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.


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.

3 Responses

  1. The “Blood powered Hysteria” was one of the instances where I got two sentences mixed up: Powering Amplify via Blood of the Dragon (or rather, providing more spell levels to allow the use of metamagic) OR using hysteria was the idea.

    To be honest, I always believed that “you may select a group of four spells related to a specific theme” superseded the requirement for the spell to be a purely energy-based spell (which makes me wonder: The examples list multiple abilities from different trees, like Anek having three different “sub-effects”. Wouldn’t that be illegal then?). This might mean that I’ll have to rewrite some of the spells my Necromind uses, since Divination isn’t part of the negative energy list (surprisingly even when it concernes a spell that has you literally eat a dead persons brain for information). Well, unto refluffing inherent spell then.

    That does explain Raven and the Elemental-Infused template too, though I could have believed they were considered “Creation” effects and thus fit with the aspect of positive energy, standing for Creation, Life and Birth as opposed to negative energy’s Destruction (or unmaking), Undeath and Death.

    On that note… Miracle IS an evocation effect (and one that does nothing but channel Raw Energy into an appropriate effect), a whole lot of Wish’s effects relate to creating or strenghtening something (and could be explained by noting down “Raw Energy”) and “Summon Personification” seems like a rather flat out creation (unless there already was a personified version of the concept out there, in which case it would be calling).

    Path of the Dragon is more expensive than I thought. I guess that you could buy the basics and then continue on by making it an Incarnum.based build (“Draconic” seems like an appropriate theme, at least if you look at the vast amounts of WotC material on that topic), but it’d still hurt a lot more than expected.

    Is that more of a restriction than “only a few times per month/year” though? I’m not 100% sure on that one. Spirit Channeling is really powerful, more so than I thought, as a matter of fact. I actually thought about making a part II on the whole “infinte power”-topic I touched with the Infinite CP-post, but with that ability… Well, it’s clearly no exploit if it’s intended I guess O_o

  2. An interesting question came up with regards to channeling. Insofar as channeling that’s based on positive or negative energy goes, to what extent could a death ward (or life ward, for positive energy) simply shut down channeling altogether?

    Obviously that would only work on things that directly affected another creature, rather than the channeler themselves or an allied creature, etc., but it brings up an interesting question, particularly insofar as something is actually a “negative energy effect” versus being powered by negative energy (e.g. a conversion effect to a spell that’s not explicitly negative-energy based).

    Given that a 4th-level spell effect can so totally shut down channeling, and potentially most uses of channeling, there was also a question of coming up with a similar 4th-level effect even for channeling that’s based around alternate power sources (particularly when trying to manifest such a 4th-level effect spontaneously, such as via limited wish).

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