Eclipsing Venom

This request was for a way to build Marvel Comics “Venom”. Now that’s a little odd simply because “Venom” isn’t a particular character; it’s an alien blob of goo that gloms onto another character and enhances them. Sure, it has it’s own intelligence and such – but it doesn’t really DO much of anything on it’s own except search for a host. Worse, unlike – say – a suit of power armor, it mostly enhances the hosts own abilities up to a maximum limit and provides a limited selection of new ones. (It also can only be “worn” by entities that meet certain compatibility requirements, but that’s purely a plot-driven thing, and has little bearing on building it).

In d20 terms, that isn’t so much a creature as it is an item. Worse, it’s an item that depends a lot on the built-in assumptions of a comic book world – most notably the Superheroic World Template and the Four-Color Template. In a setting without those in play, the Venom Symbiote is going to be a lot more limited. Still quite powerful – but limited. After all, the user won’t be able to ignore support and leverage, hit things at whatever range fits best on the page, or otherwise ignore physics.

In Eclipse terms, an item that provides a suite of new abilities is probably a Relic.

So what sort of abilities does the Venom Symbiont provide?

  • Predatory Essence: Shapeshift (Leopard Attributes), Attribute Modifiers (Str +6, Dex +8, Con +4, +10 Move, +1 Natural Armor, +8 to Agility and Stealth skills, Low-Light Vision, Scent, 1d6 Bite, 1d3 Claws), Hybrid Form, Clear Speech. Specialized: Leopard Form Only, Corrupted: Cannot actually Change Forms (24 CP base, net cost 8 CP).
  • Malleable Form: Add Variants (3 CP, equivalent to a continuous Alter Self effect). Obviously enough, to fit the theme, I’d take this as a minor variant – perhaps a small “pool” of power/points/what-have-you to allocate between some of the possible effects. Perhaps about 5 Options from among: Natural Armor (+1 per Option allotted), winged flight (3 options for clumsy gliding), extended reach (+5/Option, +15′ Max), Natural Weapon Upgrades (to 1d8, 1 Option, to 2d8 3 Options), Camouflage (1 Option), Full Disguise (3 Options), Damage Reduction (1/- per option allotted), Wall-Crawling (3 Options), Winged Flight (5 Options).

These are both examples of Shapeshift Cheese – but we’re talking comic book superheroes here. A fairly large helping of cheese comes with the territory.

Web Shooting:

  • Inherent Spell (L3 Anyspell, producing any Webbing effect of up to L2), Corrupted / Powered by Mana (4 CP).
  • 4d6 (16) Mana with the Spell Enhancement Option, Specialized and Corrupted / only for use with the Web Shooting power above (6 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +14 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to recharge the webbing pool above (9 CP).

In a superhero world, with a basically unlimited Mana supply, that will allow the user to routinely throw around some fairly high-powered Web-based effects. In a standard d20 world, where the mana supply is going to be pretty limited… that will still suffice to throw around two or three fifth level webbing effects in any one fight. That isn’t bad; a well-placed wall of webbing (stone) or some such can have a fairly big effect on a battlefield.

Innate Enchantment:

  • Symbiotic Consciousness: Intelligent (500 GP) Int 10, Wis 10, and Cha 10 (0 GP), Telepathy (1000 GP), 120′ Senses (1000 GP), Darkvision (500 GP). This might need to be upgraded – but I’m not really aware of the symbiont showing any exceptional brilliance. The symbiont also has the ability to track separated bits of itself / offspring; I’m going to call that a minor enhanced sense on the level of Darkvision, above, given that it’s basically a plot device (500 GP). Unfortunately, the Symbiont basically lives to fight – and so tends to constantly push the wearer towards violence.
  • Handy Haversack (2000 GP). The symbiont can store stuff in extradimensional pockets. This is very convenient, but is still mostly a nod to the convention of skin-tight superhero costumes.
  • Healing Belt x 2, x.7 Personal-Only (1050 GP). The symbiont offers some regenerative abilities. How much? That’s pretty hard to say. After all, not only is it subject to the usual variability of comic books, but translating to d20 – where an anti-tank missile does an average of 14 damage and a megaton city-killer fusion bomb does an average of 72 – throws in yet another set of narrative conventions. I’m calling it 12d8 – enough to shrug off quite a lot of attacks, but not enough to keep going indefinitely.
  • Sleeves Of Many Garments (200 GP): The symbiont can serve as pretty much any kind of clothing.
  • Traveler’s Any Tool (250 GP), Masterwork Thieves Tools (100 GP), and Alchemists Lab (200 GP): The symbionts shapeshifting abilities are quite enough to let it substitute for tools.
  • Personal Haste (+30′ to movement modes, +1 attack when making a Full Attack) (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated = 2000 GP).
  • Extended Reach (+5 Natural Reach for one minute) (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x Personal Only x.7 = 1400 GP).
  • Immortal Vigor (+12 + 2 x Con Mod HP) (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x Personal Only x.7 = 1400 GP).
  • Enlarge Person (Practical Enchanter variant, +1 Size Category when active) (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x Personal Only x.7 = 1400 GP).
  • Create Rope (Creates up to 60′ of strong silk rope, lasting up to one hour per caster level. Optionally, you can make one end sticky and/or fire it as a ranged touch attack to stick to something with about Str 16) (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated = 2000 GP).
  • Augment Attack: (+1d8 damage with up to three natural weapons, lasts for one minute) (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x Personal Only x.7 = 1400 GP).
  • Flesh Ward (DR 2/-) (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x Personal Only x.7 = 1400 GP).

With a total cost of 18,300 GP, these innate enchantments would normally cost 19 CP – but they are Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / the user takes Double Damage from Fire and Sonic attacks (6 CP).

Disadvantages (-10 CP).

  • Accursed. The symbiont occasionally spawns copies of itself, or becomes infections, or otherwise extremely troublesome. The wearer will just have to run around cleaning up the mess when this happens, but will gain no experience points for doing so.
  • Accursed. The symbiont tends to animate itself and wander off looking for a new host if it’s current user fails to use it for a time, ir simply isn’t satisfactory.
  • Incompetent:The user tends to absorb some of the symbionts personality traits, exaggerate instincts and irrationalities, becoming disassociated from normal society, and having difficulties with social interactions – suffering a -3 penalty on all social skills.

That gives us a net cost of 26 CP. Due to the magic of rounding down, we could fit in another 1 CP worth of special abilities – perhaps an alien language that it shares with the user (1 CP).

Once again, this is a hyper-efficient design – and is, like all 4 CP Relics, something of a game-defining device. This is also why the usual suggested limitation is 4 CP worth of Relics (if the game master opts to allow them at all) – enough so that everyone can have their own little superhero package, but not enough to completely dominate the game.

Eclipse, Spelljamming, and Cosmic Voyages

The ornate helm is a thing of beauty. Wrought of blue-green metal and ornamented with a tracery of tiny black opals, it is hard to say if it suggests the surface of the sea at night or the night sky. It is clearly a treasure of great price even before it is touched – but when it is touched, to the heart it sings the music of the spheres, a song of travel and distant worlds. The mana within it burns with the need to take flight, and sail the seas of space once more.

Today, it’s something that’s come up recently – a relic of a lost world created by a long-dead god from the dreams of his (or her?) followers, for – thanks to the Eclipse’s “Infusion” ability – gods often wind up creating religious relics, granting powers to their followers, and developing strange divine attributes based on their followers beliefs.

Crown Of Worlds (Also known as the Helm Of Stars and by many other names) (4 CP Relic):

  • One Level of Cleric Of Madai Package Deal Spellcasting (10 CP): As usual, using this requires making a fairly serious commitment to the service of Madai (at the moment, that mostly means gathering what little is known about him or her and working towards his or her resurrection). As usual, the package deal includes two Paths/Domains, their accompanying “Domain Powers”, Spell Conversion (to the spells from the Cosmic Voyager Domain. It is important to note that any spell the user happens to have available can be converted – not just clerical spells), and the usual set of Domain Spell Slots.

The Cosmic Voyager Domain:

Within the cosmic deeps, the elemental forces of reality – whatever those may be in any given part of the multiverse – run riot, unrestrained by the presence of stars, worlds, and life. Still, voyagers seek to penetrate those depths, searching out whatever lies beyond. For those who feel that call, the Cosmic Voyager domain will answer.

Granted Power: Superstition (6 CP). Characters with this domain may prepare clerical spells of up to level four even in realms where the power they draw upon has no presence – or even if it does not currently exist.

  • L1: Locate Self: Identifies your current location in some detail, most often starting with identifying your current plane of existence and galaxy.
  • L2: Locate Portal: Locates the nearest ship-sized hyperspace jump gate, stargate, crystal portal, wormhole, nexus, or similar location, regardless of the form such things take within a particular realm or crystal sphere.
  • L3: Key Portal: Opens an existent, but currently-closed, stargate, crystal portal, or similar long enough for a ship to pass through it.
  • L4: Hidden Paths: Cloaks a ship against detection, providing a +15 insight bonus to Stealth attempts (using the pilots base skill) for the next hour.
  • L5: Shipway: Opens a ship-scale portal through realm barriers, allowing entry to, or exit from, hyperspace, subspace, astral space, or other planes – although the accuracy is poor, there is no guarantee of safe arrival conditions, things can follow you through, it can take up to ten minutes, and you are limited to those planes associated with the local reality.
  • L6: Arcane Modulation: Allows weaponry and spells to operate normally in poor conditions for up to an hour. You could fire lasers through ionized gas, plasma weapons underwater, kinetic weapons through a raging storm, or use incendiary weapons safely in a flammable medium. This normally affects a ship and all aboard it, but can be used to simply affect a 30′ radius.
  • L7: Planar Sphere: Alters certain planar traits around a ship to maintain “normal” conditions for the caster and vessel for one day.
  • L8: Warp Bubble: Allows a ship to reach worlds and regions that lack normal access routes. The voyage may require several subjective days and occasionally involves strange encounters along the way. There have been reports of time travel when the lengthy casting time of this spell is rushed, but those are difficult to confirm; there seem to be many random factors involved.
  • L9: Atheric Slipstream: Allows a ship extremely high-speed travel – sufficient for long-range interstellar travel and intergalactic travel given time. The exact time required is set by the game master, but even crossing a galaxy is fairly fast.

The Spelljammer Domain:

Ships that sail between the stars must be even more prepared for anything than those that traverse mere distant seas – and so this domain exists to allow sufficiently skillful captains to meet any contingency. A truly powerful Spelljammer Captain can guide his or her ship to harbor through incredible perils, always, somehow, bringing it safely home.

Granted Power: Spell Conversion (To the Spells of This Domain, 6 CP). With full spontaneous access to both the Cosmic Voyager and Spelljammer Domains, a powerful Captain can indeed be ready for anything!

  • L1: Evaluate Cargo: Allows you to evaluate the value and difficulties involved in transporting a given cargo – including things like hatching monster eggs, stowaways, and other troubles.
  • L2: Planetary Scan: Provides basic information on a planet from orbital range. This includes it’s general elemental conditions, whether intelligent life is present, and a quick description of it’s biosphere.
  • L3: Atheric Blast: Fires a 5′ wide line of energy with a LOS range of several thousand miles, but only functions in space. Attempts at planetary bombardment affect a single space, and only work if the caster is of very high level, with how high is required dependent on the planet.
  • L4: Aetheric Wind Mastery: Functions as Control Wind for the currents of space, only in space.
  • L5: Asteroid Field: Creates a dangerous barrier – roughly equivalent to a Wall Of Fire that takes a bit of time to reverse and lasting one minute per level after concentration ceases – on ship scales, but only functions in space. Interestingly, each caster tends to have their own unique variant.
  • L6: Aetheric Sail: Allows a ships sails to catch atheric winds for a day – creating dimensional distortions that allow flight, provide a form of “artificial gravity”, and hold an atmosphere bubble around it. Unfortunately, this works like sailing a ship in unpredictable weather with a crew that generally cannot see it – leaving the vessel subject to solar storms, unfavorable “winds”, and requiring a full crew and a skillful commander to maneuver effectively. Developing an appropriate piloting skill is highly recommended.
  • L7: Make And Mend: Performs basic repairs on a shipwide basis, renews a depleted atmosphere bubble, and replenishes and restocks minor supplies, such as rope, canvas, and water.
  • L8: Atheric Broadside: Allows a ships weapons to fire up to (Caster’s Level, 24 Max) Atheric Blasts, although no individual weapon may fore more than once per round.
  • L9: Atheric Shield: Wraps a ship in a sphere of force, preventing boarding, teleportation aboard unless the caster permits it, the effects of breath weapons and environmental conditions, and reducing all damage by 75% for the next ten minutes – although a close-range Disintegration attack will bring down the shield.

While these two domains may not be entirely unique to Madai, they certainly aren’t common.

Tapping The Emergency Reserves:

  • 1d6 (4) Mana with Spell Enhancement, Specialized and Corrupted / only for Spell Enhancement, only for the Domain Spells listed above (2 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only ro recharge the Spell Enhancement Pool above, only works between encounters (4 CP).

This combination allows a captain to push the limits of his or her powers – spending mana to reduce the effective level of a spell for casting purposes by up to three levels. Thus, for example, a captain capable of casting only third level spells could still use the sixth level Atheric Sails effect to get his or her vessel into space.

Returning, Specialized and Corrupted / only applies to the Helm itself (2 CP). A Crown Of Worlds / Helm Of Stars is close to indestructible, unless very special measures are taken to get rid of it. Of course they’re incredibly valuable items in any case, so it’s rather rare for anyone to try to destroy one.

Witchcraft II, Specialized for Reduced Cost (6 CP) / not cumulative with other Witchcraft abilities, does not provide Power if user has other Witchcraft abilities and will usurp at least (Cha Mod) power as a reserve to provide repairs for it’s ship construct if needed, user must be a follower of Madai, and must provide at least a vehicle framework to focus these powers through.

  • Witchsight: Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect: The user may employ skills on space-vessel scales – using Survival for space navigation or tracking other ships, Spot to scan solar systems and planetary surfaces, Listen to hear broadcasts, Knowledge / Nature to determine planetary environments, Stealth to try and sneak his or her vessel past opponents, and so on, at no Power cost – but may not use this for other effects or except when aboard a suitable vessel.
  • The Inner Eye: Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect: The user may borrow a bit of skill at a language from whoever he or she is speaking to at no Power cost, bypassing language barriers as long as the mode of communication is something he or she can use and the target is neither shielded nor inherently uncomprehensible, but may not use this for other effects.
  • Hand of Shadows: Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / The user can effectively operate, maintain, or repair a vessel with a fairly minimal crew, especially in dramatic situations, at no Power cost – but cannot use the Hand of Shadows for other effects.
  • Witchcraft/Path of Fire/The Birth of Flames. Corrupted for Increased Effect (Construct IX) and Specialized for Reduced Cost / Creates a vehicle (3 CP). Vehicles do not get their own actions; they must be operated by pilots, drivers, gunners, and other crewmen using their own skills and BAB, they can only be manifested or unmanifested off-screen in reasonably plausible locations, they always have type flaws (for example, most air vehicles cannot carry nearly as much weight as their strength indicates and only get half the usual number of hit points), and they suffer from any obvious vehicular limitations (such as not maneuvering well in dungeons). They do get a x3 multiplier for long-distance travel though, as they are utterly tireless. In this case, if the vessel has been “destroyed”, or “left behind”, the user must acquire or construct at least a suitable framework around which the construct can be manifested. Still, this will allow the user to turn any old hunk of junk that they can salvage into a functional ship.

Generic Spacecraft (Huge Psychic Construct IX):

  • Class-A: Elemental Subtype (Space), 2x Flight (40 in atmosphere).
  • Class-B: Fast Healing II, Facilities (Baths, Galley, Etc), Spell Storing II (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only for a spell or spells of up to L3 used to represent bizarre weapons, 18 self-charging levels worth per day).
  • Class-C: Enveloping (Crew Compartments), Dimension Slide (Interplanetary Drive Variant: Once out of atmosphere may travel between worlds within solar systems in plot-convenient time), Basic Shields (Variant on Extreme Deflection, +4 to AC, +4 to Saves).
  • Flaw: Prone to weird malfunctions and negative space wedgies, attracts pirates, creatures, and other weirdness at a completely unreasonable rate.
  • Note: Spacecraft may also make physical attacks by ramming things; but this is a very poor idea.
  • Individual Crowns may manifest variant ships – perhaps substituting advanced sensors or laboratories for the Shields.

Net Cost: 27 CP / 6 = 4.5, rounds down to 4 CP as a Relic.

Like most four-point relics, this is a campaign-changing item – in this case, obviously enough, into “d20 in space”. It probably isn’t reasonable to allow player-characters to simply take “Create Relic” and turn items like this out – but it certainly wouldn’t be unreasonable to restrict “Create Relic” to lesser items. While the user will need to be able to use sixth level spells to access the full power of a Helm Of Stars, third level spells will suffice to get into space and start traveling – meaning that would-be Captains must have some basic competencies, but it’s nothing particularly noteworthy.

It’s also possible for a character to simply buy the relevant powers on his or her own, and do without a Crown Of Worlds – perhaps by becoming one of Dune’s “Guild Navigators” – but that is generally a rarity (unless, of course, the game master WANTS a bunch of random spacefarers casually knocking around the galaxy).

Six thousand years ago there was a world rich with magic, inhabited by many races and gods. It had fought off invaders before – but this time it was not to be. The enemy was a thing of darkness, all-devouring. Vortexes of negative energy tore across the lands, shattering defenses both magical and mundane, gouging the earth, and pulling people, beasts, and objects into the devouring void-flesh of the Enemy – the tiny part of it’s inconceivable form that extended into the realm it sought to devour. Armies, beasts, adventurers, and gods fought and died – but the Enemy raised legions of the dead, spawned devouring monsters, and replaced it’s losses with the allied fallen even as it continued to ravage the world.

According to the Histories of Atheria, an Emissary of the Light and the Archmage Almin of the Stars, wielding the power of a fallen god, opened a portal to Atheria – a last refuge for the survivors – and sacrificed themselves to seal the way behind them even as the last gods sacrificed themselves to turn the ancient world into a vast prison, a trap designed to hold the Enemy for long ages. The Domain Lords of Atheria, living Cosmic Principles, allowed those lost survivors to take refuge within their realms – a place where the Enemy could never come, for no being of the void could endure the Plane of Archetypes for so much as a moment.

And for ages, the people of Atheria believed themselves to be humanities last survivors.

But at least one of the Ancient Gods – Madai the Shipmaster, Master of the Winds and Patron of Travelers – had granted his followers another way to seek refuge. He had created (birthed? splintered?) mighty relics that allowed their users to sail between the stars, sparks of life traversing the void to seek out new worlds on which to burn. More, those helms were forged from a part of his own essence – and so, given enough power with which to work, were a potential seed of his resurrection.

Almin’s ancient spells have failed at last, the gates to the planes beyond have opened once more – and one of Madai’s creations has been gathered to Atheria, the realm of Principles and Archtypes, Fountianhead of Creation. If more can be gathered there, to drink from the cosmic source, Madai might well be reborn at last.