Eclipse and Mythic Ascension, Part II – A Progressive Interlude

English: The Hill o' Hirdie From the car park,...

On Secondary Paths

As always when I put up some new wrinkle in how to use Eclipse to build exotic character types, our players and game masters had a few notions of their own on how to use the “secondary progression” mechanic. In this case, Spellweaver81 had the most suggestions, so this is more or less a collaborative article with him.

For example a setting could feature…

Goal or Alignment-Based Supernatural Progressions. In this setting major magical powers can only be purchased in secondary progressions. Thus…

  • A Paladin would have a primary progression as a Knight and a secondary progression of holy powers based on their story, their undertaking of holy quests and deeds, and on how well they live up to being a true force of law and good. Major alignment infractions, or giving up on holy quests and such, might result in negative (secondary) levels – possibly eventually driving the character into a mirror-image unholy powers progression. A truly major break – the equivalent of “falling to the dark side” might instantly convert a bunch of secondary levels to their negative equivalents.
  • A Priest might have a primary progression as an influential scholar and leader, with the same general sort of secondary progression (albeit likely focused more on “miracles” than on combat powers) and the same general sort of “anti-progression”. Mages, on the other hand, might be scholars, alchemists, engineers, and tricksters, with a secondary progression based on their discovery of strange secrets and cryptic lore. For them… negative levels might accumulate from shamanistic practices, chaotic behavior (such as breaking their word), dealing with dangerous entities, and destroying knowledge – which would be at the risk of ever-increasingly turning to dangerously chaotic supernatural pacts and such for terrible powers that violate the order of the world and break down it’s structure.
  • A secondary focus on technology and invention, working to expand and advance civilization, might be mirrored by one focused on they mystical control and promotion of beasts, weather, and other natural forces – accumulating technological power through innovation, constructing or promoting cities and facilities, discovering the secrets of mysterious devices, and spreading civilization. Negative levels might accumulate from destroying such things, promoting the values of tradition, spreading the wilderness, creating parks and nature preserves, preserving older – and presumably “better” – techniques, and so on.

Are any of these progressions and “antiprogressions” (save, presumably, for “good” and “evil”) inherently bad?

Well, not really. In an overly-structured world, Chaos has it’s place – and may well need to be promoted a bit. It’s hard for an individual to focus on both nature and technology (or any other two things at once), but both definitely have their points unless you just don’t like sapient life.

In such a setting greater magical powers are rare and wonderful things, magic items are scarce to nonexistent, only adventurers can deal with many monsters, and so on. Personally, I’d allow the use of a small number of Charms for everybody (perhaps Con/3) and (Chr/6) and Talismans for high-status types and Adventurers. Relics would probably be allowable as under the Literary Magic Items series – and “normal magic items” could be pretty much eliminated entirely. That way spellcasters will be greatly reduced in importance, allowing more mundane characters a rare chance to shine.

Political Progressions. For those who want a game filled with intrigue, domain building, and large-scale maneuvering, secondary progressions might focus on connections, influence, building castles, social influence, gathering non-adventuring followers, and similar activities without draining excessive amounts of points from the characters progression in more common paths. Benefits will accrue from successful intrigues, undermining rivals, building settlements, making alliances, and winning wars. Negative levels might accumulate from royal disfavor, backing the losing side in some intrigue or political maneuvering, losing wars, and failed power-plays, Get too many negative political levels… and you’ll be starting in on an “outlaw” or “rebel” progression instead.

  • A Noble Progression would be focused on influence, domain-building, and rulership, while its opposing Rebel progression would be focused on tearing such things down. A Warlord progression would be focused on building a mighty army and maintaining iron control of a land – while the opposing Horde progression would focus on building a devastating (if almost impossible to control) barbarian horde and reducing civilized lands to desolate wastelands and uninhabited wildernesses. A progression devoted to espionage and diplomacy might be mirrored by a focus on treachery, cultish devotees, and assassination.

Since secondary progressions will be limited to the player characters and major NPC’s, this means that there are some people who are simply natural leaders, nobles, or rebels who will readily rise to leadership, while others (who take points out of their normal progression to pay for such things) will struggle to achieve half as much – and many other (NPC’s) who will focus the levels they gain on other things – possibly achieving great personal power, but never rising to rulership.

Racial Progressions are a bit of a jump back to basic Dungeons and Dragons and races-as-classes. Their advancement would be dependent on participating in appropriate racial cultural events and rituals, supporting and advancing the race, and doing whatever-it-is that a particular race “does”. Thus…

  • An Ironclad character might have a progression for upgrading their body/chassis – with it’s development dependent on quests and research to find mystical raw materials, understand their own structure, locate craftsmen and mystics with the necessary skills and persuading them to help out, and so on. An Ironclad who utterly neglects such things will take negative levels in their “body” progression – and so might find that their basic systems will begin breaking down.
  • A Human progression might well focus on leadership, organization, and social status – the things that humans tend to define as “success” (which would also neatly explain why so many d20 countries are basically run by humans). A human who neglects such things will take negative levels in the human racial progression, and will soon find themselves considered eccentric, then socially isolated, then outcast, and finally outlawed.
  • An Elven progression would depend on the nature of the local elves. Such a progression might focus on environmental awareness and harmony, wilderness skills, and shamanic skills, or on fey magics and illusions, or on almost anything else – but it will pretty much define the nature of elves and what makes them unique in the setting.

“Multiclass” Progressions again reach back towards first edition – but allow characters like the Gray Mouser, who’s primary progression is more-or-less roguelike, but who dabbles in magic with wildly varying levels of success throughout his career. Standard character builds have a hard time who representing a character who’s good at fighting, sneaking, and stealing and gets better at those things – but who possesses minor magical powers that are sometimes quite effective, and at other times quite negligible. After all, since those secondary powers are not a characters major focus, they can increase and decrease with story events without either overpowering or crippling the character.

  • I’m not going to be providing examples here; most d20 players are familiar with a LOT of classes that might be suitable as a secondary progression for the right character.

And now that the digression is over with, next time around it’s back to the general “Mystic” framework.

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One Response

  1. […] and Mythic Ascension: The Basic Mechanic, How to Use The Secondary Progression Mechanic in Other Ways, Basic Mythic Abilities, The Universal […]

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