Eclipse – Sample Races, Templates, and Characters Update

Here, at last, is an updated index to all the Eclipse-Style Races, Templates, Power Packages, and Sample Characters on the blog.I’m going to sticky this and try to keep it reasonably current from now on.

If you’re building a character, the usual sequence will be Race – Template (if any) – Basic Build, so that’s how this is organized. If you’re looking for “how-to” information, next up is the level-by-level class breakdowns and the general power-package information and examples. After that, for inspiration, swiping power packages from, and use in other games, comes the sample higher-level characters.

Character Creation and System Primer

Sample Races:

Sample Templates:

Eclipse Pathfinder:

Eclipse handles Pathfinder just fine – so here are Eclipse breakdowns for Pathfinder –Basics and Races and the class breakdowns for the  Alchemist, Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, FighterMonk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer and Summoner. The sample characters are pretty much all compatible with Pathfinder; if they don’t already have the Pathfinder Package Deal from Basics and Races simply add +2 to an attribute and +3 to their skills.

Sample Level One Character Builds:

Level-by-Level Class Breakdowns:

General Build Information and Power Packages:

Sample High-Level Characters:

. . Note that these characters were generally built for particular campaigns, and so are sometimes built using campaign-specific variants – usually a price break on especially-relevant abilities. These are covered in the Campaign Sheets for the relevant campaigns – Federation-Apocalypse Campaign, Ironwinds Campaign, Atheria Campaign, Twilight Isles Campaign, and Darkweird Campaign.

Level Two Sample Characters:

Level Three Sample Characters:

Level Four Sample Characters:

Level Five Sample Characters:

Level Six Sample Characters:

Level Seven Sample Characters:

Level Eight Sample Characters:

Higher Level Sample Characters:

Level Ten and Twenty Breakdowns:

Alzrius has also put up quite a few Eclipse characters on his Intelligence Check blog – including quite a few interpretations of popular characters from a variety of sources. Pretty much all of them are written up for Pathfinder, and usually use the Pathfinder Package Deal.

  • Rinoa, from Final Fantasy via Dead Fantasy, a powerful 15’th level spellcaster – along with the Hyne Witch template and a discussion of many of the other characters.
  • Pyrrha Nikos, a 7th-level Huntress-in-training, along with statistics for Vytal Humans, three Martial Arts, and some world background and discussion.
  • Sharalia, a Level One Fire Dancer – a character who controls flame through dance.
  • A 20’th level breakdown for an Antimage –  a “class” that specializes in negating the powers of dangerous spellcasters.
  • The Maedar – a racial template breakdown for a male medusa.
  • Sailor Saturn – a fragile young woman from the Sailor Moon anime with some exceptionally over-the-top powers.
  • Scorpion from Mortal Kombat, written up at the peak of his powers – along with the Netherrealm Ghost template and three Martial Arts.
  • Sam Winchester, a level three paranormal investigator from the Supernatural television series.
  • Varek, a Level Six Cleric with some support abilities.
  • Abraham Lincoln, Level Twelve Civil Warrior of the United States of America – with a touch of Vampire Hunter and including his Martial Art.
  • Agent Spin – a Second Level Elite Beat Agent who gets sent… to encourage people in trouble.
  • Gargamel, a First Level Incompetent Ritualist and Bumbler – perhaps fortunately, without statistics for Smurfs.
  • Spinnerette, a Level Five Spider-Style Superheroine/
  • Malecite, a Level Ten Villainous Mage from Suburban Knights, along with Malecite’s Hand, a vastly powerful relic and various new spells.
  • Dirk Markson, a Level One Dark Witch – and possible hero.
  • Barney Stinson (Scroll Down), a Level One Sitcom Inhabitant – from How I Met Your Mother.

Alzrius’s Eclipse d20 Ponies:

Alzrius built his ponies so as to fit into “standard” d20 games – whereas I used the “Superheroic” world template because it would allow my builds to reproduce the things that the ponies did on the show. Of course, that means that my builds will only work well in games based on the assumptions of Equestria; they won’t do so well in basic games. For those, courtesy of Alzrius, we have…

  • The Pony Races:  Earth Ponies, Pegasi, and Unicorns.
  • The Elements of Harmony:  Built as Eclipse Relics.
  • Rarity:  Starting off the series at level one! Commentary: Using the Elements of Harmony to cover the characters occasional incredible stunts.
  • Princess Celestia: As she generally appears on the show – as a ninth-level mentor-type who explains why she can’t handle things.
  • Adagio of the Sirens: Unreformed, still at large, and needing only an enchanted gem to make a comeback.
  • Lex Legis (And his Picture): Alzrius’s original character – and a very “gray” potential opponent.
  • Notes on Zecora: A discussion of just how much power – or lack thereof – is needed to build Zecora. Comments: My take on Zebras.
  • The Journal of the Two Sisters – and lapses in logic therein. Comments: Unicorn populations and birthrates, basic demographics – and why the “Unicorns losing their magic” story makes no sense in any terms.
  • Iliana, the Ponyfinder Queen: An examination of how to use Eclipse to customize – and slightly upgrade – a Ponyfinder queen to fit her history.
  • Lashtada, Ponyfinder Goddess:  As set up using The Primal Order for second edition.
  • Sonata Dusk: As appearing in his Fanfiction.
  • A Magical Medieval Society: Equestria: Building equestrian society using “A Magical Medieval Society”.
  • Baby Got Backlash: Flurry Heart and Magical Surges
  • Tempest Shadow: The movie antagonist escapes into d20, rather than remaining to face the friendship

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 d20 – Alchemical Creations, The Item List

As for the alchemical products list, we have…

The Pinnacle – Grand Alchemy.

Grandiose, Mythic, or “Arcane” Alchemical Creations pretty much give reality the finger – and, as such, calls for extremely high DC Crafting Stunts, Grandiose Reality Editing, or massive acts of magic. This is the sort of thing that makes most Wizards, Psychics, AND Scientists go “Whaaaaa?”.

There are two major categories of High Alchemy – Arcane Materials and Arcana Essences – and one specific procedure, the Arcane Antithesis.

Arcane Materials exhibit unnatural properties. They may remain perpetually hot or cold, have virtually no weight, be near-perfect insulators, want to accelerate endlessly, maintain a sourceless difference in electrical potential across themselves, amplify or frequency-shift light, be superconductors, block magic, or gravity, or some other force, or be incredibly tough. If you want to make a boat with sails that catch the winds of thought that blow through the astral plane at superluminal speeds… this is the discipline you want. There are thousands of possibilities here from everburning cooking logs on through armored clothing and nightsight goggles and on up to space drives. Just remember that his sort of thing makes no sense and you will save yourself a headache.

Arcane Essences are distilled forces and conditions. Sanity, Magnetism (or “Lodestone”), Gravity, Darkness, Winter, Purity, Curses, Lightning, Rage, Luck – or even things like “Knowledge”, “South”, “Up”, “Entropy”, “Life” (also known as “Aqua Vitae”), “Death” (“Aqua Mortis”), or “Time”. Released without control, their effects are unpredictable and crude. Breaking a vial of Gravity is likely to cause an implosion (and perhaps a mild earthquake), followed by an explosion as the compressed materials expand again. With some method of control essences can be used for all kinds of tricks – so anyone who wants to get into Essences will want some magical or technical ability to control what they do when they’re released. Perhaps some Gadgetry again? A gravity-powered Flight Harness, a Solar Blaster, and a Magnetic Force Shield would be quite useful – and giving them an external power sources will bypass the usual usage restrictions on gadgets in favor of their alchemical “ammunition”. Once again, this kind of thing is in the realm of concepts made physical. It’s not going to make any sense unless, perhaps, you can manage to squint properly with your brain.

Arcane Antithesis: This operation does only one thing; it creates a negative version of something. Not just something like “antimatter”, which has a positive rest mass and yields energy when combined with normal matter. This means Negative Matter. Negative Energy. Negative Entropy. Negative Information. A hole in the multiverse. Something which isn’t just unlikely; it’s impossible. This is generally a lengthy project, is limited to things that might fit in a moving van, and requires the constant presence of the original thing you’re making an antithesis of.

Once you’re done the two will annihilate, leaving nothing. This isn’t quite final and absolute – but it’s about as close as you’re likely to get. Sure, there is undoubtedly another one of whatever it was coming into existence elsewhere in the multiverse, but you can be pretty sure that whatever it was – even if it was an indestructible artifact – is out of your life for a very long time to come. If you really must get rid of something this will generally do it for you.

Mastery – High Alchemy

High Alchemy still cheats – but it cheats a lot less than Grandiose Alchemy does. It still calls for Major Reality Editing, very high DC Crafting Stunts, or magic of around level six, but the things that it produces mostly operate in comprehensible ways. It too has three basic branches – Condensates, Devices, and Lifeshaping.

Condensates are pretty straightforward: you make something smaller and more concentrated with no loss in its effects. You can thus turn bottled potions into little capsules, store great amounts of water in small flasks, turn excellent six-course meals into sticks of chewing gum, make air pills that last for hours, turn various alchemical items into drops or little “gems”, turn drums of fuel oil into drops of “pyroconcentrate”, turn high-pressure steam into a dry powder (a substitute for explosives in the many worlds that don’t allow them), condense light into liquids (possible “blaster ammo”), modify equipment so that it can be expanded from, or collapsed into, little capsules, or even try to extract and condense information – perhaps turning a mass of magnetic tapes into a DVD or allowing you to drink a book instead of studying it.

The main problem with Condensates is that – for the most part – they’re simply more convenient to carry. Unless the GM is really into rocketry, and is worried about the delta-v of various fuels, it’s impressive to put a few drops of fuel into a locomotive’s firebox and have it run at full power for hours – but in settings offering easy access to extradimensional storage space, that is really all it is. There’s nothing wrong with that, and condensates are often useful, but they’re rarely a major factor unless you really MUST hide something in a false tooth.

Devices are fairly simple: they are built using alchemical techniques and so work much better than their actual construction and the designers skill justifies. A suit of armor full of clockwork might operate as a mechanical man, capable of reasoning and performing skilled tasks. A statue might function as a basic Golem. Paint might make what is painted real (See “Marvelous Pigments”). A cup or fork might purify poisons. A camera might function (if no such items exist) or reveal mysterious and normally invisible presences or reveal desires or someone’s inner nature (if cameras exist in the setting). A skeleton key might conform itself to any lock. A precious alchemical stone might function as a universal magical component, losing value as expensive spells are cast. A rod of lead (which resists various magics) might absorb several spells before melting. A flask might hold a dimensional pocket that can safely contain virtually anything. A wand of strangely alloyed gold (“Orichalcum”) might enhance spells – either slightly or a great deal but only a few times. A whip might hit like it was as heavy as mercury and be impossible to grasp save by the handle. A compass fitted with a chip of material might always point towards the main mass the chip was taken from. A spear of dissimilar metals might discharge electrical arcs on impact.

Devices are pretty classical “you get equipment bonuses”. The trouble is that they generally have to be created by the alchemist in their entirety, tend to require a certain amount of maintenance, and so are limited by personal skills. In game terms, if you have the ability to enhance your items this way, each relevant skill (usually Craft, but others may be eligible in particular cases) provides “gadget points” equal to it’s base rating (Skill Base + Attribute Modifier + Skill-Enhancing Feats) to invest in relevant items – although their overall effectiveness is always limited by the characters level. Thus the GM might rule that Craft/Armor and Craft/Clockwork can both contribute “Gadget Points” to the cost of a Clockwork Soldier (Say, 10 Points) – but that cost will go down as the character goes up in level and said Soldier goes from being a very useful ally to a minor distraction. Alternatively, if someone only wants to dabble in this form of Alchemy, an Occult Skill (Equipment Enhancement or some such) may be in order.

Lifeshaping allows an alchemist to extract qualities from living things, either storing them for later use or imbuing them into other living things or even artifacts – whether by purely mystical means, grafting tissues, or bizarre surgeries. Sadly, the extraction process is generally fairly destructive (although getting a use of a breath weapon, or dose of poison from a serpent, or some such is usually simple enough), so transferring the abilities of sapient beings around is generally pretty unethical. Moreover, it is much, MUCH, easier to give something a temporary ability than it is to make it permanent. Thus a practitioner might extract the strength of a bull – perhaps creating an elixir / “mutagen” to let someone take on that attribute temporarily, or imbuing it into an item to make it move on it’s own, or even attempting to transfer it permanently into another creature to replace it’s own strength.

Possibilities with lifeshaping include monster creation (usually starting with some minor life form too weak to hold it’s pattern well and infusing it with the desired abilities), creating “mutagens”, grafts, or “animal elixirs” capable of bestowing animalistic powers (either temporarily, permanently, or inducing something akin to Therianthropy), the transference or storage of souls, imbuing objects with temporary or permanent life, supercharging bacteria to create plagues, deadly mists and slimes, and similar weaponry), bioengineering lifeforms to produce useful products or byproducts, supercharging higher life forms to temporarily boost them or induce regeneration (sometimes known as “flesh glue), raising the (very recently) dead, extending lifespans, restoring personal energies, curing cases of disease or poisoning, restoring lost bodily functions, and making various kinds of “animal extracts”, such as putting a Rust Monsters power in a rod, or a use of Dragon’s Breath in a potion, or just smearing a location with Manticore Musk to scare off most other predators.

Of course, the problem here is that you have to have a source for the property you want to extract and bestow. That’s generally not much of a problem with common domestic animals, and only a moderate problem with less common ones – but if you want to give someone the strength, diving ability, and swimming ability of a sperm whale… you will likely have some considerable difficulty in catching one alive, getting it into your laboratory, building apparatus to fit, and basically distilling vital functions from it – especially since it is almost certain to resist. Stealing functions from intelligent creatures – basically rendering them down for useful bits – is generally about as unethical as it gets. That’s why “creating monsters” is usually a thing for villains, not heroes.

Journeyman Procedures – Middle Alchemy

Middle Alchemy doesn’t cheat very much. “Notable” Reality Editing, High – but not particularly Epic – DC’s, and Spells of level three or less will suffice. It covers Compounds, Firecrafting, and Drugs and Toxins.

Compounds exploit the inherent, natural, magic of animals, plants, and minerals. The witch doctor who prepares a meal of Lions Heart to imbue youngsters facing their rite of manhood with courage, the jeweler combining metal and carefully chosen gems to exploit their magic, and the herbalist brewing mystical tonics are all simply activating the magic inherent in their materials, rather than creating enchantments of their own.

Compounds are indeed magical, but tend to be quite specific and more powerful effects tend to either have prices attached, don’t last very long, or call for extremely exotic magical materials since there is only so much magic inherent in most materials. Thus, unlike most d20 “crafting”, these recipes tend to call for specific ingredients rather than simply assigning a generic raw material cost. This also means that this field offers a list of specific applications (determined by the user’s skill and what components are available), rather than a generic description of how it works and what is possible. Ergo, here are some possibilities. There are plenty of others of course – but there is no guarantee that the ingredients for any of these will be available in any particular setting.

  • Bane Powder or Venom: Damages some type of creature, bypassing most defenses. Often applied to weapons.
  • Beast Draught: Temporarily grants a specific animal ability or may permanently grant a personality trait appropriate to the source animal.
  • Birthstones, when set in appropriate metals and combined with appropriate symbols may have actual – if minor – magical powers. Or just be superstitions. That depends on the setting.
  • Bloodfire Catalyst: Turns the user’s blood into an outrageously corrosive substance and makes the user resistant to acid while this effect lasts. Fire based versions also exist, but are even trickier to make.
  • Bottled Sleep: Acts like a days rest, but uses deep reserves – making it effective only once per month.
  • Burgeoning Verdigris Elixir: Makes plants grow in mere moments.
  • Canned Fog: Pours out a sizeable cloud when opened. Other weather can also be canned; tornado in a can anyone?
  • Canopy Of Waters: The air in a fair radius remains breathable, but the area is effectively underwater: fires won’t burn, people can swim through the air, and so on.
  • Dark Elixir: Drinking this allows the user to use any one shadow magic spell of level two or less, or one specific shadow magic spell (chosen when the elixir is brewed) of level three. It can also be used to add +20% reality to a Shadow Magic spell cast normally. Sadly, the components are very rare.
  • Dental Paste: Mends and restores teeth.
  • Draught (or Paint) Of Living Death: Makes a living creature seem to be undead.
  • Ectoplasmic Dream: Creates a vision, phantasm, or dream when opened, the general type of vision or phantasm must be defined in advance, but the user may determine the details.
  • Ectoplasmic Draught: Allows the user to exhale a Psychic Construct.
  • Elixir Of Mental Clarity: Relieves any mental affliction, including senility and being near death for a time.
  • Entropic Salts: Cause devices and structures to breakdown or fail. A pinch might rust a lock into uselessness or break a wagon wheel, a handful might cause a tank engine to fail or a treat to snap.
  • Foamstone: Expands enormously, and then becomes as hard and durable as granite,
  • Fumes Of Vision: These grant clairvoyant visions, capable of crossing space, time, and dimension, but aren’t especially reliable and offer very little control. Concentrating on something will usually get a few somehow-relevant glimpses if the GM is feeling cooperative though.
  • Golem Transformation: The user temporarily takes on the traits of a Construct.
  • Liquid Metals can transform from solid to liquid and back again when properly triggered, This also covers “memory metals” that can take on many detailed forms.
  • Reanimation Elixir: Raises the recently dead for a short time.
  • Recharging Bath: Adds charges to a charged magical item over a time proportionate to the charge cost.
  • Sacred Balm: Acts as a Panacea spell, albeit at minimal caster level. Often requires very rare components or the blessing of a major, good-oriented, religious figure.
  • Sacrificial Incense: Can summon and manifest minor spirits and makes an acceptable offering to any spirit or divine being.
  • Scroll Ink; Allows the user to scribe scrolls without a feat or XP cost.
  • Spectral Sand: Dissolves into brilliant rainbow light when thrown, an effect similar to Color Spray.
  • Spell Catalysts” These make specific spells or groups thereof either more powerful or easier to cast.
  • Tangle (Foam, Webbing, etc) is basically an area-effect relative of the Tanglefoot Bag.
  • Tempering Oil makes objects it is applied to considerably more durable.
  • Universal Solvent is hard to store and use, but often surprisingly effective.
  • Vigil Candles: Grant a minor blessing to a specified individual when burned, no matter where they are if blessed / holy. If cursed / unholy they inflict a minor, temporary, curse on them.
  • Waters Of Alchemical Sulfur: When applied to a mundane item it permanently gains the Masterwork quality.
  • Wraith Dust: When thrown adheres to ghosts and other intangible apparitions and renders them temporarily solid.
  • Yielding Grave Elixir: Raises small numbers of weak undead permanently or lots of weak undead temporarily, can temporarily enhance the powers of greater undead.

This particular option can be a lot of fun. You can go questing for rare ingredients and tell people that you could cure that condition if you just had some specific components, and so on – but if you get too far into it, you can wind up with people wanting to know what components can be found in every monsters corpse, and along every path, and in every town, which is more than a bit boring. With Compounds you need to be careful to strike a balance. This also fits in fairly well with the Ceremonial Magic rules, although powerful magical components can quite reasonably upgrade the results that can be achieved.

Firecrafts are mostly straightforward, and fall under Middle Alchemy for two reasons – because quite a lot of worlds normally disallow simple explosives, rockets, guns, and super-concentrated fuels unless you use magic in their construction and because using a little magic to make them so greatly decreases the chance of either setting yourself on fire or producing catastrophic explosions. Other than that… in any world where fireworks work properly, this sort of thing is usually relatively cheap and adding special ingredients may produce unusual effects. An alchemist who specializes in blowing things up can be quite formidable.

  • Catalysts and Inhibitors can speed or slow chemical reactions, induce fevers (and a limited form of Haste) or suspended animation, extinguish or enhance fires, preserve unstable materials for later use, counteract poisons or make them take effect near-instantly and otherwise either vastly speed up or slow down various chemical reactions.
  • Explosives power grenades, can be formed into shaped charges blow holes in barriers, blow up areas, propel shrapnel, and power guns, cannons, and mortars. Special ammunition can be given various weapon-properties through alchemy, although the total very rarely goes above the equivalent of +3.
  • Fire Constructs take advantage of the fact that a fire can be considered something very close to a form of life – and are closely related to both Firework, Incendiaries, and Fuels. They are basically temporary “creatures” made of fire, rather like Gandalfs Fiery Dragon Firework – but capable of actually following orders, making decisions, and taking physical actions. Sure, they’re a bit insubstantial and fairly short “lived”, but they can be about as impressive as it gets.
  • Fireworks include all the usual fountains, pinwheels, rockets, bombs, firecrackers (these can be alchemically treated to drive away spirits and ghosts), and other ornamental stuff. Interestingly, fireworks can be made to give off other energies, creating auras of elemental force, holy or unholy areas, and even inclining areas towards particular alignments or types of magic. Flares in particular can light large areas, blind opponents, create strobe-like effects, act like sunlight to harm the undead and other light-susceptible creatures, and act as signals.
  • Fuels drive steam, internal combustion, and rocket engines, provide warmth, set things on long-lasting (and very intense) fire, burn underwater, and amplify fire spells.
    Incendiaries can produce fiery blasts, set an area on fire, provide long-lasting light, burst into flames when exposed to air, produce enough heat to melt metal or stone, power flame rifles and pistols – and can even leave behind small quantities of molten iron. I recommend caution when making FOOF however, no matter how skilled you are.
  • Luminaries include things like glowing chalk, luminous paint or ink, “glow sticks”, and a wide variety of other things that store or produce light. This isn’t usually a major category unless your alchemist desperately needs solar cells or nonmagical flameless lights – but simple and minor does not necessarily mean that they can’t be handy.
  • Smokes may impede vision, render the air toxic and unbreathable, cause temporary blindness, use up all the oxygen in an area, or leave various sorts of residues.

The Drugs and Toxins of Middle Alchemy both work incredibly quickly and can go a bit beyond the natural limits of such things – which is, of course, why you need alchemy to make them. This sort of thing includes d20 style poisons and antivenoms (real poisons and antitoxins generally do not take effect instantly), drugs that induce emotions, healing herbs which greatly accelerate healing by resting (about x 3), induced hibernation, powders of blindness, confusion, nausea and hallucinations, erasing memories, inducing (often poorly controlled without a lot of practice) psychic powers, vermin spray (does a fair amount of damage to vermin), hangover cures (that also work on recreational drugs), cleansing foam, generic antitoxins and disease cures, brews that knit bones, and that always-hot commodity, longevity elixirs. This may even may include the various Pulp Drugs if the game master is feeling very, VERY, generous.

The trouble with these substances is simple: they can push, augment, and disrupt the user’s body, and act unnaturally quickly – but they’re not magic. They won’t work on creatures with extremely abnormal metabolisms (or which have no metabolisms at all), their possible effects are really quite limited by d20 standards, they will lose effectiveness with overuse, and there are likely to be side effects – potentially quite serious side effects. There’s only so much combat drug that you can use before giving yourself a heart attack or stroke. That’s why most Alchemists only indulge in this sort of thing on rare occasions.

Student Brews – Low Alchemy

Low Alchemy is basically chemistry. Unlike most of the other reality-defying fields of research described above, you don’t actually need to use special powers to make it work – but a bit of Minor Reality Editing, the use of basic (generally level one) spells or even relevant level zero cantrips, and setting fairly high DC’s can vastly decrease the required time, enhance the purity and quality of the results, allow the preparation of larger quantities, let the user work with insufficient or primitive equipment, let the user skip past having to know more specific skills like “metallurgy”, and/or greatly reduce the chance of accidents. It’s still chemistry though. In a setting where characters strike like battleship guns, treat anti-tank missiles as minor annoyances, and can commonly take a one-magaton city-killing fusion bomb (according to d20 Future a mere 16d8, averaging 72 points of damage) to the face without breaking stride, Low Alchemy is fairly often convenient, but isn’t especially terrifying.

Quite a lot of Middle Alchemy can be done as Low Alchemy as well, but it makes items produced that way a lot less effective, a lot less pure, cost a lot more, and far more dangerous to make.

Given the extent of chemistry as a real science I’m not even going to try and list all the major categories of substances available – but here are a dozen that adventurers are fairly often interested in:

  • Clay and Ceramics cover pottery, bricks, tiles, cements, glazes, heat shields, synthetic bones, thermal and electrical insulators, crucibles, armor plating, catalytic surfaces, containment for various substances, terracotta, pipes, cutting edges, and many other products. Fast-setting and extra-strong varieties are reasonably often useful to adventurers.
  • Coloring Agents such as paints, dyes, enamels, bleaches, and lacquers, preserve materials, are often notable items of trade, and play a considerable role in Ritual Magic.
  • Corrosives include powerful acids and bases, as well as some substances which only affect specific targets – dissolving only steel, or only flesh. Batteries fall into this category too, as well as electroplating.
  • Distilling produces perfumes and alcohols, “cracks” crude oil into various products, separates out specific chemicals, and produces a wide variety of intoxicants.
  • Firearms, Gunpowder, and Explosives also fall under Low Alchemy IF – and ONLY IF – they normally work in the setting. If not, then it will take a much more powerful alchemist to concoct a version that will. If it’s high-energy reactions that are forbidden – such as in the Forgotten Realms where a fire god basically regards explosions as tasty candy and eats them before they can actually explode anything – you may need to go all the way up to Condensates and use the “Powdered Steam” trick. In any case, presumably I do not need to explain what guns are good for in RPG’s.
  • Gases include sleeping gas, flammable gases, nerve gases (poisons, but ones that call for a relatively small dose), mustard gas, liquified gases, anesthetics, and a wide variety of other unpleasantness.
  • Glues, Adhesives, and Sealants have a multitude of obvious uses, ranging from hull-sealing slap patches to surgery. Honestly, if an adventurer can’t think of some uses for a tube of superglue, they should go home.
  • Neutralizing agents start with compounds of clay and charcoal (which absorb and neutralize odors, water, and a wide variety of other chemical and alchemical agents), antitoxins, PH balancers to counter corrosives, water purification tablets, hygroscopic materials that suck water out of things, gas masks, and a wide variety of other chemical countermeasures.
  • Oils and Lubricants range from simple animal fats on through buckeyballs, near-frictionless, non-reactive, and “nonstick” surfaces.
  • Polymers and Plastics are used in armor, packaging, and thousands of other products. If you have a computer to look at this with, you should be familiar with a LOT of plastic products.
  • Smelting covers extracting metals and making alloys with various combinations of natural properties, glassblowing (including crafting vessels, lenses, and stained glass), making gemstones and crystals (both real and false), and even creating alloys that closely resemble precious metals without actually costing very much. If you want to be a counterfeiter you could do far worse.
  • Toxins and Medicines have problems. Poisons can be very effective in reality, but in d20 there are saving throws – and with realistic agents most of them won’t have a particularly high DC, d20 creatures often have no metabolism to be affected by realistic poisons, and are very often incredibly resistant even if they fail their saving throws. Real life medicines are only rarely up to the effectiveness of a first level spell and usually take far, FAR, too long to work. Personally, I would not waste my time. – unless you need to treat a LOT of people. After all, if it’s just three adventurers with a magical plague, you go with Cure Disease. If it’s city full of ordinary folks… a vaccine or drug which can be produced in massive batches is probably preferable.

Pathfinder’s Tinctures, Alchemical Reagents, and Power Components also fall into this category.

There are a lot more categories of Low Alchemy of course – but there isn’t a lot of point in going into them. These items may be occasionally useful, and they might even play a critical role in some special plan – but just how often will something like Pathfinder’s Paper Wall Paste (can be used to create a 5 x 5 sheet of paper that looks like a dirt wall on one round) really be that important? Why not just learn to cast Silent Image, which affects a much larger area and is at least ten thousand times as versatile?

That’s why Pathfinder added in the Alchemical Tinkering spell – which transforms one alchemical item into any other alchemical item – although given the vastly greater options for Alchemy on THIS list, that spell will only work on items of Low Alchemy (there might be higher level variants available though). That way clever players who come up with creative ideas for making some alchemical item actually useful can simply pull them out without loading themselves down with a half a ton of expensive alchemy that they will almost certainly never use.

Now there are doubtless sources with items that don’t fit into any of these categories properly out there – but there should be more than enough possibilities here for play, and this is Eclipse! if you find something really weird that you like in am obscure sourcebook… just ask your GM about including it. Odds are that it can be managed. Go ahead and post it here in the comments too; there’s no reason not to share.

Eclipse d20 – Alchemical Creation

There are several ways to handle d20 alchemy. While some of the general ideas were discussed HERE, there have been enough “how to” questions that it’s time for some specifics.

  • Eclipse includes a list of alchemical spells (on page 22) as one of it’s examples. So first up we have Alchemical Spellcasting. It’s effective – and not much of a departure from standard d20 magic – but it doesn’t quite suit the idea of an alchemist in his lab, with hundreds of his creations ready to hand. A dedicated Alchemical Caster could just buy the list multiple times since it’s fairly cheap, but it still won’t be THAT many spells. Obviously enough, given the power level of actual spells, this approach cannot allow that huge laboratory stockpile – or it would allow any alchemist with some time and a Handy Haversack to haul along hundreds of powerful alchemical items and thus be prepared for anything and everything.

If you’re going to allow that, then Alchemy needs some other restrictions to keep it from getting out of control and taking over the game. Thus…

  • Standard d20 Craft (Alchemy) restricts itself to “Low” Alchemy – things that are at least semi-plausible as slightly magical chemistry. That’s reasonable, but a bit boring – and there are plenty of lists out there for things to be made with that kind of alchemy. The major restriction here is that such items really aren’t powerful enough to be more than toys for high-level characters. Sure, there are some very high-end booster feats, but doubling or tripling the effect of a 3d6 alchemical fire attack or grenade doesn’t mean much when the spellcasters are throwing around Meteor Swarm, Gate, and Time Stop. If you really want this sort of thing… buy a trivial variant on “Double Damage” (“Double Effect With Standard Alchemical Items”, 6 CP), Specialized for Increased Effect (Triple Damage thanks to the usual doubling rules) / only works with personally-made alchemical items.

That might actually be worth taking at low levels if you’re making that sort of character. Sure, 6d6 worth of Alchemists Fire Damage to a single target that costs a bit still isn’t really a match for a basically-free Burning Hands (up to 5d4 to a modest area), but it is only the equivalent of a single Feat, and you don’t have to wait until high levels to take it. You might want to buy something like an Immunity to the cost of obtaining raw materials to make alchemical items too; (Common, Minor, Major, for 30 GP off the raw material costs of alchemical crafting, 6 CP). Throw in some Innate Enchantment (Handy Haversack, only for storing alchemical creations, and Launch Item, to let you “throw” them accurately at long range, Dexterous Fingers (Trickster Magi list) to speed up making alchemical items, perhaps a bonus to Craft/Alchemy, and an Inherent Alchemists Lab), plus a little Luck (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only for making Alchemical Items, 6 CP) and you have a worthwhile alchemists package for about 24 CP – available to a starting character or over about two levels worth of unallocated character points.

Honestly, 3.0, 3.5, Pathfinder I, and any number of supplements already have massive lists of potential alchemical items to make. I’ll throw in a few noncombat suggestions down in the alchemical item lists, but that will let you keep up for a while.

  • Rolemaster used Alchemy to make magic items; it had nothing to do with chemistry at all. On the other hand, Eclipse already offers quite a few different systems for making magical items. There’s really no need for another one system since a would be item-making “alchemist” is simply using a different set of special effects. For this approach I’d recommend the “Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys” package found HERE for the temporary stuff and a few of the usual item creation abilities with appropriate special effects. A character who wants to do this might consider the writeup for the Philosophers Stone, found on this list of sample relics.
  • The Gadgetry Skill (probably specialized in Alchemy) lets you make things like “Oil Of Etheralness” – a substance oil with many possible uses. You might dip arrowheads in it to let you shoot through walls and armor, or coat yourself in it to become ethereal, or apply it to a lock to bypass it, or anoint your eyes to see into the ethereal plane, or apply it to armor or a weapon to temporarily give it the “Ghost Touch” property, or use it to reach inside a locked box and steal the contents without disturbing the box. Go ahead, reduce a Lodestone to a dozen pinches of “Magnetic Essence” and play Magneto Junior for a little bit. The joy of Gadgetry is that you don’t necessarily have to define exactly what whatever it is you’ve made actually does until you use it -and you don’t really need to be consistent between uses. If you’ve made a rocket-launching wristband, you can use them to attack, signal, create diversions, to carry ropes aloft, and for many other purposes.
  • Glowstone Alchemy (Part I and Part II), on the site, is basically a version of “alchemy” / engineering / enchantment that relies on some incredibly dangerous and toxic substance which is a source of mighty and terrible energies. While this generally relies on the availability of such a substance, it can reasonably represent working with intensely toxic radioactive substances, the Weird West’s Spirit-Imbued “Ghost Rock”, older edition’s Red Steel, the Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant’s “Earthblood” (whatever that is), “Dust” from the His Dark Materials trilogy, the Malfean Vitriol of Exalted, Hellfire, the warped materials that have been touched by Lovecraftian Outer Gods, the Residue of Banished Ghosts, and many other outrageous power sources.

This is usually just an Occult Skill – essentially another version of Gadgetry where the Devices are much more powerful than usual because working with said power source is outrageously dangerous and because the compounds and devices themselves come with hideous downsides and are horribly toxic – greatly limiting how many such items any given character can use and live (at least without turning into a radioactive mutated horror). The exact options may vary, but the Glowstone Alchemy lists (mostly in Part II) should give you the general idea.

For some versions of Alchemy – those with the notion that the “True Goal” of the Alchemist is the purification, transformation, and enhancement of the mind and spirit – you’re probably best off using Mystic Artist. For a somewhat tongue-in-cheek version of this style that I helped someone write up for their character (or was it for someone else’s character?), here we have Mystic Bartending.

  • Mystic Artist, Specialized for Increased Effect (Double the base skill for power-purchasing purposes) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / You must pour your targets a drink, and they must drink it, rather like taking a potion (4 CP). Echoes, Specialized and Corrupted / negates the effects of the initial use of the ability, all three rounds must be expended at once (2 CP).

The result is that you can serve people drinks with various mystical effects, all of which can be triggered as a free action within the next two weeks and will have their effects last for three minutes or until exhausted, whichever is shorter. If not triggered within two weeks the effects are lost – and you’ll just have to come back to the bar for some more drinks. Given that the drinks are built from a fairly limited set of mystic artist effects, similar effects do not stack, but other bits do.

Mystic Bartending School of the Mystic Arts: Effective Skill / Ability Learned:

  • 3+: Drunken Enthusiasm (Emotion, 3). A single draught of your beverages can cause powerful emotions for all who partake.
  • 4+: Sobering Draught (Block, 3). Your beverages can counteract of all sorts of intoxicants for all who partake.
  • 5+ Bartenders Counsel (Fascinate, 3): You may cause your targets to drink massively, at Skill 6+ you can whisper Suggestions to them, albeit only one at a time. .
  • 6+: The Hard Stuff Liquor (Hold Audience). Your beverages can keep all the people you serve fascinated and drinking for hours.
  • 9+: Mead Of The Einherjar (Greatness, 9): Grants those who partake (up to Level/3 targets) 1d10 temporary hit points, +1 to their BAB, Saves, and AC, and 6 CP worth of temporary abilities – although the ability must be set in advance and be the same for everyone partaking in this particular batch (Perhaps Fire Resistance 30, or Grant of Aid with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in healing hit points – for a base of 5d8+25 healing).
  • 12+: Drunken Style (Excellence, 12). Grants a single target two +4 Morale Bonuses, these can be applied to attributes, to Saves (all of them), to AC, to Attacks, or to Damage – although, once again, what the boosts are applied to must be determined with the drink is served.
  • 15+: Freyja’s Wine (Amplify, 9). Grant a +2 Caster Level bonus to all who partake of the wine. This does not add to spells known, but does apply to level-based spell effects, caster level checks, and similar items.
  • 18+: Mead Of Suttungr (Harmonize, 12): You may imbue a single draught with any two of your effects, with the number of targets to be affected being limited by the most restrictive effect.
  • 21+: Spirits Of Dawn (Serenity, 18): Your drinks count as a nights rest and refresh uses-per-day abilities. This can be served to an entire party, but only functions once per week.
  • 24+: Drunken Mastery (Mass Greatness, 15): As per Divine Mead, but for up to (Cha Mod + Level) targets.
  • 30+: Transcendent Ale (Mass Excellence, 18): As per Drunken Style but for up to (Level/2 + Cha Mod) targets.
  • 36+: Draught Of Valhalla (Heroism, Skill 30): Doubles the effects of Divine Mead, but only for a single target. Still, for example, a draught that will let someone heal (13+ Level/3) * (d8+5) damage can be quite useful.
  • 48+: Valhalla’s Keg (Mass Heroism, 36): As per Draught Of Valhalla, but affects up to (Level/2 + Cha Mod) targets.
  • 60+: Cauldron Of Aegir (Double, 48): Double any one aspect of any lesser ability whenever you use it.

For some possible drinks, consider…

  • Mead Of Odin (Harmonize – Emotion and Serenity, 21+): The imbiber may glimpse the great feasting hall of Valhalla, and be revived as the spirits of the dead are there revived to battle!
    • Acts as a nights rest and refreshes uses-per-day abilities (only once per real week though). User gains Immunity to Fear and a +5 Morale Bonus to Hit and Damage for the duration.
  • Draught Of Völuspá (Harmonize – Greatness and Amplify, 18+ for a single target, 24+ for groups): Once during the next two weeks the imbiber may hear the voices of the spirits speaking, and channel their power into his or her magic.
    • Provides +2 Caster Levels, 1d10 + Con Mod temporary hit points, +1 to BAB, Saves, and AC, and+7 Bonus Standard Actions for Spellcasting only (maximum of one per round, not compatible with other reflex actions) (Reflex Training (extra actions variant) with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Spellcasting only).
  • Wine of the Valkyries (Harmonize – Greatness and Excellence, 18+ for a single target, 30+ to affect groups): The user hears the voice of the Valkyrie, chanting runes of battle and inspiring him or her to even greater heroic deeds!
    • Provides +1d10 + Con Mod temporary hit points, +1 to BAB, Saves, and AC, user heals (1d8+5) damage up to once per round as needed six times during the duration (Greant of Aid with Bonus Uses, Specialized in Hit Point only), user gains a +4 Morale Bonus on Saving Throws, and a +4 Morale Bonus (and +2 Temporary HP per Hit Die, +2 Fortitude, Etc) to Constitution.
  • Winterfire Brandy (Harmonize – Greatness and Excellence, 18+ for a single target, 30+ to affect groups): In freezing cold, ice may be skimmed from freezing ferments until only the purest essence remains, a draught of burning fire.
    • Provides +1d10 + Con Mod temporary hit points, +1 to BAB, Saves, and AC, and 3d6 Mana with the Unskilled Magic Option, Specialized and Corrupted / only for Unskilled Fire Magic, DR 4/- and Energy Resistance (All) 4.

Admittedly those are fairly high-skill drinks, but Mystic Artist is actually one of the most overpowered abilities in the system – capable of providing a wide variety of powers at relatively small expense. The problem is, of course, that the user has to define the combinations of abilities to be used, specify their individual effects, and set them up – making it quite complicated to use. Secondarily, the fact that it tends to provide party-level boosts means that it’s perceived as a support power, rather than a personal power – and support powers tend to be cheap in any case.

  • Modern thought sometimes treats Alchemy as just another branch of Ritual Magic – it’s just that your rituals mostly involve making complicated glassware, mixing stuff, distilling it, reducing it to powder, subjecting it to days of slow heat, and using many other elaborate procedures. Your magic circles are mostly engraved on your equipment, you meditate on philosophical mysteries rather than invoking mystical beings, and so on. Your effects, of course, come in the form of potions, powders, oils, incense, alchemical beasts, and materials with strange properties – most of which eventually fail, although you can raise the ritual DC to let you store them longer.

As usual, rituals which are repeated over and over again tend to set their patterns in the structure of magic. They become easier. Mystic symbols and circles can be drawn in paint or chalk rather than being inlaid in mystically-significant metals. Complex sigils are simplified, unpronounceable names are abbreviated and given vowels, and – eventually – they turn into common rituals or even into near-immediate spells. In the end… they may not even be recognized as magic at all. Quite a few “folk remedies” and even technological processes fall into this category – their channels worn so deep into reality that the necessary elements are no longer even recognizable as parts of a ritual. Repetition has power. In d20, all those urban legends that saying a creatures name three, or seven, or thirteen, or whatever, times will cause it to appear? Those are well-worn rituals, reduced to such a simple act that any idiot can do it.

This variant is quite effective – but I find it kind of disappointing. Making Alchemy just another branch of ritual magic – entirely divorced from chemistry – just seems to take a lot of the fun out of it. Moreover, Ritual Magic is intentionally designed to be unreasonably difficult, otherwise it all too easily becomes a universal solution – and that means that your master alchemist may wind up not using much alchemy because it takes far too long.

  • A Ceremonial Magic version of Ritual Magic works for minor alchemical items, and is fairly classical, but is pretty inconsequential unless you’re playing a low-magic level-limited game. This system wasn’t even written for d20, but would work just fine for it with a few minor terminology changes.
  • “Full Metal Alchemist” style “Alchemy” is available through the Create Item / Transmutation line of abilities – and, in fact, Edward Elric is among the sample characters – but this kind of “alchemy” has little or nothing to do with classical alchemy outside of a few words like “transmutation”. Real world would-be alchemists never tried to repair radios or suddenly create arrays of big guns using magical circles. They were people puttering around in laboratories and looking for funding, not adventurous near-superheroes.

Of course, if you actually want to be a real-world alchemist, you want a selection of craft skills (for making alloys, faking precious metals and gems, compounding dubious medicines, and even a bit of genuine chemistry), a bit of basic medical knowledge, some knowledge of herbalism, and a good deal of skill at talking people into supporting your “research” and spinning negative results into something positive. If you’re consciously conning people some Sleight Of Hand will come in handy as well. In-game this isn’t “Alchemy”. It’s just a con artist specialization.

  • If you want to create a cross between a potion-maker and a mad bomber, there’s the Pathfinder Alchemist – but honestly, they don’t really have much to do with alchemy either.
  • You could also pull some pieces from the first “Ninja” build over HERE – simply selecting the alchemically-related options for their Tricks. In fact, the “Tricks”may be all you need.
  • If you just want to make a wool sweater that acts like chainmail or something… Craft Appearances isn’t even an Occult Skill: it’s something that anyone in a magical world can learn to use. It can be used to make stuff look different.

Craft (Appearances): Each point of this skill total allows the user to select a piece of personal equipment and describe it’s appearance as they wish. This has no mechanical effect on the item however. An additional +2 points will, however, cause an items encumbrance to match its appearance OR allow the user to disguise a larger item, such as a vehicle or structure.

If you REALLY want your base to look like a crumbling ruin, or decorate for Halloween, go right ahead. This doesn’t really cost anything outside of your skill investment since appearances have no cost.

Then there’s High Alchemy, sometimes known as Philosophy. This is the stuff where you cheat on chemistry and physics – sometimes quite outrageously – with Reality Editing, Magic, Immunities, or Skill Stunts. It’s a subtle branch of magic, dressed up with a lot of chemistry and some physics – but it is still a branch of magic. For conveniences sake, I’ve split up the reputed products of “Alchemy” into four basic levels – Low, Middle, High, and Grandiose – and a variety of subcategories.

  • Doing it with Skill Stunts requires a very high skill (or some method of boosting your alchemy skill checks beyond all reason, such as Luck with Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only for Skill Checks, only for Alchemy, 12 CP. This will let you “Take 60” when you need to), Skill Focus (+1 or better, 2+ CP), Skill Stunts (6 CP), and some Mana and (likely) Rite Of Chi to power them – although it can be Specialized and Corrupted to make it pretty cheap. If you want to pull get to the level where you can do things like manipulate the lifecycle of stars, create endless sources of magical elixirs, and call on cosmic forces, you will want Epic Skill Stunts (6 CP) and a lot of cash with which to develop epic level effects. The time-reducing effect might be a good idea as well. The GM will have to set the DC of making various alchemical devices and improvements thereof.
  • You can also do it without stunts by just taking Immunity to the normal limits of the skill – although you will need to once again attain those absurd skill checks, so the luck purchase may still be in order. That’s (Uncommon / Major), with a Major Immunity allowing for easier Low Alchemy, Great Immunity allowing for Middle Alchemy, Epic Immunity covering High Alchemy, and Legendary Immunity covering Grandiose Alchemy. At a cost of 6/12/18/24 CP. That’s expensive. Unless you plan on using a particular skill a LOT, Stunts is probably a better choice.
  • Access to suitable spells or powers – perhaps a Greater Invocation (Per The Practical Enchanter) of Alchemical Manipulation or Alchemical Rune Magic or some appropriately specialized Witchcraft or some such – is yet another way to cheat. As a rule, Low Alchemy doesn’t require such things, although effects equivalent to Cantrips or Level One Spells will make it much safer, faster, and easier. Middle Alchemy calls for effects of Level Three or below, High Alchemy calls for effects of Level Six or below, and Grandiose Alchemy often calls for effects of up to Level Nine. This tends to be the most expensive option, but it offers access to a variety of quick magic as well as handy effects like Alchemic Mist (See Haagenti, the Infernal Alchemist).
  • Reality Editing is probably the most straightforward method. For this you’ll want Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized for Increased Effect (the products it is used to produce are stable for lengthy periods) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only for Reality Editing, only for Alchemical Manipulations, must have purchased at least 1d6 per level of reality manipulation (4 CP per d6 of Mana, you’ll want at least three or four dice eventually, for about 16 CP). You’ll also want Rite of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only to restore the “Alchemy Pool” above, requires at least half an hour of some chosen type of intellectual effort per die recovered (the form the players have most commonly encountered so far requires reading new books and contemplating the new knowledge therein, 6 CP), requires an appropriate setting – a sitting room and supply of scholarly texts, a laboratory, a school, etc. .

Those are all relatively cheap simply because Alchemy is generally fairly slow – and so making it effective in combat is a job for foresight, stockpiling, and carrying around loads of vials, flasks, and pouches full of exotic substances. That’s a lot of trouble for the player, uses up much of their downtime, and can be fairly readily taken away. Ergo buying alchemical talents has to be a relatively modest investment of character-building resources, or no one will bother.

Next up; the alchemical products list.


Eclipse d20 – Tricorder Combat And The Valio Arts

And next up, it’s a few more of the odder Martial Arts that have come up:

Tricorder Combat

A good deal of Star Trek technology operates on the Informational Level – where things like Space, Time, and Structure are merely a bunch of values. That’s why the Star Trek Warp Drive only requires a great deal of energy rather than the mass-energy of major planets, how Transporters can split people into good and evil versions, how the Holodeck can create matter, and how Tricorders can extract all kinds of information about creatures, objects, and areas without all kinds of intrusive and damaging probing. They all work at least partially on the informational level.

Tricorders (and larger starship sensor arrays) in particular are computers as well as scanning systems. And even on the informational level… the Observer interacts with the things Observed. That doesn’t usually mean much on the macroscopic level – but information is always a set of quantum values.

Tricorders act to pull truly alien creatures and forces – things from other dimensions with their own natural laws – into a common frame of reference. They do not FIND mysterious weaknesses that no one else has found in eons. Truly talented tricorder operators impose their own ideas onto the targets informational structure. They CREATE those weaknesses. They make the incomprehensible mundane. They impose their technobabble on the madness beyond the edge of reality, and make it so. In their own way… Tricorders and Ships Sensors are more destructive weapons than mere Phasers and Photon Torpedoes; they can destroy what something WAS rather than just blowing it up.

Tricorder Combat (Cha Based, Optionally Wis Based):

Spock stared hard at his tricorder, as if by sheer will he might force it to tell him the answer to his questions.

-Janet Kagan, Uhura’s Song

The fine art of Tricorder “Combat” is to maintain your own reality while overwriting the targets – rather than letting IT influence yours. A Tricorder is a powerful informational weapon – generally giving the user a substantial advantage unless he or she is up against a powerful informational creature such as “Q”. or the Star Trek universes various other semi-omnipotent informational beings. A highly skilled operator can, however, improve on that advantage even further, wielding their scanning device with exceptional skill.

Even if it looks like they’re doing nothing but fiddling with knobs while their Tricorder makes warbling noises.

  • Requires: Proficiency in Information Combat, a Tricorder or Ships Sensor Bank, Mana 4+, Engineering (Star Trek) 6+.
  • Basic Techniques: Power 3, Toughness (Informational) 4, Defenses (Informational) 2, Attack 3.
  • Advanced Techniques: Prone Combat, Rapid Shot, Reflex Training with +4 Bonus Uses (Seven/Day total) (Specialized in using the Tricorder. Can either make an extra informational attack or have the Tricorder out and scanning an event whether or not there is time to do so), and Vulcan Lore (Augmented Bonus: Adds (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) for Int-Based Skill Purposes, Specialized for Double Effect / only applies to Knowledge Skill Checks).
  • Occult Techniques: Emergency Power Reserve (Inner Strength I and II), Charging Mode (Rite of Chi, (Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Corrupted for Increased Effect (Can be used to restore Emergency Power / Inner Strength), Specialized for Reduced Cost / Only to restore Emergency Power Reserve), and Reconstructive Imaging (Healing Hand, Specialized for Increased Effect / Requires several minutes, but can also be used to repair items and informational damage, requires minor physical manipulation as well – the Tricorder “just tells you just what to do to fix things”),

OK, I already used the “restore inner strength” trick in another style – but it fits I think.

Tricorder Combat is pretty unreasonable. After all, you could potentially wind up with two opponents staring at little boxes instead of each other while they try to technobabble each other into defeat.

Well, to be honest, that does kind of sound like Star Trek. I suppose that – if you already have a Star Trek Engineer or Scientific type running around bending the universe with technobabble, they might as well have a way to be good with it. After all, this is the universe where a starship that had been sucked into a black hole escaped because the sensor system operator found a “crack in the event horizon”. Given that, I really can’t say that much of ANYTHING is unreasonable in a Star Trek universe.

“That’s not how this works! That’s not how ANY of this works!” – Actual Scientists and Engineers.

“Who Cares?” – Scotty

The Valio Arts (Dex Based):

Both the Force and the Codex give their practitioners a massive edge in combat. The physical enhancements are bad enough, but both abilities offer forms of combat precognition – one by sensing the flow of events and decisions, one by surveying “nearby” timelines that happen to be a few moments ahead. That can make it near-impossible for a normal fighter to stand up to even a weak wielder of either power. Those with the right Force or Codex Monotalents and certain nonhumans might hone their strength, speed, and precision to the point where even knowing that they are going to do is of little help in stopping them, but appropriate Monotalents are rare – and such dedication coupled with inhuman potential is even rarer.

That, of course, was unacceptable to bodyguards and military organizations across the galaxy.

But there is a counter to Precognition that’s available to ordinary folk.

Chaos. And the brain is a system capable of amplifying Chaos up from the quantum level. What use precognition when the next move might be any of a thousand maneuvers and has yet to be determined? What use telepathy when even the target has no plan and is running entirely on muscle memory and random impulses?

The Valio Arts do not use predictable kata, or seek the optimum maneuver to strike at a foe, or drill a small selection of maneuvers to perfection – for in the face of foresight, such things are only traps. The Arts focus on having a wide variety of reasonably-appropriate maneuvers and trying to make the selection of any specific maneuver truly random.

It works to some extent. It is pretty good at frustrating precognitive fighters – but that ability comes at a price. That price is usually hidden by the fact that only the fiercest, and most dedicated, fighters bother to study an art so specialized and intense – but the Valio Arts aren’t actually all that good against normal fighters, who don’t find fighting without precognition at all disadvantageous and who normally have well-practiced and fairly well optimized routines for attack and defense.

And all of those routines are much more polished than any of the hundred moves a Valio fighter might use. The Valio Arts are still much better than fighting untrained, but a serious fighter will study other forms as well.

  • Requires: Natural Weapons (1d4 minimum, whether inherent or by training), BAB 4+, at least one Martial Weapon Proficency (Melee), and proficiency with Light Armor or better.
  • Basic Techniques: Defenses 2, Power 2, Attack 2. Synergy/+2 to rolls involving a knowledge of the Force or Codex.
    Specialized Basic Techniques: Double Effect/Only versus Force and Codex Users: Defenses 1, Attack 1, Toughness 2.
  • Advanced and Master Techniques: Weapon Kata (Any Favored), Mind Like Moon, Combat Reflexes, and Mind Of Chaos (Immunity / Psychic and Magical Combat Senses, Opponent Intuition Bonuses, and Similar – Uncommon, Minor, Major (3 CP), plus +1 BAB Specialized / Only versus Force and Codex Users (3 CP),
  • Occult Techniques (Variant): While the Valio Arts offer no actual Occult Techniques, the immense variety of moves does allow users to add additional instances of Weapon Kata in lieu of occult techniques.

The Valio Arts are very useful against any fighter who relies extensively on occult combat senses at middling levels, and are nicely versatile at high levels where they work with many different weapons – but they never offer the raw power, or occult techniques, of many other arts. They’re still pretty good in Star Wars, where opponents using the Force or Codex are fairly common, where even elite troops are rarely particularly good (the old “Stormtroopers cannot hit the broad side of a barn” problem), and where only notable single figures are important in combat.

Overall, serious d20 combatants will probably want several more specialized styles to use, but high-level dabblers might well find something like the Valio Arts useful – at least if they focus their techniques against something that comes up more often than “Force and/or Codex users”.

Eclipse d20 – Building Occultists

“Occult” means “Hidden”. An Occultist… studies that which is hidden. His or her specialty is lost tomes, unpronounceable names, secret rituals performed under cover of night, lost shrines and crypts, hidden locations, and cultures long-vanished. They’re at their best in “secret supernatural” worlds, That’s hard to maintain in modern settings; camera cell phones alone make “hiding the truth” a lot more complicated and usually call for supercomputers or magic that somehow monitors the entire internet and censors it as well as plentiful memory erasure – but it’s a lot easier in more classical settings.

They also don’t fit in with high magic settings. If magic makes the trains run, or there’s a spellcasting priest in every temple, or there’s an official court wizard who can fly and hurl bolts of lightning, or talented kids can sign up for magic classes… then there isn’t much of a place for lost mystic secrets. Why bother researching a translation for an ancient incantation from the wall of a pyramid when you can go down to a professional spell designer and commission a modern version of the incantation complete with four thousand years worth of technical improvements?

That’s why superhero worlds that include actual Occultists tend to relegate them to their own little mystical underworlds. Mountain-Smashing Woman and Fusionman (the embodiment of the “Solar Phoenix” / C-N-O fusion cycle) don’t generally do crossovers with the gangster-hunting Shadow Weaver and Presbyter John the Exorcist.

A classical occultist doesn’t have much magic of his or her own – and certainly doesn’t have the neatly systematic magic you usually find in role-playing games and a lot of movies and television programs (albeit not all of them). They’re usually extremely knowledgeable, capable of a few personal tricks (including basic divinations and occasional knacks) and of rituals (especially summonings and exorcisms), but most of their powers are “Found” magic. Stuff that they have picked up, and most of which will soon run out when used.

Perhaps for this mission they wield a rare talisman discovered in a fey forest, a genuine Hand Of Glory found in a curiosity shop, an invocation of Anubis (very dangerous and requiring an escalating offering each time it is used), a Dragon’s Fang, a Wand of Thunder cut from a thousand-year oak during a mighty storm during a specific celestial conjunction, three one-use spells granted by some dread power of the netherworld, and a favor owed by an ancient lich.

Now several of those things might be very multipurpose, or good for several uses – but all too soon, their powers will be used up.

Really lucky Occultists may have a device or two that either can be recharged or has a daily / weekly / whatever allotment of uses – things which are likely to become a cornerstone of their activities across their careers – but for the most part everything beyond their minor personal powers is likely to be traded out for each mission. Given their limited occult arsenal, quite a few of them will also carry a blade, crossbow, or gun and wear some basic low-profile armor.

Of course, literary, movie, graphic novel, or television series occultists have a major advantage. They always seem to have stuff that fits the plot. If they’re going up against demons they will have some holy stuff, and it it’s werewolves there will no sign of holy stuff, but there will doubtless be a magical silver blades, warding spells, and shapeshifting-related magics.

Now, that could just mean that they have a LOT of magic and only use the few items that fit the plot – but if you give a player character a large stockpile… they will either find some way to use every bit of it (no matter how obscure part of it is) or they will simply stock up on generically useful magic. If you only let them have a little… they will still stock up on the most generically useful stuff they can for fear of being stuck with an inappropriate stockpile.

  • If they are good at scouting or planning they may be able to stock up on something appropriate, but a lot of groups just don’t do much of that.
  • If the game master gets directly involved in the selection – usually in the role of some god or mystical mentor – he or she can make sure that the selection is nicely relevant. In fact, it can even be turned into clues and foreshadowing. This is likely the best method, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it – but it IS a lot of trouble and can be pretty tricky to pull off if the players head off in some unexpected direction.
  • The easiest method is for the Occultist to use the Occult Skill “Foresight” – using it to pick out appropriate items on the fly.

So lets make some suitable Occult Powers. First up, a few basics:

Psychic Magic (9 CP):

Witchcraft II (Three Basic Abilities) with +2d6 Mana as +6d6 Power, Path of Water/Dismissal, Path of Air/The Sight, and Path of Light/Divination. All Specialized for Reduced Cost / requires interruptable gestures, incantations, and access to various components (a spell component pauch will do), user becomes a magnet for spirits and weird occult events, user is mystically marked by the powers he or she serves and will be preferentially targeted by their enemies (21 CP). Occultists will normally have a Pact of Service and a Vow (-12 CP), for a net cost of (9 CP).

Occultists are – as is expected for any Witchcraft-based character – fairly impressive to start with. they know (or can find out), all kinds of things, have several useful tricks (depending on which basic Witchcraft abilities they take), and have a fair chance of getting rid of extradimensional pests. What they don’t have is a lot of raw power. They’re mystic investigators, not war-mages.

Ritual Magic (6 CP).

This one is pretty obvious. Rituals – magic circles, strange reagents, suspicious candles, bubbling cauldrons, sacrifices, mystical places and locations, and calling upon outre powers with unpronounceable names – are a major occult tool. Rituals are powerful and versatile, but the ones with worthwhile* effects tend to call for difficult-to-get components, very awkward times and places, and far too much time – which is why you can buy the entire branch of magic so cheap. On the other hand, Occultists tend to be investigators. They don’t stand in the opening gates of hell and do battle with the emerging dark horde; they arrive three days early and get to work on a ritual designed to keep those gates from opening in the first place.

*To adventurers. Minor rituals to bless gardens, keep bugs out of the stored food, keep an eye on babies, call in the livestock, and so on are quick and easy – but adventurers rarely care.

Spirit Magic (6 CP):

Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (6 Floating CP) / Only for Favors (Cha Mod + 3 version, either two sets of minor favors or one of major favors), can only be changed or renewed in between adventures, must be cleared with the GM (6 CP).

Occultists constantly trade services and favors. They run small errands for various powers – perhaps stopping a land developer from bulldozing an ancient altar, renewing fading ancient seals, supporting causes favored by various powers, and so on. They spend work and time and older occult favors to bring in a continuous supply of new ones. Thus a genuine Occultist can start off each adventure (or major segment thereof) with a selection of mundane and supernatural favors to call on. Of course, the acceptability of any given request is up to the game master – but at least this is a lot quicker than rituals.

Hidden Lore (3 CP):

Access to an Occult Skill (3 CP). Personally, I’d suggest one of:

  • Foresight (allowing the user to make sure that he or she has the RIGHT favors and other preparations):
  • Gadgetry (allowing the user to have a pouch full of prepared alchemical, occult, or other devices according to his or her personal style. What is that Hand Of Glory capable of? Lots of stuff, depending on how you use it), or
  • Secrets (Granting the user truly impressive secret knowledge). Higher level occultists will probably want all three, but there’s only so much you can do at low levels.

That’s really all you need for a basic occultist for a mere 24 CP. That’s a pretty powerful package at low levels, but becomes considerably less impressive at higher levels – and while you can build on it, the lack of focus hurts. Moreover, if you want to stick with the theme… you’ll be taking individual powers, and fairly diverse ones at that, rather than anything coherent. Of course, that’s not necessarily useless – a clever character with a wide variety of minor powers can be quite effective – but you will have a hard time competing in a kick-in-the-door style game when the wizards and clerics start throwing around high-level magic. Of course, you will still have plenty of points left for other abilities.

If you really want to stick to the theme, you’ll want things like:

Spellforging (6 CP):

Improved Superior Power Words, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (6 CP) / Cannot be refilled during an adventure, cannot store spells more than one level above what the user could normally cast (Level / 2, Rounded Up), any expensive components must be either supplied or the spell must be taken at a higher level to buy them off, spells are stored in physical talismans.

Occultists can “prepare” a limited number of spells (A total number of spell levels equal to their Constitution) via summoning entities to grant them or constructing them with rituals and storing them in various trinkets. While they can’t have very many such spell-constructs ready at any one time (there are stability issues or something) they can store a reasonable amount of power – but must use it with great caution, since their stock of spells is anything but easy to renew.

Knight Of (Nexus) (6 CP)

The raw forces of elemental magic flow throughout the world, waxing and waning, ebbing and flowing with the years, the seasons, and the stars, forming pools and rivers of power, nodes, ley lines, and the threads of fate, the bonds between places and worlds. But where a name is given… that place is set apart. A knot is tied in the threads of fate. There is identity, a place gains a life and spirit of it’s own. Camelot, Neverland, Gotham… the order of the Name laid over the Chaos of the world.

Sometimes a mere mortal bonds with that power, coaxes it into expression, becomes a voice and embodiment of ancient powers. And for a time, there shall be greatness.

  • Mystic Link with Communications and Power Link, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / links you to a specific, relatively small, location, does not interact with any further mystic links you may buy rather than stacking as Mystic Link upgrades usually do, communications only occurs in GM-specified visions and vague feelings, user must spend a good deal of time at the linked location, preferably being a resident of the place, user is obligated to defend the location (3 CP).
  • Leadership with Exotic Followers, Specialized and Corrupted / only one follower (a Ward Major at one-third your level / hit dice), follower (obviously) never accompanies you anywhere (3 CP).

With this, an Occultist awakens the spirit of a place that he or she has bonded with – giving that place an occult significance and defenses of its own in the form of a Ward Major and becoming a representative and guardian of that place, able to tap into whatever personal powers the Ward bestows remotely. Indeed, that power can be shared; other Knights will need only the first (3 CP) link to gain those powers as well – at least as long as they’re suited to the task.

Magical Knack (6 CP):

Shaping, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (L1 Effects) / Only for effects related to a very specific, narrow, field, requires some freedom to gesture and/or incant, only to duplicate a very limited list of first level spells unless further augmented.

This offers unlimited access to a series of specific tricks. Someone with a Fire Knack might be able to always have a lit cigarette, cause a match or lighter to flare up into a brilliant light whenever he or she wants (Blinding Flash or Light), be able to flick them at targets and set them on fire (as per Produce Flame), be able to exhale great clouds of smoke (Obscuring Mist), turn a cigarette into a wave of flame (Burning Hands), set fiery symbols burning on the ground or in the air, and perhaps a few more tricks – but that’s pretty much it. Another user might have a knack with Visual Illusions (perhaps Disguise Self, Silent Image, Blend, Shadow Trap, and Vanish), or Wind Magic, or Monster Summoning, or Alchemical Effects.

A few Occultists will expand on this – taking 1d6 Mana with Spell Enhancement, Rite of Chi, and +4 Bonus Uses on Rite of Chi, all Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (+6 CP) / only for use with a specific Magical Knack, Mana may only be regained given a few moments to rest. This will allow him or her to use a bigger Knack effect a few times in any given fight – perhaps upgrading that burning cigarette into a full-scale Fireball, or even throwing one down to produce a Wall of Fire.

Honestly, between that and the (pretty much) required secondary abilities – Adept II, various investigative and knowledge skills, more Occult Skills, a nice high Will Save, a little Luck, enough hit points to take a few hits from eldritch horrors, some Contacts, and the usual character-building basics, you should be able to fill up a number of levels quite handily.

Beyond that… take a Spirit Fetch companion, or learn some additional Witchcraft, or take more Occult Skills, or pick up some of the Lesser Paths (Part I and Part II) – or just be a Rogue or Ranger type who dabbles. There is nothing wrong with that, and it will generally be a lot easier for the game master to deal with than a high-level full spellcaster. After all, despite characters like John Constantine, a classical occultist is someone who’s learned a lot of lore and a little magic, and who likely has a few toys – but who relies on investigation, preparation, and cunning not by preference, but because they simply do not have a lot of raw power to work with.

Eclipse d20 and Exotic Martial Arts

Today it’s an offline question.

What are the limits of Eclipse’s Martial Arts? The rules list a specific set of Feats and Abilities that can be used to build a style – but some of the styles you’ve posted include things that aren’t on the list. Are there limits or not?

Well… Eclipse specifically allows variants, so the basic answer to all of these questions is pretty much “whatever the game master will let you get away with”.

So yes, depending on the nature of the game and the generosity of the game master, Eclipse Martial Arts can range from fairly realistic packages of combat training on up through minor schools of magic in themselves – just as they do in martial arts movies and comic books. After all, the continuum there ranges from “Walker Texas Ranger” and “Rumble In The Bronx” on up through “Kung Fu Hustle” and “Journey To The West”.

So how about a few more esoteric styles? I’ll make them Charisma based, just for fun.

First up, it’s a style for a minor superhero focused on positive-energy channeling and light magic:

Midnight Sun Style (Cha):

Most who channel positive energy, the searing radiance of the light, do so only in passing. Few indeed are those who seek to become one with the light, to infuse their very flesh with the inward fire of the light and its purifying radiance. Those few have chosen to bear the light into the darkness where none expect it.

The Midnight Sun Style focuses on subtly enhancing the user’s body and on filling it with sacred power. As such, it is very much an inward, “soft”, style like Tai Chi, more concerned with meditative states and the flow of the user’s inner power than with direct martial maneuvers.

  • Requires: Ability to Channel Positive Energy at least five times per day and at least +2 Intensity.
  • Basic Abilities:
    • Tempering The Flesh (Toughness 4)
    • Radiant Strike (Power 1)
    • Sacred Fist (Attack 1, Specialized for Increased Effect (The user’s blows are considered Holy) / only versus creatures of darkness or negative energy, not against creatures that simply happen to be evil)
    • Hand Of Light (Strike).
    • The Inner Eye (Synergy 4: Athletics, Insight, Perception, and Stealth).
  • Advanced Techniques:
    • The Illumination Of The Entire Earth (Mind Like Moon).
    • The Sun Within (Channeling/Sacred Hand; the user no longer need a holy symbol to use Channeling)
    • Wheel Of Light (A spiral of radiance spins out to strike down the foe / Whirlwind Attack).
    • Armed With Light (Channeling/Glorious Touch, only to boost unarmed attacks and personal defenses).
  • Occult Techniques:
    • Light Eternal (Inner Strength)
    • Speed Of Thought (Vanishing Technique)
    • Radiant Touch (Healing Hand)
    • Swallow The Sun (Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Corrupted for Increased Effect (Can be used to restore Inner Strength), Specialized for Reduced Cost / Only to restore inner strength).

This art stretches things a bit. Still, while stuffing Channeling feats into a martial art is questionable, Sacred Hand is more of a style thing anyway (after all, you could put a holy symbol on a ring or get one as a tattoo or buy one for a tiny fraction of a point worth of Innate Enchantmant) and Glorious Touch is a good deal less useful when you can’t readily build on it – as well as being a way for a “sacred style” martial artist to empower himself with enough holy energy to actually hit various supernatural creatures effectively. Just recite the proper prayer or mantra and suddenly you can effectively punch out weird mystical beings – at least if you picked the right enhancement(s) to give yourself. Bad luck if you didn’t.

Now “Swallow The Sun” is a bit harder to justify, but most serious martial artists will pick it – or some similar ability – up in any case, and saving 3 CP after investing in a style on up through the Occult Techniques isn’t a particularly big deal, especially since “bare-fisted brawler with the supernatural” really isn’t a very well optimized career path to begin with. Overall, this is relatively reasonable for a martial art focused on developing an ability that doesn’t actually exist in reality. I wouldn’t expect a draconic martial art focusing on enhancing their breath weapons to restrict itself to the usual list of physical maneuvers either.

Overall, this one is entirely suitable for the setting – and shouldn’t be a problem for anything short of really low magic settings; it’s not too hard to come by magic weapons in most basic settings anyway.

Demon Fiddler Style (Cha):

“I guess you didn’t know it but I’m a fiddle player too
And if you’d care to take a dare, I’ll make a bet with you
Now you play a pretty good fiddle, boy
But give the devil his due
I’ll bet a fiddle of gold against your soul
‘Cause I think I’m better than you”

-The Devil Went Down To Georgia, Charlie Daniels

The violin wails like a chorus of the damned as the frantic speed of the user’s bow draws howling notes from the strings, a music that hammers against the boundaries of sanity like a battering ram, drifting upon the wind to pull forth rare insights into the true madness of reality. The Demon Fiddler style is not actually evil – but it requires a rare dedication to the art of the violin and access to rare energies to channel through it.

Obviously enough, this is a musical style – a physical absurdity, but hardly out of bounds for most d20 games.

  • Requires: Perform/Strings total of 10+, Mystic Artist (Strings), +3 Speciality in Fiddles, a GM who allows Theran Channeling (Mind) and access to an appropriate power source of mental magical energy to draw upon.
  • Basic Techniques:
    • Chorus Of Demons / Power 4 (Variant, adds to Charisma for musical purposes).
    • Joined Right In / Synergy 2 (Perform/Strings and/or Perform/Vocal).
    • Sounded Like This / Defenses 4 (+2 to saves versus sonic attacks per level).
    • Give The Devil His Due / Strike (Musical Assault, 1d5+Cha Mod lethal or nonlethal damage to listeners). It’s a bit of a stretch to make this area effect – but the damage is low and most of the time you’ll be hitting your allies too.
  • Advanced and Master Techniques:
    • Echoes In The Hollows / Great Projection.
    • House Of The Rising Sun / Channeling (Theran Mind Channeling, 3 + Cha Mod uses, 6 CP)
    • Luck Of El Diablo / Luck with +8 Bonus Uses (Specialized and Corrupted/only for Theran Channeling effects, 6 CP)
    • Rosin Up Your Bow / +4 Bonus Uses of Mystic Artist (Strings) (6 CP).
  • Occult Techniques:
    • Fire Flew From His Fingertips / Inner Strength II
    • It Made An Evil Hiss / Ki Focus (Adds to Charisma)
    • He Knew That He’d Been Beat / Vanishing.

Now this style is pretty much a small magic system in itself – granting a fiddle-playing Mystic Artist access to a a variety of mind-altering affects through his or her music. Of course, it’s only going to work in a setting that allows Theran Channeling (which is kind of rare) and in a game high-powered enough that the game master lets you get away with shoving four mystic artist bonuses into a martial art. Sure, that’s appropriate enough if you allow a musical martial art in the first place, and it is fairly limited use – but it’s a whole new power set that’s available for thirty-odd skill points and a decent charisma bonus.

I’d go for it – it is fairly creative, very thematic, and promises to be fun, which is, after all, the entire point of playing – but it opens the way for a bunch of other musical arts and magical duels winding up being settled by rock-offs. Now there’s nothing wrong with that (if the trope was good enough for Tolkien, it is good enough for most games) but it will make for some awfully literal battles of the bands.

Finally, we have the…

Radiant (or Vedic) Master Style (Cha)

Many Martial Arts focus on focusing C’hi, the power of the user’s life force – but that is merely the user’s fund of Positive Energy. It is possible to use those same techniques to better focus the positive energy one taps into through the disciplines of Channeling. The Radiant Master style is so focused, and it’s user’s are easily recognized by the burning radiance which blazes around them when they tap into positive energy plane.

  • Requires: Ability to Channel Positive Energy at least five times per day and at least +2 Intensity.
  • Basics:
    • Meditations Upon The Light / Power 4 (Adds to Channeling Intensity).
    • The Illuminating Mantra / Defense 4 (Adds to AC and Saves versus Undead – but only versus undead)
    • Truths Upon The Wind / Synergy/Religion, and Synergy/Turning Checks.
  • Advanced and Master Techniques:
    • Drinking Down The Light / Augment Magnitude +2d6 (subject to normal maximums, 6 CP)
    • Light Pierces Darkness / Mind Like Moon
    • Bhumisparsa Mudra / Sacred Hand (Does not require a Holy Symbol)
    • Bodhyangi Mudra / Radiant Channel (When the user channels positive energy it also produces a Light-based spell effect of up to level (Intensity-4)/4.
  • Occult Techniques:
    • Gayatri Mantra / Inner Strength II
    • Heart Sutra Bodhi Svaha / Ki Focus (+4 to Magnitude and Intensity)
    • Tandava Shiva Mantra / Wrath (Positive Energy, Provides protection from Negative Energy).

While superficially similar to the Midnight Sun Style and the Demon Fiddler Style, this one is actually quite a bit more problematic; rather than boosting a not-especially optimal combat style like the Midnight Sun Style, or providing an entirely new suite of mid-range abilities like the Demon Fiddler Style, this focuses on boosting Channeling – already a major power source. Up to +2 to Checks, +8 Intensity, +(2d6+4) Magnitude, and a bonus spell – possibly of fairly high level – cast with every use of Channeling is a pretty sizeable boost and will affect pretty much every other Channeling ability the user takes. For a Channeling specialist – or even a dabbler – this (or some variant) is pretty much a “must take” skill if the game master allows it.

And like most “must take” items, it’s really only suited to extremely high-powered games. That’s exactly where it originated of course; a way to bump a companion in a really high powered game up to the point where it could do something reasonably effective. I probably wouldn’t allow it into more reasonable games though.

It isn’t always easy to decide whether or not to allow a particular item in Eclipse. Just remember, it is entirely fair to say “I’m allowing this on an experimental basis. If it makes a mess of the game, or just doesn’t add to the fun, I’m reserving the right to revise or even reject it – although you can then spend those points on something else”. After all, the point is to have fun. If something is spoiling that fun never hesitate to throw it out.

Eclipse d20 and Building Domains

Here we have something that’s been on the back burner for a long time – rescaling the character mechanics to represent domains rather than individuals – basically an extension of the rules for representing military units as individual characters. In this case, however, the scale has really gotten too large for direct interaction between Domains and normal characters – and so I’ve shifted some of the terminology around a bit to keep that clear.

First up, Settlements don’t exactly have races. Even when one species dominates the domain, their racial template rarely translates onto the domain scale. Settlements tend to be dominated by their Terrain and Nature – both of which are usually represented by small (15 CP plus a 3 CP Disadvantage) Templates. In general, a Settlement will have two – one representing the type of terrain the place is built on, the other representing it’s general nature. For our example, we have a Settlement built in a Forest as a Citadel (or Stronghold). It might have been built in a Fey Pocket, or as a Seaside Port, but this one happens to be a Forest Citadel.

Forest Settlement Template (15 CP):

  • Outriders (Occult Sense / Happenings in the forest, 6 CP). A Forest Settlement will always become a base for hunters, trappers, and foragers in those wilds – and, as such, will automatically gain a wide variety of information about things in or affecting the forest and a +2 on forest-related Profession checks.
  • Beast Master (Leadership with Beastlord, Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Forest animals only, 6 CP). People living among the great trees tend to adopt pets and live together with the local beasts, bending them to their will.
  • Forest Style (Scouting): +6 +Scouting (=8) (6 CP).
    • Basic Techniques: Defenses 4 (forests, fences, and palisades), Synergy / Forestry (Tier II, so +4), Synergy / Handle Animal (Tier II, so +4), Synergy / Survival (Tier 1, so +2), Toughness II (Plenty of wood for sturdy construction).
    • Advanced and Master Techniques: Travel with Mount (forest settlements quickly become familiar with existing trails and make more, allowing their travelers and traders to transverse the forest without hindrance), Mind Like Moon (having numerous foresters makes it hard for enemies to sneak up on a forest settlement), Rapid Shot (archery is a common pastime for the inhabitants of a forest domain, and so they can field extra skilled archers), and Split Movement (with every tree a watchtower and sniping position, a forest domain is adept at striking while avoiding contact with the enemy).
    • Occult Techniques: Hardy Pioneers (Inner Strength II), Wooden Reinforcement (Iron Skin), and Setting Fires (Wrath). A forest community has plenty of lumber for emergency reinforcement of their settlement and can – if hard pressed – use a controlled burn to drive back or corner an attacking force.
    • Known Techniques (4) are being left open for the players.

So why am I representing the general advantages and disadvantages of forest terrain as a martial art? Because – in game terms – it functions like one. A domain can only really take advantage of one form of terrain at a time, but will certainly be practiced at using it’s home ground to its best advantage, different domains with the same terrain may take advantage of it in different ways (making different selections from the “style” as they advance), and different terrains will allow the use of different special maneuvers – and offer boosts to particular professions. All of which fits neatly into a martial art.

  • Disadvantage: Settlements in great forests are always at risk of powerful creatures showing up and making trouble (Accursed, -3 CP).

Citadel Settlement Template:

  • Wall Construction (Augmented Bonus, adds (Might) to (Mobilization) when fighting defensively, 6 CP). While hardly as strong as the results of a Mystic Architect, well-defended walls grant a citadel settlement a strong defensive edge.
  • Militia: Proficient with all Simple Weapons (3 CP) and Light Armor (3 CP). A Citadel or Capital is fairly vital, and must be held – so the populace is invariably given at least basic weapons-training.
  • Citadel Style (Construction) (Corrupted for Increased Effect (+9 +0 Construction = +9) / only usable when fighting defensively, 6 CP):
    • Basic Techniques: Defenses (4) (with walls, buildings, and streets constructed so as to confound an enemies advance, a Citadel Settlement is very hard to defeat), Attack 4 and Power II (with fields of fire set up in advance, brushwood cleared, siege engines ready, and a gauntlet of defenses, a citadel is adept at inflicting disproportionate damage on attackers).
    • Advanced and Master Techniques: Improved Initiative (The alarms and defenses of a citadel allow the defenders to be rallied speedily), Reserves (Grant of Aid; a citadel has reserves of supplies, and can swiftly make crude repairs when damaged), Night Training (Blind Fight, a Citadel has lighting ready and provisions for fighting at night), and Volley Fire (Combat Reflexes, a Citadel has trained it’s troops to work in unison).
    • Occult Techniques: Gallant Defenders (Inner Strength II), Concentric Defense (Resist Pain), and Sally (One Finger).
    • Known Techniques (5): Once again, these are up to the players.
  • Disadvantage: Valuable. A Citadel dominates the surrounding countryside and is stronghold that no invader can afford to bypass. As such, they are primary targets for any takeover of the area.

Every domain needs a location. As it happens for our example…

A modest river winds around the bases of the hills, constantly cutting into the ancient glacial moraines where it runs more quickly. The small avalanches thus created expose ancient masses of crystal, renew the modest placer deposits of metal which the locals harvest, and block the flow of the water – giving rise to numerous small lakes and swamps rich in fish, wildlife, and the reeds so useful in basket-making, construction, making rush lights, paper-making, and many other basic crafts. The area surrounding the river valley is, of course, heavily forested, providing lumber and game. The Crystal Valley domain is no great metropolis, but it is nonetheless a good place, where the land well supplies it’s peoples needs with something left over to sell. Sadly, those same natural dams and swamps mean that the small river is only navigable with frequent portages, and so is of limited use for commerce and transport.

Currently Known Resources (In general, resources provide circumstance bonuses)

  • Placer Mining +4 (Crystal +8). The area has considerable reserves of crystal (many of use in magic), although – unusually – they are buried in dirt and loose rock, apparently thanks to glacial deposition.
  • River Transport +2: While relatively near the Imperium to the south, with a river connection that is mostly navigable, the area is prone to small landslides, that break the river up into a series of long lakes and require frequent portages.
  • Forestry +2: The local forests offer plentiful supplies of timber, although a good deal of it is (or at least was) used in the mining operations.
  • Reed Ponds and Swamps (Fishing and Reed Production +4). The long lakes produce plenty of usable reeds, support large colonies of fish, and not a few beavers and otters.

Local resources are the equivalent of mundane equipment for a domain. Not surprisingly, the extent and value of the local resources is a major determinant of whether or not you’ve found a good place to settle down and get started building. A port will offer bonuses to Trade, Transport, and Fishing, a fishing fleet will offer bonuses to Survival or to Fishing, mountains offer ore and stone, and even swamps offer something. Unfortunately, of course, the best places usually already have domains on them – which is why the disaster which struck the realms north of the Imperium offers so many opportunities for founding profitable domains and why the Imperium is subsidizing the founding of such domains so as to rebuild it’s trade.

Basic Build for the Crystal Valley Domain:

Current Magnitude: 2. Base 72 Construction Points +3 (Disadvantage: Imperial Obligations) +6 (Founder Bonus) = 81

As a relatively new domain Crystal Valley is only recently established – but between recruiting the refugees from the recent disaster in the area, being founded by a sizeable party of adventurers, and being a supported colonizing expedition from the Imperium, it’s been growing rapidly and is past the introductory “just arrived” stage. Thus it’s Magnitude (“Level”) Two.

Basic Attributes: Might +2 (effective +4; Centric’s whoop currently provides a +2 Might bonus), Training +3, Scouting +2, Construction -2 (12 CP to raise to +0), Mobilization +1, Diplomacy +1

Domain Attributes do mirror the usual set, but I’m going with “attribute modifiers as attributes” for domains – not because of the “it’s simpler!” battlecry but because it emphasizes the scaling differences – and because Domain Attributes are much cheaper to raise than Domain Attributes. Add more people to the army because your population base is growing? That’s more Might. Bring in Masons and start replacing wattle-and-daub structures with stone? That’s boosting the Construction score. So here’s our first new rule: Domain Attributes cost 6 CP per +1, but you can’t buy more than (Magnitude) points of boosted attributes in total. No domain has the resources to upgrade EVERYTHING.

Professions: 0 (0 CP) + 15 (Training x (Magnitude + 3)) = 15

  • Survival +5 (5 PP) +2 (Scouting) = +7

This is pretty basic for any domain. On the Domain Scale this tends to take the form of fishing fleets and fish markets, subsidiary villages, farming, hunting, and housing construction – but “gather resources from the surrounding area and be self-sufficient” is pretty much what a domain DOES. About the only exceptions are outposts that are supported by their patrons.

  • Craft/Alchemy +4 (4 PP) +3 (Training) = +7

The expedition which founded Crystal Valley was led by a master Alchemist, who set up shop there – so this is hardly surprising.

  • Handle Animal +3 (Tier II, 1 PP) +1 (Diplomacy) = +4

Flocks, herds, draught animals, and mounts are all fundamental to civilization, so this is a fine skill to have. Especially if someone or something attacks them.

  • Simple Profession/Crystal Mining (Tier III) +5 (2 PP) +2 (Scouting) = +7

The most obvious source of profit in the area is the reserves of crystal – although, thankfully, there isn’t a lot of training required to look through newly-exposed layers of earth and look for the shiny bits.

  • Complex Profession/Forestry (Tier II) +5 (2 PP) +2 (Scouting) = +7

Gathering lumber, nuts and fruits, dyes, and all the other vegetable resources of the forest falls under Forestry – making it a basic skill for any forest domain.

  • Simple Profession / Fishing (Tier III) +4 (1 PP) +2 (Scouting) = +6

A source of profit as well as a way to build up reserves, this simple profession is cheap to buy.

For a Domain, it’s skills represent the abilities and professions of the people who live there. While this does make “retraining” a little easier, it’s already usually fairly easy to persuade a game master to let characters pull a few skill points out of things they never use to invest in things they do. Sure, Carpentry may have been useful early on, but when you never do it any longer – and have seen a thousands of monsters, spells being cast, and weird realms – those skill points have probably wandered over into something else anyway. I’m using the Skill Tier system (making less useful skills cheaper to buy) for the setting of this domain, but you can just ignore that if you’re not interested. One important note is that a Domain can make (Magnitude + 2) Profession Checks in each Domain Turn. One of them is usually Survival unless the domain has already built up reserves to use.

In any case, as a fairly new domain, Crystal Valley doesn’t have that wide a selection of professions as yet – only the most vital ones. We can, of course, presume that there are people who can make usable shoes, weave crude homespun, and make basic clothing – but most of that really goes under the basic Survival check, rather than building up reserves or producing anything for export.

Offense Rating: +2 (12 CP) +4 (Might) = +6

Considering that it’s guarded by a group of adventurers – including Cenric and his sapient combat- trained armed and armored gorillas – having a decent “Base Attack Bonus”  should not be too surprising.

Defense Rating: 10 (Base) +2 (Light Terrain Barriers) +4 (Enhanced Earthworks) +2 (Assistance / Armored Troops) +1 (Mobility) = 19

The party has focused heavily on building up defenses, rather than accepting a few casualties in order to expand more rapidly – a cautious, low-risk, option. At this point Crystal Valley has spent more time on building defenses than on anything else.

Cohesion: 20 (12 CP + 2 x Construction – otherwise known as 2d10 HD).

As with military units and hit points, loss of all Cohesion doesn’t mean that everyone is dead and the domain has been burned to the ground; it just means that all organization has collapsed and the Domain is thus incapable of taking domain-scale actions. I’m going to give the maximum for the first few domain hit dice because why not?

  • Fortification Check:+0 (Construction) +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) = +2.
  • Response Check: +1 (Mobilization) +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) = +2.
  • Morale Check: +1 (Diplomacy) +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) = +2.

Will the domain endure an earthquake with minimal damage? Will the firefighters put out that house fire before it burns down a major section of the capital? Will the army stand against that horde of undead? Will the government resist being bribed and suborned? The perils may be different, but the concept of “Saving Throws” remains.

Militia: Add All Martial Weapons to All Simple Weapons (6 CP).

With the city led by several martial characters with their own troops, the militia may not actually be skilled with all martial weapons – but they’re practiced with all the ones they’ve actually got, so the difference is something of a moot point.

Initiative: +1 (Mobilization) +4 (Improved Initiative, 6 CP).

Again, with adventurers personal followers providing the backbone of the cities forces, a fast response to any difficulty is only to be expected.

Domain Abilities:

  • Stipend (6 CP):

At the moment, Crystal Valley is supported by it’s founders, who have a surprising amount of resources to invest in it. This translates to having a Stipend.

  • Alchemical Mastery (6 CP): Using the “Where Does He Get These Wonderful Toys” package at a basic level, the domain is well-equipped with alchemical wonders and exotic charms and talismans.
  • Privilege (Order Patron) (6 CP): The domain has not yet learned to exploit this fully, but likely will fairly soon, further enhancing it’s Charms and Talismans.

This is basically having a magical patron – a gateway to developing further powers based on that patron. While the selection of patrons that can grant powers to an entire domain is kind of limited, in the setting that includes (obviously enough) all of the Domain Lords – although not all of them are willing to do so. Of course, while Domain Lords are specific to Atheria, it’s hard to deny the benefits of having a more powerful patron that may assist you on occasion. Just look at real-world politics for a long list of examples of one country serving as a patron for another.

Wealth Rating: Well-Off (3 CP).

This is from The Practical Enchanter, which offers an option for using Wealth Levels instead of money for a setting – and at the moment, thanks to salvaged resources, support from the Imperium to the south, and being founded and supported by a bunch of wealth adventurers, the Crystal Valley domain is doing quite well at the moment.

Note that, among other minor benefits (and a comfortable lifestyle), being Well Off provides access to some Charms and Talismans – minor but useful items. These include a Talismanic
Ditty Bag and three charms – an Alchemist’s Flask, Sunstone, and “Elfin” Cloak.

One reason for getting a Wealth Rating is that City Magic Items (See “Magical Businesses”) tend to be quite expensive, while Charms and Talismans are generally useful and cheap. Secondarily in this case, it’s because Atheria (the setting for the Crystal Valley Domain) doesn’t support normal magical items or magical businesses, making Charms and Talismans the only real option.

Is this complete? Well… on Atheria, where conventional magical items do not exist, you don’t really need rules for money. After all, Domains really don’t collect heaps of coins; they accumulate stockpiles of food and supplies, build aqueducts, roads, canals, irrigation systems, and villages, have land and herds of animals, and deploy vast amounts of labor (for those with fond memories of playing Civilization, you can always Corrupt some special ability of your domain to require a massive structure and call it a Wonder of the World).

For other settings you can simply treat “Domain Scale Money” as normal money that cannot be translated into character-level funds because it’s an abstract measure of resources; tracts of arable land, days of service owed, herds of pigs, and so on – stuff that’s spread out over the doman. You can’t really translate “we get a bunch of stuff to feed the garrison with from the farmers every week” into a +5 sword. Magical swordsmiths tend to want gold and gems and powerful items in exchange for their labors – not bellyaches from eating too much.

Powerful Adventurers who are heavily involved in the domain effectively contribute a Bonus Feat each – two if they have a substantial number of personal followers with useful talents. Still, there are distinct limits to this sort of thing; no combination of adventurers can contribute more than 36 CP worth of benefits in total. For the moment I’ve only accounted for Cenric, but several other characters may make contributions.

Now there will doubtless be corner cases, and I’ll have to make a few more rulings – but this gives us a reasonably detailed way to describe domains, a way to measure their ability to handle wars and other emergencies, details about what they produce, and the obvious note that the quick way for a domain to improve is by holding off attackers and through conquest – taking over additional areas. Waiting for natural population growth to increase your domains magnitude is going to be a very slow process – like waiting to level up through role-playing awards.

Eclipse And Sphere Magic – The Sphere Of Blood, A.K.A. “Bloodbending”

This inquiry was about constructing a Spheres of Power character – in particular, a user of the Blood Sphere.

That’s a system where characters are generally limited to a relatively small selection of effects in a few narrow themes but can use the basic effects (usually equivalent to fairly specialized spells of level three or less) as much as they want. They also get a relatively small number of spell points available to boost those effects up to the equivalent of spells of levels 4-6. Finally, there are a number of specific talents and boosts they can pick up – mostly equivalent to specialized feats -to improve their magic.

Honestly, there are already a LOT of ways to dabble in thematic magic in Eclipse, and ways to pick up specific specialized boosts. Still, it’s boring to do things the same way again and the request was to pretty much match the original system – so here is yet another way to build this sort of thing.

First up, Spheres Of Power gives characters (Level + Casting Attribute Modifier) “Spell Points” to boost them up with. To buy those spell points take…

  • 6d6 (24) Mana with Spell Enhancement, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (12 CP) / only for Spell Enhancement or Rune Blood Magic, only to upgrade Blood Spells, each spell only allows a specific set of seven (I like seven, so why not?) Upgraded functions. As usual, no more than three points of Mana may be spent upgrading any single spell.
  • Rite of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (6 CP) / only to recharge the restricted Mana Pool above, takes at least half an hour of rest per die.

Well, that was cheap. Most characters will probably want more spell points and recovery thereof, but that’s not hard to get.

Next up we need to buy the actual abilities – which the Spheres Of Power system seems to mostly limit to third to fourth level effects. A few individual effects may hit higher levels, but they’re usually special cases and have various special conditions attached to them.

One way to make such a character in Eclipse is to take Rune Magic (the “Blood Casting” and “Blood Mastery” skills, for 2 SP/Level), take Shaping (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect/ only to produce level one effects in an extremely narrow field, only works with specific spell effects approved by the game master, requires gestures and spellcasting to use (although that also gives us “Caster Level = User’s Hit Dice” automatically) (6 CP).

Please note that, in some cases, I’m just going to substitute something better for the abilities listed for the Sphere Of Blood. That’s because the Sphere of Blood includes some implicit assumptions about “biology” having something to do with “life” in d20. It doesn’t, or you couldn’t use the same healing spells that work on humans on elementals and such. In d20 a human can father a mostly-human kid on a mass of fire or rock – or on a ghost. You can cross-breed almost anything. Face it. Real-world “biology” has nothing to do in D20 beyond getting frustrated and going to cry in a corner.

We’ll also add the Arcanum Minimus metamagical feat from The Practical Enchanter, Specialized and Corrupted / only applies to Shaped effects, always applies to shaped effects (2 CP) – allowing affected spells to be cast at a reduced level if they are sufficiently limited. In this case, Blood Sphere spells only work on creatures with blood and creatures inherently immune to bleed damage cannot be targeted unless they have fed on living blood within the last hour. Other special conditions may apply to particular effects

That gives us effects with a base effective power level of level two spells – with additional special requirements commonly boosting the base spell up to something equivalent to level three (which I’ll be taking as the default). Common enhancement options include:

  • Continuing (+1/2/3 Mana to have the effect continue for one round/minute/hour per caster level without concentration).
  • Multiple (+1/2/3 Mana, effect strikes up to 2/4/8 targets).
  • Area (+1/2/3 Mana for 5′ Radius or 10′ Cone, 20′ Radius or 30′ Cone, or 30′ Radius or 60′ Cone).


  • Range (+1 Range Category for +1 Mana).

Note that enhancements can be applied up to a total of 3 Mana, so there is nothing wrong with combining them until that limit is reached.

  • Save DC’s are normally (13 + Mana Spent + Casting Attribute Modifier). Dedicated bloodbenders will buy Improved Augmented Bonus (12 CP) to add a second attribute modifier to this.

So lets define those effects:

Beasts Of Blood: You may cause a temporary Construct to rise from the blood of a recently-slain creature of at least medium size within close range (no more than once per corpse). This is a Psychic Construct I to III (your choice, as per The Practical Enchanter), with a duration of Concentration. It can leave the creation range. You can control no more than twice your Caster Level in hit dice of constructs at any one time although you can merge two of them (choosing which “survives”) to add the sacrificed constructs remaining hit points to the one that “survives”. The Continuing option is available.

  • +1 Mana: Construct IV. Summon a Hemo-Goblin from a currently bleeding targets blood*.
  • +2 Mana: Construct V. Add one Construct Option of each rank (A, B, and C) to your construct.
  • +3 Mana: Construct VI. Summon up to four Hemo-Goblins from currently bleeding targets blood, still only one per target*.

*A Hemo-Goblin has the base states of an otherwise ordinary goblin. It appears in a space adjacent to the target. It gains a (Caster Level) bonus to its armor class, attack rolls, saving throws, and skill checks and fights the target to the death. It will relentlessly pursue the target if they try to run. It vanishes after a full day, when slain, or if the target dies, whichever comes first. It will not do anything save pursue and fight the target but always knows the targets general location – not that it will tell anyone. Only one can be created for any given target at a time. This, of course, is from the Spheres Of Power Wiki – and is a sufficiently horrible pun that I just could not leave it out even if the effect actually makes little or no sense.

Blood Spider’s Weave: Target takes 1d4/Two Caster Levels and is Entangled. A Fortitude save negates the Entangled part. The Entanglement persists for (Concentration + 1d4) rounds or the target spends a move action to save again successfully. The Continuing, Multiple, Area, and Range Options are available.

  • +1 Mana: When the caster takes damage the target also takes damage, up to 1 point/caster level/round.
  • +2 Mana: The damage continues each round until the entanglement is broken. The user may force the target to remain still or to take a 5′ step as the caster directs each round.
  • +3 Mana: None.

Bloodlore: Within close range you may learn the targets state of health, current and maximum hit points, and other physical health information, such as diseases and toxins present, although a Fortitude save applies if the target wishes to resist. Range and Multiple apply.

  • +1 Mana: Relieve Illness/Poison (Hedge Wizardry). Enhance Disease/Poison (Victim gets an extra dose of the deleterious effect).
  • +2 Mana: Expel Disease/Poison. Blood Sense (Blindsensing of creatures with blood within a 30′ radius).
  • +3 Mana: Bestow Curse.

Blood Spray: Given a source of uncontained blood within close range, you can telekinetically manipulate it. A flask of blood, 2d6 HP worth of the user’s blood, or blood drawn in combat will do, but using blood this way renders it unfit for further use. This allows you to perform a variety of simple tricks (laying a trail, pushing a button, closing a door, etc) using the blood as a tool or allowing you to perform a Ranged Combat Maneuver at +4. The Range and Mass modifiers apply.

  • +1 Mana: Blood Alchemy (add an alchemical effect up to 50 GP), Obscuring Blood (Mist)
  • +2 Mana: Blood Link (you are effectively grasping the target until it’s removed).
  • +3 Mana: Blood Shield (grant 2 x caster level temporary hit points), Stinking Cloud

Coagulation: The user may take 2d6 damage to create any mundane item (or group of related items, such as a bow and arrows or the pieces of a suit of armor,which can be created in place) valued at up to 500 GP. Such items are enchanted with Greater Magic Weapon or the equivalent (Greater Magic Armor, or Greater Magic Tool) but will fade from existence a few moments after the caster lets go of them. The Continuing option applies to keep items around after they would normally disappear.

  • +1 Mana: The item is effectively made of Adamant, Mithril, or another GM-Approved special material.
  • +2 Mana: The items “Plusses” may be expended on specific powers, although the GM may rule that some will not work.
  • +3 Mana: The user may control the item within close range as if he or she was using it normally. He or she might thus create a suit of armor and walk it into an area to check for traps.

Conduit Of Life: A weapon anointed with 2d6 HP worth of blood or which has wounded an opponent within the last five rounds may be manipulated by virtue of that blood, being granted the Bane (versus the type of creature the blood came from) and Whirling properties. The Continuing modifier may be applied.

  • +1 Mana: Add the Brutal Surge or Corrosive property.
  • +2 Mana: Add the Enervating or Vampyric property.
  • +3 Mana: Add the Bodyfeeder or Implacable property.

Crystals Of Blood: You may crystalize blood, causing an opponent to take (2d6 +1d6/two caster levels to a maximum of 12d6) damage and be staggered for a round. Being internal and made of the targets own tissues, this bypassed DR and temporary hit points. This may be used as a ranged touch attack ray or allow a fortitude save to half the damage and negate the staggering effect. The Area and Multiple modifiers apply.

  • +1 Mana: Add (Casting Attribute Modifier) rounds of being staggered to the damage.
  • +2 Mana: Boost damage to (2 + Caster Level)d6, 20d6 maximum. Add “victim takes 3d6 bleed damage per round for (Casting Attribute Modifier) rounds” to the effect.
  • +3 Mana: Change Of State: If the victim dies, their blood remains crystalized until the crystals are broken, and may be readily collected and saved for later use. Blood Talisman: Using 1d6 HP worth of crystalized blood from a creature you may grant up to (Caster Level / 2, 12 maximum) CP worth of abilities from that creature to whoever carries that crystal for the next hour. Sadly, only one such talisman can be used at a time by any given creature and the blood vanishes after the duration expires.

Hemorrhagic Command: As long as you concentrate, the target must make a Fortitude Save each round as a standard action to avoid being forced to perform some simple physical action instead of their intended action(s) – although this causes considerable bruising. The victim can forego this save to act mentally. The Continuing and Multiple modifiers may be applied.

  • +1 Mana: Provide a +10 bonus to a physical movement skill (EG: Jump, Running Speed, Tumble, etc). Provide the “Compression” ability
  • +2 Mana: Override Paralysis, casting without need for physical movement and moving yourself.
  • +3 Mana: Induce the equivalent of Nausea, for (Concentration + 2d4) rounds. A Fort save reduces this to Sickened. Cause 3d6 Constitution damage, but a Fortitude save reduces this to 6d6 normal damage.

Sanguine Mastery: With concentration you can manipulate another creatures blood within Close range. You may cause bleeding (1 Point/Caster Level) or grant resistance to bleeding (1 + Level/3 points, bleeding attacks must roll Caster Level or (for nonmagical bleeding attacks) BAB + 1d20 against your Caster Level + 10 or be negated). A Fort Save, a lapse in concentration, or any of the usual methods will stop the bleeding. The Multiple, Area, and Continuing options are all available.

  • +1 Mana: Spell impedes a sense, causing a 20% miss chance or inflicting some similar penalty. The victim is effectively Greased while the bleeding continues.
  • +2 Mana: Spell negates a sense while the bleeding continues. Double the Bleeding Damage or the protective effect.
  • +3 Mana: None.

The Blood Is The Life: You may manipulate life force, either causing or removing the Dazzled, Deafened, Fatigued or Staggered conditions while you concentrate and for an additional 2d4 rounds. The Continuing, Multiple, Area, and Range modifiers are all applicable.

  • +1 Mana: Add Blinded, Exhausted, and Surged (Gain an extra attack or AoO) to the list.
  • +2 Mana: Add Diseased (pick one), Poisoned (1d6/1d6 Con), Confused, Nauseated, and Hasted / Slowed to the list.
  • +3 Mana: Add Energy Drained and Paralyzed to the list.

This one hung me up for a while – but then I realized that, in my general fondness for “realistic”, simulationist, systems, I was trying too hard; d20 “biology” runs on magic and positive energy, not on earthly notions about how bodies actually work, making this just a “modify conditions” effect.

Transfusion: Once per round as a free action the user may transfer any Bleed Damage taken by a creature in close range to another creature in close range as temporary hit points. The Multiple option is available.

  • +1 Mana: Add 1d2 Con Damage to the Bleed. Heal beneficiary by (Hit Dice of Victim x Con Damage). This won’t work on creatures with no Con.
  • +2 Mana: Drain 1d4 Mana OR 2d4 Spell Levels OR 3d4 Power from the victim. Transfer a poison or disease from one victim to another. Vampiric Touch using d8’s.
  • +3 Mana: Transfer Mana/Spell Levels/Power from the victim instead of draining them. Blood Brotherhood / link two willing targets together so that, as long as they remain within medium range of each other, they have a common pool of hit points.

While there may be something I missed, one final item from the Sphere Of Blood is Immunity to Bleed Damage. Personally I’d take that as an Innate Enchantment (Cure Minor Wounds Cantrip, x.7 Personal Only x.6 only to automatically stop wounds from bleeding, Unlimited-Use Use-Activated = 420 GP. About half a CP worth of Innate Enchantment.

There are various special modifiers you can buy – but Eclipse offers an immense variety of special modifiers to buy. Get what you like.

Now that entire package comes out to 38.5 CP and 46 SP – although you’ll probably want to buy a few of those thematic extras along the way which will increase the cost to around 50.5 CP. In practice I would probably just pay a little more, go freeform to begin with, and save the bother of writing up the base effects – but that wasn’t what the request was for.

In any case, this is still pretty cheap; you could complete the basic components of the Sphere of Blood in about five levels without much of a strain. That’s because the Spheres were designed to bring Spellcasters down to a desired power level – the equivalent of “Tier 3″, where most of the martial classes tended to hang out. Sure, the system boosts the save DC’s a bit, but it pretty much eliminates the vastly powerful high-level magic shenanigans and a great deal of the versatility.

Eclipse, on the other hand, was designed to let martial characters, and skillmasters, and other types of characters, be just as effective as the clerics and wizards. After all, how could I say that “you can build any kind of character that you want” and then tell people “except that I’m taking away a lot of the spellcasters toys so you can’t build them”?

So very limited power sets are kind of cheap in Eclipse. After all, there has to be SOME reason to take them instead of full-blown spellcasting. Thus, while Eclipse will build pretty much any power set you want, there’s one thing that it definitely WON’T do. By itself, it will not limit the characters to fit a particular setting, power level, or style of play. After all, if it did… it would not be letting you build pretty much any power set would it? Thus, while the basic Shaping / Arcanum Minimus / Spell Enhancement combination as shown above sticks reasonably closely to the limitations of Spheres Of Power, there are ways around that. Most obviously… if a character pursues the Rune Magic option long enough they WILL eventually be able to cast improvised spells of above ninth level within that field, even if they will want to buy a bunch more Mana to do it with. As always, it is sometimes up the the game master to say “No”.

Game Balance Redux

Once again I’ve been getting questions about “Game Balance”, and statements about how it was so bad in early editions of AD&D and is still bad now.

As is very common with questions that come up over and over again, this one is rooted in a difference in definitions.

Early edition AD&D (like many other RPG’s of the time) did not have or need “game balance” – and thereby had perfect game balance.

Early RPG’s were mostly about TEAMS. It was the Party versus the World – with the world, as run by the game master, existing to provide exciting challenges for the player character team to play through. The Game Master was not on the other “side” because there was no other side.

It was the TEAM that was important. Individual characters came and went – through death by misadventure, crippling injury, judicial conviction (and either execution or imprisonment), retirement (once very common – but how often have you seen it happen in a modern-style game?), taking up a steady job, getting married and raising kids, going into politics, and so on – but the team went on (quite a few of ours went on for multiple generations or sponsored new teams for side quests). New characters were brought in at level one or so, and carefully equipped and shepherded by the higher level characters until – after only a few sessions thanks to the doubling experience point tables – they were ready to take a full role in the party. The overall party level crept steadily up, despite the fact that any one player might start characters anew at level one a dozen or more times. Rare character types that called for superior rolls survived a bit better, and so – over time – became more common. That was a bit of a reward really. The player had taken a hit for the team again – and so got another chance at getting an exceptional character – or if said player rolled really badly, a bit of a role-playing challenge for a bit until that inferior character left play (which would most likely be very soon if their rolls were really bad).

Was there “Balance” between characters? It certainly didn’t involve “level”. Since the experience point tables all differed… characters would be of a variety of levels anyway even if none of them were ever replaced. What about classes? Remember “Linear Fighters Quadratic Wizards”?

Even ignoring the fact that relatively low-level and very high level wizards had identical limits on preparing spells (15 minutes per spell level per spell – so preparing a SINGLE fourth level spell required one hour) and that spells took a long time to cast and were extremely easy to interrupt and ruin (making casting a powerful spell a job requiring that the rest of the party cooperate to keep the wizard from being interrupted), this didn’t matter; characters did not last all that long. The TEAM did – and casting powerful spells was actually a perfect example. Making that happen was a TEAM effort. The Fighter and the Thief were just as responsible for getting that powerful spell into play as the Caster because if they hadn’t held the line, the caster would have been interrupted (being splashed with water would do it) and have automatically lost the spell.

Since there was no actual opponent except “the universe”, and there was no actual competitor between characters, there was no real conception of “game balance” the way the term is commonly used now.

So how did the games have perfect balance?

It was because game play started the moment you sat down at the table with a blank sheet of paper, grabbed a pencil or pen, and picked up the dice to roll your attributes. At that point, you were playing – and everything was pretty obviously perfectly balanced. Even if you got a bad pen or tore your paper… you just got some more. From a game mechanics point of view the players were all completely indistinguishable. Somebody might be the game-masters boyfriend of girlfriend, or be a fast talker or something – but you couldn’t blame the game mechanics for THAT.

That was why Travelers random rolls for the results (benefits, goods, and training) of each term of service (and all characters were assumed to start out working for some organization) included results along the lines of “Your character died. Give the sheet to the game master and start over”, “You have survived this term with (specified) long term injuries. Roll on the random discharge benefits table and join the party”, “You have survived. You may opt out and roll on the random discharge benefits table and join the party or roll to re-enlist for another term”, and “Your character is not eligible for another term. Roll on the random discharge benefits table and join the party” made perfect sense. You were already playing the game, even if your character was not yet ready – and you had important decisions to make; “start with what I’ve got now, or gamble it all on another turn?”.

That mechanic is widely mocked today because “beginning play” has come to mean “when my character enters play” instead of “when I sat down at the table and said “how do I make a character?” – turning “I didn’t get quite the results I wanted from the character-creation minigame! Oh well!” into “my character died before the game started!”.

The first, of course, is perfectly reasonable. The second sounds absurd to many current players. Yet they’re both accurately describing the same event, albeit from slightly different viewpoints.

Once the dice were rolling, some players did better than others – but the same is true for Monopoly. And, unlike Monopoly… most of those differences were purely temporary because the characters they applied to were purely temporary.

That’s why a Ranger could start off with an extra hit die, and a pile of skills (even if most of them lacked rules, you still knew that your Ranger was an expert tracker, and knew wilderness survival, and so on), and later on got both some Magic-User and Druid spellcasting, and was much better than a Fighter in almost every way (even winding up with comparable hit points in the end because Rangers got 11d8 in the end while Fighters only got 9d10) – and all that was needed to create a Ranger was some lucky die rolls when the player was making their character. But when the Ranger retired, or died, or otherwise left play… those temporary advantages vanished, the player rolled for a new character, and the party went on.

Low-level games saw a lot of Demihumans, who had advantages then and so made the party stronger. At higher levels they had disadvantages – and so new characters coming in were most often human, to make the party stronger.

But it was always the PARTY that mattered. I had several players elect to play Familiars or other minor party associates for a time because they found those roles fun or challenging. Such characters were far less powerful than most of the other characters – and that didn’t matter. If they were played cleverly, they could contribute quite effectively to the team. Character death was a minor setback for the team, but – just like a football or baseball team that lost a major player because of injury or retirement – the team went on. That’s why it wasn’t uncommon for a character to make a heroic sacrifice; dying to pull out a win for the team. That was one of the best ways to retire a character. That story might be recounted for years afterwards, long after most of the other characters who hadn’t pulled off something so dramatic had been forgotten.

“Game Balance” – by which is usually meant a balance of power between the player characters – didn’t become a factor until much later, when the focus of the games started to shift from the the team to individual characters. Now that’s not necessarily a good or bad thing, but it IS different.

Personally, I was quite disappointed when a game master insisted on contriving an escape for a priestly character of mine who had concluded that the demonic invasion had to be stopped, that he was the only one in position to do it, and that it didn’t matter if he died doing it; he was a servant of his god, and the world would be saved. So he gathered his power, hurled himself into the demonic gate, and expended everything he had, including his own life force (thanks to an ability which let him take damage to power up his magic), in a cataclysmic explosion to seal the portal.

And the game master had him wake up, quite anticlimactically, elsewhere despite my protests that his martyrdom had been entirely in character and was a splendid end to his adventures.

The game master, however, was younger and had a more recent prospective on the game. He saw “character death” as losing, and thought that “losing” was an unacceptable consequence for heroism in the service of a lawful good god – and refused to allow what he saw as an unfair result no matter HOW appropriate it was.

Personally I found that that took a lot of the fun out of it – as if Russell Case in Independence Day had just outrun the blast rather than dying to pull off a near-impossible victory.

But despite the rambling… that’s why arguments about “game balance” in the early editions almost never resolve anything. It’s because the people arguing commonly have very different ideas about what “game balance” IS, and are arguing from incompatible prospectives – and that’s pretty pointless.

Before arguing about game balance, you need to agree on what that term actually means in any given edition of any given game. It’s rarely the same thing.

Eclipsing Venom

This request was for a way to build Marvel Comics “Venom”. Now that’s a little odd simply because “Venom” isn’t a particular character; it’s an alien blob of goo that gloms onto another character and enhances them. Sure, it has it’s own intelligence and such – but it doesn’t really DO much of anything on it’s own except search for a host. Worse, unlike – say – a suit of power armor, it mostly enhances the hosts own abilities up to a maximum limit and provides a limited selection of new ones. (It also can only be “worn” by entities that meet certain compatibility requirements, but that’s purely a plot-driven thing, and has little bearing on building it).

In d20 terms, that isn’t so much a creature as it is an item. Worse, it’s an item that depends a lot on the built-in assumptions of a comic book world – most notably the Superheroic World Template and the Four-Color Template. In a setting without those in play, the Venom Symbiote is going to be a lot more limited. Still quite powerful – but limited. After all, the user won’t be able to ignore support and leverage, hit things at whatever range fits best on the page, or otherwise ignore physics.

In Eclipse terms, an item that provides a suite of new abilities is probably a Relic.

So what sort of abilities does the Venom Symbiont provide?

  • Predatory Essence: Shapeshift (Leopard Attributes), Attribute Modifiers (Str +6, Dex +8, Con +4, +10 Move, +1 Natural Armor, +8 to Agility and Stealth skills, Low-Light Vision, Scent, 1d6 Bite, 1d3 Claws), Hybrid Form, Clear Speech. Specialized: Leopard Form Only, Corrupted: Cannot actually Change Forms (24 CP base, net cost 8 CP).
  • Malleable Form: Add Variants (3 CP, equivalent to a continuous Alter Self effect). Obviously enough, to fit the theme, I’d take this as a minor variant – perhaps a small “pool” of power/points/what-have-you to allocate between some of the possible effects. Perhaps about 5 Options from among: Natural Armor (+1 per Option allotted), winged flight (3 options for clumsy gliding), extended reach (+5/Option, +15′ Max), Natural Weapon Upgrades (to 1d8, 1 Option, to 2d8 3 Options), Camouflage (1 Option), Full Disguise (3 Options), Damage Reduction (1/- per option allotted), Wall-Crawling (3 Options), Winged Flight (5 Options).

These are both examples of Shapeshift Cheese – but we’re talking comic book superheroes here. A fairly large helping of cheese comes with the territory.

Web Shooting:

  • Inherent Spell (L3 Anyspell, producing any Webbing effect of up to L2), Corrupted / Powered by Mana (4 CP).
  • 4d6 (16) Mana with the Spell Enhancement Option, Specialized and Corrupted / only for use with the Web Shooting power above (6 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +14 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to recharge the webbing pool above (9 CP).

In a superhero world, with a basically unlimited Mana supply, that will allow the user to routinely throw around some fairly high-powered Web-based effects. In a standard d20 world, where the mana supply is going to be pretty limited… that will still suffice to throw around two or three fifth level webbing effects in any one fight. That isn’t bad; a well-placed wall of webbing (stone) or some such can have a fairly big effect on a battlefield.

Innate Enchantment:

  • Symbiotic Consciousness: Intelligent (500 GP) Int 10, Wis 10, and Cha 10 (0 GP), Telepathy (1000 GP), 120′ Senses (1000 GP), Darkvision (500 GP). This might need to be upgraded – but I’m not really aware of the symbiont showing any exceptional brilliance. The symbiont also has the ability to track separated bits of itself / offspring; I’m going to call that a minor enhanced sense on the level of Darkvision, above, given that it’s basically a plot device (500 GP). Unfortunately, the Symbiont basically lives to fight – and so tends to constantly push the wearer towards violence.
  • Handy Haversack (2000 GP). The symbiont can store stuff in extradimensional pockets. This is very convenient, but is still mostly a nod to the convention of skin-tight superhero costumes.
  • Healing Belt x 2, x.7 Personal-Only (1050 GP). The symbiont offers some regenerative abilities. How much? That’s pretty hard to say. After all, not only is it subject to the usual variability of comic books, but translating to d20 – where an anti-tank missile does an average of 14 damage and a megaton city-killer fusion bomb does an average of 72 – throws in yet another set of narrative conventions. I’m calling it 12d8 – enough to shrug off quite a lot of attacks, but not enough to keep going indefinitely.
  • Sleeves Of Many Garments (200 GP): The symbiont can serve as pretty much any kind of clothing.
  • Traveler’s Any Tool (250 GP), Masterwork Thieves Tools (100 GP), and Alchemists Lab (200 GP): The symbionts shapeshifting abilities are quite enough to let it substitute for tools.
  • Personal Haste (+30′ to movement modes, +1 attack when making a Full Attack) (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated = 2000 GP).
  • Extended Reach (+5 Natural Reach for one minute) (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x Personal Only x.7 = 1400 GP).
  • Immortal Vigor (+12 + 2 x Con Mod HP) (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x Personal Only x.7 = 1400 GP).
  • Enlarge Person (Practical Enchanter variant, +1 Size Category when active) (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x Personal Only x.7 = 1400 GP).
  • Create Rope (Creates up to 60′ of strong silk rope, lasting up to one hour per caster level. Optionally, you can make one end sticky and/or fire it as a ranged touch attack to stick to something with about Str 16) (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated = 2000 GP).
  • Augment Attack: (+1d8 damage with up to three natural weapons, lasts for one minute) (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x Personal Only x.7 = 1400 GP).
  • Flesh Ward (DR 2/-) (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x Personal Only x.7 = 1400 GP).

With a total cost of 18,300 GP, these innate enchantments would normally cost 19 CP – but they are Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / the user takes Double Damage from Fire and Sonic attacks (6 CP).

Disadvantages (-10 CP).

  • Accursed. The symbiont occasionally spawns copies of itself, or becomes infections, or otherwise extremely troublesome. The wearer will just have to run around cleaning up the mess when this happens, but will gain no experience points for doing so.
  • Accursed. The symbiont tends to animate itself and wander off looking for a new host if it’s current user fails to use it for a time, ir simply isn’t satisfactory.
  • Incompetent:The user tends to absorb some of the symbionts personality traits, exaggerate instincts and irrationalities, becoming disassociated from normal society, and having difficulties with social interactions – suffering a -3 penalty on all social skills.

That gives us a net cost of 26 CP. Due to the magic of rounding down, we could fit in another 1 CP worth of special abilities – perhaps an alien language that it shares with the user (1 CP).

Once again, this is a hyper-efficient design – and is, like all 4 CP Relics, something of a game-defining device. This is also why the usual suggested limitation is 4 CP worth of Relics (if the game master opts to allow them at all) – enough so that everyone can have their own little superhero package, but not enough to completely dominate the game.

Eclipse, Spelljamming, and Cosmic Voyages

The ornate helm is a thing of beauty. Wrought of blue-green metal and ornamented with a tracery of tiny black opals, it is hard to say if it suggests the surface of the sea at night or the night sky. It is clearly a treasure of great price even before it is touched – but when it is touched, to the heart it sings the music of the spheres, a song of travel and distant worlds. The mana within it burns with the need to take flight, and sail the seas of space once more.

Today, it’s something that’s come up recently – a relic of a lost world created by a long-dead god from the dreams of his (or her?) followers, for – thanks to the Eclipse’s “Infusion” ability – gods often wind up creating religious relics, granting powers to their followers, and developing strange divine attributes based on their followers beliefs.

Crown Of Worlds (Also known as the Helm Of Stars and by many other names) (4 CP Relic):

  • One Level of Cleric Of Madai Package Deal Spellcasting (10 CP): As usual, using this requires making a fairly serious commitment to the service of Madai (at the moment, that mostly means gathering what little is known about him or her and working towards his or her resurrection). As usual, the package deal includes two Paths/Domains, their accompanying “Domain Powers”, Spell Conversion (to the spells from the Cosmic Voyager Domain. It is important to note that any spell the user happens to have available can be converted – not just clerical spells), and the usual set of Domain Spell Slots.

The Cosmic Voyager Domain:

Within the cosmic deeps, the elemental forces of reality – whatever those may be in any given part of the multiverse – run riot, unrestrained by the presence of stars, worlds, and life. Still, voyagers seek to penetrate those depths, searching out whatever lies beyond. For those who feel that call, the Cosmic Voyager domain will answer.

Granted Power: Superstition (6 CP). Characters with this domain may prepare clerical spells of up to level four even in realms where the power they draw upon has no presence – or even if it does not currently exist.

  • L1: Locate Self: Identifies your current location in some detail, most often starting with identifying your current plane of existence and galaxy.
  • L2: Locate Portal: Locates the nearest ship-sized hyperspace jump gate, stargate, crystal portal, wormhole, nexus, or similar location, regardless of the form such things take within a particular realm or crystal sphere.
  • L3: Key Portal: Opens an existent, but currently-closed, stargate, crystal portal, or similar long enough for a ship to pass through it.
  • L4: Hidden Paths: Cloaks a ship against detection, providing a +15 insight bonus to Stealth attempts (using the pilots base skill) for the next hour.
  • L5: Shipway: Opens a ship-scale portal through realm barriers, allowing entry to, or exit from, hyperspace, subspace, astral space, or other planes – although the accuracy is poor, there is no guarantee of safe arrival conditions, things can follow you through, it can take up to ten minutes, and you are limited to those planes associated with the local reality.
  • L6: Arcane Modulation: Allows weaponry and spells to operate normally in poor conditions for up to an hour. You could fire lasers through ionized gas, plasma weapons underwater, kinetic weapons through a raging storm, or use incendiary weapons safely in a flammable medium. This normally affects a ship and all aboard it, but can be used to simply affect a 30′ radius.
  • L7: Planar Sphere: Alters certain planar traits around a ship to maintain “normal” conditions for the caster and vessel for one day.
  • L8: Warp Bubble: Allows a ship to reach worlds and regions that lack normal access routes. The voyage may require several subjective days and occasionally involves strange encounters along the way. There have been reports of time travel when the lengthy casting time of this spell is rushed, but those are difficult to confirm; there seem to be many random factors involved.
  • L9: Atheric Slipstream: Allows a ship extremely high-speed travel – sufficient for long-range interstellar travel and intergalactic travel given time. The exact time required is set by the game master, but even crossing a galaxy is fairly fast.

The Spelljammer Domain:

Ships that sail between the stars must be even more prepared for anything than those that traverse mere distant seas – and so this domain exists to allow sufficiently skillful captains to meet any contingency. A truly powerful Spelljammer Captain can guide his or her ship to harbor through incredible perils, always, somehow, bringing it safely home.

Granted Power: Spell Conversion (To the Spells of This Domain, 6 CP). With full spontaneous access to both the Cosmic Voyager and Spelljammer Domains, a powerful Captain can indeed be ready for anything!

  • L1: Evaluate Cargo: Allows you to evaluate the value and difficulties involved in transporting a given cargo – including things like hatching monster eggs, stowaways, and other troubles.
  • L2: Planetary Scan: Provides basic information on a planet from orbital range. This includes it’s general elemental conditions, whether intelligent life is present, and a quick description of it’s biosphere.
  • L3: Atheric Blast: Fires a 5′ wide line of energy with a LOS range of several thousand miles, but only functions in space. Attempts at planetary bombardment affect a single space, and only work if the caster is of very high level, with how high is required dependent on the planet.
  • L4: Aetheric Wind Mastery: Functions as Control Wind for the currents of space, only in space.
  • L5: Asteroid Field: Creates a dangerous barrier – roughly equivalent to a Wall Of Fire that takes a bit of time to reverse and lasting one minute per level after concentration ceases – on ship scales, but only functions in space. Interestingly, each caster tends to have their own unique variant.
  • L6: Aetheric Sail: Allows a ships sails to catch atheric winds for a day – creating dimensional distortions that allow flight, provide a form of “artificial gravity”, and hold an atmosphere bubble around it. Unfortunately, this works like sailing a ship in unpredictable weather with a crew that generally cannot see it – leaving the vessel subject to solar storms, unfavorable “winds”, and requiring a full crew and a skillful commander to maneuver effectively. Developing an appropriate piloting skill is highly recommended.
  • L7: Make And Mend: Performs basic repairs on a shipwide basis, renews a depleted atmosphere bubble, and replenishes and restocks minor supplies, such as rope, canvas, and water.
  • L8: Atheric Broadside: Allows a ships weapons to fire up to (Caster’s Level, 24 Max) Atheric Blasts, although no individual weapon may fore more than once per round.
  • L9: Atheric Shield: Wraps a ship in a sphere of force, preventing boarding, teleportation aboard unless the caster permits it, the effects of breath weapons and environmental conditions, and reducing all damage by 75% for the next ten minutes – although a close-range Disintegration attack will bring down the shield.

While these two domains may not be entirely unique to Madai, they certainly aren’t common.

Tapping The Emergency Reserves:

  • 1d6 (4) Mana with Spell Enhancement, Specialized and Corrupted / only for Spell Enhancement, only for the Domain Spells listed above (2 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only ro recharge the Spell Enhancement Pool above, only works between encounters (4 CP).

This combination allows a captain to push the limits of his or her powers – spending mana to reduce the effective level of a spell for casting purposes by up to three levels. Thus, for example, a captain capable of casting only third level spells could still use the sixth level Atheric Sails effect to get his or her vessel into space.

Returning, Specialized and Corrupted / only applies to the Helm itself (2 CP). A Crown Of Worlds / Helm Of Stars is close to indestructible, unless very special measures are taken to get rid of it. Of course they’re incredibly valuable items in any case, so it’s rather rare for anyone to try to destroy one.

Witchcraft II, Specialized for Reduced Cost (6 CP) / not cumulative with other Witchcraft abilities, does not provide Power if user has other Witchcraft abilities and will usurp at least (Cha Mod) power as a reserve to provide repairs for it’s ship construct if needed, user must be a follower of Madai, and must provide at least a vehicle framework to focus these powers through.

  • Witchsight: Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect: The user may employ skills on space-vessel scales – using Survival for space navigation or tracking other ships, Spot to scan solar systems and planetary surfaces, Listen to hear broadcasts, Knowledge / Nature to determine planetary environments, Stealth to try and sneak his or her vessel past opponents, and so on, at no Power cost – but may not use this for other effects or except when aboard a suitable vessel.
  • The Inner Eye: Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect: The user may borrow a bit of skill at a language from whoever he or she is speaking to at no Power cost, bypassing language barriers as long as the mode of communication is something he or she can use and the target is neither shielded nor inherently uncomprehensible, but may not use this for other effects.
  • Hand of Shadows: Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / The user can effectively operate, maintain, or repair a vessel with a fairly minimal crew, especially in dramatic situations, at no Power cost – but cannot use the Hand of Shadows for other effects.
  • Witchcraft/Path of Fire/The Birth of Flames. Corrupted for Increased Effect (Construct IX) and Specialized for Reduced Cost / Creates a vehicle (3 CP). Vehicles do not get their own actions; they must be operated by pilots, drivers, gunners, and other crewmen using their own skills and BAB, they can only be manifested or unmanifested off-screen in reasonably plausible locations, they always have type flaws (for example, most air vehicles cannot carry nearly as much weight as their strength indicates and only get half the usual number of hit points), and they suffer from any obvious vehicular limitations (such as not maneuvering well in dungeons). They do get a x3 multiplier for long-distance travel though, as they are utterly tireless. In this case, if the vessel has been “destroyed”, or “left behind”, the user must acquire or construct at least a suitable framework around which the construct can be manifested. Still, this will allow the user to turn any old hunk of junk that they can salvage into a functional ship.

Generic Spacecraft (Huge Psychic Construct IX):

  • Class-A: Elemental Subtype (Space), 2x Flight (40 in atmosphere).
  • Class-B: Fast Healing II, Facilities (Baths, Galley, Etc), Spell Storing II (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only for a spell or spells of up to L3 used to represent bizarre weapons, 18 self-charging levels worth per day).
  • Class-C: Enveloping (Crew Compartments), Dimension Slide (Interplanetary Drive Variant: Once out of atmosphere may travel between worlds within solar systems in plot-convenient time), Basic Shields (Variant on Extreme Deflection, +4 to AC, +4 to Saves).
  • Flaw: Prone to weird malfunctions and negative space wedgies, attracts pirates, creatures, and other weirdness at a completely unreasonable rate.
  • Note: Spacecraft may also make physical attacks by ramming things; but this is a very poor idea.
  • Individual Crowns may manifest variant ships – perhaps substituting advanced sensors or laboratories for the Shields.

Net Cost: 27 CP / 6 = 4.5, rounds down to 4 CP as a Relic.

Like most four-point relics, this is a campaign-changing item – in this case, obviously enough, into “d20 in space”. It probably isn’t reasonable to allow player-characters to simply take “Create Relic” and turn items like this out – but it certainly wouldn’t be unreasonable to restrict “Create Relic” to lesser items. While the user will need to be able to use sixth level spells to access the full power of a Helm Of Stars, third level spells will suffice to get into space and start traveling – meaning that would-be Captains must have some basic competencies, but it’s nothing particularly noteworthy.

It’s also possible for a character to simply buy the relevant powers on his or her own, and do without a Crown Of Worlds – perhaps by becoming one of Dune’s “Guild Navigators” – but that is generally a rarity (unless, of course, the game master WANTS a bunch of random spacefarers casually knocking around the galaxy).

Six thousand years ago there was a world rich with magic, inhabited by many races and gods. It had fought off invaders before – but this time it was not to be. The enemy was a thing of darkness, all-devouring. Vortexes of negative energy tore across the lands, shattering defenses both magical and mundane, gouging the earth, and pulling people, beasts, and objects into the devouring void-flesh of the Enemy – the tiny part of it’s inconceivable form that extended into the realm it sought to devour. Armies, beasts, adventurers, and gods fought and died – but the Enemy raised legions of the dead, spawned devouring monsters, and replaced it’s losses with the allied fallen even as it continued to ravage the world.

According to the Histories of Atheria, an Emissary of the Light and the Archmage Almin of the Stars, wielding the power of a fallen god, opened a portal to Atheria – a last refuge for the survivors – and sacrificed themselves to seal the way behind them even as the last gods sacrificed themselves to turn the ancient world into a vast prison, a trap designed to hold the Enemy for long ages. The Domain Lords of Atheria, living Cosmic Principles, allowed those lost survivors to take refuge within their realms – a place where the Enemy could never come, for no being of the void could endure the Plane of Archetypes for so much as a moment.

And for ages, the people of Atheria believed themselves to be humanities last survivors.

But at least one of the Ancient Gods – Madai the Shipmaster, Master of the Winds and Patron of Travelers – had granted his followers another way to seek refuge. He had created (birthed? splintered?) mighty relics that allowed their users to sail between the stars, sparks of life traversing the void to seek out new worlds on which to burn. More, those helms were forged from a part of his own essence – and so, given enough power with which to work, were a potential seed of his resurrection.

Almin’s ancient spells have failed at last, the gates to the planes beyond have opened once more – and one of Madai’s creations has been gathered to Atheria, the realm of Principles and Archtypes, Fountianhead of Creation. If more can be gathered there, to drink from the cosmic source, Madai might well be reborn at last.

Eclipse and the Pathfinder Assassin

And it’s time for another attempt to get started posting again. Being in the medical field in the midst of a pandemic has pretty much eliminated my writing time since last year – but it’s loosening up a bit now. To get back into the swing of things, questions are welcome; they give me a place to start. And for today we have Alzrius, asking about a breakdown for the Pathfinder Assassin Prestige Class.

We can probably assume the use of the Pathfinder Package Deal, but it doesn’t have any actual effect. The class basics are fully compatible with the vast majority of d20 settings anyway.

For the basics of this ten-level class we have…

  • d8 Hit Dice (40 CP), 4 Skill Points per Level (40 CP), a Base Attack Bonus of +7 (42 CP), total Saves of +11 (33 CP), and Augment Attack (Sneak Attack option, +5d6, 15 CP).
  • Assassins are also Proficient with Light Armor (3 CP) and a Limited Group of Weapons (3 CP).

That’s 176 CP out of the 240 CP available to a ten-level prestige class. In actual play they probably wouldn’t need to pay for the proficiencies since any would-be assassin really should have most of them already.

The items in the Pathfinder Assassin that improve the Death Attack trick include True Death (a sort of curse on those slain by the user’s Death Attack that makes them slightly more difficult to raise from the dead), Quiet Death (allowing the user to conceal the fact that he or she has used a Death Attack to kill a target during a surprise round), Swift Death (allowing the user to use Death Attack once per day without the normally-required study time), and Angel Of Death (Once per day can destroy a body, preventing the use of Raise Dead or Resurrection – albeit not the use of Wish or True Resurrection.

OK then:

  • True Death simply annoys PC’s and really doesn’t affect NPC’s since they rely more on plot effects than wealth.
  • Quiet Death… is pretty specialized. It’s neat when it comes up, but it’s not going to come up all that often.
  • Swift Death lets the character make a quick save-or-die strike once per day. That’s really not that impressive; spellcasters can usually do this more often and better.
  • Angel Of Death saves the bother of destroying a body some other way – perhaps by dropping a capsule of green slime on it. Handy, but but it’s not as if people in the real world, with no magic at all and a lot less motivation, haven’t disposed of quite a lot of bodies. Disposing of a body is not actually all that hard.

So to buy those items, take…

  • Trick (Death Attack, normally requires three rounds of study and use shortly after the study period) Specialized and Corrupted for increased Effect (offers a choice of Death or Short-Term Paralysis, Only requires two rounds of study) / Requires a successful sneak attack, fails if the target is aware of the user or recognizes the user as an enemy*, must be used within three rounds (6 CP).

*OK, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. If I know that a particular assassin is after me, I’m immune to his or he death attack? After all, I know that he or she is an enemy even if I don’t know that they’re nearby – and therefore am protected? I recommend dropping the “or recognizes the user as an enemy” since any reasonable interpretation of that already falls under “if the target is aware of the user”.

Given that it’s not really that hard to get rid of a body lets go straight to a drastically upgraded version of Angel Of Death. Buy…

  • Presence / Aura of Corruption (An improved, level one, version of Putrefy Food And Drink), Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only affects corpses, only of creatures that the user has slain with Death Attack (2 CP). There. That will cause the bodies of those you slay to be consumed by insects, fungi, and various microorganisms in a few moments – with the resulting compost being of no more use for bringing back the victim than a chunk of flesh from a wolf is useful for bringing back the deer it ate last week. Once a body has been consumed by other organisms and digested… it’s now a part of them and the relationship with the original creature is broken.

Even better… That works all day, every day, as often as you like. It will take a Wish or True Resurrection (or perhaps Returning) to bring back ANYTHING you kill.

If you want to do something else with your 2 CP… invest in an Injecting Weapon or look in The Complete Scoundrel, or any of dozens of other equipment books and go with the Green Slime again. Or any of several other oozes. There are quite a few of them which will eat a body, bones and all.

We’ve already got the Death Attack down to two rounds of study, and we want to eliminate the study at least once per day.

  • Buy Reflex Training (four actions per day variant), Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (accomplishes two rounds of study as a free action) / only for use with studying targets to allow the use of a Death Attack (6 CP). That’s four times a day, which is at least competitive with the local druid when it comes to save-or-die effects.

Quiet Death? For that you want

  • Traceless (Murder), Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only keeps it from being noticeable when you kill someone with your Death Attack for a brief period (2 CP).

Again, that’s an improvement on the original ability which had much more limited applications since it only worked during a surprise round.

OK, that pretty much covers the Pathfinder Assassins signature techniques with some upgrades for… 16 CP. That’s actually pretty cheap.

So what else does the Pathfinder Assassin get?

  • Poison Use (6 CP). This might be overpriced, but that’s back-compatibility again. Still, it lets you both make and safely use poisons.
  • +5 on Saves Versus Poison. This could be bought with Resistance, or Augmented Bonus, either of which might be better in the long run – but I’m going to match the edge and buy Luck just to get a second chance against poisons (6 CP) – basically, letting the user roll twice and keep the best result when saving against poisons. An actual character might well be better served with Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized / only for Saves – but that has the same cost and so could be easily swapped in.
  • Improved Uncanny Dodge. That’s Awareness (6 CP) with Flankless (Specialized, does not work against opponents with a four-level advantage over you, 3 CP).
  • Hidden Weapons: You could duplicate this by buying Professional (Sleight Of Hand), Specialized for Increased Effect (+1 per level) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only to use Sleight Of Hand to Conceal Weapons (4 CP) – but personally I would buy either Innate Enchantment / Handy Haversack (+2 CP worth of Innate Enchantment) or take Shaping in the Use of Charms and Talismans variant – thus getting the use of ten minor bits of magic – such as a making a weapon invisible when not in use, concealed pockets, a few moments of invisiblity, instant makeover capsules, and so on.
  • Hide In Plain Sight could be an immunity, or smoke pellets, or some other trick – but the simplest way to get it is to take Opportunist (gets to roll to hide even when under observation and without cover, 6 CP).

That’s about 47 CP in total (possibly varying a bit of you take some of the Eclipse-style options instead of the attempts at duplication), giving the Pathfinder Assassin a net cost of 223 CP out of the 240 CP available – although it’s not a particularly efficient build, which kind of explains why the Pathfinder Assassin generally isn’t considered worth taking except – sometimes – as a dip. This being Eclipse, of course, you could start as an Assassin instead of taking it as a prestige class and have a lot of the special tricks within the first few levels. Throw in Duties (likely to whoever trained you), Adept or Fast Learner to cut down on the SP Cost (6 CP each, either worth 20 CP worth of skills (and continuing to offer benefits later) for a net savings of 14 CP – or take both to upgrade at a reduced cost) and cut the Hit Dice to d4’s in favor of Agile Combat [Advanced Augmented Bonus (Add (Dex Mod) to (Con Mod) for HP Purposes through level 10, 12 CP)] to save 28 CP and you’ll have 79 CP available – enough for, say:

  • The full original Assassin Spellcasting Package (56 CP). This isn’t especially impressive, but does include some handy tricks and is rather tightly focused on stuff assassins are likely to need.
  • The 32 CP Pirate Template and a bunch of other stuff – perhaps some of the C’hi Power packages from this article on Ninja or some nice Martial Stances or even something like a Birthright.
  • The Bokor (“Binder”) Package (60 CP). This one will continue to pay dividends throughout your entire career and is very nice when you want to put together a package of powers that’s just right for taking out a particular target.
  • The Entreaty Magic package (87 CP, so you’ll need to throw in a couple of your feats – but well worth it if you have a decent Charisma score) is another one that will continue to pay off throughout your entire career.
  • Perhaps a good chunk of Witchcraft. That’s not overwhelmingly powerful, but it is very sneaky and versatile.
  • Perhaps a Martial Discipline at (48 CP)? Or you could invest three Feats to either buy a second one or to triple your uses-per-fight on your first set of maneuvers.
  • Or go with the Skill-Based Partial Casters (Type I or Type II) (Variable Cost).
  • How about the Pulp Hero templates? At 32 (Basic) or 64 (Advanced) CP that would certainly be different!

Any of those options will make our revamped Eclipse Assassin considerably more effective – as it should be. The Assassin is a strong and popular archetype. It shouldn’t be crippling to want to play one.

Practical Enchantment – Bardic Instruments and Knacks

Backwards and forwards swayed their song.
Reeling and foundering, as ever more strong
The chanting swelled, (Finrod) fought,
And all the magic and might he brought,
Of Elvenesse into his words.
Softly in the gloom they heard the birds
Singing afar in Nargothrond,
The sighing of the sea beyond…

…The wolf howls. The ravens flee.
The ice mutters in the mouths of the sea.
The captives sad in Angband mourn,
Thunder rumbles, the fires burn-
And Finrod fell before the throne.


While high-end musical magic is a thing of art that – at least ideally – should swing back and forth like a cinematic battle of master martial artists, in d20 that’s basically spellcasting, high magic, and personal power. Magical instruments, however, are things of myth and legend, subtle devices that can influence the world and enhance the user’s musical talents in a thousand ways.

Which is why it’s so disappointing that d20’s musical instruments mostly aren’t very interesting. In fact, bardic optimization handbooks often don’t even mention them. There are quite a few – but most of them seem to be masterwork instruments that cast three spells once per day each. Their prices are mostly reasonable, and that’s not at all bad – but even one of the best examples – the Canaith Mandolin (Masterwork Instrument, 8100 GP, requires 8 Ranks in Perform, casts Cure Serious Wounds, Dispel Magic, and Summon Monster III once per day each at caster level eight) is a bit lackluster. Yes, those are all generally useful spells at a decent caster level and the price is good – but there’s not much subtlety, or room for creativity, or room for making your magical instrument a major part of your life.

So lets do something a little different. Lets take some fairly versatile, but cheap-and-basic, effects and make them unlimited use instead. Perhaps the most obvious place to start is with…

Arcane Melody: Greater Invocation: Melody Of Orpheus (L1. Produces any of the following music-focused cantrip-level effects (or others as the game master approves). These generally have a duration of “as long as you keep playing” and, thanks to them being use-activated, the musician can activate one effect per round while playing up to a maximum of (Charisma Modifier +1, 1 Minimum) simultaneous effects. That’s Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .9 (Requires Perform / Strings) at +6 or better = 1800 GP. Some of the possible effects include:

● A Private Moment: You can direct the sound of your music to an individual within 60 feet so that it is just for them.
● Background Music: Recurring snatches of theme music – associated with particular people and situations – will play on their own. This is sometimes a warning and sometimes just awkward.
● Calming Music: Those listening gain a +1 bonus on saves against emotion-manipulating effects.
● Carried On The Wind: You can let your music “originate” from any location within 30 feet.
● Choreography: Willing creatures who hear your music can sing or dance along as if they had practiced if they choose to participate. Yes, this lets you do musical-style spontaneous music-and-dance numbers with people you’ve just met if they’re willing to do so.
● Coincidental Chorus: Your music smoothly blends in with ambient sounds – birdsong, a smith working, and so on.
● Convey Meaning: You may use a social skill through your music. The skill works normally, you just use music instead of words.
● Crescendo: Your music is louder and easier to hear, as if you were using an amplifier.
● Discordant Notes: Your music is as annoying as a screeching blackboard. The GM might even impose a small distraction penalty or let you really annoy creatures with sensitive ears.
● Deep Harmony: You may use the Heal skill through your music. While this lets you attend a group simultaneously, the total time needed to complete the job remains unchanged.
● Empathic Melody: Those who listen to your music will recognize how you feel about the topic of your song.
● Harmonic Whisper: You may embed the equivalent of a Message cantrip within your music, but the effect is only one way – from you to the recipients. You don’t need to point to them though.
● Haunting Melody: The music will persist for 3d6 rounds after the playing stops, although any occult effects stop after one round.
● Impressions: You can convey the emotions and vague versions of the visual imagery associated with a song or tale, as if calling up memories of having witnessed it, giving your audience a fair impression of what it was like to have been there.
● Lullaby: You make a target feel drowsy, taking a –4 on Perception checks and a –2 on saves against sleep if they fail a will save – without the save being particularly noticeable. If they fail several (GMO) in a row they are likely to fall asleep. If you keep this up for an hour or so you may be able to put a quite lot of people to sleep (especially if they were just having a feast or are otherwise well-fed and tired).
● Musical Meditation: Those who fall asleep listening to your music need two hours less sleep (minimum two hours) to be fully rested.
● Orchestral Accompaniment: Gain a +3 Competence Bonus on your performance. (This also covers various effects – harmonies, descants, echoes, synthesizer noises, etc. Not that that matters).
● Power Chord: If using a bardic music effect that normally affects multiple targets you may affect one additional target.
● Soothe The Savage Beast: Animals will often stop and listen to your music. This isn’t forced, they just find it pleasant.
● Subliminal Whisper: You can cause a thought to occur to those listening, either causing an idea to occur to them or providing a +1 bonus to other persuasive efforts. No compulsion is involved.
● Threnodic Melody: You may cause those who listen to remember random bits of their pasts. such as “a time when they were happy”. They may feel nostalgic for a bit. This effect may also be used to produce pleasant dreams.

Now none of those effects are particularly game-breaking, In fact, several of them only affect role-playing aspects of the game (unless, perhaps, a bit of musical theater has somehow become vital to the plot) – but they can be fun and, since they’re unlimited-use, you aren’t wasting precious resources by using them. Go ahead, send a private performance to that cute potential romantic interest, try to soothe the angry shouting in the kings court, turn up the volume to drown out those annoying hecklers or cover up the sounds of your friends trying to search a room. There simply isn’t any reason not to have your music be a normal part of life rather than a combat boost.

For our next obvious possibility, lets look at…

The Visual Arts: Silent Image (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x.5 Only to produce the list of effects given below (no general illusion-casting) x .8 (Requires Perform / Strings at +8 or Better) = 800 GP. Use up to three at a time.

● Costume: The user may opt to look like they are wearing their preferred stage costume whenever they are playing.
● Creepy Shadows: The user may fill the stage with ominous shadows, making anything else around him or her slightly hard to see. If they are focused on a single target, that target gains one-half Concealment.
● Dread Reflection: You may cause a reflection to portray a target as if they were aged, deformed, horribly diseased, or even undead when they see it. This can be quite startling.
● Envisionment: Your music generates glowing strings or fancy light patterns as you play. This can make it hard to see that you are spellcasting, inflicting a -5 penalty on the relevant Spellcraft checks. Furthermore, if you cast Hypnotic Pattern or a related spell while playing, the save DC for that spell increases by +1.
● Firework Display: You may enhance your performance with an assortment of small-scale smoke-puffs and minor “fireworks”. This usually attracts a larger audience and makes you more likely to be invited to give special performances. .
● Makeup Effects: When the user is playing, he or she can seem to have glowing eyes, little demon horns, a glittering halo, black starry voids for eyes, or whatever. This can make a stage persona especially recognizable.
● Ornament: You may give a target within 30 feet a bit of dramatic lightning, making them obviously important and giving them a +1 bonus on social skill checks (if a -5 penalty on being stealthy).
● Personal Spotlight: The user may have minor personal lighting effects whenever he or she is playing – usually a spotlight, a bit of hazy backdrop, and so on.
● Radiant Glade: The immediate area appears sunlit and pleasant. This can be reversed if you would prefer to give observers a gloomy and ominous (or haunted-house) impression instead.
● Rule Of Cool: When the user casts a spell while grasping the instrument, he or she is free to give it dramatic visual special effects, although the actual game effect remains unchanged. If you want your Cone Of Cold to look like a sudden attack by a swarm of horrible ice-spirits… well, this is the function you want.
● Street Performer: Your act includes various visual flourishes – cute animals looking appealingly at the lack of money in your bowl, card tricks, birds flying around you, and so on. Add +2 to your performance total when busking for money. If you combine this with Impressions you can produce the general effect of having shown your audience a movie or television special on your topic. If this function is combined with the music for a play or similar production, the backdrops and props will look quite good.
● Statuesque: You may make yourself appear to be made of some material other than flesh. People may reach quite oddly if you pass yourself off as a suddenly-animate statue or musical automaton or some such.

The Visual Arts are the obvious next step for a magical instrument – allowing the user to give reality to the adage that “All the worlds a stage” with relative ease. Once again, there isn’t a lot of raw power here and a lot of the effects are pure role-playing props – but it gives you license to throw minor descriptive elements into the setting to suit yourself. When it comes to having fun that can be quite priceless.

For our third major function we have…

The Anvil Chorus: Unseen Servant (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 (Unseen Servants only act while you play music, you only get enough to act as a crew of a dozen people at any one time) x .7 (Requires Perform / Strings at +10 or Better) = +700 GP. In general, only one function of the Anvil Chorus may be used at a time.

● Animate Implements: Your music may act as a crew of servants – washing dishes, doing laundry, cooking meals, setting up camp, and so on as if (Performance check) basically unskilled people were working on the project.
● Breezy Notes: You may direct small breezes, as if several people were waving fans.
● Construction: Your music can dig trenches, cut wood, assemble a cottage, clear rubble, and perform other basic projects and repairs as if many laborers were working on them. Sadly, duplicating the construction effect of a Lyre Of Building would require a performance check of 1600+. Settle for small projects.
● Capstan Shanty: You can provide the equivalent of (Check / 4) horsepower to drive an engine, mill, or similar mechanism while your music continues.
● Farmers Boon: Your music can plow fields, harvest crops, shovel coal, carry burdens, and otherwise perform the work of (Check / 2) field hands and (Check / 8) relevant draft animals.
● Industrious Song: You can help a craftsman work on a project, tripling the amount of work he or she could normally perform.
● Opening Chord: Unlocked doors, windows, trunks and similar closures may be thrown open, curtains pulled back, and covers pulled away in the area. This may be reversed, to close up a place, put out lights, and seal an area.
● Phantom Crew: Your music can act as a crew for the purposes of rowing, manning a ship, carrying palanquins, or accomplishing similar tasks. .
● Poltergeist Chorus: You may cause quantities of relatively light objects to fly about and get into peoples way, possibly even breaking line-of-sight through a square if you have stuff cluster together.
● Rescue: Fallen friends may be carried from battle, crude pressure applied to staunch the flow of blood (+5 circumstance bonus on Stabilization checks), sailors who have fallen overboard be pulled from the sea, and so on as if some unskilled people were helping.
● Squires Chord: Your music can get (Cha Mod) targets into their armor and equipped in a single round. The Maid’s Chord can do the same for getting people into fancy dress or their makeup on.
● Wings of Song: You cushion falls, reducing the damage to up to (Cha Mod +1, 1 Minimum) targets per round by your performance check, 0 Minimum. Unfortunately, unless you have an action readied to catch those trapeze artists, or the children leaping from windows to escape a fire, or some such, this will probably only be useful if a group is intentionally jumping down.

Now the Anvil Chorus starts to offer a bit of actual power in that most of it’s options actually accomplish tangible things – but few of them are things that adventurers find important. When was the last time that your characters did their laundry or spent the day harvesting apples? Even if you’re short of crew to run a ship or something… you’ll find some way to do it or the game will grind to a halt anyway. On the other hand, causing unseen powers to do the dishes or pack your bags is an excellent way to imply that you have enough magic to not mind “wasting it” on trivial matters.

Finally, for our fourth power, we have the…

Travelers Song: Mount (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 (“Mounts” are sonic phantoms, and exist only as long as the user continues to play, maximum number manifested at once = users performance check / 2) x.7 (Requires Perform Bonus of +12 or better) = 700 GP

● Drover’s Canticle: Your music may move carriages, barges, wagons, sledges, and similar large objects as if many horses were pulling them. Alternatively, you may keep such an vehicle from moving with a similar force.
● Melancholic Descant: You may increase the load of a vehicle or area as if a horse was sitting on it. If someone is unable to resist or unconscious or some such you may also do this to people.
● Hammermill Chorus: Your music may supply up to (Performance Check / 2) horsepower to run mills, industrial machinery, pumps, and similar devices as long as they could reasonably be powered by draft animals.
● Huntsman’s Hymn: You may send the sound of hoofbeats rushing off, simulating either a group or a single horse, and even leaving a trail of hoofprints behind – although the trail will vanish after a few hundred feet.
● Traveling Montage: The users party is treated as being mounted (on tireless horses) even if they are not, and so may travel more quickly and with less fatigue.
● Sonic Barricade: If you have a held action ready you may block an incoming spell or effect with the equivalent on an (invisible) light horse. While 20 points of damage will make the barrier disappear, it will otherwise last while you play. If you like, while playing, you may maintain multiple such barriers, blocking doors, passages, and people trying to charge you. (Yes, this is silly. Ask the GM if it’s allowable first).
● Sonic Wave: You may send a sonic wave equivalent to the passage of a light horse up to 60 feet. (This usually triggers traps and also has a reasonable chance – equivalent to that of a light horse kicking – of opening a door).
● Wings Of Song: Given a standard action to prepare you may let your music carry willing targets, making a Jump Check for them at +15 that does not count against their movement.

OK, we’re stretching things a bit on the special effects – but that’s no problem if you’ve already got The Visual Arts anyway.

So let’s add this up for our “Etheric Instrument”:

  • Masterwork Musical Instrument: 100 GP.
  • Arcane Melody: +1800 GP. (Requires a +6 Bonus).
  • The Visual Arts: +800 GP. (Requires a +8 Bonus).
  • The Anvil Chorus: +700 GP. (Requires a +10 Bonus).
  • Traveler’s Song: +700 GP. (Requires a +12 Bonus).

That’s 4100 GP. Lets throw in a Wand Chamber (+100 GP) for a total of 4200 GP.

An individual GM may want to insist on a higher caster level (likely three) and up the price a bit (at CL 3 the base magical cost would be 12,000 GP, but there’s no actual benefit associated with the higher caster level, which would justify cutting it down a bit). After all, this list does include fifty-two different (if not particularly impressive) unlimited-use bardic tricks.

In particular, in Eclipse, you can take this Bardic Knack (sans wand chamber) at the base cost as six CP worth of Innate Enchantment and have at least 900 GP left over. Personally, I’d invest most of that in books – things like “Collected Popular Songs”. “Great Tales Of Adventure”. “Myths And Legends”, and so on. Being able to boast of a 900-1400 GP library in your head ought to be enough to let you know pretty much every myth, tale, and piece of music in most settings. That gives you your “bardic studies” and a considerable range of magical music for a mere 6 CP.

The skill requirements will be a little restrictive for a while, but are built around a total required bonus – so your attribute bonus and any permanent personal boosts you’re using will help you get there. Go ahead. Act like a mage who’s just acquired unlimited use of Prestidigitation; see how many ways you can use minor magics to accomplish your goals instead of casting major spells.

Eclipse – The Houngan Conjurer II

This time around, it’s a bit of a collaboration and an example – how one Eclipse character in a Forgotten Realms game is opting to use the Houngan Conjurer package (a method of making temporary character-enhancing items. He’s calling his “Talismans”.).

The in-game justification for his powers is apparently that:

It is my art to channel what WAS, what MAY BE, and what IS NOT into the NOW. Of Magic, Lore, and Prophecy in the service of the Loomeinsenerid and the Kvoorum-Parandaja order. The Talismans are of time-not, embodiments of talents you might have in other lines of time or might yet learn. Being within the High Forest – the Eye Of Time on Abeir-Toril – makes it easy to call such things forth.

  • “Loomeinsenerid” – apparently the “Engineers of Creation” who built the universe.
  • “Kvoorum-Parandaja” – apparently “Quorum Healer”, repairers of broken realities?

In other words “Here is something you might opt to learn in the next level or two. Go ahead and experiment with it. If you don’t like it, we can try something else. If you do, you can buy those powers normally it and I’ll make a new “Talisman” with some other powers you might be interested in trying out”. It lets players experiment with various powers before they have to make any permanent decisions about them or get a temporary boost to fit some specific situation. That’s a good way to do it since it’s both very useful to the players who are new to the system and a nice way to boost a group.

The first set of Gerad’s talismans were forged in the foothills of the Lost Peaks, amidst the great trees of the primordial High Forest of Faerun. There, at dawn, the time of new beginnings, atop an outcropping of the mountains bedrock, he build a ritual fire of oak, ash, and hawthorn with which to call upon the powers of the world casting into it the tokens and spirit-fetishes he had spent his time preparing. Soon, beneath the moon, the fire burned black and cold, yet as filled with stars as the night sky above. The flames were feathered by no physical force, raven’s wings of spiritual fire beating against the winds of fate. It defies what is to come; there shall be no fate but what the strong make for themselves.

The first talisman was for an Uthgardian Barbarian of the Raven Tribe:

Alone among the birds and totems of the North, the Raven speaks outside of Dream. It carries the Words of the Spirits to the ears of mortal men, with the discarded quills from it’s wings are written runes of strength and wisdom, and it guides the souls of the fallen to the realms of the honored dead! Those who are shown the wisdom of the Raven may learn how to draw upon their inner strengths, the divine spark that dwells within! Bright will they shine in the tales to come!

Here, in this Forest which is of more worlds than one, we stand upon the borders of the Spirit World. You have left your kin, and a choice stands before you! To follow the Raven’s Path and bring forth new gifts and wisdom for your descendants to come, to follow the Scouts way, standing as a guardian between your folk and the horrors that may come, or to take both paths, and stand as a hero to both those who live and those who are yet to come. If you would take the Raven’s Path or the Dual Way… reach into the possibilities of the Raven’s Wings, and draw forth what wisdom speaks to you. Then… you may either make it your own, or seek another choice with the seasons turning.

When the Mighty Barbarian reached into the cold flame (taking one point of cold damage to set the link) he found himself holding a belt woven of hide and raven’s feathers – a token of spiritual wisdom.

Cincture Of The Raven (1 Point Relic):

  • Pen Of The Raven: Shaping, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (L1 and weak L2 Effects) / only to power the equivalent of Charms and Talismans and subject to all their limitations. The belt’s wearer may draw a quill from the belt and use it to sketch the Runes and Symbols of Uthgar, Beorunna, the Ancestors, and the Totemic Beasts upon otherwise normal items, allowing them to channel the wearer’s personal strength – in effect equipping himself or herself with the equivalent of seven Charms and three Talismans (as found in The Practical Enchanter) (6 CP).
  • The Enduring Blood Of Uthgar: Grant of Aid with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized / only to restore hit points (6 CP).
  • Disadvantage: The Cincture Of The Raven lays upon it’s wearer an obligation to teach others of the ways of Uthgar and the Totems as chances arise to do so (-3 CP).
  • Net Cost 6 CP + 6 CP -3 CP = 9 CP. 9 CP / 6 (Relic) = 1.5 CP, rounds down to 1 CP.

The next talisman to called forth was for a spirit-shaman and witchcraft-based blaster.

Fire is the element of change, transforming what it touches. The fire of the ritual burns upon the outcropping of rock, the fragrant smoke rising beneath the moon and stars. As Gerad casts a shimmering crystal-bound feather into the flames, the dark fire of the Raven Spirit changes to a pillar of twisting flame, burning green at it’s base and the riotous colors of autumn foliage above.

Seasons Pass, gods pass, and ages pass – but the earth and forest endures, it’s strength undaunted. Here, in the forest where too are the roots of time, we touch upon that solid core, the strength that binds the worlds together. As you have sworn to defend the world, so may it may lend it’s strength and endurance to you. If you would claim the strength of that bond, reach out to the fire of the world’s heart and, with a drop of your blood, become one with it’s ancient strengths.

Reaching into the fire to claim the Talisman again caused one point of damage to set the link and produced a belt of thin links of ash bound with iron, each of the twenty-four links engraved with a rune of the elder futhark.

Girding Of The Forest Lands (1 Point Relic):

  • Vigor Of The Elder Ash: Grants access to the Bones Of Iron (Ash), Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only works within the boundaries of the High Forest, only when at least two other members of the Pact are in the party (4 CP).
  • +2d6 Mana as +6d6 Power, Specialized and Corrupted / only to power the Bones Of Iron (Ash) ability above (4 CP).
  • +1d6 Mana as +3d6 Power, Corrupted/this deep reserve can only be recovered at the moment of dawn (whether or not the user sees it), as the forest wakes, not via Rite Of Chi or other methods.
  • Disadvantage: Obligation / Must deal with the natural animals of the forest through nonlethal means if that is at all possible.

The next talisman to be forged was for a war smith gadgeteer, a follower of the gods of artifice.

As Gerad cast a rune-covered ingot of iron into the green flames, they leaped up into a raging blaze before collapsing from a flaming crown into a deep bed of coals, the furious breath of heat from it mirroring the heat of a forge, where imagined tools become reality. Within the fiery tunnels of the coals in the fires heart lay glimpses of salamanders, efreeti, and fire elementals, hammering out the weapons of wars past and present, from crude copper daggers to unimaginable devices from beyond the stars.

Artificer and Visionary, the past you have forsaken for the sake of what is to come. In the spirit of Gond your Patron, and of Oghma the Loregiver who is mine, know that the chains of the past are broken, no forge but your will will be needed for your many creations to come! Reach forth now to the forges of the gods and take the fire of creation that will burn henceforth within you as well.

When the smith reached into the fire to claim the forming Talisman, he took one point of damage (to set the link as usual) and found himself holding a cincture of flattened links of chain, each wrought with images of weapons, some known, others suggesting fantastic creations and vehicles of war.

Cincture Of War (1 CP Relic):

  • +6 to his Preferred Martial Art (6 CP).
  • DR 4/- (Universal DR 2/-, Specialized for Double Effect / only versus physical attacks, 3 CP).
  • Immunity / the time normally required to put gadgets (He was using the Gadgets skill) together, so they no longer had a +1 point cost if not specified in advance (Uncommon, Minor, Minor, 2 CP).
  • Specific Knowledge / Tunnel Fighting (1 CP).
  • Disadvantage: Must fight as an honorable warrior (-3 CP).

Finally, the fourth and last talisman in this set was for a psychic specializing in Astral Constructs and Energy Projection.

With the colors of the dawn in the eastern sky, and the first glint of the sun shining like a fiery jewel upon the horizon, the remains of the fire collapse to ash, to be blown away upon the wind – although a single burning ember that refuses to be extinguished or fade remains, set into a buckle, suitable for a belt. The circular copper clasp is inscribed with twin dragons, inlaid in black and white, mirroring and circling each other in the symbol of balance. If opened, it reveals the eternally-glowing ember within.

The Purest Yang Becomes Yin. The Purest Yin Becomes Yang.
Two Sides Of A Coin, Separated By A Barrier That May Not Exist.
From Rites End, A New Beginning; The Cycle Turns.
From Darkness and Cold an inextinguishable spark of Light and Fire.
A Creation Incomplete Draws Balance From The Void.
A Sourceless Wind Blows Between The Worlds.
Receive Now The Spark That Answered A Call Unvoiced.

Sunset Hag’s Broom Cinder (1 CP Relic):

  • Hysteria (Mental Powers), Specialized for Reduced Cost (2 Power) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for boosting psionic abilities (not skills, will saves, or non-psionic abilities), only for effective caster / manifester level (4 CP). This can be activated as a free action for 2 Power and lasts for the rest of the round. It manifests as hysterical cackling laughter.
  • Streamline, Specialized for Double Effect in applying standard Augmentations to Psychic Powers for Double Effect (+6 Power worth of “free” Augmentation), Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only when using Hysteria, above (4 CP).
  • Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only to set up Mystic Link Effects, Double Enthusiast / Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only to set up Mystic Link Effects (Net Cost 4 CP, may be used to set up 4 CP worth of Mystic Link Effects).
    • This defaulted to two of the groups mystics with Communications and Power Link, Specialized and Corrupted / only within the High Forest, only with individuals or places touched by the Fey, can only transmit seven supernatural effects per day, all those linked must possess at least latent telepathic abilities (GM Veto over NPC’s)
  • Drawback: Insane: The bearer of the Cinder develops extreme hydrophobia. While this phobia excuses liquids kept in artificial containers (barrels, glasses, waterskins, and so on), it extends to natural bodies of water, puddles, and rain. The Cinder does not function if wet since the user will be too panicked to draw upon it.

Overall… I think the Cincture Of War was a little uninspired in comparison to some of the others (apparently it was more or less what the player asked for though) and the Broom Cinder looks like it’s a bit TOO efficient, but both are functional enough. Otherwise things were nicely themed; all men, a fire ritual, a small “test of courage” and a minor sacrifice of the recipients own strength to claim their talisman, a basic theme, a more-or-less reasonable explanation for why the character can make talismans in the first place, and – I’m told – some nice role playing in response. Yes, it makes the characters a little bit more powerful – but getting the group all taking an interest in and participating in a mystical ritual? Giving them all a common bond and a commitment to something beyond themselves? Thematic yet unique toys for everyone? Just as with Narthion – the character the Houngan Conjurer package was originally written up for – I think this makes a pretty good addition to a RPG.

Permanency and The Practical Enchanter

And this time around it’s a magic question from Alzrius:

Page 115 of The Practical Enchanter lists the following as one of the Standard Formula Modifiers for designing new spells:

“Permanence: Spells which may be made permanent with a Permanency spell may have the option built into the spell formula for +2 spell levels. This allows the caster to simply spend XP when casting the spell to make it Permanent.”

What I’m curious about, however, is determining how a new spell would be eligible for permanency (whether on yourself only, yourself or others, or an area) in the first place. The standard list of eligible spells seem restrictive and oddly inconsistent, with spells like detect magic and arcane sight being allowable whereas greater arcane sight and Pathfinder’s greater detect magic aren’t. Is there a particular factor besides GM fiat involved? Would that factor make a difference when determining the DC for making a new spell?


I must admit that that’s an awkward question, simply because the Permanency spell – as a legacy from first edition (where it was level eight and casting it cost a permanent point of constitution!) – has never been particularly consistent or provided any in-setting explanation for how it works. Worse, of course, the Permanence modifier from The Practical Enchanter was set up for back-compatibility – so it doesn’t even attempt to provide an explanation. Similarly, Pathfinder I never attempted to explain anything either.

On the other hand, I’m always willing to try and take a shot at analyzing things, even if I can’t provide a full explanation in the end.

First up, the Practical Enchanter modifier is straightforward since it applies to normal (3.0, 3.5, Pathfinder, Modern, Etc) games. You select a spell effect that could be made permanent – say, “Detect Magic”. You may then research a third level version with the “Permanence” modifier. When you cast that version you could then opt to spend 500 XP (3.0 and 3.5) or 2500 GP (Pathfinder) during or shortly after the casting to make it permanent. If you didn’t want to research it (and it probably isn’t worth the bother), you could probably find a scroll of it for sale somewhere. Of course, if you’re playing Pathfinder or Eclipse, why would you want to bother? In Pathfinder you could cast the cantrip all you wanted and in Eclipse you can pick up a bit of innate enchantment or get it as a minor point of a much superior occult sense. Even in a normal game you could just pay a little extra to get a scroll of Permanency.

So the Practical Enchanter modifier is basically an easy way of making individual spells permanent before you can cast the actual “permanency” spell. Given that “permanency” dropped to level five in later editions anyway, it isn’t a terribly important modifier – which is why it only got a brief mention.

So how DOES the standard “Permanency” spell work?

At the most basic, a Permanency spell could be viewed as a setting up a power tap to sustain another spell – in which case an eligible target would be of considerably lower level and with a reasonable base duration. After all, a high-powered spell that expended all it’s energy in an instant or over the course of a few rounds would obviously be much harder to sustain than a low-power spell that took hours to use up the very limited fund of energy that the caster had invested in it during it’s casting.

Now that works – but opens up quite a can of worms. Why would such a spell have to cost money or experience points? Couldn’t it draw on the (at least in older editions extra-planar) source of magic for power directly? Or couldn’t it be tied to some inherently-magical creature, material, or item?

That could be pretty interesting – allowing very low-energy effects to be easily rendered inherently permanent without cost, or allowing minor secondary effects to be tied to magical items (Perhaps weakening that +4 Sword (32,000 GP) to an effective +2 Sword (8000 GP) that also powers a selection of lesser (likely slotless) effects worth a good bit less than the 24,000 GP difference – perhaps 12,000 or 16,000 GP worth.

Secondarily, it would tend to go back to first-edition or MMORPG “crafting” style items. You found a Fire Ruby that contains massive amounts of fire magic but has no actual effects? Go ahead and mount it on a sword to make a flaming sword or feed it to a young golden dragon to make it stronger or use it to power some similar permanent effect.

That wouldn’t look much like classical d20 though, and – while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that – this obviously can’t be our “default” explanation in a standard d20 game.

In 3.0 and 3.5 “Experience Points” really had nothing to do with “experiences”. They were a sort of transformative magical power that accumulated in adventurers or perhaps they represented the slow growth of your soul or inner magic or somesuch. They were a self-renewing power source that made the user ever tougher and more powerful – which meant that, in making a magical item, you were infusing it with a tiny fraction of your own essence to MAKE it magical – either temporarily, if the amount of “experience” you gave it was too small to sustain the power output indefinitely, or permanently if it was.

That actually made a certain amount of sense; it played into the tropes of classical magic, as seen in myths and legends and fantasy novels, where magical swordsmiths, the makers of magical rings, and similar crafters infuse their own strength into their creations. After all… if it was good enough for Tolkien, it’s probably good enough for us.

In this version, the Permanency spell is just a conduit – a way to transfer some of your magical potency / experience points / soul into an ongoing effect to keep it going. It’s fairly complicated – fifth level – because it’s meddling with a deep and subtle level of reality, but it’s still pretty straightforward. The usual cost was 500 XP per level of the spell to be rendered permanent – not all that large an amount by the time you could cast Permanency anyway.

It still doesn’t explain why you can make a Prismatic Sphere permanent, but not Shapechange, but its something. For that, we will be needing some more rules.

The Pathfinder version of the Permanency spell generally multiplied the given costs by five to convert them to gold pieces (the usual 3.0-3.5 figure for the “cost” of the experience points spent on item creation) but rather sloppily failed to adjust the costs for effects that had changed levels (which would make Detect Magic and Read Magic only 1250 GP, and potentially worth rendering permanent). It also added a variety of effects to the list – including some which broke the pattern – and later introduced spells which noted that they could be made permanent, but which sometimes failed to list the requirements and costs for doing so. Personally I’d just extrapolate from the existing pattern for those, but the writers not doing it is still sloppy.

The problem with converting the cost to gold pieces is the same throughout Pathfinder. Sure, both Experience and Gold look much the same from the players side – they’re both just numbers on a piece of paper that indicate how powerful your character is – but they really shouldn’t look the same from the characters side of things. How is that Permanency spell converting a mass of gold – or perhaps gems, or salt, or other trade goods, or a great master’s landscape painting – into empowering a permanent effect? Why can that one picture – which would sell at auction for 10,000 GP because the artist is famous regardless of it being an example of his “early crayon period” – be able to empower a permanent Symbol Of Healing when the only real difference between it and another kids scribbling is the artists later fame?

OK, magic doesn’t really HAVE to make sense, but it makes it a LOT easier to run a game if it does.

Sadly, while Pathfinder thus introduced an additional level of nonsense into Permanency, it made no real attempt to explain how Permanency works or what qualifies a spell for inclusion on the eligible-for-Permanency list besides being on the list already of having it noted in the spell description – which, as you note, left spells that fairly obviously fit the list off and put some things that didn’t really fit the list at all on it.

So what qualifications can we deduce about what spells are eligible?

  • They must not require any major control inputs. Once a permanent spell is running, the caster has little or no further control over it’s effects. You can move your “Dancing Lights” about, but you cannot swap between the options. Neither can you “discharge” spells with that option. After all… if a permanent spell can run while you’re asleep, in a coma, or long dead, you obviously can’t have much of an input on it any longer can you?
  • They must not involve any major transformation. Enlarge/Reduce Person and Magic Fang / Greater Magic Fang are about the limit for creatures, while Animate Object is the limit for items. I’d guess that in-setting such spells eventually start to cause problems of the “spend too long in a form and it starts to affect deeper levels” kind (or something like that). So while you might be able to make them permanent, it’s essentially a method of slow suicide.
  • They should have a duration of at least ten minutes per caster level OR of “Concentration” plus an additional independent period. There are a few spells on the existing list – such as Arcane Sight or Wall of Force – that violate this rule, but they are exceptions and are generally fairly stable effects.

Of course, those rules – while they’re reasonably good guidelines – aren’t really sufficient. Like it or not, the foundations of the d20 magic system are as much built on “that looks like it will be fun in the game” as they are on classical notions of “how magic works”. That’s inevitable – after all, classical notions of “how magic work” are kind of vague and inconsistent themselves – but it means that there is always a fourth rule:

  • It won’t work if the game master thinks that it will mess up the game – and may abruptly cease to work if it turns out that it messes up the game after the game master gave permission. The only reason to play at all is to have fun, so if something turns out to make the game less fun? Out it goes.

And while that answer isn’t entirely satisfactory to me either, I hope it helps!

Eclipse – Birthrights And The Harrowed Gate

“Birthrights” – power packages based on where or when a character was born – and especially the more exotic ones that have a major impact on how a character is played and develops – have become a fairly major feature of our local d20 games over the years.

Now being a little more powerful is often handy, but if that was all that was wanted, we could just start everyone off a level up. What we’re really after is making characters very different from the very beginning and making their origin important throughout their career.

That’s partially because Dungeons and Dragons has moved away from that idea.

At one point Dwarves simply could not be magic-users (and were limited as clerics), thanks to their powerful anti-magical nature. On the other hand, that made them quite resistant to magical attacks. In some versions of the rules, “Dwarf” was a character class.

But then people with ideas about Dwarves from other sources wanted to make dwarven mages, or seafarers, or whatever – and they didn’t like being told “No”. They also didn’t like finding out that their shiny new dwarven mage was at a disadvantage later compared to some other “race”. They started equating fantasy species being good at differing things with real-world racism.

That was understandable, if only because so many sources made aliens and fantasy races into “humans with funny hats”. That’s why you can find arguments that Tolkien’s “Orcs” are just racist metaphors instead of corrupted supernatural monsters. But really, that never actually made much sense. Fantasy species simply aren’t the equivalent of human “races”. If you want a real world comparison… there is no reason why fantasy races should be any more similar than Dolphins, Elephants, and Humans are. All three of those species are quite intelligent, all have some ability to pass on information – “culture” – to their offspring, and all three have some form of communication. Still, if they were on an adventure together… even if the group could all talk with each other freely who would you turn to if you wanted a tree uprooted? Or an item retrieved from the bottom of a body of water? Or a fire built?

And those species are all earthly mammals. Fictional species don’t need to be anywhere NEAR that similar.

Birthrights bring that sort of thing back.

Do you have the the Anomalies Tindalos Birthright? You can call forth Lovecraftian Horrors and terrible spells, even if your ability to control them is limited. If you survive childhood and opt to focus on magic… your path will be very, VERY, different from the Elemental Powers of a native of Atheria’s HuSung – and those will differ in turn from the immediate powers of the Absolute Command Birthright. If you want to be edgy… Perhaps you want the Darkness or Blood Birthrights to be found in Chelm. Other people may not react well to you – but that’s not “racial prejudice”, that’s a sane reaction to a set of powers that grants wealth and power in return for sacrificing people and enslaving their souls. Would you object to treating Cobra’s with caution?

Cultures are similarly affected. A native of HuSung will grow up drinking boiling liquids, ignoring winter temperatures because they do not matter, and accepting that many of their children will die very young due to miscast spells. After all, not a few of their childhood friends died that way. They openly carry weapons into courtrooms and at parties, since they have grown up knowing that no one can really be disarmed; they will always have their elemental powers to use anyway. They know that most “work days” are ten minutes long, since – once you use up your relevant spellcasting abilities – you might as well go home; spells are so much more efficient that actually working physically isn’t particularly worthwhile. Their culture is nothing at all like that of the people just across their northern border who get the far subtler Divination Birthright.

Here, for example, is a Birthright loosely inspired by the original Deadlands rules, by tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, by the Pulps, and by the Pathfinder’s Mythic rules.

Childe’ Of The Harrowed Gate

In the Hour of the Dead, When the Day too Dies,
Shall the Youngest open the Ancient Crypts.
Pass the Doors of the Night, when the Light Fails.
There Nightmare shall rise from the Wild Dead.
In Dark Crypts moldering Sleepers lie,
On the Way of Skulls where Night-Gaunts call.

Though Grim the Path and Bleak the Way;
The Guardian Stands within the Gate.
Gathering Shards of Fallen Might.
The Spirits rise, the Youngest Holds.
The Serpent-Fire burns Dark and Cold.
The Cycle Turns, the Spirits Sleep.
The Balance of the Realms to keep.

There is hidden greenery in the badlands. Rivers rise in the hills and flow down narrow valleys before vanishing into the sands, supporting narrow strips of life along their path, the occasional oasis lurks around pools and springs fed by underground streams, and even some caverns boast greenery – but little can be wrested from such limited resources by even the most talented farmers. If it was not for the mineral wealth hidden in the hills, the occasional treasures left from the rumored cities (and definite crypts) of the sun-loving, food-conserving, Serpent Folk that lie hidden in the sands, and the occasional place of power, few would come to the badlands at all.

And in that there is a hidden wisdom. The powers of death, and the underworld, and of warring prehuman empires now long forgotten, all lie dormant beneath the desolate sands and barren hills. Here there really are lost voices in the howling of the wind and things walk that should be long moldering in the tomb.

Yet occasionally, a woman will give birth in some over – optimistic farmers household or in some tiny mining settlement Even more rarely – every few generations – one will give birth at the precise moment a nearby flaw in time, or in the barriers between life and death, stands ajar – and it is to THAT power that the new soul bonds. Once that child matures enough to bear the burden… as long as it lives the gate will remain open.Things that should not be will pass into reality. One or the other – Child or Abomination – will eventually be drawn together in opposition. Should the Abomination prevail, there will come a time of darkness – but the flaw will soon seal itself once again, and the night will pass. Should the Child prevail a portion of the power of the banished Abomination will pass into it – but soon enough another challenger will arise, for the stronger the Child, the greater the Abominations that may pass through the gate.

The Harrowed Gate Birthright (31 CP / +0 ECL):

A child born in the badlands as the sun crosses the horizon on the last day of the ancient year is linked to those briefly resurgent ancient powers rather than to the closest power-nexus as usual; born with access to the powers that normally lie hidden beneath the sands.

Whatever course they may take… their lives will be filled with events of interest, for through them much which is normally hidden will attempt to crawl forth. Those rare individuals with this birthright gain access to:

  • Six Occult Skills (the Equipment Skills of the Shadowed Galaxy) purchased at normal prices, Specialized and Corrupted / such skills may only be bought up to represent powers and abilities absorbed from major opponents that you’ve killed (or at least have helped kill) or banished from the material plane (12 CP)
  • Immunity / having items of Equipment taken away (Common, Minor, Minor, Specialized and Corrupted / only applies to the six Occult Equipment Skills above (2 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized and Corrupted for 3 SP/Level / only for Skills, only for the six Occult Skills given above (6 CP).
  • Adept, Corrupted for Increased Effect (Covers the six Occult Skills above) and Specialized for Reduced Cost / as above, plus no one defeated opponent short of an archdemon or similar foe can provide more than three points worth of enhancements in total (3 CP).
  • Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted / only to create relics related to the powers or nature of a slain foe from the remains of that fallen foe, only for use with points from Enthusiast (2 CP)
  • Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, the points may only be used to create relics. relics must be created from the remains of a fallen foe and can only provide powers related to that foes nature (4 CP).
  • +1 to Speak Language (The Serpent Tongue of the Underworld, 1 CP).
  • Grant of Aid, Specialized in Hit Points Only (3 CP)
  • Action Hero (Stunts), Corrupted for Reduced Cost/Only to channel the powers of the Spirit World (4 CP).
  • Accursed: Many opponents will gain Occult Powers (-3 CP).
  • Hunted: The Dark Powers of the Underworld (-3 CP).

Dirty Trick Masters in Eclipse d20

Through the ages combatants have resorted to “dirty tricks” – kicking dirt (or spraying blood) into an opponents eyes, suddenly tossing a hidden weapon at them, “striking below the belt”, stomping on their feet, reflecting the sun into their eyes, and dozens of other unexpected maneuvers. Such things can be a great equalizer, suddenly tipping the balance of a fight against a far superior opponent!

So why does anyone BOTHER investing a lot of time and effort in becoming a far superior opponent if the tables can be turned so easily? Why are such tricks generally considered dishonorable stunts, reserved for the desperate and outmatched instead of being a standard tactic?

It’s because – in real fights – they hardly ever actually work. They’re “cheap” because – very, VERY, rarely – they allow someone who had no business winning to come out on top. They’re also “cheap” because – if you’re up against a skilled opponent – attempting such as trick is very likely to result in your death, giving said opponent a cheap and easy victory as someone who’s already overmatched diverts their attention to attempting some unlikely-to-succeed trick and leaves extra holes in whatever defense they’ve been able to muster.

They aren’t usually a big thing in games because fights in games are for dramatic purposes. The player characters are expected to survive a LOT of them, and giving anyone they face a small – but still worth checking – chance of an unexpected victory will shortly result in dead PCs. Just as importantly, unless you give them an unrealistically large chance of working nobody will ever bother with them. Player characters usually don’t face a lot of battles where their chance of survival is so low that they’ll have better odds gambling on doing something stupid in hopes of a near-miraculous upset. Games that do feature many such battles rarely last very long after the total party kill or inescapable railroading causes everyone to loose interest.

So a great many games – rather than wasting time on rules that would almost never get used – just left it up to the game master to judge the results when someone tried a desperate trick. There was a good deal of bias in those decisions of course, simply because people who come to play games generally want to play. Killing off characters tends to disrupt play. So game masters tended to vastly over-rate the chances of a desperate character’s ridiculous trick succeeding. As a plus, that tended to make games more cinematic (which is usually fun) – but the downside was spreading some pretty unrealistic ideas among the players about how likely it was for a “Dirty Trick” to actually work.

First Edition Pathfinder continued the slow drift away for simulationist RPGs and tried to compromise: it added actual rules for Dirty Tricks, but made them a standard action that replaced your attacks, left the outcome up to the GM, made most of the effects only a mild hindrance (and none of them particularly damaging), had them provoke attacks of opportunity, kept the durations quite short, made it easy for an opponent negate those effects (at base with a move action), and based them on Combat Maneuver Bonus versus Combat Maneuver Defense – while defining Combat Maneuver Defense as being generally equal to your Combat Maneuver Bonus plus your Dexterity Modifier and giving most creatures very high Combat Maneuver Defenses. For a quick random example or two… A CR 3 Centaur has “Base Atk +4; CMB +7; CMD 19 (23 vs. trip)”. A CR 8 Ogre Mage has “Base Atk +8; CMB +16; CMD 29”. Now that’s a bit deceptive, since it’s 1d20+CMB against CMD – but it’s enough to show that even in Pathfinder I only full BAB classes or those with applicable special bonuses made worthwhile dirty tricksters, and even they find Dirty Tricks only moderately effective. Sure, Pathfinders Dirty Tricks are versatile, can used against almost anything, and can stack different conditions – but removing enough of the limitations to make Pathfinder Dirty Tricks even reasonably effective costs a lot of Feats. The goal of a Pathfinder Dirty Trickster is basically to make an opponent either waste actions dealing with their dirty tricks or to hinder it’s ability to fight back while the rest of the party beat it down.

So how to build Dirty Tricks in Eclipse?

The quickest way is not to bother. That’s what THIS article was all about – the classic tradition of simply asking the GM to assign an ad-hoc modifier for pulling off some special trick. Use those two paragraphs of rules – if necessary taking a small Immunity to being unable to cause special effects by taking attack penalties (Call it Battle Cunning – Very Common, Minor, Trivial, 4 CP) – and there you are.

Personally I don’t think that should be necessary, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to require it either. After all, d20 also tells you that you need a special ability to ignore your defenses in favor of launching an all-out attack (which many small children throwing tantrums seem to be able to manage) – and that rule does effectively include the equivalent of Pathfinders Improved Dirty Trick (you do not provoke Attacks of Opportunity for attempting a Dirty Trick) and Quick (you can attempt a dirty trick in place of a normal iterative attack) feats.

So what do you do if you want to be GOOD at Dirty Tricks?

Well, the standard Eclipse path for becoming particularly skilled with a particular style of combat is a Martial Arts Style. So let’s build one.

Dirty Trickster Style (Dex):

This style focuses entirely on spotting opportunities to make cheap shots – sacrificing raw power, speed, and other advanced combat techniques in favor of focusing on vulnerable points and, if necessary, taking a blow to get in a possibly conflict-ending strike.

  • Requires: Either Battle Cunning (as above) or – if the game master does not require“Battle Cunning” is not required to attempt Dirty Tricks – a +5 Base Attack Bonus (since without Battle Cunning you probably need to have a good idea of what you’re doing before you can attempt to reliably pull off special tricks).

Basic Techniques:

  • Baleful Opportunist: Attack IV, Specialized for Double Effect / only to make up for the penalties for making Called Shots. Optionally, you can also Corrupt this to increase it to triple effect by treating the resulting bonus as a “Dirty Tricks Pool” that only refreshes itself once per round.
  • The Evil Eye: Power III, Corrupted for Increased Effect / only to be traded in via Expertise for bonuses to Called Shot attempts (Base of +2/+3/+5 base at Levels I/II/III). As with Attack this can also be Specialized for Increased Effect (totaling +3/+6/+9) to act as a “Dirty Tricks Pool” that only refreshes itself once per round.
  • Rolling With The Punch: Toughness III. Like it or not, if you’re going to keep trying to make called shots in actual combat conditions, you’re going to open yourself up to incoming attacks. This ability says that you’ve practiced enough to roll with, and minimize, the resulting injuries.
  • Stunning Strike: Strike. Those practiced in Dirty Tricks may choose to inflict nonlethal damage when performing such a trick without penalty.

Advanced And Master Techniques:

  • Coyote’s Strike: Expertise, Specialized for Increased Effect / Only to transfer Damage from Power to Attack Bonus, Only to make up for penalties for Called Shots.
  • Web Of Anansi: Luck with +4 Bonus Uses (5 Total), Specialized only for making Called Shots.
  • Loki’s Venom: Trick. The user may take a shot at -30 that causes an effect of up to third level provided that the user can describe how the effect is being generated. You might be able to get a Fireball effect out of a barrel of oil or shooting a firebreathing creature in the throat, but getting a fireball out of a Glacial Wyrm is probably not in the cards.
  • Holdout: Immunity to running out of Weapons (Uncommon, Major, Major). A character with this ability can always pull out another weapon, up to a total value of 500 GP per fight scene. Unfortunately, such weapons can never be found after the battle, having been either destroyed in the conflict (such as ammunition) or returned to their hiding places. (Yes, this does allow for a couple of fairly basic magic arrows, bolts, or shuriken per fight if you so desire, but that’s rarely a particularly efficient use of this ability).

Alternative Master Techniques:

  • Serpentine Strike: Opportunist. You may use an Attack Of Opportunity to make a Called Shot.
  • Trickster Spirit: Reflex Training with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only to make an extra Called Shot as a part of a Full Attack or Attack Of Opportunity.
  • Thunderbolt Strike: Enhanced Strike (Hurling). The user may hurl an unsuitable weapon, causing double damage and making a called shot – but only once every minute.
  • Repertoire: Favored Enemy or Foe (Variant; for particular Dirty Tricks).

Occult Techniques:

  • Inner Strength II, Light Foot, and Paralyze. These, at least, are quite conventional – although I’d probably be open to a character taking some of the Alternative Master Techniques in place of Occult Techniques.

This isn’t a particularly powerful combat style although it improves notably if you allow trading the occult techniques for some of the alternative advanced abilities. There are plenty of ways for a combatant to inflict massive damage, cripple an opponent, or otherwise swing a battle without investing a lot of effort in fooling around with called shots. Rather more importantly, in a world focused on hit points, mighty spells, and incredible attacks – and full of opponents who can readily withstand those incredible attacks – Dirty Tricks are simply relatively low-end things. On the other hand, they do offer a great deal of flexibility, allow for all kinds of creative stunts in combat, and will tend to make each battle unique. That alone is probably well worth having a combatant character spend a few skill points picking up this style.

Well, what with working in the medical field there hasn’t been any time for blogging for months and there still isn’t much. On the other hand, I would very much like to get back to regular posting and responding to questions and comments. Ergo, I’m going to backfill a post or two per month to try and get back into the rhythm of regular posting and I’ll see where it goes from there if and when I catch up to the present.

Also, it looks like WordPress has killed my tag list in going to a block editor; I’ll see if I can’t salvage them later.

Gadgets Beneath The Eclipse:

There have been a couple of requests for elaboration on the “Gadgetry” Occult Skill recently, so here we are:

“Gadgetry” is generally an Occult Skill – but in its most common form, it looks something like this:

Gadgetry (Tinker Version, Dexterity, No Unskilled Use, Restricted).

  • Tinkerers may gain synergy bonuses from up to two relevant craft, knowledge, or professional skills – such as chemistry, craft/alchemy, or engineering.
  • The “Gadgetry” skill provides “Gadget Points” equal to it’s value. The user may equip himself or herself with various items by assigning those points to various gadgets, with more powerful or complex devices requiring more points. Points may be reassigned to change the user’s equipment list, or to replace expended items, given time. For simplicities sake, the user simply assigns their points each day, although it is common to have a list of gadgets that are usually carried. Note that individual gadgets need not be at all practical, have a reasonable source, or even come with a good explanation of how they work. The skill can also be rolled when the user wishes to improvise some minor repair or wants to make a quick stab at using some device. Thus a Tinkerer with Gadgetry-9 might carry Smoke Pellets (1), a Sleeve-Mounted Grapnel Launcher and Rewinder (2), a Gas Mask (1), some Tear Gas Grenades (3), and a Folding Sword (2, for sheer impracticality).
  • You can boost Gadgetry in all the usual ways, but short-term boosts aren’t especially helpful most of the time. Long term boosts are useful to Tinkerers however; a Tinkerer’s Toolkit (2500 GP) would, for example, add +5 to the user’s effective Gadgetry (Tinker Version) skill.

One of the Equipment Skills of the Shadowed Galaxy setting is ALSO labeled “Gadgetry”. That version of the skill covers some pretty powerful gadgets since you’re presumed to be backed by a fully industrialized high-tech civilization with fusion power, starships, personal energy weapons, and lots of other toys – making gadgets even more powerful and cheaper (if generally standardized and far less flexible in application). A high-end superhero game might let you have even more powerful gadgets than that on the cheap – but that sort of thing is more or less a world law, not really something inherent to the skill.

Alternatively, we have the version for dimension-hoppers, which works as follows:

Gadgetry (Reality-Shifting version, Charisma, No Unskilled Use, Restricted in most settings. May be freely available in dimension-hopping campaigns).

  • Characters using the Reality-Shifting version who actually possess Reality Editing get a +4 synergy bonus on their Gadgetry skill score.
  • Reality-Shifting Gadgetry provides a pool of points equal to it’s value that can be assigned to various items, with more powerful or complex devices requiring more points. Such items will continue to operate normally despite changes in natural law. hout worrying about where they come from, practicality, or the details of how they work. Thus a Reality Shifter with Gadgetry-9 might be carrying a Flaming Sword (whether that’s currently being a lightsaber, a magical mass of magma, or a crystal that focuses mental energy into a pyrokinetic blade, 1), an Adjustable Plasma Pistol (2), a Wand of Healing (with the same game statistics regardless of whether it’s currently a wand, a bag full of herbs, or a box of medical-nanite injectors, 2), a long-term Light (whether it’s currently an inextinguishable torch, a fusion-cell powered flashlight, or a perpetual glowstick, 1), and a set of futuristic Smartclothes (providing a wide variety of useful functions, whether as a magical amulet, smartfiber cloth, or a covering of metamorphic psychic metal, 3). Note that such items may be considerably more powerful than a Tinker’s gadgets since the user doesn’t have to build them. He or she merely has to keep them operating across dimensions.
  • You can boost Reality-Shifting Gadgetry in all the usual ways, but short-term boosts aren’t especially helpful most of the time. Long term more useful, but it is commonly necessary to allot at least part of the boosters effect to maintaining the booster itself.

Now, as an Occult Skill…

  • Any specific characters version of “Gadgetry” is one of an infinite number of possible variations out in the multiverse, and is effectively unique to them and the game. A gadgeter with electronics and chemistry in a James Bond setting can make micro-lasers, mini-explosives, and nerve gas pellets. A gadgeter working with clockwork and alchemy in a quasi-medieval setting can distill liquid sunlight to poison vampires with.
  • Each use of Gadgetry is a unique event, subject to influences that the user will not be able to perceive. Precedents are not carved in stone. Did you give a game-disrupting overly cheap “price” for Explosives last week? Maybe the God Of Fire was feeling particularly energetic then, and now the price is back to “normal”.
  • A given character can have multiple instances of Gadgetry. You could, for example, have one for Alchemical Gadgets, one for more or less conventional Weapons and Armor, and one for James Bond Gadgets.
  • Gadgetry generally doesn’t use rigid writeups or spell-equivalents. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule since the character and the GM might (of course) decide that the variation they want to use DOES, but I don’t recommend it. I think that gadgets should offer interesting options, just as you don’t know what James Bond will use the one-shot minilaser in his watch to do until he figures out how to use it to solve a problem. He might blind a guard, set off some explosives, start a fire, cut through a lock, weld a door to it’s frame, or do any of a hundred other things. You can’t really write rules to cover creative problem solving. Instead you want your “Bottled Sunlight Flask” to be an exotic option that you have tinkered together that might be used to blind something, get tossed into a patch of green slime or brown mold to destroy it, or be deployed to drive back or damage vampires – not the equivalent of a Sunrod that does 1d6 damage if you touch the burning end. (It’s important to note that realistic forces don’t do much in d20; being completely immersed in molten magma only does 10d6 damage. A one megaton fusion warhead (d20 future) does 16d8 damage – averaging 72 points).
  • Finally, this is a relatively low-cost option – and thus we don’t want it to be enormously powerful. Sure, a planet-killer antimatter bomb is just a gadget, but if we make it something that a talented kid can throw together in the backyard, the planet won’t be around long enough for you to set a game on it.

Thus there isn’t any easy table of gadgets or simple method of pricing them – but there are certainly some basic considerations that give us some general guidelines – although the GM always needs to temper things with a system this simple and open-ended.

  • How impractical is this thing in the setting? Not at all? Moderately? Quite? Extremely? Call that a base of 0/1/2/3 points.
  • If it’s active, and has a notable effect, how much do you get to use it before having to refurbish it? Once or twice is pretty common, but adding more may cost more. Three times or for a few minutes? Seven times or perhaps for an hour? Twelve times or constant for the day? Call that +1/2/3 points.If it’s power level or effect on the game is Trivial, reduce the cost by one, to a minimum of one. If it’s going to be worth noting but isn’t all that powerful, there’s no adjustment. If it’s supposed to be pretty important, add one. If it’s fairly major, add two. If it’s difficult to control, extremely situational, or has some serious downside… subtract one again.
  • If the cost is over three points we’re probably talking about a signature gizmo – something like Spider-Mans web shooters (Quite Impractical (2), 12+ uses notable uses (+3). and pretty important (+1) given how tough that webbing is for a total of (6). Spider-Man probably has a Skill Speciality in the things – and carries some refills for them).

For some classic medieval d20 setting examples, lets price…

  • Acme Rocket Boots each contain three rocket booster charges, good for – say – kicking someone and tossing them a long ways away or helping you kick in a door. Or you could use one in each boot to make an incredible leap, avoid a fall, or so on. That’s quite impractical (2), and – depending on how you look at it – has either three or six uses (2) – but it’s also fairly trivial (-1) and (quite obviously) can easily go wrong even if you don’t blow whatever roll the game master calls for (-2) – so (2).
  • Anti-Critical Crumple Zones: This gadget lets you build your armor with kinetic-energy absorbing crumple zones. You can opt to let it negate an incoming critical up to three times, but it will take lots of work to fix it afterwards before it will work again. That’s only moderately unreasonable (armor does this in reality to some degree, 1), and offers three uses (+1), but the effect is fairly powerful since it can definitely save your neck (+1), for a total of (3).
  • Burgeoning Verdigris Elixir is an alchemical elixir that (in a fantasy setting) makes plants grow in mere seconds. A dose can make a seed grow into a small tree, create a tangle of brush in a small area, or make a lawn grow fresh and lush for your horse to graze on. Now that’s Moderately Implausible in a fantasy setting (1), and comes in flasks with seven doses (or seven vials with one dose each, +2), but the effect is pretty trivial in fantasy terms (-1), for a net cost of (2).
  • Charms and Talismans (from The Practical Enchanter) are generally 1-2 points, occasionally 3 if the game master thinks they’re too powerful.
  • Dart Finger Gauntlets can fire each “fingertip” like a light crossbow bolt and even let you fire off a whole hands worth as a single attack – but once spent, they’re gone for the day since you have to rewind all those little springs. They’re good for remotely pressing buttons, carrying string up a tree, or shooting people. Now that’s Moderately Impractical (1), and has five “charges” (+1), but – even with the option to fire several shots at once – is only one good attack. That’s worth noting, but is nothing major (+1). So that’s (2) – (3) if you make a pair with ten total charges.
  • Fireproof Coatings for your armor provide five points worth of fire resistance. That’s very practical (0), and works all day (3), but is a fairly trivial effect (-1), for a net cost of (2).
  • Flame Elixir Sheathe: The alchemical gel in this sheathe will give a weapon drawn from it the Flaming property for five minutes, once. Oddly enough, the residue will not set the sheathe and your hip on fire. That’s Moderately Impractical (1), comes with one several-minute use (+1), and is a notable effect (+0), and so has a net cost of (2).
  • Ice Climbing Gear negates the penalties for climbing icy surfaces. You can buy that in the real world, so it’s obviously practical (0), you’ll run out of pitons and such fairly fast though, so maybe it’s only good for three rolls per day (+1), and the effect is both trivial (-1) and quite situational (-1) – so the minimum of (1) if you’ve got to build this as a gadget, but (of course) (0) if you can just go to a store and buy some ice-climbing gear.
  • Magnesium Flare Bundle. This isn’t at all unreasonable – a torch does much the same job, if a little dimmer (0), and seven is (+2) – but “a better torch” is pretty trivial (-1). Net (1), (2) if they come in a flaregun and have little parachutes so they descend slowly while lighting up an area since that improves their effect. Sure, you can use them to set fires and flash-blind or burn monsters – but you can do that with a torch.
  • Phlogiston Bottle. This flask of the distilled, super-concentrated, essence of flame is only Moderately Impractical (Even in reality there’s always white phosphorus, 1), and can only be used once (0), but is obviously quite powerful (2).
  • Rewinding Rocket-Launched Wrist Grapples. One shot until you wind up the springs again and put in a new rocket unless you make it multi-barrelled. A classic superhero gizmo. Use it to get to the top of something tall, to swing across a chasm or down from a height, to try to keep someone from running away, to hitch a ride on a helicopter, or to trip up a squad of guards (among many other possibilities). That’s only moderately impractical (1) and probably only has one (+0) or perhaps three (+1) uses. So 1-2 points.
  • Silken Armor Underlayer. This gadget allows your personally-tailored armor to be lighter while still offering the same protection. That’s quite practical (0), continously active all day (3), and has a notable but not really very powerful effect (there are several fairly cheap ways to do that, 0), so (3).
  • Smoke Pellets (a packet of a dozen). That’s not at all impractical (0), has a dozen uses (3), but is also about as trivial as it gets (-1) and won’t work in strong winds, water, or plenty of other situations (-1), so (1).
  • Thermal Blankets are probably alchemical creations in fantasy, but simply keep everyone under them toasty warm in arctic conditions for a night. That’s very practical (0) and continuous (3), but it’s also pretty trivial in d20 terms (-1) and extremely situational (-1), for a net cost of (1).
  • Three Bladed Sword. This escapee from an old movie can fire two of its three blades. That’s extremely impractical (3) but that’s a pretty trivial effect in d20 (-1), so that’s (2) – and probably kind of cool, however absurd it is.

There will inevitably be comparison to spell levels, simply because d20’s enormous list of spells provides an immense variety of benchmarks. In general though, spells are considerably more powerful than Gadgets – in-setting because the “high” magic of Wizards, Sorcerers, and Gods is just less limited than Gadgets that you can invent in an afternoon. Out of setting… Gadgets are a lot cheaper to in terms of character points and so they are a lot less powerful. Still, if you really must compare… you can use a general guideline that Cantrips count as Trivial Effects (-1), first level spells effects are the default level of effect (0), second levels spell equivalents cost (1), and third level spell equivalents (the maximum) cost (2). (Now Superhero Games will probably add +2 (at the lower end) to +3 (at the upper end) or so to the spell level equivalents That way you can build that teleport belt…

Thus Darkvision Goggles (a recent gadgetry pricing request) are Not At All Impractical (since real ones exist, and so 0), work for about an Hour (+2), and emulate a second-level spell (+2), for a net cost of (4). That’s a bit pricey, but lets you gain a major advantage by just putting out the lights. That can be quite potent.

And I hope that helps!

Eclipse Witchcraft – Skills, Actions, and Concentration

And today, it’s a question. This one has actually been asked in various forms several times recently, so it’s moved up the priority list.

What are the actions of the various abilities which do not specify? For example, Leaping Fire’s (Witchcraft) ability to put Haste on oneself, or Occult Martial Art techniques like Wrath or Healing Hand?

-Various, most recently (and on the blog), River.

This one is actually a little awkward since it runs into a problem that’s not entirely specific to Witchcraft, but which stands out a lot more there since players (of course) have no practical real-world comparison to draw on.

Witchcraft abilities are essentially skills – and, like most skills, the listed options are hardly an exhaustive list of things you can do.

For a comparable example, lets say you have Craft (Pottery). According to the rules…

You can practice your trade and make a decent living, earning about half your check result in gold pieces per week of dedicated work. You know how to use the tools of your trade, how to perform the craft’s daily tasks, how to supervise untrained helpers, and how to handle common problems. (Untrained laborers and assistants earn an average of 1 silver piece per day.)

The basic function of the Craft skill, however, is to allow you to make an item of the appropriate type. The DC depends on the complexity of the item to be created. The DC, your check results, and the price of the item determine how long it takes to make a particular item. The item’s finished price also determines the cost of raw materials.

  • Can you roll it to – say – recognize a Potters Wheel or other basic paraphernalia? Of course you can – and that’s a free action. Any decent potter should recognize a Potters Wheel at a glance. I can, and my pottery experience is limited to a couple of experiments as a kid and a short segment in a high-school art course.
  • Can you judge how to break an amphora so that you wind up with a shard attached to the handle that you can use as a weapon? You can probably make that one as a part of the swift action of breaking the amphora you’re holding.
  • Can you roll it to tell if a pot was slip-cast or thrown? Yes you can. If the maker was a poor workman and left the ridge where the two halves of the mold met, you might be able to tell at a glance. If they scraped it away carefully it will be much harder and will require a careful examination that may take a minute or two.
  • Can you compound and apply glazes before firing a delicate set of teacups? Certainly. But now we’re looking at a lengthy project.
  • Can you tell a kiln from a bread oven? Build a kiln or Potters Wheel? Wedge clay? Make a slip-casting mold? Recognize a bed of fine clay suitable for making porcelain? Know what Grog is and how to use it? Determine what types of clay are best for high- and low-temperature applications?

Of course you can. All of that, and much more, is a fairly basic part of Craft (Pottery).

  • You can make heat-resistant tiles for a space shuttle, or for making high-tech bulletproof armor as well, but now we’re getting into some fairly tricky rolls, at least if you’re working with a set of medieval tools and a wood-fired backyard kiln.

Now, most people know enough about clay, pottery, and water to take a good-enough-for-game-purposes guess at how long this kind of thing is going to take. The same goes for a lot of other skills. There aren’t any rules about how hot a fire has to be to soften iron for forging, or how long it takes to bash out a crude dagger, or how to alloy steel for various purposes, or about refining iron ore into various types of iron. In large part that’s because those skills aren’t used in combat – although there’s also the fact that it doesn’t really matter for game purposes. D20 just assumes that all those basic uses of various skills are automatically successful.

Witchcraft extends that idea. It’s basically a no-roll skill system – mostly because adding yet more rolls to d20 combat situations is generally counterproductive to enjoying the game. So with Witchcraft you either have a skill or you don’t – and instead of advanced techniques having higher DC’s (and requiring rolls) you just buy packages of specific advanced techniques that you can use when you want to. The general idea, however, is the same: since witchcraft abilities are psychic skills, you can do quite a few things with them that aren’t specifically listed – and how long it takes depends on just what you’re doing.

So lets look at Hyloka, a Witchcraft ability which it allows you to adjust biophysical processes. That’s kind of delicate, so most of it’s tricks are probably at least a standard action – but a few things are obviously easy.

  • You want to adjust your eyes to full night-sensitivity when the lights go out? A free action. That happens automatically anyway, if normally more slowly. It might cost a point of power if you want to do it in a fraction of a second in combat though. The same goes for holding your breath a little longer and fooling lie detectors (which don’t work very well anyway). Tricks like this might cost a point of Power if you are under stress and in a rush, but that’s rarely a big problem.
  • You want to suppress a sneeze? Neutralizing the irritating effect of poison ivy? Not even an action and almost certainly no cost.
  • You want to increase the melanin content of the skin to prevent a sunburn or facilitate a disguise? Minutes and no cost for a bit of tanning to perhaps an hour (and likely a couple of points of Power) if you want to go from “Albino” to “Deep Black”.
  • Triggering or suppressing ovulation or the implantation of a fertilized ovum? Given that this needs to be done at least a bit in advance the action type is irrelevant, even if it does likely cost a Power point or two. This can be a very useful trick, but it’s almost certainly not going to come up in a combat situation unless something really strange is going on.

And that’s why Witchcraft effects mostly don’t list specific action types. They can be used in so many different ways that trying to do so is yet another doorway to an endless list that would inflate the book by hundreds of pages. There are some rules-of-thumb though – pretty much the same ones that apply to all other skills.

  1. If an effect specifies a type of action or time, you use that. For example, The Adamant Will specifies that it can be used defensively as needed, and that this does not count as an action. On the other hand Brewing requires hours and Master The Elements involves a spirit-quest requiring 1d8 x 1d8 hours.
  2. If an effect simply gives you something, no action at all is required. For example, Longevity adds to the duration of a character’s age categories while The Inner Fire activates bonus spell slots – both useful effects, but not something that the character needs to “turn on”. Once such abilities are acquired they’re pretty much permanently in effect.
  3. If an effect augments another action, it’s a part of that action. Thus using Glamour to boost a Social Skill Check is a part of that skill check, as is using The Inner Eye to boost Sense Motive or Shadowweave to enhance Stealth. Have you got Voice Of The Dead and want to use Diplomacy on some undead that would normally be immune? It’s use is a part of that skill check. If you’re a martial type and you’ve got a version of Elfshot specialized in inflicting minor curses (in the form of hindering wounds) on those you hit with a weapon, triggering that effect is a part of rolling damage. Using Whisper Step to enhance your movement is often a part of a movement action, using Witchsight to boost your Perception check is a part of that action, and so on. On the other hand, using Witchsight to give yourself Darkvision isn’t so simple; that’s a more complex, enduring, effect and is an action of it’s own.
  4. If an ability is being used for trivial purposes or as a minor special effect for dramatic purposes, it’s generally a free action and usually won’t cost anything. Do you want to use Witchfire to light your cigarette, or warm your tea, instead of spending one power point on Witchfire to hurl a bolt of fire? A free action. Want to use Shadowweave to add a glint of light from your shiny white teeth when you smile? A free action. You want to use Hand Of Shadows to set your cloak flowing in the (non-existent) breeze? A free action.
  5. If a specified effect needs to be of a particular action type to function, it’s of that type. Thus, Leaping Fire (among other applications) lets you add a Move-Equivalent Action during any given round. That obviously wouldn’t work if that particular effect required a move-equivalent or higher action type; it wouldn’t have any effect. Just as importantly, it’s “during the round”, not “during your turn” – so it can only be an Immediate Action. Sure, that only adds a Move Action – but that’s a potential lifesaver. Breath Of Peruza can be used to allow you to survive what would normally be an instantly-mortal injury. For example, Dark Lord Kevin used it to survive being Vaporized – reduced to minus several hundred hit points in an instant (admittedly, he had an awful lot of support available that helped him pull off that trick). That’s about as extreme as it gets – but that was either an Immediate Action or Not An Action at all. After all… surviving something that ought to have killed you instantly pretty obviously won’t work if you have to wait until your turn to use it.
    1. Unspecified effects may not be possible at all. Sure, The Adamant Will can “protect your mind”, but that doesn’t mean that you can use it to block a blow to the head. It doesn’t work that way. Similarly, using Healing to “Regenerate Your Body” when  you’ve been decapitated might have to be an immediate action to work, but since it’s well beyond the limits of that power it’s not going to work in the first place – and so it doesn’t matter what kind of action it might be if it could work. And yes, that kind of question has come up.
  6. If a power doesn’t need to be a quicker type of action to work, but isn’t particularly complicated and is relevant to combat, it’s probably a standard action. You want to use Elfshot (sometimes known as “The Evil Eye”) to put a minor curse on someone? Use Healing to counter the effect of a toxin? Invoke Ridden By The Loa to call on a tiger-spirit and use part of it’s power? Use Witchfire to fuse an iron door to it’s frame? Use Nightforge to try and entrap something in “adamant” bonds? Use Dismissal to try and banish a demon? All of those actions, and hundreds more, are going to be standard actions.
  7. If a power is a long-term (but not permanent) thing, or especially complicated, it’s almost certainly at least a full-round action – and may well take even longer than that. If you’re planning to use Dreamfaring to sink into a trance, project your spirit into the Astral or Ethereal Plane, seek out the restless spirit which is haunting a location, and persuade it to leave… it is going to take a bit – and it doesn’t matter exactly how long. Want to use Hyloka to hibernate or grow hair? Healing to induce an hour-long healing trance? Witchfire to infuse carbon into cold iron to produce a high-carbon tempered steel blade without losing it’s “cold iron” properties? True Prosperity to enhance a farming villages harvests? It may take quite a while or simply require your attention occasionally – but exactly how long or how often generally doesn’t matter because they’re not combat abilities.

There’s a secondary consideration here too; Witchcraft can produce effects equivalent to many spells – but unless you’ve modified it with Specialization and Corruption to act like a spellcasting system it’s still a set of skills – NOT a fire-and-forget magic system.

If you use Shadowweave to create some sort of illusion, that’s something you’re actively doing – just as a ventriloquist can make his or her voice seem to be coming from somewhere else, a lasso artist can make jumping through his or her spinning loop seem effortless, and someone making shadow-pictures on a wall can make them seem to move, yet none of those effects persist after the operator stops producing the effect. How much concentration this takes is open to question though. Use Shadowweave to create a light or darken an area? Not much; the effect may be being maintained, but it’s simple and low powered and you can probably keep it up without paying much of any attention to it. Are you trying to maintain active camouflage or “invisibility”? That’s probably going to require concentration since that’s going to require constant adjustment as you move and have to change what you’re doing.

Other effects have a degree of built in “inertia”; once you use Glamour to convince someone that you are a homeless bum rather than a wealthy eccentric (or vice-versa), it usually takes some time and evidence to overcome that impression. If you use Leaping Fire to accelerate your healing rate to absurd levels it takes a few moments for the effect to run down. If you change the weather with Weathermonger to produce a storm and stop your working… the storm will clear up shortly unless the environmental conditions are right to sustain it, but it won’t just vanish.

Finally, of course, there are effects that produce permanent changes. Most of those are fairly obvious; if you use Witchfire to extract a drug from a plant, or infuse poison into some wine, you’ve basically just moved some molecules around – and they don’t go back when you stop. If you dissipate the energy of a fire with Grounding, it will stay out after you stop unless someone or something re-ignites it. There are a few techniques that let you invest a portion of your Power or even Life in something to maintain an effect indefinitely, but they’re rare – and require a willing decision to do so.

And hopefully that adds clarity instead of confusion!

Eclipse D20 – Makhpia-Luta (Red Cloud), Amerindian Earth Mage

It was apparent from a very early age that Red Cloud was going to be a shaman. The way that small objects moved around and changed colors when he grabbed at them before he could talk was something of a giveaway. Given such an auspicious start, the tribal shaman started him on the spirit-drums as soon as he could – a decision that he soon regretted more than a bit. Fortunately, the error of giving a very small boy a drum was easily fixed by taking it away again at bedtime.

The real trouble turned out to be that Makhpia-Luta wasn’t particularly well attuned to the totems. He had a rare and powerful affinity for the magic of the Earth, and the even rarer ability to channel the Earthpower into specific spells – but his dreams remained determinedly pedestrian and none of the great totems spoke for him. The shamans of the People faced a dilemma; the boy was far too powerful – and far too adept in the ways of combative magic! – to allow him to simply run around without spiritual guidance, he was far too impatient to join the Lorewardens, and simply turning him loose in hopes that he would settle down would be a major gamble. What if someone managed to subvert him? Without guidance young mages were very vulnerable to such gambits.

But then the spirits presented another option. A Totem-Sworn on a major quest came through, Makhpia-Luta heard the call of adventure, and the Sworn One continued her quest with a new ally. Perhaps that was what the Great Totems had had in mind all along.

Makhpia-Luta (Red Cloud)

Level One Earth Mage

Basic Attributes: Str 10, Dex 14, Con 12 (+2 Tem = 14), Int 16, Wis 14, and Cha 12 (3.5 32 Point Buy). .

Low-Level Template (0 CP)

  • Disadvantages: -3 on Untrained Skills, advancement by direct CP Awards, valuable trouble magnet.
  • Advantages: +12 + (Con Mod x 2) HP, +3 on five skills, +2 Constitution, Prestidigitation at will.
  • For full information on the low-level template, look HERE.

Nomadic Cultural Package Deal (0 CP)

  • Companion (Animal Companion) (Hawk).
  • Proficient with All Simple Weapons.
  • Specific Knowledges: Horse Care, Plains Survival, and Tribal Traditions.

Available Character Points: 48 (L1 Base) + 2 Duties (Mystic Guardian Of The Plains) + 12 (Human, L1 Bonus Feats) + 10 (Disads: History, Obligations/Help the Totem-Sworn, and Inept (Diplomacy; Red Cloud just has a way of putting his foot in his mouth) = 72 CP

Basic Expenditures (17 CP):

  • Base Attack Bonus: +0 (0 CP).
  • Hit Points: 6 (L1d6, 2 CP) +12 (Immortal Vigor, 12) +6 (3 x Con Mod) = 24 HP
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +2 (Dex) +4 (Martial Art) = 16
    • Fortitude: +0 (Purchased, 0 CP) + 2 (Con) = +2
    • Reflex: +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) + 2 (Dex) = +3
    • Will: +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) + 2 (Wis) = +3
  • Proficiencies: All Simple Weapons (See Cultural Package Deal above, 0 CP).
  • Skill Points: +0 (Purchased, 0 CP) +12 (Int Mod x 4) +8 (Fast Learner) = 20
    • Boost Human Fast Learner to 2 SP/Level (3 CP)
    • Adept: Half cost for Arcana, Perception, Staff Style, and Persuasion (6 CP).
  • Initiative +2 (Dex)
  • Movement: 30′ (Base)

Usual Weapons:

Makhpia-Luta normally relies on magic. If he must fight something physically and has time to prepare he usually uses his Earth Affinity to put a Shillelagh effect on a staff, boosts himself with Aspect Of The Beasts and hammer away with it. IF he doesn’t have time he’ll focus on defense while awaiting help – and on occasionally using Breaking Technique to try to bring down the roof or otherwise divert any attackers. At his base…. Staff: Staff: +0, 1d6+0, Crit 20/x2. That’s not horrible – but it certainly isn’t very good either. 

Talents (16 CP):

  • Earth Affinity (Constitution Based): Shaping, Specialized for Increased Effect (Level Zero Effects) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only to produce effects in a very narrow field (4 CP) plus 3d6 (12) Mana with Spell Enhancement, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost/only to enhance Earth Affinity (6 CP).
  • Telepathy (Charisma Based): Shaping, Specialized for Increased Effect (Level Zero Effects) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only to produce effects in a very narrow field (4 CP) plus 1d6 (4) Mana with Spell Enhancement, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost/only to enhance Telepathy, may only spend one point to do so (2 CP).
    • If you want a list of examples of what effects fall under these categories, you can look over HERE and HERE

Master Sorcerer (36 CP):

  • Magesight (Occult Sense/Magic, 6 CP).
  • Occult Talent (and Improved, Specialized / just for more slots, not yet for more spells) (9 CP) and Improved Occult Talent (12 CP) (Intelligence Based): Net 10x L0 Slots and 6x L1 Slots. For simplicities sake, these are just being treated as a single pool.
  • Known Spells: Earth Channel (L0, Free, Transfer Adept Mana to Earth Sense), Shield (L1, Blocks 15 Damage, Immediate), Kinetic Storm (L2, as per Stone Call), Bestow Curse (L3), Cure Light Wounds (L1), Scorching Ray (L2), Greater Shield (L3, blocks 25 damage in a 10 radius), Remove Curse (L3), Eldritch Weapon III (3 Mana), Call Lightning (L3), Lesser Gate (L4, a somewhat hazardous, time-consuming, very tiring, and destination limited, version of Teleport), Shadow Conjuration (L4), and Aspect Of The Beasts (L4, lets the user take on animal characteristics and attribute modifiers as per The Practical Enchanter for One Hour Per Level).
  • 3d6 (12) Mana with Spell Enhancement, Specialized and Corrupted / only to enhance Occult Talents, may only spend (Int Mod) points on enhancing a Spell (6 CP). Note that this is the only way to access spells of above level one – so Red Cloud can throw a few powerful spells each day, but his Mana is a very limited resource. If he uses it unwisely, he may wind up unable to do anything at all.
  • Rite Of Chi with +2 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / Only to recharge the Occult Talent enhancement pool, may not be bought up further, 2’nd use in a day requires tapping into a ley line and the third requires tapping into a ley line nexus (3 CP).

Other Abilities (3 CP):

  • Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only to create One Point Relics, only for use with points from Enthusiast (2 CP).
  • Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / the point may only be used for Relics (1 CP).
    • Relic: Shaman’s Eye: +1 use of Rite Of Chi (2 CP), Improved Augmented Bonus / Add (Cha Mod) to Mana Rolls, Specialized / only for Rite Of Chi rolls (6 CP), +3 Speciality on Perception (Sensing Magical Energies) (1 CP). Net cost as a relic: 1 CP.

Skills (20 SP):

  • Arcana: +4 (2* SP) +3 (Int) +3 (Tem) = +10
  • Perception: +4 (2* SP) +2 (Wis) +3 (Tem) = +9
  • Persuasion: +4 (2* SP) +3 (Cha) +3 (Tem) = +10
  • Religion: +4 (4 SP) +3 (Int) = +7
  • Scholar: +4 (4 SP) +3 (Int) +3 (Tem) = +10
  • Staff Style: +4 (2* SP) +3 (Int) +3 (Tem) = +10
    • +4 Defenses, Breaking Technique.
  • Survival: +4 (4 SP) +2 (Wis) = +6

Red Cloud is a very powerful Sorcerer. In fact, under the world laws he was set up under – basically the “generic fantasy novel” rules I created for Valdemar (and similar) games – he’s almost as powerful as he is ever going to get (there are only about 6 CP worth of Magic left for him to buy – getting the second incidence of Improved Occult Talent up to full use (3 CP) and getting Enthusiast up to 4 CP in total (3 CP)). It would probably be more “reasonable” in terms of classical d20 to spread that 75 CP worth of magic out over – say – four or five levels, but the “powerful yet inexperienced and somewhat naive young mage” (who usually needs to learn more about how and when to use his powers rather than more powers and has few talents other than magic) is a pretty standard literary archetype.

And so Red Cloud is off to adventure, complete with powers that hopefully will not get him into more trouble than he can handle yet. He will become more powerful with level – but it’s going to be because his effective caster level goes up and improves his existing spellcasting somewhat, not because he learns more magic. For the most part, his abilities are what they are.

As a side effect, this makes it much easier to run a game, just as it makes it much easier to write a novel. Red Cloud may become more skilled, improve his tactics, and learn to use his list of powers more effectively – but they won’t be radically changing as they pick up a new level of spells or some such the way that games tend to change when the spellcasters pick up Teleport or Plane Shift. Even better, that makes it simple to mix levels in a party, since many spells don’t care much about caster level.

Eclipse d20 – Kohana-Makawee, Loreward Of The Plains

And for today it’s a (loosely) Amerindian character, set up for a low-magic, low-level, world of classic fantasy – a world of legends, rather than the way that the world actually was. That includes a deep, ancient, relationship with horses, disregarding the fact that – until the Spanish reintroduced the Horse to North America – nobody on the continent had seen a horse in many thousands of years.

Totem-Sworn (Raven) (6 CP)

The spirits looked down upon the world, and all was water, there was no land anywhere. But the spirits of the air wished for someplace solid, where they might rest and fold their wings. Several spirits searched, but the fish and plants they brought were not solid enough to build a world upon. At last Turtle dove deep, for only Turtle could go for weeks beneath the waves. There, beneath the great weight of the waters, in the cold and darkness, after long days, Turtle found the muddy bottom. Turtle brought back a bit of hard-won Earth from the bottom of the endless waters atop his shell. But while the bit of Earth was solid, it was not enough – until Raven spoke the Words Of Creation. Who can know whether Raven shrank the Skies or the Earth grew? Raven flew over the Earth, and where his wings swept down, they carved out lakes and rivers. Where they rose, mountians rose with them. Where he flew level water drained away to reveal broad plains and foothills. In his wake, plants and animals covered the land. Man had not yet come into the world, but all was prepared.

The Raven-Sworn know that the world must be maintained, for while Raven creates and transforms, he does not sustain what he creates. That is the duty of the People, and those of the People who swear to the Raven are as spirits themselves, guardians of the land, the People, and the secrets that were never meant for mortal use.

  • Major Favors/Sioux Pantheon, Specialized and Corrupted / the Souix Totems (like most gods) only answer when you are in desperate need – and there is always a price of some kind, if only your ongoing dedicated service. Moreover, they demand that their sworn servants serve them and their people as a whole over any other loyalties. Their sworn servants may never marry, settle, or personally raise their children (2 CP).
  • Mentor/Dream-Questing: The Raven-Sworn dream to the beat of the medicine drums each night, finding lessons in the spirit world, Specialized / the Totem-Sworn find it hard to relate to others, suffering a -3 penalty on their social skills (3 CP). In practical tems, since they are advancing by direct CP awards, this is treated like a version of Fast Learner specialized in a particular field for +2 CP / Level.
  • Minor Privilege (Guest-Rights): Any tribe will treat, feed, and equip or re-equip (albeit only with mundane gear and a mount) any Totem-Sworn, Specialized / Their sworn servants serve the Totems and their people as a whole over any other loyalties (1 CP).

The Totem-Sworn are the mystic warriors of the plains, the guardians of the People, the agents of the totems, and the wardens of secrets that should not be known. Where a spirit must be placated to end a drought, where the enemies of the People attack, where monsters are unleashed, and where dark magic is used… there their dreams will soon send the Totem-Sworn.

Basic Attributes: Str 14, Dex 16, Con 14 (+2 Tem = 16), Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 10. (3.5 32 point buy). This is heroic fantasy, and mostly without magical items – so good base attributes are something of a necessity.

Low-Level Template (0 CP)

  • Disadvantages: -3 on Untrained Skills, advancement by direct CP Awards, valuable trouble magnet.
  • Advantages: +12 + (Con Mod x 2) HP, +3 on five skills, +2 Con, DR 1/- (Stacks with natural DR).
  • See the Low-Level Template for details.

Nomadic Cultural Package Deal (0 CP)

  • Companion (Animal Companion / Horse).
  • Proficient with All Simple Weapons.
  • Specific Knowledges: Horse Care, Plains Survival, and Tribal Traditions.

Available Character Points: 48 (L1 Base) +10 (Disads: History, Cultural Obligations, Hunted) +12 (Human and L1 Bonus Feat) +2 (Duties) +6 (Exp) = 78 CP. 75 Spent.

Basic Expenditures (42 CP)

  • BAB: +3 (6 CP), Specialized and Corrupted / Simple Weapons Only, no Iterative attacks.
  • Hit Points: 6 (L1d6, 2 CP) +12 (Tem) +18 [(Con + Dex) x 3)] = 35 Hit Points
    • Damage Reduction 1/- (Template, Stacks), 2/-, Specialized in Physical Attacks for Double Effect, net 5/- (3 CP),
    • Evasive Fighter: Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (Adds Dex Mod to Con Mod when calculating hit points, Specialized and Corrupted / only through level six, 6 CP).
  • Saves:
    • Fortitude: +0 (Purchased) +4 (Con) = +4
    • Reflex: +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) + 3 (Dex) = +4
    • Will: +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) + 0 (Wis) = +1
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +3 (Dex) +2 (Leathers) +2 (MA) +2 (Shield) = 19
  • Skill Points: +8 (Int) + 8 (Fast Learner, points used).
    • Human Fast Learner to +2 SP/Level, Corrupted / only to keep Adept skills maxed out (1 CP).
    • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills, Corrupted / only to keep Adept Skills maxed out (4 CP).
    • Adept x2 (12 CP) Survival, Perception, Handle Animal, Avenger and Javelin Styles, Background, Stealth, and Thievery.
    • This setting is using a condensed skill list. It’s on the bottom of this post.
  • Proficiencies: Shields, Corrupted / Light and Heavy Wooden Only (2 CP).

Usual Weapons:

  • Stone-Headed War Club (Heavy Mace) +7 [Bab+3, Str+2, MA+2], 1d10+2, Crit 20/x2, [Power I applied]
  • Javelin +7 or +5/+5 (+2 BAB +3 Dex +2 MA, possible Quick Throw), 1d6+2, Crit 20/x2, 30′ Range Increment.

Adept Skills: All start at (Level +3).

  • Handle Animal: +2 (Cha) +3 (Tem) +2 (Sy) = +11
  • Perception: +0 (Wis) +3 (Tem) +2 (Sy) = +9
  • Survival: +0 (Wis) +3 (Tem) +2 (Sy) = +9
  • Avenger Style: +3 (Dex) +3 (Tem) = 10
    • +2 Hit, +2 Defense, 1 Power with War Club.
  • Javelin Style: +3 (Dex) = +7
    • +2 Attack, Fast Draw, Quick Throw.
  • Background +2 (Int) +3 (Tem) +2 (Sy) = +11
  • Leatherworking, Metalworking, Horse Breeding, Sing, and Recitation.
  • Stealth: +3 (Dex) +2 (Sy) = +9
  • Thievery: +3 (Dex) +2 (Sy) = +9

Other Skills (8 SP):

  • Phantom Style: +4 (4 SP) +3 (Dex) = +7,
    • Synergy: Stealth, Thievery, and Perception, Mind Like Moon.
  • Background: +3 (1* SP) +2 (Int) +2 (Sy) = +7
    • Pioneer, Forester, Carpentry, Cooking, Herbalist.
  • Mountain Man Style: +1 (1 SP) +4 (Con) = +5
    • Synergy: Background, Handle Animal, Survival.
  • Specific Knowledge: Dark Mages (1 SP).
  • Specific Knowledge: The Spirit World (1 SP).

Other Abilities (24 CP):

  • Luck, Corrupted/No Base Uses (4 CP).
    • +4 Bonus Uses for Saving Throws (3 CP).
    • +4 Bonus Uses for Attacks & Damage (3 CP).
      • Taking 20 on damage is quite powerful at lower levels. At high levels… not so much. I find it acceptable, but you might find it disruptive. If you feel it’s over-advantageous, the character will need a small Immunity to only being able to use Luck on d20 Rolls (Common, Major, Major, Specialized and Corrupted / only for damage rolls, 3 CP).
    • +4 Bonus Uses for Skills (3 CP).
  • Reflex Training: 3 Extra Actions/Day Variant with +3 Bonus Uses (6 total, 11 CP).

Personal History:

The Tribal Shamans record ancient lore, medicine secrets too dangerous for common use, in cryptic patterns and carvings. Those items are sealed away, hidden in secret places in the sacred lands, surrounded by guardian petroglyphs, retired shamans, and spirits. For, if all else fails and the people stand upon the edge of destruction and the world with them… those secrets will be unsealed, the power to change the world unleashed, and the spirits will be called upon to build the world anew. Thousands of years of history, thought, and culture are there inscribed in stone, the collected lore of the People of the Plains.

Some talismans are hidden even more carefully. For recorded there are terrible secrets, the workings of dark spirits long since sealed away – preserved not to teach, but in case hard-learned countermeasures are needed once again.

But a drifting nightmare, a thing of dark magic and blood that spied upon dreams, found a clue – a dream dark and terrible from a guardian who had caught too many glimpses of what they guarded. It’s masters – a circle of dark mystics, evil spirits, and crawling things from beyond that would be gods – waited, and built up their forces, and finally struck, gathering a terrible harvest of ancient lore and carrying it into a distant land, leaving death and destruction behind.

Kohana-Makawee was one of several youngsters who heard the call of the Totems that day – and who soon headed out, both to recover the stolen talismans and to destroy any foolish would-be adept of darkness who attempted to put that lore to use. Today, carrying and caring for such terrible lore had left it’s mark; Kohana-Makawee now knows entirely too much about dreadful things, can routinely use the trickle of transforming energies from Raven to produce tiny miracles of distorted probability and time – and is a well-honed blade in the hands of the Great Totems.

Still, there are entirely too many bits of stolen lore still circulating – each a deadly secret that must be hunted down and eliminated. The spirits always have more tasks for her.

The Condensed Skill List:

Acrobatics (Dex) Balance + Escape Artist + Tumble
Arcana (Int) Spellcraft + Knowledge: Arcana
Athletics (Str) Climb + Jump + Swim + Escape Artist (STR)
Background (Int) Covers any five Craft, Profession, or Perform skills.
Deception (Cha) Bluff + Disguise
Endurance (Con) Control Shape + Concentration + Endurance
Handle Animal (Cha) Handle Animal, Ride, Profession/Teamster, etc.
Insight (Wis) Sense Motive + Gather Information
Linguistics (Int) Speak Language + Decipher Script + Forgery
Martial Arts (Var) Still only one, sorry!
Perception (Wis) Search + Spot + Listen
Persuasion (Cha) Diplomacy + Intimidation
Religion (Wis) Knowledge/Religion, Knowledge/The Planes, Heal, and performing various religious services and rituals
Scholar (Int) Covers Knowledge / Architecture and Engineering, Geography, History, Local, and Nobility
Stealth (Dex) Hide + Move Silently
Survival (Wis) Survival + Use Rope + Knowledge/Nature
Thievery (Dex) Appraise + Disable Device + Open Locks + Pick Pocket / Sleight of Hand
Use Device (Cha) Use Magic Device, Use Psionic Device, and Use Technological Device. For practical purposes there isn’t much difference.

Our Lorewarden here is really a classical literary hero – capable of pulling through in almost any emergency , and of taking down fairly strong enemies with a single mighty blow, but also likely to run out of steam in short order – not at all unlike a low-level mage.

  • Working in health care, things have been a bit frantically busy. I’ll try to catch up here eventually, but expect postings and articles to be pretty sporadic for a while.