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Old Screeds

Musical Mayhem [6 July 2016] Twelve magical musical instruments in D&D ... RATED!

The game has a fundamental problem with magical musical instruments. It wants to include them as a viable part of the game, but the magic item creation rules inevitably price them out of reach -- and when you finally can afford them, they are too weak to be useful! Or, (with a few exceptions) they are cheap, but no one would want to use them.

Take a look at all this Inventory of All Core Pathfinder Magical Instruments that I have compiled for you. And let me offer a letter grade rating for each one to make my point:

  1. Chime of Interruption - This is a double-edged item, seeing as it is as likely to affect your allies as your enemies. And at 17 grand, it is not an item you can afford until, say, 9th or 10th level. And by that time, the 12th to 15th level enemy casters you will face have no trouble making the requisite concentration checks. Honestly, this item was created for use by non-caster NPC enemies to screw with PC casters, and then to dump gold into the party loot bag after the battle is done. How Rude! Grade: D

  2. Chime of Opening This one is sweet. You can use it if you are not a caster. It is relatively cheap. And it is invaluable at any level when you really need a Knock spell. Grade: A

  3. Drums of Panic. Nice if you're heading into a pitched battle. And at a cost of 30 grand, you better be fighting a war to make this worth the pull on your purse. By the time you can afford it, none of your usual suspects will have any problem making that DC16 Will save. Grade: D

  4. Horn of Blasting (regular and greater). These two items are priced as the formulae would suggest: caster level 7 x spell level 4 x 1,800 x 1/5 (once per day) x2 (slotless) makes it 10 grand for the regular. The 70 grand price for the greater horn is actually a bit of a discount, by 16/86ths. The problem here is that while the item fits the formulaic pricing for magic items, if you want to cast Shout or Greater Shout, you're far better off getting the party mage to do it. Buying items to cast higher level spells is a mug's game. Grade: C+ for the regular horn; D+ for the greater.

  5. Horn of Fog. This item lets you make small patches of obscuring mists whenever you want, at a very reasonable price. It takes a lot of blowing to build up any decent amount of fog. And there are usually better things for you to do than to spend a valuable standard action making a 10x10 patch of fog. Still, the price of the item, as well as its taking up no slot, makes it a decent trick-up-your-sleeve that might just come in handy some time. Especially useful for Wave Oracles who can see through mist. Grade: B

  6. Horn of Goodness/Evil. Being able to produce a Magic Circle against Good/Evil on demand is a useful ability at any level, especially if you are faced with summoned creatures, dominating vampires, or ghosts/mages who love their magic jars. It's tempting to use the item to replace your +2 cloak of resistance and your +2 ring of protection. That frees up two item slots and gear costing 12 grand gold with a 6.5 grand item. But that hour duration is a killer. You could buy two and still be ahead on the trade, if you think you can time the use just right. Grade: B+

  7. Horn of Valhalla. This is the kind of super expensive item that makes you question whether the cost is worth it by the time you can afford it. That's half your personal wealth at level 12, for an item that you can use once a week? You'd be better off with your Monster Summoning VI spells. Grade: D

  8. Lyre of Building. This is the kind of item that is wonderful if you need it (and can use it), but a waste if you don't. Still, it has always amused me to imagine an altruistic bard who wanders the countryside in Habitat-For-Humanity mode, making cottages and barns for the poor -- kind of a Johnny Appleseed of housing. Grade: C

  9. Pipes of Haunting. Another double edged sword ... affects your friends, unless you set yourself up to be in the midst of your enemies and at least 30 feet away from your friends. And what happens to you after your enemies make the easy DC13 save (or are unaffected due to having 6 hit dice each)? Well, let's just hope you're immune to flanking attacks. And have a lot of hit points. Grade: D-

  10. Pipes of the Sewers. This one is an odd lot. Cheap as free, and swarms are effective against lots of enemies even at higher levels, but is your game master nice about letting rat swarms be in the area? It's no bonus if your item is always useless. Grade: D to B, depending

  11. Pipes of Sounding. Here's another cheap-as-free item, and it is nice to be able to make ghost sounds at will, but how odd is it for targets to watch you holding the pipes to your mouth silently, while they wonder where the roaring lion is? The low save DC means your sounds are soon revealed as illusions, too. This item may be most effective if you are using it while invisible or hiding. Grade: C+

  12. Sustaining Spoon. Some may quibble with my inclusion of this item on the list, but in fact, the spoon has a venerable history of use as a musical instrument. Anyway, this -- and a create water cantrip -- lets you survive forever when trapped in a cave or cell, so no scoffing! A bit pricey, however, for an item whose main function is usually hand-waved away. Also, can I say that it annoys me that the item creates "pasty gruel" that "tastes like warm, wet cardboard"? Why create an item that sounds horrid to use? How about magic cloaks that are stained and ripped? Magic swords that are rusty and dull? Intelligent items that only know swears? Personally, I'm ignoring the lame RP insult and assuming that the oatmeal created has nice raisins, walnuts, and brown sugar. Grade: C

French Horn Of Valhalla
Thanks to the nyctomancer at PhotoBucket for the art.

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