Character Creation Primer

   Here we have a special request – a primer for making a character in Eclipse: The Codex Persona.

   That’s actually a little trickier than usual for a d20 game. Eclipse is a point-buy system which allows the people using it build any character they can imagine. It’s designed to work with 3.0, 3.5, Modern, Future, Past, and the vast majority of other d20 products out there.

   You can use Eclipse to build fighters, wizards, priests, and rogues. You can also use it to build sapient World War II battleships, telepathic energy beings that live in deep space, magic mice, superheroes, scientists, deities, demons, and small children. You’re free to use it to create your own species, templates, and any sort of “class” you can imagine.

   That means that the first step is to check with the game master. You’ll need to know what sort of game he or she has in mind, what the setting is, what system he’s using for attribute generation, and what skills he or she will be using.

   Most game masters will have a preferred set of races, and will often only allow templates on a case-by-case basis. Fortunately, d20 races, ECL adjustments, and templates work just fine with Eclipse. For that matter, so do Classes – but if all you use Eclipse for is a source of customized Feats, you’re missing most of the point.

   Now that you know what the restrictions are, it’s time for the real core of your character – the concept. Given that Eclipse allows you to build anything at all, the trick is to decide what you want to create.

   Depending on what level you want to build the character at, you may need to strip the mechanics of your concept down to the minimum essentials you can afford at level one – or you may need to expand on it, to build it up to something suitable for high-level character. Most characters will start at level one – with a base of 48 Character Points and (4x Int Mod) Skill Points – but Eclipse does allow (Page 9) for level Zero (a base of 3 HP, 24 Character Points, and 3x Int Mod Skill Points), level -1 (a base of 1 HP and 2x Int Mod Skill Points), and even level -2 (Infant) characters – to allow for younger characters and for the use of ECL-adjusted templates and races at first level. After level one, the progression is constant – +24 CP, a basic d4 Hit Die (which may be bought up), and + (Int Mod) Skill Points, at each level.

   There are quite a few possible first-level builds up – but the summary of actually building a character is pretty straightforward.

   Come up with that concept.

   Now look at the mechanics of it. Don’t get distracted with the description, the special effects, or how the character is supposed to be accomplishing something. All of that is window dressing. You’re only looking for the actual game effect that’s being produced.

  • Your character might sprout claws, lash out with a kinetic aura, have rock-hard fists, manifest a spirit weapon, or disrupt molecular structures with a touch – but all of that comes down to special effects attached to “inflict large amounts of hand-to-hand damage without using a conventional weapon”.
  • You might instantly regenerate a portion of any damage you take, have skin harder than rock, be able to withstand an almost endless number of small wounds, draw nearby matter into a constantly-rebuilt shell of armor, be surrounded by a shell of distorted time that spreads attacks out to make them less effective, or any of a hundred other things – but all of those reduce the damage you take from attacks. That’s Damage Reduction.
  • Once you know what you’re actually trying to buy, you can start looking for the abilities that cover it.
    • Most of the abilities are pretty broad. You can Specialize and Corrupt those powers – making them less generally useful in exchange for either making them cheaper to buy or more effective in certain circumstances.
    • That’s a place for caution. Like any open-ended system, it’s quite possible to build extremely specialized characters in Eclipse, making them overwhelmingly powerful when their powers do apply, and useless otherwise. Unfortunately, this is boring all the time. It’s boring when you don’t have anything useful to do, and it’s boring when you automatically trump everyone else. A starring speciality is good. A godlike one is dull – and it’s better to restrain yourself than it is to force the game master to tell you “no”.
    • Personally, I prefer characters with a good speciality and a lot of minor powers that you can use to good effect if you get creative, but that’s just me. A solid base of general powers works just as well, as will a lot of other designs.
    • This is one of the places where the list of pre-built characters comes in handy. Since Eclipse is modular, you can simply pick one that resembles what you want, pull out the bits you don’t want, and plug in some stuff that you do – or simply lift power packages from them to start creating your own design around.

   Finally, now that you have a good idea of what you want in your design, it’s time to put the pieces together.

   You’ll want to make sure that your character starts off with some basics. Those include:

  • Weapon Proficiencies (Page 49). Most characters should know how to use at least a few weapons, and some will know how to use some exceedingly esoteric ones.
  • Skill Points. You may be getting enough from your Intelligence to start with – but a lot of characters will want more. Most characters will want to look into Adept (Page 24) and Fast Learner (Page 17). Those make it a good deal cheaper to have a decent number of skills, and help compensate for the power creep found in the classes from late in the d20 cycle.
  • Saving Throw Bonuses (Resist, Page 41). These are always a good idea.
  • Hit Dice (Page 9). Every character automatically gets at least a d4, but tougher characters will usually want to buy these up a bit. Characters who want to be very tough can buy extras or purchase augmented or enhanced bonuses.
  • Base Attack Bonus. This is bought as Warcraft (Page 10). Characters can get along with more specialized bonuses, or with no physical combat ability at all – but most conventional adventurers will want at least a little base attack bonus eventually. It’s hard to avoid picking up some knowledge of combat in that job.
  • Bonus Feats are normally simply converted into Character Points, and are used to buy whatever-it-is you want.
  • If the game master is using the basic Adventurer Template (Page 16) or one of it’s variants (Page 17), there are some minimum purchase requirements and some restrictions on what can be purchased at each level, assuring some minimal character balance. Real balance, of course, is always up to the game master.

   There are never enough character points to buy everything you want of course. Fortunately, characters can scrape up a few more with limitations – Restrictions or Duties (Page 17) which provide extra points every level, or Package Deals, Unique Training, or Disadvantages (Page 18), which provide a smaller number of extra points, but which provide them up front. Go ahead and take some. Weaknesses make characters more interesting anyway.

   After that, comes special abilities – and those come in a virtually endless variety. By this point you should have a fairly good idea what abilities you want.

   You can buy spell or psionic power progressions (Page 11) – or you can build customized sets of magical abilities. You can explore special abilities (Page 21), expand and specialize your combat skills with individual Martial Arts (Page 80), explore the generalized metamagics (Page 56). You can create, buy, and extend templates and racial abilities (Page 61). Finally, you can explore various new magical systems – Channeling (Page 66), Dominion (Page 72), Hexcraft (Page 79), Mystic Artist (Page 84), the Path of the Dragon (Page 92), Ritual Magic (Page 96), Rune Magic (Page 97), Spell Storing (Page 98), Thaumaturgy and Dweomer (Page 100), or dabble in Witchcraft and mystical Pacts (Page 109).

   You probably won’t be getting into epic-level spells, divine ascension, world creation, or character profiles immediately, but the rules are there when you want them.

   That’s also the end of the basic primer. From here, the best I can do is point you to the examples and the standard build breakdowns. There simply isn’t any way to provide a full walkthrough for the millions of possible combinations.

   You’ll find a list of the sample characters and buld breakdowns over HERE.

   If you want to pick up a copy of Eclipse, it’s available in print HERE and in a shareware .pdf version HERE.


The Royal Cartographic Society

   Here we have a mid to high-level Party Template suitable for semi-victorian adventurers and explorers who focus more on new lands and knowledge than on treasure.  

   The known world is an island of order imposed upon a sea of chaos. The efforts of generations of explorers and adventurers have driven its borders outwards, carved order from the wilds, founded realms and kingdoms, and brought them into civilization.

   There may or may not be an end to that frontier.

   The RCS is actually a group of a dozen or so upper-level friends and companions who work constantly to expand the mapped and known areas of the world. After all, everyone knows that monsters emerge from the uncharted places, and that once a region is explored and mapped it can be negotiated and traded with. Determined men – whether literally or figuratively – can forge new lands from the unformed chaos that lays beyond the borders of the known world

   Gaining admittance to the Society isn’t easy. Beginners need not apply, and even a famed world traveler and explorer will have to accompany a society expedition and perform well on it to gain the coveted royal invitation. The lowest-level member of the RCS is level fourteen. Carving new lands out of chaos is no job for beginners.

   Of course, the group has it’s disadvantages as well.

  • The RCS fully expects to find horrific monsters, vicious savages, and wildly hostile evil rulers whenever they launch an expedition into an unknown region. Oddly enough, if there’s anything even remotely like that in an area, or a power struggle they could somehow get caught in the middle of, or some other major problem, they’ll invariably wind up in the middle of it – a version of the Accursed disadvantage.
  • The RCS exists to explore and map new lands and seas. If they aren’t on an expedition, they’ll be either delivering the results of the last one or putting a new one together – and an expedition is of no use unless it brings back new knowledge. The RCS is forever hauling back specimens of horrible monsters to display and document, going to absurd lengths to save their notes and maps, attempting to explore the cultures of crazed demonic cultists, launching another expedition to see what happened to the first one, and so on. Classical adventurer motivations (such as “Treasure” and “Experience”) are distinctly secondary. This is effectively either the “Compulsive” or the “Insane” disadvantage (it doesn’t really make any difference what you call it), depending on just how crazy the game master thinks this behavior is.
  • The RCS invites, and actively seeks, publicity. They’re appallingly easy to find out about. They also tend to negotiate, take notes, and try to identify opponents rather than going directly into combat mode. Those two problems make up the “Showman” disadvantage, and make it easy to find out what they’re up to, as well as reducing their initiative in combat situations.

   That gives the RCS party template a total of 24 Character Points – 14 for a minimum level of 14 and 10 for three disadvantages. That’s not quite enough to effectively equal a level (that would require another 8 CP for the base hit die and 4 CP to get the [Int Mod] skill points that go with it) – but it’s certainly enough for a fairly powerful party template.

  • The members of the RCS – and there are enough of them to make up several small parties – regale each other with their tales of distant lands, operate their own private museum and library, and all attend each others presentations on the lands they’ve explored – giving them each the Lore talent in Cultures and Creatures (6 CP).
  • Royal Patronage means that the members have a comfortable lifestyle, including a free club and free access to laboratory, library, and museum facilities. As importantly, they can locate backers for their expeditions fairly readily, eliminating many of the usual logistical difficulties. That’s either a major privilege or a pair of minor privileges. Either way, it’s (6 CP).
  • Members of the RCS are notorious for their narrow escapes, heroic actions, and barely-in-time catching of slipping individuals. They have Reflex Action, taking the three extra actions per day variant (6 CP).
  • You can never count the members of the RCS out when they’re on an expedition; they’ve been lost for years, fallen overboard, been trapped in avalanches, and suffered many other horrible fates – only to return later (if sometimes years later) with an epic tale of adventure. Returning, Specialized and Corrupted/only works while on expeditions in distant lands and only if the characters body is not recovered and the player can come up with some tale of his or her character’s dramatic escape from certain doom (2 CP).
  • The members of the RCS are always heroes, and can occasionally push themselves beyond all normal limits on behalf of others. Action Hero/Stunt Variant, Specialized/the user cannot pull off more than one stunt in any given day, Corrupted/can only be used to pull off actively heroic stunts, never just to save their own necks (2 CP).
  • Oddly enough, when the members of the RCS draw upon their broad experience to expound on “what’s probably going to happen”, or how “this pass is notorious for the activities of bandits, and we may well encounter some”, or make similar statements, their words are all too likely to come to pass. Mana (1d6) with the Reality Editing option, Specialized and Corrupted/only for Reality Editing, no conscious control of the process, only to make things more troublesome, dramatic, and exciting (2 CP). In general, this operates when the character (or player) starts speculating on what is likely to be encountered in an area.
    • It’s entirely possible that the RCS is more powerful than they know. If they are truly forging new lands from the primordial chaos, their solemn councils, evaluation of rumors and myths, forming of opinions, and mapping expeditions are actually an unconscious form of ceremonial magic, focused on shaping reality rather than simply speculating about it. In this case, their Reality Editing isn’t confined to pushing the likelihood of encounters and bending events slightly to fit expectations; it’s fully capable of grandiose effects – shaping the chaos of the wilds into lands fit for adventure.

   In actual play, the RCS is likely to initially appear as a patron – funding the exploration of distant places, recruiting the characters for rescue and followup expeditions, and providing information on distant lands. As the characters improve their skills and build up their reputations, they may find teachers and mentors within the RCS. An actual invitation to join the society and participate in a major expedition will be a major high point in a character’s career.

For those wanting to build things of their own, the character-point rules are to be found in Eclipse: The Codex Persona – available in print HERE and in a shareware .pdf version HERE.