Linear Fighter, Assistant Wizard

For today, we have a retrospective question about just when “wizards got so overpowered!”.

For the quick answer, is 3.0. For the long answer…

Originally, back in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (First and Second Edition), if you played the game as written… spellcasting didn’t really dominate the game. Over more than a decade of play with several different groups it soon became pretty obvious that Fighters did. Paladins, Rangers and Monks were all good – but the entry requirements kept them rare. Thieves helped with scouting and traps and taking out bosses with carefully set up backstabbing, but the main drive against the enemy was always the fighters.

And that was about right. In a very large proportion of legends, myths, and fantasy stories… wizards were either enemies or they were assistants to the heroic warriors who were the real stars. They had many interesting powers, and their spells might turn the tide at a dramatic moment, enable visits to strange locations of adventure, and trick overwhelming foes – but they were still secondary. Swords, bows, secondary weapons, and (sometimes) martial arts still did the main work.

But wait! Magic-Users had all those incredibly powerful spells! Almost as many as Wizards and Sorcerers do in 3.5 or Pathfinder!

Yes, they did. And they had segmented casting times at ten segments to the round and usually at least one segment per spell level. It was often more; looking back at my first edition books, many first level spells required three or four segments. Hold Person, at level two, required five segments – in a system where you determined initiative with opposing d6 rolls and any interruption ruined the spell. There were no “concentration” checks, saving throws were fixed numbers, spellcasters couldn’t evade attacks while casting, only got to know a limited number of spells, often couldn’t learn spells they wanted, some of them couldn’t use armor at all, and might take many days of rest and study (or prayer) to prepare all their spells.

Thus the Dungeon Masters Guide told us

Because spell casting will be so difficult, most magic-users and clerics will opt to use magical devices whenever possible in melee, if they are wise.

For that matter… it took a lot longer to go up in level. For example… killing an Orc was worth an average of 14.5 XP. Getting to level three as a Magic User required 4501 XP. That meant that your party of four needed to kill off 1242 orcs to reach level three through combat experience if no one died (if someone died the doubling experience point tables let a new character catch up very quickly, which was good because older edition characters died a lot). Even with experience for treasure… a party usually only gained 3-6 levels per year of play – 50-odd sessions.

So what would those spellcasting limitations look like if you imported them into a current d20 game? Well, at least in Eclipse, such “Old School” magic levels are blatantly Specialized and Corrupted for one-third cost (or possibly even double-specialized given the number and severity of limitations here).

Basic Spellcasting Limitations:

Casting Spells takes more time. If the base casting time is:

  • One Standard Action the spell requires three initiative counts per spell level including metamagic other than “Quicken”).
  • One Full Round the spell requires sixty initiative counts.
  • More Than One Round the spell requires ten times as long to cast.
  • A Free Action the spell requires one initiative count.
  • A Swift or Immediate Action the spell requires two initiative counts.
  • Scrolls require the normal casting time, and are subject to the same limitations as direct casting. Wands and Rods only require three counts to activate, while Staves require six. Unfortunately, the save DC for wands, rods, and staves is only 14.
  • If such an action would not be completed before “0”, the countdown continues into the next round.

There is no such thing as a concentration check. Any damage or distraction that would normally call for a concentration check causes your spell to fail automatically, and be lost.

Spellcasting does not invoke attacks of opportunity, but the spellcaster cannot apply Dodge or Dexterity bonuses to his or her AC while spellcasting without losing the spell.

You may only prepare spells after a period of uninterrupted rest or meditation.

  • 1’st and 2’nd level spells require four hours.
  • 3’rd and 4’th level spells require six hours.
  • 5’th and 6’th level spells require eight hours.
  • 7’th and 8’th level spells require ten hours.
  • 9’th level spells require twelve hours.

It takes fifteen minutes per level of the spell per spell to prepare a spell. Thus preparing a third-level spell requires forty-five minutes. If you then go on to prepare a fifth level spell, that’s an hour and fifteen minutes – for a total of two hours to prepare two spells.

You cannot spend more than eight hours preparing spells before you will need to rest again to prepare more.

There is no such thing as spontaneous spellcasting. All spells must be prepared.

The spell charts are not “spells per day”. The spell chars show the maximum number of spells a spellcaster may have prepared. A powerful spellcaster may need many days to prepare all of his or her spells.

This means that a spellcasters daily “spell budget” is basically sixteen to thirty-two levels of spells. At the low end that might be four first, three second, and two third level spells. It would take a seventh level magic user five hours to memorize his or her selection of 4/3/2/1 (twenty spell levels in total) spells after at least six hours of uninterrupted rest. A ninth level magic user with the capacity to store 4/4/3/2/1 spells needs eight hours of rest and eight and a quarter hours to prepare spells – and if he or she tried to cast them in a fight, a fair chunk of those would probably be disrupted and lost.

The DC of saving against a spell is fixed at 16. Yes, this means that high-level targets will almost always make their saving throws.

Counterspelling is possible, but usually pointless. If you have time to hold an action for a counterspell, why aren’t you tossing off a quick Magic Missile or something and stopping your opponent from casting a spell in the first place?

Additional Arcane Caster Limitations Include:

  • Arcane Casters may only learn (Int/2) spells of each level they can cast. Read Magic is automatically one of them. They normally begin with another three first level spells – one offensive, one defensive, and one utility, selected at random.
  • Arcane Casters must record the spells they gain access to along with the results of a roll of (1d20 + Spell Level). If that is under their current intelligence, they can comprehend the spell and may choose to add it to their spells known.
    • For an example, Tim the Intelligence 14 Magic User has gotten ahold of scrolls or spell formulas for Color Spray (19), Burning Hands (3), Glitterdust (15), Pyrotechnics (12), Fireball (9), and Fly (16). With a maximum spell list of seven spells of each level he can cast, he may opt to learn Burning Hands, Pyrotechnics, and Fireball. If he gets his Int up to 15 he could opt to learn Glitterdust, and at 16 he could opt to learn Fly. Sadly, Color Spray is likely to remain far out of reach at any level where it might be useful – unless Tim saves a first level slot and opts to research (say) Tim’s Scintillating Butterflies, which is a different spell with the same basic effect. Note that, if you successfully research a spell you still roll – but the maximum result is equal to your current intelligence.
  • Arcane Casters only automatically gain one spell formula from among those they could potentially cast each level (although they may seek out or buy more if the game master allows it or they capture a spellbook or something). They may check (and record) their spell comprehension for desired spells until they find one that they can currently comprehend to add to their spellbooks. They may add a spell that they cannot currently cast to their books if they so desire, but usually have no reason to do so.
    • For example, Tim has made level seven, and wants a fourth level spell – in his case he wants Wall of Fire. Unfortunately, the check results in a roll of 23 – far beyond his intelligence! He doesn’t pick that one. Dimension Door turns up a 15. That’s tempting – next level he’ll get his Int up to 15 and be able to use it – but why not choose it next level? Next up, his third choice of Lesser Globe Of Invulnerability comes up a “7” – and so Lesser Globe Of Invulnerability goes into his book and onto his list of learned spells.
  • Arcane Casters will find that any armor or shield that would normally produce a 5% or more chance of arcane spell failure causes automatic arcane spell failure.
  • As a note, spellbooks do NOT have plot immunity. They may be stolen, destroyed by area-effect spells and attacks, and so on. It is VERY WISE to use backup spell books and traveling spell books!

Additional Divine Caster Limitations Include:

  • Divine spellcasters may only pray for a limited list (Wis/2) of spells of each level they can cast. “Consecrate Holy Symbol” (L1) is always one of them.
  • Divine spellcasters may only select spells for their list that are appropriate to their god. For a quick example, Odin does not grant Sanctuary and Poseidon does not grant Flame Strike. If the game master has the time, and wishes to make the effort, gods may also offer access to unique spells related to their particular specialties.
  • Divine spellcasters gain spells beyond level three from spiritual servants of their god and gain spells of level seven or above directly from their god at the discretion of those entities. They may be denied spells, granted spells other than what they prayed for, be assigned missions or quests, or be asked to attone for misdeeds at the whim of those entities.
  • Divine spellcasters who change gods must prove themselves worthy followers of their new god with mighty oaths, quests, and deeds in the service of their new god. If they attempt to leave the service of their new god, those same oaths will utterly destroy them.
  • As a rule, Clerics will be asked to spend time preaching, to refuse missions that their god does not approve of and to undertake ones that he or she does approve of without further reward, to use weapons and armor only as approved of by their god, to build and maintain temples, and so on.

Spellcasters operating under those restrictions will be roughly back to where they were in first and second edition; they may have some useful noncombat effects that they may use for special circumstances and they will have a very limited range of combat spells and game-changing effects that they can cast once in a while during fights IF a bunch of other characters protect them while they do it. Their spells, however, often will not work against high-end opponents, who can be counted on to make their saving throws. Magic will become, once again, a very limited special resource, to be husbanded carefully and deployed with planning – or in extreme emergencies.

Of course, in Eclipse, all this reduces the cost of your magic levels to the point where you can easily afford to add some weapons skills, a better BAB, a few more hit points, and other bennies – resulting in the modern equivalent of an old-style multi-classed character without any major complications or sacrifices.

Looking at all this also helps explain why so many players made Elven Fighter/Magic-Users in first and second edition days despite the 7/11 level limitation. After all… level eleven was well past the point where you could prepare all your spells each day. Were you on a long adventure? You’d have just as many spells each day as a higher-level human mage. They’d be weaker spells (at least in some cases), but YOU could wear armor. Not only did you have a better chance of getting your spells cast because you were harder to hit, but you weren’t an obvious target like that unarmored guy. If you started from level one, a human magic-user wouldn’t really have much of a magical edge on you for nearly two hundred sessions. Even better, the high-end magical gear worked for you just as well as it did for a higher-level wizard – reducing the gap even more. I, personally, played a maxed-out elven fighter/magic-user for a couple of years in a game that went up past level eighteen (for the human wizard, characters with easier advancement tables had higher levels) and it worked just fine. I even got some better items than the higher-level mage because they were used more often, and so did more good for the party, in the hands of someone who didn’t have so many other high-level spell options. And best of all… you could reasonably play your fighter/magic-user through the fifty-odd lower-level sessions before adding a human wizard to the party became really viable.

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Underlying The Rules Part VI: Discussion and Development

And for today it’s an answer to a question again…

So I’ve recently been reading Dave Arneson’s True Genius, and it’s really been making me think of Eclipse. The first essay in particular, regarding how Original D&D utilized a melding of open system and closed system designs to establish a new paradigm of game design (and play) that went beyond what either could accomplish alone – and how this was largely lost with the release of AD&D and its rejection of the open system principles therein in favor of standardization – is an excellent summary of why I love what Eclipse has done with regards to (as I see it) trying to reintroduce those principles back into Third Edition (at least somewhat) via the mutability of game rules (a la corruption and specialization for abilities, world templates, a stronger focus on modularity with what’s used and what’s not, etc.).

In that light, this article takes on a new dimension, as it honestly looks like KrackoThunder is trying to leverage the closed system principles of Third Edition (e.g. the immutability of the “implied setting,” the invariability of the rules, and their extrapolation with regard to “how things work”) to achieve the results that you’d get from an open system, wherein those things are defined as part of the act of creating the setting (or, at a slightly higher level, using the rules as ur-tools to effectively build a game – along with a setting – unto itself) and so more easily allow for that level of alteration with regards to players tinkering with what is and is not allowable within the scope of the game.

Of course, as you noted here, that doesn’t really work; it’s like trying to “rob the bank” in Monopoly. Of course, the same is true in reverse as well, which is why I roll my eyes whenever I see someone unironically utilizing Eclipse to make what you called an “atrocity build.”

-Alzrius

Breakthroughs are often very simple insights; the genius lies in picking out something that no one else saw.

Test your hypothesis. Only survivors breed. “Particles” are waves. Motion is relative.

Those are the key insights that led the the scientific method, to the theory of evolution, to quantum mechanics, and to relativity in three words each. Each explained things – why philosophical theorizing rarely led directly to practical advances, why animals and illnesses were so well adapted to their environments, why electrons didn’t spiral into nuclei, how Maxwell’s equations could work when things were moving.

Exploring the consequences of those simple ideas is still underway – in some cases after many centuries.

Personally, I’ve always seen the stroke of genius fundamental to role-playing games as a bit of psychological insight; Adult “Let’s Pretend” needs rules. And while that phrasing does evoke safewords and agreed-on limits rather than RPG’s… that’s fair enough, since that’s where the notion appeared first – even if that’s arguably an independent line of development.

But when it comes to games and “let’s pretend”… Unlike kids adults won’t be happy with Robbie the Dinosaur, Spaceman Spiff, the Wicked Witch of the East, and Megatron.

  • Adults are competitive; they don’t like to be overshadowed – and so every role needs to be unique and important. They need some rules on creating tolerably “balanced” characters and some expectations on what kinds of characters are appropriate.
  • Adults have firm opinions. Since they won’t give in easily they need rules to resolve what happens when they don’t agree on an outcome.
  • Adults want “fair” rewards and consequences for their decisions. They need a rules system for that or they’ll always suspect bias.
  • Adults want details – a more complicated plot with surprise twists and turns. They need a game master.

All of that flows from “Adults need rules”. They aren’t going to be happy with the vague “everyone imagines their own thing” that little kids are. For them… it’s not much fun without acknowledgement by others are a certain level of participation. That’s why a player who’s sulking, or busy reading a book, or getting drunk instead of playing is such a downer in a group.

And the practitioners of this new hobby looked upon it, and it was pretty good – but, unlike the works of a divine creator, it was equally obvious that it could be BETTER.

But, the hobbiests being human, and each having their own personal inner description of the perfect game, they didn’t quite agree on what would improve it.

  • Inevitably there were a lot of things that the original, simple, pioneering, rules did not cover – and so there was pressure for more rules, more tables, and more systems. They had a point. When there were no clear rules on a topic disagreements soon broke out.
    • Of course, more rules complicated everything. The people who wanted to play casually didn’t like that.
  • There was the push for more coherent and simpler rules. They had a point. All those tables and different systems for resolving various tasks were complicated and messy to deal with.
    • Of course, that meant that a lot of factors that affected specific tasks didn’t get included. The simulationists didn’t like that.
  • There were players who wanted pure role-playing and who didn’t like being restrained by rules at all – and wanted more options if there had to be rules. They had a point. More options meant more interesting and distinctive characters.
    • Of course, that complicated the rules in porportion to the number of options added. The people running the games didn’t like that.
  • There were the wargamers, who wanted to just relabel tanks, infantry platoons, and artillery units as “Knights”, “Men At Arms”, and “Wizards” and so on. They had a point. They were experts at turning limited sets of rules interactions into exciting scenarios.
    • Of course, the people who wanted more “realistic:, normal-human-scale characters didn’t like that.
  • The competitive players wanted clear methods of “winning” and – since that really didn’t work in a social game – at least wanted a way to keep score, whether that was accumulated gold, experience, reaching “name” levels, or access to better toys.
    • Of course, the people who liked to try new characters all the time didn’t like that.
  • The world-builders wanted a coherent underlying description of the way things worked so that they could explore the worlds and social systems that would result from such things, instead of just presuming a vaguely-medieval world.
    • Of course, the people who wanted to search the rules for exploits that were being overruled in the name of “the way the setting works” didn’t like that.
  • The deep-immersion players wanted death to be the result of heroic sacrifice, or a dramatic climax, or something. Wounds, disabilities illnesses… what fun were they?
    • Of course, the people who liked really big weapons and “realistic” battles didn’t like that.

And so compromises were made. Gaming groups filled with house rules, each group worked under different assumptions, and gaming fragmented.

And there were many other, albeit mostly more specific, fault lines and opposing forces for each.

And the publishers looked upon their sales figures, and this was bad.

To try and fix things there was compromise on the writers and publishers side. It was weighted towards new rules of course, simply because the publishers needed to keep selling stuff – but for quite some time gestures could be made towards almost everyone’s priorities because early game systems weren’t very sophisticated.

And so.,,

  • There were more rules, but there were attempts to keep a lot of them unobtrusive, on the game masters side, optional, or limited to particular situations.
  • There were premade characters, and quick-generation options, and ways to try to get people playing as quickly as possible.
  • There were attempts to streamline and unify the mechanics with things like single-mechanic skill systems instead of a mess of specific formulas and tables.
  • Compiled lists of special modifiers were (not unreasonably) pushed over to the game master to just assign some modifiers.
  • Options were added.
  • Characters did get to be the equivalent of military units (and superheroes and possibly even gods) later on, but they started off weak.
  • All sorts of character milestones were set up.
  • Character advancement was greatly accelerated, and the gap between old and new characters was (sometimes, since this annoyed the people with old characters) reduced.
  • The rules attempted to imply dangerous combat, deadly wounds, and long-term consequences – but were rewritten to make actual consequences vanishingly rare.
  • Some coherent information on “the way things worked” was added – but it was always a side-bar thing since the marketing department wanted every customer to buy everything.
  • Exploits were plugged, but mostly in obscure errata that only the people who were really annoyed by the exploits bothered to find.

That didn’t all happen in every game of course. Some games – those designed after the first rush – started off with some of it in place. Champions / Hero System, for example, started off with a well-chosen bell-curve generic resolution system, lots of options, and military-unit characters, but is still struggling with complexity, a lack of character milestones, “the way things work”, and various exploits. Rifts – thanks to creator decisions – has never really updated much of anything past the first few “different from AD&D” reforms. Basic Dungeons and Dragons went the minimalist route – and soon ran into the nothing much left to publish” barrier.

Eclipse, of course, is a compromise just like everything else – and, not too surprisingly, leans towards my biases.

  • Complexity? I can easily deal with that. Bring on the complexity!
  • Casual play? Grab a pre-build (although I’ve put out a lot of those for various settings). I’m not giving up my options!
  • Coherence? Well, using d20 as a base took care of THAT. If anything it had gone too far – and thus my support for a 3d6 skill mechanic. Roll 3d6 instead of 1d20 sometimes seems reasonable enough to me.
  • Modifiers? I can think of thousands for everything. This is hopeless, so the game master will have to handle it.
  • Realistic characters? A bit at first – but I can be a realistic person every day. I want my larger-than-life impossible feats of heroism!
  • Disparity between old and new characters? Eclipse offers several ways to play with the power curve. For this… new characters can be made powerful, but very focused – becoming more versatile as their association with older characters drags them along to higher levels more rapidly fast enough to add new abilities as they finish exploring old ones.
  • Deadly combat? I tend to prefer role-playing, so defenses are fairly cheap and plentiful – if sometimes (such as Action Hero/Stunts) limited use to ensure that there’s some longer-term cost to losing.

Perhaps most importantly… Eclipse restricts itself to pure mechanics, with little to no “setting” material – but directly tells the game master to restrict, modify, or ban any options that do not fit into his or her setting. In Eclipse, “The way things work” explicitly overrides “but the rules say”.

Not surprisingly, Eclipse appeals most to those with similar biases – although there is a substantial secondary appeal of “everything you need to make an optimized or exotic character is in the basic book”.

When it comes to KrackoThunder, I could be wrong, but I suspect that he or she sees the games as fairly adversarial things in which the game master has arbitrary power and it’s up to the players to try to “win” by coming up with rules-combinations that trump various game master ploys (or, occasionally, each other). Thus the questions about making your minions absolutely loyal, making spells totally unbreakable, using Channeling (Conversion) to gain limitless use of Wish or Miracle, laying mega-powerfed curses, and so on.

Unfortunately, from that point of view, suggesting that the setting and the social requirements of the game override rules, exploits, and gambits like the classic “introducing gunpowder” routine amounts to arbitrarily declaring that the players are not allowed to win and that there is no point in playing.

Still, while a few games (and MMORPGs) are run that way, tabletop RPG’s were never really designed to be adversarial at all – and “winning” generally consists of having a good time, being creative, and winding up with good stories rather than dominating clashes of rules. To the best of my knowledge, only World Of Synnibar has attempted to put in a rule which says that if anyone can identify a spot where the game master failed to follow the rules exactly as written during a session then the entire session is null and void.

I hope that KrakoThunder and his or her friends are having a good time with their games – but given that all the stuff I write ultimately comes with the caveat “See how your game master thinks this works in the setting” I just don’t see how I can contribute. to an adversarial game. Writing a few books doesn’t give me magical powers of overriding local game masters.

Still, I hope this little retrospective has been interesting!

My Little Pony Index II

Ponies have continued to be a fairly popular topic – so here’s an updated subindex for pony-related material. There’s a fair amount of background and three major categories of ponies in the herd though – d20 ponies built using the Supheroic World Template (everyone gets free Mana equal to their Con Mod each round), Ponies built to Alzrius’s standards (compatible with 3.5, Pathfinder, and Ponyfinder), and Hero System Ponies (we use 4’th edition, but it’s not like NPC’s need a lot of updating).

Eclipse d20 Ponies (My Versions):

Background Material:

Building Pony Characters / Examples:

Hero System Ponies:

Thanks to terribly bad luck and some summonings, some ponies from the (normally imaginary) magical land or Equestria are running about in the current Champions game. Oh well. Superheroic Mages have turned lose much sillier and more destructive things.

  • Prince Blueblood and the Cartoon Powers Package: Prince Blueblood the Navigator, standard “Toon” powers, and why Celestia tolerates him.
  • Apple Bloom: Alchemist, trap-maker, and (very) minor earth-mage. For when you want to film “home alone” in Equestria.
  • Scootaloo: Scout, weathermage, and junior speedster. Note that – since normal humans with no wings at all can learn flight magic in the setting, this version of Scootaloo CAN fly. She just can’t steer too well yet…
  • Sweetie Belle: Junior sorceress, singer, and just too cute to stop. For all the Cutie Mark Crusaders “Awwww… We’re not in trouble are we?” moments.
  • Trixie Lulamoon and the Alicorn Amulet:  Trixie the Minor Sorceress, a discussion of Traveling Performers – and the power of the Alicorn Amulet.
  • Apex – Prince Blueblood Escapes From My Little Pony: An upgraded Prince Blueblood as a hero of the Apex setting. The role of the nobility in the government of Equestria. Blueblood finds his purpose – and it’s being an arrogant ass.

Alzrius’s Eclipse d20 Ponies:

Alzrius built his ponies so as to fit into “standard” d20 games – whereas I used the “Superheroic” world template because it would allow my builds to reproduce the things that the ponies did on the show. Of course, that means that my builds will only work well in games based on the assumptions of Equestria; they won’t do so well in basic games. For those, courtesy of Alzrius, we have…

My Alzrius-Styled Eclipse Ponies:

Alzrius Pony Notes:

If and when additional pony-related material gets posted on this blog or Alzrius’s blog, I’ll try to link it here.

Eclipse: The Codex Persona is available in a Freeware PDF Version, in Print, and in a Paid PDF Version that includes Eclipse II (245 pages of Eclipse races, character and power builds, items, relics, martial arts, and other material) and the web expansion. Here’s a Featured Review of it and another Independent Review.

The Practical Enchanter can be found in a Print Edition (Lulu), an Electronic Edition(RPGNow), and a Shareware Edition (RPGNow).  There’s an RPGNow Staff Review too.

Underlying The Rules Part Divergent – Debates

This isn’t really a part of this series, and isn’t really a general article either – so I’m going to be adding a bonus article in the next day or so since this did wind up taking up a lot of time on a debate of fairly limited interest. Of course, it wound up far too long for comments – but I remain a compulsive answerer of questions and far too fond of debate, so here it is.

You can find the primary articles in this series with these links:

  • Part One in this series – The Social Contract – can be found HERE.
  • Part Two – Adjusting The Spotlight – can be found HERE.
  • Part Three – Making A Group Effort – can be found HERE.
  • Part Four – Setting Over Rules (The part that this comment was addressed to) – can be found HERE.
  • Part Five – Followup, Questions and Answers – can be found HERE.

So, first up, the comments that are getting this lengthy reply (with a few typos fixed):

The setting of 3.5, at least according to the Fiendish Codex II, answers the idea of “why haven’t the gods done X/Y/Z” in the simplest way possible: They are probably the laziest thing out there. The only reason why Evil even became a thing according to that book was because the gods wanted people to follow their rules and worship them without providing a good reason to. So they outsourced it… With rather large consequences. I’d say they’d learn eventually, but that’s another thing: To learn, you need to level up. In Pathfinder, assuming no unknown capacities, even a deity of knowledge cannot actually tell you how a robot works unless it has the technology feat… Something which didn’t even exist when most deities came out. So the deity has to, somehow, accumulate enough XP to get another level and hope it works out.

This goes for most other high-level races too. A Mind Flayer, for example, is ECL 15, meaning that if it were to go up against beings that even grant it XP, advancement would be very slow, not to mention that most possible “benefits” would be rather insignificant unless they somehow manage to get specific Prestige Classes (luckily, in this case, it’s one of the better classes, called “Illithid Savant”).

I’ll admit that chances are they’ll encounter knew knowledge more easily, but what use is that if they cannot learn it?

Assuming someone wants to play a Reserves of Strength Thay Human Wizard, he’d have to first be from Thay, then walk all across via whatever allowed him to towards Dragonlance while specifically being a Wizard.

We’d also need to know if such intellects even have the same desire to reveal the unknown. For most humanoids, curiosity is mandatory and rewarding: It’s easier to level up (or rather, not be satisfied with the little power you have) and if you can’t outsmart your stronger enemies (which is basically everything), you wouldn’t have survived. For dragons, outsiders and a lot of other things, that’s a nonissue. Very few dragons will ever go the path of the Dragon Ascendant, even if it promises literally godlike powers, because it’s hard to achieve, requires them to actually go out of their way to do things except being lazy and nothing much of regular wildlife can beat a dragon that’s got a few years on itself anyway. The fact that there aren’t millions of individual dragon deities out there seems to be a useful proof of that.

These civilizations actually bothering to do research might not kill the idea of a character capable of learning new things either, simply due to the difference in priorities. Psionic races will not necessarily develop spells and might miss something that an inherently magical race would consider obvious. For another example, the entire species of “dogs”, in 3.5, is as smart as the entire species of “apes” in the same system, and yet they have very different approaches on the same topic.

The problem with saying “you cannot invent something, because there are and have been lots of people like you who didn’t” would cause a problem, because the very same thing would be true for every other person down the line, meaning the no-one could invent anything. It also begs the question of “what do most modern day academies do if not research”?
Does it sound so strange that, due to a recent breakthrough made this year in some sort of magical field would open up new possibilities? And that, upon reexamining previous statements in the light of new evidence, new possibilities begin to form?

The thing I do agree with is the idea that no one can actually just do it out of intuition (even if that same heightened intellect could maybe make it possible), but a character setting off with an idea (“I heard about people conserving magical power reserves and release them in short bursts and of a group of people that seem to be able to increase them, and I have this new conversion theory…”) might just be a person that finds the exploit either way.

On the topic of computers… I’d consider an “exploit” an unforeseen interaction that grants a significant advantage to those that use it. Since there is no one to foresee anything in this universe (no DM) and computers indeed grant significant advantages, I’d say they qualify.

On another note, I find the idea of a delusional character can work quite well. False memories and all that. As a matter of fact, I’d even say such a character waking up in a world where all of these worries became nonexistent might have on of the most amusing character arcs of all, now having a breakdown due to the gap of standards in the new society and the one he knows.

On another note, this also conflicts with a lot of other sources, such as the creation of Mythal (by elves), the Karsus’s Avatar spell (which, by all right, the Aboleth should have uncovered well before him) and the Ioun Stones (named after Congenio Ioun, their human inventor).

I can believe that Gods or Aboleth or Outsiders wouldn’t have invented Ioulaum’s Longlevity, as it doesn’t matter to them, but again, the same could be said for most other abilities.

Even if we said the Aboleth didn’t uncover anything, the Sarrukh had more than incentive to. So if we really were to say you have to be the first intelligent race to uncover something, all of the above (Mythals, the high-level spells made by humanoids and the Ioun Stones) could not logically exist.

-KrakoThunder

Well, lets see… This seems to be divided into several sections – Lazy Gods, Needing to Level Up to Learn, the Pathfinder Technology Feat, High-Level Races Cannot Learn, Feat Availability, and Probability of Invention, among others.

Perhaps most importantly… “The Setting Of 3.5″.

There is no “Setting of 3.5″ – and there never has been. The writers for 3.5 initially told game masters to limit what 3.5 material they allowed into their campaign. For an example from the 3.5 Dungeon Masters Guide under Prestige Classes… “Prestige classes are purely optional and always under the purview of the DM. We encourage you, as the DM, to tightly limit the prestige classes available in your campaign. The example prestige classes are certainly not all-encompassing or definitive. They might not even be appropriate for your campaign. The best prestige classes for your campaign are the ones you make yourself”.

Yes, the Dungeon Masters Guide said to leave out irrelevant parts of the Core Rules, much less secondary sourcebooks.

Just as importantly, 3.5 had explicit rules about how to determine which version of various rules and items took priority – which tells us right there that some 3.5 material is not compatible with other 3.5 material.

Even ignoring the Open Game License, and all the third-party stuff… you could not, and were not expected to, use all of Wizards of the Coasts 3.5 d20 source material together (much less with later Pathfinder stuff). You were and are supposed to pick and choose what will be allowed in your campaign. Otherwise everyone would be running games for Mythic Gestalt characters with half a dozen other “free” power boosters from specialty books tacked on – and I have yet to encounter such a game despite Wizards of the Coasts marketing department.

Lazy Gods:

It looks like the “Lazy Deities” section is derived from the “Pact Primeval” section of the Fiendish Codex II (2006) – which, even in a game that uses that book, states in the very first paragraph that this is a story that devils tell in-setting and that contradictions abound. The second paragraph states that many versions of the story exist. The third tells us that it may not have actually happened “but is true anyway” – at least according to the devils that tell it.

Given that the story itself portrays “Lawful Good” as an idiotic stereotype (a viewpoint common to creatures of the lower planes, but generally not correct), implies that alignments are behavioral straitjackets (they’re not), ignores that gods automatically get to take 20 on their skill checks (and thus are not going to miss “the fine print”), ignores the fact that contracts are not irrevocably binding (an awful lot of law is devoted to that), ignores the fact that “good” is just as important as “law” in being lawful good (so sticking to an evil contract is a violation of a lawful good alignment), pays no attention to the principle that deceptive practices invalidate contracts (a very important bit of contract law), states that the gods changed and then portrays them as being utterly rigid, and more… what this story actually shows is that “Devils lie a lot”.

The story also does not work with the cosmology of the Forgotten Realms, where Gods – including Asmodeus – are minor figures, with Ao, and Ao’s unnamed superior or superiors, above them.

Even disregarding the “Pact Primeval” story, the rest of the Fiendish Codex II is only partially compatible with the Forgotten Realms. A game master who wanted to include bits from it would need to pick and choose to suit his or her campaign.

Fundamentally, when it comes to lazy gods… if they are all too lazy to do much, how did the universe get created in the first place? Similarly, the actual descriptions of many gods – Hephaestus, Kwan Yin, Raven, Odin, Krishna, and many more – indicate that they are very, VERY, active. In particular, since we were specifically considering The Forgotten Realms… in it’s history many gods rule directly or otherwise remain very busy.

Needing to Level Up to Learn:

This is a possible concern for d20 characters – but fortunately there are a lot of ways around it. Characters can retrain, use psychic reformation, acquire items that grant skills or feats, make wishes, increase their intelligence, and employ many other methods from a wide variety of sourcebooks (including some that simply award skill points in non-adventuring skills for life experience or study) to acquire new skills and feats without going up in level. This really isn’t a concern – and becomes even less of one if you go with the “all sourcebooks apply!” idea, because some of those provide even more options, bonus pools of skill points for non-adventuring skills, and many other ways to add goodies to characters.

The Pathfinder Technology Feats:

One of Pathfinder’s many optional sourcebooks does indeed offer the “Technologist” feat – and states that you need it to apply skills like Knowledge / Engineering to “Technology”. Of course, that’s completely irrelevant to Pathfinder games that aren’t using that book, to all 3.0 and 3.5 writeups (which do not need such a feat to work with technology), and to anything before that (such as first and second edition). After all, if new sourcebooks suddenly become relevant to existing d20 games, settings, and material… we don’t have to worry about gods at all. There are after-Ragnarok  / Armageddon / Etc books out there that say that the age of gods has passed and they are gone for good. Throw in a “Race X Only” and a “Race Y Only” book and you can eliminate all intelligent life too, which at least makes for a nice clean setting.

Far worse, even if you are using Pathfinders Technology sourcebook… this feat is blatantly self-contradictory and quite meaningless.

Let us consider: Which of the following is “technological”? A knapped flint knife? A knife beaten from native copper with a rock? A hand-forged meteoric iron knife? A smelted steel knife forged with the help of a water-wheel driven trip hammer? A titanium, ceramic, or hard plastic knife made of “advanced” materials from a laboratory? An enchanted flaming mithril knife? A “vibroknife”? (more magic really, since vibrating a knife doesn’t actually do much). A chainsaw knife? (impractical, but exciting). A force knife? (still magic, but leaning towards mad science magic or “psionics”).

Trick question there! The answer is, of course, “all of them”.

Technology is commonly defined as purposefully applying information to the design, production, and utilization of goods and services or the organization of activities. It is commonly divided into tangible (tools, devices, records, structures) and intangible (training methods, mathematics, theories, procedures) technologies. While it’s often further described in terms of “Low”, “Intermediate”, and “High” technologies these groupings have no satisfactory definitions and blend into each other smoothly.

Do you need the “technologist” feat to use your skills work with gears, cams, and basic mechanical parts? If so, Roman and Medieval European Millers are going to be quite surprised to find that – with the publication of the Technology Guide – they can no longer build and maintain the watermills and windmills that they use to grind grain. Not gristmills then? But if not gristmills, then how about computers? Yes?

But Difference (or “Babbage”) Engines are computers – and they are simply assemblages of basic mechanical parts. The only real difference is the number of parts. At what (presumably magical) number of parts does a device suddenly become incomprehensible to anyone without the “Technologist” feat? And what does that say about sailing ships? Those are very complex and have a very large number of parts. What makes them “normal equipment” as opposed to things that you need special feats for? How about lathes and electroplating? Both of those have been around for a very long time indeed. Do Gunslingers suddenly need an extra feat to know about guns?

This approach doesn’t even work in the game except as a convenience; it’s an arbitrary dividing line between “stuff that’s equipment” and “stuff we’re treating as magic items”. To quote from the Technology section of the pathfinder wiki…

By using the magic item creation guidelines when designing technological items, you can help ensure that the end result remains balanced in the game. For example, an inferno grenade isn’t all that different than a single-use, use-activated fireball, so it’s priced out as a one-use item that duplicates a 3rd-level spell at CL 5th, for a total of 750 gp. A death ray is basically a destruction spell with a few flavor tweaks and rules adjustments. A gravity clip more or less duplicates the effects of a lead blades spell. And so on. You can, in fact, quickly re-skin just about any existing magic item to stand in for a technological item. However, keep in mind that you can do the exact opposite as well.

This is the same system that got covered in a page or two in The Practical Enchanter and under “Special Effects” in Eclipse. In Eclipse terms it’s applying the “Eldritch” modifier to item creation feats (no cost). The book isn’t even pretending to be talking about actual technology; it’s talking about funny-looking magic items or “technomagic”.

So no. No character, and certainly no deity, from a non-pathfinder setting, or in a pathfinder setting that isn’t using the technology sourcebook, or in a pathfinder setting with a game master who’s using the book but is actually paying attention to what it says, needs to have the “technologist” feat to work with actual technology. The books own blurb says “along with rules for how your skills interact with super-science”. Super-science is just a form of magic – in fact, it is pretty much DEFINED by being “indistinguishable from magic”. The Pathfinder “Technology” sourcebook explicitly has nothing to do with actual technology. Secondarily, even if it did, and even if applied to a given campaign, as was noted above characters do not actually need to level up to “learn”.

This does illustrate the major point of the original article this comment was made on very nicely again though. Outside of Wizards of the Coast’s carefully-cultivated notion that “all the d20 stuff goes together” why would anyone feel that a new book for Pathfinder should be relevant to an old setting published by a different company using another version of a game system? How is that really different from asking that the rules for a new fifth edition book be applied to your current Pathfinder game when they’re convenient for you? Simply being a “d20” sourcebook doesn’t make something a part of any specific d20 game.

Personally, for general reading on the development of technology, I’d recommend picking up a copy of The Ancient Engineers by L. Sprague de Camp. It’s a good read, a nice look at a fascinating topic, and a handy resource for world development.

High-Level Races Cannot Readily Learn:

Bringing up ECL for Mind Flayers… well, first off, if you’re invoking Pathfinder rules, Pathfinder doesn’t use ECL. If you’re going by 3.0 and 3.5 rules (as first presented in Savage Species) Mind Flayers can learn other things in place of taking monster class levels if they wish and don’t start off with a high ECL. If you’re going by NPC rules “ECL” is only a thing for PC’s and followers of various types. In Eclipse, of course, you can build as you go. More importantly, as noted above, characters don’t need to level up to learn – and even if they did… the bit about “I’ll admit that chances are they’ll encounter knew knowledge more easily, but what use is that if they cannot learn it?” doesn’t really work. Kim Jong Un almost certainly hasn’t personally learned how to build nuclear weapons – but he’s still getting quite a lot of use out of that information; that’s why engineers, scientists, and similar folk get good salaries.

Secondarily, even if Mind Flayers were the only dimension-hopping group, AND they couldn’t directly take advantage of importing knowledge (neither of which is true) that wouldn’t stop them from importing it for other reasons – perhaps as a cheap bonus for some temporary allies.

Similarly, while you do have to be from someplace named Thay, or perhaps from a family named Thay, or from a school founded by someone named Thay or some such to be a “Thay Wizard”, there’s actually only one real requirement on the mechanical side; you need to persuade the game master that the Red Wizard Prestige Class and the Reserves of Strength feat fit into his or her setting well enough to allow them in to his or her game – and whether or not they get refluffed is irrelevant. The idea that something can only be developed once, in one place, is an extreme version of Diffusionism, and has been pretty thoroughly discredited (that does not, however, make something a new invention. An invention can only be new once per universe).

As for needing to know if “such intellects even have the same desire to reveal the unknown”… they explicitly do according to the same rules that tell us that undead see just like humans see. Under the d20 rules all creatures are assumed to work like humans do except where they are explicitly noted as working otherwise. And even if we ignore that part of the rules… whether or not such species are as curious as humans is pure speculation. About the only available evidence for how curious the various races are is their intelligence scores. The higher the intelligence, the greater the benefits of leveling up and the more skill points they have – making it easier for them to learn.

As for “very few” dragons every going on the Path of the Dragon Ascendant… Wouldn’t that depend on their total population, the percent which qualifies, and what prestige classes are open to them? Given that detailed information on those statistics is non-existent (while Dragonstar offers some, that setting also explicitly informs us that there is no such thing as ascending to godhood; the gods are eternal), the only possible method of actually getting a percentage would be to divide the number of fully-written up, “official”, Wizard of the Coast dragons on the Path of the Dragon Ascendant by the total number of fully-written up, “official”, Wizard of the Coast dragons – and then compare it to a similarly derived percentage of nondragon characters on similar paths divided by the total number of nondragon characters.

I rather suspect that the dragons would be ahead percentage-wise – but that opinion doesn’t mean much more than it’s opposite.

Of course, the Path of the Dragon Ascendant only turns a dragon into a Quasi-Deity – resulting in an especially large, tough, dragon with some immunities to some troublesome effects and a rather poor grade of immortality – being unable to die from natural causes. They don’t grant spells, gain no salient divine abilities, or actually get much that they can’t gain in a lot of other ways. How do you know that there AREN’T millions of them out there? (Of course, in The Forgotten Realms, we know why there aren’t “millions of individual dragon deities” regardless of the fact that this path won’t produce them; they’d need unique portfolios and at least passive approval by Ao).

Speculation about “why some groups might not do something” is pointless – it’s only speculation, and even if it’s accurate in particular cases, it would need to apply to everything and to find an in-game reason to make special exemptions for player characters (a distinction that only exists out of the game). For a through examination “filters” in this general vein I’d recommend considering the Fermi Paradox. The logic is much the same.

It’s especially hard to make “the information isn’t available” work in the Forgotten Realms, since one of the earliest conceits of the setting is that it offered many routes to and from modern earth – allowing people, devices, knowledge, and even gods (although the aspects that came to The Forgotten Realms fell under Ao’s authority there; fortunately, since settings are independent, killing off the Egyptian gods who wandered over to Mulhorand has no effect on them elsewhere) to fairly readily wander back and forth. That’s why the material on the setting was originally presented in the form of the author having personal interviews with Elminster.

On the likelyhood of new discoveries…

I did not, in fact, say that “you cannot invent something, because there are and have been lots of people like you who didn’t” – and inventing your own quotes to argue with after arguing from personal speculation takes this comment far too close to Gish Gallop territory. I’d recommend avoiding that; it really does not help.

What I said was that there are five conditions that, if true, make it extremely unlikely for player characters to be the first ones to find an “exploit. In brief those were… 1) the existence of entities with more information than they have, 2) the setting having a long history or being very large, 3) the setting including a lot of knowledge beyond what the characters have already mastered, 4) there having been prior civilizations that were more advanced than the current one, and 5) devoting their time to adventuring rather than to research and development.

Now lets see… “What do most modern day academies do if not research”?

Hm… Looking at modern academies… Condition 1) False. There may be more knowledgeable entities out there, but we’re not in touch with them. Condition 2) False. Human history is fairly short, and a single planet is not very large. Condition 3) False. Serious researchers spend inordinate amounts of time learning about prior developments in their fields. “Crackpot Scientists” do not – and are well known to be vanishingly unlikely to contribute anything except noise. 4) False, at least on Earth. Even something as basic as quarrying leaves traces that will be clearly evident many millions of years from now. 5) False. “Indiana Jones” is a fictional character. Academics do not spend their time going out and fighting monsters, casting spells, and stealing treasure.

And so I’d expect them to make a lot of small discoveries and refinements on existing stuff and to make occasional notable discoveries. Even so, however, most academics and scientists spend their lives filling in details in established theories, cataloging observations, and performing experiments that confirm our current understanding without ever actually discovering anything really new. Most of science consists of checking results and occasionally finding that “Variant number 247,833 shows slightly better results than any of the other variants tested so far” (which is why pharmaceutical research is expensive and time-consuming).

Now if we bow to modern cosmology and the indications that the universe is actually infinite… then Condition 2 is True – and the universe necessarily contains an infinite number of every possible variation of our Hubble Volume – including infinite numbers of them that are identical to any state we may wind up in in the future. In this case, it is not possible to be the first to discover something; thanks to the rather non-intuitive properties of infinite sets, no matter which Hubble Volume you “discover” something in there will always be an infinite number of other Hubble Volumes that got to it “first”.

In fact, even if we stick to our own Hubble Volume, the statistics pretty well guarantee that we haven’t been the first at anything yet, and probably never will be.

In either case… you’re supporting my point here, rather than opposing it.

The problem is that you are implicitly assuming a “False” condition for conditions 1-4. Do you have detailed information on what more knowledgeable entities know and about whatever developments beyond the player characters current state of the art any prior civilizations had? No? Then you are stating that they effectively do not exist. Are you accounting for the thousands of other prime material planes and other planets whether or not the characters will ever reach them? Or a few million years worth of rising and falling cultures? No? Then you are limiting this to a local scale. Do you have large amounts of theoretical material covering how things work, new spells, and other material that is unavailable to the players and the characters or are you pulling things from sourcebooks, literature, and movies or TV? No? Then the setting does not include a lot of information that they haven’t mastered.

“Does it sound so strange that, due to a recent breakthrough made this year in some sort of magical field would open up new possibilities? And that, upon reexamining previous statements in the light of new evidence, new possibilities begin to form?”

Yes, if we assume that a new (at least to the local setting) breakthrough has been made then new applications are likely to follow – but how does assuming the existence of a breakthrough show that it was likely? Assuming that I rolled six 18’s on six 3d6 rolls will give my new character some good base attributes – but it doesn’t mean that I’m likely to get that if I stop assuming that and actually roll the dice.

Now, as far as d20 goes… I do, in fact, allow for characters to “do it out of intuition”. D20 characters are allowed to do incredibly unlikely things, which is why I have included the “invention” option under Action Hero in Eclipse. This has nothing to do with “Exploits” though, since those are achieved by going through rulebooks or by taking advantage of the limitations of your game master to get something he or she should not have approved past him or her.

As far as computers go, even if they fit the definition of an “exploit” (I do not agree, but it doesn’t actually matter), and even if we limit our considerations to Earth… they are in no way new. Brains are computers, and have been around for many millions of years. External calculating devices have been around since the development of Tally Sticks. Special purpose computers, such as the Antikythera Mechanism, have been around for more than two thousand years (that we know of; it could be longer). The Difference Engine was proposed in 1784 and one was actually built in 1822. The first electronic computer was built in 1942 (and used the same basic principles as applied to easier-to-work-with parts such as vacuum tubes). Transistors were the next step – and putting masses of transistors on one surface (an “integrated circuit”) was the next, and is really the current state of the art. So we have… Gears, some specialized Math, Electricity, Vacuum Tubes, Transistors, Memory Storage (Paper Tapes, then Punch Cards, Capacitors, Magnetic Systems, and modern chips, but all simply implementing the same yes / no storage system), a Generalized Operating Systems, and the notion of using a Graphic User Interface (quickly scanable pictures instead of long menus) – five to seven major inventions and a LOT of tweaking across more than two thousand years of development by hundreds of thousands or millions of people.

No, barring something like Eclipse’s “Invention” ability (which is just as magical as the ability to use the Evil Eye) I really don’t see a group of player characters going through all that.

And there’s nothing wrong with a delusional character; the problem lay with the delusional player who refused to admit that the character was delusional and that the setting was not what he wanted it to be. It led to him being ignored a lot.

And Part II:

Simply announcing that something conflicts does not make it so, but looking at this…

Elves made some Mythals. Even if this was new to Toril (even limiting ourselves to Toril, how do we know that something similar wasn’t done before?) we also know that Toril and its local gods are fairly young in an apparently older universe and that our information on that universe is primarily limited to a modest section of a particular planet. Both literature and other settings include much older area enchantments. (For a personal example… Malavon, which predated the publication of The Forgotten Realms, included the Alfar Planetary Bindings – dating back some sixty million years). There’s no conflict there.

Similarly, Karsus’s Avatar Spell was purely local (it only had effects within Toril’s crystal sphere) was allowed by a fairly new goddess of magic (and such spells are no longer allowed), and “ascend to godhood” spells are hardly a new idea; that’s what the pharonic burial rituals were all about. And how do you know that the Aboleth didn’t come up with such a spell (or, far more likely, an equivalent psionic power) long before? After all, the most notable thing about Karsus’s Avatar when cast was it’s spectacular failure.

Sounds like the part about “I do tend to make exceptions for those players and characters who possess exceptional intelligence, knowledge, skill, and power and who then use them to attempt some experiment so insanely reckless that no one in their right mind would try it in a million years” that I mentioned in the article.

Ioun Stones were, in fact, dreamed up by Jack Vance in his Dying Earth novels, where they were naturally-occurring items that were harvested from the core of neutron stars that were being sliced away by the Nothing at the edge of the universe. They first appeared in games in Issue #1 of The Strategic Review (no author given), although Jack Vance apparently approved of their inclusion. So no, “Congenio Ioun” is a later interpolation, specific to a particular setting, and demonstrably wrong. Even in-setting… is there any indication whatsoever that equivalent items didn’t exist on Toril (let alone on the apparently limitless number of other planets elsewhere in the Forgotten Realms universe) before “Congenio Ioun” stuck his name on his personal line of designer jewelry?

Once again, these arguments are starting off assuming what they want to prove – that Mythals are unique and the elves of Toril were the first and only people to create such things, that Karsus being the first known person to use a divine ascension spell within a small and young section of the universe makes him the only one ever to have done such a thing, and that a character who was only mentioned to account for a per-existing name on something was the origin of that name.

And I hope the helps!

Underlying The Rules Part V – Questions And Answers

And now that I have a few minutes to start catching up on comments again, this particular comment from KrakoThunder brings up some interesting points about the d20 system and what happened to it. Admittedly, that’s starting to drift away from generic social expectations applicable to all gaming – but the difference in perception comes up quite a lot.

  • Part One in this series – The Social Contract – can be found HERE.
  • Part Two – Adjusting The Spotlight – can be found HERE.
  • Part Three – Making A Group Effort – can be found HERE.
  • Part Four – Setting Over Rules (The part that this comment was addressed to) – can be found HERE.

…Personally I feel that Setting, at least in 3.5 or pathfinder, isn’t actually that relevant…

That’s an excellent illustration of a fairly subtle point – a division in social expectations between people who are used to d20 style games and most other systems that goes back to an old marketing decision. Wizards of the Coast wanted to sell as many copies of each book as possible – and so they did something fairly innovative.

They had a reasonably universal system and so they quietly decoupled their mechanics-laden sourcebooks from specific settings and included hints in the books and online on how to squeeze the new material from each such sourcebook into their existing settings.

That was subtle, but big. There had been plenty of semi-universal systems before, but no one had ever really tried that. Chaosium’s Basic Role Playing covered a lot of things – but they never tried to make the stuff they published for Runequest fit into Nephilim or Nephilim stuff fit into Superworld. Similarly, a Hero System “Galactic Guardians” sourcebook was never meant to be compatible with a Justice Inc. game – and there was no attempt to make it so. GURPS put out world sourcebooks with no intent that their Lensman sourcebook would ever be coupled with one of their WWII sourcebooks.

Other games were less successful at it. For example, the One Roll Engine system was used for Godlike – a WWII game featuring superheroes with relatively minor powers who didn’t have too big an effect on history. But, while the setting was quite good… the One Roll Engine mechanics didn’t actually support the “relatively minor powers” or “not too big an effect on history” part. It wasn’t at all hard to build characters who broke the game, often even if you didn’t mean to do so. There are several such characters on the blog here simply because I found it amusing to make them.

Quite a lot of games weren’t that ambitious. They wrote tight systems that were deeply integrated with specific settings. Games like World Tree or Army Ants or Bunnies and Burrows could be very, VERY, good games – but you weren’t going to be able to use their systems to run a Starship Troopers game or a cold war espionage game.

But that limited sales – and so Wizards Of The Coast quietly de-emphasized “Setting”, suggesting that it was essentially unfair of game masters to disallow the use of whatever nifty new sourcebook a player had purchased and become enamored of.

This, however, turned something that had previously been a very minor problem into a major one. Sourcebooks aren’t written by an omniscient collective, and editors really can’t keep complete track of thousands of pages of rules. So if a “Voodoo Pirates” sourcebook included a “Loa Bound” ability which let each character bind with a single Loa to gain a package of distinctive magical pirate powers that they could use all they wished… well, that worked just fine in a Voodoo Pirates game. Everyone got one highly distinctive power package.

But if a player took “Loa Bound” and then (say) pulled a “Celestial Radiance” ability from some other sourcebook – perhaps a “High Gods” book of religious powers – which let a character convert innate magical effects into shields and blasts of light and combined it with a “Surging Birthright” ability from a “Mystic Talents” sourcebook that boosted innate magical powers (and was meant to be used with the relatively minor powers from that book), then suddenly the game master found himself or herself dealing with the equivalent of Marvel’s Dark Phoenix running around blasting things in his secret supernatural psychic detectives setting.

That’s an exploit. Things that were never meant to be used that way being used to break the game. Now those particular books don’t actually exist (although books along those lines with staff that breaks the game if used elsewhere certainly do) – but the pattern should be recognizable to any d20 gamer. The fact that no one can agree on just where the line between “good character design” and “abusive exploits” lies just complicates the problem.

Exploits hadn’t been a big problem before. There had been a lot of games – Brave New World, World of Synnibar, and too many more to count – who’s rules just didn’t work properly. There were plenty of games where the rules were a poor match for the intended setting too – but sourcebooks intended for particular settings had always tended to be light on mechanics, heavy on setting information, and had a much more limited range of other sourcebooks to interact with. They also were usually written by individuals or small, cooperative, groups, came out far less often, and had groups of playtesters who played in that particular setting and so were familiar with all the information for it. Most exploits got edited out well before such books were published. Most of what got through were typos or stuff that was simply ambiguously phrased if you didn’t already know what it was supposed to mean.

That meant that, up until this point, most exploits had been of individual rules that were poorly written. For example, early editions of Champions / Hero System had “Endurance Batteries” which, when combined with other flaws such as “increased endurance cost”, could make powers free to use and much cheaper at the same time. That kind of thing was easily errataed though. Endurance batteries were changed into the Endurance Reserve power, and how they worked was modified – and the exploit went away.

But changing how “Loa Bound” worked would mean rewriting the entire Voodoo Pirates sourcebook. The same might go for the Celestial Radiance from the High Gods sourcebook, while removing Surging Birthright from the “Mystic Talents” book would make half of the rest of the book useless.

And so many “optimized” d20 characters wind up taking one level each in a bunch of different prestige classes, and combining stuff from half a dozen different sourcebooks that their authors never meant to be used together no matter what the marketing department said. Unfortunately, confessing that the books were incompatible would undermine the marketing strategy and reduce profits. That was out of the question. Ergo exploits were sometimes dealt with with special rules or online errata, but were mostly left to individual game masters to deal with. This led to the era of “Handbooks”, “Optimization Boards”, and Pun-Pun. Sure, you can find some optimization advice for GURPS and such – but it tends to be fairly general and minor, or rely on specific tricks that no game master in their right mind will allow, rather than on combining stuff from fifteen different sourcebooks in a detailed twenty-level build. For d20 there are massive works covering optimization for pretty much every character class.

The problem carried over into Pathfinder as well – and Pathfinder has become even more of a “throw in anything and everything” system than 3.5 was, simply because it picked up where 3.5 left off. Ultimately however… this path is a dead end. Gaming is a social activity, and focusing on the mechanics may fill your time when you’ve got no one to play with, but trying to actually use exploits eventually reaches the point where it’s disrupting the actual game – and that really doesn’t get you much of any extra fun.

That’s one reason why Eclipse includes a checklist for deciding what abilities will fit into your setting, advice on handling over-optimized characters, systems for character personalities and motives, and no setting at all. It’s also why it hasn’t really got any “expansion” books beyond a free web supplement that covers a few items that could not legally be included in Eclipse under the intial d20 license and a few typo corrections. Eclipse II includes one additional note (that you only get half “value” for negative attribute modifiers) and a lot of “how to use Eclipse to build what you want” segments. That’s to avoid the partially-compatible sourcebooks problem, to make sure that everyone has the same list of stuff to choose from to “optimize” their characters, and to limit the time and expense of running the game.

A strong setting is needed for serious roleplaying, to hold down on rules exploits, and to give a campaign it’s own identity. A really GOOD d20 campaign… is usually much more narrowly focused than the “you can use everything!” approach allows.

…Want a spaceship? Mind Flayers had spaceships, so spaceships obviously are a thing, and given infinite universes that are all connected via Far Realm, there’s a good chance somewhere there’ll be someone who fits the criteria. You probably can’t refuel it and you won’t find much out there, but you can have it….

Well, even if Mind Flayers exist in a given d20 setting (not being OGL material they often don’t) they may or may not have spaceships or bear any resemblance to “standard” Mind Flayers. As for the example of the “Predator” character and his spaceship and support staff and why he would not work in The Forgotten Realms… we’ll have to go into some history and look at the implications of allowing such a thing.

The Forgotten Realms existed as a literary setting long before Dungeons and Dragons came along – whereupon it became the setting for a personal campaign. Other gamers got little glimpses into that setting starting in Dragon #30 in 1979 – and then TSR produced the first edition set, wherein most of the space went to description and background, rather than first editions (rather slim) mechanics. We also got Kara-Tur, Moonshae, Waterdeep, an assortment of novels, and more – but, unlike Greyhawk, there really weren’t any major sci-fi elements.

Second edition stuff for the Forgotten Realms came along in 1990 – and brought us the quasi-mesoamerican Maztica subsetting as a bonus.

The Far Realms were introduced in 1996, in The Gates Of Firestorm Peak – (written for use with the Players Option series and nothing to do with the Forgotten Realms) – and didn’t really get tacked on to most of Wizards of the Coasts other settings until 3.0 (2000) and 3.5, when the idea that “every source should be potentially usable in any game” set in.

Now, as noted, the “predator” character was proposed not long after “Predator” first came out in 1987 – years before second edition came along, almost a decade before the Far Realms were introduced, and even longer before the option to use The Far Realms was shoehorned into The Forgotten Realms. That was back in first edition days, when the Forgotten Realms were pretty much pure sword-and-sorcery on an alternate earth.

Secondarily, as also noted, “Ri’al The Huntsman” came with a starship and a support staff. That isn’t like acquiring a flying carpet. That means access to a competent starship crew – to engineers with a through understanding of power systems and weaponry up through fusion devices and starship drives, to an armory, to multiple suits of powered battle armor, to planetary survey equipment, to radio communications, to an electronic library, to scientific specialists, and (of course) to an interstellar civilization to come from. All of which had to work. That’s kind of built in to playing a predator-type; if their technology doesn’t work all you have is a funny looking fighter with an attitude.

A functioning spacecraft doesn’t just mean “access to a lot of vacuum”. It means access to enormous amounts of technology, information, and possibly weaponry.

Of course, if that stuff worked… why hadn’t the gods of artifice and world-jumpers introduced it? The Forgotten Realms don’t support slow-and-steady scientific progress. It’s a world of superhuman intellects, skills far beyond what any human has ever had, divination, dimensional travel, and gods for every topic. If it’s not being used… it probably will not work.

…How unlikely is it for heroes to be the first one to find an exploit REALLY? I mean, someone simply has to be the first. The History of Humanity has always included the very same elements that make up the computer I’m typing this on (as refined etc. as they are)… And yet, computers sure didn’t exist at the dawn of humanity…

How unlikely is it for the player characters to be the first ones to find an exploit?

  • Does the setting include entities (whether Gods, Elder Races, Dimensional Travelers, Experienced Elder Characters) who know more, or have better sources of information than the player characters do? Why have all of them missed whatever-it-is?
  • Does the setting have a long history or is it very large? (For example, in many sci-fi games… quadrillions of Galaxies, each with many races which may be billions of years old?). Even just a few thousand years generally means that a LOT of similar characters have existed before.
  • Does it have a established list of developed spells, abilities, and technologies beyond what the characters have already mastered or longer than the characters contributions and developments? Then other characters have done more research and development than they have.
  • Have there been elder civilizations or races that reached peaks beyond the current state of the art?
  • Are the Player Characters devoting their time to adventuring rather than to doing research and development? The PLAYER reading about something on an optimization board or paging through the rulebook won’t help the CHARACTER come up with it.

If ANY of those apply… then it is vanishingly unlikely that the player characters will stumble across even a single major breakthrough or “exploit” that has been missed up until now.

Someone does indeed need to be first. For computers – which are not, by the way, “exploits” (those tend to be unexpected interactions, editing failures, misreadings, and game master errors) – there were many centuries of development by tens of thousands of people making incremental advancements. I really doubt that anyone wants to play out that process. Now if they wish to be fantasy innovaters… that’s what a “Founders” campaign is about. Otherwise… making even one original discovery is kind of unlikely. More than that becomes increasingly implausible.

I do tend to make exceptions for those players and characters who possess exceptional intelligence, knowledge, skill, and power and who then use them to attempt some experiment so insanely reckless that no one in their right mind would try it in a million years – but in that case I’m assuming that the few NPC’s who achieved the power to attempt such insanity knew better than to do it. If the character survives the resulting risk of death and (un-)healthy dose of catastrophe… well, they’ve earned some new knowledge. Still, that’s just me keeping the game exciting and rewarding in-character effort and player thought about the setting – not rewarding a player who’s been poring over the rulebooks and looking on the internet.

…Eh, I can get behind most of that… At least as long as the DM allows character rerolls. There is killing off a character you don’t like (which already sucks) and then there is making a player stick with a character that sucks because you made him magically out-of-nowhere suck…

Well, we are sort of before picking a particular system in these articles; that’s why the examples are from many different games. For that matter… while there are some settings – like the aforementioned World Tree – that are tied to their rules systems so tightly that they’d be quite hard to run otherwise – the Forgotten Realms really isn’t one of them. You could use the Forgotten Realms setting just fine without using AD&D or d20. You could use Baba Yaga, or GURPS, or ACE, or any of dozens of other systems since the setting itself doesn’t really rely on a specific set of rules.

As far as “allowing character rerolls” goes. I’m assuming that you mean making a new character if you’re not happy with the old one.

Really, as I’ve already noted, the players generally have more power over the game than the game master does. If you’re not having fun with the game, why play? The game master cannot make you play at all, much less make you play a character you’re not happy with. I’ve walked out of quite a few games that were boring or nonsensical when the game master refused to address those problems. On more than onc occasion the rest of the players have followed me. For an example of that… I was one of a group of players who concluded that one game masters current extra-dimensional adventure was neither interesting, coherent, or enjoyable – and the game master was refusing to reconsider any part of it or offer any alternative. Ergo the player group announced that our characters were now having a drink at the bar in their home town, talking about how lucky they’d been to find a handy gate out of that trap-dimension, and looking for another adventure to go on – and would be doing so regardless of what the game master said was happening until an adventure that we were interested in came up.

Some game masters will accept that no one is interested and go on to something else. Others will not. In this case… that particular game master stormed out. We simply took the existing characters, picked a new game master, and started another game.

He came back a few weeks later and joined the new game as a player.

No one can game master without players – but the players can always find or pick a new game master, rotate the task, or even play without one for quite some time.

…I feel like a lot of it is a nonissue unless someone is entirely uncooperative…

Very true. Unfortunately, however, a LOT of players can be entirely uncooperative on occasion – especially if they’ve got some idea in mind.

and finally:

…(btw, are you sure he didn’t mean Top Cow from Image Comics?).

Presumably this is in reference to Ballistic (from back in 2004, 4’th edition Hero System). Since I never did actually see any of the player’s source materials I really couldn’t say.

Of course, the major problem was that Ballistic apparently came from a fairly grim-and-gritty world, where powers were rare, people might spend months in agony in hospital burn wards, thousands of people could easily be murdered and disappear without a trace, and so on. Unfortunately, she was being imported into the Emergence setting, which stated that college degrees in magic were quite normal and most professionals used at least small spells (classical hedge magic and commercially available talismans ran up to ten active points, characters with talent or professional training could hit twenty, and rituals or those with magical ancestry could go even higher), that ghosts were common and could testify in court, and so on.

This meant that pretty much any injury or normal disease could be healed in a few minutes (It did take a ritual and a few hours to restore missing limbs and such), that the ghosts of murder victims commonly went to the police to complain about their deaths, that many kids could fly, that the weak and elderly often used telekinesis spells to handle tasks, that high-rise construction workers usually carried safe-fall charms, that long-term care (and hospitals) were pretty much nonexistent, and so on. The setting simply was not grim and gritty.

The player insisted on Ballistic being pursued by an evil corporation that was secretly murdering thousands of people and successfully covering it up in pursuit of researching things that had been commonly available via magic for centuries, on having enemies who were hunting his character because he’d put them in the hospital in agony for months (despite the lack of hospitals and long-term injuries once you reached an EMT or competent tribal shaman), and on lots of other details that simply were not consistent with the setting. He never did accept the fact that the setting simply did not match up with the setting of the comic book that he wanted to emulate or that – as a consequence – many of his characters “enemies” and most of her “history” didn’t actually exist.

That, of course, was what made the player and Ballistic a good bad example. He played… but he never really caught on to the fact that the rest of the characters considered his character an occasionally-useful madwoman.

And, for those who have gotten this far… hopefully that’s been at least thought-provoking!

Champions – Ares Reborn

The untamed violence of war is not what it was. In a world of drones, snipers, carpet bombing, trenches, machine guns, and mortars… individual strength, and courage, and personal skill means a lot less than it did. Even looking back into history, personal battle skills and the terrible joy of battle lust began to fade long, long, ago. Even at the time of the Trojan War… organized warfare under the aegis of Athena was beginning to surpass personal valor.

The Romans improved things for quite some time – but twisted things more towards the virtues of an organized soldier. There was strength in their worship – but a subtle disconnect as well.

Eventually, on the blood-soaked battlegrounds of the first world war… valor meant almost nothing. To survive, one cowered in trenches, or crawled to the attack, darting from cover to cover to avoid the machine gun fire, hoping that you would not inhale a lethal dose of mustard gas, and – preferably – killing with stealth and surprise, rather than valiant challenge.

And Ares fell to Athena, was slain, and was cast into the formless void of fallen Titans – his connection to the greater aspects of his portfolio, as well as his old persona, lost.

But then Jann – the Voice Of Ancient Sorrows, a channel for the fallen – meddled recklessly, as he so often does. He called upon powers far beyond his control or understanding – opening a way for Ares (if weakened and cut off from his original sources of power) to return to the world and bond with a new aspect of war.

Jann, for his own reasons, has cheerily set about getting this new version of Ares hooked up with a new myth – one that’s surprisingly ubiquitous, but which has never really drawn a Titan to take it up. That’s because, under normal circumstances, they are too independent for this particular semi-faceless role. Still, there’s plenty of unclaimed belief and myth there – even if Ares WILL have to put up with being mostly known as “Sarge”.

Sarge, of course, is a pragmatic, tough-as-nails, career military man. Grand strategies and determining objectives are not for him; his task is to take a squad into battle and carry out whatever mission he’s been given. Fortunately, he’s got enough weapons to equip a battalion, is an expert in small unit tactics, and is pretty tough.

Ares is not entirely happy with his new tendency to let other people set the agenda – but it’s a LOT better than the condition he was in just a little while ago and this mythos… has a surprising amount of raw power behind it (thanks to appearing in virtually every war movie ever made) and is a fabulous step up from being lost in the formless void searching for a new role to step into.

Ol’ Sarge, Incarnation of Ares

Value Characteristic Points
25 STR 15
23 DEX 39
23 CON 26
10 BODY 0
13 INT 3
11 EGO 2
15 PRE 5
8 COM -1
5 PD 0
5 ED 0
4 SPD 7
10 REC 0
36 END -5
35 STUN 0
Total 91

 

Points Powers END
0 Minor Titan Racial Package
(20) Physical Limitation: Shaped By Belief. Titans may be powerful in their fields, but they are limited to a single, and invariably fairly straightforward, domain. A Spirit of Invention makes gadgets and – possibly – provides grants and teaches. Similarly, the spirit of Memorial Day is a formidable soldier, has lots of weapons, and can operate military vehicles – but that’s about it . (Frequently, Fully)
(20) Mental Characteristic Maxima of 15 (-20 Points). People never really think that their “gods” are really much smarter, or more perceptive, or whatever, than they are – no matter what their theme is. The God of Knowledge may have a lot of knowledge skills, but he or she normally won’t actually be much smarter than the average person. If there’s any one thing that the Titans find annoying about their relationship with mortals… this may be it. (All the Time, Greatly)
(20) Psychological Limitation: Themed. Titans aren’t even CAPABLE of getting seriously off-theme. A war god won’t be negotiating, the healing goddess won’t be building gadgets, and the god of justice won’t be letting criminals go, no matter how necessary it may be (Common, Total)
(12) Regeneration (1 BODY/week); Regenerate: From Death, +20
(3) Immune to Aging
16 Domain: 15 Points worth of ablities appropriate to their domain.
(16) +2 level w/All Combat
1 Overcost on his Domain Powers, above
20 Multipower (75-pt reserve); Generic Limitation (Infantry Powers Only): -½; Visible (Mystically Conspicuous to Other Titans): -¼; Side Effects (Various Hunteds): 30/Half, -½; Generic Limitation (Side Effects cannot be avoided): -½; Variable Limitations: -1, -½; Generic Limitation (Cannot subdivide the points in the reserve, even if a slot does not use all of them): -½
Portfolio Powers
u-1 2d6 Righteous Wrath: Aid to All Physical Attributes (Fade/min., Max. 20); Range: 0; Affects: All Powers of Special Effect, +2; Autofire: 5 shots, ½; Reduced END: Zero, +1; Generic Limitation (Aid to self only): -½; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Only in Hero ID: -¼; Visible (Creates quite a flare of magical power): -¼

Net: +20 Str, +2 OCV, +2 DCV, +10 Con, +10 PD, +10 ED, +2 Spd, +10 Recovery, +40 Endurance, +20 Stun.

0
u-1 2d6 Campaign Outfitting: Aid to Papers, Maps, Languages, Vehicles, More Multipower Slots, Etc (Fade/day, Max. 50); Range: 0; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Generic Limitation (Only between missions or when a source is available)): -1½; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼

In general, outfitting for a campaign will include a low-level military vehicle (Jeep, APC, or similar), maps and a GPS (Area Knowledge), the local Language, an ID and any necessary permits/orders, MRE’s, a tent, and whatever other specialty gear (or multipower weapons slots) is appropriate for the job.

2
u-1 Commando Training
(4) +4 level w/HTH Combat; Only in Hero ID: -¼; Visible (Creates quite a flare of magical power): -¼; Generic Limitation (Must be struck in melee before this can be activated): -½
(11) Hand-to-Hand Attack (6d6, Total 7½d6); Range: 0; Variable Advantage: Max. Advantage 1, +2

Total of 9d6 when Str boosted to 45. Can also just be 0 End and do 15d strikes under similar circumstances.

5
u-1 Small Unit Tactics
(15) +2 level w/All Combat; Area Effect (Radius): 128″ radius, +1; Selective Target: +¼; Increased Area: ×32, +1¼; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Uncontrolled: +½; Generic Limitation (Only works on people who are willing to listen to his orders): -½; Generic Limitation (Lasts a maximum of five minutes after he stops shouting): -½
u-1 Plot Armor; Focus (Wrist Bracer): Obvious Inaccessible, -½; Activation: 14-, -½; Charges: 16, +¾; Continuing Charges: 1 Minute, -3 lev
(7) Force Field (10 PD/10 ED) 0
(4) Power Defense (10 pts)
(4) Mental Defense (12 pts)
General Equipment
u-1 Flares: Change Environment/Brightly Lit (32″ rad.); Effect: Fixed, +0; Charges: 6, +0; Continuing Charges: 1 Minute, -3 lev 0
u-1 2d6 Heavy Pistol/Bow/Crossbow/Gyrojet: Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 150; Charges: +8, +0; Clips: 4 0
u-1 Entrenching Tool / Tunneling (1″ through DEF 8); Extra Time: 1 turn, -1; Focus (Entrenching Tool): Obvious Accessible, -1; Tunnels: Left Behind, +0 1
u-1 6d6 Concussion Grenade Stun-Only Energy Blast; Range: 225; Versus: PD; Explosion (Extended Area +0″/DC): +½; OAF: -1; Charges: +12, -¼ 0
u-1 2d6 Fragmentation Grenades: Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 225; Explosion (Extended Area +0″/DC): +½; Charges: 8, -½; OAF: – 0
u-1 6d6 Inciendary Grenade: Energy Blast (Fire); Range: 225; Versus: ED; Explosion (Extended Area +0″/DC): +½; OAF: -1; Charges: +8, -½ 0
u-1 1d6+1 Light Machine Gun: Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 300; Autofire: 5 shots, ½; Area Effect (Radius): 4″ radius, +1; Charges: 60, +½; OAF: -1; Extra Time: full phase, -½

Yes, a machine gun fires a lot faster than this, it just rarely hits the same target more than this.

0
u-1 4d6 LAW Missile Launcher: Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 300; OAF: -1; Charges: 8, -½ 0
u-1 4d6 Sword: Killing Attack (HTH) (Total 5½d6); Range: 0; Focus (Sword): Obvious Accessible, -1 6
u-1 15d6 Assault Cannon: Energy Blast; Range: 375; Versus: PD; Focus: Obvious Accessible, -1; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Charges: 6, -¼; Clips: 4 0
u-1 2d6 Claymore Mine: Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 375; Area Effect (Cone): 14″ long, +1; Increased Area: ×2, +¼; Trigger: Set, +¼; OAF: -1; Focus Mobility: Immobile, -1; Extra Time: full phase, -½ 7
u-1 1d6+1 Flamethrower: Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 350; Area Effect (Radius): 5″ radius, +1; Penetrating: +½; Continuous: +1; Charges: +6, +0; Continuing Charges: 1 Minute, -3 lev; OAF: -1; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½ 0
u-1 2d6 Heavy Machine Gun: Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 335; Autofire: 5 shots, ½; Armor Piercing: 1, +½; Charges: 16, +¼; Clips: 4; OAF: -1; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Focus Mobility: Immobile, -1 0
u-1 2d6 Surface to Air Guided Missile: Killing Attack (RKA); Range: 3000; No Range Penalty: +½; Armor Piercing: 1, +½; Increased Maximum Range: ×25, +½; OAF: -1; Charges: 8, -½; Extra Time: full phase, -½; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½ 0
2 Light Power Armor Elemental Control (6-pt reserve); All abilities -.5 OIF (Power Armor), -1 (Conventional Technology Only), -.25 (Visible: power armor is pretty obvious).
a-10 Armor (12 PD/8 ED); Hardened: ×1, ¼; Always On: -½
b-2 Flash Defense (Sight, 12 pts)
c-4 Life Support Systems
(1) Life Support: High Pressure/Vacuum
(1) Life Support: High Radiation
(4) Need Not Breathe
(1) Life Support: Intense Heat/Cold
d-2 Running (+4″, 10″, NC: 20″); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×2, +0; Non-Combat (MPH): 12; Reduced END: Zero, +½ 0
e-2 Superleap (+12″, 17″, NC: 34″); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×2, +0; Non-Combat (MPH): 36 2
62 Total Powers  

 

Points Skills, Talents, Perks Roll
16 +2 level w/All Combat
3 Combat Driving 14-
3 Stealth 14-
3 Survival 11-
0 English (Native Accent); Literacy: Standard, 0
0 Greek (Native Accent); Literacy: Standard, 0
2 German (Fluent Conv.); Literacy: Standard, 0
27 Total Skills, Talents, Perks  

 

100+ Disadvantages
10 Vengeful (Uncommon, Strong)
20 Extremely Violent (Very Common, Strong)
10 Public Identity
15 Reputation (14-)
5 Rivalry: Tacticians; Situation: Professional, 5; Position: Equal, +0; Rival: NPC, +0
10 2d6 Unluck
20 Hunted: Divine Enemies (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Actions: Hunting, ×1; Punishment: Harsh, 0
90 Total Disadvantages

 

COSTS: Char. Powers Total Total Disadv. Base
91 + 89 = 180 190 = 90 + 100

 

OCV DCV ECV Mental Def. PD/rPD ED/rED Phases
8 8 4 12 17/12 13/8 3, 6, 9, 12

 

Height: 182cm (6’0″), Weight: 73kg (161 lbs), Sex: Male, Race: Titan

Champions – Dr Cronus

Old Gods Take New Names.
A Myth Entombed In Dusty Tomes Lies Fallow.
Its Titan Bound, Its Might Fading.
While Lesser Figures Of Ancient Tales
Still Mostly Formless, And Full With Possibility.
Seize Easily On New Tales And Forms
While Elders Fade And Formlessness Creeps In.
Each In Their Turn, Across The Ages.
The Fading And Rebirth, The Cycle Turns
Old Gods Take New Names.

The shape was new, and it’s powers still limited – but the tales were many, the followers a mighty host, and legends only grow stronger as the years pass. An elder master of time, the last of a primal race of reality-masters… it was a near-perfect fit.

Old Gods Take New Names.

And at an English museum-shrine, a Titan stepped forth from a blue Police Box. Doctor Cronus – the last Doctor that would ever be needed – had come forth from legend into reality.

Doctor Cronus is fairly new to this incarnation, but so far it’s going quite well. Being stuck with the TARDIS is something of a pain though. After all, the things actual function is to separate you from most of your allies and resources, prevent you from planning ahead, dump you into potentially deadly situations where the fate of the universe relies on you with little or no information to go on, and trap you there until you fix said situation. Attracting swarms of powerful enemies is just icing on the cake. Does it occasionally acting as a plot coupon and an excuse to play tourist REALLY make up for that? Especially in a setting where time travel isn’t particularly difficult in the first place?

 

Doctor Cronus

Value Characteristic Points
13 STR 3
14 DEX 12
13 CON 6
10 BODY 0
18 INT 8
11 EGO 2
15 PRE 5
10 COM 0
5 PD 2
5 ED 2
3 SPD 6
6 REC 0
24 END -1
24 STUN 0
Total 45

 

Points Powers END
0 Minor Titan Racial Package
(20) Physical Limitation: Shaped By Belief. Titans may be powerful in their fields, but they are limited to a single, and invariably fairly straightforward, domain. A Spirit of Invention makes gadgets and – possibly – provides grants and teaches. Similarly, the spirit of Memorial Day is a formidable soldier, has lots of weapons, and can operate military vehicles – but that’s about it . (Frequently, Fully)
(20) Mental Characteristic Maxima of 15 (-20 Points). People never really think that their “gods” are really much smarter, or more perceptive, or whatever, than they are – no matter what their theme is. The God of Knowledge may have a lot of knowledge skills, but he or she normally won’t actually be much smarter than the average person. If there’s any one thing that the Titans find annoying about their relationship with mortals… this may be it. (All the Time, Greatly)
(20) Psychological Limitation: Themed. Titans aren’t even CAPABLE of getting seriously off-theme. A war god won’t be negotiating, the healing goddess won’t be building gadgets, and the god of justice won’t be letting criminals go, no matter how necessary it may be (Common, Total)
(12) Regeneration (1 BODY/week); Regenerate: From Death, +20
(3) Immune to Aging
15 Domain: 15 Points worth of ablities appropriate to their domain.
(3) Absolute Time Sense
(3) Speed Reading
(3) Lightning Calculator
(3) Resistance (+3 to EGO Rolls)
(1) Immunity to Temporal Paradoxes; Frequency: Rare
(1) Immunity to Timeline Shifts; Frequency: Rare
(1) Immunity to Temporal Distortion; Frequency: Rare
25 Timelord Multipower (50-pt reserve); Side Effects: Attracts opponents from across all space and time, has to travel by Tardis, obliged to gratuitously meddle. 60/All, -1
u-3 2d6 Regenerative Energies: Aid to All Physical Attributes (Fade/turn, Max. 20); Range: 0; Affects: All Powers of Special Effect, +2; Active Points: 52; Autofire: 5 shots, ½; Charges: 32, +¼ 0
u-1 Clairsentience (Hearing, Sight); See: Future, +20; Charges: +6, +0; Continuing Charges: 1 Minute, -3 lev; No Conscious Control: -2; Dimensions: Current, +0; Range: 250″ 0
u-2 25″ Moment Out Of Time / Teleportation (Long Range 25″); Increased Range: ×1, +0; Long Range: 25″; Long Range (miles): 0.03; Mass Multiplier: ×1, +0; Fixed Locations: 0; Floating Locations: 0; Charges: +16, +0 0
u-1 2d6 Aid to Knowledge Skills (Fade/day, Max. 32); Range: 0; Charges: +8, -½; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼; Generic Limitation (Very Limited Conscious Control; The GM picks 16 points worth of skills and the user picks the other 16 – but the user may only change his choices at one point per week. ): -1

The Doctor generally knows a lot – but, oddly enough, never enough to really derail his current adventure.

0
u-1 Shape Shift (Various Humanoid Forms) (Limited Group); Charges: 1, +¼; Continuing Charges: 1 week, -8 lev; Generic Limitation (Only to periodically take on a new appearance and personality, which will then last for years or decades. ): -2; Difficult to Dispel: ×16, + 0
u-2 4d6 Telepathy; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Transdimensional: Any Dimension, +1

The Doctor occasionally receives messages, or gets into touch with someone, across space and time.

0
u-2 Warp Probability: Luck (10d6); Charges: +8
u-1 Summon TARDIS (1 100-point creatures); Range: 0; Summon: Single Type, +0; Generic Limitation (Always the same TARDIS, so problems carry over): -1; Generic Limitation (Only works when convenient for the plot or the current plotline is resolved. ): -1; Charges: +4, -1 0
u-2 Detect Dimensional Location and Structure (+20 to PER); Time Required: Half Phase, +0; Range: Ranged, +5
u-1 1d6 Mental Manipulation: Transform (Minor, Limited Class); Range: 0; Cumulative: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +1; No Range: -½; Autofire: 5 shots, ½

This is routinely used to acquire languages if the convenient “tardis translation effect” is not available.

0
u-2 +40 PRE; Charges: +8, +0; Continuing Charges: 1 Turn, -2 lev
u-2 1d6 Tinker: Transform random bits to any needed device (Major, Limited Class); Range: 245; Cumulative: +½; Autofire: 10 shots, ¾; Charges: 125, +¾ 0
7 Elemental Control: Timelord Powers (10-pt reserve); Side Effects (Often recognized, attracts weirdness): 30/Half, -½
a-4 Life Support (total); Generic Limitation (Greatly slows the effects of hostile environments, diseases, etc, and mitigates the effects to some extent, but does not stop them.): -2; Generic Limitation (Only works against things that a normal human would find survivable for at least a minute. ): -2
b-2 Detect:Temporal Effects and Locations (+5 to PER); No Conscious Control: -2; Side Effects (Has difficulties dealing with fixed points in time, paradoxes, etc.): 30/Half, -½; Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5
c-7 Armor (7 PD/7 ED)
d-7 Enhanced Perception (all) (+7 to PER)
e-7 Mental Defense (22 pts); Add to Total
79 Total Powers  

 

Points Skills, Talents, Perks Roll
40 +4 level w/Timeline Selection / Overall Level
10 Eidetic Memory
3 Immunity: Any distinction between attribute rolls and skills; Frequency: Common

This is downright abusive. On the other hand… you can achieve exactly the same result with a small Aid to Any Skill, or a Skill Power Pool, or in several other ways – and skills generally aren’t all that important in a setting where actual powers appear.

3 Simulate Death
56 Total Skills, Talents, Perks  

 

Cost Equipment
But where is the sonic screwdriver? It’s a penlight case, filled with a bunch of random bits and pieces. Thanks to his “Tinker” power it can be readily transformed into any needed small gadget up to a maximum of 25 active points. This also keeps it from being used for EVERYTHING, since he has a limited number of uses of that ability each day.
0 Total Equipment

 

100+ Disadvantages
5 Dependent NPC: Random Companion (Normal, 8-); Skills: Useful, -5

These actually appear on a 14- or so, but often do not get into trouble, merely providing a target for more exposition.

20 Hunted: Daleks, Cybermen, Etc. (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Actions: Hunting, ×1; Punishment: Harsh, 0
15 Code of Chivalry (Common, Strong)
15 Honorable (Common, Strong)
15 Overconfidence (Very Common, Moderate)
5 Prankster (Uncommon, Moderate)
15 Reputation: Timelord (11-, Extreme)
10 Watched: Practically Everyone (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Only Watching: ×½; Punishment: Harsh, 0
100 Total Disadvantages

 

COSTS: Char. Powers Total Total Disadv. Base
45 + 135 = 180 200 = 100 + 100

 

OCV DCV ECV Mental Def. PD/rPD ED/rED Phases
5 5 4 22 12/7 12/7 4, 8, 12

 

The Doctor is annoyingly omnicompetent, and can pop up anywhere to be a bother – but he really isn’t all that powerful in superhero terms; in a lot of ways he’s more of a pulp hero than anything else – albeit an intellectual version rather than the usual two-fisted fighter.