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.

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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.