Adventurers Of The Anomaly – Tarsus Korazan

This character request for the current Anomaly game was for a vaguely Shadowrun-style Wizard-Gunfighter – a military-trained “magitech” engineer – not a primary combatant, but a maintainer and sometimes-maker of specialty gear and weapons.

Solopsis:

The old nation-states are fading as rapid transport, digital communications, Better-Than-Reality (TM) virtual experiences, and fusion power make the old boundaries and physical resources less and less relevant. Physical location is still important when it comes to basic services and security, but it has become less and less relevant to the masses interests, social circles, employment, and focus. As the population drops and the great cities turn ever more inward upon themselves, the barren lands between them are slowly returning to a wilderness populated by mutated (or magical) monstrosities and occasional groups of reactionaries, survivalists, or other holdouts.

Yet competition, ambition, and greed endure. Corporations, unions, neotribal groups, fan clubs, political movements, and a hundred other groups struggle in the shadows, spurred in part by the inability to agree on the reality underlying their virtual overlays and tailored “news”, in part by the lack of central control over the data files and the micro-manufacturing systems that place sophisticated hardware within the grasp of any anarchist with a few credits, and in part by the use of virtual reality systems to train mages – taking magic use from a painful and ill-understood thing of traditions, drugs, apprenticeships, and hundreds of self-crippled contradictory systems to a thing that anyone can study (even if relatively few prove to have any real talent for).

For those who seek change, or wealth, or glory, or a thousand other things and are unsatisfied with a private virtual world to experience it in… while poor choices are likely to lead to an early grave, a good choice of training simulations, equipment, and employers can lead to genuine wealth, power, and luxury as an independent operative or in the service of some greater group.

Inspiration for characters from Solopsis can be found in Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, SLA Industries, Cyberspace, Expendables, and any number of futuristic or “cyberpunk” stories and movies.

Solopsis World Laws:

  • Characters from Solopsis gain access to the Weaponry and Biotech Occult Skills at normal cost (12 CP). The people of Solopsis have deeply integrated biotechnology, cyberware, and personal weaponry with their basic lifestyles. They may purchase these two Occult Equipment Skills as basic skills.
  • Guns Are Best: Universal (applies to both physical and energy damage) Damage Reduction, Corrupted/not versus Guns, 3/Guns (4 CP). The overall superiority of Firearms is deeply ingrained in Solopsis’s world laws, to the point where other weapons have reduced effects against it’s peoples.
  • Simulation Learning. Kids from Solopsis pick up skills fast and early through high-pressure Better-Than-Life (TM) virtual reality education and games, gaining a +4 Training bonus on any one skill and a +2 Training bonus on any two other skills (8 CP).

Solopsis uses magic, but it uses it quite scientifically and methodically – treating it as just another branch of engineering. Arcanotech Personal foci are most common, what independent magical items there are tend to be at least partially technological.

Post-Industrial Human

(31 CP / +0 ECL Racial Template):

  • Highly Adaptable: Racial Bonus Feat (6 CP).
  • The Quick And The Dead: Fast Learner Specialized in Skills for +2 SP/Level (6 CP). Homids are the preeminent masters of acquiring knowledge – even if they often do acquire inaccurate ideas just as easily.
  • Tribalism: Humans bond with other people to form close personal friendships, and intensely – loyal groups quickly and easily. They perform at their best when defending those relationships. Presence/+1 Morale Bonus to attacks, damage, saves, and checks, Specialized for double effect (+2 bonuses)/only when defending or assisting members of their family, tribe, or extremely close personal friends (6 CP).
  • Enduring Traveler: Celerity, +20′ ground movement, Specialized/only for use in calculating long-distance travel ranges and whether or not they can catch up with something (4 CP). The heritage of ancient migrations and persistence hunting remains a fundamental part of humanities genetic arsenal.
  • Projectile Predator: +1 Racial Bonus BAB with ranged attacks (3 CP). Two million years of throwing weapons leaves it’s mark.
  • Omnivorous Scavenger: Humans are tougher than vultures. They can handle horrific pollution levels, noxious food additives, and many other environmental insults with little harm. They get a +4 bonus on relevant Saving Throws (Resist II, 6 CP).

Low-Level Adventurer Template:

Everyone on the Anomaly gets either the NPC (adjusted for people who just want to live quietly) or the Adventurer version of the Template for Characters in a Low-Level World. Not too surprisingly, this character is getting the “Adventurer” version. To summarize it’s effects:

  • 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). His are +2 Dex and a +1 Bonus on Saves.

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.

Now that all of that is out of the way, it’s time for the actual character build:

Tarsus Korazan

Not Quite Third Level Arcane Gunslinger

Available Character Points: 92 (L2 +20 XP, may purchase things as L3) +10 (Disadvantages: Blocked (Witchcraft), Inept (Charisma-Based Skills. A virtual education will do that to you), and Accursed (stranded on the Anomaly with no apparent way back)) +18 (Human, L1, and L3 Bonus feats) = 120 CP.

Basic Attributes (Pathfinder 25 Point Buy): Str 8, Dex 16 (+2 Template = 18), Con 14, Int 16, Wis 12, Cha 10.

Basic Abilities (60 CP):

  • Hit Dice: 6 (L1d6, 2 CP) +12 L2-3d6, 4 CP) + 12 (Template) +10 (5 x Con Mod) = 40 HP.
  • Skill Points: 6 (Purchased, 6 CP) +12 (Human Fast Learner) +18 (+3 Int Mod) = 36 SP
    • Adept (Biotech, Perception, Spellslinger Style, Weaponry, 6 CP)
  • BAB: +6 BAB, Specialized /Ranged Attacks Only, Corrupted / Pistols only (12 CP).
  • Saves:
    • Fortitude: +0 (0 CP) +2 (Con) +1 (Tem) = +3
    • Reflex: +2 (6 CP) +4 (Dex) +1 (Tem) = +7
    • Will: +2 (6 CP) +1 (Wis) +1 (Tem) = +4
    • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses Specialized in Saves (6 CP).
  • Proficiencies: Simple Weapons and Pistols (6 CP), Light Armor with the Smooth Modifier (6 CP).
  • Initiative +4 (Dex) +4 (Improved Initiative, 6 CP) +2 (Reaction Booster) = +10
  • Move: 30′.
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +4 (Dex) +3 (Kevlar) +1 (Martial Art) = 18

Usual Attacks:

  • Black Cat Flechette Pistol :+17/+12 or +15/+15 Rapid Shot (+6 BAB +4 Dex +3 Smartgun Link +3 Martial Art +1 Enhancement), 2d6+1 Damage, Crit 18-20/x2, 40′ Range Increment, 50-round magazine, Silent, Smartgun Equipped. May be used to inflict stun damage at will, jumps into hand from up to 10′ away when wanted.
  • Lion’s Roar Mini-Grenade Launcher: +13/+8 (+6 BAB +4 Dex +3 Martial Art), 4d8 damage in a 10′ radius, 40′ range increment, scatters as a grenade-like weapon if square missed, 5 Shot Magazine.
  • Tigers Claw Combat Knife: +2 (+0 BAB, -1 Str, +3 Martial Art), 2d4 Damage, Crit 20/x2, 10′ Range Increment if Thrown, Impervious (never gets damaged), Vibro (+15 damage to overcome Damage Reduction only).
  • Unarmed: +2 (+0 BAB, -1 Str, +3 Martial Art), 1d4 Damage, Crit 20/x2, may inflict lethal or nonlethal damage without penalty. Is always considered Armed.

Other Abilities:

Solipsis Arcanist (35 CP):

  • Graduate Arcanist: Five Base Caster Levels, Specialized in Wizard Casting using Generic Spell Levels (15 CP).
  • Craft Of Wizardry: 4d6 Mana as 8d4 (20) Generic Spell Levels, Specialized / only to be bound into prepared wizard spells using available formula (12 CP) (note that, if he wants to use metamagic and such he’ll need to unspecialize this later – but this works very well for a lot-level character).
  • Scientific Magic: Action Hero/Invention, Specialized (for increased effect) and Corrupted (for reduced cost) / only for Researching Spells (at 2 AP per level of the spell), only during downtime – a total of 2(Level+2) AP per level (4 CP). At an effective level of three, Tarsus has had a total of 24 AP to spend on buying additional spells at a cost of 1/2/4/6 AP for a spell of level 0/1/2/3.
  • Gunslinger Training Spells:
    • L0) Arcane Mark, Dancing Lights, Detect Magic, Drench, Flare, Mending, Message, and Read Magic.
    • L1) Burning Hands, Color Spray, Ray Of Enfeeblement, Sloth Ray (Single-Target Slow).
    • L2) Acid Arrow, Gust Of Wind, Ray Of Stupidity, Scorching Ray.
    • L3) Lightning Bolt, Ray Of Exhaustion
    • L4) (Not yet usable) Shout
  • Hedge Magic Spells, Corrupted/does not include making Conjures (4 CP). The Hedge Magic spell list includes a wide variety of relatively minor, practical, spells. Taking this feat automatically adds them to all your spell lists.
  • Personal Spells:
    • L0) None selected.
    • L1) Comprehend Languages, Shield, Sleep
    • L2) Arcane Disruption, Blindness/Deafness, Warp Strike
    • L3) Stinking Cloud

Warp Strike. Conjuration (Teleportation), Ass 2, Sor/Wiz 2, probably various other classes 2, Components V, S, Range Touch, Target Touched Creature (may be self), Duration one minute or until discharged, whichever is shorter, Saving Throw none, Spell Resistance Yes (harmless). When this spell is cast on a creature it may discharge it to cause the origin of an attack, power, spell, or other ability it uses to be at any location within long range thanks to a momentary portal. Line of effect is not required, but if the destination point is occupied by a solid object the spell fails.

This will let you backstab someone from long range, dump dust of sneezing and choking on someone from across a battlefield, throw a fireball around a corner, and various other tricks.

Arcane Gunslinger (19 CP):

All of these abilities are Corrupted / they require the use of an “attuned” pistol as a focus (and, for Spell Conversion, as the target of enhancing spells). Attuning a pistol is a process that requires several hours and inscribing the weapon with his personal sigil while it remains attuned. Only (Int Mod) weapons can be so attuned at a time.

  • Ray Mastery: +1 to Critical Multiplier with Ray Spells that have them. Improved Critical (Rays) (4 CP).
  • Arcane Focus: Improved Augmented Bonus: Add (Dex Mod) to (Int Mod) when determining Spell Save DC’s, Specialized / only for ranged touch attack, cone, line, or ray spells, DC increase cannot exceed the enhancement bonus of the gun in use (4 CP).
  • Guided Bolt: Augmented Bonus / Add (Int Mod) to (Dex Mod) when rolling attack checks with Rays, Specialized / cannot exceed the enhancement bonus of the gun used for the focus (3 CP).
  • Innate Affinity: Spell Conversion / Wizard Pistol Magic Spells (4 CP).
    • L0) Weapon Mastery: +3 to BAB with Pistols for one minute per level.
    • L1) Trick Shot: Make a ranged combat maneuver with a shot.
    • L2) Swift Reload: Reloads a firearm with available ammunition as a swift action.
    • L3) Eldritch Pistol: Gives a gun a +4 Enhancement Bonus, up to +2 of which may be invested in special weapon properties, for one minute per caster level.
    • L4) Dispelling Shot: Expend an AoO to shoot an incoming spell as per Dispel Magic.
    • L5) Bullet Storm: Shoot at up to (Level) targets at your full BAB and with a +10 Insight Bonus on the attacks. No more than two shots may be directed at any one target however.
    • L6) Hydrostatic Shock: Fire one shot with a +10 Insight Bonus on the attack. If it hits it does +10 damage and creature hit must save versus massive damage or die.
    • L7) Greater Eldritch Pistol: Gun gains a +8 Enhancement Bonus, up to +4 of which may be invested in special weapon properties for one hour per caster level.
    • L8) Distant Shot: Ignore range penalties with pistols for the rest of the day.
    • L9) Missile Mastery: You may make ranged combat maneuvers with up to four shots per round as if you had Improved Dirty Trick Greater Dirty Trick, and Dirty Trick Master for the rest of the day.
  • Gunslingers Instincts: Reflex Training / once per round can convert a spell as a part of an attack action (4 CP).

Anomalous Experiences (6 CP):

  • In his time on the Anomaly, Tarsus has learned to use the local Charms and Talismans (See The Practical Enchanter, 6 CP).
    • Charms:
      • Ammunition Pouch: Turns up to 3 GP/Day into Ammunition. (Pistol Ammunition costs 1 GP per 50 rounds. Specialized Ammunition costs twice as much and takes a -2 to Hit, but has one special quality from among: +1 to Critical Range, +4 to Damage, Silver, Quiet (+10 to Hearing DC to hear), and Tracer (can start a fire if it hits something flammable, reduces penalties for iterative attacks to -4 per shot)).
      • Dust Of Illusion. A pinch produces minor visual illusions. Needs restocking every 4d6 uses.
      • Foothold Boots. Can create a momentary disc of force under themselves three times an hour, even in midair.
      • Luncheon Pot. Provides enough cheese, jam, or butter for several decent sandwiches every day.
      • Vanishing Coat (Cloak). Renders the user invisible for up to 12 seconds (3 + Level/3) times daily.
      • Wellstone. Provides a steady trickle of pure water whenever activated.
      • Wizard’s Hand. Provides a Mage Hand effect when concentrated on.
    • Talismans:
      • Rubydraught Flask: Produces 2d4 Goodberry Draughts per day, accumulating up to three days worth.
      • Rune Weapon (On Black Cat Pistol, Below. Making it a +1 Eager weapon)
      • Tulthara (Wristband that creates a temporary Black Cat Pistol, as below, for a backup weapon).

He has also collected 34 Obols (14 Black Gold, 8 Sunlight-Silver, 5 Opaline Crystal, 3 Red-Iron, 1 Starry Crystal, and 1 Green Diamond). 164 GP, and 40 silver.

Skills:

Biotech: +6 (3* CP) +2 (Con) +2 (Training) +3 (Template) = +13

  • Augmented Eyes II (Smartgun Link, Data Display, Low-Light, Flash Resistance).
  • Subdermal Impact Weave III (+2/- Universal Damage Reduction).
  • Communicator III (Transceiver and Network Datalink).
  • Computer II (equivalent to a Tablet).
  • Oxygen Reserve I (10 Minutes).
  • Reaction Booster II (+2 Initiative).

Weaponry: +6 (3* CP) +3 (Dex) +2 (Training) +3 (Template) = +14

  • Black Cat Flechette Pistol: One-Handed Small Arm, Improved Critical I, Enlarged Magazine I, Silent, 3.5 lb. 2d6 Damage, Crit 18-20/x2, 40′ Range Increment, 50-round magazine, Silent. Cost: Weaponry 4 +1 (Smartgun Link accessory, +3 to hit). “The handgun of choice of special ops, swat, and daemon-response forces. You don’t want to cross their path.’ Manufactured by Core-Tech Arms exclusively for the military and special police needs.”
  • Lion’s Roar Mini-Grenade Launcher: One-Handed Small Arm, Cannot Critical, Improved Damage I, Explosive III: 2.5 lb, 5 Shots, 4d8 damage in a 10′ radius, 40′ range increment. Cost: Weaponry 4. “Crowd Control, Doorbreaker, or Assault System, the Lions Roar can fill dozens of different tactical needs on the battlefield. You don’t want to hear the Lion’s Roar!”
  • Tigers Claw Combat Knife: 2d4 Damage, Crit 20/x2, 10′ Range Increment if Thrown, Impervious (never gets damaged), Vibro (+15 damage to overcome Damage Reduction only). Cost: Weaponry 3. “Forged of Core-Tech Arms exclusive Duralloy Blend, the Tigers Claw Combat Knife is slim and diamond-honed to a permanent razors edge, a tool suitable for all your needs! Comes with a lifetime guarantee, if you manage to break it we will replace it for free!”
  • Thunderbolt Flash-Bang Grenades: 15′ burst radius, DC 18 Fortitude Save or Blinded and Deafened for 1d4 rounds. Cost 2.

Less Complicated Skills:

  • Spellslinger Style: +6 (3* CP) +4 (Dex) +4 (Training) +3 (Template) = +17
    • Known Techniques: Attack 3, Strike, Defenses 1, Weapon Kata (Rays), Weapon Kata (Unarmed), Rapid Shot
  • Acrobatics: +1 (1 SP) +4 (Dex) = +5
  • Athletics +1 (1 SP) -1 (Str) = +0
  • Arcana: +6 (6 SP) +3 (Int) +3 (Tem) = +12
  • Concentration +3 (3 SP) +2 (Con) = +5
  • Craft +3 (3 SP) +3 (Int) = +6
    • Covers Weaponsmithing, Carpentry, Charmsmithing, Fieldworks, Mechanics, and Armorsmithing
  • Engineering (Arcane): +6 (6 SP) +3 (Int) +3 (Tem) = +12
    • Gadgets (4): Wrist Grapnel, Smoke Pellets, Spell MiniGrenades (5), One-Shot MiniParachute.
  • Linguistics +2 (2 SP) +3 (Int) = +5
    • Languages (5): Three Solaran languages (irrelevant, so not counted), Gathran, four of choice.
  • Perception +6 (3* SP) +1 (Wis) +3 (Tem) = +10
  • Stealth: +1 (1 SP) +1 (Wis) = +2
  • Survival: +1 (1 SP) +1 (Wis) = +2

Other Equipment:

  • Armor: Light Kevlar (+3 Armor, Max Dex +5, Armor Check Penalty -1, Spell Failure 15%, 10 lb. Fortunately, purchasing “Smooth” takes care of the spell failure and armor check penalty.
  • Waterproof Survival Pack: Bandages, Bedroll, Brush/Comb, Canteen, Compass (not working), Firestarters, Flares, Flashlight, Glue, Grapnel, Hatchet/Hammer, Insect Repellent, Matches and Match Safe, Messkit, Needles & Thread, Razor, Scissors, Silk Rope, Soap, Spare Clothing, String, Tarp, Towel, Washcloth,
  • Rations: The local food is a LOT better, allowing him to reserve his box of 24 Ration Bars for emergencies. For actual meals he usually just picks up some pre-packed meals with preservation charms and uses his Luncheon Pot.

As might be expected for a fairly well optimized high-tech cyborg character with three minor templates (world, low-level adventurer, and upgraded species) stacked onto him, Tarsus is quite formidable for his current level. On the other hand, he cannot be expected to increase in relative power as quickly as a character without all of that stuff will – which is, in large part, the goal of the low-level adventurer template.

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Hexcrafting Part III – The Elemental Powers Deck

And for today, it’s a complete Elemental Hexcraft Deck – although it is, of course, suitable for various other purposes. This particular deck is divided into five suits – Flames, Water, Air, Earth, and Wood, each in sequence from primal origin to final end, and each noting what kind of hexes it can be used to produce.

Suit Of Flames:

1. The Sun. Pure, terrible, and radiant, the sun drives back the darkness, destroying what conceals itself within that darkness. Light, truth, and purification all lie within the purview of the Sun, as well as searing light and the destruction of the undead.

2. The Inferno. The greatest of earthly fires, the inferno rages and destroys. Rains or walls of flame, the summoning of fire elementals, and destructive blasts all lie within the purview of the Inferno – as does parting flames and controlling such forces.

3. The Fireball. Catalysis of change lies within the Fireball, the power to cause fires to flare up as mighty blasts, to haste or slow the fires which burn within living beings, and to perform subtle feats of alchemy.

4. Energy. Fire harnessed yields energy, the power to drive great engines and clanking steam powered automatons, to hurl mighty projectiles, and to send vehicles hurtling across the world and skies. Guns, rockets, engines and mechanical wonders lie within the purview of Energy.

5. The Forge. Where craft meets magic, the Forge fabricates and enhances. All forms of repairs, fabrications, and refinements, and the enhancement of weapons, tools, and armor, lie within the domain of the Forge.

6. The Secret Fire. Fire can lie imprisoned within many things, whether bound into coal and oil by the forces of nature or by the hands of craftsmen. The Secret Fire can call forth that bound fire or bind fire away, to be released at will.

7. The Unity Of Fire. To recognize the balance of fire within and without is to handle it in safety. Spells of protection from fire and cold, merging with fire, Fire Shield, and many similar protections can be found within the Unity Of Fire.

8. The Dance Of Flames. Within the heart of the flames lies both grace and vision, speed and fascination. Those peering within the flame may react with swift prevision, gain glimpses across time and space, and ensorcell others with the beauty of a dancing flame.

9. Smoke. Whether a pleasantly scented wisp or a choking miasma, Smoke fills the winds with darkness. It’s domain includes the simplest of illusions, blocking sight, having various ill effects on those within it, and even generating toxic clouds of carbon monoxide.

10. Desolation. The burning away of social relationships lies at the heart of Desolation, it’s purview includes the traps and barriers of no-mans-land, hatred and betrayal, and the destruction of hope and the blasted landscapes which inevitably follow.

11. Ashes. All fires must must burn out at last, leaving little of worth behind, but clearing the way for new things. Whether to extinguish other flames, to call forth a burning wind of searing sparks and embers, to simply disintegrate something, to drain energy and strength, or to undo destruction – perhaps reconstructing a burned tome – Ashes will serve.

12. Darkness. When the last flame glimmers out, and the light perishes, Darkness will yet remain. Spells of concealment, and of the unnatural forces which bring the animation of undeath to life properly long since passed are concealed within the Darkness.

Suite Of Water

1. Abysm. In the secret depths, in the darkness between the fire and the ice, does life begin. Aberrations, Slimes, Immense Pressure, and Deep Mysteries all lie within the province of Abysm.

2. Leviathan. The great beasts of the sea echo the deep history of the world and contain the wrath of the waters. Great monsters, ancient tales, great upheavals, and the birth of new things and places fall within the purview of the Leviathan.

3. Whirlpool. What came from the deep will one day be reclaimed by the deep, a fraught passage that might lead to anywhere but which offers a traveler little control and the risk of being stranded.

4. Current. The inexorable flow of space, time, and destiny sweeps all the cosmos with it, drawing everything towards an unknown destination. Such forces are the purview of the Currents of time, as is the induction of eddies, imposing destinies, and hastening or slowing the flow of time.

5. Tide. The inevitable waxing and waning of the Tide moves within all life. Youth and Age, Growth and Decay, and the enhancement and reduction of Attributes all fall within the purview of the Tides ebb and flow.

6. Ship. Whether drifting flotsam or vessel of cunning craft, the seas touch lands and places across time, space, and reality, cosmos drifting like bubbles within the depths. Travels between lands and places, importing rare marvels, and struggles against the forces of nature are within the province of the Ship.

7. The Unity Of Water. To recognize the balance of water within and without is to handle it in safety. Spells of protection from corrosives and toxins, merging with water, auras that corrode or drown, and many similar protections can be found within The Unity Of Water.

8. Venom. The malignance of water seethes in hidden places, emerging to strike secretly from within. It’s malice ranges from simple incapacitation or intoxication to horrific slow dooms. All the intoxicants, drugs, and poisons of the natural world are within the domain of Venom.

9. Reagent combines craft with the myriad secrets of water, the extraction and distillation of what lies within. The realms of alchemy and chemistry, purification and sublimation are all within the Reagent’s compass.

10. Blood. As without, so within, Blood surges with it’s own current and tide, flowing with life and vitality. The transfer of vital force, the sealing and healing of wounds, bringing temporary life to the inanimate, disease and the recovery therefrom are all within the scope of Blood.

11. Erosion. Water is the great leveler, taking all things, grain by gain, back into itself to be reborn – or, if their time is truly past, to sleep forever into silted darkness. The corrosive power of time, of decay, of quagmire, of disaster, and of dissolution lurks hidden within the depths of Erosion.

12. Fimbulwinter. When stillness at last claims the restless waves, and the boundless lines of the future freeze into the crystalline oneness of the past, there shall be no more to come. Ice, endings, preservation, and the purity of the arctic wastes writ large remain when the river of life comes at last to its end.

Suit Of Air

1. The Nebula. A sparkling of motes gathered from a celestial wind, an ethereal foundation for what is to come. Radiation and Magnetism, as well as the vacuum of space can be drawn from the nigh-endless depths of the nursery of stars.

2. Gyre. The vortex draws all around it to itself, whirling about it’s core. From the spiraling infall of gas to form new stars to the smallest dust devil, the pattern of the Gyre appears again and again. While things like sunspots are out of reach in most settings, whirling shields, blades, bullets, tornados and the self-organizing lives of Air Elementals usually are not.

3. Wind. From the streaming particles of the solar winds to the ceaseless hypersonic gales of jovian worlds, force and motion are the domain of Wind.

4. The Thunderbolt. Where wind contends with wind, atoms themselves are torn asunder and the Thunderbolt is born. Both prismatic radiance and the discharging force of lightning are within the purview of the onrushing storm.

5. Sublimation. From the finest mists of the exosphere between the stars to the mesospheric chill, it is the nature of air to carry energy away. Spells of cold, of extinguishment, and of draining and negating forces and other magics lie within the purview of Sublimation.

6. Thunder. Between the Lightning and the Thunder is a promise waiting to be fulfilled. The vibration of wind recoiling. The forces of Sound and Vibration fall within the scope of Thunder, albeit only in their cruder forms.

7. The Unity Of Air. To recognize the balance of Air within and without is to handle it in safety. Spells of protection from lightning and sound, merging with the winds, auras that deflect missiles or hurl others away, and many similar protections can be found within The Unity Of Air.

8. The Harmony Of Voices. Thunder and Craft give birth to Language and Communication, the foundation of Sapience. Empathy and Music, Words and Phantasms, Translation and Encryption all fall within the compass of the Harmony Of Voices.

9. Dream Of Wings. Wind harnessed by Life grants the freedom of the sky, carries missiles and missives, and sends thought between worlds. This also grants Dream Of Wings some level of control over dream-magic, no matter how ethereal that application.

10. Cloud. The stagnation of Air becomes drifting pools, a vaporous Sargasso of turbulent particles and aerosols. Within the compass of the Cloud lies mists, gases, blowing dusts, and an assortment of corrosives and toxins.

11. Silence. When Air at last passes into stillness, naught remains save the occasional tremor of deep structures yielding at last to ancient pressures. Within Silence lies the perception of deep time, stillness, the easy detection of even the faintest traces and disturbances, and the suppression of sound and motion. Stillness remains where Silence reigns.

12. Void. Last as it was first, the last traces of Air a scattering of particles drifting into the eternal void. Vacuum, where even Air is not, the dispersal of matter at fundamental levels, and the expansion of space all fall within the Void.

Suit Of Earth

1. The Mountain. In nigh invincible solidity the Mountain is the fundamental embodiment of Earth and Stone, whether as an iron fist of hurtling doom, a bulwark of defense, or an unremarked host of lesser entities. Its grasp is gravitation, its strength the slow thrust of plate tectonics, and its endurance near eternal. The summoning and manipulation of stone and earth, and of the gravitation that binds it, lies within the Mountain.

2. Earthblood. Flowing from the world’s heart comes heat and magic, upwellings of flowing stone, fields of magnetic force, and forces stranger still. The magic of the Earthblood is slow but strong, spells of vulcanism, magnetism, ley lines, and drawing up or dissipating magical energies all pulse with ancient energies of Earthblood.

3. Cavern. Concealment, shelter, and a place of daunting stony beauty, those places where Earth withholds its base aspect are still filled with its deep strengths. There may forces birthed in darkness be given form. Extra-dimensional spaces, passage through otherwise impenetrable obstacles, and the forces of Shadow are concealed within the Cavern.

4. Crystal. Stability and order given form, the lattice of timeless Crystal can hold both energy and information. Stasis, storing both raw power and the complex structures of spells, disciplines, and information, and the channeling of those forces lie within the sparkling depths of Crystal.

5. Earthquake. Where stability bows at last to accumulated tension the foundations of the world crumble and prior certainties give way. While the aspects of the Earthquake include the shaking of the earth and destruction of architecture, ancient magics and planar traits, the very foundations of reality, also tremble and fall before the Earthquake.

6. Endurance. That which is of the Earth, or is touched by its energies, survives. If you wish the life of a burned-out forest to reawaken, for a gate to withstand all that can be hurled against it, to withstand the rigors of a lengthy battle, or for a frail child to recover from some terrible disease, the Endurance holds the answers you seek.

7. The Unity Of Earth. To recognize the balance of earth within and without is to handle it in safety. Spells of protection from weapons and force, merging with earth and stone, armored skin, and many similar protections can be found within The Unity Of Earth.

8. The Fortress. Where Craft touches upon Stone, the Fortress rises, fastness, refuge, and home. Spells of hospitality, of construction and siege, of imbuing locations with defenses and wards, all lie within the purview of the Fortress.

9. The Golem. While the Earth is slow to wake, it is implacable once aroused. While simple elementals are within the domain of the Golem, so are deadfalls, avalanches, the pools of dust or “quicksand” which swallow up their victims, and simple pits. When the Golem stirs the earth itself to battle, where shall one find refuge?

10. The Delve. The fruits of the Earth are many, and are the foundation of wealth. Metals and Jewels, the hidden lore of the long-buried past, and the Hammer in the Forge, all begin in the depths of the Earth. Spells of Crafting, of Finding, of Paths, of Metal, and of Wealth, all lie hidden within the depths of the Delve.

11. Armor. When Earth guards Flesh, Armor is. From the crudest stony shell to the complex electronics of a giant mecha, Armor has defended life across the ages. Spells that grant, enhance, or otherwise augment that protection fall within its scope.

12. Dust. When even Earth begins to fail and structure falls away, all that remains is drifting dust. Spells of sealing and release, of disintegration and recalling the traces of the past lie within the last traces of Dust.

Suit Of Wood:

1. Yggdrasil. All forests, one forest. All trees, one tree. Before the rise of the beasts, a forest was. In the World Tree are the paths between worlds where life spread across the cosmos. If you seek the paths between worlds, or the serenity and bounty of the primordial forests, seek within the branches of Yggdrasil.

2. Nidhogg. They slumber, yet remain. Whether amidst the roots of the Yggdrasil or in the City of Rlyeh, the Great Beasts that set the Patterns of Life await the breaking of ancient bonds. Effects such as “Summon Nature’s Ally”, “Dragonstrike”, and more lie within the domain of Nidhogg.

3. Audhumla. Life grows, spreads, encroaches. Whether it is the vines that pull apart stone, the sargasso which entraps, or the roots that devour, the tide of life knows few limits. In Audhumla does life devour itself and find renewal. Spells of growth, of entanglement, of reincarnation, and of bringing burgeoning life to the barren wastes are within the scope of Audhumla.

4. YmirGaia. Each spark of life, a candle against the void saying “I AM”. In a myriad such sparks, a great light. What life encompasses, it draws upon. Communicating with Realm-Spirits, drawing upon the magical resources of the land, and seeking the consensus of life lies within the realm of YmirGaia.

5. Alfheim. Where sparks gather, Fey are born. Disembodied Nature and Totem Spirits, or more grounded Dryads, Fauns, and Boggarts, all share in the wild magic of nature. Yet, while the wild magic can never be entirely tamed, it can yet be channeled. To call upon Alfheim is always a tricky bargain – something must always be given in return – but many and wide-ranging are the powers of the fey.

6. The Troll. The rampaging power of the beasts lies at the heart of the Troll, the force that strips away forests, digs networks of tunnels, dams rivers, and gathers resources. If it lies within the power of muscle, paw, and claw, it is within the realm of the Troll.

7. The Unity Of Wood. To recognize the balance of wood within and without is to handle it in safety. Spells of protection from positive/negative energy and curses, merging with plants, auras that bludgeon or entangle, and many similar protections can be found within The Unity Of Wood.

8. The Thousand Excellent Herbs. Remedies and toxins, foodstuffs and banes, all can be found in a handful of cunningly-selected plants. With sufficient power, all such things are available within the realm of the Thousand Excellent Herbs.

9. The Cottage (often The Den). A snug, secure, place of safety with family about you. The Cottage brings shelter and calm, a place of healing and rest. Spells of the Cottage bring rest and sleep, renewal and healing, and contact with those bonded to you, whether living or dead.

10. The Harvest. Abundance and festival, a buffer against famine, is the gift of the Harvest. Spells of creating food and intoxicants, drawing upon the strengths and energies of others, storing things away for later, and celebration, are all within the compass of the Harvest.

11. The Workshop. The work of hands and cunning brings transformation, the creation of new wonders from natures harvest. Spells of fabrication, construction, and enhancement of tools and machines fall within the purview of the Workshop.

12. The Fungal Kingdom. As life draws to its close, the last flowering is of creeping decay in the darkness, as death at last holds illimitable dominion over all. Spells involving fungi, spores, the toxins of molds and decay, and restoring an unnatural life to fallen flesh, lie within the realm of the Fungal Kingdom.

While this is definitely a “broad” deck, offering a wide variety of magical effects, it’s worth noting that it certainly doesn’t (and shouldn’t) cover everything. No individual Hexcrafter should be omnipotent. On the other hand, it’s certainly fair enough to rule that any fire card in this deck will probably do to warm your feet or light your pipe if someone was to waste a Hex on such a trivial matter.

Now, if you limited this deck to the manipulation of the actual, physical, “elements” it would definitely be a “narrow” deck – and probably one with a great deal of redundancy since a lot of the cards would have some serious overlap when interpreted that way. That might be an easy way to start off though, spending more points to turn it into a “broad” deck later on.

Eclipse And Nobilis – Afflictions

And for today (and a bit of Christmas Backfill) it’s a ‘how to build in Eclipse’ question.

How do you build a character who has a permanent law of reality attached to them (Afflictions from Nobilis, in case you recognize it). Basically, they are things varying from ‘I am always on time’, ‘I stay abreast of technological developments’, or ‘I love [a specific person]’, that are immutable facts about you that can only be overridden by major workings of gods. But they also have the potential disadvantage of being permanent facets to your character that you can’t violate (except through intense personality change, or contradictions).

-Jirachi

Well, the first step in building anything is having a look on what it’s supposed to do and how it works. Presuming that you’re looking at Nobilis 3’rd edition…

Afflictions in Nobilis 3’rd, are a supernatural force that tries to make something happen. They can be blocked by other supernatural forces, but it takes work. On the other hand, if they cannot rationally function, there is backlash against the person with the Affliction. Still, they’re generally quite beneficial. If they help you, you benefit – and if they hinder you you get more Miracle Points to use, and so once again, you benefit. They only become a problem if something provokes Backlash, and even then it isn’t that bad. That’s why you deliberately buy Afflictions during character creation.

The trouble here is that even in Nobilis there’s no real definition for how far an Affliction can go to make something happen – leaving “rationally function” up to the whims of whoever is running the game.

A sample Affliction from Nobilis 3’rd is “I am always on time”.

  • So if your alarm clock doesn’t go off (broken, stolen, power out, forgot to set it, whatever), you either wake up on your own or something else wakes you up. That’s fair enough. That happens to real people fairly often. In fact it’s happened to me personally a number of times. I was a pretty heavy sleeper when I was younger.
  • If your car will not start, there will be a handy cab or something to give you a ride – and all the lights will just happen to be green when you get to them if you’re pressed for time. You will make it to your court appearance on time. This sort of thing is less common in reality, but it’s still not too big a stretch.
  • Of course, as an Affliction, you will also make it to your court appearance on time even if you’d much rather be skipping it and going to the hospital to treat that gaping stomach wound with the blood pouring out of it.
  • Can you make a note in your day planner that you will be arriving to pick up some dinosaur eggs in Mexico forty-eight hours before the asteroid strike and have your affliction teleport you across continents and sixty-six million years back in time so that you make it in time? Why or why not? Time and space are just more laws of nature after all.
  • Can some other character with access to the afterlife make a note in his or her day planner that they will be meeting you in the realm of death at noon and have your affliction make sure that you die in time to attend? Why not? Wouldn’t that be “being on time” even if you didn’t know that you were expected?

What happens if you need to be in two or more places at once? Does that produce Teleportation, Time Travel, Duplication, Telepresence, or Backlash? What are the limits here?

Perhaps a few more examples from Nobilis will help sort that out?

If you “must be rescued whenever you are in trouble” does that mean that you can never get out of trouble through your own efforts? After all, you MUST be rescued – and if that’s a “law of nature”, then it ALWAYS applies. No matter what you do, as soon as the slightest thing goes wrong, you are stuck until you are rescued. Did you not find out what you wanted with your first Google click? You are having trouble, and must now await rescue! Let us hope that the kid next door will soon arrive to save you from the evil computer in exchange for cookies again! Or is there a threshold of “importance” here?

How about “Animals really hate me”? That’s another one straight out of Nobilis.

Is that what d20 calls animals? Does it include bugs? How about people? They’re a part of Animalia after all. Perhaps it’s everything in Opisthokonta? How much do they hate you? Will they come through fire to get you? How do they know you? From how far away?

In d20 there’s a major difference between “you can’t use a mount, have a familiar, or use a trained animal”, and “The Druid’s animal companion attacks you on sight and cannot be called off” – and an even larger gap between that and “You are constantly pursued and attacked by every creature in the jungle, including the army ants and local tribesmen” – but they could all reasonably be derived from “Animals really hate me”. How wide-ranging is this Affliction?

For a penultimate example from Nobilis… “I must appear when someone chants my name three times!”

Now, Nobilis has something to say about this particular Affliction.

To look under the hood of that Affliction, it’s terribly annoying to reflexively teleport across the world whenever some dude with a pamphlet chants your name. On the plus side, though, it’s free travel; it doesn’t require buying a Teleportation-style Gift; your friends can call on you when they’re in trouble; and it won’t be long before you pair it with a cell phone and some allies to get you just about anywhere you want to go.

Which just goes to show that Nobilis actually operates on an extremely small scale compared to both reality and D20. The real universe appears to be infinite. If that rule applied to you in reality there could only be two possible outcomes; it never happened because it was impossible (perhaps your name was too complex to pronounce three times in the lifetime of the universe) or it would happen an infinite number of times every second and you’d effectively cease to exist. You’d never be in one spot for more than the Planck Time.

And most d20 games are set in an infinite multiverse full of infinite universes.

For a final example from Nobilis… if you are Afflicted to “win the heart of everyone you meet”, and you meet “a mechanical man with no heart to win” you must either propose a viable resolution – “something that could happen to sustain the affliction” or accept spiritual damage to your avatar.

Yet afflictions are enforced by reality-altering miracles. In d20, where spells such as Wish can explicitly alter the recent past to “undo misfortune” (and much, MUCH, lower level effects can allow rerolls), isn’t “I didn’t get into that situation” pretty much always a viable miraculous resolution?

Questions like these really don’t matter in Nobilis. It’s a much more narrative-driven system and presumes a fairly high level of cooperation with whoever’s running the game. D20, however, demands a much higher level of definition and details. It also draws a much clearer distinction between advantageous powers that are generally controlled by the character or player and disadvantageous effects that are generally controlled by the game master. It’s full of opposition that is actually trying to kill you and has some chance of success at it.

We’re going to need to at least loosely define a lot of things that Nobilis just leaves up to consensus – but now that we have a reasonable idea of what we’re building, it’s time to spend some character points.

Hindrances and Karmic Bennies:

  • For “Afflictions” that are basically just annoying hindrances, all you need is the “Accursed” disadvantage (-3 CP). Talk to the game master about what effects taking “Accursed: Animals Hate Me.” will have and see if you want it and the three extra character points you’ll get for taking it.

If you want the full Nobilis-style “I get benefits whenever this becomes a problem” thing, you will also want to buy one of:

  • Rite of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / activation is under control of the game master, never activates at all unless the associated “Accursed” disadvantage is proving to be a serious hindrance at the moment (9 CP).

Or

  • Grant of Aid with Mighty and +6 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / activation is under control of the game master, never activates at all unless the associated “Accursed” disadvantage is proving to be a serious hindrance at the moment (9 CP).

Thus, for a net cost of (6 CP) whenever your annoying curse proves to be a serious hindrance, you may draw strength from adversity – regaining spells, power, mana, or other supernatural resources OR regaining hit points, lost attribute points, or drained levels when you need them.

If you want to do both, both, reduce the bonus uses on Rite of Chi to 4 (and the cost to 6 CP), and spend two feats / 12 CP on the package. That way meeting the challenge of your curse will renew both your physical and magical strength if you need it. It still probably won’t make being “Hunted By Demons”, or “Always a Primary Target”, or some such a good thing by itself – but if you’ve given a character a disadvantage like that, presumably you’ve got them set up to deal with it.

If your Affliction is one of those that actively twists reality to enforce itself rather than an annoyance that rewards you when it comes up, then you’ll want to build an…

Imperatives:

  • 1d6 (4) Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only for enforcing a particular rule (6 CP), plus Rite Of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to refill the pool above (6 CP). Both are Specialized Again for Reduced Cost / activation is under control of the game master, may backlash if blocked or logically impossible within the limits of the level of Reality Editing it can handle. (Double Specialization is normally a fairly big red flag, but putting something under the control of the game master should keep it under control).

This 6 CP Power/Feat actively warps reality to enforce itself. Does everyone you meet always fall in love with you? Sure, you may get free food, the best advice that people can manage, and price breaks – but people murder people they love all the time and being kidnaped by some lunatic admirer is not fun. I’d think carefully before buying this sort of ability.

The extent of the edit required – and allowed – also plays a role. 1 Mana covers a Minor Edit. Perhaps the waitress brings you an extra-large plate or doesn’t try to keep you from skipping out without paying. Notable Edits cost 2 Mana. Perhaps that waitress is suddenly willing to risk her neck to hide you and get you out a back door when enemies show up. Major Edits – being rushed away by a mob of adoring fans / volunteer defenders or having a local ruler intervene to get you out of trouble AGAIN – cost 3 Mana. Finally, grandiose edits – that dread elder god decides that it really likes you – cost 4 Mana if they’re permitted at all.

That also gives us a convenient mechanism for determining how powerful an effect your shiny new Affliction / Imperative can produce; you rolled a “1” for Mana? Then the limit is Trivial Edits. You rolled a 4+? Then you can have Grandiose edits if the game master chooses to allow them.

Even that may not cover going back in time to get those dinosaur eggs, but that’s more dependent on whether or not the game master thinks it should and is willing to deal with time travel than with the Imperative itself.

And I hope that helps!

Hexcrafting Part II – Deck Creation

And for today it’s another Hexcrafting question…

Do you have any advice for creating Hexcrafter decks from scratch? How does the broadness of say, a hexcrafting card called ‘psychokinesis’, a rune magic skill called psychokinesis, and the telekinetic dweomer skill?

-Jirachi

Well, to cover the simplest bits first… if you want an actual deck, there are plenty of decks of medicine cards, tarot cards, oracle cards, and RPG whimsy cards out there (one player even used the I-Ching, but he got quite creative with his interpretations). You can also use some old Magic cards, or borrow some cards from various games, such as Everway. It would be nice if the backs all matched, but it isn’t really required. We’re playing d20, not engaging in high-stakes gambling.

If you want to make your own physical deck there are several free programs (Nandeck, Strange Eons, Cardmaker, Magic Set Editor) made just for that, or you can use Inkscape or GIMP. For that matter, our own Runecards can be printed out and work just fine (that is, of course, a shameless plug).

Now, I’m presuming that you’re more interested in what goes into a deck – and for that, it’s best to start with some examples and comparisons.

To compare with Thaumaturgy and Dweomer…

For a psychically-oriented Dweomer Hexcrafting Deck, you could easily construct a forty-eight card deck by simply using one card to represent each of the eight skills for each Dweomer field. That’s a bit dull, and a bit below the recommended 60+ cards – but Dweomer is an efficiently organized set of abilities with relatively little overlap between the various skills. That does have it’s downside though. Unlike, say, using Tarot Cards for a Hexcrafting Deck you will often find that only one specific card of your Dweomer Deck will do what want at the moment – and if you do not have it in your hand, then you are out of luck. A Dweomer deck would be effective, but it would also be kind of dull. Given that this deck would cover an extremely broad range of abilities, it would obviously be a “broad” deck.

For an arcanely-oriented Thaumaturgy Hexcrafting Deck, we have an example – “Necromancy”. One of the eight classical schools that contain almost all magic. So a broad Arcane Deck might well contain sixty-four cards – eight each for Abjuration, Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy, and Transmutation. Such a deck would probably cover a bit more than the Dweomer Deck, but then the odds of pulling the cards you wanted would be slightly smaller – the usual tradeoff for a larger, and thus more versatile, deck.

Unfortunately, comparisons with Rune Magic skills tend to be a bit misleading.

  • Hexcrafting offers access to spells of all kinds from the very start, at high power levels for any given level. The breadth of an individual card is far less important than the theme of the deck. On the other hand, access to those spells is somewhat random and it is very difficult to rebuild the user’s magical reserves.
  • Thaumaturgy and Dweomer offer in-depth access to a limited magical field at high power levels, use easily-renewed Power and/or Spell Levels, and can both offer and gain bonuses from other skills and rolls.
  • Rune Magic offers considerable flexibility within a narrow field, but relies on hard-to-renew Mana for power, offers considerably slower access to high-end spells, basically requires buying a caster level for each skill (equivalent to a Specialized and Corrupted caster level and lagging well behind other magical systems) instead of allowing the use of an overall caster level, and – since it’s a skill-based system – nerfs the most common methods of gaining bonuses. The far superior flexibility of Rune Magic skills comes at a notable cost.

Regardless of all of that, the Thaumaturgy and Dweomer decks obviously aren’t especially original – and they don’t cover much about creating your own deck. Ergo, so some further examples are required.

For a Narrow “Animal Spirit” or “Nature Spirit” deck, pretty much all of the animal cards may be used to summon, influence, banish, communicate with, and otherwise manipulate animals of the appropriate types. Almost all of them can be usede to take on animal powers of to shapeshift into appropriate animals. For some more individual effects…

  1. Ant grants strength, wall-walking, scent, acid, and organizational powers with minor access to spells that get large quantities of work done.
  2. Bat grants flight, echolocation, speed, and agility, with minor access to fireworks magic.
  3. Bear spells involve size and strength, claws, natural toughness, hibernation, and – traditionally – minor healing effects.
  4. Beaver is a woodcrafter, builder, hydraulic engineer, and swimmer. Beaver magic generally involves crafting and building things.
  5. Bee can provide flight, envenom blades, allow one to peer into the ultraviolet, communicate through dance, and summon and direct swarms.
  6. Butterfly grants metamorphosis, transformation, and beauty, although it’s stronger on personal than on external effects. It is, in fact, one of the more powerful and versatile animal cards.
  7. Caribou grants speedy and enduring travel, adaptability, and attunement to nature.
  8. Cheetah grants great bursts of speed, communicating with big cats, and taking on cheetah features.
  9. Coral can create walls, traps, and shelters, as well as some stinging and toxic touch attacks, but is considerably more fragile than just using stone.
  10. Electric Eel offers electrical senses and discharges, water breathing, slipping through narrow places, and biting.
  11. Frog can grant a deadly toxic touch, amphibious abilities, hibernation, a long, sticky, tongue, and jumping abilities.
  12. Goat grants climbing ability, agility, the ability to digest almost everything, and enhanced virility.
  13. Honey Badger grants claws, toughness, strength, burrowing, immunity to poison, and immunity to fear.
  14. Jellyfish can grant reaching tendrils, some rather nasty toxic touch attacks, water breathing, and the ability to regenerate from almost any injury,
  15. Octopus provides spells involving tentacles, clouds of darkness, poisonous touches, water breathing, and completing many tasks at once.
  16. Owl grants flight, night sight, enhanced hearing, taking on owl features (like talons), seeing through the eyes of owls, and perhaps some secret wisdom – such as you get from first and second level “Detect” spells.
  17. Parrot can be used to send messages, speak various languages, imitate sounds, gain winged flight, and bite.
  18. Serpent grants poison effects (some ranged), constriction, entrapment, infravision, stealth, and minor hypnotic effects.
  19. Tardigrade (Water Bear) can provide long-term hibernation and resistance to radiation, extremes of temperature, lack of food and water, and lack of atmosphere, as well as boosts to hit points and damage reduction.
  20. Wolf can summon packs of wolves, gain scent, claim territory, run a long way, and (traditionally) grant minor hunting magics.

And so on for Komodo Dragon, Shark, Turtle, Buffalo, Skunk, Rotifer, Amoeba, Bombardier Beetle, Spider, Cobra, Python, Starfish, Elephant, Hummingbird, Snapping Shrimp, Sponges, and the rest of the animal kingdom, both large and small. A few hours at the library, on the internet, or watching nature documentaries should provide plenty of inspiration for an Animal deck.

Still, while Shark may grant scent, electrical senses, massive bite attacks (Manyjaws anyone?), swimming, water breathing, and epic-level Sharknado’s, it is still an animal powers card in the end, like all the others. You can do a lot of things with animal cards – call up stampedes, destroy vegetation, spray acid, boiling clouds, or ink, produce toxins, undermine hills, and so much more – but there are also plenty of things that animals simply do not do. You won’t be using this deck to summon demons, or teleport, or program computers (Save, possibly, with an epic level “infinite number of monkeys” spell), or raise the dead, or generate hard radiation, or bind an army into a trance – and the list goes on. Even if you persuade the game master to let you throw in a few “plant” cards, the options there are fairly limited as well (not regarding the utility of a Tree Feather Token) and this will almost certainly remain a narrow deck. Real animals and plants simply aren’t very versatile compared to d20’s vast array of magical spells even if you throw in low-level access to a few mythic properties.

Now if you start throwing in mythical totems… Thunderbird may grant access to lightning and weather magic, Cave Bear to powerful healing magic, Cerberus to the Underworld, and so on – but this is no longer a Narrow Animal Powers Deck. It’s a broad Totem Spirit Deck.

You could also make a deck of Elemental Powers (could be Narrow or Broad depending on whether you include elemental associations), or Gods (usually Broad) – although the game master will probably limit you to the most direct aspects of their portfolios to keep this from being an “anything” deck.

And I hope that helps!

For next time on this topic, a complete “elemental” deck.

Eclipse, Entreaty Magic II, and Magical “Feats”

The article on Entreaty Magic presented a way to build yet another magic system – in this case a freeform system of calling on forces or entities that relied on earning the help of those entities. It offered an option to buy that system in eleven eight-point “installments”, rather than as a series of varyingly-sized chunks. That led to a question…

If you are going to have the ‘8 cp per level’ as a way to purchase the progression, is there any reason why you couldn’t just keep buying it past level 11? If so, what would that look like?

-Jirachi

Now that would be mildly awkward, since, while the parts of the Entreaty Magic package which use level-based formula continue to increase with higher levels, once you buy all 87 points worth of the package, you’ve bought all there is to buy. There isn’t any more because some of the basic powers it’s built on have hit their maximum at that point and they’re already Specialized and Corrupted to increase their effects. If you wanted to continue from there, you’d need to either buy secondary abilities that enhance your magical powers or persuade your game master to invent new rules to cover it.

I’d recommend the secondary powers personally. They’re easier and more interesting, and usually a lot less subject to breaking the game. After all, most of the upper limits on abilities in Eclipse are in there for a reason.

So lets extend that progression, spending eight character points per level.

First up, spend two per level on…

L12-L20: Archmagic. Extremely skilled and experienced Entreators may learn to channel brief bursts of even greater power from their patrons, achieving results far beyond the reach of lesser adepts. Unfortunately, they still cannot do so very often. Buy:

  • 3d6 (9) Mana with the Spell Enhancement Natural Magic Option, Specialized for Reduced Cost / only for spell enhancement, only for use with Entreaties, effects so enhanced can have a maximum effective level of 6 at level 12 or less, 7 at level 13+, 8 at level 15+, and 9 at level 17+ (9 CP).
  • Rite Of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized for Reduced Cost / only to refill the spell enhancement pool above, requires a nights rest (9 CP).
    • Split up over nine levels this basically provides a pool of (Level – 11) Mana that renews itself each day. This will allow the Entreator to cast a few higher level spells each day or to enhance them in various other ways.

To make up the rest of the 8 CP/Level you can take one magic-boosting Feat / 6 CP effect per level. Some possibilities here include:

L12) Patronic Panoply: This trick allows the user to channel his patrons energies manifesting as solid, physical, items – often magical items. This will require the investment of some skill points to make it really worthwhile, but will be an increasingly powerful option as the user goes up in levels. Buy:

  • Access to the Occult Skill Dream-Binding (3 CP), at normal cost (3 CP). As a rule, the items will be related to one or more of the user’s Patrons somehow. Many Entreaters will even develop one load-out for each patron, allowing them to chose a package to suit a given mission.

L13) Grand Petition: This trick briefly enhances the user’s ability to channel his or her patron’s powers. Activated as a part of using an Entreaty, it allows for a mighty surge of supernatural force, allowing the user to amplify the effects of some spells and overcome resistant creatures defenses. Buy:

  • Berserker (+10 to Caster Level, -2 to Reflex Saves) with Enduring (no fatigue afterwards), Corrupted / only allows the casting of a single spell per use. This trick will function (1 + Level/3) times daily (6 CP).

L14) The Forge Arcane: This trick allows the user to create three minor relics – one for him or herself and two for friends. While these invariably have drawbacks, they each offer the equivalent of two bonus Feats. Buy:

  • Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted/only usable to make one-point relics, only usable with points from Enthusiast, only relics related to one of the user’s patrons, all relics carry a disadvantage – although this does help reduce their cost (2 CP).
  • Enthusiast with Adaption, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (a total of three “floating” character points)/points may only be used to create relics (known as “conjures”), relics have a maximum cost of one point and no one can use more than one at any one time (4 CP for the ability to create up to three one-point relics. +1 Relic may be added per additional CP spent. The relics and rituals for the Houngan Conjurer may be helpful).

L15) Ward Of The Principalities: This trick invokes the user’s patrons to look after their agent – channeling in protective effects just when they are needed, although this still counts against their pool of obligations. Buy:

  • Reflex Training (Three extra actions per day variety) with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only for defensive actions, only for Entreaties. The “user’s patrons” will obligingly, and instantly, erect mystical defenses for the user (6 CP).

L16) Summons From Beyond: This trick allows the user to summon a familiar, mystic mount, or other form of companion creature – or to either upgrade an existing companion or summon another. (It’s usually well worth investing some more Feats in your companions). Buy:

  • Companion (6 CP).

L17) A Patron’s Glance: This trick allows an Entreator to briefly turn a spell effect that requires concentration over to his or her patrons to sustain while he or she does something else, picking up maintaining the spell again later if he or she wishes to. Buy:

  • Harnessed Intellect (6 CP).

L18) Agent of the Powers: This trick allows the user to invoke the indirect aid of his or her patrons to bend fortune in his or her favor when necessary – a subtle, but powerful effect. Buy:

  • Karma (6 CP).

L19) Hand Of The Divine Craftsman:

This trick allows the user to create powerful, unique, magical devices through quests and deeds, some of them of potentially worldshaking power. (Alternatively, the character can be boring and take any one Create Item feat). Buy:

  • Create Artifact (6 CP).

L20) Citadel Of Magic: This trick allows the user to establish a Place of Power, Magical Sanctum, or similar location, enjoying various special abilities, the support of allies, and more while there. Buy:

  • Sanctum (as per THIS article).

There are, of course, thousands of other possible “progressions” – you could focus on combat casting, or ritual magic, or using Leadership to bind various sorts of outsiders to your service – but this is Eclipse. There are always thousands of ways that you could take a character.

Now if you’re wanting to expand on a more conventional progression, such as the Wizard… you can use Invocation with the Mighty modifier to gain access to spells of level ten and beyond, buy additional caster levels normally, and/or buy Mana as Generic Spell Levels (Specialized for Increased Effect / only acts as spell slots that expand an existing spell progression. With that, each 6 CP expended on expanding a progression provides 10 spell levels worth of additional spell slots.

Eclipse and Uplifting Animals

And today it’s another question – in this case, one that’s jumped to the head of the que because just jotting down some notes for it quickly turned into a full article.

A rather specific question this time around: I’ve noticed that Self-Development has no provision for increasing an ability score below 3. Ergo, it cannot be used to raise the Intelligence of a creature with an Int of 1 or 2.

Presuming that I have such a creature (without it being a familiar), and have a way to grant it additional CPs (e.g. I’ve taken Leadership with Beast-Lord and Emperor’s Star), what ability could I spend those CPs on to permanently raise their Intelligence?

(Obviously, the best bet would just be to find the proper awaken spell to have someone cast on the creature(s) in question, but I wanted to restrict this to CP-purchasable abilities.)

-Alzrius

D20 attributes are a bit awkward at the lower end of the scale aren’t they? Earlier editions used 3-18 to cover what functional (“playable”) humans were like, with everything below that crammed into the range of 0-2 and everything above that – no matter how superhuman – crammed into 19-25. Currently characters are mostly created using attribute point buy and generally aren’t don’t get scores of 6-, effectively reserving the 3-6 range for (non-player) characters with serious disabilities – but the venerable 3-18 is still considered the “normal human range” even if the upper cap has been taken off for monsters, gods, high-level characters, and other things that go well beyond “human”.

Of course, to stick with Intelligence… for most game purposes that 0-2 range works just fine. “Mindless Animal”, “Stupid Animal”, and “Bright Animal” pretty well cover it on the extremely rare occasions when it comes up. Who cares about measuring the exact relative intelligence of an ordinary worm, garter snake, parrot, cat, dog, and preying mantis? None of them are playable, none of them are going to be coming up with complex plans, and none of them are going to be major enemies.

The same goes for the other attributes. “Totally Ineffectual”, “Almost Totally Ineffectual”, and “Basically Hopeless” really all say the same thing; “let the player characters handle things and don’t expect any help from THIS non-player character”.

So Self-Development in Eclipse doesn’t cover attributes in the 0-2 range both because Eclipse was focused on playable characters and because 0-2 actually covers an immense range of values – in scale, far greater than the 3-18 range. After all, Str 3 lets a human carry 30 pounds as a heavy load. Str 18 lets them carry 300 pounds – a net range of one order of magnitude. On the other hand, Str 0-1 covers bugs to squirrels and things. Lets take the classic example of an ant (a creature noted for it’s in-scale strength). Ants, according to the biologists, are capable of carrying a maximum of almost 1/2000 of a pound – what d20 would call “a heavy load”. Str 1 lets you carry a maximum of 10 pounds as a heavy load – twenty thousand times as much. Other bugs can still carry things, if not as well as ants – so 3-18 covers a range of 1-10, the scale between 0-1 covers a range of at least 1/200,000 pounds to 10 pounds – at least six orders of magnitude crammed into that single step. Letting a non-magical boost cover that kind of range just didn’t seem right. Magic, however… magic follows its own rules.

Still, as with paying points for more starting cash, this is a spot where simple approaches don’t work very well because it’s a corner of the d20 system that doesn’t work well to start with – which d20 gets away with because it’s also a bit that very few people care about. Still, as with building a Stipend (in the linked article), there are ways to work around it.

Animalistic Intelligences:

This particular approach requires that the creature buy…

  • Innate Enchantment: +2 Int (Spell Level One, Caster Level One, Unlimited-Use Use-Activated, x.7 Personal Only) = 1400 GP Value (2 CP).
  • Immunity to the Experience Point Cost for the Innate Enchantment above (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP). You won’t need this in Pathfinder, but then it’s only 1 CP – and an animal may not have the Pathfinder Package Deal to begin with.
  • Immunity to Stacking Limits (Common, Minor, Major), Specialized and Corrupted / only for Enhancement Bonuses, only to allow the bonus from the first-level spell given above to stack with a single other enhancement bonus (2 CP).
  • Immunity to Dispelling, Antimagic, and Dead Magic (Common, Minor, Great), Specialized and Corrupted / only to convert the innate enchantment given above into an extraordinary ability (4 CP).
  • Disadvantage: Accursed. The user has no innate language skills and may not be able to speak properly even after learning to understand a language (- 3 CP).

This involves three natural-law immunities and thus is a literal game-changer – as might be expected of pushing a creature across whatever border it is that separates a sapient entity from an animal. I don’t think I’d allow it for most characters, but then most characters would just be looking for the immunity to stacking limits.

The Thinking Cap:

You can also simply add intelligence by magic, like adding sweetener to oatmeal. If you can enchant living creatures, then there is nothing preventing you from giving one Sentience.

  • Enchant the creature as a 1’st level Pearl Of Power (1000 GP, Caster Level 17). Those are always handy. Or a Meridian Belt (1000 GP, Caster Level 9) to let it wear rings on all four feet. Or something. It doesn’t matter all that much what, although a higher caster level will help your creature avoid brief bouts of stupidity when it gets hit with Dispel Magic. .
  • Now give it Pathfinder-Style Sentience: That’s (500 GP) base, plus, say, Int 14 (1000 GP), Wis 12 (500 GP, presuming that the base creature hasn’t got Wis 12+ already), and Cha 12 (500 GP). Throw in Speech (500 GP).

That’s a total cost of 4000 GP, or 2000 GP if you’re enchanting it yourself. You could spend some more to throw in a few powers to take advantage of that nice high caster level though.

Since a sapient item gets to control the “functions” of the enchanted item, this gives you a bolt-on “intelligence module” that – since it is free to act – should let your new magically-intelligent creature gain levels like any other character.

  • If you want the creature to pay for it’s own bootstrap, take this as an Innate Enchantment. A 4000 GP value would cost 5 CP. Throw in an Immunity to the Experience Point Cost for the Innate Enchantment above (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP) and we’re back at (6 CP).

This method is vulnerable to being temporarily dispelled, or disjoined, or some such. To get immunity to THAT you’d want Immunity to Dispelling, Antimagic, and Dead Magic (Common, Minor, Great), Specialized and Corrupted / only to convert the innate enchantment given above into an extraordinary ability (4 CP). That raises the total cost to (10 CP) rather than six, but it lets your creature start off with a much better Intelligence (and likely Charisma) score and three languages. Go ahead! Unleash those Sapient Colossal Scorpions! Also, give them bowler hats, teacups, and English accents while you’re at it!

The Nurture Of Minds

  • On the personal level you can use Innate Enchantment: Upgrade the “Awaken” spell to level six to eliminate the material component cost and take it as an innate power: (Level Six Spell x Caster Level Eleven x 1800 GP (Command Word Activated) x .05 (Usable once per month) = 5940 GP (7 CP worth of innate enchantment, barring other modifiers. This would only be 4950 GP for Spell Trigger, or 1650 GP for Spell Completion, but those have more complicated requirements to use.
  • To get an animal to Awaken itself you’ll want Use-Activated, but you can throw in Personal-Only (x.7) for net cost of 4620 CP or 6 CP worth of Innate Enchantment. Of course, you’ll also want an immunity to the XP cost of the Innate Enchantment (1 CP) and an Immunity to the need to consciously activate the spell (Uncommon, Major, Trivial, 2 CP) for a total cost of 9 CP.

Since this only needs to be activated once a month until it “takes”, and never again thereafter, the best way to use this setup it is to put it in a (1 CP) relic. Call it a Stone of Sapience and hang it on the creature you want to Awaken, and in a few months it will take effect – and you can either put the Stone on some other creature to awaken IT or (if you bought a version of the usual relic-making package) make something else.

Alternatively, you can take the “personal only” modifier off and let the creature start awakening other creatures – likely it’s companions, mates, or offspring – but that might start getting troublesome and is more expensive.

  • You can do pretty much the same thing with Inherent Spell (Specialized for Increased Effect to get a 6’th level effect and Corrupted for Increased Effect to avoid having to meet the level requirement, 6 CP), but you’ll want to throw in the immunity to having to consciously use it (2 CP) again. I’m not too sure what you’d use for Specialization, but personal-only is one of the more obvious possibilities for the Corruption if you give it to the animal to be awakened – although you’ll need the Immunity to the need to consciously activate the spell (Uncommon, Major, Trivial, 2 CP) again. This will function every day if you wish, but whatever specialization you come up with is likely to be troublesome.

The Doctor Dolittle Effect:

If you wish to be surrounded by a modest number of sapient beasts you can use…

  • Blessing with the Group Modifier, Corrupted for Increased Effect (you automatically count as one of the group enhanced and those enhanced start off friendly) and Specialized (for Reduced Cost) / only to bestow Intelligence, cannot be revoked after bestowal (although the death of the recepient will open up another “slot”), only works on creatures with an original intelligence of 2 or less (6 CP). This will allow the user to grant up to (Chr Mod +1) creatures intelligence equal to his or her own.

Unfortunately, this one really won’t work very as a bootstrap effect unless you give the target creature the above power, an immunity to needing to use it consciously, and a secondary blessing to transfer both of the above powers to a creature that is already intelligent – (thus gaining that creatures intelligence for itself and a few other creatures). That would technically work, but is getting rather silly.

The Wandering Soul:

This approach has already been discussed by Jirachi (responding to the original comment); it consists of stuffing a spirit into an animal body to let it use (or be used by) the Spirit’s intelligence and abilities. This can be done in an immense variety of ways, but does require using either the Specific Creature summons option or the Spell Renewal option, otherwise your animal friend will lose it’s memories each time the spell is cast and brings in a new spirit to inhabit it.

  • Witches can use The Path Of Spirits or create a Tulpa that needs a host body to manifest in.
  • Summoning Spells (the Channeling Variant from The Practical Enchanter) will do it for anyone using general magic or inherent spells.
  • Channelers can convert uses of Channeling to the correct spells or use the Hand Of Darkness path to split off fragments of their own personas to possess creatures.

Overall, however, the vast majority of these methods require outside interference – something you do to a creature as opposed to an ability you purchase for it. I suppose you could give a creature the abilities needed to summon it’s OWN spirit, but that gets rather expensive and is complicated to build.

  • Given that Ritualists can simply invent their own effects. I suppose it would be possible to create an extremely limited package using Occult Ritual, Luck, and Specific Knowledges and then use Blessing to cause an animal to “instinctively” perform a self-awakening or spirit binding ritual on itself until it works – but that is, once again, getting pretty silly.

Companions:

While you specifically noted that you didn’t want these, for general reference they obviously belong on this list.

  • Familiars, Psi-Crystals, Mystic Mounts, and other Companion Creatures are, of course, shaped by the owning character’s will and magic – and specifically get increased intelligences. Still, they call for a substantial investment from the owning character to give them much in the way of special powers Given that a little bit of power flows back to the master from them, providing various minor enhancements for the master, it IS theoretically possible to set them up so that they boost themselves and / or the number of companions that the character possesses. This is, however, both blatantly silly and potentially game-breaking (to the point that game masters should pretty much never allow it). Uncontrolled positive feedback loops are generally trouble.

And I hope that helps!

D20, Ninja, and Eclipse, Part II – the Complete Adventurer and Pathfinder Ninjas

And to continue our look at building Ninja through the years – and on how to upgrade the various variants to current standards here are the next few types of Ninja. And if you missed Part I (the Rokugan and Mystic Eye Ninjas) they’re HERE.

The next major Ninja class was The Complete Adventurer Ninja (2005). They were a rather hesitant attempt to make “Ninja” mean something more than “slightly refluffed Rogue or Rogue Multiclass” in baseline d20. Unfortunately, the writers were – once again – pretty shy about giving non-spellcasters all that much in the way of exotic powers, so this version of the Ninja wound up with some rather weak “Ki Powers” that could only be used a few times a day – not even really up to “a ninja always has another trick to pull” standard of most fictional ninja and some actual ninja. They got…

  • D6 HD (40 CP). What a rogue got, and functional enough in those days of less-optimized damage levels.
  • 138 SP (138 CP or – with a modern build using Adept and Fast Learner – 58 CP)
  • +15 BAB (90 CP).
  • +24 to Saves (72 CP).
  • Proficiency with all Simple and Ninja Weapons (9 CP)
  • Defender, Corrupted/only when unarmored and unencumbered (4 CP). This helped to make up for the lack of armor a bit.
  • Advanced Augmented Bonus (Adds Int Mod to AC), Corrupted/only when unarmored and unencumbered (8 CP). Another – and much earlier-into-play boost to AC. You’d still need some Bracers Of Armor though.

The Ninjas original Ki Powers were Ghost Step (L2, Invisibility for a round. You can become Ethereal for a round instead at L10), Ki Dodge (L6, one round of 20% miss chance), Ghost Strike (L8, Strike to and from the Ethereal Plane for one attack), Greater Ki Dodge (L18, 50% miss chance for a round), and Ghost Walk (L20, as per Ethereal Jaunt, 2 Ki) and a Ki Pool of (Ninja Level / 2 + Wis Mod) points. This version provides more powers, and a much wider selection of powers, because, honestly, the original set wasn’t very good for something that was a defining feature of the class and because building a power set that limited is actually a lot more trouble than setting up a worthwhile power set. Eclipse wasn’t designed to build useless abilities. This version also isn’t reliant on Wisdom, so it reduces the multiple-attribute-dependency problem.

  • Ki Pool: 4d6 Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect/only for use with quick (Swift or Immediate action) Reality Edits. Edits are divided into Minor (1 Mana, available at level 2+), Notable (1 Mana, available at level 6+), Major (2 Mana, available at level 14+), and Grandiose (4 Mana, available at level 25+ IF the game master is willing to put up with them) edits; the user is limited to a maximum of (level / 2 (increasing as the character levels up), rounded up) specific edits with his or her first purchase of Reality Editing and to half that (level / 4, also increasing as the character levels up) number of additional edits for each additional purchase. Edits are fixed once approved by the game master unless the user wishes to spend a lot of time on retraining or something. Will Save DC’s are 12/14/16/18 + Dex Mod (for fine control) for Minor/Notable/Major/Grandiose edits and all edits are considered Extraordinary Abilities (24 CP).

Minor edits usually approximate first or minor second level effects. Possible minor edits include (but are not limited to):

  • Blazing Stars: As per the Fire Shuriken (Spell Compendium) spell.
  • Breath Control: As per Resist Energy (SRD) for 2d4 minutes.
  • Dance Of Wings: Add +30 to all your current movement rates for 2d4 minutes.
  • Face Dancer: As per Disguise Self (SRD) for 2d4 minutes.
  • Grace Of The Kami: Move at normal speeds when using Acrobatics, Balance, Climb, or Move Silently without penalty for 2d4 minutes.
  • Jujitsu: Make an immediate Escape Artist check with a +30 bonus. You may attempt to “escape” Paralysis or similar situations, but at DC 50.
  • Ki Strike: Gain a +10 Insight bonus to an Attack and +(Level) Insight bonus on it’s damage.
  • Light Foot: You make take 20 on Acrobatics/Hide/Move Silently checks and always land safely after falling or being thrown for 2d4 rounds.
  • Mongoose Fist: Make an extra attack as an immediate action OR make two extra attacks as part of a full attack action.
  • Phantom Blade: Make one attack into a sneak attack, even if it normally would not be.
  • Qigung: Get a +5 bonus on a save if triggered before rolling or reroll a save if used afterwards.
  • Smoke Bellows: Generate a 30′ radius cloud of dense smoke centered up to 30′ away. It lasts for 2d4 rounds.
  • Tongue Of Kanji: Cast a spell without it’s normally-required somatic component.
  • Vanishing: Become invisible and leave no trail for 2d4 Rounds, although Attacking will negate the invisibility part as usual.
  • Wind Stride: As per Air Step (Pathfinder) for 2d4 Minutes.

Notable edits usually approximate second or third level effects. Possible notable edits include (but are not limited to):

  • Alchemic Bomb: Turn a dose of an alchemical substance or poison that you are carrying into a full-effect 20′ radius burst within medium range. At level 12+ you can use two doses to create two bursts that may, but need not, overlap, and at 25+ three. The “doses” do not all have to be the same substance if you are using multiple doses.
  • Alchemic Synthesis: Produces 100 GP worth of alchemical creations or poisons. While these are obviously crude and unsalable, and become inert within twenty-four hours, they are effective if used within that time. At level 12+ the user may spend a second Ki Point on this to provide either a +2 DC on created poisons or saves on alchemical creations or to double the effect of an alchemical creation.
  • Dancing Shadows: Mirror Image (SRD) for 2d4 Rounds.
  • Dispelling Strike: Add the effects of Dispel Magic (using your level as the caster level to a maximum of +10) to a physical attack.
  • Displacement: Attacks on you suffer a 50% miss chance for 2d4 rounds.
  • Expulsion: As per Neutralize Poison (SRD).
  • Find The Gap: As per the spell (Spell Compendium) for 2d4 Rounds.
  • Ghost Strike: The user mays see and strike to and from the Ethereal Plane for two rounds.
  • Golden Armor: Gain DR 6/- for 2d4 minutes.
  • Haunting Shadow: As per Phantom Foe (Spell Compendium) for 2d4 Rounds.
  • Healing Mudra: Personal-Only Cure Serious Wounds (SRD).
  • Ki Imbuement: As per Greater Magic Weapon (SRD) for 2d4 minutes, although it may also be applied to the user’s natural weapons, fists, or other “unarmed” martial arts attacks,
  • Lizard Walk: Full-speed wall-walking for 2d4 rounds.
  • Spellblade: You may make an immediate attack with a melee weapon to deliver any Touch spell that you just cast in place of the usual immediate touch attack that such spells provide.
  • Vital Strike: Trade dice of sneak attack damage for points of attribute damage with an attack. You may damage any attribute that you please.

Major edits usually approximate fourth or fifth level effects. Possible major edits include (but are not limited to):

  • Beast Jitsu: As per Bite of the Werewolf or Wereboar (Both Spell Compendium), lasting 2d4 Minutes.
  • Cloud Mind: As per Modify Memory (SRD).
  • Death Strike: Add the effects of Slay Living (SRD) to a physical attack. (Some Ninja use Enervation (SRD) instead).
  • Demon Ki Projection: As per Shadow Conjuration (SRD).
  • Doom Shuriken, as per Fire Seeds (SRD), but using shuriken for either function.
  • Dragon’s Breath: As per the Spell (Pathfinder).
  • Forge Of Ki: As per Greater Magic Weapon (SRD) for 2d4 minutes, but you may invest some or all of the “plusses” in special magic weapon functions. This effect may also be applied to the user’s fists, natural weapons, or martial arts attacks.
  • Freedom Of Movement: as the spell (SRD) for 2d4 minutes.
  • Ghost Step: Become Ethereal for 2d4 rounds.
  • Phantom Ways: as per Dimension Door (SRD).
  • Shadow Clones: Greater Mirror Image (Player’s Handbook II) for 2d4 minutes.
  • Shadow Form: as the spell (Spell Compendium) for 2d4 minutes.
  • Sniper: The user may make sneak attacks at any range for 2d4 rounds.
  • Spectral Mind: Personal Mind Blank (SRD) for twenty-four hours.
  • Unity of Mirage: Gain Greater Invisibility (SRD) for 2d4 minutes.

Grandiose edits usually approximate sixth to seventh level effects. They do, however, tend to be unique to each epic ninja, so I won’t be providing a sample list.

  • Evasive (Reality Editing, 3 CP). Using their Ki powers does not provoke attacks of opportunity.
  • Rite Of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/onl to restore the “Ki” pool above, requires a nights rest) (6 CP). This is more than is needed, but that does make it easy to make their pool bigger.
  • Augmented Attack (Sudden Strike, A.K.A. Sneak Attack, 10d6, 30 CP).
  • Trapfinding (No cost in Eclipse: Skills work the same way for everyone).
  • Resistance/+2 to Will Saves, Corrupted/only as long as Mana is available (4 CP).
  • Poison Use (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (5000 GP Value), Corrupted/only while unarmored and unencumbered (4 CP). All effects Spell Level 1/2 or 1, Caster Level One, Unlimited-Use Use-Activated for a base of 1000 or 2000 GP each.
    • Monkey Fish (Pathfinder) (2000 GP, gain Climb and Swim Speeds of 10)
    • Personal Haste (The Practical Enchanter) ( x.7, only to increase movement speeds by +30 (Enhancement), 1400 GP)
    • Apply Venom (Original, L0, safely applies carried poison to a weapon as a swift action, 1000 GP)
    • Acrobatic Master (The Practical Enchanter, L0 Skill Mastery / Tumble (Acrobatics in Pathfinder), +6 Enhancement Bonus, Personal-Only, 700 GP).

This little package gives them a +8 to Climb and Swim checks, with base speeds of 40 for both, 60 ground movement as a base (adding +12 to Jump or – in Pathfinder – to Acrobatics rolls made to Jump), and +6 Enhancement to Tumble (3.5) or Acrobatics (Pathfinder). That’s extremely efficient, but Innate Enchantment usually is – which is why it’s usually limited to 12 CP worth in total for any given character.

  • Great Leap (Immunity/Having to Run before Leaping, Uncommon, Minor, Minor, Corrupted / only while unarmored and unencumbered, 2 CP).
  • Fortune (Evasion Variant), Corrupted / only while unarmored and unencumbered, 4 CP).
  • Ghost Mind / Cloaking, Specialized and Corrupted / only versus spells of the Scrying Subschool, allows a caster level check of DC (20 + Ninja’s Level) to overcome it, otherwise the Ninja is not seen / detected.
  • Occult Sense / See Invisible and Ethereal things (6 CP).

This comes out to a total of 452 CP as a classical build or 372 CP as a modern one – and is still a notable improvement over the original design since that’s with the rewritten Ki powers and uses Innate Enchantment rather than buying the various minor boosts individually. The original 3.0 and 3.5 Fighter used 452 of their available 504 CP – so we should expect the Complete Adventurer Ninja to be just a bit more effective than they are since I used a couple of more efficient options in their design. So why does this class still fall behind? It’s most likely a result of the older tendency to evaluate combat-focused characters against the Fighter and to overrate Skill Points. Basic 3.0 and 3.5 Fighters simply are not that impressive, and skills have greatly devalued over the years – leaving the Complete Adventurer Ninja well behind the curve.

And, according to the rather extensive discussions underlying the Tier System, it is indeed down in Tier 5 with the Fighter, Monk, Healer, Soulknife, and Expert. Still, with either 52 or 132 CP left over, it’s easy enough to upgrade them considerably. You just have to go ahead and spend those points.

  • First off, upgrade the Rite Of Chi to get rid of the “requires a nights rest” corruption. That’s only (3 CP) – and another +16 bonus uses is only (12 CP). 25d6 worth of “Ki Points” (plus the basic recovery rate of one per night) daily will let them pull off a LOT more tricks.
  • Buying more powers is also in order – so another two incidences of Reality Editing (basically increasing their allotment of Ki powers to one power per level) will be very handy (12 CP).
  • Finally, another 2d6 Mana will help make sure that they don’t run out – and is only another (12 CP).

That’s only 39 CP – leaving enough room for a couple of bonus feats, even for the “basic” build, and will let a Ninja use a selection of swift and immediate action Ki powers in every fight. That makes them fast and tricky, which seems pretty appropriate. Throw in a decent Martial Art or two and you should be all right. For those two extra feats? Improved Initiative and Luck with +4 Bonus Uses Specialized in Attacks. That way, when you really need to hit, you can be sure that you will.

For a modern build, you’ll still have 93 points left over even after that C’hi upgrade. That’s quite a lot really – enough for fifteen levels of the Wilder or Psychic Warrior progressions (both at 90 CP), or becoming a skill-based Partial Caster (usually about 80 CP), or throwing in a Template or two. Go ahead. Be an Advanced Pulp Hero Ninja or an Ancient One Ninja (both 64 CP), or a Ninja Master Of Stars (58 CP), or even a Ninja Space Marine (63 CP) or Ninja Lycanthrope (from the basic Eclipse book, 64+ CP depending on what extras you buy).

  • If you’d prefer more combat power… buy off those “only while unarmored and unencumbered” corruptions (10 CP) and pick up some light armor with the “Smooth” modifier (6 CP). Get your BAB up to +20 (30 CP), use Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (18 CP) to add your (Dex Mod) to your (Con Mod) for Hit Point purposes, and throw in five more combat-style feats (30 CP). OK, that’s 94 CP and you’ll have to drop a skill point – but it will work just fine.
  • If you want a full-out Spellcaster-Ninja, you might want to take the Entreaty Magic package (88 CP). It’s nicely flexible, and full of unexpected tricks, while holding down the total amount of magic available to keep it as a secondary focus.

All in all, any of those approaches should get this version of the Ninja firmly up into Tier 3 or so – and make them a great deal more entertaining to play.

Finally, we have the Current Pathfinder Ninja.

Pathfinder gave the Ninja the standard Pathfinder upgrades of +2 Skill Points per level and larger hit dice, but otherwise only gave the Ninja the usual slight overhaul. Their Ninja get…

  • d8 HD (80 CP).
  • 8 SP/Level (160 CP, presume Fast Learner and Adept for 80+12 CP).
  • +15 BAB (90 CP).
  • +24 Saves (72 CP).
  • Sneak Attack 10d6 (30 CP).
  • Proficiency with Ninja Weapons and Light Armor (12 CP).
  • Poison Use (6 CP)
  • 5d6 Mana as a Ki Pool (As per the Complete Adventurer Ninja above) (30 CP) This gets an extra die worth of Mana because a couple of minor abilities have been folded into the Ki abilities – and so a few extra points are needed to pay for using them on occasion.
  • Rite of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, only to restore chi pool, requires a nights rest, 6 CP)
  • Reality Editing: Gains an extra edit at levels 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, and so on (6 CP).
  • Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted / provides only three minor swift action tricks for 1 Mana each (2 CP):
    • +1 Attack at Full BAB,
    • +20 Move for a round
    • +4 Insight Bonus to Stealth Checks for 1 Round.
  • Evasive (Reality Editing, 3 CP). Using their Ki powers does not provoke attacks of opportunity.
  • Immunity/Being Found or Recognized. Very Common, Minor, Major, Corrupted / not versus scrying or when you’re not making an effort to remain undiscovered (8 CP). This provides a +6 to Disguise and Stealth checks and a +6 on the DC of tracking the Ninja. Secondarily, it prevents spells such as Invisibility Purge, See Invisibility, and True Sight, from automatically revealing the user when he or she is invisible; the user must make a perception check against the ninja’s stealth skill to detect him or her even with such assistance. Similarly, the user can effectively use Stealth against Blindsense, Tremorsense, Scent, and similar unusual senses.
  • Awareness and Flankless (Specialized/Does not function against opponents with a four-level or better advantage over you) (9 CP).
  • Trapfinding (No cost in Eclipse: Skills work the same way for everyone).

That does simplify a couple of things from the original build – but it also somewhat expands the Ninja’s Ki Powers and gives them a slightly larger Ki pool, which is quite close enough.

Given that we’re well out of the “classical” era from before skills were devalued here, we need no longer consider anything but the “modern” build (using Fast Learner and Adept to make skills cheaper) – so this comes to a total of 446 CP – leaving 58 CP left over even with the minor upgrade to their Ki powers I’ve added to save time and avoid having to list individual “ninja tricks”. That’s not nearly as bad as many of it’s predecessor ninja classes, but it’s not very good either; it’s part of why the Pathfinder Ninja is still down on Tier 4 (with occasional arguments for Tier 3 or Tier 5) in the Pathfinder Tier Lists. Their tricks are rather neat, but they simply do not get enough of them – both in terms of the number of different tricks available and in terms of the number of times they can afford to use them.

If you just want to stick with the basics you can use the same approach as with The Complete Adventurer Ninja.

  • Upgrade the Rite Of Chi to get rid of the “requires a nights rest” corruption for ( 3 CP) and add another +16 bonus uses for (12 CP). With the ability to recover an average of 87.5 “ki” per day in minutes rather than 10-16 overnight, your ninja can now afford to use a Ki Power – all of which can be used as Swift or Immediate actions – in pretty much every round of every fight.
  • Add another incidence of Reality Editing (6 CP) to boost their allotment of Ki powers to one power per level. That gives them a pretty good selection of tricks to use.
  • Add another 1d6 Mana (6 CP) to get their average base Ki pool up to 21 points. That should be enough for any long fights.

That’s only 27 CP, leaving 31 – enough for a couple of bonus feats and a nice set of Martial Stances. A Ninja using the Call Of The Wyld Style – perhaps taking Kitsune Tricks, Panther Silent Prowls, Perfidious Rat Strikes, and Striking Serpent Coils for 4 CP each – will suddenly be a lot more dangerous in combat.

That should put this version of the Ninja firmly into Tier 3.

If you want to get into a real power build for any of these four versions of the Ninja, you’ll want to throw in:

  • Duties – perhaps to a particular clan or village – for +40 CP. This is where Clerics, Druids, and Paladin-types get some extra points – and ninja generally weren’t independent wandering rogues. They were working members of clans and undertook missions. Go ahead. Admit that you have allies, mentors, an organization to provide you with some backing and information, and a reason to go adventuring beyond “wealth and power”, and get character points for it. Admitting that you have ties to the rest of the universe is NOT a weakness.
  • Buy Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (Adds Dex Mod to Con Mod when calculating hit points, 18 CP). This particular trick is in the system for the same reason that Adept and Fast Learner are; just as Skills have been devalued over the years, so have Hit Points. So this allows you to take a smaller hit die and still have plenty of hit points – giving the martial types a nice boost since dropping from – say – a d10 to a d8, or a d8 to a d6, or a d6 to a d4, saves them 22 CP over twenty levels. Dropping two steps saves 62 CP over those same twenty levels – and really, at (say) Con 16 and Dex 18… (1d4+7) averages 9.5 per die, while (1d8+3) only averages 7.5 per die. You can even Specialize and Corrupt it (“only applies to levels 1-4″ perhaps?) to save points at lower levels and buy off those limitations as you go up in level.
  • You might be able to apply a Restriction – perhaps you will never use non-ninja weapons or armor no matter how tempting (No Celestial Armor at higher levels for you!) and get +20 CP out of it at +1 CP/Level.

Squeezing in an extra 120 CP is enough to buy any one of…

  • 15 levels of Bard, Cleric, Druid, or Classical Illusionist casting. You won’t get the secondary features – but you can easily spend a few Feats to push up to getting those ninth level spells with Clerical and Druidic casting.
  • 20 levels of Adept, Psychic Warrior, or Wilder Casting. Go ahead; use a feat or two to throw in an augmentable version of Summon Monster instead of Summon Astral Construct and call up your own goon squads for backup.
  • Tbe Bokor (Binder) Package at about 60 CP. That still leaves room for – say – getting the BAB up to +20 (+30 CP) and five extra Feats (30 CP).
  • The Entreaty (87 CP) Magic Package and perhaps 30 CP worth of magic-absorbing or negating powers. Or you could get some Mana and Spell Enhancement to let you power your way up to casting the occasional ninth-level spell.
  • Twenty extra Feats at 6 CP each. For example…
    • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses Specialized in Saving Throws (6 CP) lets you automatically make five saves of your choice each day. Or perhaps it’s only for attacks, or skill checks? Automatic success under pressure can be very nice indeed.
    • Some innate enchantment? That little package from the Complete Adventurer ninja made them a LOT more mobile.
    • Reflex Training, to take occasional extra actions when you really need them.
    • Action Hero (Stunts)? The ability to pull out a trick you’ve never used before (and might never use again) every so often is often a lifesaver.
    • Some Path Of The Dragon to allow you to absorb incoming spells and turn the power in them to your own uses.
    • Mystic Artist? Bardic-style powers can be quite handy, and getting started is pretty cheap.
    • Berserker? Spell Resistance? Some Enthusiast and a Specialized version of Create Relic to let you make your own magical gear? A Stipend? There are many thousands of other possibilities.

While the Tier system is a lot less meaningful once you start using Eclipse to build unique characters and erase most of the division between “Full”, “Partial”, “Half”, and “Non” -casters in favor of a continuous spectrum of “who relies more on what”, this sort of thing will let a mystically-inclined Ninja power-build his or her way up into Tier 1. Personally I don’t really advise pushing things that far – more limited characters tend to be more interesting to play – but Eclipse was designed to let people build the characters that they want.

Next time around on this topic it will be a a look at building your own Eclipse-style Ninja, rather than using an older classed version as a base.