Monster Blood! Expanded Edition

Monster Blood!

Tweaking your beasties in a magical setting

This is an edited version of the Monster Blood file with some new additions and explanations. Hopefully the improved formatting makes this easier to read. Enjoy.

In fantasy settings, we often have a disgustingly complicated world filled with weird varieties of twisted creatures. The universe we inhabit operates with a few fairly simple laws. Those laws interact in some truly amazing ways, but it arises from only a handful of rules.

Fantasy universes are not like that. They feature arrays of energy types from different universes; these are often half-alive and capable of fuzzily choosing for themselves. Strange and amazing creatures exist which are not merely different in appearance, or even differ in body chemistry, but actively function on alien physics. Beings of living fire burn forever. Beings of water slosh around and can actually be hurt by swords. Living metaphysical principles stop by to chat.

Worse yet, they actually have children together. (When mommy water elemental and daddy fire spirit love each other *very* much…) And that doesn’t even reach into the confusing issue of how such creatures work together – or don’t. We can ask what they’ll understand – do they comprehend traps? Are they able to think abstractly?

Thus… keywords.

The keyword system gives you a quick rundown of three things:

… WHAT is a creature made of and how does it keep body and soul together?

… HOW does it think and understand?

… WHO lives together in their societies?

 

Metabolism Keywords

Metabolism describes how the creature gathers energy and uses it, and generally describes what kind of physical (or whatever) body it possesses.

Power Sources and Metabolism

In this bit, we’ll look at those sources of energy and suggest a few interactions for them. These aren’t the metabolisms, but groupings of the basic forms of energy.

Physical (Chemical, Electrical, Mechanical)
Physical energies are all the ones we’re familiar with: Chemical energy, Electrical energy, Gravity, etc. The nice thing about these is that they work almost anywhere. It takes an unusual universe if chemical creatures suddenly drop dead. Of course, hostile conditions can make surviving very long quite difficult – but that’s where the magic comes in.

Chemical energy derives from concentrated nutrients, which the creature’s body can break down by exposing it to other, commonly available materials. Electrical energy is a stream of electrons, which the creature absorbs from a concentrated source. Thermal energy is a concentrated source of heat, such as hot springs or volcanoes. Creature can live on the energy radiated from that source. Gravitational is an odd duck, but a creature could live on a fluxing gravity source, such as a moon with a very unstable orbit.

Physical creatures do have some vulnerabilities. These energy sources are a very thin and weak, so its creatures are rarely the most powerful and usually have only a few weaker special abilities. They don’t innately teleport across planes or shoot fireballs out of their hair. However, because chemical creatures have a very thin, diffuse innate power source, one which is almost completely neutral and does not interact with other magic, they can can possess any minor metabolism.

With one exception, that is. Negative energy is entropic and strikes directly at their being. This is extremely unstable, and a physical creature which starts feeding on negative energy can survive only with extreme measures. They’ll usually fall into undeath “naturally”. Even surviving long enough to get started on that is more a matter of special training and magical rituals – and hence appears in a few Prestige Classes. It’s not something suitable for a base creature, at least not without a convenient God watching over it.

Suggestion: Physical metabolisms CANNOT support a Negative Energy-based minor metabolism. They can live with any other power source or metabolism. However, Physical creatures can more easily fulfill the needs of any minor metabolism, and usually end up tougher for it. The minor metabolism will actually “support” the major, and fill in any gaps or weaknesses. Physical creatures with a minor metabolism are usually stronger in body and mind, suffer less from sickness or old age, and live longer.

Magical (Elemental, Arcane, Necrotic)
Magical Energies cover the raw forces which run the fantasy cosmos: pure magic, the elements, and positive and negative energy (life and death). These have powerful effects and completely define the creatures created from them. Unlike Physical creatures, a being needs nothing else except these forces: you can pretty much build an entire body from them. In addition, a living being made of them more or less absorbs energy, making dinner very convenient.

However, they’ve got some weaknesses. These should always have some critical weaknesses. You might say their structure is a tad… exposed. With a physical creature, the body is neutral to any kind of magic, and any attack does about as much damage as its raw energy would deal to anything. Magical creatures are different, and always have specific weaknesses which strike directly at the core of their being.

Suggestion: It is just barely possible to merge two completely opposing metabolisms, but not easy. They musty be balanced perfectly. Thus, you can have a Steam (Fire+Water) or Dust (Earth+Air) elemental. You can have a positive/Negative energy creature. However, it can’t have a minor metabolism. Then, or it will be thrown of balance, which is usually followed shortly by an explosion. This is the only time and way a creature can have two Major metabolisms.

Both minor and mixed metabolisms get trickier here, because a creature must fulfill both sets of metabolisms – and more. When you start dealing in pure forms of energy, you get all kinds of unpleasant side effects such as interference (or worse, resonance). In short, you need even more munchies to keep going. This is one reason you don’t get many Magical creatures with mixed metabolisms – it’s too hard. That said, the creature would have a slew of dangerous and unpredictable abilities.

Extra-Planar (Planar, Divine)
Extra-planar Energies are the forces of outer dimensions – the places of cosmic principles and ideas you are in separate from any immediate physical force. Despite this, they have a solidity and reality all their own. Corporeal creatures can easily interact with them.

This energy or types of energy have an intrinsic intelligence, or desire. It may not understand but it still reacts to its environment as though it were a living creature. Thus it is hard to ignore or re- purpose. It will act on its own, even if erratically, to further its purpose. Extra-planar energies can include morality, but also other concepts like shadow or madness. It should come as no surprise that the goals of these powers are not easily understood.

Another side effect is that extra-planar energy tends to… infect people. Those who use it begin to be… affected. You can’t keep summoning up evil energy without risking an evil taint upon yourself, as it starts to twist your very nature. And in fact, most creatures with an extra-planar metabolism literally can’t use other extra-planar power sources.

Because the energy is self regulating, it is very flexible and can associate with most metabolisms and other energies. Its conflicts revolve around other extra-planar energy. All such tend to compete and work to drive each other out. So while it isn’t totally impossible, usually beings have only one such metabolism. If they have two, expect that it’s a very well-known and regular occurrence, and you’ll find whole planes filled with those particular dual-natured creatures. Divine metabolism override anything else, but otherwise follows the same rules.

Now we’ll go in-depth into the actual metabolisms themselves.

 

Chemical Metabolism

We’re all familiar with chemical metabolism, the wonderful lovely system which allows us to eat, breathe, and sleep, enjoying our lives day in and out. Chemical metabolism use material substances which react. Their bodies use complex chemical pathways to strip food and drink) of useful materials and energy, which go into building and repairing the body and fueling activity.

Like all metabolisms, this has a number of advantages. Chemical creatures have low magical signatures, vary critical weaknesses (if any) greatly from creature to creature, and avoid vulnerability to magical attacks or mystical effects. Chemical creatures thrive in, or adapt to, a wide range of environments and reproduce quickly enough to maintain maximize the population for the land and resources available.

The downside is that chemical metabolism doesn’t have any great advantages. It’s not designed for any purpose in particular and has no self-organizing principles. It doesn’t come with any innate magical power, and remains heavily dependent on having the right chemicals and materials available for survival. In fact, magic is always an alien force to chemical creatures, who harness it only in very awkward ways. This actually can become an advantage because they lack many restrictions on what spells and abilities they can develop. (And here you always wondered why you got all the prestige classes and class advancement as humanoids.)

Mind/Body: Chemical creatures have constantly interacting mind and body. While separate, the chemical creature is simply not complete without a full, functioning body. As the body dies, part of the spirit dies with it. Lose an arm, and the spiritual aspect of that arm is dead. Damage the face so the creature can’t smile? The creature will actually have a harder time
understanding the meaning of other’s smiles.

General Rules: Chemical creatures need the wonderful everyday things we’re familiar with: air, water, and
food. They bleed and need sleep. Chemical creatures grow slowly to
adulthood (compared to some magic monstrosities, anyhow), but a small
population can reproduce itself indefinitely – no need for special
support or godlike authority figures. They have no magical weaknesses
or advantages, and need no magical resources to survive.

D20 Game Mechanics: Chemical creatures are the base standard for all beings. They are largely immune to spells of banishment and cannot easily be warded off, which is why those spells don’t target player characters often and don’t work so well if they do.

Electrical Metabolism

We’re all familiar with electrical metabolisms, since you’re probably reading this on a computer screen. Electrical metabolic creatures live on electricity. It powers them in a constant stream which gives them strength and vitality to move. The creature’s central core is the true living heart, and everything else is the shell.

For the most part, they don’t need many other resources, and what they do need is usually provided to them by a master or owner. Certainly, free-willed or naturally-occurring electrical creatures aren’t impossible, but most were deliberately created by someone else for a specific purpose and can count on that owner for support, repairs, and so forth.

Of course, that same monomaniacal dependency has its downsides. Lose power, and the creature shuts down or even dies permanently. Damage the core, and the creature is down for good. Magical attacks, sadly, can do both fairly easily. However, environmental hazards may be worse. Electricity does not work well with water, and cold and hot weather can weaken an electrical creature long before a chemical creature.

Mind/Body: Additionally, because they use only electrical energy for survival, many electrical creatures can completely replace whole body parts. Their physical forms are tools external to the mind, which is the “real” creature – a central core being.

General Rules: Cold temperatures can weaken electrical creatures unless they have a lot of energy to recharge. They’ll usually run down long before a comparable chemical creature would freeze. Water is very bad, and will short out any exposed components, while insulating them from liquid is expensive and bulky. On the upside, they need not breathe or sleep, and are immortal unless the core is damaged.

D20 Game Mechanics: While it’s not always important, an electrical creature’s core has a separate hit point total from its body. The body is easy to repair with appropriate spells, but the core usually has only a trivial amount of hit points (1d4+1/level) and will die easily. Substitute an appropriate Craft skill for that creature to repair. Most of the time, the core is only vulnerable once the body’s hit points run down. But an attack which penetrates deeply, or a magical spell which targets the core proper (+3 spell levels as a built-in effect), might cut straight through.

Cold attacks should deal an extra die of damage, and long-term exposure to cold weather should inflict and slowly increase stat penalties to Strength and Dexterity (a Fort save around every 8 hours, DC at GM’s discretion). Insulation only marginally protects against this, granting a +2 bonus on the save).

Water presents another danger, and an active electrical creature will take 1d4 damage every round (to the body, not the core) from water. Some electrical creatures can completely shut down, in which case they does not take damage, but they don’t have a way to turn back on again…

Mechanical Metabolism

Mechanical metabolism is almost strictly limited to constructs, though it’s possible to have other varieties. A Mechanical metabolism takes advantage of the compelling power of clockwork. Instead of organs and blood, mechanical creatures fill their bodies with springs and gears.

Exactly how they gather energy to survive is another question. Worlds with gravity fluctuations can support them, as can any world where very hot areas border on cool ones. Land that is always hot, such as a burning desert, is not ideal, but creatures might charge up during the day and be active only during the evening. An active volcano, on the other hand, could support thousands.

Further, mechanical metabolisms are unusual, to say the least. This is not the kind of thing you expect to evolve on a scientific world. Most often, someone designed and built mechanical creatures, at least simple ones, and only then did the creatures develop. Fortunately, mechanical creatures are perfect for doing so. They come with a lot of built-in mechanical know-how and may easily reproduce.

Mind/Body: Mechanical creatures are at least as similar to chemical ones as electrical. They have a similar mind and body connection as chemical creatures. Damage the body, and you at least harm the mind and spirit.

General Rules: These are covered under the description above.

D20 Game Mechanics: Mechanical creatures take an extra die of damage from sonic or shattering attacks. Most are metal, and need not breathe or “eat” normally, but they often need sleep and the occasional oil bath. Something like a rust monster can deal lethal damage to one. It’s assumed that any metal mechanical creature won’t rust from rain or casual water, but prolonged exposure to corrosive chemicals (including salt water) causes serious damage at least as fast might kill a normal
human from exposure.

Arcane Metabolism

Arcane creatures need constantly flowing magical energy to survive. Most often, they develop powerful spellcasting abilities or resistances to magical energy as a side effect. The other great advantage of arcane metabolism is that creatures with it are much, much tougher than common Chemical creatures. They can draw upon a far richer supply of energy to survive on. Of course, the downside is that they usually have very dangerous weaknesses. The correct attack of magical energy can leave them helpless, or even kill outright, because even the most complex Arcane metabolism will have a few…. holes.

Mind/Body: Arcane creatures have no clear separation between the mind and body. If they have a physical form at all, it’s little more than a shell to contain the awesome power within. Many are not native to the player character’s universe, since their magical nature makes them easy to summon or control. Others are created by powerful wizards as part of some twisted experiment.

General Rules: A pure Arcane creature may not have a physical form, and immaterial creatures are not blocked by many common defenses. You should determine if it can use minor magical abilities indefinitely, or if it has a reserve of magical power. Either way, such a creature could be a priceless catch to a spellcaster. Arcane creatures are also very resistant to some magic – the purer the magic, the least likely it is to affect the creature. Arcane creatures usually need not eat, breathe or sleep.

D20 Game Mechanics: Not many creatures have a full Arcane metabolism. Creatures like the Nishruu do, and they can be utterly immune to any spell. But everything has weaknesses. Most arcane creatures simply have high saving throws and resistances, but also substantial spell-like abilities. They often go intangible as needed.

Necrotic Metabolism

Most creatures use various energies to sustain life, but a few feed on death itself. In a manner of speaking, Necrotic creatures don’t even a metabolism, but the lack of one. Still, one way or another the undead manage to function.

Any creature which calls upon the power of Death (or Darkness, or Evil depending on the universe) to sustain a former existence can be called Undead. These beings retain a shell of their former lives. This is important because only the rarest and most terrible Necrotic creature can do without. The undead must retain part of its former existence or it falls apart. Without some kind of memory or reminder, even powerful undead lose their identity and will.

At the very weakest level, an undead creature might need nothing more than its own rotten flesh to “survive.” At the strongest, ancient mummies require a huge tomb and carefully guarded sacred vessels. Ghosts haunt places which remind them of their lives. Smash the flesh, and the zombie ceases its minimal existence. Destroy the sacred vessels, and the mummy falls to dust. Convince the ghost to let go, and it fully dies.

It’s no accident that necrotic beings have a bad reputation, either. Their existence is inimical to life. While intelligent undead can control this, it would be a rare Necrotic creature which did not willingly hurt others. While they don’t get stronger for it, undead actively enjoy the environment created by death and decay, much as most normal beings might like warm, sunny days.

Mind/Body: As mentioned above, the mind of a Necrotic creature depends mostly on the link to its , and not on the state of the body as such. However, they do need the body – it’s just sometimes immaterial ectoplasm or a rotten husk.

General Rules: Undead need not eat, breathe or sleep, and usually can’t. Poisons and disease do not affect them. Some enjoy eating their victims, but do not require it unless the dark power which created wants it that way. They are tough against most physical attacks. While never outright stated, most see well in the dark. Like many creatures with a magical metabolism, they have innate abilities. However, these are rarely all that useful except for killing and destruction (for some reason, powers of death, decay, and destruction aren’t good at anything else).

D20 Rules: D20 covers most undead, with a rich variety to choose from and plenty of rules for them.

Elemental Metabolism

Elemental creatures have a relatively simple, but powerful, metabolism. They absorb the relevant energy of their type. This normally means they are a living aspect of the plane they hail from. This doesn’t mean all that much – a chemical creature is a “living aspect” of a material universe. But elemental creatures, like many outsiders and unlike material creatures, form an active channel of energy when removed from the home plane. In their home universe, they have infinite energy sources to draw on, with the only limits being the natural forces which create them – their native strength of spirit. Outside of it, they release elemental energy into the local environment. This means even touching one can be fatal (in the case of fire or acid or similar “energy”), and they can slowly release their element into the world.

Having a body made of elemental forces grants magical power, but only in very narrow channels. An elemental creature of fire isn’t going to do much healing, let alone cast lightning or water magic, because all the energy is tied up in fire-based channels. The same goes respectively for other elemental forces.

While not universal, many elemental creatures lack much personality. Elemental forces don’t require it: they can exist without action. They can have mind without desire, being without much will. Again, many exceptions exist. But you’ll find earth elementals that simply stay put, water and air spirits who simply flow as the currents dictate, and fire spirits who may attack you solely because you’re made of burnable material. They react but do not precisely respond. Some consider this an exalted state of Buddhist oneness. Others consider such elementals to be mobile features of the landscape. Also, note that having a personality isn’t tied to personal power for elementals – the most powerful spirits could be quiet and inactive forever.

Mind/Body: Unlike chemical creatures, elementals have no separation at all between the mind and body. The creature’s mental processes occur just as much in the foot as the head, assuming it even has either one. In the case of elemental creatures, the complete lack of any internal organ or complexity means there’s nothing to hurt. They don’t feel pain as most creatures do, although are aware of anything which affects them. Moreover, as long as any part of the creature survives it can regenerate back completely. This limits the creature’s complexity of mind, as well, as the mind can’t develop beyond what it can regenerate.

General Rules: Elemental creatures usually need not eat, breathe or sleep. They can usually be controlled, bound, or summoned by the correct use of magic. Most other rules are covered above.

D20 Rules: Not too different from the basic rules, an elemental creature takes double damage from an “opposing element”. While this is usually defined as Fire-Water and Earth/Acid-Air/Lightning, you could add a great many more elements and more complicated interactions. A mystical China-themed game might have Metal → (strong against) Earth → Wind → Water → Fire → Metal, or even more complicated rules.

Planar Metabolism

Planar metabolism works very similar to Elemental metabolism, with more complications. Planar creatures naturally gather and use the energies of their home planes. This is not limited to merely alignment planes (In D20-based games), although those are common. Any kind of non-physical, non-elemental plane can create Planar metabolism creatures, including alignment planes and planes with strange or incomprehensible existences.

The twist is that all Planar creatures are at the very least somewhat intelligent. They might not be bright, but they intrinsically understand, use, and abuse the rules of their home plane. They can often be commanded by other, more powerful planar creatures, and will tend to target and attack “enemy” Planar creatures instinctively.

Planar metabolisms actually feed on the relevant energies of the cosmos (although they do eat). An evil demon, for example, starts to weaken if there’s no evil around to feast on. Sure, this doesn’t usually cause them much of a problem: no matter where they go, there’s enough nastiness to survive. But demons can be weakened gravely if surrounded by enough good, and so on. It won’t kill, but they do not like it.

Mind/Body: Despite the surface similarity to elemental creatures, Planar beings do have separate mentalities, slightly more so than Chemical creatures. They can often survive the destruction of their bodies entirely, though the experience would leave them scarred. Another unusual aspect is that they can often think much more rationally than humans – but are still tightly bound by the aspects of their home plane in what they can do, even if they partly realize the course of action is unwise.

General Rules: Planar creatures often talk about their “power”. Each world possesses its own scale of personal might – a measure of a creature’s authority and inner magical might from its own home. They usually instantly know how their power relates to each other. In any case, the more power inherent in a creature, the stronger and more resistant they become. This can manifest in unusual magical abilities, greater physical might, and almost always in superhuman resilience. Most powerful Planar creatures are immune to mortal attacks and weapons. However, they do need to eat, breathe, and sleep; the more powerful they become, the less they need those, with the most powerful needing none of them at any time.

D20 Rules: Planar creatures are covered adequately, and in almost every possible variation, by the established game books and settings. They will be fully tangible barring the odd special ability.

Divine Metabolism

Gods have their own metabolism. This is one key to their power, though lesser creatures can have a Divine metabolism, too. This is rare at best, and usually confined to powerful spirit beings.

In essence, Divinities can call down energy in its purest form from nowhere. Depending on the game world this might be Hyperspace, the Positive Elemental Plane, or The Heavens, or perhaps they create the possibility of that energy by their very existence. Gods are living channels of power into the world. In some universes, Dark Divinities exist which are corresponding channels of power out of the world, and into the underworld or whatever. Yup, they’re not only dedicated to destruction, evil, and decay – but they get their munchies as well as their jollies from it.

The mere fact of having power doesn’t automatically grant Divinities any control. And the more potent the God, the more energy he/she/it/other can manipulate. Thus, they do get inherent abilities, but these are a step above normal magic. They respond to the God’s will, and work according to the Divinity’s needs and desires instinctively. Divinities don’t need to study or even practice – it just works, and they can often bend the normal rules of the cosmos.

Even the best metabolism has a few downsides. Gods must have some sort of defining trait or factor. Think of this as their “gravity” – a chemical being needs some gravity to be able to hold onto the world, which gives them the ability to move themselves and other objects. The Gods have the same need, only on a much larger scale. The anchor for a God might be a concept, a thought, an emotion, a belief, or a physical place. The more powerful the God grows, the more it embodies that anchor. Contrariwise, Gods which rage against their anchors grow weaker, or at least insane.

Mind/Body: Gods have a huge advantage in the mind/body continuity. Specifically, they don’t have any problems. They can keep or lose their bodies without affecting or damaging the mind and most certainly can survive the loss of the body. They may make foolish choices because of their anchors, but not because of the body’s needs. They will be in full control of the body, which is mostly an energy structure anyhow – when you call down torrents of power, you don’t really need much else.

General Rules: Gods need not eat, breathe, or sleep, but they can do all of the above and will metabolize the full energy content of anything they consume. As a side effect of their metabolism, they can most certainly have offspring with anything living, and this occurs pretty much at their whim. Gods usually have ample inherent magical abilities related to their anchor.

D20 Rules: D20 has its own rules for divinities. However, the creatures they call Gods don’t really cover the spectrum. They often forget about minor, local spirits. Their Gods all get worshiped, but just having a Divine metabolism doesn’t require that. Creatures with Divine metabolisms are good ways to bring in nature spirits, revered ancestors, and other kinds of minor powers.

 

Lesser Metabolisms

Lesser metabolisms are for creatures with a secondary . This doesn’t really completely alter what a creature is. Think more along the lines of giving it a different “flavor” instead.

Chemical is an uncommon choice for a minor metabolism. However, it can mean that a creature is “clothing” itself in chemical matter to disguise its nature, or it needs some chemical energy to function in the world it’s in. Think the Terminator: sure, it can survive without flesh, but it wouldn’t be doing a very good job, would it? Chemical minor metabolism don’t require much breathing, but the creature must eat and starts suffering some penalties* if the chemical part starts to die.

*These penalties are usually social. Perhaps it doesn’t make much sense that Chemical creatures would have the Charisma I a universe of gods, powerful extraplanar creatures, and so on. On the other hand, chemical creatures seem to be the only ones with a stable, decent society most of the time.

Mechanical is another unusual choice, but you’ve always got cybernetics (Mecha-dragons! Cyber-demons!) Apart from that, imagine creatures reversing the Terminator setup. They may have metallic exoskeletons, or even mechanical muscles, but they’re mostly meat (or whatever). They’ll need concentrated metal nutrients to survive, but these have to be edible to the primary metabolism, too. On the upside, the being is usually tougher and stronger to compensate for the trouble.

Electrical minor metabolism are rare to the point of nonexistence. Sure, it’s not impossible, but it’s one form of energy which does not play well with others. That said, anything’s possible, and a creature with a minor electrical metabolism can probably use it to attack, or perhaps interfaces with other electrical creatures or systems (hacking, maybe). As with Mechanical minors, minor electrical metabolism can be awkward to fuel. Chemical creatures tend to be damaged by direct electrical energy, and it’s none too healthy for many other metabolisms as well.

Elemental is a common minor metabolism. While the exact effects vary by the element, it’s common to see some physical alteration along with minor related special abilities. In many d20 universe, such variants are hardly worth noting, as they’ve become so common as to be humdrum. Apart from occasionally hanging around their respective elements, such creatures are normal enough for the base species. Explaining the family tree might be rather more complicated, however.

Arcane doesn’t usually mix well with other metabolisms. It simply doesn’t have much physical (or whatever) force. Thus, it’s an uncommon minor metabolism. That said, you might imagine many otherwise-normal “mystical” beings, with strange insights and inexplicable minor magical powers. Those powers often need no explanation and don’t do much, but are flexible and useful in a minor way.

Necrotic is another uncommon minor metabolism, representing an unusual affinity for death. Like arcane, it won’t grant much in the way of mighty magic powers, but creatures with a Necrotic minor metabolism are resistant to negative energy attacks and work easily with undead. On another level, they often see well in the dark and function in hostile environments. Remember that such being aren’t undead themselves, but they may become undead should they kick the bucket.

Planar is a common minor metabolism, though less so than Elemental, and generally requires less hemming and hawing about how the being came into existence (many planar creatures have real reproductive organs, or for that matter have organs at all).

Divine is never, ever a minor metabolism. Ever. Period. (Nuh,-uh, not ever! Not even if you sneak it behind my back.)

 

Here follows a selection of a few variant metabolisms, along with the unusual powers they can grant. These minor metabolisms suit most Major metabolisms, aside from a few restrictions.

Horror

There are things Man Was Not Meant to Know. There are things of which you don’t want to know. Some creatures are not merely evil, but alien in a col and malignant sense. They don’t merely hate life, but the very laws which allow us to live. Their motives might be simple and plain or utterly inscrutable, but they view us as nothing more than obstacles in an incomprehensible plan. Worse, being a Horror is built into their structure. This isn’t merely a moral choice. No, these creatures are born and bred this way, usually coming from another reality, or even no reality at all.

Horrors do not merely exist; they disrupt. They are living expressions of alien laws. Even dangerous concepts like madness, evil, and decay are not foreign: they change reality but do not shatter it. But creatures of Horror actively break apart existence, and that’s usually their goal in the long run. Perhaps worst of all, we cannot fathom their actions easily, but they all-too-effectively comprehend us.

A Horror minor metabolism feeds on fear. This can’t completely sustain the creature – it will need some other kind of energy. But it does help and the creature needs it. Fortunately, it will have a suite of minor abilities which help it inspire terror, often including emotion-controlling powers. When on the hunt, they might have the innate ability to mimic a wide array of minor magical effects. For example, a Horror trying to chase down and murder a human can disorient the prey, create imaginary small sights and sounds, extinguish lights, conceal his/her/its nature briefly, and even distort space in order to catch the victim. Worse yet, these are no mere illusions, but fully real to the victim. True, the Horror can’t sustain that imposition upon reality, but it can make its will manifest long enough to kill… and feast.

Horrors must pay for this with strange restrictions. A Horror might not be able to cross running water: it’s literally incapable of doing so. A Horror might be required to gather up any loose grains of salt into a jar – and it cannot resist. These bans are the price Horrors pay to even exist in this universe. These can be symbolic, but just as often have no rational connection to the Horror.

Horrors cannot have Electrical, Elemental, or Divine major metabolisms. They also cannot normally reproduce. If they can reproduce at all, this will be one area filled with strange taboos and weaknesses. (Somehow, the heroes always arrive just in time to stop the monsters from unleashing a million spawn.)

Vampiric

While Horrors need fear to survive, Vampires need the direct life essence of the victim. Unlike a normal predatory species, the Vampire actually absorbs the living. Vampires can’t survive except on living creatures, and must have a steady supply of appropriate targets just to live. In order to drain life energy, the vampire needs to get near to his victim, and make some kind of close, personal connection. This need not be limited to classic blood-drinking, either. Breath, body heat, and causing fatigue are all common. The upside is that life energy is a rich source of power. The vampire gains much innate power, usually greatly increased statistics

There’s a bit of an odd issue with vampires in DnD. As undead they are negative energy creatures instantly harmed by positive energy. But as vampires, they can in fact eat the positive energy from living targets. There’s a few ways around this.

First, you can just ignore it – always the easy way. Second, you can judge that vampires are undead, but not negative energy undead (and there canon examples of non-negative-energy undead), but Chemical/Vampire creatures whose natural life functions may have ceased. They simply keep them going with life energy. Third, you can work out a way for vampires to convert life energy from victims into negative energy.

Vampires can reproduce (unless they’re a freakish once-off created by magical experimentation or divine curses), but generally feel no compulsion to do so. That said, a creature which was social before becoming a Vampire remains so afterward, and might “vamp” people to form a tribe or coterie for company. Also, having a Vampire metabolism, unlike a Horror metabolism, isn’t inherently evil. Vampires are inherently predatory, and only some forms are always evil.

Vampires are usually chemical, but it doesn’t actually matter as long as their primary metabolism matches their most common victims’. However, a Mechanical Vampire would be unusual, to say the least, while most others would be rather rare; a planar vampire must hunt extremely dangerous prey indeed. This can also form an adventure seed. Imagine that somewhere the Elemental Earth Vampire is crumbling his/her/its rivals while growing stronger by the day. Elementals couldn’t easily defeat it, but plain-Jane humanoids would be quite immune to its big draining attacks…

Psichos

A Psicho is a creature which consumes “mental energy”, a rarified diet indeed. While in most game universes, you can expect a probably-psychic creature which drains the mental abilities of others, a few universes have so much brainpower floating around that greater beings simply drift around eternally.

The basic concept of a Psicho is a being which feeds on information, specifically that possessed by intelligent beings. If this is an actual energy source in your universe, a Psicho can survive on it. However, unless the universe is indescribably ancient, there simply won’t be enough to go around, and the Psicho must be a predator. Fortunately, mental energy doesn’t decline – the more intelligent beings which exist, the more it accumulates indefinitely. Eventually, Psichos no longer take it from the brains of the living, but simply live in an endless ocean of thought.

Not all Psichos have actual Psichic powers, but they are pretty common. Psichos who feed on others mental energy, and extract that through violence and a sheer love of brain sandwiches, more commonly use that extra energy to enahnce physical abilities. Expect sudden bursts of strength or unpredictable rage when the creature gets hungry… but may stop in the middle of combat to feast on its latest victims. Of course, that only gives it even more energy.

Fey

Fey are creatures of belief, and sustain themselves partly on the ideas of others. They may not need this in their native universe, but in the “real world,” Fey are shaped by the nature of others’ beliefs in them. Without those beliefs, they either die or return to amorphous creatures, pale shadows on the world.

As a consequence, expect to see strange restrictions and taboos, often completely nonsensical. The creature innately understands these, even though they make no sense to anyone else. A Fey may instinctively know it cannot cross a line of iron filings, even if it never had a chance to try. Speaking of iron, the cold metal is a powerful ward against most Fey, evidently being something outside of their normal abilities.

Most Fey, even dark and dangerous breeds, have many powers of illusion, trickery, and deceit. This merely extends the principle which keeps them in the world, for their very bodies are formed of illusion-substance given a half-reality by the beliefs of those around them. Their sources of power and their greatest weakness is but one thing. Any other power they possess must be developed the usual way, or is innate to the other part of their metabolism.

Most Fey have a Chemical, Arcane, or Divine metabolism. Some local spirits of waters or the land and such are Elemental instead. While not always friendly, the latter are the most reliable and down-to-earth Fey.

 

Existing Types Breakdown

Most of the subtypes are pretty obviously fit into one category or have don’t matter to the metabolism system much, but the following gives a little information on the major types.

Aberration: There’s really no explanation for Abberrations. Arcane and Chemical are the most common metabolisms.

Animal: Usually Chemical, or Planar if native to a weird dimension.

Construct: Usually Mechanical or rarely Electrical. Although given the little information on them, you could easily treat the body as a shell powered by almost any metabolism.

Dragon: Usually both Chemical and Elemental, both as major metabolisms. A few oddball dragons have very exotic combinations.

Elemental: Always Elemental, can have a second major Metabolism.

Fey: Usually Chemical. Fey are a pain, because the DnD Fey don’t have much to do with classical fey. The Fey were dangerous, unpredictable tricksters who ran the gamut from spirits of justice to nigh-incomprehensible sovereigns to little people who stole your crumbs. If you want to use more classical fey, give with an Arcne or Chemical metabolism with the Fey minor.

Giant: Usually Chemical. Combined Chemical/Elemental major metabolisms are also pretty common here.

Humanoid: Usually Chemical.

Magical Beast: Usually Chemical. Many Magical beats have exotic abilities, often as Arcane, Planar, or Elemental combined or minor metabolisms.

Monstrous Humanoid: Usually Chemical.

Ooze: Usually Chemical. There’s really no explanation for oozes. They just are.

Outsider: Usually Planar. Combined metabolisms aren’t that common but hardly inconceivable. Djinn are combined Planar/Elemental, for example.

Plant: Usually Chemical, or Planar if native to a weird dimension. Most of the really weird plants would have a combined or minor metabolism, the commonplace stuff isn’t cosidered exotic in a world with magic.

Undead: Usually Necrotic or Arcane. Ghosts are listed as Undead of course, but should probably be Arcane metabolism. Vampires could be Necrotic/Vampiric or Chemical/Vampiric. Some exotic non-negative energy undead should also have Arcane metabolisms.

Vermin: Usually Chemical.

 

Sentience Key

How much thought does a creature have? What can it actually perceive, consider, and guess at? How well will it comprehend human motives? These questions and more are part of a creature’s Sentience Key. The Sentience Key simply explains whether a creature can think or not, and what mental capabilities it possesses.

These capabilities are progressive. That is, having a higher one implies mastery over lower abilities. Is this strictly perfectly rational? No, surely there’s some creature in the universe with vast mental capabilities in one area but complete failure in another. But it’s not common, because brainpower tends to build on itself. The Keywords don’t prevent creatures from having specialties, but we’re assuming they tend not to be total monomaniacs.

Likewise, these keys are not linked to the Intelligence score. You can now have a brilliant animal with lots of Int-based skill points and bonuses to any Int-based skill it can use, but still lack a human-scale mind or the ability to play Chess.

I break down the “features” of a mind into several categories. There’s Will, desire and ability to choose between options. There’s Knowledge, having a significant body of information on some subject, or a skill. There’s Learning, the ability to gather more knowledge, develop skills, and in particular learn from mistakes. There’s Abstract Reasoning, which allows you to think about concepts and numbers without reference to specific physical examples. There’s Control, which grants the ability to refocus the mind and allocate resources consciously. There’s Foresight, which allows you to predict outcomes with a reasonable certainty. And finally, we have Metacognition, where a creature can use its full power for all tasks and concepts
simultaneously.

Mindless

Mindless creatures don’t actually have a mind at all.

A Mindless creature reacts physically (or magically or whatever) to changes in the environment. Usually such creatures can’t fight at all. If they have any kind of combat ability, it mostly uses eating reflexes to swallow things in the vicinity. Mindless creatures have no real senses, but may have triggered reactions to release toxins, eat nearby objects, or similarly mindless responses. In each case, the “reflex” is purely local. Mindless creatures have reflexes, like when your knee kicks if the doctor taps it just right.

Think plants or protozoa and viruses. Neither type acts or reacts in any kind of coherent manner, but they’re no less dangerous for it. Plants in the real world have deadly toxins, attract animals, and sometimes kill insects all without a thought. In a world of magic, they may be much bigger challenges or threats. Sure, the neighborhood pine isn’t a threat to a player character, but the legendary Volcano Tree of Mount Inferno might be a wee bit more trouble.

In game terms, a Mindless creature is a lump. It doesn’t act, gets no initiative or combat actions, and can’t attack. They’re challenges or traps, not enemies.

Reactive

Reactive creatures have Will but not Knowledge.

A Reactive creature lives, and even to a small degree thinks. It has desires and pursues them. However, its knowledge is instinctual and can never increase. An insect doesn’t learn even if it grows; it doesn’t have the capability. But bees know they need to find food and know how to cooperate with the Hive. Bees have a very tiny brain which decides between needs. They can and do communicate and cooperate. Other insects don’t work together, but they do fulfill needs in other ways, and many other creatures like fish do the same.

In game terms, Reactive creatures are not predictable. If you understand the situations which push them towards one or the other, you can reasonably push how they’ll respond – they don’t have enough brainpower to analyze you back. But it’s never certain. Individuals will differ and can choose.

In combat, they use very simple tactics and fight mercilessly. On the plus side, they don’t have enough brainpower to come up with a clever strategy or use caution. On the downside, they’re well adapted to their style of combat and don’t feel much pain. Most should have one good attack or special ability, and do nothing but attack until dead.

Programmed

Programmed creatures have Knowledge but not Will.

A Programmed creature is usually a special-made creature, like a golem. It has a simple mind, able to handle some task or duties effectively but otherwise hollow. It doesn’t think as such, but simply responds to trigger conditions. However, when actually using its skills or abilities the creature responds very effectively. Examples include basic undead and most constructs: they aren’t exactly stupid, but they don’t act on their own. They can fight effectively, and serve well if given very clear instructions. Apart from that, Programmed creatures merely stand around waiting for orders.

Programmed and Reactive creatures  aren’t all that different. Differences between creatures often  expand as they develop more powerful capabilities, no matter how many lower abilities they share.

Animal

Animal creatures have Will, Knowledge, and Learning.

An Animal creature is much like a Reactive creature, but generally larger and more complex. Animals have a significant mind and devotes a lot of time to learning new skills. They frequently raise their own children, playing with each other and their children. They have primitive emotional responses, which can even stretch beyond the boundaries of species. Unsurprisingly, Animal creatures make the best pets. You can enjoy the presence of mindless creatures, like plants. You can enjoy watching Reactive creatures, like insects or fish. But you can only enjoy the company of animal creatures. They can learn new ideas, although they have some limits on how complex those go, and can choose for themselves within the limits of their understanding.

Unsentient

Pre-Sentient Creatures have Will, Knowledge, and Abstract Reasoning.

Like Programmed creatures, Unsentient creatures usually come from the deliberate creation of other, greater beings. They can think very well. Within the limits of their knowledge, they’re fantastic. Unsentient creatures can analyze problems, put together complex concepts, and think without any reference to physical events. They reduce everything to its perfect mathematical formulas. Even better: they communicate quite well with humans.

They don’t have anything beyond that, however. Unsentient creatures aren’t alive in that sense. They accept any input that follows the proper channels, and can’t distinguish between who does the inputting. And what they accept, they obey. The Unsentient creature will exterminate a billion lives as handily as it deletes a billion numbers, and for the same reason: it was told to.

In fiction, Programmed creatures are  Robots as opposed to Unsentient creatures as mighty computers. This  simply emphasizes the distinction between the mute robot and the  communicative computer. The former acts but does not think. The  latter thinks but does not act. However, there’s no reason an  Unsentient creature can’t have a body; you just don’t need it to.  Powerful computers you can talk to have uses very different from a robot laborer.

Sapient

Sapient creatures are like humans. We think, learn, and create. We can choose to act or not in a certain situation, and choose how to act. We analyze the universe and develop strategies for achieving goals. Our behaviors are complex and vary between extremely predictable and wildly unpredictable, often with little middle ground. The result, in fact, is that we find it easier to study the vast and deep mysteries of the universe than successfully investigate ourselves.

A Sapient creature possesses all of the lower mental abilities: Will, Knowledge, Learning, and Abstract Reasoning. They cannot control how they allocate mental energy, focus poorly, and display very little understanding of how their actions will impact the future.

Superhuman

As we get to the Superhuman stage, we begin to see minds that we have no experience with, let alone can easily comprehend. A Superhuman mind controls itself, allocating resources. Up until the Superhuman Stage, creatures largely use unconscious processes. Even a Sapient creature mostly works invisibly, even to itself.

The superhuman mind does not share that weakness. A superhuman creature chooses what inputs to pay attention to and ignore. It customizes its own brain, “evolving” intelligence suited to the situation. In short, it’s an intelligence which is superficially similar to our own, but controlled and capable of incredible focus.

Trying to torture a superhuman creature? It decides to ignore the pain and concentrates on controlling its body to maximize healing, focusing its attention on looking to escape. It may concentrate all its efforts on social analysis, figuring out what to tell you to manipulate your reactions. Or it may wait until you tire, then override its muscle limitations to tear out of the restraints and break your neck. Or it could put itself into a trance, feigning death until later. The superhuman creature can’t be easily predicted or constrained, because it adapts to overcome any obstacle. It becomes what it needs to be to accomplish whatever goal the creature has in mind.

This author views the conscious and unconscious distinctions with suspicion. We don’t admit why we think something, but usually people know why – if they care to look. We usually don’t want to look. Talk Therapy works – if we answer questions we don’t want to answer.

True, we face many influences which we don’t completely recognize. But people are rarely helpless before the deep workings of their brain. Many of the “unconscious” influences which supposedly control us are social choices: peer pressure, cultural assumptions, and our own desire to belong. You can call these unconscious, but they’re hardly invisible. Likewise, unless they’re totally disturbed, people know they’re often being irrational, affected by anger, and so on: we  often give into those urges anyway because it feels good.

But what we’re talking about here is a bit different. Any part of a Superhuman creature’s brain which isn’t working can watch the rest. They always know about every single assumption, environmental influence, and instinct affecting them, and exactly how much it affects them. Yes, this completely shatters the limits of physical reality. They have control over the true sub-conscious: the actual mechanics of the mind.

General Rules: Superhuman characters can move around any stat points they may have in mental stats, altering any and all bonuses they give. To a limited degree they can also enhance physical attributes temporarily (call it a 2-for-1 deal compared to mental). It’s also almost impossible to control or even read their minds, unless you’re on the level of “local demigod.” Superhumans don’t have to focus on only one task at a time, and can divide up the mind as needed to work on multiple things at once.

Seer

Seers know the future. And this sucks for everyone else. Unlike mere mystic divination, a seer can predict with frightening accuracy how likely any given course of events is. They have a very good idea what will happen, when, and can make educated guesses as to why.

Needless to say, this is no minor ability.

Seers with enough population and interest to have societies tend to have extremely boring civilizations. Somehow, no disaster ever finds them unprepared. When the orcs come charging over the mountains, they run right into exactly the right defenses to utterly crush them. Somehow, their enemies miss with bullets and even missiles.

Even internally, seers have extremely boring politics. Usually, they don’t even have a government. They don’t need one: everyone has a very good idea of what will happen and arranges things to their best advantage. They farm only what they need, build only what they need, and generally don’t have a great deal of conflict over resources.

That said, Seer-based societies are rare, and they aren’t invulnerable. All the foresight in the world won’t help when you have no chance to survive, and merely seeing the path to victory doesn’t mean you have the capability to exploit it. However, they’ll always have a substantial advantage, are rarely caught off-guard, and

Remember that being a Seer-class intellect isn’t magical. They do need information to work with. But Seers can make connections and predictions far beyond the mundane, and the more they know, the more they foresee.

General Rules: Seers should have a modest bonus against being surprised, and have a good idea of what kinds of attacks or surprises an opponent might have available. In a universe where Seers can prepare magic spells, they can keep a modest selection of slots ready to cast any spell they happen to know. Likewise, Seers always seem to have any small, readily-available item they might need hidden away somewhere. If they need a pin or handkerchief or spare knife, they have exactly that right at hand.

Metamind

The Metamind is the ultimate expression of intellect. With every capability, a creature with this kind of mind is more an expression of pure thought than anything else. They’re virtually impossible to defeat without overwhelming power, and even then a Metamind can easily put superior forces to shame.

Remember that a Mastermind not only foresees everything, but has no biases, no assumptions, and will not make mistakes easily. They are capable of assimilating data on an unimaginable scale, from reading multiple books and watching multiple news channels simultaneously, to pulling together information from hundreds of sources they remember, using that to predict the future. You don’t surprise one in any way, shape, or form unless you have access to some power they cannot possibly predict or find any information about.

General Rules: Metaminds have all the advantages of Seers and Superhumans, along with the effective ability to alter probability around 25% in their favor. They don’t actually change the odds of a given event occurring, but are assumed to have predicted the outcome and arranged it to their advantage.

 

Social Key

Creatures don’t exist in a vacuum, except for Star Dragons.

Every being and every creature lives in a world filled with other living things. How they interact and deal with those things plays a critical part in defining that creature. And most beings’ most critical interactions occur with others of their own kind. Those most like us shape our community and our people. On the other hand, some creatures shun their own kind, or any kind. Others form complex societies so they can manage nations of thousands or millions.

This forms the Social Key. Social Keys are the most flexible of all Keys. Whatever a creature’s most common traits are, it has some flexibility when it comes to figuring out how to deal with others. Culture matters – a lot! Also, culture matters much more the more creatures gather together. And individuals might just be weird outsiders who don’t fit in.

Solitary

A Solitary creature cannot interact with other of its kind except in limited ways. It has no social role whatsoever, except possibly for an urge to reproduce now and then. Solitary creatures don’t merely live alone – they actively avoid contact with others. If intelligent, they dislike the presence of other beings. They would never seek out others except in utter desperation, if then.

Unintelligent Solitary creatures are more common. Plants might happen to live around others, but they have no interest in them and choke the life out of them if they can. Every other plant is an enemy, competing for food, space, light, and water.

The odd fantasy “hive-mind” is also usually a Solitary creature. Most such “hive-minds” are completely incapable of social interaction, and have only one actual mind no matter how many bodies it may possess. When hive-minds do interact with people, they usually treat them as a threat to be destroyed or devoured. Note that the hive-mind is nothing like a real Hive society.

Independent

Independent creatures tend to live alone, but can enjoy the company of others from time to time. Many animals are independent, preferring to keep their own dens but playing with others, hunting with others, and seeking out mates. Examples include raccoons, bears, foxes, many cats, most lizards and snakes, and even sharks. Independent creatures simply like to work alone, but don’t object to the presence of other creatures. They can make good pets if they’re small or intelligent enough – they understand affection and often reciprocate warm feelings.

Hive

Hive creatures have strict but often simply organizing principles that everyone always abides by. Most often, the individual has a specific role assigned at birth, and carries out that role until death. Everyone is taken care of precisely and specifically as the rules allow, and goes to their death without question. Examples include ants and bees, of course. While both of those species have “queens,” no queen creature is necessary for a Hive society.

For obvious reasons, most Hive creatures aren’t very intelligent. If your individual members think too much, they might not obey the absolute rules. In fact, most Hive societies don’t even have laws as such. The hive’s needs, from agriculture to construction, are simply what life is. Hive creatures don’t even think in terms of “we” – they’re so much a part of the group that they don’t even consider the question at all.

That doesn’t means that a small selection of intelligent individuals can’t exist. The odd mutant can exist, and many Hive species have an intelligent leader caste with its own politics. Exactly what that leader caste does is another question entirely. Certainly in d20 they traditionally have powerful magic and free use of endless hordes of loyal, disposable minions.

As mentioned, variants on Hives include: Queen Hives, where the focus is on a single female who births every creature, Caste Hives, in which a powerful elite control everything, and Egalitarian Hives, where instinct is so strong no individual stands out.

Democracy

A democracy is an odd form of social organization which on rare occasions turns up in fantasy or science fiction, and a great deal in human history. In essence, a democracy has some kind of direct social link between people, or a mystical or psychic mental connection, or extremely fast polling. This organizes the rules for society. People instantly respond and enforce their opinions. The downside, and why it’s a democracy, is that the majority or very popular factions rules. Minorities, or whomever the controllers dislike, get screwed and have no recourse.

This works very well in a small-scale setting. After all, everyone in a small village knows everyone else, their needs, and the village’s interests, particularly if technology is limited. Powerful people are immediately present and can’t ignore you, so minority opinions have weight. In larger societies, democracy starts to edge into mob-rule, or outright stupidity. Even at its best, society members are forced to exercise control over things they don’t understand or cede power to the most vocal speakers. Democracy can work. The less knowledge people possess about each other, the less well it works.

For obvious reasons, democracies often require intelligent members. But not always. You’ll find no purer democracy than a school of fish or a flock of birds. Mice and rats often live in close quarters, but don’t need much hierarchy or much cooperation.

Variants on Democracy include: Village Democracy, where a small population intimately know one another, Psychic Democracy, where everyone is mentally linked, and Techno-Democracies of hyper- connective information networks. The first only works with low-tech settings. The second leans heavily toward mind control and compulsion. The third tends to create degenerate “governments” run by fashion and tawdry popularity contests.

You may object to the negative notes.  The benefits are obvious, right? Yes, but the downsides aren’t.  Democracy by definition is popular: that doesn’t make it good.  Throughout most of human history, it’s been the weak horse.  Democracy led Athens into disaster, defeat, and eventually tyranny  more than once. Roman democracy strangled itself and first gave rise  to the elitist late Republican state and then the Empire. A noble  democracy crippled Poland when the great powers of Eastern Europe set hungry eyes on their land. In short, democratic rule proved to be a  considerable trouble to most of those who practiced it. The great democracies of today practice a broad but very limited version of
democracy.

Tyranny

Tyranny isn’t merely one-man rule, but a power structure which claims that one leader is proper. Creatures great and small may share in it. Nor is it necessarily evil. A tyrant is simply the one who rules, for good or ill. When it comes down to it, most human societies have preferred tyranny in practice, and particularly when it benefits from support by the middle classes. On the other hand, the cruelest and most terrible regimes also tend to be tyrannies (exceptions definitely exist).

Animals too, practice Tyranny. The strongest rules wolf packs and deer herds alike. It’s a fact of life for many organisms intelligent enough to have groups. If creatures can have more status or power than their fellows, they can practice Tyranny.

Variants on Tyranny include: Despotism, rule by one man and military force, Monarchy, a hereditary or elected rule usually with established traditional or legal limits, and Empire, in which the tyrant controls lesser monarchs or polities. While the methods of selecting monarchs change from nation to nation and time to time, the situations do not. Those who rule by their personal military elite wind up acting an awful lot like each other no matter what culture they’re in, because the situation differs. The Despot will be cruel and decisive, or rebels drive him out. The Monarch will feud with powerful families, or they weaken him. The Empire will fight with foreign powers, because Empires tend to expand until they simply cannot.

Why defend what I myself call Tyranny? Well, most human beings in any form of civilization lived under a Tyranny of some kind. Yet they mostly managed to get by pretty well, have children, and live their lives. Tyranny isn’t exactly good. But it isn’t always evil, or at least not the worst evil. But that’s a question for the ages, and we’re not going to settle it here.

Tribes

Tribal creatures form larger communities which interact, and are almost always intelligent. Tribal creatures identify themselves with the tribe, whatever else they are. Because the tribe is spread out over a large area, it cannot meet like a democracy. Because it tends to fragment back to its homes, it tends not to unify like tyranny. Left to their own devices, tribes chose some men or women to meet and decide very important issues. The village Democracy allows anyone to speak; the Tribe allows only the chosen to speak because a thousand people can’t talk at once.

Because an “egalitarian hierarchy” is inherent in a tribe, it practically requires an intelligent being. You can’t form a hierarchy of nominally equal people without some method of choosing individuals for leadership. It’s not outright impossible without intelligence, but much rarer.

Tribes are inherently structured. They have specific, established rules and laws which let them choose courses of action. The Democracy and the Tyranny don’t need those to function. The Tribe can’t function otherwise, and this is its one great weakness, because those can be manipulated systematically. Sure, you can sway the democracy or persuade the tyrant. But you can’t count on doing those forever, and the people who do tend to wind up executed in horrible ways. But you can game the rules of Tribes on and on.

True Tribes are regional confederations of people who belong to one culture. They tend to have loose and individual groups or clans may use widely varying procedures for choosing leaders, but they rarely tolerate tyrannical leadership for long. The True Tribe can easily meet wherever convenient. Republics unite even more varied subcultures through formal methods and meetings. They usually possess cities and possibly a bureaucracy, but tend to dislike bureaucracy as a rule. Republics place a high value on legal scholarship and procedure. Nations are the pinnacle of scale in Tribal creatures, being able to unite numerous regions and subcultures sharing the same ideals or culture.

I consider humans to be at heart a tribal creature. From primitive man to modern citizens, people identify their culture and often race with a specific ethnic group, and often an ancient tribal group. Wars and feuds within the tribe are simply different than those outside the tribe: more emotional, more fundamental. People naturally feel it’s normal to associate within the tribe and unusual (bad or good) to associate outside it. The tribe doesn’t always agree but everyone within it has roughly the same values, the same language, and the same way of life. Only two limits exist on the size of the tribe: the number of people who share the same culture, and the number of subgroups you can tie into a government. In this sense the Nation is no different than the Tribe.

There’s always the possibility of even more, and more complicated, social systems, but the above should cover almost anything you’ll see in a game. Let’s not get too hung on the fact that the real world often mixes all the possibilities.

 

There ya go. There’s always the possibility of even more expansion if people have requests, but that would probably go into another, separate file. Hopefully it’s inspired some monsters, and helped people think about ways to approach existing foes.

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Federation-Apocalypse Session 182 – The Coral Dragon

Vulcano Island

Is it worth getting through that reef just for THIS?

Splitting their disputants across two ships settled things down easily enough – and they continued their trip edgewards.

Kevin had become tired of heroically posing, and had retired to his cabin to enjoy some less-heroic companionship.

Now that they were past the reef, and were moving back into the deep waters, one of the consequences of the mixing of currents – both oceanic and atmospheric – was becoming apparent. There was a major storm rising… There were tall clouds rising in the distance, and heading their way. There were flashes of distant lightning dancing along the clouds and striking the surface of the sea… The wind was shifting, and slowly intensifying. The air had gone from semi-tropical to somewhat chilly.

It didn’t take Elerra much divination to say “major storm coming”. The sailors were making a fuss, a number of the less experienced ones were panicking, and the more experienced ones were shouting orders and getting rather worked up.

Coincidence or enemy action?

Meanwhile, the convoy was passing along orders to change course, to get the ships moving as fast as possible, to fasten everything down, and to make sure that all the weight was near the center of the ship.

The Thrall-crews followed suit – and prepared safety lines, repair-spells, rescue operations, and reinforcing effects.

Marty didn’t bother giving many orders about it; the local sailors were providing a sufficiently sensible example… Hm. It looked like the platypus navigator was trying to reach a set of islands before the storm hit them.

Kevin didn’t really see that big a problem; unless there was a LOT of magic in it, their massed magical resources should be able to handle virtually any storm. Wind-control spells were pretty easy after all!

The islands… looked to be a volcanic and covered with a good deal of dense vegetation. There were no obvious signs of habitation as yet though.

With various wind-control spells in operation they closed with the islands swiftly. They were soon in the outskirts of the archipelago as the navigators poured over the maps trying to find a poorly documented bay said to be in the area.

(Navigator) “I know it’s near here! I’ve seen it myself! But this blasted chart isn’t showing it!”

(Captain) “I thought you said you brought the best charts of the region?”

Well, the crew had done this trip before… Kevin had some thralls do aerial sweeps looking for bays – and for large-scale illusions or new volcanic flows. It had been some years after all, so the landscape COULD have changed naturally – but he was betting on people.

It didn’t take the Thralls long to report that there was a shielded bay hidden by some sort of illusion/redirection spell on the other side of the big island up ahead, along with a number of smaller areas covered with illusions spread across the other islands.

(Captain) “Who is throwing illusions over the bay?”

(Navigator) “You suppose it is the otters trying to foul things up?”

(Kevin, sighing) “Who’s been raiding the locals? If you hide, it’s because you don’t want to be found. If someone else hides you it’s more complicated – but wouldn’t they be likely to notice and do something about it? Large-scale illusions are fairly fragile things for their difficulty.”

(Sailor) “I would say that it was the otters that have been raiding the place. They’ve been trying to keep others from using it as a resupply port by stirring up the locals against outsiders.”

(Kevin) “These otters have got a long reach! Amalgamated with otters in other ports have they?”

(Captain) “Great, agititated locals while stuck in a port in a storm.”

(Marty) “Wouldn’t surprise me.”

(Navigator) “Wouldn’t put it past them, they’ve been trying to gain control of the whole region for a long time now.”

(Captain) “So which do we fear more? Agititated natives or a massive storm?”

(Kevin) “Well, let’s visit the locals! If the otters have been pissing them off, they may be glad to have allies who want to break up the cartel!”

Marty had to agree; storms weren’t good for ships at sea from what he’d heard, and there didn’t seem to be enough magic in the storm for him to stab and disperse it. That was pretty much automatic in Battling Business World – you could fight almost ANYTHING there – but he wasn’s sure that it worked like that in this realm unless it was a really big elemental or quasi-sentient spell or some such.

The Thralls agreed; the storm didn’t seem to be magically augmented in any obvious way.

Marty headed in first; at least his ship wasn’t a dedicated warship; hopefully the locals would take that better than if the Nightwind Voyager headed in first.

It might indeed have been a better reaction, but it wasn’t MUCH better. As the ship slipped through the illusion and into the harbor Marty was confronted with the remains of a burnt-out port facility and docks. On the opposite side of the bay from the port, there was a mast and rotted sails sticking out of the water. There were a number of canoes drawn up on the shore – and there were footprints heading deep into the forest on the shore to the left. The rising wind was rustling leaves and branches significantly but Marty thought he could make out a number of shadows shifting through the forest.

Kevin cheerily (and instantly) started speculating about Cannibals raiding the port and throwing maidens into the volcano!

Marty wondered if the place had been sacked by pirates.

As the Lissifea moved in Marty and the Thralls saw several small fires appear in the woods. A moment later, one of those fires suddenly leaped out of the woods and headed towards the ship!

Luckily they were still layered in fire-protections!

The fire will struck the sails to no effect as a number of the other fires leaped out and swarmed the ship.

One of them hit Marty himself, which was annoying – but little more. It seemed to be mostly natural fire… Well, that was an easy way to conserve magical power for a long siege!

Most of the rest of he less-distracted crew dodged easily; it seemed that the enemy was working at a range extreme enough to hamper their aim significantly.

Marty considered… The town was definitely shot. The cannon weren’t too likely to reach that far – and even if they did, they might have hostages. Try for negotiation? It was a bit soon for THAT… They only had half an hour or so to get into port and get set up for the storm! Ah! He’d have Limey do some scrying over there! He’d eaten more than enough scrolls to have all the basics handy!

Scrying revealed sixteen natives performing some sort of ritual around a bonfire. Another eight were scooping fire out of the bonfire using their bare hands and then flinging it with some sort of sling weapon.

Marty considered going to say “Hi!”! It wasn’t like the locals didn’t know they’d arrived – and he could take a Thrall or two along to watch his back; they were good at escaping.

(Kevin, to the Navigator and Captain) “This is depressing! No supplies, port mostly burned down, no fun… I presume this was a civilized port last time you were here?”

(Captain) “Yes it was. Although I had heard rumors that the place had been coming under increasing attack in recent years.”

Kevin, meanwhile, was bored – and began fixing the port. They’d need it in good shape to ride out a major storm! He got some docks and a breakwater in place, erected a few defensive towers and such on the breakwater, put up a lighthouse/lookout post, got some nice solid buildings up, erected some city walls…

Then the Nightwind Voyager and the other ships in the convoy approaching behind the Lissifea started to come under fire as well. Kevin put some Thralls on fireball-deflection duty, and added some Geothermal Magma Cannons – a very short-range gate to tap into the volcano’s magma reservoir did it very nicely – then started to wonder; unless these really were invaders, why would the locals be objecting to his fixing their city?

To Marty it looked like the natives were busy altering the ritual around the bonfire since it seemed that their fireballs weren’t working. At least that meant that they weren’t paying particular attention to anyone approaching.

It looked like… they were switching from a fire spell to some sort of summoning spell – possibly pulling on a really major source of fire nearby.

Marty let Kevin know over the link. They were probably trying for a major magma elemental. They were on a volcanic island after all!

That at least meant a lull in the attacks. They got the rest of the ships into the newly-refurbished harbor while Kevin went off to see what the problem was.

Marty was still considering the ritual… sulfur, charcoal, obsidian, and a piece of wrought iron in the shape of a sword. What would happen if he made one of those magical components disappear? He was fairly sure that the iron would be hard to come by on a volcanic island – although, if they were smart, they’d have spares. It would probably fizzle the ritual – but if it didn’t they might wind up with a berserk magma elemental running loose. That wouldn’t do… Should he just say hello?

He did.

The ritualists botched things in their shock at his arrival, setting off a small explosion – but it wasn’t much more than an annoying distraction for them.

Marty found a number of spears and other weapons pointed at him as the shamans readied spells.

(Tribal) Why you hear to harm our people again?!

(Marty) “Hey, that wasn’t us! We just arrived in port to trade! What the heck’s going on?”

Kevin wondered… Could they have gone that far downhill that fast?

(Tribal) “You’ve come to kill our people again and use our land for your own purposes! We’ve sacked your damned port and destroyed your ships, but you keep coming, but we will never surrender or lose!”

Oh! Presumably the Otters had tried to exploit the natives, they’d fallen back into the forests and driven out the traders (wrecking the port in the process) and the Otters had simply settled for raiding and thus preventing anyone ELSE from using the place as a resupply port by stirring up the locals against outsiders.

Well, they didn’t even have any otter slaves aboard; the Platypi had insisted on keeping them out.

(Marty) “I bet you’ve been raided by the Otters! Well, we’re a different bunch altogether. There’s a storm coming, and we pulled in here to ride it out.”

(Tribal) “You people on the boats are all the same! You come, take over the land without any regard to what we might be doing! See, even now the big wolf creature is building a big structure without any heed to whose land it is!”

Marty sighed again and told Kevin to quite fixing things since the local regarded the port as an imposition…

(Kevin, popping in) “Oh. Well, what kind of things would you like? I kind of figured that this was your city and needed fixing!”

(Marty) “Hey, he’s willing to give you what you want. So what DO you want?”

The tribals seemed to be thrown off guard by that statement – and begin conferring with each other in their own language.

(Tribal, after a few moments) “The means to defend our lands against the boat people who continually harass our shores.”

Kevin looked thoughtful… Hm… There was a good-sized reef that surrounded and linked the entire archipelago, and a series of volcanoes of course, and a sizeable gap in the reef near the entrance to the harbor – where a freshwater current from the main island kept the corals from growing as well; otherwise the lagoon would be nearly freshwater after a few decades…

(Kevin, to the Shaman) “I can provide such power in a number of forms… Who among you will control it?”

An elderly local who’d been quietly sitting next to the fire rose to his feet and approached…

(Elder Shaman) “ am the lead shaman of our people and so the defense of our people both spiritually and magically falls to me.”

(Kevin) “So be it then… The reef that surrounds your islands defines the borders of your lands and the realm your gods have given you, does it not?”

(Elder Shaman) “Indeed it does, and the bounties of the reefs provide much in food and precious corals for our magics.”

Hm… Coral polyps had nerve-connections to each of the polyps around them, and passed signals between themselves. A coral reef was, in fact, a gargantuan neural network… He could work with that! And with the approaching storm!

With almost a thousand Thralls nearby to back him, and another guardian requesting aid, the power poured through him freely.

The elder shaman was momentarily paralyzed with shock, as the youngster became a rift in the universe, a bottomless darkness where galaxies and universes spun – and reality twisted around him, scattering wonders across the archipelago as a myriad unlikely worlds and futures collided within him and shattered into a blizzard of shards of possibility.

The boy chose one glittering shard – and the power cascaded through that possibility, into the stone and coral and reality of the archipelago, terrible in generosity.

The child was… attempting to encompass all space, and time, and possibility, and to… offer it as a gift wherever it was needed… A young – and insecure – CREATOR GOD?!?

Kevin was cheerily slightly offsetting the archipelago into it’s own pocket realm – still firmly a part of Ciarkian, but with limited approaches and a few extra rules of its own… He attuned the neural network of the barrier reefs to the local’s minds – giving them control over the access-ways and allowing it to act as a psychic reservoir, amplifier, and (for any who cared to stick around for a bit after they died to watch over their descendants and use their magics on their behalf) a short-term afterlife.

If more active measures were needed, there would be more than enough power there for the locals to manifest a suitable guardian – an island-sized Coral Dragon who’s breath would channel the fiery energies of the island volcanoes.

He focused on the deeper layers – leaving the primary reef ecosystem available for the local life and the natives. The storm could be folded into the dimensional interface, available to help protect the approaches – or to control the islands weather if that should be needed.

As the islands, sea, and reef, glittered and sang with the wave of cascading from Kevin, several of the local ritualists nearly fainted. They’d… they’d been throwing attack-spells at this… this… this THING.

In the end it was pretty subtle for a reality-tweak. If Kevin had had more experience with such things – outside of creating entire dimensions – he could have handled the job with a LOT less raw power. Still, he was pretty pleased! Turning the place into a closely-associated pocket realm would handle a LOT of the defense needs!

The thunder of the approaching storm stilled as it’s power was absorbed into the new, magical and psionic structure of the coral reef and the reality-pocket – becoming little more than gentle breezes and cooling showers as it gradually dispersed.

He gave the elder shaman primary control for the moment, the other shamans got secondary control – and the entire local population got some influence on things…

The gaping hole in reality closed back up to become Kevin once more.

Marty sighed. The shock was going to wear off in a few moments. Oh well! After they settled down they could still do a little trading!

For at least the first few moments, most of those the ones who came out of shock reacted with horror…

(Kevin) “What? You asked for the power to defend your realm!”

(Warrior) “What? Weapons and fortifications wouldn’t be good enough? Or do you insist on creating gods every time someone asks you for power?”

(Kevin, slightly miffed that no one was appreciating him. Grant people’s wishes, and what did they do? They complained! At least the Thralls never complained!) “Hmph! I didn’t create a god! Just a hospitable environmental feature… And I made some stone structures suitable for local defense, and people complained about them!”

Marty sighed. The locals seemed to have some pretty strong cultural traditions, and perhaps to want to stay off on their own. It might not be wise to interfere with them further; Kevin HAD just handed them an awfully big stick – even if they did seem to have struck a nerve with Kevin there.

(Kevin) “Now, I’d hope that you’d still allow peaceful visitors! Otherwise you’ll be giving your attackers what they want – which is to make it awkward for anybody else to trade in this part of the world.”

(Shaman) “I must admit that this was a bit more than we anticipated. Do all your kind have this sort of ability? We had never seen the other boat people doing something similar.”

(Marty) “Nah, Angkor’s REALLY exceptional.”

(Kevin) “Shall I leave a couple of agents so you can keep in touch? That way you can be sure who’s just here to trade and visit and who you need to keep out.”

(Shaman) “I suppose that is unavoidable. Very well then, who are these agents and what sort of accommodations will they need?”

(Kevin) “Oh, they don’t need anything special!”

He assigned a random pair of Thralls.

(Shaman) “And how will they know who is here to trade and enter port and who is hear to cause mischief?”

(Kevin) “Well, one can go out and look and report back – but there are only a few trading groups operating in the area thanks to the one group that’s trying to run everyone else out, and the other major group here will have some of my agents along. They can fairly readily get into touch with each other at that range.”

(Elder Shaman) “This is awfully…. generous. Do you do this sort of thing often?”

(Kevin) “Nobody’s asked for a while – and you’ve had to put up with a lot. So why not? There’s no point in having power if you don’t use it once in awhile!”

(Marty) “Yeah, otherwise it gets all flabby and useless!”

(Elder Shaman) “I see. I hope then that other people in need end up encountering you in the future given your generosity.”

(Marty, cheerily) “Oh, they will. Angkor likes to travel!”

Marty settled down to organizing a bit of trading – while Kevin wandered back to the fleet.

Not totally unexpectedly, soon after Marty returned, the Commander wanted to know why Kevin and Marty were BOTHERING with either a fleet OR with trading!

(Kevin) “We’re on a vacation, the fleet was there, and the Otters are being really unpleasant! Don’t you want to trade?”

(Marty) “Yeah, I mean we might as well make some profit off the emergency landing.”

(Commander) “Do people of your power often bother yourselves with the concerns of minor mortals such as us? Or is this a rare event?”

(Marty) “Hey, you’re not minor! You command a fleet!”

(Kevin) “And people like you are where the power comes from; I simply focus it and give it back. If I tried to keep if for myself, it wouldn’t work. It’s a bit like running a bank! You have to invest and send the power back out and you have to pay dividends! And you have stockholders – everyone who invests power in you – and employees.”

(Commander) “I see… I take it these children are the employees then?”

(Kevin) “Yep! They get some of the power and work for me until they learn to generate and channel the powers I give them on their own – at which point the link breaks and they can go and do whatever they want… It has to be people who don’t have much power on their own yet though; if they have too much I can’t give them more.”

(Commander) “So am I right to suspect that we might see more overwhelming displays of power in the future then?”

(Kevin, a bit blankly) “Did you need them for something? They won’t hurt you.”

(Commander, rather hurriedly, lest something he said be taken as a request to turn the universe upside down) “No, no, I don’t think that will be necessary unless we come under attack. I prefer not to have to rely on massive displays of magic and power.”

(Kevin) “I prefer being a bit more subtle myself – but they wanted me to provide them with the power to defend their entire realm, and I couldn’t think of a subtle way to do that offhand.”

(Commander) “I see. Now, do we have anymore business here? I imagine some of the traders want to have a go with the locals, but otherwise with the storm having dispersed, I see no pressing need to remain in the harbor.”

(Marty) “I’ll be with the traders, I think, but otherwise I’m good to go.”

Kevin wandered of to eat lunch. No one had ever asked for anything quite like that before!

The Captain thought about that for a few minutes – and almost choked. The clan-chief had… been frantic for a way to protect the family – wishing for the money to pay off their creditors, and for a way to fend off the Otter clan, and for a few successful trading voyages…

And Angkor had wandered by.

Was all this… Simply to grant that wish? Was Angkor re-arranging the universe simply to make sure that the family had exclusive access to a major trade route?

Meanwhile, Marty had gone back to trading food, tools, and other minor items for charms and exotic jewelry made out of coral, rare woods, plants, fruits, and seeds, spices, pearls, obsidian, and other volcanic products.

None particularly vital, but every trade a bit more profit – and a closer bond for the Platypi and the locals. Marty focused on the seeds a bit; they weren’t likely to thrive elsewhere, but it was always worth a try!

The Captain focused on laying in some additional supplies. With the addition of another ship and crew, they were depleting at a slightly faster rate than originally estimated. It wasn’t a problem yet – but it might get to be if there were more major delays.

That really wasn’t a big problem.

Assorted Eclipse Builds by Christopher West

"April Fools Day" is an illustration...

No, not these characters

Christopher West has been putting up a fair number of Eclipse character designs over on his RPG Blog over the past month or two – and I thought I’d set up some links here. His notions of how to build things tend to be very different from mine – and that’s a very good thing; original approaches and differing interpretations create interesting characters.

Ergo, here we have some links…

  • The Battle Sage (Basic Concept, Build, and an Adventure Log). I really like this one; I’ve always been rather partial to the notion of including a scholar in a group as something other than a primary spellcaster – and this character (a scholar so knowledgable that he can call forth a weapon designed to work against a particular opponent) works in that role very nicely.
  • The Planer Mage-Assassin: Some notions for a magical assassin specializing in destroying extra-planar beings. The things certainly make enough trouble to justify a small society of such people after all.
  • Building Warlocks in Eclipse: Basic Thoughts and Greygin the Render – a Warlock-style build using Spirit Weapon. Both definite contrasts with the way I was building a Warlock and (in Greygin’s case) an EXCEPTIONALLY nasty specialization
  • The Jester: A basic layout for creating that old second-edition April-Fools favorite class.
  • Star Wars Eclipse – thoughts on converting the Saga Edition.
  • Dark Era Priests – a partial design for priests as a medieval player might have viewed them. Most suited for a low-magic world.
  • Burnt Meat – an (extremely) troubled young woman with flame powers.
  • The Anti-Magus. A few possible designs for a character who’s very presence negates magic – a powerful, but not-especially advantageous ability.
  • The Shifting Mind – a character who has the classic day/night split personality problem – although, in this case, the “monster” only comes out during the day…
  • The Healer: A dedicated healer – and an exceptionally good one.
  • The Dagger Master: A roguish specialist in Daggers in a second-edition style – back when daggers were faster, and got more attacks, than other weapons did.
  • The Arch Mage: A youthful mage who is being consumed by her own, terrible, powers.
  • The Blood-Fueled Mage: A notion for creating a mage who draws power from blood and slaughter. Sadly, I have some serious doubts about the first option on this one; a requirement for killing other creatures doesn’t really effectively substitute for a personal cost. Most of the others look good if you can get the speciality spells past your game master.
  • Creating A Monster: This one is a massively deadly barbarian-type, mostly revolving around using Augmented Bonus to get massive numbers of hit points. I’d – as usual – want a good explanation for why you got to add your strength modifier to your constitution modifier for calculating your hit points – but there are certainly more atrocious builds out there, even in standard d20.
  • The Elder Scrolls Hero: Here we have a generalist adventurer – some skills, some combat, and some magic – but not too much of anything.
  • A Healer’s Nightmare: A healer with a severe flaw – the life she grants must be taken from elsewhere…
  • Wasting Time with 3.5: More or less a short review of Eclipse (and why Mr West is enjoying it more than 3.5).

A Feat full of Tricks, Part II – Clerics

Magic Water Fountain Light at Night Garden

This is for the storm gods temple, remember? You're fired.

Cleric Tricks are kind of awkward. After all, most of the other classes have clearly defined roles; Druids, Paladins, and Wizards are may use a variety of tactics, but we know what they do.

Clerics… not so much. Are they the Spanish Inquisition? Laid-back Universal Unitarians? Holy Men? Demon Worshipers? Cultists? Hermit-Philosophers? Military Heroes? Wise Councilors? Wandering Preachers and Missionaries? Sedate Keepers of Temples?

When the answer is “All of the above!” or even simply “Yes!” there’s a bit of a problem.

That, of course, goes all the way back to the early editions – where the actual mechanics were minimal, the game master was supposed to play the cleric’s patron and be heavily involved in the spell choices (often permanently denying any that were out of theme), and the generic cleric base was supposed to be whittled down a bit to suit the deity in question. Your battle-god wanted his Clerics to show their courage by fighting in light armor? Your cleric did just that or he or she did not get his or her spells renewed.

In later editions, of course, the role of the game master faded; as the rules grew more complex, he or she no longer had time to fiddle with individual player-character choices. Speciality Clerics were introduced to help deal with the problem – but there wasn’t any quick-and-simple way to handle game master involvement in spell selection, or to place some spells either off-limits or make them “only available in exceptional circumstances”, without making a long list for each god.

That wasn’t practical, so “staying in theme” fell back on the players.

You can guess how well that worked. Some players DID do a wonderful job. They played their priests to suit their characters god. Sadly, that only tended to happen with the deep-immersion role-players.

Others, of course, simply took everything the Cleric class made available, rather than stripping out the items that didn’t fit in their particular deity. Sometimes that was simply because they leaned towards the “gamist” side of things, and regarded not taking every possible advantage that was offered as poor gameplay – which, by the gamist standard, indeed it was. Sometimes it was because the intent wasn’t clear – and sometimes it was just because that was the way the game was being played when they were introduced to it.

It worked reasonably well for awhile – long enough to cover the transition – simply because of a few lines in the first edition player’s handbook:

A study of the spells usable by clerics (see CHARACTER SPELLS) will convey the main purpose of the cleric. That is, the cleric serves to fortify, protect, and revitalize.

That told everyone who wasn’t into deep immersion that clerics were boring. They didn’t do the exciting bits; they were support characters!

When Druids were folded into Clerics, people got the same impression of them.

It took quite awhile before it became common knowledge that – if you just took everything that the class had to offer – your supposed “pacifistic priestess of the goddess of mercy” could be a mighty warrior, powerful spellcaster, and an all-around badass.

No, that made no sense – but now that CoDzilla had arrived, “sense” bought tickets for Hawaii and went on an extended vacation.

Ergo, our “Cleric Tricks” are going to include packages for several different roles rather than a generic boost. That way we can give clerics some individuality again quickly and easily.

It’s interesting to consider how the Dungeons and Dragons game might have gone if – instead of “speciality priests” – later editions had split up the “Cleric” class a bit. While that would have made party composition more awkward, and annoyed the people who already disliked playing a “support character” even more, turning the early edition generic “Cleric” into a small suite of classes – perhaps “Guardian”, “Demon Hunter”, “Cultist”, and “Councilor / Healer” – might have worked quite well.

If you want to try that in Eclipse, simply note that the costs for the “Cleric” and “Druid” progressions are already considered “Corrupted” / outside of a few basics (the list in Paths of Power is pretty good) the spell selection must fit a relatively narrow theme. CoDzilla-style full access will then cost 50% more – forcing some tough choices and reducing the number of points available to buy hit dice, attack bonuses, saves, and other special abilities.

Cleric Tricks

Limitations: All Cleric Tricks require:

  • Ongoing, “on screen”, devotion to the deity in question – refraining from activities the deity disapproves of, performing minor rituals honoring the deity in question, supporting the church and undertaking occasional missions for it, acting in accordance with the values of his or her faith, and otherwise making his or her religion a major factor in the character’s life.
  • Acceptance of life as a target. Drawing on the power of your faith directly, for “Cleric Tricks”, tends to draw opposing forces. A firebrand preacher is a threat to other faiths, a demon-hunter to undead and manifestations of darkness, and so on – and threatened creatures tend to fight back.
  • Focus – either an appropriate holy symbol or several minutes of concentration and prayer.

Firebrand Preacher Tricks:

Firebrands are the mouths of the gods, voices crying out in an unbelieving wilderness, and speakers for those who dare not speak for themselves.

  • Basic Abilities: The Adamant Will (neither pain nor magic can dent the faith of the Firebrand), Elfshot (Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect: this only works against religious enemies or during religious confrontations and only when the user’s patron god approves of the usage. Even then, it only equates to the effects of the “Bestow Curse” spell), and Glamour (Specialized for Double Effect; only while preaching or inspiring other members of the faith).
  • Advanced Abilities: Advanced Glamour (Specialized as per Glamour, above, allowing the Firebrand to sway crowds, spread the word, and offer substantial morale bonuses to masses of the faithful), The Sight (Firebrands are notorious for prophecy and issuing dread warnings from their god), and Dismissal (many weaker spells and spirits are unable to withstand the voice of the Firebrand).
  • Pact: Duties. It is the duty of the Firebrand to carry the word of his or her faith into places that would rather not hear it, to be a light in the darkness (or vice versa), and to inspire the populace to rise up against anything that’s incompatible with their faith. At their best, Firebrands may lead slave revolts, overthrow repressive governments, and scour away terrible infestations. At their worst they may exterminate thousands over religious quibbles labeled “heresy”, cause wars, and watch approvingly while their followers burn down cities. Either way, they’re rarely welcomed by secular (or practical) authorities.

Wise Councilor Tricks

The will of the gods is often obscure – but ventures which challenge it rarely prosper. Few realms dare attempt to make do without a priestly advisor who can invoke the blessings of the gods on their behalf.

Wise Councilors are usually expected to be learned, capable of offering useful council on a wide variety of topics, and to be willing and able to spirit youthful heirs away from evil usurpers on a moments notice – but those are optional extras.

  • Basic Abilities: The Adamant Will (a councilor must be able to keep secrets), The Inner Eye (an eye for motivations and hidden creatures is a vital skill for any councilor), and Infliction (a councilor must be able to defend himself or herself in SOME fashion).
  • Advanced Abilities: Blessing, Divination, and Warding. The Councilor must be able to aid and protect his charges and to obtain information – all of which this set of abilities allows, at least in desperate situations.
  • Pact: Either Rituals or Guardianship. Wise Councilors are almost always responsible types – which means that they can be entrusted with acting as regents, looking after those evil artifacts, or presiding at major religious ceremonies.

Alternative sets of advanced abilities include Spirit Binding, Advanced Spirit Binding, and Web of Shadows (allowing the Grand Vizier variant to instill compulsions, seal oaths, command spirits, and collect a selection of minions) and The Dark Flame, Mouth of the Earth, and Spirit of the Sage – granting the Religious Leader enhanced intelligence and charisma when he or she needs it, as well as the ability to gather some minions or spies.

A Feat Full of Tricks

The writeup for “Ghost”, and her Shadow Mastery ability, has produced a special request – some as-cheap-as-possible “signature” power packages for other types of low-level characters.

That’s actually pretty easy; the Witchcraft system was designed to flatten the d20 magical power curve – offering small-but-versatile abilities to start, hitting the most potent abilities in the system by level five or so, and expanding in versatility, but not raw power, after that. The initial costs are low, which encourages dabbling – and the existence of Pacts allows dabblers to expand their abilities a bit over time without additional investment. That way their characters can pick up useful talents by taking on responsibilities, quirks, and problems – which can add a good deal of depth and individuality to yet-another-fighter. A serious witch will find that the most powerful abilities in the system are augmentations – which means that you need to have other abilities to build on to make them useful.

Now, like almost everything else in the game, there are ways to stretch that basic structure into “cheese” territory. If the game master is willing to let the characters get away with taking entire groups of feats all at once, jumping straight to the “best” abilities, and slapping weird limitations on something that’s already cheap to make it even cheaper (or even doubling up on the limitations to make it both cheap and doubly effective), it’s possible to get Witchcraft at bargain-basement prices.

Some settings allow that, but most won’t – so I wouldn’t count on being able to get any of these abilities into a particular game unless you know that it’s wide-open.

  • The basic package is pretty much the same for all of these; buy Witchcraft I and II (gaining a little bit of Power and three basic abilities to spend it on), 3d6 extra Power and Mana, and three Advanced Witchcraft Powers, all Specialized and Corrupted for reduced cost – taking a 36 character point package down to 12 points. Now throw in one Pact to reduce the cost by 6 points and behold! You have an effective little power package that only costs six character points or one bonus feat (and the commitment of that Pact of course).

You won’t have enough Power to use the advanced abilities very much or very often, but they make a great ace-in-the-hole to pull out in emergencies.

Barbarian Tricks

Blood… Death… and Vengeance!

Limitations: Barbarians draw on the wild and brutal power of their primordial gods. Their tricks will not work:

  • In heavily civilized places where their gods have little power – unless, of course, a barbarian invasion is underway.
  • If they become too civilized – such as by studying arcane magic, learning to farm, wearing heavy armor, not using their tribal weapons, or failing to start brawls in bars.
  • Without loud battlecries and conspicuous war paint or other fetishes. These will reveal the barbarians tribal affiliation, religion, and many other details to any knowledgable observer and prevent him or her from using these abilities stealthily.
  • Without regular offerings and small rituals in honor of those gods.

Basic Abilities: The Adamant Will (Barbarians shrug off pain and weak attempts to control their minds!), Healing (Specialized for Increased Effect (Reflexive Use)/Self-only. Barbarians are blessed with incredible natural health, and can easily resist diseases, poisons, and wounds that would turn a civilized man into a deliquescent heap!), and Witchsight (Barbarians share the sensory acuity of animals).

Advanced Abilities: Master The Elements (Barbarians are notorious for dream-questing), Bones of Iron (they’re also infamously tough), and Darksense (since when has being blind drunk – or simply blind – inhibited a Barbarians ability to wreak mayhem?).

Pact: Taboos. Barbarians are subject to various Geasa or Prohibitions. They might be forbidden to eat fish, or to harm a woman of their ethnicity, or to cut their hair. A barbarian with this package will have at least three such sometimes-troublesome Geasa. If they violate a geasa they must properly atone before their powers will work again.

Ranger Tricks

“The Spirits of Nature cannot aid you here foolish wanderer!”

“That is why I come in the company of more material friends foolish monster!”

Limitations: Rangers, rather like the barbarians, draw on the wild powers of nature. Their special powers…

  • Require the use of a medicine bag full of various animal totem-tokens blessed by appropriate shaman and spirits. This is a vulnerable focus and a considerable pain to replace.
  • Will not work in large urban areas, aboard space stations, or in other unnatural places.
  • Are slow to recover. Since they rely on spirit favors, they recover only 1d6+2 Power per day – unless they do minor favors for the spirits to build up credit.

Basic Abilities: Healing (usually calling on the bear totem), Hyloka, and Witchsight (both calling on various animals for their strengths and senses).

Advanced Abilities: Breath of Puruza (Rangers can keep going when they really ought to be dead and endure all kinds of things), Leaping Fire (Rangers may move very quickly – and their wounds are rarely serious), and Longevity (that healthy outdoors lifestyle really pays off).

Pact: Missions. The totem spirits the ranger calls on will occasionally request various nature-related services, such as saving endangered creatures, stopping charcoal-burners from destroying a forest, and so on. These are over and above any favors the Ranger decides to do for the powers of nature on a voluntary basis.

Next up, of course, will be tricks for other classes…

“Ghost”, Level One Shadowwalker

For today it’s an optimized version of “Ghost”, a character from the “Chosen Ones” campaign. That particular setting casts the characters as heroes who were being given a variety of special enhancements to meet the demands of a particular set of missions – and hopefully accomplish them easily.

Unfortunately, the process was interrupted and the mystics who were providing those boosts were all killed – leaving the characters to awake with amnesia, with an assortment of enemies, a half-finished set of enhancements, temporarily reduced effective levels, and a set of missions to carry out that they don’t remember and won’t be getting any briefings on.

What was supposed to be a fairly simple set of errands just got a lot more complicated.

Ghost is a Drow stealth expert and shadow master – and doesn’t really remember much more than that save for a sense of paranoia and an affinity with the shadows.

“Chosen One” Template (also known as the “GM Plot Hook Bonus”): This provides +2 each to Strength, Constitution, and Charisma, 60 Darkvision, a mental link with the other Chosen Ones, a bonus language (Draconic), Grant of Aid with the regeneration option, and 1d6 Natural Weapon Claws. There may be (almost certainly is) more to the template than this – but, as of yet, the characters have no idea what that might be.

Race: Drow Elf

The standard breakdown for a drow elf looks like this. For good or ill however, the setting calls for a few small changes, which will be detailed below.

  • Attribute Shift: +2 Dexterity, -2 Constitution (6 CP).
  • Self-Development: +2 Intelligence, +2 Charisma (24 CP).
  • Improved Occult Sense/extended Darkvision, Specialized/user is susceptible to light blindness. Abrupt exposure to bright light will blind him or her for one round and leave them dazzled as long as they remain exposed (6 CP).
  • Improved Spell Resistance (10 + Level) (12 CP).
  • Immunity/Sleep Effects (Uncommon/Minor/Major, 3 CP)
  • Resist/+2 on Will saves against spells and spell-like abilities (3 CP).
  • Resist/+2 on Saves versus Enchantment Spells and Effects (3 CP)
  • Inherent Spell/Darkness (L2, Corrupted/only usable once per day, 4 CP)
  • Inherent Spells/Dancing lights (L0) and Faerie Fire (L1), taken as a pair of L0-L1 effects normally usable twice per day each, Specialized/only usable once per day each (3 CP).
  • Proficient with hand crossbow, rapier, and short sword (a limited group of weapons, 3 CP).
  • Occult Sense/Detect Secret Doors (Specialized: requires a Search check and passing within 5 feet, 3 CP)
  • Skills: Extra Languages, Elven and Undercommon, +2 on Listen, Search, and Spot (8 CP)
  • Disadvantage: Outcast (-3 CP). Dark Elves are widely regarded with fear and suspicion.

That’s 75 CP (in +2 ECL territory). Fortunately, the setting modifications save Ghost a few points here and there.

  • First up, the game is using the half-price rule on buying attribute bonuses. That saves 12 CP up front and lets us drop the “-2 constitution” bit while keeping the +2 Dex.
  • Both the template and the race provide darkvision. Since you only need it once, I’m going to presume that the non-bothersome (if shorter ranged) Chosen One version is paramount; with exposure to more light, her eyes have gotten a bit less sensitive. That saves another 6 CP.
  • The game rolls the Listen, Search, and Spot skill into a single “Perception” skill. That means she can have a +2 racial bonus on Stealth and still save 2 CP.
  • The usual Drow Inherent Spells (Darkness, Dancing Lights, and Faerie Fire once per day each) are being subsumed into her Shadow Mastery talents. That saves 7 CP.

That reduces the cost of her race to 48 CP – or the 31 CP available to a +0 ECL race and 17 CP out of her level one allotment.

Available Character Points: 48 (Level One Base) +10 (Disadvantages; Hunted, Valuable, and Irrationally Secretive) +12 (2x L1 feats; the GM here is giving out an extra one) +2 (Duties – another GM-determined item) = 72. Subtracting her racial costs leaves 55 CP to spend on her level one build. The game master is using a (rather generous) attribute array of 12, 12, 14, 14, 16, 16. Even more importantly, he’s not restricting the characters choice of abilities – allowing them to gain some fairly powerful specialities early on.

Basic Attributes: Str 14, Dex 18 (20), Int 18, Wis 12, Con 16, Chr 16

Basic Purchases:

  • Warcraft (BAB): +0 (0 CP).
  • Hit Points / Dice: 6 (L1d6, 2 CP) +3 (Con Mod) = 9 HP.
  • Proficient with All Simple Weapons (3 CP)
  • Armor Class 10 (Base) +5 (Dex) +2 “Armor” +1 (Martial Art) = 18 (21 when using her Shadow Form).
  • Initiative +5 (Dex)
  • Save Bonuses: +1 Will (3 CP). This gives her Fortitude +3, Reflex +5, and Will +2.
  • Skill Points: 6 (Purchased, 6 CP) +16 (Int Mod x 4) +2 (Fast Learner) = 24 SP.

Usual Weapons:

  • Sai: +8/+8 (+3 BAB +5 Dex, Serpents Strike), 1d6 (improved base damage) +2 (Str), Crit 20/x2. 1d6 Sneak Attack. She usually dual-wields, but – at the moment – this is just a special effect.

Other Abilities:

  • Finesse: uses Dex Mod instead of Str Mod to hit with knives, daggers, short swords, sai, and similar weapons (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for +2 SP/Level (starting at level “-1″, 6 CP).
  • Adept: pays half cost for the Acrobatics, Deception, Stealth, and NightWraith Martial Art skills (6 CP).

Nightwraith Package (9 CP total):

  • Innate Enchantment/7000 GP Value (8 CP). All abilities; (Spell Level ½ or 1) x (Caster Level 1) x Unlimited-Use Use-Activated (2000 GP) x .7 (Personal-Only, if applicable).
  • Increase Attribute/Dex +2 [1400 GP]
  • Martial Mastery (+3 to hit – Sai) [700 gp]
  • Fortune’s Favor II (+2 Luck Skills) [1400 gp]
  • Expertise II (+2 Competence Bonus to All Skills) [1400 gp]
  • Serpent Strike (Additional Melee Attack) [1400 gp]
  • Immunity/the normal XP costs of Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial / only covers L0 and L1 effects at caster level one) (1 CP).

Using Serpent Strike is more than a bit cheesy, but restricting it to a second melee attack (instead of an extra attack at any moment) makes it somewhat more reasonable. It still means that a simple “dispel magic” against that “caster level one” will drastically reduce the characters combat abilities though – and it’s so useful to a melee combatant that they’d be fools not to take it.

Shadow Mastery Package (12 CP Total):

“Ghost” can tap into the magics of twilight and darkness, channeling those hidden forces into a modest variety of tricks. This particular ability package is being purchases as Witchcraft, with all abilities Corrupted / will not work in areas of bright illumination and can be dispelled by light-based powers. That’s a bit of a bottleneck – but this is only a supplementary set of abilities.

More importantly, Witchcraft is a very cheap and efficient way to get some fairly good powers – but it doesn’t improve much (if at all) with level. Thus it’s great for low-level characters, fair for mid-level characters, and only a minor supplement for high-level characters.

  • Witchcraft I and II, 8 CP. This provides (Str+Dex+Con)/3 Power (that’s 17 power) and three basic witchcraft abilities. Where relevant, the Will Save DC against these abilities is 16.
  • The Adamant Will. This allows her to spend 2 power as a reflex action to resist various forms of mind control or to make a second save against mind-reading or “truth” effects. For three power she may reflexively present a false aura to detection spells or ignore pain.
  • Shadowweave and Advanced Shadowweave (Specialized/only allows access to second level effects, 2 CP). This allows the manipulation of light and darkness to create minor illusions and special effects. Cantrip level effects can provide bonuses of up to +6 on things like disguise checks and cost one power per ten minutes of activity. A first level effect (such as Color Spray or Faerie Fire) costs one power while second level effects (such as Darkness) cost two power.
  • Witchsight: She may spend one power to enhance a sense for an hour – gaining either a +6 bonus on relevant checks or extending an existing sense (such as upgrading her sense of smell to Scent). Spending one power on a specific roll – such as attempting to detect poison by scent – triples the bonus.

As a level one character “Ghost” can have two Pacts – providing an additional 12 CP worth of Advanced Witchcraft abilities. She currently has only has Duties (she must spend a great deal of time lurking in the shadows, for only there can she feel at home) – providing only 6 CP worth of abilities. In her case, those have been invested in

  • “Shadow Form”/Ashen Rebirth (with the Dimension Door and Teleportation upgrades, 8 CP). Ghost may spend one power to merge with the darkness for one minute. In that form she gains DR 10/-, the ability to walk on walls and ceilings, the ability to pass through cracks and crevices, a +5 enhancement bonus to stealth, and a (Cha Mod) deflection bonus to her AC. While in this form she may spend 2 power to dimension door from one shadow to another as long as she can trace a transverseable path between them or 7 power to teleport to another shadow.

This is a minor variant on the usual Ashen Rebirth power – notably weaker, but without the damaging side effects or the conspicuousness of turning into flame.

It’s worth noting that Shadow Mastery focuses on tapping into the powers of physical darkness; it has no inherent morality. While many evil creatures like concealment, illusion, and the ability to merge with the shadows, nothing prevents a character from using those powers heroically.

  • Since Ghost has 2 CP left over at the moment, I’ll invest those in Mana as Power (Specialized and Corrupted for one-third effect, or +1d6 Power, 2 CP). That gives her a total of 21 Power to work with each day (17 + 1d6 [4]).

Skills:

  • Acrobatics: +4 (2 SP*) +5 (Dex) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) = +13
  • Deception: +4 (2 SP*) +3 (Cha) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) = +11
  • Nightwraith Martial Art (Dex): +4 (2 SP*) +5 (Dex) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) = +13
  • Perception: +4 (SP) +1 (Wis) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) +2 (Race) = +11^
  • Perform (Stringed Instrument) : +4 (SP) +5 (Dex) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) = +13
  • Persuasion: +4 (SP) +3 (Cha) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) = +11
  • Stealth: +4 (2 SP*) +5 (Dex) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) +2 (Race) +2 (Synergy) = +17^
  • Thievery: +4 (SP) +5 (Dex) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) = +13

*Adept Skills, purchased at half cost.

^ May be augmented with Witchcraft.

Skills in the setting have been somewhat condensed – although everything else is as per the SRD.

  • Acrobatics: Covers Balance, Tumble and Escape Artist.
  • Athletics: Covers Climb, Jump and Swim.
  • Arcana: Covers Knowledge (Arcana) and Spellcraft.
  • Linguistics: Covers Forgery and Decipher Script.
  • Deception: Covers Bluff and Disguise.
  • Survival: Covers Knowledge (Nature) and Survival.
  • Perception: Covers Search, Spot, and Listen.
  • Persuasion: Covers Diplomacy and Intimidation.
  • Stealth: Covers Hide and Move Silently.
  • Thievery: Covers Disable Device, Open Locks, and Sleight of Hand.

Nightwraith Martial Art (Dex):

The Nightwraith Style focuses on concealment, sudden strikes at vital areas, and on the use of the Sai – as well as inherent mastery of the powers of (physical) darkness. It is smooth, flowing, and generally performed in dark, loose-fitting clothing with wide sleeves and pants – both of which serve to conceal the user’s movements in swirling folds of cloth. It’s generally regarded as the private art of the Lahir Wraiths (a secretive order of Drow assassins) and they’ve been known to object to having it spread around.

  • Requires: Access to the Shadow Mastery package – or at least something similar. Uses the Sai.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 2, Defenses 2, Power 2, Strike, and Synergy/Stealth.
  • Advanced and Master Techniques: Combat Reflexes, Sneak Attack I, Prone Fighting, and an Unarmed Kata (allows use while unarmed as well as with a Sai).
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength, Light Foot, Serpent Strike, and Touch Strike.
  • Known Techniques (7): Defense 1, Power 1, Synergy/Stealth, Combat Reflexes, Sneak Attack I, Prone Fighting, and Touch Strike.

Exalted – Exaltation Research

the chest

What's in this thing?

“Lesser Exaltations” are one of Charles’s research projects – and the techniques involved may or may not have anything to do with actual Celestial or Terrestrial Exaltations. What they do involve is bonding a mortal or god-blood character to three especially-designed and augmented five-dot Manses and twelve dots worth of artifacts – a Soul Sheathe (Artifact ***) containing a Least Rune Weapon (Artifact *), a Greater Ring of Thaumaturgic Mastery (Artifact **), a set of Commando Armor (Artifact ***), and a Lesser Sigil of the Moon (Artifact ***).

That’s still no match for the potential of a genuine Celestial Exaltation – but it does provide a good deal of immediate power and some fairly good defenses.

Unfortunately, the effects of three complex augmented manses and five complicated artifacts is kind of hard to keep track of – especially when the manses are designed to modify and amplify some of the effects of the artifacts. Ergo, we have a (still fairly complicated) summary sheet.

Lesser Exalts Gain:

  • +1 Essence. They may continue to buy up their essence at (x8) as per the usual rules and gain an essence pool of ([Essence x 6] + [Willpower x 3] + [Sum of Virtues] +4). While they regain essence at the usual base rate (4/8 per hour) they are effectively “in” two manse *****’s at all times – providing an extra 40 motes per hour.
  • Three Spirit Charms and the ability to buy more spirit charms at 8 XP each. They may buy Terrestrial and Celestial Martial Arts if they can find a teacher. Spirit Charms may be combo’d freely at a cost of 1 Will, but combos involving martial arts charms must be developed normally.
  • +3 Strength
  • +1 to each attribute other then Strength.
  • Nightsight.
  • Double their base ground movement speed.
  • Base Health Levels of 2x -0, 8x -1, 8x -2, 2x -4, and “Dead”. Thanks to their investing a health level in each of two manses, for them “Dead” usually means “becoming a normal – if fairly minor – spirit”.
  • Stamina-based Soak as per an Exalt.
  • Immunity to Crippling, Unnatural Mental Influence, and unwanted Shaping effects.
  • +10 Bonus Successes against Poison and Disease.
  • +12L/+12B Soak and Hardness 6L/6B – although this does not stack with external armor.
  • Cannot suffer more than three levels of damage from any single attack or flurry.
  • Can reduce the final damage from any attack or flurry to zero three times per scene.
  • +4 to Integrity and Resistance. These raise their effective skill rating, and so affect any figured abilities. They do not, however, raise the cost of increasing the base skill and may result in skill totals beyond the usual caps.
  • +2 to Archery, Awareness, Martial Arts, Melee, Stealth, and Thrown. These raise their effective skill rating, and so affect any figured abilities.  They do not, however, raise the cost of increasing the base skill and may result in skill totals beyond the usual caps.
  • +2 to their Dodge DV.
  • They regenerate one level of bashing damage every three actions in combat, all bashing damage over the course of a minute out of combat, one level of lethal damage every half hour, and one level of aggravated damage every two and a half hours.
  • Their aging rate is negligible. They can expect to remain in good health for several thousand years.
  • They may carry and attune two hearthstones without need for a socket or essence commitment.
  • They may maintain a link with an external source of power – whether that’s an entity (which can communicate with the user, transmit powers through the weapon, and – if capable of becoming immaterial and not otherwise restrained – travel to it), place (in which case the user can draw upon that place as if he or she was within it), or device (in which case the user may draw on it as if he or she was in contact with it). The link can be changed, or renewed in a few moments if dispelled, but the Lesser Exalt may only maintain one link at a time.
  • They need not eat, sleep, drink, or breathe, and are immune to natural environmental hazards.
  • May invoke up to three thaumaturgic effects per day without having to expend motes or will. They do not, however, automatically know any thaumaturgy. Most do learn some though.
  • Can store three thaumaturgic effects, ready for immediate use.

Each Lesser Exalt is attuned to a particular type of weapon – sword, staff, bow, etc – and can imbue any one such weapon at a time with the following powers:

  • Perfection. Such weapons get two +1’s and a +2 to be divided between Accuracy, Damage, Defense, and Rate – although Rate can only be increased by +1. This does not stack with artifact powers however.
  • Collapsible. The weapon can collapse into a small, easily-concealed, form.
  • Unbreakable. The weapons cannot be destroyed save by truly grotesque intentional abuse or major directed magical acts.

Thaumaturgic Suite:

These powers are protected against countermeasures short of Celestial Circle Countermagic. If so dispelled, they can be reinvoked six ticks later.

As Needed:

  • A blurring/multiple-image effect, adding (another) +2 to their Dodge DV.
  • +3 bonus dice to any roll they make.
  • +6L/6B Soak that reduces Ping damage.

May spend one mote to:

  • Be able to physically attack immaterial beings for (2 x Essence) hours.
  • See the flows of essence, revealing the presence of immaterial spirits, spells, active charms, and similar effects for (2 x Ess) days.
  • Stunt as an Exalt or other supernatural being for (2 x Ess) days. While god-bloods do this anyway, this is often useful to mortals.
  • Negate up to four botches per scene that would otherwise harm them for (2 x Ess) days.

May spend two motes to…

  • Take on up to twelve points of mutations for up to (2 x Ess) Days. This will not stack with itself, but can be dropped at any time.
  • Occultly perform an hours simple work, such as sorting and filing, cleaning, cutting wood, weeding a garden, and so on. Sadly, this will not accomplish magical tasks other than alchemy and cannot be used on anyone above essence one who wishes to resist.

May spend three motes to…

  • Generate a shadow-shield (as per desired physical shield) or up to a 10 x 10 wall. These have 12B/12L/12A Soak, require 12 levels of damage to destroy, and last for ten minutes otherwise. No cost for the first three times in a day.

There are, in fact, a number of ways this package could be made more powerful, more coherent, and better unified (most notably by using fewer, but higher-rated, artifacts) – but Charles has taken the “throw everything and the kitchen sink in” approach this time around and is designing around the use of artifacts that he can mass-produce with relative ease.

His next approach is to use manses in another way – as in the Bazaar of the Bizarre – to imbue mortals with the abilities of powerful manse guardians.

After that he may combine the two approaches – resulting in some pretty impressive powers – or try for the all-in-one uber-artifact approach like Authchthon. Uber-artifacts are a lot harder to make though.