Eclipse – Birthrights And The Harrowed Gate

“Birthrights” – power packages based on where or when a character was born – and especially the more exotic ones that have a major impact on how a character is played and develops – have become a fairly major feature of our local d20 games over the years.

Now being a little more powerful is often handy, but if that was all that was wanted, we could just start everyone off a level up. What we’re really after is making characters very different from the very beginning and making their origin important throughout their career.

That’s partially because Dungeons and Dragons has moved away from that idea.

At one point Dwarves simply could not be magic-users (and were limited as clerics), thanks to their powerful anti-magical nature. On the other hand, that made them quite resistant to magical attacks. In some versions of the rules, “Dwarf” was a character class.

But then people with ideas about Dwarves from other sources wanted to make dwarven mages, or seafarers, or whatever – and they didn’t like being told “No”. They also didn’t like finding out that their shiny new dwarven mage was at a disadvantage later compared to some other “race”. They started equating fantasy species being good at differing things with real-world racism.

That was understandable, if only because so many sources made aliens and fantasy races into “humans with funny hats”. That’s why you can find arguments that Tolkien’s “Orcs” are just racist metaphors instead of corrupted supernatural monsters. But really, that never actually made much sense. Fantasy species simply aren’t the equivalent of human “races”. If you want a real world comparison… there is no reason why fantasy races should be any more similar than Dolphins, Elephants, and Humans are. All three of those species are quite intelligent, all have some ability to pass on information – “culture” – to their offspring, and all three have some form of communication. Still, if they were on an adventure together… even if the group could all talk with each other freely who would you turn to if you wanted a tree uprooted? Or an item retrieved from the bottom of a body of water? Or a fire built?

And those species are all earthly mammals. Fictional species don’t need to be anywhere NEAR that similar.

Birthrights bring that sort of thing back.

Do you have the the Anomalies Tindalos Birthright? You can call forth Lovecraftian Horrors and terrible spells, even if your ability to control them is limited. If you survive childhood and opt to focus on magic… your path will be very, VERY, different from the Elemental Powers of a native of Atheria’s HuSung – and those will differ in turn from the immediate powers of the Absolute Command Birthright. If you want to be edgy… Perhaps you want the Darkness or Blood Birthrights to be found in Chelm. Other people may not react well to you – but that’s not “racial prejudice”, that’s a sane reaction to a set of powers that grants wealth and power in return for sacrificing people and enslaving their souls. Would you object to treating Cobra’s with caution?

Cultures are similarly affected. A native of HuSung will grow up drinking boiling liquids, ignoring winter temperatures because they do not matter, and accepting that many of their children will die very young due to miscast spells. After all, not a few of their childhood friends died that way. They openly carry weapons into courtrooms and at parties, since they have grown up knowing that no one can really be disarmed; they will always have their elemental powers to use anyway. They know that most “work days” are ten minutes long, since – once you use up your relevant spellcasting abilities – you might as well go home; spells are so much more efficient that actually working physically isn’t particularly worthwhile. Their culture is nothing at all like that of the people just across their northern border who get the far subtler Divination Birthright.

Here, for example, is a Birthright loosely inspired by the original Deadlands rules, by tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, by the Pulps, and by the Pathfinder’s Mythic rules.

Childe’ Of The Harrowed Gate

In the Hour of the Dead, When the Day too Dies,
Shall the Youngest open the Ancient Crypts.
Pass the Doors of the Night, when the Light Fails.
There Nightmare shall rise from the Wild Dead.
In Dark Crypts moldering Sleepers lie,
On the Way of Skulls where Night-Gaunts call.

Though Grim the Path and Bleak the Way;
The Guardian Stands within the Gate.
Gathering Shards of Fallen Might.
The Spirits rise, the Youngest Holds.
The Serpent-Fire burns Dark and Cold.
The Cycle Turns, the Spirits Sleep.
The Balance of the Realms to keep.

There is hidden greenery in the badlands. Rivers rise in the hills and flow down narrow valleys before vanishing into the sands, supporting narrow strips of life along their path, the occasional oasis lurks around pools and springs fed by underground streams, and even some caverns boast greenery – but little can be wrested from such limited resources by even the most talented farmers. If it was not for the mineral wealth hidden in the hills, the occasional treasures left from the rumored cities (and definite crypts) of the sun-loving, food-conserving, Serpent Folk that lie hidden in the sands, and the occasional place of power, few would come to the badlands at all.

And in that there is a hidden wisdom. The powers of death, and the underworld, and of warring prehuman empires now long forgotten, all lie dormant beneath the desolate sands and barren hills. Here there really are lost voices in the howling of the wind and things walk that should be long moldering in the tomb.

Yet occasionally, a woman will give birth in some over – optimistic farmers household or in some tiny mining settlement Even more rarely – every few generations – one will give birth at the precise moment a nearby flaw in time, or in the barriers between life and death, stands ajar – and it is to THAT power that the new soul bonds. Once that child matures enough to bear the burden… as long as it lives the gate will remain open.Things that should not be will pass into reality. One or the other – Child or Abomination – will eventually be drawn together in opposition. Should the Abomination prevail, there will come a time of darkness – but the flaw will soon seal itself once again, and the night will pass. Should the Child prevail a portion of the power of the banished Abomination will pass into it – but soon enough another challenger will arise, for the stronger the Child, the greater the Abominations that may pass through the gate.

The Harrowed Gate Birthright (31 CP / +0 ECL):

A child born in the badlands as the sun crosses the horizon on the last day of the ancient year is linked to those briefly resurgent ancient powers rather than to the closest power-nexus as usual; born with access to the powers that normally lie hidden beneath the sands.

Whatever course they may take… their lives will be filled with events of interest, for through them much which is normally hidden will attempt to crawl forth. Those rare individuals with this birthright gain access to:

  • Six Occult Skills (the Equipment Skills of the Shadowed Galaxy) purchased at normal prices, Specialized and Corrupted / such skills may only be bought up to represent powers and abilities absorbed from major opponents that you’ve killed (or at least have helped kill) or banished from the material plane (12 CP)
  • Immunity / having items of Equipment taken away (Common, Minor, Minor, Specialized and Corrupted / only applies to the six Occult Equipment Skills above (2 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized and Corrupted for 3 SP/Level / only for Skills, only for the six Occult Skills given above (6 CP).
  • Adept, Corrupted for Increased Effect (Covers the six Occult Skills above) and Specialized for Reduced Cost / as above, plus no one defeated opponent short of an archdemon or similar foe can provide more than three points worth of enhancements in total (3 CP).
  • Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted / only to create relics related to the powers or nature of a slain foe from the remains of that fallen foe, only for use with points from Enthusiast (2 CP)
  • Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, the points may only be used to create relics. relics must be created from the remains of a fallen foe and can only provide powers related to that foes nature (4 CP).
  • +1 to Speak Language (The Serpent Tongue of the Underworld, 1 CP).
  • Grant of Aid, Specialized in Hit Points Only (3 CP)
  • Action Hero (Stunts), Corrupted for Reduced Cost/Only to channel the powers of the Spirit World (4 CP).
  • Accursed: Many opponents will gain Occult Powers (-3 CP).
  • Hunted: The Dark Powers of the Underworld (-3 CP).

One Response

  1. […] The 32 CP Pirate Template and a bunch of other stuff – perhaps some of the C’hi Power packages from this article on Ninja or some nice Martial Stances or even something like a Birthright. […]

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