Legend of the Five Rings – Reflexive Spells

   Reflexive Spells can be used without taking an action – or even during someone else’s action. It’s a part of their design. Sadly, this means that they’re invariably pretty weak. They must be taken as innate powers with no casting roll required, and so only free raises may be used with them. They’re most commonly encountered built into special techniques. Some of the more common reflexive spells are listed below, but there are others – and some higher level possibilities.

   Level One:

  • Self-Hypnosis: the user may instantly convince him or herself that something is the truth, however silly it may be – foiling powers and abilities that detect lies or are triggered by them.
  • Tongue’s Lure: the user may make a contested willpower check to get someone to reveal more then they meant to in a conversation.
  • Ch’i Battle; the user may make a contested void check to make an opponent who just attacked them to lose his or her next attack.
  • Strength of Steel: doubles the user’s armor bonuses for three combat rounds.
  • Undetection; adds the user’s stealth check result to the target number of any attempts at detecting the user by magic for the next hour.
  • Psychic Weapon I: creates an arrow, knife, or similar small, light, weapon. It will last for up to ten minutes, although it will immediately vanish if someone attempts to use it against it’s creator.

   Level Two:

  • Warcry: causes fear for two rounds in those nearby, with a TN of (User’s rank + 1)x5 to resist.
  • Redirect; the user may make an opposed check against an attacker to redirect an attack to another target within five feet.
  • Fortune’s Aid; allows the user to keep all the dice he or she rolls on a particular skill check or effectively doubles his or her skill rank for a single roll.
  • Crippling Blow; allows an attack to cause a special effect, such as blindness, reduced movement, or some similar severe penalty, for the next hour. The victim, however, may resist normally and the attack must connect for the spell to take effect.
  • Touch of Arcana: allows the user’s flesh, or a specific weapon he or she touches, to take on the properties of a particular magical material for the next five rounds.
  • Serene Aura: keeps a chosen target from instigating any hostile action or contested roll against you for up to an hour – as long as you also refrain from doing so against them. This doesn’t work on animals, demons, or those lost to considerations of honor.
  • Magic Disruption: allows the user to strike a magic-wielder and make a contested void check against them. If the user wins, his victim will be unable to use any form of magical powers through the end of the next round. This will not, however, work again before the end of the next round; there won’t be anything to disrupt.
  • Psychic Weapon II: creates a one-handed weapon, bow, or similar weapon. It will last for up to ten minutes, although it will immediately vanish if someone attempts to use it against it’s creator.
  • Mastery: allows the user to automatically succeed on a check, but only with a minimal success.

   Level Three:

  • Blades of Truth: negates all of a target’s special damage-reducing powers save for spending void points for (Honor) rounds.
  • Blade Arcane: causes whatever weapon the user indicates to be treated as an arcane material of his or her choice for the next five rounds in addition to whatever other properties it may have.
  • Ultimate Evasion: the user evades any one single-target attack.
  • Psychic Weapon III: creates a two-handed weapons of choice. It will last for up to ten minutes, although it will immediately vanish if someone attempts to use it against it’s creator.
  • Ranged Strike: allows the user to make a single melee attack using archery range modifiers.
  • Otherworldly Essence; the user may add his or her level in a chosen dimensional energy to every die used for an attack roll, damage roll, defense roll, or skill roll this round.

Eclipse – Character Construction Cribsheet

. I’ve been asked to put up a specialized index to some of the articles and examples for building classless d20 characters in Eclipse beyond what comes in the book itself – so here it is. 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:

Sample Level One Character Builds:

  • Iron Dragon:  unarmed and unarmoured tank.
  • Shamanic Adept: a speaker to spirits.
  • Vedic Master: a matter transmuter and self-enhancer.
  • The Bulwark : a MMORPG – or 4′th Edition D&D – style tank/controller.
  • Kabalistic Ritualist: a ritual mage. Includes the Priestly Scholar, Demonologist, Expert Ritualist, and Canny Spellblade variants.
  • The Street Rat: a roguish street kid. Includes the Black Marketeer, Spellthief, Street Survivor, Gang Leader, and Wiz Kid variants..
  • The Wraith: a short-range teleporter.
  • The Swashbuckler: an unarmored fighter. Includes the Cinematic Hero, Experienced Duelist, Agile Master, Florentine Fighter, Demon Hunter, Dilettante Noble, Golden One, Shadow Adept, Military Man, Spirit Speaker Magical Dabbler, and Ruthless Questor variants.
  • The Primal Warrior: a shapeshifter-berserker.
  • Animist: a non-spellcasting wizard who speaks with creatures and objects.
  • Harbringer of Doom:  an optimized skirmisher, and what NOT to do.
  • Alarian Legionaire Build and some Sample Legionaires (these characters use the half-price attribute rule).
  • Courtly Witch: a noblie intriguer with hidden psychic powers.
  • The Battlerager: a totemistic warrior with rage-based augmentations.
  • The Witch: a low-powered but extremely flexible psychic.
  • The Gifted Psion: a second-edition style psion build.
  • The Dweomer Master: a master of particular psychic fields.
  • The Starfire Adept: a stress-powered master of psychic skills
  • The Revised Psion: variants on the standard Psion build. Psychic Knight, Expert Psion, Natural Psion, Tower Resident, Fatebound Psion, Spirit Warror, and Psychic Artificer.
  • Transhumans: mutants and superheros with limitless use of some specific powers.
  • Scholarly Priest: a master of channeling aid to his or her friends.
  • The Hellguide: a revenant from the abyss
  • the Werewolf: a young ECL1 shapeshifter
  • The Cyber-Warrior: and how to buy Cyberware
  • Runesmith: a caster who builds up spells a bit at a time
  • Tollers: characters who summon essences into themselves
  • Poseur or Mad Cultist: single-school spellcasters
  • Mystic Adept: a design-it-yourself spontaneous spell point caster available in many different flavors.
  • The Collector: a ritualist and collector of magical devices
  • The Tech Wiz: a build for hackers, security breakers, and tinkerers. Includes the Technical Hero, Kit-Basher, Robot Master, Intuitive Expert, Expert Technician, Wondersmith, and Hacker variants.
  • The Hotshot Pilot: a master of some type of vehicle.
  • The Investigative Reporter: the truth is out there. Includes the Hard-Hitting Detective, World Traveler, Intuitive Reporter, Lucky Intern, Magical Dabbler, and Tough Reporter variants.
  • The Elementalist: a specialist in a particular branch of magic
  • The Fortunate Hero: a character who can provide his own lucky breaks
  • The Bloodmarked: a victim of his or her own innate powers. Essentially consists entirely of variants.
  • Khamsin The Wanderer, a warrior-mage designed to buy each of his spells, and their casting level, individually.
  • Inaro Montban, a mystical agent of the Limbo Wheel built using a house rule I don’t recommend – but found irresistably amusing.
  • The Paladin of Death, a guardian of life’s cycle.
  • Ruth Gelman: A young – if very deadly – level one sharpshooter from the Federation-Apocalypse setting.
  • Ishinomorel. Shadow Elf Archer-Runemaster. Level Two Upgrade.
  • Tristan. Shadow Elf Pirate-Elementalist. Level Two Upgrade.
  • Ysmir. Shadow Elf Scout-Firemaster. Level Two Upgrade.
  • Vehn Rageclaw: Veltine Warrior-Mad Scientist.
  • Rudra Mogzul, Thunder Dwarf Warrior. Level Two Upgrade (offsite link).
  • Peregrine, a Veltine Bodyguard-Companion.
  • Building the Level One Bladesinger
  • S’stam: An Ikam Follower-Bodyguard.

Level-by-Level Class Breakdowns:

General Build Information and Power Packages:

Sample Higher-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:

  • Cadmel, Anime Sorcerer. A roguish anime-style sorcerer with unlimited use of his spells.
  • Ithulsin the Outcast: a powerful mentalist with the Krell Psychic Adept template.
  • Li Kao, a d20 Samurai and Shintoist mystic. Exchanges favors with spirits for his magical talents.
  • Lingering Smoke, a quick conversion of a Sidereal Exalted character to Eclipse.
  • Jamie Wolfe – a MLELF Cyborg Super-Soldier.
  • Dr Solomon Brenner: A highly skilled, if monstrously immoral, surgeon from the Linear Realms..

Level Five Sample Characters:

Level Six Sample Characters:

Level Seven Sample Characters:

  • Esteria, a slightly senile old woman with poor control of her magic and entirely too many dragon-cats.
  • Kelsaru Ana’Nasu, a crystal dragoness, powerful telepath, and Kevin Sanwell’s girlfriend.
  • Xaliotl, an obsessive fire mage.
  • Marty Tabard (offsite link), Battling Businessman and dimensional wanderer.

Level Eight Sample Characters:

Higher Level Sample Characters:

  • Level Ten: Raven, a druid/thief/dragon who’s wandered in from older editions.
  • Level Eleven: One, the Number Lord of Identity.
  • Level Twelve: Peter Leland (Offsite Link), a cartoon business raider and possum breeder.
  • Lord Zero: The Number Lord of Eternity. A crazed godling.
  • Level Thirteen: Adam, Praetorian Nightmare: a melee death-machine nightmare for entire high-level parties.
  • Level Eighteen: The Atrocity Build: A grossly abusive build designed for raw sorcerous power – and his Companions.
  • Epic Level: A Balor, spawn of darkness…
  • Epic Level: Amilko Moonshadow: History and Character Sheet. One of the few epic-level squirrels out there.

Level Twenty Breakdowns:

Legend of the Five Rings – Mudra

   Mudra are mystical gestures and postures which focus and channel the trickle of chi that anyone can tap via meditation. They require a meditation skill level of at least three times the level of the effect being used – and most require both hands, sitting still, and several minutes of meditation to activate, although the effects last for about one minute after the user stops. Anyone who meditates can learn Mudra as per acquiring any other spell formula as an innate ability.

   Level One:

  • Tranquility; banishes fear and stress, allowing the user to get along on only half the usual amount of sleep and to resist fear effects.
  • Purity; allows the user to try and cast out personal impurities – including poisons and spirits – through meditation. The target number for any such attempt is set by the game master.
  • Lesser Sealing; keeps the user’s energies from interacting with those of an item or spell, allowing safe handling of dangerous things. Unlike many other Mudra, this one allows slow movement and only occupies one hand.
  • Aura; allows the user to walk around – albeit slowly – while radiating an impression, such as “I am a worthy recipient of alms” or “I am too angry to mess with”. Animals are strongly influenced, humans always “get the message”, but can resist it with an opposed willpower check.
  • Hibernation; greatly slows the user’s metabolism, and allows him or her to tolerate a drastically lowered body temperature.
  • Void Flare; this mudra simply burns off the trickle of energy supplied by meditation in as occultly-spectacular a manner as possible – making the user easily detectable by anyone else who uses occult powers in the vicinity.
  • One with the Tao; allows the user to attune himself or herself to his or her surroundings. The user cannot be surprised and gains a +10 bonus to initiative.

   Level Two:

  • Stasis; the user need not eat, breathe, age, or make rolls against progressive conditions, such as diseases or poisons, while maintaining this Mudra.
  • Magic Resistance; the user gains an effective magic resistance equal to the results of his or her meditation check.
  • Illusion Penetration; the user will become aware of any illusions in the immediate vicinity.
  • Hand of (Material); the user’s unarmed blows are treated as if his or her hands were made of a particular mystical material.
  • Deflection; this mudra allows the user to calmly deflect blows, gaining a +10 bonus to his or her AC while he or she remains on the defensive and is either sitting or standing.
  • Radiance; allows the user to generate an eerie glow, roughly equal to torchlight, either from his or her entire body or from a selected portion of it. Unlike most Mudra, this one can be used while walking around slowly.
  • Immovability; grants the user enormous mass (many tons) and great durability – equal to being made of the hardest metal – but also prevents him or her from moving more than an inch or so an hour, although this does not disrupt the mudra. Given time, however, the user can easily push through an iron wall.

   Level Three:

  • Spirit Walking; allows the user to engage in a limited form of astral projection. He or she must remain passively focused on meditation, but can send their spirit to various locations while doing so. Alternatively, this mudra can be used to simply release the user’s spirit, resulting in a peaceful death.
  • Invisibility; allows the user to meld into the background, both physically and magically. While this mudra is active, the user may add his or her meditation skill to his or her stealth-related skills and allowing the user to employ his or her meditation skill as a magical stealth skill against various forms of detection magic.
  • Energy Resistance; allows the user to subtract the results of his or her mediation skill check (to a minimum of zero) from any energy damage inflicted on him or her while the mudra is active. Unlike most other mudra, this one can be maintained with one hand while moving around slowly – allowing the user, for example, to walk through a fire while remaining unaffected.
  • Self Healing; the user accomplishes one full days worth of healing per hour that this mudra is maintained.
  • Awakening; infuses a target item or creature with a bit of the energy the user is tapping into. An item can be briefly “awakened” as a magical item (the exact properties are up to the game master, but they are always simply bonuses), an unconscious target will be awakened, and any living creature can be healed of one point of damage. Unfortunately, actually selecting a target and infusing it ends the mudra – and an “awakened” item will return to sleep in a few minutes at most.
  • Deep Trance; your meditations achieves results in one-third of the usual time – at which point this mudra can simple be abandoned in favor of another.
  • Sacred Barrier; allows the user to generate a ward as long as he or she continues to meditate, forcing creatures who attempt to enter to make an opposed meditation check against the user to do so. Even if they succeed, the user may inflict half the value of his or her meditation check as damage upon them.

Eclipse – The Bloodmarked Level One Build

   Here we have another sample level one classless Eclipse d20 character – in this case, one of the common types of cinematic antagonists and occasional heroes – the Bloodmarked.

   Some folk have power in their blood. Not the safe, potential, power of those with sorcerous bloodlines or the part-blooded natural-to-the-user power that comes from having a dragon or outsider ancestor, but wild power – the power of pacts (whether your own or those of some ancestor), bound magical entities, and inhuman forces – burning within them, warping and twisting mortal flesh that was never meant to contain it.

   Some mortals – impatient for power, unwilling to slowly develop their abilities and tolerances – make such pacts, bind entities, and infuse themselves with forces of their own will. Others are unwilling victims. It matters little; either can be represented with the Bloodmarked build.

   A Bloodmarked character is actually fairly simple: he or she simply has a collection of powers to draw upon – some weaker, some stronger, some usable more or less often, and many of them with noxious side effects. On the other hand, they don’t require any study, aren’t affected by the use of armor, and allow plenty of time for their user’s to study other things. Not usually too flexible, but reasonably effective – and easy for the GM to plan for, since there won’t be many surprises in the build. Once the character picks out his or her powers at a particular level, they’re set.

   By it’s nature, a Bloodmark Build comes fairly close to being a specialized version of Eclipse; it’s a toolkit for building the kind of character you want. You pick out the parts that fit your ideas, customize them, and assemble your character. That’s why it’s presented as a general menu of abilities, rather than a specific combination of them.

  • Disadvantages: (Select three disadvantages for 10 CP).
  • Duties or Restrictions (Bloodmarked characters may have obligations to their patrons, be unable to handle holy objects or enter holy places, be compelled to do any number of bizarre things, or suffer various weird restrictions. It all depends on just where their power comes from. In any case, we can presume +2 CP/Level).
  • Total available character points: 48 (Level One Base) + 10 (Disadvantages) +2 (Duties) + 6 (Level One Bonus Feat) = 66, 18 of which (from disadvantages, duties, and the bonus Feat) may be spent outside of the Adventurer framework restrictions.

   Basic Attributes: Variable. Bloodmarked characters tend to have high constitutions, usually put Strength or Dexterity next, and their other attributes depend on their background. They don’t actually need much of anything in the way of mental attributes if their abilities are inherited, but characters who actually summon things and bargain for power will probably a decent Wisdom and Intelligence.

   Basic Purchases (36 CP):

  • Proficient with All Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP) and Light and Medium Armor (9 CP).
  • +4 Skill Points (4 CP).
  • +2 on Fortitude Saves (6 CP).
  • d8 Hit Die (4 CP).
  • Initial BAB +1, Corrupted/does not add to iterative attacks (4 CP).

   Variants abound here: ritualist, magical, or roguish types may want to drop the BAB, some of the weapons, and/or some of the armor in favor of more skills and saves,  while those focused on combat may prefer a larger hit die. This is an Eclipse build, so such decisions are entirely up to the player.  

Special Abilities (30 CP):

  • Bloodmark Powers (18 CP):
    • Basically, what we’re going for here is a bunch of inherent spells, all Specialized and Corrupted to decrease their costs. For simplicity – or as simple as this kind of character can get – I’ll set this up as a menu; Pick an inherent spell package and the spells in it, then pick one option from the Specialization menu and one item from the Corruption menu to apply to that package. If you still have character points left over, either do it again or go buy something else.
  • Possible Inherent Spell Packages:
    • A level one spell, usable eight times per day (3 CP, +1 CP per 4 additional uses).
    • Two level one spells, usable twice per day each (2 CP, +1 CP per 2 additional uses of each).
    • A level two spell, usable twice per day (2 CP, +1 CP per 2 additional uses).
    • A level three spell, usable once per day (2 CP, +1 CP per 2 additional uses).
    • A thematically-related level three and a level four spell, each usable once per day (4 CP, +1 CP per 2 additional uses of one of the spells).
    • A thematically-related set of a level three, level four, and level five spell, each usable once per day (6 CP, +1 CP per 2 additional uses of one of the spells).
    • A thematically-related set of a level three, level four, level five, and level six spell, each usable once per day (8 CP, +1 CP per 2 additional uses of one of the spells).
    • A thematically-related set of a level three, level four, level five, level six, and level seven spell, each usable once per day (12 CP, +1 CP per 2 additional uses of one of the spells).
  • Specialization Options:
    • Reduce effective caster level to one-third the user’s hit dice (not compatible with the similar Corrupted modifier)
    • Does 1d4 damage per spell level to the caster (no save) and his or her friends and allies within 30 feet (Fort save for half),
    • The power requires some difficult-to-acquire catalyst, which it slowly uses up.
    • The power must be externally renewed, either from some specific immobile source or by performing some awkward and complex ritual or sacrifice
    • The power is supplied by a particular – and demanding – supernatural patron. The more it’s used, the more special missions and services the patron will demand in exchange.
    • Possession of this power leaves some severe disfiguring and identifiable sign on the user’s body, as well as distorting the user’s aura and causing very bad reactions.
    • The use of this power will slowly taint or corrupt the user, eventually – perhaps never if used very rarely, slowly if used with caution, and quite rapidly if used whenever the character feels like it – turning him or her into a monstrous NPC.
    • Something else. Discuss this with your game master.
  • Corruption Options:
    • Reduce effective caster level to two-thirds the user’s hit dice (not compatible with the similar Specialized modifier).
    • Twists and poisons the environment nearby.
    • Sometimes attracts dangerous magical creatures.
    • Possession of this power leaves some minor disfiguring and identifiable sign on the user’s body, and causes poor reactions or suspicion.
    • Only usable on a weekly basis, rather than daily – or requires Mana, rather than simply being usable so many times per day (a primary option in superhero worlds, where there’s a continuous supply of Mana to work with).
    • Power requires a vulnerable external device to use; such as a wand, ring, or other focus.
    • The power manifests in a bizarrely twisted fashion or requires that the user call on forbidden names and powers. Anyone who observes it is likely to react with horror and see the user as a wielder of blasphemous and forbidden powers.
    • Something else. Discuss this with your game master.
  • Obviously enough, this kind of build offers a great deal of power relatively cheaply – or at least cheaply in terms of character points. There are, however, a major restriction over and above the limitations the character has already selected: the minimum level to use an inherent spell is equal to [(the level of the inherent spell x 2) – 1]. Unless the game master opts to waive that requirement – more likely for effects like Clairvoyance or Healing than for Fireball and Summon Monster – various powers may not be usable for some time, or might only be usable while an appropriate Berserk or other temporary enhancement is in use.

   What could we do with this?

   Ithori was a peaceful herbalist and minor ritualist, specializing in healing, blessing fields, and similar tasks. When a demon rose to attack the small and peaceful village in which he lived, he – like the other townsfolk – sought refuge in the chapel.

   The village priest died horribly, his death buying no more than a few hours before the protective spell he had laid about the chapel with his dying strength would fade. The demon announced that it would spare most of their village if they would send out one in four of the village children in tithe – announcing that, when the ward fell, it would take them all if the villagers refused to submit.

   Most of the villagers were not so foolish as to embrace such evil in exchange for mere physical survival. They busied themselves in praying for rescue, for a miracle, or in preparing to fight – however hopeless their cause – when the ward collapsed.

   Ithori worked frantically on a binding ritual. The demon had arrogantly announced it’s name, he stood upon holy ground, and perhaps the gods – or the soul of their martyred priest – would aid him.

   This being backstory – and thus fair game for improbable coincidence and extraordinary strokes of luck – Ithori successfully completed his ritual just as the demon burst in through the chapel doors. Sadly, Ithori had no vessel suitable for containing a demon – except one. He bound the demon (which, thanks to this being backstory, blew it’s chances to resist, no matter how unlikely that was) into his own body.

   While that saved his village, and gave him access to some of the demons unholy power, it has it’s price. The demons presence is constantly painful, it leaves him unable to enter holy places, and it leaves him vulnerable to holy items and to items intended for use against demons (and unable to use them).

   The powers he can draw from it are – of course – both Specialized and Corrupted: his demonic powers mark him in several ways (glowing red eyes, traces of scales on the skin, the various magical problems noted above, and an aura of evil and demonic power – all of which tends to be pretty hard on his social life and causes various problems with those who hunt down supernatural evils), and his powers are blatantly hellish in origin and corrupt the area in which they’re used.

   At the moment he has some basic fire related powers (Produce Flame, Burning Hands), the ability to summon and command lesser evils for a short time (Summon Monster), and the ability to tap into some of it’s resistances (Resist Energy). At higher levels he may learn to command considerably greater powers, or even learn to channel the creature directly (Summon Specific Monster, the Channeling Variant. See The Practical Enchanter). It’s never going to be easy, and it’s going to cause him constant problems. Will he be a tragic hero, and strive for the best despite his flaws – or will he become embittered, and turn against humanity?

   How about a character who inherited an ancestors pacts with the meddlesome Lords of Fate? Mu’lin can tap into a wide variety of powers, but using them means undertaking more missions for the Lords of Fate and tends to attract bizarre and dangerous events – which tends to force her to draw on her powers, which means more errands. That’s a vicious loop she prefers to stay out of if she can, so she relies more on other abilities and on those of her allies.

   Karthan can draw on the vast energies of the massed stars of the galaxy, producing a range of potent “cosmic energy powers”. Unfortunately, drawing on such power is dangerous; the waste energies damage the user and his nearby companions (or enemies for that matter) and requires special talismans – a set of engraved crystals set into a pair of bracers – to channel properly.

   Vandri, impatient for magical power, has resorted to summoning up minor spirits and either forging pacts with them or binding them into herself, rather than investing years in study and practice. In her case, each pact and binding suffers from it’s own limitations. Powers derived from binding lesser creatures often suffer from reduced caster levels, others require offerings and services to renew, still others are damaging to call upon…

   Adventuring is, of course, yet another group to fast and easy power – if you’re not averse to risk. Of course, if Vandri was averse to taking risks in pursuit of power, she wouldn’t be resorting to Bloodmarks…

   Was your character exposed to the energies of a wild dimensional rift, blasted with weird radiations, bonded with the occult potential of a magical nexus, or contaminated with some bizarre magical substance? The Bloodmarked build will cover it nicely.

   At this point there are still twelve character points left to spend. Of course, given the number of possibilities inherent in the Bloodmarked build so far, there’s no one option for spending them that will fit – but here are some common variants.

  • A Ritualist will, of course, need Occult Ritual (6 CP), a +3 Speciality in Spellcraft/Occult Ritual (1 CP), Skill Emphasis/Spellcraft Specialized in Rituals (3 CP), and Specific Knowledge of some rituals (2 CP).
  • A Warrior – probably with inherited or accidental powers – will probably want proficiency with heavy armor (6 CP) and some sort of combat trick or enhancement. There are dozens of possibilities, but an Enhanced Strike option (6 CP) is probably easiest.
  • A classical Priest or Mage will want a level of conventional magic – 10 CP for a Cleric, and 14 CP (having to scrape up another 2 CP somewhere) for Wizard – and will probably see his or her bloodmark powers as a sideline or even an unwanted burden. It’s likely that exploring the source, and consequences, of those abilities will be a major theme.
  • A Roguish type will probably see those powers as a useful edge, and as a surprise to be used to augment his or her skills. He or she will be best served by taking Adept (6 CP) to half the cost of his or her most frequently-used skills, one level of Augmented Attack (as “Sneak Attack”, 3 CP), and +3 Skill Points (3 CP).
  • An Atrocity build will want more bloodmark powers and some way to access higher-level spells than he or she could normally use – for example, +2d0 Hit Dice (allowing access to effects a level higher than normal as well as providing +[2x Con Mod] extra hit points) (8 CP) and +4 CP worth of bloodmark powers (4 CP). Other options include an immunity to the level requirements for using inherent spells (if the game master is willing to put up with it), using the Journeyman ability, Berserker (to boost the user’s effective level for a time), and simply talking the game master into allowing it.
  • The Accidental Victim could have virtually any combination of abilities, since whatever he or she was before will have nothing whatsoever to do with his or her Bloodmarked powers – and is pretty typical of builds for sueprhero worlds.

   Further Advancement: A character who’s serious about this path will want the basics – saves, hit dice, skills, and BAB (more if they have a melee build in mind, less if they have magical support in mind), and more bloodmark powers. Unfortunately, a major disadvantage of this sort of build is that you can buy more advanced powers in a particular sequence, and you can buy more uses – but you usually can’t change the powers you’ve already got outside of buying off their limitations or turning them into increased effects rather than cost reductions. Characters who aren’t relying on their bloodmark powers will want to build up whatever abilities they are relying on – but that’s general enough that I really can’t provide much of a direction there other than “go and consult the book”.

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

Legend of the Five Rings – Sagmahi Kashti Madrase (Old Yodatai Divine Bushi School)

   With all the wild powers of the seas and salt waters arrayed against them, the Yodatai Empire is limited to those places to which it’s legions can march. A tidal estuary, a narrow strait, an island a mile or so offshore – or an are of shoreline within reach of a storm waves and tidal surges – are all almost as out of reach of the Yodatai as another world.

   Around the ocean borders of the empire, a hundred small towns and cities maintain a limited independence from the Yodatai. They can’t afford to antagonize the empire – the legions themselves may not be able to reach them, but there are always mercenaries, both magical and mundane – hence they exist either as tiny fugitive groups of disorganized scavengers or as client-states of the Yodatai.

   Within the bounds of the Yodatai realms, and for a short distance beyond them, the ancient gods of the Yodatai may walk freely, the current estrangement between the Yodatai and their gods not withstanding.

   Even the Stormlord, Master of Tides and Currents, the Dance and Spirit of the Raging Sea, sometimes borrows a body from amongst the creatures of the sea, transforms it, and walks among men – if not among the Yodatai who labor under his curse.

   Sadly even among the client-states, the Iilgyr – the demigodling-offspring of Yodatai gods and mortal heroes and lovers – are not welcome, and remain all-too-easily recognized. The Stormlord, obsessed with his vendetta against the Yodatai, took his infant son to Mons Midil and left him in the care of the lesser spirits who served the gods – distant both from purpose and from the sea.

   Sagmahi is now about four and a half centuries old – the mortal equivalent of fifteen or sixteen. He has spent his life gazing out across the distant reaches of the world and it’s broad seas – and being stuck on a boring mountain peak. The falling-out between the Yodatai and their gods is a mere an annoyance to the major gods, who can easily bridge the gap between the worlds under their own power and possess local bodies as they please, but the Iilgyr are not so talented – and their peculiar physical traits make them easily recognizable should they attempt to sneak down into the mortal world.

   Sagmahi’s personal school, as amplified by his own blessing, is a school for wanderers, traders, and explorers. This makes it doubly frustrating for him to be struck on Mons Midal; he can’t even use half the abilities of his school for anything.

   Sagmahi Kashti Madrase (Old Yodatai Divine Bushi School):

  • Benefits: +1 Intelligence, Glory 2, Status 1, Wealth 3, Honor 2.0.
  • School Skills: Athletics, Battle, Commerce (note that this does not cause honor problems for non-samurai; that’s a local prejudice), Courtier, Hunting, Investigation, Land Vehicles, Lore/Travel (covers geography, trade, trade, seas and sailing, and general information about the creatures and cultures of other lands – albeit rarely in much detail unless very difficult rolls are made), Water Vehicles, and any three skills of choice provided that they include at least one weapon skill.

   School Techniques:

   First Technique/Rah Durdast Sier, the Path of the Distant Wanderer:

   With the endurance gained from hard roads and the blessing of the far-traveler, the Sagmahi Adept:

  • Gains (School Rank) Free Raises whenever repairing, operating, or navigating a vehicle (5).
  • May add his or her Intelligence to all school skill rolls (5).
  • May double the effect of each void point spent on buying off damage (a common feature of the Iilgyri schools, since their patrons are somewhat protective of their acolytes, 5 points).
  • Like all the Iilgyr schools, the Blessing of Sagmahi himself is a major element. This means that this school only functions to full effect while Sagmahi approves of the user and will never be a large one; like all the Iilgyr, Sagmahi simply doesn’t have the power to support all that many devotees. Ally with Major Influence (can provide +20 points worth of abilities, 4), Minor Devotion (0), Major Eccentricity (2), and Minor Inconvenience (Sagmahi wants regular weekly prayers and small offerings, -1) (Net cost 5).

   As a patron spirit, Sagmahi provides:

  • Mastery of Stowing: Any items packed away by a user of this technique, or under his or her supervision, take up only 10% as much space, and weigh only one-tenth as much, as they normally would (the Reduce to Talisman spell with an indefinite duration, lesser effect, and larger volume affected, making it level two, taken as a Gift, allowing an immediate TN 15 meditation check to regain the point of Void spent powering it) (8). To make most efficient use of this gift, pack larger items first.
  • Improvised Repair: The user may take any item from “Broken” or “Poor” quality to “Average” with a TN 15 skill check within 1-2 rounds. The TN is reduced to 10 if he or she can spend a few minutes at the job (level two self-powered Psychic “Repairman” Power) (6).
  • Terrain Sense: The user is always through “familiar” with the terrain, obstacles and barriers, and the layout of any structures within a radius of (Awareness x 150) feet (A level two self-powered Psychic Sense) (6).

   Yes, Sagmahi does aid himself in the use of his school. Godlings can do that.

   Second Technique/Rah Kashti Farman, the Path of the Commander:

   The Wanderer is now adept at leading men, adapting to new situations, and improvising to meet new challenges. He or she now gains:

  • +1 Attack with Pistols, Bows, or CAh,rossbows (5)
  • The ability to keep a vehicle functioning under the worst of conditions. Any vehicle which the user is currently commanding will have it’s effective level of quality upgraded by one step – including from “broken” or “destroyed” to “poor” (5 – 5 for the command requirement = 0)
  • The ability to add twice his or her intelligence to all school skill rolls, replacing the benefit from the level one technique (+5).
  • The knack of Universal Excellence. The Sagmahi Adept may add his or her Void (which must be at least three) to a skill for ten minutes. This may be done without cost up to (Void) times daily, but costs a Void Point each additional time this ability is used after that (innate self-powered level three spell) (9).
  • A +2 bonus on his or her effective Water ring when calculating his or her movement rate (1).

   Third Technique/Avaz Barq, the Voice of Thunder.

   The Sagmahi Adept is now so attuned to the wide world, it’s currents, and it’s storms, that its power flows through him or her, and into his or her actions, weapons, and commands. The Sagmahi Adepts powers now include:

  • If his or her Void is at least four, his or her skill enhancements from Universal Excellence will now last for a full hour (+3).
  • Immunity/the Sagmahi Adept does not need to actually be using a Cannon or Siege Weapon to use their attack statistics, provided that he or she is using a pistol, bow, or crossbow instead (10 – 5 = 5).
  • The Adept is now immune to lesser communications difficulties: his or her words can be clearly heard over the din of battle or the raging of a storm, he or she can clearly understand others under similar conditions, and languages – whether spoken or written – are no barrier to communication (5).
  • The Adept may call upon up to (Rank + 2) supernatural favors per day, each rated at a rank of up to (Level of the skill used/2). He or she may use Lore/Travel to reduce travel time for himself and those he or she leads, find routes, evade transient obstacles such as storms, fires, and stampedes, and obtain general information about areas. Battle may be used to obtain temporary Spirit Allies (usually Iilgyr or the greater Yodatai gods) for themselves and at least some of those under their command. Commerce may be used to obtain supplies and basic services, such as repairs and medical aid. Sadly, each such favor invoked costs a void point) (10 – 5 for cost = 5).

   Fourth Technique/Zere Shamshir, the Armor of the Blade:

   The Sagmahi Adept has become hardened to trials of the world, and secure in his or her ability to meet those trials successfully. He or she now gains:

  • +1 Attack with Pistols, Bows, or Crossbows (5)
  • +3 on his or her Movement Multiplier (7).
  • Expert defense: he or she may subtract his or her Intelligence from the wounds inflicted by any attack which affects them, reducing the damage to a minimum of 0 (5).
  • If the user’s Void is at least five, his or her skill enhancements from Universal Excellence will now last for a full day (+3).

   Fifth Technique/Paki Vashi, the Purity of the Wilderness:

   The Sagmahi Adept is now at one with the forces of the world, and flows with them, home everywhere and nowhere. His or her words may span the world, and he or she is now:

  • Immune to Major Communications Difficulties – such as distance and encryption. Perhaps sadly, this extends only to communications addressed to them or to people in general; it is not a method of eavesdropping on anyone anywhere (+5).
  • Able to trade two rolled dice for kept dice on any roll save for attacks and damage (5).
  • Travel Hardened. The Adept may subtract (Willpower) from the wounds inflicted by any attack, reducing them to a a minimum of zero (5).
  • Able, up to once per week, to spend a point of void and make a TN 20 Meditation check to expel 1K1 points of any malign dimensional energy, such as taint (5).

   Sagmahi Kashti Madrase is primarily a school for ship-captains, wanderers, and travelers. It’s not particularly useful to a courtier, and is of relatively little use in melee combat – although, at higher levels, it does make the user tough enough to stand up to quite a lot of minor opponents. It’s not bad at range, if only because firing off attacks that strike like siege weapons can be quite useful (and can take out a lot of minor opponents) – but it’s still no match for a dedicated archery school. It comes into it’s own when trying to keep a ship afloat, when delivering a message across the world, or when attempting to deliver a desperately-needed load of supplies.

Eclipse – The Level One Fortunate Hero Build

   Here we have another sample level one classless Eclipse d20 character – in this case, one of the common types of cinematic protagonists – the Fortunate Hero.

   We’ve all seen them. The heroes who always find a convenient weapon, a stash of oil, or secret door, just when they’d be dead otherwise. They’re especially prolific in cinematic productions, but they pop up in pulp novels, newspaper serials, and fairy tales.

   There are heroes who rely on their quick wits, on their strong right arms, on their dynamite fists, on their outstanding agility, on their mystic lore, on their stealthy ways, or on their marvelous skills – and then there are those who rely on coincidence, convenient last-moment escapes, and retakes. The ones for whom everything just seems to go right, who always manages to pull through somehow, who’s dialogue is so hackneyed as to be actively painful. They have the backing of the gods, or even of the mysterious authors, and who thus – at least in those worlds fully under the control of such beings – need never lose.

   Of course, in a game, all powers have their limitations. Rely on it too much, and your luck just might run out.

   Still, there are much worse things than being a Fortunate Hero.

  • Disadvantages: (Select three disadvantages for 10 CP).
  • Duties or Restrictions (Fortunate heroes often find it almost impossible to refrain from coming to the aid of random people, giving villains a second chance, or going to absurd lengths in pursuit of vengeance. Alternatively, they may have duties to some organization or religion, refuse to use various powers and/or types of equipment, or otherwise place themselves at a disadvantage sufficient to dramatically make up for their absurd luck on occasion, +2 CP/Level).
  • Total available character points: 48 (Level One Base) + 10 (Disadvantages) +2 (Duties) + 6 (Level One Bonus Feat) = 66, 18 of which (from disadvantages, duties, and the bonus Feat) may be spent outside of the Adventurer framework restrictions.

   Basic Attributes: Variable. Fortunate (Action) Heroes tend to be muscular, dexterous, and good-looking. Fortunate (Comedy) Heroes tend to be durable and sociable. Fortunate (Detective) Heroes tend to be perceptive and intelligent. In general, their attributes have little impact on their success or failure anyway; it all depends on how well they can take advantage of their good luck.

   Basic Purchases (31 CP):

  • Proficient with All Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP) and Light Armor (3 CP). (Oddly enough, no matter what kind of armor it looks like a Fortunate Hero is wearing, it acts – and is worn – just like light armor).
  • +3 Skill Points (3 CP).
  • +2 on either Reflex or Fortitude Saves (6 CP).
  • d10 Hit Die (6 CP).
  • Initial BAB +1, Corrupted/does not add to iterative attacks (4 CP).

   Special Abilities (35 CP):

  • 2d6+2 Mana with the Reality Editing option. Corrupted/only usable for Reality Editing (10 CP). The Fortunate Hero can always find a way to gain an advantage or escape certain death.
  • Rite of Chi with +2 Bonus Uses, Specialized/only usable while sleeping for at least an hour or when the game master cuts to a later scene. (4 CP).
  • Universal (also affects energy damage) DR 2/-, Specialized for Double Effect (4/-): only converts lethal damage to nonlethal damage (3 CP)
  • Universal Jack of All Trades: is treated as having one skill point invested in any skill he or she wishes to use, Corrupted/only applies to the standard skills available in the setting, not to more esoteric abilities (8 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment: Four use-activated level one spells at caster level one, usable three times per day each (4800 GP, 6 CP), True Strike, True Save, True Evasion, and True Skill (all provide a +20 insight bonus to a single roll or against a single attack, activating when needed). Perhaps fortunately, it will require 32 CP each to activate these uses – a total of 284 to activate them all. The Fortunate Hero will probably have to endure a few failures – showing that he or she is indeed mortal and fallible – before the constant stream of successes begins.
  • Grant of Aid, Corrupted/requires at least a minute’s rest, or a several-round show of deep concern by another character, to activate (4 CP).

   Further Advancement: Hit Dice, BAB, and a few points on Skills are a given – but Saves are a must; nothing bad ever seems to happen to a fortunate hero. After that? Special combat tricks are a good idea, as is upgrading pretty much every one of their initial abilities – more Mana, more Bonus Uses on Rite of Chi, and more Grant of Aid. Sadly for the Fortunate Hero, their Innate Enchantments are already at the maximum available for insight bonuses – but there are lots of other minor enhancement spells that the Fortunate Hero can get, gaining a wide variety of +1 and +2 bonuses. Immunity to having those effects dispelled or disrupted would then be in order.

   The Fortunate Hero is very much a player-based character. A tactical player, one who’s simply in search of efficiency or one who likes solving puzzles, will probably find such a character boring. A player who wants to be flamboyant, come up with unlikely-but-dramatic solutions, and who would like to bypass inconvenient questions – such as “why would there be a handy trench under their feet and a stockpile of oil handy?” or “You’ve never learned to fly a plane, now you want to land a crippled jumbo jet during a hurricane?” – will probably have a blast. Finally he or she will be able to get that sort of stunt to work when he or she really needs it to!

   And the fact that the number of such stunts which can be gotten to work each day is limited will ensure that the other players can continue making a meaningful contribution with their own approaches. That way the cinematic narrative and bizarre hijinks won’t take over the game.

Eclipse – Companions and a Dealing with Dragons

   We’ve looked at some of the ways that Companions can make an Eclipse d20 characters life easier. After all, they basically let you run multiple characters – letting you get around some of the biggest limitations in the game; normally you only get so many actions, and normally you can only be in one place at a time.

   Companions can make character’s lives a lot more difficult as well. Ergo, we’ll take a look at one of Dungeons and Dragons most iconic creatures – a dragon – and see what it might do with some Companions.

   Take Roykorishtian, a Juvenile Black Dragon. To convert him to Eclipse d20 – where character designs are often more specific and focused than in basic d20 games – we’ll apply the quick-conversion rule on page 191. He gets +6 CP/Level to spend on anything that helps him out, without worrying about Specialization and Corruption. At 13 hit dice, that gives him 88 extra CP to spend. Quite a lot, but this IS a dragon we’re talking about here.

   So: lets give him six Companion Creatures (36 CP) with the Half-Dragon Template (12 CP), Might (6 CP), Great Form (6 CP), and Transform (6 CP) modifiers. For some personal abilities, we’ll get him Shapeshift (6 CP), and two Inherent Spells with +2 Bonus Uses each – Blink (9 CP) and Dimension Door (9 CP). If the situation looks too bad, Roykorishtian will act just like any other creature that wants to live; he will get out of there and take cover. Since he can share the effects of spells and powers that affect him with his Companions, he’ll usually take them along when he bails out via Dimension Door.

   Six companions provide +36 CP worth of abilities: We’ll keep things simple again. Since Roykorishtian has invested a chunk of his draconic energies in his Companions to give them the half-dragon template, they can transfer energy back to him in times of need: each of them provides Grant of Aid. At level thirteen that’s thirty uses per day – enough to let him survive and recover from a great deal of damage.

   Next level up he may want to get Luck; he wouldn’t want to get hit with some save-or-die effect without a reroll handy. After that? Probably Contacts and – perhaps – alternative breath weapons or energy substitution on his usual acid.

   He’ll also have triple CR 7 treasure – 7,800 GP. That’s not much actually; it’s far below the 19,000 GP expected for a level seven character, much less the 35,000 GP expected for a 13’th level NPC character, the 110,000 expected for a 13’th level player character, or the ungodly sum that would be expected for a character of his ECL. Oh well, he’s not a PC and life isn’t fair – but we can expect him to have invested a fair chunk of what little he’s managed to accumulate in items that are actually useful to him. Ergo, a Clasp of Resistance +2 (as per the Cloak, 4000 GP), Bracers of Armor +1 (1000 GP), a Potion of Nondetection (for use while escaping or hiding, 750 GP), and a potion of Undetectable Alignment (300 GP). He will, of course, be wearing the Clasp and Bracers.

   Now we’ll need to sort out those Companions.

  • With a level 13 master, Companion Creatures get +6d8 Hit Dice, +6 BAB, +6 Natural Armor, +3 Str, +3 Con, Int 8, Improved Fortune/Evasion, and +39 CP.
  • They use their master’s base saving throws with their own attribute bonuses.
  • Their master may communicate with them, and opt to share the effects of spells and powers used on him or her with them, at ranges of up to one mile.
  • Animals become magical beasts, most other creatures types are unchanged.
  • Might provides +2 BAB, +2 Saves, +2 Armor Class, and +12 CP to spend.
  • Great Form provides Righteous Might as a free action three times per day: +8 Str, +4 Con, +4 Natural Armor, DR 10/Good, and other minor size modifiers.
  • Transform provides the new forms basic body structure – limbs, nonmagical movement modes, and natural weapons.
  • Half-Dragon provides d6 natural weapons, a once-per day Inherent Spell breath weapon, low-light and darkvision, Immunity to Sleep, Paralysis, and One Energy Form (Acid in this case), +4 Natural Armor, Str +8, Con +2, Int +2, and Cha +2, and boosts their racial HD to d12’s.
  • We’ll use Leopards as the base creatures because they’re CR 2, they’re medium-sized which means no size modifications to apply when they transform, they’re a sensible choice, and because I like big cats.

   Let us add up all those modifiers and see what Roykorishtian’s companions look like:

Abilities:

Str 27 (+8), Dex 19 (+4), Con 20 (+5), Int 10, Wis 12 (+1), Cha 8 (-1).

Hit Dice:

3d12 (from 3d8 racial) + 6d8 (Companion) + 45 (Con) = 97

Initiative:

+4

Speed:

40 ft (8 squares), climb 20 ft.

Armor Class:

10 +4 (Dex), +11 (natural, 1 base, 6 companion, 4 half-dragon), +2 (positive levels) = 27

BAB:

+2 (Base) +6 (Companion) +2 (Positive Levels) = +10

Attack:

Natural Weapons (1d6 base, 1d10 after bonuses) = 1d10

Full Attack:

Bite and two claws

Saves:

+7 (Master’s Base) +2 (Positive Level), totals Fort +14, Ref +13, Will +10

Skills:

Balance +12 (+4 Dex +8 Racial), Climb +16 (+8 Str +8 Racial), Hide +8 (+4 Dex +4 Racial, +4 circumstance in areas of tall grass or heavy undergrowth), Jump +16 (+8 Str +8 Racial), Listen +6 (3 SP +1 Wis +2 Alertness), Move Silently +8 (4 Dex +4 Racial), Spot +6 (3 SP +1 Wis +2 Alertness).

Special:

Low-light vision, Darkvision, Scent, Improved Fortune/Evasion, Alertness, Weapon Finesse (now irrelevant since Str now exceeds Dex), Immunity to Sleep, Paralysis, and Acid, Inherent Spell/Acid Bolt (line or cone, 1d4/user level to 10d4, once per day), Improved Grab, Pounce, and Rake.

Great Form:

Righteous Might as a free action three times per day: +8 Str, +4 Con, +4 Natural Armor, DR 10/Good, and other minor size modifiers.

Transformed:

Movement: Ground 60, Fly 150/poor, Swim 60 and +7 Natural Armor (+12 replaces the +1 base and the +4 for half-dragon).

51 CP:

+6 Bonus Uses with Inherent Spell/”Breath Weapon”, 9 CP), Immunity/having to breathe while underwater (Uncommon, Severe, Minor, 6 CP), Spell Resistance of 5+Master’s Level (6 CP), Block/Missile (6 CP), Grant of Aid (6 CP), Power Words (can store 7 levels of spells, 6 CP), Shapeshift (6 CP), Inherent Spell, Specialized for Double Effect/requires one-minute ritual, only to recharge power words, a Level Six Greater Invocation for any arcane spell effect of level three or less (6 CP).

Basic Link:

Their master may communicate with them, and opt to share the effects of spells and powers used on him or her with them, at ranges of up to one mile.

   Yes, that’s right: with +5 ECL worth of modifiers applied to a CR 2 creature and stacked with the Companion Creature modifiers, these things are just as personally formidable as their master at the moment – and might even be a bit worse. Of course, that matches; CR 7+ creatures, about as formidable as CR 7+ master. Unless some of the characters are extremely specialized, confronting Roykorishtian and his friends is going to be extremely dangerous. If they’re wise, any such confrontation will be proceeded by a good deal of investigation and preparation (getting everyone equipped with acid resistance and ghost strike weapons – and having a dimensional anchor spell or two available – would be a good start). Of course, that’s more like what fighting even a young dragon ought to be like; if a low or mid-level group isn’t careful, and foolishly backs him into a corner, he may well kill the lot of them.

   If the game master is keeping the players from running amuck designing specialists, it’s only fair to restrain the monsters too – but so many players design their characters for total overkill that it’s fun to design a few monsters for it too.

   As a creature, Roykorishtian is not stupid. He’s not brilliant either – but he did listen to some advice before he left his mother’s lair. He knows about arrows of slaying, and dragonbane weapons, and high-level characters, and he wants nothing to do with any of them. That’s one reason why he’s invested so much of his personal power in companions that can support him in a fight and impersonate dragons (if necessary, with the help of a nondetection or specialized illusion spell to cover divination) as a front.

   Some possible schemes for Roykorishtian include:

  • Caravan raiding. Roykorishtian will either scout them in small animal form or – if possible – actually join them. If there’s no reason not to raid them, he can send in a few companions. If they’re being driven off, it’s time to either tip the balance – if he can do so safely – or be one of the heroic defenders and “drive them off” in hopes of a reward. If a caravan is too strong to take, well, at least he can still try to collect a good payment for guarding it.
  • The same sort of scheme will do nicely for robbing tax collectors and such. If there happen to be weaker groups of monsters or bandits or some such around, he’ll gladly raid them, steal their treasure – and then try to collect a reward for doing so.
  • Theft. As long as it won’t be easy to trace to him, Roykorishtian will gladly deploy his companions, and even take personal action, to snatch any available treasure. He will, however, probably have to do his own scouting.
  • Actual adventuring. Roykorishtian can take human form, even if he does look pretty young to be out on his own, and would certainly be an asset to most mid-level parties. It wouldn’t be a lot of cash compared to what an elder dragon might rake in – but it would be pretty good for a juvenile dragon. Besides, allies can be helpful, and – if they aren’t – you can always kill them off and take their stuff.
  • Protection rackets. He won’t even have to get involved directly; he can just send out a minion, sit back, and rake in the cash. This is a classic dragon routine – but, unfortunately, he’ll have to find a territory where no other dragon is operating before he can expect to get away with this kind of scheme. Confronting an older dragon in it’s home territory isn’t a terribly good idea.
  • Honest work. Roykorishtian may not want to work himself – most dragons consider it beneath them after all – but renting out a “dragon” or two is pretty easy. Does some mighty evil warlord want a dragon mount? Does some powerful mage want a draconic guardian for his tower? Why not?.
  • If he does get traced to a lair (which he doesn’t have yet), he’ll deploy his companions first – and if it isn’t going well, he’ll get out, leaving one of them to impersonate him and divert the enemy. A Handy Haversack or bag of holding or two will suffice to keep his treasure in – and he’ll want one to keep his potions and such handy anyway.

   Roykorishtian’s battle tactics are pretty basic at the moment: he is a kid after all. If there’s a fight, and there’s a reason not to simply escape, he’ll deploy his companions, have them all douse the area with acid – they’re all immune to acid anyway, so there’s no reason not to catch each other in their areas of effect – and activate his Blink effect on their behalf when things go to hand-to-hand. He’ll stay out of it himself unless he’s VERY sure that his participation will tip the balance in his favor. He’d rather take the shock of losing a companion and have to recruit a new one than die.

   It’s fairly likely that – the first several times that a group encounters Roykorishtian – they won’t even find out that he’s a dragon. Even if they’re willing to assault the “kid” the first time, he should be quite tough enough to get away. He may not even have to reveal his dimension-door ability – and, sensibly, would prefer to keep just how tough he is, his identity, and as many of his personal capabilities, secret for as long as he possibly can. It will help him live longer.

   Actually pinning him down will be quite a challenge – and if it comes to that, he’d rather surrender, beg, or submit than die. It’s a lot easier to get over hurt pride than it is to get over being dead.

Eclipse – Animal Companions

   Next up, it’s the third part of the information on Companions – in this case, the breakdown on Eclipse-style Animal Companions.

   Creatures in this category use the base statistics for a creature of Int of 2 or less and a CR of 1 or less (optionally higher, but reduce the Master’s effective level by 3 for determining their bonuses per +1 CR, the remainder must be at least 1 to have such a companion) and are only loosely linked with their masters.

   A weak link has it’s benefits. Animal Companions are easy to replace; it’s no particular shock if one is killed, and you can get a new one in a day or so – although it may take a few weeks to train it up properly.

   On the other hand, while even a minimal link is enough to induce instinctive loyalty, and to share spells and powers within a very limited range, it’s not strong enough to enhance the companions intelligence, to allow free communication, or to allow the companion to use it’s masters skills and saves. Animal Companions are independent creatures – which is why they sometimes do the wrong thing entirely.

   That, of course, is why it’s very unwise to imbue them with powers that their instinct’s don’t cover. Even if they think to use them (which is unlikely), they’re unlikely to do so properly. It’s best to stick with expanding on their natural skills and with enhancing abilities, such as Grant of Aid, Imbuement (normally focused on Unarmed Combat), teaching them to wear armor, getting them Fortune/the Evasion variant, extra attacks, Innate Enchantments, enhanced damage, and similar upgrades. Things like the Warbeast Template may be appropriate as well.

   It actually get worse if you apply a template or effect that makes them permanently smarter; full sapience will overpower the instinctive loyalty – leaving you with a fairly powerful creature that may or may not be inclined to help you out and which will certainly have it’s own priorities.

   On the other hand, that same focus on personal physical power makes Animal Companions some of the toughest companions around. If a character wants an Animal Companion, it’s almost always because they want a combat aide – and they’re pretty good at that.

   Offhand, animal companions are actually fairly rare in our local games. They are slightly more powerful in combat than a Companion Creature – but the disadvantages of animal intelligence tend to predominate when a lot of the activity revolves around things other than combat. A familiar or companion creature can spy for you, run complex errands, assist you when you’re unconscious, be trusted to behave itself at court, and do many other things – and most of the local players have opted to take intelligence over slightly greater combat abilities.

   Animal Companion Statistics:

  • Use the base statistics for a creature of Int of 2 or less and a CR of 1 or less. Optionally, a character can use a base creature of CR 2+, but it will receive less in the way of benefits. Each +1 CR reduces the master’s effective level on the following chart by three levels. If that would leave it at zero or below, such a creature cannot yet be taken as an Animal Companion.
  • Handling or “pushing” an animal companion is a free action and the master gains a +4 bonus on Handle Animal checks or “social” checks involving the companion.
  • The owner may opt to share the effects of spells and powers used on him or her with his or her animal companions if they’re within five feet.

Master’s Level

HD

BAB

Natural Armor

Ref & Fort

Will

Str & Dex

Tricks

CP*

0

             

0

1

             

3

2

             

6

3

+2d8

+2

+2

+2

+1

+1

+1

9

4

             

12

5

             

15

6

+4d8

+4

+4

+4

+2

+2

+2

18

7

             

21

8

             

24

9

+6d8

+6

+6

+6

+3

+3

+3

27

10

             

30

11

             

33

12

+8d8

+8

+8

+8

+4

+4

+4

36

13

             

39

14

             

42

15

+10d8

+10

+10

+10

+5

+5

+5

45

16

             

48

17

             

51

18

+12d8

+12

+12

+12

+6

+6

+6

54

19

             

57

20

             

60

   *Animal Companions do not automatically gain skill points – or, for that matter, any other special benefits – with increasing hit dice. Skill increases, feats, and other special abilities should be purchased with their character point allotment.

Eclipse Thaumaturgy – Machine Mastery and Chaos Magic

   Thaumaturgy, From Eclipse: The Codex Persona, is an open-ended magic system where the user picks a theme, and then names the magical skills that he or she feels fall under that theme. There are a few examples in the book of course – but, since there are as many possible themes as there are players, here are a few more.

   Raphial, from the Federation-Apocalypse game, opted to use Thaumaturgy to represent his implanted nanite control computer and nanite production unit. For him, the Power cost represented the mental stress of maintaining control and the Mana cost represented the drain on his nanite stock and their energy reserves. His abilities of Machine Mastery all tended to manifest as fogs, dusts, oozes, and liquids which performed various functions and – in general – only worked well on technological targets. Other targets were more difficult to deal with, requiring higher-level effects.

   Corrupting or Specializing Machine Mastery by limiting the range, by making higher-order effects require more time, by making such abilities vulnerable to monitoring and jamming, and by making the systems technologically detectable, is, as always, optional – but such modifiers will be important to lower-level characters who can’t afford to pay full price for everything.

   Machine Mastery Skills:

  • Amplification. This skill covers temporarily increasing the effects of existing devices, environments, and powers directly, using nanites to reinforce structures, boost the energy output of various systems, and otherwise step things up.
  • Assembly. His skill covers making things out of existing materials and accelerating work. Naturally enough, building simple objects is easiest, machines are harder, and complex devices are very difficult to create.
  • Augmentation. This useful skill covers using your nanites to enhance your personal abilities – tapping into their ability to scan the wider electromagnetic spectrum or to conduct detailed chemical analysis, linking them together to armor our skin, or using them to create a strength-amplifying exoskeleton. Sadly, unlike true magic, such augmentations are subject to practical engineering limitations.
  • Data Links. This straightforward skill covers setting up links between machines, or between machines and the user’s nanite control system, to transfer or duplicate information. It’s useful for datathefts, real-time reprogramming, and similar stunts. Sadly, the data-storage systems in living beings are not especially orderly, and are quite difficult to deal with.
  • Hijacking. This is the art of manipulating mechanisms, computers, and constructs, by means of inducing currents and otherwise tampering with their control systems. Sadly, used on living things, it’s very difficult to do more than induce seizures and simple convulsive movements.
  • Modification. This skill covers making lasting modifications to devices. Unfortunately, the difficulty of such tinkering depends on the complexity, and activity level, of the system and the desired modifications. Just as importantly, it’s also limited by practical engineering and physics; there are some things you just can’t do with machines.
  • Power Transfer. This straightforward skill covers moving energy around. Electrical energy is easiest of course, but various forms of chemical, kinetic, and thermal energy can be transferred as well. If you need to power up a system, jump a car, recharge a batter, drain a generator, short an electrical outlet through a target, or deliver metabolic chemicals to help out a friend who’s lost a lot of blood (tricky, but possible), this is the skill to use.
  • Repair. This skill covers putting things back together. This works best on simple, inactive, mechanical systems. The more complex, or active, the system, the more difficult it is to repair. Living things – being both very complex and metabolically active – are generally very difficult to repair (with the exception of simple bone damage, torn ligaments, and similar structural-tissue damage).

   Shadow-Of-Dark-Wings, a spirit-reaper from the Darkweird setting, opted for Chaos Magic – in her view, a method of manipulating probability and entropy. This particular field is also a good illustration of a basic principle; the more broadly applicable the principles underlying a particular skill are, the harder it is to produce any specific effect with said field.

   Chaos Magic Skills:

  • Ban Event. This skill is pretty straightforward. Worried about something in particular happening? Fix it so it doesn’t. Sadly, you can’t prevent the inevitable, but you can (briefly) ban critical hits, keep people from seeing you, or prevent other specific outcomes. It’s dangerous to use this on long-range things though: events can get very twisted if they have to avoid some really likely event.
  • Confusion. While this skill is good for disrupting almost any kind of activity, it can also get you promoted for doing foolish things, make people think they heard the correct password or saw the correct ID, get you mistaken for a visiting VIP – or at least someone who belongs there – and otherwise produce almost any kind of mistake or mis-communication. It’s very handy if you want a mass of troops to start hitting each other, if you want to recover from foot-in-mouth disease (“that’s not what I said!”), or if you want to curse a group with inefficiency.
  • Balance Force. This skill is a straightforward neutralizing effect. Most obviously, it can be used to counter various forms of energy attacks, to contain explosions, and to break falls. Less obviously it can counter kinetic energy to reduce the effects of impacts or bring things to a halt, prevent explosives from being triggered, create force barriers, counter spellcasting and other powers, counteract Van Der Walls forces to turn matter into gas, disrupt nuclear structures, or shut down electrical systems. Effects such as neutralizing gravity, inducing paralysis, and restraining excessive emotionalism are higher level, but quite possible. Unfortunately, while the mechanism of this skill is very broad, it’s correspondingly difficult to use; most effects can be more easily countered in other ways.
  • Increase and Decrease Entropy: This pair of skills produces order and disorder. They can catalyze or suppress chemical reactions, make things older or younger, re-assemble destroyed targets or destroy intact ones, refine raw materials or separate the components of mixtures (yes you can unscramble an egg), trigger or suppress explosives, induce or remove corrosion, raise or lower temperatures, increase or decrease the efficiency of machines, create or cure genetic disorders (including cancer), concentrate or dissipate energy, and either create or destroy information.
  • Pattern Breaking: While this is good for virtually any kind of destruction or dispelling effect, it’s also good for disrupting communications, breaking addictions, getting people out of bad relationships, making people have new and creative ideas, disrupting formations and traffic, putting images inside of crystals, inducing epileptic fits or other weird behavior, disrupting reflexes, immune responses, and other body systems, suppressing inhibitions, making sure that no one can predict your actions, and getting people and groups to accept new ideas.
  • Phasing. While it’s great for evading injury. It’s also good for reaching into things, sticking things together by phasing their surfaces together, creating explosions by putting two solid objects into the same place, hiding things inside of other things (or even yourself), taking away people’s gear, bypassing armor and parries, sabotaging electronics by contaminating vacuums and semiconductors, passing through or hiding in solid objects, attacking through barriers, breaching the barriers between dimensions, and
  • Warp Odds: While this is the basic effect for modifying dice rolls it can also be used to force unlikely events (the more unlikely, and the more control you want over how it happens, the higher the spell level), for divination via coin tosses (or similar random systems) via changing the odds of getting the right answers, to cut travel time by manipulating happenstance, to direct research efforts, and to cause technical malfunctions. In general, looking for very general (everyone on my side will have good luck in this battle!) or very short-term specific effects (I will make this shot!) is far easier and safer than trying something like “The dark lord shall fall by my blade!”

   Orthan had a very different idea of what “Chaos Magic” meant: to him, Chaos meant a force that broke down the order of reality, a dark and dangerous power that was (thanks to his Specialization) almost as damaging to channel and use as it was to his targets.

   Chaos Magic Skills:

  • Chaos Field. This skill allows the user to interrupt the processes that allow other things to function properly – whether the user is disrupting technology, magic, or psychic powers. Effects range from simply weakening such powers, rendering them less efficient, or making them more difficult to use, on through simply shutting down such abilities in a wide area.
  • Chaotic Restructuring. This skill allows the user to channel the warping and mutating effects of chaos into rebuilding inanimate matter. Unfortunately, such chaotic forces are virtually impossible to fully control; unless great caution is taken (making the spells more difficult), the results are likely to be warped, twisted, and (often) radioactive.
  • Curse of Chaos. This dubious “skill” allows the user to infuse his or her targets with the energies of chaos – or, alternatively, to destroy some portion of their inherent order. Targets can be cursed with degeneration, cancerous growths, breakdowns in various internal systems, ongoing chaotic effects, and – at the highest levels – even shapeshifting and lycanthropic effects.
  • Disruption. This distressingly easy effect simply channels a pulse of chaos into the underlying structure of matter or patterns of energy. This won’t have much effect on simple unstructured materials such as water – but the delicate structures of spells, electronic mechanisms, psychic constructs, living creatures, subtle enchantments, and complex organic molecules, are quite a different matter. Worse, the more complex and energetic the structure affected, the more likely there is to be a violent release of energy.
  • Entropic Shield. This useful skill allows the user to wrop himself or herself in an aura of chaotic energy which is capable of disrupting incoming attacks or – at higher levels – of injuring those who contact it. Sadly, this sort of thing tends to damage the surrounding area.
  • Fleshwarp. This dangerous skill allows the user to alter living things – but, unlike many other forms of shapeshifting or transforming magic – it has no innate provision for the safety or survival of those affected. Tweaking the shape of a nose or transforming fingernails into claws is fairly simple, and reasonably safe. If you care about the survival of your targets, it’s best to know a great deal of anatomy and biology before making any major alterations. On the other hand, since it makes true physical changes, it is quite easy to make its effects permanent.
  • Unnatural Life. This dangerous skill blurs the line between the animate and inanimate, infusing its targets with an unnatural chaotic vitality. Unfortunately, the exact properties and behavior of such things can never be precisely predicted – although the creator can usually at least designate an initial target.
  • Warp Reality. The final skill of Orthan’s Chaos Magic allows its user to disrupt the structure of whatever dimension he or she occupies – creating dimensional pockets, opening gates between places or into other dimensions, and breaking or twisting natural laws. Sadly, once again, this has bizarre and unpredictable side effects – possibly releasing strange and bizarre creatures from other realms, releasing destructive energies in the vicinity, or simply being violently unstable.

   So which of these sets of chaos magic skills is “correct”? I hope that it’s not too unexpected that both of them are correct. The theme of any given thaumaturgy field, and it’s interpretation, are always up to the character who’s using it. The basic rules – that a given Thaumaturgy feat opens up 6-10 (usually eight) thaumaturgy skills, that all those skills must be related to a particular theme, and that the broader the skill the more difficult it is to produce specific effects – are the same for all thaumaturgists, as are the rules for actually producing effects. The individual skills can vary endlessly.

Eclipse – Companions, Flying Steeds, Firehawks, Riding Weasels, and Stormcrows

   Our next group of companions are Companion Creatures and Mystical Mounts – creatures that are still deeply bound with their owner, but less tightly so than Familiars. This allows them more personal power and control than Familiars, and greatly limits the backlash from one being killed – although it’s usually still pretty painful and debilitating and they still take a long time to replace. Unfortunately, it also limits their effective intelligence, means that they can misunderstand what their owner wants, and makes them far more personally independent than Familiars – a feature which can be both good and bad.

   Mystical Mounts and Companion Creatures normally use the base statistics for a non-sapient creature of CR 2 or less The basic modifiers for them are provided at the end of this article, but are fairly straightforward – so we’ll get right down to some of the possible variants.

   For some of the quick and simple ones:

  • Higher-level characters are fond of infusing heavy warhorses with the various “half”-creature templates – most often Half-Dragon, Half-Celestial, and Half-Infernal – to create winged mounts. This is simple and easy; simply buy the Template modifier two or three times to attain the required ECL modifier.
  • The Firehawk is also pretty simple: If you want living weapons, just buy Might (6 CP), and spend the 12 CP it provides for your companion on Inherent Spell (Fireball, Lightning Bolt, or some similar effect, 6 CP) with +4 Bonus Uses (6 CP).
  • Want a riding Cheetah? Or, for that matter, a riding Dire Weasel? Simply buy the Template modifier twice (+6 CP) and apply the Upgraded Warbeast Template with the necessary size increase.
  • Want a robotic leopard? Again, simply buy the Template modifier and apply the Robot template. If you want to make it a Warbeast as well, buy that template as well. You can’t normally apply more than one template to a Companion, but – since Eclipse allows you to extend and upgrade templates anyway – that mainly applies to templates drawn from other sourcebooks, which have imprecisely-rated powers and unpredictable interactions.

   Our local Beastmaster-Ranger has several companion creatures – a Black Bear, a Cheetah, and a Hawk (18 CP) – who grant him Berserker, Celerity, and the Eagles Claw martial art – and has purchased Might (+6 CP), Transform (+6 CP), and Great Form (+6 CP) for them. They are dangerous fighters on their own, whether in animal or elven form – and he can also take on their forms, granting him a great deal of versatility as a scout. Admittedly, that’s come at the cost of 36 CP – no small expense – but he is getting 18 CP back in special bonuses, and the shapeshifting abilities are pretty handy.

   Tarkann is a powerful (level 12) Druid, and his three Stormcrows have been imbued with Might (+6 CP) – giving them a total of 48 CP (12 CP from Might plus their level-based allowance of 36) to work with. In this case (being a villain who destroys villages and such to return areas to unspoiled wilderness) he’s basically eschewed skills, focusing on granting his Companions several Inherent Spells each – Call Lightning (6 CP), Ice Storm (6 CP), Control Winds (6 CP), and Control Weather (reduced to three level six component spells, it takes all three of them to make it work, 6 CP), with +2 Bonus Uses Each (12 CP total). He’s also provided them with Reflex Training/the “Combat Reflexes” variant (6 CP) and Block/Missile (6 CP), allowing them to dodge many attacks – especially since Tarkann has bought himself a very good base Reflex save. Of course, with 6d8 bonus hit dice, they’re pretty tough crows in any case.

   Basic Companion Creature and Mystical Mount Bonuses:

  • Use the base statistics for a non-sapient creature. If of CR 2 or less, there is no penalty. If of CR 3+, reduce the Master’s effective level for determining their bonuses by 3 per +1 CR, the effective level must be at least 1 to have such a companion.
  • Intelligence 8
  • Improved Fortune (Evasion)
  • Use their master’s base saving throws with their own attribute bonuses.
  • Their master may communicate with them, and opt to share the effects of spells and powers used on him or her with them, at ranges of up to one mile.
  • Animals become magical beasts, most other creatures types are unchanged.

Master’s Level

HD

BAB

Natural Armor

Str & Con

CP*

0

       

0

1

     

+1

3

2

+1d8

+1

+1

 

6

3

       

9

4

+2d8

+2

+2

 

12

5

       

15

6

+3d8

+3

+3

+2

18

7

       

21

8

+4d8

+4

+4

 

24

9

       

27

10

+5d8

+5

+5

 

30

11

     

+3

33

12

+6d8

+6

+6

 

36

13

       

39

14

+7d8

+7

+7

 

42

15

       

45

16

+8d8

+8

+8

+4

48

17

       

51

18

+9d8

+9

+9

 

54

19

       

57

20

+10d8

+10

+10

 

60

   *Mystical Mounts and Companion Creatures do not automatically gain skill points – or, for that matter, any other special benefits – with increasing hit dice. Skill increases, feats, and other special abilities should be purchased with their character point allotment.

Eclipse – Companions, Spirit Fetches, Liflings, and Shadow Guardians

   Companions come in a wide variety of styles. In Eclipse, their basic abilities mostly depend on how tight their bond with their master is, and on what modifiers their master purchases for them. Since the bonuses for them are rather tightly crammed into one of the appendixes at the back of the book, there’s been a request to break them out – and to present a few of the possible variants.

   Unsurprisingly, companions of all sorts can become a lot more useful and interesting when their masters start buying Templates or special modifiers for them. A couple of those – for Warbeasts and Robots – went up in a previous article on the subject.

   Now, one thing to note about Companions is that they’re all, originally, non-sapient. You simply can’t (normally) establish such a bond with another sapient being. If you want to have a mystical teacher or spirit guide – perhaps your great-grandfathers ghost – you probably want “Mentor”, not “Companion”. If you want to be accompanied by a Pseudodragon, the spirit of a deceased childhood friend, or by a member of a race of sapient telepathic cats, you’ll want Leadership.

   Still, that doesn’t mean that you can’t create a fabulous variety of creatures to accompany your character on his or her adventures. If the game master will let them get away with it, a character can even stack bonuses on his or her companion or companions until – at least at lower levels – they are far more powerful than their “owners” are.

   There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it can lead to some odd situations.

   Familiars are the most tightly bound companions – creatures (or constructs) small and weak enough to be essentially subsumed by their masters. They can be pretty much any originally non-sapient creature or animated object with a challenge rating of one or less. The basic modifiers for a Familiar creature are tabulated at the end of this article, but are probably fairly familiar – so we’ll get right on into some of the possible variants.

   A Spirit Fetch provides one of the oldest, and easiest, forms of magic around. It doesn’t require study, theory, or complex pacts. All it requires is a touch of occult talent and a willingness to bond your soul with a minor spirit; one of the formless entities which drift between the worlds. In exchange for an anchor in the physical world, such spirit can carry messages between the dimensions – and act as a channel for the powers of their inhabitants. Does the village need rain? Send your fetch to ask the spirits of the winds what offering they will accept in exchange. If you are fortunate, it will be little more than thanks. If not, you can either get to work or try appealing to the river spirits for more water to irrigate with instead.

   Spirit Fetch Template (94 CP/+2 ECL “Racial” Template)

  • No Strength with the Incorporeal ability (12 CP).
  • Mystic Link with Master (3 CP), with the Communication (3 CP), Power (3 CP), and Summons (6 CP) Modifiers. This overlaps with several of the higher-level benefits of the Familiar bond, but that’s not enough to be worth a price break. Ah well.
  • Major Privilege/Spirit Messenger (6 CP). A Fetch will normally at least be given a hearing by most entities in the various spirit worlds and outer planes – and is normally treated as a neutral messenger, rather than as a target.
  • Major Spirit Favors with +6 Bonus Uses (15 CP).
  • Immunity/having to pay back magical spirit favors at full value (Very Common, Major, Minor, 10 CP): Since the Spirit Fetch provides the channel, rather than forcing the spirit called upon to project it’s powers across the dimensions, working through a Fetch means that magical favors are very little trouble for spirits to provide – and so require only occasional, or relatively small, favors to repay. Still, spirits will occasionally call on the Fetch’s master when they need something done in the material world.
  • Immunity/dimensional barriers (Very Common, Severe, Major, 18 CP): The spirit fetch can move between the dimensions – although this may take it some time; being able to breach the dimensional boundaries doesn’t mean that it may not be a fairly long trip.
  • Shapeshift, with the Incorporeal Modifier (this modifier is normally used by physical creatures to take incorporeal forms, but it will work perfectly well the other way), Specialized/only to materialize, not to take alternate forms (6 CP).
  • Extraordinary Returning (12 CP). “Destroying” a Spirit Fetch normally requires permanently killing off it’s master; otherwise it will be back within a week. Fortunately, this also negates the usual penalties of having a “familiar” destroyed.
  • Although it’s not required, a Spirit Fetch is usually built on the base statistics for an Eagle or Falcon, simply because they’re faster – and a Spirit Fetch is all about carrying messages and gathering information.

   Getting yourself a Spirit Fetch requires Companion (6 CP) with one level of the Template modifier (6 CP) – for a net cost of 12 CP. If you want to take this approach to being a shaman – an intermediary with the spirit world – you can simply get Occult Sense/Spirit Sense (allowing you to see and hear spirits) and Mindspeech to allow you to communicate with them. Some Knowledge/The Planes and Knowledge/Religion is advisable, but not strictly required. If you want to have spells available immediately, saving some up with the Power Words ability is a good choice.

   Of course, as a Familiar, a Spirit Fetch provides it’s master with a 6 CP bonus ability anyway. Buy something appropriate.

   The Lifling Familiar:

   Have you got a youngster who wants to go adventuring? Not a few mid- and high- level parents face that dilemma, and remember the friends who didn’t survive their adventures. It may well be worthwhile to invest 6 CP in the Might ability for your familiar and send it along to keep an eye on the kid. What you can’t stop, you can still hope to render survivable by attuning your companion to positive energy. We’ll call this the “Lifling” variant.

   For a mere 6 CP the “Might” modifier grants your familiar +2 positive levels – including +2 on it’s BAB, Saves, and AC, as well as providing it with 12 CP to spend on abilities for itself – in this case:

  • Grant of Aid with +6 Bonus Uses (15 CP Base) and Blessing (6 CP Base), Specialized/for Grant of Aid only, with both abilities Corrupted/are extremely flashy in use, and attract a good deal of attention as arcs of positive energy pour out (net cost 12 CP). Throw in Transference (to buy Returning), for another +3 CP, and even if your familiar gets itself killed protecting someone, you can just call it back.

   Now, 9 CP is modestly expensive if you buy it directly (although the value of your Child’s life is – hopefully – higher), but there are ways – such as making a Relic – around that.

   Shadow Guardian Familiars:

   Shadow Guardians are companions for a combatant: select – say – hyenas (if you want big, tough, warriors) or regular House Cats (if you want sneaky ones that will still be fairly formidable once you take the “Tiny” modifiers off them) as your base creatures and invest in Might (+6 CP), Transform (+6), and Additional (+6 CP). Spend the 12 CP from Might on Returning and – say – Spirit Weapon, and now you have some pop-up bodyguards and assistants whom you don’t have to worry about being killed, who share your skills, BAB, and basic saves, who are utterly loyal, and whom you can communicate with mentally. Getting your own private squad of pop-up ninja is probably worth a level or two worth of character points, even if you can’t find any way to bring the price down – which isn’t all that hard.

   Given the ability to add Templates, Spell Storing, Great Form, Might, and Transform – or to simply give your Companion(s) more points through Transference – Familiars, and other Companions, can be customized in an endless variety of ways.

   Basic Familiar Bonuses:

  • Familiars use one-half of their master’s hit points as a base, rather than their own base hit dice.
  • Animated objects use the usual base statistics, but gain +12 HP, “heal” 2d4 hit points per day, and have a +4 base in Spot, Listen, Move Silently, and Search.
  • Unfortunately, if a Familiar is destroyed or dismissed, the master must make a DC 15 Fortitude save or lose (200 x Current Level) XP. Success reduces the lost by 50%. In either case the companion cannot be replaced for 3D6 months.
Master’s Level Int NA Special Abilities:  
0* 5 +0 Improved Fortune (Evasion). Use their attribute modifiers with their masters base Skills, Saves, BAB, and Effective Level wherever these exceed their natural values. Thanks to the Familiar Link, within a base range of one mile their master’s may communicate with them, opt to share the effects of spells and powers with them, and (must) count touching one as touching themselves – allowing them to both deliver touch-based effects and act as channels for them.  
1-2 6 +1 Automatic “Aid Another” on sensory checks if the Familiar would normally get a roll in its current location. The Familiar grants it’s master six character points worth of abilities appropriate to whatever it’s base form is.  
3-4 7 +2 The Familiar Link now allows location and emotion-sharing.  
5-6 8 +3 The Familiar Link now allows telepathic speech.  
7-8 9 +4 Familiars may speak with animals of similar types. Animated Objects may now speak normally.  
9-10 10 +5 Familiars may speak normally. Animated Objects may fly at 50/poor. (If they can already fly, increase the rate).  
11-12 11 +6 Choice of Spell or Power Resistance (at the base value).  
13-14 12 +7 The Familiar Link allows sense sharing.  
15-16 13 +8 The Familiar Link now allows the Master and the Familiar to channel Spells and Powers through each other.  
17-18 14 +9 The Familiar Link now has Planetary Range. It wasn’t explicitly stated in Eclipse, but I tend to assume that this is a gradual thing; that’s why the “base range” was listed as a mile, rather than that simply being the “range”. This almost never matters of course.  
19-20 15 +10 The Familiar Link now has Transdimensional Range.  

   *Yes, it is quite possible for a level-zero character to have a Companion.

   If you’re using the Wealth Level Templates from The Practical Enchanter in lieu of conventional magic items, high levels of Wealth confer bonuses on a character’s mounts, pets, and familiars. Even outside of the magical effects of the template, presumably the owner can obtain high-quality beasts to begin with, and can afford to give them the very best of care, training, and even mystical aid of their own.

  • At the “Wealthy” Wealth Level:
    • Mounts gain 2d4 levels of Magical Beast, +1d3 to each attribute, and +5′ to their movement rates.
    • Pets and Familiars gain 1d4 levels of Magical Beast, +1d2 to each attribute, and +5′ to their movement rates.
  • At the “Imperial” Wealth Level:
    • Mounts gain 3d4 levels of Magical Beast, +1d4 to each attribute, and +10′ to their movement rates.
    • Pets and Familiars gain 1d4+2 levels of Magical Beast, +1d3 to each attribute, and +10′ to their movement rates.

   In either case, the magical beast levels confer their usual benefits. This doesn’t exactly mesh with how Eclipse usually does things; Eclipse normally breaks up the package of benefits you get with a “level” into individual abilities – but The Practical Enchanter is a different sourcebook.

   It’s also a sourcebook that intends the upper levels of wealth for fairly high-level and important characters – at the point where giving their mount +6 levels of magical beast simply means that it will continue to be of some use. After all, wealthy, important, and high-level characters really OUGHT to have impressive steeds and beasts to go along with their legendary magical devices, castles, and armies. If you let a low-level character do that however, you’re likely to wind up with a situation where the creature is far more competent than the master. It worked for C.S. Lewis in “The Horse and his Boy“, it works in Pokemon, and it works in Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot – but those are the only examples that come immediately to mind, and I have to admit that they’re all targeted for children or young adults at best. Your mileage may vary.

Eclipse – The Elementalist Level One Build

   Our next sample classless Eclipse d20 character is a fairly popular type of mystic – the Elementalist. Elementalists are fairly powerful spellcasters, but are restricted to magic involving a single element or school of magic. You may thus find Masters of Fire or Earth, Illusionists and Conjurers, and many more variants.

   Elementalists are, of course, popular simply because they’re easy. They have easily identifiable and distinguishable themes, easily limited sets of easily-explained powers, and easily-projected paths of character growth. They’re easy to make and play.

   And there’s nothing wrong with that. This is a game after all, and there are plenty of players out there who don’t delight in a detailed analysis of their characters abilities, or sorting through a list of hundreds of effects, or wondering why simple clairvoyance is more difficult than summoning a creature from another dimension and binding it to obedience.

   Why is that anyway?

   Now, if you have a Fire-Master, you have a pretty good idea of what he or she can do even before you decide how much, how long, and how good their control is. He or she will be able to light fires, create pyrotechnics, provide light, blast things with fire, make barriers of fire, either create constructs of fire or summon fire elementals, and will probably be able to resist fires and put them out. At higher power levels, he or she may be able to transform into fire, scry through it, or play tricks with plasmas or chemical reactions – but that isn’t anything you need to worry about with a starting character.

   In any case, an Elememtalist can work a few basic general magical tricks, produce cantrip-level effects within his or her speciality field pretty much at will, and work more powerful spells within his or her field.

  • Disadvantages: (Select three disadvantages for 10 CP).
  • Duties or Restrictions (An Elementalist often has restrictions on dealing with “opposing” types of magic – or duties to some organization or whatever force supplies his or her power, +2 CP/Level).
  • Total available character points: 48 (Level One Base) + 10 (Disadvantages) +2 (Duties) + 6 (Level One Bonus Feat) = 66, 18 of which (from disadvantages, duties, and the bonus Feat) may be spent outside of the Adventurer framework restrictions.

   Basic Attributes: Variable. These depend on the characters chosen spellcasting attribute – which is usually set by his or her chosen field of magic.

   Basic Purchases (30 CP):

  • Proficient with All Simple Weapons and Light Armor (3 CP).
  • +11 Skill Points (11 CP)
  • +2 on Will and Reflex Saves (12 CP)
  • d8 Hit Die (4 CP)
  • Initial BAB +0 (0 CP).

   Special Abilities (36 CP):

  • One level of Spontaneous Sorcerer Spellcasting, Specialized for double effect (effective level of two)/all effects beyond the level of cantrips must be drawn from a particular magical field (16 CP). Optionally, those with “natural affinities” may want to trade out the Components limitation for the Conduct limitation – allowing them to use spells while wearing armor without difficulties and to skip most rare or expensive ingredient requirements.
  • Immunity/their elemental speciality or school (Common, Major, Minor, 12 points of resistance, effects of up to level three, or +4 on relevant saving throws – whichever is most appropriate to the field in question, 6 CP).
  • Occult Sense/phenomena within the characters speciality area (6 CP). Elementalists can both sense and – with intelligence checks – determine a fair amount of information about phenomena within their area of expertise, whether that’s a magical signature, an air mage detecting toxic gases or predicting the weather, or a chronomancer telling the time and detecting disturbances in the flow of history.
  • Shaping, Specialized in the character’s chosen speciality, to allow producing various cantrip-level effects within that field at will (6 CP).
  • 1d6 Mana with the Spell Enhancement option, Specialized and Corrupted/only for use with Spell Enhancement, only for use with the Shaping ability, only to enhance efforts to resist, quell, or dispel effects within the characters magical speciality (2 CP).

   Further Advancement: Our Elementalist will, of course, want to continue buying magic levels – although probably not at every level unless the game master is running a very high-powered game. Every adventurer needs hit dice, saves, skills, and saving throws of course – but their major secondary sink for character points after spellcasting is going to be special powers. More Mana and Rite of Chi with Bonus Uses to let them counter effects more easily, Reflex Action to let them throw the occasional quick spell or make effective use of their counterspelling and blocking ability, upgrading their immunity, and various speciality-related enhancements. Those who specialize in the physical elements may want to develop elemental shapeshifting. An Air mage might want the ability to block missile attacks and the ability to sense disturbances in the air – a variant of Tremorsense. Stone mages may want armor class bonuses, earthshaping, and the power to commune with stone. Life-mages will probably want to be able heal themselves reflexively, or even unconsciously (Grant of Aid) when needed. Any Elementalist might like to take modifiers such as Spell Pool, and go to a full spell-point system.

   There are a lot of other ways to build an Elementalist of course: you could use Theurgy, and gain far greater versatility at the cost of slower advancement, or Path of the Dragon, and gain limitless use of your powers at the price of only fitting into a limited range of games, or do it in a dozen different ways – but this one resembles standard spellcasters closely enough to fit into almost any game.

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

Federation-Apocalypse Session 73, The Gates of Eden

   Kevin took a moment to add up the time… Hm. Except for the time spent on vacation (and close on that), this was the longest they’d spent in a single dimension – much less a single city – since they’d started working for the House of Roses.

   They’d arrived at Jerusalem on the morning of day one, fought their way in, and spent the afternoon scouting the place out and sending the Thralls out to assist in the defense. That evening they’d picked up twenty-odd recruits, and bargained with Merchant Prince Hauser. On day two they’d done some remote negotiating with a mysterious computer system, dealt with Dr Lichstein, inducted Hauser’s 45 recruits, collected more than three hundred more recruits off the streets, gotten them started on resupplying the city, and had gotten entangled with the catacombs. On day three they’d met with the Round Table Conference, proposed breaking the siege, enlarged the wards, and started the locals on martial arts training. Day four they’d started a major outworks construction project, started providing siege supplies, sent out scouts, investigated Knight-Lord Thawban, answered inquiries from Ealor, and tried to learn more about the death knights (without much luck). Day four they’d mostly continued their projects; the outworks, training, recruiting, and siege-equipment had been a lot to organize. Day six they’d dealt with those priests who were wanting to investigate Kevin and continued to work, and days seven and eight had been much the same – although Kevin had now recruited some 1600 local Thralls – more than enough to supply and heal Jerusalem indefinitely.

   Probably not enough to take out an army of the undead a hundred thousand strong led by three hundred death knights though. Even with the knightly orders, that was going to be tricky.

   Random Statistics Interlude for the visit to Jerusalem, as of day eight:

  • Marty: Consumed 47 beers, 17 ales, 11 bottles of wine, a dozen bottles of assorted distilled concoctions. Of course, Marty does tend to “supersize” and refresh his drinks.
  • A’ikana: Exasperated 314* times, rolled eyes 89^ times, sarcastic 23 times.
    • *211 times for Kevin, 97 times for Marty, 6 times for Jamie.
    • ^48 times for Marty (mostly for his drinking; she hasn’t seen his “martini glass” yet – although she is starting to conclude that his drinking is more of a schtick than something that can be related to non-cartoon-stereotype drunkenness), 37 times for Kevin, 4 times for Jamie.
  • Kevin: Gratuitously confusing people for his own amusement or because he couldn’t be bothered straightening them out 114 times, irritating Thawban 43 times, performing reckless magical acts 8 times.
  • Ryan: Number of lab technicians turned into superheroes/supervillains: 14. Number of times lab destroyed: 2. Number of Ninja defeated: 57. Doomsday weapons created: 3.
  • Kochige: Riceballs eaten today: 25. Bottles of sake drunk: 2. Tugs from other dimensions: 5, Remaining bumps on head from the treebanging: 5. (Kochige is not in this campaign, but is transdimensional).
  • Jamie: Number of minor undead destroyed 116, number of times fallen off of wall because of unconscious assumption that walls are quite useless, 18, number of times frustrated because of inability to switch to autofire on flintlock or crossbow, 1117, Number of blasphemies uttered due to having to reload by reload by hand instead of simply switching magazines; calculation overflow, but notable for ability to embarrass demons and mindless undead.

   With the plan to begin fighting back against the undead passed 13 to 0, the attacks scheduled to begin in 2-3 days (starting with a probable night attack in 2.5 days), and the meeting of the Round Table adjourned, the group turned their discussion to launching a foray into the catacombs underneath the city. Those blank spots on the map that the Thralls had compiled were a bit troubling… On the other hand, at least the first one – underneath the collapsed section of wall and the fallen gate – was pretty well explained; a good portion of the tunnels around there had caved in or were filled with debris. There might be some intact chambers inside, but it would be kind of hard to tell without some extensive digging. True repairs on the gate and walls were going to require excavating the whole area and rebuilding foundation up. Not much to investigate there.

   They simply delegated some Thralls with transformation powers to keep shaping and fusing the stone down there. They needed a solid foundation.

   The area under the Temple Mount was harder: There were sections that were under guard and off limits, as well as passages that seemed to lead into even deeper and older sections of the catacombs. Heavy wards, blocking both the Thralls and the Knights, were preventing further exploration deeper down. If there was a Silmaril – or some other major holy artifact, like the Ark of the Covenant or a piece of the True Cross – down there, it was probably in those deeper chambers. Kevin was betting on the Ark; it would be a major thing in this setting. Still, he’d rather not try to crack any wards near the Temple Mount at the moment. They might disturb the existing city wards, and they couldn’t afford that right now; there WAS still an army of undead out there – and if it wasn’t for the wards and the holy water, the city would already be overrun already.

   Most of the rest of the catacombs had multiple levels (some possibly dating back to the romans and earlier, possibly to the founding of the city), lots of chambers, a litter of old bodies, streams of holy water here and there, odd debris, strange carvings, occasional treasures or caches of odd objects, and mysterious passages. Some of the passages were easily adaptable to support the outworks project, but most of it really wasn’t much use at the moment. The Round Table Conference appreciated the map though.

   That still left the area under the aqueduct though… Most of the water that entered the catacombs appeared to come from there, falling deeper into the catacombs through some sort of collapse, and then coming back up in many other locations as springs of holy water. That was what was flooding a lot of the catacombs… The collapsed section appeared to be at least twelve feet in diameter and plunged for at least fifty feet, and probably a good deal more. It probably flowed from there to somewhere beneath the Temple Mount before spreading out.

   Now THERE was a likely spot for the Ark. Running water was a major part of the Old Testament purification rituals, and would have served to nicely hide traces of a concealed chamber. Given that the Ark was supposed to radiate holy power and affect whatever touched it – one of the few artifacts that did – it would explain the holy water. Since the city was on a spur, and built on solid rock, the separation between where the aqueduct came into the city and the Temple Mount – the local high point – was fairly small. It was above the rest of the city, so the water welling up throughout Jerusalem was quite reasonable.

   Well, they had two days: they could take a look at the aqueduct. The knights didn’t trust them enough to let them poke around directly under the temple mount, but they shouldn’t have any objection to checking the water supply – and perhaps finding out why the undead hadn’t simply cut it off.

   They decided to ask Thawban along, both for the humor value and because – in his case – almost any change in his attitude would be preferable. Besides, it would let the Knights know that they were being reasonably honest.

   A’ikana went to ask him. His reactions to Marty or Kevin weren’t going to be the best, but he’d doubtless make time just to keep an eye on Marty and Kevin – and perhaps to see if he could “accidently” stick Kevin with an iron dagger or something. Iron wouldn’t really bother Kevin (and he’d be quite willing to take a stab just to confuse Thawban and upset his preconceptions anyway), but Marty would certainly find it amusing.

   They asked one of the regular knights along as well, just to provide an unbiased – or at least a less biased – opinion. That wasn’t a problem; there were plenty of them who were willing to give them the benefit of the doubt – or simply found them interesting.

   A’ikana found that Thawban’s blatant mistrust of them worked to her advantage; Thawban was more than willing to come along just to keep and eye on them. It was enough to make her wonder what he thought they all were; he was obviously sure that Kevin was Fey (and she had to admit, that – at least in his case – denials would be pretty useless), but neither Marty nor Jamie nor she matched the discription at all. He might think that she was a holy woman from some esoteric and possibly heretical sect though. Well, he’d probably ask more questions if he wasn’t so sure that he knew the answers already. That was a pretty common syndrome.

(Thawban) “Alright, so you wish to explore deep in the catacombs and find out where the holy water is coming from am I right?”

“Yep! And we figured you’d want to keep an eye on us anyway, so you might as well come along officially. It makes it less complicated that way.”

   A’ikana started to roll her eyes again – and then abruptly realized that Kevin was provoking her on purpose. She was letting the boy upset her serenity (and was a bit too habituated to reading emotional leakage, when his mind was pretty well shielded). She’d have to watch that; influence was a two-way street. Besides, all the eye-rolling was starting to give her eyestrain.

   Thawban rubbed his temples with a heavy sigh.

“Why do I get this feeling this is not going to end well at all? Very well, lead on then. I suspect you already have a plan on how you wish to approach this.”

   Marty considered answering the first part of that, but it wasn’t like it would help. Besides, they usually got it all to work out acceptably somehow in the end.

   Kevin settled for answering the second part:

“As far as a plan goes, we’ll head on down to the aqueduct and follow the leak. It will probably get more complicated as we go – although we should check to see if the water is already holy when it comes in; it might be being affected at the source of the aquaduct or along it. That might explain why the besiegers haven’t messed with it. Cutting off the water is a pretty obvious move.”

(Thawban) “Hmm, curious that they have not then. Never really occurred to me till now.”

   Their second Knight, Richan, was being quiet – deferring to Thawban apparently. Well, he was a Knight-Lord, not rank-and-file.

   As they descended into the catacombs near the aqueduct, the sound of rushing and falling water – in large quantities – became pretty obvious. It was coming from behind a series of collapses; no real surprise there. It couldn’t be too big a hole though; a lot of water was still getting to where it was supposed to be going.

   The way was pretty well sealed, but it looked to Marty like the rubble near the top was pretty loose: it couldn’t have water behind it or it would be leaking all over the place – and it could easily be pried loose. His girls clairvoyance spells (now that they had their local identities and the consequent power upgrade) confirmed that observation; beyond the collapse there was a large chamber; it looked like a combination of collapses and water erosion had opened up a room about twenty feet across. Water was cascading in from the top – it looked like the remnants of some sort of pipe there – and the room itself was about half full, with a whirlpool in the center. It must have been an intentional water-tap at some point. It should be safe enough to take a peek.

   Kevin reshaped the stone into a solid arch – they didn’t need any more collapses – and made sure that the sill was high enough to keep the water in. That gave them a good view – and confirmed that the water was already holy. Of course, they were still beneath the temple mount…

   Oddly, the water here wasn’t as strong as the holy water elsewhere in the catacombs.

   That was a bit weird. Either it was being rendered holy further up, and then somehow diluted – a side-stream that fed back into the main stream while the rest kept going down by another route perhaps? – or there were two locations where it was being rendered holy: one further up and one further down. They were currently below both the Temple Mount and the complex they couldn’t reach beneath it though… What would be deeper than that?

   At least they were definitely below the main leak – and the hole was large enough to make going up it against the flow reasonably practical, especially using a series of force-steps and barriers. If it got too tight later on they could decide what to do about it then.

   A’ikana tried to analyze the energy-impression on the water. She might be able to tell something about the source – and she was certainly the best-attuned to that sort of power in the group.

   The pressure problems were annoying, but manageable – and the climb wasn’t all that long with force-steps to stand on. At the top, the pipe widened a bit and let them into a heavy stone corridor. It was about twenty feet wide and six feet high, was filled with water to about the five foot level, and had  a considerable current. Pretty obviously the main aqueduct – and still holy. They were above the temple mount at this point too.

   Well, that made at least three sources of holy power: whatever was enhancing – or somehow concentrating – the holy water in the catacombs, the temple itself, and whatever was making it holy before it reached the temple – or possibly the city, since it entered at the highest point.

   They headed upstream, keeping an eye on the water to see if it suddenly lost it’s holiness. That would indicate either a major source of power below the surface or in the structure. Otherwise they might be heading to a hidden chamber in the mountians. After all, someplace that could only be reached by a mile trip up the aquaduct would be a very secure place to hide something – such as the Ark?

   A’ikana had finally focused in on the aura. Holiness of course, with an odd impression of scale, and a feeling like a cool refreshing summer breeze… All the soothing sensations of fountains and great bodies of water flowing through and around them. It felt like being a smooth pebble in the mountain stream.

   Kevin was wondering… a fast current in a stream twenty feet wide and five feet deep in a smooth channel indicated a great deal of water going by. This was an arid country. Where was it all coming from?

   He hung back a bit, so that he could telekinetically assist anyone who slipped. It would give Thawban an opprotunity to harass him with no one else looking, but such was life.

   Oddly enough, Thawban didn’t. Of course, the aqueduct was slippery and the flooring was worn smooth from centuries of high water flow. Making their way up was pretty awkward – especially for those of them (like Kevin) who were a bit short. A good thing they had ways of cheating – such as the Thralls taking small-animal forms and riding on people’s shoulders. They were (like Kevin) too short to walk through five feet of water and breathe.

   It took awhile even with telekinetic boosting. Thawban struggled against the current, but his armor was heavy enough to keep his footing steady.

“Blast! I do not have auras that would be of use in these conditions. Ease of Movement does not exactly apply when wading against a current!”

   He didn’t really notice that Kevin was working minor wards and diverting the flow around them, but it did speed things up.

“Well, at least going back will be easier!”

   Eventually the tunnel opened up to someplace quite bright – and the water was still holy…

   It looked like the source was a large lake, surrounding the strangest-looking mountain they’d ever seen – shaped like a series of cascades each about 20 to 30 feet in height, with each terrace covered in a tangle of plants and wildlife, apparently mostly growing from the water itself. The air was pleasantly cool and refreshing. The final step – the one they were on – spread out in a complete circle around the mountain – as did the waterfall.

   OK, now that was blatantly supernatural unless there was a giant pumping station pushing the water up into the central peak. It was also presumably a world feature. It didn’t match anything that any of them could think of. Well, the Knights were locals; they asked them.

   Thawban was looking around and gaping…

“What? Where are we? This does not look like anywhere I know of near the city of Jerusalem. I would think I would know of a place like this otherwise. I mean, not even the Romans ever attempted something this grand. It is like the Hanging Gardens of Legend. Or Eden even.”

   Well, that was a sufficient answer to that. They hadn’t noticed a worldgate, and they probably would have even with distractions. Still, the fact that the tunnel vanished into the ground but didn’t seem to come out of the waterfall pretty much said that they’d gone through a gate of some kind. Presumably a local one; that would explain where the “Romans” had found so much water, since the aqueduct did date from their period – and might well have gone unnoticed.

   An aerial view courtesy of a little divination neatly confirmed that they were nowhere near Jerusalem – although there were obvious signs of artificial handiwork covering the land surrounding the mountain in all directions.

   Hm. It was also possible that the undead had indeed cut off the water supply and that someone – possibly the Zorastrian Archmage – had arranged for more. If so, he’d probably be expecting some major favors… Water was no small worry for a medieval city in the best of times.

   On the other hand – a rich land, formerly inhabited, but with no signs of current inhabitants? Humans spread to any decent land they could reach. If this was local, and untouched by man, it was probably Eden – it didn’t fit anything else they could think of from Jewish, Muslim, or Christian traditions. It could be nonreligious, but that wasn’t very likely in this realm

   They’d probably encounter a guardian if they got too close.

“What, some guy with a flaming sword?”

“Fairly likely. Well, lets have a look!”

   A’ikana HAD to roll her eyes at that one:

“I’ll stand here and wait to see if you come back.”

(Marty) “It’ll be fun! And probably painful!”

“Lets see if we get a guardian angel with a sword! And I haven’t sent any Thralls out scouting in a long time!”

“The only thing this looks like to me is that old poem, kind of.”

“What old poem?”

“Xanadu; If you happen to see a stately pleasure dome, please mention it.”

“Eh, I don’t know… twice five miles of fertile ground, maybe, no caves of ice though.”

“Yes. I doubt that this is based on the poem, but it does strike a small chord.”

   They worked their way around the lip of the cascade, and around the mountain. Pretty much perfectly circular, and the mountain more closely resembled a Ziggurat than a series of steps.

   At which point a voice spoke up behind them:

“Presence of mortals in this land has been forbidden. You are to leave immediately.”

   They turned around and found that – yes indeed – they had a being of white light, wearing golden armor, and with wings of light that floated like streamers on either side of him, her, or it.

(Kevin) “Might I ask where we are? That way we’ll know where not to come back to.”

“You have entered the Garden of Creation, Eden.”

“…Ah, you were right Kevin. Well, where’s the door?”

(Kevin) “Ah. Well, that is unusual. We will make sure that no one else attempts this, but I trust you will not cut off the water supply; a lot of people besieged by forces from beyond this world need it desperately. We shall be going then.”

   That definitely seemed to nonplus the guardian angel…

“Water supply? (It appeared to look off into the distance from whence they’d come.) Hmm, it appears someone has intruded into the Gardens for means of supply (there was a hint of vague consternation in his or her voice.) Something is going on for the laws to have been violated to such an extent.”

(Kevin) “Most of the population of the this realm has been slain by an army of the dead, under the direction of entities from outside your universe. Jerusalem is besieged by Death Knights, the souls of the faithful are being stolen and denied paradise, and outsiders have tampered with the order of the world. Yes, things have gone a bit wrong. (Kevin paused)… I would have thought your bunch would notice.”

   A’ikana found herself unable to resist. OK, maybe it was by sheer effrontery, but the boy had more or less earned a censorious look to treasure.

   The Guardian looked at each of them intently for a moment…

“We were entrusted with guarding this sacred land from those unworthy to enter. As part of the agreements made long ago, direct interference in mortal affairs has been forbidden. Mortals may call upon our powers, but we may not intrude ourselves.”

   It appeared to go into deep into thought – although it was hard to tell, considering that it didn’t have much of a face.

“Oh yes: I’m Kevin, this is Marty, A’ikana, Thawban, Richan (the second knight), and our various assistants – Daniel, Gerald, and Bard (Kevin’s personal aides), Elera and Minel (Marty’s girls), and Tessa and Kara (Kevin’s current pocket-companions).”

“Hi!”

   The guardian turned it’s gaze back to them. They felt as if it was peering directly into the core of their beings.

“Indeed, the words you speak have the ring of truth. You three – and your aides – are not from here, but from outside the world. You should tell me everything you know young ones.”

   A’ikana spoke up. This was an angel in it’s place, so it was only polite to wait for it’s requests and questions – although Marty and Kevin couldn’t be expected to have any manners and the two Knights were busy being shell-shocked.

“Thank you for your acceptance. The water is helping keep a million people alive.”

   There were various efforts to fill the guardian in… Fortunately, it was able to keep track of all the assorted narratives, telepathic briefings, and magical image-displays which were presented. Kevin did, at least, try to restrict it to situation-in-the-crusader-kingdoms though, with only minor background on the larger war. Maybe he’d be able to avoid the really awkward questions, like “who sent you?” and “by what right do you do these things?”.

   Besides, it would be hard to find a bigger shock for Thawban than this. Of course, that was one reason they’d brought him along. His attitude had been pretty obstructive, and it had been quite possible from the beginning that something would come up on this errand that would change it.

   And if this didn’t give him something to think about, probably nothing would.

   Marty wondered why the angel wasn’t just frying him – but it might not have the authority even if it wanted to. They probably didn’t fall under it’s orders. It probably had rules to enforce about the people and spirits of this world – but they weren’t part of the pattern.

   The Guardian listened with rapt attention, only asking for more details or greater clarification on certain points…

“You have greatly upset the natural order here. Granted, it was in the interests of helping the people here and will be overlooked for now. I must, however, inquire as to who sent you here and with what authority.”

   Oh well. Might as well be truthful. Kevin spoke up.

“In this case, our intervention was requested by the Unified Church of the Core Worlds – although the local population has requested aid as well. As for authority, I am an Opener, and that power is ultimately derived from the massed will of the human race. If it helps any, we also represent a variety of other organizations, such as the House of Roses.”

“And cartoon corporations.”

   The face of the guardian got even harder to read.

“The situation has greatly exceeded projected scenarios. Outside authority level exceeds local level. Current orders are no longer valid amid the new crisis. Survival of the faithful is now in jeopardy.”

   Well . . . that was unexpected.

“The Pact will no longer be recognized as binding and we will make preparations to intervene in the mortal realm.”

   The local spiritual powers know more than they’d expected. A’ikana was a bit annoyed – Kevin and Marty were upsetting the balance of yet ANOTHER realm – but it was hard to entirely blame them this time around. They hadn’t exactly planned to walk into Eden, even if they had been gratuitously meddling again.

“Well, since we know that the Undead will not be able to interfere with the water supply, we’ll return to deal with the immediate crisis while your group is re-evaluating the situation.”

“Understood. Do you require passage back?”

“I think we’ll just take the aquaduct again; it will be less conspicuous.”

   The Guardian appeared to nod slightly.

   Well, Thawban was probably going to be confused or assume that this was an illusion of some sort. This was undoubtably a bit much for the poor guy. He’d remained quiet so far anyway.

   They headed on back. At least the current was with them this way, and the pipe exit was easy enough to find.

“Well, that was informative and potentially useful. Lets see how long we’ve been though; there’s no guarantee of a timerate match.”

   It looked like they’d spent about twelve hours in the catacombs and Eden. Not too bad. Evidently Eden was a bit out of time, but that was no great surprise. Thawban’s people had started hunting for him though – and he was finally coming out of being dazed and confused.

“Wait a moment! How could we have entered Eden merely by going up the aqueduct? I have travelled along the aqueduct before and never encountered such a thing.”

   Marty pointed to Kevin

“You didn’t have an Opener like him with you.”

“Did you travel up inside it? I suspect that the water supply was blocked by the undead, and someone intervened to ensure that water continued to flow. That would require a gate inside the aqueduct. Regardless, it appears that we need not worry about the water supply, or the source of the holy water, immedietly. I shall set a temporary aversion-ward over the aquaduct to prevent further travel up it for the moment: until further notice the people here really aren’t supposed to be entering Eden. I must congragulate whowever set it up if I run into him or her. That was quite clever, and turned a weakness – the catacombs – into a strength.”

(Thawban) “I know of no one capable of opening gateways such as what you describe. Least of all to the Heavens or Eden. If that is truly what has happened, then it is obviously the work of a higher power.”

(Richan, their other Knight) “Does this mean the Angels will be aiding us in the coming battle then?”

(Thawban) “If what we saw is truly real and not some fey illusion, then yes, it is likely that they may come to us in our time of need.”

(Kevin) “Which is always handy. Still, always best to make sure that you’ve done everything you can for yourselves before looking for divine aid.”

   Thawban looked upwards.

“One can only hope that Allah will look down upon our efforts and be pleased with them. (Then he looked at Kevin intently on that last note).

“Well, that still leaves us with plenty of time to at least check beneath the Temple Mount. Want to take a look there next?”

   Thawban still had a very funny look on his face. Was he thinking about that “Outside authority level exceeds local authority level” thing? Oh well, it was hard to say. He might just be thinking that he didn’t know what was going on – which was true enough, but they didn’t have the time to spend days explaining. That was why Kevin had just been letting them go with the local assumptions anyway.

(Thawban, to Kevin) “Your role in this is far from clear and I for one do not trust you, your explanations, or your motivations. However it seems clear that fate is conspiring to intertwine your fate with ours for the time being. I just hope for your sake that whoever is weaving your fate is as benevolent as they seem.”

“Why should you trust me? All my explanations simply gloss over the fact that it would usually take a week to explain, and I’m busy.”

   Thawban smirked at that.

“True, it is not like we have a week for you to explain either. So I will continue to distrust you as I have been and you will continue to do as you will as it seems to be for our benefit for the moment. Such is the way of things.”

   Marty found that rather pleasing. Kevin and Thawban had come to SOME sort of an understanding anyway.

(Thawban) “Nevertheless, it does appear that the old rules are becoming irrelevant. We live in interesting times it seems.”

“Let’s hope we can make them less so.”

Eclipse – The Level One Investigative Reporter Build

   It used to be easy. You covered local events, reported accidents and disturbances, covered simple human-interest stuff like community theater, little league, and cute animal stories. But, after a bit, you started to get into the harder news – and things got tough. There were sources you had to protect, powerful people with an interest in covering up the truth, times when publishing would hurt innocents and people who were doing their best to cope, and – when you came right down to it – stories that the public arguably had a right to know, but which should never be published – or which would never be believed.

   Things have gotten a lot grayer. Does that always happen when you get older, or is it a special torment reserved for reporters?

   The Investigative Reporter lives to uncover the facts.

   Sometimes they’re facts that can be put out on the street – reports on crimes, on chemical spills, on the abuse of power. Sometimes they’re facts that should remain secret – the hiding places of witnesses, the names of victims, the hidden vulnerabilities of vital systems. Sometimes they’re facts of the hidden world – news of shapeshifters, of hidden powers, and of possessions that will simply mark the Investigative Reporter as a lunatic if he or she reports them.

   And sometimes they’re the facts that drive men to raving madness – secrets of corrupting lore, proof that the universe is not the predictable place of natural laws and divine order that men accept, the summoning rituals for reality-breaching horrors.

   Nevertheless, a skilled investigator can be invaluable to a party; there are few things other than omnipotence that help more than being able to find your opponents, knowing what you’re up against in advance, and getting the opportunity to obtain supplies and allies designed to deal with it – and you can’t get omnipotence, or at least you normally can’t get it as a starting character.

  • Disadvantages: (Select three disadvantages for 10 CP).
  • Duties or Restrictions (Investigative reporters usually see it as their responsibility to make sure that the public finds out what it needs to know – no matter how much trouble it gets them into, +2 CP/Level).
  • Total available character points: 48 (Level One Base) + 10 (Disadvantages) +2 (Duties) + 6 (Level One Bonus Feat) = 66, 18 of which (from disadvantages, duties, and the bonus Feat) may be spent outside of the Adventurer framework restrictions.

   Basic Attributes: Str 10, Int 14, Wis 12, Con 10, Dex 12, Chr 16 (28 point buy).

   Basic Purchases (30 CP):

  • Proficient with All Simple Weapons and Pistols (6 CP) and Light Armor (3 CP).
  • +16 Skill Points (16 CP)
  • +1 on Reflex Saves (3 CP)
  • d6 Hit Die (2 CP)
  • Initial BAB +0 (0 CP).

   Variants, as always, abound… Want a military background? Reduce the skill points in favor of some additional weapon proficiencies and maybe some BAB. Want to be a youthful intern? Cut down on the skills again, buy more Reflex save. Want to be taking money under the table to not report some things? Take Privilege/Income – although that would go under “Special Abilities” rather than here.

   Special Abilities (36 CP):

  • Action Hero/Influence Option, Specialized/can only spread information and help shape public opinion, not control the outcome (3 CP).
  • Adept (6 CP): Pays half price for four selected skills. Common Selections include Sense Motive, Gather Information, Diplomacy, Craft/Writer, Perform (acting oratory, or music for bardic types), Bluff, Disguise, and Knowledge/Local.
  • Privilege (3 CP): May gain special access to places, situations, and persons based on the ability to report the news and the desires of others to shape what you report, has access to a sizeable audience, and may – depending on the setting – have the legal ability to refuse to identify sources and some protection against libel complaints.
  • Skill Focus (3 CP): Normally in whatever skill the character uses to get the word out. Depending on the setting and the characters speciality, this may be Craft/Writer, Perform (acting, oratory, or musical for bardic types), or some other speciality.
  • Contacts (3 CP): The Investigative Reporter starts off with three useful contacts, and will probably develop more fairly rapidly.
  • Favors: Major Media Favors (6 CP), Minor Law Enforcement Favors (3 CP), Minor Underworld Favors (3 CP). The ability to either spread or suppress information, and to influence public opinion, can lead to all kinds of people owing you favors. For a clever reporter, this is a major resource.
  • Now that leaves 3 CP left over… What shall we buy with them?
    • A Hard-Hitting Detective type might take Martial Arts (considered armed, can do 1d4 lethal damage, 3 CP) and buy some Martial Arts Skill to back it up with.
    • A World Traveler might take Enthusiast/Specialized in Contacts for Double Effect (3 CP), allowing him or her to turn up a couple of contacts almost anywhere with a few hours of work.
    • An Intuitive Reporter might take Occult Sense (“Nose for News”, allows the user to detect when something actually is a valid lead on a story), Specialized/only works three times per day for the character, although the game master may have it activate at whim (3 CP).
    • A Lucky Intern may have Luck, Specialized/rerolls only (3 CP).
    • A Magical Dabbler might have Enthusiast/Specialized in Magical Talents to buy a 2 CP magical talent for each adventure (3 CP). For a quick example of one 2 CP talent, take Occult Talent, Specialized/abilities do not recover until the user can restock at his or her lab, Corrupted/abilities require the use of various powders, liquids, and scrolls, any of which can be taken away. For another 3 CP this can be upgraded to buying Improved Occult Talents, which will allow the user a small selection of magical tricks for a mere 6 CP total.
    • A Tough Reporter might simply buy Damage Reduction 2/-, Specialized for Double Effect/only versus physical attacks, for a net DR 4/Energy.

   Further Advancement: Well, beyond the usual hit dice, saves, and BAB, Skills, Contacts, Favors, and the abilities needed to deal with whatever the character usually reports on are obviously in order. Reporters are most valuable as information-gatherers of course, rather than in battle – but if they report on the underworld, they’ll want some combat abilities. If they report on magical events and shapeshifters, basic defensive magic is probably in order (or, if they’re playing both sides of the fence, their own shapeshifting or offensive magical powers would be handy). If they report on smugglers and tribal events in the wilderness, tracking and survival skills are good. If they keep “reporting” (or more likely covering up) stories about the horrible minions of Cthulhu, then they’re going to want a few bits of magic, grant of aid, and an immunity to sanity-blasting horror.

   In any case, a high-level reporter can wield a great deal of influence, get into all the best places, and gets a free pass to talk to virtually anyone.

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

Continuum II – Specters and the Empyrean Plane

   Here’s another segment of the Continuum II rules – in this case, the rules for psychic entities.

   The bizarre Empyrean Plane is the interface between a physical dimension and the astral plane – the realm where the bioenergy fields generated by living things interact with concepts. It is the domain of dreams, ideas, imagination, myths, and the psyche, and serves as the medium for psychic powers and invocation magic. Unlike most places, it’s “landscape” is perfectly free to be contradictory – and many of it’s “residents” are basically a part of that landscape, psychic constructs rather than living spirits.

   Psychic constructs are just that; more or less elaborate structures of “programmed” psychic energy. In effect, they’re robots. Constructs do whatever’s within their nature, subject only to the limits of their energies. Some (such as Apparitions, Haunts, Poltergeists, and Phantoms) are generated more-or-less accidently. More potent and complex constructs (such as Sendings, Tulpa, and Guardians) are usually intentionally generated by mages or psychics. The most potent constructs (Anima, Numina, Philosophic and Conceptual Spirits) are psychic nexi – created by the massed belief and psychic energy of many thousands or millions of people.

   Spirits have souls. They’re actually alive, and come in two major varieties; Ghosts (spirits who have “lost” their bodies – whether physical or arcane – and haven’t yet reincarnated) and Incarna (souls which have managed to either take over a pre-existing psychic construct, or to create one by pure percipient will). Ghosts, and the roughly-equivalent, “Minor” Incarna are by far the most common kind of spirits. Major Incarna are those which have embedded themselves in Anima or some other truly powerful construct, image, or racial memory – and Transcendent Incarna or “Celestials”, are those that have managed to embody themselves in a primary conceptual nexus – Death, War, Mercy, Motherhood, Justice, or some such. While fabulously potent, such Incarna are also fabulously rare. Such nexi are virtually always being drawn on by dozens of powerful beings rather then being under the dominion of one.

   There is a fundamental fragility to the constructs and entities of the empyrean plane; they have no bodies to stabilize and energize their psychic patterns. If something should damage, distort, or alter them, they require external aid to recover at a reasonable rate. Worse, while they can store psychic energy, they have no innate source of it – and they need some energy to remain active. To get it they may:

  • Settle for absorbing whatever ambient energy happens to be compatible with their personalities, at a base rate of (24 points divided by the local Empyrean Transfer Impedance per day, multiplied by anything from 0.5 to 3.0 depending on the area’s population density.
  • Actively seek situations where compatible energies are being emitted. Sadly, even in their most wildly excited emotional states, normal people rarely dissipate more then six psychic strength points per HOUR – and only a fraction of that is usable. Worse, drawing on a large group means that much of that energy will be radiated to become Aura.
  • Find a reliable energy source (Q.V.; Revitalization).

   On the other hand, empyrean spirits are utterly immaterial, and thus immune to most forms of injury. Of course, they can’t touch things either. They can see, and examine, both psychic forces, and other spirits (including those with bodies) just as a human might see an object – but lack physical senses. Their forms are somewhat subjective, they don’t age, and they only “die” by being dispersed beyond their ability to reform themselves – or by starting a new incarnation. Of course, they can suffer unimaginably. This doesn’t really matter to constructs; constructs do what they do – and are either repaired by whatever created them, or fall apart. Spirits must actually develop skills, and have personalities far too individual to tap into the surging tides of aura that sustain major constructs.

   Ghosts automatically receive the Web attribute – as well as access to the Empyrean Skills given below. While many will only have a few of the general skills – as they no longer age, most get the +5 general skill bonus for “longevity” – those which are exceptionally talented, determined enough to acquire a vocation, or who have no-longer-relevant major and minor skills to gradually replace, may acquire minor and major skills from the list. Professional -level ghosts receive an additional minor skill at level three and an additional major skill at level seven.

   Minor Incarna automatically receive the skills of Revitalization and Office of the Powers, as well as the +5 bonus to general skills for longevity, but do not gain the Web attribute. Professional -level minor incarna also receive an additional minor skill at level three and an additional major skill at level seven, just as ghosts do.

   More powerful Ghosts and Incarna should simply spend their talent points to buy additional skills and powers.

Minor Empyrean Skills:

 

The Spirit’s Ways

Walking The Planes

Chilling Touch

Eyes Of The Dead

Kineticism

Free Passage

Metamorphosis

Office of the Powers

Possession

Realm Gate

Thoughtforging

Sanctum

Web Mastery

The Sight Beyond

 

Major Empyrean Skills:

 

Empyrean Mastery

Directing The Flow

Dream Mastery

Call The Lost

Manefestation

Evocatiom (1)

Mindscaping

Foreseeing

Residue Manipulation

Minor Magic (1)

Scrying

Reconstruction

Spirit Binding

Spirit Minions

   

The Light Within

General Empyrean Skills

Iron Will

Mindspeech

Minor C’hi (2)

Realm Lore

Minor Psionics

Psychic Analysis

Revitalization

Transference

Unbinding

Local Mastery

Walk The Racemind

Psychic Development

  1. Empyrean Magic and/or Invocation Only. No Gramayre.
  2. Introspection is common, but actual C’hi is very, very, rare. Most of it requires a body.

   Apparitions are “cast” by individuals with notable psychic potentials when they’re under stress. They’re usually simply images, often so weak that it takes an extremely sensitive observer to spot them, weaker psychics usually just get vague “feelings”. Still, shaman, powerful adepts, and those with potent psychic talents sometimes create apparitions strong enough to make real trouble. Apparitions usually appear to potential rescuers, close friends and family – or to whoever caused the stress in the first place. They’re basically equvilent to an involuntary, temporary, use of the “Shadow Casting” discipline.

   Haunts are basically just apparitions that were “cast” those now dead – usually unexpectedly so – although they may simply appear around items, or in places, which happen to have “soaked up” enough of someone’s psychic energy to manifest later. Unlike ordinary apparitions, haunts are often complex enough to absorb extra power from those they interact with. Some even “learn” from, or are capable of being modified by, nearby minds. Carried to an extreme, this process can slowly transform a haunt into a guardian or tulpa – changing a restless memory in the racial mind into a dangerous and powerful force. Some haunts retain a tenuous link with their original soul – an effect which results in a desperate feeling of entrapment. Haunts which still possess their original souls are known as “ghosts”, and are covered below.

   “Poltergeists” are straightforward enough; they’re focused (or “Crystallized”) accumulations of emotional psychic energy. Such constructs may have substantial reserves of power available, but rarely behave in any sensible fashion. Children and adolescents are prime sources for destructive poltergeists born of anger or frustration, lethal ones may be born of a long-nursed adult hatred – and more benign, if less commonly noted, variants may be created by love, humor, pleasure – or some persistent joy. In any case, the creation of a poltergeist is a long-term thing, unless someone just happens to have an incredible load of psychic power and an extremely emotional nature – a set of circumstances that can not only generate Poltergeists but may upgrade them to Sendings.

   “Phantoms” involve intellectual, as well as purely emotional, psychic energies – but are otherwise quite closely related to poltergeists. Classical phantoms include “invisible friends”, alternate personalities, spectral children (often created by parents who’ve lost children and cannot handle it), various kinds of companions and “supernatural guides” (these generally offer rationalizations / orders for their creators to do whatever demented thing enters their heads) – and so on. Powerful psychics occasionally call up weak, but quick, phantoms (“Thought-Forms”) as tools and examples – or create truly powerful ones as companions/allies. Phantoms can be dangerous to their creators; they are often imbued with a strong survival “drive” – and may recognize that their shaper is their only real source of power/”life”. Such a phantom can suck it’s creator dry, or express hidden drives and desires. In any case, phantoms are generally extremely complex “programs” – with motives, priorities, various skills, and sometimes even assorted powers.

   “Sendings” are constructs that embody a portion of their creator’s essence and powers. While they tend to be a bit monomanical, they have purpose, can heal, resist external influences, and are always capable of recovering their power on their own. They may not be very intelligent – but they are invariably capable of learning and are almost always sapient. Most sendings are based on intentionally-constructed phantoms – but occasional haunts, tulpa, poltergeists, and guardians can be found in this catagory.

   Tulpa are essentially identical to phantoms – with one exception; they’re created from aura, rather then forged from an individual’s personal psychic strength. While this makes them far, far, more powerful then ordinary phantoms, it also means that they have a lot of other peoples ideas mixed in. Tulpa invariably have strong personalities, ideas and abilities of their own – and can often draw a certain amount of psychic power from the empyrean plane without their shaper’s assistance.

   Guardians may resemble almost any other construct, but are subject to one critical difference – they are anchored to some physical object – or area. Guardians tend to accumulate power, and may build up an immense reserve of it within their physical “bodies”. Most tend to be protective of their foci, but they vary wildly otherwise. The spirit of the pool of prophecy bears little resemblance to the malevolence of a marsh-spirit that devours the spirits of whoever comes near… The most common type of guardian – a vaguely benevolent spirit which protects, and cares for, the “little people” in it’s charge – is called into being by the Wards Major spell (QV; Grey Empyrean Magic). Item-based guardians without interactive “personalities” are commonly called “Empyrean Artifacts”.

   Anima are the generic constructs of massed belief; entities defined by being members of a class – rather then as true individuals. Examples include a variety of “Nightmare Horrors” (vague and nasty creatures that incarnate the fears of darkness, abandonment, and the unknown), “Spirits Of Light”, grave-guardians, UFO’s, those ubiquitous “Men In Black”, and so on. Of course, such anima rarely show much personality.

   Numina and Archetypes are powerful images, classic types and roles, or racial memories. They tend to be highly individual. Examples include the Wise Old Man, the Wendigo (cannibalism incarnate), “Attila The Hun” (a being based on a near-mythic individual) – and Santa Claus. Unlike anima, such beings tend to be fairly specific individuals, with their better focus tending to make up for having less total power. Archetypes and numina tend to attract would-be incarna, thus quite a few of them tend to fall into that category.

   Philosophic Spirits are essentially abstract; they rarely have any comprehensible “form” at all – and tend to be more-or-less infinitely sub-divisible. Most are simply constructs – while even those which have souls tend to be fairly “mechanistic”. Ensouled philosophic spirits simply resist being warped or contaminated by other psychic energies better then their unensouled brethren. Such “spirits” tend to impose their own nature on whoever and whatever is the area when they’re summoned. Examples of such spirits include Spirits of; Calm, Anger, Mathematics, Logic, Peace, Cooperation, Christmas, Halloween – and Stoicism. Perhaps fortunately, most people will never encounter anything more then a microscopic “fragment” of such a spirit, something which can be overcome, or even transformed, with enough alien psychic energy. Those dealing with a powerful fragment may find the nature it imposes nearly impossible to overcome.

   Conceptual Spirits are simply major concepts which people tend to think of as anthropomorphic entities, rather then abstractions. The most powerful beings of this order predate sentience; entities such as Death, Mother-The-Protector, and Terror, draw their power from both sapient and pre-sapient minds. More sophisticated ideas, such as War, Mercy, Justice, Good, Evil, Destiny, and so on, give birth to more sophisticated constructs. In any case, such conceptual spirits are usually “creatures” of utterly appalling power. Worse, many or most such spirits or psychic nexi are closely linked with various gods.

   Ghosts appear when someone’s psyche manages to get through the “death” of their body more-or-less intact (traumatic amnesia and various mental problems are all too common), and remains active and aware, rather then getting itself reincarnated locally (that is, in the same solar system) or “dissipating” to be reborn elsewhere in the multiverse. Many or most ghosts get caught up in the “afterlives” offered by various faiths, myths, or philosophies – especially those which offer aid in making the transition – but others simply hang around their old haunts, or wander freely thru the empyrean.

   As a note, some few individuals manage to “become” ghosts without actually dying, making the transition thorugh the use of psychic disciplines such as “Transition” and “Empyrean Projection”, via strange devices or weird drugs, or simply because their body is an a deep coma and they were strong enough to “go for a walk” in the meantime.

   Minor Incarna include entities based on the lesser Numina, Archetypes, and Anima. Essentially similar to ghosts in terms of raw power (or at least their skill in using it), minor incarna do get one advantage that ghosts don’t; they automatically have a power source. Minor incarna regain psychic strength, “heal”, and so on, just as a normal, incarnate, creature does. They are, however limited to their powers which suit their theme. Unlike ghosts, they are not free to develop some outre’ skill/talent simply because they have an interest in it. It has to fit in with their nature. Some possibly minor incarna include popular images and characters (Sherlock Holmes, Conan the Barbarian, or The Terminator. Note that the popular Attila the Hun construct is entirely separate from the ghost of the “real” Attila the Hun!), lesser “Angels”, assorted “Nightmares”, the “Easter Bunny” – and the “Crooked Politician”.

   Sadly, while “mass-mind” CONSTRUCTS are pretty much immortal, and will simply reform if “killed”, this does NOT mean that INCARNA are indestructible! Such an occurrence is almost certain to break the link between the soul and the construct it occupied. It’s back to “robot” status for the construct, while the soul goes on to another incarnation.

   Major Incarna are based on more potent constructs, giving their manifestations the equivalent of the Combat Armor major skill – and providing them with an extra minor and major skill (Usually an appropriate skill of Empyrean Magic and something else relevant). Possible major incarna include various “Archangels”, Santa Claus, Nergal The Perfector and the Wendigo (QV), Father Time and “Mother Nature”, Dreamlords, classical oriental “Dragons” – and various “Avatars”.

   Celestials are each unique. In general, unless the individuals involved possess incredible powers (being a major divinity, planetary archmage, or whatever) or have some way of altering the “rules” (true illusion, dimensional travel, wreaking, aid from another entity of the same order, or mass propaganda), they normally must be “gotten around” rather then confronted. They generally make poor – or unplayable – characters, but some very odd campaigns – for example, a game based on Piers Anthony’s “Incarnations Of Immortality” series – may allow them.

   Shades are technically “minor incarna”, since they are souls which have incarnated in psychic constructs – but the constructs in question are the “creations” of individuals. While poltergeists, phantoms, and tulpa, can all be possessed in this fashion, most shades are members of psychically based species – entities which reproduce on the empyrean level. This requires quite a lot of power – and the only power sources available on the empyrean are sentient minds, or the nexi which they create. Since an entire species cannot draw on a single nexus, shades are generally parasitic. They infect, and devour, sapient minds. While some may approach symbiotic status, most devour their host, or parts thereof, in relatively short order. Fortunately for everyone, since “growing up” generally requires a soul, and few souls choose to incarnate in such beings, shades reproduce slowly – and so are relatively rare. That’s also why the world isn’t overrun with the disembodied offspring of ghostly lovers.

Federation-Apocalypse Session 72: Readying The Assault

   Meanwhile, back in Kadia, Kelsaru had been spending time in the core overlay zone – and with Kevin’s parents in the overlay zone he’d set up for them. It was a relatively brief experiment, and – even if it didn’t work – it was well worth trying; it wasn’t like the dragons of her world had ever had any luck finding out what made greater dragons so rare. Kevin / Ailill might really have more information; he certainly had more test cases to draw on. There were five times more dragons in his household in the Dragon Empire than there were on her entire home world.

   It had been a bit of a shock to confirm that he hadn’t been born in a dragons body – but his spirit was blatantly draconic, and his powers were more than worthy of a dragonlord. Still, meeting his parents, she could see where more than a few of his odder traits came from. Humans, expecting a exceptionally powerful and dominant young male to be monogamous. How silly… Even they knew it was silly when they thought about it, but there was still that attitude underneath.

   She hadn’t decided whether or not to introduce Kevin’s parents to his subordinate greater dragon concubines; showing off her status was important, as was firmly establishing Kevin’s power and independence in his parents eyes – but it was going to be important to wait for the right time, when they’d fully settled in to being dragons. Perhaps she should push that along for a bit – or at least help them adjust.

   At least they casually accepted the presence of the servants now. They’d apparently never had any living servants before. She’d keep them away from the dragon-stables until they’d fully settled in to being dragons, they might accept the dragon-steeds like they were learning to accept the Thralls – but they might not too.

   She’d been keeping an eye on affairs in Kadia and the Dragonworlds for Kevin anyway. There were rather a lot of recruits – mostly from that “Linear Realms” place, but a fair minority from Core, the “Anthropomorphic Worlds”, the “Five Worlds, and other random places as well – ready to be bonded, hopefully Kevin would get back to take care of that soon. The “meme treatments” were going well, although there had been a fair number of incidents until the neodogs had gotten the hang of handling the infected. A reasonable number of visitors were coming by from Core – most of them fairly young, but that was the group that was being selectively invited. Those two dragons who’d come by to visit had apparently gotten the information they’d wanted (or had decided to visit this “Forgotten Realms” place to get it) and had left in fairly short order – not long after Kevin had in fact. The “meme research project” – whatever that was, she hadn’t had the time to look into it beyond finding out that her mate considered it fairly important, but not in need of much supervision – was apparently moving along nicely. The dragon-stables (a bizarre concept, but when you owned as many dragon-slaves as Kevin did, it was practical enough) were operating smoothly; the basic slaves had easy and fairly happy lives giving rides and teaching riders (and goofing off and enjoying the facilities of Kadia when they weren’t on duty), the ones that had been bonded with Thralls were forming comfortable partnerships, and they were all throughly coached on not discussing their origins; most humans just wouldn’t understand.

   In Crusader Kingdoms Jerusalem, Kevin was busy getting the fortifications outworks project underway… Fortunately, there was plenty of support in the city for anything that promised to help keep the undead away.

   Of course, there were occasional interruptions by mobs who were angry about “soul stealing” (fortunately, he could usually just talk them down), classes in Thrall power-use and in developing local identities to run – although the Thralls he’d brought along could run most of those, except for the final magical charge-up – and for round table meetings. Thawban was usually a pain at those, but that was more or less his thing.

   Sadly, it looked like letting the local Thralls pick up “knightly” identities and power-packages would be pretty badly received. Letting the “Adopted Fey” develop anything that could be construed as divine powers would be seen as blasphemous. It was too bad; the knightly abilities were a good fit to the world and fairly powerful – and it would have been useful in his campaign to overthrow some of the local prejudices. Besides, he’d bet that a lot of his recruits had wanted to be knights, and local ID’s always fulfilled something for their owners… Oh well, his control over that was pretty limited in any case, and they mostly seemed to be following the pattern set by the local Fey. That probably came of fulfilling the desire to survive, the Fey were good at that.

   Hm… It seemed that the local Fey were tricksters, unseen guardians, caretakers of the land, and manipulators. They were believed to have been at the root of a great many of the pagan religions, although there was no real structure to their society other than membership in the Seelie or Unseelie courts. They were very highly magical arcane creatures, with wildly varying powers but a shared vulnerability to iron. There was supposed to be a prohibition on interference in human affairs in at least one of the courts. Demanding wishes from one is something likely to be twisted to meet the word if not the intent. It was suspected that Puck, Anubis, Odin, the Sirens, the Wyrd Sisters, and assorted other magical creatures from legend had actually been fey.

   The Thralls mostly picked up level four local “Fey” identities, saving the players the trouble of coming up with multiple power-packages. Those got their magic up to allow L3 spells (20 CP), and provided them with +3d0 Hit Dice, for an extra 12 HP and an effective caster level of six.

   Back in the crypt under the temple mount (picking up from session seventy), Marty and A’ikana were still listening in on the mysterious doors… two people speculating on current events behind one (that sounded like they might go on for quite awhile). The second door was heavy, locked, and it sounded like someone was breathing behind it – but there wasn’t any conversation going there. It didn’t look like either could be opened without making quite a bit of noise – and his girls could enhance their senses, but weren’t up to clairvoyance or anything like that. A’ikana and one of the girls could do short-range astral projection to take a peak though – at least if there weren’t any mystical barriers or traps. Still, it seemed worth the risk to A’ikana, and Marty was always more than willing to throw his resources behind a pretty lady. Astral projection it was.

   On the astral plane, everything was grayscale and translucent, “straight lines” twisted and deformed, the once-straight passage became a winding, curving, hallway and “sounds” – or the thought-fragments and stray currents of psychic energy which passed for them – echoed as if through water. The door that someone was breathing behind was curiously opaque, and there were glowing circular diagrams arranged into a cube around the room itself. The diagrams slowly spun, and give off sounds rather like wind chimes.

   A’ikanas sigh added another slight ripple to the astral energies. That wasn’t entirely unexpected. The knights were supposed to be containing a Death Knight of more-or-less unknown potentials (and known to be atypical in any case) down here. The chiming diagrams might be alarms of course – in which case they’d need to get out fast – but they were probably just be wards.

   Marty, linked through his second companion, wasn’t so sure. Back home you never knew if the security cameras (or the deliciously deadly potted plants and their spines) were sapient and capable of slapping you around or screaming for security, and the astral plane did seem to involve an awful lot of life force. Still, astral stuff wasn’t his field, so any more checking was up to A’ikana.

   Poking their heads through the unwarded door revealed the presence of two standing men, perhaps guards. Each seemed to be radiating a great deal of white light and energy, which formed complex diagrams centered on their feet and also emitted the sounds of ringing chimes – and they seemed to sense the intrusion, slowly turning towards the door. The girls glamour might confuse their perceptions a bit, but it couldn’t cover their presence, it would just make them hard to recognize.

   Blast. Marty considered having the girls try for an invisibility effect; it would affect their bodies and not their astral forms – but it was time to get out of the astral anyway (A’ikana had to agree) and it should still help a lot with getting out. The things he’d do for pretty women!

   They headed for the water again as quickly as possible; they could hear the sounds of locks and bolts being undone quickly – and talking had all stopped.

   Fortunately, between the girls sound-damping, the ability to silence the disturbance of the water, and Marty and A’ikanas personal skills, they could be pretty sneaky… besides, the guards – who ran straight past the fountain to the second door – seemed to be worried about whatever was in the warded room. One of them laid his hand upon it and appeared to concentrate. Perhaps they were worried that some minor mystic or young psychic might have wandered into the wrong place and been eaten by a death knight’s sword?

   Too bad they didn’t seem to be going into the warded room – but the distraction and a little illusion should cover their retreat into the water.

   The guards at the outer pool were on the alert as well – and were actually watching the pool – and the girls couldn’t keep up the air-bubbles for too much longer. Well, they still had enough reserves for a bit of levitation, and the illusions didn’t cost them much; they could use illusion to cover the water-shift and levitate away, nice and high to avoid any chance of being spotted…

   Unfortunately, there turned out to be another ward – an invisible barrier along the outer edge of the Temple Mount complex wall. They managed to avoid dropping out of the sky, but it cut down on the duration of their invisibility-charms a great deal – and made a rather loud thud and sent out a ripple of white energy from where they’d hit.

   They dropped to ground level and ran for the nearest gate. The girls could do the minor spells pretty much indefinitely, but their psychic reserves were pretty limited.

   It took some acrobatics and more stealth, but Marty and A’ikana managed to avoid colliding with the squad of knights running into the temple complex. They slipped out into the city as quietly as possible while the alarm went around the city.

   Well, at least they hadn’t been identified that they knew of. On the other hand, the heightened security wasn’t going to help them gather information. Ah well. It would have been nice to have more information on the Death Knights, but if it wasn’t practical, it wasn’t practical. It was good to know that the knights had decent security anyway.

   They headed back to their little “embassy” to consult with Kevin.

   Perhaps fortunately, the local priests had yet to agree on what they thought Kevin was up to. He’d heard from several of them in the streets or in minor confrontations of course – the nosiest and most opinionated ones – but there didn’t seem to be any unity yet.

   Some thought that the Thralls had become fey, and thereby there are fewer humans – an offense against God, as humans were God’s chosen. Others felt that it was consorting with evil, dark powers and damned them to hell. Still more felt that no Fey could destroy a soul – although they might be able to drive it out – and that the difference between a human and a fey was that fey had no souls (which would be an interesting way for a realm to handle phantasms; “All phantasms go to Avalon perhaps?). That group wasn’t sure WHAT Kevin was doing except that he had to be violating the natural order somehow.

   Unity or not, it wasn’t long before Kevin had a contingent of concerned clergymen wanting to know what he was doing to the children who signed up with him. Was he destroying their souls? Stealing them for some horrific purpose or to somehow transfer them to the fey? Bonding them with Fey so that the Fey could escape the end of the world and be carried into heaven with their hosts? (Now THERE was an ingenious notion! Kevin had to wonder if any of the Fey were trying anything like that elsewhere!). Was he actually killing the children and transforming their soulless bodies into Fey simulacra crafted in their image? Was he damning them – and probably everyone who permitted his operations to continue, for surely there could be no forgiveness for standing by and allowing such a fate to befall the innocent – to eternal darkness? (Most did not believe that God, in his mercy, would permit such a thing – but there were always a few with more extreme views).

   Well, there was no reason not to talk to them. They were mostly more reasonable than the mobs.

“I am informed you wanted to see me? How can I help you?”

“We have great… concerns for those children you have been taking into your charge. Rarely do the fey interfere so blatantly in human affairs and the stories of previous encounters do not put us at ease.”

“What do you wish to know about them? Or are you more interested in finding out about me?”

“Well we have a number of questions… First off, what is happening to the souls of the children? The stories indicate that the souls are taken from them to further fuel your magic and power. In turn, the shell becomes a conduit itself for such power.”

“I understand your fear, but it is incorrect; their souls are indeed bound to me for the duration of their indenture. That way I can channel power to them, protect them, and return them to life if they are killed. Once their indenture is up, they are free to go their own way. It will require several centuries for most youngsters to complete their indentures, but that is why I grant them youth, health, and healing abilities in the meantime.”

“Indenture? So this is temporary? Or do they remain as they are now indefinitely then?”

“The powers are theirs perpetually. The link with me will fade in time, as they master the powers and learn to generate them themselves.”

“Curious indeed… This is most unlike the stories told through the ages. Such things usually have a more… immediate price. Indeed everything the fey do comes with a price. And I can’t help but look at the “assistance” you have been giving us and wonder what price will we end up paying for your help?”

“Your world will be touched by other worlds. I am not from Avalon – but many worlds are threatened, and I have need of agents to defend them.”

   That seemed to startle the two most senior priests considerably;

“Not from Avalon? Preposterous, all fey are from Avalon. It is the way of the world. It would be like me siring a minotaur on a peasant girl. And all fey answer to Oberon or Mab.”

“Threatened? You mean the threat of the horsemen is not just limited to here? And that you, a fey, are opposing them on other worlds? I wonder if that means the Horsemen are fey as well then.”

“I doubt that I entirely fit your classification schemes. But yes, the Horsemen are a small aspect of the War, and other worlds are threatened.”

“Curiouser and curiouser. So the way of things that has held for nearly 1700 years is becoming irrelevant. The end of the world has come and appears to have passed us by to be cleaned up at our enemies leisure. And you, a fey from outside the world, the way of things, has come to us in our time of need. You want something from us for this “greater war” you are facing and I want to know what it is.”

“Soldiers. Once your world is no longer endangered, many of those I have recruited here can help defend other worlds.”

   That suddenly seemed to place things on more familiar ground – and to judge by the speed with which the priests turned to it, they seemed to be desperately in need of some familiar ground.

“Soldiers eh? While I do have concerns for you taking the next generation from us when there are so few of us left, I do believe this is a matter we can come to an agreement upon. For we have engaged in mercenary contracts in the past and might be willing to agree to more in the future should things here settle down.”

“To be fair, they remain perfectly capable of having children, will remain so indefinitely, and are entitled to visit home at times. Unhappy recruits do not turn in their best performances. The war is centuries old already, soldiers in it are entitled to a decade or so’s leave on occasion.”

   The priests seemed to ponder that a bit… A decade’s leave? If this Fey lordling was telling the truth, serving him for a time might actually be acceptable – but the price of an error might be quite unspeakable. Still, for centuries the great orders of knighthood had guarded the kingdoms of God. Perhaps some could be persuaded to accompany “Kevin” (and what sort of name was that for a Fey anyway?) on one of his campaigns and evaluate the situation…

“Agreeable, but I do think we might be able to stir up some volunteers from the knights to serve in other worlds for a time given the assistance you have already provided. Plus it might do well to appease the populace if they see Knights in this as a partnership. Now of course, there would have to be some sort of agreement made and signed to show for this.”

“That would not be particularly difficult.”

“Ah good then. I can see what I can do about getting the appropriate representatives together and work out a contract once current engagements have been settled.”

   Perhaps fortunately, A’ikana refrained from pointing out that Kevin was actually entirely human, if overpowered and more than a bit naughty – if not precisely “young” (he might have stopped aging, but he was still better than sixty years old). She’d settled for rolling her eyes at Kevin at appropriate moments. It was quite remarkable how the boy could tell most of the truth and still be so completely misleading. He wasn’t even TRYING to fight the idea that he was Fey, even if it would be a bit difficult to explain!

“Excellent, although I suspect you should tread carefully until things settle down. The old agreements have many followers and some have a vested interest in the status quo, regardless of the state of affairs.”

“I fear I have learned to always expect as much.”

   The priest-horde departed – a few satisfied, many still doubtful, and a a few believing that Kevin was a very smooth lying-faerie-demon-thing. They’d be bringing some of the best negotiators and lawyers they could find to the next meeting…Well, it looked like the siege really did have most of the local clergy working together; they’d put together a strongly united front there.

   Marty needed a drink. Fortunately, they had some excellent wine around the place, part of the stuff they’d gotten from that Merchant.

   Outside, the alarm bells continued to toll for about three hours, and they could hear knights running through the streets at regular intervals, combing the city.

   That actually made Marty feel a bit guilty about breaking someone’s security for once. They’d be extra paranoid now. On the other hand, they couldn’t say that a bit of extra vigilance was a bad thing at the moment.

   It might not help in gaining their trust either – but that would have been a bit much to expect in any case. Still, as long as it helped them defend themselves, that was all that mattered.

   Kevin had some wine too, but A’ikana restricted herself to fresh fruit juice.

   Over the next three days the recruiting continued to bring in about two hundred new Thralls a day, the outworks began going up (pretty rapidly; they’d been given a pretty high priority), siege engines were built, supplies of “greek fire” and holy water were laid in, lessons in basic archery (and how to load arrows with holy water and greek fire) and martial arts were given, and Thralls were loaded up with more powerful spells.

   The intelligence reports also came in from out in the greater multiverse.

  • A.T.E. in Crusader had been attacked in what appeared to have been a part of a larger attack on the Grand Central Station dimensional transit network.
  • The Linear Realms were trying to put down a developing insurgency in the linear arcologies, but the first drums of war were beginning to be heard.
  • The Singularites on Ealor were looking to hire third party search and rescue teams (and were currently negotiating with Amarant Solutions about a major search and a longer-term contract) and the Empire had sent in a high level official to oversee matters.
  • The Core computer response to the ongoing meme attacks had improved substantially.
  • King Arthur I – the somewhat ominous ruler of the Commonwealth Realms – had called for a gathering of the Round Table. He might be preparing for war…
  • Fighting in the Battletech Realms was escalating, which was fairly normal for that realm, even if it now involved extradimensional backers on pretty much every side. The Battletech Realms did just sort of suck you into a constant stream of skirmishes if you weren’t REALLY careful. It was just their nature… Marty had to wonder; if the fighting in the Battletech Realms escalated long enough, would it create a Mass Conflict Singularity?
  • The House of Roses had gotten Vekxin thoroughly ensnared, but were busy wearing through the defensive line he’d created. Still, they expected to break though in a couple of weeks.
  • Kevin’s purchase program had acquired all the available property-class NeoDogs, and Kelsaru had been handling things in Kadia; there were quite a few recruits available there now – which was a good thing – it looked like they’d be needed soon. On the other hand, Kevin needed to get back there to induct them. He couldn’t put that off too much longer if things were going towards outright war. Besides… It was almost time for Kelsaru to clutch, and he really needed to be there for that.

   Well, there were still a fair number of Thralls in reserve, so he could send a few more to the Linear Realms and a couple of teams to the Singularites, and deploy some more to the House of Roses if they needed them – and there were always the NeoDogs for emergency reserves.

“Marty? I think we need to finish up here within the next few days – or at least get it to the point where we can try and break the barriers and go elsewhere for a bit.”

“Sounds good to me. Things can’t last like this much longer.”

   It’d been four days – and it would only be three more until the knights started launching assaults. The outworks were coming along nicely though, almost two thirds of them were complete and the remainder should be finished within two days. The people of Jerusalem had rallied and made a remarkable effort. With it’s core refusing to submit, and the local Thralls to provide support, it wasn’t likely that this realm would fall even if Kevin, Marty, Jamie, and A’ikana left now…

   There hadn’t been any major attacks from either side yet. That would probably change about the time the outworks are finished; at that point the attackers would have had enough time to pull in any reserves they had (and it looked like they had some, but not nearly as many as had been feared) – and it would be obvious that the salley-attacks were about to start. Maybe they should start them a day early just for shock value.

   Would they get Death in person, or just a notable general?

   Kevin’s scouting reports were coming in; several cities up and down the holy land appeared to have been sacked, burned and deserted. Masada still stood – and quite a few of the other cities further afield were still standing. Evidently the attack had been focused on the holy land. There was a good chance that the majority of the undead and death knights were besieging Jerusalem already – and that made taking out the undead horde look a lot more possible.

   Locally, recruiting was still running at roughly two hundred per day; rising opposition was holding things back, but the word was getting around more – roughly cancelling each other out – and the 200,000+ pool of possible recruits was large enough that they hadn’t seriously impacted it yet. By the time it was time to start sallying out they might have 1800 or so…

“Sounds about right to me. Holy hell, that’s a lot of magical power.”

“Well, we’ll still be outnumbered by undead at something like one hundred to one. Even stocking everyone up with area-effect attack spells and the local boosts, that’s not good. Plus they’ve got 300 death knights with magic of their own.”

“Still, it couldn’t hurt.”

“We should be able to do plenty of damage before falling back anyway – and if anything will make them bring out the big guns, that would do it. Want to try looking under the temple first? We’ve got the catacombs fairly well mapped now I think – although there are still several blank places on the map.”

“Yeah. Security shouldn’t be quite as good down there as it is above.”

   The major blank places included around where the aqueduct was known to bring in water below the city, beneath the temple mount complex itself, and near the gate which was being repaired. None of those sites were particularly surprising. Perhaps the aqueduct one was where it became holy water… The one right below the temple would probably be where some major holy artifact or place is buried – the one the Silmarils responded too. That could be the third Silmaril, but it was rather more likely to be the Ark of the Covenant or some other local artifact(s); the locals had been trying to collect them.

“I’m not sure I want to brave the Temple Mount again so soon. Want to hit the aqueduct?”

“I’d really like to know what’s in both locations – but I’m not sure that it’s likely to help with the battle coming up. Should we do the battle first and check afterwards?”

“Sure. Security’ll be weaker then, if only because of battle losses.”

   They tried pitching the “attack before the outworks are quite ready and catch the death knights by surprise if possible” plan at the next round table conference. The outworks were well stocked with trebuchets and greek fire barrels and such by now; they’d want to cover the retreat with real physical fires and such if they could – and they were a good spot for the semi-combatants.

   The local alternative proposals were (1) to wait until further preparations had been completed, (2) to use the small stash of sanctified gunpowder that remained to blow open a hole near the enemy encampment from underneath and assault it in the confusion, and (3) to lead a calvary charge out and try and take out as many of the minor undead as possible while avoiding the death knights.

   Well, the undead wanted to take Jerusalem, and as far as they knew the city must be running low on supplies. Perhaps they’d assemble for a final battle? They could send out a Herald who’d stay inside the ward. Chivalric last stands were very classic, and they could easily give the impression that they were trying to buy a chance for the people in the city to escape – and why would the undead care about that? If they wiped out the knights, the people could be hunted down at leisure and Jerusalem would fall. It seemed likely that they’d assemble their forces for that chance.

   Just to perk things up, they threw in the information that quite a lot of other places were still holding out.

   Thawban was pretty doubtful…

“Survivors you say? Dare I ask how you came upon this knowledge?”

“I sent out some scouts: do remember that all of my recruits gain the ability to shapeshift among their other powers. Since they are all linked to me, they can simply pass their observations back.”

   That stirred up quite a commotion…

(Hans) “Well this is excellent news indeed! It seems that if we can break the siege here and move out to assist the others, we might be able to turn back this infestation of our lands.”

(Thawban) “Shapeshift, eh? I really shouldn’t be surprised. It is the kind of thing your kind is known for.”

(Kevin) “I do realize that you dislike me, however, the abilities I bestow were both covered in the discussion and demonstrated a mere five days ago. They are part of the resources available, and it is unwise to leave them unconsidered.”

(Knight Commander) “Do you have any idea of numbers? Or of additional enemy forces? We must remember that the Final Army is still out there everyone and could return at any time.”

   Kevin filled in what he could – and noted that the Final Army had yet to be sighted; it might well have moved on to another world.

(Gilad) “Well that is encouraging news. It seems the guerilla campaign we fought reduced their numbers heavily. A sufficiently large push now could be enough to break out and give us the initiative back. We could overwhelm the attackers at each of the cities in turn.”

   Kevin, Marty, and A’ikana (Jamie still refused to have anything to do with overall strategy) were pleased: it looked like the Knights were going where they’d wanted them to anyway.

(Orthodox) “All well and good, but we can’t just attempt to salle out now. If that could have worked we would have done it by now. We will need to whittle down their forces until they can no longer effectively maintain the siege and that will take weeks or months.”

(Kevin) “I suspect that the Death Knights believe that we will complete the outworks, and then begin a campaign of assaulting them and falling back. I would suggest one of two strategies: either launching an attack a little early to exploit what surprise can be achieved or setting up what looks like a massive attack supported from some of the completed outworks – with signs that we are preparing to attempt to allow the population to escape on the far side of the city. That may lead them to bring most of their forces together.”

   Marty preferred the first option, especially if they could somehow humiliate them in the process. Kevin, of course, would prefer to get them as massed as possible for a fireball bombardment; that should take out an awful lot of the lesser undead; Of course, launching a few sallies first, then getting them lined up for a mass attack might work best of all. The could probably leave the gunpowder out of it; with that many Thralls, each stocked up with full-power fireballs and lightning bolts, a little gunpowder wouldn’t help much. Better to leave it for the cannons.

   The council wound up with a composite plan; a series of sallies from the ruined gate and the outworks along that side of the city. Make it appear that the bulk of the reserves and defensive forces that can be spared were massing at the outworks to launch an assault on the main enemy camp. Bombard the enemy as much as possible and then assault if looks practical, otherwise retreat to outworks or possibly the walls. Kevin got them to provisionally include the Thralls as squires and support; officially they’d evaluate their effectiveness during the sallies and then expand or cut back as the evidence came in.

   The plan passed thirteen to zero.

   Of course, the council didn’t know about the fire-and-lightning stockpile – and the group wasn’t giving them any details: there might well be a leak somewhere. The Thralls had shielded minds; most of the knights and ordinary forces around did not. Kevin issued his own private instructions; he’d try to make sure that – for the final big attack – they’d be included regardless, but until then they should stick with the more individual stuff. They could still be extremely helpful that way anyway…

Eclipse – The Hotshot Pilot First Level Build

   Our next sample classless Eclipse d20 character is the Hotshot Pilot – whether of sailing ships, cars and trucks, helicopters, light spacecraft, or planes. This character is actually pretty simple; he or she has excellent reflexes and, behind the controls of his or her chosen type of vehicle, can make said vehicle do things that it’s designers wouldn’t believe.

   Of course, that may have to wait a bit – there’s only so good you can be at first level – but a true Hotshot Pilot is already pretty good on natural talent alone, and may be astoundingly good given time to build up his or her actual skills a bit.

  • Disadvantages: (Select three disadvantages for 10 CP).
  • Duties or Restrictions (A Hotshot Pilot usually has some fairly extensive obligations: vehicles are not cheap, and repairs aren’t much cheaper, +2 CP/Level).
  • Total available character points: 48 (Level One Base) + 10 (Disadvantages) +2 (Duties) + 6 (Level One Bonus Feat) = 66, 18 of which (from disadvantages, duties, and the bonus Feat) may be spent outside of the Adventurer framework restrictions.

   Basic Attributes: Str 10, Int 12, Wis 14, Con 10, Dex 16, Chr 12 (28 point buy).

   Basic Purchases (30 CP):

  • Proficient with All Simple, Martial, and Gunnery Weapons (15 CP) and Light Armor (3 CP).
  • +2 Skill Points (2 CP)
  • +2 on Reflex Saves (6 CP)
  • d8 Hit Die (4 CP)
  • Initial BAB +0 (0 CP).

   Special Abilities (36 CP):

  • Rider (6 CP), with Vehicle (6 CP), Sharing (3 CP), Ward (6 CP), Battle Dance (3 CP), Spirited (3 CP), and Stable Seat (3 CP), all Specialized in a particular group of vehicles (cars and trucks, helicopters, etc… The Hotshot Pilot will probably want to buy off this limitation shortly, at least on some of these abilities, but – at level one – he or she will just have to specialize for lack of points, reducing the overall cost to (15 CP). Details on these abilities can be found in Eclipse: The Codex Persona, available in print HERE and in a shareware .pdf version HERE.
  • Block/Missile (6 CP). The Hotshot Pilot may attempt to dodge ranged attacks – and may attempt to use this ability on behalf of his or her vehicle as well.
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized/only for rerolls (6 CP).
  • Improved Initiative +2 (3 CP).
  • Skill Emphasis (relevant ride, pilot, or drive skill, 3 CP).
  • Reflex Training/three actions per day variant, Specialized/only while piloting a vehicle (3 CP).

   Further Advancement: The Hotshot Pilot is going to want mechanical and piloting skills, more BAB – if only to use vehicle-mounted weapons – a better Reflex Save, some way to defend themselves while NOT operating a vehicle, to buy off the restrictions on – and the remaining items in – the Rider progression, and to pick up abilities such as Opportunist (can use vehicle weapons while piloting), Reflex training/the combat reflexes variant (to improved the number of attacks he or she can dodge), Augmented Bonus (to increase his or her abilities with vehicles), and a variety of other abilities – including, hopefully, something useful to do while not actually in a vehicle. You can’t take them everywhere. Other than that, of course, hit points are not a big priority. That’s what vehicle armor is for.

Eclipse – The Tech Wiz Level One Build

   Our next sample classless Eclipse d20 character is the Tech Wiz – a hacker, security breaker, and repairer of equipment. Obviously enough, this particular character is best suited to a high-technology setting; if the best he or she has to work with is water wheels and wooden gears, there just won’t be much for him or her to do. In other settings, he or she may be quite invaluable.

   The Tech Wiz is usually relatively young – although there’s no particular requirement for that – and comes equipped with a lab, an assortment of pocket tools,  considerable confidence in his or her gadgets and skills, a small robot or drone with some handy built-in gadgets to assist him or her, and basic combat skills. He or she has a remarkable knack for getting things to work in a pinch… Given how much settings vary, the Tech Wiz comes in seven different flavors – suited for superhero, cyberpunk, and simple modern worlds.

  • Disadvantages: (Select three disadvantages for 10 CP).
  • Duties or Restrictions (Tech Wiz’s often have duties to secret organizations, may refuse to kill or be pursued either by people who want their talents or by people who want to lock them up for various offenses, and often refuse to have anything to do with magic or psychic abilities. It’s just the way they are, +2 CP/Level).
  • Total available character points: 48 (Level One Base) + 10 (Disadvantages) +2 (Duties) + 6 (Level One Bonus Feat) = 66, 18 of which (from disadvantages, duties, and the bonus Feat) may be spent outside of the Adventurer framework restrictions.

   Basic Attributes: Str 12, Int 16, Wis 12, Con 14, Dex 12, Chr 8 (28 point buy).

   Basic Purchases (30 CP):

  • Proficient with All Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP) and Light Armor (3 CP).
  • +8 Skill Points (8 CP)
  • +2 on Reflex Saves (6 CP)
  • d8 Hit Die (4 CP)
  • Initial BAB +0 (0 CP).

   Special Abilities (36 CP):

  • Adept (6 CP): May purchase Computer Use, Craft (any one technical speciality), Disable Device, and Repair for half price.
  • Privilege/private laboratory (3 CP).
  • Mystic Link with Communications/back to laboratory computer systems, Specialized/can be jammed, is limited by distance, and the implant can be surgically removed and then must be replaced (3 CP).
  • Companion, Corrupted/the link may be interfered with and does not allow the sharing of special effects or the transmission of touch-based effects (4 CP), with the +2 ECL Robot Template (6 CP). The Tech Wiz will have a modest drone or robotic companion hanging around, in which he or she will have installed some useful options.
  • Mana, 1d6, with the Reality Editing option, Specialized/only to perform modifications, repairs, and overrides on technological equipment, get computers to accept gueswork passwords, break through security systems, and other technical tricks. Corrupted/requires tools, access, and at least a little time to use (2 CP).
  • Special Packages:
    • The Technical Hero is best suited for superheroic worlds, or those with high technology levels and few restrictions on it’s use, since his or her powers allow him or her to use a few abilities over and over again. Shaping, Pulse of the Dragon, Heart of the Dragon II, and Taskmaster (36 CP total). All Specialized and Corrupted/can only be channeled through gadgets which produce specific effects, the user may only maintain seven gadgets (four for level zero effects, three for first level effects) at a time, and must spend hours or days in his or her lab to change them around (12 CP).
    • The Kit-Basher can throw together a pile of components from a broken radio, an old microwave oven, and a lego set and come up with some marvelous device that will work – once, twice, or maybe even three times – but then it will burn out, melt down, blow up, or otherwise never be heard from again. Inherent Spell with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized for Double Effect (a level six inherent effect and +8 bonus uses, for nine uses/day)/requires various components and anywhere from several rounds to several minutes to activate as determined by the game master, Level Six Greater Invocation/produces any technological effect of level three or less (12 CP).
    • The Robot Master commands an additional second robotic companion, although this one is much more formidable than the first. Additional Companion (6 CP) with +4 Template Levels (usually the Warbeast template and some specific upgrades), Specialized/only applies to this companion and is quite obvious, making the creature a major target, 6 CP).
    • The Intuitive Expert just has a feel for things, and can often get things to work when there’s no reasonable way that he or she could do so. Occult Sense/intuitively understands the general principles and operation of any device (6 CP) and Occult Talent (4 L0 effects – Instant Start, Guess Password/Encryption Key (+6 Insight Bonus to check), Jury-Rig (works for a little while), Produce Tool (produces any one minor pocket tool for a few minutes) – and one L1 effect – Moment of Insight (provides a +20 bonus on any one skill check) – once per day each, 6 CP).
    • The Expert Technician is a cool master of many fields, and works best under stress. Mastery (May “take 10” under stress for Int Mod x 3 Skills, 6 CP) and Favored Foe/Chosen Technologies Variant: gains bonuses to build and repair devices, understand their principles, create variations on them, and use, devices in his or her chosen areas of expertise, 6 CP).
    • The Wondersmith can make near-impossible items, and will usually have a few along: Create Relic, Specialized in points from Enthusiast (3 CP), and 3x Enthusiast, Specialized in Relics for Double Effect/may have up to three 2 CP relics at any one time (9 CP).
    • The Hacker is one of those people who can somehow break encryptions that should require tens of thousands of years to break. Occult Sense/Access and Encryption Codes (6 CP), Skill Emphasis/Computer Use, Specialized in hacking into systems for Double Effect (+4 to rolls, 3 CP), and Enthusiast, Specialized in Hacking-Related Relics for Double Effect (hacking boxes, cyberdecks*, etc, 2 CP worth, 3 CP).
      • *A Typical “Cyberdeck” has Skill Focus/Computer Use +1 (2 CP), with the Speed (+6 CP) and Stunt (+6 CP) modifiers, making them 2-point relics. If something nasty happens to it, the Hacker does not necessarily have the ability to make more such tools; he or she will just have to visit and work with a specialist.
    • While Action Hero/Invention would seem appropriate, as a general rule, no matter what marvelous “breakthroughs” a Tech Wiz comes up with, they never seem to have much effect on the rest of the world – which is why special powers like Reality Editing are usually a better fit.

   Further Advancement: The Tech Wiz will have lots of places to put points – Saves, Skills, Hit Dice, Base Attack Bonus, and – probably – some Rogue-Style combat skills are in order. In addition, virtually every special ability they have can do with upgrading – more and better Companions, more Mana, Rite of Chi and Bonus Uses to get the Mana back quicker, upgrading his or her special package – and possibly adding more. Action Hero/Crafting may be handy, Defender will be useful in most modern settings, and Contacts are always helpful when you’re looking for components. As with most builds, there will simply never be enough character points available to get everything that would be nice to have.

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

Eclipse – Templates for Companions

   First up for today it’s a couple of templates for Companions, since – at least in Eclipse – buying templates for them is a fairly popular option. Remember though, when you stack them it’s important to consider their total point cost, since each ECL adjustment bracket covers a range of costs.

   The two base companion templates here both take advantage of that to some extent: they’re both +2 ECL templates worth 95 character points – which would stack to 190 CP, or +5 ECL if you were to apply both of them to a single creature. The upgrades listed for them are meant to be stacked, so – at +32 CP per ECL (or very close to it), they can be stacked directly.

   Warbeasts (95 CP/+2 ECL companion template) are trained and bred for combat and riding – usually with the aid of magic, psychic powers, or advanced technology. They’re faster, tougher, and more alert than ordinary creatures. They may also be larger, since, to be most effective as a mount, a creature generally needs to be at least one size category larger than the rider.

  • +1d8 HD (12 CP).
  • Str +4, Con +2, Wis +2 (48 CP).
  • +2 Listen, +2 Ride, +2 Spot (6 CP).
  • Celerity +10′ primary movement (6 CP).
  • Proficient with Light, Medium, and Heavy Armor (15 CP).
  • Mastery (Ride, Spot, Listen), Specialized/only while aiding their rider or owner, (3 CP).
  • Opportunist/May take a free “aid another” action each round as long as it is working with it’s owner/trainer. Specialized/such actions are restricted to Ride, Spot, Listen, or Attack checks (3 CP).
  • Immunity/Training Time (Uncommon, Minor, Minor, 2 CP): Warbeasts can be trained quickly and easily.

   Upgraded Warbeast: If the creature needs to be larger to be ridden, throw in +1 level of Growth (48 CP), +1d8 Hit Die (12 CP), and +10′ to its primary movement mode (3 CP) – and an additional +2 ECL – per size category it needs to be enlarged.

   Characters are free to vary things- for example, if you want an upgraded Cheetah to ride on, you will need to make it one size category larger, but you can still stack on 32 CP worth of bonuses from the Warbeast template before you’ll exceed the limit for a +2 ECL adjustment.

   Ergo, if you want your companion to be a large riding cheetah, but don’t feel you need the full Warbeast template to make it suitable, you could just buy the Size upgrade on it’s own and pick 32 CP worth of abilities from the template to make it more suitable.

 

   Robots (95 CP/+2 ECL Companion Template) may be high-tech electronic devices, creations of gears, springs, and magic, or constructs of crystal and psionic energy – but they’re essentially a replaceable (if often expensive) tool.

  • Construct: No Constitution score, but gains bonus HP for size (12 CP). Includes immunity to ability damage [including all poisons], ability drain, energy drain, and effects requiring fortitude saves unless they work on objects or are harmless. Does not breathe, eat, or sleep, cannot tire, and can move, work, or remain alert indefinitely. Cannot be Raised or Reincarnated and are instantly destroyed at 0 HP.
  • Occult Sense (Low-Light Vision, 6 CP)
  • Immunity to all mind-affecting effects, including charms, compulsions, phantasms, patterns, and morale effects (Common/Major/Legendary, Specialized/can only act in accordance with programming and have no self-will, Corrupted/can still be manipulated by reprogramming, abilities that target artificial intelligences, and similar effects (12 CP).
  • Immunity to things which affect biological processes, including paralysis, stunning damage, nonlethal damage, diseases, death effects, critical hits, and most necromancy effects (Very Common/Major/Legendary, Specialized/overlaps extensively with the effects of not having a constitution score, still subject to effects which target mechanisms or affect machines, requires regular maintenance, Corrupted/users cannot heal naturally; they must be repaired or use other special abilities, 15 CP.
  • Universal (also applies to energy damage) Damage Reduction 10, Specialized, not versus adamantine or electrical attacks (18 CP).
  • Extraordinary Returning, Specialized/owner must rebuild his or her companion and may have to invest a fair amount of money in it (6 CP). Fortunately for the owner, this does negate the usual experience point cost of losing a companion and the delay in obtaining a “new one”.
  • Innate Enchantment (Equipment) (10,000 GP, 11 CP)
  • Immunity to the XP cost of Innate Enchantment (Uncommon, Minor, Major, 3 CP)
  • Proficient with all built-in systems and armor (12 CP).

      The built-in equipment will, of course, vary from companion to companion; a fantasy-construct of magic may have plate armor, crossbows, and the equivalents of a few magic items. Modern robots are likely to have guns, radios, and sensor systems.

The usual Robot Upgrade is to buy +1 level of Growth (48 CP) and +15,000 GP worth of built-in equipment (15 CP) – for an additional +2 ECL. If you want a hulking robotic companion, that’s the way to go.

   Characters who want to stack the Warbeast template on top of the Robotic template will wind up with a +5 ECL modifier (and a very expensive companion). Of course, if you’re going to go that far, you’ll probably want to take the maximum +6 ECL modifier – which will provide another 32 CP to play with. That’s not enough to buy any growth, so if you want a large robotic warbeast companion, you’ll just have to be able to afford to either buy it another way, such as by using a creature that’s already large, or settle for a temporary enlargement. On the other hand, you could – if the game master feels like permitting it – buy Blessing and turn your companion into a suit of powered battle armor, buy off some of it’s limitations, or simply give it whatever minor special powers you have in mind.

Legend of the Five Rings: The Sparrow Clan Calligraphy School

   Here we have another specialist school for Legend of the Five Rings – in this case, an artistically-focused school from the Sparrow Clan. For the purposes of the Sparrow, however, it is a very, very, practical school indeed. The etiquette of Rokugan requires the constant giving of presents, and the meager lands of the Sparrow Clan can barely feed their people. To the Sparrow, a school which focuses on turning simple paper and ink into acceptable gifts, on creating and maintaining their own gear with simple tools and basic facilities, and thus provides them with something to trade, is quite invaluable.

   The Sparrow Clan has carried on the artistic tradition of the Crane Clan, with an austere focus on the inexpensive arts of paper, ink, and paint and the practical art of making their own equipment. Within those narrow foci, the monk-like contemplation of the Sparrow Clan Calligraphy School yields it’s own quiet rewards.

   The Sparrow Clan (Courtier) Calligraphy School

  • Benefits: +1 Void, Glory 0, Status .5, Wealth 0, Honor 3.5
  • School Skills: Ceremony, Courtier, Craft (select Armorsmith, Bowyer, or Weaponsmith), Defense, Etiquette, Hunting, Investigation, Meditation, Sword, choice of Instruction or Storytelling, any one Lore skill, and any one High or Bugei skill.

   School Techniques:

  • First Technique/The Master of the Brush: Studying the secrets of paper, ink, and paint as closely as a a duelist studies the secrets of the blade may be the quieter path, but – as is the nature of the Tao – it is no less deep. The quiet insights of the student of the brush are of value in many fields. The user gains +5K0 to all artistic skills (Artisan and Calligraphy) involving paper, ink, or paint (Bonus Dice, 5) and all such skills are considered Skilled and are treated as School Skills (+5). In addition, the user gains a daily pool of free raises equal to his or her Meditation skill rank for use with his or her school skills (10).
  • Second Technique/The Moment of Illumination: The many lessons of the past shape and inform the work of the hands which record them, providing guidance which extends well beyond mere writing. Recalling those lessons, and following in the traditions of the ancestors, lends excellence in all endeavors. Double the Style bonuses for the Calligraphy Skill (5) and, when the user spends a void point to enhance a school skill roll, he or she gains +(Void)K(Void) rather than +1K1 (15).
  • Third Technique/The Koan of Perfection: To achieve perfection by adding to something already flawed, or by training, or by magic is nearly impossible. All such things are flawed, and to expand upon them is almost always to expand upon their flaws. The simple curve, the blank sheet, the freshly-dipped brush – all are perfect in themselves. To remain close to the perfection of simplicity, do only what is necessary, use only the tools you must, then do no more. The user may spend a void point to add his or her Void Ring to any other trait or ring for five minutes or for any one roll (10) and gains Immunity to the need to know or be able to cast a spell to effectively copy an existing spell scroll (5) and to the need for special facilities and expensive supplies to produce items of above average quality (5).

   Only a few, highly-talented, individuals ever progress to the fourth technique of this school – and there is no known fifth technique

  • Fourth Technique/The Secret of the Fold: The Master Calligraphers insight into his materials is such that he or she may now briefly stir the spirits of paper, ink, and paint from their slumbers – producing remarkable feats of skill (gain [School Rank] free raises with all artistic skills [usually Artisan and Calligraphy] involving paper, ink, or paint) and gaining access to one branch (either painting or origami*) of art-based magic (10).

*Sufficiently skilled origami artists normally pick up Conjures III and Bind Conjure V, allowing them to create paper talismans which can transform into real items for a time – albeit only once.

   Yes, there’s a note about “atmospheric conditions” in the Sparrow lands which cause paper to fall apart rapidly. Since there’s no mention of any actual effect this has in the game, nor of what sort of “atmospheric conditions” that destroy paper prevail in a small patch of mountains without also affecting the surrounding Crane and Crab territories, the Tales of the Sunrise campaign ignores that bit. Most likely this is just a way of saying it rains a lot and is very humid there (although that would also affect leather, metal, and most other materials). That can be managed.

   Ok, this school can provide a reasonably useful boost to a few courtier or etiquette checks. It’s principally useful, however, in creating items, scrolls, and artworks of extremely high quality. That can be quite useful of course – such items make impressive gifts – but it’s relatively rare for a player-character to take this particular school.