Gadgets Beneath The Eclipse:

There have been a couple of requests for elaboration on the “Gadgetry” Occult Skill recently, so here we are:

“Gadgetry” is generally an Occult Skill – but in its most common form, it looks something like this:

Gadgetry (Tinker Version, Dexterity, No Unskilled Use, Restricted).

  • Tinkerers may gain synergy bonuses from up to two relevant craft, knowledge, or professional skills – such as chemistry, craft/alchemy, or engineering.
  • The “Gadgetry” skill provides “Gadget Points” equal to it’s value. The user may equip himself or herself with various items by assigning those points to various gadgets, with more powerful or complex devices requiring more points. Points may be reassigned to change the user’s equipment list, or to replace expended items, given time. For simplicities sake, the user simply assigns their points each day, although it is common to have a list of gadgets that are usually carried. Note that individual gadgets need not be at all practical, have a reasonable source, or even come with a good explanation of how they work. The skill can also be rolled when the user wishes to improvise some minor repair or wants to make a quick stab at using some device. Thus a Tinkerer with Gadgetry-9 might carry Smoke Pellets (1), a Sleeve-Mounted Grapnel Launcher and Rewinder (2), a Gas Mask (1), some Tear Gas Grenades (3), and a Folding Sword (2, for sheer impracticality).
  • You can boost Gadgetry in all the usual ways, but short-term boosts aren’t especially helpful most of the time. Long term boosts are useful to Tinkerers however; a Tinkerer’s Toolkit (2500 GP) would, for example, add +5 to the user’s effective Gadgetry (Tinker Version) skill.

One of the Equipment Skills of the Shadowed Galaxy setting is ALSO labeled “Gadgetry”. That version of the skill covers some pretty powerful gadgets since you’re presumed to be backed by a fully industrialized high-tech civilization with fusion power, starships, personal energy weapons, and lots of other toys – making gadgets even more powerful and cheaper (if generally standardized and far less flexible in application). A high-end superhero game might let you have even more powerful gadgets than that on the cheap – but that sort of thing is more or less a world law, not really something inherent to the skill.

Alternatively, we have the version for dimension-hoppers, which works as follows:

Gadgetry (Reality-Shifting version, Charisma, No Unskilled Use, Restricted in most settings. May be freely available in dimension-hopping campaigns).

  • Characters using the Reality-Shifting version who actually possess Reality Editing get a +4 synergy bonus on their Gadgetry skill score.
  • Reality-Shifting Gadgetry provides a pool of points equal to it’s value that can be assigned to various items, with more powerful or complex devices requiring more points. Such items will continue to operate normally despite changes in natural law. hout worrying about where they come from, practicality, or the details of how they work. Thus a Reality Shifter with Gadgetry-9 might be carrying a Flaming Sword (whether that’s currently being a lightsaber, a magical mass of magma, or a crystal that focuses mental energy into a pyrokinetic blade, 1), an Adjustable Plasma Pistol (2), a Wand of Healing (with the same game statistics regardless of whether it’s currently a wand, a bag full of herbs, or a box of medical-nanite injectors, 2), a long-term Light (whether it’s currently an inextinguishable torch, a fusion-cell powered flashlight, or a perpetual glowstick, 1), and a set of futuristic Smartclothes (providing a wide variety of useful functions, whether as a magical amulet, smartfiber cloth, or a covering of metamorphic psychic metal, 3). Note that such items may be considerably more powerful than a Tinker’s gadgets since the user doesn’t have to build them. He or she merely has to keep them operating across dimensions.
  • You can boost Reality-Shifting Gadgetry in all the usual ways, but short-term boosts aren’t especially helpful most of the time. Long term more useful, but it is commonly necessary to allot at least part of the boosters effect to maintaining the booster itself.

Now, as an Occult Skill…

  • Any specific characters version of “Gadgetry” is one of an infinite number of possible variations out in the multiverse, and is effectively unique to them and the game. A gadgeter with electronics and chemistry in a James Bond setting can make micro-lasers, mini-explosives, and nerve gas pellets. A gadgeter working with clockwork and alchemy in a quasi-medieval setting can distill liquid sunlight to poison vampires with.
  • Each use of Gadgetry is a unique event, subject to influences that the user will not be able to perceive. Precedents are not carved in stone. Did you give a game-disrupting overly cheap “price” for Explosives last week? Maybe the God Of Fire was feeling particularly energetic then, and now the price is back to “normal”.
  • A given character can have multiple instances of Gadgetry. You could, for example, have one for Alchemical Gadgets, one for more or less conventional Weapons and Armor, and one for James Bond Gadgets.
  • Gadgetry generally doesn’t use rigid writeups or spell-equivalents. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule since the character and the GM might (of course) decide that the variation they want to use DOES, but I don’t recommend it. I think that gadgets should offer interesting options, just as you don’t know what James Bond will use the one-shot minilaser in his watch to do until he figures out how to use it to solve a problem. He might blind a guard, set off some explosives, start a fire, cut through a lock, weld a door to it’s frame, or do any of a hundred other things. You can’t really write rules to cover creative problem solving. Instead you want your “Bottled Sunlight Flask” to be an exotic option that you have tinkered together that might be used to blind something, get tossed into a patch of green slime or brown mold to destroy it, or be deployed to drive back or damage vampires – not the equivalent of a Sunrod that does 1d6 damage if you touch the burning end. (It’s important to note that realistic forces don’t do much in d20; being completely immersed in molten magma only does 10d6 damage. A one megaton fusion warhead (d20 future) does 16d8 damage – averaging 72 points).
  • Finally, this is a relatively low-cost option – and thus we don’t want it to be enormously powerful. Sure, a planet-killer antimatter bomb is just a gadget, but if we make it something that a talented kid can throw together in the backyard, the planet won’t be around long enough for you to set a game on it.

Thus there isn’t any easy table of gadgets or simple method of pricing them – but there are certainly some basic considerations that give us some general guidelines – although the GM always needs to temper things with a system this simple and open-ended.

  • How impractical is this thing in the setting? Not at all? Moderately? Quite? Extremely? Call that a base of 0/1/2/3 points.
  • If it’s active, and has a notable effect, how much do you get to use it before having to refurbish it? Once or twice is pretty common, but adding more may cost more. Three times or for a few minutes? Seven times or perhaps for an hour? Twelve times or constant for the day? Call that +1/2/3 points.If it’s power level or effect on the game is Trivial, reduce the cost by one, to a minimum of one. If it’s going to be worth noting but isn’t all that powerful, there’s no adjustment. If it’s supposed to be pretty important, add one. If it’s fairly major, add two. If it’s difficult to control, extremely situational, or has some serious downside… subtract one again.
  • If the cost is over three points we’re probably talking about a signature gizmo – something like Spider-Mans web shooters (Quite Impractical (2), 12+ uses notable uses (+3). and pretty important (+1) given how tough that webbing is for a total of (6). Spider-Man probably has a Skill Speciality in the things – and carries some refills for them).

For some classic medieval d20 setting examples, lets price…

  • Acme Rocket Boots each contain three rocket booster charges, good for – say – kicking someone and tossing them a long ways away or helping you kick in a door. Or you could use one in each boot to make an incredible leap, avoid a fall, or so on. That’s quite impractical (2), and – depending on how you look at it – has either three or six uses (2) – but it’s also fairly trivial (-1) and (quite obviously) can easily go wrong even if you don’t blow whatever roll the game master calls for (-2) – so (2).
  • Anti-Critical Crumple Zones: This gadget lets you build your armor with kinetic-energy absorbing crumple zones. You can opt to let it negate an incoming critical up to three times, but it will take lots of work to fix it afterwards before it will work again. That’s only moderately unreasonable (armor does this in reality to some degree, 1), and offers three uses (+1), but the effect is fairly powerful since it can definitely save your neck (+1), for a total of (3).
  • Burgeoning Verdigris Elixir is an alchemical elixir that (in a fantasy setting) makes plants grow in mere seconds. A dose can make a seed grow into a small tree, create a tangle of brush in a small area, or make a lawn grow fresh and lush for your horse to graze on. Now that’s Moderately Implausible in a fantasy setting (1), and comes in flasks with seven doses (or seven vials with one dose each, +2), but the effect is pretty trivial in fantasy terms (-1), for a net cost of (2).
  • Charms and Talismans (from The Practical Enchanter) are generally 1-2 points, occasionally 3 if the game master thinks they’re too powerful.
  • Dart Finger Gauntlets can fire each “fingertip” like a light crossbow bolt and even let you fire off a whole hands worth as a single attack – but once spent, they’re gone for the day since you have to rewind all those little springs. They’re good for remotely pressing buttons, carrying string up a tree, or shooting people. Now that’s Moderately Impractical (1), and has five “charges” (+1), but – even with the option to fire several shots at once – is only one good attack. That’s worth noting, but is nothing major (+1). So that’s (2) – (3) if you make a pair with ten total charges.
  • Fireproof Coatings for your armor provide five points worth of fire resistance. That’s very practical (0), and works all day (3), but is a fairly trivial effect (-1), for a net cost of (2).
  • Flame Elixir Sheathe: The alchemical gel in this sheathe will give a weapon drawn from it the Flaming property for five minutes, once. Oddly enough, the residue will not set the sheathe and your hip on fire. That’s Moderately Impractical (1), comes with one several-minute use (+1), and is a notable effect (+0), and so has a net cost of (2).
  • Ice Climbing Gear negates the penalties for climbing icy surfaces. You can buy that in the real world, so it’s obviously practical (0), you’ll run out of pitons and such fairly fast though, so maybe it’s only good for three rolls per day (+1), and the effect is both trivial (-1) and quite situational (-1) – so the minimum of (1) if you’ve got to build this as a gadget, but (of course) (0) if you can just go to a store and buy some ice-climbing gear.
  • Magnesium Flare Bundle. This isn’t at all unreasonable – a torch does much the same job, if a little dimmer (0), and seven is (+2) – but “a better torch” is pretty trivial (-1). Net (1), (2) if they come in a flaregun and have little parachutes so they descend slowly while lighting up an area since that improves their effect. Sure, you can use them to set fires and flash-blind or burn monsters – but you can do that with a torch.
  • Phlogiston Bottle. This flask of the distilled, super-concentrated, essence of flame is only Moderately Impractical (Even in reality there’s always white phosphorus, 1), and can only be used once (0), but is obviously quite powerful (2).
  • Rewinding Rocket-Launched Wrist Grapples. One shot until you wind up the springs again and put in a new rocket unless you make it multi-barrelled. A classic superhero gizmo. Use it to get to the top of something tall, to swing across a chasm or down from a height, to try to keep someone from running away, to hitch a ride on a helicopter, or to trip up a squad of guards (among many other possibilities). That’s only moderately impractical (1) and probably only has one (+0) or perhaps three (+1) uses. So 1-2 points.
  • Silken Armor Underlayer. This gadget allows your personally-tailored armor to be lighter while still offering the same protection. That’s quite practical (0), continously active all day (3), and has a notable but not really very powerful effect (there are several fairly cheap ways to do that, 0), so (3).
  • Smoke Pellets (a packet of a dozen). That’s not at all impractical (0), has a dozen uses (3), but is also about as trivial as it gets (-1) and won’t work in strong winds, water, or plenty of other situations (-1), so (1).
  • Thermal Blankets are probably alchemical creations in fantasy, but simply keep everyone under them toasty warm in arctic conditions for a night. That’s very practical (0) and continuous (3), but it’s also pretty trivial in d20 terms (-1) and extremely situational (-1), for a net cost of (1).
  • Three Bladed Sword. This escapee from an old movie can fire two of its three blades. That’s extremely impractical (3) but that’s a pretty trivial effect in d20 (-1), so that’s (2) – and probably kind of cool, however absurd it is.

There will inevitably be comparison to spell levels, simply because d20’s enormous list of spells provides an immense variety of benchmarks. In general though, spells are considerably more powerful than Gadgets – in-setting because the “high” magic of Wizards, Sorcerers, and Gods is just less limited than Gadgets that you can invent in an afternoon. Out of setting… Gadgets are a lot cheaper to in terms of character points and so they are a lot less powerful. Still, if you really must compare… you can use a general guideline that Cantrips count as Trivial Effects (-1), first level spells effects are the default level of effect (0), second levels spell equivalents cost (1), and third level spell equivalents (the maximum) cost (2). (Now Superhero Games will probably add +2 (at the lower end) to +3 (at the upper end) or so to the spell level equivalents That way you can build that teleport belt…

Thus Darkvision Goggles (a recent gadgetry pricing request) are Not At All Impractical (since real ones exist, and so 0), work for about an Hour (+2), and emulate a second-level spell (+2), for a net cost of (4). That’s a bit pricey, but lets you gain a major advantage by just putting out the lights. That can be quite potent.

And I hope that helps!

Eclipse D20 – Makhpia-Luta (Red Cloud), Amerindian Earth Mage

It was apparent from a very early age that Red Cloud was going to be a shaman. The way that small objects moved around and changed colors when he grabbed at them before he could talk was something of a giveaway. Given such an auspicious start, the tribal shaman started him on the spirit-drums as soon as he could – a decision that he soon regretted more than a bit. Fortunately, the error of giving a very small boy a drum was easily fixed by taking it away again at bedtime.

The real trouble turned out to be that Makhpia-Luta wasn’t particularly well attuned to the totems. He had a rare and powerful affinity for the magic of the Earth, and the even rarer ability to channel the Earthpower into specific spells – but his dreams remained determinedly pedestrian and none of the great totems spoke for him. The shamans of the People faced a dilemma; the boy was far too powerful – and far too adept in the ways of combative magic! – to allow him to simply run around without spiritual guidance, he was far too impatient to join the Lorewardens, and simply turning him loose in hopes that he would settle down would be a major gamble. What if someone managed to subvert him? Without guidance young mages were very vulnerable to such gambits.

But then the spirits presented another option. A Totem-Sworn on a major quest came through, Makhpia-Luta heard the call of adventure, and the Sworn One continued her quest with a new ally. Perhaps that was what the Great Totems had had in mind all along.

Makhpia-Luta (Red Cloud)

Level One Earth Mage

Basic Attributes: Str 10, Dex 14, Con 12 (+2 Tem = 14), Int 16, Wis 14, and Cha 12 (3.5 32 Point Buy). .

Low-Level Template (0 CP)

  • Disadvantages: -3 on Untrained Skills, advancement by direct CP Awards, valuable trouble magnet.
  • Advantages: +12 + (Con Mod x 2) HP, +3 on five skills, +2 Constitution, Prestidigitation at will.
  • For full information on the low-level template, look HERE.

Nomadic Cultural Package Deal (0 CP)

  • Companion (Animal Companion) (Hawk).
  • Proficient with All Simple Weapons.
  • Specific Knowledges: Horse Care, Plains Survival, and Tribal Traditions.

Available Character Points: 48 (L1 Base) + 2 Duties (Mystic Guardian Of The Plains) + 12 (Human, L1 Bonus Feats) + 10 (Disads: History, Obligations/Help the Totem-Sworn, and Inept (Diplomacy; Red Cloud just has a way of putting his foot in his mouth) = 72 CP

Basic Expenditures (17 CP):

  • Base Attack Bonus: +0 (0 CP).
  • Hit Points: 6 (L1d6, 2 CP) +12 (Immortal Vigor, 12) +6 (3 x Con Mod) = 24 HP
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +2 (Dex) +4 (Martial Art) = 16
    • Fortitude: +0 (Purchased, 0 CP) + 2 (Con) = +2
    • Reflex: +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) + 2 (Dex) = +3
    • Will: +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) + 2 (Wis) = +3
  • Proficiencies: All Simple Weapons (See Cultural Package Deal above, 0 CP).
  • Skill Points: +0 (Purchased, 0 CP) +12 (Int Mod x 4) +8 (Fast Learner) = 20
    • Boost Human Fast Learner to 2 SP/Level (3 CP)
    • Adept: Half cost for Arcana, Perception, Staff Style, and Persuasion (6 CP).
  • Initiative +2 (Dex)
  • Movement: 30′ (Base)

Usual Weapons:

Makhpia-Luta normally relies on magic. If he must fight something physically and has time to prepare he usually uses his Earth Affinity to put a Shillelagh effect on a staff, boosts himself with Aspect Of The Beasts and hammer away with it. IF he doesn’t have time he’ll focus on defense while awaiting help – and on occasionally using Breaking Technique to try to bring down the roof or otherwise divert any attackers. At his base…. Staff: Staff: +0, 1d6+0, Crit 20/x2. That’s not horrible – but it certainly isn’t very good either. 

Talents (16 CP):

  • Earth Affinity (Constitution Based): Shaping, Specialized for Increased Effect (Level Zero Effects) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only to produce effects in a very narrow field (4 CP) plus 3d6 (12) Mana with Spell Enhancement, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost/only to enhance Earth Affinity (6 CP).
  • Telepathy (Charisma Based): Shaping, Specialized for Increased Effect (Level Zero Effects) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only to produce effects in a very narrow field (4 CP) plus 1d6 (4) Mana with Spell Enhancement, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost/only to enhance Telepathy, may only spend one point to do so (2 CP).
    • If you want a list of examples of what effects fall under these categories, you can look over HERE and HERE

Master Sorcerer (36 CP):

  • Magesight (Occult Sense/Magic, 6 CP).
  • Occult Talent (and Improved, Specialized / just for more slots, not yet for more spells) (9 CP) and Improved Occult Talent (12 CP) (Intelligence Based): Net 10x L0 Slots and 6x L1 Slots. For simplicities sake, these are just being treated as a single pool.
  • Known Spells: Earth Channel (L0, Free, Transfer Adept Mana to Earth Sense), Shield (L1, Blocks 15 Damage, Immediate), Kinetic Storm (L2, as per Stone Call), Bestow Curse (L3), Cure Light Wounds (L1), Scorching Ray (L2), Greater Shield (L3, blocks 25 damage in a 10 radius), Remove Curse (L3), Eldritch Weapon III (3 Mana), Call Lightning (L3), Lesser Gate (L4, a somewhat hazardous, time-consuming, very tiring, and destination limited, version of Teleport), Shadow Conjuration (L4), and Aspect Of The Beasts (L4, lets the user take on animal characteristics and attribute modifiers as per The Practical Enchanter for One Hour Per Level).
  • 3d6 (12) Mana with Spell Enhancement, Specialized and Corrupted / only to enhance Occult Talents, may only spend (Int Mod) points on enhancing a Spell (6 CP). Note that this is the only way to access spells of above level one – so Red Cloud can throw a few powerful spells each day, but his Mana is a very limited resource. If he uses it unwisely, he may wind up unable to do anything at all.
  • Rite Of Chi with +2 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / Only to recharge the Occult Talent enhancement pool, may not be bought up further, 2’nd use in a day requires tapping into a ley line and the third requires tapping into a ley line nexus (3 CP).

Other Abilities (3 CP):

  • Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only to create One Point Relics, only for use with points from Enthusiast (2 CP).
  • Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / the point may only be used for Relics (1 CP).
    • Relic: Shaman’s Eye: +1 use of Rite Of Chi (2 CP), Improved Augmented Bonus / Add (Cha Mod) to Mana Rolls, Specialized / only for Rite Of Chi rolls (6 CP), +3 Speciality on Perception (Sensing Magical Energies) (1 CP). Net cost as a relic: 1 CP.

Skills (20 SP):

  • Arcana: +4 (2* SP) +3 (Int) +3 (Tem) = +10
  • Perception: +4 (2* SP) +2 (Wis) +3 (Tem) = +9
  • Persuasion: +4 (2* SP) +3 (Cha) +3 (Tem) = +10
  • Religion: +4 (4 SP) +3 (Int) = +7
  • Scholar: +4 (4 SP) +3 (Int) +3 (Tem) = +10
  • Staff Style: +4 (2* SP) +3 (Int) +3 (Tem) = +10
    • +4 Defenses, Breaking Technique.
  • Survival: +4 (4 SP) +2 (Wis) = +6

Red Cloud is a very powerful Sorcerer. In fact, under the world laws he was set up under – basically the “generic fantasy novel” rules I created for Valdemar (and similar) games – he’s almost as powerful as he is ever going to get (there are only about 6 CP worth of Magic left for him to buy – getting the second incidence of Improved Occult Talent up to full use (3 CP) and getting Enthusiast up to 4 CP in total (3 CP)). It would probably be more “reasonable” in terms of classical d20 to spread that 75 CP worth of magic out over – say – four or five levels, but the “powerful yet inexperienced and somewhat naive young mage” (who usually needs to learn more about how and when to use his powers rather than more powers and has few talents other than magic) is a pretty standard literary archetype.

And so Red Cloud is off to adventure, complete with powers that hopefully will not get him into more trouble than he can handle yet. He will become more powerful with level – but it’s going to be because his effective caster level goes up and improves his existing spellcasting somewhat, not because he learns more magic. For the most part, his abilities are what they are.

As a side effect, this makes it much easier to run a game, just as it makes it much easier to write a novel. Red Cloud may become more skilled, improve his tactics, and learn to use his list of powers more effectively – but they won’t be radically changing as they pick up a new level of spells or some such the way that games tend to change when the spellcasters pick up Teleport or Plane Shift. Even better, that makes it simple to mix levels in a party, since many spells don’t care much about caster level.

Eclipse d20 – Kohana-Makawee, Loreward Of The Plains

And for today it’s a (loosely) Amerindian character, set up for a low-magic, low-level, world of classic fantasy – a world of legends, rather than the way that the world actually was. That includes a deep, ancient, relationship with horses, disregarding the fact that – until the Spanish reintroduced the Horse to North America – nobody on the continent had seen a horse in many thousands of years.

Totem-Sworn (Raven) (6 CP)

The spirits looked down upon the world, and all was water, there was no land anywhere. But the spirits of the air wished for someplace solid, where they might rest and fold their wings. Several spirits searched, but the fish and plants they brought were not solid enough to build a world upon. At last Turtle dove deep, for only Turtle could go for weeks beneath the waves. There, beneath the great weight of the waters, in the cold and darkness, after long days, Turtle found the muddy bottom. Turtle brought back a bit of hard-won Earth from the bottom of the endless waters atop his shell. But while the bit of Earth was solid, it was not enough – until Raven spoke the Words Of Creation. Who can know whether Raven shrank the Skies or the Earth grew? Raven flew over the Earth, and where his wings swept down, they carved out lakes and rivers. Where they rose, mountians rose with them. Where he flew level water drained away to reveal broad plains and foothills. In his wake, plants and animals covered the land. Man had not yet come into the world, but all was prepared.

The Raven-Sworn know that the world must be maintained, for while Raven creates and transforms, he does not sustain what he creates. That is the duty of the People, and those of the People who swear to the Raven are as spirits themselves, guardians of the land, the People, and the secrets that were never meant for mortal use.

  • Major Favors/Sioux Pantheon, Specialized and Corrupted / the Souix Totems (like most gods) only answer when you are in desperate need – and there is always a price of some kind, if only your ongoing dedicated service. Moreover, they demand that their sworn servants serve them and their people as a whole over any other loyalties. Their sworn servants may never marry, settle, or personally raise their children (2 CP).
  • Mentor/Dream-Questing: The Raven-Sworn dream to the beat of the medicine drums each night, finding lessons in the spirit world, Specialized / the Totem-Sworn find it hard to relate to others, suffering a -3 penalty on their social skills (3 CP). In practical tems, since they are advancing by direct CP awards, this is treated like a version of Fast Learner specialized in a particular field for +2 CP / Level.
  • Minor Privilege (Guest-Rights): Any tribe will treat, feed, and equip or re-equip (albeit only with mundane gear and a mount) any Totem-Sworn, Specialized / Their sworn servants serve the Totems and their people as a whole over any other loyalties (1 CP).

The Totem-Sworn are the mystic warriors of the plains, the guardians of the People, the agents of the totems, and the wardens of secrets that should not be known. Where a spirit must be placated to end a drought, where the enemies of the People attack, where monsters are unleashed, and where dark magic is used… there their dreams will soon send the Totem-Sworn.

Basic Attributes: Str 14, Dex 16, Con 14 (+2 Tem = 16), Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 10. (3.5 32 point buy). This is heroic fantasy, and mostly without magical items – so good base attributes are something of a necessity.

Low-Level Template (0 CP)

  • Disadvantages: -3 on Untrained Skills, advancement by direct CP Awards, valuable trouble magnet.
  • Advantages: +12 + (Con Mod x 2) HP, +3 on five skills, +2 Con, DR 1/- (Stacks with natural DR).
  • See the Low-Level Template for details.

Nomadic Cultural Package Deal (0 CP)

  • Companion (Animal Companion / Horse).
  • Proficient with All Simple Weapons.
  • Specific Knowledges: Horse Care, Plains Survival, and Tribal Traditions.

Available Character Points: 48 (L1 Base) +10 (Disads: History, Cultural Obligations, Hunted) +12 (Human and L1 Bonus Feat) +2 (Duties) +6 (Exp) = 78 CP. 75 Spent.

Basic Expenditures (42 CP)

  • BAB: +3 (6 CP), Specialized and Corrupted / Simple Weapons Only, no Iterative attacks.
  • Hit Points: 6 (L1d6, 2 CP) +12 (Tem) +18 [(Con + Dex) x 3)] = 35 Hit Points
    • Damage Reduction 1/- (Template, Stacks), 2/-, Specialized in Physical Attacks for Double Effect, net 5/- (3 CP),
    • Evasive Fighter: Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (Adds Dex Mod to Con Mod when calculating hit points, Specialized and Corrupted / only through level six, 6 CP).
  • Saves:
    • Fortitude: +0 (Purchased) +4 (Con) = +4
    • Reflex: +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) + 3 (Dex) = +4
    • Will: +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) + 0 (Wis) = +1
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +3 (Dex) +2 (Leathers) +2 (MA) +2 (Shield) = 19
  • Skill Points: +8 (Int) + 8 (Fast Learner, points used).
    • Human Fast Learner to +2 SP/Level, Corrupted / only to keep Adept skills maxed out (1 CP).
    • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills, Corrupted / only to keep Adept Skills maxed out (4 CP).
    • Adept x2 (12 CP) Survival, Perception, Handle Animal, Avenger and Javelin Styles, Background, Stealth, and Thievery.
    • This setting is using a condensed skill list. It’s on the bottom of this post.
  • Proficiencies: Shields, Corrupted / Light and Heavy Wooden Only (2 CP).

Usual Weapons:

  • Stone-Headed War Club (Heavy Mace) +7 [Bab+3, Str+2, MA+2], 1d10+2, Crit 20/x2, [Power I applied]
  • Javelin +7 or +5/+5 (+2 BAB +3 Dex +2 MA, possible Quick Throw), 1d6+2, Crit 20/x2, 30′ Range Increment.

Adept Skills: All start at (Level +3).

  • Handle Animal: +2 (Cha) +3 (Tem) +2 (Sy) = +11
  • Perception: +0 (Wis) +3 (Tem) +2 (Sy) = +9
  • Survival: +0 (Wis) +3 (Tem) +2 (Sy) = +9
  • Avenger Style: +3 (Dex) +3 (Tem) = 10
    • +2 Hit, +2 Defense, 1 Power with War Club.
  • Javelin Style: +3 (Dex) = +7
    • +2 Attack, Fast Draw, Quick Throw.
  • Background +2 (Int) +3 (Tem) +2 (Sy) = +11
  • Leatherworking, Metalworking, Horse Breeding, Sing, and Recitation.
  • Stealth: +3 (Dex) +2 (Sy) = +9
  • Thievery: +3 (Dex) +2 (Sy) = +9

Other Skills (8 SP):

  • Phantom Style: +4 (4 SP) +3 (Dex) = +7,
    • Synergy: Stealth, Thievery, and Perception, Mind Like Moon.
  • Background: +3 (1* SP) +2 (Int) +2 (Sy) = +7
    • Pioneer, Forester, Carpentry, Cooking, Herbalist.
  • Mountain Man Style: +1 (1 SP) +4 (Con) = +5
    • Synergy: Background, Handle Animal, Survival.
  • Specific Knowledge: Dark Mages (1 SP).
  • Specific Knowledge: The Spirit World (1 SP).

Other Abilities (24 CP):

  • Luck, Corrupted/No Base Uses (4 CP).
    • +4 Bonus Uses for Saving Throws (3 CP).
    • +4 Bonus Uses for Attacks & Damage (3 CP).
      • Taking 20 on damage is quite powerful at lower levels. At high levels… not so much. I find it acceptable, but you might find it disruptive. If you feel it’s over-advantageous, the character will need a small Immunity to only being able to use Luck on d20 Rolls (Common, Major, Major, Specialized and Corrupted / only for damage rolls, 3 CP).
    • +4 Bonus Uses for Skills (3 CP).
  • Reflex Training: 3 Extra Actions/Day Variant with +3 Bonus Uses (6 total, 11 CP).

Personal History:

The Tribal Shamans record ancient lore, medicine secrets too dangerous for common use, in cryptic patterns and carvings. Those items are sealed away, hidden in secret places in the sacred lands, surrounded by guardian petroglyphs, retired shamans, and spirits. For, if all else fails and the people stand upon the edge of destruction and the world with them… those secrets will be unsealed, the power to change the world unleashed, and the spirits will be called upon to build the world anew. Thousands of years of history, thought, and culture are there inscribed in stone, the collected lore of the People of the Plains.

Some talismans are hidden even more carefully. For recorded there are terrible secrets, the workings of dark spirits long since sealed away – preserved not to teach, but in case hard-learned countermeasures are needed once again.

But a drifting nightmare, a thing of dark magic and blood that spied upon dreams, found a clue – a dream dark and terrible from a guardian who had caught too many glimpses of what they guarded. It’s masters – a circle of dark mystics, evil spirits, and crawling things from beyond that would be gods – waited, and built up their forces, and finally struck, gathering a terrible harvest of ancient lore and carrying it into a distant land, leaving death and destruction behind.

Kohana-Makawee was one of several youngsters who heard the call of the Totems that day – and who soon headed out, both to recover the stolen talismans and to destroy any foolish would-be adept of darkness who attempted to put that lore to use. Today, carrying and caring for such terrible lore had left it’s mark; Kohana-Makawee now knows entirely too much about dreadful things, can routinely use the trickle of transforming energies from Raven to produce tiny miracles of distorted probability and time – and is a well-honed blade in the hands of the Great Totems.

Still, there are entirely too many bits of stolen lore still circulating – each a deadly secret that must be hunted down and eliminated. The spirits always have more tasks for her.

The Condensed Skill List:

Acrobatics (Dex) Balance + Escape Artist + Tumble
Arcana (Int) Spellcraft + Knowledge: Arcana
Athletics (Str) Climb + Jump + Swim + Escape Artist (STR)
Background (Int) Covers any five Craft, Profession, or Perform skills.
Deception (Cha) Bluff + Disguise
Endurance (Con) Control Shape + Concentration + Endurance
Handle Animal (Cha) Handle Animal, Ride, Profession/Teamster, etc.
Insight (Wis) Sense Motive + Gather Information
Linguistics (Int) Speak Language + Decipher Script + Forgery
Martial Arts (Var) Still only one, sorry!
Perception (Wis) Search + Spot + Listen
Persuasion (Cha) Diplomacy + Intimidation
Religion (Wis) Knowledge/Religion, Knowledge/The Planes, Heal, and performing various religious services and rituals
Scholar (Int) Covers Knowledge / Architecture and Engineering, Geography, History, Local, and Nobility
Stealth (Dex) Hide + Move Silently
Survival (Wis) Survival + Use Rope + Knowledge/Nature
Thievery (Dex) Appraise + Disable Device + Open Locks + Pick Pocket / Sleight of Hand
Use Device (Cha) Use Magic Device, Use Psionic Device, and Use Technological Device. For practical purposes there isn’t much difference.

Our Lorewarden here is really a classical literary hero – capable of pulling through in almost any emergency , and of taking down fairly strong enemies with a single mighty blow, but also likely to run out of steam in short order – not at all unlike a low-level mage.

  • Working in health care, things have been a bit frantically busy. I’ll try to catch up here eventually, but expect postings and articles to be pretty sporadic for a while.

 

Eclipse – Building Variant Familiars

And for today, it’s a question:

I don’t think this has been covered in an article yet, so I wanted to ask what a familiar’s full suite of powers (as detailed on page 189 of Eclipse) would look like if they were measured in terms of CP costs?

-Alzrius

That is a pretty good question. After all, Pathfinder added a bunch of Variant Familiars – labeling them “Familiar Archetypes” – that modified stamdard familiar abilities. The quick way to do this in Eclipse is to just buy Companion (Familiar) Specialized and/or Corrupted for Increased Effect (adds some abilities) at the cost of deleting others. And that generally works just fine if someone just wants to tweak their familiar a bit. It can, however, get awkward when someone starts trying to seriously optimize things. At that point… you’ll want to know what the various abilities, and sequences thereof, are actually worth.

To start with the basics…

The Eclipse “Companion” ability creates an empowering link with the creature chosen – although the extent of that link varies with the exact type of bond formed. In effect, that’s a limited form of “Blessing” that doesn’t drain the “donor”.

In the case of a Familiar or “Psi-Crystal” that bond is especially tight. In Eclipse terms, it’s been Specialized (the backlash of loosing a familiar) for Increased Effect. Familiars get their hit points, base saves, base skills, effective level, and base attack bonus from their owners wherever these exceed the companions. There is no cost for this on the Familiars end though.

Animated Objects gain +12 HP instead of using half their owners, “heal” 2d4 hit points per day, and have a +4 base in Spot, Listen, Move Silently, and Search for their “base skills”. That’s good at low levels, but a poor deal at higher ones when the Familiars base skills generally become quite irrelevant. Fundamentally, it’s a bit harder to empower a construct with personal energies than it is a creature simply because constructs are pretty alien to most masters.

Familiars also gain bonuses based on their masters level which are much more predictable – although in baseline d20 only levels in particular classes add to a Familiar’s abilities. That doesn’t really apply in Eclipse though, so Familiars get…

  • A base intelligence of 5 if it isn’t already higher and +(Masters Level / 2, rounded up) Intelligence with no apparent upper limit. Personally I’d limit it to 20 or so (at level thirty) since there’s only so much you can supercharge a brain – put that’s just me. I’m going to go with it though for design reasons.

That’s still tricky to price, if only due to that “if it isn’t already higher” clause. Worse, it’s a LOT of points if you just buy it as self-development. You could buy all kinds of other stuff with those points. Worst of all… Pathfinder offers one Familiar Archetype that trades it in for extra strength – which, to be blunt, is rather silly. It’s also redundant in Eclipse, where – if you want a combat machine – you just take a Companion Creature instead of a Familiar with your “Companion” ability.

Personally, I’m buying it as Innate Enchantment (Intelligence 500 GP, Int 20, 8000 GP) for 9 CP, Immunity to the XP costs of this particular enchantment (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP), and Immunity to Dispelling, Antimagic, and Disjunction (Common, Minor, Epic, Specialized and Corrupted / only to protect this Innate Enchantment, 6 CP) and Specialize the whole package – basically gradual availability only – for a net cost of 8 CP. Yes, that’s a case of double Specialization, but in this case it doesn’t matter much. If you want to trade it out for better Charisma, or better Wisdom, or a mix of smaller values… you certainly can.

  • +(Masters Level / 2) Natural Armor. OK, it’s not QUITE the same – but Defender (Natural Armor) and Defender (Dodge) each with +1 to AC, Specialized / only gradual availability (12 CP) gets us pretty much the same result. Slightly better even, since the Dodge bonus will help against touch attacks.
  • Familiars can grant their masters +6 CP worth of some specific ability – although it’s usually something like Skill Focus or a Save Bonus, or something else that’s less-than-efficient. That’s Whatever-it-is (Specialized, only for use with Blessing, 3 CP) and Blessing (Specialized and Corrupted / only to bestow that specific power, only on it’s master, only if within the current range of the link, 2 CP).
  • They can take an automatic “Aid Another” action on Spot and Listen checks if the companion would also get a roll in it’s current location and is close enough for the link to operate. (In basic d20 this is represented as Familiars granting the Alertness Feat). That’s Opprotunist for Aid Another, Specialized in Spot and Perception for the person it’s linked to (3 CP).
  • They gain Improved Fortune (Evasion) for (12 CP).
  • They gain a Mystic Link with their masters, over which they can communicate speech and sensory information, share spells, and transmit spells. That’s Mystic Link with the Power, Identity, and Communications upgrades (12 CP). Unfortunately, several aspects of this are limited.
    • The range has a base of one mile, increasing to planetary range at level 17 and to transdimensional Range at level 19 and up.
    • The Location aspect does not function until level three.
    • The communications aspect transmits emotions at level 3+, telepathy at level 5+, and sense-sharing at level 13+
    • The spell transmission aspect allows spell/power sharing and the transmission of touch effects through the Familiar at level one. At level fifteen it allows externally-directed spells and powers to be transmitted through the Familiar.
      • Overall, that’s probably Specialized, reducing the cost to a mere (6 CP).
  • Familiars can speak with other animals of similar types when their masters hit level seven and can speak normally when their masters hit level nine. That’s a limited version of Speak With Animals (only related types, x.5 = 1000 GP) and something resembling Message (1000 GP) added to their Innate Enchantments. Those aren’t really limited by availablity, so (+2 CP).

Animated Objects gain the ability to speak normally at L7 (Message, 1000 GP) and gain +3 Construction Points at Level 9 (Enhance Construct I, enhancements must always be the same, 1000 GP) – increasing the cost of their Innate Enchantments by (+2 CP). Classically these are spent on Flight with +20 on the speed to get it up to 50′, but this is Eclipse; buy something else if you like.

  • A choice of Spell or Power Resistance (6 CP).

Overall, that comes to a grand total of 54 CP over twenty levels. That isn’t an enormous number of points to play with, and they’re pretty efficiently spent already, but for those out there who might want to fiddle with alternative progressions… now you know what you have to work with.

The Wild Men Of Atheria

Cenric has some troops. In fact, he quite literally has a troop of gorillas. Now, normally, even with Beastlord, he could only have CR 1 beasts for his “Horde of Troops” and Apes are CR 2 – but I’m going to presume a variant where he gets a lot less of them but uses a CR 2 base. If he wants more troops later… well, it will only cost a point or so to upgrade Horde to “Specialized for Double Effect”. After all, if you want a hidden jungle city of uplifted primates… you’re going to need some muscle.

Atherian Birthright.

Like all animals on Atheria, Gorillas have Birthrights. Unlike most other animals, gorillas are quite intelligent – in d20 terms, on the very upper limit of “Intelligence 2″ and only a little bit below the start of the normal human 3-18 scale. Just as importantly, they’re more massive than humans are, and that’s the second major element that determines birthright strength. Gorillas get full 30-31 CP birthrights just like humans do, although they are less inclined to complex magic.

In the forests and jungles of the Totem Domain of Atheria they are the Forest People, the Savage Folk, the Hidden Ones, and the Wild Men. They were before Homo Sapiens, and will be after. Dancing on the borderline of true sentience, they are Tarzan’s all-too-clever apes who have the beginnings of language and society, who communicate among themselves to some extent with cries and gestures, who learn quickly, who build simple structures, and who assemble basic tools. Before men came to Atheria… their tribes were among the most formidable groups of the Totemistic Realm, and they still hold their own lonely mountain lands.

  • Brachiation: Immunity / the distinction between normal ground movement and brachiation (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial (since this only calls for a first level spell effect, 1 CP). The great apes can move and swing through the forest canopy, or through the rafters of a cathedral, or in any similar environment as readily as they can on land.
  • Howls Of War / Legionary, Specialized / only with other Great Apes (3 CP). The apes instinctively work together to defend their bands and forest homes – and do so quite effectively.
  • Brute Force Approach / Finesse: Bases SP/Level on Str instead of Int (6 CP). Given that they are far more inclined to physical pursuits than intellectual ones, most of their skills depend more on raw physical ability than anything else.
  • Jungle Master / Adept: may purchase Listen, Martial Arts (Jungle Lord Style), Spot, and Survival for half cost (6 CP).
  • Strengths Of The Great Beasts / Innate Enchantment (Up to 6500 GP Value, 7 CP).
    • Greatclub (as per Shillelagh, but works on a chosen type of club, 2000 GP).
    • Surefoot: +10 Competence Bonus to Balance, Climb, Jump, and Tumble. The user does not lose his or her dexterity bonus to AC when balancing or climbing (2000 GP).
    • Towering Oak: +2 Str, +10 Competence to Intimidation (2000 GP).
  • Immunity / The XP Costs of Racial Innate Enchantments, Specialized and Corrupted / only through spell level one caster level one (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP).
  • Immunity / Dispelling and Antimagic (Common, Minor, Major, Specialized and Corrupted / only to cover racial innate enchantments, effectively converting them to extraordinary abilities, 2 CP).
  • Racial Skill Bonuses:
    • Jungle Lord Style +6 (3 CP).
    • Listen, Spot, and Tumble +2 (3 CP).
    • Specific Knowledges: Troop Tactics (1 CP) and Primitive Defensive Works (1 CP).
  • Racial Disadvantage: Accursed / Lacks the vocal flexibility needed to speak complex languages, although they can use sign language (-3 CP).

As with most creatures of Atheria, Birthrights make Gorillas much more formidable than the lesser creatures known to most other worlds that rely on animal strengths alone.

Now Cenric has taken the Emperor’s Star modifier on his Leadership – allowing him to grant all of his followers +1 Positive Level, although the benefits must be the same for all of them. Now a positive level is an excellent deal, granding…

  • +1 BAB
  • +1 to AC
  • +1 to Saves – and
  • +6 CP. In this case this is invested in…
    • Some additional Innate Enchantments – a L1 Pearl Of Power (1000 GP), with Intelligence 14 (1500 GP) and Charisma 12 (500 GP). That gives our Gorillas decent mental stats for (3 CP).
    • Immunity to the XP cost of these additional Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP) and comes with a high enough caster level that no one is likely to dispel it temporarily.
    • Proficiency with Clubs (1 CP).
    • The “Well Off” Wealth Level, Specialized / only to cover Charms and Talismans and Skill Bonuses (+2 to Speak Language: effectively +4 due to Speak Language being Tier 2. Covers Sign Language, their own semi-language of ape-noises, and understanding two human languages and +2 (+6 as Tier 3) to Craft / Treeweaving) (1 CP).

Their usual set of Charms and Talismans includes: Shimmermail (+4 Armor Bonus with no penalties, appears as stylized armor), All-Weather Cloaks (to remain comfortable), Journeybread (food for a month in a small bag), and Sovereign Ointment (heals minor injufies).

Skills:

Tier I:

  • Jungle Lord Style: +7 (3* SP) +6 (Str) +6 (Race) = +19
  • Knowledge/Nature: +7 (7 SP) +2 (Int) = +9
  • Spot: +7 (3* SP) +1 (Wis) +2 (Feat) +2 (Race) = +12
  • Survival: +7 (3* SP) +1 (Wis) +2 (Race) = +10
  • Swim: +4 (4 SP) +6 (Str) = +10
  • Tumble: +3 (3 SP) +2 (Dex) +10 (Comp) = +15

Tier II:

  • Balance: +7 (3 SP) +2 (Dex) +10 (Comp) = +19
  • Climb: +7 (3 SP) +6 (Str) +10 (Comp) +8 (Race) = +31
  • Heal: +5 (2 SP) +1 (Wis) = +6
  • Intimidate: +7 (3 SP) +1 (Cha) +10 (Comp) = +18
  • Listen: +7 (1* SP) +1 (Wis) +4 (Feat) +4 (Race) = +16
  • Speak Language: +7 (3 SP) +4 (Wealth) +2 (Int) = +13. Can understand most languages, but can only speak their own very primitive tongue and use sign language.

Tier III:

  • Craft (Treeweaving) +7 (2 SP) +2 (Int) +6 (Wealth) = +15
  • Jump: +1 (0 SP) +6 (Str) +10 (Comp) = +17

Jungle Lord Style (Str):

The Jungle Lord style is not the agile dance of the monkey style, but the brutal smashing of the killer ape. There is no delicacy here, no finely perfected katas – merely the ancient urge to destroy and the swift reflexes of the hindbrain, unmediated by conscious thought.

  • Requires: Str 18+.
  • Basic Techniques: Strike, Power 3, Attack 3, Defenses 3
  • Advanced And Master Techniques: Brutal Parry (Finesse, Adds Str Mod to AC Instead of Dex Mod), Mind Like Moon, Weapon Kata (Chosen type of Club), and Combat Reflexes.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength II, Ki Focus (Damage), and Resist Pain.
  • Known Techniques (10): Strike, Power 3, Brutal Parry, Weapon Kata (Iron Bound Spiked Club), Combat Reflexes, Inner Strength II and Resist Pain.

Putting it all together, this gives us…

Size/Type Large Animal
Hit Dice 4d8+8 (26 hp)
Initiative +2
Speed 30 ft. (6 squares), climb 30 ft.
Armor Class 23 (-1 size, +6 Str, +3 natural +4 Armor +1 Pos Level), touch 11, flat-footed 17
Base Attack/Grapple +4/+13
Attack Claw +9 melee (1d12+6) or Club +12 Melee (3d10+10) or Large Javelin +6 (1d10+6).
Full Attack 2 claws +9 melee (1d12+6) and bite +4 melee (1d6+3) or weapons as “attack”, above.
Space/Reach 10 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks Three Attacks of Opportunity with Claws or Club.
Special Qualities Low-light vision, scent
Saves Fort +7, Ref +7, Will +3
Abilities Str 23, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 12
Skills See Above.
Feats Alertness, Toughness (Taken as Universal DR 3/-)
Environment Warm Forests
Organization As a military troop under Cenric.
Challenge Rating 2

Overall, Cenric’s gorillas are reasonably formidable in melee, if far less so at range – but it is certainly hard to deny the intimidation factor of a bunch of massive, armored, gorillas with really big clubs.

Restricted Magic In The Practical Enchanter

And for today, and to get things started again, it’s a question!

Page 106 of The Practical Enchanter lists “User Restrictions” cost modifiers for making magic items. While these are a pretty easy way to limit who can activate the item(s) they’re applied to, they don’t seem to be that hard to bypass. Leaving aside that someone with the relevant item creation abilities simply pays the difference to have those restrictions removed, many of these seem to be exactly the sort of restriction that Use Magic Device is there to bypass.

My question is, is there a way to make it more difficult to use either of these options to bypass those restrictions? How do I make a magic item require a higher DC on a Use Magic Device check in order to get around its restrictions? How can I build in an anti-tampering measure so that someone can’t simply buy off the difference and remove a restriction? Would it require making the magic item sentient or is there another way?

-Alzrius

As Alzrius indirectly points out with his question, classical magical items tended to be what they were, they did what they did, and there really wasn’t any way around that – or to use them if you didn’t happen to fit their criteria.

Thor’s Hammer Mjolnir (“The Crusher”) was forged by Brokkr and Sindri, a pair of Dwarves. Thanks to Loki, it wound up with too short a handle for two-handed use. You’ll note that Thor didn’t take it back and have it fixed or upgraded though. Instead, he simply made the best of it.

Similarly, nobody tried to improve the Aegis after mounting Medusa’s head on it, or add more powers to the Djinni imprisoned in Al-Shamardal’s ring, or take the curse off of Tyrfing. Most of the time… once an item had been created, it didn’t change.

Even those items that weren’t powered by having a spirit trapped in them or by being forged from parts of some legendary monster usually couldn’t be upgraded. That isn’t to say that there’s no precedent at all – a few items of legend become more powerful after being bathed in dragons blood, or blessed by some mighty entity, or being used to perform great deeds – but that was fairly rare and usually was a case of the item not quite being finished in the first place or needing another magical boost to temporarily power it up.

That was the way it was in first and second edition D&D and most other tabletop games. Items were what they were – and while the game master would generally ensure that you got some good ones along the way (often quite intentionally covering your characters weaknesses or playing to his or her strengths) that Frost Brand Sword, or Wand Of Conjuration, or whatever was likely to be your characters signature gadget throughout most of his or her career.

And that was generally a good thing. The tales of how Markatha the Dragonslayer wielded his icy blade to slay the Fire Dragon of the West, held it to his chest and wrapped himself in sheets of asbestos to allow him to cross the burning desert, extinguished a section of flaming palisade to allow the people trapped within to escape a holocaust, and fought dozens of other menaces with his Frost Brand sword – and how his companion Amarith of the Shining Word used his Silver Wand Of Conjuration to defy a swarm of demons through the artful use of prismatic barriers and defied the traps of an ancient tomb with a swarm of summoned monsters – were as much or more a part of the reward for playing as that heap of gold, art objects, and rare jewels that they kept in the castle basement of the levels they earned. Gold Pieces were just numbers of a sheet, stories would be retold for decades, long after the actual game – and all those numbers on a character sheet – were distant memories.

You were playing to have fun with friends and to collect tales of great adventures and epic death scenes, romances, brilliant improvisations and solutions, daring rescues, clever mysteries, and unlikely feats that someone managed to pull off.

But when third edition rolled around… things changed quite a lot. Sometimes for good reasons, sometimes not, and quite often simply for the sake of change. It even picked up a few bits from the up-and-coming MMORPG’s of the day – and one idea that got pushed was making in-game rewards more readily trackable and more consistent and letting the players make stuff without all those bothersome quests. After all, there really was no good way to write rules that generated interesting quests or stories that would be remembered after the game.

One major change was that money and level came to mean a lot more. Items were made consistent, and – rather than game masters being encouraged to tweak things and hand out unique, signature, items – the idea of a gradual progression was built into the game as “wealth by level”. Now there had been traces of that earlier, as shown by the jokes about high-level warriors employing a golfing-style “sword caddy” to handle all their magical swords – but now, with the slow progression of “level appropriate” items, magic items became a panoply that you gradually upgraded and replaced as you rose in level – and if you let a low-level character have a really powerful weapon it threw off the game, regardless of whether they used it or if they sold it and used the money to boost the entire party.

Magic Items had to scale with level. Yet you didn’t want characters just trading out their equipment all the time to suit current missions. So… the rules said that you only got half price when you sold items.

But that meant that a character who got lucky with the random tables and got pretty much what they wanted would be way ahead of a character who got a bunch of stuff that didn’t suit them and had to trade it in. Being able to upgrade items was a partial solution to that – and also had the advantage that it let a character hang onto specific items for at least a little longer. That also meant that destroying gear was suddenly a no-no, instead of a risk of confronting something major – but that was a different sort of problem.

This also, very shortly, led to the introduction of artificer-types, who treated magic items like used cars, to be stripped down for parts. Magic items were no longer objects of wonder, but things to be junked and disposed of – or, at best, traded in or rebuilt – when you next went shopping at the magic-mart.

Thus, like most radical new solutions to classically-intractable problems, wealth-by-level and level-appropriate items created brand new problems of their very own.

Personally, I think there’s a strong appeal to those old notions of legendary magical items, things of ancient mystery, instead of mechanical devices to be rebuilt as convenient. After all… you didn’t see King Arthur taking Excalibur back to the shop to be upgraded with extra elemental damage or trading it in for a better model did you? The sword was a part of his legend.

So how to get back to that?

The first – and simplest – method is to return to the halcyon days of first and second edition and use “Create Artifact” for all your magic items other than potions and scrolls. Each one is now a unique (and usually fairly powerful) device, most of them will be permanent or rechargeable, and there’s no provision in “Create Artifact” for “upgrading” things other than simply including your current item as an ingredient and going on a brand new creation-quest. Of course, what you gain in simplicity on one end you lose on the other; now you need to make up unique items for major NPC’s unless you just mostly use an older-edition list. They may or may not be subject to “use magic device”, but the DC is likely to be high given their unique and idiosyncratic nature.

Relics kind of compromise. It is possible to upgrade at least some relics – but you can’t get rid of what’s already there, you can only improve them, removing restrictions will make them less powerful, it will cost permanent character points to upgrade them, and most campaigns will set strict limits on how many CP can be invested in any given relic and on how many CP worth of relics a character can have in total. They are pretty much immune to “Use Magic Device” though, simply because technically they’re not magical devices. They’re relics.

With standard magic items things are a little more awkward because there’s already a mess of rules covering what you’re trying to stop.

  • You can make them intelligent, and give them the ability to make life uncomfortable for anyone who tries to “upgrade” or use them against their will. That can be a fairly drastic power boost though since they can presumably use those same powers against other targets. On the other hand… it does make it awkward to try and just destroy the item or use it to pay for something else. Moreover, since things like “alignment” and “purpose” are freebies, they can’t be upgraded to something else.
  • If you apply the Impervious modifier (also from The Practical Enchanter, +31,500 GP and 2520 XP) then the item becomes essentially indestructible – which may extend to being upgraded and / or Use Magic Device if you like. Items that are impossible to meddle with are impossible to meddle with!
  • You can simply decree them Cursed. There isn’t anything in the standard rules that puts a price on curses, and “cannot be upgraded or modified” and / or “more or less resistant to “Use Magic Device” and / or “can only be upgraded or modified via an appropriate quest” certainly counts as a curse in a standard game. In fact, there’s no reason why an item can’t have multiple curses on it. Of course, The Practical Enchanter DOES give a price reduction for generic curses – and thereby opens up a way to remove them via upgrading – but if an item is cursed so that it cannot be upgraded, I think that would tend to trump trying to uncurse it by upgrading it.

About Use Magic Device… sure, it’s a standard part of the game and, but it has always struck me as a bit iffy depending on just how an item works.

Lets say that you have made a magical cloak. A Cloak Of Gnomish Trickery. It’s only for Gnomes, and it allows them to use their racial cantrips (dancing lights, ghost sound, and prestidigitation) twice a day each instead of only once.

  • If I build the cloak using a Pearl Of Power type effect – (250 GP per Cantrip x 3 Cantrips x .4 (only for a specific set of cantrips) x.7 (Gnomes Only) = 210 GP) – I have a neat little toy for a low-level gnome, but while “Use Magic Device” would let an elf who happened to have limited use of those particular cantrips use it to refresh them, it wouldn’t help him if he didn’t have at least one of those three cantrips in the first place. You can’t refresh a spell slot that’s not there.
  • If I build the cloak using a use-activated effect (Spell Level 1/2 x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x 3 Cantrips x .2 (once per day each) x.7 (Gnomes Only) = 420 GP) then Use Magic Device will work just fine.

And if a Cloak Of Gnomish Trickery turns up in a module priced at – say – 300 GP? Who knows how it was built? Use Magic Device is generally presumed to work – but if the Hellfire Scepter is fueled by the malice of your soul, as opposed to simply requiring an evil alignment to activate… should Use Magic Device be able to supply that dark power instead of just doing the equivalent of picking the lock on the trigger?

Worse, of course, about 99% of games and items never go into enough detail to tell you how items work – and it’s really hard to blame them for that. Hardly anyone actually cares.

By the way, as a note… “Emulate an Alignment: Some magic items have positive or negative effects based on the user’s alignment. Use Magic Device lets you use these items as if you were of an alignment of your choice. You can emulate only one alignment at a time.” doesn’t actually say that you can trigger a device that requires a particular alignment – just that if it has effects based on your alignment you can pick which effect you want. Still, nobody plays it that way.

So now that I’ve philosophically rambled all over the place… I shall attempt to answer the question!

  • In the case of reasonably-important permanent devices increasing the DC on Use Magic Device is most easily done as a “Flourish” (Practical Enchanter, Page 107). Honestly, the extent of the DC increase can be pretty much arbitrary; it’s not like it’s usually a major concern. For a default… +1 per 4000 GP value is probably reasonable. That will make it epically difficult to use major devices that are made to resist such usage, but that’s actually fair enough.
  • Alternatively, for any item… the maker can make a Spellcraft check with a +10 bonus when making the item. The result will be the DC for Use Magic Device checks made on the item. After all, anyone who’s building a device can make it harder to use (it’s making it EASY to use that’s hard). Why should magic items be any different? Of course, if you increase the difficulty of using the thing too far… it may become harder for the people you want to be using it as well.
  • Anti-tampering measures are usually built as Maledictions. That would be (Spell Level x Caster Level x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .2 (once per day maximum) x.1 (only when someone attempts to modify the device – which hardly ever happens and generally requires a full day, so once per day is sufficient) = 40/240/600/1120/1800/2640/3640/4800/6120 GP for a Level 1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8/9 Malediction effect – usually causing something to go seriously wrong with the attempt or with the required “fairly quiet, comfortable, and well-lit place in which to work”.

Honestly, you shouldn’t need a malediction of more than third level to cause an unacceptable interruption, but if you really want to have a plague of werewolves or major demon attack or some such you can go ahead and sink the extra 6120 GP into your item for a ninth level effect.

You can do something similar if you wish to add a highly specific curse to the device – “no one who has touched me can use Use Magic Device on me without massive penalties” (probably level one or two) – which can be gotten around by picking up the device, getting a remove curse spell, and then making your roll, but who’s going to think of that?

Or you can go with the “Cannot Be Upgraded” Curse/Restriction as well, in which case the attempt is hopeless to begin with AND unleashes some disaster.

There’s also some discussion on this and related topics in THIS article and it’s comments.

And I hope that helps!

Eclipse d20 – Cenric, Barbarian Beastmaster

Honestly, the inspiration for this one is probably 50% Tarzan, 50% the Monkey King, and 50% Mowgli. At 150% that pretty much makes him Enkidu, and – like all d20 characters – properly larger than life. As a highly optimized character from Atheria, with it’s powerful Birthrights, cut-rate Attributes, and special magical options… he’s quite powerful indeed.

Birthright: Atherian Barbarian (Gorilla Totem, 31 CP +0 ECL Race).

Those enhanced by the Gorilla totem are probably the most straightforward subtype of Atherian Barbarian there is. They are bigger, tougher, and stronger than normal people – but have relatively few outre capabilities. On the other hand, few totems find humans a better channel for their abilities than the Gorilla.

As usual for Atherian Barbarians, their abilities are all bought Corrupted (gives them obvious animalistic features and powerful instincts according to their tribal totems).This allows their 31 CP racial allowance to provide 47 CP worth of abilities:

  • Innate Enchantment (Up to 8500 GP Value, 9 CP). While this is something of a rarity among the Barbarians, Gorillas are so close to human that their racial aptitudes are come through extremely well.
    • Branch To Branch: Gain Brachiation Only (x.5) = 1000 GP. May swing through trees and on vines at (Ground Movement Rate + 10′).
    • Embrace The Wild: Gain Low-Light Vision, Scent, and a +2 Typeless Bonus to Listen and Spot. (2000 GP).
    • Skill Mastery / Enhance Skill Group: Gains a +3 Competence Bonus to Jungle Skills – Animal Handling, Knowledge / Nature, Martial Arts (Jungle Lord Style), and Survival ((Personal-Only, 1400 GP).
    • Surefoot: +10 Competence to Balance, Climb, Jump, and Tumble. The user does not lose his or her dexterity bonus to AC when balancing or climbing (2000 GP).
    • Towering Oak: +2 Str, +10 Competence to Intimidation (2000 GP).
  • Immunity / The XP Costs of Racial Innate Enchantments, Specialized and Corrupted / only through spell level one caster level one (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP).
  • Muscle Memory: Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus: Adds (Str Mod) to (Int Mod) for Skill Point Purchases, Only through level six, only for physical skills (6 CP).
  • +6 Str (18 CP), +4 Con (12 CP), +2 Dex (6 CP)
  • +1 Bonus to Jungle Lord Martial Arts (Strike).
  • Disadvantage: Insane (Exceptionally Powerful Instincts): As far as Gorilla Tribesmen are concerned… the organization of a gorilla band is the right and proper way to do things! They aren’t just what their instincts demand – they’re the way that EVERYONE should live! (-3 CP).

Basic Attributes: Str 14 (+6 Racial +2 Enh +1 Level +1 Purchased = 24), Dex 12 (+2 Racial = 14), Con 14 (+4 Racial = 18), Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 12 (28 Point 3.5 Point Buy).

Available Character Points: 96 (L3 Base) +10 (Disadvantages; Obligations to Trademaster Piso, History, Irreverent) +12 (L1, L2 Bonus Feats) +6 (Duties, has pacted with a Fey Lord to create a kingdom of intelligent animals) = 124 CP

Basic Purchases: (69 CP)

  • Wealth Level: Starting: Common, Currently Well-off (3 CP), further upgraded to Affluent, but this is Specialized and Corrupted / only for Charms and Talismans (2 CP)
    • Starting at “Common” got him the option to take two NPC Class (Adept, Aristocrat, Expert, or Warrior) Levels as a +1 ECL Template. He took Expert (L1, +24 SP, d6HD, +2 Will) and Warrior (L2 +2 SP, d8HD, Proficient with Simple and Martial Weapons, Armor, and Shields, +2 Fort). This is quite effective for warrior-types.
    • Armor Shields & Weaponry: Heavy Armor, Shields, Specialized Weapons and Equipment.
    • Five Charms and Two Talismans.
    • May have a loyal henchman (In his case his Riding Mastadon) and a dozen ordinary employees / slaves.
  • Base Attack Bonus: +4 Specialized for Increased Effect / only with “primitive” weapons (24 CP), no iterative attack. +1 (Template) = +1 General, +9 with Primitive Weapons.
  • Hit Points: 22 (L1-3d8, 12 CP) +14 (L1 Template) +55 ([Str Mod + Con Mod] x 5) = 91 HP.
  • Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus: Adds (Str Mod) to (Con Mod) for HP Purposes, Specialized and Corrupted / only through level six (6 CP).
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fortitude +0 (Purchased) +2 (Template) +4 (Con) +1 (Mor) = +7.
    • Reflex +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +2 (Dex) +1 (Mor) = +5
    • Will +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +0 (Wis) +2 (Template) +1 (Mor) = +5
      • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saves (6 CP).
  • Proficiencies: Simple and Martial Weapons, Light, Medium, and Heavy Armor, and Shields (Template).
  • Skill Points: 6 SP (6 CP) +56 (Str Mod x 8) +30 (Template) +16 (Int Mod x8) = 108 SP.
    • Adept: Pays half cost for Animal Handling, Knowledge / Nature, Martial Arts (Jungle Lord Style), and Survival (6 CP)
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +2 (Dex) +4 (Shimmermail) = 16 (Adjusted by weapon, see below).
  • Initiative: +2 (Dex).
  • Movement: 30 (Base) +10 (when brachiating).

Usual Weapons:

  • Large Thrown Rocks (Ancient Huntsman Style): +11/+11/+11/+11/+11 (+9 BAB +2 Dex +1 MA +1 Mor -2 Bonus Attack), Damage 1d10+7+1 (Str) (Mor), Crit 20/x2. Expertise (may reduce attack check by up to -5 in favor of +2 damage per step). 20′ Range Increment.
  • Large Two-Handed Iron Bound Spiked Club (Jungle Lord Style): +15/+15 (+9 BAB +7 Str +1 Mor -2 Bonus Attack), 3d8+17 (1.5x Str, +1 Mor +5 Impact, Crit 19-20/x3. +5 to AC while wielded, 3 Attacks Of Opportunity, may use Resist Pain while using this style.
    • Martial: 5 Design Points, Two-Handed: +3 Design Points, Additional Design Points: +3 (50 GP). Improved Critical (x3, -3 DP), Damage 2d6 (5 DP). Improved Critical Threat 19-20 (3 DP). Net: 2d6, 19-20/x3
  • Unarmed (Jungle Lord Style): +17 (+9 BAB +7 Str +1 Mor), 1d4+8 (Str, Mor), Crit 20/x2, +5 to AC, 3 Attacks Of Opportunity, may use Resist Pain while using this style.
  • Any Large Object (Pioneer Spirit Style): +13 (+9 BAB +7 Str +1 Mor -4 Improvised), usually 1d6+8 (Str, Mor), Crit 20/x2, May subtract up to -5 from Attacks to add +2 to AC per point subtracted when using this style.
  • Large Thrown Javelin (Savannah Hunter Style): +11/+11 (+9 BAB +2 Dex +1 MA +1 Mor -2 Fast Throw), 1d8+8 (Str, Mor), Crit 20/x2 plus automatic trip, 30′ Range Increment.
  • Large Knife (Stone Fang Style): +19 (+9 BAB +7 Str +2 MA +1 Mor), 1d8+8 (Str, Mor) +2d6 (Sneak Attack), Crit 20/x2, can use Whirlwind Attack and Ki Block.

Other Abilities (49 CP):

  • Leadership with Strength in Numbers, Horde, BeastLord, and Emperor’s Star, Specialized for Reduced Cost / only animals, Corrupted / only for Primates (7 CP). The +6 CP from Emperors Star go to Innate Enchantment(Muleback Cords, Sapient, Int 14, Cha 12, Speech, and +2 Con) – making his ape and monkey followers intelligent, speaking, and capable of carrying equipment.
  • Shaping, Specialized for Increased Effect and Specialzied for Reduced Cost / only to use the Beastmastery Cantrip (4 CP).
  • +5 Strength, Corrupted / user is a hulking brute, easily recognized, has a hard time finding armor and weapons that fit, and so on (20 CP). Four points spent to reduce the level of Beastmastery Anyspell IV to Zero.
    • This allows him unlimited use of animal magic spell effects of up to level three. He can speak with animals, have them scout areas for him, heal their injuries, summon them to attack (per Summon Nature’s Ally), borrow various animal powers, cause a stampede to cause minor damage over a fair area, calm animals, charm animals, send animal messengers, identify animals (and their birthrights), cast magic fang, and many other things – albeit all having to do with animals.
  • Monkey Grip (May use weapons one size larger than normal, 6 CP).
  • Imbuement (Iron-Bound Spiked Club), Specialized / only to grant it the Impact Property (+5 Damage) (6 CP).
  • Bonus Attack (Jungle Lord Style) (6 CP):

Skills (All +1 Morale):

Tier One Skills (Martial Arts) (36 SP):

  • Ancient Huntsman Style: +8 (8 SP) +7 (Str) = +16
  • Jungle Lord Style: +8 (4* SP) +3 (Enh) +7 (Str) +1 (Race) = +20
  • Pioneer Spirit Style: +8 (8 SP) +4 (Con) = +13
  • Savannah Hunter Style: +8 (8 SP) +7 (Str) = +16
  • Stone Fang Style: +8 (8 SP) +7 (Str) = +16

Tier One Skills (Other) (36 SP):

  • Animal Handling: +8 (4* SP) +3 (Enh) +1 (Cha) +2 (Sy) = +15
  • Hide +3 (3 SP) +2 (Dex) +4 (or more, Elfin Cloak) = +10 (+13 if still or in natural surrounds, +16 for both).
  • Knowledge/Architecture And Engineering +2 (2 SP) +2 (Int) = +5
  • Knowledge/Geography: +2 (2 SP) +2 (Int) +2 (Sy) = +7
  • Knowledge/Nature +8 (4* SP) +3 (Enh) +2 (Int) = +14
  • Spot: +8 (8 SP) +2 (Unk) +2 (Wis) +2 (Sy) = +15
  • Survival: +8 (4* SP) +3 (Enh) +2 (Wis) +2 (Sy) = +16
  • Swim: +1 (1 SP) +7 (Str) = +9
  • Tumble: +8 (8 SP) +2 (Dex) +10 (Enh) = +21

Tier Two Skills (23 SP):

  • Balance: +7 (3 SP) +2 (Dex) +10 (Comp) = +20
  • Climb: +8 (4 SP) +7 (Str) +10 (Comp) = +26
  • Handle Animal: +8 (4 SP) +2 (Cha) = +12
  • Heal: +8 (4 SP) +0 (Wis) = +9
  • Intimidate: +8 (4 SP) +1 (Cha) +10 (Comp) = +20
  • Listen: +0 (0 SP) +2 (Wis) +4 (Torc) = +7
  • Speak Language: +8 (4 SP) +2 (Int) = +11

Tier Three Skills (8 SP):

  • Craft / Primitive Weapons: +7 (2 SP) +2 (Int) = +10
  • Craft / Woodworking: +7 (2 SP) +2 (Int) = +10
  • Jump: +7 (2 SP) +7 (Str) +10 (Comp) = +25
  • Use Rope: +7 (2 SP) +2 (Dex) = +10

Skill Specialties (2 SP): Hide (In Trees), Knowledge/Nature (Animals),

Specific Knowledges (3 SP): The Barbarian Lands, The Dimensional Lands, Laws and Customs of the Imperium,

Martial Arts:

Ancient Huntsman Style (Str):

Humans throw rocks – and while there are other creatures that throw rocks, humans and protohumans do it accurately and effectively. It’s one of the defining traits of the human evolutionary line. Bands of ape-men throwing rocks stood against everything Africa put up against them – and won. This “martial art” is founded on the reflexes of two million years – and on the spirits of the ancestors who back up it’s users. With it, you throw rocks. Fast and hard. And, if you are skilled enough – your distant ancestors will inspire other rocks join in on the fun.

  • Requires: at least a +2 BAB specialized in Primitive Weapons (Rocks, flasks, grenades, etc)
  • Basic Techniques: Power 2, Attack 2, Strike, and Toughness 4.
  • Advanced And Master Techniques: Blinding Strike, Rapid Shot (Rocks), Quick Draw (Rocks), and Expertise (Attack and Damage, Specialized for Double Effect / only to transfer from Attack to Damage).
  • Occult Techniques: Man-Band Spirit, Inner Strength 2, and Wrath (Force Damage).
  • Known Techniques (8): Strike, Power 2, Attack 1, Rapid Shot, Quick Draw, Expertise, and Man-Band Spirit.

Man-Band Spirit: Presence (Swift Hurling effect), Specialized for Increased Effect / The user effectively throws three extra rocks at his highest BAB when making a full attack – but this only works with plain rocks, which take off to follow the leading rock as if the user had thrown them.

Swift Hurling:

  • Transmutation, L1 Bard, Sorcerer/Wizard, Components: V, S, M (the missile or missiles to be launched), Casting Time: One standard action, Range: Touch, Target: Special, Duration: Instantaneous, Saving Throw: None, Spell Resistance: No
  • Swift Hurling will launch up to three arrows, bolts or sling stones as if fired from an appropriate weapon or hurl up to three items such as daggers, shuriken, rocks, flasks of holy water, or bottles of alchemical preparations, as if the caster had thrown them. Outside of the fact that the missiles need not be drawn and no mundane launcher (bow, crossbow, etc), is required, this is a normal attack – an attack check is required, range modifiers apply, and relevant Feats, attribute bonuses, and similar effects all apply normally. Where more than one possible mundane launcher or mode applies, such as a longbow or composite longbow, the choice is up to the caster. All shots are made at the user’s full BAB, they need not be launched at the same target, and the user may opt to either roll once for all the shots against a single target or for each independently.

This is actually a mildly abusive use of Presence, and should technically go under “advanced and master techniques” – but getting help from ancestor spirits is blatantly an occult technique and it’s a caveman style for throwing rocks. If you’re going to use Rocks as a competitive weapon… you’re going to have to abuse SOMETHING.

Jungle Lord Style (Str):

Men based many martial styles on the instinctive defensive and offensive movements of animals. The Jungle Lord style instead bases them on recalling the ancient ways – not the agile dance of the monkey style, but the brutal smashing of the killer ape. There is no delicacy here, no finely perfected katas – merely the ancient urge to destroy and the swift reflexes of the hindbrain, unmediated by conscious thought.

  • Requires: Str 18+.
  • Basic Techniques: Strike, Power 3, Attack 3, Defenses 3
  • Advanced And Master Techniques: Brutal Parry (Finesse, Adds Str Mod to AC Instead of Dex Mod), Mind Like Moon, Weapon Kata (Chosen type of Club), and Combat Reflexes.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength II, Ki Focus (Damage), and Resist Pain.
  • Known Techniques (10): Strike, Power 3, Brutal Parry, Weapon Kata (Iron Bound Spiked Club), Combat Reflexes, Inner Strength II and Resist Pain.

Pioneer Spirit Style (Con):

The land has a rhythm to it. Every so often, there is a gully. Trees grow around the water, the weather turns in regular seasons.

And for a Pioneer… the land is an opponent. A creature to be defeated, and broken to service. Certainly, no single pioneer can truly mark the land – but they can establish themselves, they can raise homes and cities, they can farm and harvest. And they, and their families, can endure, facing the land with it’s own rugged strength until – after ten thousand battles – it is broken to the service of men.

  • Requires: At least one basic Craft skill at +8 or more, +1 General BAB, Survival +8 or more.
  • Basic Techniques: Strike, Power 1 (can do 1d6 damage with anything that comes to hand), Toughness 4, Synergy: Craft (Any), Handle Animal, Survival, and Knowledge/Geography. .
  • Advanced And Master Techniques: Battlecry, Quick Draw, Expertise (Attacks and AC, Specialized for Double Effect / only to transfer from Attacks to AC), and Sneak Attack (I Kilt A Bar With This Ere Shovel…).
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength II, (Ancestral) Ki Focus (+4 to Int-Based Skills, counts as skilled), (Ancestral) Ki Focus (+4 to Wis-Based Skills, counts as skilled).
  • Known Techniques (7): Synergy: Handle Animal, Survival, and Knowledge/Geography, Battlecry, Expertise (As above), Inner Strength, Ki Focus (Wis Based Skills).

Savannah Hunter Style (AKA “Pointy Stick Style”) (Str).

With blunt objects, humans smash. With pointy objects, humans poke – either throwing or jabbing them. This is another ancient, and near-instinctive style. As usual with the ancient styles… accuracy is good, certainly, but the basic tactic has always been “entire man-band throws pointy things at food/threat”. Thus Strength matters more than precise accuracy,

  • Requires: at least a +2 BAB specialized in Primitive Weapons (Select Spear or Javelin)
  • Basic Techniques: Power III, Attacks III, Synergy / Spot, Synergy / Survival,
  • Advanced And Master Techniques: Quick Draw, Fast Throw, Weapon Kata (now covers both Spear and Javelin), and Mighty Blow.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength II, Light Foot, and Paralyze.
  • Known Techniques (8): Attacks 1, Synergy/Spot, Quick Draw, Fast Throw, Mighty Blow, Inner Strength 2, and Light Foot.

Stone Fang Style (Str).

Many beasts come with built-in weapons. But humans have never seen an advantage that they didn’t try to make their own. A thick pelt? I could use a coat! Milk for their young? We can drink that! Fangs and claws? We will take our fangs and claws from the Earth Itself, stealing a birthright we were not born with!

  • Requires: at least a +2 BAB specialized in Primitive Weapons (Select Knife or Hand Axe)
  • Basic Techniques: Power 2, Attack 4, Defenses 2, Synergy/’Survival.
  • Advanced And Master Techniques: Weapon Kata (Whichever of Knife or Hand Axe wasn’t picked), Sneak Attack 2, Whirlwind Attack.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength 2, Ki Block, and Light Foot.
  • Known Techniques (8): Power 1, Attack 2, Sneak Attack 2, Whirlwind Attack, Inner Strength, and Ki Block

Charms And Talismans

With his recent acquisition of an Order Sponsor, Cenric has been able to acquire a small part of the Order Birthright – and will soon be upgrading his charms and talismans to match.

  • Acquired Order Birthright Package: Innate Enchantment.Specialized: only works with a high-ranking in-empire patron to channel the magic of Order to the user, double effect (6CP/10,000 GP). Enhance Charms and Talismans (L2 spell effect, increasing the effects of Charms to L1 and those of Talismans to L2. Personal charms only, 8400 GP) and Inspiring Word (personal only, +1 Morale bonus to Saves, Attacks, Checks, and Weapon Damage).

Current Talismans:

  • Shimmermail (+4 Armor Bonus with no penalties).
  • Tulthara (Two-Handed Iron-Bound Spiked Club when he wants one).

Current Charms:

  • Captains Torc: +4 to Listen, -1 on saves versus Sonics, can be heard at extended ranges.
  • Elfin Cloak: +4 to Hide, +7 if still or in a natural environment, +10 for both.
  • Firebox: Holds a small, permanent, smokeless fire.
  • Foothold Boots: Get purchase on anything, including air, for a few moments three times per hour.
  • Flux Iron: Can turn into any needed simple tool.

I’ve been ill, so it’s back to playing catchup for a few days…

Eclipse D20 – Kaerek, Savannah Refugee

Kaerek ran away from his cruel family (and especially Father) as a child and pretty much continued on indefinitely, eventually passing out of the Great Savannah (the Life Domain) into Chelm (the Domain of Blood and Shadow). There he picked up some weapons skills beyond the bow and realized that he was still being pursued by his abhorrent family.

Kaerek changed his name in hopes of that throwing off the pursuit – but is still not sure whether or not that somehow made it worse. Continuing North took him into the Domain of Order, where he was an unwelcome disruptive element and only managed to avoid execution or enslavement thanks to his skill at hiding. Eventually, however, another character hired him on as a bodyguard – which at least gave him a position of sorts.

Even if the pay is fairly poor for that kind of work, it’s not like he’s at all likely to be killed doing it.

Currently his boss is leaving the Imperium in pursuit of magical materials, ancient tombs, and arcane secrets in the Northern Forests of the Dimensional Domain – where he will hopefully escape pursuit at last, since heading out into the Northern Ice domain doesn’t look like a good choice.

Kaerek here is another monofocused character: He uses Dual Rapiers (to inflict a lot of damage) and a Bow (mostly so as to have something to do when not weilding Rapiers). Moreover, in part thanks to his Life Birthright, he is quite difficult to kill – at least with damage.

Outside of that, he can find his way in the woods and hide if stabbing things is not working.

And there’s not much else. Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with being highly focused – and it does make him very, VERY, powerful within that focus – but the lack of versatility is potentially troubling. If an adventure doesn’t involve sticking pointy sticks or blades into something – and exploring a wilderness that’s been depopulated by some kind of disaster involves a lot of tasks other than fighting – he won’t have a lot to do at the moment.

“Kaerek”

Level Four Wandering Mercenary

Life Domain Birthright:

  • Grant of Aid, Mighty (Heals 1d8+12 or 1d3+1 attribute damage or two negative levels), Regenerative (regrowth option), and Spark of Life with +4 Bonus Uses (Six per day total). (24 CP)
  • Innate Enchantment (6 CP/5000 GP value.
  • Immortal Vigor I (+12 + 2x Con Mod HP, 1400 GP)
  • Fast Healing (20 HP/Level/Day, personal only, 1400 GP)
  • Enhance Attribute: +2 Con (1400 GP)
  • Resistance: +1 Resistance bonus on Saves (700 GP).

Attributes: Str 8 (+2 Self-Development = 10), Dex 16 (+2 Enhancement +2 Purchased = 20), Con 14 (+2 Enhenhancement = 16), Int 14, Wis 08 (+2 Self-Development = 10), and Cha 12.

Available Character Points: 120 (L4 Base) +12 (Disadvantages: History, Hunted (Family), Illiterate, & Insane (His awful childhood makes it very hard to relate to other people in anything approaching a normal manner)), +18 (L1, L2, L4 Bonus Feats) +8 (Duties) = 158

Basic Purchases (93 CP):

  • Wealth Level (0 CP):
    • L1: Destitute (Runaway):
      • +2 Wealth Bonus (adjusted by Skill Tier) to Bluff, Hide, Search, and Sense Motive.
    • L2-4: Poor (Homeless Wanderer):
      • +6 SP to be spent on Profession, Craft, Bluff, or Gather Information.
    • Current (Being supported at Common).
      • Can afford Light Armor, Shields, Common Weapons, and Ordinary Equipment.
      • May employ three Charms.
      • Can have common animals, including a light riding horse and dog if desired.
      • May have a servant-boy or -girl (if so, probably a cheap slave-child).
  • BAB +5, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only with weapons in which he has a Martial Arts skill at at least +6, no iterative attacks (+15, 30 CP).
  • Hit Points: 22 (L1-4d6, 8 CP) +4 (L1d4, 8 CP) +12 (Im. Vigor) +56 ([Con + Cha Mods] x7) = 94 HP
  • Evasive Combat: Advanced, Improved, Augmented Bonus (Adds Dex Mod to Con Mod when calculating Hit Points, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only through Level Six, 6 CP).
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fortitude: +3 (Purchased, 9 GP) +3 (Con) +1 (Res) = +7
    • Reflex: +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +5 (Dex) +1 (Res) = +8
    • Will: +0 (Purchased, 0 CP) +0 (Wis) +1 (Res) = +1
  • Proficiencies: Light Armor (3 CP), All Simple and Martial Weapons (9 CP).
  • Skill Points: 2 (Purchased, 2 CP) +14 (Int Mod x 7) +14 (Fast Learner at L(-2) with Disad Points) +6 (Wealth) = 36 SP.
    • Fast Learner, Specialized Increased Effect / Only for Skills (+2 SP/Level, 6 CP). ,
    • Adept: Dance Of Nightmares Style, Blistering Thorns Style, Survival, and Tumble (6 CP).
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +2 (Leather) +5 (Dex) +4 (Shield) = 21
  • Initiative: +5 (Dex).
  • Movement: 30 (Base) +30 (Enh) = 60.

Usual Weapons:

  • Dual Rapiers: +23/+23/+23/+23 (+19 BAB +5 Dex +1 Enh +1 MA +1 Mor -4 Bonus Attacks), 1d8+7 (+5 Dex +1 +1 Enh), Crit 18-20/x2, 10′ Reach, 5d6 Sneak Attack.
  • Composite Longbow: +22/+22/+22 (+19 BAB +5 Dex -2 Rapid Shot), 1d12+6 (+5 Dex +1 Mor), Crit 20/x3, 3d6 Sneak Attack, may make a limited number of Paralysis Attacks.

Other Abilities (65 CP):

  • Self-Development: +2 Dexterity (12 CP due to half-price attribute rule in setting).
  • Master Fencer / Finesse: Uses (Dex Mod) in place of (Str Mod) for melee attacks with piercing weapons (6 CP).
  • Precision Strikes / Finesse: Uses (Dex Mod) in place of (Str Mod) for damage with piercing weapons (6 CP).
  • Bonus Attack II with Rapier, Corrupted / Requires the use of a Rapier in each hand (8 CP).
  • Imbuement (Rapier) (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment, up to 11,500 GP Value (12 CP): All Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x.7 Personal Only (if not already personal-only).
    • Personal Haste: +30′ Move, +1 Attack with Full Attack, 2000 GP.
    • Force Shield I: +4 Shield Bonus, Personal Only, x.7 – 1400 GP.
    • Enhance Dexterity +2: Personal Only, x.7, 1400 GP.
    • Martial Mastery (+4 BAB w/ Rapier, Personal Only, x.7, 1400 GP).
    • Inspiring Word (+1 Morale Bonus on saves, attacks, checks, and damage, 1400 GP).
    • Fortune’s Favor II (+2 Luck bonus to skills and attribute checks, 1400 GP).
    • Martial Mastery (+4 BAB with Longbows and Composite Longbows, Personal Only, x.7, 1400 GP).
    • Know Direction (1000 GP).
  • Opportunist: May make a flanking attack if an opponent is in range and attempts to hit an ally (6 CP).
  • Augment Attack: +3d6 Sneak Attack (9 CP).

Skills:

  • All Skills gain +2 (Luck) and +1 (Morale).
  • Tier I (23 SP):
    • DoN (Rapier): +7 (3* SP) +5 (Dex) = +15
    • BT (Bow): +7 (3* SP) +5 (Dex) = +15
    • Hide: +6 (6 SP) +2 (We) +5 (Dex) +4 (Cl) = +20
    • Search: +0 (0 SP) +2 (We) +2 (Int) = +7
    • Spot: +7 (7 SP) +0 (Wis) +2 (Sy) = +12
    • Survival: +7 (3* SP) +2 (Wis) = +12
    • Tumble: +7 (3* SP) +5 (Dex) +2 (Sy) = +17
  • Tier II (5 SP):
    • Bluff: +7 (3 SP) +4 (Wealth) +1 (Cha) = +15
    • Sense Motive: +3 (1 SP) +4 (We) +0 (Wis) = +10
    • Speak Language: +3 (1 SP) +2 (Int) = +8
  • Tier III (6 SP)
    • Craft (Leather): +7 (2 SP) +2 (Int) = +12
    • Craft (Armor): +7 (2 SP) +2 (Int) = +12
    • Craft (Weapons): +7 (2 SP) +2 (Int) = +12

Note: Thanks to his high Craft Skills, Kaere’s Armor and Weapons rating functions at +1 Wealth Level – allowing him up to heavy armor, longbows, and – of course – his two rapiers.

Known Languages: Artath (Life Domain Tribal), Ortic (Chelm Tribal), Havril (the Imperial Tongue), some Ikunn (Spoken in the Totem and Purity Domains), and is learning Illerian (Spoken in Dernmarik, the Dimensional Domain).

Martial Arts:

Dance Of Nightmares Style (Dex)

This Chelmian style seeks to emulate the combat styles of shadows and dreams – a flickering dance that moves with lightning speed while simultaneously seeming to entrap it’s target in slow motion, thrusting past a defenders guard with lightning speed to strike many times before they can move to defend themselves.

  • Requires: Bonus Attack II (Dual Rapiers)
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 4, Defense 2, Power 2, and Synergy (Tumble)
  • Advanced and Master Techniques: Mind Like Moon, Reach, and Sneak Attack 2
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength, Paralyze, Touch Strike, and Vanishing
  • Known Techniques: Attack 1, Power 1, Synergy/Tumble, Reach, Sneak Attack II, Inner Strength, Ki Focus (+4 Dex), and Vanishing.

Blistering Thorns Strike (Dex):

The great beasts of the Great Savannah can be most difficult to slay – and so the tribal archers there focus on ways to take down a target in other ways than inflicting damage. While the traditional arrowheads for use with this style are made from Blisterthorn Thorns – a rather nastily toxic item in themselves – a wide variety of other toxins can be used.

  • Requires: Dex 16+, Proficiency with a Bow
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 3, Defense 2, Power 2, and Synergy (Spot)
  • Advanced And Master Techniques: Mighty Blow, Poison Use, Rapid Shot, and Mind Like Moon.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength x2, Ki Block, and Paralyze.
  • Known Techniques: Power 2, Synergy (Spot), Rapid Shot, Poison Use, Mind Like Moon, Inner Strength I and Paralyze.

Charms:

  • Bracers Of Force: Can create minor “Force Fields” to keep away wind, rain, smoke, and bugs or support small objects.
  • Ditty Bag: Can pull out any desired item worth one copper piece or less three times per day.
  • Elfin Cloak: +4 to Hide, +7 if standing still or in a natural environment, +10 if both apply.

Eclipse d20 -Serilda Ofellius Mallius

Serilda is another character for the current Atheria game – in this case a master alchemist/artificer who likes to explore lost tombs, ancient ruins, and distant lands, looking for exotic components with which to make rare Charms and Talismans, for inspiration for her own forging of Relics – and for Artifacts from the ancient world, since creating such things is almost a lost art on Atheria.

As such, she tends to deal with her problems by blasting them with alchemical bolts – or by retreating to create an appropriate Relic. As usual for a specialized character for Atheria she is quite formidable – but also as usual she’s going to start broadening her abilities rather than increasing her power since she’s already got pretty much every relevant boost for Alchemy, for making Relics, and for using Magical Items that there is on Atheria. She’s got nowhere to go there.

She’s also totally inept in melee, however dangerous she is with her Alchemical Bolters – and so she’s (very sensibly!) hired a bodyguard to watch her back.

Serilda Ofellius Mallius

Level Four Imperial Artificer

Birthright: Order (The Alarian Imperium)

  • Assistant (Their “Aid Another” actions provide a +4 bonus rather than +2, 6 CP).
  • Privilege/Imperial Patron (6 CP. Exiles may substitute a bonus feat).
  • Innate Enchantment. Specialized: only works with a high-ranking in-empire patron to channel the magic of Order to the user, double effect (6 CP/10,000 GP). Enhance Charms and Talismans (L2 spell effect, increasing the effects of Charms to L1 and those of Talismans to L2. Personal charms only, 8400 GP) and Inspiring Word (personal only, +1 Morale bonus to Saves, Attacks, Checks, and Weapon Damage, 1400 GP).
  • Fast Learner (may be specialized, 6 CP).
  • A bonus feat worth 6 CP.

Most children in the Imperium are given Lesser or Greater Scholar’s Eyes (Charm Version: +2 Int for skill purposes only for non-imperials, +4 for imperials. Talisman Version: +4 Int for skill purposes only for non-imperials, +6 for imperials) very early on. These are pretty much unheard-of outside the Imperium, where the results are far less noticeable. Given the inflexible imperial codes of conduct, and the stiff penalties for violating them, children normally invest a few in a reasonable understanding of imperial law and their house customs very early on. Freeborn children who don’t usually wind up being sold unless they’re consistently lucky or have some other form of special protection.

Uniquely, it is possible to acquire some portion of the Order birthright. Unfortunately, while other characters may buy the Innate Enchantment ability they still have to pay CP for the Imperial Patron, go out and find one, persuade him, her, or it to take them on, and sustain the relationship.

Birthrights have no actual cost to the character; everyone gets one for free for being born.

Available Character Points: 120 Base +10 (Disadvantages: Hunted (Accursed monsters from ancient tombs), Irreverent (Pays no attention to stories about “Gods”), and Blocked (non-alchemical spellcasting) +24 (Birthright, L1, L2, L4 Bonus Feats) = 154 CP.

Basic Attributes: Str 8, Int 14 (+4 Enh = 18), Wis 14, Con 14, Dex 14 (+2 Level +4 Enh = 20), Cha 12.

Basic Purchases (96 CP):

Starting Wealth Level: Well-Off (3 CP). Upgrade to Wealthy (Specialized and Corrupted / only with respect to Charms and Talismans, +3 CP).

  • Equipment: Standard gear up through full plate and exotic weapons as required.
  • Magical Items: Seven Charms and Three Talismans. Upgraded by the Order Birthright, these can produce effects of L1 and L2 respectively, or you can take standard Talismans as Charms.
  • Can afford high-quality common animals. As a note, animals with the Order Birthright are generally of very high quality, very easy to teach and train, and have minor powers related to organizing their environment.
  • Retainers: A loyal assistant, guard, or henchman and up to a dozen ordinary employees.
  • A +2 permanent wealth bonus to any two of Craft, Diplomacy, Speak Language, Perform, Profession, or Ride. In her case, Craft/Alchemy and Craft/Charms and Talismans. As both of those are Tier-2 Skills, the effective bonus is +4.

Other Basics:

  • BAB: +3, Specialized in Ranged Combat for Double Effect (18 CP). +2 BAB, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (+6 with Bolt Throwers Only, 12 CP).
  • Hit Points: 20 (L1-4d6, 8 CP) +12 (Immortal Vigor) +12 (6 x Con Mod) = 44 HP.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fortitude +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +2 (Con) +1 (Mor) +2 (Res) = +6
    • Reflex +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +4 (Dex) +1 (Mor) +2 (Res) = +8
    • Will +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +2 (Wis) +1 (Mor) +2 (Res) = +7
      • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saving Throws (6 CP).
  • Proficiencies: All Simple Weapons (3 CP).
  • Skill Points: 9 SP (Purchased, 9 CP) +28 (Int Mod x 7) +14 (Fast Learner) = 50 SP.
    • Skill Modifiers: Order Birthright Fast Learner Specialized in Skills (0 CP), Fast Learner Specialized in Skills, Corrupted / only to keep Adept skills maxed out (4 CP), Adept (Buys Knowledge / Arcana, Craft / Charms & Talismans, Knowledge / Nature, one other skill, for half cost, 6 CP).
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +5 (Dex) +6 (Shimmermail) +4 (Shield) = 25.
  • Initiative: +5 (Dex) (+8 Improved Initiative II, 12 CP) = +13
  • Movement: 30′ (Base) +30′ (Enh) = 60′.

Preferred Weapons:

Alchemical Bolter(s): +19/+19/+14/+9 (BAB +12, Dex +5, +2 MA), Damage/Special, Crit 20/x2, Range Increment 80′.

  • Available Munitions:
    • Acid x6: Touch Attack, 3d6, +2d6+1 Splash Damage. Corrodes and damages surfaces.
    • Crossbow Bolts with Adamantine Blanch x6: Normal Ranged Attack, 3d6+1, Crit 19-20/x2.
    • Dragons Breath Pepper Oil x6: Touch. DC 18 Fort Save or Blinded and at -2 to all actions for 2d4 rounds.
    • Fire x6: Touch Attack, 3d6, +2d6+1 Splash Damage. May burn for an extra round.
    • Firecracker x2: 1d6+2 Nonlethal Damage, Deafen for 1d4+2 rounds, DC 11 For Save to half effects. One Square.
    • Flash Powder x2: DC 15 Fort Save or 3 rounds Blindness in a 10′ Radius.
    • Frost x6: Touch Attack, 3d6, +2d6+1 Splash Damage. Often puts out fires.
    • Ground Pepper x6: Touch, DC 16 Fortitude Save or Sneeze for 1d4+2 Rounds.
    • Smokestick x3: Fills a 20′ Radius
    • Tanglefoot x3: Touch Attack, DC 19 Reflex Save, Lasts 2d4+2 rounds.
    • Thunderstone x2: DC 21 Fort Save or Deafened for one hour, 10′ Radius.
      • May make a single, triple-effect shot as a full attack action – but only three times and only regains one use of this ability per day.

Serilda CAN use simple melee weapons – but generally does not bother since she’s quite useless with them.

Family Talent: Alchemical Powers (37 CP):

  • Innate Enchantment, Corrupted for Increased Effect (up to 17,250 GP Value) / Must take regular alchemical treatments to boost her internal magic and must use additional charms and talismans to focus it (12 CP)
    • Belt Of Speed: Personal Haste (The Practical Enchanter, Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated = 2000 GP).
    • Basilisk Blood Bracer: Touch Of Alchemy / “Call Item” at 100 GP or Less (L2 / 3 Power, Manifestor Level 3, x 2000 GP for unlimited-use use-activated x.4 only to produce alchemical items, x.6 for 3/day = 2880 GP).
    • Elixir Vitae: Immortal Vigor I, Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .7 Personal Only = 1400 GP. Adds (12 + 2 x Con Mod) Hit Points to the user’s base total.
    • The Stone Of The Philosophers: All Effects Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .4 (twice per day) x .7 Personal-Only:
      • Fast Healing I for 18 Rounds 2/Day (The Practical Enchanter) (560 GP).
      • Relieve Illness (Hedge Wizardry, this site) 2/Day (560 GP).
      • Relieve Poison (Hedge Wizardry, this site) 2/Day (560 GP).
      • Lesser Restoration 2/Day (SRD) (560 GP).
    • Sigil Ring Of Alchemic Mastery (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated = 2000 GP): Apply (Int Mod, 3 Maximum) of the following enhancements to any alchemical item the target uses: +1d6 Damage, +2 to the Save DC, +2 rounds duration, or +5 to an existing radius of effect.
    • Gloves Of The Athanor’s Weave: Anyspell (L0 Alchemy Effects) (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated = 2000 GP): produces any one of the following effects:
      • Any one Polypurpose Panacea effect.
      • Brew: Makes up to a pint of tea, extract, or mixture from the usual ingredients.
      • Detect Poison: SRD Effect.
      • Flare: SRD Effect.
      • Identify Herb: Determines a herbs identity, potency, and uses.
      • Paint: Coats up to a 5 x 5 foot area with paint, light oil, glue, or a similar substance.
      • Smoke Cloud. Makes a burst of smoke roughly equivalent to a smokestick.
      • Spray. Sprays the contents of a vial of material onto any target within thirty feet.
    • Ioun Torch (75 GP).
    • Locket Of Winds: Breath Of Transmutation / Alchemic Mist, Reduced to L1 by being powered with 4 HP when used, Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated – 2000 GP. Turns up to two doses of an alchemical material or toxin into a 20′ radius burst within medium range.
    • Pendant Of The Iron Winds: Force Shield I, Spell Level One x Caster Level One x .7 Personal-Only – 1400 GP.
    • Vials Of Mist: Obscuring Mist, Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .4 (Two Uses / Day) = 800 GP.
    • Calcining Alembic / Masterwork (+2 Bonus) Industrious Alchemists Lab Talisman (225 GP): Activated as an Imperial Charm, this allows the user to work three times as fast. As an Imperial Talisman, it allows the user to accomplish a days work in an hour.
    • Shaping Spectacles / Masterwork (+2 Bonus) Industrious Artisans Tools for Crafting Charms and Talismans Talisman (80 GP). Activated as an Imperial Charm, these allow the user to work three times as fast. As an Imperial Talisman, these allow the user to accomplish a days work in an hour.
    • Mundane Functions (59 GP):
      • Durant Cloak: Cold Weather and Hot Weather Clothing (10 GP), Heavy Protective Gloves (2 GP), Thieves Tools (30 GP), Spell Component Pouch (5 GP), Bedroll, Blanket, and Cot (2 GP), Small Tent (10 GP),
    • Total: 17,159 GP.
  • Immunity / The XP cost of L1 Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP).
  • Immunity to Dispelling (Common, Minor, Minor, Specialized / only to protect Innate Enchantments, 2 CP).
  • Immunity / The need to attune Industrious Tool Charms and Talismans (Uncommon, Minor, Minor, 2 CP). Technically this is a natural-law immunity, and so requires special permission. On the other hand, this is about as unimportant as it gets and is very unlikely to break the game – so why not?
  • Immunity / Part of the time normally required to “draw” alchemical items and devices (Common, Minor, Trivial, 2 CP). This reduces the time needed to get out an alchemical item to a free action – provided that it is already only a move action. Another trivial natural law immunity.
  • Inherent Spell with +5 Bonus Uses (Six Total), Corrupted for Reduced Cost (9 CP) / requires assorted alchemical dusts, powders, and components, gestures, and a full-round action to use. Level Three Alchemical Anyspell (choice of: Acid (or other elemental) “Arrow”, Alchemic Mastery (+20 on an Alchemy check), Alchemic Mist, Cure Moderate Wounds, Delay Poison, Fog Cloud, Glitterdust, Grease (up to 20′ radius burst), Lesser Restoration, Tanglefoot Blast (up to a 20′ Radius).
  • Well-Supplied: Immunity / The normal limits of Craft / Alchemy: May prepare up to (Skill Total x 50 GP) worth of alchemical gear each day without it counting against her normal supplies (Common, Minor, Major, 6 CP).
  • Skill Emphasis (Craft Alchemy) (3 CP). Provides a +4 Bonus since Craft/Alchemy is a Tier-2 Skill.

Other Powers (21 CP):

  • Create Relic (6 CP)
  • Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (6 floating CP) / only for making Relics (6 CP)
  • Luck with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Skills (9 CP).

Skills:

  • Tier One Skills (24 SP):
    • Disable Device (Int): +5 (5 SP) +4 (Int) +1 (Mor) = +10
    • Martial Art (Thunderbolt Prana Style, Dex): +7 (7 SP) +5 (Dex) +1 (Mor) = +13
    • Tumble (Dex): +7 (Free) +5 (Dex) +1 (Mor) = +13
    • Knowledge/Arcana: +7 (Free) +4 (Int) +1 (Mor) = +12
    • Knowledge/Nature: +7 (Free) +4 (Int) +1 (Mor) = +12
    • Search (Int): +7 (Free) +4 (Int) +1 (Mor) = +12
    • Spot (Wis): +7 (7 SP) +2 (Wis) +1 (Mor) = +10
    • Survival (Wis): +5 (5 SP) +2 (Wis) +1 (Mor) = +8.
  • Tier Two Skills (15 SP):
    • Balance (Dex): +5 (2 SP) +5 (Dex) +1 (Mor) = +11
    • Craft/Alchemy (Int): +7 (3 SP) +4 (Int) +4 (Wealth) +4 (Emp) +1 (Mor) +4 (Sy) = +24
    • Craft/Charms and Talismans (Int): +7 (3 SP) +4 (Int) +4 (Wealth) +1 (Mor) = +16
    • Escape Artist (Dex): +3 (1 SP) +5 (Dex) +1 (Mor) = +9
    • Handle Animal (Cha): +3 (1 SP) +1 (Cha) +1 (Mor) = +5
    • Open Lock (Dex): +3 (1 SP) +5 (Dex) +1 (Mor) = +9
    • Ride (Dex): +3 (1 SP) +5 (Dex) +1 (Mor) = +9
    • Speak Language (Int): +5 (2 SP) +4 (Int) +1 (Mor) = +10
  • Tier Three Skills (3 SP):
    • Decipher Script (Int): +7 (2 SP) +4 (Int) +1 (Mor) = +10
    • Jump (Str): +4 (1 SP) -1 (Str) +1 (Mor) = +4

Specific Knowledges (8 SP):

  • Imperial Law And Customs (1 SP), House Mallius Customs (1 SP), The Imperial Encyclopedia of Charms and Talismans (3 SP), Exotic Charm and Talisman Components (1 SP), Everyman’s Handbook Of Alchemy And Artifice (2 SP).

Thunderbolt Prana Style:

All right, it’s basically “I am really good with magical guns”. You’re not getting an elaborate description here.

  • Requires: Weapon Specialization in Bolt Thrower (+2 or better dedicated BAB)
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 4, Defenses 2, Power 3, and Synergy/Craft Alchemy.
  • Advanced and Master Techniques: Mind Like Moon, Prone Combat, 2d6 Sneak Attack.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength II, Focused Blow, and Ki Focus (Dex).
  • Known Techniques (7): Attack II, Synergy (Craft Alchemy), Mind Like Moon (DC 15 Reflex Check to avoid being Surprised), Prone Combat, Inner Strength, and Focused Blow.

Charms and Talismans

  • Talismans: Greater Scholars Eye (+4 Int), Sash of Agility (+4 Dex), Improved Shimmermail (+6 Armor Bonus).
  • Charms:
    • Two Alchemical Bolters: This simple weapon holds up to eight doses of alchemical mixtures, launching them as attacks with the range of a Light Crossbow. It does take a round to reload once emptied however. Alchemical Items are usually Touch Attacks.
    • Two Hidden Pockets. These expand the capacity of the Bolters to 24 vials each – although this increases the reload time to three rounds. First Bolter: Alchemists Fire x6 (120 GP), Acid x6 (60 GP), Flash Powder x2 (100 GP), Smokestick x3 (60 GP), Tanglefoot x3 (150 GP), Thunderstone x2 (60 GP), Firecrackers x2 (20 GP). Second Bolter: Alchemists Frost x6 (60 GP), Dragon’s Breath Pepper Oil x6 (60 GP), Ground Pepper x6 (12 GP), and Bolts with Adamantine Blanch x6 (60 GP).
      • Note; Her complete daily loadout comes out to 762 GP. That leaves 438 GP worth of alchemical stuff in her normal daily allowance.
    • Rewinding Sleeve Grapnel.
    • Fiend Gauntlets: The user may handle hot, corrosive, and otherwise dangerous things without fear of harm.
    • Broach Of Warding: Provides the L1 Warding Rune Effect (+2 Resistance Bonus to Saves).

Building “Lifebonds” in Eclipse

Today’s question is related to the Valdemar articles from a little while back, and is basically “How to build a Lifebond in Eclipse”. Given that that question is a near-perfect example of the problems inherent in building things from literature in games, it’s gotten the full treatment as an example.

As so often happens when converting from Literature, the first thing to consider is “what does this never clearly defined literary thing actually do anyway?”. Fortunately for us, there’s actually quite a lot of information about them scattered across various books. Possibly even enough to reach some actual conclusions.

Lifebond (Noun, Fictonal, Mercedeys Lackey): An intimate and very strong connection between two people’s minds.

To summarize the available information about Lifebonds…

  • Some characters say that they’re rare, but the actual books show them to be surprisingly common among the (relatively few) characters who get their emotional status discussed in detail. There’s no apparent reason why they shouldn’t also be fairly common in the general population. (Various books, Wiki list of known Lifebonds).
  • They are independent of active gifts or other special powers, although they may be more common among those who do possess mental powers (Various Books).
  • They are apparently pretty much unbreakable by common magic or psychic means, although the transmission of most useful information can be blocked effectively (Arrows Fall) and the rules may or may not apply to full-scale divine magic. Partially blocked links do not cause emotional traumas, although they might cause anxiety.
  • Magical barriers do not seem to block simple awareness though; Dirk claimed that he would KNOW if Talia was dead and – since he retains enough awareness of her to locate her through magical barriers – he is probably right (Arrow’s Fall).
  • They manifest spontaneously and involuntarily when potential bondmates meet (Magic’s Pawn, Arrow Series, various other books).
  • They can transmit large amounts of psychic/magical energy (Magic’s Pawn, Tylendel drawing on Venyel’s latent mage-gift to power a Gate, the backlashing gate-energy jumping to Vanyel).
  • They cannot be turned off or “refused”. Even attempting to resist causes psychological problems (Magic’s Price).
  • They can only be initially established at short range. (Various books. Canon lifebonds do not seem to appear before people meet and no one at all seems to be lifebonded to someone that they HAVEN’T met – even if the potential for the bonds seems to be established pretty much at birth).
  • According to Firesong everyone has a potential lifebonded partner, but he was more than a bit insane at that point (Winds trilogy).
  • They cause immense emotional trauma when one partner survives the other and may represent a constant or near-constant psychic drain under such conditions (Magic’s Pawn. Note that – according to Kethry, an adept-class mage – “Emotion WAS power. That was what mage a death-curse so potent, even in the mouth of an untutored peasant”).
  • They seem to persist beyond death however; otherwise the mental injury could be expected to “heal” – or it would at least be possible to seal it off – and it would be extremely unlikely for Tylendel to be reborn as Stephen and be able to forge a NEW lifebond with Vanyel (Magic’s Price).
  • Vanyel seemed to be able to function more or less normally after a few years. Interestingly, that partial recovery seems to have occured about the time that Stefen was born (interpolation from the Valdemar Companion and various Wiki timelines).
  • Vanyel seemed fully recovered on the psychc powers level – if still emotionally traumatized after years of warfare without his partner – after meeting Stefan (Magic’s Price).
  • Surviving partners can sense when their bondmate dies, usually experiencing something related to their final seconds (Magic’s Price, other books)
  • The pain of the broken bond apparently went away when Stefan met Vanyel’s spirit – manifested once more on the physical level in the Forest Of Sorrows. Again, Death did not actually break the bond. The pain may have stayed gone too. Admittedly, there isn’t much more to the book – but just because Vanyel was incarnated as a forest didn’t mean that he didn’t have a physical body and a presence on Velgarth – and there’s no suggestion of either of the pair being utterly miserable for decades to come. Just a bit sad about being separated for a while (Magic’s Price).

I know some people who have read the series and have concluded that a Lifebond is a curse. It makes you miserable until you acknowledge it, then there is a bit of great happiness – and then you have the extra pain of remembering what you once had when it plunges you into utter misery for the rest of your life. It can even make people who DON’T have a Lifebond miserable; the desire to experience a Lifebond nearly drive Firesong insane (Winds Trilogy). This, however, is mostly an artifact of Mercedes Lackey’s writing style, wherein she tortures her characters to involve the reader with them. I’m not going to count it as hard data.

Now Life and Death seem to be deeply involved in this. So, what do we know about the afterlife on Velgarth?

  • People do continue to exist after death (Vows And Honor series; Kethry’s Oathbreaker Ritual, Tarma’s Spirit Tutors, Magic’s Price (Vanyel getting a choice of afterlives), Ex-Heralds reincarnating as Companions, Ex Sons Of The Sun reincarnating as Firecats, etc, etc, etc).
  • The dead can intervene if summoned by a powerful mage (Vows and Honor, Kethry’s ritual. It is noted as being power-hungry, but then it is an ancient (and possibly inefficient?) ritual that opens the gates of death for angry ghosts to come through and take someone away), if empowered to by a god (Tarma’s tutors), or – more subtly – on their own if they’re strong-willed enough. This even happens in Valdemar – where, for example, Herald Kris promised a bouquet of Maiden’s Hope flowers to Talia for her wedding – and delivered, despite both him being dead and them being out of season (Arrows Fall). (I think there was also a contact in a dream, but the dead speaking in dreams is a basic feature of pretty much every fantasy world ever).
  • The dead do not, however, seem to gain much of any supernatural wisdom (Vows and Honor, Tarma needs new teachers as individuals reach the limits of what they know. In Oathbreakers, Tarma’s spirit-teachers don’t, and perhaps can’t, tell her much of anything about Heralds. The Star-Eyed came to tell her that they could be trusted – and to let her know that the Companions were spirit beings – in person).
  • The dead aren’t tremendously powerful either. Tarma’s tutors have a hard time reaching her to bring her an emergency warning in the face of some basic magical resistance (Vows And Honor).
  • The magical sword Need contains the spirit of a long-dead mage-smith, who continues to use her various powers quite freely – albeit possibly drawing to some extent on her bearer’s strength (Vows and Honor, By The Sword, Winds Trilogy). It also bonds with it’s bearer – another bit of evidence that the nature of the body doesn’t much matter; an embodied spirit can bond with, and interact with, a living person.
  • Spirits incarnated in objects, places, and exotic bodies can all bond with, interact with, and often communicate clearly with, the living without losing their spiritual nature (Companions, Need, Vanyel as the Forest Of Sorrows).

So… affection and loyalty provide a strong enough bond for a dead person to intervene on the physical plane – although this might (or might not) require that they had psychic powers in life (although reincarnation does seem to change those fairly often, since Heralds reincarnated as Companions don’t always seem to have the same gifts – Various Books).

Yet if simple bonds of affection, friendship, and memory can be enough to bridge the gap between life and death… why can’t the apparently-greater power of a Lifebond do it? Why does one partner dying mean more than the survivor gaining the bittersweet knowledge that their loved one remains always near, waiting for them to join them in the afterlife? Why do deceased parents sometimes seem to look after their children and beloved spouses hang around invisibly and comfort their elderly partners? It seems to work that way for some of the peasants of Valdemar and the other nations of Velgarth (Various books).

To talk about that, we need to look at the nature of Magic in Velgarth.

Have you noticed that something is very, VERY, wrong about how magic behaves in Velgarth? It flows into the world through living things and then acts a bit like water – flowing together into lines or rivers of power, which then flow into the great power-pools of nodes.

But… when water flows into rivers, it loses energy. That swift stream rushing down a mountain has a lot of potential energy per unit volume. The water in a valley river that the stream flows into… has less. The water in a lake is calm and still, much of it’s gravitational potential energy given up. A lake in a valley has much less energy available per unit volume than rain falling onto the top of a mountain. That’s entropy. That defines the flow of time. Yet magic in Velgarth flows and gathers like water – but once it has gathered it somehow has vast amounts of energy and becomes too energetic for lesser mages to handle in despite of entropy and time.

That means that it must have a secondary energy potential. Something that is the same anywhere in the world. It must have somewhere else to “flow” to. Somewhere far “lower” than any place in the physical world – “low” enough to dwarf the energy it’s given up in collecting in one spot. Somewhere that it flows into as it is used, giving up that energy to power acts of magic.

  • Magic comes into Velgarth through Life, and leaves through Death (as explained by Kethry). Living things on Velgarth give up their magical energy when they die. That’s the basis of Blood Magic (as explained in many places). Unless harvested by a blood mage… that energy flows out into the world, forms streams and pools, and eventually leaves it to somewhere else (from whence it returns once more through living things).

Ergo… the realms of the dead are a natural sink (or recycling center) for magical energy.

Normal bonds of affection, friendship, and memory… are weak bonds. They cannot transmit much energy. The dead may enjoy receiving a trickle of power from the living who think about them – but the drain / grief it causes is minor – and the mild pain of that drain may be counterbalanced or outweighed entirely by the contact with, and comforting presence of, someone who is loved and missed. Thus thinking about the beloved dead on Velgarth… is always a mixed experience. There are joyful memories, a sense of presence, and grief, and sorrow.

A lifebond however? A lifebond can transmit large amounts of magical and psychic energy. Someone who is Lifebonded to someone in the realms of the dead has an open energy-sink in their mind, draining them constantly. Grief, depression, misery, and constant fatigue is only to be expected. Weaker spirits may lose their grip on their bodies and be drawn into the realms of the dead themselves – dying of grief whether mysteriously or through suicide.

This means that an (un-)“broken” Lifebond between the Living and the Dead can be treated. All you need to do is to restrain the flow of energy over the link to a reasonable level. Eventually most minds will learn to do that themselves – but there’s no reason why a spell couldn’t do it or a telepath couldn’t show someone how.

So why doesn’t that happen? And why isn’t “suffering from a broken lifebond” a fairly common ailment in the population? After all, everybody dies at least once and the books show lifebonds as being fairly common, portraying thirteen pairs amidst a cast of a hundred or two major characters (Valdemar Wiki, since I never bothered to add up either number).

The simple answer as to why “suffering from a Broken Lifebond” isn’t a common ailment is that those without magical or psychic abilities are much less easily drained and can more rapidly adjust to cut down the flow of energy to a reasonable level. “Broken Lifebonds” are thus only a problem for those with substantial special powers. Everyone else can just feel their loved ones comforting – if distant – presence. Their beloved dead can show up to escort them to the afterlife when they’re on their deathbeds and so on. And nobody considers that a “Lifebond” because – having no significant power to share – they never showed signs of power sharing and AREN’T suffering from a “Broken Lifebond”.

As for why no one has ever analyzed the issue and developed a treatment… to get that answer we’re going to have to look at the behavior of Velgarth’s gods.

  • Oddly enough, despite the various gods, spiritual appearances and experiences, mages summoning ghosts, obvious-to-the-reader reincarnation, and other spiritual interactions… no one in the books seems to be particularly clear about the afterlife. In fact the Companions – the most direct divine representatives around – habitually inflict laser-guided amnesia on their Heralds whenever they find out too much about the afterlife. That’s partially explained by how awkward it would be, and how many social effects it would have, to let people know that their loved ones could opt to come back, and the kind of expectations it would place on the Companions – but that’s still “The gods have said to erase chunks of peoples minds to keep them from knowing too much” (Winds Trilogy). That’s kind of disrespectful at best and treacherous at worst. I certainly wouldn’t like having my mind messed with that way – especially by a creature who was supposed to be my greatest and most loyal friend.

So why are the gods giving such directives?

  • It is well-established in the books that the gods are generally non-interventionist if they think that mortals can handle a problem (Vows and Honor; the Star-Eyed speaking to Tarma, various other places) – although they CAN intervene if they feel that a problem is beyond mortal ability – such as sending the first Companions to Valdemar (the founder) to help him set up a good government (Winds Trilogy and others. I think that I’ll just reference the Valdemar Companion this time).
  • The gods have the Companions – their agents – meddle with Heralds minds to conceal their true nature and other spiritual truths (Magic’s Price, Storms trilogy). That was also established in Vows and Honor, where Tarma noted that the Heralds were not aware of the true nature of their companions – even though the Star-Eyed had seen fit to tell her and there were plenty of clues. Itt was reaffirmed in Mage Winds by Ulric’s explanations about Firecats and Companions.
  • No one has developed an effective treatment for “Broken Lifebonds” because they only affect a minuscule percentage of the population – and because the information about how they work and what is happening to the victims is being wiped out of the minds of all the potential researchers. After all, Lifebonds have been known for thousands of years on Velgarth – but in all that time, no competent research on them has ever been done. And who but the gods has been around for long enough to ensure that?

Would the gods do that? They seem to be generally “good”; would they actually be willing to be that ruthless and cruel? Well… Vkyandis COULD have dealt with his corrupt priesthood at any moment – he simply vaporized the corrupt high priest when he did decide to intervene (Winds I think) – but he let his corrupted priests burn generation after generation of children (who certainly COULDN’T “handle” being arrested by a massive military organization with magic-users) without doing a thing about it (Storms Trilogy). Evidently the gods are quite ruthless enough to leave some people to suffer horrible fates at times. Presumably that is for “The Greater Good”. I have VERY serious doubts about that argument – but I suppose that gods have a better claim to it than most.

Now that got rather long – but it gives us a reasonably solid theory to work with. There are probably spots in the books that it doesn’t quite fit, and it can rightly be regarded as Headcanon (even if it’s a fairly well researched and supported one) – but it does seem to work with the preponderance of the evidence, which is all you can expect when dealing with a literary work; they’re very  rarely completely consistent about how things work.

So, if you and a partner want to buy a Lifebond in Eclipse, you’ll want…

Mystic Link with Power Link (Power Sharing Variant) (6 CP Base). Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost:

  • The character point cost must be shared between the individuals involved.
  • Creates and extremely powerful emotional bond between the individuals involved.
  • The user will become frantic or upset if his or her partner is seriously harmed unless the link is being actively blocked.
  • If one partner dies, the other will suffer extreme depression, grief, and a psychic shock, usually incapacitating them for several days.
  • Power sharing is only possible at close range.
  • If one partner is deceased, the power-flow becomes one way to him or her. The living partner will become fatigued more easily and will suffer a minor loss of Power/Mana/Magical Energy over the course of each day until he or she learns to block it off (paying 1 CP to learn to do so).
  • The user can be affected by hostile magical or psychic attacks directed at his or her partner.
  • If one partner becomes irrational, upset, or is suffering from Morale penalties, the second one will suffer similarly – although bonuses also transfer.

That’s a net cost of 2 CP – one from each partner. Not too surprisingly… about as cheap as any special power comes in Eclipse.

  • Partners who get along especially well may also share the cost of Inherent Spell (Personal Good Hope, L2) with a total of four uses per day (9 CP, split and rounded down to 4 CP apiece) – with each being able to trigger the effect twice. That way they can encourage each other and derive some actual game-mechanical benefit from the warm feeling of being loved.

And there you go. One Lifebond. Occasionally useful, but mostly only really effective at causing emotional turmoil. Just like in the books.

Passions, Apathies, and Relationships in Eclipse

To the last I grapple with thee! From hell’s heart I stab at thee! For hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee!

-Moby Dick

Passions are larger than life commitments. They are the things that drive you to accomplish impossible feats, to push far beyond normal limits to save a loved one, to find the strength to hurl back a mighty demon that seeks to extinguish the light you guard, to stand alone and hold a pass against an horde of foes seeking to attack your city, and to crawl out of the very grave to avenge yourself upon your enemy. Passions – whether of hatred, of love, or of simple determination – are strengths that drive mighty deeds, both foul and fair. They both create and destroy. They both protect and torment. A Passion is always focused on doing or accomplishing something of importance – at least to you. A book-lover may collect and preserve books while a book-hater seeks then out to burn them – but both can be equally passionate about it.

The trouble with Passions is that they need to be reasonably specific and only help you out when they apply. Hating the Viking Raiders with all your heart won’t help you out against the wicked King John and his oppressive reign. Secondarily, positive Passions – a desire to defend, or serve, or build – are much safer than negative ones. Positive Passions tend to be open ended; if you are willing to die to defend someone… the Passion is still better fulfilled by you surviving unless it’s a choice between them and you. That way you can continue to defend them in the future. With negative passions… if you’re willing to die to destroy the evil emperor… then hurling yourself into a magma pool while grappling with him works just fine. You may die – but you have fully fulfilled your purpose. The tradeoff is that positive passions are often harder to invoke. A Passion to defend your city won’t do much if no one is currently threatening it unless you’re currently building up its defenses.

A Passion defines your relationship with something – whether that’s a rival, an enemy, a friend, a companion, a place, or a thing.

The inverse version – Apathies – is used in stories when you want to make a character suffer. For an all-too-common example… you can have a character lose their great love. Then have them be overcome with grief, make a great point of their terrible suffering, and have them refuse to take an interest in life. You can even have them attempt suicide. That’s an easy way to appeal to those audience members who feel unjustly put upon by powers beyond their control (most people, and especially teenagers), to the hopeless, and to those who can think of no way to try and overcome their own issues. That makes them a splendid audience sympathy character, sure to appeal to everyone who is either depressed already or who feels that “I probably couldn’t handle that either”. Unlike a Passion, an Apathy takes a character out of action rather than driving them to it. In Eclipse, that’s generally a disadvantage – most often Dependence or Accursed.

Has a person of Passion lost someone they love? Whether they succeed or fail… they DO SOMETHING.

  • Orpheus – and many other heroes – challenged the powers of Death itself.
  • In more realistic tales they often swear vengeance, and go forth to destroy the people who slew their loves, to sell their families into slavery, to burn their homes to the ground, and to sow their lands with salt!
  • If the loss was caused by some impersonal force… perhaps they found an orphanage or build a temple or erect a safety rail, or dedicate themselves to finding a way to prevent similar tragedies, in memory of their lost one.

Such people may despair for a time – but they take their Apathy and they turn it into Passion.

Many years ago… a man down the block from my parents house was informed that his wife was dying of cancer. There really wasn’t anything he could do – it was in the hands of the doctors – but he was a man of Passion, and he decided that cancer was the result of some sort of “magnetic imbalance” and started trying to build a machine to cure her. That wasn’t sane by most standards – but he kept trying in her memory even after the various medical treatments had failed and she had died. If he and his wife had only lived in a world of magic… he might well have succeeded.

So can you build Passions in Eclipse?

Of course you can. There’s already an article on building True Love over HERE.

If you just want die roll bonuses you can use the Bonds effect from the Nobilis articles.

But if you really want to break reality… you’re going to need something a little stronger than die roll bonuses. If what you want is something more like…

The battle was fell indeed, and the stench of burning powder and spilled blood lies thick. Despite your efforts your greatest enemy has won. Your ship is in a race between burning and sinking, your crew lies dead, your bowels are scattered across the deck and your shoulder is nailed to the mast by a sword. Your final words are an oath to all the powers that may be, and upon your very soul, that somehow, someday… your enemy WILL PAY.

And two years later, as the moon eclipses the sun and unnatural darkness falls… your ghostly ship, well-armed skeletal crew, and your wrathful spirit rise from the depths, launching a raid against your enemies homestead – a last chance to gain your vengeance against your enemy and all he values before you and your ghostly ship of the dead go on to become a curse upon the world.

Die roll bonuses won’t get you that. They won’t let you defy death and hold the way against a horde of enemies while others escape despite your mortal wounds. They probably won’t even let you duplicate some stuff that’s actually happened in the real world, such as Gladys May Aylward managing to tow more than a hundred children through the mountains to safety in the midst of an invasion. Fitting a feat THAT unlikely into a game will usually call for more than some die roll modifiers!

The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides
By the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.
Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will,
Shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness,
For he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children.
And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger
Those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers.
And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.

-Quentin Tarantino

In Eclipse Passions are built with Mana and Reality Editing. They are Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost.

  • Each die of Mana must be assigned to a particular Passion. While Passions may change over time – each session the character may reassign one die of Mana – it’s a slow process. If a passion is fulfilled – lets say you had “Slay The Dark Lord!” as a driving passion at six dice – then it will take six sessions to transfer them to something else after you succeed.
  • Mana may only be expended on reality editing in pursuit of the passion the die is assigned to.
  • A Passion must be assigned at least one die of Mana to allow Minor Edits, two for Notable Edits, three or four for Major Edits, and five or more for Grandiose Edits. Edits don’t count as actions, but you can only invest (Cha Mod) points of mana in edits per turn – unless the GM thinks that your proposal for an edit fits into the flow of the narrative really, REALLY, well. Edits that directly affect someone another being – such as trying to inflict a crippling wound – always allow a Will save. Edits always require the permission of the game master and will only work if they are dramatically appropriate.
    • Minor Edits are things like finding a weapon ready to hand when you need one, taking a move action without provoking attacks of opportunity, taking 20 on a roll, halving the damage from an attack on you, pulling out (and using up or having to leave behind) some convenient minor item of gear, taking an attack meant for someone else nearby, taking a player minute (with free kibitzing from other players and the GM) to come up with the perfect remark, briefly throwing off the effects of an enchantment, or making a brief speech. Dramatic special effects (similar to area-effect Prestidigitation) fit in here too; do you want to swear so foully that metal tarnishes, plants wither, and surfaces corrode in the area? Or scream so that sensitive individuals hear you in distant places? Or make a cutting remark so cold that everyone in the area feels chilled? Go right ahead.
    • Notable Edits include things like taking a Standard Action without provoking AoO, copying a feat or 6-point ability that you are eligible for but haven’t yet taken for ten round, maximizing the effect of a spell, power, or other roll, emulating a first or second level spell effect as long as you can describe some reasonably plausible method for doing so, greatly impressing someone with your courage, vulnerability, or whatever, or inflicting a crippling wound (equivalent to a “Bestow Curse” effect). You can perform a stunt so impressive (or comical) that everyone around you who isn’t doing something extremely urgent and important will take a few moments out to wonder or laugh over it. You might parry – and possible even reflect – a spell with a physical manifestation (for example, knocking away a Fireball before it detonates). You can draw on your Passion for strength to throw off fatigue or other minor conditions or to make a spell or other power last longer than it should. You can simply shrug off the damage from an attack (it’s merely a flesh wound!) or manifest an intimidating psychic aura. You can even improvise whatever simple tools you need at the moment. This is Reality Editing. It can do a LOT of things.
    • Major Edits include things like taking a Full Round Action without provoking AoO, getting a +15 on a roll, copying a feat for the duration of a scene, emulating a third level spell provided that you can describe some reasonably plausible (by Hollywood logic) method of doing so. You might impress someone so much that they might well offer you a job or perhaps some patronage. You might change a relationship in a dramatic scene – perhaps turning a Rivalry into (unrequited?) Love. You can focus utterly on a task, ignoring any die-roll penalties you would normally suffer from with respect to that task for a scene or initiate a confrontation, leading someone to either have to face you directly or back down. YOu can draw on the strength of your Passion to throw off the effects of poison, negative levels, or other major conditions or to remain standing and functioning despite mortal wounds. You can survive an accident that should have killed you; go ahead and throw yourself off a cliff, into a river, or into some other situation that should be lethal and vanish, returning (considerably) later having somehow survived.
    • Grandiose Edits are legendary deeds. You might drive off a far superior foe in a surge of berserk power, hold a chokepoint against an army for long enough for backup to arrive (the GM may call for a check to see if you survive), sacrifice yourself to accomplish some great goal or lay a great curse (usually with delayed effects). You might even go on a sidequest to call upon some hidden resource, such as Aragorn’s Spectral Army. Why not break something important and start some form of countdown to an enemies base or vehicle collapsing or exploding for no apparent reason? Grandiose edits are feats out of legend – but you shouldn’t always expect a game master to allow them.
  • The mana pool of a highly specific passion (“Defend the Princess!”) automatically refreshes daily, while the mana pool of a general passion (“Defend the Kingdom”) automatically refreshes weekly.
  • The mana pool of a Passion can also be refreshed by doing things directly related to the Passion. For example, if your Passion is defending the kingdom, then renewing your vows of service before the king will refresh your pool. Sadly, no more than one pool per day can be refreshed in this way.
  • Passions are major motivations. Characters who go directly against their Passions may suffer backlash. Perhaps Moroch The Implacable has sworn to destroy The Dark Lord at all costs and has invested seven mana dice in that Passion – but, when it comes to the confrontation and the Dark Lord says “Hey! Join Me! Let us Rule Together and I shall share with you the Secret of Eternal Youth!” Morloch says “Hey! That sounds pretty cool!” and joins the Dark Lord. In that case that Mana is going to spend itself at the discretion of the game master – perhaps ensuring that Moroch’s once-allies will become aware of his base betrayal, or arranging some terrible weakness, or creating a terrible rivalry with some other dark power, or notifying demons that Moroch’s soul is forfeit, or assisting other enemies, or causing his once-invincible sword to snap, or all of those things. And the next session Moroch may reduce his once-passion by one die, but the remaining dice will once more spend themselves whenever their pool refreshes. And so it will go until the Passion is spent and those dice are invested elsewhere.
  • Any given character can have a maximum of (Charisma) dice of Passions.

It thus costs 2 CP for one Passion die.

Some possible Narrow Passions? I Will…

  • Destroy the Dark Lord And Free The World From His Thrall.
  • Aid My Blood Brother In Both War And Peace.
  • Love, Protect, And Uplift My Family At Any Cost.
  • Serve My Friend And Liege Beyond Death Itself.
  • Drive Back The Horrors From Beyond And Preserve Our World.
  • Reclaim My Rightful Lands And Title From Those Who Hold Them.
  • Slay The Dragon That Ravaged My Home And Rebuild It Greater Than Before. .
  • Document This War And Compose The Greatest Epic Ever Known That It Will Be Forever Remembered.
  • Find True Love, Though Hell Should Bar The Way.
  • Allow Neither Rain, Not Snow, Nor Gloom Of Night To Stay Me From Delivering Messages!
  • Escape Unjust Restraint, For I Am The Captain Of My Soul.
  • Let Nothing Bar Me From Your Side, For I Will Always Be There For You.

Some possible Broad Passions? I Will…

  • Defend The Kingdom Against All Who Threaten It.
  • Be The Greatest Pirate Ever In Both Truth And Legend.
  • Assist My Friends Out Of My Matchless Loyalty.
  • Strike Down Evil Wherever It Arises That The Light May Triumph.
  • Protect And Aid The Innocent No Matter What The Threat. .
  • Drive The Usurpers From The Kingdom Into The Outer Darkness.
  • Hold To My Word, No Matter What The Price.

“Upon him I will visit famine and a fire,
Till all around him desolation rings
And all the demons in the outer dark
Look on amazed and recognize
That vengeance is the business of a man.”

-Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

So go forth, and play with Passion.

Dark City Heroes I – Majestic

Gotham City, founded in 1635 by Captain Jon Logerquist on a site where a eldritch entity has lain imprisoned for forty thousand years. As the city grew its occult influence has expanded as mortals unknowingly tapped and channeled it – fostering cultists, empowering arcane rites, and awakening mystical potentials. The first heroes appeared in the 1800’s, exploiting the concealing shamanic magic of Masks* to fight the gangs that controlled the city without exposing their civilian identities and connections to the gangs revenge.

*To don a mask (or, for those with the right powers, to shapeshift) with the intention of being someone else… is to draw a mystical line dividing those identities that only powerful magic, skilled, determined and lengthy investigation, or direct revelation can violate. Thus has Superman concealed his identity for decades with nothing more than a pair of glasses.

Today Gotham remains, as it has for centuries, a city of twisting alleys, archaic secret-laden neighborhoods, forgotten nooks and structures, eldritch nexi, and hidden sorceries. It is older far than Batman – so what heroes might he have Eclipsed in his rise?

The game-setup question is more or less “What sort of young heroes might Batman have grown up around in Gotham City?” – and the rules of the that game are:

  1. Level One Eclipse Builds.
  2. Human – although human-looking Variant Humans Races or Birthrights are available for Heroes and Villains.
  3. Half Cost for buying up Attributes with CP (commonly 6 CP for +1)
  4. Bonus Feats at L0, L1, L2, and every two levels thereafter.
  5. Handguns are considered to be Simple Weapons. Long Arms are Martial.
  6. A Condensed Skill List – in this case:
Acrobatics (Dex) Balance + Escape Artist + Tumble
Arcana (Int) Spellcraft + Knowledge: Arcana
Athletics (Str) Climb + Jump + Swim + Escape Artist (STR)
Background (Int) Covers any five Craft, Profession, or Perform skills.
Deception (Cha) Bluff + Disguise
Endurance (Con) Control Shape + Concentration + Endurance
Handle Animal (Cha) Handle Animal, Ride, Profession/Teamster, etc.
Insight (Wis) Sense Motive + Gather Information
Linguistics (Int) Speak Language + Decipher Script + Forgery
Martial Arts (Var) It’s a superhero setting; invent two with attribute modifiers and give them a each a +4 bonus.
Perception (Wis) Search + Spot + Listen
Persuasion (Cha) Diplomacy + Intimidation
Religion (Wis) Knowledge/Religion, Knowledge/The Planes, Heal, and performing various religious services and rituals
Scholar (Int) Covers Knowledge / Architecture and Engineering, Geography,
History, Local, and Nobility
Stealth (Dex) Hide + Move Silently
Survival (Wis) Survival + Use Rope + Knowledge/Nature
Thievery (Dex) Appraise + Disable Device + Open Locks + Pick Pocket / Sleight of Hand
Use Device (Cha) Use Magic Device, Use Psionic Device, and Use Technological
Device. For practical purposes there isn’t much difference.

Majestic (Edmund Wells):

According to ancient tales, unicorns shed their horns every seven years – and those alicorns retain potent magic, being tokens of healing, purification, and strength. But unicorns are rare, and thus true alicorn is almost unheard of.

According to the modern world, unicorns never existed in the first place, and such tales are simply tales.

Meridith knew that it was nonsense, and the her grandmothers “unicorn horn” pendant was doubtless carved from the horn of some other animal – but if her sickly baby didn’t want to let it go and it amused him… it merely took fastening the chain to the side of the crib to keep it too high for him to do more than hang onto it.

She panicked a bit when she came back and found the pendant missing from the chain – but her son wasn’t choking and didn’t have it in his mouth. It wasn’t in the bedding or under the crib either – and he couldn’t possibly have swallowed it. He’d probably thrown it somewhere – and it would surely turn up eventually.

It never did, but eventually she forgot about it. The distraction of seeing her baby son fully recovered and happy again – and, later, of seeing him growing up strong and healthy – was more than enough to keep her from thinking about the mysteriously missing pendant until the memory faded.

She never knew that her grandmothers pendant – carved of true alicorn and given with love unknowing of its power to an innocent – had merged with her infant son, rendered him once  more healthy – and giving him the potential for unicorn powers.

As he grew young Edmund has often found himself acting as the protector of the smaller children. When he hit adolescence, he soon discovered his ability to transform into a Unicorn Stallion – as well as the ability to sense those who were truly evil, and who had to be stopped.

Since then… rumors that the Wild Hunt rides once more are whispered around the city. The police are equally puzzled, but are unwilling to publicly admit that they are keeping an eye out for a sword-wielding vigilante who reliably assaults only the most vicious and evil criminals.

Race: Human Variant (Atherian Light Birthright, 30 CP / +0 ECL).

All of their racial abilities are Corrupted. The Children of Light suffer a -5 penalty on all attempts to be stealthy or to deceive people, are easily identified by their radiant auras by any form of magical detection or by perceptive observers (Spot DC 20).

  • +2 Charisma, +2 Dexterity, +2 Intelligence, and +2 Wisdom (16 CP)
  • Innate Enchantment (7500 GP, 6 CP):
    • Command (2000 GP).
    • Protection From Evil (personal only, 1400 GP)
    • Enhanced Insight: +3 to the Insight Skill (personal only, 1400 GP)
    • Inspiring Word (personal only, +1 Morale bonus to Saves, Attacks, Checks, and Damage, 1400 GP)
    • Immortal Vigor I (+12 + 2x Con Mod HP, personal only, 1400 GP).
  • Fast Learner (often Specialized in Channeling for Double Effect, 4 CP).
  • Channeling/Positive Energy: 3 + Cha Mod uses/day (6 CP) with a +4 bonus to their Base Intensity (4 CP).
  • Immunity/Time (reduced aging) (Common/Major/Minor, usually 4 CP but reduced to 0 CP due to relatively short campaign timescale (and standard comic book time).

The Children of Light suffer from some automatic disadvantages: they are Compulsively Truthful and Blocked (they can’t use negative-energy channeling, darkness-related magic, magical enhancements to stealth, non-healing necromantic magic, or anything else related to Darkness), for a total of -6 points

Basic Attributes: Str 10, Dex 12 (+2 Racial = 14), Con 12, Int 14 +2 Racial = 16), Wis 14 (+2 Racial = 16, Cha 14 (+2 Racial = 16). (3.5 28 Point Buy. For Pathfinder 20 point buy go to Con 13). In Unicorn Form: Str 20, Dex 17, Con 21.

Available Character Points: 48 (L1 Base) +10 (Disadvantages: Valuable, Hunted, and Broke, see below) +12 (L0 and L1 Bonus Feats) +2 (Duties) +6 CP (Fast Learner, only for Channeling) = 72 (78) CP

  • Valuable. He turns into a Unicorn. There are any number of mystics out there who would like to have a Unicorn – or some pieces thereof – on hand.
  • Hunted: He’s attacking the most evil mobsters, street gangers, and petty villains around. Some of them have surely taken notice.
  • Secret (Identity). Well, superhero setting. This is almost a given for most heroic characters.

Basic Purchases (48 CP):

  • Base Attack Bonus: +1 Specialized in Melee Combat (3 CP)
  • Hit Points: 24 (L1;4d6, 32 CP) +12 (Immortal Vigor) +6 (6 x Con Mod) = 42 (Unicorn 66)
  • Saving Throws (all gain a +2 Resistance bonus versus Evil):
    • Fortitude +0 (Purchased) +2 (Template) +1 (Con) +1 (Mor) = +4 (Unicorn +8).
    • Reflex +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +2 (Dex) +1 (Mor) = +5 (Unicorn +6).
    • Will +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +3 (Wis) +1 (Mor) = +5.
  • Proficiencies: All Simple Weapons (3 CP).
  • Skill Points: 4 SP (4 CP) +12 (Int Mod x 4) = 16 SP.
  • Athletics (+4 SP +4 Str +1 More = +9, extra +24 for Jumping), Insight (+4 SP +3 Wis +1 Mor +3 Enh = +11, extra +5 to Detecting Lies), Martial arts (+4 SP +5 Str +1 Mor = +10), Stealth (+4 SP +3 Dex +4 Racial = +11), and Survival (+0 SP +3 Wis +1 Mor +3 Racial = +7).
  • Human Armor Class: 10 (Base) +2 (Dex) +4 (armor) = 16 (+2 Deflection vrs Evil)
    • Modified Unicorn Armor Class: -1 Size, +1 More Dex +6 Natural = 22 (+2 Deflection vrs Evil)/
  • Initiative: +2 (Dex). (Unicorn +3)
  • Movement: 30 (Base) +30 (Enh) = 60 (Unicorn 90).

Usual Weapons:

  • Unicorn Horn: +10/+10 (+1 BAB +3 Enh +5 Str +1 Mor) for 1d8+9, Crit 20/x2, 5′ Reach,
  • Unicorn Hooves: +7/+7/+7 (+1 BAB +5 Str +1 Mor) for 1d4+6, Crit 20/x2, 5′ Reach,

I’m not worrying about the “Natural Weapons” rule. This is a PC, and doesn’t need to use GM shortcuts. In any case, rearing up to kick – or back kicking – isn’t too compatible with stabbing with a horn.

Abilities (30 CP):

Shapeshift with Growth, Beasts, Enchanted, and +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost (8 CP) / only to take (Urban) Unicorn Form.

Urban Unicorns are anthracite-coal black, with green, gold, red-gold, or orange eyes instead of white with sea-blue, violet, brown, or fiery gold eyes, their 1/day Teleport operates within their city and it’s suburbs instead of within their forest, and their “Wild” (City) Empathy works on police, officials, and city employees rather than animals. Otherwise, they’re just the same as standard SRD forest-dwelling Unicorns.

Unicorn Powers:

  • Senses: Darkvision 60, :Low-Light Vision, Scent
  • Constant Defenses: Magic Circle Against Evil, Immunity to Poison, Charm, and Compulsion.
  • Spell-Like Abilities
  • Detect Evil: at will, as a Free Action.
  • Greater Teleport: from anywhere in Gotham to anywhere in Gotham 1/Day.
  • Cure Light Wounds (1d8+5) 3/Day
  • Cure Moderate Wounds (2d8+5) 1/Day
  • Neutralize Poison 1/Day.
  • Skills: +4 to Stealth, +3 to Survival.
  • Damage Reduction 2/-, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / Only versus Physical Attacks, only works against metallic weapons (6/Non-Metallic Weapons, 3 CP).
  • Enhance Racial Innate Enchantments/+4000 GP Effective Value (4 CP).
    • Personal Haste: +30′ Movement, +1 Attack when making a Full Attack (2000 GP).
    • Unseen Servant (2000 GP).
  • Channeling:
    • Conversion to four Radiance effects of up to level two: Solar (Scorching) Ray, Glitterdust), Extended Color Spray (30′ Cone), and Pyrotechnic Flare (as per Pyrotechnics (Fireworks option only, but no fire is required) (6 CP).
    • Conversion to one Healing effect (Cure Moderate Wounds, 3 CP). .
  • Use of Charms and Talismans (6 CP): These are actually more-or-less inherent – the difference being that, while they’re free instead of having a small cost, it will take days or weeks to trade them out via meditation and practice.
    • Charms (7):
      • All-Weather Cloak: He is not bothered by normal weather conditions. Of course, unicorns aren’t.
      • Amulet Of The Stallion: He has the sexual potency of a stallion.
      • Mandarin’s Pin: Mud, rain, and other crud slides right off him, he is always nice and clean and freshly groomed.
      • Silken Tongue: He can speak clearly, and cast his voice up to fifteen feet, even if his mouth is full or something is wrong with his voicebox (like being a Unicorn).
      • Sovereign Ointment: Can use Cure Minor Wounds up to 30x a day, but no more than 1d4+1 times per target.
      • Trackless Boots: He leaves no trail and cannot be tracked by non-magical means.
      • Vanishing Cloak. He can become invisible for 6-12 seconds (3 + Level/3) times per day.
    • Talismans
      • Dao Sigil: He heals an extra 1d6 damage and one attribute point per day and can (very slowly) regenerate lost limbs and organs.
      • Helm Of War: May reduce a critical hit to a normal hit up to seven times – but only regains one use of this per week.
      • Shimmermail: He gets a +4 armor bonus from his mythic aura.

Majestic isn’t particularly subtle. He’s a rather brutal vigilante who relies on closing with serious bad guys at high speed, goring them, relying on his resistance to bullets, knives, and similar weapons to let him deal with their thugs, and on his (rather modest) healing abilities to let him handle what damage does get through – or with injured bystanders. His usual routine is to go  out, quietly turn into a unicorn in some back alley or hidden location, and roam around dealing with the bad guys. If cornered, or when he’s done… he uses his once-per-day teleportation power to return to one of his “lairs” – hidden cubbyholes in abandoned buildings or unused subway stations – makes sure that no one else is currently around, turns back to human, and goes home.

So far it has worked reasonably well.

In play, like any other narrow specialist, Majestic is quite formidable – even before customizing with some unicorn martial arts. On the other hand, that’s not going to last. Unicorn powers are pretty useful at low levels – but they’re fairly trivial at higher levels. Like it or not, there all too soon comes a time in d20 where being kicked by a horse is no longer much of a worry.

Eclipse d20 – Vada Dibria Lartia of Atheria

The Lartia family has quite a few holdings along the Alaria-Chelm border, not a few Chelmian contacts and trade-partners, and relatively little of the empires standard-issue fear of the Chelmians Blood and Shadow birthrights. They certainly still regard them with caution though – and so, even with the unstable nature of the Order/Blood and Shadow Realm Boundary, they rarely produce children with Chelmian Birthrights. Most mothers-to-be are moved deeper into the Imperium well before it is time to give birth.

Some years back there was a major disturbance. Something of Blood and Shadow woke – and ventured across the border, bearing those powers with it. During the week of that rampage… the passing power of Blood brought not a few infants to unexpected birth, and Birthrights of Blood and Shadow blossomed in them.

On such child – Vada Dibria Lartia – was contracted as a child to marry into the De Tanga clan before her exotic birthright was known. Unfortunately, once it became apparent that Vada’s Birthright was of Shadow rather than of Order, the Imperium’s prejudices against Chelm kicked in. The De Tanga clan patriarch has refused to allow Vada to marry any of the heirs who reside in Alaria, given that he sees the Chelmian Birthrights as dark powers, corrupt and untrustworthy.

On the other hand, the cantankerous old man is also refusing to recognize Darius’s marriage to an “Lunar Isles Hag”. While his opinion means little outside the family (even presuming that he lives much longer. He may well not, at 223 even the best life-extension spells that he can get may not help much longer) that has left young Vada with only a few options. She can accept her (and some of the other children’s) exile into the wilderness of Dernmarik and try to make her own home there – or she can seek out Darius and see if she can arrive at some arrangement. After all, her own patronage may not last forever – and the extra power she draws from having a patron of the Imperium is just too convenient to give up without a fight.

Vada is a fairly formidable generalist; she’s an expert ritualist and can enhance the rest of a groups weapons and armor, her spellcasting is very limited but reasonably effective, she has some ability as a beastmaster, she’s a skill expert, and she’s quite decent in a fight. Like most generalists however she’s not nearly as good at any of those roles (save, perhaps, rituals) as a true specialist would be even though she is rather highly optimized and is taking full advantage of her Shadow Birthright and Chelmian Wealth option.

That was, of course, one of the design goals behind the Atheria setting. In most d20 games… races are a bit of role-playing color, and a minor bonus or two, but really don’t have a lot of impact. The racial differences between an Elven 15’th level wizard and a Halfling 15’th level wizard are pretty well swamped by the “15’th level wizard” part. On Atheria… Birthrights shape a characters society, attitudes, approaches to problems, and builds – and it shows. For comparison, Fuyuha is an extremely formidable combatant thanks to her monomanical focus on her Dexterity and using it for EVERYTHING – but she’s pretty much ignored her Elemental Birthright along the way. How much more dangerous would that same build be if it was based around a Weasel Totem Birthright with it’s extra +12 Dexterity?

Fuyuha is very, VERY, good. But if she’d selected a Birthright that complimented what she wanted to do… she could be much, MUCH, better. Vada here isn’t as good – but she is far, far, more flexible and helps out the rest of the party quite effectively.

Vada Dibria Lartia;

Birthright: Shadow / Darkness (Chelm).

  • Rite of Chi with +2 Bonus Uses. Corrupted: it requires at least an hour to call on the protective concealment of darkness and steal the power of The Dragon (6 CP).
  • Occult Sense/Darksight. (6 CP).
  • Cloaking/Mystical Aura and Powers (6 CP).
  • Privilege/May have a second, unique, form of “Wealth” (6 CP).
  • Occult Ritual (Corrupted: may only be used at night, 4 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Knowledges (+2 SP/Level, 6 CP).
  • Privilege/May learn Knowledges and Specific Knowledges without having to explain where they’re learning such things. (3 CP).
  • Chelmians suffer from obligations (periodic exotic tribal rituals) and have a poor reputation (they are generally regarded as black magicians) for -6 CP.

Available Character Points: 96 (Level Three Base) +10 (Disadvantages) +12 (L1, L2 Bonus Feats) = 118 CP.

Wealth Level(s) and Effects (12 CP):

  • Conventional Wealth Level: Common (0 CP).
    • Starting at “Common” got her the option to take two NPC Class (Adept, Aristocrat, Expert, or Warrior) Levels as a +1 ECL Template. She took
      • Level One: Expert. +24 SP, 1d6HD, +2 Will
      • Level Two: Warrior. +2 SP, 1d8HD, Proficient with Simple and Martial Weapons, Armor, and Shields, +2 Fort.
        • This is useful early on, but less useful later since it puts her ahead on basic adventurer skills (even if she will never use some of them), but behind on developing her special powers.
  • Chelmian Wealth Level: Wealthy (12 CP):
  • Given that Chelm, and the Soul-Stelae Vada draws upon, is a long ways away, the support that she can draw from it is decidedly lopsided and it’s extremely difficult to increase it (requiring a trip to Chelm and making a lot of human sacrifices). Her Wealth Level is considered to be Specialized for Increased Effect (Her Armor / Shields, Charms & Talismans, and Weapon Bonuses function at +1 Wealth Level and she can share that full benefit with the people she is supporting instead of it being reduced by one level). However, this means that…
    • Her Legal Privileges, Recognition, and Skill Bonuses are negated entirely. They just don’t work this far from Chelm.
    • Her Mounts/Pets/Familiars and Retainers function at -1 Wealth Level. It’s harder to call on the services of spirits that are so far away.
    • Since she ritually links some of her spirit-servants to creatures, she can effectively afford exotic animals
      • Has two personal guards and twenty-four employees – all spirits either animating animal or constructed bodies or waiting to be called to do so. They could, in theory, animate dead bodies (such entities are the only type of “Undead” known to Atheria) – but that sort of stunt tends to cause at least as much trouble as it is worth and is limited to boot; dead bodies tend to fall apart after a while. Currently only a few of her servants have bodies at all; wandering around with an entourage of the dead inhabiting dangerous animal forms isn’t as bad as having animated corpses about, but still puts people off. Currently she has a pair of Chelmian Tigers (Blood and Shadow), a Dernmarkian Timedancer Warhorse, and a Pocket Bear, and one of Alaria’s Beekeeper Bears.
    • Her training is unaffected; her spirit-tutors only need to reach her dreams after all.
      • She gains +2 SP and +1 HP per level gained at this wealth level and a +2 wealth bonus to any one attribute.
    • Her Armor/Shields, Magical Items, and Weapons function at +1 Wealth Level. That power is easier to send over such a distance, so the spirit council sends more in lieu of the services that are harder to send.
      • Armor & Shields: One Category Lighter, Half Weight, +3 AC Wealth Bonus, -3 on Armor Check Penalty (If Any).
      • Magical Items: Seven Charms and Three Talismans.
      • Weapons: Gain a +4 Wealth Bonus and are considered Masterwork and Adamantine.

Order Birthright Patronage Deal (0 CP):

  • Innate Enchantment. Specialized: only works with a high-ranking in-empire patron to channel the magic of Order to the user, double effect (6 CP/10,000 GP).
    • Enhance Charms and Talismans (L2 spell effect, increasing the effects of Charms to L1 and those of Talismans to L2. Personal charms only, 8400 GP)
    • Inspiring Word (personal only, +1 Morale bonus to Saves, Attacks, Checks, and Weapon Damage).

Magical Devices (7 Chelmian Wealth + 3 Conventional Wealth = 10, with Order Enhancement above = Talismans or can maintain level one spell effects). :

Charms And Fetishes:

    • Chainmail Shirt with a Rune Of Defense (+2 Enh, +4 at L6+). Considered Adamant for DR 1/-.
    • Peacock-Plumed Hat. Provides a Disguise Self effect.
    • Ring Of Darkwarding: Creates any shield you wish out of solid darkness as a free action, although it can only maintain one shield at a time.
    • Rubydraught (Standard Talisman):
    • Rune of Defense for the Ring Of Darkwarding (+2 Enh, 3 at L6+).
    • Rune Weapon (Standard Talisman): A +1 Keen Scimitar.
    • (2x) Serpent Bracer: This talisman is actually an Asp taking the form of a serpentine bracer. The user may inflict it’s poison on anyone they wound up to three times daily and may, if they wish, release it to serve them. Sadly, it’s still just a fairly ordinary snake – although it effectively knows seven tricks of the owners choice.
    • Thousand Hands Of Night. The black stone of this pendant exudes dark tendrils that act as a Shieldbearer spell.
    • Tome Of Shadows: The black pages of this tome can be read only with Darksight or under the light of the full moon – but provide the user with a +3 Competence Bonus on their effective Knowledge Skills.

Talismans and Greater Fetishes (3 Chelmian Wealth +1 Conventional Wealth = 4, enhanced to L2 effects by Order Birthright).

    • Bag Of Tricks: Casts “Carry Companion” up to three times per day, storing them safely in the bag.
    • Bestial Mantle: Made from the skins of powerful beasts, these cloaks bestow animalistic strengths – and a dose of viciously feral instincts and an animalistic appearance- on their wearers. In this case, it grants the strengths of a Wolverine (+2 Natural Armor, Burrow 10, Climb 10, d4 Claws, and +8 on climb. Versions including attribute modifiers add Str +4, Dex +2, and Con +6).
    • Bracer Of The Devouring Night: Creates a Toothed Tentacle effect whenever the user concentrates on it.
    • Tiara Of Crystal Shadows: +4 Charisma

Basic Attributes: Str 8 (+4 Enh = 12), Dex 14 (+2 Enh = 16), Con 14 (+6 Enh = 20), Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 16 (+4 Enh +1 Level +1 Purchased +2 Wealth = 24). (3.5 28 Point Buy).

Basic Purchases (31 CP):

  • Base Attack Bonus: +1 (6 CP) +1 (Template) = +2.
  • Hit Points: 12 (1d6 +1d8 Template. 0 CP) +10 (L1-3d4, 0 CP) +30 (Con Mod x 5) +10 (Wealth) = 62 HP.
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fortitude +0 (Purchased) +2 (Template) +5 (Con) +1 (Mor) = +8.
    • Reflex +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +3 (Dex) +1 (Mor) = +6.
    • Will +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +0 (Wis) +2 (Template) +1 (Mor) = +4.
  • Proficiencies: Simple and Martial Weapons, Light, Medium, and Heavy Armor, and Shields (Template).
  • Skill Points: 6 SP (6 CP) +32 (Fast Learners, Birthright and Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills for Double Effect, Corrupted / only for buying Adept skills (4 CP)) +56 (Cha Mod x 8) +26 (Template) = 120 SP.
    • Adept (Knowledge: Arcana, Religion, Nature, and Architecture/Engineering, 6 CP).
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +9 Armor (+4 Chain Shirt +2 Enh +3 Wealth) +3 (Dex) +9 (+4 Tower Shield +3 Wealth +2 Enh) = 31.
  • Initiative: +3 (Dex).
  • Movement: 30 (Base) +10 (Talisman) = 40′.

Favored Weapons:

  • Toothed Tentacle: +13 or +13/+13/+13 (+5 Caster Level/HD +7 Cha +1 MA), 2d8, Crit 20/x2 + DC 18 Fort Save to avoid 2d4 rounds partial blindness, 30′ Reach. Whirlwind, Shadowed Hand.
  • Scimitar: +8 (+2 BAB +1 Str +1 Enh +4 Wealth), 1d10+6, Crit 15/20/x2 + Automatic Trip, 2d6 Sneak Attack.
  • Composite Bow (12 Str): +9 (+2 BAB +3 Dex +4 Wealth), 1d8+5, Crit 20/x3, 110′ Range Increment.

Special Abilities (75 CP):

  • Dark Wisdom: Advanced Finesse, Substitutes (Cha Mod) for (Int Mod) for skill purposes (12 CP).
  • Immunity/the normal limits of Diplomacy and Spoken Language (Common, Minor, Major, 12 CP). This ability allows the user to effectively communicate with ANYTHING – and to attempt to persuade it to help them out. They can speak with plants and animals, attempt to persuade locks and doors to open, fires to leave open a path of escape, spirits to answer, air to remember when it was stone, or stone to remember when it was molten rock or simple sand or whatever it once was. It’s usually fairly easy to persuade things to act within their natures – for example, doors are made to let people through, so getting one to open itself is fairly easy. Getting a lock to open without the key is considerably harder; locks are MADE to keep unauthorized people out.
  • Professional/Diplomacy (6 CP). (While only worth +2 at the moment, this has to be bought early and will improve later on).
  • Privilege/most things that are not naturally communicative are pleased to be spoken to, and will be reasonably friendly (3 CP).
  • Spirit Favors: Major from the spirits of Nature world, minor from the spirits of Blood and Darkness (9 CP).
  • +1 Cha (6 CP since Atheria uses the half-price attribute rule).
  • 3d6 (12) Mana with Spell Enhancement, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for Spell Enhancement, only to enhance Shaping Effects (Below) (6 CP).
  • Shaping, Specialized for Increased Effect (level zero effects) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only to produce Darkness/Shadow and Alchemical Effects (4 CP).
    • She is fond of Alchemic Mist, Whip Of Spiders, and Shields. When necessary she uses alchemical healing salves and such, since she has few other major sources of healing at the moment.
  • +4 Bonus Uses for Rite Of Chi, Specialized and Corrupted / only to restore the Mana pool for Darkness/Shadow and Alchemical Magic noted above (2 CP).
  • Harnessed Intellect / Corrupted for Increased Effect (based on Charisma instead of Intelligence) Specialized for Reduced Cost / only to use her Bracer Of The Devouring Night without having to continually concentrate (3 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Skills (6 CP).
  • Create Relic, Specialized/only points from Enthusiast may be used (3 CP).
  • Enthusiast, Specialized for double effect/points may only be used in the creation of Relics (3 CP). This allows the Animist to have a two-point relic to start off with.

Current Relics:

  • The Aegis Of The Dark Mother (1 CP Relic): Unspecialize Luck (3 CP), +4 Bonus Uses of Luck Specialized in Saves, +4 Bonus Uses of Luck Specialized in Attacks and Damage. Net Cost 9 CP/6 = 1.5 CP, rounds to 1 CP.
  • Blood Like Thunder Gem: Reflex Training (+3 Actions Variant), Specialized / only for Defensive Actions (3 CP), Opportunist (may use a shaping effect as a free action while attacking with a Toothed Tentacle effect, 6 CP).

Skills:

  • Tier-One Skills (77 SP)
    • Knowledges (33 SP):
      • Arcana: +8 (4*SP) +7 (Cha) +3 (Enh) = +18
      • Architecture and Engineering: +8 (4*SP) +7 (Cha) +3 (Enh) = +18
      • Dungeoneering: +2 (2 SP) +7 (Cha) +3 (Enh) = +12
      • Geography: +5 (5 SP) +7 (Cha) +3 (Enh) = +15
      • History: +2 (2 SP) +7 (Cha) +3 (Enh) = +12
      • Local: +2 (2 SP) +7 (Cha) +3 (Enh) = +12
      • Nature: +8 (4*SP) +7 (Cha) +3 (Enh) = +18
      • Nobility: +5 (5 SP) +7 (Cha) +3 (Enh) = +15
      • Religion: +8 (4*SP) +7 (Cha) +3 (Enh) = +18
      • Planes: +5 (5 SP) +7 (Cha) +3 (Enh) = +15
    • Other Tier One Skills (44 SP):
      • Diplomacy: +8 (8 SP) +7 (Cha) +2 (Professional) = +17
      • Martial Art – Shadow Weaving: +8 (8 SP) +7 (Cha) = +15
      • Martial Art – Lunar Fang Style: +8 (8 SP) +3 (Dex) = +11
      • Swim: +2 (2 SP) +1 (Str) = +3
      • Fly: +1 (1 SP) +3 (Dex) = +4
      • Spot: +8 (8 SP) +2 (Wis) = +10
      • Sleight of Hand: +2 (2 SP) +3 (Dex) = +5
      • Survival. +8 (8 SP) +2 (Wis) = +10
  • Tier Two Skills (23 SP).
    • Bluff: +8 (4 SP) +7 (Chr) +2 (Sy) = +17
    • Climb: +3 (1 SP) +1 (Str) +8 (Talisman) = +12
    • Concentration: +5 (2 SP) +5 (Con) = +10
    • Craft Alchemy +8 (4 SP) +1 (Int) = +9
    • Craft Charms and Talismans +8 (4 SP) +1 (Int) = +9
    • Gather Information (Cha) +3 (1 SP) +7 (Cha) = +10
    • Handle Animal: +3 (1 SP) +7 (Cha) = +10
    • Ride: +5 (2 SP) +3 (Dex) = +8
    • Sense/Listen:: +5 (2 SP) +2 (Wis) = +7
    • Sense Motive: +5 (2 SP) +2 (Wis) = +7
  • Tier Three Skills (4 SP)
    • Burrow +4 (1 SP) +2 (Wis) +8 (Talisman) = +14
    • Decipher Script: +4 (1 SP) +1 (Int) = +5
    • Disguise: +7 (2 SP) +7 (Cha) +10 (Disguise Self) = +24

Skill Specialities (3 SP):

  • Tier 1: Diplomacy (Nature Spirits) (1 SP). Knowledge; The Planes (Dimensional Rifts, 1 SP).
  • Tier 2: Ride (Spirit-Bonded Animals) and Craft Charms and Talismans (Chelmian Fetishes) (1 SP).
  • Tier 3: Currently None (0 SP).

Specific Knowledges (12 SP):

  • Alarian Academy Compiled Handbook Of Charms And Talismans In Three Volumes (6 SP): A substantial set of reference works on the making of Charms and Talismans.
  • Knowledge; Nature (Beasts Of Chelm, 1 SP).
  • Memorized Major Rituals (5 SP):
  • Planes: Seal Dimensional Rift (DC 40, 1 SP) and Open Dimensional Rift (DC 50, 1 SP).
  • Religion; Binding Spirits to Animals (DC 40, 1 SP), Bestial Might (DC 35, 1 SP), and Creating Atherian “Undead” (DC 40, 1 SP),

Martial Art – Shadow Weaving (Cha)

Darkness… can be solid. Witches, Wizards, Shadow Adepts, and many others can form darkness into chains, walls, weapons, and more. While only quasi-real, such things can be as durable as adamant – and, being will-wrought, can change ever so slightly once one knows the technique. Dark blades may bite with cruel fangs, jaws of blackness gnaw with spinning teeth, and dark shields grasp attacking weapons with tendrils of the night. A master of Shadow Weaving knows how to make those changes, and make his or her strikes bite deep.

  • Requires: Must have unlimited access to a darkness-magic effect that inflicts physical damage. The art will focus on manipulating that specific effect.
  • Basic Techniques: Power 4, Defenses 3, and Attack 2.
  • Advanced And Master Techniques: Blinding Strike, Shadowed Hand, Whirlwind Attack, and Blind Fight.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength x 2, Call The Void (Ki Block) and Shadow Step (Vanishing).

Shadowed Hand: Reflex Training (Three Actions/Day variant) with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized for Half Cost / only to make an extra attack or cast a spell/use a psychic power while attacking with the darkness effect.

  • Selected Weapon: Toothed Tentacle.
  • Known Techniques (8): Power 2 (Bites do 2d8), Attack 1, Blinding Strike, Shadowed Hand, Whirlwind Attack, and Shadow Step (Vanishing).

Lunar Fang Style (Dex)

The Crescent Moon cuts through the seas of the infinite night like a blade. Seen and unseen it appears from the clouds and vanishes once more, The Lunar Fang Style focuses upon the art of concealing the blade, hiding it’s exact location through careful use of darkness, concealing accessories (billowing sleeves, cloaks, swirling ribbons, and magical effects are all popular), and Sleight Of Hand. For what opponent, no matter how cunning, can parry a blow when taken unaware? And what wound can be so grievous as one that twists past an opponents guard to sheathe the blade in yielding flesh? For true masters, that evasive concealment extends not only to the physical realm but to that of the mind as well, for much of the art of combat lies in intent and stratagem, which must be concealed as well to have any hope of victory.

  • Requires: Use of Scimitar, Kukri, or Scythe (Select One), Darksight, and at least +5 in Sleight Of Hand.
  • Basic Techniques: Power 2, Defenses 2, Attack 2, Defenses II (Bonus to Will Saves), Synergy/Bluff, and Synergy (Sleight Of Hand).
  • Advanced And Master Techniques: Mighty Blow, and Sneak Attack III
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength II, Ki Focus (+4 to Will Saves), and Ki Focus (+4 to Damage).
  • Selected Weapon: Scimitar.
  • Known Techniques (6): Power 2, Synergy (Bluff), Mighty Blow, and Sneak Attack 2.

Using Valdemaran Gifts, Part II

One of the major tricks of using Gifts effectively is to work gradually. After all… if you’re not in too much of a hurry, treating a flu patient with specific level zero effects – “reduce production of mucus”, “expectorate”, “reduce inflammation”, “weaken virus”, “bolster immunity”, “heal trivial damage to the throat lining” (a variant of “cure minor wounds”), “bolster immune system”, “drain lungs”, “spring tonic” (A.K.A. “provide vitamins”), and “relieve aches and pains” – probably followed by bit of cleaning up and an “resist flu infection” effect on yourself – is just about as good as zapping your patient with a level three “Cure Disease”. It just takes a few minutes instead of a single turn and requires that you have some idea of what you’re doing. Sure, you might not be able to handle a retrovirus hidden in the patients genome, but how often does that kind of distinction come up in most d20 games?

Unfortunately, that kind of gradual approach isn’t too effective in combat, where you’re usually in a rather large hurry. It’s also less effective in the original books, since there even minor uses of a gift often seem to be a bit of a strain and going step-by-step would bore the readers – but telling the players that even trivial uses of their Gifts are draining is just going to frustrate them.

Personally, I’d recommend that the “chaining minor effects” approach be limited by how well you understand what’s going on in the first place – so you can’t effectively chain more minor effects than your baseline bonus (ranks plus attribute modifier plus permanent feats) in a/the relevant skill – possibly subtracting a few points for general difficulty. Thus the step-by-step treatment for the flu described above would call for a minimum of a +10 total in the Heal skill so as to know what to do and not forget things and might even call for a few more points than that if there’s a penalty. That’s not really much of a limitation, but in a low-level game it’s reasonable enough.

 

Gift Of Tongues

This barely gets a reference in the books – mostly as “Companions understand what people are saying” – but I’m going to presume that it covers vocal and written communication in general.

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Double Meaning, Message, Read Magic, and Imitate Voice. You can also sketch accurately, make sure that your words cannot be accidentally misunderstood, and understand any normal language given a minute or two to listen to it being spoken. This won’t let you speak it though.
  • Level One Effects: Aphasia, Comprehend Languages, Compulsive Liar, Fumbletongue, Share Language, Memorize Page, Command, Enthrall, Litany Of Sloth (usually via distraction and insults) Litany Of Weakness, and Vocal Alteration. At this point you can get a general message across pretty much any language barrier, identify relationships between languages, give a fair description of the attitudes and beliefs of the author of any extensive written work, and give excellent motivational speeches.
  • Level Two Effects: Glibness, Codespeak, Heckle, Steal Voice, Hidden Speech, Suggestion, Tongues, Voluminous Vocabulary, Castigate, Litany Of Eloquence, and Speak With Animals. At this level you will also automatically take on an appropriate accent, use native turns of phrase, no one will notice anything odd about your speech, and you can reconstruct messages, books, and instructions presuming that you have at least a third of the original material to work with.
  • Level Three Effects: Curse Of Babel, Demanding Message, Confess, Lesser Geas, Illusory Script, Secret Page, Communal Share Language, Deflect Blame, and Triggered Suggestion. At this point you can understand utterly alien languages, translate technical and magical material, understand blueprints and other plans, reconstruct books and messages from small fragments, and communicate directly with computers.

 

Healing:

In the original books healers are rarely chosen as Heralds, simply because they’re very badly needed in the general population and because Heralds have very short life expectancies. Of course, in d20, any rational party will find SOME excuse to have a healer along – especially since a d20 Healing Gift is far more effective than the ones in the books. Maybe the party healer was chosen in an utter emergency because bonding with a companion boosts gifts – and healing someone was vital to the future of the country. Maybe their Healing Gift was too weak to use without a Companion. Maybe it was triggered accidentally and unexpectedly. Maybe there was just a special reason – perhaps a healing gift that would have been wasted in a bad situation so there was no reason not to choose an otherwise-suitable person with the healing Gift. It’s not as if it never happens, as shown by Shavri, (and, according to the Valdemar wiki I consulted, a Herald named Shia whom I do not remember). Just go with it. There’s no point in arguing.

It is important to remember that – the way Gifts are built – cumulative effects are limited to 2-12 uses of the same basic effect per day per target – so “unlimited use of level zero effects” doesn’t equate to “unlimited healing”. What it means is “somewhat faster healing” – even if the baseline healing in d20 is already better than healer-assisted healing in the original books, a gifted d20 Healer can come close to matching some fairly significant Valdemaran miracles – and we’re bowing to d20 here. In the books many or most healers have ethical problems with using their ability to manipulate the body to harm others, but it’s possible (and, with player characters, all too likely).

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Cure Minor Wounds, Detect Poison, Diagnose Illness (Hedge Magic), Transfuse (Hedge Magic), Stabilize, Touch Of Fatigue, and individual Polypurpose Panacea effects. A healer at this level can also remove rashes, reduce scars and birthmarks, sooth burns and frostbite, keep wounds from becoming infected, relieve arthritis and headaches, eliminate male pattern baldness (if they want to waste time on regular treatments), slightly extend lifespans (regular attention from a healer will add about two years to the effective duration of each age category, resulting in a total extension of about ten years), and alleviate the effects of many other minor illnesses and disorders.
  • Level One Effects: Biofeedback, Relieve Illness (Hedge Magic), Relieve Poison (Hedge Magic), Cure / Inflict Light Wounds, Dentistry (Hedge Magic), Invigorate, Itching Curse, Restful Sleep, Touch of Blindness, Resurgence, Touch of Gracelessness, Keep Watch, Ray of Enfeeblement, Ray Of Sickening, and Remove Sickness (Pathfinder Version). A healer at this level can also produce effects equivalent to the best individual earthly medications, surgeons, and physicians.
  • Level Two Effects: Cure / Inflict Moderate Wounds, Sleep, Lesser Restoration, Youthful Appearance, Acute Senses, Blindness / Deafness, Delay Pain, Delay Poison, Bears Endurance, Bulls Strength, Sustenance, and Body Purification. A healer at this level can use his or her skill and Gift to reattach severed limbs, perform open-heart surgery, and imitate a trauma team.
  • L3) Remove Blindness/Deafness, Neutralize Poison, Cause Blindness/Deafness, Cure/Inflict Serious Wounds, Accept Affliction, Channel the Gift, Deep Slumber, Mass Invigorate, Remove Curse, Psychic Leach, Pain Strike, Remove Paralysis, Ray Of Exhaustion, Poison, Remove Disease, Contagion, and Endorphin Surge. A skilled healer with a Gift at this level will – at least with skill and a good deal of Mana expenditure – be able to perform organ transplants, create almost fully-functional prosthetics, perform extensive biophysical reconstruction, and – for that matter – create tailored drugs and diseases.

 

Mage-Gift:

Mage-Gift doesn’t work like the other gifts; the users have to learn specific spells and don’t get unlimited use of their level zero effects. On the other hand, it allows a MUCH wider variety of effects and Adepts can reach level four effects – which are generally beyond the reach of any other single character.

  • For 6 CP you can have Occult Talent, granting 4L0 and 1L1 effects that you can cast once a day each with a caster level equal to your character level.
  • For 12 CP you can have Advanced Occult Talent, granting 5L0 and 3L1 effects and a similar number of spell slots to cast them with.

Characters in the setting can have Occult Talents with a total base cost of 24 CP. If they wish they can limit their abilities to reduce the cost, but they can’t exceed that limit.

On the other hand, they CAN take higher level spells in those slots. They’ll just have to spend Mana to cast them – and while the Mage-Gifted have limited access to Rite Of Chi to recharge their mana reserves, mana is still a limited resource. Journeymen only have a bit and can only use spells one level above their base slots. Masters have a bit more, can recharge faster and can spend it to use spells one or two levels above their base slots. Adepts have even more, recharge even faster, and can spend it to use spells one, two, or three levels above their base slots.

But wait! That maxes out at ten L0 and six L1 slots! Adepts are far more versatile than that!

Are they? Almost everything complicated or powerful in the books falls under Ritual Magic. Most adepts only seem to have a handful of spells that they can really use immediately.

Pretty much every mage has Light (L0), a basic Shield (Immediate Action, L1 in a L0 slot so 1 Mana, blocks 15 points of damage), and some form of Energy Attack (Spells like Ray Of Frost, Magic Missile, Scorching Ray, or Lightning Bolt are popular depending on the user’s level of expertise).

For this particular “Gift”… here are some spells that fit in fairly well:

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Almost anything fits in here. If you like, you can use the Continuum II cantrips. There are a lot of those to choose from.
  • Level One Effects: Disguise Self, Sleep, Alarm, Protection From Evil, Floating Disk, Magic Missile, Shocking Grasp, Color Spray, Shadow Trap, Shadow Weapon, Ventriloquism, Magic Weapon, Obscure Object, (Personal) Dream Shield, and Faerie Fire,
  • Level Two Effects: Scorching Ray (also Lightning and Force variants), Blur, Dust Devil (2’nd edition), Flaming Sphere, Wall Of Light, Glitterdust, Hypnotic Pattern, Invisibility, Armament (temporary force weapons, up to a dozen knives/arrows/etc). Spiritual Weapon, Contact Entity 1, Force Sword, Disguise Other, Invisibility, Mirror Image, Misdirection, Silk To Steel, Deeper Darkness, Daylight, Searing Light, and Dream Shield.
  • Level Three Effects: a long-term Disguise Self/other variant, Lesser Wall Of Fire (a weaker variant), Fireball, Circle of Protection, Dispel Magic, Pyrotechnics, Nondetection, Protection From Energy, Greater Stunning Barrier, Gloomblind Bolts, Ice Spears, Phantom Steed, Planar Inquiry, Arcane Sight, Contact Entity II, Daylight, Lightning Bolt, Sheet Lightning, Displacement, Call Lightning, Hedging Weapons, Infernal Challenger (only for evil blood mages), and Psychic Containment.
  • Level Four Effects: Dimension Door, Wall Of Fire, Lesser Gate (basically a time-consuming, exhausting, and error-prone teleport – or way to let various monsters come through. It might even be Ritual Magic rather than a spell), Summon Monster IV (“Adept Manifestation”), and Lesser Planar Ally.

That’s not exhaustive of course – d20 offers thousands of spells to play with – but a fair number of basics are on there.

 

Mind-Healing

The books represent Mind-Healing as being generally very slow, just as creating bonds that force someone to do your bidding is a very slow (and evil) process. You don’t see any mind-healers going “Zap! You’re Sane/Free/Rational!”. Honestly… given the principles of Lerandor’s Rule (the use-a-bunch-of-lesser-effects principle) even level zero mindhealing effects are more than they show in the books. If a character really wants “Mindhealing” the way it is in the books… take a bonus in Profession; Therapist or learn Ritual Magic. Because mental healing is normally pretty step-by-tiny-step anyway – which is just what level zero effects DO. So even with just cantrips you can finish up with anything within the power of level three effects within a few minutes – and that is NOT what the books show. In fact, it tends to wreck more than one of their plots – and it doesn’t add much to most games anyway since you can’t treat eccentric players and the villains aren’t going to hold still for it. That’s why d20 psychiatrists are not a favored class.

  • If you must be a Mind-Healer, buy Ritual Magic, Specialized and Corrupted / only for psychiatric purposes (2 CP) and put a few skill points in Profession: Therapist – and there you go.

 

Precognition

Precognition or “Foresight” seems to come in two basic forms in the books – short-term combat precognition that provides warnings of attacks and clues as to likely strategies and long-term visions of the future that are sometimes useful warnings, sometimes grim prophecies that tend to come true no matter what, and are sometimes simply wrong or misunderstood. There’s also room for very short-term precognition (the sort of thing that warns you of someone swinging at you from a blind spot or of an incoming arrow) and kingdom-scale foresight that warns of upcoming major disasters and such, but most characters with Foresight have very specialized forms, such as being able to foretell the weather.

Honestly, a lot of that goes under “plot device”, both very literally in the books and mostly so in the games. After all, the game is built around dealing with problems – and “the group is warned of an upcoming attack in time to set up the defenses or race to the rescue” is a pretty classic problem. In terms of the game… precognitive warnings really aren’t any different than being warned by a scout, peasant, merchant, angel, or wizard. The same goes for kingdom-level threats. If someone’s special power requires the game master to give a warning, he or she will just step up the threat to keep it challenging and exciting.

So this list is going to be a bit generic and include a lot of short-term bonus tricks – as well as some ways to inflict penalties, which is pretty much equivalent.

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: There are pretty much all thematic; you can have meaningful dreams, get vague warnings of major threats, get details equivalent to having a few scouts (or perhaps a flying familiar) out in the case of more local problems, know about upcoming natural disasters in time to show up to help, give good agricultural advice, predict the weather, and will probably get a +2 bonus on saves against traps, checks to detect ambushes, and maybe even initiative. You might even be able to prevent the occasional disaster that would normally resulted from phrases like “I wonder what will happen if I push the red button / mix these two chemicals / try this unknown mystical ritual” – at least if the rest of the party is sane enough to look at the precognitive before actually doing it. Most NPC precognitives are pretty narrowly focused (since that is so much easier to write and run for), but PC’s are all about meeting unexpected challenges – so they’re going to be generalists.
  • Level One Effects: Anticipate Peril, True Strike, Bungle, Precognition (One minute per level. Variants include +2 to Attacks, to Armor Class, to Saves, and to Damage), Ward Of Heaven (The Practical Enchanter), Aura Of Favor (The Practical Enchanter). Low-Light Vision, Hawkeye, Improvisation, Omen Of Peril, Surefoot, Surefooted Stride, Divine Favor, Entropic Shield, Doom, Fallback Strategy, and Bless (via giving orders). This can also be used to anticipate attacks (dodging up to 15 damage as an immediate action), to negate surprise for the party, and to reroll a skill check since you “foresaw it’s failure”. On the larger scale, this is where you can start using the skill-based variant of True Strike (True Skill, The Practical Enchanter) to do things like pick out the very best moment to call for a tactical maneuver, or the best advice to give the farmers, and so on – as least as long as some relatively vague precognition would he helpful.
  • Level Two Effects: Honeyed Tongue, Tactical Acumen, Augury, Hunter’s Eye, Heroic Fortune, Gallant Inspiration, Find Traps, Sutra (The Practical Enchanter), Karmic Shield (The Practical Enchanter), and Harrowing (or any other form of fortune-telling), At his point you can also use your power as an immediate action to evade twenty-five points of damage, get some clues about the long-term hazards (and likely benefits) of a proposed course of action, and win outrageously at games of chance – up until you have to quit because the likely outcome of winning again is getting stabbed.
  • Level Three Effects: False Future, Find Fault, Minor Dream, Vision Of Hell, Find Fault, Perfect Placement, Good Fortune (The Practical Enchanter), (individual) Ruin Delvers Fortune effects, Find The Gap, Danger Sense, Ubiquitous Vision, and Prayer (via giving directions). At this level you can use your power to take an extra standard action as an immediate action, to try and manipulate the force of Destiny (see Destiny Magic), and to have set up Contingencies (See Politics) to deal with events that the player had no idea would happen. This is also far, FAR, beyond any Gift of Foresight used in the books.

 

Psychometry

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: D20 usually leaves low-grade information gathering up to skill checks – but this level of ability can date items, determine causes of death, determine if a weapon inflicted a particular wound, discern the true intent of a gift or missive, learn the final thoughts or terminal experiences of a corpse, tell which button opens the door and which one sets off the bomb, and otherwise pick up on the intent behind manipulations of physical objects – such as the intent to add poison to a drink, an attempt to get someone too drunk to resist being kidnaped, or the true intent of complex legal clauses in a contract. It can detect forgeries or the information someone was intending (but failed) to convey in a frantic scribble. Was someone recently murdered in a dark alley? Finding out about it will be trivial if a psychometrist takes a look.
  • Level One Effects: Call To Mind, Identify, Obscure Object, Nondetection, Cultural Adaption, Master’s Touch, Detect Secret Doors, Eidetic Lock, and Sanctuary (a bit of a stretch, but it’s basically infusing the area with a feeling). At this level you can easily trace the provenance of items and antiques, “imprint” messages on objects that can only be “read” by another psychometrist, make areas inspire particular moods and emotions, experience bits of the past strongly associated with particular objects – using a womans wedding dress to experience the wedding it was used in or using the cane a man carried everywhere for ten years to “talk to” the imprint of his personality. This sort of thing may take some time, but if you have the time to try and investigate something that rarely matters.
  • L2) Ancestral Communion, Blood Biography, Magic Weapon (Armor, Tools, etc), Object Reading, Sensitivity To Psychic Impressions, Find Traps, and Share Memory, The major distinction at this point is that the user can pull out fairly major bits of useful information very quickly, instead of having to sit around and meditate on it. It’s also at the point where forcing psychic energy into something actually starts to affect it – hence the ability to somewhat enhance items on a temporary basis.
  • L3) Borrow Skill, Akhasic Communion, Discern Value, Find Fault, Pierce Disguise, Pack Empathy, Mindlocked Messenger, Greater Magic Weapon (Armor, Tool, Etc), Channel Vigor, Speak With Dead, and Masterwork Transformation (no components required, but does take some time and use). At this point you are basically drawing information from the universe – and can push some back out into it (thus Greater Magic Weapon and Masterwork Transformation). Given time and the patience to keep asking questions, you can find out all kinds of things, weave warnings and messages into the fabric of the world, and explore almost any mystery. While adventurers rarely have that kind of time available, when they do this Gift can be devastating.

 

Pyrokinesis

According to the books, a lot of the characters with this Gift have poor control over it, although there’s no apparent reason why it should be harder to control the power to heat things up then it is to control the gifts of Empathy, Telekinesis, and Telepathy. You can give your character some such disadvantage if you must, but there really isn’t any reason to. D20 characters routinely mess about with things a lot more dangerous than mere fire.

To account for the books, I’d suggest that ANY Gift that you are nervous about, or fail to get enough practice with, may be difficult to control – but while a rogue flare-up of Farsight may give you a headache, and a telekinetic flare may break a pot, such things don’t spread – while a bit of flame in the wrong spot may burn down a city. Ergo, in a self-fulfilling prophecy, Pyrokinetics tend to be nervous about their Gift and don’t practice as much for fear of losing control.

Of course, when it comes to player-characters… they’ll row out on a lake and sit on a rock or use snowshoes to visit a field under four feet of snow and practice boiling water, torching models, and making hot drinks until they have things well under control.

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Dancing Lights, Flare, Ray Of Fire (Frost), Mending (Welding Only), Spark. Of course, a pyrokinetic can also start fires, warm their fingers, heat or cool small objects or minor amounts of liquid, instantly brew tea, light or extinguish many candles, several lanterns, or a torch, prevent or treat frostbite, control smoke rings, create puffs of smoke, and shape small flames and quantities of smoke into various forms.
  • Level One Effects: Control Flames, Blades Of Fire, Flame Darts (like Magic Missile), Lesser Orb Of Fire, Light, Animate Fire, Cure Light Wounds (Fire and Cold damage only), Blinding Flash, Endure Elements, Flare Burst, Burning Hands, Touch Of Combustion, Burning Disarm, Faerie Fire, Produce Flame, and Resist Energy (Fire and Cold only). There aren’t specific spells for it, but this also provides the ability to weld larger objects, cause small flames to flare up, put out groups of torches or a large campfire, and create and control a 10′ radius of fairly heavy smoke – whether to sculpt it or to make smoke signals.
  • Level Two Effects: Scorching Ray, Cause Nausea (via induced fever), Personal Haste (Practical Enchanter, via Boosted Metabolism), Heat Metal, Chill Metal, Obscuring Mist (smoke), Boiling Blood, Pyrotechnics, Burning Arc, Burning Gaze, Fire Breath, Frost Fall, Ice Slick, and Campfire Wall. Effects on this level can also be used to open safe paths through major fires, briefly form a cool and solid crust over a magma flow, to cause a fire to lash out and engulf someone, animate a bonfire, cause a quantity of wax or oil to detonate like plastic explosives or nitroglycerin, and to briefly create massive images of flame.
  • Level Three Effects: Fireball, Energy Wall (Fire), Haste (via accelerated metabolism again), Flaming Arrow, Protection From Arrows (they burst into flames), Heatstroke, Firestream, Dispel Magic (an immediate-action version that only works against Fire and Ice effects) and Quench. Effects on this level can also be used to contain forest fires by creating counterfires or driving the flames back to create firebreaks, to melt metal objects, to project a sphere that absorbs fire or cold damage (Resist Energy 10′ Radius), or to put someone into deep hibernation (roughly equivalent to Feign Death – although this is kind of dangerous).

 

Shields:

In Valdemar, “Shields” are normally passive – and basically amount to “buying a good will save”. Only mage-shields normally seem to be active effects, so they’re handled under mage-gift.

 

Telekinesis

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Mage Hand, Hammertouch, Animate Rope, Launch Bolt, Launch Item, Breeze, Scoop, and Open/Close. While effects at this level are relatively short range and of fairly little force, you can produce a light zephyr, stir pots, work dangerous alchemical experiments from a safe distance, make bushes rustle distractingly, open latches from the outside, and pull off a wide variety of similar tricks.
  • Level One Effects: Guided Shot, Mage Armor, Force Shield, Feather Step, Lighten Object, Buoyancy, Coin Shot, Mending, Hold Portal, Stunning Barrier, Thunderstomp, and Gravity Bow. At this point you can move things to trip up opponents, yank chairs out from under people, guide pies to hit people in the face at considerable ranges, bind animals mouths shut, pull things to yourself, hurl small objects with force and accuracy, equivalent to a heavy crossbow, and get your armor on in mere moments.
  • Level Two Effects: Admonishing Ray, Alchemic Mist (turns a poison or alchemical item into a 20′ radius burst within medium range), Unseen Servant, Air Step, Protection From Arrows, Gust Of Wind, Gusting Sphere, Pilfering Hand, Knock, and Telekinetic Volley. At this point you can shove people away, manipulate objects at range, “feel around” for something you can’t see as if you were wearing heavy gloves, and cause masses of rope or vines to tie people up.
  • Level Three Effects: Web Bolt (using available materials). Raging Rubble, Make Whole, Tremor Blast, Hold Person, Wind Wall, Ape Walk, Arrow Storm, Telekinetic Force, Telekinetic Thrust, and Hedging Weapons. Effects at this level can also reduce missile damage in a small radius or create minor barriers.

 

Telepathy

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Daze, Message, and Distract. At this level a telepath can make ideas occur to someone, perform “stage” hypnosis, share memories, lend someone one skill point (such as sharing a language) or borrow one, sense surface thoughts if the target isn’t resisting, detect hypnosis and other mental influences, and project a vague persona around yourself – things like “he looks rich”, “that’s obviously someone important”, or “just another janitor” that will often get by people who aren’t paying too much attention.
  • Level One Effects: Distract, Conceal Thoughts, Borrow Skill, Cause Fear, Hypnotism, Charm Person, Lesser Confusion, Innocence, Lock Gaze, Memory Lapse, Sense Link, and Mindlink. At this point you can broadcast vague ideas to a crowd, share detailed visions, pull an exact image out of somebody’s memory (and reproduce it if you have the required artistic skills), or communicate long lectures with a glance.
  • Level Two Effects: Inflict Pain, Silent Image, Sleep, Daze Monster, Detect Thoughts, Enthall, False Belief, Hidden Presence, Passing Fancy, Share Memory, Enshroud Thoughts, Misdirection, Telepathic Censure, Mental Disruption, Mass Missive, Thought Shield, Brain Lock, Suggestion, and Zone Of Truth. At this point you can generate group compulsions with some force, anticipate peoples arguments, send a message over a long distance (usually in times of desperation), and fairly easily pick up on things that people are worried about (or are trying to keep from thinking about).
  • Level Three Effects:) Minor Image, Audiovisual Hallucination, Aura of the Unremarkable, Confusion, Mass Feather Step, Malicious Spite, Seek Thoughts, Triggered Suggestion, Aura Sight, Seek Thoughts, Psionic Blast, Deep Slumber, and Crisis Of Breath. While the range is generally short – unless you’re working with another high-order telepath or a group to jump up to fourth level effects (such as Sending) at this point you’ve got a fair amount of range and can fairly readily overwhelm – or probe – the minds of normal people.

 

Teleportation

In the books “telekinesis” and “teleportation” are usually combined into “Fetching” – which seems to cover everything from traveling a bit faster and moving small items around up to shaking major structures and teleporting someone out of a locked cell a hundred miles away. I’ve split them up again because otherwise few d20 players would be able to resist. “Teleportation” is still a catch-all category for movement powers, but at least it’s not a must-have discipline.

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: At this level the user can grant themselves or others small bonuses to their movement skills, shift small items in contact with themselves around their body (making them very difficult to search), draw weapons as a free action, speed themselves up just a little bit, and cheat outrageously at many games.
  • Level One Effects: Skate, Catfall, Branch To Branch, Accelerated Movement, Expeditious Retreat, Feather Step, Liberating Command, Bladed Dash, Feather Fall, Jump, Longshot, Touch Of The Sea, Launch Item, Longstrider, Travelers Mount, Wings Of The Sea, Personal Haste (Practical Enchanter), Light Foot (Blog), and Benign Transposition. Not unexpectedly, given that basic physical obstacles are a significant problem for low-level d20 characters, the system also offers a wide selection of spells to deal with them. About the only thing that isn’t covered is the basic “teleport small objects” effect – which is simple enough; with this level of ability you can apport a small object from one spot to another within close range. Thus you can steal something off a table or (if you know the position accurately) from a bag, plant something on someone, and so on. Unfortunately, you can only teleport objects into open spaces, you can’t teleport them into creatures, and objects in someone’s possession get a save.
  • Level Two Effects: Retrieve Item, Returning Weapon, Trade Items, Moment Of Flight, Lions Charge, and Wall Walker or Spider Climb. Upgraded versions of the various first level effects also go here, as does teleporting small objects within medium range or somewhat larger ones within close range – even up to child size if you’re touching them and simply want to move them away.
  • Level Three Effects: Haste, Dimension Door, Blink, Urban Step, Greater Longstrider, Tailwind, Dimension Twister, Time Hop, and Hustle. You can even do the Lightning Step variant of Dimension Door from The Practical Enchanter.

And that’s about it for gifts from the books (in fact, it’s a rather drastic expansion on most of them) – and should be quite enough examples to work with if someone builds a more exotic gift.

Using Valdemaran Gifts, Part I

In this case the question is “What can you actually do with Valdemar-Style Gifts”?

Well, the answer in the original books is, of course, “whatever the plot demands and nothing more” – and over time we tend to see fewer magical options rather than more. After all, every time an author puts in a magical solution for a problem that actually works they close off future plotlines involving that problem – and that’s exactly what you don’t want when you’re writing a long-running series. If you keep it in mind, you lose plot options – and if you forget it, you can be sure that a lot of your readers will not. Either way, why make extra trouble for yourself?

Games, of course, are exactly opposite: Players who can’t use their characters special powers to solve problems get frustrated. Players who find their options too limited feel constrained, and lose interest. Players want to come up with clever, original, applications for things. If you tell them that they can’t do something they just thought of, they will want to know why not. The characters are not under the control of an author, they don’t have to follow the plot, and they don’t have plot armor. A bad die roll can kill off any character pretty much at random. Those are the things that make it a RPG rather than a novel. In a RPG… characters regularly wreck the setting, rather than leaving it more or less intact for the next book to be set in. ”

So this is going to focus on what the d20 RPG-style Valdemaran characters can use their powers to do, not just on stuff that would fit into the books.

On the other hand, I’m going to limit it to the general list of Gifts from the books; while there is nothing in d20 – or in the way that the Gifts are built – that would prevent you from having a Gift in Shape Shifting, Weaving Illusions, Destiny Manipulation, Building Guns, Self-Enhancement, Making Power Armor, Creating Ectoplasmic Constructs, or Necromancy, the setting is not set up to handle it.

The way the Gifts are built is fairly straightforward; a Gift lets you pick some sort of relatively narrow theme and produce level zero magical/psionic effects that fit into that theme pretty much at will. Stronger Gifts come in three levels: providing a limited (and slow to recover) reserve of power that can be used to boost your level zero effects up to level one (for strong Gifts), level two (for major Gifts), or even level three (for incredibly powerful Gifts). There are a few more details about how big the reserve is and how fast it recovers – but that’s about it.

The problem is that – when it comes to magic – a lot of gamers are much more used to “here is a list of things that you can do with that power” than they are to “you have a hammer; what are you going to build with it?”.

First up, a couple of general notes:

  • Anyone with one or more trained Gifts gains access to Rite Of Centered Mind as a L0 effect.
  • Two trained characters with the same gift can work together – each paying the cost (if any) for a use of their gift at a particular level to produce a combined effect of one level higher. That’s really only useful if you want first level effects (since level zero effects have no cost) or level four effects (requiring two characters with the same incredibly powerful gift working together to produce effects which are normally out of reach of even the most powerful Gifts).

Now, as for some options for specific gifts… I’m going to list some general uses and – since this is d20 and 3.5 and Pathfinder have an enormous list of spells to draw from – some spell effects that a Gifted character should be able to emulate.

Animal Mindspeech:

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Communicate feelings to animals and sense what they are feeling, quiet an upset animal, let an animal know that you mean it no harm, lure birds to feed from your hand, gain small (+2) bonuses to ride or handle animals, detect hidden animals nearby given some time to look for them, give animals simple ideas, get spiders to spin webs over an opening or object, get bees to let you have a honeycomb, get a dog to bark, keep bugs out of your bed, gain a general impression of what an animal saw or heard, get a bonus to spot incoming threats by sensing the reactions of animals in the area. Basically… you can relate to animals really well, train them much more quickly, and get some basic information from them.
  • Level One Effects: Animal Messenger, Speak With Animals, Calm Animals, Charm Animal, Hide from Animals, Call Animal, Commune With Birds, “Alarm” (via animal lookouts), and Enrage Animal. You can also get small animals to harass someone, get animals to bring you small objects, send them to a destination, get larger bonuses to ride or handle them, or make a normal horse behave as if it was combat-trained for a few minutes.
  • Level Two Effects: Animal Trance, Hold Animal, Wartrain Mount (variants induce other types of training), Alpha Instinct, and Summon Swarm, Safe Clearing (only affects animals and magical beasts), and Share Husk. You might also frighten or calm a group of animals, cause a normal animal to attack it’s master or to do something else quite abnormal, or very rapidly train or domesticate animals.
  • Level Three Effects: I can’t think of many actual spells for this level – most characters have better things to do with third level spells than influence relatively normal animals – but at this level you might make animals fear an area for weeks or months, redirect a stampede, instantly domesticate and train an animal, direct an animal to do something extremely complex, get a map of an area and details about the people in it by surveying the minds of the animals there, reliably keep a powerful beast under control, or even spread disease though an area by manipulating rats, mice, and other vermin.

Yes, yes, I know… there was never anyone in the books who used Animal Mindspeech to do anything like THAT. Of course, there was never anyone in the books who had Animal Mindspeech on the level of Lavan Firestorms Firestarting Gift was there? You’ll see the same sort of thing in later gifts too.

Bardic Gift:

This one is never even clearly defined as far as I know, but here are some possibilities:

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Lullaby, Haunted Fey Aspect, Message, Ghost Sound, and (individual) Polypurpose Panacea effects. You can also induce various moods, make ideas occur to people your listeners, and convey vague impressions – making your tales so real that listeners can “almost see the battle!” or get “the distinct impression of the goddess comforting them!”. This tends to make listening to your music or stories very popular.
  • Level One Effects: Aid, Heroism, Cause Fear, Lesser Confusion, Remove Fear, Charm Person, Aphasia, Hypnotism, and Demoralize. You could use this sort of manipulation to slowly addict someone to you or brainwash them, but it would probably take some time.
  • Level Two Effects: Sleep, Calm Emotions, Enthrall, Heroism, Rage. Absurdity, and Inflict Pain. At this point you can inspire a mob, rabble-rouse very effectively, and spread rumors without becoming known as the source.
  • Level Three Effects: Bestow Curse, Good Hope, and (Mass) Inflict Pain. You MIGHT be able to create a Major Image if the game master is feeling generous. You can also induce various minor mental problems in those exposed to your abilities – inducing terrible dreams, general depression, and other minor mental / emotional effects, such as undermining support for a leader. You can do the reverse as well of course – but it takes longer and rarely works as well.

Earthsense:

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Detect Poison and Know Direction. You can also do a lot of things which aren’t really in d20 but which probably should be – Detect Cursed/Wild Magic Areas. Detect Ley Lines and Nodes. Detect Quicksand and Unsafe Ground. Sense disturbances of Nature. Detect Pure Water. Identify Plants and Animals. Determine if something is safe to eat. Identify minerals – and get a +5 bonus on a Survival check.
  • Level One Effects: Entangle, Goodberry, False Life, Detect Animals or Plants, Detect Snares And Pits, Hairline Fractures, Natures’s Paths, Pass Without Trace, Shillelagh, Underbrush Decoy, Enhance Herb (Paths of Power), and Greensight. You may also make small plants grow, detect the potency of herbs, follow trails more quickly, identify causes of death, get a +10 bonus on a Survival check, determine someone’s parentage, and detect aberrations,
  • Level Two Effects: Tremorsense, Lay Of The Land, Expeditious Construction, Expeditious Excavation, Lesser Curse Terrain, Binding Earth, Forest Friend, Wild Instinct, Hide Campsite, Dentistry (Hedge Magic) and Briar Web. You can also dowse for water, oil, or mineral deposits, get a +20 on a Survival check, trace someone’s ancestry with a drop of their blood, cause corpses, wooden doors, and other unattended organic items to rot away in mere minutes, and bless children (allowing them to reroll their lowest attribute once per child).
  • Level Three Effects: Defoliate, Plant Growth, Shifting Sand, Speak With Plants, Snare, Spike Growth, Stench Of Prey, Greater Thunderstomp, Forestfold, Nature’s Rampart, and Safe Clearing. You may also slowly heal regions of land, sense major disturbances in the realm, get a +30 to a Survival check, grow a tree (as per a Feather Token: Tree), or reroute ley lines – again, slowly.

Empathy:

We do have some ideas for Empathy thanks to Herald Talia – but she’s got all those pesky ethics to take the fun out of things.

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Empathy and (half-strength) Telempathic Projection. You can also tell if someone is being mentally influenced, let other creatures know what you’re feeling, find really meaningful presents for people, fit into groups easily, detect salesmen, manage children, tell when someone is trying to manipulate you, and get fairly reliable impressions of people (“I never liked him…”).
  • Level One Effects: Telempathic Projection, Beguiling Gift, Adoration, Compel Hostility, Hideous Laughter, Innocence, Remove Fear, Unbreakable Heart, Undetectable Alignment, Unnatural Lust, Qualm, Rage, Reckless Infatuation, Cause Fear, and Miserable Pity. At this point – at least if you’re ethically challenged – you can play on peoples emotions, get them infatuated with you, sell them rubbish they don’t need, and tune your stories to their emotional responses.
  • Level Two Effects: Detect Hostile Intent, Anonymous Interaction, Calm Emotions, Charitable Impulse, Detect Desires, Heckle, Heroism, Jealous Rage, Compassionate Ally, Matchmaker, Oppressive Boredom, Scare, Unadulterated Loathing, Draconic Malice, Dreadscape, Fear, and Zone of Truth. You can now read emotions with ease and override them almost entirely – a talent likely to get you ridden out of town on a rail or burned as a witch if you use it a lot and are silly enough to let people figure it out.
  • Level Three Effects: Bestow/Remove Curse, Charm Monster, Confusion, Crushing Despair, Curse of Disgust, Detect Anxieties, Good Hope, Overwhelming Grief, Terrible Remorse, and They Know. You’re now able to warp minds severely and with effects that can last for years in extreme cases.

Farsight

  • Basic Level Zero Effects: Know Direction. At this point you can have meaningful dreams, see around corners, give yourself minor sensory boosts, avoid stubbing your toes and knocking things over in the dark, and swear blood brotherhood – creating a low-grade link. You can also tell if people are all right by looking at a picture of them and boost your abilities with mystic links.
  • Level One Effects: Aspect Of The Falcon and Improvisation. You can also “see” through minor obstacles, locate lost or mislaid personal items, tell who is on the phone or knocking on the door before you answer it, just know what escape routes are available, and ignore effects such as Blur and Concealment.
  • Level Two Effects: L2) Locate Object, See Invisibility, Darkvision, Augury, and Sense Minds. At this point serious prophetic dreams are possible, you can buy knowledges without regard for actually learning them, see past closed doors and on the other side of walls, and use “gather information” as an instant effect.
  • Level Three Effects: Clauraudience/Clairvoyance, Minor Dream, Pierce Disguise, Scrying, Stage Fright, Witness, See Beyond, Spirit Bonds, and Darkvision. Congratulations. You are a major seer and prophet, You can evaluate complex situations at a glance, easily get a “birds eye view” of most situations, and know far more than is strictly reasonable.

Next time around on this, the rest of the Gifts.

Skill Stunts and Epic Skill Stunts XIV – Perception Skills

This one took ages for some reason, but here it finally is. Given that the various entries in this series so far are kind of scattered, here’s a complete list:

Perception Skills – Listen, Perception, Search, Sense Motive, Spot, Scent, Touch, and so on – are another primordial group. While there’s room for semantic debate as to whether or not that amoeba flowing towards a greater concentration of food molecules is “really” sensing it’s environment or whether some level of analysis is required to qualify to use the word “sensing” instead of “tropism”, you don’t have to move up the complexity scale very much to hit creatures that definitely do perceive things, even if it’s only a basic stimulus-response reaction. .

On the other hand, perception skills are tricky to define stunts for because – for the most part – perception skills simply make you more likely to notice available information. After all, despite all the “new age” attempts to turn quantum mechanics into mysticism, nothing playable operates on a scale small enough for the observer effect to really mean much of anything. Realistic perception skills literally operate entirely inside your head.

Oh well. Whoever said that d20 was “realistic” by non-magical standards?

Sample Stunts For Perception Skills:

  • DC 10 (normally no stunt required):
    • The basic uses of Perception skills are pretty well covered in the rules already. They are, after all, one of the most used sets of skills in the game.
  • DC 15 (May or may not require a stunt):
    • Magic Detection: Even warriors channel magic to make themselves tougher than any mortal has a right to be. Given a minute of meditation and a reasonable skill check, almost any experienced adventurer can detect the presence of magic.
    • Observe Style: By taking one or more rounds to observe an opponents fighting style, you may observe how to take advantage of their habits, blind spots, and weaknesses, gaining a pool of up to Skill Check/5 “points”. If you fight said opponent within the next twenty-four hours, you may spend points from that pool to reduce the penalties for Called Shots against that opponent by 5 per point spent (to a minimum of zero).
    • Rapid Recovery: You may throw off the effects of a sensory attack must faster than normal, reducing the duration of an effect that rendered you temporarily blind, deaf, numb, or similar by 3d6 rounds.
  • DC 20:
    • Find Weakness: You may select a target. For the next twenty-four hours you may ignore any Damage Reduction they may possess.
    • Instant Perception: You gain information equivalent to ten minutes worth of carefully scanning an area, listening to ambient sounds, savoring tastes, smelling an area, or feeling for irregularities in a single round.
    • The Subtle Flaw: You may determine whether or not something is an illusion, bypassing any need to save. At DC 35 this extends to anything you turn the affected sense on for up to one minute per level.
  • DC 25:
    • Combat Awareness: The sound of a blade cutting through the air, the pressure wave of it darting towards you, the glint of it in the corner of your eye… Your preternatural awareness of the world about you lets you more readily evade attacks. Gain a +2 (+3 at DC 40, +4 at DC 60, +5 at DC 75, and +6 at DC 100) to your AC and Reflex Saves for the next (Skill Check) rounds as an immediate action.
    • Detect Scrying: For the next twenty-four hours you will automatically become aware of anyone who is remotely spying upon you.
    • Suspected Presence: The character may note the presence of creatures that are normally immune to detection by the sense in use. At DC 50 he or she may pinpoint their location, attacking and/or using other powers without penalty. This is normally good for the duration of the fight.
  • DC 30:
    • Selective Perception: You may decide that you simply don’t perceive something. This can render you immune to gaze weapons, many hypnotic powers, particular illusions, and various sensory attacks. The user might thus resist being Nauseated by a Stinking Cloud, or ignore a Color Spray.
    • Subconscious Awareness: You may activate this ability before going to sleep, so that, rather than suffering a penalty to your perceptions for being asleep, you gain a +10 competence bonus. If the results of such a check call for wakefulness, the user becomes fully alert whenever the player chooses that they do.
    • Trap Spotting: For the next twenty-four hours you not only gain the equivalent of a Find Traps spell effect, but get an automatic roll to detect any trap a few moments before you would trigger it, regardless of whether or not you are currently checking for them.
  • DC 35:
    • Detect Thoughts: You may hear subvocal mutters, see and read muscle tensions, feel changes in a targets heartbeat, and smell changes in their scent. You may read the surface thoughts of any target within thirty feet, may determine their alignment given a minute of observation, and will always know if they are consciously lying or are attempting to manipulate you or anyone else. You will always understand anything they are trying to communicate, whether to you or to someone else. The effect lasts for (Skill Check) rounds and you may take a round to change targets while it lasts.
    • Greater Illusion: Your keen senses make you aware of the flaws in any illusion you may cast, obviating them. Thanks to this incredible realism, your illusions can inflict nonlethal damage, but only up to the point of unconsciousness. Also, a successful save provides complete protection – and even without disbelief the damage is determined by comparison to a similar spell effect of equal or lesser level to the illusion used (and may allow saves for reduced effect if that spell does), and the damage is limited by the targets expectations and experience – so instant effects are rarely very useful and no effects will work on mindless targets or objects.
    • Social Awareness: You may sense the subtle tells of social relationships. You may determine the relationships between any people you can currently observe and between those present and anyone who is mentioned by name within your hearing.
  • DC 40:
    • Echoes Of The Past: The user may extend his or her relevant sense(s) backwards into time, becoming a witness to events that passed long ago. While such echoes gradually fade, the more important the event, the longer they remain. “What was served for dinner” may only echo for a few weeks or months – but the Fall of a God may echo for tens of thousands of years.
    • Enhanced Sense. The user may extend the relevant sense beyond normal limits – seeing into the Infrared or Ultraviolet, or in the dark, or enhancing it with telescopic or microscopic abilities. He or she might analyze or identify things by scent (or use it as a combat sense), use their sense of touch to simulate tremorsense, feel the tumblers in a combination lock dropping into position, or taste a potions composition and identify it’s effects.
    • Scrying Strike: When you become aware of someone using magic to see, hear, or otherwise perceive you, you may launch an effect or even a physical attack back along that connection – attempting to grab the scryer and drag them to you, launching a spell at them, or otherwise interacting with them as if they were truly present.
  • DC 50:
    • Detect Relevance: You can sense whether items apparent to the sense in question are actually of some importance to the current narrative, thus bypassing all red herrings, irrelevant graffiti, and similar distractions to focus only on those items that are actual clues – becoming aware of anything which is actually relevant in a thirty foot radius.
    • Preternatural Senses: Your senses are so keen that you may – albeit with concentration – select a spot within long range and exercise the relevant skill as if you were there, regardless of intervening obstacles. The effect lasts while you concentrate, up to a maximum of (Skill Check) rounds and can – given 1d4+1 rounds to refocus – be retargeted as needed within range.
    • Return Scrying: If you are being remotely monitored you may use the link yourself, to see and hear whoever or whatever is spying upon you as long as the effect lasts.
  • DC 60:
    • Greater Illusion II: A simple Silent Image spell is so empowered by your precise perception of what it represents that it develops partial reality, duplicating the function of any Shadow spell of up to level three.
    • Narrative Perception: You may check to see whether or not up to (Wis Mod +1, 1 Minimum) Vignettes (from Stealing The Scene) will fit into the current scene and activate any one of them that will. https://ruscumag.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/skills-of-the-shadowed-galaxy-ii-action-skills/
    • Universal Awareness: You may expand your consciousness, becoming aware of things that are not apparent to your normal senses – magical energies, dimensional overlays, gravitational waves, radiation, vibrations in the earth, disturbances in probability, prophecies, destinies, underground tunnels and structures, alignment energies, mineral deposits, and any other aspect of reality you wish to know of. You may ask the game master seven questions about such things within a range of one mile, gaining reasonably detailed answer.
  • DC 75:
    • Greater Illusion III: A simple Minor Image spell is so empowered by your precise perception of what it represents that it develops partial reality, duplicating the function of any Shadow spell of up to level six.
    • Know The Web: You may perceive, amplify, and use the Mystical Links between people, places, and things – and so may use the rules for Mystic Links (Part I and Part II) in whatever way you can take advantage of them.
    • Sensory Equivalence: As long as the user has at least one operating sense, he or she can operate as if all of them are unhindered – for example, seeing in the dark via hearing or while blinded by his or her sense of smell. He or she can feel sound, hear tastes, and see touch if necessary. This enhanced awareness lasts for a full twenty-four hours once activated. The user may voluntarily block individual senses during this time to avoid sense-based attacks.
  • DC 100:
    • Know The Secrets: You (the player) may inspect the character sheet and game statistics of the creature you can directly sense; the character using this ability will intuitively gain all relevant information.
    • Greater Illusion IV: A simple Major Image spell is so empowered by your precise perception of what it represents that it develops partial reality, duplicating the function of any Shadow spell of up to level nine.
    • Solophistic Perception: By refusing to perceive something you may erase it from your personal reality. You might thus fire arrows freely at those foolish floating people who think they are on the upper floors of a castle that you believe does not exist.

Epic Stunts for Perception Skills:

These basically come in three major varieties:

1) Expanding the user’s sensory abilities more or less permanently. This can be done by stacking a permanent duration and being impossible to simply dispel onto pretty much any sensory spell at a cost of +12 spell levels – +10 if you make it a personal-only effect.

2) Granting the user minor sensory boosts. For this, simply invest the costs of the “research” into sense-related Siddhisyoga powers.

3) Using fairly normal divinatory, sense-boosting, or illusion spells. In this case, just use standard spells with any desired metamagic(s) applied – but there’s nothing wrong with simply developing “True Seeing” as an “Epic” effect.

Outside of that, there are few epic-level perception effects, simply because they’re generally not needed. Conventional spells can give you incredible powers of perception already – just not for as long.

Besides… perception skills are ridiculously useful already.

Eclipse d20 – Fuyuha y(“Winter Blade”) Zhang.

And here we have another example of a highly optimized martial character – in this case an eastern-themed Samurai / Chinese knight type. She’s very powerful for her level – but a large part of that is that she’s a bottleneck design and that – being Atherian in general and from HuSung (the Elemental Domain) in particular she gets to buy up attributes at half the normal cost and buy a wealth level. She has has taken advantage of that to focus entirely on dexterity, using it for attacks, damage, hit points, and most of her skills. If she should happen to take damage to her dexterity she’d be pretty much crippled. Bottleneck designs can be very effective – but if someone targets their critical point, they’re virtually out of action.

Fuyuha (“Winter Blade”) Zhang.

Level Five Jinyiwèi (Noble Guard) of the Imperial Academy.

Racial Template: Atherian Human, Elemental Magic Birthright:

Natives of HuSung gain an innate knack with elemental magic, using the Theurgy system. Since the power for their spells comes from Improved Occult Talent and Inherent Spell, their inherent casting level is equal to their base level. Those who opt to develop their abilities can become fairly formidable. In general, natives of HuSung will have Two primary elements (Adept, +3 bonus), two secondary elements (Adept, +1 Bonus) – and one they’re weak in (+1 Bonus only).

  • Skill Bonuses: +1 each in Creation, Control, Destruction, Healing, Transformation, and Understanding. Specialized: only for use with the Fire, Air, Earth, Water, and Spirit nouns (3 CP).
  • Adept: Choice of four from among Fire, Air, Earth, Water, and Spirit (6 CP).
  • Skill Bonuses: +1 in each of three elements, +3 in each of the two remaining elements (these must be among those chosen as Adept skills) (4 CP). As part of a template, these bonuses do not count against the normal skill limits.
  • Improved Occult Talent: 5 x L0 and 3 x L1 spell slots. Specialized: no inherent spells, only usable for theurgy, Corrupted, Elemental Magic only (4 CP).
  • Inherent Spell: 2 x L2 spell slots per day. Specialized: only to power Theurgy. Corrupted: Elemental Magic only (2 CP).
  • Immunity/Elemental Damage: Very Common/Major/Trivial (5 points of damage), (5 CP).
  • Fast Learner(May be specialized, 6 CP). In her case, it is indeed Specialized in Skills, for double effect (+2 SP/Level).
  • Fuyuha’s Adept affinities are Earth and Spirit (+3) and Water and Fire (+1). Those only cost 1/2 SP to raise by +1. Air costs her 1 SP per point.
  • Available Spells are 5xL0 (DC 5), 3xL1 (DC 10), and 2xL2 (DC 15), Her current check bonus is [Verb (1) + Noun (1 or 3)] – so she is pretty much all right on Cantrips, but will often fail trying for anything more. In her focus on her martial capabilities, she has – at least so far – gravely neglected her magical skills.

Available Character Points: 144 (L5 Base) +10 (Disadvantages ) +18 (L1, L2, L4 Bonus Feats) +10 (Duties to her Clan and Husband) = 182 CP.

Basic Attributes: Str 8, Dex 16 (+2 Level, +2 Wealth, +6 Purchased +4 Enh = 30), Con 10, Int 14, Wis 14 (+4 Enh = 18), Cha 12. (3.5 28 Point Buy).

Wealth Level: Well Off (3 CP) plus Military Dedication: Upgrade to Wealthy, but Specialized and Corrupted / only for Training and Weapons Purposes (3 CP).

  • Armor, Shields, and Weapons: Katana, Wakazashi, Longbow, and Naginata. All gain +2 Wealth Bonuses and are considered Adamantine.
  • Three Charms (Elfinstone, Hidden Pocket, Stone Or Purity) and One Talisman (Shimmermail,
  • Mounts and Pets: Warhorse, Hawk.
  • Retainers: Squire, Contingent of 12 Guards.
  • Skill Bonuses: +2 Wealth Bonus to Speak Language and Ride. (+4 since both are Tier 2 Skills).
  • Training Bonuses: +2 to an Attribute, +2 SP/Level Gained, +1 HP/Level Gained.

Basic Purchases (94 CP):

  • BAB +6, Specialized / only with Oriental Weapons in which she has a Martial Art at at least +6 (18 CP).
  • Hit Points: 6 (L1d6, 2 CP) +17 (L2-5d6, 8 CP) +12 (Immortal Vigor) +70 (Cha Mod x 7) +5 (Wealth) = 110 HP
  • Evasive Combat: Finesse II: Uses (Dex Mod) in place of (Con Mod) when calculating hit points (12 CP).
  • Saving Throws:
    • Fort +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +0 Con +1 (Res) = +3
    • Ref +1 (Purchased, 3 CP) +10 (Dex) +1 (Res) = +12
    • Will +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +4 (Wis) +1 (Res) = +7
    • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saving Throws (6 CP).
  • Proficiencies: All Simple and Martial Weapons, Corrupted / Weapons of HuSung only (6 CP).
  • Skill Points 13 (13 CP) +16 (Int Mod x 8) + +16 (Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills, from Birthright) +10 (Fast Learner, Specialized in Skills, 6 CP) +10 (Wealth) = 65 SP.
    • Adept (Martial Art/Naginatajutsu, Move Silently, Spot, and Survival, 6 CP).
    • Martial Mastery: The first skill point spent on a Dexterity-based martial art counts as four. Built as Immunity / The Skill Point Costs of Dexterity-Based Martial Arts (Common, Major, Minor, Corrupted / user must spend at least 1 SP on each martial art, although that then suffices to purchase a +4 in it (4 CP).
  • Move: 30′ (Base) +30′ (Enhancement) +30 (Circumstance) = 90′
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +10 (Dex) +4 (Shimmermail) +4 (Shield) = 28 (Plus current Martial Arts modifier, if any).
  • Initiative +10 (Dex)

Usual Weapons:

  • Kaiyuan (Spirit Weapon Composite Longbow): +19/+19/+14 (+6 BAB +10 Dex +2 Wealth +1 Enh, Haste), 1d12+13 (M. Art, Dex, Wealth, Enh) (Lethal or Nonlethal as desired), Crit 20/x3, 110′ Base Range. Treated as Adamant.
  • Katana (Eastern Bastard Sword): +20/+20/+15 (+6 BAB +10 Dex +2 Wealth +2 MA, Haste), 1d12+12 (MA, Dex, Wealth), Crit 19-20/x2, 5′ Natural Reach, Quick Draw, Whirlwind Attack, attacks on the weapon are treated as normal attacks against her. Treated as Adamant.
  • Naginata (Guisarme): +21/+21/+16 (+6 BAB +10 Dex +2 Wealth +2 MA, +1 Enh, Haste), 2d4+13 (MA, Dex, Wealth, Enh) +1d6 (Shock), Crit 20/x3 plus automatic trip, 5′ Reach + 5′ Natural Reach, Whirlwind, +4 AC when used. Treated as Adamant.
  • Petal Blades (Unique): +21/+21/+16 OR +19/+19/+19/+14 (+6 BAB +10 Dex +2 Wealth +2 MA +1 Enh, Haste, optional Rapid Shot), 1d8+13 (MA, Dex, Wealth, Enh), Crit 20/x2. 20′ Range Increment, Treated as Adamant.
  • Unarmed/Wuxing Shadow Palm: +16/+16/+11 (+6 BAB +10 Dex, Haste), 1d8+10 (MA, Dex, Lethal or Nonlethal as desired), Crit 20/x2, Improved Disarm, Blind Fight, and Prone Combat.

Other Abilities (82 CP):

  • Self-Development/+6 Dex (36 CP).
  • Ki Focus: 2d6 (8) Mana with Unskilled Magic, Specialized for Increased Effect (only costs a base of one Mana per spell level) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only for Unskilled Magic, only to produce long-term weapon and personal enhancements, requires at least one hour of meditation to “cast” a spell (8 CP). It costs two Mana per Spell Level to create an effect that lasts until released or dispelled, half of which cannot be recovered until the effect ends. So it costs 6 Points to cast a third level effect and reduces the pool by 3 until the effect is released. Thus she can cast and maintain a L3 effect (6 Mana to cast, 3 to maintain), recover to at least four Mana and create a L2 spell effect (4 to cast and 2 to maintain), recover to at least 2 Mana to create a L1 effect (2 to cast and 1 to maintain), and create a trio of cantrip-level effects (1 to cast, 1/2 to maintain).
  • Immunity / the need for extra rest and meditation to regain 2 Mana per day instead of 1 (Common, Minor, Trivial, 2 CP). (Sadly, Rite Of Chi is not normally available on Atheria).

She usually maintains Focused Mind (L3 Enhance Attribute, +4 to Dex and Wis), Storm Blade (L2 Eldritch Weapon, on her Naginata, making it +1 Shocking), L1 Light Foot, and three level zero effects of choice.

Light Foot (Not the same as the “Light Foot” Martial Art ability):

  • Transmutation, L1 Druid, Ranger, Sorcerer/Wizard, Components: V, S, Casting Time: One standard action, Range: Touch, Target: Creature Touched, Duration: 1d6+2 Rounds, Save: Reflex Negates (Harmless), Spell Resistance: Yes

Light Foot makes the user extremely light on his or her feet, gaining a +30 circumstance bonus on his or her ground movement speed a +10 circumstance bonus on jump checks, as well as DR 10 versus Falling Damage [only]. The user is, however, considered one size category smaller in a Bull Rush, Grapple, Trip, or Overrun situation.

  • Reflex Training / Combat Reflexes Variant (6 CP).
  • Finesse: Uses (Dex Mod) in place of (Str Mod) for attacks (6 CP).
  • Finesse: Uses (Dex Mod) in plave of (Str Mod) for damage (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (12 CP):
    • Resistance: +1 Resistance bonus to Saves, Personal-Only, 700 GP. .
    • Personal Haste (2000 GP).
    • Force Shield I (Personal-Only, 1400 GP).
    • Immortal Vigor I (Personal-Only, 1400 GP).
    • Rugged Metabolism: Fast Healing I for 18 Rounds 2/Day, Relieve Illness 1/Day, Relieve Poison 1/Day, and Lesser Restoration 1/Day, all Personal-Only (1400 GP).
    • Skill Mastery I/+3 Competence Bonus to all Wisdom-Linked Skills, Personal-Only, 1400 GP).
    • Skill Mastery I /+3 Competence Bonus to all Martial Art Skills, Personal-Only, 1400 GP)
    • Masters Parry: Block 15 points of damage as an Immediate Action 4x/Day (1600 GP).
  • Occult Sense / Danger (6 CP). Picks up ambushes, assassins, poison, and incoming attacks.

Tier One Skills (40 SP):

  • Martial Arts:
    • Cherry Petal Wind Kung Fu: +8 (5 SP) +10 (Dex) +3 (Comp) = +21
    • Shining Waters Kenjitsu: +8 (5 SP) +10 (Dex) +3 (Comp) = +21
    • Thousand Leaping Flames Style: +8 (2 SP*) +10 (Dex) +3 (Comp) = +21
    • Unity Of Divine Wind: +8 (5 SP) +10 (Dex) +3 (Comp) = +21
    • Wuxing Shadow Palm: +8 (5 SP) +10 (Dex) +3 (Comp) = +21
  • Move Silently: +8 (4 SP*) +10 (Dex) = +18
  • Spot: +8 (4 SP*) +2 (Wis) +3 (Comp) = +13
  • Survival: +8 (4 SP*) +2 (Wis) +3 (Comp) = +13
  • Tumble: +5 (5 SP) +10 (Dex) +2 (Sy) = +17

Tier Two Skills (18 SP):

  • Intimidate: +8 (4 SP) +1 (Cha) +4 (Sy) = +13
  • Listen: +8 (4 SP) +2 (Wis) +3 (Comp) = +13
  • Ride: +8 (4 SP) +10 (Dex) +4 (Wealth) = +22
  • Sense Motive: +8 (4 SP) +2 (Wis) +3 (Comp) = +13
  • Speak Language: +4 (2 SP) +2 (Int) +4 (Wealth) = +10

Tier Three Skills (7 SP):

  • Craft Paper Art: +7 (2 SP) +2 (Int) = +9
  • Profession/Bodyguard: +7 (2 SP) +4 (Wis) = +11
  • Profession/Legist: +4 (1 SP) +4 (Wis) = +8
  • Profession/Tactician: +7 (2 SP) +4 (Wis) = +11

Known Martial Art Techniques:

  • Cherry Petal Wind Kung Fu (11): Power 2, Attack 2, Synergy/Tumble, Rapid Shot, Imbuement (Petal Blades), Inner Strength II, Wrath (Force), and Paralyze.
  • Shining Waters Kenjitsu (11): Attack 2, Power 1, Quick Draw, Reach, Unity of Steel, Whirlwind Attack, Inner Strength x2, and Ki Focus (+4 BAB).
  • Thousand Leaping Flames Style (11): Attack 2, Defense 4, Mighty Blow, Reach, Whirlwind, Inner Strength II, and Iron Skin.
  • Unity Of Divine Wind (11): Power 2, Synergy/Intimidate, Spirit Weapon 2, Imbuement, Battlecry, Inner Strength 2, Resist Pain, and Wrath.
  • Wuxing Shadow Palm (11): Strike, Power 2, Improved Disarm, Blind Fight, Prone Combat, Inner Strength 2, Ki Block and Vanishing.

Note that Fuyuha is using the “separate pool for each art” option – and so has a reserve of 12 Con/”Ki Points” to power each arts special disciplines with. Sadly, each pool only recovers at one point per day, two with full rest.

Eclipse d20 – Elemental Martial Arts

And for today it’s a selection of dexterity-base martial arts – in this case, some of the exotic specialties of HuSung, the realm of the five elements on Atheria. There, where every child has at least minor inherent elemental powers, the martial arts are both tools of battle and lessons in magic, for they can help discipline unruly elemental powers. In this case, each technique in each of the arts is getting a name, just for that florid feeling.

Or, of course, you can tweak them slightly to use them for characters from other settings. This is Eclipse, and it works either way.

Wuxing Shadow Palm (Dex)

The elemental Ki flows in a dance of creation and destruction, each attack belonging to one or another element. Know that dance, feel the flow of power – and you may both sense attacks and use the opposing elemental echo to block them or strike back. The elegant, twisting, circular footwork and whirling motions of the style seem to trail echoing images behind them, an illusion enhanced by the flowing sleeves of the courtiers robes its students favor. A true master of this unarmed style will never be caught off guard as they are warned by the angry, focused, Ki of an incoming attack.

While no one of the Elemental Birthright of HuSung is ever truly disarmed, there has been treachery enough in the last four or five millennia to inspire the realms envoys, couriers, and legalists to wish to be able to defend themselves against sudden physical attacks – even in situations where they may not carry weapons. This “Soft” style focuses on deflecting and avoiding attacks, buying time for an escape. It’s users often supplement their art with Earth Magic – increasing their defensive abilities, scaling walls, and increasing their strength.

  • Requires: Access to both Combat Reflexes (or point-buy equivalent) and Earth Magic.
  • Basic Techniques: Strike 1(Shadow Palm), Power 2 (Shattering The Trigram), Defense 4 (Ghosting Technique), Attack 2 (Iron Strike), and Synergy/Earth Magic Skill (Stance Of Stone).
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Prone Combat (Whirling Stone Method), Blind Fight (The Inward Eye), Mind Like Moon (Ki Awareness), and Improved Disarm (Iron Palm Technique).
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength II, Ki Block (Thousand Ton Stance), and Vanishing (Earth Meld).

Cherry Petal Wind Kung Fu (Dex)

As the tornado hurls mere bits of straw through oaken trunks, a master of the Cherry Petal Wind turns mere “leaves” of metal into deadly missiles – often concealing a small arsenal in plain sight as a mail shirt, series of bangles, or badges on a vest. Advanced masters practice breathing exercises to focus their Ki into their “Petals”, greatly increasing their capabilities – including allowing them to strike at spirits and injure creatures resistant to mundane weapons.

This form revolves around the use of the Petal Blade – small hiltless throwing knives – often flung so rapidly that they resemble a swarm of wind-blown petals. Indeed, stronger elemental masters are often able to use their wind powers to fling clouds of petal blades to attack an area. While the style offers few defensive benefits, it is a powerful offensive technique. It’s users sometimes supplement their abilities with minor air spells, greatly increasing their effective range, increasing the number of missiles they can hurl at once, or sending their missiles tumbling through an area to attack several targets at once.

Petal Blades are finger-sized leaf-shaped throwing blades, usually with a hole near the tip through which a thread can be tied – allowing a batch of them to be hung ready for use from a sash or disguised as ornaments. Using Pathfinders weapon design system: Thrown Martial Weapon: Expanded Range Increment (20′ Base, 1), Ammunition (are basically treated like Shuriken, 3), and Improved Damage (1). Net: Martial, 1d4 Piercing, Crit 20/x2, Thrown with a 20′ Range Increment, 1 GP for Two, each weighing 1/8’th of a pound.

  • Requires: Access to Air Magic, Dex 14+.
  • Basic Techniques: Power 2 (Shrieking Hawk Throw), Attack 4 (Winds Eye Technique), Toughness 1 (Breath Control), Synergy/Air Magic Skill (The Wind Dance), Synergy/Tumble (Zephyr Stance), and Synergy/Flight (+4 on Atheria) (Wings Of The Hummingbird).
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Sneak Attack II (Vital Points Strike), Rapid Shot (Hurricane Fist), Imbuement/Petal Blades (Blossoming Ki Technique).
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength II, Wrath (Force) (Wind Blades), and Paralyze (Ki Disruption).

Thousand Leaping Flames Style:

In the hands of a master, the blade of a a Naginata (use Glaive or Halberd statistics, but the choice is permanent once made) twirls and flashes like the flickering flames of a bonfire, lashing out to strike at any enemy who comes too close even as the wielder remains firmly rooted, blocking and deflecting with his or her weapons haft while shifting and swaying only as much as is absolutely necessary to evade incoming attacks.

This polearm form is a favorite of guardians who seek to delay attackers or hold them back; it’s strong defense, multiple tripping options, extended reach, and ability to reach a defensible point in an instant allows the user to hold a position against an advancing enemy quite well. Masters of Fire Magic often simply augment their weapons, but also often boost their reflexes and speed or enchant their weapons to twist like true flames, allowing them to use or ignore their reach (if any) as needed.

  • Requires: Access to Fire Magic and Combat Reflexes.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 3 (Fire Blade Mastery), Defense 4 (Dazzling Steel Maze), Power 1 (Burning Blade Technique), Synergy/Fire Magic Skill (As Within, So Without), and Synergy/Jump (+6 on Atheria due to use of Tiered Skills) (may use polearm to pole-vault) (Mount The Winds).
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Improved Trip (Snapping Branch Style), Mighty Blow (Detonating Touch), Reach (Reaching Fire), and Whirlwind Attack (Blazing Glory Stance).
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength x2, Iron Skin (Burning Shield), and Vanishing (Flickering Spark Leap).

Shining Waters Kenjitsu:

Life is movement. The pumping lungs, the flowing blood, the beating heart. Stillness brings death. Where an enemy strikes, flow away. Where an enemy blocks, flow around. Where an enemy seeks to restrain or guide, if one route is blocked, a thousand others lie open. Where you need advance, draw your enemies into your whirlpool and none shall stand. Ride the currents of battle, whether to victory or retreat, there is no use in attempting to contest the tide. The softest strikes will erode the most obdurate defense. Let your spirit flow through your blade, for where it is vulnerable, the spirit is not. To emulate flowing water is a path to victory.

This art focuses on any one of the (several) “oriental” variants of the Bastard Sword, and is actually fairly straightforward and well-rounded as such styles go – providing some defense, an extremely strong offense (focusing on taking enemies down as quickly and efficiently as possible), and a few special tricks – in this case the ability to resist having the weapon sundered or disarmed and a limited ability to launch ranged strikes. Masters of water magic often use it to add qualities such as Toxic or Corrosive to their weapons or to allow them to lash out at greater ranges – or to simply create a blade of ice to use in emergencies.

  • Requires: Access to Water Magic and Occult Sense / Danger.
  • Basic Techniques: Attack 4 (Tsunami Strike), Defense 3 (Read The Currents), Power 1 (Tidal Bore Technique), Synergy/Water Magic Skill (Pulse Of The Seas), and Synergy/Tumble (Flowing Waters).
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Quick Draw (Darting Blade Technique), Reach (Cresting Wave Strike), Unity Of Steel* (Slowing Soul Infusion), and Whirlwind Attack (Whirlpool Strike).
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength x2, Ki Focus (+4 Sacred Bonus to BAB) (Raging Storm Rising), and One Finger (Ice Lance).

*Unity Of Steel: Immunity/the distinction between weapons and the user (Common, Minor, Major, 6 CP). For practitioners of this school their weapons are truly extensions of themselves; attempts to sunder or disarm them are simply treated as normal attacks against them and any touch-based powers or similar enhancements which they may possess operate through their blades.

Unity Of Divine Wind

It is not mere strength or skill that brings victory, for what use are either if you are unwilling to stand against a foe? It is the martial spirit that wins battles. Many a duel has been decided by the clash of wills well before any blow is struck. The will to stand against your foes is your greatest weapon, When it is developed and expressed… you may lay low your foes with the divine wind of your spirit alone.

Students of the Divine Wind begin their studies with the composite longbow – but advanced students will learn to transcend it, forging their spiritual armament of will and magic. While this inward focus somewhat reduces the effectiveness of the style in simple physical combat, skilled users of spirit magic can easily add properties such as Bane, or Holy/Unholy, or other special functions to their spiritual weapons, enhance their own durability, and make their arrows effective against various spirits.

  • Requires: Access to Spirit Magic, Wisdom 14+
  • Basic Techniques: Power 2 (Will to Victory), Toughness 4 (QiGong), Synergy/Spirit Magic Skill (The Inward Way), Synergy/ Heal (+4 on Atheria due to use of Tiered Skills) (Acupuncture), Synergy/Intimidate (+4 on Atheria due to use of Tiered Skills) (Will of the Warrior), and Synergy/Knowledge; Religion (Spiritual Awareness),
  • Advanced/Master Techniques: Spirit Weapon I (may create a “bow” of spiritual energy) (Yin of the Moon) and II (may also create arrows of spiritual energy, and cause them to inflict either stun or lethal damage) (Yang Focus), Imbuement (“Unarmed” version applied to the spirit weapon) (Purified Intent), and Battlecry (The Lions Roar).
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength x2, Resist Pain (Meditations On Eternity) and Wrath (Holy or Unholy, depending on the practitioner) (Vessel of the Divine).

As often happens with advanced styles some of these stretch the definition of a “martial art” a bit – but in a setting where the equivalent of a Rabbi wields vast magical powers instead of learned advice… stretching a martial art into the realms of myth is actually pretty normal.

The Laws Of Magic Part VI – Magical Symbols

For those looking to read in order…

Which leaves Symbols.

Like the other laws of magic, Symbols are rooted deep in the human mind. Unlike most of the other “laws of magic” their “power” has some basis in reality, even beyond the fact that words are symbols and form the basis of culture and most abstract thought.

A wise master of symbols might be able to guide a tribe safely across a stretch of wildness where he or she had never been. They could hear the words of the dead. They could reveal the acts of the gods and the secrets of creation. They could erect great castles and mighty works of art. They could see into the past, gain insights into the future, and perform a thousand other mighty deeds, for the power of magical symbols was theirs.

Today that power is actually all too common. We’d call it Reading Trail-sign, or Reading a Book, or Studying Sacred Texts, or Basic Engineering, or Checking Records, or Architecture, or Naturalism / Recording Natural Cycles, or Mathematics, or Statistics, or by any of a thousand other names – but the power of manipulating symbols is undeniable.

Yet back in the ancient days, when the lore of symbols remained unknown to most… when a man or woman could examine a few bits of dried and marked-up hide carried from a distant city and – by some mysterious art – learn of what was going on there, or craft symbols that could be carried by pretty much anyone to summon forth an inquisitor or even the kingdom’s army… what else was an observer to do but call it magic? And it was magic that observably WORKED. It wasn’t subtle influences, it was POWER.

Are those symbols ancient, inherited from a prior civilization, mysterious, impressive-looking, or just really obscure? People tend to value things according to how difficult they were to acquire and how important they look – so all those things obviously make a given symbol more powerful. After all, Runes are basically just an alphabet – but they pop up in all kinds of movies, novels, and other works as having mysterious powers. Would it be anywhere near as interesting to you if they were talking about the letter “B”?

Even today, the notion that writing something gives it power has a deep grip on the human mind. How many times have you heard the phrase “It Is Written”? Simply seeing something in print tends to give it weight and credibility. Thus the original distinction between Slander and Libel. Because writing it down somehow made it worse.

Science fiction is not immune. It is filled with incomprehensible symbols that drive men mad, Basilisk Images that kill when beheld, semantic sciences that manipulate the mind, the arts of the Bene Gesserit, and more. Why is “a picture worth a thousand words”? It is because – for humans – what you HEAR means less than what you SEE. Things sneak, other humans lie, and sounds echo – but SEEING is BELIEVING.

Incantations? Symbols. Mystic Gestures? Symbols. Names? Symbols. Runes, Glyphs, Heiroglyphs, Sigils, Witch-Marks, Emblems, Magic Circles… even most Physical Props, such as Staves (emblems of authority) and Wands (pointing sticks) are all basically Symbols or combinations of Symbols. .

The thing about symbols is that the nonverbal ones tend to be semi-permanent. Magic Circles work until they’re broken. Placing runes on a sword will empower it until they are worn smooth. That giant cross will repel vampires so long as it stands. Everyone KNOWS that’s true. After all… that brand of Servitude well may last for the rest of a slaves life – and will still affect his or her life long after he or she goes free. Don’t we feel that engagement rings and gifts of chocolate and roses mean more than “here’s a simple bit of material goods”?

In the Laws Of Magic… Symbols are raw power, condensed, distilled, and bound. The (more or less interchangeable) symbol/emblem/name of a Power is one of it’s Correspondences. Thanks to basic Sympathy and Correspondence, it to some extent IS the Power, for the name is the thing. By the Doctrine Of Signatures, knowledge and study of it reveals some of the nature and potentials of that power. By Synchronicity when that power is involved in your life, you will see it everywhere. By Karma you draw it’s notice and concern as it draws yours – if you are willing to pay the price. By Personification it allows you to relate to that Power – and by Purification of other influences you may allow that Power to dominate parts of the world.

Even in modern productions – movies, anime, comics, and television programs… the symbols of magic are inlaid in jewelry, woven into cloth, tattooed on the skin, or simply flare into existence as the magic is invoked.

This “law of magic” generally doesn’t need a lot of work to get into a game. Your players will probably never question why powerful tomes of magic are written in strange symbols and ancient tongues, or why translations never work properly, or why mystic jewelry and blades are inscribed with exotic “runes of power”, or why summoning creatures calls for magic circles, or why casting spells often calls for complex gestures, or any of a thousand other details. Pretty much every potential player is fully aware that that is how magic “normally works” – and so the vast majority of games and gaming material adhere to those ideas as well.

If you want it to play a more prominent role in the game, however, there have to be limitations. Otherwise the party mage will simply start putting symbols on everything – and that will drown your setting in a sea of magic, just as it would make a mess out of Buffy The Vampire Slayer if everyone in Sunnydale wore half a dozen crosses and light body armor and carried super-soakers filled with holy water everywhere they went.

Given the permanent, or at least semi-permanent, nature of symbol magic, that can be tough to arrange – and you can’t make it ineffectual or no one will want to bother with Symbols in the first place, which defeats the point of trying to make them more prominent. So perhaps you’ll want to apply one or more of the following…

1) Symbols must be empowered again after a relatively brief period of use,, or be periodically purified, or lose their magic to daily wear-and-tear – and while there may be methods to extend their lifespans, or to maintain more of them, such methods are quite limited. Any given magus can support only a limited number of Symbols at a time.

2) Symbols clash with each other. Any given individual can only support a limited number, or perhaps one greater, one intermediate, and one lesser Symbol. Or must bond each symbol to one of their Chakra. Or whatever. Regardless of the exact reason, any given character can only use a few Symbols at a time.

3) Symbols are horribly expensive to craft, calling for rare ingredients and great skill. Characters will only be able to afford a few of them – although this has the unwelcome side effect of causing characters to hoard money and to try to break the game to get more.

4) Symbols must be supported by the will, prayers, or dedication of many people, or by powerful spirits, or whatever. A great city might thus be able to empower a dozen Symbols for it’s greatest champions. A village might support one Symbol for a local hero, Perhaps the Spirits of Light and / or the Righteous Dead can support a few to empower noble paladins and holy men – or perhaps true heroes are supported by the populace they protect while the villains must offer sacrifices to the powers of darkness to get those infernal entities to empower their Symbols.

5) Symbols are empowered in part by personal sacrifice. Perhaps mages are not naturally weak and frail, but supporting the devices they craft makes them so. Perhaps they must accept strange geasa, or give up their shadows, or yield points from their attributes. Whatever they give up… it is difficult or impossible to reclaim without destroying the Symbol.

6) Symbols are empowered by quests, legends, and mighty deeds. As you adventure and accomplish those deeds you will gradually earn the ability to use more Symbols.

7) Symbols draw on a limited pool of power, The more Symbols you bear, the less powerful each of them becomes.

There are other, if usually more complicated, methods of course – but various combinations of limits on based on Symbol creation, duration, number, power, cost, user accomplishments, user commitments, and various forms of expenses should cover most of them.

The Laws Of Magic Part V – Narrative and Naming

For those looking to read in order…

From behind them suddenly, closer than they imagined, they could hear the roar of Humperdinck: “Stop them! Cut them off!” They were, admittedly, startled, but there was no reason for worry: they were on the fastest horses in the kingdom, and the lead was already theirs.

However, this was before Inigo’s wound reopened; and Westley relapsed again; and Fezzik took the wrong turn; and Buttercup’s horse threw a shoe. And the night behind them was filled with the crescendoing sound of pursuit. . . .

-The Princess Bride

Destiny” has come up before, under Synchronicity, where it creates coincidences in accord with mysterious influences and the currents of fate. The tottering Empire which has set itself against the course of history WILL fall before one set of opponents or another. Sooner or later, the dikes or levees will fail and the floods WILL come. Eventually even the most fortunate gambler WILL lose. That’s “Destiny” of a sort – but it’s Actuarial Table Destiny. It will happen sooner or later – but any individual case may come up almost immediately or it may beat the odds for quite some time.

This isn’t that kind of Destiny. Magic sometimes uses the same word for wildly differing ideas – and what we’re talking about here is what might be more properly called Narrative Destiny. It’s not the sum of probabilities and influences on the world; it’s the force which says that the magic ponies WILL defeat the monster of the week because that is how the story goes.

Reality doesn’t have neat beginnings and endings. People rarely really get what they deserve, the causes of events go back perpetually and the consequences go on and on. People spin cages of words to turn what are basically-chaotic series of events into stories; but – in reality – stories don’t exist “in the wild”. They’re just a way for people to organize their perceptions, experiences, and acquired information. Two people can look at the same events and describe them vastly differently, right down to drawing entirely different conclusions from them.

In magic, however, Narrative Destiny is a major force. It’s the power that turns a mixture of randomness, influences, mistakes, and the accumulative effects of hundreds of people and factions pursuing their own goals in a mixture of erroneous and calculated ways, into a grand sweep of history – a coherent narrative with conventions that have the force of natural laws. And while magic can bend those rules, just as it can let you fly in despite of gravity… there is always a price to twisting the course of events away from their well-worn channel. Thus Narrative Destiny leads some people through near-inevitable sequences of events while others subvert its dictates, achieving goals that should have been utterly impossible in despite of the vast forces arrayed against them.

Narrative Destiny runs on cliches, tropes, and proverbs. It’s what enforces the conventions of stories. It’s the source of all those examples you find on TVTropes – and it’s another “force” that sneaks into almost every game pretty much unnoticed simply because most game masters try to have a bit more background and depth to things beyond “A bunch of people got together and started killing things and smashing stuff. They got away with this because they mostly did it out in the anarchic areas until they were so good at it as to be mostly unstoppable. Eventually they got bored because they’d smashed pretty much everything they thought needed smashing. Then we started a new campaign”. Game settings are filled with narrative conventions because they’re products of human minds – and that’s one of the major ways in which human minds organize their worldviews.

In RPG’s the prevalence of this form of magic marks a major division between game styles.

  1. A lot of games take a “realistic” approach; if you want to stick a knife into someone, and you can hide your intentions, sneak up on them, and stab them in the back, you’re more likely to succeed. That’s pragmatic, sensible, and – by most standards – pretty reasonable (if perhaps a little dull). Still, there is something to be said for scheming and trying to cleverly take advantage of every opportunity. It’s not all that exciting, but it can be very satisfying if you don’t mind the players constantly looking for ways to boost their odds instead of getting on with things.
  2. Other games may give you a small bonus for adding a bit more description and/or a small penalty for being boring. So you note the faint breeze which flutters the curtains, the anger which drives the attack, and the moment of focus as the attacker strikes – making the story inherent to the game and letting it influence the setting. Now it’s annoying when people get inconsistent about adding details, but as long as there’s some self-restraint amongst the players, this approach can add a lot of details and atmosphere if you don’t mind having to do a lot of on-the-fly adaption.
  3. In a few, announcing that you’re going to run at your target screaming your battle cry, vault over their head off a convenient rock, somersault in the air, stab them in the back to reverse your spin, and land on your feet will get you a bonus rather than reducing your chance of success. That’s dramatic, and stylish – if not genuinely exciting since there’s no actual gamble involved – but it really annoys the players who have a practical streak and are trying to be clever unless there’s some serious cost involved in bending the world to your will that way.

In terms of Narrative Destiny… the first option mostly ignores it just as the real world does. The fact that you’re a handsome prince trying to rescue your true love has little or nothing to do with your success of failure. That’s up to your skills, abilities, decisions, and chance. The second lets the world bend a bit to accommodate your narrative, but strictly caps how far it can go; you can bend the primary story to incorporate your personal one, but only so far. For the third option, there are few limits: the world bends to drama more than it does to mere physics and the “story” is likely to be whatever the characters say it is.

Honestly, there is no simple way of satisfying everyone here. Most game systems tend towards one of those three options – in part because option one is easiest to write rules for, option two tends to be a bit informal, usually operates on the social level, and is generally seen as “metagamey” (it does work well in rules-lite systems though), and option three really annoys the players who aren’t good at verbal dramatics and want firm rules to work with. Trying to write rules that can accommodate all three styles is possible – it’s the approach I took in Eclipse and there are various articles up about how to build characters who can influence the narrative and/or pull off insane stunts at the cost of not having those character points to spend on other things – but accommodating all those options requires either a really loose system (annoying one set of players) or a very complicated rules system (causing a lot of players to opt for games that aren’t so much work to make characters for).

Personally, I usually go for the complicated rules – even if that means I have to help a lot of the players make their characters – and option two. Letting the players add some details works just fine for me.

The simplest way to add this law of magic to a game more actively (without going entirely overboard) is to give characters some bonuses for citing and adhering to an appropriate literary trope. If the character is cluelessly noble and pure at heart, perhaps it does give them strength. An oath really does let someone surpass normal limits to fulfill it. True Love will cure anything. A blow stricken in vengeance is far more grievous than an apparently-identical blow stuck in doubt. That’s what the Fate Point rules in Runecards were about.

Naming is closely related to Narrative Destiny. After all… that random sword is just a sword, and could be replaced by any of thousands of very similar swords without changing anything much at all. Sure, there may be hundreds of trivial variations, but your game of choices equipment list and mechanics generally do not care about the makers mark, or the pattern of the steel, or whether or not the blade has an engraving of a creature on it, or the color of the pommel. A “short sword” is pretty much a “short sword” – unless, perhaps, a full-blown system of correspondences is in use. But even if one is, those correspondences will still be just a handful of discriptives hung on the basic “short sword” chasse.

Now “Sting” may have been pretty much a short sword or combat knife at base – but it was an elven-blade forged by a Noldor master-smith before the fall of Gondolin. It penetrated the skin of trolls, cut webs easily, and glowed in the presence of certain monsters. It may not have been all that powerful a magical blade – but it became a singular part of it’s bearer’s legend when it was NAMED.

In magic, names have POWER. A things name is a link to it, a way to draw on it’s power and authority. Have you ever heard the phrase “Stop in the name of the Law!”? What is it that makes that a phrase of power and authority? It’s personifying the “Law!” as an abstract entity of power that lends it’s authority to those who invoke it. “Halt! Police!” just isn’t quite the same somehow.

To give something a name… is to make it unique, to give it importance in the great tapestry of the universe, and so to give it power. As named items are woven into tales and become parts of great events, their power grows. A magician may inscribe a blade with potent runes, it may absorb a part of the power of a mighty foe as it is plunged into their heart, it may be blessed by the queen of the fey… but to some extent they are only giving expression to the power of the deeds that it has participated in.

Names grow. That sword may have started out a casual name such as “Taurin’s Sword” – but if Tuarin becomes a hero, it will soon be “The Blade Of Taurin”. Not too long after that, it might become the “Bane Of Ugarth” (a great troll that it was used to kill). Perhaps one day after that… it will be Straithbeor (“Demon Slayer”, the sword Taurin used to slay many demons during the overthrow of a dark empire), the Bane Of Ugarth, Blade Of The Mighty Taurin, King Of Umbria”. If it gets lost, it might be found again – and once it’s new owner learns it’s history, and shows himself or herself worthy, he or she can draw upon it’s power. If it is broken… reforging it will require a mighty quest, a great deed, or mighty magical ingredients – but once it is done, it will add “The Sword That Was Broken” to it’s name and the reforging will become simply another power-granting component of the weapons ever-growing legend. That’s why the Legendarium skill was written to work that way and why most of the sample Relics in Eclipse II have their own unique histories.

Games vary on this a lot. A very few – Earthdawn, some Arthurian games, and a few more – treat naming as a very big deal indeed. Most others really don’t pay much attention to it. The problem is that named items require their own legends and are generally unique and individual – which means that the game either has to have a specific setting and mountains of source material or the poor game master is going to have to put in an incredible amount of work creating treasures for both the PC’s AND the NPC’s. Thus most games have a list of generic equipment and items that can be readily traded around. Many even have random treasure tables. They may also have a list of unique and powerful artifacts, but it’s up to the game master whether or not to bring such a thing into play and to work it into the plot if he or she does.

Given that inherent problem… This one pretty much has to stay optional. You can set up a subsystem to handle it for those players who want to experiment with it and add some flavor to things (like Create Relic in Eclipse and the Sample Relics in Eclipse II or the aforementioned Legendarium skill), and introduce the occasional unique artifact / plot element – but unless you run a game where magical devices are simply terribly rare, precious, and almost impossible to create, you won’t have time to customize everything.