Eclipse and Complete Races

To continue with Alzrius’s question about comparing Eclipse and other classless / point buy d20 systems I’ll be finishing up the “Complete” series from Dreamscarred Press with  Complete Races.

Complete Races  is pretty simple. It…

  • Assigns a point cost to a long list of racial abilities taken from the various playable races.
  • Notes that races will generally have an ECL of (Total Points/8) -1, rounded up.
  • Notes that the same rules apply to Templates.
  • Builds three races using it’s guidelines.
  • Recommends that races be designed without racial hit dice if they’re meant to be used with Complete Control.

And that’s all perfectly functional.

Regrettably it does not…

  • Provide complete costs. Instead it notes that it’s rules are “merely guidelines”, and implies that exceptions will be required when GM’s are pricing other abilities.
  • Include rules for advancing racial or template abilities – a MAJOR disappointment considering that it was a companion piece to Complete Control.
  • Cover buying off ECL adjustments.
  • Include the rules on how most of the abilities it covers work.
  • Include a rule allowing player-created racial variants or races with multiple choices for a racial  ability.

It also falls into at least one major trap – making drawbacks provide the same number of points as a similar advantage costs. Secondarily, it falls into the related (if somewhat lesser) trap of  valuing some attributes more than others – an effect which creates niche races. Yes, that’s taken  from the d20 rules and notes about building races, but it doesn’t really work.

For example, taking a -4 racial penalty to Strength gets you (2 x -4) = -8 points. +2 to Int costs  2 points. Getting one extra skill point per level costs 4 points (which makes no sense of course,  since +4 Int gets you TWO extra skill points per level for the same price). So: Take a Human. Dump  the extra skill point per level in exchange for +4 Int. Want an uber-wizard race? Throw in -4 Str  and +8 Int at no net cost.

Thus, a race with a Bonus Feat, -4 Str, and +12 Intelligence is a +0 ECL race. Heck, dump the bonus  feat and take -4 Str and +16 Int – and still stay ECL 0.

OK, Complete Races does note that “races of medium size should not exceed a final +/-2 to any score without care” – but going from medium to small is another -8 disadvantage. So drop the Str penalty in favor of Small (-8) and +16 Int (16) for a net ECL 0. Lets start MY small Wizard with Int 34 and no ECL adjustment. Sure, I won’t have any other racial powers – but at +16 Int I think I can do  without them.

The d20 rules encourage specialization – and that makes it fairly obvious that bonuses to attributes help more than penalties hurt because the players will pick a class and role for their character which plays to their strengths and away form their weaknesses. Treating some attributes as being more important than others just makes this worse since it makes taking those as a dump stat even MORE efficient.

Even with the other abilities listed in Complete Races, the pricing is pretty iffy. For example,  Spell/Power Resistance of (11+Level) costs a mere 3 points – the same cost as gaining three Power points, or +2 Natural Armor, or +2 on saves versus Fear, Illusions, and Poison. Now, +2 Natural Armor  is nice, and save bonuses are handy (although three power is actually pretty neglegible) – but I’ll take spell/power resistance over any one of those three alternatives any day.

Overall… Complete Races is reasonably functional if kept strictly in the hands of a sensible GM who won’t create abusive races.

 Now it’s quite possible for a player to create abusive races in Eclipse as well, but I like to think that the pricing is a little better (it’s certainly far more complete, if only because Eclipse includes more than a hundred pages of abilities and rules for customizing them to cover pretty much any ability in the game). Moreover, Eclipse covers advancing racial and template abilities, provides the rules for using those abilities in the game, AND is available for free…

Unfortunately, Eclipse is still far, FAR, more complicated – which plays against casual games, quick-and-easy race design, and so on.  If you’re willing to put up with needing a pile of different books and supplements, and don’t need Eclipse’s level of flexibility, Complete Races may suit you just fine.

Complete Races does solve some of the problems inherent in Complete Control; it’s use of a constant  number of points per effective level, recommendation against racial hit dice and “level”, and the linear progression of some of the abilities it prices is a step ahead, and would make it a prototype for a revised version of Complete Control or a precursor to Eclipse – except for the fact that it came out in 2010, five years after Eclipse. Overall, I’m afraid that – as with Complete Control and Complete Gear – I’m throughly used to the complexities of Eclipse, and so I really don’t have much use for Complete Races – although it is superior to a good many other d20 products out there.

Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion.

The Practical Enchanter can be found in a Print Edition (Lulu), an Electronic Edition (RPGNow), and a Shareware Edition (RPGNow).  There’s an RPGNow Staff Review too.

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