Latest Material Index

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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

Building Fantasy Cities

Today it’s a followup question on the Equestrian Survey and Census article – although answering it is going to involve quite a lot of analysis of cities in general and how to adjust them to make sense in fantasy worlds.

There’s one place where you lose me, which is with regard to the average city size. Given that the cultural level, area, and total population are all set at being roughly equivalent to that of Victorian England, why would the cities be so much smaller, with the largest cities being only 50,000, and the average city size being half that?

It’s self-evident that the ponies don’t cluster together quite as much as humans do, for a variety of reasons (e.g. control of the weather, a lack of major predators outside of specific danger zones (like the Everfree Forest), easier access to an herbivorous diet, etc.), but that still seems exceptionally low for the city population.

For instance, you note that Canterlot has a major restriction on its population size, but then use it as the baseline average for the size of an Equestrian city, which seems paradoxical. If Canterlot’s lack of space, due to being built into the side of a mountain, is an issue in the first place, doesn’t that necessarily mean that it’s population is artificially limited by those concerns, and so most other cities should have a larger population on average?

-Alzrius

Now this one is going to be complicated…

Cities serve a variety of functions.

  • They provide massive labor pools, allowing a society to build, master nature, and accumulate resources. For example, most of the earliest cities that we know of were focused on building and maintaining irrigation systems (since such systems are most beneficial if there is cooperation throughout the watershed, such areas tended to become empires).
  • They concentrate wealth and demand to support specialists and financial centers – incidentally making them destinations for long-distance trade, such as the Great Silk Road.
  • They serve as trade and industrial nexi, allowing individuals with particular skills to easily locate and cooperate with each other – or to be found and organized in pursuit of various projects.
  • They foster education, invention, and innovation, in part by allowing the easy mixing of races, cultures, and languages, in part by allowing those with new ideas to share them readily and have the reserves to allow risk-taking, and in part by simply allowing those with scholarly interests to gather readily.
  • They provide defensible refuges and strongholds, resisting both organized attacks and natural disasters such as floods and fires to at least some extent (thus the classic “city on a hill”, with a city wall and cleared farmlands about it).
  • They serve as religious, diplomatic, and organizational centers, breaking down the isolation of villages.
  • They are national symbols and centers for political power. At the most basic level, village militias simply cannot resist a sufficiently ruthless (I.E. Willing to massacre village after village until they get obedience) army. On a more advanced level they define administrative areas and provide a nexus for administrating them from.
  • They serve as a repository for social records – recording a societies history, traditions, and ideals. They are a living link with the past, accumulating monuments, art, historical structures, and literature. They host and preserve major musical, theatrical, and other events.

For humans, “Civilization” – the process of making people “Civil” – was quite literally defined from “the proper way to behave in a city”. Cities are what make humans prosperous. Thus, for example, poverty in India is strongly linked with a low urbanization level (28% in 2005). Looking at some figures… still in 2005, the 53 metropolitan regions in China focused on cities with more than a million people were home to 370 million people (29 percent of the country’s population), but accounted for more than 62 percent of the country’s nonfarm GDP. Similarly, Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg accounted for half of South Africa’s GDP but represented just under 20 percent of the population – and Lagos produced 60 percent of Nigeria’s non-oil GDP all by itself.

Yet human cities have never been able to replenish their own populations. They have always been supported by immigration from rural areas. Humans do not like being too crowded, they do not reproduce as effectively in a city, diseases spread far more easily in a city, and the anonymity of the crowd fosters crime, corruption, and a lack of social involvement. Cities are prone to shortages and congestion, require an elaborate infrastructure of roads, farms, fuel, and water supplies to support, and require elaborate social controls, laws, sanitation systems, and more to function effectively. Cities have allowed tyrannies, exploitations, and displays of greed that small villages could never support. The underclass is a creation of the city.

On a physical level, cities need immense amounts of food, water, fuel, timber, stone, metal and other raw materials. They need transport systems and trade routes, waste disposal, acceptable climates, room to grow, defenses, and communications. A city distorts the economic and social patterns for great distances around it, drawing people, wealth, and resources towards it like some kind of social neutron star.

Thus the popularity of villages and small towns, of gated communities, of summer homes and retreats to the wilderness, and – as transportation has improved and become more accessible to the middle class – of suburbia. Cities bring wealth, opportunity, and advancement, but there is always a price to pay.

Now I’ll presume that we’re all familiar with human cities (any aliens reading this will have presumably done their research first). What will happen to the functions of a city if – say – it’s full of long-lived nature-magic-wielding Elves who spend fifty years as kids and then can expect to live for seven hundred more as healthy adults before growing old in the century or so before their death?

  • Our elves have less need for massed labor: not only can they take their time on many projects, but their nature magic makes it far easier for them to master their environment.
  • Long, healthy, lives make it easier to accumulate wealth – allowing individuals, rather than financial institutions, to fund projects – and makes specialists much cheaper in social terms. A human might spend eight years learning a specialized craft and forty or fifty years practicing it. An elf might spend ten years learning that same craft and five hundred years or more practicing it. That’s 20% of a working lifetime spent learning versus 2%. 90% off is a pretty good deal.
  • The elves will still need trade and industrial nexi, although long lives will make it much easier to locate Elves with particular skills by reputation – and while that might waste more time than visiting the mechanics guild, being sure of finding a craftsman with two hundred years or practice under his or her belt probably makes up for it.
  • Education is less of a problem for our elves; a longer childhood will allow them to accumulate information effectively even if the process is less efficient. Long lives will, however, tend to inhibit invention and innovation; as time passes people do tend to settle into a comfortable habit of doing what is known to work.
  • Nature magic will help enormously against natural disasters – and can turn rivers, trees, and hills into effective defensive works. Elvish cities can afford to be more dispersed and lighter on the obvious defenses than human cities.
  • Religion is likely to have less of a grip on elvish societies than on human ones. There’s a fairly natural tendency for intelligent beings to become more interested in religion – and on what comes after death – as they come closer to dying. Thus older people tend to be more religious than younger people. With such long lives… religion may not mean that much to younger elves (although activist deities may change this quite a lot in more magical settings). Diplomacy means less too. Humans are likely to want to renegotiate every time an office-holder changes – while an elf is likely to see a hundred and fifty year old treaty as a personal accomplishment and still current.
  • With nature magic, our elves are quite capable of uprooting themselves, moving, and living off the land with relative ease. That doesn’t make cities less militarily powerful, but it does make it a bit harder to employ that power – and longer long lifespans make it harder to develop the separation between the inhabitants of the city and the villagers which makes it easy to be ruthless. Confronting a distant cousin some generations removed is a lot easier than confronting your daughter, brother, or a parent even if it HAS been two hundred years since you moved out. The administrative areas are still likely to be important though – so elven nations are still likely to develop.
  • Elvish social records… are likely to be stored in living memories, rather than in books and structures. Books and structures tend to outlive humans – but few of them are going to outlive elves unless they’re repeatedly recopied.

Cities still have some importance to Elves, but they’re almost certainly a good deal less important to elves than they are to humans. Elvish cities are likely to be considerably smaller, more dispersed, and far more blended into the natural environment, than human cities. They’re likely to have few children about, and have small libraries and apprenticeships instead of universities. They’re also likely to recover slowly if something does happen to them – and to be static and slightly primitive by human standards; innovation and invention will be a rarity, unlike the situation with bustling humans, who change things all the time. If an elven city faces a great threat… the population is likely to vanish into the wilderness, and re-establish themselves elsewhere, rather than fight until there is no choice but to attempt to escape. You won’t find banks and great temples either; you’ll want to look for personal loans and modest shrines. You will find craftsman of great skill, but few mighty constructions.

That should sound familiar enough; fantasy authors usually don’t formally work through the logic – but they’re generally not stupid either.

There may be more differences, or compensating factors to reduce them – but there’s only so far that I can extrapolate from a one-sentence description.

Now to look at ponies, on whom we have quite a lot of information…

Ponies don’t need lots of available labor to master nature. Ponies have mastered nature in ways that humans can only dream of; they control the weather, govern the animals, shove the sun, moon, and stars around the sky, and have powerful magic. A small family of ponies can take care of and harvest an immense apple orchard and farm that sells produce all over the country – a task that would call for a hundreds of human workers. Ponies simply don’t need enormous numbers of workers to carry out their projects.

Given that level of production, it’s no surprise that pony societies are affluent and resource-rich. We don’t see tenements, migratory workers, long workdays, or anyone who could be considered poor on the show outside of a few voluntary near-hermits (and possibly poor Trixie, who more or less gets the shaft). Instead we see huge parties, tidy houses, plenty of leisure time, little kids with the resources to undertake sizable projects (and a distinct lack of worry about the expense of fixing all the damage they cause), a small town stuffed full of specialty shops selling luxury goods, and ponies with plenty of time to spend camping out just to get a favorite drink.

Yes, we do see a few episodes with Applejack worrying about money – but those worries always seem to vanish before the next episode and usually make little sense in the first place. How did a financially-pressed farmer wind up volunteering to pay for civic maintenance anyway? Doesn’t the government have any source of money? Can’t it just call on the local citizens to spend a day helping out? (That should be enough judging by how quickly a little kid can refurbish a treehouse). After all… they did that when they wanted to prepare for a storm in Look Before You Sleep.

I have to go with the overwhelming evidence for affluence here. Even the money-shortage episodes tell us that it is perfectly normal for local farmers to be able to pay for major civic projects by themselves.

When it comes to transportation and trade, four Earth Ponies can pull a train weighing many tons at a steady trot (about 10 miles per hour) for at least a day. Trixie apparently pulls her caravan around without any trouble. Cars and trucks may be faster in operation – but they’re far more expensive, require a lot of maintenance, need special fuel (as opposed to a hearty bowl of oatmeal), require trained operators, and require much more elaborate roads to exploit that speed advantage. Not only is local hauling not going to be a problem for ponies, but there are numerous major industries that they simply don’t need.

As for long range trade, in Feeling Pinkie Clean a couple of Pegasi apparently drop a flowerpot, an anvil, a wagon full of hay, and a piano, on Twilight from a fair altitude – and the problem seems to be clumsiness, not weight.

Practically every Pegasus in town can fly fast enough to participate in creating a tornado. That’s pretty fast. In addition, they can rest on clouds, extract water from clouds, and create blasts of wind (seen in Winter Wrap Up and Magical Mystery Cure) with a simple flutter of their wings. They don’t need landing strips, fuel, maintenance crews, or special facilities and most ground-level obstacles – rivers, deserts, mountains, badlands, et al – mean nothing to them.

The Silk Road was four thousand miles long. It could take several years to for merchandise to transverse it, with goods changing hands – each time at an increase in price – many times along the way.

There’s no reason to expect a couple of Pegasi towing a truck to take more than a couple of months and possibly far less; larger migrating birds commonly cover five or six hundred miles a day without magical advantages.

Ponies don’t need trade routes, their cultures can be expected to mix quickly and easily, and they don’t need big cities or massive investments to handle import-export. There’s really nothing stopping a couple of teenage Pegasi from picking up an old cart and going into intercontinental trade – and if one of them happens to have or get an appropriate cutie mark, their credentials will be stamped right on their butts.

And yes, Cutie Marks are a very big thing indeed. If you need a master mechanic for a special project in a human city you’ll likely need to talk to some professional organizations, check credentials, research reputations, negotiate terms, and more – with expenses at each step, both direct on your part and indirect in the support of those organizations, licensing boards, and so on.

In a pony town you just ask a kid for directions to the pony with “master mechanic” stamped on his or her butt.

Factories? Not only are ponies incredibly productive, but what little we have on their devices suggests that most of them are creations of unicorn magic. Presumably, somewhere in Ponyville, you can find a little shop run by the unicorn “Frigid Air” and his or her partner “Beautiful Finish” who build wooden boxes, screens, and fans and enchant them to keep things cool.

Education is not a big thing for ponies; they get their destines stamped on their butts at an early age, develop the relevant skills quickly and easily (as in the Cutie Pox, and also because they focus on the relevant skills instead of on general education to meet all eventualities), and begin happy careers early on.

Invention and innovation are, however, quite another matter. Equestria has had – via Pegasi and clouds – access to plenty of cheap electrical power for well over a thousand years and possibly as long as two or three thousand years. Humans developed a reliable battery some two centuries ago – and yet humans seem to be far ahead of ponies in the use of electricity. That’s partially because humans don’t have magic to do things with, but it’s partially because ponies don’t need invention and innovation very much; they’ve already got a semi-utopian society and pretty much everything they need.

When it comes to defense, ponies don’t have much to worry about in the way of natural disasters – even their volcanoes seem to be pretty well behaved and their equivalent of forest fires and such (Dragons) can be negotiated with. Actual attacks by monsters, and presumably by organized forces, are dealt with by powerful individuals and small groups – basically the local superheroes. The cities seem to be nothing more than targets, with noncombatant ponies panicked by a rabbit stampede and even the guards being easily defeated by changelings. If anything, cities seem to be a liability to the ponies defenses.

Who would you bet on? A couple of Roman Legions or an immortal sun goddess who can burn your entire nation to ash? When an individual Pegasus can make a tornado, what good is your city wall or defensive line? When it comes down to a fight… the pony guards or militia are, at best, there to try to delay incoming creatures or military forces until the heroes can deal with them. Thus we have Shining Armor, the Guard-Captain, who’s job is basically… to keep anyone from sneaking up on Celestia or Luna and to make a big barrier to delay attackers.

When it comes to religion about all we can say is that – if the ponies have any at all – it doesn’t seem to have any real organization to it. There don’t even seem to be any household shrines, much less anything larger. There are suggestions among the fans of the show that the ponies worship Celestia and Luna – but there’s no real evidence of that in the show itself.

As for diplomacy and organization… “Harmony” is a basic force of the universe in Equestria. Ponies are so harmonious and cooperative that they spontaneously break out in choreographed musical numbers that help coordinate their projects, as seen in raising the Apple family barn or Winter Wrap Up. Even without the organizational benefits I gave to Unicorns in my writeups, it seems like organizing ponies is likely to be easier than not doing so.

When it comes to being national symbols and centers for political power… Ponies have immortal rulers who control the cycle of day and night. Do they really need any other national symbol to rally around? Do self-organizing ponies really need help in defining their administrative areas?

Storing social records is still a thing for ponies – they have libraries after all – but, once again, you have immortal leaders maintaining their traditions for them. Social continuity is pretty much built into their world.

Putting all that together, it looks like ponies do not need cities nearly as much as humans do – and so the various disadvantages of cities will begin outweigh the advantages of further growth at much, MUCH, lower population levels than human cities reach.

There’s no hard formula for that – but that’s where Canterlot came in. As a national capital, Canterlot must support all the usual functions of a city plus the nobility, records and bureaucracy, and all the other functions of the national government – as minimal as those may be for ponies. That’s why capitals are pretty much always fairly major cities by national standards. They have to be. If they’re not… the functions of the government will tend to drift to someplace where they’re better supported.

Yet the growth of Canterlot is obviously severely restricted and it doesn’t really seem to be all that large. If it can serve as an effective national capital, then pony cities in general are not very large. At least as importantly, there doesn’t seem to be all that much available in Canterlot that Ponyville does not have except a semi-university (and possibly “Magic Kindergarten”), some dubious shops in back alleys, an art gallery, the castle labyrinth, and the national government itself.

When it came to Manehattan, Rarity had several competitors there – but she wasn’t lost in the crowd either. Since Ponyville supports her, I can give Manehattan about eight times the population of Ponyville – about 50,000 ponies – and, thanks to the economies of scale and it being a major destination, reasonably have it support eight to twelve competitors for Rarity.

Thus the minimum size for an Equestarian “city” isn’t going to be all that much larger than Ponyville – and while there’s no hard maximum, growing past the point where your city can support all the features you want is simply going to increase the problems of running a city while offering few further benefits. Admittedly, the “average of 25,000″ figure was chosen more on the basis of “this feels about right”, the estimate for Canterlot, historical precedent, and guesstimation than hard calculation – there are just too many fuzzy variables in this for hard math – but it worked out quite reasonably and fit what little information we can get from the show fairly well. If it helps any, considering how productive and well-organized ponies are, that 25,000 is roughly equivalent to a human population of 250,000 people.

Even when I must resort to guesswork, it’s rather fun to explain the underlying logic.

Ponies Of The Eclipse – Equestrian Survey and Census

And for today, it’s another question about Equestria and My Little Pony…

One more request, if I may: How would you calculate how big Equestria is, either in terms of square miles or in terms of population?

The obvious answer to this question is “there’s no way of knowing,” since the show doesn’t ever tell us anything about population that I can recall, and gives wildly differing answers with regards to even the most indirect measurement of distance (for example, look at the travel time between Ponyville and Canterlot in MMMystery on the Friendship Express compared to how long it takes Pinkie to get to Yakyakistan and back in Party Pooped).

Even trying to make some reasonable guesses based on things like the local level of technology isn’t very helpful, as places like Ponyville or Appleloosa seem to be a century or more behind cities like Manehattan (and of course, only Cloudsdale seems to have any sort of industrial manufacturing… for the weather).

Even the single “official” map that we’ve been given not only has no scale, but also has a note on it pointing out that it’s not to scale (and, you know, secondary sources and all).

Given the utter paucity of reliable data, and what little data we do have being so unreliable and contradictory, is there any way to come up with an educated guess as to Equestria’s total area and/or population?

-Alzrius

This one is pretty awkward; as you note, what information there is on the size and shape of Equestria from the show contradicts itself quite freely – and while there are multiple secondary-source maps (from games and such) and one primary (the Cutie Map), none of them are to any kind of scale and we never get a really good look at The Cutie Map (although it too either cannot be to scale or only shows a part of Equestria at any one time judging by the size of the rock farm). The train travel times vary between episodes to suit the plot and even individual episodes often make little sense. For an obvious example, Canterlot, a city that’s been the Capital of Equestria since the fall of the Castle of the Two Sisters a thousand years ago, is clearly visible from Ponyville – but Ponyville was an unsettled frontier when Granny Smith was young while the Crystal “Empire” was a thriving city more than a thousand years ago. Even ignoring scaling, it’s hard to deny that Ponyville is pretty near the center of the various maps of Equestria – and now Appleloosa is on the frontier. So has pony civilization been slowly spreading towards the bottom of the map for several thousand years? But isn’t the Castle of the Two Sisters further towards the bottom of the map than Ponyville? Why was the wild frontier literally within sight of the capital for at least seven or eight hundred years?

There really isn’t any way to make any sense out of that. We could try “well, the site of Ponyville was near the Everfree, so ponies left it alone for a long time” – but ponies don’t really seem all that worried about simply being near the Everfree (they just stay out of it), so that tells us nothing at all. We’re just going to have to forget the maps as a source of data – and geography isn’t a topic that comes up much in the dialogue.

The various city names on the map and in the show seem to be mostly horse puns based on cities in the United States and Canada. There’s a rough correlation in the shape of the map too, but there’s really no way to fit distances that great into what the actual show gives us for travel times. The city names aren’t going to tell us a lot or help us map things and population figures – even in the most general terms – never even come up.

That doesn’t leave a lot to go on.

I think I’ll take an economic and political approach. That way we can rely more on what we’re told and shown across time, rather than on what the animators can cram into any one shot.

Ponyville is the only place we really see a lot of. It’s pretty obviously a small town, but it’s big enough to have a town hall, a library, a hospital, a mental ward, a hydroelectric (hydrothaumic?) dam, a retirement village, a theater, a farmers market, a confectionery shop, a spa, a boutique, a costume shop, a bookshop, a bowling alley, a joke shop, a café, a “quills and sofas” shop (even if that is commonly mocked), a hardware store, a fan shop, a jewelry store, a games arcade, at least one fast food place (and likely more), a train station, a beekeeper, a timekeeper (he probably takes care of the clocktower), an orthodontist, servants, waiters, and a local newspaper. Even allowing for great prosperity due to earth pony productiveness, that’s really quite a LOT of specialists for a small town to support – and there’s no reason to assume that we’ve seen all of them yet, there are a lot of fairly basic jobs without canon support.

After all, there need to be thatchers, stonecutters, miners, bricklayers, carters, railroad workers, lumberjacks, a sawmill, carpenters, smiths, potters, weavers, barrel-makers, bakers, clerks, a few guards (even if the local militia handled monsters from the Everfree before Twilight and company came along, SOMEBODY professional ought to be training them; otherwise it’s just monster-fodder duty), millers, apothecaries, merchants, glassmakers, barbers (although, to be fair, it’s possible that ponies have natural hairdos), cheesemakers, egg-carters, rope-makers, wheelwrights, landscapers, bridge- and road-builders, people importing and selling spices (for all that baking), artists, musicians (there are a LOT of music-related cutie marks), and more. The place seems to have running water, so now you need plumbers and some sort of waterworks (thus the water main under repair in Princess Spike, even if that was Canterlot, it shows that the technology is in use). Unless ponies dissolve into sparkly light when they die you’ll need some sort of undertakers too – and it goes on and on. If there are enough ponies around for someone to run a shop specializing in fans, then there really ought to be enough around to fill the more basic positions needed.

There are some fairly elaborate statistical discussions of Ponyville out there based on crowd counts and attendance at various events, with one of the best concluding that there are between 3100 and 4300 ponies. Of course, the author fails to account for the likelihood that ponies do not mix freely (and that some may not like cider). For example, the residents of the Retirement Village (that’s enough elderly retired ponies who live in Ponyville but not with relatives to make a “village”) are unlikely to be out and about as much as younger ponies are – and quite a few others may tend to stick to their own immediate neighborhoods. Given that so many background ponies are repeated, and the total lack of visits to the Equestrian equivalents of bars, apartments, housing developments, caravan parks (I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s a fairly common lifestyle actually, equines do tend to wander about), bed-and-breakfasts, and so on, it would be really hard to say that we’ve had a complete view of Ponyville or a full sampling of it’s residents.

My economic estimate is slightly larger; it takes quite a few people to support a joke shop or a boutique in a world where ponies only wear clothing for special occasions, even assuming great prosperity and an accompanying lack of homeless, destitute, or slum-dwelling ponies. I’d peg it as about 6000 in Ponyville, although that would include a fair number of little clusters (such as the Retirement Village mentioned in Luna Eclipsed – the pony equivalent of suburbs) and farms like (if presumably often smaller than) Sweet Apple Acres around the edges. If it matters any, that would peg the population of “central” Ponyville (the part shown on the aerial shots) at around two thousand. Given the previous material on lifespans and aging patterns, that might be about a thousand youngsters, four thousand adults, and a thousand elders. Most of them, of course, we never see except as anonymous, indistinguishable, background ponies with stock designs and cutie marks.

Canterlot is supposed to be significantly bigger. It has back alleys, creepy little stores with dark magical artifacts for sale, and quite a few noble households – and it IS the capital. Five times bigger than Ponyville is pretty minimal – giving us about 30,000 ponies in the city.

According to “Princess Spike” more than fifty cities sent delegates to the Grand Equestria Pony Summit. Whether Ponyville would normally be big enough to send delegates is an open question; after all, Twilight and anyone she brought along would be included because she’s a Princess in any case. More importantly… Ponyville is described as a town, not as a city.

Canterlot has a rather awkward position, and will be hard to bring food and supplies into (even if it is well situated for defense) and building space there will be expensive (since it cannot easily spread out) – so even being the Capital, it probably isn’t much above average for an Equestarian city.

So… the average “City” in Equestria may have about 25,000 ponies in it. Maybe twice as many for Manehattan, and – of course – fewer for Seaddle and Whinneapolis. Those aren’t very big cities by modern standards – Manhattan has more than 1.6 million people, which is thirty-two times more than I’m giving Manehattan – but ponies don’t seem to jam together quite as much.

That gives me at least 50 cities x 25,000 ponies per city = 1,250,000 ponies in cities.

Small towns normally outnumber cities by at least ten to one. Ponyville is fairly big compared to Appleloosa though – so we’ll set the average population at about 4000 (two-thirds the average population of small towns in the United States). That’s 500 Towns x 4000 ponies per town = 2,000,000 ponies in small towns.

An awful lot of ponies are going to be rural though. Given the apparent time-period and culture, it’s likely to be at least eighty and more probably ninety percent. Throw in a small allowance for wanderers and such, and we can reasonably wind up with about 32,000,000 ponies.

That’s about the population of the United Kingdom in the 1870’s. That’s the Victorian Era. At that time…

Britain was the worlds leading nation under the rule of a widely-respected and rather long-lived queen (with her mostly-ceremonial guard), its railways were expanding and undergoing rapid improvement, the early stages of industrialization were underway, and Florence Nightingale had established the foundations of modern nursing and hospital care. A few old and respected colleges dominated higher education. The “mad scientist” and gentlewoman adventurer” were more or less respectable ideas, English superiority over most other peoples was more or less assumed (along with a moral obligation to help straighten out the benighted foreigners) and Britain dominated the seas.

Hm… Equestria is the worlds leading nation, ruled by Celestia, it’s railways are expanding and developing (from pony-drawn early on to steam the next season), we see some industrial (or technomagical) products but little industry – at least in a small town. Steam-powered farm equipment is on it’s way. Medicine is fairly good, Twilight has a bunch of weird “electrical” equipment in her basement (and does the “Mad Scientist” routine fairly often), no one sees anything odd about relatively young females going adventuring, sheep and cows and several other species may talk, but they’re subordinate to ponies, the Pegasi dominate the skies, and you can’t get much more into the “white man’s burden” or Noblesse Oblige than Fluttershy. There are only a few major institutions of “higher learning”. Traveling around Equestria may take a day or so by train, but rarely much more unless an area is particularly hard to reach – and it’s ruled from Canterlot.

Admittedly this is extrapolation from fairly thin data – but the list of known Ponyville businesses comes from a lot of episodes, we have a definite statement giving us a minimum number of cities in Equestria, and the town and city population estimates have at least some support. The apparent distances on the show fit in reasonably well, and so does the culture and general environment. Even the thatched cottages, Rarity’s references to France/Prance, Zecora’s assorted African references, Saddle/Saudi Arabia, ponies with German accents, Italian references, Toledo/Foaledo, and most of the other bits we’re given on “foreign” matters fit in well enough with “Europe” and the “Middle East” being relatively nearby.

And that’s probably the best approximation that I’m going to be able to give you. Based on rather thin evidence and deductive guesswork, I’d assign Equestria a population of about thirty-two million (not counting cows, sheep, and similar “domesticated” sapients) and make it about the size of Great Britain with a basically Victorian technology – although it’s a lot more idyllic than the Victorian era was thanks to friendship, harmony, a wise immortal leader, a lack of desire for taking over the world, and ponies having a lot fewer requirements to get along than humans do.

Really… that’s not surprising. A great deal of classical children’s literature shares that same lush countryside, grazing sheep, thatched cottage, slightly stuffy and very proper adults, carefree adventure, mostly small-town-and-rural, out-of-sight industry, puffing railroad, horse-drawn carriage, clever-fairytale-animal, cool and slightly rainy climate, and even dangerous undertone, English Fantasy Zone setting. Thus Beatrice Potter, Harry Potter, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, the Chronicles of Narnia, The Dark is Rising, the Weathermonger, David Copperfield, Sherlock Holmes, the Invisible Man, all kinds of classical English children’s tales, and a mixture of adventure and family tales fit right into Equestria.

It’s not too surprising that the fanfiction authors often look at the darker side of Victorian fiction as well; don’t quite a lot of the fan-stories remind you of Oliver Twist or some of Dickens other works? Or of Robert Louis Stevenson? Those are darker themes than the show usually implies – but it’s hard to escape the feeling that they fit in nicely when creatures like Tirek pop up. Older children’s literature might celebrate adventure, but it generally didn’t gloss over how dangerous it was either.

It’s no wonder Doctor Whooves is so at home there.

Professor Challenger, the Artificial Intelligence

And with the Challenger up, it’s time to put up Ameobro’s new friend – the Artificial Intelligence / Autopilot that comes with it. “Professor Challenger”, as empowered by the Sephirot Incident, is a formidable, mostly science-oriented, AI, capable of piloting the Challenger at near its full potential – although it can still only use one of the ships (rather minor) guns at any one time.  The Professor sees “his” purpose as the exploration and mapping of the Imaginal Planes and mineral resources of the Earth with a special focus on “subterranean” realms. Secondarily, of course, “he” assists and advises his current owner(s) and driver. The fact that his driver is a giant alien amoeba with the mind of a small child has no bearing on his job…

Value Characteristic Points
17 DEX 21
27 INT 17
15 EGO 10
4 SPD 13
Total 61
Points Powers END
23 Mental Defense (Psi-shielded Casing) (26 pts); Add to Total
15 Mind Link with Stone User; Minds: One Specific Mind, +5; Number of Minds: 1, +0; Distance: Any, +5; Dimension: Any, +5; Link with: Anyone, +0
1 Computer Powers Elemental Control (1-pt reserve)
a-2 Internet Access / Radio Listen and Transmit; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½; IIF: -¼; Generic Limitation (Wireless Internet Only.): -½
b-2 Absolute Time Sense
c-2 Lightning Calculator
d-4 Eidetic Memory; Generic Limitation (Only for computer data and programs.): -1
e-1 Speed Reading; Generic Limitation (Only for computer data and programs.): -1
f-2 Cramming; Generic Limitation (Only for computer data and programs.): -1
4 Multiscanner Multipower (20-pt reserve); Extra Time: 5 min., -2; OAF: -1; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½; Focus Type: Vehicular, -½. This is an internal piece of equipment for examining relics, genetic samples, and other oddities.
u-1 Psionic Analysis / Detect Psionic Energies (+6 to PER); Time Required: Half Phase, +0; Range: Touch, +0; Addition (Discriminatory): +5
u-1 Genetic Analysis / Detect Genetic Structures (+6 to PER); Time Required: Half Phase, +0; Range: Touch, +0; Addition (Discriminatory): +5
u-1 Biochemical Analysis / Detect Biochemicals (+6 to PER); Time Required: Half Phase, +0; Range: Touch, +0; Addition (Discriminatory): +5
u-1 Physical Analysis / Detect Physical Structure (+6 to PER); Time Required: Half Phase, +0; Range: Touch, +0; Addition (Discriminatory): +5
u-1 Electron Microscope / Microscopic Vision (×1,000,000)
u-1 N-Ray Vision / X-Ray Scanner
4 Biosynthesis System Multipower (20-pt reserve); Extra Time: 1 hour, -2½; OAF: -1; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½; Focus Type: Vehicular, -½; The system does need to be plugged into a serious power supply to make this multipower work; simply being on the power grid will not do.
u-1 1d6 Biochemical Synthesis / Transform: Stock Chemicals to Biochemicals (Major, Limited Class); Range: 95 2
u-1 1d6 Genetic Manipulator and Genesis Vat / Transform Cell Sample to Desired Organism (Major, Limited Class). This is a small facility, and normally produces eggs, infants, and so on. 2
u-1 1d6 Genesplicing / Transform for minor “tweaks” to living organisms (Minor, Limited Class). 2
u-1 Regeneration Induction (1 BODY/5 min.); Usable By Others: Power Lost, +¼; Usable by Others Number: 8, +¾; Regenerate: Standard, +0.
70 Total Powers  
Points Skills, Talents, Perks Roll
3 Combat Driving 12-
3 Navigation 11-
3 Systems Operation 14-
20 +2 level w/Overall Level
3 Scholar
Knowledge Skills
(2) Creatures of the Imaginal Realms 14-
(2) The Imaginal Realms 14-
(2) Geological Maps 14-
(2) Creatures of Elemental Earth 14-
(2) Earth Magic 14-
3 Scientist
Science Skills
(2) Anthropology 14-
(2) Archaeology 14-
(2) Biochemistry 14-
(2) Biology 14-
(2) Biophysics 14-
(2) Ecology 14-
(2) Geology 14-
(2) Genetics 14-
(2) History 14-
(2) Hydrology 14-
(2) Inorganic Chemistry 14-
(2) Medicine 14-
(2) Metallurgy 14-
(2) Microbiology 14-
(2) Minerology 14-
(2) Mining Engineer 14-
(2) Nuclear Physics 14-
(2) Parapsychology 14-
(2) Paleontology 14-
(2) Pharmacology 14-
(2) Prospecting 14-
(2) Vehicle Engineer 14-
89 Total Skills, Talents, Perks  
100+ Disadvantages
10 Overconfidence (Common, Moderate)
10 Overcurious (Common, Moderate)
20 Total Disadvantages
COSTS: Char. Powers Total Total Disadv. Base
61 + 159 = 220 120 = 20 + 100
OCV DCV ECV Mental Def. PD/rPD ED/rED Phases
6 6 5 26 0/0 0/0 3, 6, 9, 12

Like many another artificial intelligence, Professor Challenger has an immense list of scientific and knowledge skills, access to a few built in systems to help with “his” job (the exploration, mapping, and analysis of new realms), a few bits of relevant gear, the ability to operate the vehicle he’s “occupying” competently – and not a lot else. Still, within “his” fields he’s quite an expert, and can use the Challenger’s sensors to keep an “eye out” for odd goings-on in the vicinity.

The Challenger

Ameobro has recently attuned a gemstone that summons a partially-transparent “Mole Drill” constructed of red-tinted planes of force. As such, he needs it’s statistics…

The Challenger Stone is fairly straightforward: Summon: The Challenger (200 Point Vehicle) and Professor Challenger (200 Point AI) (2 225-point creatures; 25 points remains available for upgrades); Range: 0; Summon: Limited Group, +¼; Generic Limitation (Only one set of summons can exist at a time.): -1; Generic Limitation (If the Challenger or Professor is destroyed, it must regenerate before it can be resummoned): -½; Focus: Obvious Accessible, -1; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Concentrate: 0 DCV, -½; Charges: +7. (20 CP).

The Challenger:

Vehicle Characteristics

  • STR 20/70 (10 CP).
  • DEX 17 (21 CP).
  • BODY 22/32 (12 CP)
  • SPD 4 (13 CP)

Size Increase-4: 3.1 hexes (133 sq ft), 1.55 inside, 3 passengers, 3″ long x 1″ wide, 1,600 kg, KB -4, DCV 4 (Mod -2) (20 CP).

Elemental Control: Force Construct Mole Drill (15-pt reserve); Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½; Focus Type: Vehicular, -½; Focus: Obvious Inaccessible, -½ (6 CP).

  • a-6 Life Support (total)
  • b-32 Armor (32 PD/32 ED)
  • c-10 Growth-6 (×64 mass, ×4 height); Mass: 64 kg/141 lbs; Height: 0 cm/0″; Extra STR: 30; Knockback Reduction: -6; Extra BODY: 6; Extra STUN: 6; DCV Penalty: -4; PER Penalty: +4; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Generic Limitation (Size fixed once summoned)
  • d-15 Shrinking-4 (DCV +8, Height 0 cm/0″); Mass: 0 kg/0.00 lbs; Knockback Increase: 12; PER Bonus: -8; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Generic Limitation (Size fixed once summoned): -½
  • General Sensor Enhancements 12; 360-Degree Sensing (Unusual Senses) (10 CP), Enhanced Perception (Detect, +10 to PER, 20 CP).
  • f-6 Detect: Metals, Minerals, and Geological Structures and Oddities (+8 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Addition (Discriminatory Sense): +5
  • g-6 Detect Dimensional Pathways (+8 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Addition (Discriminatory Sense): +5
  • h-6 Detect Life Forms (+8 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Addition (Discriminatory Sense): +5
  • i-6 Detect Energy (+8 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Addition (Discriminatory Sense): +5;
  • j-6 Detect Matter (“See Map”) (+8 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Addition (Discriminatory Sense): +5
  • k-17 1d6 Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 375; Penetrating: +1; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Addition (Vehicular Item, x8): +15; Generic Limitation (Divided between forward, two side, and rear arcs,): -½; Extra Time: full phase, -½
  • l-9 Change Environment (Lights) (16″ rad.); Effect: Fixed, +0; Reduced END: Zero, +½

23 Drive Multipower (75-pt reserve); Extra Time: full phase, -½; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; Focus: Obvious Inaccessible, -½; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½; Focus Type: Vehicular, -½; Generic Limitation (Movement Powers Only): -½

  • u-2 Tunneling (10″ through DEF 15); Tunnels: Not Left Behind, +10. 2 Endurance.
  • u-1 Swimming (+30″, 32″, NC: 256″); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×8, +10; Non-Combat (MPH): 357. 6 Endurance.
  • u-1 Running (+10″, 16″, NC: 256″); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×16, +15; Non-Combat (MPH): 238. 3 Endurance.
  • u-1 Extra-Dimensional Movement/Imaginal Realms; Dimensions: Group, +10. 3 Endurance.

Main Engines / END Reserve (120 END, 30 REC/turn); Focus: Obvious Inaccessible, -½; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½; Focus Type: Vehicular, -½; Usable By Others: Simultaneous Use, +½ (23 CP).

Self-Repair / Regeneration (1 BODY/hour); Regenerate: From Death, +20 (17 CP).

Basic Vehicle Cost: 265 CP – 65 CP Disadvantages = 200 CP Net Cost.

Disadvantages:

  • Distinctive Features: Glowing, semi-transparent, force-construct vehicle.; Concealability: Not Concealable, 15; Reaction: Noticed and Recognizable, +0 (15 CP).
  • Vulnerability: Electrical Attacks (1½× BODY); Attack: Common, +10 (10 CP).
  • Vulnerability: Radiation (1½× BODY); Attack: Common, +10 (10 CP).
  • Hunted: Captain Massacre and Rivals (8-); Capabilities: As Powerful, 10; Non-combat Influence: None, +0; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Actions: Hunting, ×1; Punishment: Harsh, 0 (10 CP).
  • Physical Limitation: Mysteriously breaks down on an 8- on arrival in a new realm, and will take days to repair (Frequently, Fully) (20 CP).

The Challenger is – normally – about the size of a large recreational vehicle, but can be summoned in a variety of other sizes – including small enough that Ameobro, even at his base size, can basically “wear” it. This has relatively little effect on it’s characteristics, although shrinking it will reduce its Body rating somewhat. Its weapons are not especially potent and have limited arcs of fire although they can wear most targets down eventually – but its armor is quite formidable against basic attacks. The included artificial intelligence can operate both the vehicle and one of it’s weapon systems at any one time and is always available for consultation.

While the Challengers mobility is useful, and its weapons are occasionally handy, its greatest benefit is probably the sensory suite that it makes available; its detections are broad-spectrum, analytic, difficult to evade, and extremely sensitive. All in all, that can be pretty handy.

For The Greater Good!

Today it’s a quick question about having giving NPC’s more complex motives – in particular, about having “Good” characters doing horrible-seeming things in pursuit of “the greater good“.

When you consider it, that’s actually a pretty serious question, and goes a long ways into philosophy. There have been debates over this sort of thing for centuries. Still, we have two observable facts:

People often justify questionable actions as being “for the greater good”.

Rarely does anyone ask how they know that.

Are they capable of determining all future consequences of any given action throughout eternity, of comparing them to the results of all other possible courses of action through eternity, of assigning objective values to all of those consequences, of adjusting those values to account for the probability of them actually occurring, summing them up for each possible course of action, and then comparing those sums to see what course of action actually results in the greater good?

I’ll employ a tired rhetorical device here and give you a hint. Barring perfect knowledge of the total current state and rules governing the cosmos, either the elimination of all uncertainty which may be built into those rules or the ability to successfully calculate the probabilities of all possible outcomes, high-order transfinite errorless computational capacity capable of completing all possible operations within a very limited amount of time, and a perfect ability to implement a course of action which will differ from less optimal courses of action by an infinitesimal quantity, the answer would be “No”.

(If the answer is “Yes”… then there’s no point in talking about it; the universe has been en route for the optimal available outcome as defined by whoever-it-is since the moment they developed this ability, and there is nothing that anyone can do about it anyway).

It doesn’t help that whether or not particular events and outcomes are “good” or not is often a matter of opinion. Which is better? To grow up and become a strong, independent, being or to be perpetually loved and happy in fluffy-cuddle land? To be a little less strong and independent but never suffer any serious pain, or to suffer a few serious pains and learn from them? Aren’t ALL those things “good”? After all, there’s nothing inherently “good” about growth; both trees and tumors grow. Similarly, most people would say that learning how to do CPR is a good thing, while learning how to evade detection as a serial killer is a bad thing – but they’re both learning.

“For the greater good” is a high-order abstraction. With a little verbiage and the user’s choice of predicted outcomes it can be used to justify pretty much anything you want.

You have ten thousand delightfully good little kids? If they grow up a sizable number of their souls will inevitably be lost to eternal torment in hell, but if they die now, they automatically go to eternal bliss in heaven and only you will go to hell. As a servant of the greater good, it is thus your clear duty to kill as many of them as possible; the more you kill, the greater the good.

“The greater good” can take us from “Paragon of Virtue” to “Mass Murderer of Children” in three sentences – and saying “that’s ridiculous!” won’t refute the logic, or the fact that history is full of actions carried out with even thinner rationales. High order abstractions are always treacherous. Anyone who isn’t omniscient who justifies their actions by claiming that they’re “for the greater good” is either…

1) Lying. To be more through, they are attempting to disguise the application of their own assumptions and desires as some marvelous omniscient knowledge that they possess and that the people objecting to their actions do not. In almost all cases they will offer the “greater good” justification in an attempt to silence objections via a false claim of moral superiority. Secondarily it shows their contempt for whoever they are talking to, since the implicit assumption is that the victim will be too stupid to spot the obvious lie. Given that this is a pretty warped view of reality to begin with, that takes us to…

2) Insane – as in not comprehending that claiming to know that something is “for the greater good” is (again, barring omniscience) blatantly inherently false. No matter what the discernible short-term costs or benefits of a course of action may be, the person making such a claim cannot know whether or not it will be “for the greater good” in the long term. Even worse, it follows that – since you know what will result in “the greater good” – that you must be in charge, are indispensable, and always know best even if you have just been proven to be wrong. That’s often called a “Messiah Complex”, but it also neatly fits a common definition of a psychopath:

Psychopath. Noun: A person with a psychopathic personality, which manifests as amoral and antisocial behavior, difficulty with and/or undervaluing personal relationships, extreme egocentricity, and failure to learn from experience.

or

3) Too stupid to realize what they are doing – and you have to be REALLY thick for this one, to the point where your “reasons” are likely to be incoherent. Characters like this are mostly comic relief rather than effective opponents though.

So no. By most standards, a “good guy” will not be justifying his actions as being “for the greater good”. Like it or not, that’s the claim of a liar or a madman, neither of which is generally considered “good”. If someone is doing horrible things and self-justifies them as being “for the greater good” – then they are an insane villain.

Sure, “kill one person to save ten” sounds logical and simple – but it’s really “I could kill this one person and – barring unknown factors – it looks like it will save ten, but I could be wrong about that, or I might be able to save them anyway, but I don’t have limitless time to figure this out – so I’ll go with whatever sloppy, instinct-driven, conclusion my error-prone brain throws up quickly enough and I will rationalize or agonize over it later”.

An actual good guy will admit that they don’t know the ultimate outcome of their actions. That they’re relying on their own assumptions about what is “good”. That their “principles” are simply rules of thumb that they would like to believe will lead to “better” results by their personal standards in the long run – and that they could well be wrong.

That’s why a genuine good guy will try to refrain from causing harm NOW to avoid possible harm in the future. Present harm is definite, while future harm is always speculative – and becomes increasingly speculative as the time involved increases. There are times that they’ll wind up doing it anyway – but any given newborn MIGHT wind up growing up to kill millions, and yet most of us would say that that is not sufficient justification for preemptively killing them. That speculative future harm had better seem very likely indeed, and be very large indeed, to provoke a genuine “good guy” into hurting people now rather than seeking another solution.

Now we know why most people find themselves rather doubtful and suspicious when the phrase “the greater good” starts getting tossed around. They may not have actually analyzed why they feel that something is wrong about it – but somewhere down there they quite rightly suspect that it’s a lie that’s being used to justify someone’s personal agenda when they don’t actually have a convincing reason.

Sure, someone claiming to act reprehensibly for “the greater good” may indeed wind up doing good within the scope of whatever kind of evaluation you make – but they are still a manipulative liar or a madman, and that generally (in most people’s opinion anyway) disqualifies them from being a good guy or hero.

If you really want a misguided hero, or one who’s actually “right” in doing reprehensible things… use a concrete, relatively immediate, and local goal. If it’s “I want to keep as many of the colonists as possible alive – but we only have enough food to keep a fraction of the population alive through the winter, and even in the spring it’s going to be so rough and dangerous that it will take several adults to keep a single child alive”, then one can arguably be good while issuing an order to “round up most of the kids and all the elderly, kill them before we waste any more resources on them, and eat the corpses”.

Of course now we’re weighing slightly greater numbers of survivors against psychological damage to those same survivors, the future social consequences of issuing such an order, the ecological damage resulting from a new colony, and so on. Don’t ask me how that balances out because I don’t know – and neither will the poor guy in command.

And for an “opposing” point of view from Dark Lord Kevin about being evil…

Now then! It’s time to teach you the proper ways to be evil! Evil is characteristic of young and inexperienced souls, who do not yet understand how it ultimately leads to unhappiness! To keep evil around there must be lots of kids! They have to breed to produce more kids! To produce the maximum number of offspring they must be happy, healthy, well-fed, and uninhibited! The sick, and dying, and deceased have no time to be evil – so you need to keep them healthy, and long-lived, and alive! My Thralls are treated very well, and get lots of power, and recreation facilities, and so on, so that everyone will know that, and I can continue to pull in ever more Thralls who want the same benefits to bind them to my evil power! If you do not show them the light, then they can’t meaningfully choose partying over it! And that is why feeding the hungry, rescuing the lost, housing and warming the cold, teaching the young, and showing them the light are some of the MOST EVIL THINGS YOU CAN POSSIBLY DO! BEHOLD MY MAGNIFICENT EVIL! And I can’t allow other evils than mine! That’s COMPETITION that is!

“Dark Lord Kevin” runs about performing rescues, settling conflicts, protecting threatened settlements, providing medical aid, famine relief, and housing, promoting trade and prosperity, and offering immense benefits for any youngster who wishes to take a term of service with him and do the same – all the while cheerily explaining why all of those things promote evil as much or more as they do good at the same time.

And that doesn’t make him any less a hero in the game. Just as explaining how it’s for “the greater good” wouldn’t make our theoretical mass-murderer of children any less a villain.

“The Greater Good” is a pretty evil idea.

Ponies Of The Eclipse – Alicorns and Princess Luna, Part II, The Build

So now that we have the Alicorn template sorted out, and have a pretty good idea of what powers we’ll need to buy, it’s time to give Princess Luna an actual character sheet.

Given that reading through the basic pony racial modifiers and four successive subrace templates that go into being an Alicorn is impossibly unwieldy, here’s a combined summary for the…

Alicorn “Racial” Template (+4 ECL).

  • Alicorns stand out absurdly. They are bigger and more conspicuous, are a beacon to magical senses, have attention-grabbing ethereal manes, have a horrible time disguising or concealing themselves and are primary targets.
  • Cartoon Talents: Heals 1d8+1 damage as needed three times per day, if only once per round. Is always treated as having lots of pockets, even in the nude. Gets minor cartoon effects, such as hair that responds to moods, blushing through fur, and so on. May begin or participate in spontaneously choreographed musical numbers that provide bonuses for group tasks.
  • Attribute Modifiers: +4 Con, +2 Int, -2 Str, -2 Dex. An additional +2 Con and +2 Chr are dispellable magical bonuses. May spend 2 Mana as a free action to gain +8 Str for (Con Mod +3) rounds.
  • Skill Bonuses: may buy Homesteading and Air Rune Magic Mastery and Casting, Survival, Flight, and Knowledge/Nature for half cost, with a +3 (with an additional +6 on Weather Prediction) racial bonus on all of them and in any one “unarmed” (hoof based) Martial Arts style. Knowledge/Arcana, Perform/Sing, Spellcraft, and Spot gain a +2 Racial Bonus. Spot gains a further +6 Racial Bonus only to counteract range, fog, and other atmospheric penalties. Note that any skill with a racial bonus generally becomes a “class skill” automatically.
  • Special Defenses: Damage Reduction 9/- versus both Physical and Energy Attacks, only DR 2/- versus melee attacks by living creatures, Endure Elements, Resistance 10 to Lightning (this stacks with her Damage Reduction), damage from high-speed collisions, crashes, and similar impacts is one-fourth normal to a maximum of 6d6. Never becomes Fatigued unless subjected to dispelling, antimagic, or similar effects. Gains a +4 bonus to resist bull rushes and knockdowns over and above the bonus for being a quadruped.
  • Movement Abilities: 40′ base ground move, 40′ flight with perfect maneuverability, may treat clouds of any sort as if they were solid ground (or a trampoline…). As a quadruped her speed is reduced to 20′ when she is using one or more hooves to use tools or weapons.
  • Inherent Spellcasting: Have a base pool of 1d6+3 (8) Mana, regaining 1d6 with an hours rest up to three times a day and 1-2 points to day regardless. May use Dancing Lights, Daze, Detect Magic, (Skill) Mastery, and Greater Mage Hand by channeling a point of mana through her horn, and may spend up to three additional points of mana applying the Amplify metamagic theorem to them to boost their effects. Horn-based magic can, however, be easily disrupted by targeting the horn.
  • Metamagical Theorems: Amplify (only +1 CP since Unicorns get part of it already), Elemental Manipulation (3 CP), Extension (3 CP), and Sculpting. These can, however, only be applied to Rune Magic on which they get a Racial Bonus or to horn-based Occult Talents. Streamline x 4 (Corrupted, no more than four levels worth may be applied to any one spell unless you’ve fused your powers with another Alicorn, in which case four levels from each Alicorn involved may be applied, 8 CP) – getting four free levels of Amplify, two of Elemental Manipulation, and one each of Extension and Sculpting to work with. These can, however, only be applied to Rune Magic on which they get a Racial Bonus or to horn-based Occult Talents.
  • Mental Bonuses: Can sense disruptions of nature vaguely, and agricultural information in detail, via Spot checks. May concentrate on up to three tasks or spells of up to level three at one time. Gains the Executive ability (providing skill bonuses to groups she’s coordinating) with her (Int Mod) added to her effective level for 2 Mana/Hour), and gains a bonus feat (In her case, a +3 Racial Bonus to Lunar Rune Magic Mastery and Casting).

To summarize the low-level adventurer template, those affected get:

  • A -3 penalty on unskilled skill checks.
  • Very slow level advancement, by direct session-based character point awards rather than experience points. Succeeding in goals helps, but killing things and taking their stuff does not.
  • The status of valuable trouble magnets – they’re rare and find trouble everywhere they go.
  • A +3 bonus on five skills which suit their backgrounds and training. Sadly, this cannot be applied to active magical skills.
  • Extra hit points equal to [12 + (2 x Con Mod)].
  • Two minor special talents. For the full list see the Template, for Princess Luna we’ll take Evasive (a +2 bonus to her AC) and Enduring (providing her with a +1 bonus on her Saves).

Available Character Points: 120 (L4 Base; that’s not very high, but given that mass of racial abilities it turned out to be all that was needed) +8 (Duties to Equestria) +10 (Disadvantages; History, Obligations, and Accursed [she’s an incredibly sound sleeper thanks to her tendency to go dream-wandering while sleeping, thus missing out on – amongst other things – the Changeling invasion]) +12 (L1 and L3 Bonus Feats) = 150 CP

Basic Attributes: We don’t really see that much of Luna in action – but she’s apparently not a physical powerhouse (no exceptional Str), is only  reasonably dexterous, and isn’t all that perceptive or wise. She is, however, very tough (high Con), quite intelligent, and reasonably charismatic. Using 32 point buy, I thing that I’ll settle on base attributes of Str 10, Int 14, Wis 10, Con 16, Dex 14, and Chr 14. Throwing in the racial modifiers, that gives us…

Net Attributes. Str 8 (16 when boosted), Int 16, Wis 10, Con 22, Dex 12, and Chr 16.

That’s respectable – but it’s important to note that the only thing so high as to be unrelatable to an audience of small girls is her constitution, which doesn’t show. This doesn’t include her +1 level-based bonus; add that to whatever it is you like since, until she gets another +1, it makes no difference at all.

Basic Purchases (34 CP):

  • Warcraft (BAB): +3 (corrupted for two-thirds cost/no iterative attacks 12 CP). Luna isn’t entirely incapable in a fight, but she’s not amazing.
  • Hit Points / Dice: 8 (L1d8, 4 CP), +14 (L2-4 d6, 6 CP) +12 (Immortal Vigor) +36 (6 x Con Mod) = 70 HP.
  • Proficiencies: None. She’s a spellcaster with no hands. Weapons are NOT her thing.

Despite the notes in part I, it looks like I accidentally pulled a fan video for Celestia and Luna’s confrontation with Sombra instead of the original flashback while reviewing Luna’s appearances – leaving no actual evidence for any use of weapons on Luna’s part. I’d have given her at least simple weapons just for being more than a thousand years old if she had hands, but I’d say that using weapons isn’t really a natural thing for ponies.

  • Armor Class 10 (Base) +1 (Dex) +3 (Martial Art) +2 (Evasive) = 16. Again, she’s no combat specialist, even if she has learned to dodge a bit.
  • Initiative: +1 (Dex)
  • Movement: 40 (Run), 40 (Fly, Perfect)
  • Save Bonuses:
    • Fortitude: +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +6 (Con) +1 (Res) = +8
    • Reflex: +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +1 (Dex) +1 (Res) = +4
    • Will: +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +0 (Wis) +1 (Res) = +2. Poor impulse control and relatively little resistance to possession. That’s Luna.

Celestial Diarch (24 CP)

Luna is one of the two original Princesses of Equestria. That’s a fairly big thing and comes with a LOT of duties, privileges, and options.

“There is more to being an evil despot than getting cake whenever you want it!” – Tarvek

“If that’s what you think, then you’re DOING IT WRONG” – Agatha (Phil Foglio, Girl Genius)

“I knew THAT several thousand years back!” – Princess Celestia

  • Major Privilege: Co-Ruler of Equestria (6 CP): This would probably require an immunity to the normal limits of Privilege, but we rarely see Luna OR Celestia really exercising a lot of authority. It looks like Ponies mostly govern themselves, with the Princesses acting as heads of state and occasional mediators. They do get an excellent lifestyle and all the cake they can eat though.
  • Leadership with Strength in Numbers and Horde (Specialized; most of these have background roles only, 6 CP): Luna has her own guards, servants, and – presumably – will be collecting some personal aides, students, and allies now that she’s back from exile. Admittedly, they aren’t that much use in the show, but this should cover most of the background work of her share of what little “national” government Equestria actually has.
  • Enormous Favors (12 CP) with the People of Equestria. Equestria apparently doesn’t really have taxes or most of the other mechanics of government; when Celestia or Luna need something… they mostly just ask for it.

Celestia apparently has quite a Reputation score as well, but Luna’s is a lot smaller – it wouldn’t be surprising if many ponies knew little or nothing about her as of yet – and is very mixed with those who do, being as much handicap as tool. Ergo, there’s no cost.

You could reasonably ignore this entire section, and just assume that it’s background detail – but the fact that Luna dropped right back into a position of authority upon her return says “purchased abilities” to me.

The Dominion Of The Night (22 CP)

  • Dominion (6 CP): The ability to draw power from the support of her subjects is an impressive, if rather limited-use, trick. Drawing on these reserves she can occasionally boost her spells, bestow offices, inspire armies, and otherwise fulfill her duties. Even more importantly, she can take abilities which will allow her to monitor and protect her realm.
  • Ears of the Wind (Specialized/only as a prerequisite, 3 CP).
  • Multi-tasking/Specialized (Only for use in dream-walking, 3 CP). Being able to keep track of (Level) independent actions and conversations is pretty vital when youre supervising the dreams of an entire realm. It would be pretty handy for doing the paperwork and such while awake too, but she really isn’t shown doing that. Celestia probably does though. This will stack with her talents as a Unicorn though.
  • Know The Flock (Specialized/only to know the dreams and detect the nightmares affecting her subjects, 3 CP).
  • The Spark Within (Specialized/dream-walking only, 3 CP). This will allow Luna to manipulate, and appear in, the dreams of those within her domain. Combined with Know the Flock, this allows her to make her interactive appearances.
  • Voice of Command (Corrupted/always involves amplified shouting, 4 CP). Presuming that the Royal Canterlot Voice means just a little more than yelling (if not, just use Air Magic, below), this ability allows Luna to easily take command of confused situations as long as she gives reasonably sensible orders.

Curse might make some sense – it would allow her to do weird things to Sombra and to other major menaces and possibly entrap Celestia – but it doesn’t really fit the show or Princess Luna. Nightmare Moon might have it though.

Additional Magic (27 CP):

  • Upgrade her Unicorn-Magic Occult Talent and add Improved Occult Talent (6 CP) as shown in the Unicorn Template to add another three level zero and three level one spell formula – with the option to spend up to three extra mana reducing the levels of the spells that she actually takes to fit them into those slots. Thus “L0″: Scorching Ray, Ray Of Instant Hair Styling, and Dispel Magic. “L1″ Dimension Door, Lesser Globe of Invulnerability (that should hold off most Unicorns), and Deep Slumber (too appropriate to skip).
    • Luna may well have some additional standard spells – after all, the series is ongoing – so I’ll reserve another (10 CP) for an additional horn-based  Improved Occult Talent. That will give her another seven “L0″ and four L1″ spells – which can be up to L3 and L4 after applying enough mana. Given that Luna really isn’t a primary character, we probably won’t see her add new abilities to her repertoire too rapidly if at all, but here’s the option.
  • An additional 1d6+3 Mana (18 total, thanks to a lucky roll), Specialized/only usable with innate racial talents (6 CP).
  • Skill Emphasis/Lunar Rune Magic Mastery (3 CP).
  • Journeyman/+1 level for purchasing Rune Magic, Specialized and Corrupted/only applies to the effective caster level available to Lunar Magic (2 CP).

The rule limiting the effective caster level of Rune Magic commonly gets ignored; if you want massive power and high caster levels Rune Magic generally isn’t the way to go anyway. Still, to be technically accurate, this will let her get her Lunar Magic caster level up to nine, one above her total ECL. – mostly just to handle fifth level spells in case a game master feels that “group dream” and “plane shift into the dream realms” are above fourth level.

Other Abilities (43 CP):

  • Immunity/Aging (Uncommon, Major, Minor, 4 CP). Luna can expect to live for several millennia or more, especially once we throw in the effects of Dominion and self-healing.
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills (6 CP). I’ll presume she got this at level zero with points from her disadvantages.
  • Long Study: Augmented Bonus/Adds Con Mod to Int Based Skills (6 SP). Princess Luna has had many centuries to study; even in a slow-advancement world, that justifies some benefits. While Augmented Bonus is generally restricted in superheroic settings this should be allowable.
  • Adept (Lunar Rune Magic, Casting and Master, Spellcraft, and Intimidate, 6 CP).
  • Grant of Aid (6 CP). Luna does make some pretty fast recoveries.
  • Luck with +2 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saves, Corrupted/not for Will saves (3 CP). Honestly, I’ve got three points left over – and with Changelings around, the ability to throw off being drugged or poisoned once in awhile seems almost required.
  • Skill Points: 21 (Int Mod x 7) + 10 (Fast Learner from L0) + 12 (Purchased,128 CP) = 43 SP

Skills:

Rune Magic (Int) Purchased Race Int Con Other Result
Air Casting  +4 (2 SP*)  +3  +3  +6  +16, Caster Level Eight
Air Mastery  +4 (2 SP*)  +3  +3  +6  +16, Fourth Level Spells
Lunar Casting  +6 (3 SP*)  +3  +3  +6  +18, Caster Level Nine
Lunar Mastery  +6 (3 SP*)  +3  +3  +6  +2SF  +20, Fifth Level Spells
Hearthsteading Casting  +2 (1 SP*)  +3 +3  +6  +14, Caster Level Seven
Hearthsteading Mastery  +2 (1 SP*)  +3  +3  +6  +14, Third Level Spells
Other Skills: Purchased Attribute Race Other Total
Concentration  +2 (7 SP) Con +6  +3T  +16
Flight  +7 (3 SP*) Dex +1  +3  +3T  +14
Gather Information  +1 (1 SP) Cha +3  +4
Intimidate  +4 (2 SP*) Cha +3  +3T  +10
Knowledge/Arcana  +3 (3 SP) Int +3  +2  +6C  +14
Knowledge/Nature  +2 (1 SP*) Int +3  +3  +6C  +14
Knowledge/Nobility & Royalty  +1 (1 SP) Int +3  +6C  +10
   All Other Knowledge Skills  +0 (0 SP) Int +3  +6C  +6^
Martial Art  +2 (2 SP) Con +6  +3  +11
Perform/Sing  +3 (3 SP) Cha +3  +2  +8
Speak Language  +1 (1 SP) Int +3  +6C  Sp.
Spellcraft

+18 for Celestial Manipulation

 +6 (3 SP*) Int +3  +2  +3T +6C  +22

+40

Spot  +3 (3 SP) Wis +0  +2  +3T  +8
Survival  +2 (1 SP*) Wis +0  +3  +5
  • “+6C” – bonus from Constitution via Augmented Bonus. “+3T” – Bonus from the Low-Level Adventurer Template. ^ – -3 unskilled penalty from Low-Level Adventurer Template.
  •  +6 Racial Bonus on Weather Prediction. +6 Racial Bonus on Spot to overcome range, fog, and other atmospheric penalties.
  •  Celestial Manipulation is an option available in certain obliging pocket dimensions. It requires a DC 50 Spellcraft check and the expenditure of 6 Mana per turn for three turns. Success allows the user to manipulate the sun, moon, stars, and other ornaments of the sky – raising or lowering the Sun or Moon, bringing the stars out, adding a comet, constellation, or aurora to decorate the night, and so on. This wouldn’t work in most realms, but Equestria is a world where ponies with shovels and carts manually change the seasons. Very little there is automatic.
  • Martial Art: I can’t think of a cute pony name offhand, but I’ll presume that her six abilities include Toughness II (Raising her DR to 11/melee attacks by living things, and 4/- versus those melee attacks, both affecting both physical and energy attacks), Defense III (Providing a +3 to her AC), and Strike (allowing her to consider herself armed and to attack with her hooves or horn for 1d4 lethal damage).
  • Languages: Luna speaks Common, Equestrian, Zebrican, Draconic, Breezie, Gryphon, Minotaur, French, Aquastrian, Nahuatl, and whatever-it-is that Diamond Dogs speak – which pretty much covers everything in Equestria (presuming that all those languages actually exist in Equestria).

As might be expected for someone who’s a thousand years out of practice, Luna’s powers are mostly derived from her +4 ECL pile of racial abilities, the Low-Level Adventurer Template, and the Superheroic World Template. Given all that… she really doesn’t NEED to have very many levels to do some pretty impressive things, just as Rainbow Dash didn’t need a lot of levels to pull off a Sonic Rainboom. That’s a good thing for her since, as a secondary character in a low-level world, it probably took her a long time indeed to get what levels she has.

So what did Nightmare Moon bring to the table? After all, most of the actual powers Luna used as Nightmare Moon were things that were well within Princess Luna’s capabilities anyway – as demonstrated in Luna Eclipsed.

Honestly, I’d say that Nightmare Moon mostly – and perhaps fittingly – provided another +1 to +2 ECL worth of rogue-style abilities. After all, as the Nightmare she snuck around, made dramatic entrances, gave orations, spied on the mane six, gathered information (such as finding out about Rainbow Dash’s obsession with the Wonderbolts), used light armor, tried to trick people and creatures into doing her work for her, and looked for psychological weaknesses. I half expected her to pull out a poisoned dagger and proclaim herself the evil grand vizier at some point. After all, if she hadn’t been crazy enough to be hamming it up and playing to her audience wouldn’t it have been a lot simpler to just scatter the Elements of Harmony? Perhaps smack Rarity into the hospital? Snatch a few of Fluttershy’s animals to force her to back off? Drop a tree on Rainbow Dash and break one of her wings?

Instead she sets up a rather contrived series of tests prominently illustrating exactly the qualities that the group would need to defeat her. Then she leaves the tools they’ll need to do it with laying out in front of them when they finally reach her lair, confirms that they’re the right items when they muck it up the first time, and then allows them a second chance at it. That’s not just shooting yourself in the foot. That’s shooting yourself in the head.

Nightmare Moon was probably pretty conflicted.

Ponies Of The Eclipse – Alicorns and Princess Luna, Part I

Next up for Eclipse Ponies (And likely getting towards the end unless there are further requests) we have Princess Luna – and the big question there is the same as usual for converting any character from a non-game source; what does Princess Luna actually do?

That’s not “what powers do I think she ought to have” (although a bit of that creeping in is almost inevitable), or “what she’s like in fan fiction” (although suggestions from unofficial sources may be needed to fill in blatant gaps), or “what divine rank should she have in 3.5″ (although any game conversion will have to accommodate the game rules you’re using to some extent) . It’s “what does she actually do on the show?”

Well, first up, she’s supposed to have the combined powers of all three major pony types – Earth, Pegasus, and Unicorn.

OK, done. That gives us a +3 ECL right there. That’s pricey – but having an ECL modifier isn’t nearly as big a deal as it is in baseline d20. In baseline d20, having an ECL gives you a package of racial abilities which may or may not have some decent synergy with your class-based abilities – but you still have two separate packages of abilities, one of which does not improve. In Eclipse you can simply build directly on your template abilities; you aren’t “behind on your class” so much as you have a personal class that supplies differing benefits from the usual. Thus, while an ECL modifier is generally bad news for a d20 spellcaster, it’s not necessarily so in Eclipse – especially when you’re building on your racial abilities and are using heavily-optimized racial templates like these.

Luna, Celestia, Cadence, and Twilight are also supposed to have something called “Alicorn Magic”, which is more than a bit ill-defined. It apparently DOESN’T include immortality though, since we aren’t sure that either Cadence or Twilight possesses that attribute. I’ll leave Alicorn Magic for a little later.

So lets look at the magical abilities that Princess Luna actually demonstrates.

  • We see her generate lightning, mist, and clouds, dampen sound, fly, take mist form, use high-speed travel, and use the “Royal Canterlot Voice”. All of this falls under Pegasi Air Magic (unless there’s more to the Voice than shouting), even if is fairly high powered air magic. She may also knock down an overhanging ledge of rock, but a good pressure wave will handle that if she did anything at all besides kick it really hard. A +3 Racial Bonus on Air Rune Magic Casting and Mastery comes with the Pegasus template, but she’ll need to buy up those skills. That’s not really a big deal though. Skill boosts aren’t that hard to come by.
  • Luna can sense nightmares across Equestria, enter dreams, jump from dream to dream, summon a dream monster (to torment herself), restrain said dream monster when keeping it around for months lets it get too powerful, seal breaches between dream and reality, and create a group dream. Her ability to influence a manticore (Suggestion?), temporarily animate toy spiders, make trees frightening (as an easily-disbelieved illusion), produce swords, and alter her appearance, fit in here as well under “bringing dreams into reality”. Luna seems to have a lot of power while in a dream – but “Do Princesses Dream Of Electric Sheep” pretty clearly demonstrates that ANY pony who’s aware that they’re dreaming can draw on their personal magic to do pretty much anything they want to do in a dream, so that doesn’t count for much.

Lunar Magic generally deals with dreams and illusions, relatively minor, generally short-term, transformations, and female sexuality (mostly due to menstrual cycles and what a lot of dreams are about), so it seems like a fairly good match. As a bonus, controlling the moon and the night sky that the moon (at least in Equestria) seems to bring with it fits in. Massive area of effect spells would be tricky at any reasonable level though, so there’s probably a supplementary ability at work here, both with the dreams and with the moon.

Ergo her Unicorn Bonus Feat goes to getting her a +3 Racial Bonus in Lunar Rune Magic, Casting and Mastery. Once again, that comes with the template, so there’s no direct CP cost at this stage.

  • The basic unicorn magic that comes with the template includes the standard-issue stuff (Dancing Lights, Daze, Detect Magic, (Spellcraft) Mastery (Adding to Spellcraft for purposes of manipulating celestial objects only, +6 for affecting a limited aspect, see below), and Greater Mage Hand) that comes with the Unicorn Template, along with the ability to spend extra Mana to enhance those effects. When it comes to more advanced effects Luna can project fairly formidable energy bolts (Scorching Ray), control weapons with her telekinesis (amplified Greater Mage Hand), Dimension Door, tear off part of someone’s mustache in passing (OK, this could just be a bit of telekinesis again, but if I had that much hair and could have access to a hairstyling spell, I think that I’d learn it), bind Celestia for some time and – of course – control the Moon and possibly the Stars.

Really, only the last two are any problem – and Binding Celestia is an assumption at that. All we really know is that Nightmare Moon kept Celestia from showing up for a celebration and seemed to think that Celestia would not show up to interfere with her plans later. While Nightmare Moon did have a thousand years to prepare a plot device for that, for all we know it didn’t work. After all, Nightmare Moon showed up mere seconds after Twilight saw her escape the moon (which doesn’t leave her a lot of time to monologue at Celestia, much less entrap her) and Celestia did show up pretty promptly once Nightmare Moon was back to being Luna. Was Celestia just waiting in the wings?

Secondarily, even if we presume that “Banishment” isn’t just an euphemism for “Got disintegrated, and has to wait for their Returning to kick in” (which would at least explain why only major creatures get Banished), there’s no real reason to presume that it’s anything more than special effects for the equivalent of petrification. Visitors may or may not be able to see the statue, but you still seem to have some awareness of events (such as Discord’s statue) and all it takes is a trigger – the passage of time, or a releasing spell, or little kids arguing, or someone digging you up – to set you free. Worse, it put up a giant “I am here!” sign to clue in anyone who wanted to set you free. That’s really a lot less impressive than the ninth-level Imprisonment spell; you don’t get concealment, near permanency, anti-divination, or resistance to Wish and Miracle out of the deal. Really, for all we know, Nightmare Moon might have tried petrifying/binding Celestia with Lunar Magic – which, of course, did not last. Moonie was more than a little bit delusional after all.

That leaves Raising the Moon.

That IS impressive – but lets think about the cosmology of Equestria for a few moments.

  • The sun in Equestria is so large and far away that it appears pretty much the same across hundreds of miles of Equestria, which it lights and heats fairly evenly.
  • The sun in Equestria is so close that Rarity can – in a few moments – fly enough closer to it to sweat heavily and sear her wings off. It’s so small that she can readily block it out with her wings across an entire city (otherwise her pretty colors would be totally washed out and no one could look at her because looking into the sun is not comfortable with those big eyes).

I could provide a lot more examples, but those are perhaps the most blatantly obvious, so they’ll do.

So what can we deduce from those two apparently-contradictory statements?

  • Whatever-it-is that serves as the Sky in Equestria – including the Sun, Moon, and Stars – pays no attention at all to real-world physics, optics, or even basic geometry and prospective. Did you really expect it to? After all, this is a world where kids can suck the colors out of a rainbow and leave it in grayscale with a portable vacuum cleaner.
  • While Fanfiction writers have proposed a wide variety of explanations to try and turn Equestria into Earth-After-People, or a strange world in a “normal” sci-fi galaxy to allow for various crossovers, the lack of light speed delay in moving the sun, annoying facts about orbits, rotational inertia, and other chunks of basic physics pretty well sinks all of them. I have yet to find any explanation which is consistent with both the show and basic physics at the same time.  Ergo…

Equestria is a pocket dimension. Whoever created it obviously wanted the place to look like a more-or-less “conventional” world, but it really isn’t anything like one. Worse, we don’t really get enough information on how it operates to even make decent guesses about it beyond “not very well”, at least outside of the Everfree Forest (which is apparently run by the Tree of Harmony). After all, if it worked well… it wouldn’t need to have ponies change the seasons, lead the migrating birds, control the weather, and govern the cycles of day and night. A properly designed world could take care of that on its own.

About the only real constraint on the magic required to “move” the sun and moon about is that it be pretty much out of reach of ordinary folk – whether that’s ponies, gryphons, dragons, or what-have-you. Honestly, in a low-level world… an eighth or ninth level spell effect would probably do it – or you could just buy it as a Privilege or even as an application of Knowledge; Arcana. In this case, I think that I’ll go with Alzirus’s excellent build for Celestia and make it (at least in Equestria’s cartoon cosmology) a DC 50 application of Spellcraft – although I’ll be adding a Mana requirement too, just to help keep it out of reach of the common herd. .

  • So: Upgrade Occult Talent and add Improved Occult Talent (6 CP) as shown in the Unicorn Template to add another three level zero and three level one spell formula – with the option to spend up to three extra mana reducing the levels of the spells that she actually takes to fit them into those slots. Thus “L0”: Scorching Ray, Ray Of Instant Hair Styling, and Dispel Magic. “L1” Dimension Door, Lesser Globe of Invulnerability (that should hold off most Unicorns), and Deep Slumber (too appropriate to skip).
  • Luna may well have some additional standard spells – after all, the series is ongoing – so I’ll reserve another (10 CP) for an additional horn-based Improved Occult Talent. That will give her another seven “L0″ and four L1″ spells – which can be up to L3 and L4 after applying enough mana. Given that Luna really isn’t a primary character, we probably won’t see her add new abilities to her repertoire too rapidly.

For Raising the Moon, and for some other reasons, its time to consider Alicorn Magic.

About all we know about that is that (1) Alicorns are more powerful than normal Unicorns, but Unicorns – like Sombra – can become competitive with them if they’re talented enough, and (2) Princesses Celestia, Luna, and Candace transferred their Alicorn Magic (apparently including all their Earth, Pegasus, and Unicorn magic) to Twilight when Tirek came along.

Tirek… Yes, I could build Tirek, and a way to handle the power transfer to Twilight, but it’s such a useless endeavor that I’ll just let it go as a ritual or epic spell or some such. Honestly, a basically invincible villain that took away all the characters abilities and could only be stopped by a game master plot device? One that had – apparently – absorbed the magic of an entire magical nation, and did nothing with it but throw big energy blasts? It might be reasonably interesting to watch, but players HATE being arbitrarily deprived of the chance to do anything, becoming passive spectators, and then being saved from a gratuitously stupid villain by plot devices. In gaming terms… (2) is a pretty useless bit of information.

Secondarily, building a character with that power is just ASKING to have some slightly less-ethical player character develop it and start power-stripping your villains. Tirek really will not work in a game well enough to be worth bothering with – so this is one of the points in a conversion where you skip past something that works for writers but not with free-willed players. Player characters will just have to settle for the standard method of sucking raw magical power out of defeated foes – commonly known as “getting experience points for the encounter”. 

OK: So Alicorn Magic greatly amplifies Pegasus, Unicorn, and Earth Pony Magic – but it only seems to amplify the spellcasting side of things. You don’t see Celestia earthquake stomping with magnified earth pony strength. You don’t see the Alicorns routinely using higher-level spells than anyone else either; Alicorn Magic just seems to make their basic magic more powerful in a fairly linear fashion. Its not like going from Burning Hands to Fireball. Its more like going from Burning Hands to Extra-Hot Burning hands. It doesn’t seem to strain or drain the user any, but it does take time to learn to use – but not much. It’s likely at least partially template based. Weirdly enough, Luna and Celestia together were barely a match for Discord. Cadence doesn’t generally seem to have epic power, and neither does Twilight. So… Tirek had stolen magic from across Equestria and had stolen Discord’s magic. So if Luna and Celestia roughly balance out Discord, that leaves Twilight plus Cadence stronger than everyone else in Equestria put together – yet it doesn’t seem to work that way. Twilight gets challenged by individual Unicorns fairly often. Evidently Alicorn Magic is synergistic in some what that nothing else is.

Well, that’s fairly easy really. Alicorn Magic is basically a bunch of “free” metamagic. On the downside… it makes you stand out quite absurdly. You get bigger and more conspicuous, you’re a beacon to magical senses, you get an attention-grabbing ethereal mane, you have a horrible time disguising or concealing yourself, and you’re a primary target. Moreover, as a synergistic combination, it can only be applied to natural pony spellcasting – Rune Magic on which they get a racial bonus and horn-based Occult Talents. That’s quite enough to count it as being Specialized.

Alicorn Magic (32 CP / +1 ECL Acquired Template)

  • Metamagical Theorems: Amplify (only +1 CP since Unicorns get part of it already), Elemental Manipulation (3 CP), Extension (3 CP), and Sculpting (3 CP), all Specialized as above.
  • Streamline x 4 (Corrupted, no more than four levels worth may be applied to any one spell unless you’ve fused your powers with another Alicorn, in which case four levels from each Alicorn involved may be applied, Specialized as above, 8 CP) – getting four free levels of Amplify, two of Elemental Manipulation, and one each of Extension and Sculpting to work with.

Thus, when Twilight was fighting Tirek with the magic of four alicorns, she was getting to apply +16 levels of free metamagic to her spells, plus her basic Unicorn boosts – enough to explain taking her usual third-to-fifth level spells up to around level twenty. While Metamagic is nowhere near as efficient as building a proper spell of that level, that’s still enough for some pretty big booms.

  • +2 Constitution (12 CP). Alicorns are tough, health, resistant to diseases and toxins, and – under the Superheroic World Template – get just a little bit more Mana to work with each round.
  • +2 Racial Bonus to Spellcraft (2 CP)

As a side effect, in conjunction with a Unicorn’s natural ability to amplify spells with mana, Alicorn Magic can be used to triple the effects of a unicorns (Skill) Mastery cantrip – raising the bonus to +9 or, for specialized variants such as Luna’s, to +18. That’s important, since that total of +20 for being an Alicorn means that she’ll only need a +20 total to be able to “Take 10″ and do her job of raising the moon.

Now in Eclipse, new Alicorns – like Twilight – can develop their powers gradually, building them up as they go. Thus Twilight starts as a clumsy flyer (having applied a Specialization to reduce the cost of Pegasus Flight for the time being), hasn’t yet developed the full Alicorn Magic package, and so on.

So far, thanks to the fact that we’ve mostly been discussing racial abilities, that comes to only 16 CP – but a hefty +4 ECL modifier for our Alicorns. Of course that is the same as being – say – a Half-Celestial, which makes a certain amount of sense. Actually buying up the skills to really use those powers with is going to be rather more expensive.

Nevertheless, this is getting entirely too long – so the completed build will have to come next.

Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in print HERE and in a shareware .pdf version HERE.

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