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.
- Eclipse – The Questionable Inner Fire (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Skin of Stone, Man of Straw; Encounters Beneath the Eclipse. (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- d20 Failure Modes VII – Optimus Crime (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Rising to the Challenge (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Possessing the Eclipse (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Eclipse d20; Pandering to the Martial Arts (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Do You Believe in Antimagic? from Intelligence Check (alzrius.wordpress.com)
- Inherent Spells, Spell Conversion and the Pointlessly Awesome! (ruscumag.wordpress.com)