Underlying the Rules Part II: Adjusting The Spotlight

And to continue this series from Part One

Commandment The Second: Playing Time Is A Very Limited Resource: Thou Shalt Neither Waste It Nor Demand An Unfair Share Of It.

Now if one player is a particularly entertaining fellow, or if someone is confronting their nemesis in a dramatic battle or something extra time may be quite justified – but such situations tend to be strictly temporary; the spotlight will move to someone else soon enough.

Similarly, most groups have no problem with the occasional digression – although tolerance varies.

There are a lot of ways of not doing this though.

One superhero player (in the same game as the killer werewolf actually) specialized in making weak to useless characters who then needed to be babysat, or rescued, or have the game master tailor situations to give them something to do, or have other players invest a lot of time and effort in finding ways for them to be useful. When the other players found routine strategies to make one of his characters useful… he would either make a more useless one or refuse to advance the character so that they became progressively more useless as everyone else gradually improved. Either way, he still expected the party to haul his characters around because “he was a player character!”. It was a negative way of being the focus of attention.

Oddly enough, his characters kept suffering weird accidents that gave them useful powers that they couldn’t turn off or refuse to use until the player gave up on the tactic.

The opposite approach – designing hyper-optimized characters that outshine every other player character or who don’t need the party at all because they can do everything better anyway – is a lot more popular. A lot of players who think of the games as something like chess or monopoly (instead of as being social events for the antisocial) even convince themselves that this sort of thing is a way of showing off their system mastery and is thus “winning”. It’s actually losing of course; you’re busy alienating yourself from the social group rather than enjoying the gathering – but that can be hard to get across to someone who’s embraced this style pf play. After all, the idea of “winning” a social role-playing game makes about as much sense as “winning” watching a movie with some friends – and they’ve already swallowed that notion. In fact, such players often become extremely defensive when others simply, and correctly, consider such behavior as “being an a***ole who’s missing the point”.

That’s not to say that you can’t or shouldn’t build underpowered or hyperoptimized characters. The trick is not being an attention hog.

Thus Kevin, the (literal) god of pet-spamming, is quite capable of deploying a hundred million high-powered minions and basically limitless resources in pursuit of his goals. What he actually DOES is deploy minions to gather information for the party to act on (allowing game master exposition), have them guard the camp and paths of retreat (benefiting everyone else equally – and offstage), assist his allies (giving his friends their own minions), handle enemy minion-swarms so that the struggle can be between the heroes and the major villains, and so on – keeping them and the vast power they represent entirely out of the way of the players getting to do the important bits. Soon the vast majority of his minions were off on social-service assignments designed to both vaguely do good in the background and to feed his addiction to recruiting minions.

When the game focused on the minions it was change-of-pace time (most often when the main characters couldn’t proceed because players couldn’t make it that week) and everyone took a minion of two to play.

Orin Markala was designed to provide all the support services that a company of mercenaries or an adventuring party could ever need, and was optimized to the point of absurdity. At level five he had AC 30, 78 HP, +6 Initiative, two spell-storing spirit fetch companions, extra actions for throwing up defenses, could spontaneously invent and cast spells of up to fifth level in fifteen different (if relatively narrow) spheres, could absorb and negate incoming spells, create relics, cast spells as a fifth level cleric, had Witchcraft, was a ritualist, had an extra fund of spells to cast as Hearthcrafting magic (providing supplies, clean clothing, and comfortable campsites), and could cross dimensions. His companions could store a total of 196 levels of spells for him and release them on their own, effectively letting him cast four spells per round. He could maintain communication, transportation, and spell-sharing links with a dozen other characters at a time at transdimensional range (so even death could not stop him from providing support) and each person so linked got a choice of four boosts (including +2 enhancement to a chosen attribute, save bonuses, extra hit points, mage armor, shield, +2 to all skills, movement bonuses, or +1 to BAB) – as well as everyone linked receiving the benefits of a personal set of charms and talismans and any protective, healing, or boosting spells that he actually cast.

And yes indeed, that’s pretty ridiculous.

Yet Orin was played in several games and never provoked any complaints from any other players save for a Priestess of Asmodeus (who got upset because he kept telling the kids she was trying to recruit about the drawbacks of worshiping archdevils), a seductive changeling character (who said that he was no fun since all she could get from him was morality lectures and cautionary tales), and a Mystic who insisted that saying that she either had to go with the group when it teleported a few hundred miles or find some other way to get there before she could join up with them again was an infringement on her right to play her character as she wished. (No one ever did make any sense out of that unless she just felt that – since it was fantasy – her “location” was wherever she wanted to be. No, her character had no such power).

The reason for that was straightforward; Orin provided protection from the stuff that the fighters and rangers who made up most of the party could not handle in the background and boosted and healed the entire party – but it was still up to the more conventional martial and stealthy types to decide on the party goals, make the plans, and do the actual fighting. He stepped forward to act as a missionary and spread his faith when a chance for that came up – but that was a role that no one else had any interest in save for the ones who felt like being converted.

The afore-mentioned Priestess of Asmodeus, however, proved to have a rather problematic player. She decided to use her own private version of Asmodeus (loosely based on a description from another third-party setting in another edition of the game), insisted that she represented him as a god of inviolable law and contracts while freely disregarding her own promises and contracts, argued with every plan that did not center on her, took restrictions and limitations on her characters abilities to get more power and then tried to ignore them, and insisted that any attempt to get her to pay attention to the game rules, the setting, or what any of the other players wanted to do was an infringement on her right to play her character. In essence, she attempted to force the game to focus entirely on herself and how enormously special she was while refusing to let anyone else do anything.

As it turned out, she did indeed have the right to play her character however she pleased – but no one else was under any obligation to play with her, and very soon they didn’t.

On the other end of things several players have had a lot of fun playing “familiars” (minor animal characters who attached themselves to particular “masters”) throughout several campaigns. Fred the Pseudo-Dragon, the Healing Turtle who only communicated through interprative dance, the Sarcastic Steed, and even Amilko the Squirrel were all played as characters with minor magical powers and rather ineffectual combat abilities who made their marks though cleverness, aiding other characters at critical moments, and not being major targets – at least until they were much higher level (both Fred and Amilko made it to epic levels – and tremendous power – eventually).

Basically they were weak characters who exploited the social impact of their unexpected intelligence and looked for critical moments to contribute effectively. They didn’t run into the “babysitting” problem because they weren’t big targets in the first place. They weren’t as useful as having another normal character around would be, but they didn’t want much treasure or bring in extra opposition either.

For that matter the blue whale werehuman was incredibly tough and an awesomely powerful mage in some specialized fields – but readily yielded the spotlight to the others when it came to almost any other topic since adventuring rarely involved swimming around and filter-feeding.

One player was simply obstructionist. She never provided any plans, but was always full of objections to whatever someone else proposed – and insisted that every one of her objections be answered to her satisfaction before her character would budge an inch. After a little bit, the rest of the players simply started saying “OK! we’re starting! Come if you want too!

That led to the player simply sitting and sulking for several weeks while being ignored – but she eventually gave up on that tactic too.

One previously-mentioned player made (or demanded that the game make for him) a second level elven necromancer for a Forgotten Realms game. He wanted to be outcast due to knowing necromancy, to have his first instinctive act of necromancy to be reanimating pets, leading very shortly to raising an army of fairly powerful undead to defend his village as a child, to have his undead be friendly helpful things that he did not need to control, to be accompanied by various undead pets, and to have enough personal special powers to call for an epic-level character.

After much persuasion, several experimental builds, and far more time than it was worth, he at last agreed to settle for a character that could actually be built. In actual play… he demanded that the game master tell him how to make his character relevant and effective, kept going on solo side trips and demanding that everyone else wait while the game focused on him until he got back, demanded simultaneous affection (for being a wonderful person) and fear (for being a necromancer) from both PC’s and NPC’s, demanded that his character be able to use powers and abilities that he did not have because they “fit his conception”, constantly interrupted any attempt to do something without him, refused to pay any attention to what anyone else was doing (often leading to him “discovering new information” that the rest of the party had found, evaluated, and gone past two or more sessions ago), and tended to try to simply narrate his actions without actually rolling or checking the actual situation – thus assuming that he always automatically succeeded. In essence, he felt that everyone else was there simply to support his one-man-show.

He didn’t really last all that long. It eventually got through to him that he was accomplishing nothing and was getting all the respect that accomplishing nothing earned him, and so he left to seek out another game to try and suck the life out of with his necromancer. He was a near-perfect / spectacularly bad example of the narcissistic type – but pretty much everyone is familiar with “it must all revolve around ME!” players. Don’t be one.

In general, not paying attention, telling long irrelevant stories, engaging in futile arguments, saying “my character wouldn’t do that!” without saying what you ARE doing, sulking, editorializing, or pointless planning and theorizing, (Chat is a great way around this one; you can write out your diatribe, plan, or theory while everyone else continues with the action), is best regarded with caution. A little is fine, and you might be good enough at it so that everyone else enjoys it, or you might have a group full of people who love to theorize and speculate or tell stories or whatever – but the tolerance is never infinite. And if you don’t pay attention to when you’re reaching – or exceeding – that tolerance… then you’re back to being a greedy, selfish, !@#$%^&*.

Underlying The Rules: The Social Contract

There was a request a little while back for an article on what I thought of the social dynamics that underlie gaming groups even before you get to considering any particular set of rules.

That’s an interesting question, although I’m not sure that I’m the best one to be directing it to, or – for that matter – exactly where this series is going to go or how long it will take to get there (if it ever does). It seems likely to meander a bit – which at least makes it a bit of a new challenge.

Is everybody ready then? I think the best place to start is what might be called the Primal Datum of RPG’s…

Gaming is a social activity, which people engage in for the purpose of having fun.

If you show up for a game you’ve implicitly agreed to that, even if you’re only there because somebody dragged you along. It’s just like being there to watch a football game or listen to a band; there are some unspoken social rules – unspoken because human beings generally know them instinctively.

(If you’re just there to harass and annoy people there’s no point in talking to you. You’re actually there to participate? Good!)

The three biggest social rules are the same for every group. They’re a part of the basic “being sociable” deal. In fact, they’re pretty much the same (albeit in simpler forms) for chimpanzees, dolphins, and most other social animals.

  • If what you are doing is inexpensively (whether the expense is financial, emotional, physical, or temporal) increasing everyone’s fun, keep doing it. If it costs too much… you’ll have to find another way to contribute.
  • If what you are doing is decreasing everyone’s fun, stop doing it unless it’s a dire necessity. You probably will automatically because you’re ruining your own evening too, but some people are very stubborn.
  • If what you are doing is increasing your own fun while seriously decreasing that of the other participants… then you are being a greedy, selfish, !@#$%^&* – and if you choose not to recognize that fact and do not change your behavior, then the group should throw you out on your ass.

These three rules are self-enforcing in most social groups. The Bridge Club, and the Monday Night Football Party Crowd, and the Rich Kids Clique won’t hesitate to stop inviting a disruptive individual to their gatherings. Gaming groups, however, commonly contain a high proportion of socially awkward introverts, who (having so few) are deeply reluctant to reject any social relationship and often make enormous allowances for obnoxious behavior. After all… they know that often annoy people without meaning to, and they’re not very good at telling if someone does mean to annoy them or if it’s inadvertent.

That means that some players will be allowed to get away with being greedy, selfish, !@#$%^&*’s for a very long time without being called on it. Long enough so that such individuals will often come to regard being allowed to get away with it as an entitlement – and will react to any suggestion that they’re misbehaving as if it was a horrible infringement on their “rights”. It can be very hard to tell though, given that most such individuals will deploy “indignantly blaming the wronged parties” as an automatic defense mechanism in any case. In any given case it might well be an act. (Don’t ask ME to sort that out for you. As a socially awkward introvert myself, how would I know?)

Still, after a bit… even socially awkward introverts will realize that they’re being taken advantage of, and soon after that they will come to resent it bitterly. They’ll resent it even more bitterly if they’re socially awkward enough to be unsure of how to do anything about it. In a gaming group such behavior is usually considered to be “cheating” (which is how gamers tend to describe “being obnoxious and unfair to everyone else”) – although this can confuse other socially awkward people who are looking at the rules of the game being played, rather than at the three social rules given above, and thus don’t see any “cheating”.

You want some more direct rules-of-thumb for avoiding messing up?

Commandment the First: Thou Shalt Create Personas That Can Fit Int The Player Group.

This doesn’t mean that you have to make a character who makes any sense as a part of the party, or has the same style, or anything else except for being able to work with the party. For examples…

A new player joined a fantasy-setting game. Against advice to wait until he knew what the party was like he made a half-ogre berserker barbarian who hated Elves, and detested puny mages, and equipped him with a magical halberd called “Elf-Slayer” that did extra damage to elves. He then announced that he was approaching the party on the road – and the player gave a rousing speech about how they should join him in his bloody crusade to strike down all Elves and their puny, effeminate, magic!

And then the new player looked at the bemused expressions of the six current players and asked “Uh… is anyone playing an elf?” And five hands went up, and the last player asked if half-elves counted. Because the current characters were two elven mages (a wizard and a powershaper), an elven priest, an elven swashbuckler who dabbled in magical swordsmanship, an elven illusionist, and a half-elven elementalist.

And there was a brief pause until the guy playing the wizard said “Charm Person!” and the half-ogres player did not bother to roll a save – but simply said “Except for youse guys! Youse guys are all right!”

And so the half-ogre joined the party (which needed the muscle), cheerily continuing his verbal crusade against elves along the way, and everyone had a good time. The notion that “Charm Person” could wear off or be dispelled (even if it was quite long-lasting in that edition) was never mentioned. Some NPC’s had some comments along the way, but no one had any trouble working with the half-ogre even if some of the characters professed to be relieved “because that charm spell could have worn off at any time!” when he got sucked through a gate into some terrible dimension about twenty sessions later and they couldn’t find a way to get him back. The player made a new character and found another reason to join the party.

And that worked. The other players provided an excuse and the half-ogre player made a quick concession to making the game work, and all was well.

The Shadowrun player who made a giant autobot character who insisted that magic did not exist and that everyone should obey the law and act like an idealized squeaky clean boy scout hero worked too. He proved willing to bend the law and work with dubious characters when it was blatantly obvious that the authorities were corrupt, was willing to accept the observed effects of magic even if he insisted that it was actually something else, and was perfectly willing to act as a diversion and as transportation when he was simply too big and too obvious to participate in the stealthy parts. Just as importantly, the player was willing to let me show him how to build the character he wanted as a starting character under the rules of the game, rather than demanding some sort of conversion. In fact, it worked well enough that another player used the same basic bag of design tricks to create “Thor, God of Thunder!” when the autobot player was no longer available a year or so (and fifty-odd sessions) later.

For high-fantasy Malavon one player made a BLATANTLY evil demonologist-necromancer and cheerily arrived to join the neutral-to-heroic party – offering to aid them in their quests if they would aid in his. He then directed his demon servant to just grab his daily sacrifice from a nearby village and made it utterly apparent that he was a horrible mass murderer, a torturer of children, utterly evil, and could in no way be reformed. The rest of the players quite accurately observed that – in the character’s eyes – there was no difference between player characters and non-player characters and promptly killed the “random monster”. The player then laughed, announced that “twelve minutes was two minutes longer than I thought he’d get!”, and got out the character that he actually expected to play. He didn’t expect his character to be able to join an incompatible party even if he WAS a player character – and that was good. He may have actively fought the party, and more or less created a throwaway character – but the player worked just fine with the other players even if it was in performing an elaborate suicide.

His new character was a fantasy ninja type, and was always voting for more stealth, and scouting, and less of the “charge in!” plans – but rather than fighting with the rest of the party he would generally just groan, announce “Oh not AGAIN!”, and vanish into the shadows to support whatever the rest of the group was up to now. And that was good too. He urged stealth, and took the lead on stealth missions – but he let the other characters do their own things too.

The naive blue whale werehuman, the more sensible paladins, the pragmatic evil robot assassin, and more, all fit in. They might have very strange goals (The blue whale had come up on land to see what was above the water – so all too soon he wanted to climb mountains to see what was above the land. The robot assassin wasn’t even truly sentient, had to be reprogrammed to accept the party, and rolled against it’s control program to see if he could come up with ideas or handle anything overly complicated) and equally weird ways of achieving them – but their players were willing to work with the other players to make the game work smoothly.

That’s pretty much ALWAYS possible. And it’s part of the “we’re all here to have fun” deal. It’s not a part of the game mechanics, it’s a part of the player group mechanics.

On the other hand I’ve seen plenty of bad examples too.

The werewolf kickboxer who – in a superhero game – had a backstory focusing on his massacring thirty-odd innocent people got the same second chance the half-ogre had years earlier (and with a completely different group). The (freeform magic system) superhero mage cast (unspecified) binding spells “as powerful as he could manage” on the character that were supposed to allow him to maintain control.

But the player liked massacres and saw them as being in-character for a werewolf, and promptly killed a lot more people. This was NOT compatible with an idealistic superhero group. In lieu of sensibly killing him or turning him in (probably to reappear all too soon as a villain) the group made allowances for his player-character status and resorted to binding spells that actually had game effects rather than just being an excuse for playing a little differently.

The player promptly abandoned the werewolf (who became an NPC and got put to work as a “rescue dog” – clearing normal people out-of-the-way of the superhero battles to help make up for the people he’d killed) and made another character since he didn’t like the idea of playing a werewolf with restraints (whether self- or externally- imposed) oh his behavior – and insisted on continuing to play murderous anti-heroes. The rest of the players, quite rationally, continued to play superheroes, stuck to their superheroic guns, and continued to capture the crazed antiheroes and send them to jail. Eventually he gave up and made a sane character. Now, if he’d been willing to make his ruthless anti-heroism more of a roleplaying item… he could have done just fine complaining about how weak everyone else was. It’s possible after all. Marvel Comics teamed up the Power Kids with The Punisher, Wolverine, and Cloak and Dagger. In fact, they teamed up Katie Power – a very nice five-year-old girl – with Wolverine repeatedly, and made it work. The player, however, wasn’t willing to try.

Then there was the saga of the bear shapeshifters.

The player wanted a character who could turn into a bear, so he made a shapeshifter character (who could turn into any animal but preferred bears). He joined the fourth level party, and the party decided to run off some bandits who’d been blocking the route they wanted to take. The bandits turned out to camp in a shallow cave beneath an overhanging cliff – so the shapeshifter decided that his only possible tactic was to turn into a bear, leap off the top of the cliff, and attempt to land on the bandit leader.

Pointing out that bears did not steer well when falling, could not fall in curves to get under the overhang, and, tended to just plummet and splatter made no impression. Pointing out that he could fly over the mans head as a hummingbird and THEN turn into a bear if he had to made no impression. Telling him that a natural 20 (that he did not roll when he insisted on making a die roll that he’d been told did not apply) did not automatically hit unless you were making a reasonable attempt to hit the target in the first place made no impression.

Splat.

The player grumbled about poor rolls, inquired about being raised (and was, once again, told that the party was only fourth level), and made another bear shapeshifter.

A few sessions later he tried a solo attack on their (much higher level) warrior-target atop a tall tower – turning into a bear, throwing himself onto the guy’s sword in order to grab him, and then plunging over the side to try and squash the guy beneath him ten stories below.

Higher level high hit point target wound up on top, said “Ow!”, regarded the deceased shapeshifter with disbelief, and continued the fight. Admittedly the target was now down a fair chunk of hit points – which helped the rest of the party win after a bit – but it was hardly an efficient way to do it.

A few more sessions later bear shapeshifter #3 attempted to leap off a flying carpet at 10,000 feet to land on someone (the party had no idea who, but the bear shifter presumed that it had to be an enemy) who was using a flying broomstick five thousand feet lower and a couple of miles away. He then refused to take any other form…

Splat.

Bear shapeshifter #4 was rejected by the rest of the party; they told the player that they weren’t letting any other bear-specialist shapeshifters join because their characters had concluded that bear shapeshifters were cursed or bad luck or something. Like it or not, the player would not work with everyone else and just kept wasting time on his one, fixed, idea – and so the players refused to have their characters associate with his characters until he decided to do something else.

After a few sessions of being left out he proceeded to make a mystic swordsman, and things did just fine after that.

There was a classic problem player who kept creating characters who were either constantly obstructive or who kept vanishing into the shadows to go on private scouting and stealth missions – demanding that half the game time be spent on him, rather than sharing it equally between the characters. He got quite indignant and tried to be even more obstructive when informed that he would get his share of the game masters time and no more. After a bit… he had to be told that he would be welcome to come back to play when he’d decided to behave himself, but until then he was not welcome. He never did come back. That was too bad – but he wasn’t really contributing to the game anyway.

One player saw the game simply as a way to blow off steam after his stressful work days – and thought that any game time not spent in combat was venting time that was being wasted. So whenever the players tried to have their characters gather clues, talk to the NPC’s, sneak around, or investigate something… His characters would attack. Guards tried to ask him some questions? They got attacked. Characters tried to investigate a crime scene? He tossed in an incendiary grenade “in case someone was hiding in there”. Trying to negotiate a hostage situation? He sniped the hostage and then went after the bad guys. Caught in a paralysis spell? He teleported high into the air directly above a church steeple and impaled himself rather than let the rest of the players talk to an NPC – and then made a new character who behaved in exactly the same way. Despite all requests, he wasn’t interested in letting anyone else do anything other than what he wanted to so – which was fight – and soon he wasn’t playing much. He still isn’t; he mostly plays online ship and tank combat games these days. He’s still welcome to drop by once in a while though; the group can always find some target to point an expendable mercenary type at.

I don’t often have to bounce anyone, and very much prefer not to – but enforcing the rules is one of the responsibilities I take on when I agree to game master – and that includes the social rules.

That’s actually segued into the next commandment of social gaming and what will be the start of the next segment in this: Thou Shalt Share Spotlight Time (Relatively) Evenly With The Other Players.

Eclipse – The Master of Stars

And for today it’s a template for minor superhero-types.

Master of Stars (+2 ECL Template):

The horde seemed endless – but the narrow cavern mouth meant that only one or two of the walking dead could emerge at a time, and the gentle light of the stars fed her power. Whatever those adventuring fools had woken in the depths… as long as nothing but one or two minor horrors came forth at a time, she should be able to hold until the dawn, and the arrival of some of the royal magi. For the light of the distant stars above was the radiance that drove back the dark.

A Master of Stars can generate and empower tiny “stars” (or telekinetically manipulate shards of crystal, or some such) with which to attack and defend themselves. Given sufficient constitution and intelligence, they may be capable of doing so indefinitely. In effect, this is a minor superhero template.

  • Inherent Spell / Halo of Stars with +4 Bonus Uses (12 CP).

Halo of Stars:

  • Conjuration (Creation)
  • Bard 4, Psion/Wilder 3, Sorcerer/Wizard 3, Soulknife 3, Witch 4.
  • Casting Time: 1 standard action
  • Components: V, S, MF (a dagger, or similar one-handed light weapon, worth at least 100 GP)
  • Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
  • Effect: Three or more “Stars”
  • Duration: 1 round/level (D)
  • Saving Throw: None
  • Spell Resistance: No

You create three glittering, crystalline, force-stars plus one more for every two caster levels beyond 5th (to a maximum of ten at19’th level). You may use them to…

  1. Deflect incoming projectiles. It requires one star to deflect an incoming bolt, arrow, shuriken, dagger, bullet, magic missile, or similarly sized projectile, two for javelins, spears, and similar weapons, and three for ballista bolts and such. Giant-, or Siege Engine-, hurled boulders and similar “weapons” are not affected. This does not require an action and may be done at any time – even on behalf of another character.
  2. Intercept rays. Each star so employed grants a (cumulative) +3 to the targets AC against the ray and to the save (if any) against it’s effects. This does not require an action and may be done at any time, even on behalf of another.
  3. Block melee attacks. Each star sacrificed for this purpose reduces the damage from such an attack by six points. This does not require an action and may be done at any time, but cannot be done on behalf of another.
  4. Attack. The caster may launch up to (Spellcasting Attribute Mod) stars at a target as a part of casting the spell or as a standard action later on. They may also launch a single star at a target as a swift action. In either case, each star gets a roll to hit at the caster’s full base attack bonus plus their spellcasting attribute modifier plus five, threatens critical hits on a 19-20, and inflicts 1d6 points of Force damage. This does not provoke attacks of opportunity, but it is treated as a small physical projectile – and so one Star can deflect another.
  5. Create patterns or swirl around within close range. This looks neat and is a free action.

Any stars which remain unused when the duration expires simply vanish. If the dagger used as the spell focus is magical, the stars can be made to glow softly. If it’s enhancements total +3 or better, +1 of them (not necessarily including an enhancement bonus) may be applied to the stars. If it is +6 or better, +2 of them may be applied, and if it is +10 or better +3 worth of them can be applied. Secondary enchantments on the focus dagger – such as from Weapon Crystals or simple priced enchantments – may also be applied, but each counts as a “+1″ and any limited use functions employed expend uses from the original weapon or source. Sadly, a caster cannot have more than (Spellcasting Attribute) stars ready at any given moment, no matter how often they cast Halo of Stars.

  • Triggering/(Via Con Check) Inherent Spells/Halo of Stars (6 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus: Adds (Int Mod) to (Con) Checks, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (+3 x Int Mod) / only with Triggering, only for Halo of Stars (6 CP). Since the Triggering DC is 17, once the users (Con Mod + 3 x Int Mod) is 16+, usage of Halo of Stars becomes unlimited.
  • Reflex Training / May invoke the Halo of Stars inherent spell once as a free action at the start of any combat round in which the user does not already have ten or more Stars available (6 CP).
  • Metamagical Theorem: Elemental Manipulation / Specialized for Reduced Cost, Corrupted for Increased Effect / can only be applied to Halo of Stars, only for a specific effect, Corrupted for increased effect / at +2 levels allows a Star to be expended as a standard action to produce any one of the following five level two spell effects: Blinding Ray, Burst of Radiance, Glitterdust, Hypnotic Pattern (cannot be maintained, but lasts for three rounds by itself), and Rainbow Beam (3 CP).
  • Metamagical Theorem / Extension, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for Halo of Stars (2 CP).
  • Streamline x2, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only applies to the limited versions of Elemental Manipulation and Extension listed above (4 CP).
  • Heart of the Sun: Spirit Weapon / Dagger, Specialized and Corrupted / only usable as a magical focus for Halo of Stars, not as a weapon (2 CP).
  • Blade of Stars (16 CP Total): Imbuement with Superior and Improved, Specialized for Increased Effect (total “pluses” equal the users ECL) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for use with the Spirit Weapon above (and thus only for use as a magical focus), total available “pluses” may not exceed +10 (12 CP) with the Focused and Versatile modifiers (Similarly Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 4 CP)

Further Advancement of a Master of Stars usually revolves around…

  • Using Innate Enchantment to pick up Shield, Mage Armor, a Talisman of the Disc (disks look like stars rather than being round), a Greater (Weapon) Crystal of Illumination, and either a Lesser (Weapon) Fiendslayer Crystal OR a Least Truedeath (Weapon) Crystal (6 CP).
  • Employing a star-based Martial Art. That’s pretty sensible for any direct combatant anyway.
  • Adding more free metamagic to increase the power of existing Stars, and/or the number created, and/or the array of secondary spell effects that can be produced (Commonly L3) Rainbow Blast, Nova (Fireball), Sunrise, Planetary Nebula (Wall of Light), and Guiding Star (Lesser Luminous Assassin). Next step up: L4) Aurora Borealis (Rainbow Pattern), Nebula (Radiant Fog), Red Giant (Blistering Radiance), Shimmering Starlight (Celestial Brilliance), and Corona (Fire Shield). Next step up: L5) Quasar (Prismatic Ray), Radiant Barrier (Wall of Force), Star of Life (Pillar of Life), Sunray (as per Sunbeam but one ray only), and The Divine Ignition (as per Light of Venya, but both rays are released at the same time). Tying your boosts or available spells to the constellations, or being beneath the night sky, is optional.
  • Using Reflex Training or Opportunist to get more chances to use Stars.
  • Taking Celerity (Flight) to become a classical superhero. Using some Stars as stepping-stones (or just riding around on one) for a special effect is optional.
  • Taking Immunity (Dispel Magic and Antimagic, Specialized and Corrupted/only to cover Halo of Stars and related powers) to turn the Stars into extraordinary powers.

A Master of Stars isn’t really enormously powerful; their abilities mostly fall under “decent” to “pretty good” in terms of damage output, defenses, and versatility – bu they have lots of flavor and there is something worthwhile in never having to worry about whether or not you have any reserves left.

Secondarily, they’re a good model for building a variety of other “superhero” characters. There’s no reason why you couldn’t use the same general framework to build characters with other themes.

“Realistic” d20 Firearms

Calls for “more realistic firearms” are fairly common in d20.

That usually (albeit not always) seems to mean “we think they should be a lot more powerful!”.

Now it’s true that modern guns have several advantages over things like slings, bows, and crossbows.

  • They supply their own energy. It took many years of constant practice to train a longbowman. Kids, elders, and those with crippling injuries need not apply. Crossbows could be used – but they were heavy and would take far longer for a child, elder, or disabled individual to cock (often with a windlass) if they could manage it at all.
  • They are very easy to use. Bullets may drop, and be affected by the wind – but they are considerably faster and denser than bolts or sling stones and such, and so it’s less of a problem. Point-and-pull-the-trigger lets you train a tolerably competent combatant very quickly indeed. This also means that a lot of people manage to accidentally shoot themselves or others since they may be able to use their gun but they aren’t necessarily good at it.
  • Bullets tend to expend on impact, and may tumble and/or fragment, causing more tissue damage along their path. They can also cause hydrostatic shock, damaging adjacent tissue that isn’t actually hit. Of course, that doesn’t always happen to any great degree. For the sake of comparison, actual war ammunition for bows and such – things like broadhead arrows, serrated edges, barbs, and so on – can substantially increase the amount of tissue damage inflicted by bolts and arrows and such, as well as making them considerably more difficult to remove.
  • Bullets don’t plug up the holes they make, making it a lot easier for the victim to bleed out.

All of which is lovely theory, but what does it actually mean in terms of real results?

  • Emergency room reports suggest that the chance of a single bullet proving lethal – generally by hitting something vital – is about 20% because about 80% of the individual gunshot cases pull through. Presuming that that number is close enough for gaming purposes… if you’re shot once, there’s an 80% chance of survival, five times gives you a one in three chance of survival, and ten times gives you just under an 11% chance or survival. Sure, there might be overlapping injuries that matter less, or interacting injuries that matter more, but for out purposes we can disregard that. We are talking about games, not about a surgical training course.

This is what fully automatic weapons are all about; a burst of bullets offers a better chance of at least one hitting, can target a group, and – if more than one hits a particular target – greatly improves the chances of a kill.

Getting similar statistics for – say – knife wounds is virtually impossible. That’s because guns supply their own energy; being shot accidentally is very little different from a serious attempt to kill. With knives… you get a lot of slashed fingers and extremities from kitchen knives, people drop them and stab themselves in the foot, you get minor defensive wounds from attempts to block, parry, or dodge, and lots of similar noise in the data. The reports don’t reliably distinguish between “knife wound from an actual combat knife that someone was putting a reasonable amount of strength behind in a serious effort to kill” and “backed into a paring knife that got left on the kitchen counter and now it’s stuck in my buttock”.

My fairly casual attempt to sift through that mess suggests (albeit certainly does not prove) that actual “tried to kill you” single knife wounds have something like an 85% to 90% survival rate.

On individual terms (“I’ve” been stabbed!) that is not that big an advantage, but statistically (a lot of people have been stabbed!), and when you’re considering multiple wounds, it can have a substantial impact. If it’s an 85% survival chance instead of a mere 80% then your survival rate for five and ten hits goes from 33% and 11% to 44% and 20%. At 90% chance of survival it goes to 59% and 35% – which looks a LOT better doesn’t it?

Still, individual bullet wound survival rates are not really all that different from knife wounds – and are probably even more similar to the survival rates you’d get with swords, axes, crossbow bolts, and arrows, all of which are generally nastier than knives. Sadly, those are so rare these days that meaningful statistics are almost impossible to come by even before trying to separate out the “actual attempt to kill” part.

Now this doesn’t really account for sniper rifles inflicting massive damage – but it doesn’t really account for being hit by a cannonball or hundred-pound trebuchet stone or anti-tank missile either. Individual characters are most often using, and facing, hand weapons at relatively short range – not siege or anti-tank weaponry. “Heavy weapons do a lot more damage” really isn’t news to anyone. That’s what heavy weapons are all about.

The real problem with using real injury statistics in a game is, of course, is the fact that real injuries are incredibly diverse and complicated.

A finger-tap – or paintball shot, or hit from a baseball – to the right spot on the chest that occurs at the right instant of the heartbeat cycle can kill. So can a single be-be, or a cat scratch, or being stabbed with a pencil. It’s just rare.

On the other hand. people have survived falling several stories and being impaled on multiple lengths of rebar. They’ve survived getting crowbars through their brains. If cold enough they’ve survived lengthy periods without their hearts beating. They’ve survived throwing themselves on top of two WWII fragmentation grenades at the same time. They’ve survived taking nearly thirty bullets. They’ve survived being dragged through a hole five inches across. They have a roughly one-in-three chance (with modern medical care) of surviving being stabbed in the heart.

But, once again, it’s pretty rare. When that sort of thing happens to them, people usually die.

To even come close to representing this in a game, you’ll want a hit location chart, with each location given a semi-random subchart with a wide variety of injuries on it – ranging from bruising, minor cuts, and flesh wounds with little or no actual effect on up through long-term crippling injuries, possibly fatal injuries (with their own rules), slowly fatal injuries, swiftly fatal injuries, and dead. Give more damaging weapons a better chance to roll the nastier injuries, and really lousy ones (like pencils) a penalty towards rolling the minor stuff. That means that you’ll want to go with a fancy critical hit system, or a system of resistance rolls, or a location-and-injury chart like I used for Baba Yaga. This way there will be a substantial chance that any character who gets into a serious fight will abruptly die.

That’s fine in Baba Yaga, where WWII combat is supposed to be fast, extremely deadly, and to be avoided if at all possible.

The trouble is that – if you want a game to rely on combat for excitement – that’s exactly what you don’t want. You’ll want a system for tracking wounds that’s hopelessly unrealistic and easily survivable. You’ll also want to stay away from long-term crippling injuries and you’ll want it easy to gauge how long you can last in a fight, so that the characters will know when to fall back. There is a REASON why so many games default to some variety of “hit points” or “wound track”. But, if you do that, you’ve abandoned any pretense of “realism” right there. Real people do not have “hit points”. They have messy, incredibly complicated, biology instead.

So no. You CANNOT put “realistic firearms” into d20 without a total rewrite of the combat rules that will make the game unplayable as heroic fantasy.

What, you still want “realism”? Well… OK. It’s just going to have to be “realism” within the d20 framework of hit points and other weapons.

Hm… “Does more damage along the path” and “leaves an open wound to bleed out” sounds familiar. That’s basic Roman-style Shortsword use: stab, twist to increase the damage and bleeding, and pull out. True, bullets do more damage in proportion to their size – but the sword is a LOT bigger.

And that gives us a benchmark that translates into “hit point” terms for d20 games. Handguns…

  • Don’t depend on personal strength.
  • Do about as much damage as a properly-wielded shortsword. Light ones do a bit less, heavy ones a bit more. Ergo, low-caliber firearms do 1d4, medium calibers d0 1d6, and large calibers do 1d8. A shortsword threatens a x2 critial hit on a 19-20. Livening that up a bit… for low calibers it’s 20/x3, for medium and large calibers it/s 19-20/x2. For shotguns and rifles it’s 20/x3. In any case, a critical hit from a firearm can often instantly kill a “normal” (1-4 HP) person.
  • Don’t require any special skill or proficiency to use. Yes, a true expert will be better – but you can learn to use a small arm reasonably effectively in a fight a LOT faster than you can learn to use a sword or bow reasonably effectively in a fight. Ergo, no proficiency is required to use a small arm. If you want to take a proficiency in the things… it costs one Feat or 6 CP and provides a +3 to your BAB while wielding one. (+1 to BAB, Specialized and Corrupted/only for ranged attacks, only for small arms) for triple effect, 6 CP).
  • Revolvers and Semi-Automatic weapons can fire quite quickly, allowing for extra attacks even with little skill. Given d20’s time scales… call it +2 attacks at full BAB for lighter guns (a bit less damage than a shortsword), +1 for medium guns (the same damage), and no extras for heavy handguns, shotguns, and other heavier items. If you want to eliminate that from consideration… you’ll probably want to upgrade the damage to compensate.
  • Fully Automatic weapons can spray bullets across an area if you wave them wildly, try to hit several targets in a group if you wave them but less wildly, and try to hit a single target several times if you hold them steady. Once again… that’s not really that complicated. Guns still hold the “that’s EASY!” edge over muscle-powered weapons. So… fully automatic weapons can attack an 20′ radius area (everyone there rolls a DC 12 reflex save to keep their heads down or take one hit), attack everyone in a small, tight, group (one roll at full BAB against everyone in a 5′ radius), or do double damage against a single target.

But wait! Guns penetrate armor better! Shouldn’t they get special bonuses or be touch attacks like they are in Pathfinder?

Do they? Which is more effective against Kevlar – a mace or a bullet? How does mithril handle point impacts? (A hint; anything you say is pure personal fantasy, since mithril does not actually exist and so it’s properties are unknown). Will adamantine ignore any bullet with less penetrating power than it’s 20 hardness? Weren’t some knives designed to slip between the links in chainmail or through chinks in plate armor? Weren’t military picks designed to puncture plate armor? Weren’t late suits of plate armor tested by firing muskets at them? Didn’t soldiers in WWII wear helmets to help against head hits? Isn’t armor capable of deflecting an angled shot that would otherwise miss? Wouldn’t that mean that (just like WWII helmets) that the effect of armor is partially deflection and partially absorbing incoming damage and not really to reduce your chance of being hit? Doesn’t heavy armor make it easier to be pulled off your horse? Isn’t this trying to go back to weapon type versus armor type modifiers? That was a lot more “realistic”, but it got dropped from second and later editions partially because it became impossibly unwieldy as more and more weapons and armor types were added and partially because – once you got into fantasy materials and effects – there was nothing to base it on. Or perhaps we should rewrite combat to give armor separate ratings versus slashing, crushing, and piercing damage?

D20 Armor is a pretty high order abstraction. It’s actual physical properties are purely arbitrary. Is giant spider silk equivalent to kevlar? What are the ballistic properties of force fields? Does magical armor operate by spreading impacts evenly across the surface, by causing incoming attacks to glance away, or though applied solipsism that simply allows the user to reject the reality that he or she has been hit? Who knows?

For a basic game… that +3 BAB for being proficient is plenty. Guns are still far and away better than crossbows if your mage wants a backup weapon or something.

Pathfinder makes guns touch attacks (and gives them slightly better damage and/or critical multipliers) partially to satisfy the crowd that wants them to be the best weapons and partially simply to make them different – and thus to make them around have a major impact on the game and setting. There isn’t any actual “realism” behind it, but given that the whole thing is entirely arbitrary anyway, why not?:

  • If you don’t like it… you can use Eclipse and add another attribute modifier to your Dex-based AC modifier, Specialized for Double Effect (only versus guns, 3 CP for +Att Mod, 6 CP for +2 x Att Mod)), or take Immunity/the armor-penetrating effect of guns (Uncommon, Major, Variable) and keep up to 5/12/30 points of armor and shield based AC against guns for 3/6/9 CP, or any of a wide variety of other tricks, and carry on as always. Sure, you’ll be down a feat – but you can just ignore the effects of fairly modern guns being common if it pleases you, and that’s probably worth it in a game where they are.

So really… given the wide margin of error in the data, the level of abstraction in the d20 rules, and the completely unknown effects of magic, psionics, and your reality-bending power of choice, the existing weapon stats found in d20 modern are probably… a bit too good. The listed damage for them is kind of high. Pathfinder firearms are probably a bit overpowered too – their critical multipliers are kind of high – but they do have that annoying misfire problem to make up for it.

What about more primitive firearms?

Well, they were tricky to load and care for, and they are prone to misfire (and, with the really early ones, to exploding), and they were horribly inaccurate. Even with rifling… sights were crude, the propellant loads were anything but standardized, ignition was a bit iffy, and lower muzzle velocities exaggerated the effects of environmental disturbances. At best, you’d probably only be getting off three or four aimed shots per minute. They’re still cheap and easy to use – but player characters rarely care. Player characters are inhumanly skilled, strong, and fast, and they’re usually rich to boot.

So; L6 Eclipse Longbowman: +4 BAB (24 GP), +3 BAB (Specialized and Corrupted for triple effect / Bows only, 18 CP) = +13 BAB with Bows. Two levels of Rapid Strike (Bows) and Innate Enchantment / Personal Haste gets him to firing at +13/+13/+10/+7/+4/+1. Broadhead Arrows get us to 1d10 base damage. Throw in +4 (Dex), +4 (Martial Art), +2 Competence (Innate Enchantment again, and still room even at the base cost for another boost), Spirit Weapon and Imbuement means never having to worry about being disarmed or ammunition and getting a at least a +1 magical bonus.

OK; we are in no way approaching the limits of the bonuses we can get (how about disregarding range modifiers and an ability to ignore armor to effectively get those touch attacks?), and we’re already firing sixty aimed shots a minute, for at least 1d10 +1 plus possible boosts (a strength bonus to damage at the least), at attack bonuses ranging from +24 for two shots down to +12 for the last one.

Sure, we could stack a lot of those bonuses onto Pathfinder firearms too – but what we’d save in getting to Touch Attacks to match Pathfinder we’d have to spend on getting around the drawbacks from the loading time and misfire chances and not getting a strength bonus to damage.

The point here is pretty simple; once you start stacking weird bonuses, spell effects, and personal abilities onto an attack… the base qualities of any reasonable personal weapon really don’t matter very much any longer. What does matter is that guns use their own power to do damage. That’s GOOD for the weak, the sickly, and the young – thus the old adage that “God Created Men, but Sam Colt Made Them Equal!” – but it’s BAD for those with natural advantages of strength and speed – like most weapon-wielding player characters.

In reality, the advantage of early firearms was that they required little skill or training to use and were still reasonably effective. A trained longbowman was far more effective – but the costs of training and supporting one were enormous and suitable candidates were scarce. Since player characters automatically come with that training and various physical advantages… they’re usually better off with classical weapons if their primary focus is weapons.

Given all this… the Federation-Apocalypse firearm-building rules are probably a bit overpowered – but they are talking about firearms from centuries in the future, which adds yet another layer of pure fiction to their capabilities.

Granny Part IV – Rulership, Miscellany, Investments, and Equipment

Vamachara Tamas, The Left-Hand Path of Mastery (or The Way of the Dark Overlord) (20 CP).

  • Rajanyoga: Dominion, Specialized for Reduced Cost / Granny draws on the awe and mystery of being a mysterious figure that works from the shadows. Thus she may be the power behind the throne (or at least the most respected advisor for the country), may be a patron of several covens of witches, a major figure in the underworld, and more – but she must do so without directly ruling, and so gets only half the usual number of dominion points for her various roles (3 CP).
  • Asuramantra: Power Words, Specialized for Half Cost and Corrupted for 1.5x Effect / only to store Witchcraft effects (base level of three), only to works on effects modified with Dominion Points to act as Battle Magic (affecting an entire battlefield without level change). With an 18 Con, this allows Granny to stock six such effects – allowing her to create massive healing effects, or toxic miasmas, or a wide variety of other effects. She usually uses Foresight to simply have what she needs available (3 CP).
  • Asura Raksha: Leadership, Specialized for Reduced Cost and Corrupted for Increased Effect (various monsters and creatures, either singly or in groups, treating CR as level)/Granny has to create and provide facilities for her own monsters, by cursing people or animals to transform into suitable, obedient, horrors. (3 CP).
    • With 10 Hit Dice and a Cha Mod of 10, Granny gets 40 CR worth of followers or groups thereof of up to CR 7. Since she tends to like groups of lesser creatures, she’s got: 3 Barghests (CR 7), 4 Hellhounds (CR 7), Rakith (A Giant Weasel Lycanthrope Assassin-Type, CR 2 + 4 Eclipse Class Levels = CR 6), Heksested (Heavy Horse Lycanthrope Witch-steed, CR 3 + 3 Eclipse Levels = CR 6), 6 Ratlings (CR 7), and 4 Werewolves (CR 6 +1 Eclipse Level to give them some magical “gifts”, Berserker, and WOD flavor = CR 7).
  • Kalantaka Dhaal: Reflex Training/Three Action Per Day Variant, Specialized in Defensive / Escape actions only (3 CP).
  • Cintamani Yukti (the art of the wish-fulfilling stones): Create Relic: Specialized and Corrupted: Only for working with points from Enthusiast, can only create 1 CP Relics, each relic must have a 3 CP Disadvantage attached (although this may reduce their cost), relics are created with ominous rituals invoking weird entities from beyond (2 CP). Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect: Only for making Relics, only for one-point relics (6 CP).

Granny really SHOULD have Action Hero/Stunts. Unfortunately, Action Hero/Stunts really only works for PC’s who go up in levels reasonably often. Ergo, Granny uses a combination of relic making and foresight to obtain much the same effect; if she REALLY needs a particular ability to bail her out… that just happens to be one of the relics she has ready.

It’s also worth noting that these are also the kind of triks you can play with Action Hero/Stunts; all you have to do is Specialize things for Double Effect (it’s most efficient to specialize the base ability, but it can be done on the fly with practice).

Sample Relic Effects:

  • Consecration Of The Shattered Tower: Sanctum (6 CP) and Cloaking (Specialized for Increased Effect / covers a location – the Sanctum – rather than the user. Despite Granny’s tendency to infuse her residence or stronghold with the dread forces of the Ruinous Powers, even advanced magical and psychic techniques will reveal no trace of that from the outside – and within her Sanctum she gains 24 CP worth of special abilities.
  • The Indomitable Inward Void: Turn Resistance (+6), Corrupted for Increased Effect / user must spend 2 Power (this may be done at any time and does not count as an action) to activate this ability for five minutes. May be Specialized against a particular attack type (or in some other fashion) for Double Effect (+18 Levels). Is someone trying to hit you with Blasphemy or Holy Word? Censure? Death Strike? Any other annoying hit-die or level based effect? Go ahead; spend an Action Point, jump your effective hit die or level by +18, and shrug it off (12 CP).
  • The Dragon’s Grasping Claw: Shaping (Specialized, Only for adding flourishes to the use of magical items, 3 CP), Dragonfire (Specialized, only for pouring available energy into magical items, usually at 3 Spell Levels = 1 Charge), and Eye of the Dragon (Specialized for Increased Effect/only works three times per day to automatically absorb an incoming spell or effect and pass it’s energy into Dragonfire. This does not count as an action, 6 CP). (12 CP Total). This allows the user to absorb up to (Int) levels worth of incoming spells, without expending an action, and whether or not they are individually directed, and use them to recharge his or her magic items.
  • Whisper Of The Winds: Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saving Throws (6 CP) and Reflex Training (3/Day Extra Action Variant, 6 CP).
  • Falling Night Sigil: Seal of Life/Death (Specialized, only to protect against positive energy channeling, 3 CP), Seal of Light/Darkness (Specialized, only usable against those using holy attacks against you, 3 CP), Inner Light/Darkness (6 CP). This allows Granny to spend a usage of Channeling to gain the benefits of the Half-Fiend Template. Since the user’s effective hit dice for the use of Spell-Like Abilities = Intensity her enhancements to that do apply.
  • Talisman Of The Forest King: Shapeshift with Tiny and Diminutive Forms and +2 Bonus Uses (12 CP). While shapeshifting has all kinds of recreational and practical uses, it’s also one of Granny’s last-resort escapes: use a reflex action, turn into a mouse or some such, drop through the grate she will happen to be standing on (foresight again), and slide down (along a curve to break line of sight) into a maze of mouse tunnels.

Since Granny can use six Relics, if you don’t want to bother with using Foresight – or want her to rely on it less – you can just use some or all of the six noted above routinely. They do cover a lot of the basic defenses between them.

  • Ward of Yama: Immunity to Over-Optimized Characters (Common, Severe, Major, Specialized for Increased Effect / double effect against the most over-optimized character in a given group, normal effect against the second-most over-optimized character, no effect against any further characters or against any characters at all if the party contains no over-optimized characters (12 CP).

Yes, this bestows DR 60, blocks 12 points of attribute damage or drain, and spells of up to level ten, and provides a +12 on saves against other effects generated by the most over-optimized character, and half those benefits against the second most over-optimized character. This won’t stop an Ubercharger, or Hulking Hurler, or similar – but it will seriously hinder rather a lot of builds for a mere 12 CP.

This is pretty silly, but quite allowable. So, for that matter, is using Action Hero / Stunts to buy an immunity to one particular character for one minute – but that’s allowable too.

Maleficent: Before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, and fall into a sleep like death! A sleep from which she will never awaken!

Maleficent: The dark curse? Really? You must know that even it’s unholy power can not bring your loved one back from the dead. Have you considered a pet? They can be quite comforting.

Miscellaneous Powers (21 CP):

  • Amrit Kalash, The Tithonic Rite: Immunity/Death by old age (Uncommon, Severe, Minor. Specialized for Reduced Cost / Like many other flawed immortality effects, this ability does nothing to prevent aging; it simply keeps the user from dying because his or her “time is up”. If they can avoid accidents, disease, and similar difficulties they may spend many centuries being venerable elders. This ability thus works much better if combined with ways to prevent the loss of attribute points due to age and some method of age-shifting (3 CP)
  • The Dark Revenance: Returning / As long as one or more of her Shadow-Familiars exists to bring her back, Specialized / may require many months (3 CP).
  • Omen Mastery: Occult Sense / Attackers. Granny is always at least vaguely aware of when a group is coming for her. When actually attacked she cannot be caught flat-footed and is always considered to have just had three rounds to prepare (6 CP).
  • Ward of Maya: Cloaking / Granny appears to divination as a generic kindly old lady, with a bit of skill in ritual and white witchery perhaps, but no great powers (6 CP).
  • Money Management: Privilege / Landlord: You have assorted local, non-liquid assets – ownership of, or shares in mundane or magical businesses, lands, or structures with a net value of one-half/three-quarters of the base wealth of a PC of the your level for 3/6 CP. Sadly, these cannot (for whatever reason) be converted to cash. You may either use something like Pathfinder’s downtime holdings system or – for the sake of simplicity – get a 5% yearly return on whatever portion of your holdings you devote to getting cash or use 10% (whether in amount or time) of whatever facilities you own. Thus, if you own a shipping company with three ships, you could reasonably divert one for three and a half months (10% of the 36 they will have available this year) to take you and your friends on an expedition – or use 10% of the space in the ships holds to transport your own cargo or some such. Similarly, you can use an office and some of the space in their warehouses. In general, this is best used to gain access to various facilities or (if lifestyle costs are in play) to pay for those. Like it or not, 5% of 50% (or even 75%) of your wealth by level will not greatly increase your power – but at higher levels it will pay for a nice lifestyle and get you some social influence.
    • Granny has Money Management at the 3 CP level, and – at level eight – thus has 16,500 GP in non-liquid investments. Of that…
      • 5000 GP is invested in a Greater Marvelous Tattoo Parlor, entitling her to the use of three Tattoos. She normally uses +4 Con, Spell Resistance 33, and a +2 boost to her effective Caster Level).
      • 4200 GP is invested in a Fantastic Stable, allowing her the use of six of it’s summons per year. Granny usually keeps a couple of Unicorns around the House of Wisdom (it helps her image and provides emergency medical treatment if anyone gets hurt), two Manticores at Caer Hunleff (to ride and to support the garrison), four Pegasi (for one summons) on call to carry messages and do any necessary scouting and such, and holds one summons in reserve in case she needs to have something replaced early.
      • 3600 GP is invested in a Type V Shrine of War, entitling her to the use of a dozen of the 1200 +5 weapon enchantments it maintains. Four of them normally go to keeping the guards at Caer Hunleff stocked with 200 +5 Bolts between them, one goes to each of her four “henchmen”, one each goes to each of her four level six minions, one goes to Rakith, two go to Heksested, and one is for her.
      • That leaves 3700 GP. This is invested in her “family farm” – a pleasant, if rather old-fashioned, place with sprawling orchards (which require more startup time but are less work later on), the usual farmhouse-barn-chicken coop-pigpen-well house combination, various minor Conjures to make life easier (Elfin Harvest Baskets, a Composter, the “gentleman farmer” package, etc), and similar conveniences. Overall, the “Grandchildren” can take care of it handily.

On Investment:

Why 5% in actual income or 10% in use of facilities? Well…

Business and investment is an insanely complicated subject – but the general historical rule has usually been the about same: if your expected return-after-risk is more than about 5%-over-inflation per year, then something will soon cut into that return. Taxes. Bandits. Competition. Raises for your managers. Whatever. If it’s under that then you do not have a particularly attractive investment.

So your expected return is (Investment) x (1.05)Ex(Years until payout) / (Chance of Success + 1%.). While this does presume a binary model of success or failure, partial losses and lower-than expected profits tend to distribute themselves on a bell curve, adding enormous complexity to the math while changing the overall results very little. Similarly, adding variable terms for inflation is irrelevant to most d20 games, which use fixed price lists and static, fully fungible, currencies based on pure metal weight at fixed exchange ratios (another absurdly unrealistic, but extremely convenient, game convention).

  • So if it’s a one-year investment account and the chance of success is 98%, then you can expect to see it offered at about 1.06%, at least in a healthy, non-inflationary economy. Interestingly, that was the rate that savings accounts paid when I was a child.
  • If it’s a three year junk bond with only an 80% chance of success, a reasonable offer is closer to a 143% total return over that time period
  • If it’s a share in a five year trading voyage with a 15% chance of success… it might reasonably be offered at eight to one – and possibly even more to make up for the lengthy period of uncertainty. When such voyages pay off they make men rich.

“Investment” becomes gambling when you do not have a very good idea of one or more of the number of years involved, the final rate of return, or the chance of success. If you happen to have a better idea of what one or more of those numbers are than the rest of the possible investors then you have either earned that advantage through study and investigation or you have a “tip”. If you got that information from someone connected to the investment than it’s “insider trading” and is generally considered an unfair advantage.

Yes, this is still incredibly oversimplified. It will do for game purposes however.

Since this is a character attribute purchased with character points, it pays once per year, and there is no real risk of loss – so now you know why I picked 5% for cash. The “10% in kind” is because you’re avoiding the expenses inherent in converting to a cash profit and because having access to a ship, or an alchemists shop, or some such is a LOT more interesting and exciting than having a modest investment income. Facilities provide a reason to adventure. Investment Income provides a reason to stay home.

So what about treasure? Well… Granny is a heroic NPC, and so gets 7800 GP worth of personal treasure at level eight. Worse, she cannot spend more than 390 GP worth of it on any one magical item. That pretty much restricts her to a few potions, cantrip wands, and minor trinkets.

  • Ring of Aesculapius (180 GP): reduces the severity of illnesses in those she tends.
  • Bracers of Legerdemain (250 GP): makes handling toxins and alchemical reagents much safer.
  • Air-Bladder (375 GP): for if she needs to effectively hold her breath for a long time, such as when escaping underwater.
  • Alchemical Catalysts (6000 GP): since she uses these up using several of her powers. Also, she hasn’t got much to spend money on.
  • Assorted Holy Symbols (120 GP): several are for use with her Channeling, but several more are just for camouflage. After all, an old lady in a polytheistic universe might be expected to carry several holy symbols, right?
  • Ritual Chest (120 GP): a selection of candles, cards, odd dusts, and other components for ritual magic.
  • Spell Component Pouch (5 GP): granny doesn’t really need this for much, but it gives opponents something to try to grab.
  • Wardrobe (500 GP): assorted fine clothing, some jewelry, a signet ring, and more.
  • Assorted Supplies (250 GP).

Granny is extremely frustrating and dangerous to player characters. She specializes in inflicting long-term, difficult-to-remove, crippling effects. Even worse, she tends to “attack” through her readily-replaceable shadow-familiars from many miles away. She’s hard to find, and will cheerily curse the land about her (disposable) stronghold to throw obstacles (worth no XP since they’re an ability of hers) in her enemies paths, send out disposable construct-minions (also worth no XP) to waste their resources (efficiently focusing on eliminating softer targets first), raise a storm and drop lightning bolts on your head from miles away when you get closer, possibly (depending on how evil she currently is) transform a few random animals or (unrelated) people into monsters (worth XP, but with no treasure outside of the guilt of killing innocent people who have been cursed) if she runs out of more “deserving” monsters to send – and will then teleport (or fly, or burrow, or use shapeshift to get away through a crack in the foundations, or plane shift, or even swim) away rather than fight personally once you reach her. Even if you attempt scry-and-die, she still gets three rounds to get ready for you. If she MUST fight, her main staples are laying darkness that doesn’t hinder her in a wide radius, using the “Enveloping” ability on a Psychic Construct to obtain armor class, extra hit points, and either flight or tunneling (to escape with) (both of which she can automatically have ready one round before you arrive), and using her Nightmare Storm technique to hit everyone attacking her with a Phantasmal Killer.

And if you do kill her (despite her tendency to leave a shadow-familiar to “die” in her place), most of her “treasure” will disappear and she’ll either have her surviving Shadows bring her back or rise as an undead.

Fortunately, Granny really isn’t there to fight. Granny is an evil that exists to forestall greater evils, serving not as a defender, nor as a bringer of justice, but as an avenger. On that ever-anticipated last day, when the light triumphs and all that is evil will be thrown down into the pit… Granny will go down with all the rest, content in the knowledge that she has avenged what was HERS. When adventurers loot a town instead of defending it, when the mongol hordes attempt to overrun a city and put everyone there to the sword… Granny will make sure that their fate is grim enough to dissuade anyone who ever hears of it from even considering doing the same. Did you promise the refugees passage to safety, only to slaughter them and steal what little they carried? Granny will make sure that, when the demons come at last to carry your soul to hell, you will sincerely thank them for giving you refuge from HER.

In terms of her game function. Granny is a cop. She’s the reason why sensible adventurers don’t turn on the people that they should be defending, why thieves guilds stick to a little theft instead of selling the entire population to the Drow for sacrifices, and why the rule of evil overlords still results in a fairly functional civilization. Evil people have kids, and friends, and like living in reasonably comfortable cities, and having a nice lifestyle with reasonably well-behaved and efficient servants just like the good guys do – and they are willing to be a LOT more vicious, and less sporting, about defending those things than the good guys are. The good guys may leave you tied up on the steps of the police station with a note – but when the bad guys leave you skinned, blinded, gutted, and nailed to a sign proclaiming your guilt to scream for a few hours before your inevitable slow and horrible death the message tends to get around.

Secondarily, of course… Granny can provide a party with special equipment, supply specific magic items without implying a stockpile of the things, sell powerful poisons, work a wide variety of spells without being good at adventuring (since they have those pesky side effects), teach young adventurers, supply dungeons for low-level types to level up in, act as a mentor, produces prophecies, get you all kinds of information, and otherwise pretty much provide all the background support that a party of adventurers could ever need until they’re ready to go and fight the dragons and other major horrors that she can’t handle herself.

And she doesn’t care all that much if you’re good or neutral, or evil, as long as you do the job she wants done. As far as she’s concerned… they all have their advantages and disadvantages.

To answer an offline question…

“Why is Granny treating all her skills as class skills?”

It’s because characters who get stuck with NPC wealth by level in Eclipse have a fairly serious disadvantage – and thus should get SOMETHING in compensation. Ergo, major Eclipse-built Pathfinder NPC’s who get stuck with NPC wealth-by-level get to treat any skill they take as a favored class skill. It’s not really enough, but it does save me from the bother of having to pick a skill list.

Endora: [after turning Darrin into a werewolf] Darrin, I feel terrible. I really do. Do you think I want my daughter married to a werewolf?

Granny Part III – Witchery, Poisons, and the Ruinous Powers

I’ll get you and your little dog too!

-The Wicked Witch Of The West.

Granny has 126 CP left with which to buy other special abilities – which, given how much she still has to buy, is going to call for some optimization. That isn’t really traditional for NPC’s in most games, partially due to their game masters lack of time and partially because in most games noncombative NPC’s don’t really need detailed writeups – while combative ones are simply there to lose. For such NPC’s optimization is undesirable. After all, if they have any serious chance of winning, sooner or later the dice will give them a victory – and you’ll have a total party kill that ends the game. Granny, however, can safely be optimized out the wazoo because she’s not really there to fight – and a win for her usually means steering the party into a more suitable adventure.

Witchery (45 CP).

Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.

-Macbeth

Poppies! Poppies!

-The Wicked Witch of the West

The Subtle Arts: Witchcraft III with the Secret Order: Provides all 12 basic abilities and 17 Power. Her powers have a base Save DC of 23, usually using Will (24 CP).

As Within, So Without: Advanced Witchcraft Abilities (33 CP): Aegis (6 CP), Leaping Fire (6 CP), Mouth of the Earth (6 CP), Venomed Touch (Specialized for Double Effect/requires 50 GP worth of alchemical catalysts per use, 6 CP. A 2d12 immediate attribute damage poison with save DC 23 can be pretty useful), The Dark Flame (Specialized for Increased Effect; Only to affect the DC’s of saving against her powers, 6 CP. In effect, she can pay 1 Power to boost the DC of saves against her Charisma-based abilities by +6 for ten minutes), and Weathermonger (Specialized; requires dramatic gestures and a 100 GP focusing talisman, 3 CP).

Pacts (-24 CP): Guardianship (the Crypts of the Haunted Forest), Rituals (Solstice and Equinox Celebrations), Souls (Granny must sponsor and encourage covens of lesser witches), and a nasty Susceptibility to Holy Water (while it’s only one point, and the reaction to small amounts is easily concealed, large quantities could do her serious harm – which is why she’s made sure that the “Melting!” story involved mopwater).

Visions of the Hidden Spheres (8 CP): Cha-Based Rune “Magic” (Psionics): Clairsentience, Casting (Manifestation) +4 SP (4 CP) and Mastery +1 SP (1 CP) +7 (Int) +10 (Cha) +3 (Path) = +24 (Caster level 12) Manifestation, +21 (allowing effects of up to L5) plus And Magician (Charisma, Specialized for Reduced Cost and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Power gained can be used for Witchcraft, as well as Rune Magic (Psionics)) / user gains bonus generic Power for their effective Caster Levels, rather than from all bonus spell slots, user is restricted to a list of (Int) specific effects, although they may trade out two per level, 3 CP)

  • L0) Conceal Thoughts, Detect Psionics, Prophecy (allows any stray prophecies or visions that may be floating about to manifest through you), Seance (allows the user to open a link for the dead to communicate over. There is no compulsion involved).
  • L1) Commune with “Birds” (Squirrels and such will do too), Cultural Adaption, Inevitable Strike, Psychic Tracking.
  • L2) Caught In Crystal (As per Improvisation, but provides Insight bonuses rather than luck bonuses), Inevitable Save (as per Inevitable Strike, but applies to a save and can be used as an immediate action), Interview (gives a very good evaluation of someone’s nature and talents after a brief interview),Savored Instant (You may take up to (caster level) mental rounds to experience even the most fleeting sensory impression. While no other actions are possible, you may read a lengthy missive at a glance, get a detailed description of each of the people charging you, carefully evaluate a fleeting expression, or stretch out the savor of a fine wine or an orgasm. If this is ever relevant – say when wine-tasting, or trying to spot if someone is carrying a hidden weapon at a glance – use of this effect provides a +4 circumstance bonus. Activating it does not count as an action and can be done at any time).
  • L3) Arcane Sight, Akashic Communion, Pulse of the Realm (allows an instant Gather Information check), See Beyond.
  • L4) Blood Biography (Greater; can also evaluate targets within short range and provides quite a lot of family details), Detect remote Viewing, Remote Viewing, Trace Teleport
  • L5) Akhasic Map (provides a mental map of the local area, including many details, such as traps and secret doors), Pierce the Veils, Prying Eyes, Twisting Fates Threads (as per Ruin Delvers Fortune, but provides Insight bonuses instead of Luck).

All right; this isn’t strictly Witchcraft, but it seemed to fit in here better than under skills. It’s also a way to get more Power and access to some handy abilities – but the three I really wanted to give her were Seance, Savored Instant, and Pulse of the Realm. Being able to take out a few moments to think no matter how rushed you are, and being able to gather information without it taking up a lot of time, are both invaluable talents for a ruler. (The ability to hold seances is just for flavor of course).

I Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff: Rite of Chi with +(Cha Mod) Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only to restore Power, only takes effect at a maximum of 2d6 points per hour (4 CP). Across a day Granny will regain about 40 power – enough to casually use her psychic abilities for conveniences sake without worrying about tracking every point of Power.

Granny is a pretty powerful witch, but her obvious specialties are biomanipulations and poisons – often used out of combat. After all, she can easily create a contact poison that does 2d12 damage to a chosen attribute (or twice that to an attribute for a specific purpose), has a save DC of 29, and can be given a delayed effect (hours or days). Go ahead, make someone Suggestible (-4d12 Wisdom, only to reduce Will saves), Unable to Strike (reduce Str for melee attack purposes), Dexterity for Movement Purposes, Constitution for Hit Points/Level, Intelligence for Languages (guess what! With Int 0 for that purpose you can no longer communicate!), Intelligence for Skills and Feats (if it drops to 0 for such purposes, you lose access to skills and feats), Charisma for the purposes of Channeling, or a Casting Stat for Spellcasting. Granny has dozens of ways to cripple an opponent with a single touch, dart, or attack – and can provide such poisons for her henchmen and agents.

Combining this with Dominion and her Power Words (Below) will let her poison massive areas – or she can use her Chaos Magic to add effects like Venomfire or Increase Virulence. This is pretty powerful – but it’s an ability that she rarely uses; it affects a massive area, has no provision for making exceptions, and – since she’s generating actual, physical, poisons, that won’t just vanish afterwards – can easily wind up poisoning innocent people later on, rather like the ongoing problems resulting from the use of “Mustard Gas” in World War II.

Does the Venomous Touch poison act again one minute later if the initial save fails? Given that it was essentially based on the Poison spell, it was indeed meant to – but I didn’t note that in the actual description since, at the time, that was the default for all poisons and I was trying to keep the page count down to something manageable. Later material provided a lot of more complicated poisons using other options, so I probably should update that. On the other hand, that leaves it open for game master, which is also reasonable.

Invoking The Ruinous Powers (40 CP):

Granny calls on Dark Gods, Archdevils, and Lovecraftian Forces that frighten even them to grant her terrible powers. Not surprisingly, this has certain problems…

  • It’s blatant dark magic. It backlashes against good or neutral people who attempt to use it, attracts enemies and other troubles, and sometimes lets noxious entities from beyond ooze into reality if used without proper preparations. Even for those who are evil and use it only in secret… it will occasionally attract various problems or foul up their lives.
  • It forces her to show those powers respect, perform bizarre rituals in their honor, make various minor and occasional greater offerings to them, perform occasional services for them (although there are usually many possible tasks to pick from), or have to deal these powers malfunctioning and/or turning against her.
  • These powers are difficult (it costs twice as many uses, three times as many if both apply) to use against the truly innocent or upon holy ground.
  • She must maintain an altar to the ruinous powers and a stockpile of noxious ingredients – virgin’s blood, graveyard mold, vicious toxins, gibbering mouther slime, and so on – to use these powers. This may even require keeping a troublesome menagerie of monsters – and if her supplies are all destroyed or all her altars are desecrated, these powers will not work until she can fix that.

Thanks to these limitations, the entire package counts as being Specialized for Reduced Cost. This may result in double-specialization if combined with restrictions on applicability or usage.

  • Negative Energy Channeling: 1 + 2 x (Cha Mod) uses per day at +2 Intensity, Corrupted/may not command the undead (10 CP). This gives Granny a minimum intensity of 8 (10 Hit Dice +2 Purchased -4 if she rolls a “1″) – which is generally enough. If you don’t want to roll, just assume a “5″ and give her a standard intensity of 9).
  • Shadowmaster, Specialized for Reduced Cost/only for use with the Shades spell, below. (At her current level and up, this effectively makes the effects produced by Shades 100% real – saving the game master any number of headaches over partially real effects. 3 CP).
  • 1d6+2 (6) Mana with Spell Enhancement, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / only to reduce the effective level and boost the casting level of her Conversion effects, only one mana point may be spent on each when doing so (9 CP).
    • This allows Granny to boost her effective level to 13 (hit dice + 3) (or 15 after her Tttoo) for conversion purposes (high enough to use sixth level effects safely) and bring her ninth level effects down to level six so that she can use them at the cost of 2 Mana. In effect, she can use three of her great spells per encounter.
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost/only to recharge the Mana in her Spell Enhancement pool, above (4 CP).
  • Conversion (To a set of four sixth level spells – although they’re actually ninth level, and so she must spend Mana to reduce their level to actually cast them, 15 CP). Such spells have a save DC of 29.
  • Malignant Tongue of the Harridan: L9 Greater Invocation (Maledictions) / creates any one effect of the Malediction spell template of up to L8.

Here we have the signature power of a wicked witch; the ability to lay all kinds of curses – ranging from troublesome to catastrophic – on people, places, and groups. Granny’s eighth level curses can be removed with a Wish or Miracle or some equivalent, (but not lesser spells and effects), through Godfire, by heading to Nine Hells and confronting and dealing with the (invariably major) entity powering said curse, and through whatever release conditions are built into the curse. They can usually be suppressed to some degree by remaining on holy ground due to the “increased cost on holy ground” modifier (although Granny might have anticipated that, and doubled up to avoid it). Granny can use curses to transform people into obedient monsters, but their CR will count against her Leadership score. When cursing the land – perhaps to make fields of magical poppies that put people to sleep – Pathfinder’s Curse Terrain spell effects (Horror Adventures) are easy references.

Granny is capable of using her Chaos Magic to remove curses of up to the sixth level – but she has no way of removing her most potent curses. Fortunately, she’s intelligent enough to restrict herself somewhat if there’s any real chance that she’ll want to undo a curse later on.

  • Call Of The Twisted Forest: Summon Natures Ally IV, Amplify +1 (Templated; the creatures may be given 32 CP worth of extra abilities – normally from among the ten minor templates listed below), Persistent +4 (24 Hour Duration), Amplify +1 (Linked; the summoner is aware of that the creatures learn and do and may communicate with them at ranges of up to ten miles), Amplify +2 (Increased numbers, starting from the effective base of sixth level – allowing the user to summon 1d4+1 creatures of the same type from the Summon Natures Ally IV list, 2d4 creatures from the SNA III list, 3d4 from the SNA II list, or 4d4 from the SNA I list), -3 (7+ levels of built-in Metamagic) = L9.
    • The available templates are Aerial, Aquatic, Armored, Chthonic, Dire, Flaming, Forestal (for intelligent summons only, provides fey knight powers), Ghostly, Noble (an exceptionally fine specimen, suitable for a king), Plague-Ridden, Primal, and Venomous. Yes. Granny can indeed summon up 2d4 Aerial Apes to go forth and do her bidding – or, for that matter, a pack of 4d4 plague-ridden wolves, or 1d4+1 dire bears, or 4d4 flaming eagles/firebirds, or 2d4 Ghost Lions, or any of six-hundred-odd other combinations.
  • Whistle Down The Wind: Greater Invocation of Weather Magic (allowing effects of up to L7)
    • Granny is generally much better at making troublesome and dangerous weather than she is at making nice days – but what can you expect of a wicked witch? She can also use her Weathermonger ability to specifically target weather effects – calling down lightning on someone’s head or steering a tornado through an oppressive rulers palace.
  • Shades.
    • Thanks to her Shadowmastery ability, the effects she calls forth are 100% real.

This is a very powerful set of spells – although, as noted earlier, Granny can only use three of them before taking a break to recharge since she needs to spend a point of mana to bring their spell levels down to six and another point to get her caster level up to where she can safely cast a sixth level spell. As a general rule Granny will cast Call Of The Twisted Forest each morning so as to have a set of sentinels out (and she’ll do it again if she needs some minions), control weather (and a little witchcraft to guide it) will help hold up any assault, the Malignant Tongue of the Harridan lets her weaken attackers (usually through familiars). She’ll usually reserve Shades to escape with since it covers both teleportation and a wide variety of barriers and diversions.

Hatred’s Weal Path:

  • Dark Awakening, Specialized for Reduced Cost / The Undead Creation function can only create immaterial undead that Granny can fit into her Leadership allotment (3 CP). As a rule, Granny much prefers living servants – and so her only real use for this ability is as another option for coming back if she gets killed.
  • Shadow Casting, Corrupted for Reduced Cost, Specialized for Increased Effect (each shadow has a base level of 2 without an XP cost and saves 100 XP if a higher level is desired. They gain the Mystic Link ability with Granny with the Communications, Power, Summons, and Travel options) / The user may only create (Cha Mod) Shadows at any one time and may only have them possess normal animals or magical beasts, if without a host they can do nothing but return to their summoner to be re-embodied (4 CP).
    • Granny will pretty much invariably have one standing by to pull her out of any jam. They’re also her stand-ins and her primary method of long-range attack; she has one go near her targets and channels one of her major spells through – possibly having the familiar project a witchcraft-illusion of her (or perhaps someone else entirely) if she wishes to communicate or make an impression – but she will never expose herself to danger if it can be avoided. Granny hasn’t survived some twenty generations of adventurers coming against her by being stupid.

This is a major disconnect in many games. They’re often set in worlds with thousands of years of backstory, lurking elder evils that were old before the rise of civilization, and ancient mysteries – all of which a group of player characters will shred within a few years. Now I’m willing to give the player characters some credit; they probably really are the chosen ones or something – but that still tells us that those ancient mysteries and evils have survived thousands of years of non-player character adventurers trying to get rid of them. So even conceding something special about the current player characters that makes it possible, it seems appropriate to make pulling off those victories really, REALLY, difficult – and that’s “plan, gather resources, prepare, and do a lot of work” difficult, not “tough encounter” difficult.

  • Call Inner Demons, Specialized for Increased Effect (Construct Level = Intensity) / The summoner does not gain any bonuses when the construct kills something and cannot manifest a construct of above level eight (6 CP).
    • While a construct that lasts for ten minutes can be a fairly effective tool or minion, Granny tends to make one with the Class-C Enveloping modifier if she’s expecting a confrontation. Picking up an extra 118 HP, +19 Natural Armor, two slam attacks at +25 for 1d10+16, 10′ Reach, Str 39, and seven additional abilities – perhaps Flight, Semisentient (to carry her away if she is somehow incapacitated), Tunneling, Boosted Flight (to 60′), +2 Slam Attacks, Fast Healing II, and one Class-C ability – perhaps Dimension Slide as a move action, or Natural Invisibility, or the ability to become Ethereal at will – is pretty good.

Hand of Darkness Path:

  • Shadowmastery: This is pretty simple. You turn out the lights and gain Shadowsense. Thanks to Circle of Power, below, this affects a 55-foot radius (6 CP).
  • Fearspeaker, Specialized/only affects those who know at least some of the legends of the Dark Enchantress (3 CP).
    • Granny doesn’t usually bother with this very much; if she’s making a public appearance in her Dark Enchantress persona, usually with various grim special effects, any sensible lower-level types in the area will probably be terrified anyway – just as they probably will be in the presence of any other obviously excited-and-dangerous higher level warrior or spellcaster.
  • The Dark Veil. The passive ability to conceal her true identity and keep that separate from the persona she projects with her Method Acting disguise skill trick is the real prize here – but being able to intervene and then make people forget all about you is wonderfully useful (6 CP).
  • Nightmare, Specialized/only for Phantasmal Killer. Sharing her nightmarish visions of the dark powers that lurk beyond the gates of reality is too much for most minds to bear (3 CP).
  • Vanishing Shadows. Selective memory erasure that makes people suggestible. Pretty much the perfect way to deal with any inconvenient questions. What politician could resist? (6 CP).

The Boundless Realms Path:

  • Circle of Power (Specialized and Corrupted, Only for Hand of Darkness powers, only for Shadowmastery (Calling Down the Dark), The Dark Veil (Oblivious Wave), and Nightmare (Nightmare Storm Technique), 2 CP).

With a base cost of 80 CP, Invoking The Ruinous Powers costs a total – after Specialization – of 40 CP. That’s a lot of power for 40 CP of course, but then it is a limited set of highly specific abilities with serious backlash issues.

Next up: Granny’s Rulership, Miscellaneous Abilities, and Equipment.

Granny Part III – Architectural Wonders, Experience by Study, and her Legendarium Panoply

To start at the beginning with Granny’s History and the Basics click HERE. To go back to her Skills, Skill Tricks, and Skill-Related Abilities click HERE.

Architectural Wonders:

Caer Hunleff, the Tower of Nightmares, Stronghold of the Dark Enchantress.

This modest castle is offers a fairly standard array of defensive features – gatehouse, stone walls, moat, drawbridge and portcullis, merlons, arrow-loops, and similar elements – but its major defenses lie in Grannies Mystic Architecture. That grants its defenders a +4 Morale Bonuses to their Attacks, Damage, Saves, and AC along with +2 Positive Levels (+2 to BAB, Saves, and AC, Grant of Aid with +4 Bonus Uses, +2d10 HP), generates a Break Enchantment effect at CL 12 once whenever a defender is affected by an unwanted effect, and makes the place impervious to magic designed to change, damage, or scry it out – including Rock to Mud, Move Earth, Passwall, Disintegrate, and so on (this may, at the option of the game master, extend to attempts to teleport past the walls). In any case, thanks to Granny’s ability to curse the surrounding lands, it’s normally defended by seven hazards of CR 14 or less – plus her minions, monsters, and anything she does actively.

  • Rooms: Alchemists Lab (390 GP), Altar (her Unholy Chapel, 210 GP), Armory x2 (780 GP), Ballroom (760 GP), Bath x2 (260 GP), Bedroom x 3 (900 GP), Bunks x2 (800 GP), Cells x2 (360 GP), Ceremonial Room (1,180 GP), Common Room (300 GP), Courtyard (180 GP), Crypt (490 GP), Defensive Stone Walls x4 (2080 GP), Drawbridge (320 GP), Escape Route (360 GP),
    Forge (370 GP), Garden x2 (360 GP), Gatehouse Tower with Iron Door, Iron Portcullis, and Gauntlet (2210 GP), Greenhouse (300 GP), Habitat (for Granny’s exotic animals, 790 GP), Kitchen (160 GP), Lavatory (120 GP), Magical Repository (730 GP), Nursery (250 GP), Office x2 (240 GP), Sitting Room (480 GP), Stall x4 (1000 GP), Storage x3 (360 GP), Summoning Chamber (1040 GP), Throne Room (1650 GP), and War Room (300 GP).
  • Magical Facilities: Celeano Manuscripts (3200 GP), Perpetual Fountain I (250 GP), Cleansing Fountain (62.5 GP), and City Stores (750 GP/Day, 8225 GP).
  • Staffing: Gangsta Wrap I (but one use/day (x4) and Immobile (x.5) instead of one per month (120 minions, 11,880 GP).
  • Income: Caer Hunleff has a net GP modifier of just under +200. About 20 of the minions will usually be doing profitable things, for another +200 – ergo Caer Hunleff earns about 40 GP/Day. Due to the use of magical minions, there are no modifiers for being away from the place. Of course, this is far less than the City Stores provide – but every little bit helps.

Net Total: 43,350 GP. If Granny chooses to use the Stores to solidify Caer Hunleff’s reality, it will take it some sixty days to become real, permanent, and independent of her Dreambinding. In practice, this depends on the campaign situation; Granny always uses the the 23,700 GP from her Dream-Binding Specialty to pay for the 23,617.5 GP cost of the magical facilities since – if someone does capture the place – she sees no reason to give them the benefits of her magical resources – but whether or not she makes the rest of the place “real” depends on the campaign situation; if she needs to be able to move it around readily, it will be entirely a manifestation of Dream-Binding. If not, she’ll probably make the basic structure real and permanent.

Caer Hunleff is a useful outpost, and a good place for Granny to keep things that she doesn’t want publicly known – but it’s also something of a honeypot. Anyone who is looking for a dark enchantress or wicked witch is going to eventually find rumors of the haunted forest, the ruinous castle, the malevolent hag who occupies it, and her enslaved and enchanted minions. If they wish to destroy this blight upon the land, they can battle their way through the cursed lands about the place, defeat the monsters and dark magics that Granny will send against them, endure the storms that will spring up to defend the castle, breach the gates, defeat her minions, and confront Granny (or, much more likely, her stand-in) – who will generally dissolve into dust if defeated (Or, if she is amused enough, when simply given an excuse. While the “I’m Melting!” routine was a bit over the top, the kid was amusing, and a relative, and actually swallowed it!). After all, while there are some valuables laying about, the entire place and everything in it can be readily replaced.

The Witch-Mazes:

Granny is well aware that there are plenty of perils to her realm that she isn’t really much good at handling – and so she makes sure that there are manageable opportunities for young adventurers to gain skill and experience so that there will be someone available who is good at dealing with such threats.

The Witch-Mazes are modest “ruins” seeded with a few valuables and with a selection of curses laid on them to create a carefully graduated set of traps and hazards – and to populate them with warped, powered-up, versions of normal animals / monsters. If the challenge needs a bit of adjusting they may have Mystic Architecture effects applied as well.

Angry squirrels are one thing. Angry accursed squirrels with even a portion of the advantages that Granny’s Mystic Architecture can give them are quite something else again. Giving them +4 Morale Bonuses to their Attacks, Damage, Saves, and AC along with +2 Positive Levels (+2 to BAB, Saves, and AC, +2d10 HP, and 12 CP – spent on 1d4 base lethal damage, DR 2/-, and 5000 GP worth of Innate Enchantment (perhaps Immortal Vigor for another 10 HP, Mage Armor, and use of Produce Flame)) will result in Squirrels with AC 28, 22 HP, Melee Attacks of 1d4 physical at +10 or 1d6+5 touch fire damage at +6, a ranged touch attack for 1d6+5 fire damage at +10, and Saves of Fort +7, Ref +12, and Will +7)… can turn them into quite a challenge even for a mid-level party – and Granny can freely adjust that challenge in a variety of ways. Remember; she wants adventurers to have a rough time and gain some experience, not a pile of corpses. 

None of the Witch-Mazes are really all that large. They tend to be things like old watchtowers, cursed mansions, logging camps, haunted groves, and so on. Basically… they’re minidungeons. Granny even puts out clues, partial maps, and rumors, carefully steering groups to appropriate challenges – or hurriedly attempting to upgrade, downgrade, or restock if a group is headed for someplace inappropriate or that’s recently been looted. Granny hasn’t got the time, resources, or inclination to get a group beyond level four or five this way, and certainly can’t be bothered nursemaiding incompetents – but she can help young heroes get past the most vulnerable stages of their careers.

Witch-Mazes are more or less throwaways: Assuming that creating a “ruin”runs about a quarter of the cost of a building a real, functioning, structure, throwing up the “ruins” of a Large Bandit Camp, or a Bardic College, or Caster’s Tower will cost about 1200 GP (about half of which can be salvaged by clever adventurers looting the place). Adding Curses and/or Mystic Architecture modifiers using her personal powers is free – and throwing in another 1250 GP worth of mundane gear and supplies as treasure takes the cost to a bit of her daily power and one days worth of stuff from her Cauldron of Holda (below). If she wishes, she can even assign a few (free) minions to play bad guys and set up cheap traps. In other words, she can casually throw together one per day at little or no personal expense given a few hours to work in.

The House of Wisdom, Residence of the Elder Advisor and Orphanage:

This modest manor – once the home of the almost-forgotten Dowager Queen – is the official residence of the realms Elder Advisor, and so is more or less Grannies permanent home. These days it has broad gardens, greenhouses and orchards, a comfortable small library / reading room – and swarms of orphans and delinquent children there for a bit of “straightening out” – at which Granny has a marvelous record of success. She’s even raised many of the realms young heroes. It too has mystic architecture – granting residents two positive levels (bestowing 2d10 HP, Fast Learner specialized in Skills, and Grant of Aid with Bonus Uses, with limitations that keep people from noticing or trying to actively use the boosted hit points and grant of aid – which keeps the kids from getting stupid. Well, any more stupid than kids usually get anyway), bells that grant each resident the equivalent of a full nights rest twice per week, +4 Morale bonuses to Intelligence and Wisdom (specialized in allowing the kids studying there to readily pick up a relevant Package Deal), and Group Focus (allowing Granny’s skill check to serve as a concentration skill check when it comes to studying.

On Self-Improvement through Study in D20:

Studying / Training is the realistic way to improve yourself. Like most realistic things, when you compare it to fantastic magical ways to improve yourself such as adventuring it isn’t worth much. Still, for non-adventuring kids it’s a way to get ahead. So studying lets you take your time and turn it into Experience Points.

So how fast is that? And what helps you study and train? It’s not Intelligence. Intelligence gets you more skill points per level, but it makes you easily bored too, which explains why it isn’t coming into things twice. It’s not Wisdom, that (at least in d20 games) simply lets you notice distractions more. What is it that helps you pull all-night studying marathons and helps keep your mind focused on your studying?

Well, keeping your mind focused despite distractions is – by definition – a concentration check. In 3.5 that’s straightforward enough. Unfortunately, the Pathfinder writers concluded that having a Concentration skill was basically a skill tax on casters (whom they assumed HAD to keep it maxed out) and that non-casters never needed to keep their minds focused. I’d say that both are wrong – I’ve seen plenty of Casters who found ways to avoid such checks and plenty of noncasters who needed to make them (trying to focus on getting that lock open despite the arrow in your shoulder and the fight behind you? Adventurers lives are FULL of situations calling for concentration) – but that’s easy to fix. When you need to make a Concentration check for non-magical stuff roll 1d20 + Con Mod + Your Level in the Class (or Classes) which provide the ability you’re using.

So Studying involves using Concentration as a (simplified, since anyone can study) version of a Craft skill using your time as the raw material. You spend a week studying, make your non-magical concentration check, square your result, and divide by 50 (since the 3.5 magic item crafting rules tell us that 1 XP costs 50 SP and Pathfinder gives no information on the topic) to see how many XP you get.

Computing how much that gets you in an average week (since it involves a sum of exponents) calls for using a slightly more complex than usual formula: – namely [N(N+1)(2N+1)/6]. The sum of the squares from 1-20 (for a +0 modifier) is 2870. Dividing by 20 for an average result and by 50 for the value gets us an average of 2.87 XP per week. And yes, that sucks. Even with a decent teacher (+2 Aid Another), Textbooks (+2 Masterwork Equipment) and a +1 circumstance bonus for a schoolroom, we will only wind up with 5.434 XP per week – about 200 XP per thirty-six week school year. At that rate it will take four to six years (presuming some sick days and such) to go from level “-2″ (set at -850 XP) to level one (0 XP competent adult) through pure schooling. Given that schools are likely to spend at least half the kids time on recess, lunch, tests, roll call, classroom tasks, and kids being kids, and won’t start until the kids are five to seven (since before then they’re just not up to it)… that would mean that the baseline human starting age would be about seventeen. Full-time, intensive, training could get a kid to level one by age ten or so though – which is, not particularly surprisingly, about the minimum age for starting a child PC.

And the fact that that number makes a reasonable amount of sense is kind of discouraging. Still, there are always ways for Adventurers to do things that are unavailable to most. For example, Granny’s Mystic Architecture allows residents at the House of Wisdom to substitute her Mystic Artist skill check (as built into the structure) for their Concentration checks. Her skill check would have been made using the Celeano Manuscripts, Luck, a +3 Room bonus, and some Aid Another, for a total check of about 71 and a net total of 50 XP per half-time week of classes or about 2000 XP per “school year”.

That’s actually pretty worthwhile. Spend a few low-risk years at the House of Wisdom and you can easily hit second or third level, even if you won’t have much of any treasure – at least outside of any part time earnings – unless the game master is using “wealth by level” as a law of nature instead of a game convenience.

Of course, in a realm where good and evil are forces of nature, and where creatures of the lower planes offer pacts in exchange for service or sacrifices… some children are just murderous, or are naturally evil, or are possessed, or any of a dozen other things. And Granny has uses for those as well. After all, despicable were-rat henchmen, evil grand viziers (who do all the unpleasant, dishonorable, and – above all else – PRACTICAL things that need to be done when you’re running a kingdom), thugs, thieves, assassins, and cursed monsters have to come from SOMEWHERE don’t they? And once you’re satisfied that a child is best suited for such a role… it is only fair to extend the power of The Dark Veil (whether via the Blessing ability through a relic or through some cleverly-phrased curse) to them and thus erase them from both memory and record. After that – and a curse of being unable to reveal any of Grannies more dubious activities or talents – the Thieves Guild or her monstrous servants will have another recruit.

And Granny, of course, will continue to maintain her extremely high rate of “success” in raising kids, since many of her major failures (or perhaps malign successes) will simply vanish from memory and record.

Granny may have designed and built the House of Wisdom, but it’s not really one of her personal assets any longer. It’s a governmental facility. Several other officials work there, it’s an orphanage and school, and it’s a training center for beginning heroes. It’s also a very unlikely place for a major confrontation, so game statistics are mostly unnecessary.

The Thieves Guild.

If you’re going to have crime – and you ALWAYS will – it might as well be well organized crime. Besides… you need a place to fence ill-gotten gains, to keep your monsters, and to hire assassins to deal with threats to your realm. Paying modest fees for “insurance” (and to feed the beggars and street children and such) is simply another form of taxation. Ergo Granny provides cheap mystic architecture to the Underworld – granting the Guild a secretive stronghold that protects against divinatory powers (and possibly against teleporting past the walls), helps heal their injuries and renew their abilities, radiates indifference (discouraging non-members from taking enough interest to investigate), and grants them the ability to create and carry a small number of minor relics – allowing them to learn both to create a selection and take along only the ones that they need.

In many settings this will also double as an “adventurers guild”. Even those adventurers who go above and beyond being murder-hobos are generally violent, inclined to accumulate dangerous (and possibly illegal) devices, magic, and substances, have swarms of enemies, attract monsters, try to solve most of their problems by killing things, and are usually homeless tax evaders. They may be needed when there’s a dragon coming, but most of the time they’re about as undesirable as it gets. Staying at a place that asks no questions, has good food and comfortable beds, that enforces rules like “no killing or stealing on the premises” effectively, that protects against divination, that helps them heal up and regain their powers quickly, that can obtain all kinds of gear for them, and which probably also has kids who run errands cheaply and congenial sex workers living on the premises, is about as good as it gets. 

Well, at least until they take over a kingdom to run into the ground.

Tales of the Dark Enchantress: The Shadow Over Greendale

Greendale perched on the foothills overlooking the river below the mountains, and it’s people trembled. The same pass which brought trade and wealth would now bring destruction. For the Hordes of the Wastes came, as relentless as a tide, and their homes would fall in fire and blood. It was but two days away, and reinforcements – or refuge – would be a week or more. Some fled, in hopes that destroying Greendale would somehow delay the horde long enough for them to escape it’s outriders – even as those outriders already lay in wait along the escape routes. Most took up arms and prepared for death – and prayed to the Light for a miracle.

Others offered prayers and sacrifice to any power that would aid them, making fearful promises of gifts, and service, and offspring – and that night the Darkness answered. The moon hid it’s face and the shadows spread unbroken as an obsidian tower rose – the unhallowed gateway-tomb of the storied Dark Enchantress, crypt and entrance to the underworld. From it, wrapped once more in decaying flesh, her long-fallen spirit strode forth – burning with witchfire and corpse-light, Behind her marched a Legion of Hades, an army of long dead and damned warriors that manned the pallid walls of bone which had erupted about Greendale.

And the Horde came against the town for three days – but the dead held the walls, and the living could not pass save into the grave. The dread curses of the Dark Enchantress wrought havoc upon the horde as well. Against her the shamans of the Horde hurled spells of death, of paralysis, of annihilation, and more – but none would bite upon her undead flesh. The Warlord of the Horde – Arthewn of the Iron Axe – heard the voice of the Witch who barred his path and was swallowed up living by the earth. To this day, each year on the dark of the midwinter moon his voice can be heard amid the hills, pleading for some brave and adventurous soul to take pity, dare the deep caverns of the Labyrinth of Nightmares which holds him, and free his soul from torment.

None yet has dared attempt the deed.

For three days of battle the walls of bone ran red with blood – but upon the fourth day the horde was broken upon the dark arts and iron will of the ancient Hag of the Underworld, and fled, harried by a thousand dreadful curses and the creatures of the infernal realms. The army of the damned swept forth to slaughter the wounded foe and their camp followers – and then returned to the crypt, taking along – and into the service of their unholy mistress – a score of Greendale’s youths, the price paid for the assistance of the Witch-Queen. And the crypt trembled, and collapsed once more into the earth, leaving behind only a dark altar.

Today, at that altar, the masked and hooded people of Greendale make a yearly offering in thanks for their dread deliverance – and in hopes that the darkness need never rise again. That offering is most often of meat and wine – but every so often, when the signs are bad and the lost souls moan upon the wind, it is a condemned youths – thieves, or murderers, or some such – who will be gone when comes the dawn. For life was given, and life must be repaid.

Not surprisingly, the defense of Greendale called on the majority of Grannies powers, most notably:

  • Creating a Relic or Relics to boost her Dream-Binding ability and to bolster her personal defenses.
  • Dream-Binding to create stone city walls and some gatehouses (about 8000 GP), a City Father (24,000 GP), the “Crypt” (basically another gatehouse with a war-room (3000 GP) and a “summon army” (120,000 GP) setup in the basement), and City Stores (8000 GP) to provide supplies. (This means she has to get a minimum of a +3 bonus – probably through a relic providing Skill Focus and Skill Emphasis, so as to have some margin).
  • Mystic Architecture to make the walls effectively invulnerable to siege engineering and being bypassed by magic and to bestow a huge range of bonuses – one set from the Crypt and one set from the Walls – on the defenders.
  • Foresight to always have everything in place and ready to repel the Horde – and to combine with her Legendarium power array to have appropriate defenses from her panoply (below, often a Talisman of Undying Fortitude) going whenever attacked.
  • Craft (Image) (and, personally, her Hat of Disguise) to provide the horrific special effects.
  • Her personal powers – summoning, group-curses, and battle magic – could and did take a toll on the opposing troops as well, even if major opponents could often resist her. (Managing to take out Arthewn was something of a stroke of luck).
    • Oh, the kids? Those were, and generally still are, much better off with some extra training, some appreciation for their evil talents, and a chance to join a PROPER Thieves Guild or become true monsters or some such. It’s not like Granny is big on dead people or on torture or such when she has no need to make a point.

It’s worth noting that this general setup wouldn’t work against an elder dragon, or a party of high-level adventurers, or some similar menace. Granny’s powers are very good at dealing with masses of opponents, and she is personally very good at escaping, but she simply isn’t built to confront major monsters. That’s a job for Adventurers or Heroes – and she is neither. 

Grannies Legendarium Panoply:

  • Head: Veil of Nimue: (97,100 GP Total):
    • Scouts Headband (3400 GP) with +3 Daily Charges (6 total, +3000 GP) +2 Competence to Perception, spend 1/2/3 charges to gain 60′ Darkvision for an hour/see invisible for ten minutes/true seeing for one minute.
    • Also functions as a Hat of Disguise (x1.5 surcharge for second function = 2700 GP)
    • Grants a +6 Enhancement bonus to Charisma (36,000 GP) and Intelligence (36,000 GP, as a permanent self-enhancement it adds to skill points normally), and a +4 to Wisdom (16,000 GP). Per the Magic Item Compendium, attribute boosts may be added to other items without extra cost.
  • Face: Masque of Medea (11,900 GP):
    • Raptors Mask (3500 GP), +5 to Perception, wearer is immune to Blindness and Dazzling.
    • Also functions as Third Eye Freedom (1.5x surcharge, 3900 GP). Immediate action provides one round of Freedom of Action once per day.
    • Also functions as a Third Eye Clarity (1.5x surcharge 4500 GP). Once per day negates a confused, dazed, fascinated, or stunned condition as an immediate action that those conditions cannot prevent.
  • Throat: The Undying Breath of Koschei (50,300 GP).
    • Talisman of Undying Fortitude (4 Charges, 16,000 GP). Activate as a swift action to gain the ability to survive without breathing and immunity to poison, sleep effects, paralysis, stunning, disease, death effects, critical hits, nonlethal damage, physical ability damage, ability drain, energy drain, fatigue, exhaustion, death from massive damage, and any effect that requires a Fortitude save for 3 rounds.
      • Intelligent: Int, Wis, and Chr 14 (3000 GP), Telepathy, 120′ Senses, Blindsense, and Read Languages (8000 GP). As an Intelligent Item it has it’s own item slots – and so, can use the powers of a Ring of the Forcewall (5100 GP), Healing Belt (6 Charges, 1500 GP), Rod of Bodily Restoration (3100 GP), Orb of Mental Renewal (3100 GP), and Amulet of Tears (9 Charges, 6900 GP). It can cast Nerveskitter, Resurgence, and Magic Missile 3/Day each at caster level seventeen (3600 GP).
  • Shoulders: Cloak of Abramelin (34,250 GP).
    • Shadow Cloak (5500 GP) +1 Deflection Bonus to AC, three times per day, as an immediate action in response to an attack, you may either gain Concealment or Teleport ten feet to a space you can clearly see.
    • Also functions as a Vanisher Cloak (x1.5 Surcharge, 3750 GP). 3 Charges/Day, spend 1/2/3 as a swift action to gain invisibility for 4 rounds/you and an adjacent ally become invisible for 3 rounds/you and three adjacent allies become invisible for 2 rounds.
    • Also grants a +5 Resistance bonus to Saving Throws (25,000 GP, per the Magic Item Compendium there is no surcharge for adding this as a secondary function).
  • (Ring) Sigil of Circe: (40,700 GP).
    • Ring of Mind Shielding (8000 GP). Immune to Detect Thoughts, Discern Lies and Alignment Detection.
    • Also functions as a Ring of Anticipation (x1.5 Surcharge, 9000 GP): +3 Competence Bonus to Perception, may roll initiative checks twice and take the best result.
    • Also functions as a Ring of Feather Falling (x1.5 Surcharge, 3300 GP).
    • Also functions as Ring of Sustenance (x1.5 Surcharge, 3750 GP).
    • Also functions as two Rings of Counterspells (x1.5 Surcharge, 12,000 GP).
      • Note that, in combination with Foresight, this pretty much allows Granny to ignore any two spells of up to level six per day.
  • (Belt) Girding of Aradia (48,000 GP):
    • +4 Competence Bonus to All Skills (Skill Mastery, L2 x CL5 x 2000 GP = 20,000 GP).
    • Also functions as a Belt of Battle (x1.5 Surcharge, 18,000 GP). +2 Competence Bonus to Initiative, 3 Charges/Day, spend 1/2/3 as a swift action to gain a move action/a standard action/a full-round action.
    • Also provides +2 Enhancement Bonuses to Strength (4000 GP) and Dexterity (4000 GP). Per the Magic Item Compendium, attribute boosts may be added to other items without extra cost.
    • Also functions as a Handy Haversack (2000 GP, normally slotless).
  • (No Slot) Cauldron of Holda (Epic Adventurers Supply Pouch, 33,000 GP). Note that this allows Granny to produce 2250 GP worth of stuff per day – allowing her to set up some 16,000 GP worth of buildings per week.
  • (No Slot) Favor of Abaris (37,770 GP):
    • Good Fortune: Aura of Favor (SL1), Fortune’s Favor (SL0), and Ward of Heaven (SL1) x CL3 x 2000 GP x 2 (Slotless) = 15,000 GP. Provides a +1 Luck Bonus to Saves, AC, Attacks, Damage, Skill Checks, and Ability Checks.
    • Also functions as a Gangsta Wrap VI (22,770 GP, already slotless). Granny has four sixth level minions, which can be replaced on a monthly basis.
  • (No Slot) Talisman of the Sabbat (28,500 GP): As per a Figurine Of Wondrous Power; Obsidian Steed. This allows Granny to easily visit various planes and meet with her covens.

Next up: Granny’s special powers.