Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lyre of Building

These are my old notes about the Lyre of Building, an item that is meant for role-playing, but is deadly in the hands of a min-maxer… It is safe to say it will not resurface in 5th edition.

Here are its stats (green is Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 only; blue is pathfinder), with section marks added by me.

Lyre of Building
Aura faint/moderate transmutation; CL 6th
Slot —; Price 13,000 gp; Weight 5 lbs.
Description: §1 This magical instrument is usually made of gold and inlaid with numerous gems. §2a If the proper chords are struck, a single use of this lyre negates any attacks made against inanimate construction (walls, roof, floor, and so on) within 300 feet. §2b This includes the effects of a horn of blasting, a disintegrate spell, or an attack from a ram or similar siege weapon. §2c The lyre can be used in this way once per day, with the protection lasting for 30 minutes.
§3a The lyre is also useful with respect to building. Once a week, its strings can be strummed so as to produce chords that magically construct buildings, mines, tunnels, ditches, etc. §3b The effect produced in 30 minutes of playing is equal to the work of 100 humans laboring for 3 days. §3c Each hour after the first, a character playing the lyre must make a DC 18 Perform (string instruments) check. If it fails, she must stop and cannot play the lyre again for this purpose until a week has passed.
Construction Requirements: Craft Wondrous Item, fabricate; Cost 6,500 gp

Firstly, Paizo's contribution (§1) is game changing. Wow.
The item, especially for section 3 is pretty vague. But generally (i.e.  on internet forums) the following are agreed:
  • The range is limited. The chords will not carry beyond a certain range. 300 ft in §2a. Amended to 100 ft by some DMs.
  • The materials are generally considered to be not provided. The description does not say anything, but it does use the spell fabricate, which does not create matter, just reshape it. Therefore forests need to be felled, rockfaces quarried and sand refined into glass.
  • The skill of building is that of the performer. There are craft(carpentry), craft(trap), profession(gardener), profession(smith), profession(engineering), knowledge(engineering) and a few more… None of these say how to build various structures.
My experience
When I played with it in PF, this item is not overpowered in light of the fact that the party did not need roads, bridges or stairways as everyone in the party had a hippogriff, a broom, a flying carpet or a flying cauldron. So did not need roads where they were going.
I took two ranks in carpentry and smith so that, taking 10 with the +5, meant my wood and metal craftsmanship was by default of high quality (medium challenge). Then based on the challenge an engineering check was rolled:
  • DC 15: walls and ditches
  • DC 10: simple, bronze age tech. e.g. single story houses and rope bridges
  • DC 15: medium, classic/middle age tech, arches  e.g. two story houses, arches and arch bridges
  • DC 20: complex buildings, classic age/late middle ages, e.g. gothic cathedrals and aqueducts
  • DC 25: rather anachronistically complex buildings, renaissance age.
  • DC 30: modern engineering.
The weekly use meant I shied away from using it however.

Combat use
In combat, in 6 seconds (full round) it can do the work of 24 workers for 1 hour, which is enough to build a trench (cover AC +4 melee, AC +4 ranged), which is slightly better than being prone (AC –4 melee, AC +4 ranged) and possibly a cheval-de-frise obstacle around the ranged folk to delay the bad guys for a round or two.
It can be safely assumed that it takes up a standard action.
As a "Bardic performance" is different from using the perform skill, the two can be maintained/done at the same time, assuming that free hands are available if different instruments are used. For spellsinging (Spellsong feat), the spells are seen as either woven into the ongoing performances or a separate performances (but cost performance slots); I played it that I sang the bardic performance (due to the Discordant voice feat), while spellsung with a +5 panpipe if possible (Swift action clash). For a building performance, certain builds require specific chords. So acapella bardic performance (Swift) + lyre building performance.

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