Caercrwydryn, The Citadel Of The Wanderer

Today it’s a minor special request – a personal citadel (or at least a fortified manor) for a 13’th level character who is already a master of Architecture and Engineering with a +26 permanent bonus. The character wants to build the place using the Sanctum ability with another 6 CP thrown in (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / the abilities they provide only work in the Sanctum) – thus investing a total of 12 CP to gain a fairly impressive base of operations. The characters very high Charisma (the character should have a +7 charisma modifier by level 13) also translates into a high level of Leadership. This is, of course, a practical application of the “Mighty Fortress” article, so lets see how it goes!


While it may be called a “Citadel”, Caercrwydryn is actually more of a noble villa – a beautiful manor built around a fairly modest tower / shell keep set on an outcropping of rock that overlooks a nearby village – but it’s not like the mere physical details of a structure mean much in d20. Such an estate is MUCH easier and quicker to build than a classical castle, and it has plenty of room for adding additional staff, residents, cottages, farms, orchards, and all the other stuff that makes an area prosperous. Of course, hopefully the properties of Caercrwydryn will do a lot towards that goal. Sadly, however, since the place IS built on a single characters personal power… if the builder does not produce a powerful heir willing to take up the mantle of maintaining the place after he or she dies, many of the facilities will start to fail soon after the original builders death. In this case, the health of the “King” really IS the health of the “Kingdom”.

Of course, this also means that – all too soon – there will be another ruinous dungeon filled with monsters and malfunctioning magic just outside yet another decrepit small village, but you kind of had to wonder where all those things came from anyway didn’t you?

Sanctum Abilities

  • Occult Construction Methods: Action Hero/Crafting, Specialized and Corrupted/only for construction and repair of the holding (2 CP). This will provide 15 AP at level 13 – enough to simply complete the construction of the place on the spot without further expense given that “a nice home” has no real direct game effects in itself. Further points may be used to add things.
  • A Master Engineer: Skill Emphasis (Architecture +4), Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only counts to decide what Mystic Artist features you can have in your sanctum, can only be applied to the sanctum rather than – say – several rooms with individual properties (In this case, this results in effective skill of 30+) (2 CP). Without this, the creators Architecture skill would not be quite high enough for A Mighty Fortress, below.
  • Transcending Mortal Skill: Mystic Artist/Architecture with Seeking, Specialized for Double Effect/the user may only create one structure at a time, Corrupted for Reduced Cost/all abilities must be at least quasi-military and must target either the Residents / Defenders or the Attackers (8 CP). This, of course, uses Harmonize to provide two functions:
    • A Mighty Fortress (Heroism, Skill 30): All Residents/Defenders gain +4 Positive Levels (+4 BAB, Saves, and AC, +24 CP: Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect/Only for Innate Enchantment (Up to 5500 GP Value, 6 CP), Immunity/the XP cost of up to 5500 GP worth of Innate Enchantment (Common (since they will be changing regularly), Minor, Trivial, 2 CP), Damage Reduction 2/-, Specialized in Physical Damage for Double Effect (4/-) (3 CP), Grant Of Aid (6 CP), Speak (any convenient obscure language) (1 CP), Occult Sense/Attacks (always gain two rounds to prepare and a +1 Insight bonus to AC and Saves, 6 CP).
    • Glorious Bells (Serenity, Skill 18): When these bells ring (up to twice per week), all Residents/Defenders gain the equivalent of a nights rest – eliminating fatigue, regaining hit points, attribute points, restoring uses-per-day powers, being able to prepare spells, and so on, in an instant.
  • Attracting Followers: Leadership/Specialized in Stronghold Staff for Reduced Cost (3 CP). At L13 with a +7 Cha modifier this provides 20 ECL worth of followers, although none may exceed level ten. In this case… two x L8 (a master alchemist/advanced maker of potions, talismans, and acrolls (the “where does he get those WONDERFUL toys” power package) and a master healer/anti-undead channeler), two x L5 (a seneschal with a high end stipend and a master of arms to handle tactics and militia training), and seven x L2 types (a really good cook/brewer, a pair of Võlur, a Hedge Wizard, a Witch, and a couple of Men At Arms to be sergeants).
  • Manifestations Of Magic: Leadership with Exotic Followers – Traps, Constructs, and Wards, Specialized for Reduced Cost / these don’t heal, have to be repaired if damaged, have to be installed instead of just showing up, are integrated into your stronghold and thus effectively immobile, and must be manually upgraded as you increase in level (6 CP). These include…
    • A Rank Six Ward Major (see The Practical Enchanter) covering the local area (Call it ECL 2 x Rank -2 – which is fairly arbitrary, but works):
      • Minor Powers (4): Industry, Sustenance, Beauty, and Health.
      • Major Powers (2): Teaching and The Distant Gift (Longevity).
    • A Shield Guardian (CR 8).
    • Eight Spiked Pit Traps, with Animated Triggers to self-reset and keep them from bothering the residents (CR 2+.5 each, total 20).
    • Twelve similarly animated Bear Traps (CR 2 in total).
    • A low wall that mostly keeps out normal wild animals has no CR at all; any normal person can climb over it.
  • A Scrying Maze: Cloaking, Specialized for Reduced Cost/Divinations about Caercrwydryn will reveal general information about the place – whether people are in residence, are the servants busy, is there damage, is the garrison up to strength, etc – but never anything precise enough to put to use about the activities or location of anyone important. There shall be no scry-and-die tactics here (3 CP).

Advanced Functions:

These abilities cost six of the builders personal character points, and – as personal abilities – are Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / these abilities only work in the Sanctum when the owner is in residence.

  • Ritual Chamber (Occult Ritual): With the aid of your vast heaps of components you can attempt may feats of ritual magi (6 CP).
  • Occult Foundry (Action Hero/Crafting): Tapping into the resources of the local area, you may produce a modest supply of magical devices at reduced cost (6 CP).
  • The Advanced Dominion (which the builder already has) Ability Wrath Of The Overlord in a variant form – allowing Blessings (6 CP). From your occult seat of power you may spend Dominion Points to shape destiny, bestowing Charm and Talisman Effects (1/0 for 1 DP, 2/1 for 2 DP, 3/2 for 3 DP), make the area generally prosperous, or rarely approached by monsters, or enjoying good weather (for the region anyway) for 3 DP per year per effect maintained, and similar effects.

Caercrwydryn isn’t an especially overwhelming place of power – but it is pretty good for it’s 12 CP cost, and will make a very, VERY, nice home for a party and any locals who hang around.

RPG Fundamentals

And for today, it’s an offline question; “What aspect of a RPG character is most important?”

Well, we have three words there.


ROLE: How your character fits into the world. After all, even if you claim “you came from the distant future”, or “from another dimension” or some such… you have an Origin and later History, you probably have Family, you should have Motives, a Concept, and a Life beyond “I joined this group of adventurers yesterday”.

The Role is the core of what makes a character interesting and memorable. To look down a list (admittedly, one of many) of famous movies… Watch The Godfather, Schindler’s List, The Silence Of The Lambs, It’s A Wonderful Life, Seven Samurai, Alien, Spirited Away, Lawrence Of Arabia, Back To The Future, Braveheart, Up, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, almost any historical war movie, Jurassic Park, or Gladiator. All of those starred normal (if often very tough and lucky) humans. People with no character sheets, no clever combinations of special abilities, and no bizarre racial powers. Even looking at movie characters with powers… would knowing how much pressure WALL-E could “really” take, or exactly what gadgets Batman had available in The Dark Knight, or just how much damage a Lightsaber could “really” do in The Empire Strikes Back, or just how many Wraiths came to the fight in The Return Of The King have really made the movies better? Even power-based movies like Kung Fu Hustle… the story wasn’t really about powers was it?

It’s the brilliant moments of improvisation, the development of character and motives across time, the relationships, the acts of courage – and sometimes the death scenes – of characters that make them memorable. Powers and abilities are strictly secondary.

You want your character to be interesting, to star in stories worth telling, to be more than a collection of statistics? Start with the Role. Otherwise, you might as well go and play World Of Warcraft. It may be a lot of fun, but nobody is recording their sessions and turning them into major movies (even if there are some on youtube). And remember – it’s your responsibility to find a role that both fits into the setting, has a consistent history within it, and can reasonably function there.

PLAYING. This is the real point of the exercise of course. It’s for a group of people to gather together – in reality or virtually – to have fun. And contrary to a popular saying… there IS a wrong way to have fun. After all, Jeffrey Dahmer Ted Bundy, and Jack The Ripper apparently all enjoyed what they were doing. SOCIAL is the key word here; if what you are doing is disrupting the game and spoiling other people’s fun… then you should stop doing it. But if people like doing world-building, or having their imaginary characters get into body-building competitions and flexing their imaginary muscles, or developing long-term plots, or talking in character… go ahead and participate where it’s amusing to you and do your own thing when it isn’t. I can pretty well guarantee that you have your own annoying habits that other people are putting up with. Everybody does.

GAME is the final part of our troika. It’s where your “build”, and all those actions which are tactically sound (if often not that interesting), and selecting equipment, and the game statistics come in. It’s the last part of participating, and really the least important. Nobody else is ever really interested in the tale of how you went to the magic-mart and traded your +2 Speed Bow and a lot of gold for a +3 Speed Undead Bane Bow. On the other hand, this is where you have substantial obligations as a player. You have the game master to help you fit your Role into the setting. You have the other players to interact with. But, ultimately, coming up with the mechanics of a character who can fulfill the Role you described and fit into the setting is up to you. The game master and other players may be able to help you set things up – but you’ll have to be able to fully explain your concept and role to them so that they know what you want. Attempting to rely on your description or backstory to justify talents that you haven’t built into your character isn’t “being primarily focused on role-playing” or “not really being focused on the mechanics”. It’s either being incompetent and unwilling to admit it and get help with your build or – much more commonly – it’s an attempt to cheat by claiming abilities that your actual character simply does not have.

I once made a character – Sakarit – who’s backstory, thanks to some eastern philosophy, included being the Cosmos or God the Almighty depending on how you looked at it. None of the other players ever noticed because the actual character, having stepped away from being one with the cosmos to assist spirits that had not yet become enlightened, was built under the normal rules. Sure, he might at any moment abandon his “limitations” to once more become God – but that would just mean that “he vanished again, but this time he didn’t come back”. He never got any special powers in the game just for being God The Almighty One. And if God Almighty didn’t get any special privileges, why should you?

So while the “Game” aspect is really the least important, it’s still your obligation as a player to do it right – and if you don’t know the rules or setting well enough, or those rules or that setting says that something about your desired role and concept will not work, then you need to work with the game master, the rules, and the other players, until you come up with something that fits the setting, adds to the enjoyment of the group, and functions properly under those rules. Doing anything less – perhaps by creating a character that does not function properly, or is overly obnoxious, or who leave nothing for anyone else to do, or (very commonly) by obsessively min-maxing, or digging for exploits, is being a lousy player. Driving away the people that you’re there to interact with is just a way (and perhaps the ONLY way) of losing a role-playing game – even if it’s “winning” at being a troll.

And hopefully there will be no further writing interruptions for a bit…

Eclipse And Pulp Mad Science

And for today, it’s another request – a Witchcraft-based Mad Scientist build.

Well, mad scientists are certainly entertaining – but the first question to ask is where does your mad scientist get his or her power to defy the laws of nature from? While there are plenty of fantastic power sources to choose from – including elerium, kryptonite, protoculture, tiberium, element x, vibranium, quantonium, dilithium, unobtanium, pinotium, auadium, illyrion, protonite, mako, arcanite, naquadah, kittens, magnetic monopoles, “hypermatter”, black holes, and dozens more – using any of them will mean that your mad scientists is utterly dependent on a single vital supply. You’re out of protoculture? None of your stuff works. That works well in a story that’s fully under an authors control, but it’s pretty limiting in a game. players HATE having their character get sidelined for want of supplies.

So we want something more personal – but outside of that the special effects don’t really matter a lot.

  • Do you have some mysterious “Spark”, mutation, or memetic contagion that lets you draw reality-warping power from other realms, singularities, zero point energy, inter-dimensional potential, subspace, or other cosmic sources? (Waldo, Dexter’s Laboratory, Girl Genius, etc),
  • Do you have implants / nanites / crystals in your body or genetic modifications / special skills that let you draw on possibility, quantum, vril, your own emotions (love, hate, friendship, light, darkness, whatever), your own soul, “neuropotential” / psychic, “the lifestream” / vital, will, or A.R.C. reactor “energy” for power?
  • Can you build devices that gather reality-warping power on their own and/or can be fueled by yours? (temporal, nucleonic, hyperspace, possibility, dimensional, electroplasmic, warp, often with “flux” attached to imply something dynamic that can change over time with the needs of the plot. Thus Doc Brown’s “Flux Capacitor”).

Regardless of your justification, you have a pool of power – spark, flux, quantum, or whatever – that makes your mad science work. This also avoids letting you become endlessly powerful, which is also important in a game.

Most mad scientists have a collection of gadgets that they usually use, but only add new ones relatively rarely – and if they do add new ones, they commonly become a permanent addition to their arsenal. On the other hand, their gadgets are often quite versatile, but they’re rarely awesomely powerful. Sure, Doomsday Devices are a classic, but they never really seem to work.

Ergo, this mad scientist build is going to use Witchcraft.

  • Available Character Points: 48 (L1 Base) + 10 (Disadvantages) +2 (Restrictions x 2: Mad Scientists cannot use generic “power” devices, but only items especially created for them and they cannot employ clerical magic; the necessary mindset is incompatible with mad science). +10 (Three Disadvantages. Mad scientists are commonly Aged, Compulsive (over-curious, meddling with things they should not, activating things to see what they do), Dependent (stimulants, sappho, supplies), have a History (usually including a list of projects that have gone terribly wrong and are unaccounted for), may be Hunted (outraged villagers are a classic), Incompetent or Inept (Social Skills), Insane (obviously), Irreverent (A god? Ha! Just let me analyze…), Obligations (often a beautiful daughter who is being held hostage), Outcast or Poor Reputation (mad scientist), showman (you fiddle with your gadgets and boast), Unluck (fairly obvious), and Valuable (you know important secrets, which you are usually utterly blind to) +6 (First Level Bonus Feat) = 66 CP.
  • Basic Attributes: Mad Scientists fall into the Adventurous Scholar archetype – so Intelligence is important, and Constitution is next. Dexterity is nice, but Strength, Wisdom, and Charisma are rarely important. For Pathfinder 20-point buy, I’ll take: Str 8, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 18, Wis 10, Cha 8. Tbe build will have to Finesse the Witchcraft saves over to Intelligence, but that’s not too important.

Basics (34 CP):

  • Base Attack Bonus: +0 (0 CP)
  • Hit Points: 8 (L1d8 Hit Die, 4 CP) +2 (Con Mod) = 10
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fortitude +0 (Purchased) = +2.
    • Reflex +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +1 (Dex) = +2.
    • Will +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +0 (Wis) = +1.
    • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saving Throws (6 CP).
  • Proficiencies: All Simple Weapons and Light Armor (6 CP).
  • Skill Points: 2 SP (2 CP) +16 (Int Mod x 4), +8 (Fast Learner), Adept x2 (12 CP) = 26 SP.
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +2 (Leathers) +2 (Dex) +2 (Shield) +4 (Martial Art) = 20
  • Initiative: +1 (Dex).
  • Movement: 30′

Special Abilities (32 CP):

  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for +2 SP/Level (6 CP). This was presumably purchased at level (-2) using Disadvantage Points, and so provides +8 SP at level one.
  • Finesse (Saves against Witchcraft abilities are based on Int, not Cha, 6 CP).
  • +4 Levels of Int-based Wilder Spellcasting with no Caster Level, Corrupted / provides no disciplines. (+17 + 2 x Int Mod Power) (8 CP). This is a bit cheesy, but most characters have some cheese somewhere.
  • Witchcraft III, Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Requires various blatantly obvious Foci that can be taken away (12 CP Base). This provides a selection of seven basic abilities / devices. A mad scientists basic abilities are usually (although not always) Specialized in particular applications for double effect. For some possible examples:
  • The Adamant Will Gadgets:
    • Auric Distortion Cloak: Specialized for Increased Effect / presents a false aura to aura detection effects at no cost.
    • Neural Block Module: Specialized for Increased Effect / Provides permanent immunity to any two of Fear, Possession, Charm, Hold, Mind-Reading, Pain, or Truth Detection effects.
    • Null-Foil Hat: Base functions. This is mildly unusual for a mad scientist, but fits in well enough here.
  • Dreamfaring Gadgets:
    • Afterlife Communicator: Specialized for Increased Effect / Allows the user to sense and communicate with Astral and Ethereal entities at no cost – although it does not bypass language barriers.
    • Cosmic Consciousness Helmet: Specialized for Reduced Cost / Allows the user to project his or her spirit into the Astral of Ethereal Plane for up to one hour for 1 power.
    • Etheric Manipulator Vest: Specialized for Increased Effect / only to let the user see and attack into the Ethereal Plane at no cost.
  • Elfshot Gadgets:
    • Hypersonic Pulser: Specialized for Increased Effect / Panics animals in the area that fail to resist for 1 Power.
    • Neural Dampener: Specialized for Increased Effect / Penalizes a target attribute by -4 for ten minutes for 1 Power.
    • Neuralizer: Specialized for Increased Effect / this device produces some specific short-term effect for 1 Power. Possibilities include Blindness, Deafness, Entanglement, Ghostbane Dirge, Mad Hallucination, Daze Monster, Forgetfulness, Oppressive Boredom, Shadow Anchor, or similar second-level effect.
  • Glamour Gadgets:
    • Cloak Of Radiant Impressions: Specialized for Increased Effect / The user may program this item with a description – “a wealthy merchant”, “an important noble”, “a big man in the underworld”, “a famous military commander”, “just another servant”, or something similar – and anyone who sees him or her must consciously attempt to disbelieve that impression to penetrate it.
    • Harmonic Vocalizer: Specialized for Increased Effect / The user may spend 1 Power to gain a +12 bonus to Charisma-based skill checks for ten minutes.
    • Hypnotic Wheel: Specialized for Increased Effect / Produces a Suggestion effect for 2 Power.
  • Hand of Shadows Gadgets:
    • Kinetic Guantlet: Specialized for Double Effect / May push, punch, and execute ranged combat maneuvers using your (Int + 6) as Strength for one power per minute.
    • Microbot Assistants: Specialized for Reduced Cost / Tiny robots can help you do an hours worth of light work every five minutes at no cost but that is all they do.
    • Vital Flux Charger: Specialized for Reduced Cost / may animate objects (as per Entangle, Animate Rope, Animate Fire, Dancing Lantern, Tripvine, Animate Object (One small item), etc).
  • Healing Gadgets:
    • Bacta Supply: Specialized for Double Effect / only to provide immediate healing (maximum of 6d4/Round for 3 Power).
    • Regenerative Blanket: Specialized for Increased Effect / sleeping under this blanket provides one full days worth of healing per hour at no cost.
    • Universal Antitoxin: Specialized for Increased Effect / taking a dose of this substance (1 Power worth) provides a +10 bonus against Poisons for the next hour.
  • Hyloka Gadgets:
    • Augmentation Harness: Specialized for Double Effect / provides +2 to Str, Dex, and Con for one hour for 1 Power/Hour.
    • Hibernation Drug: Specialized for Double Effect / users may be put into complete suspended animation indefinitely. While so suspended they do not age, breathe, eat, drink, suffer from poison, normal heat, or normal cold, and show no signs of life. This costs 1 Power but does require an unresisting target.
    • Immunobooster Serum: Specialized for Increased Effect / 1 Power provides Immunity to Disease for twenty-four hours.
  • Infliction Gadgets:
    • Ray Gun: Specialized for Double Effect / only one form of energy. Mad scientists almost always have a cold ray, lightning gun, solar blaster, or similar device that can be adjusted to be single target or affect a small area. This may either allow a saving throw for half damage or be a ranged touch attack. (There aren’t any other major examples for this particular basic ability. After all, the Ray Gun is probably THE iconic mad scientist gadget).
  • The Inner Eye Gadgets:
    • Life Sensor: Specialized for Reduced Cost / The user may easily detect the presence of nearby life (or Unlife) forms gaining a +6 bonus to any rolls made to notice or identify them at no cost.
    • Mind Probe Gauntlet: Specialized for Double Effect / provides the results of a full interrogation for 2 Power. The target, however, may resist as usual for an interrogation.
    • Sensory Link System: Specialized for Double Effect / this set of small units allows a group to share their sensory data at a cost of one power for every ten minutes. This provides an automatic Aid Another check for each character in the group when one needs to make a roll with a shared sense and permits the sharing of information from improved senses – thus allowing everyone in a group to benefit from Blindsense or similar effects
  • Shadowweave Gadgets:
    • Disguise Belt: Specialized for Increased Effect / provides a +12 bonus to Disguise and Stealth for ten minute for 1 Power.
    • Holographic Image Projector: Specialized for Increased Effect / may spend 2 Power to generate a Minor Image effect or 4 Power to generate a Major Image effect.
    • Invisible Blade Module: Specialized for Increased Effect / renders a melee weapon effectively invisible, granting the user a +6 circumstance bonus on attack rolls against creatures that normally rely on sight for ten minutes for 1 Power.
    • Prismatic Distillation Crystal: Specialized for Increased Effect / may spend 1 Power to generate a Blinding Color Surge effect.
    • Pyrotechnics: Specialized for Increased Effect / costs 2 Power, otherwise as per the Spell.
  • Witchfire Gadgets:
    • Comfort Module: Specialized for Increased Effect / maintains a 5′ radius at a comfortable temperature, providing immunity to normal weather extremes for 1 Power per hour or 10 points of resistence to Fire and Cold for those within the area for 1 Power / Minute.
      Cryogenic Mister: Specialized for Increased Effect / This simple gadget, capable of inflicting up to 6d6 damage to an individual target for 1 Power or to a modest area for 2 Power.
    • Essence Extractor: When directed at an unresisting creature, corpse, or area of up to a 20′ radius, this device extracts specific substances for 1 Power. It can thus be used to gather poison from deceased monsters, perfume from flower gardens, drugs from various plants, or gold from ore.
    • Molecular Synthesizer: Specialized for Increased Effect / for 1 Power this gadget allows the user to prepare a sizeable batch of some chemical from common raw materials for 3 Power. This can be used to produce drugs, toxins, explosives, and many similar items.
  • Witchsight Gadgets:
    • Darksight Goggles: Specialized for Increased Effect / provides Darksight at no cost.
    • Multioptics Band: Specialized For Increased Effect / Optical Enhancements only, can swap out what is being enhanced (“changing settings”) up to (Wis Mod + 2) times during the abilities duration.
    • Sensor Wand: Specialized for Increased Effect / for 1 Power provides a +36 bonus to checking for toxins, attempting to determine chemical compositions, or checking a fire scene for accelerants.

Most Mad Scientists will also take Pacts, typically

  • Advertising: Mad Scientists are rarely quiet. Many of them want to explain, to demonstrate their mastery of SCIENCE, to shout out the names of their gadgets, and to set up spectacular, attention-grabbing experiments and laboratories. This inevitably attracts notice and tends to give away their plans.
  • Backlash / mad science experiments are ALWAYS running amuck, or having weird effects, or causing unexpected problems
  • Corruption: It’s not like “The Fly” is an isolated incident. Mad scientists are always attempting to boost their intelligence, or giving themself animal powers, or some such.
  • Exclusion: Some mad scientists just refuse to deal with magic, psionics, and similar items, feeling that they are just misunderstood mad science.
  • Guardianship: If you’ve opened some door that should never have been touched, or found some dark and terrible secret, then you have a lifetime obligation to stand guard over the problem you’ve created.
  • Hunted: While it’s hardly required, mad scientists do occasionally really upset people.
  • Isolation: Who needs social distractions when there is SCIENCE to be had? Far better to isolate yourself in some castle atop a jagged peak, undersea laboratory, or other spot where no one will bother you!
  • Madness: Most mad scientists are more than a bit crazy. Some are completely over the edge. A mad scientist subject to “the madness” will soon go completely over the edge. It’s probably best to leave this one to the NPC’s.
  • Possession: While this is rarely literal unless a given mad scientist happens to be a specialist in ghosts or lovecraftian horrors or some such, quite a few mad scientists are subject to creative fits, wherein they become utterly obsessed with something, or build some device with no idea of what it does, or completely fail to consider whether or not implementing some insanely dangerous idea or experiment is really a good idea.
  • Tithe: Buying all that equipment and maintaining a laboratory can be quite expensive. A “tithe” of gold covers THAT.

The two allowable pacts at first level can provide +12 CP worth of Advanced Witchcraft Powers. For some samples there for use with Pacts or with later development consider…

  • Advanced Vital Infusion: (4 CP): Usually an upgrade to the Vital Flux Charger, allowing it to affect larger items.
  • Aetheric Crystalizer / Ice Gun: Nightforge (4 CP). Often purchased as an improvement on a Ray Gun, this allows the user to creature durable structures.
  • An Important Figure: Web Of Shadows (6 CP) provides a support network and influence in an area. It’s most common with drug dealers, poisoners, and other criminals.
  • Anagatic Regimen: Longevity (6 CP). Always a popular project.
  • Augmented Mentation: Spirit Of The Sage (6 CP).
  • Brewing (6 CP): You are good at making potions, narcotics, alcohol, and other useful extracts, giving you a complete pharmacy. This may be used as a gateway to making Pulp Drugs.
  • College Membership: The Secret Order gets you more gadgets and power, so it’s always popular – but it DOES involve hooking up with an actual secret order of mad scientists, who usually have their own agendas. Usually 6 CP.
  • Combat Drug: Wrath of the Sea (4 CP) to provide +6 Strength. Often combined with the similar Essence Of Earth ability (+4 CP for +6 to Constitution) or Dance Of Flames (+6 Dexterity).
  • Death Ray: Mouth of the Earth applied to a Ray Gun (4 CP).
  • Entropic Dissipater (4 CP). As per Grounding.
  • Genetic Augmentation (4 CP), Flesh Like Mist, Specialized for Increased Effect: the user may inject himself with animal DNA to temporarily take on animal powers.
  • Ghost Trap: Seize the Wandering Soul and Spirit Binding usually shows up in the hands of Ghostbusters as a gadget worth 8 CP.
  • Hyperspeed Accelerator (4 CP). Provides access to the Leaping Fire ability.
  • Minions (6 CP). Where would a mad scientist be without his or her faithful minons?
  • Monster Creation: Tulpa, Specialized For Reduced Cost (3 CP) / always material, sometimes goes off on it’s own or doesn’t understand directions, monstrous appearance.
  • Noted Inventor: Tenebriums Coin. Your gadgets bring in a steady income (6 CP).
  • Null-Gravity Boots: Whisper Step (6 CP).
  • Phase Suit: The Umbral Form (4 CP).
  • Planar Sealer (4 CP). This gadget provides access to the Dismissal ability. Specialized versions (for increased effect or reduced cost) are quite common.
  • Technofamiliar: Familiars are fairly rare among mad scientists, but if they have one it will usually have Robotic Template from Eclipse II. Usually 12 CP.
  • Teleportation Belt: Ashen Rebirth with Teleportation, Specialized for Reduced Cost / only for the Teleportation function (6 CP).
  • Weather Control Module / Weathermonger (6 CP). Can also be Specialized in specific, more powerful, effects – such as generating Chain Lightning or Hurricane Blasts or some such.

Like most Witchcraft-based builds, a Mad Scientist is most effective at relatively low levels, before they hit the upper bounds of what Witchcraft can do. Fortunately, Witchcraft is also fairly cheap – leaving plenty of points available at higher levels to invest in other abilities.

Eclipse and Exalted

And it’s another question! In this case it’s about Exalted d20.

I’m curious how you’d go about running an exalted game in Eclipse. I imagine there’d be an ‘exalt package deal’, some odd world laws and building most things (as) stunts and reality editing but it seems to be far enough away from standard d20 and superhero stuff to be confusing.


Well, Exalted (1’st, 2’nd, 2.5, and 3.0) has a number of distinguishing features. They aren’t all quite the same for each edition, but in general…

  1. You can buy almost anything you want at character generation. You start as a heroic mortal, get handed a can of cosmic power, and then get to throw in things like artifacts, wealth, power, ownership of magical fortresses, followers, leadership of organizations, or being worshiped by a quarter of the world. Maybe not all at once unless the game master gave you some extra points – but you start at the peak of most mortal ambitions.
  2. The action is usually completely over the top. Even extremely skilled normal people are generally irrelevant (and just have to grin and bear it) and you start off on a par with the mighty powers of the universe. You can build characters who can seriously damage the cosmos right out of the gate. This can be a lot of fun, but doesn’t leave much of anywhere to go – which may explain why most of the Exalted games I’ve seen that actually ran by the Exalted rules didn’t all that long.
  3. The special powers are generally based on your skills or attributes being enhanced beyond all reason while still following general themes set by your character class type of Exaltation. That’s a fun concept, even if you did wind up with lists of near-required powers that everyone of a given type tried to buy as soon as possible and occasionally ran into strict power limits based on your characters type and age.
  4. Describing your action in an over-the-top way to get a bonus on it is a fun idea. Of course, it was the normal way of running role playing games until game designers (perhaps influenced by computer games) started writing stricter rules sets and trying to downplay stuff you couldn’t put on a chart. The implementation in older editions of Exalted was a bit of a kludge and made many fights drag on and on, so the current version relegates the effect to nothing but a few bonus dice and relies on it extensively for excitement in combat.
  5. Effective Exalted characters are extremely complicated, with long lists of charms with evocative but uninformative names that need to be used in (unspecified) combinations with each other to work well. They take hours to build and are impossible, even as individuals, for most game masters to run properly without long study. In substantial groups they are nigh-impossible for one person to run properly. This means that small groups of PC’s, with players who are only running one character each, tend to run roughshod over everything.
  6. The characters all have tragic flaws, They may be grand, and powerful, but they have rules for their flaws that will lead them into disaster. Personally I’ve never seen much need for that – the players have their characters cause plenty of tragic disasters without a need for a mechanism built into the game – but the mechanism was basically “you occasionally go completely out of your mind”. I’d have preferred accumulating more limited flaws as your power level went up beyond the limit of a human minds ability to handle it safely and you saw ever further into the chaos underlying reality – but that’s just me.
  7. Attacks tend to be decisive or near-decisive when they do get through the defenses. If you were hit by that twenty-ton giant maul, you were in trouble. Of course, this turned a contest of grinding your way through hit points into a contest of grinding your way through defensive resources. In 3’rd edition fights tend to be short – but that only works because the PC’s pretty much always win. It wouldn’t really be Exalted if “OK, your characters are dead… make some new ones” was a routine part of the game.
  8. The universe, right down to the paths taken by individual raindrops, is 100% run by intelligent, and mostly not-at-all-powerful beings. If they have cheap “perfect defenses” (very few things do), punching them is fairly useless. If they don’t… then almost any problem can be solved by beating on someone. And when almost every problem can be fixed by kicking the stuffing out of someone, and you can begin the game as a Superman/Batman combo buttkicker (with or without a weapon depending on personal style), it doesn’t leave much of anywhere to go – or much point in learning other ways of dealing with problems.
  9. Organizations, overlords, large-scale resources, and managers all tend to be useless backstabbing bureaucratic nightmares that make you long to disassociate yourself from them. That, of course, is because the characters are supposed to do things THEMSELVES. You aren’t supposed to send in ten thousand men to dig a canal. You are supposed to smite the ground to open up a new canal and then fight the river god and make him consent to filling it.
  10. The game master is always supposed to say “yes you can”, although it might be difficult. For example, the rules made it quite possible for an Exalt hiding under a bush in the royal gardens to decide that he wanted to find a fabulously powerful magical nexus there that everyone else had overlooked for centuries – and if he could roll well enough (which wasn’t all that hard), so he did. Whether or not it had existed before was irrelevant; a player had wanted it and rolled well, so it had always been there. This ensured that much of the plot (if any) was in the hands of the characters, but made it VERY difficult to actually prepare for a session.
  11. The PC’s are always supposed to be the best and greatest. Sadly, since PC’s often come up with dumb ideas, this means that any idea short of “I hammer nails into my eyes!” still has to be better than the NPC’s best plans – so all canon NPC’s are incredibly short sighted and blind to obvious consequences – and their plans pretty much amount to “I set myself on fire and wait for it to start feeling good!”.
  12. You can’t go back in time or raise the dead. No do-overs and some stuff can’t be fixed. Of course, a lot of game systems don’t allow this stuff either. D20 usually allows Raising the Dead – but that’s easy enough to ban.

Now, I suppose that any given point might be argued – but those seem to be the core points where Exalted differs from most games.

Now to adapt that to d20…

  1. The power level implies being at least sixth level to start – the point at which a d20 character graduates to being more than mortal. It also strongly implies a maximum of level ten to twelve for anyone and everyone – the point at which d20 demigodhood really starts and about the last point at which a group of well-coordinated sixth level characters may still be able to win. Finally, of course, it means that normal mortals are usually level one and are limited to level two or so for heroes and elite types – mostly to figure out what they might be able to do on their own, since they’re never going to effectively oppose the Exalted.
  2. This is exactly what the Heroic Scaling rule does, so it is obviously in use.
  3. This implies that most “powers” are actually going to be Skill Stunts or something thematic (such as some Shapeshifting for Lunars or low-grade Elemental abilities for the Dragon-Blooded).
  4. This is the “Cinematic Combat” ability. It’s considerably more flexible than Exalted stunts are, but there’s nothing wrong with that.
  5. This… is a bug, not a feature. Now admittedly, Eclipse can be very complicated too – but it can use all that published d20 stuff, doesn’t obscure what stuff does with needlessly flowery names, and rarely relies on complicated combinations of effects to make effective characters. We don’t need to do anything here.
  6. Tragic Flaws in Eclipse are basically either Disadvantages or Witchcraft Pacts. Personally I’d go with some Witchcraft; it’s a great way to pick up personal boosts at a relatively low cost.
  7. While the “decisive hits” idea can be taken to imply a reliance on high-damage weapons and damage boosters as well as on Blocks and Armor Class. On the other hand, “break through the defenses and try to land a decisive blow” is pretty much the classical first edition definition of hit points – they were “luck, skill, divine protection, evasiveness, and so on, with only the last few actually representing a serious physical wound”. This doesn’t match up well with many of the other game systems – such as “cure” spells – but at this level of abstraction it doesn’t much matter.
  8. When you come right down to it, this implies that there is no physics. Now honestly… I don’t like this. Philosophically it runs into infinite recursive loops, it’s a silly way to try and run a universe, and I kind of think that “hitting things is the ultimate problem-solving technique!” is bad for the game. My advice on this one? Go ahead and stress nature spirits and such if you like, but leave some basic physics in play.
  9. This can, once again, be covered by the Heroic Scaling rule. Mortal organizations simply are not important.
  10. Well, if the characters want to take a little reality editing to bend things to the way that they want them, that’s one thing. Rewriting your setting history to accommodate the players whims is a no-go for most game masters. TORG and a lot of other games have done this much better, usually relying on something like “Whimsy Cards”. Go ahead, use something like our own Runecards for this.
  11. NO. Just no. I don’t even do this when actually RUNNING EXALTED, and I do NOT recommend importing it into any other game system. The players will just have to put in a little thought and come up with decent plans of their own if they want to compete with the more competent NPC plans. Sure, NPC’s will do stupid things on occasion – but not ALL THE TIME.
  12. So no time travel and no resurrections – although reincarnations might work just fine. Banning a couple of relatively rare effects is not too complicated.


World Laws:

  • Starting Level Five.
  • Heroic Scaling.
  • Limited Power Sets (Campaign Sheet Character-Building Restriction).
  • All characters are Human, but there are 6 CP Racial Variants. Exalts lose their old racial variant in favor of 6 CP worth of Innate Enchantment. Lunars get the Minimal Werething package. Solars get personal attribute boosts, Dragon-blooded get minor elemental powers, Sidereals get stealth boosts, disguise boosts, and “natural weapons”. Other third edition types get something appropriate, I’m not familiar enough with them to say what.
  • No time travel or raising the dead.
  • Beyond Fate: give every player one Runecard (or Whimsy Card) at the start of a session. Give them another during the session if they do something really fabulous. The game master gets (Number Of Players / 2, rounded up, +1) for his own use.

The Exalted Template: Cinematic Combat (18 CP), Witchcraft (Either as “thaumaturgic talents” or as some specialized personal boosts) with Two Advanced Abilities and Three Pacts (Personal Flaws) (12 CP). +2 Specific Knowledges (Knowledge from former possessors of the Exaltation, 2 CP). That’s 32 CP or a +1 ECL Template.

And that about does it. Your d20 game will now function a lot like Exalted. Just take Exalted’s Artifacts as Relics, Manses as Wards Major, and there really isn’t a lot more you need to do. Like it or not, most of what makes Exalted distinct lies in the descriptions and setting, not so much in the rules. After all, we had no trouble at all running Exalted with the Baba Yaga rules.

Gaming Harry Potters World IV – Demographics Of Wizarding Great Britain

Due to various interruptions, things are a bit behind – so I’m going to be back-posting and playing catchup for a while.

And for today it’s a question about a Harry Potter article (and II and III) – and why it assumed that the Wizarding Population was fairly small.

Eh, I think the Weasleys existence is at least a strong indication that this isn’t actually the case. The Weaselys have like half-a-dozen kids within less than ten years of each other, and it certainly isn’t treated like a ludicrous freak of nature for that to happen.

There’s also a more or less expected number of siblings and such in the Harry Potter books, which seems like isn’t something that would happen in that case.

Honestly, I get why you are making that claim, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case.


Ah, the Weasleys! Proof positive that Wizards often have extremely large families! After all, there were seven Weasley children (or possibly more, given that books for kids probably wouldn’t mention any deaths in early childhood).

Actually, due to most terrible black art of all – mathematics – a careful look shows it to be the other way around.

  • We’re straight out told in the books that the Weasley tendency to have large numbers of children was considered quite abnormal. We may not like Malfoy, but no one in the books argues with his statement.
  • According to the Weasleys themselves: “We’re the biggest blood traitor family there is.”
  • According to Sirius Black: “The pure-blood families are all interrelated. If you’re only going to let your sons and daughters marry pure-bloods, your choice is very limited; there are hardly any of us left.”
  • Pottermore tells us, with emphasis, that there are a lot of Weasleys – while actually showing a fairly small family. Importantly, we’re told that, for the last couple of generations, the Weasley children have all been male. Arthur Weasley was one of three brothers, two of them were killed in the first wizarding war, leaving no descendants. So a family of two adults and seven children with no cousins… is one of the biggest wizarding families.
  • We’re also told that, while the current generation was technically pureblooded (all grandparents being magical), the Weasleys were proud of their relationship to interesting muggles. According to Ron Weasley “Most wizards these days are half-blood anyway. If we hadn’t married Muggles we’d’ve died out.”

So the Weasleys, with seven kids, are apparently on the outer end of the bell curve of wizarding family size.

How does that compare with Muggles from a similar cultural period, back before overcrowding, urbanization, and such (which don’t seem to be much of a problem for Wizards and Witches) started reducing the muggle birth rate?

  • According to the census records, the average American woman in 1800 had seven to eight children.
  • I used to live down the street from a farmer with eleven kids, and that family wasn’t particularly unusual.
  • One of my great-grandmothers had twenty-one children, most of which lived.
  • The greatest officially recorded number of children born to one mother is 69 – to the wife of Feodor Vassilyev (b. 1707-c.1782), a peasant from Shuya, Russia. In 27 confinements she gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets. (The man then had 18 more children by his second wife. We know that 84 of the 87 lived).

Similarly, we have all those Pureblooded houses which are almost extinct. How does that happen? There should be endless collateral branches to inherit even if something happens to the direct line of descent. That’s why everyone with even a trace of Northern European ancestry can claim descent from Charlemagne – and why almost everyone in Eurasia can claim descent from Genghis Khan (and many, MANY, millions can claim both). Normal family trees expand – yet we are explicitly told that Wizarding family trees tend to vanish.

Even given the smaller sample size, which narrows the trailing edges of the bell curve, if seven kids is an exceptionally large family… then something is very seriously wrong with magical families ability to reproduce.

So what other evidence do we have on the size of the Wizarding population?

Lets look at Hogwarts.

Hogwarts was built to be a Wizarding school in 990, and has not been extensively rebuilt, or there would not be unknown pipes in the walls big enough for a large snake and bathroom facilities dating back to the founding that contain undiscovered secret passages (although some magical remodeling to get that modern look seems likely). There may have been magical expansion – but it is strongly implied that the magical population when the place was built was enough to call for a sizeable school. Since that school is still sufficient, the magical population cannot have expanded too much.

The muggle population of England has increased by a factor of thirty since 990 – and when the school was built there were enough muggle-born mages for Salizar Slythern to have considered them a problem. Thus, if there are not now very large – in fact, utterly dominant – numbers of muggle-born wizards, then the percentage of kids born to muggles who turn out to be wizards has decreased drastically over the last thousand years.

At the most basic, if wizards were successfully reproducing themselves, their population growth should be keeping pace with the muggle population growth. That would mean that – when Hogwarts was founded – there were only about a hundred magic-users in all Great Britain, and (since wizards are stated to live longer than muggles) only 1-2 magical kids per year. Hogwarts would have had about ten kids in attendance (not per class, in total across all seven years). That’s not enough to make four houses or to call for a huge castle is it?

Maybe a lot of modern wizarding kits were home-schooled, and therefore Hogwarts did not need to be expanded?

But the books tell us that “Attendance is now compulsory for every young witch and wizard. That was announced yesterday. It’s a change, because it was never obligatory before. Of course, nearly every witch and wizard in Britain has been educated at Hogwarts, but their parents had the right to teach them at home or send them abroad if they preferred.”. So J.K. Rowling flat-out tells us that home schooling was permitted, but was not a significant factor.

Hogwarts is telling us that the Wizarding population may have increased, but not all that much – nothing like the degree to which the muggle population has increased. That is reproductive failure. If pureblooded houses are dying out, that is reproductive failure. The Wizarding World is not producing enough kids to sustain itself (if it was, the muggle-born would be extras and the population would be rising sharply) and the muggle contribution is dropping.

Interestingly, there may be some on-the-job education, but this implies that magical doctors and such are considered ready to go into practice at seventeen or eighteen years old. Magical Great Britain has no colleges. Medieval standards again.

What about the rest of the country?

Great Britain’s magical community has…

  • One medical hospital – which also seems to serve as magical Great Britain’s psychiatric hospital, medical research center, and long-term care facility. Even if we take it that magical cures are often a lot better than mundane ones, we know that the First Wizarding War left a fair number of long-term patients in care. And yet there’s only one facility.
  • One prison / torture chamber / Dementor holding area. Perhaps most punishments are simply fines? But they were locking up a fair percentage of the Death Eaters – the army on the other side of a civil war.
  • One irregular medieval street of small shops, apparently mostly operated by individual magical craftsman – which seems to be the only magical shopping center in Great Britain. Given that what few companies are mentioned also seem to have their offices there it apparently serves as the business district as well. It has one major entrance – through a small classical tavern. It doesn’t even look like it’s been updated in centuries. Real estate there is apparently relatively cheap through; Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes was able to open there for less than a thousand galleons – less than seven thousand dollars for a prime bit of real estate in the business district.
  • One absolutely vital supply, that every Wizard and Witch needs and thus is an absolutely vital national resource – wands – with no mention of their being more than one supplier, and that supplier being an elderly craftsman (presumably with a family that helps out although this is never stated) who interacts with his customers personally, who takes a good deal of time to make each sale, who’s shop is not particularly busy even during the start of school when young wizards and witches are coming in for their wands, and who seems to remember each customer and each wand he’s sold. The shop, incidentally, has apparently been in operation on the same spot (“Established 382 BC”) for more than two thousand years.
  • One Night Bus, which apparently serves the entire country and isn’t particularly crowded. Admittedly, adult wizards have a lot of other ways to travel – but still; ONE.
  • One extremely amateurish newspaper – which does little or no actual investigation, has no apparent professional ethics, has very poor editorial control, is manipulated by the Ministry of Magic, and which operates out of a single office in Diagon Alley. There is also a notable conspiracy-theory “paper” (The Quibbler) put out by a single nut case – and which is apparently the most widely read alternative newspaper in Wizarding Great Britain.
  • No banks. The Goblins have a “bank”, but you’ll note that it keeps it’s customers money in locked personal vaults. There’s no investing or centralized bookkeeping. It apparently charges fees for protecting your money rather than paying interest. There is no mention of loans, stocks, bonds, or any other modern financial implement. It’s a medieval money-changer and safety-deposit box renter writ large. The wizarding world does not have anything like a modern financial system – and it’s currency system seems to be run by the Goblins, not by Wizards and Witches. The Goblins are just letting the Wizarding World use their monetary system.
  • One small hamlet outside of Hogwarts which is specifically noted as being the only wizards-only settlement in Great Britain.
  • One legislative group. The Wizengamot is supposed to have about fifty members – and being a member is not a full-time job or Dumbledore couldn’t be Chief Warlock and still serve as Headmaster at Hogwarts. It apparently serves as the legislative, executive, and judicial (both civil and criminal) system for all magical Great Britain. It’s apparently the current incarnation of the medieval Wizards Council – so it’s likely mostly full of the heads of old wizarding families. Quite a lot of it’s members are supposed to be extremely elderly too (and are likely semi-retired from all but the most important sessions). So an effective body of somewhat less than fifty part-timers is handling everything.
  • When it comes to Sports, there are thirteen recognized Quidditch Teams (for a total of 91 players plus possible, but not noted, alternates in Magical Great Britain) – but there’s no indication of what it takes to qualify as a recognized team. After all, England (not Great Britain, just England) has more than 7000 recognized mens soccer teams of eleven plus alternates that compete each year in the formal system. That’s not counting womens teams (which compete separately) – and there are plenty of teams that aren’t in the leagues, adding up to well over a hundred thousand players. Ninety-one confirmed serious players of the worlds most popular sport… is not very many.
  • An unspecified number of Aurors, who seem to serve as law enforcement, court bailiffs, magical investigators, prison guards, and the national military. So how many might there be?
    • They could be fought effectively by a group of death eaters small enough to gather in a field.
    • They have only one division.
    • According to Minerva McGonagall, no Auror had been taken on by the Ministry of Magic for three years prior to 1995 – so we have a national police and military force that didn’t hire anyone for three years.
    • They work out of one floor of a single building, where everyone has their own cubicle.
      • For comparison, Muggle Great Britain has an active military force of more than 150,000 people, and about half that many reservists – not counting law enforcement, court duties, investigation, and prison guards. They hire tens of thousands of people every single year.
  • The Hogwarts Express runs between Kings Cross and Hogsmead and seems to imply a substantial society. After all, laying rails and building a locomotive and cars is not a small project – but Pottermore strongly implies that the Wizards stole the train (and possibly the station for it) from the muggles. Given the way the Night Bus travels, and the train only making six runs a year, it can probably arrange to use existing tracks – so you’d only need a spur line. It’s not that big a problem.

There really isn’t any way around it; if you accept the information from the original books there aren’t enough Wizards and Witches in Great Britain to make more than a very small town – and their society is still using facilities that – in many cases – have not been significantly expanded or updated in hundreds of years. Given that that population is fairly well spread out… If they didn’t use the Floo Network, Portkeys, Apparition, and other forms of magical fast travel they wouldn’t have a society at all.

Given the lack of new infrastructure, their population has – at best – remained mostly static for many centuries, while the muggle population has boomed. Since there were enough Muggleborn wizards around for Salizar Slythern to worry about them, and yet they do not now dominate… the percentage of magical children born to muggles must have dropped enormously. We are directly informed that the pureblooded houses are dying out. Half-bloods may be doing all right for the moment, but the decrease in overall contributions from the majority population will eventually catch up with them as well.

An ongoing reduction in frequency in the general population is the textbook definition of a subgroup that is headed for extinction.

Personally, I am not sure that Wizards and Witches aren’t mostly parasitic – giving even the “good guy” families a reason to remain hidden. Would you put it past the Malfoy’s in (say) the 1500’s to simply move into an estate, obliviate or eliminate the few muggle claimants, set up a muggle-keep-away ward, and just take over? And after that… there are no apparent taxes, the maintenance is handled by house-elf magic and their own charms, and the only major expenses are occasional new clothes (is there any reason why house elves or spells won’t fix those too?) and food (or could they or the house elves just steal that from local muggle shops and farmers?). After all… Wizards don’t seem to build or produce much save for kitchen gardens, handicrafts and the occasional slapped-together house.

As for getting money… are we really sure that they don’t just take it or charge knowing muggles for occasional magical services? “Psychic” and “Spellcasting” services are popular in the real world. I think they’d be even more popular if you sometimes got real (if non-obvious to maintain secrecy) results.

For an example…

Number 12 Grimmauld Place, was formerly a handsome Muggle townhouse built in London. At some point, an early member of the wizarding House of Black coveted the beautiful house and managed to “persuade” the original Muggle occupant to leave, and put the appropriate spells on it.

-JK Rowling on Twitter

Even with the nicer families, once they marry into a family with some money (easy), the statute of secrecy virtually requires them to erase the household from all muggle records and put up keep-away charms. It would explain why so many magical facilities seem to be in old muggle buildings.

For that matter, the Ministry of Magic is known to the muggle prime minister and is tied to the muggle government. Are we really sure that most of their clerks and functionaries aren’t employees of the muggle government, paid to keep the wizards from causing trouble? It would certainly make a lot of their policies seem more sensible and explain where their budget comes from.

Overall there are a LOT of reasons presented in the books as to why the Wizarding World is fundamentally a very small place – and only one or two spots (the description of the construction of the world cup quidditch arena being the main one) that offer contradictory evidence. It being a literary work rather than something we can really observe… we are pretty much stuck with going with the preponderance of the evidence – and that is VERY heavily (or overwhelmingly) weighted towards there not being that many wizards.

And that is why that article assumes that the Wizarding population is pretty small. It doesn’t really address “why” – perhaps the Potterverse only has a limited amount of magic, so there will always be roughly the same number of wizards (and other magical creatures) in England no matter what. Perhaps muggleborn are less likely to get one of those “slots”, but when they do the potential wizarding kid never gets conceived or is stillborn. Maybe it’s just a “dying magic” universe, with a slowly-decreasing chance of magical beings reproducing and of creatures being spontaneously born magical. Who knows? All we’ve got to look at are the results.

Infusions Of Curses in Eclipse

And for today, it’s a question – along with a bonus answer from a regular visitor.

What would be the mechanical representation of taking the Energy Infusion ability (Eclipse, p. 61) where the “energy” in question was maledictions look like? I’m honestly not completely sure what that would represent from an in-character standpoint (other than seeming like a cool idea), but insofar as mechanics go, all I can think of is that it would turn penalties from curses like bestow curse into bonuses (though I’m not sure what type). But for more creative curses that don’t have flat penalties, I’m less certain. For that matter, while the opposite energy would probably be “blessings,” that’s also hard to find a mechanical representation for. The bless spell just grants a morale bonus, after all.


That probably doesn’t make sense. The malediction spell template seems to basically create an intention and outsource the actual magic to a bunch of malicious spirits of spite and revenge, and then they work their magic based on that – so there is no ‘energy type’ involved. The closest one could get is something like Major Privilege / Spirits of Vengeance favor you, giving you the favor of curses. Curses are blunted or even possibly redirected when wielded against you, due to your status amongst them. Alternatively, you could just be talking about the ‘unholy’ bonus type, which is countered one to one by sacred bonuses.


That idea would be a bit of an oddity in baseline d20 wouldn’t it?

Jirachi386’s “Major Privilege” idea would certainly be interesting – although I think I’d throw in “Favors” with the spirits of malice to go with being Favored by the Spirits Of Vengeance. That way you could be a spiteful master of curses who cannot readily be cursed and who can call down curses against his or her enemies. A very interesting low-level villain design there! Curse the party to blackmail them – promising to use more favors to remove the curses once they accomplish your goals – or terrorize a village with your spiteful curses without necessarily possessing much other magical power. That way a low-level party could readily defeat you, but would then have to find a way to deal with the curses you called down upon them as you did it – and with no actual spellcasting involved, those curses would be fairly difficult to stop.

The infusion could just represent something like “being a malevolent entity empowered by cruelty and malice” or even being a curse-spirit of some sort (on the theory that you can’t curse a curse or a creature that’s a source of curses). That might be fun – give a non-corporeal creature Presence, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Bestow Curse) / only works when an attacker actually “draws blood” to represent a being which was more or less MADE of curses, and so basically “bleeds” them as it is damaged. This would be a rather weird variant on the classic “is at least partially made of energy X, and so is immune to damage from energy X” version, but I could see it working. That’s another monster that would be a serious menace to low-level types, since they’d have a hard time getting rid of even basic curses. Against higher-level types it would be a good softener; even the most well-prepared party is rarely equipped to remove a dozen curses in the time between defeating some minions and confronting their boss.

Actually getting benefits from being cursed is trickier, simply because curses tend to be cheap, powerful, and semi-permanent problems for player characters to deal with – and converting that combination to Buffs without some major limitations tends to wreck the game unless you make some excuses to restrict it to villains (which is, at least, fairly plausible this time around). If a curse just provides a sudden rush of energy, I’d use Inherent Spell (Specialized for Increased Effect / only triggers with an incoming curse effect) to get “Heal” and/or some other selection of boosting spells (although that may well never come up at all since players rarely use many curses). If it’s long-term… something like Innate Enchantment (effects depend on what curses have been flung at you recently) would probably work best. That way a Curse of Weakness would give you a mild (and paid for) boost to Strength rather than just getting someone to curse you with -6 (for you +6!) to each attribute and going on from there.

Blessings are a bit tricky for exactly the same reason. Legends of High Fantasy has a mechanism for them (they are of limited effectiveness and occupy a Charm or Talisman slot), which also turned up under Generational Blessings (in the do-it-yourself Charms and Talismans series) – and I suppose you could use the Talents system in The Practical Enchanter or Siddhisyoga to represent acquiring various blessings without disrupting the game – but perhaps the most accurate representation would just be “you only actually gain levels beyond (say) three when you receive a blessing from a higher power”. That means that non-heroic characters remain low-level and subject to mortal limitations, that Kings do indeed rule by divine right, and that Clerics, Druids, and Paladins are likely to have a major influence on the setting since they’ll gain levels much more readily than less well-connected magi, fighters, and rogues. If you’re boosted by curses, perhaps an innate version of Rite Of Isis (The Practical Enchanter) would work for a temporary power boost.

Now, if you want to elevate “Curses” (and presumably “Blessings” or “Destiny”) from “a name for certain long-lasting debuffs, crippling effects, or setting someone up as a target for malevolent beings” up to being a force of nature in their own right, that’s going to have notable effects. With Curses and Blessings (or perhaps Cooperation and Selfishness?) as opposing elemental forces – rather like positive and negative energy – “good” and “evil” no longer have a unique claim to having a natural elemental expression with positive and negative energy – and might well take second place to other philosophies. Perhaps the cooperative groups sharing blessings have their natural opposite in the selfish groups weilding curses to weaken their targets. The selfish ones will likely be weaker overall – explaining why the lands are dominated by cooperative groups – but can easily concentrate their power to overwhelm and raid isolated cooperative groups. Those nomadic tribesmen are indeed a curse upon the civilized lands!

This will also require reassigning a few spells to a new subschool, making cursed creatures and the use of curses much more common, establishing a mechanism for Blessings*, and possibly restricting positive and negative energy effects. You might, for example, have Undead be powered by Curses and substitute various forms of curses for most of their negative energy powers. Of course, the reward for that work will be a thoroughly unique campaign, full of unexpected rewards and challenges. It would probably be well worth it.

*As far as “Blessings” go, to refer back to an older article that discussed a variety of possible alternative “treasures” to reward adventurers with. Among other options it had…

Benisons: While ever-increasing heaps of treasure are awkward, blessings are very classic, are about as easily portable as it’s possible to get – and do NOT accumulate endlessly in a party. For example:

The monasteries and priests of Ridmarch will remember their rescuers in their prayers and ceremonies for centuries to come – and, since prayer, priests, and gods have direct and obvious powers in most fantasy worlds, benefits will accrue to those being prayed for. Perhaps they will be better protected from injury (increasing their armor ratings or gaining more “hit points”), they might gain the benefits of a low-level priestly spell effect as needed a few times per week, or they might gain a small bonus to virtually anything else. Secondarily, their souls cannot be possessed or imprisoned for long because the prayers of the faithful shall win their release.

Similar results might be obtained through the blessings of some local godling or spirit. Perhaps the spirit of a sacred grove will grant the gift of communicating with birds or some such – or the valor which empowers the Eagle of Ridmarch will come to the parties aid in some future grave emergency.

Of course, if such a Benison fails, it’s a sure sign that you have to go to the rescue again to get it back – the good old “your magic item has been stolen” plot without having to bother stealing an item and without frustrating the players; if something has gone wrong with a Benison, they know where to go – and what, in general, they have to do – to get it back (or perhaps even to get it back with further improvements).

Benisons can also scale with the characters development. After all, the more important you are in the world, the more attention its supernatural denizens are likely to give you – and you may well do the source of your Benison further favors, thus earning additional enhancements. Even failing that, characters may become better at focusing or channeling such gifts. Why shouldn’t practice help with supernatural blessings just as well as it helps with combat, stealth, casting spells, and other adventurous talents?

Thus a Benison may grow with a character, and continue to be of value throughout his or her career.

In general, it’s best to go with small enhancements as opposed to powers and more active aid for Benisons; a slow progression towards becoming a mighty hero is usually better than a rapid rush towards demigodhood – and a selection of “+1’s” and “+2’s” doesn’t clutter up a character sheet nearly as much as things like “gains the benefits of a first-level priestly spell with a caster level of 15 three times a week whenever the player decides that this benefit should be invoked”.

More esoteric benefits – such as the bit about “immunity to soul imprisonment” – may rarely come up, but the game master should make sure that they do at least once, and preferably in a very dramatic fashion.

Game masters who wish to keep careful track of how much “treasure” the characters have accumulated should just count Benisons as magic items. They fact that they can’t readily be stolen or cancelled is neatly balanced by the fact that you can’t pass them around, give them up, or trade them. (If you’re calculating values in d20, The Practical Enchanter is good for that).

And I hope that helps!

Saber Class Federation Starship (Hero System)

Space. The Final Frontier.

A quite unimaginably huge quantity of nothing in particular with occasional nuggets of passively-hostile matter in it (stars and unlivable planets), an even rarer sprinkling of habitable planets, and a very, VERY, few sapient races. Really, the defining feature of Space is that there isn’t really a lot going on there. After all, those nice, happy, biospheres? They take many millions of years of relative peace and quiet to develop.

What do we see in Star Trek though? From the original series alone we have “Errand Of Mercy”, “The Alternative Factor”, “Operation Annihilate”, “The Changeling”, “The Doomsday Machine”, “Obsession”, “The Immunity Syndrome”, “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”, “The Empath”, and “All Our Yesterdays” – all episodes of the original series dealing with world-wrecking threats.

Honestly, if the universe was actually anywhere near that dangerous there shouldn’t be any life-bearing planets LEFT. It’s pretty obvious that something was going on. For some reason… once a species starts using “Star Trek” level technology narrative starts becoming an actual force that influences events, all kinds of weird hazards appear, and planets start dying. Maybe Star Fleet is letting people haul along families and kids on their extremely dangerous quasi-military missions because they’re actually in no more danger there than they are on “civilized planets” – and represent a species-survival insurance policy to boot.

For our purposes, we’re assuming that Star Trek technology deals with one of the most fundamental aspects of reality – the informational level, which tells space, time, matter, and energy, what it is and how it acts. That’s why their devices run on technobabble and often make very little sense.

The trouble is that monkeying with that aspect of reality damages it. And the universe has mechanisms to fight back against things that damage it. That’s why it’s still here after all these billions of years. Monkey around with it’s structure too much and really weird, unlikely, and dangerous stuff starts to happen. Keep doing it, and it starts to personify it’s resistance. That’s where Q, The Squire Of Gothos, and Apollo come from. It’s why the barrier at the edge of the galaxy hands out superpowers and insanity with an even hand. It’s why absurd ancient war machines run perfectly but ships need constant maintenance. If you’re using FTL, and Replicators, and other insane technologies… the universe really is out to get you. Your best hope is to plant a few colonies that revert to primitivism. They’ll be left alone.

Of course, those few species that manage to hit that barrier going fast enough to crash on through… tend to figure out what they’re doing before they destroy themselves, ascend to some form of semi-godhood, and pretty much retire. After all, nothing in this level of the universe really means anything much to them any longer (even if some do hang around giving patronizing lectures to everyone else).

That’s why building a Federation-Style ship in the Hero System is relatively cheap – and ANYTHING but safe or reliable.

In any case, these are the voyages of the ESS (Equestrian Space Ship) Crazy Horse – Prince Bluebloods personal space yacht. He, of course, wears a gold shirt and follows in the womanizing footsteps of Captain Kirk.

Saber Class, Federation Light Cruiser:

  • Crew: 1 Short-Term Emergency, 3 Minimum Sustained, 30-50 Normal Mission Crew, Emergency Transport up to 200.
  • Power Plant: Cochrane Matter-Dilithium-Generated Antimatter Warp Core. Maximum pseudovelocity ~1000 C (Old-style approaching Warp 10, New-Style about Warp 8).
  • Length: 30 Meters, Width: 12 Meters, 3 Decks (Primary, Lower Engineering Space, Upper Bridge) totaling 5509 Square Feet
  • Mass: 425 Metric Tons.
    • Like it or not, much of every Federation ship is made of force fields and wishful thinking. – which is why it has a Cargo Capacity of some 300 metric tons and room for a years supply of raw materials and spare parts.
  • Armament: Phaser Batteries, Photon Torpedo Launchers, Tractor/Pressor Beam.

Sabers are one of the smaller starships (and are much smaller still in the Hero System, which is mostly set up for personal craft rather than naval vessels), the Saber Class is used for Diplomatic and Science Missions, Scouting and Secondary Exploration (after larger and better-equipped vessels deal with the preliminary surveys), Combat (Fleet Support and Skirmish), and System Patrol functions. While surprisingly powerful for it’s size, it’s size is still “small”. Compared to major ships it’s defenses are relatively weak and it’s armament light. It is, however, fairly fast, it’s laboratories are excellent (if cramped), and it’s sensor systems very good. Notably, most of it’s crew and passenger spaces are pretty cramped.

That does, however, bring us to Transporters:

Transporters are marvelous things! They allow you to teleport yourself across tens of thousands of miles, straight into the action! Of course they also…

  • Allow you to park your ride tens of thousands of miles away, leaving you unable to get back to it when something (all too commonly) goes wrong, or if your ship is on the far side of the planet, or is under attack and has to have it’s shields up (or, even worse, leave without you), or if there is unspecified interference.
  • Create massive safety hazards. They can get you lost in weird dimensions or distant worlds, accidentally move you through time, destroy vital equipment, give you weird disorders, make you older or younger, turn dangerous injuries into fatal ones in trying to get you to the doctor, materialize you high in the air or in solid rock, turn you into a ghost, become unreliable at short (intraship) ranges, embed random objects in your body, be diverted to unintended destinations by various external means, fuse creatures together into new ones (who want to live!), and can even malfunction and outright maim or kill you.
  • Are horrendous bottlenecks. They’re the only reasonably quick way on and off the ship, require targeting locks, cannot penetrate shields and various dense materials, are disrupted by various force fields, ores, and materials, are extremely hazardous or impossible to use at warp speeds (even if careful matching of direction and speed makes it possible sometimes), and require skilled operators. At least as importantly… they NEVER seem to be working when simply getting out of there would solve your current difficulties.
  • Are Security Risks: They can trade you for evil twins, split you into good and evil halves, be activated from the outside regardless of your attempts to stop them, are fairly readily traceable, record all kinds of personal data, can be hacked to control, modify, or transform the subject in all sorts of ways, can be used to duplicate or steal sensitive devices and information, or even be used to duplicate people – allowing one, for example, to tap into a transporter and capture people for interrogation without anyone ever missing them because they’re only copies.

Sure, all of this stuff was supposed to be very rare – but when it comes to major characters, one in a million shots come up nine times out of ten. Personally, I would say that having transporters as your primary method of getting on and off a ship is quite a big disadvantage – so that’s how I’m classifying them. They give the game master free license to fool around whenever they’re used. That also saves having to build the things, since they’d probably cost more than the rest of the ship functions put together, would far, FAR, exceed the active points limit of the game, and really aren’t nearly useful enough to be worth that kind of price tag.

Vehicle Characteristics

  • STR 10/70 (0 Points)
  • DEX 5 (-15 Points)
  • BODY 6/18 (-4 Points)
  • SPD 2 (5 Points)
    • Size Increase-12 (60 Points): 128 hexes (5,509 sq ft), 64 inside, 128 passengers, 18″ long x 7.1″ wide, 400,000 kg, KB -12, DCV -5 (Mod -7)
    • DEF 3; Coverage: Complete, -0; Protects: Top and Bottom, -0 (3 Points).
    • Ground Movement (0″, NC: 0″, 0mph); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×2, +0 (-12)

Elemental Control: Starship Powers (15-pt reserve); OIF (Drive and Power Systems): -½; Focus Type: Vehicular, -½; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½; Primary Starship Systems Only: -½; Attracts Q, Negative Space Wedgies, and General Weirdness: -½, Subject to dramatic systems failures as hits, damage, or drama accumulate, regardless of actual “damage”: -½ (4 Points)

Drive Systems;

  • Impulse Drive / Flight (10″, NC: 1,250″, 930mph); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×125, +30; Stall: None, -0; Extra Time: 1 turn, -1; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½ (8 Points).
  • Warp Drive / Faster-Than-Light Travel (1000 LY/Year); Extra Time: 1 turn, -1; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½ (3 Points)
  • Poorly-Controlled Time Warp / Extra-Dimensional Movement; Dimensions: One, +0; Time Travel: Any Time, +40; Extra Time: 5 min., -2; Generic Limitation (Time and Timeline Travel Only): -½; Generic Limitation (Unreliable in GMO ways.): -2; Mass Multiplier: ×1, +0; Carrying Mass: None; Charges: 1, -1¼; Recoverable Charges (Must resolve mission): -2 levels (5 Points).

Defensive Systems;

  • Shields / Force Field (10 PD/10 ED); Reduced END: Zero, +½; Hardened: ×1, ¼ (5 Points).
  • Shields / Power Defense (12 pts); Champions Advantage (Defends against informational attacks): +½; Linked (To Force Field): -½; Hardened: ×2, ½; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Costs END: -½ (3 Points).
    • “Informational Damage” is a +1 advantage for attacks that target Power Defense or Mental Defense. Basically such attacks bypass defenses that don’t have a +1/2 advantage “stops informational attacks” – a variant on NND applied to attacks that already target a relatively rare specific defense.
  • Shields / Mental Defense (12 pts); Champions Advantage (Defends against informational attacks): +½; Linked (To Force Field): -½; Hardened: ×2, ½; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Costs END: -½ (3 Points).
  • Outer Hull Integrity Field / Armor (7 PD/7 ED); Hardened: ×1, ¼; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Costs END: -½ (5 Points).
  • Flash Defense (Sight, 6 pts); Reduced END: Zero, +½; Costs END: -½ (5 Points).
  • 4d6 Damage Control / Aid To Any One Damaged Cunction (Fade/turn, Max. 24); Range: 0; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Restore Only Lost Characteristics and Powers: -½; Extra Time: 1 turn, -1; Charges: +8, -½ (3 Points);

Sensor Systems;

  • Computer Augmentation / Enhanced Perception (all) (+7 to PER); Reduced END: Zero, +½; Costs END: -½ (4 Points).
  • 360-Degree Sensing (All); Reduced END: Zero, +½; Costs END: -½ (5 Points).
  • Ship Scans / Radar Sense; No Range Penalty: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Costs END: -½ (3 Points).
  • Navigational Warp Sensors / Danger Sense 14- (Out of Combat, Anywhere); Works: Out of Combat, +5; Range: Anywhere, +15; Extra Time: 1 min., -1½; Extra Time Required: Only At Startup, ½; Generic Limitation (Only to detect upcoming navigational hazards during high-speed travel): -2; Auxiliary Cost (Analytical; Provides data on the nature of the navigational or ship hazard): 1 (cost 5); Reduced END: Zero, +½; Costs END: -½; (5 Points).
  • Life Sensors / Detect Life Forms (+0 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Addition (Discriminatory Sense): +5; No Range Penalty: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Costs END: -½ (3 Points).
  • Deep Scans / Detect Technology (+0 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Addition (Discriminatory Sense): +5; No Range Penalty: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Costs END: -½ (3 Points).
  • Environmental Sensors / Detect Environment (++0 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Addition (Discriminatory Sense): +5; No Range Penalty: +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Costs END: -½ (3 Points).

Environmental Systems;

  • Life Support (total); Generic Limitation (Subject to upper limits, weird effects often penetrate): -1; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Costs END: -½ (5 Points).
  • Internal Lights, Gravity, Etc / Change Environment (2″ rad.); Effect: Variable, +1; Reduced END: Zero & Persistent, +1; Selective Target: +¼; Generic Limitation (Only internal): -1 (3 Points).


  • Hailing Frequencies: High Range Radio Hearing; Based on EGO Combat Value (No lightspeed delay, interstellar range): vs. ECV, +1; Invisible (Encrypted, Frequency-Hopping, Etc): To All Senses, +1; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Costs END: -½ (4 Points).
  • Labs and Computers / +3 to Crew Skill Checks; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Costs END: -½ (5 Points).
  • 1d6 Synthesizers / Transform to Supplies (Major, Limited Class); Range: 205; Area Effect (One-hex): 1 hex(es), +½; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Cumulative: +½; Extra Time: 1 turn, -1 (5 Points).

Weapons Multipower (60-pt reserve); Original Series Powers Only: -½; OIF (Weapon Systems): -½; Focus Type: Vehicular, -½; Focus Mobility: Bulky, -½; Starship Weapons Only: -1; Attracts Q, Negative Space Wedgies, and other Weirdness: -½; Subject to dramatic systems failures as hits, damage, or drama accumulates: -½ (12 Points).

  • Phaser Battery: 1D6 Transform (Damaged Systems) (Minor, Limited Class); Based on EGO Combat Value: vs. ECV, +1; Autofire: 5 shots, ½; Reduced END: Zero, +1; No Normal Defense (Only blocked by informational defenses): +½; Cumulative: +½; (1 Point Ultra Slot). Thanks to the limitations on the ship defenses in this setting, this generally produces weird malfunctions and alarms rather than definable “damage” – even if not much actual effect is getting through.
  • Phasers On Stun: 2D6 Energy Blast; Based on EGO Combat Value: vs. ECV, +1; Reduced END: Zero, +1; Area Effect (Radius): 64″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×16, +1; Autofire: 5 shots, ½ (1 Point Ultra Slot).
  • Photon Torpedoes: 1D6 Ranged Killing Attack; Area Effect (One-hex) +½; Autofire: 5 shots, +½; Penetrating: +½; Armor Piercing: 1, +½; Charges: 250, +1 (1 Point Ultra Slot). Only usable at reasonably “close” range.
  • Tractor Beam: Telekinesis (STR 11); Manipulation: Coarse, +0; Reduced END: Zero, +½; Area Effect (Radius): 32″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×16, +1 (1 Point Ultra Slot). Only usable at reasonably “close” range.

Total Vehicle Cost: 145 CP, -70 CP Disadvantages = 75 CP. Cost to Character: 75/5 = 15 CP.

  • (-15): Distinctive Features: Federation Starship; Concealability: Not Concealable, 15; Reaction: Noticed and Recognizable, +0
  • (-10): Requires Dilithium, Antimatter (Infrequently, Greatly)
  • (-15): Reputation: Federation Starship (14-)
  • (-10): Watched: The Authorities (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Only Watching: ×½; Punishment: Harsh, 0
  • (-20): Uses Transporters as the primary way to get on and of. (All the Time, Greatly)

Putting virtually everything into a Starship Powers elemental control – and adding “costs endurance / zero endurance cost” on powers to make them eligible to be in an elemental control – is definitely a cheap way to build this ship. On the other hand, it says that – if the power goes out – pretty much EVERYTHING stops working,

It’s also not too important. The characters are superheroes. as a general rule their best bet at doing much of anything is to get out and do it themselves rather than try and rely on a vehicle to do it for them. As such, this entire ship is mostly an excuse to cruise around and get into trouble – and why should they have to pay a lot of points to do that? They do THAT anyway. 

Dark Ages “Classes” – The Man-At-Arms

You know those guards who are always getting tossed around by the monsters, overrun by bandits, and trampled by opposing forces yet who manage to turn up mostly unwounded after the mighty heroes deal with things? Well, that’s these guys Except there aren’t any mighty heroes to come to the rescue; they’ll just have to get organized and do it themselves. On the other hand, in a low-magic low-technology setting there’s a lot to be said for understanding how to avoid being hurt. Wounds heal slowly, if at all. They can leave lingering damage. They can get infected. Even a minor wound can kill.

Just as importantly… Men-At-Arms spend a LOT more time on guard duty, maintaining their armor and weapons, practicing, teaching local militias how to poke at real fighters with farming tools without killing each other, and being intimidating, than they ever spend in combat. And when they do fight…

  • Prisoners are wonderful. They can be put on trial or held hostage for political purposes, ransomed for financial purposes, interrogated for military purposes, pressed into service as laborers, and more. They are all-purpose loot, who can – at worst – be sold as slaves or killed later. And if you helped capture them you usually got a share.
  • Injured or maimed opponents are good too. It’s often easier than a kill, they’re demoralizing for the enemy, an injured opponent who needs to be cared for takes another soldier out of battle with him to get him to the healers, wounded men continue to drain the enemies resources while contributing nothing to their cause, and all too often they never recover enough to return to battle. After all, in the Dark Ages there is very little magic and not a lot of medical skill.
  • Dead opponents? They get buried or burned, and then their relatives or companions often want revenge. There’s not a lot of profit in THAT. Sure, you can steal everything they had IF you hold the field after the battle and no one dragged them away – but you can do that with prisoners too and nobody pays much to ransom a dead body. At worst, you have to waste your own time and effort burying them. Corpses are downright useless.

So the tactics are different.

The equipment is different too.

As far as this “Dark Ages” (Maybe 600-1000 AD) setting is concerned the vast majority of the available armor is getting classified as what D20 calls “light armor”. There are several reasons for this.

  • Many of the “heavy” armor types hadn’t been invented yet. A lot of early armor consisted of padding, leather, and tough cloth, sometimes with bits of mail or metal plates attached to it to protect more vulnerable areas. About the best you could do was the full-out roman legionnaire armor or various forms of “Mail” – all of which were somewhat flimsy compared to later armor of similar encumbrance and offered relatively limited coverage. Few actual examples have survived and there’s been little (or no) actual testing so there’s a lot of guesswork here – but d20 is full of approximations anyway. Ergo, I’m placing most early “Mail” as being roughly equivalent to a chainmail shirt from later centuries.
  • While it doesn’t get a lot of attention, technology did advance over the centuries. For armor and weapons… the metals, designs, and crafting techniques all slowly improved. They still do; that near-legendary Damascus steel was a product of Wootz steel ingots shipped in from India (which happened to carry a useful combination of trace elements, improving the alloy – although no one at the time knew that) and local techniques. It was very good for it’s time, but was still inferior to many modern steels. Rather than introduce a debatable set of inferior period armors – especially when the presence of even minor magic makes what little actual data we have on the topic pretty much irrelevant – simply shortening the table is at least as good an approximation as the rest of d20 combat.
  • Major wars might bring the troops of many nobles together for a time, but the vast majority of conflicts were far smaller squabbles between a handful of noblemen, their personal retainers, and a few squads of reluctant peasant militiamen – but not too many because you needed those workers if you wanted to eat next year. That meant poorly organized skirmishes, where wearing armor heavy enough to slow you down too much was just asking for three or four of the enemy to gang up on you. A horse would help – but getting dismounted was all too common.
  • The more elaborate armor was hideously expensive stuff. You needed a set of skilled craftsman with several relatively rare sets of skills, expensive materials, and a lot of time to make it – and the import networks had pretty much fallen apart. If you wanted mail… you went to a specialist ship in the city, not your local blacksmith. You got in line. you paid extravagantly, and it still wasn’t all that great. You might well be better off investing some of that cash in bodyguards instead.

So: Proficiency with Light Armor (3 CP) and Shields (3 CP). That saves them some points. That’s good, because without magical healing around they are going to need them.

  • Personal weapons weren’t all that varied either. You basically got minor variants on Axes, Swords, Daggers and Knives, Clubs, Maces, and Spiky Maces, Morningstars and Flails, War Hammers, Horseman’s Picks, Spears/Pikes, Staves, and Pole Arms (blades and hooks on sticks, often improvised from agricultural implements), Lances, Throwing Axes, Javelins, Crossbows, and (non-composite) Bows* – and the selection was even more limited in any given area and time. For game purposes… Proficiency with All Simple and a Limited Set Of Martial Weapons (6 CP) will pretty much cover it.

*Samples recovered from the wreck of the Mary Rose suggest that war-bows had a normal draw of 150-160 pounds – applied to each arm. About three times the draw of a heavy hunting bow today. A trained longbowman could fire 10-12 times per minute (although six a minute conserved their strength much better) – equivalent to bench-pressing (and briefly holding) 300-320 pounds at that rate. Now such Longbows (and several of the other weapons on our list) were a little late for our period, but we’re allowing the Bombardier (even if they are using magic), so that’s not a big worry.

So rather than using exotic enchanted weapons and getting ever-better armor, Men-At-Arms in our period focus on getting the most out of what they have.

The Build:

Basic Attributes: As with any physical combatant, physical attributes take a leading role here – but the emphasis leans more towards Constitution and Dexterity then raw Strength. They’ll probably want to avoid any major penalties on Intelligence and Wisdom if they can; both skill points and awareness of their surroundings help when your goal is to avoid injury rather than charge in, smite your opponents, and get healed later.

Available Character Points: 48 (Level One Base) +10 (Three Disadvantages. Men-At-Arms commonly have various Obligations (Owing fealty and occasional services, having a family to care for, teaching or students to look after), being Aged (and thus semi-retired, thus having time for adventuring), Healing Resistant (There isn’t much healing in the Dark Ages to be resistant too, but this counts for Men-At-Arms due to having more regular need of what there is), Poor Reputation (Mostly for mercenaries, who are rarely trusted), Stigmata or Accursed (representing poorly-healed old wounds), and Valuable (for younger noble sons and such who can expect to be ransomed if captured)) +2 (Duties, normally to a liege lord) +12 (Human and First Level Bonus Feat) = 72 CP.

Basics (42 CP):

  • Base Attack Bonus: +1 BAB (6 CP), additional +1 BAB (Specialized in either Missile or Melee combat, Corrupted for a limited group of favored weapons only, 2 CP).
  • Hit Points 12 (L1d12 HD, from Fast Learner, Specialized in Buying Larger Hit Dice, 6 CP, automatic d12 at L1, d6 thereafter) + (Con Mod).
  • Saving Throws: +2 Fortitude (6 CP). Between diseases and infected wounds Men-At-Arms need at least a modest boost to their Fortitude checks.
  • Proficient with Light Armor, Shields (Corrupted / Not Tower Shields), and all Simple and a limited Set of Martial Weapons (11 CP).
  • Skill Points: 4 SP (Purchased, 4 CP), get Human Fast Learner up to +2 SP/Level but Corrupted / only for maximizing Adept skills (+1 CP), Adept (A martial art for a favorite weapon, Profession / Man-At-Arms (covers armor and weapon maintenance, elementary protocol, basic guard and investigative procedures, known threats, basic military organization, tactics, and logistics, and constructing field fortifications), Intimidate (one of a Man-At-Arms major duties), and one skill of choice, 6 CP. All are effectively automatically maximized).

The Martial Art is normally Specialized for Increased Effect (One ability per level) / May never include Synergy, Toughness, Breaking, Crippling, or any Occult Techniques, requires dedicated training time each week to maintain proficiency, only usable when wearing light or no armor and proficient with armor. The first priority is normally on bonuses to Defense and Attack, but the ability to inflict nonlethal damage is a close second.

Men-At-Arms commonly invest their available skill points in Heal, Ride, and/or Perception.

Other Abilities (30 CP):

  • 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 upgraded.
  • Armor Expertise: Defender, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only while wearing a favored kind of light armor, bonus does not increase with level, 2 CP).
  • Weapon Expertise: Skill Emphasis (Their Martial Art), Specialized for Increased Effect (+4 Bonus) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / May never include Synergy, Toughness, Breaking, Crippling, or any Occult Techniques, requires dedicated training time each week to maintain proficiency, only usable when wearing light or no armor and proficient with armor, only works with one specific weapon at a time, user must practice with the new weapon for at least a week to change weapons, weapon must be of “masterwork” quality (2 CP).
  • Practiced Evasion: Grant of Aid (Unrolled 10-point Variant) with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / hit points only, only to reduce the damage from a single incoming attack not to heal injuries, only takes effect after damage reduction and other defenses, cannot reduce the damage by more than 50%, rounded down (4 CP). A character with this ability may opt to suffer only half damage from an attack inflicting up to twenty points of damage, although half-points are always rounded in favor of damage. Attacks inflicting more than twenty points of damage have their effects reduced by ten points.
  • Military Caste: Minor Privilege, Corrupted / only applies when in service to a local noble (2 CP). Men-At-Arms are generally employed; basic armor and weapons are supplied, they have some law-enforcement privileges, and they may wear armor and bear weapons in most situations with no complaints.
  • Combat Feats (18 CP): Men-At-Arms have 18 CP remaining, with which they may buy additional “feats” – specialized combat abilities. While you can build an endless array of such abilities in Eclipse, here are a few to pick from to get you started.
    • Advanced Armor Expertise: An additional +1 AC may be purchased as Defender (+1 AC Option), Specialized only while wearing a favored kind of light armor (3 CP per +1 AC) or it can be Corrupted as well / each +1 increases the effective encumbrance of the users armor by 25% (2 CP per +1 AC).
    • Maiming Strike / Trick: may inflict a Bestow Curse, Cause Blindness, or Cause Deafness effect on a critical hit (6 CP). Such injuries may be mitigated to some extent with time and the care of a reasonably skilled healer but some small penalty or effect will usually remain.
    • Flashing Strike: Bonus Attack (With speciality weapon). Make two attacks, albeit at -2 penalties (6 CP).
    • Critical Master: Luck, Specialized in Critical Confirmation (6 CP). The user may roll twice to confirm critical hits.
    • Weapon Master: Martial Arts (6 CP). Increase the weapons damage die size.
    • Legionnaire (6 CP): Gain bonuses to Attacks, AC, Reflex saves when working with others with this ability.
    • Terrible Mein: With: Opportunist. User may attempt to persuade, or intimidate, opponents into surrendering or fleeing as a free action up to twice per battle. This is most likely to work if they are obviously overmatched (6 CP).
    • Sneak Attack: Augment Attack +2d6 (6 CP).
    • Grand (Weapon) Master (6 CP):
      • +4 bonus on all checks to resist being disarmed. Immunity/Uncommon, Minor, Minor (2 CP).
      • May use a weapon against a grappling foe without penalty and without first making a grapple check. Immunity/Uncommon, Minor, Trivial (1 CP).
      • May draw a weapon, make a sudden strike, or fight defensively as an immediate action three times per day. Reflex Training (three action per day variant), Corrupted / only for weapon actions (4 CP).
      • May make Disarm attempts without provoking an Attack Of Opportunity. Evasive (3 CP).
      • Gain a +2 Bonus to Initiative. Improved Initiative (3 CP).
        • All of these abilities are Specialized / only with the characters favored weapon, giving Grand (Weapon) Master a total cost of (6 CP).
    • Armor Mastery (6 CP):
      • Increase the Maximum Allowed Dexterity Bonus: Immunity/Penalties for wearing armor (Very Common, Minor, Trivial, Corrupted / only to raise Dexterity Bonus Caps). Increase the maximum allowed Dexterity Bonus by +2 (3 CP).
      • Make it an Effective Weapon: That’s Martial Arts (1d4 damage), Corrupted/must be wearing gauntlets and limb protection (2 CP). With this you can use your armored limbs, fists, and head as effective maces and are always considered armed, including while grappling.
      • Make you more Intimidating and harder to “read”: Augmented Bonus/Adds (Str Mod) to (Cha Mod) with respect to Charisma-Based Skills, Corrupted/only for Intimidation and Bluff (4 CP).
      • Reduce it’s Encumbrance: Immunity/the base weight of armor (Uncommon, Minor, and – for light armor – Trivial, 1 CP).
      • Negate the Armor Check Penalty: The “Smooth” modifier for Light Armor Proficiency (3 CP).
        • All of these abilities are Specialized / only with the characters favored armor, giving Armor Mastery a total cost of (6 CP).

A low-level Man-At-Arms is really a somewhat better combatant than a low-level standard fighter. That’s partly because standard fighters really aren’t that good a build, partly because their job is to solve problems not to be meat shields who keep the enemy off the spellcasters, partly because they rely on skill instead of magic, and partly because they need to be able to function on their own – without a healer, or a mage to do the heavy lifting.