Prince Blueblood’s Aggravating Pony Overlord List Part IV – The Glorious Gardens of Gratuitously Garbled Gnomics

Previously on the Aggravating Overlord Channel…

  1. All my giant monsters will be fitted with appropriate armor, eye protection, and equipment, including automatic healing magic packs! Giant monsters are a fairly expensive bit of lair furnishings, and shall be paid, properly equipped, and provided with healthcare, just like all the other minions!
  2. When recruiting I will favor intelligence, enthusiasm, and youth over accomplishment! It’s not like I’m ever going to be asking my staff to do something reasonable, with precedent, or sane anyway, so imagination will help them a lot more than knowing a long list of reasons why it is impossible to do what I want! Let the heroes get stuck with the old fuddy-duddies who know all the reasons why things won’t work!
  3. All witchy crones, clairvoyant or prophetic hags, mystic hermits, herbalists and brewers of potions, itinerant holy men, fey-touched advisors, occult blacksmiths, runemasters, and similar practitioners of hedge magic, shall be moved into decent country cottages with reliable utilities, picket fences, kitchen gardens, and regularly scheduled landscaping and maintenance services, at no cost. Furthermore, regular supplies of canned goods, new clothing, and soap will be delivered to them in exchange for copious supplies of hangover cures and similar conveniences. Helping to overthrow the Dark Overlord is one thing. Helping to overthrow the landlord who’s letting you stay rent free and is still paying for your services is something else altogether!
  4. Basic military security calls for never telling people more than they need to know at the moment, so that they cannot reveal vital information if captured! Given that I invent entirely new insane plans every few minutes and habitually speculate wildly, every one of my lieutenants will know a dozen different and wildly contradictory plans while I will do whatever comes into my head at the moment! What’s the point of being an Overlord if you can’t change your mind when it suits you?
  5. I will provide funding and research to develop tactical and strategic parties suitable for all contingencies, so that no hero will ever be able to make the situation serious enough to support long-term effects or the use of real weapons.
  6. My Legions of Cuddly will have a strong affirmative action policy towards hiring the handicapped! Spells and technology can make up for that kind of thing anyway and there is NOTHING like a headline declaring ““Hero” beats up blind man!” to reduce their public support!
  7. My personal guards shall be extremely attractive. There’s no reason to be pushy or sexually harass them (and lots of reasons not to, starting with having PLENTY of willing sexual partners), but when you’re running an empire you CAN have both competence and decorativeness in one package.
  8. If I have taken someone hostage they will be sent on a comfortable vacation on Hawaii on an alternate timeline at about 20,000 BC. Their position in any hostage drama will be played by an actor, illusion, or faithful minion. That way there will be no risk of actual injury OR of the “weak, helpless, inexperienced, naive, foolish, etc, etc, etc” hostage suddenly doing something useful at the moment of dramatic climax!
  9. I will distribute variously distorted maps of my (ever-changing) secret passages, random dark mystic secrets that “can be my downfall”, terrible summoning rituals, strange weapons and artifacts, and random junk from antique shops run by mysterious elderly oriental gentlemen to assorted aged hermits and hidden locations! First off, what fun is owning first-edition copies of the Necronimicon, Ars Geotica, Clavicule of Solomon, Darkhold, Celaeno Fragments, Cthäat Aquadingen, Cultes des Goules, De Vermis Mysteriis, Dhol Chants, Heptameron, Liber Juratus, Pnakotic Manuscripts, Sefer ha-Razim I and II, Unaussprechlichen Kulten, and Zanthu Tablets if you’re not going to do anything with them? (And it’s not like I’m going to use them MYSELF). Secondarily, any hero who can turn THAT kind of junk into something useful in hopes of it being my downfall is skilled enough to do better on their own anyway while the UNSKILLED ones will just get themselves into trouble!
  10. My Legions of Cuddly will have proper, biometrically-locked, tactical communication and display computers! When on duty they and the guard commander in the tactics room will know where their teammates are, who is talking to them, and whether something has happened to any one of them at all times! They will also know when to sound the alarm, how to search, and basic security procedures, for that is what the training budget is for!
  11. If an adventuring or potential hero has mentors, teachers, and/or best friends, I shall quietly send them money, training supplies, and clues that they can mysteriously support the heroes with! That way I can secretly steer the heroes into a surprise party and celebrity roast where they can be extensively embarrassed!
  12. If I have a hero and their party trapped, I will not wait until my party cannon is ready to start the festivities if more conventional pies are available.
  13. Whenever my plans include a timetable or checklist, it will include dozens of entries that have nothing to do with anything! Including things like “Attend Grandkids Birthday Party”! I always invent my “plans” on the spot anyway!
  14. My secret archives shall be heavily encrypted! Those embarrassing family photos and movies are NOBODY ELSE’S BUSINESS! They are also an appropriate punishment for anyone who goes to all the trouble to steal and decrypt them! Finally, if stolen, there are secure online backups. My parents would be upset if something happened to all that stuff!
  15. Before I burst into the heroes secret hideout MY personal Oracle will make sure that they are there and that it is not a trap! I am NOT wasting a perfectly good dramatic entrance on a bomb or something! The triggered spells for the spotlight, smoke, amplified dramatic voice, and all the rest take a good deal of effort to set up!
  16. Zen is a thing! I shall live life as it comes, respond to the exigencies of the moment, and go with the flow! Only thus (or, you know, by being a Cartoon ANYWAY) can I always be prepared for any eventuality and be utterly unpredictable!
  17. If I get a hold of something very important to the heroes I shall put it up on Ebay with a nice high minimum bid! It’s not like a bunch of heroes wouldn’t find a way to get it back no matter what if it is really important to them, but this way they shall wind up broke and pay me for the privilege!
  18. When planning an expedition I shall ensure that the route passes through several excellent places for an ambush! I shall also offer chances to come along as prizes for children who are doing well in elementary school!
  19. My bodyguards will be allowed to hear whatever I have to say! I’m trusting them to protect me from attacks, I’m not going to get paranoid about them knowing a few things! Besides, most of what I say is for comedic effect anyway!
  20. If the rebellion tricks me, I shall graciously credit them! If they try the same trick again it shall be used as the lead-in to a countertrick unless is was REALLY funny, in which case they can get away with repeating it until it gets boring or becomes a running but basically ineffectual gag!
  21. I will have prerecorded monologues and body doubles available for confronting each of my enemies. That way when they try to use my villainous monologing to gather clues and gain time to escape while I am so occupied they will find the clues way out of date and that I am well ahead of them!
  22. My sapient computers will regard viruses and hacking attempts like normal people regard con artists! When such things are tried against them they will identify the source and pretend to cooperate while sending in the police!
  23. I shall be an enlightened despot! Prosperous realms full of happy people pay more taxes and make less trouble! Any necessary examples shall be made from people whom pretty much everyone hates! Anyone who’s likely to be stabbed by the other inmates if sent to prison will probably be a good choice!
  24. If I decide to dramatically place a base beneath the ocean, inside a volcano, in a glacier, in a mighty cavern, or any other location prone to exploding/collapsing/allowing people to easily drop in on it from above, it will be strictly for fun and everyone will evacuate by teleportation the moment any of the alarms go off!
  25. I have PLENTY of money! I shall be massively overstaffed so everyone can work short hours with plenty of time for breaks, sick days, or taking naps if they feel tired! After all, if I’m hiring bright kids for things I have to make proper allowances!
  26. I will make a habit of confessing to completely absurd stories about things that I have not (and probably could not) have done! With chortling and sarcasm! That way, if I ever actually HAVE done something and feel some weird urge to confess, I can ham it up and throw in impossible details until no one will believe a word I say anyway!
  27. If I am in deadly peril and a hero reaches out to rescue me, I shall not attempt to take him or her down with me, even if I DO return from death! I will accept the assistance, help him or her out of the inevitable follow-up peril, and enjoy the bonding experience! We can go back to hostilities later in the spirit of good sportsmanship!
  28. Any ghosts who wish to haunt my stronghold can put in an employment application like anybody else! They will not, however, qualify for the optional life insurance! If ghosts are good enough for Hogwarts they are good enough for me!
  29. Anyone who attempts to swim the moat will find themselves aboard the Calypso sailing under Jacques-Yves Cousteau as he explores the seas of the underworld! They will just have to go on a wild adventure to get back!
  30. If an expert refuses to work for me I shall offer more money and benefits! If he or she still will not accept… I shall ask the me in the alternate universe where he or she did accept to share the research or design results in exchange for something similar that didn’t work out in HIS universe!
  31. If a hero shouts “Look out behind you!” I shall teleport us BOTH to a safer spot with a good view of the first one! If it’s a trick, it won’t accomplish much, and if it’s a genuine warning it’s time for a nice lunch and working things out diplomatically, since said hero obviously wasn’t all that hostile to begin with!
  32. I’m personally conjuring everything important anyway. I will outsource anything that isn’t too important. What else is money FOR?
  33. I shall not build any device meant to transfer energy into me. I’ve done that too many times already! Besides, since I’ve discovered super-triple-mocha-chocolate-expresso “Biohazard” coffee, who needs them?
  34. Any carts, wagons, or trucks full of loose material or boxes large enough for someone to hide in will be directed to the loading docks at my warehouse across town. Any hay shall be properly made into hayfries, hayburgers, or similar foods before being brought into my stronghold! It’s not a place for bulk goods!
  35. Festivals, conventions, contests, and mass celebrations will be held at appropriate facilities! My stronghold – except for the emergency shelter in the basement, which is a public service – is for me and my staff (and occasional heroes!), not for random members of the public!
  36. My ultimate coffee making machine will have circuit breakers, surge suppressors, and multiple backups! I am NOT going WITHOUT MY COFFEE! And when I had to use time travel to go back to when it was working I kept having to WAIT IN LINE BEHIND MYSELF! It was entirely unacceptable!
  37. I shall chew the scenery! Be the biggest ham around! Overact and make EVERYTHING out to be the most important thing EVER! Why be an Overlord if you aren’t going to enjoy every minute of it?
  38. If I capture someone known for solving problems with ingenious and fantastic gadgets, I will give them access to a laboratory, several assistants, tell them to sign here to be allowed to use the facilities, monitor EVERYTHING, and claim patent rights on, and make use of, anything they come up with in MY laboratories!
  39. I will cackle and gloatingly tell the heroes that whatever they have done has served my true purposes, whether or not this is true! If they believe me, then they will doubt all of their actions! If they do not, then I have an opportunity to get them into some version of a “Did Too!” “Did Not!” argument suitable for five year olds until “them leave in disgust”!
  40. If there is a famine or other disaster I will rush all necessary relief supplies there at once! Not only is this good publicity, it helps maintain the tax base, discourages dissent, creates a fertile recruiting ground for minions, makes heroes doubt their motives, and costs me nothing but a minute or two! Overstaffed and ability to conjure stuff in mass quantities, remember?
  41. I will also fund urban renewal and youth outreach programs! Slums, gangs, and desperate youths often provide heroes with unexpected allies seeking to express their suppressed teenage idealism! And the vast majority of heroes will have a much harder time fighting against disadvantaged youths who are seeking a better life!
  42. I will not attempt to keep my doings a secret! It’s not like I’m ashamed of the things I do! (If for some reason I AM, I will see a psychiatrist! If the objection is rational, I will then NOT DO IT. If it is some silly hangup, I will get it cured and then indulge!). And secrets always come out at the worst possible moment, such as when everyone who would turn against you if they were revealed is handy to hear them! If they are going to turn against me, they can protest at the time, propose alternative plans, and if nothing else can be done, they can resign, take their severance package and gold watch, and help the heroes if they wish! Peaceably retired people living on Overlord Pension Programs in overlord-funded retirement villages rarely help rebellions against the overlord all that much!
  43. My relatives will all get stipends! They can have jobs if they are compatible, competent at whatever-it-is, and want to do the work! If not, then they can party on!
  44. My consorts shall know from the start that the position includes perpetual youth, wealth, healing, semi-immortality, wealth, and the use of an immense variety of facilities! They shall also know from the start that they can leave when they wish and that it is a position in my harem! Why would I want someone in my household or bed who isn’t happy there?
  45. Hostages will not be used as bait. For THAT all you need is a rumor! Moreover, threats are NOT a useful way to gain compliance! Sure, some incompetents will fall for that, but anyone competent will realize that there will be no end to such demands, and will just go straight for your throat! Besides, it’s rude and dishonorable!
  46. I will hire an expert marksman with a tranquilizer rifle to guard the gates of my stronghold! His job will be to settle down giant monsters, administer antidotes to drug-crazed berserkers, and vaccinate any of the kids who try to avoid it! For challengers he will switch to a paintball gun!
  47. I will explain to my legions of cuddly that Pies are multipurpose instruments! They can be used in ranged combat, in close combat, as snacks or rations, as peace offerings, as booby traps, to mark turns and trails, as monster lures, as props, to produce oil slicks, to briefly blind the enemy, as monster diversions, to cover the scent of your tracks, and for various other purposes! That is why they shall all be trained to use pie powers! And friendship beams once those are available!
  48. My vulnerabilities are things that hurt me, like everybody else! Fortunately, as a cartoon, very, VERY, little does that, and letting the rumors spread will discourage attacks!
  49. I will not make alliances with greater powers since I do not admit their existence! I shall not make alliances with lesser powers either! Alliances are for EQUALS. Lesser powers are available as EMPLOYEES. This is why MONEY is one of the greatest powers of all!
  50. Like the roman legions, my legions will be kept reasonably busy during downtime! There are hospitals, spas, public service opportunities, gyms, and training courses! They shall have plenty of ways to keep busy and earn those bonuses!
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Eclipse – Adventures On The Anomaly

And it’s a bonus post, because we’re going to be starting up a new campaign…

True Megastructures are impractical in most universes. They tend to demand impossible materials, or require the ability to sustain stresses strong enough to tear apart atoms, or violate laws of thermodynamics or conservation. There are plenty of “they are so possible!” theoretical responses – but those tend to demand enormous amounts of near-perfect maintenance to ensure that the millions of ultra-precise high-energy systems that maintain the structures dubious “stability” all keep running smoothly. After all, in most designs… a major failure will lead to a chain reaction of catastrophe and a terminal collapse.

And how do you build it in the first place when all those parts need to be working before it can hold itself up? And why bother when you’re wasting most of what advantages there are on your maintenance budget?

About the only things that actually work are the “swarm” concepts, where you basically have a whole lot of independent lesser structures that just happen to be near each other – or are even linked with each other if you throw in a more reasonable amount of machinery again. While those aren’t true megastructures, they can accomplish much the same thing with a more efficient use of materials, can be built up gradually as energy and materials become available, include a LOT more system redundancy, are not nearly so vulnerable to single catastrophic events, and are relatively easy to actually design and build.

That’s why most civilizations find it quite a shock to encounter the Anomaly.

The Anomaly manifests as a megastructure of some sort – but one that’s even more impossible than usual. It shows a conventionally habitable landscape, which acts a great deal like a planetary surface on the small scale – but that landscape changes, often has a day-night cycle independent of any local stars, and DRIFTS across the structure. If the Anomaly is manifested as a ringworld… the landscape will slowly drift across the ring, sliding “off the edge” and into elsewhere on one edge, while new landscape – and creatures, and cities – slides in from the other edge to replace it. Worse, creatures on that surface can move back and forth across that boundary with no apparent difficulty or even awareness that it exists.

If you watch the Anomaly long enough it will show at least three regular cycles (or perhaps higher-dimensional rotations) – one 25.7 hours long that seems to provide a day-and-night cycle (most of the time; some areas seem to have either perpetual day or night), one that requires 281 of those “days” and seems to represent some sort of “year” (and apparently provides access to a modest cluster of somewhat-related universes), and one that requires several millennia and seems to govern universes joining or departing the “yearly” cluster. There may be longer cycles, but if so they’re difficult to observe in any reasonable time.

If and when you land… you find that the place has it’s own laws of nature and that individual creatures often seem to have different ones on a personal level. And depending on where you are in a cycle and how far you travel… departing the structure can take you to different universes.

The best guess available is that the Anomaly is a possibly-infinite artifact, a Megastructure that bridges multiple Tier-4 universes (if it doesn’t qualify as one itself, which might make questions about it’s origin meaningless in a Tier-4 Multiverse framework) and “rotates” within that framework – tapping into the natural laws of different dimensions to stabilize itself in a fashion that any rational physicist says ought to be impossible. All that extends into any individual universe… is a minor subaspect.

Regardless of that, it has it’s own “compromise” reality, is strongly life-affirming, and – somehow – allows it’s visitors and inhabitants to continue operating under most of the laws of their home universes regardless of their current location. What natural laws apply to creatures born there appears to be determined by what universe they were being exposed to when they physically separated from their parent(s).

The Anomaly is more or less an Eclipse experiment. Most campaigns limit the characters to a particular setting, the laws of that setting determine what abilities they can take and how they can be used and it’s world laws apply to everyone. On the Anomaly… characters from many different worlds can interact, each accessing at least a limited subset of their home dimensions rules – and the opposition is likely to be just as varied – rather like “Rifts” in some ways.

The Anomalies Known Laws include:

  • Characters remain linked to their home realms. While this allows them to use powers and items from their worlds without excessive difficulty, the further they try to extend their dimensional link, and the greater the power demand of whatever they are attempting, the more difficult it becomes. Transforming yourself will work nicely. Transforming a small item that you are holding is slightly more difficult, and may require a minor fortitude save to avoid fatigue (even if you are normally immune to fatigue). At high levels you can become exhausted (again, whether or not you are normally immune to that condition), injure yourself, or even overload your link and have to rest and wait for the connection to reestablish itself. Note that this means that – for example – the Superheroic World Template grants a mana pool and some ability to renew it, but the limitless font of power that template provides would overload the link – and so does not transfer fully.
  • Anomaly encourages life; the effects of level zero and first level healing effects are doubled, while higher level healing effects have their effective levels reduced by one (or, if not level based, are increased by 50%). Even creatures with extremely exotic metabolisms can survive when cut off from their home universes. Crops mature in only 75% of the usual time, natural healing proceeds at twice the usual rate, aging past adulthood proceeds at one-half the usual rate, and all saves against diseases and poisons are made with a +2 bonus.
  • Major Weapons and Effects – nuclear or antimatter bombs, planet-crackers, high level spells such as Unrelenting Glacial Advance, and similar items – do not function under Anomalies rules, and so can only be used if someone is using their own personal link to power them. That’s vaguely possibly, but attempting to channel power on the scale needed to seriously damage the Anomaly is often fatal – and even when it isn’t it is better known as “asking for it”. Similarly, Godfires passive effects apply, but it cannot be actively used.
  • All characters are subject to a version of the Low-Level Adventurer Template. The effects include:
    • A -3 penalty on unskilled skill checks.
    • Slow level advancement, by direct session-based character point awards rather than experience points. Succeeding in goals helps, but killing things and taking their stuff does not.
    • A +3 bonus on five skills which suit their backgrounds and training. Sadly, this cannot be applied to active psionic or magical skills. These are, however, considered to be natural skill ranks.
    • Extra hit points equal to [12 + (2 x Con Mod)].
    • Two minor special talents or “knacks” appropriate to their home universe – one Class-A (roughly equivalent to the effects of a first level spell or power) and one Class-B (roughly equivalent to the effects of a cantrip). (There’s a list of Sci-Fi knacks over here).
  • Characters will be using the Condensed Skill List, complete with the various skills special functions. These may, however, be adjusted for world or origin; Sci-fi characters rarely spellcast, but often have other special talents. Skill Checks are normally made on 3d6, and characters may “take 15” instead of “20”. They are normally assumed to get a “5” for passive checks, such as to notice something in passing.
  • The Anomaly enables a low-level compromise reality. Even if your home universe doesn’t allow magical devices, or psionic abilities, or advanced technologies (especially the fictional ones that rely on some other universes internal rules), anyone there will be able to learn to use little stuff – Charms and Talismans, basic Occult Talents, Ceremonial Magic, basic Firearms, and small items can generally be gotten to work for you, at least in limited quantities.

The current set of requested universes includes…

Battletech

The Battletech Universe is basically “Junkyard Wars” writ large. Very small forces of giant robots piloted by mercenaries and scions of noble houses fight the wars, while the vast majority of the populace and the industrial base remains totally uninvolved. Why? Because they live on thinly-terraformed alien worlds. Allowing the infrastructure to get involved leads to mass death – leaving nothing to fight over and a population with nothing left but looking for (or at least buying) revenge before they die.

So the noble houses frantically scavenge for the parts needed to keep their war machines running, focus on controlling the few remaining factories that can produce new parts or war machines, and claim to rule – while having little impact otherwise.

Its World Laws include:

  • Scrounging: Battletech characters may purchase the Armory, Gadgetry, Logistics, and Weaponry skills – although high-end Armory purchases become large, clunky, war machines (Specialized) and Weaponry installed in such machines is also considered Specialized. No matter how through the destruction, Battletechers will soon manage to put their equipment packages back together again.
  • Resourceful: Battletech characters may add another attribute modifier to their Intelligence Modifier when computing their skill points for levels up to level four. In general, Pilots add Dex, Techs add Con, and Politicians add Cha – but the effect is pretty much the same regardless.
  • Hyped: Battletech characters are considered to have Witchcraft I for free, giving them (Str + Dex + Con)/3 Power. While most never put this ability to use, hot pilots, brilliant politicians, and such often have access to a personal boosting ability or two – making them impossibly clever, lucky, fast, or whatever their own little edge is.
  • Battletech is entirely non-magical; there are no magic items, no charms or talismans, no spells, and fairly little psionics save for flashes of insight and minor witchcraft knacks. Similarly, it has little Biotech. Magical and psionic items and powers beyond the minor stuff that the Anomaly itself enables generally won’t work for Battletechers.

Star Wars:

The mysterious powers of the Force and Codex touch everyone, binding some together and separating others. This makes the entire galaxy just a bit… cinematic. Incredible coincidences are to be expected, rather than being rare and unusual.

Unfortunately, that same binding and loosing tends to lead to overblown loyalties, cults of personality, short-lived personal empires, fanaticism, various forms of obsessive insanity that boost your personal powers, tightly-bonded “cultish” social systems, and near-endless cycles of wars. It’s a fine place to adventure in, but not all that stable a place to raise a family.

Its World Laws include:

  • Cinamystics: “Star Wars” characters have free access to their choice of one of the following three sets of Action Skills – and may purchase Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / only to substitute Mana for the temporary drain resulting from using Action Skills (2 CP per 1d6).
  • Heroes and Villains: All characters have the Karma ability (6 CP). They may also spend a Karma Point to freely combine their Cynamystic skills for a brief period.
  • The Galactic Union: Star Wars characters always seem to be able to understand each other, use other civilizations tech, and pilot various vehicles. They enjoy an Immunity to the penalties associated with dealing with different races, technologies, and cultures, reducing them by six.
  • Star Wars characters have access to a wide variety of advanced equipment using the D20 Modern and Future systems, but it tends to be almost as expensive as buying magical devices in “normal” d20 – usually several times the base price. They do not have access to advanced magical devices or abilities and rarely show any true psionic abilities.

Star Trek

The Star Trek universe… is a mess. They throw around “technologies” that have all kinds of implications, and then ignore them. There are compounds that can be injected to provide vast telekinetic powers or the ability to move faster than light (without affecting your ability to see or move around a ship without destroying things). They show off multiple, mutually-contradictory, theories about how time works. There’s even a plentiful supply of godlings with vast (and quite undefined) reality altering powers. Even restricting myself to the original series and what immediately comes to mind… I remember Charlie-X, Squire Trelane, Apollo, Mitchell and Dehner (after going through the barrier at the edge of the galaxy), the shore leave planet, the Organians, and some sort of rock (or possibly magma) creatures.

That’s partially a symptom of multiple authors and too many rewrites of course, but the point remains; the Star Trek universe is made of silly putty. It can be stretched to cover anything, has no consistent form, and readily takes impressions from pretty much any source.

Well, I can work with that.

Its World Laws include:

  • Technobabble: 1d6 Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / Only for Reality Editing, only to make things work (or fail to work) despite all logic, requires some sort of “believable” explanation, requires a DC 15 Will Save to avoid some form of backlash when used – usually in the form of some inexplicable troublesome event. Used en mass it tends to adopt a compromise reality when conflicts occur, causing the local reality to reflect each worlds popular culture (6 CP).
    • Technobabble lies at the root of most of the Star Trek universes peculiarities, The prime directive? Causing a reality clash with a primitive culture usually means that the Starship Crew is heavily outnumbered – and so all kinds of things go wrong (like a statue of a snake-god actually acting like one). The Transporter splitting people into good and evil halves or sending people to other dimensions, or just not working? Backlash or the operator is just out of Mana. Warp Drive? Holodeck program coming alive? Crack in the event horizon? Never running out of shuttles? Replicators and Synthesizers? Inexplicable post-scarcity economic model that sometimes has money, sometimes doesn’t, and contradicts itself? None of that stuff actually WORKS. It’s just that a lot of people believe in it locally – and so reality bends to match.
  • Compatibility: Shapechange, Specialized for Reduced Cost / only to allow visitors to adapt to the local planetary environments, food, and drink, and to be attracted to, and have sex and children with, aliens. Corrupted for Increased Effect / as a side effect causes characters to see the vast majority of other races as being only slightly different from themselves but does let the “user” speak their languages effectively (3 CP) – plus Melding, Specialized for Reduced Cost, reliant on the Shapechange Effect, prevents the uesr from providing an accurate report on the local culture since he or she will perceive it as being analogous to some familiar historical or fictional culture (3 CP).
  • In My Shirtsleeves: For some reason the only form of “protective gear” that seems to have really caught on in the Star Trek universe is easily-torn shirts. No one ever seems to wear armor, hazmat gear, or much of anything else except – on rare occasions – something to provide an atmosphere in space, and half the time that’s just a little belt module that projects some sort of life support field. This would normally be quite insane – but the local rules make it possible. That’s Innate Enchantment (5000 GP Value, 6 CP): Force Armor I (1400 GP), Force Shield I (1400 GP), Resist Energy (10 Points, 1400 GP), and Resistance (+1 Resistance Bonus to Saving Throws, 700 GP).
  • Star Trek characters can learn to use almost any kind of gear or power – and it usually works very well at first – but then becomes erratic or starts failing at the worst possible moments, until they go back to their reasonably-reliable star-fleet issued equipment for a while. That’s because most of the alien stuff only works because the aliens in question believe that it does – so when you leave the area it soon starts to fail (In an effect bound to enrage economists, the same rule applies to interactions with alien cultures that use money; a few points of Mana will allow a reasonable level of participation in their economic system – but the rules will break down as soon as the Star Trek character goes somewhere else. A Star Trek character can normally be assumed to have all the relevant gear needed to do his or her job, as well as various personal items without worrying about anything so mundane as “costs”.

Malavon World Laws:

The Malavon setting started out as a first edition game, but soon drifted over to Continiuum II as the rules got rewritten. Overall it supported about eighteen years worth of games that wandered across several million years of history, numerous planes of existence, several sub-campaigns, and visited rather a lot of other planets. Overall? It’s probably most comparable to the early (pre-third edition) Forgotten Realms.

It’s World Laws include:

  • Flux Tapping: Characters from Malavon do not need sleep or rest to replenish their abilities: they can tap into the energy flux from hyperspace, or into subspace, that occurs at dawn or dusk. They tend to be limited by how much power they can store and handle, rather than by how much is available to tap into. In d20 that’s Immunity/The need to sleep or rest to recover “daily uses” of powers and abilities (Common, Minor, Grand, 12 CP).
  • Literary Magic Items: Characters from Malavon can use Charms and Talismans without having to learn to do so (Shaping, Corrupted and Specialized for increased (level one and possibly weak level two) effects/can only produce the effects for which the user has the appropriate foci ready, can only support a limited number (seven and three) of minor charms and more notable talismans at one time, charms and talismans are modestly expensive (and thus limited by wealth and lifestyle) and take some time to attune for use (6 CP)), Artifacts, and Relics – although they normally need to invest their personal CP in Relics if they wish to use more than a few of them. This initial allowance can be purchased as Double Enthusiast, Specialized in Relics for Increased Effect (6 CP). That lets any inhabitant of Malavon “attune” a total of 4 CP worth of Relics – which is enough for them to have a pretty potent item or two.
  • Malavon doesn’t offer direct access to any Occult Skills – although you can certainly buy access to some if you wish – but it does offer free access to pretty much every system of magic, psionics, spiritualism, reality alteration, metabolism, or technology that exists. Pretty much any independent gadget that they pick up can be expected to work in their hands.

K’aresh

K’aresh (named by player vote) was invaded by bizarre lovecraftian horrors – but, remarkably enough, managed to drive them off. Unfortunately, they left behind a new problem – the Withering. It is unknown if the Withering was some weapon deployed by the invaders, or if their presence alone was enough to infect the world. What is known is that the Withering spreads into any solid unliving matter – poisoning, draining, and eventually consuming any living beings within its domain. Massive barriers of life energy were set up to contain the Withering – but while those barriers are holding for now, the Withering constantly strains against the barrier, growing stronger by feeding on its cage. All too soon the containment will inevitably fail and the Withering will be free to fulfill its mindless purpose.

Even the massed sages and adventurers of K’aresh could find no solution other than escape – and so the scouts went forth. Even the unfinished war golems left over from the war – no longer needed as relentless machines of destruction – were repurposed, modified, and sent forth. Either a cure for the Withering or a safe haven to rebuild in WILL be found. The mortal scouts and – especially – the repurposed war golems will accept nothing less.

  • Mystic Mechanisms: you may build and take the equivalent many items of of d20 Modern and Future (Tech Level 6) Gear as equipment, at the usual 1 GP = 20 Credits equivalence.
  • Power Storage: May store (Con) generic spell levels, using them to either power equipment or to power quick spells.

Arda

Middle-Earth is the manifested Vision of Ilúvatar – a low-level world of subtle magic – and one that is subject to a great deal of predestination thanks to the Music of the Ainur. It is a world that is doomed to slow decay, where wonders are made but once – and the makers power passes into them – and so may not be made again. Thus the One Ring, the Two Trees, the Three Silmarils, the Chain to Bind Melkor. all created once, all a fearsome drain upon their creators, and all never to be duplicated within the circles of the world. It is a world where exercising the power that is given to you by your nature or which is freely available is safe enough – but where tapping into sources and powers beyond those is a dangerous and corrupting act.

  • Oaths: Arda is subject to something similar to Oathbinding – but the effects are more subtle, and more pervasive. Worse, while minor oaths are reasonably safe, great oaths – by their very nature – are sworn upon powers beyond your own. If that power freely approves of that oath, all is well. If not. they you are drawing on powers beyond your own, and both you and the oath will be corrupted.
  • Skills: Not surprisingly, Middle-Earth offers no technologically advanced skills or equipment – but it does offer free access to the three Action Skills of Erudite Focus, Narrative, and Sensitive, as well as to Arcana and Religion.
  • The Subtle Path: Shaping, Corrupted and Specialized for increased (level one and possibly weak level two) effects/can only produce the effects for which the user has the appropriate foci ready, can only support a limited number (seven and three) of minor charms and more notable talismans at one time, charms and talismans are modestly expensive and take some time to attune for use (6 CP). Residents of Arda can employ the natural magical properties of various materials and items, employing the simple, subtle, magics of Charms and Talismans – which most of them use to make themselves more comfortable. In general, however, they do not create or employ other magical items. Occasional powers do make Relics – things like the Silmarils or the Great Rings – but it is, as always, wiser not to meddle with powers beyond your own.

Airmid Asëaranion, Entwife of the Anomaly

The song of of creation had ended in darkness. Melkor, the Fallen One, had made war upon Arda and the Valar and had overthrown the lamps of heaven – and so the Sleep Of Yavanna had been cast upon the world, preserving what life remained in timeless slumber.

But remnants of the light grew once more, filled with the strangth of the Valar. Telperion and Laurelin reached heavenwards, filling the world with their radiance – and the Sleep Of Yavanna passed. And with that great awakening… the Elves and Ents came forth as well.

And the Elves built and wrought, creating in their turn. The Ents walked in the green fastnesses of the forests, standing as wardens of the trees and guardians of the forest deeps and their remaining creatures. And the Entwives… walked the blighted wilds, the devastated places of Arda, where the wounds of Melkor’s war remained unhealed. There they became the pioneers of nature tamed, of the fields and water-meadows, of grasses, herbs, vines, and the small creatures thereof. Each following their own affinity and nature to turn the barren Wastes of Melkor into burgeoning lands in a blessing to later ages.

For many long years the Entwives wandered. Mazaedia, who dressed the stones with Lichens, Bryophyta, who cloaked crevasse with mosses, Poaceae Gramineae, who filled the plains with grasses, Airmid Asëaranion, the mother of healing herbs, and so many more – returning from their ever-more distant paths to the fastnesses of the Ents only rarely.

And so it was that, when the Valar bent the central lands of Arda into a sphere, placing the undying lands and other realms of legends beyond the reach of men, the Entwives had roamed too far. They were trapped beyond the curve of the world, separated from their husbands by a fathomless rift.

For most, long-solitary and used to returning only rarely… that was of little moment. For near-immortals it would be long ages before the separation became a true concern. But some would seek their old companions, embarking upon the seas of clouds above the airs of earth, from which ships from the realms of myth might still touch down upon the waters of the mortal world. And so Airmid Asëaranion, the Mother Of Healing, known to the Noldor as Calla Amarantos (“Beauty Everlasting”) and to others by yet other names, set sail upon the winds of fate, above the airs of Middle Earth – for what was such a separation but a rift in need of healing?

There, above the veil of clouds and stars that had been wrapped around Arda, one could gaze down upon the true walls of the world – but where there should be a void beyond, the exile of Morgoth had torn a hole in the cosmos, creating a whirling stormwall, a gateway to a sea pouring through nigh-infinite spaces and a peril to those seeking to navigate the gap between Arda and Legend. So was an eternal beauty lost to Arda, drawn by the winds of fate to destiny beyond, known perhaps to Iluvater – but to none within the circles of the world unless the Valar hold that lore within their own councils.

“Together we will take the road, that leads into the West. And far away will find a land, where both our hearts may rest.” – Tolkien

The Entwife Racial Template (63 CP / +1 ECL).

Each Entwife has a personal specialty, such as the aforementioned grasses, lichens, mosses, or healing herbs, which is permanent once chosen.

  • Earth Mother: Equipage with Purchasing: Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only to obtain (grow) small fruits, seeds, spores, and plants within the users unique specialty (4 CP) plus Major Privilege / Wealth, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for the purposes of “paying for” small fruits, seeds, and plants through Purchasing (2 CP). While they can only grow a few (Con Mod +1, 1 Minimum) pounds of such materials per day, their rarity has no bearing on the process. An Entwife can produce a handful of seeds, a few cuttings of a rare plant, or similar items as needed – as long as the desired plant falls within their specialty.
  • The Communion Of Arda: Immunity/the usual inability to speak with Plants and Animals (Common, Minor, Minor, 4 CP). Entwives can “speak” with plants and animals – although they usually don’t have a lot to say.
  • Youth Of Ages: Immunity to Aging (Uncommon, Severe, Great, 6 CP). Entwives are essentially ageless. It will require at least tens or hundreds of thousands of years for them to grow old. This is, however, Specialized / they reproduce extremely slowly, young Entlings are rare, and take centuries to grow up.
  • Durability Of The Trees: +2d4 Bonus Hit Dice (16 CP) and Universal (also affects energy damage) Damage Reduction 3 / – (6 CP). The Entwives are not so massive as the Ents, but some portion of the toughness of the trees is theirs as well.
  • Form Of The Green: Shapeshift, with the Plant, Hybrid, Clear Speech, and Attribute Modifiers, Specialized and Corrupted / the user only has two forms; a semi-Humanoid Kampfult (provides Blindsight 30′, +5 Natural Armor, Move 10, 6 Tendrils (3x 1d3+Str Mod plus Grab), Str +6, Dex +2, Con +4, and Plant Traits – although the Immunities (Mind-Affecting stuff, Paralysis, Poison, Polymorph, Sleep, and Stunning) are reduced to +5 Resistances for playability, because Entwives have fairly normal minds, and because plants can be poisoned; while it’s normally slower, Ents and Entwives have active metabolisms and do sleep) and small tree (typically used to settle down for a winter nap) (13 CP).
  • This is shapeshift cheese. Of course, this is also a SciFi setting with powered battle armor and major weapons, so allowing some cheap physical boosts for the fantasy-type visitors is an easy way to make up some of the difference.
  • Wind In Branches: Innate Enchantment: All abilities caster level one, spell level one, unlimited-use use-activated, personal only (x.7) where applicable. Up to 5500 GP effective value for (6 CP).
    • Personal Haste, Does not add to attacks (x.7) = 1400 GP. This gets their ground move up to 40′.
    • Goodberry, usable 3/Day (x.8 = 1200 GP). While an Entwife may use herbs, brews, and other substitutes, the effect is pretty much identical.
    • Pass Without Trace (x.5, Personal Only = 1000 GP). The movements of Ents and Entwives does not disturb the land over which they pass.
    • Arda’s Lore (Requires a brief inspection, x.8 = 1600 GP). The user may Identify Plants, Animals, and Pure Water, gaining a +5 Circumstance Bonus on any skill checks where this is relevant.
      • The ageless magic of the Valar which breathed life into the plants of Arda runs strongly through the veins of the Ents and Entwives. While subtle, and easily disrupted for a few moments, it will always return.
  • Ageless Guardian: Racial Skill Bonus of +3 to Knowledge / Nature (Survival in the condensed skill list) (3 CP).
  • Long Childhoods: Entwives receive a bonus feat – often related to their field of interest (6 CP).
  • Racial Disadvantage: Accursed. Entwives who suffer damage from Fire or Cold must make a Fortitude Save at a DC of (10 + 1/2 Damage Suffered) or be Staggered for 1d4 rounds (-3 CP).

At a net cost of 63 CP, Entwives are a +1 ECL race. While the use of the Shapeshift Cheese is always a bit dubious, many of their other bonuses are quite limited, which seems like a fairly reasonable trade-off.

The Anomalous Rules:

The Anomaly manifests differently in each universe it exists in / passes through / exploits – but it is always a blatant impossibility, and always habitable.

Characters remain linked to their home realms. While this allows them to use powers and items from their worlds without excessive difficulty, the further they try to extend their dimensional link, and the greater the power demand of whatever they are attempting, the more difficult it becomes. Transforming yourself will work nicely. Transforming a small item that you are holding is slightly more difficult, and may require a minor fortitude save to avoid fatigue. At high levels you can become exhausted, injure yourself, or even overload your link and have to rest and wait for the connection to reestablish itself.

Anomaly encourages life; the effects of level zero and first level healing effects are doubled, while higher level healing effects have their effective levels reduced by one. Even creatures with extremely exotic metabolisms can survive when cut off from their home universes. Crops mature in only 75% of the usual time, natural healing proceeds at twice the usual rate, aging past adulthood proceeds at one-half the usual rate, and all saves against diseases and poisons are made with a +2 bonus.

Major Weapons and Effects – nuclear or antimatter bombs, planet-crackers, high level spells such as Unrelenting Glacial Advance, and similar items – do not function under Anomalies rules, and so can only be used if someone is using their own personal link to power them. That’s vaguely possibly, but attempting to channel power on the scale is often fatal – and even when it isn’t it is better known as “asking for it”. Similarly, Godfires passive effects apply, but it cannot be actively used.

All characters have the Low-Level Adventurer Template. The effects include:

  • A -3 penalty on unskilled skill checks.
  • Slow level advancement, by direct session-based character point awards rather than experience points. Succeeding in goals helps, but killing things and taking their stuff does not.
  • A +3 bonus on five skills which suit their backgrounds and training. Sadly, this cannot be applied to active psionic or magical skills. These are, however, considered to be natural skill ranks.
  • Extra hit points equal to [12 + (2 x Con Mod)].
  • Two minor special talents or “knacks” appropriate to their home universe – one Class-A (roughly equivalent to the effects of a first level spell or power) and one Class-B (roughly equivalent to the effects of a cantrip).

Characters will be using the Condensed Skill List, complete with the various skills special functions. These may, however, be adjusted for world or origin; Sci-fi characters rarely spellcast, but often have other special talents. Skill Checks are normally made on 3d6, and characters may “take 15″ instead of “20″. They are normally assumed to get a “5″ for passive checks, such as to notice something in passing.

The Laws of Arda:

Middle-Earth is the manifested Vision of Ilúvatar – a low-level world of subtle magic – and one that is subject to a great deal of predestination thanks to the Music of the Ainur. It is a world that is doomed to slow decay, where wonders are made but once – and the makers power passes into them – and so may not be made again. Thus the One Ring, the Two Trees, the Three Silmarils, the Chain to Bind Melkor… all created once, all a fearsome drain upon their creators, and all never to be duplicated within the circles of the world. It is a world where exercising the power that is given to you by your nature or which is freely available is safe enough – but where tapping into sources and powers beyond those is a dangerous and corrupting act.

  • Oaths: Arda is subject to something similar to Oathbinding – but the effects are more subtle, and more pervasive. Worse, while minor oaths are reasonably safe, great oaths – by their very nature – are sworn upon powers beyond your own. If that power freely approves of that oath, all is well. If not… they you are drawing on powers beyond your own, and both you and the oath will be corrupted.
  • Skills: Not surprisingly, Middle-Earth offers no technologically advanced skills or equipment – but it does offer free access to the three Action Skills of Erudite Focus, Narrative, and Sensitive, as well as to Arcana and Religion.
  • The Subtle Path: Shaping, Corrupted and Specialized for increased (level one and possibly weak level two) effects/can only produce the effects for which the user has the appropriate foci ready, can only support a limited number (seven and three) of minor charms and more notable talismans at one time, charms and talismans are modestly expensive and take some time to attune for use (6 CP). Residents of Arda can employ the natural magical properties of various materials and items, employing the simple, subtle, magics of Charms and Talismans – which most of them use to make themselves more comfortable. In general, however, they do not create or employ other magical items. Occasional powers do make Relics – things like the Silmarils or the Great Rings – but it is, as always, wiser not to meddle with powers beyond your own.

Airmid Asëaranion

Mother-Of-Healing, known to the Noldor and Vanyar as Calla Amarantos – “Beauty Everlasting” – who walked Arda in the youth of the world sowing medicinal (or toxic, depending on dosage) plants in a blessing to later ages.

Available Character Points: 48 (Level One Base) + 2 (Duties as an Entwife) +6 (Disadvantages: Dedicated Healer and Valuable) + 12 (Level One Bonus Feat + L1 Feat) = 68 CP.

Basic Attributes (Pathfinder 25 Point Buy): Str 14 (20), Dex 10 (12), Con 14 (18), Int 16, Wis 14, and Cha 10 (after ages of solitary wandering, Entwives are not exactly social beings).

Basic Abilities (30 CP):

  • Hit Dice: 12 (L1d12, 8 CP) +8 (2d4 Racial, no cost) +20 (12 + 2 x Con Mod Template) + 12 (3 x Con Mod) = 52 HP. Universal DR 3/-.
  • Skill Points: 4 (Purchased, 4 CP) + 15 (Int) + 10 (Fast Learner) = 29
  • BAB +0 (0 CP), +1 BAB Specialized in Natural Weapons (3 CP).
  • Saves:
    • Fortitude +2 (6 CP) +4 (Con) = +6
    • Reflex +0 (0 CP) +1 (Dex) = +1
    • Will +0 (0 CP) +2 (Wis) = +2
  • Proficiencies: Light Armor (3 CP).
  • Initiative: +1 (Dex)
  • Move: 40(10′ base + 30 Enhancement)
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) + 1 (Dex) +4 (Armor) +5 (Natural) = 20

Usual Attacks: 3 x Tendrils at +6 (+1 BAB +5 Str) for 7 Damage (2 + Str Mod) and a Grab.

Skills: (29 SP)

  • Concentration +1 (SP) +4 (Con) = +5
    • May be used to briefly withstand dangerous forces given a few moments to prepare.
  • Craft +4 (SP) +3 (Int) = +7
    • Covers (3 + Int Mod) areas. In her case: Alchemy, Brewer/Vintner, Charmsmith, Shipwright, Stonemasonary, and Woodwright,
  • Engineering +4 (SP) +3 (Int) = +7
    • Covers doing extra damage to inanimate objects and some minor gadgets – for her a functional Anomaly Compass. Unusually for an Entwife, she has a knack.
  • Erudite Focus +1 (SP) +3 (Int) = +4
    • Covers being “Spock”. May temporarily sacrifice points to maintain concentration, get hints, boost knowledge checks or resist mental attribute damage or drain.
  • Heal +5 (2 SP*) +2 Wis +3 (Temp) = +10
    • Locally, allows a DC 15/25/35 check to produce the effects of a L2/:3/L4 healing spell up to (Wis Mod) times daily – although you cannot normally “take 20″ on the check without using Luck or some similar ability.
  • Linguistics +1 (1 SP) +3 (Int) = +4
    • Covers Forgery and Decipher Script, and speaking Adunaic (AKA Westron, essentially English), Quendian (Old Elvish), Khuzdul (Dwarvish), and Entish.
  • Persuasion +2 (SP) +0 (Cha) +3 (Fam) = +5
  • Religion +4 (SP) +3 (Int) +3 (Temp) = +10
    • Covers knowledge of the planes and the use of three L0 clerical spells per day.
  • Profession/Sailor +4 (SP) +2 (Wis) = +6
  • Sensitive +5 (2 SP*) +3 (Temp) : +2 (Wis) = +10
    • Covers picking up psychic impressions, vague warnings of danger, and prophetic dreams. May temporarily sacrifice points to pay Power costs, to resist mental influences, to imprint your own psychic traces, to boost will saves (after the fact), and to perform seances, dowsing, scrying via crystal balls, and similar.
  • Stealth +5 (2 SP*) +1 (Dex) +3 (Temp) = +9
    • Covers camouflage and smuggling and provides the equivalent of a Handy Haversack.
  • Survival +5 (2 SP*) +3 Int +3 Race +3 (Temp) = +14
    • Covers Knowledge/Nature, and Use Rope. Provides an Endure Elements effect.

Skill Notes:

  • *Half Cost due to Adept on Heal, Sensitive, Stealth, and Survival.
  • May Identify Plants, Animals, and Pure Water, gaining a +5 Circumstance Bonus on any skill checks where this is relevant
  • Knacks from the Low-Level Template: Class-A: Goldberg (make temporary repairs on devices), Class-B) Diagnostic (automatically diagnose injuries, diseases, and poisons, +4 where this is relevant).
    Special Abilities (44 CP):

Other Abilities:

Echoing the Song: The Entwives – as with every other race of Middle-Earth – are expressions of the Music of the Ainur, and it is their nature to resonate with its echoes in the fabric of the world. Of that song… a few notes and themes are theirs, and their eternal echoes infuse them and the world around them. Such is the magic of the Ents and Entwives.

  • Witchcraft III (18 CP). Provides Power 17 and seven basic powers with Will Save DC’s of 13 (17 after Finesse).
  • Basic Powers
    • Adamant Will: May spend 2 Power to resist Fear, Charm, Possession, and Hold effects, other forms of mind control, or to get an extra save against mindreading or “truth” effects. May spend 3 power to present a false result to detection spells or ignore pain.
    • Elfshot: Spend 1/2/3 power to inflict a quick / lingering / permanent minor curse, such as reducing an attribute by -2, causing some type of misfortune, penalizing a group of checks by -6, inducing sterility or a miscarriage, or otherwise hindering activity.
    • Healing: 1 Power for a full days worth of healing in an hour with a +5 versus disease or toxins or to throw off drugs and intoxicants with a flat duration, Heal 1/2/3d4 immediately for 1/2/3 Power,
    • Hyloka: Manipulate biophysical processes. Move physical attribute points around (up to 6 points for 1 Power per hour), slip into hibernation (1 power; lasts up to a week), help resist heat or cold (1 Power per hour, this grants fire or cold resistance 5), stop bleeding, delay poison (one hour per power), grow hair or make it fall out (1 power), and to inflict or ease ailments like arthritis (spend 1 power/week to inflict, 1 power/day to ease)
    • Hand Of Shadows: Minor telekinetic tricks at no cost, Str 20 costs 1 power/minute, doing an hours light work costs 1 power, minor animations (such as Entangle, Animate Rope, or Gentle Breeze) cost 2 power, 4 if excessive force or fine control is required.
    • Witchfire: Molecular telekinesis. Create and manipulate heat or cold (1d8/3d6 damage for 1/2 power, +1 if affecting a modest area, -1 if using a pre-existing source), create effects on the “prestidigitation” level (1 Power per turn), extract essences from herbs, and infuse drugs and toxins into objects. Sometimes used for creating mysterious sounds and voices.
    • Witchsight: Sharpen or expand the senses. In general one sense at a time, providing either a +6 bonus on relevant checks or some special capability (Darksight, Scent, etc). 2 Power per hour. May triple the effect by reducing the duration to a single round, allowing effects such as checking a meal for poison with the slightest taste.

Harmonies / Advanced Witchcraft Powers:

  • Familiar (Thrush, +3 Persuasion, +6 Power, speaks Westron (English), 6 CP)
  • True Prosperity, Specialized for Increased Effect (plants sprout and grow to maturity very very quickly, the area becomes a garden), Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only applies to her healing herbs (4 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to restore Power, requires at least half an hour of rest and meditation or sleep per use (restores 4d6 Power) (4 CP).
  • +1d6 Mana as +3d6 (13) Power. Net Power: 17 (Base Witch) +6 (Familiar) +13 (Purchased) = 36. Sadly, dropping below five points causes fatigue, and hitting zero causes exhaustion. (6 CP).
  • Finesse: Uses (Con Mod) in place of (Cha Mod) for the DC of saves against her Witchcraft (6 CP).
  • Pacts: Spirit (The Valar) and Duties (spreading healing herbs and lore far and wide) (-12 CP).

The Ancient Lore: Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized for Reduced Cost and Corrupted for Increased Effect (may “take 30), only for Skills only to “Take 30″ in advance (6 CP).

Long Practice: Poison Use. What with her centuries of practice in working with dangerous compounds, she never risks poisoning herself when working with toxins (6 CP).

Likely Charms and Talismans:

  • Charms: Condensed Water Tabs, Firebox, Endless String, Foothold Boots, Lens of Memory, Sovereign Ointment, and Weave Of Light.
  • Talismans: Sunstone, Shimmermail, and a Shifters Cloak (Falcon, 8 Charges)

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], 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.

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.