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Old Screeds


Shrinky Dinks [18 May 06] The third level spell that's bigger on the inside.

My favorite current character is a sorcerer/rogue, one day to be an arcane trickster, and in thinking about this PC, I've been pondering the best spells to take at each level. As a sorcerer, you want spells with lots of versatility, so that your limited choices can be put to good use in a range of circumstances.

Blink is pretty much the uber-spell at third level for mage-rogues, since every attack a Blinking rogue makes is a sneak attack -- and the spell is doubly useful since you can use it to Blink through walls and doors. Looking at the rest of the list, some spells are widely useful but boring -- like Dispel Magic and Summon Monster III. The real gems are not only useful but fun -- and among those, Shrink Item stands out. Here, take a look:

Shrink Item
Transmutation
Level: Sor/Wiz 3
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Touch
Target: One touched object of up to 2 cu. ft./level
Duration: One day/level; see text
Saving Throw: Will negates (object)
Spell Resistance: Yes (object)

You are able to shrink one nonmagical item (if it is within the size limit) to 1/16 of its normal size in each dimension (to about 1/4,000 the original volume and mass). This change effectively reduces the objectís size by four categories. Optionally, you can also change its now shrunken composition to a clothlike one. Objects changed by a shrink item spell can be returned to normal composition and size merely by tossing them onto any solid surface or by a word of command from the original caster. Even a burning fire and its fuel can be shrunk by this spell. Restoring the shrunken object to its normal size and composition ends the spell.

So what can you do with this spell? I've grouped my thoughts into seven general categories. Let's look at four in this screed, and tackle the other three next time.

Equip to excess. A basic use of Shrink Item is to carry around tools that you usually could not carry. Ladders, poles, weapons, boats, tents, barrels, chariots, rams, scrying mirrors, and water are all handy. You can be your own Robe of Useful Items.

How much water can you shrink? That's easy. There are about 7.5 gallons in a cubic foot, so you can shrink 15 gallons per level, or 90 gallons per spell if you are a 6th level caster. That could be acid, by the way, or alchemical fire. Just a thought.

And how long a ladder? Well, what's the volume of a ten-foot ladder? Let's assume that the ladder consists of two iron rails, 2 inches by 1 inch by 10 feet. That's 0.278 cubic feet for both rails. A ladder needs rungs -- say 20 rungs at 1 inch by 1 inch by 3 foot each -- so rung volume is 0.417 cubic feet. Thus a ten-foot ladder has a volume of 0.695 cubic feet. Add welds and room for error -- call it a three-quarters of a cubic foot per ten feet length.

The spell lets you shrink an item up to 2 cubic feet per level, or 25 feet of ladder per level, rounding down. So a 6th level sorcerer could shrink a ladder that was 150 feet long! When shrunk, such a ladder would be 1/16th its normal size, or 10 feet long, but since it is clothlike, you can roll it up like a tape measure. A larger question is whether such a ladder would collapse under its own weight when unshrunk, but since I am no engineer, I'll leave that calculation as an exercise for the reader. If you can afford it, mithral or admantine makes for a stronger/lighter ladder that will not collapse as easily as a very very long steel ladder.

Lift large loot. When your DM tantalizes you with loot he thinks you could never carry out of the dungeon, break out the Shrink Item spell and make that bulky loot portable. Statues, chests, tapestries -- even thrones and other furniture -- can now all fit in your backpack! And if you are high enough level to be able to blip home, the spell lets you beat teleportation weight limits.

Play pranks. Some of the most fun you can have with the Shrink Item spell is in pranking friends and foes. Use Sleight of Hand to put something amusing in your target's pocket or pack, then unshrink it. Note that unshrinking an item requires a "word of command" from the caster, not a touch, so you can plant your trick and then step back and give the command.

  • As a battle tactic, this can be both fun and effective. So, is that a 50-foot ladder in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me? Sch-wing! Try slipping uncorked flasks of alchemists fire, burning sunrods, and other hazardous substances into enemy pockets. Or how about 90 gallons of acid? Or contact poison? So, is that a campfire in your pocket, or do I just get you all hot?
  • This is also a great way to play practical jokes. Dead skunks, carrion crawler tentacles, quarts of ink, and gallons of blood are all good for a chuckle.
  • Slip a shrunken block of stone into a backpack and then unshrink it for instant encumbrance penalties. And cover that block with glue before you shrink it.
  • Although you can't shrink magic items, you can shrink nonmagic items that have spells cast on them. Explosive runes, fire trap, magic mouth, and glyph of warding are all fun to cast on shrunk items to be planted in pockets and packs.
  • As above, but put several pranks in your enemy's pockets. Many, even. Then cast dispel magic (you automatically dispel your own magic), and watch everything unshrink at once!
  • Plant incriminating evidence. "The list of traitors and a map are in his pocket!" Or for greater drama, "The King's head is in his backpack!"
As a rogue, you may not be able to sneak attack that vampire, but it would be fun to slip a few gallons of shrunken holy water in his pocket, then unshrink it! And if you are an Arcane Trickster, you can do the deed from a distance with ranged legerdemain. Hee hee!

Delay decay. Speaking of Kings' heads and dead skunks, consider the implications of being able to shrink a campfire. The fire does not continue to burn. The fuel is not consumed. That means that physical and chemical processes are put on hold. A shrunken item is put into stasis. That makes Shrink Item a fantastic preservative. Prevent the deterioration of hides and trophies. Preserve corpses and body parts. Shrunken ice is still unmelted when it is unshrunken days later, even in the tropics. Fruit won't go bad. Hot soup is still hot. If you can find some, lava remains molten! But what is the volume of a human body? A person has a density of about 60 pounds per cubic foot, so a 180-pound human corpse takes up 3 cubic feet. An ogre weighs 600-650 pounds, per the core rules, and therefore takes up 10-11 cubic feet. Well within the realm of possibility.

Well, that gives you enough giggles for one day. More tricks and fun with Shrink Item next time!


Links [25 June 06] Well, this turned out to be a five-part series all told. Here are links to the whle thing:

  • Part 1 Intro and random tricks.
  • Part 2 Unshrinking large items on the field of battle.
  • Part 3 More random tricks.
  • Part 4 Caveats and dangers.
  • Part 5 Links around the Web and some thoughts on game balance.


Home | This page last modified: 25 June 06