Granny Part III – Architectural Wonders, Experience by Study, and her Legendarium Panoply

To start at the beginning with Granny’s History and the Basics click HERE. To go back to her Skills, Skill Tricks, and Skill-Related Abilities click HERE.

Architectural Wonders:

Caer Hunleff, the Tower of Nightmares, Stronghold of the Dark Enchantress.

This modest castle is offers a fairly standard array of defensive features – gatehouse, stone walls, moat, drawbridge and portcullis, merlons, arrow-loops, and similar elements – but its major defenses lie in Grannies Mystic Architecture. That grants its defenders a +4 Morale Bonuses to their Attacks, Damage, Saves, and AC along with +2 Positive Levels (+2 to BAB, Saves, and AC, Grant of Aid with +4 Bonus Uses, +2d10 HP), generates a Break Enchantment effect at CL 12 once whenever a defender is affected by an unwanted effect, and makes the place impervious to magic designed to change, damage, or scry it out – including Rock to Mud, Move Earth, Passwall, Disintegrate, and so on (this may, at the option of the game master, extend to attempts to teleport past the walls). In any case, thanks to Granny’s ability to curse the surrounding lands, it’s normally defended by seven hazards of CR 14 or less – plus her minions, monsters, and anything she does actively.

  • Rooms: Alchemists Lab (390 GP), Altar (her Unholy Chapel, 210 GP), Armory x2 (780 GP), Ballroom (760 GP), Bath x2 (260 GP), Bedroom x 3 (900 GP), Bunks x2 (800 GP), Cells x2 (360 GP), Ceremonial Room (1,180 GP), Common Room (300 GP), Courtyard (180 GP), Crypt (490 GP), Defensive Stone Walls x4 (2080 GP), Drawbridge (320 GP), Escape Route (360 GP),
    Forge (370 GP), Garden x2 (360 GP), Gatehouse Tower with Iron Door, Iron Portcullis, and Gauntlet (2210 GP), Greenhouse (300 GP), Habitat (for Granny’s exotic animals, 790 GP), Kitchen (160 GP), Lavatory (120 GP), Magical Repository (730 GP), Nursery (250 GP), Office x2 (240 GP), Sitting Room (480 GP), Stall x4 (1000 GP), Storage x3 (360 GP), Summoning Chamber (1040 GP), Throne Room (1650 GP), and War Room (300 GP).
  • Magical Facilities: Celeano Manuscripts (3200 GP), Perpetual Fountain I (250 GP), Cleansing Fountain (62.5 GP), and City Stores (750 GP/Day, 8225 GP).
  • Staffing: Gangsta Wrap I (but one use/day (x4) and Immobile (x.5) instead of one per month (120 minions, 11,880 GP).
  • Income: Caer Hunleff has a net GP modifier of just under +200. About 20 of the minions will usually be doing profitable things, for another +200 – ergo Caer Hunleff earns about 40 GP/Day. Due to the use of magical minions, there are no modifiers for being away from the place. Of course, this is far less than the City Stores provide – but every little bit helps.

Net Total: 43,350 GP. If Granny chooses to use the Stores to solidify Caer Hunleff’s reality, it will take it some sixty days to become real, permanent, and independent of her Dreambinding. In practice, this depends on the campaign situation; Granny always uses the the 23,700 GP from her Dream-Binding Specialty to pay for the 23,617.5 GP cost of the magical facilities since – if someone does capture the place – she sees no reason to give them the benefits of her magical resources – but whether or not she makes the rest of the place “real” depends on the campaign situation; if she needs to be able to move it around readily, it will be entirely a manifestation of Dream-Binding. If not, she’ll probably make the basic structure real and permanent.

Caer Hunleff is a useful outpost, and a good place for Granny to keep things that she doesn’t want publicly known – but it’s also something of a honeypot. Anyone who is looking for a dark enchantress or wicked witch is going to eventually find rumors of the haunted forest, the ruinous castle, the malevolent hag who occupies it, and her enslaved and enchanted minions. If they wish to destroy this blight upon the land, they can battle their way through the cursed lands about the place, defeat the monsters and dark magics that Granny will send against them, endure the storms that will spring up to defend the castle, breach the gates, defeat her minions, and confront Granny (or, much more likely, her stand-in) – who will generally dissolve into dust if defeated (Or, if she is amused enough, when simply given an excuse. While the “I’m Melting!” routine was a bit over the top, the kid was amusing, and a relative, and actually swallowed it!). After all, while there are some valuables laying about, the entire place and everything in it can be readily replaced.

The Witch-Mazes:

Granny is well aware that there are plenty of perils to her realm that she isn’t really much good at handling – and so she makes sure that there are manageable opportunities for young adventurers to gain skill and experience so that there will be someone available who is good at dealing with such threats.

The Witch-Mazes are modest “ruins” seeded with a few valuables and with a selection of curses laid on them to create a carefully graduated set of traps and hazards – and to populate them with warped, powered-up, versions of normal animals / monsters. If the challenge needs a bit of adjusting they may have Mystic Architecture effects applied as well.

Angry squirrels are one thing. Angry accursed squirrels with even a portion of the advantages that Granny’s Mystic Architecture can give them are quite something else again. Giving them +4 Morale Bonuses to their Attacks, Damage, Saves, and AC along with +2 Positive Levels (+2 to BAB, Saves, and AC, +2d10 HP, and 12 CP – spent on 1d4 base lethal damage, DR 2/-, and 5000 GP worth of Innate Enchantment (perhaps Immortal Vigor for another 10 HP, Mage Armor, and use of Produce Flame)) will result in Squirrels with AC 28, 22 HP, Melee Attacks of 1d4 physical at +10 or 1d6+5 touch fire damage at +6, a ranged touch attack for 1d6+5 fire damage at +10, and Saves of Fort +7, Ref +12, and Will +7)… can turn them into quite a challenge even for a mid-level party – and Granny can freely adjust that challenge in a variety of ways. Remember; she wants adventurers to have a rough time and gain some experience, not a pile of corpses. 

None of the Witch-Mazes are really all that large. They tend to be things like old watchtowers, cursed mansions, logging camps, haunted groves, and so on. Basically… they’re minidungeons. Granny even puts out clues, partial maps, and rumors, carefully steering groups to appropriate challenges – or hurriedly attempting to upgrade, downgrade, or restock if a group is headed for someplace inappropriate or that’s recently been looted. Granny hasn’t got the time, resources, or inclination to get a group beyond level four or five this way, and certainly can’t be bothered nursemaiding incompetents – but she can help young heroes get past the most vulnerable stages of their careers.

Witch-Mazes are more or less throwaways: Assuming that creating a “ruin”runs about a quarter of the cost of a building a real, functioning, structure, throwing up the “ruins” of a Large Bandit Camp, or a Bardic College, or Caster’s Tower will cost about 1200 GP (about half of which can be salvaged by clever adventurers looting the place). Adding Curses and/or Mystic Architecture modifiers using her personal powers is free – and throwing in another 1250 GP worth of mundane gear and supplies as treasure takes the cost to a bit of her daily power and one days worth of stuff from her Cauldron of Holda (below). If she wishes, she can even assign a few (free) minions to play bad guys and set up cheap traps. In other words, she can casually throw together one per day at little or no personal expense given a few hours to work in.

The House of Wisdom, Residence of the Elder Advisor and Orphanage:

This modest manor – once the home of the almost-forgotten Dowager Queen – is the official residence of the realms Elder Advisor, and so is more or less Grannies permanent home. These days it has broad gardens, greenhouses and orchards, a comfortable small library / reading room – and swarms of orphans and delinquent children there for a bit of “straightening out” – at which Granny has a marvelous record of success. She’s even raised many of the realms young heroes. It too has mystic architecture – granting residents two positive levels (bestowing 2d10 HP, Fast Learner specialized in Skills, and Grant of Aid with Bonus Uses, with limitations that keep people from noticing or trying to actively use the boosted hit points and grant of aid – which keeps the kids from getting stupid. Well, any more stupid than kids usually get anyway), bells that grant each resident the equivalent of a full nights rest twice per week, +4 Morale bonuses to Intelligence and Wisdom (specialized in allowing the kids studying there to readily pick up a relevant Package Deal), and Group Focus (allowing Granny’s skill check to serve as a concentration skill check when it comes to studying.

On Self-Improvement through Study in D20:

Studying / Training is the realistic way to improve yourself. Like most realistic things, when you compare it to fantastic magical ways to improve yourself such as adventuring it isn’t worth much. Still, for non-adventuring kids it’s a way to get ahead. So studying lets you take your time and turn it into Experience Points.

So how fast is that? And what helps you study and train? It’s not Intelligence. Intelligence gets you more skill points per level, but it makes you easily bored too, which explains why it isn’t coming into things twice. It’s not Wisdom, that (at least in d20 games) simply lets you notice distractions more. What is it that helps you pull all-night studying marathons and helps keep your mind focused on your studying?

Well, keeping your mind focused despite distractions is – by definition – a concentration check. In 3.5 that’s straightforward enough. Unfortunately, the Pathfinder writers concluded that having a Concentration skill was basically a skill tax on casters (whom they assumed HAD to keep it maxed out) and that non-casters never needed to keep their minds focused. I’d say that both are wrong – I’ve seen plenty of Casters who found ways to avoid such checks and plenty of noncasters who needed to make them (trying to focus on getting that lock open despite the arrow in your shoulder and the fight behind you? Adventurers lives are FULL of situations calling for concentration) – but that’s easy to fix. When you need to make a Concentration check for non-magical stuff roll 1d20 + Con Mod + Your Level in the Class (or Classes) which provide the ability you’re using.

So Studying involves using Concentration as a (simplified, since anyone can study) version of a Craft skill using your time as the raw material. You spend a week studying, make your non-magical concentration check, square your result, and divide by 50 (since the 3.5 magic item crafting rules tell us that 1 XP costs 50 SP and Pathfinder gives no information on the topic) to see how many XP you get.

Computing how much that gets you in an average week (since it involves a sum of exponents) calls for using a slightly more complex than usual formula: – namely [N(N+1)(2N+1)/6]. The sum of the squares from 1-20 (for a +0 modifier) is 2870. Dividing by 20 for an average result and by 50 for the value gets us an average of 2.87 XP per week. And yes, that sucks. Even with a decent teacher (+2 Aid Another), Textbooks (+2 Masterwork Equipment) and a +1 circumstance bonus for a schoolroom, we will only wind up with 5.434 XP per week – about 200 XP per thirty-six week school year. At that rate it will take four to six years (presuming some sick days and such) to go from level “-2″ (set at -850 XP) to level one (0 XP competent adult) through pure schooling. Given that schools are likely to spend at least half the kids time on recess, lunch, tests, roll call, classroom tasks, and kids being kids, and won’t start until the kids are five to seven (since before then they’re just not up to it)… that would mean that the baseline human starting age would be about seventeen. Full-time, intensive, training could get a kid to level one by age ten or so though – which is, not particularly surprisingly, about the minimum age for starting a child PC.

And the fact that that number makes a reasonable amount of sense is kind of discouraging. Still, there are always ways for Adventurers to do things that are unavailable to most. For example, Granny’s Mystic Architecture allows residents at the House of Wisdom to substitute her Mystic Artist skill check (as built into the structure) for their Concentration checks. Her skill check would have been made using the Celeano Manuscripts, Luck, a +3 Room bonus, and some Aid Another, for a total check of about 71 and a net total of 50 XP per half-time week of classes or about 2000 XP per “school year”.

That’s actually pretty worthwhile. Spend a few low-risk years at the House of Wisdom and you can easily hit second or third level, even if you won’t have much of any treasure – at least outside of any part time earnings – unless the game master is using “wealth by level” as a law of nature instead of a game convenience.

Of course, in a realm where good and evil are forces of nature, and where creatures of the lower planes offer pacts in exchange for service or sacrifices… some children are just murderous, or are naturally evil, or are possessed, or any of a dozen other things. And Granny has uses for those as well. After all, despicable were-rat henchmen, evil grand viziers (who do all the unpleasant, dishonorable, and – above all else – PRACTICAL things that need to be done when you’re running a kingdom), thugs, thieves, assassins, and cursed monsters have to come from SOMEWHERE don’t they? And once you’re satisfied that a child is best suited for such a role… it is only fair to extend the power of The Dark Veil (whether via the Blessing ability through a relic or through some cleverly-phrased curse) to them and thus erase them from both memory and record. After that – and a curse of being unable to reveal any of Grannies more dubious activities or talents – the Thieves Guild or her monstrous servants will have another recruit.

And Granny, of course, will continue to maintain her extremely high rate of “success” in raising kids, since many of her major failures (or perhaps malign successes) will simply vanish from memory and record.

Granny may have designed and built the House of Wisdom, but it’s not really one of her personal assets any longer. It’s a governmental facility. Several other officials work there, it’s an orphanage and school, and it’s a training center for beginning heroes. It’s also a very unlikely place for a major confrontation, so game statistics are mostly unnecessary.

The Thieves Guild.

If you’re going to have crime – and you ALWAYS will – it might as well be well organized crime. Besides… you need a place to fence ill-gotten gains, to keep your monsters, and to hire assassins to deal with threats to your realm. Paying modest fees for “insurance” (and to feed the beggars and street children and such) is simply another form of taxation. Ergo Granny provides cheap mystic architecture to the Underworld – granting the Guild a secretive stronghold that protects against divinatory powers (and possibly against teleporting past the walls), helps heal their injuries and renew their abilities, radiates indifference (discouraging non-members from taking enough interest to investigate), and grants them the ability to create and carry a small number of minor relics – allowing them to learn both to create a selection and take along only the ones that they need.

In many settings this will also double as an “adventurers guild”. Even those adventurers who go above and beyond being murder-hobos are generally violent, inclined to accumulate dangerous (and possibly illegal) devices, magic, and substances, have swarms of enemies, attract monsters, try to solve most of their problems by killing things, and are usually homeless tax evaders. They may be needed when there’s a dragon coming, but most of the time they’re about as undesirable as it gets. Staying at a place that asks no questions, has good food and comfortable beds, that enforces rules like “no killing or stealing on the premises” effectively, that protects against divination, that helps them heal up and regain their powers quickly, that can obtain all kinds of gear for them, and which probably also has kids who run errands cheaply and congenial sex workers living on the premises, is about as good as it gets. 

Well, at least until they take over a kingdom to run into the ground.

Tales of the Dark Enchantress: The Shadow Over Greendale

Greendale perched on the foothills overlooking the river below the mountains, and it’s people trembled. The same pass which brought trade and wealth would now bring destruction. For the Hordes of the Wastes came, as relentless as a tide, and their homes would fall in fire and blood. It was but two days away, and reinforcements – or refuge – would be a week or more. Some fled, in hopes that destroying Greendale would somehow delay the horde long enough for them to escape it’s outriders – even as those outriders already lay in wait along the escape routes. Most took up arms and prepared for death – and prayed to the Light for a miracle.

Others offered prayers and sacrifice to any power that would aid them, making fearful promises of gifts, and service, and offspring – and that night the Darkness answered. The moon hid it’s face and the shadows spread unbroken as an obsidian tower rose – the unhallowed gateway-tomb of the storied Dark Enchantress, crypt and entrance to the underworld. From it, wrapped once more in decaying flesh, her long-fallen spirit strode forth – burning with witchfire and corpse-light, Behind her marched a Legion of Hades, an army of long dead and damned warriors that manned the pallid walls of bone which had erupted about Greendale.

And the Horde came against the town for three days – but the dead held the walls, and the living could not pass save into the grave. The dread curses of the Dark Enchantress wrought havoc upon the horde as well. Against her the shamans of the Horde hurled spells of death, of paralysis, of annihilation, and more – but none would bite upon her undead flesh. The Warlord of the Horde – Arthewn of the Iron Axe – heard the voice of the Witch who barred his path and was swallowed up living by the earth. To this day, each year on the dark of the midwinter moon his voice can be heard amid the hills, pleading for some brave and adventurous soul to take pity, dare the deep caverns of the Labyrinth of Nightmares which holds him, and free his soul from torment.

None yet has dared attempt the deed.

For three days of battle the walls of bone ran red with blood – but upon the fourth day the horde was broken upon the dark arts and iron will of the ancient Hag of the Underworld, and fled, harried by a thousand dreadful curses and the creatures of the infernal realms. The army of the damned swept forth to slaughter the wounded foe and their camp followers – and then returned to the crypt, taking along – and into the service of their unholy mistress – a score of Greendale’s youths, the price paid for the assistance of the Witch-Queen. And the crypt trembled, and collapsed once more into the earth, leaving behind only a dark altar.

Today, at that altar, the masked and hooded people of Greendale make a yearly offering in thanks for their dread deliverance – and in hopes that the darkness need never rise again. That offering is most often of meat and wine – but every so often, when the signs are bad and the lost souls moan upon the wind, it is a condemned youths – thieves, or murderers, or some such – who will be gone when comes the dawn. For life was given, and life must be repaid.

Not surprisingly, the defense of Greendale called on the majority of Grannies powers, most notably:

  • Creating a Relic or Relics to boost her Dream-Binding ability and to bolster her personal defenses.
  • Dream-Binding to create stone city walls and some gatehouses (about 8000 GP), a City Father (24,000 GP), the “Crypt” (basically another gatehouse with a war-room (3000 GP) and a “summon army” (120,000 GP) setup in the basement), and City Stores (8000 GP) to provide supplies. (This means she has to get a minimum of a +3 bonus – probably through a relic providing Skill Focus and Skill Emphasis, so as to have some margin).
  • Mystic Architecture to make the walls effectively invulnerable to siege engineering and being bypassed by magic and to bestow a huge range of bonuses – one set from the Crypt and one set from the Walls – on the defenders.
  • Foresight to always have everything in place and ready to repel the Horde – and to combine with her Legendarium power array to have appropriate defenses from her panoply (below, often a Talisman of Undying Fortitude) going whenever attacked.
  • Craft (Image) (and, personally, her Hat of Disguise) to provide the horrific special effects.
  • Her personal powers – summoning, group-curses, and battle magic – could and did take a toll on the opposing troops as well, even if major opponents could often resist her. (Managing to take out Arthewn was something of a stroke of luck).
    • Oh, the kids? Those were, and generally still are, much better off with some extra training, some appreciation for their evil talents, and a chance to join a PROPER Thieves Guild or become true monsters or some such. It’s not like Granny is big on dead people or on torture or such when she has no need to make a point.

It’s worth noting that this general setup wouldn’t work against an elder dragon, or a party of high-level adventurers, or some similar menace. Granny’s powers are very good at dealing with masses of opponents, and she is personally very good at escaping, but she simply isn’t built to confront major monsters. That’s a job for Adventurers or Heroes – and she is neither. 

Grannies Legendarium Panoply:

  • Head: Veil of Nimue: (97,100 GP Total):
    • Scouts Headband (3400 GP) with +3 Daily Charges (6 total, +3000 GP) +2 Competence to Perception, spend 1/2/3 charges to gain 60′ Darkvision for an hour/see invisible for ten minutes/true seeing for one minute.
    • Also functions as a Hat of Disguise (x1.5 surcharge for second function = 2700 GP)
    • Grants a +6 Enhancement bonus to Charisma (36,000 GP) and Intelligence (36,000 GP, as a permanent self-enhancement it adds to skill points normally), and a +4 to Wisdom (16,000 GP). Per the Magic Item Compendium, attribute boosts may be added to other items without extra cost.
  • Face: Masque of Medea (11,900 GP):
    • Raptors Mask (3500 GP), +5 to Perception, wearer is immune to Blindness and Dazzling.
    • Also functions as Third Eye Freedom (1.5x surcharge, 3900 GP). Immediate action provides one round of Freedom of Action once per day.
    • Also functions as a Third Eye Clarity (1.5x surcharge 4500 GP). Once per day negates a confused, dazed, fascinated, or stunned condition as an immediate action that those conditions cannot prevent.
  • Throat: The Undying Breath of Koschei (50,300 GP).
    • Talisman of Undying Fortitude (4 Charges, 16,000 GP). Activate as a swift action to gain the ability to survive without breathing and immunity to poison, sleep effects, paralysis, stunning, disease, death effects, critical hits, nonlethal damage, physical ability damage, ability drain, energy drain, fatigue, exhaustion, death from massive damage, and any effect that requires a Fortitude save for 3 rounds.
      • Intelligent: Int, Wis, and Chr 14 (3000 GP), Telepathy, 120′ Senses, Blindsense, and Read Languages (8000 GP). As an Intelligent Item it has it’s own item slots – and so, can use the powers of a Ring of the Forcewall (5100 GP), Healing Belt (6 Charges, 1500 GP), Rod of Bodily Restoration (3100 GP), Orb of Mental Renewal (3100 GP), and Amulet of Tears (9 Charges, 6900 GP). It can cast Nerveskitter, Resurgence, and Magic Missile 3/Day each at caster level seventeen (3600 GP).
  • Shoulders: Cloak of Abramelin (34,250 GP).
    • Shadow Cloak (5500 GP) +1 Deflection Bonus to AC, three times per day, as an immediate action in response to an attack, you may either gain Concealment or Teleport ten feet to a space you can clearly see.
    • Also functions as a Vanisher Cloak (x1.5 Surcharge, 3750 GP). 3 Charges/Day, spend 1/2/3 as a swift action to gain invisibility for 4 rounds/you and an adjacent ally become invisible for 3 rounds/you and three adjacent allies become invisible for 2 rounds.
    • Also grants a +5 Resistance bonus to Saving Throws (25,000 GP, per the Magic Item Compendium there is no surcharge for adding this as a secondary function).
  • (Ring) Sigil of Circe: (40,700 GP).
    • Ring of Mind Shielding (8000 GP). Immune to Detect Thoughts, Discern Lies and Alignment Detection.
    • Also functions as a Ring of Anticipation (x1.5 Surcharge, 9000 GP): +3 Competence Bonus to Perception, may roll initiative checks twice and take the best result.
    • Also functions as a Ring of Feather Falling (x1.5 Surcharge, 3300 GP).
    • Also functions as Ring of Sustenance (x1.5 Surcharge, 3750 GP).
    • Also functions as two Rings of Counterspells (x1.5 Surcharge, 12,000 GP).
      • Note that, in combination with Foresight, this pretty much allows Granny to ignore any two spells of up to level six per day.
  • (Belt) Girding of Aradia (48,000 GP):
    • +4 Competence Bonus to All Skills (Skill Mastery, L2 x CL5 x 2000 GP = 20,000 GP).
    • Also functions as a Belt of Battle (x1.5 Surcharge, 18,000 GP). +2 Competence Bonus to Initiative, 3 Charges/Day, spend 1/2/3 as a swift action to gain a move action/a standard action/a full-round action.
    • Also provides +2 Enhancement Bonuses to Strength (4000 GP) and Dexterity (4000 GP). Per the Magic Item Compendium, attribute boosts may be added to other items without extra cost.
    • Also functions as a Handy Haversack (2000 GP, normally slotless).
  • (No Slot) Cauldron of Holda (Epic Adventurers Supply Pouch, 33,000 GP). Note that this allows Granny to produce 2250 GP worth of stuff per day – allowing her to set up some 16,000 GP worth of buildings per week.
  • (No Slot) Favor of Abaris (37,770 GP):
    • Good Fortune: Aura of Favor (SL1), Fortune’s Favor (SL0), and Ward of Heaven (SL1) x CL3 x 2000 GP x 2 (Slotless) = 15,000 GP. Provides a +1 Luck Bonus to Saves, AC, Attacks, Damage, Skill Checks, and Ability Checks.
    • Also functions as a Gangsta Wrap VI (22,770 GP, already slotless). Granny has four sixth level minions, which can be replaced on a monthly basis.
  • (No Slot) Talisman of the Sabbat (28,500 GP): As per a Figurine Of Wondrous Power; Obsidian Steed. This allows Granny to easily visit various planes and meet with her covens.

Next up: Granny’s special powers.

 

Granny – Skills, Skill Tricks, and Skill-Related Abilities

Skills are very important to Granny; so she’s spent a fair chunk of points – in fact, 111, well over a third of her total and more than any normal class – on acquiring and enhancing them.

Skill Enhancements:

  • Upgrade Pathfinder Package Deal Fast Learner to Triple Effect (4 CP). This is cheesy, but NPC political figures can usually be allowed a little cheese – and a handful of extra skill or hit points really isn’t all that important.
  • Fast Learner, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (+3 CP/Level): Only for buying Skill Enhancing Abilities, must buy at least one “skill trick” per level (6 CP). This provides +3 CP / Level to buy skill-enhancing abilities with.
  • Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (adds Cha Mod to Int Mod for Skill Point purposes, Specialized and Corrupted/only adds to skill points through level five, 6 CP). Over several centuries, Granny has had a lot of time to let helpful people show her how to do things – but that’s gotten less and less effective as fewer and fewer of them have anything to show her.
  • Available Skill Points: 136 (L1-5: 8 x [Int Mod + Cha Mod]) + 21 (L6-8 3 x Int Mod) +3 (Purchased, 3 CP) +6 (Favored Class) = 166 SP.
  • Augmented Bonus; adds (Int Mod) to (Cha Mod) for skill purposes (6 CP)
  • Augmented Bonus: adds (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) for skill purposes (6 CP).
  • Access to three Occult Skills – Foresight, Legendarium, and Dream-Binding (9 CP)
  • Adept: Foresight, Knowledge/Engineering, Legendarium, and Spellcraft (6 CP)
  • Adept: Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Perception (6 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, Only for Skills, only to “take 20″ in advance (no rerolls) (4 CP).
  • Skill Emphasis (3 CP) and Skill Focus (6 CP) (both in Legendarium).
  • Given that Granny has a lot of built-in “equipment” thanks to her Legendarium skill, a suitable “masterwork tool” (or tools) for all her skills may be more or less assumed.

This gives all of her Int or Cha Based skills a base of +7 (Int) +10 (Cha) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +27 Base. Ergo, that will be the assumed base below.

Intelligence and Charisma Based Skills:

  • Bluff +11 (5 SP*) = +38
    • Skill Trick/Spinning a Whopper: Mystic Artist (for Bluff), Specialized and Corrupted / provides the Manipulation options of Fascinate and Hold Audience only (2 CP). This isn’t nearly as important to Granny as is used to be – her other powers far surpass this sort of trivia anyway these days – but it was fairly useful early on.
    • This is something of a stretch – Bluff is not usually considered a suitable skill for Mystic Artist – but convincing your listeners that they really do want to keep listening to this insane story does seem right in line with the Bluff skill.
  • Craft; Alchemy +2 (2 SP) = +29
    • Skill Trick/Touch of the Philosophers: +4 CP worth of Innate Enchantment, Spell Level 1 x Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated. Dexterous Fingers (Trickster Magi list. Reduces the time required to use a skill by three rounds. If this results in zero time or “less” it becomes a free action. If applied on a continuous basis throughout a skill-based crafting project, it reduces the required time by 75% or allows a project to proceed at normal speed while only taking up a couple of downtime hours per day, so that it, like studying spells, can proceed while adventuring) (2000 GP) and Alchemical Tinkering (Pathfinder), both Specialized for Reduced Cost (requires a DC 20 Alchemy check, only for Alchemy, tinkering only works on alchemical bases and catalysts (under Haagenti), not on guns or existing items) (2 CP).

Granny is mostly a herbalist, but at this point – after centuries of refining her will – she is easily capable of imposing temporary structure on alchemical raw materials with little more than a touch – both producing items as needed and accomplishing her projects very quickly indeed. That isn’t actually much use given her current abilities – an extra 25 GP per day, even if the cost is no more than a little casual dabbling that she’d probably do anyway, means very little to her now – but having people come to her for medicines for their children, and special supplies, and so on, is a useful window into the community to keep open.

  • Craft; Foodstuffs +3 (3 SP) = +30
    • Note that Specific Knowledge/the recipes and procedures for up to (Int) basic meals or complex dishes comes with each skill point invested in Craft/Foodstuffs – and that cooking has a base DC of 5. Thus “taking 10″ normally gets you 25 at DC 25 – allowing a cook with basic skills to ready a good meal for two, a common meal for four, or a poor meal for twelve, in about an hour. Having done quite a lot of cooking… that’s much more reasonable than the roughly one day per common meal figure that
    • Skill Trick/Good Eats: +2000 GP Innate Enchantment/Good Meal (as per Good Berry, but works on freshly-prepared meals, snacks, or candies). Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP (2 CP). This handy talent allows the user to greatly stretch short supplies or provide a days meals to a (size) small child in the form of a single candy.
    • OK, so Granny has learned how to cook most of her favorite dishes. After all, in some cases she’s the only one who remembers what they are.
  • Craft; Image +5 (5 SP) = +32

Craft; Image is the art of adding sensory impressions to your works. Do you want your Flash Powder to provide a fireworks display? Make your cheap wine taste like the finest vintage? Cause smoke to take on a monstrous form? Make your sonic blast into a celestial song? Play Gandalf and make your alchemical firework take the form of a stooping dragon? Make a stage seem like a window into a great city for your play? Make a thin mattress more comfortable? Make your Fireball into a skull blazing with green fire that explodes? When you want to play with your special effects, than Craft Image is the skill for you. It‘s DC 5/10/20 to add Minor/Notable/Major impressions to something:, +5/10 for Large / Colossal targets, and +5 if you want the impression to linger beyond the duration of the item or effect it’s applied to. Since sensory impressions have no actual value, this counts as a part of the same activity that produces or prepares the item to be modified. Thus the check could be made while casting a spell, building a stage backdrop, or preparing food or drink to be served. As a side effect, the user may add (Skill Check / 15, rounded down) to the DC’s of saves against his or her relevant (those that generate actual detailed images to deceive people) illusion effects.

Craft Image doesn’t really change the game mechanics much, but it does let you describe your stuff as dramatically as you like. Go ahead. Build two identical castles, describe one as a “dark and ominous mass, crouching atop the hill like a ravenous beast poised to descend on the hapless villages below and wreck havoc” and the other as “a shining citadel, a beacon of protection offering a place of refuge to the hapless villages below” and see which one attracts valiant heroes to defend it and which one attracts would-be minions and valiant heroes who want to attack it.

  • Craft; Policy +11 (11 SP) = +38
    • Craft Policy was covered in a prior article, HERE.
  • Diplomacy +11 (5 SP*) = +38
    • Skill Trick/Snare of Words: Immunity/The distinction between Diplomacy and a Martial Art equal to the total value sans tools (Uncommon, Major, Minor, Specialized and Corrupted/only works against creatures of types who could normally be affected by Diplomacy but who are arbitrarily immune (IE; being player characters/”destined heroes” or plot requirements) (2 CP). Even those who are somehow impervious to persuasion can be distracted, affected by guilt, and otherwise troubled by skilled words. Against such opponents the user gains +2 to Intimidate, +2 to Bluff, +4 to AC, DR 4/-, 8d6 of (nonlethal damage) Sneak Attack, Inner Strength, Iron Skin, Light Foot, and Resist Pain. All of this can, however, be bypassed by engaging in conversation, listening to her monologues, spending time trying to persuade her to turn away from her evil ways, and rationally responding to her arguments before starting a fight.
      • Skill Trick/Heraldic Privilege: Upgrade Snare of Words to Specialized for Increased Effect (gains +4 to Intimidate, +4 to Bluff, +8 to AC, DR 8/-, 8d6 of Sneak Attack, and double-strength Inner Strength, Iron Skin, Light Foot, and Resist Pain (+2 CP).
        • Skill Trick/Diplomatic Immunity: Upgrade Heraldic Privilege to Triple Effect (+2 CP). The user gains +6 to Intimidate, +6 to Bluff, +12 to AC, DR 12/-, 12d6 of Sneak Attack, and triple-strength Inner Strength, Iron Skin, Light Foot, and Resist Pain (+2 CP).

With these tricks about the characters WILL politely let the villain monologue, and offer them a chance to reform and make their own heroic speeches, or they will make their “boss fight” a great deal harder (and perhaps near-impossible; Triple-Strength Iron Skin and Resist Pain will get the AC boost up to +24 and the DR to 24/-). I’ll pay for Granny to have the full 6 CP package I think.

To be sensible, Granny really ought to have a normal martial art that would help her deal with monsters and other NPC’s rather than a special ability designed to justify cinematic “confronting the villain” tropes. I suppose she could get one though a relic if she really HAD to have one – but if it comes down to a direct fight that she can’t weasel out of Granny has basically lost already. Her goal is to be the invisible chessmaster and the power behind the throne. From her point of view… if you know enough to actually be coming after HER instead of her “Dark Enchantress” decoy persona her schemes are collapsing already – and her last hope is to get you to LISTEN TO HER and consider whether or not she’s a net benefit to have around, evil or not. Ergo, a last-ditch ability to try and force negotiations.

  • Disguise +11 (11 SP) = +38
    • Skill Trick / Method Acting: Immunity to Gather Information, Sense Motive, and Alignment Detection (Very Common, Minor, Trivial, Specialized/Only if the user’s Disguise skill check equals or exceeds the opposing Skill Check or Caster Level Check, in which case the opponent using the ability will detect the user’s cover, rather than the underlying reality, 2 CP).

Like it or not, if spells like “know alignment” are at all common, public figures are going to be hit with them regularly – and getting no answer will be seen as them having something to hide, no matter how many reasons are given for maintaining their privacy. They’re going to HAVE to have some ability along these lines to function at all.

While this is partially overridden by her Mind Shielding effect, that simply blocks detection, while this trick allows the user to create a false result – which is far less suspicious than getting no result. 

  • Dream-Binding +11 (11 SP) = +38. +3 Specialty in Caer Hunleff (1 SP).
    • Smith of Dreams: Granny’s Dream-Binding is Specialized for Increased Effect (she simply treats her total skill bonus – including any permanent personal magical bonuses – squared x 100 GP as her budget to “buy”things with, although she still can’t dream up expendable items) / she cannot use the magical items that she “creates” herself; she can only use them to equip others – although if she creates downtime structures she can live or work in those. With a total value of 144,400 GP (plus 23,700 for Caer Hunleff), Granny can readily equip lower-level parties or maintain a fair amount of infrastructure all by herself.

Yes, this means that Granny can, if she wishes, be a load-bearing boss; if and when she dies, her dreams, including any structures that she has dreamed into being, will go with her.

  • Skill Trick/Forge of Dreams. Immunity/having to go shopping or build (Common, Minor, Major, Specialized and Corrupted/items to be rendered permanent must be “created” with dream-binding and then made permanent – expending alchemical components with a cost equal to the normal cost of the item (2 CP).

And here we have another handy trick; Granny can get you supplies, various permanent magic items, and create buildings, overnight – but there’s no point in trying to rob her; she hasn’t got stockpiles of stuff (save, perhaps, for basic herbs). She may have a supply of Alchemical Catalysts (covered in more detail under Haagenti in THIS article), but at 100 GP per ounce she can carry 48,000 GP worth in a thirty pound bag – and that will be safely tucked away in a personal extradimensional space. No more “magic item shop” problems. Instead the ancient hag in the woods can supply you with the magical items you need for your quest – and when those same items vanish, are depleted, or are sacrificed at the end of the quest, there’s nothing to complain about; they have simply returned to the realms of dream from which they were temporarily drawn.

  • Foresight +11 (5 SP*) = +38
    • Foresight is basically made of skill tricks. Granny, not being a spellcaster, usually uses it for her political maneuvering, to just “happen” to have the relics she’ll need at any given moment be the ones that she’s using, and to just happen to have convenient items dreamed into existence at any given moment.
  • Handle Animal +5 (5 SP) = +32
    • Skill Trick/Tyrant Master: Immunity/the distinction between animals and other creatures for skill purposes (Uncommon, Major, Minor, Specialized and Corrupted/only covers “domesticating” and “training” monsters and slaves) (2 CP).
  • Intimidate +11 (5 SP*) = +38
    • Skill Trick/Sonorous Iron Voice (Cha Based Martial Art): +2 (2 SP) +17 (Cha + Int) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +29 (+22 for buying abilities). Sonorous Iron Voice focuses on the throat chakra, imbuing the user’s voice with supernatural power – generating sonic blasts and vibratory effects – it can also add subtle, manipulative, overtones to the user’s words.
      • Granny’s eleven current abilities include +2 Synergy to Diplomacy, +2 Synergy to Intimidate, +2 Synergy to Bluff, +2 Synergy to Sense Motive, Battlecry (Variant: may make an Intimidate check against all opponents within 30 feet as a standard action once per encounter), Mobility, Mind Like Moon, Inner Strength x2, Ki Focus (+4 Sacred Bonus to Charisma), and Wrath (Sonic Damage) (2 SP for a net +20).
      • Granny will usually use this form in noncombat situations, but – since she may or may not be doing so in at any given time – it’s benefits have not been included in her skill totals.

Technically this isn’t a “skill trick” since it’s really a separate skill instead of a power that builds on an existing skill – but it’s set up to cost two skill points and the primary function is to provide the effects of the classical “never outnumbered” skill trick in allowing a mass intimidation check. That seems quite close enough to throw it into the category. Secondarily, it only works cheaply thanks to Granny’s absurd boosts to Charisma and Intelligence based skills, but there’s no reason not to take advantage of that if you can persuade the game master that such an art should exist. Given that she’s had centuries in which to get someone to invent and develop it for her, I’d say that it’s justified.

 

When it comes to Knowledge skills, Granny originally studied engineering and architecture because she wanted a palace and didn’t want to trust someone else to design her secret passages and escape routes. She picked up a fair knowledge of the Nobility and Local Information while ruling, of History while living through it, and of Arcana by dabbling across the centuries – but she’s not really a scholar. On the other hand even the rule-of-thumb knowledge of basic principles (putting in a skill point or two) will get you a long way when your effective “intelligence” (a +17 modifier?) puts you well beyond most comic book super-geniuses.

  • Knowledge; Arcana +5 (1 SP) = +32
  • Knowledge; Dungeoneering +1 (1 SP) = +28
  • Knowledge; Engineering +11 (5 SP*) = +38. +3 Specialty in Mystic Architecture. Base (for Mystic Artist abilities) = +37.
    • Mystic Artist with Seeking for Engineering (Architecture) (12 CP).
      • Inspiration Abilities: Emotion, Competence, Excellence, Mass Greatness, Mass Excellence, and Heroism.
      • Synergy Abilities: Block, Group Focus, Harmonize, and Serenity.
      • Manipulation Abilities: Hold Audience and Suggestion. Granny can access Emotional Auras and Freedom, but needs to be using one of her Relics to do so.

Granny is a formidable mystic architect. What’s more, she’s fully capable of using Dream -Binding to create a citadel and a fortification around a settlement overnight (even if she does tend to have the locals do enough work to disguise the fact that she doesn’t actually need them. Its better for their morale that way). That’s a pretty massive defensive advantage.

It also means that if you attack and destroy the Dark Enchantresses castle… she’ll just make a new one someplace else a day or two later. She may even move it from time to time just to make it harder to find.

  • Knowledge; Geography +1 (1 SP) = +28
  • Knowledge; History +5 (5 SP) = +32
  • Knowledge; Local +5 (1 SP) = +32
  • Knowledge; Nature +1 (1 SP) = +28
  • Knowledge; Nobility +5 (5 SP) = +32
  • Knowledge; Planes +1 (1 SP) = +28
  • Knowledge; Religion +1 (1 SP) = +28

The Celeano Manuscripts: As per a Mask of a Thousand Tomes, but consists of several hundred massive tomes (basically immobile, x .5), requiring a DC 20 Linguistics check (x.8) and at least 1d4 hours of intense study and concentration in a suitable library to use (x.8) = 3200 GP. If you have the time to use the Manuscripts they provides a +10 competence bonus to any Knowledge skill check – for Granny, a net +8 over the competence bonus that’s already included in the values above.

  • Ritual Magic (Atherian Variant). Atherian Ritual Magic allows knowledge skills to be used to generate magical effects, in much the same way that – in magic-free reality – knowledge can be used to create technologies, solve problems, and accomplish goals rather than simply allowing the game master to provide some exposition and offering clues as to how to fight monsters. In effect, Atherian Ritual Magic is sort of a generic “skill trick” for all knowledge skills. To keep things under control, Granny’s abilities are Corrupted: even with the time-saving trick below, she may enact no more than (Cha Mod) rituals per day – and major rituals count as three minor ones (4 CP)
    • Skill Trick/Words of Creation: Immunity / the time required to use Atherian-type magical rituals (Uncommon, Minor, Minor, 2 CP). This reduces the time requirements by two steps. A normally ten-minute ritual to get the household drains working would thus be reduced to one full action (Tens of Minutes to Minutes, Minutes to Full Actions) – although she must still get the relevant components from her Ritual Chest or Supply Pouch. Of course, the three-day ritual of Planar Transference would only be reduced to to hours (three days to one day, one day to hours).

In general, Granny can perform an immense variety of useful, albeit non-combative, rituals with relative ease – warding cottages against fires, chasing pests out of the fields, tracing bloodlines, predicting the weather, immunizing a village against a horrible disease, insulating and warming households during a bad winter, dowsing for the best place to dig a well, locating lost children, laying restless spirits, and so on. She can summon demons, raise a swarm of skeletons, or make it rain holy water too – but those are much bigger projects, and are likely to call for rare ingredients, considerably more time, and very high DC’s.

  • Legendarium +11 (5 SP*) +7 (Int) +10 (Cha) +2 (Skill Emphasis) +3 (Skill Focus) +3 (Path) = +36. Sadly, Granny’s usual +7 in magical and equipment bonuses is irrelevant here – but her massive attribute bonuses and skill-boosting feats still turn this into 388,800 GP worth of “gear”.
    • Specialized for Double Effect; “Items” purchased with Legendarium must be purchased as slot-free items at double cost. Granny’s items take up slots under the normal rules (and may have stacked effects under the normal rules), but are purchased at normal costs.  In effect, she just “spends” her Legendarium funds to purchase her “panoply” normally.
    • This also means that Granny has, over her extended lifetime, accomplished at least eighteen great deeds and seen them become a part of her legend. While her Dark Veil (from her Channeling powers) keeps those tales focused on “The Dark Enchantress” instead of on “Granny”, anyone who spends some time on Gather Information or research will be able to pick them up and get a pretty good idea of the Dark Enchantress’s capabilities. Specialized for Double Effect / items “purchased” with Legendarium must be bought as slot-free items for double cost. In Granny’s case they take up item slots normally regardless, and the stacking enchantments rules must be applied – so while her items may be powers derived from her legend, they are built just like normal items. Legendarium is a pretty major power for Granny – but then, one way or another, she’s invested quite a lot of character points into boosting her skills.
  • Linguistics +1 (1 SP) = +28
    • Skill Trick/Polyglot: Immunity/Awkward Linguistics Mechanics (Uncommon, Minor, Minor, 2 CP). Granny knows her base racial languages plus a number of languages equal to her total permanent Linguistics score. That will include Common, Sylvan, Infernal, Abyssal, Dwarven, Elven, and at least twenty-one more. In general, as an NPC, just assume that Granny knows all the tolerably common languages in the setting.
  • Perform; Acting +5 (5 SP) = +32
    • Skill Trick / Rumored Fame: Immunity to the distinction between Charisma and Reputation scores (Uncommon, Minor, Major, Corrupted/only uses 2/3’rds of the users Charisma score, 2 CP). Given her 30 Charisma this gives her an effective 20 on her Reputation score – which means that pretty much everyone in the country and nearby countries will have heard of her. That’s usually worth a substantial bonus on social interaction rolls.

This would be more expensive – but it can generally be assumed that any time the game master has the characters interacting with a V,I,P, he or she will be making a point of bringing it up anyway. There’s no point in having an NPC be famous or important if you don’t tell the player characters about it. Characters will develop reputations whether they buy one or not – but buying one offers them control. This option boosts one, but offers little control. Just allowing one to develop is a very hit-or-miss proposition – much more appropriate to wandering adventurers than to political figures.

  • Perform; Oratory +5 (5 SP) = +32 (+25 Base)
    • Mystic Artist/Oratory (10 abilities) with Echoes (12 CP):
      • Manipulation Abilities: Fascinate, Hold Audience, Emotional Auras, and Freedom.
      • Synergy Abilities: Block, Group Focus, Amplify, Harmonize, Serenity, and Rule the Horde.

Granny’s oratory has been polished across the centuries. She can weave suggestions, inspire overpowering emotions, break enchantments, enhance magic, renew her targets daily abilities, and more, selecting any two of those at a time and allowing those powers to echo back up to three times during the next two weeks.

This ability makes Granny’s tall tales pretty much redundant – but they’re cheap anyway and it never hurts to have a backup method of doing things. If this was an ultra-efficient build (instead of just exploitative) she’d probably have retrained those 2 CP – but Granny prefers to know that she can still tell a wild story with the best of them.

  • Perform; Strings +1 (1 SP) = +28
  • Perform; Sing +1 (1 SP) = +28
  • Qilin QiGong (Int): +3 (3 SP) +17 (Cha + Int) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +30 (+23 for buying abilities).
    • Qilin QiGong is a discipline of breath control and drifting movements to focus and channel C’hi, focusing on internal alchemy, the development of the Embryonic Pearl (a focus and reservoir of life force), and the amplification of the user’s inner strength. While it falls under the broad umbrella of the Martial Arts, it has only minor combat applications, and relatively few bother to develop them. Sadly, while truly skilled practitioners can maintain health and vigor into extreme old age, it does nothing to extend the user’s maximum lifespan. It can make it a lot easier to reach it though.
      • Granny’s twelve current abilities include: Synergy: +2 Craft/Alchemy, +2 Heal, +2 Fly, and +2 Perception, Toughness IV (a minor variant that protects against attribute drain and damage rather than physical injuries), Inner Strength II, Healing Hand, and Vanishing. These bonuses have not been included, since Granny is not always using this style.
  • Spellcraft +11 (5 SP*) = +38
    • Chaos Magic: 3d6 (12) Mana with Unskilled Magic, Specialized for Double Effect (costs only 1 Mana per level of the effect produced), Corrupted for Reduced Cost/only for unskilled magic, requires verbal and somatic components, Arcane or Hedge Magic effects only, requires a spellcraft check at a DC of 5 x the effective level of the effect being produced, commonly (and quite correctly) seen as a dangerous and unskilled use of magical energies (12 CP). In general: Charisma-based, Caster Level (7 + Effect Level, 10 Max), maximum effect level 6 (going above Caster Level/2 risks losing control at the option of the game master), requires a Charisma Check at DC (6 + Mana Used) to avoid dangerous side effects of one-half the level of the spell used. Success on this check still produces awkward and inconvenient side effects.
    • Fires of Creation: Rite of Chi with +(2 x Cha Mod) Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted: only to regain Mana in the unskilled magic pool above, requires at least five minutes of rest per die (6 CP).

This is an extremely cheap way to cast some fairly powerful freeform spells – but it’s rarely an attractive option for adventurers. Even disregarding the need for being of fairly high level, having very high attributes, a high spellcraft skill, and a high base will save just to make it work, few adventurers like risking random side effects. After all, casting Scorching Ray and having the party hit with Burning Hands, or being abruptly outlined with Faerie Fire even if the would-be magus makes the charisma check to avoid actively dangerous side effects, can really mess up your plans. There are reasons why Wild Mages have never really been popular – and why the Eclipse versions usually roll to see what kind of effects they have to work with this round and then have to figure out a way to use it rather than letting the game master do whatever he or she finds amusing at the moment.

Other Skills:

  • Fly (Dex) +2 (2 SP) +0 (Dex) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +12
  • Heal (Wis) +5 (5 SP) +5 (Wis) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +20, +3 Specialty in Pregnancy, Birthing, and Babies (1 SP).
    • With a +23 base, and access to Witchcraft, Rituals, and various Spells, Granny is capable of handling pretty much any childbirth. Given the number of kids she’s delivered over the centuries, this makes it even MORE awkward to confront her.
  • Perception (Wis) +11 (5 SP*) +5 (Wis) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) +5 (Gear) = +31
  • Profession (Lawyer) +6 (6 SP) +5 (Wis)+3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +21
    • You’re a part of the government, you get involved in legalistic disputes.
  • Ride (Dex) +2 (2 SP) +0 (Dex) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +12
  • Sense Motive (Wis) +11 (11 SP) +5 (Wis) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +26
  • Sleight Of Hand (Dex) +2 (2 SP) +0 (Dex) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +12
  • Stealth (Dex) +5 (5 SP) +0 (Dex) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +15
  • Survival (Wis) +2 (2 SP) +5 (Wis) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +15
  • Swim (Str) +3 (3 SP) +0 (Str)+3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = + 13

This may need a few tweaks later – working in sections makes it easy to forget a detail here and there and I very well may have misadded a few skill points in that enormous list – but next up it will be some skill applications – Granny’s Legendarium abilities and some Mystic Architecture (along with yet another approach to practical schools in d20).

Granny, The Secret Overlord

Part I: History and Basics

Long centuries past, a Dark Enchantress ruled her domains with an iron fist and terrible powers, laying curses upon defiant villages, sending monsters against rebels and dissidents, and enforcing fairly reasonable rules and tax rates, because she was a Dark Enchantress, not a stupid one.

Still, eventually a shining hero – a charismatic bard, who’s own magics were a match for hers – brought an end to her reign, as shining heroes do. He ruled the realm well enough, for while he (like so many shining heroes) had little skill in management or administration, he had enough sense to defer to people who did on such matters.

And his wife was fine with this, for having a Shining Hero to serve as a focus for the realm she’d founded worked even better at keeping things peaceful than rumors of her wicked ways, terrible curses, and invincible sorceries. It took little more than a change of clothes and hair color to let the tales of the Dark Enchantress recede into legend.

And when the Shining Hero – now a King, wise and full of years – died at last, his three heirs divided the realm between them, for the retiring Dowager Queen would not hear of shortchanging her younger children, or of conflict between them, or of setting one above the others.

And the tradition continued onto the next generation, as the two Dukes and a Duchess divided their lands amongst their children – making them Earls and Countesses beneath the nominal authority of the long-retired Dowager Queen. And all was well across a well-managed and prosperous land.

Today there is a realm of sturdy, prosperous, freeholders – a carefully tended baobab of a family tree rooted throughout the realm and tens of thousands strong, There are mayors, and city councils, and the structures of a loosely-organized society of equals inhabiting a peaceful and prosperous land.

And there is Granny. No one is quite sure just WHO’S Granny she is – but there is a certain Confucian finality about being the Ancestress, the Eldest, and the Matriarch, and everyone is glad to have her. Her advice comes with the wisdom of age, and her gentle, welcome, tyranny will – the realm hopes – continue for many years to come.

And then another Eldest will presumably take over as the giver of incontestably good advice to provide stability and wisdom. After all, while no one can quite remember who the previous Eldest was, or just when Granny became the Eldest – it must have happened sometime, right?

Granny is a pretty standard matriarchal archetype; she’s the tough-as-nails old woman who has been around long enough to see it all, who tells everyone what to do, who is listened to because she’s usually quite right – and who won’t hesitate to fill your ears with venom if you cross her or hers. She is ruthless, vengeful, shows little care or compassion for outsiders (although she does care for her friends and family), and is quite thoroughly selfish – albeit with an equally thoroughly rational understanding of how a stable, prosperous, society benefits her and hers in the long run and so is worth supporting because she’s still not stupid.

This being d20 however, Granny’s wrath is considerably worse than that of Conan the Barbarian. Are you an outsider who’s leading bandits in raiding her great-great grandchildren’s farms? Price gouging in an emergency? Running a (competing) protection racket? Granny will not hesitate to curse your kids to transform into (obedient to her) Barghests and have them slowly eat you alive. After that? They’ll make good slave-minion-creatures for her after you’re gone, and when some adventurer kills them… well, they’re now horrors of the lower planes. They’ll be happy there.

Then, of course, she might be feeling creative today and come up with something much, much, worse than that.

And yes, that’s pretty thoroughly lawful evil. Oh well!

Granny has taken an unconscionably long time to write up, mostly because her concept is really much too broad. We have the protective grandmother, the elderly queen, the venomous harridan, the evil beldame, the desiccated teacher, the evil/pragmatic (if not necessarily treacherous) grand vizier, and the wicked witch, all rolled up into one – and that lack of focus has made it difficult to touch on all the major elements, much less cover the minor secondary details.

Available Character Points: 216 (L8 Base) +10 (Disadvantages: History, Obligations (to whatever family she is most closely associated with at the moment), and Secret (she is the Dark Enchantress of legend)) +16 (Duties; national advisor/leader) +24 (Restrictions; Armor, Martial and Exotic Weapons, Expensive Personal Magical Items (more than 5% or her wealth-by-level). Granny’s various powers are very much rooted in her supreme self-confidence; relying on too much external stuff will seriously dampen her powers) +24 (L1, 3, 5, and 7 Bonus Feats) = 290 CP.

That’s actually quite a lot, especially since Granny isn’t really an adventurer and won’t be investing in large hit dice, much of any base attack bonus, or big saving throw bonuses. She’s a sage, a witch, and a matriarch. That doesn’t mean that she can’t put up a fight one way or another – this is d20 after all – but her first priority will be on escaping any form of personal confrontation, not on fighting to the bitter end.

Given that she’s successfully escaped for many centuries now, she’s going to be very good at it.

Race: Granny could be of pretty much any pathfinder-compatible race, although I’m going to assume a +2 bonus to Cha – and at least a slightly-extended lifespan would probably suit her best. She is, in any case, of Venerable age – although, due to her various abilities, this doesn’t really hinder her at all.

Package Deal: Granny has the Pathfinder Package Deal. For her build, the important bits are that she gets:

  • Fast Learner, Specialized and Corrupted/only works as long as the user sticks to a particular archetype and relatively narrow plan of development chosen at level one at each level, points may only be spent on skills and additional hit points (2 CP).
  • The ability to spend CP to buy HP directly.
  • A +3 Pathfinder Bonus on all “in-class” skills.

“Granny”

A.K.A. Endora (or Theodora), Zelena, Elphaba, Mama Yaga, Morgana, and many more names. For some reason, however, except when she’s going by “Smith” she always uses a name that ends in an “a”.

Titles: Realmfounder, Dark Enchantress, Queen and Dowager Queen, Dynast of the Realm, The Exalted One, The Wicked Witch of the West, Nightwarden, Matriarch, Ancestress, Grand Vizier, Dame, Mentor of Heroes, and Eldest.

Basic Attributes: Str 8 (+2 Leg = 10), Dex 8 (+2 Leg = 10), Con 14 (+4 Tat =18), Int 15 (+3 Age +6 Leg = 24), Wis 13 (+3 Age +4 Leg = 20), Chr 17 (+3 Age, +2 Level +6 Leg +2 Race = 30) (32 Point Buy, Aging Penalties bought off using Dominion Points).

Granny uses Tattoo Magic to boost her constitution because it provides her with a blatantly obvious explanation for why she isn’t frail and sickly, like so many extremely elderly people. The fact that she doesn’t really need it is easy to hide that way.

Basic Abilities (53 CP):

  • Hit Points: 12 (L1 3d4, 16 CP) + 22 (L2-8d4) +12 (Immortal Vigor) +48 (Con Mod x 12) +18 (Pathfinder Favored Class Bonus as enhanced, see below) = 100 HP.
  • BAB: +2, Specialized and Corrupted / Only for swatting unruly children, chasing animals with brooms, killing vermin, and similar household tasks (4 CP). Granny has never really practiced physical combat and any skill she acquired in passing in her youth has long since atrophied after centuries as a venerable old lady.
    • Technically, if you aren’t actually inflicting an effect it’s not an attack and does not require a roll. Ergo, Granny can automatically smack people with brooms and canes as long as this has no effect whatsoever beyond expressing irritation non-verbally.
  • Saves:
    • Fortitude: +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +4 (Con) +5 (Res) +1 (Luck) = +12
    • Reflex: +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) -1 (Dex) +5 (Res) +1 (Luck) = +7
    • Will: +6 (Purchased, 18 CP) +5 (Wis) +5 (Res) +1 (Luck) = +17
  • Combat Information:
  • Proficiencies: All simple weapons (3 CP). Granny may not have any serious martial training, but she is centuries old and she’s not an idiot.
  • Initiative: +0 (Dex). Granny does get to roll twice and keep the best roll though.
  • Move: 30′.
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +4 (Mage Armor) +4 (Force Shield) +1 (Luck) +4 (Martial Art) = 23 (35 and DR 12/- versus those who refuse to negotiate, see Skills).
  • Usual Weapons: Magic. What’s the point of being a Dark Enchantress if you’re going to fight with a weapon?

Part II will cover her various skills, skill-based powers, and a wide variety of skill tricks.

Eclipsing the Shows – World versus Marketing and My Little Pony

For today it’s some general discussion on setting games in media universes – and then a few specific answers to the question that brought it up. To start with the general theory…

There’s a subtle roadblock in the way of converting shows – whether we’re talking about Star Trek, Survivor, or My Little Pony (which this question was originally about) – into role-playing game settings. It’s simple enough that it’s often missed.

The shows are driven by marketing toys and advertising and details don’t matter, while in RPG settings the details matter a lot – and so they generally strive for internal consistency.

Why is that? Well, consider this situation.

The characters are pursuing a deadly assassin. An hour ago he slipped aboard a train that (the last few times the characters rode it) took ten hours to reach the city where the assassin’s targets live. The party frantically finds the evidence they need to identify him and readies a rocket plane that can make the trip in an hour. By dint of many heroic efforts, the party launches after seven hours. They will beat the assassin there by two hours and can get ready to capture him and/or defend the targets!

And then the game master informs the players that the train trip only took two hours. That might be because he forgot, or because his plot demands that the assassin take out at least some of his or her targets, or “because the train accidentally skipped several hundred miles of the trip thanks to quantum fluctuations”. The targets were all dead hours before the characters got their plane launched, and by the time the characters arrived the assassin had made good his escape.

Does that really sound like fun?

On a show it doesn’t matter if the setting is inconsistent because the writers are in control and things only matter when they want them to. That train travels at the speed of plot and will arrive just when it needs to to make the story work.

In a game where the players make most of the decisions consistency matters a great deal. Even games like Toon are internally consistent; the rules of cartoons may be a bit silly, but they are still rules. Otherwise… players rarely want to invest much time in a setting that they can’t make sense out of.

This can get quite awkward when you find yourself trying to come up with an in-setting reason for elements of the show that were driven by external factors. Since it was what the original question was about, I’ll take my examples from My Little Pony.

Looking at that show from an objective external point of view… major characters generally have:

  • Distinctive Features. They’ve all got easily recognized color schemes and clearly symbolic cutie marks. They inhabit a familiar-looking world full of easily recognizable stand-alone items that can be readily reproduced in bright plastic. A pony family can include almost any subtype of pony, since you want your collectable sets to include as many varieties of plastic models as can be managed. After all, toy sales are a big thing for the My Little Pony franchise.

Fortunately, this one is relatively easily “explained”. We can make noises about recessive genes, about how – in a world of special talents – quick identification of the right pony to handle a threat mattered a lot more than camouflage, about the effects of personal magic on appearance and how every pony has their own specific “frequency” and color, and how cutie marks are expressions of pure personal magic (although this fails to explain why so many of them are of human symbols that shouldn’t mean anything to ponies… Trixies wand? Unicorns use horns! A Judge with a gavel? Shouldn’t that be a hoofstomp? A garden sprayer with a looped pump handle (for hands) and a sprayer wand with a thumb-switch (made for hands and thumbs)? Wouldn’t a foot-pump and a pressure-operated jaw handle make a lot more sense? A gumball machine with a twist knob instead of a button? Scissors with finger-loops?

We can probably get away with not explaining the cutie marks and the horrible ergonomics of various pony tools though. Hardly anyone pays much attention to the “why” of various symbols and tools. Similarly, unless someone is REALLY big on creating artwork for the game details like “color intensity” will never come up – and even if someone is an artist, details can just be dismissed as “artistic license” by anyone who worries about them.

  • Strong – and Straightforward – Personalities. Allied characters like Big Macintosh and Shining Armor (somewhat idealized older brothers) have good and noble traits. Opponents, such as Sombra, Chrysalis, Discord, Starlight Glimmer, Trixie, and Sunset Shimmer, have ignoble traits and/or redeemable flaws (usually the opposite of the elements) – or are just big monsters, like Tirek or the Hydra. Minor characters, like the Flower Trio, tend to be defined by one or two basic reactive traits – in ponies, most often a tendency to overreact, panic, and either faint or run away (thus forcing the focus characters to fix things on their own).

This is the mental equivalent of the bright colors and distinctive features; the show doesn’t have a lot of time when it introduces characters to start with and it is primarily targeting youngsters. Ergo no complex motivations, unsolvable moral dilemmas, or really gray characters. Instead you get relatively simple, immediately apparent, and easy to distinguish motives and personality traits.

This tends to affect any production that has a limited amount of time to introduce characters in, but a twenty-two minute cartoon format tends to exaggerate things. It often passes without notice in actual play of course. After all, GM’s are rarely expert actors and also usually lack game time in which to introduce and extensively develop NPC’s since the focus is always on the PC’s – so most of the world is painted with very broad strokes indeed and the players are left to fill in the details. Still, we actually do have something more to work with in Equestria – where a set of six personality traits have been promoted to the status of cosmic forces. We actually have a good reason why a very limited, broadly defined, and easily portrayed set of personality traits will underlie all sorts of things – including a blatant link to special powers. Lets not waste it.

  • Special Powers. As befits a world full of minor superpowers, all adult major characters are going to have at least minor special abilities (if only so that they can get into trouble that the rest of the cast can’t just wave a hoof and fix). Kids usually get an incredible ability to get out of potentially lethal situations essentially unscathed, the ability to pop up out of nowhere whenever a plot complication or target for some exposition is needed, and the ability to create incredible messes or assemble massive projects the moment they get offscreen – although these will not usually be counted as “powers” since they exist to complicate the focus characters lives. The same goes for “Magic Surges” in infants; they need SOME way to make trouble beyond dirty diapers or they won’t be of much interest. In any case, good guy allies mostly just get powers because they are good guys – but opponents will usually either be tapping into “dark magic” (what I labeled the Discordant Powers), by stealing power like Tirek, or will have achieved their power through self-development over lengthy periods (neatly establishing that they really worked at being evil without actually having to show very much actual evil).

In RPG’s special powers are a large part of what makes the player characters interesting, so we need not account for their presence in a setting; the game system should handle that detail – but an in-universe justification for how they work and why some characters are more powerful than others is always welcome.

In this case we can simply reverse causation. Marketing gives special powers to major, recurring, characters to help keep them interesting and make their problems dramatic. We can just turn that around, stating that individual NPC’s become major, recurring, characters because they have special powers and dramatic problems.

  • Relationships. A lot of the allies – and likely some of the opponents – will either be a part of a focus characters family or at least strongly connected thereto. This makes it simple to introduce new characters, is a shorthand route to establishing connections with the focus characters, and provides a way to add some easily related to gratuitous complications (and opponents whom they won’t want to actually hurt) to the focus characters lives.

Here we’re fortunate; RPG’s usually have more time available to introduce characters – and all we really need to explain most of the existing relationships between high-powered types from the source material is to make some noises about “powerful bloodlines” or “secret rituals”, or some such. In Equestria, thanks to the Elements of Harmony, we can throw in family traits and traditions as well. Who is to say that Granny Smith’s weird rituals for growing Zap Apples don’t have effects beyond (or instead of?) growing the things? Maybe she’s actually six hundred years old and the Apple families enormous size, unity, and apparent general prosperity is the result of centuries of patient, matriarchal, earth pony rituals and witchery. Who knows?

Hm… now there’s another interesting character concept that I may or may not ever find the time to write up. I’ll see if it’s still sticking with me in the next week or so.

  • Unreasonably Tight Focus: The writers don’t want risk the viewers losing track of the characters – and want to focus on the best-developed and best-known characters because that’s what much of the audience wants to see. Ergo you get ineffectual guards, politicians and nobles who are either useless or obstructive, bystanders who never do anything but panic, get in the way, and need to be rescued, powerful elder mentors who do nothing but provide obscure advice and get readily defeated to establish various threats as genuine, and many similar tropes. You wind up with a small cast of very effective characters, a few specialized allies with potent abilities in very limited fields so they can be called in without overshadowing the focus characters, a bunch of near-helpless responsibilities, and some opposition – which can be slice-of-life and pretty much ineffectual as long as it really annoys people. That’s why Diamond Tiara and Prince Blueblood – an obnoxious child and a narcissistic snob – often outrank King Sombra (the local version of Sauron) and Starlight Glimmer (a grossly overpowered “dark wizard”) on fan villain lists.

Fortunately for our purposes, this one often gets by without explanation because RPG’s tend to assume an unreasonably tight focus on a set of player characters anyway – and if you really need an explanation, you can always fall back on various versions of “you’re just on the high end of the bell curve”, “destiny”, “the chosen ones”, mentor manipulation, or even “you just happened to be the ones in the area who fit the role enough to use the plot coupons”.

  • No Controversies. Shows shy away from anything that might hurt sales – especially in a series, where repeat viewers are are all-important to ratings (and thus advertising revenue) and merchandising. You aren’t, for example, going to find out much of anything about the characters sex lives, or see an episode about severe child abuse, or a school shooting, on a children’s show.

Finally, this one you really don’t have to bother with. A lack of data just means that you can fill in anything that fits the setting reasonably well in your head – and if a group doesn’t want to discuss something you just don’t spend any time on it. You can run a game set in the roman empire without going into detail on just what hideous fates Caligula is inflicting on his enemies families, or how decadent the parties get, or – for that matter – the mechanics underlying flooding the coliseum (and yes, they did that) for a “naval” event.

The writers don’t really bother with in-universe rationales for these decisions of course. Why should they? They’re focused on writing salable material and setting up for future episodes. A bit of world-building may come into that, but it’s generally not going to be the primary objective. Still, while “toy sales”, “targeting kids”, “because they’d bore the audience otherwise”, a double dose of “it makes it easy for the writers”, and “we’d lose money!” may be the actual truth, those reasons really won’t work as an “in the setting” explanation.

Ergo role playing gamers who want a consistent setting must resort to speculative theories – such as the theory from the prior article which prompted this – that, in the My Little Pony universe, strong virtues (and anti-virtues) provide characters with extra power. Of course, none of those theories will ever be explicitly stated, or even firmly supported, by the show that they’re about since they’re trying to map external marketing decisions to internal theories about the setting – but you can often come up with something that will match closely enough to pass.

Now as for the questions about this article that brought this up…

I’m not sure that I agree with regards to Cheese Sandwich. It’s true that he only got his “Cheesy Sense” after he started to emulate Pinkie, but there appears to be a key difference there: Pinkie’s “Pinkie Sense” (and, for that matter, Maud’s “Maud Sense”) is unrelated to her special talent, unlike with Cheese Sandwich.

As a party pony, Pinkie shouldn’t have any particular ability to sense incoming danger (nor Maud, with her fixation on rocks, be able to find things that have gone missing). That’s why Twilight is obsessed with explaining Pinkie’s ability in Feeling Pinkie Keen. (To my eyes, it looks like having a psionic wild talent runs in the Pie family.)

Cheese Sandwich, by contrast, is a party pony himself (even if his cutie mark is a little odd), and his Cheesy Sense lets him sense the direction of imminent parties. That seems like it’s just a (admittedly rather strong) aspect of his special talent. It may also be precognitive the way Pinkie’s Pinkie Sense is, but it’s precognitive in a way that fits with the magic of his cutie mark, and so seems like a different thing that just happens to resemble what Pinkie can do (the same way a lot of psionic powers have magical equivalents).

Also, this article references changelings as possibly being between dragons and ponies, but I have to wonder how Discord’s being a “draconequus” fits in there, even if he does seem like he’s a living inversion of Harmony (perhaps the Discordant Powers should be called the “Elements of Disharmony”?).

-Alzrius

Well, the point there was simply that Cheese Sandwich has abilities well beyond those of a normal earth pony – and apparently acquired many of those talents after working hard to become a paragon of laughter. After all, even if you discount most of the stuff from his musical numbers (wherein he warps reality with even less restraint than Discord does – well beyond the far more common “montage scenes” you get with most equestrian musical numbers), he still produced various things (including a giant cheese wheel, a seal (although it might just be Fluttershys), a hippo, a parade float, and a huge party tank) during the actual party, animated a rubber chicken, and more. It’s not that association with an element necessarily boosts your primary talents (thus the bit about Rarity’s rather exceptional strength). It just seems to let you do more things.

As for “Cheesy Sense”… I really don’t know what it does. Cheese Sandwich stated that his Cheesy Sense told him that his next party would be in Ponyville and told him about Pinkie’s Pinkie Sense – but two one-sentence examples aren’t much to go on.

Maud is another victim of insufficient data. Perhaps she can find rocks, metals, and things in contact with the earth? Or do the equivalent of “Locate Object?”. She also shows enough (reactionless!) strength to toss large rocks over the horizon and kick up mushroom clouds much bigger than hills.

But we didn’t see any of the royal guard tossing changelings over the horizon.

Of course, Maud is… extremely loyal to her friend and relatives, tactless and blunt (the socially awkward form of honesty) and is pretty generous with her time and effort. She’s not especially exemplary when it comes to kindness and laughter, and she’s not really a paragon of any single virtue – but under this (speculative) theory she’d be getting a reasonably balanced boost.

Is there anyone else around who fits that theory?

How about Big Macintosh? He shows pretty much that same package of traits (an “idealized big brother” set) – and he can effortlessly bounce along while towing a house by flexing his ankles.

We see one more pony (a filly with a hedgehog cutie mark) with freakishly supernormal strength (as explicitly called out by Diamond Tiara on the playground) – but I can’t recall any other information about her at all. Just going by the hedgehog… perhaps another prickly introvert like Maud Pie?

And strength is a basic earth pony talent.

Then we have Shining Armor – a loyal captain of the guard who is willing to generously expend every bit of his strength on shielding others, is probably pretty honest (if only because trying to deceive Celestia is probably an even worse idea than trying to deceive the usual superior officer). He probably isn’t all that strong on kindness and laughter though. After all, you can’t afford to be unconditionally kind as a guard – and guard work is often pretty serious.

And he has an absurdly hyped up ability to generate shields that can protect entire cities. True, that’s his particular special talent, but we don’t see that unicorn with a talent for puppetry sending a swarm of giant puppets out to build roads or battle monsters.

Now in reality those talents are the result of marketing and scriptwriter decisions – which means that any in-setting theory is going to be a bit contrived in places – but it fits in well enough since it relates to several of the writers motives. (I must admit that “wild talents” also work perfectly well – especially in d20 systems – but I have a personal fondness for elaborate, generalized, theories with extensive implications. They’re such fun to come up with).

As for Discord… well, he seems to be the principle focus of chaos – or change – magic, and was the major reason for labeling the inverse elements the DISCORD-ant powers. In terms of that theory… he shows a fair chunk of the draconic powers – and the Lord of Chaos template I set up earlier is a +2 ECL template and so falls within the limits of a dragon channeling the “Discordant Powers” if he either purchased an upgrade similar to the epic level upgrade for a Bokor or found a way to dump a level of growth in favor of more power. Discord does look even stranger than the adolescent dragons do – but his basic body layout is the same and the changes are probably within the limits of draconic shapeshifting.

Who knows? Maybe Celestia hatched her own dragon as a youngster, tried to meddle with the draconic ability to channel the Discordant Powers, and wound up with Discord. After all… she kept him around and seems inclined to argue with him rather than starting in blasting – and later took the risk of him running amuck again (and possibly hiding the elements effectively first) in hopes of reforming him. That’s not exactly what I’d expect from a reasonably wise ruler who is abruptly confronting a newly-returned satanic figure. It’s a great deal closer to the parable of the prodigal son…

Now that doesn’t fit in with the “he’s Starswirl the Bearded after a badly-bungled attempt at Alicorn Ascension” theory from his writeup – but it’s not like it needs to; both theories are pure speculation. Still, speculation is what the Changeling and Dragon articles were all about.

Ponies of the Eclipse – Dragon Speculations

And today it’s another offline question… “What would Spike (from “Friendship is Magic”, not Buffy the Vampire Slayer) look like in Eclipse?

Well, the trouble with creating a racial template for Equestarian Dragons is that it’s going to be pretty speculative. Yes, we see a fair amount of Spike (although his activities are often rather repetitive since he’s mostly a foil for Twilight and personal mail system) – but we also know that he isn’t entirely typical and other draconic appearances are few and far between. To fill things out a bit, I’m going to see what I can deduce from how Ponies interact with Equestria’s Dragons.

Ponies are the masters of Equestria. They control the sun and moon, the weather, the seasons, and more. They are powerful practitioners of Harmony and Love – the two greatest forces in their universe. Tireks scholarly mentor even outright states that ponies (and Unicorns in particular) have the most powerful magic in the universe. His viewpoint is likely biased, but there’s probably something to it.

Ponies seem to become even more powerful as they attune themselves more closely to the various virtues of the Elements of Harmony. Does it really seem likely to be a coincidence that…

  • Rainbow Dash, a paragon of loyalty, is the fastest (and possibly the toughest, at least judging by the “Rainbomb”) pegasus in all Equestria. What’s more, her abilities can’t be blamed on direct contact with the physical Element of Loyalty without timey-wimey shenanigans since she showed some of them many years before the Elements were reactivated.
  • Applejack, a paragon of honesty, stops stampedes, faces down monsters, and does quite incredible amounts of work. After all, the farm went down the drain in days without her despite everything that Big Mac, Apple Bloom, and Granny Smith could do.
  • Rarity, a paragon of generosity, can carry and toss around multi-ton boulders, outperform a small factory, use far more magical effects than a normal unicorn (including remotely teleporting large objects), is a skilled fighter, and can easily manipulate small swarms of enemies into giving her their treasure.
  • Fluttershy, a paragon of kindness, can stare down cockatrices, communicate with animals and make them all live together peacefully, wrestle bears, model, sing, conduct music, sew, and even reform gods of chaos.
  • Twilight, the “Princess of Friendship”, may be the most powerful mage in Equestria – and certainly demonstrates the desire and ability to make the universe conform to her will that is the essence of magic.
  • And then there’s Pinkie Pie, who can do almost anything.
  • For that matter there’s Cheese Sandwich, who clearly demonstrates that other ponies can tap into such powers without being element-bearers.

Yet we also know that such power is a rare and special thing. How do we know that? Because Equestria has problems AND keeps coming back to the mane six to solve them instead of just letting the general population handle them. Ergo… while ponies are empowered by the forces the Elements of Harmony represent it’s rare for one of them to be enough of a paragon of virtue to get a LOT of power.

And yet… dragons worry even the paragons. In a universe that primarily runs on the harmony of loyalty, honesty, generosity, kindness, laughter, and magic, and secondarily on love, dragons defy those powers. They may appear in small packs as adolescents, but the adults mostly seem to be solitary apex predators. They have a “king”, but their traditional method of choosing one seems to be based on skill in evading traps, competing with each other, raw power, and luck. On their own dragons show distinct tendencies towards…

  • Treachery. Rejecting a kid the moment he disagrees about pointlessly killing something? Spike expects to be betrayed by his “mother” and get replaced by an owl?
  • Deception. The adolescent dragons act accepting and then try to rig their contests? Spike getting their pets and the Cutie Mark Crusaders to deceive the Mane Six?
  • Greed. Spike growing into a monstrous dragon out of greed? Dragonhoards in general?
  • Cruelty. Wanting to smash phoenix eggs? Spike labeling his friends “Hairity, Rainbow Crash, Spitty Pie, Apple Teeny, Flutterguy, and Twilight Flopple” when they’re poisoned and panicked?
  • Wrath. Trying to hurt or kill a toddler for snagging some of your snacks? Inspiring fear the way that they do?
  • Chance: Leaving your kids to roam around unsupervised? Using an obstacle course to decide the potential fate of your entire species?

Dragons still seem to be affected by Love, but it, at most, tempers their behavior. Adult dragons obviously aren’t normally filled with love or keeping a dragon egg in a school and using it to test students would have been pretty horribly offensive wouldn’t it?

When Spike, who was raised by Ponies in isolation from other dragons, gives in to Greed he grows immensely in size and power – but he is restored to normal by the power of his affection for Rarity (incidentally demonstrating that the emotion is both genuine and serious).

So the primary behavioral traits – and apparently power sources – of Dragons are the Inverse Elements. Treachery, Deception, Greed, Cruelty, Wrath, and Chance (the inverse of magic – twisting the odds perhaps, but accepting the way of the universe instead of demanding that it do what you want). I’m going to call these traits the “Discordant Powers”.

Harmony may permeate the world – but that simply means that the outbreaks of the Discordant Powers are tightly focused, and very powerful locally – as shown by Discord himself. There are hundreds of times as many ponies as dragons and their overall power is far greater than the dragons – but that’s not a lot of comfort when it’s only a few dozen ponies against a Dragon who is channeling a lot more of one of the Discordant Powers than the ponies are channeling Harmony.

That… gives us a draconic power source, a reason for Ponies to be very wary of dragons, and a set of motivations all in one. It tells us why Dragons are so individually powerful but yet ponies dominate the world.

It may also imply a relationship between Dragons and Discord and between Dragons and Changelings, but there isn’t much support for that so far.

So what do we need to buy to build an Equestrian Dragon racial template?

Dragons:

Are Extremely Tough. They can leap from a height into magma without being hurt, chew, swallow, and digest sharp fragments of diamond, are highly resistant to energy (especially fire, even if you can get them sooty), and can take one of Rainbow Dash’s full kicks – shown to be capable of smashing through four sizeable trees – without injury.

  • Damage Reduction 5/-, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect; Only versus Physical Attacks, not versus Adamantine (12 CP).
  • Berserker with Odinpower and Enduring, Powered by Mana, +15/- Universal Damage Reduction (also protects against energy) (12 CP). That’s fairly expensive – but will allow a powered-up Equestrian Dragon to shed most weapons like drops of rain.
  • Energy Infusion (Fire, 6 CP). Given that ice cream can upset Spikes stomach when rocks can’t… a vulnerability to excessive amounts of Cold doesn’t seem unreasonable.

Eating gems really isn’t especially advantageous, even in Equestria where they’re absurdly common and inexpensive. After all… a modest gem does seem to have enough value to trade it for a substantially larger sandwich even there – and given that Spike sometimes gorges on them, their effective caloric value can’t be THAT high. Elsewhere… it’s just absurd. Eat that gem worth several hundred gold pieces – or use it to get a hundred gallons of ice cream and other goodies? Dragons seem to like those too… Ergo, no cost.

Are Limited Shapeshifters. They can change size and the details of their appearance – although this does not seem to be entirely under their control. In addition, they are naturally armed and armored. They can also dig well (although they don’t seem to have a burrow speed like Diamond Dogs) and seem to have little use for material possessions (or shovels).

  • Accursed. A dragon’s appearance reflects it’s personality, state of development, and (at least to a limited extent) current mood. This makes them extremely distinctive, hard to fit for equipment, easy to “read” (other creatures get a +5 bonus on Sense Motive against dragons), and makes it easy for other creatures to pretend to be dragons with flimsy disguises. After all, a dragon could easily look like that… (-3 CP).
  • Immunity/having to actually have mundane equipment to get it’s bonuses (mundane equipment is Very Common and not having it is a Minor problem for an adventurer. The Trivial level covers basic tools and clothing, Minor covers light and medium armor and simple weapons, Major covers heavy armor, masterwork stuff and martial weapons, and Great covers exotic weapons, materials, and alchemical gear. That’s 4, 8. 12. Or 24 CP. Dragons normally start at (12 CP).

Once again, I could speculate on a connection with Changelings here. After all… a dragon-pony hybrid might well not have a strong connection to either the Elements of Harmony OR the Discordant Powers. If so, it would be an incomplete creature, lacking a natural source of magic, drives, and emotions – and perhaps needing to take those things from others. A bit of a dragon’s natural toughness for an effectively armored insect-like hide, some fangs, spitting mere sticky goo instead of magically charging the stuff to act more like napalm, the draconic shapeshifting… I could even argue that the holes are due to their shapeshifting reflecting their inherent incompleteness. That may not be what this article is about – but I am being speculative here.

Seem to have a good Constitution, but show no other exceptional attributes save strength – which may just be due to size bonuses – and aren’t especially sociable.

  • Attribute Shift: +2 Con, -2 Cha (6 CP).

Are implied to be very long-lived and easily capable of surviving in the wastelands. Spike – despite being at least ten years old – is considered a baby dragon.

  • Immunity to Aging (Uncommon, Major, Major, 6 CP). Dragons can expect to live for thousands of years.

Are apparently magic-resistant when they want to be – or at least the various unicorns around Ponyville don’t seem to have much luck in dealing with Spike when he’s gotten bigger.

  • Spell/Power Resistance II (12 CP).

Are Firebreathers. They can breathe enormous amounts of fire and/or smoke, possess considerable control over that ability – enough to either melt masses of snow or ice or to make toast – and can use it for at least some magical purposes.

Can, at least as adults, sprout wings and fly at considerable speeds and with fair maneuverability

  • Instinctive Dragon Magic: Innate Enchantment (total value 6320 GP, net cost of 7 CP).
    • Enhance Attribute: Str +2 (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .7 Personal Only = 1400 GP).
    • Enhance Attribute: Con +2 (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .7 Personal Only = 1400 GP).
    • Feathermail (a touch-range Transmutation effect targeting armor, +3 to maximum Dex, -3 to Armor Check Penalty, reduce movement penalty by 10 for 2 rounds/level, Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP (Unlimited-Use Use-Activated) x .7 (Personal-Only) x.8 (“Armor” from Immunity Only) = 1120 GP. Dragons can generally move easily despite their scales.
    • Montage Scene/Power Tool: Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP (Unlimited-Use Use-Activated) x .5 (Only on their internal “tools”) = 1000 GP. Dragons can get a lot more done than would normally be credited – digging like a backhoe, jack hammering through stone, and so on. In general, dragons gets a lot more done than any normal human.
    • Immortal Vigor I (The Practical Enchanter): Provides +(12 + 2 x Con Mod) Hit Points. (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .7 Personal Only = 1400 GP).
  • Immunity/stacking limitations when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (common/minor/trivial; only covers level 0 or 1 effects) (2 CP).
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of racial innate enchantments (uncommon/minor/trivial) (1 CP). Dragons are born with their innate enchantments, and need not pay any extra experience for them.
  • Immunity to Dispelling effects (Common/Minor/Great, Specialized and Corrupted / only to protect Racial Innate Enchantments, 4 CP).

This stuff just comes with being a dragon.

Learned Dragon Magic: Inherent Spells, all powered by Mana. Unfortunately, all of these require extensive training to use. Dragons must either spend years wandering and working on self-development, seek out “appropriate” tutors and get them to teach them, or simply level up until they can control these abilities without training, before they can use these. Secondarily, inexperienced dragons fairly often have minor “accidents” with these powers. That’s Corrupted for Reduced Cost (36 CP in total).

  • L2: Essence of the Dragon (SC, Costs 1 Mana)
  • L3: Giant’s Wrath (the Practical Enchanter, +2 Size Levels) and Dragonskin (SC)
  • L4: Flight of the Dragon (SC), Voice of the Dragon (SC)
  • L5: Dragonsight (SC), Grand Earthward (L5)
  • L6: Greater Invocation of Flame (SC), Aura of Terror (SC)

Grand Earthward: L5, activates once per round on it’s own, on or off action, blocking 60 points of damage from any one attack as well as any special effects – poison, energy drain, or whatever – that it might have).

A L6 Greater Invocation of Flame produces Fire effects of  up to level five – ranging from making toast and baking on through near-instant alchemical transformations and a wide variety of fire blasts.

Discordant Channeling. The ability to channel the power of the Discordant Powers is advanced Dragon Magic – and, in Equestrian terms, blatant dark magic. It is obvious to unicorns when used, always runs at least a slight risk of loss of control (basically a roll of “1″ on a will save when using the stuff), can provoke reactions from Harmony Magic, and can be countered by Harmony Magic. Any dragon can use, it, but only practice and mental discipline will provide even a modicum of control. It counts as being Specialized.

  • Witchcraft II. Provides the use of The Adamant Will, Healing (Specialized in Self-Healing for Double Effect), and Witchsight (Specialized in Scent, for no cost), with a base Power score equal to (Sum of Physical Attributes/3), and a base Will save DC of (13 + Cha Mod) (6 CP):
  • 1d6 Mana, taken as 3d6 Power. Only usable for Witchcraft (3 CP).
  • Ridden by the Loa with Partial Control, Corrupted/Only to draw on the Discordant Powers (2 CP).
  • Immunity/the one-point-per-hour cost of keeping Ridden by the Loa Running (Common, Minor, Major (up to 30 Power/Day equivalent, Corrupted/cannot normally be turned off to get rid of an inconvenient Discordant Power, 2 CP).

Drawing on the Discordant Powers generally provides +2 levels of Growth (96 CP) and 35 CP related to the particular power being channeled – the remaining 32 CP plus a disadvantage. It’s no coincidence that the “particular powers” match the basic structure of Mysteries. In fact, a Bokor in Equestria can also learn to channel the Discordant Powers – although they won’t get the “Growth” function. That’s another reason to regard them with fear and suspicion (as if another reason was needed). Perhaps, in Equestria, Bokor are the equivalent of basic d20 Sorcerers – ponies and zebras who just happen to have a dragon ancestor somewhere.

What about Lust? Well, you can include Lust as a perversion of Love or Harmony – but I doubt that the powers it grants require any real game rules. I may throw something in just to make sure that I cover everything – but it certainly isn’t necessary.

In any case… all of that comes out to 126 CP – a +3 ECL race. Of course, in a standard game, without the Superheroic World Template to provide a steady supply of Mana to work with, you’d probably want to invest another 32 CP or so in buying Mana and Rite of Chi with Bonus Uses to replenish the stuff.

Next time around on this topic I’ll see about the Discordant Powers.

Randolf Upton Pickman, A.K.A. Pharaoh Nephren-Ka, E-poh of the Tcho-Tcho, Mylakhrion of Theem’hdra., and others.

The planes where mankind can exist are a tiny island in an infinite sea, surrounded by reefs of possibility and dedicated guardians. Yet there are things – some minor, others vast and powerful – which sometimes walk our realms when the stars are right and a gate is opened. Some find our little island little more than a shortcut, an amusing path less trodden, or a source of some desired oddity. Others… take an interest. Some even wish to understand, and seek that understanding in strange and maddening ways.

If some mortal is very, VERY, unlucky… they may even take a liking to him or her. Whether that means that said mortal was never entirely mortal at all, or whether they become so retroactively has never been determined.

Favored of the Outer Ones

+2 ECL Race or +3 ECL Acquired Template – although baseline d20 humans can “acquire” it for a mere +2 ECL since their racial advantages can simply be subsumed into “In The Guise Of Humanity”.

In The Guise Of Humanity (9 CP):

  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills (3 CP).
  • Bonus Feat (6 CP).

Randolf appeared (mostly) human as a child, and – at least for now – can easily pass for one as far as conventional examaination goes.

The Hidden Eye That Sees Unveiled (30 CP):

  • Adept: Craft/Visual Arts, Diplomacy, Knowledge/Arcane Lore (Specialized in Mythos Lore for Double Effect), and Perform/Oratory (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized Skills, Corrupted/only to give his Adept skills a “racial modifier” of +(effective Level) (4 CP).
  • +3 to each Adept Skill (4 CP).
  • 2d6 (8) Mana with Resilience, Specialized and Corrupted/only usable for the Resilience Natural Magic (4 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only to restore Mana, only usable for the Resilience function (4 CP).
  • Occult Ritual, Specialized and Corrupted; Can only perform the terrible, sanity-blasting, rites of the Outer Ones using his Mythos Lore (2 CP).
  • Major Privilege: Gets along with virtually all of the Outer Gods and their Servants, despite how incredibly awkward this is (6 CP).

Randolf, while still rather human, sees what is hidden – and can present it to other humans. He is also highly resistant to the dread effects of interacting with the Outer Gods and their servants in their true (or near-true) forms (those he explains to are rarely so fortunate) – although too much of that sort of thing will overwhelm even his defenses and slowly erode his (debatable) humanity. Oddly enough, most of the Outer Ones are quite willing to go along with this.

Guardian Spawn of The Dark Tapestry (15 CP):

(Dreamspawn) Companion, with +4 Template Levels, Great Form, and Transform (Corrupted; only the Companion can transform), +3 Speciality in Managing it. Specialized with the Standard Dreamspawn limitations (15 CP).

I’ve only put up a few specific Dreamspawn. To save time, I’d suggest using a minor variant of Queen Yintor. As Randolf is level one,:”she” gets a 3 CP bonus – in “her” case buying a particular Trick; the first time anyone sees Randolf’s companions true form” he or she will suffer 1d4 points of Wisdom Damage, 1d4 points worth of Wisdom Drain, and 1d4 rounds of Confusion. A successful Will save will reduce this to the minimum effect – one point of damage, one of drain, and one round of confusion. This is, however, Specialized; it can only affect any given creature once during their lifetime (3 CP).

The Outer Ones have vouchsafed Randolf a companion on his voyage beyond the gates of sanity, a guardian and supporter that may at times appear human, but is anything but. In it’s questioning and attempts to understand it’s new master it may, perhaps, become a little more human – or it may simply wind up increasing Randolfs upcoming dementia faster than ever.

Still, the enhancements and powers it grants him make surviving the many enemies that Randolf has acquired for simply existing a lot easier.

The Dreamer In The Labyrinth (66 CP):

  • Mystic Artist (Craft/Visual Art, including Painting, Drawing, Etching, and – possibly – Film-making (6 CP).
    • Basic Abilities: Skill: 3: Fascinate, 4: Emotion, 5: Block, 6: Hold Audience, 9: Suggestion, 12: Emotional Auras, 15: Freedom, 18: Amplify, 21: Harmonize, 24: Mass Suggestion, 30: Serenity, 36: Alter Attitudes, 48: Puppet Master, and 60: Rule the Horde.
  • Bonus Uses: +4 (6 CP).
  • Path of Whispers: Subliminal, Conditioning, Compelling, Immersive, Undertow, and Worldgate (36 CP).
  • The Art of the Occult: The Hidden Way, Spellweaver, and Sphere of Mastery (18 CP).

Randolf paints and draws – and dreams and visions of things that cannot exist in the world as it is pour through his pen and into reality, each work a potential gateway for that which is beyond and a crack in reality that helps to reshape the world into somewhere where such beings CAN exist. Those who gaze upon a work that happens to be “active” at the moment may find themselves subject to strange compulsions, experiencing memories and visions of the realms beyond, subject to the plots and themes of inhuman entities, or possibly can even be drawn into the realms beyond. Unfortunately, at the moment, he has little control over such events.

Similarly, while he little knows it at the moment, his images can also back any magic he happens to learn with the energies of the Outer Realms or even carry him partially beyond the boundaries of the world.

Whispers Of The Black Tapestry (108 CP):

  • Mystic Artist (Perform/Oratory) (6 CP).
  • Bonus Uses +8 (12 CP).
    • Skill: 3:Block, 4: Emotion, 5: Fascinate, 6: Competence, 9: Greatness, 12:Excellence, 15: Mass Greatness, 18:Mass Excellence, 21:Group Focus, 24:Harmonize, 30: Serenity, 36: Mass Heroism, 48: Double, and 60: Rule The Horde.
  • Basic Modifiers: Amplification, Echoes, Rapid, and Seeking (24 CP).
  • Path of Dissonance with Selective Targeting (+6 CP): Dissonance, Distracting, Disrupting, Stunning, Maddening, and Banishing (42 CP).
  • Chords of Fate: Harmonics (affects Undead), Spirit Summons, Spirit Channels, and The Great Summons (24 CP).

The Voices of the Outer Ones leak into Randolfs voice – and disrupt the very structure of reality and the creatures within it, whether living or dead. With time and practice he may be able to learn to disrupt the restraints that keep his targets from using their full potentials and store borrowed magics in the inflections of his words – but at the moment, only the disrupting energies of alien realms are really his to call upon, and he’s barely aware of even that.

High Priest of the Outer Ones (20 CP):

  • Dominion (Cultists) (6 CP)
  • Path of the Pharaoh: Manipulation, Sphere of Influence (Mortal Ties with The Outer Realms, Corrupted/he is drawn to points where contact is occurring, and there will try to sort it out so that everyone involved comes out OK), and Godfire (Corrupted; cannot actually spend any save to return from death but does get the side effects – such as not aging and not losing attribute points to disease) (14 CP).

Randolf doesn’t actually control any cults yet – but he’s their natural leader. He senses it when they open gates and call upon the outer ones, he can grant them a certain amount of actual power through various unspeakable and incomprehensible Offices, and he can manipulate events to help enable or cover up their activities.

As Randolf makes the acquaintance of more Cultists, and (willing or unwillingly) becomes a major figure in their rituals and beliefs, he will become ever harder to keep dead – and he will come ever closer to the ability to warp the Earth into a pocket-realm where the Outer Ones can easily come and visit, whether he wishes to do so or not.

His Unspeakable Destiny (38 CP):

  • Unique Returning with a Minor Rewrite, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost: Randolf reappears at a point in time and space chosen by his unnatural patrons, each time he reappears he becomes less human and more a creature of the “Cthulhu Mythos”, each reappearance sends him into a predestined role. The only way to stop the sequence (and his eventual rise to join the ranks of the Outer Ones) is to travel back in time to one of his prior appearances and there find a way to massively disrupt the timeline and thwart his destiny. In effect, he must be raised or resurrected quite promptly or he will become very difficult indeed to retrieve (8 CP).
  • Privilege: The “Favor of the Outer Ones” doesn’t have to be “paid for” up front – although that also means that the character doesn’t start off with much knowledge of his abilities, much less understanding how to use them or how they work. Levels Two and Five are (or will be) devoted to paying for the template and picking up an increased understanding of his talents. Randolf thus had a somewhat disturbed, but otherwise fairly “ordinary”, childhood (3 CP).
  • Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect (4 floating CP) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (4 CP) / only for use with “Create Relic”, all the Relics Randolf “creates” are actually borrowed from the Outer Ones; they’re usually very weird, they’re only available when the Outer Ones feel like lending him something, and what he gets is entirely up to the game master. (4 CP).
  • Create Relic / Specialized and Corrupted / All the Relics Randolf “creates” are actually borrowed from the Outer Ones; they’re usually very weird and what he gets is entirely up to the game master (2 CP).
  • Inherent Spell with +6 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased (Level Nine) effect (15 CP). L9 “Anyspell” effect, producing any Arcane effect of up to L6. Note that this requires that he call upon an appropriate Outer One, is considered blatant blasphemous and horrible black magic by pretty much everyone except the Outer Ones, will not be fully under control until he reaches L17 (and the ability to control a ninth level inherent spell properly), requires a modest ritual at least 1d4 minutes long, calls for a minor offering, and gives the Outer One invoked a limited point of entry into the “normal” universe – allowing some sort of tinkering or even a minor manifestation (15 CP).
  • Major Favors: The Outer Ones (6 CP).

Randolf has encountered several of the Outer Ones – although the forms they have chosen to take in his eyes are a lot more “normal” than any other entity could reasonably expect and it generally hasn’t been for long. They are, however, definitely taking an interest.

  • Baba Shiby” (“Mother of Shiva”, Life Manipulation, Monsters, Conjuration, and Relationships) usually acts sort of like a genial “house mother”. After all, she DOES have a thousand young – even if they are all aberrations of one sort or another. She seems to see Randolf as being one of them. Hopefully, she is wrong.
  • “Gnarly Hotep” (“The Twisted Way At Peace”, Darkness, Mind Control, Transformation, and Conflict) shows up in a variety of forms. Gnarly just can’t resist stirring up trouble, just to see how far people will go – and the greater the powers they bring into play, the better he likes it. He’s still especially proud of “The Rain Of Colorless Fire” – whatever that was.
  • “Uncle Yoggy” (“Elder Conjunction”, Time, Space, Dimensions, and Gates) is surrounded by a fiery froth of opening and closing wormholes traversing space and time, and as a result is never more than partially in any one place. He’s extremely distracted and quite obliging – but almost always gets whatever-it-is quite wrong.
  • “Ozymandias” / “Ozzy” (“The Fallen Eternity”, Chaos, Creation, Destruction, Music and Werewolves) acts like a stereotypical drugged-out hippie full of nihilistic wisdom, tells people not to worry or plays music that drives mortals mad while weird monsters appear nearby and eat them, and often leaves the people who survive his visits with strange curse/powers – commonly including forms of Lycanthropy which render them near-mindless monsters while transformed.

No, Randolf has no idea why any of them have chosen to look the way that they do for him. He thinks that they’re just whimsically pulling images from somewhere, and for once he’s right. 

For when Randolf has lived his second-to-final incarnation, and been slain at long last by what-he-must-become, all mortality and humanity will be subsumed, and what once was Randolf will return at last to Earth, sliding down from the far realms, the spaces between the stars, abandoning his place in the dark tapestry to come again to his birthplace. There he shall wait, dreaming in a death which is not a death, until R’leyh rises once more, and he – the perfected high priest of the Outer Ones and now their Native Guide – shall stride forth to stand beside his ancient friends as an equal. And he shall show them around the place, and they shall make themselves comfortable upon the Earth which is his house, and there shall be a party at the twilight of the gods that none save the Outer Ones will understand.

That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons, even death may die.

ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn


At 286 CP that is one heck of a template. That’s in +8 ECL territory, and it probably well deserves it even if most of the powers it grants are a bit more subtle than blasting the enemy. After all, this is a Template that grants godhood (even if rather limited) to a first level character. Fortunately for Randolf, however, the entire thing is Specialized and Corrupted.

  • His abilities attract attention of the Outer Ones and their Servitors. This is not a (direct) problem for him beyond the occasional damage to his sanity, but can be hard on the rest of the world.
  • He feels responsible for managing the impact of the Outer Ones and their Servitors on the world – often frantically attempting to manage them so as to minimize the impact.
  • His abilities attract the notice of investigators, demon-hunters, and similar groups. Generally they are not happy about them and would like to see him dead.
  • His artwork is easily-recognized, and can be used to trace his incarnations across space and time.
  • He is subject to nightmarish visions of the Outer Ones and their Servitors, which he is compelled to express in his imagery.
  • He is occasionally asked to run “errands” or perform rituals for the Outer Ones. Declining results in ill fortune and (once he knows about them) his powers becoming even more erratic.
  • He is compelled to display his artistic talents, but often has little control over the results.
  • His occult powers are easily recognized as forbidden black arts by anyone who pays attention to his activities and their effects. In most places they are banned.
  • The “performance” of the Whispers Of The Black Tapestry cannot be sustained; the duration is thus limited to the basic 5 rounds plus the Echoes duration.
  • He occasionally utters terrible prophecies or unleashes dark forces without even meaning too.
  • He is a veritable magnet for strange and bizarre events, rifts in reality, dark artifacts, and other people’s prophecies. Oddly enough, this often makes it possible to anticipate him by finding a relevant prophecy.
  • His mere presence often causes conventional devices to malfunction. At best, he effectively only gets one-third to one-half of the treasure and equipment his level would normally grant.
  • His mystical abilities with the visual arts only work in conjunction with his nightmarish visions of the Outer Ones; only images of such visions express these powers.
  • He is compelled to draw his visions, activating at least some (GMO) portion of the Path of Whispers on one each day without even being aware that he is doing so.
  • He starts off mostly unaware of his various potential abilities.
  • His magical powers are too bizarre to be used in the creation of conventional magical items, and will influence any conventional talents he develops enough to bar their use as well.
  • The Template subsumes Duties (to the Outer Ones) and Restrictions (cannot use divine powers from any “normal” deities, including those bound into items). Given that this would eventually be worth rather more CP than the character gains from the items that wind up double-Specialized and/or Double-Corrupted (normally a big red flag) I’ll let this particular Template get away with that.
  • The user counts as whichever of a human, a non-human, an outsider, and a native of the prime material plane is most disadvantageous at any given moment.
  • Mortals who are psychically or magically sensitive, or are aware of the presence and nature of this Template, are instinctively wary of the user, generally preferring to avoid them entirely. The user’s social life is going to suck.

That brings Favored of the Outer Ones down to 95 CP – the upper limit for a +2 ECL race (or +3 ECL Template). Are those enough limitations to justify that?

Probably. After all, at low levels Randolf doesn’t have the knowledge or control to use his nifty powers that effectively. Sure, he can optimize the use of Whispers Of The Black Tapestry, His Unspeakable Destiny, or the abilities granted by bonding with a Dreamspawn (all of which have some serious downsides) at mid-levels, but it’s not like other characters can’t optimize and Mystic Artist is hardly the go-to path for raw power. At high levels… there will be lots of more outrageous characters around.

Randolf Upton Pickman

Level One Would-Be Hapless Bystander

Randolf is a nice, obliging, fellow. Unfortunately, he’s so out-of-tune with humanity that he’s had a terrible childhood – and finding himself to be the chosen high priest of the outer ones (or even a potential Outer Lord) has not really improved matters. In a rather weird way, Randolf is baby-sitting his patrons in their interactions with earthly creatures while they baby-sit him in his interactions with the creatures and powers of the outer realms.

Racial Package: Favored of the Outer Ones.

Available Character Points: 48 (Level Base) +2 (Untraveled, a variant on Illiterate. Randolf has never really been beyond his country birthplace and the local woods and town. He has a little bit of theoretical knowledge of the world, but is essentially unfamiliar with other cultures, species, and places) + 12 (Racial and L1 Bonus Feats) = 62 CP.

Package Deal: Student (Privilege/gets basic housing and support for free, has access to university facilities and libraries, 3 CP), +1 each with Computer Use, Craft (Writing), Drive, Knowledge (Art and History), and Research (6 CP), and Enthusiast (Specialized in Skills, for Double Effect, 3 CP). If transplanted from d20 Modern into a fantasy world the Pathfinder Package Deal is probably preferable.

Basic Attributes: Str 8, Int 14, Wis 16, Con 12 (14), Dex 8 (10), Chr 10. (22 Point Buy).

Languages: Common, Latin, and the “Dark Speech” of the Outer Ones.

Basic Abilities (31 CP):

  • Hit Points: 20 (L1d20, 16 CP) + 2 (Con) +16 (Dreamspawn Link) = 38 HP.
  • BAB: +1 (6 CP).
  • Saves:
    • Fortitude: +0 (Purchased, 0 CP) +2 (Con) = +2 (Effectively +8 due to Companion)
    • Reflex: +0 (Purchased, 0 CP) + 0 (Dex) = +0 (Effectively +8 due to Companion)
    • Will: +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) + 3 (Wis) = +5 (Effectively +6 due to Companion)

Combat Information:

  • Proficiencies: Simple Weapons (3 CP) and Pistols (3 CP).
  • Initiative: +0.
  • Move: 60′
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +4 (Mage Armor) +2 (Judo) = 16. Also, Protection from Law.
  • Usual Weapons:None

Special Abilities:

  • Bestowed by Template Companion: Need not Eat, Drink, Sleep, or Breathe, effectively immune to poison*, Fast Healing I (up to 20 points/hit die/day)*, Protection from Law*, and True Strike 3/Day*. May employ 4L1, 4L2, & 4L3 Absolute Command effects daily used as Reflex Actions at caster level equal to his level. These require making both a Fortitude and a Will save against the spell at +4 to avoid fatigue. All use-activated. Effects marked with an “*” are subject to dispelling and antimagic versus caster level one – but will come right back again next round.
  • Adept: Pays half cost for Decipher Script, Disable Device, Research, and Spot (6 CP)
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for Double Effect (6 CP).
  • Witchcraft II with the Rituals and Karmic Links Pacts paying for Witchcraft III and +3d6 Power (24 total) (12 CP). Save DC 13. Basic Abilities: The Adamant Will, Glamour, The Hand of Shadows, Healing, The Inner Eye, Shadowweave, and Witchsight. Notably, combining Glamour and The Inner Eye allow him to bypass language barriers – at least for living things.

Skill Points: 7 (CP Spent) +8 (Int Mod x 4) + 8 (Racial Bonus Feat spent on Fast Learner at L(-2)) = 23

  • Computer Use +1 (1 SP) +2 (Int) +1 (Package) = +4
  • Craft/Writing: +1 (1 SP) +2 (Int) +1 (Package) = +4
  • Craft/Visual Arts: +4 (2 SP*) +2 (Int) +4 (Race) = +10
  • Decipher Script +4 (2 SP*) +2 (Int) = +6
  • Diplomacy: +4 (2 SP*) +0 (Cha) +4 (Race) = +8
  • Disable Device +4 (2 SP*) +0 (Dex) = +4
  • Drive +1 (1 SP) +0 (Dex) +1 (Package) = +2
  • Knowledge/History +1 (1 SP) +2 (Int) +1 (Package) = +4
  • Knowledge/Arcane Lore (Specialized in Mythos Lore for Double Effect), +2 (1 SP*) +2 (Int) +4 (Race) = +18
  • Knowledge/Art +3 (3 SP) +2 (Int) +1 (Package) = +6
  • Martial Art/Tai Chi: +1 (1 SP) +3 (Wis) = +4 (Provides Defenses 2, already in his AC above).
  • Perform/Oratory +4 (2 SP*) +0 (Cha) +4 (Race) = +8
  • Research +4 (2 SP*) +2 (Int) +1 (Package) = +7
  • Spot +4 (2 SP*) +3 (Wis) = +7

Note that his Companion can grant a +20 Insight Bonus on a skill check three times per day. A “*” indicates half cost due to Adept.

Personally Randolf is a competent starting sage-type and has a number of psychic tricks to call on – but he really isn’t much of an adventurer. He isn’t likely to master most of his template powers very soon either – but he will learn to use the powers his Companion grants fairly rapidly, if only because she’s quite capable of explaining them and because the passive durability-enhancements will work whether he quite understands them or not. That will make him a tolerably effective and surprisingly durable minor mage.

Of course, Randolf intended to be an artist, not an adventurer or mage. If he really MUST develop some combat abilities he has lots of levels to go as of yet.

Future Development: Randolf could REALLY use some luck for Saves and some for Skills, but that’s cheap enough to pick up quite soon. More Witchcraft – and some more durability effects, such as a bit of damage reduction, will help his career as well.

Really though, he’s set up assuming a more or less “realistic”, even if Lovecraftian, setting. Massive leveling up is not really a thing under those assumptions.

Randolf is loosely inspired by “Ow, My Sanity”, a webcomic spoofing the Magical Girlfriend and Harem genres in a Call of Cthulhu setting. Of course, given that this is d20 and that the characters quite commonly achieve godlike power in the setting, Randolf is a lot tougher and more powerful than the hero of that comic. Unfortunately, “Ow, My Sanity” is on indefinite and possibly permanent hiatus – but what there is of it is well worth a look.

Eclipse d20 – Binding Mysterious Spirits VI. Apophis, Barbatos, Ruh Göbekli-Tepe, Haures, Ipos, Shax, The Triads, The Heartless Shadow, Mucha Lucha – and why not Zceryll.

As usual, all of these Mysteries build on the powers of the basic Bokor Package – although that is cheap enough that it’s normally well worthwhile.

Apophis (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Outcast. Sensitive individuals can sense the aura of destruction that Apophis radiates, and will want nothing to do with his host).

Chupoclops was a predatory eater of ghosts from the Forgotten Realms setting and has no real history from elsewhere. As an apocalyptic beast it was supposed to bring about the end of all things by devouring hope. With it slain, there is no longer a destined end of the world . Still, that’s not exactly an unprecedented role for a monstrous mythic figure. So let us go classical and create one of the earliest apocalyptic beasts we know of.

Apophis the Chaos-Bringer, the Oblivion of Souls, Destroyer of Ma’at, that which was Before Creation and Will Be After, rises again and again against the Gods. Each coming of the dawn proclaims their victory, that Apophis has once more been slain and cast beyond, preserving the cosmos for another day. Yet there can be no final victory. Apophis, like a thousand-headed hydra, rises ever again from the spaces which are not, the void beyond existence, to assail once more the structure of creation. Whether calling upon Apophis grants the Chaos-Bringer an opening to attack or diverts some portion of the power that would otherwise be hurled against the world cannot be said.

Yet Apophis answers those who call for the Oblivion of Souls upon the hidden ways – and for the wise perhaps that is answer enough.

  • Presence of the Destroyer/Doom, Corrupted/affects everyone else within ten feet rather than merely his enemies when activated – perhaps because Apophis has no true allies within creation (4 CP).
  • The Devourer of Ghosts: Immunity/Dimensional Barriers (Very Common, Severe, Major, Specialized and Corrupted/only the barrier between the Ethereal and Material, must return to the material plane after taking an active move, standard, or full-round action other than waiting and watching). This allows the user to become Ethereal as a Move Action up to once every five rounds, to see into the Ethereal Plane (or from there into the material plane) as a constant effect, and to attack or cast spells / manifest psionic abilities in both planes at once as desired (5 CP). Sadly, this also allows the user to be attacked by ethereal creatures and affected by their spells and manifested powers regardless of which plane he or she currently occupies.

Why is this only a “Major” immunity? It’s because the dimensional barriers in basic d20 worlds aren’t very hard to penetrate. Various creatures do it routinely. The Blink spell does it over and over again at level three, Astral Caravan takes entire groups into the astral plane at level three, Plane Shift jumps entire groups across multiple dimensional barriers of choice AND teleports them at level five – and even if it has targeting problems, it can be used offensively. D20’s dimensional barriers are more akin to paper screens than walls.

  • Martial Arts/1d4 Natural Weapons (Claws and Bite), is always considered armed (3 CP). Note that – if you are larger or smaller than Medium size – this scales appropriately. If you have claws and/or a bit anyway, just add +2 damage to their effects.

Nothing prevents humans from going for the basic mammalian claw-claw-bite attack routine save for their teeth and claws (fingernails) being generally ineffectual. Those channeling Apophis will find that the power of the Destroyer makes their natural weapons effective – if still not all that impressive.

  • Occult Sense/Detect Souls. Specialized for Increased Effect/20 foot maximum range. You detect living creatures within 20 feet as if you possessed Blindsense and can automatically determine their Type, Subtype, and level of vitality (Number of hit points. The character doesn’t actually get a number; he or she can simply see how “bright” a soul is. The Player gets a number, since that’s the only way to meaningfully rate that “brightness” without wasting time constructing and consulting a scale) (6 CP).
  • Opportunist/You can make a full attack (including the natural attacks for free appendages) at the end of a charge (6 CP).
  • Embodiment of Oblivion: Witchcraft III, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/each basic ability is limited to a fairly specific, simple effect (rather than allowing dozens), often with additional limitations (6 CP).
    • Phantom Charge/Shadowweave. None can know from where Apophis will strike, or which of his thousand feints is true. Those channeling Apophis may spend one power as a part of a charge or attack action to generate a Mirror Image effect.
    • Entropic Cascade/Witchfire: Apophis’s touch can inflict terrible wounds on any creature of the cosmos. His channelers may spend two Power and a Swift Action to add “+2″ worth of weapon enhancements of choice to their natural weapons for one minute per level. This need not include an enhancement bonus and does not stack with itself, but it does stack with dissimilar weapon enchantments.
    • Draught of Life/Hyloka: Apophis drinks the life of the cosmos. When one of his channelers hits an opponent with an unarmed attack or a natural weapon he or she may spend 2 Power as a Swift Action to add a Vampiric Touch effect (albeit at only 1d6/2 levels, 10d6 max) to the attack as a supernatural effect
    • Shattering Strike/Infliction: The mere presence of Apophis weakens unliving material, causing flaws and cracks to spread through it. When one of his Channelers strikes an unliving target he or she may spend a swift action to amplify this effect – inflicting an extra five points of damage per level to a maximum of 15/25/35/50 damage for 1/2/3/4 Power or affecting all unliving materials other than what he or she is carrying in a five foot radius of the point struck for an additional +3 Power. If used against a force construct this counts as a Disintegrate effect, and can allow the user to continue straight through such a barrier.
  • .+3d6 Mana as +9d6 (32) Power, Specialized and Corrupted/only to power the Embodiment of Oblivion powers listed above (6 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +7 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only for Power, only to rebuild the power pool for the Embodiment of Oblivion Powers, above (5 CP).

Apophis won’t make you a great warrior if you don’t bring some other abilities along those lines to the table – but the Destroyer of Ma’at can certainly give you a pretty good boost. If your Bokor is going in for melee combat, there’s a pretty good chance that Apophis will be in the his or her lineup of Mysteries. Apophis also illustrates something very important about Eclipse; with the “good” abilities no longer at the ends of chains of Feats, martial characters can afford to buy a selection of them as well as various quasi-magical powers. They may have a slightly harder time becoming super-powered specialists like the Ubercharger, but they can easily pick up a great deal of versatility. How many melee builds would find it useful to be able to generate mirror images, steal hit points, operate while blind, and tailor their weapons enhancements to individual enemies on the fly?

Barbatos (Bonus Mystery) (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Uncivilized. Those channeling Barbatos will find it nigh-impossible to deal with complex social situations, banking schemes, and similar complexities, suffering a -4 penalty on any such attempts).

According to the Ars Goetia Barbatos is a spirit of the woods, similar to Robin of the Woods, the Green Man or Knight, and other trickster spirits. His unique attribute amongst the array of (very similar) powers most of the spirits of the Ars Goetia grant is the understanding of beasts – so that’s what I’m going with.

Ruh Göbekli-Tepe (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Obligations. Those channeling Ruh Göbekli-Tepe may never abandon a city under attack save to cover the evacuation of it’s citizenry if the defense fails and must do what he or she can to aid a city in distress).

All I can make out of “Desharis” is “Country Patron”, and even that is a bit of a stretch based on “Desh” being Hindi for “country” or “land” – leaving “Aris” to Google to translate as a patrician, noble, or magnate. While that fits in well enough with the basic idea, I would prefer a less-fictional name – perhaps Ruh Göbekli-Tepe; the Spirit of Göbekli Tepe (a religious center founded about 9100 BC). Of course, Çatalhöyük was founded about 7500 BC and showed many (but not all) of the characteristics usually associated with cities. Jericho had fortified walls in 6800 BC, but seems to have been abandoned several time. The title of oldest continuously-inhabited city is contested – although Athens, Argos, and Byblos / Jubayl can all make fairly good claims on being the “oldest permanently inhabited city on Earth” since they’ve all been inhabited for at least seven thousand years.

…All of which, I suppose, is interesting but none too relevant.

Ruh Göbekli-Tepe is the spirit of the agricultural revolution, the urban dream – of food in plenty, of the safety of a gathered tribe in a strong place, of the strange tongues of visiting traders, of cyclopean walls, of the tales that brought structure to the world, and of the marketplace full of the exotic wonders that skilled craftsman create and visitors from afar bring. Today, when cities and towns crowd the earth, the wonder of approaching one in the dawn of the world has faded to a forgotten whisper – but while thinned, and scattered, and no longer a thing of wonder… the Spirit of the City lives still, it’s power a foundation of the modern world – even if, like all foundations, it is rarely actually seen.

  • The Urban Dream / Access to two Occult Skills – Dream Binding and Stealing the Scene (6 CP).
  • Lore of the Elder World: Augmented Bonus: Add (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) for Skill Points through L1, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/may only be spent on the three Adept skills, must be evenly split between them. This effectively provides a bonus of (Cha Mod x 5) skill points in Dream Binding, (Cha Mod x 4) + (Con Mod) skill points in Stealing the Scene, and (Cha Mod x 4) in Linguistics (6 CP).
    • Dream Binding – “the Wonders of the Markets” – means that Desharis “comes” with (Cha Mod x Cha Mod) x 2500 GP worth of equipment, although no single item may be worth more than one-third of that total. This can be very important indeed at lower levels – or if you happen to not have access to your usual sources of equipment.
    • “The Ancient Tales” cover Stealing the Scene. It’s Shticks, and the Languages spoken for Linguistics, may be chosen anew each time that Desharis is summoned. (In general, unless you unexpectedly encounter some really weird creature with an unknown language as a plot device – in which case you can speak it tomorrow – this should be more than enough languages to speak anything you’re at all likely to run across in any given region save for a dimensional crossroads).
  • Spirit of the City / Witchcraft III, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/each basic ability is limited to a fairly specific, simple effect (rather than allowing dozens), often with additional limitations (6 CP).
    • Pulse of the City / The Inner Eye: You may sense the currents and pulse of the city, moving with it’s flow and easily navigating it’s currents. Crowds do not hinder your movement and you gain a +6 bonus on Diplomacy, Gather Information and Knowledge (local) checks which counts as being skilled – but only within settlements. This is a constant effect, with no cost.
    • Breath of the City / Hand of Shadows: You may Animate Objects as per a caster of equal level at the cost of a Standard Action and 2 Power.
    • Sword of the City / Infliction (Limited target set for more power). Once every five rounds you may add a triple-damage Infliction effect to a successful melee attack against an animal, elemental, fey, or plant creature.
    • Hands of the City: You may use a Standard Action and up to one Power per level to accomplish the equivalent of 25 GP worth of work per point of Power so expended. Basic materials for such work (clay, mortar, stone, timber, fiber, etc) – are automatically drawn from the environment, but metals, gems, and other special materials must be provided normally. Similarly, basic tools are not required, but the effects of superior tools can be added in. Any required rolls are made with a +6 bonus and count as being skilled. If repairing a Construct, each Power repairs 3d6 + Level (15 maximum) damage.
      • Install door and suitable framing, with bar, to fit 10 x 10 area: Wooden (Hardness 5, 10 HP) 10 GP, Reinforced Wooden (Hardness 5, 20 HP) 40 GP, Iron (Hardness 10, 60 HP) 500 GP.
      • Build 10 x 10 Wall: Masonry (2′ thick, hardness 8, 180 HP, Break DC 25) 250 GP, Packed Earth (3′ Thick, Hardness 2, 30 HP, Break DC 19) 10 GP, Wood (1′ Thick, Hardness 5, 120 HP, Break DC 26) 100 GP.
      • Dig out 10 x 10 x 10 cube of: Earth 5 GP, Clay/Rocky Soil 15 GP, Stone 50 GP. Yes, you can put holes under creatures, but it’s only a DC 16 Reflex save to avoid falling in. Just as bad, going more than fifty or sixty feet down in earth tends to lead to the walls collapsing before anything can fall that far, leaving any possible victims landing on a pile of soft earth about sixty feet down for 3d6 damage.
      • Build a Well (5 x 5, 100 feet deep) 200 GP. It comes with rope, winch, and bucket. While fitted stones hold the well open, trying to open one under someone allows them a DC 11 reflex save to jump away in time – which is unlikely to catch anything of the least importance.
      • Build a Trail 1 GP/100 Feet. This means clearing out the trees and brush, and enough leveling to let a small wagon get dragged through.
      • Build a Road: 1 GP/30 feet, x5 for difficult terrain. x2 for Gravel, x3 for Cobblestones, x5 for a solid base and mortared stones.
      • Build a Bridge: 5′ x 5′ section: Rope-and-Board 2 GP, Wood 10 GP, Stone 25 GP, Iron 150 GP.
  • All Cities One City: Ashen Rebirth with Teleportation, Specialized and Corrupted: only usable once every five minutes, must be passing through a door, walking down an alleyway, or otherwise be engaged in a scene transition, must emerge from a similar door/alley/arch/whatever, and must be able to trace an open path between the entrance and exit points. This costs 2 Power for any jump within a city or 7 Power to jump to another city within 100 miles per level (4 CP).
  • +3d9 Mana as 9d6 (32) Power, Specialized and Corrupted/only for use with the five city-related powers above (6 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +10 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only to restore Power, only to restore the City Powers Pool, above (7 CP).

Ruh Göbekli-Tepe brings treasure, craftsmanship, and communications, as well as a powerful affinity for cities and the ability to move between them. He’s still somewhat specialized, and offers no general-purpose combat powers – but he’s got some extremely useful practical powers to offer a Channeler and if you happen to be in a jail or something he’s ideal.

Haures (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Accursed. Anyone channeling Haures suffers a -2 penalty on saves versus Illusion effects and will often provoke doubts about their sanity by talking to, and taking advice from, an imaginary friend).

According to the grimoires, Haures (also Flauros, Flavros, Hauras, Havres) gives true answers of many things past, present and future, but must compelled to do so, otherwise he will deceive the conjurer and beguile him. He can also destroy all the conjurer’s enemies with his infernal flame. If the magician requests it, he will not suffer temptations from any spirit or in any form and can be avenged upon demons.

Yes, we’re back to the Ars Goetia.

Now according to Wizards of the Coast, Haures grants a continuous Mind Blank effect (probably derived from the “protection against temptations” bit). While this is useful, it is also very boring – and shuts down many communications spells, status checks, divinations that gave bonuses to healing you, and so on. Secondarily, Pathfinder severely nerfed Mind Blank; it still protects against Divination, but now merely provides a +8 resistance bonus against Mind-Affecting stuff – which, since most characters of high enough level to be using Mind Blank in the first place will already have good Resistance bonuses, makes it virtually useless on that front. He lets you ignore the effects of difficult terrain (a pretty minor effect), move through enemy-occupied spaces (like Tumble or Acrobatics in Pathfinder), and gives Attacks of Opportunity against you while you’re moving a 50% miss chance (also like Tumble or Acrobatics, but less effective). He lets you create Major Images and wield Phantasmal Killers.

  • Immunity to Divination (Uncommon, Minor, Epic, Corrupted; This cannot be turned off. You are thus immune to many communications spells, attempts to determine your status, divinatons that give bonuses to Heal checks, and similar (8 CP).
  • Witchcraft III (6 CP). This is being purchased without limitations, to allow the full range of subtle and immediate uses without having to bother with a Bokor’s “spellcasting”.
    • The Adamant Will: In many ways this basic Witchcraft power is a better deal on the Mental Protection front than Mind Blank; while it does have a small cost, you only activate it when needed (and thus helpful effects are unhindered) and it allows you to falsify the results of various divinations, instead of just returning “no reading”.
    • Shadowweave with the Advanced Upgrade (+6 CP). This allows the user to generate Illusion effects of up to level three at a cost of 1/2/4 Power for effects of levels 1/2/3 – including Major Image, Invisibility Sphere, Mirror Image, Hypnotic Pattern, Color Spray, Disguise Self, and a wide variety of other tricks. Given that the Eclipse version of the Binder already gets some minor illusion-casting, this is a simple upgrade.
    • Pyroclastic Gaze: Glamour, Specialized and Corrupted/The user may spend 2 power and a Standard Action to unleash a Phantasmal Killer effect (Save DC 16 + Cha Mod), but has no other options.
    • Phantom Stride: The Hand of Shadows, Specialized and Corrupted/only to enhance your movement with three specific effects: Surefoot (Spell Compendium, level one), Surefooted Stride (Spell Compendium, level one), and allowing you to ignore speed reductions due to carrying a medium or heavy load or wearing medium or heavy armor. This effect lasts for one hour per user level at a cost of three power and an immediate action.
  • Augmented Bonus: Add (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) for Skill Points through L1, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/may only be spent on Tumble (Acrobatics in Pathfinder), Use Magic Device, and Bluff and must be evenly split between them (6 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized/only to restore Power (9 CP).

Haures is a fairly solid choice, if only for the illusion-casting – which can be a very effective suite of abilities in the hands of a clever player, even if it is limited to fairly low-level effects. The immunity to Divination has its uses as well – but really, how often is a personal immunity going to protect you against attacks targeting the party? And how often are your enemies going to be relying on using Divination to attack you? That’s only at its best when you want to do some sneaking about.

Ipos (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Insane. Ipos knows no fear – and so the game master may ask for a DC 18 check if someone channeling Ipos wants to act with stealth and caution).

Ipos is another visitor from the Ars Geotia, but is also another rather generic entry even there. He reveals secrets, he grants valor and wit, and he has leonine attributes – and that’s about it. He’s so bland that he doesn’t even turn up in popular culture much. According to Wizards of the Coast, he grants 1d6 cold iron claws, flashes of True Sight, boosts the DC of saves against the powers of the Mysteries you host by one and gives you a +1 level boost on your usage of them, lets you resist the deleterious effects of various planes, and lets you make a Rend attack.

Evidently Wizards of the Coast couldn’t find anything really interesting to say about Ipos either. Worse, the basic Bokor build already includes a better way to get True Seeing – and the standard Binder build already grants immunity to fear one level after Ipos becomes available, so either way at least one of those powers is quite useless.

  • Double (Claw) Damage, when you hit with both claw attacks, Corrupted/requires an additional successful attack check, albeit one made at your full BAB (4 CP).
  • +2 Charisma, only for increasing the DC of saves against your abilities (6 CP in a Template).
  • +1d4 Hit Die, Specialized/only for increasing the usage level of your hit die/level-based abilities (2 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (6 CP, 5000 GP net value):
    • Avoid Planar Effects (Level One Single-Target Variant, Personal Only, 1400 GP).
    • Remove Fear (Personal-Only, 1400 GP). Anyone hosting Ipos cannot be affected by Fear.
    • Surefoot (2000 GP): Gain a +10 competence bonus on Balance, Climb, Jump, and Tumble. You do not lose your Dexterity bonus to AC when balancing or climbing.
  • Immunity to Dispelling effects (Common/Minor/Great, Specialized and Corrupted / only to protect Innate Enchantments, Only those that come with this Mystery, 4 CP).
  • Leonine Form: Shapeshift, Attribute Modifiers (Replaces the user’s physical racial modifiers, if any, with Str +6, Dex +8, and Con +4, +10 Move, +1 Natural Armor, +8 to Balance and Climb, Low-Light Vision, Scent, and 1d3 Claws), Hybrid Form, Clear Speech, Variants (Near-Human Appearance). Specialized: Mountain Lion Form Only, Corrupted: Cannot actually Change Forms (27 CP base, net cost 9 CP).

This is classic shapeshift cheese; you summon Ipos, you become a lion-man, and you pick up some major physical boosts. Of course Ipos is a L6 Vestige. At Spell Level Five (Druid) we have Bite of the Weretiger – granting enhancement bonus of +12 to Str, +4 to Dex, +6 to Con, +5 Natural Armor, a Claw/Claw at full BAB (1d8+Str) and Bite (at -5 BAB, 2d6 + 1/2 Str) attack routine 1d8 , Blind-Fight and Power Attack. Ergo this bit of cheese is perfectly in line with other bit-of-cheese spells – at least if you don’t mind being a petting zoo person and your armor won’t cramp your tail.

  • Imbuement (Unarmed/Natural Weapons): Counts as Cold Iron at Level 4+, plus Adamantine at Level 11+, and Silver at Level 18+. Corrupted/only for giving your natural weapons the qualities of various materials (4 CP).

Ipos is another strong candidate for inclusion in a melee build, at least if your Bokor isn’t of a race with massive physical advantages already. There are much more interesting sets of abilities out there – but a set of nice, dependable, attribute, speed, and skill boosts is pretty much always useful to any combatant. They don’t require actions, or special gear to take advantage of, or any other trick. They just quietly provide statistical benefits all day. The fact that they’re available on the cheap, while being far less useful to full spellcasters, is another little boost for the martial types of course.

Shax (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage /Untrustworthy. Anyone channeling Shax might as well be wearing a sign saying “I am a Dark Wizard! Beware! Beware!”).

According to the Ars Goetia Shax “takes away a persons the sight, hearing and understanding at the conjurer’s request, steals whatever the conjurer asks and brings it to him or her, can discover hidden things if not thwarted by evil spirits, and sometimes gives good familiars, but sometimes grants familiars that deceive the conjurer. He should not be bothered too often. Shax is thought to be faithful and obedient, but is a great liar and will deceive the conjurer unless obliged to enter a magic triangle drawn on the floor. He will then speak marvelously and tell the truth. He knows when lies are told and uses these to teach lessons.” He takes the form of a swan.

Wizards of the Coast turned Shax into an possibly evil goddess of storm giants and had her grant limited Freedom of Movement, Immunity to Electricity, an extra 2d6 damage in melee (if you hit, and it takes up your swift action to prime it), and a swim speed. This makes very little sense and, quite frankly, is almost worthless to a PC. One round in five of Freedom of Movement is only useful as a way to activate another countermeasure or get out of an entangle or some such, and something as cheap as a Third Eye Freedom (2600 GP) can give you that. +2d6 damage to a single target but only on a successful attack, wasted if you miss, and requiring a swift action is trivial, and there are lots of (cheap) ways to get a swim speed if you need it. OK, Immunity to Electricity is nice – but Energy Immunity is only level six and lasts for twenty-four hours. Immunity to Electricity (Only) – call it “Faraday Cage” – would probably only be level five.

No, I have no idea of why Wizards of the Coast went to the effort to invent a history and then give their new Vestige no worthwhile abilities. Even basing their vestige on Shakespeare (“Shax” seems to be a nickname for him) would have been SOMETHING. Even worse, in the Eclipse version, Focalor – a level three Mystery – grants Resistance to Electricity, stronger (and ranged) attacks, a swim speed, water breathing, and lets you move and attack normally underwater – as a level three Mystery. This makes Shax even more useless.

That will never do.

  • Winds of Creation: Companion (Hawk Familiar) with the Spirit Fetch Template (12 CP). Shax may be a Mystery, but he – unlike so many others – can be both bound and free to transverse the Multiverse at the same time, serving his channeler as both a source of power and as a Spirit Fetch.
  • Dark Sorcery: Witchcraft III, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/each basic ability is limited to a fairly specific, simple effect (rather than allowing dozens), often with additional limitations (6 CP).
    • Hyloka/Daemonic Resilience. The channeler may spend 2 Power to negate a Confused, Dazed, Fascinated, or Stunned condition as it would take effect. This does not count as an action.
    • Dreamfaring/Between the Realms. The channeler may spend 3 Power and a Swift Action to infuse his or her physical form with the energies of the astral realm, making movement more of an act of will than a physical thing – creating a personal Freedom of Movement effect.
    • Elfshot/Accursed Gaze. The channeler may spend 7 Power and a Standard Action to generate a Feeblemind (Save DC 17 + Cha Mod) effect.
    • Hand of Shadows/Hand of Shax. The user may spend 2 Power and an Standard Action to attempt to steal an item weighing up to eighty pounds from any target within 60′. If the target fails to save (Will DC 17 + Cha Mod) the item (armor, weapon, ring, pants, or whatever) appears in the user’s hands. The user must have a free hand to use this effect.
  • Dark Sorcery II: Advanced Witchcraft, Specialized and Corrupted as per the basic Bokor Witchcraft Package. Grounding, Flesh Like Mist and Weathermonger (6 CP).
  • +3d6 Mana as +9d6 (32) Power, Specialized and Corrupted/only to power the Dark Sorcery abilities listed above (6 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +7 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only for Power, only to rebuild the power pool for the Dark Sorcery Powers above (5 CP).

Shax brings flexibility. His dark sorcery is not enormously powerful, but it offers a wide variety of exotic options and he provides enough power to use it freely. He’s not particularly strong on direct damage, but either his Accursed Gaze or Hand of Shax gives him a fair chance at pretty much incapacitating most opponents. A Feebleminded Spellcaster or Disarmed Martial Character is in deep trouble.

The Triad (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage/Compulsive. Those channeling the Triad find themselves unable to put up with pretty much any mortal government; they are all fatally flawed, need to be overthrown, and should not be offered respect. Channelers will support revolutionaries without much thought and will be pointlessly rude to governmental authority figures).

According to Wizards of the Coast, The Triad is a fusion of three fallen gods from a mighty psionic civilization that fell to shadowy side effects of their own infrastructure. Apparently no one in the mighty psionic civilization was any good at precognition, or dimensional awareness, or sensing subtle psychic intrusions, or boosting their knowledge skills past their presumably high base in knowledge/the planes and psionic lore, or… you know what? I think I’m going to go with the secret-society Triads instead – especially since the Triad, as written by Wizards of the Coast, is really not worth bothering with. That’s actually a common problem with the “official” vestiges; with no real underpinning to designing them but guesswork, the quality is very unreliable. Some are clearly winners, others clearly losers, and the rest are mostly all right. Sure, even using Eclipse you can still put in useless powers and such – but at least you’ll know if you have points left over or have spent far, FAR, too much.

Oppression bred secrecy, rebellion, and a thousand hidden conspiracies, tunneling through the society like the roots of some invasive weed, finding rich and fertile ground amongst the lower classes, dispossessed aristocrats, the ambitious, the criminal, and the desperate – flowering into outbreaks of resistance, of violence, of marching men. And like flowers, they fell to the scything weapons of professional soldiers. The White Lotus Society, the Taiping Rebellion, the Boxer Rebellion, and the Heaven and Earth Society… all fell, and were forgotten, the last remnants swept away.

Yet seeds fell in other lands, blown from the homeland in the red storm. The teachings of the Three Harmonies had focused on Body, Spirit, and Mind – and the power of the mind was the mark of its leaders. Unseen. Needing no sorcerous tomes, exotic components, or strange rituals, ready to respond in an instant to a channeled and focused will. And that power will answer still to those few who know how to call the last traces of the masters from the misty reaches of the past.

  • The Inner Fire, Specialized for Increased Effect: Bonus “Slots” are converted into Power (2 Points/Level of the bonus slot, bonus slots converted to Power cannot be used for other purposes) and the user may select psionic abilities from the basic Psion/Wilder list), but the number of available effects is halved and the caster level and safe usage level limits (Casting Level = 1/2 User Level, Maximum level of spell usable safely = User Level/4, rounded down) of The Inner Fire continue to apply. These are normal manifestations, not supernatural powers (6 CP).

The Triads Inner Fire Discipline List:

  • L1 (1 Power, Level 4+): Call to Mind, Empathy, and Entangling Ectoplasm.
  • L2 (3 Power, Level 8+): Body Equilibrium, Detect Hostile Intent, and Knock.
  • L3 (5 Power, Level 12+): Dispel Psionics, Energy Wall, and Time Hop.
  • L4 (7 Power, Level 16+): Correspond, Dimension Door, and Freedom of Movement.
  • L5 (9 Power, Level 20+): Ectoplasmic Shambler, Plane Shift, and True Seeing.
  • L6 (11 Power, Level 24+): Cloud Mind (Mass), Retrieve, and Temporal Acceleration,
  • L7 (13 Power, Level 28+): Divert Teleport, Energy Wave, and Personal Mind Blank.
  • L8 (15 Power, Level 32+): Iron Body, Shadow Body, and True Metabolism.
  • L9 (17 Power, Level 36+): Etherealness, Microcosm, and Timeless Body.

Note that most of these will not be usable until very high levels due to the restrictions on The Inner Fire. Using Charisma-Based Bonus Spell Slots… Charisma 12+ = +2 Power, 14+ = +6 Power, 16+ = +12 Power, 18+ = +20 Power, 20+ = +32 Power, 22+ = +48 Power, and so on.

  • Adept: Diplomacy, Psicraft, Sense Motive, and Spellcraft, Specialized/only to double the boost provided by Augmented Bonus, Below (3 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus/Dedicated Student: Add (Con Mod) (totaling +2 x Con Mod with Adept) to each of Diplomacy, Psicraft, Sense Motive, and Spellcraft (6 CP).
  • Lore (As per Bardic Knowledge) (6 CP).
  • Upgraded Proficiencies: A Bokor is normally proficient with Simple Weapons. This is upgraded to being proficient with all Simple, Martial, and Exotic Weapons (12 CP).
  • Additional Psionic Ability: Psionic Blade. L3, costs 5 Power. Manifested as a Swift Action; the user pours psionic energy into a weapon, adding his or her Charisma to Attack Checks and (level, +10 Max) to Damage for the next three minutes (2 CP).

The Triad isn’t very powerful at low levels even if the skill bonuses will have a larger relative impact there – but at mid-levels and up combining a high Charisma with the Triad can provide quite a lot of Power and a fairly decent array of abilities to use it with. Going further, the Triad will continue to provide new powers well into the epic levels. Most of the rest is just lagniappe, although the Psionic Blade ability can be a useful contribution to a melee build and the weapon proficiencies can come in handy at times. Still, if you want to rely on a weapon you’ll hopefully have learned to use it long before you can call on the Triad .

The Heartless Shadow (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Dependent on Shadows. Those channeling The Heartless Shadow suffer a -3 penalty to all rolls when they are out in intense bright light, such as direct sunlight).

Vanus is, once again, not really a name; it’s another obscure word (likely Latin or Estonian) that can be translated in various ways (boastful, ostentatious, vain, empty, vacant, void, unsubstantial, and untrustworthy) – which at least explains where the “legend” came from. He radiates fear, he lets one nearby ally take a free move action once per round, escaping almost any confinement, he does +1d6 damage when attacking a weaker foe and gives you a big bonus to Listen checks. Ergo we have the Heartless Shadow. An obsession with capturing or killing Keyblade Wielders is optional.

  • Augmented Bonus: Add (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) for Skill Points through L1, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/points may only be spent on Listen (Perception in Pathfinder), Hide (Stealth in Pathfinder), and Ride and must be distributed evenly between them (6 CP).
  • Presence/Aura of Fear: As per Doom to enemies who come within 10, Specialized for Increased Effect (Those who fail to save are Frightened, those who save are Shaken) / will not take effect again until the duration of the effect expires, once a creature saves it is immune for twenty-four hours (6 CP).
  • Presence, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Vaporous Jaunt) / only affects a single ally within 30 feet per turn, only usable once every three rounds. Designating the ally to be affected is a free action (6 CP).

Vaporous Jaunt: Transmutation, L2, Components V, Casting Time 1 Standard Action, Range: Medium, Target: One willing creature, Duration: Instantaneous, Saving Throw: Will Negates (Harmless), Spell Resistance: Yes.

The target dissolves into mist, reforming at a place of it’s choice within it’s normal movement range – although, since no physical movement is required, chains, bars, hold spells, grapples, and similar obstacles will not prevent the Jaunt and no attacks of opportunity are triggered. Similarly, this does not require an action on the part of the target.

  • Innate Enchantment (11 CP). All effects are Swift or Immediate, SL1, CL1, Unlimited-Use Use-Activated for an effective value of 2000 GP each.
    • Void Cloak/Invisibility, Swift
    • Shadow Walk/Swift Expeditious Retreat
    • Night Wings/Feather Fall
    • Form of the Void/Windy Escape (Pathfinder)
    • Shadow Strike (Your weapons do +1d6 damage for the round)
  • Shield of Shadows/Block (Melee) (6 CP).

The Heartless Shadow is a surprisingly capable team fighter, and almost always gets to use its Swift Actions, even if its swift abilities are fairly minor. The ability to shuttle allies about, cause fear in the enemy, and block attacks makes it a reasonably effective fighter as well.

Mucha Lucha (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Accursed. Mucha Lucha comes with an elaborate mask, and the channeler will resist all attempts to remove it. If someone manages to remove it anyway, the innate enchantments he grants will not work until the channeler puts it back on).

According to the Ars Goetia, Zagan makes men witty and wise, changes various liquids into wine or oil or water (sources vary) and turn metals into coins. Considering what many of the others are supposed to be able to do… that’s not much of a portfolio. Wizards of the Coast gave him various snake-themed abilities, possibly due to his being a patron of counterfeiters and deceivers. Both are a bit meh, so I bring you Mucha Lucha, the Spirit of Masked Wrestling.

  • Anime Master, Specialized and Corrupted/only for Grappling (2 CP): Increases your size by one level for grappling purposes.
  • Evasive/Grapple: takes no attacks of opportunity for making a grapple attempt (3 CP).
  • Specialist / Grapple: +4 to Grapple (3 CP).
  • Presence/Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Only usable once every five rounds, only affects a single target within 30′), produces an Aversion effect (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (10 CP):
    • Embrace The Wild: +2 to Listen and Spot, Gain Low-Light Vision and either Blindsense out to 30′ or Scent (chosen when the Mystery is summoned) (2000 GP).
    • Fist of Stone: +6 Enhancement Bonus to Strength for the purposes of attack rolls, grapple checks, or breaking and crushing items. May make one natural slam attack, dealing 1d6 points of damage + your new Strength bonus (or 1-1/2 times your Strength bonus if you make no other attacks in the round) (2000 GP).
    • Corrosive Grasp: Gain a touch attack doing 1d6+1 Acid Damage (2000 GP).
    • Grip of Iron: +4 Enhancement Bonus to Grapple Checks (Psionic, still 2000 GP).
    • Serpents Bane: You gain +2 to Attacks and +2d6 Damage against snakes, snakelike creatures, and creatures with a natural poison attack (Personal-Only, 1400 GP). . This lets you easily out-wrestle huge boa constrictors and anacondas.
  • Immunity to Dispelling effects (Common/Minor/Great, Specialized and Corrupted / only to protect Innate Enchantments, Only those that come with this Mystery, 4 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus: Add (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) for Skill Points through L1, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/points may only be spent on a Wrestling Martial Art (although each summoner may create their own Dex or Str based style), Tumble (Acrobatics in Pathfinder), and Intimidate and the points must be distributed evenly between them (6 CP).
  • Specific Knowledge/The Lore of Masked Wrestling (1 CP)

Mucha Lucha is obviously a bit of a niche Mystery. He’s quite good at what he does, and grappling can be quite effective up until Freedom Of Movement is a pretty standard precaution – but most adventuring parties really don’t need a professional wrestler along. Still, if you ever need that sort of cover, or are up against  a swarm of minor casters or some such… Mucha Lucha may be right up your alley.

Zceryll

The last level six Mystery is from a Class Chronicles article – and Zceryll raises four major red flags.

First off, it’s from a web article. There ARE very good web articles out there, but web articles are notorious for dubious quality and wonky mechanics for a reason.

That articles initial premise – that Vestiges, originating from any dimension in the multiverse and now resident beyond it, somehow need “adapting” to local histories setting to make them usable – demonstrates that the author doesn’t get the basic idea of what a “Vestige” is supposed to be. Given that, it’s all too likely that he or she doesn’t understand how to build one either.

It’s for the Forgotten Realms – a setting notorious for mechanics like “Spellfire” and for Mary Sue and Marty Stu characters.

It’s widely considered the best vestige available before epic levels. There’s a certain relationship here with the first problem on this list isn’t there?

So Zceryll:

  • Grants the (non-epic) “pseudonatural” template. So… you become an Outsider, get a +20 insight bonus on an attack check once per day, get some (15 Max) resistance to Acid and Electricity, get some Damage Reduction (10/Magic max), and Gain (10 + Level, Max total 25) Spell Resistance, can take a weird form that causes attackers to suffer a -1 Morale Penalty when attacking you, and you get a +0 to +2 to your CR. And yet there are – quite specifically – no penalties to diplomacy, or perform, or any other activities for becoming a writhing lovecraftian horror from beyond. It doesn’t even make you hard to recognize. And here I would have thought that most people would find it awkward. So you get a poorly-implemented template that was meant for monsters only. Do any other vestiges grant +2 ECL templates? No?
  • You gain immunity to Confusion, Insanity, and Weird spells. Not to Confusion or Insanity effects, but just to those three specific spells. Why not, say, Phantasmal Killer since Weird is just an area of effect version? Who knows? In addition, you receive a +1 bonus per four binder levels on saving throws against mind-affecting effects. Well… OK.
  • You can fire a ranged touch attack ray up to medium range that dazes an opponent who fails a will save for 1d3 rounds. Once you have used this ability, you cannot do so again for 5 rounds. A fairly good ability, but at least it makes some sense and the mechanics are clear enough.
  • “Summon Alien: You can summon any creature from the summon monster list that a sorcerer of your level could summon. Any creature you summon with this ability gains the pseudonatural template. Thus, at 10th level you could summon any creature from the summon monster I-V list. When you reach 14th level, you can summon any creature from the summon monster I-VII list. You can only summon creatures that can be affected by the pseudonatural template. Once you have used this ability, you cannot do so again for 5 rounds.”

OK… Disregarding that the ability does not say how long your summoned monsters stick around (I’d say that it’s most likely intended to be one round per level, like the Summon Monster spells), whether or not you can call multiple lower-level creatures like the Summon Monster spells (I’d say no), and whether or not you can control what you summon (probably yes, but it doesn’t say so), there are problems with this over and above the author’s poor implementation (yet another confidence-reducer – as if I needed any more).

Most obviously… you get to do more summoning than any actual summoner – up to 2880 times per day. Producing effects of up to level nine (since this ability scales instead of being limited to effects based on the level at which this vestige can first be summoned). And that gives you similar access to an immense range of spells. Just to start off with, this provides effectively unlimited access to Repairing Touch, Spider Climb, Invisibility, Magic Missile, Dispel Magic, Glitterdust, Gust of Wind, Neutralize Poison, Pyrotechnics, Scorching Ray, Suggestion, Wind Wall, Obscuring Mist, and Cure Moderate Wounds – among many other spells. Just for some further highlights…

  • Level Twelve? Add Animate Dead, Bestow Curst, Create Food and Water, Dominate Monster, Cure Serious Wounds, Quickened Fireball, Fog Cloud, Lightning Bolt, Wall of Stone, Magic Circle Against Evil, Speak with Animals…
  • Level Fourteen? Add Greater Command, Commune, Death Ward, Dimensional Anchor, Fly, Holy Smite, Major Creation, Major Image, Phantasmal Killer, Raise Dead, Remove Curse, True Seeing, Wind Walk, Wall of Ice.
  • Level Sixteen? Add Blade Barrier, Cone of Cold, Entangle, Heroism, Knock, Passwall, Polymorph Other, Scrying, Stone Shape, and Telekinesis.
  • Level Eighteen? Add Blasphemy, Death Ward, Dismissal, Dispel Chaos/Evil/Law, Greater Dispel Magic, Divination, Enervation, Enthrall, Find the Path, Freedom of Movement, Heal, Hold Monster, Holy Word, Greater Invisibility, Locate Creature, Locate Object, Nondetection, Prismatic Spray, Reincarnate, Greater Shadow Conjuration, Stone to Flesh, Symbol (any), Trap the Soul, Tongues, Wall of Force, and Wall of Fire.

So… your minions can do the fighting, the healing, the blasting, the battlefield control, and the construction work, get you all the information you like, dispel enemy magic, and help you sneak about and get into places. They can charm and manipulate people for you. They can create illusions and provide undead minions just in case keeping two or three monsters around all the time is not enough. Admittedly you have to spend 20% of your time summoning – but there are entire core classes which are far less potent and versatile than this single ability.

Now I COULD build this. I could throw in something like Kagura’s specialized reality editing to get the summoning and lesser effects, put in another template-bestowing effect, and kludge some sort of dimensional overlay (with a superhero universe to get a continuous flow of mana to power everything with) ability together (an immunity or some of the mystic artist powers could do it). It would be a HORRIBLE kludge though, and no sane game master would allow it any more than they would allow the original Vestige.

I’m not going to bother. If you must have an “I Win!” button there’s not much point in playing.