Kobold Press

Behind the Spells: Unseen Servant

Welcome back to Behind the Spells, the series that provides a historical background, secret effects, and related material to classic spells of the world’s most famous fantasy roleplaying game. This 11th installment concludes our series of Behind the Spells; we hope you’ve enjoyed the series. As always, the rules (presented after the “Spell Secret” header) are compatible with any 3.5/OGL fantasy game, and the story is narrated by an ancient gold dragon named Maxolt Alberiim.
Image of broom and bucket
Creator
The tale of unseen servant is a short but cautionary one. Mindoc Vratt—a human wizard of minor ability—studied under Foran Poltt, creator of summon monster. With a short attention span and a phobia of dirt, one wonders why Mindoc dabbled in the arcane ways at all. The answer lies in two words—his wife. He married into his love’s wealthy smithing family and, regrettably, thereafter did little of any consequence. After winning the new spell contest at the Thesktin Magefair, apprentice hopefuls flocked to Foran’s door. He selected them all according to their innate talents, save for Mindoc, who became an apprentice because Foran needed the gold.

As with all of Foran’s apprentices, Mindoc’s final task before graduating to wizard status was to create a new spell. The human knew exactly what he wanted to create. Combining his dirt phobia and an almost fanatical dislike for familiars (“Why would you want a creature that harms you when it dies and, gods forbid, defecates where you least expect it?”), Mindoc set about to create what would become unseen servant, originally titled “arcane maid”. The process ran into obstacles from the start.

Some of the central phrasing the spell needed stumped him, and the deadline to hand over the new spell drew nigh. After overhearing yet more glowing praise for Foran’s summon monster from a visiting wizard, Mindoc decided to use his master’s spell as the core of his own. Why not, he reasoned. Both spells essentially do the same thing, right?

Despite this shortcut, the “arcane maid” performed as expected, gaining Mindoc wizard status as well as praise from his colleagues. The invisible form could perform the rudimentary tasks commanded of it but the animating force eventually proved to be quite different than anyone could have realized. For decades later, after an unseen servant was conjured near her, a psion named Fedohna sensed a presence where the spell’s supposedly mindless form toiled. She spoke to the entity instead of simply commanding it, as everyone before her had done.

“Are you alive?” Fedohna asked.

“Yes,” answered a light, high-pitched voice.

After conversing for hours with the creature, Fedohna and the conjuring wizard went to the Council of Hebris, the owners of the spell following Mindoc’s death and the largest arcane body of that time in the region. Council wizards scrutinized the spell and discovered what Mindoc had done—by inserting the summon monster component, Mindoc had inadvertently summoned an invisible creature. The arcane construction and material components of the spell caused it to summon the same type of creature every time it was used. In this case, the creature was called an invisible attendant, a monster created during the Elemental Riftwar.

As for unseen servant, the arcane workings were changed to conjure a mindless and shapeless form to perform the desired mundane tasks. An apology was offered to all invisible attendants, starting with the one Fedohna discovered. Fortunately, their unique mindset precluded the possibility of retaliation for what amounted to decades of magical kidnapping and slavery.

Spell Secret

Though few know it, Mindoc’s unseen servant can deliver touch attacks, since he wanted his new spell to replace the use of living creatures. Regrettably, the arcane phrasing within the spell requires extra verbal components that did not quite make it into the final version.

By making a successful DC 21 Spellcraft check while casting unseen servant, your servant can deliver touch spells for the duration but is in all other ways restricted to the normal spell limitations concerning distance from caster, etc. When delivering the touch spell, the caster makes the touch attack roll after the servant has entered the target’s space.

Because this secret usage capitalizes on an uncompleted section of the spell, the servant might collapse when used this way. After successful use of a touch spell, the caster must make a Concentration check (DC 15 + touch spell’s level). If he is successful, the servant continues to functioning while failure ends the spell.

Related Research
The new creature uncovered by unseen servant’s creation is a curious one. Few have encountered the invisible attendant (or at least realized they encountered it). Fewer still have discovered its single-minded directive and, thus, failed to uncover perhaps the greatest storehouses of information that ever existed.

New Monster
Invisible Attendant CR 1/2
Usually N Small elemental (air, extraplanar)
Init +0; Senses darkvision; Listen +6, Spot +5

Defense
AC
13, touch 11, flat-footed 13
(+1 size, +2 natural)
hp 2 (1/2d8)
Fort +0, Ref +2, Will +1
Natural Invisibility
Elemental traits

Offense
Speed 20 ft.
Special Attack Steal Breath (DC 12 Fort save or dazed for 1 rnd)

Tactics
Before Combat
Invisible attendants learn all they can be silently spying on any creature deemed hostile (i.e. any creature who may know of its existence or its mission).
During Combat Invisible attendants use their Steal Breath attack before withdrawing.
Morale Unless an opponent has demonstrated the ability to detect them, invisible attendants are fearless.

Statistics
Str 4, Dex 10, Con 10, Int 11, Wis 12, Cha 8
Base Atk +0; Grapple -4
Feats Ability Focus (Steal Breath)
Skills Hide +4, Listen +6, Sense Motive +6, Spot +5
Languages Any
Special Qualities Natural invisibility, tongues

Ecology
Environment
Any, but based in the Elemental Plane of Air
Organization Solitary, pair, or cadre (3-5)
Treasure None
Advancement None

Special Abilities
Steal Breath
(Su) As a standard action, invisible attendants can instantly suck the air out of a single 5-ft. space they are adjacent to. Any creature in the target area that breathes reflexively chokes and must succeed a Fort save (DC 12) or be dazed (unable to act) for 1 round. The save DC is Constitution-based.
Natural Invisibility (Su) This is a constant ability that is inherent and not subject to the invisibility purge spell.
Tongues (Su) Invisible attendants can speak with any creature that has a language as though using a tongues spell (caster level 5th). This ability is always active.

Like their invisible stalker cousins, invisible attendants have amorphous forms which appear only as swirling clouds of vapor if proper detection is employed (true seeing).

Behind the Spells: Unseen Servant is the eleventh in a series produced for KoboldQuarterly.com by Tricky Owlbear Publishing, Inc.

Open Game License for Unseen Servant

6 Replies to "Behind the Spells: Unseen Servant"

Tauster

June 3, 2009 at 8:52am

Congrats – another great spell-related idea!

The next time one of my players casts Unseen Servant, they’ll hear a low sight or something other, unexpected. Let’s see how they react! :o)

Bret

June 3, 2009 at 5:35pm

Thanks, Tauster! If you do use the attendant, let us know how it goes. :)

Ampherion

June 3, 2009 at 11:39pm

A Windbag of Awesome!

Theocrat

June 3, 2009 at 11:41pm

One application of unseen servant that came into question this past weekend when we were reviewing Paradigm Concepts book Psionics Unbound. In it, they have a feats Expert Levitation (you don’t being to accrue fighting penalties for the first three rounds) and Improved Levitation (you can make a 5′ horizontal step).
It was in reviewing these two feats that made us further look into the Levitation spell.
With Levitation you are unsteady and suffer penalties for being unsteady. Thus one of our options was to cast unseen servant to steady the “levitator” first and foremost, but possibly also push the “levitator” in a horizontal position without the Improved Levitation.
Thus can unseen servant hold a person under the levitation spell steady so as to not suffer penalties or can an unseen servant push someone that is levitating in a horizontal direction? PFBeta says the spell can drag 100 pounds (or exert 20lbs of force).
In either case, does an unseen servant need to be limited to a terra firma aspect or can it be floating in the air?
Can a “Tenser’s” Floating Disk be cast to follow an Unseen Servant (instead of “you”, as normally it is within an interval of 5′ of “you.”). This is not something that is addressed in the Behind the Spells Floating Disk article here on KQ.
Thank you. I always enjoy the Behind the Spells and have several of your PDF’s (should get the compendium). I really enjoyed “Tenser’s” Floating Disk with your teasing knowledge of Tenser and his Greyhawk roots and I appreciate you adding the sneaky information.
Be Well. Be Well Served.
Theocrat Issak

Bret

June 4, 2009 at 2:26am

Ampherion–thanks!

Theocrat–I’m unfamiliar with Psionics Unbound, but no matter. As to your questions, yes, I would personally allow an unseen servant to hold a levitator steady and even push him in a direction (up to its 15-ft. speed), not to mention just spinning him to a new facing (which levitate does not make mention of–presumably you’re stuck with the facing you lift off on barring pushing off of something in mid-air).

Limiting the unseen servant to the ground is the GM’s call. Going by the book (the PHB) doesn’t help you either way. But if you like/use the BtS background for the spell, then I’d definitely allow the servant to fly. That’s another great aspect of having fictional backgrounds to the D&D spells–to help arbitrate fun situations like this that players get themselves into.

I’m glad you’re enjoying the series (and liked the “Tenser” nod). Remember that BtS will be continuing even though it’s not here at KQ. And no ‘Compendium’ yet? I thought everyone had one by now! ;)

Bret

June 4, 2009 at 2:35am

Whoops, forgot your Floating Disk question, Theocrat. Normally, I’d have to say “no” since the disk accompanies ‘you’ out to Close range according to the PHB. To be honest, though, I could easily see having a spell secret to modify that–Spellcraft (DC 11) check to designate another creature to tether the disk to. Technically unseen servant is not a creature, of course, but spell secrets bend the rules without breaking them as this does.

And I wanted to mention that some kind of “levitation stabilizer” would make a great new magic item for BtS: Levitate in the event the caster doesn’t have an unseen servant handy. Hmm, too bad I already wrote that issue.