Eclipse – The Dabbler

Since Christopher West’s site is still among the missing – he may have a new one, but, if so, either he hasn’t put his Eclipse builds on it or them or Google hasn’t found them – so here’s another one, albeit as adapted for my notions and updated since 2012.

The Dabbler isn’t a blaster, or master of metamagic, or even particularly good at being a wizard – but he or she is astoundingly flexible.

The commoners don’t say anything unpleasant about the nobles. No matter how egregious their behavior or how much you may resent their privileges and extortionate taxes… to defy or insult one is to defy or insult the crown, and can lead to execution. To assault one almost certainly will. Even their important servants enjoy some of that protection, since they represent their masters.

Their lower-ranking men-at-arms, lesser servants, local tax collectors, inspectors, and so on are, however, fair game for insults – and their positions are not hereditary, so their kids and relatives have to scramble like everyone else. If their parents are unpopular enough… it can be rough. If their kids also happen to be awkward, overweight, and intelligent enough to find most village pastimes less than fascinating… it can be very rough indeed.

Harkin had been an excellent tax collector. Intelligent, enough to identify every taxable item, to keep track precise track of every coin owed, and to know better than to ever cheat, take bribes, or short the local Lord on his due. Not surprisingly, however, that had made him wildly unpopular throughout the manor.

When his wife died producing his second child – a stillborn daughter – he never remarried. In his bitterness his young son was given (more than enough) food and care by the house-servants, but was emotionally starved – and so young Berne grew into an overweight, socially awkward, and isolated youngster. He ate, he played, he did some reading with the local priests, the local farmers kids saw that he was smarter and had more time for book-learning than they did, he got beaten up on his way home from class, and he ate some more. He complained to his father sometimes, but the old man just said “Are they cheating on their taxes? No? Then what do you want me to do about it? If you want lessons in fighting, go train with the militia!”

That was no help at all, and only made him feel like a fool. Not to mention that being overweight and out of shape made training with the militia very awkward indeed.

When Berne was thirteen he was poking around in the attic. There might be rats, bats, and spiders up there, but there was no one to hit him – and there was all kinds of interesting junk in dirty worm-eaten boxes that had been left as tax-surety and – for one reason or another – had never been picked up.

This time, buried in the bottom of a box of rubbish… he found a dusty old book. Some sort of personal journal, filled with pages and pages of sketches of monsters, arcane symbols, carefully drawn maps, notes about creatures and places in several languages, sketches of tombs and ruined temples and caverns, and more. A handwritten adventurer’s journal, and one full of secrets. Berne took it back to his room and studied it for days – tracing the strange symbols, marveling over the maps and other images, and sounding out cryptic words and hidden names.

And he felt POWER in those words, and names, and symbols. Power enough to defend himself, to rise above his birth, and perhaps even enough to accomplish great deeds. When the other children cornered him in an alley to beat him up again a few weeks later… he laid his hand across the journal in his pouch of oddities and stood firm, even if his voice trembled.

Stand back you fools! I am a Wizard!

They laughed, and closed in – and Berne screamed, and thrust out the hand that wasn’t clutching the journal – and fell back as ill-shaped magic flared. When his eyes cleared the brick walls were blackened, pieces of trash were burning, one of his assailants was down with severe burns, and the rest had fled – scorched and screaming.

Berne reached down to make sure that the unconscious boy did not die – that might get him into serious trouble! – and, once again, the magic answered.

This time his once-hesitant voice was certain.

I AM a Wizard!

Berne left the alleyway with a newly-confident stride and returned home to gather some supplies from the attic and the pantry – and then to set forth. Adventure, Wealth, Fame, and perhaps even Destiny awaited!

So as for the actual build:

Berne… isn’t a Wizard, Sorcerer, Bard, Cleric, Druid, or any other kind of formal spellcaster. He simply has a good deal of Mana, a vivid imagination, and a surprisingly strong will – making him a user of Unskilled Magic. Since that’s rather stat-dependent, he’ll need an attribute array – in his case 14, 14, 14, 14, 12, and 8. So… Str 8, Dex 12, and everything else 14 (20 point High Fantasy Pathfinder attribute buy). So…

  • 3d6 (11) Mana with the Unskilled Magic option, Specialized for Increased Effect (only costs 1 Mana per Spell Level) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only usable for unskilled magic, calls for Gestures (limiting him to light armor, , Incantations (although incoherent screaming works), and a spell component pouch (although light or medium armor and one free hand is acceptable), and a Spell Component Pouch (12 CP). That will let him use any Arcane Spell (fortunately for the burned kid Cure Light Wounds is on the Bard list) at the cost of 1 Mana per Spell Level.
    • His Casting Level equals his Level or (Mana Spent + Int / 3), whichever is less.
    • His maximum level of effect is his base Will Save Bonus or (Wis / 3), whichever is less.
    • Keeping the side effects (normally of the same level as the spell attempted or one level less) down to inconvenient effects rather than dangerous ones requires a Cha check at a DC of (6 + 2 x the Mana Used). The side effects are always up to the game master.
    • He MIGHT (GMO) gain “free” mana to use if under great emotional stress.
    • He may invest an extra one mana point per level of the spell in a spell he’s cast that has a duration to keep it running until he drops it, something dispels or negates it, or he chooses to recover that mana. This is, however, limited to a maximum of (Con/3) levels of spells.
      • This function is actually only loosely defined in the Unskilled Magic section – which means that it’s got more than a bit of “negotiate with your game master” built in. This is his variant – and while it’s ultimately limited, it will let him keep several minor boosts running once he has a little more Mana. At the moment… Force Armor and Force Shield might be good.
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized for Reduced Cost / only recovers at 1d6 per half-hour of rest or sleep (6 CP).
  • +2 to his Base Will Save (6 CP).

That’s a total of 24 CP – and is actually pretty effective at first, although it will drop off rapidly at higher levels unless he’s very clever. Given that the “level” for natural magic like this is based on the user’s hit die, it might be worth buying an extra hit die or two – boosting his caster level and potentially allowing him to use second level spells. Our Dabbler doesn’t get unlimited cantrips though – even if he can cast two per point of mana used.

What else do we need?

  • At a minimum… probably a d4 Hit Die (0 CP), +0 BAB (0 CP), +0 on Reflex and Fortitude Saves (0 CP), and Proficiency with a Limited Set of Simple Weapons (he probably did get some minimal training from the militia, 2 CP). That’s only 2 CP. With Int 14 he has eight skill points to spend – and I’d put at least one into a Specific Knowledge of what’s in the Journal. That gets him all kinds of clues and pointers to adventures to go on. A bit of a defensive Martial Art (to represent practice in avoiding getting hit) wouldn’t be out of line either. Otherwise… he’s likely got a point or two in Profession: Clerk or Profession: Tax Collector since he’d have been expected to assist his father to at least some degree
  • Given that he got beaten up a lot… I’d give him two bonus d4 hit dice (16 CP) – getting his basic caster level up to three and his spell usage up to level two spells. That also lets him start off with at least eighteen hit points, which isn’t bad at all for a “Wizard”.
  • That leaves him with 6 CP to spend, even before taking a package deal, using his first level bonus feat, or applying modifiers for whatever race we give him. That can go to six skill points, buying a +1 BAB, getting some DR to make him REALLY tough, picking up proficiency with light armor and shields, getting some Luck with Bonus Uses specialized in Saves, or getting some handy Innate Enchantments. You could even buy him some Contacts and Social Privilege since the local nobles may well invest a little time and effort in cultivating a good relationship with an up-and-coming spellcaster showing that much raw talent.

Further development? More Mana, more Rite of Chi, and more Will Save Bonus. Boosting his attributes (and possibly buying Augmented Bonus on those Cha Checks) will be in order too. He could even add a second mana pool with similar limitations devoted to Divine Magic in order to add in more healing and support powers. Perhaps Reflex Training to let him throw up defensive spells to block incoming attacks?

In any case, our Dabbler has enormous flexibility, but also has those bothersome backlashes to deal with – and will start falling behind the raw magical power of a full caster at higher levels. Still, a Dabbler’s magic doesn’t require the point investment of a full caster, allowing them to readily develop other abilities, such as mystic artist talents, physical combat skills, shapeshifting, or roguish abilities, to supplement their spellcasting.

As Christopher noted, “this was a character idea I had way back in early stages of 3.0 d20… but it works kind of well in Eclipse though.” I rather like it too; a purely intuitive mage with backlash problems can be all kinds of fun – and if you don’t want to fool around with spellbooks, and lists of spells known, and having a mentor, or spell research, or metamagic… then here you have a spell caster who can be effectively played with a very limited knowledge of the spell list and no preparation at all.

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