Predation and Ponyfinder in Equestria – Gryphons and Building Species Affinities

Gryphons need a lot of meat in their diet. Unfortunately, that means that a given area can support a LOT fewer gryphons than it can ponies, zebras, or other primary herbivores or even omnivores. For comparison, in Minnesota a wolf (with an average weight of about ninety pounds), eats an average of 15-20 adult-sized deer (with an average weight of about 125 pounds, so about twenty-five times their own weight) or the equivalent per year to meet their nutritional requirements. So to support a single wolf… you need a deer population large enough to produce fifteen to twenty offspring over and above the number needed to sustain their own population and make up for accidents and any unscavenged (at least by wolves) causes of death each and every year. So 20-30 females of breeding age, the upcoming offspring to replace them, enough bucks to fertilize them, and a few older ones (possibly past breeding age) who haven’t been eaten yet. While the exact numbers depend on a lot of factors… fifty or so is a fairly good average.

Hunting fast-growing and fast-reproducing smaller animals, such as mice, is far more efficient in terms of food produced in any given area, but also expends more time and energy per calorie – an exchange that results in diminishing returns as the prey becomes smaller in comparison with the hunter. While traps and filter-feeding are effective counters to the issue, they’re probably not good options for gryphons.

Of course, predators usually take weakened or smaller animals and eat carrion – the ones that die anyway. Why? Well, to look at the wolves again… it’s because, while a deer isn’t all that likely to kill a wolf with a kick or it’s antlers, they can and have done so. If a deer has a mere 1% chance at killing a predator during a hunt, and (according to the biologists) a lot of hunts – 80% or more – are unsuccessful, then a wolf who eats 18 dear a year participates in 90 hunts – and would only have a 40% chance of surviving for a year. That’s why predators try to take smaller prey whenever a chance comes up, grab free carrion meals whenever possible, and avoid risks as much as possible. That’s also why predators will fight over territory and mates, but will back away from any confrontation with prey that they are not more than 99% certain that they are going to win without serious injury. If they lose their territory they are very likely to die. If they don’t mate this year, they can help raise their relatives kids or maybe mate next year. But if they make a habit of fighting anything healthy and near their size, they WILL die.

And it’s not like prey lacks natural weapons. Giraffes can kill lions with kicks or by slamming their heads into them. Zebras and gazelles occasionally kick them to death. Elephants can stomp them or roll over on them – and have been known to throw logs. Even mouse bites can become infected and kill ferrets and foxes – even if the ferrets and foxes don’t die of all the parasites and diseases mice can carry.

That’s why, when it comes to live prey, solitary predators are generally trappers or ambush hunters. They cannot afford to give their prey a chance to fight back. Group hunters (pack, pride, whatever) tend to rely on distraction – letting a few group members try to run the prey into an ambush or bring it to bay and hold it’s attention while staying out of range – allowing other members of the group to attack by surprise (and preferably from behind) again. That’s why they can afford to try for larger prey; it will be greatly outnumbered and shouldn’t get a chance to put up a real fight.

Real predators are tremendously outnumbered by their prey, try to win struggles with near-equals by intimidation and posturing, fight as cowardly, efficiently, and dishonorably as possible when they have to fight, and go for free meals whenever they can. “Honor” has no place in a predators lifestyle. Humans tend to romanticize them – the old “noble savage” sort of idea – but that’s as much a fantasy as Monty Python’s Vorpal Rabbit.

Even supplementing their diet with the more readily digested baked goods and fruits, Gryphons are always going to be heavily outnumbered by the herbivorous races. If they accept substantial subpopulations of species that are less carnivorous, and so are more effective farmers, in their territories… then those tenants will need to feed themselves first, and only THEN livestock. This will be easier for the gryphons, but will result in an even lower gryphon population in any given territory.

Even worse, almost every sizeable animal in Equestria shows significant intelligence (and often magic), making hunting them both harder and more dangerous. They can anticipate ambushes, set up traps and safe zones, supplement their natural weapons, and organize group defenses. For a carnivore… this is very, VERY, bad news. Think of it this way; if one deer in twenty was toxic, then wolves would very shortly be extinct outside of zoos. Equestrian predators need to be either magically powerful or resistant to magic or both (Hydra, Chimaera, Cockatrice, Dragon, Sphinx), near-indestructible (Timber Wolves, Cragdile, Dragon, Slingtails), huge (Ursas, Rocs, Dragons, and Quarray Eels), equipped with powerful natural weapons (Chimaera, Manticore, Windigo and Tatzulwurms), supernaturally sneaky (Changelings pre-Thorax), aquatic (since most fish seem to be “normal”, Bite-Acuda), or willing to forgo ethics and do almost anything to get along. Sneaky, opportunistic, treacherous, and backstabbing is pretty much the order of the day. Otherwise, they will soon go extinct.

Gryphons are not shown to be magically powerful, resistant to magic, near-indestructible, or huge. A beak and talons are an improvement on hooves, but aren’t really on a level with flame breath, deadly poison, supernatural cold, or inflicting magical diseases and swallowing whole. They’re neither supernaturally sneaky or aquatic. That leaves the “willing to do anything” option. In d20 terms… they’re inclined towards neutral or chaotic evil.

Ponyfinder gives Gryphons +2 Str and -2 Cha (with the +2 Pathfinder bonus going to Wis), 40′ Flight with Poor Maneuverability, Low-Light Vision (like every other Fey), a 1d6 bite, and Cloud Walking. They are quadrupeds but are capable of moving at 20′ on their hind legs.

Honestly, that’s terrible compared to what Equestrian (if not Everglow) Ponies get – but it’s also true that about all we see Gryphons do in the series is fly (about as well as normal pegasi) and stand on clouds. Presumably they could bite or claw at people too, but that’s just based on their conformation. That’s… not a lot to go on.

Oh well. Lets build the basic Gryphon Racial Package anyway.

Equestrian Gryphon (31 CP / +0 ECL).

  • Pathfinder Package Deal: +2 Wis (No Cost)
  • Basics: Gryphons are medium-sized. For rules purposes, they’re considered to be humanoids. They have a base move of 30′ and they eat a lot of meat. They can eat sweet fruits and baked goods that don’t contain too much cellulose, but can’t live on a vegetarian diet for very long. No cost.
  • Predatory / “Poor Reputation” (-3 CP): Gryphons are territorial, prideful, do not cooperate well in large groups, tend to frighten other, need a lot of meat, and have a rather nasty reputation for backstabbing. Indeed, many would say that combining a bird of preys general psychotic hostility towards the universe with the aloofness of a cat makes them quite insufferable. It will be best to let someone else be the party “face”.
  • Quadruped / “Accursed” (-3 CP): Gryphons only move at 20′ when they can’t use all four legs, are short, have problems with getting tangled up in clothing, and have problems with small tools and such since their “hands” aren’t very good. This does provide the usual quadruped bonuses (+10 ground movement and increased carrying capacity, along with a +4 against Bull Rush). Fortunately, rings, boots, and so on adapt to fit anyone – so there are no changes in their behavior or the rules for them for gryphons.
  • Winged Flight: Two levels of Celerity with the Additional modifier (Flight, 40′ base, perfect maneuverability), Specialized and Corrupted for reduced cost: will not function properly if the user’s wings are entangled, damaged, or otherwise restrained (although, weirdly enough, as long as the user’s wings are free to move, it doesn’t matter if they are actually moving), is subject to dispelling, antimagic, and similar effects, makes the user magically conspicuous, and only starts with poor maneuverability (8 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment: (9500 GP effective value, 10 CP).
    • Raptor’s Mask: +5 to Perception, Immunity to effects that would leave you Blinded or Dazzled (Magic Item Compendium, 3500 GP).
    • +2 Enhancement Bonus to Strength (L1, Personal-Only x.7 = 1400 GP).
    • Wind Blades (Blood Wind) (L1, Personal-Only – 1400 GP): A Gryphon may spend a swift action to shape the winds, using it’s unarmed strikes for the round as if they were thrown weapons with a 20′ range increment.
    • Embrace The Wild: (L1, Personal-Only x.7 = 1400 GP). Gain low-light vision, scent, and 30′ blindsense. +2 to Perception.
    • Endure Elements (L1, 2/Day, Personal-Only, 560 GP). Gryphons generally don’t need clothing, regardless of the weather, although things like booties and scarves do make them more comfortable when it’s cold or wet out
    • Lesser Vigor (L1, 3/Day, Personal-Only, 840 GP). While there are limits, gryphons recover quickly from normal wounds. They have to; they cannot afford to be wounded during their next hunt and can’t afford to take a lot of time off to heal.
    • Personal Trick: Gryphons gain their choice of a first level spell used at caster level one once per day or two cantrips used at caster level one once per day each (400 GP).
  • Immunity/stacking limitations when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (common/minor/trivial; only covers level 0 or 1 effects) (2 CP).
  • Cloud-Walking: Immunity/Falling (Common, Major, Minor, 6 CP base), Specialized/only while there’s a cloud of some sort to “support” them. Oddly enough, “clouds” of insects, smoke, and similar things work just fine (3 CP).
  • Damage Reduction (versus both Physical and Energy attacks) 2/- (3 CP). This isn’t a lot, but every little bit helps.
  • Adept (A Dex-Based Raptor Style Martial Art, Fly, Stealth, and Perception Skills may all be purchased at half cost, 6 CP).
  • Racial Skill Bonuses: +4 to the Raptor Style (they all start with Strike, with the damage raised to 1d6, 2 CP), +2 to Fly, Stealth, and Perception (3 CP).

Net Total: 31 CP.

The Gryphon Racial Package, like the basic Pony Racial Package is a mere +0 ECL. Unlike ponies, however, gryphons don’t have full-fledged secondary racial packages and they don’t rely on Mana. They may not have as much raw innate power as Ponies do – but they will always be a bit ahead of them in their development and they will have an easier time learning to do unique tricks with any Mana they do have available. Ponies are a more powerful race, but gryphons make better specialists for anything outside the built-in pony competencies.

The basic gryphon survival strategy “in the wild” is simple enough. They use their wings to reach a high place with some concealment. They perch there, and use their enhanced vision to spot potential meals. They kill said meals with ranged attacks and take them back to their den – another place that’s high out of reach of non-flying species – and share them with their kids. If any serious danger pops up, they fly away. If they can, they make sure that a few secondary dens are available, both so as to have a place to take the kids if a dragon or something moves in on their primary den and to avoid leading such menaces back to their primary den and offspring. If something on their own general power level – a pony or another gryphon – moves into their territory (or they move into theirs), it’s time to growl, posture, snarl, and try to settle who is strongest and most dominant without actually fighting and risking an injury that might leave them unable to hunt for long enough to starve to death. Gryphons can make friends – but it’s rare unless they’re in a nice, safe, area and have plenty of food available. Oddly enough, it’s usually with ponies when it does happen; ponies aren’t usually competing with gryphons, usually have plenty of surpluses and an incredible willingness to share them, and often respond with a great deal of sympathy (an emotion rather alien to an equestrian predator, who must kill and eat fairly intelligent creatures all the time) to a gryphons underlying hint of hungry desperation.

That’s not fabulously brave or noble, and it doesn’t offer many options beyond “retreat!” when a gryphon runs into something that outranges them – but it will generally keep them fed and safe in a world full of unpredictable magical hazards. Thus gryphon settlements tend to be little more than clusters of huts atop mountains or mesas unless – for a brief, shining, time – they are united under some charismatic and powerful leader.

That generally doesn’t last, but it’s fun when it happens.

Many gryphons have secondary species affinities, most often powered by Mana – but that’s about the limit of their instinctive channeling. Beyond that point, they generally need to learn to use it consciously, from scratch.

Secondary Species Affinity: Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect: only to buy abilities related to the users feline OR avian species morphology (not both), can only be changed to a total of (Con Mod x 2, 2 minimum) specific abilities or combinations of abilities. (6 CP). While this does not inherently bypass the minimum level requirements for full control of spellcasting (inherent or not), reducing those spells to level three by spending mana on them means that even the most powerful effects require a maximum level of five to fully control – so it isn’t much of an issue. Given that a gryphon will normally only have one or two such effects it can usually be excused. If it matters, however, buy a small Immunity (+4 on your effective level for controlling inherent spells (Common, Minor, Minor, Specialized and Corrupted / only to cover the minimum level requirements for the two possible secondary species affinity spells) for 1 CP and drop it later. A Gryphon may purchase a Secondary Species Affinity twice: once for each of the user’s contributing species.

Thus, for example, a Lion-Eagle Gryphon might purchase either the Lion’s or the Eagle’s Gift or both, using one ability from among the current possibilities for each such purchase.

Possible Lion’s Gifts include

  • Con Mod 0-: 2x Skill Emphasis, Specialized for Increased Effect / will not work in areas of antimagic, can be dispelled, counts as an enhancement bonus (6 CP): Either +4 to Diplomacy and Intimidation or +4 to Acrobatics and Stealth.
  • Con Mod +1: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Specialized for Decreased (Mana) Cost / only allows a single first level spell. Either Rally The Pride (Remove Fear) or Inspire Fury (Swallow Your Fear).
  • Con Mod +2: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, either The Lion’s Rage (Fear) or Coordinate The Pride (Haste).
  • Con Mod +3: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Four Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 3 Mana to activate. Either The Lion’s Roar (Shout) or The Hunter’s Gift (Locate Creature).
  • Con Mod +4: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Five Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 4 Mana to activate. Either Master Of The Pride (Greater Heroism) or The Lion’s Glory (Enhance Attribute (Charisma) +8 for one minute per caster level). .
  • Con Mod +5: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Six Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 5 Mana to activate. Either Feline Heritage (Mass Cat’s Grace) or The Lion’s Rage (Dance Of A Thousand Cuts).

“Con Mod +5″ is the highest level of Gifts normally available. Higher Constitution Modifiers do add more options to the lower tiers though.

Possible Eagle’s Gifts include:

  • Con Mod 0-: Either Flight Feathers (+20 Flight Movement (12 CP), plus Immunity/Maneuvering Limits (Common, Minor, Major, 6 CP) with the same limitations as their base flight ability, to get Flight 60 at Average Maneuverability or Eagle’s Strike (Double Damage while striking in a Power Dive / Aerial Charge, 6 CP).
  • Con Mod +1: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Specialized for Decreased (Mana) Cost / only allows a single first level spell. Either Eagles Glare (Lock Gaze) or Eagle’s Cry (Ear-Piercing Scream) (In a few cases Cry Of Freedom (Liberating Command).replaces one of these).
  • Con Mod +2: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, either The Eagle’s Eyes (The Practical Enchanter, Skill Mastery, +10 to Heal, Perception, and Survival) or Wind Dance (Burst Of Speed).
  • Con Mod +3: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Four Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 3 Mana to activate. Either The Eagle’s Prayer (Freedom Of Movement) or Windreading (Echolocation).
  • Con Mod +4: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Five Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 4 Mana to activate. Either Feral Form (Aspect Of The Wolf) or Control Winds.
  • Con Mod +5: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Six Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 5 Mana to activate. Either Desert Wings (Sirocco) or Wings Of Flame (Personal-only version of Fires Of Purity, does +3 Damage).

For some other possible twists…

Possible Lynx Gifts include:

  • Con Mod 0-: Either the “Seapony” Package (6 CP) or Immunity to Cold (Common, Major, Minor, 12 points of resistance, 6 CP).
  • Con Mod +1: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Specialized for Decreased (Mana) Cost / only allows a single first level spell. Adroit Melding (+10 Enhancement Bonus to Stealth)) or Hunter’s Howl.
  • Con Mod +2: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, either Life Bubble or Greater Magic Fang.
  • Con Mod +3: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Four Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 3 Mana to activate. Either Commune With Nature or Shadowform.
  • Con Mod +4: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Five Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 4 Mana to activate. Either Dream or Waves Of Fatigue.
  • Con Mod +5: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Six Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 5 Mana to activate. Either Mass Suggestion or Shadow Walk.

Possible Raven Gifts Include:

  • Con Mod 0-: Either Spell/Power Resistance (6 CP) or Attribute Shift (-2 Str, +2 Int, 5 CP).
  • Con Mod +1: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Specialized for Decreased (Mana) Cost / only allows a single first level spell. Comprehend Languages or Shadow Trap.
  • Con Mod +2: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, either Voluminous Vocabulary or Shrink Item (a few substitute Blood Biography or Call The Void, but that’s fairly rare).
  • Con Mod +3: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Four Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 3 Mana to activate. Either Arcane Eye or Black Tentacles. (A few substitute Bestow Curse or Blood Crow Strike for one of those, but that is extremely rare in Equestria).
  • Con Mod +4: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Five Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 4 Mana to activate. Either Prying Eyes or Ravenscrown (Enhance Attribute from The Practical Enchanter, +6 Enhancement Bonus to Int and Dex for ten minutes per level).
  • Con Mod +5: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Six Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 5 Mana to activate. Either Eyebite or Greater Dispel Magic

Possible Cheetah Gifts include:

  • Con Mod 0-: Either Opportunist / Can make a Full Attack after a charge (6 CP) or Reflex Training (Combat Reflexes Variant) (6 CP).
  • Con Mod +1: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Specialized for Decreased (Mana) Cost / only allows a single first level spell. Either Personal Haste (The Practical Enchanter) or Light Foot (Speedster Spell List).
  • Con Mod +2: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, either Haste or Storm Step.
  • Con Mod +3: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Four Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 3 Mana to activate. Either Flash Forward or Greater Mirror Image.
  • Con Mod +4: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Five Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 4 Mana to activate. Either Shadow Walk or Plane Shift.
  • Con Mod +5: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Six Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 5 Mana to activate. Either Dance Of A Thousand Cuts or Dust Form.

Possible Phoenix Gifts include:

  • Con Mod 0-: Either Grant of Aid (6 CP) or Immunity to Fire (Common, Major, Minor, 12 points of resistance, 6 CP).
  • Con Mod +1: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Specialized for Decreased (Mana) Cost / only allows a single first level spell. Either Snapdragon Fireworks, Flareburst, or (rarely) Burning Disarm.
  • Con Mod +2: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, either Ablative Barrier or Elemental Aura.
  • Con Mod +3: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Four Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 3 Mana to activate. Either Pyrotechnic Eruption or Rainbow Pattern or (rarely) Phoenix Spawn (as per Ball Lightning, but little Phoenix images)
  • Con Mod +4: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Five Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 4 Mana to activate. Either Damnation Stride or Burst Of Glory.
  • Con Mod +5: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Six Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 5 Mana to activate. Either Telepathy or True Seeing.

Possible Leopard Gifts include:

  • Con Mod 0-: Either Enhanced Strike/Hammer or Enhanced Strike/Whirlwind
  • Con Mod +1: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Specialized for Decreased (Mana) Cost / only allows a single first level spell. Either Critical Strike (Spell Compendium) or Catsfeet (Complete Mage).
  • Con Mod +2: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, either Nondetection or Wraithstrike (Spell Compendium).
  • Con Mod +3: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Four Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 3 Mana to activate. Either Greater Invisibility or Shadow Form (Spell Compendium).
  • Con Mod +4: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Five Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 4 Mana to activate. Either Wind Tunnel (Spell Compendium) or Aspect Of The Wolf.
  • Con Mod +5: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Six Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 5 Mana to activate. Either Superior Resistance (Spell Compendium) or Planar Exchange (Spell Compendium).

Possible Songbird Gifts Include:

  • Con Mod 0-: Either Attribute Shift (-2 Str, +2 Cha) or Countermagic.
  • Con Mod +1: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Specialized for Decreased (Mana) Cost / only allows a single first level spell. Either Ventriloquism or Sanctuary.
  • Con Mod +2: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, either Good Hope or Magic Circle Against (alignment of choice).
  • Con Mod +3: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Four Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 3 Mana to activate. Either Dismissal or Ruin Delver’s Fortune (Spell Compendium).
  • Con Mod +4: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Five Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 4 Mana to activate. Either Break Enchantment or Greater Forbid Action.
  • Con Mod +5: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Six Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 5 Mana to activate. Either Song Of Life (Animate Objects) or Heroes Feast.

Sadly, Songbird Gryphons with +5 Constitution Modifiers and the Songbirds Gift are vanishingly rare, or the gryphons would have a lot less trouble with their food supplies. When one does show up… it usually means that another glorious gryphon ruler has appeared, and there will be another brief flowering of population, civility, and culture, in some gryphon settlement. Then, after the Songbird priest/ruler dies, the need for food will take priority again, most of the gryphons living there will be forced to scatter to claim hunting territories, and the golden age will be over until the next time such an individual appears.

Possible Jaguar Gifts include

  • Con Mod 0-: Gift Of War (Augmented Bonus/Add Str Mod to Dex Mod for skill purposes, Specialized for Double Effect/only for the racial martial art) or Imbuement (Unarmed Variant).
  • Con Mod +1: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Specialized for Decreased (Mana) Cost / only allows a single first level spell. Either Doom or Strategic Charge (Spell Compendium)
  • Con Mod +2: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, either Vampiric Touch or Deadly Juggernaut.
  • Con Mod +3: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Four Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 3 Mana to activate. Either Poison or Eyes Of The Void.
  • Con Mod +4: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Five Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 4 Mana to activate. Either Personal Revenance (As per Revenance, but you may effectively cast it on yourself the round after you die. This may not be used again until you are actually brought back) or a (larger gryphon themed) version of Bite Of The Weretiger (Spell Compendium).
  • Con Mod +5: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Six Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 5 Mana to activate. Either Swarm Skin or Shadow Transmutation.

Possible Falcons Gifts include:

  • Con Mod 0-: Either Opportunist / Can make a Full Attack after an aerial or air-to-ground charge (6 CP) or Reflex Training (Three extra actions variant, Specialized in Attacking for Increased Effect. Three times per day you may decide to insert a full attack into the normal sequence of events).
  • Con Mod +1: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Specialized for Decreased (Mana) Cost / only allows a single first level spell. Either Keep Watch or Guided Shot.
  • Con Mod +2: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, either Cloak Of Winds or Akhasic Communion.
  • Con Mod +3: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Four Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 3 Mana to activate. Either Implacable Pursuer (Spell Compendium) or Superior Magic Fang (Spell Compendium).
  • Con Mod +4: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Five Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 4 Mana to activate. Either Mislead or Control Winds.
  • Con Mod +5: Mana-Powered Inherent Spell, Level Six Effect reduced to Level Three by costing 5 Mana to activate. Either Big Sky (Masters Of The Wild) or Binding Winds (Magic of Faerun).

Obviously enough, a lot of other “Gifts” could be constructed – but the pattern is pretty simple. If you want something different, this is Eclipse. Just run it by your game master.

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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Skill Stunts and Epic Skill Stunts VI – Making Stuff

Outside of niche builds and oddball prerequisites Crafting-type Skills are generally regarded as background flavor. Given that “making stuff” and “passing on information” are pretty much the defining traits of a social sapient tool user, the fact that both are pretty much glossed over in most games is really a bit disappointing – but then they’re such fundamental elements of human life that no one really thinks about them very much.

After all, except for a few games that are set in the old stone age, RPG’s generally assume that the characters know a great deal and have access to all kinds of neat stuff. That’s usually a big part of the point; the characters get a variety of abilities, attributes, and wonderful toys that the players don’t get to have in the real world. They’re involved with exciting, important, and utterly fantastic missions, and are at the center of great events – which people who have time to play RPG’s generally aren’t. So high-end crafting isn’t going to be quite as game-changing as some of the other high-end skills simply because skilled crafters are already a basic part of pretty much every functional civilization. The player characters are normally assumed to have access to plenty of them even without specifically developing such skills themselves.

Still, that same “common background” effect means that Craft has quite a lot of obvious skill stunt options. They are, however, always restricted to within the source skills purview – a weavers stunts will all be related to thread, cloth, or clothing, a metalworkers stunts will be related to flame and metal, and so on.

Personally, for any would-be mastercrafter wanting to use these stunts… I’d recommend taking the basic Bokor package too, possibly specializing in just a few Mysteries – such as Naberius, Haagenti, Ruh Göbekli-Tepe, and Halphax – to be able to acquire bonus skills and inherent tools, instant alchemy and a steady income, extra gear, and a settlement of your own that you can carry around – all of which are pretty major aides to a crafter.

Sample Stunts for Craft (Various)/Forgery/Sculpting/Engineer/Architect/Profession/Baker, and any other skill that is primarily concerned with making something.

  • DC 10 (normally no stunt required):
    • Apprentice: You may gain access to a well-equipped shop, small quantities of raw materials, and near-total anonymity in exchange for about twenty-four hours of work per week.
    • Jargon: You may spout confusing and/or boring verbiage that demonstrates that you are, in fact, an expert in your field. The higher the check, the more you can impress others with your expertise, your dedication to your craft, and your general lack of social and deceptive skills – since whether or not that is actually true this certainly makes it seem like you are entirely unaware of the lack of both comprehension and interest in those about you.
    • Makers Mark: You may inscribe a unique sigil, symbol, or other identifying mark upon an item you create. It cannot be removed without destroying the item and is always unique to the creator.
    • Mock-Up: You may, in only 1% of the time that it would take to actually carry out a project, throw together a “demonstration” that shows how it is supposed to look or work when finished – without, of course, said mockup actually being in any way functional. It is important to note that being able to create a mock-up in no way guarantees that the actual project will work, even if you can get it funded and built.
  • DC 15 (May or may not require a stunt):
    • Evaluation: You may evaluate the worth of materials or (at +10 DC) finished items that fall within your purview. This extends past a simple gold piece value however: a smith might evaluate the quality of coal, the impurities in metal, and how well suited various metals are for a given purpose.
    • Personalize Tools: After one month of working with a given set of tools they can be considered as Masterwork – albeit only in your hands.
    • Photographic Quality: You may produce a model or representation of a subject good enough to allow easy recognition of, and training about, the original.
    • Refurbish: You can make items within your purview seem brand new – or near-perfectly restored if they’re antiques or some such – and ready for use or resale.
  • DC 20:
    • Ab Initio: You may make your own tools from scratch. After one week you will have effective tools, after a month you will have a masterwork tools, after a season you will have a shop, and after a year you will have a full facility.
    • Activate Charm: You may activate a Charm (see The Practical Enchanter) of a type that falls within your purview for the remainder of the day. Sadly, you may not so activate more than (Charisma) Charms.
    • Craft Conjure I: You may transform a (tiny) model you’ve crafted into a temporary real item for ten minutes per level – although at this is limited to simple items, such as swords, barriers, ladders, coils of rope, or a minor construct (As per an Unseen Servant with the Unseen Supervisor upgrade, see The Practical Enchanter)) which acts as a personal aide and secretary.
    • Scale Model: You may build a model of a larger device, structure, or project that compensates for the smaller scale well enough to reveal any flaws that would become apparent in the full-sized version – and to allow the effective testing of prospective methods of attack, repair, and sabotage.
  • DC 25:
    • Activate Talisman: You may activate a Talisman (see The Practical Enchanter) of a type that falls within your purview for the remainder of the day. Sadly, you may not so activate more than (Cha Mod) Talismans.
    • Determine Provenance: You may identify an item within the purview of your craft and determine its origin. You can usually tell who made it. If it bears a Makers Mark (above) you may determine who made it, at what point in their career, and why it was made – a commission for a noble, to get revenge, or whatever.
    • Panoply Of Mastery: Your tools are as much a part of you as your hands, and so you are never without them (although you must pay for them normally). Once you activate this ability, for the next full day everything you need to exercise your skill will be ready to hand – even if you have been stripped and locked in a cell you may continue working.
    • The Recondite Craft: You may craft an item that focuses and channels the user’s power. Such items are unique to each user and may be activated for a day by expending 2 Mana (from any source). Such items produce effects equivalent to those of three Magic Tattoos (as per the Create Magic Tattoo spell) with minimum caster levels of the user’s level or less.
  • DC 30:
    • Craft Conjure II: You may transform a (tiny) model you’ve crafted into a temporary real item for ten minutes per level. At this level you are capable of creating moderately complex items or small animals, such as cats, pigeons, crossbows, carts, and suits of armor.
    • Find Patron: You can support yourself at an Average lifestyle for a week with a day of work. Not surprisingly, you need only activate this ability once per week.
    • Intuit Function: You may figure out how to use any item within your purview, with the effect lasting for a full day and freely renewable. Thus, if you know how to use a hand forge, you can also work effectively with a computer-operated mass-production metalworking plant. If you know how to make and drive boats, you may also pilot a plane or spaceship.
    • Life Model: You may produce a model of something so detailed and precise that it creates a magical link with the original, displaying the originals condition. At DC 40 you craft a pair of items so identical that they are effectively one, allowing changes in one to be reflected in the other – such as linked slates that will each display what is written on the other. At DC 50 the link can transmit other energies, allowing the creation of perpetual boilers (containing a lump of tough material linked to a lump that’s been dumped into a volcano), Charms and Talismans tied into various power sources to provide nigh-unlimited use of a few minor effects (at least as long as they’re activated), or simply creating a pair of “walkie talkies” that transmit sound between them. At DC 75 you may craft a representation of a living creature so exact that it can serve as a Sympathetic Link (as per Witchcraft/Sympathetic Link in Eclipse). At DC 100 you may craft a representation of a living that is even more true than the original – so that the original will tend to reflect the condition of the copy. This grants the original +2/- DR, scarless healing, immunity to aging (although this does not extend their maximum lifespan), and a +4 Circumstance Bonus on all his or her Saving Throws.
  • DC 35:
    • Imbuement: You may duplicate the Imbuement Eclpse ability for an item in your purview for ten minutes. You may upgrade with one modifier (Focused, or Improved and then Superior) at DC 50, two at DC 75, and all three at DC 100. Sadly, this is limited to simple enhancement bonuses and “counts-as-a-plus-or-pluses” functions; you cannot add temporary intelligence or similar functions.
    • Master of Industry: You may organize the efforts of up to (Check Result / 2) assistants. As long as they have at least basic (+2 or more) skills in your craft you may multiply how much work you get done each day by the number of assistants present.
    • Restore Function: You may get a broken item functioning for the next 1d4 minutes in combat or 1d4 hours out of combat. Thus a shipwright might keep a ship from sinking, a woodcarver could get a broken staff to function, and a swordsmith could use a sundered sword to full effect.
    • Spellwright: You may craft an item that effectively functions as a scroll, provided that you have the spell to be imbued in it available. If you do not have the spell available you may fake it, but this increases the DC by (10 x the spell level or 5 if level 0) and you cannot use this method to create an item with a caster level higher than your level or with spell effect of more than one half your level or level ten, whichever is less. Spellwrought items cannot be deciphered to produce spell formula.
  • DC 40:
    • As Above, So Below: You may observe the stochastic effects of disturbances in the universe on your projects, allowing you to employ your skill as if it was Gather Information at -40 – however there is no chance of alerting anyone to your interest, no action other than a few hours working is required, and mundane methods of concealment will have no effect against you.
    • Craft Conjure III: You may transform a (tiny) model you’ve crafted into a temporary real item for ten minutes per level. At this level you are capable of creating larger items, such as rowboats, watch dogs, large tents, or competent laborers.
    • Intuitive Repair: You can fix things that fall within your craft; if that spacecraft engine needs a new part and it happens to be made of some ultra-tech ceramic doped to conduct positrons in intricate internal patterns with a tolerance og 1/10,000 of an inch… then you can go right ahead with your neolithic potters tools and make a new part – although this is more often used to repair magical items. (In Pathfinder this roughly equates to Greater Make Whole).
    • Superior Workmanship: If you invoke this ability while making something it will gain a +2 alchemical bonus to it’s Hardness and double it’s base hit points. At DC 60 it gains a +4 and triple it’s normal hit points, and at DC 100 it gains a +6 and quadruple its normal hit points. For most practical purposes it can be considered unbreakable.
  • DC 50:
    • Craft Conjure IV: You may transform a (tiny) model you’ve crafted into a temporary real item for ten minutes per level. At this level you are capable of creating a small house or yacht, a warhorse, several basic servants, or a small golem (equivalent to a large earth elemental).
    • Magewright: You no longer need any Item Crafting feats or spellcasting ability to craft items that fall under the purview of your skill. You may not, however, craft an item that has a caster level equal to or greater than your level.
    • Spirit Anchor: You may craft an item that can host a spirit, make being so contained a pleasant experience for said spirit, and make it (more or less) willing to assist the items owner. Thus a portrait may host the spirit of a dying man, a sword might host a djinn, or a statue host a demon. Such entities can use whatever powers they possess, communicate, and show “faces”,, but cannot fully animate their host forms without further magic.
    • Wealthy Patron: You can support yourself at a Wealthy lifestyle for a month with a mere three days of work. Not surprisingly, you need only activate this ability once per month.
  • DC 60:
    • Alchemic Craft: You may give a project the qualities of being made out of a special material and/or having an appropriate item template at no cost. This is not necessarily limited to published materials and templates, but the player will have to run exotic proposals by his or her GM for approval or modification first.
    • Craft Conjure V: You may transform a (tiny) model you’ve crafted into a temporary real item for ten minutes per level. At this level you are capable of creating a competent bodyguard, a huge animal or a small animal with minor special abilities, a large house and staff, a large boat, or a massive golem (equivalent to a huge earth elemental).
    • Masters Word: You may employ an Animate Object (Pathfinder Version) effect on objects that fall within your purview. For every +5 on the check result over 60 your animated objects gain +1 Construction Point to a maximum of +8.
    • Platonic Smith: You may imbue items you create with thoughts which will influence those who spend time in contact with those items – a subtle, but pervasive effect, capable of becoming an obsession over months or years. You could attach dreams of glory to a blade, sadness to a memorial statue, an aura of truth to a novel, the secret of summoning some elder horror to a painting, or convey many other beliefs and feelings.
  • DC 75:
    • Automation: Provided that you are working in an appropriate facility, your work will proceed at twenty times the usual rate – even directly multiplying your results from Master Of Industry.
    • Craft Conjure VI: You may transform a (tiny) model you’ve crafted into a temporary real item for ten minutes per level. At this level you are capable of creating a squad of decent fighters, a palace and staff, an expert in a particular field, a decent copy of a particular individual, an enormous animal, or a sizable animal with modest special abilities. If you choose to go for a Golem, it’s roughly equivalent to a Greater Earth Elemental.
    • Shadowcraft: You may draw your “materials” for a project from the Plane of Shadow – negating all materials requirements and reducing the crafting time to a mere one-tenth of whatever the normal total after other modifiers would be – but the items created are only temporarily real (although they are 100% real for the duration);. They will fade back into shadow after three times the time needed to create them or 1d4 days, whichever is greater. .
    • Wunderkind: You are known as a creator of marvels that would grace the court of any emperor or even a minor god. You may gain entrance to the courts of nobles, the councils of kings, and similar locales on the basis of your reputation and may often find backing for projects that – if any lesser crafter had proposed them – would seem ludicrous.
  • DC 100:
    • Be Prepared: Within your purview you may produce an item, or perform labors, worth up to 10,000 GP as a standard action. This will, however, cost you 25% of that amount in Gold Pieces (or other valuables, although only their sale prices count) OR 5% of that amount in Experience. The effects of this ability are real and permanent. If you should happen to be a Mason or some such, I’d recommend looking up the costs of tunnels, stone walls, and similar. You may not, however, employ an item or resource created by this ability to pay for using this ability again.
    • Craft Construct: You may create and maintain an array of Constructs that fit within your purview with a total value equal to one-half your normal wealth by level at no actual cost – although if any are destroyed (or you wish to discard and replace some) it will require one day per 1000 GP value to replace them if you do so in your spare time or 5000 GP value per day you spend working on the project.
    • Shadows In The Firelight: While the items produced will only last for a day, you may employ your skill without need of raw materials or tools, producing one months worth of material per round for as long as you continue to concentrate, are free to gesture, and have a source of light.
    • The Tech Fantastic: You may build items within your purview from d20 Modern and Future in fantasy settings, using the usual conversion of 1 GP = 20 Credits.

Epic Stunts:

These are a bit tricky for Craft, since the epic stunts for Craft (Carpentry) and Craft (Sculpture) are unlikely to look all that much alike – but some effects are fairly common.

  • Art Of Battle (Research Level 9, DC 46): As per Greater Magic Weapon, but affects up to fifty targets per caster level within medium range. Variants, of course, abound: a Tailor might imbue every targets clothing with a Resistance Bonus to saves, an Armorsmith might grant a +4 Circumstance (Exoskeleton) bonus to Strength, and so on.
  • Vessel Of The Will (Research Level 10, DC 50): As per Ship Of Shadow, Eclipse.
  • Conjure Construct(s) (Research Level 11, DC 54): You may summon a single construct of up to CR 15 or 1d4+1 constructs of up to CR 13, although your choices must be consistent with your purview. The constructs will remain for up to ten minutes per caster level unless destroyed first.
  • Harvest (Research Level 12, DC 58): You may gather natural resources related to your purview from extreme range – in refined and processed form. You may harvest rare woods, extract metals from ore or veins, pull gems or crystals from the earth, pull perfume from flowers, quarry useful stone, or extract other resources. Sadly, this only works on unrefined and unclaimed or loosely-claimed resources; a wild jungle that is loosely claimed by an absentee landlord is fair game; a cultivated or mined area is not. In general, this will get you up to 5000 GP worth of raw materials. After all, if you are tossing around epic stunts and are still scrambling for gold pieces, something is very, very, wrong.
  • Guardian Ward (Research Level 13, DC 62): Grants the Armor and Shields of up to fifty targets per caster level within medium range a total of +5 in bonuses – which may include special functions – for one hour per caster level. As with the Art Of Battle effect, variations abound.
  • Catalytic Alchemy (Research Level 14, DC 66): You may quadruple the effect of an alchemical item or holy/unholy water and selectively apply that quadrupled affect to any and all targets within extreme (twice long) range. There are many variants on this effect; a tailor could change rages so as to clothe everyone with marvelous clothing, a weaponsmith strike at hundreds of targets at once, and so on.
  • Door Of Worlds (Research Level 15, DC 70): You may create a depiction of a place so realistic that it serves as a gate to travel to, and return from, that location.
  • Grand Art Of War (Research Level 16, DC 74): Grants the Weapons, Armor, and Shields of up to 50 targets per caster level within long range a total of +6 in bonuses – which may include special functions – for one hour per caster level.
  • Technobabble (Research Level 17, DC 78): You may quickly rig up a way to accomplish something utterly unreasonable. Go ahead; weave a set of Etheresails that will place your ship in an achronal warp and let you fly out of that black hole. Use carpentry to throw a steady bridge across a quarter-mile chasm. Rig up Dr Frankenstein’s setup to resurrect your dead companion. Basically… this is roughly equivalent to a Wish or Miracle, but it has no particular cost and can affect larger areas for a longer period of time. Sadly, using this power too often will soon start to draw backlash from the universe for your abuse of its nature.
  • Ship Slaying Shot (Research Level 18, DC 82): You may destroy any one construct, vehicle, or structure with a single shot from any convenient weapon.
  • Fundamental Breakdown (Research Level 19, DC 86): You learn everything you wish to know about how the target object, vehicle, or structure within your purview, was made, what it’s made of, its specifications, layout, security features, vulnerable points, and method of destruction. This works even on artifacts.
  • Mastery Of The Spirit Binding Arts (Research Level 20, DC 90): Whenever you kill something with a soul but of less than divine status with something you created you may opt to employ this spell to bind it’s spirit to the item. Thereafter you may call it forth as it was in life, either sending it on a single mission lasting up to twenty-four hours or calling on it for up to three services lasting up to ten minutes each. Unfortunately, no more than seven spirits may be bound to the user at any one time.
  • Resplendent Panoply (Research Level 21, DC 94): The target effectively gains three levels as far as Wealth By Level goes for the next twenty-four hours – and immediately reaps the benefits. His or her items will be effectively upgraded or augmented with new items to suit, although no more than 25,000 GP worth of the temporary items can be limited-use or charged items. In addition, for the duration, the user will look REALLY good.

Various variations of the fourteenth level Construction spell from Eclipse also fit in here. Sadly, however, as usual for Epic Craft Stunts, it can only be used to create things within the governing skills purview. Still, some of the greatest crafters have been known to produce entire cities, fleets, and other mighty or grandiose works on a moments notice.

All right; you aren’t likely to annihilate hordes of enemies with your crafting skills directly – at least until you’ve got it boosted so high that it bypasses all reason – but they can certainly make doing that, and accomplishing a wide variety of other tasks (including living very comfortably indeed) quite a lot easier.

Literary World Laws in Eclipse, Part Two – Empowering Tropes

Occult:

Every child knows it. That which is of the darkness thrives in the darkness. Monsters lurk where the light does not show. The shadows breed fear, treachery, and dread powers. There is a reason why “Occult” means more than “hidden”. Secrecy itself is a source of magical power for aberrant and monstrous things.

True monsters – the ooze that devours a village, the pack of lycanthropes that hunts the night, the things that descend from the dark between the stars, the whispered tyrant who has escaped his grave – are strengthened by mystery and weakened by investigation; to complete their defeat the heroes must drag their secrets into the light.

A “True Monster” is named and unique. A mere wolf can be a suitable True Monster for lower level heroes, even while leading a pack of lesser wolves – but it will not be just a wolf with a couple of extra hit dice. It will be the Beast of Gévaudan, an oversized and cunning man-eater who has stolen and devoured women and children for miles about, Its habit of carrying off kids from farmyards, the lost toe that gives it a distinctive track, the great pack it leads, and its near-demonic size and strength will all become a part of its legend after the heroes discover those traits and defeat it.

And with each hidden trait… it gains occult power. It gains one Occult Ability from the list below for each of it’s four hidden traits plus one for the name it’s legend will bear even after it is slain. It will lose one of those traits each time the heroes uncover one of those traits or if it is “killed” – but if it is “slain” while it has even a single Occult Ability remaining, it will simply fade away into the shadows to reform the next night – although this too will cost it an Occult Ability.

Thus – after investigating a few disappearances – the heroes will likely identify the Beasts unique spoor, and so know that it is a single creature, depriving it of one Occult Ability. Deducing it’s preference for women and children and setting a trap for it will cost it another (perhaps reducing it’s massive size and strength) – or perhaps even two if it is “slain” in the ambush. Discovering that it leads a huge pack is likely to result in some nasty injuries, but will cost it another Ability – and its final trait will fall away when it becomes a named legend, known to the people of the area, and it is finally brought to bay.

Possible Occult Abilities:

  1. Accursed: The creature radiates an Unhallow effect. It, and any lesser creatures or minions that it leads, are always protected by a Magic Circle Against Good, positive energy channeling effects are made at a -4 level penalty, and negative energy channeling effects gain a +4 level profane bonus (spell resistance does not apply), and it gets one of the following benefits: 1) a 40′ radius is Silenced, 2) It and it’s allies gain either Resistance 30 or Protection From Energy versus any one form of energy, 3) It and it’s allies gain Freedom Of Movement, 4) All opposing spellcasting is subject to a Dispel Magic check, 5) a 40′ radius is filled with Deeper Darkness, or 6) Creatures that come within a 40′ radius are attacked by a Fear effect. If saves apply, a new one is made every three rounds.
  2. Bloodwright: The creature commands powers of Ice, Wind, Darkness, Necromancy, Illusion, or Poison (select two). It has 3d6 Mana per encounter and may expend 1/2/3/4 points at CR 1+/5+/10+/16+ to produce an effect within it’s themes of levels 1-2/3-4/5-6/7-8. The range of effects available to any particular creature tends to be fairly limited, but will almost invariably cover some of it’s major weaknesses and offer it more options.
  3. Corrupting Presence: While a creature with this ability is in the area the heroes cannot rely on anyone else; any good and kindly people will be too cowed to actually help out, and any major authorities will be disbelievers, fools, being undermined by corrupt underlings, attempting to use the monsters presence, or will be actively supporting it for their own ends.
  4. Darkwalker: The creature has the equivalent of a Greater Blink spell active at all times – although it moves through the Plane Of Shadow rather than the Ethereal Plane, thus Detect Invisibility and Force Effects offer no special benefits against it. The GM MAY allow Ghost Touch weapons to work if he or she is being kind.
  5. Devourer: The creature can swallow up to one-half it’s hit dice worth of other creature, taking their abilities as it’s own. Any damage, negative spell effects, or similar problems are suffered by the imprisoned creatures first – until they die, and are digested for good. It is possible to free an imprisoned entity by going in after it and fighting your way out, casting spells such as Plane Shift, Teleportation, Maze, or Imprisonment on the creature (since the effect will transfer to the creature or creatures inside),
  6. Enfolding Shadows: The creature is always aware of the presence of heroic individuals and may evade them; it cannot be surprised, flanked, or sneak attacked, is immune to critical hits, and may choose to strike at NPC’s when no heroes are about or at PC’s when they are isolated (presuming that they are foolish enough to separate and allow it). Similarly, it is unaffected by mind-affecting powers.
  7. Fair Seeming: The creature may take an innocuous form, immune to detection save by some GM-chosen special means. Everyone in the area will vaguely recall the creature as a member of their community while this power is in use. While so transformed the creature may bond with up to three innocent folk, gradually transforming them into lesser monsters, or draining their life force, or getting them pregnant with young monsters, or gradually draining their power, or some such. Stopping such a drain requires researching an appropriate ritual, magic beyond what the heroes can easily access, divine intervention, or destroying the creature before the end.
  8. Ill Omens: The creature’s presence twists the environment into a place suited for it. Not only is it invariably finding old cemeteries, crypts, patches of warped wilderness, haunted mansions, and similar places to lurk – each with their own population of minor monsters. While none will be able to draw on the Occult for power, the longer the primary monster remains undefeated, the deeper and darker the depths will grow, until there is a true necropolis, megadungeon, or similar. When in such a location the creature enjoys a +4 untyped bonus on all it’s rolls, its AC, and turn resistance and may easily lead heroes into groups of comparatively minor monsters.
  9. Indistinct: The creature cannot be identified; it’s presence blurs all senses, detection spells, and special abilities short of True Seeing (which may provide a vague, but usable, description). It may successfully flee an encounter at any point, even if paralyzed or otherwise trapped – although the description of how this happens is up to the game master.
  10. Looming: The Darkness lends strength and size. The creature may increase it’s size by up to two size categories above it’s base size at will. (This is a very common option for the more bestial monsters that principally rely on physical strength and violence).
  11. Roots Of Evil: The Darkness has granted the creature a panoply, It effectively has wealth as a PC of it’s (CR + 1), and can understand and use it’s equipment appropriately. Sadly, that “gear” is only the result of the cloak of shadows that surrounds it; when this ability is removed, the items fade away into shadows rather than becoming loot.
  12. Untraceable. The creatures lair, any imprisoned hostages/emergency snacks, and wealth, are hidden within a dimensional fold, and cannot be traced or located by anything short of a Miracle, Wish, or Divine Intervention. It may return there to rest, recover, and plot in absolute security until this quality is removed.

In literature, monsters are rarely just wandering about, or sitting behind a door reading a book while waiting for the heroes to kick in the door and attack. There are glimpses first, then attacks where it shows how destructive it can be, then an inconclusive battle, then tracking the horror to it’s lair and doing battle with whatever awaits there. And – for some reason – the monster usually gets easier to defeat along the way, if only because the heroes have seen what it can do and have learned to counter its tricks. Just as importantly, coming to the rescue is considerably more heroic than murdering funny-looking people and taking their stuff – even if they DO have an “evil!” tag pasted on their foreheads.

Lure Of Corruption

Where wickedness is given entrance, corruption follows.

Heroes are rarely unblemished. All too often they must deceive, threaten, kill, or employ lesser evils to stand against the greater ones. Those are necessary, or excusable evils. But sometimes… “heroes” do evil things that are simply unnecessary, even if they are often convenient. Each such incidence of true wickedness leaves it’s mark – a warning to others, a bit of dark power awaiting use, and a point of vulnerability that the darkness can exploit.

The game master should always let the characters know when their actions are about to cross the line into true wickedness. But if they choose to do so – torturing opponents, taking the bandits stolen treasure and leaving their victims to starve, or whatever the game master feels qualifies in the setting – their Corruption score will increase by one. Corruption can be reduced, but it is a terribly slow process requiring months or years of meditation and atonement.

  • Each Wicked act grants the creature that performs it three Action Points. They may spend them in any way they could normally use an Action Point or on the Heroism option – whether or not they normally have access to that option.
  • Each Wicked act opens the creature that performs it to the influence of the darkness. Each act of Wickedness allows the game master to either cause a single action (whether an attack, a spell, a save or other action) to fail or to have an attack or shock render the offender Stunned for two rounds.
  • A characters total Corruption score is reflected in their aura, and – as it increases – can show physically as well, A character who attains a corruption score of 5+ will show the touch of darkness in their aura and a noticeable touch of evil. At 10+ they will show some minor physical sign – burning eyes, talon-like fingernails, pointed teeth, or some such. At 15+ they will acquire a GM-chosen Disadvantage, but gain no points from it. Their alignment will never be detected as having a “good” component and they cannot use items with a “good” alignment. At 20+ they will gain another GM-chosen Disadvantage, will show major physical signs of their corruption, and can no longer use “neutral” items either – although evil ones will accept them readily. Finally, at 25+ they will gain a third GM-chosen disadvantage (but still get no points for them) and – each time they gain an additional point of corruption – must roll a d100 above their current score or transform into a villainous NPC with a truly monstrous form – although that makes them ineligible for further benefits or penalties from acts of Wickedness. At this point they are expected.

Most heroic types will never really worry about Corruption. For that matter, most of the more rationally evil types won’t have too much trouble with it. It does serve as a way to discourage the most gratuitously obnoxious antiheroes and can provide a character who’s going over the edge into noxious insanity with some substantial bonuses.

It’s Written In The Stars:

Perhaps the crudest and simplest way to provide some foreshadowing for the actions of the player characters is to provide them with a special bonus or two – but ensure that it’s very limited use and that everyone knows about it in advance. Then when they use it, behold! Foreshadowing!

The quickest and cheapest way? Grab the list of vignettes from “Stealing The Scene”, print them out in big print, cut them apart, and have every player draw a couple at the start of each session and display them. Behold! Every character now has a minor plot twist or two to pull out at some critical point – and everyone will be looking forward to when he or she uses it. Are there are a few vignettes that will make too big a mess of your plot? Leave them out of the hat at the start of the session. Somewhat more elaborately, you could use any tarot or medicine cards, any deck of whimsy cards you have handy, or my own Runecards (shameless plug here). If anyone hasn’t used their trick at the end of the session, it goes back in the hat; it’s use it or lose it.

This is simple, mechanical, and more than a bit metagamey – but it can certainly be fun, which is the important part. If a player becomes especially fond of a particular trick – perhaps wanting to regularly find secret passages – that can be accommodated by simply giving him or her that particular trick most of the time. After all, the distribution does not HAVE to be random – and and you will have achieved a form of long-term foreshadowing through player cooperation. Is there any reason NOT to let Zorath the Slayer be known for finding secret passages and escape routes when he needs them?

In Media Res:

Another quick trick for game masters – and an interesting way to let the players plan enough to simulate a practiced group of adventurers – is to use cliffhangers. It’s all too common to end a gaming session with the characters at an inn, or camping, or otherwise having a little downtime.

Don’t do that if you can possibly avoid it. It’s DULL. Has the party just hacked their way through a swarm of undead pirates? End the session as the cargo hatch opens and the undead pirate lord rises up, leading even more undead horrors for an even tougher fight.

Now the players have a good idea what is coming, and time to have inventive ideas and come up with ways of dealing with Captain Bloodwrath. They’ll have all week, ot two weeks, or however long it is between your sessions to think about it, come up with interesting stunts, and good lines. Sure, not all of them will bother to come up with much, but all of them will know what’s coming up. Is someone late to the next session? They fell overboard and it took time to fish them out. Do they not make it at all? Perhaps they fell though the deck and were trapped in the brig for a while.

For that matter, there is nothing at all wrong with skipping a bit of time to start in an action scene, especially if you’ve run a few possible plotlines past the players in advance so that there won’t be much argument about abruptly being involved with one that they’ve already approved. Were the characters peacefully resting? Tell them a scroll arrived and close up. Next session? Put them right in the middle of the fight with two golems that they must get past to rescue the kidnapped prince or princess. If you are feeling generous, after a round or two go to a flashback of them receiving the mission, tell them that they had some idea of what they’d be confronting – and let them spend a few minutes doing their downtime stuff and shopping before telling them how they wound up in that fight scene and dropping them back into it.

It’s an artificial way to provide a little “scouting” (obviously they found out about the golems and general environment of the area where the hostage was being hold in advance), of letting the characters prepare for a particular set of challenges, and of providing some forewarning of what they’re going to be up against all at once. It’s not always going to be appropriate – but it’s well worth using when it is.

Literary World Laws in Eclipse, Part One:

Today it’s a question that has jumped to the top of the queue because it brought so much stuff to mind that I just had to write it down…

How would you recommend creating a series of world laws that enforce symbolism, foreshadowing and similar things?

-Jirachi

Basically I think this is “I want a more literary feel to the game – more like Beowulf or The Lord Of The Rings” – so lets look at a few possible World Laws to produce that result.

Stochastic Echoes:

Events that are particularly important to a person – or the world – echo backwards and forwards through the timelines, appearing in dreams later or moments of literal or symbolic vision before. While any individual echo is not guaranteed to come to pass in YOUR timeline, they are often clues as to what might happen.

For most folk echoes pass unnoted; they may avoid a few accidents, but dreams of their death in a plague, or marriage, or the birth of a grandchild are often either happy moments or things they can do little about. Adventurers however… Adventurers are involved with great deeds. They may see themselves dying in some trap, catch a glimpse of some opponent long before they appear, see some past event which is a clue to their current adventures, or become aware of some occurrence in a distant location even if they have no idea why it might be important.

  • Hand out 1d4 such clues or visions during each session. For example, Frodo was hunted by the Ringwraiths – but the group caught a glimpse of them long before they actually attacked. Vision or reality? Does it matter? They were, at least to some extent, warned.
  • Give the entire group at least three, and possibly more, insights into the consequences of their actions at the end of a session – at a minimum, one positive, one problematic, and one outright foreboding item. Did the characters massacre a dark cult and rescue the children who were about to be sacrificed to the Seven-Tentacled Beast Of Darkness? You could note…
    • The joy of the children’s families or the celebration in the nearby villages.
    • The reaction of a powerful noble who may have another mission for such noble heroes – or perhaps is annoyed at the loss of some pawns.
    • The annoyance of the slave traders who have lost a profitable market for poor-quality slaves.
    • The reckless delvings of the treasure-seekers who will soon be searching for something (treasure, magical device, place of power, bound spirit, whatever) that the Cult was supposedly keeping hidden.
    • The stirring of something long bound in the depths – whether because the cult is no longer keeping it bound, because it seeks revenge against those who destroyed it’s servants, or because spilling so much blood in it’s dark fane has awakened it.
  • Antagonists get information from Echoes as well. Minor Antagonists receive three free levels of the Foresight skill. Major Antagonists get seven and three levels of Stealing The Scene.

Oathbinding

To swear a great oath is to take your destiny in your own hands and give it shape. To be forsworn is to wound that destiny and risk bringing a terrible fate upon yourself. An oath may bind the one who swears it beyond death itself. Still, amongst the adventurous few, great oaths – to defend the realm, to slay the dragon, to avenge a lover, to defeat the dark lord – are given. Such mighty oaths are sworn because there is power in them, the strength to accomplish things that might otherwise be far beyond your grasp. In fact that drive is a part of what gives great oaths their power; swearing to a minor deed, or attempting to include a cheap loophole in your vow, results in a minor and powerless oath. Characters may only be sworn to one great oath at a time and must allow at least a month to elapse between the fulfillment of one oath and the swearing of another. If they voluntarily renounce an oath they will suffer the consequences for a year and a day and may not swear another great oath during that time.

  • While a great oath is in effect a character acting in direct pursuit of his or her oath (sidequests, distractions, and random encounters generally do not count) will be assisted as needed by a level four spell effect of the game masters choice up to seven times per month.
  • A character who renounces or refuses to fulfill a great oath will instead find themselves targeted by a similar number of malignant level four (or less) spells every month for a year and a day at the worst possible times – when destiny (the game master) feels that they will be most dangerous – or until they either return to keeping their vow (which will stop the negative effects, but not restore the positive ones) or somehow atone – most often through some great self-sacrifice or quest with no other rewards.
  • Characters who die without completing an oath sometimes appear to those who pass near the place of their death to ask their aid in completing the oath or to “pass it on” by recruiting someone else to swear the same oath, sometimes rise as revenants consumed by the desire to complete their oath, sometimes appear in dreams or to religious figures of their faith to seek forgiveness for their failure, and sometimes just die; .there’s no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to the decisions of fate.

You can build this ability in Eclipse as a Feat, which gives us a point of comparison; allowing the characters to make Great Oaths is pretty much like letting them have a free feat. It’s not too hard to compensate for in Eclipse, but is a modest power bump. Of course… getting players to foreshadow their characters actions is a bit tricky, since “use their characters special abilities to deal with the problems they face” is a given and their characters actions tend to be either fairly random or entirely stereotypical outside of that. Ergo, Great Oaths. You get the players to give some advance notice of their actions by offering them a reward for doing so.

Whispering Tales:

Tales have their own life. The world shapes them, and they in turn shape the world to their narrative. Instead of becoming more and more distorted as told again and again, legends, tales of haunts, and whispered rumors tend to become more real, and more accurate – even if that truth is often buried in symbolism and metaphor – as they pass through the generations of men, while the tales without a kernel of truth are oft forgotten. Which way the arrow of cause and effect truly points remains unknown, and perhaps unknowable, but in the end it matters little. Almost any traditional tale will likely lead somewhere – and those who choose to involve themselves in it may bind a bit of the power of it’s narrative around themselves.

Characters may seek out (I.E; Players may invent and present) tales and legends over and above any that the game master chooses to present, binding a bit of the power of those narratives about themselves – although how much power accrues to them depends on the quality of those tales. A character who “seeks out” such a tale gains either one Rune/Whimsy Card or 1d4 temporary skill points to place in Action Skills of his or her choice for a lesser tale. The award is doubled for a well-developed tale and tripled for a superb one – although characters may not hold more than five cards or fifteen temporary skill levels over between games.

For some examples, here we have the tales of The Hunt, The Grove, The Well, The House, and The Ship – all of which were originally created to add backstory and suggest adventures in a game.

On the metagame level, creating (or researching and tweaking) a tale or legend is also a player request; did a player come up with a tale of bandits, a cursed underground cave of gems, and an imprisoned spirit? Well, that’s a free adventure background, a quick test to see whether the rest of the party might be interested in it (if they have questions or suggestions on expanding the tale, they certainly are), and a request for such an adventure all in one – and automatically provides such an adventure with some foreshadowing and very likely some symbolic content. Stories are like that.

Dragon-Gold And Eldritch Swords

Once upon a time, in Beowulf, The Lord Of The Rings, the Kalevala, and so many other sources – including first and second edition – powerful magical items were rare (and often unique) and wealth brought you XP but thereafter might as well be spent. Why NOT build a castle, support an orphanage, or spend on wild parties? It wasn’t like that heap of gold really DID anything for you.

Then, of course, came wealth-by-level, magic-marts, penny-pinching, upgrading and exchanging magical items, endless accounting, and all the other downsides of making Wealth a measure of personal magical power. Somehow, it’s never seemed to be quite as “magical” even if it IS magic now.

  • The Wealth Templates in The Practical Enchanter are intended to eliminate the accounting. Wealth is still useful, but there’s no need to track every copper.
  • The Charms and Talismans from the same source are minor items of practical magic. Additional examples of designing Charms and Talismans can be found in this (Do-it-yourself Charms and Talismans: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, and Part VIII) series of articles – and here’s an accounting of how they’d fit into The Lord Of The Rings.

Unique magical devices are generally created as Relics, as is explored in the Literary Magic Items and Sample Relics articles.

  • Part I: General information on how to build and use relics and on the role of other magic items in the game, the Hat of the Demon Pirate Ferret, the Chessboard of the Invisible Hand (a device of political manipulation), the Cloak of Zorro (for dashing heroes who do not wish to be indentified), the Kether Scrolls, The Malachite Bindings (a tome of dark magics), the Skull of Scykanthos (a tool of lycanthropic ritual magic), and Arnwen’s Sacred Sunstone.
  • Part II: The Gossamer Shroud of Death, The Clasp of the Mandarin (a social device), and Grimfang the Oath-Blade of Heroes.
  • Part II: The Seals of Seigrun – devices which provide limited spellcasting in any one field at a time – and Lawgiver, a paladin’s blade of atrocious power.
  • Part IV: Weapons of Legend, Stormbreaker, the Bracer of the Archmagi, and the Lion Bracer.
  • Part V: A Quill which forges Scrolls, a Sigil which commands Undead Thieves, the Philosopher’s Stone, and the Dragon Crowns – superheroic power devices.
  • Part VI: A Demonslayer’s Helm, Parrying Dagger, Metamagical Rings, and Skill Enhancing Relics.
  • Part VII: The Coronet Of Command, The Sheathe Of Excalibur, The Staff Of Rassilon, Sortilege Staff, and Minor Items:

As a special bonus, here we have The Silmarils of the Manifold – a look at converting Tolkien’s Silmarils into something playable – and a collection of Minor Relics suitable for almost any game. Gandalf and the Balrog for Eclipse d20 also has a relic or two, but that discussion is complicated enough that I’ll leave it all in context, rather than simply adding the relic(s) to these lists.

Village Heroes, Child Heroes, and Hedge Wizardry are explored in these series of articles.

Finally, we have how to supply your heroes in such a system with limited-use magical items:

Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys? (6+ CP):

  • This package turns various limited-use innate magical abilities into charms, fetishes, potions, dusts, bags that “contain” spells, strange crystals, and even quasi-technological gadgets. This is a VERY powerful effect, and is likely to be a major sources of a higher-level “Nephews” special abilities.
    • Create Relic: Specialized and Corrupted / only to make limited-use items (Apply “Specialized / Does Not Recover to the items created, only select abilities that normally offer a limited number of daily uses) costing a maximum of 3 CP each, only using points from Enthusiast (2 CP).
    • Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect (provides four floating CP) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / points may only be used with Create Relic, limited as above (4 CP).
    • Expanded: Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted (+1 CP for Relic Creation per CP).
  • The basic package gets you 4 CP worth of relics to start with – with the various limitations, enough to get you quite a few gadgets to play with. Another 6 CP worth will get you a small magical arsenal.

For some examples:

Spell Talismans:

  • Innate Spell with Multiple Uses:
    • Two L1 Effects: 6 Uses Each (1 CP), 14 Uses Each (2 CP), 22 Uses Each (3 CP).
    • L2 Effect: 6 Uses (1 CP), 14 Uses (2 CP), 22 Uses (3 CP).
    • L3 Effect: 5 Uses (1 CP), 13 Uses (2 CP), 21 Uses (3 cp).
    • Related L3 and L4 Effect (1 CP), either 5 Uses of Each or a Related L5 and L6 Effect (2 CP), 9 Uses Each of a related L3 and L4 effect (3 CP).
    • Related Set: One effect of each level 3-7 (3 CP).
  • Unfortunately, this doesn’t bypass the level requirements for using innate spells, so low-level artificers must wait a while before using the high-level stuff. On the other hand, there’s nothing at all wrong with taking along a plentiful supply of Multiplying Shuriken (Magic Missile), Rainbow Crystals (Color Spray), Healing Draughts (Cure Light Wounds), and Origami Golems (Unseen Servants) on your early adventures.

Curative Ointment.

  • Healing Touch with Bonus Uses (enough to cure (5 x Chr Mod x Level HP) and Improved/Switch/Empower with Bonus Uses to provide (4+Level/3) total uses of Remove Disease, Remove Blindness/Deafness, Cure Serious Wounds, Remove Curse, Neutralize Poison, and Restoration (3 CP).
  • Curative ointment isn’t all that level-dependent, so a low-level party may find having a pot along very VERY helpful.

Sorcerer’s Bag:

  • Improved Occult Talent, Corrupted for Increased Effect (spell level) / slots must be preset. provides 5L1 and 3L2 charms/fetishes/scrolls/whatever with whatever you like in them for (1 CP).
  • That’s not as many uses as you can get from Innate Spell, but you do get a wide variety of effects. This is taking cheesy advantage of the rounding rule, but Improved Occult Talent is not likely to break the game.

Ring of Whispered Wishes:

  • 6d6 Mana with Reality Editing, Corrupted / cannot be used for other purposes (3 CP).
  • This useful little item answers small wishes – that there be something solid to catch onto when you’re sliding towards the cliff, that an opponent suffer some brief disadvantage, that a spell operate in a way it really shouldn’t or pierce that spell resistance. There’s usually enough power for none or ten very minor requests, but larger boons expend the rings power far more rapidly.

Someone with this package makes a wonderful seller of potions and items that provide more uses of your own abilities, rather than independent abilities. Even better, they don’t need expensive ingredients, or to spend experience points, or to have all kinds of spell formula available. If you kill them, their stock

A Feeling Of Entitlement:

Give each session a cryptic title hinting at it’s theme. Is it going to be about a cult summoning hellhound spirits to possess their victims to use as cannon fodder? Write “Howl of Darkness” on an index card (color coded marker calliography optional) and prop it up on the table. If you want to get really elaborate, provide subtitles for individual scenes.

OK, this is less a world law than a game master habit, but it is especially easy.

Adventure Design:

For general adventure design, I’d suggest The Basic Adventure article, as well as the Ridmarch articles (Part I, Part II, and Part III) – in part because Ridmarch is a good demonstration of the way that foreshadowing flows naturally from an adventure background. Adventurers coming to Ridmarch will hear the ringing of distant bells – foreshadowing their use as a defense, which foreshadows the potential use of the Bell of the Nameless Sentinel to end the threat. An ominous town and uncooperative townsfolk foreshadow a demon cult, the demon cult leads to a portal to the abyss in a cavern or monsters, the portal leads to a demon lord. A mangled corpse foreshadows a group of monstrous undead, who foreshadow a dark horde which rises anew with each nightfall no matter how often they are slain. In each case… small things lead to greater things, and offer clues as to their nature.

And next time around on this… a few world laws to benefit the antagonists.

Ponyfinder In Equestria – Sea Ponies and the general Aquatic Template for standard games

Our next major Ponyfinder Pony Type is the Sea Horse or Seapony. In the show we have Seaponies / Hippocampi (equine upper body, fishlike lower body), at least some of whom are transformed hippogryphs (eagle-like upper body and equine lower body). Hippogryphs seem to be basically equivalent to Pegasi from what little the wiki’s have on them. They might trade out some impact resistance for effective talons, but that’s merely a guess and it’s not really at all relevant to their Seapony form. Seaponies do seem to come in at least the usual basic variants – unicorn-styled, pegasus-styled, and earth pony styled. Given that they may be able to shift to land forms, that seems reasonable enough. They might be related to the Sirens, since there’s a pretty strong resemblance.

We also see Mermares, who are more like real world Seahorses or actual fish, with fins and no limbs. Again, from what (very, VERY) little there is on the wikis… they seem to be pretty much equivalent to the other pony subtypes; they’re just shapeshifted a little more and are noted as being unusually competitive. Of course, it’s not like there aren’t unusually competitive ponies, so that’s not really much of a difference.

Seaponies didn’t make it to the original series of pony articles because – at that point – they weren’t even firmly established as existing.

In Ponyfinder “Sea Horses” replace some basic Pony bonuses (a +2 racial bonus on saving throws against poison, spells, and spell-like abilities, as well as Endurance as a bonus feat) with a small penalty (their base speed is reduced to 30 feet), a 40 foot swim speed, and getting Swim as a Class Skill.

Honestly, this is generally a bad deal. Like it or not, ground movement, poisons, spells, and spell-like abilities come up a lot more often in d20 games than swimming unless you’re in a specialty game. Worse, even in a specialty game a swim speed can be provided by various cheap-and-easy items and spells – which will certainly be available if the adventure calls for them. Otherwise most of the characters will not be able to meaningfully participate.

Secondarily… in d20 a hostile environment is mostly just a statement from the game master that “I haven’t put anything here yet” or “this area is for higher level characters who can afford the right gear” – and if not, is usually inserted simply so that a character with some special racial adaption or other ability will get a chance to use it. The first is impossible to adventure in (there’s nothing to do), the second is problematic (the area is set up for higher level characters, so you go in alone?), and the third gets a bit contrived after the first few times around.

An ability that the game master has to set you up to let you use simply isn’t all that useful compared to the stuff that gets used all the time – and so I’m going to squeeze this down a bit until it’s not very expensive either.

Ergo, I’m going to be going with Innate Enchantment, using a Greater Armor Crystal Of Aquatic Action and a very small Immunity to having to wear armor to use the thing.

So… Innate Enchantment (up to 7500 GP effective value, 8 CP) plus Immunity / The need to attach the crystal to Armor to use it (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP), both Corrupted / only functional when in water, causes a partial shapeshift into a more water-adapted form. Net Total: 6 CP. This would cost some experience points to activate in 3.5, but we’re presuming the Pathfinder Package Deal to go with Ponyfinder – and so there’s no XP cost.

As for the list of Innate Enchantments, we have…

  • Greater Armor Crystal Of Aquatic Action (3000 GP). The user takes no armor check penalty on swim checks, gains a swim speed (and a +8 bonus on Swim checks) equal to half their land speed (normally 20′ for a pony), takes no penalties on attacks or movement while underwater (as if under the effect of freedom of movement), and has Water Breathing.
    • Really, the appearance of this thing in the Magic Item Compendium tells me that the people who wrote it have much the same idea about hostile environments as I do.
  • Mindlink (Water Creatures Only x.5, Does not extend past normal conversational range x.7) Seaponies can “speak” with any aquatic creature that is capable of language, is willing to talk to them, and is not immune to mental effects (700 GP).
  • Snakeblood Tooth (1350 GP). +5 Alchemical Bonus versus Ingested Poisons. 3 Charges/Day: 1 to gain that +5 versus all poisons for three rounds, 2 to share it with three nearby allies, and 3 to become immune to poison for a round. Considering the number of toxic fish, snails, jellyfish, and other things that live in the sea, Seaponies really need some extra resistance to poisons. Have some Fugu!
  • Resist Energy (Cold Only, x.5, Personal Only x.7 = 700 GP). Seaponies are pretty much immune to the cold of the depths thanks to having Cold Resistance 10 when in the water.
  • Resist Energy (Variant, Pressure Only, x.5, Personal Only x.7 = 700 GP). Seaponies are immune to water pressure damage down to great depths, due to having resistance 10 to it.
  • Wings of the Sea (+30′ Swim Speed base but +20 Only x.7, Personal Only x.7 = 980 GP). Seaponies swim as fast as they can gallop, having a base Swim Speed of 40′.
  • Mundane Equipment Equivalents:
    • Air Bladders x 100 (10 GP): Any seapony can share a bit of its water-breathing magic with any air-dweller it is in contact with, but can only do so for a total of ten minutes divided by the number of creatures that it is trying to help before the air runs out. Fortunately, a seapony can restore it’s reserves with a minute or so at the surface. Secondarily, they can also produce a fairly good-sized bubble of air by similarly exhausting their reserves.
    • Buoyancy Belt (10 GP): Lets you adjust yourself for neutral buoyancy, gaining a +2 Circumstance Bonus to Swim Checks. Note that this does stack with the Circumstance Bonus from the Swim Fins.
    • Compass (10 GP): +2 to Navigate Checks
    • Depth Sensor (20 GP): Lets you know about how deep you are.
    • Fishing Net (4 GP): Lets you tow along small items, clusters of seaweed, and similar items without carrying a net or bag.
    • Knife (2 CP): Seaponies can use their fins to slice their way out of nets and other entanglements.
    • Signal Whistle (1 GP): A DC 5 Perform check allows you to send simple signals, audible normally for the first quarter-mile, -2 to perception DC per additional quarter-mile. Seaponies can make a variety of sounds which travel very well under water.
    • Swim Goggles (5 GP); These keep stuff out of your eyes and let you see twice as far as usual when under water.
    • Swim Fins (8 GP): +2 Circumstance Bonus to Swim checks (for a grant total of +12).

Which comes out to exactly 7500 GP.

That means that you can be a basic Seapony for only 6 CP – the cost of one feat. Ergo, if you want to be a Seapony variant on another type of Pony… you just have to spend your bonus or first level feat on it, and there you go. On those occasions when you have to adventure underwater, you’ll have no trouble at all doing so.

It’s important to note that the basic seapony package doesn’t rely on the Superheroic World Template; their abilities are all standard innate enchantments – and so the same package can be used to create aquatic elves, mermen, and similar oceanic characters in pretty much any fantasy campaign.

For a psychological note, seaponies are commonly rather nervous about being too far away from either land or water, That shouldn’t be surprising given that their basic defensive strategy is pretty obviously “If being chased by a land monster, go underwater. If being chased by a water monster, go ashore”. Thus almost all seapony settlements are near the shore, usually underwater where there is less competition for space and resources from other ponies, and at a depth sufficient to avoid problems with tides, storm surges, and similar disturbances. There’s usually a mixed seapony/other pony settlement on the shore nearby since that benefits both groups. It offers the land-dwellers easy access to the coral, pearls, useful seaweeds, and other riches of the seas and the seaponies easy access to forged metal goods, cooked foodstuffs, and a wide selection of other items and services that would call for quite a lot of magic to produce or use underwater. Outside of the shift in environment, however, the social behaviors of the Seaponies are pretty much identical to those of their kindred ashore.

Now if you want some advanced seapony feats you can buy:

  • Heart Of the Ocean: Blessing with the Group Upgrade, Specialized and Corrupted / only to allow the user to bestow the Seapony Package on up to (1.5 x Cha Mod, rounded up) land dwellers (6 CP). With this ability a seapony with a decent Charisma score can take his or her entire party for an adventure beneath the waves.
  • The Unbridled Storm: Seapony magic is normally vulnerable to Dispel Magic and Antimagic effects. If you want to make it an Extraordinary Ability instead buy Immunity to Antimagical and Dispelling effects (Common/Minor/Epic, Specialized and Corrupted / only to protect Innate Enchantments, Only those that come with being a Seapony, 6 CP).
  • Harness The Tides: Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (3 floating CP) / points may only be used in conjunction with Create Relic, all relics must be inked to seapony culture or the sea in some fashion (3 CP), Create Relic, Specialized / only for use with the points from Enthusiast, above (3 CP). This allows a seapony mystic to create reasonably formidable devices.
  • Blood Of The Oceans: Immunity to Aging (Uncommon, Severe, Major (6 CP). Those seaponies who learn to draw their strength from the near-eternal forces of the depths may survive for several millenia with few signs of age – although even their immunity will eventually run out. Variant forms of this ability do turn up; some versions can draw on either positive or negative emotional energy to provide similar effects.

So the Sirens? Well…. presuming that you want to use them again (since otherwise there’s no reason to bring them up), we’ll have to assume that their defeat was temporary. If they’re not just monsters – and the fact that they turned human while Spike turned into a dog argues that they’re pretty much ponies – then they’re probably seaponies gone wrong. Ergo, they have:

  • Harness The Tides – allowing them to make mystic amulets to boost their Mystic Artist abilities.
  • The Negative Emotional Energy version of Blood Of The Oceans for long lifespans.
  • A level or two worth of Mystic Artist (Music) / Bard-style abilities, probably Specialized / their effects are drastically reduced without Equestrian Magic to help power them. Thus, while they could support themselves handily in the human world, they couldn’t achieve the fame, wealth, and power that they felt was their due there without more Equestrian magic.

So the Sirens were drawn to Canterlot High when Equestrian magic started flowing into the world there to try to claim it and bring their powers back to full potency. Despite having the edge in level and skill, they lost again because it turned out that the magic they were using to power their abilities was flowing into the world through the Rainbooms – so trying to use it fight the Rainbooms was fighting their own power source. Not being complete idiots (even if Sonata is a bit ditzy) after their inevitable loss they retreated to recover, restore their over-strained voices, and make some new amulets. They haven’t been seen since because they still haven’t figured out a way to get around the fact that the Rainbooms are unwilling to act as power batteries for them. If and when they think of something, discover the portal and go home, or find another way to draw magic from Equestria, they’ll be back.