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.


One Response

  1. […] True Names and Nymic Magic: In a system that makes them worth using. […]

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