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.