Alter Belief

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Alter Belief (Cha, trained only)

Considered a class skill for any class that has Spellcraft as a class skill.

Magic is widely used as a means to impose one’s will upon the external world. It is commonly accepted that magic has natural limitations. However, occasionally a creative individual will recognize that some limitations are matters of belief, rather than inherent to the magic. The Alter Belief skill allows such an individual to use their magic in unusual ways, by fully convincing themselves that the limitations in question are irrelevant.

Not all magic can be modified in this way. Some spells, such as Polymorph, Bane and Bless are quite flexible, and lend themselves to modification by Alter Self. Polymorph allows the caster to take the shape of nearly any creature familiar to them; with a sufficiently vivid imagination, it’s not too much of a stretch to try using Polymorph for imaginary forms as well. Bane and Bless target the caster’s enemies or allies, and those perceptions can be changed fairly easily by force of will.

Other spells with similar effects are not always so easily altered. The Druid’s Wild Shape ability uses the Druid’s connection with nature to turn the caster into a natural creature. Because attempts to impose one’s will on nature are quite contrary to Druid philosophy, attempting to use Alter Belief on Wild Shape will be much harder than when dealing with Polymorph, if it can even be done. Invisibility is another example. This spell ends when attacking a foe, where “attacking a foe” includes casting a spell with an enemy in its area of effect. Unlike in the case of Bane, Alter Belief is often of little help here. Invisibility requires the proper mental state to maintain, and the hostile emotions associated with attacks are what ends the spell, rather than an arbitrary designation such as “enemy”.

Some magic is completely unaffected by Alter Belief. The level or Constitution loss associated with being raised from the dead, for example, is inherent to the process of being raised. No amount of willpower can prevent the level loss; only very powerful magical energies have that capability.

Sorcerers are the group most likely to make use of Alter Belief, because they do not typically have any strict formal training that would predispose them to a dogmatic viewpoint. Wizards and certain Clerics are the least likely to use Alter Belief, because they’ve been trained extensively in how magic is normally understood to work. However, a few rebellious Wizards do question some of the basic “facts” of magic, and stumble upon Alter Belief in the course of their studies.

Check

A successful Alter Belief check allows you to temporarily convince yourself of some imagined “fact”. In some cases, this will have beneficial consequences for magic. Exactly what those consequences are, and how difficult the task is, vary greatly depending on what you’re attempting. The difficulty will also vary considerably depending on external circumstances, such as pre-existing beliefs, or evidence concerning the belief in question. (circumstance modifiers will likely be used heavily)

Examples:

Convincing yourself that wolfs could be adventurers if they wanted to, and that wolf adventurers would wear items such as a Cloak of Resistance or Bracers of Armor is a DC 25 task. If successful, you can retain many magic items while using Polymorph, if you choose to turn into a wolf adventurer rather than a normal wolf (no effect on Wild Shape, because wolf adventurers are not natural).

Action

An Alter Belief check is usually a move action that does not provoke Attacks of Opportunity.

Try Again

Depends. Under most circumstances, you can’t immediately retry a failed check; once you’ve failed to believe something, it’s hard to shake that disbelief. However, after some time you can usually retry the check. You can often try again the next day. An unusually inconsequential belief might need less time before a retry, and an unusually notable or important belief might need more time.

Special

After succeeding on an Alter Belief check and putting that belief to use, you can temporarily take 10 on checks regarding that specific belief, even when distracted or rushed. This benefit lasts for 1 week, or until you would have been allowed to retry the check had it failed, whichever is longer. After a success, the memory of your success sticks firmly in your mind, helping to convince you that the “imagined fact” is real. This benefit resets itself even when you take 10 in order to succeed on a check. This allows you to keep a belief fresh in your mind by continually using it.

Characters without the Resilient Sanity Feat receive certain penalties when using Alter Belief. They incur a cumulative -1 penalty to Will Saves for each active belief (i.e. each belief that they can easily take 10 on). Depending on the circumstances, they may incur an additional circumstance penalty if the Save in question is directly related to belief or the perception of reality, such as many Illusions and some Enchantments. Changing one’s basic beliefs is a dangerous affair, and without either proper training or a particularly malleable mind, it tends to erode one’s sanity.


Metagame analysis

It’s probably worth having the GM’s comments bolded in this particular section, so I’ll do so.

Basically, here’s what I was thinking when I made this skill. The spirit of D&D is to allow the players to do anything that they can think of, provided it’s within their players capabilities. In order to determine if something is successful, the player either needs access to sufficiently powerful magic, or needs to roll sufficiently high on a d20. Wizards and other spellcasters have powerful magic at their disposal, some of which is very poorly worded. There’s little ambiguity in a Fireball spell: it explodes where it explodes, and that’s the end of the matter. If a Wizard wanted to create and imploding fireball, that would clearly be a different spell. However, when one considers a spell like Polymorph, things get a little fuzzier. It’s pretty easy to imagine turning into a 6-legged horse, so… why can’t you? I don’t like “because that’s just how things work” as an answer – it seems to dodge the question in a very unsatisfying way. On the other hand, saying that you can turn into any imaginable creature without arbitrary restrictions would be very unbalancing. After all, I can imagine a creature with a Strength of more than 30 and very few hit dice.

So, the solution: you can have your 6-legged horse, IF you succeed on a suitable check. Thus, the Alter Belief skill. It doesn’t fully resolve the issue, but it helps a lot by creating a third category between trivial and impossible: “hard”. If it’s trivial, then of course you can do it. If it’s impossible, then there should be a logical reason why it can’t be done. If it’s not something that every caster can do easily, yet it’s not impossible, then it probably just takes an Alter Belief check.

I’m not entirely sure how this will work out from a practical standpoint. However, I don’t think this particular group is likely to abuse magic more just because Alter Belief has been introduced, so let’s see how it goes. I’m obviously open to comments at any time – I’m trying to figure out how useful this is, too!

If you want to know if something can be accomplished with Alter Belief, there are a few heuristics you can use. Vaguely worded spells are more likely to be affected by Alter Belief, simply because there’s more room for interpretation. The less logical something is, the higher the DC is likely to be; likewise, the more unbalancing some effect would be, the higher the DC. – Ethan

Alter Belief

Wings of Redemption dylanryan