Dark City Heroes I – Majestic

Gotham City, founded in 1635 by Captain Jon Logerquist on a site where a eldritch entity has lain imprisoned for forty thousand years. As the city grew its occult influence has expanded as mortals unknowingly tapped and channeled it – fostering cultists, empowering arcane rites, and awakening mystical potentials. The first heroes appeared in the 1800’s, exploiting the concealing shamanic magic of Masks* to fight the gangs that controlled the city without exposing their civilian identities and connections to the gangs revenge.

*To don a mask (or, for those with the right powers, to shapeshift) with the intention of being someone else… is to draw a mystical line dividing those identities that only powerful magic, skilled, determined and lengthy investigation, or direct revelation can violate. Thus has Superman concealed his identity for decades with nothing more than a pair of glasses.

Today Gotham remains, as it has for centuries, a city of twisting alleys, archaic secret-laden neighborhoods, forgotten nooks and structures, eldritch nexi, and hidden sorceries. It is older far than Batman – so what heroes might he have Eclipsed in his rise?

The game-setup question is more or less “What sort of young heroes might Batman have grown up around in Gotham City?” – and the rules of the that game are:

  1. Level One Eclipse Builds.
  2. Human – although human-looking Variant Humans Races or Birthrights are available for Heroes and Villains.
  3. Half Cost for buying up Attributes with CP (commonly 6 CP for +1)
  4. Bonus Feats at L0, L1, L2, and every two levels thereafter.
  5. Handguns are considered to be Simple Weapons. Long Arms are Martial.
  6. A Condensed Skill List – in this case:
Acrobatics (Dex) Balance + Escape Artist + Tumble
Arcana (Int) Spellcraft + Knowledge: Arcana
Athletics (Str) Climb + Jump + Swim + Escape Artist (STR)
Background (Int) Covers any five Craft, Profession, or Perform skills.
Deception (Cha) Bluff + Disguise
Endurance (Con) Control Shape + Concentration + Endurance
Handle Animal (Cha) Handle Animal, Ride, Profession/Teamster, etc.
Insight (Wis) Sense Motive + Gather Information
Linguistics (Int) Speak Language + Decipher Script + Forgery
Martial Arts (Var) It’s a superhero setting; invent two with attribute modifiers and give them a each a +4 bonus.
Perception (Wis) Search + Spot + Listen
Persuasion (Cha) Diplomacy + Intimidation
Religion (Wis) Knowledge/Religion, Knowledge/The Planes, Heal, and performing various religious services and rituals
Scholar (Int) Covers Knowledge / Architecture and Engineering, Geography,
History, Local, and Nobility
Stealth (Dex) Hide + Move Silently
Survival (Wis) Survival + Use Rope + Knowledge/Nature
Thievery (Dex) Appraise + Disable Device + Open Locks + Pick Pocket / Sleight of Hand
Use Device (Cha) Use Magic Device, Use Psionic Device, and Use Technological
Device. For practical purposes there isn’t much difference.

Majestic (Edmund Wells):

According to ancient tales, unicorns shed their horns every seven years – and those alicorns retain potent magic, being tokens of healing, purification, and strength. But unicorns are rare, and thus true alicorn is almost unheard of.

According to the modern world, unicorns never existed in the first place, and such tales are simply tales.

Meridith knew that it was nonsense, and the her grandmothers “unicorn horn” pendant was doubtless carved from the horn of some other animal – but if her sickly baby didn’t want to let it go and it amused him… it merely took fastening the chain to the side of the crib to keep it too high for him to do more than hang onto it.

She panicked a bit when she came back and found the pendant missing from the chain – but her son wasn’t choking and didn’t have it in his mouth. It wasn’t in the bedding or under the crib either – and he couldn’t possibly have swallowed it. He’d probably thrown it somewhere – and it would surely turn up eventually.

It never did, but eventually she forgot about it. The distraction of seeing her baby son fully recovered and happy again – and, later, of seeing him growing up strong and healthy – was more than enough to keep her from thinking about the mysteriously missing pendant until the memory faded.

She never knew that her grandmothers pendant – carved of true alicorn and given with love unknowing of its power to an innocent – had merged with her infant son, rendered him once  more healthy – and giving him the potential for unicorn powers.

As he grew young Edmund has often found himself acting as the protector of the smaller children. When he hit adolescence, he soon discovered his ability to transform into a Unicorn Stallion – as well as the ability to sense those who were truly evil, and who had to be stopped.

Since then… rumors that the Wild Hunt rides once more are whispered around the city. The police are equally puzzled, but are unwilling to publicly admit that they are keeping an eye out for a sword-wielding vigilante who reliably assaults only the most vicious and evil criminals.

Race: Human Variant (Atherian Light Birthright, 30 CP / +0 ECL).

All of their racial abilities are Corrupted. The Children of Light suffer a -5 penalty on all attempts to be stealthy or to deceive people, are easily identified by their radiant auras by any form of magical detection or by perceptive observers (Spot DC 20).

  • +2 Charisma, +2 Dexterity, +2 Intelligence, and +2 Wisdom (16 CP)
  • Innate Enchantment (7500 GP, 6 CP):
    • Command (2000 GP).
    • Protection From Evil (personal only, 1400 GP)
    • Enhanced Insight: +3 to the Insight Skill (personal only, 1400 GP)
    • Inspiring Word (personal only, +1 Morale bonus to Saves, Attacks, Checks, and Damage, 1400 GP)
    • Immortal Vigor I (+12 + 2x Con Mod HP, personal only, 1400 GP).
  • Fast Learner (often Specialized in Channeling for Double Effect, 4 CP).
  • Channeling/Positive Energy: 3 + Cha Mod uses/day (6 CP) with a +4 bonus to their Base Intensity (4 CP).
  • Immunity/Time (reduced aging) (Common/Major/Minor, usually 4 CP but reduced to 0 CP due to relatively short campaign timescale (and standard comic book time).

The Children of Light suffer from some automatic disadvantages: they are Compulsively Truthful and Blocked (they can’t use negative-energy channeling, darkness-related magic, magical enhancements to stealth, non-healing necromantic magic, or anything else related to Darkness), for a total of -6 points

Basic Attributes: Str 10, Dex 12 (+2 Racial = 14), Con 12, Int 14 +2 Racial = 16), Wis 14 (+2 Racial = 16, Cha 14 (+2 Racial = 16). (3.5 28 Point Buy. For Pathfinder 20 point buy go to Con 13). In Unicorn Form: Str 20, Dex 17, Con 21.

Available Character Points: 48 (L1 Base) +10 (Disadvantages: Valuable, Hunted, and Broke, see below) +12 (L0 and L1 Bonus Feats) +2 (Duties) +6 CP (Fast Learner, only for Channeling) = 72 (78) CP

  • Valuable. He turns into a Unicorn. There are any number of mystics out there who would like to have a Unicorn – or some pieces thereof – on hand.
  • Hunted: He’s attacking the most evil mobsters, street gangers, and petty villains around. Some of them have surely taken notice.
  • Secret (Identity). Well, superhero setting. This is almost a given for most heroic characters.

Basic Purchases (48 CP):

  • Base Attack Bonus: +1 Specialized in Melee Combat (3 CP)
  • Hit Points: 24 (L1;4d6, 32 CP) +12 (Immortal Vigor) +6 (6 x Con Mod) = 42 (Unicorn 66)
  • Saving Throws (all gain a +2 Resistance bonus versus Evil):
    • Fortitude +0 (Purchased) +2 (Template) +1 (Con) +1 (Mor) = +4 (Unicorn +8).
    • Reflex +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +2 (Dex) +1 (Mor) = +5 (Unicorn +6).
    • Will +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +3 (Wis) +1 (Mor) = +5.
  • Proficiencies: All Simple Weapons (3 CP).
  • Skill Points: 4 SP (4 CP) +12 (Int Mod x 4) = 16 SP.
  • Athletics (+4 SP +4 Str +1 More = +9, extra +24 for Jumping), Insight (+4 SP +3 Wis +1 Mor +3 Enh = +11, extra +5 to Detecting Lies), Martial arts (+4 SP +5 Str +1 Mor = +10), Stealth (+4 SP +3 Dex +4 Racial = +11), and Survival (+0 SP +3 Wis +1 Mor +3 Racial = +7).
  • Human Armor Class: 10 (Base) +2 (Dex) +4 (armor) = 16 (+2 Deflection vrs Evil)
    • Modified Unicorn Armor Class: -1 Size, +1 More Dex +6 Natural = 22 (+2 Deflection vrs Evil)/
  • Initiative: +2 (Dex). (Unicorn +3)
  • Movement: 30 (Base) +30 (Enh) = 60 (Unicorn 90).

Usual Weapons:

  • Unicorn Horn: +10/+10 (+1 BAB +3 Enh +5 Str +1 Mor) for 1d8+9, Crit 20/x2, 5′ Reach,
  • Unicorn Hooves: +7/+7/+7 (+1 BAB +5 Str +1 Mor) for 1d4+6, Crit 20/x2, 5′ Reach,

I’m not worrying about the “Natural Weapons” rule. This is a PC, and doesn’t need to use GM shortcuts. In any case, rearing up to kick – or back kicking – isn’t too compatible with stabbing with a horn.

Abilities (30 CP):

Shapeshift with Growth, Beasts, Enchanted, and +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (8 CP) / only to take (Urban) Unicorn Form.

Urban Unicorns are anthracite-coal black, with green, gold, red-gold, or orange eyes instead of white with sea-blue, violet, brown, or fiery gold eyes, their 1/day Teleport operates within their city and it’s suburbs instead of within their forest, and their “Wild” (City) Empathy works on police, officials, and city employees rather than animals. Otherwise, they’re just the same as standard SRD forest-dwelling Unicorns.

Unicorn Powers:

  • Senses: Darkvision 60, :Low-Light Vision, Scent
  • Constant Defenses: Magic Circle Against Evil, Immunity to Poison, Charm, and Compulsion.
  • Spell-Like Abilities
  • Detect Evil: at will, as a Free Action.
  • Greater Teleport: from anywhere in Gotham to anywhere in Gotham 1/Day.
  • Cure Light Wounds (1d8+5) 3/Day
  • Cure Moderate Wounds (2d8+5) 1/Day
  • Neutralize Poison 1/Day.
  • Skills: +4 to Stealth, +3 to Survival.
  • Damage Reduction 2/-, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / Only versus Physical Attacks, only works against metallic weapons (6/Non-Metallic Weapons, 3 CP).
  • Enhance Racial Innate Enchantments/+4000 GP Effective Value (4 CP).
    • Personal Haste: +30′ Movement, +1 Attack when making a Full Attack (2000 GP).
    • Unseen Servant (2000 GP).
  • Channeling:
    • Conversion to four Radiance effects of up to level two: Solar (Scorching) Ray, Glitterdust), Extended Color Spray (30′ Cone), and Pyrotechnic Flare (as per Pyrotechnics (Fireworks option only, but no fire is required) (6 CP).
    • Conversion to one Healing effect (Cure Moderate Wounds, 3 CP). .
  • Use of Charms and Talismans (6 CP): These are actually more-or-less inherent – the difference being that, while they’re free instead of having a small cost, it will take days or weeks to trade them out via meditation and practice.
    • Charms (7):
      • All-Weather Cloak: He is not bothered by normal weather conditions. Of course, unicorns aren’t.
      • Amulet Of The Stallion: He has the sexual potency of a stallion.
      • Mandarin’s Pin: Mud, rain, and other crud slides right off him, he is always nice and clean and freshly groomed.
      • Silken Tongue: He can speak clearly, and cast his voice up to fifteen feet, even if his mouth is full or something is wrong with his voicebox (like being a Unicorn).
      • Sovereign Ointment: Can use Cure Minor Wounds up to 30x a day, but no more than 1d4+1 times per target.
      • Trackless Boots: He leaves no trail and cannot be tracked by non-magical means.
      • Vanishing Cloak. He can become invisible for 6-12 seconds (3 + Level/3) times per day.
    • Talismans
      • Dao Sigil: He heals an extra 1d6 damage and one attribute point per day and can (very slowly) regenerate lost limbs and organs.
      • Helm Of War: May reduce a critical hit to a normal hit up to seven times – but only regains one use of this per week.
      • Shimmermail: He gets a +4 armor bonus from his mythic aura.

Majestic isn’t particularly subtle. He’s a rather brutal vigilante who relies on closing with serious bad guys at high speed, goring them, relying on his resistance to bullets, knives, and similar weapons to let him deal with their thugs, and on his (rather modest) healing abilities to let him handle what damage does get through – or with injured bystanders. His usual routine is to go  out, quietly turn into a unicorn in some back alley or hidden location, and roam around dealing with the bad guys. If cornered, or when he’s done… he uses his once-per-day teleportation power to return to one of his “lairs” – hidden cubbyholes in abandoned buildings or unused subway stations – makes sure that no one else is currently around, turns back to human, and goes home.

So far it has worked reasonably well.

In play, like any other narrow specialist, Majestic is quite formidable – even before customizing with some unicorn martial arts. On the other hand, that’s not going to last. Unicorn powers are pretty useful at low levels – but they’re fairly trivial at higher levels. Like it or not, there all too soon comes a time in d20 where being kicked by a horse is no longer much of a worry.

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