Apex – The Playable Races Part I; The Hominidae

Apex is an experimental setting focused on exploring very different types of intelligence – races which simply do not think like humans do. That’s somewhat awkward – it’s hard to properly play characters who don’t think like you do – but it seems worth considering. The game is set up using Hero System Rules (4’th Edition) for the moment because Spellweaver – who’s been writing it up – finds that easier to work with.

Afrikans – the youngest of the current fully sapient races – evolved in Africa, and spread to the rest of the world with surprising speed. They’re currently dominant because most of the other races became extinct or near-extinct long ago and are basically the local version of Homo Sapiens – as Homo Sapiens might be if full sapience was dependent on a link with the Astral plane that limited the spread of sapient species but which can also be tapped into to power magic. Unfortunately, the nature of the magic available to any given race is strictly limited by the underlying structure of the minds using it – meaning that each race can only use a limited selection of abilities.

  • Physical Limitation: Elemental Powers Only. Afrikans can create and maintain advanced “conventional” technologies (which do indeed require a bit of magic to keep working in the face of supernatural resistance) and can manipulate the various elements, the states of matter, and the elemental forces of life and death (Frequently/Fully, -20 Points).
  • Normal Characteristic Maxima (-20 Points). As fairly normal humans, Afrikans characters have attributes in the normal human ranges.
  • Psychological Limitation: Pyramidal Psychology. Afrikans form large organizations easily, but have difficulties handling internal feedback within those organizations and with understanding systems involving it. Dominant leaders thus tend to hear only what they want to – and so less-dominant subgroups resort to factional infighting to advance their ideas. Groups of Afrikans have been known to obey obviously stupid orders simply because they came from the top – and may select very poor leaders and then follow them blindly. (Very Common, Strong, -20 Points)
  • +3 Levels with Ranged Combat (15 Points). Afrikans have explored a unique evolutionary niche as projectile predators (originally rock-throwers) – hunting considerably larger and stronger prey while remaining out of their effective reach. This has driven a massive evolutionary expansion in their brain, simply because the precise timing required for accurate throwing requires averaging across extremely large numbers neurons – since, as individuals, neurons are extremely inaccurate timers.
  • Basic Equipment Allowance: 15 Points (15 Points). Even if they start with nothing at all, an Afrikans character will very soon have at least the basics – being easily capable of turning rocks, sticks, hides, and fiber into weapons, protective armor, and other gear. That isn’t that hard even without their natural magic, and is remarkably easy with it.
  • Afrikan NPC’s have baseline attributes of 8, for -25 Points. This pays for basic skills and things.

Atlanteans are closely related to the Neanderthals, and reached full sapience amidst the World Tree forests on the subcontinent of Atlantis (an uplifted section of the mid-Atlantic ridge). As melee pack hunters and gatherers, their drive to intelligence was slower and more erratic than that of Homo Sapiens; improved pack tactics have a less direct link to increasing brain capacity. Their development of full sapience was thus a genetic quirk amongst a rather small isolated group. With their new access to psionic abilities, including the generation of energy weapons and personal protections, these “True” Atlanteans rapidly assumed near-total control of their subcontinent – but their relatively small and concentrated population remained extremely vulnerable to natural (and unnatural) disasters. After narrowly evading extinction, the remnant Atlantean population is expanding rapidly in partnership with Afrikans.

  • Physical Limitation: Symbolic Powers Only. For Atlanteans, names, symbols, and concepts carry a reality of their own, rather than, as they are for the other races, being something who’s “reality” exists strictly within their heads. As such, they may employ psionic abilities, manipulate symbols to empower rituals and sorceries, and employ memetic and nymic effects – most famously, altering the properties of materials by naming them. Sadly, this leaves them unable to effectively work with “independent” forces that lack symbolic aspects. (Frequently, Fully, -20 Points)
  • Normal Mental Characteristic Maxima, Physical Characteristic Maxima are increased by 50%: (-15 Points). Thanks to subtle psionic enhancement of their physical forms, Atlanteans can achieve routinely achieve levels of strength, speed, and durability that Afrikan individuals can only reach with the aid of powerful boosting effects – and can use their own temporary boosting effects to go well beyond those levels.
  • Psychological Limitation: Patterned Mentality. Atlanteans think in complex interacting patterns, rather than linearly. They organize themselves in complex networks of semi-independent clans and – amongst may other social effects – this leaves them unable to clearly separate products from their creators, making the idea of an assembly line or multistage manufacturing incomprehensible to them. This effectively limits their technology to what can be personally crafted (peaking at about the level of Imperial Rome) and their large-scale organizations to being personally run by unusually dominant groups. Worse, persistently disruptive elements are considered existential threats, rather than annoyances, leading to genocidal wars (Very Common, Total, -25 points).
  • Pattern Dance: When working with systems that involve many interacting factors – and ONLY when working with such systems – Atlanteans gain the benefits of two Overall Levels (EG: Not for Acrobatics – unless, perhaps, to make up for penalties from trying to perform in a ships rigging in a storm – or for breakfall, climbing, computer programming, concealment, contortionist, etc. They are, however, generally usable in melee (but rarely ranged, and certainly not for target shooting or sniping) combat, Oratory (and other performing arts), and for things like ecosystem dynamics, weather prediction, medicine, genetic manipulation, magneto-hydro-dynamics, neural network tuning, and other similarly complex or chaotic systems that prove to be difficult to adequately model with a reductionist mindset (-.25 limitation, 16 Points).
  • Attribute Bonuses: Str +5 (5 points), Con +3 (6 points), plus Damage Reduction 3/3 on PD/ED (3 points).
  • Atlantean/Afrikans Crossbreeds are possible (especially with a bit of Atlantean genetic meddling). Such individuals may swap out the physical limitation in their package and one of their two secondary benefits, but otherwise lean towards one race or the other. Such individuals are usually sterile with either parental species barring additional genetic meddling (which generally results in offspring typical of the other parent’s species, if often with genetic flaws), may face racism from both parental species, and are very, very, rare, with the oldest just now coming of age since it took some decades to work out how to make it possible in the first place.

Lemurian Racial Package (Reconstructed, Presumed Extinct):

The semi-aquatic Lemurians appeared on “Lemuria” (the exposed, and somewhat larger, Kerguelen Plateau) during an active uplift event and a severe global sea level minimum. Their rise to sapience was apparently triggered by a pressing need to adapt to a very rapidly changing landscape and shifting climate, favoring active thought over instinct. Unfortunately, with most of the Kerguelan Plateau currently deep under the arctic ocean and only a few of what would have been the most desolate peaks exposed as arctic islands, information on the Lemurians is very hard to come by. It is generally believed that the Lemurians went extinct when rising sea levels and subsidence left their microcontinent underwater and uninhabitable.

  • Physical Limitations: Harmonic Manipulation Only. Lemurians possessed the ability to gradually mold the world to their desires, patiently reshaping it’s landscape and species to suit their needs. While this is a broad-ranging and potent ability, it is anything but fast. Secondarily, it allows the user of Megalithic Magic, shaping the ley lines of the Earth into potent effects via massive stone constructs (Frequently, Fully, -20 Points).
  • Normal Physical Characteristic Maxima (-20 Points). The Lemurians were apparently fairly normal primates physically and did little or no “hunting” – unless you count fishing, clamming, and other forms of riverine and shoreline aquiculture.
  • Physical Limitation: Asymbolic. Lemurians are incapable of even comprehending advanced symbolism; they do not and cannot have a language as the current races understand them, They view their world as a series of unique events, rather than by sorting things into categories and narratives. For them, “consistency” was a feature of personalities and of their own works, not of the natural world (Frequently, Fully, -20 Points).
  • Harmonic Shaping: 1d6 Cumulative Minor Transformation, to any (natural-seeming) variation desired, affecting up to a 4″ radius, no range, requires one week per die roll (7 Points).
  • Telepathy, 3d6, Half (0) End Cost (+.25), Only to communicate images, emotions, and gestalt impressions (-1) (9 Points). An augmented function of already-enhanced mirror neurons, the Lemurians possessed empathy at the telepathic level.
  • Swimming, +3 (3 Points).
  • Immunity/Needing to Breathe more than once every few minutes (2 Points).
  • Immunity/Penalties for functioning in water (2 Points).
  • Immunity/Requiring basic implements. Lemurians were capable of giving temporary form to liquids, allowing them to serve as effective tools (3 Points) – making it easy to fish without nets, fish spears, lines, or even coracle-like “boats” since such things could simply be shaped from the water around them. (This could also be bought as a highly limited transformation ability, but it really isn’t worth the trouble).
  • Immunity/requiring records to transmit their cultural information. The Lemurians possessed a limited “racial mind”, and needed little education to function (2 Points).
  • Whether the Lemurians are actually extinct remains unknown; given their abilities, it is entirely possible that some decided to adapt to the ocean depths, or escaped into artificially-generated pocket dimensions or environments. Similar abilities have occasionally been observed in “defective” Afrikans specimens, although never to the full extent of the abilities listed here. Unfortunately, such individuals are invariably incapable of effective communication.

Hyperborean Racial Package (Reconstructed, Presumed Extinct, A.K.A “Giants”, “Jotun”, “Golden Lords”, “Bridge Builders”, etc):

The Hyperboreans (possibly a derivative of Paranthropus Robustus?) arose on the arctic landmass of Hyperborea (corresponding to the Lomonosov and Alpha Arctic Ridge systems, with some elements of the Mendeleev Ridge and the Chukchi Plateau, mostly forming a ring around the Makarov Basin) when geothermal activity gave rise to a local northern temperate climate. They had a morphology resembling a gracile gorilla, but were far more massive – averaging between ten and twelve feet tall. Socially, they were apparently extensively influenced by their instinctive competitiveness, uniting only under particularly dominant individuals and operating in roving bands when not under such control. Oddly enough, a Hyperboreans effective mental capacity is highly variable: while they can use their connection with astral space to “supercharge” their neural structure – potentially gaining vast intelligence in short bursts – their neural structure is poorly organized when not so supplemented, leaving them somewhat apelike much of the time. If a Hyperborean declares that “The Time For Debate Is Passed!” he or she probably really, REALLY, means it.

  • Physical Limitation: Materialism only. Hyperboreans are capable of manipulating the physical properties of matter and of imbuing it with mental energy (given a sufficient source), but they cannot access other powers. Such imbued constructs range from simple talismans imprinted with knowledge, energy, and possessing minor powers based on the material up to full-scale golem-style automatons – something well beyond the abilities of the other races. Secondarily, they can create and maintain midlevel technologies, such as steam engines (Frequently, Fully, -20 Points).
  • Mental Characteristic Maxima of 25, Physical of 15. Their great size provides some inherent benefits, but it also places considerable stress on their biological systems (-15).
  • Physical Limitation: For Hyperboreans mental energy is a very limited resource that they must spend to theorize, engage in complex debates, design structures, or otherwise perform mental labors – and their supply is relatively limited and slow to recover. Treat this as an Endurance Reserve, with a maximum reserve of (Con x 10) endurance and a recovery rate of 5/hour, 10-20 per hour in the presence of a Titan, depending on power level. The exact cost of various mental labors is up to the game master, but their mental energy is always a resource that must carefully managed. As a side effect, Hyperboreans tend towards very direct and simple solutions (regardless of how much physical effort they may involve) and their mere presence is troublesome for Titans, who find them quite draining. More skillful Hyperboreans can focus their energy reserves into simple astral blasts, shields, and weapons – making them quite effective (if very swiftly exhausted) when fighting astral entities.
    • This may in fact be a self-protective adaption, developed after the Ethereal cataclysm – allowing a Hyperborean to shut down vulnerable higher mental processes in the face of astral disruptions and to operate effectively outside of the areas with the astral overlays that allow full sapience.
  • Growth, 3 Levels, 0 End Persistent Always On and Physical (-.5); it cannot be turned off, means needing a lot of food, creates massive physical stresses (as noted above), and so on (15 Points).
  • Materials Manipulation Variable Power Pool (12 Points), Only to take on the properties of various materials or to imbue them with psychic energies (-5), must have a source for psychic energies (-.25), must touch the material to be affected or to copy its properties (-.5). requires a full phase to change (-.25) (14 Points), +1 Point towards the Control Skill (8- Base. 1 Point).
  • It is quite possible that some Hyperboreans are still around – whether having transferred their minds into golems, having taken on the nature of stone and entered stasis until conditions improve, or still surviving clustered around deep sources of geologic heat. Given their tendency to suppress thought and curiosity in the areas about them, they would be extremely easy to overlook.

Champions – Jann Shadowborne

Jann Shadowborne (well, James Anders, but that would never do for a stage name) always saw things a bit… differently. Even more so than a knack for small magics could explain. His imaginary friends occasionally did things, and one taught him a handful of songs from a hundred and twenty years ago – and then one autumn day led him down a dirt lane which wasn’t there, to a burning farmhouse where his suddenly-vanished friends voice was calling frantically from inside as someone else inside screamed and pounded on the door.

The charm seven-year-old James used for getting into the pantry to get sweets sufficed to unjam the door – but the scene faded away as his soot-covered coughing friend and his mother stumbled out.

James never saw that particular “imaginary” friend again – but in a crumbling nearby graveyard, the blurred inscriptions on two century-old graves shifted, one adding three and the other six decades to the date of death – and one changed from a simple child’s stone to a memorial to a long life, well lived.

James is fundamentally a channel. He is drawn to unbalanced energies, the restless dead, and similar disruptions of the natural order to draw their energies into focus, bind and regulate them – and ultimately restore balance. Wherever he goes, those forces flood into him – filling his mind with strange lore and ancient imperatives and his body with echoes of powers long faded He (and even his companions) can even be drawn into the pocket-realms of those echoes – or across time to intervene in the originating events. A small part of that excess power amplifies his knack for music – expressing and offering catharsis for the unbalanced concerns or sorrows of a crowd, releasing the lingering echoes of an ancient battle in a martial pean and perhaps bringing peace, and easily learning and performing music long lost. The rest he has learned to control by focusing it into a “medicine bag”, which allows him to control how it is released – making him a mid-level spellcaster as well, even if his magic is more than a bit unstable. Perhaps most importantly, he can earn and claim occasional favors from the spirits of the Land, Sea, Sky, Beasts, Plants, and the Dead – although this is a very limited resource and may have it’s own exotic consequences, given their tendency to see him as an odd-jobs contractor.

By the time he was eleven, his musical career was well underway – although his (primary?) career as an occult investigator attracted far less public notice.

James is one of my favorite character types; he comes with a limitless number of built-in plot hooks, is an open channel for games master exposition, may be called on by mysterious forces for all sorts of exotic jobs, lets the entire party be sucked into all kinds of weird situations that they need to solve before they can easily leave, and – while he is a fairly powerful and versatile mage – can easily be shut down temporarily and has the potential for causing magical accidents when you need a bit of a complication. He has a reason to travel, and can have a comfortable lifestyle anywhere – but can’t just throw money at problems (in his case because he’s underage, and so it’s held in trust for when he becomes a legal adult). He does want to improve the world – but doesn’t have overriding specific goals because characters with goals like that tend to get a bit focused on them when they see a chance to move towards them (which is often pretty awkward in group play).

Jann Shadowborne

The Voice Of Ancient Sorrows

Value Characteristic Points
15 STR 5
17 DEX 21
23 CON 26
10 BODY 0
10 INT 0
14 EGO 8
15 PRE 5
10/36 COM 0
6 PD 3
6 ED 1
4 SPD 13
8 REC 0
36 END -5
30 STUN 0
Total 77

 

Points Powers END
8 2d6 40-Point Equipment Allowance Aid (Fade/month, Max. 40); Range: 0; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼; Extra Time: 1 hour, -2½; Only activates in armories, labs, or between outings: -1½; Personal Only: -1; Difficult to Dispel: ×4, +½; Increased END: ×10, -4; This allows a character to haul along 40 CP worth of customized gear. 30
15 Bardic Talents
(3) Well-Connected
(2) Immunity to looking less than marvelous.; Frequency: Fairly Common
(2) Immunity to the need to compose or practice his music; Frequency: Fairly Common
(2) Immunity to the need for fellow performers and staff to have backup vocals, instrumentals, and basic special effects.; Frequency: Fairly Common
(2) Immunity to not having Groupies and a Butler around.; Frequency: Fairly Common
(2) Immunity to not being heard when singing. He needs no amplifiers and cannot be drowned out.; Frequency: Fairly Common
(1) Immunity to being out of style; Frequency: Rare
(1) Celebrity Legal Privileges
3 Elemental Control: Bardic Powers (6-pt reserve); Visible (Very obvious to any mage): -¼; Generic Limitation (Dimensional Vulnerability: User can be attacked from the Astral Plane without any special modifiers.): -½; Generic Limitation (User will attract spirits with problems and will be expected to undertake various missions for the great spirits): -½
a-3

2d6 Aid: Channel Of The Unsettled Past (Fade/week, Max. 12); Range: 0; Generic Limitation (His knowledge generally comes in the form of symbolic visions, odd prophecies, and vague warnings.): -2; No Conscious Control: -2; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼; Generic Limitation (Visions and premonitions are often rather overwhelming.): -1; Visible (Very obvious to any mage): -¼; Generic Limitation (Dimensional Vulnerability: User can be attacked from the Astral Plane without any special modifiers.).

In most places, the past lies quiet.The distant echoes of a farmers tread, of a tryst in the orchard, of a mighty storm… all blend quietly into the song of the earth. Even death and violence fade. A man slain in a duel, the blood of both predator and prey… echo but faintly.

But sometimes the past stirs. Where things are undone, and might reawaken. Ghosts who yet attempt to accomplish some task, echoes of terrible powers, those slain with lives unlived… may stir, and rise, and walk. Things, places, and times may all host such forces.

Jann Darkborne is a channel for those echoes, a call to awaken, and a chance for them to speak and discharge the forces that hold him. Through him come final farewells, ancient warnings and calls to battle, and the final flowering of powers that cannot rest.

And even channeling a lot of the raw power into his Spirit Pouch, that can be quite a bother – and a chance to offer rest.

3
b-6 2d6 Aid: / Spirit Favors (Fade/month, Max. 36); Range: 0; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼; Extra Time: 1 day, -3½; Increased END: ×4, -1½; Generic Limitation (May only accumulate six points worth of favors each with the spirits of the Land, Sea, Sky, Beasts, Plants, and the Dead. ): -½; Generic Limitation (Must do favors for the spirits – making small offerings, spending time playing or singing at appropriate locations, etc. ): -1; Generic Limitation (Spirit Favors cost a base of three points each. With the Well-Connected modifier, this means he can have three with each group): -1; Visible (Very obvious to any mage): -¼; 12
c-2 Mental Defense (15 pts); Add to Total; Always On: -½; Visible (Very obvious to any mage): -¼;
d-3 Detect Occult Phenomena (+1 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Visible (Very obvious to any mage): -¼.
e-5 Astral Senses; Visible (Very obvious to any mage): -¼
(4) Astral Sight (+0 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Always On: -½; Visible (Very obvious to any mage): -¼
(4) Astral Hearing (+0 to PER); Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Always On: -½; Visible (Very obvious to any mage): -¼
f-2 Power Defense (12 pts); Always On: -½; Generic Limitation (Only versus magical and spirit attacks): -½; Visible (Very obvious to any mage): -¼
g-2 Extra-Dimensional Movement; The Astral Plane; Dimensions: One, +0; Time Travel: None, +0; Mass Multiplier: ×1, +0; Carrying Mass: None; Extra Time: 1 turn, -1 10
h-3 +26 COM (Ethereal Good Looks); Visible (Very obvious to any mage): -¼
52 Total Powers  

 

Points Skills, Talents, Perks Roll
30 +3 level w/Overall Level
4 Musician 13-
2 Gaelic (Fluent Conv.); Literacy: Standard, 0
2 Area Knowledge: The Spirit Realms 11-
3 Scholar
1 Knowledge: Magic 11-
1 Knowledge: The Astral Realms 11-
1 Knowledge: Literature 11-
1 Knowledge: Spirits 11-
1 Knowledge: Psychic Phenomena 11-
1 Knowledge: History 11-
1 Knowledge: Occult Literature 11-
1 Knowledge: Music 11-
1 Professional License: Occultist
1 Passport
51 Total Skills, Talents, Perks  

 

Cost Equipment
22 Pouch of Echoes; Focus: Obvious Accessible, -1; Generic Limitation (Removing the pouch will soon cause him to start generating weird magical effects as his excess power discharges through him at random. ): -½
(3) END Reserve (60 END, 2 REC/turn) ; Focus: Obvious Accessible, -1;

The power of the restless past channels itself through Jann – but the energies of minor disturbances and unsettled nature need little attention; they need merely be stored, to dissolve into pure power once more.

(18) Multipower (80-pt reserve); Activation: 15-, -¼; Side Effects (Weird Stuff Happens – or Drain 3d6 Stun and apply 6d6 healing to an opponent who is attuned to whatever unbalanced forces are in the area.): 60/All, -1; Generic Limitation (No spell may exceed 40 active points): -½; Variable Limitations: -½, -¼; Focus: Obvious Accessible, -1
u-1 2d6 Aid: Adding Multipower Slots (Fade/day, Max. 24) 2; Range: 0; Affects: Single Power of Special Effect, +¼
Commonly Added Multipower Slots
Offensive Spells
u-1 1d6+1 Athame: Killing Attack (HTH) (Total 2d6); Range: 0; Reduced END: Half, +¼; Affects Desolidified: +½ 1 End
u-1 3d6 Chains Of Sythil: Entangle (DEF 3) 1; Range: 185; Reduced END: Half, +¼ 1 End
u-1 4d6 Invoke The Storm: Energy Blast 4; Range: 200; Versus: ED; Variable Special Effects: Any, +½; Area Effect (One-hex): 1 hex(es), +½ 4 End
u-1 4d6 Psychic Blast: Ego Attack  4 End
u-1 11d6 Word Of Dismissal: Dispel Magic 4 End
u-1 2½d6 Lance of Winter: Killing Attack (RKA) 4 End
Defensive Spells
u-1 Ward of Gaia: Force Wall (10 PD/6 ED) 4 End
u-1 Air Sphere / Need Not Breathe ; Area Effect (One-hex): 1 hex(es), +½; Reduced END: Zero & Persistent, +1; Uncontrolled: +½
u-1 Feywarding: Force Field (15 PD/15 ED); Continuing Charges: 1 Minute, -3 lev; Trigger (Appropriately attacked when not up): Set, +¼; Charges: +6, +0
u-1 Invisibility (Hearing, Sight); Reduced END: Half, +¼ 1 End
u-1 Deep Trance; Charges: 1, +1; Continuing Charges: 1 year, -11 lev; Generic Limitation (You cannot do anything save astral projection and meditation and such while maintaining the effect.): -2
(2) Doesn’t Eat, Excrete or Sleep
(1) Immune to Aging ; Charges
(1) Immune to Disease
(3) Need Not Breathe
Mobility Spells
u-1 10″ Eagles Wings: Flight (NC: 320″); Non-Combat Multiplier: ×32, +20; Non-Combat (MPH): 476 2 End
u-1 Lightning Speed
(7) Running (+10″, 16″, NC: 32″) 0; Non-Combat Multiplier: ×2, +0; Non-Combat (MPH): 30; Reduced END: Zero, +½
(2) Clinging (Clinging STR +0)
Utility Spells
u-1 Atherium Lens; Detect Magic (+5 to PER) ; Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5; Addition (Discriminatory): +5
u-1 Sorcerer’s Will: Change Environment (8″ rad.); Effect: Variable, +1 4 End
u-1 The Deep Lore: Change Environment (2″ rad.) 0; Increased Area: ×1, +0; Effect: Variable, +1; Reduced END: Zero & Persistent, +1; Uncontrolled: +½; Difficult to Dispel: ×2, +¼; Increased Area (Maximum radius of 4″): ×2, +¼

Common uses for this include illumination and air conditioning, keeping off the rain, and minor effects – but they can also include things like shutting all the doors and windows and turning on the alarms (or the reverse), making the area holy, or even “Casting The Circle”.

“The area within the ritual circle is set apart from the world. Within it the world is no longer a place of science (or the normal rules of Champions and it’s predictable, calculated, power). It is a place of wonder and wild magic, where runes, herbs, mantras, and all the rest of the occult paraphernalia actually have power. Within the circle… the wild magic of intuition and guesswork reigns, true love’s tears may wake the dead, omens and visions appear, and spirits move through dreaming realms. Here, where wonder and horror lurk at every turn and a child’s illness is not influenza but his spirit gone wandering, is an animalistic world of spirits, not of logic. In short, it’s magic driven by roleplaying rather then character points. It’s never the same twice – but it is fairly easy to get away with little stuff.”

u-1 Lesser Phantasm: Images (Hearing, Sight, 4″ radius); Range: 175; Observer PER Penalty: 0, +0; Reduced END: Half, +¼ 1 End
u-1 Hand Of The Mage: Telekinesis (STR 15); Range: 200; Manipulation: Fine, +10; Reduced END: Half, +¼ 1 End.
u-1 8d6 Grace of The Waters: Healing 4 End
u-1 Deep Sight
(4) N-Ray Vision (Not through force barriers)
(4) Detect Traps (+5 to PER) ; Time Required: Instant, +2; Range: Ranged, +5
u-1 2d6 Lesser Conjuration: Transform (Major, Limited Class) 4; Range: 185 4 End

This produces a large variety of minor tools and items – a crowbar, a bundle of torches, some rope, and so on.

Vocal Powers
u-1 1d6 Song Of Catharsis: Transform: Induce spiritual catharsis and release (Minor, Limited Class); Range: 200; Area Effect (Radius): 16″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×16, +1; Reduced END: Half, +¼; Cumulative: +½ 2 End
u-1 2d6 Tongue Of Angels: Aid to Acting, Conversation, Oratory, Persuasion, Seduction, and Musician (Singing), (Fade/hour, Max. 12); Range: 0; Reduced END: Half, +¼; Affects: All Powers of Special Effect, +2 2 End
u-1 2d6 Song of Sleep: Energy Blast; Range: 200; Versus: ED; No Normal Defense (Deafness, Earplugs, Hard Helmets): +1; Area Effect (Radius): 32″ radius, +1; Increased Area: ×16, +1 4 End
8 Armor / Tough Leather Clothing (4 PD/4 ED) ; OIF (Leather Clothing): -½
9 1d6+1 Automatic Pistol: Killing Attack (RKA) 0; Range: 100; Charges: +8, +0; Clips: 4; Gestures: Instant Power, -¼; Focus: Obvious Accessible, -1
1 High-End Smartphone (0kg)
40 Total Equipment

 

100+ Disadvantages
10 Public Identity
15 Reputation: Boy Band Bard (14-)
10 Underage (Infrequently, Greatly)
10 Dependent NPC: Current Girlfriend (Normal, 8-); Skills: Normal, +0
15 Overconfidence (Very Common, Moderate)
15 Feels compelled to help out restless spirits (Very Common, Moderate)
15 His presence occasionally triggers the formation of vortex-gates, pulling him and anyone in the area into some historical situation, pocket-world echo of reality, or astral plane that makes it hard to escape back to normal reality without undertaking some sort of fix-it quest. (Infrequently, Fully)
10 Watched: The Authorities (8-); Capabilities: More Powerful, 15; Non-combat Influence: Extensive, +5; Geographical Area: Unlimited, -0; Only Watching: ×½; Punishment: Harsh, 0
100 Total Disadvantages

 

COSTS: Char. Powers Total Total Disadv. Base
77 + 103 = 180 200 = 100 + 100

 

OCV DCV ECV Mental Def. PD/rPD ED/rED Phases
6 6 5 15 25/19 25/19 3, 6, 9, 12

 

Height: 165 cm  (5’5″), Weight: 54kg (119 lbs), Sex: Male, Age: 15

Appearance: Jann is an late adolescent young man, slightly thinner and shorter than average for his age, and with an ethereal, idealized, quality. He usually wears fringed leather, for a slightly wild-boy look.

 

The Battle Sage

Christopher West – or at least the Australian gamer Christopher West that had a gaming store and blog – seems to have disappeared from the internet, and even the wayback machine doesn’t have most of his Eclipse builds. It does have some though, and I have a few more – so, as time permits, I’ll see what I can reconstruct. Since there was a request for the Battle Sage, this build is up for reconstruction first – even if I do only have partial notes on it and so will be filling in quite a bit.

The Battle Sage is a medium-duty combatant who can call forth a weapon designed to work against a particular opponent – presuming that he or she knows enough about said opponents history to summon the appropriate opposing powers. Secondarily, he or she can help his companions coordinate their tactics against particular opponents.

That wasn’t a bad idea at all; a scholar built as something other than a primary spellcaster is a lot of fun – and, according to his notes, Mr West was indeed enjoying himself with it.

Our sample Battle Sage is level three, and is thus built on 96 (L3 Base) +6 (Duties to his order) + 6 (Disadvantages) +12 (L1 and L3 Bonus Feats) = 120 CP.

Basic Abilities (64 CP Total): BAB +3 (18 CP), Hit Dice: 3d8 (12 CP), Saves Fort +2, Ref +1, Will +2 (15 CP), Proficient with Light Armor (3 CP), Shields (3 CP), all Simple Weapons (3 CP), and a limited set of Martial Weapons (Longsword and Bows, 3 CP), and 7 Skill Points (7 CP).

Special Abilities (56 CP):

  • Vengeance Of The Long Fallen: Ranged Spirit Weapon with Exotic Appearance (Yaun-Ti Serpent Bow, appearance varies with the opponent), Specialized for Reduced Cost/Requires a History Check at DC 15 (+2 for each additional time it is called forth in a day), and only lasts for one minute per level when summoned (6 CP).
  • Breath Of Legends: Focused, Versatile, Improved, Imbuement, Specialized for Reduced Cost and Corrupted for Increased Effects (Gains an extra +1, the effects of a weapon crystal of choice (although this does not decrease the enhancement bonus necessary to use more powerful crystals), and may use Versatile to reallocate the plusses each time the weapon is summoned). Requires it’s own History check after the “Vengance Of The Long Fallen” is called forth to empower it, can only be used with the spirit weapon, not with a normal Yaun-Ti Serpent Bow – and so cannot be used very often. So when a battle sage summons his or her weapon it has an effective bonus of (1 + Level/3) (12 CP).
  • Armor of Myths: Innate Enchantment: Specialized for Reduced Cost/only active when the Spirit Weapon ability is active. 6600 GP effective value, 4 CP.
    • Master’s Touch (x.5, only for Yuan-Ti Serpent Bow and the Armor in this package, 1000 GP).
    • Force Shield I (x.7 Personal Only, 1400 GP).
    • Mithril Breastplate (+5 AC, Max Dex +5, ACP -1, ASF 15%, Move 30, 4200 GP).
  • Ward Of Legends: Focused, Versatile, Improved, Imbuement, Specialized for Reduced Cost and Corrupted for Increased Effects (Gains an extra +1, the effects of an Armor or Shield crystal of choice (this does not decrease the enhancement bonus necessary to use more powerful crystals), and may use Versatile to reallocate the plusses each time the armor is called upon). Requires it’s own History check after the “Weapon Of Legends” is called forth to empower it, can only be used with the Armor of Myths above and so cannot be used very often. So when he summons his armor he gets a bonus on it of (1 + Level/3) (12 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for Double Effect, Corrupted / only to keep Adept skills maxed out (4 CP).
  • Adept: Knowledge/History, most likely a Martial Art, and two other skills of choice (6 CP).
  • Occult Sense/Psychometry. This effectively combines Sensitivity to Psychic Impressions, Object Reading, and Blood Biography (Pathfinder) (6 CP).
  • Rally the Legions/Presence. The user and all allies within 10′ gain the Legionary Feat, but if they leave that radius they loose the beneft and cannot regain it for the rest of the encounter. (6 CP).

At this point the Battle Sage’s primary advantage is fairly obvious. When your third level party desperately needs a +1 Undead Bane Ghost Touch weapon they are not likely to have one handy – unless the group contains a Battle Sage. At which point said Sage can spend a round making knowledge checks, and suddenly be wielding one – along with some armor with just the right protective effect on it. While a Battle Sage is still a one-trick pony at this level, many third level characters are – and it is a fairly good trick.

What to buy at higher levels? Well, here are some possibilities:

Classics Of War (12 CP): Mystic Artist (Knowledge / History) with Echoes, Specialized for Double Effect, Corrupted for Reduced Cost: Only to employ the inspiration abilities that grant positive levels, only to provide bonuses in combat against specified enemies, requires that the player provide some tolerably plausible directions. Unfortunately, such device is always fairly specific; the user cannot simply provide directions against “orcs”, it must be something like “They are fighting in a version of the Keldian Style! Such variants are weak against…”.

“Serinican Iron Golems? Strike at the joints in the legs: they are weakest there and have a hard time defending them!”

Giving some of your allies two positive levels for the purposes of fighting those iron golems provides them with 2d10 (+2 x Con Mod) hit points, +2 to their BAB, AC, and Saves against them, and 12 CP worth of special benefits. At the simplest… how does Augment Attack (+4d6 damage versus Iron Golems, 12 CP) sound?

This does require a +9 or higher (Skill + Attribute Bonus) in Knowledge/History – but that shouldn’t be any problem by level four or five.

Chains Of History (12 CP): 1d6 (4) Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (Minor Edits cost 1 Point, Notable Edits cost 2, Major ones cost 3, and Grandiose ones cost 4). Requires a History Check at DC 15/18/24/36 for Minor/Notable/Major/Grandiose Edits, only for Reality Editing, only to “recall” convenient “facts” that can be used against a particular enemy, allows a Will save at a DC of (14/18/22/26 + User’s Int Mod) to resist, may only spend 4 mana on Chains of History per encounter. Plus Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized/only to refill the Chain of History Mana Pool.

  • Minor: “Call upon the Light of Ixion when you cast! She will empower your spells to pierce his cloak of darkness!”. Reducing an opponents effective Spell Resistance can be quite helpful.
  • Notable: There is a bare patch on his left breast! Aim there and your arrows will sink deep!” At this level… you get a bonus to hit and extra damage. As a minor edit, you might just get a small bonus to hit.
  • Major: “His Crown! Much of his power lies within his Crown! If you destroy much of his magic will fail!”
  • Grandiose: “But I know your true name, Ramthonosiderin Of The Seventh Abyss, and by it I command you to return to the Darkness from which you came!”

With this trick you can make an enemy vulnerable to particular types of attacks, force them to engage specific enemies (he goes berserk if you insult his…), and hamper them in many other ways. Of course, there is always the dreaded “I made my save!” “Foolish Scholar! Did you think that I would not have taken measures to counter such attacks when I knew that my weakness against them had been discovered?”.

Voice Of History (12 CP): This one is simple: take Breath of Legends to Specialized for Double Effect instead of Half Cost (12 CP) and double up the bonuses.

Armor of Inevitability (12 CP): Take Ward of Legends to Specialized for Double Effect instead of Half Cost (12 CP) and double up the bonuses.

Digging Up The Dirt (6 CP): Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect/only for Favors, may cause serious resentment if used incautiously. Given a few hours to check around, the Sage can find enough blackmail material on individuals or groups to extract two Minor or one Major favors from them – and need not ask about being asked for favors in return since the connection will soon cease to exist.

Unleash The Hounds Of War (6 CP): Inherent Spell/Summon Nature’s Ally III with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized for Reduced Cost / can only summon Dire Wolves and Wolves. Later Inherent Spells can include things like Legend Lore and other divinatory or battlefield effects.

March Of History (6 CP): Advanced Blessing (Affects up to (Cha Mod individuals plus the caster), Specialized for Reduced Cost / can only “share” the benefits of Vengeance Of The Long Fallen, Breath Of Legends, and Master’s Touch abilities – allowing much of the party to share in the benefits of suddenly having a nifty weapon customized to suit the opponent.

Overall, the Battle Sage is reasonably effective – and often very convenient to have around – in a fight. Unless they broaden their ability set, however, their out-of-combat options are a bit thin. Still, the real fun in playing one lies in being able to make stuff up, be a know-it-all, and have it actually work. Even just their basic weapon-and-armor setup invites you to add names, a history of mighty battles, and tales of enemy defeats to things – all justified because those things are now empowering your weapon!

Granny Part IV – Rulership, Miscellany, Investments, and Equipment

Vamachara Tamas, The Left-Hand Path of Mastery (or The Way of the Dark Overlord) (20 CP).

  • Rajanyoga: Dominion, Specialized for Reduced Cost / Granny draws on the awe and mystery of being a mysterious figure that works from the shadows. Thus she may be the power behind the throne (or at least the most respected advisor for the country), may be a patron of several covens of witches, a major figure in the underworld, and more – but she must do so without directly ruling, and so gets only half the usual number of dominion points for her various roles (3 CP).
  • Asuramantra: Power Words, Specialized for Half Cost and Corrupted for 1.5x Effect / only to store Witchcraft effects (base level of three), only to works on effects modified with Dominion Points to act as Battle Magic (affecting an entire battlefield without level change). With an 18 Con, this allows Granny to stock six such effects – allowing her to create massive healing effects, or toxic miasmas, or a wide variety of other effects. She usually uses Foresight to simply have what she needs available (3 CP).
  • Asura Raksha: Leadership, Specialized for Reduced Cost and Corrupted for Increased Effect (various monsters and creatures, either singly or in groups, treating CR as level)/Granny has to create and provide facilities for her own monsters, by cursing people or animals to transform into suitable, obedient, horrors. (3 CP).
    • With 10 Hit Dice and a Cha Mod of 10, Granny gets 40 CR worth of followers or groups thereof of up to CR 7. Since she tends to like groups of lesser creatures, she’s got: 3 Barghests (CR 7), 4 Hellhounds (CR 7), Rakith (A Giant Weasel Lycanthrope Assassin-Type, CR 2 + 4 Eclipse Class Levels = CR 6), Heksested (Heavy Horse Lycanthrope Witch-steed, CR 3 + 3 Eclipse Levels = CR 6), 6 Ratlings (CR 7), and 4 Werewolves (CR 6 +1 Eclipse Level to give them some magical “gifts”, Berserker, and WOD flavor = CR 7).
  • Kalantaka Dhaal: Reflex Training/Three Action Per Day Variant, Specialized in Defensive / Escape actions only (3 CP).
  • Cintamani Yukti (the art of the wish-fulfilling stones): Create Relic: Specialized and Corrupted: Only for working with points from Enthusiast, can only create 1 CP Relics, each relic must have a 3 CP Disadvantage attached (although this may reduce their cost), relics are created with ominous rituals invoking weird entities from beyond (2 CP). Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect: Only for making Relics, only for one-point relics (6 CP).

Granny really SHOULD have Action Hero/Stunts. Unfortunately, Action Hero/Stunts really only works for PC’s who go up in levels reasonably often. Ergo, Granny uses a combination of relic making and foresight to obtain much the same effect; if she REALLY needs a particular ability to bail her out… that just happens to be one of the relics she has ready.

It’s also worth noting that these are also the kind of triks you can play with Action Hero/Stunts; all you have to do is Specialize things for Double Effect (it’s most efficient to specialize the base ability, but it can be done on the fly with practice).

Sample Relic Effects:

  • Consecration Of The Shattered Tower: Sanctum (6 CP) and Cloaking (Specialized for Increased Effect / covers a location – the Sanctum – rather than the user. Despite Granny’s tendency to infuse her residence or stronghold with the dread forces of the Ruinous Powers, even advanced magical and psychic techniques will reveal no trace of that from the outside – and within her Sanctum she gains 24 CP worth of special abilities.
  • The Indomitable Inward Void: Turn Resistance (+6), Corrupted for Increased Effect / user must spend 2 Power (this may be done at any time and does not count as an action) to activate this ability for five minutes. May be Specialized against a particular attack type (or in some other fashion) for Double Effect (+18 Levels). Is someone trying to hit you with Blasphemy or Holy Word? Censure? Death Strike? Any other annoying hit-die or level based effect? Go ahead; spend an Action Point, jump your effective hit die or level by +18, and shrug it off (12 CP).
  • The Dragon’s Grasping Claw: Shaping (Specialized, Only for adding flourishes to the use of magical items, 3 CP), Dragonfire (Specialized, only for pouring available energy into magical items, usually at 3 Spell Levels = 1 Charge), and Eye of the Dragon (Specialized for Increased Effect/only works three times per day to automatically absorb an incoming spell or effect and pass it’s energy into Dragonfire. This does not count as an action, 6 CP). (12 CP Total). This allows the user to absorb up to (Int) levels worth of incoming spells, without expending an action, and whether or not they are individually directed, and use them to recharge his or her magic items.
  • Whisper Of The Winds: Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saving Throws (6 CP) and Reflex Training (3/Day Extra Action Variant, 6 CP).
  • Falling Night Sigil: Seal of Life/Death (Specialized, only to protect against positive energy channeling, 3 CP), Seal of Light/Darkness (Specialized, only usable against those using holy attacks against you, 3 CP), Inner Light/Darkness (6 CP). This allows Granny to spend a usage of Channeling to gain the benefits of the Half-Fiend Template. Since the user’s effective hit dice for the use of Spell-Like Abilities = Intensity her enhancements to that do apply.
  • Talisman Of The Forest King: Shapeshift with Tiny and Diminutive Forms and +2 Bonus Uses (12 CP). While shapeshifting has all kinds of recreational and practical uses, it’s also one of Granny’s last-resort escapes: use a reflex action, turn into a mouse or some such, drop through the grate she will happen to be standing on (foresight again), and slide down (along a curve to break line of sight) into a maze of mouse tunnels.

Since Granny can use six Relics, if you don’t want to bother with using Foresight – or want her to rely on it less – you can just use some or all of the six noted above routinely. They do cover a lot of the basic defenses between them.

  • Ward of Yama: Immunity to Over-Optimized Characters (Common, Severe, Major, Specialized for Increased Effect / double effect against the most over-optimized character in a given group, normal effect against the second-most over-optimized character, no effect against any further characters or against any characters at all if the party contains no over-optimized characters (12 CP).

Yes, this bestows DR 60, blocks 12 points of attribute damage or drain, and spells of up to level ten, and provides a +12 on saves against other effects generated by the most over-optimized character, and half those benefits against the second most over-optimized character. This won’t stop an Ubercharger, or Hulking Hurler, or similar – but it will seriously hinder rather a lot of builds for a mere 12 CP.

This is pretty silly, but quite allowable. So, for that matter, is using Action Hero / Stunts to buy an immunity to one particular character for one minute – but that’s allowable too.

Maleficent: Before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, and fall into a sleep like death! A sleep from which she will never awaken!

Maleficent: The dark curse? Really? You must know that even it’s unholy power can not bring your loved one back from the dead. Have you considered a pet? They can be quite comforting.

Miscellaneous Powers (21 CP):

  • Amrit Kalash, The Tithonic Rite: Immunity/Death by old age (Uncommon, Severe, Minor. Specialized for Reduced Cost / Like many other flawed immortality effects, this ability does nothing to prevent aging; it simply keeps the user from dying because his or her “time is up”. If they can avoid accidents, disease, and similar difficulties they may spend many centuries being venerable elders. This ability thus works much better if combined with ways to prevent the loss of attribute points due to age and some method of age-shifting (3 CP)
  • The Dark Revenance: Returning / As long as one or more of her Shadow-Familiars exists to bring her back, Specialized / may require many months (3 CP).
  • Omen Mastery: Occult Sense / Attackers. Granny is always at least vaguely aware of when a group is coming for her. When actually attacked she cannot be caught flat-footed and is always considered to have just had three rounds to prepare (6 CP).
  • Ward of Maya: Cloaking / Granny appears to divination as a generic kindly old lady, with a bit of skill in ritual and white witchery perhaps, but no great powers (6 CP).
  • Money Management: Privilege / Landlord: You have assorted local, non-liquid assets – ownership of, or shares in mundane or magical businesses, lands, or structures with a net value of one-half/three-quarters of the base wealth of a PC of the your level for 3/6 CP. Sadly, these cannot (for whatever reason) be converted to cash. You may either use something like Pathfinder’s downtime holdings system or – for the sake of simplicity – get a 5% yearly return on whatever portion of your holdings you devote to getting cash or use 10% (whether in amount or time) of whatever facilities you own. Thus, if you own a shipping company with three ships, you could reasonably divert one for three and a half months (10% of the 36 they will have available this year) to take you and your friends on an expedition – or use 10% of the space in the ships holds to transport your own cargo or some such. Similarly, you can use an office and some of the space in their warehouses. In general, this is best used to gain access to various facilities or (if lifestyle costs are in play) to pay for those. Like it or not, 5% of 50% (or even 75%) of your wealth by level will not greatly increase your power – but at higher levels it will pay for a nice lifestyle and get you some social influence.
    • Granny has Money Management at the 3 CP level, and – at level eight – thus has 16,500 GP in non-liquid investments. Of that…
      • 5000 GP is invested in a Greater Marvelous Tattoo Parlor, entitling her to the use of three Tattoos. She normally uses +4 Con, Spell Resistance 33, and a +2 boost to her effective Caster Level).
      • 4200 GP is invested in a Fantastic Stable, allowing her the use of six of it’s summons per year. Granny usually keeps a couple of Unicorns around the House of Wisdom (it helps her image and provides emergency medical treatment if anyone gets hurt), two Manticores at Caer Hunleff (to ride and to support the garrison), four Pegasi (for one summons) on call to carry messages and do any necessary scouting and such, and holds one summons in reserve in case she needs to have something replaced early.
      • 3600 GP is invested in a Type V Shrine of War, entitling her to the use of a dozen of the 1200 +5 weapon enchantments it maintains. Four of them normally go to keeping the guards at Caer Hunleff stocked with 200 +5 Bolts between them, one goes to each of her four “henchmen”, one each goes to each of her four level six minions, one goes to Rakith, two go to Heksested, and one is for her.
      • That leaves 3700 GP. This is invested in her “family farm” – a pleasant, if rather old-fashioned, place with sprawling orchards (which require more startup time but are less work later on), the usual farmhouse-barn-chicken coop-pigpen-well house combination, various minor Conjures to make life easier (Elfin Harvest Baskets, a Composter, the “gentleman farmer” package, etc), and similar conveniences. Overall, the “Grandchildren” can take care of it handily.

On Investment:

Why 5% in actual income or 10% in use of facilities? Well…

Business and investment is an insanely complicated subject – but the general historical rule has usually been the about same: if your expected return-after-risk is more than about 5%-over-inflation per year, then something will soon cut into that return. Taxes. Bandits. Competition. Raises for your managers. Whatever. If it’s under that then you do not have a particularly attractive investment.

So your expected return is (Investment) x (1.05)Ex(Years until payout) / (Chance of Success + 1%.). While this does presume a binary model of success or failure, partial losses and lower-than expected profits tend to distribute themselves on a bell curve, adding enormous complexity to the math while changing the overall results very little. Similarly, adding variable terms for inflation is irrelevant to most d20 games, which use fixed price lists and static, fully fungible, currencies based on pure metal weight at fixed exchange ratios (another absurdly unrealistic, but extremely convenient, game convention).

  • So if it’s a one-year investment account and the chance of success is 98%, then you can expect to see it offered at about 1.06%, at least in a healthy, non-inflationary economy. Interestingly, that was the rate that savings accounts paid when I was a child.
  • If it’s a three year junk bond with only an 80% chance of success, a reasonable offer is closer to a 143% total return over that time period
  • If it’s a share in a five year trading voyage with a 15% chance of success… it might reasonably be offered at eight to one – and possibly even more to make up for the lengthy period of uncertainty. When such voyages pay off they make men rich.

“Investment” becomes gambling when you do not have a very good idea of one or more of the number of years involved, the final rate of return, or the chance of success. If you happen to have a better idea of what one or more of those numbers are than the rest of the possible investors then you have either earned that advantage through study and investigation or you have a “tip”. If you got that information from someone connected to the investment than it’s “insider trading” and is generally considered an unfair advantage.

Yes, this is still incredibly oversimplified. It will do for game purposes however.

Since this is a character attribute purchased with character points, it pays once per year, and there is no real risk of loss – so now you know why I picked 5% for cash. The “10% in kind” is because you’re avoiding the expenses inherent in converting to a cash profit and because having access to a ship, or an alchemists shop, or some such is a LOT more interesting and exciting than having a modest investment income. Facilities provide a reason to adventure. Investment Income provides a reason to stay home.

So what about treasure? Well… Granny is a heroic NPC, and so gets 7800 GP worth of personal treasure at level eight. Worse, she cannot spend more than 390 GP worth of it on any one magical item. That pretty much restricts her to a few potions, cantrip wands, and minor trinkets.

  • Ring of Aesculapius (180 GP): reduces the severity of illnesses in those she tends.
  • Bracers of Legerdemain (250 GP): makes handling toxins and alchemical reagents much safer.
  • Air-Bladder (375 GP): for if she needs to effectively hold her breath for a long time, such as when escaping underwater.
  • Alchemical Catalysts (6000 GP): since she uses these up using several of her powers. Also, she hasn’t got much to spend money on.
  • Assorted Holy Symbols (120 GP): several are for use with her Channeling, but several more are just for camouflage. After all, an old lady in a polytheistic universe might be expected to carry several holy symbols, right?
  • Ritual Chest (120 GP): a selection of candles, cards, odd dusts, and other components for ritual magic.
  • Spell Component Pouch (5 GP): granny doesn’t really need this for much, but it gives opponents something to try to grab.
  • Wardrobe (500 GP): assorted fine clothing, some jewelry, a signet ring, and more.
  • Assorted Supplies (250 GP).

Granny is extremely frustrating and dangerous to player characters. She specializes in inflicting long-term, difficult-to-remove, crippling effects. Even worse, she tends to “attack” through her readily-replaceable shadow-familiars from many miles away. She’s hard to find, and will cheerily curse the land about her (disposable) stronghold to throw obstacles (worth no XP since they’re an ability of hers) in her enemies paths, send out disposable construct-minions (also worth no XP) to waste their resources (efficiently focusing on eliminating softer targets first), raise a storm and drop lightning bolts on your head from miles away when you get closer, possibly (depending on how evil she currently is) transform a few random animals or (unrelated) people into monsters (worth XP, but with no treasure outside of the guilt of killing innocent people who have been cursed) if she runs out of more “deserving” monsters to send – and will then teleport (or fly, or burrow, or use shapeshift to get away through a crack in the foundations, or plane shift, or even swim) away rather than fight personally once you reach her. Even if you attempt scry-and-die, she still gets three rounds to get ready for you. If she MUST fight, her main staples are laying darkness that doesn’t hinder her in a wide radius, using the “Enveloping” ability on a Psychic Construct to obtain armor class, extra hit points, and either flight or tunneling (to escape with) (both of which she can automatically have ready one round before you arrive), and using her Nightmare Storm technique to hit everyone attacking her with a Phantasmal Killer.

And if you do kill her (despite her tendency to leave a shadow-familiar to “die” in her place), most of her “treasure” will disappear and she’ll either have her surviving Shadows bring her back or rise as an undead.

Fortunately, Granny really isn’t there to fight. Granny is an evil that exists to forestall greater evils, serving not as a defender, nor as a bringer of justice, but as an avenger. On that ever-anticipated last day, when the light triumphs and all that is evil will be thrown down into the pit… Granny will go down with all the rest, content in the knowledge that she has avenged what was HERS. When adventurers loot a town instead of defending it, when the mongol hordes attempt to overrun a city and put everyone there to the sword… Granny will make sure that their fate is grim enough to dissuade anyone who ever hears of it from even considering doing the same. Did you promise the refugees passage to safety, only to slaughter them and steal what little they carried? Granny will make sure that, when the demons come at last to carry your soul to hell, you will sincerely thank them for giving you refuge from HER.

In terms of her game function. Granny is a cop. She’s the reason why sensible adventurers don’t turn on the people that they should be defending, why thieves guilds stick to a little theft instead of selling the entire population to the Drow for sacrifices, and why the rule of evil overlords still results in a fairly functional civilization. Evil people have kids, and friends, and like living in reasonably comfortable cities, and having a nice lifestyle with reasonably well-behaved and efficient servants just like the good guys do – and they are willing to be a LOT more vicious, and less sporting, about defending those things than the good guys are. The good guys may leave you tied up on the steps of the police station with a note – but when the bad guys leave you skinned, blinded, gutted, and nailed to a sign proclaiming your guilt to scream for a few hours before your inevitable slow and horrible death the message tends to get around.

Secondarily, of course… Granny can provide a party with special equipment, supply specific magic items without implying a stockpile of the things, sell powerful poisons, work a wide variety of spells without being good at adventuring (since they have those pesky side effects), teach young adventurers, supply dungeons for low-level types to level up in, act as a mentor, produces prophecies, get you all kinds of information, and otherwise pretty much provide all the background support that a party of adventurers could ever need until they’re ready to go and fight the dragons and other major horrors that she can’t handle herself.

And she doesn’t care all that much if you’re good or neutral, or evil, as long as you do the job she wants done. As far as she’s concerned… they all have their advantages and disadvantages.

To answer an offline question…

“Why is Granny treating all her skills as class skills?”

It’s because characters who get stuck with NPC wealth by level in Eclipse have a fairly serious disadvantage – and thus should get SOMETHING in compensation. Ergo, major Eclipse-built Pathfinder NPC’s who get stuck with NPC wealth-by-level get to treat any skill they take as a favored class skill. It’s not really enough, but it does save me from the bother of having to pick a skill list.

Endora: [after turning Darrin into a werewolf] Darrin, I feel terrible. I really do. Do you think I want my daughter married to a werewolf?

Granny Part III – Witchery, Poisons, and the Ruinous Powers

I’ll get you and your little dog too!

-The Wicked Witch Of The West.

Granny has 126 CP left with which to buy other special abilities – which, given how much she still has to buy, is going to call for some optimization. That isn’t really traditional for NPC’s in most games, partially due to their game masters lack of time and partially because in most games noncombative NPC’s don’t really need detailed writeups – while combative ones are simply there to lose. For such NPC’s optimization is undesirable. After all, if they have any serious chance of winning, sooner or later the dice will give them a victory – and you’ll have a total party kill that ends the game. Granny, however, can safely be optimized out the wazoo because she’s not really there to fight – and a win for her usually means steering the party into a more suitable adventure.

Witchery (45 CP).

Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.

-Macbeth

Poppies! Poppies!

-The Wicked Witch of the West

The Subtle Arts: Witchcraft III with the Secret Order: Provides all 12 basic abilities and 17 Power. Her powers have a base Save DC of 23, usually using Will (24 CP).

As Within, So Without: Advanced Witchcraft Abilities (33 CP): Aegis (6 CP), Leaping Fire (6 CP), Mouth of the Earth (6 CP), Venomed Touch (Specialized for Double Effect/requires 50 GP worth of alchemical catalysts per use, 6 CP. A 2d12 immediate attribute damage poison with save DC 23 can be pretty useful), The Dark Flame (Specialized for Increased Effect; Only to affect the DC’s of saving against her powers, 6 CP. In effect, she can pay 1 Power to boost the DC of saves against her Charisma-based abilities by +6 for ten minutes), and Weathermonger (Specialized; requires dramatic gestures and a 100 GP focusing talisman, 3 CP).

Pacts (-24 CP): Guardianship (the Crypts of the Haunted Forest), Rituals (Solstice and Equinox Celebrations), Souls (Granny must sponsor and encourage covens of lesser witches), and a nasty Susceptibility to Holy Water (while it’s only one point, and the reaction to small amounts is easily concealed, large quantities could do her serious harm – which is why she’s made sure that the “Melting!” story involved mopwater).

Visions of the Hidden Spheres (8 CP): Cha-Based Rune “Magic” (Psionics): Clairsentience, Casting (Manifestation) +4 SP (4 CP) and Mastery +1 SP (1 CP) +7 (Int) +10 (Cha) +3 (Path) = +24 (Caster level 12) Manifestation, +21 (allowing effects of up to L5) plus And Magician (Charisma, Specialized for Reduced Cost and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Power gained can be used for Witchcraft, as well as Rune Magic (Psionics)) / user gains bonus generic Power for their effective Caster Levels, rather than from all bonus spell slots, user is restricted to a list of (Int) specific effects, although they may trade out two per level, 3 CP)

  • L0) Conceal Thoughts, Detect Psionics, Prophecy (allows any stray prophecies or visions that may be floating about to manifest through you), Seance (allows the user to open a link for the dead to communicate over. There is no compulsion involved).
  • L1) Commune with “Birds” (Squirrels and such will do too), Cultural Adaption, Inevitable Strike, Psychic Tracking.
  • L2) Caught In Crystal (As per Improvisation, but provides Insight bonuses rather than luck bonuses), Inevitable Save (as per Inevitable Strike, but applies to a save and can be used as an immediate action), Interview (gives a very good evaluation of someone’s nature and talents after a brief interview),Savored Instant (You may take up to (caster level) mental rounds to experience even the most fleeting sensory impression. While no other actions are possible, you may read a lengthy missive at a glance, get a detailed description of each of the people charging you, carefully evaluate a fleeting expression, or stretch out the savor of a fine wine or an orgasm. If this is ever relevant – say when wine-tasting, or trying to spot if someone is carrying a hidden weapon at a glance – use of this effect provides a +4 circumstance bonus. Activating it does not count as an action and can be done at any time).
  • L3) Arcane Sight, Akashic Communion, Pulse of the Realm (allows an instant Gather Information check), See Beyond.
  • L4) Blood Biography (Greater; can also evaluate targets within short range and provides quite a lot of family details), Detect remote Viewing, Remote Viewing, Trace Teleport
  • L5) Akhasic Map (provides a mental map of the local area, including many details, such as traps and secret doors), Pierce the Veils, Prying Eyes, Twisting Fates Threads (as per Ruin Delvers Fortune, but provides Insight bonuses instead of Luck).

All right; this isn’t strictly Witchcraft, but it seemed to fit in here better than under skills. It’s also a way to get more Power and access to some handy abilities – but the three I really wanted to give her were Seance, Savored Instant, and Pulse of the Realm. Being able to take out a few moments to think no matter how rushed you are, and being able to gather information without it taking up a lot of time, are both invaluable talents for a ruler. (The ability to hold seances is just for flavor of course).

I Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff: Rite of Chi with +(Cha Mod) Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only to restore Power, only takes effect at a maximum of 2d6 points per hour (4 CP). Across a day Granny will regain about 40 power – enough to casually use her psychic abilities for conveniences sake without worrying about tracking every point of Power.

Granny is a pretty powerful witch, but her obvious specialties are biomanipulations and poisons – often used out of combat. After all, she can easily create a contact poison that does 2d12 damage to a chosen attribute (or twice that to an attribute for a specific purpose), has a save DC of 29, and can be given a delayed effect (hours or days). Go ahead, make someone Suggestible (-4d12 Wisdom, only to reduce Will saves), Unable to Strike (reduce Str for melee attack purposes), Dexterity for Movement Purposes, Constitution for Hit Points/Level, Intelligence for Languages (guess what! With Int 0 for that purpose you can no longer communicate!), Intelligence for Skills and Feats (if it drops to 0 for such purposes, you lose access to skills and feats), Charisma for the purposes of Channeling, or a Casting Stat for Spellcasting. Granny has dozens of ways to cripple an opponent with a single touch, dart, or attack – and can provide such poisons for her henchmen and agents.

Combining this with Dominion and her Power Words (Below) will let her poison massive areas – or she can use her Chaos Magic to add effects like Venomfire or Increase Virulence. This is pretty powerful – but it’s an ability that she rarely uses; it affects a massive area, has no provision for making exceptions, and – since she’s generating actual, physical, poisons, that won’t just vanish afterwards – can easily wind up poisoning innocent people later on, rather like the ongoing problems resulting from the use of “Mustard Gas” in World War II.

Does the Venomous Touch poison act again one minute later if the initial save fails? Given that it was essentially based on the Poison spell, it was indeed meant to – but I didn’t note that in the actual description since, at the time, that was the default for all poisons and I was trying to keep the page count down to something manageable. Later material provided a lot of more complicated poisons using other options, so I probably should update that. On the other hand, that leaves it open for game master, which is also reasonable.

Invoking The Ruinous Powers (40 CP):

Granny calls on Dark Gods, Archdevils, and Lovecraftian Forces that frighten even them to grant her terrible powers. Not surprisingly, this has certain problems…

  • It’s blatant dark magic. It backlashes against good or neutral people who attempt to use it, attracts enemies and other troubles, and sometimes lets noxious entities from beyond ooze into reality if used without proper preparations. Even for those who are evil and use it only in secret… it will occasionally attract various problems or foul up their lives.
  • It forces her to show those powers respect, perform bizarre rituals in their honor, make various minor and occasional greater offerings to them, perform occasional services for them (although there are usually many possible tasks to pick from), or have to deal these powers malfunctioning and/or turning against her.
  • These powers are difficult (it costs twice as many uses, three times as many if both apply) to use against the truly innocent or upon holy ground.
  • She must maintain an altar to the ruinous powers and a stockpile of noxious ingredients – virgin’s blood, graveyard mold, vicious toxins, gibbering mouther slime, and so on – to use these powers. This may even require keeping a troublesome menagerie of monsters – and if her supplies are all destroyed or all her altars are desecrated, these powers will not work until she can fix that.

Thanks to these limitations, the entire package counts as being Specialized for Reduced Cost. This may result in double-specialization if combined with restrictions on applicability or usage.

  • Negative Energy Channeling: 1 + 2 x (Cha Mod) uses per day at +2 Intensity, Corrupted/may not command the undead (10 CP). This gives Granny a minimum intensity of 8 (10 Hit Dice +2 Purchased -4 if she rolls a “1″) – which is generally enough. If you don’t want to roll, just assume a “5″ and give her a standard intensity of 9).
  • Shadowmaster, Specialized for Reduced Cost/only for use with the Shades spell, below. (At her current level and up, this effectively makes the effects produced by Shades 100% real – saving the game master any number of headaches over partially real effects. 3 CP).
  • 1d6+2 (6) Mana with Spell Enhancement, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / only to reduce the effective level and boost the casting level of her Conversion effects, only one mana point may be spent on each when doing so (9 CP).
    • This allows Granny to boost her effective level to 13 (hit dice + 3) (or 15 after her Tttoo) for conversion purposes (high enough to use sixth level effects safely) and bring her ninth level effects down to level six so that she can use them at the cost of 2 Mana. In effect, she can use three of her great spells per encounter.
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost/only to recharge the Mana in her Spell Enhancement pool, above (4 CP).
  • Conversion (To a set of four sixth level spells – although they’re actually ninth level, and so she must spend Mana to reduce their level to actually cast them, 15 CP). Such spells have a save DC of 29.
  • Malignant Tongue of the Harridan: L9 Greater Invocation (Maledictions) / creates any one effect of the Malediction spell template of up to L8.

Here we have the signature power of a wicked witch; the ability to lay all kinds of curses – ranging from troublesome to catastrophic – on people, places, and groups. Granny’s eighth level curses can be removed with a Wish or Miracle or some equivalent, (but not lesser spells and effects), through Godfire, by heading to Nine Hells and confronting and dealing with the (invariably major) entity powering said curse, and through whatever release conditions are built into the curse. They can usually be suppressed to some degree by remaining on holy ground due to the “increased cost on holy ground” modifier (although Granny might have anticipated that, and doubled up to avoid it). Granny can use curses to transform people into obedient monsters, but their CR will count against her Leadership score. When cursing the land – perhaps to make fields of magical poppies that put people to sleep – Pathfinder’s Curse Terrain spell effects (Horror Adventures) are easy references.

Granny is capable of using her Chaos Magic to remove curses of up to the sixth level – but she has no way of removing her most potent curses. Fortunately, she’s intelligent enough to restrict herself somewhat if there’s any real chance that she’ll want to undo a curse later on.

  • Call Of The Twisted Forest: Summon Natures Ally IV, Amplify +1 (Templated; the creatures may be given 32 CP worth of extra abilities – normally from among the ten minor templates listed below), Persistent +4 (24 Hour Duration), Amplify +1 (Linked; the summoner is aware of that the creatures learn and do and may communicate with them at ranges of up to ten miles), Amplify +2 (Increased numbers, starting from the effective base of sixth level – allowing the user to summon 1d4+1 creatures of the same type from the Summon Natures Ally IV list, 2d4 creatures from the SNA III list, 3d4 from the SNA II list, or 4d4 from the SNA I list), -3 (7+ levels of built-in Metamagic) = L9.
    • The available templates are Aerial, Aquatic, Armored, Chthonic, Dire, Flaming, Forestal (for intelligent summons only, provides fey knight powers), Ghostly, Noble (an exceptionally fine specimen, suitable for a king), Plague-Ridden, Primal, and Venomous. Yes. Granny can indeed summon up 2d4 Aerial Apes to go forth and do her bidding – or, for that matter, a pack of 4d4 plague-ridden wolves, or 1d4+1 dire bears, or 4d4 flaming eagles/firebirds, or 2d4 Ghost Lions, or any of six-hundred-odd other combinations.
  • Whistle Down The Wind: Greater Invocation of Weather Magic (allowing effects of up to L7)
    • Granny is generally much better at making troublesome and dangerous weather than she is at making nice days – but what can you expect of a wicked witch? She can also use her Weathermonger ability to specifically target weather effects – calling down lightning on someone’s head or steering a tornado through an oppressive rulers palace.
  • Shades.
    • Thanks to her Shadowmastery ability, the effects she calls forth are 100% real.

This is a very powerful set of spells – although, as noted earlier, Granny can only use three of them before taking a break to recharge since she needs to spend a point of mana to bring their spell levels down to six and another point to get her caster level up to where she can safely cast a sixth level spell. As a general rule Granny will cast Call Of The Twisted Forest each morning so as to have a set of sentinels out (and she’ll do it again if she needs some minions), control weather (and a little witchcraft to guide it) will help hold up any assault, the Malignant Tongue of the Harridan lets her weaken attackers (usually through familiars). She’ll usually reserve Shades to escape with since it covers both teleportation and a wide variety of barriers and diversions.

Hatred’s Weal Path:

  • Dark Awakening, Specialized for Reduced Cost / The Undead Creation function can only create immaterial undead that Granny can fit into her Leadership allotment (3 CP). As a rule, Granny much prefers living servants – and so her only real use for this ability is as another option for coming back if she gets killed.
  • Shadow Casting, Corrupted for Reduced Cost, Specialized for Increased Effect (each shadow has a base level of 2 without an XP cost and saves 100 XP if a higher level is desired. They gain the Mystic Link ability with Granny with the Communications, Power, Summons, and Travel options) / The user may only create (Cha Mod) Shadows at any one time and may only have them possess normal animals or magical beasts, if without a host they can do nothing but return to their summoner to be re-embodied (4 CP).
    • Granny will pretty much invariably have one standing by to pull her out of any jam. They’re also her stand-ins and her primary method of long-range attack; she has one go near her targets and channels one of her major spells through – possibly having the familiar project a witchcraft-illusion of her (or perhaps someone else entirely) if she wishes to communicate or make an impression – but she will never expose herself to danger if it can be avoided. Granny hasn’t survived some twenty generations of adventurers coming against her by being stupid.

This is a major disconnect in many games. They’re often set in worlds with thousands of years of backstory, lurking elder evils that were old before the rise of civilization, and ancient mysteries – all of which a group of player characters will shred within a few years. Now I’m willing to give the player characters some credit; they probably really are the chosen ones or something – but that still tells us that those ancient mysteries and evils have survived thousands of years of non-player character adventurers trying to get rid of them. So even conceding something special about the current player characters that makes it possible, it seems appropriate to make pulling off those victories really, REALLY, difficult – and that’s “plan, gather resources, prepare, and do a lot of work” difficult, not “tough encounter” difficult.

  • Call Inner Demons, Specialized for Increased Effect (Construct Level = Intensity) / The summoner does not gain any bonuses when the construct kills something and cannot manifest a construct of above level eight (6 CP).
    • While a construct that lasts for ten minutes can be a fairly effective tool or minion, Granny tends to make one with the Class-C Enveloping modifier if she’s expecting a confrontation. Picking up an extra 118 HP, +19 Natural Armor, two slam attacks at +25 for 1d10+16, 10′ Reach, Str 39, and seven additional abilities – perhaps Flight, Semisentient (to carry her away if she is somehow incapacitated), Tunneling, Boosted Flight (to 60′), +2 Slam Attacks, Fast Healing II, and one Class-C ability – perhaps Dimension Slide as a move action, or Natural Invisibility, or the ability to become Ethereal at will – is pretty good.

Hand of Darkness Path:

  • Shadowmastery: This is pretty simple. You turn out the lights and gain Shadowsense. Thanks to Circle of Power, below, this affects a 55-foot radius (6 CP).
  • Fearspeaker, Specialized/only affects those who know at least some of the legends of the Dark Enchantress (3 CP).
    • Granny doesn’t usually bother with this very much; if she’s making a public appearance in her Dark Enchantress persona, usually with various grim special effects, any sensible lower-level types in the area will probably be terrified anyway – just as they probably will be in the presence of any other obviously excited-and-dangerous higher level warrior or spellcaster.
  • The Dark Veil. The passive ability to conceal her true identity and keep that separate from the persona she projects with her Method Acting disguise skill trick is the real prize here – but being able to intervene and then make people forget all about you is wonderfully useful (6 CP).
  • Nightmare, Specialized/only for Phantasmal Killer. Sharing her nightmarish visions of the dark powers that lurk beyond the gates of reality is too much for most minds to bear (3 CP).
  • Vanishing Shadows. Selective memory erasure that makes people suggestible. Pretty much the perfect way to deal with any inconvenient questions. What politician could resist? (6 CP).

The Boundless Realms Path:

  • Circle of Power (Specialized and Corrupted, Only for Hand of Darkness powers, only for Shadowmastery (Calling Down the Dark), The Dark Veil (Oblivious Wave), and Nightmare (Nightmare Storm Technique), 2 CP).

With a base cost of 80 CP, Invoking The Ruinous Powers costs a total – after Specialization – of 40 CP. That’s a lot of power for 40 CP of course, but then it is a limited set of highly specific abilities with serious backlash issues.

Next up: Granny’s Rulership, Miscellaneous Abilities, and Equipment.

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).