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!