Granny Part III – Architectural Wonders, Experience by Study, and her Legendarium Panoply

To start at the beginning with Granny’s History and the Basics click HERE. To go back to her Skills, Skill Tricks, and Skill-Related Abilities click HERE.

Architectural Wonders:

Caer Hunleff, the Tower of Nightmares, Stronghold of the Dark Enchantress.

This modest castle is offers a fairly standard array of defensive features – gatehouse, stone walls, moat, drawbridge and portcullis, merlons, arrow-loops, and similar elements – but its major defenses lie in Grannies Mystic Architecture. That grants its defenders a +4 Morale Bonuses to their Attacks, Damage, Saves, and AC along with +2 Positive Levels (+2 to BAB, Saves, and AC, Grant of Aid with +4 Bonus Uses, +2d10 HP), generates a Break Enchantment effect at CL 12 once whenever a defender is affected by an unwanted effect, and makes the place impervious to magic designed to change, damage, or scry it out – including Rock to Mud, Move Earth, Passwall, Disintegrate, and so on (this may, at the option of the game master, extend to attempts to teleport past the walls). In any case, thanks to Granny’s ability to curse the surrounding lands, it’s normally defended by seven hazards of CR 14 or less – plus her minions, monsters, and anything she does actively.

  • Rooms: Alchemists Lab (390 GP), Altar (her Unholy Chapel, 210 GP), Armory x2 (780 GP), Ballroom (760 GP), Bath x2 (260 GP), Bedroom x 3 (900 GP), Bunks x2 (800 GP), Cells x2 (360 GP), Ceremonial Room (1,180 GP), Common Room (300 GP), Courtyard (180 GP), Crypt (490 GP), Defensive Stone Walls x4 (2080 GP), Drawbridge (320 GP), Escape Route (360 GP),
    Forge (370 GP), Garden x2 (360 GP), Gatehouse Tower with Iron Door, Iron Portcullis, and Gauntlet (2210 GP), Greenhouse (300 GP), Habitat (for Granny’s exotic animals, 790 GP), Kitchen (160 GP), Lavatory (120 GP), Magical Repository (730 GP), Nursery (250 GP), Office x2 (240 GP), Sitting Room (480 GP), Stall x4 (1000 GP), Storage x3 (360 GP), Summoning Chamber (1040 GP), Throne Room (1650 GP), and War Room (300 GP).
  • Magical Facilities: Celeano Manuscripts (3200 GP), Perpetual Fountain I (250 GP), Cleansing Fountain (62.5 GP), and City Stores (750 GP/Day, 8225 GP).
  • Staffing: Gangsta Wrap I (but one use/day (x4) and Immobile (x.5) instead of one per month (120 minions, 11,880 GP).
  • Income: Caer Hunleff has a net GP modifier of just under +200. About 20 of the minions will usually be doing profitable things, for another +200 – ergo Caer Hunleff earns about 40 GP/Day. Due to the use of magical minions, there are no modifiers for being away from the place. Of course, this is far less than the City Stores provide – but every little bit helps.

Net Total: 43,350 GP. If Granny chooses to use the Stores to solidify Caer Hunleff’s reality, it will take it some sixty days to become real, permanent, and independent of her Dreambinding. In practice, this depends on the campaign situation; Granny always uses the the 23,700 GP from her Dream-Binding Specialty to pay for the 23,617.5 GP cost of the magical facilities since – if someone does capture the place – she sees no reason to give them the benefits of her magical resources – but whether or not she makes the rest of the place “real” depends on the campaign situation; if she needs to be able to move it around readily, it will be entirely a manifestation of Dream-Binding. If not, she’ll probably make the basic structure real and permanent.

Caer Hunleff is a useful outpost, and a good place for Granny to keep things that she doesn’t want publicly known – but it’s also something of a honeypot. Anyone who is looking for a dark enchantress or wicked witch is going to eventually find rumors of the haunted forest, the ruinous castle, the malevolent hag who occupies it, and her enslaved and enchanted minions. If they wish to destroy this blight upon the land, they can battle their way through the cursed lands about the place, defeat the monsters and dark magics that Granny will send against them, endure the storms that will spring up to defend the castle, breach the gates, defeat her minions, and confront Granny (or, much more likely, her stand-in) – who will generally dissolve into dust if defeated (Or, if she is amused enough, when simply given an excuse. While the “I’m Melting!” routine was a bit over the top, the kid was amusing, and a relative, and actually swallowed it!). After all, while there are some valuables laying about, the entire place and everything in it can be readily replaced.

The Witch-Mazes:

Granny is well aware that there are plenty of perils to her realm that she isn’t really much good at handling – and so she makes sure that there are manageable opportunities for young adventurers to gain skill and experience so that there will be someone available who is good at dealing with such threats.

The Witch-Mazes are modest “ruins” seeded with a few valuables and with a selection of curses laid on them to create a carefully graduated set of traps and hazards – and to populate them with warped, powered-up, versions of normal animals / monsters. If the challenge needs a bit of adjusting they may have Mystic Architecture effects applied as well.

Angry squirrels are one thing. Angry accursed squirrels with even a portion of the advantages that Granny’s Mystic Architecture can give them are quite something else again. Giving them +4 Morale Bonuses to their Attacks, Damage, Saves, and AC along with +2 Positive Levels (+2 to BAB, Saves, and AC, +2d10 HP, and 12 CP – spent on 1d4 base lethal damage, DR 2/-, and 5000 GP worth of Innate Enchantment (perhaps Immortal Vigor for another 10 HP, Mage Armor, and use of Produce Flame)) will result in Squirrels with AC 28, 22 HP, Melee Attacks of 1d4 physical at +10 or 1d6+5 touch fire damage at +6, a ranged touch attack for 1d6+5 fire damage at +10, and Saves of Fort +7, Ref +12, and Will +7)… can turn them into quite a challenge even for a mid-level party – and Granny can freely adjust that challenge in a variety of ways. Remember; she wants adventurers to have a rough time and gain some experience, not a pile of corpses. 

None of the Witch-Mazes are really all that large. They tend to be things like old watchtowers, cursed mansions, logging camps, haunted groves, and so on. Basically… they’re minidungeons. Granny even puts out clues, partial maps, and rumors, carefully steering groups to appropriate challenges – or hurriedly attempting to upgrade, downgrade, or restock if a group is headed for someplace inappropriate or that’s recently been looted. Granny hasn’t got the time, resources, or inclination to get a group beyond level four or five this way, and certainly can’t be bothered nursemaiding incompetents – but she can help young heroes get past the most vulnerable stages of their careers.

Witch-Mazes are more or less throwaways: Assuming that creating a “ruin”runs about a quarter of the cost of a building a real, functioning, structure, throwing up the “ruins” of a Large Bandit Camp, or a Bardic College, or Caster’s Tower will cost about 1200 GP (about half of which can be salvaged by clever adventurers looting the place). Adding Curses and/or Mystic Architecture modifiers using her personal powers is free – and throwing in another 1250 GP worth of mundane gear and supplies as treasure takes the cost to a bit of her daily power and one days worth of stuff from her Cauldron of Holda (below). If she wishes, she can even assign a few (free) minions to play bad guys and set up cheap traps. In other words, she can casually throw together one per day at little or no personal expense given a few hours to work in.

The House of Wisdom, Residence of the Elder Advisor and Orphanage:

This modest manor – once the home of the almost-forgotten Dowager Queen – is the official residence of the realms Elder Advisor, and so is more or less Grannies permanent home. These days it has broad gardens, greenhouses and orchards, a comfortable small library / reading room – and swarms of orphans and delinquent children there for a bit of “straightening out” – at which Granny has a marvelous record of success. She’s even raised many of the realms young heroes. It too has mystic architecture – granting residents two positive levels (bestowing 2d10 HP, Fast Learner specialized in Skills, and Grant of Aid with Bonus Uses, with limitations that keep people from noticing or trying to actively use the boosted hit points and grant of aid – which keeps the kids from getting stupid. Well, any more stupid than kids usually get anyway), bells that grant each resident the equivalent of a full nights rest twice per week, +4 Morale bonuses to Intelligence and Wisdom (specialized in allowing the kids studying there to readily pick up a relevant Package Deal), and Group Focus (allowing Granny’s skill check to serve as a concentration skill check when it comes to studying.

On Self-Improvement through Study in D20:

Studying / Training is the realistic way to improve yourself. Like most realistic things, when you compare it to fantastic magical ways to improve yourself such as adventuring it isn’t worth much. Still, for non-adventuring kids it’s a way to get ahead. So studying lets you take your time and turn it into Experience Points.

So how fast is that? And what helps you study and train? It’s not Intelligence. Intelligence gets you more skill points per level, but it makes you easily bored too, which explains why it isn’t coming into things twice. It’s not Wisdom, that (at least in d20 games) simply lets you notice distractions more. What is it that helps you pull all-night studying marathons and helps keep your mind focused on your studying?

Well, keeping your mind focused despite distractions is – by definition – a concentration check. In 3.5 that’s straightforward enough. Unfortunately, the Pathfinder writers concluded that having a Concentration skill was basically a skill tax on casters (whom they assumed HAD to keep it maxed out) and that non-casters never needed to keep their minds focused. I’d say that both are wrong – I’ve seen plenty of Casters who found ways to avoid such checks and plenty of noncasters who needed to make them (trying to focus on getting that lock open despite the arrow in your shoulder and the fight behind you? Adventurers lives are FULL of situations calling for concentration) – but that’s easy to fix. When you need to make a Concentration check for non-magical stuff roll 1d20 + Con Mod + Your Level in the Class (or Classes) which provide the ability you’re using.

So Studying involves using Concentration as a (simplified, since anyone can study) version of a Craft skill using your time as the raw material. You spend a week studying, make your non-magical concentration check, square your result, and divide by 50 (since the 3.5 magic item crafting rules tell us that 1 XP costs 50 SP and Pathfinder gives no information on the topic) to see how many XP you get.

Computing how much that gets you in an average week (since it involves a sum of exponents) calls for using a slightly more complex than usual formula: – namely [N(N+1)(2N+1)/6]. The sum of the squares from 1-20 (for a +0 modifier) is 2870. Dividing by 20 for an average result and by 50 for the value gets us an average of 2.87 XP per week. And yes, that sucks. Even with a decent teacher (+2 Aid Another), Textbooks (+2 Masterwork Equipment) and a +1 circumstance bonus for a schoolroom, we will only wind up with 5.434 XP per week – about 200 XP per thirty-six week school year. At that rate it will take four to six years (presuming some sick days and such) to go from level “-2″ (set at -850 XP) to level one (0 XP competent adult) through pure schooling. Given that schools are likely to spend at least half the kids time on recess, lunch, tests, roll call, classroom tasks, and kids being kids, and won’t start until the kids are five to seven (since before then they’re just not up to it)… that would mean that the baseline human starting age would be about seventeen. Full-time, intensive, training could get a kid to level one by age ten or so though – which is, not particularly surprisingly, about the minimum age for starting a child PC.

And the fact that that number makes a reasonable amount of sense is kind of discouraging. Still, there are always ways for Adventurers to do things that are unavailable to most. For example, Granny’s Mystic Architecture allows residents at the House of Wisdom to substitute her Mystic Artist skill check (as built into the structure) for their Concentration checks. Her skill check would have been made using the Celeano Manuscripts, Luck, a +3 Room bonus, and some Aid Another, for a total check of about 71 and a net total of 50 XP per half-time week of classes or about 2000 XP per “school year”.

That’s actually pretty worthwhile. Spend a few low-risk years at the House of Wisdom and you can easily hit second or third level, even if you won’t have much of any treasure – at least outside of any part time earnings – unless the game master is using “wealth by level” as a law of nature instead of a game convenience.

Of course, in a realm where good and evil are forces of nature, and where creatures of the lower planes offer pacts in exchange for service or sacrifices… some children are just murderous, or are naturally evil, or are possessed, or any of a dozen other things. And Granny has uses for those as well. After all, despicable were-rat henchmen, evil grand viziers (who do all the unpleasant, dishonorable, and – above all else – PRACTICAL things that need to be done when you’re running a kingdom), thugs, thieves, assassins, and cursed monsters have to come from SOMEWHERE don’t they? And once you’re satisfied that a child is best suited for such a role… it is only fair to extend the power of The Dark Veil (whether via the Blessing ability through a relic or through some cleverly-phrased curse) to them and thus erase them from both memory and record. After that – and a curse of being unable to reveal any of Grannies more dubious activities or talents – the Thieves Guild or her monstrous servants will have another recruit.

And Granny, of course, will continue to maintain her extremely high rate of “success” in raising kids, since many of her major failures (or perhaps malign successes) will simply vanish from memory and record.

Granny may have designed and built the House of Wisdom, but it’s not really one of her personal assets any longer. It’s a governmental facility. Several other officials work there, it’s an orphanage and school, and it’s a training center for beginning heroes. It’s also a very unlikely place for a major confrontation, so game statistics are mostly unnecessary.

The Thieves Guild.

If you’re going to have crime – and you ALWAYS will – it might as well be well organized crime. Besides… you need a place to fence ill-gotten gains, to keep your monsters, and to hire assassins to deal with threats to your realm. Paying modest fees for “insurance” (and to feed the beggars and street children and such) is simply another form of taxation. Ergo Granny provides cheap mystic architecture to the Underworld – granting the Guild a secretive stronghold that protects against divinatory powers (and possibly against teleporting past the walls), helps heal their injuries and renew their abilities, radiates indifference (discouraging non-members from taking enough interest to investigate), and grants them the ability to create and carry a small number of minor relics – allowing them to learn both to create a selection and take along only the ones that they need.

In many settings this will also double as an “adventurers guild”. Even those adventurers who go above and beyond being murder-hobos are generally violent, inclined to accumulate dangerous (and possibly illegal) devices, magic, and substances, have swarms of enemies, attract monsters, try to solve most of their problems by killing things, and are usually homeless tax evaders. They may be needed when there’s a dragon coming, but most of the time they’re about as undesirable as it gets. Staying at a place that asks no questions, has good food and comfortable beds, that enforces rules like “no killing or stealing on the premises” effectively, that protects against divination, that helps them heal up and regain their powers quickly, that can obtain all kinds of gear for them, and which probably also has kids who run errands cheaply and congenial sex workers living on the premises, is about as good as it gets. 

Well, at least until they take over a kingdom to run into the ground.

Tales of the Dark Enchantress: The Shadow Over Greendale

Greendale perched on the foothills overlooking the river below the mountains, and it’s people trembled. The same pass which brought trade and wealth would now bring destruction. For the Hordes of the Wastes came, as relentless as a tide, and their homes would fall in fire and blood. It was but two days away, and reinforcements – or refuge – would be a week or more. Some fled, in hopes that destroying Greendale would somehow delay the horde long enough for them to escape it’s outriders – even as those outriders already lay in wait along the escape routes. Most took up arms and prepared for death – and prayed to the Light for a miracle.

Others offered prayers and sacrifice to any power that would aid them, making fearful promises of gifts, and service, and offspring – and that night the Darkness answered. The moon hid it’s face and the shadows spread unbroken as an obsidian tower rose – the unhallowed gateway-tomb of the storied Dark Enchantress, crypt and entrance to the underworld. From it, wrapped once more in decaying flesh, her long-fallen spirit strode forth – burning with witchfire and corpse-light, Behind her marched a Legion of Hades, an army of long dead and damned warriors that manned the pallid walls of bone which had erupted about Greendale.

And the Horde came against the town for three days – but the dead held the walls, and the living could not pass save into the grave. The dread curses of the Dark Enchantress wrought havoc upon the horde as well. Against her the shamans of the Horde hurled spells of death, of paralysis, of annihilation, and more – but none would bite upon her undead flesh. The Warlord of the Horde – Arthewn of the Iron Axe – heard the voice of the Witch who barred his path and was swallowed up living by the earth. To this day, each year on the dark of the midwinter moon his voice can be heard amid the hills, pleading for some brave and adventurous soul to take pity, dare the deep caverns of the Labyrinth of Nightmares which holds him, and free his soul from torment.

None yet has dared attempt the deed.

For three days of battle the walls of bone ran red with blood – but upon the fourth day the horde was broken upon the dark arts and iron will of the ancient Hag of the Underworld, and fled, harried by a thousand dreadful curses and the creatures of the infernal realms. The army of the damned swept forth to slaughter the wounded foe and their camp followers – and then returned to the crypt, taking along – and into the service of their unholy mistress – a score of Greendale’s youths, the price paid for the assistance of the Witch-Queen. And the crypt trembled, and collapsed once more into the earth, leaving behind only a dark altar.

Today, at that altar, the masked and hooded people of Greendale make a yearly offering in thanks for their dread deliverance – and in hopes that the darkness need never rise again. That offering is most often of meat and wine – but every so often, when the signs are bad and the lost souls moan upon the wind, it is a condemned youths – thieves, or murderers, or some such – who will be gone when comes the dawn. For life was given, and life must be repaid.

Not surprisingly, the defense of Greendale called on the majority of Grannies powers, most notably:

  • Creating a Relic or Relics to boost her Dream-Binding ability and to bolster her personal defenses.
  • Dream-Binding to create stone city walls and some gatehouses (about 8000 GP), a City Father (24,000 GP), the “Crypt” (basically another gatehouse with a war-room (3000 GP) and a “summon army” (120,000 GP) setup in the basement), and City Stores (8000 GP) to provide supplies. (This means she has to get a minimum of a +3 bonus – probably through a relic providing Skill Focus and Skill Emphasis, so as to have some margin).
  • Mystic Architecture to make the walls effectively invulnerable to siege engineering and being bypassed by magic and to bestow a huge range of bonuses – one set from the Crypt and one set from the Walls – on the defenders.
  • Foresight to always have everything in place and ready to repel the Horde – and to combine with her Legendarium power array to have appropriate defenses from her panoply (below, often a Talisman of Undying Fortitude) going whenever attacked.
  • Craft (Image) (and, personally, her Hat of Disguise) to provide the horrific special effects.
  • Her personal powers – summoning, group-curses, and battle magic – could and did take a toll on the opposing troops as well, even if major opponents could often resist her. (Managing to take out Arthewn was something of a stroke of luck).
    • Oh, the kids? Those were, and generally still are, much better off with some extra training, some appreciation for their evil talents, and a chance to join a PROPER Thieves Guild or become true monsters or some such. It’s not like Granny is big on dead people or on torture or such when she has no need to make a point.

It’s worth noting that this general setup wouldn’t work against an elder dragon, or a party of high-level adventurers, or some similar menace. Granny’s powers are very good at dealing with masses of opponents, and she is personally very good at escaping, but she simply isn’t built to confront major monsters. That’s a job for Adventurers or Heroes – and she is neither. 

Grannies Legendarium Panoply:

  • Head: Veil of Nimue: (97,100 GP Total):
    • Scouts Headband (3400 GP) with +3 Daily Charges (6 total, +3000 GP) +2 Competence to Perception, spend 1/2/3 charges to gain 60′ Darkvision for an hour/see invisible for ten minutes/true seeing for one minute.
    • Also functions as a Hat of Disguise (x1.5 surcharge for second function = 2700 GP)
    • Grants a +6 Enhancement bonus to Charisma (36,000 GP) and Intelligence (36,000 GP, as a permanent self-enhancement it adds to skill points normally), and a +4 to Wisdom (16,000 GP). Per the Magic Item Compendium, attribute boosts may be added to other items without extra cost.
  • Face: Masque of Medea (11,900 GP):
    • Raptors Mask (3500 GP), +5 to Perception, wearer is immune to Blindness and Dazzling.
    • Also functions as Third Eye Freedom (1.5x surcharge, 3900 GP). Immediate action provides one round of Freedom of Action once per day.
    • Also functions as a Third Eye Clarity (1.5x surcharge 4500 GP). Once per day negates a confused, dazed, fascinated, or stunned condition as an immediate action that those conditions cannot prevent.
  • Throat: The Undying Breath of Koschei (50,300 GP).
    • Talisman of Undying Fortitude (4 Charges, 16,000 GP). Activate as a swift action to gain the ability to survive without breathing and immunity to poison, sleep effects, paralysis, stunning, disease, death effects, critical hits, nonlethal damage, physical ability damage, ability drain, energy drain, fatigue, exhaustion, death from massive damage, and any effect that requires a Fortitude save for 3 rounds.
      • Intelligent: Int, Wis, and Chr 14 (3000 GP), Telepathy, 120′ Senses, Blindsense, and Read Languages (8000 GP). As an Intelligent Item it has it’s own item slots – and so, can use the powers of a Ring of the Forcewall (5100 GP), Healing Belt (6 Charges, 1500 GP), Rod of Bodily Restoration (3100 GP), Orb of Mental Renewal (3100 GP), and Amulet of Tears (9 Charges, 6900 GP). It can cast Nerveskitter, Resurgence, and Magic Missile 3/Day each at caster level seventeen (3600 GP).
  • Shoulders: Cloak of Abramelin (34,250 GP).
    • Shadow Cloak (5500 GP) +1 Deflection Bonus to AC, three times per day, as an immediate action in response to an attack, you may either gain Concealment or Teleport ten feet to a space you can clearly see.
    • Also functions as a Vanisher Cloak (x1.5 Surcharge, 3750 GP). 3 Charges/Day, spend 1/2/3 as a swift action to gain invisibility for 4 rounds/you and an adjacent ally become invisible for 3 rounds/you and three adjacent allies become invisible for 2 rounds.
    • Also grants a +5 Resistance bonus to Saving Throws (25,000 GP, per the Magic Item Compendium there is no surcharge for adding this as a secondary function).
  • (Ring) Sigil of Circe: (40,700 GP).
    • Ring of Mind Shielding (8000 GP). Immune to Detect Thoughts, Discern Lies and Alignment Detection.
    • Also functions as a Ring of Anticipation (x1.5 Surcharge, 9000 GP): +3 Competence Bonus to Perception, may roll initiative checks twice and take the best result.
    • Also functions as a Ring of Feather Falling (x1.5 Surcharge, 3300 GP).
    • Also functions as Ring of Sustenance (x1.5 Surcharge, 3750 GP).
    • Also functions as two Rings of Counterspells (x1.5 Surcharge, 12,000 GP).
      • Note that, in combination with Foresight, this pretty much allows Granny to ignore any two spells of up to level six per day.
  • (Belt) Girding of Aradia (48,000 GP):
    • +4 Competence Bonus to All Skills (Skill Mastery, L2 x CL5 x 2000 GP = 20,000 GP).
    • Also functions as a Belt of Battle (x1.5 Surcharge, 18,000 GP). +2 Competence Bonus to Initiative, 3 Charges/Day, spend 1/2/3 as a swift action to gain a move action/a standard action/a full-round action.
    • Also provides +2 Enhancement Bonuses to Strength (4000 GP) and Dexterity (4000 GP). Per the Magic Item Compendium, attribute boosts may be added to other items without extra cost.
    • Also functions as a Handy Haversack (2000 GP, normally slotless).
  • (No Slot) Cauldron of Holda (Epic Adventurers Supply Pouch, 33,000 GP). Note that this allows Granny to produce 2250 GP worth of stuff per day – allowing her to set up some 16,000 GP worth of buildings per week.
  • (No Slot) Favor of Abaris (37,770 GP):
    • Good Fortune: Aura of Favor (SL1), Fortune’s Favor (SL0), and Ward of Heaven (SL1) x CL3 x 2000 GP x 2 (Slotless) = 15,000 GP. Provides a +1 Luck Bonus to Saves, AC, Attacks, Damage, Skill Checks, and Ability Checks.
    • Also functions as a Gangsta Wrap VI (22,770 GP, already slotless). Granny has four sixth level minions, which can be replaced on a monthly basis.
  • (No Slot) Talisman of the Sabbat (28,500 GP): As per a Figurine Of Wondrous Power; Obsidian Steed. This allows Granny to easily visit various planes and meet with her covens.

Next up: Granny’s special powers.


Granny – Skills, Skill Tricks, and Skill-Related Abilities

Skills are very important to Granny; so she’s spent a fair chunk of points – in fact, 111, well over a third of her total and more than any normal class – on acquiring and enhancing them.

Skill Enhancements:

  • Upgrade Pathfinder Package Deal Fast Learner to Triple Effect (4 CP). This is cheesy, but NPC political figures can usually be allowed a little cheese – and a handful of extra skill or hit points really isn’t all that important.
  • Fast Learner, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (+3 CP/Level): Only for buying Skill Enhancing Abilities, must buy at least one “skill trick” per level (6 CP). This provides +3 CP / Level to buy skill-enhancing abilities with.
  • Advanced Improved Augmented Bonus (adds Cha Mod to Int Mod for Skill Point purposes, Specialized and Corrupted/only adds to skill points through level five, 6 CP). Over several centuries, Granny has had a lot of time to let helpful people show her how to do things – but that’s gotten less and less effective as fewer and fewer of them have anything to show her.
  • Available Skill Points: 136 (L1-5: 8 x [Int Mod + Cha Mod]) + 21 (L6-8 3 x Int Mod) +3 (Purchased, 3 CP) +6 (Favored Class) = 166 SP.
  • Augmented Bonus; adds (Int Mod) to (Cha Mod) for skill purposes (6 CP)
  • Augmented Bonus: adds (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) for skill purposes (6 CP).
  • Access to three Occult Skills – Foresight, Legendarium, and Dream-Binding (9 CP)
  • Adept: Foresight, Knowledge/Engineering, Legendarium, and Spellcraft (6 CP)
  • Adept: Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Perception (6 CP).
  • Luck with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost, Only for Skills, only to “take 20″ in advance (no rerolls) (4 CP).
  • Skill Emphasis (3 CP) and Skill Focus (6 CP) (both in Legendarium).
  • Given that Granny has a lot of built-in “equipment” thanks to her Legendarium skill, a suitable “masterwork tool” (or tools) for all her skills may be more or less assumed.

This gives all of her Int or Cha Based skills a base of +7 (Int) +10 (Cha) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +27 Base. Ergo, that will be the assumed base below.

Intelligence and Charisma Based Skills:

  • Bluff +11 (5 SP*) = +38
    • Skill Trick/Spinning a Whopper: Mystic Artist (for Bluff), Specialized and Corrupted / provides the Manipulation options of Fascinate and Hold Audience only (2 CP). This isn’t nearly as important to Granny as is used to be – her other powers far surpass this sort of trivia anyway these days – but it was fairly useful early on.
    • This is something of a stretch – Bluff is not usually considered a suitable skill for Mystic Artist – but convincing your listeners that they really do want to keep listening to this insane story does seem right in line with the Bluff skill.
  • Craft; Alchemy +2 (2 SP) = +29
    • Skill Trick/Touch of the Philosophers: +4 CP worth of Innate Enchantment, Spell Level 1 x Caster Level One x 2000 GP for Unlimited-Use Use-Activated. Dexterous Fingers (Trickster Magi list. Reduces the time required to use a skill by three rounds. If this results in zero time or “less” it becomes a free action. If applied on a continuous basis throughout a skill-based crafting project, it reduces the required time by 75% or allows a project to proceed at normal speed while only taking up a couple of downtime hours per day, so that it, like studying spells, can proceed while adventuring) (2000 GP) and Alchemical Tinkering (Pathfinder), both Specialized for Reduced Cost (requires a DC 20 Alchemy check, only for Alchemy, tinkering only works on alchemical bases and catalysts (under Haagenti), not on guns or existing items) (2 CP).

Granny is mostly a herbalist, but at this point – after centuries of refining her will – she is easily capable of imposing temporary structure on alchemical raw materials with little more than a touch – both producing items as needed and accomplishing her projects very quickly indeed. That isn’t actually much use given her current abilities – an extra 25 GP per day, even if the cost is no more than a little casual dabbling that she’d probably do anyway, means very little to her now – but having people come to her for medicines for their children, and special supplies, and so on, is a useful window into the community to keep open.

  • Craft; Foodstuffs +3 (3 SP) = +30
    • Note that Specific Knowledge/the recipes and procedures for up to (Int) basic meals or complex dishes comes with each skill point invested in Craft/Foodstuffs – and that cooking has a base DC of 5. Thus “taking 10″ normally gets you 25 at DC 25 – allowing a cook with basic skills to ready a good meal for two, a common meal for four, or a poor meal for twelve, in about an hour. Having done quite a lot of cooking… that’s much more reasonable than the roughly one day per common meal figure that
    • Skill Trick/Good Eats: +2000 GP Innate Enchantment/Good Meal (as per Good Berry, but works on freshly-prepared meals, snacks, or candies). Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP (2 CP). This handy talent allows the user to greatly stretch short supplies or provide a days meals to a (size) small child in the form of a single candy.
    • OK, so Granny has learned how to cook most of her favorite dishes. After all, in some cases she’s the only one who remembers what they are.
  • Craft; Image +5 (5 SP) = +32

Craft; Image is the art of adding sensory impressions to your works. Do you want your Flash Powder to provide a fireworks display? Make your cheap wine taste like the finest vintage? Cause smoke to take on a monstrous form? Make your sonic blast into a celestial song? Play Gandalf and make your alchemical firework take the form of a stooping dragon? Make a stage seem like a window into a great city for your play? Make a thin mattress more comfortable? Make your Fireball into a skull blazing with green fire that explodes? When you want to play with your special effects, than Craft Image is the skill for you. It‘s DC 5/10/20 to add Minor/Notable/Major impressions to something:, +5/10 for Large / Colossal targets, and +5 if you want the impression to linger beyond the duration of the item or effect it’s applied to. Since sensory impressions have no actual value, this counts as a part of the same activity that produces or prepares the item to be modified. Thus the check could be made while casting a spell, building a stage backdrop, or preparing food or drink to be served. As a side effect, the user may add (Skill Check / 15, rounded down) to the DC’s of saves against his or her relevant (those that generate actual detailed images to deceive people) illusion effects.

Craft Image doesn’t really change the game mechanics much, but it does let you describe your stuff as dramatically as you like. Go ahead. Build two identical castles, describe one as a “dark and ominous mass, crouching atop the hill like a ravenous beast poised to descend on the hapless villages below and wreck havoc” and the other as “a shining citadel, a beacon of protection offering a place of refuge to the hapless villages below” and see which one attracts valiant heroes to defend it and which one attracts would-be minions and valiant heroes who want to attack it.

  • Craft; Policy +11 (11 SP) = +38
    • Craft Policy was covered in a prior article, HERE.
  • Diplomacy +11 (5 SP*) = +38
    • Skill Trick/Snare of Words: Immunity/The distinction between Diplomacy and a Martial Art equal to the total value sans tools (Uncommon, Major, Minor, Specialized and Corrupted/only works against creatures of types who could normally be affected by Diplomacy but who are arbitrarily immune (IE; being player characters/”destined heroes” or plot requirements) (2 CP). Even those who are somehow impervious to persuasion can be distracted, affected by guilt, and otherwise troubled by skilled words. Against such opponents the user gains +2 to Intimidate, +2 to Bluff, +4 to AC, DR 4/-, 8d6 of (nonlethal damage) Sneak Attack, Inner Strength, Iron Skin, Light Foot, and Resist Pain. All of this can, however, be bypassed by engaging in conversation, listening to her monologues, spending time trying to persuade her to turn away from her evil ways, and rationally responding to her arguments before starting a fight.
      • Skill Trick/Heraldic Privilege: Upgrade Snare of Words to Specialized for Increased Effect (gains +4 to Intimidate, +4 to Bluff, +8 to AC, DR 8/-, 8d6 of Sneak Attack, and double-strength Inner Strength, Iron Skin, Light Foot, and Resist Pain (+2 CP).
        • Skill Trick/Diplomatic Immunity: Upgrade Heraldic Privilege to Triple Effect (+2 CP). The user gains +6 to Intimidate, +6 to Bluff, +12 to AC, DR 12/-, 12d6 of Sneak Attack, and triple-strength Inner Strength, Iron Skin, Light Foot, and Resist Pain (+2 CP).

With these tricks about the characters WILL politely let the villain monologue, and offer them a chance to reform and make their own heroic speeches, or they will make their “boss fight” a great deal harder (and perhaps near-impossible; Triple-Strength Iron Skin and Resist Pain will get the AC boost up to +24 and the DR to 24/-). I’ll pay for Granny to have the full 6 CP package I think.

To be sensible, Granny really ought to have a normal martial art that would help her deal with monsters and other NPC’s rather than a special ability designed to justify cinematic “confronting the villain” tropes. I suppose she could get one though a relic if she really HAD to have one – but if it comes down to a direct fight that she can’t weasel out of Granny has basically lost already. Her goal is to be the invisible chessmaster and the power behind the throne. From her point of view… if you know enough to actually be coming after HER instead of her “Dark Enchantress” decoy persona her schemes are collapsing already – and her last hope is to get you to LISTEN TO HER and consider whether or not she’s a net benefit to have around, evil or not. Ergo, a last-ditch ability to try and force negotiations.

  • Disguise +11 (11 SP) = +38
    • Skill Trick / Method Acting: Immunity to Gather Information, Sense Motive, and Alignment Detection (Very Common, Minor, Trivial, Specialized/Only if the user’s Disguise skill check equals or exceeds the opposing Skill Check or Caster Level Check, in which case the opponent using the ability will detect the user’s cover, rather than the underlying reality, 2 CP).

Like it or not, if spells like “know alignment” are at all common, public figures are going to be hit with them regularly – and getting no answer will be seen as them having something to hide, no matter how many reasons are given for maintaining their privacy. They’re going to HAVE to have some ability along these lines to function at all.

While this is partially overridden by her Mind Shielding effect, that simply blocks detection, while this trick allows the user to create a false result – which is far less suspicious than getting no result. 

  • Dream-Binding +11 (11 SP) = +38. +3 Specialty in Caer Hunleff (1 SP).
    • Smith of Dreams: Granny’s Dream-Binding is Specialized for Increased Effect (she simply treats her total skill bonus – including any permanent personal magical bonuses – squared x 100 GP as her budget to “buy”things with, although she still can’t dream up expendable items) / she cannot use the magical items that she “creates” herself; she can only use them to equip others – although if she creates downtime structures she can live or work in those. With a total value of 144,400 GP (plus 23,700 for Caer Hunleff), Granny can readily equip lower-level parties or maintain a fair amount of infrastructure all by herself.

Yes, this means that Granny can, if she wishes, be a load-bearing boss; if and when she dies, her dreams, including any structures that she has dreamed into being, will go with her.

  • Skill Trick/Forge of Dreams. Immunity/having to go shopping or build (Common, Minor, Major, Specialized and Corrupted/items to be rendered permanent must be “created” with dream-binding and then made permanent – expending alchemical components with a cost equal to the normal cost of the item (2 CP).

And here we have another handy trick; Granny can get you supplies, various permanent magic items, and create buildings, overnight – but there’s no point in trying to rob her; she hasn’t got stockpiles of stuff (save, perhaps, for basic herbs). She may have a supply of Alchemical Catalysts (covered in more detail under Haagenti in THIS article), but at 100 GP per ounce she can carry 48,000 GP worth in a thirty pound bag – and that will be safely tucked away in a personal extradimensional space. No more “magic item shop” problems. Instead the ancient hag in the woods can supply you with the magical items you need for your quest – and when those same items vanish, are depleted, or are sacrificed at the end of the quest, there’s nothing to complain about; they have simply returned to the realms of dream from which they were temporarily drawn.

  • Foresight +11 (5 SP*) = +38
    • Foresight is basically made of skill tricks. Granny, not being a spellcaster, usually uses it for her political maneuvering, to just “happen” to have the relics she’ll need at any given moment be the ones that she’s using, and to just happen to have convenient items dreamed into existence at any given moment.
  • Handle Animal +5 (5 SP) = +32
    • Skill Trick/Tyrant Master: Immunity/the distinction between animals and other creatures for skill purposes (Uncommon, Major, Minor, Specialized and Corrupted/only covers “domesticating” and “training” monsters and slaves) (2 CP).
  • Intimidate +11 (5 SP*) = +38
    • Skill Trick/Sonorous Iron Voice (Cha Based Martial Art): +2 (2 SP) +17 (Cha + Int) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +29 (+22 for buying abilities). Sonorous Iron Voice focuses on the throat chakra, imbuing the user’s voice with supernatural power – generating sonic blasts and vibratory effects – it can also add subtle, manipulative, overtones to the user’s words.
      • Granny’s eleven current abilities include +2 Synergy to Diplomacy, +2 Synergy to Intimidate, +2 Synergy to Bluff, +2 Synergy to Sense Motive, Battlecry (Variant: may make an Intimidate check against all opponents within 30 feet as a standard action once per encounter), Mobility, Mind Like Moon, Inner Strength x2, Ki Focus (+4 Sacred Bonus to Charisma), and Wrath (Sonic Damage) (2 SP for a net +20).
      • Granny will usually use this form in noncombat situations, but – since she may or may not be doing so in at any given time – it’s benefits have not been included in her skill totals.

Technically this isn’t a “skill trick” since it’s really a separate skill instead of a power that builds on an existing skill – but it’s set up to cost two skill points and the primary function is to provide the effects of the classical “never outnumbered” skill trick in allowing a mass intimidation check. That seems quite close enough to throw it into the category. Secondarily, it only works cheaply thanks to Granny’s absurd boosts to Charisma and Intelligence based skills, but there’s no reason not to take advantage of that if you can persuade the game master that such an art should exist. Given that she’s had centuries in which to get someone to invent and develop it for her, I’d say that it’s justified.


When it comes to Knowledge skills, Granny originally studied engineering and architecture because she wanted a palace and didn’t want to trust someone else to design her secret passages and escape routes. She picked up a fair knowledge of the Nobility and Local Information while ruling, of History while living through it, and of Arcana by dabbling across the centuries – but she’s not really a scholar. On the other hand even the rule-of-thumb knowledge of basic principles (putting in a skill point or two) will get you a long way when your effective “intelligence” (a +17 modifier?) puts you well beyond most comic book super-geniuses.

  • Knowledge; Arcana +5 (1 SP) = +32
  • Knowledge; Dungeoneering +1 (1 SP) = +28
  • Knowledge; Engineering +11 (5 SP*) = +38. +3 Specialty in Mystic Architecture. Base (for Mystic Artist abilities) = +37.
    • Mystic Artist with Seeking for Engineering (Architecture) (12 CP).
      • Inspiration Abilities: Emotion, Competence, Excellence, Mass Greatness, Mass Excellence, and Heroism.
      • Synergy Abilities: Block, Group Focus, Harmonize, and Serenity.
      • Manipulation Abilities: Hold Audience and Suggestion. Granny can access Emotional Auras and Freedom, but needs to be using one of her Relics to do so.

Granny is a formidable mystic architect. What’s more, she’s fully capable of using Dream -Binding to create a citadel and a fortification around a settlement overnight (even if she does tend to have the locals do enough work to disguise the fact that she doesn’t actually need them. Its better for their morale that way). That’s a pretty massive defensive advantage.

It also means that if you attack and destroy the Dark Enchantresses castle… she’ll just make a new one someplace else a day or two later. She may even move it from time to time just to make it harder to find.

  • Knowledge; Geography +1 (1 SP) = +28
  • Knowledge; History +5 (5 SP) = +32
  • Knowledge; Local +5 (1 SP) = +32
  • Knowledge; Nature +1 (1 SP) = +28
  • Knowledge; Nobility +5 (5 SP) = +32
  • Knowledge; Planes +1 (1 SP) = +28
  • Knowledge; Religion +1 (1 SP) = +28

The Celeano Manuscripts: As per a Mask of a Thousand Tomes, but consists of several hundred massive tomes (basically immobile, x .5), requiring a DC 20 Linguistics check (x.8) and at least 1d4 hours of intense study and concentration in a suitable library to use (x.8) = 3200 GP. If you have the time to use the Manuscripts they provides a +10 competence bonus to any Knowledge skill check – for Granny, a net +8 over the competence bonus that’s already included in the values above.

  • Ritual Magic (Atherian Variant). Atherian Ritual Magic allows knowledge skills to be used to generate magical effects, in much the same way that – in magic-free reality – knowledge can be used to create technologies, solve problems, and accomplish goals rather than simply allowing the game master to provide some exposition and offering clues as to how to fight monsters. In effect, Atherian Ritual Magic is sort of a generic “skill trick” for all knowledge skills. To keep things under control, Granny’s abilities are Corrupted: even with the time-saving trick below, she may enact no more than (Cha Mod) rituals per day – and major rituals count as three minor ones (4 CP)
    • Skill Trick/Words of Creation: Immunity / the time required to use Atherian-type magical rituals (Uncommon, Minor, Minor, 2 CP). This reduces the time requirements by two steps. A normally ten-minute ritual to get the household drains working would thus be reduced to one full action (Tens of Minutes to Minutes, Minutes to Full Actions) – although she must still get the relevant components from her Ritual Chest or Supply Pouch. Of course, the three-day ritual of Planar Transference would only be reduced to to hours (three days to one day, one day to hours).

In general, Granny can perform an immense variety of useful, albeit non-combative, rituals with relative ease – warding cottages against fires, chasing pests out of the fields, tracing bloodlines, predicting the weather, immunizing a village against a horrible disease, insulating and warming households during a bad winter, dowsing for the best place to dig a well, locating lost children, laying restless spirits, and so on. She can summon demons, raise a swarm of skeletons, or make it rain holy water too – but those are much bigger projects, and are likely to call for rare ingredients, considerably more time, and very high DC’s.

  • Legendarium +11 (5 SP*) +7 (Int) +10 (Cha) +2 (Skill Emphasis) +3 (Skill Focus) +3 (Path) = +36. Sadly, Granny’s usual +7 in magical and equipment bonuses is irrelevant here – but her massive attribute bonuses and skill-boosting feats still turn this into 388,800 GP worth of “gear”.
    • Specialized for Double Effect; “Items” purchased with Legendarium must be purchased as slot-free items at double cost. Granny’s items take up slots under the normal rules (and may have stacked effects under the normal rules), but are purchased at normal costs.  In effect, she just “spends” her Legendarium funds to purchase her “panoply” normally.
    • This also means that Granny has, over her extended lifetime, accomplished at least eighteen great deeds and seen them become a part of her legend. While her Dark Veil (from her Channeling powers) keeps those tales focused on “The Dark Enchantress” instead of on “Granny”, anyone who spends some time on Gather Information or research will be able to pick them up and get a pretty good idea of the Dark Enchantress’s capabilities. Specialized for Double Effect / items “purchased” with Legendarium must be bought as slot-free items for double cost. In Granny’s case they take up item slots normally regardless, and the stacking enchantments rules must be applied – so while her items may be powers derived from her legend, they are built just like normal items. Legendarium is a pretty major power for Granny – but then, one way or another, she’s invested quite a lot of character points into boosting her skills.
  • Linguistics +1 (1 SP) = +28
    • Skill Trick/Polyglot: Immunity/Awkward Linguistics Mechanics (Uncommon, Minor, Minor, 2 CP). Granny knows her base racial languages plus a number of languages equal to her total permanent Linguistics score. That will include Common, Sylvan, Infernal, Abyssal, Dwarven, Elven, and at least twenty-one more. In general, as an NPC, just assume that Granny knows all the tolerably common languages in the setting.
  • Perform; Acting +5 (5 SP) = +32
    • Skill Trick / Rumored Fame: Immunity to the distinction between Charisma and Reputation scores (Uncommon, Minor, Major, Corrupted/only uses 2/3’rds of the users Charisma score, 2 CP). Given her 30 Charisma this gives her an effective 20 on her Reputation score – which means that pretty much everyone in the country and nearby countries will have heard of her. That’s usually worth a substantial bonus on social interaction rolls.

This would be more expensive – but it can generally be assumed that any time the game master has the characters interacting with a V,I,P, he or she will be making a point of bringing it up anyway. There’s no point in having an NPC be famous or important if you don’t tell the player characters about it. Characters will develop reputations whether they buy one or not – but buying one offers them control. This option boosts one, but offers little control. Just allowing one to develop is a very hit-or-miss proposition – much more appropriate to wandering adventurers than to political figures.

  • Perform; Oratory +5 (5 SP) = +32 (+25 Base)
    • Mystic Artist/Oratory (10 abilities) with Echoes (12 CP):
      • Manipulation Abilities: Fascinate, Hold Audience, Emotional Auras, and Freedom.
      • Synergy Abilities: Block, Group Focus, Amplify, Harmonize, Serenity, and Rule the Horde.

Granny’s oratory has been polished across the centuries. She can weave suggestions, inspire overpowering emotions, break enchantments, enhance magic, renew her targets daily abilities, and more, selecting any two of those at a time and allowing those powers to echo back up to three times during the next two weeks.

This ability makes Granny’s tall tales pretty much redundant – but they’re cheap anyway and it never hurts to have a backup method of doing things. If this was an ultra-efficient build (instead of just exploitative) she’d probably have retrained those 2 CP – but Granny prefers to know that she can still tell a wild story with the best of them.

  • Perform; Strings +1 (1 SP) = +28
  • Perform; Sing +1 (1 SP) = +28
  • Qilin QiGong (Int): +3 (3 SP) +17 (Cha + Int) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +30 (+23 for buying abilities).
    • Qilin QiGong is a discipline of breath control and drifting movements to focus and channel C’hi, focusing on internal alchemy, the development of the Embryonic Pearl (a focus and reservoir of life force), and the amplification of the user’s inner strength. While it falls under the broad umbrella of the Martial Arts, it has only minor combat applications, and relatively few bother to develop them. Sadly, while truly skilled practitioners can maintain health and vigor into extreme old age, it does nothing to extend the user’s maximum lifespan. It can make it a lot easier to reach it though.
      • Granny’s twelve current abilities include: Synergy: +2 Craft/Alchemy, +2 Heal, +2 Fly, and +2 Perception, Toughness IV (a minor variant that protects against attribute drain and damage rather than physical injuries), Inner Strength II, Healing Hand, and Vanishing. These bonuses have not been included, since Granny is not always using this style.
  • Spellcraft +11 (5 SP*) = +38
    • Chaos Magic: 3d6 (12) Mana with Unskilled Magic, Specialized for Double Effect (costs only 1 Mana per level of the effect produced), Corrupted for Reduced Cost/only for unskilled magic, requires verbal and somatic components, Arcane or Hedge Magic effects only, requires a spellcraft check at a DC of 5 x the effective level of the effect being produced, commonly (and quite correctly) seen as a dangerous and unskilled use of magical energies (12 CP). In general: Charisma-based, Caster Level (7 + Effect Level, 10 Max), maximum effect level 6 (going above Caster Level/2 risks losing control at the option of the game master), requires a Charisma Check at DC (6 + Mana Used) to avoid dangerous side effects of one-half the level of the spell used. Success on this check still produces awkward and inconvenient side effects.
    • Fires of Creation: Rite of Chi with +(2 x Cha Mod) Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted: only to regain Mana in the unskilled magic pool above, requires at least five minutes of rest per die (6 CP).

This is an extremely cheap way to cast some fairly powerful freeform spells – but it’s rarely an attractive option for adventurers. Even disregarding the need for being of fairly high level, having very high attributes, a high spellcraft skill, and a high base will save just to make it work, few adventurers like risking random side effects. After all, casting Scorching Ray and having the party hit with Burning Hands, or being abruptly outlined with Faerie Fire even if the would-be magus makes the charisma check to avoid actively dangerous side effects, can really mess up your plans. There are reasons why Wild Mages have never really been popular – and why the Eclipse versions usually roll to see what kind of effects they have to work with this round and then have to figure out a way to use it rather than letting the game master do whatever he or she finds amusing at the moment.

Other Skills:

  • Fly (Dex) +2 (2 SP) +0 (Dex) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +12
  • Heal (Wis) +5 (5 SP) +5 (Wis) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +20, +3 Specialty in Pregnancy, Birthing, and Babies (1 SP).
    • With a +23 base, and access to Witchcraft, Rituals, and various Spells, Granny is capable of handling pretty much any childbirth. Given the number of kids she’s delivered over the centuries, this makes it even MORE awkward to confront her.
  • Perception (Wis) +11 (5 SP*) +5 (Wis) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) +5 (Gear) = +31
  • Profession (Lawyer) +6 (6 SP) +5 (Wis)+3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +21
    • You’re a part of the government, you get involved in legalistic disputes.
  • Ride (Dex) +2 (2 SP) +0 (Dex) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +12
  • Sense Motive (Wis) +11 (11 SP) +5 (Wis) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +26
  • Sleight Of Hand (Dex) +2 (2 SP) +0 (Dex) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +12
  • Stealth (Dex) +5 (5 SP) +0 (Dex) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +15
  • Survival (Wis) +2 (2 SP) +5 (Wis) +3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = +15
  • Swim (Str) +3 (3 SP) +0 (Str)+3 (Path) +1 (Luck) +4 (Comp) +2 (Tool) = + 13

This may need a few tweaks later – working in sections makes it easy to forget a detail here and there and I very well may have misadded a few skill points in that enormous list – but next up it will be some skill applications – Granny’s Legendarium abilities and some Mystic Architecture (along with yet another approach to practical schools in d20).

Granny, The Secret Overlord

Part I: History and Basics

Long centuries past, a Dark Enchantress ruled her domains with an iron fist and terrible powers, laying curses upon defiant villages, sending monsters against rebels and dissidents, and enforcing fairly reasonable rules and tax rates, because she was a Dark Enchantress, not a stupid one.

Still, eventually a shining hero – a charismatic bard, who’s own magics were a match for hers – brought an end to her reign, as shining heroes do. He ruled the realm well enough, for while he (like so many shining heroes) had little skill in management or administration, he had enough sense to defer to people who did on such matters.

And his wife was fine with this, for having a Shining Hero to serve as a focus for the realm she’d founded worked even better at keeping things peaceful than rumors of her wicked ways, terrible curses, and invincible sorceries. It took little more than a change of clothes and hair color to let the tales of the Dark Enchantress recede into legend.

And when the Shining Hero – now a King, wise and full of years – died at last, his three heirs divided the realm between them, for the retiring Dowager Queen would not hear of shortchanging her younger children, or of conflict between them, or of setting one above the others.

And the tradition continued onto the next generation, as the two Dukes and a Duchess divided their lands amongst their children – making them Earls and Countesses beneath the nominal authority of the long-retired Dowager Queen. And all was well across a well-managed and prosperous land.

Today there is a realm of sturdy, prosperous, freeholders – a carefully tended baobab of a family tree rooted throughout the realm and tens of thousands strong, There are mayors, and city councils, and the structures of a loosely-organized society of equals inhabiting a peaceful and prosperous land.

And there is Granny. No one is quite sure just WHO’S Granny she is – but there is a certain Confucian finality about being the Ancestress, the Eldest, and the Matriarch, and everyone is glad to have her. Her advice comes with the wisdom of age, and her gentle, welcome, tyranny will – the realm hopes – continue for many years to come.

And then another Eldest will presumably take over as the giver of incontestably good advice to provide stability and wisdom. After all, while no one can quite remember who the previous Eldest was, or just when Granny became the Eldest – it must have happened sometime, right?

Granny is a pretty standard matriarchal archetype; she’s the tough-as-nails old woman who has been around long enough to see it all, who tells everyone what to do, who is listened to because she’s usually quite right – and who won’t hesitate to fill your ears with venom if you cross her or hers. She is ruthless, vengeful, shows little care or compassion for outsiders (although she does care for her friends and family), and is quite thoroughly selfish – albeit with an equally thoroughly rational understanding of how a stable, prosperous, society benefits her and hers in the long run and so is worth supporting because she’s still not stupid.

This being d20 however, Granny’s wrath is considerably worse than that of Conan the Barbarian. Are you an outsider who’s leading bandits in raiding her great-great grandchildren’s farms? Price gouging in an emergency? Running a (competing) protection racket? Granny will not hesitate to curse your kids to transform into (obedient to her) Barghests and have them slowly eat you alive. After that? They’ll make good slave-minion-creatures for her after you’re gone, and when some adventurer kills them… well, they’re now horrors of the lower planes. They’ll be happy there.

Then, of course, she might be feeling creative today and come up with something much, much, worse than that.

And yes, that’s pretty thoroughly lawful evil. Oh well!

Granny has taken an unconscionably long time to write up, mostly because her concept is really much too broad. We have the protective grandmother, the elderly queen, the venomous harridan, the evil beldame, the desiccated teacher, the evil/pragmatic (if not necessarily treacherous) grand vizier, and the wicked witch, all rolled up into one – and that lack of focus has made it difficult to touch on all the major elements, much less cover the minor secondary details.

Available Character Points: 216 (L8 Base) +10 (Disadvantages: History, Obligations (to whatever family she is most closely associated with at the moment), and Secret (she is the Dark Enchantress of legend)) +16 (Duties; national advisor/leader) +24 (Restrictions; Armor, Martial and Exotic Weapons, Expensive Personal Magical Items (more than 5% or her wealth-by-level). Granny’s various powers are very much rooted in her supreme self-confidence; relying on too much external stuff will seriously dampen her powers) +24 (L1, 3, 5, and 7 Bonus Feats) = 290 CP.

That’s actually quite a lot, especially since Granny isn’t really an adventurer and won’t be investing in large hit dice, much of any base attack bonus, or big saving throw bonuses. She’s a sage, a witch, and a matriarch. That doesn’t mean that she can’t put up a fight one way or another – this is d20 after all – but her first priority will be on escaping any form of personal confrontation, not on fighting to the bitter end.

Given that she’s successfully escaped for many centuries now, she’s going to be very good at it.

Race: Granny could be of pretty much any pathfinder-compatible race, although I’m going to assume a +2 bonus to Cha – and at least a slightly-extended lifespan would probably suit her best. She is, in any case, of Venerable age – although, due to her various abilities, this doesn’t really hinder her at all.

Package Deal: Granny has the Pathfinder Package Deal. For her build, the important bits are that she gets:

  • Fast Learner, Specialized and Corrupted/only works as long as the user sticks to a particular archetype and relatively narrow plan of development chosen at level one at each level, points may only be spent on skills and additional hit points (2 CP).
  • The ability to spend CP to buy HP directly.
  • A +3 Pathfinder Bonus on all “in-class” skills.


A.K.A. Endora (or Theodora), Zelena, Elphaba, Mama Yaga, Morgana, and many more names. For some reason, however, except when she’s going by “Smith” she always uses a name that ends in an “a”.

Titles: Realmfounder, Dark Enchantress, Queen and Dowager Queen, Dynast of the Realm, The Exalted One, The Wicked Witch of the West, Nightwarden, Matriarch, Ancestress, Grand Vizier, Dame, Mentor of Heroes, and Eldest.

Basic Attributes: Str 8 (+2 Leg = 10), Dex 8 (+2 Leg = 10), Con 14 (+4 Tat =18), Int 15 (+3 Age +6 Leg = 24), Wis 13 (+3 Age +4 Leg = 20), Chr 17 (+3 Age, +2 Level +6 Leg +2 Race = 30) (32 Point Buy, Aging Penalties bought off using Dominion Points).

Granny uses Tattoo Magic to boost her constitution because it provides her with a blatantly obvious explanation for why she isn’t frail and sickly, like so many extremely elderly people. The fact that she doesn’t really need it is easy to hide that way.

Basic Abilities (53 CP):

  • Hit Points: 12 (L1 3d4, 16 CP) + 22 (L2-8d4) +12 (Immortal Vigor) +48 (Con Mod x 12) +18 (Pathfinder Favored Class Bonus as enhanced, see below) = 100 HP.
  • BAB: +2, Specialized and Corrupted / Only for swatting unruly children, chasing animals with brooms, killing vermin, and similar household tasks (4 CP). Granny has never really practiced physical combat and any skill she acquired in passing in her youth has long since atrophied after centuries as a venerable old lady.
    • Technically, if you aren’t actually inflicting an effect it’s not an attack and does not require a roll. Ergo, Granny can automatically smack people with brooms and canes as long as this has no effect whatsoever beyond expressing irritation non-verbally.
  • Saves:
    • Fortitude: +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) +4 (Con) +5 (Res) +1 (Luck) = +12
    • Reflex: +2 (Purchased, 6 CP) -1 (Dex) +5 (Res) +1 (Luck) = +7
    • Will: +6 (Purchased, 18 CP) +5 (Wis) +5 (Res) +1 (Luck) = +17
  • Combat Information:
  • Proficiencies: All simple weapons (3 CP). Granny may not have any serious martial training, but she is centuries old and she’s not an idiot.
  • Initiative: +0 (Dex). Granny does get to roll twice and keep the best roll though.
  • Move: 30′.
  • Armor Class: 10 (Base) +4 (Mage Armor) +4 (Force Shield) +1 (Luck) +4 (Martial Art) = 23 (35 and DR 12/- versus those who refuse to negotiate, see Skills).
  • Usual Weapons: Magic. What’s the point of being a Dark Enchantress if you’re going to fight with a weapon?

Part II will cover her various skills, skill-based powers, and a wide variety of skill tricks.

Ponies of the Eclipse – Dragon Speculations

And today it’s another offline question… “What would Spike (from “Friendship is Magic”, not Buffy the Vampire Slayer) look like in Eclipse?

Well, the trouble with creating a racial template for Equestarian Dragons is that it’s going to be pretty speculative. Yes, we see a fair amount of Spike (although his activities are often rather repetitive since he’s mostly a foil for Twilight and personal mail system) – but we also know that he isn’t entirely typical and other draconic appearances are few and far between. To fill things out a bit, I’m going to see what I can deduce from how Ponies interact with Equestria’s Dragons.

Ponies are the masters of Equestria. They control the sun and moon, the weather, the seasons, and more. They are powerful practitioners of Harmony and Love – the two greatest forces in their universe. Tireks scholarly mentor even outright states that ponies (and Unicorns in particular) have the most powerful magic in the universe. His viewpoint is likely biased, but there’s probably something to it.

Ponies seem to become even more powerful as they attune themselves more closely to the various virtues of the Elements of Harmony. Does it really seem likely to be a coincidence that…

  • Rainbow Dash, a paragon of loyalty, is the fastest (and possibly the toughest, at least judging by the “Rainbomb”) pegasus in all Equestria. What’s more, her abilities can’t be blamed on direct contact with the physical Element of Loyalty without timey-wimey shenanigans since she showed some of them many years before the Elements were reactivated.
  • Applejack, a paragon of honesty, stops stampedes, faces down monsters, and does quite incredible amounts of work. After all, the farm went down the drain in days without her despite everything that Big Mac, Apple Bloom, and Granny Smith could do.
  • Rarity, a paragon of generosity, can carry and toss around multi-ton boulders, outperform a small factory, use far more magical effects than a normal unicorn (including remotely teleporting large objects), is a skilled fighter, and can easily manipulate small swarms of enemies into giving her their treasure.
  • Fluttershy, a paragon of kindness, can stare down cockatrices, communicate with animals and make them all live together peacefully, wrestle bears, model, sing, conduct music, sew, and even reform gods of chaos.
  • Twilight, the “Princess of Friendship”, may be the most powerful mage in Equestria – and certainly demonstrates the desire and ability to make the universe conform to her will that is the essence of magic.
  • And then there’s Pinkie Pie, who can do almost anything.
  • For that matter there’s Cheese Sandwich, who clearly demonstrates that other ponies can tap into such powers without being element-bearers.

Yet we also know that such power is a rare and special thing. How do we know that? Because Equestria has problems AND keeps coming back to the mane six to solve them instead of just letting the general population handle them. Ergo… while ponies are empowered by the forces the Elements of Harmony represent it’s rare for one of them to be enough of a paragon of virtue to get a LOT of power.

And yet… dragons worry even the paragons. In a universe that primarily runs on the harmony of loyalty, honesty, generosity, kindness, laughter, and magic, and secondarily on love, dragons defy those powers. They may appear in small packs as adolescents, but the adults mostly seem to be solitary apex predators. They have a “king”, but their traditional method of choosing one seems to be based on skill in evading traps, competing with each other, raw power, and luck. On their own dragons show distinct tendencies towards…

  • Treachery. Rejecting a kid the moment he disagrees about pointlessly killing something? Spike expects to be betrayed by his “mother” and get replaced by an owl?
  • Deception. The adolescent dragons act accepting and then try to rig their contests? Spike getting their pets and the Cutie Mark Crusaders to deceive the Mane Six?
  • Greed. Spike growing into a monstrous dragon out of greed? Dragonhoards in general?
  • Cruelty. Wanting to smash phoenix eggs? Spike labeling his friends “Hairity, Rainbow Crash, Spitty Pie, Apple Teeny, Flutterguy, and Twilight Flopple” when they’re poisoned and panicked?
  • Wrath. Trying to hurt or kill a toddler for snagging some of your snacks? Inspiring fear the way that they do?
  • Chance: Leaving your kids to roam around unsupervised? Using an obstacle course to decide the potential fate of your entire species?

Dragons still seem to be affected by Love, but it, at most, tempers their behavior. Adult dragons obviously aren’t normally filled with love or keeping a dragon egg in a school and using it to test students would have been pretty horribly offensive wouldn’t it?

When Spike, who was raised by Ponies in isolation from other dragons, gives in to Greed he grows immensely in size and power – but he is restored to normal by the power of his affection for Rarity (incidentally demonstrating that the emotion is both genuine and serious).

So the primary behavioral traits – and apparently power sources – of Dragons are the Inverse Elements. Treachery, Deception, Greed, Cruelty, Wrath, and Chance (the inverse of magic – twisting the odds perhaps, but accepting the way of the universe instead of demanding that it do what you want). I’m going to call these traits the “Discordant Powers”.

Harmony may permeate the world – but that simply means that the outbreaks of the Discordant Powers are tightly focused, and very powerful locally – as shown by Discord himself. There are hundreds of times as many ponies as dragons and their overall power is far greater than the dragons – but that’s not a lot of comfort when it’s only a few dozen ponies against a Dragon who is channeling a lot more of one of the Discordant Powers than the ponies are channeling Harmony.

That… gives us a draconic power source, a reason for Ponies to be very wary of dragons, and a set of motivations all in one. It tells us why Dragons are so individually powerful but yet ponies dominate the world.

It may also imply a relationship between Dragons and Discord and between Dragons and Changelings, but there isn’t much support for that so far.

So what do we need to buy to build an Equestrian Dragon racial template?


Are Extremely Tough. They can leap from a height into magma without being hurt, chew, swallow, and digest sharp fragments of diamond, are highly resistant to energy (especially fire, even if you can get them sooty), and can take one of Rainbow Dash’s full kicks – shown to be capable of smashing through four sizeable trees – without injury.

  • Damage Reduction 5/-, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect; Only versus Physical Attacks, not versus Adamantine (12 CP).
  • Berserker with Odinpower and Enduring, Powered by Mana, +15/- Universal Damage Reduction (also protects against energy) (12 CP). That’s fairly expensive – but will allow a powered-up Equestrian Dragon to shed most weapons like drops of rain.
  • Energy Infusion (Fire, 6 CP). Given that ice cream can upset Spikes stomach when rocks can’t… a vulnerability to excessive amounts of Cold doesn’t seem unreasonable.

Eating gems really isn’t especially advantageous, even in Equestria where they’re absurdly common and inexpensive. After all… a modest gem does seem to have enough value to trade it for a substantially larger sandwich even there – and given that Spike sometimes gorges on them, their effective caloric value can’t be THAT high. Elsewhere… it’s just absurd. Eat that gem worth several hundred gold pieces – or use it to get a hundred gallons of ice cream and other goodies? Dragons seem to like those too… Ergo, no cost.

Are Limited Shapeshifters. They can change size and the details of their appearance – although this does not seem to be entirely under their control. In addition, they are naturally armed and armored. They can also dig well (although they don’t seem to have a burrow speed like Diamond Dogs) and seem to have little use for material possessions (or shovels).

  • Accursed. A dragon’s appearance reflects it’s personality, state of development, and (at least to a limited extent) current mood. This makes them extremely distinctive, hard to fit for equipment, easy to “read” (other creatures get a +5 bonus on Sense Motive against dragons), and makes it easy for other creatures to pretend to be dragons with flimsy disguises. After all, a dragon could easily look like that… (-3 CP).
  • Immunity/having to actually have mundane equipment to get it’s bonuses (mundane equipment is Very Common and not having it is a Minor problem for an adventurer. The Trivial level covers basic tools and clothing, Minor covers light and medium armor and simple weapons, Major covers heavy armor, masterwork stuff and martial weapons, and Great covers exotic weapons, materials, and alchemical gear. That’s 4, 8. 12. Or 24 CP. Dragons normally start at (12 CP).

Once again, I could speculate on a connection with Changelings here. After all… a dragon-pony hybrid might well not have a strong connection to either the Elements of Harmony OR the Discordant Powers. If so, it would be an incomplete creature, lacking a natural source of magic, drives, and emotions – and perhaps needing to take those things from others. A bit of a dragon’s natural toughness for an effectively armored insect-like hide, some fangs, spitting mere sticky goo instead of magically charging the stuff to act more like napalm, the draconic shapeshifting… I could even argue that the holes are due to their shapeshifting reflecting their inherent incompleteness. That may not be what this article is about – but I am being speculative here.

Seem to have a good Constitution, but show no other exceptional attributes save strength – which may just be due to size bonuses – and aren’t especially sociable.

  • Attribute Shift: +2 Con, -2 Cha (6 CP).

Are implied to be very long-lived and easily capable of surviving in the wastelands. Spike – despite being at least ten years old – is considered a baby dragon.

  • Immunity to Aging (Uncommon, Major, Major, 6 CP). Dragons can expect to live for thousands of years.

Are apparently magic-resistant when they want to be – or at least the various unicorns around Ponyville don’t seem to have much luck in dealing with Spike when he’s gotten bigger.

  • Spell/Power Resistance II (12 CP).

Are Firebreathers. They can breathe enormous amounts of fire and/or smoke, possess considerable control over that ability – enough to either melt masses of snow or ice or to make toast – and can use it for at least some magical purposes.

Can, at least as adults, sprout wings and fly at considerable speeds and with fair maneuverability

  • Instinctive Dragon Magic: Innate Enchantment (total value 6320 GP, net cost of 7 CP).
    • Enhance Attribute: Str +2 (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .7 Personal Only = 1400 GP).
    • Enhance Attribute: Con +2 (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .7 Personal Only = 1400 GP).
    • Feathermail (a touch-range Transmutation effect targeting armor, +3 to maximum Dex, -3 to Armor Check Penalty, reduce movement penalty by 10 for 2 rounds/level, Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP (Unlimited-Use Use-Activated) x .7 (Personal-Only) x.8 (“Armor” from Immunity Only) = 1120 GP. Dragons can generally move easily despite their scales.
    • Montage Scene/Power Tool: Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP (Unlimited-Use Use-Activated) x .5 (Only on their internal “tools”) = 1000 GP. Dragons can get a lot more done than would normally be credited – digging like a backhoe, jack hammering through stone, and so on. In general, dragons gets a lot more done than any normal human.
    • Immortal Vigor I (The Practical Enchanter): Provides +(12 + 2 x Con Mod) Hit Points. (Spell Level One x Caster Level One x 2000 GP Unlimited-Use Use-Activated x .7 Personal Only = 1400 GP).
  • Immunity/stacking limitations when combining innate enchantment effects with external effects (common/minor/trivial; only covers level 0 or 1 effects) (2 CP).
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of racial innate enchantments (uncommon/minor/trivial) (1 CP). Dragons are born with their innate enchantments, and need not pay any extra experience for them.
  • Immunity to Dispelling effects (Common/Minor/Great, Specialized and Corrupted / only to protect Racial Innate Enchantments, 4 CP).

This stuff just comes with being a dragon.

Learned Dragon Magic: Inherent Spells, all powered by Mana. Unfortunately, all of these require extensive training to use. Dragons must either spend years wandering and working on self-development, seek out “appropriate” tutors and get them to teach them, or simply level up until they can control these abilities without training, before they can use these. Secondarily, inexperienced dragons fairly often have minor “accidents” with these powers. That’s Corrupted for Reduced Cost (36 CP in total).

  • L2: Essence of the Dragon (SC, Costs 1 Mana)
  • L3: Giant’s Wrath (the Practical Enchanter, +2 Size Levels) and Dragonskin (SC)
  • L4: Flight of the Dragon (SC), Voice of the Dragon (SC)
  • L5: Dragonsight (SC), Grand Earthward (L5)
  • L6: Greater Invocation of Flame (SC), Aura of Terror (SC)

Grand Earthward: L5, activates once per round on it’s own, on or off action, blocking 60 points of damage from any one attack as well as any special effects – poison, energy drain, or whatever – that it might have).

A L6 Greater Invocation of Flame produces Fire effects of  up to level five – ranging from making toast and baking on through near-instant alchemical transformations and a wide variety of fire blasts.

Discordant Channeling. The ability to channel the power of the Discordant Powers is advanced Dragon Magic – and, in Equestrian terms, blatant dark magic. It is obvious to unicorns when used, always runs at least a slight risk of loss of control (basically a roll of “1″ on a will save when using the stuff), can provoke reactions from Harmony Magic, and can be countered by Harmony Magic. Any dragon can use, it, but only practice and mental discipline will provide even a modicum of control. It counts as being Specialized.

  • Witchcraft II. Provides the use of The Adamant Will, Healing (Specialized in Self-Healing for Double Effect), and Witchsight (Specialized in Scent, for no cost), with a base Power score equal to (Sum of Physical Attributes/3), and a base Will save DC of (13 + Cha Mod) (6 CP):
  • 1d6 Mana, taken as 3d6 Power. Only usable for Witchcraft (3 CP).
  • Ridden by the Loa with Partial Control, Corrupted/Only to draw on the Discordant Powers (2 CP).
  • Immunity/the one-point-per-hour cost of keeping Ridden by the Loa Running (Common, Minor, Major (up to 30 Power/Day equivalent, Corrupted/cannot normally be turned off to get rid of an inconvenient Discordant Power, 2 CP).

Drawing on the Discordant Powers generally provides +2 levels of Growth (96 CP) and 35 CP related to the particular power being channeled – the remaining 32 CP plus a disadvantage. It’s no coincidence that the “particular powers” match the basic structure of Mysteries. In fact, a Bokor in Equestria can also learn to channel the Discordant Powers – although they won’t get the “Growth” function. That’s another reason to regard them with fear and suspicion (as if another reason was needed). Perhaps, in Equestria, Bokor are the equivalent of basic d20 Sorcerers – ponies and zebras who just happen to have a dragon ancestor somewhere.

What about Lust? Well, you can include Lust as a perversion of Love or Harmony – but I doubt that the powers it grants require any real game rules. I may throw something in just to make sure that I cover everything – but it certainly isn’t necessary.

In any case… all of that comes out to 126 CP – a +3 ECL race. Of course, in a standard game, without the Superheroic World Template to provide a steady supply of Mana to work with, you’d probably want to invest another 32 CP or so in buying Mana and Rite of Chi with Bonus Uses to replenish the stuff.

Next time around on this topic I’ll see about the Discordant Powers.

Shadowed Galaxy Character Setup II

I thought that I’d put this up long ago – but apparently I hadn’t. So here it is now.

General Notes: All characters are stellar explorers – and must be able to function as a part of a close-knit group aboard a small ship. Characters who cannot work in a group, insist on keeping piles of deadly secrets, are actually possessed by horrible alien forces, are utterly insane, are too crippled to be recruited, or are otherwise incompatible with working with a group are automatically weeded out before they ever get aboard. You can’t play one.

You can play very difficult characters if you want, but if you go overboard you probably won’t be taken on the next trip. Be sensible.

Character Advancement is being handled by direct awards of character points, at a rate of two points per session to start with. After level four this is reduced to one point per session. Logs and contributions are usually worth an extra 1 CP per session.

Skills and Equipment:

Equipment is handled through the Equipment Skills – which cover acquiring, operating, maintaining, and repairing various types of gear. You are automatically considered proficient with anything you buy through an Equipment Skill. Such skills include:

  • Armory (Str): Armor, Power Armor, Shields, Life Support, and similar.
  • Biotech (Con): Organ Implants, Surgeries, and Genetic Modifications.
  • Gadgetry (Int): Sensors, Computers, Tools, and Utility Items.
  • Logistics (Chr): Supplies, Subscriptions, Licenses, and Lifestyles.
  • Vehicles (Wis, Occult): Vehicles. Note that this is an occult skill (basically, there’s a 3 CP
  • Weaponry (Dex): Weapons. These are almost as popular as Armor.

Action Skills bend reality a bit to allow heroic feats. Unfortunately, each time you do something major with an Action Skill, it’s value is reduced for the rest of the session. Consider them your “Special Effects” budget. They include:

  • Bullet Time (Con): Pull flashy tricks, evade damage, and take immediate actions.
  • Erudite Focus (Int): Act ;ole Mr Spock or Gilligan’s Professor, get hints, and resist some mental attacks.
  • Narrative (Chr, Occult): Detect narrative influences or buy Whimsy Cards.
  • Sensitive (Wis): Detect psychic clues, resist mental influences, gain Power, and be a generic “Psychic”.
  • Stealing the Scene (Con, Occult): Invoke cliches and tropes.
  • Tough It Out (Str): Resist attribute damage/drain and various conditions through sheer grit.

Equipment and Action skills generally cannot be used unskilled.

Other Skills:

  • Idiotic Technology (Wis, Occult): Basically the Shadowed Galaxy version of “Use Magic Device” – allowing the user to fiddle with Idiotic Technology, make deductions about it, keep a few such devices ready to use, and use them. This is not especially safe, but it’s sometimes necessary.
  • Faith (Wis): Measures the intensity of your religious beliefs – and how much control you can exercise over Spacefield Effects.
  • Networking (Chr): Your ability to manipulate organizations. Commonly purchased with bonuses with particular groups to represent rank within them.
  • Minions (Chr, Occult): Recruiting minions – and making sure that they do what you’d want them to do when you’re not there.

Special Ability Notes:

Unlike most settings, the Shadowed Galaxy doesn’t forbid many abilities. The limitations fall more under how they work. Thus it’s wise to consult the GM on your character design. Things that are generally functional within the setting can be tweaked.

For an example take Returning. Some Spacefield Template Effects can provide it. In such cases the Spacefield Effects include storing the user/victim’s mind and reconstituting a body if they’re physically killed. A few Informational Effects basically turn the “user” into a free spirit, and let them manifest a new body after they’re “slain”. Biotech can provide some impressive regeneration. Psychic Powers have (very, VERY, rarely) been known to allow for body-hopping (likely in conjunction with some additional ability), and – given the lack of success with cloned bodies and “braintaping” – only computers and androids can back themselves up microtronically.

So humans in general may…

  • Employ up to 4 CP worth of Relics if they should happen to acquire any.
  • Buy up to 3d6 Mana – whether as Mana, Generic Spell Levels, or Power – without it counting against the limit for various special abilities. Beyond that point, it does.

As for specific power sources…

Biotech: Humans are pretty good at medical skills, understanding their own biology, implanting synthetic organs and tissues, correcting genetic flaws, fixing up damaged bodies, and so on. They have free access to the Biotech skill and may opt to take various adaptions (even as bonuses to the equipment skills with an immunity to having them taken away) starting off – but modifying such things after an organism matures is extremely difficult. Humans simply do not seem to be able to solve the problems inherent in active adjustments, such as shapeshifting. Note that this also bans the “partial shapeshift for big attribute bonuses” trick.

Psychic Powers: Humans may develop up to 36 CP (plus Pacts) worth of Witchcraft Powers (or actual psionic abilities of up to level two) – which is actually quite a lot. Unfortunately, a fair number of the advanced Witchcraft abilities are either limited (although this does reduce their cost) or simply do not work.

  • Aegis only provides the “care” function rather than destroying diseases, etcetera (3 CP).
  • Apparition is possible, but will kill you without some special ability to avoid having your body shut down while you’re focusing on a temporary one (2 CP).
  • Ashen Rebirth is very likely to kill you when used (2 CP).
  • Birth of Flames works, but creates a purely intangible entity that cannot materialize. It’s still an effective scout though (3 CP).
  • Blessing cannot bestow a permanent benefit. Given that this is very rare anyway, this does not change the cost.
  • Bones of Iron mostly works, although Iron Lung doesn’t work well (No change).
  • Breath of Life only lasts for a minute of concentration at most (2 CP).
  • Breath of Peruza works VERY briefly (2 CP).
  • Covenbond is Ritual Only, and so is only (3 CP).
  • Darknsense can cause serious confusion in the user (3 CP).
  • Dismissal cannot banish entities since the Shadowed Galaxy lacks true outsiders, elemental, and outer planes and it’s only options for being selective are disrupting hyperspace-related entities, subspace-related, or informationally-powered entities (3 CP).
  • Divination covers low-end detections only – nothing above level two (3 CP).
  • Flesh Like Mist is VERY dangerous and often fails (2 CP). If you’re taking this, a bit of Luck may be in order.
  • Grounding is messy, since the energy has to go SOMEWHERE (4 CP).
  • Hag-Riding works, but the victims need to have some psychic ability (4 CP).
  • Leaping Fire only works in part; it cannot provide rapid healing, eliminate fatigue, or eliminate exhaustion (4 CP).
  • Light of Truth has no holy-energy combat applications beyond causing flash-blindness (4 CP).
  • Longevity is a bit more limited, but not enough to justify a cost change.
  • Master of the Sabbat does not work.
  • Master the Elements does not work,
  • Mouth of the Earth works, but causes backlash (3 CP).
  • Nightforge will not work.
  • Possession is generally not possible without something that sustains your existence without a body (3 CP).
  • Ridden by the Loa can tap some low-powered entities, but they’re more like Vestiges than anything else – and generally lack any major powers (3 CP).
  • Sanctify can give areas moods and such, but not much more (2 CP).
  • Seize the Wandering Soul is generally short of targets (3 CP).
  • Siphon will not work.
  • Sleep of Stone mostly works (being reassembled rarely does, 4 CP).
  • Spirit Binding is very temporary at best (at least for humans) and the advanced command stuff won’t work (3 CP).
  • Spirits of the Deep generally has no power source to use, and so does not work.
  • Summoning is very limited for lack of targets and there are no sources for borrowed magic. It is normally a ritual, and is Specialized and Corrupted for (2 CP).
  • Sympathetic Link is generally limited to planting bits of yourself to use (3 CP).
  • Tenebrium’s coin works, but you need to do something like run a psychic hotline and “money” means very little in the Shadowed Galaxy (2 CP).
  • The Sight is never controllable (3 CP)
  • The Inner Fire generally does not work.
  • The Secret Order does not work.
  • The Umbral Form allows blending with shadows, not becoming insubstantial – although you can move within them easily (3 CP). Most psychics just use Shadowweave unless they didn’t take it.
  • True Prosperity only works on a few plants or a garden patch at most (3 CP).
  • Venomed Touch does not work
  • Warding provides a +3 Luck Bonus to Saves and a +2 Luck Bonus to AC, but no other bonuses.
  • Weathermonger only allows data-collection and steering things a bit (3 CP).

Informational (or perhaps Conceptual) Abilities are quite limited. Humans simply are not capable of handling more than 24 CP worth of active informational powers (6-: Novice, 12-: Initiate, 18:-Master, 24-: Grandmaster) with one major exception: Informational Powers built as Witchcraft may have their cost reduced by Pacts.

Spacefields are generally beyond humanities ability to sense or manipulate in any detail. The only known interface is the Faith skill. Characters may request a +1 ECL Spacefield Template, but the details are up to the game master.

Eclipse d20 – Binding Mysterious Spirits VIII, Kyrie, The Dread Wyrm, Halphax, Orthos, and Vierdan Sanguine.

As usual, all of these Mysteries build on the powers of the basic Bokor Package – although that is cheap enough that it’s normally well worthwhile.

Kyrie (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Accursed (Dark Visions). Those who channel Kyrie are prone to fits of prophecy, always foreseeing disasters and tragedies, ranging from the small to the great. Each time Kyrie is summoned there is a small chance that the channeler will be called on to try and stop such a disaster – although the greater the deed requested, the longer it will be before another deed is required).

Abysm isn’t a mythological figure. It’s simply an obscure word for a dark – and thus apparently bottomless – pit. So what we have here is a larger version of Poul Anderson’s “Kyrie” – with the victim no longer being a single powerful, telepathic, alien falling into a black hole, but an entire psychic city, leaving its eternal psychic scream behind to empower others who can tap into that frozen moment. Unfortunately, Abysm made you a very poor psion – so Kyrie will provide some serious upgrades.

  • +1 on Knowledge/Psionics (1 CP).
  • Improved Occult Talent: Specialized for Increased Effect (L0 slots become L1, L1 slots become L2) and Corrupted for Reduced Cost / the user may only select one power plus one per every two levels above level one from each incidence to use during each summoning (all are available at L15+), using these powers has destructive side effects on the environment as the Fall of Abysm begins to leak into normal reality and may eventually release some of the horrors that destroyed Abysm into the world. Each instance provides 5 L1 and 3 L2 Powers and 14 Power to use them with at a cost of 8 CP. Three instances (24 CP).
    • Available Powers for the First Instance:
      • L1) Astral Construct, Entangling Ectoplasm, Inertial Armor, Psionic Grease, and Psionic Minor Creation.
      • L2) Animal Affinity, Clairvoyant Sense, and Psionic Levitate
    • Available Powers for the Second Instance:
      • L1) Attraction, Demoralize, Control Light, Crystal Shard, and Mind Thrust,
      • L2) Concealing Amorpha, Energy Missile, and Read Thoughts.
    • Available Powers for the Third Instance:
      • L1) Call Item, Catfall, Channel the Psychic Dragon, Minor Metamorphosis (Pathfinder), and Vigor.
      • L2) Compelling Voice (Pathfinder), Feat Leach, and Share Pain.
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted / only for Power, only usable between encounters (4 CP).
  • Companion (Witchcraft): Psi-Crystal. +4 Power, Bestows the Persistent Metamagical (Psionic) Theorem and +2 levels of Streamline, Specialized and Corrupted/only for First and Second Level Psionic Powers granted by Abysm, requires a full minute of concentration when a power is used to obtain this benefit. This extends the duration of relevant effects by two steps on the following list: Turns to Minutes, Minutes to Tens of Minutes, Tens of Minutes to Hours, and Hours to a Full Day (the upper limit) (6 CP).

This version of Abysm is quietly effective. Granting a total of 46 power and the ability to recover an average of 52.5 points through the day makes calling on Abysm a reasonable choice even the disciplines it offers are all low level (if numerous) because it’s generic Power, which can be used to fuel abilities granted by other Mysteries – and the extended duration of some of the powers it grants is very handy: Astral Construct goes to ten minutes/level (even if you must create them well before the fight to take advantage of it), Animal Affinity, Channel the Psychic Dragon, Concealing Amorpha, Feat Leach, Minor Metamorphosis, Read Thoughts, and Vigor go to Hours/Level, and Call Item, Share Pain, Inertial Armor, Levitate, and Minor Creation all go to a full day. Given that, you can afford to buff yourself (including using Vigor, sharing it with your Psicrystal, and then using Share Pain on your psicrystal to effectively gain 10 HP/Power spent) at the start of the day and can even repeat it a time or two if someone dispels part of it.

The Dread Wyrm (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Compulsive (Revenge). Anyone channeling the Dread Wyrm will suffer no slights; those who are rude may suffer a scathing appraisal of their faults and those who have harmed or insulted the channeler are greatly preferred targets; the user suffers a -1 penalty on attacks or the DC of saving against his or her abilities if they attack someone else while such a preferred target is available).

Ashardalon was the big bad dragon of some adventures, but was mostly notable for trying to use his resources to get more magical power instead of just going for “bigger and meaner” like most of the other standard d20 super-genius, major spellcasting, incredibly wealthy, elder dragons who (for some reason known only to lazy writing) usually seem to ignore that possibility entirely.

In other words, he managed to hand somebody else the idiot ball a few times before the end.

Really though, this is extremely generic: you get extra tough, you can find and evaluate treasure, you scare people, and you are quite resistant to fire. Honestly, that could be pretty much any basic dragon from about five hundred different sources couldn’t it? For a penultimate-level Mystery, I think that some improvements are in order.

  • Occult Skill Access: Bullet Time (3 CP), with +3 Skill Points to make it a “relevant” skill to start with (+3 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus: Add (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) for Skill Points through L1, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/points may only be spent on Appraise (yes, this can be used to list off a target’s personal faults), Bullet Time (specialized in buying off damage only, for double effect; reduce the current score by 1/2/3 to buy off 12/20/24 points of damage. This does not count as an action), and Search (Perception in Pathfinder) and must be distributed evenly between them. This provides a (Cha Mod x 4) “racial” bonus on each of those skills (6 CP).
  • The Dragon’s Fury/Witchcraft III, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/each basic ability is limited to a fairly specific, simple effect (rather than allowing dozens), often with additional limitations (6 CP).
    • The Dragon-Aura/Glamour: The user may expend 5 Power and a Standard action to generate the effects of a Fear spell (Save DC 16 + Cha Mod). Once used this cannot be used again for 1d4 Rounds.
    • Burning Wrath of the Dragon/Hyloka: The user may accelerate his or her metabolism to the point of becoming a being of burning plasma at the cost of 9 Power and an Immediate Action. This is equivalent to the Elemental Body spell, but only allows the use of the Fire Elemental Form. If deactivated, this cannot be activated again for 1d4 rounds.
    • Torrent of Flames/Hand of Shadows: While Elemental Body is running – and only then – the user may spend 5 Power and a move action to become a rushing mass of flames, tracing a path up to ninety feet long which may pass through the air. Occupants of the squares moved through suffer (3d6 + User’s Con) fire damage (Fortitude Save DC 16 + Cha Mod for half, affects objects) and the effects of a Gust of Wind spell. The user reappears at the end of the path. If the path collides with a solid barrier, it ends there, with the user and the barrier each suffering the indicated damage. If the path passes through rain, ice storms, or similar difficulties the user suffers 1d6 damage per square of such conditions passed through. If the user passes through water he or she takes 3d6 damage per square passed through.
    • Acuity of the Dragon/Witchsight: You may spend 1 Power to gain 60 foot Blindsight for the next hour.
  • +4d6 Mana as +6d6 (21) Power, Specialized and Corrupted/only to power the Dragon’s Fury abilities listed above (4 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only for Power, only to rebuild the power pool for the Dragon’s Fury abilities listed above (4 CP).
  • Damage Reduction 4/-, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / versus physical damage only, bypassed by Cold Iron weapons. Net DR 12/Cold Iron (9 CP).

The Dread Wyrm is actually a pretty balanced Mystery. It lets you absorb quite a lot of damage, gives you some skill bonuses, a fear attack, an elemental transformation, an unusual movement / attack power, blindsight, and decent damage reduction that’s only bypassed by a reasonably uncommon material. Admittedly, none of those add up to particularly awesome power unless you’ve got to wade through an army of mooks – but they’re a nice solid backup for pretty much any other Mystery you want, and at this level a Bokor will be routinely channeling two or more Mysteries. If the other one happens to be highly specialized, The Dread Wyrm is a pretty good choice.

Halphax (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Compulsive. Halphax demands that his channelers act like true aristocrats – demanding the best of food and drink, wearing fine clothing, claiming some form of title, and showing at least a bit of noblesse oblige).

Halphax (also Halphas, Malthus, Malthas, or Malthous) is another escapee from the Ars Goetia. There he is said to build towers and fill them with weapons and send his subordinates into battle. Wizards of the Coast let him provide some architectural skills, some personal toughness, create walls of iron, and secure shelters – and let him use an “imprisonment” effect that works nothing at all like the Imprisonment spell; it’s basically equivalent to “Time Hop” – a level three effect.

Well, some architecture might be fun. Pathfinder made it much more reasonably priced and you can use Innate Enchantment for mundane gear (even if it’s rarely done) – so why not use it to take along some “rooms” to combine into various structures? Sure, if they get destroyed the damage will persist until the next summoning or until something is done about it – but popping up a few walls and such can be pretty useful in a battle and fortified camps are very nice indeed. So is having a pleasant tavern/inn to stop in every evening, even if it’s not much help in a battle.

  • Damage Reduction 4/-, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / versus physical damage only, bypassed by Adamantine weapons. Net DR 12/Adamantine (9 CP).
  • Access to the Ninjaneering Occult Skill (3 CP).
  • Augmented Bonus: Add (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) for Skill Points through L1, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/points may only be spent on Profession (Siege Engineer), Knowledge / Architecture and Engineering, and Ninjaneering. This effectively provides a bonus of (Cha Mod) x 4 skill points in each those three skills and must be split evenly between them. If the user doesn’t have the skill otherwise the relevant attribute modifier gets added in as well (6 CP).
  • Trick / Temporal Throw: You may make a melee touch attack as a standard action to try and throw a target creature one round per level into the future. The target may make a DC (10 + Level/2 + Cha Mod) Fortitude save to negate the effect. Unfortunately, only a single creature may be affected at any one time and if a creature makes its save you may not use this ability for 1d4 rounds (6 CP).
  • Imbuement (“Brigadoon” gains a Ward Major), Specialized for Reduced Cost/never improves past the “+4″ equivalent that it starts at (which, coincidentally, covers the cost of an appropriate level four ward, 3 CP). Four Minor Powers:
    • Enduring. The eldritch structures have triple their normal hardness and Spell Resistance 30.
    • Non-Euclidean. The village has many local portals and can be put into places that are completely unreasonable and far too small. Up to one ton of material can be kept in it with no effective encumbrance.
    • Industry: Variant; production is only 5x normal, but anyone working within one of the buildings is presumed to have a relevant set of masterwork tools for the user of their skill(s) and an appropriate workspace.
    • Sustenance: Residents need not eat, sleep or breathe while within the village. Those who get tired and hungry outside it will still need to sleep and eat to fix that, but they will not get hungrier or sleepier while they wait.
  • Brigadoon: Innate Enchantment, Specialized and Corrupted for Reduced Cost: includes no spells or items, only for “rooms” and “teams” purchased according to Pathfinder’s Downtime System (not much of a limitation since you’re buying specific things anyway, but worth noting), the maximum value that can be used at any one time is equal to the user’s (Knowledge; Architecture and Engineering x 500) GP, once a structure is “brought out” it cannot be dismissed or modified for at least one minute, user must gesture dramatically to produce and place structures within short range, structures must be appropriately placed (no, you cannot drop houses on the wicked witch), creatures that would be within a structure may make a DC (16 + Cha Mod) Reflex save to pick where in the structure they wind up. Sadly, any external items left “inside” when a room is not manifested count against the user’s encumbrance and anything left inside when Halphax is dismissed vanishes – usually to reappear elsewhere, but sometimes lost for good. .


Available “Rooms”:

  • Armory x4 (1560 GP).
  • Bar (250 GP).
  • Bedrooms x3 (900 GP).
  • Brewery (380 GP).
  • Cells x2 (360 GP).
  • Ceremonial Room (1180 GP).
  • Common Room (300 GP).
  • Courtyard x2 (360 GP).
  • Crypt (490 GP).
  • Defensive Walls (Stone, 20-40 squares, 20′ tall) x2 (1040 GP).
  • Defensive Walls (Standard, 10′ Tall, 20-40 squares) x2 (520 GP).
  • Dock (with four 20-foot rowboats/sailboats, 520 GP).
  • Drawbridge (320 GP).
  • Escape Route (360 GP).
  • Fortification x4 (Note that the +2 Hardness is tripled by the Ward Major, 1200 GP).
  • Furnishings x3 (900 GP).
  • Garden (180 GP).
  • Gatehouse (Iron Door, Iron Portcullis, Gauntlet, and a Carriage, comes with assorted L1 Experts as minor guards, 2310 GP).
  • Gauntlet x2 (320 GP).
  • Kitchen (160 GP).
  • Labyrinth (370 GP).
  • Laundry (120 GP).
  • Lavatory x2 (240 GP).
  • Lodgings x2 (860 GP).
  • Magical Repository (730 GP).
  • Office (120 GP).
  • Roman Bath (Sauna, Pools, Etc, 350 GP).
  • Sitting Room (480 GP).
  • Stall x5 (1250 GP).
  • Storage x2 (240 GP).
  • Summoning Chamber (1040 GP).
  • Torture Chamber (330 GP).
  • War Room (300 GP).

Total Rooms = 20,040 GP.

Available “Teams”:

  • Bureaucrats: A set of five L3 Experts: Lawyer, Scribe, Seneschal, Bookkeeper, and Herald, 200 GP.
  • Cavalry: A set of five L3 Warriors with light warhorses, 410 GP. (Note that you can get out the horses on their own if you want to ride or have them pull a carriage or something).
  • Cavalry Archers: A set of five L3 Warriors with light warhorses, 470 GP.
  • Craftspeople: Three sets of three L4 Experts: Alchemist, Bowyer, Carpenter, Glassblower, Healer, Herbalist/Gardener, Librarian, Smith, and Tanner/Leatherworker, 600 GP.
  • Elite Archers: A set of Five L3 Warriors, 380 GP.
  • Elite Guards: Two sets of Five L3 Warriors, 340 GP.
  • Elite Soldiers: Two sets of Five L3 Warriors, 660 GP.
  • Lackeys: Three sets of five L1 Experts: Bartender, Bath Attendant, Butler, Carriage Driver, Cook, Courtesan/Masseur x2 (one male and one female), Innkeeper, Janitor, Maid/Laundress, Mason, Squire, Valet, Waiter, and Weaver/Seamstress, 360 GP.
  • Priest: A L3 Cloistered Cleric/Witch (Eclipse-style Witch, Knowledge, Magic, and Witchery domains) or Sacerdos Pastor, 810 GP.
  • Robbers: A set of five L3 Rogues, 200 GP.

Total Teams = 4430 GP.

  • Thanks to the Ward Major, any skill user effectively has access to masterwork tools appropriate to the skill and a workspace. Thus the Alchemist has an Alchemy Lab, the Librarian has a Library full of reference works giving a bonus on knowledge skills, the Smith a Forge, the Leatherworker a Leatherworking Shop, the Healer an Infirmary, and so on. For Downtime purposes, these are effectively “Workstations” (x30).

Yes, the GM is free to give the “minions” personalities, and have them carry over from one summoning to the next. Even slain minions will, however, be just fine the next time Halphax is summoned – and are well aware of it. If one is TOO irritating though the summoner does have an option; push him or her out of time and dismiss Halphax. Next time he’s summoned… that minion will have been replaced. This process is, however, irreversible.

Grand Total: 24,470 GP, for 25 CP worth of Innate Enchantment – or (8 CP) after being Specialized and Corrupted.

Anyone channeling Halphax is essentially hauling along a village (of about 75 “rooms” and 80-odd employees), and the Pathfinder Downtime system, along. In conjunction with the production increase from the Ward this provides an “Extravagant” lifestyle, 250 GP in spending money per day, and some (paid for) Downtime Capital – 4 Goods, 4 Labor, 4 Influence, and 2 Magic per day. While there will be no special events in the village pocket realm while it’s not manifested, it does have enough of a population to serve as a normal village for other purposes (Purchase Limit 2500 GP, Spellcasting Services of up to L3 are available (but must be paid for – unlike the services of the “teams”, which are free), items of up to 500 GP value are available for purchase, items of up to 2500 GP value may be sold, and 2d4 Minor and 1d4 Medium items with values above that limit will be available, changing each lunar month).

No, that doesn’t make a lot of sense – but Halphax IS a “Mystery”, that’s what the settlement and downtime rules say, and it’s not like most d20 settings or systems of magic make a lot of sense when examined in detail anyway.

A character hosting Halphax will have a fortress to stay in, good food, fine wines, a backrub, people to repair his or her gear, a squire to polish his or her armor, guards for the night, clean clothing, someone to warm his or her bed, mundane supplies, and all the comforts and security of staying in a nicely civilized area every night. That’s certainly convenient. Besides… it’s worth it just to be able to produce a lawyer and a personal herald on cue.

In combat Halphax doesn’t offer a lot in the way of direct abilities – but he allows a channeler to set up a battlefield to suit himself or herself in a way that few spellcasters could match if they tried. Being able to look about, place a few walls, a couple of strongpoints, a few troops, a dimensional shortcut or two, a pit, and a field of caltrops, can be pretty handy. So is extra money, having endless supplies ready to hand, and being able to sleep tight in a dimensional pocket in a dungeon. I’d go for it just for style.

Orthos (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Compulsive. When a channeler of Orthos encounters slaves or prisoners he or she must make a substantial effort to win their freedom. If he or she does not do so Orthos will not again answer his or her call foe one lunar month).

Orthos (Orthros, Orthrus, Orthus) was a monstrous two-headed dog in greek and roman myths – a sibling of Cerberus, one of the offspring of Typhon and Echidna and the father of the Sphinx and the Nemean Lion. He was Geryon’s herd dog and guarded Geryon’s oxen – and was slain by Hercules as a casual speed bump to his twelve labors. And that’s pretty much all there is about Orthos, which is kind of sad considering that his parents and siblings were more dangerous than most of the gods.

As a forgotten figure, something of a blank slate, and a sibling to Cerberus – guardian of the gates of the underworld – Orthos is actually a pretty appropriate choice as the elder Mystery, the guide and guardian of the paths of spirits that can neither fully live nor fully die. I’ve no idea why he got a wind blast though. Oh well. When you’ve really got nothing to go on, why NOT go with wind? It’s easy enough.

  • Tornado Blast: Weathermonger, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (The user may spend a Standard Action and 3 Power to generate a 60′ cone of wind that does 1d6 damage per level you possess (Reflex DC 19 + Cha Mod for half) and those affected must also make a Fortitude save at the same DC or be knocked prone and moved 1d4x10 feet away or to the limits of the area of effect) / The user may not sense the weather, gain bonuses to saves against weather and wind effects, summon mists, constant, or lesser winds, produce rain, steer lightning, generate or banish storms, etc, etc, etc (6 CP).
  • The Winds from Beyond: Witchcraft III, Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect/each basic ability is limited to a fairly specific, simple effect (rather than allowing dozens), often with additional limitations, taken twice for eight powers and (12 CP).
    • Read the Winds / Witchsight: You gain blindsight out to 30 feet. This is a continuous effect with no cost.
    • Gyre Mirage / Shadoweave: You may spend 2 Power and a Standard Action to generate a personal Displacement effect lasting up to one hour per level. It affects you, your equipment, and any steed you happen to be riding. During its duration you may suppress or resume the effect as a free action.
    • Voice of the Wind / Glamour: You may spend 2 Power and a Standard Action to invoke a Sending effect – with the additional option to send it to a location and announce it’s message on cue, similar to the effect of a Magic Mouth.
    • Winds of Alchemy / Witchfire. You may spend 2 Power and a Standard Action to turn a potion, drug, poison, or suitable (liquid or gaseous) alchemical item into a 60′ line, 30′ come, or 15′ radius with a center up to thirty feet away, applying normally to those within the area.
    • Harness the Wind / Hand of Shadows. You may spend 2 Power and an Immediate Action to animate a chunk of the air to serve you as a Phantom Steed – although it’s hit points are equal to your own.
    • Bind the Vortex / Hand of Shadows. You may spend 5 Power and a Standard Action to animate and bind a mass of air to your will, creating the equivalent of a Huge Air Elemental. It will serve you for up to one minute per level or until dispersed.
    • Cyclonic Barrier / Hand of Shadows. Once per round, on or off action, you may spend five Power to harden the air into a momentary force barrier capable of blocking up to sixty points of damage from any one attack – and negating any special effects (poison, energy drain, or whatever) that it might have if that blocks all damage. If it does not, it still provides a +6 Circumstance Bonus on any required saving throw.
    • Eye of the Hurricane / Hand of Shadows. As a standard action you may spend 3 Power to create a Wall Of Force effect.
  • Voice of Winds: +4d6 Mana as +12d6 (42) Power, Specialized and Corrupted/only to power the Winds from Beyond powers listed above (8 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +12 Bonus Uses, Specialized and Corrupted/only for Power, only to rebuild the power pool for the Winds from Beyond Powers, above (8 CP).
  • Speak Language (Auran) (1 CP).

Orthos really only has one trick – air control – but is surprisingly versatile with it. Admittedly, direct-damage blasting is far from the best shtick out there, and Orthos lacks the metamagical / metapsionic boosts to really compete with optimized blasters – but he’s reasonably effective at it for the rather small investment of one Mystery slot. He also has the interesting option of making potions and alchemy potentially relevant again at fairly high levels and some decent defensive and utility abilities.

Vierdan Sanguine, the Bloody General (Bonus Mystery) (32 CP + 3 CP Disadvantage / Insane: Gods too fall before the blade, and the Iron Lord has seen a myriad pass while he endures. Their priests and servants may wield a power they call “divine”, but they will fall before the blade as easily).

Under a thousand names, across ten thousand realms, the bloody general has led men into battle – overthrowing nations, replacing rulers, and even slaying gods – caring for nothing save war itself and the clash of arms. Even the most chaotic of war gods reject him, for he sees them only as yet another challenge to his skills. He has embraced the existence of a Mystery, since only thus can he lead men into battle forever more.

Vierdan Sanguine grants…

  • The complete Strategos Package (30 CP). The user may call upon a variety of “auras” that grant him or her, and his or her allies, substantial bonuses.
  • Augmented Bonus: Add (Cha Mod) to (Int Mod) for Skill Points through L1, Specialized for Double Effect and Corrupted for Reduced Cost/points may only be spent on Knowledge / Military (battles, tactics, military engineering and vehicles, etc) and Profession / Military Commander – effectively providing a “racial bonus” of +(Cha Mod x 4) to each. If the user does not have either skill already, add the relevant attribute modifiers (Int and Wis) to determine the effective skill level (4 CP).
  • Specific Knowledge: The many historical battles he has commanded (1 CP).

Vierdan Sanguine offers access to a selection of a dozen (very, VERY) powerful party-enhancing auras and allows the use of three of them at a time. Admittedly some of them are level-dependent – but a Bokor needs to be fairly high level to channel Vierdan anyway. Just using the first three at level fifteen where Vierdan normally becomes available grants an entire party a +10 Luck Bonus to AC, Saves, Attacks and Damage and a +4 Morale bonus to Checks, Attacks, and Saves.

Admittedly the Strategos package is completely over-the-top optimized, but you’ve got to expect some of that for a penultimate level Mystery. Just as importantly, Vierdan Sanguine provides no active abilities whatsoever. He provides plenty of numerical bonuses, resistances, and heightened movement – but if you want active powers you’re just going to have to channel another Mystery.

Thanks to various problems posting here has been seriously delayed for a bit – so I’m going to backdate this and the next few posts just to keep things together a bit.

Eclipse and Magical Schools Part II – Making them Work

The basic problem with Schools in d20 is built into the system.

  • In the real world, being trained in something is about the most effective way available to develop new skills, improve old skills, and learn new tricks that’s relatively safe – at least up until the point where there’s no one left who can teach you much, and you have to rely on risky experience and self-development. Training, however, requires lots of time (in ever shorter supply for adults with responsibilities – and who have to spend ever-increasing amounts of time on keeping their current skills from getting rusty), enough dedication to resist the temptation to take a break, and resources (including skilled trainers). Even then… you expend more and more time and work for smaller and smaller returns. Realistic training is slow, and hard, and expensive.
  • In basic d20, training by itself generally accomplishes nothing at all. Characters are automatically assumed to be training for their next level all through their current one. Even if the player doesn’t make up his or her mind about what it’s going to be until they’ve gotten the experience points and it’s time to update their character sheet it’s assumed that the Character knew what he or she was working towards. After all, learning new skills and abilities, increasing your net worth, building up your mind or muscles, and more is all tied to gaining levels, not to any particular training program.

As an example, a real person thrown into heavy combat for a week is likely to pick up a few basic combat moves and (generally inappropriate out of combat) nervous responses (such as diving for cover whenever there is a loud bang), skin trouble, a few likely-infected wounds and blisters, plenty of bruises, possibly some fractures, some nasty mental traumas and physical scars, and a tremendous need for sleep and food – presuming that they aren’t dead or crippled for life.

Do the same with a d20 character… and they’ll probably have picked up a couple of levels, maybe a new language and some improvements in playing keyboards and acrobatics or the ability to project laser beams from their eyes and heal wounds by force of will, they’ll be tougher and harder to kill, and they’re quite likely to have picked up some new-and-improved gear. Or they may have become a vampire-werewolf abomination. They almost certainly will not be dead, crippled, or weakened – and any injuries they may have will be cleanly healed in a day or so at most.

If you take two identical twin d20 martial artists and have one spend five years training while the other spends five years adventuring and then compare the results… The adventurer will be able to show off his Divine Might Global Extinction Event World Shattering Palm technique while the fellow who spent his time training will probably be able to break several boards at the same time instead of one. Sure, the adventurer might have gotten killed without being brought back – but his payoff is incredible wealth, vast personal power, and potential godhood. The payoff for training hard is a colorful belt and (just maybe) an assistant teaching position at the local dojo.

OK, maybe the game master will throw in some experience point awards for going out of your way to get training, but that rapidly becomes a choice between “everybody gets some” or “half the players sit around and wait while a few try to get story awards for training”. You could go back to first edition and try some variant on “trade gold pieces for experience points” on the theory that you’re buying effective “training” – but allowing that will have some pretty massive effects on the world. Merchants and government-funded groups and such are going to edge more traditional adventurers out of the running and finding any kind of balance across levels is going to be pretty hard. Plus, of course, speaking as a high-level character… all of MY kids are going to be starting off their careers with some levels on them. Rising from the peasantry is no longer much of an option and having rich parents really DOES make you better.

You can throw in a bit of “school as a characterization detail” with little trouble – but that, once again, usually relegates it to the characters backstory. Still, “School as a background detail” works better in Eclipse than in classical d20 simply because Eclipse characters usually buy the basics of what they want early on and build on it – rather than abruptly picking up huge chunks of knowledge and abilities when they multiclass. So there’s no more of “there are six academies that teach the arts of wizardry… what do you mean that your barbarian just took a level of wizard while resting in an igloo?”.

Master Mage Latian attended The Eleri Academy of Magic – as can be easily seen, since he always wears the Eleri’s Azure and Crimson school sash, practices the Eight Calming Breaths and Mudras taught by the school when confronted by yet ANOTHER royal councilor who has no idea of what non-epic magic can and cannot do, bears the medallion and tassel that signifies his status as a master mage, still sneers at the graduates of Handeti University (Eleri’s principle rival), always attends (and often acts as a judge) for the schools yearly magic competition, and adheres to Eleri’s strictures against dealing with the Chaos Lords on the grounds that it is far too dangerous for what you can get.

You can add a little bit of mechanics to this without creating any real problem. Perhaps the sash is a free Masterwork Potions Bandolier, Eleri graduates gain a +1 bonus to overcome the spell resistance of creatures of chaos, and the school allows alumni in good standing to freely copy more advanced anti-chaos spells from the school archives. You will need to allow similar little bennies for non-magical characters though. Wizards don’t usually need more advantages over everyone else.

You can also use the “Feat Full of Tricks” articles (Clerics, Fighters and Wizards, Rogues, Monks) – although those, once again, put “school” firmly in the character’s past. They do mean that a characters early training will continue to have an impact on their abilities even quite late in their careers.

The next step up in classical d20 was a prestige class. Of course, this was a considerable pain, called for inventing more special advantages, and wound up with a prestige classes so obscure that there might not be any other members of them on the continent. After all, if there’s a special class for Guild Wizards of Waterdeep, shouldn’t a lot of other cities have their own variants? Among hundreds of other regional variants for everything else? Even worse… Evereska has some 22,000 people. To be an Evereskan Tomb Guardian you need a BAB of +4, the ability to cast second level arcane spells, Alertness, Track, and 24 levels worth of various skills. How many people out of a total population of 22,000 – the vast majority non-adventurers – are going to qualify, much less be interested? Are there really likely to be ANY Evereskan Tomb Guardians?

There are various house and optional rules calling for training when going up in level, usually stating that it’s “more realistic”. Of course, this flies in the face of both the rules (characters are always “training”; when they go up in level is simply the moment when it all comes together) and sanity (are you REALLY trying to use “realism” as an excuse in a game full of wizards throwing lighting bolts?). If you really want to be “realistic” in terms of how the system and d20 settings actually work… then treat “Experience Points” as a mysterious magical force that builds up in creatures and objects until it transforms them, granting them new powers and abilities.

If a game master wishes to stretch a point, he or she use an existing mechanic – the Circumstance Bonus – by stating that practical experience and/or training will provide modest bonuses (perhaps +1, +2, and +3 for basic, advanced, and truly extensive experience and training) on particular skills – or twice that on specialized sub-aspects of skills. You could even count that as a part of an adventures treasure-reward if you wanted, although the value would be sharply reduced by the fact that they couldn’t be transferred or traded in for better bonuses. After all… if the players spend six weeks adventuring in the city of Rilkieth picking up a free +2 bonus in Knowledge (Local) Rilkieth is only to be expected. It certainly doesn’t increase their power much though. Is it really worth more than a 5 GP local guidebook?

In one mystery-heavy campaign the players each kept a special record sheet recording the (many) small specialty knowledge skills they’d picked up – and had a good deal of fun looking for ways to use them.

Still, that’s a rather thin – if entertaining – patch.

So there’s our problem; in baseline d20 “training” takes immense amounts of boring downtime and accomplishes very little, while “adventuring” is exciting, not at all risky to the player, and provides enormous benefits very quickly indeed. Under the d20 rules no reasonable school can compete with adventuring.

So how about a school that’s not so reasonable?

Courland Castle RiftWard and School of Magic

As of last week it was two hundred and thirty-seven years ago. The rifts were small at first, and the incursions minor – but there was death and terror. There were things that no weapon known to man would touch, which moved through the earth to drag men down into the depths, or which stalked unseen. For three years horrors from beyond occasionally erupted across the world.

And then, in Mitau (now Jelgava), Latvia, near the Mitau Rift, a swarm of spectral horrors, haunters of the dark, attacked – pouring through cracks and into houses, stripping flesh from bone even as the victims tried to hide or flee. For a few moments there were screams, and panic, and the knowledge that death had come for a hundred families.

But the sun came to Earth. Inese Balodis, aged eleven – now known as Burve Sargs, First Earthwarden, Mistress of the Astral Fire, and the Founder of the Courland Castle RiftWard (among other titles) – spontaneously tapped into the power of the rift in defense of her mother and siblings.

And an astral firestorm passed through wood, and brick, and people, and beasts, alike, doing no harm to them at all – but burning the horrors of the swarm to less than ashes.

Even today, no one really knows why – but a few, talented, children who spend time near a rift will develop the ability to tap into it’s cascade of primal magical energies – allowing them to fight against the horrors on near-equal terms and to command an immense variety of spells and powers. Even more importantly… the presence of large groups of such children moderates the flow of magic out into the world, reducing random daily disasters to occasional difficulties – although this effect wanes as they age.

Children with that potential have little real choice; they WILL be sent to one of the RiftWards, and there they WILL develop their gifts (whether for actual spellcasting or for personalized magical enhancements) as Earthwardens – or they will die. The schools are excellent, the facilities are lavish, all “expenses” are paid, what personal equipment (or at least what can be mass-produced in factories) has proven helpful is made available, and both personal power and influential and well-paid positions await the (few) surviving graduates – but the RiftWard “Schools” are still filled with wild magic and subject to regular monstrous incursions. There are benefits – but the Earth’s leaders  are still deploying kids as their first line of defense, paying a grim price for humanities survival.

So; the school IS a place of endless adventure, graduates who move away from it will have a lot less power to work with, magical kids get to face horrors with little or no effective adult help, and the authorities will make sure that there are plenty of new kids starting classes to replace any casualties. Since rift incursions only occur when the game master feels like it, he or she can control the pace of level gain – making time for classical training and non-combat events – by simply making incursions more or less common. Are some of the kids acting up? “Detention” is likely on the front lines in the most dangerous areas. When their odds of living to grow up are poor anyway, what else is going to mean anything?

Variations abound of course. Castle Perilous (John DeChancie) scoops up people from 144,000 different universes (apparently at random), infuses them with various minor magical powers, and lets them interact with each other and with a constantly shifting array of realms. Every time the creatures inhabiting the vast multilayered dungeon beneath Castle Greyhawk started to come up to the surface the local lord hired groups of adventurers to keep them down, with the place serving as a sort of adventurer’s university (at least in one of the odder modules). Camp Half Blood? Miskatonic University? Sunnydale High? Between books and anime alone there are hundreds of variations.

The trouble with this is that the “school” part is now little more than flavor text and the training is still pretty much irrelevant. Instead of working out of a castle, or country estate, or the local tavern, these adventurers to work out of a dungeon that happens to have a dorm, a few classrooms, and (if anyone involved has any sense at all) a well-protected infirmary. That’s even more convenient than the town by the dungeon entrance in some ways, even if it DOES mean that the wandering monsters can camp right outside your bedroom door.

To do much more than that – and to make “training” really mean something – we’ll have to go a bit beyond baseline d20. Fortunately, Eclipse has a lot of ways to do that.

The Ancient Master, secret academy, mysterious scroll, or weird entity, who teaches powerful secret techniques is thoroughly traditional. The trouble here is that while d20 in general offers some support for secret techniques (via putting entrance requirements on prestige classes with special powers), this mechanic leads to exploits for poorly thought out abilities, level-dipping, planning out your build long in advance (and regardless of what happens in the campaign) to qualify for the items you want, and so on – and each prestige class which is available (even if no one ever takes it) brings a bunch of background material with it which must be fitted into the campaign (at least if you care about world background).

Eclipse and The Practical Enchanter cover this in several different ways.

Ancient Masters (and other expert teachers) can…

  • Act as Mentors, and so provide a boost to the students experience point total. Of course this usually calls for regularly going back for advanced training.
  • Teach Occult Skills that they happen to know without the usual surcharge. Once you have a skill, you don’t usually need to go back for more training to improve it – but the game master is free to say that that only applies to skills that are common in the setting, or might even be persuaded to allow a price break for such a limitation.
  • Teach Martial Arts Skills that allow the addition of Attribute Modifiers, as making up your own art does not.
  • Use Mystic Artist powers to bestow small amounts of Experience Points on students. This is slow and expensive – but does allow wealthy nobles, rulers, and benevolet traveling bards to give low-level types a boost.
  • Use Leadership to simply bestow levels on characters. Of course, this method makes adventuring pretty much irrelevant; only the leaders abilities and the number of levels which he or she wishes to invest in the characters matters. This may even require training as a limitation – and could thus account for child-heroes who would normally be considered too young for level one or for a variation on the Children’s Crusade setting. It also quite neatly explains why the focus is always on a small groups of students (they’re the only ones who are getting handed free levels) and why – if there are any permanent casualties or departures – it’s so easy to find a replacement; the Leaders simply invests those “lost” levels in another follower and they join the group. .
  • Use Blessing and Adept to make it easier for students to learn a particular set of skills – reducing them to half the usual cost. It would be wise to remember that any teacher with that talent will be very much in demand. They’re also a convenient way to shape the campaign; if you want a heavy martial-arts game, or lots of knowledge skills, or action skills, or some such… then reducing the cost of characters getting the appropriate skills is a good way to (more or less) subtly guide the players.
  • Use Blessing to loan out some of their skills to their students so as to meet more dangerous foes. This should, however, be a rare and special thing.
  • Provide Unique Training – although it is important to note that the points from unique training go to where the game master thinks that they should according to the nature of the teacher and the training, not to wherever the player has in mind.

Now most of those benefits (other than using leadership, which is usually for recruiting NPC’s to follow you) are rather limited since they’re set up to provide modest bennies for the characters, rather than to break the idea of levels. Still, using a few of those techniques can easily give a school enough attractions to keep the characters coming back and supporting it.

  • A Ward Major (the Practical Enchanter) can allow “residents” (however it defines them) to acquire some special abilities and boosts on a more or less permanent basis – and nothing says that tests, training, and study requirements can’t be applied to getting those powers.
  • A Heartstone (also from the Practical Enchanter) can hand out it’s abilities on whatever basis suits it once a character is attuned to it – and so makes a good basis for a school or guild. Using the powers of a Heartstone does require spending a feat though, so it won’t do most small children a lot of good.

The trouble here is that this – once again – using ANY of these techniques creates issues if you don’t make similar advantages available to every character. Wizardly types may be bigger on studying and “school” than anyone else, but they’re also among the character types least in need of another boost.

  • As an organization, a school can provide access to one or more Package Deals. If you want to go to the trouble (and to keep the characters involved with the school) it can even be a graduated package deal like the House of Roses uses. If a school is really important (again, like the House of Roses) and is run by someone with Dominion, their package deal can even be augmented by an Office as the students graduate and (presumably) move into faculty jobs themselves. It will, however, have to be either a pretty generic package which everyone can use or you’ll have to make up multiple packages and / or schools for each general type of character. That’s a lot of work for the game master though.
  • If you want the school to teach a lot of abilities and techniques independent of adventuring levels you’ll wand to go the “Mythic” (Mundane?) route – treating training, in-school story awards, and testing “challenges” as an independent, and not directly cumulative, source of power – essentially giving the characters a second experience point total for “school levels” at the cost of a +1 ECL adjustment. Anyone who opts to be unschooled (or simply is not paying attention in class) gets a free level on the other characters and gets to apply any story awards to his or her basic experience point pool – possibly picking up several more levels on his or her scholarly friends eventually. If you want to adjust the ratio of “school levels” to standard ones, you can either simply adjust the story and testing rewards to suit or have the two totals run on different experience point charts. In either case… “school” levels should spend most of their points on things that could reasonably be learned in a school.

As a final alternative, you can go way outside the usual boundaries of the d20 system, and dump experience points. Characters may pick up some pointers in the field, but they generally get better as they take more classes and develop their own particular talents. There’s no actual requirement to adventure at all in order to gain levels and power. On the other hand… students may be thrust into adventures, or need money and magical items, or be undertaking practical exams, or be having to deal with wealthy idiots who acquired power through intensive tutoring with no self-discipline and little control, or be doing favors for an instructor – in which case risking their necks is the price they pay for advanced training – which is how they GET power.

If you then limit characters to relatively low level, and possibly eliminate some more of the more over-the-top powers, you will wind up with something which many people would consider fairly “realistic” – but it won’t really resemble standard d20 very much at all.

And that’s really about it; while Eclipse offers ways to cram them into any given setting, schools beyond the grade-school level that get kids to level one really are not a natural fit with d20 worlds.