This time it’s the answer to another question – and a fairly complex one.
A player for an Eclipse game wanted to have a shapeshifter character, but wanted to go about doing so in an unlimited manner rather than the per day mechanic of Shapeshift. They wanted to build a version that was based off of Path of the Dragon instead. The initial draft was the following
Shaping: Specialized (increased effect):Only for personal effects that can be described as “shapeshifting” most often based around a subset of the Transmutation school based effects, but may include such an effect as could be described as such, for example a version of “Mage Armor” that represents a touch physical carapace and looses the Force descriptor, still counting as a type ‘Armor’ bonus for play balance.
Corrupted (increased effect): These shapeshifting effects are limited by the user’s overall health and general well being which is modeled based on their wealth level. Only a certain number of effects are available at any one time which correlate with what Charms and Talismans the character at that wealth level could use, the character may change ConMod slots per an hour, may “lock” slots to speed up how fast the remaining slots can be changed, each slot so locked reduces the time required by 1 step [talismans count as 2 steps] hour, ten minutes, minute, full round, standard, move, swift, immediate, free (max Con Mod per turn) . Specific effects must be learned and practiced which takes time and could involved finding a model to imprint from, some extended training time, or incur costs with getting a set of components to enable the transformation. Effects are based off of spell equivalents, currently the user has up to 7 1st level effects, with up to 3 weak 2nd level effects.
Thoughts for this type of a control system and framework? The player may use the Mana:Spell Enhancement options to increase their level, or have some actual Charms and Talismans that temporarily allow higher level effects. The entire thing could also be expanded on with more Path of the Dragon abilities as well of course. Likewise is the initial specialization and the framework in the corruption enough to make this usable for other types of effects, such as a a limited Illusionist etc?
Unlimited-use Shapeshifting can be done in a number of ways. The first ways that come to mind include Innate Enchantment (as in this power package), through some of the later abilities in the Path of the Dragon, through converting a high-level spell slot to a permanent polymorph effect, through simply taking enough bonus uses on Shapeshifting so that it doesn’t matter, or (if the game master will allow it) taking an Immunity to the uses-per-day limitation on Shapeshifting.
Charms and Talismans can do a few things along those lines, but they really are very limited. Charms that emulate more powerful effects include Blessed Blades (which will be destroyed with a serious backlash against the wielder, if used against a target with more than six hit dice), Blessed Symbols (act like holy water three times per day), and Glittering Disks (cast a non-combat version of Hypnotism three times per day).
Most Charms have constant effects at the level of Cantrips or below. Charms can achieve results similar to a first level spell – but all of those that do are either very limited use or have serious drawbacks (See Arcanum Minimus in The Practical Enchanter) which serve to lower the effective level of the effect produced.
The most powerful Talismans include Blazetongues which give a weapon the Flaming property – but each minute of use does a point of constitution damage to the user, a Dao Sigil which can cause lost limbs and organs to regenerate – given months or years to work in, Helms of War, which can provide an instant of Heavy Fortification – but only hold 2d4 charges and regain only one per week, Shifter’s Cloaks, which let you shapeshift into a particular animal at the cost of one charge, 1d2 points of intelligence damage, and potentially being trapped as an animal since they only have 3d4 charges and it takes one to change back, Shimmermail (which emulates Mage Armor), and Martyr’s Blades which can only occur naturally when a hero sacrifices himself or herself in battle against the powers of darkness and which can take on “+2″ properties for about ten minutes – but only a few times a day and, each time, at the cost of 2d4 hit points from the user.
Yes, Rays of Hope are exceptional – but they’re more or less a promise-token from the celestial planes; the basic Talisman simply provides a small morale bonus for good creatures in the area – but occasionally, at the game master’s option, a higher power will provide some additional aid when one is invoked. They’re generally naturally-occurring only and only work 2d4 times before they vanish permanently.
Talismans can typically emulate first level effects persistently, or produce second level effects with severe drawbacks.
Basic Charms and Talismans really won’t support this kind of concept; they’re just too limited.
Fortunately, there is a way to step them up; you simply need an ongoing source of magical power to feed your Charms and Talismans. You can get that by going further up the Path of the Dragon – or by taking an appropriate innate enchantment.
Innate Enchantment (9 CP): Enhance Thematic Charms and Talismans – a level two effect which, if given the Unlimited Use and Use-Activated properties will increase the effects of the user’s in- theme Charms to continuous, personal, level one effects or to 7 or 12 (GMO) uses of externally-directed first level spell effects. The effects of the user’s in-theme Talismans are enhanced to continuous, personal, level two effects or to 7 or 12 (GMO) uses of externally-directed second level spell effects. As usual for Charms and Talismans, Arcanum Minimus (Q.V. The Practical Enchanter) modifiers may be applied to permit access to effects which would normally be one level beyond those limits – at a price. The Caster Level of enhanced Charms and Talismans is the level of the user or the casting level of the Enhance Charms and Talismans effect, whichever is less. Handily, the effects of enhanced personal Charms and Talismans can be turned off by simply turning off the extra power to them – or turned on again similarly.
The user will still need the ability to use Charms and Talismans in the first place – which will cost the usual 6 CP if they’re not normally used in the setting – but will have considerable versatility otherwise.
You’ll still have to make your Charms and Talismans normally (and may have some trouble since they’ll all be unique to you), and it will all cease to work if someone takes your little gizmos away – but within those constraints this can be a fairly effective package. Sadly, most methods of providing spell-level and caster-level boosts (Mana, Berserker, etc) won’t work since you’re using external tools to produce your effects – so this kind of package will never be able to compete with the abilities available to a high-level character – but it will work for building a village healer, partial shapeshifter, minor illusionist, or similar character. Such individuals simply have a natural knack that they can enhance with specialized Charms and Talismans.