round of each encounter for the rest of the dungeon" and so forth. If I wanted to return to some element of resource conservation, it would not involve conservation of offensive abilities like daily spells or maneuvers, but rather some kind of HP based thing where players were limited in how much they could heal. They should reach the boss with a little wear and tear, I think, and should be punished in ways other than just losing party members along the way.

Aura: At least one monster should be dangerous to stand next to, in order to give reach a reason to exist.

Diverse Tactical Situations: I like alternatives to the "kick in door, kill everything" motif. Things like a fighting retreat, or defending a central point with a map of the area provided, can be fun. As can rewarding speedy dispatching of foes. As can splitting the party up with a falling portcullis, slide trap, or teleport trap. This last one is really fun, actually, because the game is so teamwork oriented. I guess it is sometimes nice to see what the characters can do on their own, under adverse circumstances.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I've been reading about alternative level models for D&D

I've been browsing the net to try and find some more interesting ways to arrange classes and levels. I have a flu or cold or something, so I am allowed to waste time on this.

The E6 System

It's pretty neat. The gist of it is that D&D 3.0/3.5 is much better if you stop at level six. After that you just get feats.

I agree with the creator in that un-altered d20 d&d gets a little complicated after around sixth or seventh level. The makers of 4e agreed, too. One of them called it the "sweet spot" and tried to spread that out over the entire 1-30 level stretch. I don't think they succeeded, because 4e kind of collapses under its own weight of extra attacks and immediate power gewgaws after a certain point, especially if you have more than four players in a party. The more people there are, the less interesting characters can be, strategically, or combat slows to a crawl and never recovers.

Some of the simplest fixes to 3.5 is to change all the durations away from rounds or minutes, to eliminate pre-casting, and to have a hard limit on the number of spells any spellcaster memorizes each day (down to like, maybe ten spells that can be cast twice each, perhaps). Those alone fix a huge number of problems with 3.0.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Man, Oh Man

I have this grognardy nostalgia for dual-classing and multi-classing (double or even triple) the way it was in second edition. Or some similar method. Split my XP evenly between both of my classes? Okay! Have one class that stinks (thief) but only takes half the XP of the other class (wizard or paladin) so it's still keeping pace with some of the other party members? Great! Not balanced per se? Relying on delayed gratification for a superior power level payoff? Fine with me!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

All I Want Is Some Fucking Clockwork

In second edition D&D, there is a little known class called the Sha'ir, which was a sort of wizard from Al'Qadim that had a sort of alternative model for obtaining spells. Instead of memorizing them, the wizard would send his gen, or little genie, off to fetch the spell, and the genie would return with the spell a round or two later. The benefit here being that the sha'ir was not constrained so much by spell level. The gen would take longer to fetch a spell, the more above the wizard's grade it was, though.

Eventually, there was a Complete Sha'ir Handbook, which was part of the first class-based splatbooks to be published for d&d. For all I know, it was the first rpg-related splatbook series ever. Anyway, it was amazing. Back in 2e there were these things called kits, that were basically a way of customizing a generic class into something more specific and interesting. Like, a thief would take a jackal kit and start stealing peoples' spells, but at great cost to his other abilities. Not that 2e thieves really had abilities, but you get the idea.

In the Complate Sha'ir Handbook, there were probably fifteen or twenty crazy, zany, downright whackadoo kits for sha'irs. Whoever wrote it must have figured "hey, it's not like the sha'ir has any semblance of balance or functionality to begin with, let's just see how much crazy crap we can come up with." And boy, did he ever succeed.

Sticking out in my head are the mathemagician, the astrologer (who would hang spells on different constellations), the spell slayer (holy wizard-assassins), and the clockwork mage. Especially the clockwork mage. That fucker basically assembled clockpunk robots from scratch, with a list of parts and power sources. You basically spent all your time (and gold) on building crazy robots. It was almost freeform in a lot of ways. And if it died you were out hundreds or thousands of GP. But get a player with a lot of artistic talent or zest for creativity in that class, and you'd end up with half-deer half-lobster mechanical beasties that fired lightning bolts out of their horns.

Sad to say, but in the 2.5 editions since then, nothing has really topped this class for cool factor, and no splatbook has topped the Complete Sha'ir for really creative shit. A lot of the splatbooks have just been updating older, popular options, I guess. But that's no excuse. It's possible that you just can't do as much fun stuff when balance is so paramount, as it has nominally been in 3e and 4e. But where's my fucking clockwork class? Where's my inventor? Where is my balanced system where someone actually builds something? How about a golem construction pet class? Or a wizard biologist that designs his own homunculi? This shit should be easier now that wealth is actually handed out at a more or less set pace. There's homebrew crap on the internet, but my choice of the term "crap" is non-accidental in this case.

All I want is some fucking clockwork.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Crafting Potions

As part of my continuing futile quest to incorporate some element of crafting into a pen and paper rpg, I present some alternative potion brewing rules.


Potions may be purchased in a town. Their basic purpose is to give players a way to expend long term resources in order to sustain themselves better in a dungeon, and also to allow players to better leverage gold spent into success in the field. Potions may be quaffed as a move action that does not draw attacks of opportunity. They may also be fed to an adjacent unconscious character as a standard action that does not draw an attack of opportunity.

Basic Potions

Cure Light 100gp
This potion cures 10 hp of damage.

Ferocity 150gp
This potion imparts a +1 alchemical bonus to critical threat range for 1d6 rounds.

Courage 200gp
This potion imparts a +2 alchemical bonus to AC and saves for the rest of an encounter.

Experimental Recipes

Any player may spend 300gp to attempt to discover a new potion recipe. In doing so, he picks a basic potion to attempt to modify, spends his gp, and rolls on the following table, with the result being an effect that occurs in addition to that potion's usual effects. That character may then brew that custom potion any time he is in town and has the gp to burn. The recipe is finicky, however, and may not be transmitted to another character. You cannot add additional effects to custom recipes.

Recipe Results (1d20)
(All results are in addition to the basic potion's normal effects)

1-3: Failed recipe.
4: Vim: This potion cures an additional +5 hp. No price change.
5: Vigor: This potion cures an additional +10 hp. +50gp.
6: Regeneration: This potion cures an additional +15 hp on the quaffer's next turn.
7: Fire Protection: The quaffer enjoys +10 fire resist for the rest of the encounter. +50gp.
8: Antitoxin: The quaffer enjoys +10 poison resist for the rest of the encounter. +25gp.
9: Aromatics: The quaffer has any disease or weak conditions cured. +25gp.
10: Strength: The quaffer enjoys a +2 alchemical bonus to damage for the rest of the encounter. +50gp.
11: Fearlessness: Removes fear, and adds +1 alchemical bonus to AC for rest of encounter (stacks with courage). +100gp
12: Haste: Drinker enjoys +2 initiative bonus for rest of the day. +25gp.
13: Survival: Drinker enjoys +10 cold and electric resist for the rest of the encounter. +100gp.
14: Berserk Strength: Drinker enjoys extra +1 critical threat range for rest of encounter. +150gp.
15: Growth: Drinker occupies two spaces, suffers -2 penalty to AC, and enjoys +1 reach for rest of encounter. +200gp.
16: Heavy Curing: This potion cures an additional +20hp. +200gp.
17: Restoration: This potion cures an additional +10hp, and removes any weakness, stun, or blindness. +100gp.
18: Vibrancy: Pemanent +1 bonus to initiative. Only works once per drinker. +100gp.
19: Life: Permanent +1d6 max hp. Only works once per drinker. +300gp.
20: Improvement: Permanent +1 alchemical bonus to a saving throw of drinkers' choice. Only works once per drinker. +300gp.

Option: Limited Recipe Results

If you're into this sort of thing, you could cross off each new potion effect once it has been used, and have players re-roll that result if it comes up again. I don't know what this would add to a game, but it seems pretty hardcore to me!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Fuck d20 Modern

I hate the d20 Modern rules, and who knows how long it will be before a (likely kind of crappy) 4e d20 Modern old-hat settings/rules/whatever is published. But whenever I run a modern game I get frustrated with shoddy weapon rules. This is a simple yet distinctive system for firearms and modern armor that I have used for modern campaigns in the past.

Ranged Weapons

Under this system, attacks have a -3 penalty at long range, and can't aim at a target beyond that. Heavier weapons carry a speed penalty.

Light Firearms
  • Pistol: 1d12, range 5/15, +2 to attack rolls within short range.
  • Revolver: 2d6, range 5/14, on hit target medium or smaller creature is pushed 1 space.
  • SMG: 1d6, range 4/12, may make extra attack with -3 penalty as move action.
Medium Firearms
  • Rifle: 1d20, 9/22, +2 to attack rolls within long range. Speed -1.
  • Shotgun: 2d8, range 5/10, on hit target medium or smaller creature is pushed 2 spaces, and large creature is pushed 1 space. Speed -1.
  • Assault Rifle: 1d10, range 6/16, may make extra attack with -3 penalty as move action. Speed -1.
Optional Rule: Mods

Each light firearm weapon can accept one modification, and each medium firearm can accept two. Redundant modifications are not allowed. I would encourage anybody using a version of these rules to devise more mods. Each "mod" changes the weapon or armor statistics, sometimes with an accompanying drawback.

Firearm Mods
  • Scope: +1 to attack rolls at long range, +2 to long range.
  • Bayonet - Medium weapons only. You threaten adjacent squares with a dagger attached to your weapon. -1 Short and long range.
  • Extra Clip Capacity: You enjoy a +2 bonus to extra attacks or attacks of opportunity.
  • Laser Sight: +1 to attacks
  • Stock: +2 to short and long range.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Boss fights are basically the best. They're the climax of the rising action, where the players really show their stuff, or suffer for it. They're also time for you to crack out earth-shaking badniks, with incredibly deadly abilities.

They're usually something that's fucking cool, too. A lich or a dragon, a god or an Old One. A tarrasque. Whatever. Something that kicks ass and players associate with corpses and tear-stained character sheets.

The best bosses are the bookends of campaigns, showing their faces early on in the campaign, intermittently pulling some strings, and then taking part in a major throw-down during the last or nearly last session.

During the Final Battle, PC deaths are possible or even unavoidable, depending on how difficult your campaign is. Total party wipeouts become a possibility that is more or less acceptable to your players, who wouldn't want the climax to be an easy fight. Heck, the harder it is, the happier the players will be, when they win (or almost win, which can be just as good).


-Watch out for the fight being too easy, even if the players have an amazing plan. But similarly, it shouldn't be too hard in a way that isn't fun. Bosses should sizzle on your players' taste buds, one way or another, rather than be 1,000 hp wastes of time.

-The boss shouldn't be a one-trick pony. Ideally it should have two stages, where the boss alters or steps up its mode of combat, usually after it is reduced to half life.

-Watch out for save or die effects, or their cousins, domination/charm effects. A good rule of thumb is to give a boss the ability to automatically have an effect like these cause the boss to lose his next turn, rather than die. Or to have the effect wear off at the end of a round, in the case of dominate effects. This avoids you simply having a monster be immune to an ability, and gives the players their druthers.


-Broadcast how difficult it's going to be to kill the boss, in-game rather than out of game. Out of game gloating can backfire way too easy. But in-game foreknowledge can impress your players into performing better, and possibly give them some tips about how to win.

-Outline what's at stake to the players if they fail to defeat the boss. It doesn't need to be a "save the world" scenario. There can be very clear, unpleasant consequences, without it being an earth-shaking scenario.

-The final session of the game can be the most important of the entire campaign. It's the one players will remember best, for chronological reasons. The boss should be memorable, and the fight should encapsulate and exemplify all the good things from the entire campaign.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Player Power Level

There are two kinds of game balance with regard to power level. First, the party's power level versus everything else, usually a dungeon or series of antagonists. Second, the party members' power levels versus each other --not necessarily in a PvP sense, but in the sense that they are consistently able to out-perform the rest of the party.

Temporary Superiority

Sometimes a party member is more suited to a particular situation, which is fine as long as it isn't a deliberate choice on the DM's part. If you feel like using undead, and the cleric is better at fighting undead, it's all right for that character to exhibit a superior ability to deal with his area of specialty.

Other times, a character is better at a particular level, but this is temporary. Fighters are (much) better than wizards at first level, in vanilla 3e D&D. This goes away as the characters increase in level, and is in many ways fun -- the wizard "pays" for his later superiority by being weaker early on. Indeed, he "earns" his later power merely by surviving.

The danger here is if there is a major trend in superior level. Even if it's just that the player is better than optimizing his build, it's a problem. Indeed, it's probably a bad thing that a character design system can be so well gamed, that players who are not as interested can be left so far behind in balance.

Lowering Top-Tier Effectiveness

In Team Fortress 2, a first-person shooter game that came out a few years ago, the game designers made the conscious choice to limit how much more effective a skilled player could be. Shooting someone in the head doesn't always inflict more damage, for example. Nor does having played longer give you access to weapons that are per se better, though it does give you more (sometimes more newbie-friendly) options.

The result is that, even though a skilled player is still obviously better during gameplayer, it isn't an automatic shut out. New players with quick reflexes can still compete with the pros, or at least contribute to the performance of the team. There is a narrower band within which player skill can improve that player's performance.

D&D should be the same way. More proficient (or interested) players should have an advantage for seeing rules possibilities that other players don't, but not a huge one. Playing D&D should be more about tactical decisions than character design. This doesn't sell rules manuals that are essentially catalogues that players can peruse through to "shop" for bonuses, but it does make for a more rewarding play experience. The player should be most rewarded for decisions made on the fly, not what happens when he's picking feats before the game begins.

When It Goes Right

Ideally, the adventuring party should be a smooth functioning machine, with each party member performing his equally important role under pressure, in dangerous situations with outcomes that are only partially predictable.

When things are working appropriately, there is a rising arc of action, with smaller encounters in a dungeon sapping some of the party's reserves and testing their ability to allocate resources, with mild possibility of things backfiring horribly.

Then you fight the boss (or whatever), and the boss truly tests the party's mettle. It's the apex of the rising action, making a player death or even a wipeout more likely than in the normal course of things. Great stuff.

When It Goes Wrong

Nullifying a particular player's advantages is a mistake. If you start deliberately crafting encounters that are resistant to an above-average power level player-character's abilities, or that hit on all his weaknesses, he will usually feel like you're picking on him. Using any form of negative reinforcement will just make that player unhappy.

The way to fix things is to increase the power level of all the party members, through means that bring them specifically into line with the other player. For my game, I introduce new spells for the underpowered casters' spell lists, extra class-specific feat options for under-powered rogues and fighters, and magical items that are more likely to help the under-powered players than the over-powered fella.

Does this make the entire party too powerful? Absolutely. But monsters and traps can always have their difficulty ramped up. Have them do more damage, have a higher armor class and saves, and generally amp things up. It might be a little faster than you expected, but that's fine, it's all in the game. And it's certainly better than having an incredibly over-powered player making everybody else feel like schlubs.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Carousing Table

Some grognard somewhere wrote a carousing table, with the idea that PCs could opt to try their luck every time they were in a town. This is my own take on it, with a few modified versions of that guy's ideas and some of my own. I wish I could remember where I got the idea from, or I'd give credit.

The idea is retro, but the stats are for my cribbed 3e rules.

Carousing Chart

When you have successfully completed a dungeon, you may spend 50 gp to roll on this chart:


Shotgun Wedding: Due to circumstances beyond your control, you have married an undesirable romantic partner. You suffer a -1 morale penalty to attack and spell DC for the entire next expedition.


Venereal Troubles: You couldn’t see the rash in the candlelight. You begin the first day of your next expedition diseased (unless immune), which lasts until cured.


A Big Misunderstanding: You end up in the stocks for three days. Probably for something arson-related. The harsh treatment causes you to begin the first day of the next expedition with 20 damage (minimum of 1 hp remaining).


Hangover From Hell: You suffer -1 to saving throws for the entire next expedition.


Wanted Man: You commit a series of petty crimes while under the influence, and need to lay low while in town. You cannot carouse the next time you complete a dungeon.


An Honest Mistake: Target of lewd advances turns out to be a witch. Make a Charisma check or you have a -2 penalty to saving throws for the entire next expedition. If your check succeeds, you enjoy a +2 bonus to saving throws for the entire next expedition.


Gambling Binge: You spend your time in gambling houses. You may wager up to 400gp. The DM flips a coin, and if you are correct then you double your money. If you are incorrect, the amount wagered is lost.


New Tattoo: You wake up the next morning with a headache and a new tattoo. It has a 50% of giving you a +1 or -1 modifier to a randomly determined ability score. Reroll for a new score if it would increase a stat beyond 20.


Rest and Relaxation: You enjoy a +1 bonus to saving throws for the entire next expedition.


Learn From The Master: You encounter a higher level adventurer of your class, who teaches you a few new tricks. You gain access to an additional class feat of your choice, until you go up a level.


Spiritual Experience: You go on a vision quest or something after smoking some really kush stuff. Henceforth, raising you from the dead costs 50gp less than it otherwise would.


Interesting Romantic Entanglement: If you aren't already married, you have developed an interesting romantic relationship. Your better half gives you a +1 bonus to an ability score of your choice, so long as you don't get married in a shotgun wedding.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Optional Spell Failure Chance for 3e

Spell failure chance is terrible. Almost no arcane casters go for it. Also, any mechanic that requires an extra roll in 3e -in this case, a percentile spell failure chance- is a bad one. Instead convert the percentile chance to a flat penalty to spell DC at a rate of -1 for each 5%. You may need to ad hoc a rule that arcane casters can't wear heavier than light armor, but I kind of doubt it, as spell DC is pretty solidly balanced by CR.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Revised Skill System

I fucking hate the normal skill system i 3e and 4e. They're equally pointless in both editions, and in 4e especially, the skill challenge system stinks. Both stifle creativity. So I actually made re-proficiencies ala 2e. These may require tweaking for your game, but I adore them.

Revised Skills

Each character starts with 3, plus one per INT MOD. Thieves get an extra +2, and bards get an extra +1. The DC for all of these abilities is 10. Unless otherwise noted, there is no penalty for failing a check, though botches may be penalized at DM discretion

Prep Skills
These checks may only be made at the start of each 24 hour cycle.

Armorsmithing: Dex. +1 masterwork bonus to AC for the day.

Cantrips: Int. You may memorize +2 first level spells, for the day.

Cooking: Con. +5 temporary hit points for party, for day.

Healing: Wis. Check to heal party additional +15 hp at the start of that day.

Inspiration: Cha. +1 morale bonus to your saves for day.

Meditation: Wis. +1 bonus to spell DC for day.

Strategy. Int. +2 morale bonus to party initiative for the day.

Tarot. Cha. When the chosen player rolls a natural 1 on attack rolls and saving throws no longer fumbles, but still fails.

War Machines: Int. Your attacks with siege engines enjoy a +2 masterwork bonus for the day, and inflict extra damage equal to your level.

Wild Magic: Con. Your spells enjoy a +2 luck bonus to their DC, for the day. If you fail this check, your spells suffer a -1 luck penalty to their DC, for the day.

Weaponsmithing: Str. +1 masterwork to attack rolls and touch spell DC for the day.

Combat Skills
Each of these may only be used once per encounter.

Alertness: Wis. Sense invisible creatures or gain +3 to save vs traps, as immediate action.

Balance: Dex. When you are hit by an area of effect ability, you may shift 15 feet as an immediate action.

Bandaging: Wis. Targeted player is healed his CON score.

Beast Taming: Cha. You may cause a single creature with a bestial level of intelligence to not take action during the first round, unless it is damaged, as an immediate action.

Diplomacy: Cha. You may cause a single intelligent target that is not inherently hostile to you to not take action during the first round, unless it is damaged, as an immediate action.

Dueling: Dex. Shift one space as free action.

Intimidation: Cha. Target that you have hit this turn is Afraid for encounter (no save), as move action.

Juggling: Dex. You gain a +3 bonus to your AC and saves against ranged attacks until the end of your next turn, as an immediate action. This ability may be used after a ranged attack has just hit, in order to make that attack missed (assuming -3 to that attack would be sufficient).

Jumping: Str. Add +2 to speed for one move action, or +4 speed if all you are doing this round is moving.

Mnemonics: Wis. Swap single spell for a different spell that you possess, as standard action.

Monster Lore: Int. Get resistances and vulnerabilities of a creature, as free action.

Parrying: Dex. +3 to AC until your next turn, as free action.

Poisoning: Int. Your next hit to hit this encounter inflicts additional poison damage equal to your level, move action. This skill botches on a natural roll of 1, 2, or 3.

Rallying: Cha. +1 morale bonus to attack rolls and spell DC for party, as free action.

Training Skills

These may only be used when the character that possesses them gains a level.

Endurance: Con. +1 max hp.

Research: Int. You may add an additional spell to your spell or prayerbook, of any level that you can cast.

Atropaics: Wis. You may attempt a skill check to un-equip a cursed item from a player, even before its level duration is finished.

Philosophy: Wis. You gain +8 XP.

Salvaging: Int. You gain you level x 50gp.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

More Interesting Magic Items

I hate the magic item system in normal D&D. In 3e the items were bland, boring, and the vast majority of them were inferior to a few very specific items that boosted ability scores and shit. Plus there were seventeen slots, plus ioun stones. The end result was that your items were more important than the choices you made when designing your character. In short, terrible.

In 4e, you still use way too many items, and many of them are horribly bland, but at least they add additional abilities instead of just being longsword +1s or whatever. I hate a lot of the new systems, but at least the items are generally more interesting than a hat that gives me +2 wisdom.

I only use a few magic item slots: head, neck, cloak, armor, belt, feet, hands, ring, and weapon. Nine is plenty, though, especially since I prefer items to be a little more useful, though without modifying the basic nature of a character too much.

Nice Items Vs. Game-Changers

A nice item gives you bonuses that are handy, like for example a cloak that gives you 10 fire resistance. A game-changer is an item that changes the way your character operates, like an item that gives you +4 speed. There's a big difference there in how much it affects your character. One helps you out, okay, but another will modify everything you do or change your strategic options in nearly every combat. Thus, game changer. Here are a few ideas for items of each category. I don't bother pricing items in GP value, so you're on your own with that. And suck it up if you don't like "per encounter" abilities.

Nice Items

Wolf-Hunter Ushanka
+10 cold resist. +1 ranged weapon damage.

Armadillo Cloak
You ignore damage from the first thirty feet of any fall.

Countering Ward Amulet
When you succeed in a saving throw against a spell, the source of that spell suffers 15 electric damage and this amulet shatters.

Iron-Band Belt: During the first round of combat, you enjoy a +3 bonus to AC.

Life Charm: When you roll a natural 20 on a saving throw, this charm breaks and you heal 20 hp.

Swordstring Charm: You enjoy DR 3/-. When you are hit with a critical hit, this charm breaks and you suffer an additional +20 damage on the critical hit.


Huntsman's Ring
Your attacks during the first round of combat enjoy +1 to critical threat range.

Boots of Dancing
Any time you take a five foot step, you may move two spaces. You cannot use this ability if you are wearing heavy armor.

Hellfire Trident
Trident +1. When you score a critical hit with this trident, you may immediately cast a fireball spell as though cast by a 6th-level Wizard, using your Charisma to determine difficulty class.

Staff of the Apprentice
Quarterstaff +1. Your first-level spells enjoy a +3 bonus to their DC. Once per encounter, you may cause a first level spell that you cast to inflict maximum damage. That spell cannot otherwise be modified with metamagic or class abilities.

Duelists' Wand
Your spells enjoy a +1 bonus to their DC, and any spells with short range are increased to medium range.

Belt of Superior Spell Components
You reroll any results of 1 on damage dice, when casting spells.

Sharding Armor
Half plate +1. Any time you are struck for damage with a melee weapon, the space in which you reside becomes covered in magical caltrops that fall off of your armor. These caltrops do not inconvenience you, but the first creature to enter their space will take 5 damage and cannot move further on that turn, at which point the caltrops in that space crumble to dust. Un-triggered caltrops crumble to dust at the end of the encounter.