Eclipse and Skill Enhancements, part I

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The question of special tricks that go with particular skills in Eclipse has come up a number of times. Unfortunately, the abilities being inquired about are not open game license material. That doesn’t mean that you can’t build identical abilities in Eclipse – you certainly can, especially since Eclipse and the necessary mechanics were published under the open game license before the things came along – but I can’t use their official names, official descriptions, or call them that when providing examples.

Ergo, here’s how to build some Skill Enhancements.

Skill Enhancements are minor abilities linked to particular skills. In basic d20…

  • They normally cost two skill points each.
  • They have an assortment of prerequisites.
  • Only one can be learned at any given level
  • A character cannot have more skill tricks than one-half their level, rounded up.
  • A character can “unlearn” a skill trick when they gain a level, and spend those skill points elsewhere – provided that the game master can be talked into allowing it.

Skill Enhancements are, of course, usually the province of characters with a lot of skill points. In Eclipse, that means that they’ve been spending a lot of character points buying skill points – so diverting a few of those points to buying minor special tricks changes absolutely nothing.

By definition, Skill Enhancements are only minor talents – and aren’t nearly as useful as Feats. Building them in Eclipse thus usually means taking a special ability that’s Specialized  and Corrupted to reduce its utility and cost – often (although certainly not always) using “only usable once per encounter or once every few minutes out of combat” and “requires a successful skill check” as the limitations. That usually brings the net cost down to 2 CP – oddly enough, just the cost of 2 SP.

Eclipse does not, however, generally require a lot of prerequisites, or limit your character point expenditures so rigidly; you can go ahead and buy all the odd skill-linked tricks that you want and can afford.

If you really want the ability to “unlearn” them automatically, instead of talking to the game master about a character revision, buy Enthusiast, Specialized for Double Effect (2 “floating” CP) and Corrupted for two-thirds cost (2 CP)/the points are only usable to buy skills and minor skill enhancements and only one can be traded out per level.

Now, to build some skill enhancements…

Acrobatic Strike: Normally you can’t attack someone when you tumble past them. Now you can. Opportunist: the character gets to make a flat-footed attack when he or she moves through an ground-bound enemies space. Specialized and Corrupted/requires a successful tumble skill check, only usable once per encounter or once per minute out of combat (2 CP).

  • Now, variations on that actually sound a lot more amusing. How about Acrobatic Pickpocketing? Or perhaps Acrobatic Roping to try and tie someone up as you tumble past and around them?

Assume Mannerisms: Normally people who know someone have an easy time spotting impersonators. Now, not so much so. Immunity/the bonus to penetrating an impersonation granted to people who know the person being impersonated (Uncommon, Minor, Major, Corrupted/only usable for one hour, and only once per day, 2 CP).

  • Likely variants here could include Divergent Reality (reduces the penalties for trying to use Bluff to pass off a lie that’s blatantly untrue), or perhaps Harmless Guise (negates penalties for trying to use Gather Information in a hostile environment).

Back Upright: Standing up is normally a move action that provokes an Attack of Opportunity. Now it’s a free action that doesn’t. That’s Evasive (for an uncommon action) and Immunity to the time normally required to stand up (Uncommon, Minor, Major), both with a base cost of three CP – and the total reduced to 2 CP after applying those “only usable once per encounter or once every few minutes out of combat” and “requires a successful skill check” limitations.

  • I can think of a LOT of places to use those mechanics – but be warned; that immunity falls under the “Immunity to Natural Law” provision, and thus requires special permission from the game master. I’d recommend a good deal of caution on allowing it; this case is limited enough to be fairly harmless – but letting characters do a lot of things outside of time is asking for (at the least) a very strange game.

Clear Sight: Normally you can’t see invisible things. This lets you catch a brief glimpse of them with a DC 20 spot check. That’s Occult Sense/Detect Invisibility, Specialized and Corrupted/requires a DC 20 spot check made as a swift action, only usable once per encounter or minute out of combat (2 CP).

  • Now this one is just begging for an Eclipse note…. Think about how many other special sensory talents you can buy this way. Want to be able to spot magic? Disguised demons? Ninja? Hidden weapons? Auras? Causes of Death? The nature of potions? The origin of archeological relics? Any of a thousand other items a character might be interested in? Go ahead, buy some weird sense that tells you what you want to know, link it to a successful skill check to corrupt it and make it take awhile – say an hour for non-combat stuff, such as determining the nature of potions, and the usual once every few minutes (“per encounter”) for combat-useful tricks. That way, for a very low cost, your character can be the unique expert on some interesting topic.

Clever Fingers: You no longer need tools to disable devices and open locks. That’s Immunity to the need for thieves tools to avoid penalties to relevant skills (Common, Minor – and Trivial, since it’s only a -2 penalty normally, for a net cost of 2 CP). You don’t even need to restrict this one to bring it down to 2 CP, which is a modest improvement over the basic version.

  • Obviously enough, variants apply to many other skills. Want your dwarf to forge iron with his or her bare hands? Your earth-elemental entity to simply transform his/her/it’s fingers into tools? Minor variants on this ability will cover you.

Collector of Tales: You get a +5 competence bonus on checks to see if you know things about monsters. That’s actually a little tricky; there are lots of ways to get bonuses on skills, but few of them will be specifically +5 – and this needs to be cheap and to apply to five different skills. The easiest way is to buy Specific Knowledge/special powers and weaknesses of monsters. That would normally provide a +15 typeless bonus to a specific skill for that particular purpose for a mere 1-3 CP, but +3 to each of five different knowledge skills is quite acceptable. Now, turning that from a +3 typeless bonus into a +5 competence bonus is a Corruption (for increased effect)/does not stack other competence bonuses. Overall, the net cost is only 1-3 CP – and going with the middle of the range (2 CP) is quite reasonable.

  • This is good for buying specialties in a lot of subjects. Want to be an expert on Dragons, their role in the ecosystem, and their history? On the study of the Telerian Empire? Go right ahead.

Concealed Casting: You can use Sleight of Hand to hide your spellcasting. Whether or not this calls for any special trick at all is up to your game master; concealing spellcasting isn’t one of the options that’s actually listed under sleight of hand – but the basic rules tell us that “This section describes each skill, including common uses and typical modifiers. Characters can sometimes use skills for purposes other than those noted here”.

  • Of course, if the GM doesn’t feel that something you want to do falls under reasonable uses for a skill, you’ll just have to buy an upgrade – and the usual method for stretching a skill into new territory is an Immunity to the normal limits of the skill. That’s Immunity/the rules against using Sleight of Hand to conceal spellcasting (Common, Minor, Minor), Specialized and Corrupted/can only be used once per encounter or per one-minute period outside of combat, requires a Sleight of Hand check (opposed by onlookers Spot checks) made as part of the casting. If an onlooker doesn’t see that you’re casting a spell, they can’t attempt to counter it or use the opening to make an Attack of Opportunity.
  • This one, of course, is a general template for making a skill do something that it normally couldn’t – and there are many other abilities on this particular list that are going to be built exactly the same way.

Corner Stance: If you have a corner to brace yourself in, you can briefly let go of a surface you’re climbing without falling. Now, this is another one that would seem to be a reasonable option for the base skill – mountain climbers and such do this kind of thing quite often – but if your game master wants you to have a special ability to justify this, buy it just like Concealed Casting, above.

Dismounting Strike: You can use a Fast Dismount check made with the Ride skill to leap off a moving mount and attack someone as if you’d charged them.

  • OK, do you really need a special ability for this? Characters have been charging into combat, as well as diving off of balconies, cliffs, stairs, mounts, flying carpets, trains, and pretty much anything else which offers a height and/or velocity boost, to add momentum and impact to an attack since Chainmail came out. Older editions, the game master simply assigned a bonus to the damage countered by an ad hoc penalty to the attack (and likely a chance of falling or – as in the case of the spear-wielding character who attempted to dive onto a dragon passing a few hundred feet below the cliff he was standing on – a chance of going “splat” on a miss and a BIG bonus to damage). Third edition handles it with a bonus to hit (no, I’m not sure why) and a penalty to AC and loss of iterative attacks. That seems a bit counter-intuitive, but – given the abstract nature of the combat system – works well enough.
  • If your game master feels that you need a special ability for this, buy it just like Concealed Casting, above.