Using Valdemaran Gifts, Part I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First up, a couple of general notes:

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

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

Animal Mindspeech:

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

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

Bardic Gift:

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

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

Earthsense:

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

Empathy:

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

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

Farsight

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

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

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

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

Fuyuha (“Winter Blade”) Zhang.

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

Racial Template: Atherian Human, Elemental Magic Birthright:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basic Purchases (94 CP):

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

Usual Weapons:

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

Other Abilities (82 CP):

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tier One Skills (40 SP):

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

Tier Two Skills (18 SP):

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

Tier Three Skills (7 SP):

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

Known Martial Art Techniques:

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

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

Eclipse d20 – Elemental Martial Arts

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

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

Wuxing Shadow Palm (Dex)

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

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

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

Cherry Petal Wind Kung Fu (Dex)

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

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

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

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

Thousand Leaping Flames Style:

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

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

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

Shining Waters Kenjitsu:

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

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

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

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

Unity Of Divine Wind

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

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

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

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

Atheria Eclipse d20 Update

Currently the Atheria game is running online, with a few changes from the original tabletop game – most notably the use of Skill Tiers, the availability of some exotic Templates such as the Host Of Parath shown below, the banning of a few powers that are difficult to run in play-by-post, and (as usual) plenty of exotic spells. Today it’s time for a few of them that get used in the next over-complicated character.

Skill Tiers:

Skills on Atheria are somewhat cheaper than on most worlds, since they’re divided into tiers depending on their complexity and usefulness in the setting.

  • Tier-One Skills are quite often useful and are generally quite widely applicable. They include Diplomacy (Cha), Disable Device (Int)*, Hide (Dex), Martial Arts (Varies), Movement Skills (Land/Tumble (Dex)*, Air/Fly (Dex), and Water/Swim (Str)), Move Silently (Dex), Profession/Occult (Wis)*, Search (Int), Sense/Spot (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex)*, Spellcraft (Int)*, and Survival (Wis). On Atheria all Knowledge Skills (Int) are Tier One – partly because they’re important in general and partly because they include the knowledge of related magical rituals. Tier-One skills cost full price.
  • Tier Two Skills are occasionally useful or relatively narrow, but are replaceable by special abilities or relatively low-level spells. They include Appraise (Int) Balance (Dex), Bluff (Chr), Climb (Str), Concentration (Con), Control Shape (Wis), Craft/Exotic (Int)*, Escape Artist (Dex), Gather Information (Cha), Handle Animal (Cha)*, Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Open Lock (Dex)*, Perform (Specify) (Cha), Profession/Complex (Wis)*, Psicraft (Int)*, Ride (Dex), Sense/Listen (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Speak Language (Int), and Use Magic Device (Cha)*.Tier Two skills are available for half cost. They can usually be Corrupted, but not Specialized without special permission.
  • Tier Three Skills are either rarely useful due to their narrowness or lack of applicability or can be easily replaced by a first-level spell such as Comprehend Languages. They include Autohypnosis (Wis)*, Burrow (Wis)*, Craft/Mundane (Int), Decipher Script (Int)*, Disguise (Cha), Forgery (Int), Jump (Str), Profession (Simple), Sense/Touch (Wis), Use Psionic Device (Cha)*, and Use Rope (Dex). They are available for one-third cost. As a rule, they cannot be Specialized or Corrupted further without special permission.
    • Skills marked with an “*” cannot be used unskilled.

Skill Modifiers:

  • Skill-enhancing Feats multiply their bonus by the Tier of the skill they’re applied to. Thus a character with “Skill Focus: Forgery” would be a master forger, gaining a +9 bonus on his or her Forgery checks. Virtually no one without a similar focus on spotting forgeries would be able to detect his or her work – and the feat is actually worth taking in an intrigue-heavy game.
  • Declaring Raises: A character may voluntarily raise the base DC by +5, +10, or +15 in advance – whether or not the GM has revealed it – to gain a superior/remarkable/astounding result. Unfortunately, failing to reach the modified DC negates the entire attempt. Raises may also be used to allow two skills that require move, standard, or full-round actions to be used at the same time – if, say, a character wishes to pick a lock while using sleight of hand to make it look like he’s fumbling with the key, and thus keep the six guards from getting overly suspicious.
  • Descriptions: Sensible, or really dramatic, descriptions of your skill checks are worth a bonus on the roll. Using your brain SHOULD help, and so should making the game more interesting.

Host Of Parath (32 CP / +1 ECL Acquired Template).

Of the thousand fragments of Parath Beastlord, it is believed that fewer than four score reached Atheria. Hundreds of others fell to the Dralithar and obliteration, many fled elsewhere amongst the Thousand Scales of the Dragon, and many were lost to the Dragon itself. Most of the lesser fragments that reached Atheria have slumbered across the ages, but now that the gates of Atheria have begun to open once more, those fragments are awakening – and some are linked both to the Barbarians and to the energies of the Dragon. And so, occasionally, some barbarian child will find themselves linked to Parath and developing this template. Unfortunately, all the powers of this template are Corrupted / the user also bears some of Parath’s predatory arrogance, will tend to feel that nothing can go wrong with his or her plans, feels entitled to power and luxury, and only respects the strong. Things that hunt the divine will be drawn to him or her.

  • Heritage Of The Divine: +4 to any two attributes (16 CP), +2 to any one attribute (4 CP). If desired, these may be expended on the the Blood Of The Dragon. Parath is scattered and fallen, but remains one of the Ancient Gods and a conduit of power beyond mortality. Even a minuscule fragment of that might is of note to mortals. (In her case, these points have indeed been spent on the Blood Of The Dragon). In settings that are not using the half-price attribute rule, halve these bonuses.
  • The Acceptance Of Sacrifice: Siddhisyoga, Specialized for Increased Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / The user must actually have access to, and full control of, the item or being that he or she wishes to acquire and then must ritually bind it to the divine essence within himself or herself. Once this is done, he or she can bring it forth or dismiss it at will as a free action – but damaged items and injured creatures must be repaired or healed normally (although any creatures that have been acquired may work on it). If an item is destroyed – or a creature slain – it must be replaced instead (4 CP). That which is offered to Parath is offered to those who host him – and becomes one of their attributes if they offer it to themselves. (While Siddhisyoga is normally disallowed on Atheria since you can’t buy magic item functions with gold anyway, this limited variant is restricted to mundane items and creatures that you acquire). .
  • Life Enduring: Immunity / The Physical Effects Of Aging (Uncommon, Major, Trivial, 1 CP). Parath’s hosts do not readily weaken due to old age and live very long, healthy, lives unless otherwise slain.
  • Nobility Of The Beasts: Innate Enchantment: Speak with Animals (SRD, 2000 GP), Surefoot (SC, +10 Enhancement Bonus to Balance, Climb, Jump, and Tumble, do not lose your Dexterity bonus to AC when balancing or climbing, 2000 GP), Personal-Only Immortal Vigor (Practical Enchanter, +12 + 2 x Con Mod HP, 1400 GP), Personal-Only Endure Elements (1400 GP), and Personal Only Cure Minor Wounds (only triggers once per round if below 1 HP x.7 = 490 GP) (5 CP). Immunity/The XP cost of the Innate Enchantments in this package (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP). Parath’s dominion over the beasts lies fallow, but traces of it and of the vitality of an immortal echo still within the blood of his hosts.

Shadow Guise

  • Illusion (Shadow)
  • Level: Bard 4, Sorcerer/Wizard 4
  • Components: V, S
  • Casting Time: One Swift Action
  • Range: Personal or Touch
  • Target: You or Creature Touched (Maximum of Large Size)
  • Duration: One minute per caster level.
  • Saving Throw: Will Negates (Mostly Harmless)
  • Spell Resistance: Yes.

Shadow Guise infuses the targets flesh with the stuff of shadow. During it’s duration the user can reshape his or her flesh as a free action with limits equivalent to those of the Disguise Self spell – although both touch and sound are included as the user’s now slightly-less-than-real flesh is truly reshaped. Thanks to the subtle shifting of the user’s flesh to respond to his or her will and its tendency to reshape itself to avoid damage from attacks the user also gains a +4 Alchemical Bonus to his or her Dexterity and Natural Armor. Sadly, however, the user will also suffer a -2 penalty to saves against light-based effects.

Secondarily, if given a moment to prepare. the user can perform various parlor tricks – opening a small hole to drop a small object through his or her hand, “stabbing” themselves without injury, escaping handcuffs with a bit of selective squeezing and bending, scratching the small of his or her own back, displaying an apparent wound, acting as a contortionist, accommodating an exotic sexual partner, and so on.

Eclipse D20 – Playing Into The Holiday Spirit

It happens in every game system sooner or later. Someone wants to know how to build Santa Claus. Or the Easter Bunny. Or Cupid. Or the Spirit of Thanksgiving. Or Halloween. Or whatever. I’ve dodged it for years, but I suppose that it’s my turn at last.

Of course, like all imported characters, the first question is… what are these characters actually supposed to be able to do?

That’s hard enough to answer with literary characters who have a limited number of appearances that can be checked. When it comes to characters like Santa Claus… is he a more-or-less realistic St. Nicholas / Sinnterklaas? Do we count the pagan influences of Odin and the Wild Hunt that got adopted in? Kris Kringle comes from the German “Christ Child”, does that make him an aspect of Jehovah? Is he refurbished solar deity from the ancient midwinter festivals? Why is he also known as Grandfather Frost? Where does Pere Noel come in? And how about all those self-contradictory Christmas movies and television specials? For that matter, does the “Hogfather” count? Why or why not?

It’s not like the sources that use the same name are particularly consistent either. And even where they are… if Santa Claus can visit everyone in the world in a single night, knows that they’ve been up to, and can give them what they deserve, could he decide to visit each unrepentant murderer in the world and drop a grenade in their beds? Why or why not? Because if Santa Claus is a player character, he is certainly going to try to do SOMETHING that absurd, or possibly even more ridiculous, using Father Christmas’s stated or implied powers.

Or would his assistant the Krampus be taking care of that? After all, when you’re looking at it form the prospective of immortal supernatural beings… which mortal humans qualify as being “children” is just a bit indeterminate.

Since that sort of thing generally doesn’t happen in holiday stories, evidently Holidays can’t abuse their powers like that – and if that applies to all of them, it strongly implies some standardization.

So what powers do pretty much all the Holiday Spirits have?

Well…

  1. They know everything they need to know about things involving their holiday, but otherwise can be woefully ignorant.
  2. They have all the powers needed to carry out their holiday duties, but can’t use them for anything else except in fairly trivial ways.
  3. They’re conditionally immortal; holidays can be “killed”, or forgotten – but they very often pop up again a few years down the line as good as new.
  4. They commonly have some ill-defined, but generally competent, minions. Santa has his elves and reindeer, the Halloween King has ghosties and ghoulies, Cupid has his little helpers, and even the Thanksgiving Turkey has some stereotypical pilgrims and indians in his or her employ.
  5. They’re incredibly obvious. Even if they look basically human, people just KNOW. Children flock to Santa even if he isn’t in costume – and he usually will be. The Easter Bunny isn’t going to be able to disguise himself except, perhaps, as Bugs Bunny,and even that isn’t likely to last. Cupid will draw women, men, and random romantic entanglements, wherever he goes.
  6. They are obliged to support, promote, and care for their holidays.
  7. They usually seem to be just a bit tougher than a baseline human – but not too much so. Santa Claus has incredible powers during the Christmas Season, but (at least in some sources) he can still be killed by falling off a roof.

Outside of that… most incarnate holidays seem to be fairly normal people. Veterans Day may be courageous, very skilled in combat, and equipped with an array of weapons – but he or she may also be suffering from some injuries (old or new), is past his or her prime, and is probably fairly human otherwise.

If we presume that most holidays started off as humans… they were probably competent level two or three types who’s talents were a reasonably good match for the holiday that incarnated in them. Minor observances – such as Talk Like A Pirate day – probably start out at level one outside of their “Holiday Spirit Template”.

So; lets make that acquired Holiday Spirit Template.

  • Innate Enchantment: (6 CP for a effective value of up to 5500 GP). All effects Spell Level One at Caster Level One Unlimited-Use Use-Activated (2000 GP Base).
    • (Holiday) Magic: L1, produces any L0 effect appropriate to the holiday in question (2000 GP). This isn’t especially powerful magic (even with the boost from Sphere Of Influence, below), but it’s good enough for a wide variety of minor holiday tricks.
    • Rapid Recovery Package: Personal-Only (x.7) Cure Light Wounds 2/Day, Relieve Illness 1/’Day, Relieve Poison 1/Day, Lesser Restoration 1/Day (1400 GP). Holidays do tend to recover fairly readily from injuries that would leave a normal human down for weeks – but there are definite limits from a d20 prospective.
    • Skill Mastery: L1, Personal-Only +3 Competence bonus to four skills related to the holiday (1400 GP).
  • Immunity / The XP costs of the innate enchantments above (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial, 1 CP).
  • 1d6 Mana with the Spell Enhancement Option, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / only to augment their (Holiday) Magic, above (2 CP). That means that they can produce the occasional more powerful effect – but only things that are related to their holiday, and not very often.
  • Rite of Chi, Specialized and Corrupted / only to restore the Mana Pool above, only works overnight (2 CP). A holiday can pull off a few more impressive tricks each day – but outside their time they are quite limited.
  • Universal Damage Resistance (affects both Physical and Energy Damage) 2/- (3 CP).
  • Dominion (Holiday). Sadly, this counts as Specialized, since it usually only yields dominion points for about a quarter of the year (3 CP).
    • Path Of The Pharaoh:
      • Manipulation, Specialized and Corrupted / Only as a Prerequisite (2 CP).
      • Sphere Of Influence Specialized / Cannot grant spells (3 CP). Holidays are always aware of the traditions and customs of their holidays, where they’re being celebrated, and of any trends or major events affecting them, but cannot actually grant holiday magic to celebrants.
      • Godfire, Specialized for Reduced Cost / Cannot gain more than two points per year, can only use godfire on holiday-related effects, and even then only if the action is taken within one month of their holiday.Note that this DOES allow a “slain” holiday to come back to life – although they may have to wait until next year if they’re outside their usage window (3 CP).
      • Divine Attribute (Holiday), Specialized and Corrupted / only works within the week surrounding your holiday, does not make you particularly invulnerable (3 CP). This gives the user whatever holiday-themed powers are required to support said holiday. Thus St. Patrick’s Day can drive away serpents, provide beer, get everyone dressed in green, and appear at many places at the same time – as long as it’s St. Patrick’s Day and he’s supporting the holiday. The Easter Bunny can hide eggs and deliver candy across the entire planet as needed – and do various other things that embody the festival, renewing spring, and resurrection – as long as it’s Easter. Those tricks may or may not last afterwards, but on Easter Day… there is little that can stop the Bunny. Unfortunately, this also gives the game master a lot of input into the characters decisions, which helps to forestall any attempted abuse.
      • Minions, Specialized / your minions are only good for holiday-related tasks and are entirely themed in accordance with your holiday (3 CP).
      • Creation, Specialized / only creates a pocket-realm or base (such as Santa’s Workshop) suitable for holiday specials. This tiny realm is, however, protected from normal mortal methods of approach (3 CP).
      • Template Disadvantage: Accursed. Holidays are automatically recognized by those who are attuned to them and must live up to the relevant expectations (-3 CP).

That’s a base of 30 CP. Not bad for a dose of godhood, however limited.

The entire template is, however, Corrupted: Bearing a holiday means…

  • Taking on its aspects, both light and dark. Yes, Santa is a cheerful giver of gifts – but he is also blood on the snow, sacrifice, and associated with the Krampus.
  • Accepting that holidays shape the hosts life in a myriad ways, affecting their attitudes, behavior, and personality. Like it or not… if you’re “Talks Like A Pirate Day”, you can expect the cops to be after you for illegal distribution of copyrighted material, to dress like a pirate, and to spend lots of time watching pirate movies and reading novels about pirates. If you’re St Patrick’s Day you’re probably either a bit drunk or hung over all the time and inclined to get into barroom brawls.
  • In most cases, normal people will tend to forget about – and lose the records on – your “real” identity. Why would Halloween have a drivers license or school records?
  • Accepting that holidays are competitive, and may have enemies. Are you Halloween? How may people will object to you?
  • Undertaking holiday-themed duties. How much time does Santa waste checking his naughty or nice list? He may get around the world in minutes, but he’s not much of a sprinter is he? “The Santa Clause” is a good example here; being a holiday tends to take over your life. On your holiday, you’re pretty much under the game master’s control.

So the entire Template is Corrupted, for a net cost of 20 CP.

That means that a baseline d20 human – with a racial cost of only 9 CP – can become an incarnate holiday with no ECL adjustment. So if you want to have a party of holidays out to do something, there you are!

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.