Eclipse d20 – The Blue Mage

And for today, it’s a quick answer to a question…

I’m curious. You’ve done a lot of builds that would work for Final Fantasy,. but I can’t come up with a way to do the Blue Mage given that it’s pretty setting-specific. How would you do it?

-Editorial0

Well, the defining feature of a Blue Mage seems to be the ability to copy monster powers after being exposed to them – in d20 terms, being affected by an ability and either surviving it or being brought back.

It’s very hard to say what this covers. Unlike Final Fantasy, d20 doesn’t have a limited list of effects that you are only exposed to as you’re ready for them. Would this only cover Spells? Spells and Spell-Like Abilities? How about exotic powers that might be partially represented by spells or which could inspire a related spell effect?

Can you be “affected” by a dinosaur stepping on you and develop a “multi-ton stomp” ability?

I’m going to say “yes”. A Blue Mage COULD develop a multi-ton stomp effect after being stepped on. It would have to be a version that fit into an available open slot though; if all you had was a level one slot… you might get a version of the “Stomp” psionic power. If you had a third level slot open? You might get an 8d6 radius stomp that also knocked people down.

I’ll buy this ability as…

  • Charisma-Based 3.0 Psion Power Progression, Corrupted / learns specific powers inspired by effects that he or she is hit with, whether from a character or from an item. Turning any given ability into a Power requires a Psicraft or Spellcraft check at a DC of (10 + 2 x the level of the slot being filled). This ability may be used up to (Cha Mod + 1, 1 Minimum) times daily and may be used to “overwrite” currently filled slots if the power currently occupying a slot has not been used for at least a week (8 CP/Level).

Many of the various versions of the Blue Mage that I’ve just taken a quick look at give them some extra defenses against the list of powers they currently have copied. This can be bought as:

  • Improved Spell/Power Resistance (10 + Level), Specialized and Corrupted / only versus effects currently occupying your Power Slots (4 CP). This applies against spells and spell-like effects that are affected by Spell Resistance.
  • Damage Reduction 3/-, Specialized for Increased Effect (6/-), Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only versus effects currently filling your power slots. Thus, for example, if you have a slot filled with “hit opponent with big axe for a fair amount of damage”, you will be resistant to Axes. This applies to more-or-less conventional physical and energy attacks that do not offer saves. (4 CP).

This can be very handy to adapt on the fly. If you’re up against a swarm of goblins armed with swords… It may be worth putting Spiritual Weapon (Sword) in one of your slots and picking up DR 6/anything but swords. Sure, it’s pretty specialized – but you can always trade it out once it is no longer convenient.

  • Specialty Resistance +4, Specialized for Increased Effect (+8) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for non-spell or spell-like abilities which you currently have power slots filled with that do offer saves, such as – say – Drow sleep poison (4 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus, adds (Cha Mod) to (Dex Mod) for AC purposes, against supernatural effects that bypass Spell Resistance, and Saves by requiring a roll to hit, Corrupted/only versus effects currently occupying your power slots (4 CP).

That’s 24 CP at level one, and 8 CP per further level.

Other First Level Stuff:

  • Proficient with Simple and Rogue Weapons (6 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus: Adds (Cha Mod) to (Con Mod) for Hit Point Purposes for levels 1-6 (6 CP).
  • Fast Learner, Specialized in Skill Points for Double Effect (6 CP). Normally taken at L0 for +4 SP at level one and +2 SP/Level thereafter.
  • Occult Talent: 4 Level Zero Effects / Cantrips, One First Level Effect (Starting abilities, 6 CP). These are a permanent part of your repertoire – although, to be fair… probably not a particularly important one after the first few levels.

Later Abilities:

Each Level:

  • +1 level of their spell progression (8 CP)
  • +2 on Saves (6 CP)
  • +1 Skill Point (1 CP) (+3 with Fast Learner)
  • +1/2 BAB (3 CP)
  • +1 ability from below:

Optional Level-Based Abilities:

  • Aquamarine Panoply: Medium Armor Proficiency (6 CP). Prerequisite: Naval Blue.
  • Aquamarine Lore: Mystic Artist (Perform  skill of choice) with Echoes, Specialized for Reduced Cost, Corrupted for Increased Effect (Includes the Emotion ability (Inspiring Allies) as a bonus effect on top of whatever other inspiration ability is used) / only to use the inspiration abilities, the duration is only derived from the Echoes modifier. only to provide bonuses in combat against specified enemies (6 CP).
  • Azure Ward, Greater: Upgrade Fortune abilities to Improved Fortune, with the same conditions (+6 CP). Prerequisite: Azure Ward (Below).
  • Azure Ward: Fortune (All three varieties), Specialized and Corrupted / only works against effects in your current list of powers (6 CP).
  • Azure Memory (Level 3+): May summon a glowing blue ectoplasmic construct based on the creature from which he or she learned the ability occupying a current slot (Astral Construct, 3 CP), and Psionic Repair Damage (3 CP). Unlike a Blue Mages normal slot based abilities these may be augmented normally and these abilities become a permanent part of his or her repertoire.
  • Blue Of Steel (Level 3+): Channeling (+2 Power Required) version of Augmentable Astral Construct (3 CP), plus Augmentable Animal Affinity (3 CP). These effects become a permanent part of your repertoire, over and above your slots.
  • Blue Of The Deeps: Spell Formula (Level 5+): Dispel Magic/Psionics (2 CP), Conjurer’s Tricks (L3 variant, 1 Hour/Level, 2 CP), Wizards Pocket (L3 version, 2 CP). These become a permanent part of your repertoire, over and above your slots.
  • Bonus Feat (Four Maximum).
  • Cerulean Ward: Countermagic with Reflexive, Specialized for Reduced Cost and Corrupted for Increased Effect (can “counter” nonmagical effects) / only allows you to counter effects that you currently have occupying your power slots (6 CP). Thus, if you had “hit opponent with an axe” in a first level slot, you could counter someone hitting one of your friends with an axe. You have a “Volley of Arrows” effect? You can counter a Volley of Arrows – as well as things like Fireball, or Dragon’s Breath.
  • Cerulean Infusion (Level 7+): Spell Formula: Personal Eldritch Armor (L3, 2 CP), Personal Eldritch Weapon (L4, 2 CP), and Haste (L3, 2 CP). These effects become a permanent part of your repertoire, over and above your slots.
  • Cobalt Radiance: Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized in Saving Throws (6 CP).
  • Cyan Fortune: Luck with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only for Psicraft, Spellcraft, and Knowledge Checks (6 CP).
  • Eyes Of Violet: Occult Sense/Detect Magical Abilities: You can spend a round to get a list of the Supernatural Spell-Like, and Spell abilities of a single creature within 60′ (6 CP).
  • Naval Blue: Light Armor Proficiency with the Smooth Modifier (6 CP).
  • Strength Of Sapphire: Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (Level 13+): Continue adding (Cha Mod) to (Con Mod) for HP indefinitely (+6 CP).
  • Turquoise Durability: Improved Augmented Bonus (level 7+): Continue adding (Cha Mod) to (Con Mod) for HP through level 12 (+6 CP).
  • Ultramarine Rite: Absorbing Power: Rite of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized / only to restore Power, must have a source of power to tap into which will be temporarily depleted. Thus another character with Power could let you tap into it, a charged psionic item would lose charges, and a permanent psionic item would be temporarily nullified (6 CP).

This version of the Blue Mage isn’t outrageously optimized and (pretty much by definition) won’t normally have any of the overly-broken abilities since they generally aren’t deployed against the player characters. They generally won’t have much metamagic (or metapsionics) either – but their ability to rapidly adapt to changing situations and variable ability load-out should still keep them interesting in play.

Besides. Who can resist a chance to counterspell a volley of arrows?

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Nobilis and Eclipse – Estates, Persona, and Domain

“Estates” are one of the core concepts of Nobilis – and are entirely subjective, described by seven “points” worth of sentences, assigning more “points” to more central properties. Your estate could be Time, or Dragons, or Clockwork, or Pillows, or Cooking Programs, or Sid Mier’s Computer Games, or pretty much anything else. It really doesn’t matter what you call it, since it’s defined by those (usually four or five) sentences – not by external expectations. Are you a power of “Cold”? Perhaps…

  • (2) Cold isolates the heart, destroying an entities traits.
  • (2) Cold is an undisturbed void, rejecting reality through not caring.
  • (1) Cold is the death of self, with mind and body soon to follow.
  • (1) Cold is outside, always waiting to force its way in.
  • (1) Cold is eternal and timeless, while all else passes.

Or perhaps…

  • (3) Cold negates energy, for all ends in cold.
  • (1) Cold crystallizes, preserving what lies within.
  • (1) Cold allows things to function far beyond their limits.
  • (1) Cold opens the way for new beginnings.
  • (1) Cold lurks in the depths.

Or perhaps…

  • (2) Cold rides the winds everywhere, stealing heat and life.
  • (1) Cold kills, desiccates, and shatters.
  • (1) Cold is winter, the season of scarcity, famine, and death.
  • (2) Cold is ice, from the smallest snowflake to the greatest glacier.
  • (1) Cold isolates and entraps, preventing or forcing interaction.

The Nobilis book also gives a couple of other examples for “cold”.

  • (2) Cold freezes things.
  • (2) Cold makes things sick.
  • (1) Cold is melancholy.
  • (1) Cold descends.
  • (1) Cold is the snow and the ice and the dark.

Or:

  • (1) Cold slows things down.
  • (1) Cold chills the heart.
  • (3) Cold brings silence, stillness, and peace.
  • (2) Cold is driven to fill emptiness.

Or you could be a power of mathematics, necessity, finance and logic, and still call it “cold” (although altering the rules of logic is a REAL headache).

For that matter, you can be a power of Illogic or Acausality and make anything at all happen as long as it has no rational connection to whatever you did to cause it. You could also make A = Not-A – at which point nothing can be distinguished from anything else.

In any case, Domain and Persona give you powers based on your Estate – Domain focused on affecting objects and the environment and Persona focused on affecting creatures (including yourself). You get a bunch of minor stuff that you can always do and you get major stuff that you can do, but not at all often.

Of course, Nobilis then goes on to say that “The Power of Fire can make someone more fiery, or give them a dangerous feel, or make sure that now and again in life their plans will burn them.” – without talking about what Estate of Fire it’s referring to. What if the Fire Estate that’s currently in play is all about nuclear fusion, metabolism, explosions, and cooking?

I’m going to ignore that bit. D20 focuses a lot more on consistency.

Buying the Domain and Persona Attributes:

  • Both of them are 4d6 Mana, with Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, all Specialized and Corrupted / only for use Spell Enhancement, only for use with the “Shaping” ability below, only for effects targeting objects or the environment (Domain) or effects targeting creatures, including yourself. Rite of Chi, only recharges the specific mana pool it was purchased for and then only between sessions or when the game master opts to award a die (24 CP in total).

You’ll also need:

  • Dominion (Your Estate). This lets you draw power from administering, defending, and otherwise promoting your Estate, as well as allowing you to use it to influence large-scale events (6 CP).
  • Occult Sense/Estate. You can detect things related to your estate, whether that’s something affecting it on a large scale or its relationship to particular creatures. Note that – since you are the embodiment of your Estate – you can make perception rolls to figure out where attacks are coming from, even if they’re being launched by magic from another dimension. They are, after all, “things affecting your estate” (6 CP).
  • You can produce minor effects related to your estate. That’s Shaping, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Level 0 and 1 Effects) / only for effects related to your Estate. Note that this includes Destiny Spells related to your Estate, but they’re no more controllable than usual (6 CP).
    • This is also the foundation for higher-level Estate-related “Miracles”/Spells. Thanks to that “Increased Effect” modifier, 1 Mana will get you up to fourth level effects, two to seventh level effects, and three to tenth level effects. “Imperial Miracles” or Grandiose Edits can reach level 13, but pushing things that far generally leads to all kinds of backlash.

This is incredibly cheesy. Applying “Specialized For Increased Effect” to the Mana used in Spell Enhancement is pretty ridiculous. This sort of thing is only acceptable if EVERY major character is using equally horrible cheese. Fortunately, in a Nobilis styled setting… they all will be.

  • Adaption: Nobilis characters are avatars of their Estates, As such, they adapt to how their Estate fits into the local environment as a basic function of their Persona attribute. They will learn local languages within a few moments of their arrival, take on a suitable local guise (while remaining clearly themselves), and fit into their local role – whether that happens to be as one of the octopus people of an undersea dimension, a towering kaiju in a dreamworld of battling powers, the depths of space, or a mere exotic culture. Thus, if the game master decides to set a session in an exotic city or an alien dimension or something, Nobilis characters need not worry about “can they speak the local languages?” or “can they breathe the local air”.

    • This is an automatic self-polymorphing effect – a small part of their innate Estate-related Shaping – which is entirely under the game masters control (although a Noble may ask the game master to spend 1-3 of his or her Persona mana to trigger it – (lets say if they’re lost at sea with no boat and are about to drown). This will occasionally call for effects of well above level one, so this is they need to buy +1d6 (4) Mana that counts as part of the Persona Pool for recharging purposes, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost; controlled by the game master, only to power self-transformation spells to adapt the user to the local environment, has whatever effects that the GM thinks will be fun (2 CP).
  • You can become one with your Estate, either possessing an instance of it (wherever that is) or “communicating” with it. That’s Blessing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (Treats “your Estate” as a valid target, permits easy communication) / only to allow communication with the Estate and to get instances of it to act within their nature (for example, a gun might go off or misfire) or to fully transfer yourself into your Estate, leaving your body behind and undefended to possess and act through one or more instances of it (6 CP). Sadly, possessing more than one instance of your Estate at once requires an Immunity to disorientation to work effectively. Ergo, buy Immunity to the disorientation of spreading your “self” over massive areas (Uncommon, Minor, Major, 6 CP), allowing you to – for example – find which of the hordes thousand fires has the chieftains council going on around it.
  • You may take on an Affliction related to your Estate – or give one to someone else. That’s two instances of Double Enthusiast, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only to take on an Affliction related to your Estate (12 CP) plus Adaption (Specialized for Increased Effect / may spend 2 Mana to change the points around instantly, Corrupted for Reduced Cost (cannot change otherwise), only for your Estate-Related Afflictions, above, 2 CP), plus Blessing, Specialized and Corrupted / only to lend someone else an Affliction (2 CP).

Persona and Domain 4-5 are a problem; they’re where you can Create, Animate, Summon, Destroy, Adopt, or Cast Out (make something a part of your estate or not a part of your Estate, so that it transforms – although how is up to the game master). And while this is limited to a relatively small scale… unlimited Raise Dead, Create Undead, Slay Living, Animate Object, Summoning, and similar effects generally wreck the game.

The trick here is to recognize that such abilities aren’t really “unlimited” in Nobilis either; they may not have a base cost at this level – but trying to use your “Life” Estate powers to raise all the dead of a great battle will very shortly bring you into conflict with other powers. Nobilis conflicts expend resources to pump up your miracles very quickly too – so there won’t be many chances to use the free stuff there either. Finally, of course, the game master has a lot more input on what you get from any given attempt in Nobilis than in d20, where they’re basically just high level spells. That’s one reason why I’ve given the various Nobilis “Attributes” mana / “Miracle Point” pools of 4d6 instead of 5. They have some to spend on such effects, and so will get to use them about as often as they get to use them in Nobilis anyway. There’s no further cost here, since I’ve already included that.

That gives the equivalent of Domain and Persona 5 a total cost of 60 Character Points. Once again, that’s relatively cheap in d20 because most Nobilis “Miracles” are actually pretty straightforward in d20 terms. They may be high-level spells – but they’re just spells. D20 is a system where Raistlin – a mortal wizard – could challenge the entire pantheon of his world and destroy them all (OK, that was second edition, but the settings haven’t changed that much). In d20, power is a smooth scale; there isn’t any sharp division between “Mortal Magic” and “Divine Powers”.

Eclipse And Nobilis – Treasures

And for today it’s part of a question sequence – a follow-up on Nobilis Afflictions in Eclipse.

I assume that Domain and Persona would probably just be dweomer based spellcasting, but Aspect, Destiny and Treasure (especially the stuff that doesn’t easily fit into normal item creation) would be of interest.

-Jirachi

If something doesn’t fit into normal item creation, couldn’t you use “Create Artifact” for it? Maybe specialized and corrupted, depending on how restrictive it is/you want it to be.

-krackothunder

Somewhat? But there’s a couple of specific things that don’t have obvious translations to the create artifact system for complicated reasons.

-Jirachi

Well, lets consider Treasure in Nobilis.

Treasure is stuff that is linked to you, infused with your divine power and a part of your personal mythos – your panoply, associations, or what-have-you. You can treasure objects, memories, symbols, collections of stuff, and almost anything you can describe. As far as I can tell, Treasures can’t be destroyed without destroying YOU and they’re usually just presumed to be around somewhere when you want to use them (although there is a Treasure-4 effect that can summon them to you if, for some reason, they aren’t handy).

The trick here is that – in Nobilis – basic Treasures are channels for their owners powers much more than they are items with their own functions. At Treasure 3 you can have the equivalent of d20’s mid-level magic items as Treasures – Wings of Flying or some such – and you can have the equivalent of fairly major items at Treasure 5 – but their effects are still based on their owners “Treasure” trait. They can provide some small bonuses, but really only become effective on the Nobilis scale when you start channeling Miracle Points through them.

At Treasure-0 ordinary items and people that you bond to yourself as Treasures become – at your option – one of the best of their kind mundanely available and/or free of maintenance – as well as being mystically linked to you. So yes, if you really love your kid, but she’s sulky today, a passing thought can annihilate her balky body, mind, and soul and replace her with a wonderfully obedient, ideal, incredibly talented, straight-A student kid who won’t need to eat, sleep, or have a place to live. She’ll just be around when you want to play with your perfect little doll. Won’t that be wonderful?

Well, maybe we should leave kids out of this.

Lets think about a car instead. It won’t need gas, oil, or maintenance and it will perform like the best and fastest car around!

Wait a minute though. Everything in reality (and, with access to even a few other worlds, a lot of stuff that isn’t) is “mundane”, and can be obtained through mundane means if you happen to be visiting a world where it’s available.

  • So, just to stick with current-day Earth… if you and the game master happen to know about the vehicle siphon and waterproofing systems that let a car be driven underwater, you can presumably drive underwater.
  • How about the supersonic rocket drives for land speed record cars?
  • Did you know about amphibious cars that function as boats too?
  • How about the flying Aerocars? First built in the 1940’s!
  • Perhaps you’d prefer a Rinspeed sports car submarine?
  • Military vehicles cars often have mounted weapons and other gadgets. So do ambulance cars, even if their gadgets are a lot more peaceful. Executive limos often have some impressive armor plating and safety features. And then there are stunt cars and all the things you COULD put in a car, but generally don’t.

So what is your “mundane” car-treasure capable of or equipped with?

How would I know? That’s between you and whoever is game mastering your Nobilis game.

And there we see, once again, the basic problem with converting Nobilis to d20. D20 says “Ok, it’s called the Chalice Of Spring, what can it do?, How was it made, how hard is it to break, and how expensive is it?” while Nobilis says “Ok, you have the Chalice Of Spring, you can channel your power through it to do “Chalice of Spring” miracles – each likely a unique event.

In Nobilis the sword Severance could be used to win battles, sever fond memories from regrets, cut Death away from Life in a wounded character (leaving scars, but no wounds). It might make people get divorced, or seal gates, or make annoying kids no longer be related to their families.

To paraphrase Nobilis…

A Miracle-6 can declare that a Treasure uses its powers or abilities to create a definite outcome. Perhaps your sword wins the fight for you or you or your rocket car brings a new era of peace and prosperity to Mexico. The more absurd your choice of outcome, the longer it’s likely to take – but it WILL happen unless someone invokes an opposing miracle.

So how does that opposition work? Well, Nobilis is a diceless bidding system; you pick an attribute or special ability to use, possibly spend one or more “Miracle Points” to boost it, and compare the result to the difficulty. Given that the characters are all gods, that even a attribute of “0” is superior to a normal human (See: Heroic Scaling), and that the player characters all get a +3 on any mundane task (when a total of 2 indicates success) you generally don’t need to worry about any unopposed mundane action.

So lets take two Nobilis characters with Treasure II.

  • The Lizard Wizard happens to have a treasure described as “A legion of time-traveling cyberallosaur samurai with laser cannons. They do shadowruns.” Depending on where The Lizard Wizard picked them up, they might even be a Mundane Treasure. Nobody says that your treasures have to come from Earth.
  • Madame Olga has a Treasure she describes as “Incense Of Superlative Aromatherapy. It settles things down”.

Finding himself offended by the Chicago Museum Of Natural Histories exhibit that says that the Archosaurs are extinct, The Lizard Wizard decides that Chicago MUST BE DESTROYED!

Now, what level of miracle is required for this? It might not be any; after all, Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow (or possibly a neighbor with a pipe or similar minor accident) pretty much managed it once before. Having your minions set things on fire isn’t particularly outside the norm.

  • So The Lizard Wizard can send in the Saurian Legion (with its base rating of Miracle-2), to enforce his will and Chicago will be automatically destroyed (or at least set on fire) unless something else with miraculous powers intervenes. Mortals cannot oppose miracles!
  • But Madame Olga leans out her window and waves a fan, wafting the smoke from her Incense into the Saurian Legion to settle them down. They both are defaulting to Treasure II, and defender wins ties. So is Madame Olga defending? She is intervening on behalf of Chicago, but she’s doing it by trying to alter something else – but what she’s “altering” is negating an opposing miracle. Ergo, she’s defending, she wins, and the Saurian Legion mellows out and goes home. If the game master happens to feel otherwise though… well, Chicago is in trouble.
  • The Lizard Wizard, badly frustrated, blows his top and spends four Miracle Points to get to a level six Alter Destiny Treasure Miracle; Chicago shall be forever known as a place of monsters, reduced to a few ruined hovels that none save the beasts will ever dare inhabit again! The Saurian Legion goes back in time, to destroy Chicago before it ever gets beyond an Indian settlement! (Not that history is anything but a special effect in Nobilis).
  • If Madame Olga has four miracle points to spend, thinks that it is worth doing so, and fans harder… the smoke will go back in time, calm down the Saurian Legion once again, and Chicago will never have been in peril. If she does not, perhaps it is time to use her travel spell and move to New York City!

There are a few complications – mostly other traits that can come into play to provide free miracle points or to boost or diminish other miracles – and there might be other Nobilis involved, but that’s the essence of it.

Now, why mortals can’t oppose any of this when there are no laws of nature and thus their actions are also miracles (wouldn’t there being a distinction be a law of nature?) is a good question, but it’s the nature of Narrative games to ignore almost everyone except the major characters. Otherwise we’d be worried about the intervention of the hundreds or thousands of other major supernatural beings who might have an interest in Chicago, and the player characters wouldn’t be the primary focus any longer.

So Treasures are basically manifestations of the user, have a consistent Theme, and can produce all kinds of effects within that Theme when the user channels power through them. They aren’t necessarily individual objects, or creatures, or even physical.

Buying a “Treasure” attribute in Eclipse:

  • That’s 4d6 Mana, with Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, all Specialized and Corrupted/only for use with “Treasure” effects, no Natural Magic option, Rite of Chi only recharges this specific mana pool and only between sessions or when the game master opts to award a die (12 CP).

Buying Treasures in Eclipse:

  • Mundane Treasures are normal things that get souped up. For this you want some Rune Magic (Specified Treasure, such as Cars), Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / only for that particular treasure at (3 + Att Mod) x 3 (6 CP). This will let you summon, repair, and boost beyond all reason, mundane treasures of the appropriate type.
  • Followers and Allies and such get are bought as Leadership or Companion with various modifiers, all Specialized / you have to spend Mana to get them to do anything important for you (6 CP).
  • Symbolic Treasures – where a particular symbol or set of symbols acts as channels for your power and senses – can be purchased as Immunity/The Distinction Between the Symbol and You (Uncommon, Major, Great, Specialized / must expend 2 Mana to activate with respect to specific instances of the symbol) (6 CP).
  • A collection of minor devices (Charms and Talismans from The Practical Enchanter) can be purchased as: Shaping, Corrupted and Specialized for increased (level one and possibly weak level two) effects/can only produce the effects for which the user has the appropriate foci ready, can only support a limited number (seven and three) of minor charms and more notable talismans at one time, charms and talismans take some time to attune for use (6 CP). Another option that doesn’t cost Mana, since they’re pretty minor by d20 standards even in less-magical worlds.
  • Powerful Magical Devices are usually purchased as a Create Relic package: Create Relic, Specialized and Corrupted/only for making a particular four-point Relic or four-point collection of lesser Relics (2 CP), plus Double Enthusiast, Specialized for Increased Effect and corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for making those particular relics (4 CP) – for a grand total of (6 CP). They don’t usually require Mana, since they’re associated with a very high Treasure rating anyway.
  • Labs and such can be purchased as “Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys” from The Golden Ones sample powers list. These can allow you to have a collection of minor items to use on your adventures.
  • For a collection of more-or-less “normal” d20 magical devices, buy Natural Magic / Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only for Reality Editing, only to summon, repair, or briefly boost up your normal wealth-by-level equipment (6 CP). Now you have a full-scale panoply of stuff – at least once you’re of a high enough level.
  • Mysterious Devices – like the sword Severance, or the Chalice Of Spring, or the Remote Control Of The Machine God or The Flying Dutchman’s Phantom Pirate Ship – are purchased as Natural Magic / Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only for Reality Editing, only to produce effects within a specific theme (6 CP). This can produce some pretty impressive miracles at times – but not very often.
  • For a mess of Technological Tools and Gear, purchase Innate Enchantment (5000 GP = 100,000 Dollars or Credits worth of d20 Modern / Future equipment) for (6 CP) and supply yourself with gear that simply appears when you need it and disappears otherwise.
  • If you just want Money, buy a Stipend or Privilege/Landlord. In either case, this basically defines you as being rich, having a nice lifestyle, and so on (6 CP).

There are other abilities that could be fitted into this category, but that should cover most things.

Thus a Nobilis character with Treasure-5 would have perhaps a eight to ten Treasures and the basic Treasure Attribute – for a total of 60 to 72 CP. Expensive, but Treasure-5 represents 60% of their available points for attributes.

And I hope that helps!

D20, Ninja, and Eclipse, Part II – the Complete Adventurer and Pathfinder Ninjas

And to continue our look at building Ninja through the years – and on how to upgrade the various variants to current standards here are the next few types of Ninja. And if you missed Part I (the Rokugan and Mystic Eye Ninjas) they’re HERE.

The next major Ninja class was The Complete Adventurer Ninja (2005). They were a rather hesitant attempt to make “Ninja” mean something more than “slightly refluffed Rogue or Rogue Multiclass” in baseline d20. Unfortunately, the writers were – once again – pretty shy about giving non-spellcasters all that much in the way of exotic powers, so this version of the Ninja wound up with some rather weak “Ki Powers” that could only be used a few times a day – not even really up to “a ninja always has another trick to pull” standard of most fictional ninja and some actual ninja. They got…

  • D6 HD (40 CP). What a rogue got, and functional enough in those days of less-optimized damage levels.
  • 138 SP (138 CP or – with a modern build using Adept and Fast Learner – 58 CP)
  • +15 BAB (90 CP).
  • +24 to Saves (72 CP).
  • Proficiency with all Simple and Ninja Weapons (9 CP)
  • Defender, Corrupted/only when unarmored and unencumbered (4 CP). This helped to make up for the lack of armor a bit.
  • Advanced Augmented Bonus (Adds Int Mod to AC), Corrupted/only when unarmored and unencumbered (8 CP). Another – and much earlier-into-play boost to AC. You’d still need some Bracers Of Armor though.

The Ninjas original Ki Powers were Ghost Step (L2, Invisibility for a round. You can become Ethereal for a round instead at L10), Ki Dodge (L6, one round of 20% miss chance), Ghost Strike (L8, Strike to and from the Ethereal Plane for one attack), Greater Ki Dodge (L18, 50% miss chance for a round), and Ghost Walk (L20, as per Ethereal Jaunt, 2 Ki) and a Ki Pool of (Ninja Level / 2 + Wis Mod) points. This version provides more powers, and a much wider selection of powers, because, honestly, the original set wasn’t very good for something that was a defining feature of the class and because building a power set that limited is actually a lot more trouble than setting up a worthwhile power set. Eclipse wasn’t designed to build useless abilities. This version also isn’t reliant on Wisdom, so it reduces the multiple-attribute-dependency problem.

  • Ki Pool: 4d6 Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect/only for use with quick (Swift or Immediate action) Reality Edits. Edits are divided into Minor (1 Mana, available at level 2+), Notable (1 Mana, available at level 6+), Major (2 Mana, available at level 14+), and Grandiose (4 Mana, available at level 25+ IF the game master is willing to put up with them) edits; the user is limited to a maximum of (level / 2 (increasing as the character levels up), rounded up) specific edits with his or her first purchase of Reality Editing and to half that (level / 4, also increasing as the character levels up) number of additional edits for each additional purchase. Edits are fixed once approved by the game master unless the user wishes to spend a lot of time on retraining or something. Will Save DC’s are 12/14/16/18 + Dex Mod (for fine control) for Minor/Notable/Major/Grandiose edits and all edits are considered Extraordinary Abilities (24 CP).

Minor edits usually approximate first or minor second level effects. Possible minor edits include (but are not limited to):

  • Blazing Stars: As per the Fire Shuriken (Spell Compendium) spell.
  • Breath Control: As per Resist Energy (SRD) for 2d4 minutes.
  • Dance Of Wings: Add +30 to all your current movement rates for 2d4 minutes.
  • Face Dancer: As per Disguise Self (SRD) for 2d4 minutes.
  • Grace Of The Kami: Move at normal speeds when using Acrobatics, Balance, Climb, or Move Silently without penalty for 2d4 minutes.
  • Jujitsu: Make an immediate Escape Artist check with a +30 bonus. You may attempt to “escape” Paralysis or similar situations, but at DC 50.
  • Ki Strike: Gain a +10 Insight bonus to an Attack and +(Level) Insight bonus on it’s damage.
  • Light Foot: You make take 20 on Acrobatics/Hide/Move Silently checks and always land safely after falling or being thrown for 2d4 rounds.
  • Mongoose Fist: Make an extra attack as an immediate action OR make two extra attacks as part of a full attack action.
  • Phantom Blade: Make one attack into a sneak attack, even if it normally would not be.
  • Qigung: Get a +5 bonus on a save if triggered before rolling or reroll a save if used afterwards.
  • Smoke Bellows: Generate a 30′ radius cloud of dense smoke centered up to 30′ away. It lasts for 2d4 rounds.
  • Tongue Of Kanji: Cast a spell without it’s normally-required somatic component.
  • Vanishing: Become invisible and leave no trail for 2d4 Rounds, although Attacking will negate the invisibility part as usual.
  • Wind Stride: As per Air Step (Pathfinder) for 2d4 Minutes.

Notable edits usually approximate second or third level effects. Possible notable edits include (but are not limited to):

  • Alchemic Bomb: Turn a dose of an alchemical substance or poison that you are carrying into a full-effect 20′ radius burst within medium range. At level 12+ you can use two doses to create two bursts that may, but need not, overlap, and at 25+ three. The “doses” do not all have to be the same substance if you are using multiple doses.
  • Alchemic Synthesis: Produces 100 GP worth of alchemical creations or poisons. While these are obviously crude and unsalable, and become inert within twenty-four hours, they are effective if used within that time. At level 12+ the user may spend a second Ki Point on this to provide either a +2 DC on created poisons or saves on alchemical creations or to double the effect of an alchemical creation.
  • Dancing Shadows: Mirror Image (SRD) for 2d4 Rounds.
  • Dispelling Strike: Add the effects of Dispel Magic (using your level as the caster level to a maximum of +10) to a physical attack.
  • Displacement: Attacks on you suffer a 50% miss chance for 2d4 rounds.
  • Expulsion: As per Neutralize Poison (SRD).
  • Find The Gap: As per the spell (Spell Compendium) for 2d4 Rounds.
  • Ghost Strike: The user mays see and strike to and from the Ethereal Plane for two rounds.
  • Golden Armor: Gain DR 6/- for 2d4 minutes.
  • Haunting Shadow: As per Phantom Foe (Spell Compendium) for 2d4 Rounds.
  • Healing Mudra: Personal-Only Cure Serious Wounds (SRD).
  • Ki Imbuement: As per Greater Magic Weapon (SRD) for 2d4 minutes, although it may also be applied to the user’s natural weapons, fists, or other “unarmed” martial arts attacks,
  • Lizard Walk: Full-speed wall-walking for 2d4 rounds.
  • Spellblade: You may make an immediate attack with a melee weapon to deliver any Touch spell that you just cast in place of the usual immediate touch attack that such spells provide.
  • Vital Strike: Trade dice of sneak attack damage for points of attribute damage with an attack. You may damage any attribute that you please.

Major edits usually approximate fourth or fifth level effects. Possible major edits include (but are not limited to):

  • Beast Jitsu: As per Bite of the Werewolf or Wereboar (Both Spell Compendium), lasting 2d4 Minutes.
  • Cloud Mind: As per Modify Memory (SRD).
  • Death Strike: Add the effects of Slay Living (SRD) to a physical attack. (Some Ninja use Enervation (SRD) instead).
  • Demon Ki Projection: As per Shadow Conjuration (SRD).
  • Doom Shuriken, as per Fire Seeds (SRD), but using shuriken for either function.
  • Dragon’s Breath: As per the Spell (Pathfinder).
  • Forge Of Ki: As per Greater Magic Weapon (SRD) for 2d4 minutes, but you may invest some or all of the “plusses” in special magic weapon functions. This effect may also be applied to the user’s fists, natural weapons, or martial arts attacks.
  • Freedom Of Movement: as the spell (SRD) for 2d4 minutes.
  • Ghost Step: Become Ethereal for 2d4 rounds.
  • Phantom Ways: as per Dimension Door (SRD).
  • Shadow Clones: Greater Mirror Image (Player’s Handbook II) for 2d4 minutes.
  • Shadow Form: as the spell (Spell Compendium) for 2d4 minutes.
  • Sniper: The user may make sneak attacks at any range for 2d4 rounds.
  • Spectral Mind: Personal Mind Blank (SRD) for twenty-four hours.
  • Unity of Mirage: Gain Greater Invisibility (SRD) for 2d4 minutes.

Grandiose edits usually approximate sixth to seventh level effects. They do, however, tend to be unique to each epic ninja, so I won’t be providing a sample list.

  • Evasive (Reality Editing, 3 CP). Using their Ki powers does not provoke attacks of opportunity.
  • Rite Of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/onl to restore the “Ki” pool above, requires a nights rest) (6 CP). This is more than is needed, but that does make it easy to make their pool bigger.
  • Augmented Attack (Sudden Strike, A.K.A. Sneak Attack, 10d6, 30 CP).
  • Trapfinding (No cost in Eclipse: Skills work the same way for everyone).
  • Resistance/+2 to Will Saves, Corrupted/only as long as Mana is available (4 CP).
  • Poison Use (6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (5000 GP Value), Corrupted/only while unarmored and unencumbered (4 CP). All effects Spell Level 1/2 or 1, Caster Level One, Unlimited-Use Use-Activated for a base of 1000 or 2000 GP each.
    • Monkey Fish (Pathfinder) (2000 GP, gain Climb and Swim Speeds of 10)
    • Personal Haste (The Practical Enchanter) ( x.7, only to increase movement speeds by +30 (Enhancement), 1400 GP)
    • Apply Venom (Original, L0, safely applies carried poison to a weapon as a swift action, 1000 GP)
    • Acrobatic Master (The Practical Enchanter, L0 Skill Mastery / Tumble (Acrobatics in Pathfinder), +6 Enhancement Bonus, Personal-Only, 700 GP).

This little package gives them a +8 to Climb and Swim checks, with base speeds of 40 for both, 60 ground movement as a base (adding +12 to Jump or – in Pathfinder – to Acrobatics rolls made to Jump), and +6 Enhancement to Tumble (3.5) or Acrobatics (Pathfinder). That’s extremely efficient, but Innate Enchantment usually is – which is why it’s usually limited to 12 CP worth in total for any given character.

  • Great Leap (Immunity/Having to Run before Leaping, Uncommon, Minor, Minor, Corrupted / only while unarmored and unencumbered, 2 CP).
  • Fortune (Evasion Variant), Corrupted / only while unarmored and unencumbered, 4 CP).
  • Ghost Mind / Cloaking, Specialized and Corrupted / only versus spells of the Scrying Subschool, allows a caster level check of DC (20 + Ninja’s Level) to overcome it, otherwise the Ninja is not seen / detected.
  • Occult Sense / See Invisible and Ethereal things (6 CP).

This comes out to a total of 452 CP as a classical build or 372 CP as a modern one – and is still a notable improvement over the original design since that’s with the rewritten Ki powers and uses Innate Enchantment rather than buying the various minor boosts individually. The original 3.0 and 3.5 Fighter used 452 of their available 504 CP – so we should expect the Complete Adventurer Ninja to be just a bit more effective than they are since I used a couple of more efficient options in their design. So why does this class still fall behind? It’s most likely a result of the older tendency to evaluate combat-focused characters against the Fighter and to overrate Skill Points. Basic 3.0 and 3.5 Fighters simply are not that impressive, and skills have greatly devalued over the years – leaving the Complete Adventurer Ninja well behind the curve.

And, according to the rather extensive discussions underlying the Tier System, it is indeed down in Tier 5 with the Fighter, Monk, Healer, Soulknife, and Expert. Still, with either 52 or 132 CP left over, it’s easy enough to upgrade them considerably. You just have to go ahead and spend those points.

  • First off, upgrade the Rite Of Chi to get rid of the “requires a nights rest” corruption. That’s only (3 CP) – and another +16 bonus uses is only (12 CP). 25d6 worth of “Ki Points” (plus the basic recovery rate of one per night) daily will let them pull off a LOT more tricks.
  • Buying more powers is also in order – so another two incidences of Reality Editing (basically increasing their allotment of Ki powers to one power per level) will be very handy (12 CP).
  • Finally, another 2d6 Mana will help make sure that they don’t run out – and is only another (12 CP).

That’s only 39 CP – leaving enough room for a couple of bonus feats, even for the “basic” build, and will let a Ninja use a selection of swift and immediate action Ki powers in every fight. That makes them fast and tricky, which seems pretty appropriate. Throw in a decent Martial Art or two and you should be all right. For those two extra feats? Improved Initiative and Luck with +4 Bonus Uses Specialized in Attacks. That way, when you really need to hit, you can be sure that you will.

For a modern build, you’ll still have 93 points left over even after that C’hi upgrade. That’s quite a lot really – enough for fifteen levels of the Wilder or Psychic Warrior progressions (both at 90 CP), or becoming a skill-based Partial Caster (usually about 80 CP), or throwing in a Template or two. Go ahead. Be an Advanced Pulp Hero Ninja or an Ancient One Ninja (both 64 CP), or a Ninja Master Of Stars (58 CP), or even a Ninja Space Marine (63 CP) or Ninja Lycanthrope (from the basic Eclipse book, 64+ CP depending on what extras you buy).

  • If you’d prefer more combat power… buy off those “only while unarmored and unencumbered” corruptions (10 CP) and pick up some light armor with the “Smooth” modifier (6 CP). Get your BAB up to +20 (30 CP), use Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (18 CP) to add your (Dex Mod) to your (Con Mod) for Hit Point purposes, and throw in five more combat-style feats (30 CP). OK, that’s 94 CP and you’ll have to drop a skill point – but it will work just fine.
  • If you want a full-out Spellcaster-Ninja, you might want to take the Entreaty Magic package (88 CP). It’s nicely flexible, and full of unexpected tricks, while holding down the total amount of magic available to keep it as a secondary focus.

All in all, any of those approaches should get this version of the Ninja firmly up into Tier 3 or so – and make them a great deal more entertaining to play.

Finally, we have the Current Pathfinder Ninja.

Pathfinder gave the Ninja the standard Pathfinder upgrades of +2 Skill Points per level and larger hit dice, but otherwise only gave the Ninja the usual slight overhaul. Their Ninja get…

  • d8 HD (80 CP).
  • 8 SP/Level (160 CP, presume Fast Learner and Adept for 80+12 CP).
  • +15 BAB (90 CP).
  • +24 Saves (72 CP).
  • Sneak Attack 10d6 (30 CP).
  • Proficiency with Ninja Weapons and Light Armor (12 CP).
  • Poison Use (6 CP)
  • 5d6 Mana as a Ki Pool (As per the Complete Adventurer Ninja above) (30 CP) This gets an extra die worth of Mana because a couple of minor abilities have been folded into the Ki abilities – and so a few extra points are needed to pay for using them on occasion.
  • Rite of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, only to restore chi pool, requires a nights rest, 6 CP)
  • Reality Editing: Gains an extra edit at levels 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, and so on (6 CP).
  • Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted / provides only three minor swift action tricks for 1 Mana each (2 CP):
    • +1 Attack at Full BAB,
    • +20 Move for a round
    • +4 Insight Bonus to Stealth Checks for 1 Round.
  • Evasive (Reality Editing, 3 CP). Using their Ki powers does not provoke attacks of opportunity.
  • Immunity/Being Found or Recognized. Very Common, Minor, Major, Corrupted / not versus scrying or when you’re not making an effort to remain undiscovered (8 CP). This provides a +6 to Disguise and Stealth checks and a +6 on the DC of tracking the Ninja. Secondarily, it prevents spells such as Invisibility Purge, See Invisibility, and True Sight, from automatically revealing the user when he or she is invisible; the user must make a perception check against the ninja’s stealth skill to detect him or her even with such assistance. Similarly, the user can effectively use Stealth against Blindsense, Tremorsense, Scent, and similar unusual senses.
  • Awareness and Flankless (Specialized/Does not function against opponents with a four-level or better advantage over you) (9 CP).
  • Trapfinding (No cost in Eclipse: Skills work the same way for everyone).

That does simplify a couple of things from the original build – but it also somewhat expands the Ninja’s Ki Powers and gives them a slightly larger Ki pool, which is quite close enough.

Given that we’re well out of the “classical” era from before skills were devalued here, we need no longer consider anything but the “modern” build (using Fast Learner and Adept to make skills cheaper) – so this comes to a total of 446 CP – leaving 58 CP left over even with the minor upgrade to their Ki powers I’ve added to save time and avoid having to list individual “ninja tricks”. That’s not nearly as bad as many of it’s predecessor ninja classes, but it’s not very good either; it’s part of why the Pathfinder Ninja is still down on Tier 4 (with occasional arguments for Tier 3 or Tier 5) in the Pathfinder Tier Lists. Their tricks are rather neat, but they simply do not get enough of them – both in terms of the number of different tricks available and in terms of the number of times they can afford to use them.

If you just want to stick with the basics you can use the same approach as with The Complete Adventurer Ninja.

  • Upgrade the Rite Of Chi to get rid of the “requires a nights rest” corruption for ( 3 CP) and add another +16 bonus uses for (12 CP). With the ability to recover an average of 87.5 “ki” per day in minutes rather than 10-16 overnight, your ninja can now afford to use a Ki Power – all of which can be used as Swift or Immediate actions – in pretty much every round of every fight.
  • Add another incidence of Reality Editing (6 CP) to boost their allotment of Ki powers to one power per level. That gives them a pretty good selection of tricks to use.
  • Add another 1d6 Mana (6 CP) to get their average base Ki pool up to 21 points. That should be enough for any long fights.

That’s only 27 CP, leaving 31 – enough for a couple of bonus feats and a nice set of Martial Stances. A Ninja using the Call Of The Wyld Style – perhaps taking Kitsune Tricks, Panther Silent Prowls, Perfidious Rat Strikes, and Striking Serpent Coils for 4 CP each – will suddenly be a lot more dangerous in combat.

That should put this version of the Ninja firmly into Tier 3.

If you want to get into a real power build for any of these four versions of the Ninja, you’ll want to throw in:

  • Duties – perhaps to a particular clan or village – for +40 CP. This is where Clerics, Druids, and Paladin-types get some extra points – and ninja generally weren’t independent wandering rogues. They were working members of clans and undertook missions. Go ahead. Admit that you have allies, mentors, an organization to provide you with some backing and information, and a reason to go adventuring beyond “wealth and power”, and get character points for it. Admitting that you have ties to the rest of the universe is NOT a weakness.
  • Buy Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (Adds Dex Mod to Con Mod when calculating hit points, 18 CP). This particular trick is in the system for the same reason that Adept and Fast Learner are; just as Skills have been devalued over the years, so have Hit Points. So this allows you to take a smaller hit die and still have plenty of hit points – giving the martial types a nice boost since dropping from – say – a d10 to a d8, or a d8 to a d6, or a d6 to a d4, saves them 22 CP over twenty levels. Dropping two steps saves 62 CP over those same twenty levels – and really, at (say) Con 16 and Dex 18… (1d4+7) averages 9.5 per die, while (1d8+3) only averages 7.5 per die. You can even Specialize and Corrupt it (“only applies to levels 1-4″ perhaps?) to save points at lower levels and buy off those limitations as you go up in level.
  • You might be able to apply a Restriction – perhaps you will never use non-ninja weapons or armor no matter how tempting (No Celestial Armor at higher levels for you!) and get +20 CP out of it at +1 CP/Level.

Squeezing in an extra 120 CP is enough to buy any one of…

  • 15 levels of Bard, Cleric, Druid, or Classical Illusionist casting. You won’t get the secondary features – but you can easily spend a few Feats to push up to getting those ninth level spells with Clerical and Druidic casting.
  • 20 levels of Adept, Psychic Warrior, or Wilder Casting. Go ahead; use a feat or two to throw in an augmentable version of Summon Monster instead of Summon Astral Construct and call up your own goon squads for backup.
  • Tbe Bokor (Binder) Package at about 60 CP. That still leaves room for – say – getting the BAB up to +20 (+30 CP) and five extra Feats (30 CP).
  • The Entreaty (87 CP) Magic Package and perhaps 30 CP worth of magic-absorbing or negating powers. Or you could get some Mana and Spell Enhancement to let you power your way up to casting the occasional ninth-level spell.
  • Twenty extra Feats at 6 CP each. For example…
    • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses Specialized in Saving Throws (6 CP) lets you automatically make five saves of your choice each day. Or perhaps it’s only for attacks, or skill checks? Automatic success under pressure can be very nice indeed.
    • Some innate enchantment? That little package from the Complete Adventurer ninja made them a LOT more mobile.
    • Reflex Training, to take occasional extra actions when you really need them.
    • Action Hero (Stunts)? The ability to pull out a trick you’ve never used before (and might never use again) every so often is often a lifesaver.
    • Some Path Of The Dragon to allow you to absorb incoming spells and turn the power in them to your own uses.
    • Mystic Artist? Bardic-style powers can be quite handy, and getting started is pretty cheap.
    • Berserker? Spell Resistance? Some Enthusiast and a Specialized version of Create Relic to let you make your own magical gear? A Stipend? There are many thousands of other possibilities.

While the Tier system is a lot less meaningful once you start using Eclipse to build unique characters and erase most of the division between “Full”, “Partial”, “Half”, and “Non” -casters in favor of a continuous spectrum of “who relies more on what”, this sort of thing will let a mystically-inclined Ninja power-build his or her way up into Tier 1. Personally I don’t really advise pushing things that far – more limited characters tend to be more interesting to play – but Eclipse was designed to let people build the characters that they want.

Next time around on this topic it will be a a look at building your own Eclipse-style Ninja, rather than using an older classed version as a base.

D20, Ninja, and Eclipse, Part I – the Rokugan and Mystic Eye Ninjas

For today, it’s part one of “how to build a ninja, with particular reference to some of the past “ninja” classes” – another offline query.

The first official Ninja for d20 was the classical Oriental Adventures Rokugan Ninja (3.0, from 2001). D20 Rokugan got quite a lot of stuff published for it, but it never really took off. After all, most of the people who wanted to adventure in Rokugan, and deal with it’s deadly political and social mazes, were already playing Legend of the Five Rings and didn’t really need a d20 version.

It looked like this:

  • D6 HD (40 CP).
  • +20 BAB (120 CP).
  • Saves +24 (72 CP).
  • 4 SP/Level (92 CP originally, current builds take Fast Learner Specialized in Skills and Adept, 12 CP).
  • Proficient with All Simple and Ninja Weapons (9 CP).
  • Augment Attack – 10d6 Sneak Attack (30 CP).
  • Defender with +1 AC Bonus/Specialized/the bonus must be divided between attackers each turn (6 CP). (Honestly, a little armor is better).
  • Poison Use (6 CP).
  • Awareness with Flankless (12 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus (Adds Int Mod to Dex Mod for Initiative Checks, 6 CP)
  • +30 Movement/Corrupted for Increased Effect (also applies to any other movement modes you happen to pick up, but limited to +5 x Con Mod, 12 CP).
  • Blind-Fight (6 CP).
  • Block (Missiles, 6 CP)

That’s 423 CP for a purely classical build, but only 343 CP as a modern (using Adept and Fast Learner to deal with the devaluation of Skill Points) build – out of the 504 CP a twentieth level character normally gets.

Honestly, that is a spectacularly poor build, placing even below the basic 3.0 fighter in terms of spending it’s points. All it’s really got going for it is full BAB and Sneak Attack, which is why it’s down on Tier 5. Still, it wouldn’t make a bad basis for a partial, or even (throwing in a few limitations and a modern build) a full caster build. An extra 81 to 161 character points leaves plenty of room for that even before throwing in feats and other boosts. For example, figuring on a “modern” build…

You could make a Hexcrafter, and appear from the shadows to shift the tide of battle with a well-chosen invocation of your dark and mysterious powers. Throw in:

  • Twenty-one (to get access to epic effects) Specialized Caster Levels (63 CP).
  • Nine Spell Cards (72 CP)
  • And seven Free Invocations (21 CP).

A decent casting attribute – most likely Intelligence as you’re going to need skill points – can get you a couple more Spell Cards, so this revised build winds up as a fair rogue-style fighter with per-session access to seven freeform spells of up to level six (from Free Invocations) and ten or eleven spells of up to level nine – with an option to sacrifice three of those level nine effects to jump up to epic magic. You won’t get nearly as many spells as a classical Wizard or Sorcerer, but with freeform magic you can tailor your spells as precisely as you need to – so what you’re aiming for is to never need more than one in any given situation.

Or you could buy…

  • Twenty levels of Bard or Druid spellcasting (160 CP). A simple and powerful option, Twenty levels of Psychic Warrior is only 120 CP, but is probably worth considering here – and would leave you with 40 CP to spend elsewhere anyway.
  • Full access to both Assassin and Ranger spellcasting (20 Corrupted Caster Levels for 80 CP and two sets of Paladin / Ranger Spellcasting, 40 CP each). They won’t be that powerful, but you will have quite a lot of spells to cast.
  • The Bokor Package. Since this is only about 60 CP it’s suitable for even a classical build. In a modern build… it leaves room for another entire package.
  • The Classical Illusionist package. That’s about 160 CP depending on the options you take – and it’s very thematic. An excellent option. Not the most powerful casting package, but incredibly versatile.
  • The Entreaty Magic Package (87 CP), allowing you to mix some comic-book style sorcery into your stealth. A powerful option if you’ve got the Charisma to pull it off. /
  • The Nymic Magic Package (54 CP for the Casting, 69 CP for Specialized Caster Levels, and 36 CP on another 6 feats to boost it). This is fast and versatile, but calls for some extensive investment in knowledge skills. Still, if you want to be a magical know-it-all…
  • Skill-Based Partial Casting. This is a rather limited spellcasting package, and calls for some investment of skill points, but allows an enormous number of variations at assorted costs.

Of you could buy plenty of other stuff. Eighty one or (especially!) a hundred and sixty points is enough to pay for quite a lot of goodies.

The Rokugan Ninja failed because it was – ultimately – an inferior rogue with a mild case of multiple attribute dependency thrown in just to make things worse. To add to the problem they got very little prestige class, feat, or equipment support. And even where they outshone the rogue (BAB), a rogue with a dip or two – Monk, or Ranger, or perhaps (later on) Beguiler – made a better “Ninja” then a Rokugan Ninja anyway.

The primary reason for that was simply that Rokugan was a much more “realistic” setting than d20 was really designed for, with a heavy emphasis on social interaction and politics instead of dungeon crawls and loot. So it’s ninja were based on real-world ninja – in d20 terms reasonably clever and well-trained rogue-style characters of levels 1-3 with no magic. They were characters who might play message-runner between two warlords for months in hopes of getting some information on their plans, or try to stealthily slip poison into someone’s food. They definitely were not one-man armies empowered by TV Tropes.

Not too surprisingly, the result would fit in with a “Wizard” based on Oz, the Great And Powerful (and his sleight of hand and minor stage tricks), a “Cleric” who performed ceremonies, offered wise advice, and had various social benefits, and a “Fighter” based on any generic special-forces type you would care to pick – but high-level d20 fighters can readily tank one-megaton city-killer bombs (16d8 damage per d20 Future), With the right options (a way to get a save and Evasion) they may even be able to shrug off a direct hit with no damage. Similarly, d20 has (quite manageable) Fortitude Saves and Neutralize Poison spells. It has magical guard-beasts and enhanced senses that can easily penetrate Stealth. It has telepathy and magical messaging. It has Scrying and Commune.

It was like having James Bond team up with Iron Man, the Mighty Thor, Doctor Strange, and The Black Widow to battle some power-armor cultist goons and a couple of shoggoths while the dread Elder Ones attempt to force their way into the world to destroy humanity. Sure, Bond can try to set up a trap or crash a vehicle into the monsters – but that doesn’t have much to do with HIS abilities and it will be a lot of time and effort spent on the equivalent of one shot from most of the others involved.

It’s much more likely that he’s going to take Nick Fury’s role and provide the mission briefing and exposition – and even THAT is only by author fiat, since any of the other characters could get the information. There’s Iron Man’s many contacts and computer expertise. Thor could get the word from Odin, or Heimdall, or just get called in. Strange could look into the Orb of Agamotto -and the Black Widow has at least as many contacts and sources as Bond does.

You could drop Bond from this story without any real effect – and the same went for the Rokugan Ninja in most d20 games.

Next up (well, after a thousand homebrews and with a pack of less notable versions), we have the Player’s Advantage: Rogue Ninja (Mystic Eye Games, 2004). This one was a partial caster, and it looked like this:

  • d6 HD (40 CP).
  • 8 SP/Level (184 CP, for a modern build presume Fast Learner and Adept for 92+12 CP).
  • +15 BAB (90 CP).
  • +24 Saves (72 CP).
  • Fast Movement (+10, 6 CP).
  • Martial Arts (1d6 lethal or nonlethal “unarmed” damage, always considered armed, 9 CP).
  • Poison Use (6 CP)
  • Awareness with Flankless (12 CP).
  • Evasion (6 CP)
  • 10d6 Sneak Attack (30 CP)
  • 17 Levels of Spontaneous Style Ranger/Paladin Spellcasting (34 CP) with 10 Specialized Caster Levels (30 CP). The available spells include:
  • 1st Level: Disguise Self, Detect Poison, Feather Fall, Ghost Sound, Jump, Obscuring Mist, Sleep, True Strike.
  • 2nd Level: Alter Self, Backstab, Cat’s Grace, Darkness, Fox’s Cunning, Illusory Script, Invisibility, Pass Without Trace, Spider Climb, Undetectable Alignment.
  • 3rd Level: Deep Slumber, Deeper Darkness, False Life, Magic Circle Against Good, Misdirection, Nondetection.
  • 4th Level: Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Dimension Door, Freedom of Movement, Glibness, Greater Invisibility, Locate Creature, Modify Memory, Poison.
  • Personally, I’d at least open this up to anything on the Assassin spell list as well. It might well have been if there had been much further support for the class.
  • Proficient with All Simple and Ninja Weapons (9 CP).
  • Proficient with Light Armor with the Smooth modifier (6 CP)

That’s a total of 534 CP – or only 500 with either Adept OR Fast Learner, or 454 CP as a modern build with both.

The build suffers from “monk syndrome” – having a bunch of not-particularly well organized individual powers thrown together with little focus or synergy between them – but it’s not too bad. If you need a stealthy type, this Ninja will do – but they don’t have a lot to offer elsewhere. I’d peg them around Tier 4, with the basic Rogue.

What to do with the other 50+ points in a modern-style build? Well, you could upgrade with a second set of minor spells (+10 CP to get the Caster Levels to “Corrupted” so they can cover multiple forms of minor magic, +34 CP for another seventeen levels of a minor progression – perhaps Alchemical Magic – and throw in a bonus feat), or upgrade their basic spellcasting package to a full Psychic Warrior or Wilder casting package.

Personally I’d probably go with the Psychic Warrior package. A couple of tweaks here and there and that would give you the full “mystic ninja” routine, make you more effective in a fight, and give you some additional options out of combat.

This version of the Ninja provided a (much needed) step into the fantastical – but it was a rather half-hearted step, never got much further support, and still left the Ninja as “the sneaky guy” in a game system where they’d almost always be in the middle of a group that was focused on combat and throwing lightning bolts at things. There is a reason why Godzilla versus The Ninja is not really a thing (despite this bit with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I found on Youtube). Still, if you had a game master and party that was willing to incorporate some stealth into the game, this Ninja was reasonably functional though the mid-levels – at least until high-end magic made stealth (and most other skills) utterly irrelevant.

Next time around on this it will be the Complete Adventurer Ninja (from 2005) and the (current) Pathfinder Ninja.

Eclipse and Skill-Based Partial Casters

And for today it’s the answer to another question…

I notice that you don’t have a ton of examples of the dweomer system, and no examples of a partial caster using a skilled based one. What might say, a version of a paladin or bard using the dweomer system look like?

-Jirachi

In Eclipse, of course, a “Partial Caster” is just a character who buys some magic but who doesn’t really focus on it. Gratuitously, I’m going to assume that less than 60 points over twenty levels is “dabbling”, and that 181 points or more is “a full caster” – leaving Partial Casting as any spellcasting package with a total cost between 60 and 180 points over twenty levels. On the “practical details” side, a partial caster usually has a fairly limited range of effects, is limited to mid-level effects at best (levels 4-6 depending on style), and may have a lower-than-maximum caster level.

So first up it’s Thaumaturgy or Dweomer based Paladin/Ranger/Assassin/Etcetera Spell Casting. To build the basics for that we’ll want…

  • Access to Thaumaturgy/Deweomer, Specialized/only provides access to four skills (3 CP).
  • +15 Base Caster Levels, Specialized and Corrupted / Thaumaturgy or Dweomer Only, do not support effects of above the “Difficult” level (30 CP). That’s five more than a 3.5 Paladin or Ranger gets, two less than a Pathfinder Paladin or Ranger gets – but in Eclipse they can buy a few more if they want to easily enough.
  • Adept (Their four Thaumaturgy/Dweomer Skills, 6 CP)
  • Augmented Bonus / Adds an attribute modifier to the base for Thaumaturgy or Dweomer skills, Specialized/only for the four Adept skills, above (3 CP).
  • Mastery (At least three of the Adept skills, 6 CP). This lets them “take 10″ instead of rolling when casting using at least three of their skills.
  • 10d6 Mana (as 20d4 (50) Generic Spell Levels), Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only to power Thaumaturgy or Dweomer, cannot power effects of above the “Difficult”” level (20 CP). Fortunately, generic spell levels return daily without need for Rite of Chi.
  • Unity (6 CP). This avoids the need to split their pool between Power and Generic Spell Levels. Trivial Effects cost 1/2 Spell Level, Easy Effects cost 2, Average Effects cost Four, and Difficult Effects cost 6. “Difficult” effects equate to spells of levels 5-6, and are beyond the usual range for Paladins, Rangers, Assassins, and such, but are possible here.

At a total of 74 CP this costs the same as Pathfinder Paladin Spellcasting. It will require a further investment of 10-20 skill points (or other boosters) to reach it’s full potential of using sixth level equivalent spells (in Eclipse there’s almost always a slight surcharge for creating your own style of themed spellcasting) – but it has the side benefit of boosting some checks and saves and is extremely flexible. It’s also worth nothing that – while it will use up the second permitted use of Adept – adding a second field will only cost 38 CP (totaling 112) since there’s no need to buy the Caster Levels or Unity again. You could even go for a third dip, for a mere 32 CP more (totaling 144 CP) – but you’d need to boost your skill points since you couldn’t take Adept again.

So what skills? Well, for some quick examples, lets say you are building a…

  • Battlerager: Self-Enhancement (personal boosting spells), Armory (summon / boost armor and weapons), Lightning (Page 103), and Physical Healing (Page 105). Avatars of War and Thunder, Battleragers are direct and powerful warriors and reasonably effective healers after a battle. They possess a fairly well balanced mix of abilities and can play many roles on the battlefield.
  • Berserker: Self-Enhancement (personal boosting spells), Shapeshifting (Page 105), Armory (summon / boost armor and weapons), and Speed (haste, rapid travel, accomplishing tasks as great speed). Berserkers are capable of taking deadly forms, equipping themselves in an instant, and rampaging across a battlefield with vastly enhanced physical abilities.
  • Demonologist: (Evil) Monster Summoning (Monster Summoning, Planar Binding, Etc), Hellfire (evil fire magic), Maledictions (from The Practical Enchanter), and Demon Channeling (summon monster channeling variant, from The Practical Enchanter). Commanding deadly and corrupting infernal powers, a demonologist tends to summon a few monsters to help him or her carry the fires of hell into the depths of an enemy line.
  • Healer: Life Transference, Mental, Physical, and Spiritual Healing (all from Eclipse, the Healing List, Page 105). There are lots of ways to heal people at higher levels, but a backup healer can still be pretty handy to have around. Healing is rarely the first option selected, but it’s a fairly common second or third choice.
  • Kineticist: Animation (obvious), Pyrotics, Reconstruction, and Telekinesis (Mostly from Psychokinesis, Eclipse page 104). As direct blasters Kineticists are not the most effective at magical battle, but they have an immense variety of utility effects, ranging from repairing items to opening locks to extracting breathable air from the water that’s filling a room. Whether you need to fly, temper metal, or haul masses of treasure, the Kineticist has a spell for you.
  • Planeward: Dimensional Warping, Stabilization, Transference, and Warp Detection (all from Eclipse, the Warping List, Page 105). A Planeward’s magic is dangerous, and often of fairly high level (commonly leading them to buy more Generic Spell Levels to work with), but the ability to teleport, shunt in matter and energy from other dimensions, detect and banish summonings, resist dimensional and temporal effects, and otherwise counteract a lot of the best high-level effects can make them quite vital in the right situation.
  • Radiant Master: Electrokinesis and Nucleokinesis (Eclipse, Psychokinesis, Page 104), Amplification (Eclipse, Mysticism, Page 106) and Stabilization (Eclipse, Healing, Page 106). The master of atomic energy is an odd fit in most fantasy settings, but they can work there just fine. After all, how many fantasy creatures have defenses against hard radiation, cannot profit from a boosting spell transmuting that hard radiation into raw magical power, or have no use for shifting their metabolism over to nuclear sources to avoid having to breathe for a time?
  • Ranger: Animalism (take on animal powers), Plant Control (animate plants, hurl volleys of spears, grow spikes, make plants let you through, etc), Mobility (boost movement, haste, boost missile fire, dimension door, boost stealth, etc), and Physical Healing (Page 105). Rangers are classic hedge-magi, capable of a wide variety of nature-related spells. It can be quite handy to have a tree pick you up out of a battle and put you safely up in its branches to let you do some sniping.
  • Solar Guardian: Celestial Radiance (holy light and purification), Armory (summon / boost armor and weapons), Inspiration (prayer, bless, other bonuses for the group), and Shielding (Stasis Fields, page 104). As fairly classic “Paladins”, Solar Guardians are radiant servants of the higher planes, defending others and striking down creatures of darkness.
  • Stalker: Darkness Mastery (Page 103), Venom Mastery (poisons and antidotes, toxic clouds, etc), Shadowwalking (moving in and out of the plane of shadow, blinking, etc), and Shadow Magic (the illusion-based variety). While the powers of darkness are usually seen as evil and corruptive, with determination they can be used for a variety of purposes. Similarly, slipping through the shadows to strike down opponents with deadly poisons may not be a pleasant or common way to do good – but it can be used that way.

Now, if you want to create a Spellblade or the equivalent of a Psychic Warrior you’ll want to buy Opportunist and Evasive to let you cast boosting effects as you fight,

For a Godling, advanced Adept, or Bardic type…

  • Upgrade the Access Feat to a full list (3 CP).
  • Take Mastery Again (if necessary, 6 CP).
  • Upgrade to 100 Generic Spell Levels (20 CP)
  • Upgrade to 20 Base Caster Levels (10 CP).
  • Include about +60 skill points (60 CP). Normally I’d take Fast Learner and another level of Adept to help with this, but Bardic types are normally already using those to get their other skills.

That raises the cost by 99 character points – up to a total of 173 CP. Of course, a Pathfinder Bard normally spends 174 CP on his or her magic, so that – once again – fits well enough.

As for skills… Well, at this point you can take any one of the full Thaumaturgy or Dweomer lists from Eclipse or you can invent your own list. Either can be a very effective option. If you want to be a fairly classical bard, you might want a list like:

  • Illusion, Presence, and Projection (Eclipse, Telepathy, Page 104), Physical and Spiritual Healing (Eclipse, Healing, Page 105), Vibration (Eclipse, Psychokinesis, Page 104), Auric Sight (Eclipse, Extra-Sensory Perception, Page 106), and Dimensional Warping (Eclipse, Warping, Page 105).

That won’t cover every spell on the Bard list – but as a freeform system it will cover more of them than any normal Bard with a limited number of spells known will get to have. If it doesn’t cover something you desperately want… well, trade out one of those skills that you don’t want for what you think fits well into a “Bardic Powers” theme.

For the next option:

Substituting Theurgy for Thaumaturgy/Dweomer is straightforward, although you will want an Intelligence of at least 12.

  • +15 Base Caster Levels, Specialized and Corrupted / Theurgy Only, do not support effects of above level six (30 CP).
  • Adept x2 (the six Theurgic Verbs and two Nouns, 6 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus / Adds an attribute modifier to the base for Theurgy skills (6 CP).
  • Mastery (At in 12+ covers all six of the Verbs, 6 CP). This lets the user “take 10″ instead of rolling to use Theurgy. (This is cheap, and may not be permitted – but it’s an obvious modifier to take if the game master allows it).
  • 6d6 Mana (as 12d4 (30) Generic Spell Levels), Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / Only to power Theurgy, cannot power effects of above level six (12 CP). Fortunately, generic spell levels return daily without need for Rite of Chi. Also fortunately, Theurgy is less expensive than Thaumaturgy or Dweomer,
  • Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (Adds a second Attribute Modifier to their Intelligence Modifier when calculating Skill Points Per Level, 18 CP).

That’s 78 CP – but investing even a modest handful of additional skill points will let you work freeform magic within a speciality. If you invest more… you can wield a wide variety of spells indeed. The Bard/Godling/Etcetera version mostly simply needs more generic spell levels (another 36 CP worth will probably do), and a LOT more skill points – probably about 60 CP worth again. That gets them up to 174 CP – a precise match for what a Pathfinder Bard spends on their magic progression and approaching the limit for a “Partial Caster”.

So what nouns should these characters study?

  • Beguilers master the Mind and Illusion elements, weaving deceptions and influencing minds to subtly bend the world to their will. Suggestion, Charm, Glamours, Phantasms, and more lie within their purview. If a campaign involves stealth or intrigue, they can be most effective.
  • Deathlords study the Spirit and Illusion elements, wrapping the dead in quasi-real shells of undeath, speaking with or raising the dead, imbuing inanimate objects with life, and peering into the planes beyond all fall within their purview.
  • Healers study the Body and Spirit nouns (although they often dabble in the Mind as well) – offering them access to a wide variety of enhancements, the ability to repair injuries of all kinds,
  • Seers study the magic of the Mind and Time, peering into the future to learn a myriad secrets and subtly enhancing their allies and hindering their enemies. Perhaps fortunately, only those few seers who have surpassed all normal limitations may actually travel though time or manipulate it to any great degree.
  • Stormweavers study Air and Fire, two of the most volatile and easily-stirred elements. They may manipulate storm and lightning, channel energy, manipulate the winds, and employ the destructive power of fire. They are easily amongst the more violent Theurgists.
  • Treemages study the Earth and Plant nouns, creating barriers and earthquakes, hurling spikes of wood and stone, entangling victims, dropping them into pits or quicksand, growing useful herbs, constructing fortified campsites, and more. There is rarely a time when mastery over the land and the things that grow upon it is not useful.
  • Voyagers study the magics of Space and Water, allowing them to navigate their crafts through the barriers between dimensions, exploring strange worlds, pocket realms, and the depths of the sea. While they may wield the forces of ice, acid, and banishment in emergencies, their magic is perhaps best used to reach their desires rather than to blast opponents.

Even taking only two elements at a time, there are 66 possible combinations. Add a few more elements to the mix and there are – thanks to the joys of permutations – thousands.

Overall, both systems allow freeform casting within particular themes at a cost close enough to more conventional spellcasting to allow them to be plugged in to “standard” character builds with little or no difficulty.

And I hope that helps!

Eclipse – Entreaty Magic, Superheroics, and Tricksters

This power package request is for a “Doctor Strange” style Sorcerer – albeit perhaps one with more limited use of their abilities so as to fit into a standard fantasy universe.

Well, while comic book mages tend to have a variety of minor powers that they use all they want to, their forte is the well-chosen and highly specific spell, usually involving gestures, peculiar incantations, and calling on various magical entities. Has a swarm of demonic horrors gotten loose? The Mage throws the protective circle which gives everyone a few moments to get things organized, his or her companions hold back the demons while the mage works on the grand spell of sealing, and the demonic horde is sealed away again just barely in time. They’re powerful, but it generally takes a few moments for them to bring that power to bear – and it’s at least implied that major magic is not to be thrown around indiscriminately. Spider Man may punch out dozens of thugs and wrap them all up in webbing, but the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak are reserved for major situations.

So how can we build that kind of magic? I shall call it…

Entreating The Infinite

The user may call upon the aid of supernatural beings, channeling their powers into the physical world. Sadly, this is subject to some major limitations:

  • The user may only develop links with a limited [(Cha Mod + Level)/2] group of mystical entities, each of which only grants effects related to it’s field of influence. In addition, the user must pick a reasonably coherent group of entities to invoke:
    • For example, a Cthulhu Mythos mage who gained his powers from the Necronomicon might call on…
      • Azathoth for chaotic spells of transformation and destruction.
      • Cthalpa for powers of vulcanism and the deep earth.
      • Cthulhu for telepathic and mind-manipulating effects.
      • Nyarlathotep for divination, dark knowledge, and curses.
      • Shub-Niggurath to summon monsters, induce mutations, and manipulate fertility,
      • Ubbo-Sathla for healing and shapeshifting.
      • Yog-Sothoth for spells related to teleportation, gates, and dimensions,
    • An ancient, mummified, priest of the Old Kingdom might call upon…
      • Anhur for battle enhancements, hunting, and combat.
      • Anubis for spells of Death, Creating/Controlling/Destroying the  Undead, and communicating with the Dead.
      • Imhotep for spells of healing, construction, and architecture.
      • Isis for spells of Force (Magic Missile, Shield, Etc) and Magical Manipulation (Dispel Magic, Antimagic Sphere, counterspells, etc).
      • Khonsu for lunar magics, such as shapeshifting.
      • Ra for spells of solar might and rulership.
      • Shu for magics of the Air and Winds.
    • A Marvel Comics mage apprenticed to Doctor Strange might call upon…
      • Agamatto for spells of truth, light, and the manipulation of raw magical energy.
      • Cyttorak, for spells of force and binding.
      • Denak to summon monsters and constructs.
      • Ikonn for illusions.
      • The Seven Suns of Cinnibus for blasting and light effects.
      • The Seraphim for spells of protection.
      • Watoomb for spells of air and transport.
  • Each such entity grants a pool of (Cha Mod + Level/2) spell levels worth of magic to draw on. Unfortunately, renewing those pools is a slow process: the user may make an appropriate Knowledge skill check once per day to gain (check result/2) spell levels through some means (meditation, prayer, study, minor rituals, ceremonies, chanting names of power, or whatever suits the user’s style). Gaining points faster requires serving one or more entities. Minor services will half-fill a pool, major ones will fill it entirely – although no one entity will do more than completely refill the associated pool in any one day no matter how many services the user performs. For some examples….
    • You could serve Isis by regularly teaching magic. That’s a minor service when it comes up (even if you may often need to dispel some students mess). It’s a major service if you have to rescue your students from dangerous witch hunters. If it’s more than a few days between adventures your Isis pool will automatically start full.
    • You could be protecting some relic, gate, or place of power. That’s minor if you’ve just got to keep an eye on it and regularly take precautions, major if there’s a serious assault on it.
    • You could just undertake missions. Perhaps Anubis wants you to hunt down some undead? This kind of thing is usually major every day for the duration. Minor missions tend to be future setups… “go to this address and leave 10 GP in a bag stuck to the door with a silver nail before you depart”.
    • You could commit yourself to advertising your patron. Do you regularly talk about how wonderful it is and try to get other mages to call on it? Probably minor, unless this sort of thing is likely to get you hunted down or killed.
    • Do you adhere to an oath to hunt down monsters which threaten children? Minor when you need to investigate, major when an actual fight comes up.

Thus, for example take Erebus Herensuge, an eighth level magus of the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh with Charisma 18. He can call on six different Lovecraftian Horrors, each of which can provide him with eight levels of spells (for a total of 48) – but his Knowledge Arcana skill of +12 will only get him back an average of 11.25 spell levels per day. Fortunately, a Minor service will get him four spell levels in the appropriate pool and a Major one will get him eight – and he is…

  • Responsible for recruiting more Cultists for Azathoth. Basic recruiting activities are a Minor service, but recruiting an influential or powerful person is a Major service.
  • The organizer for ceremonies honoring Cthalpa, tossing sacrifices into any convenient volcano, apparently bottomless sinkhole, or the depths of an abandoned mine. That’s Minor whenever he can get together with the cult, or Major when they can offer a truly worthwhile sacrifice.
  • Aiding Nyarlathotep by slipping eldritch tomes and disturbing occult lore into libraries and other locations. Minor if it’s something people have to hunt for, major if it’s blatant – such as adding terrible mystic secrets to an “ornamental” public mural.
  • Helping monsters interbreed with humanity to honor Shub-Niggurath. Minor if it’s just making it easier, such as by covering up an odd birth, Major if it’s enabling a serious horror to create some dark spawn.
  • Breeding slimes and oozes in honor of Ubbo-Sathla. Minor if they lurk in the depths, major if they come out for a major attack. They also help get rid of anyone who survives being dropped into a sinkhole…
  • Encouraging the installation of Teleportation gateways in the city in honor of Yog-Sothoth – Minor for enabling, Major for finding a way to use them to summon horrors from beyond into town.

Erebus is going to be making a lot of trouble just to keep the magic flowing. He’s also quite likely to try to toss any player characters who happen to be investigating his activities into a sinkhole or old mine he’s filled with slimes, oozes, and other monstrosities, and thrown various treasures into – but then dungeons need to come from SOMEWHERE. Similarly, he leaves mythos tomes about to drive people mad (while also stocking the libraries with the dangerous lore needed to defeat him) and turns monsters loose in town. He’s very handy for a game master to have around!

A player character is more likely to take things like teaching, guardianship, and missions – but that sort of thing will automatically provide them with motivations, connections, reasons to go on missions, and involvement with the setting. I usually consider that a good thing.

  • Entreaties can be interrupted like any other form of spellcasting, although the user is perfectly free to throw in metamagic (Still, Silent, etc) to avoid such issues. They can even throw in an extra +1 to make an effect swift or +2 to make it Immediate (thus allowing comic book mages to throw up those reflexive shields they love to use).

So to actually build this, take:

  • Path of the Dragon/Shaping (Specialized, only as a prerequisite, 3 CP)
  • Pulse of the Dragon (Summons Magical Energy), Specialized and Corrupted (involves Entities, Limited Pools, Knowledge Checks, Services, and Interruptions as above) plus Heart Of The Dragon (Shapes Magical Energy provided that it under the user’s control). While the number of entities, and the pool size, is always limited as above, the ability to cast higher level spells costs increasingly more. To summarize the calculations, the ability to make entreaties of level…
    • One requires Pulse (Corrupted for Increased Effect, Specialized for Reduced Cost, 3 CP) plus Heart II (Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 6 CP), for a total cost of 12 CP and a minimum level of one.
    • Two requires Pulse (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect – automatic control and 2 spell levels, 6 CP) plus Heart II (Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 12 CP), for a total cost of 21 CP and – as per the general rule on controlling magical effects – a minimum level of three.
    • Three requires Pulse II (Specialized for Increased Effect – automatic control and 3 spell levels, Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 12 CP) plus Heart II (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect, 18 CP) for a total cost of 33 CP and a minimum level of five.
    • Four requires Pulse II (Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect – automatic control and 4 spell levels, 18 CP) plus Heart III (Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 28 CP) for a total cost of 49 CP and a minimum level of seven .
    • Five requires Pulse III (Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, 28 CP) plus Heart III (Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect, 42 CP) for a total cost of 73 CP and a minimum level of nine.
    • Six requires Pulse III (Specialized and Corrupted for triple effect – 6 Spell Levels and Automatic Control, 42 CP) and Heart III (Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect, 42 CP) for a total cost of 87 CP and a minimum level of eleven.

Unfortunately, Pulse III is as high as it goes. While it is possible to take Heart higher (at ever greater expense), it would probably be simpler to take Mana with the Spell Enhancement option to allow for the occasional really powerful spell at higher levels. Still, if somebody wanted to commit to paying for this package at 8 CP per level through level eleven – basically converting it into a limited spell progression – that would be entirely reasonable.

For comparison, this really resembles a specialized version of Sorcery. Eleven levels of Sorcerer Spellcasting with similar Specialization costs… 88 points instead of 87. The sorcerer will have less flexibility, but doesn’t have to divide his or her spells into a bunch of specialized pools. That looks like it’s going to be reasonably well balanced.

  • In any case, the caster level of such effects is equal to the user’s level, the saving throw DC’s against them are based on the level of the spell and the user’s Constitution, and they overcome magic resistance with a roll of (1d20 + caster level + Con Mod). If the user is casting counterspells they will tend to be specifically tuned, requiring a spell of only (target spell level – 2) – but he or she can only counterspell things with appropriate themes.

And that gives us the standard comic-book mage: debonair, knowledgeable, personable (high charisma), and very tough (high constitution) for a more-or-less-normal human being with flexible magic that they nevertheless rarely use for anything minor.

If you want to be the Sorcerer Supreme, you’ll also want the Superheroic World Template and the Four-Color Superhero Package (24 CP). If you want to have a special relationship with a particular patron or group, a few more points in Augmented Bonus (Add a second characteristic modifier to your Charisma modifier with respect to a particular entity) will do it nicely.

For the minor powers? I’d go for a bit of Witchcraft. After all, a level eleven character will have at least 288 CP, and this magic system will cost less than a hundred of them even with a special modifier or two. Twenty or thirty points worth of Witchcraft can provide a wide variety of minor tricks to use when you don’t want to expend your limited supply of Entreaties.

Now, if you just want to be a trickster… don’t bother going past second or third level spells. You’ll still get decent-sized pools and more entities to call on as you go up in level, but it will be pretty cheap – and still gets you some built-in involvement in the game.