The problems with playing a low-level half-dragon in SRD d20 are straightforward. At the lowest levels, you can’t play one at all; the ECL modifier is just too high. At modest levels, you can build one – but they’re not particularly effective and are pretty fragile compared to the rest of the party, which is pretty weird when you consider that you’re supposedly playing an armor-plated, inhumanly tough, mass of muscles. It’s only at higher levels that they really become effective – which produces the weird effect of half-dragons apparently skipping past youth to go straight to “experienced adventurer”.
In fact, these problems apply to almost every high-ECL template.
Eclipse, of course, allows this to be fixed in several different ways: you can simply cut down the template to start with and grow into it later (an easy solution with any point-buy template), you can start off with a negative level character (and probably spend a few points from disadvantages on getting more hit points), you can focus on starting off with plenty of hit points (even if you have to cut elsewhere to do it), or you can do many other things – although some of them are, admittedly, dead stupid. The freedoms of point-buy systems include the freedom to create an ineffectual character.
No, that’s not an oversight. If you want to play Peter Rabbit, or Little Timmy (with Lassie tailing along), you can. Peter may be good at sneaking and running, and Timmy may know the local area really well – but if Peter gets into a serious melee with a Conan-styled barbarian warrior, he’s going to wind up as a light snack and a pair of rabbit-skin gloves. If your game system insists on two such wildly different characters winding up with similar effectiveness in a fight, there’s something seriously wrong with it.
In this case, a player has described a young half-dragon who was captured by the Drow as a child and was then sold into slavery as a gladiator. Thanks to his armored skin, talons, lightning breath (however limited), and mighty thews, “Wyrmspawn” became well-known as a crowd-pleaser. Sadly, thanks to his status as a blatantly inhuman monster, he never received any actual training – although he picked up the basics of using most common weapons from observation and random happenstance. He survived for years on his strength, toughness, and natural abilities as fighting for his life became a regular, and expected, occurrence – and the only life he knew.
He was eventually purchased by Ardulia Auvryghym, a high-ranking noblewoman who hoped to employ his services in escaping a vicious inter-house feud. Ulterior motives or no, when her new monstrous household gladiator-bodyguard turned out to be far gentler and more reasonable than expected, she treated him as a person, rather than a beast – and provided him with a proper name, “Rigel”.
Unfortunately, Ardulia’s escape attempt ended in her death – and almost in Rigels death as well. If Rahne – a powerful healer – hadn’t stumbled across him, his injuries would have killed him as well, despite his inhuman endurance.
Since then, Rigel has traveled with Rahne – at first in repayment of his debt to her, later because they rapidly became friends. Rigel hasn’t ever had many friends, and is quite protective of them. Despite their emotional bond, Rigel is confused by Rahne, and Rahne often is annoyed at Rigel – but in time Rigel was to return the favor of saving his life by saving Rahne’s.
As an ex-gladiator half-dragon, Rigel is tall and powerfully built, with his draconic parent’s blue scales, and many scars (some from combat, and some from other sources). He wields a massive Greatsword, using his great reach and strength to make broad and deadly – if unskilled – cuts and slashes.
Personally he’s cold around strangers – a trait acquired from many years of rejection, as well as the grim knowledge that today’s new acquaintance was likely tomorrow’s cooling corpse – or desperate opponent – in the arena. It takes getting to know him closely (a task requiring some persistence) to discover that he’s actually kind, respectful, and not necessarily quiet. He has a tendency to yield to authority when people (and especially women) issue imperative demands. He has little respect for life; his scruples along that way long ago burned away by the fires of the arena and the brutality of the slave trade. He tends to put himself in harms way in the defense of his allies.
ECL 4 Human Based Half-Dragon
Half-Dragon Racial Template (115 CP/+3 ECL)
- Special Abilities: d6 Natural Weapons (Martial Arts, 3*), Breath Weapon 1/Day (Innate Spell, 6), Low-Light and Darkvision (Occult Sense x2, 12), Immunity to Sleep (6), Paralysis (6), and one Energy Form (12), +4 Natural Armor (Defender, 12*)
- Attribute Modifiers: Str +8 (24*), Con +2 (6*), Int +2 (12), and Cha +2 (6*)
- Special Modifiers: Any racial hit dice are increased by one size to a maximum of d12’s. This may or may not mean anything to a point-buy character. It’s been arbitrarily set at 10 CP – enough to boost 5 hit dice by one size each (Or to add +10 sides to hit die). Player characters normally don’t get wings, so that cost is not listed.
- *Specialized. These abilities mark the character as an obvious monstrous supernatural being with scales, bulging muscles, and the “Dragon” type. He, she, or it can expect a lot of suspicion and minor difficulties in civilization and in social situations.
Available Character Points: 48 (Level One Base) +12 (Disadvantages and Illiterate) +6 (Human Bonus Feat), +12 (The campaign is awarding two bonus feats at level one) +2 (Duties) = 80
Basic Attributes: Str 24, Int 14, Dex 14, Wis 08, Con 18, Cha 14 (32 Point Buy plus Racial Modifiers)
This campaign is assigning Attribute Boosts based on ECL, so being at ECL 4, Rigel has a +1 on his Con.
Basic Purchases (57 CP):
- Base Attack Bonus: +0 (0 CP)
- Proficiencies: All Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP) and Light Armor (3 CP).
- Level One Hit Dice: d20 (20, 6 CP, with 10 CP from Template) +d20 (20, bonus hit die, 24 CP) +d6 (6, bonus hit die, 10 CP).
- Level One Hit Points: 46 (Hit Dice) + 12 (Con Mod x 3) + 21 (from Augmented Bonus; Str Mod x 3) = 79.
- Skill Points: 2 (Purchased, 2 CP) +8 (Int) +4 (Racial Bonus) = 14.
- Saving Throws:
- Fortitude: +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +4 (Con) = +5
- Reflex: +0 (Purchased, 0 CP) +2 (Dex) = +2
- Will: +0 (Purchased, 0 CP) -1 (Wis) = -1
- Armor Class: 10 (Base) +4 (Natural Armor) +2 (Dex) +1 (Padded Armor) = 17
- Usual Weapon: Greatsword +7 (+0 BAB, +7 Str), 2d8+10 (Str x 1.5), Crit 20/x2. May Deal Lethal or Non-Lethal Damage without penalty, Reach 10′
Special Abilities (23 CP):
- +2 Bonus Uses with his racial Innate Spell/“Breath Weapon” (3 CP).
- Stoic (not subject to death from massive damage) (6 CP).
- This doesn’t actually do him much good at level one. If he’s fighting something capable of inflicting fifty points of damage in one shot at this point that saving throw is going to be the least of his worries – but it fits the theme very well indeed, and he’d almost certainly be wanting to buy it later on anyway.
- Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus/may add (Str Mod) to (Con Mod) for HP Purposes, Specialized and Corrupted/only applies to the characters level one hit die or dice (6 CP).
- This is one of the best ways to get more hit points – but the base cost of 18 CP is a bit much for a first level character to spare. Ergo, this is a simple way to defer part of the costs until later – and, if you decide you don’t need quite that many hit points, you can skip buying off the specialization later.
- Immunity/the requirement that his gladiatorial martial art – Morituri Te Salutant – be learned for specific weapons (Common, Minor, Major, 6 CP).
- Grant of Aid, Specialized and Corrupted/only heals hit points, only works given a few hours rest (2 CP).
- Rigel’s inhuman vitality allows him to heal an extra ten points of damage or so with a nights rest – enough to allow him to heal up naturally within a week or so despite his high number of hit points. Without this, a single gladiatorial bout could lay him up for months.
Skills: Heal +0 (1 SP -1 Wis), Intimidation +6 (4 SP +2 Cha), Jump +11 (4 SP +7 Str), Martial Art/Morituri Te Salutant +11 (4 SP +7 Str), and Spot +0 (1 SP -1 Wis).
Martial Art – Morituri Te Salutant (Str Based)
- This curious form actually comes in an enormous selection of weapon-based variants, and is as much a form of acting as a combat technique. It’s various moves are designed to please crowds by disposing of opponents with the most dramatic and flashy attacks possible – and by lashing out with wild power. It’s NOT designed for extended confrontations, since its sweeping blows, taunts, and dramatic flourishes tend to draw excessive attention while simultaneously tiring the user.
- Requires: Str14+, Con 14+, and proficiency with the relevant weapon.
- Basic Abilities: Power 2, Defenses 2, Strike, Toughness 3, Synergy/Bluff, Synergy/Intimidation and Synergy/Perform.
- Advanced and Master Techniques: Battlecry, Improved Disarm, Mind Like Moon, and Reach.
- Occult Techniques: Focused Blow, Inner Strength, and Resist Pain.
- Known Techniques (6): Power 2, Strike, Synergy/Intimidation, Reach, and Mind Like Moon.
- Eclipse d20 – Rahne Diende (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Cold Iron Heroics and Eclipse (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Lords of Darkness, Lord Goth from Emergence Campaign Weblog (ruscumag.wordpress.com)