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?

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One Response

  1. […] of course, is one of the big “save my neck (and Part II)” powers – whether you need a moment of Immunity to Vorpal Weapons, a […]

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