Eclipse – Building Better Martial Characters

Jirachi was looking at Paladin Spellcasting – and concluded that it wasn’t all that useful. Most of its clerical-style support spells are obsolete by the time that a Paladin gets them and most of its combat-enhancement spells are either surpassed by equipment at relatively low levels or waste actions that would be better spent attacking on short-term enhancements. That was definitely true in 3.5 – which is why the Complete Champion (page 55) provided the Battle Blessing feat:

Prerequisite: Ability to cast paladin spells.

Benefit: If a Paladin spell normally requires a standard action, you can cast it as a swift action. If it normally requires a full round to cast, you can cast it as a standard action. Spells with longer or shorter casting times are not affected by this feat.

For anyone else in baseline 3.5… this requires taking the Epic Feat Automatic Quicken Spell twice (also requires Quicken Spell, 30 ranks in Spellcraft, and the ability to cast ninth level spells).

Even in Eclipse, you can usually only get this as a limited-use trick using Reflex Training (Extra Actions Variant).

Still, even with that massive upgrade, a 3.5 Paladin never got into the upper tiers. They just didn’t have enough spell slots or really good spells, they were extremely multi-attribute dependent (Cha for Saves, Str to fight, Con for HP, and a bit of Wis for Spells), and they were very vulnerable to no-save, touch, and battlefield control spells. They had few inherent abilities that helped with invisible, incorporeal, flying, or ranged attackers either – and simply having non-evil opponents (animals, elementals, neutral mercenaries, etc) drastically limited them.

Even with Battle Blessing – presuming that the game master had the Complete Champion book and allowed what was obviously a must-have-rules-patch-feat – 3.5 Paladins weren’t all that impressive. That was kind of sad, because the Holy Warrior archetype has a long, LONG, history and is certainly quite evocative.

Pathfinder added a few useful bits here and there, and greatly upgraded the Smite Evil ability – but the overall framework didn’t really change very much, leaving Pathfinder Paladins still mired on Tier 4. Smite evil is good, yes, and can let them do a LOT of extra damage to a specific target at high levels – but “I do a lot of damage every so often” didn’t move them up much. Most martial classes can do a lot of damage when conditions are right. That’s their job.

So to change that…

  • Large Hit Dice are not the way to go for any martial character. Like it or not, most d20 battles no longer feature gradual attrition and the idea of resource management is out of fashion. Critical Multipliers, Save-Or-Suck, and the other elements of “Rocket Tag” leak into everything these days. A standard Paladin spends 120 CP on 20d10 Hit Dice – an issue of back-compatibility with 3.0 and 3.5 rules written in an era that greatly overvalued hit points and large hit dice (in itself a legacy from first and second edition). That’s why Eclipse includes several ways to take smaller, cheaper, hit dice and still get a bunch of hit points. Go ahead. Stick with d4 Hit Dice (0 CP) and buy Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (18 CP) to add a second attribute modifier (likely Charisma for a Paladin) to your (Con Mod) for purposes of computing hit points. The average difference between a d4 and a d10 is only three points anyway. Buy an extra 3d4 hit points (24 CP) and a d20 Hit Die at level one (16 CP) if you like. That will still save you 62 CP in the long run – enough for an extra ten feats.

For a historical note…

Why were large hit dice so important? Because first and second edition were games of resource attrition. Healing was scarce, attempting to rest outside of town meant dealing with a bunch of wandering monsters, spells were difficult to find, cast, and regain, magic items were rare wonders to be found, you only got a limited number of hit dice, and the constitution modifiers on those hit dice were capped and quit applying after you had all your hit dice and were down to +1 (Mages), +2 (Most Others), or +3 (Fighter Types) hit points per level, and the examples of play all included characters dying in random encounters. When your sixth level mage probably had 12-18 hit points and no easy way to regain them… a couple of hits could easily be fatal. In fact, they often were. But Fighters had hit points. Your average, fighter commonly lived through three or four times as many adventures as a mage did. Hit points were life. Now, of course… everyone expects to be fully healed for each encounter and character death is rare, rather than normal. Hit points are no longer the key to surviving for long enough to retire.

  • Personally, unless you’re building an archer or other ranged-weapon specialist who can stand still and make full use of them, or are focused on sneak attacks or special effects that force saves or some such, I’d forget iterative attacks too. Buy your BAB Corrupted / does not provide iterative attacks and save 40 CP. You can still get a bonus attack from Haste or other special abilities, but replacing those second, third, and fourth attacks that you often don’t get to make – and which rarely hit when you do get to make them – with other combat tricks or extra damage / special effects on a single big hit is generally a good tradeoff if you want to move around the battlefield.

Obviously enough, both of these apply to any primary combatant – and an extra 102 CP can do a LOT for a character.

  • Thou SHALT take Adept. At a bare minimum, you will want a Martial Art (two might be better) and skills like Perception and Diplomacy – and while Adept costs 6 CP up front, halving the cost of four skills will save you a LOT more than that along the way.
  • For Paladin’s in particular… you are using Eclipse. Base your spellcasting on Charisma instead of Wisdom. That costs nothing. Forget about Wisdom. Your job is bashing things, not Wisdom. Similar advice applies to any other partial spellcaster. Base it on an attribute that you won’t mind investing some effort in.

So what to buy with all those points? Well, there are all the usual standbys – Action Hero (Stunts) (for emergency survival), Berserker (for temporary boosts), Celerity (for movement speed), Companions (Familiars, Mounts, etc), Grant Of Aid (for quick self-healing), Inherent Spell (for a touch of magic when you need one), Innate Enchantment (to get various low-level boosts), Leadership (for followers), Luck (to reroll or “take 20″), Occult Sense (upcoming attacks, evil, magic, whatever), Occult Skills (to gain special powers or technological equipment packages), Reflex Training (Combat Reflexes Variant, 6 CP), Resist (boosted saving throws), Spell/Power Resistance (for obvious reasons), Block (to live longer), Bonus Attack, Enhanced Strike (Crushing, Focused, Whirlwind, Hammer), Evasive, Fortune (to save for no effect), Imbuement (to save money on magical items), Improved Critical, Improved Initiative, Lunge (+5′ Reach), Overwhelm (Adds Bull Rush effects to your normal attacks. An excellent way to break charges) Rapid Strike (more attacks), Specialist (bonus for special attacks), and Spirit Weapon – but here are a few other possibilities:

  • (Armor Type) Mastery: Defender, Corrupted for Increased Effect / only works while wearing a chosen type of armor. (+1/2/3/4/5/6 Dodge Bonus to AC at levels 4/7/10/13/16/19). Note that you may also take Natural Armor and Deflection variants on this ability if you just HAVE to have an unreasonably high armor class.
  • Adrenal Burst: Reflex Training (Three actions per day variant), Specialized for Reduced Cost and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Five uses per day) / only to add a Move Action to a Standard Action to allow a Full-Round Action (3 CP).
  • Adrenal Casting: Reflex Training (Three Action Per Day Variant), Specialized in Spellcasting for increased effect (Add Cha Mod to number of uses per day), Corrupted for Increased Effect (Spellcasting this way does not provoke AOO’s) / only for spells of level four or less (6 CP).
  • Agile Opponent: Maneuver with +2 Bonus Uses, Corrupted / only while wearing light or no armor (6 CP). The user may roll his or her Tumble or Acrobatics against a DC equal to the attack roll to evade an incoming Attack Of Opportunity up to three times per round.
  • Blade Of Legend: Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only for creating martial relics. Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted/only for making a particular relic (or minor variations thereon as the user goes up in level) with his or her Enthusiast points (6 CP Total).
  • Chains Of History (12 CP): 1d6 (4) Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (Minor Edits cost 1 Point, Notable Edits cost 2, Major ones cost 3, and Grandiose ones cost 4). Requires a History Check at DC 15/18/24/36 for Minor/Notable/Major/Grandiose Edits, only for Reality Editing, only to “recall” convenient “facts” that can be used against a particular enemy, allows a Will save at a DC of (14/18/22/26 + User’s Int Mod) to resist, may only spend 4 mana on Chains of History per encounter. Plus Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized/only to refill the Chain of History Mana Pool.
      • Minor: “Call upon the Light of Ixion when you cast! She will empower your spells to pierce his cloak of darkness!”. Reducing an opponents effective Spell Resistance can be quite helpful.
      • Notable: There is a bare patch on his left breast! Aim there and your arrows will sink deep!” At this level… you get a bonus to hit and extra damage. As a minor edit, you might just get a small bonus to hit.
      • Major: “His Crown! Much of his power lies within his Crown! If you destroy much of his magic will fail!”
      • Grandiose: “But I know your true name, Ramthonosiderin Of The Seventh Abyss, and by it I command you to return to the Darkness from which you came!”
    • With this trick you can make an enemy vulnerable to particular types of attacks, force them to engage specific enemies (he goes berserk if you insult his…), and hamper them in many other ways. Of course, there is always the dreaded “I made my save!” “Foolish Scholar! Did you think that I would not have taken measures to counter such attacks when I knew that my weakness against them had been discovered?”.
  • Classics Of War (12 CP): Mystic Artist (Knowledge / History) with Echoes, Specialized for Double Effect, Corrupted for Reduced Cost: Only to employ the inspiration abilities that grant positive levels, only to provide bonuses in combat against specified enemies, requires that the player provide some tolerably plausible directions. Unfortunately, such device is always fairly specific; the user cannot simply provide directions against “orcs”, it must be something like “They are fighting in a version of the Keldian Style! Such variants are weak against…” or “Serinican Iron Golems? Strike at the joints in the legs: they are weakest there and have a hard time defending them!”
    • Giving some of your allies two positive levels for the purposes of fighting those iron golems provides them with 2d10 (+2 x Con Mod) hit points, +2 to their BAB, AC, and Saves against them, and 12 CP worth of special benefits. At the simplest… how does Augment Attack (+4d6 damage versus Iron Golems, 12 CP) sound? This does require a +9 or higher (Skill + Attribute Bonus) in Knowledge/History – but that shouldn’t be any problem by level four or five.
  • Combat Mastery: 1d6 (4) Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / only for Reality Editing, only to upgrade the user’s combat abilities, all effects cost 1 Mana and are treated as Notable edits. Rite of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses (restores 32 Mana), Specialized and Corrupted / only to recharge the user’s Combat Mastery Pool, requires one minute of relative quiet and peace per point of mana restored (12 CP).
    • This is the Eclipse implementation of the Pathfinder Combat Stamina and Combat Tricks rules – but since Eclipse can be used to construct unlimited numbers of possible combat feats, a fixed list of benefits is impractical. Combatants using this system will just have to wing it, inventing useful (if not especially overwhelming) boosts for their abilities on the fly. Those who want more Combat Tricks per fight can buy some upgrades.
  • Craft Of War: Bonus Attack, When you take a full attack action without making iterative attacks you may strike twice using at (BAB – 2) (6 CP). Presuming you have a BAB of 3+, this lets you take two attacks without necessarily having to worry about iterative attacks.
  • Dance of Time/Opportunist (6 CP): May “ride along” with any nearby character who enters a fast timestream, taking actions along with them – effectively taking actions of your own for free whenever anyone in the vicinity uses Time Stop or a similar effect.
  • Devastating Strike: Luck with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for reduced cost / use is announced before the attack, but the effect is contingent on the critical confirmation check. In effect, roll a normal attack – but if you hit, it is automatically a critical hit.
  • Dimensional Warder: Opportunist / you may make an Attack whenever something Teleports, is Summoned, Dimension-Doors, Manifests, or otherwise abruptly appears, in an area that you threaten, Corrupted / the attack uses up an Attack Of Opportunity (4 CP).
  • Dirty Fighter: Presence, Specialized for Increased Effect / Each round as a free action you may attempt a Dirty Trick against any three characters within 20 feet with a CMB equal to (Caster Level + Casting Attribute Modifier + 2). If you succeed the penalty lasts for 1d4 rounds, +1 round for every 5 which your attack exceeds the targets CMD. Removing the condition requires that the target expend a standard action. This does not provoke an Attack Of Opportunity (6 CP).
  • Disrupting Strike: Double Damage when attacking someone who is casting a spell, Specialized for Reduced Cost / only for purposes of increasing the DC of any resulting concentration check (3 CP).
  • Dolorous Stroke: Trick (6 CP): Either 3/Day or on a Confirmed Critical against a creature vulnerable to critical hits (user’s choice) your attack inflicts an effect equivalent to Bestow Curse or Blindness/Deafness on the creature struck if it fails to save (Will Save DC 10 + Level/2 + Cha Mod). Such a “curse” will go away in 1d10 days thanks to the remarkable healing abilities of d20 characters or can be removed immediately by Healing effects of level three or more or in 1d4+1 rounds by a Heal check against the original save DC.
    • Many other Tricks are possible. For some examples… Death (lose consciousness in 2 rounds, kills in 10 rounds without proper medical attention), Paralysis (lasts 3d6 Minutes), Knockout (lasts 3d6 Minutes), C’hi Block (blocks use of spellcasting and psionics for 3d6 hours), Withering Palm (dissipates victims Mana reserves; they must recover normally), Crippling (renders a limb unusable for 3d6 days), Pain (victim is at -6 on all rolls for 2d4 hours, this can be used for interrogation), Dazing (victim “loses” 1d4+1 rounds without being aware of it), and Amnesia (victim loses his or her memory for 3d6 hours, even after recovery 1d4 hours just before the strike will remain blank) are all possible.
  • The Witchcraft-Based Feat Full Of Tricks (usually Fighter or Ranger Type),
  • Fervent Warrior: Improved Augmented Bonus: Add (Cha Mod) to (Str Mod) for Combat Purposes, Specialized / only for Attack Rolls (6 CP).
  • Focused Expertise (Weapon Group): Expertise (BAB and Damage), Specialized in (Weapon Group) (3 CP), Double Damage (only the bonus damage from Expertise, Specialized in (same Weapon Group) (3 CP). This combination allows you to give up +1 to +5 on your attack to gain +2 to +10 damage. The Heedless Attack variant gives up points from the user’s AC instead.
  • Greater Weapon Tricks: Innate Enchantment, 5200 GP Effective Value (6 CP), all effects are caster level one, spell level zero or one, unlimited-use use-activated (with varying uses-per-day), swift actions unless otherwise noted. While none of these are especially incredible tricks, it does offer a wide variety for a single feat, including some quite convenient abilities.
    • Level Zero:
      • Call Item (2/Day, 400 GP): An unattended item leaps into your hand from up to thirty feet away.
      • Fast Draw (3/Day, 600 GP): A weapon on your person appears in your hand.
      • Wind Weapon (1/Day, 200 GP): You conjure a normal weapon for one minute.
    • Level One:
      • Fancy Footwork (2/Day, 800 GP): Gain +5 feet of Natural Reach for one minute.
      • Master’s Parry (4/Day, 1600 GP): Block 15 points of incoming damage as an immediate action.
      • Rhino’s Rush (1/Day, 400 GP): Inflict double damage on a charge.
      • Sudden Strike (3/Day, 1200 GP): Make a single attack at your full BAB.
  • Grievous Strike: Luck, Specialized in Confirming Critical Hits (the user may roll twice to confirm a critical hit) (6 CP).
  • Guardian Stance: Presence (Shield). You and all your allies enjoy the benefits of a Shield spell.
    • Variants using other first level spells are also popular. Where saves apply, they are at a DC of (11+Cha Mod). Common versions include Holy Aura (Protection From Evil), Battle Blessing (Magic Weapon), Wraithbane Stance (Ghostbane Dirge), Aura Of Freedom (Liberating Command), (Element), Battle Aura (Divine Favor), Burden Bearer (Knight Unburdened), Aura Of Bravery (Lionheart on Allies), Visage Of Terror (Cause Fear), Second Wind (Resurgence), Omen Reading I/II (Warning Shout or Nerveskitter).
  • Guardian Strike Technique: Opportunist / gets a chance to make an Attack of Opportunity on any opponent that he or she threatens who attacks someone else (6 CP).
  • Happosain Master: Immunity / The distinctions between what weapon(s) you are wielding (Very Common, Minor, Major, 12 CP). You may treat any weapon you are proficient in as any other type of weapon you are proficient in. You might thus use your +3 Longsword as a +3 Battle Axe, or Bow, or Staff, or any other kind of weapon. (very handy with Reach weapons).
  • Holy Blaze: Trick. Either 3/Day or on a Confirmed Critical (user’s choice) your attack will destroy an Undead which fails to save (Will DC 10 + Level/2 + Cha Mod).
  • Houngan Conjurer. Very handy for making minor relics for your party.
  • Inner Glory: Finesse (use Cha Mod in place of Dex Mod when calculating AC, Corrupted for Increased Effect / counts as a Deflection Bonus, but is not lost due to circumstances that would deny the character his or her AC bonus due to Dexterity, 6 CP).
  • Invincible Tower Technique: Awareness with Flankless (You suffer no defensive penalties when surprised, retain your Dexterity bonus when caught flat-footed or attacked by an invisible assailant, save without penalty against surprises, and cannot be flanked, 12 CP). This is fairly often Corrupted or Specialized to make it cheaper – but it may well be worth the price to just take it as-is.
  • Iron Pillar Stance: Damage Reduction 3/-, Specialized in Physical Damage for 6/-. (Similar to hit points, Damage Reduction tends to be overvalued in d20, but this will be useful at lower levels).
  • Juggernaut Strike: Double Damage when attacking inanimate objects (6 CP).
  • Lightning Strike Technique: Opportunist/get a chance to make an Attack of Opportunity on any opponent within reach who attacks you and misses (6 CP).
  • Material Sanctity: Trick (6 CP). Either 3/Day or on a Confirmed Critical (user’s choice) your attack will Dismiss an outsider who fails to save (Will DC 10 + Level/2 + Cha Mod).
  • Mentor Companion (6 CP). Mysterious mentors are always handy.
  • Mighty Blow: Double Damage on the first strike (if it hits) when taking a full attack action and only making a single attack at BAB 11+ (6 CP). This is handy because it helps overcome Damage Reduction and possibly Block – as well as being as effective as the usual iterative attacks.
  • Oathbound Endurance: Augmented Bonus: Adds (Cha Mod) to (Con Mod) for Hit Point Purposes for levels 1-6 (6 CP). Can be upgraded to cover 1-12 for (+6 CP) and to cover any number of levels for a total of (18 CP).
  • Ordinance Expert: 1d6 (4) Mana with Reality Editing, plus Rite Of C’hi with +4 Bonus Uses, all Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (6 CP) / Only for use with Reality Editing, only to produce the following two specific Edits as Standard Actions, Only to restore the Ordinance mana pool, only between encounters.
    • 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 Mana 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.
  • Phantom Strike: Double Damage versus Incorporeal Creatures (effectively making any magical weapon the user wields into a Ghost Touch weapon, since this counteracts their ability to avoid 50% of the damage, 6 CP).
  • Prayer Of Guidance: Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Attacks (6 CP).
  • Radiant Strike: Augment Attack, +4d6+1 (15) Damage only to overcome Damage Reduction, Specialized/only versus Evil Opponents (6 CP).
  • Rampart Stance: Presence, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect. Can only be used (Cha Mod) times daily, affects a maximum of (Charisma / 3) allied targets within fifteen feet, not counting the user. As an immediate action the user may reduce the damage of an incoming attack or group of attacks by 25 points (minimum zero) for each ally. Thus, for example, the damage from an incoming fireball, breath weapon, avalanche, or volley of arrows could be reduced.
  • Ransom Bait: Minor Privilege / the user is known for honorably paying for his or her own release from captivity. Intelligent opponents will attempt to capture him or her alive (3 CP). Note that failing to pay a ransom will permanently forfeit this privilege.
  • Righteous Wrath: Enhanced Strike / Hammer with +4 Bonus Uses (usable five times per minute), Specialized / only versus evil opponents.
  • Sacred Blade: Imbuement (Specialized for Double Effect) with Focused and Versatile (both Specialized for Half Cost) / Only works against some group of opponents. This gives the user a weapon with an effective bonus of (Level/2), some of which may be used to give it specific weapon powers as usual. Such allocations can be rearranged each day (12 CP).
  • Semiautomatic: Presence (Ghostly Reload effect), Specialized / only applies to the users weapons (3 CP). This lets you fire each crossbow or gun you carry without reloading once per round per two levels, to a maximum of five times. If you wish to fire more often than that, you must load the weapon yourself. Sadly, you still need to have the ammunition to be loaded available.
  • Shattering Blow: Either 3/Day or on a Confirmed Critical (user’s choice) your attack will destroy a Construct which fails to save (Will DC 10 + Level/2 + Cha Mod).
  • Soul-Forged Item (6 CP). Most often a spirit entity that inhabits a weapon.
  • Spectral Shield: Immunity / the need to actually wield a shield to gain its benefits (Common, Minor, Major, 6 CP). With this ability you can effectively wield a shield with no hands devoted to the task – although this does not eliminate what drawbacks there are to using one. (You can, if you wish, do something similar with your armor).
  • Stab The Prying Eye: Immunity / the distinction between a magical link created by a creature and the creature itself (Uncommon, Major, Major, 6 CP). With this ability a character may attack a creature through their scrying sensor, projected image, astral form, or summoned body.
  • Stone Monkey: Shapechange with Elemental and +2 Bonus Uses, Specialized for Reduced Cost and Corrupted for Increased Effect / Only to take on the Elemental immunity to Critical Hits, Precision Damage, and Flanking and only lasts for one round, but can be activated as needed (6 CP).
  • Strength Of Ten: Anime Master, Specialized for Increased Effect / only applies to three weapons of the user’s choice, does not apply to other weapons, grappling, or overbearing. This lets you designate three weapons and use versions of them two size categories larger than normal (this usually doubles their base damage). Obviously you’ll want to do something about the lack of room for this is many areas. I’d suggest spending 6 CP on “Ability to use Charms and Talismans” (6 CP) and taking along a Tulthara or two.
  • Strength Of Conviction: Improved Augmented Bonus: Add (Cha Mod) to (Str Mod) for Combat Purposes, Specialized / only for Damage (6 CP).
  • Studied Opponent: Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted / only to pick up either Immunity (to a particular opponent, Uncommon, Severe, Major) or Augmented Attack (+4d6, damage, specialized versus a particular opponent) / requires that the user collect information about his or her opponent before developing these specialized techniques to defeat him or her (6 CP).
  • Talons Of The Magpie: Presence, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only works on living creatures (things with a constitution score) that the user successfully strikes and damages in melee combat, only works once per round per individual. A normal hit transfers 2d4 hit points from the target to the victim as temporary hit points (30 Max, lasts one hour). A critical hit gives the user an additional choice of stealing 3d6 GP (or equivalent in other valuables) or stealing a random, loose, small item from the target.
  • Vajra: Presence, Specialized / Only affects targets that you damage with a melee attack, inflicting the equivalent of a first (3 CP) or second (6 CP) level spell effect on the creature struck, such as Faerie Fire, Dispelling Touch, Shocking Grasp, or Glitterdust.
  • Vitrolic Storm: Presence (Acid Variant on Shocking Grasp, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 2 CP) / Only usable (Cha Mod) times per day, requires a standard action to invoke. Strikes all enemies within ten feet. This may be increased to twenty feet (4 CP) or to fifteen feet and double damage (6 CP).
  • Warp Step: Immunity to Distance (Considers squares up to 5 feet away to be adjacent. Very Common, Major, Trivial, 5 CP). Note that this also does weird things to movement – but, as a natural law immunity, requires special permission from the game master.
  • Warrior, Not Weapon: Martial Arts (Page 53 version), Specalized for Increased Effect (Double number of dice) / only works with a weapon in hand, user is limited to a selection of (2 + Level/4 rounded up, 7 maximum) weapons that will work with this, replaces the weapons normal damage entirely. Take once for 2d6, twice for 2d10. Go ahead. Do as much damage with paper fans as most people do with a greatsword.
  • Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys: A package for carrying around a small arsenal of one-shot items.
  • With Your Hands Up: Opportunist (User may attempt to persuade, or intimidate, opponents into surrendering or fleeing as a free action up to twice per battle. This is most likely to work if they are obviously overmatched, 6 CP).

Stances are straightforward: You take a list of at least four combat boosts with similar costs, and make them Specialized and Corrupted / you can only use stances totaling one-quarter of your invested points or less at any one time. This can, however, quite reasonably stack with the internal Specialization and Corruption of individual abilities – but the game master must ensure that all the stances are things that the user would actually like to be able to use at the same time. Applying “can only use a few at a time” to a list that includes social, crafting, combat, and research boosting effects really isn’t much of a limitation. Ergo, here are some sample minor (2 points each) Stances. For every four you take, you can have one active at any given time.

  • Avalanche Strike: Augmented Attack/+2d6 (taken as +5) Damage to overcome Damage Reduction and Hardness Only (2 CP).
  • Cutting Wind: Evasive (Sunder) and Specialist (Sunder) (2 CP).
  • Earthwalk: Immunity/Speed Reductions due to wearing Armor (Common, Minor, Trivial, 2 CP).
  • Flowing Water: Opportunist/Each time the user makes an attack, he or she may also take a 5′ step (2 CP).
  • Heart of Fire: Immunity/attribute drain or damage (Common, Severe, Minor). Ignore the first two points of attribute damage from any attack, disease, or toxin.
  • Heart of Water: Innate Enchantment/all Spell Level One, Caster Level One, Personal Only (x.7), Three times per day each (x.6): Lesser Restoration, Relieve Illness, Relieve Poison, Remove Paralysis, and Remove Fear (4200 GP) plus the effects of a Healing Belt (3 Uses/Day, spend 1/2/3 to heal 2d8/3d8/4d8, 750 GP). It’s kind of cheesy to shove this in under Stances, but 4 CP worth of cheese is barely enough to put on a cracker. And yes, you can use remove paralysis on yourself while you’re paralyzed (2 CP).
  • Ice Mirror Kata: Gain the Favored Enemy Ability. The bonuses must be allotted when this ability is learned however (2 CP).
  • Lashing Branch: Opportunist/5′ steps and withdrawals provoke AOO before they’re taken (2 CP).
  • Leaping Fire: Presence/those who strike the user with melee weapons from within a ten foot radius are struck by a fire-based version of Shocking Grasp cast at the user’s level (2 CP).
  • Read the Winds: Gain Blind Fighting (2 CP).
  • Stony Pillar: DR 3/-, Specialized for double effect (6/-)/only against physical attacks (2 CP).
  • Ten Ton Strike: Gain Enhanced Strike / Crushing Blow (2 CP).
  • The Fires Within: Immunity to Fire (Common, Major, Minor (12 Points), 2 CP).
  • Thunderbolt Strike: Augmented Attack/+2d6 (taken as +5) Damage to overcome Damage Reduction and Hardness Only (this stacks with Avalanche Strike) (2 CP).
  • Venom of the Earth: Double Damage versus Objects (2 CP).
  • Wind Blowing: Shaping/Specialized and Corrupted for Increase Effect (Only to generate force-disk “stepping stones” under the user’s feet, allowing him or her to run around up to five feet above a surface, ignore difficult terrain and minor obstacles, and find firm footing “on” ropes, ledges, and similar. Unfortunately, maintaining the effect is distracting enough to inflict a -2 penalty on the user’s attacks (2 CP).

Shapeshift Cheese deserves a special mention. While it comes in a variety of forms, they all rely on a single trick – using a very limited shapeshifting ability to more-or-less permanently taken on a bunch of physical attribute modifiers while otherwise remaining basically human. That’s very, VERY, cheap for the kind of bonuses you can get. I mostly only allow this in high-tech or super-heroic settings where “Tiger Powers!” really aren’t that impressive when compared to buying some power armor, piloting a starship, or smashing mountains. It’s a good way to build super-soldiers though.

  • The basic form looks like this: Shapeshift, with Attribute Modifiers, Hybrid Form, Clear Speech, and Variants (Almost entirely human appearance), Specialized/a single animal form only and Corrupted / cannot actually Change Forms, for a net cost of 9 CP. Pick “wolf”, or “jaguar”, or some other medium-sized animal, add a few descriptive bits to cover that “almost entirely human appearance” bit, and replace your racial physical attribute modifiers with those of the animal.

For a variable version, you can try

  • Totemic Channeling: Shapeshift, with Growth, Attribute Modifiers, Hybrid Form, Clear Speech, and Variants (Almost entirely human appearance), Specialized and Corrupted/the animal chosen may only be changed through a tribal ceremony on a Solstice or Equinox, outside of this the user cannot change forms, only to take on animal powers, cannot be further upgraded, user may be called on to act on behalf of the spirits of nature on occasion, can only call on totems of species that still exist and were active in the user’s tribal territory within the last two centuries (10 GP).
    • Mountain Lion: Str +6, Dex +8, Con +4, Move +10, +1 Natural Armor, Climb 20, Low-Light Vision, Scent, +4 to Acrobatics, Athletics, and Stealth. Improved Grab. Two 1d4 attacks.
    • Grizzly Bear: Large Size. Str +16, Dex +2, Con +8, +5 Natural Armor, +10 Move, Two 1d8 attacks, Low-Light Vision, Scent, and Improved Grab. +4 to Athletics (Swim). A very good totem, but incredibly conspicuous and very awkward.
    • Eagle (Medium Sized): Str +4, Con +4, Dex +2, +1 Natural Armor, 80′ Flight (Average), two 1d4 attacks. Low-Light Vision, +8 on visual Perception checks. (Stage 5). Not so good on the attribute bonuses, but the ability to fly can come in pretty handy.
      • While other animals are certainly possible, most of the other major possibilities – badger, boar, otter, beaver, squirrel, weasel, horse, etc – are far less effective and/or very special purpose to be stuck with for at least three months. Generally I’d stick with the Lion or Eagle. The Grizzly Bear totem is very powerful – but being a giant is generally going to kill your social life, drive your expenses through the roof, and prevent you from going anywhere as a civilian. It’s only a good idea if you’re obsessed with war or vengeance or something and will have access to all kinds of special support.

Next time around on this, some useful power packages and minor spellcasting.

10 Responses

  1. Iterative attacks definitely seem like the sort of thing that works best in a system without the customization of eclipse. Buying two ranks of bonus attack is only 12 CP and probably gives you the same amount of value at the same thing for builds that don’t take advantage of some tricks relating to it.
    Honestly, when I first saw the title of this post, I was expecting it to be a link posty thing rather than what you ended up doing. It might be worth it to link Uncle’s build, or the original posts on stances.
    I hope I convinced you that Paladin spell casting is probably actually worth 30ish CP, since it gives you something that isn’t really particularly valuable for combat that has very little utility super slowly.

    • They do – but, at least in most of the games I’ve seen, Iterative Attacks have never really worked very well anyway. You have to either track which die represents which attack, and a set of differing numbers needed to hit, or simply roll each attack separately, and then there’s checking for critical hits and possible special effects, and determining what part of the current modifiers is actually multiplied (and by how much). It’s a major time-consumer in combat. That’s why first edition simply gave you one or two identical attacks and a “critical hit” was when a damage roll was high (after all, that was what the damage roll – determining how badly you’d hurt your target – was FOR). A fighters attacks only took a few seconds that way.

      Thus Uncle, with his ludicrous array of Iterative Attacks, generally just uses Augment Attack / Crushing to combine them all into a single (insane) roll.

      The real problem is that Fighter-types really ought to dominate small-scale combat the way that Mages dominate spell research and demon-summoning and Clerics dominate theological debates and preaching to the masses. Unfortunately, d20 relies on a lot of small-scale combat for excitement – and has increasingly come to do so as the editions passed. After all, the number-crunching part of the game is easy to add bits to, and players want to use those odd combos they’ve come up with – and each time combat takes the center stage just a bit more often since it’s hard to optimize your character for figuring out the game masters puzzles, or picking up clue drops, or becoming famous for your charitable works, or playing along with a narrative or some NPC’s notions, and such. Most of that depends on the player rather than the character statistics and dice. Thus a seriously optimized combatant – again, like Uncle – tends to break the game as it is currently played.

      And Paladin Spellcasting will be next time around.

  2. (Also, I could have sworn that Natural armor bonuses don’t stack with armor bonuses)

  3. Looking at Battle Blessing, I don’t think it would be that difficult to replicate in Eclipse. I’d make it an Immunity to spells’ casting times (very common/severe/major), specialized for reduced cost (only applies to a particular spell progression, in this case paladin), corrupted for reduced cost (only to make spells with a full-round casting time be cast as a standard action, and spells with a standard action casting time be cast as a swift action). That only costs 6 CP, and mimics the feat nicely.

    • Oh well. I just prefer not to use too many natural law immunities in my examples since other GM’s may not allow them.

      I fear that version would often cost 12 CP though; specializing it in a single progression wouldn’t really be a restriction unless you’re invested fairly heavily in at least two of them.

      -And there you have an example of me getting too sleepy while typing… I suspect that, for a few minutes there, I was thinking about Champions rather than Eclipse. That WOULD work just fine, although casters with higher level spells to use would need increasing levels of immunity.My apologies there.

  4. What I found to work nicely was to combine the Sacrifice option from Persist Metamagic (Specialized and Corrupted to reduce the cost of the sacrifice option: Can only persist spells via Sacrifice, only works with The Inner Fire) with The Inner Fire (Specialized for even earlier spell access: Cannot be used without the Sacrifice option from Persist Metamagic) and a bit of Luck (Specialized for a “Take 40”: Only to succeed on The Inner Fire’s Will save).

    It’s especially nice if you use some Glory with Amplify (or Streamline with Amplify, if Glory doesn’t work) to make the buffs a bit stronger. Of course, that is assuming you want to sink some 30 CP (which is like 2 levels and a feat worth of stuffs if we go by the adventurers framework, excluding the basic witchcraft costs) into something that is utterly useless in an AMF.

    Well, that and you’ll never have level 9 buffs on yourself with that method unless you want to sink even more money into Invocation.

    Still, double Divine Power would grant BAB equal to twice the character level and Bite of the Werebear would grant a +32 to Str, which is a lot if you also have the Shapeshift-cheese using the Grizzly Bear Variant. Plus, since there’s no limit on how long the spell normally needs to last, it’s also a great opportunity to get Ruin Delver’s Fortune, and, if you feel like it, Blood Wind.

    It’s a big investment, true, but it gives a minor upgrade to most abilities as long as you stay out of those AMFs.

    • Hm… I’m not sure that Specializing the Theorem will work to reduce the level cost of Sacrifice, but Streamline would – and you’d want to use Streamline anyway, since you want something permanent instead of Glory, which is inherently transitory. Still, that’s tweaking the details, not the general concept, which will work just fine (at least if your GM is happy with that level of optimization). I must admit that I hadn’t thought of doing that!.

  5. […] recently. There are already a few articles on this – Building Better Martial Characters Part I and Part II, the Man-At-Arms has some useful notes, and there’s plenty of other material such […]

  6. […] Building Better Martial Characters covers basics and point-saving tricks in part I and low-cost magic systems for partial casters. in part II- mostly Cross-referencing to the Binder (4-5 Levels), Dr-Strange Style Entreaty Magic (7 Levels), Skill-Based Partial Casters (Mostly around 6 levels), Gun Fu (18+ CP), Martial Disciplines (4 levels each), Gravespeaking, Shamanic Magic (2 Levels), being a Pulp Hero (5 Levels), Martial Arts Magic, Ninja Ki Tricks, and more. […]

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