Appearance

It is hard to say exactly what the true form of this item is, though most players will encounter it first as a hat. If the player has piqued the interest of the Skald, it may appear as a hat that seems designed perfectly for him -- in the right size, color and fashion. Otherwise, it’ll appear to be a battered old cloth hat, worn thin in places, with little to redeem it. If the player chooses to inspect it more closely, he will find the royal crest of Adelheim embroidered with platinum thread just inside the brim.

No matter what form the Skald takes, it will always include a subtle motif to indicate the status of the other King’s Items. In mask form it may have seven stripes across the face, for example, or seven feathers or pins on the brim of its hat form.

Benefits

The Skald can assume seven different forms to aid in scholarly study, making it an invaluable tool for those in need of information.

Hat (or “thinking cap”) -- In this form, the Skald greatly enhances the wearer’s intuition. Facts that lie buried in the wearer’s mind are drawn to the surface again, and new correlations between information and events in the user’s life become clear. Note that the hat does *not* provide the user with new information -- it simply clarifies what the user already knows, even if he has long forgotten it.

Harp -- When playing the harp form, the Skald’s user can recall perfectly any song or tale that has ever been played on it. It feels like an intuitive “push” -- the fingers are guided magically to the right strings, and the song comes to the lips as if from an old memory. The first performance is often faltering as a result, but the user should gain confidence with repetition.

Tome -- In this form, the Skald acts as a sort of historical encyclopedia. It can help the user retrieve information on many subjects, from royal bloodlines to historical disasters. It is not an unlimited font of knowledge, however. Like the other forms, it can only retrieve information that was previously recorded by one of the prior bearers of the Skald. Therefore, it can be quite comprehensive on some subjects (e.g. the history of Adelheim and the Seven Kings) but sparse or entirely lacking in other areas.

Holy Symbol -- In many ways, religion is as important to a culture as its music and history. This form of the Skald exists to categorize and preserve knowledge of religious practices and rituals for posterity. If one speaks the name of a god (or cult) while holding the Skald, it will morph into the major religious symbol for that god. If the user has a specific question about that god’s religion (e.g. the correct way to perform a rite, the history of the church, standard dogma, etc), meditating with the symbol for a short while will often give the user some form of divine inspiration on the matter. Note that the Skald does not like to assume this form for some deities, and may resist.

Map -- The Skald takes this shape when the bearer needs to know something of geography. A self-updating map of the world, it records everywhere the Skald has ever been (including the inside of buildings, at the GMs discretion). Additionally, it can reproduce other maps that have been laid out onto it, face-down. It has a rather extensive collection that it can recall, though most of them are for the area within and surrounding the Kingdom of Adelheim. Many of them are very old and possibly outdated, as well.

Mask -- When placed on someone’s face, the mask form can “imprint” on that person. Essentially, it takes a recording of a person at a snapshot in time -- their voice, mannerisms, body language, etc -- and preserves it for posterity. If the Skald’s bearer wishes to, he or she can then put on the mask at a later date and “act” exactly as that person would have. It’s an unnerving experience, but the bearer can end it at any time.

Pen -- The Skald takes this form when it wants to sulk. In essence, it’s telling the user to “think for yourself!” However, it still has a few tricks up its sleeve in this form. It can dispense almost any kind of ink at will (including invisible ink), and even makes a mean throwing weapon in a pinch.

Drawbacks

No matter what form the user encounters the Skald in for the first time, it will be unable to assume any other form (except pen) until a companion discovers another of the King’s Items and it is pledged to the same cause. Even then, the Skald will choose which form it will take next -- not the bearer. The Skald is also unusually harsh when it comes to betrayal, and will find a creative way to mislead or punish the transgressor. If in map form, for example, it may choose to display only ancient maps of the region, and may completely take over the user’s body when in mask shape. Also, the Skald can *always* assume pen form whenever it likes, and may choose to do so at the most inconvenient times.

Lore

Chosen by Silath The Skald. A man of unquenchable curiosity and even greater compassion, he was the beating heart of Adelheim for many long years. Of all the Seven Kings, Silath was the most beloved of the people. He would delight them with song, counsel them when their faith began to falter, and remind them always of their history. He spent much time living among them to record their day-to-day lives, and to preserve the rich cultural traditions of his nation.

Though he wielded the original artifact for many long years, his life’s work outlived his body. He was granted the ability to continue the chronicle by one of the old gods he had so faithfully served, and was merged with it. No one can remember now what the original item was like.

Twist

Being an intelligent item, it is important to remember that the Skald may have its own agenda. It may wish to keep some secrets or knowledge hidden from sight, or may want to direct its user down a specific path. It has a generally good nature, though, and will be more likely to assist those who develop a repoire with it. The Skald's opinion of its bearer's quest may make it more likely to lead him to the other King's Items . . . or to send him off on a wild goose chase.

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? Quest

In association with Johnn Four, and all the fine folks subscribed to his Roleplaying Tips Weekly mailing list, we bring you our second collaborative Quest!

Here's the required stat block template to use for your entries:

* Awesome Name
* Appearance
* Benefit
* Drawback
* Lore
* Twist

For an awesome description and guide to these stat blocks, check out Johnn's post describing it.

There will be three sets of *random* prize draws: Nov 7, Nov 21 and Dec 5 -- XP awards per normal as well!)

All entries submitted before each date will be eligible for each random draw. So enter early and often.

Thanks to Gator Games for their prize sponsorship!

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Second Place Submisssion