Eclipse d20 – Playing With The Pulps Part II: Pulp Powers

For Part I – the Basic Pulp Hero and Advanced Pulp Hero Templates – Click HERE.

The first, and largest, option for Advanced Pulp Heroes is Pulp Powers – the weird abilities that make many of them just a bit more than human. For an awful lot of those powers the mechanism of choice is Witchcraft. At its base Witchcraft is low-powered, low-cost, and very versatile – which means that it can easily be specialized in particular functions to make it medium powered (just right for pulp powers) while maintaining it’s low cost. That’s important because pulp heroes generally aren’t of particularly high level and rarely grow in power all that much – so unlike a baseline d20 character they don’t go from “slightly above ordinary” to “stronger than most classical gods” over the course of their careers.

And the next step in basic Witchcraft is a simple feat – The Secret Order. So we can take that ability and build what we want as…

Pulp Powers/The Secret Order: +5 Basic Abilities, +4 Power (6 CP). Where saves are relevant, they have a DC of (16 + User’s Cha Mod). This gives our Advanced Pulp Hero a choice of five pulp powers, either drawn from the list below or built from the basic witchcraft abilities using these powers as examples.

It’s worth noting that the special effects are up to the user; if you want Venomous Infusion to be represented by a pouch full of vials and needles, then so be it. Do you carry bottles of special adhesives to use the Adhesion effect? Use C’hi powers? Or weird technology? Go right ahead; changing what your powers look like is quite acceptable.

  • A Thousand Faces/Shadowweave: You may spend 1 Power to gain a +12 bonus on Disguise checks for thirty minutes. During this time you may disguise yourself or change disguises as a Standard Action without penalty and gain a similar bonus to attempts to imitate voices.
  • Adhesion/Witchfire (constant): You can cause items you touch to stick together. You may perform small repairs (as per Mending), add +10 to the DC of escaping any bindings you apply, gain a +6 bonus on any rolls to hang onto creatures or things or to keep your footing, and may employ a Spider Climb effect at will.
  • Adroit Cavalier/Hyloka and Glamour (constant): Any mount you ride gains the benefits of Personal Haste (The Practical Enchanter), Surefooted Stride, Jump, and Fast Healing I, all cast at your level, while you gain a +10 bonus to Ride checks. If you keep a personal mount for a week or more, those benefits will remain in force for it for up to forty-eight hours between contacts. Your mount will come when called, can perform any “trick” without training, and needs only one-quarter the usual amount of food, rest, air, and water.
  • All-Around Sight/Shadowweave (no cost, works until deactivated): Subtly guiding light to the user’s eyes allows the user to see in all directions. He or she cannot be flanked and gains a +4 bonus to Perception, but suffers a -4 penalty on saves against gaze attacks.
  • Analytical Gaze/Hyloka: You may spend 1 Power to commit up to five minutes worth of material to memory with photographic exactness – making it easy (at least with an advanced pulp heroes augmented intelligence) to deduce things like a targets likely profession, the presence of hidden weapons, the tiny inconsistencies that may indicate a disguise, likely guard routes and blind spots in surveillance, and similar elements. As a side effect, you do not need a spell book, may sketch or draw what you’ve seen with great precision, can read off all the titles of a shelf of books you merely glanced at from memory, and may perform many similar stunts.
  • Animal Companion/The Inner Eye (constant): You have a vague link with a normal animal with a range of about a mile. Within that range you can get bits of what it sees and hears and you can influence it with Animal Handling rolls. If something happens to it (including dying of old age) you will need at least a month to replace it and will probably be upset.
  • Animal Friend/The Inner Eye (constant): The user can gain simple clues, warnings, and even some facts from observing animals and can get simple messages across to them. Thus observing frightened birds might reveal an ambush and Lassie can both reveal that Little Timmy is down the well and be sent to fuss at the main house, and perhaps bring additional aid.
  • Athletic Paragon/Hand Of Shadows (constant): You gain a +4 bonus on Acrobatics, Climb, Fly, Ride, Swim, and Martial Arts based on Str or Dex (this does increase the number of techniques that you know) in each such art, +10 feet/round to all of your movement rates, subtract six dice from any falling damage you take, and can never become overweight or out of shape.
  • Bioawareness/Witchsight (constant): You are a walking lie detector. When you focus on a target within 20′ you become aware of their heartbeat, eye movements, any pains they may be feeling, whether or not they are sweating, and similar responses. You gain a +10 bonus to Sense Motive, a +6 bonus to Heal, and can easily tell if someone is merely pretending to be unconscious or dead, when people are nervous, and if they are ill or drugged.
  • Blinding Flash/Shadowweave: You may spend 1 Power as a standard action to create a burst of light equivalent to the effects of a Pyrotechnics spell cast on a fire source. While this has only a sixty foot range, you are automatically immune to the effects.
  • Cloud The Senses/Glamour: You gain a +6 bonus on your Social Skills and may subtly influence perceptions; you may “set the theme” of the immediate setting (adding minor descriptive items to it – adding a dry wind, a tumbling tumbleweed, appropriate subtle “background noises”, and other “western” cliches, or setting up a haunted house with creaking doors, flickering shadows, chill drafts, and cobwebs. This adds +4 to the DC of penetrating any deception which matches the theme), With concentration you can erase your presence from other minds; for 1 Power per Minute you can use the Pathfinder version of Cloud Minds, at an effective power point total equal to your level.
  • Clouds Above The Earth/Hand Of Shadows: You may spend one power to create footing (small force disks) where none exists for one minute. During this time you may walk silently and without putting pressure on the floor, stand on water, and perform similar stunts.
  • Cultivated Blandness/Shadowweave (constant): You may make a Disguise check each morning; the result is the DC of the will save needed to recall any details about your name, face, or voice. This does not, however, interfere with memories of what you actually did – just of your identity. If you opt to present yourself as a generic member of a group, those you encounter must save successfully before they can become suspicious.
  • Darkness/Shadowweave: You may spend 1 Power and a Swift Action to render normal vision useless within a radius of up to 20 feet. If this is an ability, it centers on you and moves with you for up to ten minutes. If it is device (such as a smoke bomb) the effect is immobile and only lasts for three rounds, but you may place the effect anywhere within sixty feet as long as you have line of sight and get three uses per Power expended.
  • Darksight/Witchsight (constant): You get 120′ Darksight.
  • Defining Aura/Glamour (constant): You may give yourself a brief personal description; those who interact with you will accept it as the truth, and react accordingly, unless they make their saving throw. Once chosen, your description will not change without months of work. For example, you could be “A deadly criminal mastermind, with wealth, favors, and minions to call upon and a deserved reputation for dealing harshly with those who cross him” – and watch people get out of your way, try and curry favor with you, and cower in fear if you seem upset. Be “A wealthy playboy whom every woman secretly wants, with loads of money and a reputation for throwing marvelous get-togethers and attending every social function” and watch the invitations pour in, doormen wave you into exclusive clubs, and bartenders and caterers gladly run a tab for you. Play the role of an incredibly brilliant scientist, a great detective, or whatever you wish. Sadly, if you act too far out of character, a new save can be made every day.
  • Demolitions/Infliction: You may spend one minute and 3 Power to rig up a stationary explosion that inflicts triple the normal Infliction damage in up to a 10′ radius. Unfortunately, such lash-ups are too fragile to be thrown, although they can be rigged up with various triggers, such as when a car starts.
  • Draught Of Eternity/Hyloka (constant): You age extremely slowly, if at all. You may spend 1 power to heal 1d6 points of attribute damage or drain as a free action once per round. As a side effect, if you are more than sixty years old and still adventuring, you will find that people will believe almost any story about your exploits and abilities.
  • Elder Sorcery/Various (normally villains only): This is any single Basic Witchcraft Ability, Specialized for Double Effect/requires gestures and incantations, calls upon terrible elder beings and occasionally lets them or their minions slip into the world, is widely recognized as terrible black magic, requires occasional sacrifices to or missions for the eldritch powers that back it. (Witchcraft is generally fairly low-powered. Doubling up a basic ability this way gets it up to the lower-mid power level as far as basic d20 goes – but in a pulp setting this tends to be the terrifying upper limit of magical power.)
  • Elemental Mastery/Witchfire: While it’s a distinct rarity in the pulps (and a transitional phase towards more modern superheroes), a very few pulp characters can control elemental forces. What makes them distinctly “pulp”, however, is that these abilities tend to be relatively weak, but versatile; a Firemaster may be able to generate weak blasts and bolts of flame within a very limited radius – but he or she can also weld, heat their coffee, generate heat to shrug off cold weather, melt an incoming fusillade of bullets, snuff out flames, and provide light. Someone with cold powers might create a chill mist, prevent explosives from detonating, shatter metal, protect themselves from heat or cold, extinguish fires, preserve specimens, or spread a film of ice over nearby surfaces. In general, the user must select a specific type of energy to manipulate and may create effects within their field equivalent to Cantrips without cost, may create first level effects as Standard Actions for 1 Power. The elemental forces may also be employed defensively as an Immediate Action for 2 Power, reducing the effects of an appropriate incoming attack or group of attacks by 1d6 per level (to a minimum of zero).
  • Evasive Jinx/Elfshot (constant): Anyone within a two block radius who is actively pursuing you must save on the first round and every four rounds thereafter or suffer some minor, transient, hindrance – someone getting in the way, a flat tire, a minor accident, being tripped, or some similar difficulty. Similar Jinx abilities may be developed for other activities – such as Theft and Burglary or (if the game master is willing to allow it) even Combat.
  • Focused Mind: You may spend 1 Power at any time to gain the results of a DC 25 Autohypnosis check, to regain your Psionic Focus, or to throw off a Confused, Dazed, or Stunned condition.
  • Forced March/Hyloka (constant): You may go for up to a week without food or water, up to three days without sleep, and up to three minutes without air, with no penalty. Thereafter penalties accumulate normally. As a side effect, you gain the Endure Elements and Longstrider effects.
  • Ghost Strike/Dreamfaring (constant): You and your attacks effectively have the Ghost Touch property. You may spend 1/2/3 Power to briefly phase a small/large/complete portion of your body into the Ethereal plane; this can be used to get things out of sealed boxes, reach through doors to unlock them, or even to step through walls.
  • Gliding/The Hand Of Shadows: If conscious, you may control your falls – moving up to 15′ per 5′ of fall and taking no damage when you land. Strong winds may make it hard to make progress upwind, but can be used to gain height. This has no cost and does not require an action.
  • Grandiose Gesture/Glamour: You may spend 2 Power as an Immediate Action to get everyone in a sixty foot radius who fails to save to focus their attention on you this round. You gain a +2 to +6 (GMO) bonus on the DC of the save if you actually do something attention-grabbing or very dramatic. If you keep speaking, you create an effect similar to the Enthrall spell.
  • Greased Lightning/Hyloka (constant): You gain a +3 bonus to Initiative checks and may perform minor “super speed” tricks such as getting a fire started by friction in mere moments, moving the shells in a shall game too fast for anyone to track, using a sword to put your initial on someone’s chest, or shuffling and dealing cards in mere moments.
  • Handwriting Analysis/The Inner Eye: Given a few minutes to examine a sample of someone’s handiwork – a sample of their handwriting, something they built, a piece of art they created, or a house they decorated – you can recognize other examples of their handiwork, create a profile of them (getting a good idea of their traits, behaviors, and personality), and may make a Perception check to try to obtain a (very) general physical description of them.
  • Hypnosis/Glamour: You may spend one power as a standard action to Hypnotize (as the spell) up to 4d4 levels of creatures. If you choose a single target, they may be given a Suggestion (classics include inducing temporary delusions (“You are a chicken!”), getting them to answer questions, getting them to remember things that didn’t happen (“You met with a Dragon that demanded…”), inducing a Delayed Suggestion (“When the clock strikes two in the morning, open the south gate”) although this allows a second save when it activates, and even undo the effects of other mind-affecting abilities (allowing a new save).
  • I Planned For This Contingency!/Glamour and The Inner Eye: As a free action you may spend 3 Power to create a near-instant psychic conference. This lets the players take a five minute break to plan, solve some puzzle, or what-have-you – although the usual special effect is “we planned for this in advance”. Secondarily, for the next one minute, everyone in the group receives a pair of +2 Insight Bonuses which they may elect to apply to any two of Attacks, An Attribute, Damage, Checks, Saves, or Armor Class – although the choice is fixed for the duration once made.
  • Illusion Projection: You may spend 1 Power as a standard action to generate the equivalent of a Minor Image anywhere to which you have line of sight within sixty feet.
  • Impeccable Image/Multiple (constant): You look good at all times. Your clothing is clean, your hair styled, your manners impeccable, and your manner suave. You can automatically fit into any social gathering and never make faux pas. Any accusers tend to be seen as lying villains and your actions are generally seen in the best possible light. Any legal or social troubles are automatically reduced by one level in severity and you are an extremely credible witness. If there are any rolls involved in such things you gain a +6 bonus.
  • Inspiring Presence/Glamour (constant): Every ally within 30 feet gains a +1 Morale Bonus to attacks, weapon damage, saves, and checks. You may spend 3 Power and a Standard Action to increase this bonus to +2 for 3d6 rounds or to counter fear and/or negative morale effects.
  • Instant Inclusion/The Inner Eye: You have an amazing knack for finding friends, both new and old. You may call on up to (Base Cha/2) character points worth of Contacts and Favors during each adventure without having actually purchased them and may make Gather Information checks in a mere ten minutes.
  • Intuitive Operator/Witchsight (constant): You know how to properly operate any device you come across. This does not necessarily mean that you have any idea what it DOES, but you intuitively know what to do to make it work. You enjoy a +6 bonus on any rolls to operate a vehicle or otherwise operate machinery.
  • Kangaroo Pouch/Shadowweave (constant): You gain a +20 Circumstance Bonus on any attempts to conceal objects around your person and may employ Call Item at the 100 GP level up to once per round.
  • Lay Of The Land/Witchsight: You may sense what you would have learned if you had taken the time to search an area throughly, gone through a stack of books to research a topic, or spent an hour interrogating a suspect or checking their computer files – effectively substituting a moments glance for several hours of effort. Even better, this does not disturb the area and gives no external sign of what you’re doing. It does not, however, obviate the need for the relevant skill checks and costs 1 Power each time you use it.
  • Linguistic Acquisition/The Inner Eye: If you can spend five minutes in the company of someone who speaks or reads a language (and who isn’t shielding their mind against you) you may expend 1 Power to pick up that language. If you wish to maintain it, you must spend 1 power per day – although contact with the source is no longer necessary unless you let it drop. If you maintain it for thirty days or more, you may “forget” and old language and substitute the new one for it permanently.
  • Longevity/Hyloka (constant): Aging has little effect on you; you do not suffer attribute penalties for middle age until old age, do not suffer old age penalties until you are venerable, and are treated as having obtained the greatest possible result + 1d (of whatever type the roll normally uses) for your maximum age. Thanks to your many experiences, three times per day you may apply a +4 Insight Bonus to any in-game roll, this does not require an action. Yes, this overlaps with Draught of Eternity; this is for characters who are just extraordinarily healthy and vigorous, not semi-immortal.
  • Medium/Dreamfaring: You may sense the presence of the dead (constant) or – given something linked to a deceased individual – hold a seance. This requires the expenditure of 2d4 Power which the spirit, if it chooses to appear at all, may draw on to power witchcraft effects of its own. Most spirits are willing to talk to a medium, even if it’s only to mock and threaten them, and they generally don’t know (or won’t admit to knowing) anything that they didn’t know in life.
  • Mind Over Body/Hyloka: You possess an utterly unnatural ability to manipulate your physical form. You may contort and compress your flesh to achieve a +12 bonus on Escape Artist checks at no cost, fit yourself into a container capable of holding your volume (about 100 liters or 3.5 cubic feet) for 1 Power/Hour, squeeze through cracks, crevices, and pipes as small as four inches in diameter (2 power per 30 feet or part thereof), or temporarily suppress your Constitution Score (taking on the attributes of a “creature” with no constitution score, including picking up size-based HP and losing any constitution-based bonus hit points) for 3 Power for one minute. All of these require a Standard Action.
  • My God That’s A Big Gun/Infliction: Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (three times the base damage) /requires an especially prepared material focus (worth 100 GP), can only be used three times per session. Yes, you can pull out your rarely-used missile launcher, wand of disruption, death ray, or similar every so often.
  • Mystic Adept/Various: You have one Basic Witch Ability in unmodified form. This is rare, and no heroic pulp character will have more than one such general ability. Basic Witchcraft is simply too flexible to fit into
  • Outrun The Fireball/Hand Of Shadows: Once per minute you may spend 6 Power as an Immediate Action to accomplish some incredible acrobatic stunt powered by telekinesis as well as musculature. You may dart across a rooftop to grab someone who has just fallen off before they fall, reach the ground fifteen floors below by safely by “bouncing” back and forth between two buildings, snatch a parachute, dive out of a plane, catch up with someone who’s falling while you put your parachute on, grab them, and open your chute dramatically close to the ground, or run up a wall, tumble over your opponents, and reach the self-destruct button before they can fire their city-destroying death ray. You cannot, however, directly attack or interfere with anyone who’s unwilling while accomplishing this maneuver.
  • Papers Please/Glamour: You may spend a Standard Action to attempt to convince up to six people that you do indeed have proper authorization for whatever you’re up to. Sadly, those who save will not be convinced and cannot be affected again for at least an hour.
  • Perfect Healing/Hyloka (constant): You can slowly heal from any injury that you can survive for an hour or more – although the process of regrowing a leg, or healing a major traumatic brain injury, or similar injuries may require months. Permanent attribute drain is treated as attribute damage and negative levels never become permanent.

And next time around on this topic… the rest of the Advanced Pulp Powers List, Pulp Drugs, and some Pulp Archetypes.


2 Responses

  1. […] For Part II – Advanced Pulp Powers Part I – Click HERE. […]

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