d20 Point-Buy Sample Design

     For this excursion in character development, we’re going to take a look at some of the moderately exotic options in the point-buy system* and design a character of a type that’s rare in gaming: the Merchant-Adventurer. While such men were common enough in the great ages of exploration, most of which was driven by the search for new trade routes, new products, and new resources, most games concentrate more on short-term adventures. 

     * We’re not going to try to show you any of the really exotic options. Explaining them would take much too long. There’s a reason why Eclipse: The Codex Persona is two hundred pages long, and it’s not because it’s wasting pages on fiction or fluff. Eclipse is also available in a shareware version Here.


Elareth Vars, Human Merchant

                                                         As developed by “Ed”

     Scion of a wealthy merchant house, this youngster intends to follow the usual path of aspiring merchant princes: working as an assistant and guard on trading trips and caravans initially, moving up to running long-range caravans, bandit and monster hunting later, then graduating to exploration and opening trade routes, and finally going into politics. Along the way, the house can act as a patron and initial employer for the other characters.

     Presuming that things do go roughly as planned, the character is going to be tough in a fight at lower levels, but will lean increasingly towards trade-related skills and minor magical abilities at the middle levels and political influence at higher ones.

     Still, how often do things go as planned? With this class we’re going to take a look at the way a free-choice point-buy character might actually develop.


     Since Elareth is a pure point-buy character, we’ll stick with the theme by using the standard point-buy attribute generation. This gives him Str 10, Dex 9, Int 16, Wis 8, Con 14, and Chr 14.

Level 1 : 48 Character Points (Base) + 2 CP (Duties) + 10 CP (Disadvantages) + 12 Skill Points (Int 16) + 4 SP (Human Skill Point Bonus) and +12 CP (Initial and Human bonus Feats), for a total of 72 CP and 16 SP.

Hit Die : 1d20 (16 CP)

Saves : +1 Ref (3 CP)

Warcraft : +1 (The usual BAB for a combative character, 6 CP)

Special : Adept (Mercantile Skills: Elareth may buy Appraise, Bluff, Diplomacy, and Sense Motive for half cost, 6 CP), Professional Skill (For Diplomacy, to get an extra bonus, 6 CP), and Favored Commodity (initially fibers and cloth, 6 CP)

Skills : 5 CP + 16 SP = 21. 8 go to buying rank 4 in each of the four skills he’s taken Adept for, 4 more go to knowledge: Geography, (spending another one for a +3 speciality in Trade Routes), and two other skills of choice at 4 ranks each (most likely Gather Information and either Spot or Survival – but we’ll leave him some secrets). Thanks to having an Intelligence bonus he speaks three extra languages for free.Initial Proficiencies: Light Armor (3 CP), All Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP)

Duties (+2 CP/Level): Elareth’s membership in the house entitles him to excellent tutors, backing, and the best of equipment – but comes with a fairly extensive array of obligations. As a member of the house, Elareth is going to be either working for them, or accepting responsibility for his juniors, for his entire career.

Three Disadvantages (for 10 extra CP to spend): History (Ed’s going to write up a description of his merchant house, and his personal history, over the first few sessions), Recorder (Ed’s going to keep a careful list of all the named NPC’s the group meets and make sure the GM gets a copy. This will be really helpful in tracking the minor NPC’s who pop up during each session), and Obligations (Elareth owes several favors to other members of his house and has a contracted marriage coming up in a few years. This may severely complicate his life later on).

     Ed’s had too many starting characters die from one lucky hit, giant ant bites, and falling into simple 10 foot pits. Finding this notably disappointing he’s determined not to have it happen this time – and is skimping on the skill points and saving throws to make THIS starting character as physically tough as he can afford to be at level one. It’s a bit of a stretch for a merchant kid, but Ed inserts a bit of background about intensive combat training from his uncle, a retired caravan guard, and the GM decides to go along with it.

     The use of Adept is a minor red flag as well – but the skills Ed’s selected don’t really seem likely to break the game. Secondarily, most of the other characters want to take it as well. At least it will give them some identity.

     Favored Commodity is one of the many possible variants on Favored Foe. It provides bonuses on any Appraise, Sense Motive, Knowledge, or Bargaining (Diplomacy) checks involving the chosen commodities. This is unusual, but quite acceptable. Ed had wanted to start with Gems and Jewelry instead of cloth, but accepted the advice that he wouldn’t be dealing with much of that until a bit later on – and cloth was one of the major goods his house dealt in anyway.

     That just leaves the 12 CP for his initial bonus feat and human bonus feat. Ed was considering taking Grant of Aid and Bonus Uses – giving him a substantial amount of healing magic which would act automatically to keep him alive – or some Damage Reduction, but the GM advises him that this is starting to get silly. Elareth is already extremely tough for first level without adding a notable mystical blessing or guardian spirit. Ed settles for a minor (but well-chosen) gift – an Occult Sense that allows him to detect counterfeit money and goods (6 CP) and a bit of basic magical training. While he wasn’t the best of students, he did pick up the knack of using magic wands (Device Use, 6 CP). Not only does this set up a foundation for buying some magical skills later on, but a few GP expended on wands with one or two charges left each will let him keep a trump card literally up his sleeve.

    So much for first level. Unsurprisingly, Elareth makes it through his first few adventures – both because he’s remarkably tough and because the Game Master chooses some investigative work around the town over a major combat scenario. There was some violence, but Elareth was more than capable of absorbing a few dagger and shortsword blows.


Level 2 : +26 CP

Hit Die : d10 (6 CP)

Saves : +1 Ref, +1 Will (6 CP)

Warcraft : +1 (6 CP)

Special : Equipage (May produce 2 GP/week worth of minor gear as needed, simply by rummaging around in his pockets. Corrupted; does not work if he’s had no chance to stock his pockets or has been strip-searched. 4 CP)

Skills : 4 CP plus 4 SP. 2 go to raising his Adept skills as usual, 3 more go to keeping up his other skills, leaving 3 to invest in a few specialities and specific knowledges.

     Elareth is still leaning heavily towards combat skills – but his ability to spot forged letters of credit, counterfeit money, and low-quality goods is already attracting the attention of the local caravan masters and trade representatives. He’s now receiving a small house salary and has a knack for putting just the things he’ll need later in his pockets, bought as a Corrupted (and thus a bit less expensive) version of the Equipage ability. Ed is considering ways to recharge wands, but that’s a difficult trick.


Level 3 : +26 CP

Hit Die : d10 (6 CP)

Saves : +1 Will, +1 For (6 CP)

Warcraft : +1 (6 CP)

Special : Damage Reduction 2/- (3 CP) and a Contact (a caravan master who’s come to rely on his talents, 1 CP)

Skills : 4 CP plus 4 SP. As at level two, five go to keeping his skills up, leaving 3 to expand his range of abilities.

     Another straightforward level, although Ed realizes that it will shortly be more effective to start boosting his Constitution instead of buying larger hit dice. He has started building his network of commercial contacts and may well wind up concentrating there instead. His choice of bonus ability is more complicated. Given that he wants to build a foundation for minor magical talents later on, he elects to take Mana (1d6 points) and selects the Spell Enhancement option – gaining a modest reserve of personal magical power. That won’t do him much good at the moment, but he can expand upon it and learn to use it later.


Level 4 : +26 CP

Hit Die : d8 (4 CP)

Saves : +1 Fort (3 CP). Currently, that puts all three categories at +2. That matches the usual total, if not the standard patterns.

Warcraft : +1 (6 CP)

Special : Elareth has become extremely adept at spotting opportunities to trade and make money, an effect bought as Occult Sense (Business Opportunities, 6 CP). He’s also begun laying the foundation of the network of contacts which will support his later career, buying the Multiple modifier on his contacts. From now on each CP spent on contacts will get him three of them – and he gets to add two more for the one point he spent last level (6 CP).

Skills : 3 CP plus 4 SP. With 5 pre-committed he only has two available to buy secondary skills at this level.

     Now THAT Occult Sense could be annoying – but the GM is willing to give it a try. He’ll mention occasional hidden opportunities to the player. Ed’s still wanting to make Elareth tougher, so he decides to apply the free level of Self-Development he gets at level four to Constitution.


Level 5 : +26 CP

Hit Die : d8 (4 CP)

Saves : +1 Ref, +1 Will (6 CP)

Warcraft : +1 (6 CP)

Special : Elareth has learned to link his personal energies to those of old wands, allowing him to use them without expending their last few charges. This is purchased as Empowerment (Specialized in Wands with no increase in uses per day, thus reducing the cost. 3 CP). He’s also put an additional 1 CP into contacts, adding three more. He rounds things out with the Well-Traveled contacts modifier, allowing him to trade them around more quickly if and when the family assigns him somewhere else (3 CP).

Skills : 5 CP + 4 SP. This neatly makes up for going a point short last level – not that there’s any requirement for consistency, but it makes it easier to track skills.

     Well, that doesn’t actually let Elareth recharge wands for resale, but it does let him stretch them a lot further, substituting 1 point of Mana from his 5-point reserve per charge that he’d normally spend from their reserve. He hasn’t really needed the Well-Traveled modifier yet – but that marriage contract is coming up. Sadly, finding old wands has been harder than Ed thought it would be; mages mostly just use them up and, even if someone does find an old one, they usually aren’t worth enough to bother using Identify spells on. Even with his connections and skills, he’s been having trouble with con artists and simple mislabeling.

     On the bright side it’s time to select his second favored commodity; he can get Gems and Jewelry now.


Level 6 : +26 CP

Hit Die : d8 (4 CP)

Saves : +1 Fort (3 CP)

Warcraft : +1 (6 CP)

Special : Wanting to make shopping easier, Elareth buys the Purchasing option on Equipage, allowing him to buy gear without actually having to go get it (Specialized; requires 1d4 days – although minor items (up to 250 GP/Level) are always available, 3 CP). Since he’s begun using his Mana reserve the basic recovery rate of 1-2 points a day no longer suffices, so he takes Rite of Chi to speed it up (6 CP).

Skills : 4 CP + 4 SP.

     While he’s no longer much of a match for the dedicated fighters, Elareth can afford to use his wands fairly often now. Unfortunately, focusing on those areas has led him to neglect his saving throws and contacts. He’ll have to work on those next. In any case, it’s time for a bonus feat. This time around he goes for “Focus of Attention,” A.K.A. “Berserker.” He assigns the bonuses as +4 to Chr and Wis, +2 on social skill rolls, and -2 on rolls involving anything but social interactions for the duration. Do NOT negotiate with this man when he’s on a roll.

     From now on he’ll be getting another bonus skill point each level, thanks to his Headband of Intellect +2. That’s incorrect according to the current errata, but the Game Master has house-ruled it.


Level 7 : +26 CP

Hit Die : d4 (0 CP)

Saves : +1 Fort, +1 Ref, +1 Will (Now at +4 all around, 9 CP)

Warcraft : —

Special : Elareth has developed a sixth sense for bad bargains (Occult Sense, 6 CP), three new Contacts (1 CP), and Bonus Uses (to get beyond the usual once per day limit) on his mana-restoring Rite of Chi (6 CP).

Skills : 4 CP + 5 SP. As usual, five are committed in advance.

     After a couple of unfortunate experiences with bad deals and failed saves, Ed decided that Elareth could afford to lay off the physical training for a level in favor of building up his resistances and magical talents a bit. This could be considered multiclassing, but he did espouse a reasonably balanced class in the first place – and both saves and the new occult sense are definitely mercantile. The GM lets it go this time (after all, the class description did indicate a shift towards magic and trade-related abilities in the middle levels), but advises Ed to make his emphasis shift a little slower.


Level 8 : +26 CP

Hit Die : d6 (2 CP)

Saves : +1 Ref, +1 Will (6 CP)

Warcraft : +1 (6 CP)

Special : Cloaking (this anti-divination ability conceals his thoughts, but is Specialized in concealing business-related information only to reduce the cost, 3 CP), Favors (from his house and the merchants guild, 3 CP), +3 Contacts (1 CP), and Innate Enchantment (Specialized: it provides the equivalent of the “Handy Haversack” effect only, 3 CP)

Skills : 2 CP + 5 SP

     Since Ed feels that saving throws contribute more to survivability at higher levels than raw hit points do, he’s leaning more towards them at the moment – but does put the free level of Self-Development he gets at level eight into Constitution again, getting it up to 16. That gets him an extra 8 HP immediately and will continue to enhance his durability from now on. Since he’s running into the usual not-enough-points barrier, the GM expects to see a lot more d4’s and d6’s in upcoming levels.


Level 9 : +26 CP

Hit Die : d6 (2 CP)

Saves : +1 Fort (3 CP)

Warcraft : —

Special : Skill Focus: Diplomacy +1, with the Stunt upgrade to allow supernatural effects. In his case he gets the ability to use a minor rite to open negotiations with summonable outsiders, the ability to “seal” a contract to make it mystically binding, and the ability to summon forth or channel powers from outsiders who owe him a service. Each effect costs 2 Mana. He may develop more stunts later. 8 CP), Mana (another 1d6 points, 6 CP), and Bribery (thanks to the house influence and slush fund Elareth can get away with a variety of minor offenses without suffering legal consequences. This is a fairly ordinary Privilege worth 3 CP).

Skills : 4 CP + 5 SP. While the usual five points are pre-committed, Elareth spent most of the rest on Knowledge: Outsiders this time. That’s probably wise.

     Having mastered the art of making deals, Elareth is initiated into the art of contacting outsiders. This is a bit of an exotic twist, but it makes a reasonable amount of sense for a d20 merchant. Given that Elareth still only has 8 points of Mana (he rolled a “3” this time) available at any one time, he won’t be able to summon massive hordes of creatures or use large numbers of spells from his wands at any one time, however.

     Elareth also gets a bonus feat at this level and settles on Executive – allowing him to coordinate a group and so provide bonuses on skill rolls (6 CP).


Level 10 : +26 CP

Hit Die : d4 (0 CP)

Saves : +1 Ref, +1 Will (6 CP)

Warcraft : +1 (6 CP)

Special : Upgrade Empowerment (from level 5) to remove the uses-per-day limitation (3 CP), +1d6 Mana (6 CP), and +3 contacts (1 CP)

Skills : 4 CP + 6 SP. Once again, several go to Knowledge: Outsiders.

     Elareth now has 14 points of Mana and can regain a total of 5d6 points per day with his Rite of Chi. Given that he’s not really a magical specialist, that should suffice. The GM does recommend adding a few outsiders to his contacts even if they do cost more.

     Elareth is also entitled to select another Favored Commodity at this level and chooses “spirit favors” after running it by the GM for approval. The bonus isn’t all that large, but when you’re dealing with outsiders every little bit helps.

     Finally, he’s gotten his Headband of Intellect upgraded to +4. From now on he’ll be getting two extra skill points per level.


Level 11 : +26 CP

Hit Die : d4 (0 CP)

Saves : +1 Fort (3 CP) Now at +6 all around.

Warcraft : —

Special : Tactician (an upgrade to Executive which allows him to provide bonuses to a group in combat, 6 CP), Enthusiast (This gives him one “floating” skill point, usually used to acquire the local language for a while, 3 CP), Reflex Training (the general extra actions ability) in the uses-per-day version (specialized in summoning and wands only to double the number of uses, 6 CP), and Self-Improvement (+1 Constitution for HP purposes only, 6 CP).

Skills : 2 CP + 6 SP

     Elareth is shifting emphasis from personal combat to group command as he begins leading his own trading expeditions instead of working under a senior member of the house. Since his orders provide substantial combat bonuses to a group he’s chosen to acquire Reflex Training to allow him to get in some magical actions while continuing to use his normal actions to provide those bonuses.


Level 12 : +26 CP

Hit Die : d4 (0 CP)

Saves : +1 Will (3 CP)

Warcraft : +1 (6 CP)

Special : Spy Network (A version of the Lore ability similar to classical Bardic Lore. It’s Corrupted; he has to have either gotten a recent report or have time to contact his agents to use the ability, 4 CP), upgrade his house Favors to the Major level (3 CP), and (again) a level of Self-Development (+1 Constitution for HP purposes only, 6 CP).

Skills : 4 CP + 6 SP

     As a Master Trader Elareth is now a high-ranking member of his merchant house, and can draw on a good deal of their resources if he must. Of course, he’s also expected to start educating some proteges and to spend a lot of time on negotiations. He’s entitled to both a free level of Self-Improvement and a bonus feat worth 6 CP at level 12. He decides to upgrade his Charisma and to take Augmented Bonus – adding his Intelligence Modifier to his Charisma Modifier when calculating how many contacts he gets per CP. Sadly, the GM feels that this would require the Improved (12 CP) version, forcing Elareth to Specialize it to reduce the cost. It will only allow him to purchase outsider contacts as if they were normal ones from now on, it won’t increase his multiplier on how many contacts he gets per CP. Finally, with an effective base Con of 18 for HP calculations, he can afford smaller hit dice from now on.


Level 13 : +26 CP

Hit Die : d6 (2 CP)

Saves : +1 Ref and Fort (6 CP), for a total of +7 all around.

Warcraft : —

Special : Weapon Proficiency: Economic Warfare (6 CP), upgraded Bribery (Privilege: immunity to legal consequences of actions short of high treason, +3 CP), Skill Emphasis: Diplomacy (yet more bonuses, 3 CP), and 6 Outsider Contacts (2 CP)

Skills : 4 CP + 7 SP

     As a Master Trader, Elareth learns how to use money and trade policies to crush opponents financially and to get out of trouble. Fortunately for him, he has the good sense to avoid becoming friends with evil Outsiders – although even the good ones (who tend to want things like donations to charity and commitments to good deeds and virtue in exchange for their favors) can be quite a bother. He’s also gotten his Headband of Intellect up to +6, providing an extra 3 SP per level.


Level 14 : +26 CP

Hit Die : d4 (0 CP)

Saves : +1 Will (3 CP)

Warcraft : +1 (6 CP)

Special : Action Hero (this provides him with a limited number of Action Points per level but, instead of taking the common action-boosting option, Elareth selects the political influence option. 6 CP), Reputation (he become well-known as a fair businessman and wealthy philanthropist, 6 CP), 3 Outsider and 3 normal contacts (2 CP)

Skills : 3 CP + 7 SP

     Becoming well-known for his trustworthy dealings and good works proves unexpectedly profitable, both in material and magical terms: it makes negotiations much easier when the one you’re negotiating with has heard that you’re fair and trustworthy. It even helps him exert his expanding political influence.


Level 15 : +26 CP

Hit Die : d6 (2 CP)

Saves : +1 Fort, +1 Ref (6 CP). Now at +8 all around.

Warcraft : —

Special : Opportunist (the general take-a-particular-action under specific circumstances ability. In Elareth’s case he’s developed a useful knack for slipping minor additional requests into a business negotiation. He can roll his Diplomacy skill to try to gain an additional minor concession just after a bargain has been concluded, 6 CP), +1d6 Mana (6 CP), +3 Outsider and 3 normal contacts (2 CP)

Skills : 4 CP + 7 SP

     While he’s a superb negotiator and businessman, Elareth has begun to find that occasionally using a wand just isn’t enough any more – and that it’s a bit late to be trying to catch up in terms of magical skills. Still, he does have a new Favored Commodity and bonus feat coming up. He eventually settles on mystical plants and herbs – the fantasy equivalent of spices – and on acquiring the ability to use Staves, a natural extension of his knack with wands. Recognizing that staves are even more expensive than wands, he goes to a great deal of trouble to use his Outsider contacts to arrange some Unique Training for himself – acquiring 6 bonus CP (counted against his lifetime limit of [Int] CP acquired through such means), enough to buy Empowerment for Staves. He’ll probably want to get some more Mana soon, since the higher-level spells in staves will burn through his 14 Mana points in short order.


Level 16 : +26 CP

Hit Die : d4 (0 CP)

Saves : +1 Will (3 CP)

Warcraft : +1 (6 CP)

Special : Skill Focus (the remaining possible +2 to Diplomacy, 4 CP), +3d6 Mana (Specialized in powering wands and staves, cannot be used for summoning, spell enhancement, or other purposes, 9 CP), and +3 contacts (1 CP)

Skills : 3 CP + 7 SP

     Elareth is pleased to find that an additional 13 Mana, along with the fact that most one-charge-left staves fall under his current (4000 GP) limit for automatic availability via Purchasing (see level 6), lets him offer his high-level friends some effective backup again. Secondarily he gets the usual free level of Self-Development at this level, and applies it to his Charisma, taking it to 16 – and incidentally increasing his Contacts multiplier to x4 (Yes, he uses charisma-boosting items. No, they don’t count towards his permanent multiplier). Having spent 11 points on contacts, that gives him 44 of them, freely mixing mortals and Outsiders. Ed requests a GM ruling on whether or not the actual form of a “staff” matters as long as they weigh about five pounds and occupy a hand. He’s informed that no, it doesn’t. Elareth gets most of his “staves” as chunks of crystal, “gauntlets” made of jade plates, and similar items. He likes the look better.


Level 17 : +26 CP

Hit Die : d4 (0 CP)

Saves : +1 Will, +1 Fort, +1 Ref (9 CP)

Warcraft : —

Special : Leadership (having taken the position of guild master, Elareth has assumed direct control of most of the house resources – including its high-level employees. Unsurprisingly, he quickly wins their personal loyalty as well. 6 CP), another 8 Contacts (2 CP), and Presence (Elareth elects to radiate an Aura of Trustworthiness which helps him in negotiations and social situations, 6 CP)

Skills : 3 CP + 7 SP

     While this level doesn’t offer much in the way of raw power, Leadership provides Elareth with access to a wide variety of specialists, artificers, and spellcasters. Of course, while this is a very valuable resource, he’s now fully responsible for the fortunes of his house. He’s done a lot of work for them all along of course – the points he got from taking “Duties” are in no way free – but from here on in it will probably take up most of his time. He does, however, take the time to research a couple of new – if very high DC – applications for his Summoning Diplomacy Stunts; learning to host a spirit in his own body, and so take on an appropriate template for a while, and learning to summon a material ally as well as Outsiders. Sadly, the GM informs him that this will only work with major magical beings; more ordinary creatures, no matter how powerful, offer nothing for this stunt to “grab onto.”


Level 18 : +26 CP

Hit Die : d4 (0 CP)

Saves : +1 Fort, +1 Ref (6 CP). This results in a current total of +10 all around.

Warcraft : +1 (6 CP)

Special : Bonus Uses (even more uses per day of his Rite of Chi, 6 CP), Favors (from the local government(s); Elareth’s enterprises now make up a substantial portion of the local economy, 3 CP), and another 4 Contacts (1 CP)

Skills : 4 CP + 7 SP. As usual, five of these are devoted to keeping his original skills at maximum.

     While his combat skills are adequate, Elareth finds that – despite his continuing studies – they’re obsolescent in any serious confrontation, forcing him to rely on his magical talents to make a contribution during a fight. Sadly, they’re fairly readily exhausted. Fortunately, buying more uses of Rite of Chi allows him to make a fairly rapid recovery. It’s also time for another bonus feat. In this case he selects Opportunist again, this time to allow him to open, or re-open, negotiations without penalty when he’d normally be at a severe disadvantage – such as when being dragged off to a starring role in an execution.


Level 19 : +26 CP

Hit Die : d4 (0 CP)

Saves : +1 Fort, +1 Ref, +1 Will (9 CP)

Warcraft : —

Special : Elareth’s persuasive talents now transcend language; he can freely communicate with any sentient being which is not actively rejecting such contact (Mindspeech, 6 CP), Returning (When his time comes at last, Elareth may attempt to strike a deal with Death itself; if he succeeds, he gets to come back again. Naturally enough, he would prefer to avoid putting his negotiating ability to such a test, 6 CP), and +4 Contacts (1 CP)

Skills : 4 CP + 7 SP

     Of course, with an immense network of contacts and immunity to language barriers, Elareth is posed to expand his trade routes across the entire known world – and possibly beyond. Justifying Returning with Diplomacy is, once again, a bit of a stretch, but bargains with Death have been a classical fantasy element for millennia, and if there’s anyone who’s a good enough talker to make it work, it’s Elareth.


Level 20 : +26 CP

Hit Die : d4 (0 CP)

Saves : +1 Fort, +1 Ref, +1 Will (9 CP). This gives a final total of +12 all around.

Warcraft : +1 (6 CP) This gives a final total of +13 – not much for a genuine warrior, respectable for a merchant.

Special : Epic Stunts (This Skill Focus upgrade allows even more impressive supernatural feats. Sadly, each must be “researched” independently. Elareth intends to learn to use Diplomacy on golems, constructs, and other normally-immune targets, to bind entire kingdoms with treaties and trade agreements, and to talk powerful monsters into binding agreements – whether to assist him or to simply stay out of civilized lands. 6 CP), and another 4 Contacts (for a grand total of 64, 1 CP).

Skills : 4 CP + 7 SP

     The Epic Stunts are the diplomatic equivalent of Epic Spellcasting. Other than that, this is simply a polishing-off level, bringing up his saving throws and combat skills. Whether or not there’s anything beyond L20 is up to the GM, as always. If there is, it’s probably time to start looking into other abilities. There are still plenty of ways to boost his diplomatic and mercantile abilities, but is there really any need?

     There are still a couple of final items; Elareth’s last free level of Self-Development and final favored commodity. He selects Dexterity for the last level of Self-Development. Since it’s a low score, it goes up by 2, to a total of 11. Still an odd number. Oh well. He’d have done something about that low Dexterity earlier, but he bought a Dexterity-boosting item years ago. As for a Favored Commodity, it’s tempting to say something like “political power,” but it wouldn’t make much sense. Given that his operations are big enough to have a major impact on the economy and coinage of the campaign at this point Elareth selects Metals, including utilitarian, coinage, and magical metals.


     Fortunately for everyone, Elareth may be a bit greedy, but he’s fundamentally one of the good guys. He could use his abilities to impoverish entire regions to enrich himself, but he’d rather keep everyone prosperous and have a lot of repeat customers. The basic concept could have gone many other ways, however.

     If he’d been just a bit less ethical he could have taken Witchcraft abilities (the line between enhancing your own skills directly and manipulating others to make them work better is pretty thin), applied the Traceless ability to fraud and embezzlement, or simply been an incredible con artist.

     He could have tried to use a merchant empire and the Dominion abilities to become a literal merchant prince, traded in slaves, or specialized in poisons and control of the underworld. He might even have learned to steal souls and made a career of auctioning them off to the infernal powers in exchange for magical abilities. That offers a lot of easy power provided that you don’t mind that it attracts heroes and involves an endless string of truly grotesque acts of evil.

     The real point, however, is that Elareth looks to me like he’d be a lot of fun to play – as well as being quite unique and appropriately balanced. That’s the reason for Eclipse – to introduce every ability you might need to build just the character you want to play and to make sure that there are enough options that no two characters ever look too much alike.


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