Errant Time, Time Patrol Starship

Even a single sector of the galaxy is a lot of room for things to go wrong in. When you throw in time travel as well… things can get very complicated indeed – which is where ships like the Errant Time come in.

The Errant Time isn’t an especially large ship, and it isn’t all that heavily armed or shielded – but it has excellent internal facilities, good navigational sensors (allowing it to travel freely instead of sticking to the charted routes), and a fairly good FTL drive. It also has a time-drive capable of reaching the past, the future, and alternate probability lines with a paradox evasion circuit; when an incoming paradox is changing the current timeline the ship will automatically transport itself, it’s passengers, and it’s cargo to the new one – allowing them to try and fix the issue.

Similarly, it’s AI system is not especially powerful – but it’s got a reasonable set of databases, is equipped to detect temporal disturbances, and is a pretty good at determining the ships current location. It can’t actually run the ship for you

Still, while it’s more than a bit cramped, has a mere fifty ton cargo capacity, and- at least in its base configuration – is easily identifiable and has no stealth systems whatsoever, it’s also got the one thing that’s important to most player characters. At a mere 20 CP, it’s cheap.

Cost / Vehicle Characteristics
0 STR 10/55
0 DEX 10
-1 BODY 9/18
0 SPD 2
45 Size Increase-9: 32 hexes (1,377 sq ft), 16 inside, 32 passengers, 8″ long x 4″ wide, 50,000 kg, KB -9, DCV -2 (Mod -5)
9 DEF 5; Coverage: Complete, -0; Protects: Top and Bottom, -0
-12 Ground Movement (0″, NC: 0″, 0mph); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×2, +0

5 Elemental Control: Starship Powers (15-pt reserve); OIF (Drive and Power Systems): -½; Focus Type: Vehicular, -½; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½; Generic Limitation (Primary Starship Systems Only): -½

  • a-5 Life Support (total)
  • b-10 Thrusters / Flight (10″, NC: 1,250″, 930mph); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×125, +30; Stall: None, -0; Extra Time: 1 turn, -1; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½
  • c-4 Vortex Drive / Faster-Than-Light Travel (1000 LY/Year); Extra Time: 1 turn, -1; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½
  • d-9 Temporal Drive / Extra-Dimensional Movement; Dimensions: One, +0; Time Travel: Any Time, +40; Extra Time: 5 min., -2; Generic Limitation (Time and Timeline Travel Only): -½; Generic Limitation (Unreliable in GMO ways.): -1; Mass Multiplier: ×1, +0; Carrying Mass: None; Trigger (Incoming Paradox): Set, +¼ (7 End)
  • e-5 Navigational Warp Sensors / Danger Sense (Out of Combat, Anywhere); Works: Out of Combat, +5; Range: Anywhere, +15; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; Generic Limitation (Only to detect upcoming navigational hazards during high-speed travel): -2; Auxiliary Cost (Analytical; Provides data on the nature of the navigational or ship hazard): 1 (cost 5); OIF (Drive and Power Systems): -½; Focus Type: Vehicular, -½; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½; Generic Limitation (Primary Starship Systems Only): -½ 17-
  • f-22 Computer Enhancement / Enhanced Perception (all) (+36 to PER); Generic Limitation (Only versus range modifiers): -½; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; OIF (Drive and Power Systems): -½; Focus Type: Vehicular, -½; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½; Generic Limitation (Primary Starship Systems Only): -½. Operators using sight and ship systems take no penalty to perception checks at ranges of up to 4,200 Kilometers, -2 for each doubling of the range beyond that.
  • g-14 Sensor Systems; Generic Limitation (Only versus range modifiers): -½; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; OIF (Drive and Power Systems): -½; Focus Type: Vehicular, -½; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½; Generic Limitation (Primary Starship Systems Only): -½
    • (6) 360-Degree Sensing (All); Generic Limitation (Only versus range modifiers): -½; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; OIF (Drive and Power Systems): -½; Focus Type: Vehicular, -½; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½; Generic Limitation (Primary Starship Systems Only): -½
      (2) Communications / Radio Listen and Transmit; Based on EGO Combat Value (No lightspeed delay, interstellar range): vs. ECV, +1; Generic Limitation (Only versus range modifiers): -½; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½
    • (6) Ship Scans / Spatial Awareness; Generic Limitation (Only versus range modifiers): -½; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½
    • (4) Detect Life Forms (+0 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Addition (Discriminatory Sense): +5; Generic Limitation (Only versus range modifiers): -½; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½
  • h-8 2d6 Superior Facilities and Gear: Aid Skills (Fade/hour, Max. 12); Range: 0; Generic Limitation (Effects vanish instantly on leaving the ship): -½; Autofire: 5 shots, ½; Reduced END: Zero, +1; Affects: All Powers of Special Effect, +2; Generic Limitation (Provides a maximum bonus of +3 to rolls): -1. The Errant Time carries a wide variety of equipment, library data, and other gear – offering those aboard a substantial boost in the use of their various skills.
  • i-12 Shields / Force Field (15 PD/15 ED); Reduced END: Zero, +½; Hardened: ×1, ¼
  • j-5 Power Plant / END Reserve (200 END, 10 REC/turn). This is for the benefit of any equipment that the passengers bring aboard; the engines provide all the power the ship itself needs since all the ship systems are at 0 End cost anyway.
  • k-4 Internal Lights, Gravity, Etc / Change Environment (2″ rad.); Effect: Variable, +1; Reduced END: Zero & Persistent, +1; Selective Target: +¼; Generic Limitation (Only internal): -1
  • l-27 1d6 Warp Cannon Battery: Ranged Killing Attack; Range: 485; Based on EGO Combat Value: vs. ECV, +1; Champions Advantage (Does Body. Use normal DCV versus operators ECV): +2; Reduced END: Zero, +1; Autofire: 5 shots, ½; Penetrating: +1
  • m-4 Autorepair Systems / Regeneration (3 BODY/day); Regenerate: Lost Limbs and Organs, +10; Charges: 1, -2. Basically the ship can self-repair up to three points of body per day. It can repair specific systems as well, but it will take more time.

175 Vehicle Cost

100+ Disadvantages (Cost: 100/5 = 20)

  • 15 Distinctive Features: Starship; Concealability: Not Concealable, 15; Reaction: Noticed and Recognizable, +0
  • 10 Watched: Law Enforcement (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful,
  • 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Only Watching: ×½; Punishment: Harsh, 0
  • 20 Vulnerability: Magic (2× Effect); Attack: Common, +10
  • 20 Requires regular resupply, refueling, and skilled maintenance. (Frequently, Fully)
  • 10 2d6 Unluck (Despite how BORING space really is, weird stuff happens to or aboard the ship at regular intervals).

75 Disadvantages Total

Herodotus, the onboard AI:

Val / Char / Cost
23 INT 13
8 EGO -4
0 DEX -30
1 SPD 0

Characteristic Rolls: STR: 9-, DEX: 9-, CON: 9-, INT: 14-, EGO: 11-, PER: 14-

Cost Powers END/Roll

  • 15 Detect Temporal Disturbances (+0 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Transdimensional (Through Time. “Range Modifiers” are based on how far in the past or the future the disturbance is.): Single Dimension, +½
  • 3 Detect Current Location (+0 to PER); Time Required: Half Phase, +0; Range: Touch, +0

Cost Skills, Talents, Perks Roll
10 Universal Translator; Generic Limitation (Written Material Only): -1 14-
3 Absolute Time Sense
3 Cryptography 14-
3 Scholar
2 History 14-
2 Alternate Timelines 14-
2 Paratemporal Equipment 14-
2 Galactigraphy 14-
2 Current Dimensional News 14-
2 Astronomy 14-
2 Immunity to Temporal Shifts; Frequency: Fairly Common

0+ Disadvantages
15 Highly Protective of Existing Timelines (Common, Strong)
15 Always Obeys Orders of Superiors (Very Common, Moderate)

ECV: 3; Mental Def.: 0; Phases: 7

Costs: Char: -21, Disad:30, Powers: + 51, Total: = 30

Eclipse, Minions, Occult Skills, and Evil Overlords

And today, to answer Veebs, it’s a look at how to acquire reliable Minions in Eclipse and a new Occult Skill for it. After all, every evil overlord, ruler, mercenary leader, pokemon trainer, spymaster, thieves guild, super-secret organization, and mad scientists needs a staff.

Unfortunately, it’s getting a reliable staff instead of incompetent and treacherous boobs that’s the hard part – especially for the bad guys. In a game it’s even worse; if you use minions for anything whatsoever – even if it’s just background fluff – sooner or later the game master will give into the temptation and use them for comic relief, or have them completely bungle some incredibly simple assignment, or have them backstab you, because it’s easy, funny, or fits the plot.

There isn’t any way around that. The game master gets to edit the universe however he or she wants. Still, you can reduce the temptation by making such betrayals involve really awkward explanations – complicated enough that the game master won’t want to bother unless he or she has something important in mind.

So what are the options for acquiring some Minons in Eclipse?

  • Companions – especially Psicrystals and Familiars – are normally about as reliable as it gets. After all, they’re basically pieces of YOU. Having them betray you requires some really special effect (such as the Harrow Deck of Many Things), you developing a split personality, or being possessed, or some such. On the other hand… they’re limited in a number of ways and that link with you is a pretty big point of vulnerability for you.
  • Animal Companions and Mystic Mounts are also quite reliable – after all, without you they cannot maintain their abilities and may lose access to the material plane – but they may still prefer that to some horrible fate, threats to their families (if any), or similar forms of blackmail. It will have to be pretty good though.
  • Dominion – a necessary first step in the path of Godhood – offers the ability to grant people minor templates known as “Offices”. Those come with some built-in disadvantages – and if you’re a supernatural entity, there’s no reason why you can’t talk the game master into including “compulsive loyalty to you” as one of them. Again, that’s not perfect – but it should suffice for most circumstances.
  • The Path of the Pharaoh leads to Godhood – and offers the “Minions” ability, allowing a God (however minor) to have at least a few loyal and reliable agents. Unfortunately, these are better adapted to staff positions, rather than combat and espionage – but outside of “war in heaven” scenarios, such minions are quite reliable. Even better, if you can afford it, you can use Endowment and Greater Endowment to offer ongoing rewards for loyalty. Bonus points (literally) if you can talk the game master into allowing you to Corrupt (also literally) the powers you bestow so as to compel continuing loyalty once someone has become a loyal follower and acquired them.
  • Witchcraft offers several ways to collect minions.
    • Spirit Binding allows the user to seal contracts, basically enforcing “dealing in good faith” – with the consequences for violations in the hands of the game master (although Veebs notion of becoming hunted by Inevitables is an excellent suggestion). This allows those classical “contracts signed in blood” with chaotic creatures that nevertheless keep their words and so on. Unfortunately, this is still only a minor ability – and even with the full consent of those it’s applied to, it’s power is limited.
    • Similarly, Lure of Darkness provides a modest selection of extremely loyal minions – but they don’t necessarily have any special defense against weird methods of subversion, ranging from the basic Charm spell on up thorough exotic technologies. Secondarily, their fairly extreme loyalty comes at the expense of numbers. This is still an excellent option if you only need a few minions though.
  • Gaining Followers at “name level” was the classic way to get some reasonably reliable followers (in the case of Rangers, often some quite exotic ones). Later editions, where reaching “name level” was no longer remarkable, replaced getting followers with an optional “Leadership” feat – which has become the Leadership chain of abilities in Eclipse. By default Leadership gets you reasonably, but not absurdly loyal followers. Just don’t expect them to put up with abuse, being sent into suicidal situations, or otherwise overstressed. You could upgrade to Thrallherd of course – but going for badly-written material isn’t really recommended. Upgrading with Eclipse’s line of advanced abilities leads to Emperor’s Star – an ability that effectively lets you apply a minor Template to your followers.

Now do-it-yourself Templates can be stuffed full of useful abilities, such as “Mystic Link” (to allow your minions to supply you with power and transport themselves to you when needed), you can give them mental defenses against being forced to betray you – and you can throw in ways to ensure your minions loyalty. If you’re really lucky, and have a generous game master, you may even be able to get loyalty thrown in as a Corruption or Specialization. Even if not… it’s inherently a condition on keeping the Emperor’s Star template. If they are no longer loyal followers, the boosts you’re providing will no longer apply. Templated Minions aren’t quite as reliable as divine servants, but they’re pretty good. On the other hand… a lot of game masters have problems with Leadership.

  • Constructs – whether templated or built – are usually nicely reliable, and can be acquired through one of the optional modifiers on Leadership or (far more expensively) through building them yourself (or as minor variations on divine minions) – but constructs, AI’s, computers, and similar creations tend to be quite limited and, while they’ll never betray you under normal circumstances, can always be reprogrammed. They’re usually only really useful as guards and labor on simple projects.
  • Undead are generally a poor choice. Like it or not, they have no positive emotions – or at least none that aren’t left over from life. They have no loyalty, no affection, no gratitude, no trust, and no real desire to be anything but a blight on all life. They want to cause misery, pain, and death. Even if you’ve got the Witchcraft ability that lets you use social skills against undead, or have some other special power over them, they just aren’t very reliable. Not only do they draw heroes, but as soon as someone disrupts your control they’ll be off on a rampage. Now if you happen to be a lich, and that’s your thing, then go ahead and build yourself a legion of the dead. If you’re pretty much any other kind of character it’s probably best to do something else.
  • Summoned Creatures are powerful, and compelled to obedience – but they generally do not like being bound to the whims of some mortal one little bit, and the longer you keep them bound the less they like it. Given that the more powerful ones tend to be sapient, are simply returned home if “slain”, and can come back later it’s rarely a very good idea to try and keep them around for long. Worse, it takes quite a lot of magical power to keep them around.

You can get around some of these problems by sticking to lesser creatures, and to others by using something like the Profession/Demonology skill – but that will only get you a few minor minions. There’s a price for everything.

If you simply want some support staff (and perhaps a base), the easiest route is probably to take the Sanctum ability – and purchase Leadership and some other benefits using those points. There’s more about that option in the Castle Hieronymus article. Such followers are pretty reliable since they have the usual loyalty of followers derived from Leadership, usually aren’t exposed to any major risks, and don’t go on adventures. Sadly, just as it makes them less likely to cause problems for you, it makes them less useful.

If all you want is some servants and such, Privilege, Mystic Artist (Fame and Wealth), or just investing in some Hirelings will cover you. Such minions have no special loyalty, and little or no real power – but there’s no real reason to care if they betray you either.

You can borrow minions with Action Hero/Influence, with Contacts and Favors, or – in a way – with the Foresight skill (the Goon Squad option) with little risk; since they aren’t really working for you for any lengthy period,

Now, if you don’t want Witchcraft or Companions, and your game master doesn’t want player characters taking Leadership, Dominion, or Godhood (which is not unreasonable; those are some easily abused options), your options are narrowed considerably. In this case you may want Occult Skill/Minions.

Minions (Cha) (Commonly an Occult Skill):

There is an art to collecting and managing minions – and you’re mastering it.

Check: To see if your minions are loyal enough to risk themselves for you or resist attempts to subvert them, to see if their general orders cover specific situations well enough to keep them doing what you’d want, to keep them organized and disciplined in a crisis situation, to have them anticipate your minor needs, to locate hirelings, and to find henchmen. Unusually, you do not actually have to be there – or even aware of the need – to roll.

Action: None for the initial roll. It may take hours or days to find new notable minions. A retry is a full round action.

Retry: Yes, but you have to actually be there to retry a roll.

Special: Your permanent (discounting temporary bonuses) minion skill rank also provides some actual minions to work with. In general, a minion (or small group of generic minions) will “cost” one skill rank, plus one rank per notable quality possessed. Thus a celebrity with a base score of +13 might have an expert manager (2), a tough, skilled, bodyguard (3), a small pack of obsessive fans to run errands and warm his or her bed (2), a squad of hulking, intimidating, goons (3), and an expert, close-mouthed, lawyer (3). A computer hacker with “minions” +9 might employ a secretive expert tech (3), a cluster of semi-sentient AI search-worms (4) that help him out online, and a set of security drones (2). Gang leaders may have thugs, runners, and lieutenants, upper-class twits may have incredibly competent butlers who run their lives for them, and so on.

The Minions skill is an excellent choice if you only want a few minions – and bonus skill points are a lot easier to come by than bonus character points. Even more importantly… the ability to roll to keep your minions on track when you’re not there, are incapacitated, or even if you’re dead, can be incredibly useful.

And hopefully that will help!

Gaming and Child Development

Today it’s a request from an old player for an old file… and why not? It’s come in handy often enough.

Games tend to be full of child prodigies, forty year old elven kids, kids with magical enhancements, and more. Secondarily, a lot of gamers are relatively young, have no kids of their own, and their own early memories are subject to the usual distortion. Given that… it’s awfully easy to forget what real kids are like at various ages. Ergo, here we have a quick-reference summary:

Presuming that nothing goes wrong, the development of more-or-less “ordinary” human children goes something like this:

One Year: At this age a child can be expected to use simple words, walk, and begin being awake a majority of the time. It’s parents can begin expecting to get a good nights sleep again. In more “primitive” societies, there is also about a 20% chance that any given child will die before this point – presuming that they are not disposed of intentionally.

Two Years: At this point children can be expected to have a basic vocabulary (350+ words) and grammar, can be given simple instructions (Obedience is another matter), and become quite exhausting, as they can now run, jump, and hide, fairly effectively. They can begin dealing with problems using one-step reasoning; “If I push the bottle over, the cookies will fall out”. Unfortunately, multi- step reasoning (“And then mommy will be angry”) does not yet make an appearance.

Three Years: A child can now be expected to manage a variety of simple errands (basic fetching and carrying), and can be taught to carry out fairly complex routine tasks such as dressing themselves, minor ceremonies, gathering wild foods, and so on – as long as such routines don’t involve many choices and aren’t overly complex. This will still generally require slow, patient, and persistent teaching. They can also cooperate effectively and identify their families well enough for strangers to find them.

Four Years: Children of this age can be given “long term” contingency instructions (“Tell me if the cow gets out”), chase crows, feed small domestic animals, and can be entrusted with simple multi-step tasks (“Take this out to your father and come right back”). Precocious children may begin learning the alphabet – or even begin reading. There’s even a decent chance of a “sensible” reaction in an emergency, or of them recognizing it when something’s seriously wrong, but not of anticipating problems. This means that their projects can go seriously wrong without adult supervision.

Five Years: At this point children normally begin to generalize and apply basic logic to problems, permitting them to begin undertaking more complicated tasks, and to begin compensating for variations in conditions. Typical tasks include minding smaller children, distributing the fieldworker’s lunches, cleaning up, and acting as servants or assistants for their elders. Some can be apprenticed in specialized, “primitive” fields (drumming, weaving, and so on – things which involve a lot of repetition of basic patterns). They may begin making an effective contribution to their families. Most of those who are going to die in childhood (Up to 50% in primitive cultures) have already done so, although accidents and such continue to claim a few. They are now “commodities” with some value to those without a genetic or emotional commitment to their well- being – and can be effectively exploited with supervision.

Six Years: At this age children may be “expected” to have a vocabulary of 2500 words or more, and begin to be able to handle abstract ideas applied to classes. In the practical realm, most can now be apprenticed, and can be expected to be fairly reliable without supervision.

Seven Years: At this point children usually begin to become “reasonable”, and can have things explained without a concrete example to focus on. They are ready for more formal schooling. On a more practical level, at this age they can act as effective spies, be imbued with exotic and irrational beliefs, can act as effective child-soldiers, and be competent servants. In terms of physical tasks they are now limited by their size, strength, and knowledge – not by their basic ability. As a side issue, adults will generally begin viewing a child of seven as a small, and inexperienced, person – rather then as a sort of incomp- rehensible alien life form.

Eleven Years: Sexual play becomes common unless it’s culturally inhibited. Puberty, and fertility, may occur at any point from now on – although this depends heavily on factors such as food, disease, and exercise. Thirteen is common in “modern” societies, where food is plentiful and disease and exercise rare. Fifteen is more common in primitive societies. It must be noted that boys usually become fertile before puberty, but that girls undergo it about two years earlier then boys do on the average. In any case, puberty is usually accompanied by rebellious and quarrelsome tendencies, as the child begins to establish a seperate identity from his or her caregivers.

Twelve Years: Children may begin developing “formal” thinking skills at this age, including abstract logic, a generalized system of ethical principles, the testing of hypotheses, and organized experimentation. Pure sciences and mathematics (Such as geometry) become attractive. It should be noted that many people never reach this level, and most of those that do require an extensive education to do so.

Fourteen to Sixteen Years: Common age of majority in “primitive” cultures, although individual cases vary. In more “advanced” cultures – where adult status is delayed in favor of further training – puberty becomes a primary source of conflict, even if full physical maturity isn’t achieved until seventeen to twenty years.

A Feat Full of Tricks – Redesigning Monks and Monk Tricks

To continue with the “Feat Full of Tricks” series, here’s one of the difficult ones – Monks. Barbarians and Rangers, Clerics, Fighters and Wizards, and Rogues were straightforward, but Monks, well…

Monk Tricks are kind of difficult, mostly because Monks – starting with first edition – have never really fit into the Dungeons and Dragons game very well. Their role is a lot less clear than that of most other characters – and if fighting without weapons and armor is as effective as fighting with weapons and armor, why were weapons and armor ever invented? Just as bothersomely, Monks needed to be able to adventure on equal terms with everyone else – so you couldn’t make advancement all that difficult until you got to “name” levels where it didn’t matter quite so much.

First edition handled first that little problem by making it extremely difficult to qualify to be a Monk – and thus most people simply could not learn to fight unarmed effectively. Monks were the exception that proved the rule.

That still left Monks without a really clear role in the party. Tanks/Fighters hit things and kept the enemy off the Artillery/Magic-Users, the Artillery/Magic-Users blew stuff up if the Tanks/Fighters didn’t get diverted and could keep them safe long enough, and Clerics/Infantry and Support helped out and kept everyone else going. When Thieves/Commando Squads were added in they could sneak in and use unconventional warfare to obtain special objectives.

Monks basically got tossed in as “Scouts”. They got high movement speed and a few special movement powers for troublesome terrain, the ability to communicate with all kinds of things, the ability to inflict decent damage with minimal weaponry, resistance to a lot of the “take out that annoyance” powers and effects, missile deflection, and were hard to hit even without heavy armor – even if they weren’t allowed to carry that much gear. Of course, if they did get hit… they were kind of fragile. Worse, a lot of parties didn’t do much of any scouting.

Fortunately, a high-level first (or even second) edition Monk was actually pretty powerful – often outshining the fighters quite readily and making them a desirable character type anyway.

Still, the class was pretty much a patchwork, with a bunch of unrelated powers all shoved in under a vague heading of “martial arts stuff” – even where that made very little sense. The grab bag did have one good feature – even at lower levels a clever player could usually think of some way to contribute – but it didn’t really have much organization. Moreover, as a variant class, and just in case they’d been made TOO powerful (a very common problem given that there was no actual system for designing classes at the time) Monks were gratuitously all organized as an order that only had a limited number of high-level slots open – giving them both a hard AND a soft level cap.

For awhile the First Edition Oriental Adventures book gave Monks a great deal more flexibility by allowing them to use that books design-your-own-martial-art system and giving them bonuses that enhanced it – but that line of development dead-ended. That was too bad – it worked quite well – but early Dungeons and Dragons had a lot of dead ends.

When 3.0 and 3.5 came along… they made things even messier. Since Monk’s were a “Core Class” they no longer had notable entry prerequisites and gaining Monk levels is exactly like gaining any other kind of levels – so their somewhat-random list of abilities got tweaked again.

It still lacks unity, and synergy, and all the other classes got even more new toys than Monks did. I don’t normally have much use for the Tier System – it isn’t really applicable to Eclipse – but there’s a REASON why standard Monks are down on Tier Five.

These days Monks…

  • Are fast and agile – able to dodge attacks that allow reflex saves, run around very quickly, reduce the damage from falls, and bounce around like superballs.
  • Are immune to diseases and poisons, can heal themselves a bit, and stop taking ability score penalties for aging.
  • Can Dimension Door, become briefly Ethereal, and get a very limited Death Touch
  • Can talk to any living creature. This may or may not include plants, which – generally being mindless under the current rules – may or may not have anything to say anyway.
  • Eventually become Outsiders, gaining resistance to some spells and some Damage Reduction.
  • Get some martial-arts themed Bonus Feats.
  • Get a bonus of up to (5 + Wis Mod) to their Armor Class when unarmored and unencumbered.
  • Get to hit their targets quickly, accurately, and for a fair amount of damage with their fists or with a modest selection of weapons when unarmored and unencumbered. At higher levels they can inflict various conditions too (at least in Pathfinder) and boost their fists with magic.
  • Get Spell Resistance

This is why no one using Eclipse ever seems to build a “standard monk”. We’ve had LOTS of martial artists, and unarmed combatants, and more-or-less Rangers and Paladins and Fighters and Rogues and Clerics – but not Monks.

So there’s our first problem. What do we need to get to build an effective “Monk” in Eclipse? Not the convoluted monstrosity of an example that’s in the book to show you how to duplicate the original build precisely (mostly so that you can trade things out), but a sensible Eclipse variant?

Obviously enough we can leave out some of the current ability list; a Monk doesn’t actually need resistance to aging (even fictional martial artists usually seem to age), or the quasi-spell-like Dimension Door, Etherealness, and Death Touch. You certainly don’t need to become an Outsider, although we’ll be keeping some damage reduction.

First up you take…

The Sun Source. The martial arts as commonly practiced are mere reflections in cracked and tarnished mirrors of the true masteries. Buy any one unarmed martial art, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect: It only works if the user is Unarmored and Unencumbered, the more skilled the user becomes the more often he or she will be targeted by other martial artists, and focuses enormous amounts of C’hi. Great practitioners of the Sun Source are easily sensed by other martial artists, are subject ot C’hi draining and blocking tricks and substances, and must practice many odd little self-disciplines to maintain their power.

This leaves a lot of choices up to the user – but it can easily cover hitting things really really well, boosting their armor class by up to +12, getting an impressive level of damage reduction, and picking up a selection of other boosts.

It can also get pretty silly. Like anything else that’s been Specialized and Corrupted for triple effect, the game master should probably keep an eye on this. If you want to trim things back a bit… trim it back to “specialized” only, and thus reduce things to double effect.

This doesn’t have any actual cost. As an Eclipse combatant, you were going to be taking a Martial Art anyway.

Next take some Innate Enchantment / “C’hi Powers”. Specialized for Half Cost: only works if the user is unarmored and unencumbered, radiates great amounts of C’hi (6 CP). This covers up to 11,500 GP worth of Innate Enchantment (the actual total is 11,370 GP). Note that Relieve Illness and Relieve poison don’t exactly provide Immunity to disease and poison – but they do make our Monk quite resistant to such things, which is probably more fun. If you really want to go for immunity, buy some upgrades later.

  • A pair of Healing Belts (Magic Item Compendium, 1500 GP Item Duplication, x.7 Personal Only = 1050 GP). These let the user heal himself or herself for 2d8/3d8/4d8 damage for 1/2/3 charges, and each incidence has 6 charges/day. That should be plenty.
  • Lesser Restoration (SRD, Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use, Use-Activated, x .7 Personal Only x .8 (only usable four times a day) = 1120 GP
  • Light Foot (Speedster List, +30 circumstance bonus ground movement speed a +10 circumstance bonus on jump checks, and DR 10 versus Falling Damage [only] for 1d6+2 rounds, Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .7 Personal Only = 1400 GP).
  • Personal Haste (The Practical Enchanter, +30′ Move, +1 Attack at full BAB when making a Full Attack. Spell Level One times Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .8 (bonus attack is only usable with unarmed combat = 1600 GP)
  • Relieve Illness (Hedge Magi spell list, +4 Enhancement on saves versus Disease, -2 on the attribute damage taken, Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use, Use-Activated, x .7 Personal Only = 1400 GP).
  • Relieve Poison (Hedge Magi spell list, +4 Enhancement on saves versus Poisons, -2 on the attribute damage taken, Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use, Use-Activated, x .7 Personal Only = 1400 GP).
  • Speak with Animals (SRD, Spell Level One times Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated = 2000 GP)
  • Thousand Pound Stance (New, Transmutation, Level One, Target gains a +8 versus Bull Rush, Grapple, Trip, Overrun, being lifted or thrown, or similar situations, for one minute. Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .7 Personal Only = 1400 GP). Note that this changes the -4 Penalty for Light Foot to a +4 Bonus.

Yes, that’s pretty grossly efficient. Stacking up a bunch of continuous first level spell boosts usually is, and Personal Haste and Light Foot are among the better first level spells – but once you’re faster than the rest of the party, you’re usually fast enough and getting an extra “unarmed” attack is fairly typical for first level spells like Beast Claws. . It’s nice, but the fact is that most characters stick with the party, and all that speed is mostly irrelevant.

Other Abilities:

  • Immunity/Dispelling and Antimagic (Common, Major, Epic, Specialized and Corrupted/only protects innate enchantments in the C’hi powers package, 9 CP). This turns the Monk’s abilities into Extraordinary Abilities, preventing them from being readily dispelled or countered – even if this costs more than the basic ability set.
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial/only covers first level effects at caster level one), Specialized/only to cover the “C’hi Powers” package (1 CP).
  • Celerity/Additional Movement Mode (Flight), Specialized and Corrupted/only to keep the user from taking damage from falls and extend their ability to jump (double the distance, with no upper limit) (4 CP)
  • C’hi Strike/Augmented Attack/+3d6 (+10) Damage to overcome Damage Reduction and Hardness Only, Corrupted/only with unarmed combat (6 CP).
    • There. Now we can dispense with all that “Treat as Magic/Silver/Adamantine/Etc nonsense – and the user can still get Imbuement and add some more useful stuff to his or her unarmed attacks.
  • Improved Fortune (the Evasion variant): The user takes no effect on a successful reflex save and only half effect on a failure (12 CP).
  • Improved Spell/Power Resistance (12 CP). This is actually pretty questionable – you have to lower it to receive buffs, and you have good saves anyway – but a fair number of people in caster-heavy games see it as one of the few prizes Monks get.

That’s most of the actual powers that you need to be a “Monk” for a mere 50 CP. Now a full “Monk” build will have some excellent saves, good hit dice (or some other method of boosting their hit points), a fair number of skill points, a full BAB (Specialized / only for Unarmed Combat – which takes care of the other attack in a “flurry of blows”), and a few other goodies – but even with some saves and BAB, you ought to be able to afford most of that stuff by level five or so. If we put the resistance to aging, the quasi-spell-like Dimension Door, Etherealness, and Death Touch, the ability to inflict conditions with their unarmed attacks (“Trick”), and becoming an Outsider back in… we’re still looking at a ten level class at best. And we’ve improved on a number of things. Admittedly there’s some cheese in there – but not a lot and most builds contain at least a little cheese.

That certainly explains why Monks are down on Tier 5 doesn’t it?

Of course an Eclipse Monk will have another ten levels worth of abilities to come up with, which should improve things quite a bit.

So what should “Monk Tricks” involve?

The Limitations are the hard part with a “Tricks” package. “Tricks” need to play to archetypes while still working with a wide variety of more specific character conceptions. The limitations on them need to push the user into an archetypical role, act as plot hooks that involve the user in the setting, be flavorful, and be an actual inconvenience that doesn’t overlap with their archetypes built-in restrictions, since otherwise they’re not limitations at all.

Monk Tricks Limitations:

Pick two; if a Monk fails to live up to their chosen limitations, he or she will loose access to their Monks Tricks until they have lived up to their limitations for at least a week.

  • Monks see combat as a last resort. It is best to solve conflicts peacefully, if you must fight it is best to use nonlethal techniques, injuries are better than deaths, and – if you must kill – you must kill as few of your opponents as possible.
  • Monks are ascetic warrior-philosophers. As such, they must spend at least one skill point per level on practical working-class skills with religious elements. Things like gardening or farming, making baskets or pots, carpentry, perform (religious music), or child care are all appropriate.
  • Monks are deeply involved in the “Martial Arts World”. No matter how obscure they are, their names, styles, general abilities, and appearance are all widely recognized among other martial artists and they will have a terrible time keeping their movements and objectives secret. Martial Arts based opponents and enemies will find them easily.
  • Monks accumulate students and would-be students, bumbling servants, hangers-on, and various dependents and offspring (who keep needing rescue or fall in love with an enemy or some such). This entourage may wander in and out of their lives, but will invariably need a lot of time, rescuing, teaching, and looking-after.
  • Monks must perform various rituals and observe various taboos to maintain their power. This may include exotic diets, meditations and exercise, only using items which have been properly sanctified or bonded to their power by some weird (and likely expensive) ritual,
  • Monks must spend at least 10% of whatever treasure they obtain on noncombative projects – schools for their styles, building temples, funding irrigation systems, maintaining a network of subversive agents, or whatever.
  • Opponents who recognize a Monk’s style (a DC 18 skill check using Intelligence with their own Martial Arts skill level) gain a +3 bonus to their martial arts attacks and damage against the Monk in question.

Basic Abilities:

  • The Adamant Will. A Monk’s inner discipline and regular regime of mind and body training allows them to easily reject external influences and even conceal their thoughts from attempts to probe them.
  • Hand of Shadows, Specialized for reduced cost/only to allow enhanced movement at no cost. The user may run over water, fight without penalty while balancing on a slack, swinging, rope or on burning bamboo posts, dash along walls to avoid opponents, turn in midair while leaping, and gets a +10 Competence bonus on Balance, Jump and Tumble.
  • Hyloka, Specialized for Double Effect/personal only. Monks can resist extremes of heat and cold, delay the effects of poisons, place themselves in deep trances, and more.

Advanced Abilities:

Most Monks will invest a third Feat-Equivalent on Basic Witchcraft – picking up another four basic abilities.

  • Dreamfaring/Wraith Fist, Specialized/only to allow the user to detect, communicate with, and hit (rather like Ghost Touch weapons) creatures in adjacent dimensions.
  • Elfshot/Pressure Point Mastery, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect as per “Bestow Curse”, requires a successful melee attack check, does not work on creatures that lack a normal life force to disrupt or who’s anatomy is utterly strange (most aberrations, slimes and oozes, etc).
    • It’s not uncommon for a Monk to take “Opportunist”, so that this can be coupled with normal attacks – which neatly covers all those weird “nerve strikes” and the multitude of effects that they could supposedly cause.
  • Witchsight. Monks can easily hone their senses to superhuman acuity, fighting blindfolded, detecting poison by the slightest of scents, and so on.
  • Witchfire/C’hi Strike, Specialized and Corrupted/only to imbue their unarmed attacks with magical energy; with a standard action and 2 Power the user may add the equivalent of +2 worth of enhancements to his or her unarmed attacks for the next one minute. This does not have to include a basic enhancement bonus, but if it doesn’t the strikes will not count as “magic”.

Their remaining two advanced abilities vary a lot.

  • Daoist Masters usually take Brewing and Longevity – making them masters of herbal alchemy and giving them several centuries of extra lifespan.
  • Dedicated Martial Artists usually take Bones of Earth and Leaping Fire – allowing them to toughen themselves, move more quickly, and heal themselves more, even if the “haste” effect of Leaping fire will not stack with their C’hi based personal haste power.
  • Sohei usually take Light of Truth and Warding – allowing them to protect their charges, see hidden threats, detect deceptions, and try to drive off creatures of darkness.
  • Priestly Monks run towards the Inner Fire (giving them minor clerical spellcasting) and Dismissal – allowing them to attempt to break spells and banish evil spirits.
  • Serpent Masters: use Venomed Touch and The Umbral Form – allowing them to slip into well guarded locations and inflict deadly venoms with the slightest of touches.
  • Scholar Monks: While they’re fairly rare among adventurers, Scholar-Monks use Spirit of the Sage (giving them impressive flashes of brilliance) and Divination to obtain information. (Many or most will later master The Inner Fire as well, giving them some arcane talents).

Pact: Being highly self-reliant, many Monks have the Tithe pact – but many others take on Missions for their orders or teachers, take on Vows or Duties, or even Isolate themselves – often retreating to meditate on mountain peaks or some such.

Monk Tricks don’t really cover the basics of Martial Arts – but they DO let a decent martial artist emulate the wire work and weird once-off powers that you find in Wuxia movies.

The basic setup is pretty much the same for all of the “Tricks” packages; buy Witchcraft I and II (gaining a little bit of Power and three basic abilities to spend it on), 3d6 extra Power as Mana, and three Advanced Witchcraft Powers, all Specialized and Corrupted for reduced cost – taking a 36 character point package down to 12 points. With a Pact to reduce the cost by six points (and the efficiency of Witchcraft) you get a very effective power package that only costs six character points or one bonus feat – at least if you don’t count the drawbacks and the pact as a cost.

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.

A Feat Full Of Tricks Part IV – Rogues

It’s been a while since the original “Feat Full Of Tricks” articles went up – mostly because after Barbarians and Rangers, several varieties of Clerics, and Fighters and Wizards, the basic idea seemed fairly well explained. Still, there’s a request for at least a few more of them – and so here we have Rogue Tricks.

As always, the “Tricks” are built using Witchcraft, heavily limited to bring the cost down to 6 CP – the price of a single Feat.

Originally Rogues were – quite literally – untrustworthy Thieves and Backstabbers. They got included in parties because they had a special super power; if nobody could figure out how to bypass a suspected trap, or translate an inscription, or some such… the Thief had a decent chance to just do it – and because they could sneak in in advance with a fair chance of taking out a major opponent quickly, efficiently, and possibly even silently.

Of course they might run off with some treasure too, but getting a fair share of the treasure was a LOT less important before third edition. A lot of treasure was either only really useful to specific character types or was just money – and money didn’t actually get you much except experience, and that usually got split up evenly regardless of who wound up holding the actual cash. In fact, it often went to barmaids, charities, politics, and similar impersonal destinations since you generally couldn’t really buy personal power with it. Snagging a little extra… was basically forgivable as a roleplaying quirk.

Importantly, Thieves had Thieves Guilds. Now Wizards might have a mentor, but if they did, he or she was virtually always a solitary mystic. Clerics might have church connections, but were usually independent wanderers since no player wanted religious superiors giving their character orders. Fighters might know a few nobles or other combative sorts that they’d fought with or for, but that was purely up to the game master since – with characters normally starting at first level – they’d have been just another raw recruit at the time. Only Thieves had automatic connections, and they had them everywhere, in both the underworld and respectable society. Thieves could sell your loot, locate special equipment, tap the rumormill efficiently, and come up with all kinds of missions. Even if they were pretty evil personally they came with swarms of street kids and apprentices to feed and be mentors for – all in the name of supporting their guild and it’s power base.

In third edition (and 3.5) money became power and skills you just rolled became a standard part of a character. Connections… pretty much became unimportant. There were easily produced magic items for sale at standard prices, the “gather information” skill, and a brand new stress on set-piece combat encounters instead of on getting the treasure any way you could.

So Thieves became Rogues – slightly differently-styled fighters (sneak-attackers rather than direct assault types) with lighter weapons and armor and some extra skill points. Sneaking in ahead of the party became a mostly dead tactic and the “thieves guild” became a minor stock element rather than a major center of activity.

Personally I think that’s too bad – so lets go a little old-school with this.

Limitations. Rogue Tricks require that the user…

  • Maintain close ties with the criminal underworld – helping support a network of street gangs, urchin pickpockets, petty thieves, beggars and informants, getting them out of messes, and maintaining his or her honor among thieves.
  • Maintain his or her ties with the bustling energies of urban environments. The user will often find themselves undertaking low-profit missions in defense of the city or on behalf of it’s people – no matter how many objections they have to its actual government.
  • Engage in seedy activities. The user MUST regularly engage in at least petty acts of lawlessness – cheating at cards, smuggling goods, participating in illegal gambling, or some other form of undermining the law of the land.

Basic Abilities:

  • The Adamant Will, Specialized and Corrupted in the Aura of Innocence only. The user may cloak himself or herself in the massed minds of the city without cost – allowing the user to defy magical and psychic attempts at truth-detection, determining his or her guilt or innocence, and otherwise being probed to get information about his or her criminal activities.
    • Really, given most d20 worlds… I cannot see having an actual underworld without some such ability being in the arsenal of every serious thief and miscreant. Mind-reading and truth detection is simply too ubiquitous for thieves to function effectively otherwise.
  • The Inner Eye, Specialized and Corrupted for increased effect in reading psychic traces only; the user may intuitively assess and identify valuables and magical devices (and get (2d4+10)x5% of the full value of their loot, rather than the basic 50%), and may easily get the “feel” of an area and the people in it, allowing them to make a Gather Information check with a +10 insight bonus in a mere ten minutes.
  • The Hand of Shadows, Specialized and Corrupted in The Delicate Touch; the user need not quite make contact with the things he or she is working on. Supplementing his or her actual skills with delicate telekinetic manipulations without cost. This provides a +6 bonus on Disable Device, Escape Artist, Open Lock, Sleight of Hand, Use Rope, and Saves versus contact poisons / poison needle traps, and similar “you touched it” menaces for one Power and lets the user avoid leaving fingerprints and such without cost.
    • In other words, true Thieves are actually good at their jobs.

Advanced Abilities: Web of Shadows (the character gains influence and contacts in an area), Spirit Binding (Specialized in the ability to seal bargains at no cost), and one additional ability – varying with the user’s style.

  • Ninja often have Bones of Iron – making them more durable in a normal fight and reasonably formidable combatants even without a weapon.
  • Young Thieves often have a Familiar – some cute pet that will scout for them, help them steal things, and carry off small and valuable items so that they don’t get caught with them.
  • Legendary Thieves – the sort who steal fire from the gods – will have Master the Elements, and thus the ability to steal magic and advances from spirits and gods.
  • Magical Thieves, such as the Gray Mouser, will usually have The Inner Fire.
  • Scouts and Adventurers often have Leaping Fire, allowing them to heal their wounds and fight more effectively.
  • Sneak-Thieves often have Whisper Step, allowing them to tread lightly on rooftops and leave few or no traces of their presence.
  • Master Spies usually take the next level of Basic Witchcraft, acquiring another four basic abilities – usually Glamour, Shadowweave, Witchfire, and Witchsight – a suite of abilities that serves them well in infiltration and intelligence-gathering.
  • The Semi-Mythical Thieves of Souls simply remove the restriction on their Spirit Binding (so they have to pay power to bind contracts) and take Seize The Wandering Soul. While such thieves are not REQUIRED to be evil bastards, they usually are.

Pact: Many Thieves have the Spirit Pact – expecting their god to collect them after death and not expecting anyone to bother raising them Those with more self-confidence may prefer to take Guardianship (usually of some dreadful item they foolishly stole), Missions (for their guild or a ruler), Tithe (usually to their guild), or even (for those who gain their powers from darker realms) Essence.

The basic setup is pretty much the same for all of the “Tricks” packages; buy Witchcraft I and II (gaining a little bit of Power and three basic abilities to spend it on), 3d6 extra Power as Mana, and three Advanced Witchcraft Powers, all Specialized and Corrupted for reduced cost – taking a 36 character point package down to 12 points. With a Pact to reduce the cost by six points (and the efficiency of Witchcraft) you get a very effective power package that only costs six character points or one bonus feat – at least if you don’t count the drawbacks and the pact as a cost.

Thief Tricks are – as with all the “Tricks” packages – very efficient indeed. On the other hand, like all the other Tricks packages, they come with plenty of plot hooks and gets characters that are notorious for being stand-offish and secretive deeply involved in society.

The Mysteries Of Ma’at

And this time it’s a short query about a particular character – the Balancer of Scales, a “Paladin” for the Dragonstar setting.

Sense Ma’at… what a weird ability. What does a forced marriage have to do with balance? It’s not good and definitely not chaotic… so it’s either add odds with the ability because it’s evil or because it’s lawful… huh…


Ma’at is a bit of a tricky one by current standards. She was a goddess – but one so abstract that she was basically a set of ideas which don’t fit modern conceptions very well. Rather than law, chaos, good, or evil, the best modern comparison might be etiquette.

And even those concepts evolved considerably over the millennia, so there will be plenty of other opinions about the details out there. Still, according to Ma’at there was a proper way for things to be. Violations of that were out of balance. On the other hand, Ma’at didn’t really involve modern notions of good, evil, law, or chaos, and it’s balance had nothing to do with them; it just WAS.

It was in accord with the proper balance of Ma’at for the Nile to rise each year, for day to follow night, for the seasons to progress, for water to flow downhill, and so on. If those things failed to happen it upset the balance of Ma’at. Causing them to happen again, or compensating in some way, would help restore the balance of Ma’at.

It was proper for the powers of darkness and evil, of chaos and epidemics, and of many other dark and terrible forces to exercise their offices as well – as long as the resulting despair, evil, and chaos remained within it’s place in the cycle and didn’t go too far. Not having regular epidemics was just as disruptive to Ma’at as them flaring out of control and decimating the country.

In more modern thought, the notion of the Balance of Ma’at is close to the notion of a Strange Attractor – allowing for the world to progress in a chaotic fashion while never slipping too far beyond it’s bounds.

Mortals could both disturb Ma’at and correct it; if the Nile failed to rise, constructing an irrigation system to get things closer to the way they “should be” would help restore Ma’at – but irrigating the deserts where the Nile never reached would disturb Ma’at once more.

Children usually followed after their parents. To deny them their inheritance was to interfere with that – a violation of Ma’at. It didn’t matter if that inheritance was the skills, tools, and ideals of a physician who sought to heal the sick, or the weapons, armor, and ruthless greed that was the inheritance of a bandit kings son, Depriving a child of its inheritance was against Ma’at in either case. (although giving the bandit-heritage kid his inheritance and then executing him might be quite acceptable).

It was proper for Men and Women to come together willingly, in joy and pleasure. A pairing that did not… offended Ma’at to at least some degree. Forcing a woman into an undesired or loveless marriage offended Ma’at. Enslaving your enemies, or debtors, was perfectly in order – but raping a slavegirl would still offend Ma’at. Taking advantage of your position of power as her owner to seduce her, however, was perfectly proper – no matter how “unfair” using that advantage might be. That was as it had always been.

Yes, Ma’at might weigh your heart against the feather of truth – but if you had all your paperwork in order – whether you were using the charms and the negative confessions from The Book of Coming Forth By Day, or were a proper follower of some lord and thus could defer to him, or whatever other ritual you were using – the actual state of your heart didn’t matter. You’d followed the proper procedure, and all was well.

And that’s why “Detect Ma’at” is a LOT more complicated (and, I think, interesting) than “Detect Evil”. Detect Evil basically tells you “Here is either someone or something you can feel free to hit or someone or something to be very cautious about dealing with”. “Detect Ma’at” on the other hand will lead you to an endless array of situations, many of them noncombat, that may be ethically awkward, and which you are called on to try and do something to fix.

Grand Rituals in Practice – Coronation, Divine Spark, et al.

And here we have another question…

Some of the effects I was thinking about as Rituals were Coronation, Divine Spark, Creating extradimensional realms (several adventures have extradimensional realms of artificial construction that are large and/or have strange properties. Oddly they are often far beyond the limits of the systems given to create such things by the same publishers. Runeforge in pathfinder comes to mind. There was also an old WoC adventure with a dimension on the other side of a half-orc sorceresses mirror (created by her unconscious mind) where orcs were good guys and undead were good and empowered by positive energy), and Instantaneous Transformations.


I think that the implied question there was “do you have any thoughts on those?” – and, as usual, once someone asks a question… I almost always do.

Coronation (DC 48) is certainly an excellent choice for a ritual – and could be a relatively easy one to find at that; some NPC high priest or master of ceremonies or some such is certain to have it memorized (and thus to be getting a bonus on performing it).

So what are some of the best components for it?

  • Location: Holding a public ceremony at the kingdoms capital (+5), a field coronation after leading a victorious battle in defense of the realm (+4), at a stronghold that exerts influnce over a notable portion of the realm (+3), at the court of some mighty ally (+2), with your court in exile (+1).
  • Trappings: With the prior rulers personal weapon, regalia, and a supportive member of his or her immediate family (+5), with some of the trappings of the office and your immediate rivals on display (+4), with the trappings of great personal power and wealth (+3), with your own military forces armed, ready, and standing in support (+2), with a modest group of followers ready to enforce your will (+1).
  • Acclaim and Support: From the major power groups of the realm – the Nobles/Military, the Mages, the Priests, the Merchants and Landowners, and the Masses (+1 for each group participating up to +5).
  • Involving the Gods: Having the realms patron gods (or demons or whatever) send an approving representative (+5), having various high-level priests willingly invoke the blessings of their patrons (+4), making sizeable donations to the realms temples (+3), promising to start a crusade or found a religious order or some such (+2), and simply being formally crowned (and lectured at length) by a holy man (+1).
  • Being Witnessed (without serious disruption): By other rulers (+5), by family members and major nobles representing other rulers (+4), by important foreign diplomats and public figures (+3), by representatives of other realms militaries, major guilds, and similar groups (+2), or by local guildsmen, minor nobles, and numerous lesser witnesses (+1).
  • Binding Oaths: To sustain and defend the realm (+1), to enhance and develop it (+1), to provide heirs and see it endure beyond your own time (+1), to manage it and it’s people with care (+1), and to maintain it’s beliefs, heritage, and purity (+1). Note that these aren’t necessarily “good” oaths (although they are generally Lawful); a pragmatically evil despot who wants the money to keep flowing in can swear those oaths just as well as a noble paladin can. You will have to swear all of them – allowing the magic of the ritual to bind you to them – to get that +5 bonus though.
  • Public Works: Committing to the construction of a new and upgraded Capital (+5), Mighty Fortress/Palace, great wall, or set of lesser fortresses (+4), major works of civil engineering (+3), great cathedral or religious structure (+2), or simply investing substantially in infrastructure (+1).

I’ll have to leave it up to whoever is organizing the ritual to come up with the description, but it shouldn’t be all THAT hard to come up with something suitably dramatic and impressive.

The most obvious side effects are pretty simple; the new ruler is binding himself or herself to the realm, and gaining the ability to expend their personal energies on helping it out. This will necessarily notify every interested magical being of the event (possibly leading to opponents attempting to disrupt the ritual), it can lead to things that are afflicting the land afflicting it’s would-be ruler, and the new rulers personal strengths and weaknesses will be – to at least some extent – reflected in the realm.

It will only get really bad if someone botches the ritual – but even a successful coronation ritual is likely to lead to the new rulers occasional paranoid thoughts being reflected across the realm as secretive cults, plots, and treacheries, to unconscious desires turning into actual monsters, and similar problems. A botched one… well, how many lost kingdoms overrun by monsters are out there? Turning loose all the stuff lurking in the less pleasant recesses of an evolved brain is not necessarily a good idea. Ask the Krell of Forbidden Planet.

It shouldn’t be too surprising that most of those components are things that go into a “successful” (politically useful and accepted) coronation ceremony whether it’s also a magical ritual or not. After all, classical coronations were always been intended to invest the new ruler with supernatural influence and authority.

Divine Spark (DC 70 as a ritual) – is designed to bypass the usual story-based requirements for becoming a God by taking the Godfire ability. It is fairly similar to Coronation in many ways. The best components for IT are going to be the direct aid of an existing god, completing various epic quests, tapping into the power of mighty artifacts and relics, and so on – obviously enough, the kind of stuff that might justify taking the Godfire ability anyway. Given that Divine Spark is already a ritual spell, that is (once again) only to be expected. Of course, given that the usual use of the spell is to bypass such requirements, and that anyone who expects to hit DC 70 even with good components is obviously absurdly good at rituals… They may well be willing to settle for less than optimized components.

Side effects on THIS one are likely to be global or nearly so – and will generally involve the user’s Spheres of Influence and interference by opposing powers.

Creating Extradimensional Spaces is generally a job for the Spacewarp spell template (The Practical Enchanter, Page 72) or possibly for a Ward Major (also discussed in The Practical Enchanter) and is discussed further in Playing with Extradimensional Spaces. There also may be some useful bits in THIS article on magical creating cities. The Genesis spell / power and Pathfinders Create Demiplane spell sequence produce much the same results – but all of them result in rather small creations. There’s no reason why variations such as “undead run on positive energy” can’t be added as minor planar traits though (and Orcs are allowed to be good, it’s just uncommon). Still, even if you play games with traits and restrictions to increase the effective size, these spells simply don’t allow for full-sized dimensions, or for adding really large numbers of inhabitants. You might be able to keep expanding things and adding goodies with the persistent use of Reality Editing though.

The Eclipse Demiplane Creation spell allows for creating a tailored dimension, but at level twenty-one it’s a bit hard to pull off, whether by direct casting or with a DC 92 ritual. There are ways to do it at relatively low levels by exploiting “specialized and corrupted for triple effect” (and giving up most control due to it being of far too high a level to cast safely), but few game masters will want to let you be that cheesy.

You can also try picking up Dominion and Manipulation, Sphere of Influence, and Godfire (All Specialized / only as prerequisites) and then taking Creation. For a mere 18 CP that gets you one personally tailored dimension (there’s an example over HERE). That’s also more than a bit cheesy, and will require special permission from the game master – but will allow you to define a realm without necessarily being of very high level or otherwise being capable of mighty magic.

I’m afraid that I can’t tell you much about “Instantaneous Transformations” without a little more detail though. After all, transformations come all the way from Prestidigitation tricks on up through Polymorph Any Object and beyond.

And I hope that helps!

Eclipse Rituals and The Practical Enchanter Runic Inscriptions

And for today it’s another question about Ritual Magic.

Hmm, I have been looking at Ritual magic. If I am reading it correctly, the suggested DC of 10+2x(level of character needed to perform effect normally) works out to a suggested DC of 9+2xSL to reproduce the effects of spells. Would this work of level 10+ spells? Say a ritual of DC 51 to create a demiplane as the 21st level spell? A defined ritual with 7 components would give +8 to +40 on the roll. A character focusing on spellcraft, with the aid of a group of adventures to assist with components could do that fairly easily. How would you recommend dealing with the side effects (such as what they are and how to manage them)?

On a related note, with Applied Spellcraft from the Practical enchanter, would combining a DC 55 runic formula + DC 30 amplification +4 into a DC 60 allow a caster to use a 6th lvl spell slot to cast a 10th level spell determined by the formula? RAW that would seem to be legal, as well as using magic to boost spellcraft to assist in said check.

These are some monstrously powerful options, but they seem to allow for many of the high magic effects in some stories where the caster doesn’t seem to be able to throw around high level spells alone.

Thinking more on this, it would seem likely that there would be a lot of powerful entities who would watch for rituals that would affect them and their interests and get various countermeasures prepared.


It is only a rough guide – and actually comes out to a DC [(4 x Spell Level) + 8] (we both forgot to correct for character level not spell level at first) for spells. Ritual enchantments designed to duplicate conventional magical items are also possible, as are attempts to duplicate weird class powers (especially in mixed system games). You might want to up the DC for the level 10+ spells simply because they aren’t “balanced” conventionally and because many of them are already ritual effects that call for long casting times, but it probably doesn’t matter much; if a character is determined to collect massive bonuses on a once-a-day-at-most skill check there are a lot of ways to do it.

Now ritual magic is discussed in more detail in several other articles on the site, in Legends of High Fantasy, and (in the form of Runic Inscriptions) in The Practical Enchanter – but like any other ability dependent on a single skill, it’s possible to abuse it horribly by simply boosting that skill. What keeps it under control in an actual game is simply that a specialized ritualist will have spent a lot of character points and wealth on those boosts – leaving them with a lot less to do on an adventure.

For those related articles we have:

So it will generally be up to other characters to undertake those adventures and get those ingredients.

Then there’s the actual ritual! Surely THAT will be exciting! If the ritualist is attempting to call a mighty demon and bind it into the form of an enchanted castle full of wonders (if you haven’t read any of the Castle Perilous books they’re good fun) doubtless the unleashed infernal energies will cause strange storms, raise lesser demons and undead, warp nature in a radius of many miles, and attract powerful forces of good and evil in an attempt to stop, exploit, or at least supervise this mighty act of magic! Plus, of course, said mighty demon is certain to notice and dispatch minions to interfere. (Yes, that sort of thing covers powerful entities keeping an eye out for rituals that will affect their interests).

And while all of that happens, your ritualist will be… chanting, and gesturing, and manipulating odd components, and taking ritual baths, and doing all the other stuff that adds up to his skill check. Possibly for a week or more. While his or her more adventurous friends deal with all the complications and their players have all the fun.

That’s why rituals are generally self-limiting and why most player character ritualists will be dabblers. Actually performing rituals simply isn’t a lot of fun; it’s the component-gathering and defending / disrupting them that’s fun.

Which is really why ritual DC’s basically come down to “you can do this easily – and probably could do it readily in some other way too”, “you can do this with a lot of work after a great big scavenger hunt for components”, and “you cannot reasonably expect to do this. Try doing something else”.

Now for NPC’s… rituals are a wonderful plot device. Perhaps the court magician cannot handle stopping the dark spirits which are sweeping over the land, but he CAN send the player characters off to challenge their dread overlord to try and stop them. Is the Dark Lord gathering a set of terrible ingredients that your mentor says are the key to raising a near-limitless army of the dead? You’d better either stop him from getting his components or stop the ritual itself – and even if you do, the energies unleashed by even a disrupted necromantic ritual of such magnitude are likely to have nasty effects all over the place.

As for the Runic Inscriptions from Practical Enchanter, you’re quite right; that will allow a relatively low-level caster to access powers far beyond his or her direct control – in this case a tenth level effect – although setting up that inscription would require about two weeks of work. (Given how readily a circle done in chalk or some such could be marred, I’d recommend going with paint, even if this will leave you spending three weeks to a month on the setup). This is indeed a very powerful option – but if you’ve gone to the trouble to build your check up to +50 or so and have spent a month on your project, getting a fairly major effect out of it is not unreasonable.

And I hope that helps. If there’s anything else you want to know, do ask.