Latest Material Index

Continue reading

Latest Material Index

Continue reading

Latest Material Index

. It’s once again time to get the latest material index updated and to transfer the material from the old one to the main index tabs at the top of the page. If you want the very latest material, it may be necessary to either scroll down or consult the “Recent Posts” listing-widget on the lower right. The previous Latest Materials Index can be found HERE and – for those who like to rummage at random – the full post-by-post index can be found occupying a great deal of space in the lower right column.

. Eclipse Classless d20 Character Construction Cribsheet / Sample Character ListCharacter Creation PrimerCompiled Martial Arts.

. Subindexes: RPG Design – Twilight Isles – BattletechChampionsd20Legend of the Five RingsShadowrunWhite WolfOther GamesBattling Business WorldStar Wars

. Cumulative General Index. Continue reading

Eclipse and High-Tier Martial Characters Part One – Stances

This question has come in a variety of forms – “What does Eclipse do about the Caster-Martial disparity?”, “where are the high-tier options for fighters?”, “How do I make a combat character who can keep up with the mages?” and “How do I make a skill monkey character who can actually make a difference at higher levels?” – but it’s always the same underlying feeling.

Personally, I blame going to individual Turns instead of counting Segments and the addition of the “Concentration” skill. In first edition mages might have mighty spells – but actually getting that Fireball cast took three segments of chanting and waving your arms, during which time half the other side would probably get to go. Since any interruption would ruin the spell, getting a powerful spell cast called for a cooperative effort; the mage stood and chanted while the rest of the party focused on keeping the enemy away from the artillery until it was ready to fire – which was the active and exciting part and made the casting of major combat spells a group effort.

Still, that’s not the edition we’re talking about right now.

There are two basic mechanical approaches to dealing with later edition Martial-Caster disparity (and many complicated ones – but revising the initiative system, many spells, the concentration skill, and so on calls for a major rewrite of the game).

One is to note that the major spellcaster types generally have a vast range of spells to use. They might not have the right ones available at the moment, but they can usually find a way to get them if they have to. Since parties tend to stop and rest once the spells run out, the fact that the non-casters could keep going longer becomes irrelevant. The casters can afford to exploit the fact that they often have an “I Win!” spell or combination of spells available for any given situation – and can often contrive to outperform a martial character on the battlefield and a skill monkey in accomplishing other tasks as well thanks to combat enhancements and utility spells. To match that a martial character must be given enormous flexibility, as well as a fair increase in power.

There have been attempts here. For example, the Tome of Battle gave combat-oriented characters more power and more options – but the vast majority of those tricks were still battlefield only.

The other approach is try to give the martial types overwhelming superiority on the battlefield and the skill monkeys overwhelming superiority in the use of their skills. In many ways this is fair enough – why shouldn’t fighters dominate combat like mages dominate magical research and clerics dominate healing? – but the downside here is that most games rely pretty heavily on small-scale combat for excitement and drama and spend a lot of time on it. Setting up one character to dominate it isn’t going to work out well in the long run.

Still, how powerful you need to be to dominate combat is going to vary from game to game. So I shall discard all sense of restraint and build some high-end options for martial characters.

As always, the first thing to look at when you start training a martial character is with his or her Stance. Differing stances are better for differing sets of maneuvers and styles of combat.

So how do you buy Stances in Eclipse?

That’s actually pretty straightforward: You take a list of at least four combat boosts, and make them Specialized and Corrupted/you can only use stances totaling one-quarter of your invested points or less at any one time. This can, however, quite reasonably stack with the internal Specialization and Corruption of individual abilities – but the game master must ensure that all the stances are things that the user would actually like to be able to use at the same time. Applying “can only use a few at a time” to a list that includes social, crafting, combat, and research boosting effects really isn’t much of a limitation.

I’ve organized the sample stances below in to thematic groups because they’re more interesting that way – but there’s no reason why you cannot mix and match. If there’s one that you REALLY like… just triple the cost and take it as a permanently active (unless you turn it off) ability.

The Master of the Hidden Mountain trains occasional worthy warriors who seek him out in his elemental stances – sending them on their way a step closer to being mighty heroes.

Hidden Mountain Style (Minor Stances)

  • Flowing Water: Opportunist/Each time the user makes an attack, he or she may also take a 5′ step (2 CP).
  • Lashing Branch: Opportunist/5′ steps and withdrawals provoke AOO before they’re taken (2 CP).
  • Leaping Fire: Presence/those who strike the user with melee weapons from within a ten foot radius are struck by a fire-based version of Shocking Grasp cast at the user’s level (2 CP).
  • Stony Pillar: DR 3/-, Specialized for double effect (6/-)/only against physical attacks (2 CP).
  • Wind Blowing: Shaping/Specialized and Corrupted for Increase Effect (Only to generate force-disk “stepping stones” under the user’s feet, allowing him or her to run around up to five feet above a surface, ignore difficult terrain and minor obstacles, and find firm footing “on” ropes, ledges, and similar. Unfortunately, maintaining the effect is distracting enough to inflict a -2 penalty on the user’s attacks (2 CP).

The Hidden Mountain style costs only 10 CP – just under the cost of two Feats – and covers a fair chunk of the basics for a master fighter; ways to control the flow of the fight, a way to retaliate against attackers without spending actions, a way to reduce incoming damage, and a way to handle difficult terrain. Most users will want to invest at least another 6 CP though – adding three more minor stances of their own design and acquiring the ability to use two of them at the same time.

Call of the Wild Style (Major Stances):

To don the mask is to become the thing, whether it be demon, spirit, or god. To mimic the beasts is to draw on the powers of the beasts. Such are the animal styles – and the abilities they grant are many and varied. With practice, it is even possible to draw on the powers of more than one beast at a time.

Many shamans, witch doctors, druids, and mystics can show a warrior how to call upon the wild strengths of one beast or another, although few can teach them all.

  • Bear Stands Tall: Presence/The user and his allies gain the equivalent of an Enlarge effect, but only reach the minimum size required (8 feet tall), so they still occupy only a single space. The effects are otherwise standard. Presence/The user and his allies within 10′ gain the Claws of the Bear (4 CP).
  • Crane Takes Flight: Celerity/Additional Movement Mode/Flight (4 CP). (This is commonly limited to use in Light and Medium armor in exchange for greater speed).
  • Dragon Strikes Horde: Presence/all enemies within 10′ attacked by Shocking Grasp (energy form of choice when purchased) once per round, although the user must roll these attacks at his or her highest melee attack bonus. Plus a second instance of the same thing (4 CP).
  • Gazelle Leaps Chasm: Celerity/+20 ground movement.
  • Kitsune Tricks Huntsman: Shaping/allows use of various tokens as Charms and Talismans, Shaping/Specialized in Illusions and Transformations (allows use of freeform Transformation and/or Illusion Cantrips once per round) (4 CP).
  • Mongoose Catches Wind: Reflex Trainings/Combat Reflexes, Augmented Bonus/Adds (Wis Mod) to (Dex Mod) to determine the number of attacks of opportunity available.
  • Monkey Leaps Sky: Acrobatics with Light Foot (4 CP).
  • Mouse Flicks Ear: Awareness with Flankless. The user cannot be caught flat-footed or flanked (4 CP).
  • Panther Silent Prowls: Shapeshift with Attribute Modifiers, Hybrid, Clear Speech, and +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only to take on Panther physical attribute modifiers. (4 CP).
  • Perfidious Rat Strikes: Presence/all enemies within 10′ are attacked by Persistent Blades (and so are automatically flanked), +2d6 Sneak Attack (4 CP).
  • Piercing Mantis Claw: Augmented Attack: +4d6 (15) damage, Specialized/only to overcome Hardness and Damage Reduction (4 CP).
  • Striking Serpent Coils: Trick/Disruption Strike/Victims are unable to cast spells or manifest psionic powers for 3d6 hours, reduced to 3d6 minutes by healing magic of level 3+. Once used it will require 2d4 rounds before this strike can be used again. Block/Melee/user may spend an Attack of Opportunity and make a DC 20 Reflex Save to reduce the damage from an incoming melee attack by 60 points once per turn (4 CP).

Fully mastering the animal styles would cost a total of 48 CP – the price of eight feats, although that will allow the use of the powers of three animals at one time. Of course, that means that you could be using a Panther’s physical attribute modifiers (Str +6, Dex +8, Con +4), Flight, and an automatic energy attack rolled versus touch AC of 2d6 to 10d6 (depending on the user’s level) on any opponent who comes within 10′ – or various other combos, at all times.

For a mere 16 CP you can pick four stances, and use any one of them you like at any time, at level one.

Way of the Strategos (Minor Stances with a Modifier):

All Strategos stances are Presence effects with the following modifiers:

Specialized for Double Effect; those affected must have Int 3+, be able to understand whatever the user’s mode of communication, and be willing to obey the user’s orders. The user must be conscious, reasonably well aware of the situation, and able to communicate clearly. Note that beneficial effects will also affect the user.

Metamagical Theorem/Battle Magic, Specialized and Corrupted for increased effect (it takes effect immediately, provided that the user has a chain of command appropriate to the group affected in place, has spent some time training them (untrained individuals half the effect), and is recognized as being in command. Personal command will, however, suffice for up to (Charisma x 2) individuals within a 60 foot radius)/only to boost the area affected by the user’s Presence Effects (6 CP).

That’s actually a little bit of a stretch – a Presence aura isn’t really a spell even if it acts quite a lot like one – but variants are explicitly allowed and buying an immunity to do the same thing calls for some awfully arbitrary decisions about pricing it. Just as importantly, we ARE pulling out all the stops here.

  • Avatar of War: Ward of Heaven/+1 Luck Bonus to Armor Class and Saves per three levels of the Strategos (Minimum +1, Maximum +6). As doubled, that’s +2 to +12.
  • Battle Blessing: Aura of Favor/+1 Luck Bonus to Attack Rolls and Damage Rolls per three levels of the Strategos (Minimum +1, Maximum +6). As doubled, that’s +2 to +12.
  • Call of Valor: Ray of Hope/+2 Morale Bonus to Ability Checks, Attacks, Saves, and Skill Checks, doubled to +4 via the Specialization (2 CP).
  • Coordinated Strike: Snakes Swiftness (Grants +1 immediate attack at full BAB. The specialization doubles this as usual) (2 CP).
  • Forced March: Expeditious Retreat, after doubling for Specialization, +60′ ground movement (2 CP).
  • Quincunx: Resist Energy. After doubling for Specialization provides Resistance 20/40/60 to one type of energy at Strategos level 1+/7+/11+.
  • Shield Wall: Shield/+4 Shield Bonus to AC, doubled to +8 via Specialization (2 CP).
  • Stand Strong: Biofeedback or Flesh Ward. Grants DR 2/-, doubled to DR 4/- by Specialization (2 CP).
  • Turtle Formation: Warding Rune: +1 +L/3 (4 Max), rounded down, resistance bonus to Saves. As usual, doubled by Specialization (2 CP).
  • Unrelenting Advance: Combines Surefoot and Surefooted Stride. Those affected gain a +10 competence bonus on Balance, Climb, Jump, and Tumble checks, and may treat Difficult Terrain as Clear Terrain (2 CP).
  • Volley Fire: In this case the doubled effect applies two unmodified first level effects – Hawkeye and Guided Shot. This combination provides +5 to Spot, immunity to penalties for distance, less than total cover, and less than total concealment with ranged attacks, and a 50% increase in the maximum range (2 CP).
  • Will to Victory: Amplification/Caster/Manifester level versus Spell/Power Resistance. Provides a bonus to caster level checks to overcome spell resistance of +1 + (L/2) to a maximum of +5. As doubled, this is +(User Level + 2) to a maximum of +10 (2 CP).

A full Master Strategos in command can maintain three effects at a time, affecting everyone who’s obeying a proper chain of command at a cost of 24 CP for the Stances and 6 CP for the Battlefield modifier. If a characters training is totally focused on the discipline, and covers little or nothing else… a character could scrape up the 30 CP (equivalent to five feats) for that at Level Zero.

And now you know how to build Ender Wiggins (I prefer Ender’s Game to the later novels). Just in case granting your troops bonuses like this is not enough, you can buy more stances (to increase the number you can support at one time), Mystic Artist (to provide additional bonuses), and Executive with Tactician to grant even more bonuses – although that will start to get expensive.

Technologies of the Shadowed Galaxy, Part I

Energy Sources and Storage:

While lost colonies may rely on steam, wind, and muscle, and there are a few antique internal combustion engines and isotope-producing fission reactors about, humanities primary source of power is the Fusion Reactor. Unfortunately, a minimal fusion reactor weighs about eight tons and is the size of a large automobile, not counting the fuel reserve and secondary equipment.

Personal gear, including smaller vehicles, usually relies on rechargeable E-Cells of various sizes.

  • Hyper-Capacitor E-Cells can store a great deal of energy, and can both charge and discharge very quickly – but are potentially explosive if damaged and leak power as heat as long as they have any left at all. Larger cells normally have cooling fins or similar arrangements. Practical personal energy weapons and mag-launchers almost invariably rely on HC-E Cells for power.
  • Fuel E-Cells do not lose power, but they rely on external (or very limited internal) supplies of reactants and can still explode (albeit far less violently then a hypercapacitor cell) if damaged. Fuel E-Cells are commonly used when you want long-term, relatively low-powered, and very, VERY stable power source.
  • “Classical” Chemical Cells hold relatively modest amounts of power – but they are fully self-contained, extremely safe, and can be extremely small – and so are still common in personal electronics and similar applications.

Exotic power sources include Isotopic Batteries/Miniature Nuclear Reactors, Antimatter Reactors (these can be immensely powerful, but the only practical way to get antimatter is through the use of Idiotic Technologies or Aberrent Materials, and the so-called “Cascade Generators” (a generic term for a variety of Idiotic power-generators and Aberrent Materials devices which produce vast amounts of exotic energy, have bizarre effects on the surrounding area and anything they’re used to power, and tend to be violently unstable – although whether that’s an inherent problem is not known. Many experimenters have, however, reported “rippling flows of color” of some type, hence the name).

Force Fields and Inertial Dampers

These are basically the same technology; a projected field that, somehow, dissipates a certain amount of incoming energy, whether electromagnetic, kinetic, or more exotic. Unfortunately, all known force field generators only work for people with some level of active psychic ability, and even then there is a modest level of feedback against the operator. Such fields can only be created in simple geometric shapes, but the scale of the effect and the amount of energy directed against it is apparently near-irrelevant to the operator; a larger system can cover a larger area. Thus many cities have shield generators that they use to help moderate stormwinds, shade the area to reduce the temperature, shield them against radiation, and keep out bugs. Military vessels also usually mount shield generators and inertial dampers; while the additional protection is only a fraction of what their hulls offer, and they may only be able to cancel out a a little over one gravity of acceleration, in a battle every little bit helps. Personal shields are usually slightly stronger than area shields, but the only apparent reason for it is that imminent personal danger seems to help the operator maintain focus.

Propulsion:

Fusion Thrusters – whether using direct streams of fusion-temperature plasma for orbital thrust, superheated water vapor for takeoffs and landings, or air/plasma ramjets for long-range operation in atmosphere above the minimum ramjet speed – have been humanities go-to aerospace drive system for some centuries. Unfortunately, even the most efficient use of reaction mass – whether collected from the interstellar medium or carried along – makes for rather slow travel even over mere interplanetary distances.

Recent examinations of the “Inertial Damping” effect of Force Fields have revealed that it is possible to treat the field as a semi-perpetual slightly more than one gravity drive depending on how the operator is defining his or her reference frame. A ship using this approach could, in theory, approach C relatively closely – but once relativistic effects begin to affect the operators perceptions the effect seems likely to level off. Talented operators have been able to use the effect to allow quieter and cheaper takeoffs and landings however.

FTL Travel:

Rapid Interplanetary and Interstellar propulsion relies on FTL drives. Oddly enough, humanity has something of an embarrassment of riches here. There are three known types – but first up we have the Hyperspace and Subspace Drives.

The combination of rapidly-rotating metal rings, coils, magnetic fields, and casimir fields, was supposed to create a slight space-time distortion – a barely-observable ripple in space-time whose structure would help determine which of twenty competing partial solutions to the equations of relativity came closest to reality. The slight disturbance should have propagated outwards at the speed of light, dissipating it’s energy.

But there were previously unknown boundary conditions. Rather than dissipating, the energy built upon itself and developed an unexpected resonance mode with peaks high and low enough to breach those unexpected boundaries. Space twisted back upon itself and the orbital laboratory fell out of reality.

Minutes later – light-hours away, and some months older – it came back, reporting a visit to either a long-dead universe or the distant future and a rather frantic effort to recreate the event in hopes of getting back.

Humanity had found a way to generate those long-sought “wormholes” – even if they could only exist for nanoseconds and had only two possible destinations; hyperspace and subspace (or back again). While that minuscule duration, and extradimensional destination, sufficed to put an end to notions of using Wormholes for time travel, it was still FTL travel of a sort.

Subspace Drives can get a ship to another star in hours to days – but from the ships point of view it will have spent a great deal of time (sometimes many centuries) traversing the warped space-time and weird conditions of a poorly understood alien universe far gone in entropic decay. Ships using subspace drives disappear fairly often, perhaps simply due to age. Still, cryogenic-stasis equipped ships sometimes carry subspace backup drives, just in case. Subspace message drones are not uncommon, but it’s wise (if expensive) to send more than one if you want to be sure of your message getting through. Pseudovelocities of several thousand times C are not unheard of.

Hyperspace Drives can get a ship to another star in days to weeks, giving pseudovelocities of several hundred C. Even better, the time is usually shorter than that according to shipboard clocks. Unfortunately, Hyperspace is a very crowded place; and ships often return irradiated, or with part of the materials (or creatures) aboard rendered Aberrant. Hyperspace drives also often cause ships to vanish permanently, but using a Hyperspace Probe – a guide-drone that you send through first and then download a report from – makes it a good deal safer. Hyperspace seems to be a “young”, chaotic and turbulent.

Analysis suggests that Hyperspace is an energy source, somewhat anti-entropic, has a far larger Planck distance (and is thus “smaller” despite its rough correspondence to normal space) and has a slower timerate. Subspace is just the opposite. It’s an energy sink, has an immensely faster timerate, and has a smaller Planck distance.

The currently-preferred system is a second-generation development,

The space-distortion or “Warp Drive” is a variant on the Alcubierre Drive, taking advantage of the fact that the space-time continuum includes hyperspace and subspace interfaces – boundary conditions that were unknown until 2083. Metric distortions are “squeezed” between the two – both amplifying and stabilizing them. The resultant forces create the repulsive effect known as “dark energy” and allow the toroidal metric distortion of the Abcunierre Drive to be generated with a comparatively tiny amount of negative energy. This quantity can be provided by Casimir Fields (requiring a week or more and a lot of expensive mucking about) – but these days (much to the frustration of many scientists and engineers) the initial “dark spark” is usually provided by a ritualist using an informational manipulation, a half an hours chanting, and a pocketful of weird junk.

Ships using warp-drive travel essentially see themselves as sitting still in a private, zero-gravity, pocket dimension while the location of the warp-bubble changes with respect to the universe. Fortunately, the same interface constraint that makes the warp easy to generate prevents the trip from having timelike aspects; a ship using a warp drive will never be able to observe any time-distortion or time-travel effects. Secondarily the ships energy balance remains neutral along the way; excess particles and such are drained away into the lower (subspace) boundary and power to maintain the bubble can be drawn from the upper (hyperspace) boundary. Current warp drives require roughly two to six weeks of travel per light year, giving pseudovelocities of roughly eight to twenty-five times the velocity of light – relatively slow, but far more reliable than using hyper- or sub-space.

Despite the inevitable attempts, to date all attempts to employ a warp drive in subspace or hyperspace to obtain nigh-limitless speed have been more-or-less expensive failures. As a rule, nothing happens in the initial experiments, ever more speculative adjustments are made in attempts to make something happen, and strange side effects occur until either the experimenters give up, they stumble across a side effect that kills them, or they simply vanish. While that could mean that they succeeded and simply can’t find their way back, few investors see much of a real difference.

Computer Technologies

Computers, like Explosive-Projectile Firearms, Radio Equipment, Masonry, and Flint-Knapping before them, are mature technologies – and are quite powerful enough. While Aberrent Materials or Idiotic Technologies may allow even better computers, many people simply have a computer with a wireless interface, sensory display links, and input sensors implanted and have done with it. With the capacity of a twenty-first century mainframe, a petabyte or two of nanosecond access nonvolatile optical RAM, and an expert assistant program, that’s all the computer that they will ever need.

One reason why characters in the Shadowed Galaxy get so many skills is that they’re presumed to have enormous amounts of information at their fingertips. On the downside… even the very best computer is only a little better than the instructions that you give it. That’s why computers can provide a bonus on relative rolls, but can’t just magically solve your problems.

Artificial Intelligences do indeed exist – but so far it has not proven possible to design a stable, or near-stable, AI with the potential to exceed the designers intellectual abilities. While no physical or information-theory reason for that is yet apparent, it is believed to involve the informational substrate level.

Still, it IS possible to build human-level AI’s – and even very BRIGHT human level AI’s – but for the most part it is easier (and a LOT cheaper and faster) to just find and train a very bright kid. Thus most AI’s are experiments or some kind or another, although there are a few (often rather dim) mas-produced AI’s designed for use in extreme environments of one sort or another.

Basically… the various “singularity” predictions have not worked out. You can’t vastly augment human intelligence, transfer minds into computers, create “foglets”, or produce superintelligent AI’s.

Yes, you can have drones/robot pets/remotes/”familiars”, either as gadgets or through the usual rules.

Anti- and Artificial Gravity

There isn’t any. Sure, you can play tricks which produce gravity waves and such – but there is no handy way of generating simple gravitational forces. There are, however, computers, adjustable electromagnets, and ferro- and para-magnetic materials. Between computer controlled magnetic fields, fibers woven into shipboard clothing, and the careful doping of tools and materials aboard a ship, most ships have a reasonable simulation of gravity, and even a way to partially counteract the effects of acceleration. Sure, it may feel like you’re suddenly laying sideways in a hammock on a two-gravity planet – but that’s a lot better than being tossed into a wall at two gravities. This form of “artificial gravity” doesn’t work properly on liquids, gases, foodstuffs, and similar items, but it DOES allow clever people with the authority to manipulate the system to pull off some very exotic tricks.

Shadowed Galaxy – Equipment Skills

There are few opportunities for shopping in the depths of space. Those who brave the frontiers must be self-reliant. They must know their gear, vehicles, and other equipment intimately. They must be ready to strip it down, and maintain and repair it, with whatever tools and materials are ready to hand. Beyond the civilized worlds, “money” – whatever the form it takes – will not help you.

Thus the interstellar travelers of the Shadowed Galaxy use Equipment skills. In most other settings these would be Occult Skills – and the available equipment will vary a lot.

Equipment Skills:

Check: When seeking to acquire, use, maintain, repair, or make equipment of the type the skill covers. Thus, if a roll is required at all (perhaps to program a computer, use a sensor system, pilot a ship through a tangle of orbital debris, or field-strip and repair a weapon) it defaults to the relevant Equipment skill. Where mere proficiency is sufficient no roll is required. As usual, if you only want a limited aspect of a skill – say you want to be a hot pilot, but not actually pay for a ship of your own with the Vehicles skill – skills can be Specialized or Corrupted. Nonproficiency penalties do apply to the use of items you haven’t “paid for” however.

The standard equipment skills are Armory (armor and other defensive items, Str), Biotech (covers bionics, cybrenetics and bioware, Con), Gadgetry (tools and general gear, Int), Logistics (covers general supplies, finding places to stay, arranging a night on the town, and so on, Chr), and Weaponry (covers all weapons and offensive devices, Dex). Vehicles is considered an Occult Skill (there’s a surcharge for owning your own vehicles) and is Wis based.

Retry: Yes, but usually at a cumulative -2 per attempt to fix, repair, or make something. Checks for operating devices are not usually subject to such penalties.

Special: The permanent value of an equipment skill provides an equal number of “points” worth of gear. Equipment normally “costs” 1-3 points per item. Devices with multiple functions (power armor, vehicles, etc) simply add up the prices for their subcomponents – although standardized kits (issue weapons, doctors bag, etc) may get a small price break. Many package deals include bonus to one or another Equipment skill, usually covering a basic package of required gear. It usually takes access to relevant facilities and one week per point for a character to change out or upgrade their equipment; they have to train with the new stuff. Thus equipment skills are an indication of how much effort a character puts into acquiring, practicing with, and maintaining a particular kind of gear. Note that the styling of equipment is up to the user; if one person wants a shield generator, a light bodysuit, and an armor vest while another wants an integrated power armor suit, that’s fine.

Common Equipment Costs in the Shadowed Galaxy:

Sample Armory Devices:

  • Armor Bonus: +2/4/6 for 1/2/3.
  • Athletics: +4/+6/+8 for 1/2/3.
  • Communications (all with HUD): local tactical 1, long-range transceiver 2, orbital datalink 3. Sensors (all with HUD): nightsight, flash and hearing protection 1, with GPS and basic environmental 2, with mapping, motion sensor, and friend-or-foe identification 3.
  • Damage Reduction: 1/2/3 for 1/2/3. This applies to both physical and energy attacks.
  • Environmental: temperature control and breathing apparatus 1, NBC seal 2, recycling/space capable 3.
  • Flight: 0-G maneuvering 1, jumping/movement boost 2, short term jetpack/long term paraglide 3.
  • Fortification: Light/Medium/Heavy for 1/2/3.
  • Stealth: +4/+6/+8 for 1/2/3.
  • Strength: +2 per point.
  • Weapon Mounts: Light/Medium/Heavy for 1/2/3.

By default armor has no penalties. Making it Medium Armor (Armor Check Penalty -2, Max Dex Bonus 4) reduces it’s cost by two points, while making it Heavy (Armor Check Penalty -4, Max Dex Bonus 2, Movement -10) reduces it’s cost by four points.

Standard Colonial Defense Force Medium Armor (6 Points): AC +4, DR +2, Str +2, Sensors 1, Communications 1, Environmental 1, Armor Check Penalty -2, Max Dex Bonus 4. Note that, as a standardized package, this armor gets a one-point price break.

Sample Biotech Devices:

  • Adrenal (Combat) Booster: +2/3/5 to the Adrenal Surge skill.
  • Chemical Gland: produces a drug, common biochemical, ink, silk, enzymes to let you digest cellulose (or never fart), a scent, or similar, 1, produces a dangerous toxin or other material requiring bioisolation or built in personal countermeasures 2, produces corrosives, very deadly toxins, or highly reactive substances (such as the Bombardier Beetle) or something similarly biologically possible but impractical, 3.
  • Communicator: emergency beacon 1, long-range transceiver 2, network datalink 3.
  • Computer (requires neural interface 3): Smartphone 1, “tablet” 2, basic workstation 3.
  • Cosmetic Mods: tattoos, melanin shifts, hair coloring, etc (0), fur, tail, slight muzzle, etc (1). If you insist on major body restructuring of some type, 2-3 depending on the extent.
  • Cyberweapon: small blade(s), toxin gland,
  • Eyes: +2 functions (low-light, flash resistant, recording, ultraviolet, smartgun link, data display, etc) per point. Usually biological boosts at 1, cybereyes at 2-3.
  • Hold Out Pouch: big enough for a couple of computer chips/a hold-out pistol/a thick paperback book 1/2/3, +1 to add detection screening to level 1 and 2.
  • Immunities: to diseases, toxins, intoxicants, etc; 1-3 depending on size of the immunity group and potency of the things in it.
  • Impact Weave: provides Damage Reduction 1/- or 2/- for 2/3. This stacks with external DR.
  • Implant Medkit: monitoring and biofeedback 1, three dose autoinjector 2, 12 dose autoinjector 3.
  • Morphic Shifts: altered biometrics 1, mutable fingerprints 2, retinal scanner and duplication 3.
  • Neural Regulator: can suppress pain 1, and seizures 2, and indicators of lying 3.
  • Neural Interface: basic control output 1, with feedback 2, with full-sensory feeds 3.
  • Organ Replacement: extended lifespan 1, with resistance to abuse (improved pancreas avoids diabetes, liver for drinking, etc) 2, with a +2 on Fortitude saves versus toxins and diseases, 3.
  • Oxygen Reserve: 10 minutes/30 minutes/four hours for 1/2/3.
  • Prosthetic: simple 1, minor accessory (crushing grip, garotte reel, taser-touch, built in multi-tool, pop-out blades, etc, +1), major accessory (concealed gun, built in power tools, 2).
  • Reaction Boosters:: +1/2/3 to Initiative for 1/2/3 points.
  • Reinforced Skeleton: provides +2d4/3d4/4d4 Hit Points (constitution bonuses apply) for 1/2/3.
  • Sensory Recording: from cybersense 1, from biological sense 2, from all senses 3.
  • Sensory Amplification: +4/6/8 on relevant rolls for 1/2/3.
  • Sexual Enhancement: fertility control 1, pleasure enhancement 1, name your own. 1-3 points.
  • Sleep Regulator: half need to sleep 1, comes fully awake instantly 2, can go into hibernation 3. .
  • Water Adaption: webs/swim fins 1, add nictating membranes for clear sight under water 2, add cybergills (these require E-cells to operate) 3.
  • Weapons: concealed blade 1, hold-out gun 2, pistol 3.

Sample Gadgetry Devices:

This is a pretty broad category – and in a fantasy setting would include magic wands and such – but some of the sample gear here for the Shadowed Galaxy includes:

  • Binoculars: Current electronic binoculars normally zoom up to 60x and are equipped with light-amplification, flash limiter, rangefinder, and recorder functions for 1. Each +1 can provide an additional two functions, including laser-designator, infrared, ultraviolet, radiation detection, and directional microphone functions.
  • Computers: computers have come a long way. They can handle natural-language inputs, set up basic computations for you, store massive amounts of data, and volunteer assistance. In general, and when relevant, they provide a +2/4/6 bonus on relevant tasks (the user may have (Int Mod + 3) major programs loaded at any one time, swapping out during downtime) for 1/2/3 at about the size of a large pack of gum/book/laptop. The interface is usually an ultralight HUD/earclip speaker system if it isn’t routed straight to cyberware and a couple of light rings that track hand movements on virtual controls. The interface with other systems is normally a short-range, high-bandwitch, wireless link.
  • Environmental Gear: pocket pack of a dozen metalized, self-bonding, tarps/blankets/sleeping bags/tents/watertight storage bagsparachutes 1, ultralight 10-ton cord with cutter and bonder 1, umbrellas and raincoats 0, Scuba outfit 2.
  • Flashlight/Lantern/Torch: adjustable, dim to blinding, narrow to broad area 1, hot enough on tight focus to cut or weld thin metal 2. If you want a strobe, or multicolor/lightshow mode, 3.
  • Instrument Packs: environmental/chemical, radio/radiation, infrared/visual/ultraviolet, medical / diagnostic, movement/ultrasound, radioisotope/reactive dating, chemical/biochemical analyzer, microbial identifier/gene sequencer, microscope/materials analyzer. Basic packs cost 1, advanced packs providing a +3/+6 bonus cost 2/3.
  • Linecaster: these “spin” a monofilament line from fast-polymerizing chemicals with a reaction pressure capable of hurling the resulting line a hundred feet. Due to incomplete boundary polymerization, the resulting line is extremely “sticky” for several seconds afterwards. The line can support abouf five hundred pounds and can be reeled back in with the push of a button. It is often used to tie things together, swing from, climb, snatch things, or tie people up 2.
  • Multitool: exceptionally “large” swiss army knife 1, memory metal bar (usable as a hammer, axe, small shovel, knife, saw, machete, signal mirror, screwdriver, adjustable wrench, pliars, grapnel, and single-shot .22 rifle/flare launcher (comes with 50 cartridges and 10 flares)) 2, and a power-tool version of the memory metal bar.
  • Skill Kits: In general, these provide a +2/+3/+4 bonus with a particular skill at a cost o f 1/2/3. If they’re not readily portable, increase the bonus by +1. If they’re basically immobile (a shop, lab, or medical bay for example) increase it by +2. For examples we have…
    • Artists Kit: multi-pigment multi-tip stylus, fixative spray, microscriber, adjustable pencil, paper processor, and camera.
    • Disguise Kit: a high-tech variant on the classical stage makeup chest, the major difference being that it only comes off using solvent. Other, minor, improvements include “natural” feel, adjustable color(s), improved hair dyes, a microcomputer mirror which supplies directions, colored contact lenses, and so on. Provides a +5 bonus on creating disguises.
    • Thieves Kit: various lockpicks, alarm detector, jammer, beam diverters, stethoscope, minidrill, jumper lines, magnet, small prybar, gloves, glasscutter, and a penlight.

Sample Logistics “Devices” include:

Logistics allows the user to pick up general supplies – and describes how well the user can draw on the resources of more civilized areas, making it something of a general “wealth” rating.

  • Concentrates: water purification tabs, pyroconcentrate (burns very hot for a long time), anti-allergy/multivitamin tabs, stimulant/painkillers tabs, and energy bars/ration packs. You have a supply of 1/3/7 types of such items for 1/2/3. .
  • Data Access: you have subscriptions to news services and public databases 1, you can access scientific journals, subscription-only databases, and online libraries 2, you have limited access to law enforcement, archival, and similar private databases 3.
  • Explosives: a supply of plastique, detonator cord, detonators, timers, fuses, and similar toys, 2, 3 if it includes breaching charges and similar.
  • Food and Drink: spice packets 0, condenser/filter/heater canteen 1, 12-day energy bar pack 1, mess kit (includes self-heating collapsible pots, cups, etc) 1, stockpiles of excellent food and drink 2, exotic wines and meals 3.
  • Lifestyle: you live well when in civilized areas 1, you also always have tickets to concerts and events 2, you also always have willing companionship in civilized areas 3.
  • Licensed: you have relevant professional licenses and certificates 1, you can get away being pushy, offensive, and committing a variety of minor offenses 2, you can be an enormous ass, get away with minor offenses, and delay the consequences of major ones for 3.
  • Restraint Kit: several sets of handcuffs (Mn material), knock-out drugs (slow acting, but works for about twelve hours), a blindfold, some fiber-reinforced epoxy “duct tape”, superglue and solvent, and a gag 1.
  • Spare Parts: You have packed enough spare supplies (ammunition, food, spare parts for the vehicle, whatever) to meet 2/3/5 party crises before you must obtain more.
  • Stylish Clothing: 1-3 depending on just how over the top it is, and how much bling it includes.
  • Survival Suit: skintight pressure weave, low-pressure oxygen supply, contracting chest band to help exhaling, suitable for space and underwater operations 1, with biochemical seal to allow use in quarantine and chemically hazardous areas 2, with resistance to corrosion, radiation, and temperature extremes 3.
  • Travel: you have ready access to cabs and public transport, you can take vacations all over the place and travel at whim 2, you travel on chartered flights and chauffeured limousines 3.

Vehicles

Vehicles are large and expensive. While a single individual must buy the basic ratings and primary systems, other characters can purchase secondary systems – all, of course, for the usual 1-3 points.

Basic Ratings: Speed, Maneuver, Weapons, and Size/Cargo Capacity. All of these are rated at Hopeless/-5 (-1), Inferior/-2 (0), Average/- (1), Superior/+2 (2), or Astounding/+5 (3). Cost modifiers include Ground Vehicle (-5), Water Vehicle (-3), Air Vehicle (-1), Interplanetary Vehicle +1, and Space Vehicle +3.

Modern spaceship hulls have a base Hardness of 12 and, if they have weapons, inflict a base of 10d6 (missiles, plasma cannons, lasers, whatever). AC is 10 minus the Size Rating.

For example, a Modified Light Freighter may have Superior/+2 Speed (2), Superior/+2 Maneuver (2), Average/- Weapons (1), and Inferior/-2 Size (0). It is a space vehicle (3), and so far has a basic cost of 8.

Primary Systems: Life Support (Space, Long Term, 3), Communications (1), Sensors (Radar and Navigation, 2), Armor (3, getting the hardness up to 15), and a basic Backup Drive (1). That raises the base cost to 18 – pretty pricey, but it IS a spaceship.

Secondary systems – a decent computer, a medical bay, supplies, and so on – are likely to be the responsibility of a copilot or the crew. It’s very difficult for a low-level character to afford a major vehicle on his or her own.

Now a simple Motorcycle has Superior/+2 Speed (2), Astounding/+5 Maneuver (3), Hopeless/-5 Weapons (-1), and Hopeless/-5 Size (-1). It’s a ground vehicle (-5), but comes with a GPS system (1), and a computer that can diagnose most problems and call for help in emergencies with it’s own communications system (2) – for a net cost of (1).

Weaponry is going to have to wait until after the technological explanations, so that it will make more sense…

The Shadowed Galaxy

Humanity is not the first species to reach out into the galaxy.

There were those who came before… In long ages past at least four great civilizations extended throughout a substantial portion of the galaxy, covering several different preferred environments with works employing at least four radically different technologies – reasonably conventional microtronics, resonant informational manipulations, coupled spacefield constructs, and biotechnologies. Their relics, both great and small, are found on thousands of worlds. They are known by many names across many worlds. They are the Elders, the Precursors, the Engineers, the First…

Perhaps the most fitting name is “the Idiots”.

For there was war. And someone, on one side or another, thought that it would be a good idea to deploy self-reproducing, autonomously-directed, weaponry. And the idea spread. Perhaps that too was some mimetic weapon. Stranger informational manipulations and spacefield effects than THAT have been encountered.

In the end… no one really knows if any of the Idiots survived. Their cultures certainly did not, and if some of their descendants still survive in pre-technological tribes or villages on some damaged planet what does it matter? By this time they’d doubtless have evolved enough through genetic drift alone to be fairly unrecognizable.

Unfortunately, between relativistic and preservation effects, and self-repairing and self-reproducing systems, the unknown duration of the war, and random chance… there are quite a few relics of the Idiots lying about the galaxy. Some are benign, some simply strange, and some – far too many – are terrible booby-traps awaiting the unwary.

Now it is humanities turn to voyage out into the galaxy, to tread where others have gone before – and have left their nightmares to cluster in the shadows. Was Earth touched by the Idiots? There are so many legends that it is almost impossible to know… but if it was, it was not on any great scale.

Unlike so many worlds across the galaxy.

Mankind has encountered several ravaged post-Idiot worlds and a few alien races to date. So far… none have developed much past the basic agricultural level, although what evidence there is (mostly that some exist on worlds they obviously did not evolve on) suggests that some of them had reached considerably greater heights before their civilizations were destroyed by some horrific legacy of the Idiots.

Colonies have been planted on quite a few worlds. Their survival rate has not been good. All too many new settlements are wiped out, whether by some plague, natural disaster, unforeseen circumstance of settling on a new planet or by some legacy of the galaxies discordant past.

Exploration is hideously, insanely, dangerous. The study of Idiotic relics is also hideously and insanely dangerous. Travel between known worlds is less dangerous, but hardly safe. But Earth itself… is far too crowded. It has become a melting pot of insane cults, strange philosophies, experimental governments, out-of-control multinationals, and attempts to adapt the exotic technologies of the Idiots to various purposes – no matter how much saner folk try to stamp out such experiments.

Humanity is not the first species to reach out into the galaxy. It is not first, the tenth, or likely even the hundredth, young civilization to encounter the Legacy of the Idiots.

But the stars are silent.

At least so far, Humanity has met no other species expanding among the stars. Whether or not the human race will defy that grim prognosis has yet to be determined.

You, and your friends, have a small ship.

What are you going to do?

In D20 terms…

Basic Shadowed Galaxy Characters are all

Dystopian Survivor Humans (30 CP / +0 ECL). They gain the racial traits of…

  • Highly Adaptable: Gain one Bonus Feat / 6 Bonus CP (6 CP).
  • Birthright: Choice of +2 to an Attribute or another 12 CP ability package derived from your background.
  • Quick to Learn: Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for +2 SP/Level (Level x 2 + 6 total, 6 CP).
  • Tested Immunity: After the global pandemics and pollution crises everyone who didn’t inherit this is dead. Immunity to toxins, pollutants, and disease (Common, Major, Trivial, for a +2 bonus on relevant rolls, 3 CP).
  • Projectile Predator: +1 BAB, Specialized in Ranged Attacks (3 CP).
  • Technological Aptitudes: Microtronic A, Biotech B, Psychic C, Informational D, Spacefield E. Humans are good with what we (of course) see as “conventional” technology, decent at biotech, average at best with psychic stuff, poor at “magic”, and basically unable to work with Spacefield Technologies.

Wait, what do those aptitudes mean?

  • Microtronics includes most “conventional” technology. Electrical and electronic systems, fusion power plants, reaction and space-distortion (or “Warp”) drives, bionic replacement limbs, and so on. While many Microtronic Idiotic devices remain beyond duplication (or are more or less uncontrollable) for the most part people have a reasonable idea of how they work. While there are a fair number of possible systems which are impractical or have yet to be invented, humanity seems to have no actual barrier to progressing along this path – although there may be some inherent upper limit to Microtronics itself.
  • Biotechnology is not as straightforward as was once hoped. Designing major modifications to the human genome has proven impractical; evidently it involves nonphysical factors that humans are ill-equipped to deal with. The old dream of “animal-based augmentations” turned out to be nonsensical; genes simply are not “blueprints” for building a creature; they code for proteins that often play dozens or hundreds of roles. Still, there are quite a few gene-tweaks and modified seeds and creatures available.
  • Psychic Powers are – at least in humans – generally limited to low-end effects. Basic Witchcraft, and a limited number of the Advanced Witchcraft Abilities are available. Humans can even learn to manifest a few psionic abilities (up to second level maximum) or some degree of “mad science” – but little more. Even races with Class-A potential in the field are limited (ninth and epic level effects are not available even to them).
  • Resonant Information Manipulations are – at least in d20 – represented by the various “Magic” systems. Unfortunately… humans are very VERY bad at magic. They may have a knack or two (especially if they’ve been exposed to appropriate Idiotic effects), but otherwise, even with training, research, and the best components that can be found, they are limited to achieving minor results with awkward rituals. Even races with Class-A potential in the field are limited (ninth and epic level effects are not available even to them).
  • Spacefield Technologies can give ordinary creatures, materials, and locations aberrent properties with no apparent physical explanation. In game terms they normally involve Templates – creating items with weird and wonderful functionalities, bestowing strange powers on creatures, and so on. As of yet, no encountered species is known to be capable of doing much with Spacefields, although Aberrent Materials can be used in a wide variety of wonderful, and unreliable, devices.

Errant Time, Time Patrol Starship

Even a single sector of the galaxy is a lot of room for things to go wrong in. When you throw in time travel as well… things can get very complicated indeed – which is where ships like the Errant Time come in.

The Errant Time isn’t an especially large ship, and it isn’t all that heavily armed or shielded – but it has excellent internal facilities, good navigational sensors (allowing it to travel freely instead of sticking to the charted routes), and a fairly good FTL drive. It also has a time-drive capable of reaching the past, the future, and alternate probability lines with a paradox evasion circuit; when an incoming paradox is changing the current timeline the ship will automatically transport itself, it’s passengers, and it’s cargo to the new one – allowing them to try and fix the issue.

Similarly, it’s AI system is not especially powerful – but it’s got a reasonable set of databases, is equipped to detect temporal disturbances, and is a pretty good at determining the ships current location. It can’t actually run the ship for you

Still, while it’s more than a bit cramped, has a mere fifty ton cargo capacity, and- at least in its base configuration – is easily identifiable and has no stealth systems whatsoever, it’s also got the one thing that’s important to most player characters. At a mere 20 CP, it’s cheap.

Cost / Vehicle Characteristics
0 STR 10/55
0 DEX 10
-1 BODY 9/18
0 SPD 2
45 Size Increase-9: 32 hexes (1,377 sq ft), 16 inside, 32 passengers, 8″ long x 4″ wide, 50,000 kg, KB -9, DCV -2 (Mod -5)
9 DEF 5; Coverage: Complete, -0; Protects: Top and Bottom, -0
-12 Ground Movement (0″, NC: 0″, 0mph); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×2, +0

5 Elemental Control: Starship Powers (15-pt reserve); OIF (Drive and Power Systems): -½; Focus Type: Vehicular, -½; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½; Generic Limitation (Primary Starship Systems Only): -½

  • a-5 Life Support (total)
  • b-10 Thrusters / Flight (10″, NC: 1,250″, 930mph); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×125, +30; Stall: None, -0; Extra Time: 1 turn, -1; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½
  • c-4 Vortex Drive / Faster-Than-Light Travel (1000 LY/Year); Extra Time: 1 turn, -1; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½
  • d-9 Temporal Drive / Extra-Dimensional Movement; Dimensions: One, +0; Time Travel: Any Time, +40; Extra Time: 5 min., -2; Generic Limitation (Time and Timeline Travel Only): -½; Generic Limitation (Unreliable in GMO ways.): -1; Mass Multiplier: ×1, +0; Carrying Mass: None; Trigger (Incoming Paradox): Set, +¼ (7 End)
  • e-5 Navigational Warp Sensors / Danger Sense (Out of Combat, Anywhere); Works: Out of Combat, +5; Range: Anywhere, +15; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; Generic Limitation (Only to detect upcoming navigational hazards during high-speed travel): -2; Auxiliary Cost (Analytical; Provides data on the nature of the navigational or ship hazard): 1 (cost 5); OIF (Drive and Power Systems): -½; Focus Type: Vehicular, -½; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½; Generic Limitation (Primary Starship Systems Only): -½ 17-
  • f-22 Computer Enhancement / Enhanced Perception (all) (+36 to PER); Generic Limitation (Only versus range modifiers): -½; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; OIF (Drive and Power Systems): -½; Focus Type: Vehicular, -½; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½; Generic Limitation (Primary Starship Systems Only): -½. Operators using sight and ship systems take no penalty to perception checks at ranges of up to 4,200 Kilometers, -2 for each doubling of the range beyond that.
  • g-14 Sensor Systems; Generic Limitation (Only versus range modifiers): -½; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; OIF (Drive and Power Systems): -½; Focus Type: Vehicular, -½; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½; Generic Limitation (Primary Starship Systems Only): -½
    • (6) 360-Degree Sensing (All); Generic Limitation (Only versus range modifiers): -½; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; OIF (Drive and Power Systems): -½; Focus Type: Vehicular, -½; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½; Generic Limitation (Primary Starship Systems Only): -½
      (2) Communications / Radio Listen and Transmit; Based on EGO Combat Value (No lightspeed delay, interstellar range): vs. ECV, +1; Generic Limitation (Only versus range modifiers): -½; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½
    • (6) Ship Scans / Spatial Awareness; Generic Limitation (Only versus range modifiers): -½; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½
    • (4) Detect Life Forms (+0 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Addition (Discriminatory Sense): +5; Generic Limitation (Only versus range modifiers): -½; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½
  • h-8 2d6 Superior Facilities and Gear: Aid Skills (Fade/hour, Max. 12); Range: 0; Generic Limitation (Effects vanish instantly on leaving the ship): -½; Autofire: 5 shots, ½; Reduced END: Zero, +1; Affects: All Powers of Special Effect, +2; Generic Limitation (Provides a maximum bonus of +3 to rolls): -1. The Errant Time carries a wide variety of equipment, library data, and other gear – offering those aboard a substantial boost in the use of their various skills.
  • i-12 Shields / Force Field (15 PD/15 ED); Reduced END: Zero, +½; Hardened: ×1, ¼
  • j-5 Power Plant / END Reserve (200 END, 10 REC/turn). This is for the benefit of any equipment that the passengers bring aboard; the engines provide all the power the ship itself needs since all the ship systems are at 0 End cost anyway.
  • k-4 Internal Lights, Gravity, Etc / Change Environment (2″ rad.); Effect: Variable, +1; Reduced END: Zero & Persistent, +1; Selective Target: +¼; Generic Limitation (Only internal): -1
  • l-27 1d6 Warp Cannon Battery: Ranged Killing Attack; Range: 485; Based on EGO Combat Value: vs. ECV, +1; Champions Advantage (Does Body. Use normal DCV versus operators ECV): +2; Reduced END: Zero, +1; Autofire: 5 shots, ½; Penetrating: +1
  • m-4 Autorepair Systems / Regeneration (3 BODY/day); Regenerate: Lost Limbs and Organs, +10; Charges: 1, -2. Basically the ship can self-repair up to three points of body per day. It can repair specific systems as well, but it will take more time.

175 Vehicle Cost

100+ Disadvantages (Cost: 100/5 = 20)

  • 15 Distinctive Features: Starship; Concealability: Not Concealable, 15; Reaction: Noticed and Recognizable, +0
  • 10 Watched: Law Enforcement (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful,
  • 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Only Watching: ×½; Punishment: Harsh, 0
  • 20 Vulnerability: Magic (2× Effect); Attack: Common, +10
  • 20 Requires regular resupply, refueling, and skilled maintenance. (Frequently, Fully)
  • 10 2d6 Unluck (Despite how BORING space really is, weird stuff happens to or aboard the ship at regular intervals).

75 Disadvantages Total

Herodotus, the onboard AI:

Val / Char / Cost
23 INT 13
8 EGO -4
0 DEX -30
1 SPD 0

Characteristic Rolls: STR: 9-, DEX: 9-, CON: 9-, INT: 14-, EGO: 11-, PER: 14-

Cost Powers END/Roll

  • 15 Detect Temporal Disturbances (+0 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Transdimensional (Through Time. “Range Modifiers” are based on how far in the past or the future the disturbance is.): Single Dimension, +½
  • 3 Detect Current Location (+0 to PER); Time Required: Half Phase, +0; Range: Touch, +0

Cost Skills, Talents, Perks Roll
10 Universal Translator; Generic Limitation (Written Material Only): -1 14-
3 Absolute Time Sense
3 Cryptography 14-
3 Scholar
2 History 14-
2 Alternate Timelines 14-
2 Paratemporal Equipment 14-
2 Galactigraphy 14-
2 Current Dimensional News 14-
2 Astronomy 14-
2 Immunity to Temporal Shifts; Frequency: Fairly Common

0+ Disadvantages
15 Highly Protective of Existing Timelines (Common, Strong)
15 Always Obeys Orders of Superiors (Very Common, Moderate)

ECV: 3; Mental Def.: 0; Phases: 7

Costs: Char: -21, Disad:30, Powers: + 51, Total: = 30

Eclipse, Minions, Occult Skills, and Evil Overlords

And today, to answer Veebs, it’s a look at how to acquire reliable Minions in Eclipse and a new Occult Skill for it. After all, every evil overlord, ruler, mercenary leader, pokemon trainer, spymaster, thieves guild, super-secret organization, and mad scientists needs a staff.

Unfortunately, it’s getting a reliable staff instead of incompetent and treacherous boobs that’s the hard part – especially for the bad guys. In a game it’s even worse; if you use minions for anything whatsoever – even if it’s just background fluff – sooner or later the game master will give into the temptation and use them for comic relief, or have them completely bungle some incredibly simple assignment, or have them backstab you, because it’s easy, funny, or fits the plot.

There isn’t any way around that. The game master gets to edit the universe however he or she wants. Still, you can reduce the temptation by making such betrayals involve really awkward explanations – complicated enough that the game master won’t want to bother unless he or she has something important in mind.

So what are the options for acquiring some Minons in Eclipse?

  • Companions – especially Psicrystals and Familiars – are normally about as reliable as it gets. After all, they’re basically pieces of YOU. Having them betray you requires some really special effect (such as the Harrow Deck of Many Things), you developing a split personality, or being possessed, or some such. On the other hand… they’re limited in a number of ways and that link with you is a pretty big point of vulnerability for you.
  • Animal Companions and Mystic Mounts are also quite reliable – after all, without you they cannot maintain their abilities and may lose access to the material plane – but they may still prefer that to some horrible fate, threats to their families (if any), or similar forms of blackmail. It will have to be pretty good though.
  • Dominion – a necessary first step in the path of Godhood – offers the ability to grant people minor templates known as “Offices”. Those come with some built-in disadvantages – and if you’re a supernatural entity, there’s no reason why you can’t talk the game master into including “compulsive loyalty to you” as one of them. Again, that’s not perfect – but it should suffice for most circumstances.
  • The Path of the Pharaoh leads to Godhood – and offers the “Minions” ability, allowing a God (however minor) to have at least a few loyal and reliable agents. Unfortunately, these are better adapted to staff positions, rather than combat and espionage – but outside of “war in heaven” scenarios, such minions are quite reliable. Even better, if you can afford it, you can use Endowment and Greater Endowment to offer ongoing rewards for loyalty. Bonus points (literally) if you can talk the game master into allowing you to Corrupt (also literally) the powers you bestow so as to compel continuing loyalty once someone has become a loyal follower and acquired them.
  • Witchcraft offers several ways to collect minions.
    • Spirit Binding allows the user to seal contracts, basically enforcing “dealing in good faith” – with the consequences for violations in the hands of the game master (although Veebs notion of becoming hunted by Inevitables is an excellent suggestion). This allows those classical “contracts signed in blood” with chaotic creatures that nevertheless keep their words and so on. Unfortunately, this is still only a minor ability – and even with the full consent of those it’s applied to, it’s power is limited.
    • Similarly, Lure of Darkness provides a modest selection of extremely loyal minions – but they don’t necessarily have any special defense against weird methods of subversion, ranging from the basic Charm spell on up thorough exotic technologies. Secondarily, their fairly extreme loyalty comes at the expense of numbers. This is still an excellent option if you only need a few minions though.
  • Gaining Followers at “name level” was the classic way to get some reasonably reliable followers (in the case of Rangers, often some quite exotic ones). Later editions, where reaching “name level” was no longer remarkable, replaced getting followers with an optional “Leadership” feat – which has become the Leadership chain of abilities in Eclipse. By default Leadership gets you reasonably, but not absurdly loyal followers. Just don’t expect them to put up with abuse, being sent into suicidal situations, or otherwise overstressed. You could upgrade to Thrallherd of course – but going for badly-written material isn’t really recommended. Upgrading with Eclipse’s line of advanced abilities leads to Emperor’s Star – an ability that effectively lets you apply a minor Template to your followers.

Now do-it-yourself Templates can be stuffed full of useful abilities, such as “Mystic Link” (to allow your minions to supply you with power and transport themselves to you when needed), you can give them mental defenses against being forced to betray you – and you can throw in ways to ensure your minions loyalty. If you’re really lucky, and have a generous game master, you may even be able to get loyalty thrown in as a Corruption or Specialization. Even if not… it’s inherently a condition on keeping the Emperor’s Star template. If they are no longer loyal followers, the boosts you’re providing will no longer apply. Templated Minions aren’t quite as reliable as divine servants, but they’re pretty good. On the other hand… a lot of game masters have problems with Leadership.

  • Constructs – whether templated or built – are usually nicely reliable, and can be acquired through one of the optional modifiers on Leadership or (far more expensively) through building them yourself (or as minor variations on divine minions) – but constructs, AI’s, computers, and similar creations tend to be quite limited and, while they’ll never betray you under normal circumstances, can always be reprogrammed. They’re usually only really useful as guards and labor on simple projects.
  • Undead are generally a poor choice. Like it or not, they have no positive emotions – or at least none that aren’t left over from life. They have no loyalty, no affection, no gratitude, no trust, and no real desire to be anything but a blight on all life. They want to cause misery, pain, and death. Even if you’ve got the Witchcraft ability that lets you use social skills against undead, or have some other special power over them, they just aren’t very reliable. Not only do they draw heroes, but as soon as someone disrupts your control they’ll be off on a rampage. Now if you happen to be a lich, and that’s your thing, then go ahead and build yourself a legion of the dead. If you’re pretty much any other kind of character it’s probably best to do something else.
  • Summoned Creatures are powerful, and compelled to obedience – but they generally do not like being bound to the whims of some mortal one little bit, and the longer you keep them bound the less they like it. Given that the more powerful ones tend to be sapient, are simply returned home if “slain”, and can come back later it’s rarely a very good idea to try and keep them around for long. Worse, it takes quite a lot of magical power to keep them around.

You can get around some of these problems by sticking to lesser creatures, and to others by using something like the Profession/Demonology skill – but that will only get you a few minor minions. There’s a price for everything.

If you simply want some support staff (and perhaps a base), the easiest route is probably to take the Sanctum ability – and purchase Leadership and some other benefits using those points. There’s more about that option in the Castle Hieronymus article. Such followers are pretty reliable since they have the usual loyalty of followers derived from Leadership, usually aren’t exposed to any major risks, and don’t go on adventures. Sadly, just as it makes them less likely to cause problems for you, it makes them less useful.

If all you want is some servants and such, Privilege, Mystic Artist (Fame and Wealth), or just investing in some Hirelings will cover you. Such minions have no special loyalty, and little or no real power – but there’s no real reason to care if they betray you either.

You can borrow minions with Action Hero/Influence, with Contacts and Favors, or – in a way – with the Foresight skill (the Goon Squad option) with little risk; since they aren’t really working for you for any lengthy period,

Now, if you don’t want Witchcraft or Companions, and your game master doesn’t want player characters taking Leadership, Dominion, or Godhood (which is not unreasonable; those are some easily abused options), your options are narrowed considerably. In this case you may want Occult Skill/Minions.

Minions (Cha) (Commonly an Occult Skill):

There is an art to collecting and managing minions – and you’re mastering it.

Check: To see if your minions are loyal enough to risk themselves for you or resist attempts to subvert them, to see if their general orders cover specific situations well enough to keep them doing what you’d want, to keep them organized and disciplined in a crisis situation, to have them anticipate your minor needs, to locate hirelings, and to find henchmen. Unusually, you do not actually have to be there – or even aware of the need – to roll.

Action: None for the initial roll. It may take hours or days to find new notable minions. A retry is a full round action.

Retry: Yes, but you have to actually be there to retry a roll.

Special: Your permanent (discounting temporary bonuses) minion skill rank also provides some actual minions to work with. In general, a minion (or small group of generic minions) will “cost” one skill rank, plus one rank per notable quality possessed. Thus a celebrity with a base score of +13 might have an expert manager (2), a tough, skilled, bodyguard (3), a small pack of obsessive fans to run errands and warm his or her bed (2), a squad of hulking, intimidating, goons (3), and an expert, close-mouthed, lawyer (3). A computer hacker with “minions” +9 might employ a secretive expert tech (3), a cluster of semi-sentient AI search-worms (4) that help him out online, and a set of security drones (2). Gang leaders may have thugs, runners, and lieutenants, upper-class twits may have incredibly competent butlers who run their lives for them, and so on.

The Minions skill is an excellent choice if you only want a few minions – and bonus skill points are a lot easier to come by than bonus character points. Even more importantly… the ability to roll to keep your minions on track when you’re not there, are incapacitated, or even if you’re dead, can be incredibly useful.

And hopefully that will help!

Gaming and Child Development

Today it’s a request from an old player for an old file… and why not? It’s come in handy often enough.

Games tend to be full of child prodigies, forty year old elven kids, kids with magical enhancements, and more. Secondarily, a lot of gamers are relatively young, have no kids of their own, and their own early memories are subject to the usual distortion. Given that… it’s awfully easy to forget what real kids are like at various ages. Ergo, here we have a quick-reference summary:

Presuming that nothing goes wrong, the development of more-or-less “ordinary” human children goes something like this:

One Year: At this age a child can be expected to use simple words, walk, and begin being awake a majority of the time. It’s parents can begin expecting to get a good nights sleep again. In more “primitive” societies, there is also about a 20% chance that any given child will die before this point – presuming that they are not disposed of intentionally.

Two Years: At this point children can be expected to have a basic vocabulary (350+ words) and grammar, can be given simple instructions (Obedience is another matter), and become quite exhausting, as they can now run, jump, and hide, fairly effectively. They can begin dealing with problems using one-step reasoning; “If I push the bottle over, the cookies will fall out”. Unfortunately, multi- step reasoning (“And then mommy will be angry”) does not yet make an appearance.

Three Years: A child can now be expected to manage a variety of simple errands (basic fetching and carrying), and can be taught to carry out fairly complex routine tasks such as dressing themselves, minor ceremonies, gathering wild foods, and so on – as long as such routines don’t involve many choices and aren’t overly complex. This will still generally require slow, patient, and persistent teaching. They can also cooperate effectively and identify their families well enough for strangers to find them.

Four Years: Children of this age can be given “long term” contingency instructions (“Tell me if the cow gets out”), chase crows, feed small domestic animals, and can be entrusted with simple multi-step tasks (“Take this out to your father and come right back”). Precocious children may begin learning the alphabet – or even begin reading. There’s even a decent chance of a “sensible” reaction in an emergency, or of them recognizing it when something’s seriously wrong, but not of anticipating problems. This means that their projects can go seriously wrong without adult supervision.

Five Years: At this point children normally begin to generalize and apply basic logic to problems, permitting them to begin undertaking more complicated tasks, and to begin compensating for variations in conditions. Typical tasks include minding smaller children, distributing the fieldworker’s lunches, cleaning up, and acting as servants or assistants for their elders. Some can be apprenticed in specialized, “primitive” fields (drumming, weaving, and so on – things which involve a lot of repetition of basic patterns). They may begin making an effective contribution to their families. Most of those who are going to die in childhood (Up to 50% in primitive cultures) have already done so, although accidents and such continue to claim a few. They are now “commodities” with some value to those without a genetic or emotional commitment to their well- being – and can be effectively exploited with supervision.

Six Years: At this age children may be “expected” to have a vocabulary of 2500 words or more, and begin to be able to handle abstract ideas applied to classes. In the practical realm, most can now be apprenticed, and can be expected to be fairly reliable without supervision.

Seven Years: At this point children usually begin to become “reasonable”, and can have things explained without a concrete example to focus on. They are ready for more formal schooling. On a more practical level, at this age they can act as effective spies, be imbued with exotic and irrational beliefs, can act as effective child-soldiers, and be competent servants. In terms of physical tasks they are now limited by their size, strength, and knowledge – not by their basic ability. As a side issue, adults will generally begin viewing a child of seven as a small, and inexperienced, person – rather then as a sort of incomp- rehensible alien life form.

Eleven Years: Sexual play becomes common unless it’s culturally inhibited. Puberty, and fertility, may occur at any point from now on – although this depends heavily on factors such as food, disease, and exercise. Thirteen is common in “modern” societies, where food is plentiful and disease and exercise rare. Fifteen is more common in primitive societies. It must be noted that boys usually become fertile before puberty, but that girls undergo it about two years earlier then boys do on the average. In any case, puberty is usually accompanied by rebellious and quarrelsome tendencies, as the child begins to establish a seperate identity from his or her caregivers.

Twelve Years: Children may begin developing “formal” thinking skills at this age, including abstract logic, a generalized system of ethical principles, the testing of hypotheses, and organized experimentation. Pure sciences and mathematics (Such as geometry) become attractive. It should be noted that many people never reach this level, and most of those that do require an extensive education to do so.

Fourteen to Sixteen Years: Common age of majority in “primitive” cultures, although individual cases vary. In more “advanced” cultures – where adult status is delayed in favor of further training – puberty becomes a primary source of conflict, even if full physical maturity isn’t achieved until seventeen to twenty years.

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