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

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

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

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

Makhpia-Luta (Red Cloud)

Level One Earth Mage

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

Low-Level Template (0 CP)

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

Nomadic Cultural Package Deal (0 CP)

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

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

Basic Expenditures (17 CP):

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

Usual Weapons:

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

Talents (16 CP):

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

Master Sorcerer (36 CP):

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

Other Abilities (3 CP):

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

Skills (20 SP):

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

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

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

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

Eclipse d20 – Cenric, Barbarian Beastmaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basic Purchases: (69 CP)

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

Usual Weapons:

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

Other Abilities (49 CP):

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

Skills (All +1 Morale):

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

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

Tier One Skills (Other) (36 SP):

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

Tier Two Skills (23 SP):

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

Tier Three Skills (8 SP):

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

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

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

Martial Arts:

Ancient Huntsman Style (Str):

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

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

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

Swift Hurling:

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

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

Jungle Lord Style (Str):

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

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

Pioneer Spirit Style (Con):

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stone Fang Style (Str).

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

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

Charms And Talismans

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

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

Current Talismans:

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

Current Charms:

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

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

Eclipse d20 -Serilda Ofellius Mallius

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

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

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

Serilda Ofellius Mallius

Level Four Imperial Artificer

Birthright: Order (The Alarian Imperium)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basic Purchases (96 CP):

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

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

Other Basics:

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

Preferred Weapons:

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

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

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

Family Talent: Alchemical Powers (37 CP):

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

Other Powers (21 CP):

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

Skills:

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

Specific Knowledges (8 SP):

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

Thunderbolt Prana Style:

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

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

Charms and Talismans

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

Passions, Apathies, and Relationships in Eclipse

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

-Moby Dick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So can you build Passions in Eclipse?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Quentin Tarantino

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

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

It thus costs 2 CP for one Passion die.

Some possible Narrow Passions? I Will…

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

Some possible Broad Passions? I Will…

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

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

-Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

So go forth, and play with Passion.

Dark City Heroes I – Majestic

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

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

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

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

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

Majestic (Edmund Wells):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basic Purchases (48 CP):

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

Usual Weapons:

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

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

Abilities (30 CP):

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

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

Unicorn Powers:

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

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

So far it has worked reasonably well.

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

Using Valdemaran Gifts, Part II

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

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

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

 

Gift Of Tongues

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

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

 

Healing:

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

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

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

 

Mage-Gift:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mind-Healing

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

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

 

Precognition

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

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

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

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

 

Psychometry

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

 

Pyrokinesis

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

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

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

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

 

Shields:

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

 

Telekinesis

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

 

Telepathy

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

 

Teleportation

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

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

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

Using Valdemaran Gifts, Part I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First up, a couple of general notes:

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

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

Animal Mindspeech:

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

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

Bardic Gift:

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

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

Earthsense:

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

Empathy:

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

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

Farsight

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

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

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

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

Fuyuha (“Winter Blade”) Zhang.

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

Racial Template: Atherian Human, Elemental Magic Birthright:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basic Purchases (94 CP):

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

Usual Weapons:

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

Other Abilities (82 CP):

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tier One Skills (40 SP):

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

Tier Two Skills (18 SP):

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

Tier Three Skills (7 SP):

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

Known Martial Art Techniques:

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

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

Eclipse d20 – Elemental Martial Arts

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

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

Wuxing Shadow Palm (Dex)

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

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

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

Cherry Petal Wind Kung Fu (Dex)

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

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

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

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

Thousand Leaping Flames Style:

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

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

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

Shining Waters Kenjitsu:

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

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

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

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

Unity Of Divine Wind

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

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

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

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

Atheria Eclipse d20 Update

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

Skill Tiers:

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

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

Skill Modifiers:

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

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

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

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

Shadow Guise

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

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

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

Eclipse D20 – Playing Into The Holiday Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well…

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

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

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

So; lets make that acquired Holiday Spirit Template.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Advancing Warrior Part VIII – Branching Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earlier articles in this series have covered…

And…

Advancing Fighters:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Name: Type IV Augment

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

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

Cost Powers END/Roll

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

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

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

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

Package Disadvantages

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

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

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

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

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

Eclipse And What NOT To Do

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Powers

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

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

Unfortunately, the then…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basics (26 CP):

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

Usual Attacks:

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

Special Abilities (46 CP):

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

Skills (18 SP):

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

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

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

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

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

The Advancing Warrior Part VII – Special Tricks

So far this series has covered…

And…

Advancing Fighters:

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

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

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

The Beastmaster Warrior:

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

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

“Drawing Aggro”:

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

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

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

The Totemic Warrior:

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

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

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

The Skillmaster Warrior:

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

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

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

The Spellslayer

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

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

The Spellslayer Martial Art (Wis):

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

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

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

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

The Warrior Mage:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Multi-Talented Warrior:

So the overall conclusion?

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the better examples include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tinker Warriors:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Technology Exploit:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Advancing Warrior Part V – The Archer

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

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

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

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

What to Imbue your weapons with?

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

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

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

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

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

For your other archery-related abilities?

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

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

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

After that, pick a few things from among…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eclipse – The Advancing Warrior, Part III

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

The Mounted Warrior:

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

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

Summon Mount (Simple Spell Template):

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

Available Mounts from Summon Mount:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Character Optimization in RPG’s and Eclipse:

Today it’s an offline question – but it’s very relevant to the latest article series, so I’m sticking it in here:

How do you optimize a character in Eclipse, or in RPG’s in general?

First off, you remember that RPG’s are social events. You “Win” by contributing to everyone having fun. A moment of drama, of defiance, or of inspiration, or even a really good death scene, will be remembered, and can be enjoyed over and over again, for years to come. Good scenes and stories are what it’s all about. Which was most important and still gets remembered and talked about decades later in The Empire Strikes Back? That Darth Vader must have at least a +5 combat advantage over Luke or the “I AM your Father” reveal? The creature bursting out of the victim’s chest in Aliens or your impression of the likely skill bonus provided by the futuristic medical resources that were in use to to try and help him? The challenge rating on the fight with the flying monkeys grabbing Dorothy or “There’s no place like home”? The likely damage done by the proton accelerators in use in the hotel or “He slimed me”? Oliver’s pickpocket training or “I would like some more please”? The burning of Atlanta or “Frankly My Dear I don’t give a damn”?

Jackie Chan may be famous for his fight scenes, but don’t they all blur together?

Game statistics are a framework for your character, but by themselves they are little more than a skeleton. An optimized RPG character for actual play – as opposed to a solitary exercise in mathematics and sourcebook-mining for an “optimization” board – is one that is fun to play and that everyone else who’s playing, including the game master, enjoys having around.

That means that there are two levels to optimize on – the Strategic / Social (making a character that the game master and other players will WANT to have around) and the Tactical / Mechanical (making a character that can contribute effectively).

Not surprisingly, “Strategic” comes first. All Pun-Pun’s “brilliant exploits” are useless if you can’t get him into a game. For that, here are six rules for Strategic Optimization:

  1. You want your character to have a variety of useful, but not conclusive, options applicable to a broad variety of situations. Doing the same thing over and over again – even if it’s an automatic “I Win!” button – is boring. In fact, “I Win!” buttons are ESPECIALLY boring, if only because they tend to shut down interactions rather than getting everyone involved. A character who can contribute in a lot of different situations and help keep the other player characters involved too is far more strategically optimized than one who can only do a few things – even if they are very powerful things.
  2. You want your character to have a strong backstory and a memorable personality – making him or her much more difficult to simply replace with another character. That will often take a good deal longer to develop than the game statistics, but RPG’s usually last for quite awhile. You generally have the time.
  3. You want your characters to be connected to the other characters and willing to interact. While secretive lone wolves are fun to read about, demanding that the other players remember what bits they’re supposed to know about and which are only known out of character is extremely rude. Wanting to go off and monopolize chunks of game time – preventing everyone else from playing – is even ruder (although it’s easier to manage in Play By Post – although then you need to accept that everyone else will have moved on and will not care what you were up to in your solitary side game). RPG’s are social things. If you’re failing to socialize, you’ve already lost.
  4. You want to respect other character’s special niches. Unless you’re willing to play second-string backup to everyone else, leave other people’s specialties alone even if you’re so mechanically “optimized” that you can outshine four or five of the other characters at the same time. If you don’t let other people do their thing, the game will fall apart because the other players will lose interest – and you won’t get to play your shiny “optimized” character any longer. That’s an automatic loss again.
  5. You want your characters to have motivations and ethics. Things that they want to do and accomplish, and other things that they just will not do. The Shadowrun Medic who would NOT participate in Wetwork – and who would warn the targets and try to protect them if the rest of the group was discussing taking such a job – was a lot more interesting than a generic runner who would do anything. Just as importantly… being an actual ethical physician let him maintain a lot of allies and contacts that a character with no ethics would have had a lot of trouble with. That often turned out to be a very valuable niche.
    1. Go ahead. Do things that are extremely dramatic or in-character even if they are not optimally efficient (or even possible) mechanically. Remember that it’s a game and that EVERYONE is there to have fun. Give it a chance and you’ll find that most game masters are quite willing to let the Rule Of Cool override (or at least stretch to the breaking point) the actual game mechanics when you’re having a moment. The rules didn’t really cover it when the Shadowrun Medic found the Slasher’s latest victim – decapitated mere seconds ago – and promptly oxygenated the brain, healed the major blood vessels, supplied blood and nutrients, and started putting the guys head back on. The rules said “He’s dead Jim!” Rule Of Cool voted with biology and said “that might actually work!” – and the fact that the setup was supposed to wind up with the character accused of the crime got tossed right out the window – and the scene turned into “Cops! Good! Lt. Richards, call an ambulance, Leonard, you apply pressure here while I heal this segment… maybe this guy can identify the Slasher!”.
  6. You want to make yourself important to the story in some way so that it – if something happens to you – the game master will have to do extra work to keep the game on track. Perhaps you can provide the exposition, have given your character stacks of plot hooks, be searching for kidnapped relatives and thus driving the “find the bad guys” plot, or you’re linked with a bunch of handy NPC’s that you wrote up, or have taken the mystic oath of service, or are really deeply committed to pursuing the current McGuffin, or are the one providing items and boosts for the party. If you can, be more than one of those things – or provide filler details for the setting. GM’s hate extra work, so this makes your character a LOT safer. There is no protection stronger for any character than plot armor.

Tactical Optimization is what the people on most “Optimization Boards” are talking about. Of course, you can be “optimized” even if the game has no mechanics beyond “your character is good at that” and “you don’t know how to do that” based on your background and description. If you decided to play a hardbitten detective, good with a gun and tough as nails and wrote up a character history and description for that – and the game master opted to run a 1920’s Chicago-based Gangsters game – then you are well optimized for the game. The fellow who opted to write up a history and background for a Peruvian jungle runner probably is not.

That means that there are two basic rules for Tactical Optimization even before we get to the game mechanics – although they overlap into the “Strategic” level a bit.

  1. You want to be competent. It’s fun to watch Inspector Jacques Clouseau, or Cheech and Chong, or the Marx Brothers – but it’s less fun to try and play them, even if you can keep the jokes rolling well enough to make a creditable try at it. You want your decisions to mean something and to achieve results on your own merits – not to have victories handed to you.
  2. You want to avoid becoming the primary target. At it’s most basic… if you open a door and see three men – two of whom reach for knives while the third is bringing up a submachine gun to point at you… which one do you shoot first? Similarly, if one PC demonstrates the capacity to do immense amounts of damage, or is throwing really powerful magic about, or some such… every enemy with any intelligence at all is likely to say “OH @#$%& NO! GET THAT GUY!”. Don’t be “That Guy”. Don’t give the opposition an obvious focus for their efforts. It is much better to be one of the crowd so that individual opponents will be basing their priorities on factors like “who is closer to me”, “I never did like elves”, “somebody else can bash the cleric, I’m going to have a glorious duel with that fighter”, and even “maybe I can duck out while everyone else gets killed”. Being way more powerful offensively than everyone else in the party is asking to die. Worse, if you got that way by building an mathematically-optimized character and shorting the role-playing part… No one will care if your character dies. After all, if that happens you’ll probably just bring in another “optimized” build and the game will continue just the same. Don’t make your character disposable.

Finally, firmly on the tactical level…

  1. You want some decent defenses. Despite d20’s general rule that “The best Defense is a good Offense”, Eclipse includes several limited-use ways to avoid individual attacks or attack sequences – which means that the guy who inflicts five hundred points of damage per round is likely to see what he does be completely avoided or nullified while the guy who inflicts thirty or forty points of damage per round may well wind up being more effective. That’s not worth spending limited-use defenses on when the first guy is around – so those smaller point attacks may well get through while the five hundred point strikes will not. There’s a series of articles on that over here that you might want to look at, but Action Hero (Stunts Variant), Reflex Training (Extra Actions Variant), and Luck are all very helpful. In fact, with Action Hero (Stunts)… you only get a limited number of points per level, but you can generally spend one to simply have something not work against you. That’s pretty much the equivalent of a bunch of “extra lives” each level.
  2. For Offense… at least for offense against important targets rather than swarms of mooks – you want a balance. You have to either settle for being the one who burns through those limited-use defenses or annihilates mooks while other people actually do the damage or inflict hindrances on the important targets or you want to try to strike a balance – enough offensive power to be reasonably effective without necessarily triggering the use of those special defenses. The system isn’t perfect of course, but at higher levels Eclipse is intentionally set up to try to reward cleverness and restraint over mathematically-optimized power.

But I LIKE fishing through rulebooks and trying to mathematically optimize things! You’re leaving me out!

Not at all. There IS a place for that kind of thing in Eclipse. It comes with your character concept – but not really in the sense of what you CAN do. It’s all about what you CAN’T do.

Are you a dashing Errol Flynn type? Master of a Rapier, but knowing little about other weapons? Buy your Base Attack Bonus (Warcraft) Specialized in Melee Weapons Only and Corrupted / Only with Rapiers – both for Increased Effect. Have a +6 BAB with Rapiers at level one for a mere (12 CP). Buy Improved Augmented Bonus / Adds (Int Mod) to (Dex Mod) when figuring Armor Class, Specialized / Only while wielding a Rapier (6 CP). Buy Fighters Tricks (6 CP). Buy Presence (Specialized; only affects opponents you hit with your Rapier, 3 CP) and cause anyone you strike to be afflicted with a Shocking Grasp effect. Look for places where you can make things cheaper by narrowing broad abilities into exactly what you want – either making them more potent or saving points to spend on other tricks.

Low level Eclipse characters can be quite powerful. But they’ll have gotten that way by taking specialized versions of the abilities they want – plucking the low-hanging fruit. Well-optimized Eclipse characters generally don’t increase in power with level nearly as fast as classical d20 characters do. Instead, they usually start broadening their abilities – continuing to use their old abilities while exploring new ones. Sure, that Fencer may buy the Augmented Bonus (Int Mod to AC) to Double Effect instead of half cost and add a second Presence-based “Chilling Grasp” effect – but branching out into Ninjitsu, Illusion Spells, and the ability to strike immaterial creatures makes him far more versatile and interesting to play.

You aren’t playing against the Game Master or competing with the other players. You’re trying to have a good time with your friends. Arguing about the rules, wrecking the game, hogging the spotlight, and similar tactics can’t help you “win”. They can only help you spotlight yet another loss.

And I hope that helps!

If someone wants more on this topic… this article series might help too:

Eclipse – The Advancing Warrior, Part II

Gold is for the mistress, Silver for the maid.
Copper for the craftsman, cunning at his trade.”
“Good!” said the Baron, sitting in his hall,
“But Iron — Cold Iron — is master of them all.”

-Rudyard Kipling, “Cold Iron”.

And now it’s time to continue with a few of the most common Fighter upgrade paths. I’m still using Hiten as a base, simply because he’s an effective and versatile second level build – but that does mean that he already has a few ways to boost up his damage.

The Smasher:

The Smasher is straightforward; it calls for having multiple attacks and high damage. Hiten already has both of those, so we’re looking at improvements (over and above the extra Attacks of Opportunity he needs to be a reasonably effective area-control build). For simple smashing upgrades consider…

  • Unrelenting Blade: Opportunist / may make an additional attack whenever you drop an opponent with a melee attack (6 CP). Again, this is easily limited to particular types of weapons to reduce the cost.
  • Wandering Blade: Opportunist / may take a 5′ step after each melee attack you make (6 CP). Specialize and Corrupt to your hearts content.

If you’re up against a lot of minor targets, this is basically the “Improved Cleave” combination.

  • Aggressive Strike: Expertise (AC and Damage), Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect / Only to trade AC for Damage Boosts, not Vice-Versa, only with a particular group of weapons (6 CP). With this, the user may reduce his or her AC by up to 5 (to a minimum AC of 10) to gain up to +15 damage on his or her attacks. Taking the Improved version (another +6 CP) lets you take up to 20 off your AC (albeit still to a minimum of 10) to add up to +60 to damage. I’d stick with the base version personally; it’s much less likely to upset the game master.

In Eclipse, you can just buy what you want directly; there’s no need to fiddle around with Power Attack, Shock Trooper, and other chains of feats to get the components you want from each one.

  • Iron Thews: Berserker with Odinpower and Enduring (to remove the Fatigue afterwards) (12 CP). Assign this as +12 Str and +1 to Will Saves with no penalties (or +10 damage and +2 to Attacks or whatever). Again, this isn’t game-wrecking – but the +6 damage is nice and if you have a fair chance of hitting to begin with an extra +6 to your attacks should result in rarely missing. It’s basically icing on the cake of Aggressive Strike though.
  • Deadly Strike: Luck, Specialized in Confirming Critical Hits (Specific Situation Option): The user gets to roll twice and take the best result when confirming a Critical Hit. (6 CP).

You could take an Immunity to having to confirm critical hits at all – Pathfinder does it for certain spells and high-level fighters, and not a few game masters don’t bother with confirming criticals – but I’ve never liked the way that works when a creature is hard to hit. After all, if you have a Critical Range of 19-20, and no need to confirm… If you need a “2″ to hit, only 10.5% of your hits are criticals. If you need an “11″, then 20% or your hits are criticals. If you need a “19″… then 100% of your hits are criticals. So “this incredibly tough monster is really hard to hurt, but any time you hurt it you automatically do double damage”? That kind of thing really offends my simulationist tendencies. Still, there’s no wrong way to have fun; if it works for you, so be it.

  • Finally, if you want to be gratuitous… Improved Augmented Bonus (Adds another Attribute Modifier to the user’s Strength Modifier for melee combat purposes) (12 CP) can give you a nice boost if you have a second high attribute.

A dedicated fighter should be able to afford to buy everything they need to be a decent Smasher in about two levels.

The Charger:

The basis of a Charger is pretty simple; you get into melee range as quickly as possible, whereupon you inflict a lot of damage on as many targets as possible. The only thing that distinguishes this from any other melee fighter is that d20 normally only allows a single attack on a charge while a Charger has a way to get multiple attacks on charging and/or makes use of some of the various spells, enchantments, and feats that multiply the damage a character inflicts when they charge. True Uberchargers also make use of ways to achieve great size and nigh-limitless strength so as to get an enormous base damage to apply those multipliers to, thus achieving a mathematical “victory” in combat situations while simultaneously losing the game (a social event) by being the one who makes it uninteresting and likely unplayable.

For a powerful, but not-game wrecking, Charger you’ll want to look at…

  • Tigers Pounce: Reflex Training (May make a second attack at your full BAB as part of a charge, 6 CP). Taking Improved (another 6 CP) allows a full attack after a charge. However, taking this approach means that the usual iterative attack penalties apply. If you aren’t stacking attack bonuses to the point where you will almost never miss, you needn’t get the improved version; those attacks at -10 and -15 aren’t likely to be too useful. As usual, limiting this to a particular group of weapons will make it cheaper.

Alternatively, take

  • Lion’s Charge: Bonus Attack (one extra attack when charging, 6 CP, may be Specialized or Corrupted as usual). This allows you to make two attacks at -2 instead of one at your full bonus.

Now, if you combine Tiger’s Pounce I, Lions Charge, and Innate Enchantment / Personal Haste (also adding +30′ to your movement) you can take four attacks at -2 when you Charge an opponent – and nothing requires that they be on the target you specifically charged: anyone who happens to be adjacent will do too.

  • Wild Charge: Double Damage when you Charge, Corrupted for Increased Effect (x3 Damage) / Only with a particular weapon (6 CP).

And that pretty much completes the basic Charger. Aggressive Strike (6 CP, although you’ll probably already have this from the “Smasher” part of your build), Tigers Pounce (with weapons group, 4 CP), Lion’s Charge (with weapons group, 4 CP), and Wild Charge (6 CP) lets you get off four attacks for triple damage each with a Charge. If that’s not enough damage to hurt something really badly, then you probably shouldn’t be trying to fight whatever-it-is physically anyway.

Note that Eclipse doesn’t care about HOW you move when you charge: Jumping, Flying Swimming and Mounted charges are all perfectly valid – although I don’t know about burrowing charges unless you’re attacking the foundation or a wall or some similar stationary underground object.

If you’re seriously devoted to Charging, you might also want…

  • Evasive (Charge) (6 CP). You do not suffer Attacks of Opportunity while Charging.
  • Sure Footed: Immunity to Movement Penalties (being unable to Run or Charge, the double movement cost) for Difficult Terrain (Common, Major, Trivial, 3 CP). Or you could invest in some Vanguard Treads (MIC), which do the same thing and provide some other benefits for 3100 GP. Or use Witchcraft or various spells. Or use Sandals Of The Light Step so that you can charge over water (even if they ARE 9000 GP).
  • Augment Attack: +1d6 (to 6d6 Maximum) damage when making charging attacks (6 CP). This usually isn’t your best investment, but if you just want to add a die or two without causing the Game Master to throw things at you, this might do.

And that’s about it. Again, a dedicated fighter can probably pick up everything they need to be a good charger in about two levels. In fact, they can overdo it very easily; with the Advanced version of Aggressive Strike… they could easily drop twenty points off their AC to inflict +60 damage – or +180 damage when charging. A thousand points of damage on a charge is usually more than enough to either wreck most games or to get the game master to nerf your character – and neither makes for a good gaming experience.

Thrown Weapons Master:

Thrown Weapons other than Shuriken (which have their own problems) suffer from several limitations when it comes to standard d20 games. You need to have Quick Draw to be able to throw a lot of them in a round, they lack the kind of range you can get with a bow, they have to be individually enchanted at full price (even if you can usually recover them after a battle), and it’s hard to match the versatility of carrying a selection of exotic ammunition. You do get to add your strength bonus to the damage without paying for a composite bow – but that’s a trivial expense after the first few levels whereas magic items to fix the problems with throwing weapons cost quite a lot. Now in some ways that’s fair enough – there are reasons why bows mostly supplanted javelins and slings in battle – but d20 is about individual exotic heroes, not practicalities.

  • First up, you’ll want the Use of Charms and Talismans (6 CP). Those aren’t particularly powerful devices, but you can use seven Charms and three Talismans – and Charms only cost 10 GP while Talismans only cost 25 GP. For a Throwing Master you’ll want the three Talismans to be…
    • Shimmermail. That provides a +4 Armor Bonus with no penalties. You don’t even need Light Armor Proficiency to wear it properly.
    • Bracers Of Hurling. These let you throw things with the range of a light crossbow. It’s not quite as good as a Composite Longbow, but it will usually be enough.
    • A Tulthara. These create temporary “weapons” made of magical energy that are considered magical and can do either stun or normal damage, but are otherwise equal to normal weapons. How they look is, however, more or less up to the maker. If you want a “holy book that fires bolts of black lightning” (likely equal to a bow of some sort), you can get one. If you want to throw daggers, and have them look like shards of black ice… A “Black Ice Dagger Tulthara” will put one in your hand whenever you want one there. Sure, they’ll fade a few moments after you throw them – but at that point who will care?
    • The Charms are just gravy. Pick a few convenient or flavorful trinkets.

If you want to make sure that no one can ever take your Charms and Talismans away, turn your favorite selection of Charms and Talismans into Innate Enchantments; space for a mere 145 GP worth of “mundane” gear is generally easy enough to squeeze in.

  • With the Quick Draw and weapon supply problems out of the way, this build will also want Imbuement (6 CP or more if upgraded) attuned to the chosen weapon type, giving any such weapon they wield or throw magical bonuses – at least if the Game Master isn’t willing to go for “gloves of hurling” or an enchanted Atlatl or some such, which work for throwing weapons like magical bows do for arrows. (Pathfinder addresses this problem with the Blinkback Belt – an item which teleports your weapon back into its sheathe as soon as it hits something – but it costs 5000 GP, making it unavailable at lower levels unless it’s taken as an Innate Enchantment, which might be well worthwhile).
  • With Evasive (Throwing Weapons, 12 CP, probably Specialized in a particular type of weapon for 6 CP) you won’t have to worry about provoking Attacks Of Opportunity for throwing your chosen weapon.

You’ll want to spend one of your Martial Arts slots on a Throwing Style unless you just buy it normally. You might as well do SOMETHING with those skill points. Any decent Fighter type will already have paid for that though (0 CP). You may well want your style to include Mighty Blow (to trip up opponents automatically on a critical hit), Deadly Accuracy (add Str Mod to Dex Mod to attacks with the styles thrown weapon, add Dex Mod to Str Mod for damage with the styles thrown weapon), Called Shots (Immunity to the restrictions on attempting combat maneuvers with a ranged weapon within sixty feet, Common, Major, Minor), and Quick Draw (in case you want to go with a Blinkback belt or some other gimmick).

  • Expert Aim: Immunity / circumstantial penalties to attacks, such as fog, cover, shooting into melee, shooting while riding a moving mount, etc. (Common, Minor, Minor, 4 CP). This reduces the penalties for such attacks by up to four. This can be increased to up to six for 6 CP or up to eight for 12 CP. As usual, Specialization and Corruption (likely to a single type of weapon) may be applied to reduce the costs.
  • Aggressive Strike (see above, 6 CP) will work just fine to get you a damage boost. If you already have a Specialized version, it will probably be best to simply unspecialize it instead of buying multiple specialized versions.
  • Martial Arts (the basic damage-increase ability, not the skill) can boost the die size of your weapon at modest expense – but most Fighters will be taking care of this with their martial art in any case.
  • Snap Throw: Since thrown weapons can be used in melee, and threaten normally, all you need to make them effective in making Attacks of Opportunity is to improve your effective “reach” with them. That’s Lunge, Specialized and Corrupted for Increased Effect (+15′ Reach) / only to extend Reach for AoO purposes, only with the user’s chosen weapon, AoO use the values for throwing the weapon, not melee, involves throwing the weapon in question (6 CP).

The major attraction of a Thrown Weapons build is the same as it is for an Archery build; it’s getting to routinely make full attacks because you don’t need to roam around the battlefield. Ergo, you’ll want to increase your number of attacks. While most fighters will already have Innate Enchantment (Personal Haste) there are several other major possibilities along this line:

  • Bonus Attack (with your favored weapon, 6 CP). While this is another item that’s tricky to specialized further, combined with Personal Haste this can get you up to three attacks at level one. Admittedly, they’ll all be made at (-2) – but that can still be a fair amount of firepower.
  • Reflex Training, Specialized in Attack Actions for Increased Effect (provides a full attack) and Corrupted (only with the user’s chosen weapon) for an Increased Number Of Uses (5) (6 CP) will – up to once per round five times per day – allow the user to take a full attack as an immediate action. When you REALLY need to stop that mage from casting something, or have to make sure that some creature on the edge goes down… this is the talent for you.
  • Rapid Strike I/II/III for a total cost of 6/18/36 CP changes your iterative attacks to every 4/3/2 counts – and it’s already limited to a particular weapon type, so coming up with a Corruption or Specialization to make it cheaper will be just a bit tricky. Still, this can effectively turn the character into a machine gunner and is probably well worth it once your Base Attack Bonus is getting up there. At lower levels you might prefer
  • Will, Not Weapon: Enhanced Strike (Crushing) (6 CP). This allows you to make a single attack that sums up the damage of all your entire attack sequence – not only effectively making all your attacks at your full BAB but drastically reducing the effects of Damage Reduction and Blocks. Sadly, this can only be used once per minute unless you buy some Bonus Uses (6 CP for +4/minute), but it’s very handy. Even better, since it normally applies to every form of combat, you can easily limit it to make it cheaper.

Throwing Mastery is expensive. A fighter will probably need to devote five or even six levels worth of special ability purchases to master this path. On the other hand, a lot of the elements in it are shared with other paths – so they don’t have to be bought again later on.

Next time around on this series, Archers, Tricksters, and possibly some exotics.