Medieval Dark Ages “Classes” – The Võlur

While Eclipse doesn’t actually use Classes, a Dark Ages game is very likely to stay in the level one to level four range for more-or-less “real people”, rather than dipping into the “action movie star” or “more than human hero” territory that starts at level five or six. That means that a first level character is starting off with close to half of all the character points that he or she is ever going to have – and so that first level build is certainly going to set the tone for a characters later development. Unlike a game that’s expected to go to level fifteen or so… there simply aren’t enough character points in levels 2-3 to do a particularly radical redesign. For this setting, even in Eclipse, “classes” – or at least your initial build choices – are actually quite important.

A Võlur (sometimes a Velho) is a classical sympathetic magician, using Sympathy and Contagion to produce magical effects. Classically, a Võlur could produce an immense variety of effects, at nigh-limitless ranges – but required a great deal of time to do so and was generally limited to relatively subtle, and often long-term, effects.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the opposite of gaming mages usually do. They tend to have a very limited range of effects (to let the players and game masters keep track of them easily), most of their effects have very limited ranges (to force the characters to go out and have exciting adventures rather than desk jobs), they have to work their magic quickly (since they are basically competing with the archers and swordsmen), they are anything but subtle (since most of their magic is for use in direct battle), and they don’t use many long-term effects (since, once again, it complicates things too much). Thus, while there have been a few attempts to import sympathetic magic into d20, it rarely works out that well. Fortunately, I am using Eclipse and a setting where this sort of thing is more appropriate – and where the characters will mostly have to settle for “subtle” because most of the blatant stuff does not work.

For Dark Age game purposes Sympathetic Magic comes in two categories – Direct and Indirect.

Indirect Sympathetic Magic is classical. You perform lengthy, complicated, rituals, usually a long ways from your target, and produce… fairly minor effects. Most such interventions can be effectively represented as die roll modifiers. Is the local Võlur attempting to bring rain in the midst of a drought that threatens to ruin a villages crops? Well, in game terms that droughts a -8 Circumstance modifier on on Profession (Farmer, Hunter, Gatherer) and Survival checks. With three separate rituals (perhaps one for rain, one to pull water up from the deep soil, and one to strengthen the plants), our Võlur can provide a +6 bonus to those checks – not entirely negating the effects of the drought, but certainly reducing its effects from “disaster and starvation” to “a somewhat below-average year”. So did cave paintings of successful and bountiful hunts aid early man. Cursing a cow to go dry? A penalty on the owners income check. Do you wish to protect someone from harm? You might take some of their hairs and place them in a metal poppet, granting your target a +2 bonus to their Natural Armor.

More drastic direct interventions approximate the power of a cantrip, albeit at indefinite range. Do you wish a castle to catch fire? Your ritual may cause a candle to topple over when unattended, igniting the rushes on the floor. The place MIGHT burn down – but a passing servant might stomp it out, and even if the fire spreads, it may wind up only destroying a room or two. You can cause ominous messages to appear on walls, let your voice whisper in your targets dreams, cause frightening chest pains, and otherwise subtly aid or hinder your target in a wide variety of ways – but there’s only so much you can do with the occasional cantrip, even if they are being used indirectly from many miles away.

  • Indirect Sympathetic Magic always costs 2 Mana at a base. Additional Mana may be spent to affect a larger area. Do you wish to affect a household, party, or small farm? +1 Mana. A hamlet, manor, or castle? +2 Mana. Sadly, larger areas are out of mortal reach.

Indirect Sympathetic Magic can be quite effective – if a group (or coven) of three Võlur (cauldron optional) wishes to affect a battle of champions, each can aid their champion with an effect (Say, +2 to AC, +2 to Attacks and Damage, and +2 to Strength) and inflict some similar curse on his or her opponent, which may well prove decisive – but it’s not like throwing lightning bolts.

Direct Sympathetic Magic is less classical, but much more playable. It substitutes line of sight for a proper link and for much of the ritual (still a minimum of a full-round action). You still need to represent the effect, and the effect is still fairly weak – but you can produce trivial, minor, and notable effects.

  • Sample Trivial Effects (1 Mana per Day): Rub something to briefly polish it. Rub your fingers together (mimicking a firestick) to generate a match-sized flame. Blow, and direct, an impressive smoke ring. Basically, the kind of stuff you can manage with Prestidigitation, but limited to sympathetic effects.
  • Sample Minor Effects (1 Mana): Mold clay to create a large image of smoke or a (fairly obvious) mirage. Break a thread to snap a bowstring. snuff out a match or candle-flame to extinguish a torch or lantern. Use a candle and a thimble to heat a bucket of water. Make your voice come from someplace else. Cause a few moments of disorganization. Try to get someone to repeat what you just whispered aloud. Create an area if slippery ground that might make a target fall. Ease a difficult childbirth. Stop bleeding.
  • Sample Notable Effects (2 Mana): Mold clay to shape a sizeable cloud. Turn a key to open a lock, even if the key has nothing to do with the lock. Exhale hard to create a modest gust of wind or to blow away some smoke. Strike a wall or tree to generate a ranged combat maneuver or attack. Toss out a handful of dust to create a bothersome cloud of dust, cover a trail, or instantly make a large area look dirty and undisturbed. Fan vigorously to purify the air in a modest area.
  • Expanded Targeting: One point of additional Mana may be spent to affect slightly larger areas or groups – a group of up to a dozen targets or a household – but that’s the limit.

Unfortunately, all sympathetic magic is subject to the following limitations:

  • The Rule Of One: A target may only be directly affected by one sympathetic effect from any one witch in any one day. This is a consequence of the fact that each such act establishes a temporary link back to the originator, making it impossible for the user to properly focus any additional magic on the target until it fades.
  • The Rule Of Two: Sympathetic effects are normally limited to a +/-2 or trivial effects of similar potency. That could be applied to armor class, saves, skill checks, attacks and damage, or even as direct damage however. For example, one might sprinkle mold over a handful of stores to affect the food produced by a kitchen, causing everyone who eats it to suffer penalties.
  • The Rule Of Three: No matter the number of rituals enacted, no given target may be affected by more than three sympathetic effects in any one day. Beyond that, there are too many competing temporary links for any sympathetic mage to direct effects to the proper target.
  • The Patronus Rule: Long-term sympathetic effects are maintained by the user’s power. They cannot endure past the caster’s death or the point at which the caster reclaims his or her Mana – although the caster may voluntarily refuse to do so to maintain an effect, although this is still limited by the Synodic Rule, below.
  • The Synodic Rule: Unless a Võlur willingly dies to cast a spell (not so rare as you might think, many a sick or elderly Võlur has given up his or her last few days to provide a permanent blessing for his or her loved ones – or a permanent curse for some truly hated foe) the maximum duration of any sympathetic working is one Synodic Month. After that time, the mana invested in maintaining the effect is freed, and will be regained by the caster normally.
  • The Rule of Resistance. If you directly affect someone with a malevolent sympathetic effect they get a will save to negate the effect at DC (13 + Mana Spent + Users Wisdom Modifier). Targeting someones equipment or something they’re carrying adds +4 to the DC. Environmental modifications do not permit a saving throw.

The wealthy and powerful are obvious targets for Sympathetic Magic. Unfortunately, most of them will employ sympathetic mages of their own, both to maintain beneficial spells on them and their immediate households (which incidentally protects them against hostile spells) and to trace the origin of sympathetic attacks. Ergo, using sympathetic magic against important folk needs to be either subtle or indirect or carefully timed to slip in to the gaps between when their current spells go down due to the Synodic Rule and when they can be re-established.

To actually build the 36 available character points worth of this ability take…

  • 3d6 Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized for Increased Effect (Sympathetic Magic, as above) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (12 CP). This may be taken a second time.
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized for Reduced Cost / only to refill the magic pool above, requires at least one hour per die (6 CP).
  • Occult Sense / Detect Sympathetic Effects. This allows the user to determine the nature of any sympathetic effects currently affecting someone – and to get a good deal of information about the user. This ability is anothe rmajor reason why the wealthy and powerful often employ their own Võlur.

A Võlur is actually the party enhancement specialist. Sketch a scene of the party as amazing heroes cutting their way through a host of enemies to victory, pour three Mana into it (2 for an Indirect Effect and 1 for affecting a small group) and give everyone in the party a +2 to Attacks and Damage until you opt to regain that mana or the synodic rule kicks in. They can pull off some useful tricks in direct battle as well – snapping a group of opponents bowstrings, or trying to trip a group of enemies or some such – but the Rule Of One is very limiting in such cases.

The Build:

Basic Attributes: A Võlur should probably have a reasonable Wisdom, but attributes aren’t actually that important to their magic – leaving them free to focus on some secondary role.

Available Character Points: 48 (Level One Base) +10 (Disadvantages: Accursed [Suspicious Person. Võlur can offer gifts. They can also strike against you in secret, in ways that are difficult to detect. Whenever things go wrong, the local Võlur will be under suspicion almost automatically], History [every Võlur should have at least a short list of things they’ve done to help or harm to provide some plothooks], and Accursed [While the Almighty may or may not have a problem with Võlur – after all, he’s the one who made that power available – Clerics tend to disdain Võlur on the theory that meddling with reality should be let to God]) +12 (Human and First Level Bonus Feat) = 70 CP.

Unlike being a Friar or a Bombardier, being a Võlur doesn’t require any major commitment.

Basic Items (24 CP):

  • BAB +1 (6 CP). It’s a rare adventuresome Võlur who hasn’t practiced a bit.
  • Hit Points: 8 (L1D6, 4 CP) + (Con Mod). Võlur aren’t front-line fighters, but they deal with enough upset neighbors to be reasonably competent at defending themselves.
  • Proficiencies: All Simple Weapons and Light Armor (6 CP). Pretty much the minimum for anyone who’s going adventuring and who isn’t otherwise inhibited somehow. Most likely from militia training.
  • Saving Throws: +2 Will (6 CP). Imposing your will on the universe is good training for resisting anything else imposing on you.
  • Skill Points: 2 SP (2 CP) (But see below).

Other Abilities (46 CP):

  • Võlur abilities (As above); 18 CP (Most often Mana and Recovery for PC’s).
  • Upgrade Human Fast Learner to +2 SP/Level (3 CP).
  • Fast Learner Specialized in Skills for +2 SP/Level (6 CP).
  • Adept x 2 (12 CP). This allows a Võlur to keep eight skills maxed out before any intelligence-based or purchased skill points come into play. While they will probably want one or two to be in crafts or performance skills with which to make models, perform pantomime, or draw pictures, this gives them quite a few
  • Tis Only A Flesh Wound!: Damage Reduction 2/-, Specialized / only versus physical injuries, Corrupted / damage prevented by this should be tracked, since it represents bruising, strains, minor flesh wounds, and similar non-critical damage. As long as any remains, half the characters healing will be devoted to removing it (1 CP). Unlike the purely positive-energy based “hit points” of standard d20, a Dark Ages character actually has meaningful biology. With them, being stabbed ten times in the foot for one point of damage per blow is not at all equivalent to being hit in the head once with an axe for ten points of damage. Major wounds will blow right past this resistance, but they can take lots of minor ones. Sadly, this may not be upgraded past 3/-.
  • One Bonus Feat. For combative types, there are some good tricks available with things like Augmented Attack, Trick, or Enhanced Strike. More Mana can make for a decent group-enhancement specialist while still leaving some room for direct tricks.

The Võlur’s magic can be surprisingly effective if used cleverly – but a Võlur is basically a Trickster Mage, rather like the Bard and various magical rogue builds in most d20 settings. Of course, in a Dark Ages setting… a Võlur is reasonably powerful and is about the most vesatile mage to be found.

Personally, I find that the most attractive feature of this sort of magic is that the player needs to be clever. They not only have to think of something useful to do with their very limited powers but they have to come up with a little ritual to make it happen. That can bring in a lot of creativity to replace the usual “I cast Spell 17b”…

Medieval Dark Ages Classes – The Bombardier:

Is not the scent of brimstone and the infernal choking smoke enough of a sign? There are devils in gunpowder. They make it explode in hellish flame. The horrible wounds that such cursed weapons inflict tend to fester and rot (although washing them clean with pure holy water sometimes helps) – a sure sign that firearms are full of wickedness! A bishop tested once – simple leaden musket balls fired from ordinary muskets versus balls of blessed silver with a cross carved into them fired from blessed muskets. The profane lead was far more accurate, inflicted more damage, and consistently outranged the silver that had been cleansed of hellish influences. And if those tests were not proof enough… the dark power of firearms and bombs will easily injure monsters that are near-impervious to mundane weapons. Only the greatest of holy weapons can match their destructive power. The foolish few who dare to risk their very souls dabbling in the use of Gunpowder, Explosives, and Firearms are greatly feared.

Liber Ignium, the Book Of Fires:

As a field of Natural Magic, the use of Firearms and Explosives is based on the Witchcraft system.

Journeyman Bombadier: Witchcraft II (12 CP) with +6d6 Power (Powder?) (Specialized / only for use with Gunpowder Weaponry, 6 CP).

A Journeyman Bombardier gets (Str + Con + Dex) / 3 +6d6 Power and three Witchcraft Abilities – two fixed and one chosen.

  • Gunpowder Mastery – Infliction, Variant (uses a ranged attack check instead of a saving throw), Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (120′ Range, uses d6 for damage, increases limits by +1 die per category – so a maximum of 4/6/10 dice for 1/2/3 points) / requires the use of a pistol/longarm/light cannon or rocket at base, or a grenade/petard/powderkeg or rocket to get the area effect, effects are extremely noisy, fiery, and smoky, “force” or “fire” damage only, may frighten the parties horses or other animals, costs +1 power in rainy or otherwise wet conditions.
  • Sharpshooter – Hand Of Shadows – Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / Enhanced Aim only. Normally, given the vagaries of early gunpowder, the fouling of the barrel, using smaller balls than barrels so that they bounce around when fired, and imprecise early manufacturing techniques, early firearms are horribly inaccurate. With this power a Bombardier negates that problem automatically and may spend 1 Power as a part of attacking with Infliction to either gain a +5 bonus to Hit with that shot or to attempt some absurd trick shot without penalty.
  • Plus any one of the following knacks:
    • Cauterizing Charge – Healing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the user may cleanse an infected wound or stop bleeding automatically, as a move action, at the cost of doing 1d3 Fire damage to the target. This costs no power but the user cannot use other Healing abilites.
    • Demolitions – Dreamfaring, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the user’s Infliction effects cause double damage versus objects and bypass hardness. This is a continuous effect with no cost, but the user cannot use other Dreamfaring abilities.
    • Demon’s Breath – Shadowweave, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only to turn the smoke from bits of powder into a great cloud of choking, nigh-impenetrable smoke. The user may create such a cloud as a free action or as part of discharging a firearm up to seven times per day for free, each additional 3 uses costs 1 Power. Unfortunately, he or she can use no other Shadowweave abilities.
    • Devils Glance – The Inner Eye, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / Observe enough men in battle, stressed and tempered by the flames and thunder of the guns, and you will soon come to see the flaws their eyes reveal. The user may make a perception check (opposed by the targets ability to bluff) to see a targets personality flaws – if someone is corrupt, has committed grievous crimes, is open to bribery, is treacherous, lies routinely, is overly lecherous, or suffers from similar personal troubles.
    • Festering Evil – Elfshot, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the user may, on a hit with a gunpowder weapon, roll 1d5: 1-2) The wound is clean, and will heal normally. 3-4) The wound will fester and rot, unless heroic efforts are made, 5) the wound will bleed for an additional 1d6 damage per round until stanched. 6) Shock. The wound acts as Bestow Curse until treated.
    • Greek Fire – Witchfire, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / The user may spend 1 Power as a part of attacking with a gunpowder weapon to cause the target hit to be set on fire. Area effect weapons also add +2d6 Fire Damage when this option is used. Unfortunately, the user may not employ any other Witchfire abilities.
    • Hellfire Gaze – Glamour, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Wielding Hells Fires has it’s side effects. The user gains a +6 bonus to Intimidation checks at no cost and – if holding a gunpowder weapon – may expend 2 power to generate a Command effect against a group of up to six individuals. Unfortunately, he or she can use no other Glamour abilities.
    • Leathered Toughness – Hyloka, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the user permanently gains Energy Resistance 5 against Fire and Gunpowder-generated Force effects at no cost, but can use no other Hyloka abilities.
    • My Guns They Comfort Me – The Adamant Will, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the user is automatically immune to Intimidation and other Fear effects so long as he or she possesses a gunpowder weapon but can use no other Adamant Will abilities.
    • Piercing Eye – Witchsight, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the user may readily see through smoke and fog, suffering no penalties for such conditions but can use no other Witchsight abilities.

The three further possible expansions of the Bombardiers abilities include:

  • Alchemical Compounding: Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized / only to restore the users Gunpowder Weaponry power pool, above, (6 CP).
  • Master Bombardier (Witchcraft III): Adds four additional Bombardier knacks (+6 CP).
  • Sulfurous Deviltry (The Secret Order): Requires Master Bombardier. Adds the remaining five Bombardier Knacks and +4 Power (+6 CP). A master of Sulfurous Deviltry has sworn himself or herself to the powers of flame and metal, and can no longer be Inspired by the Clergy, but is not necessarily an enemy of the faith. They’re just straddling the line.

Bombardiers may take Witchcraft Pacts to reduce the costs of their abilities – but all such pacts are with demonic powers. A Bombardier with any Pact counts as an enemy of the Christian Faith, and – as rule – their selection is limited to Missions, Spirit, Taboos, Rituals, Essence, Souls, Gateway, Corruption, Possession, Spell Failure (Christian Clergymen), Madness, and Susceptibility (Holy Objects and Places). Taking such pacts is rarely a very good idea.

The Build:

The Bombardier commands the most directly destructive battle magic to be found in the setting – the power of black powder and iron. There is literally nothing else of the mortal world that can match the destruction wrought by a high level Bombardier with a cannon short of a the great acts of nature – volcanic eruptions, great earthquakes and landslides, and the greatest strikes of mighty storms. To be a Bombardier is in itself an act of hubris, betting your very soul that you can bend the fires of hell to your will without being taken by them – and many Bombardiers lose that bet.

Basic Attributes: A Bombardier will want Dexterity first and – probably – Constitution second. Other attributes are of considerably less importance.

Available Character Points: 48 (Level One Base) +10 (Disadvantages: Dependent (Unless they regularly restock their supplies of lead, saltpeter, sulfur, charcoal, and any destroyed alchemical apparatus Bombardiers suffer a -12 penalty to their daily Pow(d)er allotment), Irreverent, and one disadvantage of choice) +12 (Human and First Level Bonus Feat) = 70 CP.

Basic Items (40 CP):

  • BAB: +0 (0 CP), +3 Specialized and Corrupted / only with Gunpowder Weapons (6 CP).
  • Hit Points: 12 (Level One 3d4, 16 CP) + (3 x Con Mod). This also gets them up to Level Three as far as Witchcraft use is concerned – making their pistols quite powerful even at level one.
  • Proficiencies: All Simple Weapons (3 CP) and Light Armor (3 CP). Since their firearms are actually a branch of natural magic, no proficiency is required to use them.
  • Saving Throws: +2 Fortitude (6 CP).
  • Skill Points: (Int Mod + 2) x 4 + 6 (6 CP).

Other Abilities (20 CP):

  • Journeyman Bombardier Package (30 CP).
  • Improved Initiative II (6 CP): +4 to Initiative. A Bombardiers basic strategy is pretty much always “shoot – or at least intimidate – them before they close”, and going first is pretty fundamental to that.
  • Tis Only A Flesh Wound!: Damage Reduction 3/-, Specialized / only versus physical injuries, Corrupted / damage prevented by this should be tracked, since it represents bruising, strains, minor flesh wounds, and similar non-critical damage. As long as any remains, half the characters healing will be devoted to removing it (2 CP). Unlike the purely positive-energy based “hit points” of standard d20, a Dark Ages character actually has meaningful biology. With them, being stabbed ten times in the foot for one point of damage per blow is not at all equivalent to being hit in the head once with an axe for ten points of damage. Major wounds will blow right past this resistance, but they can take lots of minor ones. Sadly, this may not be further upgraded.
  • One bonus Feat or Feat-Equivalent of Choice (6 CP).

The Bombardier is pretty much a Warlock – a wielder of dangerous, highly-damaging, and very likely unholy magics that are principally useful in battle. Their damage isn’t especially enormous compared to a high-strength melee specialist with a big weapon or an focused archer, but it’s generally enough, they’ve got reasonable range, and they can bypass a lot of defenses – including a good bit of armor class. Overall, they have an important role to play in Dark Ages party.

Can non-Bombardiers try to use firearms? Why of course! That’s where all those one-handed, or one-eyed, or badly scarred and permanently limping, or powder-tattooed people come from. Meddling with magic when you don’t have the skill rarely works out well, although occasionally someone gets away with it for a bit.

Oh, as a note… I have seen references stating that some bishop or other actually did conduct that test. Given that the results actually make some sense – there are numerous problems with using silver bullets and carving crosses on them will only make the aerodynamics even worse – who knows? Someone might have really tried it. Early bullet or ball wounds are also a lot worse than arrow wounds when it comes to infection. Cleanly cut tissue versus smashed with bits of wadding, cloth, armor chips, and whatever the target was wearing carried into the wound? Which one seems more prone to infection to you?

Magic Versus Technology In The Modern World

Today it’s another offline question – basically “how do you maintain some sort of balance when you want to throw your favorite magical creatures of choice (Aesir, Noldor, Dragons, My Little Ponies, Genies, whatever) into a modern earth setting?”

Now, you can just arbitrarily decree such a balance if you want. That’s a bit unsatisfying though, and tends to leave all kinds of inconsistencies lying about – which isn’t good for your setting, game, or story. So lets talk about the basis of Magic/Psionics/Whatever-You-Call-Your-Settings-Reality-Altering-Power(s) for a moment.

  • Is it a fundamental property? Because if it is, and yet projected magical fields (“spells”, “disciplines”, or whatever) can have complex interactive effects, those fields have to have a lot of structure to them and carry a lot of information. How much structure or information you can have is related to the variety and number of components you have. That’s why the structure of gravitational fields tend to be fairly simple in comparison to the structure of electromagnetic fields. For complex interactive spell structures… you’ll want at least two values in both positive and negative flavors. Call them “A” and “B”. So scientists – even if they can’t measure, detect, or work with “magic” – will be seeing nine kinds of electrons (A+B+, A+B0, A+B-, A0B+, A0B0, A0B-, A-B+, A-B0, A-B-) with their own exotic interactions – and pretty much every bit of physics, engineering, and biology will be completely different building up from the atomic level. Worse, particles with “A0B0” won’t interact with magic at all, while anything with an “A0” OR a “B0” value will do so only partially. All those classical transformations and such… will simply scramble matter, resulting in instant death.

OK, so it’s an emergent property associated with some level of complexity. That allows us to keep atoms and the periodic table and a lot of basic physics intact.

But if magic is an emergent property, then it won’t interact with things below the necessary level of complexity – so magic will not directly affect gravity, electromagnetism, plasmas (“fire”), electricity (“lightning”), or radiation, among many other things. Spells affecting such things will have to be complex, inefficient, and indirect. Complex materials will respond to magic in various ways. Some will be anti-magical (Iron perhaps?), some will disrupt magic, some will respond to magic, and others will have magical properties – but if the complexity level required to use magic is high enough, that might be able to pass unnoticed for quite some time – possibly up to our current technological level. It will be very hard to justify the existence of immaterial magical spirits, who lack the underlying physical structural complexity to support the magic however. They’d have to be anchored in some sort of “heart” or talisman – which at least explains why ghosts tend to be bound to very limited areas.

  • Is magic simply highly advantageous, or is there some sort of limitation or “price” for using it? Because if it’s highly advantageous, it’s not going to be a secret for long. The magic using variant will rapidly spread through the population (of humans – or of magic-using animals, plants, or fungi) and the non-magic using segment of the species population will soon be reduced to isolated, relic, and soon-to-be-extinct clusters. There have been millions of years for that to happen in. Yet if the world looks like ours, then it hasn’t happened in all that time. Ergo… magic is either not worth bothering with (which makes it a lousy game or story element) or there is indeed some sort of major, unavoidable, price or prices for using it. Something bad enough to more than cancel out whatever advantages it offers, leaving magic use as a rare, recessive, trait. Reduced fertility (perhaps it burns out the souls of your potential children so that most can never be born…)? Massive childhood mortality due to magical diseases and immaterial predatory menaces that don’t affect non-magical creatures? Huge biological opportunity cost (leaving all magic-using things stunted, weak, and sickly compared to non-magical ones)? Drastically limited habitat (perhaps they can only survive at rare springs of magic)? Magical backlash (using magic does hideous things to you)? Karmic Backlash (using magic causes horribly bad luck, so magical creatures get killed a lot?). Perhaps using magic causes you to be sucked into dimensions of elder horrors?

We can reduce the problem by adding special requirements to the use of magic – but each requirement also restricts our options. Does manipulating it require a complex biological or technological mechanism? Forget “natural” or “environmental” magic such as Ley Lines, Magical Pools, and so on. Conscious Thought? Forget magical plants and animals. “Life Force” or a “Soul”? Forget most magical artifacts, wands, and similar. Special foci or power sources? Then no magic when those aren’t available – unless there are possible substitutes.

  • Finally, of course, even limited magic will have had immense social effects – leaving the world looking very different – unless something is keeping it a secret. Sadly, while “Witch Hunts” are a popular excuse, they really won’t do. After all, in reality, there are (and have been) swarms of practicing psychics, astrologers, dowsers, witches, shamen, alchemists, spiritualists, and other figures claiming supernatural powers who have done just fine. If they can get away with that while having no actual powers to sell or to defend themselves with (save, perhaps, force of personality, suggestion, and intimidation) why can’t people who actually have magical powers manage it too? While there were some classical “witch hunts” (if far fewer than in popular legend), they were mostly directed at powerless social outcasts. Going after targets with actual political, financial, or military power didn’t work so well outside of a few cases of kings and such (who had plenty of military and political power of their own already) using “witch hunts” as an excuse to loot a group – and there’s no reason to think that going after people who actually had magical powers would work any better.

So you’re going to need a much better reason than THAT. All kinds of other obscure phenomena have been documented and examined. Perhaps magical resources are limited, and there are not enough to share? Does having magic vastly penalize all social interactions for some reason? Secrecy (the classic meaning of “occult” is simply “hidden”) empowers magic, so revealing its reality weakens it or causes it to vanish entirely or restructure itself? The eldritch beings who provide the power (or magic itself) demands it? If too many people in a region know about true magic, they start going mad and killing each other off? Does humanities racial mind recognize the perils of magic and cast a veil over it, refusing to let normal people become aware of it?

The magicians themselves do not actually have to know why they keep it a secret. There just has to be a reason why either magical societies that do not maintain secrecy get eliminated with 100% reliability – (which simple prosecution will not do) or why non-magical people are 100% unable to become aware of magic – which no reasonable mortal intervention can accomplish.

In any case… we’ve got our first set of restraints. If you want to cram some magic into a world which looks a lot like the (no apparent magic) real one…

  • It must be an emergent property associated with a very high level of structural complexity to maintain physics.
  • It must be limited enough to not be an overwhelming advantage, otherwise it would spread very rapidly through the population
  • It must be associated with a fairly high level of conscious thought, otherwise it would have grossly distorted the evolution of life.
  • It must be self-censoring, maintaining it’s own secrecy from the world.

This is the line of thought that – whether consciously reasoned out or not – leads to the “hidden magical world” or “urban arcana” sort of settings. Elves in racecars? Buffy The Vampire Slayer? Harry Potter? Charles De Lint? It’s an entire genre of fantasy.

The trouble is, that you then have to follow the rules. There won’t be an abrupt flowering of magic, rediscovered ancient atlantean techniques won’t result in a new golden age, and if there’s an “upswing in the availability of magic” like in Shadowrun, the cycle is going to have to be long enough to avoid interfering in evolutionary time (something Shadowrun casually skips by, but given the authors various other misunderstandings, why not?). You won’t have races of magical beings around – or dropping in either.

  • So what if the magic – or the magical beings or artifacts – are from another dimension and obey its rules, not ours? Or are encased in some sort of dimensional bubble? Can’t they at least affect themselves with their magic then?

The trouble there is that our universe is very limited. It’s quantized. That means that it’s only capable of interacting with stuff that exactly matches its quantum values and forces. That’s why Dark Matter – with the same quantum values but differing force-interactions – goes right through everything and only interacts via gravity.

If you want an “extra-dimensional” being to interact with anything in our universe, it has to have essentially identical physics of it’s own or to be adapted to match the local physics in the transfer – and if it’s adapted to the local physics… then what it can do in its own universe is no longer relevant. It has to play by the local rules.

And that’s why “magical visitors come to visit technological earth” stories are so often a mess, with one side or the other (usually the magical side) coming off as being grossly overpowered. It’s because the “technological earth” side is limited by what actually works and to what little “magic” can be worked in via Urban Fantasy – and the magical side has essentially been given divine authority to restructure the universe to accommodate it’s own powers. Worse, you can’t effectively balance that by letting humans learn to do it too. That just means that – in defiance of every observation and the fact that all that technological stuff still works – you’ve just let your humans start ignoring physics too. Humans have tried to work magic in all kinds of ways for thousands of years. Other races in the universe have presumably tried it in their own ways too. It has never worked very well or we would – at best – be citizens of the magical cosmic empire. Visitors cannot teach stuff that won’t work here. Visitors who are reliant on stuff that won’t work here will be in big trouble. They’ll probably die.

And that is the answer to the original question – about why “Magical Beings On Earth” stories tend to have a REALLY hard time balancing things. It’s because the magic used by such beings tends to be powerful, almost wholly advantageous, blatant, and so simple to use that there are simple, naturally-occurring, rocks with magical properties – as well as magical plants, bugs, and diseases.

If magic like that functions in a setting, it’s not going to look anything like the real world. It might, at BEST, look like the magical earth of Operation Chaos, where – in a fairly modern world – a special forces unit of a Werewolf and a Witch are fighting  a resurgent Islamic Caliphate which is attempting to unleash one of the Genies sealed by King Solomon as a superweapon.

So if you want to introduce your magical entities to a recognizable “earth” without leaving major plotholes, you either need to tone them down to the Urban Arcana level or to insert a reason why the rules of the universe are abruptly changing – which people WILL take advantage of to rapidly make your setting completely unrecognizable. Simply stating that “well, the magic was there, but people just weren’t using it for some reason” doesn’t really work if anyone thinks about it too much. You can get away with that in a novel fairly easily – the audience rarely spends all that much time considering “how things work” when they’re reading a fantasy novel – but it’s a lot harder to get away with that sort of thing in a game, where you’re going to have a bunch of clever players trying to figure things out and take advantage of them.

And I hope that helps!

Star Trek Relics in Eclipse

And for today it’s a couple of relics. Unfortunately, unlike most relics, a character needs to be able to use very high-level technology to create or use these – and will need proficiency in Informational Combat to use the Tricorders full abilities. Still, if you just happen to hail from a Star Trek universe, here are a couple of the most popular toys.

Phaser (15 CP / 2 Point Relic):

  • Innate Enchantment: Specialized and Corrupted / only 1750 GP (35,000 Credits or Purchase DC 31) to duplicate the functions of a particular technological item or set of interlinked items with a common theme. The Phaser (or Plasma Laser) is a combination of…
    • Early Plasma (Laser) Pistol With Heavy Stun (4500 CR).
    • Early Plasma (Laser) Rifle with Autofire Module (2250 CR).
    • Plasma Launcher : Minigrenade Launcher (2000 CR) with 20 Fireflush Grenades (24,000 CR).
    • Plasma (Fusion) Torch (120 CR).
    • 30 extra Power Packs (2100 CR)
      • Total: 34,970 Credits. All items from d20 Future rules.
  • With 1d6+2 (6) Mana, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only for Reality Editing, only for edits related to the devices Innate Enchantment effects or to the device itself, maximum of major edits (9 CP).
    • Common Minor Edits (1 Mana): Device is recharged/reloaded, an attack on it turns into a stunning energy discharge in a 10′ radius, produce an effect that is almost reasonable for the device in question (using a plasma gun to heat a room, flash-weld a door closed, attack a small area or double the damage or an area effect, hit automatically, or run a steam engine for some time).
    • Common Notable Edits (2 Mana): Device affects a small area rather than an individual target or a greater than usual area, device can be repaired as a standard action, produce an effect which is only remotely possible for the device in question (using a plasma gun to blast a sizeable area, create a wall of fire, hit and crit automatically, disrupt electrical apparatus rather than doing damage.
    • Common Major Edits (3 Mana): Make a plasma gun shoot cold, completely ignore range limitations, fire an overload blast for triple damage, carve out a tunnel, use the gadget to power up other systems, get things to work where they have no business doing so (for example, using a plasma beam under water).
      • Note that, if the device user is also using reality-editing technobabble, the effects are cumulative. Just sum up the total effective mana expenditure to determine the level of the edit.
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to recharge the Mana Pool above, takes several minutes of tinkering, requires a roll? (4 CP).

A phaser isn’t one of the most powerful weapons out there – but it can keep firing almost indefinitely, has a “stun” setting for when you don’t want to kill people, and can be used for all kinds of tricks as well as just shooting people. So why do most minions just flash and vanish when shot with a phaser set to “kill”? It’s because they’re MINIONS, and – in a Sci-Fi universe – generally only have a few hit points. That’s why pretty much ANYTHING kills them.

Tricorder (8 CP / 1 CP Relic):

The universal instrument pack would probably be best written as “Privilege: user gets to be the one to relay the plot-relevant information to the group after the game master has decided what he wants the party to know” – but most players would prefer a gadget that actually has some worthwhile effect. For them, we have the Classic Tricorder.

  • Sensor Suite: Shaping, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (level zero and weak level one effects) / Only for Divinations, requires at least one full round spent fiddling around with the gadget (6 CP).
    • Such effects include Detect (Magic, Psionics, Poison, Disease, Life, Time, Location, Dimensional Disturbances, Metal, Ores, Radiation, Secret Doors, Snares And Pits, Nutritional Value, Undead, Electrical Activity, Bugs, and so on), Find (Fish, Game, Forage, Campsite, Water, Oil, Gold, Personal Items), Know (Diagnosis, Direction, Numbers, Age, Origin, Creature Classification, Plant Classification, Immediate Past, Weather), Assay (Purity, Creature, Plant), and speeding up a search (Sift).
  • Innate Enchantment, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only 500 GP Value (2 CP).
  • “Card Computer”: Small PC with various programs. 175 GP.
    • Holorecorder (5 GP).
    • Motion Sensor (20 GP)
    • Piercing Visor (25 GP).
    • Power Backpack (4 GP). (for powering the “detailed scan” below).
    • “Detailed Scan” / “Disintegrator” (250 GP). 3d8 Nonspecific Energy Damage, 30′ Base Range, Crit 20/x2. Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / Informational Combat Weapon. “Damage” is tracked separately. As it is inflicted, the user gets more and more information about the target. If the target is “killed” the user’s information is reasonably complete. If the user reduces a target to (-hit points) via informational damage he or she is entitled to use technobabble to explain it’s weaknesses and how it can be exploited – and have such explanations often turn out to be correct, even if they weren’t at all correct before / does no actual damage, exposes the user to informational feedback (a free counter-attack from the target) against his or her own hit points / “informational integrity” which can induce a variety of mental and physical problems, ranging up to incapacitation if the user’s informational damage total exceeds his or her hit points.

The Tricorder can detect all sorts of things – but at relatively short range and it often takes a good deal of time to “decipher what the readings mean”. Things can get much stranger if the user actually knows Informational Combat however, since with that… he or she can technobabble whatever is being scanned into complying with his or her ideas of how the universe is supposed to work. That’s why a skilled sensor operator can find a weakness in the enemy shields, or a way to bypass Borg immunities, or or a crack in the event horizon. They’re basically bludgeoning the universe into going along with their version of the “observer effect” and being the way they want it to be. (Unless, of course, the universe wins the informational battle and gets it;s own way). More mundanely… a Tricorder is a high-quality personal computer which can generate maps, spot hidden creatures, and record in various modes. It also has unspecified data libraries (a complete copy of Wikipedia perhaps?), which can be used to try and get back to the world that ought to be, if only Spock can collect enough stone knives and bearskins.

Eclipse d20 – The Djinni Childe Build

The desert is a hard land. Despite the occasional oasis, it can support only a few wandering nomads and tiny towns clustered around the few larger sources of water – at least until magic comes into play. A few Perpetual Fountains and other city conveniences make it possible to live there – but are both expensive and hideously vulnerable. If someone holds a cities water or food sources hostage… the population often has noplace else go. And so, among the widely-scattered cities, the Compact has grown up. Tradition and Honor. Duel-wars are fought on terms, well outside the cities, with less than a dozen adventurers on each side. The soaring cities are sacrosanct. To strike at the wellsprings of their life is the worst of crimes, a dishonor for generations to come. Those few who seek power in such a manner well-earn the title of “Evil” even if they do not always start as Grand Viziers.

The cities are isolated. Within the deserts crystal outcroppings drink the sun and burn with eldritch power. Magics that attempt to reach across the wastes are warped and distorted. And so the cities are isolated. Teleportation, Gates, Conjurations, the powers of the Gods that reign elsewhere, and even simple messaging spells… fail. No libraries of spells or markets of magic are to be found.

Adventurers and the occasional nomad or trader traverse the desolate wastes between the cities, finding in them purification and a forge for souls, a path that sharpens their powers and skills beyond even the cities elites. There, where the elemental powers of the world sweep unhindered across the land, one can learn to control those powers – or one can fall to them, becoming a ravening elemental force and a peril to others.

So we have an “Arabian Knights” setting – fantastic cities of sparkling towers rising over bustling slums, surrounded by narrow belts of farmlands and deadly deserts. With each city so isolated – and generally small – a vague worship of distant, uninvolved, deities may occur, but lesser local spirits serve the role of gods and magical lore is scarce – making spontaneous casters, Sha’ir, and similar types dominant. In these desolate lands skillful rogues, lesser mystics, and empowered warriors do the adventuring. Practically all of them will be human.

Those who commune with the spirits of the land are especially respected. When a sandstorm engulfs your caravan, or your route becomes impassible… A guide who can moderate that storm or find you another path is far more valuable than a mighty warrior, an evoker of vast destructive powers, or spellcasters with impractical specialities.

Basic Attributes: Charisma is a Djinn Childe’s most important attribute, Intelligence is next – while Strength is rarely all that useful to them.

Available Character Points: 48 (Level One Base) +10 (Disadvantages) +6 (Level One Feat and Human Bonus Feat) = 70 CP.

The Basics (34 CP)

  • BAB (Warcraft): +0 (0 CP). At least to start with we’re looking at a primary mystic here; BAB – is not going to be a major focus.
  • Hit Points: d6 (2 CP). While anyone wandering the desert is going to be a bit tougher than your standard commoner, Djinni Childe aren’t combat specialists, even if the may well have some damaging effects.
  • Proficiencies: Simple Weapons (3 CP) and Shields (Corrupted / small and/or light shields only, 2 CP). While armor is an oven in the desert, any traveler will soon pick up the basics of some weapons-work, if only because their fellow travelers will insist on it.
  • Saves: Fortitude +2 (6 CP). Those who wander the deep desert seeking enlightenment are either tough and enduring or dead.
  • Skills: +(3 CP) to upgrade Human Fast Learner to +2 SP/Level, +(6 CP) from Disadvantages to buy Fast Learner/Specialized in Skills at Level(-2), Adept x 2 (Usually five Perform skills, Knowledge (Religion), Knowledge (History), and Diplomacy, but there is some variance, 12 CP), +2 SP (2 CP) = 18 SP plus (Int Mod x 4). Sixteen of those will go into maxing out their Adept skills.

Other Abilities (36 CP):

  • Mystic Artist, Spirit Speaker Variant, x4 (24 CP).

This variant replaces many basic (Inspiration, Manipulation, and Synergy) abilities with elemental manipulations. Mystic Artist (Oratory) gets Sun and Minor Divination powers. (Dance) gets Sand and minor Transformation powers, (Singing) gets Wind and minor Movement powers, (Percussion) gets Water and minor Illusion powers. (Strings) gets Wood and minor Animation powers, and (Wind) gets Spirit and minor sonic powers. (Act) has no known associations while (Keyboard) appears to be related to Life, Death, and – for some reason – minor powers over space-time (it’s mostly used by space travelers). Corrupted for increased effect: second and later selections only get half the usual number of uses, but all uses are pooled between modes. For an example, Sun might include brilliantly illuminating a radius – dispelling darkness, damaging undead, and dazzling light-sensitive creatures – but by default it will be an ongoing, low-damage effect even against the undead, not a sudden blast. Spirit Speaker effects tend to helpfully adjust the environment, and only secondarily directly attack.

  • Echoes, Specialized / only to give abilities a three-minute duration after they’re dropped (3 CP). Note that Mystic Artist upgrades normally only apply to a specific Mystic Artist skill – so this will force the Djinni Childe to choose a speciality at level one.
  • Ritual Magic, Specialized / only to work minor rituals associated with their knowledge skills (3 CP). Thus someone with Knowledge (History) can use minor rituals to date artifacts, sense psychic impressions, and restore ancient inscriptions, while a user with Knowledge (Nobility) can use minor rituals to create genealogical charts, administer mystic oaths, and make their wardrobe and manners suitable for a foreign court. Knowledge (Religion) suffices for reading auguries, making proper offerings, detecting “evil” and “curses”, and conducting funerals.
  • 1d6 Mana with Reality Editing, plus Rite Of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to modestly extend elemental effects produced by Mystic Artist or recharge the pool used for that (6 CP). This is primarily an excuse for being able to pull off minor stunts with their abilities. Have they got the ability to whip up whirlwinds of sand which grant their friends a bonus on Armor Class, Attacks, and Damage (an elemental variant on the Inspiration/Emotion ability)? This would let them gather sand into a heap or sheltering wall, dig through it, or calm a sandstorm in the appropriate radius.

Further Advancement: Most Djinni Childe are, like Bards, support types – and so they lean towards Bonus Uses and Upgrades to their Mystic Artist abilities, Healing Touch, Connections Favors, Action Hero / Influence, Augmented Bonus (Adds Int Mod to Cha Mod for skill purposes). In combat, they generally resemble Rogues or Factotums – focusing on sudden strikes if they MUST get into melee.

There are a lot of other ways to create elementalists – even performing elementalists – in Eclipse. Another suggested build used Rune Magic requiring a perform check to make things work – but Mystic Artist seemed like nice gateway to an intermediate-level mystic package. Even better, this setup leaves later levels pretty much freeform; yes, you will need to devote an occasional 6 CP to mystic artist upgrades, but the skills and base number of uses will increase automatically, even with no further purchases.

Beragrave The Fallen, Eclipse D20 Sniper-Assassin

He meant well. A dying wife, a sickly child, and none to help him. An old story, played out again and again. Unlike most, however, Beragrave would indeed do ANYTHING to help them. Anything at all.

And a power took note of that, and answered. The power to craft Charms and Talismans of black magic was a small, small, gift – but the seed of corruption easily took root in Beragrave’s flawed heart.

A Bloody Bowl saw to his families health. What matter it if a passing street urchin or two was sacrificed for that? They were doomed anyway, and their lives purchased the time his family needed for a natural recovery.

A Horned Amulet let him support his family in better style. It came at the expense of those about him, but they had not aided him when his family needed help, and so Beragrave paid no heed to the increased burdens he was inflicting upon them.

A Blood Spider and some Necromantic Elixir did in a few travelers – and left Beragrave and his family surprisingly well-off.

By the time his son moved out to start his own family – he and his mother still ignorant of Beragrave’s multitudinous sins – Beragrave had committed hundreds of dark crimes in exchange for additional powers, and served his demonic master with dedication.

Available Character Points: 48 (Level One Base) +10 (Disadvantages; Accursed, Secret, ) +2/Level (Duties; making black magic charms and talismans available and encouraging evil) +1/Level (Restrictions: May not willingly accept the services of good clerics or paladins) +12 (L1 and Human Bonus Feats) = 73 CP.

Basic Attributes: Str 12, Dex 14 (+2 Human = 16), Con 14, Int 14, Wis 10, and Cha 13 (Pathfinder 20 Point Buy).

The Basics (29 CP)

  • Warcraft +2, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only for Missile Attacks, only for his Spirit Weapon (4 CP).
  • Hit Points: 8 (L1d8, 4 CP) +2 (Con Mod) +15 (Bear Cloak) = 25. By the time his “adventuring” career started, Beragrave had been in more than a few fights. Tending bar will lead to that.
  • Proficiency with Simple Weapons (3 CP) and Composite Bows (3 CP).
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +4 (Shimmermail) +3 (Dex) = 17
  • Initiative: +3 (Dex).
  • Save Bonuses: Will +2 (6 CP). Net Save Bonuses: Reflex +3, Will +2, Fortitude +2.
  • Skill Points: 6 (Purchased, 6 CP) +8 (Upgraded Human Fast Learner, 3 CP) +8 (Int) = 22.

Special Abilities (44 CP):

  • Seed Of Darkness: Equipage with Purchasing, Specialized and Corrupted / only to obtain charms and talismans (especially those of black magic), poisons, torture implements, unholy water, smoke bombs, and similar evil supplies (4 CP). This small ability allows Beragrave to simply “buy” small items on the spot. If a whim strikes him to poison someome, or pour acid into a prisoners eyes, or gift some child with a bit of black magic. he can indulge that whim on a moments notice.
  • Bane Of Heroes: Ranged Spirit Weapon (Composite Longbow, 1d8, 20/x3, 110′ Range Increment, 9 CP), Inflicts Nonmagical Fire Damage (+0 CP), two attacks each round are Touch Attacks (+12 CP), Exotic Appearance (Infernal Hellfire, +3 CP), Switch x2 (Stun and Unholy Damage, 6 CP), Augment Attack (Silencing, +6 CP), Augment Attack (Dirty Trick Master, 1d4+1 Rounds, +12 CP), Augment Attack (+1d8 Damage with Spirit Weapon, 8 CP) – all Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost: Must ritually sacrifice an innocent intelligent being at least once per week, must regularly undertake missions for his demonic masters, and must gratatiously spread evil and corruption. If he does not do so, this power will soon start to fail. Failing for several weeks in a row will negate this power until he Atones (see the Atonement spell) for his failures (19 CP).
    • At the moment, Beragrave’s infernal blast is a +6/+6 (+2 BAB +3 Dex +3 Martial Art -2 Multishot) ranged touch attack with a 110′ range increment that inflicts (2d8 + 2 ((Str Mod)) fire, stun, or unholy damage, Crits on a 20 for an extra 1d8. A hit also silences the victim and inflicts a Dirty Trick effect for 1d4+1 rounds. He can upgrade this in a wide variety of ways, just like any other archer.
  • Demonic Tutelage: Adept (6 CP): Bow Martial Art, Diplomacy, Disguise, and Stealth.
  • Embracing The Darkness: Shaping, Corrupted and Specialized for increased (level one and possibly weak level two) effects/can only produce the effects for which the user has the appropriate foci ready, can only support a limited number (seven and three) of minor charms and more notable talismans at one time, they take some time to attune for use, at least three Charms and two Talismans must be Black Magic (6 CP).
  • Stolen Years: Immunity / Aging (Uncommon, Severe. Minor, 4 CP). Beragrave has already earned several extra centuries of life. Who knows what having that much time
  • Track (Urban) (3 CP)
  • A Sigil of Dark Fortune (1 CP): See Eclipse II. A minor Relic that allows one to either reroll or “take 20” in advance up to 12 times – but which can only be recharged though ritual murder.
  • Calling On The Dark Lord: Specific Knowledge: Ritual Of Consulting His Demonic Master (1 CP). This isn’t strictly necessary – presumably they can get in touch with HIM – but it can be convenient.

Charms and Talismans:

  • Personal Charms: Horned Amulet (Black Magic), Serpents Tongue (Black Magic), Wraith Guantlets (Black Magic Undead Version), Vanishing Cloak, Phylactory Of Whispering Shadows, Merasian Vapors, Hidden Pocket (to hide his minor supplies).
  • Personal Talismans: Bloody Bowl (Blask Magic), Black Bear Spirit Cloak (+15 HP), Shimmermail (Demonhide Version).
  • General Charms: As needed.
  • General Talismans: As needed.

Skills (22 SP):

  • Bow Martial Art: +4 (2* SP) +3 (Dex) = +7. +3 Attack and Multishot.
  • Climb +2 (2 SP) +2 (Str) = +4
  • Disguise: +4 (2* SP) +1 (Cha) = +5 (+10 using Merasian Vapors).
  • Diplomacy: +4 (2* SP) +1 (Cha) = +5
  • Perception +4 (4 SP) +0 (Wis) = +4
  • Profession (Innkeeper / Slumlord): +4 (4 SP) +0 (Wis) = +4
  • Stealth: +4 (2* SP) +3 (Dex) = +7
  • Use Magic Device +4 (4 SP) +1 (Cha) = +5

Further Advancement:

Each Level gains 24 CP (Base) +2 CP (Duties) +1 (Restriction) = 27 CP and +4 SP (Int and Fast Learner).

  • (2 CP) Between Adept and buying +2 SP/Level he can add +1 to each of his skills each level.
  • (2 CP) Buying a d6 Hit Die each additional level.
  • (3 CP) +1 on a selected Saving Throw.
  • (2 CP) +1 BAB with Bane Of Heroes
  • (1 CP) +1 level of the Ranger Spellcasting Progression, Specialized for Reduced Cost / Spells are weekly, not daily (Int-Based, Prepare Ranger Spells From List).
  • (1 CP) +1 Level of the Ranger Spellcasting Progression, Specialized for Reduced Cost / Spells are weekly, not daily (Int-Based, Perpare Assassin Spells From List)
  • (2 CP) +1 Caster Level, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only for the Ranger Spellcasting Progression, blatant black magic, will not work on holy ground.

That gets him a reasonable set of skills, a reasonable number of hit points for someone who specializes in ranged strike-and-retreat, excellent attacks – touch attacks combined with a BAB of (Level + 1) and other bonuses should hit most of the time – and a pretty good selection of tracking, archery-boosting, stealth, and assassin-utility spells. It also leaves some 14 CP/Level to spend on other things. Spend some of those on…

  • Bane Of Heroes is his primary attack – and is Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost – so you can easily add more d8’s (2.67 CP Each), Archer-Style “Feats” (2 CP Each), additional Touch Attacks (2 CP each) once his BAB is high enough to support them, and various archer-style boosts. You’ll obvious want Imbuement (to give it magical boosts), possibly more types of damage, Far Shot, Enhanced Strike (Focuses), Double Damage (Versus Paladins perhaps?), Precise Shot, and similar benefits.
  • Stealth and General Combat boosts are also in order – Cloaking (6 CP) to conceal his dark powers, Reflex Training (Extra Actions Version) to allow swift escapes or extra strikes (6 CP), Awareness and Flankless (6 CP Each) to avoid sneak attacks and most precision damage, Augmented Bonus (to boost his hit points, 6, 12, or 18 CP), Defender (to raise his AC, 6 CP), Imbuement (Armor, 6+ CP), Opportunist (Hide In Plain Sight. 6 CP),

For miscellaneous purchases…

  • A few more Languages or skills never hurt anyone.
  • An Enhanced Demonic Familiar (12+ CP) can be very handy.
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses (Specialized for Reduced Cost / Only to restore spell levels, 6 CP) will enable him to renew some spells given a few minutes out of combat.
  • Innate Enchantment (Hat Of Disguise (1800 GP), Amulet Of Tears (2300 GP), Healing Belt (750 GP), and 650 GP worth of necessary gear – perhaps an unholy symbol for his spellcasting (so that he doesn’t really need one), a spell component pouch if he needs one, and so on, Making some of his Black Magic Charms (10 GP) and Talismans (25 GP) into Innate Powers is a great way to keep them from being discovered. 6 CP). Alternatively, or in addition, a set of the convenient first-level archery boosters could be quite handy.
  • Leadership or Companion (6-12 CP). Beragrave is a family man, so when something happens to his wife – or if he’s just outlived her – he’s all too likely to marry a Hag, or a lesser Succubus, or something. He might also use this as a way to get a few disposable troops to keep a group from coming straight for him when he starts blasting them.
  • Returning (6 CP) – at least in the form of “mysteriously disappearing and reappearing later” – is probably a good trick for any villain that you want to have around for more than one fight scene.
  • Witchcraft: Even a few points invested here can provide access to The Adamant Will – preventing mind-reading and mind control – and a few other useful tricks.

For Items… He’s primarily going to want tools for infiltrating, burst damage, and escaping, A Cloak Of Mysterious Emergence (13,000 GP) is a WONDERFUL tool for escaping, if a bit pricey.

Beragrave is – in general – a long-range sniper-assassin. He pops up somewhere, starts blasting his target(s) (attempting to silence spellcasters and using dirty tricks to hinder everyone else) – and gets out if the opposition proves to have too much long-range firepower or is closing in on him. Being pretty optimized he can be a serious threat to good-guy characters. if only because “I’m getting my powers on the cheap because they rely on sacrificing lots of people to demons” is an approach that good-guy characters are often reluctant to take. After all, players are often reluctant to commit their characters to anything at all.

Skill Stunts And Epic Skill Stunts XII – Information Gathering

Gather Information, Profession (Detective), Investigation, Find Clue, Locate Plot Element, and Knowledge (Local) are all basically variants on “Find Out What’s Going On” with a side order of “find out or know about the area” thrown in – and have fewer supernormal uses than many other skills, simply because they’re already basically “the game master either just gives you information directly or points out some clues and helps you put the pieces together” – and there are few powers more convenient than THAT. At least one character found that taking “hyperdeduction” as his primary talent was rather more useful than “getting to be a full-grown dragon at no cost” or “being a gestalt character” (which were what some of the other players took). About the only thing that limited him was if he got too focused on a particular issue and forgot to ask about other items.

Fortunately, that player was fairly easily diverted – and character turnover in that game was quite high – because if you aren’t REALLY careful this can easily become the equivalent of a “tactics” still that the user can roll to automatically win fights.

In d20, investigations usually require 1d4+1 minutes (current headlines, stuff everyone is talking about), hours (old public news, juicy rumors, dull facts), days (stuff that people are intentionally hiding, such as confidential police reports, the location of criminal enterprises), or weeks (stuff that people are intentionally hiding and which were never widely known – secret weapon plans, the D-Day targets, plans for the Death Star). Costs escalate similarly. A silver piece for the current paper and a few minutes spent standing around looking at it and listening to the conversations around the newspaper booth will usually suffice for the current major news, but uncovering the D-Day targets before D-Day may costs tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars – and may still not work.

Other basic modifiers include:

  • Upping spending money or resources by one level gets a +10 on the check.
  • Calling in contacts or favors gets +0 to +10 on the check, depending on relevance.
  • Repeated attempts to gather information about anything past the current gossip may attract suspicion. The first retry while making sure to avoid suspicion is at -10, further retries are at -20.
  • Reducing the time by one level modifies the check by -10
  • Having other agents about provides the usual assistance bonues up to a maximum of +20.
  • Being extremely suspicious or wildly abnormal for the area (you’re a blatant dragon or a fire elemental in a human town) or notorious or something might get you small bonuses, but it’s much more likely to result in massive penalties.

Pathfinder folds Gather Information into Diplomacy – which isn’t entirely inappropriate, but also means that this list can reasonably be combined with the Social Skills list.

Sample Stunts For Information Gathering:

  • DC 10 (Normally no stunt required):
    • Locate Person: You can track down someone who is hiding in or moving through a populated area. If they are making active attempts to conceal themselves, this becomes an opposed check with a -15 penalty on the “location” side
    • Querulous Search: You are looking for available, but more-or-less difficult-to-find information about a specific topic or individual. This can range from the reasonably general and obvious (“is so-and-so in town for their concert already?) at no penalty on up through -5 (looking for a fence, supplier of illegal goods or services, or similar), -10 (looking for restricted information, such as military deployments or where specific people are), through -15 or more (information which others are taking deliberate efforts to conceal but which there are still plausible sources for – even if they aren’t supposed to tell anyone). Things like “where is the thieves guild?” – something that a fair number of locals have to know even if they’re afraid to talk about it – fit in here. Information which simply isn’t available in the area cannot be found this way. Looking for more details – blueprints instead of descriptions perhaps – causes yet more roll penalties.
    • The Local News: You get the local news, major items of gossip, rumors, and hot topics of the area. This very rarely attracts attention because much of it can be accomplished by standing near a local crier, buying a newspaper, or simply sitting in a public location and listening.
  • DC 15 (May or may not require a stunt):
    • Locate Adventure: You can obtain likely-profitable adventure leads – whether it’s someone in need of couriers or smugglers, a hidden dark temple, rumors of some terrible monster, a sketchy map of an island that none dare explore, the location of a near-buried pyramid in the desert, an abandoned mages tower, guarding a caravan, or whatever. Sadly, a serious failure may lead you to a dead end. Sadly, the more profitable / higher-level you want the adventure to be, the larger the penalty on your check.
    • Profiling: You can build up a reasonable description of someone, including their appearance, their general abilities, their usual methods of operation, and their major personality traits, through reports of their (likely) doings.
    • Surveillance: You may set up a watch on someone or something, gaining a +10 bonus to rolls made to keep track of it and whatever it may get up to – while they suffer a -10 on any rolls made to spot the surveillance operation.
  • DC 20:
    • Consulting The Experts: You may identify items, creatures, and locations by consulting hobbyists, rumors, and experts. The salient features of mysterious artifacts, ancient ruins, bizarre creatures, and long-sealed powers can all be obtained in this fashion. Success includes a basic description, each additional +5 you make on the check provides an additional useful detail.
    • Fixer: You may support an Average lifestyle by spending one day a week putting people who need one thing or another in contact with people who can supply those things. Sadly, if you restrict yourself to brokering ethical services, this requires two days a week.
  • DC 25:
    • Blackmail I: Provided that you have no ethics, you may support yourself at an Average lifestyle by extorting money from others. Alternatively, you can attempt to obtain a minor favor, although making a habit of this is likely to result in backlash, up to and including attempts on your life.
    • The Delphi Method: If you want to find secret passages, ancient ruins, hidden caverns, long-hidden secrets, and mystic prophecies you may take the scholars route, consulting libraries and sages, you may go forth and physically search – or you can crowd-source it, consulting rumors, casual opinions, and random individuals, in confidence that – in a world of divination, prophets, meaningful dreams, telepathy, and magic… summing up those opinions is quite likely to tell you what you want to know. While this is at -15 compared to a similar physical search or to getting what you want through scholarship, that may well be smaller than the usual penalty for searching an immense area physically or prying into long-forgotten lore through scholarship.
    • The Serpent’s Tongue: You may spread rumors and false “truths” as readily as you collect them. In this way you can concoct slanders, libels, baseless accusations, and noxious rumors, spreading them through the population – causing them to believe that “there must be something to it”! Or “Where there’s Smoke, there’s Fire!”. You may thus spread a web of lies, as effective in entangling your victims socially as a spiders web might be physically. DC 40 it will soon become a popular meme with a fair number of believers, at DC 60 a widely credited whispering campaign sure to draw official notice, and at DC 100 a trigger for an official investigation / witch-hunt by the targets enemies.
  • DC 30:
    • Locate Resources: You may find dealers in rare, unusual, or illegal items, materials, and services. The DC will, however, increase with the rarity of what you’re looking for. Mercury is fairly easy, dimethylmercury is much harder, and anti-mercury is pretty much impossible. You may also find people with particular skill sets similarly. Do you need a specialist in a particular ancient culture? This ability will let you find one of one exists.
    • Riddlemaster: Riddles and tales thereof are a popular game, and tales of them are widespread. You may use Gather Information in place of an appropriate knowledge or specific skill to answer a riddle up to (Int Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) times daily.
    • The Whole Picture: If you have access to the information derived from three or more successful Gather Information checks you may combine and cross-reference them. If you succeed, you may derive additional information from the original checks as if each was ten points higher than it was on the original roll.
  • DC 35:
    • Dark Whispers: You can hear the subtle voices of the dark powers – and not merely the common temptations to misbehave. You can hear the offers of demonic magic in exchange for sacrifices, the whispers of devils making offers on your soul, and the twisted spells and lore muttered by the elder things haunting the abyss beyond the stars. It is rarely wise to listen – but sometimes, if the situation is desperate enough… you may judge it better than the alternatives.
    • Glean The Remains: You may hear the voices of the past and the echoes of great events, whether from places or things. You might hear a part of a call for war, the final words of a murdered man, or the humble voice of a smith presenting his or her finest work to the mage who planned to add some great enchantment.
    • Thiefsign: You may read the subtle signs left by those who have come before – obtaining at a glance an excellent notion of the dangers and opportunities lurking in a house, along a trail, or in some similar situation, provided only that others have passed that way before.
  • DC 40:
    • Genre Awareness: You may survey a group or area, talking briefly to any people and soliciting random opinions on the items, to sort out which ones are relevant to upcoming plotlines. This will not, however, tell you why.
    • Incite Hostilities: You may spread rumors that will soon raise a lynch mob, rile up some witch hunters, or get a barroom brawl going, directing the hostilities at some group of targets. At DC 50 the mob you’ve raised becomes set on serious violence. At DC 60 it can spread to a moderately-sized group, such as a football crowd. At DC 75 you can spread the violence across a city – and probably become a high-ranking public enemy. At DC 100, you may include it’s suburbs and supporting settlements.
    • Whispers Of The Shades: You may now gather information from the dark realms, where the shades of the dead whisper in voices of dust. This is not the true afterlife, but even the shadows of the dead have some power. “Available Information” now includes items that are only known to the dead.
  • DC 50:
    • Blackmail II: Provided that you have no ethics, you may support yourself at a Wealthy lifestyle by extorting money from others. Alternatively, you can attempt to obtain a major favor, although this is likely to result in backlash, up to and including attempts on your life.
    • Rumored Reality: You can weave rumors so juicy, compelling, and plausible that they will begin to manifest as more and more people hear about them. While this requires a minimum of seven uses of this ability over the course of a month, at the end of that time your narrative will take its place in the world. Such creations are relatively minor – a haunt in an abandoned building, a rumored love affair, or some such. At DC 60 notable creations are possible – adding a shrine or altar in the woods or similar. At DC 75 major creations are possible, making a forest a cursed and dangerous place or adding a cult or other small adventure to an area. At DC 100 you may add lost dungeons, hidden mesas full of ancient beasts, and similar creations to the world.
    • Voices Of Gaia: Your ability to gather information now extends to the supernatural communities of nature spirits, fey, and djinn, and elementals. You may seek for information that is only known to such entities without penalty.
  • DC 60:
    • Cliche enforcement: Some scenes appear over and over again. They are the building blocks of greater tales. The bridge collapses, someone who should have died is captured, the portal closes in the nick of time… such narratives are their own imperatives, playing out again and again across space and time. With this stunt, if the game master agrees it’s appropriate, you may force such a vignette into reality, causing it to play out in the current scene. A selection of such tropes can be found under Stealing The Scene, and TVTropes more or less specializes in collecting them.
    • Gossipmonger: You may make up to (Cha Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) Gather Information checks daily as free actions. You keep your ear to the ground so much that you’ve probably already heard about whatever-it-is!
    • Interview Shades: You may seek out and interview the shades of the dead, the sort of impressions probed by spells such as “Speak With Dead”. Shades know little emotion, speak mostly of the high points and great events of their lives, and are dry as dust – no more than the echoes of ancient lives – but they can sometimes provide important information.
  • DC 75:
    • Mythic Tale Gate: Tales have their own reality, gather together enough of their information and you will find them as real – or perhaps more truly real – than the material world. Places out of legend that the user and his or her friends can venture into and explore. While it tends to be fairly (to incredibly) difficult to derail the major plot of such realms, it is possible.
    • Poll the Multiverse: You can gather information from alternative timelines, whether or not such timelines every fully exist. Unfortunately, since they ARE alternative timelines, you can never quite tell if what you get matches your universe – so you get a spread of odds, and the finer the detail you’re looking for, the wider the spread. “Is this the work of a Vampire?” will probably return three or four probabilities, with one in the lead and one trailing. “What password are they using today?” is more likely to return dozens of possibilities, none of them very likely.
    • Voices Of The Divine: Your web of gossip extends to the realms of the gods themselves. You may use Commune, Legend Lore, and Contact Other Plane, once per week each.
  • DC 100:
    • Akhasic Echoes: Your gathering has progressed to the point where you can opt to simply experience a section of the past, spending an hour to effectively live through up to a weeks worth of events from up to (Check Result x 10) years ago. If you have an appropriate relic – you are in a ruined city and wish to witness its demise, or you have some ancient bones and wish to see the death or funeral, the time limit is waived.
    • Produce Tome: You may produce a copy of any book or tome, whether the spellbook of some wizard from a thousand years ago, the Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazarad the Mad, or the True Sacred Book of some long-forgotten faith.
    • Voice Of The Cosmos: You can use the equivalent of Hypercogition.

Epic Information Gathering Skill Stunts

  • Analyze Creature (Level 4, DC 26): Also known as “Consult Sourcebook”. This gives you a full description of any single target creature within long range – at the least, equivalent to making an appropriate knowledge check with an extra +40 insight bonus.
  • Pivotal Point (Level 5, DC 30): You may intuitively identify the next important plot nexus, such as where a deciding battle will be fought, the climactic confrontation with the evil overlord, or the location where the great ritual must be performed. Once you know where you’re going, you can simply ride with the flow of events to reach it, halving the time, effort, and random difficulties which would normally be involved. Once there, the caster enjoys a +5 circumstance bonus on any actions directly related to resolving the situation.
  • Organizational Chart (Level 6, DC 34): You may find out how a group is organized and identify its major members. Sadly, members with spell resistance only show up as a little blank box with a function title if the spell fails to penetrate their resistance. In general, this provides as complete a chart as will fit on one page. For small organizations this may seem quite detailed. Larger ones typically only show departments and major members.
  • Lost Symphony (Level 7, DC 38): You may recover scale duplicates of lost works, including monographs, plays, symphonies, ballets, songs, statues, and architectural plans. Unfortunately, such copies are in ordinary materials and will not exceed one cubic foot in size. A version with appropriate metamagic applied to the formula may, however, increase the possible volume.
  • Catalyst Event (Level 8, DC 42): This ability allows the user to set a chain of events in motion which will have great consequences later on. The user simply states a large-scale problem, casts this spell, and becomes aware of several possible long-term solutions. Some of these may not make much sense to the caster, since the spell does not explain. For example, if the problem is periodic floods
    along the river, possible solutions might include:

      • Importing and releasing some giant northern beavers. This will stabilize the watershed over the
        next few generations
      • Digging a series of canals to divert the excess water.
      • Negotiating with the water elementals and river spirits.
      • Burying some caches of silver in obscure locations and starting a rumor about adamantine ore. Unknown to the characters, this will lead to enough mining on particular mountainsides to trigger a series of massive avalanches over the next few years – creating a series of natural lakes and reservoirs which will moderate the flooding.
      • Encouraging clear-cutting of the forests in the foothills. This will change the climate enough to reduce the yearly rainfall somewhat.
      • Building a house on stilts while establishing a plantation of Mondiko trees. Mondiko trees produce excellent fruits and lumber and like being flooded periodically; the lifestyle will catch on and make the periodic floods a benefit rather than a problem.
      • Disenchanting or removing the statue of Karis, god of storms, which is hidden high in the mountains.
      • Instituting periodic sacrifices to the river god.
    • Any of these should work. Which, if any, the players decide to attempt, is up to them. Catalyst Event will generally present 2d4+1 possible solutions (or as many as the GM can think of). All of them should be reasonably effective if carried out, at least semi-permanent, and free of severe side effects. They are rarely immediate. The spell is quite effective, but it isn’t really meant for questions which require answers in the next few hours or days, such as “How do we stop the onrushing Orc horde”?. There simply aren’t many subtle options at that point.
  • Piercing The Veil Of Memory (Level 9, DC 46): You may revisit your memory of any place that you have ever been, During the spells one-minute duration you may investigate that place as it then was for up to (Wisdom) subjective hours. Nothing there can harm you (unless you discover some secrets that “man was not meant to know” or some such inherently harmful knowledge), you may move around the memory at will, you may read books that you did not open, investigate secret compartments that you did not find, run detection spells that you did not cast, and otherwise ransack the place utterly. Any resources you expend in doing so are, however, expended when the spell ends.
  • Magnum Opus (Level 10, DC 50): You may reconstruct a lost culture, civilization, or time, creating a work on the level of Gibbon’s Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire on the topic. While complete accuracy is not guaranteed, and interpretation is up to the reader, this will produce a multi-volume, encyclopedic, survey of the target containing many, MANY, obscure details.
  • Lost Lore (Level 11, DC 58): You enable everyone within a city or city-state to “put together the clues”. Do you wish to grant everyone the knowledge of Zyl’Kna’Lythk The Eyeless King Who Tramples Mountains and the all-too-simple ritual that will call him once more into the world? A through understanding of how the king is keeping the peasantry poor and oppressed? A good understanding of crop rotation or the germ theory of disease? So you can.
  • Walk The Hidden Paths (Level 12, DC 58): You may initiate your target into any class, system of magic (or psionics of whatever you may call it), path of power, or similar that is 1) directly accessible by mortals without the use of magic above level eight and 2) that the game master agrees will function in the setting, whether or not it has ever existed in the current setting. It’s a big multiverse, and it has existed SOMEWHERE.
  • Weapon Of Legend (Level 15, DC 70): You may call forth a legendary weapon, vehicle, or other device. It will remain for up to twelve hours – but there is no guarantee of your being able to use the thing. You may have to crack the command codes and figure out the systems to use the Enterprise, prove your right to wield Link’s Master Sword, or fight a battle of wills with Stormbringer.
  • Nemesis Mirror (Level 18, DC 82): Every mighty force has it’s counter somewhere. All one need do is open the way. The Midgard Serpent on the rampage? You may call forth Thor to battle it. R’lyeh rising from the waves and Great Cthulhu of the Waters coming forth? Perhaps it is time to call forth Cthughu of the Celestial Fires. Unfortunately, this usually simply turns an ongoing disaster into an immediate catastrophe – but at least it will be over fairly quickly and you can start picking up whatever pieces are left.

Several of these effects are actually adapted from spells in Paths Of Power II or the Complete Paths Of Power – but they do fit in here nicely.

Medieval Dark Ages Classes – The Holy Friar (A.K.A. Fraire Provençal or Religious Sister)

When it comes to European holy men and women in the middle ages, we’re generally looking at more-or-less Christian types. There were a few others about – occasional Jewish Rabbis, Pagans, and Mullahs might appear – but they were vanishingly rare and were well-advised to keep their religious ideas to themselves. Of those…

  • Hermits didn’t deal with others much, although they were your best bet for mystic visions, getting weapons blessed, and similar interventions. There weren’t any major Prophets in the period, but it’s no coincidence that most of the classical ones spent most of their time alone in the wilderness listening for the voice of God. A hermit might join a party of adventurers for a specific mission if they have a vision or something about it – but that’s very rare.
  • Monks and Nuns were firmly based in religious communities, where they worked and prayed – although they fairly often went out into the nearby towns and villages to help out. If you needed long-term care, or food, or a base for your assault on the forces of darkness, or someone to take in some orphans, or to teach classes, or similar help, they were a good bet – but they basically stayed in one place, and so made poor adventurers.
  • Priests were were normally assigned to minister to the needs of a group – staying in one place where the population was dense enough, traveling on a regular circuit of smaller communities, or running a shrine, church, or other religious institution. They saw to baptisms and burials, arbitrated disputes, administered the sacraments, and ran religious institutions – but they were busy people. If you want their services. you needed to go to them. Priests have little time for adventure unless the need is immediate and urgent.

When it comes to clerical-styled adventurers, we’re looking at Friars and Religious Sisters – people who felt a religious calling, but who felt called to go forth and work amongst the people of the land, serving either by setting an inspiring example or by teaching and directly confronting the darknesses of the world. They were free to be pragmatic, to be heroic, and to go forth and do what needed to be done. Examples range from the fictional Friar Tuck and the Canterbury Tales, yo St Francis of Assisi, John of the Cross, and Brother Juniper, and on to various currently-extant orders.

To build a basic Friar we’ll want…

  • Attributes. Charisma is important, but Intelligence and Constitution have their uses. After that… well, it’s best t0 avoid any major penalties elsewhere if you can.
  • Disadvantages: Broke (Friars are Mendicants and vowed to poverty. They may carry basic personal and religious possessions, relics (Charms and Talismans) of higher powers, and own a donkey or horse, but they rely on Charity for their supplies, may not own property, and so on), Vows (religious), and Obligations (religious and to their superiors). That gives them a total of 58 CP (64 counting their bonus feat, although that’s been left open in the build below) at level one.

Basic Items:

  • BAB: +0 (0 CP). Friars may be able to defend themselves, but they are rarely specialized warriors.
  • Hit Points: L1d6 (2 CP). Friar’s aren’t usually all that militaristic, but they do a lot of hiking around and a certain amount of general labor, and so are usually in fairly good shape.
  • Proficiencies: All Simple Weapons (3 CP). Some Friars might not be skilled with much of anything beyond a knife (which everyone uses), but any of them that go adventuring will generally know at least this much.
  • Saving Throws: +2 Will, +2 Fortitude (12 CP). Friars tend to be strong-willed and enduring.
  • Skill Points: (Int Mod + 2) x 4 + 6 (6 CP).

Other Abilities:

  • Theological Training: Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills (for +2 SP/Level), Corrupted / only to keep Adept skills maxed out (4 CP).
  • Studious: Adept: Diplomacy, Heal, Knowledge/Religion, and Perform/Oratory (6 CP).
  • +3 Skill Specialties: Knowledge/Religion/Christianity (1 CP), Perform/Oratory/Preaching (1 CP), and Specific Knowledge / Christian Religious Ceremonies and Sacraments (1 CP).
  • Sermonizing: Skill Emphasis (+2 Perform/Oratory), Specialized for Double Effect (+4) only while preaching the Word of God (3 CP).
  • Tis Only A Flesh Wound!: Damage Reduction 2/-, Specialized / only versus physical injuries, Corrupted / damage prevented by this should be tracked, since it represents bruising, strains, minor flesh wounds, and similar non-critical damage. As long as any remains, half the characters healing will be devoted to removing it (1 CP). Unlike the purely positive-energy based “hit points” of standard d20, a Dark Ages character actually has meaningful biology. With them, being stabbed ten times in the foot for one point of damage per blow is not at all equivalent to being hit in the head once with an axe for ten points of damage. Major wounds will blow right past this resistance, but they can take lots of minor ones. Warrior-types may upgrade this to DR 3 / – for an additional 1 CP, but that’s the upper limit. No dark ages character is ever immune to being stabbed.
  • Adamant Faith: Luck with +2 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to make Will Saves and Checks (3 CP). A Friar’s faith is strong, and will help him or her resist influences to which others would fall all too easily.
  • Minor Privilege: Clerics, even lower level ones such as Friars, are respected, enjoy various legal privileges (the “Benefit Of Clergy”), and are normally welcomed and supported by the general population (3 CP).
  • Words Of Faith: Mystic Artist (Oratory / Preaching) with +4 Bonus Uses (8 CP). Specialized for Double Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / blatantly proclaims the user faith, attracts enemies of the faith, makes the user a notable public figure, positive effects only work on those who follow the speakers faith, negative effects only work on enemies or betrayers of the speaker’s faith, gives the user’s enemies a basic understanding of the user’s capabilities, the user may only call on (Knowledge /Religion score) differing power sources, each of which empowers a particular effect when it comes to abilities that potentially have a broad range of effects. Thus, for example, Greatness normally provides a positive level. Calling on St Francis might grant the ability to communicate with animals, while a more martial choice might grant an extra attack per round for a combat (Reflex Training (three extra actions per day variant) with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in attacking, 6 CP).

Even a first level Friar is should have at least +4 (Skill Points) +4 (Skill Emphasis) +3 (Skill Speciality) +(Cha Mod) = +11 to +15 in Oratory / Preaching – giving them a fair selection of mystic artist abilities and making them able to supply a party with some fairly impressive bonuses at level one.

Higher-Level Friars may have Echoes (+6 CP), allowing them to “trigger” the effects of their words at a later date.

Truly powerful Friars may have some or all of the Path Of Dissonance, Specialized and Corrupted / only works against true evils – undead and creatures of the lower planes and their effects. Distracting, Disrupting, Stunning, Maddening, Banishing, and Shattering (2 CP Each, 12 CP in total – bringing them up to the 36 CP maximum).

A Friars strength lies in their social advantages and in the impressive bonuses that they can offer the more direct combatants of a party. At higher levels they may take the lead against undead, demons, and other unholy abominations, using the holy force of Gods words to destroy or drive back such things,

Further Advancement? A realistic Medieval game probably won’t go past level four or so (if it does, it’s almost certainly no longer “realistic) – but up until then contacts, connections, buying the rest of those religious powers, and more social talents is probably the way to go.

The Trapspider Template (Eclipse d20)

Trapspider (+32 CP / +1 Level/Challenge Rating Spider Template).

What lunatic would install a scything blade and a spiked pit trap in the kitchen pantry? No one in their right mind would live in or build this place!

-Pretty much every adventurer at one time or another.

Trapspiders – according to some legends created or modified by someone called “Grimtooth” to make his traps for him – are a communal variant on the various common monstrous spiders that colonize old ruins, dungeons, and similar environments. A colony normally consists of 2d4 adult individuals (the young tend to wander off once hatched and do not develop their special powers until approaching adulthood). They feed on flesh, bone, and modest amounts of various metals, but are relatively passive as adults. Adult trapspiders normally wait for potential prey to come into their lair – usually a corridor or room. They gain their name from their ability to “spit” traps. As individuals they can cause an opponents location to abruptly be full of bear traps, or to have a spiked pit there, or to be attacked by various other traps, or they can attempt to shove targets into existing (and usually more dangerous) traps.

Their lairs tend to have elaborate, extremely dangerous, corridor or room traps (or even multiples thereof) – a result of the spiders communal efforts. Oddly enough, such traps are often reasonably aesthetically pleasing. While they are rarely great works of art, they often feature fountains, basic statuary, silk curtains, pivoting walls concealed by abstract murals, and other decorative features, as well as being kept relatively clean and neat. The spiders themselves use their ability to conceal themselves as part of the decor, pretending to be boxes, jars, torch-sconces, or similar items.

Lending further credence to the stories of their deliberate creation, Trapspiders always leave a way to deactivate their major traps – albeit rarely a conveniently positioned one. If unsupervised, the most common strain tends to create mathematical puzzles that must be solved to turn off the traps for a day (how they do this when most are unintelligent remains confusing). Unfortunately, while there’s usually a convenient keypad or some equivalent showing a spider with no legs for “0″ and 1-7 legs for the digits to enter the solution, the spiders tend to use base eight – so, for example, a diagram showing a trap in the center, overlaid by a circle with a line extending to the center, with five button-images underneath, would be asking for the first five digits of Pi in base eight. Other strains may produce chess (or other game) puzzles, block puzzles, riddles, or any other form of puzzle. Of course, if they are under someone’s control, pretty much anything goes.

Once the primary trap of a Trapspider nest has been deactivated, they tend to be a bit passive – apparently assuming that, with their primary trap deactivated, anyone left in the area is friendly – or at least authorized to be there. That makes it fairly easy for adventurers to “milk” them for a bit of their trap-creating Venom. While that normally loses potency in 1d4 days, it’s fairly easy for a competent alchemist (Craft/Alchemy DC 15, Craft/Poison DC 21, Knowledge/Nature DC 25) to stabilize the stuff, allowing it to be kept for months.

The Template:

  • Add 3d6 Mana With Reality Editing, Corrupted for Increased Effect and Specialized for Reduced Cost / maximum range of 5′ per size category above “Tiny”, only to shove targets into traps (1 Mana to move a Large or smaller target up to ten feet, save as per their basic venom) and create Traps.
    • Creating traps costs 1 Mana/CR of the resulting trap (things like “roach motels”, mousetraps, and ant-baits don’t cost anything) and is limited to a maximum CR of (Hit Dice + number of assisting trapspiders (9 CP). Spitting a bunch of bear traps is an early favorite.
  • Rite of Chi with +2 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / Takes one hour per die, only to recharge the mana reserve above (3 CP).
    • Trapspiders do take a few hours to rebuild their venom reserves, but this is rarely especially limiting. Traps, after all, keep.
  • Immunity / Traps (Very Common, Severe, Major), Specialized / only versus their colonies individual or collective traps (7 CP).
    • Trapspiders can easily ignore or evade the effects of the traps they produce, forcing enemies who engage them to deal with ongoing trap effects in addition to whatever the spiders do.
  • Blessing, Specialized and Corrupted / only to allow them to be “milked” for 1d4 vials of their trap-creating “venom” (2 CP). One Vial = 1 Mana.
    • This does the spiders no good at all, unless it just encourages adventurers to leave them alive – and so is another argument for them being engineered somehow.
  • Innate Enchantment (5000 GP Effective Value, 6 CP): This grants them:
    • Disguise Self (Personal-Only, 1400 GP): Trapspiders can readily disguise themselves as balls, boxes, small casks, vases, or similar items, and usually do so while resting in their lair.
    • Barkskin (Personal-Only, 1400 GP): Trapspiders incorporate some of the metal that they eat into their chitin, gaining a +2 bonus to their Natural Armor. This also means that Trapspider Chitin makes good knives, pots, armor, and similar goods.
    • Immortal Vigor I (Personal-Only, 1400 GP): Trapspiders gain (+12 + 2 x Con Mod) Hit Points thanks to their partially-metallic composition.
  • Occult Sense / Detect Traps (6 CP). Trapspiders are almost unerring about spotting traps.
  • +3 Skill Specialty in Aesthetics (Traps) (1 CP). Trapspider trap-lairs tend to feature colonnades of statues, polished floors, and intricate designs. They’re the nicest-looking rooms and corridors that will ever kill you!
  • +3 Skill Specialty in Architecture (Interior Decorating). Trapspiders can actually make their lairs look quite pleasant and inviting, helping them lure victims in.
  • Template Disadvantage: Compulsive (Leaves deactivation mechanisms on major traps, as above) (-3 CP).
  • If it matters, Trapspiders are considered to be Magical Beasts, although this does not change them otherwise.

Trapspiders are, of course, one of the major reasons why old ruins and such are so often full of elaborate traps with no discernible sensible function, reason for being there, or apparent builders. They’re also why such traps often have insane deactivation methods – if only so that their original creator could turn off any traps that they built in inconvenient locations.

In play, trapspiders can be extremely annoying in their lairs; they tend to prefer ongoing traps – such as arcs of energy that hit anyone who steps on the wrong floor tiles – and will run about the area quite unaffected, spitting minor traps at people and trying to get them hit by more energy arcs. Unsurprisingly, their treasure – when they have any – is entirely incidental to their feeding, and usually consists of items that they will not eat (gems and other minerals, wood, cloth, more durable metals, and so on).

Trapspiders play a prominent role in the current events of the Anomaly game, where they explain WHY to ancient castle is full of insane traps – so here they are to cause headaches for other adventurers.

The Dark Ages and Their Magics In Eclipse

In the early years of the sixteenth century, to combat the rising tide of religious unorthodoxy, the Pope gave Cardinal Ximenez of Spain leave to move without let or hindrance throughout the land, in a reign of violence, terror, and torture that makes a smashing film. This was the Spanish Inquisition!

-Monty Python, the “Spanish Inquisiton” sketch.

“Dark Ages” – whether the period in Europe after the fall of Rome, the period in Greece and the Aegean after the end of the bronze age, or the period after any of the great watershed empires collapsed – aren’t really defined by “the collapse of civilization” as we currently understand it. After all, for most of the population, life kept on pretty much as it usually had. Engineering – about the only human activity besides increasing the population that HAS shown a reasonably consistent sort of “progress” through history – usually continued to advance. The most recent “dark ages” saw the invention of moveable type, the wheeled plow, the blast furnace, the tidal mill, the hourglass, distillation, eyeglasses, carnivals, universities, quarantines… there were innovations in many, MANY, fields and a certain glorification of “figuring things out on your own”. There were “barbarian” invasions, true – but that had always been the case.

There really isn’t any consistent agreement about their definition, or whether or not they really exist outside of being “a period we don’t have a lot of records from”, and certainly not about what characterized them. Ergo, what I’m going to use my own definition, as tailored for interesting gaming.

A “Dark Age” is characterized by an substantial, fairly long-term, reduction in large-scale organization, transport, and trade. This often follows a series of stresses – “barbarian” invasions, environmental problems, etc – that current social structures prove unable to handle, but that is not required.

In a “Dark Age” imported resources become very scarce, cities shrink, networks of personal loyalties take over from more abstract governmental systems, news from distant locations becomes even less reliable than usual, record keeping is local and few backups are made, and settlements became less cosmopolitan, and hence more provincial, suspicious of outsiders (who are often seen as dangerous), and subject to local superstitions. Centralized authorities, whether secular or religious, lose much of their influence, leading to various secession’s, schisms. and monetary difficulties. Actual money (or whatever the old system of wealth distribution was) is mostly a thing of the remaining cities and what few major traders are still operating – leaving most villages on the barter system.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless centralized control of an irrigation system is necessary to support the existing population. Large-scale empires can be pretty oppressive, and there are substantial advantages to smaller, local, social systems. With a reasonable environment (or a little bit of household magic) there may well continue to be plenty of food, reasonably good health, and quite a bit of leisure time. Even in the real world, medieval peasants got a lot of holy days off work.

However, in game terms, such a “dark age” is extremely convenient. The local authorities are virtually non-existent, the peasantry is protected from rapacious player characters by not really having anything worth taking, the citizenry is too suspicious to be much help, and any “higher authorities” will take a week to reach and more weeks to respond. The Player Characters are pretty much IT. Theirs is the responsibility, theirs the treasure, and theirs the lonely deaths.

Better, in even moderately fantastic settings, where monsters, undead, demons, devils, and dark powers put in regular appearances and evil cults are a serious menace (but where there isn’t much actual magic about), the level of suspicion, fear, and isolationism portrayed in most “Dark Ages” fiction is pretty throughly justified.

In a Dark Ages setting there are no spellcasters. The only supernatural powers around are

  • Charms and Talismans. These are empowered by the holiness of Saints, the evil of Demons, or – sometimes – by nature spirits, such as the Fey or most (non-demonic) foreign “Gods”. Talismans are generally touched by such beings directly, but Charms may be empowered by the bones of the saints, by pilgrimages, or the prayers of exceptionally holy hermits.
  • Shapeshifting, An eldritch and unnatural power, most commonly granted by nature spirits and foreign “gods” (such as Thor, a storm spirit). Druids, Bearsarks, Ulfhednar, Werecreatures… all employ animalistic powers, and all risk madness and entrapment by those powers. No Christian source grants such powers since they deny the truth of the body.
  • Mystic Artist: The power to inspire is the foundation of the Christian faiths, whether in the words of its holy men, the examples of it’s saints, or the designs of its great cathedrals. All uplift and empower mortals to exceed their natural limits. It is this power – and the ability to affect great multitudes – that has made the Christian Faith the dominant faith of Europe.
  • Sympathetic Magic (Mana and Reality Editing) is a slow and primitive form of magic – but is so commonly practiced that few would consider it magic at all. Most of its practitioners have little or no power of course – but there are always a few around who can get it to rain by sprinkling water on the garden or ease a childbirth by pulling a crude doll out of a bag.
  • Ritual (or “High”) Magic attempts to command spirits through true names, bargains, contracts, bribery, and invoking greater supernatural authorities. It takes a long time, esoteric ingredients, intensive study, and careful attention to detail – and still often goes wrong. It also often offends the spirits invoked or those authorities. Spirits can empower Power Words however.
  • Prophecy (Deep Sleep, Cosmic Awareness, True Prophecy): While the art of greater prophecy is extremely rare, visions, voices, and meaningful dreams are all reasonably common. Still, no one chooses to become a Prophet of any sort, it is something that simply happens, whether you like it or not.
  • Natural Magic (Witchcraft). The magic of the natural world empowers alchemists, bombardiers, fortune-tellers, illusionists, firestarters, and more – but the natural world is also the prison of the Fallen, and so a Natural Mage walks always on the edge of the abyss, and it is all too easy to fall to the wiles of demons and become a blight upon the land.

From foreign lands come tales of Occult Martial Arts abilities, of Spirit Weapons forged from the user’s very soul, of Shaman asking favors of spirits, and of Mindspeech – but those arts, if they exist at all, are unknown in Europe. It is possible that some distant traveler will know of them, but it would require special permission from the game master.

Worse… all of those powers are rather highly limited. 36 CP is the usual upper limit, many of the greater abilities are unavailable, and very few mortals will reach that level of power.

D20 – The Feather Pouch

How would you price a magic item that functioned like a supply pouch, but could only be used to make feather tokens?


Well, looking at 3.5 and Pathfinders various Tokens, we have…

The Seafarers Tokens:

  • Anchor (50 GP). Ok, you have a sturdy anchor. Very handy to keep your ship off a reef or from going down a whirlpool, but most ships come with anchors – and if that sort of thing came up all that often no one would use ships anyway. Cheap enough that characters who do a lot of sailing can afford to keep one or two on hand for emergencies.
  • Fan. Makes or reduces winds at sea, 200 GP. Highly specialized, but handy when needed to get you through a storm or something. If you happen to be a dedicated sailor – a merchant or pirate perhaps – go ahead and make it unlimited uses (x40) thrice per day (x.6) for 4800 GP. That’s a bit expensive, but virtually always having a fair wind can be worth a LOT to a sailing ship.
  • Swan Boat. Just the thing for if you have to pick up King Arthur or get up to six characters, their horses, and a couple of hangers-on across some water or need a boat to escape a sinking ship. Cheap at 450 GP if you happen to need it – especially since a roughly equivalent craft is usually priced at about 10,000-12,000 GP and those aren’t self-powered. Go ahead and make it Unlimited Use (x40) once per day (x.2) = 3600 GP. Not as versatile as a Folding Boat, and only once per day instead of folding and unfolding as you wish, but half the price. Seems about right.

Situations where these will be useful come up reasonably often when the player characters are out at sea, so these Feather Tokens – or upgraded versions – may be a wise investment for characters in that situation.

Primary Tactical Tools:

  • Tree. The grand prizewinner amongst the current Feather Tokens. I fairly often see these used. A huge tree will block any reasonable corridor, bridge a chasm, provide safety from non-climbing threats, supply more than a thousand cubic feet of oak to work with, can be dropped on things, and – at a mere 100 GP – can provide impressive “proof of your power”. If the game master is generous, you may even get a nice crop of edible acorns at the right time of year. Go ahead. Buy a Pouch Of Reforestation (each time you reach into it up to once per round you may pull out an acorn that will grow into a mighty oak a few moments later) for a mere 4000 GP (40x the base cost). Call it 5000 GP if you want a wider choice of trees. You know you want to. Be Johnny Appleseed!

Just Interesting:

  • Bird (300 GP). OK, it only carries a message – but it has potentially unlimited range and duration and travels unerringly. Send it to “my fourteen-year-old (yet unborn) great-grandson”? Send a warning to whoever recovers the Dread Mask Of Doom? Promise service in return for a resurrection to “whoever finds my bones”? Last will and testament? Deliver the secret weakness of the Dread Dark Lord to the next hero to confront him? Time capsule? Send someone some Explosive Runes?That probably isn’t rules-as-intended, but it’s certainly potentially interesting. Get it once a day for 2400 GP and exchange letters with your wife/business partner/whoever every day. It would be a bit more expensive than Sending Stones and probably wouldn’t cross planes (unless perhaps there’s an open gate available) – but you can send messages to anyone instead of just to whoever has the other stone. If you send a LOT of messages, you might even want the 12,000 GP unlimited-use version. Bird tokens quite arguably see a lot less use than they probably should.

Lesser Tactical Tools:

  • Floating Feather. This provides one minute of flight for 450 GP. It’s slow flight, but a few of these can completely reverse a tactical situation at lower levels. Perhaps worthwhile in emergencies, but you are much better off spending 800 GP on an Amber Amulet Of Vermin (Giant Wasp), which can get you a minute of flight every day OR fight for you.
  • Sky Hook. Way cheaper than an immovable rod at 200 GP, but a lot less effective than a simple Rope Trick spell – which holds a lot more weight, offers a hiding place, and can rise up, rather than being limited to what you can reach. Sure, a basic one-shot Rope Trick talisman would cost 300 GP – but I’m pretty sure that most GM’s would agree that those limitations would cut the cost by more than a third. I’d peg it at 100 GP personally, considering that a one-shot Feather Fall Talisman (which is, for some reason, not available as a Feather Token) is only 50 GP.
  • Tar And Feathers. This is a bottled Glitterdust spell at 600 GP per use. Yes, that’s handy – but there are a lot of ways to get a one-shot second level spell and a standard one-shot spell talisman would only cost 300 GP. A Scroll is only 150, a Wand is 90 GP / Charge, and just CASTING the thing is basically free. It’s not exactly a rare spell. This really isn’t worth the cost.
  • Whip. It only lasts an hour and only does nonlethal damage, but it’s free attacks at a decent BAB. It can be quite handy tactically, especially if you set it up to try to “grapple” anyone coming at your spellcaster, but at 500 GP it’s sort of marginal. Basically this looks like Spiritual Weapon with an Extended Duration (10 minutes/level or one hour, L3) which would have a base cost of 750 GP for a one-shot item – but Spiritual Weapon bypasses Damage Reduction and Incorporeal creatures and offers a lot more variety, easily justifying the reduced cost. I’d get it in a wand or something personally.

These don’t see a lot of use, but every so often someone will pull one out. I can’t recall ever seeing anyone picking them as primary options though.

Useful Once In A Blue Moon:

  • Campsite, OK, it sets up a nice campsite – but even at best this is simply replacing a part of a survival check and most of the time it has no actual effects at all. Perhaps you want to bluff that you are settled in for a long stay or something? It’s certainly not worth 500 GP anyway. It’s probably not worth 50 GP. 10 GP would be more like it. Learn a bit of Hedge Wizardry or Witchcraft if you want this.
  • Catapult. It’s a basically ineffectual weapon that calls for an operating crew and a heap of special ammunition (which is NOT provided). It’s not even properly defined (Pathfinder has Light and Heavy catapults, but no “Standard” catapults) – and apparently no one has ever cared about that discrepancy enough to provide errata for this particular talisman. Secondarily, catapults are grossly overpriced, since they usually only take a day or two to throw together. Any decent archer build is far more effective even at rather low levels. Just skip this one. Sure, it’s only 400 GP, but you’re much better off getting another wand of Cure Light Wounds. You’re pretty well guaranteed to use THAT.
  • Lance. 150 GP to have a hold-out +1 lance that only lasts for one minute. Where are you riding a warhorse or other battle-trained mount to (in itself a huge lethal weapon) that you ALSO need a holdout weapon? And why isn’t it in your Haversack if you do need one? Now, if you summon your steed when you want it, you might want to get a once-per-day variant on this (1200 GP) so you can break out your valiant steed and mighty lance in the midst of any social event, tavern, or boarding action – but I find it hard to imagine a setting where this sort of situation comes up all THAT often.
  • Ram. It’s a big iron-covered log that takes a crew of ten to use and is far, FAR, less effective than a single character with an adamantine dagger. Which you basically pay 500 GP to rent for a day. I suppose you could use it to prop up a ceiling, or drop on someone, If you drop it from – say – five hundred feet up on a wooden ship it will probably go right through the bottom. On the other hand, you could just buy five Tree talismans instead. Or perhaps a once-per-day Tree Talisman for 800 GP.
  • Siege Tower. This is basically “instant fort” – but it only lasts an hour and costs 1000 GP (half as much as buying a real one). Of course… player characters are usually on the offensive, when they are besieged it usually means that they’re defending a town or something and the situation will either last a lot longer than an hour or call for defending a lot more people than will fit into a siege tower. In either case… they probably want wall spells (Wall of Wood in particular) and spells like Secure Shelter are in order. So, one-shot Wall Of Wood (L4), only to make a “Siege Tower” (x.5), only lasts for an hour (x.5) at Caster level 10 (which should be plenty) – which gives us 500 GP. So the price is a bit high from the “stored spell” viewpoint (Especially compared to a Scroll) – and who wants to tie up 1000 GP waiting for a situation that may well never come up?

And that’s it for the Feather Tokens, at least if you aren’t delving into third-party stuff – and even then they’re fairly rare and are generally very specialized.

Second Edition had a much wider variety of powerful feather tokens. To judge from the few that haven’t changed though, the pricing has dropped drastically. For some examples (listing similarly diminished prices):

  • Bird: Could drive off hostile avians (with no stated apparent upper limit) or serve as a transport vehicle equal to a colossal roc. Either way, good for one day (Probably about 600 GP in 3.5).
  • Bridge: Created a bridge of force (as per wall of force), up to seventy feet long. The bridge lasted for one day or until the user dismissed it (Probably about 100 GP in 3.5)
  • Key: Permitted passage through walls, gates, and doors, opening a passage like a Passwall spell, eating it’s way through gates like acid, unlocking, unspiking, unbarring, and unchaining doors, negating traps, wizard lock, and hold portal along the way. Glyphs of Warding and Symbols were not negated, but were safely revealed. This required one round and the opening was permanent until physically repaired (Probably about 400 GP in 3.5)
  • Spoon: Became a hearty plate of food that replenished itself until 4d4 medium-sized beings were fed. The food stayed warm and palatable, and could be covered and carried for long periods or distances without spoiling. The plate was edible, as well; a single bite of it neutralized all poison in the eater’s body, dissolved rot grubs harmlessly, and cured the rotting disease of a mummy (the only disease it affected) (Probably about 200 GP in 3.5).
  • Finger: When pointed at any visible location (in midair and aboard vehicles works fine) and commanded “There!” this token teleports the user and whatever he or she is wearing or carrying there, instantly and without error (Probably about 200 GP in 3.5).

Ah, for the good old days! Back when magic had to be found and when you could be sure that, if you got a Bird token, soon enough you would either desperately need to either cross the continent in an evening or would have to get by an endless swarm of flesh-devouring birds for your final assault on some evil wizards dark tower.

So to answer the initial question… The simplest way to make a Supply Pouch that only produces Feather Token effects is just to convert them to spells. A Supply Pouch that is limited to “selling” the following eighteen spells gets a x.4 multiplier, replacing the x.8 multiplier in the existing price computation – so effectively half price.

  • L1) Anchor Ship, Feather Fall, and Make Camp.
  • L2) Create Tree, Glitterdust, and Sky Hook.
  • L3) Enduring Spiritual Weapon, Favorable Wind, and Fly.
  • L4) Faithful Messenger Bird. Produce Catapult, and Produce Ram.
  • L5) Passwall, Summon Boat, and Summon Chariot.
  • L6) Heroes Feast, Siege Tower, and Wall Of Stone.

All, of course, are obtained at the usual (Spell Level x Caster Level x 10 GP) cost for purchasing spellcasting services drawing on the Feather (Supply) Pouches 750 GP allotment – so if you use any of the higher level effects you won’t have much left over.

  • Now, if you just want a supply pouch that only produces actual feather tokens… You’ll want the Epic Level Pouch at half price (as above, but only for purchasing feather tokens), but the “double base cost” modifier on buying magical items will still be in effect This will cover the cost of the most expensive Feather Token – the Siege Tower – but not by much. On the other hand, this version will allow you to build up large supplies of feather tokens over time and hand them out to the rest of the party. I thin it will be  bit expensive for what you get, but it certainly works.

Personally, you could also take:

  • Feather Mage: 1d6 (4) Mana with Reality Editing, plus Rite Of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost or to refuel the pool for such / only to create Feather Token effects (up to 400 GP: 2 Mana, up to 1000 GP: 4 Mana) (6 CP). This Feat – or one point Relic – will allow the user to pull out a half-a-dozen currently standard Feather Tokens effects a day. This is cheap – in part because, while I’m sure than anyone who takes it will constantly find ways to use it, there will rapidly come a point where a character will have better things to do than to mess about with Feather Magic.

And I hope that helps!

Eclipse d20 – Standard And Nonstandard Attributes

Today’s question is kind of complicated – and leads us through a bit of “game design through the ages”. So once again, we will have some retrospective going on here with a question inspired by one of the Terminator articles.

The notation of the basic machine solder robot purchasing its ability scores with a point-buy value and then adding in “racial” adjustments got me thinking…

While robots are expected to all have identical ability scores, this is the case for all “monsters” as well. All winter wolves, for example, are going to have Str 20, Dex 13, Con 18, Int 9, Wis 13, Cha 10, unless one is a special case (i.e. has a template, advanced natural Hit Dice, etc.).

Now, that’s a bit of a sop towards ease of game-play; for monsters that are “on-screen” long enough for the PCs to slaughter them, using a standardized array of ability scores is fine. But this still presents an interesting idea; notwithstanding any discretionary ability points that they receive for every 4th Hit Die, as well as size adjustments, these creatures all have standard ability scores of 10 or 11, with the remaining adjustments all being racial in nature.

So for example, if we subtract the discretionary ability point for their 4th Hit Die from, say, Dexterity, and reverse the adjustments from being Large-sized, that means that winter wolves have base ability scores of Str 10, Dex 10, Con 10, Int 11, Wis 11, Cha 10 (using Pathfinder as the standard), with racial adjustments of Str +2, Dex +4, Con +4, Int -2, Wis +2, Cha +0. More notably, this has them buying up their base ability scores with only 2 points…raising their Intelligence and Wisdom each from 10 to 11 before any other adjustments are applied.

Now, those initial points (and the presumed racial adjustments) can be toggled slightly depending on where you presume that discretionary ability point went in their final array of ability scores, but the overall point remains. Winter wolves, like most monsters (and monstrous NPCs that aren’t built using PC-standard races) don’t use much of a point buy. In fact, even the basic NPC ability score array of 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8 comes to an overall value of 3 points…one more than the winter wolves in the above paragraph received!

My question, in this case, is what would it cost under the Eclipse rules (if anything) to allow for such monsters to buy up their basic ability scores similar to how PCs do, before applying racial ability modifiers and discretionary ability points from every 4th Hit Die? For NPCs that might not matter too much (since they’re still on-screen for the purpose of being killed), save for a possible CR adjustment, but what if I had one as a companion creature? If I’ve taken Leadership with the Beast-lord modifier, and I want a winter wolf as one of my followers, what sort of ability would it cost to allow them to buy up their basic ability scores with a 25-point buy, for example, to buy ability scores of Str 14, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 13, Wis 14, Cha 12.

After adding back in the modifiers for being Large-size (Str +8, Dex -2, Con +4), the racial modifiers (Str +2, Dex +4, Con +4, Int -2, Wis +2, Cha +0), and putting the discretionary ability point into Intelligence, that would give a final ability score array of Str 24, Dex 16, Con 22, Int 12, Wis 16, Cha 12. That’s better than your average winter wolf, but not quite as good as putting the advanced creature simple template on them, which is only +1 CR. What would it cost for them to buy the ability to have their ability scores constructed this way in Eclipse? Presumably some sort of Immunity (where the amount of resistance purchased allowed for higher point-buy expenditures in purchasing base ability scores)? Or would it be something else instead?


Well, the general assumption there is that things that are basically constructs – Robots, Golems, Skeletons, and so on – actually are fairly standardized in roughly the same way that ball-point pens are standardized; the design is about as good and cheap as it’s going to get. There are special upgrades that can be applied (and possibly shortfalls that can be accepted), but a basically fixed cost gets you basically fixed results.

Actual in-setting living creatures – at least in theory – should show the usual bell-curve variations for their type. However, since the games attribute scale is set up to represent creatures on the human scale, a lot of this variation is lost. Sure, the worlds strongest wren may be several times as mighty as the weakest – but the rules, quite sensibly, cram all that variation down into “strength one”, simply because it makes no difference at all in play whether the a given wren can lift .3 or 1.5 ounces, just as it doesn’t actually matter how many swallows it might take to carry a coconut to England in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Similarly, there are doubtless stronger and weaker Tyrannosaurs, but that’s arbitrarily adjusted by the game master to suit his or her objectives, not according to their bio-mechanics – and it’s not like it’s going to matter much; no more-or-less human being is going to win against one in a biting or eating contest – which is pretty much a Tyrannosaurs sole role in the game. Given the rate of character turnover in earlier systems it wasn’t like good or bad attributes were a particularly long-term thing anyway.

So looking at the general population of playable character types, they (explicitly so in earlier editions) are generally presumed to take up tasks they’re suited for. Big strong types do things which call for strength, while frail, weak, but dexterous people do tasks that call for dexterity but not a lot of strength or endurance, and so on. Such were the results of rules that basically assumed a naturalistic world and a 3D6 roll for each attribute. Did you roll terribly? There was a rule allowing the discarding of characters (presumably to a career as a village idiot) if they failed to qualify for any character class – but the only real assumption what that completely hopeless types simply did not go adventuring or, if they did, they generally died so quickly that they weren’t worth worrying about.

In early editions, given regular character turnover… parties might well try to recruit that strong-and-healthy young farmer to be their next fighter, or that dexterous street kid to be their new thief. They would chip in to equip them, shelter them until they caught up a bit, and add them to their adventuring company. Individual adventurers weren’t all that important. The company WAS, and characters had a good reason for loyalty to it – it was their family, it had taken them in, and trained, them, and equipped them. Sometimes it had raised them. Henchmen were valuable, people with potential (apparent high attributes or useful skills) were well worth cultivating, and associates often turned into new PC’s. “Ascended Extras” was pretty much the normal order of things. Your party was high enough level to be able to afford a Wizard? You looked around at sages, and apprentices near graduation, and orphaned kids of mages who knew a few cantrips and had potential, dumped a bag of wizard-style goodies that no one else had any use for on them, and shepherded them through a few sessions until their level (thanks to the doubling experience point costs) started catching up with everyone else. Sure, that might just be backstory for a new character – but that kind of thing was usually worth something in-game.

The current problem, of course, arises from the fact that characteristics for adventurers are now generated using special systems (whether point or dice based) that place them far ahead of the general population (who are stuck with generic attribute arrays that say “everyone is pretty much average in everything”) – making “good attributes” a special power that you get because you’re an adventurer or selected-by-destiny “important NPC”, and adventurers and important NPC’s are cool. That’s… pretty weird when you think about what it says about the population demographics. How early can you detect this incredible special power? Are young adventurers sought after and picked up by temples, and governments, and other special-interest groups to be raised and trained to suit their own purposes? At least it would explain why so many of them have no families or other backgrounds to worry about and where they got all that specialized training.

Is there a lower level of this amazing power? After all, if the player characters and most important NPC’s are built using (say…) Pathfinder 25-Point Buy, are functionaries, henchmen, and companions built using 15 Points? Do they take special “sidekick courses”?

Perhaps it’s Nymic Magic? When your name comes to the attention of the Narrative Gods, you suddenly get improved attributes and go from “faceless extra” to “individualized NPC”? That says weird things about the setting, but it is fairly consistent with how the game is usually played.

Now, according to the 3.5 SRD under “Monsters As Races”…

Ability Scores for Monster PCs

While a monsters statistics give the ability scores for a typical creature of a certain kind, any “monster” creature that becomes an adventurer is definitely not typical. Therefore, when creating a PC from a creature, check to see if the creature’s entry has any ability scores of 10 or higher. If so, for each score, subtract 10 (if the score is even) or 11 (if the score is odd) to get the creature’s modifier for that ability based on its race or kind. Generate the character’s ability scores as normal, then add the racial ability modifiers to get their ability scores.

Note: Some monsters have base ability scores other than 10 and 11. If alternate scores were used this will be indicated in the monster entry. Also, some monsters that make good PCs have their racial ability modifiers and other traits already listed in their monster entry.

For ability scores lower than 10, the procedure is different. First, determine the character’s ability scores, and compare that number to the monster’s average ability score, using either the table below that applies to Intelligence or the table that applies to the other five ability scores.

The separate table for Intelligence ensures that no PC ends up with an Intelligence score lower than 3. This is important, because creatures with an Intelligence score lower than 3 are not playable characters. Creatures with any ability score lower than 1 are also not playable.

Which nicely covers monster player characters. It doesn’t say anything at all about NPC’s and Companions though.

Pathfinder has a section on generating NPC’s, including ability scores. It gives “Heroic NPC’s” an array of 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, and 15 – equating to a standard 15-point buy. “Basic NPC’s” get scores of 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 at a cost of 3 points – far inferior to almost any player character. Of course, the scores of basic NPC’s basically never matter anyway.

This, of course, means that the heroic NPC array is BETTER than what a low fantasy PC can buy, equal to what a standard fantasy character gets, lags a high fantasy PC (20 points) somewhat and lags an epic fantasy character (25 points) quite a bit. There’s no provision for adjusting things for other various methods of generating PC attributes, but it looks like the intent is that “heroic” NPC’s (basically anyone important) use the same system as player-characters since Pathfinder tends to push the point-buy attribute system.

Eclipse, of course, tends to assume that everyone and everything is following the same rules – (although I, personally, have an old-school fondness for rolled attributes). Sadly, this does lead to a bit of a clash with the demographic assumption that “10-11 is average” when it comes to ability scores since most generation methods give a higher average than that – thus setting most games in Lake Wobegon, where “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average”.

You can fix this – for example, if you are giving your players 20 points to buy attributes with using the Pathfinder system you can say that “NPC’s roll 1d6: 1) -20 Points, 2) -15 Points, 3) -10 Points, 4) 10 Points, 5) 15 Points, and 6) 20 points. Thus a (-20) point NPC might have 7/7/7/7/8/8 for his or her attributes. You now have average attributes much closer to 10 (not quite since the attribute point costs are nonlinear) in the population and are simply assuming that only the people with good attributes make it to first level in “adventuring” classes – and that experts and such normally don’t go adventuring. That’s basically a modern version of the “discard characters with terrible attributes” rule , but there’s nothing wrong with that. The actual population will skew a bit towards higher attributes (just as the classical average was actually 10.5) simply because early mortality will be a bit higher in the low-attribute groups, but that (and the bias due to the asymmetrical attribute point costs) doesn’t really matter much.

So as for the actual question part…

“What would it cost in Eclipse to allow followers, henchmen, companions, et al, to generate their attributes as player characters do?”

The quick answer is “nothing”, since that’s the baseline assumption of most editions – if only because, much of the time, it doesn’t matter and no one cares.

The long answer, is – since attribute generation varies from game to game in the first place and may or may not vary between PC’s and NPC’s – that there’s no good way to price it effectively except by finding a way to Specialize or Corrupt your Companion or Leadership ability for Increased Effect (your companion or allies get higher base attributes) or by simply building it from scratch.

Personally, I’d go with “Must spend a lot of time and effort locating and recruiting Companions or Followers with PC-level attributes to get them”. So rather than accepting just any schlub who happens by, you’re picky and wind up with higher quality.

To just buy it directly… a Feat is obviously not enough if there is a substantial difference (and why couldn’t PC’s take it to raise their attribute point allotment?), and the +1 CR “Advanced” template (+4 to each attribute) really doesn’t work. After all, if +1 CR is a fair valuation, and +1 CR equates to +1 effective level (debatable, since Pathfinder doesn’t have those…), and we are allowed to stack templates., would – say – a 10’th level fighter with +20 to each attribute be better than a standard 15’th level fighter? After all, +10 to Attacks and Damage, +10 AC, +10 on Saves, +10 HP/Level, +10 SP/Level, +10 to all Skills… those are some very nice bonuses.

How about a 20’th level Wizard with +40 to each attribute versus a 30’th level Wizard? That throws in a huge pile of extra spells as well as doubling up on all those benefits. It would be rough at low levels – but you can’t generate such a character at a low level anyway.

Ergo, your second best approach in Eclipse is just to brute-force it. Throw on some attribute boosts in a template to get the attributes to where you want them and pay for adding the template to cover whatever it costs.

And I hope that helps!

Skill Stunts And Epic Skill Stunts XI – Use Rope/Cable/Chain/Wires/Etc

Twine and Rope (thicker twine) aren’t quite up there with fire or language, and probably not with agriculture or the domestication of animals, but they’re definitely up there with the hammer, spear, wheel, pottery, and writing. Twine brought nets and snares, bolos and sledges, bound rafts and supplies together, aided in both climbing and sliding down, pulled in harpooned fish and anchored shelters. It held on bandages and spearheads, captured and controlled beasts, secured children and equipment, strengthened the helves of axes and tied thorns into protective walls. Run through pulleys it multiplied strength and simply tied it allowed men to combine their strength and that of beasts as well. How many other Neolithic products have persisted so unchanged? The coil of hempen rope in my garage would be familiar to the hand of a tribesmen from twenty to thirty thousand years ago – although to him a coil so long, so fine, and so consistent would be a great treasure representing many hours of hard labor.

The trouble is that “use rope” is a poor fit with the games other skills. Many, MANY, other skills use rope, just as many other skills use hammers – but there is no “use hammer” skill. (That might be a reasonable way to build a skill system, but it would place a huge burden on the game master to adjudicate things). Even worse, the rules only provide a few uses for the skill, and almost all of those fit under other skills as well or better.

Get a grappling hook lodged? Isn’t this a job for Climbing? Tie a knot? Isn’t this a basic part of Climbing or Profession (Sailor) or a lot of other things? Make a traverse or simple rope bridge to help cross a river? Survival or Profession (Explorer) – or simply announcing that you’re using some rope and talking the game master into giving you a bonus for circumstances (or perhaps for a masterwork rope). Make a trap? Craft (Trap) or Survival again. Tie down cargo? Profession (Teamster) (and when was the last time your player characters worried about their cargo shifting anyway? That’s what Bags Of Holding are for). Tie a knot one-handed? Isn’t that just a circumstance penalty? Use ropes and leashes to help control an animal? Handle Animal. Tie logs together to make a raft? Probably Survival, but who cares? Kids do that successfully all the time with no skill. Sure, the Kon-Tiki needed to hold together for months – but has that EVER come up in your game?

Worse, pretty much all of these are simple tasks that ordinary folk – you know, people with no big bonuses and maybe a +1 from being a girl or boy scout as a kid or a little practice – can do with a pretty good chance of success even if they don’t really take their time. That means that we’re basically talking DC 5 to DC 15. After all, a skill point represents a year or so of casual training or several months of really intensive study on a topic.

Even worse than that… most of those tasks can be done without bothering with rope at all, either with cheap magic (can’t an Unseen Servant set that grappling hook for you? ) or just by not worrying about getting that +2 bonus from the traverse on whatever roll the game master calls for to cross the river. Making a roll to see if you get a small bonus on another roll just holds up the game. Even the listed Epic Level Uses are pointless; so you can animate a rope at DC 60. Doesn’t your epic-level character have something better to do with his or her time than emulate a first level spell?

About the only thing unique to Use Rope even in normal use is splicing it and binding prisoners. How often has splicing rope come up? And even if it did… wouldn’t a cantrip do it better? As for binding prisoners… that’s basically an opposed Escape Artist check. After all, if you know how to escape ropes, you can probably figure out how to keep other people from doing so.

I understand the appeal – I used a LOT of rope while camping, or building tree houses, or during a lot of other activities as a kid and rope is phenomenally useful stuff – but we’re talking about characters who can wrestle dragons, learn to walk on clouds with raw skill, and scale thousand foot greased cliffs in a hurricane if they don’t just teleport in the first place.

It’s a lot like having a “Use Fire” skill. Fire is IMMENSELY useful. Knowing how to handle it, what generates poisonous fumes when burned, how to put it out, how to make fiery weapons, how to smelt metal, how to melt sand into glass, how to perform fractional distillation… it has a myriad uses. The trouble is that it’s far TOO basic to far too many other skills. To handle “Use Fire” properly… it needs to be a part of a skill system built around skills like “Use Hammer”, “Use Stone”, “Use Wood”, “Use Metal”, “Use Air”, “Use Mechanical Advantage” – and yes, “Use Rope” or perhaps “Use Fiber”. That would be pretty interesting – but using it in play would require a table full of engineers and a shelf full of reference books to figure out how to use your characters skills effectively. While I tend to run things that way, and have “figuring out how things work” be an important item in my campaigns, I must admit that it’s an extremely specialized taste.

So, in Eclipse, there are three major approaches to “use rope”.

  1. Take Specific Knowledge / Knots (1 SP) and a +3 Skill Specialty in Using Rope (1 SP). That’s the equivalent of spending six months or so in an intensive study of knots and rope, will probably cover everything mundane that you want to do with rope, and will give you a +3 bonus on rolls that would be aided by your use of rope without having to make separate skill rolls. Quick, simple, and cheap.
  2. Take 2d6 Mana and Rite Of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only for use with Rope Magic (8 CP) and put some skill points in (Rope) Rune Magic Mastery and Casting. Go ahead. Animate ropes, perform a rope trick, summon a rope golem, entangle enemies, bind spirits, catch the winds in knots, and make creatures and objects dance on your puppet strings. The game master will want to keep a careful eye on this sort of thing though to keep it down to things that rope is actually thematic for though. “(Implement) Magic” should not be an excuse to do anything at all as long as your description involves said implement somehow, just as “Frog Magic” is not an excuse for “Exploding Fireball Frogs!” and “Frogs Of Healing” – and even the “Intercontinental Ballistic Leaping Passenger Frog” (standing in for a party teleport) would be quite a stretch. This is a fairly easy way to represent skills like “Use Fire” and such though.
  3. Go ahead and take “Use Rope” and rely on Stunts and Epic Stunts. Sure, “Use Rope” vanished from Pathfinder, and the Rules Compendium wasn’t big on it – but if you’re looking at this option you’re looking at supernatural effects, not at the enormous, if uninspiring, list of practical uses for rope. This is a fairly powerful option, simply because rope – being another truly ancient tool – has as many mythological applications as the hammer, spear, or sword.

Sample Stunts For “Use Rope”:

  • DC 10 (normally no stunt required):
    • Apply an effective Bandage, Sling, or Tourniquet.
    • Make snowshoes or simple repairs on clothing and improvise other basic items of apparel.
    • Make a firebow (possibly using some bits from extra rope for tinder).
    • Put together simple baskets and carry-sacks, secure food out of the reach of animals, carry stuff conveniently (designate up to (Dexterity) items which can be accessed as a free action), increase your effective Strength score for encumbrance purposes by +2.
    • Secure things – cargo for transport, loose rocks against an avalanche, trees so that they fall the right way, safety lines for people, items and shelters against winds and storms, and so on.
    • Set up a rope for climbing, slide down a rope quickly but without hurting yourself (rope burns are possible if it’s long, but d20 characters shrug off being hit with battle axes, so who cares?), affix a rope securely enough to lift something, secure yourself for sleeping in a tree.
    • Set up a trip/alarm line, create a visual fence (lines set up with things that move and flutter in the wind, effective at confining the more skittish herd animals), create a crude deadfall.
    • Tie basic knots, make minor repairs, reinforce a grip or haft, assemble a crude raft or bundle (just don’t expect it to hold together against major impacts or for too long).
  • DC 15 (May or may not require a stunt):
    • Bind prisoners (gaining a +10 on any opposed check), Effectively leash and collar an animal or slave, perform a competent hanging, rig an animal harness (that won’t strangle the animal or team), hobble a horse or other creature, apply compression torture or mutilation.
    • Make a snare for small animals, assemble a fish trap, or set up a fishing line, properly hang an animal to drain the blood, set up a drying rack.
    • Make crude rope-and-weight weapons, such as bolas, basic flails, or nunchaku, use a piece of rope as a Sap (At DC 75 (and 2 mana on a Stunt), you may use a piece of rope as if it was Power Word: Stun).
    • Put together a simple shelter, effective thorn or brushwood barricade, crude boat, traverse, or rope bridge.
    • Rig and use climbing apparatus – rope ladders, rappelling gear, tie a rope so that you can undo it from any point with a few simply twists and pulls. Use a grappling hook properly, climb a rope at full speed (probably a Stunt).
    • Set up a block and tackle, tension lever (a taut length of rope secured on the ends which can apply great force through a sideways pull at the center), or other strength-multiplying system.
    • Tie extremely complex knots, splice rope, or conceal tiny items in rope, make rope, care for rope, put away up to 50′ of rope as a move action, restoring it to a neat coil along the way.
    • Weave a hammock, net, or fish trap or make crude cloth.
  • DC 20:
    • Knot Of Winds: A rope master may bind the winds. Each knot may be untied to produce a Gust Of Wind effect (albeit out to 120′ feet) or to alter the current wind conditions for one hour per level by one step, to a maximum of Severe Wind and a minimum of none. A rope master may maintain no more than (Wis Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) such knots at any one time.
    • Spiders Weave: You may accomplish up to (level) hours worth of ropework by simply tossing some rope out. You may thus create a pulley system to pull things up cliffs, erect an instant climbing rope, set up a fine rope bridge, stabilize some loose rock, create a rope ladder, weave a net or create snares and swinging-log traps, make hammocks, get a derelict ship rigged to sail, tie doors shut, set up a safety net under a falling creature, set up triplines and alarms, rig up a cutting or pop-up line trap, rig up a fence, or harness a group of horses. You may reclaim your rope and store it away when you are finished with it with a quick tug on one end.
    • Wield Rope: You may use a piece of rope as it it was a Garrote, Lasso, Whip (Any), Scourge (Any), or Flail (Any, including Scarves and Nunchaku). All options are treated as Simple Weapons for you and you may switch between them as needed (this does not count as an action). At DC 30 your options include the Bolas, Rope Guantlet, Double-Chained Kama, Kusarigama, and Spiked Chain. At DC 40 your options include the Aklys, Net, Flying Blade, and “Kobold Tail Attachments”. At +10 DC you can give your rope a +1 Enhancement Bonus (as well as +2 Hardness, +10 HP, and +2 Break DC). At +20 DC the bonus increases to +(Level / 4), multiplying the bonuses to Hardness, HP, and Break DC similarly. At +30 DC you may add special weapon properties in place of some of the Enhancement Bonus “plusses”. At +40 DC the Enhancement Bonus increases to (Level / 2). For +10 DC you may give your “weapon” an extra five feet of reach whenever you need it. Once activated, this ability remains in effect for one hour.
  • DC 25:
    • Ensnare: You may attempt to catch a target within short range, using your rope as if it was a lasso or net, although your target is allowed a Reflex save. At it’s base, this renders them Entangled, prevents winged flight, and allows the user to pull on them (or, for that matter, climb up on them). +5 DC per size category above Large. At +20 DC this has medium range, at +20 DC this Binds or “Pins” the target instead, At DC 75 you may imprison Outsiders who fail to save in a complex knot, equivalent to an Iron Flask – although you may only maintain (Cha Mod, 1 Minimum) such knots at any one time. Note that it is possible to snatch things out of people’s hands or steal them with this ability.
    • Harden Rope: You may cause a rope to harden until you handle it once more. It becomes as durable as an inch-thick piece of Oak. At DC 30 it is as durable as Stone, at DC 40 Bronze, at DC 50 Iron, at DC 60 Mithril, at DC 75 Adamantine, and at DC 100 it has Hardness 30 and 50 HP. If this is used in conjunction with Wield Rope you gain a +4 bonus to Damage on a successful hit.
    • Rope Care: Your personal ropes function as if they were of higher quality, moving one level up the chart below (two steps at DC 30, three at DC 60, but never beyond “Darkleaf”. All ropes beyond basic Hemp ropes are considered to be masterwork tools with respect to Rope Use). This effect remains active for twenty-four hours.
      • Hemp (50 Ft, 2 HP, Break DC 23, 1 GP, 10 Lb),
      • Silk (50 Ft, 4 HP, Break DC 24, 10 GP, +2 to Use Rope checks, 5 Lb).
      • Spider Silk (50 Ft, 6 HP, Break DC 25, 100 GP, +2 to Use Rope checks. 4 Lb)
      • Bloodvine (50 Ft, 10 HP, Hardness 5, Break DC 30, 200 GP, +2 to Use Rope Checks, 5 Lb).
      • Darkleaf (20 HP, Hardness 10, Break DC 35, 500 GP, +2 to Use Rope Checks, 4 Lb
  • DC 30:
    • Charm Rope: You may cause a rope to perform as if affected by Animate Rope, Handy Grapnel, or Tripvine. At DC 40 you may cause a Rope Trick, Ropeweave, or Snare effect. At DC 50 you can cause a rope to function as a Rope Of Climbing for a day. At DC 60 it functions as a Rope Of Knots for a day. At DC 75 it functions as a Rope of Entanglement for a day.
    • Jury Rig: You may fix something (including things that you have no right to fix) with rope. This equates to using Make Whole (Greater).
    • Phase Knots: You may tie, or automatically untie, knots without access to the ends of a rope and without damaging the rope, simply by causing it to pass through itself. You may also use this trick to instantly splice rope, to create loops along it, to conceal it’s ends inside itself, or to escape from rope bonds.
  • DC 35:
    • Cable Snap: You may lash out with a rope as a touch attack, inflicting 1d6/level slashing damage (20d6 maximum) to a single target or inflict half that much damage to a cone up to 60 feet long with no roll to hit – although this allows those within the area a reflex save for half damage. In either case, anyone who takes damage will be knocked prone.
    • Knot Of Lightning: A rope master working during a thunderstorm may catch natural bolts of lighting in knots, storing a maximum of (Dex Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) such bolts. A natural bolt normally causes (1d6+4)d8 damage to a 80 foot line or a 15 foot radius within medium range. Sadly, untying – and directing – the bolt costs just as much Mana as trapping it in the first place.
    • Zip Line: You may use a rope to transport yourself (via swinging, climbing, being pulled up by some odd mechanism, sliding along a line, or whatever) to any open area that can be reached without passing through a solid barrier within short range as a move action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity. At DC 50 you may extend this to Medium Range, at DC 75 to Long Range, and at DC 100 you may cover up to ten miles in 3d6 rounds. You may carry others along as long as you can lift them.
  • DC 40:
    • Capstan Winch: You may catch a target within medium range that fails a reflex save and move it or them to some other location within medium range. While the location must be open, it need not offer support. If you move a living target past someone they provoke attacks of opportunity as usual You may also opt to slam a target into a solid surface for up to (Check Result) damage (bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing depending on the nature of the surface) or to simply spin them in place, leaving vulnerable targets subject to the Nauseated condition for 2d4 rounds. At +20 DC you may attempt this as an immediate action against an unresisting target, allowing you to catch falling allies or move them around the battlefield.
    • Silver Cord: You may tie a spirit into it’s body, preventing it’s departure even if the body dies. This will delay actual “death” for up to (Check Result) rounds after the body takes deadly damage, and allows the body to be “healed back to life” by any healing effect applied during that time. An untriggered Silver Cord remains tied for twenty-four hours (72 hours at DC 60, one week at DC 75, and until activated at DC 100).
    • Splice Fate / Twisting The Threads (A.K.A “Witches Ladder”): You may splice and entangle the threads of fate. This allows you to Twist Fate as per Destiny Magic. At DC 40 you may produce first level effects and second level effects, at DC 50 third, at DC 60 fourth, at DC 75 fifth, and at DC 100 sixth. This – as shown below – is a difficult endeavor and fraught with peril. It is best to think carefully before attempting it.
      • This option covers Marriage Knots, Curse Knots, Fertility Knots, Sterility Knots, attempts to bring good fortune, and many other types of knot-spells.

Twisting Fate:

Destiny Magic manipulates the probabilities of the future. The level of destiny magic spells depends on two basic factors: the level of effect you want and how much you want the spell to consider your desires. This can be very, VERY, dangerous. For some samples:

  • “We will have good luck in this battle”. This one is safe enough; you and your friends get some luck bonuses. You can simply use some of the appropriate spells.
  • “She will look over this way and notice me”. Also pretty safe unless you’re a wanted criminal, or a werewolf who will start her screaming or some such. People look around and notice things all the time. There probably won’t even be a save.
  • “They will drop the charges and let me out of jail in the morning”. Less safe, but unlikely to get you really hurt. One character tried this with a low-level spell; the locals concluded that he was mad – or “god-touched” – and shipped him off to an asylum where the monks would listen to his ravings in search of prophecy. This was awkward, but he WAS out of jail with the charges dropped.
  • “A diversion will come up during the trip that will give me a chance to escape”. This turned out a lot better; a diversion wasn’t unlikely and the destiny mage made it a higher level spell to avoid the diversion turning out to be a major monster attack or something and wound up with a few falling rocks, one of which knocked the transport wagon open. He then made his escape under his own power. (He didn’t even consider trying “The Daimyo will pass by along the way, recognize me as foreign but not mad, and give me an excellent job!”. THAT would call for a very high level spell indeed unless events along those lines were already in the works).
  • Thus “You will soon be badly injured” is pretty easy. “You will be hit by a runaway cart tomorrow and badly injured” is harder, but still plausible. “You will be hit and badly injured tomorrow by a runaway cart driven by your drunken son who will be crippled in the accident” is WAY up there, and may well be effectively impossible – if, say, the kid is currently several hundred miles away. Trying to force an event that unlikely into existence is also likely to have all kinds of unlikely side effects which may well endanger the caster and his or her party. Worse, it usually allows a save.
  • For an example from the more disastrous side… The party was hunting a colossal river serpent. They obtained flying steeds and attacked it at long range. The serpent promptly dove to the bottom of the river and burrowed into the mud where they could not reach it. One of the characters then tried to use first level Destiny Magic to make the serpent to come back up and fight. What was easiest? A lure. Where was he? Hovering directly over the river where the serpent was. He’d used a spell of such low level that it didn’t consider anything but what he’d asked for. Ergo… a biting bug bit his steed in a sensitive spot, he got bucked off, he landed in the river, and the serpent came back up to eat him – instigating the desired fight, but at close range rather than the desired sniping contest. He asked for a specific, and not unreasonable, event – but lacked the power to constrain his spell to more acceptable methods. A slightly higher level spell might have brought a cow by to drink and had it fall in.

If you try to directly affect someone else they get a save. So “May your bowstring break!” is simple, and not implausible (bowstrings do break) – but it allows a save, and if the save is made normal probabilities continue in their course. Of course, twisting destiny to tell an Orphan that “you will soon be adopted by a fine set of parents!” is not too likely to provoke a save, even if the easiest way to arrange that does affect the kid. He or she won’t WANT to resist that destiny.

  • DC 50:
    • Knot Of Storms: A rope master may bind storms. Such a knot may be tied to dismiss a severe weather event or untied to release one. Unfortunately, that’s the extent of the user’s control over such events. Worse, he or she must actually find such an event to bind and may maintain no more than (Cha Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) such storm knots at any one time.
    • Primacord: You may cause up to two hundred feet of rope to burn as swiftly or slowly as you wish. You may thus render it effectively fireproof, use it as a fuse or a way to transport fire, or use it as a high explosive (Equivalent to twice it’s weight in TNT ), causing this effect to activate by any one of contact, pressure, proximity, time, or chemical exposure. The effects are equal to those of an equivalent weight of C4 or twice the weight of Det Cord (See D20 Modern).
    • Splice Fate / Splice Threads Of Life: You may splice and entangle the threads of fate, Splicing threads of life into a damaged lifeline can provide up to (Check Result) points of healing at up to medium range. You may remove certain conditions by sacrificing five points of healing per condition removed. Eligible conditions include Attribute Damaged, Attribute Drained, Dazed, Dazzled, Diseased, Energy Drained, Exhausted, Fatigued, Nauseated, or Sickened. You may also extend a targets life by up to (Check Result) years.
  • DC 60:
    • Gleipnir: You may weave rope of sunlight, of music, of fire, or of other impossible substances as available. Such rope has Hardness 15, 30 HP, Break DC 35, provides a +4 bonus on your Use Rope checks, and is 100 feet long per use of this power. It will remain in existence for twenty-four hours OR until you disinvest the mana used to power this stunt, whichever is longer. While the rope will not harm you, whatever the rope is made of has its usual effects on other creatures that handle the rope or are touched by it (Vampires HATE rope made of sunlight. Most other creatures dislike rope made of high explosive).
    • Mummy Shell: You may wrap yourself in a cocoon of animated rope, gaining +50 HP, +6 Str, +6 Natural Armor, DR 5/Adamantine AND Slashing, and a pair of 2d6 Slam Attacks. If you hit with a Slam Attack you may Grab an opponent up to once size larger than you and start to strangle them. A strangled foe cannot speak or cast spells with verbal components and suffers (1d8 + Str Mod) damage per round until it breaks free.
    • Torsion Engine Knot: You may tie a complex knot that will slowly untwist to drive a shaft. Such a knot yields up to (Makers Intelligence) Horsepower for up to one hundred days, although use need not be at full power or continuous. Unfortunately, this gradually destroys the rope used.
  • DC 75:
    • Harness Beast: If you have managed to climb onto a creature that can reasonably serve you as a mount, you may use some rope to bridle it, forcing it to make a will save or do so. This is not a mind-affecting power, and so will work on creatures normally immune to such, but intelligent or undead creatures are only affected for twenty-four hours. Animals and unintelligent magical beasts make a second save after twenty-four hours are up. If they fail that save as well, they will be permanently domesticated.
    • Mindful Knot: You may tie knots that carry out programs, solve a complex set of instructions, or perform mathematical operations. For example, a knot might untie itself after a given time or when instructed to do so, move along a rope according to some schedule, slide down a rope to reveal how much weight is tied to the end, or function as a slide rule or simple computer. If you are tying knots in electrical wire or cable and have a power source, you may cause it to emulate any circuit you wish.
    • Splice Fate / Splice Life to Death: You may splice and entangle the threads of fate, Splicing threads of life into a severed lifeline is equivalent to Create Undead or – at DC 100 – Create Greater Undead. No components are required save the corpse and the casting time is a mere full round – but you are NOT in control of the undead so created other than that they will be bound to do you a major favor and two minor favors. It is wise to reserve one minor favor to request that they go away and leave you and your friends in peace henceforward.
  • DC 100:
    • Man The Lines: A rope master needs no crew to operate a sailing ship at its full capacity; the ropes and lines will do it for him – manifesting as up to (Level) Rope Golems with rope-related skills at +10
    • Puppet Strings: You may control the physical actions of any corporeal creature or object of up to Colossal size within medium range that fails a Fortitude save, causing them to act as if they were Animated Objects subject to your control. They may take mental actions normally however. Sadly, you may control no more than (Dex Mod, 1 Minimum) such targets at any one time, controlling them is a swift action each round, and the maximum duration of control is 2d4 rounds for creatures or 1d4+1 hours for objects.
    • Ropework Automaton: You may add assorted ropes and pulleys, a Torsion Engine Knot, and a Mindful Knot to an articulated framework to create Ropework Automatons that function similarly to Animated Objects. Such constructs gain an additional (Int Mod +2, 2 Minimum) Construction Points and cost 100 GP per hit die to build. Unfortunately, they require adjustment, tinkering, maintenance, and replacement of their Torsion Engine on a regular basis – and while smaller constructs may be less actual work, they require more finesse. The user may maintain no more than (Dex Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) such automatons at any one time.

Epic Stunts:

  • Tie Rope Golem (Level Seven, DC 38): You may tie a knot that will immediately grow into a Rope Golem that will serve you for the next twenty-four hours.
  • Grandiose Snare (Level 8, DC 42): As a free action you may entangle one Small or smaller target per level (a Medium target counts as two Small or smaller targets, a Large target as four, a Huge target as eight, a Gargantuan target as 16, and a Colossal target as 32) within medium range. Those who fail a reflex save are entangled for 2d4 rounds, after which the constantly-regenerating ropes fall away.
  • Regenerate Rope (Level 9, DC 46): All of your ropes regain 5 hit points per turn for the rest of the day unless destroyed by fire or disintegration.
  • Weave Of Winds (Level 10, DC 50): You learn to instantly spin nothingness into rope, and will never run short of the equivalent of hemp, silk, or spider-silk rope. Sadly, such rope fades away again in one week and is obviously only quasi-real, and hence unsalable. Worse, it may not be improved by Rope Care.
  • Entangle Threads (Level 11, DC 54): You may create Mystic Links between people, places, and things, up to a maximum of (Charisma +2) CP worth. While you may drop such links at any time, they will otherwise remain for a year and a day.
  • Whip Swarm (Level 12, DC 58): You may summon forth a dozen floating whips, as per Feather Token: Whip.
  • Lasso Defense (Level 13, DC 62): You may spend an immediate action to ensnare and redirect an incoming bject or ranged attack which is going to hit someone or some area within short range. You may redirect falling items, vehicles, and missiles of up to gargantuan size, spells of up to level six, toxic clouds, breath weapons, and similar items as long as they have a physical manifestation. You could catch an incoming Fireball (a streaking ball of flame that explodes), but not a Charm Person spell. Fortunately, in d20, all elemental attacks have physical manifestations.
  • Noose Of The Executioner (Level 14, DC 66) Every non-ally within medium range will be yanked twenty feet into the air by a noose around their neck or necks. This does not harm diminutive or tiny creatures. Small creatures take 2d6 damage, from this, medium creatures 4d6, large 6d6, huge 8d6, Gargantuan 10d6, and Colossal 12d6. Larger creatures take 14d6 damage, but cannot be so suspended. Regardless of size, all targets are Entangled, and cannot speak or cast spells with verbal components. Victims can break (DC 32), escape (make an Escape Artist check at +10 against the casting check), or cut (AC 15, Hardness 5, 20 HP) the rope. Victims who fail to get away suffer half the initial damage each round until they do or until the effects one-minute duration expires.
  • Spellbinding Knot (Level 15, DC 70): You may tie a knot that renders a spell effect of up to level six within close range permanent until it is either dispelled, broken in some other fashion, or the knot is found and untied (an opposed check. If it is cut or destroyed otherwise the permanent spell is not affected).
  • Bridge Of Clouds (Level 16, DC 74): This narrow rope-and-plank bridge can be called forth wherever there is a great drop – from the peak of a mountain, from the edge of a great chasm, or some similar spot. The far end cannot be seen, but is obviously a great distance away. The bridge itself will often appear more than a little unsafe. Those who venture forth will find themselves traveling through a white mist, with no apparent features for a time that cannot be measured. Those who persevere will find themselves emerging in some reasonably well-concealed spot in whatever realm the caster sought – whether that is a distant world, an outer plane, or a realm of myths. Anyone who falls or jumps from the bridge will fall onto a random plane or world. Once called into being, a Bridge Of Clouds is permanent unless assailed by some epic force.
  • Splice Lifeline (Level 18, DC 82): You may use this effect on behalf of others or after you die yourself to transfer a willing soul and consciousness into a new body – normally one that has been recently killed in the case of material beings, usually one that has been newly created in the case of outsiders. You must give up enough of your current abilities to purchase the new forms abilities; if you cannot afford to do so, the reincarnation fails. You awaken Fatigued and down half your (new) hit points. You do, however, enjoy a free choice of forms; if you want to come back as an adult dragon, and can afford to pay for it, then so you do. Your new form may be in a problematic situation when you awaken, but it will never be in immanent danger of death; you will always be able to survive and escape pretty much unharmed if you behave sensibly.
  • The Fisher King (Level 19, DC 86): You may cast a net into the planes beyond, seeking what you will. You may draw forth any creature or group of creatures that could be Summoned by a spell of level nine or less to serve you for a day, a permanent item worth up to 75,000 GP that you can use for a week, or a selection of minor minions (cooks, ordinary guards, etc), supplies, and simple structures that will keep you eminently comfortable for up to a year. Alternatively, you may perform a True Resurrection on up to (Check Result) levels of individuals.
  • Bind The Cataclysm (Level 20, DC 90): You may bind a catastrophe – a supervolcanic eruption, incoming solar flare or major asteroid strike, gargantuan earthquake, or similar disaster of vast scale in a knot. If and when you wish to let it out and direct it at a target you may untie the knot. Sadly, no one caster can bind more than three Cataclysms at a time.
  • Bind Nature (Level 21, DC 94): You may bind the divine forces of nature into knots, duplicating Druidical spells when they are unknotted. Each such knot takes an hour to tie, no more than three may be tied per day, and no more than thrice three may be maintained at any one time – but each such knot can duplicate a Druidical spell of up to level seven – although any expensive material components must be supplied when the knot is tied or removed by using a higher-level spell. Untying such a knot is a full-round action. Such knots can be used by others, but this does not bypass the limit of nine maintained knots at a time.
  • The Labyrinth Of Creation (Level 22, DC 98): You may toss out a tangled length of string or cord to any location within sixty feet. Those within thirty feet of where it lands may attempt a reflex save to avoid winding up deep inside the mighty dimensional labyrinth which will spring up, forcing other structures and folk aside as it rapidly grows. While this is not inescapable, it is a many-leveled megadungeon, will remain for a year and a day, and will tend to draw those who come too close – or who attempt to follow a trail that passes through the area it now covers – within for many desperate adventures. Targets may well survive, and may emerge more powerful than before, but nothing short of a Wish, Miracle, Gate, or other effects of similar potency will get them out in less than a week or two. Mere teleportion, plane shifting, and similar tricks will merely be diverted within the coils of the labyrinth.
  • Knot Of Time (Level 23, DC 102): You may loop time back upon itself, knotting its flow to place a great area into stasis. While this solves nothing, and nothing can affect whatever is in the out of time area, this does allow the user to put evils in a can, to preserve imperiled realms for a better time, to seal away dark kingdoms, and to stop hordes of demons and such. The effect is not subject to spell resistance, or antimagic, or local counterspelling. If the caster includes himself or herself in the area, the effect will last until conditions are suitable for it to end – whether that takes a week or a half a million years. If the caster remains outside the area, it will remain bound until whatever conditions the caster sets are apply, until the knot is untied (or falls to dust), or until the caster uninvests the mana used to perform this feat.
  • Summon Mar’Tha’Kanak’hka, The One That Formless Binds, The Writhing Entwinement (Level 24, DC 106): You summon forth an aspect of an Elder One, a twisting mass of ropelike fibers that exists in far too many dimensions to comprehend. Things get very weird across the local solar system or equivalent. Portals open as dimensions are linked together, creatures find themselves abruptly married to other creatures for no apparent reason, things that were once bound are loosed, and things previously free are bound. Eventually someone casts this spell backwards, or finds some other way to get Mar’Tha’Kanak’hka to go away (usually requiring either some epic quest or accepting permanent madness to allow one to communicate enough to ask it politely), or it simply goes away on its own and the world stabilizes. The caster does get some input into how the world is transformed, but this is more or less “I wish!” directed at an entity that does not understand reality at all. Mar’Tha’Kanak’hka probably isn’t hostile – after all, it helped make this particular flower arrangement universe – but if it was, and there was some way to tell the difference, it would presumably be bad somehow.
    • Invariably someone will want to find a way to kill Mar’Tha’Kanak’hka. I can’t think of anything, if only because it exists in a lot more dimensions of time than we do – but if someone insists, then fine. Binding forces have never existed, nor has the universe in any form that human beings are capable of comprehending. Mar’Tha’Kanak’hka vetoed that set of plans back at the beginning, and introduced another variant of his aspect into the universe that was made instead of this one.

Rope and knot magic have traditionally been considered fast and powerful magic simply because rope itself is such a fundamental thing, a tool with a myriad uses. It’s only human to assume that working magic with rope – literally Spellbinding – shares that same power and versatility. Thus Babylonian witches were said to capture souls in knots, ancient Greeks and Egyptians attempted to work love-spells, bind marriages, and heal with knots (the marriage-knot or knot of Hercules originated here, eventually becoming a protective charm associated with fertility and new life), sailors in many lands attempted to control the winds with knots. The Knot Of Isis was wound into shrouds in an attempt to summon the protection of Isis and Horus for the deceased’s journey to the next world. In Rome knot-curses were used to cause everything from impotence to a lingering death while other knots bound demons and vampires. Ancient priests wore knotted fringes to ensnare evil spirits and the Koran speaks of Mohammed being nearly slain by a curse from a knotted cord. In African traditions knots can bind others to your will. In more modern times we have Witches Ladders and spells worked though tying knots, They function as magic snares, invoke gods, and bind the energies of nature to your will. Like most other truly ancient skills… the use of rope is wound around with legend and magic.