Eclipse d20 – Building a Campaign

   Eclipse offers a lot of options. In fact, it offers far too many options to fit comfortably into most campaigns – and not a few that will completely destroy some campaigns.

   That’s inevitable in a universal system. After all, covering everything means including the wilder options as well as the basics. Eclipse will allow you to build untrained youngsters, mad scientists and computer hackers, samurai, spies, lucky idiots, and star-spanning superheroes – and trying to fit one of each into the same party is going to be awkward.

   Now, if you want a game of adventurous village youngsters, trying to use their wits to survive, and someone insists on trying to build a star-spanning superhero, that’s a problem.

   It may be that you haven’t clearly communicated what you had in mind. That happens a lot more often than you’d think, and is one reason why setting up a campaign sheet is very strongly recommended.

   Sometimes it’s because the player simply wants to push for a more powerful character. That’s a normal impulse, and has been responsible for years of power-creep in d20 and many other game systems. You don’t necessarily need loads of power to have fun, but some players hate to have to worry about survival or details – and having loads of power certainly helps with that.

   There really isn’t any cure for such attempts other than the game master paying attention to page 163 in Eclipse and turning down any overpowered build proposal. Trying to choose the best options available is part of the game, but it’s part of the game masters job to make sure that the most obviously powerful options aren’t always the best ones to use in play. Still, once again, eliminating the major options that don’t fit the setting on the campaign sheet can save a LOT of time that you’d otherwise spend saying “No!”.

   Sometimes, of course, it’s simply because one of more of the players really doesn’t want to play the sort of game you had in mind, and keeps trying to push it into becoming some other type of game.

   That isn’t a problem in the game system, and can’t be fixed within it; you’ve either got to persuade the players in question to go along with the setting for the sake of the game, put up with the disruption, change the game, get another game started that does suit them – or wave goodbye.

   Sadly, I can’t help with that. All I can do is recommend having a frank discussion with the players in question; trying to be subtle about it simply results in an endurance contest to see who blows their top first.

   Thus you REALLY need a campaign sheet if you’re going to be running a game using Eclipse.

   Start off with some idea of what you want. Does this world allow Magic? Psionics? High Technology? If so, are there any special restrictions? What kind of equipment and adventures will be available?

   Once you have some ideas, you’ll want to set up the mechanical basics.

  • How are you going to be generating attributes? Will they have any special effects or modifiers?
  • What races are you going to be allowing?
  • What system of skills are you going to be using?
  • Are there any required templates?
  • What package deals are you going to offer?
  • What restrictions – or enhancements – are you placing on special abilities?

   That’s one of the most important things to cover – and it’s best to start off being restrictive and to label anything you have any doubts about as “requiring special permission from the game master”. It’s always easy to allow an exception later, but it’s very hard to take something away once you’ve allowed it.

   So you want a low fantasy setting, following the adventures of those afore-mentioned village youngsters as they explore their world? Classical medieval technology?

   Make sure that the players know that, and are willing to build characters that fit that setting.

   Still, when it comes to the campaign sheet, you’re going to want to restrict a LOT of things.

  • Attributes aren’t going to be all that high, everyone’s going to be human or half-elven, the standard SRD skills will be in use (albeit rolled with 3d6 instead of 1d20), and the low-level adventurer template will be in effect.
  • You’ll want to restrict Action Hero, Adept (once only), Augmented Bonus, Berserker, Blessing, Blood Curse, Body Fuel, Celerity (no more than +20 and no new movement modes), Cloaking, Companion (basic companions only), Create Artifact, Create Item (sorry, no magic item shops), and Create Relic, Damage Reduction (Maximum of 3/-), Equipage, Expertise, Finesse, Grant of Aid, Hysteria, Inherent Spell (Nothing beyond level one), Immunity, Innate Enchantment, Invocation, Karma, Leadership, Luck, Mystic Link (basic levels only, at least to start), Occult Sense, Occult Skill, Presence, Privilege, Reputation, Returning, Sanctum, Shapeshift, Siddhisyoga, Spell/Power Resistance, Stoic, Test of Wills, Timeless Body, and Traceless. All of those will all require special permission – which will probably only be forthcoming for particularly limited applications.
  • Some of the Combat Enhancements will require special permission if you decide to allow them at all; Anime Master, Block, Bonus Attack, Chain of Ki, Doubled Damage, Enhanced Strike, Imbuement, Occult Combat, Rapid Strike, Smite, Spirit Weapon, and Trick all fall into this group.
  • There will be no Psionics other than Basic Witchcraft. Characters can have up to a maximum of two pacts, can only obtain advanced abilities through pacts, and their choice is still restricted to Web of Shadows, Nightforge, Brewing, Flesh like Mist, Sympathetic Link, Longevity, and Whisper Step. If they want some extra power, they can spend up to 12 CP on Mana for it.
  • As far as the special Paths go, Channeling beyond the Basic Factors, Hexcraft, Mystic Artist, the Path of the Dragon, Thaumaturgy and Dweomer, and Theurgy all require special permission. Dominion and Divine Ascension are right out. Ritual Magic and Rune Magic are all right though.
  • Magic Levels will not provide anything beyond level three spells unless the character pays some terrible (and as yet unspecified) price. In fact, nothing normally provides spells above level three.
  • For enhanced abilities… Self-Development will be available for half cost and everybody gets their permitted level of Adept for free. The first hit die may be purchased for half cost.
  • Even if something isn’t mentioned here, all character point expenditures must be cleared with the game master.

   Some package deals are in order too – hedge mage, militia training, initiate (of one of the local religions), orphaned street brat, cultist, smith or crafter, forester, wannabe adventurer, and perhaps con artist – but those can wait a bit. They’re only worth 12 CP anyway.

   With that sheet and a little cooperation from the players, you should be able to play an “old-style” game, with relatively weak, mortal, heroes exploring a dangerous world and trying to rise to wealth and prominence.

   With a less-restraining sheet, you may get some anime demigods running about blasting things with their cosmic powers. If that’s what you want, that’s good too.

   Eclipse is available in print HERE, in a shareware .pdf version HERE, and in a .pdf version including Eclipse II and the web expansion HERE.

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