Eclipse d20 – The Founders. Mauric Wonderworker

Most d20 games use classes – but they never really consider where they came from, or how new classes develop. Who founded the traditions of magic, discovered the secrets of making magical devices, and stole fire from the primitive gods? Who forged the first blades of smelted bronze and fallen starmetal to replace stone and hammered native copper? Who invented all of the gear, developed the agricultural techniques, and learned the secrets of the world? Before written records, and great cities, when an item of power was an unheard-of work of wonder, before coins and mighty city walls, back when so much was yet to be discovered… it was the era of the Founders.

A “Founders” campaign has it’s points. There’s no magic item bloat, no coin-chasing, no “wealth by level”, no buying the “best” spells, no exotic weapons, no mighty temples to sophisticated gods who have not yet arisen, and no exotic things from obscure sourcebooks to chase. It is a time when the greatest city in the world might have only two hundred people – none of them “classed” – and when a handful of low-level characters can become epic heroes by defending it. It is a time when even the “standard” spells have not yet been developed. It is a time when a few player characters may leave a mighty legacy, and set the course of civilization for ages yet to come, without shattering the order of the world.

Wonderworker Mauric, Occult Founder

It was the youth of humanity. Men were new upon the land, existing as wandering tribes of hunter-gatherers and inhabiting a scattering of tiny neolithic villages and clusters of fields in hidden places and pockets of near-safety.

Mauric knew what he wanted from early on – and it wasn’t to work the fields like his father or hunt in the safer fringes of the forest like his uncle. He could FEEL the power blazing inside him, like a fire seeking a way out! He wanted to harness that power, to walk the lands and bend their wild magic to his will.

The shaman disapproved. Such powers were not for men, they were the province of the Gods, of Dragons, and of the Elder Beasts. Mere mortal men should not seek to compete with the old powers, lest they bring down their wrath upon their fragile settlements. Such small talents as the spirits granted on their own should suffice for men.

And, it wasn’t like there was a library full of mystic books around to study, or some elder master to learn from, or some convenient god or goddess of magic to reveal occult secrets to him. Such things were yet to come. Mauric would have to seek out those secrets for himself.

Mauric was right. He did, indeed, have power inside. Unfortunately, before most of the schools, “classes”, and traditions had even been founded… he would have to find his own way.

He did – but it wasn’t very sophisticated or well-organized.

Occult Discoverer Package (36 CP):

  • Knowledge / Arcana +1 SP (1 CP).
  • 3d6 Mana with Reality Editing, Doubly Specialized and Corrupted / only for reality editing, only to create opportunities to acquire occult lore and abilities, user has no control, the opportunities created have no theme or coherence, and the opportunities may involve various dangers and backfires (2 CP).
    • Double Specialization or Corruption – and especially both – is normally a pretty big red flag. On the other hand, all this power actually does is say that “the user will finds reasonably “level appropriate” adventures to go on, each with at least a chance for magical profit or to buy abilities without training, every week or two”. I’m not sure that most adventurers aren’t assumed to have this ability anyway. Regardless of that… this talent led Mauric to discover the basics of several different disciplines very early on.
  • Spell Researcher: Action Hero/Invention, Specialized (for increased effect) and Corrupted (for reduced cost) / only for Inventing Spells (at 2 AP per level of the spell, half that for “basic”, low-level, spells), only during downtime – a total of 2(Level+2) AP per level (4 CP).
    • “Basic” spells are – of necessity – a game master judgement call. In general though… things like “Monster Summoning” and “Benign Transposition” are complicated. Things like “Burning Hands” or “Feather Fall” are relatively simple. Mauric – lacking other sources of spells – will mostly draw his from the natural world and the creatures he encounters.
  • Immunity/having to create spell books or similar items to recall spells that he has personally developed (Uncommon, Major, Minor, covering effects of up to level three, 4 CP).
    • When a culture hasn’t even invented writing, it’s going to be hard to keep spell books. A well-exercised memory can make up for part of that with the simpler spells, but – eventually – Mauric will just have to start painting reminder-patterns for his spells on cave walls, or making fetishes, or some such.
  • 2d6 Mana as 4d4 (12) generic spell levels, Specialized and Corrupted/many only be used by being bound into prepared spells for which the user has personally developed the formula (4 CP).
    • Spell Progressions are generally far more efficient at the high end – but they’re a lot less versatile and, just as importantly… haven’t been invented yet. At this point Mauric has no “type of spell” restrictions; he can use both Arcane and Divine magic – provided that he can find the time to create the spells.
  • One caster level, Specialized/only for use with the spell level pool above (3 CP).
    • That’s a rather cheap Specialization given the versatility of that pool – but Mauric will have to invent all his own stuff. I’ll give him a small break here.
  • Innate Enchantment (At Caster Level One, Unlimited-Use, Use-Activated. 5000 GP total value; from the Trickster Mage spell list: Greater Prestidigitation (2000 GP), Manifestation of Ilium (2000 GP), and Detect Magic (1000 GP), 6 CP)
    • While many characters have gotten quite a long ways with Prestidigitation and Illusion Cantrips, in a world where mortal magic is almost unknown, this ability alone can get him a long ways. As for a justification… Mauric really does have a quite a lot of talent, and one of his little adventures early on showed him him to tap into and shape just a little ambient magic. As such, this represents the first glimmerings of the Path of the Dragon – the ability set that will later lead to Warlocks and Binders and similar classes.
  • Witchcraft III (Provides (Str + Dex + Con )/3 + 4 Power and the disciplines of The Adamant Will, Dreamfaring, The Hand of Shadows, Healing, Hyloka, Infliction, and Witchsight) and the Path of Light / Light of Truth (24 CP) with the Pacts of Service / Epic Quest (founding the major magical classes – Wizards, Clerics, and Psions) and Vow / Duties (assisting the villages and tribes in founding civilization) (-12 CP).
    • Witchcraft is likely the most intuitive, and easiest-to-develop, “magical” system in Eclipse. That means that even a few hints acquired during adventures may be enough to develop a few tricks. Just as importantly, in a “founders” game… Witchcraft represents the fundamentals of Psionics, “C’hi Powers”, Channeling, and of Shamanism. It’s about the only field that primitive hunter-gatherers are really likely to dabble in; even without a system of teaching, when every practitioner is a unique individual… a few encounters with nature spirits and such may allow a sensitive character to put a few points into Witchcraft.

At a total of 36 CP this gives Mauric a considerable variety of magical tricks to draw on – none of them very powerful, but all of them quite versatile. Just as importantly… he can teach others the basic principles behind psychic powers, several kinds of spellcasting, calling on the forces of light to repel undead and creatures of darkness, channeling external powers, and more. From those beginnings, his students can and will develop more specialized abilities – each according to their own talents – and go on to found the various orders, guilds, and schools that teach advanced abilities today.

The exact details of where the rest of his first-level point allotment goes isn’t very important. A few points on a larger hit die, knowing how to use a few primitive weapons and perhaps some light hide armor, a few basic skills, and a bonus on a save or two are in order – but what is important is that Mauric is a discoverer, wresting the secrets of magic from an uncaring world.

In ages to come, Mauric – who likely never actually achieved any great level of power thanks to the lack of system behind his magic – is likely to be remembered as a god, a towering figure who brought humanity the strength to stand on equal terms with the other, more naturally magical, creatures of the world. The scruffy little seeker of magic at the roots of those legends would not recognize what his tale has grown into, what his students have become, or what humanity has made of the world – but he would doubtless be proud to see the that tiny, fearful, carefully hidden, hamlets of his time have grown into secure and prosperous villages.

“Classes” may not be as versatile as point-buy – but suites of well-organized abilities are a lot easier for most people to study and develop. An exceptional few (mostly player characters) may do just fine creating their own personal class through pure point buy – but an awful lot of the NPC’s are likely to settle for doing it by some OTHER book than Eclipse.

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.

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.

One Response

  1. […] play out that process. Now if they wish to be fantasy innovaters… that’s what a “Founders” campaign is about. Otherwise… making even one original discovery is kind of unlikely. […]

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