“Ghost” of the Chosen Ones at Eclipse Level Four

And here we have an updated version of “Ghost” – going from level three to level four. That’s actually quite easy in Eclipse; there’s no need to take weird prerequisites that will only be useful later on, to hunt for weird prestige classes, or do much fiddling around to get what you want. You just spend your points on the things you want to have.

In going to level four Ghost gets… 24 Character Points (the base) +2 CP (Duties to the Chosen Ones) +6 CP (her fourth-level bonus feat) = 32 CP. Her 18 Intelligence gets her four bonus skill points and she gets two from having Fast Learner Specialized in Skills. Finally, she’ll get +1 on an attribute – in her case Dexterity.

She’s a witchcraft-based stealth expert, mystic spy, and light-duty combatant. So she wants to buy…

  • Her Witchcraft II up to Witchcraft III (4 CP; normally 6 CP, but she’s limited her powers to working in shadows or darkness – which is, by the way, increasingly becoming a pain; it’s time to start buying that limitation off if she can afford it). That will give her access to another four basic powers – in her case the the Hand of Shadows (minor telekinetic effects), Glamour (minor projective telepathic effects), Witchfire (molecular-level telekinesis), and The Inner Eye (minor receptive telepathic effects). None of those are especially powerful – for example, even if you spend more points and develop Glamour to it’s limits the most powerful effects you can produce are things like Good Hope and Suggestion.
  • Warcraft: +1 BAB (It’s time to get to +2) (6 CP). At the moment Ghost is relying on magical boosts to swamp her low BAB – and for the moment it’s working.
  • Raise the base 1d4 hit die she gets for free to 1d6 (2 CP).
  • Boost her saves with Resist: +1 Fortitude (3 CP) and +1 Will (3 CP).
  • Buy a little extra Power (+3d6) as Mana (6 CP). That’s not a lot, but Witchcraft is pretty low-cost.
  • +0 SP (0 CP). That’s a total of 6 skill points this level – likely enough, especially considering that she has Adept to reduce the costs of some of her skills.
  • Buy another 2000 GP worth of Innate Enchantment. She had 700 GP (and the round-off) worth left unused anyway, so that will let her get something worthwhile – in this case duplicating the powers of a Healing Belt (Magic Item Compendium, 750 GP), a Hat of Disguise (1800 GP; it’s just SO handy for a spy-type), and a Least Crystal of Darkness (as per a Least Crystal of Illumination, but sheds shadows instead of light, 200 GP).
  • Since she still has six character points left for this level, it’s time to buy off the “only in shadows” restriction on her Basic Witchcraft I, II, and III (6 CP). Her advanced powers will still only work in darkness, but at least the basic stuff will work anywhere. This is actually a pretty common feature of Eclipse leveling; Ghost had a fair number of powers to start with – but they were restricted and limited. Now that she’s moving up in level she’s getting rid of some of those limitations, increasing her flexibility a lot and her power a little, rather than the other way around.

So at level four Ghost will look like this:

“Chosen One” Template (“GM Plot Hook Bonus”): This provides +2 each to Strength, Constitution, and Charisma, 60′ Darkvision, a mental link with the other Chosen Ones, a bonus language (Draconic), Grant of Aid with the regeneration option, Companion with two upgrades (corrupted by an independent turn of mind), and 1d6 Natural Weapons/Claws. There may be more to the template than this but the characters still have no idea what that might be.

Race: Drow Elf (Modified):

The setting – and being a “Chosen One” – changes the standard Drow Elf. Half-price attributes makes the race cheaper and eliminate the constitution penalty. Since being a Chosen One grants darkvision (and there’s no need to buy it twice) we’re presuming the regular exposure to light has made her eyes less sensitive – reducing her darkvision range byt eliminating her light sensitivity. Condensing the skill list saves a few points on her racial bonuses too – and the Drow Inherent Spells (Darkness, Dancing Lights, and Faerie Fire once per day each) are being subsumed into her Witchcraft-based Shadow Mastery talents.

  • Self-Development: +2 Charisma, +2 Dexterity, +2 Intelligence (18 CP).
  • Improved Spell Resistance (10 + Level) (12 CP).
  • Immunity/Sleep Effects (Uncommon/Minor/Major, 3 CP)
  • Resist/+2 on Will saves against spells and spell-like abilities (3 CP).
  • Resist/+2 on Saves versus Enchantment Spells and Effects (3 CP)
  • Proficient with hand crossbow, rapier, and short sword (a limited group of weapons, 3 CP).
  • Occult Sense/Detect Secret Doors (Specialized: requires a Search check and passing within 5 feet, 3 CP)
  • Skills: Extra Languages, Elven and Undercommon, +2 on Perception and Stealth (6 CP)
  • Disadvantage: Outcast (-3 CP). Dark Elves are widely regarded with fear and suspicion.

That reduces the cost of her race to 48 CP – or the 31 CP available to a +0 ECL race and 17 CP out of her level one allotment, which is what she opted for.

Available Character Points: 120 (Level Four Base) +10 (Disadvantages; Hunted, Valuable, and Irrationally Secretive) +24 (2x L1, L2 feat, and L4 Feats; the GM is being generous) +8 (Duties as a Chosen One) = 162. Subtracting her racial costs leaves 145 CP to spend on her build. The attribute array was 12, 12, 14, 14, 16, 16. Far more importantly, the GM is not restricting the characters choice of abilities – allowing them to gain some fairly powerful specialities early on.

Basic Attributes: Str 14, Dex 19 (21), Int 18, Wis 12, Con 16, Chr 16

Basic Purchases:

  • Warcraft (BAB): +2 (12 CP).
  • Hit Points / Dice: 21 (L1-4d6, 6, 5, 4, 6, 8 CP) +12 (4 x Con Mod) = 33 HP.
  • Proficient with All Simple Weapons (3 CP)
  • Armor Class 10 (Base) +5 (Dex) +4 “Armor” +1 (Martial Art) +1 (Deflection) = 21 (23 when using her Shadow Form). (Her “Robes” can turn into any kind of clothing desired and – at the moment – provide a +4 AC bonus and a +1 Deflection bonus).
  • Initiative +5 (Dex)
  • Save Bonuses: +1 Fortitude (3 CP) +1 Reflex (3 CP) +2 Will (6 CP). This gives her Fortitude +4, Reflex +6, and Will +3.
  • Skill Points: 6 (Purchased, 6 CP) +24 (Int Mod x 6) +6 (Fast Learner) = 36 SP.

Usual Weapons:

  • Sai (Well, actually a disarming dagger in game terms, but she likes the look): +12/+12 (+2 BAB +3 BAB (Magic) +5 Dex, +1 MA, +1 Enh, Serpents Strike), 1d6 (improved base damage) +2 (Str) +1 (Enh), Crit 19-20/x2. 1d6 Sneak Attack, Disarming (+4 to Disarm rolls but no bonus to use sleight-of-hand to hide it). She usually dual-wields, but – at the moment – this is just a special effect.

Other Abilities:

  • Finesse: uses Dex Mod instead of Str Mod to hit with knives, daggers, short swords, sai, and similar weapons (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for +2 SP/Level (starting at level “-1″, 6 CP).
  • Adept: pays half cost for the Acrobatics, Deception, Stealth, and NightWraith Martial Art skills (6 CP).
  • Expert Rogue/Augmented Bonus: Adds (Int Mod) to (Dex Mod) with dexterity-based skills (6 CP).
  • Block/Melee, Specialized / Only with Short Blades, Costs 1 Power/Use (3 CP). Ghost can manifest momentary adamantine shields to help save her skin…

Nightwraith Package:

  • Innate Enchantment/9000 GP Value (10 CP). All abilities; (Spell Level ½ or 1) x (Caster Level 1) x Unlimited-Use Use-Activated (2000 GP) x .7 (Personal-Only, if applicable) or item copies.
    • Increase Attribute/Dex +2 [1400 GP]
    • Martial Mastery (+3 to hit – Sai/Dagger) [700 gp]
    • Fortune’s Favor II (+2 Luck Skills) [1400 gp]
    • Expertise II (+2 Competence Bonus to All Skills) [1400 gp]
    • Serpent Strike (Additional Melee Attack) [1400 gp]
    • Healing Belt [Magic Item Compendium, 750 GP]
    • Hat of Disguise [SRD, 1800 GP]
    • Least Crystal of Darkness [As per Least Crystal of Illumination, but absorbs light instead of shedding it, 200 GP].
  • Immunity/the normal XP costs of Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP).

Using Serpent Strike is more than a bit cheesy, but restricting it to a second melee attack (instead of an extra attack at any moment) makes it somewhat more reasonable. It still means that a simple “dispel magic” against caster level one will drastically reduce the characters combat abilities though – and it’s so useful to a melee combatant that they’d be fools not to take it.

Shadow Mastery Package:

“Ghost” can tap into the magics of twilight and darkness, channeling those hidden forces into a modest variety of tricks. This particular ability package is being purchased as Witchcraft, with all advanced abilities Corrupted / will not work in areas of bright illumination and can be dispelled by light-based powers. That’s a bit of a bottleneck – but this is only a supplementary set of abilities.

More importantly, Witchcraft is a very cheap and efficient way to get some fairly good powers – but it doesn’t improve that much with level. Thus it’s great for low-level characters, fair for mid-level characters, and only a minor supplement for high-level characters.

  • Witchcraft I, II, and III; 18 CP. This provides (Str+Dex+Con)/3 Power (that’s 18 power) and seven basic witchcraft abilities. Where relevant, the Will Save DC against these abilities is 16. The range is thirty feet; going past that is possible, but costs more power.
    • Adamant Will. This allows her to spend 2 power as a reflex action to resist various forms of mind control or to make a second save against mind-reading or “truth” effects. For three power she may reflexively present a false aura to detection spells or ignore pain.
    • Glamour: Projective telepathy. +6 on relevant social skills for 1 power/ten minutes, and minor emotional influence and hypnotic effects at L0 for 1 power and L1 for 2 power.
    • Hand of Shadows: Covers minor telekinetic effects. 1 power/minute to do things you could do physically, do an hours worth of light work for 1 power, first-level animation effects (entangle, animate rope, etc) 2 points each, +2 if excessive force or fine control is required.
    • Inner Eye: Thought-sensing. See surface thoughts, find hidden beings, share senses, and read psychic impressions for small costs. If used socially +6 on relevant checks for 1 power/1- minutes.
    • Shadowweave: This allows the manipulation of light and darkness to create minor illusions and special effects. Cantrip level effects can provide bonuses of up to +6 on things like disguise checks and cost one power per ten minutes of activity. A first level effect (such as Color Spray or Faerie Fire) costs one power.
    • Witchfire: Manipulate heat or cold (1d8 for 1 power, 3d6 for 2, +1 for a modest area of effect, -1 if using pre-existing flames), infuse or extract drugs and toxins, trivial effects for 1 power per 10 minutes of activity.
    • Witchsight: Spend one power to enhance a sense for an hour – gaining either a +6 bonus on relevant checks or extending an existing sense (such as upgrading her sense of smell to Scent). Spending one power on a specific roll – such as attempting to detect poison by scent – triples the bonus.

Advanced Witchcraft Abilities (All Corrupted for Reduced Cost / will not work in areas of bright illumination and can be dispelled by light-based powers). At level four “Ghost” can have two Pacts. She currently only has one; Duties (she must spend a great deal of time lurking in the shadows, for only there can she feel at home) – but this reduces the cost of her advanced abilities by (-6 CP).

  • Advanced Shadowweave (Specialized/only allows access to second level light and darkness effects at the cost of 2 power, 2 CP).
  • Nightforge (4 CP): Creates “Solid Darkness” – a material equivalent to Adamantine – for one Power per 20 lb. It lasts an hour and can be used to entrap people.
  • “Shadow Form”/Ashen Rebirth with the Dimension Door and Teleportation upgrades (8 CP). Ghost may spend one power to merge with the darkness for one minute. In that form she gains DR 10/-, the ability to walk on walls and ceilings, the ability to pass through cracks and crevices, a +5 enhancement bonus to stealth, and a (Cha Mod) deflection bonus to her AC. While in this form she may spend 2 power to dimension door from one shadow to another as long as she can trace a transverseable path between them or 7 power to teleport to another shadow.

This is a minor variant on the usual Ashen Rebirth power – notably weaker, but without the damaging side effects or the conspicuousness of turning into flame.

  • +7d6 (27) Power (12 CP). With her 19 base that gives her a total of 46 Power each day.

Skills:

  • Acrobatics: +6 (SP*) +5 (Dex) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) +4 (Int) = +19
  • Deception: +6 (SP*) +3 (Cha) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) = +13
  • Nightwraith Martial Art (Dex): +6 (SP*) +5 (Dex) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) +4 (Int) = +19
  • Perception: +6 (SP) +1 (Wis) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) +2 (Race) = +13^
  • Perform (Stringed Instrument) : +6 (SP) +5 (Dex) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) +4 (Int) = +19
  • Persuasion: +6 (SP) +3 (Cha) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) = +13
  • Stealth: +6 (SP*) +5 (Dex) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) +2 (Race) +2 (Synergy) +4 (Int) = +23^
  • Thievery: +6 (SP) +5 (Dex) +2 (Luck) +2 (Competence) +4 (Int) = +19

*Adept Skills, purchased at half cost.

^ May be augmented with Witchcraft.

Skills in the setting have been somewhat condensed:

  • Acrobatics: Covers Balance, Tumble and Escape Artist.
  • Athletics: Covers Climb, Jump and Swim.
  • Arcana: Covers Knowledge (Arcana) and Spellcraft.
  • Linguistics: Covers Forgery and Decipher Script.
  • Deception: Covers Bluff and Disguise.
  • Survival: Covers Knowledge (Nature) and Survival.
  • Perception: Covers Search, Spot, and Listen.
  • Persuasion: Covers Diplomacy and Intimidation.
  • Stealth: Covers Hide and Move Silently.
  • Thievery: Covers Disable Device, Open Locks, and Sleight of Hand.

 Everything else is as per the SRD.

Nightwraith Martial Art (Dex):

The Nightwraith Style focuses on concealment, sudden strikes at vital areas, and on the use of the Sai – as well as inherent mastery of the powers of (physical) darkness. It is smooth, flowing, and generally performed in dark, loose-fitting clothing with wide sleeves and pants – both of which serve to conceal the user’s movements in swirling folds of cloth. It’s generally regarded as the private art of the Lahir Wraiths (a secretive order of Drow assassins) and they’ve been known to object to having it spread around.

  • Requires: Access to Shadow Mastery – or at least something similar. Uses the Sai.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 2, Defenses 2, Power 2, Strike, and Synergy/Stealth.
  • Advanced and Master Techniques: Combat Reflexes, Sneak Attack I, Prone Fighting, and an Unarmed Kata (allows use while unarmed as well as with a Sai).
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength, Light Foot, Serpent Strike, and Touch Strike.
  • Known Techniques (10): Attack 1, Defense 1, Power 1, Synergy/Stealth, Combat Reflexes, Sneak Attack I, Prone Fighting, Touch Strike, Inner Strength, and Serpent Strike.

Dark Offerings – Do-It-Yourself Charms and Talismans VI

English: The Ark of the Covenant Brought into ...

No,no… Definitely not THAT powerful!

And here we have a few more Talisman suggestions – with, as usual, some delving into world-building and d20 magical theory along the way. Of course, most of the material on Charms and Talismans can be found in The Practical Enchanter. 

Implements of Sacrifice: Sends portion of the soul’s energy to the dedicated power. The user gains a single use spell like ability as a gift from the dedicated power. This is chosen by the power, thematically linked and in general of a Level equal to the sacrificed creatures (HD+1)/2. While most commonly used by evil cultists it is possible to use this in an attempt to redeem a corrupted being. -Brett

Well, there’s the modern view that sacrifices and offerings are simply showing dedication to a faith or are supporting an organized church. Of course, such views really don’t apply in most d20 settings; “dedication” doesn’t mean much when it’s simply background choice – and if it actually costs a character something the players will expect a commensurate payoff, even if it’s mostly on the social side of things. If that payoff doesn’t actually show up… they tend to opt out. Even the dedicated roleplayers don’t always want to put their characters at a gratuitous disadvantage.

Similarly, there’s little need to support most d20 churches; the ones that have serious power of their own don’t need it – and the ones that don’t have power are almost invariably background elements. At most… they’re ways for characters to establish their “good guy credentials” and an excuse for adventuring. “We are undertaking this dangerous task in hopes of Wealth and Power and… oh yeah… to help out the village/orphans/kindly old priest/noble king/whoever”.

The classic view is that you’re offering up a sacrifice because the power you’re offering it to gets something out of it (if only satisfaction) and gives something back (even if all it does is to refrain from smiting you with ill fortune). The Old Testament lists various sins, each with a specified sacrifice to be offered up in atonement to generate “a pleasing odor before the Lord” and to gain forgiveness. Blood was important to this process, because the “blood is the life”.

The remains of such sacrifices then became the property of the priests – who were supported by a steady stream of offerings.

So offering a creature’s life force to a power in exchange for something is about as classical as it gets. A set of magical implements that strengthen the link to said power is a very reasonable notion. After all… simple prayers can reach such powers with no help at all (perhaps thanks to the fact that every sapient being is constantly linked to the outer planes by the energies of it’s alignment), and even very minor magic can reach the outer planes (as per “summon monster” – which may be easy because the powers of the outer planes WANT to be called to the material realms, and all you’re doing is opening a door) even if it is a LOT harder to locate a specific non-divine creature.

Specifying that power’s response to such offerings – even in general – is where this Talisman first goes overboard. Telling godlike beings what to do is hubris at the very least, and potentially blasphemy or worse. Even coming to their attention by trying to help is not necessarily a good thing. Thus the fate of an unsanctified man who tried to stabilize the Ark of the Covenant when it seemed likely to fall:

And when they came to Nachon’s threshing-floor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God smote him there for his error; and there he died.

Secondarily… the general response listed is incredibly generous. Even sticking with normal land animals, looking at hit dice… Rats and such are good for cantrips. 1-2HD (L1 spell granted); Baboon, Badger, Dogs, Hawk, Monkey, Owl, Pony (and probably sheep, goats, and similar animals), 3HD (L2 spell granted): Bear (Black), Camel, Cheetah, Crocodile, Boar, Horse, Mule, 5 HD (L3 spell granted): Bison, Lion (and presumably bulls, water buffalo, and other bovines), and 11HD (L6 spell granted): Elephant (and yes, there were plenty of domestic elephants).

Now to look at the old testament again… King Solomon sacrificed (not personally) 120,000 sheep and 22,000 oxen at the dedication of the temple. OK: that’s 120,000 L1 spells and 22,000 level three spells. Now yes, priesthood is a big business – but that seems a bit much.

Is someone important dead? Sacrifice an Elephant to Osiris and up they get! Worried about raiders hitting your farm? Sacrifice the old bull you were replacing anyway to Agni for a Fireball spell to hold in reserve. Kid hurt? Sacrifice the chickens you were butchering for sale today to one or another healing god and fix that right up with a string of cantrips!

While “slaughterhouse wizards” sounds amusing, it doesn’t work very well. Requiring that the body be destroyed afterwards works a little better, but still makes some fairly powerful magic available awfully easily.

If sacrifices are restricted to intelligent beings… well, now you have a major incentive to capture all those enemies; that way you’re not only depriving their gods of worship, but you’re empowering your own god and getting power for yourself as well – and all you have to do is a bit of mass slaughter! Adventurers do that all the time anyway!

Honestly, intelligent beings (and d20 characters) behave badly enough without that kind of encouragement. Any benefits from making sacrifices should be subtle, rather than flashy.

(Replacement) Sigil of the Divine (Talisman): Those who faithfully observe the requirements of their god (or gods) – praying regularly, observing holy days, making offerings, reading sacred texts, and listening to sacred tales – strengthen the link between themselves and their gods. With a Sigil of the Divine to aid them, even those who lack the talents of a priest can tap into a little divine power when they need it most. A sigil functions three times per day; when called upon (at any time, regardless of initiative – but no more than once per round) it can bring Fortune (add +2 to any single roll after the roll is made), Providence (reducing hit point or attribute damage/drain by three points), or Beneficence (reduce the duration of a negative condition – including Surprise – by four rounds). According to legend, Sigil-bearers who find themselves confronting mighty enemies of their faith sometimes receive additional divine aid – increasing the daily uses to seven, and allowing the expenditure of up to three uses a round with cumulative effects.

As a welcome side effect, that particular Talisman will finally give characters other than Clerics and Paladins some reason to pay some attention to their religion…

Of course, there is a place in the system for devices that kill people in exchange for power; its in the Black Magic section – with the Bloody Bowl, Spirit Cloak, and Spirit of the Unborn. Such items carry dark and terrible potencies.

(Replacement) Nightfall Wand (Black Magic Talisman): Fashioned from disturbing materials, engraved with blasphemous runes, and empowered by the lives of murdered children, a Nightfall Wand has seven charges. The effects they can be used to produce depend upon what foul powers are called upon during the empowering ritual, but generally correspond to a choice of two second (costing two charges) and three first level (costing one charge) effects. Where relevant these use the user’s attributes and caster level – although the user may spend an extra charge to boost his or her effective caster level by three. The life of one child will restore three charges, while the lives of two restores all seven and allows the wand to be rededicated – changing the effects that it can produce.

Even if they are basically limited to extremely evil spellcasters, Nightfall Wands are powerful things to start with; a 5d4 Burning Hands effect – perhaps followed up by a Scorching Ray – can easily decide a battle at second or third level. If those effects come from a Nightfall Wand, it will almost certainly be decided for the bad guys. That power is a tease of course, but by the time that a character reaches higher levels, and finds a Nightfall Wand next to useless, he or she will have been lured into committing horrible crimes. Isn’t that what Black Magic does?

I’d still be very cautious about allowing them into a game though; they’re entirely too close to a “must have” item for villains – and entirely too likely to lead to total party kills at low levels if they’re used cleverly. Like it or not, when it comes to peasants, villagers, and street children life is just as cheap in d20 as it was in reality.

Jeweled Amulet: Allows a spellcaster to imbue the amulet with a L1 spell. The user may later cast this spell using the original caster’s stats. It is also possible to leach power from the imbued spell for an appropriate cantrip, but this can only be done 3/day and requires a DC 10 Cha check to avoid being fatigued for one hour or harmlessly discharging the stored spell, users option as to which. -Brett

This one is a fairly reasonable talisman – although I’d make it one of the “naturally-occurring only” ones. That way you can avoid the “level nine mage gives fifty peasant children one magic missile spell each and annihilates incoming major monster/military patrol/bandit horde/anything without spell resistance” thing. Even low-level spell storing can get out of control pretty easily if you can hand it out to everyone.

Ornithopter: gives limited flight, requires concentration and being powered by pouring magical energy into it in the form of spell levels, power points, or device charges. This item is highly campaign specific, some will have no issues with it being a very effective flying device for those who can afford it and fuel it, some will wish to limit it to a certain number of rounds per day and otherwise curtail it. -Brett

Converting magical power into bursts of thrust is pretty straightforward – although this does raise the problem of why every first-level Warlock isn’t playing rocket man. It also means that – as soon as someone hooks up a use-activated enchantment as a power source – you can expect to see pretty much everyone doing aerial acrobatics. Given that the power source is external, it’s kind of hard to justify a rounds- or uses- per day restriction either. Ergo, I’d suggest…

(Replacement) Wings of Icarus (Talisman): These wings allow anyone with enough magical power to fuel them – at least one spell level per three rounds – to fly. Unfortunately, they are very fragile, keep the user’s arms occupied, and are murderously difficult to control. Even worse, too great a control failure is likely to damage them – making maintaining control even more difficult and (usually) leading to a literal death spiral. Of course, the skilled (or mad) can pour even more magic into them to go even faster.

Further details of using the Wings of Icarus can probably be safely left to the evil imagination of the game master – which is why very few NPC’s are willing to so much as consider using the things.

Is this important? It will allow low-level characters access to flight, however limited. If they have to scale a wall, or cross a terrible river, or some such, the Wings of Icarus will make it easy.

On the other hand… A Phantom Mill (2000 GP) can produce enough Unseen Servants to let a fair-sized party take to the skies – if very slowly. Basic Shapeshifting is cheap. Winged races, or mystic powers of flight, are out there. Overall this really shouldn’t be a problem.

And there are more of these than I thought… I’ll have to continue the list next time around. 

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.

Gravewright Eyes-Of-The-Dead, Level Six Lesser Lich

A depiction of a lich from the game The Battle...

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Long ago, Gravewight was a diligent student of the arcane arts, studying at one of the worlds great centers of magical scholarship. There – in the finest traditions of the dark arts – Gravewight enslaved the weak, destroyed rivals, pacted with infernal powers, and offered sacrifices. There he walked the bridge of blades above the abyss – and there he fell. Even in the shadowy towers and echoing libraries of that place… there were things that you did not do and boundaries that you did not cross.

Gravewight became bored, as Gravewright does – and did those things, and crossed those boundaries.

Gravewright was not content with mere money and power that came with being a respected and powerful dark wizard. Gravewright became obsessed with immortality – and set to work on Lichdom.

That took a lot of research, and using up a lot of younger students in the experiments. It took burning away much of Gravewight’s memory, throwing away it’s humanity, and renouncing the person it had once been – and there are still deeper and darker secrets of undeath to uncover – but Gravewrights quest succeeded. It is eternal now, even if what it feels is but an eternal hunger for the lives of others and for acquiring ever-greater arcane lore and secrets. Gravewright seeks such things without remorse or pity.

Along the way, that brought him to the Obsidian Blades – an order of assassins who were in need of a mage willing and able to supply them with minor magical devices and with no scruples whatsoever.

Gravewright fit the bill perfectly – and was quite willing to help out more directly on missions where that was required as long as its phylactery could be kept utterly secure. Gravewright does not limit itself to working exclusively for the Obsidian Blades – it continues to work as a crafter of potions, scrolls, wands, and stranger things, selling it’s creations through various dealers and blinds – but its association with the Obsidian Blades is useful and profitable. It could easily do quite well for itself if it focused entirely on crafting – but magical research beckons, even if, with all eternity before it, there is no hurry at all…

Whatever it was before has been sealed into its tomb. Only Gravewright remains.

Gravewright Eyes-Of-The-Dead

Level Six Lesser Lich Wizard

Racial Template: Minimal Lich (+1 ECL / 63 CP):

  • No Constitution Score (0 CP). Like it or not, Liches are quite dead. As genuine “immortality” goes, lichdom is a complete bust. Still, most liches have entirely lost the emotions that would make that important, so what do they care?
  • Immunity to Cold (Common, Major, Trivial, 5 points of resistance, 3 CP).
  • Immunity to Electricity (Common, Major, Trivial, 5 points of resistance, 3 CP).
  • Occult Sense/Darkvision 60′ (6 CP)
  • Advanced Finesse (substitute Int for Con for bonus hit points) (12 CP)
  • DR 5/Magic (6 CP)
  • Attribute Shift: +2 Dexterity, -2 Strength (6 CP). In worlds using the half-attribute-cost rule (such as this one) treat this as a simple +2 Dexterity.
  • Defense: Natural Armor +1/5 levels (6 CP)
  • Innate Spell: Desecrate (2/day) (6 CP)
  • Returning (Extraordinary): Must destroy Phylactery, Specialized/Everybody knows this one (6 CP).
  • Immunity (Common +6 CP, Major +3 CP, Major 1/1): Reduce all critical hit damage by 30 points (9 CP)
  • Resist/+2 to Saves versus Mind-Affecting Effects (3 CP).
  • Template Disadvantage: Accursed/Malign Animation. Liches – even rather minimal ones – are animated by negative energy. Positive social emotions and memories simply find no purchase in their minds. At best, thanks to the intellectual focus which originally brought them to this state, a Lich will retain a cold intellectual curiosity, a fascination with magic, a willingness to work with a group that advances their purposes, and perhaps a few hobbies. (-3 CP).

The Minimal Lich Racial template is derived from the Minimal Vampire Racial Template – and does not carry the full set of “undead” immunities; instead it merely grants a bit of resistance to various effects. Of course this IS an Eclipse build; characters are perfectly free to build up those immunities and more advanced undead powers later on.

Pathfinder Package Deal Human:

Available Character Points: 168 (L6 Base) +10 (Disadvantages: Accursed, Outcast (Undead Abomination), and Untrustworthy (Evil Lich)) +12 (Duties to the Obsidian Blades) +18 (L1, L3, and L5 Bonus Feats) = 208 CP. The Pathfinder Package Deal bonus of +1 CP/Level provides an additional 6 CP, but these have not yet been spent.

Basic Attributes: Str 10, Dex 18 (20), Con -, Int 20 (22), Wis 15, and Cha 10 (12). (Purchased: Str 10, Dex 15+2+1 at L4= 18, Con 7 (before undeath), Int 18+2 (Pathfinder)= 20, Wis 15, and Cha 10.

Basic Abilities (62 CP):

  • Hit dice: 12 (L1d12, 8 CP) +16 (5d4) +66 (6 x (Int Mod + Dex Mod)) = 94 HP.
  • Skill Points: 6 (Purchased, 6 CP) +45 (Int Mod x 9) + 18 (Fast Learner) = 69 SP.
  • BAB: +2 (12 CP), +2 additional Specialized in Staves (6 CP).
  • Saves:
    • Fortitude: +0 (0 CP) +0 (Con) +2 (Res) +1 (Mor) = +3
    • Reflex: +4 (12 CP) +5 (Dex) +2 (Res) +1 (Mor) = +12
    • Will: +5 (15 CP) +2 (Wis) +2 (Res) +1 (Mor) = +10
  • Proficiencies: All Simple Weapons (3 CP).
  • Initiative: +5 (Dex)
  • Move: 30
  • Armor Class: 10 +5 (Dex) +4 (Armor) +4 (Shield) +4 (MA) +1 (Nat) = 28
  • Usual Attacks:
    • Staff: +6 (+4 BAB +0 Str +1 Enh +1 Mor), 1d6+2 (Enh and Mor) + 1d6+1 (Fire), Crit 20/x2. Combat Reflexes, Reach, Whirlwind Attack, Inner Strength, Ki Block and Vanishing.
    • Staff-Delivered Touch Attack: +11 (+4 BAB +5 Dex +1 Mor +1 Enh), 1d6+2 (Fire) plus spell effect, Crit 20/x2. Combat Reflexes, Reach, Whirlwind Attack, Inner Strength, Ki Block and Vanishing.
    • Flame Dart: +8 (+2 BAB +5 Dex +1 Mor) Ranged Touch Attack, 1d6+2 (Fire), Crit 20/x2, 120′ range, maximum one per round.
    • Masterwork Light Crossbow: +9 (+2 BAB +5 Dex +1 Enh +1 Mor) 1d8+1 (Mor), Crit 19-20/x2, 80 Ft Range Increment.

Special Abilities (155 CP):

  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for Double Effect (from original humanity, retained after becoming a lich by paying for it, 6 CP).
  • Adept (Knowledge: Arcane, History, Religion, and Planes, 6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Wizard Spell Progression Levels for +2 CP/Level (6 CP)
  • Action Hero/Invention, Specialized and Corrupted/only for Inventing Spells (at 2 AP per level of the spell, half that for existing spells), only during downtime – for a total of 3(Level+2) AP per level (6 CP). At L6 that’s a total of 99 action points so far.
  • Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus: Add (Dex Mod) to (Int Mod) when calculating HP (18 CP).
  • Companion (Familiar) with a +2 ECL Template (12 CP).
  • +8 levels of the Wizard Spellcasting Progression, Specialized for Reduced Cost/must ritually sacrifice large animals and the occasional sapient being to keep these powers active, must carry especially engraved sigils to cast spells, and his spellcasting causes minor negative energy effects (deaths of plants, occasional destruction of unattended items, and 1d6 damage to all allied living creatures in a twenty foot radius) (44 CP after Fast Learner). At Int 20 this provides him with 4L0, 6L1, 5L2, 4L3, and 3L4 spells per day. He has not purchased the ability to use his L0 spells repeatedly as of yet but does get the base allotment of “all” L0 wizard spells and seven standard first level spells of choice.
  • Finesse: Touch attacks use Dex instead of Str (6 CP)
  • Staff Like Bone: Immunity/the distinction between weapons and himself (Common, Minor, Major, Specialized in Staves, 3 CP). The power of his undeath flows through the dead wood of a stave as through his bones; attempts to sunder or disarm his staff are treated as normal attacks against him – and any touch-based effects, unarmed combat enhancements, or “unarmed” martial arts which he has will operate through his staff.
  • Innate Enchantment (5000 gp worth, 6 CP): Inspiring Word (1400) +1 Morale Bonus on saves, attacks, checks, and damage, Void Sheath (700) Store three items in a personal pocket dimension, Force Shield II (1,400) +4 Shield AC Bonus, and Force Armor II (1,400) +4 Armor AC Bonus.
  • Spell Storing/Scribe Scroll (6 CP).
  • Double Enthusiast with Adaption, Specialized in Relics (4 CP worth of Relics) (8 CP).
  • Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted/only with points from Enthusiast, only to create relics related to making magical devices (2 CP). (Thus his Sorcerous Tools let him access any two item creation feats).
    • Midnight Sun Stave (2 CP Relic): Reflex Action (three action per day variant) with +4 Bonus Uses / Specialized and Corrupted/only to release the spells bound into the stave (4 CP), 1 1/2d6 Mana (9 CP) as 3d4 generic spell levels, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (24 spell levels)/only measures the number of spell levels that can be bound into the staff, the user must charge it using his own spells. In effect, the Midnight Sun Stave can store 24 levels of spells. Seven times per day one can be released as an immediate action.
  • Turn Resistance (2 CP). This grants a bonus of +1 effective Hit Die for the purpose of resisting Channeling, spells, and other Hit-Die based effects only per 2 CP invested. It’s most commonly found in the undead, but can be useful to any character at times.
  • Elemental Manipulation Metamagical Theorem with Streamline, Specialized / only to make spells Disruptive (Targets affected by a disruptive spell must make concentration checks when using spells or spell-like abilities (DC equals the save DC of the disruptive spell plus the level of the spell being cast) for 1 round. Targets that avoid the spell’s effects avoid this feat’s effect as well). No increase to spell level (6 CP).
  • Lacing Metamagical Theorm with Streamline, Specialized/only to apply the Penetrating option (+3 to penetrate Spell Resistance for +0 spell levels, additional +3 per additional spell level, 6 CP).
  • Major Privilege/Member of the Obsidian Blades (6 CP).
  • Heartstone Attunement / The Obsidian Blades (6 CP).

Attunement to the Obsidian Blades heartstone allows the free use of Unseen Servant, Disguise Self, Sleep, and Summon Weapon (lasts one minute per level, as per Spiritual Weapon but must be wielded, L1) at caster level one. It allows the free use of Spider Climb, as well as three uses per day of Invisibility, at caster level three as well as a +2 bonus on rolls regarding knowing about, or using, poison. Secondarily it grants access to the following Sorcerer / Wizard Spell Formula:

  • 10L0: Bleed, Detect Magic, Detect Poison, Drench, Ghost Sound, Light, Mending, Open/Close, Prestidigitation, and Ray of Frost.
  • 7L1: Abundant Ammunition, Expeditious Retreat, Feather Fall, Magic Weapon,, True Strike, Vanish, and Ventriloquism.
  • 5L2: Darkvision, Ghoul Touch, Knock, Pernicious Poison, and Pyrotechnics.
  • 4L3: Blacklight, Blink, Shrink Item, and Spell Resistance (Lesser) (from The Practical Enchanter).
  • 3L4: Enervation, Phantasmal Killer, and Vermin Shape I.
  • 2L5: Baleful Polymorph, and Suffocation.

Why am I listing available spell formula instead of just noting the usual Spell Pool? It’s because this game is being run with all major spellcasters as spontaneous casters. That’s not what I usually recommend, but so be it!

Chosen In-Class Skills: Craft and Profession (Automatic), Fly, Knowledge (Arcana, History, Religion, and Planes), Linguistics, one Martial Art, Perception, Sense Motive, Spellcraft, Stealth, and Use Magic Device.

Skill Point Expenditures (all +1 Morale, +3 Pathfinder): Craft/Alchemy +18 (6 SP +6 Int +2 Tools), Fly +15 (+6 SP +5 Dex), Knowledge/Arcana, History, Religion, and The Planes all +19 (9 SP (4 with Adept) +6 Int), Linguistics +11 (1 SP +6 Int), Perception +17 (9 SP +2 Wis +2 Familiar), Sense Motive +15 (9 SP provided by Headband of Vast Intellect +2 Wis), Spellcraft +19 (9 SP +6 Int), Stave of Ahriman +19 (Martial Art, 9 SP +6 Int), Stealth +13 (4 SP +5 Dex), and Use Magic Device +15 (+9 SP +2 Cha).

Languages Known (7): Common, Draconic, Dwarven, Elven, Goblin, Infernal, and Undercommon.

Stave of Ahriman Martial Art (Int):

Arcane energies glow within the staff like veins of molten iron, spelling out terrible truths of blood and death. While the physical side of the Stave of Ahriman art focuses on circular blocks and defense, it’s true power is derived from channeling magic through the weapon. Great masters may possess additional powers (Imbuement, Countermagic/Specialized, only while wielding a staff, and so on), but even basic expertise may be enough to let the user turn a single-target spell into a blazing ring of power (combining a Touch Attack spell, Whirlwind Attack, and Reach).

  • Requires: Weapon Focus/Staff or equivalent point buy, Staff of Bone, ability to cast first level arcane spells with at least one touch attack spell.
  • Basic Techniques: Defenses 4, Power 2, Toughness 2, Synergy/Acrobatics, Synergy/Jump, and Synergy/Spellcraft.
  • Advanced and Master Techniques: Combat Reflexes, Mind Like Moon, Reach, and Whirlwind Attack.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength x2, Ki Block, and Vanishing.

Known Techniques (10): Defenses 4, Combat Reflexes, Reach, Whirlwind Attack, Inner Strength, Ki Block and Vanishing.

Equipment (23,500 GP Net Value):

Magical Gear: Headband of Vast Intellect +2 (2000 GP*, attuned to Sense Motive), Cloak of Resistance +2 (2000 GP*), Handy Haversack (1000 GP*), +1 Quarterstave (1600 GP*), Wand of Invisibility (2250 GP*), Lesser Ring of Flames (Produce Flame at caster level one at will, had to buy this one, 2000 GP), Lesser Staff of Evocation (Magic Missile and Shocking Grasp at one charge each, base caster level eight, classic style/50 charges, 4500 GP*), Dimension Stride Boots (1000 GP*), Ring of Silent Spells (1000 GP*), Chronocharm of the Horizon Walker (250 GP*), ten wands with ten charges each (level one utility spells at caster level one, 750 GP*), and five wands with ten charges each (level two utility spells at caster level three, 2250 GP*) (grand total 21,500 GP).

*Made – thanks to his Sorcerous Tools – personally, at half cost.

Minor Gear: Scholars Outfit, 10 Daggers (20 GP), Masterwork Light Crossbow (335 GP), 100 Bolts (10 GP), 12 Spellbooks (180 GP), Two Spell Component Pouches (10 GP), Basic Alchemy Lab (200 GP), Artisan’s Tools (5 GP), 50′ Silk Rope (10 GP), Writing Kit (10 GP) (Net 780 GP).

Minor Valuables: 1520 GP, 600 GP worth of Onyx

Familiar:

The player wants a Ghost-Butler – the spirit of Gravewright’s deceased uncle – as a familiar. That’s mildly awkward; sapient beings are usually more Followers than Companions and there’s no point in losing your memory if someone is hanging around to point stuff out. Still, it’s doable; we just need an appropriate base – in this case a Pathfinder Poltergeist. Those are CR 2 Undead, and normally you can only have a CR 1 creature as a Familiar. Fortunately, this just means that we’ll need to take a template and mark off 32 CP for the +1 CR. We can also assume that uncle whoever doesn’t have too many coherent memories of the old days either; he missed out on a lot of that stuff and becoming a poltergeist linked to his obsessive undead nephew hasn’t helped his memories out one little bit.

Now a Poltergeist is incorporeal, naturally invisible, returns after being destroyed unless it’s done properly (in this case by destroying the phylactery). They’re normally bound to a particular place, but being bound to a creature is certainly reasonable enough. They have telekinesis and can drop their invisibility to frighten people. As a Familiar it has one-half it’s master’s hit points (47), and it’s skill and save bases are as per it’s Master. Poltergeists fly at 20′, with perfect maneuverability.

As a Familiar for an ECL 7 master it gains a +4 bonus to it’s Deflection (normally Natural Armor, but it’s incorporeal, so a total of +6 Deflection with it’s Charisma for a total of 10 +3 Dex +6 Def +4 Armor +4 Shield = 27) and Intelligence, gains Improved Fortune (Evasion), and uses it’s masters base Skills, Saves, BAB, and Effective Level. May automatically use “Aid Another” on it’s masters Perception checks while it’s nearby, telepathic communication with it’s master, and lets it bestow 6 CP worth of abilities on it’s master.

Attributes: Str -, Dex 15 (16), Con -, Int 6 (10 with ECL 7 Master), Wis 12, Cha 12 (14)

With a +2 ECL Template it gets 93 CP to spend.

  • First up: Taking a base CR 2 creature as a Familiar (32 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (7 CP): All at Spell Level One, Caster Level One, Unlimited-Use Use-Activated and Personal-Only where appropriate. +2 Dex (1400 GP), Unseen Servant (2000 GP), +2 Cha (1400 GP), and Deathwatch (1400 GP). Note that the +2 Dex and Cha and Deathwatch abilities are shared with it’s master when it’s within range.
  • Immunity/The XP costs of it’s innate enchantments (Minor, Minor, Trivial (L1 effects only), 1 CP). This isn’t strictly necessary in Pathfinder, but it’s not like it’s expensive.
  • Negative Energy Channeling: (Cha Mod + 11) Uses/Day, Specialized/only for Spell Conversion (10 CP), Spell Conversion to Inflict Serious Wounds, Summon Undead III, Bestow Curse, and Earthward III (Negative Energy Shield) (9 CP).
  • Cloaking/Conceals it’s Magical Aura (6 CP).
  • Cloaking/Conceals it’s Psychic Aura (6 CP).
  • Celerity/+10 Flight Movement (6 CP).
  • Presence/Aura of Death, Specialized for Double Effect (Death Knell); operates a maximum of (Cha + 3) times daily, but can be used off initiative without it counting as an action (6 CP).
  • Reflex Training/Three extra actions per day variant (6 CP).
  • +1 Int, +1 Dex (with the half-price attribute rule in play, 6 CP). Already included above.

Bestowed Ability: Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saving Throws.

Master’s Skills (all +3 Pathfinder, has undead type so no morale bonus): Craft/Alchemy +9 (6 SP), Fly +20 (+6 SP +3 Dex +8 Natural Flyer), Knowledge/Arcana, History, Religion, and The Planes all +12 (9 SP (4 with Adept)), Linguistics +4 (1 SP), Perception +15 (9 SP +1 Wis +2 Master), Sense Motive +13 (9 SP provided by Headband of Vast Intellect +1 Wis), Spellcraft +12 (9 SP), Stave of Ahriman +12 (Martial Art, 9 SP), Stealth +12 (4 SP +5 Dex), and Use Magic Device +14 (+9 SP +2 Cha).

Gravewright has… rather a lot of magical power. Specializing an entire, major, spell progression will do that – and so will the fact that the rest of his build is also pretty thoroughly optimized. So will the use of alterable relics combined with Pathfinders elimination of experience point costs; that particular combination will let a spellcaster make almost anything he or she could want to have, effectively nearly doubling up on his or her gear. So will letting him build his own template for his familiar. So will… well, I think everyone has gotten the point. 

He’ll probably still need some minions and cannon fodder if he’s going to fight a group of adventurers, but he’s probably a lot more interesting as someone that the characters have to bargain with to get those specialty magical devices that player-characters always seem to want. 

The Rhammi Cont’d: Building the World

The Rhammi Continued: World Building

Having given it some thought, let’s continue with world-building the Rhammi, only this time we’ll focus on putting them into a quasi-normal world. As before, we’ll roughly keep this in a half-way sane world. No, it really makes no sense to use the Rhammi as the base centerpoint of the world here, but since we’ve established them, it’s more convenient.

The Great Vale of Pyremmia

To the northwest of the Rhamm lies the edge of the plateau, but small parties can get up or down it with a little patience. This allows the Rhammi to control access to the the scrublands below. Anyone trying to climb up would have a hard time doing so without the favor of the clanholds along the rim. As a consequence, the tribes near to the base of the plateau are very friendly, and actively encourage raiders to come – not for battle, but because the raiders usually sell the heavier loot before returning home.

The peoples farther out aren’t defenseless, of course, but it’s difficult to completely avoid the Rhammi horseman from stealing away a few cattle or horses here and there, with the occaisional larger attack to plunder liquor, silver, and women. The particular people in question are the tribes of the Pyremmia. Although Pyremmia is vast, the tribes lack any kind of unity and feud bitterly.

Pyremmian traditionalists fight stripped to the waist, or occaisionally entirely naked, although their frequent use of psychedelic drugs may be partially responsible. Young men often try to show their courage by fighting without shields, although older and experienced warriors prefer strong armor to insane battle-fury.

Pyremmians certainly do raid others, but in the last century have been pushed back severely. Several centuries ago, they burst out of their original homeland and conquered most of their current territory, subjugating the existing peoples. But as they civilized, they also lost their ferocity. The wealth of their new posessions meant they had something to protect. This in turn attracted the attention of the Rhammi, as well as Vaskyndr raiders even farther west.

Ten Thousand Golden Isles

Said Vaskynder occupy the coastal penninsualas and the northern islands of The Ten Thousand. They are perhaps the finest armorers on the continent, crafting typically strong but surprisingly lightweight armors using cunning arrays of mesh, plate, leather, and scale as needed. This is rather important, as proper armor allows them  a considerable advantage when raiding the Pyremmians or the Sarom to the south. The Vaskynder have many gods of battle and take great pride in pleasing them with bloody victories.

Hard living, many battles, and a cold climate mean the Vaskynder consider “natural” deaths rather unpleasant and undesirable. Hence after a certain age, Vaskynder men often actively seek out risky battle and glorious death. Even the occaisional warmatron seeks it. Despite a certain level of fatalism, the Vaskynder have a tendency towards optimism and a reputation for having an infectious sense of humor.

The Sarom, to the south, couldn’t be more different. A dusky-hued people with a history of great literature and theater, they prefer the defensive and have a strong, united Imperial State. Masters of fortification and organization, everyone able to carry arms has a place in the militia, from the lowest slave-born child to the Emperor himself. This level of readiness is necessary because the Sarom often face pirates frm the south and Vaskynder from the north, and both are brave and effective fighters.

Saromland is entirely an island nation save a few colonies, and its warm, shallow waters provides tremendous amounts of fish and other seafoods, feeding a growing and wealthy population. The Sarom further divide their people into many classes and grades of citizen, each with specific duties and priveleges. The Imperial System purports to cover the proper rules for everyone in the world (shockingly, people outside the Empire ignore it), including precise instructions for honoring the gods and ancestors. Other rules prescribe all social interactions between classes, as well as rules for trade, warfare, and even food. In order to ensure that everyone knows these rules, literacy is required for virtually everyone except the lowliest slaves. Any significant local laws will be clearly posted in relevant areas.

Micarie the Divided

Turning east along Bellun Sea, Green Sea, and Brackish Sea and almost directly south of the Rhammi, we arrive at the land of Micarie. MIcaries boasts thick and mature forests and the bounty it brings, along with rich soils for farming. Two peoples divide the land – the tribes and cityfolk. Though divided by language, clothing, art, and religion, each needs what the other possesses. Further, tribe and city-states compete against their own, leading to complex chains of alliances. As groups grow more and more intertwined, they are also intermarrying and long-standing blood ties, giving rise to even more complex relationships.

Micarie is a land on the cusp of change and revolution. Many of the cities were formed by colonists from the eastern lands, but that era is fading. The old lands have their hands full, while the city-states are looking to the west for their future. The tribes, meanwhile, know they can’t stand up to other lands without adapting. They have ancient and very large towns themselves, but little technological expertise. They need learning, firearms, and steel and know it. Some tribes, however, still retain the oldest traditions as many of their kin did before the Pyremmians conquered much of their people.

Strong trade ties exist between Micarie and the Rhammi, as it’s the easiest path into the Plateau. The tribes are distantly related to the Rhammi themselves, and the townspeople use these links to move a constant stream of caravans northwards.

The Sun Kingdom (Solar Empire)

Far to the south and well past the Brackish Sea lies the land of The Holy and Unending Empire of the Great River of the Ten Thousand Eternal Dawns and Dusks, or the Sun Kingdom for short. In terms of population, it’s the largest nation in the world.  The geography is what makes the Sun Kingdom so unusual: the entire country revolves entirely about the Great River. The river’s annual cycle determines the harvest and the therefore the seasonal cycle of work, and hence the all the various Holy Days of the calender.

Further, the river itself is so rich and fertile that the entire country forms one unbroken urban zone. Past the fields on either side fo the river runs a narrow stretch of homes, shops, manufactories, warehouses and everything else needed. The continual nature of the city means that everything is either national or extremely local – there are few dialects and little variation in worship, style, or habits. Any ideas are rapidly carried and communicated throughout the land; any product can be transported to any point along the river.

Above it all rules the Sun Emperor, who rules through the numerous temples. Everything in the land revovles around temples, and all government business is conducted through them. Temples of Wealth collect taxes and make loans using the cash manufactured and officially approved of by the Temple of Money. The Temple of Arms provides armaments for the Temple of Soldiers, who are commanded from the Temple of War. The state even has Dark Temples, dedicated to ideas such as Anarchy and Insurrection. Of course no one would be foolish enough leave offerings there except for specific requried ceremonies, which is proof as far as the government is concerned that all its subjects are happy and loyal.

The lands away from the river rapidly turn to desolate, desertlike barrens, hence it becomes very difficult for the Sun Kingdom to expand. Although from time to time it’s mounted expeditions, and nominally collects tribute from beyond its borders, the military forces available are more numerous than skilled. This was not always so, and at one point the Sun Kingdom was a true empire with numerous dependencies. However, the rising of the Lords of Under-Mountain ended with the utter obliteration of the Sun Kingdom’s expeditionary force and wiped out the expertise of generations of soldiers.

The Lords of UnderMountain

Although the Solar Empire, now Sun Kingdom, once ruled the lands east of their river-valley with an iron grip, they eventually made the mistake of attempting to wipe out restless religious leaders and enforce Imperial dogma upon everyone. Instead of ofrcing complete loyalty, however, it sparked a vast uprising and bled the Imperial treasury white.

Despite this, the skill and numbers of the Sun Kingdom’s troops were able to partially pacify the region, forcing many leaders into hiding; the place they chose was Atrara, a mountain situated in a desert with only shallow hills and oases to keep it company. This ancient holy site for the region’s peoples formed the nucleus around which a revived rebellion emerged. The key difference was a strong religious core which united the disparate groups and prevented the Sun Kingdom from crushing them separately.

The result was that the Solar Empire lost its empire. It was powerful, but not able to sustain a military effort of controlling a region ten times the size of its homeland, and the strain of attempting to do led to collapse. In the wake of victory, the leaders of the rebellion went their own ways, united not under political control but through a fanatical faith.

These leaders, political as well as religious, continue to take pilgrimages to the sacred mountain in order to hear the whispers of the Hidden God, which claim inspired their journey to freedom and watches over them still. Although internal war is not unknown, they keep a wary eye on the possibility of outsider invasion, and can indeed unite when necessary.

Both the environment and cultures reflect immense diversity among this people. From the marsh-dwelling Natchzean fishermen to Vintpma farmers with flawlessly geometric fields to the Rapamahech-ch sponge-divers, the great land knows complex trade and social relationships. Even to catalogue its peoples could be the work of a lifetime, and only the Utter East lies beyond.

While the lords themselves number in the hundreds, the Seven Great Lords are the real powers of the land. When one dies, the others replace him in secret. Almost all Great Lords were lesser lords as well, but not always. The Great Lords also hold a cadre of devoted servants who carry messages to and from the sacred mountain, and examine the worth of supplicants and pilgrims.

Although he Lords of UnderMountain have brought relative peace and prosperity, a key to their power is the use of skilled smithcraft. The people of this land regard smithwork as a holy calling and view the working of earth and fire by human hands as a sacred rite, the secrets of crafting steel given to the people by the Great Lords.

The Battleground of Appenia

The rich penninsulas of Appenia (located east of Micarie and northwest of UnderMountain) are ancient centers of civilization with a rich and often bloody history. However, they are largely unified into Kingdom of Appenia and the coastal Medillean Republic. Given the Kingdom of Appenia’s war with the northern barbarian, an uneasy peace prevails between the two states.

While there many regional differences exist, most Appenians live in large towns. Cramped and twisting streets are the norm, with special quarters set aside for different industries or guilds. The latter have a special social status, and in Appenian tradition do not always make sense or stay consistent from region to region. In the city of Drocran, for instance, the barrel-makers’ guild also handle shoeing horses, making crates, and basket-weaving. On the other hand, Chanu permits anyone to make any item used by horsemen, including shoes and tack or even cavarly sabers.

In time of war, guilds and other social organizations even provide much of the basic militia needed, although such troops are rarely skilled. The blade to the guilds’ shield are the nobility, who train extensively with the elite implements of war such as the sword, the horse, and siege weapons and engineering.

The invaders are the Mrittani, dangerous invaders trying to claim the bounty of Appenia for themselves. Over the last generation, they have assaulted the Kingdom a dozen times in varying raids and invasions. Although ferocious, their greatest weapon is a form of bloody sacrifice. They know exceedingly well how to terrorize and subdue civilians, and armies that face them quickly learn to fear. The Mrittani learn from a young age to fight in the dark, and often pick off sentries or kill enemies in their sleep. The Mrittani further sacrifice captured soldiers in a variety of horrible ways to earn the favor of their bloodier gods.

This creates a further religious conflict, as the businesslike Appenian religion has a much more convenional outlook. Temples are major sources of business and have their own legal and social priveleges, but otherwise don’t influence politics per se – but many nobles are also priests of the more prestigious gods.

Ethnically, the Mrittani alsio contrast with the Appenians. The latter are predominently olive-skinned, stocky and dark-haired, while the Mrittani are pale and slender. The Mrittani further make themselves distinct by filing their teeth and using dyes to draw intricate patterns on their skin, a practice the Appenians view as revolting.

Micarie was settled by men from the northern reaches of Appenia in more peaceful days gone by, but those culture have been largely assimilated by the Kingdom. New refugees still leave across Weaker Ocean, but it’s a perilous journey. One can also reach Micarie by skirting the land along the edges of the Bellinte Sea, but that risks pirate attacks.

Terror of the MetaVoice

If one were to venture to the far north of Appenia, and well northeast of the Rhammi), you might just be able to catch a glimpse of a vast fortress composed entirely of metal. If one were to explore cautiously into the wastelands beyond, one might discover four more titanic pillars along the barren taigalands. But tread lightly and swiftly, for these are the lands of the MetaVoice.

The Five Holy Temples of the MetaVoice are vast holds with thousands upon thousands of inhabitants each, all organized into unchangeable castes from birth. Bound by fanatical purpose and continuous devotions to their gods, the pale Followers of the MetaVoice offer up gruesome prizes to their gods. Each of the Five Temples houses one of the Holy Ones, the gods of the MetaVoice, and the Followers hand over blood sacrifices of captives or traitors (preferably alive, or at least fresh) into the central furnaces. The MetaVoice, according to the Followers, in turn provide all that they need: endless warmth in a frigid environment and the energy needed to forge weapons and armor.

The Followers need those implements as they ruthlessly wage war on all they can reach. More than simple raiders or even conquerers, they aim to dominate all the neighboring peoples for the sake of blood and prestige. Their usual tactic is to send a small group of perhaps a mere hundred warriors against any number of foes – but the Followers choose the largest and strongest from a young age and train them relentlessly. In battle they bear extremely hjeavy armor of the finest steel and painted with geometric phrases glorifying their gods, as well as small cannon, firearms, spears, and swords. If this band dies in battle, even the most fearsome and courageous foes inevitably note two things. First, the Followers died without reatreating and may have killed themselves out of spite, mocking their enemies all the while, and second, that the Followers killed many times their own numbers before dying. The prospect of facing more Followers afterwards is not a pleasant one. And the Followers are happy to obliterate anyone who does not surrender, or preferentially destroy their leadership and force the survivors to heel.

 

The End – For Now

You may have noticed that all the above have at least some connection to real-world groups, although very stretched and often based in extremely early history. Two things stood out when I was designing it, however. First, I wanted to describe reasonable ethnic groups and population dispersal. Hence most of the peoples listed have neighbors with some similarities, but some even in the past (often implied) which split them away for some reason. Some things are just for fun – other aspects are there to frighten.

But more importantly, I wanted to have room for myth and differentiation. It’s all generic quasi-European cities with no culture and no internal identity or conflict. This is ideally a world people can stretch their legs in – and there’s enough blank edges on the map that you can easily add things to your convenience.

Gareth Tamson, Feyblooded Cartographer of Dreams

English: Top view of 1765 de l'Isle globe A 17...

So where did you want to go? We’re not limited to just this one…

Magic -and especially the magic of the fey – follows it’s own rules. Gareth’s father, Tam, spent seven years in the service of the Fey before Gareth’s mother rescued and married him. By rights, their son, born almost a year later, should have been entirely human. But Gareth inherited a spark of the magic of the fey along – with his father’s love of tales and distant lands and his mother’s love of the sea. As humans do, he took that spark of magic and made it his own.

Gareth grew up in a great port, walking it’s streets and shores, and watching the ships arriving and departing. He played with the selkies, and the brownies, and the other local fey who saw him as kin, he listened to the sailors tales, and he dreamed of distant, magical, lands. He drew “maps” of those lands – works that filled the gaps in what he knew with a child’s imagination.

That interest turned into a childhood job at a mapmakers, where young Gareth proved to have a fine hand – and continued to draw splendid, if speculative, maps of places real and mythical.

Until, one day, one of his maps carried him out of the world in body as well as mind – and the gates of a thousand adventures opened for him and for anyone he chose to share his gift with.

Gareth Tamson, Level One Cartographer-Mage

Pathfinder Package Deal Human:

Template: Minor Fey Bloodline (+18 CP. ECL cost, if any, depends on the cost of the base race. Pathfinder Humans are 13 CP; with a total cost of 31 CP a Pathfinder Human with a Minor Fey Bloodline is still +0 ECL).

  • The Blood of Magic (+2 initially): A Favored Foe variant: it adds to Deception, Persuasion, Knowledge, Perform, and Will checks involving Fey creatures and (of course) marks the user as kin to the fey. The bonuses will increase with level, but the user will never gain any additional favored foes (Specialized, 3 CP).
  • Fey Tokens: Shaping, Specialized and Corrupted for increased (primarily level zero and level one) effects / only produces effects for which the user has an appropriate charm or talisman, can only support a limited number (seven minor charms and three notable talismans) of such charms or talismans at a time, it takes hours to swap out charms and talismans), and such charms and talismans must be personally created out of items given to the user as gifts (6 CP).
    • Charms (7): Astrolabe, Elder Wand Spell Catalyst (The Laborer’s Word, 9 uses), Anoptic Spectacles, Traveling Pack (a gift from his grandfather), Water Shoes, Swarm Bow, and a Spirit Anchor.
    • Talismans (3): Shimmermail (a vest his grandmother made for him), a Loaded Brush (a fine quill for a favored teacher), and Bracers of Hurling.
  • The Dreaming Thunder (Immunity/Aging; Uncommon, Major, Trivial, 2 CP). Feyblooded are not immortal, but they do age considerably more slowly than their base species usually does after they reach young adulthood.
  • Of Air and Darkness (Damage Reduction 2/-, Specialized in Physical Attacks, Corrupted/not versus Cold Iron, 1 CP). The Feyblooded are – slightly – resistant to attacks; they somehow slip just a bit aside from anything save Cold Iron, which seems to anchor their reality.
  • A Spark of Magic (+1 Base Caster Level, 6 CP). The Feyblooded have a knack for magic.
  • Enchanted Fortune: Luck (6 CP).
  • Nature of the Fey: The Feyblooded are compulsive about reciprocating gifts and favors (-3).
  • A Duty to the Court: The Feyblooded will, occasionally, be asked to undertake minor jobs for the great lords of the fey. Such tasks are not compulsory – but it’s wise to undertake at least a few of them (-3).

Available Character Points: 48 (L1 base) +10 (Disadvantages) +2 (Duties) +12 (Human, L1 Bonus Feat) = 72 CP.

Basic Attributes: Str 10, Dex 14, Int 16, Wis 14, Con 14, Cha 14 (3.5 32 Point Buy, Str 10, other attributes 14, +2 Pathfinder bonus to Int)

Basic Abilities (21 CP):

  • Hit dice: 12 (L1d12, 8 CP) +2 (1 x Con Mod) = 14 HP.
  • Skill Points: 4 (Purchased, 4 CP) +12 (Int Mod x 4) + 8 (Fast Learner) = 24 SP.
  • BAB: +0 (0 CP).
  • Saves:
    • Fortitude: +0 (0 CP) +2 (Con) = +2
    • Reflex: +2 (6 CP) +2 (Dex) = +4
    • Will: +0 (0 CP) +2 (Wis) = +2
  • Proficiencies: All Simple Weapons (3 CP).
  • Initiative: +2 (Dex)
  • Move: 30
  • Armor Class: 10 +2 (Dex) +4 (Armor) = 16.
  • Usual Attacks:
    • Staff: +0, 1d6, Crit x2.
    • Light Crossbow: +2 (+2 Dex), 1d8, Crit 19-20/x2, 80′ Range Increment.

Special Abilities (51 CP):

  • Upgrade Human Fast Learner to +2 SP/Level (3 CP).

Mystic Artist/Cartography, Specialized/gets no basic abilities, one daily use is automatically imbued into each map he makes, only works when making a new map (2 CP).

  • Echoes: Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (no time limit on usage, works for everyone in the immediate vicinity of the map when it’s activated): Each map can only be imbued with a single use of Mystic Artist, which only serves to prime the Echoes ability, which can only be used for the Path of Whispers. After the Echoes are expended, they are simply maps (6 CP).
  • Path of Whispers: Subliminal, Conditioning, Compelling, and Undertow, all Specialized and Corrupted/only as prerequisites, requires drawing a new map each time (8 CP).
  • Path of Whispers/Immersive, Specialized and corrupted/only to convey visions of places, requires drawing a new map each time (2 CP).
  • Path of Whispers/Worldgate, Corrupted/requires drawing a new map each time (4 CP).

In essence, Gareth Tamson is capable of drawing maps that each have three “charges” – and are either capable of granting visions of the place portrayed or of actually transporting those in the area when the map is activated into the realm it portrays – a historical setting, a myth, or a popular tale – and placing them in an appropriate role within it. Once the plot is completed (or hopelessly derailed) those participating will be returned from whence they came.

  • Witchcraft II (12 CP). Power 19, Save DC 15, Glamour, Healing, and Shadowweave. Pacts of Rituals and Taboos paying for a Crow Familiar (Grants Inherent Spell/Earthward with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only while using a staff, not while medium or heavy armor or while heavily encumbered. This lets him block (3d8+Level) points of damage or any one special effect (poison, etc) from an incoming attack as an immediate action nine times per day) and the Weathermonger advanced witchcraft abilities.
  • 2d6 Mana taken as 4d4 (12) Generic Spell Levels/Day, Specialized and Corrupted/only usable for Hedge Magic (4 CP) plus Hedge Magic (from The Practical Enchanter, 6 CP).
  • Enthusiast, Specialized in Relics (1 CP).
  • Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted/only usable with points from Enthusiast, one point relics only, may never maintain more than 2 CP worth of Relics (2 CP).
    • The Ring of the Wanderer (his grandfather’s signet ring, 1 point relic): Innate Enchantment (6000 GP Value, 7 CP), Immunity/the normal XP costs of Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Minor, Minor, 2 CP). Healing Belt (750 GP), Traveler’s Cloak (1200 GP), Dimension Stride Boots (2000 GP), Hat of Disguise (1800 GP), Crystal of Illumination (400 GP).
  • Specific Knowledge/The Fey Courts (1 CP).

Skills: Linguistics, Profession / Cartographer +10 (+4 SP +3 Int +3 Pathfinder), Profession / Sailor +8 (2 SP +3 Int +3 Pathfinder), Disguise +7 (2 SP +2 Cha +3 Pathfinder), Knowledges +8 (Arcana, Geography, History, and Nature, all 2 SP +3 Int +3 Pathfinder), Perception +7 (2 SP +2 Wis +3 Pathfinder), Spellcraft +8 (2 SP +3 Int +3 Pathfinder), Stealth +7 (2 SP +2 Dex +3 Pathfinder), and Use Magic Device +7 (2 SP +2 Cha +3 Pathfinder),

Profession (Cartographer): The creation of accurate maps is a highly specialized art – and in a realm of magic,

  • Special: Profession (Cartographer) may be rolled in place of (or in addition to) Knowledge / Geography, Knowledge / History, and Knowledge / Local for questions related to maps, routes, and layouts.
  • DC 5: Determine the cardinal directions, estimate travel time from a map with a small margin of error.
  • DC 10: Draw a basic, but useful, sketch map of an area, copy a map or chart accurately.
  • DC 15: Determine the likely dangers, time, and difficulty of various routes, draw a map of an area recording elevations with reasonable accuracy, create an astronomical chart suitable for use by an astrologer or astronomer.
  • DC 20: Keep a mental map in three dimensions, locating likely connections and relationships between areas, draw a map of an oceanic area accurately displaying depths, rocks, and currents. Use a map for basic dowsing.
  • DC 25: Draw a map so close to reality that it’s sympathy for the area portrayed will make it self-updating with respect to notable features.
  • DC 30: Draw a map that shows extreme levels of detail under magnification, or an accurate map of a place you haven’t been.
  • DC 35: Use a local map to plot and navigate along ley lines, through mystic gates, and on the hidden paths between realities. Plot a map of the heavens suitable for interstellar navigation.
  • DC 40: Draw a map that serves as a sympathetic link to the place portrayed, draw a map that gives hidden features of a location that you have no normal way of knowing, or draw a map that shows population demographics.
  • DC 50: Draw a self-updating map of an area that’s detailed enough to show people who have no special defenses against scrying magic.

Why is this sort of thing possible? For the same reason that a character with +25 Knowledge / Local will know the layout of a town better than the vast majority of the people who live there even if he or she has never visited the dimension that it’s located in before. Skills at that level… simply do not correspond to anything in reality. They are utterly magical, so they might as well be treated that way.

Notable Equipment: Surveying Kit, Mapmaking Tools, Quarterstaff, Explorer’s Outfit, Light Crossbow, Case of Bolts, 3 Flasks of Oil.

Magical Equipment: a Big Bag of Tools (A self-made Conjure).

Gareth is – as usual for a focused Eclipse build – fairly formidable for a first level character, even if his “big attack” is a witchcraft-based Color Spray effect and his hedge magic is of relatively little use on most adventures. Still, he’s very durable, has some useful support talents – and is far deeper than any first level character should really be allowed to go into the advanced mystic artist abilities. Still, given the way that they’re restricted… sure, one of his maps can serve as an instant (if temporary) escape from a nasty situation – but it will do it by dumping you straight into another adventure. It’s an amazing power that… mostly says “we can jump straight to the exciting stuff without worrying about trekking to the dungeon”. Isn’t that exactly how it usually goes anyway? Nobody plays out the boring bits. This character has spent a lot of points on a really cool ability to… save the game master a bit trouble. I’d allow it.  

Dallyn Vortys, Ebonthane of Nidhogg the Devourer, Level Seven Would-Be Dark Lord

The black and crimson sigil swirled across the infant’s back – the symbol of the generational curse that had already claimed his mother. But she had taken THAT secret to her grave, and none knew the truth – or what would all too likely come to pass as the child grew. Early on the child might have been turned aside, finding another destiny – but the teacher and playmate who might led the child out of darkness died in a mysterious giant scorpion attack.

The church had little more success; the child had a quick mind and more than a little talent – but seemed to lack the faith and hope that would have made him a good cleric of the Sunlord.

That was true. Listening to the voices and lessons of the priests… always seemed to awaken a dark whisper of doubt, of anger, and of mockery from deep within himself. He skipped as much of the teachings as he possibly could. Despite his father’s urgings to follow a more peaceful path, he was drawn to the militia and the life of a warrior – where he showed almost frightening talents. No weapon seemed beyond his hand, armor hindered him little more than his own skin, injuries vanished overnight even without benefit of healing magic – and his speed and strength in battle was incredible. It seemed that they had a budding hero on their hands.

At fifteen, during yet another family quarrel, young Dallyn’s cold anger manifested itself as a blade of solid darkness, blazing with psychic balefire. The dark urges which had made it so hard for him to embrace a civilized life rose – and his father died, blood boiling as the flaming blade slid into his chest.

In his shock that inner voice continued to guide him as Dallyn left a town lit by the spreading fire which concealed his crime and went out into the world. It would be his; it was time to raise another Empire of Darkness, the night resurgent.

So; this is Eclipse, and we want Dallyn pretty heavily optimized. If he wants to start building an empire of evil single-handed he’s going to have to be pretty tough; after all Conan found that pretty rough going and HE had the author in his side.

As a result, Dallyn possesses rather a lot of power – mostly because, as an evil conqueror, he can afford to take limitations on his powers that heroes cannot. What does he care if his horrific allies wander off to eat the local peasants on occasion? Or if the side effects of his magic blight the earth, cause plagues, unleash monsters, and destroy things around him? If an evil spirit inhabits his body and constantly whispers foul suggestions to him? If the shadowy minions of his evil god use his body as a gateway through which they can slither into the material world? If he must regularly offer up intelligent beings in sacrifice?

Well, OK; it was bothersome how much time some of that stuff could take up – but that sort of thing is what minions are FOR.

Dallyn – despite his ambitions – wouldn’t really make a very good king, but he certainly makes a good conquering warlord or ravager of the countryside. For his actual build…

Dallyn Vortys

ECL 7 Ebonthane of Nidhogg the Devourer.

Pathfinder Package Deal: Human (Free).

Template: Chthonic Invested (+1 ECL):

Available Character Points: 168 (L6 base) +10 (Disadvantages) +12 (Duties to his God) +24 (Human, L1, L3, L5 Bonus Feats) = 214 CP.

Basic Attributes: Str 14 (16), Dex 14, Int 17 (19), Wis 14, Con 10, Cha 14 (3.5 32 Point Buy, Con 10, other attributes 14, +2 Pathfinder bonus to Int, +1 Level bonus to Int)

Basic Abilities (62 CP):

  • Hit dice (See: Fast Learner): 20 (1d20, 8 CP) + 32 (5d8, 6,6,8,8,4, 10 CP) +12 (Magic) = 64 HP. His Adamant Full Plate provides DR 3/-.
  • Skill Points: 2 (Purchased, 2 CP) +27 (Int Mod x 9) + 18 (Fast Learner) = 47 SP. This is cheap, but we are getting the required number of skill points from Fast Learner…
  • BAB: +2 (12 CP), +2 Specialized in Swords for Double Effect (12 CP).
  • Saves:
    • Fortitude: +2 (6 CP) +0 (Con) +1 (Res) = +3
    • Reflex: +4 (12 CP) +2 (Dex) +1 (Res) = +7
    • Will: +0 (0 CP) +2 (Wis) +1 (Res) = +3
  • Proficiencies: Light and Medium Armor with the Smooth Modifier (18 CP).
  • Initiative: +2 (Dex) +4 (Improved Initiative) = +6
  • Move: 60′
  • Armor Class: 10 +2 (Dex) +12 (+4 Full Plate Armor) +4 (Shield) = 28 (If defaulting to his Whispering Shadow Style AC 32, Mind Like Moon, Deflect Arrows, and Ki Block).

The “Chitin Mail” template effect reduces this to medium armor, eliminates the move penalty, and increases the maximum dexterity modifier to +3. The “Smooth” modifier for Medium Armor eliminates Armor Check Penalties and Arcane Spell Failure. In effect, his Full Plate hinders him no more than his normal clothing.

Usual Attacks:

  • Bastard Sword (Blood Reaver Style): +16/+16/+11 (+6 BAB +3 Str +4 Magic +3 MA, Haste), 1d10 + 8 (+4 Magic, +4 Str, may cause lethal or nonlethal damage), Crit 19-20/x2. Combat Reflexes, 10′ Reach, Combat Expertise. May augment with elemental damage, infliction, and various other abilities.
  • Unarmed (Blood Reaver Style): +8/+8 (+2 BAB +3 Str +3 MA Haste), 1d4+3 (Str), Crit 20/x2, considered armed, may cause lethal or nonlethal damage or add in special abilities.

Other Abilities (146 CP):

Servant of the Shadows (24 CP):

  • Witchcraft III (18 CP) with +3d6 Power (6 CP). Total Power 36, Save DC 15.
  • Basic Abilities: The Adamant Will, Elfshot (Specialized/only inflicts wound-style penalties but may be used as a part of a successful melee attack), Glamour, Infliction (Specialized/only to add damage to melee attacks, may be used as a part of a successful attack, spend 1/2/3 power to add 3/5/7d4 damage), Witchfire (Specialized/only to give melee weapons the equivalent of the Flaming, Frost, or Shock properties, at a cost of one power per property per minute), The Hand of Shadows, and Shadowweave.
  • Pacts: Gateway, Hunted, Souls, and Spirit. These pay for the Path of Darkness/Nightforge (1 power to create 20 pounds of “adamant” for one hour), Wrath of the Sea (1 Power for +6 Str for ten minutes). The Path of Water/Dismissal (Specialized/only usable as part of a successful melee attack), and Venomed Touch (1/2/3 power to create a 1d6/1d10/1d12 attribute damage poison).

Master of the Adamant Forge (24 CP).

  • Immunity/the distinction between weapons and himself (Common, Minor, Major, Specialized in Swords, 3 CP). A true masters weapon is an extension of themselves; attempts to sunder or disarm them are treated as normal attacks against them and any touch-based effects and unarmed combat enhancements or martial arts which they may possess operate through their blades.
  • Imbuement (Bastard Sword), with the Focused and Versatile upgrades, Specialized for Double Effect (for a total bonus of +Level/2 rounded up) and Corrupted for reduced cost/only works on adamant (or equivalent) swords that he has personally created (12 CP). His usual self-created solidified-darkness blade thus gains a +4 bonus.
  • Imbuement/Armor Specialized for Double Effect (Bonus of +Level/2) and Corrupted for reduced cost/only works on heavy adamant (or equivalent) armor that he has personally created (4 CP). His usual suit of self-created solidified-darkness adamant armor thus gains a +4 bonus. This is actually a minor variant ability; Imbuement is usually used on weapons, adding to both attacks and damage, but there’s no reason why it can’t be used on armor – in which case it’s only adding to one number, and so can reasonably be applied to all kinds of armor. It’s not as if characters change out the type of armor they use very often.
  • Specific Knowledges: Construction of Masterwork Plate Armor (for him), Construction of Masterwork Adamant Bastard Sword (for him) (2 CP).
  • Block, Specialized/only while using one of his personal adamant blades (3 CP).

Eldritch Master (70 CP).

  • All His Spellcasting: Eldritch (Full set of modifiers, 6 CP), Corrupted/all spells have (very) destructive environmental side effects. This can cut down on the party treasure, create major disturbances, cause people to hunt him, and kill off important NPC’s.
  • Five Levels of Package Deal Clerical Magic, Wisdom Based Spontaneous Casting Variant, Caster Level upgraded to cover his second magic progression, below (37 CP). Spell Conversion to Harming Spells.
    • 5/4/3/1 Spells of L0/1/2/3 per day plus domain slots (-/1/1/1), Known Spells 7/5/3/2 plus domain spells.

Domains:

Travel Domain (Grants Freedom of Movement for One Round/Cleric Caster Level/Day and Survival as a class skill)

  1. Longstrider: Increases your speed.
  2. Locate Object: Senses direction toward object (specific or type).
  3. Fly: Subject flies at speed of 60′
  4. Dimension Door: Teleports you short distance.
  5. Teleport: Instantly transports you as far as 100 miles/level.
  6. Find the Path: Shows most direct way to location.
  7. Teleport, Greater: As teleport, but no range limit and no off-target arrival.
  8. Phase Door: Creates an invisible passage through wood or stone.
  9. Astral Projection (M): Projects you and companions onto Astral Plane.

Time Domain (Grants Improved Initiative):

  1. True Strike: +20 on your next attack roll.
  2. Gentle Repose: Preserves one corpse.
  3. Haste: One creature/level moves faster, +1 on attack rolls, AC, and Reflex saves.
  4. Freedom of Movement: Subject moves normally despite impediments.
  5. Permanency (X): Makes certain spells permanent.
  6. Contingency (F): Sets trigger condition for another spell.
  7. Legend Lore (MF): Learn tales about a person, place, or thing.
  8. Foresight: “Sixth sense” warns of impending danger.
  9. Time Stop: You act freely for 1d4+1 rounds.
  • Five Levels of the Bardic Spell Progression (Int-Based, Spontaneous Variant, picking spells from the Pathfinder Magus Spell List, 27 CP). Can cast 3/4/2 spells/day of levels 0/1/2, knows 6/4/3.

Minor Abilities (28 CP):

  • Upgrade Human Fast Learner to +2 SP/Level (3 CP).
  • Adept (May buy his two Martial Arts, Profession (Military Commander), and Knowledge (Religion), for half cost. 6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Hit Dice (reduces initial d20 to 4 CP, d8’s to 2 CP, 6 CP)
  • Luck with +3 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saves (5 CP).
  • Reflex Training (Three Actions/Day Variant) with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / cannot be used off-action, only to allow the substitution of casting a spell for one attack in an attack sequence (6 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +1 Bonus Use (8 CP).

Skills (53 SP):

  • In-Class Skills: Craft (Int) and Profession (Wis) (Automatic). Survival (from Clerical Domain, Wis). Chosen: Bluff (Cha), Diplomacy (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (Arcana, History, and Religion), Two Martial Arts (Var), Ride (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), and Spellcraft (Int).

Wait a moment! This character DOESN’T have Perception as a class skill?

No. No, he doesn’t. He’s BLIND. He relies on his Dark Guardian – Shadow-Upon-The-Moon – to share what IT sees with him, and so it’s the one with the perception skill.

  • Anyway…. this really isn’t a particularly skill-based character outside of his martial arts… 15 SP go to having 1 SP in each of his fifteen class skills – including Craft (Smithcraft) (he doesn’t fix his own gear much these days, but he used to) and Profession (Military Commander). Of the remaining 32, 12 go to maxing out his Adept skills, and four more each go into Diplomacy, Intimidate, Knowledge (Arcana), Ride, and Spellcraft.
  • Net Skills: Bluff +6 (Cha), Blood Ripper Form Martial Art +14 (Wis), Craft (Smithcraft) +8 (Int), Diplomacy +10 (Cha), Intimidate +10 (Cha), Knowledge (Arcana +12, History +8, and Religion +16, Int), Profession (Military Commander) +14 (Wis), Ride +10 (Dex), Sense Motive +6 (Wis), Sleight of Hand +6 (Dex), Spellcraft +12 (Int), Survival, and Whispering Shadow Martial Art +14 (Dex).

Martial Arts:

The Stalking Shadow Style has several subschools – Bone Cleaver, Blood Reaver, and Flesh Ripper – based on the Axe, the Sword, and Unarmed techniques respectively – but they all build on the same philosophy. The Will to Kill lies within the mind; both weapons and hands are mere extensions of that will. Without that will… they are nothing, to be brushed aside by anyone who knows the truth. When your will is one with darkness… the merest touch can kill.

Coiling shadows obscure the practitioner of the Stalking Shadow Style, his or her blows strike at vital points, leaping like shadows cast by a stroke of lightning – sudden and deadly. It’s masters are few, and hidden, and often charge highly for lessons – and if a student lacks the Will to Kill… the lesson is always the same, for the teachers do not.

Blood Ripper Form (Wis):

  • Requires: Witchcraft (Infliction and Shadowweave), BAB +2 or more, and evil alignment.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 4, Defenses 3, Power 4, Strike.
  • Advanced and Master Techniques: Combat Reflexes, Expertise, Reach, and Mobility.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength, Light Foot, Touch Strike, and Vanishing.
  • Known Techniques (7): Attack +3, Combat Reflexes, Expertise, Reach, and Vanishing.

Whispering Shadow Style (Dex):

  • The Wind Whispers Over Water And Snow.
  • Shadows Pass Without Trace, Disturbing Nothing.
  • Darkness Hides All, Bit What Is Hidden From Darkness?
  • What Words Can Be Hidden From The Wind Which Bears Them?
  • The Riddle Of The Night Whispers In Silence.
  • Learn The Stance Of The Void, The Absence Of Being.
  • Seeing, Not Seen.
  • Where Enemies Strike… BE NOT.
  • Requires: Witchcraft (Glamour and Shadowweave), Dex 14+.
  • Basic Techniques: Defenses 4, Synergy/Acrobatics, Escape Artist, Perception, Slight of Hand, Stealth, and Use Magic Device.
  • Advanced and Master Techniques: Deflect Arrows, Dodge, Instant Stand, and Mind Like Moon.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength, Healing, Ki Block, and Resist Pain.
  • Known Techniques (7): Defenses 4, Mind Like Moon, Deflect Arrows, and Ki Block.

Equipment: Chronocharm of the Horizon Walker (take a half-move that does not provoke attacks of opportunity as a swift action three times per day, 500 GP), Vest of Resistance +1 (Torso, 1000 GP), Belt of Strength +2 (Belt, 4000 GP), Headband of Intellect +2 (Head, 4000 GP), Ring of Mystic Fire. +1 Caster Level with Fire-Based Spells/Psionics, 3 Charges/Day, spend 1/2/3 charges as part of a casting action to add +2/3/4 d6 of damage to a fire-based spell or power (Ring, 7500 GP), Boots of Stomping. 3/Day as a standard action topple creatures and objects in a 15′ cone, Reflex DC 15 to avoid falling if on the ground (600 GP). Leaves 5900 GP.

Followers from Leadership, 16 CR; 2’nd level Werewolf (4), Imp (2), Quasit (2), Lesser Nightmare (Planar Handbook, 4), and Shadow-Upon-The-Moon, his Dark Guardian (4).

While the others are mostly just monsters (and the werewolf is left open for development; it’s only level two anyway), as a fourth-level “Cohort”, Shadow Upon The Moon – his Dark Guardian – has 120 CP and 21 SP to spend. These go to…

Shadow-Upon-The-Moon, Dark Guardian, L4 Psionic. 

  • Six levels of the Psion Magic Progression (Kineticist, 72 CP): 44 Power. Available Powers are 5xL1 (1 Power); Call to Mind, Control Light, Control Object, Matter Agitation, Telempathic Projection. 4xL2 (3 Power); Control Sound, Energy Missile, Id Insinuation, Knock (Psionic), and 4xL3 (5 Power); Dispel Psionics, Energy Cone, Energy Wall, and Time Hop.
  • Reflex Action (3/Day variant) with +4 Bonus Uses (12 CP).
  • Adept (Knowledge Arcana, Religion, History, and Perception, 6 CP).
  • Fast Learner/Specialized in Skills, corrupted for Increased Effect/only to keep Adept Skills at maximum (6 CP).
  • Witchcraft II (12 CP): The Hand of Shadows, Healing, and Witchsight.
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses (12 CP).
  • Skills: Knowledges +13 (Arcana, Religion, and History, +3 Int +7* SP, +3 Pathfinder), Perception +12 (+2 Wis +7* SP +3 Path), Spellcraft +13 (+3 Int +7 SP +3 Pathfinder), Linguistics +13 (+3 Int +7 SP +3 Pathfinder), and Knowledge/The Planes +13 (+3 Int +7 SP +3 Pathfinder).

Shadow-Upon-The-Moon will generally use it’s powers to help Dallyn out – but it has it’s own purposes, even if it has only limited means to work towards them.

Dallyn here is pretty obviously a major villain – and a rather versatile one.

Eclipse – Getting Crafty and Professional with Demonology and Military Command

St Adrian, by Hans Holbein the Younger

Don’t let your skill monkeys be dull and gray! Add some color!

Craft and Profession Skills are often regarded as wastes of skill points. After all, craft skills list three basic options – repair items, make items/masterwork items, and make money. You can’t even make alchemical items without “being a spellcaster” – although apparently learning a single, totally irrelevant, cantrip will do. Profession skills have even less to say; the ONLY thing that the description lists them as being good for is making money – and even that is at rates so poor that it’s unlikely that any real player character will want to bother unless he or she is just filling in the downtime.

Remember though…

The listed applications for skills are simply examples; the only real limit on what you can do with a skill is what a game master can be persuaded to to set a target number for.

A blank spot in the rules is a place where you can define the effects you want.

So Profession (Sailor) could reasonably be used to stock a ship properly for a trip, to guide it through a hurricane, to navigate it, to handle its sails and ropes, to climb around in its rigging, to organize its watches, to perform fancy maneuvers, to try to outrun another ship, to make small repairs to it, to keep it afloat despite damage, and so on. It could also be used to find the best bars and recreations in a port town, to know how to handle cannon, to avoid a press gang, to predict the weather at sea, or to handle pretty much anything else involved in being a Sailor. Does that overlap with several other skills? Why yes, yes it does! And so what? It’s not like you can’t find ways to get other skills to overlap – or even any real reason why skills shouldn’t overlap.

Will a sufficiently high Craft skill let you make far more money? Gain you entrance to the courts of kings as a master craftsman? Let you build wonders like Daedalus? Let you imbue normal items with temporary powers or even craft magical items without special feats or levels as a spellcaster?

Ask your game master. It very well might. In fact, it SHOULD. If ten levels of Craft/Swords costs the same as ten levels of Perception then it should be just as useful (unless, of course, the game is using the d20 skills rewrite, and it doesn’t cost the same…).

So lets say that Profession (Investigator) covers gathering, preserving, and analyzing evidence, getting along with the police and using their (and other public or library) records, using relevant sensory equipment, basic surveillance, and having a license. We can even note that it provides a synergy bonus on Profession/Computer Expert and Profession/Researcher as well as some police and street contacts scattered around your home city. If you have it at a professional level you may even have a private detective’s license. Do you want to set up a hidden stake-out? Locate a street informant? Do a little skip-tracing? This skill will work.

Is having it necessary? You could certainly use Search to look for clues, Craft (Alchemy) to preserve them, and something (perhaps Knowledge/Arcana) to analyze them. You could use Diplomacy to get along with the police and Knowledge/Local to know about their procedures. Searching public records might call for Gather Information, while running surveillance would use Hide and Spot, and perhaps Disguise and Listen. Using “relevant sensory equipment” (and probably computers) would likely be Use Magic (or other) Device. Getting police contacts is probably a job for a special Feat or (In Eclipse) buying some contacts – but would you rather take a feat and eleven different skills – or just one skill?

Do you want skills to be subordinate to narrative and players solving their own problems? In this case you want another world law – Narrative Preemption. Buy this one as “Opportunist/the character gets to make an immediate skill check if an appropriate attempt to resolve a situation descriptively fails if he or she has a relevant skill at +5 or more (6 CP).” While this option is discussed in detail over HERE, what it amounts to is that the players get to describe what their characters are doing first – and only roll if that wouldn’t work because their character is likely to be better at whatever-it-is than they are. Thus, if a rogue was proceeding cautiously and checking the floor for traps, but failed to check for trigger-wires strung across the corridor at chest height, he or she could make a “find traps” check to detect the trigger-wire. If he or she was running madly down the corridor, there wouldn’t be a check; that’s not an appropriate attempt in the first place.

Do skills cover any magic by default? In a world full of magic it’s certainly arguable that they should cover at least a little; there’s no game-mechanical difference between using a prayer to the fire spirits and some mystic gestures to light a fire and rubbing two sticks together. They’ll both call for relatively dry wood (the fire gods hate water), free hands, and a little time. If you blow it with the sticks you may get an annoying splinter and no fire. If you blow it with the fire spirits you may get an annoying blister and no fire. Either way… it’s just special effects, and those are generally up to the player.

Some skills may be much more deeply involved with magic than that. To be classic, lets have a look at Profession (Demonologist).

Contrary to Hollywood, medieval demonology did not require any ill intent; the notion was that “demons” (basically all inhabitants of the lower planes) were subject to the will of God; and so they were forced to submit to a magician who was holy enough to invoke God’s authority – which wasn’t actually that hard; God was supposed to approve of humans a good deal more than he approved of demons.

Of course, if you weren’t holy enough even by that loose standard to invoke God’s authority, or wanted to summon a demon for malevolent and immortal purposes, there was always making a bargain. Luckily for the less-than-saintly, holy symbols and words – and thus protective circles and amulets – remained potent regardless of the worth of their user.

So Profession (Demonologist) covers identifying and recalling facts about creatures of the lower planes, including their true names (like a Knowledge Skill), creating inscriptions and amulets that offer (some) protection against creatures of the lower planes, summoning and banishing such creatures, and binding them to service. It DOESN’T cover bargaining with such entities; that’s a task for diplomacy, negotiations, and offerings – but if an agreement is reached it can be sealed and made binding.

  • DC 5: Recognize a blatant infernal creature. Seal a bargain with a minor infernal creature. Summon or banish an infernal creature of CR 2 or less at the cost of 1d4 attribute damage (the summoner may select the attribute to be damaged), minor components, and one hour (minute for banishing). Note that a banishment may be directed at a demon OR at the circle or item that was used to call it forth.
  • DC 10: Draw a protective circle equivalent to a Circle of Protection Against Evil. Recognize the major types of infernal creatures. Seal a Bargain with a major infernal creature. Summon or banish an infernal creature of CR 3 or less at the cost of 1d6 attribute damage, 10 GP worth of components, and 3 hours (minutes for banishing, instant with a named infernal creatures true name).
  • DC 15: Recognize a shapeshifted infernal creature as such. Provide basic information about most types of Infernal Creatures. Summon or banish an infernal creature of CR 5 or less at the cost of 1d8 attribute damage, 25 GP in components, and 7 hours (minutes for banishment, one standard action with a named fiend’s true name). Bind an infernal creature of CR 2 or less to service (a Demonologist may so bind up to (Charisma/3) total CR worth of infernal creatures, although the CR of any individual creature may not exceed one-half the number of skill points invested in Demonology, rounded down).
  • DC 20: Provide some details about most types of infernal features. Create an amulet that provides a Protection From Evil effect versus a general type of lesser demon or a specific greater demon (a demonologist may empower up to (Cha Mod) such amulets at any one time). Summon or Banish an infernal entity of CR 8 or less at the cost of 1d10 attribute damage, 60 GP in components, and 1 day (30 minutes for banishment, as a full-round action with a named fiend’s true name), Bind an infernal creature of CR 3 or less to service.
  • DC 25: Determine a minor fiends true name. Summon or Banish an infernal entity of CR 12 or less at the cost of 1d12 attribute damage, 150 GP in components, and a week (three hours for Banishment or five rounds with a named fiend’s true name), Bind an infernal creature of CR 5 or less to service.
  • DC 30: Determine a powerful fiends true name. Summon or Banish an infernal entity of CR 16 or less at the cost of 1d20 attribute damage, 400 GP in components, and two weeks (one day for Banishment, or ten minutes with a named fiend’s true name). Bind an infernal entity of CR 8 or less to service.
  • DC 35: Determine a major power’s true name. Summon or Banish an infernal entity of CR 22 or less at the cost of 1d20 attribute damage, 400 GP in components, and two weeks (three days for Banishment, or one hour with a named fiend’s true name). Bind an infernal entity of CR 12 or less to service.
  • DC 40+: Determine an archfiends true name. Summon or Banish an infernal entity of CR 25 or less at the cost of 1d20+4 attribute damage, 1000 GP in components, and one month (three days for Banishment, or one hour with a named fiend’s true name), Bind an infernal entity of CR 12 or less to service.

Try Again: Rolling a 1 on an attempt to Summon or Bind a demon generally just turns it loose to do what it wishes – although you can’t even attempt to summon something beyond your current limits. Rolling a 1 on an attempt to seal a bargain results in the demon being free to do as it wishes (although it may pretend otherwise). A character may not “Take 10″ or “Take 20″ on (Profession) Demonology Checks.

Synergy: Having 5+ ranks in Profession (Demonology) offers a +2 Synergy Bonus on both Knowledge (The Planes) and Knowledge (Religion).

There; that will let a Demonologist command the services of an Imp, Quasit, or similar entity relatively readily – and eventually add a Hellhound or similar creature – but anything beyond that will require either purchasing special abilities in the field or extremely high levels and attributes. Similar Skills – Profession (Elemental Master) or Profession (Lightbringer) – can cover calling up minor elemental creatures or minor celestial beings. It won’t give such characters the fast, heady, power of actual spells or the earthshaking power of high-level adventurers – but it will certainly let them do some things and get into far more trouble than they can handle… In Eclipse this (and any similar skills) will probably count as “Occult Skills” – but that’s a minor tweak.

If you think that skills in general should cover some magic beyond special effects, you can take a look at the Condensed d20 skill list (which builds in magical effects), consider the d20 Practical Skill Redesign (the Synergies and Skill Benefits section especially), or add Skill Tricks or The Magical World (below) as a world law. Those modifications will allow any skillful character to work some minor magical tricks – and make such hedge wizardry a common fact of life.

Skill Tricks: Shaping, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect; the user may create level zero (DC 15) and weak level one (DC 25) effects with skill checks; such checks are treated as move actions and the user may always opt to “take 10″ for the purpose. Each skill may only be used to produce an effect once every ten minutes and no individual skill may be used to produce more than four L0 and three L1 effects per day with failed checks counting against this limit. If this leads to too much freeform mayhem, the game master may opt to limit any individual user to a maximum of three different L0 and two different L1 effects. If a character wishes to buy Skill Tricks independently it will cost 6 CP.

Some sample L0 effects from an old character writeup include:

  • Bluff – Lesser Hypnosis: As per Hypnotism, but can only affect a single target with up to 1d4 hit dice.
  • Disable Device – Momentary Jam. A device – even something as simple as a door – can be disabled at a range of up to 60′ for 1d4 rounds.
  • Hide – Moment of Invisibility: Lasts up to three rounds, but ends if you attack something.
  • Knowledge/Local – Diplomatic Guise: Creates an illusory change of clothing, which lasts for up to one hour.
  • Martial Art – Iron Skin: +2 Force Armor for thirty minutes.
  • Move Silently – Tracelessness: Wipes away signs of minor activities (footprints, disturbed dust, fingerprints, swinging curtains, lit candles, etc) within a forty-foot radius burst.
  • Search – Reveal Magic: Close range, any magic within a 5′ radius burst will briefly sparkle in a complex light display life fireworks. Spellcraft rolls may be made to try and tell what it is.
  • Sleight of Hand – Recall Knives: Puts up to (2 x Dex Mod) knives that you drew within the last three minutes back into your sheathes if they’re within a 30′ radius and not being held by someone else.
  • Tumble – Great Leap: Adds 20 feet to your movement this round.

This approach will make every expert into a minor magician – no match for an actual spellcaster of course, but with many neat little powers to make their skills more interesting.

If you want high-level skills to be a good deal more powerful then use…

The Magical World: 2d6 Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized for half cost, Corrupted for Increased Effect (effects may be built up over time via ritual behaviors)/only to produce effects associated with Skills, requires a minimum skill bonus of +5/+10/+15/+25 to make Minor / Notable / Major / Grandiose edits (6 CP). High level characters may want to buy another couple of dice of Mana and some Rite of Chi and Bonus Uses to recharge more quickly, but that’s cheap enough.

This approach makes expert skill users capable of incredible feats – given sufficient time and ranks. A common Sailor (+5 skill) might be capable of getting the sails fixed during a storm or patching a leak quickly (A minor edit costing 1-3 Mana). An expert might bring a ship safely through a hurricane or improvise enough repairs to keep a gravely damaged craft afloat (a notable edit costing 3-5 Mana). A true master might pilot a ship safely though a horrible supernatural storm or whirlpool or rebuild a functional ship from scraps (a major edit, costing 5-10 Mana and possibly requiring days at the high end). If the GM permits “edits” on such a scale, a transcendent master with a skill bonus of +25 might be capable of steering a course between the worlds (a grandiose edit, costing 9-15 Mana – and very likely requiring multiple days). Similarly, a craftsman might reduce the time required for a task as a minor edit, create a masterwork item as notable one, given an item minor magical properties as a major one (bypassing feat, spell, caster level, and possibly part of the time requirements, albeit not the costs, of making such an item), or even create major items similarly as grandiose edits. This will NOT allow the creation of epic items – such things are still the provenance of epic spellcasters – but will allow master sword-smiths to create magical blades without requiring them to be high-level spellcasters with specialized feats.

Even if the game master doesn’t want to apply either of those options in general, individual Eclipse characters are – as always – generally free to buy them. If a particular Eclipse character wants skills to cover other kinds of magic… well, there are a variety of ways to do that over in this article on Skills and Powers.

How high should skill difficulties be?

Ordinary applications of skills have difficulties of 5-15 – a range at which success is generally automatic for a skilled adult. Your basic level one mechanic (with +4 skill points in Profession (Mechanic), a +3 Specialty in Cars, and perhaps a +1 attribute bonus if he has a knack for his job) can “take 10″ and reliably fix virtually any problem with your car – even if he might have to order a few parts or it would take an impractical amount of work to unbend the frame.

The world record for a long jump – and athletes normally make quite a few tries in their lives – is not quite thirty feet (DC 30). Evidently no athlete in the entire world has a jump bonus of more than +10. Lets see now; even going with just the base rules a level one human can get… (4 SP +4 Attribute Bonus +2 Masterwork Shoes +4 Run Feat +3 Skill Focus Feat) = +17. At level two you can throw in another skill points and a +2 Synergy bonus from Jump for a +20 – enough to let you “take 10″ and break the world record.

According to the skill tables a DC 30 Perform check will let you impress gods. A DC 30 Knowledge check is enough for a breakthrough insight that leads to a new scientific theory, such as Relativity. Those scores may be a bit harder to reach without that +4 bonus from the “Run” feat – but consulting a few colleagues, or getting a good stage manager, can get you a nice “Aid Another” bonus or two to replace it. The greatest feats that any actual real-world human being has ever accomplished are DC 30. Any DC beyond that is in the realm of fiction and mythology.

There is one thing to be cautious about however. You DON’T want to get tangled up in real-world complications. Sure Knowledge (Tactics) or Profession (Military Commander) probably covers anticipating enemy tactics, coordinated plans of attack, evaluating intelligence, and so on – but half of that is stomping on the player’s fun, and half of it is stuff that even the game master may not know. Bringing in real-world tactics beyond the most basic is just asking for arguments and confusion, while trying to figure out what tactics will really work best in a fantasy world run on a somewhat-abstract rules system is a nightmare all it’s own.

When skills like that come up… just let the players roll for some abstract bonuses and avoid all those complications.

So here are some possibilities for Profession (Military Commander) – an expert on effectively running military units, tactics, and command. Roll this skill when the user is giving orders to NPC’s or offering advice to PC’s. If both sides have a professional commander… let them roll against each other and round up the margin of victory to the nearest 5 to see what benefits the winner can make available. Sadly, PC’s are always individualistic and awkward; they only gain half the benefits a commander can provide and even then only if they actually listen to him or her.

  • DC 5: Organize a Patrol, military outpost, or small unit effectively. Arrange tight security for an area (+4 to rolls to spot the enemy or people sneaking in). Set up a rationing system to extend the effective duration of your supplies by 25%. Get some basic orders (attack at THIS point, head for the escape routes at THIS point) drummed into your troops. Get a bunch of peasants or kids to work together and point their weapons in the same direction with reasonable coordination.
  • DC 10: Organize NPC’s to take full advantage of defensive terrain / fortifications (+2 to Saves and AC). Organize basic troops into mass combat units (representing groups of organized minor creatures as individual higher-level characters). Get a warning from the GM if you’ve included a really, REALLY bad idea in your plans. Identify military ranks and general organization.
  • DC 15: Set up a rationing system that extends the effective duration of your supplies by 50%. Issue advance orders so that NPC units effectively remain under your command when you’re not there. Given NPC troops +2d6 Temporary Hit Points. Give NPC troops a +2 Initiative Bonus. Provide two DC 5 benefits. Provide your troops with a +6 bonus to Hide when laying in ambush. Set up an escape plan which will get all your mass combat units and at least 50% of any individual characters out “alive” if you lose the battle.
  • DC 20: Give NPC troops (whether as individuals or as mass combat units) a +2 to Hit and Damage or +1 level of Warrior. Provide two DC 10 benefits. Delay placing any traps you set up until you need them (to represent anticipating where you will want them later). Get a warning from the GM if you’ve included a blatantly bad idea in your plans. Get (Int Mod) advance hints about your opponents troops/tactics/resources and get to modify your plans accordingly. Provide two DC 5-10 Benefits (they do stack). Deduce the basic capabilities of opposing mass combat units.
  • DC 25: Set up a rationing system that extends the effective duration of your supplies by 75%. Provide two DC 10-15 benefits. Deduce where the enemy has hidden units and/or traps. Keep one out of every four enemy mass combat units from making it to the battlefield.
  • DC 30: Set up a rationing system that extends the effective duration of your supplies by 100%. Provide two DC 15-20 benefits or three DC 5-10 benefits. Get to “see” where the enemy has set up their troops and positions before setting up yours.

Try Again: Generally you can only roll Profession (Military Commander) once per situation. While you can “Take 10″, you cannot “Take 20″.

Synergy Bonuses: +2 to Spot checks when looking for ambushes, military details, hidden installations, or locating snipers, +2 bonus to any combat related Sense Motive checks (such as resisting a feint), +2 to Knowledge checks that involve military topics.

There’s no reason for skills to be dull – or to be uncreative with them – especially in Eclipse.

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.