Eclipse d20 – Building Superheroic Characters and the New Mutants

To wind up and index this series it’s worth noting that there are a few notable differences between building characters for a Superhero setting and building for standard fantasy – but not as many as you might think.

  • These characters are all built using the Superheroic World Template from Eclipse – of which the important part is only one sentence long: “Each major character can spend (Con Mod) free points of Mana each round without drawing on their personal reserves – although they can’t save up those points” – and that really is quite enough.
  • Superheroic characters are not required to adhere to the Adventurer Framework. They don’t necessarily have to have any proficiencies, skills, or other bonuses at all.
  • Most of them will buy the Four-Color Package, since it covers a lot of the standard comic-book conventions. The occasional “bad-ass normal” may do without the four-color package, but they are the exception rather than the rule when it comes to superhumans.
  • Skills aren’t really important to heroes. While they ought to have some, and “badass normals” ought to have a LOT, superheroes generally have unlimited use of their special powers – and powers make a lot of skills obsolete. Lets say you can fly and transmute matter with a gesture. How many skills does that effectively replace? Ergo Superhumans should be expected to use Fast Learner, Adept, Augmented Bonus, and other tricks to avoid paying more than their skills are actually worth to them.
    • While we’re on skills it’s worth noting that most of the builds do not show any prerequisites for their martial arts. That’s because simply having the Four Color Package – and thus the inherent ability to bypass a lot of the normal limits of physics and the human body – is enough of a prerequisite for virtually any martial art style.
  • For equipment I’m using a default d20 Future Technology Level of Four – mostly because some bits of the tech level five stuff don’t currently exist and partially because that comes close enough to how high fantasy settings are usually portrayed. When you need to convert “Gold Pieces” to Dollars or “Credits” it’s 1 GP = 20 Dollars. Characters who want access to higher technologies or to magic items / “weird science” will have to justify that access somehow.
  • For Mutants & Masterminds conversions… Basic Attributes, building your own pocket realm, and my initial thoughts on damage and equipment are in the Magick writeup, Uncontrolled Powers and Mutants & Masterminds combat skills are discussed in the Magma writeup, the Valkyrie Template is in the Mirage writeup, the Technorganic Template and buying advanced technology is covered in the Warlock writeup, buying social abilities and absorption-based power-ups are discussed in Sunspot’s build, creating an orbital time-traveling manufacturing base comes up in Cable’s build, building magical dabblers turns up in Cypher’s build, and superheroic Equipment Packages are discussed under Domino.
  • Finally, while the original request was to use Eclipse to build Mutants & Masterminds versions of these characters for comparison, it’s important to note that I tend to focus on building them so that they work like they do in the comics, rather than adhering to Mutants & Masterminds rather rigid power level caps.

As for d20 power levels and a New Mutants Index…

Level One characters in a superhero world are generally either normal people (without any special powers or access to Mana) or empowered pre-adolescents – kids with powers. They aren’t necessarily WEAK – but whatever their power is they won’t have the skills, toughness, or have explored their powers ramifications enough to use it very effectively.

Level Two characters are generally starting metahumans, as well as older characters who simply have never gotten much attention / experience. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re weak – although, like Rusty (or any poorly-designed character), they certainly can be – but it does mean that any powerful abilities are likely to be pretty narrowly focused. Most superheroic campaigns will start with second or third level characters and progress slowly; After all, it took the original New Mutants a hundred issues to get from level one to level three or four. Characters on this level from the New Mutants include:

  • Boom-Boom has had an upgrade over the comics – this version has a much wider variety of fairly powerful munitions to call on – but she’s still basically demolitions girl. Her power is built using Equipage and an Immunity.
  • Feral is a fairly competent slasher, but – unless she gets to keep the ghostly powers I put in when she comes back – is basically good for nothing else at all. When you come right down to it… “I have the powers of a leopard!” is all very nice, but it’s more of a pulp hero power than a super hero power. Not too surprisingly, her power is built with Shapeshifting.
  • Rusty could surround himself with an aura of flame, and… well, there wasn’t much “and”. This version has the potential to add considerable variety to his basic ability, but still isn’t very impressive as superheroes go. His power is built with Presence and Metamagic.
  • Skids is a nice demonstration of specialization. She’s invulnerable to the point where most hero or villain teams will be unable to affect her. Unfortunately, she can’t really do anything much while being invulnerable except a little cheerleading for her companions (if any), which keeps her down at level two. Her powers been built with the Mystic Artist ability sequence.

Level Three characters tend to be your basic minor heros. Experienced characters with lame powers, really, REALLY, talented teen heroes, dependable team players with useful powers but few special tricks, and so on, all tend to be found here. And in this category we have…

  • Domino has an afterthought power of “things always going her way” (basically team luch) – except, of course, that they really did no such thing. She’s basically just kind of lucky in combat, so she has some Inherent Spells to make her so and a lot of experience as a mercenary.
  • Rictor is a fairly common type of hero, built with Rune Magic – and so possessing a fairly wide variety of abilities within a specific field. Like most such heroes (and anime characters) gesturing and announcing his attacks helps him focus his power.
  • Shatterstar is a super-soldier with a couple of minor vibrational tricks, decent leadership abilities, and swords. Now there’s nothing wrong with swords, or with super-soldiers, but super-soldiers tend to be valiant and stick at being just a bit more than human rather than being en route to cosmic power. Shatterstar pulls it off with a bit of Shapeshifting cheese and some Inherent Spells to give him a big dose of personal bonuses.
  • Warpath is actually a bit like Shatterstar – using the same general Shapeshifting effects to channel “totem spirits”, but also uses an Inherent Spell to pull off various superstrength tricks and Witchcraft to boost his strength and access some shamanic powers. Warpath his probably reached his limit on raw strength, but – if he focuses on further super-strength tricks and/or his shamanic powers he may well keep on moving up the ranks.

Level Four and Level Five heroes are often well-rounded types who are moving up. The ones who stick at this level usually have a big “but” in their descriptions. Their power may be highly useful and versatile but it also has some major flaw. They may have some very powerful specific ability, but they have little else beyond their one trump card. They may have pushed some minor, versatile, ability to the limits, but have nowhere else to go with it. Their powers may be extremely potent, but impossible to fully control. And they usually have no way around that “but”.

  • Cypher (L4) has some excellent techno-organic boosts to his toughness and ability to interface with computers, has some combat boosts, and has very limited access to magic – but he’s really pushed “I am a super linguist!” just about as far as it can possibly go. Most of this powers are built on Luck and Innate Enchantment.
  • Karma (L4) possesses a high-end set of Inherent Spells (psionic powers in her case), a few boosters for Psionic Dominate, and just a bit of general telepathy. That’s a pretty good power – but it’s very specific and if her targets are unaffected or simply resist… all she’s really got left is a minor psychic blast, and I put that in.
  • Magma (L4) has a powerful and fairly versatile ability, but has control issues. If she ever manages to surpass those, she’ll soon be moving up the power scale. Her abilities are built with Shapeshifting to an Elemental Form and with Rune Magic.
  • Wolfsbane (L5) winds up here thanks to her wide range of abilities. A basic wolf-shifter – and even one that gets to use a Dire Wolf transitional form in combat – isn’t that formidable as superheroes go, but when you throw in an array of enhanced senses and being good at stealth and infiltration, she can be pretty effective. If you accept my speculation that her powers are based on tapping into the power of the Asgardian wolf gods she may continue moving up the scale if she ever learns to really use the Rune Magic that opens up to her.

Level Six and Level Seven are about where “superheroes” start in basic d20 games. With the constant supply of Mana provided by the Superheroic World Template, this is the start of true Demigods – characters who often possess a wide range of powerful abilities, who can often defeat sizeable groups of high-end agents and minions and put up a potentially victorious fight against entire teams of minor heroes, who often command great resources, and who often have only one or two flaws that keep them from competing effectively with the near-gods above them. These are the characters who can fight high-end opponents without needing a team.

  • Cannonball (L7) is your classic flying brick – Flight, Invulnerability, Super-Strength (with immortality as a bonus). With ranged and area effect blasts and a variety of special tricks – including reflecting major attacks and containing strategic nuclear weaponry as well as flying through earth and stone. About the only thing that keeps him from competing with Superman is that his defenses drop when he’s not using his powers. While he’s got Inherent Spells and Innate Enchantments, like many characters at this level he’s a specialized Reality Editor as well.
  • Magick (L7) is an extreme range teleporter, a time traveler, commands a legion of demons, is a formidable witch almost anywhere and is sorceress supreme of Limbo, wears extremely durable mystic armor, and wields a magical blade capable of almost one-shotting the Dread Dormamu. Doctor Strange said that there wasn’t much that he could teach her about magic. What made Magick a team player instead of a cosmic power was simply the fact that she was a giant bundle of control issues; her dark powers caused at least as much trouble as they solved. Magick is (literally!) infernally complicated, and is built with Rune Magic, Witchcraft, Sanctum, Blessing, Leadership, Ritual Magic, and more. Her build also includes a lot of the basic discussions on converting d20 to Mutants & Masterminds.
  • Mirage (L6 with a +1 ECL Valkyrie template) has some shamanic training, the ability to pull emotionally-charged images out of people’s heads and manifest them, a minor death goddess and soulguide, and an astounding team medic, since she can fight off death to keep people alive. As such, she’s another complicated build – with a template full of death-related powers, several forms of Rune Magic, and some cheesy Shapeshifting to get some “badass normal” boosts. Given her limited offensive abilities (at least as of now) she needs a team – but more experience and magical self-development may change that.
  • Sunspot is a generalist. He flies, he wields solar powers, he has super strength, he heals himself, he absorbs energy, he has a very extensive array or social and business connections, he can buy up evil organizations and convert them to benign ones, and he’s pretty tough. He may not be at the top of the scale in any of those things unless he’s powered up from absorbing extra energy, but he’s pretty well up there in ALL of them – which is a major power in itself. He’s built with Hysteria, Berserker, Grant of Aid, Rune Magic, Innate Enchantment, Enthusiast, and Immunity – mostly because he has a similar multiplicity of powers.
  • Warlock (L4 with a +2 ECL Race) is powerful and versatile – in fact he’s powerful enough to make it up to this level even with a great big “but” attached to him. In his case that “But” is pacifism; he has a powerful racial template and an immense variety of built-in equipment and weapons (Innate Enchantment) – but he mostly winds up providing transportation, rescue services, and utility powers.

Levels Eight to Twelve are where the big boys hang out. Extremely durable characters with a wide variety of powerful abilities and the ability to affect massive areas fit in here. In the case of the New Mutants… about the only character who hits this level is Cable, and even then only at his peak.

It’s important to note that this puts the peak end for unlimited-use superheroic abilities somewhat below the peak end for limited-use baseline d20 abilities. This is in no way a coincidence; d20 is notorious for including a bunch of “game-breaking” powers at near-epic levels. Still, a character who occasionally uses Time Stop or casts Wish can be dealt with. A character who can stop time until they feel like letting it move on again or who gets unlimited wishes? Not so easy to deal with.

  • Cable and Graymalkin (L8) are – not unexpectedly – potentially game-breaking. After all, they’re time travelers with teleportation and the ability to build super-technology who are more or less literally here to kill their equivalent o Hitler and revise their own pasts. Cable enjoys massive bonuses thanks to his use of Legendarium, has a bucket-load of skills, is an immensely powerful Rune Mage, and is a walking time paradox maintained by his own ongoing Reality Editing.

Levels 13+ are pretty much for Cosmic Powers, and are usually best left to NPC’s.. An unlimited supply of Mana and a high level lets you do a decent job of building cosmic beings, or at least aspects thereof – but why bother? You don’t really need statistics for Death or Eternity or any other character of that level; they more or less are the setting and define the adventures, rather than actually participating in them.

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One Response

  1. […] Equestria, with the Superheroic World Template in play, Starswirl is on the boundary of demigodhood. Sure, his most potent spells cost him some of his personal Mana to cast (and so can’t be […]

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