Ponies Of The Eclipse – Alicorns and Princess Luna, Part I

Next up for Eclipse Ponies (And likely getting towards the end unless there are further requests) we have Princess Luna – and the big question there is the same as usual for converting any character from a non-game source; what does Princess Luna actually do?

That’s not “what powers do I think she ought to have” (although a bit of that creeping in is almost inevitable), or “what she’s like in fan fiction” (although suggestions from unofficial sources may be needed to fill in blatant gaps), or “what divine rank should she have in 3.5″ (although any game conversion will have to accommodate the game rules you’re using to some extent) . It’s “what does she actually do on the show?”

Well, first up, she’s supposed to have the combined powers of all three major pony types – Earth, Pegasus, and Unicorn.

OK, done. That gives us a +3 ECL right there. That’s pricey – but having an ECL modifier isn’t nearly as big a deal as it is in baseline d20. In baseline d20, having an ECL gives you a package of racial abilities which may or may not have some decent synergy with your class-based abilities – but you still have two separate packages of abilities, one of which does not improve. In Eclipse you can simply build directly on your template abilities; you aren’t “behind on your class” so much as you have a personal class that supplies differing benefits from the usual. Thus, while an ECL modifier is generally bad news for a d20 spellcaster, it’s not necessarily so in Eclipse – especially when you’re building on your racial abilities and are using heavily-optimized racial templates like these.

Luna, Celestia, Cadence, and Twilight are also supposed to have something called “Alicorn Magic”, which is more than a bit ill-defined. It apparently DOESN’T include immortality though, since we aren’t sure that either Cadence or Twilight possesses that attribute. I’ll leave Alicorn Magic for a little later.

So lets look at the magical abilities that Princess Luna actually demonstrates.

  • We see her generate lightning, mist, and clouds, dampen sound, fly, take mist form, use high-speed travel, and use the “Royal Canterlot Voice”. All of this falls under Pegasi Air Magic (unless there’s more to the Voice than shouting), even if is fairly high powered air magic. She may also knock down an overhanging ledge of rock, but a good pressure wave will handle that if she did anything at all besides kick it really hard. A +3 Racial Bonus on Air Rune Magic Casting and Mastery comes with the Pegasus template, but she’ll need to buy up those skills. That’s not really a big deal though. Skill boosts aren’t that hard to come by.
  • Luna can sense nightmares across Equestria, enter dreams, jump from dream to dream, summon a dream monster (to torment herself), restrain said dream monster when keeping it around for months lets it get too powerful, seal breaches between dream and reality, and create a group dream. Her ability to influence a manticore (Suggestion?), temporarily animate toy spiders, make trees frightening (as an easily-disbelieved illusion), produce swords, and alter her appearance, fit in here as well under “bringing dreams into reality”. Luna seems to have a lot of power while in a dream – but “Do Princesses Dream Of Electric Sheep” pretty clearly demonstrates that ANY pony who’s aware that they’re dreaming can draw on their personal magic to do pretty much anything they want to do in a dream, so that doesn’t count for much.

Lunar Magic generally deals with dreams and illusions, relatively minor, generally short-term, transformations, and female sexuality (mostly due to menstrual cycles and what a lot of dreams are about), so it seems like a fairly good match. As a bonus, controlling the moon and the night sky that the moon (at least in Equestria) seems to bring with it fits in. Massive area of effect spells would be tricky at any reasonable level though, so there’s probably a supplementary ability at work here, both with the dreams and with the moon.

Ergo her Unicorn Bonus Feat goes to getting her a +3 Racial Bonus in Lunar Rune Magic, Casting and Mastery. Once again, that comes with the template, so there’s no direct CP cost at this stage.

  • The basic unicorn magic that comes with the template includes the standard-issue stuff (Dancing Lights, Daze, Detect Magic, (Spellcraft) Mastery (Adding to Spellcraft for purposes of manipulating celestial objects only, +6 for affecting a limited aspect, see below), and Greater Mage Hand) that comes with the Unicorn Template, along with the ability to spend extra Mana to enhance those effects. When it comes to more advanced effects Luna can project fairly formidable energy bolts (Scorching Ray), control weapons with her telekinesis (amplified Greater Mage Hand), Dimension Door, tear off part of someone’s mustache in passing (OK, this could just be a bit of telekinesis again, but if I had that much hair and could have access to a hairstyling spell, I think that I’d learn it), bind Celestia for some time and – of course – control the Moon and possibly the Stars.

Really, only the last two are any problem – and Binding Celestia is an assumption at that. All we really know is that Nightmare Moon kept Celestia from showing up for a celebration and seemed to think that Celestia would not show up to interfere with her plans later. While Nightmare Moon did have a thousand years to prepare a plot device for that, for all we know it didn’t work. After all, Nightmare Moon showed up mere seconds after Twilight saw her escape the moon (which doesn’t leave her a lot of time to monologue at Celestia, much less entrap her) and Celestia did show up pretty promptly once Nightmare Moon was back to being Luna. Was Celestia just waiting in the wings?

Secondarily, even if we presume that “Banishment” isn’t just an euphemism for “Got disintegrated, and has to wait for their Returning to kick in” (which would at least explain why only major creatures get Banished), there’s no real reason to presume that it’s anything more than special effects for the equivalent of petrification. Visitors may or may not be able to see the statue, but you still seem to have some awareness of events (such as Discord’s statue) and all it takes is a trigger – the passage of time, or a releasing spell, or little kids arguing, or someone digging you up – to set you free. Worse, it put up a giant “I am here!” sign to clue in anyone who wanted to set you free. That’s really a lot less impressive than the ninth-level Imprisonment spell; you don’t get concealment, near permanency, anti-divination, or resistance to Wish and Miracle out of the deal. Really, for all we know, Nightmare Moon might have tried petrifying/binding Celestia with Lunar Magic – which, of course, did not last. Moonie was more than a little bit delusional after all.

That leaves Raising the Moon.

That IS impressive – but lets think about the cosmology of Equestria for a few moments.

  • The sun in Equestria is so large and far away that it appears pretty much the same across hundreds of miles of Equestria, which it lights and heats fairly evenly.
  • The sun in Equestria is so close that Rarity can – in a few moments – fly enough closer to it to sweat heavily and sear her wings off. It’s so small that she can readily block it out with her wings across an entire city (otherwise her pretty colors would be totally washed out and no one could look at her because looking into the sun is not comfortable with those big eyes).

I could provide a lot more examples, but those are perhaps the most blatantly obvious, so they’ll do.

So what can we deduce from those two apparently-contradictory statements?

  • Whatever-it-is that serves as the Sky in Equestria – including the Sun, Moon, and Stars – pays no attention at all to real-world physics, optics, or even basic geometry and prospective. Did you really expect it to? After all, this is a world where kids can suck the colors out of a rainbow and leave it in grayscale with a portable vacuum cleaner.
  • While Fanfiction writers have proposed a wide variety of explanations to try and turn Equestria into Earth-After-People, or a strange world in a “normal” sci-fi galaxy to allow for various crossovers, the lack of light speed delay in moving the sun, annoying facts about orbits, rotational inertia, and other chunks of basic physics pretty well sinks all of them. I have yet to find any explanation which is consistent with both the show and basic physics at the same time.  Ergo…

Equestria is a pocket dimension. Whoever created it obviously wanted the place to look like a more-or-less “conventional” world, but it really isn’t anything like one. Worse, we don’t really get enough information on how it operates to even make decent guesses about it beyond “not very well”, at least outside of the Everfree Forest (which is apparently run by the Tree of Harmony). After all, if it worked well… it wouldn’t need to have ponies change the seasons, lead the migrating birds, control the weather, and govern the cycles of day and night. A properly designed world could take care of that on its own.

About the only real constraint on the magic required to “move” the sun and moon about is that it be pretty much out of reach of ordinary folk – whether that’s ponies, gryphons, dragons, or what-have-you. Honestly, in a low-level world… an eighth or ninth level spell effect would probably do it – or you could just buy it as a Privilege or even as an application of Knowledge; Arcana. In this case, I think that I’ll go with Alzirus’s excellent build for Celestia and make it (at least in Equestria’s cartoon cosmology) a DC 50 application of Spellcraft – although I’ll be adding a Mana requirement too, just to help keep it out of reach of the common herd. .

  • So: Upgrade Occult Talent and add Improved Occult Talent (6 CP) as shown in the Unicorn Template to add another three level zero and three level one spell formula – with the option to spend up to three extra mana reducing the levels of the spells that she actually takes to fit them into those slots. Thus “L0”: Scorching Ray, Ray Of Instant Hair Styling, and Dispel Magic. “L1” Dimension Door, Lesser Globe of Invulnerability (that should hold off most Unicorns), and Deep Slumber (too appropriate to skip).
  • Luna may well have some additional standard spells – after all, the series is ongoing – so I’ll reserve another (10 CP) for an additional horn-based Improved Occult Talent. That will give her another seven “L0″ and four L1″ spells – which can be up to L3 and L4 after applying enough mana. Given that Luna really isn’t a primary character, we probably won’t see her add new abilities to her repertoire too rapidly.

For Raising the Moon, and for some other reasons, its time to consider Alicorn Magic.

About all we know about that is that (1) Alicorns are more powerful than normal Unicorns, but Unicorns – like Sombra – can become competitive with them if they’re talented enough, and (2) Princesses Celestia, Luna, and Candace transferred their Alicorn Magic (apparently including all their Earth, Pegasus, and Unicorn magic) to Twilight when Tirek came along.

Tirek… Yes, I could build Tirek, and a way to handle the power transfer to Twilight, but it’s such a useless endeavor that I’ll just let it go as a ritual or epic spell or some such. Honestly, a basically invincible villain that took away all the characters abilities and could only be stopped by a game master plot device? One that had – apparently – absorbed the magic of an entire magical nation, and did nothing with it but throw big energy blasts? It might be reasonably interesting to watch, but players HATE being arbitrarily deprived of the chance to do anything, becoming passive spectators, and then being saved from a gratuitously stupid villain by plot devices. In gaming terms… (2) is a pretty useless bit of information.

Secondarily, building a character with that power is just ASKING to have some slightly less-ethical player character develop it and start power-stripping your villains. Tirek really will not work in a game well enough to be worth bothering with – so this is one of the points in a conversion where you skip past something that works for writers but not with free-willed players. Player characters will just have to settle for the standard method of sucking raw magical power out of defeated foes – commonly known as “getting experience points for the encounter”. 

OK: So Alicorn Magic greatly amplifies Pegasus, Unicorn, and Earth Pony Magic – but it only seems to amplify the spellcasting side of things. You don’t see Celestia earthquake stomping with magnified earth pony strength. You don’t see the Alicorns routinely using higher-level spells than anyone else either; Alicorn Magic just seems to make their basic magic more powerful in a fairly linear fashion. Its not like going from Burning Hands to Fireball. Its more like going from Burning Hands to Extra-Hot Burning hands. It doesn’t seem to strain or drain the user any, but it does take time to learn to use – but not much. It’s likely at least partially template based. Weirdly enough, Luna and Celestia together were barely a match for Discord. Cadence doesn’t generally seem to have epic power, and neither does Twilight. So… Tirek had stolen magic from across Equestria and had stolen Discord’s magic. So if Luna and Celestia roughly balance out Discord, that leaves Twilight plus Cadence stronger than everyone else in Equestria put together – yet it doesn’t seem to work that way. Twilight gets challenged by individual Unicorns fairly often. Evidently Alicorn Magic is synergistic in some what that nothing else is.

Well, that’s fairly easy really. Alicorn Magic is basically a bunch of “free” metamagic. On the downside… it makes you stand out quite absurdly. You get bigger and more conspicuous, you’re a beacon to magical senses, you get an attention-grabbing ethereal mane, you have a horrible time disguising or concealing yourself, and you’re a primary target. Moreover, as a synergistic combination, it can only be applied to natural pony spellcasting – Rune Magic on which they get a racial bonus and horn-based Occult Talents. That’s quite enough to count it as being Specialized.

Alicorn Magic (32 CP / +1 ECL Acquired Template)

  • Metamagical Theorems: Amplify (only +1 CP since Unicorns get part of it already), Elemental Manipulation (3 CP), Extension (3 CP), and Sculpting (3 CP), all Specialized as above.
  • Streamline x 4 (Corrupted, no more than four levels worth may be applied to any one spell unless you’ve fused your powers with another Alicorn, in which case four levels from each Alicorn involved may be applied, Specialized as above, 8 CP) – getting four free levels of Amplify, two of Elemental Manipulation, and one each of Extension and Sculpting to work with.

Thus, when Twilight was fighting Tirek with the magic of four alicorns, she was getting to apply +16 levels of free metamagic to her spells, plus her basic Unicorn boosts – enough to explain taking her usual third-to-fifth level spells up to around level twenty. While Metamagic is nowhere near as efficient as building a proper spell of that level, that’s still enough for some pretty big booms.

  • +2 Constitution (12 CP). Alicorns are tough, health, resistant to diseases and toxins, and – under the Superheroic World Template – get just a little bit more Mana to work with each round.
  • +2 Racial Bonus to Spellcraft (2 CP)

As a side effect, in conjunction with a Unicorn’s natural ability to amplify spells with mana, Alicorn Magic can be used to triple the effects of a unicorns (Skill) Mastery cantrip – raising the bonus to +9 or, for specialized variants such as Luna’s, to +18. That’s important, since that total of +20 for being an Alicorn means that she’ll only need a +20 total to be able to “Take 10″ and do her job of raising the moon.

Now in Eclipse, new Alicorns – like Twilight – can develop their powers gradually, building them up as they go. Thus Twilight starts as a clumsy flyer (having applied a Specialization to reduce the cost of Pegasus Flight for the time being), hasn’t yet developed the full Alicorn Magic package, and so on.

So far, thanks to the fact that we’ve mostly been discussing racial abilities, that comes to only 16 CP – but a hefty +4 ECL modifier for our Alicorns. Of course that is the same as being – say – a Half-Celestial, which makes a certain amount of sense. Actually buying up the skills to really use those powers with is going to be rather more expensive.

Nevertheless, this is getting entirely too long – so the completed build will have to come next.

Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in print HERE and in a shareware .pdf version HERE.

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6 Responses

  1. Thanks for the shout-out regarding my take on Princess Celestia! Likewise, I was amused with your (likely correct) reasons for not giving stats to Tirek, though I was under the impression that he simply couldn’t use the magic he stole to do anything but power his own abilities; it essentially functioned as fuel, rather than his being able to use the stolen magic as it was.

    Looking over Luna’s initial write-up, I noticed that you’re including the abilities she only displayed as Nightmare Moon as part of her stats. That caught me by surprise, since in Luna Eclipsed she refers to Twilight as “the one who stripped Us of Our dark powers.” That reference to having lost powers implied, to me, that her abilities as Nightmare Moon would be some sort of template or package deal that she doesn’t have in her uncorrupted state.

    (I was going to mention that I don’t remember her ever producing swords, but I suspect that’s from the fan-made Fall of the Crystal Empire.)

    • Well, it was an excellent build for Celestia – and would certainly fit into a more-or-less “standard” game better than these.

      Tirek… it’s hard to say, since his powers other than “absorb magic, grow bigger, and blast things” were never really detailed in the first place. During the fight with Twilight he did use Telekinesis (albeit with gestures to direct it – a possible beginners crutch?), Flight, and what looked like Discord’s finger-snaps to put ponies in bubbles and teleport them around. I kind of got the impression that he had the powers, but was too incompetent to use them properly.

      Come to think of it, it would be even sadder if he was genuinely incapable of using it properly rather than just being a dummy. “Wow. I’ve grown to be an immense giant and I can blast things! Cool! Wait! Everything but major trees and rocks is too small to eat! I’ve got to sleep on the ground for the rest of my life! No blanket is big enough! Books are too small to see! All my potential girlfriends are about the size of my thumb! This SUCKS!”

      As plots go, B+ for execution, but a big fat F for follow-through…

      More seriously, for Luna… There isn’t as much material on Luna as I’d like – but Luna Eclipsed shows her doing lighting effects, producing lightning and clouds for a dramatic entrance, levitating with her wings covered, generating gusts of wind, using the “Royal Canterlot Voice”, temporarily transforming inanimate objects into scary “creatures”, blotting out the sky with dark clouds, using telekinesis, taking the form of Nightmare Moon (except for phony fangs… Perhaps she doesn’t like modifying her teeth?), dissolving back into her normal self, and popping out of a tub that is far too shallow for her to effectively hide in. “Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep?” showed Luna with the ability to travel through dreams, generate energy blasts (although that seems to be a fairly standard Unicorn ability), link dreams, and open and seal gaps between reality and dream.

      About all that Nightmare Moon does that Luna isn’t shown doing as well or better is turning to a mist (out of most Pegasi’s reach, but firmly in the air magic field, within her limits, and a decent possibility for explaining the tub trick and her shapeshifting effects), zipping away in that form (air magic again), and dimension dooring (given that Twilight can do that in episode two, it seems that Luna should be able to manage it). I did put my general guess on what Nightmare Moon provided in the writeup in the next article though.

      I think you’re right about the swords; I was reviewing Luna’s appearances, and I seem to have mistaken a fanwork clip for the canon flashback clip I was looking for. Too bad, the fanwork one was better. Ah well, no swords for Luna.

  2. […] Alicorns, Princess Luna’s Abilities, the Cosmology of Equestria, and Tirek. Commentary: Speculations on Tirek and Nightmare Moon. Continues with the full build for Princess Luna, along with some information on governing Equestria, the Dominion of Dreams, and the powers of Nightmare Moon. Commentary: Discord, Equestria Girls as Mystic Artists, and Changelings. […]

  3. Are Tirek and Discord really that hard to make?

    Tirek could just be a bottlenecker build that uses Finesse to add his Con-Mod to most things, starting with his Channeling of positive Energy, converting it to Distillation (specialized to require 1 Mana to use) to extract Constitution (thus most of their magic, due to the superheroic world template). Since most ponies will have at least 9 Con, he can drain 8 Con, gaining 4 more uses to his Channeling, allowing him to drain even more.
    With Finesse, that can be a reason for his increased Strenght: He just applied Finesse to his strikes, making them Con-dependant.
    He likely did the same to the “Unskilled Magic”-Mana option, which is the reason his Magic looks as incompetent as it did.

    I’d say he has:
    Advanced Finesse, making Attack rolls, damage rolls, all three unskilled magic abilities and his channeling Con-dependant (8 times Advanced Finesse = 96 CP).
    Channeling would be 9 (for 4 Standard uses), let’s say 2 times Cha (now Con) for another 9, Dualism for positive Energy for 6 (it just seems far more fitting than negative Energy) and his specialized Conversion for 9 CP (= 33 CP).
    Then we need Mana for “Unskilled Magic” (= 6 CP) to ensure he can use his new Magic abilities.

    However, there is a problem: Distillation is very short term, only working for a few days before failing. But we can extend that: Temporal Reversal should not be able to suffice, it’s wording (the fact that it can’t affect things that aren’t there) works perfect, because even if he increases his stolen Constitution afterwards, him turning back time to make it more “fresh” won’t make it disappear.

    Finally… we need him to have the required Will-Save to be able to produce level 22 Effects. Let’s give 11 Base Will-Save, specialized to only apply for this scenario (= 33 CP).

    Now for a bit of Metamagic: His Distillation needs 2 Levels of Extension and probably 4 Levels of Multiple to be able to Bump onto multiple targets, while his Temporal Reversal is, in fact, Compact and Sculpted, simply because it only affects wherever he stores his Distilled stuff. We Streamline them and specialize them to be only applicable to the relevant spells (Compact offsets one Level of Sculpting of the 3 required), costing us 12 CP for the actual Theorems and 24 CP for the Streamline (= 36 CP).

    This would give us one Tirek for 210 CP, if I calculated correctly.

    Discord is just a user of “Path of the Dragon” (he is called a “DRACONequus”, after all). He has a Chaos-metaspell, has Shaping for 6 CP, and then Pulse and Heart of the Dragon, both specialized and corrupted (Specialized: Can only be used to cast the Chaos-Metaspell; Corrupted: Cannot be used to inflict direct harm*) for 126 CP to allow effects up to level 9. Then a Reflex Training for 6 CP to be able to pull a few Standard actions when he’s caught Flat-Footed and maybe 2 times Bonus uses for 12 CP.

    So Discord would be priced at 150 CP, if I calculated correctly.

    *We just never see him do much in the way of actual harm. Nothing says he couldn’t otherwise have just burned down the Tree of Harmony (it wouldn’t make much sense for the tree to be so fragile, but we are talking about a weapon that has so messed up activation conditions that “sense”, at least the common one, was never really an option in the first place). He didn’t just shuffle the functions of the sense organs in the faces of the two sisters the moment they talked out of their place either, so it’s not that far fetched to just say he couldn’t have done that and needed convoluted plans to do things.

  4. […] Alicorns, Princess Luna’s Abilities, the Cosmology of Equestria, and Tirek. Commentary: Speculations on Tirek and Nightmare Moon. Continues with the full build for Princess Luna, along with some information on governing Equestria, the Dominion of Dreams, and the powers of Nightmare Moon. Commentary: Discord, Equestria Girls as Mystic Artists, and Changelings. […]

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