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I have created a new artifact as part of a campaign I am running, with properties that seem a perfect match for the campaign, the items history and our party in general. I expect our dim-witted oversized brute of a barbarian will claim ownership. Because of his power and size he also often uses other forms of attack such as grappling, so I added a ranged double grapple ability to the artifact. However, I have a hard time assessing if it would be fun or game-breaking. I would like the item to have such an ability, but I don't have enough knowledge and references to judge on the best implementation of it (or of alternatives). Please help.

Additionally, I have a hard time figuring out what any knowledgeable merchant would be willing to pay should a player ever decide to sell it off (if any merchant would be willing to buy it at all).

Here's the artifact in question with the grapple attack in bold:

The Sailor’s Lament

This is a massive torn off darkwood mast of a ship punctured all the way through along half its length with a great many huge and razor sharp teeth of what must have been a colossal nautical predator. The mast is bound together with thick lengths of old ship's rope that somehow remain dripping wet all the time and it is also covered in barnacles and seaweeds and burnt at the base. It is accompanied by a pungent smell of salty sea air and old rotting fish that is potent enough to keep away all those who possess a decent sense of smell or personal hygiene. If that weren’t already off-putting enough, its soft occasional moaning and groaning surely would be… There is an inscription at the burnt base of the mast, it reads “Ravager”.

History:

Around 1370 in the northern waters of the Sword Coast a kraken wrapped its tentacles around the caravel “The Ravager” to drag it down to the deeps. However, before it could properly seize the ship it ran into a large iceberg and the kraken’s tentacles got stuck in between the two. Gonchklas, the captain of the ship, knew they were doomed but wasn’t the type to give up without a fight. He and his crew amassed their black powder reserves and strategically turned the ship into an oversized fragmentation bomb. When the kraken finally emerged its head and went down on the ship to free its tentacles, Gonchklas ignited the black powder. In the explosion the main mast of the ship was torn off and it ripped through the mouth of the kraken. The injured kraken retreated to the depths and left the wreckage of the ship to haunt the seas.

It is rumored that some of the wreckage of The Ravager sometimes shows up on land or sea. Some say it is a tribute to the heroic captain and crew of The Ravager and if any shows up it is to commemorate and honor their death. Others say it is a scheme of the Queen of the Depths to lure the land dwellers onto her waters. Whatever the purpose of this wreckage, as long as it is not reunited with The Ravager, the ship remains cursed to haunt the seas.

The Sailor’s Lament is a minor artifact and a legendary piece of wreckage of The Ravager that, because of its nature, hasn’t seen many owners yet.

Properties:

This +2 Huge greatclub deals 4d6 points of damage on any hit, which can be either bludgeoning or slashing, and has a x3 multiplier on any critical hit. Because of its size, weight and shape, those of a size at least two categories less than that of the greatclub cannot use it nor lift it, and neither can those with a strength less than 15. Those with a strength less than 20 could use it, but with penalties as if it was an improvised weapon. The greatclub has a Water Elemental Power (Large) enhancement (DMG2 p. 261).

The damage dealt by the greatclub is the same as that of a kraken’s bite. If the owner is aware that the greatclub is The Sailor’s Lament (not just a +2 greatclub), it can be used to full effect: it gains a total +4 enhancement bonus, functions as a Bane (Magical Beasts) weapon, and once per day as a swift action can be slammed onto any hard surface with its base to ignite fiercely burning flames around the wielder with an effect similar to that of a Fire Shield (as long as the wielder is not underwater).

While underwater The Sailor’s Lament used to full effect also has the Aquatic enhancement, allows the use of the Jet (at double the full Run speed of the owner) and Ink Cloud extraordinary abilities of a kraken once per day, and once per day as a standard action The Sailor’s Lament can be used for two simultaneous tentacle attacks. These tentacle attacks can have the same or different targets, use the owners full base attack bonus, deal damage equal to 2d8 plus the owner’s strength modifier on any hit, and have a reach of 60 ft. The tentacles can also be used to initiate a grapple, in which case they remain for the duration of the grapple. During a grapple the kraken’s extraordinary abilities Improved Grab and Constrict apply and the abilities Jet and Ink Cloud cannot be used.

The Sailor’s Lament is cursed and bestows a -4 penalty on the charisma of its owner. Its history and appearance may result in additional situational modifiers at the DM’s discretion.

Strong evocation and transmutation, moderate conjuration and abjuration; CL 20th; Weight 80 lb.

PS: any other feedback on the artifact and its abilities would be equally much appreciated.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "I have a hard time assessing if it would be fun or game-breaking." - Fun depends on party. I have never met a party that enjoyed 3.5 grappling, ever. And it seems it is a common feeling. Is your party using grapple rules and have fun with them in the first place? If so, better state it directly and roughly describe the character who is doing this. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Jan 15 at 10:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot thanks for the feedback, I changed the introduction accordingly \$\endgroup\$ – mtijn Jan 15 at 10:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, have my +1 ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Jan 15 at 10:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ A greatclub, a 2-handed weapon, designed for a Huge creature normally can't be wielded as a weapon except by a Huge or bigger creature (or by a Large creature that possesses the feat Monkey Grip… and other exceptions that most folks don't have). Is this intentional? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jan 15 at 14:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan yes it is, I meant every word of "dim-witted oversized brute of a barbarian" :-) I intentionally limited the scope of usability of the item, I don't want just everyone to start swinging around with it. \$\endgroup\$ – mtijn Jan 15 at 14:16
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Consider an alternative approach for that ranged grapple…

The grapple-at-range effect of Sailor's Lament (here) (minor artifact; 80 lbs.) as presented probably won't be a lot of fun and it may break the game.

Let me establish this first: When the description says, "The tentacles can also be used to initiate a grapple, in which case they remain for the duration of the grapple," I don't know for sure if this means that A) the wielder can initiate a grapple instead of dealing the listed damage or B) the wielder can initiate a grapple in addition to dealing the damage. Because the Lament's tentacles essentially have the extraordinary ability improved grab (Monster Manual 310) of the kraken (162–3), I'll assume it's the latter. (If it is supposed to be the former, I'm unsure of how to phrase the decision-making process.)

Example

The wielder of Sailor's Lament, Gibmi, on her turn, takes a move action to get within 60 ft. of her foes. She then takes a standard action to use Lament to make simultaneously one tentacle attack against Yugelttil and one tentacle attack against Llamsmi. She rolls the tentacles' touch attacks simultaneously, and—because of the improved grab ability—must decide simultaneously whether to be herself be grappled or not and suffer a −20 penalty on one or both grapple checks. Then she makes those grapple checks simultaneously. (The extraordinary ability constrict (MM 307) like that of the kraken also kicks in around here maybe—it's complicated—, but, to be clear, as written Lament's constrict ability'll deal 2d8+12 points of damage.) Further—and of substantially greater importance—, success on either draws Yugelttil or Llamsmi into Gibmi's space, and success on both yanks both creatures into Gibmi's space!

At the conclusion of this chain of events, Gibmi has the unusual pleasure of two foes right up in her grill with whom she may be sort of grappling. What's unclear is what happens on Gibmi's next turn. Lament's description says that when the tentacles successfully achieve grapples that "they remain for the duration of the grapple." Does this mean Gibmi need not take actions to use If You're Grappling options against Yugelttil and Llamsmi? That each tentacle essentially takes a turn on Gibmi's initiative count? If Yugelttil and Llamsmi deal damage in the grapple, is Gibmi harmed or do the tentacles need hp? Other questions, I'm sure, will arise: It's grappling—one of 3.5's great bugaboos.

Anyway, in other words, as written, the DM would have to answer these questions. One DM's answers may be quick ad hoc we'll-figure-it-out-for-real-later answers and see play resume shortly after they arise. Another DM, however, wary of precedent and wanting to do things right from the beginning, may take far longer to resume his game. And if the game can grind to a halt because of unclear mechanics, I tend to consider the mechanics broken.

It sounds like what you want is an effect like the 2nd-level Drd spell kelpstrand [conj] (Spell Compendium 128), the 2nd-level Sor/Wiz spell earthen grasp [conj] (76) et al., or even the 4th-level Sor/Wiz spell Evard's black tentacles [conj] (PH 228). I'd grok this better as a reader and as a player as a krakenishly reskinned black tentacles spell usable twice per day than I would with the current description, even though that's a little boring and not nearly as evocative or cool.

…But it's nice even without the tentacles

That said, just having a regular ol' +4 aquatic (Magic Item Compendium 28) (2,000 gp; 0 lbs.) frost (Dungeon Master's Guide 224) (+1 bonus; 0 lbs.) magical beast bane (ibid.) (+1 bonus; 0 lbs.) water elemental power (Large) (Dungeon Master's Guide II 261–2) (+1 bonus; 0 lbs.) darkwood (DMG 283) (320 gp; ×0.5 lbs.) greatclub that can deal bludgeoning or slashing damage and that has a critical multiplier of ×3—even if the weapon is designed for a Huge creature—is probably fun if it can be wielded.

Seriously, the average campaign won't see many creatures that are capable of wielding such a weapon opt not to. Its market value without its artifact powers is around 100,000 gp and—in a rarity for artifacts—there appears to be no downside except that some folks are too puny to wield the Lament. I imagine many Huge wielders would be happy to call such a weapon their own were the kraken tentacles ability absent completely.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for an excellent answer, I really appreciate the example showing how this would work out and what questions would arise. replacing the tentacles by a spell is a great alternative (I'm now thinking of Evard's Menacing Tentacles from PHB2). I'll sleep on it and re-read tomorrow. \$\endgroup\$ – mtijn Jan 15 at 22:22

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