Every d20 character has the ability to bend reality a bit. You can see that with their basic saving throws, high-level skills, ability to endure impossible amounts of damage, and more. Just what biological mechanism is behind “I take a dozen massive doses of the same poison. Each one has a 35% chance of affecting me”? What underlies all those weird “Extraordinary Powers” that real people can’t get away with if it ISN’T magic or psionics?
In Eclipse, at least, it’s simple enough; it’s a bit of unconscious reality editing. Unfocused, under-powered, and unreliable, but still capable of forcing the universe to work the way that the user wants it to, regardless of those pesky “laws of nature”. Unconscious reality editing is always at it’s best when its focused on tweaking the rules, creating subtle (and usually survival-oriented) effects rather than on blatantly reshaping the universe like full-blown conscious reality editing.
Action Skills are basically in between the unconscious power of Saves and Hit Dice and the raw active power (and massive Mana demands) of fully-conscious Reality Editing. They’re at least somewhat consciously controlled, but are still fairly subtle. They’re a trained and practiced ability to bend the universe a bit in your favor. As such, they are Extraordinary Abilities with limited usage (measured by Skill Exhaustion, temporarily draining the “permanent” (I.E. discounting any temporary enhancements from magic, psionics, or similar effects) score to produce active effects) – while remaining skills.
In effect, Action Skills are a characters personal reality-twisting “special effects” budget for their own, personal, action movie. In general, they recover on a per-session (in terms of the game, per sequence) basis, as there is only so much “tweaking” that the universe will accept at any given moment.
Narrative and Stealing The Scene are Occult Skills in the Shadowed Galaxy – and are not widely known or available to starting characters. They can be developed later on however, although it will require a good deal of research and practice (I.E; downtime between levels) or training from someone who already has the skill in question. In most games they’re all likely to be Occult skills – but that’s not a major barrier to a player character in Eclipse. If they really want one or more of them, they can probably find a few extra points somewhere.
The six Action Skills include:
Bullet Time (Con):
There are moments when everything just seems to slow to a crawl, when a flesh wound can just be shrugged off, when you can see the bullet coming in… and then you twist aside (or find that the wound isn’t as bad as you thought mere minutes later), and things go back to normal speed. With this skill you can get that to happen reasonably reliably.
Check: When you want to pull off some flashy move that impresses, but does not actually change the result (say catching an arrow that missed you, DC 10+), when you want to take a hit for someone who is adjacent to you (DC 15), or when you want to kick the grenade away, catch someone just after they fall off a building, or similar (DC 20).
Action: Generally an immediate action.
Retry: Generally no; it’s too late.
Special: You may temporarily sacrifice points from your permanent Bullet Time skill value to buy off incoming damage (6, 10, or 12 points of damage for 1/2/3 skill points), to overcome penalties to checks (1 per 3 points or part thereof that you want to ignore), to take one to three 5′ steps as an immediate action (1-3), and to boost your reflex saves (+1 per 1, but after you roll).
Erudite Focus (Int):
You are a geek. When everyone about you is losing their mind or utterly confused, your shining intellect cuts through the fog like an avatar of Occam’s Razor.
Check: When you wish to quote or recognize obscure (and often useless) factoids (DC 10), to get some idea of the “normal” odds on something (when PC’s are involved the odds are rarely normal), as an excuse for being blatantly unaware of social cues, when you wish to overawe people with your dazzling intellect (DC 15), and when you wish to rig up or pull out some minor device or repair with little or no justification (DC 20).
Action: Generally not an action, although repairing things (even very temporarily) is an exception.
Retry: Normally no. If you don’t know something, or have failed to impress someone with your intellect, you will generally have to wait for another chance before trying again.
Special: You may temporarily sacrifice points from your permanent Erudite Focus skill value to maintain your concentration in the face of distractions or injuries (1-3 depending on the level of distraction or injury), to make abnormally good guesses (1 for a small hint, 2 for a leading question, 3 for a big hint – such as in indication of whether your current theory is correct, very close, or incorrect), to gain bonuses on knowledge-related rolls (+2/4/6 for 1/2/3 points), and to avoid mental attribute damage or drain (1 per 1). Note that it may also cost one or more points if something you want to rig up or pull out is particularly dubious.
In worlds subject to reality editing on the level of the Action Skills the massed action of sentient minds always brings about some level of narrative causality. Events will twist – just a little – to conform to the rules of stories, for stories are one of the main mechanisms through which sapient minds interpret their world. Some people learn to sense, ride, or even harness, those twists of fate.
Check: When you wish to detect whether or not there are narrative influences on events (DC 10), would like to identify the genre and general nature of whatever story or stories are currently influencing events around you (DC 15), when you want to justify being genre savvy (DC 20), when you wish to spot some of the best points to disrupt or twist a narrative (DC 25), or when you wish to determine if something is actually important to the current story (DC 30).
Action: Generally a standard action.
Retry: Not until narrative causality once again has a notable impact on the course of events.
Special: You may temporarily sacrifice points from your permanent Narrative skill value to try to shape your own narratives. You may stumble across the nearest plot element (1-3 depending on just how likely you were to find it anyway), attempt to enhance your efforts by invoking your own relevant story or trope (1-3 points, generally providing a +2 bonus on rolls that advance the theme or narrative you’re invoking), and – at the start of a session – either retain from last time or buy new Whimsy Cards (1-3 each, depending on whether whatever set the GM is using have minor, notable, or major effects).
The Shadowed Galaxy game will be using Runecards. Since those can have some fairly powerful effects, they will “cost” three points each.
Most people are blithely unaware of the things that lurk in the shadows, remain always just out of sight, and intrude into normalcy only in subtle, secret, ways. For good or ill, however, a few can sense the hidden presence of things from beyond.
You’re one of them.
Check: To pick up “auras”, “psychic impressions”, and similar clues (DC 10). To be uneasy and on your guard when things are sneaking about in the area or to dream strangely – and usually with some prophetic or clairvoyant elements (DC 15). to cause minor reality-distortions which persist just long enough to demonstrate to skeptics that reality is not what they thought it was (DC 20), and to get odd little “warnings” about events that are soon to come (DC 25).
Action: Generally not an action.
Retry: Only if the first check was passive – rolled by the game master to see if you picked something up without actively using your abilities.
Special: You may temporarily sacrifice points from your permanent Sensitive skill value to obtain extra Power equal to the points sacrificed, to resist or override mental influences (1-3 points depending on the strength of the influence), to leave intentional psychic impressions of your own (1-3 points depending on how dramatic and informative you want to be), to boost Will saves (+1 per 1, but after you roll), and to perform small psychic ceremonies (such as seances, getting cryptic answers from Ouija boards, dowsing for water or other minerals, “searching” maps with pendulums, peering into crystal balls, and so on. This only costs 1 point, but is never very reliable).
Stealing The Scene (Con):
There are vignettes that play out again and again. Tiny elements of greater tales. The overlooked hiding spot, the lucky blow, the outburst of avenging rage, the single, decisive, blow, discovering some close personal connection or stake, and many, many, more. In worlds where sapient minds shape reality, narratives don’t have to be very long to have power.
And some people know how to tap into them.
Check: To know whether or not a given vignette will fit into the current scene (DC 10), detecting when someone else is using a vignette (DC 15), using a vignette without personalizing it (DC 25), using an expended vignette again without refreshing it (DC 30, +10 per additional repeat).
Action: Generally not an action. Personalizing a new vignette requires 1-4 days.
Retry: Generally no, once you’ve used a particular vignette, it won’t answer you again without giving it time to recover (as usual for action skills, they are normally refreshed at the start of a new session).
Special: You may “invest” points from your permanent Stealing The Scene skill in invoking Vignettes. “Personalized” Vignettes are selected in advance, and can be activated automatically when conditions are appropriate. They “cost” 1-2 points each, and are normally a more-or-less permanent part of a characters repertoire since it takes several months of refraining from their use to de-personalize them and “free up” the invested skill levels. Freely selecting a vignette to use requires a roll (as above) and costs three points.
Note that Vignettes do not override reality; they merely twist it a bit. If you’re in the middle of a vast desert, with nothing around but sand and sky… trying to invoke The Flynn Effect is probably not going to work. Secondarily, Vignettes are – by their very nature – short. They never last for more than a few minutes at the most, and the majority will only last for a round or two.
The list of sample vignettes (sometimes known as “shticks”) includes, but is not limited to:
- A Bigger Fish: A more powerful monster appears to take out your current monstrous opponent. It’s best to run while it’s busy.
- Apologetic Usurpation: As long as you shout an explanation or apology for stealing a vehicle or device, and promise to return it later, there will be no pursuit or later legal consequences.
- Armed In The Bathtub: You just happen to have your weapon with you, no matter where you are.
- Automatic Start: A piece of equipment, vehicle, or machinery starts up, providing a moving platform to fight on, a hazard to throw opponents into, or possible automated escape.
- Behind the Bookcase: There is a secret room, passage, passable airvent, or similar way out to stumble across,
- Blind Shootout: You suffer no penalties for not being able to see.
- Bootlegger Reverse: You can pull off a maneuver that simply isn’t practical for your vehicle.
- Bridge Collapse: Some structure gives way.
- Brospeak: You may communicate clearly with someone with whom you do not share a common language for a few minutes with nothing more than a few grunts and simple gestures.
- Building Trust: You eliminate a deadly spider, scorpion, snake, or some similar menace that was about to bite or sting someone who does not currently trust you, showing them that you could have casually eliminated them but saved them instead.
- Bulletproof Barrier: Whatever you grab – a coffee table, body, or anything else large enough to mostly hide behind – will absorb the next thirty points of damage for you.
- Bulletproof Nakedness: For at least a few moments, insufficient clothing provides a +6 deflection bonus to AC.
- Burst The Bonds: Get a +10 bonus on any attempt to break free of restraint, whether by sheer strength, by someone leaving a convenient sharp object about, or some other method.
- Captured In Combat: Rather than being killed, you are knocked out and captured, and may escape or be rescued later.
- Catch Phrase: You invoke a personal catch phrase and get a +10 on a relevant roll. Each Catch Phrase vignette applies to a particular skill application or check. For example, “Do you feel lucky punk?” (Intimidation), “Damn it Jim, I’m a Doctor not a Miracle Worker!” (Heal), “Always expect Ninjas!” (Initiative), and so on.
- Clark’s Glasses: A disguise that has no rational chance of working is accepted for a minute or two.
- Close The Doors: A door or other portal seals itself just in time to block any pursuers. For some reason, no matter how easy it is to get through or bypass, by the time they do you are gone.
- Comic Relief: What would normally be a dangerous or otherwise serious failure turns out to be merely amusing.
- Cut Scene: The game master describes a scene which is taking place elsewhere. This should reveal something useful, even if it’s just foreshadowing.
- Deadly Boken: A toy, nerf, or replica weapon works just as well as the real thing.
- Deadly Strike: Your next attack is made with the benefit of True Strike and does 3d6 extra damage. If the fight is being recorded, the attack will be gratuitously recorded from at least three angles and at least one of them will be in an extreme close-up.
- Dragons Smokes: Toss your pipe, cigarette, match, lighter, or cigar as if it was Alchemists Fire.
- Emergency Stash: You locate a small stockpile of supplies, whether yours or someone else’s is pretty much irrelevant.
- Explosive Boost: An explosion doesn’t hurt you; it just gives you a little momentum to take away with you.
- Feat of Strength: You may “Take 30″ on a strength check.
- Flashback: Describe a flashback (to a personal tragedy, inspiring moment, wise advice being given by a mentor, whatever) and gain a Ray of Hope effect.
- Gratuitous Antagonist: You randomly encounter an enemy in an awkward, noncombat, situation.
- Gratuitous Explosion: You can cause a damaged vehicle or structure to explode for no reason whatsoever as long as it’s role in the action is effectively over.
- Headspace Phone: You may hold a conversation or answer the phone in combat without it hindering you in any way.
- High Lethality: All attacks in this battle inflict double damage.
- Hitting The Button: An enemy does something impulsively stupid.
- I Has Knowledge!: Whether from satellite surveillance, sonic mapping, ancient tomes, a mysterious source, or whatever, you have a crude map of the area.
- In The Face Of Doom: A massive threat turns up, forcing the heroes and villains to cooperate, at least for the moment.
- In The Nick Of Time: You arrive to intervene at the last instant.
- Instant Hotwiring: Get a nominally secure device running without proper authorization. Can also be used to open doors with keypads and such.
- Invincible Cardboard: Some random cubby will prove an effective shelter, whether from discovery or some massive attack.
- Kick Your Way Out: For the next one minute, you may act without penalty despite being completely tied up or similarly restrained.
- Lamprey Ride: You cling to the outside (often the underside) of a vehicle, reaching it’s destination safely and unnoticed.
- Load Bearing Boss: When you take out the major bad guy, things start exploding or collapsing for no apparent reason.
- Look What I Found!: When you get locked up somewhere, there’s some stuff you can use (and that no jailor in their right mind would leave in a prison) laying about.
- Massive Chase Scene: When you run, everyone follows – even if that makes no sense.
- Massive Throughput: You attack straight through a barrier without it hindering you at all.
- Matchstick Flare: A tiny flame or source of light suffices to illuminate a large room.
- Mistaken Identity: You are, at least for a short time, mistaken for someone else entirely.
- Monologue: You may make a dramatic speech as an immediate action.
- Oncoming Disaster: Whether it’s a vehicle, conveyor belt, radiant wall of annihilation, or explosion, whoever gets tossed into it’s path is in for a world of hurt.
- Outrun The Explosion: You can delay the activation of a bomb or other major destructive device for two rounds.
- Parkour: For a few moments no obstacle can slow you down. You go over, under, or around without a hitch and without provoking attacks of opportunity.
- Perfect Coordination: You and a friend spontaneously pull off a maneuver that should have taken days of choreography and a weeks practice if it was possible at all. The game master may award you a bonus for surprise.
- Piranha Pit: The pool/river/trash compactor/whatever has a monster in it – of course.
- Presumed Dead: Since there’s obviously no way you could have survived, the enemy will not worry about you until you again reveal yourself.
- Produce Placement: You may take a full-round action to explain why one of your (brand-name) devices is PERFECT for the current situation and gain a +6 bonus on using it next round.
- Racing Ahead: When someone attempts to ambush you as you disembark from some means of transportation, you turn out to be behind them.
- Reality Bites: When witnessing a feat that goes above and beyond what you believe is possible, you may attempt to reject it. You and whoever’s doing it make opposed Will checks. If you win it turns out that whatever-it-is really IS impossible – at least for a few moments.
- Revealing Questions: You can cause a possible imposter to reveal himself or herself with a trick question.
- Safety Glass: You can hurl yourself through a window without penalty or risk of injury.
- Smoke Cloud: A great billowing cloud of smoke makes it impossible to see for a bit.
- Soft Landing: You take only one-sixth the normal damage from a fall.
- Stealth Ship: You can rig your vessel to avoid detection – no matter how impractical that is – using your own stealth skill.
- Suction Cups: You can cling to some unreasonable perch to avoid detection.
- Sundering Blade: You automatically hit and inflict double damage with an attack against an inanimate object.
- Suspension Of Disbelief: You can toss an object into the air. It will come down and land whenever and wherever you choose within five rounds and a hundred foot radius.
- The Cavalry: If you have some allies about, they arrive at a convenient moment.
- The Flynn Effect: There is something – a vine, broken cable, chandelier, or similar – available to swing from, evading some obstacle or crossing an unreasonable distance.
- The Gauntlet: Your route turns out to be filled with deadly dangers. Hopefully you will deal with them more effectively than your pursuers.
- They’ll Hear Me: Your friends will automatically hear your calls/banging on the walls/whatever and know that it’s you.
- Trick Shot: You may attempt to bounce an attack around a corner, shoot a gun out of someone’s hand, or pull off a similar trick shot without penalty.
- Voice Of Experience: You can offer someone wise, and potentially life-changing, advice.
- Weapons Backfire: A weapon malfunctions spectacularly. Enemy-attended weapons do get a save (DC 10 + Level/2 + Con Mod).
- What Else Could Go Wrong?: Something goes wrong for the antagonists. Their vehicle breaks down, the lights go out, a security system malfunctions, or something similar happens. Sadly, using this vignette means that something similar will shortly go wrong for YOU – and it cannot be used again until that happens.
- Wounded Lion: Just took a serious wound? Regain 3d6 hit points and fly into a Rage like a first level Barbarian might.
- Wreckage Piloting: You can get a badly damaged vehicle working, at least for long enough to make an emergency escape.
Tough It Out (Str):
You are hard-bitten, tough as nails, and utterly determined. Sheer guts will pull you through!
Check: When you wish to be macho (DC 10), show off, pretend you are not injured, ill, or otherwise at a disadvantage (DC 15), or you wish to make an epic last stand by ignoring the fact that you really ought to be dead (this still won’t last long, and afterwards you will be very definitely dead, DC 10).
Action: Generally not an action.
Retry: Normally no. Once you’ve failed at being macho, faking being all right, or resisting death, you generally do not get another chance any time soon.
Special: You may temporarily sacrifice points from your permanent Tough It Out skill bonus to function longer in extreme environments (2 points per +1 multiplier to the usual time interval for problems), avoid physical attribute damage or drain (at 1 to 1), to act normally despite various conditions (Stunned, Nauseated, etc. 1-3 depending on severity), to ignore the effects of thirst, hunger, and going without sleep (generally 1 point per problem per day – but it’s a cumulative cost), or to boost Fortitude saves (+1 per 1, but after you roll).