Hisui Tsume (Jade Claws), Level Eight Catman Mystic Samurai

This request was for a level eight character – a Cat-person using a version of Li Kao’s level four build.

That’s not quite as straightforward as it sounds. Li Kao is himself a conversion of a 3.0 build of Mystic II/Cleric I/Eastern Variant Paladin I, with a customized race to help him cram the abilities of three heavily frontloaded 3.0 classes into a very high efficiency level four Eclipse build. Given that his original campaign was long gone, he also didn’t have to deal with campaign restrictions or any other form of restraint on him pinching his character points until they screamed.

Given that this build is going to be for a player and a game master who are new to Eclipse, I’m going to unwind some of the more intricate bits along the way – as well as boosting things to suit a level eight character and adding some stuff. For a further complication, the player wants this character to be evil, and to deal with dark spirits for his power. Given that dark spirits are usually a bit more demanding than the spirits of light and nature, this will make the use of Li Kao’s shamanistic talents a bit more awkward as well. Secondarily, since they’ve asked to use a build that’s Charisma and Wisdom dependent and have specified a low Charisma and Wisdom. I’ll be swapping that over to Intelligence on the theory that the character uses careful pacts, rather than genially trading favors.

So race first:

+1 ECL Catfolk (3.5): Humanoid (Feline)

  • Attribute Modifiers: +4 Dexterity (24 CP), +2 Charisma (12 CP)
  • Celerity: +10′ running (6 CP)
  • Occult Sense/Low-Light Vision: See twice as far in dim light (6 CP)
  • Skill Bonuses: +2 Listen (2 CP) and +2 Move Silently (2 CP).
  • Natural Armor (or Dodge Bonus, depending on preference): +1 (Defender, Corrupted/Does not increase with character level, 4 CP).
  • Speaks “Feline” (1 CP).

At 57 CP Catfolk are a fairly well balanced, if not especially optimized, racial choice. I must say that they lack something in my mind though – and it isn’t having nine lives. I’ve kept a LOT of cats, and they have a habit of casually jumping up on top of windowsills, and bookshelves, and six-foot fences. Admittedly, a human-sized cat is going to be a lot more limited… but I’m the one writing this conversion, so I’m going to throw in

  • Adept for 6 CP (Listen, Jump, Move Silently, and Tumble) and thus convert the +2 to Listen and Move Silently into a +2 to all four of those skills.

That takes my Catfolk to 63 CP – the upper limit for a +1 ECL race – and gives them a modest ongoing edge; those four skills will be cheaper for them throughout their careers. It’s not a big change, but I like it better.

As for a build…

Base Attributes: Str 14, Dex 17, Con 13, Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 8 (32 Point Buy). Modifiers +1 Dex (L4 bonus), +4 Dex and +2 Cha (Racial),

Final Attributes: Str 14, Dex 22 (24), Con 13, Int 14 (16), Wis 10, Cha 10.

Available Character Points: 192 (L7 Base) + 14 CP (Clerical Duties) +10 CP (Disadvantages: Compulsive/Code of Bushido, History, and Obligations/Sworn to service) +18 (L1, L3, and L6 Bonus Feats) = 234 CP

Basic Purchases (95 CP):

  • Warcraft: +3 BAB, additional +3 BAB/Specialized and Corrupted/Melee Only, Katana Only (additional +3 magical enhancement with Katanas) (24 CP).
  • Hit Dice: L1 d12 (8 CP), L2-7 d6 (12 CP) +7 (7 x Con Mod) +(12 + 2x Con Mod, Immortal Vigor) = 56 HP. DR 2/- while wielding a katana.
  • Saves: (All +1 (Unholy) +2 (Resistance) +1 (Morale) +1 (Competence) +3 (Int Mod) = +8)
    • Fortitude +3 (Purchased, 9 CP) +1 (Con) = +12
    • Reflex +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +7 (Dex) = +16
    • Will +3 (Purchased, 9 CP) +0 (Wis) = +11
  • Initiative: +6 (Dex) +4 (Improved Initiative, 6 CP) = +10
  • Armor Class 10 (Base) +7 (Dex) +4 (Shield) +1 (Natural) +2 (Deflection) = 24 (26 while wielding a katana).

Li Kao’s original build was proficient with light armor. This character, however, has a dexterity so high that he’ll generally find armor counterproductive. He’ll be much better off investing in Bracers of Armor or some similar item. Even at the moment +1 Bracers will be an improvement on any ordinary armor he could buy.

  • Proficiencies All Simple and Martial Weapons and Bastard Swords (Katanas) (12 CP).
  • Languages (3) Common, Draconic, and Infernal.
  • Move: 40
  • Skill Points: 21 (Intelligence) +14 (Fast Learner) +12 (12 CP) = 47

Communing With The Darkness / Dark Shamanism (39 CP)

  • Path of the Dragon/Shaping (Specialized: only as a prerequisite, 3 CP)
  • Path of the Dragon/Pulse and Heart of the Dragon, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (may shape effects of up to level three, 24 CP). Corrupted: The user must call on spirits for magic other than Spirit Sight and Spirit Contact effects. He or she may designate up to (Int Mod + Level/2, 12 maximum) specific entities or general types of spirits to call on for appropriate types of magic, but each type may only be called on for a total of (Level + Int Mod)/2 spell levels worth of magic before the user must rebuild his or her “pool” of “favors”. Specialized: The user may only renew such “pools” slowly. The user regains [Int Mod + Level/2] points per day through minor rituals honoring their spiritual patrons. They user may also regain [Int Mod] points by:
    • Fulfilling a special request from the Spirits. For example, a dark spirit might want a relationship disrupted, a demon might want a bit of sabotage, and a devil might want a few suggestions given out or a little help given to an unpleasant cause. The user may simply ask the GM each day about possible tasks; there will usually be two or three available, but there’s no guarantee that any of them will be even remotely practical.
    • Enacting a ritual in honor of some type of spirits. You might offer a demon a sacrifice, perform a blasphemous rite for a devil, create a graffiti mural for a spirit of mischief, or disrupt some civic affair for a malevolent spirit of nature. Especially significant ceremonies – human sacrifices, setting a town on fire, and similar major acts of malevolence – may be worth two or three times the usual reward.
    • Promising to undertake a later mission for the appropriate group of spirits. It’s wise to take a few rounds to find out what they’re going to want you to do, but sometimes people are just desperate.
    • Simply talking the spirits into it. This requires 1d4 hours of quiet meditation (or chanting, or dance, or whatever fits your style) and a DC 18 Diplomacy or Knowledge/Religion check and can only be done once per day.
  • In any case, the saving throw DC’s against such effects are based on the user’s Intelligence and they overcome magic resistance with a roll of (1d20 + caster level + Int Mod). Creating minor supplies costs 1 SL/2 GP and is permanent, and counterspells are always specifically tuned, requiring a spell of only (target spell level – 2).
  • Path of the Dragon/Blood of the Dragon (Specialized: only as a prerequisite, 3 CP) and Bones of the Dragon (Corrupted: personal-enhancement spells only, x1.5 effect [1.5 x Int Mod spells], Specialized/first level spells only, 3 CP). I don’t know what first level spells he’ll have available – it depends on what spirits he deals with – but the Cleric list should be available. I’d suggest Shield of Faith (Getting his AC up to 28)

The Path of the Dragon is always a bit iffy; it’s in Eclipse to cover building gods, superheroes, spellfire wielders, major dragons, cosmic entities, and similar characters. In this case… it’s being used to build a relatively cheap, but rather highly limited, system of gaining magical favors from various kinds of spirits – and to get to Bones of the Dragon, which is probably the most potent unlimited-use, controllable, ability in the book (Godfire is more potent at any given moment, but is very limited use, Divine Attribute offers no control, and Touch the Soul is even more limited-use than Godfire). Bones of the Dragon allows the user to sustain up to (Int Mod) spells with durations indefinitely. As a character gains access to higher-powered magics, and a higher Int score, that becomes an incredibly potent ability. In this case, however… the character has a rather limited selection of spells to work with, a relatively low Int modifier, and it’s been gratuitously limited to first level spells (allowing the character to buy off that limitation is probably not a good idea). It’s still a powerful ability – but it’s been coupled with a very limited magic system to keep it reasonable.

  • Privilege/Invocation of the Dark Gods (3 CP): This is a ritual invocation of the spirits of evil and darkness, asking them to turn their malice upon something. The scale of the rite depends on the scale of the curse; individuals only take a minute, a city might take three-days and many human sacrifices. Such a curse lasts for at least a year, and often permanently – but is too subtle for game mechanics. Fields yield less, fallen candles are more likely to start fires, children catch things just a little more easily, there are more accidents, there are more miscarriages, and the toast falls butter side down 10% more often than it should.
  • Reflex Action/Extra Actions with +2 Bonus Uses (5/Day): Specialized/Communing With The Darkness abilities only, Corrupted/Defensive and Skill-Enhancing effects only (3 CP).

Gifts of the Dark Gods (54 CP):

  • Three Levels of Clerical Package Deal Spellcasting (30 CP).

Unfortunately, since I’ve no information on what gods exist in the setting, I can’t say anything about what domains will be available. Equally unfortunately this demonstrates one of the basic problems with this build; there simply are not enough points to keep everything up to a really useful level. What we have here is a talented generalist – but his spirit magic is quite limited (if very versatile), his clerical powers are trivial, and his combat skills aren’t that good offensively. He’s strong on defense (armor class and saves), and can provide some support – but he is going to be increasingly overshadowed by more specialized characters very soon – unless there is enough time between adventures to keep his stockpile of favors topped up.

There’s a secondary problem here: with Wisdom 10, this can’t be used normally. Fortunately, Eclipse will allow you to base your spellcasting on some other attribute than the usual. Given that this is a rather scholarly character, I could make a case for Intelligence rather than Wisdom – and so shall it be.

  • Augmented Bonus: Adds his Intelligence Modifier to all Saves. Specialized: Only while he remains unswervingly dedicated to the service of his dark masters. Corrupted: will not work in medium or heavy armor (12 CP).

This illustrates why simply changing out “Good Guy” for “Evil Guy” doesn’t really work. Being a “Good Guy” includes a lot of obligations and a lot of limitations on what you can do. Being a bad guy… means that you can pretty much do as you please. That’s why this kind of reversal only works if the Dark Powers are active things that place a lot of demands on those they empower. Otherwise… this is not a limitation and you won’t be getting a price break for taking it.

  • Immunity to Dispelling effects (Uncommon/Minor/Major, Specialized: only to protect Personal Enhancements. 1 CP.
  • Innate Enchantment: (11 CP/10,000 GP base value). Specialized/Double Effect (20,000 GP): Only while he remains unswervingly dedicated to the service of his dark masters.
    • Aura of Darkness: +1 Unholy Bonus to Saves (Personal Only, 1400 GP).
    • Detect Poison: DC 20 Wisdom or Alchemy (roll both) check to identify the exact type (restricted to touch range, 700 GP).
    • Detect Good, 60′ Cone (2000 GP).
    • Enhance Attribute / +2 Intelligence (Personal Only, 1400 GP).
    • Fortune’s Favor: +2 Luck Bonus on Skill and Attribute Checks (Personal Only, 1400 GP)
    • Healing Belt (Item Duplicate) x2 (1500 GP).
    • Immortal Vigor I: + 12 + 2 x Con Mod HP (Personal Only, 1400 GP).
    • Improved Resistance: +2 Resistance Bonus to all Saves (Personal Only, 1400 GP).
    • Inspiring Word: +1 Morale Bonus to Damage, Saves, Checks, and Attacks (Personal Only, 1400 GP).
    • Pearl of Power (Item Duplicate): May recall a L1 spell once per day (1000 GP).
    • Phylactery of Faithfulness (Item Duplicate): Is automatically aware of actions and items which might compromise his alignment (1000 GP).
    • Resist Energy, Lesser: Resistance 5 to all forms of energy (Personal Only, 1400 GP).
    • Shield: +4 Shield Bonus to AC, Immunity to Magic Missiles (2000 GP).
    • Sidestep: +1 Competence Bonus to all Saves (Personal Only, 1400 GP).
    • Weapon Mastery: +3 Competence Bonus to BAB with Katana (Personal Only, 700 GP).

The original build included a feat-granting spell that provided Combat Reflexes and one that gave his weapons a +2 Wraith Touch enchantment (albeit for a mere two rounds). The first one is probably much preferable in a form that isn’t so easily cancelled out at higher levels – and the second is superceded by later sources and a higher-level character will want a weapon boost with more potential. Ergo, the “Healing Belts” and an Intelligence boost have been substituted. Li Kao also has Immunity to Non-Magical Diseases – but this character really doesn’t need it; he has luck for saving throws instead, and so can easily throw off pretty much any disease.

Other Powers (46 CP):

  • Adept (Nen-ryu Martial Art, Knowledge/Religion, Knowledge/The Planes, and Diplomacy, 6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for Double Effect (6 CP).
  • Reflex Training/Combat Reflexes Variant (6 CP).
  • Luck with +2 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saves (4 CP).
  • Witchcraft III with Four Pacts (select these) (18 CP) and +3d6 Extra Power (6 CP).
    • Basic Abilities: The Adamant Will, Elfshot (Specialized/only inflicts wound-style penalties but may be used as a part of a successful melee attack), Glamour, Infliction (Specialized/only to add damage to melee attacks, may be used as a part of a successful attack, spend 1/2/3 power to add 3/5/7d4 damage), Witchfire (Specialized/only to give melee weapons the equivalent of the Flaming, Frost, or Shock properties, at a cost of one power per property per minute), The Hand of Shadows, and Shadowweave. Advanced Abilities: Nightforge, Tenebrium’s Coin, Leaping Fire, and Bones of Iron. Note that – using Nightforge – this character can simply materialize a katana when he needs one. Being disarmed is pretty much irrelevant for him – and will become even less relevant as soon as he can purchase Imbuement, to give his instantly-created katana instant magical powers.

Skills (47 SP):

  • Jump +10 (5 SP*) +2 (Str) +2 (Race) +4 (Speed) +2 (Syn) = +20
  • Knowledge/The Planes +10 (5 SP*) +3 (Int) = +13
  • Knowledge/Religion +10 (5 SP*) +3 (Int) = +13
  • Listen +10 (5 SP*) +0 (Wis) +2 (Race) = +12
  • Move Silently +10 (5 SP*) +7 (Dex) +2 (Race) = +19
  • Nen-ryu Martial Art +10 (5 SP*) +7 (Dex) = +17
  • Perform/Cultural Arts +3 (3 SP) +0 (Cha) = +1
  • Diplomacy +10 (5 SP*) +0 (Cha) = +10
  • Tumble +10 (5 SP*) +7 (Dex) +2 (Race) +2 (Syn) = +21

+3 Specialities: Knowledge/Religion/Own God (1 SP), Nen-ryu (Reach) (1 SP), Diplomacy/Spirits (1 SP), and Perform/Cultural Arts/Tea Ceremony (1 SP).

Nen-ryu Martial Art (Dex):

  • Requires: Weapon Focus/Katana or equivalent point buy.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 2, Defenses 2, Power 1, Toughness 2, and Synergy/Tumble
  • Advanced and Master Techniques: Mind Like Moon, Reach, Quick Draw, and Blind Fight.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength, Ki Block, Light Foot, and Vanishing.
  • Known Techniques (10): Defenses 2, Toughness 2, Sybergy/Tumble, Mind Like Moon, Reach, and Quick Draw, Inner Strength and Ki Block.

Equipment will depend a lot on the setting, so I’m not including that – but Bracers of Armor +2 (4000 GP), an Amulet of Tears (2300 GP), and Boots of the Cat (1000 GP) are all probably going to be good investments. If available, a Ring of War +1 (makes any weapon you use +1. Bonuses and special functions may be added at twice the price of a similar weapon. Thus +1: 4000 GP, +2 (Or +1 Bane something or whatever) 16,000 GP, +3: 36,000 GP, etc) is a similarly good investment. A Scout’s Headband (3400 GP) is pretty handy too. That’s 14,700 GP – which should leave plenty to get other equipment with.

Later on, a set of +1 Brass Knuckles of Warning for his off hand will provide a +5 insight bonus to Initiative for a mere 8000 GP. When you can afford to go to 18,000 GP add Defending, just for another boost to AC. A Third Eye Freedom (2600 GP) and Anklet of Translocation (1400 GP) are both good for getting out of trouble.

Further development? This character will want to build up his shamanic magic, get Imbuement (for Katanas and for his Bracers of Armor) as soon as possible, and pick up Lunge to get his reach up to 10′ – allowing him to act as a one-man wall against an advancing enemy. If you want to be a bit gruesome, taking Grant of Aid with Bonus Uses (Specialized and Corrupted/only usable when you kill an opponent or score a critical hit against one) is cheap and nicely vampyric.

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4 Responses

  1. I wonder… couldn’t this character take innate enchantment for a 1/day Sadism-spell activated via command word (+1 Luck to Saves, Skill checks and attack rolls for every 10 damage inflicted the previous round), corrupt it to have a lower duration to reduce the cost to 2 CP and specialize it (Melee attacks against living creatures only) to have it count as a level 1 spell? That way, he could make the lower duration have a lesser impact (since it’s permanent as long as he has a free “slot” in Bones of the Dragon), but it would still be a valid penality for every case in which he doesn’t have one available.

    • (Just checkig if I understood “Bones of the Dragon” correctly)

      • You might be able to get away with that – although I, at least, would note that (per The Practical Enchanter) you’d probably run into a Complexity issue there. Neither “decreased effect” nor “reduced cost” necessarily translates into “lower level spell”. If a game master does allow it it wouldn’t be a bad tactic for this character though. Sadism is really most useful when you are evil and you do a lot of damage but are having a hard time hitting – so if you get lucky, you suddenly have a much easier time keeping on hitting. That’s a bit of a niche item – but “I’m a wall that makes lots of attacks of opportunity” is a niche that fits it quite well and the saving throw bonus would be lagniappe.

        And you probably do understand it correctly. “Bones of the Dragon” is a grotesquely powerful ability for anyone with access to a selection of higher-level boosting spells, or summonings, or many other fields.The Path of the Dragon has a fair number of those.

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