Saturday, October 15, 2016

Fabricate

On the previous episode, we talked about using a spell to create most any material you wanted. Conjuring up hundreds of pounds of raw materials at a time can be plenty useful, but sometimes you want something a little more refined and purposed. Say, if you want a snazzy-looking carriage, a mid-level caster shouldn't deign to call up a bunch of darkwood and then laboriously craft the whole thing with his bare hands. As it happens, there is a spell that is the natural next step from minor creation, one that lets you create any sort of fashioned object so long as you have the raw materials on hand. The spell I'm discussing is fabricate, the haymaker in the one-two punch that is creating abstract wood carvings during your downtime... or useful items, if that's your thing.


Transmutation
Level: Sor/Wiz 5
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: See text
Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Target: Up to 10 cu. ft./level; see text
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No
You convert material of one sort into a product that is of the same material. Creatures or magic items cannot be created or transmuted by the fabricate spell. The quality of items made by this spell is commensurate with the quality of material used as the basis for the new fabrication. If you work with a mineral, the target is reduced to 1 cubic foot per level instead of 10 cubic feet.
You must make an appropriate Craft check to fabricate articles requiring a high degree of craftsmanship.
Casting requires 1 round per 10 cubic feet (or 1 cubic foot) of material to be affected by the spell.
Material Component
The original material, which costs the same amount as the raw materials required to craft the item to be created.


Fabricate allows you to ignore the long-standing quandary of just how much of what you find you should scrounge for. Placed treasure - yes, that's a natural. Gear looted from foes - sure, if you can carry it, especially in the early game. Statues and iron doors - maybe less obvious. The DM will learn his lesson after the first time, but with judicious use of shrink item, these can easily be transported out of a dungeon. What about the walls and floors? Sounds like we're getting into ridiculous territory, doesn't it?

Well, the beauty of fabricate is that it doesn't necessarily need any setup. You can use anything on hand, at short notice. Think of all the scrap left over after an encounter - arms and armor that aren't worth dragging back to town are all sources of metal, leather and wood. Corpses yield bone, forests are notorious for their wood, and stone can be found just in the ground. Weapons, armour, tools, ladders, bridges, transport, even a building can all be created on a whim.

We wouldn't need an article if it was as simple as that, though. Fabricate is at its strongest when you have another spell to set it up - namely anything that creates large amounts of material. The real low-hanging fruit here is wall of iron, which gives you a ton of "free" iron to be fabricated into something valuable. Wall of stone works, too, but chances are you aren't having trouble finding stone around.

The creation spells might feel like a natural setup for fabricate, providing wood or even raw metals and minerals in vast quantities. Don't get too excited, though. Consider The Following: "Attempting to use any created object as a material component causes the spell to fail." Since the material component of fabricate is the original material to be fabricated, the two don't seem to get along. You cannot fabricate anything made with either minor creation or major creation.


So what exactly should you expect to be making? Yes, you can shape together anything you can think of, given a few rounds, but the raw materials for it have to either already be on you or just lying around - and if it's anything artsy, you'd better hope you have the right ranks in Craft. The safest bet is generally going to be large, simple objects made of wood or stone. A bridge, a road, a dam, shelter from the elements, even emergency fortifications for war - all of these can be of paramount importance but are basically large, featureless planes. You might even be able to fabricate a door into a wall, but that's more of a gray area.

As covered earlier, anything that's much more complicated than this will need a Craft check to put together, even if it's happening over a couple rounds. Craft can be done untrained, and you can take 10. If you are a wizard, you will probably be able to make just about anything below DC 20 thanks to your Intelligence modifier and Aid Another rolls. This will cover most items you never know you need until you need them (battering rams and siege engines, cages and manacles, wagons, etc.) Exceeding the DC by any amount doesn't matter, since that only affects the time it takes, which is already determined by fabricate. Once again, guidance of the avatar and other low-level spells can ensure you beat any DC you can think of.

As an example, let's consider a run-of-the-mill wizard who just hit level nine and learned fabricate. Even with a rather modest starting Intelligence of 14, he'll have achieved 20 Intelligence by level nine with a +4 Headband of Intellect and the stat bonuses from levels 4 and 8. With a +5 modifier, any Craft check of DC 15 would be an automatic success when he takes 10.
This means he could fabricate any martial melee weapon, as well as crossbows, longbows and shortbows, even chainmail or breastplate armour. So in theory, he could equip a small army in a few castings - something that will take a couple days at most, so long as the raw materials are on hand (i.e. wall of iron.) Surely the king would reward anyone who can reduce the cost of equipment by a third!

So while you might be generally able to Craft most things even untrained, if you do have ranks to spare, I'd prioritize putting them in poisonmaking, alchemy and trapmaking. Each is expensive to do normally, but has potentially powerful results with high DCs - perfect candidates for fabricating. Even if you aren't looking to eke out an edge in combat, let's not forget what else you can do with black lotus extract.

Are state changes allowed? Can water be fabricated into ice or steam? Can the ever-present nitrogen be turned to its liquid form, which exists at -195 degrees Celsius? Living creatures are off-limits, but can dead plant matter be turned to oil? Sand to glass? Carbon to diamonds? Nobody can begrudge the DM who answers with a big, fat "No," but if you have the guts to claim you're playing a medieval yokel who inexplicably knows which materials are made from unseen geological processes, you're free to try.


Fabricate In Combat

We're entering the realm of lunacy in what is already a pretty harebrained article, but please note that fabricate has a range of "close" rather than "touch." What possibilities does this open up? Nothing world-shaking, but any tricks that nobody at the table - not even the DM - sees coming can be invaluable. You can't target magical items, but there's no mention that you can only fabricate unattended items - and since it wasn't designed with offensive use in mind, there's no saving throw or SR allowed. The casting time is 1 round per cubic foot of metal/stone, or per 10 feet of organic material - generally for anything that a person can carry, that's going to mean 1 round. That can be a long time for a caster to stand in place, but the summon spells also take a full round to cast, and those see plenty of use.

Barbarian hewing through your party? Fabricate his greatsword into a hollow sphere and see what happens to his damage output. Black pudding or other damage-resistant creature got you down? If the fighter doesn't have a bludgeoning weapon as backup, turn his sword into one. That's a nice suit of masterwork fullplate you've got there - it would be a shame if someone turned it into a cage, a tangle of chains, or maybe even an iron maiden. Wizard duel got you sweating? Turn that opposing mage's spell component pouch into a pile of shreds, no save allowed. In the heat of combat, fabricate can potentially function like polymorph any object for non-magical gear.

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