Skills of the Eclipse IV – Foresight, Governance, Command, Ninjaneering, Dream-Binding, and Secrets

Here we have a few more of the Occult (in the literal sense of being “hidden”) Skills that have come up in our Eclipse games at one time or another. This isn’t an exhaustive listing of course. After all, from the viewpoint of Eclipse, every skill known to the multiverse is freely available – starting with the skills which are possible (however wildly exotic or unlikely they are) – ranging on through the skills which have little or no application in a given setting (yes, you CAN take “Flint Knapping”, but this is a game about computer hacking!), skills which will not work in the setting (yes, you CAN take the “Timewalking” skill, but it only works in the “Timewalkers” universe!), and skills from alien universes which human minds simply cannot comprehend (no, there’s no use asking me what those are; they don’t make any sense to me either).

You can still buy those skills (well, maybe not the ones that humans can’t conceive of; I don’t know how you’d write them down on your character sheet), but it’s kind of silly.

Practical Occult Skills are pretty much limited to the things that will work sensibly in a given setting, but which normal people just don’t learn to do. Thus this series has already covered Legendarium, Gadgetry, and Glowstone Alchemy in Part I, Dwarven Rune Mastery, Subsumption, and Identities in Part II, and Faith, Gathering, and Accounting in Part III. This time it’s Foresight, Governance, and Command, as well as Ninjaneering, Dream-Binding, and Secrets.

Foresight (Intelligence, No Unskilled Use, Restricted) is mostly used by characters who are far smarter and more prepared than their player – whether they’re being run by a player or by the game master. Sadly, no one can foresee or plan for everything – so each time you use Foresight during a session, it’s effective bonus value drops by one or more points. It refreshes on a per-session basis. Fortunately, your Foresight must be practical; you can’t call on your Secret Goon Squad if you haven’t been anywhere where you could possibly obtain one in months. Still, the possible applications are legion. For some examples, consider…

  • Arrangements Have Been Made: Someone has rented a room and established a (thin) cover for you in advance, a message will be sent if you do NOT stop it – whether calling for help or to carry any information you could have provided an hour ago (1), You have a safehouse, or basic escape arrangements, ready to go (2), You have a detailed alibi ready, know of a supply cache in the area, or a high-speed escape vehicle ready to go (4).
  • Fortunately, I Came Prepared: Deciding what spell you prepared in a slot at the time of casting or producing some minor item of gear (1), having purchased a convenient limited-use item before coming (2),
  • I Know Your Secret: You know some Minor (1), Notable (2), or Major (4) secret or suitable bit of blackmail material. This is not always a good idea to haul out, but can be very handy.
  • I’m Calling In A Favor: You gain support from a Minor (1), Notable (2), or Major (4) figure – perhaps borrowing a vehicle, getting backing for your petition at court, or getting someone out of jail.
  • My Reputation Is Impeccable: Evidence or Witnesses will appear on cue to support whatever tale you’re telling. Minor items, such as some simple forged papers or a character witness, cost (1), Notable items, such as an incriminating letter costs (2), and Major items, such as backing for whatever wild tale you’re telling, solid pieces of “evidence”, or grandiose forgeries, cost (4).
  • My Secret Goon Squad: You have a helpful bodyguard (1), a small group of fighters (2), or a full squad of skilled fighters, possibly with heavy weapons (4) to back you up in the immediate vicinity – even if they don’t work directly for you.
  • Someone In The Area: you know someone in the area who can provide rare and expensive items of some sort (1), who will provide minor illegal or unethical services for a price (2), who can accomplish some small task almost untraceably – including things like taking a shot at someone (4).

While Foresight is always subject to game master review – if you’re in a secret underground ruin surrounded by the undead you’re unlikely to know anyone in the immediate vicinity who’s selling holy water – it can make high-level wizards and similar characters a great deal more powerful. Now that may be fair enough – if someone has a character with Intelligence 28, he or she will probably be capable of outplanning any normal person as readily as a normal person can outplan a gerbil – but it may be a problem in your games.

Foresight in obviously closely related to the d20 Political Positions rules – specifically the Preparations section. Similar skills are obviously possible; Governance would allow the user to buy Holding Assets for any settlement that he or she was personally running while Command would cover Army Enhancements. Such skills provide an easy way to personalize – and upgrade – holdings while remaining portable; if your expert commander takes up residence in another land, he or she will soon be able to train new troops to his or her standards.

Ninjaneering (Intelligence, No Unskilled Use, Restricted, normally requires access to Reality Editing) is the fine art of having prepared the area in advance even if you’ve never been there before. While this always requires a roll, the more tricks you try to pull, the tougher they’ll get; Ninjaneering is subject to a cumulative -2 “fatigue” penalty for each roll past the first on any given day.

  • DC 10: Having an area filled with caltrops, tripwires, or similar annoyances, finding a convenient rope to swing on.
  • DC 15: Having a convenient secret panel, springboard to power a mighty leap, or mundane weapon lying about.
  • DC 20: Placing a pit trap, having a stack of mattresses handy to cushion the fall when you dive out a window, getting out a major weapon you hid in the area “earlier”.
  • DC 30: Introducing a major obstacle, such as a portcullis, or a secret route to get around such an obstacle or escape through.
  • DC 40: Turning the area into a speciality arena, such as a bridge over a chasm full of flames, by having the floor drop away.
  • DC 50: Rebuilding a just-destroyed structure by revealing that the destroyed one was a fake, revealing that you have a truckload of explosives nearby.

Ninjaneering basically makes the user the star of his or her own action movie – and, at the high end, is capable of some pretty ridiculous things. Of course, by the time characters are capable of making rolls at DC 40+, they’re usually capable of doing a LOT of ridiculous things.

Finally we have a couple of skills that have been addressed before…

Dream-Binding (Charisma, No Unskilled Use, Restricted) was originally discussed under an article on Equipment. It allows the user to draw objects from dreams into reality. To do so, the user must get a full nights rest and forfeit the natural healing and attribute recovery that would normally result, whereupon he or she will awaken with his or her allotment of items. The maximum value of any item depends on the number of skill levels allotted to it according to the formula for skill-enhancement items (Bonus x Bonus x 100 GP), although no more than one-third of the total available skill levels may be allotted to any one item. Dream-binding cannot create items with charges (although uses-per-day limitations are fine), or skill-boosting items. Consumable goods will vanish once the skill points are re-allotted, so the creation of food and water is ill-advised. Finally, of course, the game master must approve of the list of items to be created.

Secrets (Intelligence, No Unskilled Use, Restricted) originally appeared in the Ancient One Template. Each skill point invested in the “Secrets” skill brings extraordinary knowledge – the names of a dozen powerful fey, the routes through the crypts beneath the sacred mountains, how to open the seven gates of the netherworld, or the summoning chant of the three winds. The game master may let a character roll against his or her Secrets skill to see if they know some bit of lost information – or simply give the user additional secrets/plot hooks when it’s convenient.

Shadow Walk is covered in Eclipse itself on page 39 as an example of an occult skill, so there’s no need to reprint it here.

There are plenty of other Occult Skills out there – but most special abilities can be built with the various powers in Eclipse without having to define new skills. That’s why an awful lot of these examples are from specific settings. If something isn’t a major factor in a setting, it’s usually best covered as a special ability. If it does, and it works more or less like a skill – than adding a skill to the setting, and an Occult Skill to the system in general, may work best.