Inherent Spells, Spell Conversion and the Pointlessly Awesome!

And here we have some answers for Bill, who has asked several different Eclipse questions…

How does purchasing inherent spells work? I read the rules in Eclipse, but when I look for examples it is confusing… The Mastercrafter can use a lv 6 spell with Inherent Spell; is that because you are cheesing the double effect to double the maximum lv from 3 to 6? Can you specialize and corrupt a spell for triple effect and cast a 9th lv spell for 6cp?

Abooksigun (scroll down) seems to have a lot of Inherent Spells that don’t seem to follow the rules in Eclipse. I thought level 1 to 3 spells cost 6cp for Inherent Spell, Inherent Spell (grade 1) would allow level 4 spells and cost 6cp more (12 total), Inherent Spell (grade 2) would allow level 5 spells and cost 6cp more (18 total), Inherent spell (grade 3) would allow level 6 spells and cost 6cp more (24 total). At least that is how it reads to me in the book.

-Bill

Yes, you can indeed Specialize and Corrupt Innate Spell (and several other similar powers) to reach high-level spells quickly and easily. The catch, however, is threefold: you have to persuade the game master to let you, he or she has to waive the minimum level/caster level requirement or allow you to keep your high-powered effect under control regardless (the general rule is on page 10, on the lower right – but it’s noted under the inherent spell description again for emphasis), and you have to live with whatever that Corruption and Specialization is – which can be pretty awkward.

The most common reason for being allowed to get away with it on the first two counts is because the effect is in-theme for the character but doesn’t actually make a lot of difference. Thus the Mastercrafter gets away with a sixth level effect quite early on because it’s not especially important; there are plenty of other ways to trade in magic items you don’t want at a modest discount to pay for the stuff that you do want. One way or another, that tends to happen anyway as long as magic items are fairly easy to make and thus widely available.

For a more extreme example, Dark Lord Kevin operates in the dimension-hopping Federation – Apocalypse setting. Now that setting pretty much allows ANYTHING – although most of it will not work in quite a lot of places (Such as the Core Worlds, where very little works beyond basic witchcraft). Thus Kevin started with Dominion and purchased Godfire and ascended to godhood at level two. He also started off with Negative Energy Channeling/Spell Conversion Specialized to allow him to use a quartet of tenth-level effects. Now even in the Federation-Apocalypse setting those are some pretty extreme abilities to be starting off with – so why was it allowed?

Well his effects required notable rituals, and were blatantly black magic. That’s annoying, but not really enough to justify letting a first level character have access to tenth level spells. The effects he took however…

  • Grant Desire” let him produce – given a little time and provided that he was in a dimension that allowed it – pretty much any effect of up to sixth level at the request of someone else who was willing to bargain with a quasi-demonic entity to get it. Of course, in the dimension-hopping Manifold setting, where characters hopped through dimensional gates into new identities (that provide some of the appropriate abilities) in various worlds at the drop of a hat… there are a LOT of ways to get mid-level spell effects or the equivalent if you really want them and have time. In the last two hundred and fifty sessions this has come in really useful… twice. Of course, by now he has plenty of other powers.
  • Demonic Infusion” gives willing youngsters the Demon Thrall Template – thus explaining where he was getting the enhanced followers that he was purchasing with Leadership and helping give him a reason to actively seek out and recruit more followers. Thus this mighty power… helped explain another ability, provided personal motivations, and gave an endless succession of parents, authorities, and religious figures a reason to shout “Demon! Child-Stealer! Monster!”. Otherwise… it didn’t really have any effect on actual play.
  • Transfer Thrall” lets him transfer his Demonic Thralls to other masters (which was what happened to them whenever he exceeded his leadership allotment). Of course, Kevin’s Demonic Thralls mostly stand guard, act as servants, run errands, handle logistics, and work “offscreen”. Occasionally they serve as temporary PC’s, or the group takes a group of Thrall-characters off on a side-adventure – but mostly this effect allows him to exercise poor judgement by giving Thralls away to people who will later use them to make trouble that he will have to fix. That makes him a profit of course – but there are far easier routes to mere wealth in the setting.
  • Finally, “True Polymorph” lets him transform things! That’s very cool! However, transformations and reality-shaping are an innate part of the Federation-Apocalypse setting; characters can already take various forms in various worlds, shapechanging is a common power, and wealth produced by transformations… is world specific, when the characters switch worlds every few sessions.

Those four effects are indeed spells of terrible potency – and are of no real importance in the setting. Letting Kevin take those powers pretty much amounted to spending some of his points on flavor text. It’s impressive flavor text, and offers enough plot hooks to have justified a lot of chaos and wild adventures – but it’s still basically flavor text.

Similarly, his Godhood is focused almost entirely on Divine Infusion, which is focused entirely on Endowment – which is a tremendous benefit for his Thralls and followers scattered across the dimensions, but is of little or no use to him. In fact, Kevin has so little control of this ability that he’s wound up empowering a number of people who have actively opposed him.

Personally, I tend to find that sort of thing a better indicator of “Optimization” than being able to destroy all opposition with no trouble. Kevin IS pretty powerful – but he’s set up to make a lot of trouble for himself and to provide the game master with any number of plot hooks. That’s optimization for role-playing fun, rather than optimization for combat, or diplomacy, or anything else mechanical.

Now as for Abooksigun…

Abooksigun (scroll down) is actually fairly standard example of a character with a sequence of Inherent Spells – although, as a companion creature to Ptaysanwee, a powerful NPC and a quick character conversion, he’s playing a bit fast and loose with the usual “related” requirement. He’s basically taken “supporting cast” as HIS theme, although I suppose we could call it “the flickering dance of the inner flame” or some such. He’s thus taken…

  • Inherent Spell/Fireball (L3, 6 CP). He’s taken +2 Bonus Uses (+3 CP) since that’s slightly cheaper than taking +2 uses with the Multiple modifier (that would be 4 CP – but really, the “Multiple” modifier is only there to specifically call out that it applies to BOTH first level spells if a character takes the “two level one inherent spells” option).
  • Advanced Inherent Spell I (+6 CP) lets him add another inherent spell of up to level four to his Fireball ability. In this case he’s taken Freedom of Movement and +2 Bonus Uses (+3 CP) again.
  • Advanced Inherent Spell II (+6 CP) lets him add a third inherent spell of up to fifth level to his powers. In this case it’s once again with +2 Bonus Uses (+3 CP) and he’s picked Teleport.
  • Advanced Inherent Spell III (+6 CP) (and again with +2 Bonus Uses, +3 CP) adds Heal to his list – giving him a grand total of Fireball 3/Day, Freedom of Movement 3/Day, Teleport 3/Day, and Heal 3/Day.

That’s less than clear on the actual writeup, simply because the actual page is condensing things for quick reference (and because I was, as always, in too much of a hurry…). Still, adding an Advanced option doesn’t take the basic inherent spell away.

In any case, I hope that helps despite the delay, even if Alzrius has pretty well covered it already.

d20 Failure Modes VIII – The Apollo Mission and the Old School

English: Different levels of magnification of ...

What do you mean “you don’t need this level of detail? Everyone LOVES detail!

One of the big rewards for many gamers is seeing advancement. In Monopoly they get more houses and hotels built. In Chess they promote pawns. And in role-playing games they see their character improve. That may mean becoming more skilled, upgrading combat abilities, stealing mighty devices, learning more potent magic, acquiring new psychic powers, gaining wealth, growing in fame, becoming influential, having more epic tales of heroism to tell, or even having more sexual partners, children and grandchildren. The players want SOMETHING about their characters to improve all the time.

Early efforts were not so far removed from the little table of “fantasy units” in the back of the Chainmail miniatures rules. “Advancement” was not yet a big thing – but it turned out that people liked it. So in first edition there were more tables, and levels, and those tables and levels went far FAR beyond where most games did. After all, at that time the “goal” was more-or-less “name level” – around level nine to eleven – and just getting THERE took a rather long time. Even worse from a modern viewpoint, a lot of levels were even less exciting than the “dead levels” of d20 fame. In the absence of a skill system there were plenty of levels at which many characters got a few more hit points, a higher number under “experience total”, more money – and nothing else that showed on the character sheet at all.

Now money is nice, but since magic items were rarely for sale in first edition (and magic that was actually useful being up for sale was even rarer), accumulating wealth meant that you either gathered a hoard like a dragon or you built up lands, castles, temples, and armies because there simply was nothing else to spend it on. You wound up running a kingdom, or magical academy, or becoming the grand high priest of your faith, pretty much by default. That made some sense though; characters with the potential to go beyond “level zero” were supposed to be one in a thousand – and less than one it ten of those ever even STARTED adventuring and gaining levels. Among those intrepid souls who did become adventurers… for every one that made it to tenth level, many MANY more died, retired with enough money to live comfortably, or took up safer professions, before getting past level four or five. Tenth level characters were – once again, by default – roughly one in a million. An eighteenth level character… might be the only one on the continent.

For “stuff on the character sheet” a little dabbling with “nonweapon proficiencies” and character backgrounds (“kits”) got tossed in along the way – but a sizable fraction of the players weren’t content with a few increasing numbers, some tales of adventure, and the occasional random magical item. They wanted more stuff to put on their sheet – stuff that they could assign measurable values to, rather than reputation, political influence, and tales of adventure which were mostly in the game masters head. That was one of the things that made the original Monk class fairly popular; it got something to put on the sheet almost every level. Who cared that it had an upper limit? Odds were that you were never going to reach it anyway.

Enter d20 / Third Edition – and the authors put in a LOT more stuff to put on the sheet. Feats, class abilities, a detailed formal skill system, and more.

The trouble with a lot more stuff to put on the sheet is that – again, by default – a character can do pretty much everything a normal person can. The things that go on the sheet… are things that a normal person can’t do or won’t have.

So characters went from “fairly normal human beings with a few special skills” to “apprentice godlings” as they could do ever more things that were beyond the capacity of any normal person. All those special powers had to have SOME kind of control mechanism – and what D&D had was level. So it all wound up being tied to d20 character levels. In the same way, magic items were made FAR easier to make – allowing more to go on the sheet and (perhaps unfortunately) justifying “magic marts” rather than just a certain amount of high-level exchange of unique items.

Of course with enough magic items you could go from Tony Stark to Iron Man – and that could be a nightmare for the game master who already had to deal with characters who had a bucketload of powers that put many superheroes to shame. So Wealth had to be controlled – which mean that it had to be guarded and couldn’t be the source of “experience points” as it had been; otherwise the players would get even more focused on getting gold without fighting than they had been. Thus “Wealth by Level” made it’s pernicious appearance, castles, lands, and social position lost all their attractions as money sinks, and “fighting” became the primary way to gain experience. As a consequence, other ways of getting money had to be quashed, combat effectiveness suddenly became THE primary way of judging a character’s abilities, “balance” (and part II and III) – mostly judged by the number of useful superhuman abilities on the character sheet – became a serious concern, and (once again) everything else had to be linked to level lest a character be able to easily bypass some situation and become rich without fighting enough to level up. Even more annoyingly, now that you weren’t basically dependent on the game master for magic items, there had to be some way to limit how many you could use – and rules for stacking, bonus types, and body slots made their appearance.

The era of letting each character find one or two really GOOD items written so that they would grow with him or her, and of having those items be defining features of that character for the rest of his or her career, was over.

Complexity does have it’s advantages though; characters could now be a lot more individual and unique without having to spend a lot of time building a personality, backstory, and in-game history.

The trouble was, now that there was a lot more stuff to put on their sheets, players wanted to go ahead and put it there – and it was all tied to level. That meant going up in level quickly and regularly. Once putting stuff on your sheet became one of the major goals, not getting to put stuff on your sheet for months at a time was BORING.

Even letting almost everyone have levels and stretching out the most common range of play from 1-10 to 1-20 wasn’t enough to satisfy the new search for levels – even if it did mean that the spellcasters got another big bump over and above the incredible boost that going to a turn-by-turn initiative system, a “standard action” casting time, and throwing in the “concentration” skill, had already provided. Now characters could go from level one to epic levels within a couple of months of game time. Take 13.5 encounters per level gain, nineteen levels to be gained, and (presuming competent players) about 4.5 encounters per day… and you get 57 days. Just under two months. Characters often acquired abilities and saw them become obsolete before they’d gotten a chance to actually use them. If they took a week off their competitors and enemies might pick up two or even three levels on them in that time!

OK, the need for “balanced encounters” might keep them from doing so, but that REALLY undermined the role-playing part; for that you wanted to feel like the world was NOT specifically set up for the benefit of the player characters even though it really was.

Sure, you could spread out the encounters more – but cutting down the number per day led to the characters with limited-use abilities dominating everything. You could put in time between each set of 4-5 encounters, but that meant either repeatedly forcing the characters to wait (a tactic that gets old VERY fast) or giving up on any plot complicated enough that it couldn’t be resolved in a day or two of adventuring. You could hand out less XP per encounter, but then wealth-by-level tended to get out of whack and the players got annoyed. Now that the goal was to get XP from the encounter, rather than to avoid encounters while you searched for loot, encounters that didn’t get you anything were just annoying time-wasters, not some of the complications to be avoided.

Or… you could go along with the majority and just ignore it, assuming that – for everyone else in the world – events proceeded at a rational pace; kingdoms were founded centuries before, elder evils rose once per eon instead of four times per year, and a child could reach age ten without having seen forty different sets of epic level demigods rearranging the world on a quarterly basis.

Sadly, that meant that your world made no sense.

If epic level characters are rising from nowhere like bubbles in a boiling pot (and a “lasting impact” is therefore something that still has effects two months later), your worlds history is going to be insane, gods won’t survive long enough to explain their doctrines, and all the low-level inhabitants ought to be extinct. If epic characters somehow rise like that without disturbing the world, your world makes even less sense – and your players will be pretty cross; they like to have an impact.

If the rules of the setting are different for the player characters just because they ARE player-characters – then we’re back to the “loss of immersion because the world revolves around US” problem.

Besides… a lot of players like to have their characters have and raise kids, do research, create items, and otherwise do long-term stuff. “Two months to Epic!” pretty much spoils that sort of ambition. Where older editions took leisurely cruises, and characters might go months or years between major adventures, d20 strapped itself to a rocket and struck out for lunar orbit.

And thus 3.0 painted itself into a corner before it really even got started. 3.5 didn’t fix it either – and, for that matter, neither have the vast majority of the successor games.

Eclipse – bound by the terms of the d20 license to not discuss attribute generation or leveling as such – couldn’t do much about this set of problems directly.

That’s why I put the stuff on how to revise the level system into the OGL Web Supplement – although I did try to make the basics obvious enough in Eclipse to make it easy to figure out.

Levels have their place; they’re good milestones, and they serve as an excellent game master shortcut; when the party is labeled “level six” and the monster or item is labeled “level eighteen” you knew that you’ll probably have serious problems if you try to mix them.

So what you want to do is to keep the characters advancing – so that people get to update and tweak their character sheets regularly – without handing out whole levels full of extra abilities so often. Back in the old days of first edition, I found that about eight to twelve sessions per level worked well – so Eclipse uses a base of twenty-four character points per level. All you need to do is to forget the experience point table entirely and start handing out character points directly. Two per session means one level every twelve sessions. Three means eight, four means six, six means four, eight means three, and so on. There are some complications of course, but that’s one of the reasons that there IS a web supplement.

That way the characters can get a few skill points, or make slight improvements on their other abilities somewhere, every session – or save up several sessions worth of points for a brand new power or feat. More subtly, they aren’t likely to put too many points into abilities that they haven’t been using, and so will almost always use their abilities several times before upgrading them. Levels still bring some free benefits, and still act as milestones – but they no longer control most of the sub-aspects of a character and you’re free of the restrictions of d20 Classes. Your character can grow as you think he or she should at any given moment.

If you want to decouple Wealth and Level, you can do that too; Eclipse characters can be set up so as to get along without magic items – or to use the Wealth Level templates and the Charms and Talismans I put into The Practical Enchanter to replace tracking money and conventional magical items. With those… characters can gain wealth, or go broke, without it grotesquely changing their power level.

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. If you want, there are some reviews.

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.

Beasts of Atheria Part I – Bears

On Atheria, the world is divided into Domains – each the realm of a particular kind of magic. In Alaria, the powers of Order reign supreme. In HuSung the Elemental Powers rule. In Chelm the terrible magics of Blood and Shadow dominate. In Dernmarik it’s Dimensional Magic. In Ankorath it is the magic of Life and Healing. In dozens of other realms, other powers rule.

When humans are born within a realm they are infused with the powers of that realm, and thus gain their Birthrights – ranging from the deadly mystical toxins granted by the Venom Domain to the regenerative powers of the Realm of Life.

Animals too gain power – although it’s extent is a product of their size and intelligence. Great and terrible whales may swim within Atheria’s seas, perhaps with Birthright powers far, far, greater than man’s – but only fools would seek to hunt them. On the land, each domain spawns it’s variants on the major species – and often more than one.

Bears are fairly clever for animals and are commonly larger than humans (on Atheria adult black bears usually weigh in at around 250-400 pounds and brown bears at 600-1100 pounds) – giving them near-human level Birthrights. Wild bears mostly live on roots, tubers, shoots, fruits, berries, nuts, nesting and insects, although opportunistic predation or scavenging of carrion is fairly common. Of course, this varies with their birthrealm…

The Dernmarik (Dimensional Domain) Black Bear is commonly known as the “Drop”, “Pit”, or “Ambush” Bear. Their Birthright lets them generate a modest dimensional “pocket” – taking the form of a cave or den with a few logs, heaps of dry leaves and grass, and pools of water scattered about – into which they can retreat and close the entryway while still maintaining sensory awareness of the world outside. While this is an excellent way to avoid other predators, hunters, and the winter cold, it also offers them unusual options as ambush predators. They have been known to place one of their pockets along a game trail and hunt by waiting for something appropriate to come along. Depending on how they’ve positioned the gateway to their den-pocket they will then reach out to attack it, drop down onto it, or attempt to open their portal under it’s feat to get it to fall into their pocket-realm. Fortunately for travelers, this is a relatively rare behavior.

Over the past six millennia the humans of Dernmarik have selectively bred and raised some black bears (often known as “Pocket Bears”) to accept humans as their families. They are fairly common (if somewhat expensive to keep) pets in Dernmarik and are normally trained to – in situations of peril or on command – generate their pocket-dens and admit such members of their “families” as may be in the area with them. Pocket Bears tend to make excellent pets for people from Dernmarik (who all have a bit of unconscious reality-shaping from their own Birthrights, and so find that their pets tend to be healthy, understanding, and clever because they like to think they are). They are more dubious pets for others however, as they are quite strong enough to seriously injure a human entirely accidentally. Favored treats for “Pocket Bears” include bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, pancakes and syrup, honey, and various nut-pastries.

  • Birthright: Occult Sense/Dimensional Awareness (Their basic senses extend into adjacent dimensional spaces, 6 CP), Inherent Spell with +6 Bonus Uses (Spacewarp with closeable access, normally a six hour duration, L3, 15 CP), Immunity/dimensional access difficulties (Uncommon, Severe, Minor, Specialized and Corrupted/only to prevent their own spacewarp effect from causing problems when used on Atheria (2 CP), Immunity/the need to wake up to renew their dimensional pocket effect (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP). Net 24 CP.

The Parack (Storm Domain) Black Bear or “Thunder Bear” possesses the ability to generate a formidable electrical aura that both protects it and augments it’s attacks and to project it at ranges of up to fifteen feet – as well as low-grade resistance to electrical and weather effects. In the wild it usually uses those abilities for self-defense and to take down small prey – such as the Parackian Flying Fish (whether they’re in or out of the water). Occasional crossbreeding with the domestic “Pocket Bear” of Dernmarik has left the “Thunder Bear” slightly more tolerant of humans than most wild bears, but they still make very chancy pets unless mystically bonded with their owners.

Thunder Bear Birthright (24 CP):

  • Innate Enchantments: Lightning Shield (L1, does 1d6 electrical damage to anyone who hits the creature touched with a natural weapon, unarmed strike, or mostly-metallic weapon, in the next round. Unlimited-Use Use-Activated, CL1, Personal Only, 1400 GP), Shocking Grasp (CL1, Unlimited-Use Use-Activated with Rapid Casting, linked with normal attack, 4000 GP) (6 CP).
  • Thunder Bear Style (Instinctive Str-Based Martial Art +12 (16 total): +2 AC, Standard DR 3/-, Reach (Specialized/only projects the Shocking Grasp effect, +10 feet), Blinding Strike (lightning flash), and Combat Reflexes (12 CP).
  • Lunge: +5′ to reach, Specialized/only for use with Shocking Grasp (3 CP). This gives it a total reach of 15′ with respect to Shocking Grasp and two Attacks of Opportunity. This can be a fairly unpleasant surprise for anyone closing with one.
  • Immunity/Weather and Electrical Effects (Common/Major/Trivial, reduces damage from such sources by five points, 3 CP).

Parackian Fish, like other egg-layers, have their birthrights determined by where the egg is laid, not where it hatches. They normally possess a somewhat clumsy ability to fly, used to bypass the tremendous number of waterfalls in Parack, to colonize new lakes in Parack’s swiftly-eroding and uplifting terrain, to escape pools that have been cut off, to catch flying insects and reach food that would otherwise be out of reach, and to evade nets and predators. While they remain gilled water-breathers, Parack’s near-constant rains generally keep their gills moist enough to allow them to remain aloft for a mile or so.

Birthright: Celerity with Additional Movement Mode/Flight, Specialized for only allowing low altitude and limited maneuverability, 9 CP. While there have been horror stories about Parackian Piranha their existence has never been confirmed.

The Parack (Storm Domain) Brown Bear or “Storm Bear” (use polar bear attributes) possesses a formidable ability to manipulate winds, an ability which it can use to strike

English: An American Black Bear (Ursus america...

Don’t go near that thing! You don’t know where it’s from!

down Parack’s flying fish, create a private missile-deflecting whirlwind (like a Wind Wall), project concessive blasts, conceal it’s scent, scoop fish out of the water with small whirlwinds, protect itself from weather, send small objects flying, break falls, and many similar tricks. They are quite touchy, unusually predatory for bears, and extremely dangerous.

Birthright (30 CP):

  • Innate Enchantment/Manipulate Winds (Level Three Greater Invocation/Wind Control (can produce wind effects of up to level two), Caster Level Five, Unlimited-Use Use-Activated, 30,000 GP / 30 CP).

d20 Failure Modes VII – Optimus Crime

Character Optimization sparks debate in every d20 game from 3.0 to Pathfinder. How much is too much? Too little? What can you do to make the other characters relevant when one player is an optimizer and the others aren’t? (Oddly enough, “what do you do to make poor investigators / speakers / roleplayers relevant when a game focuses on those things” doesn’t come up nearly as often – perhaps because it can’t readily be addressed mechanically, even when the fundamental problem is the same; the players don’t all want to play the same sort of game and are good at very different things).

Part of the problem is that the answers vary from table to table and from game master to game master – and not even consistently within individual games. One game master may not like notable magic, and will have a problem with even slightly-optimized bards while fully embracing optimized rangers. Another may reverse those positions. Some hate high-end social abilities while delighting in characters that can annihilate demigods in battle in a single round. Players with access to different books create wildly divergent characters based around completely different assumptions. Players who focus on creating characters with an assortment of minor powers they find interesting may find themselves left hopelessly far behind by players focusing on raw power – and either may find their characters quite useless depending on the current focus of the game. Players with access to more books and the time to dig through them or to consult optimization boards will find things that simply work well together – and many more things that were badly-written in the first place or were written by different authors and were never meant to work together. Races, templates, feats… the more that were written with no underlying system, the more potentially abusive combinations appeared – not that anyone could agree on exactly what they all were.

An awful lot of campaigns wind up relying on piecemeal house rules – disallowing various books and individual bits from other books, adding unofficial errata, and provoking arguments. A certain amount of that sort of thing is inevitable in any role-playing game of course, but d20 put in more exceptions to it’s general rules with every book, which exaggerated the problem.

To be blunt, this is an area where no one is entirely happy; the game master wants some fights to be easy, some to be hard, some nigh-impossible, and some impossible – and so do the players, but they all want to draw the lines in different places. The combat-as-war types see looking for loopholes in the rules as an entirely valid part of their attempts to ensure that their battles are all foregone conclusions (or at least HEAVILY stacked in their favor), just as most real-world military groups would prefer. The combat-as-sport types see that exact same notion – as well as NPC’s who make serious efforts to survive – as cheating and spoiling the game. The combat-as-a-last-resort crowd is a bit rarer in d20, but they tend to want combat to be fast, rare, deadly, and heavily in favor of the first strike. The “deep immersion” players may not care a bit; they have little to no interest in combat and haven’t actually looked at their character sheets in months anyway. EVERYONE wants their character to be effective and have a starring role at least once in awhile.

Eclipse doesn’t entirely solve optimization woes; participant expectation conflicts can’t really be fixed by rules. Once again, however, it does try to remove some of the mechanical roots of the problem.

The biggest fix is simply that Eclipse – rather like the Hero system – put all the abilities into a single book and looked at how they interacted. That eliminates the access-to-different-books problem, much of the time-to-hunt-through-them problem, and – as a side effect – the “bits-from-different-books-that-were-never-meant-to-go-together problem. (That’s also why Eclipse II consists of examples and ways to use the system, rather than of additional rules).

On the hyper-optimizing side it eliminates most of the stack-six-different-class-abilities-that-all-add-to-the-same-thing problem. While you can duplicate pretty much any character class and any fictional character in Eclipse, class abilities that do the same thing will all be using the same underlying mechanics and won’t stack.

On the badly-balanced-races-and-templates side Eclipse lets you calculate the price of racial abilities as readily as it calculates the value of class abilities – and you can’t take a template that gives you great powers in exchange for -10 Con and then go Undead and negate that problem; having no Con means losing the bonus for the -10 Con. You’d have to scrape up those points somewhere else or give up the powers. Just as importantly, in Eclipse, drawbacks are worth less than bonuses cost – making it harder to take a penalty in an area that your character doesn’t care about in exchange for bonuses in the areas that you are interested in.

On the “single winning trick” front, as was noted earlier in this series, Eclipse makes defense easier than attack – meaning that the rewards of classical optimization are reduced. Building a single uber-trick – the incredibly boosted charge, or spell, or other ability – is much less attractive when your target might laugh it off or reflect it in your face. Effective – and optimized – Eclipse characters tend to be built with a variety of powers that they can combine to solve various problems, good defenses, and a selection of constant boosts and enhancements. If someone finds a combination that suits the campaign especially well, other characters can simply buy it too – and so can NPC’s. After all, everyone is shopping from the same selection of abilities.

Like any point buy system (indeed, like any complex rules system) Eclipse can be abused. There are examples of most of the major methods of doing so on this site. Fortunately, Eclipse also includes a page on how to keep things under control – including the option of assigning an ECL adjustment to hyper-efficient or hyper-focused builds. It also comes with a campaign options checklist to keep all the necessary house rules together; if you think that the Path of the Dragon is too broken to allow in your game, just check “no” – and if you think that buying a Reputation is overpriced, just note that you’re reducing the price. You’ll still need cooperation from your players – but that’s pretty much inevitable anyway.

Now Eclipse WON’T help you deal with badly-written spells and equipment (although using The Practical Enchanter may), or with badly-written skills, social systems, monetary systems, and creatures; it doesn’t cover that – but that kind of background material varies according to the setting and the whims of the game master anyway.

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

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

D20 Failure Modes VI: Suffering Peasantry Batman!

English: A chaos magic ritual that uses videoc...

Where do they find the TIME for this stuff?

In standard d20 the world is full of magic and full of monsters. Yet virtually all of the magic is either (a) designed solely for combat, or (b) is priced ridiculously out of range of ordinary folk. There’s a distinct lack of magic for ordinary people and tasks. On the “monsters” end… traveling beyond the walls of cities is fearsomely dangerous in many areas, and perilous even in more civilized places. Mid-level adventurers can easily wind up in danger; how well can low-level noncombatants expect to fair?

If you look at it honestly, the d20 peasantry is going to be fearsomely poor, chronically underfed (and often weak and stupid due to that same chronic malnutrition) – and both desperate and short-lived because they’re so often killed by monsters. Worse, they’ve got to support a top heavy society of militaristic specialists just to remain alive; taxes on what little they can produce are going to have to be high. “Money” is not going to figure in their lives because they don’t need a medium of exchange; they need to barter for a little salt and preserved meat so that they can live through the winter. Gold isn’t even useful to them; they don’t have days to make the dangerous trip to a city where they can spend it or to hunt for someone locally who has a surplus of something to sell to them instead of trading that surplus for stuff that they DO need. Gold is pretty… but you can’t eat it. There may be a few coppers floating around, but for the most part the peasantry has no use for money. Money only becomes really useful when there are substantial, regular, surpluses – when you can be reasonably sure of being able to trade the money for what you need. Without surpluses… there’s no guarantee of THAT, and money becomes worthless. You can see that happen during any natural disaster even today.

In medieval times money was useful in cities, where the powerful gained access to surpluses by leaving everyone else on the verge of starvation. Why did stealing a weeks wages bring the death penalty? It was because if someone robbed you of a weeks wages… you and your kids did not eat for a week. When you were already living on the edge of starvation, that might mean that they died – and it could even kill you if it left you too weak to work. Modern notions of “justice” mean little under such circumstances. If you want a somewhat more realistic medieval price list, look here

As for magic items… Magic items are like having a shotgun and kevlar suit when everyone else is naked. They’re not tools, or luxuries, or ways to show off. They’re POWER. Minor items may be sold for money – but major items are power on the level of “commanding a hundred fanatical followers”. You don’t just BUY that. When it comes to power on that level… you trade like for like among equals, take it from those with less power, and try to hide it from those with more power. Treachery, theft, and murder are to be expected – especially when the fast track to personal power is “kill things and take their stuff”.

The real standard of value in a basic fantasy d20 campaign is the Magic Item. Thanks to Wealth-By-Level EVERYTHING else is priced around that. After all, once you hit sixth level or so… are there really any more mundane items to buy that will make much of a difference to you?

Yet the vast majority of d20 settings feature a functioning monetary system, reasonably happy, contented, and healthy populations, legal systems that pay some attention to actual justice, readily available low-level magical items (potions, scrolls, etc), a distinct shortage of crippled children, communities with NPC spellcasters (which they cannot afford to pay and who have virtually no powers that are useful outside of combat), a shortage of plagues, and many traveling merchants. Sure, real medieval societies had merchants – but they DIDN’T have much in the way of real monsters to eat them.

d20 settings are prosperous because playing in a society full of desperate, crippled, child-beggars who are almost all doomed is not fun for most people.

To make that work by the rules, instead of setting it up by GM fiat and ignoring the problem (which does work, but REALLY irritates the people who like world-building and coherent settings) or just giving the peasants some handy powers, we need ways to upgrade farm productivity to modern levels, heal wounds, cure diseases, and keep monsters away. We need to find ways to make villages prosperous enough to support specialists like that rarely-useful mage, to have them actually trade in fairly substantial sums of money, and to let people travel with reasonable safety. Yet we don’t want to leave the adventurers with nothing to do, make them unimportant, or even make their magic less potent and valuable by comparison.

Eclipse and The Practical Enchanter do have some mechanisms set up to cover this. Neither spends enormous amounts of space on those methods since the exact details don’t usually matter much in play – but I did want to cover it.

The primary mechanisms are Ritual Magic, Hedge Wizardry, and Relics, and the simple fact that point-buy characters can buy the things they need, rather than being shoehorned into classes.

Ritual Magic comes in two major styles – the “high magic” of unique and potent rituals that some Adventurers use and the “low magic” of blessings for flocks and fields, steering monsters and disasters around your village, “sweating out” illnesses, warding vermin out of the granary, and so on that adventurers rarely bother with. High magic rituals tend to call for all kinds of exotic components; herbs from the isles of the sunset, a dragon’s fang, water from the a mystic spring deep in the haunted caverns, and so on. It accomplishes mighty deeds. Low magic rituals tend to call for things like candles, salt, and a shot of whiskey – and make for good crops, strong, healthy, animals, greatly reducing the number of monsters that wander into the village, and turning potentially lethal illnesses into a couple of days in bed. Such rituals are slow and of no use at all in combat – but they’re also well within the reach of peasant grandmothers. Villagers rarely need the fast, potent, magic of heroes and adventurers – but this means that the “default village” will be reasonably prosperous, capable of supporting a few specialists, fairly safe, and have a mostly healthy and productive populace.

There are a selection of sample low magic rituals here (scroll down) and here and  discussions of ritual systems over here and here.

Hedge Wizardry is a single feat in The Practical Enchanter (available for 6 CP for those using Eclipse) that provides a spellcaster of with a wide selection of simple, practical, spells for harvesting crops, cleaning houses, and many many other tasks. While you do need a bit of spellcasting ability to use Hedge Wizardry, enough magic to use these effects is readily available at first level in Eclipse – even with the character point penalty for being a non-combative non-adventurer. Similarly, Hedge Wizardry includes the ability to make Conjures – rather cheap magic items using those practical effects, some of which should be within the reach of a prosperous village.

Hedge Wizardry is covered more extensively in a series of articles here – Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, and Part VII. In Eclipse you can also get practical magic in other ways – but this is perhaps the quickest.

In Eclipse point buy your basic first-level Village Priest-Magician is likely to have a series of highly practical talents rather than combat abilities. That’s because cultures that have people like that in their villages, and who pass on that tradition, tend to prosper and expand at the expense of cultures with less practical orientations. That’s why useful innovations – agriculture, using metal, the wheelbarrow, and (in a d20 fantasy cosmos) the use of practical magic – spread so rapidly. A first level non-adventurer gets 36 character points to spend (an adventurer gets 48). That’s not a lot – but it’s more than enough to purchase the 24-point Sacerdos Pastor village priest package. He or she will be able to mitigate illnesses, bless flocks and fields, help with a childbirth that’s going badly wrong, mediate with an annoyed river-spirit that’s been smashing fish traps – and send for some adventurers if some actual attack comes up.

In Eclipse gods can get along without worshipers – but if they want to wield the awesome might of Godfire they need at least some, and the more the better. Luckily for them, In Eclipse a god can invest in powers that help out their faithful followers. They’re unlikely to invest much in bestowing help on Adventurers; there aren’t very many of them and a 10’th level fighter is rarely as grateful for a little help as a first level farmer (much less a couple of thousand first level farmers) – but even a few small bonuses for the peasantry is a wonderful way to find worshipers. When a few regular prayers to the grain-goddess may get you a +3 bonus on grain-related Farming checks and a harvesting-spell which will save you days of back-breaking labor and possibly save your harvest from an early storm… the grain-goddess is going to have a pretty reliable pool of worshipers every year. Travelers can perhaps gain some guidance on avoiding things that they can’t handle – allowing ordinary folks to travel occasionally. That sort of thing won’t be much of any help to adventurers of course – but when they need divine help they can just talk to the party cleric.

When gods compete… you win!

Finally, of course, we have the sellers of potions and scrolls. Somehow they almost always have what you want available, but never seem to have much of a stock when you sneak in after hours and raid the place… Moreover, they never seem to have the kind of personal power that running a business like that would seem to call for. For THAT we have the Philosophers Stone – a very useful device for villagers, but one of far less use to adventurers. You can find it over HERE, although you’ll have to scroll down a bit.

Put all of that together… and you’ll wind up with prosperous, well-built, hamlets, with mostly healthy inhabitants, well-tended gardens, the surplus crops to pay their taxes and still be able to sell some, money circulating and even a bit saved, several small shrines, a village priest who can actually help people, and possibly even a resident low-powered mage who can provide a few potions and scrolls. Of course, when monsters do (rarely) show up the contrast, the peril – and the desire to send for adventurers to help out – is all the greater (and they can actually afford to PAY those adventurers something). Even with a world full of monsters such places will resemble happy modern villages much more than a collection of smelly mud huts perched beside a river full of pollution and disease.

After all, what’s the use of “saving” people from monsters and evil overlords if you’re just going to send them back to a short, miserable, life of drudgery?

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. If you want, there are some reviews.

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

d20 Failure Modes V – The Nova Strike

Merchant Adventurers Hall, York

Let us return to the Inn to rest!

It’s most often called “the 15-minute adventuring day”; the characters go in, use all their most effective abilities and renewable resources up on a few encounters (or even on the first one), and then fall back to rest, refresh their abilities, and deal with the cries of “Linear Fighters, Quadratic Mages!”.

This really isn’t a problem with game design however.

The Infernal Cult was long established. It’s Dark Temple had nestled in it’s hidden valley for centuries, it’s crypts filled with tortured innocents, it’s altars drenched in blood, it’s summoned guardians most formidable. Permeated with unholy energies, the area enhanced the power of the cult and diminished that of those who would come against it. The only access-ways were through the magic of the cult and the maze of passages which lay beneath the surrounding hills.

A group of bold adventurers came, as adventurers had come before – but this batch seemed powerful indeed. They easily blasted their way through several groups of the hobgoblin troops that guarded the tunnels and passages of the outer defenses – and then, inexplicably, fell back.

The Guards were reinforced, and fresh traps and defenses prepared. A few of the greater creatures of the depths were called in, returning old favors. The priests unlocked ancient chests, and used a few scrolls to call in some of the evil adventuring groups the temple had sponsored and aided across the years. Trackers were sent out, and the adventurers – camped nearby* – were attacked while resting, awakened and disturbed so that their mystics would be unable to refresh their powers – effectively crippling them while a massed assault was readied.

As it turned out, it was an easy victory for the Temple’s forces; the group that had seemed so powerful had – utterly foolishly – virtually exhausted themselves in their initial attack, reserving little power for their retreat, their defenses that night, or for any other purpose. Afterwards the temple leaders made it a point to hunt down the attackers families and haul them to the altars as tormented sacrifices. It was such a useful way to discourage others!

*If the group is high enough level to teleport back to their own base, then their opposition is almost always of high enough level to have similar resources – and the divination abilities to locate their attackers, or those they value.

Even a simple clan of Orcs living in a small complex is probably paying tribute to some far greater creature; if you attack them, fall back, and come back later… they may have moved out, they may have called in allies, their boss may have sent help or even come in person, and they might even have sworn service to some local unpleasant warlord or infernal power in exchange for protection. Even Orcs are not stupid enough to be sitting around in their cave waiting for adventurers to refresh themselves and come back.

Of course there are times when the fifteen-minute adventuring day works just fine. If you’re in no rush, have a safe place (presumably without any old-style wandering monsters) to rest, and can easily reach that safe place… Well, the undead sealed in the chambers of an ancient tomb, a nest full of giant insects, or the numerous mindless (or just disorganized) monsters of a cavern may not do anything to get ready for the next assault beyond breeding and eating the bodies no matter how long you give them or how many times you retreat and come back – but mindless opponents really aren’t that big a problem anyway. Go ahead; open one chamber in that long-sealed tomb, deal with it, and wait to open the next crypt until tomorrow. When you’re doing something very dangerous it’s pretty reasonable to want to start off each step as well rested and prepared as you can manage.

There are risks even in situations like that – something may escape, or start to awaken, or some such – but the giant scorpions in the cavern complex aren’t going to use the time to organize their defenses. If there’s no countdown-until-something-nasty-happens, or other major threat in the area, you’re not in a race with competitors, and there are no hostages you need to rescue before upsetting the enemy too much – then take your time.

If you’re exploring a megadungeon, then you may be able to focus on subsections – perhaps going in to go after that sub-complex full of orcs. Since they don’t get along with the hobgoblins, the hydras, or the vermin in the refuse-filled section of natural caves, as long as you do enough damage to the Orcs to really cripple them they won’t be a further worry – and you can fall back to rest without anything going disastrously wrong. Similarly, when you discover the sealed portal which generates the Dark Temple’s unholy power – but which five hundred years worth of Evil Priests have not dared to open – it’s time to come back later. Possibly several years later, when you’ve put on a bunch of levels. Whatever lies beyond that portal has waited for five hundred years. It can probably wait a while longer.

Using the “fifteen-minute adventuring day” tactic against an organized group means giving your intelligent opponents all the time that they need to get ready to take you out. If they fail to call in help and make a really good effort to do so it’s not the game that’s at fault; it’s the game master.

Even if the player-characters win in the end anyway… using the fifteen-minute strategy means that organized opponents will have plenty of time to send their kids away, to get “beware of these guys!” messages out, to put out revenge-contracts, and to hide anything valuable that won’t help them in a fight – which means that the party they will probably never find most of their opponents “treasure”. They might not even find the the stuff that was in the form of domesticated animals or slaves, ransoms, supply stockpiles, territorial claims, and even structures if they can set up a dead man switch or a classical “load bearing boss”. If you knew that people were coming to kill you and take your stuff – and that you might not be able to stop them – wouldn’t you want to make it as difficult and unprofitable for them as possible?

Now the “Dark Temple” scenario is one that’s come up many times in one form or another over the last thirty-five years. The most successful groups have pretty much invariably been the ones that scout out the situation, arrange for prepared fallback positions, recruit local help where they can, stock up on expendables, set priorities, plan their attack, and manage their resources so as to get through the entire “adventure” without stopping and giving the enemy a chance to call in assistance and prepare for their next attack.

The adventuring parties advantage lies in being unexpected, in striking when as many as possible of the temples resources are committed elsewhere, and in being on the attack. There is a REASON why so much effort was made to conceal just when and where the D-Day landings would be made. The focused surprise attack is the attackers advantage. Time to prepare is the defenders.

The trouble here is that game masters are generally pretty reluctant to have their monsters and NPC’s take advantage of such opportunities. Killing off – or even seriously inconveniencing – characters tends to force the game master to rewrite his or her plotlines on the fly and often upsets the players. Thus monsters don’t finish off unconscious characters, the rules about item saving throws and destroying equipment get ignored even when it would be a sensible tactic, organized opponents don’t attack the player characters when they’re at any kind of disadvantage, and so on.

As always, doing things that way fails because unearned victories are ultimately boring. When there’s no real chance of losing, winning is meaningless. Sure, the “unconquerable hero” fantasy is fun for a while – but it never really lasts, and that makes for dull games and short campaigns.

If the players think that opponents actually reacting to what they do is “unfair”… then that is a problem with player expectations rather than the game system. Would Monopoly work if the players decided to “play it as a team against the bank”? Players who aren’t willing to accept failures, setbacks, and occasional character deaths are not actually there to play the game; they’re there for a bit of semi-shared fantasizing. They want to drop the “game” part and just stick with the role-play.

Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with that; I suspect that over-emphasizing the “game” aspect is why fourth edition had a rather short run. Still, you really don’t need a game master, or a bunch of books of rules, or dice, for a pure role-playing session – and some of the other people there will probably want some gaming with their role-playing. There are people out there who like finding clever ways to use odd items, trying to figure out what they’re up against so that they can prepare the appropriate spells, gambling on their ingenuity, and coming up with complicated plans.

Personally, I think it’s unfair that I can’t just live on ice cream – but trying to get along without real food would kill me just as inevitably as trying to get along without real challenges will kill a campaign.

Go ahead. If the Player Characters want to use the fifteen-minute day strategy when it isn’t appropriate… Have their opponents exploit that time as efficiently as the players would. Take the abilities they showed into account and set up to counter them. Let their enemies make great promises to dark gods and infernal powers of sacrifices later in exchange for help now (in other words, faced with disaster they take out an emergency loan). Coming back later means giving your enemies plenty of time to get everything ready to kill you – and if that results in some dead characters, or even a total party kill, so be it. Tell them they wake up as ghosts, bound to service by an opposing necromancer, and have to undertake some unpaid missions until they find a way to escape and return. Send them to Planescape, and let them know that their next death will NOT let them off easy. Let them earn new lives by undertaking some quest for the God of Death. Have a ragged priest resurrect them twenty years later, when the Dark Temples forces dominate the continent and the failing resistance has sought out their graves to summon the last heroes who dared to try to stop the oncoming horror.

Just don’t let them walk all over the opposition and the setting because you’re reluctant to risk them losing. It really does make for poor games.

Eclipse doesn’t really address the fifteen minute adventuring day directly. After all, there’s no way to write a book that will force game masters to make their world react appropriately to what the player-characters do. It does chip away at some of the underlying problems however.

  • On the “we’ve used all our best abilities!” front having high-end, but often limited-use, defenses available means that stacking everything into a few powerful initial attacks is very likely to see those attacks wasted. An efficient attack plan in Eclipse will usually rely on things that the characters can do quite a lot of times – probing to find out what’s likely to work and to exhaust defenses. If they’re up against mooks, they’ll never need to go beyond the small stuff. If they’re up against a really dangerous opponent… they’ll want to either wear down his or her defenses with the small stuff or find out what he or she is vulnerable to and use an appropriate attack. In Eclipse mighty attacks are usually finishing (rather than opening) moves, and conservation of resources becomes the default rather then the exception.
  • On the “we’re too badly injured to go on” front, a parties available healing tends to go a lot further when the characters are using active defenses to take a lot less damage in the first place. Just as importantly, powers like Grant of Aid and Healing Touch allow characters to pick up some healing ability of their own rather easily.
    • Fortunately, since the opposition can buy those abilities too, you don’t need to give them huge amounts of magical items to have them be creditable opponents – and Eclipse characters can be a lot less reliant on magical devices than standard d20 characters in any case.
  • On the “we can’t go on without all our buffs!” front Eclipse characters tend to rely more on abilities like Augmented Bonus or Innate Enchantment for their basic “buffs” – making them permanent, rather than something that runs out so that you lose effectiveness. Thus there’s a lot less of a difference between the party with short-term buffs running and the baseline party. You don’t need to have your larger, but limited-use, buffs running for every fight – and so you can, once again, save them for when you really need to go above and beyond your usual abilities. That also frees up the spellcasters to use their abilities for things other than buffs and healing.

None of that’s a guarantee of course; Eclipse does allow you to build any kind of character you want – and if you want to build a character suited to 15-minute tactics you can. Just don’t be surprised if the rest of the world fails to go along with you.

D20 Failure Modes IV – Surviving a Standard Game

But wait! I’m not using Eclipse and I can’t buy those defenses! What can I do?

Well, first up, you switch to Eclipse… No? Well, OK; there’s still a solution for you (other, of course, than digging through a thousand sourcebooks looking for some decent defenses).

When it comes to survival in standard d20 games as levels go up, nothing is better than having a GM who plays the parties opponents as if they were targets at a carnival game – sometimes hard to knock over, but never really a true threat (which is pretty much what “balanced encounters”, as redefined for d20, comes down to). If your GM isn’t that obliging, then intelligent magic items are your friends. Intelligent magic items can use their own actions to use their own abilities. Even more interestingly, they are treated as Characters – which means that they can use other items and get their own actions, although they admittedly normally start on your initiative.

Most specifically, what you want is usually the lowest level of intelligence at +1000 GP – Int 12, Wis 12, Cha 10, Empathy, 30′ Vision and Hearing with one minor power – make it a first level spell usable three times a day (from Pathfinder, but reasonable in 3.5, +1200 GP). That uses the items caster level rather than having to buy that separately and comes out to about the same price as an Eternal Wand.

So what’s that good for? A held action can interrupt other character’s actions. Ergo, all you need to do is tell your item to hold the action (trigger item power) until it’s empathy tells it that you would REALLY like it to go off. For best results, tell it to start holding when you get up in the morning.

In a lot of ways that’s better than turning something into an immediate action.

Sadly, the game master may rule that basic item empathy is one-way; it can inflict urges on the user, but not read his responses. If so, inquire about an upgrade; looking at the psionics rules Empathy is a mere L1 power and it normally covers a 30-foot radius. A version limited to touch is cantrip-level; a mere +1000 GP at most (I’d say +500 or so if I didn’t already think that it was probably two-way since the item already has at least part of it) should suffice to make throw it in.

Of course intelligent items normally do not get along – although “alignment might change this sort of behavior”. Presuming that your game master isn’t going along with your good items liking each other or your evil items being willing to form a coalition… well, your basic intelligent item as above starts off with an Ego of 4. That’s not a hard DC for most characters to make even if their will saves are not particularly good – although the “automatic failure on a 1″ rule is troublesome. If the game master enforces it on character-versus-item will checks you’ll need to take some special precautions. A long-term Protection From Evil effect will do nicely, and very high-level characters may be able to afford Mind Blank, but otherwise you may have to rely on having some rerolls available.

  • Having the Luck Domain gets you a daily reroll, but a lot of characters won’t even qualify for that, much less want to take it.
  • A Greater Crystal of Mind Cloaking (5000 GP) will provide one; being mentally dominated by an item is pretty blatantly mind-affecting, so it should apply.
  • An Amulet of Fortune Prevailing (5000 GP) lets you reroll a save once per day. Not a bad item to have anyway. You have to use it before the game master announces the results – but when you roll a one you know it.
  • A Mantle of Second Chances (12,000 GP) gets you one reroll a day.
  • A Luck Blade with no Wishes (22,060 GP) provides one reroll a day, a +1 luck bonus on saves, and is a +2 shortsword – and the reroll and luck bonus explicitly go to it’s possessor, not to it’s wielder (presumably 2000 for the save bonus, 8000 for the +2, most of the remaining 12,000 for the reroll). That’s not bad, although it does open up the field for buying more rerolls…
  • Of course, giving a couple of your intelligent items the Resurgence spell 3/day is fairly cheap (after all, you have to give them a minor power of some kind), otherwise useful, and will work very nicely; whichever item is NOT acting up should be more than willing to help you out against another item acting up; after all, they don’t get along!

OK, you could still blow several rerolls – but if you only have a one-in-twenty chance of missing anyway, it’s not too likely. Personally I’d still limit people to – say – three intelligent items just on general principles, but that’s just me.

So what can you do with this sort of thing? Lets make some items!

Faithful Minister, Girding of the Enduring Hero:

Think a little on-demand healing would be convenient? An intelligent Healing Belt can be your friend fairly early on and is really fairly cheap. See if your GM will let you double up on the cost of the Belt part in order to get twice as many charges. If not… get an unintelligent one sized for a tiny character and tie it around this belt (or another intelligent item); that way your item can use it on you if you need it (either way, this costs 3900 GP – suitable for a sixth or seventh level character). Sure, it’s only 8d8 to 12d8 per day depending on how fast you burn through the daily charges – but that much healing, combined with some useful low-level spell three times per day, may be enough to keep you up for several extra rounds since it’s not taking up any of your actions.

What are some useful low-level spells? I’d consider Benign Transposition (although, since sapient items are considered characters, it might leave them behind; consult your GM), Blood Wind, Color Spray, Delay Poison, Divine Favor, Feather Fall, Grease, Lesser Restoration, Magic Missile (not as reliable as a proper counterspell, but not too bad at breaking someone’s concentration), Nerveskitter, Protection from Evil, Resist Energy, Resurgence, Shieldbearer, or Silent Image. Most of those are reasonably effective even at higher levels or (like Color Spray) extremely effective at lower levels. .

Silent Guard, the Ring of the Iron Tower:

Worried about Uberchargers? What you want is a Ring of the Forcewall (5100 GP) with that little +2200 GP enchantment on it and some useful secondary spell. Some pest charges you? Take your Attack of Opportunity – more than one if you can manage it – and then let your ring pop up a force wall in front of you just as Mr Charger moves in to begin his attack. Net result? You get your shot and he runs full-tilt into a sudden wall of force. Now that his charge is ruined, take your own action, step past it to one side or the other – it IS only ten by ten – and do your worst. Since it’s basically going off when you need it, you can block nasty incoming spells and such too.

The Girdle of the Lightning’s Dance:

A Belt of Battle (12,000 GP base) can give you extra actions – although it normally takes a swift action to activate it. With sapience, it can go off by itself – and if it’s triggered by a held action it can interrupt other actions. Go ahead, take a move action and get out of that Fireballs radius of effect just as the caster targets it. You’ve seen people outrunning explosions in a dozen movies, why shouldn’t you get in on that action? For it’s 3/day spell… give it Nerveskitter. You know you want to! Even if we are downplaying the importance of going first it’s still useful – just not deciding.

Also, since you can’t wear two belts, you’ll want to give your Belt a Healing Belt of its own. Once again, buy one for a tiny character, tie it around the first belt, and call it a Healing Tassel.

The Cloak of Mist:

Want to be sure of getting away? A Cloak of Mysterious Emergence costs 13,000 GP, but can either Dimension Door the wearer three times a day or teleport him or her up to 120 miles once a day (the special effect is pretty much irrelevant) – and an extra couple of thousand GP to make it activate itself when you really need it is well worth it. Going from “My god I’m going to die!” to “at your favorite tavern ordering a beer” is basically priceless. Sure, you can be stopped with the appropriate spell, or pursued given other abilities – but that means that someone else will have to be spending actions and/or lots of money on preventing your escape rather than on attempting to kill you directly. Well worth it.

A counter for Save-or-Die and Save-or-Suck spells is a little harder. That’s a very broad category of effects, and a general protection-from-magic effect would basically make quite a few entire classes of characters irrelevant. Ergo, the best that can be done is to improve your odds – and, even at that, this one may just have to stretch things a bit. Lets have a look at…

The Ring of Maggador:

Ring of Spell-Battle (12,000 GP, Caster Level 14), Int 16, Wis 16, Cha 10, Ego 9 (12 if Pathfinder rules are used), Speaks and Reads, 60′ Darkvision and Hearing (+6000 GP), and – from Pathfinder again – three instances of being able to cast a first-level spell three times per day: Resurgence (Spell Compendium, allows rerolling a save), Dispelling Touch (The Practical Enchanter, as per Dispel Magic but only on a creature touched), and Eldritch Armor*/+1 Death Ward (The Practical Enchanter) (+3600 GP). For a grand total of 21,600 GP that gives you a fair knowledge of what’s being cast in the area (although it will help a lot to have Spellcraft at a fair level), the ability to try to counter a spell being cast nearby once per day, second-chance saves three times per day, a decent chance to get rid of some nasty effect on you three times per day, and the ability to shrug off straight Death effects up to three times a day – even if it IS only once per encounter. Sure, spells like Disintegrate will still hurt very badly indeed – but this should give you much better odds of getting in your own shots. Sadly, it’s also a little expensive; at the usual “one-quarter of your wealth” rule we’re looking at a 12’th level character maybe having this as a primary magic item, although nothing says that you can’t start with the ring and add the intelligence separately, which would make it available around 10’th level.

*Alternatively you can drop the Eldritch Armor in favor of giving the ring a +13 in Spellcraft so that it can identify nasty spells for you – but that costs more.

Oh, you want the super-deluxe version? It’s going to cost you, but here it is:

The Warlord’s Blade

  • Aurorem Blade (+4000 GP): From the Book of Exalted Deeds; the blade can be repaired if it’s broken or damaged in a single round by an act of will.
  • Basic Bonuses (Total: 32,000 GP): +1 Magebane (+1), Dispelling (+1, 3/Day Dispel Magic at +10 on creature struck), Greater Dispelling (+1, 3/day Greater Dispel Magic at +15 on creature struck) (32,000 GP). This serves to give it a casting level of fifteen.
  • Other Abilities (Total: 31,800 GP): Spellblade x2 (if the user is targeted by Dispel Magic or Greater Dispel Magic the blade absorbs the spell and the user may retarget it as a free action the next round, +12,000 GP), Finder (grants its wielder a +4 insight bonus on Search, Spot, and Survival checks made underground, +4800 GP), Sizing (weapon changes size on command, +5000 GP), Vanishing (1/day, as a swift action, dimension door up to 60 feet after a successful melee attack, +8000 GP), Everbright (blinding flash 1/day, weapon immune to acid damage and rusting, +2000 GP).
  • Sapient (Total: 72,200 GP): Int 19, Wis 19, Cha 10, Ego 29 (best to be friends with this one), Speech and Telepathy, 120′ Darkvision, Blindsense, and Hearing, Reads Languages and Magic (+12,000 GP), has ten ranks in Spellcraft (+5000 GP), Resurgence 3/Day (Spell Compendium, allows target to reroll a save, +1200 GP), Dispelling Touch 3/Day (The Practical Enchanter, as per Dispel Magic but only on a creature touched, +1200 GP), Magic Missile 3/day (5d5+5 damage, mostly as a concentration-breaker, +1200 GP), Dispel Magic 3/day (+18,000 GP), Lesser Globe of Invulnerability 3/day (+33,600 GP).
  • Temporary Blessing (38,500 GP): Doomwarding. This gives a weapon seven charges, the user may spend up to one per round to reroll any die, or to make an extra attack.

That gives the blade itself a total cost of 178,500 GP – plus the cost of the base weapon of course. It could be upgraded to a +5 total without pushing it into Epic territory, but this is pretty obviously not a primary do-damage weapon. In fact, you could remove the “Magebane” and bring the price down to 164,500 GP – but it seems so in-theme that I’d hate to do it. Still, we now have it’s OWN items to add…

  • Blade Furnishings (Total: 43,250 GP): Dispelling Cord (swift action for +2 on Dispel Checks until the end of your turn, 1000 GP), Hand of Glory (use an extra ring, Daylight and See Invisibility once each per day, 8000 GP), Healing Belt (3 charges/day, heal 1d8/3d8/4d8 by spending 1/2/3, 750 GP), Ring of Spellbattle (automatically aware of spellcasting within 60′, can identify spells being cast with Spellcraft (both automatic), may counterspell with Dispel Magic or redirect a spell 1/day as it’s being cast, 12,000 GP), Ring of the Force Wall (5100 GP), and a Greater Ring of Counterspells (stores one spell of up to L6 as an automatic counterspell, 1/day as an immediate action turn any spell into a Greater Dispell Magic with up to +20 on the roll, 16,000 GP).

Now that’s actually fairly impressive; until things start getting into epic levels you’ve got a pretty fair chance of countering several of a mages spells and of resisting more. It’s certainly not a perfect package, but a character with a lot of cash to burn might consider it.

On the other hand, few people are going to be able to afford this sort of thing. Lets rewind back to the Ring of Maggador and look for an inexpensive way to improve on that.

Fortunately, there is one.

Leveling Items Up:

So; you want more and you don’t have enormous amounts of cash? Well, with Leadership your minions can have levels in various classes – and there’s nothing that says that you can’t take some of your intelligent items as minions. Since they are explicitly considered to be characters they should be eligible. Given that you’ve already got them, and that items don’t have ECL adjustments, there shouldn’t be any problem there. The class you want is almost certainly Psion, although something like Warlock could be interesting. Go ahead, make that Ring your psion cohort and you’ll have a ring of power to make any halfling green with envy. Given that your minions are generally personally loyal, this really should handle the ego problems as well.

Personally I still think it’s better to just build your characters with Eclipse and let them defend themselves – but if you can’t do that for some reason, at least you can do SOMETHING.

D20 Failure Modes, Part III – Surviving the Unthinkable

English: Heligan Gardens Sunny Spells

The Path to Survival has never looked this good!

To continue the list of Eclipse defenses we’ll once again be starting off with one that deserves to be on the top of the list.

  • Reflex Training (Perfect, Variable Options) lets you do more than you normally could. For an emergency defense the best option is the limited use version that allows you to basically insert a private standard action in the middle of someone else’s action. Obviously enough, that offers you some wonderful defense-or-escape options. You can use that extra action to cast a protective spell, move away from an attack or disaster, or intervene when one of your friends is about to die. Throw in a little Luck and some Action Hero/Stunts and you’ve got a pretty decent chance of escaping from pretty much anything (making those three items, usually specialized in defenses for reduced cost, a basic defensive suite for most high-level player characters). Of course your more sensible or higher-level enemies will tend to escape too – they wouldn’t have made it to high levels without some sense – but that makes it a LOT easier for you to have an arch-enemy.
  • Resist (Passive, Unreliable) is the basic improve-your-saving-throw effect. Unlike most d20 games, there’s not much point in pushing your saving throws sky-high. Beyond a certain point it’s better to get some luck to handle the “must save” stuff and accept failing to save against the small stuff on occasion.
  • Returning (Passive, Unreliable). Unless special precautions are taken… you’ll be back. Villains are notorious for this; but all kinds of destined, supernatural, or even robotic creatures can have it too. Admittedly there’s always SOME way to keep you dead – but it’s not necessarily going to be easy for your enemies to find out what it is.
  • Shapeshift (Passive, Perfect). This isn’t really a defense – but a few characters might want it just for the side-effect ability to change back to normal when transformed. At higher levels of use you can take on forms that will keep you from drowning, or can withstand endless flames, or a lot of other things – but if you developed shapeshifting to that level and only used it as a defense, it would be rather silly.
  • Siddhisyoga (Passive, Customizable) lets you expend your money giving yourself inherent “item” powers, rather than carrying items. Since this disregards “item slots”, it’s a good way to stock up on those minor-but-useful effects that you’d normally pass up – and that can include all kinds of defensive items. On the downside, it’s less efficient than buying normal items.
  • Spell/Power Resistance (Passive, Unreliable) gives you just that – resistance to magic and/or psionic powers. Of course there are a lot of things that Spell/Power Resistance won’t help against at all, and even the best resistance you can purchase is only about 25% effective against serious spellcasting “boss” encounters – but it will help with a lot of small stuff. Why is it so ineffective? For the same reason that you can’t just buy enough Damage Reduction to ignore the physical combatants; making major character types generally irrelevant is bad for the game and makes a mess out of most settings.
  • Stoic (Passive, Perfect) protects the user against death by “massive damage” and, if upgraded, from falling unconscious due to wounds. While such situations are rare, the “you are dead” outcome makes investing a few points here worth considering for characters who expect to take a lot of damage.
  • Timeless Body (Passive, Perfect) protects you against aging, although extending your lifespan requires other measures (usually a low-level immunity). This one is very cheap; after all, aging simply isn’t a major peril in most campaigns.
  • Traceless (Passive, Perfect, Limited Applicability) lets you engage in some form of activity without leaving any usable evidence behind. This is a rather exotic defense, but some characters have found it quite handy.
  • Turn Resistance (Passive, Unreliable) helps protect you from things that go by your “number of hit dice” – primarily a few spells and effects that fail to work against creatures of higher power than they were designed to affect – by increasing your effective hit die total. This is a comparative rarity among player-character defenses since such effects generally drop out of consideration fairly early on for most characters anyway.

Now that the basic abilities are out of the way, we come to Paths. Paths are more elaborate – and more expensive – sets of linked abilities. The various Paths have their own selection of defensive applications of course, but that gets a little more complicated. Still, I can briefly note some of the major defenses available through the various Paths – if you take the right abilities.

  • Channeling (Limited Use) allows you to temporarily empower items, create diversionary copies of yourself, throw off mind control, eliminate poisons, parasites, diseases, and toxins, create spies, cause the world to forget about you, neutralize spells, temporarily neutralize magic items, repulse enemies, create force barriers, redirect spells, or create dimensional sanctuaries. Sure, acquiring all those abilities would require a lot of feats/character points and that limited-use problem is a nuisance – but building an entire character around Channeling is certainly a valid choice.
  • Dominion (Limited Use, Broad Effect). With this ability the power that comes with ruling a country, or running a temple, becomes just a bit more literal. While this has a wide variety of uses, it’s worth noting as a defense simply because it includes the ability to become aware of plots against you and to resist large amounts of several kinds of damage once in a great while – something necessary for rulers and other prominent figures in d20 games where all kinds of special assassination methods are available. Taking the basic Dominion ability is also the first step towards becoming a god, which can give you a wide variety of other special immunities as well as access to Godfire – the power that underlies true miracles, creating private dimensions, and similar feats. Even the greatest gods don’t get very many points of Godfire per year – but when you can spend one to cause a major miracle, or to resurrect yourself and/or your friends, you don’t (or at least shouldn’t) need very many.
  • Martial Arts Skills include some basic defenses (boosting your armor class and small amounts of damage reduction), offer the ability to negate surprise, and even offer some very limited use Occult Techniques that give their user a chance to block virtually any attack, can protect the user from falls, and can render their users immune to pain and stunning effects for a short time. Occult techniques aren’t usable very often and require a fairly high level of skill – but if you were getting some martial arts skills anyway (and almost any combatant will), you’ll probably want to consider picking some of them up.
  • Mystic Artist can negate certain attacks related to it’s form and – at least at it’s upper end – can create dimensional barriers and protect you from social hazards. It’s not a strong defensive path – bardic music styled powers simply are not the best at stopping ballista bolts, balls of fire, and hulking barbarians with battle axes – but it is very useful in it’s field and doesn’t demand all that high an investment. If you want to be a persuasive leader, it’s well worth looking into.
  • The Path of the Dragon is a high-end path for superheroes, kick-in-the-door-and-blast styled games, and (literally) dragons and their kin – but it can be used to absorb incoming spells, which can be awfully handy until the user exhausts his or her absorption capacity. It offers a few other defensive options, but they’re all distinctly secondary to absorbing spells – at least until you get up to sustaining spells, an ability to be handles with considerable caution.
  • Witchcraft is a relatively low-powered and low-cost system of psychic powers that’s useful to any character who likes to enhance their natural physical abilities. Still, on the defensive side it includes one of the best anti-mind-control powers in the system, lets you remove the effects of intoxication, and offers abilities which will let the user become incorporal, create quick antidotes for poisons, resist aging, resist paralysis, survive having their heart torn out, eliminate fatigue and exhaustion, and stand on the tip of a blade of grass. Quite a lot of combatant types use it to add some monk-style abilities to themselves on the cheap.

Next up… how you can get in on some defenses even if you’re not playing an Eclipse character.

Why aren’t you anyway?

D20 Failure Modes, Part II – Eliminating Rocket Tag

Eclipse was intended to patch as many of the problems with d20 as I could possibly manage, It’s certainly not perfect, and (of course) has a few brand-new holes all it’s own – but I like to think that there aren’t all that many.

The way to stop Rocket Tag is to take the emphasis off of getting in the first shot (and, incidentally, to make the fights last longer). Thus we’ll be looking at Defenses in Eclipse – and how you can defend against a huge attack more cheaply than you can build one.

There are some basic ways for defenses to outperform attacks without making the characters invulnerable (and boring).

  • They can be passive and cheaper than an equivalent attack. Unfortunately, unless they’re so cheap that you can afford to have massive defenses against every type of attack, this means that a high-end attack will tend to overwhelm them. If they’re cheap enough that they can’t be readily overwhelmed by some specialized attack, were headed back to boring invulnerability. Look at the mess that is (or at least was) combat in Exalted.
  • They can be ablative. This works to a considerable extent and is, in fact, the basic philosophy behind “Hit Points”. Unfortunately, defenses like these tend to lead to exactly what hit points led to – attempts to build ever-bigger attacks to tear them down faster. Unless you’re very careful this soon takes you back to either long battles of attrition, a focus on working around the defenses, or a focus on truly massive attacks.
  • They can be effectively perfect – offering invulnerability to many effects, much as a successful save versus poison does. Of course, unless this sort of defense is limited-use, or you can only afford a perfect defense against a very limited part of the range of attack options (and the choices made vary with the character) this takes us right back to boring invulnerability.
  • They can be unreliable – only working some of the time. The trouble with this approach is quite simple; sooner or later the odds, however good, WILL catch up with you. Thus defenses like this are most effective when coupled with another defense. That turns this sort of thing into a tactical exercise – a gamble on how much of your reserves it will take to get through a situation.

Eclipse, of course, offers all of those options in various combinations to deal with a variety of threats.

  • Action Hero/Stunts (Perfect, Broad Effect, Cheap, Limited Use). This ability lets the user do things that simply should not be possible – adding very temporary special powers to his or her build. That can pretty much get you out of anything. Unfortunately, Action Points are a per-level thing – and thus are a very VERY limited resource. Just as importantly, you may prefer to save them for heroic deeds or a later crisis. Still, if you’re going to die otherwise… you use them. Even if this list wasn’t alphabetical, I might well have put Action Hero/Stunts first. It’s cheap and it can save your life. What’s not to like?
  • Augmented Bonus (Passive, Cheap, Ablative or Unreliable). This ability lets you enhance one or another game values with a second value. Thus you can use (Con Mod) plus another attribute modifier to calculate your hit points, or enhance your saves or armor class, or many other values. The trouble here is that – even if you now have many more hit points – sooner or later they’ll run out. Your saves may be good, but sooner or later you will roll badly anyway. A high armor class is nice, but you WILL still get hit. Still… if you’re a character type that would normally invest heavily in large hit dice, investing some points here will save you a lot more than it costs as your level goes up – and you can invest those points in more tricks and boosting abilities. Go ahead; learn to poke someone and drain much of their power for the day or something. After all, when you come right down to it… “I have a somewhat larger number of hit points than you!” really isn’t as big an advantage as it was thought to be in the early days of 3.0 – and it’s an assumption that carried over right into 3.5 instead of getting fixed. So here’s a patch.
  • Awareness (Passive, Perfect, Very Limited Range). This narrowly-focused ability helps you avoid being flanked, snuck up on, or being injured by traps – rendering at least some of those quite impossible (unless you narrow the ability even further to make it cheaper). That IS handy – but that’s a very narrow part of the range of possible attacks and most of the others are far more difficult to get similar defenses against. Why is that? It’s partially for back-compatibility with the SRD and other d20 systems – but it’s mostly because “Surprise! You Died!” is about the single most annoying thing that can happen to a player character. Ergo, buying some protection against that is fairly cheap.
  • Block (Unreliable) is a straightforward active defense – essentially “taking out” incoming attacks. Unfortunately, Blocks have upper limits, you can only block so many attacks, and sometimes you miss. Blocks are very useful for stretching other defenses – but you still need something to back them up with. On the other hand, there are Blocks available for all kinds of attacks, including magical ones – and that can be pretty handy.
  • Body Fuel (Specialized, Ablative) isn’t exactly a defense – but it offers the ability to make psionic and magical abilities work in areas where they shouldn’t, albeit at a rather high price. It can even make them more powerful than usual, albeit at an even higher price. That’s because about the second most annoying thing that can happen to a player character is to find that their abilities simply will not work during a major confrontation or in an entire scenario. That rarely happens to combatants or skill-based types, but it fairly often applies to spellcasters and psychics. Anti-magic, no-magic zones, wild magic zones… All ways of saying “your magic is making this too easy and/or is dominating the game, so you’re sidelined for now!”. With Body Fuel you can get around that somewhat. You won’t be using a LOT of magic under such circumstances, but those few times you can… you might as well bump it up to the point where your few spells will be spectacular and important.
  • Cloaking (Specialized, Perfect) allows a character to protect their secrets; in settings filled with divination, telepathy, and the potential to boost knowledge skill checks so high as to know personal things that even the target has forgotten, it’s really REALLY difficult to play a character with a mysterious background, or a practicing thief, or infiltrator. It’s not the third most annoying thing that can happen to a character (that would be Mind Control, and is addressed later) but it is a pain. It also only matters to a few, selected, characters – and rarely has an especially large impact. Ergo, it can have a cheap, highly specialized, perfect defense without disrupting things too much.
  • Companion (Passive, Ablative, Unreliable) is another cheap one; it lets you have a helper – whether that’s your mighty steed, a familiar, a wild beast that decides to trail along, or some odd spirit that helps you out. That’s handy – but really, at best, as a defense that’s simply something to watch your back, stand guard, and stall attackers for a bit. Still, the trope is certainly popular – and letting a group have a few reliable aides they don’t have to hire works quite well. Unlike classical d20, this isn’t limited to druidical types.
  • Costly (Passive, Broad Effect). This defense makes it just a bit harder to affect the user with some form of magic or psionic powers. By itself this isn’t particularly effective, but it’s relatively cheap and helps boost other defenses, such as Spell/Power Resistance.
  • Countermagic (Limited Use, Unreliable, Broad Effect) makes it a LOT easier for one mystic to block another one – but still requires that the countering mystic expend their powers and time on doing so. If two mystics with this ability happen to come into conflict, this may result in the classic comic-book scene of two mages exchanging and blocking spells in a magical duel, rather than just throwing attacks at each other and relying on saving throws (luck) to carry the day. It can get really annoying to other casters if you add in Spell Turning so that you can try to assume control of a nasty incoming effect and turn it back against the caster’s own side. If you want the maximum of annoyance… use a freeform magic system that allows for efficient counterspells and take some Mana to boost your counterspells with; that will allow you to turn some pretty powerful spells around on their casters – if only a few times per day.
  • Damage Reduction (Passive, Broad Effect, Scaling Cost). Damage Reduction in Eclipse is generally universal unless you specialize it’s effects – but the cost increases very rapidly as the amount you purchase increases. A small investment in Damage Reduction is very useful at lower levels, when damage levels are normally relatively low, but it’s generally insufficient at higher levels – which is where more active defenses come in.
  • Defender (Passive, Perfect, Unreliable) is another straightforward value-booster; it increases the user’s armor class as his or her level increases. Useful, quite unspectacular, and “perfect” simply because a miss generally has no effect at all. Unreliable, of course, because an attacker will not always miss.
  • Evasive (Passive, Perfect) can be purchased for a wide variety of actions – all the stuff that would normally provoke an Attack of Opportunity – to fix that little problem. It can be fairly expensive for very common actions, but is often well worth it if you happen to rely on those actions.
  • Favors (Limited Use, Expensive) – along with Action Hero/Influence – can provide a splendid political or legal defense, although (to be fair) relatively few d20 characters are subjected to that kind of attack very often. Fortunately, Favors and Influence have many other uses.
  • Fortune (Passive, Perfect, Unreliable) upgrades your saving throws to “no effect on a success”. This usually matters more for Reflex saves than for Fortitude or Will, but it can be useful – and there are a variety of additional upgrades available.
  • Grant of Aid (Passive, Ablative, Broad Effect) can provide some much-needed on-demand healing. With some of the advanced upgrades it will allow the user to regenerate lost limbs and organs and to survive (and be healable) for quite some time after he or she ought to be dead. It’s not perfect – but you can, for example, survive having a Vorpal Blade take your head off as long as someone comes along within the next (Con/2) minutes and holds it in place while your Grant of Aid kicks in or while he or she applies another healing power.
  • Imbuement (Passive, Unreliable) causes normal items of a particular type to act as magic ones in your hands – and magic ones that improve steadily with your level to boot. This is most often applied to weapons – but the Minor Variants rule allows it to be applied to armor and possibly other items as well. A combatant with a high-powered weapon and armor that he doesn’t have to pay for can spend quite a lot of money on other things.
    • Imbuement normally works by providing virtual “plusses” – but if someone wants to take a few of the abilities for his or her imbued item that simply cost gold, that’s fine too as long as he or she has the “focused” upgrade; if he could have the equivalent of a +5 sword (+50,000 GP), there’s no reason why it can’t be a +3 sword (18,000 GP) with 32,000 GP worth of gold-priced enhancements.
  • Immunity (Passive, Potentially Perfect, Expensive) is one of the universal fallbacks in Eclipse; a properly-phrased immunity can free you from all kinds of restrictions, or protect you against an immense variety of hazards – but a sufficiently high-end immunity to protect you against a really powerful attack costs rather a lot. Buying a lot of high-end immunities is prohibitive. Still, if there’s something in particular you’re worried about, or some specific ability you want to extend past it’s normal limits, Immunity will do it for you. Mind Control is a popular choice, although there’s an ability under Witchcraft for that that’s also very effective.
  • Inherent Spell (Unreliable, Limited Use) can be virtually any inherent magical or psychic power – not a few of which are useful defensively. If you really feel that you need that Freedom of Action spell, or Protection from Energy, or some such in your personal arsenal, this is one of the easiest ways to get it. The trouble with relying on spellcasting as a part of your defenses is simply that spellcasting takes time, which you’re often short of when it comes down to defenses. Still, a spell which is designed for defense is often cast as a swift or immediate action, which works just as well when it’s inherent.
  • Innate Enchantment can be used to provide a nice suite of low-level bonuses – but it can also be used to absorb magical items, making them a part of your personal suite of abilities, and thus making them impervious to being taken away and most forms of destruction. A Disjunction effect may still shut you down for a bit – but you’ll recover just fine. If your game master is fond of “you wake up with no gear” scenarios, or simply uses options like “sunder” when they’re appropriate, then this can be a wonderful way to make sure that a few especially good or vital items cannot be taken away. (For a Wizard, I’d recommend absorbing at least one Blessed Book; it’s well worth the 6 CP/one feat).
  • Luck (Perfect, Limited Use) is a marvelous survival tool; the ability to reroll a bad die roll, or simply “take 20″ on a save or attack in advance of rolling, can really save your neck. With some Luck in reserve you can afford to risk failing saves against annoyances while remaining proof against the odd save-or-die (or save-or-suck) effect – at least until your rerolls run out. It’s not as versatile as Action Hero/Stunts – but you can use your stock of rerolls every day, rather than once per level.
  • Mana (Limited Use, Ablative) offers some options that can be used to enhance counterspells or block attribute drain and damage. It’s rarely the most efficient way to block that kind of damage – unless you’re using a martial art form that drains your attributes for power and can be fueled in no other way.

For Part III the defense list will continue – but this is already quite long enough.

D20 Failure Modes, Part I

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Actually, you do not want to have to rely on these to save you.

It’s often called “Rocket Tag” – the premise being that when offense far outpowers defense, whoever strikes first tends to win , with all other factors becoming distinctly secondary.

Remember: even in d20 terms, a near-duplicate of your party as you were three levels ago – possibly with some cheaper items – is a “balanced encounter”. If that fight would turn out to be a disaster if the slightly-downgraded copies roll high for their initiative while the actual party rolls low… then your party has too much offense and too little defense.

In first edition a lot of the combat-encounters did wind up with player-character victories – but many did not. Unlike many current games however, that generally did not indicate a total party kill. A rather high percentage of the fights were concluded by one side or the other fleeing a battle that was going badly. Fights to the end were really pretty rare in most of the games I ran or played in.

That’s really what “hit points” were all about. “Hit Points” came along because the first steps into RPG’s were based on military games which used platoons and battalions for units – and units of that size were rarely eliminated by any one attack; individual members might become casualties, but the unit could usually take quite a few hits (presumably losing quite a few members) before it was entirely out of action and whether you called it “damage levels” or “injured” or “hit points” really didn’t matter.

That started turning into role-playing when someone relabeled a few units as “heroes”. Calling your tank group unit a “Mighty Knight with a Magic Bow” was easy, and opened up bar-crawling after the battle, but you didn’t have to change the combat mechanics one little bit at first.

In RPG’s, players rapidly became far more personally invested in their character then they had been in “Tank Platoon #4” – and hit points had a new purpose; when they started getting low your character was in danger of actually dying and it was time to fall back. Sure, you might get killed while doing so – but most of the time your character would live to fight again.

Eventually, of course, you started fighting monsters – such as dragons – which could do a LOT of damage in a single attack or had Save-or-Die abilities and falling back when your hit points got low started getting unreliable as a survival method – but by that time characters were more or less supposed to be relying on scouting, planning, and methods of escape rather than just charging in.

Many years ago I ran a very very long campaign, through which hundreds of characters passed – and I still find it pleasing that out of nearly a hundred character deaths, the players classed the vast majority as “suicide” (when someone decided to try something that was blatantly a hideously bad or risky idea), many as “heroic sacrifices”, a few as “executions” (by the rest of the party, since a few characters turned out to be unbearably evil or psychopathic), and a few as “old age” (since the game covered many centuries). “Killed in battle” was actually pretty rare.

Since then, however, all too many games have gradually drifted into rocket tag. As more and more spells and special abilities were published it became easier and easier to find an option in some combination of abilities that pretty much amounted to an “I Win!” button – and the notion that “the best defense is a good offense” got more support with each one, since the game masters were reluctant to use similar tactics.

That, of course, was because the players wanted to continue playing and if the game master hadn’t been willing to oblige them he or she would not have started a game in the first place. It made no sense for all the monsters and NPC’s to be relying on attrition-based tactics while the PC’s went in for one shot victories – but having the NPC’s act intelligently and use working tactics in such an environment turns the game into a series of initiative roll-offs to see who dies, which is no fun.

So the player-characters started easily walking all over their opponents. Battles no longer called for planning, and strategy, and careful calculation; you boosted your initiative as much as possible, took your turn, applied your special trick or tricks – whatever they were – and wiped out or incapacitated the NPC side.

Like it or not, if you want your NPC’s to use sensible tactics and be creditable threats, and yet the player characters are expected to both fight a lot and live a fairly long time, defense and escape have to take priority over attack in your game system. That’s why Eclipse offers rather a lot of defense-and-escape options. Sure, you can still build powerful attacks – but you can also give your character enough defenses to seriously frustrate the focused-on-attack characters.

Yes, this sometimes leads to complaints from players who see their uber-attack get stopped or evaded, and then find that their utter reliance on offense has left them wide open to an opponents relatively low-powered attacks. No, I don’t care; The “I Win!” button is extremely boring, and if someone can’t play without relying on it, they can go play a computer game in god mode.

Parts II and III will be covering the various defenses available in Eclipse – and why you might want them.

King Dorsian, ECL 30 Warrior-Mage

English: Are you a wizard?

Today it’s another special request; how to buy a rather straightforward, if very high level, d20 character; a 15th level Wizard / 14th level Fighter with a +1 ECL race and absurdly high attributes (which I think were set quite arbitrarily in the original build). Now this isn’t really necessary – Eclipse IS fully back-compatible, so there actually isn’t any actual need to rebuild old characters or convert feats if they’re the way you want them. Still, building a similar character is really pretty easy.

Honestly though, as a build for a twenty-ninth level character, Wizard 15, Fighter 14 (and +1 ECL) is downright terrible. It wasn’t so good even back in it’s day, and since the introduction of classes like the Eldritch Knight or Knight Phantom and Epic Spellcasting it’s gone a long ways downhill by comparison. I expect to have some points left over, and will doubtless be adding some special abilities and upgrades.

On the other hand, this is not going to be a seriously optimized (by the usual standards) epic character either except when it comes to attributes. That’s partially because I want it reasonably playable and partially because Eclipse doesn’t allow a lot of the usual optimization shenanigans; you can’t, for example, dip into four different classes and pick up four differently-named abilities that all add your wisdom modifier into your armor class; in Eclipse those are all forms of Augmented Bonus and you can’t add any single attribute modifier to ANYTHING more than once.

So…

It was not expected that Prince Dorsian would ever go to war. The kingdom was rich, it was at peace with it’s neighbors, and had been stable for generations. Still, he was a royal prince, and so he was trained in bladecraft, in the ways of magic, and even a bit in the disciplines of the mind – even if he mostly dabbled in them all.

And then the Malanchi Guild – an academy of mages located on the great mystical Nexus of Mount Malan – got it wrong. Oh so badly wrong.

The Nexus became a wild gate – a gaping portal opening onto the frigid depths of some long-forgotten infernal plane. Through it poured a demonic horde, creatures of ice that brought frigid winter to the summer, and cold that could kill in a few breaths to the winter.

As the Fimbulwinter spread across the land, defenses fell – and Prince Dorian and what troops he could muster fought to hold back the horde as his people fell back and back. At the last… there were no more refuges to retreat to – and King Dorian conceived a desperate plan. With a few companions he traveled to Mount Malan and there cast himself into the arcane icefire of the gate – taking that power into himself, using it to boost his powers to full mastery of the arcane arts, and using that power (technically multiple uses of Reality Revision) to seal the gate and break the long grip of the ice.

Today King Dorian, known as the “Bloodblade” for the way in which his blows summon allies to his cause when his blade bites deep, stands on the threshold of divinity. After decades of war, and his final victory, only a few challenges remain in the world of his birth – and he is not yet ready to hang up his sword.

King Dorian Bloodblade

The Fire General, Stormbreaker, Hero of the Marches, Guardian of the Realm – and so on…

ECL 30 Epic Warrior-Mage.

Race: Originally Human – but has undergone Rad’Egion Transformation.

Package Deal: Royalty. Provides Adept due to intensive training (in his case Concentration, Diplomacy, Knowledge/Arcana, and his Martial Art) and Major Privileges. On the other hand, it also makes the user a target for assassins and manipulation and arranged marriages, forces him or her to spend a lot of time on politics and diplomacy, and brings along lots of responsibilities. Like all package deals, 0 CP.

Basic Abilities: Str 14, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 12 (32 Point Buy)

  • Racial Modifiers: +2 Dex, +2 Int.
  • Belt of Magnificence/Absorbed and Transformed: +6 Alchemical Bonus to All Attributes (200,000 GP and 12 CP, using Innate Enchantment (the Absorption variant) and Altering the Bonus Type).
  • Belt of Magnificence: +6 Enhancement Bonus to All Attributes (200,000 GP).
  • Inherent Bonuses: +5 to all attributes (see why below).
  • +7 Int (Level)

Net Abilities: Str 31 (+10), Dex 33 (+11), Con 31 (+10), Int 40 (+15), Wis 29 (+9), Cha 29 (+9). And yes, that IS pretty absurd – even a bit more absurd than the original notion… Magic has advanced much since then!

The Belt of Magnificence is an item from the Miniatures Handbook that was probably meant to address the woes of characters who depended on many different attributes – and thus were subject to a massive drain on their money (making custom items with very expensive stacked abilities) and/or item slots (buying attribute boosters in sets) just to remain effective. It was a single device that boosted ALL your attributes for a cost of 25,000 gp (+2), 100,000 gp (+4) or 200,000 gp (+6). Unfortunately, with the Magic Item Compendium, it became possible to stack attribute enhancement effects on other items or each other with few problems – making the Belt generally inefficient unless you valued the convenience of noting all your boosting items in the same place. Of course, when you just want to ABSORB a single item… the +6 version does save a few thousand gold pieces even now.

Classically, advancing in alternating levels, this character wound up with a +15 BAB (+5 from the Wizard levels, +10 from the Fighter levels) and a +5 epic attack bonus – and only three attacks. Ergo, buy +15 BAB (90 CP) and another +5 BAB, Corrupted/does not add iterative attacks (20 CP) (110 CP total).

Saves are +9/+4/+4 (Fighter) +5/+5/+9 (Wizard) +4/4/4 (Epic) +0/2/0 (Lightning Reflexes) – for a total of +18/15/17. That’s a total of +50, and (150 CP) spent on Saves. That’s actually kind of silly; there are plenty of other ways to improve saves. I may be trading in a few of those bonuses later on.

Hit Dice are 14d10 (84 CP) + 15d4 (0 CP). This works, but I may wind up getting him a per-die bonus and smaller hit dice; he’d be much better off in the end.

Base Skill Points are 64. I’ll get these from Fast Learner Specialized in Skills (taken at at L0) and 6 purchased (for 12 CP in total). Of course, he also gets skill points for Intelligence Modifiers – which will get a bit complicated, and not just because whether or not you get skill points for an item-enhanced intelligence score has been answered in several different ways. Ergo… +3 (L0-L7), +4 (L8-L15), +7 (L16-L19, includes +4 Inherent), +8 (L20-27, includes +5 Inherent), and +9 (L28-L29). That’s a total of 30 + 32 + 28 + 64 + 18 = 172 Int-based Skill Points, for a grand total of 236 SP.

As a fifteenth level wizard this character got…

  • 15’th level wizard spellcasting (210 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Spells (for +2 Spells/Level, 6 CP).
  • Summon Familiar, Scribe Scroll and Three Bonus Feats – Silent Spell, Still Spell, and Combat Casting. In Eclipse that’s Companion (Familiar, 6 CP), Spell Storing (Scrolls, 6 CP), the Easy Metamagical Theorem (6 CP), and Skill Emphasis/Concentration, Specialized for Double Effect in Casting Defensively (3 CP) for a total of (21 CP).

As a fourteenth level fighter this character got…

  • Eight fighter Bonus Feats. These were Blind-Fight (6 CP), Cleave (Bonus Attack, 6 CP), Combat Reflexes (Reflex Training, 6 CP), Dodge (Defender, Specialized/Does not Increase with Level, Corrupted/Only versus one opponent at a time, Dodge Bonus, 2 CP), Expertise (BAB and AC, 6 CP), Improved Critical (Bastard Sword, 6 CP), Improved Disarm (Evasive/Disarm, 3 CP, and Specialist/Disarm, 3 CP), and Improved Initiative (6 CP) (Total of 44 CP).
  • Proficiency with Light, Medium, and Heavy Armor (15 CP), and Shields (3 CP), as well as All Simple (3 CP) and Martial (6 CP) weapons. I’m going to upgrade that to “And all Exotic” weapons as well (6 CP). Honestly it would be more efficient to drop some of the Armor proficiencies since Dex 29 pretty much says “most armor is counterproductive” – but they’re useful at lower levels.

Finally, for bonus feats, we had… Alertness (Skill Emphasis/Spot (3 CP) and Skill Emphasis/Listen (3 CP)), Leadership (6 CP), Mobility (lets upgrade and remove the “only versus one opponent at a time” and “does not increase with level” aspects from Defender under Fighter Bonus Feats, 4 CP), Power Attack (Expertise, 6 CP), Quick Draw (Reflex Training, 6 CP), Spring Attack (Split Movement, 6 CP), Weapon Focus/Bastard Sword (+1 BAB, Specialized in Swords, 3 CP), and Weapon Specialization/Bastard Sword (lets upgrade again; Augmented Bonus/Lore of Battle; Adds (Int Mod) to (Str Mod) for the purpose of determining damage in melee combat, Specialized in Swords, 3 CP), at a net cost of (40 CP).

That gives us a grand total of… 727 CP out of the 780 CP (720 CP base +60 CP for Ten Bonus Feats) a level twenty-nine character can be expected to have. If the character has Disadvantages and some Duties (as seems likely, for +68 CP) we’ll have a total of 121 CP left to play with.

That also pretty much takes care of the original build. The original race had a few small bonuses, but by level twenty-nine none of them matter much at all and I’m using a different race anyway.

All right, it’s time to spend those extra character points. Lets take…

Arcane Imbuement”/Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus: adds (Int Mod) to (Con Mod) when calculating hit points (18 CP) and change to 1d20 at L1 (16 CP) and 28d4’s afterwards (0 CP). That gets him up to an average of 815 HP after those huge attribute boosts. While there’s a point beyond which hit points no longer matter all that much it’s still nice to have a massive pile of them – and getting them this way saves us 50 CP over the base build, leaving us with 157 CP to spend.

Yes, that’s sick – but on Constitution alone he’d still average 380 HP. At this point it doesn’t much matter.

Add +2 levels of Wizard Spellcasting (28 CP). That gets him up to ninth level spells, even if he doesn’t qualify for epic-level shenanigans. With his racial modifiers he gets spells as an 18’th level wizard and a Caster Level of 19. He also gets two additional Metamagical Theorems from his race – lets say Amplify and Persistent.

Let us avoid Epic Spellcasting at all costs. If you stick to the official spells it’s virtually useless, and if you let players build their own spells according to the book’s rules it becomes a disaster in very short order.

Add Streamline, Specialized for Double Effect/Only for the Easy Metamagical Theorem, Corrupted/Only to add Still and Silent automatically (4 CP).

With all his spells Still and Silent without level adjustment he can wear any armor he likes with no trouble. He’s NOT going to be wearing any at this point, but presumably he did earlier in his career. Besides, this is nice if he happens to get grappled.

Lets liven him up a bit… Expand his 17 Specialized Casting Levels to also cover Wilder Powers (17 CP), add 20 levels of the Wilder Progression without Caster Levels (Int-based, 60 CP), buy him access to the Metacreativity Powers (6 CP), and buy him two Extra Powers (Shadow Form and Freedom of Movement, Psionic, 4 CP). That gives him thirteen powers and 493 Power. I’ll pick… L1) Astral Construct and Call to Mind, L2) Body Equilibrium, L3) Ubiquitous Vision, L4) Energy Adaption and Freedom of Movement, Psionic, L5) True Seeing, Psionic, L6) Temporal Acceleration, L7) Energy Wave, L8) Shadow Form and True Metabolism, L9) Assimilate and Reality Revision.

OK, that covers some major weak points. Magic items will cover most of them later on anyway, but it’s always good to have a fallback for things like True Sight and Freedom of Movement and Fast Healing 10 (from True Metabolism) will let him recover his hit points in a reasonable amount of time. Assimilate can boost his attributes a bit more and Temporal Acceleration will let him squeeze in a little spontaneous buffing time – which can be pretty critical for a fighter-mage type.

Spawned of Blood: Opportunist/May opt to manifest an Astral Construct when he scores a critical hit with a sword (6 CP).

Now that one sounds like fun… “As the blood sprays and splatters from the sword’s arc, it shimmers and flows together to become a mighty monster, standing ready to fight by the King’s side!” Sure, astral constructs are nowhere near as useful as high-level monster summonings since they don’t have fun magic like the various fiends and celestial beings do – but they are reasonably good at hitting things.

Mighty Hysteria, Specialized and Corrupted/only applies to summoning Astral Constructs . He may spend +8 Power which does not count against the normal spending limit when summoning an Astral Construct to double it’s hit points, BAB, damage, saves, and number of special abilities as well as providing it with a +6 Armor bonus (4 CP)

OK; that makes an astral construct big enough to actually matter (a little anyway) in Epic Combat. It still won’t last very long, but so what? A round or two can make quite a difference in high level d20 fights.

Improved Superior Focused Imbuement (Bastard Sword), Specialized/requires twenty-four hours to attune to a new sword, sword must be at least +1 already to accept the power (which does override whatever “plus” based enchantment it has) (12 CP). This provides him with a +15 effective total for his epic weapon – in this case +6 Enhancement with Blessed (Auto-confirms criticals, +1), Defending (+1), Holy (+2), Spell Storing x2 (+2), Collision (+5 damage, +2), and Undead Bane (+1).

Yes, this gets nasty. It also saves a LOT of money and means that getting your weapon sundered is an annoyance, rather than a personal tragedy.

Improved Superior Focused Imbuement (Clothing), Specialized/requires twenty-four hours to attune a new set of clothes, which must be masterwork and of kingly quality to accept the power (12 CP). Ergo Clothing +1 Armor (from 0, +1), Energy Immunity x3 (+2 x 3, 3/day become immune to any one energy form for one minute as an immediate action), Ghost Ward (+1, adds enhancement bonus to touch AC), Heavy Fortification (+5), Psychic (+2).

Honestly, if you can add armor enhancements to padded armor made for a tiny creature – which basically amounts to making a suit out of cobwebs – I see no reason why you can’t put them on normal clothing, which can quite reasonably be described as “armor” so light that it has no actual combat effect at all…

Extra Limbs (Arms), Specialized and Corrupted/psychic constructs, only functions to allow the user to hold/wield four items at the same time; they cannot be used for skills, self-support, and other purposes (2 CP).

I could just get him a continuous Alter Self ability and a Disguise spell and he could play as a many-armed Hindu god without looking strange – but I like this better.

Those saves are a bit awkward; ergo, reduce the bases to +15/+15/+15 (saving fifteen CP) and buy Hard to Take Out: Luck with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saving Throws (9 CP). Being able to reroll or “Take 20″ on a save eight times a day is better than a high base; with Luck you can be SURE of making a vital save when you need it. Besides… I’ll be raising those bases with some inherent bonuses later on anyway.

He’s a ruler. Lets get him Dominion (6 CP) and Path of the Pharaoh / Manipulation (6 CP) – which does indeed put him on the path of Godhood. In fact, it would only take another 12 CP invested in that path to make him one quite officially. Dominion is useful in other ways as well – but to maintain that, he’s going to have to spend a good deal of time actually running his country.

That Vest of the Archmagi (down in equipment) is SO useful that it can do with being absorbed too! That’s (6 CP).

That leaves 2 CP. I’ll get him a couple of extra skill points (2 CP).

OK, we’ve spent our extra character points. This still isn’t especially overpowered for an epic level spellcaster, but it IS considerably more effective than it was. The ability to kick in Temporal Acceleration and get several spells or powers running right off the bat is expensive, but will go a long ways towards keeping him functional in any major confrontation.

Equipment:

In theory, his equipment allowance is 4,300,000 GP. So, OK; HERE is where we REALLY break things. The first item on the purchase list is three Rods of Excellent Magic (Epic Item): Each provides a block of 2000 XP to use in casting a spell with an XP component once per day. (1,950,000 GP).

This… is expensive. On the other hand, with three of them – and effectively four hands to hold them in – Dorian can now cast Wish once a day at no XP cost. He can even chain them (“I wish that the effects of my next Wish would be delayed until…” – is an “add metamagic” (Delay) spell effect which is well within the capabilities of a Wish; that means that it will take him nine days per +5 inherent bonus instead of five – but who cares?). For that matter, magical items, or improvements on items, that cost less than 12,500 GP can simply be wished into existence, since 1000 XP is left over to pay additional costs. If he wants to wish for money… he can get 25,000 GP per day. I suspect that the original authors assumed that characters couldn’t use the rods this way because they only had two hands. I also suspect that they forgot about Alter Self.

For that matter, he can also get some other inherent bonuses (per The Practical Enchanter) – +20 Movement, +3 Feats (just to be quick… these go to absorbing the three Rods, so they can’t be disjoined or taken away), +4 on each save, and +6 on each of six skills. At this point though that’s really just lagniappe. The fact that he can now afford pretty much anything non-epic that he wants is the real kicker.

Item Slots:

  • Head: Circlet (Coronet) of Rapid Casting (Magic Item Compendium 86, 15,000 GP) 3 Charges/Day, spend 1/2/3 to cast a spell of up to level 2/3/4. Honestly, there are some other things that could go in this slot, but this one is pretty convenient.
  • Face: Hathran Sunglasses (Mask) of True Seeing (Unapproachable East, 75,000 GP). Yes, I see him looking a lot like Morpheus in The Matrix – albeit with much better clothing and a lot of jewelry and such.
  • Throat: Amulet of Natural Armor +5 (DMG, 50,000 GP). Yeah. Gotta have it. Still, since this can be combined with another item, lets throw in a Scarab of Invulnerability (Magic Item Compendium, 132, 40,000 GP).
  • Shoulders: Pheonix Cloak (Magic Item Compendium 210, 50,000 GP). Flight, perfect maneuverability, at ground movement rate.
  • Torso: Shirt of the Moon (Magic Item Compendium 135, 15,000 GP), DR 3/Silver.
  • Arms: Shao-Lin Bracers (As per a Monks Belt, DMG 248, 13,000 GP).
  • Body: Robe of Mysterious Conjuration (Magic Item Compendium 130, 10,000 GP) 3/Day turn a prepared spell into a Monster Summoning spell. Since we can add another common function here, we’ll throw in +5 Deflection Bonus to AC (50,000 GP).
  • Hands: Gloves of the Balanced Hand (Magic Item Compendium 105, 8000 GP, grant two-weapon fighting feat).
  • Waist: Belt of Battle (Magic Item Compendium 73, 12,000 GP): +2 Competence to Initiative, 3 charges/day spent as swift actions, spend 1/2/3 for an extra move/standard/full action.
  • Feet: Boots of Speed (DMG 250, 10,000 GP): Haste self for ten rounds/day.
  • Ring: Universal (Fire, Cold, Electricity, Acid, Sonic) Energy Resistance, Greater (30 Points) (Epic Item, 308,000 GP). This would actually be cheaper to get by adding the effect to items in other slots, and would save a ring slot – but this is more convenient to write.
  • Ring: Freedom of Action (40,000 GP).

Primary Weapons:

  • Stormbreaker: (Aurorem, Book of Exalted Deeds, can be repaired in a round if broken, +4000 GP) Hand Crossbow +1, Psychic +2, Quick Loading +2, Distance +1 (72,000 GP), with 200 +1 Spell Storing Bolts (In theory 32,000 GP, in practice he just wishes for more when he needs them). I considered adding “Split” (+3) to this – but that was just too much. (76,000 GP in total). Quite gratuitously, I say that this looks like a gun.

His most commonly loaded spells include:

  • The Godfire Palm: A Fireball variant: 20′ radius burst of any standard energy type that will not affect the caster – but it’s a touch attack, with target: creature touched and no range (L3).
  • Greater Scorching Ray: May produce up to five rays at caster level 19+ and may be discharged as a standard touch attack with Target: Creature Touched or as a set of rays (L3).
  • Dispel Magic, Hideous Laughter, and Vampiric Touch have their place as well. Sure he can only load fifty at a time – but shall we say 30 Godfire Palms (6 of each major energy type), and five of each of the others?

Now yes, with Haste and Rapid Shot (in a Martial Art) this will let him fire off five shots in a round – 50d6 worth of energy balls or (potentially) 100d6 worth of Greater Scorching Rays to a single target. Split would have doubled that. Now, OK; these are separate attacks, and thus won’t do much (or sometimes anything at all) to creatures with good Energy Resistance – but it’s quite enough to run off minor problems. What do you want from a hand crossbow?

  • Grimward: An Aurorem (BoED, +4000 GP) Manople (1d6, Crit 19-20/x2, Slashing or Piercing, +1 Shield bonus to AC, may be given both weapon and shield enchantments). Defensive: +1, Arrow Deflection (DMG, +2), Psychic (MIC, +2), Ghost Ward (MIC, +1) (36,000 GP), Called (+2000 GP), Heraldic Crest of Glory (Heroes of Battle, +1 Morale Bonus to Weapon Damage, Heroism 3/Day, +11,000 GP). Offensive: +1, Warning (+5 Insight Bonus to Initiative when wielded, +1) (8000 GP), Spellblade x2 (Dispel Magic and Greater Dispel Magic, +12,000 GP), Everbright (Immune to acid and Rusting, Flash 1/day, +2000 GP) . (Net cost: 75,000 GP).

The Manople turns up in Sandstorm, and is one of very few official 3.5 weapons that comes with a Shield bonus (the only other I can find being a Weapon of the Celestial Host) and is – as far as I know – the only one which can explicitly be enhanced with defensive effects like a shield. On the other hand it’s still a weapon – and so is compatible with a Monk’s Belt. That will be important later.

  • Darkharrow: An Aurorem (BoED) Gauntlet +1, Defending (+1), Psychic (+2), Parrying (+1 Insight Bonus to AC and Saves, +2) (72,000 GP), and Everbright (Immune to acid and Rusting, Flash 1/day, +2000 GP). Intelligent: Int 19, Wis 19 Cha 10, 120 ft. darkvision, blindsense, and hearing, speech and telepathy, can read all languages and read magic (15,000 GP). Faerie Fire 3/Day (1100 GP), Spot +14 (5000 GP), Major Image 1/Day (5400 GP), Cure Moderate Wounds (2d8+3 on wielder 3/Day (6500 GP), Haste Owner 3/Day (16,000 GP), Magic Circle at Will (16.000 GP), and Continuous Detect Scrying Effect (10,000 GP), Chaotic Good. (Net 150,000 GP).

Yes, gauntlets are pretty much impossible to take away – and you do not have to be using a Defending weapon to have it defend you, you simply have to have it in your hand… Besides, a high-end sapient weapon makes a GREAT sentry for you – and can use it’s abilities on it’s own, which saves you from having to spend your actions activating them.

  • Firestorm: Aurorem (BoED, +4000 GP) Fireshaped (DMG II, +800 GP, +1 damage versus cold types, appears flaming when wielded) Bastard Sword (Katana): +1, Metalline (+2) (18,000 GP) Everbright (Immune to acid and Rusting, Flash 1/day, +2000 GP) Sizing (+5000 GP, allowing him to keep an extra as a charm on a chain around his wrist)

He actually has three of these, for a total of (90,000 GP) just in case one gets broken. He usually uses them two-handed because his psychic hands can wield Grimward and Darkharrow, but occasionally switches to one-handed so he can use Stormbreaker in his other hand when he needs to switch weapons quickly or when he wants to use a metamagic rod. The Enhancement bonus won’t stack with his Imbuement (and I wouldn’t let most other enhancements do it either) – but stuff that affects the sword itself seems reasonable enough.

  • Backup Weapon: Luck Blade (No Wishes) (DMG , 22,000 GP) +2 short sword that gives a +1 luck bonus to saves and lets you reroll any roll that you have just made once per day. That’s just HANDY.

Crystals (MIC): Greater Truedeath Crystal (+1d6 versus undead, Ghost Touch, may sneak attack and critical against undead, 10,000 GP), Greater Energy Assault (Electrical, +1d6 electrical, those struck are dazzled for one round, 6000 GP), Greater Demolition Crystal (+1d6 versus Constructs, weapon treated as Adamantine versus Constructs, can Critical and Sneak Attack Constructs, 6000 GP), and Fiendslayer Crystal (+1d6 versus evil outsiders, weapon is treated as being good-aligned, a critical hit keeps an evil outsider from teleporting for a round).

Slotless Items:

  • Vest of the Archmagi (MIC 145, 200,000 GP): +8 armor bonus to AC as per Bracers of Armor, +5 resistance bonus on saving throws, +2 enhancement bonus on caster level checks made to overcome spell resistance, Recall a cast arcane spell of up to level nine as a swift action three times per day, spend a prepared arcane spell as a swift action to heal (5 x Spell Level) points of damage to yourself with no limit on usage. Absorbed.
  • Belt of Magnificence (200,000 GP). +6 Bonus to All Attributes. Absorbed and converted to Alchemical Bonuses.
  • Metamagic Rods: Enlarge (Greater, 24,500 GP), Extend (Greater, 24,500 GP), Empower (Greater, 73,000 GP), Maximize (Greater, 121,500 GP), Reach (Greater, 73,000 GP), Sculpting (Greater, 24,500 GP), Quicken (Lesser, 35,000), and Energy Substitution (two for each energy type, Lesser and Greater, 108,000 GP).

Why learn more metamagic when you can simply use what you need? Keeping them in a Handy Haversack makes getting them out a free action, he has a spare hand, and he has Still Spell on everything.

  • Handy Haversack (DMG 2000 GP)
  • Sphere of Awakening (Magic Item Compendium 186, 1800 GP) Swift action to awaken all allies within 60′. User and all allies are immune to fatigue, exhaustion, and sleep effects for 10 minutes.
  • Survival Pouch (Magic Item Compendium 187, 3300 GP) 5/day, you can pull out one of the following: trail rations, 2 gallons of water in a waterskin, tent plus two bedrolls, 50′ rope, shovel, campfire/8 torches, composite shortbow with 20 arrows in a quiver, or a mule with bit/bridle/saddle/saddlebags. Items last for eight hours or until used up.
  • Horn of Plenty (DMG, 12,000 GP) 1/Day create Heroes Feast for 12.
  • Runestaff of Passage (75,000 GP). Lets him trade in prepared spells for various transport and teleportation effects.
  • Rod of Fortification (The Practical Enchanter, 264,000 GP). Basically builds, maintains, or refurbishes structures. Why travel with no castle?
  • Bottomless Gray Bag of Tricks (technically as per ten Bags of Tricks – 100 animals a week, at a cost of 9000 GP. In practice, unlimited.

This is primarily used to provide victim creatures for his Assimilate power (Spend 17 Power as a standard action, gain 20d6 temporary hit points and +4 to each ability score for one hour. Yes, that makes him even more absurd, but it is a ninth level effect and most of those are a bit absurd).

  • Stone of Good Luck (DMG, 20,000 GP): +1 luck bonus on saving throws, ability checks, and skill checks.
  • Ioun Stones: Orange (+1 Caster/Manifester Level, 30,000 GP), Clear (Sustains owner without food or water, 4000 GP), Iridescent (Sustains owner without Air, 18,000 GP), Pale Green (+1 competence bonus on attack rolls, saves, skill checks, and ability checks, 30,000 GP).
  • Phantom Mill (The Practical Enchanter, 2000 GP): Keeps a lot of Unseen Servants around. As a king, he’s used to being waited on.

OK, that’s quite enough. I’ll see if I can’t add all of that up to produce a usable stat block for the next segment – but I think the point has been made. There’s no sharp dividing line where a high-level character suddenly becomes absurd (although for this particular one it would be acquiring those Rods; still, without them… he could afford all that magic anyway, as well as +5 tomes, since that would free up nearly two million gold pieces) – but sooner or later they do. In practice, if you just don’t want to give up a beloved character, they can probably retire to pure role-playing and investigative scenarios and handle any combat by narrative. If you just want to pile up bonuses… well, that can be amusing too, but I suspect that most game masters will get tired of it fairly quickly.

Honestly… if you handled the rest of the world realistically (normal people being level zero, one, or two, with only the greatest mortal experts and heroes reaching level four or five) then you could pretty readily stat out an awful lot of classical gods at around level twelve to fifteen and still neatly cover everything they were described as doing – albeit possibly by throwing in Action Hero/Stunts to cover the occasional mighty creative act during the creation of the world.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CXXVIII – Discussions En Passant

18th century Netsuke mask of Hannya

And behind the mask…

Lytek’s personal inspection had made it blatantly obvious that Aden was still expanding, and was still generating new manses and internal properties. Worse… it was equally obvious that Mechagodzilla was drawing on a portion of Aden’s geomantic energies, that it had a direct link to Charles on the holding-hands level, and that it could (at the very least) subtly communicate with him. Charles… WAS shielded against most direct manipulative charm effects – but there was no magic that protected you from simple persuasion and reasonable-sounding suggestions.

Hopefully the boy had at least some sense about WHAT to do, even if he appeared to have no sense of restraint at all when he was actually DOING it.

The groups that had been worried that someone would get Charles’s ear would, when they eventually found out, not be much comforted to know that the one who had was a Crazy Lunar – Raksha hybrid, with a Sidereal – Raksha hybrid friend and a crew of Raksha in Mechagodzilla!

Lytek… had been mildly startled when he’d – absent-mindedly – called for a messenger to send to Aikiko just as he would in his offices, and had gotten a… human boy with cheetah-styling. Incredibly fast, happy and well-cared-for – but just as obviously terribly weak-willed. About as far from being an exaltation candidate as any functioning human he’d ever seen!

(Lytek, curiously) “And how did you get this way?”

(Cheetah-child) “Master bought me from the Raksha Sir! And he gave me this (indicating a Resplendent Butler’s Accouterment) and wanted to know what I wanted to do, and it was whatever HE wanted me to do and be of course, and he told Mr Elzeard and some of the others to take care of me and find me something to do! And they replaced the Deer-styling my last master had given me with Cheetah styling so I could run really fast and gave me a navigational sense and some protections and a manse attunement and said that I could be an errand-runner! And so I am! I go really REALLY fast now! See!”

And the circles were indeed dazzlingly fast… and the solution was rather reminiscent of some First Age Solar experiments with raksha servants, although they hadn’t made their own devas for it.

(Cheetah-Child, eagerly) “Would you like me to run any errands sir?”

Lytek mulled that over for a moment – but it might cause trouble for Charles if he started using his messenger-boys to run errands in Yu-Shan. Of course…

(Lytek) “Could you send a message to Miss Aikiko Tanaka for me?”

(Cheetah-Child) “Certainly Sir! I have network access!”

He sent her some of his basic findings – not that there was much that she could do about them directly of course, but there were some things she might find it useful to know…

So… Charles was already using quite a lot of wyld energies; he was keeping several waypoints worth of the Wyld in his world-body and had a bunch of quasi-raksha running about but wyld shaping had always been a very solar thing to be doing. Rare (and more than a bit worrisome) for one so young to already be that deep into Wyld involvement though – and he was going into the fringes of Creation soon enough. Hopefully the Cauldron-Born would not persuade him to make deals with Raksha that he might regret! Admittedly, it was amazing what the boy had done with thaumaturgy, Manses, and Artifacts, but it had left him open to assaults such as the Cauldron-Born’s. He had ignored so much of the combat, and mental influence, and protective charms…

Although… he had to give the Cauldron-Born some credit! “Mechagodzilla” had been a most unexpected line for them to take… they really were still Exalts, even with those Raksha along for the ride! This… went beyond simple curiosity and feeding, and seemed to be far more of a merger than a possession. Whatever it was they wanted… it must make sense to BOTH halves of their minds. And… considering that the ringleaders were a Lunar and a Sidereal, could it be that they meant well for Creation? After all, whether the Raksha had liked it or not, they’d tried to DEFEND Creation against the Hannya during the last assault. They… had pretty much thrown their lots in with Creation’s thirty thousand years ago. From what he’d been able to find out… most shaped fey these days had no interest in seeing the Hannya or unshaped devour everything – much as they might like to posture as mighty lords of chaos otherwise.

Meanwhile… Aikiko now had an EPA expense account to go with her funding from Lytek – which might or might not represent less actual MONEY, but which was a LOT easier to use on Earth. After all, it was hard to think of a WORSE environmental threat than four unsupervised cosmic children wandering around doing stuff at random, and who else did they know who was even close to being capable of investigating that?

It had been some weeks since her last conversation which Charles; he’d been headed off to do more good deeds somewhere else…

(Aikiko) “Um . . . let me know if anything weird happens to you, OK? I’m not sure what the Cauldron-Born will try to do to you!”

(Charles) “I’ll keep an eye out for it! But things are… a bit urgent these days!”

(Aikiko) “OK, but let me know if you need any help, too!”

(Charles) “I will!”

After that… she’d traded out the Behemoth Cloak for some Commando Armor with extra stealth effects on it to keep if from being identified as Charles’s work (Having Mechagodzilla tracking her by her armor was NOT a welcome idea!). After that, she’d had one of Charles’s quasi-Raksha whip up a Wyld Gate back to earth – and had been back for some hours before it hit her that – if Charles’s quasi-Raksha could do THAT… then presumably the Cauldron-born could do it to, to get to anywhere that they’d ever been!

Not a comforting thought there either!

Even now she was still a bit bemused – although that was more a consequence of watching a terraforming… Charles was obviously a LONG ways into his chosen specialty there – but she was a Solar Exalt too, and that meant that SHE could learn to transform worlds like that as well if she so chose… What kind of world would SHE create? The “World of Weed”? The priests had warned her that a Solar Exaltation brought with it a tendency towards destructive madness, just as their powers had their own (rather more awkward) drawbacks. What would that be like if you coupled it with the power to reshape worlds like that? Perhaps it only worked on lifeless balls of rock?

Come to think of it… that did seem likely! Certainly everyone on Earth would do their best to avoid being just overwritten that way, and that much opposition was enough to block pretty much anything.

Wait. How did she KNOW that so surely? It seemed to be almost an instinct!

That… was going to take some looking into when she had more time. Since meeting those priests she’d had some suspicions about what might be going on in the depths of the human mind!

Aikiko brought her mind back to the present – not, really, that riding on a South American bus was really all that challenging. It had been an interesting trip to Argentina but when it came to rattle-trap old buses, they were all pretty much alike! Still, the area was VERY scenic! Argentina was a land of spectacular mountains, mighty forests (and some unfortunate logging and slash-and-burn agriculture), and torrential rains. Hence the landslide, most likely… even barring interference from the mountain gods (and who could bar that?), it was pretty obvious that disturbing the mountains was a perilous business!

Still worth heading up to poke around the village though.

And that trip proved MUCH more impressive. small waterfalls crossed the “road”, there were gulleys, and it wound along ledges and cutbacks into the mountain right next to tremendous drops – while the bus driver kept gunning the laboring engine to make it through another slick spot where mud and water was running across the road. Even worse… everyone aboard (with chickens, and goats, and other livestock, and small children, and piles of junk) seemed quite used to the insanity. Man, people ran things differently outside of the States… it was going to be a long trip.

It was actually almost six hours, although it seemed like weeks. She could have sworn that half of the distance was up, and another quarter was down…

The village perched on a flatter spot on a mountainside – and there were still traces of a genuinely major landslide all around it. That was actually fairly impressive! It looked to her like that COULD have happened – but it would be a Sidereal-meddling level coincidence – and why would they be protecting a mountain village this obscure, missions or not?

She headed on in; they probably had at least a few tourists gawking already.

It was only a few though; there was a rather subtle ward-and-compulsion active on the village; it was discouraging close inspection of the area and trying to convince visitors that the near miss had been entirely natural… It wasn’t even trying on the actual local witnesses though.

Huh… Terrestrials blocking this one too. That wasn’t entirely unexpected… It looked like… Air Essence; not terribly powerful but reasonably skilled.

(Aikiko, sotto breath) “Hah. Natural my rear!”

She’d have to be careful investigating – although some Terrestrial help wouldn’t be too bad.

Hey! The locals had built a little shrine just above the village. Considering that a “mountain spirit” was seen holding off the avalanche, that seemed like a good place to start!

The shrine had a selection of small offerings – apparently something personal from everyone in the village, ranging from old-style wedding photographs to bits of jewelry and little wooden toys, all set on a stone slab that had been set up in front of a small outcropping of rock. The area was still resonating with traces of essence, but it was FAR stronger than whoever raised the ward. There was also an elderly woman, doing a little dusting and straightening.

Huh… Air, used in some sort of communications and sensory effect), Wyld, used to do something that involved TIME somehow, and something she couldn’t make out. It didn’t seem like a Charm or Thaumaturgy though. Too stable.

That was really weird! It didn’t look like Divine essence though – and there were lesser traces of the same stuff all over the place – like it was just wandering about. Maybe somebody had a chancel?

The old lady was trying to gently shoo her away. Of course it WAS a village shrine. There was a tiny trace of essence about her – she might know a little bit of thaumaturgy – but no active essence pool. Will-fueled stuff, no doubt traditional. Probably just didn’t want an outsider poking about…

She also seemed determined to hang around as long as Aikiko was poking about… Oh well! That was what her Anima power was for, even if it WAS expensive to conceal excellencies and divinations. It looked like… the Wyld essence had erupted from… the side of the outcropping and had gone into full manifestation for several minutes – it had probably been obvious to everyone in the village – and then it had gone… back into the stone. Oddly though, it hadn’t actually come from inside the stone; it had just gone into a depression in the side of the outcropping and ceased to exist. There were traces of it around the village elsewhere though – mostly older. A hidden freehold or site of power, maybe?

Anyway… whatever had come out of it had gotten up on top of the rock and exerted it’s power there, and then had gotten down and left the same way.

She might just have to persuade the old lady to go away. The thought of being classically Solar, starting to glow like the sun, and commanding her obedience on pain of being punched thirty miles just didn’t appeal… It would probably give the poor old lady a heart attack! Maybe an illusion? Ah, what was she thinking? A compulsion! “Cooperate with my investigation!”!

She was probably just as curious as to why the “mountain spirit” had intervened as Aikiko was anyway.

Aikiko took her time, and made it subtle – and managed to overcome the old woman’s (fairly basic) resistance pretty handily. She could break free if badly pushed of course – but there was really no reason to get silly!

(Aikiko) “Hey, ma’am, mind if I poke around the outcropping for a bit? I promise I won’t disturb the altar.”

(Llanquipan) “Oh… very well young woman! I suppose it will harm nothing and (with exasperation) you will hardly be the first! (Grumbling) Scientists, and tourists, and that shamaness… the spirit came to our aid, not to be poked at by fools who would deny or conceal a plain miracle!”

(Aikiko, gently) “Shamaness?”

(Llanquipan) “The young one who came and spoke to the spirits of the air to weave a glamor! She didn’t think that anyone would see what she was up to – too used to the busy, foolish, people of the cities down below! Here in the heights there are still those who see clearly! But… at least she meant to protect, not to intrude!”

Ah! That must have been the Terrestrial!

(Aikiko) “Is she still around, or did she go back down?”

(Llanquipan) “She has been poking around further up the mountain for weeks now… Trying to get into the Door of the Birds! She will have no luck there…”

(Aikiko) “Some kind of holy site?”

While the old dear was talking, Aikiko performed a little quiet divination on the outcropping itself.

(Llanquipan) “A place of the Old Ones! Sometimes… there are small visions, or a touch of power that can be harnessed, but the Door is Shut, as it has been for time out of memory!”

Another possible Primordial related site? Well, good luck to the poor Air Aspect – at least if it was anything more than a minor demesne or old bit of thaumaturgy. “Time out of Memory” for an old woman in a small tribal village… most likely at least a few centuries, but that really wasn’t very long!

She got directions to the place anyway.

As for her divinations… It looked like their HAD been a portal there – but it was gone now. Evidently a temporary one. Basically… something radiating wyld and air energies had opened a portal here, stepped out, split a major avalanche around a small and unimportant village, and had then gone back to wherever it had come from.

Oh! She was being silly! Most of the village must have seen it, including Llanquipan – so she could just ASK her!

The story was straightforward; The rains had been very heavy, and there had been a bit of digging further up the mountain – not that she blames it on THAT, it was tiny! – and everyone in the village heard the rumble starting – and went outside, and saw a mass of stone and shredded trees, and earth, sweeping down the mountainside. There was… nowhere to run, and it was obvious that nothing in the village would withstand it. They were all going to die. And then… a door of light opened in the side of the outcropping where the shrine is now, and a youth, glowing gold with blue and silver fringes, stepped out, and leapt up to the top of the stone. He held out a hand, and stood before the avalanche – and spirits rose from it, and there was a moment where things seemed to just… stop… and he spoke – and the spirits bowed, and steered the stones and earth aside. The glowing youth stood there as the avalanche passed, and then returned and shut the portal behind himself. Her eyes were not so good any longer, but she certainly saw THAT!

Hmm… if it WAS a Solar, blue and silver were associated with the Zenith and Eclipse Castes – or with Air and Wyld energies, or both. There just weren’t enough colors to go around!

Oh, THERE was a project NOT to mention to Charles – making enough new colors to let every essence-using group have their own color-coded set and turn the art world completely upside down…

The villagers, of course, had set up a shrine to the spirit that had saved them, as was only wise!

Llanquipan… hadn’t been able to make out much about the spirit other than that he was male and glowing – but her vantage point had not been the best and her eyes weren’t so good any longer either. Still, the similarities to how Charles operated sometimes were rather obvious. HE had an internal dimension with a main gate that followed him around and secondary ones that manifested nearby; if this hadn’t been the main one… whoever it was could have just stepped into one portal and out this one. She’d have to poke around the local area then, keeping up a detection effect and see if the main gate was still around – either permanently or for the moment. If not… well, it still might just be a Chancel – but it certainly FELT like she was finally on the right trail!

Hm… First, a search of the village and for other witnesses. Then a trace of the Wyld energies. If that didn’t, the “Door of the Birds” sounded like the kind of place where weird things happened.

Even with an Investigation Excellency… that wound up being a botch.

Unfortunately, the villagers had gotten the impression that she’d been harassing Llanquipan, and wanted nothing to do with her! All she got from the other witnesses was snubs, sneers, and mutters about nasty tourists who should go back home! Dang it! It must be those stereotypes about Japanese/American tourists rearing their ugly heads!

Still… there were traces of wyld energies scattered all over the village itself – and especially at one of the two guest houses and the small church/meeting hall.

She investigated the guest house first; tourists could be expected to head that way anyway!

It was… relatively nice for a rather primitive place – water was run in from further up the mountain, and there’s even a small tank by the stove for heating some. It normally accommodated up to five or six village guests, although there was only one at the moment and she wasn’t currently in. There were some minor wards on one room though, and (when she peeked) on some suitcases in it – probably the Terrestrial woman’s room. There weren’t any locks though…

The wyld energy looked like leakage – but there must have been a LOT of it to leave traces like that! The equivalent of activating such a charm every minute or so…

A closer look (and a much better roll) showed that that was a manse-power trace – like someone had… temporarily overlaid a manses zone of influence onto the area – but the way it moved around, it was radiating from someone who stayed here, as if they had a manse in their pocket. Could be some sort of remote tap… and weren’t there supposed to be some lunar charms which let you act as a manse?

She took a room and set up a privacy ward so she could call Charles… This DID sound an awful lot like something he would do!

(Aikiko) “Hey, Charles? Have you been in the Argentine mountains recently?”

(Charles) “Hm? No… I’ve got a few Kickaha tracing dragon lines down there, and I think some people got pulled out of one of those guerrilla warfare problems… no, looks like that was a country or two over!”

Aikiko described what she’d seen .

(Charles) “Huh… Well… I know a way or two to project a manse-aura through it’s hearthstone. It takes a lot of power though! Some of the Lunars can have manse-powers themselves, but it takes a demesne handy!”

(Aikiko) “Maybe a Lunar then? I don’t know… I guess I’ll just have to track him down.”

One room showed somewhat more energy-traces than the others – and some signs of a hurried (and recent) departure – a stray sock under the bed, several gum wrappers, and a couple of sketches of mountain scenery – pretty fair work.

Well, the sock and the sketches might retain enough of a link to their creator to be useful… gum wrappers were no use… wait; if she could find the GUM… The “spirit” had looked young, and so he might well have discarded some!

She had to laugh a bit though. She’d have to bet that very few Solars had gone looking for used chewing gum? Probably none in the first age! Even if chewing gum bad been around, she doubted that they would have rooted around looking for it for anything. They’d probably have had a servant or underling do it.

None stuck anywhere under tables or the bed, but the she did turned up some stuck in the trash container! Apparently even the Terrestrial hadn’t thought of it!

And wyld energies on it… Time to try and trace the link! And for a quick prayer to the god of (sigh) “Hubba-Bubba” chewing gum… it couldn’t hurt, and chewing-gum gods probably didn’t get many prayers usually (except pleas that the stuff come out/off…)

Huh! Not local at the moment – currently, down at the coast; some hundreds of miles away. A young male, and distinctly solar-wyld-air flavored. Probably not cauldron-born though; it really felt like a manse-aura – at least for the Wyld-Air part. Maybe he really WAS projecting a Manse? She’d have to get closer to get a better location though… To the coast! Keeping up the link as much as she could!

It was morning before the bus left again – for another insane ride down the mountain – only to be interrupted by a group of highway robbers who attempted to stick up the bus!

Drat it! They was pretty obviously no one else to intervene, they’d toppled a tree across the road to block it, and there was no room to turn around. The route didn’t exactly offer a lot of choices…

On the other hand, they seemed to be just humans, and only eight of them with guns at that, and she’d been wanting to get in more practice with her thaumaturgy.

Aikiko drew on the art of Telekinesis to start the tree sliding down the slope – exposing the three who’d been using it for cover and starting to clear the road. That hadn’t been one of her better efforts… perhaps she should take Charles up on the augmented Thaumaturgy next time she saw him! The stuff he was handing out was pretty useful!

There was much cursing, and demands for all the money anyone was carrying, especially hers! It seemed that she was obviously a rich tourist! Probably looking for magical revelations – and they have one for her; “How much trouble it was to be broke in a foreign country!”.

Ooookay… she tried Shadow Weaving – a wave of nightmarish fear- on as many of them as she could get, augmenting her spell with her most baleful glare – while being careful not to affect the people aboard the bus. That left them distracted for more than long enough for the driver to gun the bus. For one who drove like he did on these roads… mere guns held little terror!

Aikiko smiled and waved as the bus tore past the bandits – leaving in it’s wake frustrated cursing and a wild shot or two!

One of which did give one of the younger girls on the bus a nasty shoulder wound. Still, that was better than the things that ruthless bandits might do!

Fortunately enough, the bus managed to stay on the road for the rest of the way down – and she had more than enough medical skill to help treat such a simple wound – skillfully extracting the slug, cleaning the wound, stitching things up, and applying a bandage…

Two days later she was rattling into a coastal city with a somewhat unpronounceable name – and her scrying showed that the Exalt she was chasing was… about five miles down the coast. That shouldn’t take long at all!

The Initiates of the Arcane Forge

English: Wizard with a spell.

Oh not you guys again!

The secrets of the Arcane are dark, and terrible, and were never meant for mortals to wield. Those who dabble with such forces without exercising the utmost precautions, and engaging in long purifications before and after doing so, become something other than human. At the very least, they are strange, and distant, and cold. At the worst… they are twisted mockeries of their original selves, their very flesh ravaged by the forces they channel and their lives supported in their withered husks by unnatural energies instead of healthy flesh and blood.

That’s a common, and fairly popular, fantasy trope. The problem with trying to bring it into a game is that most games that allow player characters to have magical powers at all treat them as just another set of skills that adventurers can have; the only real “cost” to studying mystic lore, poring over dusty tomes, and learning eldritch secrets… is that you aren’t spending your time learning to swing a sword, maintain a fusion engine, fire a missile launchers, pick locks, or whatever else the game and setting allows.

There is one way to do it though. Sure, any character can study magic – but those who are willing to take it into themselves, to become a suitable vessel for it’s unnatural power, and to risk the lures of still greater powers and transformations… gain greater power. You offer the players a choice; take the power and the transformation, or settle for mortality and somewhat lesser magics. That way your serious roleplayers will treat magic as something fearsome even if their only actual “trial” is to say “I’m not taking that option” and the ones who feel that they (or their characters) want power at any cost can take it – even if the increase is only modest.

Thus we have the…

Rad’Egion – Initiates of the Arcane Forge

(61 CP / +1 ECL Race or +2 ECL acquired template).

Most mystics study magic.

Some few seek to become it.

An Initiate of the Arcane Forge may have started life as a human, elf, or some similar creature – but once they are done ritually infusing themselves with the blazing inner fires of arcane magic, they are reborn, no longer a common mortal but a being with blood of silver fire, attuned to the very pulse of magic. Their new modifiers replace their original racial modifiers, and they will be as if they had been Rad’Egion from the very beginning, made over in the image of magic.

Rad’Egion are marked by the fires that flesh was never meant to hold; they tend to be thin, to have dry, pallid, parchment-like, skin, and to be prematurely gray (when they are not colored entirely unnaturally). Their eyes are often a solid gray or silver, and their touch is often cold – and they tend to have trouble relating to others. It is rare for a Rad’Egion to marry, even rarer for them to bear or father children. Many will have disturbing stigmata or transform even further as their powers advance.

Rad’Egion Racial Modifiers:

  • +2 Intelligence (12 CP).
  • +2 to any single characteristic other than intelligence (12 CP).
  • Immunity/Aging (Uncommon, Major, Major, 6 CP): A Rad’Egion may expect to live for several millennia – presuming that nothing goes wrong.
  • +1 Base Caster Level, Specialized in Wizard Spellcasting (3 CP).
  • +1 level of Wizard Spellcasting (14 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Spells (+2 per level, starting at Level Minus One) (6 CP).
  • Any two Metamagical Theorems (12 CP), with two levels of Glory, Specialized and Corrupted/can only be used three times per day each, only with wizard spellcasting, use must be declared during the casting, if the spell is disrupted, counterspelled, or otherwise fails the chance to use this ability is lost as well (4 CP).
  • Occult Sense/Detect and Analyze Magic (6 CP).
  • +2d4 Generic Spell Levels (bought as Mana), Specialized for Increased Effect (4d4 (10) spell levels)/must be bound into prepared wizard spells to supplement those otherwise available to the character using known formula (6 CP).
  • +2 on Saves versus spells (3 CP).
  • +2 on Saves versus mind-affecting spells or effects (3 CP).
  • +2 to Concentration, Knowledge/Arcana, and Spellcraft (6 CP).

That comes to a total of 93 CP – which would normally make the Rad’Egion a +2 ECL race. Fortunately (or unfortunately), the entire package is Corrupted. The Rad’Egion are creatures of magic, and they…

  • Take damage from Dispelling and Antimagic – suffering 1d6 damage per two caster levels when exposed to such effects with no save.
  • Must spend at least an hour a day after they awaken meditating and channeling magic into themselves or they will lose access to all of their racial abilities other than their longevity, their boosted intelligence, their skill bonuses, and their limitations, for the day.
  • Are seriously obsessed with magic; the GM may call for will saves to resist offers of new spells or occult lore, meddling with dangerous magical spells, effects, and devices, attempting to use magic to resolve every situation, or even (occasionally) going to bed with unexpended spells.
  • Are obviously unnatural; the lack of the red of natural blood makes them look odd, they radiate a strange magical aura, and most other people find their obsessions disturbing. In general, they will suffer a -2 on social skill checks.
  • Can easily be spotted with Detect Magic effects, even if otherwise well hidden.
  • Are very, VERY, likely to become Liches after death if they’ve made it to a high enough level (after all, half their life is based on magic anyway).
  • Perhaps worse, many find it very hard to resist the temptation to take and abuse the Compact metamagic – often warping and twisting themselves with variations on Black Magic (another easy route to lichdom, see Arcanum Minimus in The Practical Enchanter), or taking on excessive debts to magical beings, or otherwise falling to the lure of easy magic. At the least, this gives them a questionable reputation.

That brings the net cost down to 62 CP – a +1 ECL race.

OK… the Rad’Egion pretty much have “Wizard!” stamped on their foreheads, and gain quite a few useful advantages in being wizards – to the point were it would be pretty silly in a conventional game NOT take some levels in Wizard unless you just wanted to meet the requirements for some prestige class. In Eclipse taking some Wizard Casting Levels is virtually mandatory – why else would you any player select this race? Still, while they’re more powerful than most +1 ECL races those racial disadvantages can really come back to bite them.

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. If you want, there are some reviews.

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 Session CXXVII – Transcendental Reflections

English: A view from Ayyapa temple in front of...

WHAT is going to be opening here? You’re kidding, right?

Charles was musing… if he DID want to pursue being a Primordial as well as being himself… weaving a Synergistic Overmind that was a reflection of, and linked to, his own mind through the structure of Aden pretty well covered the “enlarged consciousness” part of things, and covered multitasking very nicely, and made Aden a part of his mind as well as his soul – but how would you go around promoting the Guardians to actual Devas? Simply by infusing them with more Adenic Essence? Breaking them free of the Manses? Giving them the ability to carry their manses around? Some weird speciality charm? The old records basically said that “Third Circles represent an Intimacy each” and “if a Third Circle gets destroyed, bad things happen” – although the terminology was a lot more elaborate and they took a lot of words to say that not much was known.

It was really hard to figure out a way to do something when you weren’t at all clear about what it was that you were trying to do! Besides, he had too many Guardians for his intimacies (even if it was kind of weird that there were charms that could COUNT those). The only actual Primordial that he could find much of anything definite on was the Ebon Dragon, who was arguably even more of a unique case than most of them should be by his own definition! He was, after all, the only one who was supposed to exist as a shadow-reflection rather than a reality – as witness his ability to swap between the underworld and reality. Apparently he was the only Primordial who could use Necromancy and become a wraith-version of himself, which pretty much said that all the others were radically different right there…

You could use Solar Circle Sorcery to turn a Ghost into a God of course…

Wait a moment…

You could attach a new lower soul to a higher soul and let the new person be reborn, quite alive. Lethe did it all the time – and sometimes memories came through, so memory-erasure wasn’t necessarily a part of the process. That wasn’t a resurrection though, since the original lower soul was gone, and the intimacies and drives of the new one would… override (and eventually overwrite) the higher souls memories of the drives and intimacies of the prior lower soul. You couldn’t reconstruct the previous lower soul (even though they were pretty simple to shape) for some reason though… probably the pattern was locked out!

So if you could turn a Ghost into a God by grafting a Domain (however minor) to them… that must mean that Domains served the same purpose in Gods that Lower Souls did in Humans – to provide them with drive and purpose and motivations. Getting a God a new Domain was their version of reincarnation. Domainless gods, lacking drives and purposes of their own, were easily filled with other drives – thus their openness to deiphagy and madness. Fortunately, the existence of a god was a good deal more fluid than that of a human. For them… trading in their “lower soul” was far less traumatic. Still, that made sense of the way that the gods with domains saw the domainless though; not quite… “alive” – and they could mourn Gri Fel, god of the Imperial City, even if Gri Fel was still around but domainless – like hosting a visiting ancestral ghost.

Of course, domainless gods often weren’t treated as honorably as ancestral ghosts, but then they didn’t have as much to offer their fellow gods. Ancestral ghosts were more powerful than their living relatives most of the time, while domainless gods had little or nothing that other gods wanted. Besides… they were a VERY unpleasant reminder of divine mortality. Someday… you too might be like them – and that was NOT a thought that made a divinity happy; not only might they be left that way, but they’d have failed to protect their domain.

The acceptance of mortal refugees during the last major Raksha incursion had helped the domainless gods in Yu-Shan out somewhat; they could protect humans – and get some support for it – even if it wasn’t part of their domains. It still needed fixing though! And at least that project was well underway. He still had to find a way to do something about human mortality in general though… that needed fixing too!

He had told Mercurial Bane of Deception as much… although she probably hadn’t realized what he really meant. She’d probably just thought he was talking about making them all essence-users…

She had; that hadn’t seemed like such a bad idea in Creation, since they don’t seem to have to worry about Void worshipers. She’d have been a LOT more worried if she’d had any idea of what Charles actually had in mind.

————————————————————————————————

Luna too was musing. What the Sidereals would think was obvious (and amusing – they were SO hung up on “destiny”!) – but Charles had been pretty obviously just being a kid. An adult showed up, you needed something, you asked them for it! That was just the way they thought – and he’d probably been planning to ask anyway. She’d seen plenty of kids while sharing bits of the lives of thousands of her Exalts… They were TERRIBLE little opportunists, and quite shameless about it. It was, after all, their primary survival mechanism. It started with “Waaah!” (“Milk! I’m Hungry! And my stomach and reserves are very small! MILK NOW!!!”) and it went on until they were grown up.

Things had been getting pretty bad – the failing services in Yu-Shan were proof enough of that – but even she was a bit surprised at just HOW bad the situation actually was. At least now she knew what Gaia had been hiding from her! Naughty Primordial! She’d already arranged for about the best choice for fixing things that she could possibly find – a benign Solar who was focused on Geomancy… If an obsessive Solar couldn’t fix something, it probably couldn’t be done! And one working outside the bureaucracy would certainly be a lot faster on the job than nearly all other Celestial contractors. He seemed to have it well under way already…

Still… how HAD Gaia done it? Her resources for subtle manipulation were incredibly vast of course – if only because the motes she’d committed to creation gave her influence over it – but where in all the Wyld had she found…

Ah. The Wyld. Of course… no wonder Gaia had incorporated all those wyld zones during the Reshaping! If they were mapped… what would the sigils – and the power they channeled – say? Or would it just give her existing charmset unmatched flexibility?

It had caused even more problems – but the other Primordials with motes committed to Creation – save Cytherea and the Ebon Dragon – had pulled them out long ago. That had undermined the reality of Creation of course, but most of them didn’t care much about THAT any longer.

———————————————————————————————–

Meanwhile, the advertising campaign for Charles’s gate-openings were now a fixture in a variety of media… While there would doubtless be scientists, fanatics, would-be colonists, people who wanted to control things, and all kinds of other groups showing up an one or another of the locations, there was no end of space, plenty of supplies stockpiled, and quite a lot of magic and crowd-control available. It should be pretty manageable!

Of course, only seventy-two of the ninety-six ready planets were being opened… A few of the remaining twenty-four were set up as nature preserves, but several others had already been quietly made available to some of nonhumans on Earth – and THOSE gate-openings were already well underway. There wasn’t a lot of room left for them any longer, and humanity was getting ever closer to encroaching on their last hideouts. There wasn’t any reason that they shouldn’t get planets; it was only fair!

The Beastmen were mostly in distant galaxies now – but…

  • The Raksha had wanted a planet that chaos-heavy, and that was easy.
  • The few Dragon Kings remaining in Yu-Shan would appreciate a world where their young could hunt until they achieved sapience.
  • The People of the Sea were being pretty badly affected by the trouble with the oceans; all the pollutants were very hard on their gills (and their occasional appearances in the tabloids were REALLY embarrasing), so they had wanted a nice planet with lots of clean oceans – even if they DID appreciate Mashinago’s ocean-cleansing…
  • The People of the Air had been pretty marginal to begin with; wings just weren’t too practical for man-sized creatures without some chaos around. Their surviving colonies had ties to several freeholds on the highest mountain ranges but they still had it fairly rough and had to be really careful where they flew. A lower-gravity planet with a denser atmosphere had suited them perfectly though!
  • The Dune People… weren’t on Earth, and might well be out in space already – although it was at least as likely that they’d just interbred out of existence. The only change in THEM had been albinism. The crazed cannibalism… had just been the result of meddling by some equally crazed exalt.
  • The Tree folk… would mostly be called “Ewoks” these days, and doubtless lived on many forest moons.

Minikins never existed at all in our Exalted Modern setting; Solars are supposed to be marvelous engineers – and designing stuff that’s hard to maintain is bad engineering, Designing stuff that calls for redesigning the people who are supposed to be maintaining it… is like designing a car so that would-be drivers have to chop their legs off at the knee to operate it. Poor decisions, sure, total incompetence… no.

  • The Earthfolk had mostly lived with the Jadeborn, and had apparently vanished with them… He STILL hadn’t had much luck reaching the Jadeborn (or the Earthfolk). Were they ALL behind wards somewhere?
  • The Djala… had interbred and vanished long ago. There’d always been something wrong about that story anyway; truebreeding essence users who never used it for anything useful? Why not?

The biggest groups left after that… were the creatures who’d been driven or banished into the depths of creation – the Darkbrood and the Underfolk. There were still thirty-three of those races with a reasonable number of survivors left; a mixture of “unsuccessful” designs, creatures that various primordials had gotten tired of, primordial loyalists, things that the Exalted had banished, mutant versions of normal races, things that had unsuccessfully rebelled against the Primordials before the primordial war, and so on… Most of the ones left were either quite formidable, very good at hiding, very well organized, or under someone’s protection – but there was LOTS of room for them now! Planets for them too, set up to suit their needs! And for the non-sentient species!

At least for everything that wasn’t inherently nasty and evil. The things that were… could have planets too, but would need to be carefully isolated!

Oh dear. The poor evolutionary biologists were going to find that earth humans could interbreed with many of the weird aliens. He might need to have heart therapists and some first age genetics textbooks on standby.

Maybe some new infant bodies so that any of the groups who’s spirits were still hanging about could get their reincarnation cycles started again? Lethe had to be pretty well jammed with souls who’s normal host species was extinct! They’d all been dumped on quite enough up until now!

Well, that might have to wait a bit…

The creatures of the depths were rather suspicious of such an offer – but Charles simply set up the gates for them, and the planets beyond, and left them open. They had a lot of reasons to distrust people from above – and were not at all sure for quite some time that it wasn’t some trick of the Incarnae – but Charles was quite willing to offer guarantees… eventually they’d move on through! There was no big rush!

 OK, so this is actually three short discussion-sessions compiled… It happens

Ptaysanwee, Epic Guardian of the Primal Elves.

The long war has swept over even the hidden retreats of the Primal Elves, the deep forests and the high mountains – forcing the hidden tribes into alliance with the civilized world. Fortunately, the Primal Elves have some mighty heroes of their own to bring to the field – although they run more towards masterful scouts, expert healers, and powerful shamans than towards organized legions, brilliant generals, and mighty mages.

Among those heroes, a few stand as legends. Such a one is the White Buffalo Woman. For long centuries she has guarded the forest depths and the high mountain valleys, her arrows striking down those who would intrude upon the ancient fastnesses. Now, however reluctantly (thanks to her tendency to suspect any outsider that she doesn’t know very well indeed), she has enhanced herself with the tools of civilization and joined forces with the soft, weak, people of the cities to defend their mutual territories.

Not surprisingly (at least to her) her talents place her among the great leaders of the war, at least on the local scale.

Ptaysanwee Sibrwd Gwyntoedd Yn Dail Coedwig (White Buffalo Woman who Whispers Like Winds In Forest Leaves).

Level 22 Primal Elf Archer-Priestess

Available Character Points: 552 (L22 Base) +44 (Duties) +10 (Disadvantages: History, Uncivilized, and Obligations to her tribe) +42 (Bonus Feats) = 648 CP.

Basic Attributes:

  • Str 12 (+2 Enh, +6 Sac, 20)
  • Dex 13 (+2 Enh, +6 Sac, +2 Race, 23)
  • Con 13 (+2 Enh, +6 Sac, 21)
  • Int 12 (+2 Enh, +6 Sac, 20)
  • Wis 16 (+6 Enh, +6 Sac, +2 Race, +5 Level, 35)
  • Cha 14 (6 Enh, +6 Sac, 26).
    • Net Cost: 32 Points (DMG Point-Buy Attributes).

Base Languages: Common, Elvish, and Sylvan.

Basic Abilities (345 CP):

  • Hit Points: 20 (L1 d20, 16 CP) +5d10 (L2, 6, 7, 8, 4, 10, 30 CP) +14d8 (L7-20, 73 total, 56 CP) +12 (2d6 Magic) +3 (L21, 1d4, 3, 0 CP) +115 (Con Mod x 23) = 258 HP.
  • Skill Points: 36 (Purchased, 36 CP) +50 (Fast Learner at L0, 6 CP) + 50 (Int) +50 (Racial Bonus) +18 (extra +6 Int for last six levels) = 204 SP.
  • BAB: +17 (102 CP), additional +1 BAB Specialized in Bows (3 CP).
  • Saves:
    • Fortitude: +12 (Purchased, 36 CP) +5 (Con) +5 (Res) +4 (Luck) +1 (Mor) = +27
    • Reflex: +6 (Purchased, 18 CP) +6 (Dex) +5 (Res) +4 (Luck) +1 (Mor) = +22
    • Will: +6 (Purchased, 18 CP) +12 (Wis) +5 (Res) +4 (Luck) +1 (Mor) = +30
    • Resistance: Additional +4 on saves versus Undead and Necromancy Effects (6 CP).

Combat Information:

  • Proficiencies: All Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP), Light and Medium Armor (9 CP), and Shields (3 CP).
  • Initiative: +6 (Dex) +5 (Insight) +2 (Competence) = +13
  • Move: 30′ (Base) +30′ (Enhancement) = 60′.
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +9 (Armor) +4 (Luck) +6 (Dex) +5 (Nat) +5 (Def) = 39.
  • Usual Weapons:
  • Composite Longbow: (+18 BAB +5 Enh +6 Dex +1 Morale +4 Luck +4 Martial Art, +2 Comp, possible rapid shot plus personal haste), 1d10+1d6 (Fire) +5 (Str) +12 (Wis) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) +5 (Enh) +1 (Comp) +2d6 versus evil targets (Holy), Range Increment of 220′, Crit 19-20/x4 + Prismatic Burst (Save DC 20) + Slow Burst (Save DC 14) +4d10 Fire, no penalty for firing into melee, negates concealment (Seeking).
    • Normal Attack: +40/+40, 1d10+28 +1d6 Fire +2d6 Holy versus Evil. Crit 19-20 for 4d10+112 +1d6 Fire +4d10 Fire +Prismatic Burst +Slow Burst.
    • Full Attack with Rapid Shot: +38/+38/+38/+33/+28/+23, same damage and critical effects.
  • Guantlet (+17 BAB +1 Enh +5 Str): +23/+18/+13/+8, 1d4+6, Crit 20/x2. This IS adamantine, so she occasionally uses it to break through doors and such.

Special Abilities (303 CP):

  • 18 Levels of Clerical Package Deal Spellcasting, Healing and Protection Domains, Spell Conversion to Healing Spells, Corrupted/Limited Spell List (21-level) spells of each level, primarily focused on healing and religious functions, 96 CP).
  • Upgrade ten of the Specialized Caster Levels in the Clerical Package to cover Ranger Spellcasting (10 CP).
  • 15 levels of Ranger Spellcasting (30 CP).
  • Adept (Concentration, Knowledge/Religion, Perform/Oratory, and a Martial Art, 6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment, Corrupted for Increased Effect/only as long as she remains dedicated to her religious beliefs and of good alignment (11,000 (15,500) GP effective value (12 CP).
    • Enhance Attribute x4, +2 to Con, Dex, Int, and Str (5600 GP).
    • Personal Haste (2000 GP). +30′ Movement Enhancement, +1 Attack at Full BAB.
    • Immortal Vigor I (1400 GP). +2d6 Hit Dice, as +12 + (2x Con Mod) HP.
    • Inspiring Word (1400 GP). +1 Morale on Saves, Attacks, Checks, and Damage.
    • Aura of Favor (2000 GP). +4 Luck Bonus to Attacks and Damage at CL20 (see below).
    • Fortunes Favor (1400 GP). +4 Luck Bonus to Skill and Attribute Checks at CL20 (see below).
    • Ward of Heaven (2000 GP). +4 Luck Bonus to Armor Class and Saves at CL20 (see below).
  • Empowerment, Specialized in Innate Enchantments that grant Luck Bonuses (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment, Absorption Variant, with Bonus Type Change (To Sacred Bonus), (12 CP.)
  • Immunity/Dispelling and Antimagic (Common, Minor, Epic, Specialized in protecting Innate Enchantments (9 CP)).
  • Create Item: Brew Potion and Craft Wondrous Item (12 CP).
  • Track (3 CP).
  • Travel (Undergrowth, 3 CP).
  • Turn Undead (Standard, 15 CP): 11 uses per day. +2 Synergy on rolls.
  • Mystic Artist/Oratory with Echoes (12 CP): 20/Day, available abilities: (Manipulation): Hold Audience, Suggestion, Emotional Auras, Freedom, Mass Suggestion. (Synergy) Block, Group Focus, Harmonize, and Serenity. (Inspiration) Emotion.
  • Favored Foe (Favored Terrain Variant, granting bonuses to Hide, Knowledge/Nature, Listen, Move Silently, Spot, and Survival in the appropriate environments) Forest +6, Mountains +2, Plains +4, Jungle +4, Desert +2, 6 CP).
  • Bow Master: Augmented Bonus (Adds Wis Mod to Str Mod for damage purposes, Specialized, only with Bows, 3 CP), Far Shot II (triple thrown and double projectile weapon ranges, Specialized/Only with Bows, 6 CP), Improved Critical (Bow, 6 CP), Doubled Damage (On Critical Hits, +1 Critical Multiplier, Specialized in Bows, 3 CP), Immunity/Penalties for firing ranged weapons into Melee (Common, Minor, Minor, 4 CP),
  • Double Enthusiast Specialized in Relics (6 CP for 4 CP worth of Relics), Create Relic (Specialized in Weapons and Armor, 3 CP). This normally provides Imbuement (Bows) with Improved, Superior, and Focused (usually providing her current bow with +5 Seeking (+1) Flaming Burst (+2) Holy (+2) overriding any lesser, similar, effects already on it.
  • Rider with Might and Improved Stable Seating, Specialized/only with Companion Creatures (9 CP).
  • Immunity/The need to have cover to Hide in Natural Terrain (Uncommon, Minor, Major, 3 CP).
  • Increase Racial Universal DR to 4/- (6 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saving Throws (6 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Attacks (6 CP).
  • Companion with Template (+4) and Additional, Corrupted/only available as long as she continues to serve her tribe and the powers of nature (16 CP).
    • A Panther Mystic Companion with the Large Warbeast Template.
    • A Raven Familiar with the Spirit Fetch and Wind Guardian Templates.

Skills: 204 SP.

  • Appraise +0 (0 SP) +5 (Int) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) +3 (Familiar) = +13
  • Balance +0 (0 SP) +6 (Dex) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +11
  • Bluff +2 (2 SP) +8 (Cha) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +15
  • Climb +2 (2 SP) +5 (Str) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +12
  • Concentration +25 (12* SP) +5 (Con) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) +2 (Enh) = +37
  • Craft (Any) +0 (0 SP) +5 (Int) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +10
  • Disguise +0 (0 SP) +8 (Cha) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +13
  • Diplomacy +9 (9 SP) +8 (Cha) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) +2 (Sy) = +24
  • Escape Artist +0 (0 SP) +6 (Dex) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +11
  • Forgery +0 (0 SP) +5 (Int) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +10
  • Gather Information +5 (5 SP) +8 (Cha) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +18
  • Handle Animal +9 (9 SP) +8 (Cha) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +22
  • Heal +1 (1 SP) +12 (Wis) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +18
  • Hide +21 (10* SP) +6 (Dex) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +32, +42 if still, unarmored, and in a low-light environment.
  • Intimidate +2 (2 SP) +8 (Cha) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +15
  • Jump +1 (1 SP) +5 (Str) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +11
  • Knowledge/Arcana +10 (10 SP) +5 (Int) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +20
  • Knowledge/Military Tactics +5 (5 SP) +5 (Int) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +15
  • Knowledge/Nature +25 (12* SP) +5 (Int) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) +3 (Race) +2 (Sy) = +40
  • Knowledge/Religion +25 (12* SP) +5 (Int) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +35
  • Knowledge/General +0 (0 SP) +5 (Int) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +10
  • Listen +14 (14 SP) +12 (Wis) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) +4 (Companions) = +35
  • Move Silently +21 (10* SP) +6 (Dex) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) +2 (Sy) = +34
  • Perform/Oratory +25 (12* SP) +8 (Cha) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +38
  • Profession/General +0 (0 SP) +12 (Wis) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +17
  • Ride +20 (20 SP) +6 (Dex) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) +2 (Sy) = +33
  • Search +0 (0 SP) +5 (Int) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +10
  • Sense Motive +5 (5 SP) +12 (Wis) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +22
  • Spellcraft +10 (10 SP) +5 (Int) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) +2 (Sy) = +22
  • Spot +20 (20 SP) +12 (Wis) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) +4 (Companions) = +41
  • Survival +25 (12* SP) +12 (Wis) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) +3 (Race) +2 (Sy) = +47
  • Swim +2 (2 SP) +5 (Str) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +12
  • Tumble +0 (0 SP) +6 (Dex) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +11
  • Use Rope +0 (0 SP) +6 (Dex) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +11
  • Martial Art: The First Rays of Heavenly Fire: +25 (12* SP) +6 (Dex) +4 (Luck) +1 (Morale) = +37

*Adept Skill, half cost.

The Staff, the Hammer, The Blade, and the Bow.

The weapons of the first war, empowered by the eternal Word, writ in letters of celestial fire

As above, so below.

The hardness of stone, the suppleness of wood, the sinewy strength of beasts, and the flight of birds, united in the hands of men.

Old, OLD, magic.

The four primal martial arts of the first war are – in the hands of the celestial host – things of perfection, the sun source to which all lesser martial arts aspire.

In mortal hands they are merely paths towards the light – but that is no small thing in itself.

The light and fire of the sun are channeled through lesser materials, infusing them with an inner fire which ignites the runes of Enochian across them. The form is quiet, infused with the inner stillness of a focused will, and is often compared with Zen archery.

  • Requires: Weapon Focus/Bow or equivalent point buy and NOT being able to channel negative energy. Instruction by a current master or a celestial is also in order.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 4, Power 2, Synergy/Balance, Synergy/Move Silently, and Strike.
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Instant Stand, Mind Like Moon, Deflect Arrows, and Rapid Shot.
  • Occult Techniques: Focused Blow (-2 Con to combine all attacks into one at your highest BAB), Ki Block (-2 Con to block a single attack), Inner Strength (+6 phantom Con points to use with these techniques), and Wrath (-2 con to make your arrows inflict divine damage, reduce damage from negative energy and attribute drains by 4, reduce level drains by 2, and gain a +6 on saves vrs negative energy for 3d6 rounds).
  • Known Techniques (16) All but Synergy/Balance.

Equipment (1,200,000 GP)

  • Head: Circlet of Mages (Magic Item Compendium 86, 5,000 GP) Head, +2 to Concentration, user may cast and retain up to 3 levels of spells per day.
  • Face: Hathran Mask of True Seeing (Unapproachable East, 75,000 GP). Also provides +6 Enhancement Bonus to Wisdom and Charisma (DMG secondary functions, per MIC +72,000) = 147,000 GP.
  • Throat: Amulet of Natural Armor +5 (DMG, 50,000 GP).
  • Shoulders: Pheonix Cloak (Magic Item Compendium 210, 50,000 GP). Flight, perfect maneuverability, at ground movement rate.
  • Torso: Vest of Resistance +5 (Magic Item Compendium 147, 25,000 GP).
  • Arms: Greater Bracers of Archery (DMG, +2 Attack +1 Damage competence bonus with bows, 25,000 GP).
  • Body: Mithril Chain Shirt +5 of Heavy Fortification (DMG, 101,000 GP).
  • Hands: Adamantine (+3000 GP) Gauntlet +1, Warning (+5 initiative, +1), Spellblade (+6000 GP, Absorbs and Redirects Dispel Magic), Blindsighted (Grants 30′ Blindsight, +30,000 GP), and Vanishing (+8000 GP) (18,000 GP for +3 total).
  • Waist: Belt of Battle (Magic Item Compendium 73, 12,000 GP): +2 Competence to Initiative, 3 charges/day spent as swift actions, spend 1/2/3 for an extra move/standard/full action.
  • Feet: Boots of Swift Passage (Magic Item Compendium 78, 5000 GP) Move action to teleport 20′ with LOS five times a day).
  • Ring: Protection +5 (DMG, 50,000 GP).
  • Ring: Spell-Battle (Magic Item Compendium 127, 12,000 GP) Sense spells being cast within 60′, roll spellcraft to identify them, once per day can counterspell as if with Dispel Magic or retarget the spell (this fails if the new target is illegal). Added 2x Counterspells (DMG, +6000 GP each as secondary enchantments).
    • Slotless Items:
  • (Absorbed) Belt of Magnificence +6 (Miniatures Handbook, 200,000 GP, absorbed and converted to Sacred Bonus via Innate Enchantment).
  • +1 Composite Long Bow (DMG 2200 GP) with Prismatic Burst (MIC +30,000 GP), Slow Burst (MIC +5000 GP), and a Lesser Crystal of Return (MIC, may get out bow as a free action or call it from up to 30′ away, +1000 GP). The +1 is usually overridden by Relic properties.
  • Heward’s Handy Haversack (DMG 2000 GP)
  • Quiver of Plenty (Dragon Compendium, endless arrows, 18,000 GP).
  • Sphere of Awakening (Magic Item Compendium 186, 1800 GP) Swift action to awaken all allies within 60′. User and all allies are immune to fatigue, exhaustion, and sleep effects for 10 minutes.
  • Survival Pouch (Magic Item Compendium 187, 3300 GP) 5/day, you can pull out one of the following: trail rations, 2 gallons of water in a waterskin, tent plus two bedrolls, 50′ rope, shovel, campfire/8 torches, composite shortbow with 20 arrows in a quiver, or a mule with bit/bridle/saddle/saddlebags. Items last for eight hours or until used up.
  • Horn of Plenty (DMG, 12,000 GP) 1/Day create Heroes Feast for 12.
  • Metamagic Rods: Enlarge (11,000 GP), Extend (11,000 GP), Maximize (Lesser, 14,000 GP), Reach (32,500 GP), Sculpting (11,000 GP), and Silent (two of them, for 22,000 GP),
  • Cube of Force (DMG, 64,000 GP).
  • Staff of Life (DMG, 155,750 GP).
  • Equipment on her Companion/Mount: 82,500 GP.
  • Equipment on her Familiar: 29,100 GP

If, for some unearthly reason, you feel that she needs MORE equipment, all you need to do is assume that she made a lot of this stuff herself – she’s certainly had enough time to collect the experience for it – and add another 350,000 GP or so worth. As it is, she’s technically about 150,000 GP over (with some allowance for normal gear) for the same reason.

Abooksigun

Large Magical Animal/Panther, Epic Mystic Companion.

  • HP 80 (16d8; 8, 6, 7, 1, 2, 6, 8, 5, 2, 8, 6, 7, 5, 6, 4, 5) + 12 (2d6 Magic) +216 (18x Con Mod) = 308 HP
  • Initiative +7 (Dex) +2 (Comp) = +9
  • Speed, 110′ (Climb 50′),
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +14 (Natural) +3 (Dex) +6 (+2 Mithril Chain Barding) +4 Luck = 37
  • BAB: +13 (-1 Size).
  • Attack: Bite (+13 BAB, -1 Size, +13 Str, +4 Luck +1 Morale, +2 Enh, Bonus Attack for Personal Haste) for (1d8+13 Str +1 Morale +4 Luck +2 Enh) total +32/+32, 1d8+20, Full Attack adds Claws at +27/+27 (1d4+13), all Crit 20/x2. 10′ Reach all treated as Adamantine.
  • Special Attacks: Improved Grab, Pounce, Rake (as Claws).
  • Abilities: Str 28 (36), Dex 17 (25), Con 26 (34), Int 8 (16), Wis 14 (20), Cha 6 (12).
  • Saves: Fortitude +31, Reflex +21, Will +23. Improved Evasion.
  • Special Qualities: Low-Light Vision, Scent, Proficient with All Armor, Aromatically aids its rider with Ride/Spot/Listen checks,
  • Feats and 66 CP to spend: Alertness, Weapon Finesse (now useless), Reflex Training (3/day extra action variant, specialized in defensive/evasive actions only for double effect, 6 CP), Reflex Training (combat reflexes variant, 6 CP), Celerity +30 (12 CP), Inherent Spell/Fireball with +2 Bonus Uses (9 CP), Inherent Spell II/Freedom of Movement with +2 Bonus Uses (9 CP), Inherent Spell III/Teleport with +2 Bonus Uses (9 CP), Inherent Spell IV/Heal with +2 Bonus Uses (9 CP), +3 Survival (3 CP), Universal Damage Reduction 2/- (3 CP).
  • Balance +20, Climb +21, Hide +20 (+4 if tall grass or undergrowth), Jump +53, Listen +17, Move Silently +16, Spot +17, Ride +14, Survival +13. Other skills +4 Luck, +1 Morale

Magical Equipment: 82,500 GP.

  • Head: Third Eye Clarity (Magic Item Compendium 141, 3000 GP) 1/Day negate confused, dazed, fascinated, or stunned as it would normally happen.
  • Face: Reins of Ascension (Magic Item Compendium 120, 3300 GP). 3 Charges/day, Swift Command and spend 1/2/3 to get +10 Competence to Jump for 10 rounds/fly at land speed for 5 rounds/fly at double land speed and perfect maneuverability for 1 round.
  • Throat: Hand of Glory (DMG, 8000 GP). Daylight and See Invisibility each 1/Day, use an extra ring.
  • Shoulders: Banner of the Storm’s Eye (Magic Item Compendium 151, 15,000 GP) Held or shoulder slot. Blocks fear, confusion, and stunning for those in a 20′ radius.
  • Torso: Vest of Resistance +3 (DMG, 9000 GP).
  • Arms: Bracers (Amulet) of Mighty Fists +2 (DMG, 6000 GP).
  • Body: +2 Mithril Chain Barding (5400 GP).
  • Hands: Slot judged unusable.
  • Waist: Belt of Battle (Magic Item Compendium 73, 12,000 GP): +2 Competence to Initiative, 3 charges/day spent as swift actions, spend 1/2/3 for an extra move/standard/full action.
  • Feet: Anklets (Horseshoes) of a Zephyr (6000 GP)
  • Ring of Sustenance (DMG, 2500 GP)
  • Ring of the Forcewall (Magic Item Compendium 123, 5100 GP): 3 Charges/Day, 1/2/3 to make a 10×10 force wall up to 30′ away for 2/3/4 rounds.
  • Ring of Adamantine Touch (Magic Item Compendium 121, 6000 GP): Your melee attacks are treated as adamantine.
  • Slot-Free Item: Pearl of Speech (Magic Item compendium 118, 600 GP base, double to upgrade to slot-free): User may speak one language (Elvish), Command 1/Day, Save DC 11.

Achak-Ahote

Raven Familiar Spirit Fetch and Wind Guardian (Tiny Magical Animal)

  • Hit Dice: L22, 1/2 Master’s HP = 129
  • Initiative: +6
  • Speed: 60′, fly 130′ (perfect)
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +2 (Size) +6 (Dex) +11 (Nat) +4 (Luck) = 33
  • Base Attack/Grapple: +17 BAB +1 Morale +4 Luck
  • Attack: Claws +28/+28 (+17 BAB +6 Dex +4 Luck +1 Morale), (1d2-1). Full Attack: 3 Claws
  • Special Qualities: Low-light vision, Grants +3 to Appraise, Speaks, Provides a +2 on masters Spot and Listen checks, Transdimensional telepathic, summoning, and power-sharing/channeling link with master, Sense Sharing, Speak with Birds, Spell Resistance (27), Spirit Messenger, Sense Sharing, Incorporeal, Seven Major Spirit Favors/Session (need not be repaid at full value), may cross Dimensional Barriers, may Materialize, Returns after being “Killed” unless it’s master is also slain, may shrink to become too small to see, Universal Damage Reduction 8/-, Cloaks itself and it’s master against long-range detection.
  • Saves: Fortitude +21, Reflex +17, Will +18 (Includes +1 Morale and +4 Luck)
  • Abilities: Str 0 (9 when material), Dex 23, Con 18, Int 24, Wis 24, Cha 12
  • Skills: Uses it’s masters. Subtract her attribute bonuses and racial bonus and add it’s attribute bonuses.
  • Feats: Weapon Finesse

Equipment:

All equipment includes +2000 GP per item to add Ghost Touch properties.

  • Courier’s Pouch/Heward’s Handy Haversack (DMG, 4000 GP).
  • Scout’s Headband (Magic Item Compendium 132, 5400 GP) +2 to Spot, 3 Charges per Day, spend 1 for 60 Darkvision for an hour, 2 for See Invisible for ten minutes, three for True Seeing for one minute.
  • Healing Belt (Magic Item Compendium 110, 2750 GP): +2 to Heal, 3 Charges/Day, 1/2/3 to touch-heal 2d8/3d8/4d8.
  • Harrow Rod (Magic Item Compendium 162, 16,000 GP) 30′ Cone of 9d6 Acid, Ref DC 17 for 1/2 three times per day.
  • Medallion of Thoughts (DMG, 14,000): Detect Thoughts at will.
  • Rod of Bodily Restoration (Magic Item Compendium 173, 5100 GP): 3 Charges/Day, 1/2/3 to fix 4 damage to one or Str, Dex, or Con or 2 to all/6 or 3 to all/8 or 4 to all.
  • Blast Globes (Magic Item Compendium 152, 10,000 GP)

Ptaysanwee’s basic tactics are pretty simple: She stays on Abooksigun, allowing him to do the moving-about and letting him smack anything hostile that gets too close with his 10′ reach and Combat Reflexes. She shoots. Her limited spell selection doesn’t include that many offensive spells, and she’s already pretty seriously buffed, so spells generally get saved for more extreme situations, groups of enemies, or being channeled through Achak-Ahote for tactical reasons; her archery is generally more deadly than her spells anyway.

Achak-Ahote tends to be most useful as a scout and for obtaining favors from spirits, but he’s certainly capable of providing a helping hand here and there with his Blast Globes, Harrow Rod, and Healing Belt. If he’s not with Ptaysanwee he’ll flee into other dimensions if he’s in any danger of “death”; it’s not that HE can’t come back just fine, it’s that his equipment is expensive. If he’s with her – and she’ll be able to retrieve the stuff – that’s of far less concern.

Eclipse d20 – the Primal Elves

English: First reconstruction of Neanderthal m...

Sort of… but with pointy ears!

In the youth of the world, when the peoples of the world were mere wandering tribes, and the use of fire, the bow, and the hammer, were young, already there were those who studied the world about them, drawing forth it’s secrets and the secrets of worlds beyond for their use – and those who sought to be one with the world, calling on the powers of it’s spirits alone. Over the passing ages, most tribes gathered about the Seekers of Secrets, walking the arcane path to agriculture, cities, and civilization.

But there are still a few who follow the old ways, hunter-gatherers who may use the products of civilization, but do not create or depend upon them. Through them still flows the ancient, feral, power of the spirits of the world.

Primal Elves tend to be larger, stronger, and of darker color than other elves – usually showing a variety of animalistic signs such as long, mobile, ears, light fur, slit pupils, and similar signs of their close bond with the forces of nature. By preference they will spend their long lives in small semi-nomadic clusters in the wilds, living in yurts, teepees, or wigwams, but they will sometimes live in cities – treating them as just another kind of jungle – although they will never contribute to their construction or upkeep.

  • Attribute Bonuses: +2 Wis (12 CP) and +2 Dex (12 CP). Their primitive lifestyle, and close bonds with the spirits of nature, leave primal elves preternaturally alert and quick.
  • Universal (affects both physical and energy damage) Damage Reduction 2/- (3 CP). Primal Elves have not suffered quite as much from the reduced robustness associated with most races self-domestication.
  • Occult Sense/Low-Light Vision, Corrupted for increased effect/shows obvious physical signs, such as slit pupils and a reflective tapetum lucidum (6 CP). Primal Elves are quite used to working with little or no artificial light at night.
  • Adept (Hide, Knowledge/Nature, Move Silently, Survival, 6 CP). The ancient aptitudes of survival are still central in the lives of the Primal Elves.
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills, Corrupted/only for Racial Adept Skills (4 CP). In nature the slow to learn… die.
  • Skill Bonuses: +3 Knowledge/Nature (1 CP), +3 Survival (1 CP), +1 Language (usually Elvish, 1 CP), +10 to Hide (Specialized and Corrupted/only when remaining still, unarmored, and in a low-light environment, 1 CP).
  • Spell/Power Resistance of 5 + Level (6 CP). Primal elves instinctively use a bit of natural magic to protect themselves – making them somewhat harder than usual to affect with other magics.
  • Immunity/Aging (Uncommon, Major, Major, 3 CP). Primal elves can expect to live for several thousand years – presuming that nothing happens to them. Of course, it usually does.

That comes to a total of 56 CP. The entire package is, however, Corrupted: Primal Elves cannot cast Arcane Magic, or use Metalcrafting, Architecture / Engineering, or build or maintain permanent structures without breaking their bond with the natural world – and becoming ordinary elves. At a net cost of 37 CP, Primal Elves would be a +1 ECL race – but they do NOT receive a level one bonus feat (-6 CP), bringing them down to +0 ECL.

In many ways, Primal Elves are to Elves what “Cavemen”, or perhaps the Neanderthals or Homo Robustus, are to humans; stronger – but lacking the eons of accumulated tricks which have made the “civilized” races dominant  over so much of the world.

Fortunately for the Primal Elves, even if they cannot build a civilization, they are not so instinct-dependent as to be unable to make use of one.