A’ikana – Current Skills

   Here we have a quick note for A’ikana Kalil, who has finished shopping for her skills – at least until she acquires some more skill points… 

   This being the Federation-Apocalypse setting, she gets custom skills and training bonuses – to make up for the fact that the settings skill list is potentially endless.

   Broad Skills (All +6 Int):

  • Physical Skills: Acrobatics +15 (4 SP +5 Dex), Stealth +24 (5 SP +5 Dex +4 Gear +4 Race), Martial Art/Adamantine Fist +21 (7 SP +8 Str), Martial Art/Crane Style +21 (7 SP +8 Str), Martial Art/Wind Dance +21 (8 SP +5 Dex)
  • Knowledge Skills (+6 Int): Theology +19 (6 SP +1 Package Deal), +13 Quantum Realities (1 SP), Psychology +13 (1 SP)
  • Perception Skills (+2 Wis): Spot +13 (1 SP +4 Gear), Listen +13 (1 SP +4 Gear)
  • Other Skills: Computer Operations +13 (1 SP, +6 Int), Diplomacy +10 (2 SP +2 Cha), Faith +10 (2 SP +2 Wis), Gadgetry +15, (1 SP, +8 Dex), Gather Information +10 (2 SP +2 Cha), Heal +10 (2 SP +2 Wis), Search +17 (1 SP +6 Int +4 Gear), Wealth/Core +9 (1 SP +2 Cha)

   Narrow Skills (All +6 Int +5 Training):

  • Physical Skills: Balance +19 (1 SP +5 Dex +2 Synergy), Climb +24 (1 SP +8 Str +4 Gear), Escape Artist +17 (1 SP +5 Dex), Jump +20 (4 SP +5 Dex), Drive / Core Earth Vehicles +16 (1 SP, +5 Dex), Shadowing +17 (1 SP +5 Dex), Swim +27 (0 SP +8 Str + 8 Race)
  • Knowledge Skills (+6 Int): Anthropology +18 (1 SP), Demonology +18 (1 SP), Church History +18 (1 SP), Witchcraft +18 (1 SP).
  • Other Skills: Oratory +16 (3 SP +2 Cha).

   +3 Specialities: Gadgetry/Smartclothes (1 SP).

   Known Languages (7): English, Mandarin, Japanese, Latin, Italian, Greek, Draconic.

Martial Arts Techniques Known (11 tehniques each at skill 21)

  • Adamantine Fist: Toughness III (+3/1 DR when using this form), Strike, Breaking (easily smashes objects), Mighty Blow (knocks people down on a critical), Sunder (may attack opponents weapons without drawing attacks).
    • Limited-Use Mystic Techniques:  Inner Strenth (powres mystic techniques), Ki Focus (Strength, +4 sacred bonus when activated), Focused Blow (strike as a crushing touch attack), and Overburden (renders foe unconscious).
  • Crane Style Kung Fu: Attack 2 (+2 to Hit), Strike, Defenses 4 (+4 to AC), Synergy (+2 to Balance), and Toughness 1 (+1/- DR).
    • Limited-Use Mystic Techniques: Focused Blow (strike as a crushing touch attack), Light Foot (+20 move and half falling damage, +30 to Jump), Iron Skin (+4 natural armor, may strike intangible opponents).
  • Wind Dance: Defenses 2 (+2 AC), Strike 1, Mind Like Moon (DC 15 reflex save to avoid being surprised or flat-footed), Instant Stand, Whirlwind Strike, and Deflect Arrows.
    • Limited-Use Mystic Techniques: Inner Strength (powers mystic techniques), Healing Hand (cures damage, diseases, and toxins), Vanishing (an instant move action when you need it), and Serpent Stike (attack does 2d4 attribute damage).

   Thanks to her mastery of basic strikes – and resulting lack of need for the “power” basic technique – A’ikana has fully mastered the Adamantine Fist and Crane Style, and has gone on to develop some advanced abilities. The Wind Dance, however, still has some techniques left to learn.

Eclipsing and Swashbuckling on the High Seas

   For today it’s part one of a series on swashbuckling campaigns – setting up the basics in Eclipse: The Codex Persona (available in print HERE and in a shareware .pdf version HERE).

   So you want to run a swashbuckling campaign. Is it piracy on the high seas? Quarrelsome young nobles at a decadent court? Rival families and star-crossed lovers? Swordsmanship, musketeers, and intrigue at the kings court in the style of Alexandre Dumas? Regardless of the details, this kind of thing can be a lot of fun.

   It’s not too hard to set up in Eclipse d20. You’ll probably want to keep the magic level low, but it’s not really required – and most players will cooperate if you explain what you’re going for in advance. You will want to encourage people to move around a lot in combat, and discourage armor though. The players will go with it for awhile anyway, but they’ll start getting annoyed about it if it’s obvious that it would be useful to wear heavy armor and people just aren’t doing it.

   So: to hold down the Armor

  • Vary the situation. Characters don’t wear armor in the bath or the bedchamber. It’s downright dangerous to wear it at sea. Medium or heavy armor makes it awkward to climb ladders, balance on top of crumbling walls, or move quickly. It’s expensive, and it’s difficult to put it on or take it off quickly. Light armor – leathers, hidden chainmail shirts (or equivalent light breastplates), and so on – suits the swashbuckling genre just fine, but heavier stuff will probably lead to a character is a swashbuckling campaign falling down a lot. Go ahead. Require a Balance check at DC 11 each round for that fight on top of a crumbling wall. The Dex 12 swordsman in leathers can “Take 10”. He may have to wave his arms comically every so often, but he’ll stay up. The Dex 12 swordsman in a chain shirt has a 55% chance of falling off every round. Want to guess who’s likely to come off best?
  • Tell the players that combat may well occur in unexpected situations, with little or no time to prepare, and in conditions where mobility is more important than armor – and encourage them to compensate for the lack of armor by purchasing combat abilities “Corrupted/not usable while wearing medium or heavy armor or while carrying a heavy load”. After they buy a few abilities like that, they’ll shun armor anyway; it would keep them from using too many of their talents.
  • Apply area effects. Volleys, grapeshot, chainshot, broadsides, and explosive shells target areas, not individuals. Heavy armor may help against individual hits, but it actively hinders the user’s ability to move quickly and erratically, take advantage of cover, and avoid bunching up with other targets (and thus drawing more fire to the general area you’re occupying), so those wearing it will take more, but weaker, hits. As abstract as d20 combat is, we can reasonably go with the default rules: armor doesn’t help against area effects. Reflex saves do, as does not being there in the first place – so characters will want to avoid slowing their movement with heavy armor. A massed musket volley might reasonably do 3d6 damage or so to everyone in the target area – with a successful reflex save indicating no damage at all.

   To hold down the magic:

  • Explain what kind of magic you’re allowing to start with, and stick whatever limitations you set up for the NPC’s too. The PC’s may be on the upper end of a lot of distribution curves – attributes, luck, affinity for trouble, and money to start with – but the same rules apply to everyone out there.
  • Ensure that there’s some reason not to blatantly display any magics the characters do have. They may be so limited that they’re best held as an ace in the hole, there may be some sort of popular prejudice against their use, or they may have troublesome side effects. In any case, make sure that the players know about these problems in advance.

   To encourage people to move around a lot and take advantage of the environment simply provide an environment with plenty of potentially-useful features to fight in and have the opponents move around and take advantage of them. The players will have their characters start doing so soon enough.

   For flavor:

  • Encourage the characters to buy their Warcraft (BAB) Corrupted/no iterative attacks. This not only makes it cheaper, but it leaves extra points left to buy various attack upgrades – allowing for single good blows to have a major impact on the outcome of a fight.
  • Allow characters to buy their hit dice Corrupted/when struck by a critical hit, or when damage passes the 50% and75% threshold, the character will suffer a graphic wound and take a penalty. Penalties can be assigned or rolled randomly, but things like “Arm Injury, -2 to hit until healed”, “Leg injury, -10′ Movement until bandaged after the battle”, “Blood in eyes, -2 to Spot and to hit for the next three rounds”, “abdominal blow, -2 strength until healed”, and so on are easy enough to manage.
  • Use package deals to represent appropriate schools, prior experience, and backgrounds. They are, after all, a tool to encourage the kind of campaign you want.

Eclipse – TARDIS d20

   Now that we have a Time Lord template, we’re going to need a Time Lord vehicle – a TARDIS. How can we build one of those in Eclipse: The Coded Persona? That’s a really powerful device, right?

   Well, as usual, the trick is to think about what it actually does.

   Lets see now… Having access to a TARDIS allows your Time Lord:

  • To arrive wherever the game master wants him or her to arrive and to be stuck there until the game master feels like letting him or her leave.
  • To arrive without benefit of any prior information, such as you’d get by actually traveling there or simply by being able to be sure where you were going in advance.
  • To be gratuitously cut off from any pre-existing friends or allies, with no means of obtaining more supplies, special items, or assistance unless you find them locally.
  • To have only one route of escape – effectively turning entire planets into single-location traps – which can easily be cut off or stolen.
  • To be constantly surprised by enemies, rivals, and would-be thieves of Time Lord secrets from across all space and time.
  • To have plenty of those enemies to be surprised by, since mere possession of a TARDIS makes the character a major target (admittedly, by those who don’t understand what a pain it really is).
  • To be constantly plunged into dangerous situations.
  • To be constantly leaving friends, and the fruits of his or her adventures and labors, behind, never to be seen again – unless the game master feels like bringing them back as bait for a trap.
  • To gratuitously see the results whenever some casual action or decision leads to a later disaster.
  • To be forced to confront malevolent or uncaring cosmic entities, while equipped with little more than your wits and whatever happens to be in your pockets!
  • To be forced to take responsibility for both the TARDIS itself and for the very fate of the universe – and to know that it all may hinge upon your actions!

   OK, now that’s a little tongue-in-cheek, and it doesn’t mention the fun side of getting to play cosmic tourist and occasionally getting to have much better technology than the locals – but that sort of thing doesn’t do that much for the character directly. I could make a pretty fair case that the possession of a TARDIS amounts to taking the “Accursed” disadvantage, and thus would give our Time Lord three EXTRA character points to spend.

   On the other hand, it is pretty cool to be able to play cosmic tourist – and, once you get back to it, you can generally escape from a bad situation pretty easily, at least for the moment. That would be a couple of three point Privileges, plus an advanced (and Specialized) version of Blessing to allow the user to share those privileges, giving the TARDIS a net cost of about twelve character points – a two-point relic.

   That does stretch the definition of “Privilege” quite a bit though. We could define the ability to travel freely through space and time as a very high level spell of some sort (say about level sixteen), and then throw in some secondary spells to provide the force-field, translation abilities, and other functions – but this pretty much amounts to an elaborate way of announcing that “this is impossibly expensive and you can’t have it”. There are ways to reach that kind of spell level via relics, spell conversion, and other tricks – but they’re all pretty expensive and are just asking for a game master veto if he or she doesn’t want you traveling – and if he or she does, you shouldn’t have to pay that much for it.

   So lets say we want a build that actually defines the abilities of a TARDIS and has a reasonable cost. Can we do that?

   Of course. Most of the powers of a TARDIS come down to a selection of Immunities.

  • Immunity/Time (Very Common, Severe [since being in the wrong century can take a character out of play very effectively], Epic, Specialized and Corrupted/takes a few moments to activate, makes it very hard to determine where you’ll wind up once it’s activated, very hard to use within a particular adventure setting, sometimes malfunctions or is interfered with externally, requires subjective time to operate in, 15 CP).
  • Immunity/Space (Very Common, Severe [since being on the wrong planet can take a character out of play very effectively], Epic, Specialized and Corrupted/takes a few moments to activate, makes it very hard to determine where you’ll wind up once it’s activated, very hard to use within a particular adventure setting, sometimes malfunctions or is interfered with externally, requires subjective time to operate in, 15 CP).
  • Immunity/Environmental Hazards (Very Common, Severe, Great (up to 60 points), Specialized and Corrupted/does not protect against temporal or cosmological disturbances, exotic energies may “leak through” and have weird plot-device effects, only 50% effective when primary shields are not activated (such as when the door is open, although this still covers life support) (10 CP).
  • Immunity/Intentionally-Inflicted Damage (Very Common, Severe, Great (up to 60 points), Specialized and Corrupted/does not work internally versus simple physical attacks, does not protect against temporal or cosmological disturbances, only 50% effective against weapons designed for use against a TARDIS, only 50% effective when primary shields are not activated (such as when the door is open, this reduces the effect to 25% when both conditions apply) (10 CP). Note that – when shared with those inside – this also covers the weapon-“deactivation” properties of the TARDIS. Of course, accidents can damage a TARDIS easily – and often do.
  • Equipage, Specialized and Corrupted/it may take a good deal of rummaging to find what is wanted, weapons are almost never available, basic equipment is limited (even rope can be hard to find), and foodstuffs and such are very basic. Still, there are always sets of spare clothing available (2 CP). Note that, with Blessing, each user gets their own allotment of food and supplies.
  • Mindspeech, Specialized/only works to translate spoken languages (3 CP).
  • Shapeshift. This is an unusual option, but – as an inanimate object – a TARDIS can take on a variety of inanimate forms. Thanks to it’s immunity to the normal constraints of space, these can be of a wide variety of sizes, but – if you want to get in and out – need to be large enough to have a usable door (6 CP).
  • Presence/”Perception Filter”, people will tend to ignore the TARDIS, treating it as just part of the scenery. Specialized/does not work versus anyone who actually knows what it is (3 CP).
  • Reflex Action/three extra actions per day variant, Specialized/only usable to escape major attacks. If a TARDIS detects a major buildup of energy nearby – a discharge great enough to seriously damage it – it will disappear and reappear somewhere nearby after the danger is past (3 CP).
  • Occult Sense/Exterior Environment, Corrupted/unreliable. While those inside can see out of a TARDIS, and the sensors will normally warn of quickly-lethal exterior environments, more subtle dangers are often overlooked (4 CP).
  • Blessing, may share abilities with up to (Operators Cha Mod +1, 1 minimum) targets plus it’s operator, Specialized/only Mindspeech and the Presence effect can extend outside the interior of the TARDIS (6 CP).

   This comes to a total of 77 CP or a 13 CP Relic – quite a bit. Of course, if the Chameleon Circuit is broken (deactivating the “Shapeshift”), this is reduced to 71 CP or a 12-point relic. That’s still quite a bit, but it’s pretty reasonable for what you’re buying. What’s unreasonable is allowing those immunities. Immunity to natural laws is ALWAYS a major warning flag, and the other immunities are pretty broad – but given that the TARDIS is both a plot device (to which we could reasonably assign some disadvantages to bring down the cost), primarily a method of delivering characters to otherwise inaccessible adventure settings, and absolutely vital to adventuring in the Doctor Who style, I’m going to let it slide.

   This doesn’t account for using the TARDIS to drag planets through space, allowing massive paradoxes, repairing the timesteam or – for that matter – randomly not working when it suits the plot, but that’s why all Time Lords have the Action Hero/Stunts ability. It allows them (with the game masters permission) to occasionally do things that are normally impossible. In this case, the most efficient way to go about it is to temporarily buy as your stunt “create relic/TARDIS modifications only, 3 CP” and “+3 CP invested in the TARDIS”. If you use Mana with Reality Editing or another appropriate ability, that combination will allow a Time Lord to use a TARDIS to pull off the occasional unprecedented stunt – which will probably never happen again.