Mutants of the Eclipse Part VI – The Blaster

   To continue with Mutants in Eclipse, here’s the fifth set of power packages for Class I and higher Mutants – The Blaster at +1, +2, and +3 ECL modifiers. As usual, their powers are built using Unlimited-Use Use-Activated Innate Enchantments – at an effective “Cost” of (Spell Level x Casting Level x 2000 GP x Modifiers).

   The Blaster is one of the more straightforward types of Mutants: he or she sees something, he or she hits it with a blast of some sort of material or energy, and he or she looks around for the next target.

   What separates the Blaster from the Elementalist – who, if the game master is being properly restrictive about the narrowness of their theme often only has a blast and a few speciality tricks to work with – can be hard to make out, In general, it’s simply that the Blaster usually doesn’t have any direct way to use his or her power to move around or to create defensive barriers. The best he or she can do is to shoot down incoming attacks.

   On the other hand, while a Blaster is one of the more fragile kinds of mutant out there, they’re also one of the most dangerous. When you only do one basic thing, you tend to be GOOD at it – and, unlike almost every other mutant, a Blaster can use his or her power several times a round.

   Your basic, Class-I Blaster has

  • +2 Dexterity (Enhance Attribute, from The Practical Enchanter, Spell Level One x Casting Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .7 Personal-Only = 1400 GP).
  • +4 BAB with Blast (Weapon Mastery from The Practical Enchanter, Level One Spell x Casting Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .7 Personal-Only = 1400 GP).
  • +3 Competence Bonus with all Dexterity-Based Skills – including Blaster-Fu, Below. (Skill Mastery from The Practical Enchanter, Level One Spell x Casting Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .7 Personal-Only = 1400 GP).
  • Warmind Focus (The user may use his own ranged attack to counter another ranged attack, expending an attack of opportunity to make a DC 15 Reflex check. On a success, the damage from the user’s attack is subtracted from that of the incoming attack. Level One Spell x Casting Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .7 Personal-Only = 1400 GP).
  • A +1 Morale Bonus to all Attacks, Damage, Checks, and Saves. (Inspiring Word, Level One Spell x Casting Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .7 Personal-Only = 1400 GP).
  • Blast (Select Damage Type) 1d6/Level up to 10d6 ranged touch attack with Medium Range, can be spread to affect multiple targets at -1D6 per extra target or -2d6 to get a 10′ radius. (Level Two Spell x Casting Level Six x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x 2 Rapid Casting (may fire off as many attacks as the user can manage) x.8 (requires a dedicated martial art to control properly, sometimes fires off unintentionally as a reflex) = 19,200 GP).
  • Add Metamagic (Select From: Area, Extension, and Elemental Manipulation/Infliction) +2. This allows the user to add two levels of the chosen metamagic to the affected spell (Level Three Spell x Caster Level Five x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .7 Personal Use Only x .7 Only affects Blast effect x x.8 user cannot make other attacks in the round x .4 for Two Uses Per Day = 4700 GP).

   Area, of course, allows the Blaster to make his or her attack affect a small area. Extension allows him or her to boost the range. Elemental Manipulation/Infliction allows the user to add various side-effects to his or her blast.

   Select any one of the following minor enhancements (All Spell Level One x Casting Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .7 Personal-Only = 1400 GP).

  • +1 Competence Bonus to all Saving Throws. (Sidestep, from The Practical Enchanter).
  • +1 Resistance Bonus to all Saving Throws. (Warding Rune, from The Practical Enchanter)
  • Charisma +2. (Enhance Attribute, from The Practical Enchanter).
  • Energy Resistance 10 to the energy form of their blast and it’s opposite (Attuned Energy Resistance)

   Blaster-Fu Martial Art (Dex):

   This martial art focuses on the best use of an innate ray attack, in both close and ranged combat. The user is considered armed at all times, and may use his or her ray attack to make Attacks of Opportunity.

  • Requires: Innate, unlimited-use, ray attack to practice with.
  • Basics: Attack 4, Defenses 4, Strike, Synergy/Tumble.
  • Advanced and Master Techniques: Prone Combat, Combat Reflexes, Deflect Arrows, and Rapid Shot.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength x2, Focused Blow and Ki Block.

   Most Blasters will have a pretty good score in Blaster-Fu to start off with; between three skill points (at level zero), a +3 competence bonus, and a +1 for their enhanced dexterity, a 7+ is pretty well guaranteed. Most will have Attack +2, Strike, and Rapid Shot – allowing them to inflict nonlethal damage with their blasts and to fire at least twice a round.

   The Class-II Blaster

  • Upgrades their Dexterity Bonus to +4 (+7000 GP).
  • Upgrades their Blast to 8d6 (+6400 GP).
  • Upgrades their Add Metamagic technique to Unlimited Use (+7050 GP).
  • Gets the remaining two types of Add Metamagic, also twice per day each (9400 GP).
  • Adds an additional selection from the Class-I Blaster optional powers list.

   That only comes out to 31,250 GP. Theoretically a Class-II Blaster could add a cantrip-level effect, but I’m simply leaving that 750 GP value for the next level, which comes out 500 GP over the limit. It all balances out in the end.

   The Class-III Blaster

  • Upgrades their Blast to 10d6 (+6400 GP)
  • Upgrades their remaining two types of Add Metamagic to Unlimited Use (+14,100 GP)
  • Generally learns to propel themselves with their blast – or picks up some other power with a similar price (Personal Flight, Level Two Spell x Casting Level Three x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated = 12,000 GP).

   The Blaster is – ultimately – the best of the various mutants at inflicting raw damage. A Class-III Blaster may well be firing off three ten-die blasts a round, even at relatively low levels. In a game that features a lot of simple fights, the Blaster will often dominate the action. Fortunately, they’re also the most inflexible of the various Mutants. Even the Strongman can find a lot of non-combat applications for his powers, but the Blaster does only one thing; inflict damage. If a mission calls for stealth, or problem-solving, or rescue work, or anything other than zapping things, the Blaster will have nothing to do at all.

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Geek The Healer!

   One of the old rules of war is that “you don’t attack the medics”. In fact, traditionally, it wasn’t uncommon to call a temporary truce in the middle of battles to let everyone recover their wounded.

   Yet human beings are awfully pragmatic when it comes to fighting each other. They may get sentimental about creatures that present no real threat, but when it comes to survival, pragmatism is bred into the bone. Why would they do that?

   It’s actually simple enough. The old rule of thumb was that a wounded opponent was BETTER for your side than a dead one. A dead man was permanently out of action, yes – but his friends just took anything useful off the corpse and pressed ahead. Sometimes they were even inspired to make greater efforts rather than falling back.

   A seriously wounded man was out of action – and so was whoever took him and his gear to the rear, where he would continue to soak up his sides resources for an indefinite period of weeks or months. He’d require food, and water, and transport, and the attentions of a healer, and it was quite likely that he would never recover enough to fight again. If he died, everything that the enemy had invested in him since he was wounded was a profit for you. If he didn’t fully recover, he’d have to be shipped home – draining even more resources from the war effort. He might not even recover enough to work, in which case he would become a lifetime drain on the enemies resources.

   On the average – and often by a broad margin – a seriously wounded opponent was a bigger victory for your side than a dead opponent. It was very good for your side to let the enemy recover their wounded – and once you gave the enemy that option, they had little choice but to take it. If one side had a chance to recover their wounded, and did not do so, that side’s troop morale would go to hell. On the other hand, if you kept the enemy from recovering their wounded, their morale might well rise.

   You didn’t attack the enemy medics or hospitals; the more resources the enemy had tied up in supporting such institutions, and the probably-useless men they contained, the better it was for you.

   The medics, in their own self-interest, tended to treat everyone – although enemy soldiers usually got a lower priority. After all, that gave individual enemy soldiers, as well as the tacticians, a good reason not to attack them. To any individual soldier the medics were harmless and helpful, no matter how much the strategic commanders might secretly wish them all dead.

   In gaming, however, the cry often becomes “Geek the Healer!”.

   Despite the attitudes of some of my ex-military players, that’s not “wrong”. That’s because, in general, wounds and healing in games isn’t much like wounds and healing in reality.

   In reality, wounds are messy, often become infected, usually result in at least some disability, and recovery takes a long time. In games, wounds tend to heal quickly, cleanly, and completely. That’s because it’s not much fun to play a seriously crippled character, and minor penalties that don’t come up very often are far more trouble to keep track of than they’re worth.

   That means that wounded enemies may well be back in action for the next battle – and that few or none of them will become a burden to the enemy. Allowing the medics to treat the enemy wounded becomes a lot more problematic – and the enemies medics become a net benefit to their side, instead of a drain on their resources, making them viable targets.

   In quite a lot of worlds, “first aid”, magic, psychic powers, or other options are sufficient to get a casualty up and fighting again within minutes.

   In this case, the priorities shift completely. Healers become high-priority targets – and if one of them treats a wounded enemy, it had better be because they’re wanted for interrogation, enslavement, or a formal execution later on; otherwise it’s stabbing their own side in the back. Any sensible opponent will make sure that anyone who goes down stays down unless there’s some really good reason to risk them getting up again – and, even then, a lot of the common troops will opt to make sure that enemy wounded are really dead no matter what their orders are. Trying to take prisoners adds to their risks quite substantially and profits them very little no matter what their commander has in mind.

   In many settings, opponents are unlikely to even be of the same species – which makes options like capture, enslavement, and integration into the victor’s civilization pretty much unusable. That kind of thing is simply storing up trouble for your grandchildren. Like it or not, when two species are competing for the same resources and living space, sooner or later, one pushes out the other one unless – perhaps – the local gods (or nigh-omnipotent aliens or whatever the local equivalent is) enforce some sort of “balance”. Even then, that’s likely to result in perpetual warfare. The war of extermination – an attempt at total genocide – is the sensible, rational, default position for wars against other species. Anything less is betraying the next generation of your species. It’s kill them now, or know that they’ll be killing your children later.

   The only really stable alliances are either going to be maintained by massive external threats or are going to be between wildly disparate species that aren’t in direct competition with each other. And no, this doesn’t mean that those classical human-elven alliances are out of the question; in most worlds humans and elves are fertile with each other and produce fertile offspring – which means that they are minor variants on the same species, not competing species. You wouldn’t expect a massive human-elven war until no one else is left, and perhaps not even then; since both species variants have different advantages, you might see an equilibrium.

   When your enemy is almost certainly out to kill, and to make sure of those kills, quite a lot of the more complex considerations of games theory go out the window – and the tactics can get pretty basic.

   For a start, you:

  • Fight to kill, and assume that your enemies are doing the same.
  • Eliminate effective healers (anyone who can bring opponents back from the dead is a top priority) and high-damage low-defense targets first. After that, you want leaders and the support staff; once the more durable targets are isolated they can be pulled down at leisure.
  • Make sure that any opponent who goes down is dead.
  • Fall back and get out if the battle is going against you. If you can’t, you might as well fight to the death; surrender is not really an option when it just means “death slightly delayed to allow for interrogation or being shown off”.
  • Always fall back on defensive positions (if possible) and call for backup whether or not any is available. If it is available, having overwhelming force on your side keeps down your casualties and helps ensure that no opponents escape. If it’s not, well, the enemy is more likely to make mistakes if they’re acting on false information – and that’s usually good for you.
  • Try and kill as many retreating opponents as possible while making sure that you don’t follow a retreating opponent into an ambush.
  • Always remember that, if you’re fighting another species and can wipe out the women and children, you’re most of the way to victory.
  • Always keep guards and scouts out; it’s better to lose a scout than for everyone to get killed.
  • Never assume that an area is secure or peaceful. In wars of extermination, such unguarded areas make the very best targets.

   There are, of course, many, many, MANY volumes on strategy and tactics out there – but those are some basics that almost any sapient opponent should know and pay attention to. The parties opponents in a role playing game generally want to live just as much as the player characters do, and will take precautions, plan ahead, and use the best tactics they can come up with within the limits of their intelligence to make sure that they’re the ones that do so. Don’t hand out boring and unearned victories. Winning is a lot more fun when you have to work for it.