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

Practical Magic – The Supply Pouch, Rod Of Residence, and Bottled Hedge Wizard

For today it’s a few items that are going to turn up with some upcoming characters – in this case some rather high-end utility magic.

 

Rod Of Residence: This elegantly-inscribed silver rod is studded with runes picked out in tiny emeralds. When it is used to sketch the outline of a door, whether in the air or against a surface, it opens a door to the pocket dimension associated with the rod. The door may be given any desired appearance, ranging from a simple crack in the surface on up to an elaborate storefront. Either way, it may be opened or sealed as needed.

Palatial Residence: Spacewarp Spell Template (The Practical Enchanter), with Barriers, Increased Size, Furnished, Supplied, Supportive, Stable, and a Mobile Entrance (with an “Optional Appearance” flourish) linked to the Rod. Base level 9, takes a full minute to cast (-1), requires a jewel-encrusted golden key (worth 4000 GP) as a focus (-1), for a net level of seven. (Spell Level 7 x Caster Level 13 x 400 GP One Use/Day (lasting up to twenty-six hours – more than enough to make it continuous) = 36,400 GP. Secondarily includes a Master’s Badge (The Practical Enchanter again; an item that provides swarms of helpful Unseen Servants) effect that only works within the residence (+2400 GP) Note that “dispelling” the place from the outside will simply close the doorway for a bit. Net total; 39,000 GP.

The Rod of Residence provides a comfortable mobile home and meals, as well as plenty of storage space, for a high level character on the go.If you want, you can also stash a small horde of endangered villagers there while you deal with the attacking monster horde (or whatever). It doesn’t, however, actually change the dynamics of high-level play very much; once you can get yourself a Portable Hole out of petty cash… storage space really isn’t a very big problem any more.

It does, however, provide an easy explanation for those disappearing magic shops that tellers of tales are so fond of throwing in to explain where some eccentric item came from though.

Basic D20 presents us with the Robe of Useful Items – which, at a cost of 7000 GP can produce anywhere from about 50 GP worth of items up to over 10,000 GP worth of handy mundane items (although, thanks to the randomization of what comes in a particular robe, the average is about 500 GP – as determined by a tedious, if very straightforward, calculation). Shrink Item allows you to carry along vast quantities of stuff if you want – but you still have to buy it. Of course, an adventurer who is short of mundane gear is not doing well at ALL.

For those who want even more utility, we have the…

Supply Pouch: A Supply Pouch offers access to the goods and services typical of a small town without actually having to have the town handy or to take the time to go shopping. It allows the user to simply produce some 750 GP worth of such goods and services over a period of time – although how often depends on the type of pouch.

Limited Wish L7 x L13 x 2000 GP + (50 x 1500 GP) = 257,000 GP x .4 (One subdividable charge per day) x .2 (only usable to produce items and services with a maximum total value of 750 GP – 50% of the cost of the spells 1500 GP material component) x.8 (only items and services which could be obtained in a small town – for example, no spellcasting services of above level three. Actual magic items cost double their base price, withdrawing cash is triple price – and generally comes in the form of gems rather than coins) = 16,450 GP.

Ad Hoc Adjustment: If limit is actually weekly, x.5 (8225 GP). If Monthly, x.25 (4100 GP), and if Yearly .125 (2050 GP). That gives us…

  • Dragonscale Adventurer’s Pouch/Dilithium Express Card (Daily) 16,450 GP.
  • Bejeweled Noble’s Pouch/Executive Credit Card (Weekly) 8225 GP.
  • Leather Merchant’s Pouch/Business Credit Card (Monthly) 4100 GP.
  • Cloth Yeoman’s Pouch/Pre-Paid Store Gift Card (Yearly) 2050 GP.

If someone just HAS to have one suited to an epic-level type, upgrading to three subdivideable charges per day – 2250 GP worth of stuff per day – raises the cost to 33,000 GP.

For those who wish to be constructive in dungeons…

  • Door and suitable framing, with bar, installed to fit 10 x 10 area: Wooden (Hardness 5, 10 HP) 10 GP, Reinforced Wooden (Hardness 5, 20 HP) 40 GP, Iron (Hardness 10, 60 HP) 500 GP.
  • 10 x 10 Wall: Masonry (2′ thick, hardness 8, 180 HP, Break DC 25) 250 GP, Packed Earth (3′ Thick, Hardness 2, 30 HP, Break DC 19) 10 GP, Wood (1′ Thick, Hardness 5, 120 HP, Break DC 26) 100 GP.
  • Dig out 10 x 10 x 10 cube of: Earth 5 GP, Clay/Rocky Soil 15 GP, Stone 50 GP. Yes, you can put holes under creatures, but it’s only a DC 16 Reflex save to avoid falling in. Just as bad, going more than fifty or sixty feet down in earth tends to lead to the walls collapsing before anything can fall that far, leaving any possible victims landing on a pile of soft earth about sixty feet down for 3d6 damage.
  • Build a Well (5 x 5, 100 feet deep) 200 GP. It comes with rope, winch, and bucket. While fitted stones hold the well open, trying to open one under someone allows them a DC 11 reflex save to jump away in time – which is unlikely to catch anything of the least importance.
  • Build a Trail 1 GP/100 Feet. This means clearing out the trees and brush, and enough leveling to let a small wagon get dragged through.
  • Build a Road: 1 GP/30 feet, x5 for difficult terrain. x2 for Gravel, x3 for Cobblestones, x5 for a solid base and mortared stones.
  • Build a Bridge: 5′ x 5′ section: Rope-and-Board 2 GP, Wood 10 GP, Stone 25 GP, Iron 150 GP.
  • You can also buy “Spellcasting Services” – pulling a variety of minor spells out of the pouch to help out. Unfortunately, they are cast at the caster level you pay for up to a maximum of the pouches caster level, not just at the caster level of the pouch. It’s much more effective than trying to dig pits under people though.

Yes, this is considerably better than the “Everfull Purse” minor artifact. Of course, if the players actually want to break the system instead of having fun with it, d20 offers a LOT of ways to do that – and fiddling around with a once-per-day Limited Wish item is hardly the most effective way to do that.

Now, for those who want to have even more utility magic, we can add a function:

Bottled Hedge Wizard

  • Sentient Item: Rank 3 Imbued Spirit, 5000 GP, Int 12, Wis 16, Chr 14, Speak and Read (Common and Celestial), Telepathy with Owner, Heal Skill +12, Feats of Material Link and Hedge Wizardry. Ego 11, Lawful Good.
  • Three Extraordinary Powers:
    • Bestowed Hedge Wizardry: As long as the user carries the item, he or she gains access to the Hedge Wizardry feat. (Surprising Mastery/Hedge Wizardry (Complex Mental Feat, No Prerequisite Feats, Requires that the “caster” already possess the feat (-1 spell level), Spell Level 2 x Caster Level Three x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .6 (only while someone is carrying the pouch) = 7200 GP. (Note that the Hedge Wizardry feat includes both access to the Hedge Wizardry spell list and the ability to make “conjures” – minor items of practical magic).
    • Lesser Hedge Magic: Bestows (or uses itself at Caster Level Nine) Sorcerer-Style Spell Slots 12 x L0 (Level Squared x 1500 GP x.5 (Hedge Magic Only) = 4500 GP) + 7 x L1 (same formula for 5250 GP) = 9750 GP.
    • Greater Hedge Magic: Bestows (or uses itself at caster level nine) Sorcerer- Style Spell Slots 3 x L2 (same formula, for 9000 GP) = 9000 GP.

Net Cost: 30,450 GP.

If you REALLY want to get elaborate, add a Bottled Hedge Wizard to an Epic Supply Pouch, for a net cost of 64,000 GP – and the ability to casually meet the mundane needs of a fair-sized town.

The Hedge Magic spell list is most unlikely to break the game – although a clever player will certainly find all kinds of uses for it – but between it and the basic functions of the supply pouch a character who’s so inclined will have an immense array of ways to be comfortable, accomplish minor tasks, and help out when Fireballs are utterly useless. 

Shadowed Galaxy Timeline

Between hyperspace slow time, subspace fast time, relativistic distortions, and other weird effects, no one has yet been able to really pin down the beginning, length, or conclusion (if, given the use of self-reproducing weapons during the war, it can even be said to have concluded yet) of the Idiotic War – or even say if it was one war, a series of smaller ones, or if there were prior Idiotic Wars involving still earlier species before the conflicts that humanity is sure of. Ergo, our timeline begins with the…

  • 2030’s: The Decline. As oil becomes steadily harder to obtain, and the world warms by three degrees celsius, energy shortages race with rising sea levels, crop failures, the spread of once-localized pathogens, and resource exhaustion to reduce the human population, biodiversity of the planet, and technology levels across the world. Despite the collapse of opposition to nuclear power, the increasing efficiency of solar and other renewable power sources, and increasing stress on efficiency, over the next decade the the population drops to half it’s 2028 peak and numerous areas lose most modern services. Those few countries fortunate enough to have made massive investments in nuclear and renewable energy well before the crisis period move into leadership positions. “Mercenary” becomes a respectable profession.
  • 2042: The Biocomp Project develops a practical neural interface, highly energy-efficient retinal projection and audio-canal speaker interfaces, and low-power demand implant computers driven by the hosts energies. The resulting surge in virtual environments, local coordination of farming and other activities, and the efficiency or making most services purely self-powered greatly reduces energy demands, helping to tip civilization into a period of recovery.
  • 2043: Thermal Clothing reduces the energy expenditure on space heating and cooling by well over 90%, leaving most of what is required to passive solar, geothermal, and water-driven systems.
  • 2048: The mass use of Neural Interfaces allows the statistical demonstration of the existence of Informational Manipulations, Faith, Spacefield Devices, and Psychic Abilities. While it takes years to overcome resistance to the “fringe” theories, the evidence is eventually persuasive.
  • 2051: Despite the stress on the proven technologies of Fission, Fusion research had continued – albeit slowly, with what few resources could be spared. The first practical Tokomak-style fusion reactors are immense – but soon became competitive with equivalent Fission plants.
  • 2055: The first formal programs in psychic training are opened up. While humans have very limited psychic potentials, trained psychics are a great deal of help in research and development.
  • 2057: Design refinements make fusion power plants cheaper than fission plants. With cheap power once again available, Hyper-Capacitor Energy Cells become cost effective despite their tendency to lose power relatively quickly.
  • 2063: Fusion plants can now be built small enough to be installed in major vehicles – and fusion thrusters allow humanity to begin practical expansion into the solar system. For a little while the prospect of once-more abundant resources drives reckless expansion.
  • 2065: While the population is still well below its peak, fusion-based resource recycling, cheap power, and increasing automation brings the per-capita global economy and production back to pre-decline levels. It will continue to rise for the next twenty-four years.
  • 2068: With computerized fusion-powered shipping now delivering most of the special services that are required, increasing mobility, and easy air travel, virtual countries and organizations become practical. While geographical countries remain important, people who primarily consider themselves members of virtual organizations, multinational corporations, and fanciful nations become increasingly common.
  • 2071: The first – very small and purely empirical – programs in Informational Technologies are opened.
  • 2075: The first Lunar State is declared. Given that this it is, in many ways, simply another fantastical virtual state, this provokes a few crabby speeches and several denial-of-service attacks on the new countries servers – but little more.
  • 2079: The Martian Zombie Plague. The investigation of some mysterious “structures” on Mars awakens (attracts? activates? spawns?) a spacefield weapon. While apparently limited in the number of victims it can control at any one time, the device suppresses it’s victims mental functions, provides a selection of enhancements, and uses their bodies to make apparently nonsensical changes in the planetary environment. Opposition is met with extreme violence. Returning some victims to Earth for study proves disastrous, but demonstrates the value of retaining national level military forces. There is still some dispute over whether the use of fusion bombs or the martyrdom of Pope Leo XIV and several hundred followers ultimately repelled the attack on Earth. Some areas of Mars are placed in permanent quarantine.
  • 2083: Hyperspace and Subspace are discovered. Despite the high rate of losses, early interstellar exploration and colonization begins by 2100.
  • 2099: The Kwan Yin colonizer leaves the Solar System using an experimental Hyperspace Drive.
  • 2118: Enough information is finally available to put together some theories on the Idiots. This will spark a debate over the wisdom of trying to spread out into the galaxy – and whether or not the hazards the Idiots left behind are enough to explain the Fermi Paradox – that has yet to be resolved to anyone’s satisfaction.
  • 2126: Oort cloud mining crews discover traces of life deep in the ice of several planetoids. It uses DNA-RNA and protein coding compatible with earthly life, validating the Arrhenius Spore Theory, and explaining the existence of roughly-compatible biospheres (and extreme biohazards) around other stars.
  • 2144: The Warp Drive is developed. With a reasonably reliable FTL drive system available, humanity begins to flood out into the galaxy – and the Legacy of the Idiots is waiting for them. The resulting series of crisis keep the solar system in turmoil for several decades as attempts are made to deal with the various Idiotic Weapons and Technologies which are brought back by over-optimistic stellar explorers. Nevertheless, the prospect of new frontiers to settle proves a nigh-irresistible lure to many.
  • 2168: The Inertial Damping system is developed. Despite decades of research, no one can figure out how it actually works, but that does not much hinder the practical application of the effect.
  • 2172: The numerous disasters resulting from the Legacy of the Idiots finally result in a considerable reduction in the enthusiasm for extrasolar exploration.
  • 2180: Science and technology reach something of a plateau; the mysteries of Informational Technology, Spacefields, and Psionics have undermined belief in Science in the general population while absorbing the efforts of many of humanities best minds to no result. Worse, the “cutting edge” of scientific endeavors is now so complex that humanities best minds can only understand them with intensive study – further narrowing the pool of minds that might produce advances. Scientific progress slows to a crawl, and – barring a sudden success in the ever-failing quest to increase human intelligence through computer or genetic augmentation – may well stay at a crawl indefinitely.
  • 2187: The Solar Security Council finally agrees on a set of basic protocols for planetary exploration and bringing items back into the Solar System and to Earth in particular. While such precautions are nowhere’s near 100% efficient, and require quarantining several areas within the Solar System, they do reduce the stream of disasters to a far more manageable level.
  • 2192: “Mad” or “Cryptoscience” – non- or semi-reproducible devices and results – becomes widespread after some extensive popularization efforts. Unfortunately, Cryptoscience seems to rely on an mixture of psychic abilities, informational effects, and aberrant materials – and spreading out the crackpot tinkering did not result in the hoped-for development of a practical design theory. Cryptoscience devices can be quite valuable, but they only work for their creators – who are always at least somewhat insane.
  • 2202: After fifteen years of cautions testing of the Exploration Protocols, exploration and colonization efforts are renewed.
  • 2207: First Contact. The Riheal – a sapient, if technologically primitive – species is discovered. After much excitement, this turns out to be of very little importance.
  • 2239: Oberth – the first successful permanent interstellar colony – celebrates the 100’th anniversary of it’s founding. Such success is quite rare; all too many colonies collapse.
  • 2250: Genesis II launches a major effort to revive extinct species and restore natural environments across the Earth. Over the following decades this is semi-successful at best, but some restoration is accomplished. The debate between the “Fix the Earth first!” and “explore now!” groups continues without resolution, hindering both sides projects.
  • 2280: Today.

Some of the more pessimistic evolutionary theorists feel that – now that the galaxy is strewn with Idiotic Relics – constant warfare is inevitable. After all, the more such relics are left laying about, the greater the selection pressure towards racial paranoia will become – and when two paranoid species meet it is all too likely that one or both will soon be extinct and that yet more Idiotic Weaponry will be left scattered around. Most of the other camps hope that they are wrong.

Yes, this is a condensed timeline, primarily covering items of interest to interstellar explorers – and not too many of those. It’s for player orientation; if they want details on something, they can do a little in-game research.

Eclipse and High-Tier Martial Characters Part Two – Martial Maneuvers

After Stances come Martial Maneuvers. Now there are actually a lot of ways to build high-end martial abilities in Eclipse, but this time around I’m building the Legendary Martial Arts – the sort of absurd abilities you find in Kung Fu Hustle, Zu Warriors from Magic Mountain, Duel to the Death, Kung Fu Panda, House of Flying Daggers, The Monkey King, Journey to the West, The Forbidden Kingdom, Iron Monkey, assorted martial arts Anime, and Jademan Comics.

The Martial Arts of Legend aren’t supposed to be magical or psychic – but they certainly pay little or no attention to physical laws. They warp reality in weird and wonderful ways, they’re different for each user, they gradually exhaust the user’s reserves of “C’hi” (whatever that is), and they’re potentially very, VERY, powerful at the upper levels. A brief rest will, however, restore a good deal of that power reserve.

In Eclipse that’s Mana with Reality Editing. Buy…

Focused C’hi: 12d6 (42) Mana and Rite of C’hi with +12 Incidences of (Int Based) Bonus Uses (Recovers 1d6 Mana up to (Int Mod x 12) +1 times per day), Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (In general, Minor/Notable/Major/Grandiose edits cost 1/2/3/4 Mana each and spending on Natural Magic has triple effect)/Mana can only be regained via Rite of Chi, Mana may only be used to power Resilience and individual “fantastic martial arts” tricks bought as Specialized and Corrupted incidences of Reality Editing (2 points each), users may only expend one point of Mana per turn per four levels or part thereof. Within that spending limit maneuvers may be combined up to a maximum total of five Mana, with the action required being the most restrictive of those the individual abilities require. These maneuvers, and combinations thereof, are Extraordinary Abilities.

That’s 72 CP (Mana) + 26 CP (the Rite of Chi) + 48 CP (24 Maneuvers – one more than I have listed, but every mystic martial artist should have at least one unique trick) = 146 CP – just a bit less than the cost of twenty levels worth of Clerical or Druidic spellcasting, which seems fair enough. Our Legendary Martial Arts still aren’t going to be as versatile as Clerical or Druidic Spellcasting, but should be at least as useful in a fight.

Fortunately, when full spellcasting is in play, an individual displaying some fantastic ability isn’t really much of an edit. That’s also why any individual user should define a set of special effects to use. What they are really doesn’t matter a lot. If, mechanically, you are crossing a distance on the battlefield while disregarding obstacles and Attacks of Opportunity… it really doesn’t matter if you describe yourself as vanishing into the shadows and reappearing elsewhere like Batman, or make a fabulous leap, or tumble your way there, or hitch a ride on a bolt of lightning.

Why is this based on Intelligence? After all, this is Eclipse, and it could be based on anything or just stick with “four bonus uses per purchase”. The answer is simply that I like characters with a lot of skill points, and building around having a high intelligence is one of the easiest ways to get them. You want to use something else? Go right ahead.

Minor Maneuvers (1 Mana each, usable at levels 1+, Save DC 12 + Int Mod):

  • All The Magic I Need: As a swift action you may add +2 worth of enhancements to your weapon or unarmed attacks. Special properties may be +1 of this total if the weapon / unarmed strikes has no enhancement bonus to start with, +2 if it already does. In either case, this boost lasts for three minutes. As a reality alteration, unlike bonuses stack with those from other sources. Thus, while you cannot add “flaming” to an already flaming weapon, you could add “Shock” provided that it does not possess that property. Note that this CAN be stacked with itself, but not above the limit on mana spending.
  • Archimedes Lever: As a part of an attack (a touch if not doing damage directly, a normal strike otherwise) you may spend a point of Mana to make a Bull Rush, Charge, Disarm, Trip, Sunder, or similar maneuver as if you had the relevant “Improved” feat, an extra +4 bonus on the opposed check (if any), and immunity to being tripped or pushed back in return if you fail. In addition, if you succeed, you may relocate the target to any available space it will fit into within 20 feet and may opt to either inflict 2d6 damage or to take a 5′ step as a part of the attack.
  • Distant Strike: As a part of an attack you may make it at Long (400 feet + 40 Feet/Level) range.
  • Guardian Interposition: As an immediate action you may select an ally within reach and share your Armor Class and Saves with him or her for the rest of the turn. If something hits them anyway, you may elect to suffer the effects of the attack instead. Taking an attack for an ally this way does not count as an action.
  • Inflict Misfortune: As a standard action you may touch (no damage) or strike (normal damage) an opponent and inflict some minor disability if the target fails a fortitude save of DC (12 + User’s Int Mod). Such disabilities last for one to three rounds; the more troublesome they are, the more quickly they go away. While the user is free to run suggestions past the game master, some of the most common choices include Dazed, Knocked Down, or Stunned (One Round), Blinded, Entangled, -4 to AC, -4 To Attacks, 20% Miss Chance (or Spell Failure), Flat Footed and Unable to take Move Actions (two rounds), and Dazzled, Deafened, Shaken, Sickened, or Hindered (lose 20′ from all movement modes) (three rounds).
  • Invincible Dragon Kata: As an immediate action the user gains (Int Mod) “pluses” to split up as desired between AC, Reflex Saves, Fortitude Saves, Will Saves, Attack Bonus, Damage (per attack), Movement (+5 per plus), and Damage Reduction (+2 to gain one point of DR/-). Such bonuses remain in effect for one minute. Sadly, no more than (Int Mod) pluses may be allotted to any one factor and no more than four Mana worth of such boosts may be in effect at any one time.
  • Master Of The Arts: You may spend a point of Mana to use a skill without either the expenditure or the skill use counting as an action or suffering from circumstance penalties, lack of tools, or other practical difficulties. If you wish to cook breakfast while balancing on one leg and fighting off an opponent with the other foot, or forge a sword by punching the metal, or use Mystic Artist abilities while fighting, or try to intimidate or bluff someone while swinging, or reach behind you to pick a lock while holding off an attacker, this effect will let you do so. This is compatible with Shockwave Strike and does not count as an action. It does not, however, reduce the total time required to use an ability; for that you want The Full Montage, below.
  • The Oncoming Storm: As a swift action add one extra attack at your highest BAB to a standard or full attack. These bonus attacks may be directed against different targets without penalty.

Notable Maneuvers (2 Mana each, usable at levels 5+, Save DC 14 + Int Mod):

  • Called Shot: As part of an attack you may add a Bestow Curse effect (simulating an appropriate injury) to it. Save DC (14+Int Mod). Such injuries will persist until the victim receives a healing spell of third level or higher or for at least one day in creatures with fast healing or similar powers.
  • Death’s Herald: As a part of an attack action, increase the damage one of the blows can inflict by (2 + Level/2)d6 to a maximum of +12d6. The type (crushing, slashing, fire, acid, etc) of damage is up to the user. This can be added to attacks that normally do no damage. It may also trigger a save against Massive Damage.
  • Flow Like Wind: You may take a move action as an immediate action. Such movement does not provoke Attacks of Opportunity. Unlike most maneuvers this does not stack with itself; each additional point of Mana simply adds a +1 multiplier to your movement speed.
  • Shockwave Strike: As a part of an attack action, you may give it an area effect – a radius of (Move/3),, a cone with a length of (Move/2), or a line with a length of (Move). This may be stacked to increase the area affected. A roll to hit is not required, but a Reflex save at (DC 14 + Int Mod) is allowed for half damage. Alternatively, the user may roll an attack against each desired target – a much more time-consuming option, but the only one available if the user wishes to exempt some potential targets.
  • Sticking Palms: As an immediate action you may add a temporary appendum involving yourself to the rules on Attacks of Opportunity. This lasts for three rounds. Possible appendums include…
    • You get a chance to make an AoO on anyone within your reach who attacks someone other than you.
    • When someone makes an AoO on you, if they miss you get a chance to make one back. If they hit, anyone who threatens the attacker gets a chance to make an AoO on them while you occupy them.
    • When you make a melee attack against a flanked opponent, your allies get a chance to make an AoO against the same target if they threaten it.
    • When someone successfully tumbles past you, you can make an opposed tumble check to get an AoO against them anyway.
    • The game master may opt to approve other appendums. Think of something clever.
  • The Full Montage: You may reduce the duration of a condition affecting you, a spell personally targeting you, or the time it will take to accomplish an unopposed task, by ten minutes. If you are attempting to break free of a grapple or other restraint, or to force your way through a barrier, you may make three tries. This is not an action and you may explicitly employ this ability even if you cannot normally take actions at the moment due to being stunned, nauseated, or similar. (And to forestall the inevitable silly question, this does NOT extend to taking actions while being dead).
  • The Thunderbolt Prana: You may make an Enhanced Strike (Crushing, Focused, Hurling (with return), Hammer, or Shattering as per the rules in Eclipse), or simply make a Full Attack with one bonus attack at your highest BAB, as a standard action.

Major Maneuvers (3 Mana each, usable at levels 9+, Save DC 16 + Int Mod):)

  • C’hi Flare: As an Immediate Action you may target either enemies or allies and neutrals within 15 feet of your position with an effect comparable to that of a first level spell with an effective caster level equal to your own. Effects with durations last for one minute. For +1 Mana you may affect a thirty foot radius OR upgrade to a second level effect. This can be used to make sure that every enemy in the area is effectively flanked (a summoning effect), to provide Cure Light Wounds, to grant a single extra attack (Serpents Strike) to all your allies, to grant a +4 Shield or Armor bonus to AC (Force Shield / Armor I), to allow them to make a second saving throw against an effect (Resurgence), to hit all your enemies with a blast of energy (Shocking Grasp), of for many other tricks.
  • Lunar Orbit Palm: As an immediate action you may roll an opposed attack roll against a rolled, individually directed, incoming attack to redirect it (using your new roll if you win) to another valid target. This ability includes rays, bullets, and similar attacks as well as melee weapons.
  • Meteor Strike: As a part of an attack action you may make a trip attack against your opponent at +8 and without provoking an Attack of Opportunity or a return trip attempt. If you succeed, you may hurl your opponent up to 120′ feet, inflicting 12d6 damage and the Prone condition (A reflex save at DC 18 + Int Mod will halve the damage and let them wind up on their feet). Anyone along the line (or at it’s end) suffers 6d6 damage and must make a similar reflex save or fall prone. For +1 Mana you may attempt this as an immediate action against an incoming charge attack.
  • Oh No You Didn’t!: As an immediate action you negate a single-target incoming attack, magical effect, or psychic power. For +1 Mana you may negate an area effect attack or effect.

Grand Maneuvers (4 Mana each, usable at levels 13+, Save DC 18 + Int Mod):)

  • Between the Lightning and the Thunder: As an immediate action add +20 to your initiative count and +5 to the initiative counts of all your allies. Alternatively, add +20 to your initiative count and allow one ally within 30′ to act immediately after you do.
  • Doom Slash: As a part of a successful melee attack you can inflict 1d4+1 negative levels on a living target. For each negative level you inflict, you, or an ally within your reach of your choice, can gain five hit points or be healed of any one condition which could be alleviated by a Heal spell. If this takes the user or an ally above their normal hit point maximum the excess hit points will vanish after ten minutes.
  • The Peach Mirage: As a swift action you may restructure the world around yourself and up to four opponents, turning it into a private pocket dimension. You may change up to (Int Mod) planar traits from the original planes base, but may not distort the flow of time by more than a factor of ten. When the user dismisses the effect, or in ten minutes in any case, the area is returned to normal reality and all its traits revert. The user may describe the general setting and structure of the pocket realm as he or she desires (for example, “a maze full of traps”, “a carnival full of rides”, or “a narrow bridge over a pit of magma”).
  • Time Stands Still: As an immediate action take a turn. You may still take your normal turn, but you cannot take more than two extra turns in any single fight.

Skills Of The Shadowed Galaxy III – Other Skills and Weaponry Gadgets

Idiotic Technology (Occult) (Wis):

There are things that humans are not really capable of dealing with. Sadly, at least two of the “Tech Trees” in the Shadowed Galaxy seem to fall into that category.

Informational Technology uses patterns of information that reshape reality directly. Using your brain to process such patterns can transform your mind and body in extremely strange ways. Still, there are a reasonable number of minor informational effects known that the human brain does seem to have enough redundancy available to handle, at least if they are taken slowly. Every once in a while a researcher discovers a new one. Rather more often, something really weird or very unpleasant happens to a researcher.

Informational devices and entities are often physically simple; a basic ring with a few symbols on it can be a powerful informational device. Informational creatures tend to be immaterial patterns of information, often animating bodies pulled together out of whatever is handy. For good or ill, however, Informational Devices are often fairly simple to operate. Some need merely be worn or wielded, others require nothing more than commands and intent. Others, of course, have never been successfully activated – or seem to activate themselves at random.

The practical study of Informational Technologies is mostly empirical. Scholars make lengthy catalogs of known effects, devices, and their observed properties, hoping that a pattern of some sort will emerge – and work on knowing when to back away and stop poking the hornet’s nest.

Thinking about Spacefield Technologies doesn’t damage your brain directly – which is a small mercy – but it doesn’t seem to do much good either. Human minds simply seem to be unable to handle the necessary concepts and processes. Popular theories say that it involves thinking in too many dimensions, or has self-concealing informational aspects, or that it involves multiple time-dimensions and logic that neurons that only act forward in time cannot model, but no one really knows. Since humans cannot even detect Spacefield Technologies directly (they have to rely on deduction or informational effects), and can’t tell what kind of control inputs such items accept, the only Spacefield Studies that get anywhere simply attempt to catalog creatures, devices, and materials displaying aberrant properties and list known ways to put them to use – and when to run.

Humans are weak psychics, and don’t really understand how it works beyond some basic training methods and observations – but there don’t seem to be any inherent barrier of insanity or inherent incomprehension there. Humans are utter novices when it comes to psionic devices however, and generally do not understand the few that they’ve invented, much less Idiotic Psionic Devices.

Idiotic Technology is a bit like “Use Magic Device” – but Idiotic Technology is a LOT less user-friendly than the (rather simple and primitive) occult devices found in most d20 settings, most of it was never designed for the use of human or near-human beings in the first place, and knowing when to stop fiddling is a great deal more important than being able to fake an abstract quality or two.

Check: Determine whether or not something is an Aberrent Material and get some idea of what it is if it’s ever been seen before (DC 5) determine whether or not something is an Idiotic Device and whether or not it’s damaged (DC 10), try and get it to do something at random (DC 15), get a fair idea of what sort of device it is and how dangerous it will be mess with it (DC 20), determine how to activate various functions (DC 25 until you know them, DC 5 afterwards – but always messes up on a “1″). It’s equivalent to any other knowledge skill as far as knowing random facts about previously-known Idiotic Devices goes.

Action: Generally a simple action to try and recall basic facts, usually a standard action to try and use a device with a known method of activation (although this can vary with the device), minutes to days to fiddle with previously unknown devices.

Retry: Yes, albeit with a -4 penalty on each successive unsuccessful try at something. Eventually you just can’t think of anything else.

Special: Keeping Idiotic Devices ready to activate is a highly skilled job; a character can keep a maximum of (Idiotic Technology Score/4) devices ready to use at any one time, taking 1d4 days per device several days to swap out his or her “selection”.

Faith (Wis):

Genuine faith in a “higher” (or lower) “power” has been reported to have all kinds of effects over the millennia – but no one has ever been able to demonstrate much of anything under controlled conditions and even asking for repeat demonstrations in the field never seemed to work out. A lot of scientists threw up their hands, concluding that faith didn’t work when you looked at it closely – and yet a tendency to believe seemed to be a a standard part of the human mindset.

It has only been in the last century and a half that anyone has been able to demonstrate why. Faith seems to influence the operation of Spacefield Technologies. Believers display a greater ability to resist, or even repel, “parasitic” devices and some influence over the operation or effects of many other devices. Given that the only known ways to detect the existence of Spacefield Technologies are deduction (“this is acting weird!”) or to use unreliable, sanity-damaging Informational effects (the province of lunatics until the widespread use of neural interfaces and the internet allowed the existence of such effects to be demonstrated and codified well enough to be trained – even if not very effectively), it should be no surprise that it proved difficult to codify the operation of Faith. How were classical scientists to measure the operation of a purely immaterial mental attribute that only interacted with a rare phenomena that they had no direct way to detect?

Today Faith is indeed something measurable. Some Aberrant Materials show a stronger response in the presence of stronger Faith – and devices built using Aberrect Materials often show different behaviors when used by people with high levels of faith or different belief sets – no matter how irritating the engineers find that to be.

Check: You can check Faith in the presence of Spacefield Effects to try and influence how they operate. Sadly, the difficulty and possible effects vary about as much as the effects of “fiddling with it” varies with human technologies – and humans have no good way to tell what they are meddling with when it comes to Spacefields. Fortunately, intent seems to matter a great deal – and so attempting to hold off spacefield-empowered creatures, or to breach spacefield-generated barriers, and so on, has a fairly good chance of working as intended.

Action: Not an action if the Game Master requests a roll, normally a standard action to attempt a roll of your own. Many effects require concentration to maintain.

Retry: Retries are possible, but at a cumulative -4 penalty each time.

Special: Faith can be used as an additional Saving Throw when resisting the “infectious” effects of Spacefield Technology.

Networking (Chr).

Some people don’t really get out much. Others… rapidly become notable and influential members of any group they mingle with, have hundreds of friends, can near-effortlessly find the people and businesses that they need to, and make a good impression everywhere they go.

Check: When you want to become a part of a group, exert authority within a group, or tap into a group’s resources. Do you want a political appointment? A sinecure for your idiot nephew? To be considered for command of a new laboratory ship? To be entrusted with some irreplaceable or terribly dangerous piece of equipment? Then you want Networking.

Action: While Networking with a particular group may give your orders some authority in combat situations, Networking is generally reserved for noncombat time.

Retry: Yes, but it takes even longer and each successive retry is generally made at a cumulative -4 penalty.

Special: Bonuses with particular groups – specialties, specialized ranks, or specialized enhancement feats – generally represent rank and influence within that group. Any character with disadvantages or limitations representing active duty in the military or some such organization will be well advised to invest in at least a little rank. Given that most ships will only carry a squad or two, and that most colonies have small detachments of troops at most, it doesn’t really take very much rank to avoid having too many people giving you orders.

Minions (Cha) (Occult):

Yes, this one is reprinted from an earlier article to keep everything in one place.

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

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

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

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

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

Weaponry Devices

Weaponry in the Shadowed Galaxy is at something of a balancing point: at the moment classical firearms, explosives launchers, and flame weapons still rule the battlefield. They are a well-tested and mature technology, with variants available for thousands of different roles.

Energy weapons – including lasers, plasma generators, coilgun and railgun mass launchers, and more – are roughly equally effective, and generally lighter, but they’re also a bit more expensive and a bit more inclined to blow up if their HC E-Cell is damaged. More importantly, HC E-Cells lost power fairly rapidly when stored – so if you’re going on an extended expedition without a chance to recharge things, chemical ammunition is your best bet. If you’re going on a short run, or will have chances to recharge your HC E-Cells, you can carry a good bit more “ammunition” for energy weapons. On the other hand, of course, you can get specialty ammunition – explosive, poisoned, armor-piercing, stunning, and more – for projectile weapons (including mass launchers) – but such ammunition is relatively rare in the Shadowed Galaxy. It tends to be more effective in a particular specialized role, while being less effective in almost every other role – so when you don’t know exactly what you’re going to be dealing with, specialized ammunition isn’t a lot of help. Still, if you want to carry some… it will cost 1-3 points, just like any other gadget.

Small Arms – Firearms, Missiles, and Energy Weapons:

  • Basic one-handed small arms cause 2d6 damage, critical for double damage on a 20, have a 40′ Range increment, carry a base magazine of 25 shots, normally weigh 2-3 pounds, and have a base cost of (1).
  • Two-handed versions have a range increment of 80, a base damage of 2d8, normally weigh 6-10 pounds, and have a base cost of (2), but are otherwise similar.
  • Heavy versions – normally tripod-mounted – have a range increment of 120, a base damage of 2d10, weigh 20-40 pounds, and have a base cost of (3), but are otherwise similar. They do have a special option though; they can be rigged for full computer control – although this increases their base cost to (4). Such “sentry guns” (or mines or whatever) are useful for holding fixed positions though. They are, however, usually squad weapons rather than something an individual carries.

Regardless of the base, small arms can have up to three additional options (four if the base magazine is reduced to 5 shots, if the weapon cannot critical, or if the weapon is likely to explode if damaged). Some can be taken more than once, in this case the effects are listed in order separated by “/”. Note that a great many Martial Arts options will not work with modern ranged weapons, although they will with “primitive” weapons. (Sadly, the “Occult” options are normally not available in the Shadowed Galaxy anyway).

  • Enlarged Magazine (50/100/250 shots).
  • Increased Damage (Once only, increase die size by one step).
  • Increased Critical (18-20/16-20/16-20 and a x3 multiplier instead of x2)
  • Selective Fire (slugthrowers only: may expend five shots to gain either a +4 bonus to hit, to hit 1d4 members of a small group on a successful attack, or to inflict double damage against double any applicable DR [criticals obey normal rules for adding multipliers, normally inflicting x3 damage], at the user’s option)
  • Concealable (this weapon is easy to hide. Pistols can be slipped into a pocket, two-handed weapons can be readily hidden under a coat or broken down, and heavy weapons can be readily broken down and packed away)
  • Improved Accuracy (Sights; +2 to Hit/Smartlink +4 to Hit/Smartlink with friendly fire suppression: cannot hit a friendly target)
  • Explosive (+1 Die damage/+1 die of damage in a 5′ radius/+2 dice of damage in a 10′ radius).
  • Trapped (The weapon has built-in countermeasures against unauthorized use. Note that you can have a biometric safety for free; a trapped weapon fights back against unauthorized use).
  • Silent (This weapon has a greatly reduced usage signature).

Personal Items – Primitive Weapons:

“Primitive” weapons made with modern materials and techniques inflict an extra die of damage and have a base cost of (1). They can have up to two additional features.

  • Increased Damage, Increased Critical, Concealable and Trapped work the same way as they do with firearms.

Other melee weapon options include:

  • Electrified (+2d6 Nonlethal Damage/And a DC 16 Fortitude save to avoid being stunned for 1d3 rounds).
  • Impervious (The weapon is generally unaffected by corrosives and damage).
  • Nonreactive (The weapon is “invisible” to most detection equipment.
  • Personalized (The weapon is balanced and fitted precisely to the user, gaining a +3 on attacks made with it).
  • Poisoned (The weapon safely stores, and releases as needed – with no risk of poisoning the user – up to a dozen doses of poison).
  • Vibro (The weapon gains +15 damage only to overcome damage reduction).

Note that, if you want to combine two weapons, you may spend an extra point to do so. Such weapons can also be separated and used independently. For a common example, many assault rifles have integral grenade launchers. If you want one built into your sword… that’s a little bit weirder, but certainly allowable.

Standardized weapons are generally a point cheaper. For some examples he have…

  • Mini-Grenade Launcher: One-Handed Slugthrower Small Arm, Cannot Critical, Improved Damage I, Explosive III: 2.5 lb, 5 Shots, 4d8 damage in a 10′ radius, 40′ range increment.
  • Machine Pistol: One-Handed Small Arm, Enlarged Magazine II, Selective Fire. 3.2 lb, 100 shots, 2d6 damage, Crit 20/x2, 40′ range increment, selective fire.
  • Assault Carbine: Two-Handed Small Arm, Enlarged Magazine I, Selective Fire, and Increased Critical I: 8 lb, 50 Shots, 2d8 damage, Crit 18-20/x2, range increment 80′, selective fire.

Other weapons certainly exist – there are flash-bangs, various gases, claymore mines and other “dumb” perimeter defense weapons, aircraft bombs, EMP generators, and much more – but most of them are more than a bit special purpose. If you want some… they’ll be 1-3 points like most gear is.

Skills Of The Shadowed Galaxy II – Action Skills

Every d20 character has the ability to bend reality a bit. You can see that with their basic saving throws, high-level skills, ability to endure impossible amounts of damage, and more. Just what biological mechanism is behind “I take a dozen massive doses of the same poison. Each one has a 35% chance of affecting me”? What underlies all those weird “Extraordinary Powers” that real people can’t get away with if it ISN’T magic or psionics?

In Eclipse, at least, it’s simple enough; it’s a bit of unconscious reality editing. Unfocused, under-powered, and unreliable, but still capable of forcing the universe to work the way that the user wants it to, regardless of those pesky “laws of nature”. Unconscious reality editing is always at it’s best when its focused on tweaking the rules, creating subtle (and usually survival-oriented) effects rather than on blatantly reshaping the universe like full-blown conscious reality editing.

Action Skills are basically in between the unconscious power of Saves and Hit Dice and the raw active power (and massive Mana demands) of fully-conscious Reality Editing. They’re at least somewhat consciously controlled, but are still fairly subtle. They’re a trained and practiced ability to bend the universe a bit in your favor. As such, they are Extraordinary Abilities with limited usage (measured by Skill Exhaustion, temporarily draining the “permanent” (I.E. discounting any temporary enhancements from magic, psionics, or similar effects) score to produce active effects) – while remaining skills.

In effect, Action Skills are a characters personal reality-twisting “special effects” budget for their own, personal, action movie. In general, they recover on a per-session (in terms of the game, per sequence) basis, as there is only so much “tweaking” that the universe will accept at any given moment.

Narrative and Stealing The Scene are Occult Skills in the Shadowed Galaxy – and are not widely known or available to starting characters. They can be developed later on however, although it will require a good deal of research and practice (I.E; downtime between levels) or training from someone who already has the skill in question. In most games they’re all likely to be Occult skills – but that’s not a major barrier to a player character in Eclipse. If they really want one or more of them, they can probably find a few extra points somewhere.

The six Action Skills include:

Bullet Time (Con):

There are moments when everything just seems to slow to a crawl, when a flesh wound can just be shrugged off, when you can see the bullet coming in… and then you twist aside (or find that the wound isn’t as bad as you thought mere minutes later), and things go back to normal speed. With this skill you can get that to happen reasonably reliably.

Check: When you want to pull off some flashy move that impresses, but does not actually change the result (say catching an arrow that missed you, DC 10+), when you want to take a hit for someone who is adjacent to you (DC 15), or when you want to kick the grenade away, catch someone just after they fall off a building, or similar (DC 20).

Action: Generally an immediate action.

Retry: Generally no; it’s too late.

Special: You may temporarily sacrifice points from your permanent Bullet Time skill value to buy off incoming damage (6, 10, or 12 points of damage for 1/2/3 skill points), to overcome penalties to checks (1 per 3 points or part thereof that you want to ignore), to take one to three 5′ steps as an immediate action (1-3), and to boost your reflex saves (+1 per 1, but after you roll).

Erudite Focus (Int):

You are a geek. When everyone about you is losing their mind or utterly confused, your shining intellect cuts through the fog like an avatar of Occam’s Razor.

Check: When you wish to quote or recognize obscure (and often useless) factoids (DC 10), to get some idea of the “normal” odds on something (when PC’s are involved the odds are rarely normal), as an excuse for being blatantly unaware of social cues, when you wish to overawe people with your dazzling intellect (DC 15), and when you wish to rig up or pull out some minor device or repair with little or no justification (DC 20).

Action: Generally not an action, although repairing things (even very temporarily) is an exception.

Retry: Normally no. If you don’t know something, or have failed to impress someone with your intellect, you will generally have to wait for another chance before trying again.

Special: You may temporarily sacrifice points from your permanent Erudite Focus skill value to maintain your concentration in the face of distractions or injuries (1-3 depending on the level of distraction or injury), to make abnormally good guesses (1 for a small hint, 2 for a leading question, 3 for a big hint – such as in indication of whether your current theory is correct, very close, or incorrect), to gain bonuses on knowledge-related rolls (+2/4/6 for 1/2/3 points), and to avoid mental attribute damage or drain (1 per 1). Note that it may also cost one or more points if something you want to rig up or pull out is particularly dubious.

Narrative (Chr)

In worlds subject to reality editing on the level of the Action Skills the massed action of sentient minds always brings about some level of narrative causality. Events will twist – just a little – to conform to the rules of stories, for stories are one of the main mechanisms through which sapient minds interpret their world. Some people learn to sense, ride, or even harness, those twists of fate.

Check: When you wish to detect whether or not there are narrative influences on events (DC 10), would like to identify the genre and general nature of whatever story or stories are currently influencing events around you (DC 15), when you want to justify being genre savvy (DC 20), when you wish to spot some of the best points to disrupt or twist a narrative (DC 25), or when you wish to determine if something is actually important to the current story (DC 30).

Action: Generally a standard action.

Retry: Not until narrative causality once again has a notable impact on the course of events.

Special: You may temporarily sacrifice points from your permanent Narrative skill value to try to shape your own narratives. You may stumble across the nearest plot element (1-3 depending on just how likely you were to find it anyway), attempt to enhance your efforts by invoking your own relevant story or trope (1-3 points, generally providing a +2 bonus on rolls that advance the theme or narrative you’re invoking), and – at the start of a session – either retain from last time or buy new Whimsy Cards (1-3 each, depending on whether whatever set the GM is using have minor, notable, or major effects).

The Shadowed Galaxy game will be using Runecards. Since those can have some fairly powerful effects, they will “cost” three points each.

Sensitive (Wis):

Most people are blithely unaware of the things that lurk in the shadows, remain always just out of sight, and intrude into normalcy only in subtle, secret, ways. For good or ill, however, a few can sense the hidden presence of things from beyond.

You’re one of them.

Check: To pick up “auras”, “psychic impressions”, and similar clues (DC 10). To be uneasy and on your guard when things are sneaking about in the area or to dream strangely – and usually with some prophetic or clairvoyant elements (DC 15). to cause minor reality-distortions which persist just long enough to demonstrate to skeptics that reality is not what they thought it was (DC 20), and to get odd little “warnings” about events that are soon to come (DC 25).

Action: Generally not an action.

Retry: Only if the first check was passive – rolled by the game master to see if you picked something up without actively using your abilities.

Special: You may temporarily sacrifice points from your permanent Sensitive skill value to obtain extra Power equal to the points sacrificed, to resist or override mental influences (1-3 points depending on the strength of the influence), to leave intentional psychic impressions of your own (1-3 points depending on how dramatic and informative you want to be), to boost Will saves (+1 per 1, but after you roll), and to perform small psychic ceremonies (such as seances, getting cryptic answers from Ouija boards, dowsing for water or other minerals, “searching” maps with pendulums, peering into crystal balls, and so on. This only costs 1 point, but is never very reliable).

Stealing The Scene (Con):

There are vignettes that play out again and again. Tiny elements of greater tales. The overlooked hiding spot, the lucky blow, the outburst of avenging rage, the single, decisive, blow, discovering some close personal connection or stake, and many, many, more. In worlds where sapient minds shape reality, narratives don’t have to be very long to have power.

And some people know how to tap into them.

Check: To know whether or not a given vignette will fit into the current scene (DC 10), detecting when someone else is using a vignette (DC 15), using a vignette without personalizing it (DC 25), using an expended vignette again without refreshing it (DC 30, +10 per additional repeat).

Action: Generally not an action. Personalizing a new vignette requires 1-4 days.

Retry: Generally no, once you’ve used a particular vignette, it won’t answer you again without giving it time to recover (as usual for action skills, they are normally refreshed at the start of a new session).

Special: You may “invest” points from your permanent Stealing The Scene skill in invoking Vignettes. “Personalized” Vignettes are selected in advance, and can be activated automatically when conditions are appropriate. They “cost” 1-2 points each, and are normally a more-or-less permanent part of a characters repertoire since it takes several months of refraining from their use to de-personalize them and “free up” the invested skill levels. Freely selecting a vignette to use requires a roll (as above) and costs three points.

Note that Vignettes do not override reality; they merely twist it a bit. If you’re in the middle of a vast desert, with nothing around but sand and sky… trying to invoke The Flynn Effect is probably not going to work. Secondarily, Vignettes are – by their very nature – short. They never last for more than a few minutes at the most, and the majority will only last for a round or two.

The list of sample vignettes (sometimes known as “shticks”) includes, but is not limited to:

  • A Bigger Fish: A more powerful monster appears to take out your current monstrous opponent. It’s best to run while it’s busy.
  • Apologetic Usurpation: As long as you shout an explanation or apology for stealing a vehicle or device, and promise to return it later, there will be no pursuit or later legal consequences.
  • Armed In The Bathtub: You just happen to have your weapon with you, no matter where you are.
  • Automatic Start: A piece of equipment, vehicle, or machinery starts up, providing a moving platform to fight on, a hazard to throw opponents into, or possible automated escape.
  • Behind the Bookcase: There is a secret room, passage, passable airvent, or similar way out to stumble across,
  • Blind Shootout: You suffer no penalties for not being able to see.
  • Bootlegger Reverse: You can pull off a maneuver that simply isn’t practical for your vehicle.
  • Bridge Collapse: Some structure gives way.
  • Brospeak: You may communicate clearly with someone with whom you do not share a common language for a few minutes with nothing more than a few grunts and simple gestures.
  • Building Trust: You eliminate a deadly spider, scorpion, snake, or some similar menace that was about to bite or sting someone who does not currently trust you, showing them that you could have casually eliminated them but saved them instead.
  • Bulletproof Barrier: Whatever you grab – a coffee table, body, or anything else large enough to mostly hide behind – will absorb the next thirty points of damage for you.
  • Bulletproof Nakedness: For at least a few moments, insufficient clothing provides a +6 deflection bonus to AC.
  • Burst The Bonds: Get a +10 bonus on any attempt to break free of restraint, whether by sheer strength, by someone leaving a convenient sharp object about, or some other method.
  • Captured In Combat: Rather than being killed, you are knocked out and captured, and may escape or be rescued later.
  • Catch Phrase: You invoke a personal catch phrase and get a +10 on a relevant roll. Each Catch Phrase vignette applies to a particular skill application or check. For example, “Do you feel lucky punk?” (Intimidation), “Damn it Jim, I’m a Doctor not a Miracle Worker!” (Heal), “Always expect Ninjas!” (Initiative), and so on.
  • Clark’s Glasses: A disguise that has no rational chance of working is accepted for a minute or two.
  • Close The Doors: A door or other portal seals itself just in time to block any pursuers. For some reason, no matter how easy it is to get through or bypass, by the time they do you are gone.
  • Comic Relief: What would normally be a dangerous or otherwise serious failure turns out to be merely amusing.
  • Cut Scene: The game master describes a scene which is taking place elsewhere. This should reveal something useful, even if it’s just foreshadowing.
  • Deadly Boken: A toy, nerf, or replica weapon works just as well as the real thing.
  • Deadly Strike: Your next attack is made with the benefit of True Strike and does 3d6 extra damage. If the fight is being recorded, the attack will be gratuitously recorded from at least three angles and at least one of them will be in an extreme close-up.
  • Dragons Smokes: Toss your pipe, cigarette, match, lighter, or cigar as if it was Alchemists Fire.
  • Emergency Stash: You locate a small stockpile of supplies, whether yours or someone else’s is pretty much irrelevant.
  • Explosive Boost: An explosion doesn’t hurt you; it just gives you a little momentum to take away with you.
  • Feat of Strength: You may “Take 30″ on a strength check.
  • Flashback: Describe a flashback (to a personal tragedy, inspiring moment, wise advice being given by a mentor, whatever) and gain a Ray of Hope effect.
  • Gratuitous Antagonist: You randomly encounter an enemy in an awkward, noncombat, situation.
  • Gratuitous Explosion: You can cause a damaged vehicle or structure to explode for no reason whatsoever as long as it’s role in the action is effectively over.
  • Headspace Phone: You may hold a conversation or answer the phone in combat without it hindering you in any way.
  • High Lethality: All attacks in this battle inflict double damage.
  • Hitting The Button: An enemy does something impulsively stupid.
  • I Has Knowledge!: Whether from satellite surveillance, sonic mapping, ancient tomes, a mysterious source, or whatever, you have a crude map of the area.
  • In The Face Of Doom: A massive threat turns up, forcing the heroes and villains to cooperate, at least for the moment.
  • In The Nick Of Time: You arrive to intervene at the last instant.
  • Instant Hotwiring: Get a nominally secure device running without proper authorization. Can also be used to open doors with keypads and such.
  • Invincible Cardboard: Some random cubby will prove an effective shelter, whether from discovery or some massive attack.
  • Kick Your Way Out: For the next one minute, you may act without penalty despite being completely tied up or similarly restrained.
  • Lamprey Ride: You cling to the outside (often the underside) of a vehicle, reaching it’s destination safely and unnoticed.
  • Load Bearing Boss: When you take out the major bad guy, things start exploding or collapsing for no apparent reason.
  • Look What I Found!: When you get locked up somewhere, there’s some stuff you can use (and that no jailor in their right mind would leave in a prison) laying about.
  • Massive Chase Scene: When you run, everyone follows – even if that makes no sense.
  • Massive Throughput: You attack straight through a barrier without it hindering you at all.
  • Matchstick Flare: A tiny flame or source of light suffices to illuminate a large room.
  • Mistaken Identity: You are, at least for a short time, mistaken for someone else entirely.
  • Monologue: You may make a dramatic speech as an immediate action.
  • Oncoming Disaster: Whether it’s a vehicle, conveyor belt, radiant wall of annihilation, or explosion, whoever gets tossed into it’s path is in for a world of hurt.
  • Outrun The Explosion: You can delay the activation of a bomb or other major destructive device for two rounds.
  • Parkour: For a few moments no obstacle can slow you down. You go over, under, or around without a hitch and without provoking attacks of opportunity.
  • Perfect Coordination: You and a friend spontaneously pull off a maneuver that should have taken days of choreography and a weeks practice if it was possible at all. The game master may award you a bonus for surprise.
  • Piranha Pit: The pool/river/trash compactor/whatever has a monster in it – of course.
  • Presumed Dead: Since there’s obviously no way you could have survived, the enemy will not worry about you until you again reveal yourself.
  • Produce Placement: You may take a full-round action to explain why one of your (brand-name) devices is PERFECT for the current situation and gain a +6 bonus on using it next round.
  • Racing Ahead: When someone attempts to ambush you as you disembark from some means of transportation, you turn out to be behind them.
  • Reality Bites: When witnessing a feat that goes above and beyond what you believe is possible, you may attempt to reject it. You and whoever’s doing it make opposed Will checks. If you win it turns out that whatever-it-is really IS impossible – at least for a few moments.
  • Revealing Questions: You can cause a possible imposter to reveal himself or herself with a trick question.
  • Safety Glass: You can hurl yourself through a window without penalty or risk of injury.
  • Smoke Cloud: A great billowing cloud of smoke makes it impossible to see for a bit.
  • Soft Landing: You take only one-sixth the normal damage from a fall.
  • Stealth Ship: You can rig your vessel to avoid detection – no matter how impractical that is – using your own stealth skill.
  • Suction Cups: You can cling to some unreasonable perch to avoid detection.
  • Sundering Blade: You automatically hit and inflict double damage with an attack against an inanimate object.
  • Suspension Of Disbelief: You can toss an object into the air. It will come down and land whenever and wherever you choose within five rounds and a hundred foot radius.
  • The Cavalry: If you have some allies about, they arrive at a convenient moment.
  • The Flynn Effect: There is something – a vine, broken cable, chandelier, or similar – available to swing from, evading some obstacle or crossing an unreasonable distance.
  • The Gauntlet: Your route turns out to be filled with deadly dangers. Hopefully you will deal with them more effectively than your pursuers.
  • They’ll Hear Me: Your friends will automatically hear your calls/banging on the walls/whatever and know that it’s you.
  • Trick Shot: You may attempt to bounce an attack around a corner, shoot a gun out of someone’s hand, or pull off a similar trick shot without penalty.
  • Voice Of Experience: You can offer someone wise, and potentially life-changing, advice.
  • Weapons Backfire: A weapon malfunctions spectacularly. Enemy-attended weapons do get a save (DC 10 + Level/2 + Con Mod).
  • What Else Could Go Wrong?: Something goes wrong for the antagonists. Their vehicle breaks down, the lights go out, a security system malfunctions, or something similar happens. Sadly, using this vignette means that something similar will shortly go wrong for YOU – and it cannot be used again until that happens.
  • Wounded Lion: Just took a serious wound? Regain 3d6 hit points and fly into a Rage like a first level Barbarian might.
  • Wreckage Piloting: You can get a badly damaged vehicle working, at least for long enough to make an emergency escape.

Tough It Out (Str):

You are hard-bitten, tough as nails, and utterly determined. Sheer guts will pull you through!

Check: When you wish to be macho (DC 10), show off, pretend you are not injured, ill, or otherwise at a disadvantage (DC 15), or you wish to make an epic last stand by ignoring the fact that you really ought to be dead (this still won’t last long, and afterwards you will be very definitely dead, DC 10).

Action: Generally not an action.

Retry: Normally no. Once you’ve failed at being macho, faking being all right, or resisting death, you generally do not get another chance any time soon.

Special: You may temporarily sacrifice points from your permanent Tough It Out skill bonus to function longer in extreme environments (2 points per +1 multiplier to the usual time interval for problems), avoid physical attribute damage or drain (at 1 to 1), to act normally despite various conditions (Stunned, Nauseated, etc. 1-3 depending on severity), to ignore the effects of thirst, hunger, and going without sleep (generally 1 point per problem per day – but it’s a cumulative cost), or to boost Fortitude saves (+1 per 1, but after you roll).

Eclipse and High-Tier Martial Characters Part One – Stances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how do you buy Stances in Eclipse?

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

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

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

Hidden Mountain Style (Minor Stances)

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

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

Call of the Wild Style (Major Stances):

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Strategos stances are Presence effects with the following modifiers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technologies of the Shadowed Galaxy, Part I

Energy Sources and Storage:

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

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

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

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

Force Fields and Inertial Dampers

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

Propulsion:

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

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

FTL Travel:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Computer Technologies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anti- and Artificial Gravity

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

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