Eclipse – Sample Races, Templates, and Characters Update

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

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

Character Creation and System Primer

Sample Races:

Sample Templates:

Eclipse Pathfinder:

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

Sample Level One Character Builds:

Level-by-Level Class Breakdowns:

General Build Information and Power Packages:

Sample High-Level Characters:

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

Level Two Sample Characters:

Level Three Sample Characters:

Level Four Sample Characters:

Level Five Sample Characters:

Level Six Sample Characters:

Level Seven Sample Characters:

Level Eight Sample Characters:

Higher Level Sample Characters:

Level Ten and Twenty Breakdowns:

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

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

Alzrius’s Eclipse d20 Ponies:

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

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

Latest Material Index

Continue reading

Latest Material Index

Continue reading

Latest Material Index

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

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

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

. Cumulative General Index. Continue reading

Game Balance Redux

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how did the games have perfect balance?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eclipsing Venom

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

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

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

So what sort of abilities does the Venom Symbiont provide?

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

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

Web Shooting:

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

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

Innate Enchantment:

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

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

Disadvantages (-10 CP).

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

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

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

Eclipse, Spelljamming, and Cosmic Voyages

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

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

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

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

The Cosmic Voyager Domain:

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

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

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

The Spelljammer Domain:

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

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

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

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

Tapping The Emergency Reserves:

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

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

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

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

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

Generic Spacecraft (Huge Psychic Construct IX):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eclipse and the Pathfinder Assassin

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

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

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

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

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

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

OK then:

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

So to buy those items, take…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quiet Death? For that you want

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

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

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

So what else does the Pathfinder Assassin get?

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

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

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

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

Practical Enchantment – Bardic Instruments and Knacks

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

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

-Tolkien,

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

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

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

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

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

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

For our next obvious possibility, lets look at…

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

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

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

For our third major function we have…

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

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

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

Finally, for our fourth power, we have the…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eclipse – The Houngan Conjurer II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cincture Of The Raven (1 Point Relic):

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

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

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

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

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

Girding Of The Forest Lands (1 Point Relic):

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

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

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

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

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

Cincture Of War (1 CP Relic):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Permanency and The Practical Enchanter

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

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

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

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

-Alzrius

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

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

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

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

So how DOES the standard “Permanency” spell work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eclipse – Birthrights And The Harrowed Gate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birthrights bring that sort of thing back.

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

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

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

Childe’ Of The Harrowed Gate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dirty Trick Masters in Eclipse d20

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how to build Dirty Tricks in Eclipse?

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

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

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

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

Dirty Trickster Style (Dex):

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

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

Basic Techniques:

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

Advanced And Master Techniques:

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

Alternative Master Techniques:

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

Occult Techniques:

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

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

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

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

Gadgets Beneath The Eclipse:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, as an Occult Skill…

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

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

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

For some classic medieval d20 setting examples, lets price…

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

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

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

And I hope that helps!

Eclipse Witchcraft – Skills, Actions, and Concentration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And hopefully that adds clarity instead of confusion!

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

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

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

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

Makhpia-Luta (Red Cloud)

Level One Earth Mage

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

Low-Level Template (0 CP)

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

Nomadic Cultural Package Deal (0 CP)

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

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

Basic Expenditures (17 CP):

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

Usual Weapons:

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

Talents (16 CP):

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

Master Sorcerer (36 CP):

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

Other Abilities (3 CP):

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

Skills (20 SP):

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

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

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

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

Eclipse d20 – Kohana-Makawee, Loreward Of The Plains

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

Totem-Sworn (Raven) (6 CP)

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

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

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

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

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

Low-Level Template (0 CP)

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

Nomadic Cultural Package Deal (0 CP)

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

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

Basic Expenditures (42 CP)

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

Usual Weapons:

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

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

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

Other Skills (8 SP):

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

Other Abilities (24 CP):

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

Personal History:

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

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

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

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

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

The Condensed Skill List:

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

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

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

 

Eclipse – Building Variant Familiars

And for today, it’s a question:

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

-Alzrius

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

To start with the basics…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wild Men Of Atheria

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

Atherian Birthright.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skills:

Tier I:

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

Tier II:

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

Tier III:

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

Jungle Lord Style (Str):

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

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

Putting it all together, this gives us…

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

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

Restricted Magic In The Practical Enchanter

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

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

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

-Alzrius

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how to get back to that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I hope that helps!

Eclipse d20 – Cenric, Barbarian Beastmaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basic Purchases: (69 CP)

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

Usual Weapons:

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

Other Abilities (49 CP):

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

Skills (All +1 Morale):

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

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

Tier One Skills (Other) (36 SP):

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

Tier Two Skills (23 SP):

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

Tier Three Skills (8 SP):

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

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

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

Martial Arts:

Ancient Huntsman Style (Str):

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

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

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

Swift Hurling:

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

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

Jungle Lord Style (Str):

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

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

Pioneer Spirit Style (Con):

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stone Fang Style (Str).

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

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

Charms And Talismans

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

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

Current Talismans:

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

Current Charms:

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

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

Eclipse D20 – Kaerek, Savannah Refugee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Kaerek”

Level Four Wandering Mercenary

Life Domain Birthright:

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

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

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

Basic Purchases (93 CP):

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

Usual Weapons:

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

Other Abilities (65 CP):

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

Skills:

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

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

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

Martial Arts:

Dance Of Nightmares Style (Dex)

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

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

Blistering Thorns Strike (Dex):

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

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

Charms:

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

Eclipse d20 -Serilda Ofellius Mallius

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

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

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

Serilda Ofellius Mallius

Level Four Imperial Artificer

Birthright: Order (The Alarian Imperium)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basic Purchases (96 CP):

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

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

Other Basics:

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

Preferred Weapons:

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

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

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

Family Talent: Alchemical Powers (37 CP):

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

Other Powers (21 CP):

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

Skills:

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

Specific Knowledges (8 SP):

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

Thunderbolt Prana Style:

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

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

Charms and Talismans

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

Building “Lifebonds” in Eclipse

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

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

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

To summarize the available information about Lifebonds…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So why are the gods giving such directives?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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