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.

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4 Responses

  1. […] United We Stand and Group Magic: Two different takes on how to build characters who pool their magic for greater effects. […]

  2. I’ll ask this here, if only because this is the only reference to Master of the Sabbat I could find on the site^^°

    So I have a character that has a remarkably high PP-reserve (~1290) and has just decided to use his Elfshot-ability on someone for a permanent curse.

    Can he use up all of his 1290 PP for that everyday over 28 days (430 curses daily, basically) and the apply the effect or can he only contribute one Elfshot per day?

    And what would be the corresponding effects of the first and the second?

  3. […] or Fusion Magic is basically an “all our powers combined!” thing; a group of mages or magical creatures get together, unite their powers, and unleash […]

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