The Advancing Warrior Part VIII – Branching Out

A followup question on the Advancing Warrior series was how to make a Warrior useful outside of combat.

Now, to a large extent, that’s a role-playing thing. One of the best out-of-combat leaders, investigators, and tricksters I’ve ever had in one of my games was back in first edition AD&D – a basic fighter who’s player was good at planning, almost never missed or forgot a clue, and virtually always had some clever idea for taking advantage of a situation, his companions special powers, or an opponents weaknesses – and it’s not like first edition gave basic fighters a lot to work with except role-playing.

Still, 3.0/3.5/Pathfinder 1’st edition is a lot more complicated – so the first thing to look at is what ARE the noncombat roles? There’s…

The Healer. Every adventuring party needs some healing – but that means that the game has to include a lot of ways to do it. Thus this specialty comes in three levels.

  • Level One: The out-of-combat hit point battery. For good or ill, this “role” really isn’t worth worrying about, since Healing Belts, wands of Lesser Vigor or Cure Light Wounds, Boots of the Earth, Healing Touch (and various other feats), or even simple skills and a little time can generally handle out of combat healing with little difficulty and – at mid-levels and up – with a relatively small investment.
  • Level Two: The emergency healer. This character can perform a fair amount of out-of-combat healing and can usually manage to keep gravely wounded characters from dying in combat – at least provided that they swiftly get out of combat. That’s partially because the line between “functioning at full power” and “dead” is generally pretty thin in d20, but this is still relatively cheap. Investing one to two levels in Warrior-Mage (Healer) options will cover this.
  • Level Three: The primary healer. This character can use high-level powers to heal large amounts of damage in battle, to raise the dead, neutralize exhaustion and many other long-term effects, and to readily cure all kinds of poison and diseases. It’s always worthwhile having a primary healer around, but this sort of thing is generally not a job for dabbling fighters. It’s not that they CAN’T do it, it’s simply that the cost is high enough that they wind up as fighter/healers, not just a fighter. Still, there’s no reason why you couldn’t spend four levels on picking up (for example) a Healing Martial Discipline. Perhaps L1: Close Wounds, Lesser Restoration, L2: Cure Moderate Wounds, L3: Restoration, L4: Panacea, L5: Monstrous Regeneration, L6: Heal, L7: Greater Restoration, L8: Revival (Raise Dead with no monetary cost), L9: Mass Heal, 48 CP.

The Expert. This character has a lot of skills. Depending on their specialties, they can find and disable traps, tell you about monsters abilities and weakness, locate hidden passages, persuade NPC’s to help you out, get you out of legal trouble, or make stuff for the party. Even presuming that you don’t want to go the full Skillmaster Warrior route (which is a bit expensive), a second instance of Adept (6 CP) and Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (adds a second attribute modifier to the user’s (Int Mod) for the purposes of gaining skill points, 18 CP) will cover much of this at a cost of 24 CP or about two levels worth of special purchases. If you want to throw in a third level… Luck with +12 Bonus Uses Specialized in Skills, Corrupted / only to take 20 in advance (6 CP) or some Witchcraft just for getting skill boosts (6+ CP) will give you some pretty big boosts. For further whimsy, here are a couple of +1 level special talents to consider:

  • The Trapper: This 12 CP / one-level package lets the user make life difficult for opponents by adding various traps to the environment – usually starting with the classic “did you know that you’re standing in a bear trap?” routine. Buy 3d6 Mana With Reality Editing, Corrupted for Increased Effect and Specialized for Reduced Cost / only to shove targets into traps (1 Mana to move a Large or smaller target up to ten feet, save DC 15 + Con Mod) and create Traps. (1 Mana/CR of the resulting trip, maximum CR = Level) plus Rite of Chi with +2 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / Takes one hour per die, only to recharge the mana reserve above (3 CP).
  • The Battle Sage has some relevant tricks, but one of the most entertaining is the Chains Of History ability, which can pe picked up for a mere 12 CP or one levels worth of special purchases.
    • Chains Of History (12 CP): 1d6 (4) Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect (Minor Edits cost 1 Point, Notable Edits cost 2, Major ones cost 3, and Grandiose ones cost 4). Requires a History Check at DC 15/18/24/36 for Minor/Notable/Major/Grandiose Edits, only for Reality Editing, only to “recall” convenient “facts” that can be used against a particular enemy, allows a Will save at a DC of (14/18/22/26 + User’s Int Mod) to resist, may only spend 4 mana on Chains of History per encounter. Plus Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized/only to refill the Chain of History Mana Pool.
      • Minor: “Call upon the Light of Ixion when you cast! She will empower your spells to pierce his cloak of darkness!”. Reducing an opponents effective Spell Resistance can be quite helpful.
      • Notable: There is a bare patch on his left breast! Aim there and your arrows will sink deep!” At this level… you get a bonus to hit and extra damage. As a minor edit, you might just get a small bonus to hit.
      • Major: “His Crown! Much of his power lies within his Crown! If you destroy much of his magic will fail!”
      • Grandiose: “But I know your true name, Ramthonosiderin Of The Seventh Abyss, and by it I command you to return to the Darkness from which you came!”
  • Finally, of course, Mystic Artist is a wonderful compliment to an Expert build. You can pick up the basics for a mere (6 CP), and once you learn to inspire small groups with positive levels handing out small but well-chosen abilities and bonuses can make a wonderful contribution to a party.

The Landlord. This character has a base and/or immobile property. What’s more, it’s a base with various employees and special facilities that can provide support for your adventures or property that can provide special benefits. Do you need magic items, a home that’s protected from basic scry-and-die tactics, or perhaps access to a powerful Ward Major or Heartstone? The Landlord can have that, and may well be able to get you in on the action.

It is important to note that a Landlord is almost always tied to a particular region and community. It’s awkward to try and pack up your businesses, castle, and allies and move on when your murder-hobo “friends” have made themselves unwelcome in the area yet again. While I tend to see this as a good thing, there are quite a few players who try to avoid all possible attachments. Of course, if they’re really dedicated about it, they’d probably never even consider this path anyway.

  • Bases are normally built using Sanctum (6 CP), although most of them have a few extra abilities thrown in (usually another 6 CP). As shown by Caercrwydryn, the Citadel Of The Wanderer (or the far more tongue-in cheek Baron Ectar’s Fortress Of Doom) that’s quite enough to build a pretty decent fortress even at low levels – although you won’t have much of a staff, any crafters, or a Ward Major until level seven or eight or so (although those will continue to improve as you level up). Of course, even most fighters will not be wanting to invest a levels worth of special purchases in a base until they have most of the basics covered, so that’s not much of a limitation.
  • You can also take Privilege (or Major Privilege) / Investor. This gives you various local, tangible assets – ownership of, or shares in the ownership of, businesses, lands, structures, or special resources, with a net value of one-half (3 CP) or three-quarters (6 CP) of the base wealth of a PC of your level. Sadly, these cannot (for some reason) be converted to cash. You get a 5% yearly return on whatever portion of your holdings you devote to getting cash or get to use 10% (whether in amount or time) of whatever facilities you own. Thus, if you own a shipping company with three ships, you could reasonably divert one for three and a half months (10% of the 36 they will have available this year) to take you and your friends on an expedition – or use 10% of the space in the ships holds to transport your own cargo or some such. Similarly, you could use an office and some of the space in their warehouses. In general, this is best used to gain access to various facilities or (if lifestyle costs are in play) to pay for those. Like it or not, 5% of 50% (or even 75%) of your wealth by level will not greatly increase your power – but at higher levels it will pay for a nice lifestyle and get you some social influence. (There are more details available over HERE).

Investments are especially useful to adventurers if Heartstones (The Practical Enchanter) or Magical Businesses are in play – although, even if those are not common features of the setting and you’d normally have to build your own, you can take Major Privilege / may purchase fractional shares of magical businesses or Heartstones (6 CP) and get in on the action at a fairly low level. For example, a Monument Of The Enduring Warrior (+2 / Caster Level Eight) can grant +2 enhancements that last until dispelled on up to 480 shields or sets of armor at a total price of 8000 GP. So that’s 834 GP to be entitled to the use of five of those boosts. Go ahead; equip yourself and a friend. Sure, that’s one of the cheapest bonuses you can get, but it will be pretty useful at level three – and you can continue to expand and upgrade your investments as you go up in level.

This also comes out to 12 CP or one level worth of special purchases – allowing you to be a wealthy noble landlord with a good deal of backing and extra magic for a mere two levels worth of special purchases.

The Transporter. This character can find paths and/or get you (and your gear) places – either very quickly, past terrible obstacles, or to strange and normally-unreachable places. Classically that’s a job for Teleportation, Plane Shift, or spells like Water Breathing for exploring unlivable environments – none of which are really well-suited to a fighter-type unless they want to invest in the “Shattered Labyrinth Of Planes” Martial Discipline or some such (Perhaps L1: Benign Transposition, Time Hop Punch, L2: Rope Trick, Baleful Transposition, L3: Dimensional Anchor Touch, L4: Dimension Door, L5:Greater Blink, L6: Improved Plane Shift, L7: Mass Teleport, L8:Maze, and L9: Gate. ).

  • Fighters, however, are usually more interested in mounts, vehicles, and pathfinding. Mounts are generally covered under Rider, the Beastmaster Warrior, or via investing in a Fantastic Stable. There’s a Template for turning a Companion Creature into a vehicle or mobile base, creating a tank, dirigible, ornithopter, or similar, as used by The Master Of The World. This particular option has a base cost of 12 CP or one level worth of optional purchases and can be Specialized or Corrupted to reduce that cost further. Alternatively, characters who have already invested in a bit of Witchcraft can use Birth Of Flames to create a vehicle quite cheaply – as covered in part IV of the Pulp Hero article HERE. That will suffice to get you a Mole Drill, Flash Gordon Starship, Spider Walker, Cursed Transdimensional Ship, or any of a variety of other vehicles with a total investment of 3-12 points – for a maximum of a one-level investment. It’s probably well worth it. If you’re using the cheap-end Witchcraft approach, you can even afford to throw in a Pathfinding ability.
  • If you’re spending a lot of time in a particular environment, it may be worthwhile taking some of the Travel abilities – although they’re most useful if you specialize in a particular region. If you’re playing a campaign set entirely in Sherwood Forest, or the Underdark, or some such – especially if it’s a low magic setting – spending a few points on Specialized and/or Corrupted Travel boosts can provide a pretty major advantage. This will probably make being a Transporter a two-level investment though.

Now, if you want to be able to guide the party into fictional words, you can purchase:

  • Mystic Artist/Cartography, Specialized/gets no basic abilities, one daily use is automatically imbued into each map he makes, only works when making a new map (2 CP).
  • Echoes: Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (no time limit on usage, works for everyone in the immediate vicinity of the map when it’s activated): Each map can only be imbued with a single use of Mystic Artist, which only serves to prime the Echoes ability, which can only be used for the Path of Whispers. After the Echoes are expended, they are simply maps (6 CP).
  • Path of Whispers: Subliminal, Conditioning, Compelling, and Undertow, all Specialized and Corrupted/only as prerequisites, requires drawing a new map each time (8 CP).
  • Path of Whispers/Immersive, Specialized and corrupted/only to convey visions of places, requires drawing a new map each time (2 CP).
  • Path of Whispers/Worldgate, Corrupted/requires drawing a new map each time (4 CP).

That will let you draw maps – each with three “charges” – that are capable of either granting visions of the place portrayed or of actually transporting those in the area when the map is activated into the realm it portrays. More importantly… it doesn’t have to be a real place. You can jump into a historical setting, a myth, or a popular tale and will be placed in an appropriate role within it. Once the plot is completed (or hopelessly derailed) those participating will be returned from whence they came.

At a total cost of 22 CP that’s basically a two-level package – but it offers access to much of the multiverse that’s out of reach of almost anyone else.

Magical and Psionic Item Crafting usually isn’t a fighter thing, simply because it tends to call for a major investment in magical and/or psionic powers to get the various prerequisites for making said items. Still, there are a few things a fighter can do along these lines:

  • 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 (from The Practical Enchanter) at one time, charms and talismans take some time to attune for use (6 CP). While Charms and Talismans are fairly minor devices, they can be quite handy – and this ability will allow even a first level character to use a selection of them.
  • Major Privilege / gets a Wealth Level from The Practical Enchanter based on their Hit Dice (6 CP). In general: 0-4 Hit Dice: Common, 5-8 Hit Dice: Well-Off, 9-12 Hit Dice: Affluent, 13-16 Hit Dice: Wealthy, and 17+ Hit Dice: Imperial. This is a bit of a rules hack since the Wealth Levels are intended to replace detailed treasure accounting rather than supplement it, and thus provide the use of some Charms and Talismans, a lifestyle, servants, ordinary equipment, and some bonuses – but it’s probably comparable to a Wizard who takes a Crafting feat, which can provide some pretty hefty bonuses for everyone in the entire party. It’s good, but not game-breaking.
  • Siddhisyoga (6+ CP) has already been mentioned under Archers, but it does let you turn treasure into slot-free magical powers very directly indeed. Unfortunately, it generally doesn’t do a thing for the rest of the party.
  • Create Artifact (6 CP) is nice and cheap and can create extremely powerful items of pretty much any kind you want – but it requires all kinds of quests, mighty deeds, weird rituals, and exotic ingredients.
  • Buying access to some Occult Skills such as Dreambinding, Legendarium, or the Shadowed Galaxy Equipment Skills at Normal Cost (6 CP per skill) can let you produce all kinds of items and supplies – but the amount is pretty limited at lower levels.
  • Still, the big one here comes in the form of various combinations of Create Relic and Enthusiast. For some examples you can look at the Golden Ones and “A Doctorate In Philosophy” (6 CP) or “Where does he get those wonderful toys” (Varies). The Houngan Conjurer Package (only 6 CP) is another excellent choice.

Several of those are very useful – but a fighter type won’t need to invest more than 12-24 CP – 1-2 levels worth of optional purchases – to get them.

The Politician. This character can get you access to special resources and talk people into things. Do you need the services of a high-level specialist, access to a tome the government keeps in a sealed vault, a military diversion, an interview with the local king, tickets to a concert, a propaganda campaign, or to borrow a powerful item? Your party politician knows where the bodies are buried (Specific Knowledge, SP only), has Contacts (1-2 CP each), is owed Favors by his or her Connections (2-12 CP), has Influence (Action Hero / Influence, 6 CP), and Privileges (3-6 CP), and can get you into places. If they happen to have the proper Mystic Artist talents (6+ CP) they can influence entire nations. If they dabble in magic such as Charm Person or Glibness they become even more formidable – and all they need otherwise is a few social skills.

Unfortunately, a Politician isn’t so easily priced as most other minor specialties.since what you need to buy is heavily setting-dependent. Still, it shouldn’t take much more than a one or two level investment to handle the job.

The Seer can find the party quests to go on and detect various things. The easiest way to cover this minor speciality is Witchcraft with a few Pacts. Between Witchsight and The Sight you can handle most of this job withe a mere one-level investment. If you want to provide advance warning of things, throw in another levels worth of purchases and grab some options off of the Distant Divination list over HERE.

Finally we have the Utility Caster, Buffer/Debuffer, and Countermagic Expert. Those are indeed good things to have in your party – but we’re talking about FIGHTERS here. If you want to invest enough levels in the project to be any good at any of these roles… you’re not really going to be a fighter any longer.

Earlier articles in this series have covered…

And…

Advancing Fighters:

  • Part I: Universal Basics, Lockdown/Tripper, and Fearmonger.
  • Part II: Smasher, Charger, and Thrown Weapons Master
  • Part III: Mounted Fighters.
  • Part IV: Two Weapons, Sword and Board, One-Handed, Massive Damage and Effects Monger Critical Fisher
  • Part V: Archers and Summoning Shots.
  • Part VI: Cyborgs, Power Armor, Mutants, Tinkers, and Mechwarriors.
  • Part VII: Beastmasters, Drawing Aggro, Totemic Warrior, Skillmaster Warrior, Spellslayer, Warrior Mage, and Multi-Talented Warrior.

 

Apex Campaign, Star Fleet Timeline Cluster, Augment Victory Timeline. The Augment IV Racial Package

The human mind is built on ancient neural patterns – deep instincts, systems that process sensory information, logical and emotional feedback loops that keep it running, and even the patterns of motor neurons that operate the body. If you change any of those too much… the mind warps and changes, taking on a new form. The result is unpredictable, often no longer functional at all, and never much like a normal human being even when it still functions – and, so far, it has never been sapient. No one is quite sure why that’s true, but (at least in the Apex setting) there seems to be a component beyond mere physical reality.

So there are limits. You can transfer an existing mind into a mostly-artificial body – but if you want a NEW mind to develop properly… there has to be a childhood. You can make the senses sharper, or even very slightly expand their range – but not much past the limits of normal human potential or even an existing mind will soon go mad. There need to be bones, and muscles, and various internal organs. You can boost intelligence and reaction time somewhat, and you can enhance durability and strength considerably – but not too much or instabilities will soon develop.

And, at least so far… redesigned humans only develop more-or-less normally if they are born to existing redesigned humans. Trying to leave out a recognizably-human set of parents, infancy, and childhood, leads to failure at best and rampaging monsters at worst. At least the first generation (no second generation births have yet occurred) have to have transferred minds.

That need for growth, development, and maintenance along human lines is pretty limiting for the engineering too. You can’t just install bigger parts; they have to GROW in situ – for which you need something analogous to a circulatory system to transport materials, as well as something analogous to a metabolism and to both taste and smell (and eating thanks to those copied-over instincts). Sure, most of the bone structure can be magnetically-reinforced nanotubes and diamond with reinforcing magnetic fields instead of calcium – but it still has to grow and be filled with channels to integrate it into the circulatory system. The electro-contractile muscles and tendons may be stronger (and powered by the electrical energy delivered by the “nerves”), but the layout – and ways in which the arrangement doesn’t bend – is much the same. Joint locks work almost as well (given that they are generally stronger and tougher) on augmented humans as they do on regular ones. The skin may incorporate tougher polymers and resist chemicals a lot better, but it still has to grow, stretch, heal, and shed itself.

Fourth generation Augments were little more than speculations at the beginning of the Eugenics Wars (A.K.A. WWIII). While prototypes of limited parts of the technology where in testing, no complete design (let alone implementation) was available. Thanks, however, to an open-ended time loop engineered by one or more members of the so-called Q Continuum, development of the Type IV design continued – albeit with only a single sample and a small research team that spent most of their time catching up on what they did last time – through 281,223 iterations of the relevant several-year section of the loop before Armand, Blueblood, and Scotty intervened to prevent further looping. While progress – especially during the later loops – was infinitesimal each time, that many loops eventually resulted in a fully-developed design. Combining a through understanding of the physical side of the human brain, advanced genomic and proteomic systems, computers, cybernetics, and nanotechnology, researchers were eventually able to complete a full rebuild of the human body – including a virtualized and optimized brain replacing the old-style natural neural network, am optically-based peripheral nervous system, and superconducting energy storage system fed by a high efficiency fuel cell.

Unfortunately, attempting to generalize from the original single test case has left the basic design in the “open beta-testing” phase as bugs and issues are worked out.

Perhaps worst of all, Type IV Augmentation only seems to work on Star Fleet Timeline Terrans – the “reality-manipulating” homid subspecies – and cuts off all access to magic, psionics, temporal manipulation, and all the other natural-law-violating tricks of the “natural” races.

Name: Type IV Augment

Val Char Cost
8/30 STR -2
13/20 DEX 9
9/20 CON -2
7 BODY -6
8/30 INT -2
11 EGO 2
10 PRE 0
15 COM 2
7 PD 1
7 ED 3
3/4 SPD 0
10 REC 0
0 END -20
32 STUN 0

Characteristic Rolls: STR: 11/15-, DEX: 12/13-, CON: 11/13-, INT: 11/15-, EGO: 11-, PER: 19/23-. Run: 6″, Swim: 2″, Jump: 6″, Lift: 76kg/1600kg

Cost Powers END/Roll

6 Elemental Control: Artificial Body (15-pt reserve); Generic Limitation (User may not develop Psionic or Magical Abilities): -½; Generic Limitation (Cannot alter or improve these abilities): -1

  • a-10 3d6 Aid to Attributes (Fade/5 min., Max. 22); Range: 0; Affects: All Powers of Special Effect, +2; Generic Limitation (Str, Dex, Con, Body, Int, and Spd Only.): -1; Generic Limitation (Does not heal damaged attributes.): -½; Generic Limitation (Effect does not stack with buying up base attributes above “10” or with buying up speed at all, cannot take speed above 4 in any case.): -½. 5 End when activated.
  • b-5 Power System: END Reserve (180 END, 12 REC/turn); Side Effects (When an Augment takes BODY damage, a roll of 15+ will detonate their power reserves, causing a 3d6 physical killing explosion centered on them. ): 60/All,
  • c-4 Armor (8 PD/8 ED); Always On (User is immune to normal medical techniques and healing powers.): -1; Hardened: ×1, ¼; Linked (To Attribute Enhancement): -½.
  • d-6 Life Support (total); Generic Limitation (Technological Limitations: Provides high resistance and duratbility, not immunity.): -½; Costs END: -½; Reduced END: Half, +¼.
  • e-5 Enhanced Perception (all) (+8 to PER); Linked (To Augmented Attributes): -½; Champions Advantage (Can record sensory input. ): +¼.

Integrated Electronics; Linked (To augmented attributes): -½

  • (2) Absolute Time Sense
  • (2) Ambidexterity
  • (2) Bump of Direction
  • (7) Eidetic Memory
  • (2) Lightning Calculator
  • (2) Perfect Pitch
  • (2) Speed Reading

Package Disadvantages

  • 5 Distinctive Features: Android; Concealability: Easily, 5; Reaction: Noticed and Recognizable, +0
  • 20 Normal Characteristic Maxima
  • 10 Unable to interbreed with normal life forms, greatly reduced fertility even with other Augment IV’s, usually need “repair” effects rather than “healing” effects (Infrequently, Greatly)
  • 10 Cannot buy off restrictions on magical and psionic powers. (Infrequently, Greatly)
  • 5 Cannot buy up Body (Infrequently, Slightly)
  • 30 Susceptibility to Technology Nullifying Effects (1d6 STUN and BODY/Phase); Condition: Uncommon, +5. Note that this drastically restricts the range of universes that they can function in.

As normal for Apex racial packages, the “package” disadvantages are only counted at half value – leaving the Augment IV baseline “Race” with a grand total of zero points, just like the other races.

OCV: 7; DCV: 7; ECV: 4; Mental Def.: 0; Phases: 3, 6, 9, 12, PD/rPD: 15/8; ED/rED: 15/8

As perhaps befits a superhero campaign, the Apex game currently involves the primary timeline (consisting of several merged timelines, with – courtesy of Blueblood – the Astral Vortex that the Ethereal Cataclysm had left in place of the lost pacific continent of Mu replaced by Equestria and a scattering of other cartoon and anime locations), the Primary Mirrorverse, traces of an alternate Timeline and Mirrorverse that are proving difficult to remerge with their primaries, a timeline where the planet was collapsed into a Black Hole (the ongoing efforts to get rid of that thing are apparently giving rise to a likely future Shadow Universe), the High Astral (a source of mystical energy), an assortment of Afterlives in the Middle Astral, the Lower Astral domain of the Elder Ones, the Exile pocket realm (apparently located between the Middle and Lower astral), and Mars. Kicking around those areas (and wandering back and forth in time) the group has revived the Rolassin and the Ethereals, brought the Freshwater and Saltwater Lemurians, out of hiding, and restored the Hyberboreans to go with the existing Atlanteans, and the Africaans species, as well as several relic species of presapient Homids. Mars, of course, has it’s five sapient species as well, all now revived from extinction or near-extinction.

In the Star Trek universe next door there are several alternate timelines, including one where the Augments won the Eugenics Wars (courtesy of the player characters) and one where they lost – both with Elder Martians, possibly with something on Venus, and with the full selection of Star Trek aliens.

Eclipse And What NOT To Do

Today it’s something unusual for me – an example of what NOT to do with Eclipse.

In this case, a player who was new to Eclipse wished to make a first level character. He then…

  • Refused to consult with, or take advice from, the game master – or from anyone who knew the system.
  • Provided a character history which consisted of “He was a slave. He was freed by some people who attacked the slavers. He then wandered off with some of the other slaves who elected to follow him (although he explicitly denied doing anything to lead them). After arriving at an isolated village, he refused to interact, come up with a way to make a living, or find a home – for a year or two.
  • Ignored the setting – which happened to be the 3.5 Forgotten Realms – in favor of Pathfinder references.

These were not good signs – but the most serious problem was that he refused to come up with a concept. Instead, he skimmed through Eclipse, through various builds on this site, and possibly some optimization boards and tried to grab the”best” abilities he saw – ignoring the supporting abilities that made them work. Thus he wound up with a first level character who…

  • Had a custom racial template (some sort of experimented-on mutant fey), despite that being a “Game Master Permission Only” item. Unfortunately, he tried to put a number of abilities that had prerequisites into it. These included…
  • Took undefined “Duties to Custom and Tradition” on a unique creature that had neither.
  • Took Innate Enchantment to get less than 250 GP worth of basic stuff – clothing, leather armor, a few simple hand tools, and a piece of rope instead of any actually useful enchantments or gear. This power would function, but – as set up – was essentially worthless.
  • A part of the Lesser Fey template – the Channeling / Conversion ability it used to produce some spell effects – without the immunity to the level requirement that allowed it to work for fey of below fifth level. This power would not function in a racial template.
  • Took Extra Limbs to get a Prehensile Tail, but didn’t put enough points into it to actually buy the ability – so this did nothing.
  • Took Returning despite the game master telling him “no” – but with a one month minimum delay and severe memory losses. Given that I am told that the game was known to be plotted for a series of crisis’s over a period of a few months, actually attempting to get any use out of this power would effectively put him out of the game for a year or more of real time. Still, this ability might function in a long-term game – but is saving one point really worth giving yourself amnesia?
  • Took Immunity to Aging. That would function, but again… the game was plotted for a few months.
  • He did take Grant Of Aid for a bit of self-healing. That power doesn’t really belong in a Racial Template – at least not without some restrictions and a description that would describe why ALL of the members of the race have some exotic entity interested in helping them – but it did function.

Personal Powers

For his personal powers, he did start out reasonably enough: he…

  • Took a d10 hit die, a +1 BAB, some save bonuses, and proficiency with a limited group of simple weapons (and no armor or shields). So he was reasonably tough, and had some talent for hitting people – but had no effective attacks and no way to defend himself.

Unfortunately, the then…

  • Took Leadership – ignoring both that the basic effect would not work below fourth level and that it was on the “special permission from the game master” list. Result: Points spent on a power that did not actually function.
  • Grabbed a part of the Path Of The Dragon (the entire path was on the “special permission from the game master” list, but at this point why worry about that?) – a crafting-boosting effect that let you accomplish certain tasks more quickly and a small boost to certain skills. Unfortunately, he did not take the basic “Shaping” ability that was a prerequisite and neither did he take any crafting abilities. Thus this ability did not function at all, and – even if it had – would only make him capable of doing basic housework and chores more quickly than usual. That isn’t a lot of use on an adventure.
  • Took Hysteria, but declined to select what it could be applied to – rendering it functionless.
  • Took a bit of Power to pay for Hysteria with. Sadly, with Hysteria functionless, this was too.
  • Took Universal Jack Of All Trades – an ability that effectively gives you a +1 on skills linked to a particular (unspecified) attribute and a minimum +1 in all skills, although this does not stack with actual skill point investments. Unfortunately, since the game used a severely condensed skill list, and he had already invested skill points in almost all the skills, this – once again – did very little.
  • Took “Lunge” (extra reach) for his tail. Since he hadn’t actually paid for a tail, this did nothing.
  • Took Charmsmith – the ability to make trivial magical devices with effects equivalent to selected “Prestidigitation” effects. Thus he could, for example, make boots that kept your feet warm. Unfortunately, he did not take any of the abilities that built on Charmsmith to allow him to make something that would actually be useful. Nor did he have the perquisite Shaping ability, rendering this nonfunctional in the first place.
  • Took Dominion – yet another ability on the “Game Master Permission Only” list and one which requires actually ruling a domain of some sort to do anything. He had no domain and apparently had no actual plans to rule anything, rendering this ability utterly useless.

The net result, of course, was a completely ineffectual character with virtually no useful abilities – unless, of course, an adventure called for an unusually durable field hand or housekeeper.

I’m informed that once the game started he refused to interact with the other characters and rejected the game premise (“small, isolated, village meeting a series of crisis), apparently wishing to be a lone wolf – but that’s not what this is about.

At that point I was asked to look the character over since the game master had  no idea of what the player was attempting to build. Given the complete train wreck, I took a few hours and wrote up a functional version. Sadly, while I could make it function to some degree, that did not overcome the lack of a concept and nonsensical ability selection. Still, here it is, just for comparison.

First up was making an acceptable race. To keep as much of the original structure as possible that also meant fixing the unusable racial abilities and cramming as much as possible of the “special permission only” abilities into the racial template. Ergo…

Far Darrig (A type of minor Irish fey) Racial Template (31 CP / +0 ECL Race):

  • Speaks Sylvan (1 CP).
  • Minor Privilege: Welcome among the Fey (3 CP). Far Darrig, along with Brownies and other varieties of “House Elves”, are welcome in fey circles.
  • Extra Limb(s): Prehensile Tail (6 CP). A third hand often comes in handy.
  • Immunity to Aging (Uncommon, Major, Minor, 4 CP). A Far Darrig can expect to live for many
    centuries.
  • Returning: Unless slain by Cold Iron or Old Age a Far Darrig will be reborn from the forces of nature in about a month – albeit with partial amnesia (3 CP).
  • Shaping, Specialized and Corrupted / only to provide the basic structure for seven Fey Spells – Chain Of Obligation, Feygift, Mastery Of The Named, Major Image, Phantom Steed, Shadow Enchantment, and Suggestion (2 CP).
  • 1d6 (4) Mana with Spell Enhancement, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only for Spell Enhancement, only for use with Shaping (above) – allowing the user to spend 1 Mana to use one of the listed effects (6 CP).
    • These abilities replaced the Channeling / Conversion abilities. While more limited in higher development, this allowed more basic abilities and would actually work at first level.
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to restore the specialized mana pool above, only works between encounters (4 CP).
  • Charmsmith (6 CP). A Far Darrig can make many minor magical devices.
  • Taskmaster (6 CP). Divides the time required for small-scale mundane tasks by (Intelligence).
  • Disadvantages: Accursed (True Name), Compulsive (Must offer hospitality, keep their word, and respect their pacts). Accursed (Cannot directly lie) (-10 CP).

That race isn’t an atrocity of power – but it does offer some handy tricks and lays the foundation for later advancing several of the normally-restricted Path of the Dragon abilities.

Basic Attributes were Str 13, Int 16, Wis 9, Con 13, Dex 14, and Cha 17. I don’t really know why, although I suspect that the player was trying to get the biggest possible benefit out of his later attribute gains.

Available Character Points: 48 (L1 Base) +12 (Disadvantages: Outcast, Broke, Irreverent and Illiterate) +12 (L0 and L1 Bonus Feats) = 72 CP.

Basics (26 CP):

  • Hit Dice: 10 (1d10, 6 CP) +1 (Con Mod x 1) +14 (Immortal Vigor, 12 + 2 x Con Mod) = 25 HP
  • Skill Points: 6 (Purchased, 6 CP) +12 (Int Mod x 4) = 18 SP
  • BAB: +1 (6 CP).
  • Saves:
    • Fort +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +1 (Con) +1 (Mor) = +4.
    • Ref +0 (Purchased) +2 (Dex) +1 (Mor) =+3.
    • Will +0 (Purchased) -1 (Wis) +1 (Mor) = +0.
  • Proficiencies: Small Group of Simple Weapons (Club, Dagger, Gauntlet, Staff, Sickle, Sling, Unarmed, 2 CP).
  • Initiative: +2 (Dex)
  • Move: 30′
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +2 (Leathers) +2 (Dex) = 14

Usual Attacks:

  • Quarterstaff: +3 (+1 BAB +1 Str +1 Mor), 1d6+1 (Str) +1 (Mor), Crit 20/x2
  • Thrown Dagger: +4 (+1 BAB +2 Dex +1 Mor), 1d4+1 (Str) +1 (Mor), Crit 19-20/x3, 10′ range increment.

Special Abilities (46 CP):

  • Adept (Pays half cost for four skills – Acrobatics, Insight, Stealth, and Thievery, 6 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment (5500 GP value or less, 6 CP. Currently 5972.4 GP value):
    • Universal Skill Mastery: +2 Competence Bonus on All Skills and Attribute Checks. (Personal-Only, x.7 = 1400 GP).
    • Fortune’s Favor: +2 Luck Bonus on All Skills and Attribute Checks (Personal-Only, x.7 = 1400 GP)
    • Inspiring Word: +1 Morale Bonus on saving throws, attack rolls, checks, and weapon damage (Does not apply to attack rolls or weapon damage, x.5, Personal-Only, x.7 = 700 GP).
    • Net: +5 to all Skills, +1 to all Saves
    • Immortal Vigor I (Personal-Only, x.7 = 1400 GP). Clurichaun are tough and durable
    • Armor and Clothing: Leather Armor (10 GP), Cold Weather Outfit (8 GP), and Explorer’s Outfit (10 GP).
    • Tools: Bedroll (.1 GP), Crowbar (2 GP), Flint & Steel (1 GP), Hammer (.5 GP), Miners Pick (3 GP), Signal Whistle (.8 GP), Shovel (2 GP), Artisians Tools (5 GP), Thieves Tools (30 GP), Quarterstaff (-).
  • Action Hero/Crafting, Specialized for Increased Effect (double points) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only to cover the XP costs of Innate Enchantments and using Charmsmith at 1 AP = 20 XP (4 CP).
  • Lunge, Specialized for Increased Effect (10′ Reach), Only with Tail (6 CP).
  • Mana, 1d6 as 3d6 Power, Specialized for Increased Effect / only to power Hysteria (6 CP).
  • Hysteria (Skills) (6 CP).
  • Grant of Aid with both Regenerative Functions (12 CP).

Skills (18 SP):

  • Acrobatics (Dex) (Balance, Escape Artist, Tumble): +4 (2* SP) +2 (Dex) +5 (IE) = +11
  • Arcana (Int) (Spellcraft, Knowledge/Arcana): +1 (1 SP) +3 (Int) +5 (IE) = +9
  • Athletics (Str) (Climb, Jump, Swim, Escape Artist): +1 (1 SP) +1 (Str) +5 (IE) = +7
  • Background (Int) (5x Craft, Profession, or Perform): All unskilled, so universal +3 (Int) +5 (IE) = +8
  • Deception (Cha) (Bluff, Disguise): +1 (1 SP) +3 (Cha) +5 (IE) = +9
  • Endurance (Con) (Concentration, Control Shape): +1 (1 SP) +1 (Con) +5 (IE) = +7
  • Handle Animal (Cha) (Handle Animal, Ride, Profession/Teamster): +1 (1 SP) +3 (Cha) +5 (IE) = +9
  • Insight (Wis) (Gather Information, Sense Motive): +3 (1* SP) -1 (Wis) +5 (IE) = +7
  • Linguistics (Int) (Decipher Script, Forgery, Speak Language): +1 (1 SP) +3 (Int) +5 (IE) = +9
  • Perception (Wis) (Listen, Search, Spot): +1 (1 SP) -1 (Wis) +5 (IE) = +5
  • Persuasion (Cha) (Diplomacy, Intimidation): +1 (1 SP) +3 (Cha) +5 (IE) = +9
  • Religion (Wis) (Knowledge/Religion, Knowledge/The Planes, Heal, and performing various religious services and rituals): +1 (1 SP) -1 (Wis) +5 (IE) = +5
  • Scholar (Int) (Architecture, Engineering, Geography, History, Local, and Nobility): +1 (1 SP) +3 (Int) +5 (IE) = +9
  • Stealth (Dex) (Hide, Move Silently): +4 (2* SP) +2 (Dex) +5 (IE) = +11
  • Survival (Int) (Dungeoneering, Nature, Use Rope): +1 (1 SP) +3 (Int) +5 (IE) = +9
  • Thievery (Dex) (Appraise, Disable Device, Open Locks, Sleight Of Hand). +3 (1* SP) +2 (Dex) +5 (IE) = +10
  • Use Device (Cha) (Use Magic Device, Use Psionic Device, and Use Technological Device): +1 (1 SP) +3 (Cha) +5 (IE) = +9

Equipment (23 GP, 1 SP): Backpack (2 GP), Bedroll (.1 GP), Canteen (2 GP), Ragged Clothing (Free), Rations (7 Days, 3.5 GP), 100′ Hemp Rope (2 GP), Grappling Hook (1 GP), 10 Pitons (1 GP), Quarterstaff (-), Whetstone (-), Fishing Line & Hook (.1 GP), Tarp (1 GP), 10 Torches (.1 GP), Hammock (.1 GP), Glue Pot (.5 GP), 5 Daggers (10 GP).

Dominion and Leadership got dropped because neither would do anything for several levels to come and because the game master had said “no” quite firmly.

This rewritten version of the character did, at least, function. Substituting Shaping and Mana for Channeling and Conversion took care of the level requirements, expanded on the available list of magical tricks, and covered the Shaping prerequisites for the later Path of the Dragon abilities. Throwing in skill and hit point boosters under Innate Enchantment, and determining that Hysteria was applied to Skills made him a reasonable skill monkey and Immortal Vigor provided enough hit points to take a few blows – but the character still has no focus. He has a few magical tricks, but nowhere to go with them. He has enough hit points to take a few blows but little offensive or defensive capability otherwise. He is pretty good with skills – but d20 characters really need an effective combat role.

And that is why the CONCEPT is vital in Eclipse. Unless you have a good idea of what you’re building, how are you going to pick the proper parts to make it?

The Advancing Warrior Part VII – Special Tricks

So far this series has covered…

And…

Advancing Fighters:

  • Part I: Universal Basics, Lockdown/Tripper, and Fearmonger.
  • Part II: Smasher, Charger, and Thrown Weapons Master
  • Part III: Mounted Fighters.
  • Part IV: Two Weapons, Sword and Board, One-Handed, Massive Damage and Effects Monger Critical Fisher
  • Part V: Archers and Summoning Shots.
  • Part VI: Cyborgs, Power Armor, Mutants, Tinkers, and Mechwarriors.

That’s actually most of the basic combat styles. Even the dual-shield builds are just a variant on Two Weapons. I suppose I could count crossbowmen and gunmen – but, in Eclipse they’re virtually identical to Archers. They just need to find a way to reload as a free action, and that isn’t very hard. There are spells, powers, reflex training, weapon enhancements, and just using a Spirit Weapon or the Thrown Weapons Master Tulthara solutions.

What’s left is basically a list of popular special tricks.

The Beastmaster Warrior:

  • Having anything that can take actions on your behalf is a substantial advantage – and the easiest way to get it in Eclipse is the Companion ability, at a base of one Companion per (6 CP). Any further Templates (+6 CP per +2 ECL) or other special abilities (Say, being able to Transform your companion to your species or you to its species at will, 6 CP) apply to all your companions. Even without coming up with any limitations… you could easily enough have an eagle, a ferret, and a pair of Panthers, each with (the same) +2 ECL Template, and the ability to take those forms, for 36 CP – three levels worth of purchases for a basic Fighter.

This is a rather powerful option: depending on what template you give them, Companions can fight very well indeed, heal you, serve as mounts, provide magical support, or do many other things besides attack your enemies – and they’re not at all bad at that.

“Drawing Aggro”:

This comes from computer games. A character that can withstand massive attacks hits the target(s) first or otherwise gets them focused on him or her. They then absorb the targets attacks while other – usually much more fragile and offensively-focused characters – can attack unmolested.

In tabletop games, where the creatures are run by an intelligent game master, it usually isn’t so simple. Any reasonably intelligent creature tends to focus on the biggest threats first and deal with the turtles after the wasps, ferrets, and cats have been dealt with. To use this kind of tactic you either need to be holding a chokepoint, actively keeping enemies from getting past you, make yourself the primary threat, or magically compel the enemy to focus on you.

  • Still, if you really must give this a try, you’ll want Presence, Specialized for Increased Effect (20′ radius) / cannot be entirely turned off (causing a -2 on amicable social skill checks), enraged targets gain +2 Morale Bonus to Str and Con (5 CP). This has the effect of making enemies within the radius have to make a Will save (DC 11 + Cha Mod) or become enraged, focusing their anger on the user and preferentially attacking him or her. This isn’t perfect – if doing that is obviously idiotic or suicidal they’ll get another save each round and anyone who saves cannot be affected again for the rest of the fight – but it gives you a reasonable chance of being the center of attention fpr a while. Later on – if you should live so long – you can boost the Save DC with Augmented Bonus (6 CP) and / or Ability Focus (3 or 6 CP). I’m not sure that’s a good idea – Eclipse has a much wider range of attacks to defend against than most video games, so sooner or later you will run into opponents that really can hurt you – but it’s up to you.

The Totemic Warrior:

This trick uses Shapeshifting to replace your physical racial abilities and attribute modifiers with those of some other creature. While you do have to have at least as many hit dice as the base animal does to use this trick, if you start with a race without much in the way of physical attribute modifiers – or even a negative total – this is a cheap way to acquire some impressive physical boosts. It doesn’t do much for casters though.

  • Buy Shapeshift, with Attribute Modifiers, Hybrid Form, Clear Speech, and Variants (mostly human appearance), all Specialized and Corrupted / one specific animal only, cannot actually Change Forms (27 CP base, net cost 9 CP).

This is cheese. For example, a Wolf Totem Human Fighter thus gains +2 Natural Armor, +20′ move, d6 Natural Weapons, the Track feat with a +4 bonus on relevant rolls, Str +2, Dex +4, and Con +4. Sure, they have to have two hit dice to get that benefit, but even if they want it at level one and spend an extra 8 CP on an extra d4 Hit Die, the benefits are still very large. That’s why I usually only allow this in high-tech settings, where – when power armor, mechs, and similar devices are commonly used – personal combat abilities could really use a boost.

The Skillmaster Warrior:

This particular variant generally uses Finesse (6 CP per application) to get attack and damage bonuses from Intelligence instead of Strength, Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (Adds a secondary Att Mod to Int Mod for calculating skill points, normally purchased Specialized and Corrupted (only through level 5) and upgrading at higher levels (6 CP to start, up to 18 CP at higher levels), and a second instance of Adept (6 CP) so as to have plenty of skills. The really exotic options, however, come from…

  • Luck with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (“Taking 60″) / Only for Skills, only for Skill Stunts, not for rerolls, (18 CP).
  • 3d6 Mana, and Rite of Chi with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to power Skill Stunts, Rite of Chi and Bonus Uses are only to restore this pool, requires several minutes to use (12 CP).
  • Skill Focus +1 with Epic Stunts (8 CP), probably x4; once for each Adept skill (32 CP Total).

Now this is a fairly expensive option, weighing in at a total of 86 CP – about seven levels worth of purchases even if you don’t add another levels worth of Luck, Mana, and Rite of Chi. That’s a pretty expensive path. On the other hand, it opens up some pretty impressive powers – including epic spellcasting. It still probably isn’t the most efficient way to buy some magic, but it is one of the cheapest ways to gain access to epic magic. Admittedly, only a rather limited range of it – but that can still be pretty impressive. For some lists of possible stunts, see the Skill Stunts and Epic Skill Stunts series or articles.

The Spellslayer

The Spellslayer Warrior operates on fairly simple premises. Both Spells and Psionic Powers are complex, semi-stable, Constructs designed for particular functions. They may be made of energy, but if you can see them properly… Constructs can be killed and provoke Attacks of Opportunity as they enter spaces you threaten. Remote-sensing and remote-control effects require links back to their controllers. If you can manage the trick, links can transmit attacks back along themselves. Magic… can be fought.

  • Occult Sense / Spellsight (6 CP). A Spellslayer can see the structure of magic – perceiving incoming spells as creatures (With an AC equal to their Save DC), mystical links and bonds as chains, and standing spells as walls. Tthe general nature of incoming spells is obvious and they become valid targets for Attacks of Opportunity, links and bonds can be Sundered, and standing spells can be Smashed.
  • Presence (Dispelling Touch, L1), Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only works on targets that you can hit with a melee attack, since the attack is actually targeted against magic, the strike does no actual injury (2 CP).
  • Presence (Shatter Link, L2), Specialized for Increased Effect (L2 effect) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only works on targets that you can hit with a melee attack, since the attack is actually targeted against magic, the strike does no actual injury (4 CP). This effect can break a caster’s control over his or her summoned creatures, release dominated creatures, turn Animal Companions, Familiars, and Mystic Mounts back into normal animals for 3d6 minutes, sever (or at least suppress) Mystic Links for the same period, and disrupt similar bonds and controls. It does not, however, replace that control; such creatures are simply freed.
  • Presence (Occult Strike, L3), Specialized and Corrupted for Increased (L3) effect / only works against a single target at a time, only works with melee attacks. The user may transmit an attack across a Mystic Link to the creature behind it. He or she may attack creatures on the far ends of mystic links, strike at someone viewing the user through a clairvoyant sensor, or attack through a Projected Image or similar effect (6 CP).
  • Reflex Training (Combat Reflexes variant) (6 CP).
  • Countermagic (Specialized, Only as a Prerequisite, 3 CP) and The Spiral Dance (12 CP). This will allow the user to pull off the Jedi “reflect the attack” routine, albeit with certain spells and powers instead of technological weapons.

The Spellslayer Martial Art (Wis):

Spells and Powers are intricate networks of energy – complex, semi-autonomous, constructs capable of interacting with “normal” matter and energy in a bewildering variety of ways.

And that which is complex and interactive always has points of vulnerability. That’s how Dispelling and Counterspelling work. The art of the Spellslayer is to find and strike at those points of vulnerability – a subtle art of gestures and precision that target things that few others can even sense. Unlike most martial arts, the weapon used is mostly irrelevant, although reach weapons don’t allow the necessary fine control.

  • Requires: Spellsight
  • Basic Abilities: Attack 2, Defenses 4 (Adds to Saving Throws versus Spells and Spell-Like Abilities), Toughness 2 (Versus damage from Spells and Spell-Like Abilities), and Synergy/Spellcraft.
  • Advanced Techniques: Breaking (May roll the Spellbreaker skill instead of a caster level check when Dispelling), Sneak Attack 2 (Specialized for Increased Effect / automatically adds +2d6 per level taken against magical / psionic constructs and summoned creatures, but no effect on any other type of target), and Mind Like Moon.
  • Occult Techniques: Inner Strength, Ki Focus (Wisdom), Light Foot, and Vanishing.

It’s important to keep careful track of a Spellslayers limitations: for example, they cannot generally block an Orb Spell, or Flaming Arrows, or a Fireball that detonates more than ten feet away even if they are still within the blast radius. They have to be able to actually hit the spell. Still, at a total cost of about 36 CP, a dedicated fighter could acquire the Spellslayer package in about three levels.

The Warrior Mage:

This one is pretty simple: as shown with Hiten, the basic structure of warrior-style, “force of will” / “inner power” / “rage” / whatever magics is simply:

  • Shaping, Specialized for double effect (Cantrips) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only for tricks in a specific magical field, requires the use of a rune-inscribed weapon as a focus (4 CP).
  • Reflex Training (Extra Actions Variant), Specialized and Corrupted / only to “cast” tricks in the above category, requires the use of a rune-inscribed weapon as a focus (2 CP).
  • 1d6 (4) Mana with the Spell Enhancement Option, Specialized and Corrupted / only for spell enhancement, only to enhance shaping-based Weapons Magic Tricks (2 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only to restore the spell enhancement pool, above (4 CP)..

This allows the user to produce effects of up to level three as supernatural abilities – albeit not very many of them beyond level zero during any one fight for (12 CP).

  • The obvious basic upgrade is some combination of +4 Reflex Actions (2 CP), +1d6 Mana (2 CP), and +4 uses of Rite of Chi (2 CP). Those won’t increase the level of effects you can produce, but it will let you use a lot more of them.
  • You can also add a more fields of magic, each with it’s own pool of Mana and Actions. Go ahead; if you really want to be Thor Junior, take Weather Magic, Weapons Magic, and Self-Enhancement.

Being a Warrior-Mage is cheap; a single level worth of purchases will let you use a field quite effectively. Throwing in a single feat – half a level – worth of upgrades will probably cover everything you will need. And you will no longer need to rely on anyone else for enhancement spells, or basic healing, or simple mobility-boosters, or whatever. Taking Hiten as an example… you can start with a full package of weapon tricks at level one.

  • I’m not going to go over the utility of Berserker (large short-term boosts), Celerity (faster movement), the Create Relic / Enthusiast combination (make yourself some magical toys!), Grant of Aid (self healing that goes off when the player wants it to), Shapeshift, Improved Initiative, Lunge (more reach), Maneuver (dodge AoO with Tumble), Split Movement, and Throwing Master because – while straightforward boosts to particular areas are always useful – their basic effects are fairly obvious and they’re useful to everyone.

The Multi-Talented Warrior:

So the overall conclusion?

It’s pretty simple. The offensive power of an Eclipse-style “Martial” character is mostly limited by playability – and you can hit THAT limit easily and cheaply. With twenty levels to work in… an Eclipse Fighter still will not be able to afford anywhere near EVERYTHING – but they can easily afford to be an expert in multiple fields of combat and grab some handy magical powers. To make a list of the primary combat variants I’ve covered so far and how many levels it will take a fighter to sufficiently master them…

  • Battlefield Control:
    • Fear: 1-2 Levels.
    • Tripper: 4 Levels.
  • Melee Damage:
    • Charger: 2 Levels.
    • Massive Damage Critical Fisher: 4 Levels.
    • Mounted Warrior: 5 Levels (Overlaps with Beastmaster and Charger).
    • Two-Handed Smasher / Two-Weapon Fighter/ Sword-and-Board Fighter (all roughly equivalent, so just pick one): 2 Levels.
  • Ranged Damage:
    • Archer or Thrown Weapons Master: 5 Levels.
  • Special Attacks and Powers:
    • Beastmaster: 3 Levels
    • Drawing Aggro: 1 Level.
    • Effects Monger: 3 Levels.
    • Techno Warrior: 3 Levels.
    • The Lion At Bay: 1 Level.
    • Tinker-Warrior: 1-2 Levels.
    • Totemic Warrior: 1 Level.
  • Personal Magic:
    • Skillmaster: 7 Levels.
    • Spellslayer: 3 Levels.
    • Warrior Mage: 1-2 Levels, may be repeated.

So go right ahead: Make a Tripper (4), Mounted Warrior (5), Thrown Weapons Master (5), Beastmaster (2 due to overlap), Warrior-Mage II (3) with The Lion At Bay (1). Hurl your weapons to crossbow ranges while closing, ride your dire tiger into battle, trip everyone about you, battle four enemies at once on equal terms, and let your four animal companions (who will be sharing your enhancements from your warrior-mage skills) devour your foes. Yes, that comes to 20 levels and we were presuming starting at 2 – but your standard supply of Bonus Feats can cover for three levels worth of stuff (or more using Pathfinders bonus feat progression) You can probably afford to throw in some Witchcraft too. Why not? It’s very handy.

That’s what Eclipse does for Fighters. They can master multiple fields of combat, learn all the magic they need, control the battlefield, bring formidable allies with them, empower their own items, and heal their own wounds. It makes the all-fighter party a perfectly valid choice again. They still may not have as many options as the mage for long-distance travel or utility powers – but Beowulf can face that Dragon on equal terms and they have a rich array of tactical options. Eclipse fighters/Samurai/Archers/Etc do not need to play second fiddle to the mages and clerics any more.

Now if you want more options, there’s been plenty of prior material:

Some of the better examples include:

And that should do it for this series. If anyone wants to suggest any fighter builds they particularly favor, I will gladly throw them in though!

The Advancing Warrior Part VI – Cyborg, Power Armor, Mutant, Tinker, and MechWarriors.

Technology is not the same as magic – and the difference is fairly simple. Technology has tradeoffs. Take… a Hammer.

Technological hammers are straightforward: you can tie a rock to a stick to make a free one, get a cheap one at a dollar store or the local equivalent, get a good one at a hardware store, or buy a really good one from a catalog or an upper-end hardware store. The free one is not going to be very effective, and will tend to fall apart or break. The cheap one will break if you use it too much. A good one will function well and will probably hold up for years. The one from the catalog… well, if you chose well, it will be fine steel, rust-resistant, be forged in one piece with it’s handle, have a very comfortable grip, and come with a lifetime guarantee – but it really won’t do anything much “better” than the “good” one.

Sure, some hammers are better for some purposes than others – but it’s always a tradeoff. A heavier head and a longer handle makes for more impact, but slows your tempo and makes it harder to control where you hit. A rubber hammer is no good for driving nails, but can drive home wooden joints with little risk of damage. Doubling what you spend will not result in a hammer that works twice as well. There very quickly comes a point at which increasing the amount you spend has no measurable effect on the function at all. Realistic technology is relatively cheap, has functional limits and tradeoffs, and isn’t likely to change much through a campaign.

Similarly, you can make almost-free free “Zip Guns”, buy cheap “Saturday night specials”, buy a basic handgun, or buy a fabulously expensive handgun – but a shot from the fabulously expensive handgun isn’t going to all that much more effective than a shot from the basic one even if the custom grip slightly improves your aim.

On the other hand, if we’re talking magic hammers… the upper limit is purely arbitrary if there is any at all – and, at least in d20… throwing more money at it does make it better in predictable ways. There is nothing stopping you from making a +5 Sapient Hammer of Instant Construction with a wide variety of powers that will build you a castle overnight. The only functional trade-off is purely monetary.

Magic can be unique though. After all, the first atomic bomb was detonated in 1945. The first hydrogen bomb was set off in 1952. The Tsar Bomba was set off in 1961. Advances since then have focused on making the things smaller, lighter, and cheaper to build. The global nuclear stockpile hit an estimated peak of more than 70,000 weapons in 1986, some forty years after they were invented. Yet in (for example) Harry Potters world of magic few question the notion that a husband and wife team created a Philosophers Stone in a home laboratory six hundred years ago and yet no one else has ever managed it. Why not? Knowing that it’s possible to get endless life, health, and wealth with sufficient effort… why haven’t wealthy people thrown centuries worth of research teams at the project? Even in the Marvel Universe, where the upper end “technologies” ignore a lot of natural laws… there are tradeoffs and there are plenty of much cheaper Iron Man knockoffs running around.

Power Armor, Cyborg, and Power Armor Warriors, plus MechWarriors.

So if someone wants to play a Cyborg, or Power Armor user, or some such the game master has a basic decision to make: is their “technology” going to be basically magical – the way Pathfinder and Starfinder do it – or is it going to be realistic?

  • If it’s magical – or “alien technology” or any other form of narrative magic dressed up as technology – then you can simply use “Grafts”, Implanted Ioun Stones, Magical Tattoos, Talents (from The Practical Enchanter) and – in Eclipse – Innate Enchantment and Siddhisyoga. All you’re really changing is the special effects. You don’t really need any special rules for this, although you may want to apply the equivalent of the “Psionics Are Different” optional rule (In Eclipse the free “Eldritch” modifier). Your ultra-“technology” is indistinguishable from magic because it basically IS magic. For an example of this sort of effect, look at Vow Of Poverty.

If it’s genuinely technological – physical devices based on natural laws that anyone can use – it will change the game power curves quite a lot. Technology may be somewhat expensive in reality, but it’s fairly readily duplicated, can be mass-produced, and is cheap compared to even mid-level magical items. If you let realistic technology into your game low-level characters can become a lot more powerful. While upper-end magic can still surpass technology fairly readily, it will be fairly easy for a technologist to compete with the low- and mid-level stuff.

Presuming that the game master agrees that the settings natural laws allow more-or-less realistic technology to work and nothing stops it (such as chemical explosives not working in the forgotten realms because the God of Fire views chemical explosions as offerings of delicious candy and eats them) there are several ways to get it.

It is not wise to try and pay close attention to baseline d20’s “laws of nature”. After all, baseline d20 is a setting where humans can have fairly normal children with spirits and masses of fire. Where poisons take effect instantly. Where creatures can dig tunnels as fast as a man can walk even when they have nowhere to put the material they dig out. Where conversation can take place in the time it takes to press a button. Where a readied action will let you close a door before a laser beam can get through it after you see it being fired. Where “chemistry” has fire, earth, law, evil, negative energy, air, and good as manipulable elements while still apparently offering us Iron, Copper, and other conventional elements to work with. Where aerodynamics has no relevance to flight. Where wounds do not hinder creatures. It goes on and on. Baseline D20’s “laws of nature” are founded in Rule Of Cool, the random whims of dozens of different writers (who mostly don’t really understand real world physics very well themselves), ease of explanation and play, vast amounts of “that seems reasonable”, and even vaster amounts of “that’s too complicated to get into so we’re going to ignore it”. You think not? Some d20 Wizards have been shown wearing glasses. So what do the rules tell us about what you make corrective lenses for Darkvision out of? Why? How do they work?

  • The best option – at least in terms of ease of use – is probably to allow the Equipment Skills from the Shadowed Galaxy setting as Occult Skills. In effect that allows each of those skills – Armory, Biotech, Gadgetry, Logistics, Vehicles, and Weaponry – to be purchased for 6 CP (3 CP to gain access, 3 SP to cover the double cost for the first 3 CP). If the Game Master doesn’t require it as a World Law, you can either make your technology cheaper or get a lot more of it through applying limitations. Perhaps the stuff blocks the use of high-end magical and psionic abilities, or drives you progressively more insane as you get more, or supporting it against the local laws of nature drains your personal energies, or the gods dislike the stuff and penalize your saving throws, or some such. That sort of thing will tend to restrict the use of high technology to adventurers.
    • Do you want to be a Cyborg and have all your gadgets built-in? Then either select your equipment carefully (and probably mostly from the Biotech list) or buy an Immunity to having your technological gear taken away (Uncommon (since taking away a character’s gear is out of style), Major, Major, 6 CP).
    • Do you want Power Armor? You’ll probably want to invest heavily in Armory and Weaponry.
    • Do you want a Mech? Buy some extra size on your “power armor” and there you are. Alternatively, invest in a Vehicle. Either way, you’ll probably want a Martial Art Specialized for Double Effect / only while piloting a Mech.
    • Do you want to be a Mutant? Make a Cyborg and change your special effects.

This option provides a reasonable simulation of “realistic” (in the sense of limits and function, rather than in the sense of “existing items”) high technology for gaming purposes. As such… someone using Power Armor or a Mech will be very powerful in combat at low levels, but will find that – while they may pick up more technological options at higher levels – their individual items of equipment will remain relatively static. That particle blaster will be very effective against Orcs, fairly effective against Hill Giants, and of little use against an Adult Dragon.

It may take two or three levels worth of purchases to pick up a full-blown technologist package – Adept (6 CP) and three or four of the Occult Skills (at 6 CP each)- but if this option is available it can provide some very effective boosts and makes it possible to build space marines, cyborg street samurai, “matrix” hackers, logistical geniuses, gunfighters, and various other science-fiction or technological concepts. It can also really mess up a game that wasn’t designed to handle that sort of thing, so it’s wise to talk to the prospective game master in advance.

If you desperately want to do this, and the natural laws of the setting do not support it… it may be possible to pick up an Immunity to the Local Natural Laws. I can’t tell you how much that will cost since the requirements will depend on just how odd the settings rules are, and I can’t tell you whether or not your game master will allow it – natural law immunities are always game-master permission only – but it is likely to be very expensive. The cost can be reduced by picking up some of the limitations imposed by being subject to more realistic natural laws. For example, you may find that you cannot turn this power off, that wounds actually hinder you, that you must obey aerodynamic principles when flying, and so on.

Tinker Warriors:

If the setting is basically magical, and realistic technology isn’t generally usable in it, you can take Occult Skill / Gadgetry and whip up quasi-magical items. While less powerful than the Equipment Skills, this is cheap and versatile. Since this is going to be the “tinkerer” version (rather than the Reality-Warping version common in the Federation-Apocalypse setting) it can be based on Dexterity (if you lean towards clockwork and mechanisms), Intelligence (if you lean towards runes and minor magical items) or Wisdom (if you lean towards alchemy and natural magic). You can also gain a +2 Synergy bonus from up to two relevant skills – but what skills are relevant are up to your style of Gadgetry and the game master. Things like Craft (Alchemy, Clockwork, Metals, etc), Profession (Engineer, Mechanic, Runesmith), and Knowledge (Arcana and Nature) are all likely candidates.

In any case, your total in the Gadgets skill also represents your daily pool of “gadget points”, which you may invest each morning in your creations. As a rule, “gadgets” are comparatively minor things. They’re flexible and won’t necessarily work the same way twice. You’re carrying a vial of Liquid Sunlight? You might want to use it to create a flare or blinding flash, to damage some undead, to paint luminescent lines on a wall, to toss it in a creatures eyes to blind it for a time, to negate a darkness spell, or to use it as makeup when you impersonate a ghost – or perhaps a creature of the higher planes. But rather than looking up rules… the user describes what he or she is trying to accomplish with the gadget, and the game master can just describe the effect on the fly. Was your Liquid Sunlight more effective last time? Maybe this time it was bottled on a cloudy day. Or it was the wrong time of year. Or there was a celestial conjunction. Or it was a lunar festival day. If you don’t trust the game master, why are you playing with him or her?

To create a gadget, you name or describe it. Most gadgets will “cost” 1-3 “points”.

  • Reasonable, straightforward, or extremely situational items, will generally cost one point: A flask full of really strong coffee or “energy drink”? A flaregun with six flares? Really tough waterproof canvas you could use for a canoe hull? A tiny heater that keep your tent warm in arctic conditions? A fire-resistant blanket? A rewinding wrist grapple? A pocket full of Smoke Pellets? An Ice Axe and Pitons? Realistic medications? All are suitable one-point items. Many alchemical items fall into this category.
  • More unlikely or powerful items will usually cost two points. “Charms” from The Practical Enchanter tend to fit here, as do things like Wily E. Coyote Rocket Boots (good for making mighty leaps, pushing people away, and avoiding or breaking a fall, probably burning out on a 1-2 on a d6 after each use), minor potion-equivalents, Dart Fingers (each acts as a light crossbow bolt, you can fire a whole hands worth as a single attack, but once spent, they’re used up for the day), or a rubber coating on your armor (5 points of Electrical Resistance for the day), a big can of Spinach (+2 to Str and Con for a minute or two after you eat it).
  • The most powerful gadgets will usually cost three points. “Talismans” from The Practical Enchanter show up here, as do things like that Liquid Sunlight, Popcorn Grenades, most Feather Tokens, 2’nd level potion equivalents, and so on.

Inspiration for other gadgets can be found on the Core Psitech and Glowstone Items lists – but I wouldn’t count on them being usable directly; most campaigns will not include the relevant natural laws.

  • Generous game masters may let you get away with creating gadgets on the fly – probably at an increased cost – or you can just take Immunity / the time normally required to assemble gadgets (Uncommon, Minor, Major, 3 CP). That’s another natural-law immunity, so it may not be allowed – but you could accomplish the same thing with a minor spell or a bit of reality editing or in several other ways, so most game masters will probably allow it.

The Witchcraft-Based Mad Scientist also belongs here, given that you can pick up “SCIENCE!” for a mere 12 CP. The list of options for that is pretty lengthy, so I’m just going to link to the build containing them.

While neither Gadgetry nor Mad Science is really all that powerful, they’re both very versatile, providing a nice selection of tricks and exotic options – and they’re both cheap. A single level worth of purchases will suffice for either, and two levels for both – and either way it’s a possible lead-in to a ninja-style Warrior.

The Technology Exploit:

If the game master is running baseline d20… pretty much anything works. That’s why you could pick up ray guns and such from crashed alien ships in some adventures despite the setting not advancing in thousands of years. It couldn’t be a natural law of course – otherwise the stuff wouldn’t work and why were all those alien civilizations immune to it?

In any case, while technology seems to have gotten stuck in most such settings, there isn’t anything that actually keeps it from working – so all your character needs is to get a hold of it.

  • If you just want access to a particular item or material, baseline d20 includes all kinds of ways to travel the multiverse. Ergo, all you need is a Privilege (3, 6, or 9 CP, depending on just how hard it is to find whatever-it-is). If you want to start off with an Artifact of some sort this will probably do it. While most of those things have their uses, they tend to have their own purposes, hordes of pursuers, and various curses as well.

If you want access to a higher technology level in general… then you need an immunity to whatever undefined handwave it is that is keeping the stuff from being imported, duplicated, and sold in every town. As usual in Eclipse, you can buy that if the game master is willing to put up with it. Even better, since d20 Past, Modern, and Future helpfully defined some technology (“Progress”) levels for us (whether or not that makes sense) we can just use those. To do so buy…

  • Immunity / the normal limits on equipment availability (Very Common, Major. Trivial (+1 Tech Level) costs 5 CP, Notable (+2 Tech Levels, costs 10 Points), Major (+3 Tech Levels, costs 15 points), Great (+4 Tech Levels, costs 30 points), Epic (+5 Tech Levels, costs 45 points), and Legendary (+6 Tech Levels, costs 60 points). Most baseline d20 settings start at Tech Level 2 (or maybe 3). You could limit that in various ways, but it’s kind of tricky; it’s hard to think of a source for – say – Starships that won’t have good technology available in other fields.
  • If the game master allows this stunt in the first place, he may also allow the Innate Enchantment exploit – which is simple enough; according to the official rules one Gold Piece equates to 20 d20 future “Credits”. According to the (again official) Purchase DC to Credits chart quite a lot of personal equipment is surprisingly cheap. And since it’s mundane, there are no other costs associated. That way 6 CP worth of Innate Enchantment gets you 100,000 Credits worth of “built-in” gear. That… can get pretty absurd. I’ve used that exploit to build a couple of superheroes, and a couple of iconic Star Trek gadgets – but if the game master allows it at all, expect him to keep a very careful eye on it.

This isn’t a very good way to get Mechs and Starships though. Those things simply cost way too much if you buy them normally. You can, however, become a Pulp Hero Starship Captain relatively cheaply…

I can’t really tell you how much this build will “cost” since it’s full of campaign-specific variables – but if all you want is a gun and a kevlar vest instead of a bow and chainmail, it shouldn’t cost very much.

There are other ways to do this of course. For example, we have the Gadgeteer template in the Mutants Of The Eclipse series (in +1, +2, and +3 ECL flavors) as well as Pulp Heroes (and their advanced powers, drugs and archetypes, and vehicles), and the various entries in Mayhem and Mad Science – but most of those are for dedicated inventors and mad scientists, not for Fighters who dabble.

On the other hand, just for amusement… here’s the +1 ECL Pirate Template.

And for the last article in this series, it will be a selection of lesser archetypes built around throwing in a few special tricks.

The Advancing Warrior Part V – The Archer

The oldest known bows date back some 10,000 years, although there are some indications that they existed some 64,000 years ago. The first known use of bows in large-scale organized warfare dates back some 5000 years, to the First Dynasty in Egypt – which is also about the first known occurrence of large-scale organized warfare. Bows – like rope, and spears, and several other basic inventions – have been a part of “civilized” warfare since the beginning, and remained in reasonably widespread use until a mere few centuries ago. Not surprisingly, the mythology of the bow is deep and rich.

It also shouldn’t be surprising that Archery builds have a lot in common with the Thrown Weapons Master. The major baseline differences are:

  • The base range is better. You don’t need to use a Talisman to increase it.
  • You don’t need Quickdraw (or another magical device) to get iterative attacks with a bow.
  • You don’t threaten the area around you, so you’ll want some way to do that.
  • Ammunition is relatively cheap compared to permanent weapon enchancements, but you generally can’t get it back. So it’s an ongoing expense. On the other hand, differing weapon-and-bow enhancements stack, so it’s easy to add a few special-purpose effects to your shots, either with temporary effects (Eldritch Weapon Spells, Greater Magic Weapon, Flame Arrow, Etc) or to carry a variety of special-purpose ammunition with you.
  • Dissimilar Arrow and Bow enhancements stack. This is really the big draw of Archery over Thrown Weapons.

To take full advantage of that last item in Eclipse, you’ll either want some points invested in either Improved, Superior, Focused, Imbuement (Bows) (24 CP) and the same for Arrows (24 CP) or to take Siddhisyoga (6 CP) and Imbuement (Arrows) – possibly with Inherent Spell with +2 Bonus Uses (Greater Magic Weapon, probably Specialized to require more time and Corrupted to only work on bows, 3 CP) to go with it all. The first way costs more CP (but no gold) while the second costs fewer CP and some 200,000 gold – but either means that you can eventually have a +5 Enhancement Bonus and +9 worth of special enhancements on your bow and another +9 worth of special enhancements on your arrows forever, at no further cost – and if your bow gets sundered? All you need is either Spirit Weapon (Composite Bow, 9 CP) to ignore the need to actually have a bow and arrows on you or a supply of entirely mundane composite bows and ordinary arrows to boost. Sure, the total is going to be 24 CP for each full incidence of Imbuement – but you’ll effectively be getting your Bow and/or Arrows for free. That’s a pretty big benefit when it saves you 200,000 GP on the Bow and 4000 GP per individual Arrow. And you can’t lose your investment. There will be no worries about having your horrendously expensive bow Sundered or otherwise destroyed.

What to Imbue your weapons with?

For the Bow, I’d probably go for +1 (+1), Splitting (+3), Force (+2), Distance (+1), Collision (+2), and 38,000 GP worth of priced abilities (equivalent to the last +1 in value), such as Dragonbone (+100 GP) and Elvencraft (+300 GP), Strength Adjusting (+1000 GP), maybe Aquatic (2000 GP), and making it Sentient with some handy minor effects. Buy a few Weapon Crystals for when you’re fighting incorporeal creatures, constructs, fiends, and undead. The full set is a tiny fraction of the money you’re saving on the bow. Buy them through Siddhisyoga if you wish; that way they can never be taken away from you.

For the Arrows? If you don’t want to invest another (6 CP) in the ability to vary what enhancements you’re imbuing them with between adventures… Holy or Unholy (as suits you, +2), Banishing (+2 – skip if the GM says this won’t work in Ammunition), Seeking (+1, negates miss chances), Corrosive (+1), Lightning (+1), Frost (+1), and Sonic (+1).

  • If you have a poor BAB you may want to substitute Skillful (+2, gives you a minimum of 3/4 BAB and proficiency with the weapon) for something or other. This might be well worthwhile if you’ve got your BAB heavily specialized in melee or some such though.
  • If the game master is willing to consider Razorfeather Arrows (MMV, Pg 169) For 50 GP for the Razorfeather and a DC 30 Craft check you get a Mundane, Masterwork, Keen, Adamantine Arrow. And since those are nonmagical properties, they stack with magical enhancements.

Put that all together… and you can effectively be wielding a weapon with a +5 Enhancement Bonus, +19 worth of special weapon powers (+8 Bow, +9 Arrow, +1 Weapon Crystal, mundane “+1″ Keen). Admittedly, that’s at Level 19+ – but you’ll be using a weapon that’s much more powerful than anyone else’s in the party throughout your entire career at no cost. I’d say that it’s well worth it.

For your Martial Art… you’ll want the Basic Techniques of Power II (increasing your damage to either 1d12 or 2d6), Attack IV (adding +4 to your attack rolls) and perhaps some Defenses. For Advanced and Master Techniques you’ll want: Rapid Shot, Precise Shot (needed to make Splitting work), and Piercing Shot I and II (Augment Attack, +2d6 or 4d6 Damage, Specialized and Corrupted / only to overcome Damage Reduction) – although you may want something different if you’ve bought some of those already. For Occult Techniques you’ll want Inner Strength x2, Wrath, and Vanishing.

For your other archery-related abilities?

Whether or not you’ve opted to pay for your Arrows and Bow with Imbuement, you WILL want Siddhisyoga (6 CP) for an Archer build, simply because you’ll want more inherent enhancements than you can afford with Innate Enchantment even if the game master doesn’t limit you to 12 CP worth of Innate Enchantment like I do. Among the abilities you will almost certainly want to buy are…

  • Animate Arrows: You may expend a Swift Action to animate your arrows for the next (Cha Mod +1, 1 Minimum) rounds. While they are so animated you may use them to perform ranged combat maneuvers when you attack with them (2000 GP).
  • Arrow Mind: You threaten squares within your normal reach with your bow and may fire arrows without provoking AOO (2000 GP).
  • Enhance Attribute (All of them are useful. Usually Personal-Only, so 1400 GP for +2, 8400 GP for +4, 21,000 GP for +6
  • Gravity Bow: Your arrows do damage as if they were one size larger (2000 GP). That will usually be 2d6 for a medium-sized archer.
  • Guided Shot: Your ranged attacks do not take range penalties and ignore the AC bonus granted by anything less than total cover. This does, however, require a Swift Action on each turn that you use it (2000 GP).
  • Personal Haste: +30′ Movement and +1 Attack at your full BAB when making a full attack (2000 GP).
  • Weapon Mastery/Composite Longbow: +4 Competence Bonus to BAB with Composite Longbow (Personal-Only, 1400 GP). Yes, this will add to iterative attacks.

You may want to buy an immunity to having these powers Dispelled or negated by Antimagic as well, but it’s not really required.

After that, pick a few things from among…

  • Master Archer / Augmented Bonus: Usually you’ll want to add your Dex Mod to your Str Mod for Damage with Bows and vice versa for your Attacks (2 x 6 CP) – but you can also do something like adding your Wis Mod to both with Improved Augmented Bonus (12 CP).
  • Aggressive Focus / Expertise (Trade up to +5 AC for Damage, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / only with ranged weapons, only with bows, 6 CP) works just the same for an Archer build as it does for a melee build. The basic level is still usually quite enough.
  • Lightning Archery / Reflex Training, Specialized in Attack Actions for Increased Effect (provides a full attack) and Corrupted (only with the user’s chosen weapon) for an Increased Number Of Uses (5) (6 CP) will – up to once per round five times per day – allow the user to take a full attack as an immediate action. When you REALLY need to stop that mage from casting something, or have to make sure that some creature on the edge goes down… this is the talent for you.
  • Gambler’s Fortune / Luck with +8 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only for attacks, only with Bows (6 CP). This will let you automatically hit – and automatically critical – when you really need to do so or make a trick shot or some such.
  • Wrath Of The Gods / Rapid Strike I/II/III for a total cost of 6/18/36 CP changes your iterative attacks to every 4/3/2 counts – and it’s already limited to a particular weapon type, so coming up with a Corruption or Specialization to make it cheaper will be just a bit tricky. Still, this can effectively turn the character into a machine gunner and is probably well worth it once your Base Attack Bonus is getting up there.

You will want to avoid some of the traditional silliness associated with maximizing your number of attacks. Sure, there are (rather dubious) classical builds that can fire off a hundred arrows in a round at level twenty. You could do something very similar in Eclipse (albeit at much lower levels) using Improved Reflex Training (Specialized in firing arrows to allow repeated full attacks when you trigger it, 12 CP) – but this is just another way to create a character that’s pretty much unplayable.

  • Expert Aim: Immunity / circumstantial penalties to attacks, such as fog, cover, shooting into melee, shooting while riding a moving mount, etc. (Common, Minor, Minor, 4 CP). This reduces the penalties for such attacks by up to four. This can be increased to up to six for 6 CP or up to eight for 12 CP. As usual, Specialization and Corruption (likely to a single type of weapon) may be applied to reduce the costs.
  • Agile Archer / Evasive/Using Projectile Weapons while Threatened, Specialized / only with Bows (this avoids provoking Attacks of Opportunity when using a bow in melee – presuming that you don’t want to buy an equivalent via Siddhisyoga).

At higher levels, when sniping, and to deal with targets who are relying excessively on Damage Reduction or “Block” (which stops 60 damage from an attack), you may want to buy:

  • Enhanced Strike (Crushing, Focused, and Hammer), +2 Bonus Uses for each form of Augmented Attack, and Opportunist / May activate multiple forms of Enhanced Strike at the same time, all Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only with ranged weapons, only with your favorite type of bow (11 CP). This combination can be used three times per minute – and allows you to fire one arrow as a +5 Touch Attack inflicting maximum damage and multiplying the total damage by the number of arrows you would get to fire in a normal full attack.

Go ahead. Add Enhanced Strike/Whirlwind (Corrupted for Increased Effect instead of Reduced Cost: affects a 10′ radius of where the weapon strikes, but cannot distinguish between friend and foe; everyone just takes the damage) with +2 Bonus Uses (3 CP) and – when you want to – fire off a radius-effect shot that does more damage than a fusion bomb. On the other hand… if you aren’t very cautious in using this sort of trick you can tip your character over the “unwelcome in the game” line with this sort of ability very very easily. Unless the game is getting pretty ridiculous to start with you should not really need to be able to shoot a hole straight through the Death Star.

For a rather absurd notion left over from Legend Of The Five Rings (and the animal archery school that turned up there)… There are weapons that can be used to summon Elementals – normally as a Standard Action. Those weapons also allow the user to communicate with the entity thus summoned, so they can perform more complicated tasks than “attack the enemy”. Those are Synergy Abilities (requiring a +1 base ability to build on), so weapons with a total of a +3/4/5/6 effective level can summon Large/Huge/Greater/Elder Elementals to help their user’s out. And there’s nothing (unless some errata that I haven’t seen says something) that says that you can’t put that ability on Ammunition (which is a pretty silly oversight to start with, but there you go). Generalizing that ability a bit gives us…

  • Planar Power: Synergy ability with Dispelling. +1/2/3/4 enhancement that allows the weapon to cast Summon Monster 5/6/7/8 once per day as a standard action. The user may communicate with the creature summoned. If used with a ranged weapon the Summons can be released where the projectile impacts for an additional +1. Add +1 level to the effective level of the Summons if the weapon can only summon a particular type of creature. CL 17, Aura Moderate Conjuration, Activation Standard or Free for an additional +1. The creature summoned will remain for 17 rounds.

And

  • Totemic Power: Synergy ability with Magebane. +1/2/3/4 enhancement that allows the weapon to cast Summon Nature’s Ally 5/6/7/8 once per day as a standard action. The user may communicate with the creature summoned. If used with a ranged weapon the Summons can be released where the projectile impacts for an additional +1. Add +1 level to the effective level of the Summons if the weapon can only summon a particular type of creature. CL 17, Aura Moderate Conjuration, Activation Standard or Free for an additional +1. The creature summoned will remain for 17 rounds.

So: To fire arrows that turn into creatures after they hit… you’ll want them to be +1, Dispelling or Magebane (as appropriate, +1), Goes off where the Projectile hits (+1), Free Action Activation (+1), and then +1 to +4 of Totemic Power or Planar Power – for a final total of +5 to +8. So you’ll want Improved, Superior, Focused, Imbuement (Arrows*) (24 CP). For that… at L9 you can fire arrows that have a Summon V effect – or VI if you limit yourself to a single type of creature, such as a Dire Bear. At L11 you could fire a Summon VI effect, at L13 a Summon VII effect, and at L15 a Summon VIII effect – albeit only fifty times a day. Go ahead. Hit Level 13 and fire arrows that each turn into 1d4+1 Dire Bears on impact. Hit Level 15 and fire arrows that each turn into 1d4+1 Mastodons on impact. Go ahead. You KNOW that you want to shoot bears at people.

I’d probably limit this a bit more –  but I’d probably also allow it. It’s not like I haven’t had plenty of players design characters with even more ridiculous talents and the imagery of having a character rapid-firing angry bears is irresistible.

*Alternatively, you can go the Throwing Master route and Imbue knives or javelins or something and throw bears at people. That works too.

Archers are pretty iconic and have a lot of options. It would take ten or twelve levels to buy all of the stuff on this list – but there’s a trick to that; no playable archer is going to have all of the stuff on this list. They don’t need even half the stuff on this list (five or six levels worth) to be extremely effective combatants. And they’ll have almost all of their wealth-by-level left over to invest in other toys.

The next article or two in this series will probably wind things up – covering Cyborg Street Samurai, Power Armor Troopers, Skillmaster Fighters, Spellslayers, “Drawing Aggro”, Warrior Magics, and the Multi-talented Warrior.

Eclipse – The Advancing Warrior, Part III

This got out of order, so for today it’s fighters with Mounts instead of Archers and Tricksters. Ah well.

The Mounted Warrior:

The first step in becoming a mounted warrior is getting a (preferably either intelligent or combat-trained) mount. The problem here is that normal-animal mounts short of elephants, mammoths, and major dinosaurs have about the same life expectancy on an adventure as Cure Wounds potion – and cost about the same too. That’s why one of my first edition Paladin’s rode a transfomed Brontosaurus. While this does suggest getting “mounts-in-a-bottle” at some small surcharge (Pathfinder’s L2 Carry Companion spell covers this) that doesn’t solve the “easy to kill” problem.

  • The most obvious and easy way is, of course, to take a Companion and – for practicalities sake – stick a +2 ECL Template on it that includes Returning and some boosted speed and self-healing and such to go along with its basic enhancements. This also makes it easy to get an intelligent mount and skip control checks. You’ll have to wait to fairly high level to – say – ride a dragon, but it’s quite possible and you can start out with a decent mount at level one. (12 CP).
  • Leadership, Specialized / only to get a companion that serves as a mount (3 CP) is classic – but you’ll need to wait until level four or more to get anything at all. In practice, you’ll probably have to make do with real mounts until level five or six. Worse, many game masters won’t allow Leadership at all.
  • If you’re using Witchcraft (and if you’re a Fighter, why aren’t you?) you can take Birth Of Flames to create a permanent sixth level Astral Construct (per The Practical Enchanter). That’s about the toughest mount you can get early on, quite customizable (I like to give them Fast Healing and Intelligence so they get Feats), they return after 2d6 days if “killed”, and can be Summoned or Dismissed for one Power point. That’s a fairly impressive – and convenient – mount right out of the box for a mere (6 CP).
  • You can use temporary summons: while most spells aren’t great for combat mounts there’s Hound Of Doom at L3 – just right for an Inherent Spell with +4 Bonus Uses (12 CP). Those are actually pretty decent mounts.
  • If you want to get – say – a little Rune Magic (Summoning) and Mana, Specialized and Corrupted (Probably for Reduced Cost, since if you can talk the game master into Increased Effect you will only need a +12 total to hit caster level eighteen and ninth level effects) / only for Summon Mount spells you can quite easily produce mounts as needed.

Summon Mount (Simple Spell Template):

The general Summon Mount spell closely resembles Summon Nature’s Ally, but it only summons creatures to ride on, offers a considerably smaller (three at each level) selection, and they always show up next to the caster. It does, however, includes appropriate saddle, tack, and harness and the creatures are considered to be well-trained mounts. If you summon a mount one level less powerful than you are entitled to you get two of them. If two or more levels less you get four. Variants on the basic spell include: 1) summons a specific creature (-1 Spell Level), lasts for one minute per caster Level (+1 Spell Level), and lasts for one hour per caster level (+2 Spell Levels). This isn’t a bad route either.

Available Mounts from Summon Mount:

  • L1: Riding Dog (Medium), Equine (Pony/Mule/Light Horse) (Large), Hippocampus (Large).
  • L2: Axe beak (Large), Hippogriff (Large), Heavy Horse (Large).
  • L3: Giant Eagle (L), Pegasus (Large), Large Wolf (4 HD).
  • L4: Dire Boar (Large), Griffon (Large), Giant Scorpion (Large).
  • L5: Manticore (Large), Orca (Huge), Unicorn (Large).
  • L6: Elephant (Huge), Nightmare (Large), Wyvern (Large).
  • L7: Kirin (Large, CR7 version), Mastodon (Huge), Triceratops (Huge).
  • L8: Dragon Horse (Large), Roc (Gargantuan), Young Dragon (Chromatic, Metallic, or otherwise as the GM permits. Usually Large).
  • L9: Androsphinx (Large), Celestial Charger Unicorn (Large), Dragon Turtle (Huge).

Yes, you can vary the list if you like. There are lots of other things you could ride.

Finally, if you want to be really over the top take…

  • Blood Mount: Shapeshift, with the Growth, Dire, and Dragon modifiers, all Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / the user cannot actually shapeshift, only to allow the user to produce creatures to use as mounts and combat aides (6 CP) plus Extended Creatures Of Blood and Magic Of Blood (18 CP). That will let the user take a number of points of damage equal to the maximum a creature of the Animal, Dire Animal, or Dragon type of equal or lesser hit dice could have to create an obedient creature of that type that will last for the next (Level) days unless slain sooner. Sure, you will need a few Heal spells to do it – but if you’re high enough level, you can make yourself a pack of dragons or something.

So you have a mount. Fortunately, the summarized rules for mounted combat aren’t all that complicated:

  • The mount acts on your initiative, but has it’s own actions, movement rate, and attacks.
  • If it moves, it carries you along, so you can use your movement action for something else.
  • If it charges, you are charging.
  • You can use a standard action to attack someone your mount passes.
  • While you can take a full-round action while the horse moves, you can’t normally make a full attack on a single target – although the rules don’t really say if you can use a full attack to strike multiple creatures along the mounts route. I’d say “yes”, but that’s just me.
  • When the mount moves, it triggers Attacks Of Opportunity on itself, not on you.
  • Being mounted often provides an “On Higher Ground” advantage.
  • Ranged attacks made while the mount is moving are made at -2 per full movement multiplier used (-2 for 1x Speed, -4 for 2x, -6 for 3x, -8 for 4x, and so on).
  • Spellcasting while your mount is moving requires a Concentration check.
  • Lances get a +1 Damage Multiplier on their first attack when used to Charge.
  • If you ride a mount out of a threatened area, it provokes one Attack of Opportunity which may be taken against either the mount or the rider.
  • There’s a bunch of stuff about Ride rolls for various tricks, but you can look that up when you need it. Usually you won’t. In fact, if you’re making a serious mounted warrior you will make sure that you don’t ever need to roll.

Now, as for the basics… in Eclipse, most of the damage boosters, charge boosters, or similar items care if you are on a mount or not. Your extra damage, charge multipliers, and other tricks from the Smasher and Charger paths still work just fine. About the only things that don’t are the things that let you move when they’re triggered. Those won’t work unless you get off the mount because the mount isn’t moving.

  • Natural Rider: Mastery: You can “Take 10″ under stress for (3 x Int Mod, Minimum 3) skills, Specialized and Corrupted / only for Ride. So for 2/3/4 CP you may take 10/15/20. You should be able to just pick what you need to avoid every having to make Ride checks at all.
  • Mounted Caster: Mastery, as above, but only for Concentration checks required for spellcasting while riding.
  • Battle Dance: Blessing, Specialized and Corrupted / only to transfer triggered movement opportunities to your mount (2 CP). With this, for example, if you have the equivalent of Great Cleave available, your mount can take the 5′ steps instead of you and if you have Reflex Training it could be used to allow your mount to move.
  • Shielded Mount: Blessing, Specialized for Reduced Cost and Corrupted for Increased Effect / The user’s Shield Bonus to AC, including any Enhancement, Martial Arts, or other boosts applies to his or her mount while he or she is riding it (3 CP).
  • Legendary Rider: 1d6 (4) Mana with Reality Editing, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect / only for tricks that directly involve your mount, Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only to recharge the Legendary Rider pool above (10 CP). Do you want your horse to gallop up a rolling avalanche? Skip across the bits of rock floating in a mighty river of lava? Appear out of nowhere when needed? Carry you safely through that pyroclastic cloud? Smash down that might adamant door? Stomp on and break the chains holding you? Carry that child to safety through the mountains despite that legion of demons in pursuit? Do you want your Night Fury to breathe down the great dragons throat and set off it’s own breath weapon internally? Then you want Legendary Rider. You won’t be able to pull such stunts more than once or twice a fight unless you upgrade your Mana reserve, but when you really need to do something that’s pretty much impossible, you can pull it off.
  • Finally, of course, you’ll want a good chunk of the Rider ability sequence. It can get expensive, but most Riders will be able to Specialize and/or Corrupt it to reduce the cost – perhaps applying it only to the Astral Construct they got with Birth Of Flames, or to their Animal companion rather than to anything they try to ride (Or, for that matter, pilot). So a character could purchase Rider (roll to negate attacks on the mount), Might (Add the Faithful Steed Template), Psychic Bond (with Calling) (Communicate with and summon your mount), Improved Stable Seating (eliminate all penalties for acting from a mounts back), Battle Dance (add your Wis Mod to the mounts AC), and Spirited III (+30 to the mounts base movement) for a total of (18 CP).

The Mounted Warrior path costs 50-60 CP – about five levels worth of special purchases for our Fighter – if he or she wants the whole thing. That’s expensive – but the advantages of extra mobility, actions, and damage can be well worthwhile.