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.

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7 Responses

  1. I assume that when using Eclipse, the GM is supposed to pick either 3.0 or 3.5 and stick with the assumptions of that game system.

    I have been comparing the basic shareware version with the free expansion.

    The basic shareware leads me to believe that a standard character starts with 48 CP at level 1 and gains 24 CP at each level thereafter.

    The web expansion constructs Elareth with a human CP bonus and +12 CP for his initial and human bonus feats. I don’t know if this got explained and I missed it – the text is voluminous and I don’t think I understand it all.

    • As far as 3.0 and 3.5 go, it’s probably best to pick either the 3.0 or 3.5 versions of spells. Skills tend to vary with the setting anyway, so differences there are to be expected. 3.0 and 3.5 psionics can happily co-exist; but 3.5 psionic abilities are far more versatile than the 3.0 versions – and so the number of abilities that psionic characters got was greatly reduced in 3.5. Thus the general rule against taking 3.5 psionic abilities in 3.0 psionic ability slots. That would make the characters far too versatile.

      Level-based bonus feats, and their equivalence to 6 CP, are on page nine (second paragraph) of Eclipse under “Character Building Basics”.

      Since Eclipse is back-compatible, it included how to build new races – in the “Races and Templates” section – but it didn’t break down the old ones. That was partly because there were just too many and partly because (unlike classes) people rarely wanted to trade out racial features. A lot more people wanted to tailor “classes” for their character than wanted to tweak races for their worlds. Individualized races tended to be built for specific games, rather than for general use. Ergo, the default assumption was simply that most characters would be built using standard races.

      Thus, standard humans normally get a bonus feat (+6 CP) and Fast Learner Specialized in Skills (and starting at birth as a racial ability, +3 CP) for that +4 skill points at first level plus one skill point per level.

      The racial breakdowns, like a variety of templates, wound up in the web supplement and Eclipse II as luxuries. Sadly, attempting to include everything that would have been nice to put in but which wasn’t really necessary would have made Eclipse a six or seven hundred page volume.

      The difference with Elareth is simply that he’s a specific character rather than a general – and so has racial modifiers included. Most of the general builds can be used with any race.

  2. Bah. I suppose page 2 of the web expansion is the first place that the human CP bonus was mentioned, and it was not mentioned at all in the shareware. I apologize for the poorly phrased question.

    • It’s just that – since the system is back-compatible – the basic Eclipse book leaves race-building to the game master and presumes that the players will be choosing from races selected by the game master. Ergo, either existing races or ones the GM invents.

  3. You can actually mix the 3.0 and 3.5 assumptions as you please. As along as you’re consistent enough to please your players, who are we to judge?

    Yes, basic level 1 characters start with 48 CP. People sometimes get confused because we have listings lower than that, since you can have level “0” adults, teens, and children characters.

    Actually, Humans don’t get a CP bonus exactly. You still get all the same goodies as in DnD, but it was converted into a generic bonus for that character writeup.

    Thanks for the comments.

    • Well, a “Bonus Feat” pretty much does convert to +6 CP for Eclipse characters – unless the GM has some special feat list offering better-than-normal goodies, in which case most characters will be grabbing those – and who can blame them?

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