Ponyfinder in Equestria – Bat or Leatherwing Ponies and Equestrian Evolution

Next up we have Bat Ponies or (in Ponyfinder) Leatherwings. They seem to have batlike wings, may have slit pupils (we mostly see them from the side, so it could just be prospective), and they seem to have ear tufts. Despite some apparent confusion with Flutterbat among fan theories and portrayals they don’t seem to have fangs – although given their remarkably limited number of appearances some of them might.

On the other hand… it’s hard to be sure that they actually exist at all. We saw Rainbow Dash as a batpony in Nightmare Moon’s timeline (sometimes with ear tufts and sometimes without) – so we know that, in at least some cases, “Bat Ponies” are simply royal guard Pegasi with illusion or minor transformation spells on them for style.

That actually fits better than the “lost race” idea. That got some support from staff comments, but the notion that Luna found them, recruited them, got some into the royal guard, got them through whatever training program the royal guard has, and moved them up the ranks until they qualified for unsupervised princess transport/bodyguard duty so quickly is just a bit much. I suppose that she could have just abused her authority or they could be in memory of a lost race rather than being made up out of whole cloth, but how would you tell?

It just seems a lot more likely that Luna threw a few more illusions in with the rest of her Nightmare Night theatrics.

That ambiguity – and the lack of any evidence for any powers beyond what a normal pegasi has – is is why Bat Ponies didn’t make it into the first series of d20 pony articles.

And the first question is… where did they come from and why didn’t we see them before?

Equestrian Evolution… is not like Earthly Evolution. Intelligence is the result of a fairly unlikely set of evolutionary circumstances on Earth. How do we know this? Well, we’ve left traces all over the world that will be apparent many, many, millions of years from now – but we haven’t found any such traces from a prior civilization. That tells us that we’re the first major civilization building species on Earth – and an awful lot of species have come and gone. More than a dozen very similar but separate species of “Sabertooths” have evolved in the last forty-odd million years – but Intelligence sufficient for an advanced civilization? That’s only appeared once in the history of life on Earth.

Equestria has a bunch of different intelligent species running around at roughly the same stage of development. Moreover, they’re living in a world that requires periodic, intelligently directed, magical intervention to maintain its environment.

That simply will not work with conventional evolutionary theory.

Genetic Evolution is not a primary speciation driver in Equestria, as shown by the fact that rather a lot of apparently wildly different types of creatures seem to have no trouble at all crossbreeding.

On the other hand, from Cutie Marks alone we know that inward magic can alter the physical body. Alicorn ascension suggests this as well. So do sea serpents with mustaches and elaborate hairstyles, Luna’s transformation into Nightmare Moon, and various other examples.

We also know that magical tendencies tend to be hereditary. Pegasi tend to have pegasi kids or Cloudsdale would not be practical. Earth Ponies tend to have Earth Pony kids, or the Apple Family would not be mostly Earth Pony Farmers. Any family (like the Cakes) CAN throw a sport or two – but it’s relatively rare.

So all that needs to happen for a new pony subtype to appear is for a few similar “sports” – in this case perhaps with an affinity for the Night Sky instead of one of the usual affinities – to get together and have families. There might have been a little tweaking by Luna, Nightmare Moon, Discord, or some other major magical power, but it isn’t really required.

In any case, Ponyfinder establishes Leatherwings as a pony type of their own, and since this question was about what an Equestrian Eclipse upgrade would look like, that’s going to be the base.

Ponyfinder Leatherwings get

  • +2 Wis from the Pathfinder Package Deal. This has no cost.
  • A 10′ reduction in ground movement. I have no idea why except for “balance”, but it goes against the standard rules for having four legs, so I’ll skip it. No cost.
  • +2 Con and -2 Cha. Of course, the Basic Pony Template provides +4 Con and +2 Cha (and -2 Dex because hooves) – and the fan conception of Bat Ponies is that they are very cute. Ergo, I’m going with the base, at no cost.
  • A modified diet. Bat Ponies have a typical omnivorous diet, as opposed to the usual heavily herbivore-slanted pony diet. They can handle meat (or blood if you MUST have “vamponies”) easily, but have a hard time digesting significant amounts of cellulose. No real game effect, so no cost.
  • They may or may not have little ear tufts and/or cute fangs. They definitely have leathery wings and dark-colored fur instead of feathers, and probably have slit-pupiled eyes. Since this is all basically cosmetic, there’s no cost.
  • They get 30′ Flight with Clumsy maneuverability, not usable in Medium or Heavy Armor, must be able to use their wings. That’s Celerity, with an Additional Movement Mode, Specialized and Corrupted (as above, is also subject to dispelling, antimagic, and similar effects (6 CP).
  • They get 90′ Darkvision, but are automatically dazzled in bright light and take a –2 penalty on saving throws against effects with the light descriptor. That’s Occult Sense (Darkvision), Corrupted for Increased Effect and Specialized for Reduced Cost (as above, 3 CP).

As for their Equestrian Upgrades, they get…

  • Adept (Acrobatics, Fly, Stealth, and Perception, 6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills, Corrupted/only to keep their Adept skills maxed out (4 CP).
  • +2 Racial Bonuses on their Adept Skills (4 CP).
  • Occult Talent, Specialized for Increased Effect (four level one and one level two effects) / must be powered with Mana as the ability includes no spell slots, effects are entirely preset and cannot be changed (6 CP). Effects: Lighten (reduces a weight, allowing them to carry more in flight or tow a chariot while flying), Echolocation (reveals the location of things within Close range), Ear-Piercing Scream (Pathfinder), Razor Wings (as per Beast Claws), and Darkness,
  • +1 BAB, Specialized in Melee, Corrupted/only for use with the Razor Wings effect (2 CP).
  • A +1 Racial Bonus in a Razor Wing Based Martial Art (1 CP).

This comes to a total of 32 CP. When stacked with the basic pony template (31 CP) it comes to a total of 63 CP – a +1 ECL race, just like all the other pony variants.

This makes Bat Ponies expert night sentinels, hunters, and guards, skillful rogues and assassins, and fairly deadly melee fighters. They are not, however, nearly as versatile as a Pegasus Pony or most of the other varieties, and so tend to occupy specialized ecological niches, such as mountain caves (or the royal night guard), instead of being widespread across Equestria.

That leaves Sea Horses and Zebras. They’ll be along eventually.

Why? Well…

“What if I want to play a Ponyfinder subtype (Chaos Hunter, Clockwork, Gem, Leatherwing, Sea Horse, or Zebra) in full-blown superheroic Equestria? How would they be changed to match the more powerful Pegasi, Unicorns, Earth Ponies, and Changelings you’ve built?”

“Well, the simplest approach is to go right ahead without changing anything. Take your racial writeup with it’s built-in Pathfinder Package Deal and build a character. If you’re in Equestria you get free Mana equal to your (Con Mod) each round from the Superheroic World Template, will probably be using the Low-Level Adventurer template, and get a free level instead of the +1 ECL Templates that Earth Ponies, Pegasi, and Unicorns use. Next simplest (at least for me) is change them however you and/or the game master want.”

“No, no! I want to see what your powered-up versions of those subtypes would be like!”

“Well… as I get to them then!”

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.

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