3rd Party Show Case: Heartless Mage

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , , , ,

The flickering flames of the fireplace cast dancing shadows across the study, its lone occupant paying no heed to the twisted shapes as it sunk deeper into the high backed leather bound chair. The wine glass beside him untouched on the side table Arctas's attention lay fully on the twisting black oak staff he caressed in his hands, the silver runic patterns across its surface coming to life in a dull white glow as the power within them both was now channelled into the orb of crystal at its tip. The clear transparent gem slowly filling with a growing swirl the colour of morning mist, focusing his mind he narrowed this thoughts to a ring studded with sapphire engraved with the rune of his house. Twisting and inspecting the ring in his minds eye the swirling mist within the orb twisted like moulded clay, a low buzz of noise beginning to grown drowning out the crackle of burning wood from the fireplace. "..his clans hospitality. " the words reverberating from the crystal the mist finally took form focusing upon a  young Enchantress as a single word slipped from his lips "Ah Granddaughter."

Welcome to the first edition of 3rd Party Show Case, this series of articles aims to highlight some of the more interesting 3rd party and homebrew creations available online. When able to we will credit the original creators and post links directly to the material.
The first 3rd party class I’ll be highlighting is a personal favourite of mine the Heartless Mage prestige class which can be found on the D&D Wiki and was created by Surgo, an alternative to lichdom the Heartless Mage gains immortality and powerful spell like abilities at the cost of emotional sterility and a obsidian box containing their heart.

Becoming a Heartless Mage

The Heartless Mage is quite an easy prestige class to enter as the skill requirements can be gained at either level 7 in D&D 3.5 or level 10 in Pathfinder, while the Magic Jar can be gained at 9th for a Wizard or 10th level sorcerer.  However due to Charisma skill penalty this class gains each level it is not recommended for any social characters which means most sorcerers will not want to enter it.  
The base attack bonus remains poor as does reflex saves but the Heartless Mage is one of the fewer spell casting prestige classes which gains a improved fortitude save while retaining full spell casting. It does suffer however from poor skill points and limited class skills.


Skills: Knowledge (Arcana) 10 ranks, Knowledge (Religion) 10 ranks.
Spell Casting: Must be able to cast 5th level arcane spells, including magic jar.

LevelBase Attack BonusSaving Throws



1st+0+2+0+2Box the Mortal Heart+1 Spellcaster Level
2nd+1+3+0+3Lessons of the True Heart+1 Spellcaster Level
3rd+1+3+1+3True Ownership+1 Spellcaster Level
4th+2+4+1+4Heartless Resurrection+1 Spellcaster Level
5th+2+4+1+4Heartless Immortal+1 Spellcaster Level

Hit Dice: D6

Class Skills:
The Heartless Mage class skills are: Concentration (Con), Craft (alchemy) (Int), Knowledge (all skills taken individually) (Int), Profession (Wis), Search (Int), and Spellcraft (Int).
Skill Points at Each Level: 2 + Int modifier.

Class Features

All of the following are class features of the Heartless Mage prestige class.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: The Heartless Mage gains no proficiency with armor or weapons.

Spellcasting: Every level, the Heartless Mage casts spells (including gaining any new spell slots and spell knowledge) as if he had also gained a level in a spellcasting class he had previous to gaining that level.

Box the Mortal Heart (Ex): At 1st level, the Heartless Mage removes his own heart and places it within an obsidian box worth at least 1,000 gp. The effect of this transformation is that whenever the Heartless Mage is killed, the obsidian box holding his heart may be used as a focus component to a raise dead or resurrection spell. Using his heart in this way means that he is returned to life without level or XP loss. Should the Heartless Mage’s heart be destroyed or removed from the box, he is instantly killed wherever he stands. In addition, each level of Heartless Mage grants a cumulative –1 penalty on all Charisma-based checks. Also, from this point onward the Heartless Mage does not age further or advance in age categories.

Lessons of the True Heart: At 2nd level, a Heartless Mage may use any of the following spells as spell-like abilities: heart of stone, hoard life, and false life, each usable once per day. When he uses these abilities he must use the obsidian box holding his heart as a focus component, and the box counts as the final resting place of his heart for the effects of this spell.

True Ownership (Sp): At 3nd level, the Heartless Mage improves the mystical connection to his heart. He may cast scrying and discern location as a spell-like abilities at will, but only if he is seeking the obsidian box holding his heart.

Heartless Resurrection: At 4th level, the Heartless Mage does not die when his body is killed. Instead, his soul is transferred to the obsidian box containing his heart (treat as a tiny construct with a hardness of 20 and no movement abilities). While in this form, he may cast magic jar at will as a spell-like ability (caster level equal to his character level, and his obsidian box is the focus). For the purposes of this effect, soulless bodies in perfect physical condition (such as clones preserved by gentle repose or soulless bodies produced by magic jar effects) can be targeted by this effect as if they were living. If the body possessed is a duplicate of the Heartless Mage’s own body (via clone or a simulacrum spell, for example), successful use of this ability counts as a true resurrection on the Heartless Mage with a material component being the body he is possessing (it is consumed).

Heartless Immortal: When a Heartless Mage is possessing a body with his Heartless Resurrection ability, he may perform a 12-hour ritual costing 1,000 gp in material components that recreates his current body into duplicate of his original body. This counts as a casting of true resurrection with a material component of the body he is using.

Using the Heartless Mage

The Heartless Mages abilities focus heavily on either avoiding or returning from death which may not suit all campaigns and most players will find themselves never needing to use them unless their DM is known for TPK’s (Total Party Kills).  However the ability to cast Heart of stone, hoard life, and false life, once per day can be very useful give a caster extra staying power in a fight and all last a considerably long time.
The major power available to the Heartless Mage is their mastery over the Magic Jar spell once slain and I have personally used this to confound and infuriate many opponents who thought the party was weakened by the death of their main caster before finding their mounts or great beast suddenly turning on them.

It is also this ability that make them a great recurring NPC villain especially for horror, while everyone knows of a lich's phylactery (usually in and out of character) very few would know or predict the Heartless Mages abilities and would simply see them as another mage.

In addition if the Heartless Mage hides his heart within another valuable item (lead lined to hide the necromantic aura or already possess necromantic magic) which the party may take as loot,
due to their immortality and reliance on logic over emotion a Heartless mage could bide their time watching and learning, occasionally subtly influencing events.  
This may lead to Heartless Mage striking at the party forcing them to resist possession when they are at their weakest in another encounter or more sinisterly as the party expose allies or loved ones to danger of the mage they may become alternative targets to damage the party through.

Combined with their ability to use the body of a possessed creature to cast true resurrection and you have the perfect mix for a truly horrific memorable villain. 

The image flickered slightly in the light of the fireplace and for a moment the Enchantress turned her head her gaze directed directly at him as if reacting to his presence, knowing this was impossible Arctas held his analytic stare while allowing himself a smirk more from habit than satisfaction. Perhaps in his younger years he may of panicked cancelling the scrying spell but now in the cusp of his final advance to power such doubts or indeed any fears that were not based in cold logic no longer bothered him. It had been many years since he last seen her in person, in fact he was presumed dead by all their relations but there was something about her smile that brought forth a faint memory, an echo of the barest hint of emotion he had not felt in those many years. He knew all others in the family were lacking the power in the blood they both shared though hers not yet awakened and for his goals to be realised she would have to sacrificed but did he feel now feel remorse?
Musing over his thoughts he listened to the low crackle of the burning wood continuing to watch the images play out before him, the habitual smirk crossing his lips once more he spoke his answer as if to confirm it to the world. "I will let you live your life for now dearest granddaughter after all.. what is time to an immortal?" 

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The Christmas Rush

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , , , , , ,

Well once again Christmas is catching up with us all but that's no reason to give up on the gaming, so for those still struggling to fill their parties loot sack here are some of my favourite ideas for gifts this year. 

If your Dungeon Master is anything like me they have mountains of maps which they have spent hours drawing and never seem to have the right on, for them I recommend the Ye Olde Map Maker a cheap little program that is a great time and space saver. 
Alternatively no space on the table, tired of cocked dice or accusations of roll fudging perhaps a Dice Tower will help and some of the designs for these are becoming quite impressive and entertaining. Though my own firm favourite has always been the classic Leather Dice Cup,  I've linked to one of the more expensive and ornate examples but there are plenty available at much cheaper price.  While I used to use normal cups or a plastic containers these both made a horrible racket and I've known dice to chip in ceramic cups but if  neither of them suit you perhaps you just need Smaller Dice.

I've found dice have always been a popular gift amongst role players ranging from the Ornate Pieces of Art to the Plentiful Lucky Dip but two rather unique examples have been brought to my attention (as well as heavy hinting) by my gaming group.
The DICE+ at Firebox is a electronic dice that can Bluetooth to various tablet games, the list of which seems to slowly and steadily growing. Unfortunately the Firebox site doesn't provide much information but there is a review available at The Verge.
The second little piece that caught the eye of my group was the D20 Spinner Dice Ring, I know if had one of these I would most likely not be able to stop playing with the thing though I can't seem to find anyone who has tried one of these so if anyone has any first hand experience of using one let us know in the comments.
Of course for those wishing personalisation of their tools of the trade you could always give them the means to make their own with a Blank Set Of Dice.

While our focus is on jewellery I recently been hearing a lot from the ladies in my group about Chainmaille, which appears to be chainmail jewellery and other assorted items. With a bit of help I was directed to Etsy and found a rather nice Dice Bag made in the style though I do think the plastic lock spoils it slightly, there are a few other examples of the style but I think the next item I saw was far more my tastes.
Clockwork Firebird's collection of leatherwork and costume pieces really caught my eye but for a cheap little Christmas stocking filler the Made To Order Runic Snap Bracelets seem to perfect. Personally I think I will be getting one of these for each of my group and there will be a challenge to see who can translate it first and write it out with the Feather Quill Pens they will also be getting. I only wish these were available as pencils more regularly but for those games where a character isn't likely to change these biros will do.

Now my group likes to give presents based on the characters we've played (or at least the most memorable and amusing one) but for Dungeons and Dragons people always seem to struggle with ideas for Rangers and Druids players so I suggest a nice Microwaveable Warmer of their animal companion to snuggle up to over the cold winter period.
Now not everyone likes fluffy toys and that's understandable but in the spirit of my first series of articles perhaps they might enjoy Canned Unicorn Meat or Insectilix Lollies?

Finally what to give the more naughty players for Christmas, the rogue that pick-pocketed the party and pawned off the valuable plot item, the wizard that experiments on the local village or the fighter that just won't stop punching the vital NPC contact? What better than some Christmas Coal Popcorn which is tasty as well as giving a slight hint.

Well I hope at the very least I've helped give you all some ideas so now I guess its time for the mail article. Initially I had hoped to post this on Halloween but I decided not to interrupt the posting of the "Survival Out In The Wilds" series so I guess here is my very own nightmare before Christmas the heartless mage.

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