I have an intelligent suit of armor that can cast silent image. Per the spell's description, the duration is as long as the armor concentrates on the spell. How do I make it have a higher chance of passing the checks?

And if I take damage does that count as a distraction for the armor?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Good question! It never occurred to me to wonder how concentration works for intelligent items. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Feb 23 '16 at 23:00

If the concentration check modifier of an intelligent item is insufficient and the GM allows, improve the the intelligent item's casting ability score (which is always its highest ability score), to, for example, the maximum of 20. This likely costs 8,000 gp minus whatever the item's ability score cost before, each +1 ability modifier adding +1 to the item's concentration modifier.

Further, if the GM allows, because the intelligent item's powers are flat costs, increase the plus of the enhancement bonus or add the equivalent of pluses of magic armor special abilities to let the item make concentration checks based on that new caster level. Both options are probably easier than trying to find or negotiate spells or special abilities that improve the intelligent item's concentration modifier directly.

However, I'd argue that in all but the weirdest campaigns—maybe a campaign world plagued by constant earthquakes or something?—, an intelligent magic item's unimproved concentration check modifier is all it needs.

Here's what should happen...

El'teeb the rogue ducked down the ally, the sounds of his pursuers close behind. He whispered to Llor, his intelligent magic armor, "A silent image of a wall would be handy about now. Over there?"

"Agreed," replied the armor telepathically. "They won't capture us today!"

El'teeb felt the arcane power emanate from the armor, and, although he knew Llor had created the false wall, he was still surprised at how well it blended in with the surroundings.

"Nice work," whispered El'teeb and started running from the voices of the confused city guards.

"Slow down!" the armor telepathically hissed. "I'm trying to concentrate!"

An intelligent item should only rarely have to worry about making concentration checks

Unlike a creature, an intelligent item that's held or worn rarely needs to make concentration checks. Such an intelligent item is unlikely to suffer injury while casting or concentrating on a spell unless specifically attacked (for example, many objects can be attacked with a sunder attempt).1 The item's unlikely to be affected directly by a spell while concentrating; that is, even if you decide to cast magic vestment on your magic armor while it's concentrating on the spell silent image, it's hard to imagine the armor would find such a spell distracting.2 While the item's wearer may be grappled, pinned, or entangled, usually the item proper isn't unless the GM says so. This leaves the intelligent item (and its possessor) worrying about concentration checks for vigorous motion, violent motion, and violent weather—the first two usually only issues for mounted combatants and the latter… well… what are you two doing out on a night like this anyway?

Finally, there's casting defensively. Although an intelligent magic item may say it casts spells, Intelligent Items Powers says, "Activating a power or concentrating on an active one is a standard action the item takes," so an intelligent item that can cast a spell isn't really casting a spell but activating a power, which, apparently—and thankfully for the sanity of all concerned—, does not provoke attacks of opportunity. (The chart on which was rolled Item can cast a 1st-level spell 3/day is called Intelligent Item Powers, by the way.)

All said, that means the only concentration checks with which an intelligent item need concern itself even occasionally are those for vigorous motion (DC 10 + spell level), violent motion (DC 15 + spell level), an earthquake (DC 20 + spell level), bad weather (DC 5 + spell level), and worse weather (DC 10 + spell level).

The intelligent item has a concentration check modifier of the item's caster level. For magic armor

The creator's caster level must be at least three times the enhancement bonus of the armor. If an item has both an enhancement bonus and a special ability, the higher of the two caster level requirements must be met.

So, for example, Llor, the +2 intelligent studded leather (AL N, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 10, Ego 3, senses 30 ft., understands Common (can't speak), telepathy, silent image 3/day) (6,375 gp; 20 lbs.) has a caster level of 6, giving her a concentration modifier of +6 to maintain her silent image. As that's a 50/50 shot while on a galloping horse, for instance, that should be pretty okay.

...Although this could happen

"I'll create a silent image of a wall to keep the other guards at bay!" said Llor telepathically. Her words of power rang firmly from nowhere, the armor moved uncomfortably about El'teeb's chest, and a bit of fleece floated from El'teeb's sweater.

"Nice!" said El'teeb, stabbing a guard but barely dodging another's sword.

"Would you stop with all the vigorous motion?" said Llor in his head. "This silent image won't concentrate on itself, you know!"

"The city guards aren't cooperating," said El'teeb, a guard's longsword nicking his arm.

"Ow!" cried Llor telepathically. "I can't concentrate with swords shoved through me!" The silent image dissipated, revealing another six guards behind the opening left by the once-there-but-now-gone illusory wall.

"I think you're going to have quite a few more in you," said El'teeb.

The GM may rule that intelligent armor must make a concentration check whenever its wearer is struck. This is strange on a few levels.3 Also, the GM may rule that when the armor casts a spell that it's actually casting a spell, so, for example, when the armor casts the spell silent image not only does the armor provoke attacks of opportunity, it gestures, speaks, and manipulates a bit of fleece (which are the components necessary to cast the spell silent image). That's weird and a little funny, but a bit extreme.4

If the GM is ruling this way, you two should talk this over and figure out how intelligent items function in the campaign. The rules for intelligent items are holdovers from Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, which officially never really gave intelligent items the attention they deserved, treating them like second-class constructs,5 their weird pseudo-existences explained only in a Web article. Despite its strides in granularity, Pathfinder largely continues this tradition.

1 In Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 worn armor can't be targeted by sunder attempts; Pathfinder apparently changed this (q.v. Improved Sunder: "You are skilled at damaging your foes' weapons and armor." Emphasis mine, and no prohibitions against doing so that I could find.).
2 That is, "If the spell [that's cast on the intelligent item] interferes with [it] or distracts [it] in some other way, the [concentration check] DC is the spell's saving throw DC + the level of the spell [its] casting."
3 To expand: If the wearer's struck, why must the armor make the check when the armor didn't protect from the attack? If the wearer is struck, the armor isn't damaged, so why does the armor make the check? Really, the item should make a concentration check when an attack misses because of the armor, but how is it determined that it was the armor that caused the miss and not, for example, a ring of protection +2? And so on.
4 Her: "O, you've a spell component pouch? Are you a caster?" Him: "No, but my armor is."
5 Uniquely, Intelligent items have Int, Wis, and Cha yet no Hit Dice (hence no feats or skills beyond those its creator grants it), causing all kinds of rules messiness.


Intelligent items should be treated as creatures who act on their owner's turn.

Magically imbued with sentience, these items think and feel the same way characters do and should be treated as NPCs. [...] Intelligent items can actually be considered creatures because they have Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. Treat them as constructs. [...] Intelligent items act during their owner's turn in the initiative order.

Depending on your GM's ruling, your intelligent armor may not actually be under your own control, as it's considered an NPC. In contrast, intelligent items are also considered constructs. The rules of Construct Armor state that

So long as the creator wears it, the construct performs no independent actions, remaining under the control of the creator [...]

Enhancing concentration check success

To make a Concentration Check, a creature uses its caster level and its main ability score modifier. Your magic armor can cast a spell from the spell lists of bards, magi, sorcerers and wizards, so I assume its class can be considered one of those. Your armor's effective ability score modifier for those classes would be either Charisma or Intelligence.

In order to increase your armor's chances of succeeding on a concentration check, you need to increase its effective ability score modifier or its caster level. Below I focus on Intelligence, but you can easily use the same approaches for Charisma.

Construct Ability Score

Through Construct Modification
Since your intelligent armor should be treated as a construct, the Craft Construct item creation feat rules apply. This feat also allows you to modify constructs, which grants you one easy way to increase the construct's ability scores.

Ability Score Modification: Using this modification, a crafter can permanently increase one of the construct’s ability scores by +2 per modification. He cannot increase any abilities with a score of 0. The cost for permanently increasing an ability score is 5,000 gp.

While constructs typically have no Intelligence score, intelligent items explicitly do. Therefore you are able to increase its Intelligence through a Basic Construct Modification (Ability Score Modification) for relatively little money. According to the rules as written, you can even apply multiple of these modifications to the same construct, provided you pay the price.

Through spell effects
You can also temporarily raise your armor's Intelligence by casting Fox's Cunning on it. It won't be able to take extra skill ranks or spells because of this, but it will boost your Intelligence modifier otherwise, which gives a bonus to concentration checks. (For Charisma, see Eagle's Splendor)

Construct Feats

Typical constructs have no Intelligence score, and so do not receive skill ranks or feats. Since your intelligent item can be considered a creature, it follows the same feat progression as described in Monster Advancement:

Creatures gain one feat at 1 Hit Die and one additional feat for every 2 Hit Dice above 1.

Your go-to feats to improve your armor's success chance in concentrating would be:

Combat Casting is taken as the prerequisite for Uncanny Concentration, which is the feat that's actually beneficial to your armor. It grants a flat +2 bonus on its concentration checks, and it doesn't have to make checks to concentrate when being jumbled around (for example, when you are running while wearing it).

Construct Caster Level

Besides increasing your armor's ability scores to enhance concentration success, you could also increase its caster level.

From the Universal Monster Rules:

If no caster level is specified, the caster level is equal to the creature's Hit Dice.

Similar to modifying your armor's ability scores, you can also modify its Hit Dice. Keep in mind that

Hit Dice modification can never increase the base construct’s Hit Dice beyond 50% of its total HD.

I can't provide you with the costs, since your question lacks the explicit details of your armor, but the modification rules help you figure it out for yourself:

Some constructs have a defined cost for increasing Hit Dice. To calculate the cost per Hit Die of other constructs, divide the construct’s construction cost by its existing Hit Dice.

Getting hit while wearing intelligent armor

The rules on construct modification have a section regarding wearing a construct as armor:

So long as the creator wears it [...] any attacks directed at the wearer first damage the construct.

Your intelligent armor is struck when you are attacked. The concentration rules are clear on the check required when injured. However, depending on how much your GM considers your armor to be an actual construct (or merely one for some of the rules), it's not clear whether your armor takes the full hit before you, or if the attack "passes through" to you. In the former case it's treated more like an actual construct and can be destroyed (see Construct Armor). In the latter, it's treated more like general armor, giving you bonuses to AC and such, but not actually being destroyed in the process of getting hit (save GM exceptions). If you are a spellcaster yourself, the former case is actually a big hindrance to you, since your intelligent armor is considered as breastplate armor (emphasis mine):

Construct armor counts as breastplate armor for purposes of determining AC, weight, Dexterity modifiers to AC, and chance of arcane spell failure.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ While it's interesting to use the constructs-as-armor rules for this, I don't think it's safe to jump straight to them, largely ignoring the rules for intelligent items. The typical intelligent item magic armor won't be construct-as-armor and, for example, won't have any Hit Dice. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 25 '16 at 0:12

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