Skilled Codex Powers I: Phasing Techniques

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Past the instinctive and basic uses of the three Codex skills – Phasing, Shifting, and Tempus – there are a variety of more advanced powers that are only available to those with monotalents or actual Codex skills.

Phasing offers a wide variety of option – but is one of the most directly dangerous of the Codex skills. It is all too easy to lose your connection with your own cosmos when you’re using phasing, especially if you push too hard. It’s even easier if you’re in a location where the Force – and thus the structure of reality – is weak. Such locations include near black holes, where the structure of hyperspace is damaged or stressed by a hyperdrive field. Of course, such locations also drastically increase the effectiveness of Phasing powers.

  • Expulsion is essentially selective phasing – attempting to either phase enough of your body away from something that you don’t want in it to let it fall out of you or to forcibly phase that material in particular into another dimension. The second option is safer in one way; it doesn’t put the user at any immediate risk of falling out the universe (or “fading”) – but it can subtly increase the odds of it happening later on. In practical terms, they’re almost equivalent. Expulsion can be used to remove a bullet or arrow fairly readily. Removing a tumor or implant is a good deal harder. Attempting to remove micro-organisms is very hard. Attempting to remove a biochemical problem (such as an intoxicant or poison) is a job for a grandmaster – and trying, for example, to remove a virus from your cells isn’t quite totally impossible, but at any reasonable skill level such as attempt is MUCH more likely to just turn the user to protoplasmic jelly.
  • Force Damping provides a fair amount of protection from direct force-based attacks – although it leaves the user vulnerable to specialized force techniques or “exorcisms”, which are designed to drive away or dissipate force-manifestations, since those can disrupt the user’s remaining links with the local reality. Its most effective against force senses, but can be used to negate force attacks – although it also negates the force-feedback which usually causes such attacks to add to the user’s dark side total.
  • The Personal Environment ability can also be used in two ways; you can either attempt to switch a portion of your personal dimensional interface to another, supportive, dimension without swapping over the aspects that support your senses and interaction with the rest of the environment or you can attempt to simply import an environment from elsewhere, holding it within the interface. Note that there is noting to prevent you from, for example, wrapping yourself in water to protect yourself from a fire or – for that matter – from attempting to wrap yourself up in Bacta (although that, given Bacta’s relative scarcity in the universe compared to things like water and oxygen, is an incredibly difficult roll to make). It is even possible to expand your personal environment, either providing life support for others, reducing or increasing the effective local gravity within your aura, or subjecting those nearby to wildly varying environmental conditions. Unlike Shunting, however, such changes only occur within your interface.
  • Rifting covers the ability to open and close dimensional portals. For good or ill, however,  attempting to close a portal is relatively simple and safe; an open portal is a most unnatural state of affairs. Attempting to open one is much, MUCH, harder.
  • Shunting is used to either pull mass-energy into your current dimension or to tip it out of it. Unfortunately, thanks to the inherently permanent nature of such transfers, this always creates a danger of Fading – and the greater the amount of mass-energy transferred, the greater the chance. Similarly, inanimate matter is easiest, energy is harder (and, thanks to their natural force-based resistance, even more difficult if you’re targeting a living creature), living creatures are extremely hard to affect (and the more tightly they’re emotionally bonded to others, the more difficult they are to affect), and active force-users are almost impossible to shunt away. Shunting is most useful for small tasks – starting fires at long ranges, removing power cells or vital components from equipment, or sending an incoming blast elsewhere.
  • Wraithing is the art of intangibility – becoming insubstantial enough to pass through, or interact with, solid matter on a controlled basis. It’s also the art of extending that effect to other objects – perhaps phasing a container to let its contents fall free or reaching into someone’s chest to strike at their internal organs (although living creatures tend to be quite resistant to such tricks). While it is possible to disrupt various systems – both organic and inorganic – by wraithing through them and then “solidifying” slightly, this is generally just as damaging to the user as to the victim; it’s a poor technique to use against anything but the most delicate circuits.

 

Eclipse and High-Order Biomancy

Here we have a question from Derek about some of the high-level spells in Eclipse…

I have some questions about the spell lifemaker (Eclipse p. 145). What can and can not be made with it? Could a human make a dragon or treant? What are the limitations of the spell? Could a hydra with immunity to all magic be created? Can unique creatures be replicated via this spell? Other than the number of creatures, what is the difference between genetic reconstruction (p. 141) and lifemaker?

This is fairly straightforward:

Genetic Reconstruction (at level seventeen) alters the genes of an existing life form. It doesn’t rush them into expression. Thus, you can change the genes. Genes code for proteins. Now, some genes are inactive; you can change those around and little effect. Others – such as those influencing the basic setup of the body – are only called on while a creature is in the womb. Others affect the carrier as he, she, or it, matures. Still others – regulating a variety of basic metabolic functions – are active throughout a creatures life. Other genes are involved at many stages.

Now, for a gene to be expressed, it must first be transcribed – copied into the code for a protein on a strip of RNA (there are a few RNA sequences which are active in themselves, but this is going to be complicated enough already). That RNA must then be transported to the main body of the cell, and proteins must be assembled. Once those proteins are assembled, they will begin to play their roles in the cells metabolism and its relationships with other cells.

Overall, this is immensely complicated and takes a good deal of time – which is why supplementing your knowledge biology/nature/whatever skill check with some divination is a good idea before you try anything.

So the changes you make are only going to show their effects slowly – and major structural changes will generally only express themselves fully in the next generation. If you decide to change your enemies genes to those of a very stupid canine-style pet, and fix it so that those genes will dominantly express themselves when he or she has children with another member of his or her original species, that probably won’t have too many blatant effects – until he or she has children, all of whom will be born as stupid canine-style pets. Your enemies body and nervous system are already pretty well formed, and those genes are inactive – although you will probably see some subtle biochemical shifts if you check closely.

Now, if you want to turn your enemy into a stupid dog directly, you’re better off with a polymorph effect; those are faster and FAR less complicated than working out a genetic program which will gradually rebuild said enemy into a dog. On the other hand, polymorph effects draw their patterns from existing species – which is why they tend to turn their targets into “average” members of those species – and do not offer fine control over biochemical details.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t use it that way, or that there aren’t an enormous number of things that you can do to existing organisms, it’s just that – in an adult organism – Genetic Reconstruction is most readily used for things like repairing genetic defects or damage.

Fortunately, a lot of life forms reproduce pretty quickly. Genetic Reconstruction will let you create tailored bacteria and virus strains with a wave of your hand, alter a fungus to produce specialized biochemicals (and have it spore within days), provide inherited immunity to some dreadful plague, create retroviruses to make small, contagious, changes in creatures, grant plants the ability to fix nitrogen, and much much more – all with precise control over every aspect of the target’s genome. It basically puts the entire imaginable field of “biotechnology” into a single spell with no particular costs or backlash – which is why it’s level seventeen.

Bets change a bit if your d20 universe doesn’t have genes, or handwaves how (say) a human could have a child with a mass of animated fire (I, personally, require the use of some magic for that sort of thing). In that case, this is probably simply good for adding templates and such without a fuss.

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Lifemaker, at level nineteen, takes a different approach; it lets you split off a fragment of your own life force to shape into a brand new spirit and forms a body around it. In essence, you can become an instantaneous parent to whatever kind of life form that (a) you can imagine and describe, (b) the game master is willing to say is possible (at the very least, most game masters will insist that powerful abilities be associated with high hit dice), and (c) you can afford the hit points to create. Moreover, as noted, the creature or creatures created are generally friendly to the caster but are – like any other child – not always obedient. That also means that they’ll get quite upset if you mistreat them.

It’s arguably superior to Genetic Reconstruction in a variety of ways, which is why it’s of a somewhat higher level – but can’t directly affect existing lifeforms and the creatures you create may (if you lack sufficient skill) prove unable to reproduce or to have unexpected defects since it’s based on “what you envision” as run past the laws of nature / game master as opposed to “what you rigorously design”.

When it comes to duplicating existing species – such as dragons and treants – it works just fine. There are a couple of problems with making a creature that’s “Immune to Magic” though – mostly that (1) it will probably take a few moments to kick in (to avoid interfering with the creation spell itself), (2) “Immunity to Magic” has upper limits – whether you buy it as per the Immunity ability in Eclipse or whether you follow the golem-style protections available in The Practical Enchanter, and (3) your game master will probably want your creation to have a fairly high hit die total before he or she will let it have that ability.

As far as “duplicating” a unique creature goes, if it has a genuine, flesh-and-blood (or at least protoplasmic tissue), living body, creating a creature of the same type is straightforward. It is, however, an independent creature; it won’t have the memories, or levels, or other learned or acquired abilities of the original (after all, quite a few of the creatures in the Monster Manual were originally unique mythological creatures).

Now, if this conflicts with some sort of epic curse (“you shall be alone forever, with your race gone beyond recall!”) or local natural law, you’ll have to consult your game master to see what happens; judging that will require some knowledge of the details. Perhaps fortunately, you usually can’t “duplicate” incarnations of cosmic forces and such; even if they’re currently working through a genuinely living flesh-and-blood body rather than a manifested construct (rare) the important, unique, part of them has nothing to do with the body they’re currently using.

The hit point cost really isn’t that bad of course. By the time you can cast a nineteenth level spell, you can probably afford to take a couple of days off to regain thirty or forty hit points through rest and time. Hopefully you can also afford to take some time out to properly raise and discipline your newly-created high-powered magical offspring who have no life experience at all – or will be wise enough to stick to creating creatures that won’t cause disasters when they run amok.

Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion.

The Practical Enchanter can be found in a Print Edition (Lulu), an Electronic Edition (RPGNow), and a Shareware Edition (RPGNow).  There’s an RPGNow Staff Review too.