Hexcrafting, Eclipse, and Magical Design

And for today, it’s another question…

There’s a bit of a lack of builds for Hexcraft, and it does seem like you could totally use it as a base system for spellcasting. (The ‘Class build’ style stuff I find especially helpful).

I’m writing a fanfic that use some concepts from Eclipse to provide additional setting flavor, and I’m not sure how to translate the ‘per session’ limitations into something I can use. The chapters are ~1000 words, often cover small bits, so there is not any super obvious things I can use as reference.

Any thoughts?

-Jirachi

Well, to go in reverse order…

Hexcraft functions on a “Per Session” basis for several reasons.

  • The system allows fairly low level characters to cast powerful spells – but ensures that they won’t be casting very many of them in any one session. That makes it easy for the mage to shine while still leaving plenty for the other characters to do.
  • It simulates the “My magic is not to be wasted on trivial things!” school of fantasy, where spellcasting is reserved for important things instead of everyone having a batch of trivial spells that allow them to get along without matches, avoid washing dishes, and handle minor opponents.
  • It makes resource management important again. The players can’t simply announce that the characters are resting to get the Hexcrafter’s spells back, so if the Hexcrafter player blows them all in the first hour of the session they won’t be doing any spellcasting for the rest of the evening.
  • The limited numbers and themes of spells makes it much easier for the game master to manage a freeform system – while also ensuring that a clever hexcrafter will never be unable to come up with an appropriate spell.
  • The cards a Hexcrafter draws at the start of a session are also an easy bit of foreshadowing. All you have to do is fan them out and everyone will have some idea of what kind of spells will be available and how much power a Hexcrafter has left – unless they are, quite literally, holding a few cards in reserve.

It’s less obvious how “per session” translates into the setting outside of the gamist prospective though. It’s not like “the beginning of the session” has any effect on the setting.

  • The most direct interpretation is simply that Hexcrafting is literally powered by narrative. Dramatic events, the moments when the gods / mysterious higher powers (players/readers) are paying attention, or the moments on which destiny turns, have their own magic that a hexcrafter taps into to recharge their reserves. A long, dull, sea voyage (that gets skipped over in a few sentences in the game or story)? There’s no magic in THAT. You have defeated the lesser minions and broken into the throne room for (next chapter or sessions) epic confrontation with the big bad guy? That’s definitely a dramatic moment for a hexcrafter to draw power from.
  • Slightly less directly (if more suited to short chapters) you can presume that a Hexcrafter draws power from rare mystical events – celestial conjunctions, when some entity channels it’s power into the material world, whenever there is a nova in the galaxy, when exotic meteorites fall, whenever the ley lines flare up, whenever a great wizard dies and releases their power back into the world, or whatever suits the story. Under this kind of assumption the rule is basically “when you want it to happen” – which can be a bit heavy-handed in a game if you’re not careful but is just the way things are when you’re writing something.
    • If you want story inspiration… you can always make a quick little chart for your story – for short chapters perhaps 1d10: 1) The Hexcrafters Power is Renewed. 2) An event other mystical heroes can tap into occurs, 3-9) Nothing happens, and 10) The Villain gets a sudden power boost for a bit.
  • You could Corrupt or Specialize Hexcrafting to make it require specific deeds to “recharge”. Perhaps it requires visiting a great nexus of power, conducting an elaborate ritual, making great offerings to mystical beings, or undertaking some quest. That would probably work best for a hybrid caster – someone who would be buying Specialized caster levels anyway, and so would only need to spend a little more to gain occasional access to much greater spells. It could be awfully limiting for a primary caster though. Still, visiting the Great Fane of your God, and there being granted a mighty power to call forth when the time is right, is very classical. If you want to make it Corrupted (takes several turns to cast) AND Specialized… You can have the occasional mighty spell rather cheaply. It’s just that it WILL be an occasional thing.
    • If you happen to have some second edition sources for things like Quest Spells (Tome of Magic), or Netheril’s Super-Spells, or Dark Sun’s Psionic Enchantments (Mostly Dragon Kings), or Elven High Magic from the Forgotten Realms sourcebooks… well, here’s an easy way to put those sources to use while keeping them rare and special.

On the social side… In a lot of ways, Hexcrafting is a thematic return to earlier editions. Once upon a time, back when First and Second Edition quarreled over who would dominate the kingdom and the Grognards roamed wild and free, casting a powerful spell was a really big deal.

Powerful spells had long casting times, any interruption at all would ruin them, it required an hour or two of downtime to prepare just one of them, and defending the caster long enough to get one successfully cast in the chaos of battle was a tricky project for the entire party that often failed. Parties worked hard to make it happen anyway for the same reason that they shepherded the Wizard through those vulnerable early levels. It was because those big spells could turn the tides of major battles. They were Dramatic, they were Important, and they were Rare. Even when they didn’t seem relevant, a clever mage could often use them. Sword Of Ogre Decapitation anyone?

“You have delayed too long Foul One! My companions have bought the time I needed to call forth the favor of the Ones Beyond! A power great enough to end your dark menace FOREVER!”

Now I hope that helps!

Secondarily, and just for Jirachi… do let me know if and when you publish. That sort of thing is always of interest – even if I keep winding up putting off reading Alzrius’s Lateral Movement. (While I do read quickly I’m almost always badly pressed for time these days, and 650,000+ words will likely take a while).

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Prophecies Of The Eclipse

And here we have an offline question…

Eclipse puts “True Prophet” under Deep Sleep – presumably because it’s associated with meditation and trances – but how does prophecy work in the game?

Now that’s a good question, because prophecy is always a bit tricky. To see why, we’ll need to take a look at what prophecy is. After all, it’s more than just making predictions. No one regards “the sun will rise tomorrow” as a prophecy. While that’s not quite a sure thing on the cosmic scale, on a human scale, it pretty much is. Predicting that the sun will not rise might be prophecy though – but it’s far more likely to simply be irrational. “Try it, you’ll like it” is far more likely to come true, but I don’t think anyone would count it as a prophecy either. So what IS prophecy?

Some definitions simply use “prophecy” to mean “inspired advice”.

But if some geologists and volcanologists are inspired by their instruments and training to tell you that “Based on these readings and our best model of there is an almost 80% chance of an eruption occurring within the next three days”, their prediction is useful, important, and may inspire urgent emergency action – but it’s a prediction, not a prophecy.

Now, if we throw in “inspired by a supernatural source” that’s a bit more like it. That’s where diviners, astrologers, and similar sorts come in and where statisticians and actuarial experts get out.

And this will mostly work for predictions along the lines of “In three days a great tidal wave will hit the city and many will die!”. After all, given enough knowledge about the current situation, many future natural events are increasingly predictable as the scale increases. This sort of “prophecy” is more along the lines of “expert advice offered by someone with access to special sources of information” – and so can still fail; if someone influential enough believes the prophecy and evacuates the city… the tidal wave will still strike and there will be massive damages – but few if any will die.

On the other hand, we hear a lot of statements along the lines of “The stars incline, but do not compel” because advice – no matter what inspiration people claim for it – often goes wrong. Even something as simple and short-term as “your date will go well!” (which is somewhat self-fulfilling since it may give you more confidence and cut back on your nerves) can easily be badly wrong if you fall down the stairs or something. Predicting a vaguely defined outcome well within the range of reasonable expectations isn’t going to impress anyone as a prophecy.

We can also exclude things like Nostradamus’s quatrains. Something that is so vague that dozens of different events can be interpreted as “fulfilling it” after the fact is not a prophecy – especially when people studying them point to many different events as being what was “predicted”.

Conditional warnings were big in the Old Testament, but they don’t always qualify either. “If you don’t cut back on smoking three packs a day your COPD is going to continue to get worse” is fairly ironclad as a prediction no matter if it’s inspired by medical information, by annoyance with a stubborn relative, or by a ghost – but no one is going to call it a prophecy even if it IS fairly specific.

It isn’t really prophecy unless the predicted future is very unlikely to occur naturally. So “you’re going to get fat”, or even “if you don’t cut back on the donuts you will get fat!” are not prophecies.

Now, “If you don’t cut back on the donuts fire will descend from the sky and incinerate your bloated carcass!” might be prophecy – but if you make such predictions about ten thousand people, and are wrong about nine thousand, nine hundred, and ninety-nine of them but then a burning plane falls on someone you spoke to… that’s coincidence, not prophecy.

Prophecy not only has to predict something very unlikely, but it has to be RIGHT.

So that gets us a definition.

True Prophecy is the reliable prediction of reasonably long-term future events which are very unlikely to come to pass but do so anyway in clear fulfillment of the prophecy. There may be some wiggle-room of the ironic “Oh. So THAT’S what it meant” variety, but the result must be clearly recognizable or it’s not prophecy.

Prophecies are not warnings, or guideposts, or ways to reduce the impact of untoward events (although they may serve as such for those why pay attention to them). Prophecies are demonstrations of raw supernatural power, just like a royal proclamation followed by sending in the army to make it happen is a demonstration of raw political and military power. The distinction is that prophecies are enforced by the action of nigh-irresistible hidden magical forces that mortals may attempt to defy, but will inevitably lose to, usually just making whatever-it-is worse.

Free will, randomness, and other factors make true prophecy the exclusive domain of major supernatural entities who have both the near-omniscient knowledge and vast power required to force such events to happen.

Prophecies are – and should be – terrifying. The major prophecies of the Old Testament were not mere predictions, or advice, or warnings (although such “minor prophecies” were common enough). They were claims that men, kings, armies, nations, the forces of nature, and other gods and powers were less than a speck of dust before a hurricane before the will of the LORD who made these things to be.

If a city is prophesied to fall, it WILL fall – no matter how small the attacking force, or how well protected it is. You may be able to delay it, to evacuate most of the population, and to save many of its treasures thanks to that warning, but the prophecy itself WILL come to pass.

That’s a big part of what makes it a prophecy.

Since Eclipse is intended to let you build anything, it provides access to both the lesser and the major forms of prophecy – albeit limited to allow for opposing divine intervention since most settings don’t have an activist supreme deity and requiring approval from the game master. Even small-scale True Prophecies can still twist destiny though.

  • Warnings of Major Events are straightforward; ask the game master if you can make any prophecies about upcoming major events – but be aware that once you pronounce such a prophecy, the event is fixed, and nothing can be done to stop it. That doesn’t mean that you can’t mitigate the impact or at least prepare for it though.
  • Vague pronouncements of Doom – or Blessings – are usually simple as long as you’re targeting NPC’s. Unless the game master is going to have some NPC assassinated, or turn out to be the long-lost heir to the throne or some such, giving them vague destinies (“Happiness and Long Life!” or “Accursed Shall Be All Your Days!”) is generally simple. Even things like “you shall die at your son’s hands!” are usually workable. After all, if your extremely elderly and your somewhat elderly son slips while trying to help you out of your rocking chair, you still died at the hands of your son. Similarly, a Fairy Godmother’s blessing – 0r curse – is pretty much a Prophecy.

The trouble with targeting player characters with such pronouncements is that they can take away a good bit of the characters freedom – potentially making the game unplayable. If someone is blessed with a “long life”, and the city he or she lives in is due to be swallowed by an ocean of fire… Destiny may shove them out of town regardless of their wishes. Alien slavers may snatch a lot of people who won’t be missed at the last second. Perhaps they will be transformed into a near-mindless magma elemental. The prophecy WILL come true, but even though the required vagueness leaves a lot of wiggle-room that may require overruling the player.

There’s a further discussion of Destiny Magic over HERE – but for player characters it is best to stick with vague, short-term, stuff like “we shall have good fortune in our upcoming battle!”. That gets you some bonuses without asking the game master to twist the scene towards a specific ending, which is far more dangerous. Fortunately, since the game master has to approve True Prophecies… this is easy to enforce.

Trying to force a specific outcome with Prophecy is a lot like dealing with a Literal – and possibly a Jerkass – Genie. Are you ever REALLY going to be that desperate?

  • At least in Eclipse you can use prophecy to fish for information. – if the game master tells you that you COULD make a prediction about gaining wealth by plundering the treasures of some long-forgotten tomb then at least you know that the place has treasure in it to steal – but you are risking giving the game master ideas there.
  • Finally, of course, we have the “Do this or SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES!” form of prophecy – the either/or option. Really, this amounts to “Hey game master! Do you have any upcoming quests for us?” – followed closely by an attempt to exploit any such prophecy to gain extra backing. After all… if there is a True Prophecy that “The Dark Gate must be sealed before the winter solstice or monsters will come forth to ravage the world!” then the heroes going off to try and seal the Dark Gate are likely to get plenty of support. When the fate of the world is at stake, who is going to begrudge them a few healing potions and other bits of gear?

And that should cover most of the ways to use the basic version of the True Prophecy ability. Fundamentally, it’s a very powerful option – but it’s also tricky and dangerous to use. Of course, that’s part of the fun.

And I hope that helps!

Eclipse d20 and the Classical Illusionist

Alzrius has put up a very nice little Eclipse Package Deal for making Illusions a bit more effective in d20 games – and it’s reminded me of the old days. Back in first edition when a pure “Illusionist” was a viable – and fairly important! – class. I had a lot of fun with illusions back then.

Of course, D&D games were very different then. These days the game often revolves around fighting, loot from fighting gets spent on buying magic items to make you more likely to win more fights, treasure-free random encounters are almost a thing of the past, and most encounters are “Balanced”. You usually don’t WANT to evade encounters now unless you’re trying to sneak past the guards or something.

Back in the old days you might well encounter creatures far beyond your ability to handle, killing things brought in a little XP, but stealing treasure brought in a LOT, and you couldn’t spend loot to make yourself more powerful (after all, just getting it had done THAT). Loot got spent on things like building castles or mansions, buying land, funding charities, paying troops, educating your kids, and living a life of indulgence and luxury – and so adventuring parties often wanted to avoid encounters in favor of stealing that loot.

And even a first level Illusionist could REALLY help with that. An illusion of an open door (and empty room) covering a closed one, or a bramble-thicket covering where the characters were hiding, or some such could let that dragon, or group of ogres, or other powerful creature go right on by. This sort of thing was very limited – at fifteen minutes per spell level to memorize EACH spell it could take a high-level mage a week to fill up his or her spell slots – so they couldn’t use many illusions per day and would need to be carefully guarded while they cast them to keep from having them disrupted and spoiled – but Illusionists were VERY useful.

When it came to a fight, it was hard to tell what spell someone was casting and illusions could actually defeat opponents – and that made them very much worth supporting. You might toss out that flask of self-igniting oil and start chanting – producing real flames, real smoke, real heat, and possibly even a few real burns – to help convince your targets of the “reality” of the illusory fire elemental, wall of fire, or swiftly-spreading blaze that you then “conjured” from it.

When it came to designing 3.0 however, the problem was that illusions were EXTREMELY “swingy”. Did the Illusionist “collapse the cavern roof” over a group of opponents? If they failed to disbelieve, or save… the entire group might be rendered unconscious and easy prey. On the other hand, if they saved, all you’d done was hide them from the rest of the party until they charged – and once the cries of “It’s an illusion!” started up, your illusionist lost a lot of effectiveness and didn’t have that much to fall back on. He or she simply had to hide behind the fighters and wait for the next encounter.

Just as bad… one game master might note the lack of dust in the air and sound of impact (at least with the first level Phantasmal Forces spell) and thus have the victims automatically attempt to disbelieve, while another might not think of that or feel that – what with the exigencies of battle to keep track of – they probably wouldn’t notice in time, and so would have only a few attempt to disbelieve.

Still, “Swingy” was much less of a problem back then because – if an encounter was going badly – it was quite normal to break it off and run away. Illusions could be really helpful there too. If you could just get out of sight for a few moments, a well-chosen illusion gave you a pretty good chance to evade any pursuit.

So lets say we want some of that old functionality back, over and above Alzrius’s very handy package.

First up…

  • We want out illusions to be able to knock people out, but never to do any more than that.
  • We want them to be interesting and interactive. A rain of boulders is one thing, but an illusory “Fireball” is basically just a flash of bright light. How would they even know what it’s supposed to be?
  • We want to avoid “I Win!” buttons. Damage is one thing, but simply taking opponents out of the fight is not very interesting.

So purchase Shadowmaster, Corrupted for Increased Effect (gives a bit of reality to a limited set of illusion spells that normally have none at all – Trifling Image, Silent Image, Minor Image, Major Image, Hallucinatory Terrain, Persistent Image, Permanent Image, and Programmed Image) and Specialized for Reduced Cost / only applies to those eight spells or variants thereof, only inflicts nonlethal damage and minor related effects, cannot inflict further damage after the victims go unconscious, disbelief and a successful save provides complete protection, even without disbelief the damage is determined by comparison to a similar spell effect of equal or lesser level to the illusion used and may allow saves for reduced effect, and the damage is limited by the targets expectations and experience – and so instant effects are rarely very effective and no effects will work on mindless targets or objects (3 CP).

Using this ability…

  • A Silent Image spell COULD be used to “collapse the ceiling”, but the (nonlethal) damage is not going to exceed the 1d4/Level (5d4 Maximum) that you could get with “Hail Of Stone” – and trying to affect a larger area is likely to bring that down to 2d6.
  • A Minor Image spell could be used to simulate a Fireball, but the actual results are likely to be a blinding flash and a momentary feeling of heat – likely resulting in victims taking two or three d6 of damage and being briefly dazzled. Turning the room into a “raging inferno” will probably be more effective, since that can be maintained over several rounds, even if it will only be 2d6 per round.
  • Using a Major Image to “bring down the ceiling” might well get you up to Fireball damage – but a reflex save to “dodge the boulders” will apply to halve that damage, even if they fail to disbelieve.

That makes illusions versatile and somewhat effective attacks – but certainly not overwhelmingly powerful ones.

  • To fit the theme, I’m going to make Light and Darkness effects reversible. In Pathfinder you can do that with the Eclipsed Spell (+0) Metamagic. In Eclipse, you’ll want the Elemental Manipulation Metamagical Theorm, Specialized and Corrupted / only applicable to spells that affect the level of illumination, only to apply the +0 “change the elemental effect” modifier to switch between versions that provide light and versions that make it darker (2 CP).
  • And we’ll want Specialist (Illusion Spells), Corrupted / only for Trifling Image, Silent Image, Minor Image, and Major Image. The first casting of each of these spells in a day does not count against the user’s available spell slots (2 CP).

So how should we build the actual spellcasting? Taking a look at the original Illusionist Spell List we have…

  • L0) None. This was before L0 spells were introduced.
  • L1) Audible Glamour, Change Self, Color Spray, Dancing Lights, Darkness, Detect Illusion, Detect Invisibility, Gaze Reflection, Hypnotism, Light, Phantasmal Force, Wall Of Fog.
  • L2) Blindness, Blur, Deafness, Detect Magic, Fog Cloud, Hypnotic Pattern, Improved Phantasmal Force, Invisibility, Magic Mouth, Mirror Image, Misdirection, Ventriloquism.
  • L3) Continual Darkness, Continual Light, Dispel Illusion, Fear, Hallucinatory Terrain, Illusory Script, Invisibility 10′ Radius, Non-Detection, Paralyzation, Rope Trick, Spectral Force, and Suggestion.
  • L4) Confusion, Dispel Exhaustion, Emotion, Improved Invisibility, Massomorph, Minor Creation, Phantasmal Killer, Shadow Monsters.
  • L5) Chaos, Demi-Shadow Monsters, Major Creation, Maze, Projected Image, Shadow Door, Shadow Magic, Summon Shadow.
  • L6) Conjure Animals, Demi-Shadow Magic, Mass Suggestion, Permanent Illusion, Programmed Illusion, Shades, True Sight, Veil.
  • L7) Alter Reality, Astral Spell, Prismatic Spray, Prismatic Wall, Vision, First Level Magic User Spells (you could take several of them in one seventh level spell slot).

Most of this was actually folded into the Bard list in 3.0, but an Illusionist was a subtype of Wizard, so we’ll take…

  • Wizard Spellcasting (Spontaneous Variant), Specialized for Reduced Cost / only for the following list of “Illusionist” (mostly Bardic) spells, maxes out at level seven spells (7 CP per level).
    • L0: Dancing Lights, Decrypt, Detect Magic, Encrypt, Ghost Sound, Light, Signal, Trifling Image
    • L1): Color Spray, Disguise Self, Dispel Illusion (as per Dispel Magic, but Illusions only), Hideous Laughter, Hypnotism, Magic Mouth, Silent Image, and Ventriloquism.
    • L2): Blindness/Deafness, Blur, Hypnotic Pattern, Invisibility, Minor Image, Mirror Image, Rope Trick, Suggestion.
    • L3: Confusion, Daylight, Fear, Invisibility Sphere, Major Image, Mass Invigorate, Nondetection, Secret Page.
    • L4: Greater Invisibility, Hallucinatory Terrain, Minor Creation, Mirror Image (Greater), Phantasmal Killer, Shadow Conjuration, Shadow Jaunt, Weave Emotion* (Greater Invocation, creates any emotion-influencing effect of up to L3).
    • L5: Chains Of Light, Major Creation, Mislead, Persistent Image, Plane Shift, Shadow Evocation,
      Shadow Walk, Suggestion (Mass).
    • L6: Dirge Of The Victorious Knights, Maze, Permanent Image, Programmed Image, Project Image, True Seeing, Veil, Wizardly Pretense (prepare any five first level wizard spells, although these cannot be transferred to others or put into scrolls).
    • L7: False Vision (Greater), Invisibility (Mass), Limited Wish, Prismatic Spray, Prismatic Wall, Shadow Conjuration (Greater), Shadow Necromancy (Greater), Shadow Terrain.

Sample emotion-influencing effects of L3 include Crushing Despair, Fear, Good Hope, Heroism (one hour per level), Malicious Spite, Rage, Overwhelming Grief, Smug Narcissism, and Terrible Remorse.

Finally, we’ll want to be able to run more than one illusion at a time – so we’ll want…

  • Persistent Illusions: Streamline x 2, Metamagical Theorem/Stabilize, both Specialized and Corrupted /only to give Silent Image, Hypnotic Pattern, Minor Image, and Major Image durations of one minute per caster level past concentration and extend Veil to 2 hours per caster level with no concentration (6 CP).

So our first-level Illusionist trades out Wizard Spellcasting (14 CP) and a Familiar (or Arcane Bond) (6 CP) for Illusionist Spellcasting (7 CP), Damaging Illusions (3 CP), Reversible Light and Darkness (2 CP), Bonus Illusions (Specialist I, 2 CP), and Persistent Illusions (6 CP). That’s an even trade, so they can otherwise be built like any other Wizard – which fits nicely. Since their spellcasting will continue at only 7 CP per level, they can either continue to spend the extra CP on further improvements to their illusions or they can invest in other abilities.

If they want some other boosts to their illusory talents they may want to consider…

  • Ability Focus (Illusion Spells): Increase the DC of saving against the user’s illusions by +2 (6 CP). For another +6 CP you may increase the bonus to +4.
  • Augmented Magic (+1 Caster Level on Illusion Spells) (3 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus: Adds (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) when calculating the DC of saves against their spells, Specialized/only for spells from the Illusion school (3 CP). Charismatic and persuasive Illusionists have quite an edge.
  • Improved Specialist (Illusion Spells), Corrupted / only for Hallucinatory Terrain, Persistent Image, and Permanent Image. The first casting of each of these spells in a day does not count against the user’s available spell slots (2 CP)
  • Occult Sense / Detect Illusions (including invisibility), Corrupted / this ability must be actively used to function (4 CP).
  • Power Words (6+ CP) will let them keep some very fast spells ready to go.
  • Shadowmaster (6 CP) will increase the reality of Shadow Conjuration, Shadow Evocation, Shadow Conjuration (Greater), Shadow Necromancy (Greater), and Shadow Terrain when the character gets them.
  • Shaping, Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / can only produce effects on the user’s list of known cantrips but can produce those cantrips, user must be free to gesture and speak (4 CP) will give them unlimited use of their cantrip slots.
  • Visions, bought as Inherent Spell, Specialized for Increased Effect (Contact Other Plane) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (4 CP) / Requires an occult laboratory and a variety of special props, plus Luck, Specialized and Corrupted / only for the check to avoid a reduction in Intelligence and Charisma (2 CP). (The original Illusionist got the “Visions” spell, which was pretty cruddy. This is, in fact, much better – even if it does cost a little more than a spell slot).

This version of the Illusionist has several major boosts over the original, but they’re mostly built into the current d20 game system. For example, they get concentration checks instead of any interruption automatically ruining their spellcasting and they get individual turns and standard-action spellcasting rather than having to deal with enemies with simultaneous actions getting to ruin their spells. Both of those are very big advantages indeed – but they’re a normal part of d20 spellcasting these days.

And now I want to play one again. Oh well, maybe one of these days.

Skill Stunts and Epic Skill Stunts IX – Stealth Skills

Basic Stealth skills – whether they’re called Hide, Move Silently, Camouflage, or Evade Pursuit – are fairly straightforward; you escape detection. If you’re a door-to-door salesman, that’s generally a bad thing – but in settings where many of the creatures you meet will be trying to kill you, it’s generally a very good thing indeed. It may not be quite up to the gold standard of “not being there”, but – barring area effects – it can come pretty close.

Regardless of which such skill you are employing, the following list is just going to refer to it as a “stealth skill”. When it comes to stunts and epic stunts there really isn’t a lot of difference between them.

Sample Stunts for Stealth Skills (Hide, Move Silently, Stealth, Etc):

  • DC 10 (normally no stunt required):
    • Break Trail: You may increase the DC of Survival checks to track you and up to a dozen nearby allies by 5 when moving at full speed and by 10 when moving at half speed.
    • Camouflage: Given a few minutes to adjust your clothing to an environment, you may give yourself a +4 circumstance (equipment) bonus to your stealth-related checks. This bonus increases to +6/+7/+8/+9/+10 at DC 20/35/50/75/100.
    • Conceal Object: You may conceal other objects or creatures somewhere in the area, using their size modifiers. Creatures concealed this way must remain still to remain concealed. Objects at least two size categories smaller than you may be concealed about your person, although there is a penalty of -5, -10, or -15 for being scantily/minimally/un- dressed. There is a +5 bonus if you are wearing clothing designed to conceal things.
    • Forgettable: You may make yourself look bland and ordinary, gaining a +4 circumstance bonus to resist being Scryed upon and allowing you to oppose any attempt to pick you out of a crowd with your stealth skill whether you are aware of the attempt or not. Unfortunately, since this will normally involve hiding your weapons and supplies you suffer a -1 penalty on your initiative on any day you choose to employ this ability.
  • DC 15 (May or may not require a stunt):
    • Conceal Thoughts: Instead of opting to save you may roll your stealth skill against an opponents Perception skill to create false results when they attempt to read your mind, sense your emotions, detect your alignment, or detect truth.
    • Espionage: You may substitute your stealth skill for a Gather Information check, albeit at -10.
    • Exploit Distraction: You may make a Sneak Attack or use Precision Damage against a creature that is currently Dazzled, Entangled, or Nauseated.
    • Inner Stillness: You gain a +5 bonus to your stealth skill if you opt to simply remain still and let potential observers pass by. At DC 30 you may pretend to be a statue, piece of furniture, or other item that belongs in an area – allowing you to employ your stealth skill even if there is no place to conceal yourself as long as you remain still (At DC 30 this is, however, definitely a stunt).
  • DC 20:
    • Shifting Shadows: You may move at normal speed without penalizing or negating your stealth for the next 3d6 minutes.
    • Spiritwalk: Exotic senses (Darksight, Tremorsense, Scent, Greensight, Blindsense, Detect Magic, and other direct detection effects) no longer automatically pierce your stealth skills for the next 3d6 minutes. Their users must instead make a perception check, although they may make one per applicable special sense.
    • Subtle Venom: You may use your stealth skill to hide poisons, whether from magical detection or in food or drink. Detecting it will require an opposed perception check against your stealth skill even with occult aid or special senses and is effectively impossible without such aid or senses.
  • DC 25:
    • Battlefield Exploit: On a real battlefield there is always SOMETHING to get behind. As a move action you gain Partial Cover for 3d6 rounds.
    • Cloaking Weave: You generate the effects of a Cover Scent, Chameleon, Vanish, Hide from Animals, Hide from Undead, or similar first level stealth-boosting spell or power. At DC 40 this extends to second level effects (Hide Campsite, Nondetection, Invisibility, Hidden Presence), at DC 75 to third, and at DC 100 to fourth (Greater Invisibility, Mask From Divination),
    • Subtle Touch: You may conceal the components of your spellcasting, power manifestation, or similar tells, causing many observers to miss them entirely. Attempts to identify what you are doing suffer a -(check/2) penalty. If you wish to hide that your attention is diverted so that you do not provoke Attacks Of Opportunity or trigger Readied Actions the DC increases to 40.
  • DC 30:
    • Air and Darkness: You may expend a use of a spell, psionic power, or similar ability to gain a +(3 x the ability level) Circumstance bonus to stealth-related checks for 3d6 minutes. If you expend an effect of fourth level or higher, you may employ your stealth skills even if you are under observation.
    • Backstab: When you sneak attack a target that is unaware of your presence you may double your sneak attack damage. At DC 60 you can triple it and at DC 100 you can quadruple it.
    • Obscurity: If you choose to exercise this ability at least once each month, any attempts to investigate your activities, gather information about you, or profile you suffer a penalty of one half your base stealth skill. At DC 100 you may actively erase information about your presence from reality, becoming anonymous to anyone who is not directly in contact with you.
  • DC 35:
    • Abyssal Cloak: You may roll your skill in an attempt to dispel a revelatory spell or power such that would affect you, including Faerie Fire, Glitterdust, Detect Thoughts, Know Alignment, Invisibility Purge, any form of Scrying, and similar effects. This does not require an action.
    • Smugglers Pouch: You gain an innate ability equivalent to a Handy Haversack for a week. You may have up to (Con Mod) instances of this ability operating at any one time.
    • Whispers: As a part of casting a spell, using a spell-like ability, or manifesting a power you may make a stealth check to render it Still and Silent.
  • DC 40:
    • Arcane Camouflage: Given an hour and 100 GP worth of exotic ingredients you may create an effect similar to Mages Private Sanctum which will remain effective for up to (Check Result/2) days. Working without the ingredients or in only ten minutes increases the DC to 50, doing both increases it to 75. Creating this effect as a standard action without ingredients is DC 100.
    • Living Shadow: If you have concealment the targets of your melee attacks lose their Dexterity bonus to AC. Creatures that cannot be caught flat-footed are immune to this ability, it otherwise lasts for 2d6 minutes.
    • Still The Wind: You may selectively dampen sound and vibration in a thirty foot radius. You may reduce screams or cries for help to whispers, reduce sonic damage by (check result/2) points, give spells or bardic performances with verbal or musical components a (check result)% chance of failure, and become invisible to Sonar, Tremorsense, and similar methods of detection. This does, however, require a move action every round it is maintained and cannot be maintained for more than 3d6 minutes.
  • DC 50:
    • Crack In The World: You may slip into the gaps in reality, “finding” an extra dimensional space – in reality a lost bit of the cosmos – capable of holding up to a dozen creatures of any size. Once found, access to such spaces acts like a Rope Trick effect, although there is no hazard in bringing in other extra dimensional spaces. Typically such spaces are dusty old rooms from long fallen manors, abandoned campsites, forgotten shrines, lost crypts, or other long-vanished places. They are fairly secure places to stay or to stash things and may even (at the game masters option) contain something interesting – but such contents are always relatively passive; there might be some wraiths in the back of the forgotten crypt, but unless a group intentionally breaks the seals and forces open the door, they may camp there in safety.
    • Wardpact: You may create an Scrying Guardian – a level six Astral Construct that will warn you of any attempt to scry on you and which may then be directed to move through the scrying link to do something (most often attack) on the other end.
    • You Weren’t Looking: You may accomplish the equivalent of an hours worth of work within a thirty foot radius by claiming that someone was not looking. Thus you could, for example, free a small swarm of prisoners who had been chained up behind a guard while telling him or her that “I already set them free while you weren’t looking!”.
  • DC 60:
    • Ectoplasmic Camouflage: You may pull a thin layer of quasi-living ectoplasm from the astral plane, imprinting it with traces of thought and personality as well as a desired appearance and wrapping it around everything you wish in an area of up to one acre. This does not actually change any game statistics or sizes, but it can change the description, apparent race, and the results of detection or divination effects directed at anything the camouflage covers. Since the stuff is quite real, and not actually “magical”, this will even fool Scrying, True Seeing, and spells such as “Detect Alignment”. You might thus camouflage a pirate ship and its crew as a respectable naval vessel, or as a merchantman. A hallowed temple full of halflings? You could camouflage it as a ruin full of kobolds. Unfortunately, such camouflage only lasts for twenty-four hours, will quickly slough away in the face of significant physical stress, and tends to be a bit vague; a perception check against one-half your score will reveal that something is very much “off” about the entire affair. Creatures, vehicles, and objects, can, however, move around or leave the area without losing their camouflage.
    • Phantom Strike: You make an attack, whether physical or supernatural, undetectable. If you stab someone, they will neither see nor hear the blow, and will feel no pain – although they may feel the blood sticking their clothing to their skin. Anyone slain or knocked unconscious by such an attack will simply collapse as things “go black”. At DC 75 you may conceal an area effect attack, such as a Fireball – causing it’s victims to simply mysteriously collapse.
    • Pricking Thumbs: For the next twenty-four hours you will always know when you are under observation. You cannot be Surprised or Flanked and you are always aware of it when someone is using Scrying or other forms of Divination Magic against you.
  • DC 75:
    • Deep Concealment: You may absorb up to (Con Mod) magical items into your body. They will still occupy the usual item slots and function normally, but cannot be found by any search or be targeted apart from you. While this may be maintained indefinitely, the Mana spent activating this stunt will remain committed to the items and cannot be regained until after they are released once again.
    • Immersion: You may camouflage your mind among a myriad other minds, creating a Mind Blank effect for yourself. At DC 100 you may do this for someone else.
    • Shadow Dance: You may move through the shadow realm to produce an effect equivalent to the Greater Blink spell.
  • DC 100:
    • One With Darkness: You may generate a Shadow Walk effect.
    • Stalking Void: You gain total concealment for 3d6 minutes.
    • The Great Evasion: When you (should) die you may attempt to conceal yourself from Death itself – remaining alive for up to (Check Result) hours. During that time you can be healed from any amount of damage and – if your death was the result of a failed saving throw – may retry the failed save every twenty-four hours, with a success negating your “death”. Unfortunately, using this stunt leaves Death more or less “out to get you”. For the next week any damage inflicted on the user is doubled and his or her saving throws suffer from a -6 Circumstance modifier.

Epic Stunts For Stealth:

  • Whispers Of Neverwhere (Research Level 7, DC 38): You may project your voice to any known location, individual or described group, or set thereof, within a radius of one mile. You may make your voice sound like anyone you please, make it audible to who you please (and to them alone), and make it sound like it’s coming from anywhere you please. For the next 3d6 minutes you may whisper ominous threats, encourage rebellion, tell of unimaginable horrors, give confusing orders, and make a general pest of yourself.
  • Communal Stealth (Research Level 8, DC 42): For the next 3d6 hours whenever someone within sixty feet needs to make a stealth check you may make it for them. This does not require an action, although if you wish to intentionally fail such a check they may make a Will save to use their own check.
  • Etheric Archer (Research Level 9, DC 46): For the rest of the day you may snipe without breaking concealment. In addition, you may ignore the effects of partial cover and may fire (if blindly) through compete cover.
  • Stalking Wind (Research Level 10, DC 50): For the next twenty-four hours the target may vanish into Greater Invisibility as a free or immediate action.
  • Clandestine Weave (Research Level 11, DC 54): You may “trade” points off of your stealth skill for stealth-related magical items at a ratio of 2500 GP worth of items per +1 given up. Unfortunately, such items will vanish as soon as you reclaim your bonuses, although they will remain in existence until you opt to do so.
  • The Sounds Of Silence (Research Level 12, DC 58): All sounds of alarm (as well as flashing lights and other alarms) are silenced within a radius of (10 x Check Result) feet for the next hour. Shouts of pain, cries for help, emergency sirens, warning lights, and similar warnings will pass unseen and unheard until the effect ends.
  • The Wells Of Silence (Research Level 13, DC 62): You may lay Silence across an entire battlefield or city, exempting those you please when it pleases you.
  • Unwitnessed Deeds (Research Level 14, DC 66): You may relocate a confrontation into a pocket dimension. Said dimension may either simply copy the relevant layout of the area within one mile or less or it may have any theme you specify. It can also have up to seven CR 10 Hazards or Creatures, and will contain only those opponents who were nearby when it was cast. Once the confrontation is completed, the pocket realm will dissipate and everyone within it will be returned to reality. This is very useful for keeping enemy reinforcements from arriving, preventing secondary damage from the battle, and preventing de facto hostage taking.
  • The Secret City (Research Level 15, DC 70): You may move an entire city and its environs into a pocket dimension. While several well-concealed, and possibly dangerous, access routes will remain, all will be hidden by your stealth skill. The area said city once occupied will be filled with untamed wilderness. There is always some method of returning the city to reality, but it will generally involve some sort of quest.
  • Walk The Hidden Ways (Research Level 16, DC 74): During the next twenty-four hours the user may step through shadow to use effects equivalent to Greater Teleport as a free action three times, Dimension Door as a free action seven times, and Dimension Step as a free action twelve times.
  • Ectoplamic Veil (Research Level 17, DC 78): You may apply Ectoplasmic Camouflage across a radius of up to sixty miles, it lasts for up to a month, takes considerable effort to destroy (piecemeal), and allows you to “tweak” or modify up to three of the areas Planar Traits – although the game master must approve of such alterations.
  • Stepping Between The Shadows (Research Level 18, DC 82): You and those you lead may reach any location that CAN be reached by sub-epic means, bypassing guards and random encounters, via a brief stroll.
  • Mists Of Time (Research Level 19, DC 86): You may conceal major chunks of the past. If you feal that the Dread Empire of a thousand years ago is best forgotten… then you may conceal memories, rewrite tomes and records, and render it forgotten on a global basis. Even those who save will remember little more than rumors and even hints will only remain in the most obscure and exotic tomes. Surviving sites will be hidden away or misattributed.
  • Overlay Of Identity (Research Level 21, DC 94). You may wrap yourself in a shell of another identity for the next twenty-four hours, adding up to (Int x 2) Character Points worth of abilities appropriate to the new ability. The effect is real and physical, and so True Sight and similar spells will not reveal it, although they may reveal that something “is not right”.
  • The Hidden Kingdom (Research Level 22, DC 98): Moves an entire nation into a pocket realm, otherwise as per The Secret City.
  • Walk The Dark Lands (Research Level 24, DC 106). See Eclipse, PG 151).

Eclipse and Skill-Based Partial Casters

And for today it’s the answer to another question…

I notice that you don’t have a ton of examples of the dweomer system, and no examples of a partial caster using a skilled based one. What might say, a version of a paladin or bard using the dweomer system look like?

-Jirachi

In Eclipse, of course, a “Partial Caster” is just a character who buys some magic but who doesn’t really focus on it. Gratuitously, I’m going to assume that less than 60 points over twenty levels is “dabbling”, and that 181 points or more is “a full caster” – leaving Partial Casting as any spellcasting package with a total cost between 60 and 180 points over twenty levels. On the “practical details” side, a partial caster usually has a fairly limited range of effects, is limited to mid-level effects at best (levels 4-6 depending on style), and may have a lower-than-maximum caster level.

So first up it’s Thaumaturgy or Dweomer based Paladin/Ranger/Assassin/Etcetera Spell Casting. To build the basics for that we’ll want…

  • Access to Thaumaturgy/Deweomer, Specialized/only provides access to four skills (3 CP).
  • +15 Base Caster Levels, Specialized and Corrupted / Thaumaturgy or Dweomer Only, do not support effects of above the “Difficult” level (30 CP). That’s five more than a 3.5 Paladin or Ranger gets, two less than a Pathfinder Paladin or Ranger gets – but in Eclipse they can buy a few more if they want to easily enough.
  • Adept (Their four Thaumaturgy/Dweomer Skills, 6 CP)
  • Augmented Bonus / Adds an attribute modifier to the base for Thaumaturgy or Dweomer skills, Specialized/only for the four Adept skills, above (3 CP).
  • Mastery (At least three of the Adept skills, 6 CP). This lets them “take 10″ instead of rolling when casting using at least three of their skills.
  • 10d6 Mana (as 20d4 (50) Generic Spell Levels), Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only to power Thaumaturgy or Dweomer, cannot power effects of above the “Difficult”” level (20 CP). Fortunately, generic spell levels return daily without need for Rite of Chi.
  • Unity (6 CP). This avoids the need to split their pool between Power and Generic Spell Levels. Trivial Effects cost 1/2 Spell Level, Easy Effects cost 2, Average Effects cost Four, and Difficult Effects cost 6. “Difficult” effects equate to spells of levels 5-6, and are beyond the usual range for Paladins, Rangers, Assassins, and such, but are possible here.

At a total of 74 CP this costs the same as Pathfinder Paladin Spellcasting. It will require a further investment of 10-20 skill points (or other boosters) to reach it’s full potential of using sixth level equivalent spells (in Eclipse there’s almost always a slight surcharge for creating your own style of themed spellcasting) – but it has the side benefit of boosting some checks and saves and is extremely flexible. It’s also worth nothing that – while it will use up the second permitted use of Adept – adding a second field will only cost 38 CP (totaling 112) since there’s no need to buy the Caster Levels or Unity again. You could even go for a third dip, for a mere 32 CP more (totaling 144 CP) – but you’d need to boost your skill points since you couldn’t take Adept again.

So what skills? Well, for some quick examples, lets say you are building a…

  • Battlerager: Self-Enhancement (personal boosting spells), Armory (summon / boost armor and weapons), Lightning (Page 103), and Physical Healing (Page 105). Avatars of War and Thunder, Battleragers are direct and powerful warriors and reasonably effective healers after a battle. They possess a fairly well balanced mix of abilities and can play many roles on the battlefield.
  • Berserker: Self-Enhancement (personal boosting spells), Shapeshifting (Page 105), Armory (summon / boost armor and weapons), and Speed (haste, rapid travel, accomplishing tasks as great speed). Berserkers are capable of taking deadly forms, equipping themselves in an instant, and rampaging across a battlefield with vastly enhanced physical abilities.
  • Demonologist: (Evil) Monster Summoning (Monster Summoning, Planar Binding, Etc), Hellfire (evil fire magic), Maledictions (from The Practical Enchanter), and Demon Channeling (summon monster channeling variant, from The Practical Enchanter). Commanding deadly and corrupting infernal powers, a demonologist tends to summon a few monsters to help him or her carry the fires of hell into the depths of an enemy line.
  • Healer: Life Transference, Mental, Physical, and Spiritual Healing (all from Eclipse, the Healing List, Page 105). There are lots of ways to heal people at higher levels, but a backup healer can still be pretty handy to have around. Healing is rarely the first option selected, but it’s a fairly common second or third choice.
  • Kineticist: Animation (obvious), Pyrotics, Reconstruction, and Telekinesis (Mostly from Psychokinesis, Eclipse page 104). As direct blasters Kineticists are not the most effective at magical battle, but they have an immense variety of utility effects, ranging from repairing items to opening locks to extracting breathable air from the water that’s filling a room. Whether you need to fly, temper metal, or haul masses of treasure, the Kineticist has a spell for you.
  • Planeward: Dimensional Warping, Stabilization, Transference, and Warp Detection (all from Eclipse, the Warping List, Page 105). A Planeward’s magic is dangerous, and often of fairly high level (commonly leading them to buy more Generic Spell Levels to work with), but the ability to teleport, shunt in matter and energy from other dimensions, detect and banish summonings, resist dimensional and temporal effects, and otherwise counteract a lot of the best high-level effects can make them quite vital in the right situation.
  • Radiant Master: Electrokinesis and Nucleokinesis (Eclipse, Psychokinesis, Page 104), Amplification (Eclipse, Mysticism, Page 106) and Stabilization (Eclipse, Healing, Page 106). The master of atomic energy is an odd fit in most fantasy settings, but they can work there just fine. After all, how many fantasy creatures have defenses against hard radiation, cannot profit from a boosting spell transmuting that hard radiation into raw magical power, or have no use for shifting their metabolism over to nuclear sources to avoid having to breathe for a time?
  • Ranger: Animalism (take on animal powers), Plant Control (animate plants, hurl volleys of spears, grow spikes, make plants let you through, etc), Mobility (boost movement, haste, boost missile fire, dimension door, boost stealth, etc), and Physical Healing (Page 105). Rangers are classic hedge-magi, capable of a wide variety of nature-related spells. It can be quite handy to have a tree pick you up out of a battle and put you safely up in its branches to let you do some sniping.
  • Solar Guardian: Celestial Radiance (holy light and purification), Armory (summon / boost armor and weapons), Inspiration (prayer, bless, other bonuses for the group), and Shielding (Stasis Fields, page 104). As fairly classic “Paladins”, Solar Guardians are radiant servants of the higher planes, defending others and striking down creatures of darkness.
  • Stalker: Darkness Mastery (Page 103), Venom Mastery (poisons and antidotes, toxic clouds, etc), Shadowwalking (moving in and out of the plane of shadow, blinking, etc), and Shadow Magic (the illusion-based variety). While the powers of darkness are usually seen as evil and corruptive, with determination they can be used for a variety of purposes. Similarly, slipping through the shadows to strike down opponents with deadly poisons may not be a pleasant or common way to do good – but it can be used that way.

Now, if you want to create a Spellblade or the equivalent of a Psychic Warrior you’ll want to buy Opportunist and Evasive to let you cast boosting effects as you fight,

For a Godling, advanced Adept, or Bardic type…

  • Upgrade the Access Feat to a full list (3 CP).
  • Take Mastery Again (if necessary, 6 CP).
  • Upgrade to 100 Generic Spell Levels (20 CP)
  • Upgrade to 20 Base Caster Levels (10 CP).
  • Include about +60 skill points (60 CP). Normally I’d take Fast Learner and another level of Adept to help with this, but Bardic types are normally already using those to get their other skills.

That raises the cost by 99 character points – up to a total of 173 CP. Of course, a Pathfinder Bard normally spends 174 CP on his or her magic, so that – once again – fits well enough.

As for skills… Well, at this point you can take any one of the full Thaumaturgy or Dweomer lists from Eclipse or you can invent your own list. Either can be a very effective option. If you want to be a fairly classical bard, you might want a list like:

  • Illusion, Presence, and Projection (Eclipse, Telepathy, Page 104), Physical and Spiritual Healing (Eclipse, Healing, Page 105), Vibration (Eclipse, Psychokinesis, Page 104), Auric Sight (Eclipse, Extra-Sensory Perception, Page 106), and Dimensional Warping (Eclipse, Warping, Page 105).

That won’t cover every spell on the Bard list – but as a freeform system it will cover more of them than any normal Bard with a limited number of spells known will get to have. If it doesn’t cover something you desperately want… well, trade out one of those skills that you don’t want for what you think fits well into a “Bardic Powers” theme.

For the next option:

Substituting Theurgy for Thaumaturgy/Dweomer is straightforward, although you will want an Intelligence of at least 12.

  • +15 Base Caster Levels, Specialized and Corrupted / Theurgy Only, do not support effects of above level six (30 CP).
  • Adept x2 (the six Theurgic Verbs and two Nouns, 6 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus / Adds an attribute modifier to the base for Theurgy skills (6 CP).
  • Mastery (At in 12+ covers all six of the Verbs, 6 CP). This lets the user “take 10″ instead of rolling to use Theurgy. (This is cheap, and may not be permitted – but it’s an obvious modifier to take if the game master allows it).
  • 6d6 Mana (as 12d4 (30) Generic Spell Levels), Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only to power Theurgy, cannot power effects of above level six (12 CP). Fortunately, generic spell levels return daily without need for Rite of Chi. Also fortunately, Theurgy is less expensive than Thaumaturgy or Dweomer,
  • Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (Adds a second Attribute Modifier to their Intelligence Modifier when calculating Skill Points Per Level, 18 CP).

That’s 78 CP – but investing even a modest handful of additional skill points will let you work freeform magic within a speciality. If you invest more… you can wield a wide variety of spells indeed. The Bard/Godling/Etcetera version mostly simply needs more generic spell levels (another 36 CP worth will probably do), and a LOT more skill points – probably about 60 CP worth again. That gets them up to 174 CP – a precise match for what a Pathfinder Bard spends on their magic progression and approaching the limit for a “Partial Caster”.

So what nouns should these characters study?

  • Beguilers master the Mind and Illusion elements, weaving deceptions and influencing minds to subtly bend the world to their will. Suggestion, Charm, Glamours, Phantasms, and more lie within their purview. If a campaign involves stealth or intrigue, they can be most effective.
  • Deathlords study the Spirit and Illusion elements, wrapping the dead in quasi-real shells of undeath, speaking with or raising the dead, imbuing inanimate objects with life, and peering into the planes beyond all fall within their purview.
  • Healers study the Body and Spirit nouns (although they often dabble in the Mind as well) – offering them access to a wide variety of enhancements, the ability to repair injuries of all kinds,
  • Seers study the magic of the Mind and Time, peering into the future to learn a myriad secrets and subtly enhancing their allies and hindering their enemies. Perhaps fortunately, only those few seers who have surpassed all normal limitations may actually travel though time or manipulate it to any great degree.
  • Stormweavers study Air and Fire, two of the most volatile and easily-stirred elements. They may manipulate storm and lightning, channel energy, manipulate the winds, and employ the destructive power of fire. They are easily amongst the more violent Theurgists.
  • Treemages study the Earth and Plant nouns, creating barriers and earthquakes, hurling spikes of wood and stone, entangling victims, dropping them into pits or quicksand, growing useful herbs, constructing fortified campsites, and more. There is rarely a time when mastery over the land and the things that grow upon it is not useful.
  • Voyagers study the magics of Space and Water, allowing them to navigate their crafts through the barriers between dimensions, exploring strange worlds, pocket realms, and the depths of the sea. While they may wield the forces of ice, acid, and banishment in emergencies, their magic is perhaps best used to reach their desires rather than to blast opponents.

Even taking only two elements at a time, there are 66 possible combinations. Add a few more elements to the mix and there are – thanks to the joys of permutations – thousands.

Overall, both systems allow freeform casting within particular themes at a cost close enough to more conventional spellcasting to allow them to be plugged in to “standard” character builds with little or no difficulty.

And I hope that helps!

Eclipse – Entreaty Magic, Superheroics, and Tricksters

This power package request is for a “Doctor Strange” style Sorcerer – albeit perhaps one with more limited use of their abilities so as to fit into a standard fantasy universe.

Well, while comic book mages tend to have a variety of minor powers that they use all they want to, their forte is the well-chosen and highly specific spell, usually involving gestures, peculiar incantations, and calling on various magical entities. Has a swarm of demonic horrors gotten loose? The Mage throws the protective circle which gives everyone a few moments to get things organized, his or her companions hold back the demons while the mage works on the grand spell of sealing, and the demonic horde is sealed away again just barely in time. They’re powerful, but it generally takes a few moments for them to bring that power to bear – and it’s at least implied that major magic is not to be thrown around indiscriminately. Spider Man may punch out dozens of thugs and wrap them all up in webbing, but the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak are reserved for major situations.

So how can we build that kind of magic? I shall call it…

Entreating The Infinite

The user may call upon the aid of supernatural beings, channeling their powers into the physical world. Sadly, this is subject to some major limitations:

  • The user may only develop links with a limited [(Cha Mod + Level)/2] group of mystical entities, each of which only grants effects related to it’s field of influence. In addition, the user must pick a reasonably coherent group of entities to invoke:
    • For example, a Cthulhu Mythos mage who gained his powers from the Necronomicon might call on…
      • Azathoth for chaotic spells of transformation and destruction.
      • Cthalpa for powers of vulcanism and the deep earth.
      • Cthulhu for telepathic and mind-manipulating effects.
      • Nyarlathotep for divination, dark knowledge, and curses.
      • Shub-Niggurath to summon monsters, induce mutations, and manipulate fertility,
      • Ubbo-Sathla for healing and shapeshifting.
      • Yog-Sothoth for spells related to teleportation, gates, and dimensions,
    • An ancient, mummified, priest of the Old Kingdom might call upon…
      • Anhur for battle enhancements, hunting, and combat.
      • Anubis for spells of Death, Creating/Controlling/Destroying the  Undead, and communicating with the Dead.
      • Imhotep for spells of healing, construction, and architecture.
      • Isis for spells of Force (Magic Missile, Shield, Etc) and Magical Manipulation (Dispel Magic, Antimagic Sphere, counterspells, etc).
      • Khonsu for lunar magics, such as shapeshifting.
      • Ra for spells of solar might and rulership.
      • Shu for magics of the Air and Winds.
    • A Marvel Comics mage apprenticed to Doctor Strange might call upon…
      • Agamatto for spells of truth, light, and the manipulation of raw magical energy.
      • Cyttorak, for spells of force and binding.
      • Denak to summon monsters and constructs.
      • Ikonn for illusions.
      • The Seven Suns of Cinnibus for blasting and light effects.
      • The Seraphim for spells of protection.
      • Watoomb for spells of air and transport.
  • Each such entity grants a pool of (Cha Mod + Level/2) spell levels worth of magic to draw on. Unfortunately, renewing those pools is a slow process: the user may make an appropriate Knowledge skill check once per day to gain (check result/2) spell levels through some means (meditation, prayer, study, minor rituals, ceremonies, chanting names of power, or whatever suits the user’s style). Gaining points faster requires serving one or more entities. Minor services will half-fill a pool, major ones will fill it entirely – although no one entity will do more than completely refill the associated pool in any one day no matter how many services the user performs. For some examples….
    • You could serve Isis by regularly teaching magic. That’s a minor service when it comes up (even if you may often need to dispel some students mess). It’s a major service if you have to rescue your students from dangerous witch hunters. If it’s more than a few days between adventures your Isis pool will automatically start full.
    • You could be protecting some relic, gate, or place of power. That’s minor if you’ve just got to keep an eye on it and regularly take precautions, major if there’s a serious assault on it.
    • You could just undertake missions. Perhaps Anubis wants you to hunt down some undead? This kind of thing is usually major every day for the duration. Minor missions tend to be future setups… “go to this address and leave 10 GP in a bag stuck to the door with a silver nail before you depart”.
    • You could commit yourself to advertising your patron. Do you regularly talk about how wonderful it is and try to get other mages to call on it? Probably minor, unless this sort of thing is likely to get you hunted down or killed.
    • Do you adhere to an oath to hunt down monsters which threaten children? Minor when you need to investigate, major when an actual fight comes up.

Thus, for example take Erebus Herensuge, an eighth level magus of the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh with Charisma 18. He can call on six different Lovecraftian Horrors, each of which can provide him with eight levels of spells (for a total of 48) – but his Knowledge Arcana skill of +12 will only get him back an average of 11.25 spell levels per day. Fortunately, a Minor service will get him four spell levels in the appropriate pool and a Major one will get him eight – and he is…

  • Responsible for recruiting more Cultists for Azathoth. Basic recruiting activities are a Minor service, but recruiting an influential or powerful person is a Major service.
  • The organizer for ceremonies honoring Cthalpa, tossing sacrifices into any convenient volcano, apparently bottomless sinkhole, or the depths of an abandoned mine. That’s Minor whenever he can get together with the cult, or Major when they can offer a truly worthwhile sacrifice.
  • Aiding Nyarlathotep by slipping eldritch tomes and disturbing occult lore into libraries and other locations. Minor if it’s something people have to hunt for, major if it’s blatant – such as adding terrible mystic secrets to an “ornamental” public mural.
  • Helping monsters interbreed with humanity to honor Shub-Niggurath. Minor if it’s just making it easier, such as by covering up an odd birth, Major if it’s enabling a serious horror to create some dark spawn.
  • Breeding slimes and oozes in honor of Ubbo-Sathla. Minor if they lurk in the depths, major if they come out for a major attack. They also help get rid of anyone who survives being dropped into a sinkhole…
  • Encouraging the installation of Teleportation gateways in the city in honor of Yog-Sothoth – Minor for enabling, Major for finding a way to use them to summon horrors from beyond into town.

Erebus is going to be making a lot of trouble just to keep the magic flowing. He’s also quite likely to try to toss any player characters who happen to be investigating his activities into a sinkhole or old mine he’s filled with slimes, oozes, and other monstrosities, and thrown various treasures into – but then dungeons need to come from SOMEWHERE. Similarly, he leaves mythos tomes about to drive people mad (while also stocking the libraries with the dangerous lore needed to defeat him) and turns monsters loose in town. He’s very handy for a game master to have around!

A player character is more likely to take things like teaching, guardianship, and missions – but that sort of thing will automatically provide them with motivations, connections, reasons to go on missions, and involvement with the setting. I usually consider that a good thing.

  • Entreaties can be interrupted like any other form of spellcasting, although the user is perfectly free to throw in metamagic (Still, Silent, etc) to avoid such issues. They can even throw in an extra +1 to make an effect swift or +2 to make it Immediate (thus allowing comic book mages to throw up those reflexive shields they love to use).

So to actually build this, take:

  • Path of the Dragon/Shaping (Specialized, only as a prerequisite, 3 CP)
  • Pulse of the Dragon (Summons Magical Energy), Specialized and Corrupted (involves Entities, Limited Pools, Knowledge Checks, Services, and Interruptions as above) plus Heart Of The Dragon (Shapes Magical Energy provided that it under the user’s control). While the number of entities, and the pool size, is always limited as above, the ability to cast higher level spells costs increasingly more. To summarize the calculations, the ability to make entreaties of level…
    • One requires Pulse (Corrupted for Increased Effect, Specialized for Reduced Cost, 3 CP) plus Heart II (Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 6 CP), for a total cost of 12 CP and a minimum level of one.
    • Two requires Pulse (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect – automatic control and 2 spell levels, 6 CP) plus Heart II (Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 12 CP), for a total cost of 21 CP and – as per the general rule on controlling magical effects – a minimum level of three.
    • Three requires Pulse II (Specialized for Increased Effect – automatic control and 3 spell levels, Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 12 CP) plus Heart II (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect, 18 CP) for a total cost of 33 CP and a minimum level of five.
    • Four requires Pulse II (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect – automatic control and 4 spell levels, 18 CP) plus Heart III (Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 28 CP) for a total cost of 49 CP and a minimum level of seven .
    • Five requires Pulse III (Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 28 CP) plus Heart III (Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect, 42 CP) for a total cost of 73 CP and a minimum level of nine.
    • Six requires Pulse III (Specialized and Corrupted for triple effect – 6 Spell Levels and Automatic Control, 42 CP) and Heart III (Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect, 42 CP) for a total cost of 87 CP and a minimum level of eleven.

Unfortunately, Pulse III is as high as it goes. While it is possible to take Heart higher (at ever greater expense), it would probably be simpler to take Mana with the Spell Enhancement option to allow for the occasional really powerful spell at higher levels. Still, if somebody wanted to commit to paying for this package at 8 CP per level through level eleven – basically converting it into a limited spell progression – that would be entirely reasonable.

For comparison, this really resembles a specialized version of Sorcery. Eleven levels of Sorcerer Spellcasting with similar Specialization costs… 88 points instead of 87. The sorcerer will have less flexibility, but doesn’t have to divide his or her spells into a bunch of specialized pools. That looks like it’s going to be reasonably well balanced.

  • In any case, the caster level of such effects is equal to the user’s level, the saving throw DC’s against them are based on the level of the spell and the user’s Constitution, and they overcome magic resistance with a roll of (1d20 + caster level + Con Mod). If the user is casting counterspells they will tend to be specifically tuned, requiring a spell of only (target spell level – 2) – but he or she can only counterspell things with appropriate themes.

And that gives us the standard comic-book mage: debonair, knowledgeable, personable (high charisma), and very tough (high constitution) for a more-or-less-normal human being with flexible magic that they nevertheless rarely use for anything minor.

If you want to be the Sorcerer Supreme, you’ll also want the Superheroic World Template and the Four-Color Superhero Package (24 CP). If you want to have a special relationship with a particular patron or group, a few more points in Augmented Bonus (Add a second characteristic modifier to your Charisma modifier with respect to a particular entity) will do it nicely.

For the minor powers? I’d go for a bit of Witchcraft. After all, a level eleven character will have at least 288 CP, and this magic system will cost less than a hundred of them even with a special modifier or two. Twenty or thirty points worth of Witchcraft can provide a wide variety of minor tricks to use when you don’t want to expend your limited supply of Entreaties.

Now, if you just want to be a trickster… don’t bother going past second or third level spells. You’ll still get decent-sized pools and more entities to call on as you go up in level, but it will be pretty cheap – and still gets you some built-in involvement in the game.

Skill Stunts and Epic Skill Stunts VIII – Heal, Profession/Physician, and Knowledge/Medicine.

Healing is going to be a have a lot of options. Not only is it a broad skill that covers a multitude of real-world disciplines and advances, but it’s always been regarded as semi-miraculous. Few other character types so consistently confront Death and win, and – in countless tales and legends – few other characters are quite so selflessly heroic. Even in reality healers often work long hours under great stress, go into danger to save others, risk deadly contagions, and stand up for their patients against threats and political pressure. That’s not to say that there aren’t incompetent, venial, and downright useless people making a living in the field – but it says something that Healers are one of the few types of professional workers who have been deified in many different cultures.

On the other hand, most of these stunts really shouldn’t need descriptions. As living human beings most of the readsers should have a pretty good idea of how healing works – and d20 makes magical healing cheap and easy anyway. After all, if you’re going to rely on combat for excitement you can’t leave the characters laid up for lengthy periods, It should also pretty much go without saying that healers – and especially highly skilled healers – usually make a pretty good living unless magical healing is easily and cheaply available to everyone. To even things up a bit, and because getting your cures ready to go is simply sensible, quite a few healing effects may be prepared in advance – but this doubles the DC and a healer may never have more than (Wis Mod + Level / 2) pre-prepared “medications”. Such preparations have no significant cost however.

  • DC 10 (normally no stunt required):
    • Craft simple but comfortable and reasonably effective prosthesis, such as peg legs or “hook hands”.
    • Deliver a baby if there are no major complications.
    • Make easily-digested high-energy foods for victims of starvation and malnutrition.
    • Make the dying comfortable and relieve their fears. This may include arranging an easy death.
    • Moderate pain.
    • Produce simple plant and mineral based poisons and remedies.
    • Split a simple break in a bone so that a limb will be usable within reasonable limits.
    • Spout confusing jargon that demonstrates that you are, in fact, a medical expert. (It is amazing how often this comes in handy).
  • DC 15 (may not require stunts):
    • Clearly explain the nature of an illness, injury, or dysfunction to someone with no medical background.
    • Determine a creatures cause of death.
    • Induce semi-permanent immunity to ordinary diseases.
    • Induce hybridization between species in a baseline d20 universe.
    • Make a death look natural.
    • Make advanced prosthesis, such as articulated hands that can be set in particular positions, legs with spring joints that are almost as good as a real leg, and so on.
    • Purify basic drugs from natural sources.
    • Set up a small infirmary without supplies.
  • DC 20 (require stunts to perform in a reasonable length of time):
    • Induce a +2 alchemical bonus to a physical attribute for a few hours.
    • Inflict great pain without inflicting much of any actual damage.
    • Make functional Charm-level prosthesis. (See The Practical Enchanter and HERE).
    • Perform cosmetic or dental surgery.
    • Produce advanced (modern) drugs (sadly, most are not very effective in d20 terms).
    • Relieve allergies and arthritis and reduce similar troubles to something manageable.
    • Safely deliver a baby despite all kinds of complications.
    • Splint multiply and badly broken limbs to allow healing and restore minimal function.
  • DC 25:
    • Detect traces of drugs, toxins, magic, psionics, and other outside influences in an individual or corpse.
    • Force a victim of a successful unarmed strike to save or be dazed/dazzled/deafened for 1-2/1-4/2-8 rounds.
    • Induce hybridization between very different types of creatures (EG, elementals and humans) in a baseline d20 universe.
    • Induce immunity to extremely deadly diseases for several years.
    • Make functional Talisman-level prosthesis.
    • Maximize the effect of a healing spell.
    • Perform simple surgery, curing 2d4 damage. Unfortunately, any given patient can only be healed via surgery once per day.
    • Set up professional-level facilities without supplies.
  • DC 30:
    • Cure (or inflict) blindness, deafness, or disease.
    • Determine what a creature was doing shortly before its death.
    • Heighten or inhibit sexual ability and/or fertility.
    • Induce a +4 alchemical bonus to a physical attribute or a +2 bonus to a mental attribute for a few hours.
    • Induce nerve regeneration.
    • Organize a hospital to double the effectiveness of healing effects used within it for the next week.
    • Perform a Lesser Restoration once per day per patient.
    • Sicken a target with an unarmed strike for 2d4 rounds.
  • DC 35:
    • Cure various neural disorders, including most insanities.
    • Inflict exhaustion with an unarmed strike.
    • Neutralize poison and heal it’s effects.
    • Perform organ transplants
    • Perform complex surgery, curing 3d6 damage – although patients can still only be treated with surgery once a day.
    • Produce “Pulp” drugs.
    • Revival (allows normal treatment and recovery for up to three minutes after “death”),
    • Set up hospital-level facilities without supplies.
  • DC 40:
    • Create a clone (either an “empty” physical copy or a normal infant).
    • Cure a supernatural disease,
    • Extend the duration of a patients current and remaining age categories by 3d6 years each.
    • Extract memories from a corpse.
    • Induce slow regeneration of limbs and organs.
    • Induce a +6 alchemical bonus to a physical attribute or a +4 bonus to a mental attribute for a few hours.
    • Inflict an appropriate (described in medical terms) Bestow Curse or Poison effect with an unarmed strike.
    • Provide a full Restoration (once per day per patient),
  • DC 50:
    • Create a tailored “disease” or plague. Note that this can be used to repair genetic damage or errors. This can also be used to create a strain of herbs with tailored medical uses.
    • Extend the duration of each remaining age category by an additional 3d6 years (totaling 6d6).
    • Induce a triple-strength Rite Of Chi (from Eclipse) effect for a patient, A second use on the same patient in the same day is DC 70, and a third is DC 100.
    • Induce a temporary version of “lycanthropy”, equivalent to the various “Bite” spells.
    • Inflict Enervation with an unarmed strike,
    • Perform advanced surgery (curing 4d12 damage) – although patients can still only be treated with surgery once per day each.
    • Quicken Recovery (as per the Epic Level Handbook),
    • Set up for advanced surgery or virtually any other medical procedure without supplies. Notably, this means that you can (if the GM consents) install cyberware, grafts, or other augmentations even when these things are not normally available in the setting. This can also be used to add Templates, although they must be paid for before further level advancement may occur or an additional template may be added. DC 50 for +1 ECL, 60 for +2 ECL, 75 for +3 ECL, 100 for +4 ECL, DC 180 for up to +7 ECL, and DC 250 for up to +10 ECL. Templates of up to +4 ECL may be made hereditary at +25 DC.
  • DC 60:
    • Animate the dead through mad science. You may control up to (Skill Total / 2) hit dice worth, although none may have more than one-fourth that many hit dice. If you have other means of creating or controlling undead, the totals are independent.
    • Cure (or inflict) Lycanthropy, Mummy Rot, and similar curse-diseases.
    • Induce a +8 alchemical bonus to a physical attribute or a +6 alchemical bonus to a mental attribute for a few hours.
    • Inflict an appropriate (described in medical terms) Greater Curse or Paralysis / Unconsciousness effect with an unarmed strike.
    • Perform ultra-advanced surgery (curing 5D20 damage) – although patients can still only be treated with surgery once a day.
    • Rebuild limbs, induce reasonably rapid regeneration, or redesign bodies.
    • Transfer a consciousness into another body, a golem, or a “prosthetic body”.
    • Treat a damaged local ecosystem – although a full recovery may require months or years.
  • DC 75:
    • Build a Flesh Golem. This bypasses the usual prerequisites and 80% of the GP cost – but does not bypass the experience point cost (in 3.5 anyway). Reducing both costs to 10% of normal is DC 100.
    • Create a “plague” that will swiftly spread across the land and spontaneously cure and provide a permanent immunity to a specified illness or disorder.
    • Create a clone body that’s linked to the original creature to receive it’s consciousness in case it dies.
    • Force a victim of an unarmed strike to save or die.
    • Induce symbiosis – for example, turning chunks of a gelatinous cube into “Bacta”.
    • Prevent a target from aging for 6d6 years.
    • Provide a permanent +2 inherent bonus to an attribute.
    • Rebuild a creature into a different kind of creature.
  • DC 100:
    • Create obedient living creatures. The user may maintain up to (Skill Total) hit dice worth of such creatures, although no single creature may have more than (Skill/5) hit dice in total.
    • Create a “plague” that radically alters it’s victims, perhaps adapting a species to a new environment.
    • Induce a Perfect Recovery (as per the Epic Level Handbook).
    • Induce +2 Positive Levels for twenty-four hours.
    • Raise the Dead
    • Render a living target immune to a particular type of energy or effect (including negative energy effects, poisons, radiation, etc) for twenty-four hours. Unfortunately, no single creature may have more than two such immunities active at any one time and inducing a second is DC 150.
    • Restore a target creatures youth.
    • Treat a damaged wide-area ecosystem.

Unlike most of the prior skills, I have items for Heal with DC’s well in excess of 100. Other skills have such options as well of course; but for most of them so far I haven’t thought of enough of them to be worth listing.

  • DC 120:
    • Build a Flesh Colossus. This bypasses the usual prerequisites and 80% of the GP cost – but does not bypass the experience point cost (in 3.5 anyway). At DC 150, both costs are reduced by 90%.
    • Create new types of creatures.
    • Provide a permanent +3 Inherent Bonus to an attribute.
    • Purge all external influences from a target living creatures mind, body, and spirit – eliminating poisons, possessing entities, diseases, and all similar difficulties.
  • DC 180:
    • Create or awaken a Realm (or Planetary) Spirit , causing an entire ecosystem to become an intelligent entity – and one which is generally well-disposed towards the one who awakened it.
    • Force a victim of an unarmed strike to save or be permanently transformed into a different creature.
    • Provide a permanent +4 Inherent Bonus to an attribute.
    • Treat a damaged planetary ecosystem.
  • DC 250:
    • Bestow true immortality on a target creature, providing immunity to aging and 12 CP worth of Returning (from Eclipse) on a permanent basis.
    • Clone a body from near-dust and pull the original spirit (if willing) back to it.
    • Provide a permanent +5 Inherent Bonus to an attribute.
    • Revive a deceased planetary ecosystem (although a full recovery is likely to take centuries).

Epic Stunts for Healing:

Most of the Epic Stunts for Heal simply involve using one of the above stunts either very quickly and/or to affect a large number of creatures at once. As such, I’m not really going to bother listing anything beyond a few of the most obvious.

  • Healing Touch (As per Heal, Research Level 6, DC 34)
  • Healing Aura (as per Mass Heal, Research Level 9, DC 46),
  • Divine Radiance (Research Level 13, DC 62) Cause 24d6 of Divine Damage to Undead and 24d6 of healing to any living creatures you desire within a radius of (2 x Check Result Feet). Line of sight is not required (the effect will pass through solid barriers) and any undead destroyed by the blast must make a will save or suffer a final death.