Eclipse, True Names, and Nymic Magic

Knowledge is Power.

With sufficient understanding of the world, you can exercise control over it.

If you know enough secrets – the secret names and words, the tongue of creation – then you no longer need tools and labor. The Will and the Word suffices.

Or at least that’s the idea.

That’s actually what a classical Wizard is all about. They have learned the secret lore, the ways to bind primordial power in cages of words, and when they speak those words, the power stored in them is unleashed upon the world. That’s Wizardry; the power to change reality by will and words alone.

Nymic Magic is actually a considerably more primitive and limited notion.

At it’s core, Nymic Magic is straight sympathetic magic; a part can stand in for the whole, and what is done to the part can be done to the whole. Thus use some of your targets hair in a doll; the hair is part of them and it’s part of the doll too – so the two are linked, and what is done to the doll is done to the target. Since a name is a part of the thing… well a name can be warped and changed, shattered or mended, called up or banished, with the voice alone. Thus if you knew something’s name, had a clear voice, and sufficient will and vocal control… then you could control or change the thing named.

The fact that this didn’t actually work was easily explained; the names people used commonly were mere use-names. A creatures TRUE name was a mystical secret.

That does sound like a pretty nifty thing to build a character around doesn’t it? That’s why we find nymic magic in Earthsea, you find True Names in Mage The Awakening, Dragonquest has the College of Naming Incantations – and in 3.5 d20 there was the Truenamer.

Unfortunately… the 3.5 design was pretty borked.

The apparent intent was a character with a broad selection of interesting abilities who could use each of them four to eight times a day in a game system where most encounters were of the “appropriate challenge rating”. Instead of having a failure chance/saving throw after they were used, the failure chance was moved to when they were used – and if one didn’t go off, it didn’t count against the usage limit.

What actually wound up being published was a character type who’s mastery of the primal secrets of the universe… provided access to a rather narrow list of abilities, many of which were not worth having and a few of which were badly broken. Worse, the character relied on a single skill; if they boosted it in every possible way they could spam their abilities with a 100% chance of success up to twice a round for any reasonable number of encounters in a day. If they didn’t, they were pretty ineffectual. That, of course, is the problem with relying on a single skill.

The designers didn’t want a Truenamer to be useless when fighting something that they didn’t know the name of either. Ergo, Truenamer abilities were generic things that affected pretty much any target. Actual truenames pretty much fell by the wayside. The system did make some provision for them, but they were rarely worth actually bothering with.

And honestly… once you piled terrible mechanics on top of the mangled corpse of the original concept most people simply forgot about the Truenamer. That meant it got no further support or development – and so wound up embalmed in one chapter of an obscure sourcebook that was rarely ever used.

It is a neat idea though – and Eclipse was designed to make pretty much any character concept buildable. Ergo, here we have the Nymic Master.

A Nymic Master does indeed need to know the True Name of the things that he wants to affect – but when you know the True Names of the Four Winds, of Lightning, of Iron, of Tigers, and of Serpent Venom… not knowing the individual name of that particular monster doesn’t make you helpless against it; it just means that you have to work indirectly. Knowing the true name of a particular creature is best (as per Specific Knowledge/True Names in Eclipse), but generic names are reasonably effective – and the appropriate knowledge skill usually includes the generic true names of most of the things it covers. You just have to know how to use them.

So; the basic power of a Nymic Master is pretty straightforward:

Immunity/the normal limits of Knowledges (specifically, having to take physical actions to get results from applying them, although a form of fatigue still applies to the skill, just as it would apply if you used your muscles): A Nymic Master may use his or her Knowledge and Concentration skills to directly manipulate reality, creating spell-like effects upon the things that the knowledge skill covers (Very Common, Severe, variable effect level, see below). Sadly, the more a Nymic Master uses this ability, the greater the distorting backlash against his or her mind – and the more confused he or she will become on the aspect of the universe being manipulated, reducing his or her effective knowledge skill rank.

The possible manipulations include Control (Ward Off, Move, Command, Summon), Destroy, Create, and Transmute (Heal, Reshape, Transform). The maximum level of effects which can be produced is set by the lesser of the user’s (Caster Level / 3) or the level of immunity purchased. Nymic Magic is normally a standard action, affects a single target within medium range and has a verbal component, but may be reduced to a swift action for +2 on the cost or to an immediate action for +3, expanded to Long Range for +1 on the cost, affect a 20′ radius for +2 on the cost, or be performed silently for +1 on the cost. Their equivalent of other “metamagic” effects must be built into the effect; it may not be added later. Their effects must also be built without modifiers for XP costs or expensive components, which may increase the levels of their equivalents of spells that normally require such components. Save DC’s are (10 + Effect level + Int Mod).

The extent of the confusion / cost in Knowledge Skill Ranks depends on how closely the user is pushing his or her current abilities – dependent on the level of immunity purchased – to their limit.

  • Trivial Immunity (06 CP): L0 spells cost 3 Knowledge Skill Ranks and L1 spells cost 4KSR. Effects of higher level are not yet possible.
  • Minor Immunity (12 CP): L0 spells cost 2KSR, L1 spells cost 3KSR, and L2-3 Spells cost 4KSR. Effects of higher level are not yet possible.
  • Major Immunity (18 CP): L0; spells cost 1KSR, L1 spells 2, L2-3 S; 3, L4-5; 4. Effects of higher level are not yet possible.
  • Great Immunity (36 CP): L0-1 spells cost 1KSR, L2-3 spells cost 2, L4-5 spells cost 3KSR, and L6-7 cost 4KSR. Effects of higher level are not yet possible.
  • Epic Immunity (54 CP): L0-3 spells cost 1KSR, L4-5 spells cost 2KSR, L6-7 spells cost 3KSR, and spells of L8-9 (generally only available at epic levels) cost 4KSR. Effects of higher level are not yet possible. They might be achievable through Legendary Resistance (and very high caster levels) however; but whether or not to allow this is up to the game master.

Unfortunately, only the targets permanent base skill score (purchased ranks plus attribute bonus and feat-based enhancements) can be used to power magic – and the total base score cannot be reduced below +1. The user may, however, expend Concentration Skill Ranks in the place of any other knowledge skill and may also drop plusses from any actual true names that he or she happens to know (Eclipse, Pg 10, upper right column; normally a +4). A single reduced skill may be restored per hours sleep or quiet study and meditation.

Like most natural-law immunities, this is a very powerful effect – literally a game-changer in that it makes a fairly drastic change in the rules. Allowing this calls for careful thought from the game master. After all, once this is in play, quite a lot of other character types could fairly easily dabble in Nymic Magic. Whether adding some secondary powers would be worth buying the immunity and caster levels (or expanding what their existing caster levels cover) when they could be advancing their primary powers would be worth it is another matter.

A traditionally-styled Nymic Master build will have…

  • The full immunity above (54 CP).
  • 20d6 Hit Dice (40 CP)
  • +15 BAB (Warcraft, 90 CP)
  • Proficiency with Simple Weapons and Light Armor (6 CP).
  • 90 Skill points (90 CP)
  • 23 Base Caster Levels, Specialized in Nymic Magic (69 CP)
  • Adept x2 (all the knowledges of course, 12 CP)
  • Fast Learner specialized in Skills for Double Effect (6 CP)
  • A total of +24 on Saves (72 CP)
  • Inherent Spell I (Scrying 1/Day, 6 CP)
  • Inherent Spell II with +2 Bonus Uses (Sending 3/Day, 9 CP)
  • Inherent Spell III with +2 Bonus Uses (Teleport, Specialized for Increase Effect; can only teleport to places where people are calling you with a secret name, but you are always aware of such calls and of who is calling, 9 CP)
  • Defender, Corrupted/the user’s effective level for calculating his or her armor class bonus is capped by his current base knowledge skill rating about the creature in question (4 CP).
  • Specific Knowledge/his or her own True Name (1 CP)
  • Thirty-six points worth of skill-enhancing abilities – commonly chosen from among those listed below, although there are plenty of others available (36 CP).
    • Enduring Focus: Advanced Augmented Bonus, adds (Con Mod) to (Int Mod) for Knowledge Skill Purposes, Specialized/only counts against reductions due to nymic magic drain (6 CP).
    • Mystic Artist (Oratory) (6 CP).
    • Professional (a chosen Knowledge Skill) (6 CP).
    • Reflexive Countermagic (12 CP).
    • Skill Focus (+3 to a chosen Knowledge Skill) (6 CP). This stacks with Skill Emphasis, and has upgrades available.
    • Skill Emphasis (+2 to a chosen Knowledge Skill) (3 CP).
    • Specific Knowledge/True Names (Variable Cost).

With a total cost of 504 CP, a Nymic Master comes out just right – neither under- nor over-spending. Variants commonly expand on their defensive abilities or upgrade the Base Caster Levels to cover an additional field of magic (+23 CP) and reduce other abilities to buy more conventional magical or psionic abilities.

As might be expected from a character employing an entirely new magic system, a Nymic Master has some notable advantages and disadvantages. Most notably, they have the ability to employ their occult abilities as swift or immediate actions right at level one – an extraordinarily useful, if expensive, resource, and one that other spellcasters might want to dip into Nymic Magic for simply for the defensive applications. They also possess great flexibility – although that in itself is not all that unusual in Eclipse. On the other hand, they progress more slowly than most primary casters; at high levels using (caster level/3) rounded off as a spell level limit is pretty limiting compared to (caster level/2) rounded up. Almost as troublingly, few conventional magical items or spells will actually help their “spellcasting” thanks to it’s reliance on a “base”, unaugmented, skill rank for power – although they may help a Nymic Master avoid sounding like an idiot as their knowledge skill ranks go down and down each day.

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. Here’s a Featured Review of it and another Independent Review.

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.

Eclipse and the Tier System

For today, it’s a question from Alzrius

I only recently discovered the Tier System for classes in D&D 3.5, by one of the guys over at Brilliant Gameologists, and was wondering what you thought of it.

Looking it over (the second post seems to be the most insightful), this is basically a system for ranking classes based on two factors: 1) How many relevant options they can exercise in *any* given situation (or perhaps it’s better to say “in *every* possible situation”), and 2) how powerful those options are. As you probably guessed, full-progression spellcasters that don’t have a limit to how many spells they can know top the list.

I have to admit, I find this to be a very insightful breakdown of the various classes, particularly in terms of its analysis regarding what these differing tiers mean in the context of practical game-play (particularly what the GM can expect, and should prepare for, if the players use differing-tier classes in his campaign).

-Alzrius

The Wizard of Oz as pictured in The Wonderful ...

Stop looking behind the curtain!

Well… I’ve run across the Tier system before, but – to be honest – I’ve never really had that much use for it. Most obviously, that’s because most of my games use classless systems, which makes the entire notion of Class Tiers something of a moot point. There are several more subtle reasons though, mostly revolving around the conditions under which it operates. The Tier system can be very, VERY, useful to those who are playing a classed d20 game “straight” – that is to say, when…

  • Most of the stuff from a fair number of “official” books is allowed, including at least a few badly written or edited bits*.
  • There are no special world-laws that restrict problematic abilities or other major modifications to the classes.
  • The “party” is an automatic association, instead of simply being a current group of characters (possibly one of many) with reasons to work together.
  • The game follows the default d20 pattern – a few sessions worth of self-contained set-piece challenge-rating-appropriate encounters and then a “boss fight” (and usually a level up), with a few bits of gather-information, find-the-mcguffin, social-persuasion, and bypass-the-obstacle activities thrown in along the way.
  • The game continues to relatively high levels. After all, comparing a fourth-level Wizard or Cleric to a fourth-level (whatever) is usually not all that much like comparing an eighteenth-level Wizard or Cleric to an eighteenth level (whatever).
  • The game master is handing out per-level treasure normally, and is either putting in plenty of downtime for spell research and crafting or is allowing magic-shopping.
  • And (of course) that the game is not using Eclipse or another classless system.

In that case the Tier system is reasonably accurate – and can be EXTREMELY helpful. After all, “default games” are very common; an awful lot of game masters have neither the time, nor the inspiration, to invent a world, sort through a mountain of sourcebooks for what to allow, create world laws, let parties self-select from a pool of characters rather than simply having everyone make a character, and adjust the game to complicate things or to keep things at their preferred levels. For them, the Tier system is an excellent guide to what to expect and what to watch out for.

There’s a lot of fun to be had that way – but I generally do take the time. In addition..

  • I’m not much for “level appropriate encounters”. I’ve found that it’s usually MUCH more interesting to let the players discover a strange problem, follow trails of clues to figure out exactly what it is, find that it’s far beyond their ability to deal with directly, gather information, either come up with a plan to exploit a vulnerability they’ve uncovered or gather the resources they need to implement whatever solution they come up with, and then try to pull out a victory. With that kind of adventure structure it really doesn’t matter much how powerful any individual character is; every character can find useful (and often vital) things to do, given that the “Tier 1” types can’t be everywhere at once and that they’re sorting out their own missions (which will, of course, be tailored to their particular abilities). That way special resources – such as connections and character-tailored unique items – often matter more than having an impressive range of personal powers to use. There’s an example of that over HERE.
  • I’ve allowed various freeform magic systems since the late 70’s – albeit usually limited by theme. Over that time I’ve found that cleverly applied minor abilities usually outperform poorly-applied raw power – and my games tend to make small, themed, freeform magics available to anyone who wants them. Of course, when you misuse freeform abilities, or apply more traditional talents in creative and unusual ways, there’s always a chance that things will go spectacularly wrong. Similarly, most of my games since the late 70’s have allowed some form of special talent system – something which makes little difference to a powerful character, but helps a lot with weaker ones. That also means that I’ve had a LOT of practice evaluating proposed spells and powers – which is why many of the spells and ability combinations that are favored as “win buttons” (for example, Shivering Touch) do not make it into my games. After all, if it was THAT easy, then those problems would have already been dealt with by other groups. Ergo it’s obviously not that easy – although discovering why may be an adventure in itself.
  • Problems in my games can usually be solved in many different ways – and the most workable solutions generally involve some sneaking and information gathering, some player deduction, some magic/psionics, some persuasion and negotiation, and sometimes some combat. Those tasks may be simultaneous in in different locations or they may call for a group effort (it depends a lot on how the players decide to handle a situation). When everyone can contribute in their own fashion, flexibility simply means that you get to handle whatever task it is that no one else wants to deal with (Congratulations! It’s probably the worst one!).
  • When there is combat, both the PC’s and the NPC’s in my games tend to use tactics. If the Wizard (or whatever) is really causing your side problems, than you focus your sides efforts on the Wizard and you take him or her out as quickly and efficiently as possible. Of course, the more high-level characters on both sides tend to have defense and escape effects ready – a major reason WHY those individuals have made it to high levels. That’s also why most of the “solve my problem” effects do not work on important people, serious problems, and major opponents. There are LOTS of people out there with special powers; if those important people, problems, and opponents could be dealt with so easily… they would have been dealt with long ago and they wouldn’t be important now.
  • I am throughly willing to play up the disadvantages of the various character types. Clerics had better be being very careful to stay in their gods good graces, Wizards had better look after that precious spellbook and make backups, and so on – and in the time they spend doing that, and in researching spells or making items, the rest of the party is likely to go adventuring without them (one reason why multiple characters are common). Freeform casters, or those pushing their powers, had best be prepared to deal with the possibly disastrous consequences of mistakes. If the enemy facing your party of wizards sensibly flees to a no-magic dimension… then the players will either have to play non-magical characters for a while to go after him or anticipate the eventual return of a well-prepared foe.
  • There is no strict division between “Player Character” and “Non-Player Character” in my games. The players often have multiple major characters, and equally often play secondary characters, or henchmen, or old characters from other players, or have characters retire (they sometimes play some of their children later, and sometimes they make guest appearances when the game hits something important to the character again), or simply take over NPC’s (whether temporarily or to develop one that they found interesting into a regular character). There are also quite often multiple parties, players on hold until they can start making it to sessions again, and players who want to sub-GM for a bit. This also means that parties sometimes reject particular characters, effectively putting them out of play. If the party thinks that a particular character is a pain… they do not have to take him or her along.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the Tier system; it works just fine for it’s intended purpose. It’s just that it’s pretty much inapplicable to any of my games.

For some practical campaign-log examples of how things tend to go… I’d recommend the Shadowrun Yseult Sequence ( Part IPart II,Part IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VIIPart VIIIMapping InterludePart IXPart X, and Part XI – Aftermath.) – and, if you have lots of time, the Star Wars Codex log (although just the index is fairly long). The Federation-Apocalypse log is VERY incomplete, both because the game is still ongoing and because I ran out of time to keep the log up – but the last logged session was #201, so there’s plenty of material anyway. The Exalted Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice are also still ongoing, but the logs are up through session 135 (even if they are mostly from the viewpoint of a single character).

*It’s worth noting that many of the examples given for a Wizard easily solving problems have problems of their own, at least from my point of view. Again, that doesn’t mean that the Tier system is wrong – a high-level Wizard may (and probably will) have a vast array of powerful options available – but the most dramatic examples of overpowered spells and combinations of spells tend (pretty much by definition) to be among the “poorly written or edited” material, just like the worst examples of fighter feat combinations.

Thus…

  • Shivering Touch is blatantly poorly edited – Damage with a Duration? – and is very commonly disallowed as being absurdly overpowered. Lets see… Level 3, no save, 3d6 dexterity damage. Not only is this likely instant out-of-action for a lot of creatures, but it can be put into spell storing missiles. Get forty bowmen; they’re bound to get SOME twenties. Fortunately for Dragons in Eclipse they all have (of course) quite a lot of the Path of the Dragon – which means that they can take some spell absorption abilities very very easily indeed (along with a wide variety of other defenses). Thus a single problematic spell is much less of a problem in Eclipse.
  • Love’s Pain is only third level – and can thus easily be spammed. It damages whoever the target creature most loves, bypassing saves and spell resistance. How hard is it to, say, make a puppy love someone? If Love’s Pain works as described, anyone, anywhere, who isn’t immune to mind-affecting spells (right on up through the local gods) can be killed off at whim by any group who can scrape up the money for enough scrolls and get illusions that are good enough to fool a puppy. This wrecks most settings. While Eclipse, once again, offers a variety of defenses, the real answer is fairly simple; the ability to strike at a target anywhere in the multiverse calls for much, much, higher level magic – which is why Deathlink (which is similar, but more limited) from Paths of Power II is ninth level – and why the general ability to set up such a link to cast lesser spells over (in Eclipse; the Ties of Blood spell) starts off at tenth level. Ah well; even if you insist on using the spell as-is, at least in Eclipse there are plenty of defenses (and even some ways to reflect it back on the attacker).
  • Explosive Runes… Well, some particular rune must be read first yes? Won’t that kind of inhibit reading the next one even if the initial blast leaves the next set of runes intact and visible? Worse, if you write them identically – one set of runes directly over the last – only the top layer can be read at one time. If you don’t, then eventually they’ll be too much overlap for anyone to be able to read them at all. Admittedly, that kind of reasoning will only make sense to the people who consider setting-logic to be at least as important as rules-logic – but I happen to be one of those, and this IS a question about my opinions.
  • Sending in a horde of the mindless dead has it’s places – but unless you take some risks and supervise them somehow, a simple pit can take out hundreds of them.
  • There are reasons why Contact Other Plane is rarely used; it’s risky and it’s untrustworthy.
  • And really… Locate City Bomb? Even the most rules-bound game master will usually squelch that one. It involves blatant abuse of multiple items. Fortunately, in Eclipse, you can be pretty sure that it won’t work anyway. Just as an example, the Eye of the Dragon ability allows it’s possessors to automatically absorb spells that would affect them – and if they absorb an area effect, they negate it entirely. That’s a rare talent in the general population – but it’s out there. If your spell would negatively affect many thousands of people, there’s likely to be a roll-off to see who uses some special ability to negate it first.

And I hope that answers your question!

The Aegyptian Empire

 

 

  • First Was Ptah, the Opener of the Ways;
  • Striding Against Time to the Beginning.
  • The Waters Were Without Form and Void;
  • Lifeless, Dark, and Deep Beyond Measure.
  • The Breath of Ptah Stirred the Waters;
  • With the Ineffable Word of Creation.
  • The Sun Arose, Driving Back the Darkness;
  • And the Waters Dried, and Land Arose.
  • As Did the Gods, Mighty Beyond Imagining;
  • Yet Every Light Casts It’s Shadows.
  • About the Sacred Lands, the Nile Valley;
  • The Dark Waters Drew Back Yet Further.
  • Barbarian Lands Arose from the Waters;
  • Shadows of Men and Beasts Cast and Mingled
  • The Shining Gods Too Cast Their Shadows;
  • At the Ends of the Earth, Demons Rose.
  • Feeble Against the Glory of the Gods;
  • Yet Envious and Devoted to Destruction.
  • Beneath the Sheltering Mantles of the Gods;
  • Bright and New Was the Youth of the World.
  • From Beyond the Walls of the World;
  • The Demons Whispered to the Barbarian Horde.
  • Appearing as Quarreling, Primitive Gods;
  • Teaching a Dark Shadow of the True Ways.
  • Marching Even to the Boundaries of Aegypt;
  • Bringing War and Blades of Iron Death.
  • The Dark Waters Came upon the Bright Gods;
  • Demons Flowing Hidden Within Barbarian Veins.
  • Power That Was Turned Against the Dark;
  • Was Entrapped, and Did Not Return to Them.
  • The Foundations of the Earth Tremble;
  • And Demons Press It’s Borders.
  • The Ancient Gods Are Crippled and Dying;
  • And the Heavens and Earth Die with Them.
  • We Stand Against That Dread Darkness;
  • We Go Unwilling into the Final Night.
  • For While We Aid and Sustain the Gods;
  • Reclaiming Their Immortality and Powers.
  • Aegypt Shall Endure, the Gods Rise Again;
  • And Our Children Live.
    All Giza Pyramids in one shot. Русский: Все пи...

    Oh come on! Aren’t they magical nexi in pretty much every setting ever? There are some conventions that you just can’t break!

    Aegypt had been invaded before; the people of the Young Kingdoms – the Libyans, Nubians and Assyrians – had all launched attacks. There had been deaths, the sacking of villages and border towns, and sometimes that had even seized a village or two – but the magic of the priests of Aegypt reigned supreme. Waves of invaders had broken upon the bulwarks of the Gods, who’s might none might gainsay within the circles of the world.

But beyond the Borders of the Earth, the Shadows of the Gods, Apophis’s Spawn, watched and waited. To the Young Kingdoms they appeared as “Gods” of their own – primitive, unjust, and brawling, but theirs, as the distant powers of Aegypt were not. When Rome was founded in the Wild Lands, the hands of Apophis’ Spawn were upon it – and they concealed their power, the devouring strength of the Dark Waters beyond the World, in the blood and banners of it’s people, suckled upon the wolf’s teat.

 

When the Legions of Rome marched on Aegypt, the priests once again turned the primordial powers of the Gods against the invaders – but this time, as the Legions fell, the powers that were used against them were stolen by the lurking darkness, and did not return to the Gods. Their ancient might, the foundation and sustenance of the world, was shaken, and the earth shook with it, vomiting fire and ash to darken the skies. In every temple the priests saw dread portents and onrushing doom – for the Gods, bereft of the power to defy time, were suddenly senile, and dying – and the earth would perish with the Gods that sustained it.

 

But in that dark vision was a glimmer of hope; the power of the Gods could not be carried back into the void beyond the walls of creation. The demons who held it were trapped in their turn, caught within the circles of the Earth until the world’s end – which approached all too swiftly – or until they are slain, and the power they have stolen freed to return to the Gods. As for the Gods themselves… they could be sustained for a time by the meager energies of mortal men, offered to them through their altars, in contests, and in rituals.

 

And so sacrifices were offered up in a steady stream; a tithe of contests to invigorate, rituals to soothe, and lives to sustain, the gods while the people of Aegypt went forth to hunt down the Spawn of Apophis – and to conquer, to send resources back to Aegypt that the sacrifices might continue and the world be sustained thereby. Numidia, Italia, Macedonia, Galatia, and Judea, the Circle of the Young Kingdoms, all were gathered into the great Aegyptian Empire as sources of contests and sacrifices, as bases for suppling expeditions into the Wild Lands in pursuit of the Spawn, and as sources of slaves and taxes to support the great quest.

 

While unrest seethes within the conquered lands, and the beast-men of the wild lands follow demonic leaders and seize the chance to attack, many of the great Legions of Rome, Beastmasters of Numidia, Heroes of Macedonia, and even Visionaries from Galatia and Judea are called upon to join the great hunt. Sadly, some hear the siren call of rebellion more clearly – even if such a path leads ultimately to the destruction of the world. Still, if any effort of the People of Aegypt can be enough, the Gods, the Earth – and their Children – will live.

 

It’s always convenient to have some clear goals for a campaign. Here it’s pretty simple; maintain stability, sustain the gods, gather allies, and hunt down the Spawn of Apophis – or watch the world end. 

OK, maybe it’s not necessarily all that simple – but it’s certainly clear. 

On Magic:

 

Divine Magic: While the powers of the Gods, and the magic that their priests can draw from them if they must, are still the greatest force within the Circles of the World, the greater magics now require mighty rituals, contests, and sacrifices to replace the power that they draw from the gods – and their priests much devote a good deal of their time to soothing and maintaining their dying Gods. Lesser magics are still fairly readily available however, and extend to fourth level effects in the great temples of Aegypt, to third level effects in most of the world, to second level in areas of great desolation where the demons have had the most impact, and only to first level effects beyond the Walls of the World.

 

Arcane Magic draws on the power of the Spawn of Apophis – and even at it’s peak is normally a weak and feeble thing compared to the glories of the Gods. Arcane Spells of up to fourth level may be cast beyond the Walls of the World, spells of the third level may be cast in places of great desolation, of the second level in most of the world, of the first level in Aegypt, and they cannot be cast at all in the great temples of Aegypt. Worse, it invariably has corrupting and destructive side effects, whether on the user or the environment.

 

Psychic Powers draw on the user’s personal energies. Unfortunately, humans don’t have all that much of those, hence psychic powers are limited to lower-end Witchcraft and (after long training) second-level psionic effects.

 

A variety of secondary power sources – pyramids which concentrate the natural energies of the land to empower nymic (“heka”) magic, veins of crystal which store the power and magic of the Sun, and similar structures, items, and places, can also power magic – but their capacity is always limited and few can power effects of above second level – although the Great Pyramid can indeed power third level effects.

 

The population is generally human, and uses the basic rules for a human being unless otherwise noted.

 

The people of Aegypt are indeed the chosen folk (or at least the ones in the magical center of the world); they may all use a variety of lesser magical devices (Charms and Talismans, although it’s somewhat dependent on their social rank and role, 6 CP), they gain a second bonus feat (6 CP), they radiate Presence (an Inspiring Word aura affecting their allies. This also provides some social benefits among the other races, although everyone in Aegypt is used to it, 6 CP), and may practice any type of “magic” within the limits of the setting save for Arcane Magic and Shapeshifting. They may not, however, use “advanced” technologies – such as iron, siege engines, windmills, improved sails and ships, and so on; the Gods have shaped their society and their forms, and so shall it remain*. Their culture tends to be easygoing and fairly classical – which is why they’ve been forced to adapt some Roman and Hellenistic notions to re-organize their society for war. They do tend to disapprove of demon-worship (even in the vague guise of “Other Gods”), but it doesn’t really matter NOW. The damage is already done.

 

*The general technology of the world is Romanesque – although there are occasional devices made possible by magical materials that could fit into considerably higher technology levels.

 

The peoples of the Young Kingdoms may use a smaller number of Charms and Talismans (3 CP), but automatically gain two skill points per level instead of one (eight at first level, 3 CP) and gain a +2 to an attribute (which one depends on their origin, 12 CP). They may use Arcane Magic, and have limited access to other types of supernormal abilities depending on their origin. They may not, however, practice divine magic beyond the most basic levels or study more than (Wis Mod) types of magic in total. They have mostly retained their cultures; the switch from Roman to Aegyptian overlords really hasn’t made that much difference. As far as the Aegyptians are concerned, the Gods told THEM how to live; if they’d wanted to give directions to the people of the Young Kingdoms, presumably they would have done so.

 

The Beastmen of the Wild Reaches cannot (normally) use Charms and Talismans, but have a limited form of shapeshifting (that can be improved on) resembling Lycanthropy (a 15 CP package – although an exceptionally valuable one due to the attribute bonuses of anthropomorphic forms) and gain two skill points per level (eight at first level, 3 CP). They may only use a single other field of magic however, although they may choose between arcane magic, secondary power sources, and personal energies. They’re primarily tribal, although there are a number of minor variants (gothic, celtic, etc). Unfortunately, many of their tribes are heavily demon-influenced.

 

 

Eclipse, The Factotum and the Seneschal

There was a request some time ago for a “Factotum” build. Sadly, I can’t build a Factotum because the class isn’t open game content. On the other hand I CAN use the mechanics in Eclipse to build something very similar – lets call it… a Seneschal.

Of course this style of build suffers from a pretty fundamental problem; “per encounter” abilities simply do not work well in any reasonably realistic setting or one where situations get more complex than expected. For an examination of the problem, look HERE. Still, all we have to do to simulate that is to limit the amount of power available during any one “encounter” and make sure that there’s plenty of recharges to that limit available.

As usual, we’re first buying some basics – Warcraft (BAB) +15 (90 CP), Saves +24 (72 CP), 6 SP/Level (138 CP), d8 HD (80 CP), and Proficiency with All Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP), Light Armor (3 CP), and Shields (3 CP).

That’s a total of 395 CP out of the usual 504 available for a base class – but as a skill-based class we’ll certainly want to make use of Fast Learner (Specialized in Skills, 6 CP) – providing 40 Skill Points at a cost of only 6 Character Points. That leaves us 143 CP to by special abilities with.

Seneschal Special Abilities:

  • Working Smarter, Not Harder: Augmented Bonus: Add (Int Mod) to (Str Mod) for Skills and Checks (6 CP).
  • I Know What I’m Doing: Augmented Bonus: Add (Int Mod) to (Dex Mod) for Skills and Checks (6 CP).
  • Practice Makes Perfect: Advanced Augmented Bonus: Add (Int Mod) to (Dex Mod) for AC purposes (12 CP).
  • Polymath: All Skills are Class Skills (Immunity/increased cross-class skill costs, Common, Minor, Major, 6 CP).
    • This isn’t a big deal in Eclipse; by default in Eclipse, any skill that makes sense for your character is a class skill – although the GM may choose to limit how many you can pick (in which case this ability is relevant). Of course, it also only takes three extra skill points to turn a “cross-class” skill into a class skill in Eclipse anyway. As a note, “Trapfinding” isn’t usually an ability in Eclipse. In Eclipse skills work the same way for everybody.
  • Contingency Plans: 3d6 (10) Mana, Specialized and Corrupted; can only be regained via the Rite of Chi, only to power special abilities each of which must be both specific and bought independently; it thus does not automatically include a branch of Natural Magic (6 CP).
  • Contact With The Enemy: Rite of Chi with +36 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/cannot be used to recover spells or power, mana may only be used to refill the user’s “special abilities only” mana pool, cannot be used during an “encounter”, must be used to top up the user’s mana pool between encounters (20 CP).
    • Basically this says that the user can refill his or her mana pool about ten times per day even if he or she runs it down to zero each time. That should more than suffice for a day’s “encounters” If the user wishes to have a bigger mana pool, buy +1d6 Mana (2 CP) and +8 Bonus Uses on Rite of Chi (4 CP) as often as desired; four to six times is usually quite sufficient.
  • Brilliant Improvisation: Immunity/the time normally required to use the Rite of Chi (Common, Minor, Grand, 12 CP).
    • This would be a big deal – natural law immunities usually are – but there’s usually at least three or four minutes to spare between two encounters. Most of the time this has no real effect, and thus there’s no real worry.
  • Clever Tactics: Natural Magic/Reality Editing, Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost: the user may spend a point of Mana before rolling to gain a competence bonus equal to his or her (Int Mod) on an attack roll, damage roll, or save. This does not require any kind of action, but is the ONLY reality edit that the user may produce with this purchase of Reality Editing (4 CP).
  • Stroke of Brilliance: Natural Magic/Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect: the user may spend a point of Mana without using an action before any skill check to gain an unnamed bonus equal to his or her (Int Mod) on it – but this ability may only be used once per day per skill and is the ONLY reality edit that the user may produce with this purchase of Reality Editing (6 CP).
  • Bane Strike: Natural Magic/Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect: the user may spend two points of mana before an attack as a free action to add (2+ Level/2) extra d6 of damage to the attack to a maximum of 12d6. If the user misses, the effect is wasted (6 CP).
    • The original build had no inherent upper limit on the (sneak attack) damage for this ability IF you had enough points to spend – but in most cases it was still a lackluster ability. Ergo the rewrite here upgrades it (it only costs 2 points for all your extra dice, instead of 1 per die and is just extra damage, without sneak attack limitations) but applies an upper limit (which is above the original one for the base class, but below the limit if you were investing all your feats in buying extra points).
  • Inspired Moment: Reflex Training/Once-Per-Round Extra Action Variant, Mana Fueled Variant (normally costs two mana), Corrupted/actually costs 3 Mana (4 CP).
  • Gods Help Me: Positive Energy Channeling, (Wis Mod + 7) uses per day at +4 on the chart, with Spell Conversion to a 6’th level effect (Heal), Specialized for Reduced Cost: the user must spend a mana point to use this ability and the healing/infliction is limited to hit point damage up to a limit of (2 x Level + Int Mod) (note that this means that the effect on Undead is the same regardless of their save) (16 CP).
  • Taking The Shot: Luck, Specialized for Double Effect (the user may “Take 40″) in rolls to overcome spell resistance, powered by Mana instead of Uses per Day (6 CP).
  • I See A Weak Point: Augment Attack/+6d6 (21) Damage to overcome damage resistance only, Corrupted/requires the expenditure of two points of mana to activate for a round (12 CP).
  • It’s A Million To One But It Just Might Work: Arcane Shaping: Inherent Spell I, Specialized and Corrupted/only as a prerequisite, Inherent Spell II, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Easy-to-control L10 Greater Invocation / Any Arcane Spell of L7 or less) with +8 Bonus Uses (also Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost) and an Int-Based Save DC. May only produce effects of up to (Level/2.5, rounded down), only one effect of the maximum level can be produced each day, effects must be selected at the beginning of each day despite the “Anyspell” effect, it costs one mana when the effect is actually activated, any special components must be supplied normally, cannot produce effects that cost experience points, cannot select the same effect twice for any one day (12 CP).
    • This is using the cheesy “fabulously powerful inherent spell through Specialization and Corruption” trick – but those limitations will keep its effect safely below the abilities of more specialized casters and it does cost Mana, which raises the effective price considerably since you have to buy that too. As long as the build doesn’t involve too many other pieces of cheese, this is acceptable. Every build is entitled to at least a LITTLE cheese.
  • Anything You Can Do I Can Fake: Inherent Spell III/Any one (+2 levels) “Surprising Mastery” spell adding two related Complex Mental Feats (Level 5 Base, 7 Total). Uses Mana (two points to reduce the level, two points to power it, for a total of four). In Eclipse this lets the user add +12 CP worth of abilities to his or her character until the duration runs out. Specialized/limited to a maximum duration of one minute, the user only has three sets of abilities available each day, although he or she may swap them out from day to day (6 CP). (as a free action).
    • The original class could pick three “extraordinary class abilities” from a “standard class” each day, provided that each was available at level 15 or lower and “appeared in the text description for that class”. By spending four points as a free action they could emulate one of those abilities for a minute. This was a difficult ability to deal with originally; there was no definition of what a “standard class” was, some class abilities were unspecified but arguably “extraordinary”, and a lot of abilities might or might not work – such as “fighter bonus feats”. In Eclipse there are no “standard classes”, and pretty much any ability you want can be built as any kind of ability there is. On the other hand saying “you can do anything at all!” seems a bit too much. The actual intent seemed to be to allow the use of “an ability another character type picked up at a particular level” – so in Eclipse this seems pretty simple: most abilities that get picked up at at a given level cost 12 character points or less (with the rest going to skills, hit dice, saves, and other abilities). So this version of that ability lets you temporarily add 12 CP to your build.
  • Duck And Cover: Inherent Spell IV/Immediate Moment Out Of Time (L6). Much like Moment Out of Time from The Practical Enchanter, this distortion of time makes the user utterly invulnerable. Unlike it, the effect lasts for a mere instant – stopping only one attack. It may be employed as an immediate action after the damage or effect of an attack is announced. Specialized/costs 4 Mana and still expends it’s 1/day use (3 CP).
    • This was mildly tricky; normally I’d just use Reflex Training (the Extra Actions variant) to let the character escape onrushing doom (often by simply getting out of the way) – but he or she might already have used an extra action. Ergo, it has to be magical. Fortunately, that’s not too hard either. If the character wants to describe things more dramatically than “it bounced” or “I vanished for a moment” it really doesn’t matter. Go ahead and let them; it’s the mechanical results that matter as far as the rules are concerned.

And that comes out to 143 CP worth of special abilities, and a grand total (after using Fast Learner) of 504 CP – although there are a few slight improvements over the original; this version gets one extra spell, doesn’t lose the automatic (Int Mod) bonus to AC if they wear medium or heavy armor, gets one extra use of Channeling, can use their once per day “escape death” against things other than hit point damage, has a somewhat-improved attack option, and will eventually get access to ninth level spells at epic levels. I could probably save three or four four character points by fiddling around to precisely match the original model – but why bother? It would just complicate the math.

Now, if you want to purchase some upgrades, take Duties – like the Cleric and Druid. Then spend those extra forty character points upgrading; that’s enough to pay for a few more daily uses of pretty much everything, and probably for a few extra tricks to boot (I’d go for some Witchcraft; it’s the easiest way to get a pocketful of special tricks, even if most of them aren’t particularly overwhelming). As a skill monkey, be sure to scrape up a few points somewhere – possibly from Disadvantages – and take Adept at least once; that will help stretch those skill points even further.

If you want to convert to Pathfinder… Take the Pathfinder Package Deal, pick a Pathfinder Race, and spend the eighteen character points that you’ll be freeing up from the first-level skill allotment.

Personally, I still find it gratifying to find that Eclipse can pretty much duplicate character types that weren’t published until years after it was.

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. Here’s a Featured Review of it and another Independent Review.

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 CXXXIV – The Road To Kyrgyzstan – With Hope

Late fifteenth century armor with bellows helm

“That is not dead which can eternal lie. And with strange aeons even death may die”

With Charles off fiddling with Alchemicals and the Fey and deep space, a distinct lack of more Kaiju sightings, at least a month (and maybe two or three) before she’d be due on the Toho movie set, Shpaiki trying to persuade people to join a volcano-god cult, the priests still keeping their recreated Deva’s more-or-less well-channeled, and no major disasters visible at the moment, Aikiko was chasing another one of her clues – all the way to Kyrgyzstan!

It was another rattling broken-down bus trip to Koktash, the nearest “city” (well, small town) to her destination – but at least the driver seemed relatively sane, even if the mountains were pretty impressive! Aikiko kept an eye out though; more than half the “marriages” in the country were apparently handled via bride-abduction, and traveling by herself certainly made her LOOK kind of vulnerable.

Not that a Solar Exalt would have any problems handling a few human would-be abductors, but it would be SO embarrassing… The people were considerably more stand-offish than the ones in South America though – and seemed much more unsettled to see a woman traveling alone. Still, outside of a few rude comments, she hadn’t much been bothered so far.

Koktash DID have a couple of small stores – and it looked like she’d be headed into some of the worst terrain in the country. She went to pick up some supplies – and to ask a few questions about the area. It was going to be a very long walk, even given the stamina of an Exalt! More importantly, walking looked like about her only option unless she started REALLY flinging money around; she was rather reluctant to involve a normal human in her search given the description of the place!

(Rustam, the shopkeeper) “You wish to hike WHERE!? By yourself?!?! Madame! Please! Reconsider! It is a three day journey, the hills are hot and without water, and the landmarks are few! To travel by yourself with but a map and this “GPS” thing (his voice shows blatant doubts) is to invite disaster! Even if you meet with no natural problems, there are said to be bandits in the hills!”

(Aikiko) “Well… what would you suggest, then? My backer won’t be happy if I don’t investigate this!”

(Rustam) “At least talk to the Genardarme’s! A bit of sweetening and they should be glad to escort you! Even, perhaps, in one of their flying machines!”

Well, dang it… The man was probably right – and she didn’t want to tangle with bandits any more than she had to. She went to talk to the cops, even if it would be a good challenge to see how easily she could manage it on her own!

As it turned out, the local cops were pretty corrupt – but it was fairly pleasantly corrupt; they’d overlook foolishness for a small fee and cover up minor indiscretions. Nothing that would really cause a stir if they were to be investigated, but enough to make life easier all around. An informal variant on “pay a fine and go home”.

Well, it was a pretty small town by western standards. No doubt everyone knew everyone and “policeman” was just a post to hand out to whoever the local big man in town owed a favor to or was exercising a little nepotism for.

(Beloit, the fellow manning the police station) “Are you in need of assistance Madame?”

(Aikiko) “Hello sir! I’ve been sent to investigate that archaeological site about three days from here, and I needed help getting up there. I was told the police could help me out with that.”

(Beloit) “Well, the site is still sealed! The… (very carefully) demiol…ogists from the capital said that it might still be quite dangerous if there were any “pockets” left!”

(Aikiko) “My backer sent me here to check the place out. He’s very interested in ancient things, and any bit of information I can get will help. Is there any way I could at least get access to the site? Even just getting a look would help!”

Beloit pretty clearly had some doubts about the “demiol…ogists”

(Beliot) “I suppose arrangements might be made for at least a look! It will be hard though, and may take quite some time! Fuel for the flying machine is so expensive, and other things must be put on hold…”

Aikiko nodded sagely – or at least as sagely as a teenaged girl could manage.

(Aikiko) “Of course, sir. (Quietly) Would there be any way for me to help make that faster?”

(Beliot, looking insincerely embarrased) “Ah, but the money from the capital is always behind and our budget is so small… It would be much easier to oblige you in this way if you could cover the fuel and such! I believe you call it… “Expense Account”?

(Aikiko) “Of course, sir.”

Well… that was perhaps not the best use of Heavenly funds, but Aikiko suspected that the Sidereals ran into this all the time.

(Beliot) “I am SO sorry to have to ask so! I would not, but there just is no allowance in the budget for such side-trips!”

Beliot cheerfully soaked his young visitor with the expense account for as much as he thought he could possibly get away with – about 400 American dollars. Aikiko thought that that was actually pretty cheap for a helicopter and pilot for the afternoon! She took it!

(Aikiko) “Hey, it’s no problem!”

The helicopter was old, battered, and very dusty – but it seemed functional enough. Beliot cheerily hung up a note to the next officer about closing the office for a bit and headed around the back to take the helicopter out… It was obviously supposed to be for rescues and ambulance work and such, but equally obviously was more often used for joyriding and rental flights. Still, it wasn’t like the corruption was NEARLY as bad as it was in Yu-Shan – and the man was friendly and entertaining enough. Not at all a bad ride!

She asked him a bit more about those bandits on the way. You never knew; some Exalt might be trying to stir up trouble in the area.

Like so many places, the local “bandits” were a cross between Criminals and Political Dissidents; they mostly come out of the hills to steal supplies. There was rarely too much violence, although over the years some people (on both sides) had been shot. There’d been a tacit truce for several years now – which was normal enough really.

Beliot did admit – among his the dismissive narratives about the heroic efforts of the police, how the bandits no longer dared to even approach the town, and how they were no menace at all to anyone now that he had (apparently personally, rather like some action movie star. Oh dear; he was trying to impress her) secured the borders – that he hadn’t heard from any of them in months.

THAT didn’t actually sound good to HER. There might be a more mundane cause of course, but she kind of suspected that they’d run afoul of something up there…

(Aikiko) “Do you think they’re planning something?”

(Beliot) “As if they would dare! If they were to try any foolishness we would stop them, Toot Sweet!”

Huh. Somewhat less confidence there… Well, no point in prying. Presumably, like most such groups, they specialized in ambushes and other guerrilla tactics – but if they WERE planning something Koktash’s six-man police force was obviously going to have trouble!

The site was about forty miles out – a quick trick by helicopter, a three to four day slog through the hills and mountains – and into just about the WORST bit of landscape to be found in the entire country. The hills were looming and dusty and – despite the more plentiful rainfall a bit further south – the area was a near-desert. Here was desolation – a few scattered bits of scrub, thistles, and weeds growing across soil that had, in prior ages, once supported prosperous farms. The dry streambeds seemed to flow with dust, as if life had been replaced by desiccation, and the land was but a hollow mask, like the flesh of a freshly-unwrapped mummy – ready to crumble at the merest touch.

And perhaps ready to do so as life sought to return once more to withered flesh.

The area was an archeological dig, probing into the ruins of the distant past – apparently a megalithic tomb, a structure dating back to the old stone age or before. Travel to the area was normally by chartered helicopter or camel caravan, but few wished to go that way at the moment; the mysterious deaths of the scientists and their crew had spooked most of the local caravan men and the police were still – supposedly – investigating. The wind moaned around the rocks, dry and hot, parching the skin, with a sound like dry reeds rustling in a lake of dust.

Huh. It was giving HER the creeps!

The actual site was even sadder in some ways, the police had put up some markers to warn people away – but they were basically a circle around an old hill with some signs of buried structure to it. According to legend, the place had been a castle belonging to a god of death, who once lured the sun itself into the depths and there entrapped him for three days while a horde of demons almost overran the world in the sheltering darkness.

There were traces of old and partially-buried walls in several places. The archeologists working assumption had apparently been that the place was once a neolithic hill fort; they had been quite excited to find an passage that went down – and had concluded that it had to be a massive tomb. The passage was a little ways to the left, carefully blocked off with some sort of spray-on plastic foam with biohazard signs stuck on it – according to the policeman, warning symbols left by the “demiol…ogists”.

International biohazard warning signs? Oh! Epidemiologists! By the gods… it was pretty much a given that it wouldn’t hurt HER, but could she be a carrier of something? That could get really REALLY bad!

Beliot was reluctant to get close. Even before the mass death, the place had a bad reputation!

(Aikiko) “So what happened here before the archaeologists died?”

There was the old story of course, and a later one that someone slept on the hill once and was driven homicidally mad by evil spirits, and a series of tales about the archaeologists and a high incidence of falls, rocks mashing feet, and many more bits of trouble – although those particular stories weren’t very credible as much beyond normal climbing-around-on-a-hill dangers.

Time to run some essence detections!

And seven successes to get them up discreetly.

There was definitely SOMETHING supernatural going on at the site. There were essence leaks all over the place. They… seemed to be mostly affecting something below the surface though. The place looked like a partially capped demesne. Necrotic essence. There was something… partway alive under the dust – but on a closer look, the plants weren’t just dry and weedy; they were all dead.

THAT wasn’t good! Charles would probably just poke around a bit and then create a life-sustaining Manse on the site. Unfortunately, she couldn’t just plop down Manses that way!

Beliot was REALLY against actually getting too close; those “demiol…ogists” had apparently said some really nasty things about the place.

(Aikiko) “Like what?”

(Beliot) “Lots about “micro-floxins”, and fungi, and “inhalation almost instantly deadly” (that one had REALLY gotten his attention), and “sealed air supply” and “containment”.

(Aikiko) “Well, that doesn’t sound very good!”

Huh… It certainly sounded like normal humans shouldn’t be anywhere NEAR the place… Maybe she could use Charles’s expanded thaumaturgy to give him life support, or knock him out, or just compel him? It wouldn’t be very nice, but letting him get killed would be worse! A compel with more money might work… Oh well! She could probably persuade him to land a little ways out and let her walk; after all, if she died, he could say that he’d never heard of her…

(Aikiko, fishing out another 400$) “Why don’t you land over there and I’ll have a closer look? You won’t have to go in with me, and I’ll even pay for it!”

(Beliot) “Ur… Are you quite sure? They were quite empathetic! I would not wish to see a young woman like yourself walk to her death! There were no survivors of the expedition!”

(Aikiko) “I’ve walked in more danger than this!”

Of course, if she told him about Mechagodzilla, that would probably be a dealbreaker; young and mad? He’d never agree! The man was actually fairly concerned!

Beliot was torn… it would be MOST bad for his karma to bring this young woman out here to die! And for his feelings! And for the fact that he’d feel obliged to try and rescue her and would feel REALLY guilty if he did not…

And that was fairly obvious on his face.

(Aikiko) “Look… I’m going to level with you. That place might be even more dangerous than what you think, and honestly, with what might be in there, *I* might be the one saving your rear. Are you absolutely sure you’d insist on going after me?”

(Beliot) “Of course!”

Well… obviously enough he’d LIKE to think he would anyway. Whether he’d actually have the nerve… Who knew? It might be a major moment of heroism for him! Of course, for a mortal, that usually meant “dead”…

(Aikiko) “Well, dammit… first, we’re going to have to give you some protection! The ‘demiologists’ are probably right about the air, and I have some ways of protecting myself against that. You on the other hand…”

On a closer look… the necrotic essence sustained and enhanced the growth of fungi – and turned them virulently poisonous. Fortunately, the effect faded once the stuff was removed; rather than being a permanent mutation. That probably puzzled the scientists no end.

Well giving him her Behemoth Cloak would be a big risk – and he couldn’t attune it anyway. Could she give a mortal life support against the dangers here with thaumaturgy? Or the Coatl that Charles had assigned her? They were so quiet that she almost forgot that they were along at times! And she did have a spare set of Charles’s Commando Armor; that would help a lot!

Aikiko attempted a Lifeweave for protection against spores, toxins, and the like with her own Adenic Thaumaturgy in the meantime – concealing it as a touch and using her anima to hide the usual display.

What with the First Excellency, channeling Compassion and the basic Adenic boost that wound up with 15 successes. With the aid of the Coatl with the secondary effects, that was far more than enough.

(Aikiko) “Okay, put this sash on.” (She gave Beliot the commando armor) “Trust me, it’ll give you all the protection you need for this!”

She discreetly helped him attune it. The Coatl had apparently convinced him that she must be a most powerful witch anyway. She had to sigh about that – that was going to have some implications for later. Still, at least she could warn Charles about the partial capping now. Come to think of it, she had the Coatl do that while she and Beliot headed in.

(Charles, on being notified) “Another damaged manse? Botheration! I have a long list of them to fix on earth after I get Yu-Shan fixed up!”

Walking across the ground – and peeling away the plastic – sent up great clouds of toxic dust and spores, which dissipated – hopefully harmlessly – on the wind. The plastic foam was obviously there for improvised containment, and the passage beyond was surprisingly broad and wide. There were the remains of a fairly fancy set of doors too – which looked to Aikiko a bit advanced for the old stone age! The stone of the walls, ceiling, and floor bore traces of tremendous heat; at some point it was – very briefly – melted, just on the surface, by (according to her investigation excellency) something INCREDIBLY hot, but which was only around for fractions of a second. That would be hard for anyone without enhanced senses to tell though, the walls were covered with mold and spores.

The remains of the doors were easy enough to step over – but doing so brought a breath of chill and definite feelings of apprehension; no wonder the scientists had blocked it off! Even if they had no idea of WHAT they were feeling or why…

Hard to say what pre-Earth period the architecture was; passages were fairly generic… Still, a bit of divination (which she was no longer bothering to hide from Beliot) said… late Shogunate? There were traces of Solar essence around though. They were very old – almost as old as the place was – but they were VERY powerful. Of course, most older Solar stuff was very powerful…

Wait, late Shogunate? Hadn’t virtually all the Solar’s been out of action then? Maybe some vengeance project done in secret by a “lucky” Shogunate Solar? But in that case, how did they get the necessary equipment and tools? Sorcery?

Well, at leas there didn’t seem to be any nasty traps!

The archaeologists obviously hadn’t gotten this far – they’d apparently died pretty much as soon as the doors had collapsed – but there were still footprints. One set. Heavy, headed out. The mold hadn’t entirely filled them… A few months perhaps. Probably from about the time that the passage had been opened.

(Aikiko to Beliot) “Hey, did you have any reports of big creatures in the area about the time those archaeologists died?”

(Beliot) “Er… well, there were some reports of a trail leading away, but there were footprints everywhere – they’d been working for more than a week! – and there didn’t seem to be anyone missing. What could be down here? It’s been sealed away for at least a thousand years!”

(Aikiko, thoughtfully) “At least until they opened the place…”

Well at least it hadn’t been Mechagodzilla’s footprints. She wouldn’t have thought that likely anyway – but she hadn’t ruled out the possibility in advance.

(Beliot) “Well, no one could live down here that long!”

(Aikiko) “Unless they were under some form of life support or suspension… the ancients were surprisingly knowledgeable. I bet if we penetrated further, we’d find an artifact for that purpose.”

Urk! Had the Shogunate used some artifact or something to make a Solar into an Abyssal for some reason? Or maybe the Solar just knew that Charm that let a Solar look like an Abyssal, and knew necromancy? Or someone thought that an Abyssal Manse would just be a good place to stick a Solar for imprisonment?

There were other chambers – partially collapsed, their once-contents scorched and burned. The melted surfaces continued.

And Beliot was looking at her very oddly indeed.

Roughly centrally under the hill there was a grand hall. At one end of a mighty stone table (or the scorched remains of one). there was a neat chunk melted out of the rock and the remains of a throne, melted into a stub. At the other end… there was a black throne, undamaged. The footprints came from one side of the melted throne. On the other side of that throne there was a mostly-melted suit of armor, partially full of crystals and bits of junk. Some of the bits were glowing faintly. It was mostly made of Adamant, with some Orichalcum and more Moonsilver – and possibly some Soulsteel, deep inside to judge from the faint moaning.

As she approached the glow brightened, and sparkling golden motes swirled into the damaged armor… She could feel the drain! Subtle but present. Motes and vitality, with most of the motes coming from her (of course) and more of the vitality coming from Beliot… The radius was large, but the effect was too slow and inefficient to really notice if you weren’t very close indeed.

(Aikiko) “Arggh! This is exactly why I wanted you to stay behind…”

She and the Coatl put up more wards! She’d feel awfully bad if he died!

That slowed it enormously – but didn’t stop it totally. It would almost certainly be a really bad idea to touch that armor! Even though the glow was brightening and pulsing…

(Beliot) “What the HELL is HAPPENING?”

(Aikiko) “The armor’s trying to suck the life out of us! I wouldn’t recommend touching it!”

Fortunately, it didn’t seem to be particularly efficient about absorbing either solar or mortal vitality and essence.

(Aikiko) “Thankfully, it’s not being very efficient – and my friends can stall it.”

It looked like the drain was mostly attuned to Lunar essence – but then one of the bent Orichalcum bits… straightened itself out into a support strut and “healed”.

Weird! Solar traces in the Manse, likely Abyssal Aspect for the Manse itself, and Lunar here? Some kind of honey trap for a vengeful Lunar’s newly reincarnated mate?

And a bit of crystal was currently… uncracking.

(Aikiko) “Okay, that isn’t good! I’d bet that if we stay here long enough, that armor’s going to form into a guardian and attack us! We should leave VERY soon.”

Crafty Observation Method turned her attention to the blast shadows burned into the walls, like the pictures from Heiroshima. It looked like courtiers and servants and such – but the styles looked like they were even OLDER than the Shogunate though. The black undamaged throne was of obsidian and soulsteel. The area had OLD wards – Shogunate era again (and not all that long past the usurpation if she was any judge) – built into the structure and supported by it’s geomancy, against information… coming in from outside? The damage was caused by Solar essence, although some areas had been shielded by immensely powerful necrotic essence… no, not JUST Necrotic – by something even deader. By Oblivion.

Had some Solar been doing experiments with Oblivion in here? But why shield against information coming in instead of information going out?

The oblivion traces were mostly by the end with the dark throne. Whoever it was didn’t bother protecting the rest of the court from the wave of solar energy though.

Terrestrial experiments with using Oblivion to build Manses?

According to the Coatl, somebody VERY powerful on the melted throne got REALLY angry. There was a lot less damage on the side of the armor that had apparently walked away; something there had absorbed a LOT of solar power. They weren’t sure that the source of that power had been an Exalt though; it seemed awfully… pure. NOTHING else. No humanity. Could have been a very OLD solar.

Did whoever this had been foul up badly enough to get a visit from the Sun himself?

The armor… had obviously never had an occupant, it was some sort of automation. Given a power source it seemed to be capable of self-repair somehow.

So a powerful wielder of Solar Essence, possibly an Essence-10 elder or perhaps the Sun in person, came to this Manse during the Shogunate. They had sat on the melted throne, and then did something violently destructive, incinerating most of the room and sending the manse into power failure (thus explaining the partial capping). The occupant of the other throne (apparently also very high-essence or even also Essence-10) had shielded himself/herself/itself from the blast with Oblivion, whereupon the being from the melted throne had departed without further conflict (from the state of the entrance passage, very quickly and while radiating enormous heat) – and the Manse, and the Automation were still functioning (at least to some extent) after being massively damaged at least thirty-five thousand yearss ago.

But where had the Oblivion come from? Abyssals hadn’t existed at that point as far as she knew!

Unless, perhaps, another Solar had fallen to the Void. But that would be truly monstrous, even if they did it with the intent of avenging the Usurpation.

Unfortunately, Aikiko botched her Lore check, and couldn’t think of any oblivion wielders – especially at Essence-10! – who’d been around at that point. After all, even wraiths normally weren’t STUPID enough to play with Oblivion; they were still around because they couldn’t let go!

The player, of course, thought of Deathlords and Nephwracks – but not the Character.

(Beliot, muttering…) “According to legend, a Castle of a God of Death, who once lured the Sun itself into the depths and there entrapped him for three days while a horde of demons almost overran the world in the sheltering darkness.”

Perhaps she shouldn’t have mostly disregarded that old legend…

(Aikiko) “A god of death… what was your god of death like?”

There might be a LOT more truth to that legend than she’d thought!

(Beliot, coming out of his reverie) “Oh, they were supposed to look like the long dead, but commanded terrible powers, and – being dead already – could not be slain. All the forces of the underworld were at their command! But all of that is nonsense!… Isn’t it?”

Oh dear. No… no it WASN’T.

(Aikiko) “We need to leave before he or she finds us! Not even I can handle tangling with one of those.”

“Now” WAS a good time to leave! The Deathlord might not be home, but she didn’t want to chance it… Especially not with a mortal present!

And one who was already starting to stagger a bit. Even with the wards, and the support of the Coatl, the place was getting to him.

She helped Beliot out. The man might take small bribes to give joyrides in the police helicopter, but he certainly wasn’t corrupt enough to deserve to have his life sucked out of him by some ancient Deathlord Automaton! Even at this point… it might take him a couple of days to recover.

Huh… Climactic fight? But there hadn’t been any signs of anything beyond one blast and one defense. Solar Elder? But were any of those LEFT at the time? Negotiations that ended poorly? That might fit…

Terrible army of demons overrunning the world, darkness, a confrontation here during the late shogunate between two essence-ten creatures who apparently met on friendly – or at least non-violent – terms for at least a little while first. area carefully barred against information coming in from the outside – and what seemed likely to have been an immensely powerful automation designed to absorb solar energies that was durable enough to survive a near-nuclear level blast of heat and to repair or reactivate itself when disturbed after more than thirty thousand years.

Wait! Towards the end of the Shogunate… A Solar, negotiating with a Deathlord to keep the fey hordes from consuming everything? Or perhaps to stop the Great Contagion? But there were hardly any Solars left at that time! Why block information coming IN from the outside? Most people wanted privacy, not to be on display while they couldn’t see out or receive messages!

Could it really have been the Sun himself? Essence-10 was pretty blasted rare! Incarnae and the occasional Elder Celestial Exalt was about it. Perhaps the Games of Divinity didn’t have as much of a hold over the Sun as most people believed? He WAS created to be one of Creation’s guardians after all… He REALLY must not have liked the Deathlord’s terms! Tricked perhaps? After all, the Sun was powerful, but he was neither omniscient nor infallible.

And evidently neither was she! When they got out… it was late night, and they hadn’t been in there more than twenty or thirty minutes. Were they in the Underworld? Ah! The helicopter was there! So they were still on Earth (and the bandits hadn’t commandeered it!)

(Aikiko) “Time is distorted here, it seems. Are you good to fly us out? I’ve got a little skill in that area.”

(Beliot) “I… should be able to manage! I need some coffee…”

Checking the time with the Adenic Network… it looked like the time ratio was about twenty-five to one. Two or three hours in there would make it two or three days outside, although they’d just blown the afternoon and evening. Freaky… but then time in the Underworld and Creation were not the same thing!

So… a Deathlord had gotten the Sun down there on some pretext and delayed him for a few hours that turned out to be roughly three days outside – and the Sun did not react well when that information finally got through. He’d gone Supernova – but whatever was going on outside was so urgent that he had simply left as quickly as possible. The Deathlord had allowed the attendants and such to get vaporized, but had handily shielded himself/herself/itself with Oblivion. The automaton on one side of the Sun’s throne had absorbed the buik of the blast on that side, but had failed to stop the Unconquered Sun.

Something seemed a little off there, but even an Investigation Excellency needed some facts to work with.

How had the Sun been lured into such a meeting? Had the Deathlord used the Sun’s insanely high Virtues against him to make it so there’d be a conflict if he didn’t negotiate? Or just called in some old favor or promise? Had the automaton been there to block the Sun’s retribution? That didn’t make a lot of sense what with Deathlords having perfect defenses.

As for the army of “Demons” that had been given time to “almost destroy creation”… Considering the period, that would probably the Raksha and Unshaped, not literal demons. The Sun erupting from a necrotic tomb had been an event important enough that it was still being passed down after nearly forty thousand years. The Sun’s wrath when he came out of the place had probably been bright and furious enough to be imprinted on the locals and all their descendants somehow. She wouldn’t put it past her patron, even if she’d never met him! Still… it was a reassuring thought that the Sun WOULD have done something about the Balorean Crusade – if he hadn’t been tricked and stalled!

And that meant that… there was a Deathlord automation on the loose that had been designed to restrain the Sun (or perhaps an Essence-10 Solar, although that didn’t seem at all likely), had managed it for at least a few moments, had been out long enough to be a hassle to track down, and was working with directives that were presumably forty thousand years out of date. That might mean that it would be easier to track, but it might also be out terrorizing the countryside based on that old programming!

Now that she was outside the wards… she got in touch with Charles about it; he could spread that warning more effectively than she could.

(Charles) “Well, that IS interesting! The Sun might have made quite a lot of difference in that mess even if he could only pull himself away from the games for a few hours!”

(Aikiko) “It seems that way, yeah!”

(Charles, with much curiosity) “Hm… A golem designed to battle or restrain the sun… That must have been QUITE an automation! I wish I could examine it!”

(Aikiko – with some brief doubts, although it WAS just a wish) “It’d have to be, to hold him. I… think it got out, too! Hopefully it didn’t get too far.”

(Charles) “Hrm… How long?”

(Aikiko) “Since the place opened! It’s been a couple of months – which, come to think of it, probably lets out random rampages.”

(Charles) “Oh dear!”

(Aikiko) “Yeah, I know. Any ideas for tracking it down?”

(Charles) “Er… I don’t know how it would think… Maybe it’s looking for a Yu-Shan gate? That would be about the only way it could get near the sun again. Unless it has secondary directives perhaps”

(Aikiko, sighing) “I have no clue of what those might be, if they even exist…”

Pulling up the gate locations… It looked like Turpan and India were closest!

Beliot was too busy trying to catch his breath properly to pay much attention to Aikiko’s distraction – but it would be best to get the poor man back to his home as quickly as she could.

(Aikiko, to Beliot, as she slipped him another thousand) “Well… you’d probably be better off not talking about this – but at least I can cover your expenses! Here’s a contact number and address for me; if you see or hear of anything or anyone else going in or out of there, or hear anything weird from that area, let me know!”

Beliot could easily see when something was beyond him; he readily promised to let her know. He also thanked her – although he was worried now! If the old gods of death were real, what else was? He didn’t pester – it wasn’t like he could do anything about it – but Aikiko threw in some advice anyway.

(Aikiko) “Sprinkling salt around your doorway and house helps with their servants. If one of them actually shows up, though… yeah, that won’t help. That’s why I want you to let me know if you see anything! Especially if you see people glowing black!”

(Beliot) “Er… Certainly! This is enough to make me wish those ads were real…”

(Aikiko) “Ads? Oh! Yes, the are! And if you’ve got places like THAT in your backyard, I’d say they’d be happy to let you go through.”

(Beliot) “Seriously? In a couple of months… entire new worlds will be opening up?”

(Aikiko) “Yeah! Just think about it! Fine lands, open for the taking!”

Beliot had no idea what to say – but there would certainly be places for the youngsters to find new opportunities.

(Aikiko) “Well, thanks for your help! I’ll need the sash back, but you helped me come to some conclusions I wouldn’t have otherwise!”

(Beliot) “Well, you’re welcome Madame!”

Aikiko said her farewells – and Beliot was, in many ways, relieved to see her leaving.

She couldn’t blame him for that!

Dark Tales V – The Ship

Bulat-Pestivien Notre-Dame de Bulat Ankou 04

You were saying?

The great ports have witnessed the comings and goings of a thousand years, of merchants, of privateers, and of ships of war. Whether the port hosts ships of the sea, of space, of dimension, or of time, matters not. Here meet and mingle the currents of history, of commerce, and of culture. In that seething cauldron facts and fancy mingle in a thousand tales. Tales of heroism and valor, of adventure and exploration, of bold attempts and even of disaster are told freely, in the light.

Other tales are whispered in the darkness, and from it draw their strength.

With the rising of the mist the chill of the deeps – of fathomless space, of wild seas, and of time itself – seeps within the tavern, where wavering tendrils of mist slip beneath the door and crawl across the floor to challenge the warmth and light within, twining around the legs of the intoxicated and sending the finest of strands of scent and moisture to mingle with their life’s breath.

The voice is rough from years of shouted orders, the hands strong and calloused – and the faint swirling of mist that follows each gesture teases the eye with almost-pictures to accompany the whispered tale.

The burdens and clothing have changed across the millennia. But the faces and the scene are always the same, playing out again and again across the years, an experience shared across all the generations of man.

A frantic crowd pressed towards the docks, and the few remaining ships. Women clutched children, men clutched the tools of their livelihood, and children clutched toys and pets in incomprehension. The cries and sobs of men, women, and children for relief, for each other, for news, for food, and for water, mingled into a roaring cacophony. There were injuries in the press, and sometimes deaths. Families were broken apart by human tides, and some would never know their loved ones fates.

All sought passage at any price, if not for themselves, then for their children, to escape onrushing doom – whether war, disaster, or plague mattered not.

Kindly captains choose as best they could, crammed their vessels to capacity, and sought safe harbors for the helpless refugees they carried. The mercenary sought payment – but payment could be found in plenty for any reasonable crew; what did money mean to the refugees in the face of death?

The Ankou was large, and fast, and well able to defend itself. It’s captain took aboard the children of the pressing throng, asking of their parents a reasonable sum, and urging them to give their sons and daughters whatever they could to help them find homes in safer realms. It packed itself with the innocent and helpless – and, filled to capacity, fled the harbor well ahead of onrushing destruction.

And when they were far beyond the docks – well out of sight, where none would see… the doors were locked to separate them into manageable groups, and the children slaughtered. Whatever there was of value about them – any money or precious goods that their parents had pressed upon them, anything which could be taken from their bodies, whether before or after death – joined their passage-prices deep in the hold. The blood was sluiced away, the bodies dumped – and the Ankou took full advantage of it’s speed, racing to the next threatened port, to once more offer kindly rescue.

But then there came a port where news had at last outraced the Ankou. It was known that it had picked up a packed cargo of refugee children shortly before – far too short a time before to have taken them anywhere but into death.

The doomed crowd sought vengeance for the slaughter of innocents promised escape, for cruel murder, and for the betrayal of hope. Many died – but even the well-practiced killers of the Ankou could not stand against such a horde. Their defense and escape failed – and the Ankou foundered, perhaps dragged to it’s doom by the vast fortune in blood-money weighting down it’s hold.

Now the Ankou sails, accursed – it’s spectral crew seeking out the scattered souls of the children it betrayed long past, snatching their new incarnations – and sailing across time and space to their ancient destinations, bound to accomplish now the promises that they had broken – no matter how loud the screams of protest, for only thus may they purchase even a moments rest.

As the moving fingers still, and the mist calms, the spinner of tales rises silently and departs, vanishing into the rolling fog outside – leaving behind to pay his tab a single, ancient, coin.

The times when the Ankou may trouble the waking world are brief and far between – times of crisis, or when dark powers rise. Then terrible dreams come, and dreamers wake screaming. Fits of madness come upon folk in the street, and evil men – murders and worse – hear the call, and gather, perhaps to find redemption battling an evil darker than theirs, and perhaps to join it. With fog and darkness comes the Ankou, whether to abduct victims in “fulfillment of their oath”, to once more repeat their ancient crimes in the midst of some terrible crisis, to hold their terrible version of “shore leave”, or to recruit more dark spirits to add to the horde (or perhaps hoard) of specters which lurk beneath it’s decks.

The specters of the Ankou can be fought, and even “slain” – but none yet, however mighty, have been able to prevent them from rising again to trouble the world, has sailed with the Ankou and returned, or has succeeded in calling forth mercy from the crew’s still hearts. 

If you want to look back, here we have…

Eclipse: Castle Hieronymus

English: Picture taken in Malbork after Wikima...

Do you have ANY idea how many maids a place like this needs?

In the real world during the middle ages Castles were pretty important. It took a LOT of work – and likely a lot of casualties – to dig even a few men out of a classic castle and it would almost certainly take more time than you had to spare. If you didn’t do it, you left an enemy stronghold to your rear – a fortress from which the enemy could launch raids against your supply lines, snipe at your messengers, dominate the peasantry, hoard supplies, cash, and weaponry, control any nearby road, pass, or river, and make you look like an idiot. A castle said “I control this area, and taking it from me is going to be a long, expensive, project – maybe long enough that somebody else will grab YOUR stuff while you’re busy. Do you feel lucky punk? Well? Do ya?

Castles cost a LOT – but for many centuries, they were well worth it.

Sadly, while castles are still fabulously expensive in d20 games, they’re quite useless. Magic and psionics can bypass them or penetrate their defenses, powerful monsters can fly, burrow, or smash straight through the walls, high-level combatants can ignore masses of archers and hack their way in with adamant blades… even a spell as low-level (and thus cheap) as “Alter Self” can often completely negate your incredibly expensive “defenses”. Worse, an attempt to magic-proof the place makes it something to break even epic-level budgets. You get far better results spending that money on building up your personal power.

But everybody likes a castle. Like cathedrals, and pyramids, and other huge structures, they’re impressive, dramatic, interesting, and picturesque. They’re a classic part of fantasy.

To make them worth building in d20 they need to be cheap – yet we really don’t want to have “castle acres development, a man’s castle is his home, have yours built today!”. We want them to be cheap for high-level characters and expensive for everyone else. Thus The Practical Enchanter included the Rod of Fortification – an item that made it cheap and easy to build castles and other structures. Of course, the cost of the rod itself was so high that they tended to be mighty treasures of kingdoms and Emperors – who could thus make public works and fortifications on the cheap, even if no one else could.

Of course The Practical Enchanter also noted that basic castles were really only useful against hordes of orcs and similar annoyances.

In Eclipse what we’re interested in is how individual characters get to have castles and what they can actually make them do (I, at least, prefer to have them actually be useful) – and the one thing that high level characters have in abundance that no one else has to spare is character points.

So how can an individual Eclipse character spend a few points to get a castle, cathedral, or similar mighty structure?

Living in your basic, ineffectual, castle, cathedral, or whatever – with walls, towers, and so on, but no actual magical features – is just a minor privilege (3 CP). You may need to spend a little money on upkeep and such, but that’s doable. After all, in d20 your basic castle looks cool and has lots of room to keep your stuff – but in game terms it doesn’t really accomplish much unless the game master gives you a circumstance bonus to diplomacy.

For building serious strongholds the ability you want is Sanctum (6 CP). That gives you an extra 24 CP only when you’re at a particular location – and it’s certainly reasonable enough to use those points to build, equip, and staff, a castle, cathedral, mages tower, or similar facility.

So spend those twenty-four character points to buy yourself…

  • Leadership/Specialized in Basic Stronghold Staff – servants, repairmen, minor clergy, cooks, a couple of mages with repair spells, your friendly alchemist, and so on – for half cost (3 CP). While your staff won’t include mighty priests or mages, manufacturers of advanced items, and adventurous types, the fact that you’re buying this with Sanctum Points means that they won’t be going on adventures with you anyway. You can still take advantage of supporting a few scholars who answer difficult questions, having your helpful alchemist make supplies for you, and so on. Even someone with the advanced version of the Maker of Potions, Talismans, and Scrolls ability is within reason.
  • Professional/Architecture, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/only counts to decide what Mystic Artist features you can have in your sanctum, can only be applied to the sanctum rather than – say – several rooms with individual properties (6 CP). This means that by the time you really start wanting a stronghold, you’ll probably be able to include some pretty worthwhile features in it – and you can change them around as you get to be higher level.
  • Mystic Artist/Architecture with Seeking, Specialized for Double Effect/the user may only create one structure at a time, Corrupted for Reduced Cost/all abilities must be at least quasi-military and must target either the Residents / Defenders or the Attackers (8 CP).

This is where the real “meat” of your citadel comes from; with Mystic Artist your castle, cathedral, dungeon, or what-have-you can offer its residents and defenders substantial advantages regardless of the exact architectural details. Thus, if your stronghold offers it’s defenders a big bonus to their armor class and saves it doesn’t matter whether they’re sheltering behind arrow-loops, on the curtain wall, on the stairs, defending the final bastions, or sallying forth; they get those bonuses. This means that the attackers can break through the outer walls, strike from above, or what-have-you without you having to recalculate everything. What’s that you ask? What can you buy? Well, lets say that you’re level six, and thus get +18 to your Architecture Skill for the purpose of sorting out what you can put into your castle (as high as you need for quite a lot of good stuff). You WILL, of course, use the Harmonize effect (Minimum Skill 12) to let you take two choices two abilities – so here’s a sampling of the many different effects that you could select:

  • Fortification (Greatness, Minimum Skill 9): Your defenders are greatly aided by the numerous defensive and offensive features of your architecture, gaining all the benefits of two Positive Levels (Eclipse, page 86) while they’re there or in the immediate vicinity. The effects can never be changed once selected, hence this is actually hundreds of different abilities. It’s also a very good choice, which is why it’s first, instead of being in alphabetical order like the other choices.
  • Axis Mundi (Freedom, Minimum Skill 15): Defenders affected by unwanted spells are automatically affected by a Break Enchantment effect at the owners level once per unwanted effect.
  • Every Advantage (Excellence, Minimum Skill 12): Your architecture encourages teamwork and specific tactics. Your defenders gain +4 (Morale) Bonuses to their Attacks, Damage, Saves, and AC. (Another ability with many, MANY, variations available).
  • Glorious Bells (Serenity, Minimum Skill 18): When these bells ring (up to twice per week), every defender gains the equivalent of a nights rest – eliminating fatigue, regaining hit points, attribute points, uses-per-day powers, and so on, in an instant.
  • Harmonious Layout (Amplify, Minimum Skill 9): All spellcasters on your side gain a +4 bonus on their effective caster level while in your stronghold. This doesn’t give them more spells, but it may upgrade their effects.
  • Horns of War (Emotional Auras, Minimum Skill 12): When sounded (up to once per hour) these horns produce a Terror effect on all enemies in and about the stronghold.
  • Runes of Despair (Emotion, Minimum Skill 3): Attackers suffer a penalty of (-12) on attacks, damage, and saves against mind-affecting powers – although they do get a save.
  • Warded (Block, Minimum Skill 3): Your stronghold is virtually impervious to magic designed to change or damage it, including Rock to Mud, Move Earth, Passwall, Disintegrate, and so on.

Now that makes a reasonably effective castle. A basic garrison – or even a bunch of local commoners – is likely to be able to put up quite a fight against a swarm of basic orcs or goblins when they’ve got two positive levels and a good chunk of bonuses on their side. The advantage isn’t so noticeable when the characters are higher level, but it will still help. That means that our relatively-cheap castle serves at least part of the purpose of a real one; it gives the defenders a substantial advantage over the attackers – and it’s cheap enough that a character might well opt to own a castle or other stronghold.

  • A single Contact – the Local Overlord. This is pretty much required if you’re going to build a stronghold in their realm; you really don’t want the local ruler to be demanding to know just who you are and who said you could build a castle there. Fortunately, simply knowing someone – even someone important – only costs (1 CP). Of course, since you’re paying that one-point cost with Sanctum points, the local ruler will ONLY be interested in you as the lord-of-the-castle, high-priest-of-the-cathedral, or what-have-you. Honestly, that’s probably a good thing.
  • Finally, you ARE an adventurer, and you’ll want some extra security. Ergo, the last six points available from Sanctum are going to Leadership with Exotic Followers/Traps, Animated Objects, and Wards, Specialized for Reduced Cost: these don’t heal, have to be repaired if damaged, have to be installed instead of just showing up, are integrated into your stronghold and thus effectively immobile, and must be manually upgraded as you increase in level (6 CP). Go ahead. Put in those traps, add some animated siege engines to defend the place, at high levels you can have the entire building “animated” (to represent a variety of defenses), and at even higher levels you can add a Ward Major to the place.

Animated Door: CR 1/4’th. Animated Doors will open themselves for authorized personnel, and stay resolutely closed (relocking themselves as needed) against the unauthorized. If forced open they will wait for an appropriate moment and then try to slam themselves on the intruders fingers or any other handy body part for 1d4 damage. Otherwise they can generally be treated as small animated objects.

For an Advanced Castle you’ll want to invest a few of your personal character points – I’d say six, so that even if you’re not playing Eclipse you can try to talk your game master into allowing the “Stronghold” and “Mighty Fortress” Feats – and take three more abilities for your stronghold from the following list (all Specialized and Corrupted/only available in your Sanctum):

  • Court Connections (Action Hero/Influence): When you’re at your castle, and backed by your network of connections and agents, you can influence large-scale politics.
  • Guardian Beast (Companion): A powerful beast roams the area near the stronghold and defends it. Alternatively, and with the game masters permission, this may be used to add a Ward Major to the holding.
  • High Justice (Mystic Artist/The Celebrated Way/Bardic Immunity, Requires Taxation): You can get away with outrageous behavior, assault the peasants, ignore local laws, and so on because you ARE the law in the area.
  • Laboratory (Researcher): In your laboratory you may research new spells, powers, and items at half the usual cost in time and money.
  • Nobility (Mystic Artist/The Celebrated Way/Fame): Your holdings now include a noble title. You get invited to all the best parties and social functions and are recognized all over the area.
  • Occult Foundry (Action Hero/Crafting): Tapping into the resources of the area you dominate, you may produce a modest supply of magical devices at reduced cost.
  • Power Nexus (Metamagic/Battle Magic): With the aid of the mighty nexus of power woven into the very structure of your stronghold, you and your aides may work together to weave spells to blast besieging armies.
  • Ritual Chamber (Occult Ritual): With the aid of your vast heaps of components you can attempt may feats of ritual magic.
  • Scrying Maze (Cloaking): Divinations about your castle will reveal that the servants are busy cleaning, cooking, and doing the things that servants do – in excruciating detail – but will reveal nothing about you or your activities.
  • Spirit Forge (Create Item or Create Relic): With the aid of this mystical forge you can craft a type of item that you normally couldn’t.
  • Taxation (Mystic Artist/The Celebrated Way/Wealth, Requires Nobility): Taxing the locals allows you, your family, and your friends, to live in a fine lifestyle indeed, pretty much ignoring basic expenses.

Thus, for a mere twelve character points – the equivalent of two Feats – you may build yourself quite a citadel. While it will be hard to take it adventuring with you, it can provide you with some useful facilities and backing. Whether or not that’s a worthwhile use of twelve character points is up to you.

On the game masters side… an abstract stronghold is a LOT easier to deal with than an actual castle design; you don’t need maps, you can just narrate the exciting breakthrough and struggles on the stairs rather than sorting out the hit points of the walls, fiddling about with fields of fire, and recalculating everything as the battle moves around – and it can be handled with a few notes. This way you can go from the players plan of attack (possibly worth a few circumstance bonuses) straight on to the interesting bits.

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.