Our next sample level one Eclipse classless d20 character build is the Courtly Witch, a nobleman with minor mystical talents which he keeps well concealed, exploiting them to enhance his skills in intrigue and manipulation at the Vindahl court. This build is also an example of how Eclipse is meant to be used – to design characters fitted to the world the game master is running, rather than forcing the world to fit a bunch of preset character classes.
Background: the World of Vindahl
Vindahl is a civilized world with few monsters of any kind, only a few (quite reclusive) sapient non-humans, and little magic outside of Occult Ritual (although there is plenty of that). Major magical devices are few and far between, if not totally unheard of, although Charms and Talismans (from The Practical Enchanter, available as a Shareware PDF and in Print) are available to those who know where to look.
- Darklings – those who opt to call on the dark powers – may gain Cloaking, Companions, Demonic Favors, Grant of Aid, and a modest selection of curses, illusion-related, and otherwise noxious powers as Inherent Spells. Most of the people of Vindahl believe that the price of such power is too high, but others see this as simply pragmatic bargaining. Anyone who calls on such forces had best, however, do so secretly: most of the faiths of Vindahl regard the use of such powers as heresy.
- Holy Men may gain Celestial Favors, Healing Touch, Power Words (for storing ritual effects and spells gained via Celestial Favors), low-grade Innate Enchantments representing various sacred blessings and gifts, and a limited amount of Channeling to cast out evil spirits. Such individuals are widely respected, but are extremely rare; tapping into the high powers of Vindahl requires firm dedication, great austerities, and tremendous self-discipline.
- Magi may develop a variety of Witchcraft abilities (Notably NOT the Path of Coven Mastery or man other advanced disciplines. They are limited to no more than three advanced disciplines in any case), Mana (the Power option, up to twice), and Imbuement. They are, however, popularly regarded with great suspicion at best, and are lumped in with the corrupt users of dark powers at worst. Magi had best work with great caution, and either have powerful patrons or possess considerable influence in their own right.
- Shamans – almost vanishingly rare in Vindahl, although they are more common amongst the forest tribes to the east – may take Companions, Shapeshift (generally restricted to animal and hybrid forms only), Mindspeech, Nature Spirit Favors, and Master the Elements from the Path of Coven Mastery. They’re generally regarded with respect among the eastern tribes, but are regarded with considerable suspicion in Vindahl where they are seen as unenlightened practitioners of primitive faiths at best and as deluded demon-worshipers at worst.
- Other talented characters exist, with the proper knack and intense training, they may gain access to a single supernatural discipline (and sometimes Bonus Uses). For example, Healers may gain the Healing Touch (albeit without Bonus Uses), Warriors may gain Imbuement or become Berserkers, the Talented may gain minor “psychic powers” as Innate Enchantments, various Artists can gain Mystic Artist (albeit not most of the upgrades), rare individuals can gain Presence or Test of Wills, and almost anyone can gain Luck (specialized in rerolls only; the “Take 20” effect is not available in Vindahl). Sadly, access to the Occult Martial Arts techniques would count as a characters single permissible discipline.
- Some disciplines, such as Dominion, Magic Levels, Action Hero/Stunts, Blessing, Blood Curse, Celerity (additional movement modes), Mana (except as Power), Occult Talent, Returning, Rite of Chi (useless anyway, since no one can have more than a single discipline set), Shaping (sorry, the entire Path of the Dragon is off limits except for the ability to use Charms and Talismans which comes with the setting), Siddhisyoga, or Spell Storing, are entirely off-limits.
Now, Vindahl has three partially-subdued provinces which were once independent kingdoms and are still hotbeds of rebellious sentiment and banditry, conflicts between several sets of nobles, a weak king, an argumentative privy council, an expansionistic military, a powerful empire to the north with a different primary religion, a couple of other neighboring states, several religious sects competing for patronage, and a plentiful supply of oppressive nobles, subversive groups, cults, and would-be usurpers.
Most of the activity is going to revolve around intrigue, espionage, religious conflicts, various border skirmishes, diplomatic missions (possibly including exploration and trade), and court events such as hunts. There may be duels and occasional skirmishes, but combat will only be an occasional thing (remember; healers are rare and coming back from the dead is quite unheard of). This also means that characters aren’t going to level very fast, and that there probably won’t be any significant number of high-level characters around.
The characters could be secret rebels, or bandit leaders spying on the activities of the wealthy nobles to determine when to strike, or emulate Robin Hood, rather than being nobles and people attached to the court, nobles, or capital city – but they should fit nicely into the world and the game master won’t have to worry about changing all the tactics of his military engagements to deal with fireball-spewing wizards.
As a nobleman, the Courtly Witch is going to be expected to be skilled with various weapons, to have trained in (at least) a chain shirt, to be widely skilled, and to be an effective commander of men. As a witch, he or she is also a practitioner of forbidden arts, exploiting his or her secretive talents to hinder and confuse political opponents, escape from the traps that more experienced members of the court will doubtless lay, and to survive the occasional skirmish or duel. Sadly, if he or she makes too many mistakes, or uses his or her powers too blatantly, he or she may be denounced as being in league with he forces of darkness – an accusation that is very difficult to disprove.
The Courtly Witch:
Disadvantages: (Secret/mage and two additional selections for 10 CP).
Duties(to his feudal overlord, +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 14, Wis 12, Con 14, Dex 12, Chr 14 (28 point buy).
These may be varied pretty freely. While the characters Charisma Modifier determines how hard it is to resist his or her witchcraft, and is pretty important at court, the other attributes may vary a good deal.
Basic Purchases(30 CP):
Proficient with All Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP), Light Armor (3 CP), and Shields (3 CP). The character should probably upgrade to Medium or even Heavy armor by level two or three, but can be presumed to not yet have practiced in it enough for true proficiency yet.
+8 Skill Points (8 CP)
+1 on Will Saves (3 CP)
d8 Hit Die (4 CP)
Initial BAB +0 (0 CP).
Special Abilities(36 CP):
Adept, Specialized for double effect (eight skills)/the user must actively seek out renowned teachers and persuade them to train him or her to take advantage of the price reduction. Thanks to his privileges, however, this can be presumed to have applied at first level (6 CP).
Major Privilege/Wealthy Noble (6 CP). Can be expected to start off with good equipment, the best trainers, an assortment of legal rights, access to the court, and a pleasant lifestyle. Of course, he or she will also be a notable target and have numerous responsibilities to go with it.
Favors/the royal court (3 CP). As a new noble, the Courtly Witch doesn’t yet have the pull to get any major favors. Still, minor items can be arranged.
Block/Melee, Corrupted/only usable while holding a sword or shield (4 CP).
Leadership, Corrupted/may only take relatively ordinary thugs, men-at-arms, and basic agents, at least until this ability is upgraded (4 CP). The Courtly Witch will only have a few basic minions to start off with, but that will change soon enough.
Contact/a more powerful individual at court, who may sometimes be willing to help out (1 CP).
Witchcraft II (Provides [Str + Dex + Con]/3 Power and access to three basic witchcraft abilities, 12 CP).
A courtly witch may have up to two Pacts, to pay for another 12 CP worth of Witchcraft abilities. Unfortunately, Pacts are serious commitments – and the Courtly Witch is already faced with feudal responsibilities, endless demands on his or her time, spies and intrigue, and the necessity of secrecy about his or her supernatural abilities. Perhaps even more importantly, the dark powers have many masks, the powers of light are most demanding, and the spirits of nature are simply strange. The Courtly Witch should consider his or her options carefully before making even the most benign-seeming pact. That choice – and what the Courtly Witch decides to spend those points on – is where this build gets truly personalized.
Further Advancement: Well, as a military leader – like most of the nobility – hit dice, more armor proficiencies, defensive enhancements (given the scarcity of healing in the setting), and BAB are all in order. Good saves are a must: finding a holy man able and willing to remove even a small curse is likely to be a nuisance, and if you confront a Darkling you may be afflicted with something really nasty. Given the limitations of the setting, it will be fairly easy to max out the characters occult abilities – choose carefully, since that’s all the magic you’re ever going to get – which should leave plenty of points in invest in things like Action Hero/the Influence option, Occult Ritual, Favors, Leadership, Contacts, Reflex Training, and Skills.
There. THAT is what Eclipse is for. It’s not just to eliminate the endless expansion of classes, prestige classes, feats, and special rules and keep everything in one book. It’s to let people easily tailor their characters to fit both their desires and the setting without having to use a dozen different books. Every world, and every character, ought to be unique. “I’m bringing in a fifth-level ranger using the dual-shortsword build” just isn’t the same.
On a secondary note, Vindahl was invented on the spot as an example, but I may use it sometime: now that I’ve written up some basics, further background material and setting details are already popping into my head… That is, of course, the trouble with world-building. Twenty minutes of work will spawn more material than your players can get to in a dozen sessions.