Eclipse d20 and Tolkien’s Rings Of Power

English: Fictional coat of arms of Mordor, in ...

Here’s looking at you Frodo!

One Book To Rule Them All, One Book To Find Them.

One Book To Bring Them In, And To The Setting Bind Them.

Today it’s a question from Alzrius – and one that I’m surprised has taken this long to come up. It is, after all, a perennial topic of discussion. My answer, of course, is absolutely definite, and will doubtless end all debate on the topic for the rest of time.

And if you believe that, I have MANY fine bridges, parks, and mythical subcontinents to sell you.

You’ve written a number of articles on Middle Earth/The Lord of the Rings. We’ve had an article examining the likely levels of the Fellowship in general, as well as Gandalf and the Balrog in particular (along with not one but two spirited defenses of those stats), as well as Federation Apocalypse-style “identities” for both Sauron and Melkor-Morgoth. You’ve looked at the charms and talismans and the silmarils, but the most famous items of Tolkien’s world have never been “statted up” here. So then…

Based on what we know of them, what would the One Ring, the Lesser Rings, and the Mirror of Galadriel look like using the Eclipse rules?

 -Alzrius

  • “Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
  • Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
  • Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
  • One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne”

-Tolkien, The Lord Of The Rings.

To properly convert the rings to a game, you need to start off with a basic question…

Where did the rings come from?

Sauron wanted to bring the Elves under his command – so he came to them in a fair seeming, and taught them secret lore. With that knowledge their craftsmen created many Rings of Power – including Lesser Rings (about which little or nothing is known) and Great Rings – sixteen of which were made with Sauron’s direct assistance, and three of which were made by Celebrimbor using Sauron’s lore but without his direct aid.

Sauron then created the One Ring to control the wearers of the other Great Rings (presumably the wearers of lesser rings could perhaps be spied on, but not controlled – or surely Sauron would have used such a resource) – but the Elves noticed in time to remove their rings, and did not fall to his control. Foiled in his chief purpose, Sauron then went to great lengths to steal the sixteen rings that he had helped create. He did not find the three however. (The true extant of his efforts to do so are unknown; perhaps, at the time and in his arrogance, he believed that Celebrimbor could only have created minor trinkets without his direct aid and did not fully exert himself). With the sixteen in his possesion, Sauron then corrupted them and handed them out to powerful but presumably corruptible individuals whom he believed would be more pliable than the elves the rings had originally been intended for.

As it happened, the Dwarves proved rather intractable; their rings could exaggerate their worst tendencies – greed, suspicion, and anger – and enhanced their abilities to allow them to become very very rich- but apparently couldn’t make them invisible, turn them into wraiths, extend (or shorten) their lives, or bring them under Sauron’s control. After all, the Dwarves had been made tough, enduring, and resistant, to live in the days when Morgoth still blighted Arda – a durability that apparently served them equally well against his lieutenant.

Humans proved more vulnerable. According to Tolkien…

Those who used the Nine Rings became mighty in their day, kings, sorcerers, and warriors of old. They obtained glory and great wealth…They had, as it seemed, unending life, yet life became unendurable to them. They could walk, if they would, unseen by all eyes in this world beneath the sun, and they could see things in worlds invisible to mortal men…

It’s strongly implied that, after their corruption was complete (which apparently took quite some time), Sauron took the rings back from the Nazgul – which may be why he still controlled them utterly after he lost the One Ring. After all, if they’d still been wearing their rings, their cloaks and masks should have been just as invisible as their original gear had long since become. It seems likely that Sauron didn’t use those rings to make more Nazgul because he needed them to control the ones he already had – and he didn’t use the ones he recovered from the Dwarves later on to make more Nazgul because, without the One Ring, they wouldn’t be under his control.

So what did they do?

Again, according to Tolkien…

The chief power (of all the rings alike) was the prevention or slowing of decay (i.e. `change’ viewed as a regrettable thing), the preservation of what is desired or loved, or its semblance – this is more or less an Elvish motive. But also they enhanced the natural powers of a possessor – thus approaching `magic’, a motive easily corruptible into evil, a lust for domination. And finally they had other powers, more directly derived from Sauron…such as rendering invisible the material body, and making things of the invisible world visible.

That covers the life-extension bit; it’s not much use slowing down external change and decay if you can’t endure to enjoy it. It also covers making the rings themselves difficult (but hardly impossible) to destroy; that too would be a change. Of course, magic items are often taken as being fairly difficult to destroy, so that works too.

The invisibility relied on the user becoming partially a creature of the “wraith-world” – and it may or may not have worked on creatures that already were a part of that world. It never comes up directly – but apparently Sauron was not invisible while fighting Isildur, despite wearing the One Ring during the fight.

“Word of God” also informs us that the Three did not have powers derived from Sauron, and so did not make people invisible. There are a few references indicating that they MIGHT have some special powers of their own – most notably Círdan’s statement on giving Narya to Gandalf that “This is the Ring of Fire, and with it you may rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill.”

Of course, that could just be an elf being poetic about presenting someone with a major magical gift. It’s been suggested that Narya, as the Ring of Fire, helped Gandalf with Fire Magic and Inspired Others, that Nenya (Water) helped Galadriel with Water Magic and Prophecy, and that Vilya (Air) helped Elrond with Air Magic and Sensory / Divinatory powers – but there really isn’t much of any evidence for the Three having any special powers beyond the standard power boost and preservation effect at all. They might have been invisible – nobody mentions seeing them – but nobody mentions seeing other rings, cloak broaches, or similar items either. They might also just appear to be simple rings on the physical side; since wearing jewelry isn’t exactly uncommon such a minor ornament could easily pass unnoticed.

Whether or not any of the sixteen had special powers is not recorded – but Tolkien never really tells us much of anything about them anyway.

The One Ring did, of course, have at least one special power. According to Tolkien:

While he (Sauron) wore the One Ring he could perceive all the things that were done by means of the lesser rings, and he could see and govern the very thoughts of those that wore them.” – although, as noted above, “lesser rings” here probably refers to the nineteen, not to the truly minor rings.

It amplified the user’s power of course, and greatly extended Sauron’s dominance and control – but power-amplification is a general property of all the great rings.

There are some bits – Sam understanding the Orcs, and Frodo’s interaction with Galadriel – which might indicate that the One Ring can grant the user a touch of telepathy, but Gollum certainly didn’t show any signs of it. The ring may have extended the user’s ability to control and dominate others in general – but such manipulation was a part of Sauron’s nature long before the forging of the One Ring and it’s noted that Frodo would have to become far stronger, and train his will to the domination of others before he could use that power, so this is more likely just an aspect of the basic “heightens the user’s abilities” power. The same goes for the apparently-heightened ability to frighten Gollum and Orcs – although both of those were likely rather nervous to begin with. The power of command was hardly absolute anyway; even Sauron couldn’t always hold command of his forces with it – “So great was the might and splendour of the Númenóreans that Sauron’s own servants deserted him”,

It tended to be addictive, and to corrupt people – but so did pretty much every other external or “unnatural” source of power in Tolkien’s world. Political power corrupted rulers, the desire for long lives corrupted men, magical lore corrupted Saruman, and even the lesser rings and palantir’s were dangerous. The One Ring was arguably worse – but it was also far more potent. This… is really more of a limitation than a special “power”. Tellingly, Tom Bombadil – who simply did not CARE about such things – was immune.

According to Gandalf:

A Ring of Power looks after itself… It may slip off treacherously, but its keeper never abandons it. At most he plays with the idea of handing it on to someone else’s care—and that only at an early stage, when it first begins to grip. But as far as I know Bilbo alone in history has ever gone beyond playing, and really done it. He needed all my help, too. And even so he would never have just forsaken it, or cast it aside. It was not Gollum… but the Ring itself that decided things. The Ring left him.

Except, of course, that this is blatantly untrue; multiple elves took off their rings when they became threats, the Dwarves were not affected by such problems, and Gandalf himself was given one freely. Evidently Gandalf is – at the least – skipping a LOT of unnecessary details to make a general point. It may be difficult to give up a Great Ring, but apparently it’s hardly impossible.

Finally, it can often get itself put on, or fall off, in an effort to get back to Sauron. On the other hand, it pretty obviously couldn’t do anything about being kept in a hole in some rocks, or on a mantlepiece, for many years. Not exactly a world-shaking enchantment there. It apparently has some limited awareness and ability to make decisions – but it isn’t very smart, and it can’t keep it’s current bearer from using it’s power.

So how do we turn this into mechanics?

The first thing to remember is that Middle-Earth is a realistic, low-magic, world.

Normal People are level one. Experienced, trained, types (and pretty much any dwarf) are level two. The adventurous and talented (and pretty much any elf) may hit level three. Level four is pretty much the peak for trained, talented, heroic humans and experienced elves and dwarves – and mere experience simply does not lead to increased power in Arda after you hit your level cap.

Beyond that… Elves who have lived in Valinor could reasonably reach level five, and legendary heroes (most likely touched by greater powers) could surpass those limits by one or two levels – becoming truly superhuman. Powerful spirit beings… well, everything Gandalf could do (and a fair number of things he didn’t) could be covered by an eighth level build. Sure, Sauron led an immense army and did a lot of evil things – but so did Napoleon, and I’m pretty sure that HE was just a human without any particular high-level powers.

And you had to train and grow to use the powers that a Ring of Power made available – and that’s pretty easy to represent in d20 terms.

So:

  • Immunity/Normal Level Limits (Common, Severe, Minor (+3 on the cap, 6 CP) for the ninteen, Major (+5 on the cap, 9 CP) for the One Ring. Of course that’s a natural-law immunity (and, like most such, grossly powerful for it’s cost; level five or seven when most of the world is limited to level two? YES please!), and thus should be carefully watched – and in Arda is a twisted power that goes against the will of the Creator. Worse, it’s effectively Specialized and Corrupted/the power of a ring cannot more than double your base potential (thus Gollum, with a base potential of Level Two, was no more than a match for Sam – who had definitely achieved heroic stature) and the more you employ the unnatural power of a ring to exceed your normal limits, the more twisted and corrupt you grow. That’s not necessarily evil at first – but using even a part of the “unsullied” power of Nenya inflicted a terrible longing for the West (and spiritual healing) on Galadriel even as it left her unable to find true peace or joy in Middle-Earth. Gandalf… had enough power of his own that he never sought to use the level-boosting power of Narya, while it is perhaps notable that Elrond, the possesser of Vilya… did very little save sit in a small valley for many centuries. Extreme agoraphobia perhaps?

Thus rings were given to powerful mortal men – who then eventually reached level seven, with powers well beyond those available to normal humans, if not quite on the level of Gandalf or the Maia. With their final transformations – and their bodies partially in the spirit world and physically dead – they became resistant to most attacks, allowing them to devastate small armies of ordinary (level 1-2) people. To most of the world they were deadly terrors, and even heroic elves would find them daunting – although (as is only sensible with closely-matched contingently immortal opponents and worlds with realistic injuries) they were apparently reluctant to actually fight it out.

Dwarves could endure or resist most of the corruption of the Great Rings (even if they did make them rather unpleasant people), and could not be influenced by Sauron despite the One Ring. To the rulers of the Dwarves the rings brought leadership, expertise in crafts and trade, and many other strengths, By the exercise of those enhanced capabilities, the Dwarven ring-bearers became wealthy and powerful – and so Sauron spared no effort to reclaim those rings; on the fingers of dwarves they simply placed greater power in the hands of his rivals and enemies.

It’s interesting – if beyond the scope of this article – to consider what might have happened if the elves had given the Great Rings to the dwarves as soon as Sauron forged the One Ring – or if the One Ring had been taken by a dwarven hero instead of by Isildur… A possible backstory for a variant Shadowrun campaign perhaps?

  • The power of Preservation is, at it’s simplest, simply a small Immunity to Time – preventing aging (Uncommon, Major, Minor, Corrupted/the user will eventually find extended life a burden and – of course – doesn’t get to break their level cap just due to age, 3 CP). The Great Rings, however, were capable of extending that power beyond the wearer, preserving ancient beauties and entire realms in some (very ill-defined) fashion. That’s a little bit awkward; affecting entire realms calls for some rather specialized powers.

Still, those individuals who DO use the rings for such things are always great elven leaders – which tells us how to get there.

  • The Great Rings bestow Dominion (6 CP) – and thus indirect access to the Battle Magic ability, allowing spells to affect entire realms – given followers and time (which the elves have plenty of). To cast those spells we’ll use the Hexcrafting system, buying two “cards” for a narrowly-focused preservation/healing “deck”, specialized/all effects must be subtle and relatively long-term (6 CP). That will allow someone with a Greater Ring and a realm to extend their powers across it – and to weave subtle effects (such as reducing aging and decay) to protect and maintain it.

Of course Dominion effects are useful in many other ways – to inspire thousands, bestow offices, influence large-scale political events, and ward off certain ill effects, such as disease. Pretty much all things that various ring-users were noted for. That fits nicely.

So that’s our basic Great Ring – 18 CP. Of course, they are cursed thanks to the use of Sauron’s evil lore in their forging; they render their user’s open to Sauron’s telepathic control as long as they wear the ring. That’s (-3 CP) and reduces their base cost as a Relic to 2 CP. That’s not actually very expensive – but what makes the Great Rings so powerful is that they let their wearers break Arda’s level caps to some extent.

For the Sixteen and the One, Invisibility is up next – but in d20 terms what Tolkien describes is a lot closer to a partial shift into the Ethereal Plane than it is to classical invisibility, although it leaves the user fully corporeal. It works in combat too, but can leave you with a partial shadow and doesn’t cover up things like footprints – as Bilbo found out to his distress.

  • Ergo… what we want is Immunity to Visual Detection (Very Common, Minor, Great), Specialized and Corrupted/the user leaves betraying traces on the environment, is partially phased into the wraith-realm/ethereal and thus is not invisible on that level and can interact with creatures there and even be attacked by them, user will eventually fade permanently into the wraith-realm and become a wraith (how fast depends on how much they use this function of a ring), does not work on creatures that are dual-aspected and already exist in the wraith-realm (8 CP).

While this DOES allow the user to see into the unseen world, and interact with spirits, and so on, this generally is not a good thing for mortals. They are dreadfully exposed when they do so.

The Sixteen might have other powers of course – but there’s no real evidence of it beyond Tolkien’s mention of “other powers”. It’s possible that Tolkien was counting their addictive nature as a power but in Eclipse terms it’s another three-point disadvantage on the things, giving the Sixteen a base cost of (26 – 6) CP – or three CP as Relics, making them tools of tremendous power in a low-level world.

  • Special Powers for the Three are pretty speculative – but I’ll gratuitously say that the prior speculation about them aiding particular types of magic is accurate. Ergo, lets buy them 1d6+2 Mana (using the Spell Enhancement option) and Rite of Chi with +2 Bonus Uses, all Specialized and Corrupted/may only be used to enhance spells related to the ring’s theme, may not enhance spells by more than two levels (6 CP).

That gives the Three a total cost of (24 – 3) = 21 CP each, or 3 CP as Relics – another set of mighty devices indeed, especially in low-level world.

Finally, of course, we have the One Ring – an artifact perhaps as mighty as the Silmarils.

There’s some evidence that it gave Frodo heightened perceptions, precognitive dreams (although those could easily have been interference from other sources) and perhaps the ability to curse Gollum (although that might just be a dramatic speech) and project minor illusions as Frodo and Sam approached Mordor – but that could just as easily be the two of them growing in strength and tapping into a bit of the rings power to pick up an extra level… All of those abilities are available as low-grade psychic abilities in the Witchcraft magical system, that’s the cheapest, simplest, and most “natural” type of magic for anyone to acquire – and it would be hard to deny that the ring was beginning to have it’s way with Frodo towards the end.

After all, after traipsing halfway across Middle-Earth, I’d say that both Sam and Frodo had enough experience points to hit level five – and the ring would enable that, albeit with a rather supernatural bent anyway. There aren’t any powers required here.

The special powers of the One Ring were…

  • Immunity to Separation: the One Ring remained in contact with the other Great Rings – indeed, if something happened to it, they would be magically destroyed as well – regardless of range. It continued to sustain the extended lives of it’s ex-bearer’s (such as Gollum and Bilbo) until it’s destruction and – I’ll presume – that it serves as a telepathic link to the minds of those wearing other Great Rings.

Of course it DOESN’T seem to be able to transmit other magical effects, or simply return to it’s master across space, or any of that. Ergo, this power is Specialized and Corrupted; despite all the tricks I can think of for it, that’s all it does. That’s (Very Common, Major, Great, and – after those limitations – a net cost of 10 CP).

It has the power to influence it’s user’s mind a bit (no matter how hard that is to work into a RPG, where the players will tend to stare at the GM and say “like heck I will! I have ability “x” that negates that!”), can slip off or lose itself if you’re not careful, and it seems to have enough awareness of it’s surroundings to make an effort to get back to Sauron.

That’s not actually a power that’s of any use to the bearer; it only benefits Sauron – and thus is a power that HE has to buy directly. The One Ring is functionally an Item Familiar. That’s…

  • Companion (6 CP), with Transfer (12 CP worth) – which provides the One Ring with the points to buy Shaping (Specialized in those minor mental and physical manipulations) and Unique Returning – making it indestructible except for a single method. This is a lot more important for the One Ring than for the Silmarils of course; nobody wants to damage the pretty Silmarils, but a LOT of people would like to see something nasty happen to the One Ring. Fortunately for Sauron, that 18 CP cost is Specialized and Corrupted: the One Ring is basically unanimated (thus it’s getting stuck at the bottom of a river for so long), it has no effective link back to Sauron when it’s not in use, it cannot really signal the Nazgul or Sauron’s other servants, and so on. That takes the cost to Sauron of this ability down to (6 CP) – a reasonable enough investment in keeping it safe given how important it is to him.

So the total cost of the One Ring is 20 CP (as with the Sixteen), +10 CP (the no-separation function) +1 (the higher level boost) = 31 CP. That’s a five-point relic. Not as awesome as the writeup for the Silmarils – but still a device of power enough to change the course of history in a low-level world. Sauron’s little safety precaution increased his personal cost to 11 CP – about half a levels worth of character points.

Why did destroying the ring effectively destroy Sauron?

Why did Sauron wind up Specializing his ability to take a physical form (“will not work if the One Ring is destroyed), and a chunk of his other most basic powers, just to get enough points to forge the One Ring? It’s really not THAT expensive!

The answer there involves two factors – Level Caps and Age. Sauron was OLD. He’d already invested all his character points in various abilities, and most of them were already specialized and corrupted so as to increase his effective power. He didn’t have any leftover character points to invest, and couldn’t pull any out of less-vital powers because those powers were already using those modifiers. Thus he had to raid some pretty fundamental abilities for points. It was safe enough; after all, no one would ever be willing to destroy the One Ring!

Oh, wait…

Oh yes. As for the Mirror of Galadriel… It shows visions, which may or may not be accurate. It may show what might be, or a vision of the past, or it’s visions may be interfered with by other powers. Basically it’s just a variation on a Talismantic version of a Seeing Crystal from the Practical Enchanter.

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

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

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXXI – Howling at the Moon

There was a lot of territory in Aden, but there were getting to be a fair number of Kickaha too – and they liked to be close to civilized areas, recreational facilities, and other sources of entertainment. That kind of territory was a lot more fun!

Besides, for many of them, it was closer to work.

The inter-pack territorial arguments were gradually getting a bit… heated. It wasn’t getting violent yet – but they kept appealing to the Baalgrogs to make rulings, and taking up a lot of their time, and Gothmug was getting annoyed! It was starting to cut into naval patrol time!

(Charles) “What’s up there? You look grumpier than usual!”

(Gothmug) “Oh, Charles, it’s dreadful! Those children you imbued at Dun Shunkaha are constantly asking my men to resolve their disputes over pack territory! They don’t WANT to try violence – and considering what some of those Sidereals at the academy are teaching, all the better. But they’re cutting into our patrol time!”

(Charles) “But they’re fuzzy! (he checked) Wait, there are HOW many? Er… I suppose that could be a problem… Arguments? Why aren’t they settling them? They SHOULDN’T need violence… Lets get a couple of the factitious ones in and see what’s going on!”

(Gothmug) “Very well then! I’ll have the Baalgrogs bring the two boys who nearly got into it at their tribe’s arbitration meeting!”

Hamid and Damir arrived shortly thereafter.

(Charles) “Hello there… And what’s going on with you two?”

(Hamid) “Hi, Charles! This jerk tried to punch me when our tribes were discussing my tribe’s claim to the Golden Arcade!”

(Damir) “He tried first!”

(Charles, with some confusion) “Why were you trying to punch each other?”

(Damir) “They wouldn’t let us in when we wanted to play! It’s in OUR territory!”

(Hamid) “Hey, we said you couldn’t play today. It was the alpha’s birthday party! And I TOLD you once! You do not want to face my Mantis Style!”

(Charles) “Wouldn’t territory normally take priority over parties?”

(Damir) “They’re a lot bigger than our tribe. They thought they could push us around. I’m just glad one of the Baalgrogs came to mediate. It could have gotten messy. Messier.”

(Charles) “How do you normally settle on territories?”

It seemed that… normally the border was where some neutral site was, such as an arcade. They were supposed to share – and thus that site served as a diplomatic center of sorts. When the border was disputed, the problem was normally decided by a non-lethal duel between the Alphas. Sadly, Hamid and Damir weren’t respecting that – and didn’t trust each other.

(Charles) “So… neither of YOU are your tribes alphas, and yet you’re not respecting their decisions. That’s a problem!”

He called in their Alphas.

(Charles) “Now… as far as I get this… If you want to belong to a pack, you submit to the authority of it’s alpha. If you want to take over a pack… I guess that would be another nonlethal duel?

It wasn’t like they normally COULD kill each other, but they could force each other to go and wait to be re-embodied…

(Charles, to Hamid and Damir) “Now you two… are claiming to be members of your Alphas packs – er, tribes – and you’re NOT respecting your alpha’s decisions! What should be done about that?

(Kai) “Bother! Damir, I TOLD you not to push this any further. Now Charles is involved! You know how tense things are!… Sorry to bother you Charles! If Damir here wants to be in charge… well, I’m always raring for a duel!”

(Charles, sighing) “You’ve defeated him before haven’t you?”

(Kai) “He doesn’t know when to quit! Most of the time, that’s good, but lately…”

(Charles) “What do you think should be done about this? Toss him out of the pack?”

(Kai) “Well, if I make him an omega, that won’t make him happy at all! Best to stick him someplace far from here, I think. He need to make new friends!”

Kai’s frustration was palpable there… it wasn’t easy being an alpha of a smaller pack with a bigger one around!

(Charles) “And you Hamid?”

(Anri) “He’s been like this ever since he started studying Mantis Style. I think they need to be stuck on opposite sides of Aden, personally… I mean, we have an agreement. We alternate days at the arcade now. “If he can’t respect that, he doesn’t need to be making trouble.”

(Charles) “Which seems reasonable!”

That pleased Kai and Anri anyway… ever since the Sidereals came, and their packs discovered that they could learn Celestial styles… well, it hadn’t been helping. Sure, the Alphas trained too – but alphas had been shifting lately as stylists took over and no one wanted to lose that position!

(Charles sighed) “Light of Revelation!”

That wasn’t particularly powerful really; it couldn’t withstand a simple untruth – which was more or less the point, if you attempted to deceive, or opted to resist, it simply retreated from you.

(Charles, to Damir and Harid) “Are either of you two qualified to be a pack leader? Are you going to either obey your pack leader or accept exile from the pack?”

Hamid… agreed. Unfortunately, the light… receded from Damir.

(Kai, sighing) “Doesn’t know when to quit! Too bad!”

(Charles) “Well Harid? Your answers?”

(Hamid) “Sorry to trouble you, Charles! I know Amri can beat me up any day, so… I’ll just have to control myself better.”

Well… that was truthful unless he had some really good method of concealing an untruth set up!

(Charles) “All right then! Hamid, you can go with your pack leader – but if you go back on your word, he has my personal authorization to kick you right out unless you choose to accept some lesser penalty he wants! And if he kicks you out… the computers will assign you a wilderness area to patrol; you may eventually be able to form a new pack there, but it may take awhile! All right?”

(Hamid) “Got it!”

(Charles) “Damir… want to try that again? Or are you just going to refuse to answer anyway?”

(Damir) “Okay… I guess. I guess I can let bygones be bygones.”

And the light receded again. A shame, he really did seem to be trying to conceal his disdain for the decision.

Charles got in Malinda and Kyrema.

Kyrema Mindsage, the Tutorial Enchantress, Mistress of the Weirding Lore, The Pedagogic Compeller, Fourth Soul of Aden, is an EXTREMELY professional young woman, who’s voice practically crackles with unquestioned expertise and authority. She tends to be brisk, efficient, and pragmatic, is a master psychologist, treats children as small and inexperienced people rather than as subordinates, and can be roughly described as “a Bene Gesserit version of Susan Sto Helit as Mary Poppins”. In deference to Charles’s preferences she does not usually use major compulsions, although she fairly often uses minor ones – “NO YOU DO NOT FEEL LIKE A CIGARETTE. YOU DO NOT AND WILL NOT NEED THEM”. Her primary special power is a mixture of One Mind Within and a Synergistic Overmind: she can tap the unused processing power of minds within her range to enhance herself, share her abilities with some or all of the people she is currently linking, and provide mental communications for them.

(Charles) “Well… Is he suited to be a pack leader? Will he just go back on any agreements he makes after a bit?”

(Kyrema, after some evaluation) “He’s not suitable – and it’s not that he INTENDS to go back on his word; he’s just… awfully impulsive and reacts without thinking.

(Charles) “So; you’re too impulsive to obey, or to be a pack leader, or to accept exile… In a classical wolf pack that would mean being killed! Kai? Damir? Malinda? Kyrema? ARE there any options here besides kicking him out of Aden for a few centuries? And would he accept that, or would he run off and cause trouble?”

(Kyrema) “Hrm… I think he needs a lot of training in impulse control. Therapy and non-invasive magic would help with that. Perhaps we could set something up on one of the colony worlds.”

(Charles) “Well Damir?”

(Damir) “I guess I can agree to that. Aw man, I’m going mto miss you guys.”

(Charles) “All right! I’ll set up some facilities for this sort of thing! Pass the word that the Alphas DO have the authority to send in subordinates for therapy and such whether they like it or not! If they mess up in therapy… I’ll think of something else!”

(Kai) “Will do. And I’ll see what I can do for watching out for this stuff. Things are getting tense.”

(Charles) “Well… what’s a good minimum time on respecting the results of duels? Ten years maybe?”

(Kai) “I wouldn’t know! It’s definitely an insult, so yeah, a long time like that would be good. Ten, plus five if it was direct?”

(Charles) “Direct?”

(Kai) “You know, a direct insult! To the face. You’ve got to cut that stupidity in the bud before it hits – and here I thought I was doing a good job of that.”

(Charles) “Ah! I meant things like territorial disputes and such. ten for those, fifteen for personal stuff – or I suppose people could make bigger commitments if they wanted.”

(Kai) “Hey, I’m not going to stop them if they want to.”

Kyrema… gave Damir about an 80% chance of sticking with the program – at least if he could be kept in a quiet, calm place for the duration. He needed to learn how to play nicely with hierarchies. She could simply edit his mind of course – but she’d really rather not do that!

(Charles) “Right then… Damir? Here’s an amulet; it will let me know if you get into trouble with your program.

It was also mildly soothing – very low-level soothing background music, a vague sensation of being cuddled, and some sensations from his childhood – since Kyrema said that that would help!

So would instituting some rules and training programs – at least until the population got bigger. Kyrema didn’t tell Charles – but the really serious problems were going to be when most of the territory was claimed, the packs were getting large, and the boys started SERIOUSLY fighting over dominance and mates… They would need some planets of their own; the way they were recruiting human kids into their ranks would start having a serious impact eventually.

Eclipse d20 – the Sacerdos Pastor (Sacred Shepherd) Package

Rabbi Ashkenazi

To exorcize or not to exorcize, that is the question!

Most character builds, power packages, and classes, focus on adventuring. After all, that’s one of the primary themes of the game. On the other hand… 99% or more of the people in the setting are NOT going on adventures. They stay at home, they gain few levels, and they take care of their lives, children, and communities – and it’s sometimes interesting to consider characters with abilities along those lines.

In a world filled with supernatural menaces, and magical diseases, and without too much in the way of technology, the villagers and homebodies will still need magic. In realms where the influence of the spirits of nature and the gods is often ANYTHING but subtle, they will still need an intermediary – and that role will often fall to the village priest.

Such men do not need fast magic for use in combat, or skill with weapons, or practice in wearing armor. They need to be able to intercede with indifferent spirits, to comfort and support the ill, to ease the pains of the dying, to bless flocks and fields, to perform religious rituals, and to teach children.

They also need to do all that at very low levels, and often as a part-time priest. Paradoxically enough, that makes this high-efficiency package; it may not be focused on “adventuring” as such, but it’s relatively cheap and offers plenty of abilities which can supplement the an adventurers more immediate abilities rather nicely – or be expanded upon later.

So the abilities in this package include…

Curate of Light: One level of Priestly Package Deal Spellcasting, Specialized and Corrupted for one-third cost/the user has no control over his or her spell selection, the beings who actually bestow the spells tend to only refresh the user’s spells during formal religious ceremonies (weekly at best) or when they opt to give the user visions of places where his or her services would be useful, the user always gets the domain powers of Psychic Focus (Witchcraft I or – if the user already has that – any one psychic feat the user is otherwise qualified for) and Priestly Ritualist (Ritual Magic/Legends of High Fantasy style, Specialized in Clerical Rituals, with [9 + 3x Int Mod] memorized minor rituals) rather than the powers associated with whatever two domains he or she selects. The user gains Spell Conversion (healing spells) and domain spell slots normally (3 CP).

A Sacerdos Pastor may be in touch with the powers of higher realms – but he or she does not rely on them; their training focuses on developing their own inner power and on tapping into the powers of the world around them, rather than drawing massive energies from the outer realms to use in battle. A Pastor’s usual rituals will include a Blessing for the Dying (to send them easily and painlessly on to one of the more pleasant afterlives or reincarnation as they prefer), a Healing Purification (to help with poisons and diseases), Psychic Focusing (to provide temporary access to another “witchcraft” psychic power), a Protective Blessing for children, a Ritual of Marriage, a Warding Rituals to help keep Monsters and Disasters from the area, one for Repelling Vermin and Preserving Food, and an Initiatory Vow to help initiate new Pastors. Clever (and well-read) Pastors may know many further rituals.

This is, of course, probably THE best non-exploit bargain to be found in the system; the first level of the Clerical Magic Package includes a whole bunch of goodies – but it also means making some pretty major commitments.

Enlightened Discipline: Witchcraft II (normally providing Glamour, the Inner Eye, and Healing) with the Duties and Rituals pacts paying for Summoning and either Dismissal or True Prosperity (6 CP).

As his or her development continues, a Sacerdos Pastor learns to project his or her thoughts across the planes – or into the inner reality of another spirit to reinforce it. While there are many possible further gifts, most Pastors learn to either banish intruding spirits – although few have the inner strength for many such efforts – or (more commonly) to subtly enhance the fields and flocks of an entire village, bringing prosperity.

Guiding Spirit: Companion (Familiar) with the Spirit Fetch template, granting Occult Sense / Spirit Sense (it’s “master” can see and hear spirits), Specialized/guiding spirits are companions, allies, and teachers, with strong moral senses and opinions of their own. They tend to be quite independent, will insist that their bondmates live up to their responsibilities, and will take action entirely independently – or even against their bondmates wishes – if they feel that a situation, or their bondmates behavior, requires it. Perhaps fortunately, when they accept the link, they accept being limited by their bondmates abilities like any other familiar (6 CP).

As a Sacerdos Pastor continues to train, and reaches out across the planes, he or she will soon find a guiding spirit – often a prior Pastor – to mediate between him or her and the spirits of other planes, carry messages – and to walk with him the path of enlightenment.

Presbyter: +3 Skill Specialities in their particular Religion, in Performing Ritual Magic, and in Offering Wise Council and Advice (3 CP).

Unsurprisingly, a Sacerdos Pastor studies they mysteries of his or her faith – and learns to help others apply it’s truths in their own lives.

Spiritual Freedom: Occult Skill/Shadow Walking, +4 SP in it (Int Mod +2 Base), both Specialized and Corrupted/only applicable after physical death (2 CP).

Once A Sacerdos Pastor has developed sufficient self-discipline, mere physical death becomes a doorway to infinite worlds. It may take time and effort to transverse the realms – but they may walk between them and act as spiritual patrons for younger Pastors.

Symbols of the Faith: Enthusiast, Specialized for double effect (provides two floating character points), Corrupted for reduced cost/only for being invested in Relics, no single user may use more than one such relic at a time (2 CP). Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted/only usable with points from Enthusiast, all relics must have sacred themes (2 CP).

While few Pastor’s possess great personal power, the art of creating external foci for it allows them to stretch it considerably – and to provide the occasional item to help others. Most Pastor’s make the following relic for themselves – if they don’t simply settle for a Power-boosting item.

Healer’s Pouch: Healing Touch with Improved, Switch, and +4 Bonus Uses, all Specialized and Corrupted; Requires several minutes of meditation in a light trance to activate – rendering the user very vulnerable to surprise while employing this ability. (8 CP / 1 CP as a Relic).

The full Sacerdos Pastor package costs a mere 24 CP – and thus may be obtained in it’s entirety at level one. That’s a good thing, since many Pastor’s will never get much beyond level one – and yet will still be able to guide and assist the people in their care. They may not be able to battle monsters directly – you still need adventurers for that – but they can deal with a wide variety of smaller problems.

The Fey Swordsman

Here we have a fey twist on the light unarmored fighter/rogue – a natural swashbuckler who’s mastery of the blade is enhanced with many touches of fey magic. This particular build is set up at second level and uses a condensed skill list.

Race Template/Human with Major Fey Bloodline (+0 ECL(: Fast Learner Specialized in Skills (3 CP), One Bonus Feat (6 CP), Fey Affinity +2 (Favored Foe variant: adds to Deception, Persuasion, Knowledge, Perform, and Will checks made against Fey creatures, will increase with level, 6 CP), +1 Dex (6 CP), +1 level of the Bard Spellcasting Progression, Specialized/only when the user has at least tasted Fey Food in the last twenty-four hours (4 CP), and +2 to Stealth, Thievery, and Persuasion (6 CP).

Basic Attributes: Str 14, Int 12, Dex 16, Wis 12, Con 14, and Cha 12.

Languages: Common and Sylvan.

Available Character Points: 72 (level two base) + 10 (disadvantages) +12 (racial bonus feat, level one bonus feat) = 94 CP.

Basics (47 CP):

  • Hit Dice: 20 (L1d20, 16 CP) + 8 (L2d10, 6 CP) +4 (2 x Con Mod) = 32 HP. Has DR 1/- versus all weapons.
  • Skill Points: 1 (Purchased, 1 CP) + 4 (Int Mod x 4) + 20 (Fast Learner) = 25
  • Base Attack Bonus +1 (6 CP), additional +1 Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (+3) / Longsword Only (6 CP).
  • Saves:
    • Fortitude: +0 (Purchased, 0 CP) +2 (Con) = +2
    • Reflex: +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +3 (Dex) = +5
    • Will: +0 (Purchased, 0 CP) +1 (Wis) = +1 (+3 versus Fey Effects)
  • Proficient with all Simple Weapons and Martial Swords (6 CP).
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +5 (Dex + Str) +4 (Armor) +1 (Martial Arts) = 20
  • Move: 30 Feet
  • Initiative: +11 (+3 Dex +8 Improved)

Usual Weapons:

  • Longsword: +10 (+4 BAB +2 Strength +1 Magic +2 Martial Art), 1d8 +2 (Str), Crit 17-20/x2, four Attacks of Opportunity, Whirlwind Attack.

Special Abilities (47 CP):

  • Upgrade human Fast Learner to Double Effect (3 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills, from Level -2 (6 CP).
  • Adept: Acrobatics, Deception, Perception, and Lunar Storm Style (6 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus (“Smashing Parry”), adds (Str Mod) to (Dex Mod) when calculating his AC (2*# CP)
  • Improved Initiative x4 (8* CP): Adds +8 to his initiative.
  • Reflex Training/Combat Reflexes Variant (2*# CP)
  • Inherent Spell/Earthward with +8 Bonus Uses (6*# CP). This lets you block (3d8+Level) points of damage or any one special effect (poison, etc) from an incoming attack as an immediate action nine times per day – provided that you have a sword out to block with.
  • Improved Occult Talent/”Blademaster’s Tricks”: May use 5/Day from Fast Draw (a sword on your person appears in your hand just when you want it; this is not even an action), Blade Call (your blade leaps into your hand from up to thirty feet away as a free action), The Wind Blade (spend a move action to make any item serve as a normal sword for one minute), and Mend Blade (repairs a damaged sword). 3/Day use any one from Sudden Strike (make a single attack at your full BAB as a swift action), Adamant Strike (makes a blade act like it was made of adamant for one minute), and Personal Haste (8* CP).
  • Fey Trinkets: Shaping, Specialized and Corrupted for increased (level one and possibly weak level two) effects/can only produce effects for which the user has the appropriate foci ready, can only support a limited number (seven minor and three notable) trinkets at a time and it takes hours to trade them our, charms and talismans are personalized tokens of fey experiences; the characters initial selection can only be expanded by finding such tokens (6 CP).

And yes, this is just a slight twist on the usual “Use of Charms and Talismans” for a setting that doesn’t commonly use them.

Current Trinkets:

  • Minor: Misty Cloak (+5 to Stealth), Pouch of Fireworks, Trackless Boots, Wardstone (DR 1/- versus Weapons), Concealable Sheathe (allows him to easily hide his longsword on his person when he’s not using it).
  • Major: Runeblade (+1 Keen Longsword), Workman’s Shirt (+4 Armor Bonus), Endless Rope.

*Corrupted/not while while wearing medium or heavy armor or while heavily encumbered.

#Specialized/only while using a sword.

Skills:

  • Acrobatics: +5 (2 SP, Adept) +3 (Dex) = +8
  • Deception: +5 (2 SP, Adept) +1 (Cha) = +6
  • Lunar Storm Style (Martial Art): +5 (2 SP, Adept) +3 (Dex) = +8
  • Nightfall Blade (Martial Art): +5 (5 SP) +3 (Dex) = +8
  • Perception: +5 (2 SP, Adept) +1 (Wis) = +6
  • Persuasion: +2 (2 SP) +1 (Cha) +2 (Race) = +5
  • Stealth: +5 (5 SP) +3 (Dex) +5 (Cloak) +2 (Race) +2 (Synergy) = +17
  • Thievery: +5 (5 SP) +3 (Dex) +2 (Race) +2 (Synergy) = +12

Lunar Storm Techniques Known (4): +2 Attack, +1 Defense, Whirlwind Attack

Nightfall Blade Techniques Known: +1 Defense, Synergy/Stealth, Synergy/Thievery, Unarmed Kata. (Next up; Mind Like Moon).

A Fey Swordsman is fairly dangerous offensively and extremely durable – at least as long as he or she is actually holding a longsword, isn’t taking more than one hit per round, those hits aren’t too powerful, he or she rolls well on the blocking dice, and their uses on that block hold out.

That’s actually rather a lot of “if’s” in there, but there’s only so much you can do with a second level character, no matter how specialized his or her abilities.

That’s also one of the nice points about Eclipse; Characters often start out with a good deal of power – but their next several levels will usually be devoted to adding breadth and options, rather than increasing that power. That means that they can adventure with a higher-level group and contribute in their specialty while still picking up experience faster and catching up – and that can make it a LOT easier to justify introducing a new character into an established group.

Revisiting Rituals – Eclipse versus Legends of High Fantasy

Eclipse Total da Lua | 03 de Março de 2007

Under a Blood-Red Moon

Here we have a few questions from Westb3 about Ritual Magic – more specifically about the relationships between Eclipse-style Ritual Magic and Legends of High Fantasy style Ritual Magic. I’ve paraphrased for easier reading…

In terms of comparing the system used in Eclipse and the one in Legends of High Fantasy, are the number of components – eight each worth between 0 and +5 in Eclipse and an undetermined but seemingly more narrow number worth from -5 to +5, along with a few other random ‘one of’ components just different in presentation, or are they both rather different in terms of how they function mechanically and in making DCs scale?

Secondarily, in Legends of High Fantasy ritual effects are classified by the game master as Minor (-5), Notable (-), Major (+5), Severe (+10), and Grandiose (+20). Could you give spell level equivalents for those categories?

Finally, the Transtemporal Target modifier in Legends of High Fantasy (Extra +5 for Postcognitive Effects, extra +10 for Precognitive, and extra +15 for Actual Effects) puzzles me; is it like waiting effects such as “After someone loots this tomb” for postcognitive, “the person who would dare to touch this sword” for precognitive ?

-Westb3

And it’s most complicated first – the design decisions.

The Legends of High Fantasy and Eclipse ritual magic systems actually approach things from entirely different directions – although, given the constraints of plausibility and playability it’s not too surprising that the end results look a lot alike.

In Legends of High Fantasy, minor rituals are common magic. There are rituals for blessing marriages and houses, for repairing your roof, for protecting your village, and for meeting a myriad other day-to-day needs. Those rituals are essentially standardized, repeatable, pieces of folk magic, and generally call for nothing in the way of components that you can’t either make yourself or shop for in any village. Only a few examples are actually detailed, but there are more on the blog here, and lots of them are implied.

That’s because minor rituals in the Legends of High Fantasy style generally don’t impact the game significantly – and so don’t need much in the way of controls. Sure, now we know why the world is full of happy, prosperous, hamlets rather than starving mudpits being used as feeding grounds by monsters – but most games don’t get all that far into justifying the setting anyway. I like to do it, but I’m incurably detail-oriented, and I want my worlds to reflect the minutiae of how things are supposed to work in them. I don’t really ask that of everyone, if only because it wouldn’t be the slightest bit of use in most cases.

Major Rituals in Legends of High Fantasy are another matter – but they call for game-master determined components rather than simply having components modify the chances of success. The +/-5 modifier is an overall rating for the quality of all the secondary components put together. Thus, if all you need is an altar and an acolyte to assist you… well, using the high altar of the capital’s great cathedral with twenty well-trained priests in a chorus is probably worth +5. That generally isn’t a big deal for adventurers, who tend to have unreasonably high skills anyway – but high quality components can make a real difference for low-level dabblers.

Of course, an adventurer might be able to get along with a hastily-consecrated muddy rock and a local kid with a script to read from (-5 for what are clearly poor components) – but it still usually doesn’t matter that much.

Sadly, the GM-selected required components are the price of having a more or less standardized ritual design system with manageable DC’s that covers high-end rituals. Players are bad about things like that; unless the GM has a built-in veto in the rules somewhere any kind of freeform magic design system can pretty well be relied on to wreck the game or setting somehow.

In Legends of High Fantasy the veto system is “Sure you can try that! Here are the easy / awkward / difficult / epic / impossible fetch-quests that you’ll need to go on to do it”. If the game master tells you that you need the legendary lost Sunstone of Tien to work your ritual and you can’t figure out where to get it, then forget THAT ritual – and the game master has said “No!” without actually having had to say it.

The ritual system in Eclipse takes exactly the opposite approach; it’s set up so as to allow the players to propose and get values on the components needed to solve a particular problem through a ritual – and thus sets them up to work out a series of adventures with the game master. In Eclipse, rituals are generally unique, never-to-be-repeated-the-same-way-twice events – great works concerned with adventurers and their problems, rather than things to be used by the common folk for everyday difficulties. They’re also not limited to High Fantasy like Legends is; the Eclipse ritual system is also usable for mad science, circles of psychics, and (for the more repeatable stuff) technical research teams.

That’s why Eclipse allows the players to specify things like time and place, beings to invoke, mundane requirements, spells to cast, powers to use, components to add, expensive power supplies that need to be wired up, and so on. Of course, we can pretty much assume that they’ll be picking things for those that won’t inconvenience them much UNLESS the game master is setting the difficulty impossibly high. What would be the point of picking a time or place they can’t reach, a being to invoke that they aren’t willing to owe a favor to, mundane requirements that they can’t meet, or spells that they can’t obtain? The players just aren’t going to sabotage themselves that way – which is why as many of their ingredients as possible are going to be minor stuff that they can supply without running around on quests.

Of course the bonuses from such things are unlikely to be very large – turning THAT into the equivalent of the “up to +/-5″ modifier from Legends of High Fantasy.

Under the Eclipse system the problems are going to lie in coming up with the (hopefully fairly few) high bonus items that the players really need to make things work. The game master veto lies in simply setting the difficulty for a given ritual impossibly high. That’s a bit less fun than the impossible quest list – but the Legends of High Fantasy version was a much more important part of the book, and so got rather more than one page.

Both systems are quite workable – we’ve had no problems allowing players to take either as a “ritual magic” feat or system or in having both in the same party – but they are coming from very different directions with some different underlying assumptions.

Now for the more-or-less simple parts of the question…

Spell level equivalents for rituals, whether in the Legends of High Fantasy system or Eclipse, are a bit awkward since rituals function very differently from spells. Given the right components a low-level character can enact a vastly powerful ritual – while lacking those components may stop evan an epic-level caster from accomplishing the same result. In Eclipse, which has a looser system, there’s no help for it; spell level equivalents are simply going to have to be assigned by the game master, just as the difficulty and the values of the components are. In Legends of High Fantasy the best guide is probably the final difficulty exclusive of the use of Artifacts. For a quick approximation, “Feeble” rituals generally equate to spells of levels 0-2, “Ordinary” rituals of levels 2-4, “Strong” rituals of levels 4-6, “Mighty” rituals of levels 6-8, “Awesome” rituals of levels 8-10, “Monstrous” rituals of levels 10-15, and “Unearthly” rituals of levels 15 and up.

Finally, the transtemporal effects listed in Legends of High Fantasy basically break down like this:

  • Postcognitive rituals cover getting information from the past. If you want to watch a murder, or find out what an extinct species smelled like, or recover the legendary lost recipe for hot-pot, then this is the modifier you’re going to want.
  • Precognitive rituals (if the game master allows them) cover getting information from the future. Want to know who WILL find and don the Mask of Power, what a rival company will be trying to patent next year, or which of your ten thousand test vials will actually turn out to hold the cure? You want a precognitive ritual.
  • If you want to actually change the past or future – twisting the course of events so that a child of YOUR choosing will be the one to find and don the mask of power, or fixing it so that an unhappy friends father made it home from the war after all and spent the next ten years raising his son (that may have no game effect beyond giving him memories of a happy childhood instead of a miserable one, but you are still changing the past), or creating a prophecy that actually manipulates events to bring itself to pass, or doing a bit of time travel, you’re going to want the “Actual Effect” transtemporal modifier – once again if the game master allows such effects at all.

Now, I hope that helps! Ritual magic in the game can be a lot of fun, and can lead to LOTS of adventures – but like any freeform system, you do need to keep an eye on it.

Eclipse d20 – The Soul Knife

Knife blade-late neolithic-PRE.2009.0.189.2.IM...

Yeah. I think we can do better than this.

For today it’s another quick question – how to build a Soul Knife in Eclipse.

That’s actually pretty easy – so here’s the level-twenty breakdown:

Basics (330 CP): d10 HD (120 CP), 92 SP (92 CP, 52 CP after Adept, 18 CP after Adept and Fast Learner), BAB +15 (90 CP), Saves +30 (90 CP), Proficient with all Simple Weapons and Mindblades (6 CP), Light Armor (3 CP), and Shields (3 CP).

Special Abilities (83 CP):

  • Mind Blade: Spirit Weapon (6 CP), with Imbuement (6 CP).
  • Weapon Focus/Mind Blade: +1 BAB/Specialized in Mind Blades, Corrupted/Does not add to Ieterative Attacks (2 CP).
  • Wild Talent: +2 Power. Mana as Power, Specialized and Corrupted/one-third effect (1d6) (2 CP).
  • Throw Mind Blade: Buy “Ranged” on your Spirit Weapon (3 CP).
  • Psychic Strike: Augment Attack/+5d8 Damage to Spirit Weapon; required limited circumstances; only affects living targets with minds, does not affect creatures immune to mind-affecting effects, requires a move action to activate for one shot (20 CP).
  • Free Draw: Reflex Training/summoning the Mind Blade becomes a free action (6 CP).
  • Shape Mind Blade: Immunity/the need to have your Spirit Weapon emulate a specific weapon (Common, Major, Major, Specialized and Corrupted/only to change into various types of swords, 3 CP). In Eclipse the ability to split a mindblade into two identical short swords for two-handed fighting is simply a special effect on Bonus Attack. Special Effects generally have no cost (0 CP).
  • Mind Blade Enhancement: Add “Improved”, “Focused”, and “Versatile” to the Mind Blade’s Imbuement (18 CP).
  • Speed of Thought: Celerity, Specialized/only if psionically focused and not wearing heavy armor (3 CP).
  • Bladewind: Enhanced Strike/Whirlwind, with +4 Bonus Uses, Corrupted/only with Mindblade (8 CP).
  • Greater Weapon Focus/Mind Blade: +1 BAB/Specialized in Mind Blades, Corrupted/Does not add to Ieterative Attacks (2 CP).
  • Knife to the Soul: Trick/may trade in d8’s of Psychic Strike damage (with the same limitations) to do points (one per die) of attribute damage with any given strike, Corrupted/can only damage mental attributes (4 CP).
  • Multiple Throw: Since I didn’t bother to corrupt anything to KEEP this character from actually using the attacks he or she was paying for through BAB, this doesn’t cost anything (0 CP).

That gives us a net cost of 413 CP out of the 504 CP a twenty-level build will normally have available – 91 CP, or almost four full levels worth of points, short. Sure, that wouldn’t be quite so bad without Adept or Fast Learner – but those are in the system to allow emulating current builds. This basic problem is why the “Tier” system puts Soulknives down on Tier 4. They just aren’t very well-designed.

A point-buy build will be better of course, simply by virtue of getting to spend those leftover points – but it will probably be a good deal more efficient too.

The Pathfinder Version (Psionics Unleashed, by Dreamscarred Press) spends most (if not quite all) of those leftover points. It gets another +5 BAB (+30 CP), “Superior” Imbuement (+6 CP), a wider variety of abilities that they can grant their mind blade (no cost, since I didn’t bother to restrict the selection in the basic build), and replaces some of the abilities above (notably Bladewind and Knife to the Soul, -12 CP) with a choice of ten “Blade Skills” – each basically equal to a an Eclipse-style feat, or about 60 CP. It also saves 6 CP on Skill Points and uses the Pathfinder Package Deal (free). That’s another 78 CP spent – providing a rough total of 491 CP out of 504; still a bit shy by Eclipse standards, but a MUCH better match than the original build.

Eclipse – United we Stand

And for today, it’s an answer for Alzrius.

Presuming that I’m not misremembering something from Eclipse, or an article on here, what options are there to make Eclipse-based characters that can engage in cooperative spellcasting?

To be clear, what I mean by “cooperative spellcasting” is the idea of individual spellcasters combining their power for greater results; the old “alone we’re strong, together we’re stronger” idea.

I’m not too sure what can be done to create this. Blessing seems to be the closest direct equivalent, but it’s limited in giving someone weaker than up (up to) the difference in power between you. Between that and aid another actions for skill-based spellcasting, that seems to be it.

-Alzrius

Now I’m behind due to some health issues, and Editorial-0 kindly answered this earlier HERE, but I had this already half finished and extra answers never hurt…

“We unite our powers and become far greater than any one of us alone!” is a pretty standard trope. Unfortunately, there are some difficulties with it in a game.

Most obviously, in a game everyone wants to be the star – so they’re rarely all that cooperative about working to enhance somebody else’s character – although it does happen. After all, “combining our power” strongly implies that there’s only going to be ONE spell being cast – not usually a good idea in a game unless you need some sort of boost to get through an opponents defenses.

“Commander! Commander! The Mages of the Ebon Tower are combining their powers against us! What shall we do?!?”

“Call in the archers and thank the Gods that they’re not casting fireballs independently!”

Secondarily, in Eclipse there are all kinds of different powers available, rather than only a few major types – and it’s hard to see how combining the powers of a Dread Necromancer who channels negative energy, a Hellfire Warlock drawing on the flames of the lower planes, a Priestess of Kwan Yin with her divine gifts of light and mercy, an Incarnum Master and his soul-melds, a Shaman who calls on the elemental spirits of nature to do his bidding, and an Eldritch Mage who gathers ambient magic to shape it into “prepared spells” as a more mundane crafter might forge iron into arrowheads, is going to work at all – much less result in a power boost. Sure it could…

“The legendary vessels have the power to fuse black magic with holy magic?! Light-Dark Fusion magic… may turn out to be the ace we need to fight Valgaav!”

-Lina Inverse, Slayers Try, Episode 10 Intro.

But d20 has dozens of sources of power… do you REALLY want to try and figure out what all the combinations do? It’s a factorial nightmare.

On the behavioral side, in most sources, combining powers is usually a special stunt; it allows the characters to win in some mighty confrontation, defeating the epic villain with their combined power.

That’s all well and good – but unless it carries some terrible price, if this sort of thing works, gaming characters will soon be combining their powers to throw bigger and better parties – and to clean up the house afterwards.

Finally, of course, gaming “magic” has a lot more rules to it than literary magic – so in d20 game terms, just what kind of “power up” are we talking about? A higher casting level? Boosted save DC’s? Access to higher level spells? Improving the spells the characters already have with extended range or boosted power?

If it’s “access to higher level spells”, unless it’s strictly limited you’ll soon see groups of low-level characters using Teleportation, or using spell-storing abilities to lay in “Undeath to Death” before heading into that necromancer’s evil temple, and so on. That can be interesting, but the NPC’s can be expected to do it too – which will often turn fights into a simple question of “who shot first” and a quick route to total party kills. This probably isn’t the best option to use, although it can be done.

That leaves improving caster levels, boosted save DC’s, limited access to higher level effects, and extended range/boosted power.

Well, this IS Eclipse; there are plenty of ways to do that.

  • Action Hero/Stunts is probably best for almost anything that’s only supposed to be trotted out in an emergency. You don’t have to go in for the full-blown heroic sacrifice to pull off some pretty dramatic effects if you Specialize and Corrupt it for Triple Effect – say “only for magical actions and only when aided by at least two other casters who spend their action for the round on “helping you” in some unspecified magical sense” – and then spend an action point or two.
  • Assistant with the Aide upgrade (likely specialized only for spellcasting again) is the simplest way to do this regularly; a spellcasting assistant with this ability can give you a +2 on any one of the Caster Level, Save DC, effective Spell Level (for getting past immunities and defensive effects that protect against spells of a certain level or below), or damage per die by casting some minor related effect – and the upper limit on the number of assistants who can help is up to the game master. Go ahead; if you can’t afford Followers take three Companions with this and with Shaping/Specialized and Corrupted for increased effect (only for doing minor tricks to fuel the Aide ability), and start shoving those Magic Missiles right through that Globe of Invulnerability – or add +4 per die and +2 caster levels to power up that 6d Fireball.

OK, the GM is likely to blow his top if you haul along a lot of NPC’s or creatures to do this for you rather than talking the various other magical PC’s into spending a few points each on the trick – but it will work.

  • If you want to affect huge areas with a spell… you probably want the “Battle Magic” metamagic, which – given a bunch of assistants – gives your spells the range and scale needed to affect entire battlefields. Of course that’s more suitable for “I fireball your entire army!” than it is for battling the main villain – but there’s nothing wrong with discouraging “I bring the horde!”. Hordes of low-level types are fairly useless in high-end d20 combat anyway.
  • If you just want a little boost from your friends, take the “Compact” metamagic and ask the game master what level of “expensive components” requiring help from your adventuring companions counts as. It should be fairly high; spellcaster services normally don’t come cheap – and neither do actions in combat.
  • Mystic Artist offers access to the Concerto ability – which allows a group of spellcasters of very roughly similar power and styles to cooperate on weaving a spell with a caster level of up to (the highest level caster in the group +5) and a level of up to (the highest level spell anyone in the group can cast +2) without having to know the spell.

Admittedly, you need a Mystic Artist with an effective skill of thirty or more to pull that off – but Specialize and Corrupt Mystic Artist to get that sole effect and you can get it with a mere +10 counting skill ranks, attribute bonus, and skill-boosting feats – which makes it not very hard at all. A focus character with that ability is actually pretty easy to build. If they happen to be a full mystic artist too, then the Amplify and Carrier abilities, as well as Positive Levels, are well worth considering.

This is also set up to be about the closest practical d20 approach to the usual trope; +2 spell levels and +5 caster levels may be the difference between Burning Hands and Fireball, or between Blink and Teleport, but it won’t take you from (say) Teleport to Gate – and if you want to keep the game coherent, that’s a good thing. It also takes the power of your groups magic up to, or even slightly beyond, that of a magical boss suited to the usual “balanced encounters with the end boss being a really hard fight” setup.

Where it doesn’t match up with the trope are the results. In the non-gaming version the group power-up blasts through the bad guys defenses, overwhelms his power, and either kills him or leaves him near-helpless (or at LEAST stripped of magic).

d20 games, however, have ablative combat. It’s intentionally hard to one-shot people because the players HATE having their characters one-shotted – and that protects the big bad guys too. When the sixth-level group unites it’s power, and fires off a Cone of Cold that smashes straight through the eighth-level bad guys Minor Globe of Invulnerability, the response isn’t likely to be “AAAAGGHHH!” or “NOOOOO!” or “You cannot overwhelm my power! THIS CANNOT BE!” (closely followed by a dramatic death/imprisonment/transformation/whatever scene). It’s much more likely to be “Ow! Good trick! My turn now! Empowered Fireball!”

  • In d20 games single vital or overwhelming feats of magic are generally unique events – which takes us right to Ritual Magic. That’s an easy one: Ritual Magic, Corrupted for increased effect (rituals are relatively short and rarely call for particularly exotic components)/all rituals must include several other magic-wielders “uniting their power” as one of their major components and only work under dramatic circumstances. With that, the group can confront the demon lord and have most of the group struggle desperately to hold it back while the spellcasters “unite their powers” working a mighty “spell of banishment”.
  • There are a few other “combine our powers” effects – such as Covenbond and Master of the Sabbat under Witchcraft – but they tend to be a good deal more specialized. Similarly, casters using skill-based systems such as Theurgy can quite reasonably combine their skills, or simply use “aid another” to pull off spells that none of them could cast on their own,
  • If you want to be able to work with any other spellcaster, take any of the “temporary boost” abilities – Berserker, Hysteria, Doubled Damage, some Metamagics with Glory or Streamline, Invocation (perhaps with the Thematic modifier) – and specialize and corrupt it to require the active support of other spellcasters to use, and probably multiple other spellcasters to use to its full potential. If you want to limit it’s use to emergencies, you’ll probably want to throw in some backlash too.
  • If you want to boost other characters… well, you can buy augmentations with Blessing, or simply throw enhancing spells on them, or use favors to call on the assistance of magical beings. Mana with Spell Enhancement is probably one of the best options here.

And hopefully that covers most of the effects your might want in this sort of build; if there’s something more specific you’d like to build, and you can’t figure it out… let me know and I’ll see if I can’t take a shot at it.

Eclipse – The Walker In Darkness

Warlock & pet

Warlock & pet (Photo credit: leshoward)

Here we have another complex conversion – although, in this case, the player badly wanted it to be a conversion-and-upgrade. That’s not surprising since the original character was a level five Warlock-II (1d6 Eldritch Blast, Hideous Blow and Devil’s Sight), Human Paragon I, Major Devil Bloodline I, Cleric of Asmodeus I – and thus had virtually no useful abilities at all beyond using the bloodline-granted once-per-day Darkness effect and trying to smack people while she could see and they couldn’t.

 In this case, the player opted to base their Warlock abilities on Innate Enchantment rather than the Path of the Dragon. That provides a good deal more power and flexibility at lower levels, but is a good deal more limited when it comes to high-end powers – which works well in this case; it’s a lower-level game anyway and the player intends to continue along the clerical and bloodline routes to some extent; she’d normally never be reaching the high-end Warlock abilities in any case.

 Available Character Points: 144 (L5 Base) +10 (Clerical Duties) +10 (Disadvantages: Untrustworthy, Outcast, and Hunted) +3 Bonus Feats (Racial, L1, L3) = 182 CP.

Racial Template: Human with Major Devilish Bloodline (30 CP / +0 ECL): Racial Abilities: Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for +1 SP/Level (3 CP). Bonus Feat (6 CP), +2 Deception (2 CP), Dodge (Defender, Specialized/does not increase with level, 3 CP), +1 Charisma (6 CP), Devil Affinity +4 (Favored Foe variant: adds to Deception, Persuasion, Gather Information, Will Saves, and Perform checks against the chosen target type, 6 CP). And Universal Damage Reduction 3/-, Specialized against Energy for Double Effect (reduces all energy damage by six points, 6 CP).

This is actually a bit cheap; spending the leftover character points available to a +0 ECL race over what a baseline human gets is essentially creating a specially-tailored race – but some of the other characters in the game are using high-efficiency races and there ARE ways available to customize a bit, so why not?

Basic Attributes: Str 10, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 15, Wis 12, Cha 18.

Languages: Common, Infernal, Ignan

Basics (104 CP):

  • Hit Dice: 2d8 (8, 7, 8 CP) +3d6 (4, 4, 4, 6 CP) +10 (5 x Con Mod) = 37 HP.
  • Skill Points: 33 (33 CP) + 16 (Int) +8 (Fast Learner) = 57
  • Base Attack Bonus +3 (18 CP)
  • Saves:
    • Fortitude: +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +2 (Con) +1 (Res) = +5
    • Reflex: +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +2 (Dex) +1 (Res) = +5
    • Will: +5 (Purchased, 15 CP) +1 (Wis) +1 (Res) = +9 (+13 versus Devilish Effects)
  • Proficient with all Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP) and Light Armor (3 CP).
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +2 (Dex) +5 (Armor) +4 (Darkfire Shield) +1 (Natural) = 22
  • Move: 60 Feet
  • Initiative: +2 (Dex)

Usual Attacks:

  • Eldritch Blast: +7/+7 (+3 BAB +2 Dex +4 MA -2 Rapid Shot) Ranged Touch Attack, 4d6 (Fire), 40′ range, may be given +2 levels of Elemental Manipulation Metamagic. Crit 20/x2 and automatic trip.
  • Morning Star: +8/+8 (+3 BAB +2 MA, +1 Magic, Personal Haste), 1d8+1 + 4d6 (Fire), may be given +2 levels of Elemental Manipulation Metamagic on the fire part. Crit 19-20/x2 and automatic trip.

Special Abilities (78 CP):

  • Two levels of Clerical Package Deal Spellcasting (20 CP). Fire and Magic Domains. I could convert the domains – they’re just using the Censure modifier on Channeling and the Device Use ability – but it would work exactly the same way. Why change terminology just for the sake of change?

Devils such as Asmodeus are notorious for spawning cover sects, deluded cults, and similar organizations that serve their purposes indirectly even if they’re not directly serving THEM. A few such cults are rigid and organized enough that characters can reasonably have duties to them instead of to Asmodeus (or some other devil) – but for the most part the members of such groups are simply deluded cover for the true worshipers. If that’s what you want, simply drop the Duties, one level of clerical spellcasting, and a couple of skill points (likely from Knowledge/Religion) and buy off the “Conduct” restriction on the remaining level of clerical spellcasting. That way the character is entirely free to believe, behave, and justify his or her beliefs, in any way that they like.

  • Negative Energy Channeling (9 CP). Fortunately, in Eclipse, this is based on the user’s level – not on their level as a cleric and relevant prestige classes and bloodlines.
  • Augmented Bonus/Instinctive Magic; Add (Cha Mod) to Arcana, Concentration, Knowledge/The Planes, Knowledge/Religion, and the Eldritch Might Martial Art (6 CP).
  • Adept (Arcana, Concentration, Deception, and Use Magic Device, 6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment, Specialized for Half Cost: All abilities must conform to a “dark powers” theme, and will be readily identifiable as such. All unlimited-use use-activated. 22 CP for 44,000 GP effective value (Actual total; 44,300 GP – within the rounding allowance).
    • Eldritch Blast / Scorching Ray (Sl2 x CL3 x 2000 GP x2 Rapid Casting = 24,000 GP).
    • Hideous Blow / Infuse Weapon: Allows the user to discharge a touch attack spell – ranged or not – through a normal weapon attack (Sl1 x CL1 x .7 Personal Only = 1400 GP).
    • Devilish Senses / Detect Magic, Personal Only (Sl 1/2 x CL1 x.7 Personal Only = 700 GP).
    • Eyes of the Night: See 30′ in normal and magical darkness (Sl1 x CL1 x .7 Personal Only = 1400 GP).
    • Darkfire Shield / Shield: Manifests a force-shield of black flame when needed (Sl1 x CL1 x. 7 Personal Only = 1400 GP).
    • Darkness (Sl2 x CL3 x 2000 GP = 12,000 GP).
    • Devilish Speed / Personal Haste (Sl1 x CL1 = 2000 GP).
    • The Devil’s Own Luck / Resurgence (Sl1 x CL1 x. 7 Personal Only = 1400 GP).
  • Immunity/The XP Cost of Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Minor, Major, 3 CP).
  • Empowerment/Specialized in Dark Power Themed Innate Enchantments (6 CP).
  • Metamagic/Elemental Manipulation with Streamline x2, Specialized and Corrupted/only to modify the Scorching Ray effect (6 CP).

 Skills (the game is using a condensed skills list):

  • Acrobatics +4 (4 SP) +2 (Dex) = +6
  • Arcana +8 (4 SP, Adept) +2 (Int) +4 (Augmented Bonus) = +14
  • Concentration +8 (4 SP, Adept) +2 (Con) +4 (Augmented Bonus) = +14
  • Deception +8 (4 SP, Adept) +4 (Cha) +2 (Race) = +14
  • Eldritch Might Martial Art +5 (5 SP) +4 (Dex) +4 (Augmented Bonus) = +13
  • Heal +2 (2 SP) +1 (Wis) = +3
  • Knowledge/Planes +4 (4 SP) +2 (Int) +4 (Augmented Bonus) = +10
  • Knowledge/Religion +6 (6 SP) +2 (Int) +4 (Augmented Bonus) = +12
  • Persuasion +2 (2 SP) +4 (Cha) = +6
  • Sense Motive +4 (8 SP) +1 (Wis) = +5
  • Stealth +8 (8 SP) +2 (Dex) = +10
  • Thievery +2 (2 SP) +2 (Dex) = +4
  • Use Magic Device +8 (4 SP, Adept) +4 (Cha) = +12

 Eldritch Might Martial Art (Dex); Specialized training in the use of Rays: +4 Attack, Mighty Blow, Weapon Kata (Morningstar), Rapid Shot.

It’s kind of hard to justify this art getting the dexterity modifier, since it IS awfully character specific and blatantly has no history or general writeup – but then at Dex 14 the modifier is only a +2, and only gets the character one extra technique. It’s kind of cheap, but given the woeful ineffectiveness of the original character, an extra +1 to hit doesn’t seem like a lot of trouble.

Gear 15,000 GP (Yes, a generous allowance for this particular game): +1 Mithril Shirt (2100 GP), Cloak of Resistance +1 (1000 GP), +1 Morningstar (2308 GP), Amulet of Natural Armor +1 (1000 GP), Handy Haversack (2000 GP), Wand of Cure Light Wounds (750 GP), Golden Holy Symbol (25 GP), Artificers Monocle (1500 GP), Amber Amulet of Vermin (summons a Huge Monstrous Scorpion for one minute once per day, 700 GP), Ring of Lifekeeping (casts Cure Minor Wounds on the wearer up to three times per day if they’re below 0 HP, 600 GP), Everfull Mug (200 GP), Everlasting Rations (350 GP), Magic Bedroll (500 GP), Bag of Tricks (Gray, 900 GP), Light Warhorse with Military Saddle (170 GP), Healers Kit (50 GP), Silver Holy Symbol (Backup, 25 GP), four Antitoxin Vials (200 GP), and Thieves Tools (30 GP). That leaves 600 GP for miscellaneous mundane gear (presumably stowed in the Handy Haversack).

Now, admittedly the original build wasn’t very good, and this one is pretty highly optimized (and has a few iffy bits of cheese thrown in for good measure) – but it has improved the bloodline powers (the Devil Affinity and Energy Resistance – which wouldn’t normally be available yet anyway), it now HAS a base attack bonus, the weapons proficiencies are better, the armor class is up a bit, the movement has doubled, the Eldritch Blast damage is up by a factor of four and now gets two shots (although it’s now possible to counterspell it), the clerical powers have improved a bit, the command of undead is now at L5 instead of L2, and skills are up thanks to Adept and Augmented Bonus.

Perhaps most importantly, the character now has eight Invocations instead of three (most of them new), but IS now vulnerable to Dispel Magic – which can negate their invocations briefly. They’ll probably want to get a defense against that in the next few levels as Dispelling becomes a more common tactic, but that’s not a big problem as of yet – and the character now has FAR more options as to how to modify their ray attack.

As-is, this character is probably TOO optimized for most games – but that wasn’t really the point; the challenge caught my fancy simply because it was a decent demonstration of how to use Eclipse to take a concept that really didn’t work in basic d20 and turn it into something that works very well indeed – and perhaps too well.

Oath of the Postulant; A Priest of the Light

Oath of King John Casimir of Poland

It doesn’t have to be this impressive.

A Quest Oath can provide a character with a temporary bonus feat (six character points worth of abilities)  – at the price of possibly suffering a modest curse if they abandon their oath, rather than fulfilling it.

 There are quests perhaps more profound than defeating a monster, or rescuing a princess, or any of the  usual heroic missions. A postulant in many faiths – a cantidate for the priesthood, or at least as a lay  clergyman – is often asked to spend some time considering the ramifications of such a choice, and studying  the principles and ideals of the faith, and examining their own soul, before making such a grave decision.

 Preferably, of course, that’s done with the guidance of a mentor. Sadly, in troubled times – and when are the times not troubled in a d20 universe? – there may be no teacher to spare to spend months on guiding a  potential novice.

 A Postulant’s Oath asks that a cantidate accept the guidance of the light (or whatever powers the priest  administering the oath recognizes) as they consider the possibility of becoming a priest for the next few  months. After that, they may then make an informed decision as to whether or not it’s a path they wish to  pursue, whether they wish to swear more limited service to the Faith, or whether they wish to walk another  path entirely.

 In exchange they gain:

  •  Immunity/Unwanted Mental Influence (Common, Major, Trivial – providing immunity to level one effects and a  +2 on saves against more powerful ones) (3 CP).
  • A Companion (Familiar) with +1 Level Template, Specialized and Corrupted/has no physical existence and no  attributes other than Int (Equal to that of the priest administering the Oath), This is, in fact, merely a  sort of simulacrum of the oathgiver imprinted on the recepients mind as a guide and advisor. In effect,  the recepient has a shimmering spirit advisor that only he or she can see – but which can, within severe  limits – guide and support him or her, at least when it comes to the faith that he or she is considering  and in a few minor rituals and spells (3 CP).

Spiritual Guide Template (32 CP):

  • Blessing (6 CP). A Spiritual Guide can share it’s knowledge and abilities with the individual it’s  guiding. Sadly, they’re not very impressive when it comes to adventuring powers. When it comes to serving a small community however… they can be very useful indeed.
  • Adept/Specialized in Knowledge/Religion and Spellcraft (3 CP).
  • Knowledge/Religion at +(5 + Int Mod) (2 CP).
  • Spellcraft at +(5 + Int Mod) (2 CP).
  • A +3 Speciality/the Faith of the priest administering the oath (1 CP).
  • A +3 Speciality/Spellcraft/Ritual Magic (1 CP).
  • Specific Knowledge; Three major holy books of the Faith of the priest adminstering the oath (+15 to  knowledge/religion with regards to that particular Faith) (3 CP).
  • Specific Knowledge; 4x(Int Mod +3) Minor Priestly Rituals (4 CP). These will normally include curatives,  blessings for flocks, fields, and children, ceremonies that consecrate weddings, and so on.
  • Rune Magic/The White Light (Healing, Purification, and limited Protective Magics), Casting and Mastery at  +(1 + Int Mod). This normally only allows 0-Level effects, but – if the administering priest has Int 16+ –  can extend to first level effects (2 CP).
  • Rune Magic/Hearthcrafting (Small household and practical magics), Casting and Mastery at +(1 + Int Mod).  This normally only allows 0-Level effects, but – if the administering priest has Int 16+ – can extend to  first level effects (2 CP).
  • 1d6+2 Mana, Specialized/only for Rune Magic (4 CP).
  • Rite of Chi, Specialized and Corrupted/requires meditation on the state of the characters soul and on the  light – and then a good nights sleep (2 CP).

As a Familiar, a Spiritual Guide bestows six points worth of abilities directly – in this case:

  • Ritual Magic, Specialized/priestly rituals of the faith of the priest administering the vow only (3 CP)
  • Luck, with +2 bonus uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only for skills, only for spellcraft (rituals) and knowledge/religion (3 CP).

 Yes, this IS an appallingly over-optimized use of a mere six character points. On the other hand… what you’re actually GETTING is a religious advisor on speed dial, the ability to make a community a happier place, a couple of first level spells at caster level one or two each day, +2 versus mental effects, and a tendency to talk to yourself. Unless the big bad guy is basing his entire plan around Charm Person, this isn’t exactly game-breaking. Ergo, under the general rule of “it shouldn’t cost a lot if it doesn’t matter a lot”… I’d let it go – although I WOULD say that it only works for characters who are genuinely considering a religious dedication. Letting people pick this up just because they had six character points to spare from somewhere would sort of miss the point.

Skills and Powers – Condensing the d20 Skill List

Condensing the 3.5 skills listing is a pretty common request. Unfortunately, it tends to create must-have uber-skills like “perception” – and often leaves rarely-taken skills like “Forgery” even further out in the cold or lumped in with something entirely inappropriate.

Still, it is really is popular, skills have been seriously devalued over the years and need some pepping up to make them worthwhile again, and it’s not like there aren’t a hundred other versions of condensed skill lists out there already. Secondarily, the base skills are pretty bland. In a world full of magic, why don’t they cover a bit of it?

Ergo, here’s a quick attempt to make sure that all the skills are actually worth taking. They aren’t all perfectly balanced of course – nothing ever is – but they should all be both useful and fun to have.

Acrobatics (Dex, Armor Check Penalty): Includes Balance, Escape Artist, Ride, and Tumble. At rank 8 you may take 3d4 damage to pull off an nigh-impossible stunt – dislocating your bones to escape chains, jumping down a series of falling rocks to break a fall, or some such. At Rank 16 the damage from such a stunt is reduced to 2d4, and at rank 24 to 1d4.

Appraise (Int): May be used to identify magical items, evaluate animals, and bargain. Characters with at least (Level/2) ranks of Appraise effectively get 10% extra when treasure or rewards are split up. Those with at least (Level) ranks of Appraise get 20% extra. This doesn’t actually reduce anyone’s allotment of treasure; those who are skilled in getting the best prices can simply make their cash go further.

Why are these shifting minimums? Because you’re presumed to be buying level-appropriate stuff for the most part – and thus will be negotiating with higher-level sellers with better skills of their own.

Athletics (Str, Armor Check Penalty): Includes Climb, Jump and Swim. Also covers things like power-lifting, kicking open doors, running marathons, outrunning monsters, and similar activities. The user may make an Athletics check instead of a straight attribute check for such attempts. At rank 8 you may take 3d4 damage to pull off an nigh-impossible stunt – briefly supporting an impossible weight, dashing across water for a few seconds, sinking your fingers into the stone of a wall while falling past it to try to climb it again, diving off a cliff with a rope to catch up to a falling individual and catch them, and so on. At Rank 16 the damage from such a stunt is reduced to 2d4, and at rank 24 to 1d4.

Arcana (Int): Includes Knowledge/Arcana, Knowledge/Psionics, Psicraft, and Spellcraft, as well as performing magical rituals. Every three full ranks of Arcana allows the user to employ one minor ritual, even without any special ritual feats or abilities.

Concentration (Con): Covers Autohypnosis, Concentration, and Control Shape. May also be used to briefly withstand dangerous forces given a few moments to prepare – for example, performing classical firewalking (DC 14), reaching into a furnace to pull out that magical blade without hurting yourself (DC 18), pulling free a high-voltage line without injury (DC 24).

Craft (Int): Craft ranks apply to (3 + Int Mod) areas. For example a Wizard with Int 16 could be skilled in Alchemy, Engraving, Glassblowing, Goldsmithing, Gemcutting, and Bladesmithing – everything he needs to make most magical devices. Anyone with at least (Level/2) ranks in Craft can live a reasonable lifestyle for their level by spending a few hours a day using their skills. Anyone with at least (Level) ranks in Craft can live an excellent lifestyle for their level in the same way.

Deception (Cha): Includes Bluff and Disguise as well as setting up diversions, con artistry, phony accounting, and coming up with believable false rationales. At rank 10+ you may use up to (Cha Mod) levels worth of appropriate Enchantment/Charm spells of up to level three daily through your words alone (Save DC is Charisma-Based, Caster Level = User Level). At rank 20+ the limit increases to spell level five and (2x Cha Mod) spell levels. At rank 30+ the limit increases to spell level seven and (3x Cha Mod) spell levels – the maximum.

Appropriate spells include things like Hideous Laughter, Taunt, Glibness, Mindless Rage, Rebuke, Suggestion, Daze and Daze Monster (briefly dazing people with outrageous insults), Crushing Despair, Shock and Awe, and so on.

Engineering (Int): Includes Knowledge/Architecture and Engineering, building and operating siege engines, machinery, mills, clockwork, hydraulics, pneumatics, deducing things about structures (such as locating secret rooms, passages, and doors), finding weak points to attack (can effectively double damage against inanimate objects with a GMO check), building gadgets, and working with pretty much anything else mechanical. Engineers may specify one quasi-magical gadget they they routinely carry for every three full ranks in engineering that they carry, and may trade these out given a week or two. If you want a pocket full of smoke pellets, a clockwork mechanism that fast-reloads your heavy crossbow five times before it needs ten minutes rewinding, a spring-loaded sleeve-grapnel, a sword that can fire it’s blade at an opponent, sneezing powder, and other gizmos, then this is the skill for you.

Heal (Wis): Includes surgery, psychotherapy, acupuncture, herbalism, minor magical rituals of healing, and advanced medicine. Users with at least four ranks may attempt a DC 15/25/35 check to reproduce the effects of a L1/L2/L3 curative spell up to (Wis Mod) times per day – although they may not “take 20″ on this check. Each +5 ranks adds one use per day.

Linguistics (Int): Includes Forgery, Decipher Script, and Speak Language (bestowing one extra language – speaking, reading, and writing – per rank). It also covers using and understanding dialects, knowing the meanings of names, getting messages across language barriers, and similar tasks. Being based on Int, this covers the free extra languages you get for a high intelligence.

Local Knowledge (Int) is a downright supernatural knack; it covers knowing about trails, bars, customs, stories, major individuals, businesses, traditions, creatures in the area, and so on EVERYWHERE YOU GO. If you only want to know about a PARTICULAR area, spend 1 SP to get a +15 on that specific location. It’s a LOT easier to know all about Allentown PA than it is to know that much about every location on Earth.

Perception (Wis): Includes Search, Spot, Listen, and (for that matter) smell checks. Optionally, characters with at least (Level) ranks in Perception may receive a +1 Synergy Bonus on Reflex Saves. Perception is so useful that it doesn’t really need sweetening, but that seems reasonable.

Perform (Cha): Perform ranks apply to (3 + Int Mod) areas, as with Craft. Anyone with at least (Level/2) ranks in Perform can live a reasonable lifestyle for their level by spending a few hours a day using their skills. Anyone with at least (Level) ranks in Perform can live an excellent lifestyle for their level in the same way. A skilled performer can achieve basic bardic effects such as fascinating an audience up to (Cha Mod) times per day, but the minimum skill requirements are doubled.

Persuasion (Cha): Includes Diplomacy and Intimidation, as well as propaganda, writing to persuade, writing treaties, acting as a judge, and salesmanship. At rank 10+ you may use up to (Cha Mod) levels worth of appropriate Enchantment/Charm spells of up to level three daily through your words alone (Save DC is Charisma-Based, Caster Level = User Level). At rank 20+ the limit increases to spell level five and (2x Cha Mod) spell levels. At rank 30+ the limit increases to spell level seven and (3x Cha Mod) spell levels – the maximum.

Appropriate effects include Charm effects, Hypnotism, Heroism, Good Hope, Fascination, and Suggestion. This replaces the (troublesome) Diplomacy ability to simply change long-term attitudes.

Religion (Int): Includes Knowledge/Religion, Knowledge/The Planes, and religious ceremonies. At 6+ ranks this includes the ability to cast three 0-level clerical spells per day. At 12+ ranks it provides +1 bonus level of religious spellcasting (cleric, druid, or similar). At 18+ ranks it provides access to a Domain, and at 24+ ranks it provides an additional bonus level of religious spellcasting.

Profession (Wis, Trained Only): Profession skills are broad-based. For example, Profession / Sailor may be used to tie knots and use rope, predict the weather at sea, navigate, climb and balance in the rigging, patch sails, do basic carpentry on hulls, and load and fire cannons. Profession/Dungeoneering covers Knowledge/Dungeoneering, organizing an expedition, major monsters and their characteristics, lost treasures, locations of dungeons and caverns, not getting lost in them, and so on.

Scholar (Int): Covers Knowledge/Geography, Knowledge/History, and Knowledge/Nobility and Royalty – as well as creatures, customs, etiquette, and law. Every five full ranks of Scholar provides a one-level step in one of the Favored Enemy or Favored Foe variants from Eclipse.

Socialize (Wis): Includes Gather Information, Handle Animal, and Sense Motive – as well as serious partying. Each two full ranks in Socialize provides the user with a valuable contact – someone with special skills, unusual abilities, political influence, or similar – which he or she is willing to use to help the character out, at least within reason.

Stealth (Dex): Includes Hide and Move Silently as well as setting up camouflage, smuggling things past searches, hiding things. At rank 8+ you can hide things about your person so well that even the universe loses track of them, giving the user the equivalent of a built-in, nondispellable, Handy Haversack. At rank 16+ you may become invisible (as per Improved Invisibility) for a total of (Dex Mod) minutes (in total, counting per round, activation is a free action) per day. At rank 24+ you may become incorporeal for a total of (Dex Mod) rounds per day, as per Improved Invisibility, above.

Survival (Int): Includes Knowledge/Nature, Survival, and Use Rope. Used for tracking, finding food, basic navigation/avoiding becoming lost, building shelters, and prospecting. At rank 6+ the user is protected as if by Endure Elements and may learn animal languages, such as “equine” or “feline”. At rank 12+ the user leaves no trail if he or she does not desire it. At rank 18+ the user’s movement is no longer hindered by overgrowth or terrain. At rank 24+ the user becomes immune to natural poisons and those of Vermin

Thievery (Dex, Trained Only): Includes Disable Device, Open Locks, and Pick Pocket / Sleight of Hand. At rank 6+ the user may attempt to use such a skill as a free action up to (Dex Mod) times per day. At rank 12+ the user may similarly use such as skill at a range of up to 30 feet (Dex Mod) times per day. At rank 18+ the user will attract 3d6 young rogues, stolen from their normal lives. At rank 24+ the user may, once per day, attempt to steal magical properties or abilities – although the user may only have one such property or ability in his or her possession at a time. Thus, one day, he might steal a mages Disintegrate spell, using it a day later. Next up, the magic of a sword, transferring it to a sword of his or her own. The day after? A use of a dragon’s breath weapon, leaving it having to wait another 1d4 rounds to use it.

By the Power of We [Insert Party Size Here]!

Group Magic

The cabal of sorcerers combine their skills, binding the arcane powers into a greater whole…

The trio of witches repeats the chant over and over, until a dread curse takes shape…

The priest and his flock call divine power as a thousand voices pray as one…

So you want to boost your magic with your teammates, eh? Well, that works. But you need to take note of some very important issues. First and most important – keep in mind that other players might not exactly agree. Group magic is going to require something from them, whether it’s time or character points or interest. Before you go down the road of using group magic, you’d be well advised to talk to the other players.

But let’s say they agree, or you’re interested regardless. Where do you take it from here? As always the question when playing Eclipse is: “What do I actually want to do?” So, what do you want to do? What do you want to use it for? When do you want to use it? In combat? What kind of game are you playing? How strong is magic in general? How much are you willing to sacrifice for it?

Now, onto more mechanical fare:

Ritual Magic

Rituals provide a great way to work the entire group into spellcasting. Everyone can cooperate to make the ritual a success, by going on adventures, using they character skills to get needed resources, or having the expertise needed to do the ritual in the first place. The downside is that the rituals themselves aren’t usually that exciting. Unless you’ve got enemies coming after you, all the fun lies in the prep-work, not the handfuls O’ dice rolls at the very end.

Mechanically, this doesn’t take any changes whatsoever. All the ritual magic rules are already there, and the party can participate as much as they individually care to. However, Ritual Magic isn’t well-detailed in Eclipse, so you may have to add The Practical Enchanter to fully cover the system.

Specialty Magical Talents

Focused magical talents can give you a boost for working in a group. These are pretty easy to do. Just buy Specialized: Another character must give up his or her Action to assist (using Aid Another). Caster levels, a couple extra levels of spellcasting, metamagic and some bonuses to use them – all make you more powerful in a group.

This is normally only Specialized, not both Specialized and Corrupted. If you have to sacrifice something on top of the action used up, that might be both. Of course, you can also go for increased effect instead.

The upside here is that it’s extremely easy to take this talent and it works flexibly in a lot of situations. The downside is that another player likely isn’t going to want to sacrifice all their actions so you can look MOAR SPESHUL! But as always it’s up to your group’s style and preference.

Christmas Bonus

Let’s say you want to buy abilities that really benefit the whole party – well, why not be the one ot buy them yourself? If you buy boosting talents and hand out the goodies to other people when convenient, you get to be the hero while letting someone else have the the heroic moment. Whether you’re enhancing manipulation of esoteric forces, shoving extra magic power into your friends’ hands, or using the Seven Seals of Agrammor, the outcome is the same – you hand a big upgrade to somebody right when they need it.

Mechanically, you first buy a few key abilities. There’s always Glory and a Metamagic feat of some type, but you can do more than that. Ability Focus, Augmented Magic, Berzerker, Countermagic, Eldritch, Mana, and Shadowmaster are all convenient possibilities. Now take Blessing just for that ability: voila, you’re all done.

Bless You!

A more flexible version of the above, and one which involves the entire party. In this trick, the entire party breaks down some spellcasting tools and bonuses, divides them up amongst themselves, and buys Blessing just for that ability. The team can then effectively use those abilities – it doesn’t matter who actually uses the effect as long as its only one character at a time.

The method has a number of advantages. First, it’s spread throughout the party, so your group spellcasting doesn’t instantly vanish if the Wizard leaves. It does get weakened, however, and you may need a couple people to buy the basics even if it results in duplication.

The downside is that everybody has to agree ahead of time on what to buy and who gets it, and it could cause arguments between players who want to increase the team spellcasting and those who want to buy individual abilities. Depending on your team composition, or if a player chooses to change characters, you may end up buying abilities which don’t fit just because the group needs them.

If you go this route, it’s a good idea to have someone buy Mana and another player take Inherent Spell. This provides with some level of backup, so if one player can’t make it you still have sime basic spellcasting ability. Alternatively, you can take a massively limited form of Spellcasting to get the cost down to a reasonable level. Otherwise, you’re basically looking at the same pile of Blessing abilities as the above.

Witchcraft

Ah, Witchcraft. People love to envision witches gathering at mystically-important times to cast their spells together, or living in covens devoted to study and advancements in their practice. Well, why not?

Mechanically, WItchcraft doesn’t gain any benefits from working in groups. Your magic does what it does, and you can’t stack up bonuses nearly as easily. That said, you can still gain a decent percentage from assistance.

The two major ways of adapting Witchcraft to funciton better in groups involves buying extra Power that you can give to others, or taking Pacts such Spell Failure (when not working in groups). This gives you a convenient way to ramp up your abilities beyond what you could normally sustain, as long as you have people helping.

Virtual Spellcaster

This is an awkward tool, but one you might give a try. I’m warning you going in that I don’t recommend this path, because it’s got some annoying issues and doesn’t make the slightest lick of sense, but you can use it if you so choose. (Fortunately, there are a few ways to retrofit it)

Before, we discussed ways you could have the party group their talents and work together to cast spells. This time around, we’re going to put the party’s Character Points to work directly.  In essence, the aprty si going to build themselves a non-existent spellcaster. That is, we’re going to put points to  a character which doesn’t actually exist, shove spellcasting on ‘im, and let that guy do the hard work of magic.

Mechanically, every active character has to pay one or two Character Points per level, but the Virtual Spellcaster can only benefit from three points per player, or 3 if it’s a small party. Levels aren’t important to the Virtual Spellcaster.

These points are grouped and provide the Character Points for this Virtual Spellcaster (VS for short). VS doesn’t have a name, personality, body, and can’t be attacked or affected… but also doesn’t get any actions or benefits. You can’t target VS for anything, and VS does nothing by himself. All VS has is a character level and spellcasting-based abilities, which caninclude metamagic feats, spell levels, mana and feats which alter the spellcasting in various ways. VS doesn’t have to obey any Framework and can’t be attacked.

The upshot is that you only buy spellcasting and spellcasting bonuses for VS. Note that you can’t purchase abilities which improve VS’s ability scores or save DC’s – he doesn’t have any. Instead, characters can borrow VS’s spellcasting on a per round basis. Using that spellcasting requires a certain number of characters, based on the level of the spell and the character. A single character can use a spell up to [Character Level/2-4]. Two characters can use a spell up to [Character Level/2-2]. A trio can use spells up to [Character Level/2]. This is where some of the benefit comes into play, because working together you can cast spells above the normal level for characters.

When casting spells, you have to use the best attributes of any character doing the casting, and anyone who wants to cast or help cast needs also has to meet any attribute requirements of the spells in question. So a party who all used Charisma as the dunp stat shouldn’t be buying Bardic casting. However, it’s not all punishment and limitations. The above restrictions mean that everything the Virtual Spellcaster buys is Corrupted, and you can layer other Specializations on top of that.

Now that you have the basic rules for this, you likely need a World Law to actually put it into play. While a group fo really powerful character might be able to create their own Astral Construct to do the above, it’s pretty unlikely except as a weird experiment. Therefore, it’s going to happen if characters have access to a World Law making it so. And this means your enemies will also likely make use of it, so don’t be surprised if the Dark Lord calls forth his most terrible minions and throws a spell at you even if he’s a Fighter-type.

Hearthstones

If you’re getting into The Practical Enchanter, there’s an easier way to do the above: buy a hearthstone and keep upgrading it. You can pay experience points, and requiring groups to use the most useful spells is an easy way of keeping costs down with limitations. It doesn’t work exactly the same, but it’s a lot easier to deal with and goes a long way to binding a party together.