First up for today, it’s another Identity from the Manifold Campaign (there’s a lot more material for that setting under the d20 tab). As usual, all characters for the setting are built under the Eclipse Classless d20 Point-Buy Rules (available in Print Here or in a Shareware Edition Here). Not so usually, as characters in that setting travel across the infinite dimensions of the Manifold, they fall into various Roles – Identities which give them a chance to experiment with exotic talents and strange abilities. In this case, we have such a role’…
This pleasant young man is a footloose wanderer from the rolling Dalelands of Faerun, a trader and explorer is search of wonders, profits, and pleasures. He is a charming rogue, a spinner of tales, a knife-fighter when necessary, and dabbler in hedge wizardry – albeit a dabbler fortified by considerable natural talent.
Thanks to his remarkable ability to enhance his skills when that is really necessary (via Bardic Voice or Transmutation) O’Dale’s deals rarely fall through – at least not until long after he’s well away – but if and when it happens, he is always ready with a knife or with a bit of quick illusory trickery
Due to an unexpected adventure down in Calimshan involving a lost kitten, a wagonload of beer, an evil grand vizier, a caliph’s daughter, and a minor cat-deity, Martin has been bonded with the Leopard Totem – and probably shouldn’t go anywhere near Calimshan again for at least a couple of decades.
As a level-four Identity for Martin Tabard in the Manifold Campaign Setting, the O’Dale Identity provides 32 CP to spend on enhancing Marty’s basic abilities. Given that this is an Identity, and thus only important in a few realms out of the infinite expanses of the Manifold, we can pretty much try anything – and, in this case, Marty (primarily a skillmaster, charmer, and knife-fighter), would like to try some magic – so we’ll optimize for that.
We’ll start with that Leopard Totem – purchased as Shapeshift with Hybrid Form, Clear Speech, and Variants (human appearance), Specialized in leopard form only and Corrupted by not actually being able to shapeshift (27 CP base, net cost 9 CP). That leaves him “stuck” in human form with a leopard’s physical attribute modifiers and innate physical bonuses (Str +6, Dex +8, Con +4, +10 Move, +1 Natural Armor, +8 to Acrobatics and Jump, +4 to Stealth, Low-Light Vision, and Scent) replacing his own physical attribute modifiers.
Now that’s a very cheesy ability – especially for a character who HAS no physical attribute or skill modifiers for those to override, and therefore loses nothing. On the other hand, attribute modifiers – even when they’re being used to obtain a fairly substantial dose of magical talent on the cheap – are a lot less important in the Manifold setting, where you often have to deal with spaceship combat at thousand-mile ranges, nuclear powered mecha, fission, fusion, and even antimatter weapons, legendary deities, and the heroes and villains from any piece of fiction you can name. When you wind up in a drinking contest with Thor, Son of Odin, God of Thunder, what you need is a clever trick, not die-roll modifiers.
That leaves us 23 CP to get some magic with. Since an Identity isn’t really part of the character core, or a basis for long-term advancement, we can use one of the systems that’s strong at the lower end but weak in long-term prospects for this. Combined with the really high (+8) Dexterity Modifier we’ve just arranged, Marty’s basic+4 Intelligence Modifier, and the skill rules for the Manifold Setting, the skill-based Rune Magic system is our best choice here: with a bit of boosting the high base rank will provide access to some decent spells, even if it would be difficult to improve later.
So we’ll buy:
Augmented Bonus: Adds Dex Mod to Int Mod for Rune Magic purposes. Corrupted: Only applies when able to gesture freely (4 CP). (This is important because the campaign skill system uses your Int Mod as a base for all trained skills – so this amounts to a +8 bonus on the cheap).
Dexterity-Based Rune Magic. 1 SP each on Bardic Voice, Illusion, and Transmutation Casting and Mastery – putting them all at a total of +21 (1 CP, +12 effective Int Mod, +8 Dex Mod). That gives O’Dale an effective casting level of 10 and the ability to cast spells of up to level five (6 CP).
O’Dale still needs some spell slots, since Rune Magic doesn’t automatically come with any – so the Magician Feat, which allows him to use his potential dexterity-based bonus spell slots to power rune magic with, is in order. At a total Dex of 27 that would normally provide him with 2 spells each of levels 1-4 and one level 5 spell per day – but, if the game master will let us get away with we’ll Corrupt it by requiring complex gestures for 1.5x effect – getting that up to 3 spell slots of levels 1-4 and a level 5 slot for a mere 6 CP.
The game master may not let us get away with either of those “Corrupted” modifiers – it could pretty reasonably be presumed that dexterity-based magic requires some pretty complex gestures anyway – but even the base allotment of spell slots is pretty good and we’re only saving 2 CP on the Augmented bonus. If he disallows the corruption it won’t be very hard to come up with 2 CP – and at this point we’ve only spent 16 of our 23 remaining CP.
So lets buy:
Augmented Bonus/Eloquent Gestures: O’Dale may add his Dexterity Modifier to his Charisma Modifier when making social skill checks. Given that we might need to save a few points here, this had better be Specialized (half effect), reducing the cost to 3 CP. Taking several different Augmented Bonuses would normally be grounds for a hard look at the character, but this is just an Identity so it doesn’t matter as much.
That leaves 4 CP. We’ll spend those on Faerunian Wealth, Storytelling, Faerunian Economics, and Chondathan (the language of the Dales: it probably equates to some earthly language in the Manifold, but there’s no way of knowing which one). If we do need to save 2 CP, we can probably drop the Faerunian Wealth and Economics – relying on his Core Wealth Rating and on the theory that even a sophisticated small trader on Faerun probably doesn’t know much about economic theory.
Presumably he was relying on some local linguistics charm in Calimshan: it’s not like a device that adds +1 to a skill rating costs much.
Now that’s not exactly epic, but it’s a pretty good touch of magic, makes him more persuasive than ever, and – thanks to the enhanced physical attributes – even provides a worthwhile boost to his combat abilities. It’s also another horrible example of squeezing efficiency out of the game system, but that’s part of the fun of it. “Balance” is a lot less important when you’re going to be leaving the abilities behind in the next session.