Skills of the Eclipse II – Dwarven Rune Mastery, Subsumption, and Identities.

"WHERE SKILL AND COURAGE COUNT" - NA...

So why can’t my 12’th century English Longbowman take “Tank Engineering”? 

Occult Skills aren’t necessarily magical; they’re simply “hidden” – in that they don’t appear on the skill list for a given setting and aren’t normally available in it. That doesn’t mean that a character can’t have most of them, even if they might not work properly under the local conditions – this IS Eclipse after all – it just means that they have to pay three extra character points for the privilege.

If you really want your medieval knight to have touched a mysterious crystal, and have been granted access to “Warp Drive Engineering”, then so be it. He’ll probably never have any use for it since he needs about a thousand years worth of supporting technology to work with – but those are his character points, and if he wants to spend a few on something irrelevant, so what?

Last time it was Legendarium, Gadgetry, and Glowstone Alchemy. This time around it’s a couple of skills that are only common in the Shandar setting and one that first appeared in the Manifold setting – although it’s had some details added on what a character from another setting might do with it.

Dwarven Rune Mastery (Intelligence, No Unskilled Use, Restricted) is fairly straightforward: the first skill point allows you to recognize runes and runic items, the second involves learning how to safely inscribe individual runes (an art in itself), and the third covers actually reading and combining them (which has it’s own complex magical rules). After that, Dwarven Rune Mastery gives you (skill level -3) effective levels in the Sorcerer spellcasting progression (or, if you want to, you can call it “Prophet” and take divine spells) – but only for the purpose of qualifying for taking magical item creation feats and for making magical items other than scrolls. It’s common among the Dwarves of Shandar, and restricted elsewhere.

In practice, Dwarven Rune Mastery was basically a reason for characters to be able to get the items they wanted/needed in the isolated dwarven fastnesses of Shandar without requiring either massive magical stockpiles or a bunch of high-level NPC spellcasters. While there might still be a number of higher-level NPC’s about such a fastness, they were likely to be warrior-experts with Dwarven Rune Mastery – being thus neither good enough at fighting to take the spotlight off the player-characters nor effective spellcasters. In addition, it meant that each of them would only be capable of a making a limited range of items – opening up the possibility of having to go out and find someone who was capable of making the desired item if such a character wasn’t available.

If the “Magic Mart” convention is in play for a default 3.5 game, then Dwarven Rune Mastery is redundant; characters will just purchase whatever they want anyway – and you might as well go with the Equipage-Purchasing route described for Verdigrised Forge, leaving magic item creation feats to those spellcasters who want to increase their gear allotment. If you want the older-style “Magic Items are rare, wonderful, and unique treasures” feel to things then you can simply limit item creation to the Create Artifact ability, and have them be so. If you want something in-between… well, Dwarven Rune Mastery can fill the gap for you.

Subsumption (Wisdom, No Unskilled Use, Restricted) is another skill from Shandar, in this case from the “Hin” – the settings primitive, cannibalistic, tribal, “halflings” (with their dinosaur-pets, propensity for using horrible poisons, and lethal traditions). The first skill point covered the magical concepts, the second covered the rites involved, and the third covered at least partially maintaining your sanity if and when you used them. Each skill point – and ritual – beyond that got you one bonus Feat/6 CP to spend.

Unfortunately, those feats/points could only be spent on abilities related to those of a freshly-slain creature that you ritually consumed a related chunk of. If you wanted psychic powers, well – then it was time to find a psychic creature and eat it’s brain. You wanted more than six character points worth? Find some more psychic creatures, since each victim could only empower a single ritualist, and you needed different creatures for different power-selections. Worse, along with the strengths of the victim you picked up echoes of it’s instincts, emotions, memories, and goals – giving the user an every-increasing (Number of Bonus Feats/2) penalty to Will saves against madness and confusion. Along with that you got dreams and nightmares that disrupted your sleep, a tendency to sleepwalk while taking the role of one of your victims, and so on. Binding other creatures souls to your own… was just not a healthy thing. If you got tired of a particular ability… it was possible to exorcize the spiritual power that you’d stolen and either leave those spirit-slots unused to reduce the penalties or invest in another Subsumption ability – but exorcism rituals were never easy and might involve a battle with some very angry spirits.

Yes, this let you turn bonus skill points that you didn’t want into character points at an excellent ratio – but it was rarely a particularly desirable process. A number of wild-man characters dabbled in Subsumption at one point or another, but most of the players found it a LOT simpler to simply use their skill points for skills and to buy their powers normally; if they wanted weird disadvantages attacked to them, that was easy enough anyway. Still, there’s always some maniac who would like to give it a try and it definitely had it’s own style about it.

The Identities skill is most common in the dimension-hopping Manifold setting, but might fit into some others. A spy, merchant, or similar character who regularly moves between countries or city-states might find a more mundane version useful, while settings featuring local sources of power might make a more comprehensive version available.

Identities (Charisma, No Unskilled Use, Restricted) lets you establish differing roles for yourself in differing places – whether by using magic or reality shifting to create or adopt a role that suits you or by more conventional means. Each rank of the Identities skill provides +8 character points worth of abilities – but each rank must be assigned to a specific place and the abilities that it provides can only be drawn on in that specific place. Characters with Perform / Acting at 5+ gain a +2 bonus on their Identities skill rank. Those with Reality Editing gain a +4 bonus on their Identities skill rank. If you upgrade your base abilities to include some of the features of a role, those points can be reassigned freely. The abilities built into an identity cannot be corrupted or specialized based on being limited to a particular place. A character may have only one established role at a time in any one place. While old roles can be traded out for new ones it takes at least one month of game time per level of the skill being reassigned. During that period the character must spend both time and effort establishing the new identity and stay out of the old one. Finally, of course, the game master must approve of all identities purchased.

  • In the Manifold, where everyone shapes reality to some degree, identities are wide open; they can change their “users” species, provide all sorts of odd powers, and – thanks to the existence of Phantasms and each dimensions tendency towards self-consistency – even do things without you when you happen to be in another dimension. That’s especially likely when you adopt an existing role, whether that’s Aragorn in Middle-Earth, Marco Polo in China, or Antonio the Merchant of Venice, but it can happen anytime, even if you’ve gone to the trouble of establishing a truly original personal role. Just as annoyingly, strong identities can influence you even when you’re not using them – both through recognition and through more mysterious means (such as being caught up in the plot of the realm). Normally you automatically get back an identity when you revisit the relevant world, but the role happens to be occupied at the moment you arrive you may wind up being shunted into a prequel, sequel, or closely-related role in some variant of the world you actually wanted.
    • A Reality-Shaping Identity may have up to (Cha Mod +1, 1 Minimum) skill ranks invested in it, and may provide almost any power or ability allowed in the local setting that is appropriate to the identity and which does not involve acquiring complex knowledge (such as item creation, demolitions, or other advanced studies) if enough points are available. It CAN (and probably WILL) include a family, a local history, and similar background items to fit smoothly into the setting. It can be quite disconcerting to arrive in a new dimension – and abruptly find yourself a widower with six beloved children to care for, haunting memories of years spent in the service of a local king, of your deceased wife, and of raising your children, and a diplomatic crisis to deal with.
  • Magically-empowered roles occur where city-states are focused on arcane nexi, or mysterious forces rule various sections of a setting in different ways, and characters can tap into those local powers – thus changing their abilities somewhat from place to place.
    • A Magically-Empowered Identity may have up to (Cha Mod, 1 Minimum) skill ranks invested in it and may include special powers, local contacts, personal wealth and privileges, and similar abilities. Such an identity normally can not change the user’s species of skills, can not provide complex knowledge, and is limited to talents appropriate to the power source being tapped. A well-established magically-empowered role might include a family or some such, but the background elements of magically-empowered roles are never retroactive; they must be built up from scratch. They must also allow for the user’s comings and goings. Still, this is much simpler than a Reality-Shaping Identity… “In this realm I am known as Tolwar, a wandering mercenary. Here I can draw on the deep fires of Mount Vesuvius to power my flame-lance and magma-blade, have connections with several of the local noble houses I have done special jobs for, and am entitled to free room and board thanks to my membership in the local mercenaries guild”.
  • Mundane Identities or “covers” may have up to (Cha Mod -1, 1 Minimum) skill ranks invested in them – and may provide paperwork legal privileges, local contacts, a place to stay, and even some funds – but cannot include powers, skills, special abilities, or anything that does not fit into the identity. This is the kind of thing that a Witness Protection Program might set up. As with magically-empowered roles, Mundane Identities are never retroactive, new ones must be built up from scratch, and they must allow for the user’s comings and goings.

Identities are useful in game where the characters are expected to take on a wide variety of roles (and can be VERY entertaining in a Manifold game, where characters will often find themselves acquiring an identity and a role in the local plot upon arrival in a new dimension, regardless of whether or not they wanted one). A high-charisma character can have fairly powerful local identities – but that extra power can be rendered quite useless the moment that the scene of the action shifts a bit. The most awkward part of Identities is that their balancing factor is being limited to a small part of the area that the campaign covers. Thus, in the multidimensional Manifold setting the “Star Wars Multiverse” is effectively a pretty small place; the characters visit once in awhile, but the vast majority of the action takes place in the dozens of other realms they frequent. In most games, particular cities are probably a more reasonable choice. 

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2 Responses

  1. […] Occult Skills: Legendarium, Gadgetry, and Glowstone Alchemy, Dwarven Rune Mastery, Subsumption, and Identities,  Faith, Gathering, and Accounting, Foresight, Governance, Command, Ninjaneering, Dream-Binding, […]

  2. […] are Accounting (no, really), Legendarium, Gadgetry, or Glowstone Alchemy, Faith or Gathering, Dwarven Rune Mastery, Subsumption, or Identities, Foresight, Governance, Ninjaneering, Dreambinding, or Secrets, Minions, or various Equipment […]

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