The Advancing Warrior Part VII – Special Tricks

So far this series has covered…

And…

Advancing Fighters:

  • Part I: Universal Basics, Lockdown/Tripper, and Fearmonger.
  • Part II: Smasher, Charger, and Thrown Weapons Master
  • Part III: Mounted Fighters.
  • Part IV: Two Weapons, Sword and Board, One-Handed, Massive Damage and Effects Monger Critical Fisher
  • Part V: Archers and Summoning Shots.
  • Part VI: Cyborgs, Power Armor, Mutants, Tinkers, and Mechwarriors.

That’s actually most of the basic combat styles. Even the dual-shield builds are just a variant on Two Weapons. I suppose I could count crossbowmen and gunmen – but, in Eclipse they’re virtually identical to Archers. They just need to find a way to reload as a free action, and that isn’t very hard. There are spells, powers, reflex training, weapon enhancements, and just using a Spirit Weapon or the Thrown Weapons Master Tulthara solutions.

What’s left is basically a list of popular special tricks.

The Beastmaster Warrior:

  • Having anything that can take actions on your behalf is a substantial advantage – and the easiest way to get it in Eclipse is the Companion ability, at a base of one Companion per (6 CP). Any further Templates (+6 CP per +2 ECL) or other special abilities (Say, being able to Transform your companion to your species or you to its species at will, 6 CP) apply to all your companions. Even without coming up with any limitations… you could easily enough have an eagle, a ferret, and a pair of Panthers, each with (the same) +2 ECL Template, and the ability to take those forms, for 36 CP – three levels worth of purchases for a basic Fighter.

This is a rather powerful option: depending on what template you give them, Companions can fight very well indeed, heal you, serve as mounts, provide magical support, or do many other things besides attack your enemies – and they’re not at all bad at that.

“Drawing Aggro”:

This comes from computer games. A character that can withstand massive attacks hits the target(s) first or otherwise gets them focused on him or her. They then absorb the targets attacks while other – usually much more fragile and offensively-focused characters – can attack unmolested.

In tabletop games, where the creatures are run by an intelligent game master, it usually isn’t so simple. Any reasonably intelligent creature tends to focus on the biggest threats first and deal with the turtles after the wasps, ferrets, and cats have been dealt with. To use this kind of tactic you either need to be holding a chokepoint, actively keeping enemies from getting past you, make yourself the primary threat, or magically compel the enemy to focus on you.

  • Still, if you really must give this a try, you’ll want Presence, Specialized for Increased Effect (20′ radius) / cannot be entirely turned off (causing a -2 on amicable social skill checks), enraged targets gain +2 Morale Bonus to Str and Con (5 CP). This has the effect of making enemies within the radius have to make a Will save (DC 11 + Cha Mod) or become enraged, focusing their anger on the user and preferentially attacking him or her. This isn’t perfect – if doing that is obviously idiotic or suicidal they’ll get another save each round and anyone who saves cannot be affected again for the rest of the fight – but it gives you a reasonable chance of being the center of attention fpr a while. Later on – if you should live so long – you can boost the Save DC with Augmented Bonus (6 CP) and / or Ability Focus (3 or 6 CP). I’m not sure that’s a good idea – Eclipse has a much wider range of attacks to defend against than most video games, so sooner or later you will run into opponents that really can hurt you – but it’s up to you.

The Totemic Warrior:

This trick uses Shapeshifting to replace your physical racial abilities and attribute modifiers with those of some other creature. While you do have to have at least as many hit dice as the base animal does to use this trick, if you start with a race without much in the way of physical attribute modifiers – or even a negative total – this is a cheap way to acquire some impressive physical boosts. It doesn’t do much for casters though.

  • Buy Shapeshift, with Attribute Modifiers, Hybrid Form, Clear Speech, and Variants (mostly human appearance), all Specialized and Corrupted / one specific animal only, cannot actually Change Forms (27 CP base, net cost 9 CP).

This is cheese. For example, a Wolf Totem Human Fighter thus gains +2 Natural Armor, +20′ move, d6 Natural Weapons, the Track feat with a +4 bonus on relevant rolls, Str +2, Dex +4, and Con +4. Sure, they have to have two hit dice to get that benefit, but even if they want it at level one and spend an extra 8 CP on an extra d4 Hit Die, the benefits are still very large. That’s why I usually only allow this in high-tech settings, where – when power armor, mechs, and similar devices are commonly used – personal combat abilities could really use a boost.

The Skillmaster Warrior:

This particular variant generally uses Finesse (6 CP per application) to get attack and damage bonuses from Intelligence instead of Strength, Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (Adds a secondary Att Mod to Int Mod for calculating skill points, normally purchased Specialized and Corrupted (only through level 5) and upgrading at higher levels (6 CP to start, up to 18 CP at higher levels), and a second instance of Adept (6 CP) so as to have plenty of skills. The really exotic options, however, come from…

  • Luck with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (“Taking 60″) / Only for Skills, only for Skill Stunts, not for rerolls, (18 CP).
  • 3d6 Mana, and Rite of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to power Skill Stunts, Rite of Chi and Bonus Uses are only to restore this pool, requires several minutes to use (12 CP).
  • Skill Focus +1 with Epic Stunts (8 CP), probably x4; once for each Adept skill (32 CP Total).

Now this is a fairly expensive option, weighing in at a total of 86 CP – about seven levels worth of purchases even if you don’t add another levels worth of Luck, Mana, and Rite of Chi. That’s a pretty expensive path. On the other hand, it opens up some pretty impressive powers – including epic spellcasting. It still probably isn’t the most efficient way to buy some magic, but it is one of the cheapest ways to gain access to epic magic. Admittedly, only a rather limited range of it – but that can still be pretty impressive. For some lists of possible stunts, see the Skill Stunts and Epic Skill Stunts series or articles.

The Spellslayer

The Spellslayer Warrior operates on fairly simple premises. Both Spells and Psionic Powers are complex, semi-stable, Constructs designed for particular functions. They may be made of energy, but if you can see them properly… Constructs can be killed and provoke Attacks of Opportunity as they enter spaces you threaten. Remote-sensing and remote-control effects require links back to their controllers. If you can manage the trick, links can transmit attacks back along themselves. Magic… can be fought.

  • Occult Sense / Spellsight (6 CP). A Spellslayer can see the structure of magic – perceiving incoming spells as creatures (With an AC equal to their Save DC), mystical links and bonds as chains, and standing spells as walls. Tthe general nature of incoming spells is obvious and they become valid targets for Attacks of Opportunity, links and bonds can be Sundered, and standing spells can be Smashed.
  • Presence (Dispelling Touch, L1), Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only works on targets that you can hit with a melee attack, since the attack is actually targeted against magic, the strike does no actual injury (2 CP).
  • Presence (Shatter Link, L2), Specialized for Increased Effect (L2 effect) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only works on targets that you can hit with a melee attack, since the attack is actually targeted against magic, the strike does no actual injury (4 CP). This effect can break a caster’s control over his or her summoned creatures, release dominated creatures, turn Animal Companions, Familiars, and Mystic Mounts back into normal animals for 3d6 minutes, sever (or at least suppress) Mystic Links for the same period, and disrupt similar bonds and controls. It does not, however, replace that control; such creatures are simply freed.
  • Presence (Occult Strike, L3), Specialized and Corrupted for Increased (L3) effect / only works against a single target at a time, only works with melee attacks. The user may transmit an attack across a Mystic Link to the creature behind it. He or she may attack creatures on the far ends of mystic links, strike at someone viewing the user through a clairvoyant sensor, or attack through a Projected Image or similar effect (6 CP).
  • Reflex Training (Combat Reflexes variant) (6 CP).
  • Countermagic (Specialized, Only as a Prerequisite, 3 CP) and The Spiral Dance (12 CP). This will allow the user to pull off the Jedi “reflect the attack” routine, albeit with certain spells and powers instead of technological weapons.

The Spellslayer Martial Art (Wis):

Spells and Powers are intricate networks of energy – complex, semi-autonomous, constructs capable of interacting with “normal” matter and energy in a bewildering variety of ways.

And that which is complex and interactive always has points of vulnerability. That’s how Dispelling and Counterspelling work. The art of the Spellslayer is to find and strike at those points of vulnerability – a subtle art of gestures and precision that target things that few others can even sense. Unlike most martial arts, the weapon used is mostly irrelevant, although reach weapons don’t allow the necessary fine control.

  • Requires: Spellsight
  • Basic Abilities: Attack 2, Defenses 4 (Adds to Saving Throws versus Spells and Spell-Like Abilities), Toughness 2 (Versus damage from Spells and Spell-Like Abilities), and Synergy/Spellcraft.
  • Advanced Techniques: Breaking (May roll the Spellbreaker skill instead of a caster level check when Dispelling), Sneak Attack 2 (Specialized for Increased Effect / automatically adds +2d6 per level taken against magical / psionic constructs and summoned creatures, but no effect on any other type of target), and Mind Like Moon.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength, Ki Focus (Wisdom), Light Foot, and Vanishing.

It’s important to keep careful track of a Spellslayers limitations: for example, they cannot generally block an Orb Spell, or Flaming Arrows, or a Fireball that detonates more than ten feet away even if they are still within the blast radius. They have to be able to actually hit the spell. Still, at a total cost of about 36 CP, a dedicated fighter could acquire the Spellslayer package in about three levels.

The Warrior Mage:

This one is pretty simple: as shown with Hiten, the basic structure of warrior-style, “force of will” / “inner power” / “rage” / whatever magics is simply:

  • Shaping, Specialized for double effect (Cantrips) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for tricks in a specific magical field, requires the use of a rune-inscribed weapon as a focus (4 CP).
  • Reflex Training (Extra Actions Variant), Specialized and Corrupted / only to “cast” tricks in the above category, requires the use of a rune-inscribed weapon as a focus (2 CP).
  • 1d6 (4) Mana with the Spell Enhancement Option, Specialized and Corrupted / only for spell enhancement, only to enhance shaping-based Weapons Magic Tricks (2 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to restore the spell enhancement pool, above (4 CP)..

This allows the user to produce effects of up to level three as supernatural abilities – albeit not very many of them beyond level zero during any one fight for (12 CP).

  • The obvious basic upgrade is some combination of +4 Reflex Actions (2 CP), +1d6 Mana (2 CP), and +4 uses of Rite of Chi (2 CP). Those won’t increase the level of effects you can produce, but it will let you use a lot more of them.
  • You can also add a more fields of magic, each with it’s own pool of Mana and Actions. Go ahead; if you really want to be Thor Junior, take Weather Magic, Weapons Magic, and Self-Enhancement.

Being a Warrior-Mage is cheap; a single level worth of purchases will let you use a field quite effectively. Throwing in a single feat – half a level – worth of upgrades will probably cover everything you will need. And you will no longer need to rely on anyone else for enhancement spells, or basic healing, or simple mobility-boosters, or whatever. Taking Hiten as an example… you can start with a full package of weapon tricks at level one.

  • I’m not going to go over the utility of Berserker (large short-term boosts), Celerity (faster movement), the Create Relic / Enthusiast combination (make yourself some magical toys!), Grant of Aid (self healing that goes off when the player wants it to), Shapeshift, Improved Initiative, Lunge (more reach), Maneuver (dodge AoO with Tumble), Split Movement, and Throwing Master because – while straightforward boosts to particular areas are always useful – their basic effects are fairly obvious and they’re useful to everyone.

The Multi-Talented Warrior:

So the overall conclusion?

It’s pretty simple. The offensive power of an Eclipse-style “Martial” character is mostly limited by playability – and you can hit THAT limit easily and cheaply. With twenty levels to work in… an Eclipse Fighter still will not be able to afford anywhere near EVERYTHING – but they can easily afford to be an expert in multiple fields of combat and grab some handy magical powers. To make a list of the primary combat variants I’ve covered so far and how many levels it will take a fighter to sufficiently master them…

  • Battlefield Control:
    • Fear: 1-2 Levels.
    • Tripper: 4 Levels.
  • Melee Damage:
    • Charger: 2 Levels.
    • Massive Damage Critical Fisher: 4 Levels.
    • Mounted Warrior: 5 Levels (Overlaps with Beastmaster and Charger).
    • Two-Handed Smasher / Two-Weapon Fighter/ Sword-and-Board Fighter (all roughly equivalent, so just pick one): 2 Levels.
  • Ranged Damage:
    • Archer or Thrown Weapons Master: 5 Levels.
  • Special Attacks and Powers:
    • Beastmaster: 3 Levels
    • Drawing Aggro: 1 Level.
    • Effects Monger: 3 Levels.
    • Techno Warrior: 3 Levels.
    • The Lion At Bay: 1 Level.
    • Tinker-Warrior: 1-2 Levels.
    • Totemic Warrior: 1 Level.
  • Personal Magic:
    • Skillmaster: 7 Levels.
    • Spellslayer: 3 Levels.
    • Warrior Mage: 1-2 Levels, may be repeated.

So go right ahead: Make a Tripper (4), Mounted Warrior (5), Thrown Weapons Master (5), Beastmaster (2 due to overlap), Warrior-Mage II (3) with The Lion At Bay (1). Hurl your weapons to crossbow ranges while closing, ride your dire tiger into battle, trip everyone about you, battle four enemies at once on equal terms, and let your four animal companions (who will be sharing your enhancements from your warrior-mage skills) devour your foes. Yes, that comes to 20 levels and we were presuming starting at 2 – but your standard supply of Bonus Feats can cover for three levels worth of stuff (or more using Pathfinders bonus feat progression) You can probably afford to throw in some Witchcraft too. Why not? It’s very handy.

That’s what Eclipse does for Fighters. They can master multiple fields of combat, learn all the magic they need, control the battlefield, bring formidable allies with them, empower their own items, and heal their own wounds. It makes the all-fighter party a perfectly valid choice again. They still may not have as many options as the mage for long-distance travel or utility powers – but Beowulf can face that Dragon on equal terms and they have a rich array of tactical options. Eclipse fighters/Samurai/Archers/Etc do not need to play second fiddle to the mages and clerics any more.

Now if you want more options, there’s been plenty of prior material:

Some of the better examples include:

And that should do it for this series. If anyone wants to suggest any fighter builds they particularly favor, I will gladly throw them in though!

3 Responses

  1. You are notably missing the ‘forunate hero’ stuff, and Uncle Chan’s build, which has a bunch of tricks in it.
    I’m also curious what you have in mind for cheapish packages that give fighters greater out of combat helpfulness.

    • Well, that’s mostly because neither Uncle Chan nor the Fortunate Hero seemed to fit the theme of this series; Uncle Chan violates the Strategic Optimization rules – using so many optimization tricks that he’s game-wrecking as well as being a full blown reality-warping legendary martial artist. The Fortunate Hero build isn’t so game-wrecking, but the “you always succeed when you really need to” aspect of it tends to make a lot of otherwise-exciting moments rather dull. So while it’s effective, I don’t regard it as being particularly well optimized. And while there is no “one true way” of gaming, I must admit that my articles are strongly influenced by my personal preferences and opinions, simply because it’s hard to write in any other way.

      As for out-of-combat helpfulness… well, that will probably call for another article.

      And I hope that helps!

  2. […] legal trouble, or make stuff for the party. Even presuming that you don’t want to go the full Skillmaster Warrior route (which is a bit expensive), a second instance of Adept (6 CP) and Advanced Improved Augmented […]

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