. 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 List – Character Creation Primer – Compiled Martial Arts.
. Subindexes: RPG Design – Twilight Isles – Battletech – Champions – d20 – Legend of the Five Rings – Shadowrun – White Wolf – Other Games – Battling Business World – Star Wars
Having now got the Eclipse Compiled book and the Practical Enchanter book, and Legends of High Fantasy is on the way to me, I need some guidance.
It’s easy to see how this works with a D20 type campaign. But what I want to use these on is Palladium – most notably Rifts. Any ideas on how the conversion might work?
This varies somewhat depending on if you want to run a Rifts-style game using the Eclipse d20 rules or if you want to translate d20 characters into Rifts or vice-versa – so this initial look is going to be awfully generic.
When you come down to actual play most of the differences between Rifts and the d20 rules set are actually pretty straightforward. That’s really not too surprising given that the Palladium system is ultimately quite derivative of early-edition AD&D and Runequest and has never really been revised or upgraded.
Rifts characters and monsters are essentially invulnerable to minor attacks – to non-magical weapons in d20 terms. d20 characters are, however, far more resistant to major attacks since the d20 damage scale is exponential instead of linear.
- When you’re considering Rifts and d20 it’s important to remember that the d20 scale starts off with fairly ordinary people (like the Rifts City Rat) and ends up with the power to create and destroy universes – far beyond he upper limits for Rifts characters (or gods).
d20 damage is not linear. For example, as explored HERE, a medium size Mace in d20 hits for 1d8 damage plus strength modifiers – often enough (with either a critical hit or a good strength modifier) to instantly kill a normal (1d4 hit points) person. A Colossal Mace is 12 times as large in any dimension (and so masses almost seven tons) and hits at the same rate – meaning it’s swung 12 times as fast. This comes out to 248,832 times as much kinetic energy to inflict damage. That’s 248,832d8 damage in Rifts linear damage system or 248d8 Megadamage.
Yet a Colossal Mace only does 6d6+Str Mod damage in d20 (the same base damage as a sixth level wizard throwing a Fireball). If we simply consider d20 attacks to be megadamage… we are actually cheating the high-end d20 types out of most of their damage. For example, according to Rifts official FAQ’s, the Tsar Bomba would have a total destruction radius of 10 KM, causes 3d6 x 1000 MD out to 16 KM, and causes 2d6 x 100 MD out to 22.5 KM. In d20… a direct hit with it causes 25d6 damage and some saving throws. A d20 future “Singularity Grenade” sucks all matter and energy within it’s radius into a black hole – tearing matter apart at the subatomic level with infinite forces. It does 15d6 damage.
Similarly, d20 characters are not soft, squishy, mortals to begin with. As covered over HERE, one d20 hit point is roughly equal to a Battlemech (or Megadamage) Hit Point – and the same logic applies given that a City Rat starts off with an average of about forty (27 + PE) SDC and HP while an equivalent d20 character will start with an average of 2-3 HP.
- Rifts armor protection is ablative rather than constant – which means that repairing and replacing armor is a constant preoccupation for combat-based characters.
- Rifts has more technical skills, and starts with higher skill bases, but skills develop more slowly and never achieve the kind of inhuman levels that d20 characters can develop – partially because d20 has sliding difficulty levels, while most Rifts skill rolls have fixed targets and few modifiers. What level of the Rifts Acrobatics skill will let you walk on clouds? d20 skills can do things like that.
- Rifts power-items are usually technologically styled (and lean very heavily towards “bang” as opposed to more subtle abilities). Of course d20 covers this too; both in d20 future and in publications like Dragonstar.
- Starting Rifts characters are more powerful compared to basic NPC’s than most d20 characters are mostly thanks to that invulnerability to minor attacks – but high-end Rifts characters are far less powerful than high-end d20 characters.
- Rifts skills can boost attributes and provide special abilities. In d20 you get similar boosts from Feats and Martial Arts Skills. The overall effect is pretty similar.
- Rifts usually defaults to limiting magic by a characters magical reserves rather than by spell slots, but it’s not like d20 mages can’t be built that way.
- All d20 characters are automatically trained in combat, often with a very wide variety of weapons. Rifts characters need hand-to-hand combat skills and specific weapon proficiencies.
- d20 combat is more abstracted than Rifts (parries and such are presumed as a part of AC), but the end result is similar enough; you trade attacks and maneuvers until someone goes down.
- d20 Saves are considerably better organized, but function in much the same way. The primary difference is, once again, the scaling target numbers.
And that’s about it. There are some game-mechanical differences, such as the difference in characteristic scales – but as long as those remain consistent within the game, the actual numbers only matter when converting characters.
So to run a Post-Apocalypse or “Rifts”-Styled d20 Game:
- Characters with Adventurer Classes and Monsters with CR 4+ all get DR 8/Magic for free.
- Player Characters start at Level Four.
- Magical Weapons, Armor, and Physical Attribute Boosters are all generally technological and are available for one-fifth the normal price. Alternatively, if you wish to go for the “big guns and mecha” feel, use the Federation-Apocalypse gear (Common Gadgets, Small Arms, Effectors and Remotes, Medical Care, Mecha and Power Armor, Core Psitech, Weapon Benchmarks, Battlemech Conversions (and a few more d20 Battlemech Conversions), Flit, Orb, and Starship Shields) or the Shadowed Galaxy equipment skills (General Gear and Weapons).
- When a Character takes damage, their armor or shield is also hit for one-half that damage. It’s hardness, however, applies. Mostly from the SRD…
- Effective Armor Hardness: 5 (Leather, etc), 10 (Steel), 15 (Special Metals), 20 (Adamant), +2 per +1 bonus
- Armor Hit Points: 5 x AC Bonus + 10 per +1 bonus or equivalent.
- There are no magic marts. You’ve got to find stuff – whether by seeking out someone who makes it or by theft or salvage. Low-end stuff is fairly common, high end stuff is rare. Most items are technologically styled; instead of a “wand of healing” you have a healers kit. (Most characters should take the ability to use such things as “technological aptitude” (Item Use).
- Experience point gains are halved after reaching level six, reduced to one-fourth after reaching level nine, and reduced to one-eighth at levels twelve to fifteen, and so on.
And now your d20 game will play a lot like Rifts (or Deadlands, or a dozen similar settings). Only adventurers with special gear will be able to handle monsters, their armor will need constant maintenance, and it will be extremely slow and difficult to achieve the heights of cosmic power normally available in d20.
Do you want to bring d20 characters into your Rifts game?
- Double the d20 characters hit points to get their MDC. D20 Armor boosts it’s wearer’s ability to withstand damage rather than having it’s own hits (after all, there is always the classic chainmail bikini, which works just fine in d20). Add standard d20 Armor HP to the user’s MDC. As a magical booster, d20 armor is only destroyed if specifically targeted after the wearer is dead. Alternatively, simply translate things into technologically-styled armor.
- All d20 magical weapons, magically enhanced attacks, spells, psionic powers, and other special abilities inflict their usual damage as megadamage.
- Use the d20 characters Fortitude Bonus against Diseases, Poisons, and Drugs, their Will Bonus against Curses, Insanity, Magic, and Psionics, and their Reflex Bonus to Parry, Dodge, and Roll with the Punch. In all cases, normal Rifts target numbers apply.
- 4) All d20 characters get (BAB/5, rounded up, +2) Attacks at their full BAB since Rifts rounds are fifteen seconds long instead of six.
- Rifts Speed = (2 x d20 Movement / 3).
- Take the d20 skills, multiply the bonuses by 10%, and put it into something roughly equivalent Rifts skills. If anything goes over 120%, put the extra into related skills.
- 7) Forget physical skills. Forget weapon proficiencies. d20 buys that stuff directly, and folds it into generic proficiency sets and BAB. Use BAB as the bonus to attacks.
- 8) If, for some reason, you want to compare attributes, multiply the d20 attributes by 1.6
Really, everything else is quite compatible enough; sure, there will be some strange mechanics by Rifts standards – but Rifts is full of strange mechanics particular to specific items, creatures, and OCCs.
Do you want to convert Rifts characters to d20? That’s more awkward simply because Rifts has little consistency. There aren’t any simple rules that will cover all the odd cases given that a whale wizard, a cosmo-knight, a demigodling, a cloud-tentacle monster, a doctor, and a dryad will have compatibility problems even in Rifts, much less in translation. The simplest way is to just give the mundane characters big guns and advanced armor (probably using d20 Future or the Federation-Apocalypse gear) and turn the magic-users and psychics into appropriate types – but when the weird stuff comes up it will probably just be easier to use Eclipse to build something equivalent – or just reverse the “convert to d20” quick rules above.
Now that the various ongoing family emergencies are – hopefully – under control enough to have a little spare time, I shall be trying to catch up around here a bit. This series may finish up in relatively small bites though.
Now that we’ve reached Cities things are getting complicated. Cities will have high level characters living in them – and that will have as much of an impact as high-level characters usually do.
A Small City has 10,001-24,000 inhabitants (Roughly 1800 to 4400 Households), and a basic magic budget of 2d8 x 7200 GP, averaging 64,800 GP. They have three Foundations (although those vary enough that I won’t be addressing them here), and they’ve also passed three major thresholds:
- They are long past the point where any wilderness-oriented characters can be expected to be hanging around. Like towns before them, except in special circumstances, Cities will dominate enough territory around them to not leave a lot of true “wilderness”.
- The population is now high enough that – even if each household only contributes 1 GP per month in fees (a very small portion of a households Profession or Craft-derived income) fees can support a variety of city services.
- With a +6 Settlement Modifier and multiple rolls, there will, at a minimum, be two eleventh level professionals (13,000 GP Wealth By Level) and two ninth level commoners (8000 GP Wealth By Level) about – as well as a lot of seventh level types. There may be characters around of up to level fourteen (27,000 GP Wealth By Level). Do they keep that money stacked in the corner? No, of course, not; while some of it may be tied up in a home, for the most part it’s going to be invested – and investing in fee-for-use city services and assorted magical facilities is low-risk, low maintenance, and high-return.
Thus a Small City has reached the point where many of it’s basic services will belong to specific people (or families) and will be managed for-profit. Fortunately, going into competition with an overly-greedy provider is extremely easy, which will keep prices reasonable-to-cheap. In the real world competition tended to be stifled by guilds, restrictive laws, and legal proceedings against outsiders.
That doesn’t work nearly as well in d20, where the most likely source of new competition is some high level adventurer, who possesses vast personal power, superhuman skills, and combat magic, has an unpredictable temperament, and is used to dealing with opposition by massacring it. Sure, they MAY be more restrained in town – but in that case they’re likely to be friends with a super-diplomat or some such.
Now a high level adventurer may choose to enforce his or her own monopoly, but this will involve a lot of gratuitous unilateral interference with other matters – which takes us back to very familiar territory indeed; an oppressed populace and a ruthless, powerful, overlord. How often does THAT little scenario come up? It’s NEVER a good idea to hang an “Approved Target!” sign on yourself.
In practice, this means that a Small City can simply be presumed to have
- Carcass Chutes with Leathermaking and Preservation Modules.
- Cleansing Fountains
- Composting Chutes.
- Dedicated Phantom Mills (Almost certainly including street-cleaning and minor repairs).
- Endless Skeins
- An Eternal Flame Brazier
- Perpetual Fountains
In addition, some entrepreneur will be using a Foundation Stone to for heavy transport, someone might be running an Owl Post, and – if the rolls for high-level characters were good – an Endless Lumberyard and Perpetual Soup Fountain (Type 0, 2 Gallons/Round, 7500 GP, provides almost 30,000 gallons of soup per day at about 1500 calories per gallon. Sure, people will get tired of soup – but that’s quite enough to drastically mitigate the effects of any siege or famine) or Endless Sideboard (with the takeout menu option) are also quite likely.
Even before the actual city budget gets spent… a Small d20 City is going to be well-lit, surprisingly clean, free of smoke, low-odor, equipped with magical industrial facilities, and with plenty of water. The wealth-by-level rules pretty much guarantee prosperity – and also explain why there isn’t a lot of petty crime in most d20 worlds. Traditionally, petty criminals arose from among the poor and desperate who could not find work that paid enough to survive on.
In d20 level one characters automatically have quite enough resources for a couple to be happily prosperous. It doesn’t have any poor-and-desperate adults save by game master contrivance (presumably just as scarce for NPC’s as it is for PC’s). Eclipse says that rather young children can have some skill points. Pathfinders rules on “Young” characters tell us that a character can be a full-fledged first level Expert, Adept, or Warrior at age nine (and could, in theory, reach epic levels before age ten). The basic d20 rules tell us that any kid who as so much as one skill point can readily support themselves. After all, “Profession / Thief “ is no easier to acquire, and no more profitable, than “Profession / Leatherworker”, or “Profession / Scrounging”, or any other Profession or Craft skill – but it’s a lot more dangerous. And you cannot be an effective petty thief with no skills. Ergo… petty criminals are rare. This is, of course, only to be expected. When you come right down to it, one of the main attractions of roleplaying games is escapism – which is why grimdark role playing games tend to be fringe productions.
As for spending the actual 64,800 GP budget… since we now only need to look at some big-ticket items we have some hard choices. A Small City still has to depend on the countryside for supplies and raw materials – there simply isn’t going to be enough magic available to provide EVERYTHING that it needs – so there will be a few choices to be made.
- For general utility – and basic defense – it’s hard to beat a City Father (24,000 GP). It’s also fair enough to say that having one more of less says “This Is A City!”.
- A Basic City Store provides some (150 GP/Day) support for the city government and a modest, but very helpful, source of supply (8225 GP).
- A Trading City, Distant Outpost, Mountaintop Hideout, or similar city will probably go for a couple of City Gates (28,000 GP) – either to and from a larger trading hub to hook into a gate network or to a couple of other cities to form a part of a ring of gates. Basically… it the surrounding territory won’t provide resources in sufficient quantities and varieties, they have to be brought in from somewhere else.
- Cities in better areas will usually prefer a Wind Tower (The Practical Enchanter, 29,000 GP) – allowing the city to (mostly) control the weather in a twenty-four mile radius. That’s useful in so many ways that just listing the important things it affects would take several paragraphs. It’s also a serious magical defense. A conventional force will have a good deal of trouble dealing with continuous storms and blizzards. Admittedly, the only “conventional forces” that you’re likely to encounter in a rational d20 world are orcs, goblins, and similar “mass of troops” species, but it’s still a start.
- That leaves about 4000 GP either way. I’m going to presume that one of a Small Cities three Foundations, or someone – likely a city administrator defending their position – will pad the budget a bit, allowing the addition of a 6500 GP item; either a Bone Vault or a Dark Rampart. The Bone Vault is probably most useful – but the Dark Rampart addresses the fear of massive undead outbreaks comfortingly directly.
A Large City has 24,001-50,000 inhabitants (about 4400 to 9100 Families), three Foundations (still not considered) and a budget of 2d12 x 9600 GP, averaging 124,800 GP. It also has a +9 Settlement Modifier and rolls three times for major NPC’s. That means three Professionals of levels (1d6+13) with anywhere from 35,000 to 96,000 GP and three Commoners of levels (1d6+11), along with quite a few others.
That means that a Large City has passed another Threshold; there will be people there who will control major organizations and businesses in their own rights – and regardless of the enterprise, it’s core is going to be built on magic. Like it or not… magic makes things easier. Doing things by mundane means may require fleets of ships, elaborate machines and hundreds of workers, a network for training nurses and doctors, producing medicines, and elaborate medical machines, or hundreds of workers to harvest crops… and a network of City Gates, a Construction Wagon, or a Healing Spring will do it faster, better, and far, far, cheaper. When you come right down to it, that’s what makes magic attractive. It bypasses all the restrictions and limitations of reality.
So we’re going to have businesses built on large, expensive, pieces of magic. They’re mostly going to be catering to adventurous types, because that is quite literally where the money is; it’s the adventurers who have a lot of free cash laying about. Those expensive pieces of magic are going to be built using the “immobile” modifier since that’s the only reliable way to make sure that those same adventurers don’t run off with the magic that makes your business possible.
So lets make a few businesses.
Mystic Massages (10,000 GP)
This cheerful spa offers massages, hot towels, steam rooms, manicures, mudpacks, scented baths, pedicures, hot wax, salts, and acupuncture. For customers with a more serious problems it also offers Remove Disease, Remove Curse, Remove Blindness/Deafness, and Cure Serious Wounds. While such treatments are only available a couple of times a day each, they are generally available on-demand and at prices considerably lower than the cost of hiring a spellcaster.
- Spell Level(s) Two (After Ambient Magic Limitation) x Caster Level Three x 1800 GP for Unlimited-Use Command-“Word” Activated x .5 (Immobile) x .4 (two uses/Day) x.8 (Requires at least an hour of attention from a good masseur to take effect) = 1728 CP, or 6912 GP for all four spells. Personally I’d throw in another 3000 to cover all the facilities and some minor stuff; a Cleansing Ring, Type I Perpetual Fountain, and Forgestaff will provide cleaning, water, heat, and steam for around 1200 GP, leaving enough to pay for some nice facilities and tools.
Spa’s like this aren’t likely to sell all their spells in any single day – but there will likely be a demand for at least a couple of them (most often Cure Diseased and Cure Wounds of course). Even if they only charge 25 GP apiece, at two spells per day it will be less than seven months before the place pays for itself – at least assuming that the basic “spa” part is self-supporting. It should be; plenty of spas do just fine without offering immediate, blatantly effective, magical cures to select customers.
This is a fairly low-end magical business – but it can remain useful over a fair range of levels and offers a nice sort of alternative reward; you rescued the owners daughter? How about a couple of free magical massages for the party each week?
Marvelous Tattoo Parlor (24,000 GP, Greater Version (Double Bonuses) 48,000 GP).
A Marvelous Tattoo Parlor can provide and sustain a total of 144 (6 per hour x 24 hour duration) magical tattoos, although no one individual may have more than three and the effects of similar tattoos do not stack. Available tattoos normally include the following seven – although the game master may opt to include others or allow more specialized versions. (one for expertise in skills seems particularly appropriate).
- +1 luck bonus on attack rolls.
- +1 deflection bonus to AC.
- +2 resistance bonus on saving throws.
- +2 competence bonus on attack rolls.
- Spell Resistance 23 (33 with Greater Parlor)
- +2 Enhancement Bonus to any one Basic Attribute
- Cast Spells at +1 Spellcaster Level when determining level-based variables.
Tattoos normally only last for a limited time (or until Dispelled or the user is slain) – but are quite cheap: a tattoo normally costs 5 GP/Month it will last, 50 GP/Year for longer periods.
- Marvelous Tattoo Parlor: Create Magic Tattoo, Renewable (+1 Spell Level). Spell Level 3 x Caster Level 13 x 1800 GP (Unlimited-Use Command-Word Activated) = 70,200 GP, +100 x 100 GP (materials cost) = 80,200 GP. x.5 (Immobile) x.9 (User must have a Skill Speciality in whatever he or she uses to draw tattoos (Craft (drawing), Craft (painting), Craft (calligraphy), or a similar Craft skill) x.8 (User must have Skill Focus or Skill Emphasis on their tattoo-making skill) x.8 (number of days/renewals must be pre-committed when the tattoo is created, and cannot thereafter be rescinded even if the recipient has the Tattoo dispelled or they’re killed or some such) = 23,100 GP. Given that Tattoo Parlors are traditionally more or less holes-in-the-wall with a few sets of tools, I’ll call it 24,000 GP in total.
Renewable (+1 Spell Level): A new casting may – instead of producing a new instance of the spell – add it’s duration to that of an existing instance regardless of the current range to the target. If the instance is a summoned creature, this cures said summons of one status condition, one negative level, 3d6 hit points, and one lost attribute point, and restores one use of a limited-use ability each time the spell is recast) rather than a new one arriving.
A Marvelous Tattoo Parlor offers cheap boosts to low-level adventurers and civilians – but effectively only offers long-term buffing spells. That’s useful, but once dispel magic and buff-removal becomes a common tactic, such enhancements usually won’t last for long. There are ways to defend them of course – but most such ways are very expensive and very limited. Fighter-types, of course, can afford a feat or two to do it – but most magical types have better uses for their feats.
- Greater Marvelous Tattoo Parlors use a version of the spell that doubles the effect (+4 Spell Levels) and lasts for two days as a base (+1 Spell Level) with the built-in metamagic modifier (-2 spell levels for 5 levels) = Level Six. This raises the price to 46,200 GP, but allows the structure to support 288 Tattoos, each twice as powerful as the baseline ones – resulting in no particular change in the baseline price for tattoos, although I’d probably put one in anyway because they people running the place could.
The “Renewal” option is obviously quite powerful in conjunction with an unlimited-use magical device; it allows you to keep a fair number of instances of the spell around. Is it overpowered?
Well, lets do it another way. Create Magic Tattoo already lasts for a full day. Making it last a full year is +8 levels of Persistent, and I’ll throw in +4 levels of Amplify to double the effect. Given that this is going to last for a year… we can throw in some modifiers beyond the -3 levels for 7+ levels of built-in Metamagic; the person being tattooed takes 1d4 Dexterity damage due to being stiff and sore (-1 spell level), the tattooist becomes Exhausted in the process (-1 spell level). That gives us… A level nine effect. So Spell Level Nine x Caster Level Seventeen x 1800 GP for Unlimited-Use Command-“Word” Activation = 275,400 GP plus 10,000 GP for the material components. That’s expensive – but then we can apply… x .5 (Immobile) x .2 (one use per day) x .5 (the actual casting requires eight full hours of being tattooed) x.9 (User must have a Skill Specialty in whatever he or she uses to draw tattoos (Craft (drawing), Craft (painting), Craft (calligraphy), or a similar Craft skill) x.8 (User must have Skill Focus or Skill Emphasis on their tattoo-making skill) = 10,274.4 GP. Users will have to return once a year, but this version can effectively maintain 365 Tattoos – and they’re even notably harder to dispel. If we stick with 50 GP for a tattoo… the place will pay for itself inside of seven months. And there will be plenty of customers. +4 to an attribute? A +2 on all related skill checks? Pays for itself even if you’re just making weekly profession or craft checks.
Personally I’m going to stick with the Renewal option in most cases. It may look rather efficient – but it’s actually a good deal less effective (and more manageable in the game) then simply going for a long-term high-level effect in the first place.
Altars and Shrines of War channel the power of the Gods of War into the world, blessing the weapons of those who make offerings there. A mere Altar can maintain a supply of +1 weapons, while a Shrine – with it’s attendant priest – can maintain a enough more powerful weapons to equip a legion.
- Altar of War: Magic Weapon, Renewable (+1 Spell Level) . Spell Level Two x Caster Level Three x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 (Immobile) = 6000 GP. Can maintain up to 30 +1 Weapons or bundles of ammunition. Upgrades may increase the number of sustainable weapons by +10 weapons per +1 Caster Level for +1000 GP.
- Shrine of War: Greater Magic Weapon, Renewable (+1 Spell Level), Ambient Magic Limitation (-1 Spell Level). Spell Level Three x Caster Level 8 (for +2), 12 (for +3), 16 (for +4), or 20 (for +5) x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 (Immobile) x .6 (requires the daily attendance of a priest of a god of war to operate) = 14,400 GP (+2), 21,600 GP (+3), 28,800 (+4), and 36,000 (+5). A Shrine of War can maintain 60 weapons (a bundles of 50 pieces of ammunition counts as one weapon) per caster level.
Altars and Shrines of War can make a magical weapons – a combatants bread and butter – available cheaply enough to let them carry a selection of them, possibly throwing in a few Weapon Crystals to provide relevant special abilities. Admittedly, the effects can be dispelled, and you’ll have to return to town to get them renewed – but when “renting” a magical weapon (of whatever bonus) can reasonably be priced at about 1 GP a month, martial classes can hardly help but benefit.
A Monument of the Enduring Warrior uses the Greater Magic Armor spell to enhance Armor and Shields. Since that spell is only level two such a monument operates without a priest at a cost of 4000 GP (+1), 8000 GP (+2), 12,000 GP (+3), 16,000 GP (+4), and 20,000 GP (+5). Given that such a Monument can also support 60 items per caster level, this allows low-level combatant characters to get some substantial bonuses on the cheap.
Fantastic Stable (50,000 GP)
A Fantastic Stable “sells” (rents?) – magical mounts. Unfortunately, such mounts are summoned creatures. While they are obedient and well-trained mounts, they will remain for a maximum of one year and can be dispelled like any other summoning – although the Stables caster level of 17 makes this somewhat difficult. On the plus side, buying a mount (or a group of lesser mounts) is fairly cheap. After all, once the Fantastic Stable has been constructed it’s operating expenses (the salaries for a dozen or so attendants, basic maintenance, and some food) are quite reasonable and the mounts are effectively free. Where else can you pick up a Manticore or Unicorn to ride for a year for about the cost of a conventional warhorse?
Summon Mount is a somewhat more limited version of Summon Nature’s Ally: it only summons creatures to ride on, offers a considerably smaller (three at each level) selection, and they always show up next to the caster. It does, however, includes appropriate saddle, tack, and harness, the creatures are considered to be well-trained mounts, and it can be Renewed; a new casting may – instead of producing a new creature – add it’s duration to that of an existing summons regardless of where it is, incidentally curing said summons of one status condition, one negative level, 3d6 hit points, one lost attribute point, and restoring one use of a limited-use ability each time the spell is recast) rather than a new one arriving. Otherwise, all the usual limitations of summoned creatures apply normally.
If you summon a mount one level less powerful than you are entitled to you get two of them. If two or more levels less you get four.
- I: Riding Dog (Medium), Equine (Pony/Mule/Horse) (Large), Hippocampus (Large).
- II: Axe beak (Large), Hippogriff (Large), Heavy Warhorse (Large).
- III: Giant Eagle (L), Pegasus (Large), Large Wolf (4 HD).
- IV: Dire Boar (Large), Griffon (Large), Giant Scorpion (Large).
- V: Manticore (Large), Orca (Huge), Unicorn (Large).
- VI: Elephant (Huge), Nightmare (Large), Wyvern (Large).
- VII: Kirin (Large, CR7 version), Mastodon (Huge), Triceratops (Huge).
- VIII: Dragon Horse (Large), Roc (Gargantuan), Young Dragon (Chromatic, Metallic, or otherwise as the GM permits. Usually Large).
- IX: Androsphinx (Large), Celestial Charger Unicorn (Large), Dragon Turtle (Huge).
- Fantastic Stable: Summon Mount V, Persistent +12 (Lasts for a year) -3 Spell Levels (7+ levels of built-in Metamagic) -1 Spell Level (Takes a full minute to cast) -2 Spell Levels (Requires an elaborate marble stable complex as a focus) -2 Spell Levels (Operator takes 1d4 points of wisdom damage and becomes Exhausted, which is why a dozen or so attendants usually split the duty) = Level 9 x Caster Level 17 x 1800 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 (Immobile) x.4 (two uses/day) x .6 (Takes a full hour to set up for a summons) = 33,048 GP plus about 17,000 GP for the Stables – for a net cost of 50,000 GP. That’s a fair chunk of change. But a Fantastic Stable can “sell” two type V mounts per day – or trade one of them in for two Type IV’s or four Type III’s or lower. Sure, they “only” last for a year – but if they charge a mere 200 GP per casting and only get – say – three customers per week (how many nobles would like a Unicorn Mount / emergency healer?)… the place will still have paid for itself and be turning quite a profit within two years.
This variety of Magical Businesses can have a substantial impact on a setting. Most notably they can provide the non-spellcasters with cheap and easy access to the basic tools and enhancements that they need to do their jobs AND with important links back to society and a home base – while being of far less help to primary spellcasters. It isn’t really enough to fix the balance issues in the game, but it will help a bit.
Now that we’re coming up on larger settlements… it’s time to take a look at the foundations of cities, so we know how to tinker with the basic values given below.
Just as importantly, unlike the situation in 3.5 or Pathfinder, Eclipse-style settlements are NOT general purpose markets and magic item shops. There are millions of possible magical items, many of them (and almost anything of interest to an adventurer) highly specialized. If you want full plate armor (always personally fitted) you either go to a city large enough to support a master armorer and find one or you spend a few points to develop an adventurer’s usual superhuman skill in the field and make it yourself. The same applies to magic items. If you want a Cloak of the Four Winds, and the only person who makes that sort of thing at the moment lives in a city two hundred miles away… it’s time for sending messages (and expecting a long wait) or for a trip. Similarly, most people are very, VERY, poor by the standards of adventurer’s who raid dragon hordes. There is no ready market for magic items at the prices adventurers want to charge outside of the largest cities.
Standard Settlement Values:
Guards / Militia
Total Cash Assets
|Near-Ghost Town 1-40 No Guards/Militia||No Town Budget 1d8 GP or GMO 2d20 GP or GMO||-5. Wild 10% / +5 Nothing much is sold here.||None Level Zero|
|Thorp 40-160 Guards/Militia 1d4+1||Budget 1d3 GP GP Limit 1d20 GP 2d4 x 10 GP||-3. Wild: 10% / +7 Sells basic foods, tools, and
|25% One Foundation Level One|
|Hamlet 161-800 Guards/Militia 4d4||2d4 x 10 GP 1d4 x 10 GP 2d4 x 100 GP||-2. Wild 5% /+5 Cloth, Sells rope, tools, leather
armor, and simple weapons
|50% One Level Two|
|Village 801-1800 Guards/Militia 3d8+8||2d8 x 10 GP 3d8 x 10 GP 4d6 x 100 GP||-1 No specialists, but stuff
can be sent for given time.
|1 Foundation Level Three|
|Small Town 1801-4000 Guards/Militia 3d20+20||3d20 x 10 GP 2d4 x 100 GP 3d4 x 1000 GP||+0 Resource refinement – iron, fine cloth, etc.||2 Foundations Level Four|
|Large Town 4001-10,000 Guards: 5d10 x 10||5d10 50 GP 5d6 x 100 GP 5×10 x 1000 GP||+3 Mundane specialists and
scholars are available.
|2 Foundations Level Five|
|Small City 10,001-24,000 Guards 4d4 x 50||2d8 x 600 GP 3d6 x 1000 GP 4d6 x 10,000 GP||+6 (2 Rolls) 20% Garrison of 2d6x20 Traders and exotic goods.||3 Foundations Level Six|
|Large City 24,001-50,000 Guards 4d6 x 50||2d12 x 800 GP 4d4 x 3000 GP 4d12 x 12,000 GP||+9 (3 Rolls) Garrison 3d6 x 10 x 1d6 Universities and Magic||3 Foundations Level Seven|
|Metropolis 50,001-100,000 Guards (3d6 + 6) x 100||2d4 x 2500 GP 2d6 x 10,000 GP 10d4 x 25,000 GP||+12 (4 Rolls) Garrison (2d4+1) x 100 Foreign enclaves abound.||4 Foundations Level Eight|
|Megapolis 100,001-500,000 Guards (2d6+3) x 1000
||2d8 x 5000 GP GM Discretion. 8d8 x 100,000 GP||+12 (8 Rolls) The Garrison is no longer
|5 Foundations Level Nine|
|Imperial City 500,001+ Guards 4d12 x 1000||2d8 x 5000 GP GM Discretion. 5d4 x 1,000,000 GP||+15 (12 Rolls) Guards ARE the Garrison Anonymity is normal||6 Foundations Level Ten|
Guards/Militia: The able-bodied who can assist at first, They start going professional (even if often part time) around the small town level.
- Town Budget: How much cash the town, as a group, can scrape up to pay for public works and jobs in any given month.
- GP Limit: How much cash is available to buy things with. Note that this is a TOTAL, and that characters are unlikely to be able to extract more than a fraction of it with any single sale.
- Total Cash Assets: How much money you could find if you grabbed all the readily-portable valuables in the settlement. X10 if you’re valuing buildings and such, x100 if your valuing the land, structures, and inhabitants as a whole. (Say you want to buy your own Thorp full of serfs).
- Settlement Modifiers are used to determine the level of important NPC’s – mostly because, like it or not, the higher level characters ARE the settlements major power centers, authorities, military resources, and major industries. Add the settlement modifier to the die rolls given below to determine the highest level character(s) in that category in the settlement. If the total is two or higher, roll 1d6 for the number of subordinates of about half that level. That pattern continues, but – as a rule – it doesn’t much matter; the player characters usually aren’t interested in dealing with anyone who isn’t important and influential (EG; of reasonable level) in one way or another.
- Dice marked with an “*” may be “wild” types in small settlements. Check the indicated chance to use the alternative modifier on those dice. Such individuals usually live near, but not in, their host settlement and are wilderness-oriented. Wild Arcanists are commonly plant-mages, herbalists, shamen, or elementalists. Wild Entities tend to be treents, awakened animals, dryads, and similar creatures of the wilds. Wild Priests tend to be druids, anchorites, shamen, and so on – and Wild Warriors are commonly rangers, beastmasters, shapeshifters, and lycanthropes,.
- Administrator (Aristocrat, Politician, Noble, Organizer): d4.
- Arcanist (Artificer, Astrologer, Mage, Pacter, Spirit Binder, Summoner, Illusionist) d6*, d4.
- Commoner (Farmer, Miner, Weaver, Cook): d6+2, d4+2.
- Entertainer (Thespian, Jester, Courtesan, Barkeep/Psychologist): d8-4.
- Entity (Dragon, Fey, Giant, or similar): d20-14*. Many settlements will have no associated “monsters” at all.
- Hedge Mage/Priest (Adepts, Witches, Pastors, Herbalists, Ritualists, etc): d6, d4.
- Priest (Cleric, Druid,Shaman, Enlightened Soul, etc): d6*, d4
- Professional (Expert, Inventor, Sailor, Sage): d6+4.
- Scoundrel (Rogue, Bard, Factotum, Ninja, etc): d8, d6.
- Warrior, NPC Basic (Militiamen, Guards, Hunters, Frontiersman): d8, d6
- Warrior, Exotic (Martial Artists, Paladin, Cavalier, Shapeshifter): d4*, d4.
- Warrior, Combat Focused (Barbarian, Fighter, Ranger, Scout): d8, d6*, d4
Foundations are reasons for their to be a settlement there – and the bigger the settlement, the better the reasons tend to be . Unlike the similar concepts of “Tags” in Dungeon World or “Qualities” in Pathfinder, Foundations generally are not transient. Governments, alliances, and nations change – but the great cities continue, even if they wax and wane.
You don’t really have to bother with foundations. If the characters are just picking up supplies before going back to a dungeon or something just send them to the nearest sizeable town, maybe introduce a few sources for healing, or speciality items, or alchemical supplies, and let them get on with what they want to do.
- A Good Place: The most basic, and common, reason for a Settlement; the spot is not obviously prone to natural disasters, is not overly infested with monsters, and offers access to reasonable amounts of basic resources – water and food (whether by hunting, fishing, agriculture, or magic) most obviously, but a truly good place will also offer access to clay and/or stone, hides and/or fiber, and wood and/or some substitute for fuel and structural materials. If something is especially abundant, it will be traded with other settlements.
- Being in A Good Place makes it a great deal easier for a settlement to grow and flourish. Non-adventurers living in it are treated as one level higher when determining their wealth-by-level. Attempts to make money with Craft or Profession checks gain a +4 Bonus.
- Beasts:: This town breeds exotic animals, crafts peculiar constructs, programs eccentric AI’s, or builds amazing androids, robots, or golems. This may range from an old woman who breeds exotically-colored Budgerigar in her cottage in a Thorp on up to a major research center that creates mass-cloned lots of “normal” or anthropomorphic intelligent talking animals for anonymous buyers in an Imperial City – but the general principle remains the same; you can easily purchase creatures here that would be difficult or impossible to obtain anywhere else.
- Whatever-it-is is available at only 75% of the base price, but used items of that type sell for a mere 40% of their base price. Add 1d4+1 special facilities dealing with whatever-it-is suited to the scale of the settlement.
- Capital: Whether through location, tradition, or decree, the Settlement is a nexus of political power – THE place for the local VIP’s, government offices and archives, and (since political power controls monopolies, taxes, and business conditions) people of groups with lots of money to hang out. It will be full of powerful people, rich in infrastructure, and filled with fine buildings and monuments.
- Add Administrators (d8, d6), Arcanist (d8), Entertainer (d8, d6), Priest d8, d6), Professional (d12, d10), Scoundrel (d10), Warrior/Basic (d12, d10), and Warrior/Combat Focused (d12, d10). Double the Budget, including the (x12) allowance for magical infrastructure. Add (2 x Level) major administrative buildings, palaces, arenas, monuments, or other major works.
- Crime: For whatever reason, the Settlement is a tolerated hotbed of subversive and criminal elements and cults – whether that means that it is full of slavers, assassins for hire, poison shops, and mad necromancers and demonologists or whether it supports hidden groups of paladins and clerics of righteous gods in the midst of an chaotic evil empire. Goods and services that are generally considered unethical or blatantly illegal elsewhere are sold here openly, and very often legally. There may still be things that you’ll have a hard time finding, but they are few and far between.
- Double the GP limit, major non-adventurer figures calculate Wealth By Level as if they had two extra levels, allows the sale and purchase of normally-restricted goods and services. Add various secret hideouts as needed, ranging from gang hangouts to secret underground training facilities for the local assassins. Note that the streets are dirty and maintenance is often neglected.
- Culture: This Settlement may be a great center of fashion or literature, premiere all the great plays, produce the most popular music, or just throw fabulous festivals and parties – but once the feedback loop starts it tends to become self-sustaining (the place becomes famous, which draws anyone trying to break into the business it’s famous for, some succeed, the place becomes even more famous from their efforts, and so on). No matter what the attraction, it will draw many visitors and a good deal of cash in exchange for intangible ideas – about the cheapest of all possible exports.
- Decide what the place is a center for. Double any reputation modifiers collected while living here. Add Professionals (d8+4, d4+4) and Entertainers (d12-4, d10-4). Increase the DC of earning money through Perform by +5 but double the resulting monetary rewards.
- Egotism: The Settlement was the personal project of someone powerful. It will be littered with statues, monuments, shrines, and similar items devoted to glorifying that individual and/or his patrons and will have various useful public works meant to support it.
- Add one major civic structure (arena, racetrack, mansion/palace, great square, fortress) per settlement level and 10,000 GP worth of (blatant) public works and magic per settlement level.
- Enchanted: The Settlement is a focus of powerful ambient magic, some of which is available to every resident. There will be strange weather, an abundance of fey creatures, minor magical phenomena in the streets, and plenty of minor magical mischief.
- Each resident gains access to one to three (one automatically, one if level 6+, and one if any one of Int, Wis, or Cha is 16+) bonus magical feats (commonly Grant of Aid, Luck, Mindspeech, Occult Talent, Shaping, or (very commonly) the use of Charms and Talismans, but others are possible). Sadly, these bonuses will fade if a character is away for more than a week or doesn’t spend at least two-thirds of his or her time in Settlement. Add Entity (d6, d4) and Hedge Mage / Priest (d8). Increase the budget for settlement magic by 50%.
- Enclave: This settlement is a stronghold of a particular race, ethnicity, or culture – and will draw more members of that group, people who need things that group does (or are believed to do) particularly well, and visitors who wish to visit an exotic town, in a self-perpetuating feedback loop. Appropriate racial, ethnic, or cultural speciality items will be easily available. Merchants and businesses targeting outsiders will shamelessly pander to relevant stereotypes.
- Add Administrators (d8, d6) representing the group in question and everyone else in relation to said group. Add (d8, d4) Specialists in group-related fields. Group-related items are available at 75% of the normal cost, but sell for only 40%. Add 1d4+1 businesses, small districts, or similar showcasing the various stereotypes for visitors and tourists.
- Established: This Settlement is OLD, with a history that goes back many generations. Some of its reasons for existing may have passed, but tradition and accumulated infrastructure has become a reason of it’s own. This is a common status for Settlements that were once entryways to new lands.
- Double the budget for magical and mundane infrastructure. Add (City Level) facilities – libraries, schools, art studios, tourist attractions,historical or haunted locations, or similar – with centuries-old reputations (which the locals will gladly fill you in on in excruciating detail).
- Guilds (Large Town and up only): This Settlement is a center for major guilds of factions – not the minor guilds of carpenters and weavers, nor the loose clubs of the (highly individualistic and contentions) major spellcasters – but the associations of those who have some power, but not enough to negotiate with the great on equal terms. Guilds of Mercenaries, Adventurers, Rogues, Assassins, and Scouts, Witch’s Covens, Warlock Cults, and more may all have a strong presence in town – commonly offering their members access to Hearthstones and/or Package Deals. While these are generally of some use to primary casters, their benefits tend to be focused on meeting the needs of more mundane types. Such a town is also likely to boast a few extra high-level types.
- Add (City Level – 4) “guilds” of interest to adventurers which offer appropriate members who base themselves in the city some significant benefits. For an example, the Mercenaries Guild might offer a Package Deal, or boost a warrior-types effective level by one when it comes to calculating Wealth By Level (via getting special deals and using in-house facilities if anyone asks for an in-game reason), or offer access to a Hearthstone – or even offer more than one of those benefits. Such guilds invariably focus on “Low Tier” character types, offering little or no benefit to “High Tier” types.
- Hub: The site is a natural nexus for resource processing – perhaps where coal from the valley, metals from the mountains, lumber from the northern forest, and herds being driven up from the southern plains, all tend to come together. It is a setting of manufacturing and industry.
- Mundane equipment suited to the level of the settlement costs only 75% as much as usual here, but sells for only 40% of its base value.
- Outpost: This Settlement (Small Town maximum) is supported from elsewhere – whether for diplomatic, military, trade, or other purposes. Outposts are rarely in Good Places, otherwise there would be little need for any special reason to place a settlement there; one would spring up naturally. Outposts that ARE in good places usually lose their Outpost status after people settle in.
- Add a fortification and/or a diplomatic office and/or a trading post, a garrison of (2d4 x 10 x Settlement Level) men, and minor support businesses, normally including a healer of some sort. Mundane adventuring supplies (possibly exempting extremely expensive items such as telescopes) are readily available regardless of settlement size.
- Presence: The Settlement is the seat of a major divine or quasi-divine power. Whether blatantly or subtly, it will deeply influence events. Residents may have visions, those who violate local taboos may suffer terrible fates, sacred, intelligent, or otherwise powerful animals may be common – or there may simply be some demigodling running the place.
- Add (d12, d8) servants and a (d10) enemies of said power, at least one secret shrine, and a variety of strange customs that no one will explain to visitors.
- Primordial: The Settlement contains, watches over, or has formed a bargain with, some terrible elder horror, sleeping power, artifact, monster, or hidden force. While this may be an onerous duty, and demand strange taboos, rites, and behaviors, there are always benefits for the inhabitants. The entity may be a source of strange magical resources, or sometimes bestir itself to defend the Settlement, or grant magical powers in exchange for meeting it’s demands and performing its rituals.
- Given that each such situation is unique, there are no standard modifiers. A settlement built on the back of an island-turtle that only wakes once a century is very different from one haunted by a dark god where the walls occasionally bleed magical ichor that bestows the “pseudonatural” template on those who ingest it.
- Resource: The site offers access to one or more special material resources – metals, gems, rare or abundant woods, petroleum, upwelling earthblood (whatever that is), coal, exotic herbs or fungi, compounds and drugs, the ingredients for exotic gourmet cheeses, or something similar that’s valuable enough to be worth establishing a settlement to get easy access to.
- Add +4 to skill checks made to obtain funds in the settlement. Add +50% to the town budget.
- Ruins: Plenty of Settlements have some old ruins, a haunted graveyard, or wererats in the sewer system, suitable for an adventure. THIS one has a nearby megadungeon – a multi-thousand year old necropolis, tunneled out mountain, abandoned (underground?) city, or other location that a hundred adventurers could explore for years and not run out of adventures to go on.
- Add (d8, d6, d4) characters specializing in adventurer support – healers, armorers, alchemists, and so on. There will be a backroom market dealing in strange items (often with odd drawbacks) from the ruins, a doubled-up militia/city guard, and fairly regular problems with stray creatures from the ruins.
- Sacred: A notable religion considers the area a holy site. There will be shrines, some holy men, pilgrims, and various archeological sites scattered about. It is entirely possible for more than one religion to consider a city holy – although even if they do agree on THAT, they very rarely agree on anything else.
- Add Priests (d10, d8), (City Level +2) temples, monasteries, and Sacred Locations, and halve the effective cost of religiously-oriented magical features, such as a Healing Spring or appropriately oriented Planar Spire.
- Safety: In a dangerous world this location is defended by divine decree, isolation, being perched atop a towering mesa, ancient wards, mighty walls and earthworks, the presence of a “school for adventurers”, being hidden (note that this tends to cut off trade and external support, so make sure that your settlement can get along without it), existing in a dimensional pocket (also tends to cut off trade), or something similar.
- No modifiers. Most cities work hard on defending themselves anyway, so this just leaves more resources for other projects.
- No modifiers. Most cities work hard on defending themselves anyway, so this just leaves more resources for other projects.
- Trade: The Settlement is a natural nexus of transportation and trade – whether by air, sea, being at the intersection of major underground routes, having teleportation gates, dimensional rifts, access to the realms of dream or the afterlife or some other exotic aspect of reality, by hosting an ancient starport, or what-have-you. Materials from distant lands and exotic cultures will be relatively common. An extra 2d4+2 powerful individuals (nature and level GM) and their entourages will be around to take advantage of that – often making the settlement a center for whatever arts they practice.
- Triple the GP Limit. Double the Budget, and multiply the amount available for City Magic by 1.5. Transportation, exotic items, and information are all readily available, as are would-be henchmen, kids selling “treasure maps”, and contacts with far-away places.
- Twinned: This settlement has a an immediately accessible companion settlement. If, for example, it floats in the air, it’s “companion” may be on the surface, underground, in orbit, across the boundaries of life and death, in an alternate dimension, in the past or the future, magical versus technological, linked by a realm of dreams, or simply a little ways off but connected by some sort of transportation system.
- While the second settlement must also have this foundation, both settlements are presumed to cooperate with each other, allowing both locals and visitors to draw on the resources of both settlements. Increase the Budget and the Magical Infrastructure allotment by 50%.
- University: The Settlement is a long-established center of learning – hosting one or more great schools of magic, martial arts, channeling, mystic arts, or some other major discipline. Museums, ancient libraries, and research laboratories are likely – and it many be possible to obtain or commission a variety of unique items, alchemical reagents, or strange secrets.
- Add (d8, d6) Professionals (Sages and Teachers) and a (d6) Administrator. Add (City Level) related Facilities of appropriate scale. Various ancient tomes, clues, and hints as to obscure adventures may be found around the city.
Exotic Conditions are abnormal, even by the standards of d20 cities, and often transitory. Ergo, these are even more optional than the rest of this…
- Freedom: This settlement offers liberty. Slaves, bound spirits, summoned monsters, and anything else bound to service is legally – and sometimes magically – set free upon entering the settlement. Classically this was a major draw; in d20… it is a great deal more questionable. Slaves of more or less “normal” races are one thing – but bound outsiders, creatures called through gates, and many more d20 entities are considerably more problematic. And if it’s purely legal… how the Settlement will stop some high-level character out to retrieve a lost servant without suffering enormous amounts of damage is just as open to question. It’s best to leave this one to planar metropolises in chaotic planes; everyone there expects random insanity anyway.
- There are no general rules for this one; it’s simply too volatile for that.
- Newly Founded: This settlement is full of crude buildings and empty spots, has little or no organization or law enforcement beyond lynchings, and has very little infrastructure beyond what any higher-level individuals who are involved have brought along.
- Treat this Settlement as if it was two levels smaller with respect to infrastructure, one level smaller with respect to the GP limit.
- Ruinous: This settlement is a wreck. Whether due to a recent dragon attack, or being overrun by a barbarian horde, or some such, much of the population (and almost all the higher level types) have fled, monsters have moved in here and there, and there’s a power vacuum. Fortunately, this is generally a temporary condition; much of the infrastructure will probably survive and people will soon move back in.
- Doing business here is difficult to nigh-impossible. For the moment, this isn’t really a settlement any longer; it’s a disaster area.
- Therapeutic: This settlement offers health benefits. Unfortunately, most of the classic benefits (mineral rich hot springs which soak away infections or arthritis, rare herbs which relieve the plague, holy grottoes that offer miracles to the faithful) are pretty meaningless in most d20 settings, where easy magic handles all of that quickly and conveniently. Ergo, this Foundation is only applicable in settings where there’s something that ISN’T easily fixed. For an example, the classic Red Steel AD&D setting featured massive contamination with Vermeil – a dust that could give you various powers but which also gave you detrimental mutations – and the much rarer Cinnabryl, a magical ore that could protect against the side effects of Vermeil and which could be forged into (quasi-) magical weapons cheaply. In that setting a Settlement that offered some relief from the side effects of Vermeil would qualify for the “Therapeutic” foundation. Otherwise, pick something else.
- Once again, there are no general rules for this since it’;s based on some exotic feature of the setting.
And for today, it’s a question:
I have to say, while Federation is an interesting setting, some of the choices seem a bit bizarre.
Why is Dominion so limited when Path of the Dragon, and all-around stronger path in most cases, is unlimited?
Why is Mystic Link limited, but Blessing works just fine?
Why is natural returning considered so hard to (truly) break? At this power level, coming up with enough Mana to cast Distillation to simply take it away or annoying a nature spirit or realm spirit to use it’s privilege seems fairly doable. I get that this is why Blood Curse is restricted, among other things, but that doesn’t make it unbreakable.
And… Ultimate Creator? … I have the horrible feeling I know what ability of Dominion is especially limited…
I’d like to request the build for it. I mean, I’d be fine if it’s just “it has specialized and corrupted divine attribute to have it always-on” or something along those lines, which is clearly valid (it’s a pretty fair explaination for why the Lady of Pain works, after all), but especially since this is Eclipse and all characters in the campaign should be build-able, having a side-note saying “oh, and there is this eldritch abomiation you can’t do anything about ever” seems like a pretty big red flag to me.
At it’s most basic… most of that is because I’m an old-school simulationist; the rules exist to help simulate a particular reality – so if the rules don’t fit that fictional reality, it’s the rules that give way. (And the Eclipse rules are set up to be modular and adjustable anyway).
As far as the “reality” of the Federation-Apocalypse setting goes, the fictional reality is that there are several levels of dimensional ordering in the Federation-Apocalypse setting – and the barriers between them can be much more fundamental than those between the usual sets of d20 dimensions.
As an analogy… if you are playing in a campaign set in the 3.0 or 3.5 Forgotten Realms your character can readily reach the plane of shadow, and various outer and elemental planes – but he or she cannot readily trot over to another game master’s fourth edition campaign set in the Forgotten Realms to study a few “encounter” powers, or take a trip to 2’nd edition Dark Sun in a second game masters campaign, or go and take a level in “Dawn Caste Solar” over in a third guys Exalted campaign. Those places go by different rules and simply do not exist as far as the 3.5 Forgotten Realms setting goes – unless mysterious higher forces (the game masters) set up some kind of crossover.
Secondarily, there’s a hierarchy of natural laws; some things are pretty fundamental, and work almost everywhere, other things are local manifestations.
Reality Editing, Mana, and the Immortality of Souls are fundamental; they work even in Core (which is about the most restrictive of all universes), and even more freely everywhere else. All ensouled characters in the setting can do a bit of reality editing quite unconsciously – which is how the “gadgetry” skill works; it’s the amount of stuff that you can unconsciously push the local universe into fitting in for you (even if it changes it to a locally appropriate form; thus, for example, the characters Plasma Pistols turning into black powder firearms in the Crusader Kingdoms).
Since the rules of the Manifold are set by humans, Smartclothes and basic Witchcraft – which are extremely widely accepted as a part of the background by a tremendous number of humans and which operate under the (rather restrictive, if fairly fundamental to most worlds) natural laws of Core work in much, but not all, of the Manifold. Other core technologies are less widely accepted, and so operate in far fewer places.
Basic (Newtonian) core physics tends to underlay most of the Manifold simply because human minds accept it. Even small children know that objects don’t pass through each other, that things fall, and so on – and so in the vast majority of manifold realms that is the way that things work.
Magic, Psionics (which is really just a type of magic), Channeling, and other abilities, as well as “Local” technologies (such as “hypermatter” in Star Wars) depend on the local natural laws. If you want to cross dimensions with them the rules governing whatever-it-is-you’re using need to be the same at both ends of the gate. If you create a “Dimensional Hyperportal” using Star Wars Hypermatter… it will only take you to Star Wars styled universes.
Characters do get some leeway with their powers though; they get local identities – which means that the local reality is actively fitting them in. Thus any of their powers that would make sense in the setting will work just fine even if the point-by mechanics (which are invisible from an in-setting point of view) are weird for it – and those with Mana can use it to bend the rules even further. It’s still a lot easier to play nice with the local universe though, which is why most of Kevin’s actions in Inversion fit into the realms witchcraft-boosted=with-negative-energy theme (at least until he cheated with Mana). On Cyarkian, where the creator gods were known to come down and to visit, there were many local magic systems among the “minor” races, and where magic could do almost anything, he pretty much had a free hand.
Still, local rules can override personal abilities other than Reality Editing, Souls, and a few other items. (If it matters, the Session 189-190 log has some in-character discussion of these issues).
To go to the modifiers on specific abilities…
- Blood Curse is disallowed because characters in the setting add and drop powers with every new Identity and because there are plenty of realms – including in Core – where it is against the local rules. Given that both of those problems go against the nature and purpose of the ability, it won’t work. Curses are local problems.
- Deep Sleep (True Prophet) is disallowed because this is a no time-travel setting, has no powers of fate to issue reliable prophecies, and because the characters are more or less professional disruptors of plotlines. They’re also quite genre-savvy, to the point of occasionally looking up the works a realm is based on to cheat the local plotlines – such as session 97a, where Kevin and Marty pulled the control codes for a bunch of computers out of the original books.
- With Dominion the restriction is mostly a reminder of the basic rule on page 72 of Eclipse – “A character might, for example, adopt a forest and its creatures and spirits as his or her domain or become leader of a strange dimension or elemental plane. Whatever the source of a character’s power, this is his or her realm and many Dominion-based powers will only work inside it.” Most Domains are in particular dimensions and whatever energies they generate are local – so it’s special permission because you need to check with the game master to make sure that what you want to do will actually work properly. Thus Kevin, who has carefully insured that his thrall-domain is spread across many, MANY, dimensions gets away with a lot of Dominion effects.
- Immunity (Natural Laws) is pretty much always limited in any game that you expect to hang together for long of course.
- Lore needs to be specialized to a particular group of dimensions or something because “I am knowledgeable about everything in every dimension in infinity” is both impossible (nobody can handle infinite knowledge; your brain simply cannot handle it) and just plain silly.
- Transdimensional Mindspeech is limited both because it may not be allowed by local laws on either end (and needs to be so allowed on both ends to work) and because it requires an active gate (an “ongoing crossover”) to get through the “different campaign” level barriers. Having my Bard in the Forgotten Realms reliably linked to someone else’s Twilight Solar in an Exalted game is a bit iffy to start with – and having the Solar asking for Bardic Lore checks to help HIM out and the Bard asking for applications of an Investigation Excellency to help HIM out is going to be awkward-to-impossible to implement in most games. (Even if you could build something to fake it easily enough).
- Core is specifically only directly accessible via Gates, so Mystic Link won’t get you in and out unless you set up an overlay – which is a partial gate anyway. Otherwise it’s problems are closely related to those with Transdimensional Mindspeech.
- Rite of Chi won’t restore Mana, because the Federation-Apocalypse setting treats Mana as something more fundamental than magic, psionics, or even technology. We did allow characters to take “local equivalents” to Mana (as Puissance, Potence, or whatever) and Rite of Chi to restore them to allow for things like Rune Magic. They simply didn’t work for Reality Editing.
- Fortune got a note entirely due to one player’s attempts to Specialize if for Double Effect (“If I make my save against fire it will heal me instead!”), with which he was getting quite silly. Luck later got a similar prohibition thanks to characters like the Turtle (yes, an actual turtle who rode around on other character’s shoulders) who took Luck, Specialized and Corrupted in in Interpretive Dance only, only to “take 60” who kept communicating complex messages through turtle dance.
- Jack of All Trades was limited because the Manifold game offers an unlimited skill set, including an unlimited number of skills that only applied in single realms – and so the “Universal” option on Jack of All Trades offered competence in an infinite number of skills, which didn’t work.
- Mystic Artist/The Great Summons was limited for the same reasons as Transdimensional Mindspeech and Mystic Link; it can’t reach into a dimension that says that it doesn’t work and it can’t pass the higher-order dimensional barriers – and so it usually only works within a related group of dimensions.
- Returning is basically impossible to get around because souls are more fundamental in the Federation-Apocalypse game than reality editing – which in turn is more fundamental than any other known active power. The only interface point is in the Identities that souls generate – which is how they can be anchored to a realm. Unfortunately, destroying the identity-interface just lets the soul go free, unharmed. There are a number of characters who have thought that they could destroy souls, but so far they’ve all been wrong.
Secondarily, souls have aspects across a potentially near-infinite number of dimensions – and no matter what power you use against them, they also exist in quite a few places where that power will not work. The bit about blowing yourself up in the big bang is simply because that was/is a very fundamental event, and will function in more than enough dimensions to leave a soul only anchored in very obscure places – and thus likely to incarnate in such realms many times before popping up again where anyone might notice.
Now, the “Ultimate Creator” is a religious belief in the setting, with a number of variations depending on who you talk to. It’s a genuine religion in the setting for the same reason that I’ve never bothered to “make a build” – because in terms of the game, the Ultimate Creator takes no actions and never appears. There’s no way to know if he, she, it, or they exist at all; the only actual “evidence” is that the Federation-Apocalypse multiverse is so “obviously” designed for people – and so it seems likely that there is a reason for that.
Certainly there are things like the Ward protecting the Temple Mount in Battling Business World that LOOK like evidence… but they’re not really. After all, in the setting… Battling Business World was created by some people who made a cartoon movie around 2100 AD that portrayed “cutthroat business tactics” in a vaguely 1980’s – 2020’s setting as fairly literal warfare. It became a bit of a cult classic.
And, out in the Manifold, Battling Business World came into being. And vague areas got filled in with bits from fanfiction, and headcanons, and bits from other fictions, and officeworker daydreams about throwing irritating supervisors and co-workers out of windows. The Traditions came from fanfiction speculations about how very proper (and slightly fey) British Battling Business worked. BBW Japan is mostly adopted from various period Animes, and so on.
Like every world in the Manifold Battling Business World is as self-consistent as possible, and has it’s internal “history” – but like everything else in the Manifold, it and it’s supposed “history” only exists because someone made it up. Nothing involving the Manifold except the bare fact of it’s existence can ever be evidence about how the Core Universe operates or came into being. Even “miracles” in Core before the opening can be accounted for with the Faith skill.
Now when the original Federation-Apocalypse Campaign came to it’s last session, one player was quite unsatisfied. He’d come to the conclusion (apparently based on personal beliefs about the role of humanity in the cosmos) that the Ourathan Robots were the primary enemy and had to be eliminated at any cost – while the rest of the group had long since concluded that the Ourathan Robots were basically taking the role of playground supervisors for the galaxy and could safely be ignored or even treated as a convenience.
Given that lack of support from the rest of the player group, said player decided that the only viable course of action was to find the Ourathan homeworld and threaten to destroy it unless they ordered the robots to leave humanity alone. That wasn’t a bad plan as long as you presumed that there was active malice behind the robots activities.
So his character pulled a weapon out of the Manifold that (according to some rather dubious physics) could destroy the observable universe in a “new big bang” and tried to locate and reach the Ourathan homeworld. He took started looking for a route in Crusader, which offered major divinatory powers, easy dimensional travel, and a lot of established gates to various locations in Core.
There he encountered one of Crusader’s major background characters – the Dragon of the East (Sphere of Influence/The Lost and Those Seeking Guidance and the Way of Omnipresence through The Spark Within, among other abilities related to giving advice and directions).
The Dragon attempted to offer moral guidance, which was refused, and counseling on why this was unnecessary, which was ignored – and so gave the character directions to where (in it’s judgement) the character needed to go.
It wasn’t anywhere near the original Ourathan homeworld (now virtually abandoned save for it’s occasional use as a daycare center) or even into Core. It was into a Manifold realm made up of somewhat paranoid military speculations as to what hyper-advanced weapons and defenses the the “real Ouratha” (who’s Core civilization had actually long since collapsed) might have.
Not surprisingly, the characters attempts to intimidate speculations about a hostile super-civilization failed – and so the character detonated his quagma bomb. The player, satisfied in believing that he’d successfully destroyed the setting, left – and the other players had their game epilogue.
Not surprisingly, that character did not appear again when the second Federation-Apocalypse campaign was started some years later. The player did briefly join the second game playing a secret agent type –
John Jack: A 1960’s-style super-secret-agent-type. He’s supposedly a “mercenary-for-hire” but somehow always winds up working for the good guys – whom he insists usually repay him by trying to assassinate him. Very suspicious of super-science, and thus paranoid about pretty much the entire core. Was blown out of his own realm into core earth Scotland in a weird-science accident and was recruited by the House of Roses on an experimental basis thanks to his success against a minor Dalek incursion there (”More funny robots. Fine. Where’s my gun…). After all, they wanted to investigate a report about urban combat involving the Ouratha, so an good, disposable, anti-robot mercenary fighter seemed like a reasonable addition to their novice agent team.
but became upset with the game and ceased playing quite early on. I suppose this is actually equivalent to getting put on a long-term time out – but I’m reluctant to decide that a game concept of a basically unknowable creator is responsible for real-life player decisions.
The other players eventually determined that the original character had blown himself up very thoroughly indeed, but that some angels (also creatures of the Manifold, and no more capable of proving the existence of the Ultimate Creator than the player characters) had taken the time to locate him and make sure that his soul would be busy with “learning to not want to destroy the universe” incarnations for a good long time.
Did the “Ultimate Creator” ensure that the first being that character encountered that could provide directions would be the Dragon? Well… the Dragon had appeared in the game several times before, and had the ability, to appear to people in need of guidance – but I was the Game Master who gave it that ability. If the “Ultimate Creator” was really responsible, it was probably only in the notion that he, she, it, or they triggered the Big Bang that created the Core universe and made sure that the rules for it were such that the various racial Manifolds (so “obviously made for people”) would come into being. The Dragon is an eastern-styled entity, and is perhaps most closely related to the Eastern Dragon from Sinfest.
And that’s why the Ultimate Creator really didn’t need a build; he, she, it, or they may or may not exist, may or may not be concerned, and doesn’t actually do anything within the setting in any discernible way – which sort of made the build irrelevant. As Krackothunder has so neatly demonstrated… the omniscient, omnipotent, ability to be vaguely responsible for the existence of the multiverse while doing little or nothing within it is fairly easy to build. That’s rather neat – but I must admit that I always took it as “attempting to determine the in-game abilties of the game master” – an exercise that appeared as an article in Dragon Magazine fairly early on, but one which I always took as firmly tongue in cheek.
Finally, the Path of the Dragon is not only unrestricted, but the players are getting to play fast and loose with the limitations that are built into the path itself.
That’s simply because it’s entirely possible for a first level combat character in the setting to start off with a mecha mounting machine guns, missile launchers (doing 5d20 damage), plasma flamers, flight systems, long-range radar, and more. They can also start off with a starship, complete with powerful force fields and a selection of strategic antimatter missiles. If they want to be leaders… they can start off in command of a bunch of people with that kind of equipment. There are microtech first aid kits that can be used to put severed heads back on in the field (resulting in a full recovery in a couple of days), and so on.
There are also plenty of non-magical worlds, although Kevin tends to avoid those if he can.
Thus most of the high-powered paths are unrestrained, simply so that personal powers will continue to mean something.
Today it’s a grab bag: a couple more city magic items and a convenient price chart.
Light of Revelation: This radiance of this mighty beacon exerts a powerful influence over the people of the city – revealing the presence of infiltrating monsters and many other menaces.
- Know Bloodline (L3), Citywide (+7), 7+ Levels of Built In Metamagic (-3) = Level Seven. This effect reveals the basic ancestry of everyone in the city, including their type, race, subrace, and all subtypes they possess. Spell Resistance and a Will save at DC 20 both apply to his effect.
- Arcane Mark (L0), Citywide (+7), Targeting (+3), 7+ Levels of Built In Metamagic (-3) = Level Seven. This effect “tags” each resident with trivial – but revealing to the knowledgeable – signs of their basic ancenstry, type, race, subrace, and all subtypes they possess. As a rule, the city guard and many random citizens will be able to read such indications with ease. Spell resistance and saves do not apply against this effect if the Know Bloodline effect succeeds. Such signs will persist for a month, regardless of most attempts to disguise them.
- Both spells Spell Level Seven x Caster Level Thirteen x 1800 GP for Unlimited-Use Command Word Activation x .5 (Immobile) x .2 (one use per day) = 16,380 GP each, or a total of 32,760 GP.
Technically this should go off at a particular time each day, although it would have to be varied to avoid having infiltrators routinely stepping out to avoid it. I’d tend to just have everyone in the city save at dawn, and anyone who enters it later save then.
Healing Spring: A Healing Spring (or shrine, sepulcher, or any of several other immobile sacred items) can pretty much heal anything, without any reasonable limit. About the only thing that it can’t fix is Death.
For maximum efficiency, we’ll want to use Mass Heal, and pack as many people into the 15 foot radius as we possibly can. While I think I’ll refrain from racking them up to take advantage of the fact that the effect is spherical, we aren’t limited to one person per 5′ square. Per the SRD…
Moving Around In Squares: In general, when the characters aren’t engaged in round-by-round combat, they should be able to move anywhere and in any manner that you can imagine real people could. A 5-foot square, for instance, can hold several characters; they just can’t all fight effectively in that small space. The rules for movement are important for combat, but outside combat they can impose unnecessary hindrances on character activities.
So that gives us… 707 square feet, at four people per 5 x 5 square each takes up 6.25 square feet, so that gives us room for 112 people. Lets call it 100.
To make it a little more elegant… I’ll use the Sub-dividable Charge modifier, along with the Ambient Magic Limitation (it takes at least one minute of contact with the waters to receive healing), but toss in +1 level of the Amplify Metamagical Theorem to add a few more conditions to the (already long) list of what Heal will fix. In this case that will be Crippled (lost limbs, damaged organs, birth defects, and similar), Negative Levels, Attribute Drain and Damage, Petrification, Mind Control, Cursed, and similar problems (see: Break Enchantment).
- (Spell Level 10 (Augmented Mass Heal) -1 level for Arcanum Minimus) x Caster Level 17 x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 (Immobile) x .4 (One daily subdividable charge) x .5 (benefeciaries must worship the patron deity, although as a member of a pantheon is acceptable) = 30,600 GP.
That will suffice to heal a total of 17,000 points of damage and one hundred cases of each condition that our augmented heal effect will work on each day – which should be far more than enough.
Thresholds: Palatial Extra-dimensional Mansions make wonderfully secure locations for guilds, city councils, merchant houses, and similar very important people – as well as saving space in a crowded city. This is still an expensive option, but you can purchase an immobile version of the Rod of Residence – a Threshold – for a mere 19,500 GP. Given that such a space is protected against all normal intrusions, disasters, and invasions, comes fully furnished, is automatically supplied with food and household items, has a huge built-in “staff”, prevents aging within it, and doubles all natural, magical, and psionic healing within itself, it’s hard to see why anyone who can afford it would want to live anywhere else. .
While these aren’t necessarily items that a city will want to purchase, the wealthy and powerful within a city are virtually certain to pool their funds and buy a few. Even if they only sleep and eat breakfast there they can potentially add many years to their lives for a few thousand gold pieces.
City Stores are the immobile version of a Supply Pouch – and are often a major source of city revenue. Only the Daily (750 GP worth of supplies per day, usually making a profit of about 150 GP, for 8225 GP) or Epic (2250 GP worth of supplies per day, usually making a profit of about 450 GP/Day, 16,500 GP) are worth considering. A City Store is the most generic possible source of materials and supplies for a city, and so a certain amount of it’s potential value is usually held in reserve through the day, before being disbursed to charity shortly before the “stocks” will be renewed.
Flying Ships aren’t strictly city magic items, but they are always popular – and do have a major advantage over City Gates in that they can go anywhere.
- The quick way is simple; take a Cutter (1000 GP) or Keelboat (3000 GP), give it a +2 Bonus to Profession; Sailor (+400 GP), and make it Intelligent and give it the Flight item power (+10,500 GP). Of course, your movement rate is only 30′, but you have a flying ship for 12,000 to 14,000 GP. If you want to go faster… Give it unlimited Personal Haste (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 (only for the use of the item, only for going faster) = +1000 GP) and now you’re going at 60′ (12 MPH). If you want to store the thing easily… use a Folding Boat as a base for it and skip the skill bonus since it’s already a permanent magic item – although this increases your base cost to 17,700 GP, If you really want convenience add the functions of a Portable Hole (+20,000 GP); that means that you won’t have to put away your magical lab, offload cargo or supplies, or much of anything else (except, perhaps, bulk cargo).
- To go faster still… add a Wind Sheathe (Gust of Wind, +3 Levels of Area, -1 level for three or more levels of built-in Metamagic -1 level for Ambient Magic Limitation = L3) x CL 5 x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 (only provides a tailwind (which no one aboard will really feel) to effectively raise the speed of flying things, the wind takes one minute to achieve full speed) = 15,000 GP. A Wind Sheathe adds +50 MPH to the air speed of any flying vessel, or single flying Colossal or Gargantuan flying creature. Smaller creatures flying in groups can also be affected; a Wind Sheathe can assist two huge, four large, eight man-sized, sixteen small, and any reasonable number of smaller creatures at the same time. A Wind Sheathe will get your speed up to 62 MPH – although I wouldn’t try to make any sharp turns. It will, however, be comfortable: since the wind is traveling at almost the same speed that the ship is, you can move around on the deck without being blown off.
To build a flying ship more directly we want two basic effects; Lift and Propulsion. Fortunately, neither is all that complicated:
- Extended Levitation (with +1 level of Improved Duration, 10 minutes/level): Spell Level Three x Caster Level Five x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 (Only works for the enchanted vessel itself) x.5 (Utilitarian) = 7500 GP for 12.5 tons. 15,000 GP for 50 tons, 22,500 for 112.5 Tons, and 30,000 for 200 Tons. This is only a good deal on the lower end.
- Grand Levitation (+3 Levels of Improved Duration (one day), -1 level for three or more levels of built-in metamagic), Spell Level Four x Caster Level Seven x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 (Only works for the enchanted vessel itself) x,5 (Utilitarian) = 14,000 GP for up to 5000 Tons. Since the duration is fixed at one day, it’s not worth worrying about increasing the caster level. As a general rule… this is more than enough mass for any reasonable d20 ship.
- Suspension (Shining South) lasts 1-4 days plus one day per level, lifts up to 1000 Lb/level, and is a touch effect. At caster level seven you get an average of 136,800 running at any one time. Even leaving a considerable safety margin that’s 450,000 Tons for 14,000 GP. At caster level twenty, that’s better than three million tons for 40,000 GP – or up to 160,000 GP if the GM disallows the “only for the vessel itself” or the “utilitarian” modifiers on this one. Personally, I’d disallow the “only on the vessel itself” one; once you are capable of lifting thirty fully loaded aircraft carriers for people to stand on, whether or not you can affect something directly is something of a moot point.
Propulsion is another matter. An Unseen Servant can hold 20 Lbs against gravity. While trying to mix physics and magic is always iffy, that’s pretty much the definition (“enough force to support 20 pounds against gravity”) of twenty pounds of thrust. Our reference frame is enclosed in the vehicle, so we don’t have to worry about “movement speed” any more than a wizard has to consider the (likely) rotation of the planet when throwing Unseen Servant in a town square. So that means that a dedicated Phantom Mill (1000 GP) inside a vessel can provide 12,000 pounds of thrust. Lets say that our floating ship – however weightless – masses 60 tons. That gives us 1/10’th of a gravity of acceleration (3.2 feet per second), The calculation is horribly vague, but for a rough approximation… if our ship has a terminal velocity of 200 MPH, .1 G can drive it at about 90 MPH in the atmosphere. It will take about ten turns to reach that speed – or to stop. It would be wise to go slowly if you want to maneuver much. Given that the drag is related to the cube of the speed, but reduced by falling pressure… “Cruising Speed” at high altitude might be 100 MPH. Adding more “engines” will not, however, multiply that speed; you’d need eight to double it.
Of course if you leave the atmosphere… presuming you accelerate halfway and then spend the rest of the trip slowing down a .1 G constant-thrust drive that pretty much ignores gravity along the way will get you from the Earth to the Moon in less than a day, to Mars in about twelve days, to Jupiter in a little over a month, and to Pluto in a little over three months.
- Build in a life support effect (you need to be able to provide heat (Fireblock, 180 GP and cold (Iceblock 180 GP), produce water (Perpetual Fountain 0, 250 GP), produce food (Provisions Box, 2000 GP), and produce air (as per a Perpetual Fountain, but using Produce Element and as a Conjure, 125 GP) and the local solar system is open at a net cost of +2750 GP.
Still, Flying Ships are rarely something cities buy; they’re of much greater interest to adventurers.
It’s worth noting that this list doesn’t contain short-range dimension-door gates or anything similar. There are a couple of reasons for that. On the mechanical side… d20 transport magic is usually designed for either quick escape – and so is short range and duration – or is designed for long-range travel. Perhaps even more importantly… settlements tend to be fairly densely packed in reality, and there’s no reason for them being in a dangerous d20 environment to change that. The classical rule-of-thumb for towns and cities was (Population/50,000) square miles.
For a d20 “Small City”… that’s one-fifth to one-half square miles. If the city is square, that’s about 2400 to 3750 feet square. You are very unlikely to be more than a modest fraction of a mile away from anywhere you might want to go. Cities which are actually large enough to HAVE a public transportation problem are also large enough to afford a Ward Major with the Non-Euclidean option (allowing for easy shortcuts) or some similar function to handle the issue.
While there are obviously plenty of other possible items for cities, I think that this series has covered most of the basics – so it’s time to compile a price chart.
City Enchantment Price Chart:
- Perpetual Fountain: Supplies water for large numbers of people. I (600 people, 250 GP), II (2400 people, 500 GP), III (22,500 people, 3000 GP), IV (150,000 people, 14,000 GP). Variants reduce the effective type, but can produce other fluids.
- Endless Sidebard (Sect Operated Version) with a Takeout Menu (8200 GP). Feeds 2000 people per day.
- Perpetual Soup Fountain (2 Gallons/Round, 7500 GP). These can provide minimal rations – about 1500 calories – for nearly 30,000 people per day.
Stores-Stone: Keeps vermin out of the stored food (50 GP).
- Carcass Chute with Leathermaking and Preservation Modules: Instant butchering, tanning, and meat processing (875 GP).
- Cleansing Fountain: Cleans an does minor repairs on items (62.5 GP)
- Composting Chute: Handles waste disposal (250 GP).
- Millshaft: Grinds grain for 3000 people (62.5 GP).
- Automated City Building Package (35,000 GP). Mines, quarries, smelts, lumbers, ships materials around, and builds a city. Reusable.
- Construction Wagon: Builds and repairs roads, walls, drains, and basic structures at a great rate – and at no further expense (10,000 GP).
- Endless Lumberyard: Produces a constant supply of good-quality lumber (5000 GP).
- Endless Skein: Produces a constant supply of fiber (250 GP).
- Mining/Quarrying/Lumbering Operation: goes out and ships resources back to you (6400 GP, Fully Automated 14,000 GP)
- Owl Post: Sends messages and parcels to anywhere within a 60-mile radius (1000 GP).
- Eternal Flame Brazier: Causes any item dipped into it to “ignite” with Continual Flame (3000 GP).
- Cabalistic Engine: Basically a dedicated Phantom Mill inside of, and driving, a box on wheels. Basically a 50 horsepower engine. Sometimes used to pull strings of wagons, trolleys, or similar (1000 GP).
- City Gate: One Way Fixed Destination (another gate is needed to return). Maximum range of 700 Miles. Similar Planar Portals can be constructed at the same cost (14,000 GP).
- Foundation Stone: transports vast masses of material at 4.5 MPH, I (30 Tons, 2000 GP), II (120 Tons, 4000 GP), III (270 Tons, 6000 GP), and IV (480 Tons, 8000 GP).
- Phantom Mill (Immobile, Specialized, 500 GP, Immobile OR Specialized 1000 GP, General Use 2000 GP), A Phantom Mill deploys some 600 Unseen Servants.
Security and Defense:
- Bone Vault: Can inflict up to a dozen different city-wide curses with a wide variety of defensive and law-enforcement applications (6500 GP).
- City Father: Provides a wide variety of defenses and services. Reasonable (24,000 GP), or with absurd benefits package (36,000 GP, usually disallowed).
- Dark Rampart: Prevents undead from spawning within the city (6500 GP).
- Light of Revelation: Makes sure that everyone can recognize the creatures who have gotten into the city (32,760 GP).
- Skeptical Thinker: Provides city dwellers with Protection From Evil (28,000 GP).
- Threshold: Provides a secure spot for VIP’s to live and meet (19,500 GP).
- Healing Spring: Provides cast amounts of healing – of almost any possible condition (30,600 GP).
- Planar Spire: Brings in Outsiders who are bound to protect and aid the city and it’s people. Lesser (CR 4, 35,000 GP), Standard (CR 5, 44,000 GP), Greater (CR 6, 58,000 GP), and Grand (CR 7, 86,500 GP).
- Reliquaries: Minor Reliquaries (11,400 GP) provide a +4 Wisdom for their Caretaker and one spell each of levels 0-4 at caster level nine to any worshiper with sufficient wisdom, although this requires one hour. Major (17,000 GP) Reliquaries provide a +6 and one spell each of levels 0-6 at caster level thirteen. Great (31,000 GP) Reliquaries provide a +8 and one spell each of levels 0-8 at caster level seventeen.
- City Stores: These provide all kinds of general supplies. 750 GP/Day (8225 GP), 2250 GP/Day (16,450 GP).
- Ward Major. Wards Major create enchanted cities. As a rule, a settlement will want to apply the modifiers for a radius of one mile per ward level, control of the resulting features, and near-indestructibility – resulting in the following costs:
- Type I: 40,000 GP. 1 Minor Power.
- Type II: 60,000 GP. 2 Minor Powers
- Type III: 70,000 GP. 3 Minor Powers
- Type IV: 100,000 GP. 4 Minor Powers
- Type V: 128,000 GP. 4 Minor and 1 Major Powers
- Type VI: 220,000 GP. 4 Minor and 2 Major Powers
- Type VII: 312,000 GP. 4 Minor and 3 Major Powers
- Type VIII: 360,000 GP. 5 Minor and 3 Major Powers
- Type IX: 8,000,000 GP. 5 Minor, 4 Major, and 1 Awesome Powers.
- Type X: 1,200,000 GP. 5 Minor, 4 Major, and 2 Awesome Powers.
- Type XI: 1,800,000 GP. 5 Minor, 4 Major, and 3 Awesome Powers.
- Type XII: 2,560,000 GP. 6 Minor, 5 Major, and 4 Awesome Powers.
Wards may provide an immense variety of functions – which is why they have their own section in The Practical Enchanter. It is worth noting that no normal town will be able to afford a Type XII Ward Major – not, at least, without a special quality.
- Wind Tower: (The Practical Enchanter). These offer near-complete control of the weather within a radius of twenty-four miles. In reality this would be so vital that merely listing the things it would affect would take many paragraphs. In d20 it is less vital, but still very useful.
Items such as a Brick Press or its variants (160 GP), a Lumberjack’s Axe (1400 GP), Mason’s Trowel (590 GP, times 2/3/4/5 for more advanced versions), Ring of Aesculapius (180 GP), Forgestaves and Icewands (900 GP), and Millstones tend to belong to individuals, rather than cities – and so do not appear on this chart.
Even sticking to the Hedge Wizard spell list there’s obviously room for hundreds of additional minor magical. items. Writeups for Shearing Combs (Sheer) that sheer sheep and other animals (or provide haircuts) in mere moments with never an injury, Rainfangs (Umbrella) that keep water away from a twenty-five foot radius to make it easier to harvests and dry food, Distilling Coils (Extract) that near-instantly harvest components (butter or cream from milk, essential oils from flowers, saffron from flowers, and honey from honeycombs, Phantom Plows (Turn Soil) that automatically prepare fields for sowing, and so on would be quite easy. They’d also be a bit pointless; now that the price ranges and range of effects have been established the game master can just note them as background details.
What’s actually important is what this says about the setting. As shown in the post on Commoner Wealth By Level, a pair of first level commoners will actually be quite prosperous by default. The boost from level two will be enough to expand their list of animals and farm buildings to any reasonable level. After that, higher level NPC-classed folk may well have as many magical items as any adventurer; they’re just going to be cheap practical magic rather than combat gear.
Cities, however, have big budgets. How big? The 3.5 Dungeon Masters Guide and Pathfinder both have some information about how much money you can find in a settlement, and how much magic.
Unfortunately, both systems give results that are quite insane. For example, a Pathfinder Hamlet averaging about forty people has a 75% chance of having any item worth 200 GP or less up for sale. How many first and second level spells are there? Scrolls of 75% of them are for sale! And Potions! And used zero and first level wands with only a few charges left! And all kinds of other stuff! And casters for pretty much any second level spell! How many kinds of spellcasters does that call for? Since they are ALL available, how expensive is the local wizard’s spellbook to contain every wizard spell? And what of the 1d6 more expensive minor items that are for sale? And if the inhabitants have all that up for SALE, what are they keeping for themselves?
That’s only to be expected of course. The d20 “economy” has never made a bit of sense anyway – but the “characters have to be able to buy what they need” notion completely destroys the thin gloss of rationality that’s usually applied if you think about it too hard.
Ergo I’m going to use base the town budget on the Town Resources section in The Practical Enchanter. Since settlements have a lot of expenses anyway, and once you start investing in your infrastructure you need to maintain it (rather than leaving it to higher-level locals to set up magical businesses and services) – I’ll be using a a years worth of their town budget as a baseline budget for civic magic. Please note that the “inhabitants” figure includes kids, transients, and farmers outside “city limits”; halve it if you want established adult inhabitants.
- Near-Ghost Town, 1-40 inhabitants: No town budget and no current improvements. Even if there’s something left over from when the place was thriving, there’s no one to maintain it.
- Thorp, 40-160 inhabitants: 1d3 x 12 GP. A Thorp generally has no formal government outside of appealing to local lords and such – and so has no tax base of it’s own. Even mundane improvements such as walls are of no use without people to man them – and so any real magical improvements to a Thorp are up to wealthy (higher level) individuals. A lucky Thorp might have an Elfin Harvest Basket or something. There will likely be more magic than THAT about – but it will belong to individuals, not the Thorp.
- Hamlet, 161-800 inhabitants: 2d4 x 120 GP. A Hamlet is large enough to start needing formal organization and to have some community property. Admittedly, not that MUCH community property – but some. Perhaps a Stores-Stone (50 GP, from the Hedge Wizardry articles) to keep vermin out of their stores, a type-zero Perpetual Fountain (250 GP) to ensure that there is never a water shortage and to irrigate some gardens, with the rest going to Elfin Harvest Baskets and similar magical tools (mostly 36 GP each). That’s not enough magic to turn a hamlet upside down, but it represents a substantial boost on their margins of survival over and above whatever the wealthier or better trained members of the community may deploy.
- Village, 801-1800 inhabitants: 2d8 x 120 GP. With an average of 1080 GP worth of community magical improvements and tools, a Village can afford to get a few things. There may well be a Type 0 Perpetual Fountain (250 GP) set up on a local hill to provide clean drinking water and a bit of garden irrigation, a Stores-Stone (50 GP), a Brick Press (160 GP), three Elfin Harvest baskets and a set of the other major farming tools (Turn Soil, Sow, Weedkill, and Thresh altogether totaling 250 GP) to be used by local farmers who cannot afford their own will help ensure against crop failures and ease life, an immobile Cleansing Fountain (62.5 GP) will save endless time (and make the population much cleaner and more presentable as well), a Wand of Transfusions (another item from the Hedge Wizardry articles, 62.5 GP) may be available to provide lifesaving emergency care, and so on. The place might even have paid a larger town (perhaps 150 GP for one day per month) for access to an Eternal Flame every so often to provide free “continual flame” items for lighting.
And that is on the average budget. A prosperous town (which rolled better) may well have an immobile Phantom Mill dedicated to a particular industry (500 GP) – turning the place into a “factory town” and allowing it to produce plentiful finished lumber and woodcrafts, or pottery, or glass, or whatever the Mill is dedicated to doing.
- Small Town, 1801-4000 inhabitants; 3d20 x 120 GP, averaging 3780 GP. Collecting fees for the use of an Eternal Flame can reasonably reduce it’s 3000 GP cost to nothing much and provides safe, free, lighting. A pair of Type I Perpetual Fountains (1000 GP) will provide plenty of water. Local entrepreneurs using Forgestaffs and Ice Batons can provide heat, air conditioning, and refrigeration – but this doesn’t come out of the city budget. The same goes for Endless Skeins and Automagic Looms. Some local expert physician or minor spellcaster will take care of a Ring of Aesculapius for you. A couple of immobile, dedicated, Phantom Mills (1000 GP) cover local industry – and leaves room for a couple of Brick Presses (320 GP) to provide materials, a Millshaft (62.5 GP) to grind the towns grain, a Cleansing Fountain (62.5 GP) to clean and make minor repairs on things, a Carcass Chute with the leather-making and preservation attachments (875 GP) makes the place much more pleasant and efficiently produce and preserves meat, meat by-products, and leather. A Composting Chute (250 GP) turns much of the cities wastes into salable compost – and still leaves about 200 GP in the average budget for some farming magic to take care of common areas and such.
- Large Town, 4001-10,000 inhabitants: 5d10 x 600 GP, averaging 31,500 GP.
Now we are talking. While the basics remain much the same as they are for a small town, albeit likely doubling up on the Perpetual Fountains and Phantom Mills (raising the base total to about 6500 GP) that still leaves 25,000 GP to spend.
- Spending 1000 GP on an Owl Post will allow easy message-sending to the surrounding area – and full communications with a network of other large towns; there are likely to be a few within the sixty-mile range.
- A City Gate (The Practical Enchanter, 14,000 GP for a 700 mile range, +100 miles per +2000 GP) teleports about 200 pounds per second to its destination. Round trip travel requires a matching gate on the far end coming back – (or a ring of gates) but that’s normally handled by the destination town(s). This provides an instant trade route, an evacuation route if something goes wrong, and makes a town near-impossible to besiege effectively – a bargain all the way around.On the average that leaves 10,000 GP – enough to add several more Phantom Mills and a Foundation Stone or two, or perhaps the 6400 GP basic Resource Harvesting package and a selection of convenience items, or pay a priest to run an immobile, sect-limited, version of the Eternal Sideboard with a Takeout Menu (8200 GP). Large towns deserve a little individualization if the campaign is going to spend enough time there for anyone to care in any case.
Before going on to actual cities (where the lists get even longer), it’s time to look at a few expensive items that settlements might want – including the next step up in magical defenses.
A Construction Wagon is basically an automated magical repair-and-construction package, self-propelled, almost entirely self-supplying, and capable of designing and building a wide variety of things on it’s own. It’s basically a city in a box – and is made up of the following components:
- Phantom Mill (dedicated to construction work, such as building streets and houses, 1000 GP),
- Imbued Intelligence (The Practical Enchanter): Rank 2 (2400 GP), Int 3d6+5 (16), Wis 3d6 (10), and Chr 3d6 (10). 10 Skill Points (Civic Engineering and Construction +5), Feat: Material Link (allows the spirit to bond with an item), communicates via Empathy. Three Primary Powers:
- Unseen Servant: Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 (only for civic construction and maintenance) x.5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) = 500 GP.
- Make Whole: Spell Level Two (Reduced to Level One via the Ambient Magic Limitation) x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 (only for civic construction and maintenance) x.5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) = 500 GP.
- Joinery: L1. A restricted variant on “Make Whole”, which joins fitted wooden parts, dry stone and brickwork, and similar fitted parts into solid masses, with results similar to using excellent glue or mortar. Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 (only for civic construction and maintenance) x.5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) = 500 GP.
- 100 sets of Artisan’s Tools (Construction) = 500 GP.
- Brick Presses x 10 (1600 GP). These produce one cubic foot of brick per turn, which the Unseen Servants can easily hold in place to be hit with Joinery.
- Glass Box (160 GP). This minor variant on the Brick Press produces square panes of glass, albeit only of basic quality.
- Pipe Molds x2 (320 GP). These minor variants on the Brick Press produce clay pipe.
- Mortar Box (160 GP). This minor variant on the Brick Press produces mortar, for those times when you want to fill gaps or make odd shapes.
- Whitewash Bucket (160 GP). This minor variant on the Brick Press produces “whitewash”, with a wide variety of mild tints.
- Gravel Box (160 GP). Yet another minor variant on the Brick Press that produces gravel and / or sand of various levels of fineness for times when you need a little fill material, or want to let water pass.
- Assorted paintbrushes and tool maintenance gear (40 GP).
Total Cost: 10,000 GP.
While a Construction Wagon lacks the speed and defensive functions of a Lyre of Building, it also needs no operator: Given a few basic directions, it will quietly move itself through the city streets twenty-four hours a day – paving and repairing streets, fixing up or constructing city buildings and walls, building aqueducts and drains, installing piping, painting, cleaning up, and performing general city maintenance. It won’t be creating any fabulous works or art, or building magical towers or anything – but one cubic foot of brick construction per turn really adds up when it’s going on for twenty-four hours a day, especially since only the actual volume of the walls – not what they inclose – counts.
OK, it will still take a little over seventeen years to build the Great Pyramid (without the hill it was built around anyway), which is about how long it actually took, but it is also without the estimated average workforce of 14,567 people (although that is a ten-year estimate and it is unclear as to whether or not it includes quarrying and shipping the stone). In d20 settings… the total cost of a Construction Wagon is roughly equivalent to the cost of one day of pyramid construction. That’s a savings of about 99.97% – or at least 95% after you send some guards along to look after the thing.
And a kingdom that purchases a few construction wagons will get similar savings on roads and all kinds of other public works. Of course, given the rate at which a d20 environment destroys stuff… they probably will need it just to keep up.
Dark Rampart: This grim obsidian structure stands as a barrier between the material planes and the realms of negative energy. Within a radius of some miles about it, no corpse can rise as an undead, whether due to being slain by a creature with the spawn power or by a spell.
- Spawn Screen (L2, +7 levels of Area (Citywide), +1 level of Persistent (Lasts 2 Hours/Level) -1 Level (Ambient Magic limitation) -3 Levels (7+ levels of built-in Metamagic) = L6. Spell Level Six x Caster Level Twelve x 1800 GP Unlimited-Use Command-Word Activated x .5 (Immobile) x .5 (Utilitarian Village Magic) x.2 (One Charge per Day)) = 6480 GP.
A lot of game masters who aren’t ignoring the problem have already inserted reasons why self-spawning undead haven’t pretty much wiped out the world already. Some simply ban such mass spawning, some have well worked out reasons, and others have explanations that are either quite contrived or come down to the dreaded game master fiat. A Dark Rampart is, at least, a reasonably elegant barrier to this sort of thing; undead may still spawn like bacteria out in the wilderness when some unlucky adventurers provide them with bodies to use – but that sort of thing will not work in any civilized area.
If the Shadow/Wight/Whatever Apocalypse IS a serious threat I’d expect the local lord to have installed one of these to cover his major territories and higher-level characters in town to have gotten together and installed one of these to protect their homes and families if the town can’t afford one on it’s own. If not, then unless the reason why it’s not a threat is that there are a bunch of these laying around already, these are a luxury rather than a necessity.
This is cheap of course; the price break for building metamagic into a spell formula wasn’t really meant to mitigate the cost of adding massive amounts of a particular metamagic – but given that we’re basically building an excuse for ignoring a poorly thought out rule, we can afford to be rather lenient about it.
The Skeptical Thinker. This contemplative statue wards the entire city against intrusions on their will – and provides some degree of protection against infernal and undead attacks at the same time. It grants the city, and everyone within it, Protection from Evil, renewed once per minute.
- Protection From Evil (L1, +7 levels of Area (Citywide), -3 Levels (7+ levels of built-in Metamagic) -1 Level (Ambient Magic Limitation) = L4. Spell Level Four x Caster Level Seven x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 (Immobile) = 28,000 GP.
This is another cheap gadget that – once again – exists to patch a rules problem. Any clown with Charm Person, much less more powerful mind-manipulation abilities, can make outrageous amounts of trouble if he or she uses them in town as opposed to in a dungeon or on a wilderness adventure. Ergo the Skeptical Thinker.
A Lesser Planar Spire creates a link to one of the outer planes – calling a group of CR 4 creatures of that plane to live in, act on behalf of, and defend, the host city and its people. Such creatures will take on various tasks within the city and fulfill them with substantial skill (gaining a +10 competence bonus on any skill or attribute checks relevant to the task)- but will also seek to spread the influence of their native planes. They will set examples, teach children about gods and philosophies, and otherwise promote their alignments at all times. The Spire can maintain the presence of twenty-four such outsiders on the material plane at any one time.
- Lesser Planar Spire: Monster Summoning IV, Specific Creature Variant (-1 Spell Level), Amplified (adds relevant skills, +1 Spell Level) or Secondary Spell (Skill Mastery, L4, +10 Competence Bonus to a group of skills (whatever rolls are relevant to the creatures job in the city, +1 Spell Level), Persistent +1 (Lasts two rounds per caster level), Renewable (when the spell is recast an existing summons may be extended (eliminating any one status condition or purging one negative level and regaining 3d6 hit points, one lost attribute point, and one use of a limited-use ability each time the spell is recast) rather than a new one arriving, +1 Spell Level). Net Spell Level = 6. Spell Level 6 x Caster Level 12 x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .5 (Immobile) x .6 (has a list of 72 specific creatures it can call upon; if they are “slain” they will not be available again for twenty-four hours, as usual for a summoned creature) x .8 (the outsiders are subject to general orders only, using their own judgement for most tasks) = 34,560 GP. I’m calling it 35,000 GP. If they must be build in complimentary pairs (x.8) they are a mere 28,000.
For some examples…
- A Lesser Spire of Celestial Law brings in LG Hound Archons. They tend to take up law enforcement roles, act as sentinels, train the militias, and otherwise defend the people of the city, (Militant cities may prefer Arcadian Avengers). The realms of law and good are generally glad to help support and guide a city, showing the many advantages of their philosophy. Even CE cities need someone to run the place.
- A lesser Radiant Hospice Spire brings in NG Cervidal Guardinals. They tend to act as healers and guides, using their abilities to negate poison and disease to assist the populace and dismissing planar entities who are acting inappropriately. The realms of pure good are happy to demonstrate the joys and virtues of kindness and mercy.
- A Lesser Soul Prison Spire brings in various styles of LE Imps – although normally twice as many of them as usual for a Spire. Imps commonly serve as secret police and promote an acceptable level of crime while removing truly dark criminals – thus gaining personnel for hell, gaining access to other potential recruits, and promoting the safety of the city at the same time. In more evil cities they also often serve as torturers and such.
- Planar Spires (CL 13, 44,000 GP, Competence Bonus +12) call forth up to 26 CR 5 creatures at a time, and have a “list” of 78 specific creatures to call upon.
- Greater Planar Spires (CL 15, 58,000 GP, Competence Bonus +15) call forth up to 30 CR 6 creatures at a time, and have a “list” of 90 such specific creatures to call upon.
- Finally, Grand Planar Spires (Cl 20, 86,500 GP, Competence Bonus +20) call forth up to 40 CR 7 creatures at a time and have a list of 120 such specific creatures to call upon.
Remember Vault of the Drow? And how the city had all kinds of random Outsiders wandering about the place, and no one taking responsibility for actually running the place, and yet somehow it all worked out? Well, now you know why.
The various planar powers are generally just fine with Planar Spires; they offer easy access to the Prime Material and it’s people – and in such a way that the presence of their agents is accepted, even among races that would normally be mortal foes – and all at the “price” of demonstrating just how useful they are to have around.
For cities… Planar Spires offer magical and social services and enough military power to make even mid-level adventurers and reasonably powerful monsters give their actions a little thought before they run amuck in town. A really high level party can still curb-stomp such minor foes, but at least they’ll know that they were there.
Bone Vault: This curious structure holds a swirling vortex of dark power, filled with a thousand maledictions to launch against the unwary – and when that power is released from the vault, it spreads out like a terrible storm, affecting an entire city. Saves are, of course, allowed – and are not all that impossible, being merely DC 19 – but eventually everyone who frequents the city will fail against each curse.
Of course, that power need not be used for unworthy reasons. Curses either bring misfortunes or restrict the victims actions or potentials in some fashion – and THAT is a very versatile effect. Many a kindly cleric has cursed a young pickpocket with shaky hands whenever he or she tries to steal, sparing them a trip to the gallows a few years later on.
- “No matter how terrible the provocation, or dreadful your death, no matter what dark rituals and spells you attempt… you will never be able to rise as an undead! (Or at least not until you go and get a Remove Curse spell)”… is a curse.
- Suffering penalties whenever you try to resist the city guard… is a curse.
- Suffering penalties on your actions whenever you are trying to steal… is a curse.
- Feeling terrible guilt when you do not pay your taxes on time and in good measure is a curse.
- Not being able to become a lycanthrope, no matter how attractive the extra powers look, could be a curse, at least if the game master agrees..
A selection of well-chosen curses can make it much easier to rule a city – and may well be welcomed by the populace. After all, just how much of law enforcement is concerned with telling people what they mustn’t do?
- Bestow Curse (L3, +7 levels of Area (Citywide), -3 Levels (7+ levels of built-in Metamagic) -1 Level (Ambient Magic limitation) = L6. Spell Level Six x Caster Level Eleven x 1800 GP Unlimited-Use Command-Word Activated x .5 (Immobile) x .2 (One Charge per Day)) x.6 (Curses are only effective in the city and its environs) x.9 (Each Bone Vault is limited to a list of a dozen pre-programmed curses – unless someone buys this off) = 6415 (6500) GP.
Obviously enough, the nature of the curses in a Bone Vault will say a lot about the nature of a city. If it curses people with a fear of confronting the authorities, a tendency to report on each other, penalties when opposing the local overlord, a longing to return to the city if they depart, and so on… it is an unmatched tool of tyranny. If it curses the citizenry with an inability to rise as undead, penalties on saves against feeling compassion for orphaned and abandoned children, a dislike for using lighting systems in the city other than nice, safe, Continual Flames, penalties when stealing or defrauding each other, an inability to successfully cast a dozen nasty spells, and so on… it can go a long ways towards making the city a wonderful (if still rather restrictive) place to live.
Reliquaries (The Practical Enchanter) bestow a wisdom bonus on their caretaker and a limited amount of clerical spellcasting on anyone of the appropriate faith who prays at the reliquary for an hour provided that their wisdom would be high enough to get a bonus spell of the appropriate level if they were divine spellcasters in the first place. Unfortunately, only one worshiper per hour can benefit in this fashion and any unused spells fade away again in twenty-four hours. Minor Reliquaries (11,400 GP) provide a +4 and one spell each of levels 0-4 at caster level nine. Major (17,000 GP) Reliquaries provide a +6 and one spell each of levels 0-6 at caster level thirteen. Great (31,000 GP) Reliquaries provide a +8 and one spell each of levels 0-8 at caster level seventeen. .No holy city should go without a Reliquary!
A City Father is a shrine dedicated to the founders of the city, usually containing a statue of a dignified, elderly, man, woman, or group, heroically digging foundations or signing a charter or some such thing. So long as the people of the city remember and respect their founders the shrine serves as a focus for their massed power – and is capable of manifesting a marvelous variety of effects to enhance and defend the city and to aid it’s inhabitants. A City Father can hold back floods, snuff out raging fires, destroy hordes of undead, and more. Sadly, City Fathers are relatively slow to act, requiring at least two (and sometimes up to four) minutes to respond to any emergency.
- City Father: Rank-9 Sapient Item, Chr 24, Int 18, Wis 10 (16,800 GP Base).
- Base BAB and Base Saves both equal (Rank).
- Speech and telepathy in Common and four bonus languages, reads all languages and magic.
- Vision, darkvision, blindsense, and hearing out to 120′.
- 54 Skill Points: Normally Diplomacy +17 (+23 with Glamour), Knowledge/Architecture and Engineering +16, Perception +12 (+18 if it has The Inner Eye), Sense Motive +12 (+18 if it has The Inner Eye), Specific Knowledges (1 SP Each): Patterns for Armor, Patterns for Weapons, the City Itself, Local Resources and Hazards, Local Religions, and the People of the City.
- Material Link. This allows the City Father to remain linked with the Shrine which is, in effect, it’s body.
- Hedge Wizardry (psychic version). In general, 1 Power for a L1 effect, 3 Power for a L2 effect. In conjunction with Battle Magic a City Father can use “Umbrella” to repel a massive flood, “Light” to illuminate the entire city, “Child Ward” to protect all the children in the city, “Hearthfire” to eliminate the need for fuel throughout the city, or “Spring Cleaning” to clean and straighten the place.
- Witchcraft II (Save DC 20): A City Father may use Glamour (usually used to broadcast news to the inhabitants or to give directions in emergencies), Healing (used to eliminate parasites, diseases, slimes, and similar problems), Hyloka (often used to help the inhabitants resist heat or cold or to ease ailments such as arthritis) and Witchfire.(used to snuff out large fires, create energy barriers around the city in emergencies, and freshen things up).
- Four Pacts: Guardianship (the city), Duties (assist and advise the local government), Exclusion (uses witchcraft only), and Taboos (a list of things that are bad for the host city). These pay for…
- Battle “Magic”, Specialized for Increased Effect / does not require aides, but is only usable within the city it is placed in.
- Hag-Riding, Specialized for Increased Effect / the user gains 2 power per point of attribute damage inflicted, and may thus gain 1 power from any willing individual without harm. Corrupted for increased effect (need not be actively applied within the city) / may only take one power per target. In combination with Battle “Magic” (psychic powers) this effectively gives the City Father a daily reserve of one point of Power per person in the city.
- Light of Truth, Specialized for double effect / only works against Undead OR Evil Outsiders, not both at once, and cannot affect other characters at all. This allows the City Father to do 6d8 damage to every Undead OR Evil Outsider in the city (not both at once).
- Nightforge: This is used to create adamantine barriers, divert avalanches, or to instantly equip the militia with adamantine arms and armor.
- A City Father rarely has – or needs – all that many other powers. That doesn’t mean that it can’t have some. Any Primary Powers are invariably more Witchcraft Feats.
- Primary Powers (Up to Five):
- Feat (6000 GP): Witchcraft III, adding The Adamant Will, Shadowweave,and The Inner Eye to the City Father’s list of abilities.
- Feat (6000 GP): Spirits of the Deep, Specialized/only to induce a particular lycanthropic template suited to the general alignment of the city population. A City Father with this power can, in an emergency, imbue its citizens with the strength and ferocity of wild beasts.
- Feat (6000 GP): True Prosperity. A City Father can selectively induce fertility, growth, and health throughout it’s domain.
- Feat (6000 GP): The Dark Flame. The City Fathers Charisma increases to 30, and the DC of saving against it’s powers increases to 23.
- Feat (6000 GP): Warding: The City Father shares it’s defenses (primarily it’s +9 base on Saves) with the residents of it’s city. Any further defenses will also be shared (see below). Since this must be renewed every ten minutes, it will take up a fair chunk of the City Father’s time to maintain it.
- Extraordinary Powers (Up to Three):
- Advanced Intelligence (25,000 GP): Provides 18 CP, (Int Mod x 2) Skill Points, and an extra (1d6 + Cha Mod) Hit Points (not that this matters much to a structure). This can be taken twice, but no more. If a sapient item gains character levels (through leadership or by being given XP) the first instance of this power does not count, but a second counts as a +1 ECL modifier on the item. In either case, whatever was purchased is treated as a racial ability. In this case the points are going to a Supplemental Innate Enchantment package to go with Warding: Innate Enchantment: +4 Force Armor (2000 GP), +4 Force Shield (2000 GP), Protection from Evil (2000 GP), Fortune’s Favor (+1 Luck bonus to AC and Saves, 2000 GP), Sidestep I (+1 Competence Bonus on Saves, 2000 GP), Resistance (+1 Resistance Bonus on Saves, 1000 GP), Immortal Vigor (+12 + 2 x Con Mod) HP, 2000 GP), and Hide Like Ox (+1 Natural Armor, 2000 GP) (Net 16 CP), plus Immunity to the XP Cost (1 CP) and a Contact (whatever mortal runs the city, 1 CP). Spend the 8 skill points on anything you like – but this means that the cities inhabitants will save at +12, get a base effective AC of 20 plus any dex bonuses, get some extra hit points, and have Protection from Evil going all the time. This will make it a great deal harder to mess with them.
Honestly, a City Father doesn’t NEED any more powers. It should be able to handle major natural disasters, small invasions, plagues of minor undead, and horrendous plagues, all by itself. It can keep the citizenry informed, offer them massive defenses, and help keep them comfortable. What else could you ask for?
Base Cost: 71,800 GP. X.5 (Immobile) = 35,900 GP. I’ll call it 36,000. I also probably wouldn’t go for that Awesome Power – eliminating an absurd set of bonuses and reducing the cost to 23,400 GP (I’d call it 24,000 GP).
A City Father is basically a dedicated guiding consciousness with a wide variety of powers that – while not actually incredibly potent (outside, perhaps, of handing out temporary lycanthropy) – operate on a massive scale. That alone is enough to make a City Father an incredibly useful and important element of any city.
Before I start getting into city-specific magic, and the expense thereof, it’s time to think about just how cities work in d20 settings.
In reality, cities provided the labor pools needed for large projects, concentrated wealth and demand to support specialists and financial centers, they are nexi for trade and industry, they foster education and innovation, they provide defensible refuges and strongholds, they are religious, diplomatic, and organizational centers, they store records, and they are symbols and centers of political power.
In d20 worlds… massive projects are far more easily and cheaply carried out with magic than with workers. Wealth is concentrated by high-level characters, who live where they will. The actual economy doesn’t need financial centers. Trade and Industry can be carried out by magic – and the important part is the creation of magical devices, which is a task for small groups, but assembly lines. Cities may still be useful here, but they’re not strictly required. Education and innovation relies on going up in levels and spending skill points, not on centers of learning. They really aren’t especially defensible without rules for citywide magical defenses, since walls and masses of low-level militiamen are no obstacle to a high-end character or monster. For that matter, political power is going to be vested in the individuals who can destroy nations, not in armies – and high-level characters don’t NEED symbols of power. They have the actual power in their own right, not just as leaders. Worse, cities are an implicitly hostile environment. Like it or not, they contain very large numbers of similar – and thus competing – organisms. More than any given individual in the population can possibly keep track of or form a cooperative social group with.
That leaves us with “they are religious, diplomatic, and organizational centers” and “they store records”, perhaps with a bit of trade and/or magical industrialization thrown in – and even those roles are hardly going to be unchanged.
The first item to think about is “how much magic should a city have”? – And the things to think about there are generic enough to apply to a lot of other systems and settings too, so that’s a bonus.
On Magic and Prosperity.
- Magic in fantasy games generally has few direct, and no unmanageable, drawbacks. People will use it.
- Major magic is usually a fairly personal thing, built up through exciting adventures, because that’s what fantasy RPG’s are generally played FOR.
- In such settings magic is pretty much the ultimate resource. With enough magic you can do, or obtain, almost anything – and that means that the availability of magic is pretty much a direct measure of a culture’s prosperity.
- Most fantasy settings allow the creation of permanent magical devices, which can thus accumulate in the world.
- Cooperative social groups in such settings will thus normally expend at least a portion of their group resources on permanent magical devices that will benefit the group. Not doing so is generally blatantly stupid. The rate of creation may or may not vary directly with the prosperity of the culture, but that level of prosperity will very likely have an impact. Uncooperative social groups (or “Monsters”) will not do so because they are UNCOOPERATIVE and do not form social groups with pooled resources.
- Magic items can be destroyed accidentally, purposefully (often by enemies of a social group), and by various sorts of natural/deific/alien/whatever catastrophes.
- The rate of such destruction will increase (linearly or not, since more items may make an area a bigger target as well as increasing the number of chances for something to be destroyed) with the numbers of items available in any given setting.
Given those principles there are three possible outcomes:
- Magical devices are – on the average – destroyed as fast as they are created. Magical devices are thus either trivial or they are rare and wonderful – and characters will rarely get to keep them for very long. They may still have dramatic effects on the world, but those will tend to be unique events. This is the “Fairytale” or “King Arthur” style; if the elderly hermit gives you a flask full of a marvelous potion that heals wounds to take on your quest… you will certainly need it desperately along the way, heaven help you if you use it too soon, and there won’t be any more coming your way.
- Magical devices (and more mundane infrastructure) accumulate until they reach equilibrium with the rate of destruction. This may be roughly steady state or it may vary with occasional catastrophes and monster attacks. The level of impact and prosperity depends on just how high that equilibrium level is. Most games tend to vaguely assume that that level is high enough to avoid disrupting heroic fantasy with crippled kids, starving peasants, people being routinely tortured and enslaved, and so on. (For another way to do that see the Sacredos Pastor).
- At some point increasing prosperity begins to increase the rate of magic item creation more quickly than the rate of destruction increases. Unless some special limitation pops up the setting is on its way towards a magical version of “The Singularity” at an ever-increasing rate. Any area which passes the critical threshold will doubtless soon vanish into a nice secure pocket dimension or some similar refuge, there to become some sort of post-scarcity society or dimensional crossroads or something.
Long range trade classically focused on spices, fine cloth, paper (a rarity at the time), pearls, gems, and jewelry, exotic remedies, (supposed) aphrodisiacs, drugs, perfumes, essential oils, precious metals, artwork, wines, books, and so on – luxury items which packed a great deal of value into relatively little space. There was no POINT in trying to ship bulk goods except in very special circumstances since if an area couldn’t produce all the basics people needed to live, they wouldn’t be settling there in the first place. Special circumstances did turn up of course. Rome imported grain from Egypt since being an imperial government (and being willing to spend massively on maintaining the greatest city in the known world as their capital) made it feasible. Many caravans and ships transported bulk tin to make bronze with during the “bronze age”, but that was still a luxury (you didn’t HAVE to have bronze weapons and tools, but everyone wanted to so you could sell a lot of that particular luxury) and was effectively highly compact since a ton of tin could make many tons of bronze when mixed with local copper.
As transport became cheaper, resource and basic commodity trade became possible – and people start doing things like eating a lot of bananas in areas where bananas do not grow. Supply chains become worldwide things in the real world, but this is due to the nature of technology; highly specialized components may require a vast pyramid of supporting industries – far too large to support with local sales of the finished product.
But very little of that has any meaning in a magical world. Magic is generally the product of individual experts – and about the only kind of natural natural resources that have any serious importance is stuff that helps an area get set up or which helps an established area boost its magic. That kind of thing is unlikely to be available in mass quantities to begin with (if it was it would just be part of the baseline) and most sane groups will want to hang onto any that they get. There won’t be a massive trade in that going on.
Even low levels of magic can usually provide flavor, make clothing prettier and more comfortable, cure diseases better than most ordinary remedies, make things smell nice, and open up long-range lines of communication – among many other things. Once an area is rich enough in magic and population… it doesn’t NEED any trade – and there’s little money to be made trading in normal goods.
Ergo, long-range trade items are mostly going to be dangerous, illegal, or magical in themselves – and quite likely two or more of those things. Trading will focus on local exchanges – stuff that it isn’t worth setting up local production for if it’s available “nearby” – and on long-range smuggling. “Trader” is likely to be a pretty disreputable occupation.
Fantasy RPG’s are – like superhero games – pretty much always focused on small groups of characters. In most games such characters can gather enormous personal power. In many cases enough personal power that entire armies of “normal” people become almost irrelevant and even well-trained bodyguards and special agents are little more than speed bumps.
That old saw about “the king and the land are one”? Well, it’s “the ruling class” – but in most RPG’s it’s pretty much true. The rulers are the realms true source of military power, they’re the ones who create the magic that brings prosperity, they have inhuman levels of organizational skills, they are likely to have greatly extended lifespans. The only real purpose for the peasantry may be to act as servants / paramours and to breed – thus producing the occasional adventurer type to replace losses among the ruling class. After all… what proportion of fantasy heroes rise from humble beginnings?
Some games will allow reasonably effective armies – either keeping the power of individual characters modest or allowing powerful people to command hordes of monsters, summoned demons, powerful golems, angels, or what-have-you. But unless the game is built around mass battles – a distinct rarity in RPG’s – those armies are just as much a part of the loot as the people, land, and infrastructure. The ruling class is always far more capable than their creations and summonings; otherwise the creations and summonings would be running things instead.
- There’s no point in holding a war if one side is vastly more powerful than the other.
- If the sides are roughly even, it will come down to a battle between the two ruling classes in any case, since that is where most of the real AND political power is concentrated.
In either case… there is no point in wasting time hauling in lesser forces. The only really efficient tactic is to bypass every minor obstacle you can in a high-speed strike against the enemy rulers. There’s no real point to targeting the land, people or infrastructure; those are just a part of the loot.
Yes, in d20 that’s pretty much back to scry-and-die, and an ever-escalating series of countermeasures and counter-countermeasures to specific approaches to the same general idea. The problem is that it is extremely difficult for a game master to find a way to make stopping to deal with a lot of minor opponents before the main battle a more efficient way to fight than bypassing as many of those minor obstacles as possible. It can be done – the side-quests may lead to a series of plot coupons that let the characters win easily, or they could level up a few times along the way, or they could steal vital supplies – but why do the local rulers have a mysterious weakness that no one has exploited before and which they haven’t done anything about? If this is normal, why are there ANY stable states? Why are those vital supplies there to be captured instead of somewhere safe? Why aren’t the opponents leveling up too?
The solution is actually pretty simple for player characters. This makes the game BORING. If players insist on doing this… “Well, that was fast! That’s all I’ve got for this evening, which of you guys wants to run a pick-up game?”.
They won’t make a habit of doing that. NPC’s however… NPC’s are aware that THEY (as opposed to the abstract playing piece of “their character”) can lose. They will want to avoid “wars” because magic makes the results HIGHLY unpredictable – and they have a lot to lose and not much to gain. They’re the ruling class; they already have wealth, power, and luxury. When you already have “all the cake I can eat!” twice as much cake isn’t really a big draw.
Inter-state warfare… is going to look a LOT like many an old-style adventure; A small group of powerful people gathers information, prepares themselves, sneaks in past as many of the defenses as possible, and launches a drive towards their objective when they’ve gotten as close as they can.
You can still have crusades, and waves of peasants throwing themselves at an objective of course – but that’s pretty much a symptom of insanity, not an effective way of making war in a fantasy RPG. It’s not like the Battle of Helm’s Deep, or Pelennor fields really decided anything in the War of the Rings; Sauron was overthrown by a tiny party of adventurers (including one undependable and treacherous thief) making a deep infiltration run into enemy territory. Sure, that’s a novel not a RPG – but such novels are a large part of the inspiration for Fantasy RPG’s.