Randolf Upton Pickman, A.K.A. Pharaoh Nephren-Ka, E-poh of the Tcho-Tcho, Mylakhrion of Theem’hdra., and others.

The planes where mankind can exist are a tiny island in an infinite sea, surrounded by reefs of possibility and dedicated guardians. Yet there are things – some minor, others vast and powerful – which sometimes walk our realms when the stars are right and a gate is opened. Some find our little island little more than a shortcut, an amusing path less trodden, or a source of some desired oddity. Others… take an interest. Some even wish to understand, and seek that understanding in strange and maddening ways.

If some mortal is very, VERY, unlucky… they may even take a liking to him or her. Whether that means that said mortal was never entirely mortal at all, or whether they become so retroactively has never been determined.

Favored of the Outer Ones

+2 ECL Race or +3 ECL Acquired Template – although baseline d20 humans can “acquire” it for a mere +2 ECL since their racial advantages can simply be subsumed into “In The Guise Of Humanity”.

In The Guise Of Humanity (9 CP):

  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills (3 CP).
  • Bonus Feat (6 CP).

Randolf appeared (mostly) human as a child, and – at least for now – can easily pass for one as far as conventional examaination goes.

The Hidden Eye That Sees Unveiled (30 CP):

  • Adept: Craft/Visual Arts, Diplomacy, Knowledge/Arcane Lore (Specialized in Mythos Lore for Double Effect), and Perform/Oratory (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized Skills, Corrupted/only to give his Adept skills a “racial modifier” of +(effective Level) (4 CP).
  • +3 to each Adept Skill (4 CP).
  • 2d6 (8) Mana with Resilience, Specialized and Corrupted/only usable for the Resilience Natural Magic (4 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only to restore Mana, only usable for the Resilience function (4 CP).
  • Occult Ritual, Specialized and Corrupted; Can only perform the terrible, sanity-blasting, rites of the Outer Ones using his Mythos Lore (2 CP).
  • Major Privilege: Gets along with virtually all of the Outer Gods and their Servants, despite how incredibly awkward this is (6 CP).

Randolf, while still rather human, sees what is hidden – and can present it to other humans. He is also highly resistant to the dread effects of interacting with the Outer Gods and their servants in their true (or near-true) forms (those he explains to are rarely so fortunate) – although too much of that sort of thing will overwhelm even his defenses and slowly erode his (debatable) humanity. Oddly enough, most of the Outer Ones are quite willing to go along with this.

Guardian Spawn of The Dark Tapestry (15 CP):

(Dreamspawn) Companion, with +4 Template Levels, Great Form, and Transform (Corrupted; only the Companion can transform), +3 Speciality in Managing it. Specialized with the Standard Dreamspawn limitations (15 CP).

I’ve only put up a few specific Dreamspawn. To save time, I’d suggest using a minor variant of Queen Yintor. As Randolf is level one,:”she” gets a 3 CP bonus – in “her” case buying a particular Trick; the first time anyone sees Randolf’s companions true form” he or she will suffer 1d4 points of Wisdom Damage, 1d4 points worth of Wisdom Drain, and 1d4 rounds of Confusion. A successful Will save will reduce this to the minimum effect – one point of damage, one of drain, and one round of confusion. This is, however, Specialized; it can only affect any given creature once during their lifetime (3 CP).

The Outer Ones have vouchsafed Randolf a companion on his voyage beyond the gates of sanity, a guardian and supporter that may at times appear human, but is anything but. In it’s questioning and attempts to understand it’s new master it may, perhaps, become a little more human – or it may simply wind up increasing Randolfs upcoming dementia faster than ever.

Still, the enhancements and powers it grants him make surviving the many enemies that Randolf has acquired for simply existing a lot easier.

The Dreamer In The Labyrinth (66 CP):

  • Mystic Artist (Craft/Visual Art, including Painting, Drawing, Etching, and – possibly – Film-making (6 CP).
    • Basic Abilities: Skill: 3: Fascinate, 4: Emotion, 5: Block, 6: Hold Audience, 9: Suggestion, 12: Emotional Auras, 15: Freedom, 18: Amplify, 21: Harmonize, 24: Mass Suggestion, 30: Serenity, 36: Alter Attitudes, 48: Puppet Master, and 60: Rule the Horde.
  • Bonus Uses: +4 (6 CP).
  • Path of Whispers: Subliminal, Conditioning, Compelling, Immersive, Undertow, and Worldgate (36 CP).
  • The Art of the Occult: The Hidden Way, Spellweaver, and Sphere of Mastery (18 CP).

Randolf paints and draws – and dreams and visions of things that cannot exist in the world as it is pour through his pen and into reality, each work a potential gateway for that which is beyond and a crack in reality that helps to reshape the world into somewhere where such beings CAN exist. Those who gaze upon a work that happens to be “active” at the moment may find themselves subject to strange compulsions, experiencing memories and visions of the realms beyond, subject to the plots and themes of inhuman entities, or possibly can even be drawn into the realms beyond. Unfortunately, at the moment, he has little control over such events.

Similarly, while he little knows it at the moment, his images can also back any magic he happens to learn with the energies of the Outer Realms or even carry him partially beyond the boundaries of the world.

Whispers Of The Black Tapestry (108 CP):

  • Mystic Artist (Perform/Oratory) (6 CP).
  • Bonus Uses +8 (12 CP).
    • Skill: 3:Block, 4: Emotion, 5: Fascinate, 6: Competence, 9: Greatness, 12:Excellence, 15: Mass Greatness, 18:Mass Excellence, 21:Group Focus, 24:Harmonize, 30: Serenity, 36: Mass Heroism, 48: Double, and 60: Rule The Horde.
  • Basic Modifiers: Amplification, Echoes, Rapid, and Seeking (24 CP).
  • Path of Dissonance with Selective Targeting (+6 CP): Dissonance, Distracting, Disrupting, Stunning, Maddening, and Banishing (42 CP).
  • Chords of Fate: Harmonics (affects Undead), Spirit Summons, Spirit Channels, and The Great Summons (24 CP).

The Voices of the Outer Ones leak into Randolfs voice – and disrupt the very structure of reality and the creatures within it, whether living or dead. With time and practice he may be able to learn to disrupt the restraints that keep his targets from using their full potentials and store borrowed magics in the inflections of his words – but at the moment, only the disrupting energies of alien realms are really his to call upon, and he’s barely aware of even that.

High Priest of the Outer Ones (20 CP):

  • Dominion (Cultists) (6 CP)
  • Path of the Pharaoh: Manipulation, Sphere of Influence (Mortal Ties with The Outer Realms, Corrupted/he is drawn to points where contact is occurring, and there will try to sort it out so that everyone involved comes out OK), and Godfire (Corrupted; cannot actually spend any save to return from death but does get the side effects – such as not aging and not losing attribute points to disease) (14 CP).

Randolf doesn’t actually control any cults yet – but he’s their natural leader. He senses it when they open gates and call upon the outer ones, he can grant them a certain amount of actual power through various unspeakable and incomprehensible Offices, and he can manipulate events to help enable or cover up their activities.

As Randolf makes the acquaintance of more Cultists, and (willing or unwillingly) becomes a major figure in their rituals and beliefs, he will become ever harder to keep dead – and he will come ever closer to the ability to warp the Earth into a pocket-realm where the Outer Ones can easily come and visit, whether he wishes to do so or not.

His Unspeakable Destiny (38 CP):

  • Unique Returning with a Minor Rewrite, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost: Randolf reappears at a point in time and space chosen by his unnatural patrons, each time he reappears he becomes less human and more a creature of the “Cthulhu Mythos”, each reappearance sends him into a predestined role. The only way to stop the sequence (and his eventual rise to join the ranks of the Outer Ones) is to travel back in time to one of his prior appearances and there find a way to massively disrupt the timeline and thwart his destiny. In effect, he must be raised or resurrected quite promptly or he will become very difficult indeed to retrieve (8 CP).
  • Privilege: The “Favor of the Outer Ones” doesn’t have to be “paid for” up front – although that also means that the character doesn’t start off with much knowledge of his abilities, much less understanding how to use them or how they work. Levels Two and Five are (or will be) devoted to paying for the template and picking up an increased understanding of his talents. Randolf thus had a somewhat disturbed, but otherwise fairly “ordinary”, childhood (3 CP).
  • Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect (4 floating CP) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (4 CP) / only for use with “Create Relic”, all the Relics Randolf “creates” are actually borrowed from the Outer Ones; they’re usually very weird, they’re only available when the Outer Ones feel like lending him something, and what he gets is entirely up to the game master. (4 CP).
  • Create Relic / Specialized and Corrupted / All the Relics Randolf “creates” are actually borrowed from the Outer Ones; they’re usually very weird and what he gets is entirely up to the game master (2 CP).
  • Inherent Spell with +6 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased (Level Nine) effect (15 CP). L9 “Anyspell” effect, producing any Arcane effect of up to L6. Note that this requires that he call upon an appropriate Outer One, is considered blatant blasphemous and horrible black magic by pretty much everyone except the Outer Ones, will not be fully under control until he reaches L17 (and the ability to control a ninth level inherent spell properly), requires a modest ritual at least 1d4 minutes long, calls for a minor offering, and gives the Outer One invoked a limited point of entry into the “normal” universe – allowing some sort of tinkering or even a minor manifestation (15 CP).
  • Major Favors: The Outer Ones (6 CP).

Randolf has encountered several of the Outer Ones – although the forms they have chosen to take in his eyes are a lot more “normal” than any other entity could reasonably expect and it generally hasn’t been for long. They are, however, definitely taking an interest.

  • Baba Shiby” (“Mother of Shiva”, Life Manipulation, Monsters, Conjuration, and Relationships) usually acts sort of like a genial “house mother”. After all, she DOES have a thousand young – even if they are all aberrations of one sort or another. She seems to see Randolf as being one of them. Hopefully, she is wrong.
  • “Gnarly Hotep” (“The Twisted Way At Peace”, Darkness, Mind Control, Transformation, and Conflict) shows up in a variety of forms. Gnarly just can’t resist stirring up trouble, just to see how far people will go – and the greater the powers they bring into play, the better he likes it. He’s still especially proud of “The Rain Of Colorless Fire” – whatever that was.
  • “Uncle Yoggy” (“Elder Conjunction”, Time, Space, Dimensions, and Gates) is surrounded by a fiery froth of opening and closing wormholes traversing space and time, and as a result is never more than partially in any one place. He’s extremely distracted and quite obliging – but almost always gets whatever-it-is quite wrong.
  • “Ozymandias” / “Ozzy” (“The Fallen Eternity”, Chaos, Creation, Destruction, Music and Werewolves) acts like a stereotypical drugged-out hippie full of nihilistic wisdom, tells people not to worry or plays music that drives mortals mad while weird monsters appear nearby and eat them, and often leaves the people who survive his visits with strange curse/powers – commonly including forms of Lycanthropy which render them near-mindless monsters while transformed.

No, Randolf has no idea why any of them have chosen to look the way that they do for him. He thinks that they’re just whimsically pulling images from somewhere, and for once he’s right. 

For when Randolf has lived his second-to-final incarnation, and been slain at long last by what-he-must-become, all mortality and humanity will be subsumed, and what once was Randolf will return at last to Earth, sliding down from the far realms, the spaces between the stars, abandoning his place in the dark tapestry to come again to his birthplace. There he shall wait, dreaming in a death which is not a death, until R’leyh rises once more, and he – the perfected high priest of the Outer Ones and now their Native Guide – shall stride forth to stand beside his ancient friends as an equal. And he shall show them around the place, and they shall make themselves comfortable upon the Earth which is his house, and there shall be a party at the twilight of the gods that none save the Outer Ones will understand.

That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons, even death may die.

ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn


At 286 CP that is one heck of a template. That’s in +8 ECL territory, and it probably well deserves it even if most of the powers it grants are a bit more subtle than blasting the enemy. After all, this is a Template that grants godhood (even if rather limited) to a first level character. Fortunately for Randolf, however, the entire thing is Specialized and Corrupted.

  • His abilities attract attention of the Outer Ones and their Servitors. This is not a (direct) problem for him beyond the occasional damage to his sanity, but can be hard on the rest of the world.
  • He feels responsible for managing the impact of the Outer Ones and their Servitors on the world – often frantically attempting to manage them so as to minimize the impact.
  • His abilities attract the notice of investigators, demon-hunters, and similar groups. Generally they are not happy about them and would like to see him dead.
  • His artwork is easily-recognized, and can be used to trace his incarnations across space and time.
  • He is subject to nightmarish visions of the Outer Ones and their Servitors, which he is compelled to express in his imagery.
  • He is occasionally asked to run “errands” or perform rituals for the Outer Ones. Declining results in ill fortune and (once he knows about them) his powers becoming even more erratic.
  • He is compelled to display his artistic talents, but often has little control over the results.
  • His occult powers are easily recognized as forbidden black arts by anyone who pays attention to his activities and their effects. In most places they are banned.
  • The “performance” of the Whispers Of The Black Tapestry cannot be sustained; the duration is thus limited to the basic 5 rounds plus the Echoes duration.
  • He occasionally utters terrible prophecies or unleashes dark forces without even meaning too.
  • He is a veritable magnet for strange and bizarre events, rifts in reality, dark artifacts, and other people’s prophecies. Oddly enough, this often makes it possible to anticipate him by finding a relevant prophecy.
  • His mere presence often causes conventional devices to malfunction. At best, he effectively only gets one-third to one-half of the treasure and equipment his level would normally grant.
  • His mystical abilities with the visual arts only work in conjunction with his nightmarish visions of the Outer Ones; only images of such visions express these powers.
  • He is compelled to draw his visions, activating at least some (GMO) portion of the Path of Whispers on one each day without even being aware that he is doing so.
  • He starts off mostly unaware of his various potential abilities.
  • His magical powers are too bizarre to be used in the creation of conventional magical items, and will influence any conventional talents he develops enough to bar their use as well.
  • The Template subsumes Duties (to the Outer Ones) and Restrictions (cannot use divine powers from any “normal” deities, including those bound into items). Given that this would eventually be worth rather more CP than the character gains from the items that wind up double-Specialized and/or Double-Corrupted (normally a big red flag) I’ll let this particular Template get away with that.
  • The user counts as whichever of a human, a non-human, an outsider, and a native of the prime material plane is most disadvantageous at any given moment.
  • Mortals who are psychically or magically sensitive, or are aware of the presence and nature of this Template, are instinctively wary of the user, generally preferring to avoid them entirely. The user’s social life is going to suck.

That brings Favored of the Outer Ones down to 95 CP – the upper limit for a +2 ECL race (or +3 ECL Template). Are those enough limitations to justify that?

Probably. After all, at low levels Randolf doesn’t have the knowledge or control to use his nifty powers that effectively. Sure, he can optimize the use of Whispers Of The Black Tapestry, His Unspeakable Destiny, or the abilities granted by bonding with a Dreamspawn (all of which have some serious downsides) at mid-levels, but it’s not like other characters can’t optimize and Mystic Artist is hardly the go-to path for raw power. At high levels… there will be lots of more outrageous characters around.

Randolf Upton Pickman

Level One Would-Be Hapless Bystander

Randolf is a nice, obliging, fellow. Unfortunately, he’s so out-of-tune with humanity that he’s had a terrible childhood – and finding himself to be the chosen high priest of the outer ones (or even a potential Outer Lord) has not really improved matters. In a rather weird way, Randolf is baby-sitting his patrons in their interactions with earthly creatures while they baby-sit him in his interactions with the creatures and powers of the outer realms.

Racial Package: Favored of the Outer Ones.

Available Character Points: 48 (Level Base) +2 (Untraveled, a variant on Illiterate. Randolf has never really been beyond his country birthplace and the local woods and town. He has a little bit of theoretical knowledge of the world, but is essentially unfamiliar with other cultures, species, and places) + 12 (Racial and L1 Bonus Feats) = 62 CP.

Package Deal: Student (Privilege/gets basic housing and support for free, has access to university facilities and libraries, 3 CP), +1 each with Computer Use, Craft (Writing), Drive, Knowledge (Art and History), and Research (6 CP), and Enthusiast (Specialized in Skills, for Double Effect, 3 CP). If transplanted from d20 Modern into a fantasy world the Pathfinder Package Deal is probably preferable.

Basic Attributes: Str 8, Int 14, Wis 16, Con 12 (14), Dex 8 (10), Chr 10. (22 Point Buy).

Languages: Common, Latin, and the “Dark Speech” of the Outer Ones.

Basic Abilities (31 CP):

  • Hit Points: 20 (L1d20, 16 CP) + 2 (Con) +16 (Dreamspawn Link) = 38 HP.
  • BAB: +1 (6 CP).
  • Saves:
    • Fortitude: +0 (Purchased, 0 CP) +2 (Con) = +2 (Effectively +8 due to Companion)
    • Reflex: +0 (Purchased, 0 CP) + 0 (Dex) = +0 (Effectively +8 due to Companion)
    • Will: +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) + 3 (Wis) = +5 (Effectively +6 due to Companion)

Combat Information:

  • Proficiencies: Simple Weapons (3 CP) and Pistols (3 CP).
  • Initiative: +0.
  • Move: 60′
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +4 (Mage Armor) +2 (Judo) = 16. Also, Protection from Law.
  • Usual Weapons:None

Special Abilities:

  • Bestowed by Template Companion: Need not Eat, Drink, Sleep, or Breathe, effectively immune to poison*, Fast Healing I (up to 20 points/hit die/day)*, Protection from Law*, and True Strike 3/Day*. May employ 4L1, 4L2, & 4L3 Absolute Command effects daily used as Reflex Actions at caster level equal to his level. These require making both a Fortitude and a Will save against the spell at +4 to avoid fatigue. All use-activated. Effects marked with an “*” are subject to dispelling and antimagic versus caster level one – but will come right back again next round.
  • Adept: Pays half cost for Decipher Script, Disable Device, Research, and Spot (6 CP)
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for Double Effect (6 CP).
  • Witchcraft II with the Rituals and Karmic Links Pacts paying for Witchcraft III and +3d6 Power (24 total) (12 CP). Save DC 13. Basic Abilities: The Adamant Will, Glamour, The Hand of Shadows, Healing, The Inner Eye, Shadowweave, and Witchsight. Notably, combining Glamour and The Inner Eye allow him to bypass language barriers – at least for living things.

Skill Points: 7 (CP Spent) +8 (Int Mod x 4) + 8 (Racial Bonus Feat spent on Fast Learner at L(-2)) = 23

  • Computer Use +1 (1 SP) +2 (Int) +1 (Package) = +4
  • Craft/Writing: +1 (1 SP) +2 (Int) +1 (Package) = +4
  • Craft/Visual Arts: +4 (2 SP*) +2 (Int) +4 (Race) = +10
  • Decipher Script +4 (2 SP*) +2 (Int) = +6
  • Diplomacy: +4 (2 SP*) +0 (Cha) +4 (Race) = +8
  • Disable Device +4 (2 SP*) +0 (Dex) = +4
  • Drive +1 (1 SP) +0 (Dex) +1 (Package) = +2
  • Knowledge/History +1 (1 SP) +2 (Int) +1 (Package) = +4
  • Knowledge/Arcane Lore (Specialized in Mythos Lore for Double Effect), +2 (1 SP*) +2 (Int) +4 (Race) = +18
  • Knowledge/Art +3 (3 SP) +2 (Int) +1 (Package) = +6
  • Martial Art/Tai Chi: +1 (1 SP) +3 (Wis) = +4 (Provides Defenses 2, already in his AC above).
  • Perform/Oratory +4 (2 SP*) +0 (Cha) +4 (Race) = +8
  • Research +4 (2 SP*) +2 (Int) +1 (Package) = +7
  • Spot +4 (2 SP*) +3 (Wis) = +7

Note that his Companion can grant a +20 Insight Bonus on a skill check three times per day. A “*” indicates half cost due to Adept.

Personally Randolf is a competent starting sage-type and has a number of psychic tricks to call on – but he really isn’t much of an adventurer. He isn’t likely to master most of his template powers very soon either – but he will learn to use the powers his Companion grants fairly rapidly, if only because she’s quite capable of explaining them and because the passive durability-enhancements will work whether he quite understands them or not. That will make him a tolerably effective and surprisingly durable minor mage.

Of course, Randolf intended to be an artist, not an adventurer or mage. If he really MUST develop some combat abilities he has lots of levels to go as of yet.

Future Development: Randolf could REALLY use some luck for Saves and some for Skills, but that’s cheap enough to pick up quite soon. More Witchcraft – and some more durability effects, such as a bit of damage reduction, will help his career as well.

Really though, he’s set up assuming a more or less “realistic”, even if Lovecraftian, setting. Massive leveling up is not really a thing under those assumptions.

Randolf is loosely inspired by “Ow, My Sanity”, a webcomic spoofing the Magical Girlfriend and Harem genres in a Call of Cthulhu setting. Of course, given that this is d20 and that the characters quite commonly achieve godlike power in the setting, Randolf is a lot tougher and more powerful than the hero of that comic. Unfortunately, “Ow, My Sanity” is on indefinite and possibly permanent hiatus – but what there is of it is well worth a look.

Eclipse d20 – Binding Mysterious Spirits VIII, Kyrie, The Dread Wyrm, Halphax, Orthos, and Vierdan Sanguine.

As usual, all of these Mysteries build on the powers of the basic Bokor Package – although that is cheap enough that it’s normally well worthwhile.

Kyrie (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Accursed (Dark Visions). Those who channel Kyrie are prone to fits of prophecy, always foreseeing disasters and tragedies, ranging from the small to the great. Each time Kyrie is summoned there is a small chance that the channeler will be called on to try and stop such a disaster – although the greater the deed requested, the longer it will be before another deed is required).

Abysm isn’t a mythological figure. It’s simply an obscure word for a dark – and thus apparently bottomless – pit. So what we have here is a larger version of Poul Anderson’s “Kyrie” – with the victim no longer being a single powerful, telepathic, alien falling into a black hole, but an entire psychic city, leaving its eternal psychic scream behind to empower others who can tap into that frozen moment. Unfortunately, Abysm made you a very poor psion – so Kyrie will provide some serious upgrades.

  • +1 on Knowledge/Psionics (1 CP).
  • Improved Occult Talent: Specialized for Increased Effect (L0 slots become L1, L1 slots become L2) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / the user may only select one power plus one per every two levels above level one from each incidence to use during each summoning (all are available at L15+), using these powers has destructive side effects on the environment as the Fall of Abysm begins to leak into normal reality and may eventually release some of the horrors that destroyed Abysm into the world. Each instance provides 5 L1 and 3 L2 Powers and 14 Power to use them with at a cost of 8 CP. Three instances (24 CP).
    • Available Powers for the First Instance:
      • L1) Astral Construct, Entangling Ectoplasm, Inertial Armor, Psionic Grease, and Psionic Minor Creation.
      • L2) Animal Affinity, Clairvoyant Sense, and Psionic Levitate
    • Available Powers for the Second Instance:
      • L1) Attraction, Demoralize, Control Light, Crystal Shard, and Mind Thrust,
      • L2) Concealing Amorpha, Energy Missile, and Read Thoughts.
    • Available Powers for the Third Instance:
      • L1) Call Item, Catfall, Channel the Psychic Dragon, Minor Metamorphosis (Pathfinder), and Vigor.
      • L2) Compelling Voice (Pathfinder), Feat Leach, and Share Pain.
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only for Power, only usable between encounters (4 CP).
  • Companion (Witchcraft): Psi-Crystal. +4 Power, Bestows the Persistent Metamagical (Psionic) Theorem and +2 levels of Streamline, Specialized and Corrupted/only for First and Second Level Psionic Powers granted by Abysm, requires a full minute of concentration when a power is used to obtain this benefit. This extends the duration of relevant effects by two steps on the following list: Turns to Minutes, Minutes to Tens of Minutes, Tens of Minutes to Hours, and Hours to a Full Day (the upper limit) (6 CP).

This version of Abysm is quietly effective. Granting a total of 46 power and the ability to recover an average of 52.5 points through the day makes calling on Abysm a reasonable choice even the disciplines it offers are all low level (if numerous) because it’s generic Power, which can be used to fuel abilities granted by other Mysteries – and the extended duration of some of the powers it grants is very handy: Astral Construct goes to ten minutes/level (even if you must create them well before the fight to take advantage of it), Animal Affinity, Channel the Psychic Dragon, Concealing Amorpha, Feat Leach, Minor Metamorphosis, Read Thoughts, and Vigor go to Hours/Level, and Call Item, Share Pain, Inertial Armor, Levitate, and Minor Creation all go to a full day. Given that, you can afford to buff yourself (including using Vigor, sharing it with your Psicrystal, and then using Share Pain on your psicrystal to effectively gain 10 HP/Power spent) at the start of the day and can even repeat it a time or two if someone dispels part of it.


The Dread Wyrm (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Compulsive (Revenge). Anyone channeling the Dread Wyrm will suffer no slights; those who are rude may suffer a scathing appraisal of their faults and those who have harmed or insulted the channeler are greatly preferred targets; the user suffers a -1 penalty on attacks or the DC of saving against his or her abilities if they attack someone else while such a preferred target is available).

Ashardalon was the big bad dragon of some adventures, but was mostly notable for trying to use his resources to get more magical power instead of just going for “bigger and meaner” like most of the other standard d20 super-genius, major spellcasting, incredibly wealthy, elder dragons who (for some reason known only to lazy writing) usually seem to ignore that possibility entirely.

In other words, he managed to hand somebody else the idiot ball a few times before the end.

Really though, this is extremely generic: you get extra tough, you can find and evaluate treasure, you scare people, and you are quite resistant to fire. Honestly, that could be pretty much any basic dragon from about five hundred different sources couldn’t it? For a penultimate-level Mystery, I think that some improvements are in order.

  • Occult Skill Access: Bullet Time (3 CP), with +3 Skill Points to make it a “relevant” skill to start with (+3 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus: Add (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) for Skill Points through L1, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/points may only be spent on Appraise (yes, this can be used to list off a target’s personal faults), Bullet Time (specialized in buying off damage only, for double effect; reduce the current score by 1/2/3 to buy off 12/20/24 points of damage. This does not count as an action), and Search (Perception in Pathfinder) and must be distributed evenly between them. This provides a (Cha Mod x 4) “racial” bonus on each of those skills (6 CP).
  • The Dragon’s Fury/Witchcraft III, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/each basic ability is limited to a fairly specific, simple effect (rather than allowing dozens), often with additional limitations (6 CP).
    • The Dragon-Aura/Glamour: The user may expend 5 Power and a Standard action to generate the effects of a Fear spell (Save DC 16 + Cha Mod). Once used this cannot be used again for 1d4 Rounds.
    • Burning Wrath of the Dragon/Hyloka: The user may accelerate his or her metabolism to the point of becoming a being of burning plasma at the cost of 9 Power and an Immediate Action. This is equivalent to the Elemental Body spell, but only allows the use of the Fire Elemental Form. If deactivated, this cannot be activated again for 1d4 rounds.
    • Torrent of Flames/Hand of Shadows: While Elemental Body is running – and only then – the user may spend 5 Power and a move action to become a rushing mass of flames, tracing a path up to ninety feet long which may pass through the air. Occupants of the squares moved through suffer (3d6 + User’s Con) fire damage (Fortitude Save DC 16 + Cha Mod for half, affects objects) and the effects of a Gust of Wind spell. The user reappears at the end of the path. If the path collides with a solid barrier, it ends there, with the user and the barrier each suffering the indicated damage. If the path passes through rain, ice storms, or similar difficulties the user suffers 1d6 damage per square of such conditions passed through. If the user passes through water he or she takes 3d6 damage per square passed through.
    • Acuity of the Dragon/Witchsight: You may spend 1 Power to gain 60 foot Blindsight for the next hour.
  • +4d6 Mana as +6d6 (21) Power, Specialized and Corrupted/only to power the Dragon’s Fury abilities listed above (4 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only for Power, only to rebuild the power pool for the Dragon’s Fury abilities listed above (4 CP).
  • Damage Reduction 4/-, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / versus physical damage only, bypassed by Cold Iron weapons. Net DR 12/Cold Iron (9 CP).

The Dread Wyrm is actually a pretty balanced Mystery. It lets you absorb quite a lot of damage, gives you some skill bonuses, a fear attack, an elemental transformation, an unusual movement / attack power, blindsight, and decent damage reduction that’s only bypassed by a reasonably uncommon material. Admittedly, none of those add up to particularly awesome power unless you’ve got to wade through an army of mooks – but they’re a nice solid backup for pretty much any other Mystery you want, and at this level a Bokor will be routinely channeling two or more Mysteries. If the other one happens to be highly specialized, The Dread Wyrm is a pretty good choice.


Halphax (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Compulsive. Halphax demands that his channelers act like true aristocrats – demanding the best of food and drink, wearing fine clothing, claiming some form of title, and showing at least a bit of noblesse oblige).

Halphax (also Halphas, Malthus, Malthas, or Malthous) is another escapee from the Ars Goetia. There he is said to build towers and fill them with weapons and send his subordinates into battle. Wizards of the Coast let him provide some architectural skills, some personal toughness, create walls of iron, and secure shelters – and let him use an “imprisonment” effect that works nothing at all like the Imprisonment spell; it’s basically equivalent to “Time Hop” – a level three effect.

Well, some architecture might be fun. Pathfinder made it much more reasonably priced and you can use Innate Enchantment for mundane gear (even if it’s rarely done) – so why not use it to take along some “rooms” to combine into various structures? Sure, if they get destroyed the damage will persist until the next summoning or until something is done about it – but popping up a few walls and such can be pretty useful in a battle and fortified camps are very nice indeed. So is having a pleasant tavern/inn to stop in every evening, even if it’s not much help in a battle.

  • Damage Reduction 4/-, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / versus physical damage only, bypassed by Adamantine weapons. Net DR 12/Adamantine (9 CP).
  • Access to the Ninjaneering Occult Skill (3 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus: Add (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) for Skill Points through L1, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/points may only be spent on Profession (Siege Engineer), Knowledge / Architecture and Engineering, and Ninjaneering. This effectively provides a bonus of (Cha Mod) x 4 skill points in each those three skills and must be split evenly between them. If the user doesn’t have the skill otherwise the relevant attribute modifier gets added in as well (6 CP).
  • Trick / Temporal Throw: You may make a melee touch attack as a standard action to try and throw a target creature one round per level into the future. The target may make a DC (10 + Level/2 + Cha Mod) Fortitude save to negate the effect. Unfortunately, only a single creature may be affected at any one time and if a creature makes its save you may not use this ability for 1d4 rounds (6 CP).
  • Imbuement (“Brigadoon” gains a Ward Major), Specialized for Reduced Cost/never improves past the “+4″ equivalent that it starts at (which, coincidentally, covers the cost of an appropriate level four ward, 3 CP). Four Minor Powers:
    • Enduring. The eldritch structures have triple their normal hardness and Spell Resistance 30.
    • Non-Euclidean. The village has many local portals and can be put into places that are completely unreasonable and far too small. Up to one ton of material can be kept in it with no effective encumbrance.
    • Industry: Variant; production is only 5x normal, but anyone working within one of the buildings is presumed to have a relevant set of masterwork tools for the user of their skill(s) and an appropriate workspace.
    • Sustenance: Residents need not eat, sleep or breathe while within the village. Those who get tired and hungry outside it will still need to sleep and eat to fix that, but they will not get hungrier or sleepier while they wait.
  • Brigadoon: Innate Enchantment, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost: includes no spells or items, only for “rooms” and “teams” purchased according to Pathfinder’s Downtime System (not much of a limitation since you’re buying specific things anyway, but worth noting), the maximum value that can be used at any one time is equal to the user’s (Knowledge; Architecture and Engineering x 500) GP, once a structure is “brought out” it cannot be dismissed or modified for at least one minute, user must gesture dramatically to produce and place structures within short range, structures must be appropriately placed (no, you cannot drop houses on the wicked witch), creatures that would be within a structure may make a DC (16 + Cha Mod) Reflex save to pick where in the structure they wind up. Sadly, any external items left “inside” when a room is not manifested count against the user’s encumbrance and anything left inside when Halphax is dismissed vanishes – usually to reappear elsewhere, but sometimes lost for good. .

Brigadoon:

Available “Rooms”:

  • Armory x4 (1560 GP).
  • Bar (250 GP).
  • Bedrooms x3 (900 GP).
  • Brewery (380 GP).
  • Cells x2 (360 GP).
  • Ceremonial Room (1180 GP).
  • Common Room (300 GP).
  • Courtyard x2 (360 GP).
  • Crypt (490 GP).
  • Defensive Walls (Stone, 20-40 squares, 20′ tall) x2 (1040 GP).
  • Defensive Walls (Standard, 10′ Tall, 20-40 squares) x2 (520 GP).
  • Dock (with four 20-foot rowboats/sailboats, 520 GP).
  • Drawbridge (320 GP).
  • Escape Route (360 GP).
  • Fortification x4 (Note that the +2 Hardness is tripled by the Ward Major, 1200 GP).
  • Furnishings x3 (900 GP).
  • Garden (180 GP).
  • Gatehouse (Iron Door, Iron Portcullis, Gauntlet, and a Carriage, comes with assorted L1 Experts as minor guards, 2310 GP).
  • Gauntlet x2 (320 GP).
  • Kitchen (160 GP).
  • Labyrinth (370 GP).
  • Laundry (120 GP).
  • Lavatory x2 (240 GP).
  • Lodgings x2 (860 GP).
  • Magical Repository (730 GP).
  • Office (120 GP).
  • Roman Bath (Sauna, Pools, Etc, 350 GP).
  • Sitting Room (480 GP).
  • Stall x5 (1250 GP).
  • Storage x2 (240 GP).
  • Summoning Chamber (1040 GP).
  • Torture Chamber (330 GP).
  • War Room (300 GP).

Total Rooms = 20,040 GP.

Available “Teams”:

  • Bureaucrats: A set of five L3 Experts: Lawyer, Scribe, Seneschal, Bookkeeper, and Herald, 200 GP.
  • Cavalry: A set of five L3 Warriors with light warhorses, 410 GP. (Note that you can get out the horses on their own if you want to ride or have them pull a carriage or something).
  • Cavalry Archers: A set of five L3 Warriors with light warhorses, 470 GP.
  • Craftspeople: Three sets of three L4 Experts: Alchemist, Bowyer, Carpenter, Glassblower, Healer, Herbalist/Gardener, Librarian, Smith, and Tanner/Leatherworker, 600 GP.
  • Elite Archers: A set of Five L3 Warriors, 380 GP.
  • Elite Guards: Two sets of Five L3 Warriors, 340 GP.
  • Elite Soldiers: Two sets of Five L3 Warriors, 660 GP.
  • Lackeys: Three sets of five L1 Experts: Bartender, Bath Attendant, Butler, Carriage Driver, Cook, Courtesan/Masseur x2 (one male and one female), Innkeeper, Janitor, Maid/Laundress, Mason, Squire, Valet, Waiter, and Weaver/Seamstress, 360 GP.
  • Priest: A L3 Cloistered Cleric/Witch (Eclipse-style Witch, Knowledge, Magic, and Witchery domains) or Sacerdos Pastor, 810 GP.
  • Robbers: A set of five L3 Rogues, 200 GP.

Total Teams = 4430 GP.

  • Thanks to the Ward Major, any skill user effectively has access to masterwork tools appropriate to the skill and a workspace. Thus the Alchemist has an Alchemy Lab, the Librarian has a Library full of reference works giving a bonus on knowledge skills, the Smith a Forge, the Leatherworker a Leatherworking Shop, the Healer an Infirmary, and so on. For Downtime purposes, these are effectively “Workstations” (x30).

Yes, the GM is free to give the “minions” personalities, and have them carry over from one summoning to the next. Even slain minions will, however, be just fine the next time Halphax is summoned – and are well aware of it. If one is TOO irritating though the summoner does have an option; push him or her out of time and dismiss Halphax. Next time he’s summoned… that minion will have been replaced. This process is, however, irreversible.

Grand Total: 24,470 GP, for 25 CP worth of Innate Enchantment – or (8 CP) after being Specialized and Corrupted.

Anyone channeling Halphax is essentially hauling along a village (of about 75 “rooms” and 80-odd employees), and the Pathfinder Downtime system, along. In conjunction with the production increase from the Ward this provides an “Extravagant” lifestyle, 250 GP in spending money per day, and some (paid for) Downtime Capital – 4 Goods, 4 Labor, 4 Influence, and 2 Magic per day. While there will be no special events in the village pocket realm while it’s not manifested, it does have enough of a population to serve as a normal village for other purposes (Purchase Limit 2500 GP, Spellcasting Services of up to L3 are available (but must be paid for – unlike the services of the “teams”, which are free), items of up to 500 GP value are available for purchase, items of up to 2500 GP value may be sold, and 2d4 Minor and 1d4 Medium items with values above that limit will be available, changing each lunar month).

No, that doesn’t make a lot of sense – but Halphax IS a “Mystery”, that’s what the settlement and downtime rules say, and it’s not like most d20 settings or systems of magic make a lot of sense when examined in detail anyway.

A character hosting Halphax will have a fortress to stay in, good food, fine wines, a backrub, people to repair his or her gear, a squire to polish his or her armor, guards for the night, clean clothing, someone to warm his or her bed, mundane supplies, and all the comforts and security of staying in a nicely civilized area every night. That’s certainly convenient. Besides… it’s worth it just to be able to produce a lawyer and a personal herald on cue.

In combat Halphax doesn’t offer a lot in the way of direct abilities – but he allows a channeler to set up a battlefield to suit himself or herself in a way that few spellcasters could match if they tried. Being able to look about, place a few walls, a couple of strongpoints, a few troops, a dimensional shortcut or two, a pit, and a field of caltrops, can be pretty handy. So is extra money, having endless supplies ready to hand, and being able to sleep tight in a dimensional pocket in a dungeon. I’d go for it just for style.


Orthos (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Compulsive. When a channeler of Orthos encounters slaves or prisoners he or she must make a substantial effort to win their freedom. If he or she does not do so Orthos will not again answer his or her call foe one lunar month).

Orthos (Orthros, Orthrus, Orthus) was a monstrous two-headed dog in greek and roman myths – a sibling of Cerberus, one of the offspring of Typhon and Echidna and the father of the Sphinx and the Nemean Lion. He was Geryon’s herd dog and guarded Geryon’s oxen – and was slain by Hercules as a casual speed bump to his twelve labors. And that’s pretty much all there is about Orthos, which is kind of sad considering that his parents and siblings were more dangerous than most of the gods.

As a forgotten figure, something of a blank slate, and a sibling to Cerberus – guardian of the gates of the underworld – Orthos is actually a pretty appropriate choice as the elder Mystery, the guide and guardian of the paths of spirits that can neither fully live nor fully die. I’ve no idea why he got a wind blast though. Oh well. When you’ve really got nothing to go on, why NOT go with wind? It’s easy enough.

  • Tornado Blast: Weathermonger, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (The user may spend a Standard Action and 3 Power to generate a 60′ cone of wind that does 1d6 damage per level you possess (Reflex DC 19 + Cha Mod for half) and those affected must also make a Fortitude save at the same DC or be knocked prone and moved 1d4x10 feet away or to the limits of the area of effect) / The user may not sense the weather, gain bonuses to saves against weather and wind effects, summon mists, constant, or lesser winds, produce rain, steer lightning, generate or banish storms, etc, etc, etc (6 CP).
  • The Winds from Beyond: Witchcraft III, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/each basic ability is limited to a fairly specific, simple effect (rather than allowing dozens), often with additional limitations, taken twice for eight powers and (12 CP).
    • Read the Winds / Witchsight: You gain blindsight out to 30 feet. This is a continuous effect with no cost.
    • Gyre Mirage / Shadoweave: You may spend 2 Power and a Standard Action to generate a personal Displacement effect lasting up to one hour per level. It affects you, your equipment, and any steed you happen to be riding. During its duration you may suppress or resume the effect as a free action.
    • Voice of the Wind / Glamour: You may spend 2 Power and a Standard Action to invoke a Sending effect – with the additional option to send it to a location and announce it’s message on cue, similar to the effect of a Magic Mouth.
    • Winds of Alchemy / Witchfire. You may spend 2 Power and a Standard Action to turn a potion, drug, poison, or suitable (liquid or gaseous) alchemical item into a 60′ line, 30′ come, or 15′ radius with a center up to thirty feet away, applying normally to those within the area.
    • Harness the Wind / Hand of Shadows. You may spend 2 Power and an Immediate Action to animate a chunk of the air to serve you as a Phantom Steed – although it’s hit points are equal to your own.
    • Bind the Vortex / Hand of Shadows. You may spend 5 Power and a Standard Action to animate and bind a mass of air to your will, creating the equivalent of a Huge Air Elemental. It will serve you for up to one minute per level or until dispersed.
    • Cyclonic Barrier / Hand of Shadows. Once per round, on or off action, you may spend five Power to harden the air into a momentary force barrier capable of blocking up to sixty points of damage from any one attack – and negating any special effects (poison, energy drain, or whatever) that it might have if that blocks all damage. If it does not, it still provides a +6 Circumstance Bonus on any required saving throw.
    • Eye of the Hurricane / Hand of Shadows. As a standard action you may spend 3 Power to create a Wall Of Force effect.
  • Voice of Winds: +4d6 Mana as +12d6 (42) Power, Specialized and Corrupted/only to power the Winds from Beyond powers listed above (8 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +12 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only for Power, only to rebuild the power pool for the Winds from Beyond Powers, above (8 CP).
  • Speak Language (Auran) (1 CP).

Orthos really only has one trick – air control – but is surprisingly versatile with it. Admittedly, direct-damage blasting is far from the best shtick out there, and Orthos lacks the metamagical / metapsionic boosts to really compete with optimized blasters – but he’s reasonably effective at it for the rather small investment of one Mystery slot. He also has the interesting option of making potions and alchemy potentially relevant again at fairly high levels and some decent defensive and utility abilities.


Vierdan Sanguine, the Bloody General (Bonus Mystery) (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Insane: Gods too fall before the blade, and the Iron Lord has seen a myriad pass while he endures. Their priests and servants may wield a power they call “divine”, but they will fall before the blade as easily).

Under a thousand names, across ten thousand realms, the bloody general has led men into battle – overthrowing nations, replacing rulers, and even slaying gods – caring for nothing save war itself and the clash of arms. Even the most chaotic of war gods reject him, for he sees them only as yet another challenge to his skills. He has embraced the existence of a Mystery, since only thus can he lead men into battle forever more.

Vierdan Sanguine grants…

  • The complete Strategos Package (30 CP). The user may call upon a variety of “auras” that grant him or her, and his or her allies, substantial bonuses.
  • Augmented Bonus: Add (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) for Skill Points through L1, Specialized for Double Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost/points may only be spent on Knowledge / Military (battles, tactics, military engineering and vehicles, etc) and Profession / Military Commander – effectively providing a “racial bonus” of +(Cha Mod x 4) to each. If the user does not have either skill already, add the relevant attribute modifiers (Int and Wis) to determine the effective skill level (4 CP).
  • Specific Knowledge: The many historical battles he has commanded (1 CP).

Vierdan Sanguine offers access to a selection of a dozen (very, VERY) powerful party-enhancing auras and allows the use of three of them at a time. Admittedly some of them are level-dependent – but a Bokor needs to be fairly high level to channel Vierdan anyway. Just using the first three at level fifteen where Vierdan normally becomes available grants an entire party a +10 Luck Bonus to AC, Saves, Attacks and Damage and a +4 Morale bonus to Checks, Attacks, and Saves.

Admittedly the Strategos package is completely over-the-top optimized, but you’ve got to expect some of that for a penultimate level Mystery. Just as importantly, Vierdan Sanguine provides no active abilities whatsoever. He provides plenty of numerical bonuses, resistances, and heightened movement – but if you want active powers you’re just going to have to channel another Mystery.

Thanks to various problems posting here has been seriously delayed for a bit – so I’m going to backdate this and the next few posts just to keep things together a bit.

Eclipse and Magical Schools Part II – Making them Work

The basic problem with Schools in d20 is built into the system.

  • In the real world, being trained in something is about the most effective way available to develop new skills, improve old skills, and learn new tricks that’s relatively safe – at least up until the point where there’s no one left who can teach you much, and you have to rely on risky experience and self-development. Training, however, requires lots of time (in ever shorter supply for adults with responsibilities – and who have to spend ever-increasing amounts of time on keeping their current skills from getting rusty), enough dedication to resist the temptation to take a break, and resources (including skilled trainers). Even then… you expend more and more time and work for smaller and smaller returns. Realistic training is slow, and hard, and expensive.
  • In basic d20, training by itself generally accomplishes nothing at all. Characters are automatically assumed to be training for their next level all through their current one. Even if the player doesn’t make up his or her mind about what it’s going to be until they’ve gotten the experience points and it’s time to update their character sheet it’s assumed that the Character knew what he or she was working towards. After all, learning new skills and abilities, increasing your net worth, building up your mind or muscles, and more is all tied to gaining levels, not to any particular training program.

As an example, a real person thrown into heavy combat for a week is likely to pick up a few basic combat moves and (generally inappropriate out of combat) nervous responses (such as diving for cover whenever there is a loud bang), skin trouble, a few likely-infected wounds and blisters, plenty of bruises, possibly some fractures, some nasty mental traumas and physical scars, and a tremendous need for sleep and food – presuming that they aren’t dead or crippled for life.

Do the same with a d20 character… and they’ll probably have picked up a couple of levels, maybe a new language and some improvements in playing keyboards and acrobatics or the ability to project laser beams from their eyes and heal wounds by force of will, they’ll be tougher and harder to kill, and they’re quite likely to have picked up some new-and-improved gear. Or they may have become a vampire-werewolf abomination. They almost certainly will not be dead, crippled, or weakened – and any injuries they may have will be cleanly healed in a day or so at most.

If you take two identical twin d20 martial artists and have one spend five years training while the other spends five years adventuring and then compare the results… The adventurer will be able to show off his Divine Might Global Extinction Event World Shattering Palm technique while the fellow who spent his time training will probably be able to break several boards at the same time instead of one. Sure, the adventurer might have gotten killed without being brought back – but his payoff is incredible wealth, vast personal power, and potential godhood. The payoff for training hard is a colorful belt and (just maybe) an assistant teaching position at the local dojo.

OK, maybe the game master will throw in some experience point awards for going out of your way to get training, but that rapidly becomes a choice between “everybody gets some” or “half the players sit around and wait while a few try to get story awards for training”. You could go back to first edition and try some variant on “trade gold pieces for experience points” on the theory that you’re buying effective “training” – but allowing that will have some pretty massive effects on the world. Merchants and government-funded groups and such are going to edge more traditional adventurers out of the running and finding any kind of balance across levels is going to be pretty hard. Plus, of course, speaking as a high-level character… all of MY kids are going to be starting off their careers with some levels on them. Rising from the peasantry is no longer much of an option and having rich parents really DOES make you better.

You can throw in a bit of “school as a characterization detail” with little trouble – but that, once again, usually relegates it to the characters backstory. Still, “School as a background detail” works better in Eclipse than in classical d20 simply because Eclipse characters usually buy the basics of what they want early on and build on it – rather than abruptly picking up huge chunks of knowledge and abilities when they multiclass. So there’s no more of “there are six academies that teach the arts of wizardry… what do you mean that your barbarian just took a level of wizard while resting in an igloo?”.

Master Mage Latian attended The Eleri Academy of Magic – as can be easily seen, since he always wears the Eleri’s Azure and Crimson school sash, practices the Eight Calming Breaths and Mudras taught by the school when confronted by yet ANOTHER royal councilor who has no idea of what non-epic magic can and cannot do, bears the medallion and tassel that signifies his status as a master mage, still sneers at the graduates of Handeti University (Eleri’s principle rival), always attends (and often acts as a judge) for the schools yearly magic competition, and adheres to Eleri’s strictures against dealing with the Chaos Lords on the grounds that it is far too dangerous for what you can get.

You can add a little bit of mechanics to this without creating any real problem. Perhaps the sash is a free Masterwork Potions Bandolier, Eleri graduates gain a +1 bonus to overcome the spell resistance of creatures of chaos, and the school allows alumni in good standing to freely copy more advanced anti-chaos spells from the school archives. You will need to allow similar little bennies for non-magical characters though. Wizards don’t usually need more advantages over everyone else.

You can also use the “Feat Full of Tricks” articles (Clerics, Fighters and Wizards, Rogues, Monks) – although those, once again, put “school” firmly in the character’s past. They do mean that a characters early training will continue to have an impact on their abilities even quite late in their careers.

The next step up in classical d20 was a prestige class. Of course, this was a considerable pain, called for inventing more special advantages, and wound up with a prestige classes so obscure that there might not be any other members of them on the continent. After all, if there’s a special class for Guild Wizards of Waterdeep, shouldn’t a lot of other cities have their own variants? Among hundreds of other regional variants for everything else? Even worse… Evereska has some 22,000 people. To be an Evereskan Tomb Guardian you need a BAB of +4, the ability to cast second level arcane spells, Alertness, Track, and 24 levels worth of various skills. How many people out of a total population of 22,000 – the vast majority non-adventurers – are going to qualify, much less be interested? Are there really likely to be ANY Evereskan Tomb Guardians?

There are various house and optional rules calling for training when going up in level, usually stating that it’s “more realistic”. Of course, this flies in the face of both the rules (characters are always “training”; when they go up in level is simply the moment when it all comes together) and sanity (are you REALLY trying to use “realism” as an excuse in a game full of wizards throwing lighting bolts?). If you really want to be “realistic” in terms of how the system and d20 settings actually work… then treat “Experience Points” as a mysterious magical force that builds up in creatures and objects until it transforms them, granting them new powers and abilities.

If a game master wishes to stretch a point, he or she use an existing mechanic – the Circumstance Bonus – by stating that practical experience and/or training will provide modest bonuses (perhaps +1, +2, and +3 for basic, advanced, and truly extensive experience and training) on particular skills – or twice that on specialized sub-aspects of skills. You could even count that as a part of an adventures treasure-reward if you wanted, although the value would be sharply reduced by the fact that they couldn’t be transferred or traded in for better bonuses. After all… if the players spend six weeks adventuring in the city of Rilkieth picking up a free +2 bonus in Knowledge (Local) Rilkieth is only to be expected. It certainly doesn’t increase their power much though. Is it really worth more than a 5 GP local guidebook?

In one mystery-heavy campaign the players each kept a special record sheet recording the (many) small specialty knowledge skills they’d picked up – and had a good deal of fun looking for ways to use them.

Still, that’s a rather thin – if entertaining – patch.

So there’s our problem; in baseline d20 “training” takes immense amounts of boring downtime and accomplishes very little, while “adventuring” is exciting, not at all risky to the player, and provides enormous benefits very quickly indeed. Under the d20 rules no reasonable school can compete with adventuring.

So how about a school that’s not so reasonable?

Courland Castle RiftWard and School of Magic

As of last week it was two hundred and thirty-seven years ago. The rifts were small at first, and the incursions minor – but there was death and terror. There were things that no weapon known to man would touch, which moved through the earth to drag men down into the depths, or which stalked unseen. For three years horrors from beyond occasionally erupted across the world.

And then, in Mitau (now Jelgava), Latvia, near the Mitau Rift, a swarm of spectral horrors, haunters of the dark, attacked – pouring through cracks and into houses, stripping flesh from bone even as the victims tried to hide or flee. For a few moments there were screams, and panic, and the knowledge that death had come for a hundred families.

But the sun came to Earth. Inese Balodis, aged eleven – now known as Burve Sargs, First Earthwarden, Mistress of the Astral Fire, and the Founder of the Courland Castle RiftWard (among other titles) – spontaneously tapped into the power of the rift in defense of her mother and siblings.

And an astral firestorm passed through wood, and brick, and people, and beasts, alike, doing no harm to them at all – but burning the horrors of the swarm to less than ashes.

Even today, no one really knows why – but a few, talented, children who spend time near a rift will develop the ability to tap into it’s cascade of primal magical energies – allowing them to fight against the horrors on near-equal terms and to command an immense variety of spells and powers. Even more importantly… the presence of large groups of such children moderates the flow of magic out into the world, reducing random daily disasters to occasional difficulties – although this effect wanes as they age.

Children with that potential have little real choice; they WILL be sent to one of the RiftWards, and there they WILL develop their gifts (whether for actual spellcasting or for personalized magical enhancements) as Earthwardens – or they will die. The schools are excellent, the facilities are lavish, all “expenses” are paid, what personal equipment (or at least what can be mass-produced in factories) has proven helpful is made available, and both personal power and influential and well-paid positions await the (few) surviving graduates – but the RiftWard “Schools” are still filled with wild magic and subject to regular monstrous incursions. There are benefits – but the Earth’s leaders  are still deploying kids as their first line of defense, paying a grim price for humanities survival.

So; the school IS a place of endless adventure, graduates who move away from it will have a lot less power to work with, magical kids get to face horrors with little or no effective adult help, and the authorities will make sure that there are plenty of new kids starting classes to replace any casualties. Since rift incursions only occur when the game master feels like it, he or she can control the pace of level gain – making time for classical training and non-combat events – by simply making incursions more or less common. Are some of the kids acting up? “Detention” is likely on the front lines in the most dangerous areas. When their odds of living to grow up are poor anyway, what else is going to mean anything?

Variations abound of course. Castle Perilous (John DeChancie) scoops up people from 144,000 different universes (apparently at random), infuses them with various minor magical powers, and lets them interact with each other and with a constantly shifting array of realms. Every time the creatures inhabiting the vast multilayered dungeon beneath Castle Greyhawk started to come up to the surface the local lord hired groups of adventurers to keep them down, with the place serving as a sort of adventurer’s university (at least in one of the odder modules). Camp Half Blood? Miskatonic University? Sunnydale High? Between books and anime alone there are hundreds of variations.

The trouble with this is that the “school” part is now little more than flavor text and the training is still pretty much irrelevant. Instead of working out of a castle, or country estate, or the local tavern, these adventurers to work out of a dungeon that happens to have a dorm, a few classrooms, and (if anyone involved has any sense at all) a well-protected infirmary. That’s even more convenient than the town by the dungeon entrance in some ways, even if it DOES mean that the wandering monsters can camp right outside your bedroom door.

To do much more than that – and to make “training” really mean something – we’ll have to go a bit beyond baseline d20. Fortunately, Eclipse has a lot of ways to do that.

The Ancient Master, secret academy, mysterious scroll, or weird entity, who teaches powerful secret techniques is thoroughly traditional. The trouble here is that while d20 in general offers some support for secret techniques (via putting entrance requirements on prestige classes with special powers), this mechanic leads to exploits for poorly thought out abilities, level-dipping, planning out your build long in advance (and regardless of what happens in the campaign) to qualify for the items you want, and so on – and each prestige class which is available (even if no one ever takes it) brings a bunch of background material with it which must be fitted into the campaign (at least if you care about world background).

Eclipse and The Practical Enchanter cover this in several different ways.

Ancient Masters (and other expert teachers) can…

  • Act as Mentors, and so provide a boost to the students experience point total. Of course this usually calls for regularly going back for advanced training.
  • Teach Occult Skills that they happen to know without the usual surcharge. Once you have a skill, you don’t usually need to go back for more training to improve it – but the game master is free to say that that only applies to skills that are common in the setting, or might even be persuaded to allow a price break for such a limitation.
  • Teach Martial Arts Skills that allow the addition of Attribute Modifiers, as making up your own art does not.
  • Use Mystic Artist powers to bestow small amounts of Experience Points on students. This is slow and expensive – but does allow wealthy nobles, rulers, and benevolet traveling bards to give low-level types a boost.
  • Use Leadership to simply bestow levels on characters. Of course, this method makes adventuring pretty much irrelevant; only the leaders abilities and the number of levels which he or she wishes to invest in the characters matters. This may even require training as a limitation – and could thus account for child-heroes who would normally be considered too young for level one or for a variation on the Children’s Crusade setting. It also quite neatly explains why the focus is always on a small groups of students (they’re the only ones who are getting handed free levels) and why – if there are any permanent casualties or departures – it’s so easy to find a replacement; the Leaders simply invests those “lost” levels in another follower and they join the group. .
  • Use Blessing and Adept to make it easier for students to learn a particular set of skills – reducing them to half the usual cost. It would be wise to remember that any teacher with that talent will be very much in demand. They’re also a convenient way to shape the campaign; if you want a heavy martial-arts game, or lots of knowledge skills, or action skills, or some such… then reducing the cost of characters getting the appropriate skills is a good way to (more or less) subtly guide the players.
  • Use Blessing to loan out some of their skills to their students so as to meet more dangerous foes. This should, however, be a rare and special thing.
  • Provide Unique Training – although it is important to note that the points from unique training go to where the game master thinks that they should according to the nature of the teacher and the training, not to wherever the player has in mind.

Now most of those benefits (other than using leadership, which is usually for recruiting NPC’s to follow you) are rather limited since they’re set up to provide modest bennies for the characters, rather than to break the idea of levels. Still, using a few of those techniques can easily give a school enough attractions to keep the characters coming back and supporting it.

  • A Ward Major (the Practical Enchanter) can allow “residents” (however it defines them) to acquire some special abilities and boosts on a more or less permanent basis – and nothing says that tests, training, and study requirements can’t be applied to getting those powers.
  • A Heartstone (also from the Practical Enchanter) can hand out it’s abilities on whatever basis suits it once a character is attuned to it – and so makes a good basis for a school or guild. Using the powers of a Heartstone does require spending a feat though, so it won’t do most small children a lot of good.

The trouble here is that this – once again – using ANY of these techniques creates issues if you don’t make similar advantages available to every character. Wizardly types may be bigger on studying and “school” than anyone else, but they’re also among the character types least in need of another boost.

  • As an organization, a school can provide access to one or more Package Deals. If you want to go to the trouble (and to keep the characters involved with the school) it can even be a graduated package deal like the House of Roses uses. If a school is really important (again, like the House of Roses) and is run by someone with Dominion, their package deal can even be augmented by an Office as the students graduate and (presumably) move into faculty jobs themselves. It will, however, have to be either a pretty generic package which everyone can use or you’ll have to make up multiple packages and / or schools for each general type of character. That’s a lot of work for the game master though.
  • If you want the school to teach a lot of abilities and techniques independent of adventuring levels you’ll wand to go the “Mythic” (Mundane?) route – treating training, in-school story awards, and testing “challenges” as an independent, and not directly cumulative, source of power – essentially giving the characters a second experience point total for “school levels” at the cost of a +1 ECL adjustment. Anyone who opts to be unschooled (or simply is not paying attention in class) gets a free level on the other characters and gets to apply any story awards to his or her basic experience point pool – possibly picking up several more levels on his or her scholarly friends eventually. If you want to adjust the ratio of “school levels” to standard ones, you can either simply adjust the story and testing rewards to suit or have the two totals run on different experience point charts. In either case… “school” levels should spend most of their points on things that could reasonably be learned in a school.

As a final alternative, you can go way outside the usual boundaries of the d20 system, and dump experience points. Characters may pick up some pointers in the field, but they generally get better as they take more classes and develop their own particular talents. There’s no actual requirement to adventure at all in order to gain levels and power. On the other hand… students may be thrust into adventures, or need money and magical items, or be undertaking practical exams, or be having to deal with wealthy idiots who acquired power through intensive tutoring with no self-discipline and little control, or be doing favors for an instructor – in which case risking their necks is the price they pay for advanced training – which is how they GET power.

If you then limit characters to relatively low level, and possibly eliminate some more of the more over-the-top powers, you will wind up with something which many people would consider fairly “realistic” – but it won’t really resemble standard d20 very much at all.

And that’s really about it; while Eclipse offers ways to cram them into any given setting, schools beyond the grade-school level that get kids to level one really are not a natural fit with d20 worlds.

Eclipse d20 – Binding Mysterious Spirits VII, Ansitif, Eligor, Marchosias, and the Exemplars of Magic.

As usual, all of these Mysteries build on the powers of the basic Bokor Package – although that is cheap enough that it’s normally well worthwhile.

Ansitif (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Ansitif exists to destroy sacred things, and his channelers will always make sacred places, holy relics, and people linked with the upper planes their primary targets).

Ansitif or Ancitif was apparently a lesser demon who was involved in the possession of the Nuns of Louviers in the 1600’s – possessing Sister Barbara of St. Michael – and that’s about it. He was one name on a long list. From there he (probably he anyway; most medieval demons seem to be he’s) became a quick note in some of those medieval catalogs of demons which scholars of religion and the occult spend so much effort compiling. Those demonic catalogs became a source for a list of (completely undeveloped) demon lords in first edition AD&D. He later got fleshed out a bit in the Fiendish Codex and Dragon Magazine for third edition. In 3.5 he became a Vestige, bestowing some fairly generic demonic powers – which is about what you’d expect given that the grand total of actual source material on this one seems to be about three sentences long. And that’s terrible.

I think I’ll give him some more demonic powers. Why not?

Ansitif the Corruptor is a true spawn of the abyssal depths. He comes from nowhere, he exists only when summoned, and he creates misery with no reason or purpose beyond corruption for it’s own sake. With neither body nor motivation to call his own, he exists merely through his summoner-victims – who thus cannot escape taking full responsibility for choosing to fill their souls with dark power and work evil upon the world.

  • Speaks Infernal (1 CP).
  • Channeling (Abyssal Energies), 1 Use with +4 x (Cha Mod) Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (8 CP), Conversion, two sets of four level five spells, corrupted for increased effect (level seven effects) and Specialized for Reduced Cost (12 CP) / the user radiates evil, attracts holy opposition, will find any good divine abilities they may possess twisted into evil versions, his or her alignment will become evil, he or she can be affected by spells that target evil outsiders, if he or she dies while channeling Ansitif once (if) resurrected he or she will never be able to stop doing so, the user can only produce the same spell effect once every five rounds and may only use two spell effects per three rounds, and whenever Ansitif’s power is employed small evils will grow nearby as dark thoughts gain prominence, cursed items become more easily found, and the lower planes whisper temptations to the vulnerable. The available spells are Blasphemy, Bestow Greater Curse, Dread Litany (as per Prayer, but the bonus and penalties are +4 and -4 respectively), Destruction, Energy Immunity (Fire, Acid, and Cold only), Infernal Transformation, Infernal Vigor, and Planeshift (only to and from the lower planes, with Medium Range). Save DC’s are (17 + Cha Mod).

Infernal Vigor (Transmutation, Cleric 7, Casting Time 1 Standard Action, Components V, S, DF, Range Close, Targetes 1 creature/level, no two more than 30 feet apart, duration one round per level, Fortitude Negates, Spell Resistance Yes.

Your targets are filled with an unholy vigor. For the duration of this spell, each affected target can choose one of the following bonuses for that round at the beginning of its turn (their choice): 1) +60′ Speed. 2) May stand up if prone and/or take a bonus move action without provoking attacks of opportunity. 3) Make an extra attack, on or off initiative, at it’s full BAB. 4) Gain a +4 (dodge) bonus to Attacks, AC, and Reflex Saves. 5) Cast a single spell of level four or lower as if it has +1 level of any desired metamagic on it. Targets may not use both one of these bonuses and any ability derived from the powers of the upper planes in any one round; they must choose to use one or the other. (Yes, this is a basically a metamagiced version of Pathfinder’s Blessing of Fervor).

  • Improved Spell/Power Resistance, Specialized for Reduced Cost/only against Divine Magic (6 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Corrupted/only while performing evil acts (8 CP).

Ansitif is a spirit of the void, a dark mirror to the finer qualities of creation. When someone looks too long into the abyss… it is Ansitif who looks back. His powers are little more than raw malice given form, including the ability to set an infernal flame burning within mortal flesh to provide it with demonic (and subtly addictive) vigor. His summoners are granted power in exchange for becoming a gateway through which evil seeps into the world. But all too many are willing to make that bargain, falling to the temptation of using the dreadful spells and powers he offers.

On the practical level, Ansitif offers a good selection of offensive powers. Blasphemy is selective and very nice against appropriate enemies, Bestow Greater Curse is a Will Save-or-Suck, Dread Litany is a nice no-save area-effect buff/debuff combination, Destruction is a Fort Save or Die (with decent consolation damage on a save), and Planeshift (with range!) is an effective Will Save-or-Lose. That’s not a bad selection of options even without throwing in a few other buffs as lagniappe.

Eligor (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Compulsively Honorable. Those channeling Eligor will find themselves accepting challenges, fighting honorably, protecting children, and keeping their word – if not necessarily being “good”).

Eligor is from the Ars Goetia, where he is said to “discover hidden things and know the future of wars and how soldiers should meet. He attracts the favor of lords, knights and other important persons. He is depicted as a knight carrying a lance, an ensign and a scepter”.

OK, so knight it is and mounted combat it shall be.

  • Warmage. All effects Specialized and Corrupted/they require gestures, incantations, and a spell component pouch to work, involve invoking Eligor, have ominous and disturbing special effects, cause the user to display obvious physical stigmata related to Eligor (these also reveal some their current powers to the knowledgeable), and provoke rather strong reactions in people. Bokor are generally regarded with great suspicion by Clerics and similar characters given that they call on strange and unreliable beings – some of them beyond the influence of the gods themselves.
    • Witchcraft/Wrath of the Sea at Double Effect. The user may spend 1 Power as a free action to gain a +12 bonus to Str for the next ten minutes (4 CP).
    • Witchcraft/Bones of Iron at Triple Effect (6 CP).
    • Witchcraft/Leaping Fire (2 CP).
  • The Inner Fire, Specialized for Increased Effect (Bonus “Slots” are converted into Power (2 Points/Level of the bonus slot, bonus slots converted to Power cannot be used for other purposes) and the user may select psionic abilities from the Psychic Warrior list) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (The user is restricted to effects of level three and below, the caster level and safe usage level limits (Casting Level = 1/2 User Level, Maximum level of spell usable safely = User Level/4, rounded down) of The Inner Fire continue to apply. These are normal manifestations, not supernatural powers (4 CP).
    • L1) Call Weaponry, Deaden Blow, Inspire Mount, Defensive Precognition, Vigor, and Inertial Armor.
    • L2) Concealing Amorpha, Body Equilibrium, Damp Power, Detect Hostile Intent, Incite Bravery, and Psionic Lions Charge.
    • L3) Breath Barrier, Dimension Slide, Ectoplasmic Form, Evade Burst, Greater Concealing Amorpha, Hooves (Claws) of the Vampire
      • Using Charisma-Based Bonus Spell Slots… Charisma 12+ = +2 Power, 14+ = +6 Power, 16+ = +12 Power, 18+ = +20 Power, 20+ = +32 Power, 22+ = +48 Power, and so on.
  • Doubled Damage when Charging, Specialized/only while mounted (3 CP).
  • Split Movement (Attacking), Specialized/only while mounted (3 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +6 Bonus Uses, Specialized/only for Power (7 CP).
  • Steed of Eligor / Birth of Flames (6 CP):

Steed of Eligor: Large Psychic Construct. 10d10+30 HP (85 HP), Initiative +1, Speed 40 (50 as a Quadruped, 70 Flying), AC 10 + 15 Natural +3 Martial Art +1 Dex -1 Size = 28, Attacks +21/+21/+21/+21 for 1d12+12 with Crit 20/x2 and 10′ Reach, Fort +3, Ref +4, Wil +3, Str 33, Dex 13, Cha 10, Wis 11. Darkvision 60′, Construct Type and Traits. May be manifested, or returned to mental “storage”, for 1 Power.

Construct Options:

  • Sentient: Int 10, 40 SP (Perception +10, Acrobatics +23, Equine Martial Style +21 (+4 to Attack, Defenses +3 to AC, Damage 1d12, Combat Reflexes, Mobility, Improved Bull Rush), and Fly +10]. Three Feats: Air Heritage (+30 Flight Speed, +2 to Acrobatics), Mystic Link with the Identity Link Upgrade (Rider and Mount are both affected by relevant powers and magic), and Fortune (Reflex Variant).
  • Extra Attack. This provides two extra attacks for more powerful constructs. These have already been included above.
  • Fast Healing II. Note that this continues even when the Steed is not manifest, so it will almost always be fresh.
  • Bonded: May be mentally commanded / communicated with as a free action.
  • Fly x 2 (40 feet, 70 total, Average Maneuverability).

The steed is a pretty good mount, even at rather high levels.

This version of Eligor makes you an aerial knight, Yes, you’ll want some weapon proficiencies, some existing Power, and a few moments to get ready – but Eligor can provide you with some major boosts to strength and armor class, a fast flying mount that can rip it’s way through mooks and heal you at the same time, and an immense range of other enhancements. As might be expected for a seventh level Mystery, Eligor is a very, very, good basis for a mounted warrior-gish.

Marchosias (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Compulsive. Marchosias is a horrible liar (suffering a -3 penalty on bluff checks) and always tries to follow through when he announces his intentions. If his channeler says that he or she is going to kick in the door and duel the evil emperor, than that’s what he or she is going to do).

According to the Ars Goetia, Marchosias appears as a wolf with gryphon’s wings and a serpent for a tail, spewing fire from his mouth. He’s a powerful fighter, truthful, and loyal. He’s loosely associated with the moon, and – in some later sources – with shapeshifting and lycanthropy.

OK; what Wizards of the Coast did with him is hardly worth mentioning, so I think I’ll go with the classical version.

  • Augmented Bonus: Add (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) for Skill Points through L1, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/points may only be spent on a Hide, Move Silently, and Tumble (Acrobatics, Stealth, and Survival in Pathfinder) and must be distributed evenly between them (6 CP).
  • Witchcraft III. Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/each basic ability is limited to a fairly specific, simple effect (rather than allowing dozens), often with additional limitations (6 CP).
    • Death Strike: Infliction, Specialized for Triple Effect / only usable once every three rounds, can only be activated as a part of a successful melee attack.
    • Void Walker: Shadowweave, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / only usable to enhance your ability to hide. You may hide in plain sight and, when you hide, creatures who are scrying, or who have exotic senses such as blindsense, blindsight, scent, or tremorsense must make a Listen check or a Spot check to find you, just as sighted creatures need to. In addition, if they fail to locate you, you can flank creatures that have the all-around vision special quality.
    • Bladestorm/Hand of Shadows: You may spend 2 Power and a standard action to attempt one attack at your full BAB against everyone you desire either along a 60′ line, in a 40′ cone, or in a 15′ radius around yourself. Hits inflict normal damage for your base attack.
    • Touch of Doom/Witchfire: You may spend 2 Power and a standard action to imbue one weapon (or up to 50 projectiles) with “+2″ worth of weapon enhancements of choice for the next three minutes. This stacks with dissimilar abilities from other sources (albeit not with itself) and need not include an Enhancement Bonus – but weapons without enhancement bonuses do not count as “magic”.
  • Advanced Witchcraft/Flesh Like Mist, Specialized for Increased Effect/Dire Werewolf Form only (equivalent to Bite of the Weretiger). This costs 1 Power and a Standard Action to invoke, but lasts for one hour, plus one hour per additional power spent. The first time this power is used each day it provides the equivalent of one days healing. Corrupted for Reduced Cost/Standard Bokor limitations (4 CP).
  • Advanced Witchcraft/Flesh Like Mist II (Gaseous Form): Corrupted/this cannot be activated for at least five rounds after returning to solid form, the user’s presence is easily noted by the smell of burning sulfur and the dim red glow of sparks and embers the cloud emits. It otherwise functions normally (4 CP).
  • Burning Wrath: Presence, Specialized for Increased Effect/Use requires a swift action each round, user is surrounded by wisps of flame and is blatantly obvious (equivalent to being affected by Faerie Fire), user may accidently set unattended objects within his or her aura on fire. Any enemy within 15′ is subject to the effects of a Combust spell each round (6 CP). Note that this can be used while in Gaseous Form.
  • +2d6 Mana as +6d6 (21) Power, Specialized and Corrupted/only to power the Witchcraft abilities listed above (4 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +7 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only for Power, only to rebuild the power pool for the Witchcraft abilities listed above (5 CP).

Marchosias is pretty straightforward; he wolfs out, he sets enemies who get too close to him on fire, and he hits anyone who is tough enough to handle being set on fire for a lot more damage. If there’s a problem getting to his targets he can try to sneak up on them – but that’s about it. Still, if you want to stomp in and hit things, or are expecting crowds of mooks to be set on fire, you could do a great deal worse than Marchosias.

Bonus Mysteries: The Exemplars of Magic (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Varies with the individual Exemplar).

The Exemplars of Magic are the spirits of various types and schools of magic or psionics – and all of them basically follow the same design

  • Sixteen levels of the Wilder psionic progression, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / no bonus power for high attributes, all powers or spells must drawn be from an extremely narrow theme (this doesn’t actually mean much to a Mystery, but it is worth noting for those who want to build this sort of thing into other characters), the power or spell levels provided may only be used for the exemplars spells or disciplines, spells or disciplines may not be modified by other abilities, powers, or metamagical/metapsionic feats (although they may have built-in metamagic as usual), the user will be convinced that the powers of the Exemplar(s) that he or she channels represent the greatest of all magics and can be used to meet almost any eventuality (the GM may require will checks to avoid using or relying on the exemplars powers even when they’re not appropriate), opposing Exemplars may spontaneously empower opponents just to demonstrate that they’re “better”, the user is compelled to research and teach the type of magic that the Exemplar embodies when the opportunity becomes available, and the user becomes extremely competitive with those using other magics (32 CP).
  • An Exemplar also provides a +2 bonus on Knowledge/Arcana (2 CP) with a +3 Specialty in whatever kind of magic it represents (1 CP).
    • An Exemplar provides 221 Power or 123 Spell Levels with which to Manifest or Cast a set of nine psionic abilities or spells – generally one each of levels 1-8 and one extra of one of those levels, although you can drop a higher level one to get another one of a lower level. Thus Ikon drops his L5 effect to get an extra L4 effect.

Sample Exemplars:

  • Ikon of Unreality: L1) Color Spray, Disguise Self, L2) Invisibility, L3) Major Image, L4) Phantasmal Killer, Greater Mirror Image, L6) Project Image, L7) Greater Shadow Conjuration, L8) Greater Shadow Evocation. Anyone channeling Ikon suffers a -4 penalty on saves against illusion magic
  • Kalcine Firelord: L1) Burning Hands, L2) Combust, Pyrotechnics, L3) Fireball, L4) Wall of Fire, L5) Greater Fireburst, L6) Dispel Flame (Quickened Greater Dispelling, but only works against Fire effects), L7) Empowered Firebrand, L8) Empowered Quickened Scorching Ray. Kalcine absolutely HATES creatures that are immune to fire (and will insist on throwing at least three fire spells at them “just to be sure”) and sometimes causes his channelers to refer to themselves as “Tim”.
  • Raphim the Warder: L1) Resist Energy, L2) Wings of Cover, L3) Magic Circle Against Evil, L4) Greater Earthward, L5) Greater Blink, L6) Globe of Invulnerability, L7) Greater Ruin Delver’s Fortune (Double Effect), Quickened Greater Dispel Magic, L8) Quickened Wall of Force. Those channeling Raphim will insist that all plans have escape options built in and that they are, if at all possible, near a possible exit before confronting anyone.

Greater Earthward: L4, activates once per round on it’s own, on or off action, blocking 40 points of damage from any one attack as well as any special effects – poison, energy drain, or whatever – that it might have).

The Exemplars are optimized raw power – more magic than is even faintly reasonable for a Mystery to grant. The only thing that makes them even remotely playable is that they can easily create nearly as many problems as they solve. Even so, a game master should consider carefully before allowing them into a game. While their power isn’t unlimited, it isn’t going to run out soon – especially if the channeler is strong-willed enough to do anything but use it as much as possible. A character channeling four Exemplars will know as many spells as a 20’th level Sorcerer, have at least 80% more spell levels to cast them with (with no slot level limitations), and will be able to tweak his or her spell selection each day – even if that selection is subject to four reasonably tight themes. And they could trade some out for just the Theme they need and a partial resupply on those spell levels.

Honestly, if I hadn’t liked the notion of giving someone the ability to play comic-book wizard by throwing up a protective spell each round as well as doing something offensive, I probably would have just skipped this notion. It’s really that broken. Oh well. At least I’m telling you that in advance. This is definitely a Tier-1 option – and even so it’s probably less broken than Zercyll.

Eclipse d20 – Conversion, Dominion, and Path of the Dragon

And for today, another question…

I’m still confused as to how Dominion is supposed to be incredibly powerful. The ability to blast someone on a yearly basis with a level 12 effect and the possibility of unlimited power without any control (as in, a plot coupon at best) seems sorta underpowered compared to blasting people with up to 18th level spells Cha Mod +4 times per day (Channeling) or casting Miracle at-will, possibly with Amplify-Metamagic to allow the duplication of up to level 12 cleric and level 10 (everything else) spells (Path of the Dragon; Though even if the Amplify Metamagic doesn’t work (as the wording specifies the effect inflicted as opposed to the spells effect), you can buy Mighty Hysteria and power it with Blood of the Dragon).

Channeling, with a set of Wish, Miracle, Greater Invocation (“enter theme here”) and Summon Personification (according to the theme) does a better job more reliably (you can at least talk to the personification as opposed to not having any input at all or even the opposite effect, can cast higher level spells of your theme and never fall below a level seven effect).

The only other thing I can think about would be the abilities that unlock with Godfire (as in, Channeling of up to a level 9 base) or the fact that it can slightly exceed the limits of Wish.

-Krakothunder

Incredibly powerful? Well, like most abilities, Dominion has it’s good and bad features.

  • Small-scale Dominion can be convenient. The ability to spontaneously toss in three levels of any desired metamagic(s) lets you pull all kinds of tricks, it provides effective immunity to attribute losses (but not gains) due to age, and it lets you cast spells across massive areas. Still, you can’t do that very often.
  • Of course on the social scale… it lets you hand out minor power packages on a permanent basis, it can be used to grant four positive levels to up to 10,000 people at a time for lengthy periods (sufficient to accomplish almost anything if you use Action Hero/Stunts or specifically tailored abilities), and it lets you manipulate events across entire empires regardless of their size.

That really isn’t bad for the first 6 CP ability in a chain.

There are a few other high-powered abilities in there – for example, Spirit Channeling will let you tap into heartstones, wards major, nature gods, land spirits, and magical power nexi throughout your domain, although how useful that is depends on how much background your game master is willing to admit to. Quite a few of them are, however, things which will affect the setting – possibly long after your characters departure from it. If your game master will let you get away with it, you can use a limited version of Divine Attribute to retain control while picking up some near-absolute ability, define your own divine realm filled with whatever resources you wish, and so on.

Conversion can do some very impressive things – but can only power divine spell effects that are “appropriate to the energy type”. As usual in Eclipse, that is not flavor text. It’s a rule. So looking at the various sourcebooks…

  • Positive Energy is associated with Vitality (Boosting Hit Points, Healing, Raising the Dead, Life Extension, possibly including positive emotional effects if the GM is feeling generous) and Raw Energy (Light, Most Evocations, including force-constructs. Possibly including Astral Constructs if the game master is feeling generous. Includes most Metamagic Addition effects under “pouring more raw energy into the spell” and for back-compatibility with Divine Metamagic). Secondarily it seems to have minor associations with the Higher Planes (covering relatively minor summons and limited contact effects, simple blessings, and purifications/sacred light – but nothing of very high level that doesn’t overlap into raw-energy blasting).
  • Negative Energy is associated with Darkness (Darkness and Shadows, Necromancy, Corruption and Curses, and, if the GM is feeling generous – negative emotional effects) and Destruction (Disintegration, Cause Wounds / Harm, and Negation/Dispelling). Secondarily it seems to have minor associations the lower planes (covering relatively minor summons and limited contact effects, simple curses, and making things toxic or infections).
  • Some worlds offer other sources of power that can be channeled. As those were world laws specific to individual settings, they don’t get much support in Eclipse itself, although there’s some on the blog here.

So we can look at some examples:

For Positive Energy we have:

  • The Centurion Archetype uses positive energy conversion to infuse followers with heroism, resistance to injury, fleetness of foot, and to remove paralysis – all basic Vitality-boosting effects.
  • Georgina De’Flower uses positive energy conversion to power Cure Moderate Wounds, Lesser Restoration, Remove Paralysis, and Sutra (a half-strength Prayer effect). That’s three for Vitality and one minor blessing.
  • Li Kao can convert positive energy into Cure Serious Wounds, Remove Curse, Lesser Restoration, and Cure Blindness/Deafness – that’s Vitality, Purification, Vitality, and Vitality.
  • Malachai converts positive energy into Blade Barrier, Channel Coure, Globe of Invulnerability, and Heal. That’s Force Construct, Minor Higher-Plane Summons, Force Construct (a bit debatable, but hardly the most abusive thing in Uncle’s build), and Vitality. Of course, Malachai is already a sentient item follower for a hyper-optimized character.
  • Matthew uses Channeling to Channel a minor Archon, to heal, to funnel extra power into other spells, and to revive the newly dead – pushing the limits a bit on summoning from the higher planes, using a bit of “add metamagic”, and using Vitality effects. He later learned some other tricks, but the theme remained.
  • Pathfinder Paladins channel positive energy to Heal, Disrupt Undead, Sanctify Weapons, and summon a celestial mount from the higher planes. That’s Vitality, Vitality/Purification, a minor Blessing, and a minor upper-plane Summoning.
  • The Silmaril of the Water allows the creation of a wide variety of Holy Light based effects – that’s Energy/Light/Purification.
  • Timothy Keldin can produce solar effects, scorching rays, cure moderate wounds, and pyrotechnics. That’s Energy/Light, Energy, Vitality, and a minor stretch of Raw Energy (use up all the fuel right away. It’s also not technically a divine spell, but it seems reasonable enough for druidic types).

For Negative Energy we have:

  • Anek Borez uses negative energy channeling to animate the dead, create a Harm effect, and unhallow areas. That’s necromancy, destruction, and corruption.
  • Darius Metaxis uses negative energy to power Greater Magic Weapon, Dispel Magic, Bestow Curse, and Vampiric Touch. Greater Magic Weapon, of course, is adding destructive power to a weapon, Dispel Magic is a Negation effect, Bestow Curse is a basic curse, and Vampiric Touch is simple necromancy.
  • Darklings are probably channeling power from the plane or shadow, but their ability to create shadow magic effects would work with plain negative energy since Shadow Magic is just a subset of darkness and deception powers.
  • Howl-of-Death channels negative energy to draw on the powers of the dead – pure necromancy. Given that all of her effects are non-standard, if you want to look at them you’ll need to follow the link.
  • Kevin channels negative energy into making demonic pacts. He has the most versatile set of effects on this list – mostly because he’s a god (of negative energy in particular), and a full-blown reality editor, and the Federation-Apocalypse setting not only takes all the limits off of almost everything but because it lumps negative emotional energy, the survival imperative, and quite a lot of other stuff in with “negative energy”.

I am the Darkness-that-Defends, the Light of the Abyss and the Angel of Nightfall. In the darkness is the rage of the oppressed, the wrath of the injured, and the vengeance of the bereaved. It is the drive for survival and dominion. I will not permit the fall of the Core worlds or for the race to fail it’s destiny – no matter what that requires.

  • Secondarily, as discussed HERE, his various powers are mostly effectively only special effects. In his identity as Melkor in middle-earth he gets away with even more because he is one of the local creator gods and his power has infused the entire world. There he can lay curses, call upon the dark power in the world to make it’s elements obey his will, change his shape, and change creatures into monsters by amplifying the dark power he’s infused them with. He’s even more versatile than Kevin is at his base, but – as an identity – Melkor’s powers only work within the limits of the world that he helped shape and which is saturated with his power.
  • Sauron – as a Federation-Apocalypse identify of Marty’s – can channel negative energy to further corrupt the world with deception, necromancy, and dark fires. Of course, he’s another near-deity, federation-apocalypse character who is operating in a world that’s thoroughly saturated with his “master’s” power.

For alternative power sources we have:

  • Amilko comes from Thera, where there are sixteen different power sources for Channeling available to mortals (and two more available only to the Celestial Host and the Spawn of Apophis respectively). Amiko channels the power of raw chaos – basically a way to convert a non-Eclipse power base specific to Thera into Eclipse.
  • The Chimeric Master uses Dream powers. That’s actually pretty straightforward.
  • The Drow Racial Template uses Channeling to represent racial abilities to draw on a particular god – in this case Lloth. It’s generalized to allow gray elves with special talents, but (once again) this implies drawing on various power sources other than positive and negative energy.
  • Elemental Infusion Template users channel power from the Elemental Planes to produce a limited subset of (not surprisingly) elemental effects.
  • The Fair Folk Templates use Channeling to produce some classical fey effects. This actually stretches the rules quite a bit – but that’s why the note that they only use it to power their natural magics. You could consider that a Corruption to increase the variety of effects that can be produced (or that they’re really drawing on Light and Dark fey magic), but I just took it that truly classic fey only exist in very specific worlds, where simple positive and negative energy carry a good many more complications.
  • Janni channel Elemental Energy to produce a variety of elemental effects, as might be expected of creatures that are living links to the elemental planes.
  • Raven is drawing on the primal wild magic of creation – a power source beyond the gods and roughly equivalent to the Big Bang – and even so, all he can do with it is command Earth, Fire, Air, and Water within rather strict limits.
  • Spirit Binders draw on the spirit plane to produce the effects of Banishment, Spirit Mastery, Spirit Summoning, and True Seeing – all classical shamanic powers drawing on spirit magic.
  • Terin Aderath is using Channeling to represent Ritual Magic – a fine example of using a given mechanic to represent something else entirely. In this case, as a world-hopping character for the Federation-Apocalypse game, no one wanted to have to worry about how rituals would function or vary in each new world, or to bother with component-hunts, or anything like that – and so a fixed mechanic was used instead. That’s also why he can only perform one ritual a day and why no one cared whether he was channeling positive or negative energy to begin with.
  • Thunder Dwarves come from the Twilight Isles, where the energies of the Eight Thunders (Air, Fire, Earth, Water, Spirit, Life, Death, or Magic) are an integral part of the world around them and their own flesh – and can channel power from whatever Thunder they were born most attuned to into appropriate “elemental” effects, bind such effects into talismans for later use, and a bit of Elemental Channeling.

Now the trouble with attempting to use Conversion to duplicate Wish is that Wish is not a divine spell and is extremely multipurpose – and so is not “appropriate to the energy type” for either positive or negative energy. Miracle has the same problem of not being related to a particular energy type. Similarly, “Summon Personification” generally isn’t related to either positive or negative energy. A Greater Invocation might be “appropriate” (depending on theme), but getting to high level effects that way will require either godhood, epic levels, or applying Specialization and possibly Corruption to increase the level of effect available – and Corruption and Specialization always restrict the use of the power they’re applied to. The softest option is to restrict the applications of a flexible or otherwise broadly-applicable power – but if you choose other methods there will be plenty of times when you won’t be able to use your power.

The Path of the Dragon does allow spellcasting in two different ways – Ride the Dragon / Wings of the Dragon (providing a small set of spells you can channel available magic into casting) and Shaping (offering access to almost any spell, but rapidly becoming very expensive). Either can be Specialized and Corrupted to increase the effect of course, but it’s a bit tricky with Ride the Dragon and Wings of the Dragon since they only provide a few prechosen spells – so all of the ways of “limiting your choices” are meaningless; restrictions like “only fire spells” mean nothing – and so do nothing – when you were only taking fire spells and can freely take the ability again to get the non-fire spells you want. If a Specialization or Corruption does not meaningfully restrict you, it doesn’t do anything. So you can’t really achieve Wish-at-Will or Miracle-at-Will – or even Limited-Wish-at-Will – without some meaningful restrictions.

Using Shaping gets expensive. Reaching a base of level four effects costs (12 + 24 + 48 + 96) = 160 CP, before considering the costs for getting basic Shaping (6 CP), Pulse of the Dragon (42 CP), and whatever method you choose / your game master allows for keeping that power under control. Thus Kevin, who used Specialization and Corruption to triple his abilities, spent 84 CP to be able to shape Abjuration, Evocation, and Transmutation effects of up to level six – at least until (if the GM applied all the restrictions) his daily limit on spell levels (4 x Constitution) ran out. That was pretty good – but at that point he was ECL 12 and that was one of his major power sets.

Secondarily, Hysteria can only be powered with Mana or Power – not spell levels. Blood of the Dragon only provides spell levels, and only allows them to be spent on Dragonfire, Breath of the Dragon, and Shaping effects – and the only Shaping effects in the Path of the Dragon are the basic Shaping ability, Heart of the Dragon, and extending the range of Mindspeech.

Of course, every GM will probably do things a little differently, so they may allow variations, or not apply some of the restrictions, or otherwise modify things (and optimized character writeups tend to push the rules beyond all playability since most of them were never really intended to be playable anyway) – but that’s always been a game master’s privilege. So long as they and the players are having fun, they’re doing it right.