Eclipse – Sample Races, Templates, and Characters Update

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

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

Character Creation and System Primer

Sample Races:

Sample Templates:

Eclipse Pathfinder:

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

Sample Level One Character Builds:

Level-by-Level Class Breakdowns:

General Build Information and Power Packages:

Sample High-Level Characters:

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

Level Two Sample Characters:

Level Three Sample Characters:

Level Four Sample Characters:

Level Five Sample Characters:

Level Six Sample Characters:

Level Seven Sample Characters:

Level Eight Sample Characters:

Higher Level Sample Characters:

Level Ten and Twenty Breakdowns:

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

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

Alzrius’s Eclipse d20 Ponies:

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

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

Latest Material Index

Continue reading

Latest Material Index

Continue reading

Latest Material Index

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

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

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

. Cumulative General Index. Continue reading

Practical Enchantment – Bardic Instruments and Knacks

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

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

-Tolkien,

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

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

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

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

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

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

For our next obvious possibility, lets look at…

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

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

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

For our third major function we have…

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

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

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

Finally, for our fourth power, we have the…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eclipse – The Houngan Conjurer II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cincture Of The Raven (1 Point Relic):

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

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

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

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

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

Girding Of The Forest Lands (1 Point Relic):

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

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

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

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

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

Cincture Of War (1 CP Relic):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Permanency and The Practical Enchanter

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

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

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

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

-Alzrius

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

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

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

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

So how DOES the standard “Permanency” spell work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eclipse – Birthrights And The Harrowed Gate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birthrights bring that sort of thing back.

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

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

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

Childe’ Of The Harrowed Gate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dirty Trick Masters in Eclipse d20

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how to build Dirty Tricks in Eclipse?

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

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

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

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

Dirty Trickster Style (Dex):

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

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

Basic Techniques:

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

Advanced And Master Techniques:

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

Alternative Master Techniques:

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

Occult Techniques:

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

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

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

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

Gadgets Beneath The Eclipse:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, as an Occult Skill…

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

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

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

For some classic medieval d20 setting examples, lets price…

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

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

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

And I hope that helps!

Eclipse Witchcraft – Skills, Actions, and Concentration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And hopefully that adds clarity instead of confusion!

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

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

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

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

Makhpia-Luta (Red Cloud)

Level One Earth Mage

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

Low-Level Template (0 CP)

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

Nomadic Cultural Package Deal (0 CP)

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

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

Basic Expenditures (17 CP):

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

Usual Weapons:

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

Talents (16 CP):

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

Master Sorcerer (36 CP):

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

Other Abilities (3 CP):

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

Skills (20 SP):

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

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

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

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

Eclipse d20 – Kohana-Makawee, Loreward Of The Plains

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

Totem-Sworn (Raven) (6 CP)

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

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

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

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

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

Low-Level Template (0 CP)

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

Nomadic Cultural Package Deal (0 CP)

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

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

Basic Expenditures (42 CP)

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

Usual Weapons:

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

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

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

Other Skills (8 SP):

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

Other Abilities (24 CP):

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

Personal History:

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

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

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

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

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

The Condensed Skill List:

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

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

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

 

Eclipse – Building Variant Familiars

And for today, it’s a question:

I don’t think this has been covered in an article yet, so I wanted to ask what a familiar’s full suite of powers (as detailed on page 189 of Eclipse) would look like if they were measured in terms of CP costs?

-Alzrius

That is a pretty good question. After all, Pathfinder added a bunch of Variant Familiars – labeling them “Familiar Archetypes” – that modified stamdard familiar abilities. The quick way to do this in Eclipse is to just buy Companion (Familiar) Specialized and/or Corrupted for Increased Effect (adds some abilities) at the cost of deleting others. And that generally works just fine if someone just wants to tweak their familiar a bit. It can, however, get awkward when someone starts trying to seriously optimize things. At that point… you’ll want to know what the various abilities, and sequences thereof, are actually worth.

To start with the basics…

The Eclipse “Companion” ability creates an empowering link with the creature chosen – although the extent of that link varies with the exact type of bond formed. In effect, that’s a limited form of “Blessing” that doesn’t drain the “donor”.

In the case of a Familiar or “Psi-Crystal” that bond is especially tight. In Eclipse terms, it’s been Specialized (the backlash of loosing a familiar) for Increased Effect. Familiars get their hit points, base saves, base skills, effective level, and base attack bonus from their owners wherever these exceed the companions. There is no cost for this on the Familiars end though.

Animated Objects gain +12 HP instead of using half their owners, “heal” 2d4 hit points per day, and have a +4 base in Spot, Listen, Move Silently, and Search for their “base skills”. That’s good at low levels, but a poor deal at higher ones when the Familiars base skills generally become quite irrelevant. Fundamentally, it’s a bit harder to empower a construct with personal energies than it is a creature simply because constructs are pretty alien to most masters.

Familiars also gain bonuses based on their masters level which are much more predictable – although in baseline d20 only levels in particular classes add to a Familiar’s abilities. That doesn’t really apply in Eclipse though, so Familiars get…

  • A base intelligence of 5 if it isn’t already higher and +(Masters Level / 2, rounded up) Intelligence with no apparent upper limit. Personally I’d limit it to 20 or so (at level thirty) since there’s only so much you can supercharge a brain – put that’s just me. I’m going to go with it though for design reasons.

That’s still tricky to price, if only due to that “if it isn’t already higher” clause. Worse, it’s a LOT of points if you just buy it as self-development. You could buy all kinds of other stuff with those points. Worst of all… Pathfinder offers one Familiar Archetype that trades it in for extra strength – which, to be blunt, is rather silly. It’s also redundant in Eclipse, where – if you want a combat machine – you just take a Companion Creature instead of a Familiar with your “Companion” ability.

Personally, I’m buying it as Innate Enchantment (Intelligence 500 GP, Int 20, 8000 GP) for 9 CP, Immunity to the XP costs of this particular enchantment (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP), and Immunity to Dispelling, Antimagic, and Disjunction (Common, Minor, Epic, Specialized and Corrupted / only to protect this Innate Enchantment, 6 CP) and Specialize the whole package – basically gradual availability only – for a net cost of 8 CP. Yes, that’s a case of double Specialization, but in this case it doesn’t matter much. If you want to trade it out for better Charisma, or better Wisdom, or a mix of smaller values… you certainly can.

  • +(Masters Level / 2) Natural Armor. OK, it’s not QUITE the same – but Defender (Natural Armor) and Defender (Dodge) each with +1 to AC, Specialized / only gradual availability (12 CP) gets us pretty much the same result. Slightly better even, since the Dodge bonus will help against touch attacks.
  • Familiars can grant their masters +6 CP worth of some specific ability – although it’s usually something like Skill Focus or a Save Bonus, or something else that’s less-than-efficient. That’s Whatever-it-is (Specialized, only for use with Blessing, 3 CP) and Blessing (Specialized and Corrupted / only to bestow that specific power, only on it’s master, only if within the current range of the link, 2 CP).
  • They can take an automatic “Aid Another” action on Spot and Listen checks if the companion would also get a roll in it’s current location and is close enough for the link to operate. (In basic d20 this is represented as Familiars granting the Alertness Feat). That’s Opprotunist for Aid Another, Specialized in Spot and Perception for the person it’s linked to (3 CP).
  • They gain Improved Fortune (Evasion) for (12 CP).
  • They gain a Mystic Link with their masters, over which they can communicate speech and sensory information, share spells, and transmit spells. That’s Mystic Link with the Power, Identity, and Communications upgrades (12 CP). Unfortunately, several aspects of this are limited.
    • The range has a base of one mile, increasing to planetary range at level 17 and to transdimensional Range at level 19 and up.
    • The Location aspect does not function until level three.
    • The communications aspect transmits emotions at level 3+, telepathy at level 5+, and sense-sharing at level 13+
    • The spell transmission aspect allows spell/power sharing and the transmission of touch effects through the Familiar at level one. At level fifteen it allows externally-directed spells and powers to be transmitted through the Familiar.
      • Overall, that’s probably Specialized, reducing the cost to a mere (6 CP).
  • Familiars can speak with other animals of similar types when their masters hit level seven and can speak normally when their masters hit level nine. That’s a limited version of Speak With Animals (only related types, x.5 = 1000 GP) and something resembling Message (1000 GP) added to their Innate Enchantments. Those aren’t really limited by availablity, so (+2 CP).

Animated Objects gain the ability to speak normally at L7 (Message, 1000 GP) and gain +3 Construction Points at Level 9 (Enhance Construct I, enhancements must always be the same, 1000 GP) – increasing the cost of their Innate Enchantments by (+2 CP). Classically these are spent on Flight with +20 on the speed to get it up to 50′, but this is Eclipse; buy something else if you like.

  • A choice of Spell or Power Resistance (6 CP).

Overall, that comes to a grand total of 54 CP over twenty levels. That isn’t an enormous number of points to play with, and they’re pretty efficiently spent already, but for those out there who might want to fiddle with alternative progressions… now you know what you have to work with.

The Wild Men Of Atheria

Cenric has some troops. In fact, he quite literally has a troop of gorillas. Now, normally, even with Beastlord, he could only have CR 1 beasts for his “Horde of Troops” and Apes are CR 2 – but I’m going to presume a variant where he gets a lot less of them but uses a CR 2 base. If he wants more troops later… well, it will only cost a point or so to upgrade Horde to “Specialized for Double Effect”. After all, if you want a hidden jungle city of uplifted primates… you’re going to need some muscle.

Atherian Birthright.

Like all animals on Atheria, Gorillas have Birthrights. Unlike most other animals, gorillas are quite intelligent – in d20 terms, on the very upper limit of “Intelligence 2″ and only a little bit below the start of the normal human 3-18 scale. Just as importantly, they’re more massive than humans are, and that’s the second major element that determines birthright strength. Gorillas get full 30-31 CP birthrights just like humans do, although they are less inclined to complex magic.

In the forests and jungles of the Totem Domain of Atheria they are the Forest People, the Savage Folk, the Hidden Ones, and the Wild Men. They were before Homo Sapiens, and will be after. Dancing on the borderline of true sentience, they are Tarzan’s all-too-clever apes who have the beginnings of language and society, who communicate among themselves to some extent with cries and gestures, who learn quickly, who build simple structures, and who assemble basic tools. Before men came to Atheria… their tribes were among the most formidable groups of the Totemistic Realm, and they still hold their own lonely mountain lands.

  • Brachiation: Immunity / the distinction between normal ground movement and brachiation (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial (since this only calls for a first level spell effect, 1 CP). The great apes can move and swing through the forest canopy, or through the rafters of a cathedral, or in any similar environment as readily as they can on land.
  • Howls Of War / Legionary, Specialized / only with other Great Apes (3 CP). The apes instinctively work together to defend their bands and forest homes – and do so quite effectively.
  • Brute Force Approach / Finesse: Bases SP/Level on Str instead of Int (6 CP). Given that they are far more inclined to physical pursuits than intellectual ones, most of their skills depend more on raw physical ability than anything else.
  • Jungle Master / Adept: may purchase Listen, Martial Arts (Jungle Lord Style), Spot, and Survival for half cost (6 CP).
  • Strengths Of The Great Beasts / Innate Enchantment (Up to 6500 GP Value, 7 CP).
    • Greatclub (as per Shillelagh, but works on a chosen type of club, 2000 GP).
    • Surefoot: +10 Competence Bonus to Balance, Climb, Jump, and Tumble. The user does not lose his or her dexterity bonus to AC when balancing or climbing (2000 GP).
    • Towering Oak: +2 Str, +10 Competence to Intimidation (2000 GP).
  • Immunity / The XP Costs of Racial Innate Enchantments, Specialized and Corrupted / only through spell level one caster level one (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP).
  • Immunity / Dispelling and Antimagic (Common, Minor, Major, Specialized and Corrupted / only to cover racial innate enchantments, effectively converting them to extraordinary abilities, 2 CP).
  • Racial Skill Bonuses:
    • Jungle Lord Style +6 (3 CP).
    • Listen, Spot, and Tumble +2 (3 CP).
    • Specific Knowledges: Troop Tactics (1 CP) and Primitive Defensive Works (1 CP).
  • Racial Disadvantage: Accursed / Lacks the vocal flexibility needed to speak complex languages, although they can use sign language (-3 CP).

As with most creatures of Atheria, Birthrights make Gorillas much more formidable than the lesser creatures known to most other worlds that rely on animal strengths alone.

Now Cenric has taken the Emperor’s Star modifier on his Leadership – allowing him to grant all of his followers +1 Positive Level, although the benefits must be the same for all of them. Now a positive level is an excellent deal, granding…

  • +1 BAB
  • +1 to AC
  • +1 to Saves – and
  • +6 CP. In this case this is invested in…
    • Some additional Innate Enchantments – a L1 Pearl Of Power (1000 GP), with Intelligence 14 (1500 GP) and Charisma 12 (500 GP). That gives our Gorillas decent mental stats for (3 CP).
    • Immunity to the XP cost of these additional Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP) and comes with a high enough caster level that no one is likely to dispel it temporarily.
    • Proficiency with Clubs (1 CP).
    • The “Well Off” Wealth Level, Specialized / only to cover Charms and Talismans and Skill Bonuses (+2 to Speak Language: effectively +4 due to Speak Language being Tier 2. Covers Sign Language, their own semi-language of ape-noises, and understanding two human languages and +2 (+6 as Tier 3) to Craft / Treeweaving) (1 CP).

Their usual set of Charms and Talismans includes: Shimmermail (+4 Armor Bonus with no penalties, appears as stylized armor), All-Weather Cloaks (to remain comfortable), Journeybread (food for a month in a small bag), and Sovereign Ointment (heals minor injufies).

Skills:

Tier I:

  • Jungle Lord Style: +7 (3* SP) +6 (Str) +6 (Race) = +19
  • Knowledge/Nature: +7 (7 SP) +2 (Int) = +9
  • Spot: +7 (3* SP) +1 (Wis) +2 (Feat) +2 (Race) = +12
  • Survival: +7 (3* SP) +1 (Wis) +2 (Race) = +10
  • Swim: +4 (4 SP) +6 (Str) = +10
  • Tumble: +3 (3 SP) +2 (Dex) +10 (Comp) = +15

Tier II:

  • Balance: +7 (3 SP) +2 (Dex) +10 (Comp) = +19
  • Climb: +7 (3 SP) +6 (Str) +10 (Comp) +8 (Race) = +31
  • Heal: +5 (2 SP) +1 (Wis) = +6
  • Intimidate: +7 (3 SP) +1 (Cha) +10 (Comp) = +18
  • Listen: +7 (1* SP) +1 (Wis) +4 (Feat) +4 (Race) = +16
  • Speak Language: +7 (3 SP) +4 (Wealth) +2 (Int) = +13. Can understand most languages, but can only speak their own very primitive tongue and use sign language.

Tier III:

  • Craft (Treeweaving) +7 (2 SP) +2 (Int) +6 (Wealth) = +15
  • Jump: +1 (0 SP) +6 (Str) +10 (Comp) = +17

Jungle Lord Style (Str):

The Jungle Lord style is not the agile dance of the monkey style, but the brutal smashing of the killer ape. There is no delicacy here, no finely perfected katas – merely the ancient urge to destroy and the swift reflexes of the hindbrain, unmediated by conscious thought.

  • Requires: Str 18+.
  • Basic Techniques: Strike, Power 3, Attack 3, Defenses 3
  • Advanced And Master Techniques: Brutal Parry (Finesse, Adds Str Mod to AC Instead of Dex Mod), Mind Like Moon, Weapon Kata (Chosen type of Club), and Combat Reflexes.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength II, Ki Focus (Damage), and Resist Pain.
  • Known Techniques (10): Strike, Power 3, Brutal Parry, Weapon Kata (Iron Bound Spiked Club), Combat Reflexes, Inner Strength II and Resist Pain.

Putting it all together, this gives us…

Size/Type Large Animal
Hit Dice 4d8+8 (26 hp)
Initiative +2
Speed 30 ft. (6 squares), climb 30 ft.
Armor Class 23 (-1 size, +6 Str, +3 natural +4 Armor +1 Pos Level), touch 11, flat-footed 17
Base Attack/Grapple +4/+13
Attack Claw +9 melee (1d12+6) or Club +12 Melee (3d10+10) or Large Javelin +6 (1d10+6).
Full Attack 2 claws +9 melee (1d12+6) and bite +4 melee (1d6+3) or weapons as “attack”, above.
Space/Reach 10 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks Three Attacks of Opportunity with Claws or Club.
Special Qualities Low-light vision, scent
Saves Fort +7, Ref +7, Will +3
Abilities Str 23, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 12
Skills See Above.
Feats Alertness, Toughness (Taken as Universal DR 3/-)
Environment Warm Forests
Organization As a military troop under Cenric.
Challenge Rating 2

Overall, Cenric’s gorillas are reasonably formidable in melee, if far less so at range – but it is certainly hard to deny the intimidation factor of a bunch of massive, armored, gorillas with really big clubs.

Restricted Magic In The Practical Enchanter

And for today, and to get things started again, it’s a question!

Page 106 of The Practical Enchanter lists “User Restrictions” cost modifiers for making magic items. While these are a pretty easy way to limit who can activate the item(s) they’re applied to, they don’t seem to be that hard to bypass. Leaving aside that someone with the relevant item creation abilities simply pays the difference to have those restrictions removed, many of these seem to be exactly the sort of restriction that Use Magic Device is there to bypass.

My question is, is there a way to make it more difficult to use either of these options to bypass those restrictions? How do I make a magic item require a higher DC on a Use Magic Device check in order to get around its restrictions? How can I build in an anti-tampering measure so that someone can’t simply buy off the difference and remove a restriction? Would it require making the magic item sentient or is there another way?

-Alzrius

As Alzrius indirectly points out with his question, classical magical items tended to be what they were, they did what they did, and there really wasn’t any way around that – or to use them if you didn’t happen to fit their criteria.

Thor’s Hammer Mjolnir (“The Crusher”) was forged by Brokkr and Sindri, a pair of Dwarves. Thanks to Loki, it wound up with too short a handle for two-handed use. You’ll note that Thor didn’t take it back and have it fixed or upgraded though. Instead, he simply made the best of it.

Similarly, nobody tried to improve the Aegis after mounting Medusa’s head on it, or add more powers to the Djinni imprisoned in Al-Shamardal’s ring, or take the curse off of Tyrfing. Most of the time… once an item had been created, it didn’t change.

Even those items that weren’t powered by having a spirit trapped in them or by being forged from parts of some legendary monster usually couldn’t be upgraded. That isn’t to say that there’s no precedent at all – a few items of legend become more powerful after being bathed in dragons blood, or blessed by some mighty entity, or being used to perform great deeds – but that was fairly rare and usually was a case of the item not quite being finished in the first place or needing another magical boost to temporarily power it up.

That was the way it was in first and second edition D&D and most other tabletop games. Items were what they were – and while the game master would generally ensure that you got some good ones along the way (often quite intentionally covering your characters weaknesses or playing to his or her strengths) that Frost Brand Sword, or Wand Of Conjuration, or whatever was likely to be your characters signature gadget throughout most of his or her career.

And that was generally a good thing. The tales of how Markatha the Dragonslayer wielded his icy blade to slay the Fire Dragon of the West, held it to his chest and wrapped himself in sheets of asbestos to allow him to cross the burning desert, extinguished a section of flaming palisade to allow the people trapped within to escape a holocaust, and fought dozens of other menaces with his Frost Brand sword – and how his companion Amarith of the Shining Word used his Silver Wand Of Conjuration to defy a swarm of demons through the artful use of prismatic barriers and defied the traps of an ancient tomb with a swarm of summoned monsters – were as much or more a part of the reward for playing as that heap of gold, art objects, and rare jewels that they kept in the castle basement of the levels they earned. Gold Pieces were just numbers of a sheet, stories would be retold for decades, long after the actual game – and all those numbers on a character sheet – were distant memories.

You were playing to have fun with friends and to collect tales of great adventures and epic death scenes, romances, brilliant improvisations and solutions, daring rescues, clever mysteries, and unlikely feats that someone managed to pull off.

But when third edition rolled around… things changed quite a lot. Sometimes for good reasons, sometimes not, and quite often simply for the sake of change. It even picked up a few bits from the up-and-coming MMORPG’s of the day – and one idea that got pushed was making in-game rewards more readily trackable and more consistent and letting the players make stuff without all those bothersome quests. After all, there really was no good way to write rules that generated interesting quests or stories that would be remembered after the game.

One major change was that money and level came to mean a lot more. Items were made consistent, and – rather than game masters being encouraged to tweak things and hand out unique, signature, items – the idea of a gradual progression was built into the game as “wealth by level”. Now there had been traces of that earlier, as shown by the jokes about high-level warriors employing a golfing-style “sword caddy” to handle all their magical swords – but now, with the slow progression of “level appropriate” items, magic items became a panoply that you gradually upgraded and replaced as you rose in level – and if you let a low-level character have a really powerful weapon it threw off the game, regardless of whether they used it or if they sold it and used the money to boost the entire party.

Magic Items had to scale with level. Yet you didn’t want characters just trading out their equipment all the time to suit current missions. So… the rules said that you only got half price when you sold items.

But that meant that a character who got lucky with the random tables and got pretty much what they wanted would be way ahead of a character who got a bunch of stuff that didn’t suit them and had to trade it in. Being able to upgrade items was a partial solution to that – and also had the advantage that it let a character hang onto specific items for at least a little longer. That also meant that destroying gear was suddenly a no-no, instead of a risk of confronting something major – but that was a different sort of problem.

This also, very shortly, led to the introduction of artificer-types, who treated magic items like used cars, to be stripped down for parts. Magic items were no longer objects of wonder, but things to be junked and disposed of – or, at best, traded in or rebuilt – when you next went shopping at the magic-mart.

Thus, like most radical new solutions to classically-intractable problems, wealth-by-level and level-appropriate items created brand new problems of their very own.

Personally, I think there’s a strong appeal to those old notions of legendary magical items, things of ancient mystery, instead of mechanical devices to be rebuilt as convenient. After all… you didn’t see King Arthur taking Excalibur back to the shop to be upgraded with extra elemental damage or trading it in for a better model did you? The sword was a part of his legend.

So how to get back to that?

The first – and simplest – method is to return to the halcyon days of first and second edition and use “Create Artifact” for all your magic items other than potions and scrolls. Each one is now a unique (and usually fairly powerful) device, most of them will be permanent or rechargeable, and there’s no provision in “Create Artifact” for “upgrading” things other than simply including your current item as an ingredient and going on a brand new creation-quest. Of course, what you gain in simplicity on one end you lose on the other; now you need to make up unique items for major NPC’s unless you just mostly use an older-edition list. They may or may not be subject to “use magic device”, but the DC is likely to be high given their unique and idiosyncratic nature.

Relics kind of compromise. It is possible to upgrade at least some relics – but you can’t get rid of what’s already there, you can only improve them, removing restrictions will make them less powerful, it will cost permanent character points to upgrade them, and most campaigns will set strict limits on how many CP can be invested in any given relic and on how many CP worth of relics a character can have in total. They are pretty much immune to “Use Magic Device” though, simply because technically they’re not magical devices. They’re relics.

With standard magic items things are a little more awkward because there’s already a mess of rules covering what you’re trying to stop.

  • You can make them intelligent, and give them the ability to make life uncomfortable for anyone who tries to “upgrade” or use them against their will. That can be a fairly drastic power boost though since they can presumably use those same powers against other targets. On the other hand… it does make it awkward to try and just destroy the item or use it to pay for something else. Moreover, since things like “alignment” and “purpose” are freebies, they can’t be upgraded to something else.
  • If you apply the Impervious modifier (also from The Practical Enchanter, +31,500 GP and 2520 XP) then the item becomes essentially indestructible – which may extend to being upgraded and / or Use Magic Device if you like. Items that are impossible to meddle with are impossible to meddle with!
  • You can simply decree them Cursed. There isn’t anything in the standard rules that puts a price on curses, and “cannot be upgraded or modified” and / or “more or less resistant to “Use Magic Device” and / or “can only be upgraded or modified via an appropriate quest” certainly counts as a curse in a standard game. In fact, there’s no reason why an item can’t have multiple curses on it. Of course, The Practical Enchanter DOES give a price reduction for generic curses – and thereby opens up a way to remove them via upgrading – but if an item is cursed so that it cannot be upgraded, I think that would tend to trump trying to uncurse it by upgrading it.

About Use Magic Device… sure, it’s a standard part of the game and, but it has always struck me as a bit iffy depending on just how an item works.

Lets say that you have made a magical cloak. A Cloak Of Gnomish Trickery. It’s only for Gnomes, and it allows them to use their racial cantrips (dancing lights, ghost sound, and prestidigitation) twice a day each instead of only once.

  • If I build the cloak using a Pearl Of Power type effect – (250 GP per Cantrip x 3 Cantrips x .4 (only for a specific set of cantrips) x.7 (Gnomes Only) = 210 GP) – I have a neat little toy for a low-level gnome, but while “Use Magic Device” would let an elf who happened to have limited use of those particular cantrips use it to refresh them, it wouldn’t help him if he didn’t have at least one of those three cantrips in the first place. You can’t refresh a spell slot that’s not there.
  • If I build the cloak using a use-activated effect (Spell Level 1/2 x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x 3 Cantrips x .2 (once per day each) x.7 (Gnomes Only) = 420 GP) then Use Magic Device will work just fine.

And if a Cloak Of Gnomish Trickery turns up in a module priced at – say – 300 GP? Who knows how it was built? Use Magic Device is generally presumed to work – but if the Hellfire Scepter is fueled by the malice of your soul, as opposed to simply requiring an evil alignment to activate… should Use Magic Device be able to supply that dark power instead of just doing the equivalent of picking the lock on the trigger?

Worse, of course, about 99% of games and items never go into enough detail to tell you how items work – and it’s really hard to blame them for that. Hardly anyone actually cares.

By the way, as a note… “Emulate an Alignment: Some magic items have positive or negative effects based on the user’s alignment. Use Magic Device lets you use these items as if you were of an alignment of your choice. You can emulate only one alignment at a time.” doesn’t actually say that you can trigger a device that requires a particular alignment – just that if it has effects based on your alignment you can pick which effect you want. Still, nobody plays it that way.

So now that I’ve philosophically rambled all over the place… I shall attempt to answer the question!

  • In the case of reasonably-important permanent devices increasing the DC on Use Magic Device is most easily done as a “Flourish” (Practical Enchanter, Page 107). Honestly, the extent of the DC increase can be pretty much arbitrary; it’s not like it’s usually a major concern. For a default… +1 per 4000 GP value is probably reasonable. That will make it epically difficult to use major devices that are made to resist such usage, but that’s actually fair enough.
  • Alternatively, for any item… the maker can make a Spellcraft check with a +10 bonus when making the item. The result will be the DC for Use Magic Device checks made on the item. After all, anyone who’s building a device can make it harder to use (it’s making it EASY to use that’s hard). Why should magic items be any different? Of course, if you increase the difficulty of using the thing too far… it may become harder for the people you want to be using it as well.
  • Anti-tampering measures are usually built as Maledictions. That would be (Spell Level x Caster Level x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .2 (once per day maximum) x.1 (only when someone attempts to modify the device – which hardly ever happens and generally requires a full day, so once per day is sufficient) = 40/240/600/1120/1800/2640/3640/4800/6120 GP for a Level 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9 Malediction effect – usually causing something to go seriously wrong with the attempt or with the required “fairly quiet, comfortable, and well-lit place in which to work”.

Honestly, you shouldn’t need a malediction of more than third level to cause an unacceptable interruption, but if you really want to have a plague of werewolves or major demon attack or some such you can go ahead and sink the extra 6120 GP into your item for a ninth level effect.

You can do something similar if you wish to add a highly specific curse to the device – “no one who has touched me can use Use Magic Device on me without massive penalties” (probably level one or two) – which can be gotten around by picking up the device, getting a remove curse spell, and then making your roll, but who’s going to think of that?

Or you can go with the “Cannot Be Upgraded” Curse/Restriction as well, in which case the attempt is hopeless to begin with AND unleashes some disaster.

There’s also some discussion on this and related topics in THIS article and it’s comments.

And I hope that helps!

Eclipse d20 – Cenric, Barbarian Beastmaster

Honestly, the inspiration for this one is probably 50% Tarzan, 50% the Monkey King, and 50% Mowgli. At 150% that pretty much makes him Enkidu, and – like all d20 characters – properly larger than life. As a highly optimized character from Atheria, with it’s powerful Birthrights, cut-rate Attributes, and special magical options… he’s quite powerful indeed.

Birthright: Atherian Barbarian (Gorilla Totem, 31 CP +0 ECL Race).

Those enhanced by the Gorilla totem are probably the most straightforward subtype of Atherian Barbarian there is. They are bigger, tougher, and stronger than normal people – but have relatively few outre capabilities. On the other hand, few totems find humans a better channel for their abilities than the Gorilla.

As usual for Atherian Barbarians, their abilities are all bought Corrupted (gives them obvious animalistic features and powerful instincts according to their tribal totems).This allows their 31 CP racial allowance to provide 47 CP worth of abilities:

  • Innate Enchantment (Up to 8500 GP Value, 9 CP). While this is something of a rarity among the Barbarians, Gorillas are so close to human that their racial aptitudes are come through extremely well.
    • Branch To Branch: Gain Brachiation Only (x.5) = 1000 GP. May swing through trees and on vines at (Ground Movement Rate + 10′).
    • Embrace The Wild: Gain Low-Light Vision, Scent, and a +2 Typeless Bonus to Listen and Spot. (2000 GP).
    • Skill Mastery / Enhance Skill Group: Gains a +3 Competence Bonus to Jungle Skills – Animal Handling, Knowledge / Nature, Martial Arts (Jungle Lord Style), and Survival ((Personal-Only, 1400 GP).
    • Surefoot: +10 Competence to Balance, Climb, Jump, and Tumble. The user does not lose his or her dexterity bonus to AC when balancing or climbing (2000 GP).
    • Towering Oak: +2 Str, +10 Competence to Intimidation (2000 GP).
  • Immunity / The XP Costs of Racial Innate Enchantments, Specialized and Corrupted / only through spell level one caster level one (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP).
  • Muscle Memory: Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus: Adds (Str Mod) to (Int Mod) for Skill Point Purchases, Only through level six, only for physical skills (6 CP).
  • +6 Str (18 CP), +4 Con (12 CP), +2 Dex (6 CP)
  • +1 Bonus to Jungle Lord Martial Arts (Strike).
  • Disadvantage: Insane (Exceptionally Powerful Instincts): As far as Gorilla Tribesmen are concerned… the organization of a gorilla band is the right and proper way to do things! They aren’t just what their instincts demand – they’re the way that EVERYONE should live! (-3 CP).

Basic Attributes: Str 14 (+6 Racial +2 Enh +1 Level +1 Purchased = 24), Dex 12 (+2 Racial = 14), Con 14 (+4 Racial = 18), Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 12 (28 Point 3.5 Point Buy).

Available Character Points: 96 (L3 Base) +10 (Disadvantages; Obligations to Trademaster Piso, History, Irreverent) +12 (L1, L2 Bonus Feats) +6 (Duties, has pacted with a Fey Lord to create a kingdom of intelligent animals) = 124 CP

Basic Purchases: (69 CP)

  • Wealth Level: Starting: Common, Currently Well-off (3 CP), further upgraded to Affluent, but this is Specialized and Corrupted / only for Charms and Talismans (2 CP)
    • Starting at “Common” got him the option to take two NPC Class (Adept, Aristocrat, Expert, or Warrior) Levels as a +1 ECL Template. He took Expert (L1, +24 SP, d6HD, +2 Will) and Warrior (L2 +2 SP, d8HD, Proficient with Simple and Martial Weapons, Armor, and Shields, +2 Fort). This is quite effective for warrior-types.
    • Armor Shields & Weaponry: Heavy Armor, Shields, Specialized Weapons and Equipment.
    • Five Charms and Two Talismans.
    • May have a loyal henchman (In his case his Riding Mastadon) and a dozen ordinary employees / slaves.
  • Base Attack Bonus: +4 Specialized for Increased Effect / only with “primitive” weapons (24 CP), no iterative attack. +1 (Template) = +1 General, +9 with Primitive Weapons.
  • Hit Points: 22 (L1-3d8, 12 CP) +14 (L1 Template) +55 ([Str Mod + Con Mod] x 5) = 91 HP.
  • Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus: Adds (Str Mod) to (Con Mod) for HP Purposes, Specialized and Corrupted / only through level six (6 CP).
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fortitude +0 (Purchased) +2 (Template) +4 (Con) +1 (Mor) = +7.
    • Reflex +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +2 (Dex) +1 (Mor) = +5
    • Will +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +0 (Wis) +2 (Template) +1 (Mor) = +5
      • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saves (6 CP).
  • Proficiencies: Simple and Martial Weapons, Light, Medium, and Heavy Armor, and Shields (Template).
  • Skill Points: 6 SP (6 CP) +56 (Str Mod x 8) +30 (Template) +16 (Int Mod x8) = 108 SP.
    • Adept: Pays half cost for Animal Handling, Knowledge / Nature, Martial Arts (Jungle Lord Style), and Survival (6 CP)
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +2 (Dex) +4 (Shimmermail) = 16 (Adjusted by weapon, see below).
  • Initiative: +2 (Dex).
  • Movement: 30 (Base) +10 (when brachiating).

Usual Weapons:

  • Large Thrown Rocks (Ancient Huntsman Style): +11/+11/+11/+11/+11 (+9 BAB +2 Dex +1 MA +1 Mor -2 Bonus Attack), Damage 1d10+7+1 (Str) (Mor), Crit 20/x2. Expertise (may reduce attack check by up to -5 in favor of +2 damage per step). 20′ Range Increment.
  • Large Two-Handed Iron Bound Spiked Club (Jungle Lord Style): +15/+15 (+9 BAB +7 Str +1 Mor -2 Bonus Attack), 3d8+17 (1.5x Str, +1 Mor +5 Impact, Crit 19-20/x3. +5 to AC while wielded, 3 Attacks Of Opportunity, may use Resist Pain while using this style.
    • Martial: 5 Design Points, Two-Handed: +3 Design Points, Additional Design Points: +3 (50 GP). Improved Critical (x3, -3 DP), Damage 2d6 (5 DP). Improved Critical Threat 19-20 (3 DP). Net: 2d6, 19-20/x3
  • Unarmed (Jungle Lord Style): +17 (+9 BAB +7 Str +1 Mor), 1d4+8 (Str, Mor), Crit 20/x2, +5 to AC, 3 Attacks Of Opportunity, may use Resist Pain while using this style.
  • Any Large Object (Pioneer Spirit Style): +13 (+9 BAB +7 Str +1 Mor -4 Improvised), usually 1d6+8 (Str, Mor), Crit 20/x2, May subtract up to -5 from Attacks to add +2 to AC per point subtracted when using this style.
  • Large Thrown Javelin (Savannah Hunter Style): +11/+11 (+9 BAB +2 Dex +1 MA +1 Mor -2 Fast Throw), 1d8+8 (Str, Mor), Crit 20/x2 plus automatic trip, 30′ Range Increment.
  • Large Knife (Stone Fang Style): +19 (+9 BAB +7 Str +2 MA +1 Mor), 1d8+8 (Str, Mor) +2d6 (Sneak Attack), Crit 20/x2, can use Whirlwind Attack and Ki Block.

Other Abilities (49 CP):

  • Leadership with Strength in Numbers, Horde, BeastLord, and Emperor’s Star, Specialized for Reduced Cost / only animals, Corrupted / only for Primates (7 CP). The +6 CP from Emperors Star go to Innate Enchantment(Muleback Cords, Sapient, Int 14, Cha 12, Speech, and +2 Con) – making his ape and monkey followers intelligent, speaking, and capable of carrying equipment.
  • Shaping, Specialized for Increased Effect and Specialzied for Reduced Cost / only to use the Beastmastery Cantrip (4 CP).
  • +5 Strength, Corrupted / user is a hulking brute, easily recognized, has a hard time finding armor and weapons that fit, and so on (20 CP). Four points spent to reduce the level of Beastmastery Anyspell IV to Zero.
    • This allows him unlimited use of animal magic spell effects of up to level three. He can speak with animals, have them scout areas for him, heal their injuries, summon them to attack (per Summon Nature’s Ally), borrow various animal powers, cause a stampede to cause minor damage over a fair area, calm animals, charm animals, send animal messengers, identify animals (and their birthrights), cast magic fang, and many other things – albeit all having to do with animals.
  • Monkey Grip (May use weapons one size larger than normal, 6 CP).
  • Imbuement (Iron-Bound Spiked Club), Specialized / only to grant it the Impact Property (+5 Damage) (6 CP).
  • Bonus Attack (Jungle Lord Style) (6 CP):

Skills (All +1 Morale):

Tier One Skills (Martial Arts) (36 SP):

  • Ancient Huntsman Style: +8 (8 SP) +7 (Str) = +16
  • Jungle Lord Style: +8 (4* SP) +3 (Enh) +7 (Str) +1 (Race) = +20
  • Pioneer Spirit Style: +8 (8 SP) +4 (Con) = +13
  • Savannah Hunter Style: +8 (8 SP) +7 (Str) = +16
  • Stone Fang Style: +8 (8 SP) +7 (Str) = +16

Tier One Skills (Other) (36 SP):

  • Animal Handling: +8 (4* SP) +3 (Enh) +1 (Cha) +2 (Sy) = +15
  • Hide +3 (3 SP) +2 (Dex) +4 (or more, Elfin Cloak) = +10 (+13 if still or in natural surrounds, +16 for both).
  • Knowledge/Architecture And Engineering +2 (2 SP) +2 (Int) = +5
  • Knowledge/Geography: +2 (2 SP) +2 (Int) +2 (Sy) = +7
  • Knowledge/Nature +8 (4* SP) +3 (Enh) +2 (Int) = +14
  • Spot: +8 (8 SP) +2 (Unk) +2 (Wis) +2 (Sy) = +15
  • Survival: +8 (4* SP) +3 (Enh) +2 (Wis) +2 (Sy) = +16
  • Swim: +1 (1 SP) +7 (Str) = +9
  • Tumble: +8 (8 SP) +2 (Dex) +10 (Enh) = +21

Tier Two Skills (23 SP):

  • Balance: +7 (3 SP) +2 (Dex) +10 (Comp) = +20
  • Climb: +8 (4 SP) +7 (Str) +10 (Comp) = +26
  • Handle Animal: +8 (4 SP) +2 (Cha) = +12
  • Heal: +8 (4 SP) +0 (Wis) = +9
  • Intimidate: +8 (4 SP) +1 (Cha) +10 (Comp) = +20
  • Listen: +0 (0 SP) +2 (Wis) +4 (Torc) = +7
  • Speak Language: +8 (4 SP) +2 (Int) = +11

Tier Three Skills (8 SP):

  • Craft / Primitive Weapons: +7 (2 SP) +2 (Int) = +10
  • Craft / Woodworking: +7 (2 SP) +2 (Int) = +10
  • Jump: +7 (2 SP) +7 (Str) +10 (Comp) = +25
  • Use Rope: +7 (2 SP) +2 (Dex) = +10

Skill Specialties (2 SP): Hide (In Trees), Knowledge/Nature (Animals),

Specific Knowledges (3 SP): The Barbarian Lands, The Dimensional Lands, Laws and Customs of the Imperium,

Martial Arts:

Ancient Huntsman Style (Str):

Humans throw rocks – and while there are other creatures that throw rocks, humans and protohumans do it accurately and effectively. It’s one of the defining traits of the human evolutionary line. Bands of ape-men throwing rocks stood against everything Africa put up against them – and won. This “martial art” is founded on the reflexes of two million years – and on the spirits of the ancestors who back up it’s users. With it, you throw rocks. Fast and hard. And, if you are skilled enough – your distant ancestors will inspire other rocks join in on the fun.

  • Requires: at least a +2 BAB specialized in Primitive Weapons (Rocks, flasks, grenades, etc)
  • Basic Techniques: Power 2, Attack 2, Strike, and Toughness 4.
  • Advanced And Master Techniques: Blinding Strike, Rapid Shot (Rocks), Quick Draw (Rocks), and Expertise (Attack and Damage, Specialized for Double Effect / only to transfer from Attack to Damage).
  • Occult Techniques: Man-Band Spirit, Inner Strength 2, and Wrath (Force Damage).
  • Known Techniques (8): Strike, Power 2, Attack 1, Rapid Shot, Quick Draw, Expertise, and Man-Band Spirit.

Man-Band Spirit: Presence (Swift Hurling effect), Specialized for Increased Effect / The user effectively throws three extra rocks at his highest BAB when making a full attack – but this only works with plain rocks, which take off to follow the leading rock as if the user had thrown them.

Swift Hurling:

  • Transmutation, L1 Bard, Sorcerer/Wizard, Components: V, S, M (the missile or missiles to be launched), Casting Time: One standard action, Range: Touch, Target: Special, Duration: Instantaneous, Saving Throw: None, Spell Resistance: No
  • Swift Hurling will launch up to three arrows, bolts or sling stones as if fired from an appropriate weapon or hurl up to three items such as daggers, shuriken, rocks, flasks of holy water, or bottles of alchemical preparations, as if the caster had thrown them. Outside of the fact that the missiles need not be drawn and no mundane launcher (bow, crossbow, etc), is required, this is a normal attack – an attack check is required, range modifiers apply, and relevant Feats, attribute bonuses, and similar effects all apply normally. Where more than one possible mundane launcher or mode applies, such as a longbow or composite longbow, the choice is up to the caster. All shots are made at the user’s full BAB, they need not be launched at the same target, and the user may opt to either roll once for all the shots against a single target or for each independently.

This is actually a mildly abusive use of Presence, and should technically go under “advanced and master techniques” – but getting help from ancestor spirits is blatantly an occult technique and it’s a caveman style for throwing rocks. If you’re going to use Rocks as a competitive weapon… you’re going to have to abuse SOMETHING.

Jungle Lord Style (Str):

Men based many martial styles on the instinctive defensive and offensive movements of animals. The Jungle Lord style instead bases them on recalling the ancient ways – not the agile dance of the monkey style, but the brutal smashing of the killer ape. There is no delicacy here, no finely perfected katas – merely the ancient urge to destroy and the swift reflexes of the hindbrain, unmediated by conscious thought.

  • Requires: Str 18+.
  • Basic Techniques: Strike, Power 3, Attack 3, Defenses 3
  • Advanced And Master Techniques: Brutal Parry (Finesse, Adds Str Mod to AC Instead of Dex Mod), Mind Like Moon, Weapon Kata (Chosen type of Club), and Combat Reflexes.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength II, Ki Focus (Damage), and Resist Pain.
  • Known Techniques (10): Strike, Power 3, Brutal Parry, Weapon Kata (Iron Bound Spiked Club), Combat Reflexes, Inner Strength II and Resist Pain.

Pioneer Spirit Style (Con):

The land has a rhythm to it. Every so often, there is a gully. Trees grow around the water, the weather turns in regular seasons.

And for a Pioneer… the land is an opponent. A creature to be defeated, and broken to service. Certainly, no single pioneer can truly mark the land – but they can establish themselves, they can raise homes and cities, they can farm and harvest. And they, and their families, can endure, facing the land with it’s own rugged strength until – after ten thousand battles – it is broken to the service of men.

  • Requires: At least one basic Craft skill at +8 or more, +1 General BAB, Survival +8 or more.
  • Basic Techniques: Strike, Power 1 (can do 1d6 damage with anything that comes to hand), Toughness 4, Synergy: Craft (Any), Handle Animal, Survival, and Knowledge/Geography. .
  • Advanced And Master Techniques: Battlecry, Quick Draw, Expertise (Attacks and AC, Specialized for Double Effect / only to transfer from Attacks to AC), and Sneak Attack (I Kilt A Bar With This Ere Shovel…).
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength II, (Ancestral) Ki Focus (+4 to Int-Based Skills, counts as skilled), (Ancestral) Ki Focus (+4 to Wis-Based Skills, counts as skilled).
  • Known Techniques (7): Synergy: Handle Animal, Survival, and Knowledge/Geography, Battlecry, Expertise (As above), Inner Strength, Ki Focus (Wis Based Skills).

Savannah Hunter Style (AKA “Pointy Stick Style”) (Str).

With blunt objects, humans smash. With pointy objects, humans poke – either throwing or jabbing them. This is another ancient, and near-instinctive style. As usual with the ancient styles… accuracy is good, certainly, but the basic tactic has always been “entire man-band throws pointy things at food/threat”. Thus Strength matters more than precise accuracy,

  • Requires: at least a +2 BAB specialized in Primitive Weapons (Select Spear or Javelin)
  • Basic Techniques: Power III, Attacks III, Synergy / Spot, Synergy / Survival,
  • Advanced And Master Techniques: Quick Draw, Fast Throw, Weapon Kata (now covers both Spear and Javelin), and Mighty Blow.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength II, Light Foot, and Paralyze.
  • Known Techniques (8): Attacks 1, Synergy/Spot, Quick Draw, Fast Throw, Mighty Blow, Inner Strength 2, and Light Foot.

Stone Fang Style (Str).

Many beasts come with built-in weapons. But humans have never seen an advantage that they didn’t try to make their own. A thick pelt? I could use a coat! Milk for their young? We can drink that! Fangs and claws? We will take our fangs and claws from the Earth Itself, stealing a birthright we were not born with!

  • Requires: at least a +2 BAB specialized in Primitive Weapons (Select Knife or Hand Axe)
  • Basic Techniques: Power 2, Attack 4, Defenses 2, Synergy/’Survival.
  • Advanced And Master Techniques: Weapon Kata (Whichever of Knife or Hand Axe wasn’t picked), Sneak Attack 2, Whirlwind Attack.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength 2, Ki Block, and Light Foot.
  • Known Techniques (8): Power 1, Attack 2, Sneak Attack 2, Whirlwind Attack, Inner Strength, and Ki Block

Charms And Talismans

With his recent acquisition of an Order Sponsor, Cenric has been able to acquire a small part of the Order Birthright – and will soon be upgrading his charms and talismans to match.

  • Acquired Order Birthright Package: Innate Enchantment.Specialized: only works with a high-ranking in-empire patron to channel the magic of Order to the user, double effect (6CP/10,000 GP). Enhance Charms and Talismans (L2 spell effect, increasing the effects of Charms to L1 and those of Talismans to L2. Personal charms only, 8400 GP) and Inspiring Word (personal only, +1 Morale bonus to Saves, Attacks, Checks, and Weapon Damage).

Current Talismans:

  • Shimmermail (+4 Armor Bonus with no penalties).
  • Tulthara (Two-Handed Iron-Bound Spiked Club when he wants one).

Current Charms:

  • Captains Torc: +4 to Listen, -1 on saves versus Sonics, can be heard at extended ranges.
  • Elfin Cloak: +4 to Hide, +7 if still or in a natural environment, +10 for both.
  • Firebox: Holds a small, permanent, smokeless fire.
  • Foothold Boots: Get purchase on anything, including air, for a few moments three times per hour.
  • Flux Iron: Can turn into any needed simple tool.

I’ve been ill, so it’s back to playing catchup for a few days…

Eclipse D20 – Kaerek, Savannah Refugee

Kaerek ran away from his cruel family (and especially Father) as a child and pretty much continued on indefinitely, eventually passing out of the Great Savannah (the Life Domain) into Chelm (the Domain of Blood and Shadow). There he picked up some weapons skills beyond the bow and realized that he was still being pursued by his abhorrent family.

Kaerek changed his name in hopes of that throwing off the pursuit – but is still not sure whether or not that somehow made it worse. Continuing North took him into the Domain of Order, where he was an unwelcome disruptive element and only managed to avoid execution or enslavement thanks to his skill at hiding. Eventually, however, another character hired him on as a bodyguard – which at least gave him a position of sorts.

Even if the pay is fairly poor for that kind of work, it’s not like he’s at all likely to be killed doing it.

Currently his boss is leaving the Imperium in pursuit of magical materials, ancient tombs, and arcane secrets in the Northern Forests of the Dimensional Domain – where he will hopefully escape pursuit at last, since heading out into the Northern Ice domain doesn’t look like a good choice.

Kaerek here is another monofocused character: He uses Dual Rapiers (to inflict a lot of damage) and a Bow (mostly so as to have something to do when not weilding Rapiers). Moreover, in part thanks to his Life Birthright, he is quite difficult to kill – at least with damage.

Outside of that, he can find his way in the woods and hide if stabbing things is not working.

And there’s not much else. Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with being highly focused – and it does make him very, VERY, powerful within that focus – but the lack of versatility is potentially troubling. If an adventure doesn’t involve sticking pointy sticks or blades into something – and exploring a wilderness that’s been depopulated by some kind of disaster involves a lot of tasks other than fighting – he won’t have a lot to do at the moment.

“Kaerek”

Level Four Wandering Mercenary

Life Domain Birthright:

  • Grant of Aid, Mighty (Heals 1d8+12 or 1d3+1 attribute damage or two negative levels), Regenerative (regrowth option), and Spark of Life with +4 Bonus Uses (Six per day total). (24 CP)
  • Innate Enchantment (6 CP/5000 GP value.
  • Immortal Vigor I (+12 + 2x Con Mod HP, 1400 GP)
  • Fast Healing (20 HP/Level/Day, personal only, 1400 GP)
  • Enhance Attribute: +2 Con (1400 GP)
  • Resistance: +1 Resistance bonus on Saves (700 GP).

Attributes: Str 8 (+2 Self-Development = 10), Dex 16 (+2 Enhancement +2 Purchased = 20), Con 14 (+2 Enhenhancement = 16), Int 14, Wis 08 (+2 Self-Development = 10), and Cha 12.

Available Character Points: 120 (L4 Base) +12 (Disadvantages: History, Hunted (Family), Illiterate, & Insane (His awful childhood makes it very hard to relate to other people in anything approaching a normal manner)), +18 (L1, L2, L4 Bonus Feats) +8 (Duties) = 158

Basic Purchases (93 CP):

  • Wealth Level (0 CP):
    • L1: Destitute (Runaway):
      • +2 Wealth Bonus (adjusted by Skill Tier) to Bluff, Hide, Search, and Sense Motive.
    • L2-4: Poor (Homeless Wanderer):
      • +6 SP to be spent on Profession, Craft, Bluff, or Gather Information.
    • Current (Being supported at Common).
      • Can afford Light Armor, Shields, Common Weapons, and Ordinary Equipment.
      • May employ three Charms.
      • Can have common animals, including a light riding horse and dog if desired.
      • May have a servant-boy or -girl (if so, probably a cheap slave-child).
  • BAB +5, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only with weapons in which he has a Martial Arts skill at at least +6, no iterative attacks (+15, 30 CP).
  • Hit Points: 22 (L1-4d6, 8 CP) +4 (L1d4, 8 CP) +12 (Im. Vigor) +56 ([Con + Cha Mods] x7) = 94 HP
  • Evasive Combat: Advanced, Improved, Augmented Bonus (Adds Dex Mod to Con Mod when calculating Hit Points, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only through Level Six, 6 CP).
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fortitude: +3 (Purchased, 9 GP) +3 (Con) +1 (Res) = +7
    • Reflex: +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +5 (Dex) +1 (Res) = +8
    • Will: +0 (Purchased, 0 CP) +0 (Wis) +1 (Res) = +1
  • Proficiencies: Light Armor (3 CP), All Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP).
  • Skill Points: 2 (Purchased, 2 CP) +14 (Int Mod x 7) +14 (Fast Learner at L(-2) with Disad Points) +6 (Wealth) = 36 SP.
    • Fast Learner, Specialized Increased Effect / Only for Skills (+2 SP/Level, 6 CP). ,
    • Adept: Dance Of Nightmares Style, Blistering Thorns Style, Survival, and Tumble (6 CP).
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +2 (Leather) +5 (Dex) +4 (Shield) = 21
  • Initiative: +5 (Dex).
  • Movement: 30 (Base) +30 (Enh) = 60.

Usual Weapons:

  • Dual Rapiers: +23/+23/+23/+23 (+19 BAB +5 Dex +1 Enh +1 MA +1 Mor -4 Bonus Attacks), 1d8+7 (+5 Dex +1 +1 Enh), Crit 18-20/x2, 10′ Reach, 5d6 Sneak Attack.
  • Composite Longbow: +22/+22/+22 (+19 BAB +5 Dex -2 Rapid Shot), 1d12+6 (+5 Dex +1 Mor), Crit 20/x3, 3d6 Sneak Attack, may make a limited number of Paralysis Attacks.

Other Abilities (65 CP):

  • Self-Development: +2 Dexterity (12 CP due to half-price attribute rule in setting).
  • Master Fencer / Finesse: Uses (Dex Mod) in place of (Str Mod) for melee attacks with piercing weapons (6 CP).
  • Precision Strikes / Finesse: Uses (Dex Mod) in place of (Str Mod) for damage with piercing weapons (6 CP).
  • Bonus Attack II with Rapier, Corrupted / Requires the use of a Rapier in each hand (8 CP).
  • Imbuement (Rapier) (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment, up to 11,500 GP Value (12 CP): All Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x.7 Personal Only (if not already personal-only).
    • Personal Haste: +30′ Move, +1 Attack with Full Attack, 2000 GP.
    • Force Shield I: +4 Shield Bonus, Personal Only, x.7 – 1400 GP.
    • Enhance Dexterity +2: Personal Only, x.7, 1400 GP.
    • Martial Mastery (+4 BAB w/ Rapier, Personal Only, x.7, 1400 GP).
    • Inspiring Word (+1 Morale Bonus on saves, attacks, checks, and damage, 1400 GP).
    • Fortune’s Favor II (+2 Luck bonus to skills and attribute checks, 1400 GP).
    • Martial Mastery (+4 BAB with Longbows and Composite Longbows, Personal Only, x.7, 1400 GP).
    • Know Direction (1000 GP).
  • Opportunist: May make a flanking attack if an opponent is in range and attempts to hit an ally (6 CP).
  • Augment Attack: +3d6 Sneak Attack (9 CP).

Skills:

  • All Skills gain +2 (Luck) and +1 (Morale).
  • Tier I (23 SP):
    • DoN (Rapier): +7 (3* SP) +5 (Dex) = +15
    • BT (Bow): +7 (3* SP) +5 (Dex) = +15
    • Hide: +6 (6 SP) +2 (We) +5 (Dex) +4 (Cl) = +20
    • Search: +0 (0 SP) +2 (We) +2 (Int) = +7
    • Spot: +7 (7 SP) +0 (Wis) +2 (Sy) = +12
    • Survival: +7 (3* SP) +2 (Wis) = +12
    • Tumble: +7 (3* SP) +5 (Dex) +2 (Sy) = +17
  • Tier II (5 SP):
    • Bluff: +7 (3 SP) +4 (Wealth) +1 (Cha) = +15
    • Sense Motive: +3 (1 SP) +4 (We) +0 (Wis) = +10
    • Speak Language: +3 (1 SP) +2 (Int) = +8
  • Tier III (6 SP)
    • Craft (Leather): +7 (2 SP) +2 (Int) = +12
    • Craft (Armor): +7 (2 SP) +2 (Int) = +12
    • Craft (Weapons): +7 (2 SP) +2 (Int) = +12

Note: Thanks to his high Craft Skills, Kaere’s Armor and Weapons rating functions at +1 Wealth Level – allowing him up to heavy armor, longbows, and – of course – his two rapiers.

Known Languages: Artath (Life Domain Tribal), Ortic (Chelm Tribal), Havril (the Imperial Tongue), some Ikunn (Spoken in the Totem and Purity Domains), and is learning Illerian (Spoken in Dernmarik, the Dimensional Domain).

Martial Arts:

Dance Of Nightmares Style (Dex)

This Chelmian style seeks to emulate the combat styles of shadows and dreams – a flickering dance that moves with lightning speed while simultaneously seeming to entrap it’s target in slow motion, thrusting past a defenders guard with lightning speed to strike many times before they can move to defend themselves.

  • Requires: Bonus Attack II (Dual Rapiers)
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 4, Defense 2, Power 2, and Synergy (Tumble)
  • Advanced and Master Techniques: Mind Like Moon, Reach, and Sneak Attack 2
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength, Paralyze, Touch Strike, and Vanishing
  • Known Techniques: Attack 1, Power 1, Synergy/Tumble, Reach, Sneak Attack II, Inner Strength, Ki Focus (+4 Dex), and Vanishing.

Blistering Thorns Strike (Dex):

The great beasts of the Great Savannah can be most difficult to slay – and so the tribal archers there focus on ways to take down a target in other ways than inflicting damage. While the traditional arrowheads for use with this style are made from Blisterthorn Thorns – a rather nastily toxic item in themselves – a wide variety of other toxins can be used.

  • Requires: Dex 16+, Proficiency with a Bow
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 3, Defense 2, Power 2, and Synergy (Spot)
  • Advanced And Master Techniques: Mighty Blow, Poison Use, Rapid Shot, and Mind Like Moon.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength x2, Ki Block, and Paralyze.
  • Known Techniques: Power 2, Synergy (Spot), Rapid Shot, Poison Use, Mind Like Moon, Inner Strength I and Paralyze.

Charms:

  • Bracers Of Force: Can create minor “Force Fields” to keep away wind, rain, smoke, and bugs or support small objects.
  • Ditty Bag: Can pull out any desired item worth one copper piece or less three times per day.
  • Elfin Cloak: +4 to Hide, +7 if standing still or in a natural environment, +10 if both apply.

Eclipse d20 -Serilda Ofellius Mallius

Serilda is another character for the current Atheria game – in this case a master alchemist/artificer who likes to explore lost tombs, ancient ruins, and distant lands, looking for exotic components with which to make rare Charms and Talismans, for inspiration for her own forging of Relics – and for Artifacts from the ancient world, since creating such things is almost a lost art on Atheria.

As such, she tends to deal with her problems by blasting them with alchemical bolts – or by retreating to create an appropriate Relic. As usual for a specialized character for Atheria she is quite formidable – but also as usual she’s going to start broadening her abilities rather than increasing her power since she’s already got pretty much every relevant boost for Alchemy, for making Relics, and for using Magical Items that there is on Atheria. She’s got nowhere to go there.

She’s also totally inept in melee, however dangerous she is with her Alchemical Bolters – and so she’s (very sensibly!) hired a bodyguard to watch her back.

Serilda Ofellius Mallius

Level Four Imperial Artificer

Birthright: Order (The Alarian Imperium)

  • Assistant (Their “Aid Another” actions provide a +4 bonus rather than +2, 6 CP).
  • Privilege/Imperial Patron (6 CP. Exiles may substitute a bonus feat).
  • Innate Enchantment. Specialized: only works with a high-ranking in-empire patron to channel the magic of Order to the user, double effect (6 CP/10,000 GP). Enhance Charms and Talismans (L2 spell effect, increasing the effects of Charms to L1 and those of Talismans to L2. Personal charms only, 8400 GP) and Inspiring Word (personal only, +1 Morale bonus to Saves, Attacks, Checks, and Weapon Damage, 1400 GP).
  • Fast Learner (may be specialized, 6 CP).
  • A bonus feat worth 6 CP.

Most children in the Imperium are given Lesser or Greater Scholar’s Eyes (Charm Version: +2 Int for skill purposes only for non-imperials, +4 for imperials. Talisman Version: +4 Int for skill purposes only for non-imperials, +6 for imperials) very early on. These are pretty much unheard-of outside the Imperium, where the results are far less noticeable. Given the inflexible imperial codes of conduct, and the stiff penalties for violating them, children normally invest a few in a reasonable understanding of imperial law and their house customs very early on. Freeborn children who don’t usually wind up being sold unless they’re consistently lucky or have some other form of special protection.

Uniquely, it is possible to acquire some portion of the Order birthright. Unfortunately, while other characters may buy the Innate Enchantment ability they still have to pay CP for the Imperial Patron, go out and find one, persuade him, her, or it to take them on, and sustain the relationship.

Birthrights have no actual cost to the character; everyone gets one for free for being born.

Available Character Points: 120 Base +10 (Disadvantages: Hunted (Accursed monsters from ancient tombs), Irreverent (Pays no attention to stories about “Gods”), and Blocked (non-alchemical spellcasting) +24 (Birthright, L1, L2, L4 Bonus Feats) = 154 CP.

Basic Attributes: Str 8, Int 14 (+4 Enh = 18), Wis 14, Con 14, Dex 14 (+2 Level +4 Enh = 20), Cha 12.

Basic Purchases (96 CP):

Starting Wealth Level: Well-Off (3 CP). Upgrade to Wealthy (Specialized and Corrupted / only with respect to Charms and Talismans, +3 CP).

  • Equipment: Standard gear up through full plate and exotic weapons as required.
  • Magical Items: Seven Charms and Three Talismans. Upgraded by the Order Birthright, these can produce effects of L1 and L2 respectively, or you can take standard Talismans as Charms.
  • Can afford high-quality common animals. As a note, animals with the Order Birthright are generally of very high quality, very easy to teach and train, and have minor powers related to organizing their environment.
  • Retainers: A loyal assistant, guard, or henchman and up to a dozen ordinary employees.
  • A +2 permanent wealth bonus to any two of Craft, Diplomacy, Speak Language, Perform, Profession, or Ride. In her case, Craft/Alchemy and Craft/Charms and Talismans. As both of those are Tier-2 Skills, the effective bonus is +4.

Other Basics:

  • BAB: +3, Specialized in Ranged Combat for Double Effect (18 CP). +2 BAB, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (+6 with Bolt Throwers Only, 12 CP).
  • Hit Points: 20 (L1-4d6, 8 CP) +12 (Immortal Vigor) +12 (6 x Con Mod) = 44 HP.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fortitude +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +2 (Con) +1 (Mor) +2 (Res) = +6
    • Reflex +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +4 (Dex) +1 (Mor) +2 (Res) = +8
    • Will +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +2 (Wis) +1 (Mor) +2 (Res) = +7
      • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saving Throws (6 CP).
  • Proficiencies: All Simple Weapons (3 CP).
  • Skill Points: 9 SP (Purchased, 9 CP) +28 (Int Mod x 7) +14 (Fast Learner) = 50 SP.
    • Skill Modifiers: Order Birthright Fast Learner Specialized in Skills (0 CP), Fast Learner Specialized in Skills, Corrupted / only to keep Adept skills maxed out (4 CP), Adept (Buys Knowledge / Arcana, Craft / Charms & Talismans, Knowledge / Nature, one other skill, for half cost, 6 CP).
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +5 (Dex) +6 (Shimmermail) +4 (Shield) = 25.
  • Initiative: +5 (Dex) (+8 Improved Initiative II, 12 CP) = +13
  • Movement: 30′ (Base) +30′ (Enh) = 60′.

Preferred Weapons:

Alchemical Bolter(s): +19/+19/+14/+9 (BAB +12, Dex +5, +2 MA), Damage/Special, Crit 20/x2, Range Increment 80′.

  • Available Munitions:
    • Acid x6: Touch Attack, 3d6, +2d6+1 Splash Damage. Corrodes and damages surfaces.
    • Crossbow Bolts with Adamantine Blanch x6: Normal Ranged Attack, 3d6+1, Crit 19-20/x2.
    • Dragons Breath Pepper Oil x6: Touch. DC 18 Fort Save or Blinded and at -2 to all actions for 2d4 rounds.
    • Fire x6: Touch Attack, 3d6, +2d6+1 Splash Damage. May burn for an extra round.
    • Firecracker x2: 1d6+2 Nonlethal Damage, Deafen for 1d4+2 rounds, DC 11 For Save to half effects. One Square.
    • Flash Powder x2: DC 15 Fort Save or 3 rounds Blindness in a 10′ Radius.
    • Frost x6: Touch Attack, 3d6, +2d6+1 Splash Damage. Often puts out fires.
    • Ground Pepper x6: Touch, DC 16 Fortitude Save or Sneeze for 1d4+2 Rounds.
    • Smokestick x3: Fills a 20′ Radius
    • Tanglefoot x3: Touch Attack, DC 19 Reflex Save, Lasts 2d4+2 rounds.
    • Thunderstone x2: DC 21 Fort Save or Deafened for one hour, 10′ Radius.
      • May make a single, triple-effect shot as a full attack action – but only three times and only regains one use of this ability per day.

Serilda CAN use simple melee weapons – but generally does not bother since she’s quite useless with them.

Family Talent: Alchemical Powers (37 CP):

  • Innate Enchantment, Corrupted for Increased Effect (up to 17,250 GP Value) / Must take regular alchemical treatments to boost her internal magic and must use additional charms and talismans to focus it (12 CP)
    • Belt Of Speed: Personal Haste (The Practical Enchanter, Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated = 2000 GP).
    • Basilisk Blood Bracer: Touch Of Alchemy / “Call Item” at 100 GP or Less (L2 / 3 Power, Manifestor Level 3, x 2000 GP for unlimited-use use-activated x.4 only to produce alchemical items, x.6 for 3/day = 2880 GP).
    • Elixir Vitae: Immortal Vigor I, Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .7 Personal Only = 1400 GP. Adds (12 + 2 x Con Mod) Hit Points to the user’s base total.
    • The Stone Of The Philosophers: All Effects Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .4 (twice per day) x .7 Personal-Only:
      • Fast Healing I for 18 Rounds 2/Day (The Practical Enchanter) (560 GP).
      • Relieve Illness (Hedge Wizardry, this site) 2/Day (560 GP).
      • Relieve Poison (Hedge Wizardry, this site) 2/Day (560 GP).
      • Lesser Restoration 2/Day (SRD) (560 GP).
    • Sigil Ring Of Alchemic Mastery (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated = 2000 GP): Apply (Int Mod, 3 Maximum) of the following enhancements to any alchemical item the target uses: +1d6 Damage, +2 to the Save DC, +2 rounds duration, or +5 to an existing radius of effect.
    • Gloves Of The Athanor’s Weave: Anyspell (L0 Alchemy Effects) (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated = 2000 GP): produces any one of the following effects:
      • Any one Polypurpose Panacea effect.
      • Brew: Makes up to a pint of tea, extract, or mixture from the usual ingredients.
      • Detect Poison: SRD Effect.
      • Flare: SRD Effect.
      • Identify Herb: Determines a herbs identity, potency, and uses.
      • Paint: Coats up to a 5 x 5 foot area with paint, light oil, glue, or a similar substance.
      • Smoke Cloud. Makes a burst of smoke roughly equivalent to a smokestick.
      • Spray. Sprays the contents of a vial of material onto any target within thirty feet.
    • Ioun Torch (75 GP).
    • Locket Of Winds: Breath Of Transmutation / Alchemic Mist, Reduced to L1 by being powered with 4 HP when used, Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated – 2000 GP. Turns up to two doses of an alchemical material or toxin into a 20′ radius burst within medium range.
    • Pendant Of The Iron Winds: Force Shield I, Spell Level One x Caster Level One x .7 Personal-Only – 1400 GP.
    • Vials Of Mist: Obscuring Mist, Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .4 (Two Uses / Day) = 800 GP.
    • Calcining Alembic / Masterwork (+2 Bonus) Industrious Alchemists Lab Talisman (225 GP): Activated as an Imperial Charm, this allows the user to work three times as fast. As an Imperial Talisman, it allows the user to accomplish a days work in an hour.
    • Shaping Spectacles / Masterwork (+2 Bonus) Industrious Artisans Tools for Crafting Charms and Talismans Talisman (80 GP). Activated as an Imperial Charm, these allow the user to work three times as fast. As an Imperial Talisman, these allow the user to accomplish a days work in an hour.
    • Mundane Functions (59 GP):
      • Durant Cloak: Cold Weather and Hot Weather Clothing (10 GP), Heavy Protective Gloves (2 GP), Thieves Tools (30 GP), Spell Component Pouch (5 GP), Bedroll, Blanket, and Cot (2 GP), Small Tent (10 GP),
    • Total: 17,159 GP.
  • Immunity / The XP cost of L1 Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP).
  • Immunity to Dispelling (Common, Minor, Minor, Specialized / only to protect Innate Enchantments, 2 CP).
  • Immunity / The need to attune Industrious Tool Charms and Talismans (Uncommon, Minor, Minor, 2 CP). Technically this is a natural-law immunity, and so requires special permission. On the other hand, this is about as unimportant as it gets and is very unlikely to break the game – so why not?
  • Immunity / Part of the time normally required to “draw” alchemical items and devices (Common, Minor, Trivial, 2 CP). This reduces the time needed to get out an alchemical item to a free action – provided that it is already only a move action. Another trivial natural law immunity.
  • Inherent Spell with +5 Bonus Uses (Six Total), Corrupted for Reduced Cost (9 CP) / requires assorted alchemical dusts, powders, and components, gestures, and a full-round action to use. Level Three Alchemical Anyspell (choice of: Acid (or other elemental) “Arrow”, Alchemic Mastery (+20 on an Alchemy check), Alchemic Mist, Cure Moderate Wounds, Delay Poison, Fog Cloud, Glitterdust, Grease (up to 20′ radius burst), Lesser Restoration, Tanglefoot Blast (up to a 20′ Radius).
  • Well-Supplied: Immunity / The normal limits of Craft / Alchemy: May prepare up to (Skill Total x 50 GP) worth of alchemical gear each day without it counting against her normal supplies (Common, Minor, Major, 6 CP).
  • Skill Emphasis (Craft Alchemy) (3 CP). Provides a +4 Bonus since Craft/Alchemy is a Tier-2 Skill.

Other Powers (21 CP):

  • Create Relic (6 CP)
  • Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (6 floating CP) / only for making Relics (6 CP)
  • Luck with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Skills (9 CP).

Skills:

  • Tier One Skills (24 SP):
    • Disable Device (Int): +5 (5 SP) +4 (Int) +1 (Mor) = +10
    • Martial Art (Thunderbolt Prana Style, Dex): +7 (7 SP) +5 (Dex) +1 (Mor) = +13
    • Tumble (Dex): +7 (Free) +5 (Dex) +1 (Mor) = +13
    • Knowledge/Arcana: +7 (Free) +4 (Int) +1 (Mor) = +12
    • Knowledge/Nature: +7 (Free) +4 (Int) +1 (Mor) = +12
    • Search (Int): +7 (Free) +4 (Int) +1 (Mor) = +12
    • Spot (Wis): +7 (7 SP) +2 (Wis) +1 (Mor) = +10
    • Survival (Wis): +5 (5 SP) +2 (Wis) +1 (Mor) = +8.
  • Tier Two Skills (15 SP):
    • Balance (Dex): +5 (2 SP) +5 (Dex) +1 (Mor) = +11
    • Craft/Alchemy (Int): +7 (3 SP) +4 (Int) +4 (Wealth) +4 (Emp) +1 (Mor) +4 (Sy) = +24
    • Craft/Charms and Talismans (Int): +7 (3 SP) +4 (Int) +4 (Wealth) +1 (Mor) = +16
    • Escape Artist (Dex): +3 (1 SP) +5 (Dex) +1 (Mor) = +9
    • Handle Animal (Cha): +3 (1 SP) +1 (Cha) +1 (Mor) = +5
    • Open Lock (Dex): +3 (1 SP) +5 (Dex) +1 (Mor) = +9
    • Ride (Dex): +3 (1 SP) +5 (Dex) +1 (Mor) = +9
    • Speak Language (Int): +5 (2 SP) +4 (Int) +1 (Mor) = +10
  • Tier Three Skills (3 SP):
    • Decipher Script (Int): +7 (2 SP) +4 (Int) +1 (Mor) = +10
    • Jump (Str): +4 (1 SP) -1 (Str) +1 (Mor) = +4

Specific Knowledges (8 SP):

  • Imperial Law And Customs (1 SP), House Mallius Customs (1 SP), The Imperial Encyclopedia of Charms and Talismans (3 SP), Exotic Charm and Talisman Components (1 SP), Everyman’s Handbook Of Alchemy And Artifice (2 SP).

Thunderbolt Prana Style:

All right, it’s basically “I am really good with magical guns”. You’re not getting an elaborate description here.

  • Requires: Weapon Specialization in Bolt Thrower (+2 or better dedicated BAB)
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 4, Defenses 2, Power 3, and Synergy/Craft Alchemy.
  • Advanced and Master Techniques: Mind Like Moon, Prone Combat, 2d6 Sneak Attack.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength II, Focused Blow, and Ki Focus (Dex).
  • Known Techniques (7): Attack II, Synergy (Craft Alchemy), Mind Like Moon (DC 15 Reflex Check to avoid being Surprised), Prone Combat, Inner Strength, and Focused Blow.

Charms and Talismans

  • Talismans: Greater Scholars Eye (+4 Int), Sash of Agility (+4 Dex), Improved Shimmermail (+6 Armor Bonus).
  • Charms:
    • Two Alchemical Bolters: This simple weapon holds up to eight doses of alchemical mixtures, launching them as attacks with the range of a Light Crossbow. It does take a round to reload once emptied however. Alchemical Items are usually Touch Attacks.
    • Two Hidden Pockets. These expand the capacity of the Bolters to 24 vials each – although this increases the reload time to three rounds. First Bolter: Alchemists Fire x6 (120 GP), Acid x6 (60 GP), Flash Powder x2 (100 GP), Smokestick x3 (60 GP), Tanglefoot x3 (150 GP), Thunderstone x2 (60 GP), Firecrackers x2 (20 GP). Second Bolter: Alchemists Frost x6 (60 GP), Dragon’s Breath Pepper Oil x6 (60 GP), Ground Pepper x6 (12 GP), and Bolts with Adamantine Blanch x6 (60 GP).
      • Note; Her complete daily loadout comes out to 762 GP. That leaves 438 GP worth of alchemical stuff in her normal daily allowance.
    • Rewinding Sleeve Grapnel.
    • Fiend Gauntlets: The user may handle hot, corrosive, and otherwise dangerous things without fear of harm.
    • Broach Of Warding: Provides the L1 Warding Rune Effect (+2 Resistance Bonus to Saves).

Building “Lifebonds” in Eclipse

Today’s question is related to the Valdemar articles from a little while back, and is basically “How to build a Lifebond in Eclipse”. Given that that question is a near-perfect example of the problems inherent in building things from literature in games, it’s gotten the full treatment as an example.

As so often happens when converting from Literature, the first thing to consider is “what does this never clearly defined literary thing actually do anyway?”. Fortunately for us, there’s actually quite a lot of information about them scattered across various books. Possibly even enough to reach some actual conclusions.

Lifebond (Noun, Fictonal, Mercedeys Lackey): An intimate and very strong connection between two people’s minds.

To summarize the available information about Lifebonds…

  • Some characters say that they’re rare, but the actual books show them to be surprisingly common among the (relatively few) characters who get their emotional status discussed in detail. There’s no apparent reason why they shouldn’t also be fairly common in the general population. (Various books, Wiki list of known Lifebonds).
  • They are independent of active gifts or other special powers, although they may be more common among those who do possess mental powers (Various Books).
  • They are apparently pretty much unbreakable by common magic or psychic means, although the transmission of most useful information can be blocked effectively (Arrows Fall) and the rules may or may not apply to full-scale divine magic. Partially blocked links do not cause emotional traumas, although they might cause anxiety.
  • Magical barriers do not seem to block simple awareness though; Dirk claimed that he would KNOW if Talia was dead and – since he retains enough awareness of her to locate her through magical barriers – he is probably right (Arrow’s Fall).
  • They manifest spontaneously and involuntarily when potential bondmates meet (Magic’s Pawn, Arrow Series, various other books).
  • They can transmit large amounts of psychic/magical energy (Magic’s Pawn, Tylendel drawing on Venyel’s latent mage-gift to power a Gate, the backlashing gate-energy jumping to Vanyel).
  • They cannot be turned off or “refused”. Even attempting to resist causes psychological problems (Magic’s Price).
  • They can only be initially established at short range. (Various books. Canon lifebonds do not seem to appear before people meet and no one at all seems to be lifebonded to someone that they HAVEN’T met – even if the potential for the bonds seems to be established pretty much at birth).
  • According to Firesong everyone has a potential lifebonded partner, but he was more than a bit insane at that point (Winds trilogy).
  • They cause immense emotional trauma when one partner survives the other and may represent a constant or near-constant psychic drain under such conditions (Magic’s Pawn. Note that – according to Kethry, an adept-class mage – “Emotion WAS power. That was what mage a death-curse so potent, even in the mouth of an untutored peasant”).
  • They seem to persist beyond death however; otherwise the mental injury could be expected to “heal” – or it would at least be possible to seal it off – and it would be extremely unlikely for Tylendel to be reborn as Stephen and be able to forge a NEW lifebond with Vanyel (Magic’s Price).
  • Vanyel seemed to be able to function more or less normally after a few years. Interestingly, that partial recovery seems to have occured about the time that Stefen was born (interpolation from the Valdemar Companion and various Wiki timelines).
  • Vanyel seemed fully recovered on the psychc powers level – if still emotionally traumatized after years of warfare without his partner – after meeting Stefan (Magic’s Price).
  • Surviving partners can sense when their bondmate dies, usually experiencing something related to their final seconds (Magic’s Price, other books)
  • The pain of the broken bond apparently went away when Stefan met Vanyel’s spirit – manifested once more on the physical level in the Forest Of Sorrows. Again, Death did not actually break the bond. The pain may have stayed gone too. Admittedly, there isn’t much more to the book – but just because Vanyel was incarnated as a forest didn’t mean that he didn’t have a physical body and a presence on Velgarth – and there’s no suggestion of either of the pair being utterly miserable for decades to come. Just a bit sad about being separated for a while (Magic’s Price).

I know some people who have read the series and have concluded that a Lifebond is a curse. It makes you miserable until you acknowledge it, then there is a bit of great happiness – and then you have the extra pain of remembering what you once had when it plunges you into utter misery for the rest of your life. It can even make people who DON’T have a Lifebond miserable; the desire to experience a Lifebond nearly drive Firesong insane (Winds Trilogy). This, however, is mostly an artifact of Mercedes Lackey’s writing style, wherein she tortures her characters to involve the reader with them. I’m not going to count it as hard data.

Now Life and Death seem to be deeply involved in this. So, what do we know about the afterlife on Velgarth?

  • People do continue to exist after death (Vows And Honor series; Kethry’s Oathbreaker Ritual, Tarma’s Spirit Tutors, Magic’s Price (Vanyel getting a choice of afterlives), Ex-Heralds reincarnating as Companions, Ex Sons Of The Sun reincarnating as Firecats, etc, etc, etc).
  • The dead can intervene if summoned by a powerful mage (Vows and Honor, Kethry’s ritual. It is noted as being power-hungry, but then it is an ancient (and possibly inefficient?) ritual that opens the gates of death for angry ghosts to come through and take someone away), if empowered to by a god (Tarma’s tutors), or – more subtly – on their own if they’re strong-willed enough. This even happens in Valdemar – where, for example, Herald Kris promised a bouquet of Maiden’s Hope flowers to Talia for her wedding – and delivered, despite both him being dead and them being out of season (Arrows Fall). (I think there was also a contact in a dream, but the dead speaking in dreams is a basic feature of pretty much every fantasy world ever).
  • The dead do not, however, seem to gain much of any supernatural wisdom (Vows and Honor, Tarma needs new teachers as individuals reach the limits of what they know. In Oathbreakers, Tarma’s spirit-teachers don’t, and perhaps can’t, tell her much of anything about Heralds. The Star-Eyed came to tell her that they could be trusted – and to let her know that the Companions were spirit beings – in person).
  • The dead aren’t tremendously powerful either. Tarma’s tutors have a hard time reaching her to bring her an emergency warning in the face of some basic magical resistance (Vows And Honor).
  • The magical sword Need contains the spirit of a long-dead mage-smith, who continues to use her various powers quite freely – albeit possibly drawing to some extent on her bearer’s strength (Vows and Honor, By The Sword, Winds Trilogy). It also bonds with it’s bearer – another bit of evidence that the nature of the body doesn’t much matter; an embodied spirit can bond with, and interact with, a living person.
  • Spirits incarnated in objects, places, and exotic bodies can all bond with, interact with, and often communicate clearly with, the living without losing their spiritual nature (Companions, Need, Vanyel as the Forest Of Sorrows).

So… affection and loyalty provide a strong enough bond for a dead person to intervene on the physical plane – although this might (or might not) require that they had psychic powers in life (although reincarnation does seem to change those fairly often, since Heralds reincarnated as Companions don’t always seem to have the same gifts – Various Books).

Yet if simple bonds of affection, friendship, and memory can be enough to bridge the gap between life and death… why can’t the apparently-greater power of a Lifebond do it? Why does one partner dying mean more than the survivor gaining the bittersweet knowledge that their loved one remains always near, waiting for them to join them in the afterlife? Why do deceased parents sometimes seem to look after their children and beloved spouses hang around invisibly and comfort their elderly partners? It seems to work that way for some of the peasants of Valdemar and the other nations of Velgarth (Various books).

To talk about that, we need to look at the nature of Magic in Velgarth.

Have you noticed that something is very, VERY, wrong about how magic behaves in Velgarth? It flows into the world through living things and then acts a bit like water – flowing together into lines or rivers of power, which then flow into the great power-pools of nodes.

But… when water flows into rivers, it loses energy. That swift stream rushing down a mountain has a lot of potential energy per unit volume. The water in a valley river that the stream flows into… has less. The water in a lake is calm and still, much of it’s gravitational potential energy given up. A lake in a valley has much less energy available per unit volume than rain falling onto the top of a mountain. That’s entropy. That defines the flow of time. Yet magic in Velgarth flows and gathers like water – but once it has gathered it somehow has vast amounts of energy and becomes too energetic for lesser mages to handle in despite of entropy and time.

That means that it must have a secondary energy potential. Something that is the same anywhere in the world. It must have somewhere else to “flow” to. Somewhere far “lower” than any place in the physical world – “low” enough to dwarf the energy it’s given up in collecting in one spot. Somewhere that it flows into as it is used, giving up that energy to power acts of magic.

  • Magic comes into Velgarth through Life, and leaves through Death (as explained by Kethry). Living things on Velgarth give up their magical energy when they die. That’s the basis of Blood Magic (as explained in many places). Unless harvested by a blood mage… that energy flows out into the world, forms streams and pools, and eventually leaves it to somewhere else (from whence it returns once more through living things).

Ergo… the realms of the dead are a natural sink (or recycling center) for magical energy.

Normal bonds of affection, friendship, and memory… are weak bonds. They cannot transmit much energy. The dead may enjoy receiving a trickle of power from the living who think about them – but the drain / grief it causes is minor – and the mild pain of that drain may be counterbalanced or outweighed entirely by the contact with, and comforting presence of, someone who is loved and missed. Thus thinking about the beloved dead on Velgarth… is always a mixed experience. There are joyful memories, a sense of presence, and grief, and sorrow.

A lifebond however? A lifebond can transmit large amounts of magical and psychic energy. Someone who is Lifebonded to someone in the realms of the dead has an open energy-sink in their mind, draining them constantly. Grief, depression, misery, and constant fatigue is only to be expected. Weaker spirits may lose their grip on their bodies and be drawn into the realms of the dead themselves – dying of grief whether mysteriously or through suicide.

This means that an (un-)“broken” Lifebond between the Living and the Dead can be treated. All you need to do is to restrain the flow of energy over the link to a reasonable level. Eventually most minds will learn to do that themselves – but there’s no reason why a spell couldn’t do it or a telepath couldn’t show someone how.

So why doesn’t that happen? And why isn’t “suffering from a broken lifebond” a fairly common ailment in the population? After all, everybody dies at least once and the books show lifebonds as being fairly common, portraying thirteen pairs amidst a cast of a hundred or two major characters (Valdemar Wiki, since I never bothered to add up either number).

The simple answer as to why “suffering from a Broken Lifebond” isn’t a common ailment is that those without magical or psychic abilities are much less easily drained and can more rapidly adjust to cut down the flow of energy to a reasonable level. “Broken Lifebonds” are thus only a problem for those with substantial special powers. Everyone else can just feel their loved ones comforting – if distant – presence. Their beloved dead can show up to escort them to the afterlife when they’re on their deathbeds and so on. And nobody considers that a “Lifebond” because – having no significant power to share – they never showed signs of power sharing and AREN’T suffering from a “Broken Lifebond”.

As for why no one has ever analyzed the issue and developed a treatment… to get that answer we’re going to have to look at the behavior of Velgarth’s gods.

  • Oddly enough, despite the various gods, spiritual appearances and experiences, mages summoning ghosts, obvious-to-the-reader reincarnation, and other spiritual interactions… no one in the books seems to be particularly clear about the afterlife. In fact the Companions – the most direct divine representatives around – habitually inflict laser-guided amnesia on their Heralds whenever they find out too much about the afterlife. That’s partially explained by how awkward it would be, and how many social effects it would have, to let people know that their loved ones could opt to come back, and the kind of expectations it would place on the Companions – but that’s still “The gods have said to erase chunks of peoples minds to keep them from knowing too much” (Winds Trilogy). That’s kind of disrespectful at best and treacherous at worst. I certainly wouldn’t like having my mind messed with that way – especially by a creature who was supposed to be my greatest and most loyal friend.

So why are the gods giving such directives?

  • It is well-established in the books that the gods are generally non-interventionist if they think that mortals can handle a problem (Vows and Honor; the Star-Eyed speaking to Tarma, various other places) – although they CAN intervene if they feel that a problem is beyond mortal ability – such as sending the first Companions to Valdemar (the founder) to help him set up a good government (Winds Trilogy and others. I think that I’ll just reference the Valdemar Companion this time).
  • The gods have the Companions – their agents – meddle with Heralds minds to conceal their true nature and other spiritual truths (Magic’s Price, Storms trilogy). That was also established in Vows and Honor, where Tarma noted that the Heralds were not aware of the true nature of their companions – even though the Star-Eyed had seen fit to tell her and there were plenty of clues. Itt was reaffirmed in Mage Winds by Ulric’s explanations about Firecats and Companions.
  • No one has developed an effective treatment for “Broken Lifebonds” because they only affect a minuscule percentage of the population – and because the information about how they work and what is happening to the victims is being wiped out of the minds of all the potential researchers. After all, Lifebonds have been known for thousands of years on Velgarth – but in all that time, no competent research on them has ever been done. And who but the gods has been around for long enough to ensure that?

Would the gods do that? They seem to be generally “good”; would they actually be willing to be that ruthless and cruel? Well… Vkyandis COULD have dealt with his corrupt priesthood at any moment – he simply vaporized the corrupt high priest when he did decide to intervene (Winds I think) – but he let his corrupted priests burn generation after generation of children (who certainly COULDN’T “handle” being arrested by a massive military organization with magic-users) without doing a thing about it (Storms Trilogy). Evidently the gods are quite ruthless enough to leave some people to suffer horrible fates at times. Presumably that is for “The Greater Good”. I have VERY serious doubts about that argument – but I suppose that gods have a better claim to it than most.

Now that got rather long – but it gives us a reasonably solid theory to work with. There are probably spots in the books that it doesn’t quite fit, and it can rightly be regarded as Headcanon (even if it’s a fairly well researched and supported one) – but it does seem to work with the preponderance of the evidence, which is all you can expect when dealing with a literary work; they’re very  rarely completely consistent about how things work.

So, if you and a partner want to buy a Lifebond in Eclipse, you’ll want…

Mystic Link with Power Link (Power Sharing Variant) (6 CP Base). Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost:

  • The character point cost must be shared between the individuals involved.
  • Creates and extremely powerful emotional bond between the individuals involved.
  • The user will become frantic or upset if his or her partner is seriously harmed unless the link is being actively blocked.
  • If one partner dies, the other will suffer extreme depression, grief, and a psychic shock, usually incapacitating them for several days.
  • Power sharing is only possible at close range.
  • If one partner is deceased, the power-flow becomes one way to him or her. The living partner will become fatigued more easily and will suffer a minor loss of Power/Mana/Magical Energy over the course of each day until he or she learns to block it off (paying 1 CP to learn to do so).
  • The user can be affected by hostile magical or psychic attacks directed at his or her partner.
  • If one partner becomes irrational, upset, or is suffering from Morale penalties, the second one will suffer similarly – although bonuses also transfer.

That’s a net cost of 2 CP – one from each partner. Not too surprisingly… about as cheap as any special power comes in Eclipse.

  • Partners who get along especially well may also share the cost of Inherent Spell (Personal Good Hope, L2) with a total of four uses per day (9 CP, split and rounded down to 4 CP apiece) – with each being able to trigger the effect twice. That way they can encourage each other and derive some actual game-mechanical benefit from the warm feeling of being loved.

And there you go. One Lifebond. Occasionally useful, but mostly only really effective at causing emotional turmoil. Just like in the books.

Passions, Apathies, and Relationships in Eclipse

To the last I grapple with thee! From hell’s heart I stab at thee! For hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee!

-Moby Dick

Passions are larger than life commitments. They are the things that drive you to accomplish impossible feats, to push far beyond normal limits to save a loved one, to find the strength to hurl back a mighty demon that seeks to extinguish the light you guard, to stand alone and hold a pass against an horde of foes seeking to attack your city, and to crawl out of the very grave to avenge yourself upon your enemy. Passions – whether of hatred, of love, or of simple determination – are strengths that drive mighty deeds, both foul and fair. They both create and destroy. They both protect and torment. A Passion is always focused on doing or accomplishing something of importance – at least to you. A book-lover may collect and preserve books while a book-hater seeks then out to burn them – but both can be equally passionate about it.

The trouble with Passions is that they need to be reasonably specific and only help you out when they apply. Hating the Viking Raiders with all your heart won’t help you out against the wicked King John and his oppressive reign. Secondarily, positive Passions – a desire to defend, or serve, or build – are much safer than negative ones. Positive Passions tend to be open ended; if you are willing to die to defend someone… the Passion is still better fulfilled by you surviving unless it’s a choice between them and you. That way you can continue to defend them in the future. With negative passions… if you’re willing to die to destroy the evil emperor… then hurling yourself into a magma pool while grappling with him works just fine. You may die – but you have fully fulfilled your purpose. The tradeoff is that positive passions are often harder to invoke. A Passion to defend your city won’t do much if no one is currently threatening it unless you’re currently building up its defenses.

A Passion defines your relationship with something – whether that’s a rival, an enemy, a friend, a companion, a place, or a thing.

The inverse version – Apathies – is used in stories when you want to make a character suffer. For an all-too-common example… you can have a character lose their great love. Then have them be overcome with grief, make a great point of their terrible suffering, and have them refuse to take an interest in life. You can even have them attempt suicide. That’s an easy way to appeal to those audience members who feel unjustly put upon by powers beyond their control (most people, and especially teenagers), to the hopeless, and to those who can think of no way to try and overcome their own issues. That makes them a splendid audience sympathy character, sure to appeal to everyone who is either depressed already or who feels that “I probably couldn’t handle that either”. Unlike a Passion, an Apathy takes a character out of action rather than driving them to it. In Eclipse, that’s generally a disadvantage – most often Dependence or Accursed.

Has a person of Passion lost someone they love? Whether they succeed or fail… they DO SOMETHING.

  • Orpheus – and many other heroes – challenged the powers of Death itself.
  • In more realistic tales they often swear vengeance, and go forth to destroy the people who slew their loves, to sell their families into slavery, to burn their homes to the ground, and to sow their lands with salt!
  • If the loss was caused by some impersonal force… perhaps they found an orphanage or build a temple or erect a safety rail, or dedicate themselves to finding a way to prevent similar tragedies, in memory of their lost one.

Such people may despair for a time – but they take their Apathy and they turn it into Passion.

Many years ago… a man down the block from my parents house was informed that his wife was dying of cancer. There really wasn’t anything he could do – it was in the hands of the doctors – but he was a man of Passion, and he decided that cancer was the result of some sort of “magnetic imbalance” and started trying to build a machine to cure her. That wasn’t sane by most standards – but he kept trying in her memory even after the various medical treatments had failed and she had died. If he and his wife had only lived in a world of magic… he might well have succeeded.

So can you build Passions in Eclipse?

Of course you can. There’s already an article on building True Love over HERE.

If you just want die roll bonuses you can use the Bonds effect from the Nobilis articles.

But if you really want to break reality… you’re going to need something a little stronger than die roll bonuses. If what you want is something more like…

The battle was fell indeed, and the stench of burning powder and spilled blood lies thick. Despite your efforts your greatest enemy has won. Your ship is in a race between burning and sinking, your crew lies dead, your bowels are scattered across the deck and your shoulder is nailed to the mast by a sword. Your final words are an oath to all the powers that may be, and upon your very soul, that somehow, someday… your enemy WILL PAY.

And two years later, as the moon eclipses the sun and unnatural darkness falls… your ghostly ship, well-armed skeletal crew, and your wrathful spirit rise from the depths, launching a raid against your enemies homestead – a last chance to gain your vengeance against your enemy and all he values before you and your ghostly ship of the dead go on to become a curse upon the world.

Die roll bonuses won’t get you that. They won’t let you defy death and hold the way against a horde of enemies while others escape despite your mortal wounds. They probably won’t even let you duplicate some stuff that’s actually happened in the real world, such as Gladys May Aylward managing to tow more than a hundred children through the mountains to safety in the midst of an invasion. Fitting a feat THAT unlikely into a game will usually call for more than some die roll modifiers!

The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides
By the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.
Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will,
Shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness,
For he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children.
And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger
Those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers.
And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.

-Quentin Tarantino

In Eclipse Passions are built with Mana and Reality Editing. They are Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost.

  • Each die of Mana must be assigned to a particular Passion. While Passions may change over time – each session the character may reassign one die of Mana – it’s a slow process. If a passion is fulfilled – lets say you had “Slay The Dark Lord!” as a driving passion at six dice – then it will take six sessions to transfer them to something else after you succeed.
  • Mana may only be expended on reality editing in pursuit of the passion the die is assigned to.
  • A Passion must be assigned at least one die of Mana to allow Minor Edits, two for Notable Edits, three or four for Major Edits, and five or more for Grandiose Edits. Edits don’t count as actions, but you can only invest (Cha Mod) points of mana in edits per turn – unless the GM thinks that your proposal for an edit fits into the flow of the narrative really, REALLY, well. Edits that directly affect someone another being – such as trying to inflict a crippling wound – always allow a Will save. Edits always require the permission of the game master and will only work if they are dramatically appropriate.
    • Minor Edits are things like finding a weapon ready to hand when you need one, taking a move action without provoking attacks of opportunity, taking 20 on a roll, halving the damage from an attack on you, pulling out (and using up or having to leave behind) some convenient minor item of gear, taking an attack meant for someone else nearby, taking a player minute (with free kibitzing from other players and the GM) to come up with the perfect remark, briefly throwing off the effects of an enchantment, or making a brief speech. Dramatic special effects (similar to area-effect Prestidigitation) fit in here too; do you want to swear so foully that metal tarnishes, plants wither, and surfaces corrode in the area? Or scream so that sensitive individuals hear you in distant places? Or make a cutting remark so cold that everyone in the area feels chilled? Go right ahead.
    • Notable Edits include things like taking a Standard Action without provoking AoO, copying a feat or 6-point ability that you are eligible for but haven’t yet taken for ten round, maximizing the effect of a spell, power, or other roll, emulating a first or second level spell effect as long as you can describe some reasonably plausible method for doing so, greatly impressing someone with your courage, vulnerability, or whatever, or inflicting a crippling wound (equivalent to a “Bestow Curse” effect). You can perform a stunt so impressive (or comical) that everyone around you who isn’t doing something extremely urgent and important will take a few moments out to wonder or laugh over it. You might parry – and possible even reflect – a spell with a physical manifestation (for example, knocking away a Fireball before it detonates). You can draw on your Passion for strength to throw off fatigue or other minor conditions or to make a spell or other power last longer than it should. You can simply shrug off the damage from an attack (it’s merely a flesh wound!) or manifest an intimidating psychic aura. You can even improvise whatever simple tools you need at the moment. This is Reality Editing. It can do a LOT of things.
    • Major Edits include things like taking a Full Round Action without provoking AoO, getting a +15 on a roll, copying a feat for the duration of a scene, emulating a third level spell provided that you can describe some reasonably plausible (by Hollywood logic) method of doing so. You might impress someone so much that they might well offer you a job or perhaps some patronage. You might change a relationship in a dramatic scene – perhaps turning a Rivalry into (unrequited?) Love. You can focus utterly on a task, ignoring any die-roll penalties you would normally suffer from with respect to that task for a scene or initiate a confrontation, leading someone to either have to face you directly or back down. YOu can draw on the strength of your Passion to throw off the effects of poison, negative levels, or other major conditions or to remain standing and functioning despite mortal wounds. You can survive an accident that should have killed you; go ahead and throw yourself off a cliff, into a river, or into some other situation that should be lethal and vanish, returning (considerably) later having somehow survived.
    • Grandiose Edits are legendary deeds. You might drive off a far superior foe in a surge of berserk power, hold a chokepoint against an army for long enough for backup to arrive (the GM may call for a check to see if you survive), sacrifice yourself to accomplish some great goal or lay a great curse (usually with delayed effects). You might even go on a sidequest to call upon some hidden resource, such as Aragorn’s Spectral Army. Why not break something important and start some form of countdown to an enemies base or vehicle collapsing or exploding for no apparent reason? Grandiose edits are feats out of legend – but you shouldn’t always expect a game master to allow them.
  • The mana pool of a highly specific passion (“Defend the Princess!”) automatically refreshes daily, while the mana pool of a general passion (“Defend the Kingdom”) automatically refreshes weekly.
  • The mana pool of a Passion can also be refreshed by doing things directly related to the Passion. For example, if your Passion is defending the kingdom, then renewing your vows of service before the king will refresh your pool. Sadly, no more than one pool per day can be refreshed in this way.
  • Passions are major motivations. Characters who go directly against their Passions may suffer backlash. Perhaps Moroch The Implacable has sworn to destroy The Dark Lord at all costs and has invested seven mana dice in that Passion – but, when it comes to the confrontation and the Dark Lord says “Hey! Join Me! Let us Rule Together and I shall share with you the Secret of Eternal Youth!” Morloch says “Hey! That sounds pretty cool!” and joins the Dark Lord. In that case that Mana is going to spend itself at the discretion of the game master – perhaps ensuring that Moroch’s once-allies will become aware of his base betrayal, or arranging some terrible weakness, or creating a terrible rivalry with some other dark power, or notifying demons that Moroch’s soul is forfeit, or assisting other enemies, or causing his once-invincible sword to snap, or all of those things. And the next session Moroch may reduce his once-passion by one die, but the remaining dice will once more spend themselves whenever their pool refreshes. And so it will go until the Passion is spent and those dice are invested elsewhere.
  • Any given character can have a maximum of (Charisma) dice of Passions.

It thus costs 2 CP for one Passion die.

Some possible Narrow Passions? I Will…

  • Destroy the Dark Lord And Free The World From His Thrall.
  • Aid My Blood Brother In Both War And Peace.
  • Love, Protect, And Uplift My Family At Any Cost.
  • Serve My Friend And Liege Beyond Death Itself.
  • Drive Back The Horrors From Beyond And Preserve Our World.
  • Reclaim My Rightful Lands And Title From Those Who Hold Them.
  • Slay The Dragon That Ravaged My Home And Rebuild It Greater Than Before. .
  • Document This War And Compose The Greatest Epic Ever Known That It Will Be Forever Remembered.
  • Find True Love, Though Hell Should Bar The Way.
  • Allow Neither Rain, Not Snow, Nor Gloom Of Night To Stay Me From Delivering Messages!
  • Escape Unjust Restraint, For I Am The Captain Of My Soul.
  • Let Nothing Bar Me From Your Side, For I Will Always Be There For You.

Some possible Broad Passions? I Will…

  • Defend The Kingdom Against All Who Threaten It.
  • Be The Greatest Pirate Ever In Both Truth And Legend.
  • Assist My Friends Out Of My Matchless Loyalty.
  • Strike Down Evil Wherever It Arises That The Light May Triumph.
  • Protect And Aid The Innocent No Matter What The Threat. .
  • Drive The Usurpers From The Kingdom Into The Outer Darkness.
  • Hold To My Word, No Matter What The Price.

“Upon him I will visit famine and a fire,
Till all around him desolation rings
And all the demons in the outer dark
Look on amazed and recognize
That vengeance is the business of a man.”

-Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

So go forth, and play with Passion.

Dark City Heroes I – Majestic

Gotham City, founded in 1635 by Captain Jon Logerquist on a site where a eldritch entity has lain imprisoned for forty thousand years. As the city grew its occult influence has expanded as mortals unknowingly tapped and channeled it – fostering cultists, empowering arcane rites, and awakening mystical potentials. The first heroes appeared in the 1800’s, exploiting the concealing shamanic magic of Masks* to fight the gangs that controlled the city without exposing their civilian identities and connections to the gangs revenge.

*To don a mask (or, for those with the right powers, to shapeshift) with the intention of being someone else… is to draw a mystical line dividing those identities that only powerful magic, skilled, determined and lengthy investigation, or direct revelation can violate. Thus has Superman concealed his identity for decades with nothing more than a pair of glasses.

Today Gotham remains, as it has for centuries, a city of twisting alleys, archaic secret-laden neighborhoods, forgotten nooks and structures, eldritch nexi, and hidden sorceries. It is older far than Batman – so what heroes might he have Eclipsed in his rise?

The game-setup question is more or less “What sort of young heroes might Batman have grown up around in Gotham City?” – and the rules of the that game are:

  1. Level One Eclipse Builds.
  2. Human – although human-looking Variant Humans Races or Birthrights are available for Heroes and Villains.
  3. Half Cost for buying up Attributes with CP (commonly 6 CP for +1)
  4. Bonus Feats at L0, L1, L2, and every two levels thereafter.
  5. Handguns are considered to be Simple Weapons. Long Arms are Martial.
  6. A Condensed Skill List – in this case:
Acrobatics (Dex) Balance + Escape Artist + Tumble
Arcana (Int) Spellcraft + Knowledge: Arcana
Athletics (Str) Climb + Jump + Swim + Escape Artist (STR)
Background (Int) Covers any five Craft, Profession, or Perform skills.
Deception (Cha) Bluff + Disguise
Endurance (Con) Control Shape + Concentration + Endurance
Handle Animal (Cha) Handle Animal, Ride, Profession/Teamster, etc.
Insight (Wis) Sense Motive + Gather Information
Linguistics (Int) Speak Language + Decipher Script + Forgery
Martial Arts (Var) It’s a superhero setting; invent two with attribute modifiers and give them a each a +4 bonus.
Perception (Wis) Search + Spot + Listen
Persuasion (Cha) Diplomacy + Intimidation
Religion (Wis) Knowledge/Religion, Knowledge/The Planes, Heal, and performing various religious services and rituals
Scholar (Int) Covers Knowledge / Architecture and Engineering, Geography,
History, Local, and Nobility
Stealth (Dex) Hide + Move Silently
Survival (Wis) Survival + Use Rope + Knowledge/Nature
Thievery (Dex) Appraise + Disable Device + Open Locks + Pick Pocket / Sleight of Hand
Use Device (Cha) Use Magic Device, Use Psionic Device, and Use Technological
Device. For practical purposes there isn’t much difference.

Majestic (Edmund Wells):

According to ancient tales, unicorns shed their horns every seven years – and those alicorns retain potent magic, being tokens of healing, purification, and strength. But unicorns are rare, and thus true alicorn is almost unheard of.

According to the modern world, unicorns never existed in the first place, and such tales are simply tales.

Meridith knew that it was nonsense, and the her grandmothers “unicorn horn” pendant was doubtless carved from the horn of some other animal – but if her sickly baby didn’t want to let it go and it amused him… it merely took fastening the chain to the side of the crib to keep it too high for him to do more than hang onto it.

She panicked a bit when she came back and found the pendant missing from the chain – but her son wasn’t choking and didn’t have it in his mouth. It wasn’t in the bedding or under the crib either – and he couldn’t possibly have swallowed it. He’d probably thrown it somewhere – and it would surely turn up eventually.

It never did, but eventually she forgot about it. The distraction of seeing her baby son fully recovered and happy again – and, later, of seeing him growing up strong and healthy – was more than enough to keep her from thinking about the mysteriously missing pendant until the memory faded.

She never knew that her grandmothers pendant – carved of true alicorn and given with love unknowing of its power to an innocent – had merged with her infant son, rendered him once  more healthy – and giving him the potential for unicorn powers.

As he grew young Edmund has often found himself acting as the protector of the smaller children. When he hit adolescence, he soon discovered his ability to transform into a Unicorn Stallion – as well as the ability to sense those who were truly evil, and who had to be stopped.

Since then… rumors that the Wild Hunt rides once more are whispered around the city. The police are equally puzzled, but are unwilling to publicly admit that they are keeping an eye out for a sword-wielding vigilante who reliably assaults only the most vicious and evil criminals.

Race: Human Variant (Atherian Light Birthright, 30 CP / +0 ECL).

All of their racial abilities are Corrupted. The Children of Light suffer a -5 penalty on all attempts to be stealthy or to deceive people, are easily identified by their radiant auras by any form of magical detection or by perceptive observers (Spot DC 20).

  • +2 Charisma, +2 Dexterity, +2 Intelligence, and +2 Wisdom (16 CP)
  • Innate Enchantment (7500 GP, 6 CP):
    • Command (2000 GP).
    • Protection From Evil (personal only, 1400 GP)
    • Enhanced Insight: +3 to the Insight Skill (personal only, 1400 GP)
    • Inspiring Word (personal only, +1 Morale bonus to Saves, Attacks, Checks, and Damage, 1400 GP)
    • Immortal Vigor I (+12 + 2x Con Mod HP, personal only, 1400 GP).
  • Fast Learner (often Specialized in Channeling for Double Effect, 4 CP).
  • Channeling/Positive Energy: 3 + Cha Mod uses/day (6 CP) with a +4 bonus to their Base Intensity (4 CP).
  • Immunity/Time (reduced aging) (Common/Major/Minor, usually 4 CP but reduced to 0 CP due to relatively short campaign timescale (and standard comic book time).

The Children of Light suffer from some automatic disadvantages: they are Compulsively Truthful and Blocked (they can’t use negative-energy channeling, darkness-related magic, magical enhancements to stealth, non-healing necromantic magic, or anything else related to Darkness), for a total of -6 points

Basic Attributes: Str 10, Dex 12 (+2 Racial = 14), Con 12, Int 14 +2 Racial = 16), Wis 14 (+2 Racial = 16, Cha 14 (+2 Racial = 16). (3.5 28 Point Buy. For Pathfinder 20 point buy go to Con 13). In Unicorn Form: Str 20, Dex 17, Con 21.

Available Character Points: 48 (L1 Base) +10 (Disadvantages: Valuable, Hunted, and Broke, see below) +12 (L0 and L1 Bonus Feats) +2 (Duties) +6 CP (Fast Learner, only for Channeling) = 72 (78) CP

  • Valuable. He turns into a Unicorn. There are any number of mystics out there who would like to have a Unicorn – or some pieces thereof – on hand.
  • Hunted: He’s attacking the most evil mobsters, street gangers, and petty villains around. Some of them have surely taken notice.
  • Secret (Identity). Well, superhero setting. This is almost a given for most heroic characters.

Basic Purchases (48 CP):

  • Base Attack Bonus: +1 Specialized in Melee Combat (3 CP)
  • Hit Points: 24 (L1;4d6, 32 CP) +12 (Immortal Vigor) +6 (6 x Con Mod) = 42 (Unicorn 66)
  • Saving Throws (all gain a +2 Resistance bonus versus Evil):
    • Fortitude +0 (Purchased) +2 (Template) +1 (Con) +1 (Mor) = +4 (Unicorn +8).
    • Reflex +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +2 (Dex) +1 (Mor) = +5 (Unicorn +6).
    • Will +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +3 (Wis) +1 (Mor) = +5.
  • Proficiencies: All Simple Weapons (3 CP).
  • Skill Points: 4 SP (4 CP) +12 (Int Mod x 4) = 16 SP.
  • Athletics (+4 SP +4 Str +1 More = +9, extra +24 for Jumping), Insight (+4 SP +3 Wis +1 Mor +3 Enh = +11, extra +5 to Detecting Lies), Martial arts (+4 SP +5 Str +1 Mor = +10), Stealth (+4 SP +3 Dex +4 Racial = +11), and Survival (+0 SP +3 Wis +1 Mor +3 Racial = +7).
  • Human Armor Class: 10 (Base) +2 (Dex) +4 (armor) = 16 (+2 Deflection vrs Evil)
    • Modified Unicorn Armor Class: -1 Size, +1 More Dex +6 Natural = 22 (+2 Deflection vrs Evil)/
  • Initiative: +2 (Dex). (Unicorn +3)
  • Movement: 30 (Base) +30 (Enh) = 60 (Unicorn 90).

Usual Weapons:

  • Unicorn Horn: +10/+10 (+1 BAB +3 Enh +5 Str +1 Mor) for 1d8+9, Crit 20/x2, 5′ Reach,
  • Unicorn Hooves: +7/+7/+7 (+1 BAB +5 Str +1 Mor) for 1d4+6, Crit 20/x2, 5′ Reach,

I’m not worrying about the “Natural Weapons” rule. This is a PC, and doesn’t need to use GM shortcuts. In any case, rearing up to kick – or back kicking – isn’t too compatible with stabbing with a horn.

Abilities (30 CP):

Shapeshift with Growth, Beasts, Enchanted, and +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (8 CP) / only to take (Urban) Unicorn Form.

Urban Unicorns are anthracite-coal black, with green, gold, red-gold, or orange eyes instead of white with sea-blue, violet, brown, or fiery gold eyes, their 1/day Teleport operates within their city and it’s suburbs instead of within their forest, and their “Wild” (City) Empathy works on police, officials, and city employees rather than animals. Otherwise, they’re just the same as standard SRD forest-dwelling Unicorns.

Unicorn Powers:

  • Senses: Darkvision 60, :Low-Light Vision, Scent
  • Constant Defenses: Magic Circle Against Evil, Immunity to Poison, Charm, and Compulsion.
  • Spell-Like Abilities
  • Detect Evil: at will, as a Free Action.
  • Greater Teleport: from anywhere in Gotham to anywhere in Gotham 1/Day.
  • Cure Light Wounds (1d8+5) 3/Day
  • Cure Moderate Wounds (2d8+5) 1/Day
  • Neutralize Poison 1/Day.
  • Skills: +4 to Stealth, +3 to Survival.
  • Damage Reduction 2/-, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / Only versus Physical Attacks, only works against metallic weapons (6/Non-Metallic Weapons, 3 CP).
  • Enhance Racial Innate Enchantments/+4000 GP Effective Value (4 CP).
    • Personal Haste: +30′ Movement, +1 Attack when making a Full Attack (2000 GP).
    • Unseen Servant (2000 GP).
  • Channeling:
    • Conversion to four Radiance effects of up to level two: Solar (Scorching) Ray, Glitterdust), Extended Color Spray (30′ Cone), and Pyrotechnic Flare (as per Pyrotechnics (Fireworks option only, but no fire is required) (6 CP).
    • Conversion to one Healing effect (Cure Moderate Wounds, 3 CP). .
  • Use of Charms and Talismans (6 CP): These are actually more-or-less inherent – the difference being that, while they’re free instead of having a small cost, it will take days or weeks to trade them out via meditation and practice.
    • Charms (7):
      • All-Weather Cloak: He is not bothered by normal weather conditions. Of course, unicorns aren’t.
      • Amulet Of The Stallion: He has the sexual potency of a stallion.
      • Mandarin’s Pin: Mud, rain, and other crud slides right off him, he is always nice and clean and freshly groomed.
      • Silken Tongue: He can speak clearly, and cast his voice up to fifteen feet, even if his mouth is full or something is wrong with his voicebox (like being a Unicorn).
      • Sovereign Ointment: Can use Cure Minor Wounds up to 30x a day, but no more than 1d4+1 times per target.
      • Trackless Boots: He leaves no trail and cannot be tracked by non-magical means.
      • Vanishing Cloak. He can become invisible for 6-12 seconds (3 + Level/3) times per day.
    • Talismans
      • Dao Sigil: He heals an extra 1d6 damage and one attribute point per day and can (very slowly) regenerate lost limbs and organs.
      • Helm Of War: May reduce a critical hit to a normal hit up to seven times – but only regains one use of this per week.
      • Shimmermail: He gets a +4 armor bonus from his mythic aura.

Majestic isn’t particularly subtle. He’s a rather brutal vigilante who relies on closing with serious bad guys at high speed, goring them, relying on his resistance to bullets, knives, and similar weapons to let him deal with their thugs, and on his (rather modest) healing abilities to let him handle what damage does get through – or with injured bystanders. His usual routine is to go  out, quietly turn into a unicorn in some back alley or hidden location, and roam around dealing with the bad guys. If cornered, or when he’s done… he uses his once-per-day teleportation power to return to one of his “lairs” – hidden cubbyholes in abandoned buildings or unused subway stations – makes sure that no one else is currently around, turns back to human, and goes home.

So far it has worked reasonably well.

In play, like any other narrow specialist, Majestic is quite formidable – even before customizing with some unicorn martial arts. On the other hand, that’s not going to last. Unicorn powers are pretty useful at low levels – but they’re fairly trivial at higher levels. Like it or not, there all too soon comes a time in d20 where being kicked by a horse is no longer much of a worry.

Eclipse d20 – Vada Dibria Lartia of Atheria

The Lartia family has quite a few holdings along the Alaria-Chelm border, not a few Chelmian contacts and trade-partners, and relatively little of the empires standard-issue fear of the Chelmians Blood and Shadow birthrights. They certainly still regard them with caution though – and so, even with the unstable nature of the Order/Blood and Shadow Realm Boundary, they rarely produce children with Chelmian Birthrights. Most mothers-to-be are moved deeper into the Imperium well before it is time to give birth.

Some years back there was a major disturbance. Something of Blood and Shadow woke – and ventured across the border, bearing those powers with it. During the week of that rampage… the passing power of Blood brought not a few infants to unexpected birth, and Birthrights of Blood and Shadow blossomed in them.

On such child – Vada Dibria Lartia – was contracted as a child to marry into the De Tanga clan before her exotic birthright was known. Unfortunately, once it became apparent that Vada’s Birthright was of Shadow rather than of Order, the Imperium’s prejudices against Chelm kicked in. The De Tanga clan patriarch has refused to allow Vada to marry any of the heirs who reside in Alaria, given that he sees the Chelmian Birthrights as dark powers, corrupt and untrustworthy.

On the other hand, the cantankerous old man is also refusing to recognize Darius’s marriage to an “Lunar Isles Hag”. While his opinion means little outside the family (even presuming that he lives much longer. He may well not, at 223 even the best life-extension spells that he can get may not help much longer) that has left young Vada with only a few options. She can accept her (and some of the other children’s) exile into the wilderness of Dernmarik and try to make her own home there – or she can seek out Darius and see if she can arrive at some arrangement. After all, her own patronage may not last forever – and the extra power she draws from having a patron of the Imperium is just too convenient to give up without a fight.

Vada is a fairly formidable generalist; she’s an expert ritualist and can enhance the rest of a groups weapons and armor, her spellcasting is very limited but reasonably effective, she has some ability as a beastmaster, she’s a skill expert, and she’s quite decent in a fight. Like most generalists however she’s not nearly as good at any of those roles (save, perhaps, rituals) as a true specialist would be even though she is rather highly optimized and is taking full advantage of her Shadow Birthright and Chelmian Wealth option.

That was, of course, one of the design goals behind the Atheria setting. In most d20 games… races are a bit of role-playing color, and a minor bonus or two, but really don’t have a lot of impact. The racial differences between an Elven 15’th level wizard and a Halfling 15’th level wizard are pretty well swamped by the “15’th level wizard” part. On Atheria… Birthrights shape a characters society, attitudes, approaches to problems, and builds – and it shows. For comparison, Fuyuha is an extremely formidable combatant thanks to her monomanical focus on her Dexterity and using it for EVERYTHING – but she’s pretty much ignored her Elemental Birthright along the way. How much more dangerous would that same build be if it was based around a Weasel Totem Birthright with it’s extra +12 Dexterity?

Fuyuha is very, VERY, good. But if she’d selected a Birthright that complimented what she wanted to do… she could be much, MUCH, better. Vada here isn’t as good – but she is far, far, more flexible and helps out the rest of the party quite effectively.

Vada Dibria Lartia;

Birthright: Shadow / Darkness (Chelm).

  • Rite of Chi with +2 Bonus Uses. Corrupted: it requires at least an hour to call on the protective concealment of darkness and steal the power of The Dragon (6 CP).
  • Occult Sense/Darksight. (6 CP).
  • Cloaking/Mystical Aura and Powers (6 CP).
  • Privilege/May have a second, unique, form of “Wealth” (6 CP).
  • Occult Ritual (Corrupted: may only be used at night, 4 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Knowledges (+2 SP/Level, 6 CP).
  • Privilege/May learn Knowledges and Specific Knowledges without having to explain where they’re learning such things. (3 CP).
  • Chelmians suffer from obligations (periodic exotic tribal rituals) and have a poor reputation (they are generally regarded as black magicians) for -6 CP.

Available Character Points: 96 (Level Three Base) +10 (Disadvantages) +12 (L1, L2 Bonus Feats) = 118 CP.

Wealth Level(s) and Effects (12 CP):

  • Conventional Wealth Level: Common (0 CP).
    • Starting at “Common” got her the option to take two NPC Class (Adept, Aristocrat, Expert, or Warrior) Levels as a +1 ECL Template. She took
      • Level One: Expert. +24 SP, 1d6HD, +2 Will
      • Level Two: Warrior. +2 SP, 1d8HD, Proficient with Simple and Martial Weapons, Armor, and Shields, +2 Fort.
        • This is useful early on, but less useful later since it puts her ahead on basic adventurer skills (even if she will never use some of them), but behind on developing her special powers.
  • Chelmian Wealth Level: Wealthy (12 CP):
  • Given that Chelm, and the Soul-Stelae Vada draws upon, is a long ways away, the support that she can draw from it is decidedly lopsided and it’s extremely difficult to increase it (requiring a trip to Chelm and making a lot of human sacrifices). Her Wealth Level is considered to be Specialized for Increased Effect (Her Armor / Shields, Charms & Talismans, and Weapon Bonuses function at +1 Wealth Level and she can share that full benefit with the people she is supporting instead of it being reduced by one level). However, this means that…
    • Her Legal Privileges, Recognition, and Skill Bonuses are negated entirely. They just don’t work this far from Chelm.
    • Her Mounts/Pets/Familiars and Retainers function at -1 Wealth Level. It’s harder to call on the services of spirits that are so far away.
    • Since she ritually links some of her spirit-servants to creatures, she can effectively afford exotic animals
      • Has two personal guards and twenty-four employees – all spirits either animating animal or constructed bodies or waiting to be called to do so. They could, in theory, animate dead bodies (such entities are the only type of “Undead” known to Atheria) – but that sort of stunt tends to cause at least as much trouble as it is worth and is limited to boot; dead bodies tend to fall apart after a while. Currently only a few of her servants have bodies at all; wandering around with an entourage of the dead inhabiting dangerous animal forms isn’t as bad as having animated corpses about, but still puts people off. Currently she has a pair of Chelmian Tigers (Blood and Shadow), a Dernmarkian Timedancer Warhorse, and a Pocket Bear, and one of Alaria’s Beekeeper Bears.
    • Her training is unaffected; her spirit-tutors only need to reach her dreams after all.
      • She gains +2 SP and +1 HP per level gained at this wealth level and a +2 wealth bonus to any one attribute.
    • Her Armor/Shields, Magical Items, and Weapons function at +1 Wealth Level. That power is easier to send over such a distance, so the spirit council sends more in lieu of the services that are harder to send.
      • Armor & Shields: One Category Lighter, Half Weight, +3 AC Wealth Bonus, -3 on Armor Check Penalty (If Any).
      • Magical Items: Seven Charms and Three Talismans.
      • Weapons: Gain a +4 Wealth Bonus and are considered Masterwork and Adamantine.

Order Birthright Patronage Deal (0 CP):

  • Innate Enchantment. Specialized: only works with a high-ranking in-empire patron to channel the magic of Order to the user, double effect (6 CP/10,000 GP).
    • Enhance Charms and Talismans (L2 spell effect, increasing the effects of Charms to L1 and those of Talismans to L2. Personal charms only, 8400 GP)
    • Inspiring Word (personal only, +1 Morale bonus to Saves, Attacks, Checks, and Weapon Damage).

Magical Devices (7 Chelmian Wealth + 3 Conventional Wealth = 10, with Order Enhancement above = Talismans or can maintain level one spell effects). :

Charms And Fetishes:

    • Chainmail Shirt with a Rune Of Defense (+2 Enh, +4 at L6+). Considered Adamant for DR 1/-.
    • Peacock-Plumed Hat. Provides a Disguise Self effect.
    • Ring Of Darkwarding: Creates any shield you wish out of solid darkness as a free action, although it can only maintain one shield at a time.
    • Rubydraught (Standard Talisman):
    • Rune of Defense for the Ring Of Darkwarding (+2 Enh, 3 at L6+).
    • Rune Weapon (Standard Talisman): A +1 Keen Scimitar.
    • (2x) Serpent Bracer: This talisman is actually an Asp taking the form of a serpentine bracer. The user may inflict it’s poison on anyone they wound up to three times daily and may, if they wish, release it to serve them. Sadly, it’s still just a fairly ordinary snake – although it effectively knows seven tricks of the owners choice.
    • Thousand Hands Of Night. The black stone of this pendant exudes dark tendrils that act as a Shieldbearer spell.
    • Tome Of Shadows: The black pages of this tome can be read only with Darksight or under the light of the full moon – but provide the user with a +3 Competence Bonus on their effective Knowledge Skills.

Talismans and Greater Fetishes (3 Chelmian Wealth +1 Conventional Wealth = 4, enhanced to L2 effects by Order Birthright).

    • Bag Of Tricks: Casts “Carry Companion” up to three times per day, storing them safely in the bag.
    • Bestial Mantle: Made from the skins of powerful beasts, these cloaks bestow animalistic strengths – and a dose of viciously feral instincts and an animalistic appearance- on their wearers. In this case, it grants the strengths of a Wolverine (+2 Natural Armor, Burrow 10, Climb 10, d4 Claws, and +8 on climb. Versions including attribute modifiers add Str +4, Dex +2, and Con +6).
    • Bracer Of The Devouring Night: Creates a Toothed Tentacle effect whenever the user concentrates on it.
    • Tiara Of Crystal Shadows: +4 Charisma

Basic Attributes: Str 8 (+4 Enh = 12), Dex 14 (+2 Enh = 16), Con 14 (+6 Enh = 20), Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 16 (+4 Enh +1 Level +1 Purchased +2 Wealth = 24). (3.5 28 Point Buy).

Basic Purchases (31 CP):

  • Base Attack Bonus: +1 (6 CP) +1 (Template) = +2.
  • Hit Points: 12 (1d6 +1d8 Template. 0 CP) +10 (L1-3d4, 0 CP) +30 (Con Mod x 5) +10 (Wealth) = 62 HP.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fortitude +0 (Purchased) +2 (Template) +5 (Con) +1 (Mor) = +8.
    • Reflex +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +3 (Dex) +1 (Mor) = +6.
    • Will +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +0 (Wis) +2 (Template) +1 (Mor) = +4.
  • Proficiencies: Simple and Martial Weapons, Light, Medium, and Heavy Armor, and Shields (Template).
  • Skill Points: 6 SP (6 CP) +32 (Fast Learners, Birthright and Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for Double Effect, Corrupted / only for buying Adept skills (4 CP)) +56 (Cha Mod x 8) +26 (Template) = 120 SP.
    • Adept (Knowledge: Arcana, Religion, Nature, and Architecture/Engineering, 6 CP).
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +9 Armor (+4 Chain Shirt +2 Enh +3 Wealth) +3 (Dex) +9 (+4 Tower Shield +3 Wealth +2 Enh) = 31.
  • Initiative: +3 (Dex).
  • Movement: 30 (Base) +10 (Talisman) = 40′.

Favored Weapons:

  • Toothed Tentacle: +13 or +13/+13/+13 (+5 Caster Level/HD +7 Cha +1 MA), 2d8, Crit 20/x2 + DC 18 Fort Save to avoid 2d4 rounds partial blindness, 30′ Reach. Whirlwind, Shadowed Hand.
  • Scimitar: +8 (+2 BAB +1 Str +1 Enh +4 Wealth), 1d10+6, Crit 15/20/x2 + Automatic Trip, 2d6 Sneak Attack.
  • Composite Bow (12 Str): +9 (+2 BAB +3 Dex +4 Wealth), 1d8+5, Crit 20/x3, 110′ Range Increment.

Special Abilities (75 CP):

  • Dark Wisdom: Advanced Finesse, Substitutes (Cha Mod) for (Int Mod) for skill purposes (12 CP).
  • Immunity/the normal limits of Diplomacy and Spoken Language (Common, Minor, Major, 12 CP). This ability allows the user to effectively communicate with ANYTHING – and to attempt to persuade it to help them out. They can speak with plants and animals, attempt to persuade locks and doors to open, fires to leave open a path of escape, spirits to answer, air to remember when it was stone, or stone to remember when it was molten rock or simple sand or whatever it once was. It’s usually fairly easy to persuade things to act within their natures – for example, doors are made to let people through, so getting one to open itself is fairly easy. Getting a lock to open without the key is considerably harder; locks are MADE to keep unauthorized people out.
  • Professional/Diplomacy (6 CP). (While only worth +2 at the moment, this has to be bought early and will improve later on).
  • Privilege/most things that are not naturally communicative are pleased to be spoken to, and will be reasonably friendly (3 CP).
  • Spirit Favors: Major from the spirits of Nature world, minor from the spirits of Blood and Darkness (9 CP).
  • +1 Cha (6 CP since Atheria uses the half-price attribute rule).
  • 3d6 (12) Mana with Spell Enhancement, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for Spell Enhancement, only to enhance Shaping Effects (Below) (6 CP).
  • Shaping, Specialized for Increased Effect (level zero effects) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only to produce Darkness/Shadow and Alchemical Effects (4 CP).
    • She is fond of Alchemic Mist, Whip Of Spiders, and Shields. When necessary she uses alchemical healing salves and such, since she has few other major sources of healing at the moment.
  • +4 Bonus Uses for Rite Of Chi, Specialized and Corrupted / only to restore the Mana pool for Darkness/Shadow and Alchemical Magic noted above (2 CP).
  • Harnessed Intellect / Corrupted for Increased Effect (based on Charisma instead of Intelligence) Specialized for Reduced Cost / only to use her Bracer Of The Devouring Night without having to continually concentrate (3 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Skills (6 CP).
  • Create Relic, Specialized/only points from Enthusiast may be used (3 CP).
  • Enthusiast, Specialized for double effect/points may only be used in the creation of Relics (3 CP). This allows the Animist to have a two-point relic to start off with.

Current Relics:

  • The Aegis Of The Dark Mother (1 CP Relic): Unspecialize Luck (3 CP), +4 Bonus Uses of Luck Specialized in Saves, +4 Bonus Uses of Luck Specialized in Attacks and Damage. Net Cost 9 CP/6 = 1.5 CP, rounds to 1 CP.
  • Blood Like Thunder Gem: Reflex Training (+3 Actions Variant), Specialized / only for Defensive Actions (3 CP), Opportunist (may use a shaping effect as a free action while attacking with a Toothed Tentacle effect, 6 CP).

Skills:

  • Tier-One Skills (77 SP)
    • Knowledges (33 SP):
      • Arcana: +8 (4*SP) +7 (Cha) +3 (Enh) = +18
      • Architecture and Engineering: +8 (4*SP) +7 (Cha) +3 (Enh) = +18
      • Dungeoneering: +2 (2 SP) +7 (Cha) +3 (Enh) = +12
      • Geography: +5 (5 SP) +7 (Cha) +3 (Enh) = +15
      • History: +2 (2 SP) +7 (Cha) +3 (Enh) = +12
      • Local: +2 (2 SP) +7 (Cha) +3 (Enh) = +12
      • Nature: +8 (4*SP) +7 (Cha) +3 (Enh) = +18
      • Nobility: +5 (5 SP) +7 (Cha) +3 (Enh) = +15
      • Religion: +8 (4*SP) +7 (Cha) +3 (Enh) = +18
      • Planes: +5 (5 SP) +7 (Cha) +3 (Enh) = +15
    • Other Tier One Skills (44 SP):
      • Diplomacy: +8 (8 SP) +7 (Cha) +2 (Professional) = +17
      • Martial Art – Shadow Weaving: +8 (8 SP) +7 (Cha) = +15
      • Martial Art – Lunar Fang Style: +8 (8 SP) +3 (Dex) = +11
      • Swim: +2 (2 SP) +1 (Str) = +3
      • Fly: +1 (1 SP) +3 (Dex) = +4
      • Spot: +8 (8 SP) +2 (Wis) = +10
      • Sleight of Hand: +2 (2 SP) +3 (Dex) = +5
      • Survival. +8 (8 SP) +2 (Wis) = +10
  • Tier Two Skills (23 SP).
    • Bluff: +8 (4 SP) +7 (Chr) +2 (Sy) = +17
    • Climb: +3 (1 SP) +1 (Str) +8 (Talisman) = +12
    • Concentration: +5 (2 SP) +5 (Con) = +10
    • Craft Alchemy +8 (4 SP) +1 (Int) = +9
    • Craft Charms and Talismans +8 (4 SP) +1 (Int) = +9
    • Gather Information (Cha) +3 (1 SP) +7 (Cha) = +10
    • Handle Animal: +3 (1 SP) +7 (Cha) = +10
    • Ride: +5 (2 SP) +3 (Dex) = +8
    • Sense/Listen:: +5 (2 SP) +2 (Wis) = +7
    • Sense Motive: +5 (2 SP) +2 (Wis) = +7
  • Tier Three Skills (4 SP)
    • Burrow +4 (1 SP) +2 (Wis) +8 (Talisman) = +14
    • Decipher Script: +4 (1 SP) +1 (Int) = +5
    • Disguise: +7 (2 SP) +7 (Cha) +10 (Disguise Self) = +24

Skill Specialities (3 SP):

  • Tier 1: Diplomacy (Nature Spirits) (1 SP). Knowledge; The Planes (Dimensional Rifts, 1 SP).
  • Tier 2: Ride (Spirit-Bonded Animals) and Craft Charms and Talismans (Chelmian Fetishes) (1 SP).
  • Tier 3: Currently None (0 SP).

Specific Knowledges (12 SP):

  • Alarian Academy Compiled Handbook Of Charms And Talismans In Three Volumes (6 SP): A substantial set of reference works on the making of Charms and Talismans.
  • Knowledge; Nature (Beasts Of Chelm, 1 SP).
  • Memorized Major Rituals (5 SP):
  • Planes: Seal Dimensional Rift (DC 40, 1 SP) and Open Dimensional Rift (DC 50, 1 SP).
  • Religion; Binding Spirits to Animals (DC 40, 1 SP), Bestial Might (DC 35, 1 SP), and Creating Atherian “Undead” (DC 40, 1 SP),

Martial Art – Shadow Weaving (Cha)

Darkness… can be solid. Witches, Wizards, Shadow Adepts, and many others can form darkness into chains, walls, weapons, and more. While only quasi-real, such things can be as durable as adamant – and, being will-wrought, can change ever so slightly once one knows the technique. Dark blades may bite with cruel fangs, jaws of blackness gnaw with spinning teeth, and dark shields grasp attacking weapons with tendrils of the night. A master of Shadow Weaving knows how to make those changes, and make his or her strikes bite deep.

  • Requires: Must have unlimited access to a darkness-magic effect that inflicts physical damage. The art will focus on manipulating that specific effect.
  • Basic Techniques: Power 4, Defenses 3, and Attack 2.
  • Advanced And Master Techniques: Blinding Strike, Shadowed Hand, Whirlwind Attack, and Blind Fight.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength x 2, Call The Void (Ki Block) and Shadow Step (Vanishing).

Shadowed Hand: Reflex Training (Three Actions/Day variant) with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized for Half Cost / only to make an extra attack or cast a spell/use a psychic power while attacking with the darkness effect.

  • Selected Weapon: Toothed Tentacle.
  • Known Techniques (8): Power 2 (Bites do 2d8), Attack 1, Blinding Strike, Shadowed Hand, Whirlwind Attack, and Shadow Step (Vanishing).

Lunar Fang Style (Dex)

The Crescent Moon cuts through the seas of the infinite night like a blade. Seen and unseen it appears from the clouds and vanishes once more, The Lunar Fang Style focuses upon the art of concealing the blade, hiding it’s exact location through careful use of darkness, concealing accessories (billowing sleeves, cloaks, swirling ribbons, and magical effects are all popular), and Sleight Of Hand. For what opponent, no matter how cunning, can parry a blow when taken unaware? And what wound can be so grievous as one that twists past an opponents guard to sheathe the blade in yielding flesh? For true masters, that evasive concealment extends not only to the physical realm but to that of the mind as well, for much of the art of combat lies in intent and stratagem, which must be concealed as well to have any hope of victory.

  • Requires: Use of Scimitar, Kukri, or Scythe (Select One), Darksight, and at least +5 in Sleight Of Hand.
  • Basic Techniques: Power 2, Defenses 2, Attack 2, Defenses II (Bonus to Will Saves), Synergy/Bluff, and Synergy (Sleight Of Hand).
  • Advanced And Master Techniques: Mighty Blow, and Sneak Attack III
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength II, Ki Focus (+4 to Will Saves), and Ki Focus (+4 to Damage).
  • Selected Weapon: Scimitar.
  • Known Techniques (6): Power 2, Synergy (Bluff), Mighty Blow, and Sneak Attack 2.

Using Valdemaran Gifts, Part II

One of the major tricks of using Gifts effectively is to work gradually. After all… if you’re not in too much of a hurry, treating a flu patient with specific level zero effects – “reduce production of mucus”, “expectorate”, “reduce inflammation”, “weaken virus”, “bolster immunity”, “heal trivial damage to the throat lining” (a variant of “cure minor wounds”), “bolster immune system”, “drain lungs”, “spring tonic” (A.K.A. “provide vitamins”), and “relieve aches and pains” – probably followed by bit of cleaning up and an “resist flu infection” effect on yourself – is just about as good as zapping your patient with a level three “Cure Disease”. It just takes a few minutes instead of a single turn and requires that you have some idea of what you’re doing. Sure, you might not be able to handle a retrovirus hidden in the patients genome, but how often does that kind of distinction come up in most d20 games?

Unfortunately, that kind of gradual approach isn’t too effective in combat, where you’re usually in a rather large hurry. It’s also less effective in the original books, since there even minor uses of a gift often seem to be a bit of a strain and going step-by-step would bore the readers – but telling the players that even trivial uses of their Gifts are draining is just going to frustrate them.

Personally, I’d recommend that the “chaining minor effects” approach be limited by how well you understand what’s going on in the first place – so you can’t effectively chain more minor effects than your baseline bonus (ranks plus attribute modifier plus permanent feats) in a/the relevant skill – possibly subtracting a few points for general difficulty. Thus the step-by-step treatment for the flu described above would call for a minimum of a +10 total in the Heal skill so as to know what to do and not forget things and might even call for a few more points than that if there’s a penalty. That’s not really much of a limitation, but in a low-level game it’s reasonable enough.

 

Gift Of Tongues

This barely gets a reference in the books – mostly as “Companions understand what people are saying” – but I’m going to presume that it covers vocal and written communication in general.

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Double Meaning, Message, Read Magic, and Imitate Voice. You can also sketch accurately, make sure that your words cannot be accidentally misunderstood, and understand any normal language given a minute or two to listen to it being spoken. This won’t let you speak it though.
  • Level One Effects: Aphasia, Comprehend Languages, Compulsive Liar, Fumbletongue, Share Language, Memorize Page, Command, Enthrall, Litany Of Sloth (usually via distraction and insults) Litany Of Weakness, and Vocal Alteration. At this point you can get a general message across pretty much any language barrier, identify relationships between languages, give a fair description of the attitudes and beliefs of the author of any extensive written work, and give excellent motivational speeches.
  • Level Two Effects: Glibness, Codespeak, Heckle, Steal Voice, Hidden Speech, Suggestion, Tongues, Voluminous Vocabulary, Castigate, Litany Of Eloquence, and Speak With Animals. At this level you will also automatically take on an appropriate accent, use native turns of phrase, no one will notice anything odd about your speech, and you can reconstruct messages, books, and instructions presuming that you have at least a third of the original material to work with.
  • Level Three Effects: Curse Of Babel, Demanding Message, Confess, Lesser Geas, Illusory Script, Secret Page, Communal Share Language, Deflect Blame, and Triggered Suggestion. At this point you can understand utterly alien languages, translate technical and magical material, understand blueprints and other plans, reconstruct books and messages from small fragments, and communicate directly with computers.

 

Healing:

In the original books healers are rarely chosen as Heralds, simply because they’re very badly needed in the general population and because Heralds have very short life expectancies. Of course, in d20, any rational party will find SOME excuse to have a healer along – especially since a d20 Healing Gift is far more effective than the ones in the books. Maybe the party healer was chosen in an utter emergency because bonding with a companion boosts gifts – and healing someone was vital to the future of the country. Maybe their Healing Gift was too weak to use without a Companion. Maybe it was triggered accidentally and unexpectedly. Maybe there was just a special reason – perhaps a healing gift that would have been wasted in a bad situation so there was no reason not to choose an otherwise-suitable person with the healing Gift. It’s not as if it never happens, as shown by Shavri, (and, according to the Valdemar wiki I consulted, a Herald named Shia whom I do not remember). Just go with it. There’s no point in arguing.

It is important to remember that – the way Gifts are built – cumulative effects are limited to 2-12 uses of the same basic effect per day per target – so “unlimited use of level zero effects” doesn’t equate to “unlimited healing”. What it means is “somewhat faster healing” – even if the baseline healing in d20 is already better than healer-assisted healing in the original books, a gifted d20 Healer can come close to matching some fairly significant Valdemaran miracles – and we’re bowing to d20 here. In the books many or most healers have ethical problems with using their ability to manipulate the body to harm others, but it’s possible (and, with player characters, all too likely).

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Cure Minor Wounds, Detect Poison, Diagnose Illness (Hedge Magic), Transfuse (Hedge Magic), Stabilize, Touch Of Fatigue, and individual Polypurpose Panacea effects. A healer at this level can also remove rashes, reduce scars and birthmarks, sooth burns and frostbite, keep wounds from becoming infected, relieve arthritis and headaches, eliminate male pattern baldness (if they want to waste time on regular treatments), slightly extend lifespans (regular attention from a healer will add about two years to the effective duration of each age category, resulting in a total extension of about ten years), and alleviate the effects of many other minor illnesses and disorders.
  • Level One Effects: Biofeedback, Relieve Illness (Hedge Magic), Relieve Poison (Hedge Magic), Cure / Inflict Light Wounds, Dentistry (Hedge Magic), Invigorate, Itching Curse, Restful Sleep, Touch of Blindness, Resurgence, Touch of Gracelessness, Keep Watch, Ray of Enfeeblement, Ray Of Sickening, and Remove Sickness (Pathfinder Version). A healer at this level can also produce effects equivalent to the best individual earthly medications, surgeons, and physicians.
  • Level Two Effects: Cure / Inflict Moderate Wounds, Sleep, Lesser Restoration, Youthful Appearance, Acute Senses, Blindness / Deafness, Delay Pain, Delay Poison, Bears Endurance, Bulls Strength, Sustenance, and Body Purification. A healer at this level can use his or her skill and Gift to reattach severed limbs, perform open-heart surgery, and imitate a trauma team.
  • L3) Remove Blindness/Deafness, Neutralize Poison, Cause Blindness/Deafness, Cure/Inflict Serious Wounds, Accept Affliction, Channel the Gift, Deep Slumber, Mass Invigorate, Remove Curse, Psychic Leach, Pain Strike, Remove Paralysis, Ray Of Exhaustion, Poison, Remove Disease, Contagion, and Endorphin Surge. A skilled healer with a Gift at this level will – at least with skill and a good deal of Mana expenditure – be able to perform organ transplants, create almost fully-functional prosthetics, perform extensive biophysical reconstruction, and – for that matter – create tailored drugs and diseases.

 

Mage-Gift:

Mage-Gift doesn’t work like the other gifts; the users have to learn specific spells and don’t get unlimited use of their level zero effects. On the other hand, it allows a MUCH wider variety of effects and Adepts can reach level four effects – which are generally beyond the reach of any other single character.

  • For 6 CP you can have Occult Talent, granting 4L0 and 1L1 effects that you can cast once a day each with a caster level equal to your character level.
  • For 12 CP you can have Advanced Occult Talent, granting 5L0 and 3L1 effects and a similar number of spell slots to cast them with.

Characters in the setting can have Occult Talents with a total base cost of 24 CP. If they wish they can limit their abilities to reduce the cost, but they can’t exceed that limit.

On the other hand, they CAN take higher level spells in those slots. They’ll just have to spend Mana to cast them – and while the Mage-Gifted have limited access to Rite Of Chi to recharge their mana reserves, mana is still a limited resource. Journeymen only have a bit and can only use spells one level above their base slots. Masters have a bit more, can recharge faster and can spend it to use spells one or two levels above their base slots. Adepts have even more, recharge even faster, and can spend it to use spells one, two, or three levels above their base slots.

But wait! That maxes out at ten L0 and six L1 slots! Adepts are far more versatile than that!

Are they? Almost everything complicated or powerful in the books falls under Ritual Magic. Most adepts only seem to have a handful of spells that they can really use immediately.

Pretty much every mage has Light (L0), a basic Shield (Immediate Action, L1 in a L0 slot so 1 Mana, blocks 15 points of damage), and some form of Energy Attack (Spells like Ray Of Frost, Magic Missile, Scorching Ray, or Lightning Bolt are popular depending on the user’s level of expertise).

For this particular “Gift”… here are some spells that fit in fairly well:

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Almost anything fits in here. If you like, you can use the Continuum II cantrips. There are a lot of those to choose from.
  • Level One Effects: Disguise Self, Sleep, Alarm, Protection From Evil, Floating Disk, Magic Missile, Shocking Grasp, Color Spray, Shadow Trap, Shadow Weapon, Ventriloquism, Magic Weapon, Obscure Object, (Personal) Dream Shield, and Faerie Fire,
  • Level Two Effects: Scorching Ray (also Lightning and Force variants), Blur, Dust Devil (2’nd edition), Flaming Sphere, Wall Of Light, Glitterdust, Hypnotic Pattern, Invisibility, Armament (temporary force weapons, up to a dozen knives/arrows/etc). Spiritual Weapon, Contact Entity 1, Force Sword, Disguise Other, Invisibility, Mirror Image, Misdirection, Silk To Steel, Deeper Darkness, Daylight, Searing Light, and Dream Shield.
  • Level Three Effects: a long-term Disguise Self/other variant, Lesser Wall Of Fire (a weaker variant), Fireball, Circle of Protection, Dispel Magic, Pyrotechnics, Nondetection, Protection From Energy, Greater Stunning Barrier, Gloomblind Bolts, Ice Spears, Phantom Steed, Planar Inquiry, Arcane Sight, Contact Entity II, Daylight, Lightning Bolt, Sheet Lightning, Displacement, Call Lightning, Hedging Weapons, Infernal Challenger (only for evil blood mages), and Psychic Containment.
  • Level Four Effects: Dimension Door, Wall Of Fire, Lesser Gate (basically a time-consuming, exhausting, and error-prone teleport – or way to let various monsters come through. It might even be Ritual Magic rather than a spell), Summon Monster IV (“Adept Manifestation”), and Lesser Planar Ally.

That’s not exhaustive of course – d20 offers thousands of spells to play with – but a fair number of basics are on there.

 

Mind-Healing

The books represent Mind-Healing as being generally very slow, just as creating bonds that force someone to do your bidding is a very slow (and evil) process. You don’t see any mind-healers going “Zap! You’re Sane/Free/Rational!”. Honestly… given the principles of Lerandor’s Rule (the use-a-bunch-of-lesser-effects principle) even level zero mindhealing effects are more than they show in the books. If a character really wants “Mindhealing” the way it is in the books… take a bonus in Profession; Therapist or learn Ritual Magic. Because mental healing is normally pretty step-by-tiny-step anyway – which is just what level zero effects DO. So even with just cantrips you can finish up with anything within the power of level three effects within a few minutes – and that is NOT what the books show. In fact, it tends to wreck more than one of their plots – and it doesn’t add much to most games anyway since you can’t treat eccentric players and the villains aren’t going to hold still for it. That’s why d20 psychiatrists are not a favored class.

  • If you must be a Mind-Healer, buy Ritual Magic, Specialized and Corrupted / only for psychiatric purposes (2 CP) and put a few skill points in Profession: Therapist – and there you go.

 

Precognition

Precognition or “Foresight” seems to come in two basic forms in the books – short-term combat precognition that provides warnings of attacks and clues as to likely strategies and long-term visions of the future that are sometimes useful warnings, sometimes grim prophecies that tend to come true no matter what, and are sometimes simply wrong or misunderstood. There’s also room for very short-term precognition (the sort of thing that warns you of someone swinging at you from a blind spot or of an incoming arrow) and kingdom-scale foresight that warns of upcoming major disasters and such, but most characters with Foresight have very specialized forms, such as being able to foretell the weather.

Honestly, a lot of that goes under “plot device”, both very literally in the books and mostly so in the games. After all, the game is built around dealing with problems – and “the group is warned of an upcoming attack in time to set up the defenses or race to the rescue” is a pretty classic problem. In terms of the game… precognitive warnings really aren’t any different than being warned by a scout, peasant, merchant, angel, or wizard. The same goes for kingdom-level threats. If someone’s special power requires the game master to give a warning, he or she will just step up the threat to keep it challenging and exciting.

So this list is going to be a bit generic and include a lot of short-term bonus tricks – as well as some ways to inflict penalties, which is pretty much equivalent.

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: There are pretty much all thematic; you can have meaningful dreams, get vague warnings of major threats, get details equivalent to having a few scouts (or perhaps a flying familiar) out in the case of more local problems, know about upcoming natural disasters in time to show up to help, give good agricultural advice, predict the weather, and will probably get a +2 bonus on saves against traps, checks to detect ambushes, and maybe even initiative. You might even be able to prevent the occasional disaster that would normally resulted from phrases like “I wonder what will happen if I push the red button / mix these two chemicals / try this unknown mystical ritual” – at least if the rest of the party is sane enough to look at the precognitive before actually doing it. Most NPC precognitives are pretty narrowly focused (since that is so much easier to write and run for), but PC’s are all about meeting unexpected challenges – so they’re going to be generalists.
  • Level One Effects: Anticipate Peril, True Strike, Bungle, Precognition (One minute per level. Variants include +2 to Attacks, to Armor Class, to Saves, and to Damage), Ward Of Heaven (The Practical Enchanter), Aura Of Favor (The Practical Enchanter). Low-Light Vision, Hawkeye, Improvisation, Omen Of Peril, Surefoot, Surefooted Stride, Divine Favor, Entropic Shield, Doom, Fallback Strategy, and Bless (via giving orders). This can also be used to anticipate attacks (dodging up to 15 damage as an immediate action), to negate surprise for the party, and to reroll a skill check since you “foresaw it’s failure”. On the larger scale, this is where you can start using the skill-based variant of True Strike (True Skill, The Practical Enchanter) to do things like pick out the very best moment to call for a tactical maneuver, or the best advice to give the farmers, and so on – as least as long as some relatively vague precognition would he helpful.
  • Level Two Effects: Honeyed Tongue, Tactical Acumen, Augury, Hunter’s Eye, Heroic Fortune, Gallant Inspiration, Find Traps, Sutra (The Practical Enchanter), Karmic Shield (The Practical Enchanter), and Harrowing (or any other form of fortune-telling), At his point you can also use your power as an immediate action to evade twenty-five points of damage, get some clues about the long-term hazards (and likely benefits) of a proposed course of action, and win outrageously at games of chance – up until you have to quit because the likely outcome of winning again is getting stabbed.
  • Level Three Effects: False Future, Find Fault, Minor Dream, Vision Of Hell, Find Fault, Perfect Placement, Good Fortune (The Practical Enchanter), (individual) Ruin Delvers Fortune effects, Find The Gap, Danger Sense, Ubiquitous Vision, and Prayer (via giving directions). At this level you can use your power to take an extra standard action as an immediate action, to try and manipulate the force of Destiny (see Destiny Magic), and to have set up Contingencies (See Politics) to deal with events that the player had no idea would happen. This is also far, FAR, beyond any Gift of Foresight used in the books.

 

Psychometry

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: D20 usually leaves low-grade information gathering up to skill checks – but this level of ability can date items, determine causes of death, determine if a weapon inflicted a particular wound, discern the true intent of a gift or missive, learn the final thoughts or terminal experiences of a corpse, tell which button opens the door and which one sets off the bomb, and otherwise pick up on the intent behind manipulations of physical objects – such as the intent to add poison to a drink, an attempt to get someone too drunk to resist being kidnaped, or the true intent of complex legal clauses in a contract. It can detect forgeries or the information someone was intending (but failed) to convey in a frantic scribble. Was someone recently murdered in a dark alley? Finding out about it will be trivial if a psychometrist takes a look.
  • Level One Effects: Call To Mind, Identify, Obscure Object, Nondetection, Cultural Adaption, Master’s Touch, Detect Secret Doors, Eidetic Lock, and Sanctuary (a bit of a stretch, but it’s basically infusing the area with a feeling). At this level you can easily trace the provenance of items and antiques, “imprint” messages on objects that can only be “read” by another psychometrist, make areas inspire particular moods and emotions, experience bits of the past strongly associated with particular objects – using a womans wedding dress to experience the wedding it was used in or using the cane a man carried everywhere for ten years to “talk to” the imprint of his personality. This sort of thing may take some time, but if you have the time to try and investigate something that rarely matters.
  • L2) Ancestral Communion, Blood Biography, Magic Weapon (Armor, Tools, etc), Object Reading, Sensitivity To Psychic Impressions, Find Traps, and Share Memory, The major distinction at this point is that the user can pull out fairly major bits of useful information very quickly, instead of having to sit around and meditate on it. It’s also at the point where forcing psychic energy into something actually starts to affect it – hence the ability to somewhat enhance items on a temporary basis.
  • L3) Borrow Skill, Akhasic Communion, Discern Value, Find Fault, Pierce Disguise, Pack Empathy, Mindlocked Messenger, Greater Magic Weapon (Armor, Tool, Etc), Channel Vigor, Speak With Dead, and Masterwork Transformation (no components required, but does take some time and use). At this point you are basically drawing information from the universe – and can push some back out into it (thus Greater Magic Weapon and Masterwork Transformation). Given time and the patience to keep asking questions, you can find out all kinds of things, weave warnings and messages into the fabric of the world, and explore almost any mystery. While adventurers rarely have that kind of time available, when they do this Gift can be devastating.

 

Pyrokinesis

According to the books, a lot of the characters with this Gift have poor control over it, although there’s no apparent reason why it should be harder to control the power to heat things up then it is to control the gifts of Empathy, Telekinesis, and Telepathy. You can give your character some such disadvantage if you must, but there really isn’t any reason to. D20 characters routinely mess about with things a lot more dangerous than mere fire.

To account for the books, I’d suggest that ANY Gift that you are nervous about, or fail to get enough practice with, may be difficult to control – but while a rogue flare-up of Farsight may give you a headache, and a telekinetic flare may break a pot, such things don’t spread – while a bit of flame in the wrong spot may burn down a city. Ergo, in a self-fulfilling prophecy, Pyrokinetics tend to be nervous about their Gift and don’t practice as much for fear of losing control.

Of course, when it comes to player-characters… they’ll row out on a lake and sit on a rock or use snowshoes to visit a field under four feet of snow and practice boiling water, torching models, and making hot drinks until they have things well under control.

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Dancing Lights, Flare, Ray Of Fire (Frost), Mending (Welding Only), Spark. Of course, a pyrokinetic can also start fires, warm their fingers, heat or cool small objects or minor amounts of liquid, instantly brew tea, light or extinguish many candles, several lanterns, or a torch, prevent or treat frostbite, control smoke rings, create puffs of smoke, and shape small flames and quantities of smoke into various forms.
  • Level One Effects: Control Flames, Blades Of Fire, Flame Darts (like Magic Missile), Lesser Orb Of Fire, Light, Animate Fire, Cure Light Wounds (Fire and Cold damage only), Blinding Flash, Endure Elements, Flare Burst, Burning Hands, Touch Of Combustion, Burning Disarm, Faerie Fire, Produce Flame, and Resist Energy (Fire and Cold only). There aren’t specific spells for it, but this also provides the ability to weld larger objects, cause small flames to flare up, put out groups of torches or a large campfire, and create and control a 10′ radius of fairly heavy smoke – whether to sculpt it or to make smoke signals.
  • Level Two Effects: Scorching Ray, Cause Nausea (via induced fever), Personal Haste (Practical Enchanter, via Boosted Metabolism), Heat Metal, Chill Metal, Obscuring Mist (smoke), Boiling Blood, Pyrotechnics, Burning Arc, Burning Gaze, Fire Breath, Frost Fall, Ice Slick, and Campfire Wall. Effects on this level can also be used to open safe paths through major fires, briefly form a cool and solid crust over a magma flow, to cause a fire to lash out and engulf someone, animate a bonfire, cause a quantity of wax or oil to detonate like plastic explosives or nitroglycerin, and to briefly create massive images of flame.
  • Level Three Effects: Fireball, Energy Wall (Fire), Haste (via accelerated metabolism again), Flaming Arrow, Protection From Arrows (they burst into flames), Heatstroke, Firestream, Dispel Magic (an immediate-action version that only works against Fire and Ice effects) and Quench. Effects on this level can also be used to contain forest fires by creating counterfires or driving the flames back to create firebreaks, to melt metal objects, to project a sphere that absorbs fire or cold damage (Resist Energy 10′ Radius), or to put someone into deep hibernation (roughly equivalent to Feign Death – although this is kind of dangerous).

 

Shields:

In Valdemar, “Shields” are normally passive – and basically amount to “buying a good will save”. Only mage-shields normally seem to be active effects, so they’re handled under mage-gift.

 

Telekinesis

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Mage Hand, Hammertouch, Animate Rope, Launch Bolt, Launch Item, Breeze, Scoop, and Open/Close. While effects at this level are relatively short range and of fairly little force, you can produce a light zephyr, stir pots, work dangerous alchemical experiments from a safe distance, make bushes rustle distractingly, open latches from the outside, and pull off a wide variety of similar tricks.
  • Level One Effects: Guided Shot, Mage Armor, Force Shield, Feather Step, Lighten Object, Buoyancy, Coin Shot, Mending, Hold Portal, Stunning Barrier, Thunderstomp, and Gravity Bow. At this point you can move things to trip up opponents, yank chairs out from under people, guide pies to hit people in the face at considerable ranges, bind animals mouths shut, pull things to yourself, hurl small objects with force and accuracy, equivalent to a heavy crossbow, and get your armor on in mere moments.
  • Level Two Effects: Admonishing Ray, Alchemic Mist (turns a poison or alchemical item into a 20′ radius burst within medium range), Unseen Servant, Air Step, Protection From Arrows, Gust Of Wind, Gusting Sphere, Pilfering Hand, Knock, and Telekinetic Volley. At this point you can shove people away, manipulate objects at range, “feel around” for something you can’t see as if you were wearing heavy gloves, and cause masses of rope or vines to tie people up.
  • Level Three Effects: Web Bolt (using available materials). Raging Rubble, Make Whole, Tremor Blast, Hold Person, Wind Wall, Ape Walk, Arrow Storm, Telekinetic Force, Telekinetic Thrust, and Hedging Weapons. Effects at this level can also reduce missile damage in a small radius or create minor barriers.

 

Telepathy

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Daze, Message, and Distract. At this level a telepath can make ideas occur to someone, perform “stage” hypnosis, share memories, lend someone one skill point (such as sharing a language) or borrow one, sense surface thoughts if the target isn’t resisting, detect hypnosis and other mental influences, and project a vague persona around yourself – things like “he looks rich”, “that’s obviously someone important”, or “just another janitor” that will often get by people who aren’t paying too much attention.
  • Level One Effects: Distract, Conceal Thoughts, Borrow Skill, Cause Fear, Hypnotism, Charm Person, Lesser Confusion, Innocence, Lock Gaze, Memory Lapse, Sense Link, and Mindlink. At this point you can broadcast vague ideas to a crowd, share detailed visions, pull an exact image out of somebody’s memory (and reproduce it if you have the required artistic skills), or communicate long lectures with a glance.
  • Level Two Effects: Inflict Pain, Silent Image, Sleep, Daze Monster, Detect Thoughts, Enthall, False Belief, Hidden Presence, Passing Fancy, Share Memory, Enshroud Thoughts, Misdirection, Telepathic Censure, Mental Disruption, Mass Missive, Thought Shield, Brain Lock, Suggestion, and Zone Of Truth. At this point you can generate group compulsions with some force, anticipate peoples arguments, send a message over a long distance (usually in times of desperation), and fairly easily pick up on things that people are worried about (or are trying to keep from thinking about).
  • Level Three Effects:) Minor Image, Audiovisual Hallucination, Aura of the Unremarkable, Confusion, Mass Feather Step, Malicious Spite, Seek Thoughts, Triggered Suggestion, Aura Sight, Seek Thoughts, Psionic Blast, Deep Slumber, and Crisis Of Breath. While the range is generally short – unless you’re working with another high-order telepath or a group to jump up to fourth level effects (such as Sending) at this point you’ve got a fair amount of range and can fairly readily overwhelm – or probe – the minds of normal people.

 

Teleportation

In the books “telekinesis” and “teleportation” are usually combined into “Fetching” – which seems to cover everything from traveling a bit faster and moving small items around up to shaking major structures and teleporting someone out of a locked cell a hundred miles away. I’ve split them up again because otherwise few d20 players would be able to resist. “Teleportation” is still a catch-all category for movement powers, but at least it’s not a must-have discipline.

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: At this level the user can grant themselves or others small bonuses to their movement skills, shift small items in contact with themselves around their body (making them very difficult to search), draw weapons as a free action, speed themselves up just a little bit, and cheat outrageously at many games.
  • Level One Effects: Skate, Catfall, Branch To Branch, Accelerated Movement, Expeditious Retreat, Feather Step, Liberating Command, Bladed Dash, Feather Fall, Jump, Longshot, Touch Of The Sea, Launch Item, Longstrider, Travelers Mount, Wings Of The Sea, Personal Haste (Practical Enchanter), Light Foot (Blog), and Benign Transposition. Not unexpectedly, given that basic physical obstacles are a significant problem for low-level d20 characters, the system also offers a wide selection of spells to deal with them. About the only thing that isn’t covered is the basic “teleport small objects” effect – which is simple enough; with this level of ability you can apport a small object from one spot to another within close range. Thus you can steal something off a table or (if you know the position accurately) from a bag, plant something on someone, and so on. Unfortunately, you can only teleport objects into open spaces, you can’t teleport them into creatures, and objects in someone’s possession get a save.
  • Level Two Effects: Retrieve Item, Returning Weapon, Trade Items, Moment Of Flight, Lions Charge, and Wall Walker or Spider Climb. Upgraded versions of the various first level effects also go here, as does teleporting small objects within medium range or somewhat larger ones within close range – even up to child size if you’re touching them and simply want to move them away.
  • Level Three Effects: Haste, Dimension Door, Blink, Urban Step, Greater Longstrider, Tailwind, Dimension Twister, Time Hop, and Hustle. You can even do the Lightning Step variant of Dimension Door from The Practical Enchanter.

And that’s about it for gifts from the books (in fact, it’s a rather drastic expansion on most of them) – and should be quite enough examples to work with if someone builds a more exotic gift.