Eclipsing Wealth, Part II

For today, we have an Eclipse question….

The rules let me have the internal equivalent of pretty much any magic item, whether through Innate Enchantment, Inherent Spell, or Spirit Weapon… but the only mechanism I can find for specifying external enchantments is really clunky.

Equipage, with the Signature ability, lets you specify a an expensive load-out, which self- replenishes. I suppose if it doesn’t replenish, that’s a Specialize. But then its an overpowering amount of $$/gear (at least, at 1st level) for just 9 (or less!) points.

I think you would do better to just have a simple Wealth system. Either a continuous scale of points, or a simple doubling function.

———————————————————–Jasper Merendino

The trouble with Eclipse and genuinely external enchantments and equipment is that such things aren’t – pretty much by definition – a part of the character; they’re a function of what items are available in a given setting and how you get them. Thus the basic d20 rules already have an “expected wealth by level” table, treasure types listed for all the monsters, and assorted treasure tables – and that approach works just fine for a lot of games.

There are still several ways in Eclipse to build quasi-external gear packages without simply going shopping or rummaging through treasure hordes though.

  • The standard method of building such a package is quite literal – give your character some crafting skills and use Create Item or Spell Storing abilities to make your own gear. If you want to do it on the cheap, pick up Action Hero/Crafting or some of the advanced item creation abilities to cut down on the cost.
  • If you prefer strange quests and puzzles for your gear-making take Create Artifact instead. That will let you invest your time and effort to obtain unique marvels.

Both of those approaches are quite compatible with the usual d20 wealth-as-a-goal style of play; you’re just obtaining your magical goodies directly instead of obtaining money and then buying them.

  • If you want gear that’s useless to anyone else, and which you can readily replace given time, take Innate Enchantment, Siddhisyoga, Inherent Spell, or pretty much any other power and Corrupt it: you need an external focus – probably especially blessed, attuned to you by spending several days with it, personally assembled, anointed with your blood during a special ritual, or some such – to express that power. That approach will give you a collection of “magic items” that are specific to your character, are useless to anyone else, and can be replaced given a little time. As a side-benefit, it lets the game master blow up some of your gear without being considered a bastard.

This is good for superhero settings, where equipment tends to be an aspect of the character and wealth is just a special effect. If you want the minor – and generally irrelevant aspects of Wealth for your character, or want to be (almost as meaninglessly) broke, just take Privilege / Wealthy or the “Broke” disadvantage. For an example, we have Dr Wrath.

  • If you want to be able to make small quantities of useful-but-transient items for each adventure, the Maker of Potions, Talismans, and Scrolls package might be for you. That can be used to represent the gadgeteer-type characters who retreat to their labs to stock up on gadgets before each mission.

This can fit in with almost any character regardless of monetary resources; for the purposes of this power package an improvised workshop in a shed full of scavenged junk works just as well as a giant research complex with a staff of hundreds. That’s all just special effects.

  • If you’re really fond of a particular item you’ve found, you might want to use Mystic Link to bond it to yourself, or the Absorption option on Innate Enchantment. If a given world features special places of power this can also be used to set up links to them.

This is another one that doesn’t call for any particular level of wealth; it just requires that you gain access to the item or location for long enough to link to it.

  • A number of cyborgs on the site simply use an Immunity to having their gear being damaged or taken away to represent having it surgically installed. Thus taking their toys away will require more complex effects (such as amputation, surgery, or special disabling gear) to do so than simply grabbing or sundering the stuff. For an example, here’s Mr Jeremyn.

This tends to work best when a lot of the equipment is static. If you plan to be upgrading your armor regularly, having it surgically implanted, or magically melded with your skin, or existing as “charged psychic constructs” in your mind, or bio-engineered into your genes, or handled by nanites in your bloodstream, or whatever your particular excuse is, is awkward and cumbersome. If, on the other hand, your bulletproof vest is about as good as any armor available in the setting, having an implanted version makes a great deal more sense.

  • For mighty items that can be temporarily taken away but which somehow keep winding up back in the character’s hands, you can use a combination of Enthusiast and Create Relic. While this technically results in a relic that the owner can depower and/or make disappear while he or she spends a little time to make a new one, “just gets back to him or her” is a perfectly reasonable special effect. For really mighty items, with powers that only you can tap, combine this with a few personal powers corrupted to require the relic as a focus.

This works well for characters with unique foci; if one of their major distinctions is that they wield Durandel, or Mjolnir, or the great axe Bloody Executioner as a unique signature item, then taking this approach will keep those items firmly linked with the character; they’ll never be separated for long.

There are a fair number of characters on the site who take this approach to making some relics for themselves – although, while there are several who use standardized packages of relics, I can’t think of one at the moment who relies on a single mighty relic-focus. I may have to make one; they are very classic superheroes.

  • The Signature Gear option on the Equipage ability can get you a package of gear worth up to 12,000 GP – but it can’t include expendable magic items and only lasts for (12000 GP/the GP value of the package) minutes. That won’t cover a lot of permanent magic – and won’t last too long if you try. It is pretty handy for things like “Sir Ethilridge, a crusader against the humanoid hordes, had been captured by the bugbears and thrown into a cell. As they dragged him out to the arena of “justice”, he drew upon the grace of the gods, and manifested his armor, greatsword, and emblazoned shield – slaying many bugbears as he fought his way to the battlements and escaped by diving into the moat.”.

Fortunately for Sir Ethilridge, he had the Signature Gear option – including his Full Plate (1500 GP), Heavy Steel Shield (20 GP), Greatsword (50 GP), Composite Longbow (100 GP), and a few hundred GP worth of minor weapons and gear – rope, grappling hook, smaller weapons, and so on – for a total value of 2000 GP. That let him manifest the package for six minutes at a time, and (at level six) let him do so three times per day – enough time to make it to the battlements. That’s useful – but the same character point expenditure could have gotten him something like Fireball 1/Day and Dimension Door 1/Day, or any of many other abilities.

Even at low levels this hasn’t been an especially popular option; most characters seem to find better things to do with their points – and the ones who want to be able to summon backup gear usually buy some Conjuration Rune Magic or something a little more generally applicable. It is also a bit clunky because it conflicts with one of the basic assumptions in most d20 games – which is that no one has “signature gear” because a characters gear has to be constantly upgraded as his or her level increases.

Unlike some games, such as Shadowrun (where it’s never worthwhile unless you’re dead broke, desperate, and need a meal) or Champions (where money is almost meaningless, since everything of any importance MUST be purchased with points), Eclipse doesn’t really include a way to convert character points directly into cash – although it does include a number of ways to acquire an ongoing lifestyle (buy Privilege/Wealth, Mystic Artist / Fame and Wealth, or even Immunity/the costs associated with a particular lifestyle), or modest income (Harvest of Artifice and Transmutation from the Create Item list, Tenebrium’s Coin from the Witchcraft list, and others).

The problem with converting character points into cash in Eclipse – or any similar method of converting Feats or some other character resource into cash in d20 in general – is that, in basic d20, not only is cash one of the major game rewards, but it translates directly into power. Worse, it’s expected that characters will have massively-increasing amounts of it as they rise in level.

  • If a system provides a more-or-less set amount of cash per character point, it’s almost always going to be wrong. If it’s right at level one, it’s going to be virtually meaningless at level ten – and if it’s right at level ten, it will be overwhelming at level one and still virtually meaningless at level twenty.

That won’t work.

  • If it’s a simple, level-based, progressive system – where the return on character points depends on what level you are when you spend them – then anyone who spends some points on cash at low levels is going to see the value of that investment dwindle away in comparison – and since the general practice is to keep party levels together, there’s no compensating “interest”.

That won’t work either.

  • You could use a level-adjusted percentage system – so that each investment was presumed to keep the user (somehow) ahead of the usual wealth-by-level figures – but it will need to have a level-adjusted cost to keep the advantages of – say – 20% more gear balanced against the cost of – say – 5% less character points to spend elsewhere.

Of course, that relies on using the (or at least a) wealth-by-level chart or calculation to begin with. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but a lot of settings have very different underlying assumptions or monetary systems or no expected wealth levels at all, which can make this approach inappropriate in many games. Besides… if you want to do things this way, Action Hero/Crafting, Mystic Link/Runebinding, and the various item creation abilities have it covered; all of those let you turn some spare character points into extra gear, with higher levels allowing you more gear – which is where most of a typical d20 characters money goes anyway.

Alternatively, you can simply buy an Immunity to having to actually track your money and obtain your gear – leaving you free to simply designate an equipment package for this level (or, as a special effect, simply take powers like the Oath of Poverty). You can corrupt it so that any money you actually acquire can’t be used for more gear, or given to your friends – although you can give it to charity, hold wild parties, and so on – to avoid unbalancing the system. As you go up in levels, you’ll have to buy up the level of the immunity a bit, but that’s not TOO burdensome.

Wait, you want more gear? Buy Journeyman, or Privilege, and build your gear package as if you were a level or two higher up.

Now, if you want to break – or at least weaken – the link between wealth and personal power, you can use the Wealth Level Templates from The Practical Enchanter. Of course, those also assume that magic items come in the form of minor Charms and Talismans (common magic) and occasional unique wonders rather than in the usual d20 hierarchy of graduated devices suited to various levels.

If you want to drop that link entirely, and basically limit gear in some other fashion you can use something like the Federation-Apocalypse session does; treat “Wealth” as just a skill. Invest a few skill points; you’re well off. Get more skill bonuses, or invest more points, and you’re wealthy – which, as it does in Champions, works just fine as long as being wealthy is… fundamentally meaningless. (In the Federation-Apocalypse dimension-hopping game most gear won’t work outside of a small set of dimensions – different for each item. If you can’t power it yourself off of your modest power reserves it probably isn’t worth carrying – thus how much gear you can afford is usually irrelevant).

Now, who knows? Eventually some utterly brilliant wealth-scaling system may occur to me, and become an Eclipse supplement (presuming that I can’t leverage that brilliant insight into real-world wealth) – but up until now I haven’t been able to think of anything generic enough to work and detailed enough to be satisfactory beyond the basic Poor/Average/Well-off/Filthy Rich progression you get in Eclipse using the “broke” disadvantage, taking no modifier, and using privilege.

4 Responses

  1. I thank you for your (Clearly expansive) effort.

    MY central issue was, you have a system that (e.g., through channeling) allows a FIRST level character to unload 4th level effects . . . but (apparently) did not give me a way to let him start with a horse. Or a suit of plate mail. Or a dose of a known, priced poison. Or, in fact, ANything over 100gp (= default starting wealth).
    And that just seemed weird.
    Tool use should not be penalized.

    And just because an ability can be taken away from a character, or even used against him, does Not mean it should not be covered in rules for starting gear.

    IF you say Journeyman covers it, than I am satisfied.

  2. Ah, I misread what you were driving at there. My apologies.

    The general rule using high-level powers is on page 10 (the bottom of the right-hand column) – basically that casting a spell or using a power normally requires a minimum caster level (whether derived from base caster levels or – like many of the innate powers – from hit dice) equal to twice the level of the power being used minus one.

    As it goes on to say, you don’t have to enforce that – but that is one of the basic mechanisms for keeping things under control.

    If you just want some extra gear to start with, Privilege/Wealthy Family (or similar) should cover it. (The Journeyman or Privilege note was meant to go with the Immunity option in the previous paragraph).

    Oh, and thank you for asking! Questions are always useful.

  3. […] Maker of Potions, Talismans, and Scrolls: For characters who stock up on minor magic items between adventures. […]

  4. […] For discussions on what “Wealth” is, and how to start with it, we have a couple of articles on Wealth. […]

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