I’ve put up a lot of first-level builds and sample characters for Eclipse Classless d20. A number of those – especially those drawn from the Federation-Apocalypse setting, where you can play pretty much anything imaginable – have custom races or templates. The ability to design your own races, and upgrade their abilities later, is one of Eclipse’s major features, and it’s a shame not to use it.
For this example, it’s going to be something to amuse one of the regular gamers; he’s fond of the old Gargoyles series, so it’s going to be the Gargoyles. I like cats, so the artificially mutated bat-winged electric cat people will probably be next…
Gargoyles – at least the ones from the television series – are fairly classical in a lot of ways. The author states that they are from the “gargate” branch of the evolutionary tree, that they undergo a biological transformation to a stone-like substance (albeit without a mass increase) during the day thanks to an internal clock mechanism and a powerful connection to the “biorhythms of the planet”, that they glide rather than fly, and that they are not magical creatures.
I suspect that – since quite a few things about gargoyles in the show are impossible without some method of violating important laws of nature* – the author feels that there is a distinction between “magic”, defined as “incantations and artifacts that produce a wide variety of effects that violate various natural laws”, and “entities with ‘unknown biological processes’ that produce a narrow selection of effects that violate various natural laws”.
Fortunately, in game terms, it really doesn’t matter. All we have to do is buy the right powers.
So what can Gargoyles do?
Well, they can fly. Evidently fairly quickly. That’s Celerity with an additional movement mode and three levels of extra movement, for a total of 60′ flight and 24 CP. Of course, it’s also Specialized/depends on physical wings and will not work if there’s no room to spread them or they’re restrained somehow and normally requires that the user launch himself from a height. (12 CP).
They’re fairly tough, but are still vulnerable to guns and hand weapons. That’s Universal Damage Reduction 3/- (6 CP)
Their daily dawn-to-dusk hibernation does a pretty good job of healing them and eliminates quite a lot of toxins, diseases, and other problems. That’s Grant of Aid with +2 Bonus Uses, Specialized/only works while in dawn-to-dusk hibernation (4 CP).
They have claws, fangs, and horns that are capable of easily penetrating stone and most metals. That’s Martial Arts/1d8 base damage when “unarmed” and always considered armed – that’s 9 CP with Imbuement/unarmed attack variant, Specialized for Double Effect (initial +1 spent on buying the properties of Adamantine for their claws, 6 CP, for a total of (15 CP).
About a +6 Strength bonus seems to be in order; they seem to be pretty strong – albeit all that much stronger than experienced d20 characters can be (36 CP).
Lets give them a +2 Constitution bonus as well. They are big and tough (12 CP).
Oddly enough for a bunch of nocturnal predators, they don’t seem to have many especially heightened senses or any night sight. Still, we’ll throw them something in skill bonuses. Call it Adept (half cost for Climb, Survival, Spot, and Listen) (6 CP) and +6 bonuses to each of those and to Intimidation (18 CP).
They are noted as having an enhanced sense of smell. That’s Occult Sense/Scent (6 CP).
That comes out to 115 CP. Expensive. Fortunately, the entire package is Specialized/gargoyles turn to stone during the daylight hours, in which form they are as durable as similar stone statues would be – but are helpless, unaware, and fairly easily smashed. In other words, 50% of the time, this character is totally helpless. They’re also supposed to have some odd customs, reproductive restrictions, and a weird compulsion to protect a territory or area – but that doesn’t matter much in game terms. Still, that brings us down to 57 CP, which is well under the 63 CP limit for a +1 ECL race. We could throw in another 6 CP worth of abilities if there’s anything I’ve left out.
That’s actually a fairly generic package – but that’s to be expected when you’re creating a creature that is, essentially, a fairly minor variant on a long tradition.
Now, this actually isn’t a creature that I’d recommend playing; games – and other characters – usually won’t skip conveniently over the daylight hours simply because one character is out of action due to his or her players racial choice. Maybe it would work better with an all, or nearly-all, gargoyle party, but it’s going to be pretty awkward in a normal game.
Personally I’d recommend those flying electric cat people; they’re just about as good, and they can fit into a group a lot more easily (and that’s a sentence you will probably never run across again).
*What are some of those problems? Here are a few of the first ones that come to mind:
- Wing loading versus the evident weights.
- The problems in having a gliding character catch up with a falling character – often just before impact – and then catching them and having this somehow be less damaging than the impact (violating conservation of momentum, conservation of energy, the equivalence of gravitational and inertial mass, and several other principles)
- That there are no such things as “biorhythms of the planet”.
- The evolutionary track necessary to produce a six-limbed vertebrate from vertebrate stock.
- The immense range of anatomical and skeletal variances within a single species
- How they remain balanced during the day. Balance is a complex and ongoing process – and they make a habit of perching on high, narrow, ledges with their wings spread
- Why they apparently don’t appear in the fossil record despite being an extremely old species
- Why no other species (such as many types of plants) uses similar, highly-useful, defensive adaptions.
- That they supposedly absorb heat while in stone form to supply the energy they need – in a rather gross violation of the laws of thermodynamics.
- That they supposedly glide on thermals – and yet only fly at night (when there aren’t many thermals) and often fly straight up along buildings for long distances (demanding an initial speed of several hundred miles per hour when no such initial speed is apparent)
- The difficulties inherent in transporting materials around inside their bodies to repair wounds and eliminate toxins while they’re “petrified”.
- How they can remain “petrified” without decaying for centuries when the material is supposed to still be organic.
- How a petrified gargoyle can remain organic, yet show fracture patterns typical of stone (which has a very different molecular structure) when broken.
- How both the “petrified” and “living” states can both remain stable, yet not consume large amounts or energy and yield large amounts of heat when the molecular transformation occurs.
There are a lot more, but that’s enough for a few minutes.
If you prefer a term other than “magic” for such violations, that’s fine – but it’s a change in name only.