Eclipse, D20, And Hereditary Templates

And for today it’s another question – in this case referring back to the Epic Survival Stunt of “Dynastic Founder” (Level 18, DC 82: All of your descendants for three generations will inherit a +2 ECL Template of your choice. The effect will start to fade thereafter unless they use magic to choose matches who will maintain the bloodline, but occasional throwbacks will occur for many centuries to come) – along with Channeling / Planar Bonds Path / Inner Light/Darkness / Legacy and Dominion / The Way of Valor / Epic Heroism, (both in Eclipse) and the Legacy spell (Paths of Power), among others which do things to your descendants.

That makes me wonder what exactly makes a template inheritable… Ordinary races are obviously inheritable, but I’m unsure if pseudo-races like the ‘action hero’ or ‘storm lord’ templates are.

As an expansion on that, the ‘Dynastic Founder’ ability seems to do nothing unless you have a lot of kids, assuming there isn’t any special interaction with the child rearing psuedo-leadership ability, since you could simply assign your children a +2 ECL template and say that it’s an inherited mystical trait that you picked up, possibly making it inheritable, and making so there is no difference in the first generation.

A few of those spells I check in the basic ‘paths of power’ document using control-f, and I wasn’t able to find them.


Well, quickest note first, the spells referenced can be found in the rest of the Paths Of Power sequence – either Monstrous Paths or The Complete Paths Of Power (print). As for the rest…

The inheritability of Templates is a bit tricky, if only because “having kids” is not normally a major consideration in d20 games – and thus neither WOTC nor Paizo have ever really covered it very well.

  • In 3.0 (Savage Species) there was a rule for inheritable templates – half-elementals and such – that was pretty simple. It stated that such templates were passed on undiminished. You could have any number of “half-whatever” templates stacked onto your character, limited only by what the game master said the ECL of the characters was going to be.

Of course, that led to obvious absurdities. Dragons breed with any living, corporeal, creature. Go back a mere six hundred years, and your family tree (at least presuming that you are of Northern European descent or have ancestors from anywhere along the silk road) will include pretty much everyone in Europe who had kids. Is your setting a few thousand years old? Then under this rule, everyone in your world will have the half-dragon template ten times (because each primary type of dragon is an independent template) as well as pretty much every other remotely compatible half-(whatever) template out there.

This pretty obviously doesn’t work, however convenient it was for character-optimizers who wanted to stack six different templates so as to construct an all-powerful (and generally quite unplayable) character

  • The 3.5 SRD updated that with a single line: “A templated creature can represent a freak of nature, the individual creation of a single experiment, or the first generation of offspring from parents of different species. (Note that d20’s use of the word “species” obviously has nothing to do with biology: in biology, creatures of two different species normally cannot interbreed).

“First generation”. That’s actually extremely restrictive. If a Dragon and a Demon had a kid, you could create a dragon with a half-fiend template (or possibly a fiend with a half-dragon template if the game master thought that there was such a thing as a young fiend), but if the dragon with a half-fiend template had kids… they were standard dragons or half-dragons of the other parents type. You could give them a Fiendish Bloodline (bloodlines were introduced later and were never more than semi-official to begin with) if you wished – but that was it.

Acquired templates (with the exception of disease templates) were never inherited – although, if they changed a characters “Species” (say to “Vampire”), a kid might get a half-vampire inherited template.

A lot of game masters didn’t bother enforcing that – but it does seem to be what the rules say.

There are some other “Inherited” templates though, so we’ll need to look at those too. Looking through a handy 3.5 Template Index…

  1. Denizen and Inherited “Underground Creature” Templates are a quick way to represent plane- or location- specific species that are otherwise broadly similar to standard creatures. You don’t really stack or acquire them, it’s just that Fire Spiders, Fire Dogs, and Fire Lions are made of fire and all share some obvious characteristics – and that creating a “Template” is a lot shorter than writing a modified block for every monster.
  2. Lycanthropy is its own unique case, in that it’s always an acquired template – but it can infect a child before birth, and they’ll be better adjusted to it. It only affects Humanoids and Giants though, so if you throw in a template that changes that it presumably ceases to apply. In any case, this falls under the “specific exceptions in individual descriptions” rule.
  3. Spellwarped (MMIII) is inherited – but it’s another “artificial species” template – rather like the (semi-official) Environmental Racial Variants from Unearthed Arcana. It, notably, can be added to any corporeal aberration, animal, dragon, fey, giant, humanoid, magical beast, monstrous humanoid, plant, or vermin – leaving out the most common player character races. I’d guess that the children of two spellwarped creatures are also spellwarped, but the template doesn’t actually say. Given that it automatically drives the character insane about all we can say is that it’s a very poor choice for a player character.
  4. There are some “special breeding” templates for animals, but they really don’t seem relevant.

So that’s where it stands in 3.5: half-(whatever) templates are acquired from having two dissimilar parents and you get acquired templates from special events, but (with the sole apparent applicable exception being Lycanthropy), templates are not passed on to grandchildren. You could be born a half-something lycanthrope, but that’s about it. Of course, you may then acquire as many templates as you can manage, but now we’re in “talk with the game master” territory.

  • Pathfinder, of course, “discarded” the widely disliked ECL system – but never has worked out a good way to deal with player characters with templates or playing with a mixed party of monsters and normal player-character races. Thus Pathfinder Society simply disallows it, while the official “rules” say to treat CR as character level (fudging as needed since they admit that this is a spot where the rules are unreliable), and let them gain extra levels equal to 1/2 their CR on the way to level twenty since Challenge Rating doesn’t scale well – which is just a backdoor way of shoving both ECL (since CR is not necessarily based on the number of hit dice) and ECL buyoff / reduction back into the game without actually saying so. Thus Pathfinder’s solution to player characters with templates is basically “just say no”. Given that this does not actually answer the question of “how to handle them”, we’re pretty much stuck with the 3.5 version.

So, since Pathfinder never updated that rule, the general rule is that Inherited Templates (with the major exception of lycanthropy) only occur when the two parents are different “species” (A and B) and always come in the form of a “half-(A) template applied to base species (B). (I usually go with the mother determining the base species, but that’s just me).

  • Eclipse, of course, just lets you buy powers – with the only real change between a “level” and a “template level” being that the template level provides 32 CP instead of 24, but doesn’t include a free (d4 hit die + Con Mod) hit points or (Int Mod) skill points. It also lets you build up “species” abilities, so it doesn’t normally have a problem with ECL’s, ECL buyoff / reduction, playing characters with templates, or acquiring templates. Do you want to play a Half-Celestial at level one? Just start buying the powers and you’re a half-celestial, even if you haven’t fully developed your abilities as one yet. Since Eclipse generally doesn’t need to make a distinction, the point is usually moot.

The fun part of the various dynastic spells and effects is that they make a certain amount of power inheritable. In some cases you can simply grant your kids a template whether or not you have it (Dominion makes this possible), in others your kids and their descendants can get a certain amount of free power for generations to come. It doesn’t, however, cost any of the kids character points. Your descendants become an important and powerful people family because you have granted them importance and power right from early childhood.

I suppose you could thereby make a backstory claiming that your character is one of the one-in-ten-million kids who got a free template from their grandfather the mighty mage or something – but that’s no more or less valid than a character who wants to inherit 50,000 GP worth of magic items and a pet dragon because of his or her backstory. The game master may allow it, but if so he or she is probably going to be giving everyone some astounding freebie and the Template is just the one you happened to get.

And I hope that helps!


3 Responses

  1. To answer an offline question… This really doesn’t have much to do with building characters. They can acquire any template the game master is willing to put up with because “something really weird happened to me”. That’s how Amilko acquired the Half-Celestial Template when he absorbed a minor Celestial.

    No, this is about what your player characters kids – and those of non-plot-important NPC’s – are going to look like.

  2. Yeah… I mean, I guess the answer of ‘Eclipse is a generic system, and 3.5 doesn’t really give an answer’ works, but it’s not super satisfying.

    • Well, 3.5 does give us some rules.

      1) You get a base species. That may have a “template” if it’s from an exotic plane or something – but that represents “writing up creature variants for each environment is a huge waste of time” not “templates to add to characters” – especially since most of them are rather lame.

      2) You can get a half-(whatever) template from having your non-base-species parent be a (whatever).

      3) If still eligible, you can catch Lycanthropy in the womb, and be a “born lycanthrope”.

      4) You may then pick up “acquired” templates according to in-game events.

      5) Unless, of course, the characters backstory says that they’re special (like all player characters), in which case none of the first four rules apply and you can throw in whatever you like.

      So rules 1-4 only apply if you want to be simulationist, to have your character found a dynasty, and don’t have the raw power to ensure that special stuff happens to your kids.

      In other words… almost never. That does take most of the point out of looking at rules 1-4 doesn’t it?

      Eclipse will let you take old templates if you wish – but their ECL / CR modifiers are pretty unreliable. So most characters built in Eclipse just buy the powers they want, and if they want to say that they come from their heritage, or from being exposed to some weird event, then so be it. It really doesn’t matter much.

      Thus the dynastic spells and powers are intended to do something very special – something over and above “you can buy whatever you want because of backstory”. It’s “you get free stuff that you do not have to pay for because a powerful ancestor is giving it to you” – just like a kid who wanted to go adventuring might get handed a few thousand gold pieces worth of gear by his or her retired adventurer grandfather.

      That’s not fair of course, but how often are people strictly fair when it comes to their kids survival?

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