Lunar Essence Arts IV – Profiling

Many 18th c. treatments for psychological dist...

This is a hard one...

Profile Enacting Method:

Prerequisites: Intimate Training Recollection, Essence 3, Intelligence 4

With this useful knack a lunar can create subsidiary brains in the image of another mind. Such a project requires a detailed study of whatever information the user can find about the target. The user may designate up to (Perception) targets per lunar month, making an opposed essence check against each with a storyteller-determined modifiers (normally +2 for exceptionally detailed information, -2 for extremely vague information. An additional -4 modifier applies when targeting a Titan or one of the Fair Folk; their logic does not conform to the principles of creation).

On a successful check, the user has manage to put himself or herself “in the target’s shows” so precisely that he or she can deduce the answer to any one relatively simply question about the target – including one of said targets deepest secrets, intentions, or motivations. While the answers are generally relatively simple (“He’s going to attack the town of Axon’s Heights next. It fits his overall strategy”), they are accurate on a win.

If the target wins the opposed essence check the user gets no answer. If he or she wins by three or more, the user will deduce incorrect information about the target. If the user botches his or her essence check, the target’s mind has proven too complex and powerful to simulate safely; the user may either undergo an immediate limit break or temporarily fall under the control of the simulated mind. While this is not actually possession – the original target will never know – and the simulated mind cannot cause the user to gravely harm him- or her-self, it can cause him or her to assault a friend, give away valuable information, or otherwise make a great deal of trouble. Fortunately, the duration of such an episode is rarely more than a few minutes.

Exalted – New Manse Powers

The Statue of Liberty's head, on exhibit at th...

No, you need the ORIGINAL for it to work!

One problem with building Manses is that the local gods are almost certainly using any worthwhile demesne already. A strong demesne can support a powerful sanctum, and thus the god or gods using that power will be loathe to give it up.

Charles would rather have their cooperation than their opposition, and has serious objections to wrecking peoples homes, and so is working on the following series of manse powers.

  • Spiritual Stronghold (2): A physical structure that actually occupies a demesne is a far more efficient focus of magical power than a sanctum which primarily exists elsewhere. A manse with this power is essentially a spiritual condominium; up to a dozen spirits may establish sanctums rated at the manse rating or three (whichever is better) within it by simply being invited in by the hearthstone bearer. While such sanctums cannot ever generate hearthstones, they otherwise obey the usual rules for a manse empowered by a demesne of the manse’s level. If a pre-existing empowered sanctum already exists, this power allows it to be smoothly integrated into the manse if the god or gods using it and the builder agree. Otherwise it will lose power normally when the manse is completed.
  • Spiritual Nexus (2): The manse is a nexus for spiritual energies. If a great many people pay attention to it, it can convert the spiritual energies they focus on it into the equivalent of a Cult which the hearthstone bearer may either draw on or assign to some god associated with the manse. Thus, for example, turning the Statue of Liberty into a Spiritual Nexus might yield the equivalent of a Cult ****. Elvis’s Mansion might, perhaps, yield a Cult ***, and so on. Simply building a massive, impressive, building (like a full-scale gothic cathedral) is usually worth a Cult * or **.

Charles is, in fact, planning on getting a lot of people thinking about some of his manses by installing things like World of Warcraft servers in them.

  • Ambrosial Font (2): If added to a Spiritual Nexus, this useful power allows the energies of the manses “cult” to manifest as quintessence and ambrosia inside the manse, which gains properties roughly equivalent to Yu-Shan in this regard – although, if they are removed from the manses influence, they will instantly vanish as usual.

This, of course, will make those “apartment slots” a very hotly-valued commodity indeed. Access to even small amounts of Quintessence and Ambrosia is rare for a Terrestrial God – which is where most such manses will be built. After all, in Yu-Shan who needs this?

  • Essence Battery (1): The manse produces a reserve of motes that it makes available to attuned characters within the manse. Such a reserve contains 25 motes, renews itself at the normal recharge rate of the manse, and this power may be taken up to once per level of the manse.

Another modest-but-handy benefit.

  • Awakened Little God (1): The manse’s little god is an awakened ally of the hearthstone bearers. Such a god cannot be truly slain while the manse endures, and can usually be constructed as an Essence-3 spirit if the manse is rated at *** or less, essence 4 if it’s rated at **** or higher.
  • Sacred Ground (1): Thaumaturgists within a radius of (100 x Manse Level) yards may draw three motes from the manse to power thaumaturgy with up to (Manse Level + 2) times per day each. This does not count as an action; the motes are simply available when needed.

Wednesday Game, Possible Delays

Unfortunately, I will very likely have to be late to tomorrows UT game – and it is possible that I might have to miss it entirely. Hopefully that won’t be necessary, but I won’t know until tomorrow afternoon.

Exalted – The Crystal Arena (Artifact **)

Crystal ball

Caught in Crystal

Crystal Arena (Artifact **)

A Crystal Arena is actually pretty simple: it’s a crystaline sphere resembling a classical crystal ball. The characters who want to use it simply touch it, commit three motes of essence (or willpower if they have no essence pool) to it, close their eyes, and sit back to wait a few moments for the arena to “take form around them”.

Actually, they never leave their chairs. The “arena” is a purely a group mental illusion – a nigh-perfect, if consequence-free, temporary simulation of reality. “Within” a Crystal Arena’s simulated setting (which may be virtually anything the users know enough about) characters can hold parties, train in the use of wildly destructive spells and charms, and engage in wild, free-for-all battles (whether directly or with whatever support they could actually draw on) without actually risking injury or expending resources other than the three original motes of essence. If they want to, they can go completely unhinged.

Users may freely opt to conceal supernatural abilities or alllies from the Crystal Arena, but – in that case – those concealed abilities will not affect the outcome and cannot be used in the simulation. They may also opt to commit nothing to the Crystal Arena, but – in that case – they are merely obeservers. The user’s will still be able to hear such observers commentary – after all, their actual ears continue to function perfectly well despite their immersion in the illusion – but observers cannot actually affect events “within” the arena.

Characters training “in” a Crystal Arena need not fear injuries, and can simply drop out and then begin again when they “run out of” motes, willpower, or endurance – a considerable advantage. The user of a Crystal Arena reduces training times by one-half and allows user’s to go into experience point debt – albeit by no more than eight points.

A few Crystal Arenas are in use as entertainment centers – either as “gladatorial arenas” which allow the most extravagant opponents and powers or for more personal activities. Fortunately, the fact that the user’s must commit essence to the arena voluntarily and may withdraw at any moment has prevented their use as instruments of torture or interrogation.

  • Thaumaturgic Art of Illusion/Virtual Combat Arena. Takes effect in One Turn (+2D), Area Effect/Farm (to cover large groups, +3D), Duration up to Hours (+2D), Covers all senses, including essence-based senses (+6D), Detailed (+1D), Animated (+1D), Mobile (+1D), and Convincing (+1D) = Difficulty 17. 20 successes will cover that, so it’s (Class-B).
  • Thaumaturgic Art of Divination/What would have happened if the actions taken “in” the arena had actually occurred: Takes effect in One Turn (+2D), Area Effect/Farm (to cover large groups, +3D), Duration up to Hours (+2D), Individuals (+5D), Precise Results (+6D) = Difficulty 18. 20 successes will cover that, so it’s (Class-B).
  • Half Training Time is a Class-B general utility function – if that (things like doubling ground movement are a lot more generally useful) (Class-B).
  • Training effects start at Essence 3, and, while this one is very general, it’s also extremely limited; an eight-point maximum is fairly trivial. In any case, Essence-3 effects are Class-B powers, so this is (Class-B).

Artifact Design: Power 4 (4x Class-B), Usefulness 2, Plot Impact 1, Script Immunity 1. Net Rating = 8/4 = **.

A Crystal Arena can be awfully convenient if you’re trying to train, spar, or test your abilities quietly, but – in most cases – it’s easy enough to slip off into wilderness for things like that anyway.

Exalted – Lunar Essence Arts III

Northernmost natural population

What do you mean, "You sense his presence"?!

Shapeshifting Refinement Knack

Transcendent Ecological Unity

Prerequisites: Hearth-and-Flame Shell, Hybrid Body Rearrangement, Essence 4, Stamina 5, Wits 3.

A lunar with this knack may become one with the land within a radius of up to (Essence) miles, sharing with it a portion of his or her exalted essence-boosting, transforming, and life-enhancing powers.

On the land’s side…

  • It will heal, as if it was Exalted – treating loss of vegetation, pollution, and similar superficial damages as “bruising damage” (this will often overthrow less-solid structures, toppling them with burgeoning verdure), rifts and erosion as “lethal damage”, and things like the depletion of resource veins as “aggravated damage”. Eventually, the underlying land will be restored to a more or less pristine state. Features which were not a natural part of the land, such as a vein of magical ore resulting from some magical event, will not be restored in this fashion. Similarly, a Shadowland cannot be cured by in this way. While the overflowing health of the area may mask a Shadowland, mere healing is insufficient to undo it’s close link with the underworld.
  • It’s creatures will multiply to fill the land, producing larger-than-usual numbers of healthy offspring and having them grow to maturity in months instead of years. If Transcendent Ecological Unity is maintained for six months or more in the same area, directed evolution and mutation* will repopulate the area with excellent copies of any species native to the area which have gone extinct. Sadly, these will never be precisely identical, but they will be good enough to rebuild the ecology and to make suitable hosts for the souls of individuals of the original species who may be awaiting reincarnation. [*Users who also possess Changing Plumage Mastery may also add mutations of their own choice to the local lifeforms, up to a limit of (Essence) mutation points].
  • The land and it’s creatures cannot be further tainted by, or dissolved into, chaos.

On the Exalts side…

  • He or she automatically becomes aware of the features of the land, including any demesnes, manses, special resources, or local oddities, within the radius of effect. Manses with magical concealment measures require an essence roll-off as usual.
  • He or she is automatically aware of anything in the area which can be sensed by any creature of the land within it, disturbs its vegetation, touches the ground, or disturbs its flows of essence. If someone is using supernatural stealth effects, or flying above it, an essence roll-off is required (if both, the stealth flyer gains a +2d bonus on the roll-off).
  • He or she regains +12 motes per hour, regardless of activity. The geomancy of the land is an endless well of strength for those attuned to it.

Unfortunately, claiming the shape of the land requires at least an hour of carefully infusing the user’s life force into it – an action requiring the commitment of one health level to the land. Maintaining the bond after departing the area is an even greater strain, increasing the cost to two health levels. Still, some Lunars – particularly those with Pain Tolerance or similar abilities – have been known to use this technique to protect and restore areas of the borderlands.

Eclipse d20 – the Sword-Saint

Ilustration of the Genji Monogatari, ch.5–Waka...

Targets, all of them.

In d20 combat-oriented characters are normally generalists. They may have a few areas of special skill – as determined by various feats – but, for the most part, they’re skilled with a wide variety of weapons and tactics.

There’s some truth to that. A grand master of the staff can usually do pretty well with a short rod, or with a club, or with various other items. A man who’s good with a longsword can usually do something with a scimitar.

On the other hand, training with a longbow won’t help you much with a lance, or a whip, or with a katana.

Thus specialists – masters of a particular weapon – are often pretty popular. The trick here is not to go overboard with the concept; a character who is really good with a particular weapon, and who knows a selection of special tricks with it, is good. A character who’s so specialized that he or she is useless without that weapon is not so good. They’ll be overwhelming when they can use their chosen weapon and useless otherwise (a situation that WILL come up if the game master is doing his or her job) – and neither is all that much fun.

The sword is pretty popular for this kind of build, so I’ll call it a “Kensai”. If a thousand bad movies can rip off classical Japanese culture, so can I.

The Kensai:

Race and Attributes: Assign these as desired to suit the game. This is, after all, a general build, not a specific character. Kensai should ALWAYS have a good Dexterity. Constitution and Intelligence come after that.

Available Character Points: 264 (level ten base) + 24 (L1, 3, 6, and 9 Bonus Feats) + 10 (Disadvantages) +18 (Duties) +9 (Restrictions: the Kensai will never use a magical version of his or her favored weapon; it would sully purity of their technique) = 315 CP.

  • Those “Disadvantages” are usually things like being hunted by rivals, an irrational obsession with proving their own combat style supreme, being outlawed for killing people in the attempt to demonstrate their supremacy, having a reward out for their deaths, dependents, and annoying would-be students.
  • The Duties are usually related – teaching students who “prove themselves worthy”, rooting out enemy schools, serving some sponsor, redeeming their honor, or protecting the innocent.

First up, we’ll need the basics for a warrior-type: Hit Dice, BAB, Saves and Weapon Skills.

  • Hit Dice: 1d12 (L1, 8 CP) +7d10 (L2-8, 42 CP) +2d8 (L9-10, 8 CP). As the Kensai reaches high levels, he or she normally invests more in defensive skills than raw toughness.
  • Warcraft: +6 BAB (36 CP), +3 BAB, Corrupted/only in melee (16 CP), +3 BAB (Specialized/only with chosen weapon, 12 CP). That’s more complicated than it needs to be – but it does ensure that the Kensai is tolerably competent with a lot of weapons, good in Melee, and VERY good with his or her chosen weapon.
  • Base Saving Throws: Reflex +8 (24 CP), Will +3 (9 CP), Fortitude +3 (9 CP).
  • Proficient with All Simple, Martial, and Exotic Weapons (15 CP) – but No Armor (0 CP). In most depictions, the weapons specialist appears without armor – but they do seem to be at least competent with almost any weapon, if only because they can somehow adapt their training and skills somewhat.

That’s 179 CP already. Of course, combatant basics are always expensive.

Other Abilities (136 CP):

  • 13 Skill Points (13 CP): Spend these however you want – but skills like Tumble will prove very very useful. If they’re allowed in the setting, a Martial Art focused on the character’s chosen weapon is a must-have. With the Fast Learner ability below, that’s (13 x Int Mod + 31) skill poitns – which should be enough.
  • Adept (6 CP): pays half cost for any four skills – generally including Tumble, a Martial Art, and two other useful physical skills. That will cost 24 SP at level 10, leaving at least seven to invest in minor things. With a high intelligence, a Kensai may be quite skilled.
  • Augment Attack (12 CP): The Kensai gets a +4d6 bonus to damage when attacking in some specific situation. Less pleasant Kensai usually take standard Sneak Attack. Skirmishers may take when using their split movement to attack. Those with particular vendettas may take their bonus versus rival schools, particular types of monsters, and other targets. Sadly, if they want to get it whenever using their favored weapon (which they almost always will be), the triple-cost modifier for “almost all the time” kicks in, reducing the bonus to +d6+1.
  • Awareness (6 CP): Always on guard, a Kensai is very difficult to surprise.
  • Block (Melee) with Master (6 CP): Specialized/only with the user’s favored weapon.
  • Defender (4 CP): add (level/5) to AC as a dodge bonus. Corrupted/does not work if the user wears armor or carries a shield.
  • Fast Learner (6 CP): Specialized in skills for double effect, for +2 SP/Level.
  • Finesse (4 CP): A Kensai prefers skill and fine control to brute force. He or she may use his or her (Dex Mod) in place of his or her (Str Mod) in melee combat. Corrupted/does not work if the user wears armor or carries a shield.
  • Imbuement, Improved (8 CP): weapons of the user’s favored type gain a magical bonus of (Level/3) when welded by the Kensai. Corrupted/this only works with a personal weapon, which the user must spend at least three days practicing with to attune.
  • Improved Critical (6 CP): With the character’s favored weapon.
  • Improved Initiative +4 (4 CP). Corrupted/does not work if the user wears armor or carries a shield.
  • Lunge (3 CP): Specialized in the user’s chosen weapon only, this ability adds 5′ of reach to the use of that weapon as the user darts nimbly in and out.
  • Opportunist (6 CP): Once per round, when a melee opponent misses the Kensai due to non-armor bonuses, he or she may spend an Attack of Opportunity to make a counterattack against him or her.
  • Rapid Strike (4 CP): A Kensai is always focused on his or her opponents, and so may attack every four steps – thus, with Warcraft +12 with their chosen weapon at +12/+8/+4. Corrupted/does not work if the user wears armor or carries a shield.
  • Reflex Training (6 CP): A Kensai’s weapons are as natural in his or her hands as air is in his or her lungs. They may draw and sheathe weapons on or off action without it counting as an action up to (Dex Mod) times per turn.
  • Reflex Training (Combat Reflexes Variant) (6 CP).
  • Split Movement (4 CP): The Kensai may split his movement around an attack – moving, striking, and moving again. Corrupted/does not work if the user wears armor or carries a shield.
  • Trick (Stunning Attack) (6 CP): Wiser Kensai soon learn to deal with truly idiotic challengers, over-ambitious students, and similar nuisances without killing them. Less wise Kensai learn that it’s easier to run people through while they’re stunned.

That leaves 24 CP for some customization. In high-magic item games the Kensai will probably want to prepare for a specialized role – and perhaps boost their defenses a bit more with “multiple” on their block ability.

In low-item games, getting some boosts is most useful – so here’s a sample package for that.

  • Innate Enchantment (12,000 GP total “item” value, 13 CP).
  • Immunity/Dispelling and Antimagic (Common, Major, Epic, Specialized and Corrupted/only protects innate enchantments that provide personal augmentations, 9 CP). This is mostly important so as to save having to recalculate bonuses every time a “Dispel” of some sort gets thrown around. It wouldn’t need to be “Epic” for that – but I don’t want to have to worry about antimagic fields either.
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Major, Trivial [only covers first level effects at caster level one], 2 CP).

That provides 12,000 GP worth of Virtual Items. In this case, we’re going with unlimited-use, use-activated, personal-only effects – for a total cost of 700 GP for cantrips and 1400 GP for first-level spells where the personal-only (x.7) modifier applies. Unfortunately, this only works well in low-magic worlds; in high magic worlds most items won’t stack with these enhancements.

  • (X)-Slayer (700 GP): Pick an opponent type and get a +1d6 bonus to melee damage when fighting that particular type of opponent. Sadly, the opponent type must be chosen when this ability is taken. Choose wisely…
  • Enhanced Attribute (1400 GP): Add a +2 Enhancement Bonus to a chosen attribute
  • Expeditious Retreat (2000 GP): Gain a +30′ bonus to all movement modes.
  • Force Shield I (2000 GP): Gain a +4 Shield AC, negate incoming Magic Missiles.
  • Fortune’s Favor II (1400 GP): Add a +2 Luck bonus to skills and attribute checks
  • Inspiring Word (1400 GP): Add a +1 Morale Bonus on saves, attacks, checks, and damage
  • Know Direction (700 GP). This just seems hand for a wandering swordsman. Who wants to get lost?
  • Resistance (700 GP): Add a +1 Resistance bonus to Saves.
  • Ward of Heaven (1400 GP): Add a +1 Luck Bonus to AC and Saves

That’s a grand total of 11,700 GP in value – leaving 300 GP. Unfortunately, hardly anything fits into that amount. Oh well.

The basics of this particular build were suggested by Mike, who wished to play such a character in Andrew’s campaign. I’m not sure how close this is to what he eventually wound up playing though.

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.

d20 – Summon Army

John Dee and Edward Kelley evoking a spirit

More! I want MORE!

First up for today it’s another question from Alzrius.

What sort of spell(s) would it look like to summon an army for a considerable amount of time?

I recognize that the problems with this request are the inherent relativity of the terms “army” and “considerable length of time.” As such, let’s presume that we’re talking about summoning no less than twenty (though certainly more) 2nd-level fighters (of a standard PC race, such as human) for 1 hour per caster level.

My instinct here was to use the rules for summon monster spells, wherein if you sink a higher-level spell into lower-level creatures, you can summon more of them, but between the number of creatures and the length of time you want them to remain, that rapidly becomes infeasible.

Hence, would a specialized spell that was less flexible than a standard summon monster spell (which allowed for a choice among several monsters, and could be scaled through lower-level summons) allow for such a spell to exist at sub-epic ranges? Certainly, not granting the standard celestial/fiendish template to “normal” creatures (which any standard humanoid race would surely be) would help too.

In short, what would the “summon army” spell look like?

Alzrius goes on to append the note that modern definitions of “army” tend to be awfully large – tens of thousands of men at a minimum – but spells like that are obviously going to be epic anyway.

Well, lets see now… The base point for comparison is indeed the “Summon Monster” spell template in The Practical Enchanter. To check the base for such a spell, a summoning spell for a specific CR2 creature can be cut down to level one. You just take the “one creature with a CR one above the listed limit” rule (I’d allow it; a second level warrior is hardly the most deadly CR2 creature out there) and the “only summons one type of creature” modifier and apply them to the level three base spell you need to summon CR2 creatures.

That’s potentially useful – but the one-round duration at level one means that your summoned warrior gets only one attack, which might well miss. A good old Magic Missile is more reliable, and Mage Armor is probably a much better defense. The duration of the summoning scales with level, but so does the damage of the Magic Missile and the duration of the Mage Armor.

To get twenty such creatures, we need +2 spell levels for 4d4, and another +2 spell levels for an additional 4d4 – for 8d4, averaging twenty.

That takes the spell up to level five. To get it to one hour per caster level is +3 spell levels – for a total level of level eight.

Either the fifth level version (Get’em Guys!) or eighth level version (Honor Guard) isn’t that bad a spell really. If you use the eighth level version your minions won’t be all that useful in any serious straight-up fight at the levels where you can cast the spell to summon them in the first place (unless you apply some special options to bring the spell level down), but sensible, loyal, and totally disposable minions have many non-combat uses. They can provide a suitable escort when riding into town, check for traps, pick up dangerous artifacts, dig ditches, go and hunt for food (and then vanish without eating any of it), act as servants, provide massed arrow support, create diversions, and so on. They aren’t too powerful, but they are fairly versatile and will be around all day.

Scaling up to a full-sized army using standard modifiers is trickier. The quickest way to do it is to summon squads instead of individuals. That’s a bit cheesy, but – once again – we’re talking second level warriors, so I’d be inclined to allow it.

Adding +2 levels jumps the CR of the summoned creatures to 5. Three level two creatures are CR5, so now we’re summoning 8d4 three-man teams. To keep this non-epic, drop the duration of the higher level version to one minute per level – keeping it at level nine and summoning sixty men for at least seventeen minutes. Call it “Charge of the Light Brigade“. Again, not the best ninth-level spell around, but there might be some uses for it – especially if you’ve got some way to power up the creatures that you summon.

Honestly, though, this is less than overwhelming. Meteor Swarm could wipe out this entire force in an instant. What we’ll want to apply next is the Compact metamagical theorem from Eclipse. Both the increase in numbers and the increase in duration can reasonably be taken as Metamagic – so we could use the theorem to take up to six levels off the spell; three for compaction and three to counter the metamagical boosts we’re building into the spell.

So: we’ll take a day to cast this (and probably store it when we’re done, -2 spell levels), use some expensive components (a selection of weapons perhaps, -1 spell level), owe a minor favor to the spiritual powers who are providing the spirits we’re summoning (-1 spell level), become exhausted when casting it (thanks to the strain of anchoring all those spirits, -1 spell level), and spend 100 XP casting it (-1 spell level).

OK. At CR7 we get six-man squads of second-level warriors – probably with a few siege weapons and such to go with their regular weapons. That’s a base of spell level six, reduced to five since we can only get those second-level warrior squads. We want one hour per level, so that’s +3 spell levels. We want a total of 8d4 squads, which is another +4 spell levels. Fortunately, we’re getting -6 spell levels from the Compaction theorem – which brings the total down to level six for “The Raising of the Lost Legion“. That’s pretty powerful – but we are requiring a day-long ritual and expensive components. If we drop those, leaving the favor, exhaustion, and 100 XP cost, we’re back up to level nine (“Iron Master of War“) which does seem suitable. A hundred and twenty men with siege weapons for a day isn’t really that big an army, and can still be dealt with fairly simply (Dispel Magic anyone?), but there are times I might prefer such a spell to Time Stop, Meteor Swarm, Summon Monster IX, or Gate.

Certainly not always, but I can think of some situations.

That’s about as far as we can go while still keeping our “summon army” spell non-epic.

Now, there are some “Army Creation” spells in the high-levels spells section of Eclipse:

  • Unseen Horde creates at least 500 invisible constructs roughly equivalent to a second-level fighter for one hour per level at level thirteen.
  • The Dark Hordes summons up to 36 CR worth of infernal beings with a maximum CR of 9 each for a years service (which could cover quite a few low-CR beings in groups) at level sixteen.
  • Army of the Dead raises 5000 HD worth of undead of up to CR 16 each and gives them some bonuses as an instantaneous effect (you’ve got to kill them to get rid of them) at level twenty.

Of course, level twenty is the level for spells such as Stars Like Dust, which makes the utility of armies somewhat questionable. Still, a variant on Army of the Dead which called forth a larger number of hit dice of creatures – limited to, say, CR 4 each and “normal” races only, plus giving up “complete control” in favor of “reasonably loyal” (in exchange, perhaps, for 20,000 hit dice in total) to colonize and work your land seems pretty reasonable.

A spell like Sowing the Dragon’s Teeth there would leave your upper-end dark lords without any real reason to go out and snatch populations – but if they’re casting 20’th level spells, they can probably handle getting some normal people to work for them anyway.

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.