And today it’s another My Little Pony question…
Are Tirek and Discord really that hard to make?
Tirek could just be a bottlenecker build that uses Finesse to add his Con-Mod to most things, starting with his Channeling of positive Energy, converting it to Distillation (specialized to require 1 Mana to use) to extract Constitution (thus most of his targets magic thanks to the superheroic world template). Since most ponies will have at least 9 Con, he can drain 8 Con, gaining 4 more uses to his Channeling, allowing him to drain even more. With Finesse, that can be a reason for his increased Strength: He just applied Finesse to his strikes, making them Con-dependant. He likely did the same to the “Unskilled Magic”-Mana option, which is the reason his Magic looks as incompetent as it did.
Advanced Finesse, making Attack rolls, damage rolls, all three unskilled magic abilities and his channeling Con-dependant (8 times Advanced Finesse = 96 CP).
Channeling would be 9 (for 4 Standard uses), let’s say 2 times Cha (now Con) for another 9, Dualism for positive Energy for 6 (it just seems far more fitting than negative Energy) and his specialized Conversion for 9 CP (= 33 CP).
Then we need Mana for “Unskilled Magic” (= 6 CP) to ensure he can use his new Magic abilities.
However, there is a problem: Distillation is very short term, only working for a few days before failing. But we can extend that: Temporal Reversal should suffice, it’s wording (the fact that it can’t affect things that aren’t there) works perfectly, because even if he increases his stolen Constitution afterwards, him turning back time to make it more “fresh” won’t make it disappear.
Finally… we need him to have the required Will Save to be able to produce level 22 Effects. Let’s give 11 Base Will-Save, specialized to only apply for this scenario (= 33 CP).
Now for a bit of Metamagic: His Distillation needs 2 Levels of Extension and probably 4 Levels of Multiple to be able to affect multiple targets, while his Temporal Reversal is, in fact, Compact and Sculpted, simply because it only affects wherever he stores his Distilled stuff. We Streamline them and specialize them to be only applicable to the relevant spells (Compact offsets one Level of Sculpting of the 3 required), costing us 12 CP for the actual Theorems and 24 CP for the Streamline (= 36 CP).
This would give us one Tirek for 210 CP, if I calculated correctly.
Discord is just a user of “Path of the Dragon” (he is called a “DRACONequus”, after all). He has a Chaos-metaspell, has Shaping for 6 CP, and then Pulse and Heart of the Dragon, both specialized and corrupted (Specialized: Can only be used to cast the Chaos-Metaspell; Corrupted: Cannot be used to inflict direct harm*) for 126 CP to allow effects up to level 9. Then a Reflex Training for 6 CP to be able to pull a few Standard actions when he’s caught Flat-Footed and maybe 2 times Bonus uses for 12 CP.
So Discord would be priced at 150 CP, if I calculated correctly.
*We just never see him do much in the way of actual harm. Nothing says he couldn’t otherwise have just burned down the Tree of Harmony (it wouldn’t make much sense for the tree to be so fragile, but we are talking about a weapon that has so messed up activation conditions that “sense”, at least the common one, was never really an option in the first place). He didn’t just shuffle the functions of the sense organs in the faces of the two sisters the moment they talked out of their place either, so it’s not that far fetched to just say he couldn’t have done that and needed convoluted plans to do things.
The answer to this has been long delayed (sorry about that), but…
As you so adroitly illustrate, it isn’t really that hard to build Tirek. I’d probably peg him at about level ten and throw in returning to make him harder to get rid of (just in case some pragmatic PC who isn’t being a rated-for-children pony goes for “lets just kill the bastard before he starts something”), give him some skills (a good bluff score at least), and some damage reduction, leaving hit points to his constitution. That – as you’ve already observed – neatly covers pretty much everything he did on the program (a feat admittedly made easier by the fact that he mostly did the same basic things over and over again).
Presumably he’s got a +1 ECL race just like every other character in Equestria. He’s obviously got some some extra limbs, probably a small movement boost, and perhaps (from the comics, even if they are secondary sources) not needing much food or water so that his species can live in a fairly barren-looking homeland. The comics also tell us that most centaurs don’t have magic, and that Unicorn magic – or perhaps pony magic in general – is the strongest magic in the world. And… that’s about it. We really aren’t ever given enough information on his species to do more than guess about what they might look like. Even Changelings offer more information than that, simply by virtue of the show letting us see a bunch of them.
Still, Tirek works pretty well on the show. Since the viewers are interested in the entire cast, the focus on Twilight and the NPC’s doesn’t really annoy anyone. But in a game… The Mane Six would pretty blatantly be the player characters, with Celestia and Zecora cast as wise mentors. But Celestia sends in Discord (as the lunatic archmage who keeps making messes for the player characters to clean up) directly – leaving the player characters with nothing much to do for a good bit.
Discord and Tirek then trap all the player characters but one, drain their powers, and hold them hostage – all without allowing any kind of on-screen resistance at all.
There’s nothing that a bunch of players is going to hate more than having their characters powers drained except not being allowed to have them do anything at all – and this combines them both. After all, having their characters doing things is why they came to play. If they wanted their characters to do nothing they could have just stayed home and watched TV. Equally importantly, if they didn’t want their characters to have special powers then they wouldn’t be playing any version of d20. They’d be playing “SOAP OPERA! The Game Of Dimwits And Plot Twists!” or something.
Worse, that’s Tirek’s only real tactic. If he hasn’t drained a lot of magic he’s a pushover. If he has, then no normal character will be able to do much of anything about him stomping around and blasting the landscape at random (why does he do that anyway? Did trees and dirt frighten him as a child or something?)
To top it all off, his only apparent weakness is a plot device, rather than the players coming up with something clever. About the only way to top THAT in terms of annoying the players would be to have some crazy NPC just hand their characters the key to activating the plot device rather than letting them figure it out… Oh wait. That’s exactly what happened. Quite literally.
Now sure, you don’t HAVE to follow the plot of the episode – but Tirek is pretty one note. If you give him a new plan, some new powers, and a new weakness so that he won’t be repeating himself, why bother using Tirek? Just make up a new villain without all his baggage, known vulnerabilities, history of defeat, and one track mind. After all, we never even gain a hint of what he wants all that power FOR. It’s like he could use it impress the girls, go out for a gourmet meal, retire to a comfy bed, or even have a cup of coffee. Being basically a Kaiju really limits your lifestyle choices.
Tirek just doesn’t seem to have much potential as an RPG villain. He’s fine for an audience – but RPG Players expect to be taking action rather than being quietly sidelined.
Discord is trickier, mostly because it’s hard to say what his abilities actually are – which makes it hard to pick a way to build them. We don’t know if he affects the entire world (although it seems likely), he seems to be aware of humanity and that he is in a cartoon (he has a pony walk around the edge of the screen, which doesn’t even exist in the show’s “reality”), he knows things with no apparent source for the information (he knows a great deal about the Mane Six, even when just released), he’s immune to various effects (such as Fluttershy’s stare), he shares the pony penchant for singing, he is highly resistant to most magic and can usually dodge injury, can separate himself into pieces, possess objects, might have enhanced strength, does not seem to age, and has his own private dimension (although they’re easy enough to make at his power level). He may have some skill at manipulation, acting, and lying as well – but not all that much given that the audience finds him pretty see-through. Ponies seem to be a bit naive – but then it IS a children’s show. In the comics he can create tailored pocket dimensions and travel through time. I speculate elsewhere that he may be behind young ponies magical surges (which seem to exist purely to mess with their caregivers), but that is unconfirmed.
And he seems to be capable of directly altering reality almost without limit, capable of holding off the combined efforts of Luna and Celestia with apparent ease and being capable of creating powerful magical life forms. Tirek managed to hold and drain him – but Discord was making no attempt to resist, perhaps due to psychological trauma.
His only real weaknesses seem to be the Elements of Harmony (and likely Rainbow Magic) and his own weird psychology. He’s very silly, does not kill, keeps playing weird games (and accepting a chance to lose) rather than dealing with opponents effectively, does not seem to be in full control of his own powers, underestimates his opponents, is quite gullible, and can be taken by surprise. It’s entirely possible that constantly channeling chaos through your mind and using it to transform your body is not a good idea. There really isn’t much evidence that Discord even has reliable memories or much of any capacity for thinking things through any more.
And it would certainly suit his role as a senile old wizard who enables foolishness and makes trouble while offering occasional good advice and adventure-enabling bits of magic. Who knows? Maybe the (reasonably popular) theory that Discord is Star Swirl the Bearded after some bit of research (likely into Alicorn Ascension) went horribly wrong is actually correct. Celestia does seem to be a bit attached to him at times. After all, if she wanted him gone… wouldn’t the dungeons, behind a set of spells to keep him from being recharged by quarrels, have been a lot more secure?
If we assume that he really is more or less Chaos incarnate, there’s a fairly simple way to build him.
Lord of Chaos Template:
- Dominion (6 CP): Cultists, lunatics, and other creatures of chaos.
- The Way of Omnipresence: Ears of the Wind (Discord does always seem to know when someone is talking about him, 6 CP) and Multitasking (He seems to be able to do several things at once with little difficulty, 6 CP).
- The Path of the Pharaoh: Manipulation (Specialized, only as a prerequisite, 3 CP), Sphere of Influence/Chaos (He can sense chaotic and unbalancing events across Equestria, 6 CP), Godfire (given time and attention he can return from virtually anything, 6 CP), and Divine Attribute (Chaos, 6 CP), Gateway (6 CP), and Endowment and Greater Endowment x 3 (Grants all small children and insane adults, everywhere in Equestria, a minor privilege – the ability to occasionally pull on a bit of his chaotic power to drive their caretakers crazy with (Thus allowing the Cutie Mark Crusaders to suck the color from a rainbow with a vacuum cleaner – which SHOULD mean that any wind would pull the color from a rainbow – the Cake twins to drive Pinkie to tears, and Sweetie to somehow transform everyone in Ponyville into fruit during a magical surge, 36 CP) .
- Immunity/The Fourth Wall (Common, Minor, Major, 6 CP). That’s enough to let him know that he’s in a cartoon and has an audience, make pop-culture references, be somewhat genre-savvy, and know about previous episodes – but not enough to let him read the script.
- Immunity to Aging (Uncommon, Major, Major, 6 CP). The user will live for many millennia, and possibly forever.
- Grant of Aid with +4 Bonus Uses (12 CP). This is a bit of an extrapolation – it’s not like we ever see Discord being hurt on the show – but this IS a d20 conversion, and there will certainly be a lot more violence to deal with.
- Reflex Training (Combat Reflexes Variant, Specialized/only for Blocks, 3 CP).
- Block, Missile, Melee, and Magic, each with Multiple II and Master, Specialized/Each Block in a round requires the expenditure of 2 Mana (36 CP).
- Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saving Throws (6 CP).
- Adept: Perform/Sing, Chaos Rune Magic (Casting and Mastery), Knowledge/Arcana (6 CP).
- Racial Bonuses: Perform/Sing +6, Chaos Rune Magic (Casting and Mastery) +6 Each, Knowledge/Arcana +50 (Specialized in manipulating Equestrian Reality) (21 CP).
- Magic Resistance II (12 CP).
- Blessing, Specialized/only to share or pass on some or all of this template (3 CP).
That comes to 192 CP. That’s pretty expensive.
Fortunately, however, there are some serious limitations on this.
- The user can be easily imprisoned (the special effects may vary), and all the effects of his or her chaotic powers can be easily undone, by the Elements of Harmony or Rainbow Magic.
- The user is mentally unstable; even when NOT using Divine Attribute/Chaos (and they almost always will be) their behavior patterns are erratic, their memories are unreliable, and their logic extremely questionable. Even if the game master allows a player to make suggestions, the user always remains a rather irrational NPC.
- The user’s body is physically unstable; he or she may manage to look a bit more “normal” than Discord usually does – or even entirely normal for a few moments – but the user cannot conceal his or her nature as a thing of chaos for more than a few minutes at best.
- The user cannot kill, or even cause really serious harm. The dead can no longer experience chaos, and that is unacceptable.
- The user’s plans and manipulations must always have highly uncertain outcomes, even offering any opponents a substantial chance of winning.
- The user’s chaotic powers always have weird side effects and are only reasonably reliable when he or she is using it for pranks or silliness. Actually trying to fix something besides undoing his or her own alterations (for example, helping Scootaloo fly) is basically beyond the user’s power.
- The user’s powers are dependent on his or her natural magical reserves. Hit points are irrelevant, but constitution drains, magical illnesses, and similar things can drastically reduce his or her powers.
Those seven restrictions are pretty serious – and turn an utterly overwhelming divine power into something that relatively minor heroes can oppose quite effectively. That’s enough to make the entire Template Specialized and Corrupted (even if this DOES double-specialize the Block ability. That’s normally a big warning sign for the GM, but this is an NPC chaos god template) – reducing it’s cost to 64 CP or a +2 ECL acquired template.
Other than that… we basically have a magic-user with a good constitution and Knowledge Arcana skill and some extra Mana for emergencies. Presumably he was very good at transformation rune magic and did a lot of magical research or he wouldn’t have wound up doing THIS to himself.
I’m going to make Unicorn his underlying racial template because 1) they’re the only race in My Little Pony that fits, 2) we haven’t got a clue otherwise, and 3) they’re already written up.
Huh. That DOES make the “Star Swirl The Bearded” theory sound reasonable enough doesn’t it? Especially when you throw in “had a personality like Pinkie Pie crossed with Twilight”, “never understood friendship”, “fiddled with time travel” (just like Discord in the comics), and the fact that successfully completing his last spell (which Starswirl never did manage to do properly) triggered Twilight’s ascension to Alicornhood. So maybe he did it wrong? Did his most famous creation – the “Amniomorphic Spell” – have something to do with rebirth? (Presuming, of course, that we disregard the “it’s just a pun” theory; Amnio = Pot, Morph = Shaping, ergo “pot shaper” – making Starswirl the Bearded a Hairy Potter).
That would give us a L6 Mage (one of the most powerful in history in a low-level game), with a +1 ECL Race (Unicorn Pony), good Int and Con, and a +2 ECL Chaos Lord template. The result? A creature equal in level to Celestia and a bit beyond Luna, but far more focused on raw (if very chaotic) power than either of their builds – and so quite capable of holding both of them off. His original Unicorn specialty would be Transmutation with a special privilege (he treats Transport spells as Transmutation Spells, just as they were in 3.0), and a good Knowledge/Arcana, letting him (as a dragonequus) routinely outroll Celestia and Luna to control Equestria’s sky (and likely a wide variety of other things). .
Our second possibility is that Discord is simply a powerful (and crazy) chaos mage with some way to massively expand the area of effect of his spells and (possibly) a really high Knowledge / Arcane or a powerful Reality Editing ability with which to exploit the malleability of Equestria’s Skies and other natural features.
This version is likely to actually be more expensive – mostly because it’s a potential player-character build and a lot more of the restrictions are simple personality traits rather than built-in features of a cosmic power,
Chaos Magic is obviously really good at pranks, doing weird (and generally pointless) things, and transforming stuff in silly ways – but there’s no real indication that it can actually accomplish much of anything beyond being incredibly annoying. It MIGHT be possible for it to be used to make new species, but off-screen things like creating the Plundervines might have been accomplished, or at least augmented, by other means.
- For this take Chaos Rune Magic (Specialized and Corrupted for Double Effect / effects that are not actively being supported tend to revert to normal, the effects are easily dispelled and reversed by the use of Harmony (Friendship, Rainbow, Elements of Harmony – all the same) Magic. If your mage has a decent intelligence he or she should have enough skill points to cover this at no cost.
Discord seems to be able to affect very large areas (although exactly how large is unknown), to be able to affect targets at great range (although this could be an illusion… if he casts “Rainbow Dash to Flying Pineapple” and gives it really big area of effect, does the range matter?), he can create effects without even snapping his fingers (such as when he’s being a balloon, or an image in glass, or some such), and his changes may or may not last a long time. In game terms he gets a lot of free metamagic on his Chaos Magic – but exactly how much is hard to say.
- Metamagical Theorems: Area, Extension, Easy, and Persistent (24 CP).
- Twenty Levels of Streamline (Area +20, Extension +6, Easy +6, Persistent +8) (120 CP).
This is utterly absurd – but it does let him affect the entire world, affect things in different dimensions, ignore the normal requirements for generating effects, and do things that last for a year or more. I could Specialize or Corrupt this to make it cheaper, but that wouldn’t make it any saner.
- Now give him everything that’s in the Template except the Path of the Pharaoh stuff (125 CP).
- Give him Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus to add to his mana supply (18 CP).
That comes out to 287 CP so far, which you could get by level eleven – if you spent nothing at all on anything else and the game master is insane enough to let you totally disregard the requirements of the Adventurer Framework. Of course, most characters want some hit points, more skills, saving throws, and DO have to abide by those requirements – taking this style of build well up into the epic levels. Without the Superheroic template in play it will also require investing a LOT of points in Mana, Rite of Chi, and Bonus Uses to work.
That’s appropriate enough for a standard d20 game of course, but it doesn’t really fit into Equestria very well. “Level 40+” and “silly” rarely make a lot of sense in the same character.
I’d stick with the Lord of Chaos template. Discord wouldn’t make a very good player character in most games anyway.